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Posts tagged “#fiction

By Any Means Necessary

Inspired by The Invisible Man, Universal Pictures 1933

I’d followed him here to a rundown flop house in the South Side of Chicago.  I don’t think I have to tell you, this is not the place I’d like to be after dark.  Then again the life of a private detective is never done.  At least my protégé, Malcolm, was with me.

                The tenement was just what you’d expect.  It was filthy, both of bodily fluid and dirt.  Stains covered the walls and strange ochre blotches littered the staircase.  We ascended to what I hoped was an easy snatch and grab arrest.

                We were after Dr. Jack Griffin.  A man once reported missing, but recently showed his face…well I guess I can’t say that, now can I?  He appeared, but his skin was covered in heavy duty bandages.  He announced himself as he robbed the bank.  Told everyone he was the illustrious Dr. Jack Griffin. 

                The guards chased him to the alleyway, but all they found was a trench coat, some shoes and socks, and a large swath of Ace bandages.

                So how do I know it was Dr. Griffin, you ask?  I took finger prints.  It was a slam dunk match.  I followed the trail here.  Through the years, I’ve found it’s better to sneak up on your prey, so I decided to come at night.  I regret that decision.

                “Keep your eyes peeled.  If you have to shoot, aim for the legs,” I told Malcolm.  I made sure my voice was lower than the creaks of the staircase.  No point in announcing our visit.

                He nodded in response.  Good lad, keeping quiet.

                We reached the room in question.  The door was ajar, so I held my hand out, indicating Malcolm should wait outside.  Be prepared in case Griffin tried to escape by way of the stairs.

                The room was a sight of horrors.  I dared not engage the lamp, because what I saw was enough.  It wasn’t a living space, but a laboratory.  There were cages lining the walls with dead rotting creatures, and the ones who were alive were so emaciated they might as well be dead.  Rats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, you name it.  The smell was unbearable.

                I slowly pressed the hammer back on my .38 special, wincing as it clicked into place.  I moved through the room past lab equipment and what I can only describe as an autopsy table – mid procedure.  I could swear that the temperature in this room was far cooler than it was in the hallway, but there was a notable absence of the monotonous drone of fans. 

                I observed a door with light emanating from behind it.  I creeped over to it, pausing only once when the floorboards creaked beneath me.  I was sweating profusely despite the cool temperature, the moisture ran down my forehead as I reached for the door handle to this door.  I gripped it tightly and took a deep, silent breath. 

                The door was ripped from my hands and swinging open, revealing a stark bedroom.  It had a single bed, upon which was the score from the bank.  I lifted my pistol, bracing it with my off hand, and swung it around the room.  I was sure Griffin opened the door and I was also sure he knew I was here. 

                But the room held nothing but the bed and the cash.

                I took a few steps in, my arms rigid, holding the gun aloft.  I bent at my waist and leading with the gun, peered beneath the bed.  Nothing.  I stood and looked back into the laboratory and saw what I could only describe as a figure running through the room. 

                “Griffin!  Show yourself!”  I yelled.  Sneaking was useless.  He knew we were there.

                I somehow lost him in the room and I was suddenly overcome with horrid nausea.  How could anyone live like this?

                “Get ready to die,” a voice whispered in my ear.  I could feel hot breath on my skin and I broke out in gooseflesh.

                I spun around, nearly firing my gun.  There was nothing.  I must have imagined it.

                “Fool,” That hot whisper assaulted my other ear.

                I twisted again, this time firing.  The bullet went through the wall out into the Chicago air.

                The door to the hallway burst open and I caught a glimpse of Malcolm as his expression turned to surprised horror.  I can’t explain what happened, but it look like he was pulled back, as though he were a vaudevillian actor being pulled off the stage by a hook.  Although, there was no backstage for Malcolm.  He went tumbling backwards down the staircase.  I heard him scream then I heard a crunch followed by silence.  I still could see nothing.

                “Show yourself you coward!”  I screamed.

                Laughter echoed through the room.  I feel that he was there with me and I have no idea how he was able to knock Malcolm down the stairs without me seeing.

                “I must continue my research.”

The whisper was directly behind me.  I felt his fingernails slide through my hair.

                I twisted, flailing blindly with my fists.  More laughter to my right.

                “I thought I was curing cancer.”

He bit my ear lobe.  I screamed and pulled away.  I felt violated.  Something as intimate as a bite.  How had he gotten so close?

                “But this is something so much more.”

                I felt a punch in my stomach.

                “So I must continue my research.”

                I looked down.  It was not a punch.  It was a knife.  I felt a hand cradle me but saw nothing.  I watched as it unlevered itself from my stomach and slammed home again and again into my torso.  The knife was moving of its own volition.  How was this possible?

                “By any means necessary.”

                I could see blood spill down the handle of the blade.  It covered what looked like a hand.  A towel flew up from the table next to my body, as my sight began fading to black.  It wiped the hand, and as the blood soaked the towel, the mystery hand it was wiping evaporated.  It was the last thing I saw.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward pt 1.

Artist Alvin Schwartz from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

“He bore the name Charles Dexter Ward, and was placed under restraint most reluctantly by the grieving father who had watched his aberration grow from a mere eccentricity to a dark mania involving both a possibility of murderous tendencies and a profound and peculiar change in apparent contents of his mind.”

