Black Brat of Dunwich, The
Szerző: Stanley C. Sargent • Év: 1997
“In effect we have unsettled and reversed the given configuration, suggesting an alternative – culture/nature.”
Donald R. Burleson
At the bartender’s suggestion, Jeffrey and James made their way to the rear of the dimly lit Arkham bar. They saw only one person in the smokey shadows of the back room, a thin ancient man seated alone amidst the shadows and smoke; they casually approached his table.
“Pardon me, mister,” Jeffrey proffered, “my friend and I are collecting data for a book we’re writing about the so-called ‘Dunwich horror’. The bartender said you’d actually met Wilbur Whateley and might be willing to speak with us.”
The dark, seated figure offered no immediate response. After a few moments, the two intruders looked at each other, then shrugged and turned to walk away. Their retreat was halted by a gritty voice inviting them to sit. The pair eagerly retraced their steps.
Before they could seat themselves, the mysterious figure raised an empty glass and waved it in the air. Jeffrey headed back to the bar in response to the signal while James pulled a chair up to the table. During the awkward silence that followed, James noted the excellent though somewhat old-fashioned quality of the stranger’s apparel. If the fellow had really been acquainted with the Whateley boy, his comments might well prove key elements for their book. He certainly looked old enough to have been Wilbur’s contemporary.
Jeffrey soon returned, bearing a trio of glasses and a bottle of whiskey. He joined the silent pair, poured three drinks, and waited for the old man to speak.
As the two researchers sipped their drinks, the old man downed his shot, then poured himself another. He coughed, then gruffly blurted out, “So somebody’s finally writing a book about my old friend Wilbur, are they? Well, I reckon I knew him better than anybody. I haven’t spoken to anyone about him for years, but that’s ‘cos nobody cares to hear what I have to say on the subject. If you boys aren’t prepared to hear the truth, you might as well be on your way.”
Jeffrey assured the man that he and his friend wanted only the truth, which they would not hesitate to print, assuming it could in any way be verified. They explained that they hoped to write the first definitive history of the events leading up to the series of mysterious deaths in 1928, the responsibility for which had been attributed to the Whateley family of Dunwich. To date, the pair had studied police reports, newspaper articles, the famous Armitage account, and various coroner’s reports.
“The circumstances surrounding the tragedy,” added James, “have become so entwined with legend that it has become impossible to separate reality from fiction. We hope to clarify some of the issues and portray the Whateleys accurately. We would also like to take notes and tape record this conversation if that’s acceptable to you, sir.” He placed a notebook and pen on the table as Jeffrey extracted a hand-held tape recorder from his coat.
“Whatever you want to use is fine by me,” responded the man seated opposite them. “Only three people ever knew the truth of what happened in Dunwich: Wilbur Whateley, that goddamned Armitage, and me, Abe Galvin,” the old man proclaimed. “Since Wilbur’s gone and you’d play hell finding Armitage, I’d say it’s up to me to set the record straight before I die.”
Despite their surprise at the aspersions cast upon a person as widely respected as Dr. Armitage, the authors encouraged Galvin to impart his recollections. If the man proved legitimate, he was undoubtedly the only person still alive to have actually known young Whateley.
“I left Miskatonic University in the spring of 1924,” Galvin began, “after spending six years in the linguistic program. Once I’d satisfied all of my commitments, I decided I’d like to wander around New England for a while, just exploring the backwater areas and maybe earning my keep by hiring myself out as a private tutor. I walked or took buses, answered newspaper ads for tutoring work, and occasionally placed an ad of my own. Between jobs, I’d sleep under the stars; the weather was warm so it was pleasurable to camp out.
“Dunwich was too small to have a newspaper of its own, but somehow Old Elezer Whateley, or ‘Wizard Whateley’ as most people knew him, came across my ad in the Aylesbury Transcript and made it his business to look me up. I’d never heard of Dunwich or the Whateley’s, so I saw nothing unusual in an offer for room and board for the winter in exchange for helping Whateleys young grandson with some difficult translations of archaic Greek and Latin. I admit the old buzzard struck me as a might strange—his eyes were about the eeriest I’d ever seen—but with winter just around the corner, I accepted his offer and accompanied him back to Dunwich in his horse-drawn wagon that very same day.
“The country was green and beautiful along the way, yet once we’d passed through an old tunnel bridge, things began looking pretty rustic and run-down. I was willing to put up with a lot rather than face winter without food or shelter, however, even if it meant spending time in a previous century.”
The narrator poured himself another glass before resuming his tale. “Whateley’s peak-roofed farmhouse came as one hell of a surprise. It was out in the middle of nowhere and smack up against a dirt incline, with one end extending right on into the hillside. The entire upper story had been boarded up, for reasons I didn’t know at the time, and a wooden runway sloped right up from the ground to where a gable window had been replaced with a solid plank door.
“The old barn was a wreck and the cattle all looked diseased as hell. I was actually relieved to learn my quarters were to be in one of two unused toolsheds. The inside of the shed stunk so bad I was obliged to scrub it out with disinfectant, then it still required airing out for two days before I could stand to sleep inside with the door closed.”
He stopped to address James, who was furiously writing down every word. “Am I going too fast for you, son?” Galvin asked.
James put his pencil down just long enough to take a sip of whiskey and assure Galvin that, with shorthand, he could easily keep up.
