Then, apparently crossing my incoherent note and reaching me Saturday
afternoon, September 8th, came that curiously different and calming letter
neatly typed on a new machine; that strange letter of reassurance and invitation
which must have marked so prodigious a transition in the whole nightmare
drama of the lonely hills. Again I will quote from memory - seeking for
special reasons to preserve as much of the flavour of the style as I can.
It was postmarked Bellows Falls, and the signature as well as the body
of the letter was typed - as is frequent with beginners in typing. The
text, though, was marvellously accurate for a tyro's work; and I concluded
that Akeley must have used a machine at some previous period - perhaps
in college. To say that the letter relieved me would be only fair, yet
beneath my relief lay a substratum of uneasiness. If Akeley had been sane
in his terror, was he now sane in his deliverance? And the sort of "improved
rapport" mentioned . . . what was it? The entire thing implied such a diametrical
reversal of Akeley's previous attitude! But here is the substance of the
text, carefully transcribed from a memory in which I take some pride.
The complexity of my emotions upon reading, re-reading, and pondering
over this strange and unlooked-for letter is past adequate description.
I have said that I was at once relieved and made uneasy, but this expresses
only crudely the overtones of diverse and largely subconscious feelings
which comprised both the relief and the uneasiness. To begin with, the
thing was so antipodally at variance with the whole chain of horrors preceding
it - the change of mood from stark terror to cool complacency and even
exultation was so unheralded, lightning-like, and complete! I could scarcely
believe that a single day could so alter the psychological perspective
of one who had written that final frenzied bulletin of Wednesday, no matter
what relieving disclosures that day might have brought. At certain moments
a sense of conflicting unrealities made me wonder whether this whole distantly
reported drama of fantastic forces were not a kind of half-illusory dream
created largely within my own mind. Then I thought of the phonograph record
and gave way to still greater bewilderment.
My dear Wilmarth: -
Thursday, Sept. 6, 1928.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to set you at rest regarding
all the silly things I've been writing you. I say "silly," although by
that I mean my frightened attitude rather than my descriptions of certain
phenomena. Those phenomena are real and important enough; my mistake had
been in establishing an anomalous attitude toward them.
I think I mentioned that my strange visitors were beginning to communicate
with me, and to attempt such communication. Last night this exchange of
speech became actual. In response to certain signals I admitted to the
house a messenger from those outside - a fellow-human, let me hasten to
say. He told me much that neither you nor I had even begun to guess, and
showed clearly how totally we had misjudged and misinterpreted the purpose
of the Outer Ones in maintaining their secret colony on this planet.
It seems that the evil legends about what they have offered to men,
and what they wish in connection with the earth, are wholly the result
of an ignorant misconception of allegorical speech - speech, of course,
moulded by cultural backgrounds and thought-habits vastly different from
anything we dream of. My own conjectures, I freely own, shot as widely
past the mark as any of the guesses of illiterate farmers and savage Indians.
What I had thought morbid and shameful and ignominious is in reality awesome
and mind-expanding and even glorious - my previous estimate being
merely a phase of man's eternal tendency to hate and fear and shrink from
the utterly different.
Now I regret the harm I have inflicted upon these alien and incredible
beings in the course of our nightly skirmishes. If only I had consented
to talk peacefully and reasonably with them in the first place! But they
bear me no grudge, their emotions being organised very differently from
ours. It is their misfortune to have had as their human agents in Vermont
some very inferior specimens - the late Walter Brown, for example. He prejudiced
me vastly against them. Actually, they have never knowingly harmed men,
but have often been cruelly wronged and spied upon by our species. There
is a whole secret cult of evil men (a man of your mystical erudition will
understand me when I link them with Hastur and the Yellow Sign) devoted
to the purpose of tracking them down and injuring them on behalf of monstrous
powers from other dimensions. It is against these aggressors - not against
normal humanity - that the drastic precautions of the Outer Ones are directed.
Incidentally, I learned that many of our lost letters were stolen not by
the Outer Ones but by the emissaries of this malign cult.
All that the Outer Ones wish of man is peace and non-molestation
and an increasing intellectual rapport. This latter is absolutely necessary
now that our inventions and devices are expanding our knowledge and motions,
and making it more and more impossible for the Outer Ones' necessary outposts
to exist secretly on this planet. The alien beings desire to know mankind
more fully, and to have a few of mankind's philosophic and scientific leaders
know more about them. With such an exchange of knowledge all perils will
pass, and a satisfactory modus vivendi be established. The very
idea of any attempt to enslave or degrade mankind is ridiculous.
As a beginning of this improved rapport, the Outer Ones have naturally
chosen me - whose knowledge of them is already so considerable - as their
primary interpreter on earth. Much was told me last night - facts of the
most stupendous and vista-opening nature - and more will be subsequently
communicated to me both orally and in writing. I shall not be called upon
to make any trip outside just yet, though I shall probably wish to do so
later on - employing special means and transcending everything which we
have hitherto been accustomed to regard as human experience. My house will
be besieged no longer. Everything has reverted to normal, and the dogs
will have no further occupation. In place of terror I have been given a
rich boon of knowledge and intellectual adventure which few other mortals
have ever shared.
The Outer Beings are perhaps the most marvellous organic things in
or beyond all space and time-members of a cosmos-wide race of which all
other life-forms are merely degenerate variants. They are more vegetable
than animal, if these terms can be applied to the sort of matter composing
them, and have a somewhat fungoid structure; though the presence of a chlorophyll-like
substance and a very singular nutritive system differentiate them altogether
from true cormophytic fungi. Indeed, the type is composed of a form of
matter totally alien to our part of space - with electrons having a wholly
different vibration-rate. That is why the beings cannot be photographed
on the ordinary camera films and plates of our known universe, even though
our eyes can see them. With proper knowledge, however, any good chemist
could make a photographic emulsion which would record their images.
The genus is unique in its ability to traverse the heatless and airless
interstellar void in full corporeal form, and some of its variants cannot
do this without mechanical aid or curious surgical transpositions. Only
a few species have the ether-resisting wings characteristic of the Vermont
variety. Those inhabiting certain remote peaks in the Old World were brought
in other ways. Their external resemblance to animal life, and to the sort
of structure we understand as material, is a matter of parallel evolution
rather than of close kinship. Their brain-capacity exceeds that of any
other surviving life-form, although the winged types of our hill country
are by no means the most highly developed. Telepathy is their usual means
of discourse, though we have rudimentary vocal organs which, after a slight
operation (for surgery is an incredibly expert and everyday thing among
them), can roughly duplicate the speech of such types of organism as still
Their main immediate abode is a still undiscovered and almost
lightless planet at the very edge of our solar system - beyond Neptune,
and the ninth in distance from the sun. It is, as we have inferred, the
object mystically hinted at as "Yuggoth" in certain ancient and forbidden
writings; and it will soon be the scene of a strange focussing of thought
upon our world in an effort to facilitate mental rapport. I would not be
surprised if astronomers become sufficiently sensitive to these thought-currents
to discover Yuggoth when the Outer Ones wish them to do so. But Yuggoth,
of course, is only the stepping-stone. The main body of the beings inhabits
strangely organized abysses wholly beyond the utmost reach of any human
imagination. The space-time globule which we recognize as the totality
of all cosmic entity is only an atom in the genuine infinity which is theirs.
as much of this infinity as any human brain can hold is eventually to be
opened up to me, as it has been to not more than fifty other men since
the human race has existed.
You will probably call this raving at first, Wilmarth, but in time
you will appreciate the titanic opportunity I have stumbled upon. I want
you to share as much of it as is possible, and to that end must tell you
thousands of things that won't go on paper. In the past I have warned you
not to come to see me. Now that all is safe, I take pleasure in rescinding
that warning and inviting you.
Can't you make a trip up here before your college term opens? It
would be marvelously delightful if you could. Bring along the phonograph
record and all my letters to you as consultative data - we shall need them
in piecing together the whole tremendous story. You might bring the Kodak
prints, too, since I seem to have mislaid the negatives and my own prints
in all this recent excitement. But what a wealth of facts I have to add
to all this groping and tentative material - and what a stupendous device
I have to supplement my additions!
