I come now to the crucial and most difficult part of my narrative - all th_ore difficult because I cannot be quite certain of its reality. At times _eel uncomfortably sure that I was not dreaming or deluded; and it is thi_eeling in view of the stupendous implications which the objective truth of m_xperience would raise - which impels me to make this record.
My son - a trained psychologist with the fullest and most sympatheti_nowledge of my whole case - shall be the primary judge of what I have t_ell.
First let me outline the externals of the matter, as those at the camp kno_hem. On the night of July 17-18, after a windy day, I retired early but coul_ot sleep. Rising shortly before eleven, and afflicted as usual with tha_trange feeling regarding the northeastward terrain, I set out on one of m_ypical nocturnal walks; seeing and greeting only one person - an Australia_iner named Tupper - as I left our precincts.
The moon, slightly past full, shone from a clear sky, and drenched the ancien_ands with a white, leprous radiance which seemed to me somehow infinitel_vil. There was no longer any wind, nor did any return for nearly five hours, as amply attested by Tupper and others who saw me walking rapidly across th_allid, secret-guarding hillocks toward the northeast.
About 3:30 a.m. a violent wind blew up, waking everyone in camp and fellin_hree of the tents. The sky was unclouded, and the desert still blazed wit_hat leprous moonlight. As the party saw to the tents my absence was noted, but in view of my previous walks this circumstance gave no one alarm. And yet, as many as three men \- all Australians - seemed to feel something sinister i_he air.
Mackenzie explained to Professor Freeborn that this was a fear picked up fro_lackfellow folklore - the natives having woven a curious fabric of malignan_yth about the high winds which at long intervals sweep across the sands unde_ clear sky. Such winds, it is whispered, blow out of the great stone hut_nder the ground, where terrible things have happened - and are never fel_xcept near places where the big marked stones are scattered. Close to fou_he gale subsided as suddenly as it had begun, leaving the sand hills in ne_nd unfamiliar shapes.
It was just past five, with the bloated, fungoid moon sinking in the west, when I staggered into camp - hatless, tattered, features scratched an_nsanguined, and without my electric torch. Most of the men had returned t_ed, but Professor Dyer was smoking a pipe in front of his tent. Seeing m_inded and almost frenzied state, he called Dr. Boyle, and the two of them go_e on my cot and made me comfortable. My son, roused by the stir, soon joine_hem, and they all tried to force me to lie still and attempt sleep.
But there was no sleep for me. My psychological state was very extraordinary - different from anything I had previously suffered. After a time I insiste_pon talking - nervously and elaborately explaining my condition. I told the_ had become fatigued, and had lain down in the sand for a nap. There had, _aid, been dreams even more frightful than usual - and when I was awaked b_he sudden high wind my overwrought nerves had snapped. I had fled in panic, frequently falling over half-buried stones and thus gaining my tattered an_edraggled aspect. I must have slept long - hence the hours of my absence.
Of anything strange either seen or experienced I hinted absolutely nothing - exercising the greatest self-control in that respect. But I spoke of a chang_f mind regarding the whole work of the expedition, and urged a halt in al_igging toward the northeast. My reasoning was patently weak - for I mentione_ dearth of blocks, a wish not to offend the superstitious miners, a possibl_hortage of funds from the college, and other things either untrue o_rrelevant. Naturally, no one paid the least attention to my new wishes - no_ven my son, whose concern for my health was obvious.
The next day I was up and around the camp, but took no part in th_xcavations. Seeing that I could not stop the work, I decided to return hom_s soon as possible for the sake of my nerves, and made my son promise to fl_e in the plane to Perth - a thousand miles to the southwest - as soon as h_ad surveyed the region I wished let alone.
If, I reflected, the thing I had seen was still visible, I might decide t_ttempt a specific warning even at the cost of ridicule. It was jus_onceivable that the miners who knew the local folklore might back me up.
Humouring me, my son made the survey that very afternoon, flying over all th_errain my walk could possibly have covered. Yet nothing of what I had foun_emained in sight.
It was the case of the anomalous basalt block all over again - the shiftin_and had wiped out every trace. For an instant I half regretted having lost _ertain awesome object in my stark fright - but now I know that the loss wa_erciful. I can still believe my whole experience an illusion - especially if, as I devoutly hope, that hellish abyss is never found.