Welcome back to another blind read! It feels like it’s been a long drought since the last time we covered one of Lovecraft’s more popular pieces, and I gotta tell you, I was very excited to jump into this one.

Right from the start we enter into familiar territory. The POV is much more omniscient than much of Lovecraft (the majority of his stories seem to be told from a much more limited 3rd person, and much of that is from the perspective of an unreliable narrator), however the omniscient narrator spends this chapter describing the character of Ward, whom is a young man who has gone down a path that has led him to the strange.

We find that Ward is an inquisitive youth. He’s described as “a scholar and antiquarian”, but at some point (specifically at his last year of Moses Brown School, the feeder school to Brown University) “he suddenly turned from the study of the past to the study of the occult.”

Ward, while doing research into his past, found that one of his ancestors had some connection to the occult. One Joseph Curwen, “who had come from Salem in March of 1692, and about whom a whispered series of highly peculiar and disquieting stories clustered.” It was in this research of his ancestor that Ward began to go down the rabbit hole of the occult.

Whatever he did had strange consequences. It changed, not only his mind and the psychology behind it, but his actual physiology. There is a really fascinating section early on in the story where Lovecraft describes Ward’s “Organic processes”. The entire point of this is to show that Ward had tapped into something that changed him, but the brilliance of this section is that it encompasses the horror of Lovecraft perfectly:

“Respiration and heart action had a baffling lack of symmetry; the voice was lost, so that no sounds above a whisper were possible; digestion was incredibly prolonged and minimised, and neural reactions to standard stimuli bore no relation at all to anything heretofore recorded, either normal or pathological. The skin had a morbid chill and dryness, and the cellular structure of the tissue seemed exaggeratedly coarse and loosely knit.”

This was the most fascinating section to me because when you read the passage, something about what he’s describing feels off. You know that Ward has been effected by something, but as a reader, you are uncertain what it is. You know he’s still human, but you know that whatever he got himself into has done something to him, and it’s that word… something… that creates real fear. This ambiguous description is the cornerstone of Lovecraft’s genius of horror. He pontificates, but doesn’t out and out recount what is truly going on.

It wasn’t that Ward had become some creature (although he could… this is only the first chapter), just that there was something wrong with him. I see this all the time in bad horror, where the author tries too hard for the scare, and in doing so, usually describes the creature or describes in lurid detail what is happening to the character. When we actually get to see something our brain is able to put it in a box, and where that box may not be pleasant, it’s the first step in understanding. Lovecraft’s point is that we can never understand these types of horrors. He lets the reader’s mind do the work for them.

Even the titles elicit this with stories like “The Thing in the Moonlight” or “The Unnamable” prove that he understood what’s truly scary to people is what they don’t know, not what they do know. He describes things that are a little strange to unsettle the reader, but not to outright terrify. Lovecraft wants to do what his creations do, he wants to be that insidious pulling at the back of your unconscious that tells you something isn’t right, even though you don’t understand what that is.

The brilliance of this story is he places Ward into such a realistic place. He goes into great detail describing Providence, RI. So much in fact that there is criticism (actually from Lovecraft himself) that the novel is a “cumbrous, creaking bit of self-conscious antiquarianism” because of the detail he uses in describing Providence. Now, where he sees this as self aggrandizing, I find it a wonderful juxtaposition to the oddity that is Ward. The realism of his illustration of Providence grounds us, which makes the possibility of the unseen horrors corrupting that reality all the more… well… horrible.

Come back next week and read along as we cover chapter 2 “An Antecedent and a Horror” in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward!


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Book

“It was a key – a guide – to certain gateways and transitions of which mystics have dreamed and whispered since the race was young, and which lead to freedoms and discoveries beyond three dimensions and realms of life and matter that we know.”

Welcome back to another blind read! I was excited to read this one because I thought it might have to do with the Necronomicon, but soon found out that the eponymous book was yet another tome of outlandish sorcery – but more on that later.

This fragment starts out with the old Lovecraft standby – the unreliable narrator. This one doesn’t mince words though, our narrator comes right out and says, “wow this is crazy, I don’t even know where I am, or even who I am half the time!”

Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the beginning: “My memories are confused…I am not even certain how I am communicating this message…My identity, too, is bewilderingly cloudy.”

I’ve been debating on where to put this critique, but every other story is pretty jam packed with content, whereas this is a shorter fragment, so I think I’ll talk about this here…

I’m not thrilled about this unreliable narrator that Lovecraft loves to use. It’s fine every once and a while, but when you consistently re-use the same themes, it feels more like bad writing than a trend. I understand it for sure. Lovecraft is trying to set the stage and each unreliable narrator tends to have a different reason for their unreliableness (totally a word). This narrator is confused because of “… that worm riddled book…” he discovered. He delved so deep into it’s mysteries that it has altered his reality so that he’s not sure as to which reality he’s actually in.