“Just thought I’d check,” Galvin said, before nodding and returning to his monologue. “Old Whateley occupied three ground-floor rooms of the farmhouse along with his albino daughter, Lavinia, and grandson, Wilbur. Lavinia, or ‘Lavinny’ as the old boy called her, struck me as a bit ‘off’, though it’s hard to say exactly what was wrong with her beyond her paleness and her too-long arms. She could read, though she lacked any kind of formal education. Housework wasn’t exactly her forte, but she managed to keep everybody fed. Her favorite pursuits were daydreaming and running through the hills during thunderstorms, if you can imagine. She struck me as being fidgety and afraid all the time, which tended to get on one’s nerves, but I got along well enough with her. I guess you could say she spent most of her time trying to keep out of everybody’s way.” He paused in reflection, then added, “For some time, no one so much as hinted about who Wilbur’s father might be.”
The speaker suddenly burst into a fit of coughing that ended in painful wheezing and choking. Another hefty gulp of whiskey brought him temporary relief, but it was obvious his health was not good.
“Is this the kind of stuff you boys are looking for?” he asked.
The two men tripped over each other in response, agreeing that this indeed was exactly the material they were seeking. Both urged Galvin to go on with his tale, hoping to get as much information as possible before alcohol began to affect his memory.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my prospective student for the first time. Old Whateley had told me his grandson was eleven years old, then he introduces me to this fellow who looks older than me. How many eleven year olds you ever seen who are over six feet tall and fully bearded? I started to wonder if I’d been had, but I decided to play along and humor the old fool least I forfeit the promised winter provision. Wilbur and I took to each other right away, and that clinched the arrangement.”
James leaned forward and asked hesitantly, “Could you tell us more about Wilbur’s appearance?”
Galvin smiled. “I’ll get to that. You two have a drink with me first.” The tiny, wrinkled man winked at James. “Whiskey helps keep the throat and the mind lubricated, you know,” he joked.
He waited patiently as the reluctant pair filled their half-empty glasses, then raised his own glass in a toast. “May you never know the true depths of loneliness!” Galvin called out. Although the sentiment seemed out of context, the pair obligingly clinked their glasses with his before downing the fiery liquid.
“Wilbur was a hell of a peculiar looking fellow, certainly not what one would call handsome. A goatee covered his lack of chin, but his skin had a sallowness to its hue. He had great big ears and long, black hair that framed his face and added to his goatish look.
“I guess I’d have to say his features were coarse by traditional standards, and there was something wild about his appearance, something amazingly feral that recalled the forest satyrs of the ancient Greeks. His pupils were black as coal so it was easy as hell to get lost in those eyes—he must of caught me staring a hundred times at least!”
A dreamlike tone had entered Galvin’s voice as he recalled Wilbur’s countenance, but he forced himself to focus on the business at hand.
“I don’t think Wilbur ever got much chance to play as a child, except maybe occasionally with Lavinia. We had lots of fun, though the first time I made a joke, that booming laugh of his damn near made me jump out of my seat. He looked and sounded like an adult, but he was just a lonely kid inside. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was still growing and that, plus his shuffling walk, caused me to wonder if he’d inherited some congenital deformity. He was shamed by his difference and tried to cover it by wearing two or three pairs of pants under his old fashioned cossack breeches. People said he smelled bad too, but if he did, I never noticed it.”
Galvin lapsed into silence but did not reach for the bottle. When he spoke again, it was in softer, more intimate tones. “The few visitors we had, including Dr. Armitage, treated Wilbur like some kind of dangerous, deformed misanthrope, though some, like Earl Sawyer, did their best to overcome their qualms. I had mixed feelings about the boy myself, but only at first,” he laughed.
“He confused the hell out of me! But after a while, I developed a real respect for him and was proud to call him my friend.”
An uncomfortable silence followed. Galvin’s last statement had been a revelation after all the negative descriptions the authors had heard of “the black brat of Dunwich.” James carefully reached over, grabbed the whiskey bottle, and refilled the other’s glasses as well as his own.
Jeffrey found himself trying to picture Galvin at age twenty-five. His artistic bend made it easy to visualize a younger Galvin simply by filling in the lines and darkening the hair of the grandfatherly figure before him. He concluded that Galvin had once been the good looking, though probably not the handsome, rugged type. A man of Galvin’s average height and build must have felt quite intimidated at having a student whose boyish lack of experience belied his towering visage. It suddenly occurred to Jeffrey that Galvin was reading his thoughts, and when he looked up, he saw that Galvin was looking directly at him with a knowing smile on his face. That made Jeffrey slightly uncomfortable, and he felt a certain relief when the old man resumed his account.
“Wilbur’s room also came as a great surprise. It was on the eastern side of the ground floor where the house dug into the hillside. He’d hauled an old bureau into one corner and had been using it as a desk; that’s where they later found the big ledger he used as a diary. Only one wall contained a window; every other wall was lined with shelves filled with hundreds of the rotting books that the family had collected through several generations. The majority of those books concerned various aspects of occultism, alchemy, black magic, and the like. I thought it strange that several of the volumes could be found outside the back rooms of university libraries. The rarer tomes must have been worth a fortune, even in their deteriorated condition. He owned copies of d’Erlette’s Cultes des Goules, the Liyuhh, Borellus’ forbidden text, von Junzt’s Unaussprechlichen Kulten, and others I’d never even heard of. I held Joseph Curwen’s own handwritten copy of Bryce’s Biblia Sinistre in my hands! Hell, even Miskatonic University doesn’t have a copy of that! Yet with all those treasures around him, Wilbur still craved a Latin edition of the Necronomicon printed in 17th century Spain. I was allowed freedom of his library, but I didn’ t have much interest in things about ‘blasphemous outer spheres.”
Galvin experienced a second coughing fit, this one worse than the first. In the meantime, Jeffrey managed to replace the tape in the recorder with a fresh one.
