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Chapter 4

  • It is only with vast hesitancy and repugnance that I let my mind go back t_ake's camp and what we really found there - and to that other thing beyon_he mountains of madness. I am constantly tempted to shirk the details, and t_et hints stand for actual facts and ineluctable deductions. I hope I hav_aid enough already to let me glide briefly over the rest; the rest, that is,
  • of the horror at the camp. I have told of the wind-ravaged terrain, th_amaged shelters, the disarranged machinery, the varied uneasiness of ou_ogs, the missing sledges and other items, the deaths of men and dogs, th_bsence of Gedney, and the six insanely buried biological specimens, strangel_ound in texture for all their structural injuries, from a world forty millio_ears dead. I do not recall whether I mentioned that upon checking up th_anine bodies we found one dog missing. We did not think much about that til_ater - indeed, only Danforth and I have thought of it at all.
  • The principal things I have been keeping back relate to the bodies, and t_ertain subtle points which may or may not lend a hideous and incredible kin_f rationale to the apparent chaos. At the time, I tried to keep the men'_inds off those points; for it was so much simpler - so much more normal - t_ay everything to an outbreak of madness on the part of some of Lake's party.
  • From the look of things, that demon mountain wind must have been enough t_rive any man mad in the midst of this center of all earthly mystery an_esolation.
  • The crowning abnormality, of course, was the condition of the bodies - men an_ogs alike. They had all been in some terrible kind of conflict, and were tor_nd mangled in fiendish and altogether inexplicable ways. Death, so far as w_ould judge, had in each case come from strangulation or laceration. The dog_ad evidently started the trouble, for the state of their ill-built corra_ore witness to its forcible breakage from within. It had been set som_istance from the camp because of the hatred of the animals for those hellis_rchaean organisms, but the precaution seemed to have been taken in vain. Whe_eft alone in that monstrous wind, behind flimsy walls of insufficient height,
  • they must have stampeded - whether from the wind itself, or from some subtle,
  • increasing odor emitted by the nightmare specimens, one could not say.
  • But whatever had happened, it was hideous and revolting enough. Perhaps I ha_etter put squeamishness aside and tell the worst at last - though with _ategorical statement of opinion, based on the first-hand observations an_ost rigid deductions of both Danforth and myself, that the then missin_edney was in no way responsible for the loathsome horrors we found. I hav_aid that the bodies were frightfully mangled. Now I must add that some wer_ncised and subtracted from in the most curious, cold-blooded, and inhuma_ashion. It was the same with dogs and men. All the healthier, fatter bodies,
  • quadrupedal or bipedal, had had their most solid masses of tissue cut out an_emoved, as by a careful butcher; and around them was a strange sprinkling o_alt - taken from the ravaged provision chests on the planes - which conjure_p the most horrible associations. The thing had occurred in one of the crud_eroplane shelters from which the plane had been dragged out, and subsequen_inds had effaced all tracks which could have supplied any plausible theory.
  • Scattered bits of clothing, roughly slashed from the human incision subjects,
  • hinted no clues. It is useless to bring up the half impression of certai_aint snow prints in one shielded corner of the ruined inclosure - becaus_hat impression did not concern human prints at all, but was clearly mixed u_ith all the talk of fossil prints which poor Lake had been giving throughou_he preceding weeks. One had to be careful of one's imagination in the lee o_hose overshadowing mountains of madness.
  • As I have indicated, Gedney and one dog turned out to be missing in the end.
  • When we came on that terrible shelter we had missed two dogs and two men; bu_he fairly unharmed dissecting tent, which we entered after investigating th_onstrous graves, had something to reveal. It was not as Lake had left it, fo_he covered parts of the primal monstrosity had been removed from th_mprovised table. Indeed, we had already realized that one of the si_mperfect and insanely buried things we had found - the one with the trace o_ peculiarly hateful odor - must represent the collected sections of th_ntity which Lake had tried to analyze. On and around that laboratory tabl_ere strewn other things, and it did not take long for us to guess that thos_hings were the carefully though oddly and inexpertly dissected parts of on_an and one dog. I shall spare the feelings of survivors by omitting mentio_f the man's identity. Lake's anatomical instruments were missing, but ther_ere evidences of their careful cleansing. The gasoline stove was also gone,
  • though around it we found a curious litter of matches. We buried the huma_arts beside the other ten men; and the canine parts with the other thirty-
  • five dogs. Concerning the bizarre smudges on the laboratory table, and on th_umble of roughly handled illustrated books scattered near it, we were muc_oo bewildered to speculate.
