Collected Stories – Part 2 – Day 234 of 274

The worst thing was that she was holding on to him longer and longer at a time. She wanted to be a man–to be fully human–that was why she got hold of him. She had sensed the mixture of fine-wrought brain and weak will in him. Some day she would crowd him out and disappear with his body–disappear to become a great magician like her father and leave him marooned in that female shell that wasn’t even quite human. Yes, he knew about the Innsmouth blood now. There had been traffick with things from the sea–it was horrible…And old Ephraim–he had known the secret, and when he grew old did a hideous thing to keep alive–he wanted to live forever–Asenath would succeed–one successful demonstration had taken place already.

As Derby muttered on I turned to look at him closely, verifying the impression of change which an earlier scrutiny had given me. Paradoxically, he seemed in better shape than usual–harder, more normally developed, and without the trace of sickly flabbiness caused by his indolent habits. It was as if he had been really active and properly exercised for the first time in his coddled life, and I judged that Asenath’s force must have pushed him into unwonted channels of motion and alertness. But just now his mind was in a pitiable state; for he was mumbling wild extravagances about his wife, about black magic, about old Ephraim, and about some revelation which would convince even me. He repeated names which I recognized from bygone browsings in forbidden volumes, and at times made me shudder with a certain thread of mythological consistency–or convincing coherence–which ran through his maundering. Again and again he would pause, as if to gather courage for some final and terrible disclosure.

“Dan, Dan, don’t you remember him–wild eyes and the unkempt beard that never turned white? He glared at me once, and I never forgot it. Now she glares that way. And I know why! He found it in the Necronomicon–the formula. I don’t dare tell you the page yet, but when I do you can read and understand. Then you will know what has engulfed me. On, on, on, on–body to body to body–he means never to die. The life-glow–he knows how to break the link…it can flicker on a while even when the body is dead. I’ll give you hints and maybe you’ll guess. Listen, Dan–do you know why my wife always takes such pains with that silly backhand writing? Have you ever seen a manuscript of old Ephraim’s? Do you want to know why I shivered when I saw some hasty notes Asenath had jotted down?

“Asenath–is there such a person? Why did they half-think there was poison in old Ephraim’s stomach? Why do the Gilmans whisper about the way he shrieked–like a frightened child–when he went mad and Asenath locked him up in the padded attic room where–the other–had been? Was it old Ephraim’s soul that was locked in? Who locked in whom? Why had he been looking for months for someone with a fine mind and a weak will?–Why did he curse that his daughter wasn’t a son? Tell me? Daniel Upton–what devilish exchange was perpetrated in the house of horror where that blasphemous monster had his trusting, weak-willed half-human child at his mercy? Didn’t he make it permanent–as she’ll do in the end with me? Tell me why that thing that calls itself Asenath writes differently off guard, so that you can’t tell its script from–“

Then the thing happened. Derby’s voice was rising to a thin treble scream as he raved, when suddenly it was shut off with an almost mechanical click. I thought of those other occasions at my home when his confidences had abruptly ceased–when I had half-fancied that some obscure telepathic wave of Asenath’s mental force was intervening to keep him silent. This, though, was something altogether different–and, I felt, infinitely more horrible. The face beside me was twisted almost unrecognizably for a moment, while through the whole body there passed a shivering motion–as if all the bones, organs, muscles, nerves, and glands were adjusting themselves to a radically different posture, set of stresses, and general personality.

Just where the supreme horror lay, I could not for my life tell; yet there swept over me such a swamping wave of sickness and repulsion–such a freezing, petrifying sense of utter alienage and abnormality–that my grasp of the wheel grew feeble and uncertain. The figure beside me seemed less like a lifelong friend than like some monstrous intrusion from outer space–some damnable, utterly accursed focus of unknown and malign cosmic forces.

I had faltered only a moment, but before another moment was over my companion had seized the wheel and forced me to change places with him. The dusk was now very thick, and the lights of Portland far behind, so I could not see much of his face. The blaze of his eyes, though, was phenomenal; and I knew that he must now be in that queerly energized state–so unlike his usual self–which so many people had noticed. It seemed odd and incredible that listless Edward Derby–he who could never assert himself, and who had never learned to drive–should be ordering me about and taking the wheel of my own car, yet that was precisely what had happened. He did not speak for some time, and in my inexplicable horror I was glad he did not.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)