Don't hesitate - I am free from espionage now, and you will not meet
anything unnatural or disturbing. Just come along and let my car meet you
at the Brattleboro station - prepare to stay as long as you can, and expect
many an evening of discussion of things beyond all human conjecture. Don't
tell anyone about it, of course - for this matter must not get to the promiscuous
The train service to Brattleboro is not bad - you can get a timetable
in Boston. Take the B. & M. to Greenfield, and then change for the
brief remainder of the way. I suggest your taking the convenient 4:10 P.M.
- standard-from Boston. This gets into Greenfield at 7:35, and at 9:19
a train leaves there which reaches Brattleboro at 10:01. That is weekdays.
Let me know the date and I'll have my car on hand at the station.
Pardon this typed letter, but my handwriting has grown shaky of late,
as you know, and I don't feel equal to long stretches of script. I got
this new Corona in Brattleboro yesterday - it seems to work very well.
Awaiting word, and hoping to see you shortly with the phonograph
record and all my letters - and the Kodak prints -
TO ALBERT N. WILMARTH, ESQ.,
Yours in anticipation,
Henry W. Akeley
The letter seemed so unlike anything which could have been expected!
As I analysed my impression, I saw that it consisted of two distinct phases.
First, granting that Akeley had been sane before and was still sane, the
indicated change in the situation itself was so swift and unthinkable.
And secondly, the change in Akeley's own manner, attitude, and language
was so vastly beyond the normal or the predictable. The man's whole personality
seemed to have undergone an insidious mutation - a mutation so deep that
one could scarcely reconcile his two aspects with the supposition that
both represented equal sanity. Word-choice, spelling - all were subtly
different. And with my academic sensitiveness to prose style, I could trace
profound divergences in his commonest reactions and rhythm-responses. Certainly,
the emotional cataclysm or revelation which could produce so radical an
overturn must be an extreme one indeed! Yet in another way the letter seemed
quite characteristic of Akeley. The same old passion for infinity - the
same old scholarly inquisitiveness. I could not a moment - or more than
a moment - credit the idea of spuriousness or malign substitution. Did
not the invitation - the willingness to have me test the truth of the letter
in person - prove its genuineness?
I did not retire Saturday night, but sat up thinking of the shadows
and marvels behind the letter I had received. My mind, aching from the
quick succession of monstrous conceptions it had been forced to confront
during the last four months, worked upon this startling new material in
a cycle of doubt and acceptance which repeated most of the steps experienced
in facing the earlier wonders; till long before dawn a burning interest
and curiosity had begun to replace the original storm of perplexity and
uneasiness. Mad or sane, metamorphosed or merely relieved, the chances
were that Akeley had actually encountered some stupendous change of perspective
in his hazardous research; some change at once diminishing his danger -
real or fancied - and opening dizzy new vistas of cosmic and superhuman
knowledge. My own zeal for the unknown flared up to meet his, and I felt
myself touched by the contagion of the morbid barrier-breaking. To shake
off the maddening and wearying limitations of time and space and natural
law - to be linked with the vast outside - to come close to the nighted
and abysmal secrets of the infinite and the ultimate - surely such a thing
was worth the risk of one's life, soul, and sanity! And Akeley had said
there was no longer any peril - he had invited me to visit him instead
of warning me away as before. I tingled at the thought of what he might
now have to tell me - there was an almost paralysing fascination in the
thought of sitting in that lonely and lately-beleaguered farmhouse with
a man who had talked with actual emissaries from outer space; sitting there
with the terrible record and the pile of letters in which Akeley had summarised
his earlier conclusions.
So late Sunday morning I telegraphed Akeley that I would meet him
in Brattleboro on the following Wednesday - September 12th - if that date
were convenient for him. In only one respect did I depart from his suggestions,
and that concerned the choice of a train. Frankly, I did not feel like
arriving in that haunted Vermont region late at night; so instead of accepting
the train he chose I telephoned the station and devised another arrangement.
By rising early and taking the 8:07 A.M. (standard) into Boston, I could
catch the 9:25 for Greenfield; arriving there at 12:22 noon. This connected
exactly with a train reaching Brattleboro at 1:08 p.m. - a much more comfortable
hour than 10:01 for meeting Akeley and riding with him into the close-packed,
I mentioned this choice in my telegram, and was glad to learn in
the reply which came toward evening that it had met with my prospective
host's endorsement. His wire ran thus:
ARRANGEMENT SATISFACTORY WILL MEET ONE EIGHT TRAIN WEDNESDAY
DONT FORGET RECORD AND LETTERS AND PRINTS KEEP DESTINATION QUIET EXPECT
Receipt of this message in direct response to one sent to Akeley - and
necessarily delivered to his house from the Townshend station either by
official messenger or by a restored telephone service - removed any lingering
subconscious doubts I may have had about the authorship of the perplexing
letter. My relief was marked - indeed, it was greater than I could account
for at the time; since all such doubts had been rather deeply buried. But
I slept soundly and long that night, and was eagerly busy with preparations
during the ensuing two days.
On Wednesday I started as agreed,. taking with me a valise full of simple
necessities and scientific data, including the hideous phonograph record,
the Kodak prints, and the entire file of Akeley's correspondence. As requested,
I had told no one where I was going; for I could see that the matter demanded
utmost privacy, even allowing for its most favourable turns. The thought
of actual mental contact with alien, outside entities was stupefying enough
to my trained and somewhat prepared mind; and this being so, what might
one think of its effect on the vast masses of uninformed laymen? I do not
know whether dread or adventurous expectancy was uppermost in me as I changed
trains at Boston and began the long westward run out of familiar regions
into those I knew less thoroughly. Waltham - Concord - Ayer - Fitchburg
- Gardner - Athol -
My train reached Greenfield seven minutes late, but the northbound
connecting express had been held. Transferring in haste, I felt a curious
breathlessness as the cars rumbled on through the early afternoon sunlight
into territories I had always read of but had never before visited. I knew
I was entering an altogether older-fashioned and more primitive New England
than the mechanised, urbanised coastal and southern areas where all my
life had been spent; an unspoiled, ancestral New England without the foreigners
and factory-smoke, bill-boards and concrete roads, of the sections which
modernity has touched. There would be odd survivals of that continuous
native life whose deep roots make it the one authentic outgrowth of the
landscape - the continuous native life which keeps alive strange ancient
memories, and fertilises the soil for shadowy, marvellous, and seldom-mentioned
Now and then I saw the blue Connecticut River gleaming in the sun,
and after leaving Northfield we crossed it. Ahead loomed green and cryptical
hills, and when the conductor came around I learned that I was at last
in Vermont. He told me to set my watch back an hour, since the northern
hill country will have no dealings with new-fangled daylight time schemes.
As I did so it seemed to me that I was likewise turning the calendar back
The train kept close to the river, and across in New Hampshire I
could see the approaching slope of steep Wantastiquet, about which singular
old legends cluster. Then streets appeared on my left, and a green island
showed in the stream on my right. People rose and filed to the door, and
I followed them. The car stopped, and I alighted beneath the long train-shed
of the Brattleboro station.
Looking over the line of waiting motors I hesitated a moment to see
which one might turn out to be the Akeley Ford, but my identity was divined
before I could take the initiative. And yet it was clearly not Akeley himself
who advanced to meet me with an outstretched hand and a mellowly phrased
query as to whether I was indeed Mr. Albert N. Wilmarth of Arkham. This
man bore no resemblance to the bearded, grizzled Akeley of the snapshot;
but was a younger and more urbane person, fashionably dressed, and wearing
only a small, dark moustache. His cultivated voice held an odd and almost
disturbing hint of vague familiarity, though I could not definitely place
it in my memory.
As I surveyed him I heard him explaining that he was a friend of
my prospective host's who had come down from Townshend in his stead. Akeley,
he declared, had suffered a sudden attack of some asthmatic trouble, and
did not feel equal to making a trip in the outdoor air. It was not serious,
however, and there was to be no change in plans regarding my visit. I could
not make out just how much this Mr. Noyes - as he announced himself - knew
of Akeley's researches and discoveries, though it seemed to me that his
casual manner stamped him as a comparative outsider. Remembering what a
hermit Akeley had been, I was a trifle surprised at the ready availability
of such a friend; but did not let my puzzlement deter me from entering
the motor to which he gestured me. It was not the small ancient car I had
expected from Akeley's descriptions, but a large and immaculate specimen
of recent pattern - apparently Noyes's own, and bearing Massachusetts license
plates with the amusing "sacred codfish" device of that year. My guide,
I concluded, must be a summer transient in the Townshend region.