  • This formed the worst of the camp horror, but other things were equall_erplexing. The disappearance of Gedney, the one dog, the eight uninjure_iological specimens, the three sledges, and certain instruments, illustrate_echnical and scientific books, writing materials, electric torches an_atteries, food and fuel, heating apparatus, spare tents, fur suits, and th_ike, was utterly beyond sane conjecture; as were likewise the spatter-fringe_nk blots on certain pieces of paper, and the evidences of curious alie_umbling and experimentation around the planes and all other mechanica_evices both at the camp and at the boring. The dogs seemed to abhor thi_ddly disordered machinery. Then, too, there was the upsetting of the larder,
  • the disappearance of certain staples, and the jarringly comical heap of ti_ans pried open in the most unlikely ways and at the most unlikely places. Th_rofusion of scattered matches, intact, broken, or spent, formed another mino_nigma - as did the two or three tent cloths and fur suits which we foun_ying about with peculiar and unorthodox slashings conceivably due to clums_fforts at unimaginable adaptations. The maltreatment of the human and canin_odies, and the crazy burial of the damaged Archaean specimens, were all of _iece with this apparent disintegrative madness. In view of just such a_ventuality as the present one, we carefully photographed all the mai_vidences of insane disorder at the camp; and shall use the prints to buttres_ur pleas against the departure of the proposed Starkweather-Moore Expedition.
  • Our first act after finding the bodies in the shelter was to photograph an_pen the row of insane graves with the five-pointed snow mounds. We could no_elp noticing the resemblance of these monstrous mounds, with their cluster_f grouped dots, to poor Lake's descriptions of the strange greenis_oapstones; and when we came on some of the soapstones themselves in the grea_ineral pile, we found the likeness very close indeed. The whole genera_ormation, it must be made clear, seemed abominably suggestive of the starfis_ead of the Archaean entities; and we agreed that the suggestion must hav_orked potently upon the sensitized minds of Lake's overwrought party.
  • For madness - centering in Gedney as the only possible surviving agent - wa_he explanation spontaneously adopted by everybody so far as spoken utteranc_as concerned; though I will not be so naive as to deny that each of us ma_ave harbored wild guesses which sanity forbade him to formulate completely.
  • Sherman, Pabodie, and McTighe made an exhaustive aeroplane cruise over all th_urrounding territory in the afternoon, sweeping the horizon with fiel_lasses in quest of Gedney and of the various missing things; but nothing cam_o light. The party reported that the titan barrier range extended endlessl_o right and left alike, without any diminution in height or essentia_tructure. On some of the peaks, though, the regular cube and rampar_ormations were bolder and plainer, having doubly fantastic similitudes t_oerich-painted Asian hill ruins. The distribution of cryptical cave mouths o_he black snow-denuded summits seemed roughly even as far as the range coul_e traced.
  • In spite of all the prevailing horrors, we were left with enough shee_cientific zeal and adventurousness to wonder about the unknown realm beyon_hose mysterious mountains. As our guarded messages stated, we rested a_idnight after our day of terror and bafflement - but not without a tentativ_lan for one or more range-crossing altitude flights in a lightened plane wit_erial camera and geologist's outfit, beginning the following morning. It wa_ecided that Danforth and I try it first, and we awaked at 7 A.M. intending a_arly flight; however, heavy winds - mentioned in our brief, bulletin to th_utside world - delayed our start till nearly nine o'clock.
  • I have already repeated the noncommittal story we told the men at camp - an_elayed outside - after our return sixteen hours later. It is now my terribl_uty to amplify this account by filling in the merciful blanks with hints o_hat we really saw in the hidden transmontane world - hints of the revelation_hich have finally driven Danforth to a nervous collapse. I wish he would ad_ really frank word about the thing which he thinks he alone saw - even thoug_t was probably a nervous delusion - and which was perhaps the last straw tha_ut him where he is; but he is firm against that. All I can do is to repea_is later disjointed whispers about what set him shrieking as the plane soare_ack through the wind-tortured mountain pass after that real and tangibl_hock which I shared. This will form my last word. If the plain signs o_urviving elder horrors in what I disclose be not enough to keep others fro_eddling with the inner antarctic - or at least from prying too deeply beneat_he surface of that ultimate waste of forbidden secrets and inhuman, aeon-
  • cursed desolation - the responsibility for unnamable and perhaps immeasurabl_vils will not be mine.
  • Danforth and I, studying the notes made by Pabodie in his afternoon flight an_hecking up with a sextant, had calculated that the lowest available pass i_he range lay somewhat to the right of us, within sight of camp, and abou_wenty-three thousand or twenty-four thousand feet above sea level. For thi_oint, then, we first headed in the lightened plane as we embarked on ou_light of discovery. The camp itself, on foothills which sprang from a hig_ontinental plateau, was some twelve thousand feet in altitude; hence th_ctual height increase necessary was not so vast as it might seem.
  • Nevertheless we were acutely conscious of the rarefied air and intense cold a_e rose; for, on account of visibility conditions, we had to leave the cabi_indows open. We were dressed, of course, in our heaviest furs.
  • As we drew near the forbidding peaks, dark and sinister above the line o_revasse-riven snow and interstitial glaciers, we noticed more and more th_uriously regular formations clinging to the slopes; and thought again of th_trange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich. The ancient and wind-weathere_ock strata fully verified all of Lake's bulletins, and proved that thes_innacles had been towering up in exactly the same way since a surprisingl_arly time in earth's history - perhaps over fifty million years. How muc_igher they had once been, it was futile to guess; but everything about thi_trange region pointed to obscure atmospheric influences unfavorable t_hange, and calculated to retard the usual climatic processes of roc_isintegration.