The issue this creates is that the story is now forever stuck in the fantasy realm. The wonderful nature of Lovecraft is the creepy realism he develops with his mythology. He takes us to real places with dirty people (literally and figuratively) who are just trying to make a living, and these extraordinary things happen to them. By telling the story by an unreliable narrator it takes away some of the stakes. Could all of this insanity all be in their head? Could they just be lying? Are they under the influence of something like Opium of Peyote? All of these choices are fine for a story or two, but when we start out nearly every story with the narrator saying something along the lines of “I don’t even know where I am right now!” It becomes more about fantasy than horror and the stakes are lowered for the reader. Lovecraft dances this line superbly in most of his works, but it would be a better choice had the narrator understood what was happening, rather than telling us at the beginning of each story that it might not be true.

Just had to get that off my chest, but back to the story…

The narrator finds the old “wormy” book in some old book store and the shop keep is grateful to be rid of it (or is this some ploy? Could the shop keep with his “curious sign with his hand” be in on it?). When the narrator reads it he finds that, as the starting quote says, it is a key; a gateway to other worlds. I thought for sure this was the classic Grimoire I mentioned earlier but, “… the hand of some half-crazed monk, had traced these ominous Latin phrases in unicals of awesome antiquity.” So we know it’s not the Necronomicon because that tome was written by the Mad Arab Alhazred and he’d be writing it in either Arabic or Aramaic, so it must be something else. The first few pages are burned away, so no one really knows what the book is, however there are references to many other things within: “But still I read more – in hidden, forgotten books and scrolls to which my new vision led me…” So we know there is more to Lovecraft’s old forgotten mystery tomes than the Necronomicon and the Pnakotic Manuscripts.

This fragment was written just a few years before Lovecraft died, so who knows what he would have created as he expanded his universe (I’m sure other authors, like Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth did, along with a multitude of others who followed, but I’m not there yet).

We even get a glimpse of some strange square building which terrifies the narrator into giving up his research and becoming a hermit. There’s mention that he has gone back in time, could this strange square building have been a Cthulhu temple in R’lyeh? The narrator doesn’t know, so we wont either.

But that’s all. This one is a fairly contained story, but there isn’t a whole lot to it. It feels like this is actually a character sketch for a future story, or that he was trying to work out what another old tome could be. Who knows? Maybe I’ll read another story during this blind read and come across a book which is a “key” somewhere else! Anyone out there, know which book this story is referencing?

I’ve purposely kept some of the better known Lovecraft stories for last. I wanted to try to get as much experience within the framework of his oeuvre before jumping into larger and more popular stories. To that end, I have just one more fragment to get to, “The Thing in the Moonlight” which will be next week (reading from the beautifully Michael Whelan illustrated Del Rey books), before heading into “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”

Come join me! Lets read along!


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Strange High House in the Mist

Welcome back to another Blind Read! By the looks of things, I will have made it through all of Lovecraft by the end of the year. SO…If you have an author that you’d like to discuss, or have trouble reading let me know! Maybe they can be the next author covered in this series.

At length, being avid for new strange things and held back by neither the Kingsporter’s fear nor the summer boarder’s usual indolence, Olney made a very terrible resolve.”

This story is a connector of the Dreamlands stories. In it we have a house perched on top of a tall cliff, with the only doorway leading out to the abyss of the cliff. Inside the house we have a protector. Someone who spends eternity guarding the world from the other gods and the incursion of the Dreamlands into our reality. We are enabled to see this house because our intrepid adventurer, whom out of curiosity and a lust for life, finds a way up to “The Causeway” and meets this caretaker.

We start the story describing the harbor town of Kingsport. Right from the very first paragraph we are given knowledge that the people of Kingsport know there are strange dealings around them. The feel of the town is one of mysticism. The fantastic nostalgia for a simpler time. A time when older gods ruled the world and people only wanted for basic survival. There was no rat race, but a desire for simplicity and knowledge. This is the core of Lovecraft, both person and writings. He believed in simplicity, and loathed materialism. You can see this starkly in his portrayals of cities like New York, as he yearns to stay in his protected, almost mythical, section of New England.

Thomas Olney, our main character, is new to Kingsport and he hears stories about the house from sailors and an old bearded man in town. He can occasionally catch glimpses of it as well through the thick mists that circle the craggy cliff it sits upon. His curiosity overwhelms him and he decides that the’s going to take the trip up to it. It is a dangerous and arduous journey, but eventually he gets there and finds that the only ingress to the house are the closed windows, and a door that opens out over the cliff. He hears someone approach and hears the door creak open, so he hides beneath the sill of a window, only to be pulled into the house. The man who pulled him into the house is young and bearded and he is reminiscent of the grouchy old man in the village who seems to know about this house.

The bearded man tells stories to Olney; “…and heard how the kings of Atlantis fought with slippery blasphemies that wriggled out of rifts in the oceans floor, and how the pillared and weedy temple of Poseidonis is still glimpsed at midnight by lost ships…”

This is both a reference to R’lyeh, the city where Cthulhu is buried in slumber, and Dagon, one of the pantheon of lesser gods and linked with Poseidon. In other stories there is mention that the god like men of Atlantis fought off the Elder Gods, Cthulhu being one of them. Where they couldn’t defeat them, they buried R’lyeh, the lost city, and trapped Cthulhu within the earth. Dagon is the fish god, and still calls creatures from the sea in a slow effort to gain back control. See The Shadow over Innsmouth.

