Wednesday 7 April 2010

Sebastian Pothidden: Mythos Investigator

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity (also known as “England”). The sciences, each straining in their own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of lots of little bits of trivia will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or just ignore it. I know what my money’s on.

Nut-jobs the world over have made guesses at the size of the cosmic cycle in which our world resides. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it.

That glimpse flashed out from an accidental piecing together of two separated things - in this case an old newspaper item, and the notes of a dead professor (also known as a "deadessor"). I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out. I want to achieve something of worth before I die.

I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not a sudden death suddener than a thousand suddens seized him.

My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-27 with the death of my great-uncle, George Gammaray Angina, Professor of Languages in Brown University, Rhode Island. Professor Angina was an expert on ancient inscriptions (as well as being a veritable mine of movie “Goofs”) and was frequently consulted by heads of prominent museums. Interest was intensified by the (rather odd) cause of death.

The professor had fallen down dead after receiving a rather nasty jostle from a sailor down by the harbour. Apart from a small dagger in the heart, nothing untoward was noticed at the time. Doctors were unable to find any real disorder, but concluded that some lesion of the heart, induced by the ascent of a steep hill by the elderly man – or some sort of dagger - was responsible. At the time I saw no reason to disagree, but latterly I am inclined to wonder—and more than wonder. Wonderingly.

As my great-uncle's heir, I was expected to go over his papers. Being a lazy summbitch, I ordered all of the boxes delivered to my gaff, so I could work through them at my leisure. Much of the material which I correlated was of no consequence, but there was one locked box that I found puzzling. I eventually succeeded in opening it with the aid of some old thermite, but when I did so I was confronted by a greater problem. For what could be the meaning of the clay bas-relief and the jottings, ramblings and cuttings which I found? Had my uncle begun believing loony ideas? I decided to find the sculptor of this mad thing type thing.

The bas-relief was a rectangle less than an inch thick and about five by six inches in area. Its designs were far from modern; for, although the vaginaries of cubism and futurism are many and wild, they do not often reproduce that regularity that lurks in prehistoric writing. And these designs seemed certainly to be writing; though my memory failed in any way to identify this particular species, or even hint at its remotest affiliations.

Above these hieroglyphics was a figure, though its impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, or monster representing a symbol, or symbolic of some form of monstrous symbol. If I say that my imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature (much like an aquatic version of the cryptozoological Rolfaroo), I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.

The writing accompanying this oddity was, aside from a stack of press cuttings, in Professor Angina's most recent hand; and made no pretension to literary style. What seemed to be the main document was headed "CTHULHU CULT" in characters painstakingly printed to avoid the erroneous reading of the world “CULT”.

The manuscript was divided into two sections, the first of which was headed "1925—Dream and Dream Work of H. A. Wankfarm, Providence, R. I.", and the second, "Narrative of Inspector John R. Legolas, New Orleans, La.". The other papers were all brief notes, some of them accounts of the dreams of different persons, some of them citations from books and magazines and the rest comments on long-surviving secret societies and hidden cults. The cuttings largely alluded to mental illness and outbreaks of group folly or mania in the spring of 1925.

The first half of the manuscript told a peculiar tale. It appears that on 1 March 1925, a thin, young man of neurotic aspect called upon Professor Angina with the bas-relief, which was then damp and fresh. His name was Henry Wankfarm, and my uncle recognised him as the youngest son of a family known to him, who had latterly been studying sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and living near that institution. Wankfarm was a youth of known genius but great eccentricity, and had frequently excited attention through the strange stories and odd dreams he was in the habit of relating. He called himself "psychically hypersensitive", but the folk of the ancient commercial city dismissed him as merely "a pretentious twat".

On the occasion of the visit, the sculptor asked for the benefit of his host's knowledge in identifying the hieroglyphics on the bas-relief. He spoke in a dreamy, stilted manner; and my uncle showed some sharpness in replying, for the conspicuous freshness of the tablet implied anything but archaeology. Young Wankfarm's reply, which impressed my uncle, was of a fantastically poetic cast which must have typified the whole conversation. He said, "It is new, indeed, for I made it last night in a dream of strange cities; and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Newcastle.". It is a small wonder that the Professor did not smite him with a nearby skillet.

It was then that he began that tale which played upon a sleeping memory and won the interest of my uncle. There had been a slight earth tremor the night before, the most considerable felt in England for some years; and Wankfarm's imaginations had been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had had a dream of great Cyclopean cities of Titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters, "Cthulhu fhtagn".

This verbal jumble was the key to the recollection which excited and disturbed Professor Angina. He questioned the sculptor; and studied the bas-relief on which the youth had found himself working. My uncle blamed his old age, Wankfarm afterward said, for his slowness in recognizing both hieroglyphics and pictorial design. Many of his questions seemed highly out of place to his visitor, especially those which tried to connect the latter with strange cults or societies.

When Professor Angina became convinced that the sculptor was indeed ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore, he besieged his visitor with demands for future reports of dreams. This bore regular fruit, for after the first interview the manuscript records daily calls of the young man, during which he related startling fragments of nocturnal imagery whose burden was always some terrible Cyclopean vista of dark and dripping stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting monotonously in enigmatical sense-impacts uninscribable save as gibberish. The sounds most frequently repeated are those rendered by the letters "Cthulhu" and "R'lyeh".

I had another cup of coffee.

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