The Dunwich Horror – Part VII

fiction

The Dunwich Horror – Part VII

by H. P. LOVECRAFT

7

Yet all this was only the prologue of the actual Dunwich horror.
Formalities were gone through by bewildered officials, abnormal details
were duly kept from press and public, and men were sent to Dunwich
and Aylesbury to look up property and notify any who might be heirs
of the late Wilbur Whateley. They found the countryside in great
agitation, both because of the growing rumblings beneath the domed
hills, and because of the unwonted stench and the surging, lapping
sounds which came increasingly from the great empty shell formed by
Whateley's boarded-up farmhouse. Earl Sawyer, who tended the horse and
cattle during Wilbur's absence, had developed a wofully acute case
of nerves. The officials devised excuses not to enter the noisome
boarded place; and were glad to confine their survey of the deceased's
living quarters, the newly mended sheds, to a single visit. They filed
a ponderous report at the court-house in Aylesbury, and litigations
concerning heirship are said to be still in progress amongst the
innumerable Whateleys, decayed and undecayed, of the upper Miskatonic
valley.

An almost interminable manuscript in strange characters, written in a
huge ledger and adjudged a sort of diary because of the spacing and
the variations in ink and penmanship, presented a baffling puzzle to
those who found it on the old bureau which served as its owner's
desk. After a week of debate it was sent to Miskatonic University,
together with the deceased's collection of strange books, for study
and possible translation; but even the best linguists soon saw that it
was not likely to be unriddled with ease. No trace of the ancient gold
with which Wilbur and Old Whateley always paid their debts has yet been
discovered.

It was in the dark of September ninth that the horror broke loose.
The hill noises had been very pronounced during the evening, and dogs
barked frantically all night. Early risers on the tenth noticed a
peculiar stench in the air. About 7 o'clock Luther Brown, the hired boy
at George Corey's, between Cold Spring Glen and the village, rushed
frenziedly back from his morning trip to Ten-Acre Meadow with the cows.
He was almost convulsed with fright as he stumbled into the kitchen;
and in the yard outside the no less frightened herd were pawing and
lowing pitifully, having followed the boy back in the panic they shared
with him. Between gasps Luther tried to stammer out his tale to Mrs.
Corey.

"Up thar in the rud beyont the glen, Mis' Corey--they's suthin' ben
thar! It smells like thunder, an' all the bushes an' little trees is
pushed back from the rud like they'd a haouse ben moved along of it.
An' that ain't the wust, nuther. They's _prints_ in the rud, Mis'
Corey--great raound prints as big as barrel-heads, all sunk daown deep
like a elephant had ben along, _only they's a sight more nor four feet
could make_. I looked at one or two afore I run, an' I see every one
was covered with lines spreadin' aout from one place, like as if big
palm-leaf fans--twict or three times as big as any they is--hed of ben
paounded daown into the rud. An' the smell was awful, like what it is
araound Wizard Whateley's ol' haouse...."

Here he faltered, and seemed to shiver afresh with the fright that had
sent him flying home. Mrs. Corey, unable to extract more information,
began telephoning the neighbors; thus starting on its rounds the
overture of panic that heralded the major terrors. When she got Sally
Sawyer, housekeeper at Seth Bishop's, the nearest place to Whateley's,
it became her turn to listen instead of transmit; for Sally's boy
Chauncey, who slept poorly, had been up on the hill toward Whateley's,
and had dashed back in terror after one look at the place, and at the
pasturage where Mr. Bishop's cows had been left out all night.

"Yes, Mis' Corey," came Sally's tremulous voice over the party wire,
"Cha'ncey he just come back a-post-in', and couldn't haff talk fer
bein' scairt! He says Ol' Whateley's haouse is all blowed up, with
the timbers scattered raound like they'd ben dynamite inside; only
the bottom floor ain't through, but is all covered with a kind o'
tarlike stuff that smells awful an' drips daown offen the aidges onto
the graoun' whar the side timbers is blowed away. An' they's awful
kinder marks in the yard, tew--great raound marks bigger raound than a
hogshead, an' all sticky with stuff like is on the blowed-up haouse.
Cha'ncey he says they leads off into the medders, whar a great swath
wider'n a barn is matted daown, an' all the stun walls tumbled every
which way wherever it goes.

