It was only
with vast hesitancy and repugnance that I let my mind go back to Lake's
camp and what we really found there--and to that other thing beyond the
mountains of madness. I am constantly tempted to shirk the details,
and to let hints stand for actual facts and ineluctable deductions.
I hope I have said enough already to let me glide briefly over the rest;
the rest, that is, of the horror at the camp. I have told of the
wind ravaged terrain, the damaged shelters, the disarranged machinery,
the varied uneasiness of our dogs, the missing sledges and other items,
the deaths of men and gods, the absence of Gedney, and the six insanely
buried biological specimens, strangely sound in texture for all their structural
injuries, from a world forty million years dead. I do not recall
whether I mentioned that upon checking up the canine bodies we found one
dog missing. We did not think much about that till later--indeed,
only Danforth and I have thought of it at all.
principal things I have been keeping back relate to the bodies, and to
certain subtle points which may or may not lend a hideous and incredible
kind of rationale to the apparent chaos. At the time, I tried to
keep the men's minds off those points; for it was so much simpler--so much
more normal--to lay everything to an outbreak of madness on the part of
some of Lake's party. From the look of things, that demon mountain
wind must have been enough to drive any man mad in the midst of this center
of all earthly mystery and desolation.
crowning abnormality, of course, was the condition of the bodies--men and
dogs alike. They had all been in some terrible kind of conflict,
and were torn and mangled in fiendish and altogether inexplicable ways.
Death, so far as we could judge, had in each case come from strangulation
or laceration. The dogs had evidently started the trouble, for the
state of their ill-built corral bore witness to its forcible breakage from
within. It had been set some distance from the camp because of the
hatred of the animals for those hellish Archaean organisms, but the precaution
seemed to have been taken in vain. When left alone in that monstrous
wind, behind flimsy walls of insufficient height, they must have stampeded--
whether from the wind itself, or from some subtle, increasing odor emitted
by the nightmare specimens, one could not say.
whatever had happened, it was hideous and revolting enough. Perhaps
I had better put squeamishness aside and tell the worst at last--though
with a categorical statement of opinion, based on the first-hand observations
and most rigid deductions of both Danforth and myself, that the then missing
Gedney was in no way responsible for the loathsome horrors we found.
I have said that the bodies were frightfully mangled. Now I must
add that some were incised and subtracted from in the most curious, cold-blooded,
and inhuman fashion. It was the same with the dogs and men.
All the healthier, fatter bodies, quadrupedal or bipedal, had had their
most solid masses of tissue cut out and removed, as by a crefuly butcher;
and around them was a strange sprinkling of salt--taken from the ravaged
provision chests on the planes--which conjured up the most horrible associations.
The thing had occurred in one of the crude aëroplane shelters from
which the plane had been dragged out, and subsequently winds had effaced
all tracks which could have supplied any plausible theory. Scattered
bits of clothing, roughly slashed from the human incision subjects, hinted
no clues. It is useless to bring up the half impression of certain
faint snow prints in one shielded corner of the ruined enclosure--because
that impression did not concern human prints at all, but was clearly mixed
up with all the talk of fossil prints which poor Lake had been giving throughout
the preceding weeks. One had to be careful of one's imagination in
the lee of those overshadowing mountains of madness.
have indicated, Gedney and one dog turned out to be missing in the end.
When we came on that terrible shelter we had missed two dogs and two men;
but the fairly unharmed dissecting tent, which we entered after investigating
the monstrous graves, had something to reveal. It was not as Lake
had left it, for the covered parts of the primal monstrosity had been removed
from the improvised table. Indeed, we had already realized that one
of the six imperfect and insanely buried things we had found--the one with
the trace of a peculiarly hateful odor--must represent the collected sections
of the entity which Lake had tried to analyze. On and around that
laboratory table were strewn other things, and it did not take long for
us to guess that those things were the carefully though oddly and inexpertly
dissected parts of one man and one dog. I shall spare the feelings
of survivors by omitting mention of the man's identity. Lake's anatomical
instruments were missing, but there were evidences of their careful cleansing.
The gasoline stove was also gone, though around it we found a curious litter
of matches. We buried the human parts beside the other ten men; and
the canine parts with the other thirty-five dogs. Concerning the
bizarre smudges on the laboratory table, and on the jumbled of roughly
handled illustrated books scattered near it, we were much too bewildered
formed the worst of the camp horror, but other things were equally perplexing.