“Wilbur needed help translating certain passages from those books, only a few of which were actually written in archaic Greek and Latin. That’s the reason I was there. Wilbur spoke a crude dialect he’d picked up from his mother, but his was such a brilliant mind that he could easily translate French, German, Arabic, and even enciphered passages without my aid.”
James asked Galvin to wait until he got back from the restroom before proceeding. Jeffrey stayed with Galvin. “Why weren’t you afraid of Wilbur like everyone else?” he asked the shadowed figure seated across from him. “His appearance must have been intimidating.”
Galvin chuckled softly and answered, “Wilbur was very special, and I guess I saw that right away. Armitage has since made Wilbur sound like a goat-faced monster, but people didn’t scream and run when he came around, so even you must realize that was an exaggeration.”
James returned. As he sat down, he tried to check the alcohol level in the whiskey bottle as inconspicuously as possible.
“You needn’t worry, son,” Galvin snidely commented, “it takes a lot more than one bottle to get me lathered.”
The dim lighting hid the blush that immediately flooded James’ face.
Jeffrey turned to James in an attempt to dispel the awkwardness of the situation. “Mr. Galvin,” he proffered, “was just about to tell me how special Wilbur was.”
Somewhat amused at his interviewers’ apprehension, Galvin resumed his discourse. “That’s right. For instance, we’d sneak out at night to chase across the countryside in the dark while the others slept. Wilbur would steer us safely around the deep ravines and gorges that I could barely see, past what they called the Devil’s Hop Yard, to the rounded hilltops where folks said the Pocumtuck Indians had buried their dead. I’d squat among circles of ancient stone pillars while he set up an odd sort of telescope of his own design. Through that telescope we’d gaze upon a sky the rest of mankind has never seen, and he’d talk for hours about the endless universes revolving above us, just as if he’d toured them personally. What we now call nebulas, he claimed were colossal sprays of blood marking the demise of entities beyond imagination. Other entities, he said, had come to Earth eons ago and more were yet to come. He taught me about Cthulhu, Dagon, and the Winged Ones, and told me the story of Qom-maq, the blender of flesh, who’d been the scourge of ancient Crete. I’d lie next to him in the cool grass while he wove his wonderful tales. He made it easy to stare into the sky and envision other worlds as he described them.”
“That’s incredible!” exclaimed Jeffrey.
“Not as incredible as Wilbur himself,” Galvin responded dreamily. After a few moments, he reluctantly moved on to the next phase of his account.
“Once he felt sure he could trust me, he told me about his twin brother, the ‘Other’ we called him, who was confined in the upper half of the house. Wilbur confessed to being only half human himself, though I didn’t really believe him until later.”
James nearly jumped out of his seat, exclaiming, “You mean you got a good look at him and even that didn’t scare you off?”
Galvin rolled his eyes. “There’s a great deal more to a person than what reveals itself to the eye, son; the ability to see beyond the physical is about the only thing that raises us above the level of monsters ourselves. All I knew was that the boy was deformed below the waist to some extent.
He was always real concerned with privacy whenever he bathed, so it was obvious he was ashamed of his difference. He said the other kids had made fun of him when he’d tried to make friends; you know how cruel kids can be, and I saw the proof of pain in his eyes. He hated his difference and always fought to keep it hidden.
“I tried to get him over it, show him it didn’t matter to me. I even kept talking to him on a couple occasions to keep him in the room while I took a bath, figuring he’d eventually loosen up, seeing as how I was no Adonis myself, but it didn’t work. He just sat there staring at me all over, like he was studying me as an example of how folks are supposed to look. I just wanted him to accept himself for who he was and stop worrying about what anyone else thought.” He stared directly at James. “Youd best get that disgusted look off your face damn quick, young man, or I’m done talking.”
An embarrassed James apologized, then added, “But you didn’t actually see, well, what Armitage and the others saw when Wilbur died, did you?”
Galvin responded forcefully, “No, I didn’t, but Armitage had folks scared half out of their wits! I doubt any of them even know what they really saw that night! Certainly no one had the guts to refute the shiftless bastard later on, after his own written account made him out to be some kind of saviour.”
His outburst was greeted with silence, so after a moment, a calmer Galvin continued.
“Wilbur said Old Whateley’d done his bare best to convince Wilbur that the Other was some kind of avatar that needed nurturing until the stars came into the proper alignment for some legendary cosmic armageddon to enter our dimension through some kind of gate. As a child, Wilbur accepted his grandfather’s philosophy, but as his human aspect became dominant and started thinking for itself, he began to look for a way to thwart the Other or at least keep it under control. He said all he needed were some special incantations, but only Old Whateley knew where to find those spells and he wasn’t about to tell as long as he had any doubts about Wilbur’s loyalty to the cause.
“Wilbur said I shouldn’t worry about any cosmic disaster, though, and assured me the stars wouldn’t be right yet for decades. He also said any premature attempt to open the gate would bring immediate misfortune upon the conjurer.
“He told me as much as he dared, fearing my curiosity might prove dangerous to me if I knew too much. I think he was also afraid of scaring me off and losing the only friend he knew he was ever likely to have.”
During the awkward pause that followed, James and Jeffrey pretended to check their notes and recorder, respectively; obviously Galvin felt very strongly about Wilbur Whateley.
“Old Whateley spent most of his time repairing the house, whether it needed it or not,” Galvin suddenly began again. “He was a nervous old codger who fussed over his pathetic livestock incessantly, often spending half the night transferring steers back and forth from the barn to holding pens he’d built on the far side of the house, adjacent to the ramp to the second story.”
