Danforth and I have recollections of emerging into the great sculpture_emisphere and of threading our back trail through the Cyclopean rooms an_orridors of the dead city; yet these are purely dream fragments involving n_emory of volition, details, or physical exertion. It was as if we floated i_ nebulous world or dimension without time, causation, or orientation. Th_ray half-daylight of the vast circular space sobered us somewhat; but we di_ot go near those cached sledges or look again at poor Gedney and the dog.
They have a strange and titanic mausoleum, and I hope the end of this plane_ill find them still undisturbed.
It was while struggling up the colossal spiral incline that we first felt th_errible fatigue and short breath which our race through the thin plateau ai_ad produced; but not even fear of collapse could make us pause befor_eaching the normal outer realm of sun and sky. There was something vaguel_ppropriate about our departure from those buried epochs; for as we wound ou_anting way up the sixty-foot cylinder of primal masonry, we glimpsed besid_s a continuous procession of heroic sculptures in the dead race's early an_ndecayed technique - a farewell from the Old Ones, written fifty millio_ears ago.
Finally scrambling out at the top, we found ourselves on a great mound o_umbled blocks, with the curved walls of higher stonework rising westward, an_he brooding peaks of the great mountains showing beyond the more crumble_tructures toward the east. The low antarctic sun of midnight peered redl_rom the southern horizon through rifts in the jagged ruins, and the terribl_ge and deadness of the nightmare city seemed all the starker by contrast wit_uch relatively known and accustomed things as the features of the pola_andscape. The sky above was a churning and opalescent mass of tenuous ice-
vapors, and the cold clutched at our vitals. Wearily resting the outfit-bag_o which we had instinctively clung throughout our desperate flight, w_ebuttoned our heavy garments for the stumbling climb down the mound and th_alk through the aeon-old stone maze to the foothills where our aeroplan_aited. Of what had set us fleeing from that darkness of earth's secret an_rchaic gulfs we said nothing at all.
In less than a quarter of an hour we had found the steep grade to th_oothills-the probable ancient terrace - by which we had descended, and coul_ee the dark bulk of our great plane amidst the sparse ruins on the risin_lope ahead. Halfway uphill toward our goal we paused for a momentar_reathing spell, and turned to look again at the fantastic tangle o_ncredible stone shapes below us-once more outlined mystically against a_nknown west. As we did so we saw that the sky beyond had lost its mornin_aziness; the restless ice-vapors having moved up to the zenith, where thei_ocking outlines seemed on the point of settling into some bizarre patter_hich they feared to make quite definite or conclusive.
There now lay revealed on the ultimate white horizon behind the grotesque cit_ dim, elfin line of pinnacled violet whose needle-pointed heights loome_reamlike against the beckoning rose color of the western sky. Up toward thi_himmering rim sloped the ancient table-land, the depressed course of th_ygone river traversing it as an irregular ribbon of shadow. For a second w_asped in admiration of the scene's unearthly cosmic beauty, and then vagu_orror began to creep into our souls. For this far violet line could b_othing else than the terrible mountains of the forbidden land - highest o_arth's peaks and focus of earth's evil; harborers of nameless horrors an_rchaean secrets; shunned and prayed to by those who feared to carve thei_eaning; untrodden by any living thing on earth, but visited by the siniste_ightnings and sending strange beams across the plains in the polar night -
beyond doubt the unknown archetype of that dreaded Kadath in the Cold Wast_eyond abhorrent Leng, whereof primal legends hint evasively.
If the sculptured maps and pictures in that prehuman city had told truly,
these cryptic violet mountains could not be much less than three hundred mile_way; yet none the less sharply did their dim elfin essence appear above tha_emote and snowy rim, like the serrated edge of a monstrous alien planet abou_o rise into unaccustomed heavens. Their height, then, must have bee_remendous beyond all comparison - carrying them up into tenuous atmospheri_trata peopled only by such gaseous wraiths as rash flyers have barely live_o whisper of after unexplainable falls. Looking at them, I thought nervousl_f certain sculptured hints of what the great bygone river had washed dow_nto the city from their accursed slopes - and wondered how much sense and ho_uch folly had lain in the fears of those Old Ones who carved them s_eticently. I recalled how their northerly end must come near the coast a_ueen Mary Land, where even at that moment Sir Douglas Mawson's expedition wa_oubtless working less than a thousand miles away; and hoped that no evil fat_ould give Sir Douglas and his men a glimpse of what might lie beyond th_rotecting coastal range. Such thoughts formed a measure of my overwrough_ondition at the time - and Danforth seemed to be even worse.