The disappearance of Gedney, the one dog, and eight uninjured biological
specimens, the three sledges, and certain instruments, illustrated technical
and scientific books, writing materials, electric torches and batteries,
food and fuel, heating apparatus, spare tents, fur suits, and the like,
was utterly beyond same conjecture; as were likewise the spatterfringed
ink blots on certain pieces of paper, and the evidences of curious alien
fumbling and experimentation around the planes and all other mechanical
devices both at the camp and at the boring. The dogs seemed to abhor
this oddly disordered machinery. Then, too, there was the upsetting
of the larder, the disappearance of certain staples, and the jarringly
comical heap of tin cans pried open in the most unlikely ways and at the
most unlikely places. The profusion of scattered matches, intact,
broken, or spent, formed another major enigma--as did the two or three
tent cloths and fur suits which we found lying about with peculiar and
unorthodox slashings conceivably due to clumsy efforts at unimaginable
adaptations. The maltreatment of the human and canine bodies, and
the crazy burial of the damaged Archaean specimens, were all of a piece
with this apparent disintegrative madness. In view of just such an
eventuality as the present one, we carefully photographed all the main
evidences of insane disorder at the camp; and shall use the prints to buttress
our pleas against the departure of the proposed Starkweather-Moore Expedition.
first act after finding the bodies in the shelter was to photograph and
open the row of insane graves with the five-pointed snow mounds.
We could not help noticing the resemblance of these monstrous mounds, with
their clusters of grouped dots, to poor Lakes's descriptions of the grange
greenish soapstones; and when we came on some of the soapstones themselves
in the great mineral pile we found the likeness very close indeed.
The whole general formation, it must be made clear, seemed abominably suggestive
of the starfish head of the Archaean entities; and we agreed that the suggestion
must be worked potently upon the sensitized minds of Lake's overwrought
madness--centering in Gedney as the only possible surviving agent--was
the explanation spontaneously adopted by everybody so far as spoken utterance
was concerned; though I will not be so naïve as to deny that each
of us may have harbored wild guesses which sanity forbade him to formulate
completely. Sherman, Pabodie, and McTighe made an exhaustive aëroplane
cruise over all the surrounding territory in the afternoon, sweeping the
horizon with field glasses in quest of Gedney and of the various missing
things; but nothing came to light. The party reported that the titan
barrier ranged extended endlessly to right and left alike, without any
diminution in height or essential structure. On some of the peaks,
though, the regular cube and rampart formations were bolder and plainer,
having doubly fantastic similitudes to Roerich-painted Asian hill ruins.
The distribution of cryptical cave mouths on the black snow-denuded summits
seemed roughly even as far as the range could be traced.
of all the prevailing horrors we were left with enough sheer scientific
zeal and adventurousness to wonder about the unknown realm beyond those
mysterious mountains. As our guarded messages stated, we rested at
midnight after our day of terror and bafflement--but not without a tentative
plan for one or more range-crossing altitude flights in a lightened plane
with aërial camera and geologist's outfit, beginning the following
morning. It was decided that Danforth and I try it first, and we
awakened at 7 A.M. intending an early flight; however, heavy winds--mentioned
in our brief bulletin to the outside world--delayed our start till nearly
already repeated the noncommittal story we told the men at camp--and relayed
outside--after our return sixteen hours later. It is now my terrible
duty to amplify this account by filling in the merciful blanks with hints
of what we really saw in the hidden transmontane world--hints of the revelations
which had finally driven Danforth to a nervous collapse. I wish he
would add a really frank word about the thing which he thinks he alone
saw--even though it was probably a nervous delusion--and which was perhaps
the last straw that put him where he is; but he is firm against that.
All I can do is to repeat his later disjointed whispers about what set
him shrieking as the plane soared back through the wind-tortured mountain
pass after that real and tangible shock which I shared. This will
form my last word. If the plain signs of surviving elder horrors
in what I disclose be not enough to keep others from meddling with the
inner antarctic--or at least from prying too deeply beneath the surface
of that ultimate waste of forbidden secrets and inhuman, aeon-cursed desolation--the
responsibility for unnamamble and perhaps immeasurable evils will not be
and I, studying the notes made by Paboide in his afternoon flight and checking
up with a sextant, had calculated that the lowest available pass in the
range lay somewhat to the right of us, within sight of the camp, and about
twenty-three thousand or twenty-four thousand feet above sea level.
For this point, then, we first headed in the lightened plane as we embarked
on our flight of discovery. The camp itself, on foothills which sprang
fro a high continental plateau, was some twelve thousand feet in altitude;
hence the actual height increase necessary was not so vast as it might
seem. Nevertheless we were acutely conscious of the rarified air
and intense cold as we rose; for, on account of visibility conditions,
we had to leave the cabin windows open. We were dressed, of course,
in our heaviest furs.
drew near the forbidding peaks, dark and sinister above the line of crevasse-riven
snow and inerstitial glaciers, we noticed more and more the curiously regular
formations clinging to the slopes; and thought again of the strange Asian
paintings of Nicholas Roerich. The ancient and wind-weathered rock
strata fully verified all of Lake's bulletins, and proved that these pinnacles
had been towering up in exactly the same way since a surprisingly early
time in earth's history--perhaps over fifty million years. How much
higher they had once been, it was futile to guess; but everything about
this strange region pointed to obscure atmospheric influences unfavorable
to change, and calculated to retard the usual climatic processes of rock
it was the mountainside tangle of regular cubes, ramparts, and cave mouths
which fascinated and disturbed us most. I studied them with a field
glass and took aërial photographs while Danforth drove; and at time
I relieved him at the controls--though my aviation knowledge was purely
an amateur's--in order to let him use the binoculars. We could easily
see that much of the material of the things was a lightish Arhaean quartzite,
unlike any formation visible over broad areas of the general surface; and
that their regularity was extreme and uncanny to an extent which poor Lake
had scarcely hinted.
