Estimated studying time — 9 minutes
I repeat to you, gents, that your inquisition is fruitless. Detain me right here without end if you’ll; confine or execute me if you happen to should have a sufferer to propitiate the phantasm you name justice; however I can say not more than I’ve mentioned already. Every thing that I can keep in mind, I’ve advised with excellent candour. Nothing has been distorted or hid, and if something stays imprecise, it’s only due to the darkish cloud which has come over my thoughts—that cloud and the nebulous nature of the horrors which introduced it upon me.
Once more I say, I have no idea what has grow to be of Harley Warren; although I believe—nearly hope—that he’s in peaceable oblivion, if there be wherever so blessed a factor. It’s true that I’ve for 5 years been his closest pal, and a partial sharer of his horrible researches into the unknown. I can’t deny, although my reminiscence is unsure and vague, that this witness of yours could have seen us collectively as he says, on the Gainesville pike, strolling towards Large Cypress Swamp, at half previous eleven on that terrible evening. That we bore electrical lanterns, spades, and a curious coil of wire with connected devices, I’ll even affirm; for these items all performed a component within the single hideous scene which stays burned into my shaken recollection. However of what adopted, and of the explanation I used to be discovered alone and dazed on the sting of the swamp subsequent morning, I have to insist that I do know nothing save what I’ve advised you again and again. You say to me that there’s nothing within the swamp or close to it which might type the setting of that frightful episode. I reply that I do know nothing past what I noticed. Imaginative and prescient or nightmare it could have been—imaginative and prescient or nightmare I fervently hope it was—but it’s all that my thoughts retains of what happened in these surprising hours after we left the sight of males. And why Harley Warren didn’t return, he or his shade—or some anonymous factor I can’t describe—alone can inform.
As I’ve mentioned earlier than, the bizarre research of Harley Warren had been well-known to me, and to some extent shared by me. Of his huge assortment of unusual, uncommon books on forbidden topics I’ve learn all which can be written within the languages of which I’m grasp; however these are few as in contrast with these in languages I can’t perceive. Most, I imagine, are in Arabic; and the fiend-inspired guide which introduced on the tip—the guide which he carried in his pocket out of the world—was written in characters whose like I by no means noticed elsewhere. Warren would by no means inform me simply what was in that guide. As to the character of our research—should I say once more that I now not retain full comprehension? It appears to me moderately merciful that I don’t, for they had been horrible research, which I pursued extra by way of reluctant fascination than by way of precise inclination. Warren all the time dominated me, and generally I feared him. I keep in mind how I shuddered at his facial features on the evening earlier than the terrible taking place, when he talked so incessantly of his principle, why sure corpses by no means decay, however relaxation agency and fats of their tombs for a thousand years. However I don’t worry him now, for I think that he has identified horrors past my ken. Now I worry for him.
As soon as extra I say that I’ve no clear thought of our object on that evening. Definitely, it had a lot to do with one thing within the guide which Warren carried with him—that historical guide in undecipherable characters which had come to him from India a month earlier than—however I swear I have no idea what it was that we anticipated to search out. Your witness says he noticed us at half previous eleven on the Gainesville pike, headed for Large Cypress Swamp. That is in all probability true, however I’ve no distinct reminiscence of it. The image seared into my soul is of 1 scene solely, and the hour should have been lengthy after midnight; for a waning crescent moon was excessive within the vaporous heavens.