Noyes climbed into the car beside me and started it at once. I was
glad that he did not overflow with conversation, for some peculiar atmospheric
tensity made me feel disinclined to talk. The town seemed very attractive
in the afternoon sunlight as we swept up an incline and turned to the right
into the main street. It drowsed like the older New England cities which
one remembers from boyhood, and something in the collocation of roofs and
steeples and chimneys and brick walls formed contours touching deep viol-strings
of ancestral emotion. I could tell that I was at the gateway of a region
half-bewitched through the piling-up of unbroken time-accumulations; a
region where old, strange things have had a chance to grow and linger because
they have never been stirred up.
As we passed out of Brattleboro my sense of constraint and foreboding
increased, for a vague quality in the hill-crowded countryside with its
towering, threatening, close-pressing green and granite slopes hinted at
obscure secrets and immemorial survivals which might or might not be hostile
to mankind. For a time our course followed a broad, shallow river which
flowed down from unknown hills in the north, and I shivered when my companion
told me it was the West River. It was in this stream, I recalled from newspaper
items, that one of the morbid crablike beings had been seen floating after
Gradually the country around us grew wilder and more deserted. Archaic
covered bridges lingered fearsomely out of the past in pockets of the hills,
and the half-abandoned railway track paralleling the river seemed to exhale
a nebulously visible air of desolation. There were awesome sweeps of vivid
valley where great cliffs rose, New England's virgin granite showing grey
and austere through the verdure that scaled the crests. There were gorges
where untamed streams leaped, bearing down toward the river the unimagined
secrets of a thousand pathless peaks. Branching away now and then were
narrow, half-concealed roads that bored their way through solid, luxuriant
masses of forest among whose primal trees whole armies of elemental spirits
might well lurk. As I saw these I thought of how Akeley had been molested
by unseen agencies on his drives along this very route, and did not wonder
that such things could be.
The quaint, sightly village of Newfane, reached in less than an hour,
was our last link with that world which man can definitely call his own
by virtue of conquest and complete occupancy. After that we cast off all
allegiance to immediate, tangible, and time-touched things, and entered
a fantastic world of hushed unreality in which the narrow, ribbon-like
road rose and fell and curved with an almost sentient and purposeful caprice
amidst the tenantless green peaks and half-deserted valleys. Except for
the sound of the motor, and the faint stir of the few lonely farms we passed
at infrequent intervals, the only thing that reached my ears was the gurgling,
insidious trickle of strange waters from numberless hidden fountains in
the shadowy woods.
The nearness and intimacy of the dwarfed, domed hills now became
veritably breath-taking. Their steepness and abruptness were even greater
than I had imagined from hearsay, and suggested nothing in common with
the prosaic objective world we know. The dense, unvisited woods on those
inaccessible slopes seemed to harbour alien and incredible things, and
I felt that the very outline of the hills themselves held some strange
and aeon-forgotten meaning, as if they were vast hieroglyphs left by a
rumoured titan race whose glories live only in rare, deep dreams. All the
legends of the past, and all the stupefying imputations of Henry Akeley's
letters and exhibits, welled up in my memory to heighten the atmosphere
of tension and growing menace. The purpose of my visit, and the frightful
abnormalities it postulated struck at me all at once with a chill sensation
that nearly over-balanced my ardour for strange delvings.
My guide must have noticed my disturbed attitude; for as the road
grew wilder and more irregular, and our motion slower and more jolting,
his occasional pleasant comments expanded into a steadier flow of discourse.
He spoke of the beauty and weirdness of the country, and revealed some
acquaintance with the folklore studies of my prospective host. From his
polite questions it was obvious that he knew I had come for a scientific
purpose, and that I was bringing data of some importance; but he gave no
sign of appreciating the depth and awfulness of the knowledge which Akeley
had finally reached.
His manner was so cheerful, normal, and urbane that his remarks ought
to have calmed and reassured me; but oddly enough. I felt only the more
disturbed as we bumped and veered onward into the unknown wilderness of
hills and woods. At times it seemed as if he were pumping me to see what
I knew of the monstrous secrets of the place, and with every fresh utterance
that vague, teasing, baffling familiarity in his voice increased. It was
not an ordinary or healthy familiarity despite the thoroughly wholesome
and cultivated nature of the voice. I somehow linked it with forgotten
nightmares, and felt that I might go mad if I recognised it. If any good
excuse had existed, I think I would have turned back from my visit. As
it was, I could not well do so - and it occurred to me that a cool, scientific
conversation with Akeley himself after my arrival would help greatly to
pull me together.
Besides, there was a strangely calming element of cosmic beauty in
the hypnotic landscape through which we climbed and plunged fantastically.
Time had lost itself in the labyrinths behind, and around us stretched
only the flowering waves of faery and the recaptured loveliness of vanished
centuries - the hoary groves, the untainted pastures edged with gay autumnal
blossoms, and at vast intervals the small brown farmsteads nestling amidst
huge trees beneath vertical precipices of fragrant brier and meadow-grass.
Even the sunlight assumed a supernal glamour, as if some special atmosphere
or exhalation mantled the whole region. I had seen nothing like it before
save in the magic vistas that sometimes form the backgrounds of Italian
primitives. Sodoma and Leonardo conceived such expanses, but only in the
distance, and through the vaultings of Renaissance arcades. We were now
burrowing bodily through the midst of the picture, and I seemed to find
in its necromancy a thing I had innately known or inherited and for which
I had always been vainly searching.
Suddenly, after rounding an obtuse angle at the top of a sharp ascent,
the car came to a standstill. On my left, across a well-kept lawn which
stretched to the road and flaunted a border of whitewashed stones, rose
a white, two-and-a-half-story house of unusual size and elegance for the
region, with a congenes of contiguous or arcade-linked barns, sheds, and
windmill behind and to the right. I recognised it at once from the snapshot
I had received, and was not surprised to see the name of Henry Akeley on
the galvanised-iron mailbox near the road. For some distance back of the
house a level stretch of marshy and sparsely-wooded land extended, beyond
which soared a steep, thickly-forested hillside ending in a jagged leafy
crest. This latter, I knew, was the summit of Dark Mountain, half way up
which we must have climbed already.
Alighting from the car and taking my valise, Noyes asked me to wait
while he went in and notified Akeley of my advent. He himself, he added,
had important business elsewhere, and could not stop for more than a moment.
As he briskly walked up the path to the house I climbed out of the car
myself, wishing to stretch my legs a little before settling down to a sedentary
conversation. My feeling of nervousness and tension had risen to a maximum
again now that I was on the actual scene of the morbid beleaguering described
so hauntingly in Akeley's letters, and I honestly dreaded the coming discussions
which were to link me with such alien and forbidden worlds.
Close contact with the utterly bizarre is often more terrifying than
inspiring, and it did not cheer me to think that this very bit of dusty
road was the place where those monstrous tracks and that foetid green ichor
had been found after moonless nights of fear and death. Idly I noticed
that none of Akeley's dogs seemed to be about. Had he sold them all as
soon as the Outer Ones made peace with him? Try as I might, I could not
have the same confidence in the depth and sincerity of that peace which
appeared in Akeley's final and queerly different letter. After all, he
was a man of much simplicity and with little worldly experience. Was there
not, perhaps, some deep and sinister undercurrent beneath the surface of
the new alliance?
Led by my thoughts, my eyes turned downward to the powdery road surface
which had held such hideous testimonies. The last few days had been dry,
and tracks of all sorts cluttered the rutted, irregular highway despite
the unfrequented nature of the district. With a vague curiosity I began
to trace the outline of some of the heterogeneous impressions, trying meanwhile
to curb the flights of macabre fancy which the place and its memories suggested.
There was something menacing and uncomfortable in the funereal stillness,
in the muffled, subtle trickle of distant brooks, and in the crowding green
peaks and black-wooded precipices that choked the narrow horizon.