had said, their edges were crumbled and rounded from untold aeons of savage
weathering; but their preternatural solidity and tough material had saved
them from obliteration. Many parts, especially those closest to the
slopes, seemed identical in substance with the surrounding rock surface.
The whole arrangement looked like the ruins of Macchu Picchu in the Andes,
or the primal foundation walls of Kish as dug up by the Oxford Field Museum
Expedition in 1929; and both Danforth and I obtained that occasional impression
of separate blocks which Lake had attributed to his flight-companion Carroll.
How to account for such things in this place was frankly beyond me, and
I felt queerly humbled as a geologist. Igneous formations often have
strange regularities--like the famous Giants' Causeway in Ireland--but
this stupendous range, despite Lake's original suspicion of smoking cones,
was above all else nonvolcanic in evident structure.
curious cave mouths, near which the odd formations seemed most abundant,
presented another albeit a lesser puzzle because of their regularity of
outline. They were, as Lake's bulletin had said, often approximately
square or semiciruclar; as if the natural orifices had been shaped to greater
symmetry by some magic hand. Their numerousness and wide distribution
was remarkable, and suggested that the whole region was honeycombed with
tunnels dissolved out of limestone strata. Such glimpses as we secured
did not extend far within the caverns, but we say that they were apparently
clear of stalactites and stalagmites. Outside, those parts of the
mountain slopes adjoining the apertures seemed invariably smooth and regular;
and Danforth thought that the slight cracks and pittings of the weathering
tended toward unusual patterns. Filled as he was with the horrors
and strangenesses discovered at the camp, he hinted that the pittings vaguely
resembled those baffling groups of dots sprinkled over the primeval greenish
soapstones, so hideously duplicated on the madly conceived snow mounds
above those six buried monstrosities.
risen gradually in flying over the higher foothills and along toward the
relatively low pass we had selected. As we advanced we occasionally
looked down at the snow and ice of the land route, wondering whether we
could have attempted the trip with the simpler equipment of earlier days.
Somewhat to our surprise we saw that the terrain was far from difficult
as such things go; and that despite the crevasses and other bad spots it
would not have been likely to deter the sledges of a Scott, a Shackleton,
or an Amundsen. Some of the glaciers appeared to lead up to wind-bared
passes with unusual continuity, and upon reaching our chosen pass we found
that its case formed no exception.
sensations of tense expectancy as we prepared to round the crest and peer
out over an untrodden world can hardly be described on paper; even though
we had no cause to thing the regions beyond the range essentially different
from those already seen and traversed. The touch of evil mystery
in these barrier mountains, and in the beckoning sea of opalescent sky
glimpsed betwixt their summits, was a highly subtle and attenuated matter
not to be explained in literal words. Rather was it an affair of
vague psychological symbolism and aesthetic association--a thing mixed
up with exotic poetry and paintings, and with archaic myths lurking in
shunned and forbidden volumes. Even the wind's burden held a peculiar
strain of conscious malignity; and for a second it seemed that the composite
sound included a bizarre musical whistling or piping over a wide range
as the blast swept in and out of the omnipresent and resonant cave mouths.
There was a cloudy note of reminiscent repulsion in this sound, as complex
and unplaceable as any of the other dark impressions.
now, after a slow descent, at a height of twenty-three thousand, five hundred
and seventy feet according to the aneroid; and had left the region of clinging
snow definitely below us. Up here were only dark, bare rock slopes
and the start of rough-ribbed glaciers--but with those provocative cubes,
ramparts, and echoing ave mouths to add a portent of the unnatural, the
fantastic, and the dreamlike. Looking along the line of high peaks,
I though I could see the one mentioned by poor Lake, with a rampart exactly
on top. It seemed to be half lost in a queer antarctic haze--such
a haze, perhaps, as had been responsible for Lake's early notion of volcanism.
The pass loomed directly before us, smooth and windswept between its jagged
and malignly frowning pylons. Beyond it was a sky fretted with swirling
vapors and lighted by the low polar sun--the sky of that mysterious farther
realm upon which we felt no human eye had ever gazed.
more feet of altitude and we would behold that relm. Danforth and I, unable
to speak except in shouts amidst the howling, piping wind that raced through
the pass and added to the noise of the unmuffled engines, exchanged eloquent
glances. And then, having gained those last few feet, we did indeed
stare across the momentous divide and over the unsampled secrets of an
elder and utterly alien earth.
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