Randolph Carter's advance through the cyclopean bulk of masonry was like _izzy precipitation through the measureless gulfs between the stars. From _reat distance he felt triumphant, godlike surges of deadly sweetness, an_fter that the rustling of great wings, and impressions of sound like th_hirpings and murmurings of objects unknown on Earth or in the solar system.
Glancing backward, he saw not one gate alone but a multiplicity of gates, a_ome of which clamoured Forms he strove not to remember.
And then, suddenly, he felt a greater terror than that which any of the Form_ould give - a terror from which he could not flee because it was connecte_ith himself. Even the First Gateway had taken something of stability fro_im, leaving him uncertain about his bodily form and about his relationship t_he mistily defined objects around him, but it had not disturbed his sense o_nity. He had still been Randolph Carter, a fixed point in the dimensiona_eething. Now, beyond the Ultimate Gateway, he realized in a moment o_onsuming fright that he was not one person, but many persons.
He was in many places at the same time. On Earth, on October 7, 1883, a littl_oy named Randolph Carter was leaving the Snake Den in the hushed evenin_ight and running down the rocky slope, and through the twisted-boughe_rchard toward his Uncle Christopher's house in the hills beyond Arkham; ye_t that same moment, which was also somehow in the earthly year of 1928, _ague shadow not less Randolph Carter was sitting on a pedestal among th_ncient Ones in Earth's transdimensional extension, Here, too, was a thir_andolph Carter, in the unknown and formless cosmic abyss beyond the Ultimat_ate. And elsewhere, in a chaos of scenes whose infinite multiplicity an_onstrous diversity brought him close to the brink of madness, were _imitless confusion of beings which he knew were as much himself as the loca_anifestation now beyond the Ultimate Gate.
There were Carters in settings belonging to every known and suspected age o_arth's history, and to remoter ages of earthly entity transcending knowledge,
suspicion, and credibility; Carters of forms both human and non-human,
vertebrate and invertebrate, conscious and mindless, animal and vegetable. An_ore, there were Carters having nothing in common with earthly life, bu_oving outrageously amidst backgrounds of other planets and systems an_alaxies and cosmic continua; spores of eternal life drifting from world t_orld, universe to universe, yet all equally himself. Some of the glimpse_ecalled dreams - both faint and vivid, single and persistent - which he ha_ad through the long years since he first began to dream; and a few possesse_ haunting, fascinating and almost horrible familiarity which no earthly logi_ould explain.
Faced with this realization, Randolph Carter reeled in the clutch of suprem_orror - horror such as had not been hinted even at the climax of that hideou_ight when two had ventured into an ancient and abhorred necropolis under _aning moon and only one had emerged. No death, no doom, no anguish can arous_he surpassing despair which flows from a loss of identity. Merging wit_othingness is peaceful oblivion; but to be aware of existence and yet to kno_hat one is no longer a definite being distinguished from other beings - tha_ne no longer has a self - that is the nameless summit of agony and dread.
He knew that there had been a Randolph Carter of Boston, yet could not be sur_hether he - the fragment or facet of an entity beyond the Ultimate Gate - ha_een that one or some other. His self had been annihilated; and yet he - i_ndeed there could, in view of that utter nullity of individual existence, b_uch a thing as he - was equally aware of being in some inconceivable way _egion of selves. It was as though his body had been suddenly transformed int_ne of those many-limbed and many-headed effigies sculptured in India_emples, and he contemplated the aggregation in a bewildered attempt t_iscern which was the original and which the additions - if indeed (supremel_onstrous thought!) there were any original as distinguished from othe_mbodiments.
Then, in the midst of these devastating reflections, Carter's beyond-the-gat_ragment was hurled from what had seemed the nadir of horror to black,
clutching pits of a horror still more profound. This time it was largel_xternal - a force of personality which at once confronted and surrounded an_ervaded him, and which in addition to its local presence, seemed also to be _art of himself, and likewise to be co-existent with all time and conterminou_ith all space. There was no visual image, yet the sense of entity and th_wful concept of combined localism and identity and infinity lent a paralyzin_error beyond anything which any Carter-fragment had hitherto deemed capabl_f existing.
In the face of that awful wonder, the quasi-Carter forgot the horror o_estroyed individuality. It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitles_eing and self - not merely a thing of one space-time continuum, but allied t_he ultimate animating essence of existence's whole unbounded sweep - th_ast, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy an_athematics alike. It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of Earth ha_hispered of as Yog-Sothoth, and which has been a deity under other names;
that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which th_aporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable sign - yet i_ flash the Carter-facet realized how slight and fractional all thes_onceptions are.
And now the Being was addressing the Carter-facet in prodigious waves tha_mote and burned and thundered - a concentration of energy that blasted it_ecipient with well-nigh unendurable violence, and that paralleled in a_nearthly rhythm the curious swaying of the Ancient Ones, and the flickerin_f the monstrous lights, in that baffling region beyond the First Gate. It wa_s though suns and worlds and universes had converged upon one point whos_ery position in space they had conspired to annihilate with an impact o_esistless fury. But amidst the greater terror one lesser terror wa_iminished; for the searing waves appeared somehow to isolate the Beyond-the-
Gate Carter from his infinity of duplicates - to restore, as it were, _ertain amount of the illusion of identity. After a time the hearer began t_ranslate the waves into speech-forms known to him, and his sense of horro_nd oppression waned. Fright became pure awe, and what had seeme_lasphemously abnormal seemed now only ineffably majestic.
"Randolph Carter," it seemed to say, "my manifestations on your planet'_xtension, the Ancient Ones, have sent you as one who would lately hav_eturned to small lands of dream which he had lost, yet who with greate_reedom has risen to greater and nobler desires and curiosities. You wished t_ail up golden Oukranos, to search out forgotten ivory cities in orchid-heav_ied, and to reign on the opal throne of Ilek-Vad, whose fabulous towers an_umberless domes rise mighty toward a single red star in a firmament alien t_our Earth and to all matter. Now, with the passing of two Gates, you wis_oftier things. You would not flee like a child from a scene disliked to _ream beloved, but would plunge like a man into that last and inmost o_ecrets which lies behind all scenes and dreams.
"What you wish, I have found good; and I am ready to grant that which I hav_ranted eleven times only to beings of your planet - five times only to thos_ou call men, or those resembling them. I am ready to show you the Ultimat_ystery, to look on which is to blast a feeble spirit. Yet before you gaz_ull at that last and first of secrets you may still wield a free choice, an_eturn if you will through the two Gates with the Veil still unrent before ou_yes."