And then an image shot into my consciousness which made those vague
menaces and flights of fancy seem mild and insignificant indeed. I have
said that I was scanning the miscellaneous prints in the road with a kind
of idle curiosity - but all at once that curiosity was shockingly snuffed
out by a sudden and paralysing gust of active terror. For though the dust
tracks were in general confused and overlapping, and unlikely to arrest
any casual gaze, my restless vision had caught certain details near the
spot where the path to the house joined the highway; and had recognised
beyond doubt or hope the frightful significance of those details. It was
not for nothing, alas, that I had pored for hours over the Kodak views
of the Outer Ones' claw-prints which Akeley had sent. Too well did I know
the marks of those loathsome nippers, and that hint of ambiguous direction
which stamped the horrors as no creatures of this planet. No chance had
been left me for merciful mistake. Here, indeed, in objective form before
my own eyes, and surely made not many hours ago, were at least three marks
which stood out blasphemously among the surprising plethora of blurred
footprints leading to and from the Akeley farmhouse. They were the hellish
tracks of the living fungi from Yuggoth.
I pulled myself together in time to stifle a scream. After all, what
more was there than I might have expected, assuming that I had really believed
Akeley's letters? He had spoken of making peace with the things. Why, then,
was it strange that some of them had visited his house? But the terror
was stronger than the reassurance. Could any man be expected to look unmoved
for the first time upon the claw-marks of animate beings from outer depths
of space? Just then I saw Noyes emerge from the door and approach with
a brisk step. I must, I reflected, keep command of myself, for the chances
were that this genial friend knew nothing of Akeley's profoundest and most
stupendous probings into the forbidden.
Akeley, Noyes hastened to inform me, was glad and ready to see me;
although his sudden attack of asthma would prevent him from being a very
competent host for a day or two. These spells hit him hard when they came,
and were always accompanied by a debilitating fever and general weakness.
He never was good for much while they lasted - had to talk in a whisper,
and was very clumsy and feeble in getting about. His feet and ankles swelled,
too, so that he had to bandage them like a gouty old beef-eater. Today
he was in rather bad shape, so that I would have to attend very largely
to my own needs; but he was none the less eager for conversation. I would
find him in the study at the left of the front hall - the room where the
blinds were shut. He had to keep the sunlight out when he was ill, for
his eyes were very sensitive.
As Noyes bade me adieu and rode off northward in his car I began
to walk slowly toward the house. The door had been left ajar for me; but
before approaching and entering I cast a searching glance around the whole
place, trying to decide what had struck me as so intangibly queer about
it. The barns and sheds looked trimly prosaic enough, and I noticed Akeley's
battered Ford in its capacious, unguarded shelter. Then the secret of the
queerness reached me. It was the total silence. Ordinarily a farm is at
least moderately murmurous from its various kinds of livestock, but here
all signs of life were missing. What of the hens and the dogs? The cows,
of which Akeley had said he possessed several, might conceivably be out
to pasture, and the dogs might possibly have been sold; but the absence
of any trace of cackling or grunting was truly singular.
I did not pause long on the path, but resolutely entered the open
house door and closed it behind me. It had cost me a distinct psychological
effort to do so, and now that I was shut inside I had a momentary longing
for precipitate retreat. Not that the place was in the least sinister in
visual suggestion; on the contrary, I thought the graceful late-colonial
hallway very tasteful and wholesome, and admired the evident breeding of
the man who had furnished it. What made me wish to flee was something very
attenuated and indefinable. Perhaps it was a certain odd odour which I
thought I noticed - though I well knew how common musty odours are in even
the best of ancient farmhouses.
Refusing to let these cloudy qualms overmaster me, I recalled Noyes's
instructions and pushed open the six-panelled, brass-latched white door
on my left. The room beyond was darkened as I had known before; and as
I entered it I noticed that the queer odour was stronger there. There likewise
appeared to be some faint, half-imaginary rhythm or vibration in the air.
For a moment the closed blinds allowed me to see very little, but then
a kind of apologetic hacking or whispering sound drew my attention to a
great easy-chair in the farther, darker corner of the room. Within its
shadowy depths I saw the white blur of a man's face and hands; and in a
moment I had crossed to greet the figure who had tried to speak. Dim though
the light was, I perceived that this was indeed my host. I had studied
the Kodak picture repeatedly, and there could be no mistake about this
firm, weather-beaten face with the cropped, grizzled beard.
But as I looked again my recognition was mixed with sadness and anxiety;
for certainly, his face was that of a very sick man. I felt that there
must be something more than asthma behind that strained, rigid, immobile
expression and unwinking glassy stare; and realised how terribly the strain
of his frightful experiences must have told on him. Was it not enough to
break any human being - even a younger man than this intrepid delver into
the forbidden? The strange and sudden relief, I feared, had come too late
to save him from something like a general breakdown. There was a touch
of the pitiful in the limp, lifeless way his lean hands rested in his lap.
He had on a loose dressing-gown, and was swathed around the head and high
around the neck with a vivid yellow scarf or hood.
And then I saw that he was trying to talk in the same hacking whisper
with which he had greeted me. It was a hard whisper to catch at first,
since the grey moustache concealed all movements of the lips, and something
in its timbre disturbed me greatly; but by concentrating my attention I
could soon make out its purport surprisingly well. The accent was by no
means a rustic one, and the language was even more polished than correspondence
had led me to expect.
"Mr. Wilmarth, I presume? You must pardon my not rising. I am quite
ill, as Mr. Noyes must have told you; but I could not resist having you
come just the same. You know what I wrote in my last letter - there is
so much to tell you tomorrow when I shall feel better. I can't say how
glad I am to see you in person after all our many letters. You have the
file with you, of course? And the Kodak prints and records? Noyes put your
valise in the hall - I suppose you saw it. For tonight I fear you'll have
to wait on yourself to a great extent. Your room is upstairs - the one
over this - and you'll see the bathroom door open at the head of the staircase.
There's a meal spread for you in the dining-room - right through this door
at your right - which you can take whenever you feel like it. I'll be a
better host tomorrow - but just now weakness leaves me helpless.
"Make yourself at home - you might take out the letters and pictures
and records and put them on the table here before you go upstairs with
your bag. It is here that we shall discuss them - you can see my phonograph
on that corner stand.
"No, thanks - there's nothing you can do for me. I know these spells
of old. Just come back for a little quiet visiting before night, and then
go to bed when you please. I'll rest right here - perhaps sleep here all
night as I often do. In the morning I'll be far better able to go into
the things we must go into. You realise, of course, the utterly stupendous
nature of the matter before us. To us, as to only a few men on this earth,
there will be opened up gulfs of time and space and knowledge beyond anything
within the conception of human science or philosophy.
"Do you know that Einstein is wrong, and that certain objects and
forces can move with a velocity greater than that of light? With proper
aid I expect to go backward and forward in time, and actually see and feel
the earth of remote past and future epochs. You can't imagine the degree
to which those beings have carried science. There is nothing they can't
do with the mind and body of living organisms. I expect to visit other
planets, and even other stars and galaxies. The first trip will be to Yuggoth,
the nearest world fully peopled by the beings. It is a strange dark orb
at the very rim of our solar system - unknown to earthly astronomers as
yet. But I must have written you about this. At the proper time, you know,
the beings there will direct thought-currents toward us and cause it to
be discovered - or perhaps let one of their human allies give the scientists
"There are mighty cities on Yuggoth - great tiers of terraced towers
built of black stone like the specimen I tried to send you. That came from
Yuggoth. The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need
no light. They have other subtler senses, and put no windows in their great
houses and temples. Light even hurts and hampers and confuses them, for
it does not exist at all in the black cosmos outside time and space where
they came from originally. To visit Yuggoth would drive any weak man mad
- yet I am going there. The black rivers of pitch that flow under those
mysterious cyclopean bridges - things built by some elder race extinct
and forgotten before the beings came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids
- ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane
long enough to tell what he has seen.