The place was an historical cemetery; so historical that I trembled on the manifold indicators of immemorial years. It was in a deep, damp hole, overgrown with rank grass, moss, and curious creeping weeds, and stuffed with a imprecise stench which my idle fancy related absurdly with rotting stone. On each hand had been the indicators of neglect and decrepitude, and I appeared haunted by the notion that Warren and I had been the primary residing creatures to invade a deadly silence of centuries. Over the valley’s rim a wan, waning crescent moon peered by way of the noisome vapours that appeared to emanate from unheard-of catacombs, and by its feeble, wavering beams I might distinguish a repellent array of vintage slabs, urns, cenotaphs, and mausolean facades; all crumbling, moss-grown, and moisture-stained, and partly hid by the gross luxuriance of the unhealthy vegetation. My first vivid impression of my very own presence on this horrible necropolis issues the act of pausing with Warren earlier than a sure half-obliterated sepulchre, and of throwing down some burdens which we appeared to have been carrying. I now noticed that I had with me an electrical lantern and two spades, while my companion was provided with the same lantern and a conveyable phone outfit. No phrase was uttered, for the spot and the duty appeared identified to us; and directly we seized our spades and commenced to clear away the grass, weeds, and drifted earth from the flat, archaic mortuary. After uncovering your complete floor, which consisted of three immense granite slabs, we stepped again far to survey the charnel scene; and Warren appeared to make some psychological calculations. Then he returned to the sepulchre, and utilizing his spade as a lever, sought to pry up the slab mendacity nearest to a stony wreck which can have been a monument in its day. He didn’t succeed, and motioned to me to return to his help. Lastly our mixed energy loosened the stone, which we raised and tipped to 1 facet.
The elimination of the slab revealed a black aperture, from which rushed an effluence of miasmal gases so nauseous that we began again in horror. After an interval, nevertheless, we approached the pit once more, and located the exhalations much less insufferable. Our lanterns disclosed the highest of a flight of stone steps, dripping with some detestable ichor of the interior earth, and bordered by moist partitions encrusted with nitre. And now for the primary time my reminiscence data verbal discourse, Warren addressing me at size in his mellow tenor voice; a voice singularly unperturbed by our superior environment.
“I’m sorry to must ask you to remain on the floor,” he mentioned, “however it might be against the law to let anybody together with your frail nerves go down there. You’ll be able to’t think about, even from what you will have learn and from what I’ve advised you, the issues I shall must see and do. It’s fiendish work, Carter, and I doubt if any man with out ironclad sensibilities might ever see it by way of and are available up alive and sane. I don’t want to offend you, and heaven is aware of I’d be glad sufficient to have you ever with me; however the duty is in a sure sense mine, and I couldn’t drag a bundle of nerves such as you all the way down to possible demise or insanity. I inform you, you possibly can’t think about what the factor is admittedly like! However I promise to maintain you knowledgeable over the phone of each transfer—you see I’ve sufficient wire right here to succeed in to the centre of the earth and again!”
I can nonetheless hear, in reminiscence, these coolly spoken phrases; and I can nonetheless keep in mind my remonstrances. I appeared desperately anxious to accompany my pal into these sepulchral depths, but he proved inflexibly stubborn. At one time he threatened to desert the expedition if I remained insistent; a menace which proved efficient, since he alone held the important thing to the factor. All this I can nonetheless keep in mind, although I now not know what method of factor we sought. After he had secured my reluctant acquiescence in his design, Warren picked up the reel of wire and adjusted the devices. At his nod I took one of many latter and seated myself upon an aged, discoloured headstone shut by the newly uncovered aperture. Then he shook my hand, shouldered the coil of wire, and disappeared inside that indescribable ossuary. For a second I stored sight of the glow of his lantern, and heard the rustle of the wire as he laid it down after him; however the glow quickly disappeared abruptly, as if a flip within the stone staircase had been encountered, and the sound died away nearly as rapidly. I used to be alone, but sure to the unknown depths by these magic strands whose insulated floor lay inexperienced beneath the struggling beams of that waning crescent moon.
Within the lone silence of that hoary and abandoned metropolis of the lifeless, my thoughts conceived essentially the most ghastly phantasies and illusions; and the grotesque shrines and monoliths appeared to imagine a hideous persona—a half-sentience. Amorphous shadows appeared to lurk within the darker recesses of the weed-choked hole and to flit as in some blasphemous ceremonial procession previous the portals of the mouldering tombs within the hillside; shadows which couldn’t have been forged by that pallid, peering crescent moon. I consistently consulted my watch by the sunshine of my electrical lantern, and listened with feverish nervousness on the receiver of the phone; however for greater than 1 / 4 of an hour heard nothing. Then a faint clicking got here from the instrument, and I referred to as all the way down to my pal in a tense voice. Apprehensive as I used to be, I used to be nonetheless unprepared for the phrases which got here up from that uncanny vault in accents extra alarmed and quivering than any I had heard earlier than from Harley Warren. He who had so calmly left me a short while beforehand, now referred to as from under in a shaky whisper extra portentous than the loudest shriek:
“God! For those who might see what I’m seeing!”
