by Harry S. Robins
Liber scriptus proferetur,
Inquo totum continetur
Unde mundus iudicetur.
-- Thomas of Celano, l247 A.D.
Yea, I make sport of thee, and mock thee...
-- Prescriptures XXVI
Monsters like unto men will be around thee all about,
and shall make thee to look past the Door which should be locked...
-- Prescriptures LXXXXI
Recently I received two envelopes in the mail. One was large and bulky, the other of standard size. The smaller one turned out to be from a lawyer, a Mr. Crowninshield of Ipswich, Massachusetts. According to this cover letter, some workmen had been demolishing a rotting building in nearby Innsmouth, an all-but-deserted ancient seaport town, to make way for beachfront condominiums and an amusement area, in keeping with the economic revitalization of the region, part of the "Massachusetts miracle" of Presidential candidate and governor Michael Dukakis. Brought to light was an oilskin packet enclosing a number of closely-written sheets. This manuscript was signed by a distant relative on my father's side, my great uncle twice removed, Professor Byron Brainard.
Our family is an old one in this country, dating from the Second Jamestown Settlement of 1609. The genealogy of its many branches is for the most part a mystery to me, and I would have thought that surely there were many others into whose keeping such a find might be delivered before I was designated as the recipient. But as will be seen, my involvement with the Church of the SubGenius made me the obvious choice.
Crowninshield, senior partner in the Massachusetts law firm of Crowninshield and Babson, had executed the wishes of the vanished author of the ms., operating on a retainer from my remote relations the Sargent family, one of the last native Innsmouth families and still a financial power to be reckoned with, due to its domination of the marine salvage industry on that stretch of the New England coast.
Personally compelling to me as shedding light on the mysterious disappearance of my great uncle, the account which follows is also of interest for its documentation of SubGenius activities in the nineteen-thirties, before their current period of popularity. It is not, of course, the only such record; besides various far older historical and archaeological artifacts now classified as secret by the Church, there exist many others of relatively recent date. An example is the famous "Four-eyed Dobbs" portrait of the Church's founder, unearthed lately in New Orleans; signed by Garland Chauvin and dated 1951, it may be seen (by appointment) in the SubGenius National Museum in San Francisco, California.
The Professor's story, however, antedates the Chauvin portrait by fifteen years, and may even confirm the involvement of Dobbs in trans-temporal as well as inter-sidereal travel! But since the Church has permitted the release of his tale, let him speak for himself.
--H. S. R.
It was in the early autumn of the year 1936 that I first glimpsed the mocking face of the Stranger. Would that I had never beheld the preternaturally brilliant eyes, the curiously repellently regular features, and the gently smoking pipe clenched between the unnaturally white and perfect teeth, the face whose grin, at first sight genial and disarming, became, to one who had not the instinct to lower his glance after the first brief moment of meeting, a disturbing and sinister rictus whose fixity asseverated the ultimate reality of nighted gulfs of amorphous darkness and primordial, elder Chaos, whose Titan wings enshroud and menace our pitifully unknowing planet of mortal and innocent beings, of blue skies, flowing waters and all that is most dear within the hearts of the sons of men. Would that I had instead at that hour hurled myself from the West Street bridge, where the rushing Miskatonic begins its sally to the north, to drown the malignant knowledge of that eldritch visage in the final comfort of true oblivion, beneath her icy waters!
Now I must permanently remove myself from the haunts of men; I must seek out the desolate waste places of the earth and there dwell, until overtaken by the progressive degeneration of the change which I can no longer deny is slowly altering me, devouring body and spirit. But, if I may hope, perhaps I will gladly endure the more bearable embrace of mortal death before I succumb to the final ravages of a most loathsome and detestable alienage.
An aspiring scholar of modest means, I had come, with the true zest of the amateur antiquarian, to study those curious groups of standing stones known as the New England Megaliths. About them I knew little, save that their origin remains a mystery to science. While some have averred the Indians of the region were their builders, most authorities attribute their construction to Northern Europeans or Celts of the early to middle Bronze Age. Certain grooves on some of the altar stones suggest a dark sacrificial purpose, the draining of the blood of the outstretched victims in the manner of the more degraded magical or religious ceremonies of prehistoric Europe.