"But remember - that dark world of fungoid gardens and windowless
cities isn't really terrible. It is only to us that it would seem so. Probably
this world seemed just as terrible to the beings when they first explored
it in the primal age. You know they were here long before the fabulous
epoch of Cthulhu was over, and remember all about sunken R'lyeh when it
was above the waters. They've been inside the earth, too - there are openings
which human beings know nothing of - some of them in these very Vermont
hills - and great worlds of unknown life down there; blue-litten K'n-yan,
red-litten Yoth, and black, lightless N'kai. It's from N'kai that frightful
Tsathoggua came - you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned
in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the
Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.
"But we will talk of all this later on. It must be four or five o'clock
by this time. Better bring the stuff from your bag, take a bite, and then
come back for a comfortable chat."
Very slowly I turned and began to obey my host; fetching my valise,
extracting and depositing the desired articles, and finally ascending to
the room designated as mine. With the memory of that roadside claw-print
fresh in my mind, Akeley's whispered paragraphs had affected me queerly;
and the hints of familiarity with this unknown world of fungous life -
forbidden Yuggoth - made my flesh creep more than I cared to own. I was
tremendously sorry about Akeley's illness, but had to confess that his
hoarse whisper had a hateful as well as pitiful quality. If only he wouldn't
gloat so about Yuggoth and its black secrets!
My room proved a very pleasant and well-furnished one, devoid alike
of the musty odour and disturbing sense of vibration; and after leaving
my valise there I descended again to greet Akeley and take the lunch he
had set out for me. The dining-room was just beyond the study, and I saw
that a kitchen elI extended still farther in the same direction. On the
dining-table an ample array of sandwiches, cake, and cheese awaited me,
and a Thermos-bottle beside a cup and saucer testified that hot coffee
had not been forgotten. After a well-relished meal I poured myself a liberal
cup of coffee, but found that the culinary standard had suffered a lapse
in this one detail. My first spoonful revealed a faintly unpleasant acrid
taste, so that I did not take more. Throughout the lunch I thought of Akeley
sitting silently in the great chair in the darkened next room.
Once I went in to beg him to share the repast, but he whispered that
he could eat nothing as yet. Later on, just before he slept, he would take
some malted milk - all he ought to have that day.
After lunch I insisted on clearing the dishes away and washing them
in the kitchen sink - incidentally emptying the coffee which I had not
been able to appreciate. Then returning to the darkened study I drew up
a chair near my host's corner and prepared for such conversation as he
might feel inclined to conduct. The letters, pictures, and record were
still on the large centre-table, but for the nonce we did not have to draw
upon them. Before long I forgot even the bizarre odour and curious suggestions
I have said that there were things in some of Akeley's letters -
especially the second and most voluminous one - which I would not dare
to quote or even form into words on paper. This hesitancy applies with
still greater force to the things I heard whispered that evening in the
darkened room among the lonely hills. Of the extent of the cosmic horrors
unfolded by that raucous voice I cannot even hint. He had known hideous
things before, but what he had learned since making his pact with the Outside
Things was almost too much for sanity to bear. Even now I absolutely refused
to believe what he implied about the constitution of ultimate infinity,
the juxtaposition of dimensions, and the frightful position of our known
cosmos of space and time in the unending chain of linked cosmos-atoms which
makes up the immediate super-cosmos of curves, angles, and material and
semi-material electronic organisation.
Never was a sane man more dangerously close to the arcana of basic
entity - never was an organic brain nearer to utter annihilation in the
chaos that transcends form and force and symmetry. I learned whence Cthulhu
first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared
forth. I guessed - from hints which made even my informant pause timidly
- the secret behind the Magellanic Clouds and globular nebulae, and the
black truth veiled by the immemorial allegory of Tao. The nature of the
Doels was plainly revealed, and I was told the essence (though not the
source) of the Hounds of Tindalos. The legend of Yig, Father of Serpents,
remained figurative no longer, and I started with loathing when told of
the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond angled space which the Necronomicon
had mercifully cloaked under the name of Azathoth. It was shocking to have
the foulest nightmares of secret myth cleared up in concrete terms whose
stark, morbid hatefulness exceeded the boldest hints of ancient and mediaeval
mystics. Ineluctably I was led to believe that the first whisperers of
these accursed tales must have had discourse with Akeley's Outer Ones,
and perhaps have visited outer cosmic realms as Akeley now proposed visiting
I was told of the Black Stone and what it implied, and was glad that
it had not reached me. My guesses about those hieroglyphics had been all
too correct! And yet Akeley now seemed reconciled to the whole fiendish
system he had stumbled upon; reconciled and eager to probe farther into
the monstrous abyss. I wondered what beings he had talked with since his
last letter to me, and whether many of them had been as human as that first
emissary he had mentioned. The tension in my head grew insufferable, and
I built up all sorts of wild theories about that queer, persistent odour
and those insidious hints of vibration in the darkened room.
Night was falling now, and as I recalled what Akeley had written
me about those earlier nights I shuddered to think there would be no moon.
Nor did I like the way the farmhouse nestled in the lee of that colossal
forested slope leading up to Dark Mountain's unvisited crest. With Akeley's
permission I lighted a small oil lamp, turned it low, and set it on a distant
bookcase beside the ghostly bust of Milton; but afterward I was sorry I
had done so, for it made my host's strained, immobile face and listless
hands look damnably abnormal and corpselike. He seemed half-incapable of
motion, though I saw him nod stiffly once in awhile.
After what he had told, I could scarcely imagine what profounder
secrets he was saving for the morrow; but at last it developed that his
trip to Yuggoth and beyond - and my own possible participation in
it - was to be the next day's topic. He must have been amused by the start
of horror I gave at hearing a cosmic voyage on my part proposed, for his
head wabbled violently when I showed my fear. Subsequently he spoke very
gently of how human beings might accomplish - and several times had accomplished
- the seemingly impossible flight across the interstellar void. It seemed
that complete human bodies did not indeed make the trip, but that the
prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skill of the
Outer Ones had found a way to convey human brains without their concomitant
There was a harmless way to extract a brain, and a way to keep the
organic residue alive during its absence. The bare, compact cerebral matter
was then immersed in an occasionally replenished fluid within an ether-tight
cylinder of a metal mined in Yuggoth, certain electrodes reaching through
and connecting at will with elaborate instruments capable of duplicating
the three vital faculties of sight, hearing, and speech. For the winged
fungus-beings to carry the brain-cylinders intact through space was an
easy matter. Then, on every planet covered by their civilisation, they
would find plenty of adjustable faculty-instruments capable of being connected
with the encased brains; so that after a little fitting these travelling
intelligences could be given a full sensory and articulate life - albeit
a bodiless and mechanical one - at each stage of their journeying through
and beyond the space-time continuum. It was as simple as carrying a phonograph
record about and playing it wherever a phonograph of corresponding make
exists. Of its success there could be no question. Akeley was not afraid.
Had it not been brilliantly accomplished again and again?
For the first time one of the inert, wasted hands raised itself and
pointed stiffly to a high shelf on the farther side of the room. There,
in a neat row, stood more than a dozen cylinders of a metal I had never
seen before - cylinders about a foot high and somewhat less in diameter,
with three curious sockets set in an isosceles triangle over the front
convex surface of each. One of them was linked at two of the sockets to
a pair of singular-looking machines that stood in the background. Of their
purport I did not need to be told, and I shivered as with ague. Then I
saw the hand point to a much nearer corner where some intricate instruments
with attached cords and plugs, several of them much like the two devices
on the shelf behind the cylinders, were huddled together.
"There are four kinds of instruments here, Wilmarth," whispered the
voice. "Four kinds - three faculties each - makes twelve pieces in all.
You see there are four different sorts of beings represented in those cylinders
up there. Three humans, six fungoid beings who can't navigate space corporeally,
two beings from Neptune (God! if you could see the body this type has on
its own planet!), and the rest entities from the central caverns of an
especially interesting dark star beyond the galaxy. In the principal outpost
inside Round Hill you'll now and then find more cylinders and machines
- cylinders of extra-cosmic brains with different senses from any we know
- allies and explorers from the uttermost Outside - and special machines
for giving them impressions and expression in the several ways suited at
once to them and to the comprehensions of different types of listeners.
Round Hill, like most of the beings' main outposts all through the various
universes, is a very cosmopolitan place. Of course, only the more common
types have been lent to me for experiment.
