The Dunwich Horror – Part X

fiction

The Dunwich Horror – Part X

by H. P. LOVECRAFT

10

In the end the three men from Arkham--old, white-bearded Dr.
Armitage, stocky, iron-gray Professor Rice, and lean, youngish Dr.
Morgan--ascended the mountain alone. After much patient instruction
regarding its focusing and use, they left the telescope with the
frightened group that remained in the road; and as they climbed they
were watched closely by those among whom the glass was passed around.
It was hard going, and Armitage had to be helped more than once. High
above the toiling group the great swath trembled as its hellish maker
repassed with snail-like deliberateness. Then it was obvious that the
pursuers were gaining.

Curtis Whateley--of the undecayed branch--was holding the telescope
when the Arkham party detoured radically from the swath. He told the
crowd that the men were evidently trying to get to a subordinate peak
which overlooked the swath at a point considerably ahead of where the
shrubbery was now bending. This, indeed, proved to be true; and the
party were seen to gain the minor elevation only a short time after the
invisible blasphemy had passed it.

Then Wesley Corey, who had taken the glass, cried out that Armitage was
adjusting the sprayer which Rice held, and that something must be about
to happen. The crowd stirred uneasily, recalling that this sprayer was
expected to give the unseen horror a moment of visibility. Two or three
men shut their eyes, but Curtis Whateley snatched back the telescope
and strained his vision to the utmost. He saw that Rice, from the
party's point of vantage above and behind the entity, had an excellent
chance of spreading the potent powder with marvelous effect.

Those without the telescope saw only an instant's flash of gray
cloud--a cloud about the size of a moderately large building--near the
top of the mountain. Curtis, who had held the instrument, dropped it
with a piercing shriek into the ankle-deep mud of the road. He reeled,
and would have crumpled to the ground had not two or three others
seized and steadied him. All he could do was moan half-inaudibly:

"Oh, oh, great Gawd ... _that ... that_...."

[Illustration: "Oh, oh, great Gawd ... that ... that."]

There was a pandemonium of questioning, and only Henry Wheeler thought
to rescue the fallen telescope and wipe it clean of mud. Curtis was
past all coherence, and even isolated replies were almost too much for
him.

"Bigger 'n a barn ... all made o' squirmin' ropes ... hull thing sort
o' shaped like a hen's egg bigger'n anything, with dozens o' legs like
hogsheads that haff shut up when they step ... nothin' solid abaout
it--all like jelly, an' made o' sep'rit wrigglin' ropes pushed clost
together ... great bulgin' eyes all over it ... ten or twenty maouths
or trunks a-stickin' aout all along the sides, big as stovepipes, an'
all a-tossin' an' openin' an' shuttin' ... all gray, with kinder blue
or purple rings ... _an' Gawd in Heaven--that haff face on top_!..."

This final memory, whatever it was, proved too much for poor Curtis,
and he collapsed completely before he could say more. Fred Farr and
Will Hutchins carried him to the roadside and laid him on the damp
grass. Henry Wheeler, trembling, turned the rescued telescope on the
mountain to see what he might. Through the lenses were discernible
three tiny figures, apparently running toward the summit as fast as the
steep incline allowed. Only these--nothing more. Then everyone noticed
a strangely unseasonable noise in the deep valley behind, and even in
the underbrush of Sentinel Hill itself. It was the piping of unnumbered
whippoorwills, and in their shrill chorus there seemed to lurk a note
of tense and evil expectancy.

Earl Sawyer now took the telescope and reported the three figures as
standing on the topmost ridge, virtually level with the altar-stone
but at a considerable distance from it. One figure, he said, seemed
to be raising its hands above its head at rhythmic intervals; and
as Sawyer mentioned the circumstance the crowd seemed to hear a
faint, half-musical sound from the distance, as if a loud chant
were accompanying the gestures. The weird silhouette on that
remote peak must have been a spectacle of infinite grotesqueness
and impressiveness, but no observer was in a mood for esthetic
appreciation. "I guess he's sayin' the spell," whispered Wheeler as
he snatched back the telescope. The whippoorwills were piping wildly,
and in a singularly curious irregular rhythm quite unlike that of the
visible ritual.

Suddenly the sunshine seemed to lessen without the intervention of any
discernible cloud. It was a very peculiar phenomenon, and was plainly
marked by all. A rumbling sound seemed brewing beneath the hills, mixed
strangely with a concordant rumbling which clearly came from the sky.
Lightning flashed aloft, and the wondering crowd looked in vain for
the portents of storm. The chanting of the men from Arkham now became
unmistakable, and Wheeler saw through the glass that they were all
raising their arms in the rhythmic incantation. From some farmhouse far
away came the frantic barking of dogs.

The change in the quality of the daylight increased, and the crowd
gazed about the horizon in wonder. A purplish darkness, born of
nothing more than a spectral deepening of the sky's blue, pressed down
upon the rumbling hills. Then the lightning flashed again, somewhat
brighter than before, and the crowd fancied that it had showed a
certain mistiness around the altar-stone on the distant height. No
one, however, had been using the telescope at that instant. The
whippoorwills continued their irregular pulsation, and the men of
Dunwich braced themselves tensely against some imponderable menace with
which the atmosphere seemed surcharged.