I preferred to be open-minded, and to refrain from forming a hypothesis until I myself confronted the puzzling evidence. After all, the local farmers, though repellingly decadent, degenerated and inbred, know the grooved dolmens only as "cider-press stones." Perhaps, I thought, these rustics are correct, and the umbrageous speculations of more erudite heads mere conjecture, bred out of the pessimism and melancholy to which the scholarly set of mind perennially inclines.
My destination was Miskatonic University in storied Arkham, Massachusetts, where I was to meet the man who was the greatest living authority on the enigmatic relics. Professor Ebenezer Tillinghast had written a brilliant series of monographs; his intimate knowledge of geology, anthropology and paleontology illuminated his exhaustive familiarity with the place's elder history and legendary lore. I had communicated with Tillinghast in a series of increasingly cordial letters, following the first tentative inquiry on my part about his authoritative certification of the age of a certain primordial cromlech in the Vermont hills. His reply, gracious and cordial, began our increasingly pleasurable epistolary acquaintance. The demands of my research neatly dovetailed with his invitation to be his house guest in Arkham; he further offered the use of the University library.
Unable to refuse, I had made preparations for the visit with eager anticipation, and now I was to set eyes on my learned correspondent for the first time.
I quickened my steps as I walked up Garrison Street, lined with stately rows of Dutch Elm trees. Stepping from their shade, I reached and crossed cobbled Church Street, leaving the town proper with its ancient rooftops, among which are still to be seen quite a few of the older gambrel type, for the venerable ivied brick of the University buildings. As I crossed the Quadrangle, I beheld Tillinghast, for it could be none other than he, descending the steps of the Faculty Club with hand outstretched in welcome.
Ebenezer Tillinghast was tall, though afflicted with the slight stoop which often marks the dedicated scholar. Greying and distinguished-looking, he seemed the perfect embodiment of the best stock New England has to offer.
My host at once made me welcome. In no time we were comfortably seated in the oak-paneled lounge, talking as if we had known each other all our lives. I took a glass of porter at Tillinghast's insistence, though he, bound by his physician's injunction, drank only hot tea from a moustache cup with his own monogram which kept his neat pepper-and-salt brush from drooping into the steaming liquid.
"The doctors won't allow it, Brainard -- my heart's not what it used to be." He ran his long fingers through his iron-gray hair. "They say I must take better care of myself. The fools! Gad, let them know about the things that are under some of these hills and see how their hearts stand the strain. Though I shouldn't wonder if they referred me to an alienist if I told them. There are some things that Science is unequipped to deal with. Science does not remove the terror of the gods, eh?"
I fancied he looked at me strangely, as if expecting me to endorse his sentiment. He had the air of one who has just quoted, but if so, I did not recognize the quotation.
"But you know what I mean, Brainard," my venerable host went on. "You wanted to know about those underground chambers near Petersham. Capital -- we'll go there. The locals must think I'm a pretty queer old duck, always pothering around those decaying ruins. But they leave me be-- they shun them. And don't dismiss their superstitions. There's more wisdom in some of the tales muttered in the hill country than can be found in the whole anthropology syllabus -- even here at Miskatonic.
"Perhaps I'll take a glass of that port after all, Brainard. What do doctors know? Ah, that's better. It warms the blood, just the thing for a cold night like this.
"Do you know, many so-called scientists won't even acknowledge the existence of some of those old piles? When anyone can walk out and see them, those fools prefer not to budge themselves from the upholstered comfort of their old theories. Let me tell you, I've walked these hills for thirty years; I've been up and over them more than any living man -- and under them," he added, with a rasping chuckle.
"Yes, I'll show you that shrine out by Pelham way. We'll go out on the Glasheen road -- no one hardly ever comes there, so we won't be bothered. Just let me fill your glass, and I may as well take another. You have no idea how bracing it is to talk to a kindred spirit. Those whited sepulchres on the faculty haven't the sense to see farther than their noses. But one of these days, they'll take notice. Much good it can do them then! Steward, another bottle of that port."
Through the night, as I willingly attended, Tillinghast held forth on the ancient stones and their surroundings. Though in truth I had not nearly the erudition with which he credited me, I knew enough to realize that I was in the presence of an exceptional authority on the subject, and in all likelihood the greatest authority.