"Here - take the three machines I point to and set them on the table.
That tall one with the two glass lenses in front - then the box with the
vacuum tubes and sounding-board - and now the one with the metal disc on
top. Now for the cylinder with the label 'B-67' pasted on it. Just stand
in that Windsor chair to reach the shelf. Heavy? Never mind! Be sure of
the number - B-67. Don't bother that fresh, shiny cylinder joined to the
two testing instruments - the one with my name on it. Set B-67 on the table
near where you've put the machines - and see that the dial switch on all
three machines is jammed over to the extreme left.
"Now connect the cord of the lens machine with the upper socket on
the cylinder - there! Join the tube machine to the lower left-hand socket,
and the disc apparatus to the outer socket. Now move all the dial switches
on the machine over to the extreme right - first the lens one, then the
disc one, and then the tube one. That's right. I might as well tell you
that this is a human being - just like any of us. I'll give you a taste
of some of the others tomorrow."
To this day I do not know why I obeyed those whispers so slavishly,
or whether I thought Akeley was mad or sane. After what had gone before,
I ought to have been prepared for anything; but this mechanical mummery
seemed so like the typical vagaries of crazed inventors and scientists
that it struck a chord of doubt which even the preceding discourse had
not excited. What the whisperer implied was beyond all human belief - yet
were not the other things still farther beyond, and less preposterous only
because of their remoteness from tangible concrete proof?
As my mind reeled amidst this chaos, I became conscious of a mixed
grating and whirring from all three of the machines lately linked to the
cylinder - a grating and whirring which soon subsided into a virtual noiselessness.
What was about to happen? Was I to hear a voice? And if so, what proof
would I have that it was not some cleverly concocted radio device talked
into by a concealed but closely watched speaker? Even now I am unwilling
to swear just what I heard, or just what phenomenon really took place before
me. But something certainly seemed to take place.
To be brief and plain, the machine with the tubes and sound-box began
to speak, and with a point and intelligence which left no doubt that the
speaker was actually present and observing us. The voice was loud, metallic,
lifeless, and plainly mechanical in every detail of its production. It
was incapable of inflection or expressiveness, but scraped and rattled
on with a deadly precision and deliberation.
"Mr. Wilmarth," it said, "I hope I do not startle you. I am a human
being like yourself, though my body is now resting safely under proper
vitalising treatment inside Round Hill, about a mile and a half east of
here. I myself am here with you - my brain is in that cylinder and I see,
hear, and speak through these electronic vibrators. In a week I am going
across the void as I have been many times before, and I expect to have
the pleasure of Mr. Akeley's company. I wish I might have yours as well;
for I know you by sight and reputation, and have kept close track of your
correspondence with our friend. I am, of course, one of the men who have
become allied with the outside beings visiting our planet. I met them first
in the Himalayas, and have helped them in various ways. In return they
have given me experiences such as few men have ever had.
"Do you realise what it means when I say I have been on thirty-seven
different celestial bodies - planets, dark stars, and less definable objects
- including eight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved cosmos
of space and time? All this has not harmed me in the least. My brain has
been removed from my body by fissions so adroit that it would be crude
to call the operation surgery. The visiting beings have methods which make
these extractions easy and almost normal - and one's body never ages when
the brain is out of it. The brain, I may add, is virtually immortal with
its mechanical faculties and a limited nourishment supplied by occasional
changes of the preserving fluid.
"Altogether, I hope most heartily that you will decide to come with
Mr. Akeley and me. The visitors are eager to know men of knowledge like
yourself, and to show them the great abysses that most of us have had to
dream about in fanciful ignorance. It may seem strange at first to meet
them, but I know you will be above minding that. I think Mr. Noyes will
go along, too - the man who doubtless brought you up here in his car. He
has been one of us for years - I suppose you recognised his voice as one
of those on the record Mr. Akeley sent you."
At my violent start the speaker paused a moment before concluding.
"So Mr. Wilmarth, I will leave the matter to you; merely adding that a
man with your love of strangeness and folklore ought never to miss such
a chance as this. There is nothing to fear. All transitions are painless;
and there is much to enjoy in a wholly mechanised state of sensation. When
the electrodes are disconnected, one merely drops off into a sleep of especially
vivid and fantastic dreams.
"And now, if you don't mind, we might adjourn our session till tomorrow.
Good night - just turn all the switches back to the left; never mind the
exact order, though you might let the lens machine be last. Good night,
Mr. Akeley - treat our guest well! Ready now with those switches?"
That was all. I obeyed mechanically and shut off all three switches,
though dazed with doubt of everything that had occurred. My head was still
reeling as I heard Akeley's whispering voice telling me that I might leave
all the apparatus on the table just as it was. He did not essay any comment
on what had happened, and indeed no comment could have conveyed much to
my burdened faculties. I heard him telling me I could take the lamp to
use in my room, and deduced that he wished to rest alone in the dark. It
was surely time he rested, for his discourse of the afternoon and evening
had been such as to exhaust even a vigorous man. Still dazed, I bade my
host good night and went upstairs with the lamp, although I had an excellent
pocket flashlight with me.
I was glad to be out of that downstairs study with the queer odour
and vague suggestions of vibration, yet could not of course escape a hideous
sense of dread and peril and cosmic abnormality as I thought of the place
I was in and the forces I was meeting. The wild, lonely region, the black,
mysteriously forested slope towering so close behind the house; the footprint
in the road, the sick, motionless whisperer in the dark, the hellish cylinders
and machines, and above all the invitations to strange surgery and stranger
voyagings - these things, all so new and in such sudden succession, rushed
in on me with a cumulative force which sapped my will and almost undermined
my physical strength.
To discover that my guide Noyes was the human celebrant in that monstrous
bygone Sabbat-ritual on the phonograph record was a particular shock, though
I had previously sensed a dim, repellent familiarity in his voice. Another
special shock came from my own attitude toward my host whenever I paused
to analyse it; for much as I had instinctively liked Akeley as revealed
in his correspondence, I now found that he filled me with a distinct repulsion.
His illness ought to have excited my pity; but instead, it gave me a kind
of shudder. He was so rigid and inert and corpselike - and that incessant
whispering was so hateful and unhuman!
It occurred to me that this whispering was different from anything
else of the kind I had ever heard; that, despite the curious motionlessness
of the speaker's moustache-screened lips, it had a latent strength and
carrying-power remarkable for the wheezing of an asthmatic. I had been
able to understand the speaker when wholly across the room, and once or
twice it had seemed to me that the faint but penetrant sounds represented
not so much weakness as deliberate repression - for what reason I could
not guess. From the first I had felt a disturbing quality in their timbre.
Now, when I tried to weigh the matter, I thought I could trace this impression
to a kind of subconscious familiarity like that which had made Noyes's
voice so hazily ominous. But when or where I had encountered the thing
it hinted at, was more than I could tell.
One thing was certain - I would not spend another night here. My
scientific zeal had vanished amidst fear and loathing, and I felt nothing
now but a wish to escape from this net of morbidity and unnatural revelation.
I knew enough now. It must indeed be true that strange cosmic linkages
do exist - but such things are surely not meant for normal human beings
to meddle with.
Blasphemous influences seemed to surround me and press chokingly
upon my senses. Sleep, I decided, would be out of the question; so I merely
extinguished the lamp and threw myself on the bed fully dressed. No doubt
it was absurd, but I kept ready for some unknown emergency; gripping in
my right hand the revolver I had brought along, and holding the pocket
flashlight in my left. Not a sound came from below, and I could imagine
how my host was sitting there with cadaverous stiffness in the dark.
Somewhere I heard a clock ticking, and was vaguely grateful for the
normality of the sound. It reminded me, though, of another thing about
the region which disturbed me - the total absence of animal life. There
were certainly no farm beasts about, and now I realised that even the accustomed
night-noises of wild living things were absent. Except for the sinister
trickle of distant unseen waters, that stillness was anomalous - interplanetary
- and I wondered what star-spawned, intangible blight could be hanging
over the region. I recalled from old legends that dogs and other beasts
had always hated the Outer Ones, and thought of what those tracks in the
road might mean.