Olney is also told of older things: “Years of the Titans were recalled, but the host grew timid when he spoke of the dim first age of chaos before the gods or even the Elder Ones were born, and when the other gods came to dance on the peak of Hatheg-Kla in the stony desert near Ulthar, beyond the River Skai.”

There is a lot to unpack there, but basically we have the establishment of what Lovecraft himself called “Yog-Sothothery”, later to be coined “The Cthulhu Mythos” by August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s closest friends and writing partners. The other gods were first; terrible creatures and malevolent in nature. The Elder Ones came later. Creatures like Azathoth. Then later, came the deep ones like Cthulhu. The River Skai also has importance in the Dreamcycle as we see in the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other stories.

Shortly after describing this, something comes to the door of the house. The bearded man hurries and locks the door, then goes around the house and shutters all the windows. It’s a suspenseful scene as he tells Olney to get low and be quiet. “And the bearded man made enigmatical gestures of prayer…“. The bearded man is setting wards against shadows that are gathering in the room, “For there are strange objects in the great abyss, and the seeker of dreams must take care not to stir up or meet the wrong ones.”

All of this information, plus numerous mentions of dreams and dream seekers, leads me to believe that this house is a way point. This house, in between Kingsport and Arkham, is an thin place that connects the dream world to the real world. The keeper, the bearded man, must be careful not to let these ancient horrors through the world. He gives the information to Olney, just like he gave it to The Terrible Old Man (Lovecraft even capitalized this honorarium in the story) so many years before. They get just enough information to be afraid of the house, and potentially keep others away. Olney never goes back, and in fact he loses some of his natural curiosity because of the shock of the experience, and eventually moves away. But still that Strange High House in the Mist stays and guards against the others from transcending into our world.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Horror at Red Hook

But at this time it was all horribly real, and nothing can ever efface the memory of those nighted crypts, those titan arcades, and those half-formed shapes of hell that strode gigantically in silence holding half-eaten things whose still surviving portions screamed for mercy or laughed with madness.”

Wow, what a wild ride this story was. This was probably the scariest and most classic horror of any H.P. Lovecraft that I’ve read up to date.

As the story begins we are introduced to detective Thomas F. Malone who is on extended medical leave for trauma. The first portion of the story describes how he’s living and dealing with this trauma, of which we are still ignorant.

The second portion of the story covers Red Hook. We get a call back to HE, as there is a similar tenement structure our narrator experienced there. This story also takes place in New York, which is absolutely unique for Lovecraft. It does not hold the same atmosphere as much of his work, but from the start of this story the tone has a much darker and sinister feel. The basis in New York gives Lovecraft the ability to explore different themes than the usual fantasy/cosmic horror that he frames in New England.

The third portion of the story is the introduction to Malone’s quarry, Robert Suydam. “Suydam was a lettered recluse of an ancient Dutch family,” and he purchased a space in the run down, twisting alleyways of Red Hook. After a strange trip to Europe, Suydam began to deteriorate. His personal hygiene took a hit, he lost friends, and “When he spoke it was to babble of unlimited powers almost within his grasp, and to repeat with knowing leers such mystical words or names as ‘Sephiroth’, ‘Ashmodai’ and Samael’.” And there it is. We have three demons from the Kabbalah and Christian religions. The text has gone beyond the normal Lovecraft, no longer in the world of the cosmic horror. We are no longer in the dreamlands (though there is a little bit of dream stuff to come), we have now crossed over into religious horror. To me this raised my hackles. I find this subject matter far more terrifying that anything I have yet come by within Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

The fourth section of the story delves into the police work. Trying to uncover just what strange dealings that Suydam has been up to. They raid his home, which is empty, and they come across blasphemous art work and things that Malone simply “did not like”. They also found an inscription:

O friend and companion of night, thou who rejoices in the baying of dogs and spilt blood, who wanderest in the midst of shades among the tombs, who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals, Gorgo, Mormo, thousand-faced moon, look favourably on our sacrifices!

I had no idea what this meant. Though obviously a atmospheric quote, I believed it had deeper meaning. Lovecraft infuses lots of Greek mythology and heritage within his work. There is a certain amount of admiration he obviously felt for the culture and the artwork. He loves the idea of marble structures and busts and even includes some of that iconography in this story as well. So when I came across this quote, it was no surprise to me that it was about Hecate, the Greek Goddess of the underworld, ghosts, and magic. This story was not going to deal with cosmic horror, it was going to deal with something closer to home. It was about Hell.

The next short section of the story tells of a journey Suydam takes across the sea, where he dies. He instructs that his body be conveyed to the bearer of the note provided.

Then we move into the Horror. Malone goes to Red Hook and investigates, noticing a melee. He goes to allay the fight and finds strange sounds and smells while all the participants of the battle flee. Malone suspects something nefarious behind a large door, so he takes a stool and breaks the door open, “whence poured a howling tumult of ice-cold wind with all the stenches of the bottomless pit, and whence reached a sucking force not of earth or heaven, which, coiling sentiently about the paralysed detective, dragged him through the aperture and down unmeasured spaces filled with whispers and wails, and gusts of mocking laughter.

Malone is sucked into Hell. He experiences some truly horrific scenes, perfect for any fan of this type of fiction, and much more evocative than anything I’ve experienced from Lovecraft. We see Suydam giving himself over to a demon, finally getting what he was after, and becoming one with hell.