He told of Cyclopean ruins in the heart of the Maine woods, beneath which stone staircases lead down to abysses of antehuman secrets. He seemed to hint that strange intimations of cosmic menace were suggested deliberately by the ancient builders of the druid-like circles of standing stones atop a bare granite summit in Acworth, across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.
But the most eldritch of the time-blasted megaliths, Tillinghast went on, were to be found in the lonely hill country of west-central Massachusetts. Here were mysteries truly unfathomable, secrets too well hidden to be exhumed, even by the most adroit and persistent investigator.
The local inhabitants, mostly inbred and degenerated farmers, would take pains to avoid the sites, a tradition of aversion extending from pre- Revolutionary times. It was in that period that the strange monuments became the scene of a brief revival of the alchemy of the Middle Ages. The "strangers" who had sailed with the Puritans used the uncouth heaps as their hidden redoubts. Safe from the suspicious fanaticism of their fellows, they extracted alloys from the complex sulphides of New England's rocks, by means of now long-lost techniques which have only been partially rediscovered, which they managed to pass off to the credulous religionists as silver and gold.
But with the years, this pragmatic alchemy slipped back into the occultism with which it was unavoidably associated in the beliefs of that time, and for generations afterward the stone structures were associated with the sinister beliefs that continued to percolate through the repressed psychic sub-stratum of the Puritan society, every now and then escaping in such dark forms as the Salem Witchcraft and all that went with it.
Naturally, the locals would exhibit reluctance to visit or discuss the sites. Yet, Tillinghast hinted, more than the lingering traces of the aroma of an antique notoriety kept the rustics at bay.
"The Indians knew, Brainard," he insisted, tossing down yet another glass of porter. "The Wampanaugs always maintained that the great stones were the doorsteps of passages into the spirit world. Their head man, Misquamacus, claimed that when the stars were right, the gates were opened. In my years here at Miskatonic I've persisted, in spite of fools' laughter, in correlating their traditions with some of the more esoteric occult literature in our Library -- and now I know they were correct. But this very night you shall see for yourself." He pulled an ephemeris from his waistcoat pocket and traced down a table of figures with a slightly weaving finger.
"We should start now. We'll take my motor, if you've no objection. We've a long drive ahead of us -- what about one for the road?"
A rising gibbous moon cast its sickly light over us as we emerged from the club. Tillinghast found himself carrying his moustache cup, which he pocketed after two or three attempts.
Despite a noticeable inebriation, my new friend seemed to have no trouble once behind the wheel of his Packard sedan. We sped away from the town and soon were traversing at high speed a veritable labyrinth of obscure country roads which wound through narrow valleys and densely wooded slopes. Tillinghast drove in a manner which suggested more than a passing familiarity with the route. We sped through the hamlet of Pelham and were soon skirting the edge of a dark declivity on our right.
"That'll all be flooded over in a few years," remarked Tillinghast, gesturing loosely with his right hand. Not for the first time, I wondered about the source of his knowledge.
"I know what you're thinking," he went on. He took a swallow from a pocket flask, frowning when I refused it. "How do I know? Let's just say that the megaliths open the way to the future as well as the past. Yes, the Quabbin reservoir will be along here, and this valley and all its secrets will be covered over. A good thing for most folk, too. The human mind can only stand so much, Brainard. Let the fools slumber in their illusion of safety."
We turned on to the Glasheen road. Now we were flying by that country crossed by Daniel Shays' tattered army of rustic rebels in their doomed cause of 1786. It was said that the alchemist Glazier Wheeler produced his false gold somewhere near here. Shays too, Tillinghast reminded me, had attempted in vain to duplicate Wheeler's methods to finance his ragged army. His workshop had been the very megalithic construction which was our destination this evening.
We entered the sleeping ancient town of Petersham, where in the 1780's its Shaker founder, "Mother" Ann Lee, proclaimed herself the "Female Christ." I shuddered as I contemplated how riddled the locality had been with the cancer of superstition.
Tillinghast deftly guided his vehicle along a rutted farm lane and coasted to a stop in a moonlit clearing. He pointed out a low-lying series of ruins.
"Not the entrance, Brainard," he grinned. "Those are just the foundations of old Joseph Stevens' farm. The place was built in 1740; this is all that's left. Stevens' grandsire was Simon Willard, you know. He lived at Nonanoicus in 1675 in the time of Philip's War."
