Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 69 of 276

VII

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 a hint.

“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.

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