Yet long before we had passed the great star-shaped ruin and reached ou_lane, our fears had become transferred to the lesser but vast-enough rang_hose recrossing lay ahead of us. From these foothills the black, ruin-cruste_lopes reared up starkly and hideously against the east, again reminding us o_hose strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich; and when we thought of th_rightful amorphous entities that might have pushed their fetidly squirmin_ay even to the topmost hollow pinnacles, we could not face without panic th_rospect of again sailing by those suggestive skyward cave mouths where th_ind made sounds like an evil musical piping over a wide range. To mak_atters worse, we saw distinct traces of local mist around several of th_ummits-as poor Lake must have done when he made that early mistake abou_olcanism - and thought shiveringly of that kindred mist from which we ha_ust escaped; of that, and of the blasphemous, horror-fostering abyss whenc_ll such vapors came.
All was well with the plane, and we clumsily hauled on our heavy flying furs.
Danforth got the engine started without trouble, and we made a very smoot_ake-off over the nightmare city. Below us the primal Cyclopean masonry sprea_ut as it had done when first we saw it, and we began rising and turning t_est the wind for our crossing through the pass. At a very high level ther_ust have been great disturbance, since the ice-dust clouds of the zenith wer_oing all sorts of fantastic things; but at twenty-four thousand feet, th_eight we needed for the pass, we found navigation quite practicable. As w_rew close to the jutting peaks the wind's strange piping again becam_anifest, and I could see Danforth's hands trembling at the controls. Ran_mateur that I was, I thought at that moment that I might be a bette_avigator than he in effecting the dangerous crossing between pinnacles; an_hen I made motions to change seats and take over his duties he did no_rotest. I tried to keep all my skill and self-possession about me, and stare_t the sector of reddish farther sky betwixt the walls of the pass-resolutel_efusing to pay attention to the puffs of mountain-top vapor, and wishing tha_ had wax-stopped ears like Ulysses' men off the Siren's coast to keep tha_isturbing windpiping from my consciousness.
But Danforth, released from his piloting and keyed up to a dangerous nervou_itch, could not keep quiet. I felt him turning and wriggling about as h_ooked back at the terrible receding city, ahead at the cave-riddled, cube-
barnacled peaks, sidewise at the bleak sea of snowy, rampart-strewn foothills,
and upward at the seething, grotesquely clouded sky. It was then, just as _as trying to steer safely through the pass, that his mad shrieking brought u_o close to disaster by shattering my tight hold on myself and causing me t_umble helplessly with the controls for a moment. A second afterward m_esolution triumphed and we made the crossing safely - yet I am afraid tha_anforth will never be -the same again.
I have said that Danforth refused to tell me what final horror made him screa_ut so insanely-a horror which, I feel sadly sure, is mainly responsible fo_is present breakdown. We had snatches of shouted conversation above th_ind's piping and the engine's buzzing as we reached the safe side of th_ange and swooped slowly down toward the camp, but that had mostly to do wit_he pledges of secrecy we had made as we prepared to leave the nightmare city.
Certain things, we had agreed, were not for people to know and discus_ightly-and I would not speak of them now but for the need of heading off tha_tarkweather-Moore Expedition, and others, at any cost. It is absolutel_ecessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark,
dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalitie_ake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm an_plash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.
All that Danforth has ever hinted is that the final horror was a mirage. I_as not, he declares, anything connected with the cubes and caves of thos_choing, vaporous, wormily-honeycombed mountains of madness which we crossed;
but a single fantastic, demoniac glimpse, among the churning zenith clouds, o_hat lay back of those other violet westward mountains which the Old Ones ha_hunned and feared. It is very probable that the thing was a sheer delusio_orn of the previous stresses we had passed through, and of the actual thoug_nrecognized mirage of the dead transmontane city experienced near Lake's cam_he day before; but it was so real to Danforth that he suffers from it still.
He has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about
"The black pit," "the carven rim," "the protoShoggoths," "the windowles_olids with five dimensions," "the nameless cylinder," "the elder Pharos,"
"Yog-Sothoth," "the primal white jelly," "the color out of space," "th_ings," "the eyes in darkness," "the moon-ladder," "the original, the eternal,
the undying," and other bizarre conceptions; but when he is fully himself h_epudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre reading o_arlier years. Danforth, indeed, is known to be among the few who have eve_ared go completely through that worm-riddled copy of the Necronomicon kep_nder lock and key in the college library.
The higher sky, as we crossed the range, was surely vaporous and disturbe_nough; and although I did not see the zenith, I can well imagine that it_wirls of ice dust may have taken strange forms. Imagination, knowing ho_ividly distant scenes can sometimes be reflected, refracted, and magnified b_uch layers of restless cloud, might easily have supplied the rest - and, o_ourse, Danforth did not hint any of these specific horrors till after hi_emory had had a chance to draw on his bygone reading. He could never hav_een so much in one instantaneous glance.
At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad wor_f all too obvious source: "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"