Wilbur woke me up one night in August about ten o’clock. He said Old Whateley’d been taken seriously ill and he was going to Osborn’s store in Dunwich to call the doctor in Aylesbury. He asked me to help Lavinia watch over the old man until he got back. I wanted to go with him since the townspeople were afraid of him, but he pointed out that no one would recognize him if he wore his grandfather’s old fashioned bang-up coat with a three-cornered hat cocked down low. He knew he could make better time alone on horseback than two of us could in the old wagon. Still, I worried about him as dogs always attacked him on sight; it got so bad at one point that he had to carry a pistol to protect himself from them.
“By the time Dr. Houghton arrived, the old man was nearly gone; Wilbur agreed, pointing out the whippoorwills that had gathered en masse around the house. Even the doctor noticed their cries were keeping time with Old Whateley’s breathing. Houghton did his best, but Whateley’s heart finally gave out long about two in the morning.”
James jumped in with a question. “Were you actually in the room when Wizard Whateley passed away? Supposedly he said something very special to Wilbur just before he died.”
“You’re baiting me now, son, just to see if I know what I’m talking about,” Galvin answered.
The researcher admitted as much and offered an apology.
“Oh, I’d do the same if I was you,” Galvin remarked. “Yes, I was in the room. I heard the same as Doc Houghton heard, but he didn’t understand what was going on. The old man knew Wilbur wanted to keep the Other captive, so on his deathbed, the old man tried to bend Wilbur to his will. The first time I heard the name Yog-Sothoth was when, with his dying breath, the old wizard reminded Wilbur that his brother required constant feeding and room to expand. He also told Wilbur about a certain passage in the Spanish edition of the Necronomicon that would make the Other strong enough to reproduce and savage the planet.
“What Houghton didn’t know was that Wilbur had absolutely no intention of carrying out that part of Old Whateley’s instructions. Was he supposed to argue with a dying man? Hell, not much of it made sense to me, especially with the ruckus those damn birds were making outside.
“But the instant Old Whateley died, all the birds fell silent at exactly the same instant.
Wilbur told me the locals believed whippoorwills gathered when someone was about to die; if they dispersed after the person died, like they did that night, it meant the person’s soul had escaped them. I was never too clear on it all, but I guess the birds are supposed to be like psychopomps that escort the souls they catch to heaven or hell. When they miss, the soul remains earth-bound and can trouble the living. After all I’ve seen, I have to consider there might be some truth in that particular superstition.
“Wilbur asked me to stay on after his grandfather died. I helped him bury Old Whateley up near Sentinel Hill, then left Wilbur and his mother to say their farewells in private. Wilbur held up, but Lavinia broke down and cried some. She seemed to get progressively worse after that day, such that we worried about her sanity, and Wilbur wouldn’t allow her to light fires up on Sentinel Hill anymore, like she’d always done before twice a year. He told her the neighbors didn’t like it, and he didn’t want her continuing the wizardry.
“The first thing he did after the burial was clear the house of all the old man’s occult trappings. He single-handedly carried over a hundred jars and bottles out of Old Whateley’s room and stacked them in a pyramid of glass behind and away from the house. Every one of the bottles contained some bit of alien monstrosity preserved for reasons I feared to ask. I’d wager your best biologists couldn’t identify even half the things floating in those jars. After he emptied the room, he did some chanting and arm waving over the jars and such, then doused it all with kerosene and set it afire. Some of the bottles exploded right away from the heat, but some of the other specimens burned red hot for more than two days.
“Once that chore was done, Wilbur seemed to have more peace of mind. A little after that, he started boarding up the unused parts of the downstairs. I helped whenever I could, but the work took his mind off his troubles, and he said there was no rush.”
Jeffrey abruptly took advantage of the lull to ask a question. “What did he tell you about Yog-Sothoth?”
A deep ridge formed upon the heavily creased brow of the old man. “I don’t recall all that much of what he said about most of that hocus pocus stuff; I guess I just wasn’t all that interested. But I can’t forget his telling me that this Yog-Sothoth was father to both him and the Other. It belonged, he said, in some other dimension, but it wanted to infest this one too. He said it was a big formless thing that could only come into our world at all when it stretched itself out into threads or tendrils so thin that they could squeeze through the empty space between neutrons, electrons, and the like. The Other was meant to prepare the way for the time when a gate would open, giving its daddy full access to our universe, but Wilbur was dead set against letting that come about.”
“Did Wilbur explain how Lavinia had a child by this non-material being?” Jeffrey asked.
Galvin chuckled. “I’d of thought you boys would be smart enough to figure that one out for yourselves! Seems self-evident to me that Wizard Whateley allowed himself to be possessed for an incestuous encounter with his daughter. You’ve read Armitage’s account, don’t you recall that Curtis Whateley described the giant face on top of the monster as bearing an unmistakable likeness to Wizard Whateley?
“Wilbur told me about it after Armitage came to the farm to check on him.”
The mention of the famous doctor at that point in the story caught Galvin’s listeners by surprise. “Armitage wrote that he met Wilbur at the Miskatonic library in 1926!” James objected.
Galvin smiled. “Is that so? Well, to begin with, there are a lot of things Armitage felt it prudent not to include in his ‘authoritative’ account. But if you read it carefully, you’ll note he mentioned being sent to the Whateley farm in 1925 as a ‘scholarly correspondent’ for the university.”
“But that makes no sense,” Jeffrey piped in. “Why would the university send a head librarian somewhere as a correspondent? Let alone to the Whateley farm? The public lost all interest in the Whateleys long before 1925!”
“Curious, ain’t it?,” Galvin sniggered. “The truth is, Armitage had been visiting the farm for years; he and Wizard Whateley were old friends! After Old Whateley passed away, Armitage felt obliged to drop in, just to make sure Wilbur was following the instructions his grandfather had given him. Armitage only mentioned the visit in writing because he was seen there by someone he hadn’t expected to be there—me. I was introduced then Old Whateley whisked Armitage off to talk in private.”