We picked our way across the deserted field. I followed the inebriated scholar over the yawning ruts, bulbous tumps, tangled roots and sliding stones. It was hard to keep my balance while following Tillinghast as he continued his peroration.
"Cotton Mather knew about the strange events in Willard's woods. You've read the Magnalia Christi Americana, I take it. When Philip's War broke out there were marvels seen and heard, weird howls from the noonday sky and deep reverberations from Nonanoicus pond. Three-headed calves were born, and bright lights were seen hovering in the sky. Of course, he knew only part of the truth."
At this point, a huge uneven bulk loomed up dismally before us out of the shadows of the gnarled trees' twisted branches. Ten feet across and fully twelve feet high, the pile seemed to crouch like a malignant living thing, a hulking guardian of the secrets of elder Earth. I felt a sense of disquiet the receding vapors of alcohol could not obscure. In the sudden silence, the trickling sound of water over stone was heard, which seemed to echo upwards from unknown depths.
"Do you hear the spring?" asked my guide, producing an electric torch. Taking a swallow from his flask, he aimed the beam into the dark mouth of the structure.
A six-foot wide spring, reflecting the electric rays, indeed welled up out of the floor. From the sides several entrances opened out to stone-lined tunnels. Tillinghast took the second of these.
"Note the stonework, Brainard," he whispered. "I've seen its like before, at Exham priory in England and at Skara Brae and Rinyo in the Orkneys, where Queen Morgause ruled during King Arthur's day. And it was old then. Old when Babylon was new."
His lowered voice strangely affected me, and I thought of the eccentric but brilliant Harvard chemistry professor, Eben R. Horsford, who proposed that the megaliths were the fragmentary remnants of that lost city of Norumbega which Champlain and the voyageurs had long sought in vain.
We continued down the dank corridor. Tillinghast pointed upward. "We should be just under the Stevens place," he breathed. The tunnel took a sharp left turn, then wound to the right. At once it came to a dead end, shored up by worn granitic blocks.
I had been feeling greater apprehension as we delved further into the tunnel, and was relieved that, as it seemed, we had reached its terminus. I was just about to propose that we retrace our steps when Tillinghast abruptly raised his hand for silence. "Listen!" he commanded.
I could hear nothing save our breathing in the confined space. Then, as the pause increased, I could hear my heart beating in my breast. Or was it my heart? Faintly, so faintly that I could barely make it out, came an insistent rhythm, a muffled beating which seemed to emanate from far, far below us.
"Behold, for I show you a mystery," breathed Tillinghast.
Choosing a certain stone, he pushed against it with the flat of his hand. I wondered at his purpose as he continued to press the wall without apparent result. Suddenly, the stone moved, grating outward. As it did, the faint thumping became perceptibly louder. Now the whole section of wall shuddered and began to slide silently down into the earth.
The hidden mechanism, whatever it was, made no sound. Ponderously, inexorably, the supposedly piled stones of the wall sank as one into the great hidden slot, until, with a muffled boom as of rock meeting rock, the top of the wall leveled with the floor of the chamber. A breath of cool air blew against our faces from the blackness of the newly revealed aperture. There was no question that the dull, beating rhythm was more audible. Faintly, a whistling, thin piping could be heard, sounding vaguely like a syrinx or perhaps a pair of flutes. This anti-music, if such it was, seemed dissonant in the extreme, discordant, horrible. It seemed to snatch with taloned fingers at the edges of the brain, threatening to tear it from its moorings and sweep it away down suffocating corridors of ultimate madness.
"Dear God-- what is it, Tillinghast?" I gasped. My subterranean cicerone seemed to sneer as he replied. "Nothing at all, Brainard. A mere bagatelle. Only a sound just three living people -- and you're one -- have heard this century. Old Cotton Mather wrote of it in the Magnalia. 'The Wonders of the Invisible World.' Are you coming?
He flashed the beam of his torch forward to reveal a chamber carved from plutonic basalt. A vessel of unidentifiable design reposed in a niche in the seamless black wall as do cineraria in a mausoleum. Beside this niche, another opening showed the top of a series of carven stone steps leading down to a nighted abyss. It was from this latter aperture that the draft of air blew in our faces, carrying with it the detestable piping and thumping.