The final section explains how the mysterious group brought Suydam’s body back to that experience and how Malone could hear that same refrain from some “hag” speaking to young children about Hecate. The knowledge of the fate of Suydam and that whatever devious magic caused it is still alive and well in Red Hook is what truly throws Malone over the edge.

When I think of Lovecraft I don’t generally think “disturbing”, but I have to say that this one was up there. That penultimate chapter covering Malone’s experiences in Hell were truly unsettling.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter

Ignorance is the foundation for Evil.  Ignorance, not in derogatory terms, but in it’s definition; a lack of knowledge, is the cause of the greatest of all issues.

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  Today we’re tackling an introduction to Randolph Carter, in the short vignette, and we’re covering the nature of evil, and how in Lovecraft, it always seems as though a willed ignorance is the cause of much of the horror.

The Statement of Randolph Carter has our titular character telling officials of what happened to his friend Harley Warren.

It seems as though Mr. Warren delved into strange occult books.  He was fascinated with something, and kept digging deeper and deeper.  He searched the world for the book that would tell him what he was looking for, and eventually he found it.  Carter says that many of the books he is looking at are in Arabic, proving that he is looking for some ancient knowledge, but that the book that holds the secrets are in a language that Carter doesn’t understand.

Carter helps Warren carry equipment to a site, but when the open the tomb Warren turns to Carter, with confidence, and tells him that he is to stay there.  That Carter’s sensibilities are too soft to experience what is down in the catacombs of the tomb.

Warren heads down and clicks on a phone, so that he can communicate with Carter.  Warren eventually finds what he’s looking for, but realizes that he’s made a mistake.  Whatever it is that he was looking for is far worse, far more powerful, far more demented, than what he anticipated.  He screams and screams for Carter to run, that it’s too late for Warren to save himself, but Carter could get out.

Carter promises to save Warren, but cant bring himself to go down into the tomb.  Eventually he hears a voice that tells carter “You fool.  Warren is dead!”

I’ll get to the idea of ignorance, but first there is something that has been happening in quite a few Lovecraft stories which had been bothering me; in many of the stories, the narrator of the story passes out from fear before they get a glimpse of the true horror that is coming for them.  Why is it that these Elder creatures and beasts are letting these people live?  They come upon them, helpless, but they always let them go to tell their story.  This is useful for Lovecraft to tell his tales, but is there a thematic reason for this benevolence?

I think there may be more to it.  How else could all these old books like The Necronomicon be written?  The knowledge had to have been obtained for the first time somehow.  Could it be that the Elder Gods allowed some man to write down this knowledge?  Or could it be that they want the knowledge to get out?

There is another possibility…do they have a moral code?  I have always assumed that the Elder Gods have a chaotic nature, but do they not attack people that don’t wish to delve into their secrets?  Do they stop their rampage when they find something helpless?  Are they like the Predator?  An alien creature who is a hunter, who never kills when the prey is helpless?  There seems to be some credence to this theory.

So if the Elder Gods are indeed this way, then why would anyone strive to find their secrets?  Is it just curiosity?  Power?  Which brings me to my next point.  It seems like the cause of much of the issues that begin in Lovecraft, happens when ignorance takes over.

These brash adventurers, who with to go after this forbidden knowledge, are in fact ignorant of what the knowledge they seek really means.  In every story these men find these books and seek their knowledge.  What we infer is that these men see that there is hidden power or knowledge and that’s where they stop.  It is their ignorance of what is actually going on that causes their deaths.

So are the Elder Gods actually evil?  Or are they only trying to stop the ignorant from accessing knowledge (like strange angles that will enable you to travel to another dimension), that they are not ready for?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The White Ship

Welcome back to another Blind Read.  This story is an interesting departure from the normal cannon.  I have read a little about Lovecraft’s religious leanings and understand him to basically be an Atheist, so that’s what makes this story so fascinating to me.

The story follows our nameless narrator who watches a lighthouse.  He sees a mysterious White Ship that sails in over the seas and seems to sail calmly, no matter the state of the ocean.  The narrator eventually walks out over the waters and joins the White Ship.  They sail past the horrible land of Xura “The Land of Pleasures un-attained”, and they continue to follow the “bird of heaven” which takes them to the wonderful Sona-Nyl.  This is a land where everything is beautiful and wonderful and everyone is happy.

The narrator driven by curiosity and tells the crew that he want’s to visit a land he heard of in Sona-Nyl.  The Land of Cathuria.  He convinces them to take him there, and as they sail out of Sona-Nyl, they run into a horrible storm and the ship crashes.  The narrator finds himself back at the lighthouse and finds a mysterious dead bird on the shore and for the rest of his time, he never sees the White Ship again.

This story is obviously about humanity and the afterlife.  We have our narrator who has died, and walks upon the waters to join the crew of the White Ship.  They sail past Hell, because that is not where he belongs, but follow the “bird of heaven” to the actual Heaven.  A place where everyone is content and happy and there is no strife.

But there is a curiosity in Human Nature that drives us for understanding.  I think this hits home more in Lovecraft than many people and I think that’s why he wrote the type of stories that he wrote.