Without warning came those deep, cracked, raucous vocal sounds which
will never leave the memory of the stricken group who heard them. Not
from any human throat were they born, for the organs of man can yield
no such acoustic perversions. Rather would one have said they came
from the pit itself, had not their source been so unmistakably the
altar-stone on the peak. It is almost erroneous to call them _sounds_
at all, since so much of their ghastly, infra-bass timbre spoke to
dim seats of consciousness and terror far subtler than the ear; yet
one must do so, since their form was indisputably though vaguely that
of half-articulate _words_. They were loud--loud as the rumblings and
the thunder above which they echoed--yet did they come from no visible
being. And because imagination might suggest a conjectural source in
the world of non-visible beings, the huddled crowd at the mountain's
base huddled still closer, and winced as if in expectation of a blow.

"_Ygnaiih ... ygnaiih ... thflthkh'ngha ... Yog-Sothoth...._" rang the
hideous croaking out of space. "_Y'bthnk ... h'ehye ... n'grkdl'lh...._"

The speaking impulse seemed to falter here, as if some frightful
psychic struggle were going on. Henry Wheeler strained his eye at
the telescope, but saw only the three grotesquely silhouetted human
figures on the peak, all moving their arms furiously in strange
gestures as their incantation drew near its culmination. From what
black wells of Acherontic fear or feeling, from what unplumbed gulfs of
extra-cosmic consciousness or obscure, long-latent heredity, were those
half-articulate thunder-croakings drawn? Presently they began to gather
renewed force and coherence as they grew in stark, utter, ultimate
frenzy.

"_Eh-ya-ya-ya-yahaah ... e'yaya-yayaaaa ... ngh'aaaa ... ngh'aaaa_ ...
h'yuh ... h'yuh ... HELP! HELP! ... _ff--ff--ff_--FATHER! FATHER!
YOG-SOTHOTH!..."

But that was all. The pallid group in the road, still reeling at
the _indisputably English_ syllables that had poured thickly and
thunderously down from the frantic vacancy beside that shocking
altar-stone, were never to hear such syllables again. Instead, they
jumped violently at the terrific report which seemed to rend the hills;
the deafening, cataclysmic peal whose source, be it inner earth or
sky, no hearer was ever able to place. A single lightning bolt shot
from the purple zenith to the altar-stone, and a great tidal wave of
viewless force and indescribable stench swept down from the hill to
all the countryside. Trees, grass, and underbrush were whipped into a
fury; and the frightened crowd at the mountain's base, weakened by the
lethal fetor that seemed about to asphyxiate them, were almost hurled
off their feet. Dogs howled from the distance, green grass and foliage
wilted to a curious, sickly yellow-gray, and over field and forest were
scattered the bodies of dead whippoorwills.

The stench left quickly, but the vegetation never came right again.
To this day there is something queer and unholy about the growths on
and around that fearsome hill. Curtis Whateley was only just regaining
consciousness when the Arkham men came slowly down the mountain in the
beams of a sunlight once more brilliant and untainted. They were grave
and quiet, and seemed shaken by memories and reflections even more
terrible than those which had reduced the group of natives to a state
of cowed quivering. In reply to a jumble of questions they only shook
their heads and reaffirmed one vital fact.

"The thing has gone for ever," Armitage said. "It has been split up
into what it was originally made of, and can never exist again. It was
an impossibility in a normal world. Only the least fraction was really
matter in any sense we know. It was like its father--and most of it has
gone back to him in some vague realm or dimension outside our material
universe; some vague abyss out of which only the most accursed rites of
human blasphemy could ever have called him for a moment on the hills."

There was a brief silence, and in that pause the scattered senses of
poor Curtis Whateley began to knit back into a sort of continuity; so
that he put his hands to his head with a moan. Memory seemed to pick
itself up where it had left off, and the horror of the sight that had
prostrated him burst in upon him again.

"_Oh, oh, my Gawd, that haff face ... that haff face on top of it ...
that face with the red eyes an' crinkly albino hair, an' no chin, like
the Whateleys.... It was a octopus, centipede, spider kind o' thing,
but they was a haff-shaped man's face on top of it, an' it looked like
Wizard Whateley's, only it was yards an' yards acrost...._"

He paused exhausted, as the whole group of natives stared in a
bewilderment not quite crystallized into fresh terror. Only old Zebulon
Whateley, who wanderingly remembered ancient things but who had been
silent heretofore, spoke aloud.

"Fifteen year' gone," he rambled, "I heerd Ol' Whateley say as haow
some day we'd hear a child o' Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on
the top o' Sentinel Hill...."

But Joe Osborn interrupted him to question the Arkham men anew.

"_What was it, anyhaow_, an' haowever did young Wizard Whateley call it
aout o' the air it come from?"

Armitage chose his words carefully.

"It was--well, it was mostly a kind of force that doesn't belong in our
part of space; a kind of force that acts and grows and shapes itself
by other laws than those of our sort of Nature. We have no business
calling in such things from outside, and only very wicked people
and very wicked cults ever try to. There was some of it in Wilbur
Whateley himself--enough to make a devil and a precocious monster of
him, and to make his passing out a pretty terrible sight. I'm going
to burn his accursed diary, and if you men are wise you'll dynamite
that altar-stone up there, and pull down all the rings of standing
stones on the other hills. Things like that brought down the beings
those Whateleys were so fond of--the beings they were going to let in
tangibly to wipe out the human race and drag the earth off to some
nameless place for some nameless purpose.

"But as to this thing we've just sent back--the Whateleys raised it for
a terrible part in the doings that were to come. It grew fast and big
from the same reason that Wilbur grew fast and big--but it beat him
because it had a greater share of the _outsideness_ in it. You needn't
ask how Wilbur called it out of the air. He didn't call it out. _It was
his twin brother, but it looked more like the father than he did._"

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