Tillinghast stepped lightly into the chamber, but I, rooted to the spot with premonitory fear, could not follow. He reached into the urn-like vessel and pulled out, not cremated human ash and bone fragments as I half expected, but the dried leaves of some preserved plant. An intolerable foetor seemed to billow forth as he disturbed the contents of the receptacle.
"Look at this," crowed Tillinghast. "Just as the Necronomicon said. Habafropzipulops -- the herb of knowledge, beside the Gateway. I deciphered the coded formula in Wormius's Latin edition, after sixteen years of study. I opened the wall for the first time this last summer. But now, with you as my witness and confederate, we will both pass into a world undreamed of by science."
As I watched in dismay, he crammed the powdery, dry leaves into his mouth. A dreamy, abstracted expression formed on his face as he rhythmically chewed. His jaw moved up and down in awful synchronization with the reverberations from below, and a greenish juice or sap ran from the corners of his mouth down his chin.
"Tillinghast," I entreated, "come away! This is madness!"
"Join me, Brainard," he grunted through his cudlike mouthful. "We'll wait for the Messenger together." I begged and pleaded but my friend remained obdurate. He stood stiffly, with his arms at his sides. Only his jaw continued to move up and down.
I started. Was that a scraping sound from below? Yes, something was ascending the stone steps. Crying out Tillinghast's name, I seized his hand and attempted to pull him forward. The hand that I clutched was as cold as ice. A dim radiance began to glow from the tunnel.
Unwilling to gaze upon what might come into view, I turned to flee. The wall was rising again! It was halfway to the roof even now! With a choking cry I scrambled forward. Somehow, sheer terror gave me the impetus to clamber up and over the moving edge. The top met the ceiling of the tunnel as I fell heavily to the other side; it cut off the growing illumination of the inner chamber where luckless Tillinghast still stood chewing, leaving me alone and in darkness.
I must have screamed and raved. I pushed at the various stones of the wall until my hands were wet with my own blood. Repeatedly I shouted to Tillinghast, but heard only the echoes of my call in mocking reply.
Of how I blundered out of the tunnel I have no memory. But the welcome light of morning found me weeping, reeling drunkenly in the clearing by the foundation of the farmhouse. It was no small matter to start Tillinghast's machine and maneuver it back to Arkham; how I did it in the state I was in I will never know. As I drove, I rehearsed in my mind the speech I would have to make to the police, and my heart shrank within me at the thought.
But by the time I reached the city, my resolve to contact the authorities had evaporated, leaving in its place a sort of helpless lassitude. For all I knew, I told myself, Tillinghast was in no danger. Was he not familiar with his surroundings in that remote place? He had opened the door; had he not also closed it? Whatever his purposes, I wanted no part of them. Poor Tillinghast had been driven mad by his studies. That his abstruse research had unbalanced him I was certain, from his scarcely creditable ravings about lights in the sky and gateways into the future. It was all the more deplorable that he had mingled genuine knowledge and antiquarian discovery with this tissue of superstition. In any event, I doubted now that I could find my way back to the site unaided.
As I mused over these things, I stood on the West Street bridge, gazing down at the swiftly flowing Miskatonic. Periodically the infrequent passer by would glance at my disheveled and clay-smeared clothing and bedraggled appearance. No doubt I presented the aspect of a rum-sodden reprobate, sweating out his sins in the light of day. Indeed, the monumental hangover that added to my misery induced me to believe that such a characterization would be far from inaccurate. Pulling the tatterdemalion remnant of my coat about me, I gazed bleakly down at the little island of gray standing stones, where in Puritan times it was whispered that the Devil held court.
It was then that I heard a light step behind me, and an unfamiliar if pleasantly modulated voice hailed me by my Christian name.
"Byron? I've been looking for you, son. You're Byron Harris Brainard?"
I turned to see who addressed me with such familiarity, and found myself gazing into the bland face of an amused-appearing man of forty-odd years or so, who clenched a pipe between his teeth as he grinned at me, insolently, as I thought.
"Indeed, sir," I began, "I have not the pleasure--" He interrupted me.
"Aw, come off it, hoss-- you've gotta be the one. Hey, you look like two miles o' bad road!"
I drew myself to my full height. "Sir, you have the advantage of me. Perhaps you will divulge the basis for our presumed acquaintance."