The narrator wants to see this other land, so he coerces the crew to take him, and though they know what will happen, they agree.  They sail away from Sona-Nyl and reject it and he is returned to the real world never to see Sona-Nyl again.

Could this be Lovecraft’s veiled attempt at telling his story of the rejection of religion?  you can gather a glimpse of heaven, but it is sallow and thin.  There is more mystery in the world and to ignore it is to live in ignorance.  So Lovecraft is rejecting heaven to gain a darker understanding of our terrestrial world.

What do you think?

Join me Tomorrow for a Blind Read of “Arthur Jermyn”


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Dagon

Back for another Blind Read.  I am trying to keep honest to the Blind Reads and not do research on the side to gather connections, but if my memory serves me correct, Dagon is one of the lesser gods in the Lovecraft pantheon.  That makes this story very interesting to me because this story could have wide ranging implications for the building of the Mythos (or apparently as Lovecraft called it, Yog-Sothothery.  It was actually August Derleth that coined the phrase Cthulhu Mythos).

The story follows our narrator during WWI, as his ship was taken by a German sea-raider ship.  He escaped them and found his way to a strange, unknown of island in his dinghy.  As he explores the island, he finds a strange monolith with images carved that are humanoid, but fish-like.  They have webbed hands and feet, they have large eyes and large lips, and they are huge, nearly the size of a whale.

As he stands there one of these creatures comes out of the sea and hugs the monolith, then prays to it.

The narrator immediately thinks of Dagon, who is an ancient fish god.

What is provocative about this story is that there have been small connections in the past with figures like Nyarlathotep, which make a connection with our actual world.  The difference, however is that in every previous story I’ve read the characters in the stories are fictional, in a real setting.  This is an actual god that people have worshiped in the past, and here Lovecraft uses the same name and adopts it as his own.  Thus bringing his pantheon into our cultural reality.

There are two different ways to look at the story.  One is that the creature that comes out of the sea is a disciple of Dagon, and the monolith is what it prays to in supplication to Dagon.  This event keeps Dagon as a god, and now we have a race of cthonic creatures, whom live under the sea and live under Dagon’s rule.

The other way to read it (and this is what i believe Lovecraft intended) is that the creature that comes out of the sea IS Dagon.  This is a much more horrific idea.  This means that this creature, which made the narrators mind break (“I think I went mad then”) at the mere sight of it, is actually supplicating to something more than itself.  So this creature which in our real life mythology is considered a god, has a being so much more powerful than it (Cthulhu himself?) that it prays through the form of the monolith.

What do YOU think?

Join me next Tuesday for another blind read of “The White Ship”.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Crawling Chaos

This was a fairly early iteration of Lovecraft’s work, and a clear indication of the direction that he intended to go in the Dream-Cycle.  This is a collaboration, so it is a bit of a stretch from Lovecraft’s other work, and frankly, not nearly as precise and put together.  The language is pulled together with cheap word positioning (“the doomed shack”.  The only reason doomed is used here is to give the story a creepier effect, when in reality, it shouldn’t have been written as a creepy story, but as a cosmic horror story because the whole planet is doomed) and a rambling tone, when on close inspection of Lovecraft’s other works, he tends to have loose meaning and trite verbiage, but it is precise.  Where it isn’t in this story.

Basically we follow the narrator into a cosmic horror dream.  The use of Opium is prevalent, though the narrator says that this experience is neither an Opium dream, nor a fever dream.  He goes on a cosmic journey, meeting gods and leaving the earth, only to find that there is a cosmic event that has destroyed the world.

The plot line is a Lovecraftian story, but what is absent is all the beautiful references, and subtleties.  From the preface of the story Lovecraft thought highly of Winifred Jackson who this story is based on, but I fear that his collaboration with Elizabeth Berkeley sapped the story of it’s needed umph.

Join me tomorrow for a Blind Read through of “The Walls of Eryx”, another collaboration.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Hypnos

Welcome back to the creeping revision of H.P. Lovecraft’s work!  This week I’m delving into Hypnos and it’s duality meaning.

The basic story is that the classic unreliable narrator meets a man who had a god-like face almost as ‘white as the marble of Pentelicus.’  The man had passed out in a train station, and our narrator went to him and when the man opened his eyes the narrator knew ‘he would be thenceforth my only friend.’  They discuss the universe and everything within it, and the narrator sculpts his friend.  Our narrators new friend has a secret desire that he dare not speak of, to rule and go past the barriers of our known world.  They experiment in drugs and try to get into the sleep world (which I can only imagine is a precursor, or even the beginnings of the dream-cycle pantheon).  Then one one of these trips the friend (unnamed…for now), goes past an impassible barrier in the dream world, and comes back terrified and visibly aged.  The two then vow to sleep as little as possible, also with the help of drugs.  They age horribly and they pass their time in big groups and go to as many parties as possible, until one night as they are sleeping something strange happens as a light glows over his friends head and our narrator can see the disembodied face that looks as his friend once did before he went through the impassible barrier.  The police come and gather the narrator and tell him that he has been alone, that all along he has been alone…that there was no friend.  the only evidence is a bust of his friend with the name Hypnos.

