The Dunwich Horror – Part VI

fiction

The Dunwich Horror – Part V

by H. P. LOVECRAFT

6

The Dunwich horror itself came between Lammas and the equinox in 1928,
and Dr. Armitage was among those who witnessed its monstrous prologue.
He had heard, meanwhile, of Whateley's grotesque trip to Cambridge,
and of his frantic efforts to borrow or copy from the _Necronomicon_
at the Widener Library. Those efforts had been in vain, since Armitage
had issued warnings of the keenest intensity to all librarians having
charge of the dreaded volume. Wilbur had been shockingly nervous at
Cambridge; anxious for the book, yet almost equally anxious to get
home again, as if he feared the results of being away long.

Early in August the half-expected outcome developed, and in the small
hours of the third Dr. Armitage was awakened suddenly by the wild,
fierce cries of the savage watchdog on the college campus. Deep and
terrible, the snarling, half-mad growls and barks continued; always
in mounting volume, but with hideously significant pauses. Then there
rang out a scream from a wholly different throat--such a scream as
roused half the sleepers of Arkham and haunted their dreams ever
afterward--such a scream as could come from no being born of earth, or
wholly of earth.

Armitage hastened into some clothing and rushed across the street and
lawn to the college buildings, saw that others were ahead of him; and
heard the echoes of a burglar-alarm still shrilling from the library.
An open window showed black and gaping in the moonlight. What had come
had indeed completed its entrance; for the barking and the screaming,
now fast fading into a mixed low growling and moaning, proceeded
unmistakably from within. Some instinct warned Armitage that what was
taking place was not a thing for unfortified eyes to see, so he brushed
back the crowd with authority as he unlocked the vestibule door. Among
the others he saw Professor Warren Rice and Dr. Francis Morgan, men to
whom he had told some of his conjectures and misgivings; and these two
he motioned to accompany him inside. The inward sounds, except for a
watchful, droning whine from the dog, had by this time quite subsided;
but Armitage now perceived with a sudden start that a loud chorus of
whippoorwills among the shrubbery had commenced a damnably rhythmical
piping, as if in unison with the last breath of a dying man.

The building was full of a frightful stench which Dr. Armitage knew
too well, and the three men rushed across the hall to the small
genealogical reading-room whence the low whining came. For a second
nobody dared to turn on the light; then Armitage summoned up his
courage and snapped the switch. One of the three--it is not certain
which--shrieked aloud at what sprawled before them among disordered
tables and overturned chairs. Professor Rice declares that he wholly
lost consciousness for an instant, though he did not stumble or fall.

The thing that lay half-bent on its side in a fetid pool of
greenish-yellow ichor and tarry stickiness was almost nine feet tall,
and the dog had torn off all the clothing and some of the skin. It
was not quite dead, but twitched silently and spasmodically while its
chest heaved in monstrous unison with the mad piping of the expectant
whippoorwills outside. Bits of shoe-leather and fragments of apparel
were scattered about the room, and just inside the window an empty
canvas sack lay where it had evidently been thrown. Near the central
desk a revolver had fallen, a dented but undischarged cartridge later
explaining why it had not been fired. The thing itself, however,
crowded out all other images at the time. It would be trite and not
wholly accurate to say that no human pen could describe it, but one may
properly say that it could not be vividly visualized by anyone whose
ideas of aspect and contour are too closely bound up with the common
life-forms of this planet and of the three known dimensions. It was
partly human, beyond a doubt, with very manlike hands and head, and the
goatish, chinless face had the stamp of the Whateleys upon it. But the
torso and lower parts of the body were teratologically fabulous, so
that only generous clothing could ever have enabled it to walk on earth
unchallenged or uneradicated.

Above the waist it was semi-anthropomorphic; though its chest, where
the dog's rending paws still rested watchfully, had the leathery,
reticulated hide of a crocodile or alligator. The back was piebald
with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of
certain snakes. Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here
all human resemblance left off and sheer fantasy began. The skin was
thickly covered with coarse black fur, and from the abdomen a score of
long greenish-gray tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded limply.
Their arrangement was odd, and seemed to follow the symmetries of some
cosmic geometry unknown to earth or the solar system. On each of the
hips, deep set in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit, was what seemed to
be a rudimentary eye; whilst in lieu of a tail there depended a kind of
trunk or feeler with purple annular markings, and with many evidences
of being an undeveloped mouth or throat. The limbs, save for their
black fur, roughly resembled the hind legs of prehistoric earth's giant
saurians; and terminated in ridgy-veined pads that were neither hooves
nor claws. When the thing breathed, its tail and tentacles rhythmically
changed color, as if from some circulatory cause normal to the
non-human side of its ancestry. In the tentacles this was observable as
a deepening of the greenish tinge, whilst in the tail it was manifest
as a yellowish appearance which alternated with a sickly grayish-white
in the spaces between the purple rings. Of genuine blood there was
none; only the fetid greenish-yellow ichor which trickled along the
painted floor beyond the radius of the stickiness, and left a curious
discoloration behind it.

As the presence of the three men seemed to rouse the dying thing, it
began to mumble without turning or raising its head. Dr. Armitage
made no written record of its mouthings, but asserts confidently that
nothing in English was uttered. At first the syllables defied all
correlation with any speech of earth, but toward the last there came
some disjointed fragments evidently taken from the _Necronomicon_,
that monstrous blasphemy in quest of which the thing had perished.
Those fragments, as Armitage recalls them, ran something like "_N'gai,
n'gha'ghaa, bugg-shoggog, y'hah; Yog-Sothoth, Yog-Sothoth...._"
They trailed off into nothingness as the whippoorwills shrieked in
rhythmical crescendoes of unholy anticipation.

Then came a halt in the gasping, and the dog raised his head in a long,
lugubrious howl. A change came over the yellow, goatish face of the
prostrate thing, and the great black eyes fell in appallingly. Outside
the window the shrilling of the whippoorwills had suddenly ceased, and
above the murmurs of the gathering crowd there came the sound of a
panic-struck whirring and fluttering. Against the moon vast clouds of
feathery watchers rose and raced from sight, frantic at that which they
had sought for prey.

All at once the dog started up abruptly, gave a frightened bark, and
leaped nervously out the window by which it had entered. A cry rose
from the crowd, and Dr. Armitage shouted to the men outside that no
one must be admitted till the police or medical examiner came. He was
thankful that the windows were just too high to permit of peering
in, and drew the dark curtains carefully down over each one. By this
time two policemen had arrived; and Dr. Morgan, meeting them in the
vestibule, was urging them for their own sakes to postpone entrance to
the stench-filled reading-room till the examiner came and the prostrate
thing could be covered up.

Meanwhile frightful changes were taking place on the floor. One need
not describe the _kind_ and _rate_ of shrinkage and disintegration that
occurred before the eyes of Dr. Armitage and Professor Rice; but it is
permissible to say that, aside from the external appearance of face
and hands, the really human elements in Wilbur Whateley must have been
very small. When the medical examiner came, there was only a sticky
whitish mass on the painted boards, and the monstrous odor had nearly
disappeared. Apparently Whateley had had no skull or bony skeleton; at
least, in any true or stable sense. He had taken somewhat after his
unknown father.
>>>>>>>>For Part VII, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on September 01 2020 <<<<<<<<<<

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