"My name's Dobbs, ol' son, but you can just call me 'Bob' -- most people do." The stranger extended his hand, and I found myself shaking it before I could think.
"A guy you know sent me. Fella named Tillinghast."
"Tillinghast?" I cried. "Then. . . then, he is well?"
"Sure, he's okey-dokey," rejoined my companion, who continued to grin. "He was gettin' a little hot n' bothered about you, though, so he sent me down, like I said, to pick you up. We can ride out in his old heap; feel like it?"
A sudden suspicious impulse overcame me. "You claim you were looking for me, Mr. Dobbs; but how is it that you knew where to find me? Excuse me, but how do I really know that you come from Ebenezer Tillinghast?"
Dobbs continued to grin, and seemed not to take the slightest offense at this line of inquiry. I began to find his beaming countenance disquieting.
"Heck, son, I didn't know where to look, now you mention it," he responded. "Just lucky, I guess. Always been kind o' lucky. First place I come to, there you were. Oh, Eb said to show this to you."
There could be no doubt. The grinning stranger had handed me what was unmistakably Tillinghast's pocket-flask. Relief, compounded with irritation, flooded through me.
"Look here," I demanded, "suppose you tell me what all this means."
"Well, we oughta get a move on," responded my interlocutor. "I can fill you in on the way. By the way. . . want one of these?"
Somehow, as we stood there on the bridge, he contrived to peddle to me, for most of my pocket change, some sort of religious pamphlet, then a bright orange cigaret lighter, a cylindrical ellipsoid of unknown material and design. Looking back on this incident, it baffles me how I could have been induced to engage at that time in a trivial commercial transaction. Perhaps my lack of sleep and debilitated constitution accounted for my reduced resistance. I glanced hastily at the pamphlet, which seemed to make no sense to my sleep-starved eyes. "The World Ends Tomorrow, And You May Die!" it proclaimed. Looking closer, I noticed that there seemed to be a small illustration of a face which bore an astoundingly close resemblance to the stranger's. The image and the crowded fine print beneath it flowed and swam before my troubled gaze, so I could not read it. We were walking to Tillinghast's new motor; somehow the stranger had sold me his bona fides as well. I am now convinced he could have sold me anything.
My new companion slid behind the wheel of the Packard.
"This old thing oughta be fun," he remarked. "Last I drove was a toyoda-corolla!"
Unwilling to be drawn out by his nonsensical remark, I rubbed the peculiarly slick paper of the pamphlet between my thumb and forefinger. I asked Dobbs if he could tell me what kind of paper it was.
"Zerocks," was his unintelligible reply as he let in the clutch.
If I was the passenger of a madman, nonetheless he piloted the machine most adroitly. Whenever I looked at him, I found his gaze directly upon me, still with the same manic grin. Indeed, I cannot recall that I ever saw his profile. Each time I was forced to look away, fearful that he would otherwise continue to fix his eyes on me, not the road. But his skill, or luck prevailed, and at high speed we re-traversed the route Tillinghast and I had taken on the evening previous.
Wondering if my companion's apparent friendliness was indeed genuine, or only subgenial, I took a pull from the flask Tillinghast had franked to me through his unorthodox agent. Its contents, however, were repellently bitter. I choked on the foul liquid, and tears ran from my eyes.
Each query I made of Dobbs seemed to produce a more unintelligible reply, until I left off trying to ascertain Tillinghast's intentions, or his. Not for the first time, I wished myself clear of the entire mind-numbing affair.
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the clearing. My head was reeling from the acrid potation I had swallowed. In the daylight the area looked quite different, yet I placed the foundations of the old farmhouse and the heaped stones of the primordial megalith.
"Hold on, partner," Dobbs called to me as I made my way towards the yawning entrance. "We can't get in there 'til round about midnight."
"Midnight!" I replied indignantly. "Midnight! Then why, pray tell, have we been driving over these benighted roads and all around Robin Hood's barn, when I could have had a hot bath and a change of clothes at a hotel, you deranged, dimwitted drummer? Eh?"
Dobbs appeared characteristically unshaken by my embarrassing outburst.
