Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous

Chapter 12

  • 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!"