Wingate took me to Perth on July 20th, though declining to abandon th_xpedition and return home. He stayed with me until the 25th, when the steame_or Liverpool sailed. Now, in the cabin of the Empress, I am pondering lon_nd frantically upon the entire matter, and have decided that my son at leas_ust be informed. It shall rest with him whether to diffuse the matter mor_idely.
In order to meet any eventuality I have prepared this summary of my background - as already known in a scattered way to others - and will now tell as briefl_s possible what seemed to happen during my absence from the camp that hideou_ight.
Nerves on edge, and whipped into a kind of perverse eagerness by tha_nexplicable, dread-mingled, mnemonic urge toward the northeast, I plodded o_eneath the evil, burning moon. Here and there I saw, half shrouded by sand, those primal Cyclopean blocks left from nameless and forgotten aeons.
The incalculable age and brooding horror of this monstrous waste began t_ppress me as never before, and I could not keep from thinking of my maddenin_reams, of the frightful legends which lay behind them, and of the presen_ears of natives and miners concerning the desert and its carven stones.
And yet I plodded on as if to some eldritch rendezvous - more and mor_ssailed by bewildering fancies, compulsions, and pseudo-memories. I though_f some of the possible contours of the lines of stones as seen by my son fro_he air, and wondered why they seemed at once so ominous and so familiar.
Something was fumbling and rattling at the latch of my recollection, whil_nother unknown force sought to keep the portal barred.
The night was windless, and the pallid sand curved upward and downward lik_rozen waves of the sea. I had no goal, but somehow ploughed along as if wit_ate-bound assurance. My dreams welled up into the waking world, so that eac_and-embedded megalith seemed part of endless rooms and corridors of pre-huma_asonry, carved and hieroglyphed with symbols that I knew too well from year_f custom as a captive mind of the Great Race.
At moments I fancied I saw those omniscient, conical horrors moving about a_heir accustomed tasks, and I feared to look down lest I find myself one wit_hem in aspect. Yet all the while I saw the sand-covered blocks as well as th_ooms and corridors; the evil, burning moon as well as the lamps of luminou_rystal; the endless desert as well as the waving ferns beyond the windows. _as awake and dreaming at the same time.
I do not know how long or how far - or indeed, in just what direction - I ha_alked when I first spied the heap of blocks bared by the day's wind. It wa_he largest group in one place that I had seen so far, and so sharply did i_mpress me that the visions of fabulous aeons faded suddenly away.
Again there were only the desert and the evil moon and the shards of a_nguessed past. I drew close and paused, and cast the added light of m_lectric torch over the tumbled pile. A hillock had blown away, leaving a low, irregularly round mass of megaliths and smaller fragments some forty fee_cross and from two to eight feet high.
From the very outset I realized that there was some utterly unprecedente_uality about those stones. Not only was the mere number of them quite withou_arallel, but something in the sandworn traces of design arrested me as _canned them under the mingled beams of the moon and my torch.
Not that any one differed essentially from the earlier specimens we had found.
It was something subtler than that. The impression did not come when I looke_t one block alone, but only when I ran my eye over several almos_imultaneously.
Then, at last, the truth dawned upon me. The curvilinear patterns on many o_hose blocks were closely related - parts of one vast decorative conception.
For the first time in this aeon-shaken waste I had come upon a mass of masonr_n its old position - tumbled and fragmentary, it is true, but none the les_xisting in a very definite sense.
Mounting at a low place, I clambered laboriously over the heap; here and ther_learing away the sand with my fingers, and constantly striving to interpre_arieties of size, shape, and style, and relationships of design.
After a while I could vaguely guess at the nature of the bygone structure, an_t the designs which had once stretched over the vast surfaces of the prima_asonry. The perfect identity of the whole with some of my dream-glimpse_ppalled and unnerved me.
This was once a Cyclopean corridor thirty feet tall, paved with octagona_locks and solidly vaulted overhead. There would have been rooms opening of_n the right, and at the farther end one of those strange inclined plane_ould have wound down to still lower depths.
I started violently as these conceptions occurred to me, for there was more i_hem than the blocks themselves had supplied. How did I know that this leve_hould have been far underground? How did I know that the plane leading upwar_hould have been behind me? How did I know that the long subterrene passage t_he Square of Pillars ought to lie on the left one level above me?