"Keep your shirt on," he chuckled. He was suddenly beside me, though I had not seen him cross the field. The horrid taste of Tillinghast's "cordial" lingered nauseously in my mouth. Again I looked directly on Dobbs's countenance. His grin was becoming unbearable. "Watch this," he said.
As I stared, his pipe. . . the event seems incredible even now, after the horror of the final revelation. The briar glowed -- where before had I encountered that foetid stench? and then convulsed. Its stem bent, its glossy sides heaved like those of a living thing, and it whipped back and forth in Dobbs's mouth.
Horrified, I leaped back, shouting in surprise and repugnance. And, suddenly-- it was night! The gibbous moon stood on the horizon, Polaris and the Wain blazed in the autumn night sky, and cicadas stridulated, interspersed with the somehow daemonic chorus of the whippoorwills. The night wind blew. I clutched Dobbs's arm in Panic fear.
"What, in God's name. . .?" I croaked.
"Time control, son. How about that?" Dobbs chuckled. I pressed my hands to my aching temples. But this was no dream. I muttered some dark lines of Coleridge:
The sun's rim dips, the stars rush out,
At one stride comes the dark.
I beheld Dobbs making his way to the megalith, ambling with an easy stride. Though as I followed I continued to stumble over roots, tumps, pits and stones, he never seemed to make a misstep. He waited for me by the entrance.
"This is as far as I go, sport," he said. "I got some guys coming to give me a lift. But I'll let you have this for one ninety-five, batteries included." He showed me an electric torch. Intending to refuse this contemptible sales offer, I found myself assenting instead. As I handed over the money, my face flushed with shame, I saw him cock his head.
"Well, it looks like they're early," he mused. "Better get goin', little buddy."
Suddenly I saw two brilliant lights, like meteors, dropping out of the sky toward us. I yelled in alarm and leapt into the shelter of the megalithic entrance. I flung myself full length upon the ground, right into the shallow, icy water of the spring. There was no impact, no concussion. Cursing this latest idiotic conjuring-trick, I staggered to my feet. I heard Dobbs's voice calling, diminishing in volume and oddly truncated at the end. His parting words made as little sense as any of his previous locutions; it sounded as if he shouted, "See you in sixty-two years!"
When I looked forth from the door of the monument I saw what I both expected and dreaded to see -- nothing. There was no sign of my unfathomable go-between. Determined to finish the madness by prosecuting its course, I started down the tunnel.
The torch I had been flim-flammed into purchasing did seem to give out an astonishing amount of illumination. The carven sides of the tunnel starkly exhibited every detail of their surface. Curiously, the chisel marks I saw were directed from the inside pointing out. The walls seemed to be of holocrystalline, quartz-bearing plutonic rock, a granite gneiss. Sparse phenocrysts of mica glittered like diamonds in masses of granitic porphyry, hypabyssal rock bearing traces of amphibole and pyroxene.
Struck by a sudden suspicion, I switched off the light. There was no diminution of the uncanny radiance. The tunnel glowed -- and did the brightness fluctuate? I saw that it did, and then I faintly heard what only then I realized I had been striving to expunge from my memory since I heard it first, that insistent subterranean thudding or beating, contrapuntally accompanied by the damnable, eldritch piping. The glow, I saw, waxed and waned perfectly in time to that insidious rhythm.
I made the left turn, then the right turn-- and the illumination abruptly ended. I nearly shrieked aloud, for it appeared as if the tunnel was filled by an unclean, billowing mass of blackness. Yet I approached, and found the lightless apparent solid to be really a thick darkness, into which the re-switched-on beam of my light only feebly penetrated.
I was steeling myself to go forward when at once I found myself addressed by a familiar voice.
"You can switch that off, Brainard," came Tillinghast's unmistakable tones. "There's no need to come any further. I see 'Bob' gave you my little flask."
"Tillinghast! Thank God! " I cried. "For the love of Heaven, come out where I can see you! Let us quit this accursed place!"
"I'm afraid I can't do that," the professor's voice replied. "And you wouldn't want to see me now. I can't even stay long on this upper level. I've changed, you see, into something rich and strange."
"Don't banter at me like an undergraduate!" I shrilled. "It's high time you let me in on this practical joke of yours. I demand you show yourself, and explain the meaning of this mendacious mummery!"