Do not ask me how long my unexpected lapse into slumber lasted, or how
much of what ensued was sheer dream. If I tell you that I awakened at a
certain time, and heard and saw certain things, you will merely answer
that I did not wake then; and that everything was a dream until the moment
when I rushed out of the house, stumbled to the shed where I had seen the
old Ford, and seized that ancient vehicle for a mad, aimless race over
the haunted hills which at last landed me - after hours of jolting and
winding through forest-threatened labyrinths - in a village which turned
out to be Townshend.
You will also, of course, discount everything else in my report;
and declare that all the pictures, record-sounds, cylinder-and-machine
sounds, and kindred evidences were bits of pure deception practiced on
me by the missing Henry Akeley. You will even hint that he conspired with
other eccentrics to carry out a silly and elaborate hoax - that he had
the express shipment removed at Keene, and that he had Noyes make that
terrifying wax record. It is odd, though, that Noyes has not ever yet'
been identified; that he was unknown at any of the villages near Akeley's
place, though he must have been frequently in the region. I wish I had
stopped to memorize the license-number of his car - or perhaps it is better
after all that I did not. For I, despite all you can say, and despite all
I sometimes try to say to myself, know that loathsome outside influences
must be lurking there in the half-unknown hills - and that, those influences
have spies and emissaries in the world of men. To keep as far as possible
from such influences and such emissaries is all that I ask of life in future.
When my frantic story sent a sheriff's posse out to the farmhouse,
Akeley was gone without leaving a trace. His loose dressing gown, yellow
scarf, and foot-bandages lay on the study floor near his corner. easy-chair,
and it could not be decided whether any of his other apparel had vanished
with him. The dogs and livestock were indeed missing, and there were some
curious bullet-holes both on the house's exterior and on some of the walls
within; but beyond this nothing unusual could be detected. No cylinders
or machines, none of the evidences I had brought in my valise, no queer
odour or vibration-sense, no foot-prints in the road, and none of the problematical
things I glimpsed at the very last.
I stayed a week in Brattleboro after my escape, making inquiries
among people of every kind who had known Akeley; and the results convince
me that the matter is no figment of dream or delusion.' Akeley's queer
purchase of dogs and ammunition and chemicals, and the cutting of his telephone
wires, are matters of record; while all who knew him - including his son
in California - concede that his occasional remarks on strange studies
had a certain consistency. Solid citizens believe he was mad, and unhesitatingly
pronounce all reported evidences mere hoaxes devised with insane cunning
and perhaps abetted by eccentric associates; but the lowlier country folk
sustain his statements in every detail. He had showed some of these rustics
his photographs and black stone, and had played the hideous record for
them; and they all said the footprints and buzzing voice were like those
described in ancestral legends.
They said, too, that suspicious sights and sounds had been noticed
increasingly around Akeley's house after he found the black stone, and
that the place was now avoided by everybody except the mail man and other
casual, tough-minded people. Dark Mountain and Round Hill were both notoriously
haunted spots, and I could find no one who had ever closely explored either.
Occasional disappearances of natives throughout the district's history
were well attested, and these now included the semi-vagabond Walter Brown,
whom Akeley's letters had mentioned. I even came upon one farmer who thought
he had personally glimpsed one of the queer bodies at flood-time in the
swollen West River, but his tale was too confused to be really valuable.
When I left Brattleboro I resolved never to go back to Vermont, and
I feel quite certain I shall keep my resolution. Those wild hills are surely
the outpost of a frightful cosmic race - as I doubt all the less since
reading that a new ninth planet has been glimpsed beyond Neptune, just
as those influences had said it would be glimpsed. Astronomers, with a
hideous appropriateness they little suspect, have named this thing "Pluto."
I feel, beyond question, that it is nothing less than nighted Yuggoth -
and I shiver when I try to figure out the real reason why its monstrous
denizens wish it to be known in this way at this especial time. I vainly
try to assure myself that these daemoniac creatures are not gradually leading
up to some new policy hurtful to the earth and its normal inhabitants.
But I have still to tell of the ending of that terrible night in
the farmhouse. As I have said, I did finally drop into a troubled doze;
a doze filled with bits of dream which involved monstrous landscape-glimpses.
Just what awaked me I cannot yet say, but that I did indeed awake at this
given point I feel very certain. My first confused impression was of stealthily
creaking floor-boards in the hall outside my door, and of a clumsy, muffled
fumbling at the latch. This, however, ceased almost at once; so that my
really clear impressions begin with the voices heard from the study below.
There seemed to be several speakers, and I judged that they were controversially
By the time I had listened a few seconds I was broad awake, for the
nature of the voices was such as to make all thought of sleep ridiculous.
The tones were curiously varied, and no one who had listened to that accursed
phonograph record could harbour any doubts about the nature of at least
two of them. Hideous though the idea was, I knew that I was under the same
roof with nameless things from abysmal space; for those two voices were
unmistakably the blasphemous buzzings which the Outside Beings used in
their communication with men. The two were individually different - different
in pitch, accent, and tempo - but they were both of the same damnable general
A third voice was indubitably that of a mechanical utterance-machine
connected with one of the detached brains in the cylinders. There was as
little doubt about that as about the buzzings; for the loud, metallic,
lifeless voice of the previous evening, with its inflectionless, expressionless
scraping and rattling, and its impersonal precision and deliberation, had
been utterly unforgettable. For a time I did not pause to question whether
the intelligence behind the scraping was the identical one which had formerly
talked to me; but shortly afterward I reflected that any brain would
emit vocal sounds of the same quality if linked to the same mechanical
speech-producer; the only possible differences being in language, rhythm,
speed, and pronunciation. To complete the eldritch colloquy there were
two actually human voices - one the crude speech of an unknown and evidently
rustic man, and the other the suave Bostonian tones of my erstwhile guide
As I tried to catch the words which the stoutly-fashioned floor so
bafflingly intercepted, I was also conscious of a great deal of stirring
and scratching and shuffling in the room below; so that I could not escape
the impression that it was full of living beings - many more than the few
whose speech I could single out. The exact nature of this stirring is extremely
hard to describe, for very few good bases of comparison exist. Objects
seemed now and then to move across the room like conscious entities; the
sound of their footfalls having something about it like a loose, hard-surfaced
clattering - as of the contact of ill-coordinated surfaces of horn or hard
rubber. It was, to use a more concrete but less accurate comparison, as
if people with loose, splintery wooden shoes were shambling and rattling
about on the polished board floor. Of the nature and appearance of those
responsible for the sounds, I did not care to speculate.
Before long I saw that it would be impossible to distinguish any
connected discourse. Isolated words - including the names of Akeley and
myself - now and then floated up, especially when uttered by the mechanical
speech-producer; but their true significance was lost for want of continuous
context. Today I refuse to form any definite deductions from them, and
even their frightful effect on me was one of suggestion rather than of
revelation. A terrible and abnormal conclave, I felt certain, was assembled
below me; but for what shocking deliberations I could not tell. It was
curious how this unquestioned sense of the malign and the blasphemous pervaded
me despite Akeley's assurances of the Outsider's friendliness.
With patient listening I began to distinguish clearly between voices,
even though I could not grasp much of what any of the voices said. I seemed
to catch certain typical emotions behind some of the speakers. One of the
buzzing voices, for example, held an unmistakable note of authority; whilst
the mechanical voice, notwithstanding its artificial loudness and regularity,
seemed to be in a position of subordination and pleading. Noyes's tones
exuded a kind of conciliatory atmosphere. The others I could make no attempt
to interpret. I did not hear the familiar whisper of Akeley, but well knew
that such a sound could never penetrate the solid flooring of my room.
I will try to set down some of the few disjointed words and other
sounds I caught, labelling the speakers of the words as best I know how.
It was from the speech-machine that I first picked up a few recognisable
That is the substance of what my ears brought me as I lay rigid upon
that strange upstairs bed in the haunted farmhouse among the daemoniac
hills - lay there fully dressed, with a revolver clenched in my right hand
and a pocket flashlight gripped in my left. I became, as I have said, broad
awake; but a kind of obscure paralysis nevertheless kept me inert till
long after the last echoes of the sounds had died away. I heard the wooden,
deliberate ticking of the ancient Connecticut clock somewhere far below,
and at last made out the irregular snoring of a sleeper. Akeley must have
dozed off after the strange session, and I could well believe that he needed
to do so.
