am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I
shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug
which alone, makes life
endurable, I can bear the torture
no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid
street below. Do not think from my slavery to morphine that I am
a weakling or a degenerate. When you have read these hastily scrawled
pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must
have forgetfulness or death.
in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific
that the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim to the German sea-raider.
The great war was then at its very beginning, and the ocean forces of the
Hun had not completely sunk to their later degradation; so that our vessel
was made a legitimate prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all
the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners. So liberal,
indeed, was the discipline of our captors, that five days after we were
taken I managed to escape alone in a small boat with water and provisions
for a good length of time.
I finally found myself adrift and free, I had but little idea of my surroundings.
Never a competent navigator, I could only guess vaguely by the sun and
stars that I was somewhat south of the equator. Of the longitude I knew
nothing, and no island or coastline was in sight. The weather kept
fair, and for uncounted days I drifted aimlessly beneath the scorching
sun; waiting either for some passing ship, or to be cast on the shores
of some habitable land. But neither ship nor land appeared, and I
began to despair in my solitude upon the heaving vastness of unbroken blue.
change happened whilst I slept. Its details I shall never know; for my
slumber, though troubled and dream-infested, was continuous. When
at last I awakened, it was to discover myself half sucked into a slimy
expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations
as far as I could see, and in which my boat lay grounded some distance
one might well imagine that my first sensation would be of wonder at so
prodigious and unexpected a transformation of scenery, I was in reality
horrified than astonished; for
there was in the air and in the rotting soil a sinister quality which chilled
me to the very core. The region was putrid with the carcasses of
decaying fish, and of other less describable things which I saw protruding
from the nasty mud of the unending plain. Perhaps I should not hope
to convey in mere
words the unutterable hideousness
that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity. There was
nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight save a vast reach of black
slime; yet the very completeness of the stillness and the homogeneity of
the landscape oppressed me with a nauseating fear.
sun was blazing down from a sky which seemed to me almost black in its
cloudless cruelty; as though reflecting the inky marsh beneath my feet.
As I crawled into the stranded boat I realised that only one theory could
explain my position. Through some unprecedented volcanic upheaval,
a portion of the ocean floor must have been thrown to the surface, exposing
regions which for innumerable millions of years had lain hidden under unfathomable
watery depths. So great was the extent of the new land which had
risen beneath me, that I could not detect the faintest noise of the surging
ocean, strain my ears as I might. Nor were there any sea-fowl to
prey upon the dead things.
several hours I sat thinking or brooding in the boat, which lay upon its
side and afforded a slight shade as the sun moved across the heavens.
As the day
progressed, the ground lost
some of its stickiness, and seemed likely to dry sufficiently for travelling
purposes in a short time. That night I slept but little, and the
next day I made for myself a pack containing food and water, preparatory
to an overland journey in search of the vanished sea and possible rescue.
third morning I found the soil dry enough to walk upon with ease.
The odour of the fish was maddening; but I was too much concerned with
graver things to mind so slight an evil, and set out boldly for an unknown
goal. All day I forged steadily westward, guided by a far-away hummock
which rose higher than any other elevation on the rolling desert.
That night I encamped, and on the following day still travelled toward
the hummock, though that object seemed scarcely nearer than when I had
first espied it. By the fourth evening I attained the base of the
mound, which turned out to be much higher than it had appeared from a distance,
an intervening valley setting it out in sharper relief from the general
surface. Too weary to ascend, I slept in the shadow of the hill.
not why my dreams were so wild that night; but ere the waning and fantastically
gibbous moon had risen far above the eastern plain, I was awake in a cold
perspiration, determined to sleep no more. Such visions as I had
experienced were too much for me to endure again. And in the glow
of the moon I saw how unwise I had been to travel by day. Without
the glare of the parching sun, my journey would have cost me less energy;
indeed, I now felt quite able to perform the ascent which had deterred
me at sunset. Picking up my pack, I started for the crest of the
said that the unbroken monotony of the rolling plain was a source of vague
horror to me; but I think my horror was greater when I gained the summit
of the mound and looked down the other side into an immeasurable pit or
canyon, whose black recesses the moon had not yet soared high enough to
illumine. I felt myself on the edge of the world, peering over the
rim into a fathomless chaos of eternal night. Through my terror ran curious
reminiscences of Paradise Lost, and Satan's hideous climb through the unfashioned
realms of darkness.
