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.