Jeffrey couldn’t believe his ears. “Mr. Galvin, are you saying Dr. Armitage knew about the twins and Old Whateley’s plans for destroying mankind long before he encountered Wilbur at the library? That’s diametrically opposed to everything the man has stood for!”
Galvin laughed out loud before adding, “You’re slow, but I think you’re finally starting to catch on!
“Armitage had what you could call a hidden agenda and the old bastard wasn’t exactly pleased to hear Wilbur didn’t want anything to do with him and Old Whateley’s plan. By the time Armitage left the farm that day, he was madder than a hornet! He threatened Wilbur up and down, but Wilbur wouldn’t budge. Wilbur wanted to find the spell that would reverse the Other’s growth or even kill it if need be, but he didn’t dare tell that to Armitage. But Armitage counted on Wilbur changing his mind—least he counted on it ‘til Wilbur came to his library and asked to see the complete edition of the Necronomicon of the mad Arab. After reading the section Old Whateley had pointed out to him, Wilbur started looking for spells he could use to control or destroy the Other, unaware that Armitage was spying on him over his shoulder. When Armitage figured out what Wilbur was up to, he denied Wilbur further access to the book and ordered him out of the library.
“The bastard later admitted he’d written to the head librarians of every library that had a copy of the Necronomicon, advising them not to allow Wilbur or anyone named Galvin access.”
James was outraged, unable to accept this new view of Armitage. “Dr. Armitage was a respected scholar!” he protested. “He held a doctorate from Princeton and a Doctor of Letters degree from Cambridge!”
Chuckling to himself, Galvin challenged, “Have you ever wondered why such a brilliant scholar ended up as a simple librarian? Truth is, the university’s Board of Governors got wind of his delvings into certain unacceptable aspects of the occult, and they decided it would be best to put him where they could keep an eye on him.”
Galvin openly relished the disillusioned shock now apparent on both writer’s faces. After harboring Armitage’s secret for so many years, it gave him immense pleasure to slaughter that sacred cow. He allowed the pair a few minutes for recovery before resuming his revelations.
“In the meantime, Wilbur managed to keep the Other fed with the cattle he got from Earl Sawyer. The house started smelling something fierce though, ‘cos he couldn’t always get all the chewed up carcasses out. The darn thing was getting unpredictable and didn’t always recognize him anymore. Wilbur said its mind never developed beyond that of a human infant’s despite its size, and it wouldn’t be long before its bulk would require the whole of the house. Wilbur was still growing too, though he kept hoping to find some way to stop. By early ‘26, he measured over seven feet tall.”
A sadness seeped into Galvin’s voice as he began to impart the next chapter of his incredible tale. “Just before Halloween, or Hallowmass as they called it, that same year, we lost Lavinia. Wilbur and I were wrestling with a particularly knotty passage from Vogel’s Von denen Verdammten one afternoon when Lavinia burst into the room in a full-blown panic. She was drenched in sweat and raving like a madwoman. Wilbur held her and stroked her hair for a while, trying to calm her, but she pushed him away, screaming: ‘I cain’t deny him nay longer! He needs ‘es ma, an’ not yew ner n’b’dy else’ll keep me from a-goan’ to him nay more!’
“There’d been a god-awful sloshing noise coming from the second floor all morning, but I never figured if it was a reaction to Lavinia’s hysterics or vice-versa. Sounded like a herd of elephants was stomping around up there. I’d always tried to ignore the noise from up there before, but God himself must o’ heard the uproar that day.
“Wilbur asked me to step outside while he reasoned with Lavinia’s madness. She was twitching and a-fighting him, but Wilbur held her fast. Nobody could match Wilbur’s strength by then, let alone a frail little thing like Lavinia. He finally got her to lie down in her room, and I heard him chanting or singing to her for more than an hour before she settled enough for him to leave her. He went back to his studies, thinking she was asleep, but as it turned out, she was just pretending.”
James interrupted to ask, “Do you think Wilbur loved his mother?”
The question seemed to catch Galvin off guard, causing him to hesitate before answering. “I guess I never heard him say it right out, though he once recalled the fond memories he had of wandering through the hills with her when he was real young. Sometimes he spoke harshly to her, and we both ignored her ramblings, but when she was hurting, he was always real tender with her. It was kinda hard not to feel protective of her, especially when she’d get all worked up and confused.”
Galvin drained the last of the bottle into his own glass. Jeffrey rushed off for another even before Galvin could set the empty bottle down. He rejoined them moments later, apparently anxious for Galvin to begin the next phase of his narration.
“Just before sunset, I heard a door slam and someone ran past my door toward the hillside. I poked my head out the door and caught sight of Lavinia’s tiny, crinkly-haired form careening at top speed up the wood incline toward the boarded-up window on the east gable. The moment she reached the top, she let fly with the ax she’d brought with her, trying to hack the lock off and get inside. I was at a loss for action ‘til Wilbur ran out of the house and saw what she was up to. I offered to help, but he was sure she’d gone mad and that there was no way to stop her. He told me to stay in the shed, saying he’d call me if there was anything I could do.”
Galvin sighed. “A while later, I heard Lavinia screaming like all possessed. I headed for the door, but Wilbur had locked me in. I had heard him chanting or singing in his room just before the screaming started, so I knew it wasn’t him that was hurting Lavinia.”
“Were you frightened?” asked James.
“I was too busy trying to figure out what was going on to be too afraid. I couldn’t believe the Other would hurt its own mother, but then I got scared for her when I heard whippoorwills calling. They got so loud I didn’t hear the lock turn when Wilbur opened my door a while later.