moon climbed higher in the sky, I began to see that the slopes of the valley
were not quite so perpendicular as I had imagined. Ledges and outcroppings
of rock afforded fairly easy footholds for a descent, whilst after a drop
of a few hundred feet, the declivity became very gradual. Urged on
by an impulse which I cannot definitely analyse, I scrambled with difficulty
down the rocks and stood on the gentler slope beneath, gazing into the
Stygian deeps where no light had yet penetrated.
at once my attention was captured by a vast and singular object on the
opposite slope, which rose steeply about a hundred yards ahead of me; an
object that gleamed whitely in the newly bestowed rays of the ascending
moon. That it was merely a gigantic piece of stone, I soon assured
myself; but I was conscious of a distinct impression that its contour and
position were not altogether the work of Nature. A closer scrutiny
filled me with sensations I cannot express; for despite its
enormous magnitude, and its
position in an abyss which had yawned at the bottom of the sea since the
world was young, I perceived beyond a doubt that the strange
object was a well-shaped monolith
whose massive bulk had known the workmanship and perhaps the worship of
living and thinking creatures.
and frightened, yet not without a certain thrill of the scientist's or
archaeologist's delight, I examined my surroundings more closely. The moon,
now near the zenith, shone weirdly and vividly above the towering steeps
that hemmed in the chasm, and revealed the fact that a far-flung body of
water flowed at the bottom, winding out of sight in both directions, and
almost lapping my feet as I stood on the slope. Across the chasm,
the wavelets washed the base of the Cyclopean monolith, on whose surface
I could now trace both inscriptions and crude sculptures. The writing
was in a system of hieroglyphics unknown to me, and unlike anything I had
ever seen in books, consisting for the most part of conventionalised aquatic
symbols such as fishes, eels, octopi, crustaceans, molluscs, whales and
the like. Several characters obviously represented marine things which
are unknown to the modern world, but whose decomposing forms I had observed
on the ocean-risen plain.
the pictorial carving, however, that did most to hold me spellbound. Plainly
visible across the intervening water on account of their enormous size
was an array of bas-reliefs whose subjects would have excited the envy
of a Dore. I think that these things were supposed to depict men
-- at least, a certain sort of men; though the creatures were shown disporting
like fishes in the waters of some marine grotto, or paying homage at some
monolithic shrine which appeared to be under the waves as well. Of
their faces and forms I dare not speak in detail, for the mere remembrance
makes me grow faint. Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer,
they were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and feet,
shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other features
less pleasant to recall. Curiously enough, they seemed to have been
chiselled badly out of proportion with their scenic background; for one
of the creatures was shown in the act of killing a whale represented as
but little larger than himself. I remarked, as I say, their grotesqueness
and strange size; but in a moment decided that they were merely the imaginary
gods of some primitive fishing or seafaring tribe; some tribe whose last
descendant had perished eras before the first ancestor of the Piltdown
or Neanderthal Man was born. Awestruck at this unexpected glimpse
into a past beyond the conception of the most daring anthropologist, I
stood musing whilst the moon cast queer reflections on the silent channel
suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to the
surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like,
loathsome, it darted like a
stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung
its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and
gave vent to certain measured
sounds. I think I went mad then.
frantic ascent of the slope and cliff, and of my delirious journey back
to the stranded boat, I remember little. I believe I sang a great deal,
and laughed oddly when I was unable to sing. I have indistinct recollections
of a great storm some time after I reached the boat; at any rate, I knew
that I heard peals of thunder and other tones which Nature utters only
in her wildest moods.
I came out of the shadows I was in a San Francisco hospital; brought thither
by the captain of the American ship which had picked up my boat in mid-ocean.
In my delirium I had said much, but found that my words had been given
scant attention. Of any land upheaval in the Pacific, my rescuers
knew nothing; nor did I deem it necessary to insist upon a thing which
I knew they could not believe. Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist,
and amused him with peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine
legend of Dagon, the Fish-God; but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly
conventional, I did not press my inquiries.
at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I see the
thing. I tried morphine; but the drug has given only transient surcease,
and has drawn me into its clutches as a hopeless slave. So now I am to
end it all, having written a full account for the information or the contemptuous
amusement of my fellow-men. Often I ask myself if it could not all
have been a pure phantasm -- a mere freak of fever as I lay sun-stricken
and raving in the open boat after my escape from the German man-of-war.
This I ask myself, but ever does there come before me a hideously vivid
vision in reply. I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering
at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering
on its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their
own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite.
I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their
reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind -- of a day
when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst
end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery
body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that
hand! The window! The window!