"What hurry?" came the reply. "By the way, you didn't take a nip from my little flask, did you? If you did, you'll know everything pretty soon, including that there's no way to explain the 'joke,' as you call it, in any concise sentence or series of sentences. But, tell me -- did you drink?"
"I tasted your nauseating bootleg brew," I retorted hotly. "And you seem to be pixilated yourself, Tillinghast, judging from your gibberish. Come on, old man -- let's get out of here!"
"No need for explanations, then," buzzed Tillinghast's voice. "You're a SubGenius now."
"You seem ill-suited to denigrate my intelligence," I snapped. "Come into the light. You'll feel more like yourself when I get you away from all this."
"I should have smoked the 'Frop," muttered the voice. "I chewed it, you drank it. I imagine you too will regress somewhat, but at least we'll both be as good as immortal -- until X-day, that is. Well, let me dower you with a parting gift."
Tillinghast's voice seemed to recede down the tunnel. Then there were muffled sounds, as if he searched for something amid the rubble of the floor.
"At least tell me what that damnable bumping is!" I called out. As oddly as Tillinghast had been behaving, I was terrified of being left alone in this place.
"Why, it's Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, dancing ponderously and mindlessly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players, of course," droned the voice. "As 'Bob' says, it has a good beat -- you can dance to it. Bhugg-shoggog, n'yaathai, m'waflghaa, toglesh-shelgoth. . . Ah, here we are."
"Tillinghast!" I called. "Tillinghast, I'm leaving!" But there was no answer. Then, suddenly, very close at hand, I heard a scrabbling sound.
Before I could step back, before I could even move, the horror was upon me. Out of the inexplicably chthonic adumbration of the tunnel shuffled or flopped a thing of unspeakable vileness. Its etiolated, holothuroid body, like that of some quivering Silurian sea-cucumber, supported on a stalk-like neck a kind of rudimentary, hairless and foetal head, eyeless and with a bulging brow that overhung its rugose rudiment of a face. Its fishlike mouth silently contracted with the effort of locomotion, as did the elasmobranchoid gills which flapped hideously with every fumbling step. An insufferable foetor overwhelmed me as the night-spawned thing pushed forward at me a whitish object, held in its misshapen forepaws.
Shrieking, I lashed out, trying to protect myself. I must have seized what the creature carried, for it was in my hand. Its liquid contents slopped over its rim, splashing on my skin. . .
And then, in one supernal instant, I knew all. Scream after scream reverberated from the tunnel walls in concatenated echoes hardly recognizable as my own voice.
I knew then that Tillinghast's insinuations were totally founded on the unspeakable truth -- how unmentionable beings, "Xists," were massing beyond nighted Yuggoth on the black, unknown world, Planet X, preparing for their devastating arrival on the earth three years before the Twenty-first Century begins; I knew how, in Azoic times, a billion and a half years ago, the barrel-bodied, star-headed Old Ones had created all life on our planet -- for food. I knew of the lost serpent race, the Valusians. I knew of the kingdom of Lomar that existed at the pole 100,000 years ago, and of the coleopterous or beetle race which follows after man's extinction. I knew what G'broagfran is. I knew all things in heaven and earth.
And, since I did, I also knew that the distillate of Habafropzipulops I had drunk would, as Tillinghast had predicted, cause an unavoidable, physical regression even as it conferred upon me the immortality of the body many in man's sad history have foolishly sought.
My head will swell in size as my brain develops abnormally, while my frame and limbs will dwindle and shrink grotesquely, as I move toward a synthesis of extreme senescence and pre-natal morphology. And then, perhaps, the process will take me further. . .
I walked out of the tunnel under the stars. There was no longer any need for timorous flight, for there was no point now to fearing anything. Now, as I pen these lines, I know that they will come to light forty years hence, as the rise of the SubGeniuses takes place, as it must. Until then, I consider myself on vacation. Perhaps I will pass the time frolicking amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile.
For that artifact, still in my possession, which the blasphemous horror in the tunnel pressed upon me, though it contained the liquid 'Frop essence from the necrophagous storehouses of inner earth, was to me a familiar object. It was no sorcerous chalice, no eldritch drinking-vessel hacked from the skull of some hairy pre-human progenitor, no onyx Cup of the Ptolomies. It would have been better for my peace of mind had it been any of these things, for it was the moustache cup of Ebenezer Tillinghast.