"An' he says, says he, Mis' Corey, as haow he sot to look fer Seth's
caows, frighted ez he was; an' faound 'em in the upper pasture nigh the
Devil's Hop Yard in an awful shape. Haff on 'em's clean gone, an' nigh
haff o' them that's left is sucked most dry o' blood, with sores on 'em
like they's ben on Whateley's cattle ever senct Lavinny's black brat
was born. Seth he's gone aout naow to look at 'em, though I'll vaow he
wun't keer ter git very nigh Wizard Whateley's! Cha'ncey didn't look
keerful ter see whar the big matted-daown swath led arter it leff the
pasturage, but he says he thinks it p'inted towards the glen rud to the
village.

"I tell ye, Mis' Corey, they's suthin' abroad as hadn't orter be
abroad, an' I fer one think that black Wilbur Whateley, as come to
the bad eend he desarved, is at the bottom of the breedin' of it. He
wa'n't all human hisself, I allus says to everybody; an' I think he an'
Ol' Whateley must a raised suthin' in that there nailed-up haouse as
ain't even so human as he was. They's allus ben unseen things araound
Dunwich--livin' things--as ain't human an' ain't good fer human folks.

"The graoun' was a'talkin' lass night, an' towards mornin' Cha'ncey
he heerd the whippoorwills so laoud in Col' Spring Glen he couldn't
sleep none. Then he thought he heerd another faintlike saound over
towards Wizard Whateley's--a kinder rippin' or tearin' o' wood, like
some big box or crate was bein' opened fur off. What with this an'
that, he didn't git to sleep at all till sunup, an' no sooner was he
up this mornin', but he's got to go over to Whateley's an' see what's
the matter. He see enough, I tell ye, Mis' Corey! This dun't mean no
good, an' I think as all the men-folks ought to git up a party an'
do suthin'. I know suthin' awful's abaout, an' feel my time is nigh,
though only Gawd knows jest what it is.

"Did your Luther take accaount o' whar them big tracks led tew? No?
Wal, Mis' Corey, ef they was on the glen rud this side o' the glen,
an' ain't got to your haouse yet, I calc'late they must go into the
glen itself. They would do that. I allus says Col' Spring Glen ain't no
healthy nor decent place. The whippoorwills an' fireflies there never
did act like they was creaters o' Gawd, an' they's them as says ye kin
hear strange things a-rushin' an' a-talkin' in the air daown thar ef ye
stand in the right place, atween the rock falls an' Bear's Den."

       *       *       *       *       *

By that noon fully three-quarters of the men and boys of Dunwich were
trooping over the roads and meadows between the new-made Whateley ruins
and Cold Spring Glen; examining in horror the vast, monstrous prints,
the maimed Bishop cattle, the strange, noisome wreck of the farmhouse,
and the bruised, matted vegetation of the fields and road-sides.
Whatever had burst loose upon the world had assuredly gone down into
the great sinister ravine; for all the trees on the banks were bent and
broken, and a great avenue had been gouged in the precipice-hanging
underbrush. It was as though a house, launched by an avalanche, had
slid down through the tangled growths of the almost vertical slope.
From below no sound came, but only a distant, undefinable fetor; and
it is not to be wondered at that the men preferred to stay on the edge
and argue, rather than descend and beard the unknown Cyclopean horror
in its lair. Three dogs that were with the party had barked furiously
at first, but seemed cowed and reluctant when near the glen. Someone
telephoned the news to the _Aylesbury Transcript_; but the editor,
accustomed to wild tales from Dunwich, did no more than concoct a
humorous paragraph about it; an item soon afterward reproduced by the
Associated Press.

That night everyone went home, and every house and barn was barricaded
as stoutly as possible. Needless to say, no cattle were allowed to
remain in open pasturage. About 2 in the morning a frightful stench and
the savage barking of the dogs awakened the household at Elmer Frye's,
on the eastern edge of Cold Spring Glen, and all agreed that they
could hear a sort of muffled swishing or lapping sound from somewhere
outside. Mrs. Frye proposed telephoning the neighbors, and Elmer was
about to agree when the noise of splintering wood burst in upon their
deliberations. It came, apparently, from the barn; and was quickly
followed by a hideous screaming and stamping amongst the cattle. The
dogs slavered and crouched close to the feet of the fear-numbed family.
Frye lit a lantern through force of habit, but knew it would be death
to go out into that black farmyard. The children and the women-folk
whimpered, kept from screaming by some obscure, vestigial instinct
of defense which told them their lives depended on silence. At last
the noise of the cattle subsided to a pitiful moaning, and a great
snapping, crashing, and crackling ensued. The Fryes, huddled together
in the sitting-room, did not dare to move until the last echoes died
away far down in Cold Spring Glen. Then, amidst the dismal moans from
the stable and the demoniac piping of late whippoorwills in the glen,
Selina Frye tottered to the telephone and spread what news she could of
the second phase of the horror.