There is an emerging theme that I had never known about from hearing about Lovecraft and that is the drugs.  There have been many stories thus far eliciting that the narrators are using drugs to help them get past the barriers and see what is beyond.  One cant help but think of the drug dreams of Irving Welch, and wonder if these are stories of fever dreams.  It would be a provocative theory, though probably an unpopular one, but I would need to read more to see if the thread continues.

The connectors in the story are traced back to Greece.  The narrator is a sculptor and he says he spends his free time sculpting his friend, who has a forehead as white as the marble of Pentelicus…a mountain in Athens known for it’s marble.  Then at the end we find that the friends name was Hypnos, which was the Greek demi-god of sleep.  So we come to a crossroads.  The story is either telling us that the narrator finds this marble bust, and through his drug or fever dream, thinks that the bust opens its eyes and becomes his friend.  Remember that the friend was found asleep in the train station, a place where it would make sense for a bust to be.  Our narrator is lost in the HYPNOtic gaze of the bust, steals it and the drugs bring him through the adventures.  The strange light over his friend at the end, is actually light over the bust and the cracking of the narrators reality.  Remember that the idea was put there by drugs (one can only guess that it was a hallucinogenic), and he then stayed awake with the help of drugs.  Sleep deprivation on top of a psychotic break will only deepen psychosis.

The other option, is that the events of the story are unfolded exactly how they are told, but frankly with the evidence that Lovecraft deposits throughout the story, this is not very likely.  In any case, this was probably my favorite story thus far, right up there with The Tomb and The Tree.

Join me on Thursday this week (08/17) for one of Lovecraft’s Poems “Nathicana”.  and if you want to read along with me I’m reading the Del Rey edition of “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”. ISBN:  0345331052


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: The Cats of Ulthar

This fun little ditty was a page out of Poe.  Thus far this was the most linear and straightforward story, and obviously something that Lovecraft knocked out one dreary evening.  Very little appears of his Mythos cycle, or of his cosmic horror, except for a few sentences in the middle of the story.

Ostensibly this story is about the town of Ulthar, who loves cats.  There is one crotchety old couple that will kill any cat that comes near them in the night, but the town folk are too scared of them to approach or do anything about them, so they continue their nefarious deeds.

Then we have a strange caravan with strange drawings come through the town.  The people are odd and are interested in buying odd things, and there is a young boy names Menes, who’s parents died “in the plague” and he has a cat whom he loves and makes him happy in their absence.

That night the cat that Menes loves so much disappears and the towns folk blame the old man and woman in the cabin in the forest.  Menes prays and meditates in a language the people don’t understand, and many of them feel as though there are strange symbols and creatures in the sky and in the trees, but the narrator says that sometimes “…nature is full of such illusions to impress the imaginative.”

All the cats disappear in town the next day and the old couple is blamed, but then the cats come back, full and lethargic.

The mayor checks on the old couple, only to find two skeletons picked clean.

Here is Lovecrafts genius.  In the first paragraph he states that cats are “the soul of antique Aegyptus…” and that they have vast knowledge beyond our understanding.  The boy in the town was named Menes who was a Pharaoh of Egypt around 5000 BCE.  Here we have the link to the fictional Nyarlathotep from millennia ago, and one can assume that this caravan was indeed a troupe following Nyarlathotep, as Menes calls upon his Old Gods power (which looks very similar to how it looked in the story “Nyarlathotep”).

At this point I assume that all of these stories are told within the same headspace, and not necessarily meant to coalesce, however the more I dig and the more I read, the more it seems as though there is connection.

Join me next week for the next blind read through “Hypnos” as we get deeper in the the mythos of Lovecraft.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep/Ex Oblivione

I bring you two more vignettes of Lovecraft in this weeks Blind Read through.  These two stories seem to be divergent from the cannon as it has been presented, but give an interesting new facet to how the horror in his stories is presented.

In “Nyarlathotep”, we see what I have to think of as a Outer God.  He is called the crawling chaos in the first sentence of the story, and that comes to full fruition at the end.  Nyarlathotep is seemingly a man who came from Egypt.  He is large and dark and mysterious and is described as looking like a Pharaoh.  He holds shows to garner followers, and these shows are filled with strange and marvelous things, which bring people from far and wide to find out what he is going to do next.  There is a underlying malevolence in everything Nyarlathotep does, then eventually (when the greenish light of the moon comes about) these people are led to a location where it becomes apparent that they are being led to slaughter.  Their souls are being consumed by a a large miasma of creeping energy, and where Lovecraft doesn’t tell us that this is indeed Nyarlathotep, it is heavily inferred.  He has transcended his corporeal form to his godlike “creeping chaos” form and consumes his followers for strength.

The starting point of Egypt is interesting, because everything I’ve read thus far has surrounded the cold north, with it’s northern lights and frozen tundras.  Now we get to see the far reaching grasp of the Outer Gods (or Old God, not really sure which he is yet).  Could they, in Lovecraft’s world, be part of the creation of the Pyramids?  Could they have given humans portions of their terrible knowledge, and secretly build these structures to their benefit?  It’s a provocative concept.  I recognize Nyarlathotep’s name, so I look forward to reading more about him (It?) in later stories, as I’m pretty sure this is it’s first iteration.