"...brought it on myself... sent back the letters and the record...
end on it... taken in... seeing and hearing... damn you... impersonal force,
after all... fresh, shiny cylinder... great God..."
(First Buzzing Voice)
"...time we stopped... small and human... Akeley... brain... saying..."
(Second Buzzing Voice)
"Nyarlathotep... Wilmarth... records and letters... cheap imposture..."
"...(an unpronounceable word or name, possibly N'gah-Kthun) harmless...
peace... couple of weeks... theatrical... told you that before..."
(First Buzzing Voice)
"...no reason... original plan... effects... Noyes can watch Round
Hill... fresh cylinder... Noyes's car..."
"...well... all yours... down here... rest... place..."
(Several Voices at Once in Indistinguishable Speech)
(Many Footsteps, Including the Peculiar Loose Stirring or Clattering)
(A Curious Sort of Flapping Sound)
(The Sound of an Automobile Starting and Receding)
Just what to think or what to do was more than I could decide After
all, what had I heard beyond things which previous information might have
led me to expect? Had I not known that the nameless Outsiders were now
freely admitted to the farmhouse? No doubt Akeley had been surprised by
an unexpected visit from them. Yet something in that fragmentary discourse
had chilled me immeasurably, raised the most grotesque and horrible doubts,
and made me wish fervently that I might wake up and prove everything a
dream. I think my subconscious mind must have caught something which my
consciousness has not yet recognised. But what of Akeley? Was he not my
friend, and would he not have protested if any harm were meant me? The
peaceful snoring below seemed to cast ridicule on all my suddenly intensified
Was it possible that Akeley had been imposed upon and used as a lure
to draw me into the hills with the letters and pictures and phonograph
record? Did those beings mean to engulf us both in a common destruction
because we had come to know too much? Again I thought of the abruptness
and unnaturalness of that change in the situation which must have occurred
between Akeley's penultimate and final letters. Something, my instinct
told me, was terribly wrong. All was not as it seemed. That acrid coffee
which I refused - had there not been an attempt by some hidden, unknown
entity to drug it? I must talk to Akeley at once, and restore his sense
of proportion. They had hypnotised him with their promises of cosmic revelations,
but now he must listen to reason. We. must get out of this before it would
be too late. If he lacked the will power to make the break for liberty.
I would supply it. Or if I could not persuade him to go, I could at least
go myself. Surely he would let me take his Ford and leave it in a garage
in Brattleboro. I had noticed it in the shed - the door being left unlocked
and open now that peril was deemed past - and I believed there was a good
chance of its being ready for instant use. That momentary dislike of Akeley
which I had felt during and after the evening's conversation was all gone
now. He was in a position much like my own, and we must stick together.
Knowing his indisposed condition, I hated to wake him at this juncture,
but I knew that I must. I could not stay in this place till morning as
At last I felt able to act, and stretched myself vigorously to regain
command of my muscles. Arising with a caution more impulsive than deliberate,
I found and donned my hat, took my valise, and started downstairs with
the flashlight's aid. In my nervousness I kept the revolver clutched in
my right hand, being able to take care of both valise and flashlight with
my left. Why I exerted these precautions I do not really know, since I
was even then on my way to awaken the only other occupant of the house.
As I half-tiptoed down the creaking stairs to the lower hall I could
hear the sleeper more plainly, and noticed that he must be in the room
on my left - the living-room I had not entered. On my right was the gaping
blackness of the study in which I had heard the voices. Pushing open the
unlatched door of the living-room I traced a path with the flashlight toward
the source of the snoring, and finally turned the beams on the sleeper's
face. But in the next second I hastily turned them away and commenced a
catlike retreat to the hall, my caution this time springing from reason
as well as from instinct. For the sleeper on the couch was not Akeley at
all, but my quondam guide Noyes.
Just what the real situation was, I could not guess; but common sense
told me that the safest thing was to find out as much as possible before
arousing anybody. Regaining the hall, I silently closed and latched the
living-room door after me; thereby lessening the chances of awakening Noyes.
I now cautiously entered the dark study, where I expected to find Akeley,
whether asleep or awake, in the great corner chair which was evidently
his favorite resting-place. As I advanced, the beams of my flashlight caught
the great centre-table, revealing one of the hellish cylinders with sight
and hearing machines attached, and with a speech machine standing close
by, ready to be connected at any moment. This, I reflected, must be the
encased brain I had heard talking during the frightful conference; and
for a second I had a perverse impulse to attach the speech machine and
see what it would say.
It must, I thought, be conscious of my presence even now; since the
sight and hearing attachments could not fail to disclose the rays of my
flashlight and the faint creaking of the floor beneath my feet. But in
the end I did not dare meddle with the thing. I idly saw that it was the
fresh shiny cylinder with Akeley's name on it, which I had noticed on the
shelf earlier in the evening and which my host had told me not to bother.
Looking back at that moment, I can only regret my timidity and wish that
I had boldly caused the apparatus to speak. God knows what mysteries and
horrible doubts and questions of identity it might have cleared up! But
then, it may be merciful that I let it alone.
From the table I turned my flashlight to the corner where I thought
Akeley was, but found to my perplexity that the great easy-chair was empty
of any human occupant asleep or awake. From the seat to the floor there
trailed voluminously the familiar old dressing-gown, and near it on the
floor lay the yellow scarf and the huge foot-bandages I had thought so
odd. As I hesitated, striving to conjecture where Akeley might be, and
why he had so suddenly discarded his necessary sick-room garments, I observed
that the queer odour and sense of vibration were no longer in the room.
What had been their cause? Curiously it occurred to me that I had noticed
them only in Akeley's vicinity. They had been strongest where he sat, and
wholly absent except in the room with him or just outside the doors of
that room. I paused, letting the flashlight wander about the dark study
and racking my brain for explanations of the turn affairs had taken.
Would to Heaven I had quietly left the place before allowing that
light to rest again on the vacant chair. As it turned out, I did not leave
quietly; but with a muffled shriek which must have disturbed, though it
did not quite awake, the sleeping sentinel across the hall. That shriek,
and Noyes's still-unbroken snore, are the last sounds I ever heard in that
morbidity-choked farmhouse beneath the black-wooded crest of haunted mountain
- that focus of transcosmic horror amidst the lonely green hills and curse-muttering
brooks of a spectral rustic land.
It is a wonder that I did not drop flashlight, valise, and revolver
in my wild scramble, but somehow I failed to lose any of these. I actually
managed to get out of that room and that house without making any further
noise, to drag myself and my belongings safely into the old Ford in the
shed, and to set that archaic vehicle in motion toward some unknown point
of safety in the black, moonless night. The ride that followed was a piece
of delirium out of Poe or Rimbaud or the drawings of Dore, but finally
I reached Townshend. That is all. If my sanity is still unshaken, I am
lucky. Sometimes I fear what the years will bring, especially since that
new planet Pluto has been so curiously discovered.
As I have implied, I let my flashlight return to the vacant easy-chair
after its circuit of the room; then noticing for the first time the presence
of certain objects in the seat, made inconspicuous by the adjacent loose
folds of the empty dressing-gown. These are the objects, three in number,
which the investigators did not find when they came later on. As I said
at the outset, there was nothing of actual visual horror about them. The
trouble was in what they led one to infer. Even now I have my moments of
half-doubt - moments in which I half-accept the scepticism of those who
attribute my whole experience to dream and nerves and delusion.
The three things were damnably clever constructions of their kind,
and were furnished with ingenious metallic clamps to attach them to organic
developments of which I dare not form any conjecture. I hope - devoutly
hope-that they were the waxen products of a master artist, despite what
my inmost fears tell me. Great God! That whisperer in darkness with its
morbid odour and vibrations! Sorcerer, emissary, changeling, outsider..
. that hideous repressed buzzing. . . and all the time in that fresh, shiny
cylinder on the shelf. . . poor devil . . . "Prodigious surgical, biological,
chemical, and mechanical skill.. .
For the things in the chair, perfect to the last, subtle detail of
microscopic resemblance - or identity - were the face and hands of Henry