How did I know that the room of machines and the rightward-leading tunnel t_he central archives ought to lie two levels below? How did I know that ther_ould be one of those horrible, metal-banded trap-doors at the very botto_our levels down? Bewildered by this intrusion from the dream-world, I foun_yself shaking and bathed in a cold perspiration.
Then, as a last, intolerable touch, I felt that faint, insidious stream o_ool air trickling upward from a depressed place near the center of the hug_eap. Instantly, as once before, my visions faded, and I saw again only th_vil moonlight, the brooding desert, and the spreading tumulus of palaeogea_asonry. Something real and tangible, yet fraught with infinite suggestions o_ighted mystery, now confronted me. For that stream of air could argue but on_hing - a hidden gulf of great size beneath the disordered blocks on th_urface.
My first thought was of the sinister blackfellow legends of vast undergroun_uts among the megaliths where horrors happen and great winds are born. The_houghts of my own dreams came back, and I felt dim pseudo-memories tugging a_y mind. What manner of place lay below me? What primal, inconceivable sourc_f age-old myth-cycles and haunting nightmares might I be on the brink o_ncovering?
It was only for a moment that I hesitated, for more than curiosity an_cientific zeal was driving me on and working against my growing fear.
I seemed to move almost automatically, as if in the clutch of some compellin_ate. Pocketing my torch, and struggling with a strength that I had no_hought I possessed, I wrenched aside first one titan fragment of stone an_hen another, till there welled up a strong draught whose dampness contraste_ddly with the desert's dry air. A black rift began to yawn, and at length - when I had pushed away every fragment small enough to budge - the leprou_oonlight blazed on an aperture of ample width to admit me.
I drew out my torch and cast a brilliant beam into the opening. Below me was _haos of tumbled masonry, sloping roughly down toward the north at an angle o_bout forty-five degrees, and evidently the result of some bygone collaps_rom above.
Between its surface and the ground level was a gulf of impenetrable blacknes_t whose upper edge were signs of gigantic, stress-heaved vaulting. At thi_oint, it appeared, the desert's sands lay directly upon a floor of some tita_tructure of earth's youth - how preserved through aeons of geologi_onvulsion I could not then and cannot now even attempt to guess.
In retrospect, the barest idea of a sudden, lone descent into such a doubtfu_byss - and at a time when one's whereabouts were unknown to any living soul - seems like the utter apex of insanity. Perhaps it was - yet that night _mbarked without hesitancy upon such a descent.
Again there was manifest that lure and driving of fatality which had all alon_eemed to direct my course. With torch flashing intermittently to save th_attery, I commenced a mad scramble down the sinister, Cyclopean incline belo_he opening - sometimes facing forward as I found good hand - and foot-holds, and at other times turning to face the heap of megaliths as I clung an_umbled more precariously.
In two directions beside me distant walls of carven, crumbling masonry loome_imly under the direct beams of my torch. Ahead, however, was only unbroke_arkness.
I kept no track of time during my downward scramble. So seething with bafflin_ints and images was my mind that all objective matters seemed withdrawn int_ncalculable distances. Physical sensation was dead, and even fear remained a_ wraith-like, inactive gargoyle leering impotently at me.
Eventually, I reached a level floor strewn with fallen blocks, shapeles_ragments of stone, and sand and detritus of every kind. On either side - perhaps thirty feet apart - rose massive walls culminating in huge groinings.
That they were carved I could just discern, but the nature of the carvings wa_eyond my perception.
What held me the most was the vaulting overhead. The beam from my torch coul_ot reach the roof, but the lower parts of the monstrous arches stood ou_istinctly. And so perfect was their identity with what I had seen i_ountless dreams of the elder world, that I trembled actively for the firs_ime.
Behind and high above, a faint luminous blur told of the distant moonlit worl_utside. Some vague shred of caution warned me that I should not let it out o_y sight, lest I have no guide for my return.
I now advanced toward the wall at my left, where the traces of carving wer_lainest. The littered floor was nearly as hard to traverse as the downwar_eap had been, but I managed to pick my difficult way.
At one place I heaved aside some blocks and locked away the detritus to se_hat the pavement was like, and shuddered at the utter, fateful familiarity o_he great octagonal stones whose buckled surface still held roughly together.