“He didn’t try to talk over the racket the birds were making, but I could see tears on his cheeks. He just walked over to where I was lying on the bed and picked me up. He set me on my feet, looked long and hard into my eyes, then wrapped both arms around me. I found myself returning his embrace, and we stayed there holding and comforting each other for some time. Then the tone of the birds changed, getting louder and wilder, so finally Wilbur let go of me.”
James rose half way out of his seat in excitement. “Didn’t he offer any sort of explanation?”
Galvin nodded. “All he said was, ‘The ‘wills got ‘er, Abe. She’ll rest easy naow. She ne’er understood all that Gran’pa got her inta; she wuz jest his pawn.”‘
None of the trio spoke for several minutes. Finally, Jeffrey focused on the fresh bottle of whiskey and poured a round of drinks. All three joined in a silent toast in memory of Lavinia.
“The birds didn’t fully disperse ‘til dawn. Wilbur climbed the ramp with me behind him. He told me to stay back while he went through the gable to fetch Lavinia.
“My curiosity got the best of me when he didn’t come right out, so I climbed up high enough to peek in. There’s no way I can describe the feeling that came over me when I spotted Wilbur, standing just a little way inside, struggling in what looked like a tug o’ war with Lavinia’s limp and lifeless body floating like some kind of Kewpie doll about six feet in the air. Wilbur had told me the Other was invisible, but I guess I hadn’t expected to see the walls right through it like there was nothing there at all. I could only really be sure there was something there by the way Lavinia’s body was being pulled back and forth. The Other was grunting and whining like a frustrated child clinging onto its favorite toy.
“It let out a squeal when it saw me gaping at it in the doorway, and it let go of Lavinia. Wilbur ran by me, cradling what was left of his mother in his arms and yelling for me to shut the door on the thing, to hold it as best I could until he got back with new locks from the shed, which I did. Wilbur carried the withered body downstairs and laid Lavinia out in her room, then returned to secure the door with new locks and boards.”
Lavinia’s clothes were all ripped up and her body was covered with big round welts from top to bottom. She’d been sucked dry as a leaf.”
“But why did she feel compelled to go in there?” It was James this time.
Galvin poured another drink without bothering to offer the bottle to the others. He slammed it on the table before answering in a voice choked with emotion. “Wilbur just said, ‘She a’ways felt it wuz her duty ta suckle us both.’
“He wouldn’t accept help with her burial, and he didn’t bother notifying the authorities. After performing some kind of esoteric service over her body, he never spoke her name in my presence again.”
The control returned to Galvin’s voice as he continued.
“Wilbur didn’t need my help with translating any more, but he begged me not to leave as he couldn’t bear the idea of being there alone. He had to stay to keep the Other contained. I told him I’d become too attached to just leave him there.
“During the summer of 1927, Wilbur repaired the large tool shed next to mine and moved the wood burning stove from the house to outside so heat could be piped into both sheds. Then we started moving his books and makeshift desk from the house to Wilbur’s shed as the Other was getting way too big for the upper half of the house. I boarded up the windows and doors of the house’s ground floor while Wilbur gutted the remaining partitions between rooms and floors.”
“That winter saw Wilbur doubling his efforts to get access to the Necronomicon; we didn’t know then that Armitage had already contacted the libraries to warn them against him. They wouldn’t even allow him to copy particular pages from the book. He was so desperate for a way to control his own growth as well as that of the Other that he travelled on horseback all the way to the library at Cambridge. Armitage had done his work well, though, so Wilbur wasn’t allowed near the book.”
Again Galvin paused, hesitant to relive the next series of events.
“We managed to keep things in check all that winter and on into 1928, but by late summer it became obvious that the Other was quickly outgrowing the old farmhouse. The walls bulged whenever it turned around, and its movement in general became very constrained. Something had to be done to stop its growth before all hell broke loose. That’s when Wilbur realized he had to try and steal the book from the library at Miskatonic. He wouldn’t allow me to come with him as someone had to keep feeding the Other while he was away or it would break out for sure and go on a killing spree.”
“You blame Armitage for Wilbur’s death, don’t you?” James asked.
Galvin reacted adamantly. “You’re damn right I blame him! He knew Wilbur couldn’t control the Other any longer without the spell, yet he did everything possible to force the crisis. He wanted Wilbur to come crawling to him and agree to his hellish plan. The only other option was for Wilbur to steal the book. Armitage knew that too. Why do you think, knowing how dogs universally hated Wilbur, Armitage suddenly added watch dogs in addition to the regular security at the library? When he found Wilbur bleeding to death on the library floor, Armitage did nothing to save him. He feigned shock at seeing such an alien monster simply for the benefit of his colleagues!”
Neither interviewer knew what to say, so they waited silently for Galvin’s fury to subside.
His story was fascinating despite many surprising revelations.
“Wilbur felt there was a real good chance he’d be arrested while attempting to steal the book, so he made me promise to leave if he hadn’t returned within a week. It never occurred to me that worse might happen, but it must have occurred to him.
“Before he left, he said he could feel the Other’s claustrophobia. As often happens with twins, he and the Other shared strong emotional feelings to a certain extent. He said it felt trapped and afraid.
“I hesitated to leave, however, hoping my friend would come back safely with the means to halt or even reverse the Other’s growth.
“I decided it was time to leave when I had used up all the cows to feed the Other. That was on the first of September. Earl Sawyer had been providing them regularly for that purpose, but he heard the creaking and the straining sounds coming from the house and it frightened him away. I admit I was afraid too, so on the ninth I decided to leave. I was packing a bag when I heard a real loud noise, like the logs of the farmhouse wrenching and cracking apart. I stepped out of the shed to get a better look, and the whole world exploded around me.