The next day all the countryside was in a panic; and cowed,
uncommunicative groups came and went where the fiendish thing had
occurred. Two titan swaths of destruction stretched from the glen
to the Frye farmyard, monstrous prints covered the bare patches of
ground, and one side of the old red barn had completely caved in. Of
the cattle, only about a quarter could be found and identified. Some of
these were in curious fragments, and all that survived had to be shot.
Earl Sawyer suggested that help be asked from Aylesbury or Arkham, but
others maintained it would be of no use. Old Zebulon Whateley, of a
branch that hovered about half-way between soundness and decadence,
made darkly wild suggestions about rites that ought to be practised on
the hilltops. He came of a line where tradition ran strong, and his
memories of chantings in the great stone circles were not altogether
connected with Wilbur and his grandfather.

Darkness fell upon a stricken countryside too passive to organize
for real defense. In a few cases closely related families would band
together and watch in the gloom under one roof; but, in general there
was only a repetition of the barricading of the night before, and a
futile, ineffective gesture of loading muskets and setting pitchforks
handily about. Nothing, however, occurred except some hill noises; and
when the day came there were many who hoped that the new horror had
gone as swiftly as it had come. There were even bold souls who proposed
an offensive expedition down in the glen, though they did not venture
to set an actual example to the still reluctant majority.

When night came again the barricading was repeated, though there was
less huddling together of families. In the morning both the Frye and
the Seth Bishop households reported excitement among the dogs and vague
sounds and stenches from afar, while early explorers noted with horror
a fresh set of the monstrous tracks in the road skirting Sentinel Hill.
As before, the sides of the road showed a bruising indicative of the
blasphemously stupendous bulk of the horror; whilst the conformation
of the tracks seemed to argue a passage in two directions, as if the
moving mountain had come from Cold Spring Glen and returned to it along
the same path. At the base of the hill a thirty-foot swath of crushed
shrubbery and saplings led steeply upward, and the seekers gasped when
they saw that even the most perpendicular places did not deflect the
inexorable trail. Whatever the horror was, it could scale a sheer stony
cliff of almost complete verticality; and as the investigators climbed
around to the hill's summit by safer routes they saw that the trail
ended--or rather, reversed--there.

It was here that the Whateleys used to build their hellish fires and
chant their hellish rituals by the table-like stone on May Eve and
Hallowmass. Now that very stone formed the center of a vast space
thrashed around by the mountainous horror, whilst upon its slightly
concave surface was a thick fetid deposit of the same tarry stickiness
observed on the floor of the ruined Whateley farmhouse when the horror
escaped. Men looked at one another and muttered. Then they looked down
the hill. Apparently the horror had descended by a route much the same
as that of its ascent. To speculate was futile. Reason, logic, and
normal ideas of motivation stood confounded. Only old Zebulon, who
was not with the group, could have done justice to the situation or
suggested a plausible explanation.

Thursday night began much like the others, but it ended less happily.
The whippoorwills in the glen had screamed with such unusual
persistence that many could not sleep, and about 3 a. m. all the party
telephones rang tremulously. Those who took down their receivers
heard a fright-mad voice shriek out, "Help, oh, my Gawd!..." and some
thought a crashing sound followed the breaking off of the exclamation.
There was nothing more. No one dared do anything, and no one knew
till morning whence the call came. Then those who had heard it called
everyone on the line, and found that only the Fryes did not reply. The
truth appeared an hour later, when a hastily assembled group of armed
men trudged out to the Frye place at the head of the glen. It was
horrible, yet hardly a surprize. There were more swaths and monstrous
prints, but there was no longer any house. It had caved in like an
egg-shell, and amongst the ruins nothing living or dead could be
discovered--only a stench and a tarry stickiness. The Elmer Fryes had
been erased from Dunwich.

>>>>>>>>For Part VIII, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on September 15 2020 <<<<<<<<<<

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