Reaching a convenient distance from the wall, I cast the searchlight slowl_nd carefully over its worn remnants of carving. Some bygone influx of wate_eemed to have acted on the sandstone surface, while there were curiou_ncrustations which I could not explain.
In places the masonry was very loose and distorted, and I wondered how man_eons more this primal, hidden edifice could keep its remaining traces of for_midst earth's heavings.
But it was the carvings themselves that excited me most. Despite their time- crumbled state, they were relatively easy to trace at close range; and th_omplete, intimate familiarity of every detail almost stunned my imagination.
That the major attributes of this hoary masonry should be familiar, was no_eyond normal credibility.
Powerfully impressing the weavers of certain myths, they had become embodie_n a stream of cryptic lore which, somehow, coming to my notice during th_mnesic period, had evoked vivid images in my subconscious mind.
But how could I explain the exact and minute fashion in which each line an_piral of these strange designs tallied with what I had dreamed for more tha_ score of years? What obscure, forgotten iconography could have reproduce_ach subtle shading and nuance which so persistently, exactly, and unvaryingl_esieged my sleeping vision night after night?
For this was no chance or remote resemblance. Definitely and absolutely, th_illennially ancient, aeon-hidden corridor in which I stood was the origina_f something I knew in sleep as intimately as I knew my own house in Cran_treet, Arkham. True, my dreams shewed the place in its undecayed prime; bu_he identity was no less real on that account. I was wholly and horribl_riented.
The particular structure I was in was known to me. Known, too, was its plac_n that terrible elder city of dreams. That I could visit unerringly any poin_n that structure or in that city which had escaped the changes an_evastations of uncounted ages, I realized with hideous and instinctiv_ertainty. What in heaven's name could all this mean? How had I come to kno_hat I knew? And what awful reality could lie behind those antique tales o_he beings who had dwelt in this labyrinth of primordial stone?
Words can convey only fractionally the welter of dread and bewilderment whic_te at my spirit. I knew this place. I knew what lay before me, and what ha_ain overhead before the myriad towering stories had fallen to dust and debri_nd the desert. No need now, I thought with a shudder, to keep that faint blu_f moonlight in view.
I was torn betwixt a longing to flee and a feverish mixture of burnin_uriosity and driving fatality. What had happened to this monstrou_egalopolis of old in the millions of years since the time of my dreams? O_he subterrene mazes which had underlain the city and linked all the tita_owers, how much had still survived the writhings of earth's crust?
Had I come upon a whole buried world of unholy archaism? Could I still fin_he house of the writing master, and the tower where S'gg'ha, the captive min_rom the star-headed vegetable carnivores of Antarctica, had chiselled certai_ictures on the blank spaces of the walls?
Would the passage at the second level down, to the hall of the alien minds, b_till unchoked and traversable? In that hall the captive mind of an incredibl_ntity - a half-plastic denizen of the hollow interior of an unknown trans- Plutonian planet eighteen million years in the future - had kept a certai_hing which it had modelled from clay.
I shut my eyes and put my hand to my head in a vain, pitiful effort to driv_hese insane dream-fragments from my consciousness. Then, for the first time, I felt acutely the coolness, motion, and dampness of the surrounding air.
Shuddering, I realized that a vast chain of aeon-dead black gulfs must indee_e yawning somewhere beyond and below me.
I thought of the frightful chambers and corridors and inclines as I recalle_hem from my dreams. Would the way to the central archives still be open?
Again that driving fatality tugged insistently at my brain as I recalled th_wesome records that once lay cased in those rectangular vaults of rustles_etal.
There, said the dreams and legends, had reposed the whole history, past an_uture, of the cosmic space-time continuum - written by captive minds fro_very orb and every age in the solar system. Madness, of course - but had _ot now stumbled into a nighted world as mad as I?
I thought of the locked metal shelves, and of the curious knob twisting_eeded to open each one. My own came vividly into my consciousness. How ofte_ad I gone through that intricate routine of varied turns and pressures in th_errestrial vertebrate section on the lowest level! Every detail was fresh an_amiliar.
If there were such a vault as I had dreamed of, I could open it in a moment.
It was then that madness took me utterly. An instant later, and I was leapin_nd stumbling over the rocky debris toward the well-remembered incline to th_epths below.