“It was pouring down rain so hard I could barely see. Doors, plaster, and glass filled the air; huge chunks of walls were flying in every direction. The farmhouse had been ripped into sections, parts of which were still moving. A huge chunk of roof floated in the air, the gables and chimney still intact. Mud was splashing up in waves and an ungodly stench hit me so hard, I threw up.
“The next thing I knew, something slimy grabbed one of my legs and thrust me thirty feet or so into the air. I couldn’t see what had me, but it felt like a mass of wet, living rope winding and knotting all over me. I tried to get a grip on whatever held me, but it was like trying to grasp an armload of oily snakes—only these were as thick as my thigh. I could feel mouths clamping down and biting me right through my clothes, and I saw the rain turn red as it struck my body. My chest felt like it was being squeezed in a vice, so with the first air I caught, I started screaming and hollering for all I was worth.
“Everything was getting dark and blurry but I fought against passing out. All at once, a desperate clarity came over me and pushed away the fear. Without thinking, I began yelling at my invisible attacker, ‘I’m Abe, Wilbur’s friend! Don’t you recognize me? I’m a friend! Please, put me down—you’re killing me!’”
Galvin paused. “You may not believe me, but all of a sudden my feet touched the ground and the things that were binding me let go all at once.”
Unable to restrain his excitement, James leaned back in his chair and shouted, “Jesus!”
Galvin, who had almost crept over the table toward his listeners, also leaned back, releasing his audience from the stifling tension he had produced as he described his ordeal.
An excited Jeffrey begged, “But did it let go of you?”
After a moment, Galvin whispered, “I believe it remembered me from its telepathic link with Wilbur; it experienced Wilbur’s trust and love for me. It was as if Wilbur reached out from beyond the grave to save me.”
Galvin now sat perfectly upright in his chair. His hands were shaking to the extent that he spilled half his drink even before he could raise it to his mouth. The second bottle lay empty on the table before him.
“I never did actually see what the Other looked like, but from what I heard later about it, that was probably a blessin’.
“I guess I blacked out then, ‘cos Earl Sawyer’s kid stumbled across me the next morning. He fetched his daddy, who said I was more dead than alive when he found me lying half inside a footprint as big as an old hogshead barrel and over a foot deep. They took me to Dr. Houghton and so saved my life. Nearly all my ribs were crushed, my sternum was fractured, and I was bleeding all over. I swore all three to secrecy about my presence, hoping Armitage would assume the Other had killed me. He’d have come after me if he thought I was still alive.”
For several minutes Galvin sat quietly in his chair, as if he had finished his tale. The whir of tape rewinding alerted Jeffrey to stop his recorder. He felt a certain relief that Galvin had reached the end of his tale before his speech got any worse. He had been slipping more and more into colloquial speech patterns for several minutes.
“Well,” offered James, “I guess that’s about it then. Armitage killed the Other up on Sentinel Hill for whatever motive, and the day was saved!”
Galvin leaned forward with a disgusted look on his face and sneered, “And I thought you boys was smart!”
James stumbled over a few syllables in search of some response, but Galvin wasn’t finished yet.
“The whole story’s in Wilbur’s diary, which I read after he left for Arkham; the code wasn’t all that hard to figure out. Later on, when Armitage got the diary, he read it and only let his buddies see bits and pieces so he could interpret the text to mean whatever he wanted it to mean. He burned it before anybody else got a chance to see it. Now, just how scholarly does an action like that sound to you? Yet if you read his account carefully, you’ll see the wily old bastard couldn’t resist tossing in a few tantalizing clues to the truth.”
Galvin was obviously getting drunk, occasionally slurring a few words. “Okay, so I’ll explain it to you kids. The Indians had been performing weird rites in the area in and around Dunwich for over four hundred years before Wizard Whateley came along and figured out just exactly what they were up to. And he was just crazy enough to try and do the same.
“The Indians had been breeding their women with things from other dimensions, but they were smart enough to keep the offspring imprisoned in underground caves. It was safer that way and the hybrids grew slower in the dark. Old Whateley’d thought he’d do the same, ‘cept Lavinia gave birth to twins and refused to part with either of them. Living above ground, both of the twins grew a whole lot faster than their half-brothers and half-sisters below the ground.”
Gasps escaped the mouths of his listeners as Galvin rambled on.
“You mean you never wondered what it was that has been rumbling and moaning under the hills? It’s been consistently reported since the first white men settled on Dunwich land!
“Armitage didn’t destroy the Other and make everything safe! That’s all just a load of crap. Did anyone actually see what happened when the lightning struck? Nobody but Armitage and those two fools he had believing anything he told them. He said himself that the damn thing couldn’t be killed! It sought out the altar stone because that stone was the door to an entrance to the pits below, where it could be safe! The Other called out for help in English, but the eyewitnesses said they heard an unearthly calling from the altar stone as well! All Armitage did was call down a bolt of lightning that lifted the altar stone up just long enough for the Other to squeeze its elastic form through and down to where the others were just waiting!
“Ain’t you figured out that Sentinel Hill and all the hills in Dunwich are hollow? They’re rounded ‘cos the things underneath are growing and slowly pushing the earth up higher and higher. The standing stones mark the hills where the Indians ‘planted’ the spawn of Yog-Sothoth!”
“But Dr. Armitage ...” James began.
“Dr. Armitage my arse,” interrupted Galvin. “That son of a bitch high-tailed it back to Arkham and wrote his lying account before going back to live with his family ...”
Jeffrey started to butt in, but fell silent after Galvin finished his sentence.
“... in Innsmouth.”
“What?” James cried out in disbelief.
