H.P. Lovecraft

20 Mar, 2014 09:51 AM

I 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.
It was 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
When 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.
The 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 away.
Though 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 more
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
The 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.
For 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
On the 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
I know 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 eminence.
I have 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.
As the 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.
All 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.
Dazed 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.
It was 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 before me.
Then 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,
and 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.
Of my 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.
When 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.
It is 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
universal pandemonium.
The 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

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