I couldn’t reply. Speechless, I might solely wait. Then got here the frenzied tones once more:
“Carter, it’s horrible—monstrous—unbelievable!”
This time my voice didn’t fail me, and I poured into the transmitter a flood of excited questions. Terrified, I continued to repeat, “Warren, what’s it? What’s it?”
As soon as extra got here the voice of my pal, nonetheless hoarse with worry, and now apparently tinged with despair:
“I can’t inform you, Carter! It’s too totally past thought—I dare not inform you—no man might understand it and stay—Nice God! I by no means dreamed of THIS!” Stillness once more, save for my now incoherent torrent of shuddering inquiry. Then the voice of Warren in a pitch of wilder consternation:
“Carter! for the love of God, put again the slab and get out of this if you happen to can! Fast!—go away all the pieces else and make for the surface—it’s your solely probability! Do as I say, and don’t ask me to elucidate!”
I heard, but was in a position solely to repeat my frantic questions. Round me had been the tombs and the darkness and the shadows; under me, some peril past the radius of the human creativeness. However my pal was in larger hazard than I, and thru my worry I felt a imprecise resentment that he ought to deem me able to deserting him below such circumstances. Extra clicking, and after a pause a piteous cry from Warren:
“Beat it! For God’s sake, put again the slab and beat it, Carter!”
One thing within the boyish slang of my evidently stricken companion unleashed my schools. I fashioned and shouted a decision, “Warren, brace up! I’m coming down!” However at this provide the tone of my auditor modified to a scream of utter despair:
“Don’t! You’ll be able to’t perceive! It’s too late—and my very own fault. Put again the slab and run—there’s nothing else you or anybody can do now!” The tone modified once more, this time buying a softer high quality, as of hopeless resignation. But it remained tense by way of nervousness for me.
“Fast—earlier than it’s too late!” I attempted to not heed him; tried to interrupt by way of the paralysis which held me, and to fulfil my vow to hurry all the way down to his assist. However his subsequent whisper discovered me nonetheless held inert within the chains of stark horror.
“Carter—hurry! It’s no use—you should go—higher one than two—the slab—” A pause, extra clicking, then the faint voice of Warren:
“Almost over now—don’t make it tougher—cowl up these damned steps and run on your life—you’re shedding time— So lengthy, Carter—received’t see you once more.” Right here Warren’s whisper swelled right into a cry; a cry that steadily rose to a shriek fraught with all of the horror of the ages—
“Curse these hellish issues—legions— My God! Beat it! Beat it! Beat it!”
After that was silence. I do know not what number of interminable aeons I sat stupefied; whispering, muttering, calling, screaming into that phone. Again and again by way of these aeons I whispered and muttered, referred to as, shouted, and screamed, “Warren! Warren! Reply me—are you there?”
After which there got here to me the crowning horror of all—the unbelievable, unthinkable, nearly unmentionable factor. I’ve mentioned that aeons appeared to elapse after Warren shrieked forth his final despairing warning, and that solely my very own cries now broke the hideous silence. However after some time there was an extra clicking within the receiver, and I strained my ears to hear. Once more I referred to as down, “Warren, are you there?”, and in reply heard the factor which has introduced this cloud over my thoughts. I don’t strive, gents, to account for that factor—that voice—nor can I enterprise to explain it intimately, for the reason that first phrases took away my consciousness and created a psychological clean which reaches to the time of my awakening within the hospital. Shall I say that the voice was deep; hole; gelatinous; distant; unearthly; inhuman; disembodied? What shall I say? It was the tip of my expertise, and is the tip of my story. I heard it, and knew no extra. Heard it as I sat petrified in that unknown cemetery within the hole, amidst the crumbling stones and the falling tombs, the rank vegetation and the miasmal vapours. Heard it effectively up from the innermost depths of that damnable open sepulchre as I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance beneath an accursed waning moon. And that is what it mentioned:
“YOU FOOL, WARREN IS DEAD!”
Credit score: H.P. Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937)
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