“Yessir, I said Innsmouth!” Galvin exclaimed. “The only thing he didn’t know was that his parents were taken away by the FBI when they raided Innsmouth. And the ones they took away were the ones that weren’t human, and neither was Armitage, though he covered it well. Folks think he took sick and died soon after that day on Sentinel Hill, but I defy any man to show me the record of his death.”
Both Jeffrey and James were stunned.
“At least I put one over on the old bastard; I got all the Whateley gold. He wanted it bad, but Wilbur gave it to me before he left. I had it on me when Earl found me, and I’ve been living on it ever since. Look here if you don’t believe me,” he added as he tossed two shiny coins onto the table.
The two authors snatched up the coins and stared at them in disbelief. One bore the imprint of Arabic lettering that they would later learn spelled out ‘Irem,’ a lost city of Arabian myth; the other was impressed with the easily recognizable features of Augustus Caesar.
“Yessir, the Other and hundreds more like him are down there still, just growing and waiting for the day they’re full grown and the stars all line up as their signal. When that day comes, the earth’ll rise up beneath our feet and they’ll emerge to smite mankind by the millions—and nothing on this Earth can stop them!”
Galvin paused, belched, then concluded with a snicker, “If you boys finish your book in a real hurry, you just might get it published afore the apocalypse!”
FOR MY RESPECTED FRIEND, WILUM HOPFROG PUGMIRE
Clark Ashton Smith:
Hasisevő, avagy a Gonosz Apokalipszise, A
Robert E. Howard:
Harp of Alfred, The
Robert E. Howard:
Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Ez az egyetlen történet Lovecraft részéről, amelyben jelentős szerepet kap a szörnyisten, Cthulhu. 1926 későnyarán, kora őszén íródhatott. A dokumentarista stílusban megírt történet nyomozója, Thurston, a szemita nyelvek egyetemi kutatója darabkáról darabkára rakja össze a rejtélyes kirakóst. A fiatal kutató egyre több tárgyi és írásos bizonyítékát leli a hírhedt Cthulhu-kultusz létezésének. A kultisták a Necronomicon szövege alapján a nagy szörnyisten eljövetelét várják. A történetek a megtestesült iszonyatról beszélnek, ami átrepült az űrön és letelepedett a Földön sok millió évvel ezelőtt. Most hosszú álmát alussza tengerborította városában: Ph’ngluimglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, vagyis R'lyeh házában a tetszhalott Cthulhu álmodik. A Csendes-óceán déli részén néhány bátor tengerész megtalálta a várost és felébresztette a Nagy Öreget. Ennek hatására őrülethullám robogott végig a Földön, több ember lelte halálát ezekben az időkben. A találkozást csak egy tengerész élte túl, de ő is gyanús körülmények között halt meg. A fiatal kutató érzi, hogy ő is erre a sorsra juthat... A novellát nagy részben Lord Tennyson Kraken című költeménye inspirálta: Cthulhu is egy csápos, polipszerű szörny, egy alvó isten (ez a gondolat nagyban Lord Dunsany műveinek Lovecraftra gyakorolt hatásának köszönhető). S. T. Joshi felveti, hogy számottevő hatást váltott ki Lovecraftra Maupassant Horlája és Arthur Machen A fekete pecsét története című története is. Maga Lovecraft e történetet roppant középszerűnek, klisék halmazának titulálta. A Weird Tales szerkesztője, Farnsworth Wright először elutasította a közlését, és csak azután egyezett bele, hogy Lovecraft barátja, Donald Wandrei bebeszélte neki, hogy más magazinnál is érdeklődnek a sztori iránt.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Őrület hegyei, Az; Hallucináció hegységei, A
Egy déli sarki kutatócsoport, köztük a narrátor, William Dyer a Miskatonic Egyetemről az Antarktiszra indul 1930/31 telén. A fagyott környezetben 14, a hideg által konzerválódott idegen lényre bukkannak. Miután a kutatók több csoportra oszlanak, és az egyikről nem érkezik hír, a megmaradt tagok felkeresik az eltűntek táborát, ahol szétmarcangolt emberi és állati maradványokat találnak - néhány idegen létformának pedig mindössze hűlt helyét... Legnagyobb döbbenetükre azonban a kutatás során feltárul előttük egy évmilliókkal régebben épített, hatalmas kőváros, amely a Nagy Öregek egykori lakóhelye lehetett. A kisregényt szokás Poe Arthur Gordon Pym című kisregényének folytatásaként tekinteni, az enigmatikus és meg nem magyarázott jelentésű kiáltás, a "Tekeli-li!" miatt. Eredetileg a Weird Talesbe szánta Lovecraft, de a szerkesztő túl hosszúnak találta, ezért öt éven át hevert a kisregény felhasználatlanul a fiókban. Az Astounding végül jelentősen megváltoztatva közölte a művet, több bekezdést (nagyjából ezer szót) kihagyott, a teljes, javított verzió először 1985-ben látott napvilágot.
Moon Pool, The
Amikor dr. David Throckmartin elmeséli egy csendes-óceáni civilizáció ősi romjain átélt hátborzongató élményeit, dr. Walter Goodwin, a regény narrátora azzal a meggyőződéssel hallgatja a hihetetlen történetet, hogy a nagy tudós valószínűleg megzavarodott. Azt állítja ugyanis, hogy feleségét és kutatócsoportjának több tagját magával vitte egy "fényjelenség", amely az úgynevezett Holdtóból emelkedik ki teliholdas éjszakákon. Amikor azonban Goodwin eleget tesz Throckmartin kérésének, és társaival a titokzatos szigetre utazik, fantasztikus, megdöbbentő kalandok sorozata veszi kezdetét.
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