  • But it was the mountainside tangle of regular cubes, ramparts, and cave mouth_hich fascinated and disturbed us most. I studied them with a field glass an_ook aerial photographs while Danforth drove; and at times I relieved him a_he controls - though my aviation knowledge was purely an amateur's - in orde_o let him use the binoculars. We could easily see that much of the materia_f the things was a lightish Archaean quartzite, unlike any formation visibl_ver broad areas of the general surface; and that their regularity was extrem_nd uncanny to an extent which poor Lake had scarcely hinted.
  • As he had said, their edges were crumbled and rounded from untold aeons o_avage weathering; but their preternatural solidity and tough material ha_aved them from obliteration. Many parts, especially those closest to th_lopes, seemed identical in substance with the surrounding rock surface. Th_hole arrangement looked like the ruins of Macchu Picchu in the Andes, or th_rimal foundation walls of Kish as dug up by the Oxford Field Museu_xpedition in 1929; and both Danforth and I obtained that occasiona_mpression of separate Cyclopean blocks which Lake had attributed to hi_light-companion Carroll. How to account for such things in this place wa_rankly beyond me, and I felt queerly humbled as a geologist. Igneou_ormations often have strange regularities - like the famous Giants' Causewa_n Ireland - but this stupendous range, despite Lake's original suspicion o_moking cones, was above all else nonvolcanic in evident structure.
  • The curious cave mouths, near which the odd formations seemed most abundant,
  • presented another albeit a lesser puzzle because of their regularity o_utline. They were, as Lake's bulletin had said, often approximately square o_emicircular; as if the natural orifices had been shaped to greater symmetr_y some magic hand. Their numerousness and wide distribution were remarkable,
  • and suggested that the whole region was honeycombed with tunnels dissolved ou_f limestone strata. Such glimpses as we secured did not extend far within th_averns, but we saw that they were apparently clear of stalactites an_talagmites. Outside, those parts of the mountain slopes adjoining th_pertures seemed invariably smooth and regular; and Danforth thought that th_light cracks and pittings of the weathering tended toward unusual patterns.
  • Filled as he was with the horrors and strangenesses discovered at the camp, h_inted that the pittings vaguely resembled those baffling groups of dot_prinkled over the primeval greenish soapstones, so hideously duplicated o_he madly conceived snow mounds above those six buried monstrosities.
  • We had risen gradually in flying over the higher foothills and along towar_he relatively low pass we had selected. As we advanced we occasionally looke_own at the snow and ice of the land route, wondering whether we could hav_ttempted the trip with the simpler equipment of earlier days. Somewhat to ou_urprise we saw that the terrain was far from difficult as such things go; an_hat despite the crevasses and other bad spots it would not have been likel_o deter the sledges of a Scott, a Shackleton, or an Amundsen. Some of th_laciers appeared to lead up to wind-bared passes with unusual continuity, an_pon reaching our chosen pass we found that its case formed no exception.
  • Our sensations of tense expectancy as we prepared to round the crest and pee_ut over an untrodden world can hardly be described on paper; even though w_ad no cause to think the regions beyond the range essentially different fro_hose already seen and traversed. The touch of evil mystery in these barrie_ountains, and in the beckoning sea of opalescent sky glimpsed betwixt thei_ummits, was a highly subtle and attenuated matter not to be explained i_iteral words. Rather was it an affair of vague psychological symbolism an_esthetic association - a thing mixed up with exotic poetry and paintings, an_ith archaic myths lurking in shunned and forbidden volumes. Even the wind'_urden held a peculiar strain of conscious malignity; and for a second i_eemed that the composite sound included a bizarre musical whistling or pipin_ver a wide range as the blast swept in and out of the omnipresent an_esonant cave mouths. There was a cloudy note of reminiscent repulsion in thi_ound, as complex and unplaceable as any of the other dark impressions.
  • We were now, after a slow ascent, at a height of twenty-three thousand, fiv_undred and seventy feet according to the aneroid; and had left the region o_linging snow definitely below us. Up here were only dark, bare rock slope_nd the start of rough-ribbed glaciers - but with those provocative cubes,
  • ramparts, and echoing cave mouths to add a portent of the unnatural, th_antastic, and the dreamlike. Looking along the line of high peaks, I though_ could see the one mentioned by poor Lake, with a rampart exactly on top. I_eemed to be half lost in a queer antarctic haze - such a haze, perhaps, a_ad been responsible for Lake's early notion of volcanism. The pass loome_irectly before us, smooth and windswept between its jagged and malignl_rowning pylons. Beyond it was a sky fretted with swirling vapors and lighte_y the low polar sun - the sky of that mysterious farther realm upon which w_elt no human eye had ever gazed.
  • A few more feet of altitude and we would behold that realm. Danforth and I,
  • unable to speak except in shouts amidst the howling, piping wind that race_hrough the pass and added to the noise of the unmuffled engines, exchange_loquent glances. And then, having gained those last few feet, we did indee_tare across the momentous divide and over the unsampled secrets of an elde_nd utterly alien earth.