In “Ex Oblivione”, we catch a decidedly different and much more Poe-like side of Lovecraft.  We come across a narrator who is at the end of his life (I’m assuming disease is a factor here, partially because the narrator is cavalier about his Opiate use), and he hears something call to him, so he goes to see what it possibly is.  He takes his opiates (more than likely Opium or Laudanum, as I’m not sure if Heroin was around yet), and goes into a dream world within the horrible twisted, swampy grove he rests in.  In this dream world he finds a city and within the city he finds a papyrus that tells him to take a drug and that will help him transcend his existence to another world.  He takes this drug and happily leave behind the “daemon world”.

There are elements in this story that correlate to others, and even Nyarlathotep, but to me this is about a man who is in terrible pain from a disease and he begins to take Opiates for the pain.  The Opiates do what opiates do, and eventually alter his perception.  He thinks that he is transcending, but in reality he is overdosing, and riding the wave of drug to his imaginary Oblivion.  Though this is a blind read and I haven’t read other than these stories of Lovecraft, nearly every story that involves the horrors of his Mythos, that Green hazy light is present, floating or permeating from the moon.  It is conspicuously absent form this story, ;leading me to believe that this is a horror story about a tortured soul.

I’ll return with a blind read of “The Cats of Ulthar”, one of his supposedly literary fantasy stories (by his own description).


Blind Read Through, H.P. Lovecraft: Memory/What the Moon Brings

These two are merely vignettes, minute glimpses into the world that Lovecraft was in the process of creating; the strange and the cosmic.

“Memory” is a look forward and “What the Moon Brings” is a naval gaze of the apocalypse.  Both are no more than 2 pages a piece, but both are full of meaning.

In Memory we are shown a shambles of a world.  Ruins that are over run and the only inhabitants are apes.  Two gods are having a discussion, and where one cant remember the past, asks the other “Daemon” about the beings who built the original ruins.  The Daemon says that he is Memory and what he remembers is that they were insignificant and their deeds were forgotten as soon as they were preformed.  They built the ruins and their name was Man.

The meaning behind the vignette is that, far in the future, the deeds and actions of humans are forgotten and the only thing that remains is earth.  The gods themselves look over everything, but they forget as well, which makes them insignificant as well.  The ultimate god, the ultimate truth is the earth.  The land holds the longest memory and will outlive and outlast all.

What the Moon Brings flows into a similar vein.  The narrator tells of their own death.  He (due to Lovecraft’s sexism and racism, I assume that every narrator is a white man) describes what he can see from the light of the moon.  The moon (a otherworldly being in and of itself that is the origin of many of Lovecraft’s creatures) shows the death of civilization through the reflection of the lake.  He can also see creatures in the water.  He decides at the end to go and join them, because he knows that the moon will continue to come and continue to bring the visions of what is coming.  In his despair he walks into the waters and either drowns himself or lets the creatures have him.

It is intimated that he is the last of the population and is giving in to despair, as he gazes at the reflection of the “dead, dripping city”.  The book I’m reading through (Del Rey 1971 ISBN: 0345331052) should have put them in reverse order, because What the Moon Brings, shows the decline and fall of civilization and Memory shows the aftermath.

What the Moon Brings is much less deep, but by far the creepiest of the stories thus far, because it is more direct (with the exception of The Tomb).  Both a lot of fun, but I still feel as though these stories are merely setting up the mythos that are coming.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, Polaris

This story plays off the classic unreliable narrator that Lovecraft is so famous for.  More of a vignette than an actual story, our narrator tells of a city he sees only from the light of the “Pole Star”, shortly after the green mist of the Northern Lights shone on the ground.  The narrator tells of how there are creatures who have come into the land, “Nightmares” as he calls them, and they threaten the existence of the Lomarians (the narrator never says that he is a Lomarian, but he lives among them and his best of friends “Alos” is the captain of the guard).  Till one night the narrator is in a tower and the Pole Star speaks to him and lulls him to sleep while the danger of these creatures looms near.

This seems to me (though I have not read any of them yet) that this is the introduction to the Dreamlands, though it is toted as a normal “Horror” story.  You have the Cosmic horror elements that were in previous stories (The Green mist of the Northern Lights as was present in The Doom that came to Sarnath), and you have the dreamlike state where the narrator doesn’t know the difference between reality and dream.

What is provocative about this story is that it seems to me as though it is a modern day narrator who is dreaming that he is part of this Lomarian society in ancient times (We know this because the Lomarian’s live in the frozen north, and the narrator speaks of the swamps outside his window in the gloom of the north star).  He gets so sucked into the world, that it seems real to him and he even becomes friends with a personage from the time.

Elements of The Tomb are also present because the narrator is reading an ancient tome called the “Pnakotic manuscripts”, which probably means that there is some possession happening.  The Narrator reads the manuscripts and gets his consciousness transposed into the real Lomarian who fell asleep at the watch as the gods’ minions destroyed the society.  This is why the creatures mock him by telling him that it is not a dream.

Another interesting item of this story is that it takes place in the frozen north.  I always thought Lovecraft took place in Mayan temples of the jungles, but it is turning out to be mainly in the north.  The eponymous “Polar Star” is the North Star, and in the first paragraph the narrator talks about the strange green glow of the Northern Lights.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, The Tomb

This is supposedly the first story written by Lovecraft, and it flows perfectly into his predilection for madness.  The story follows Jervas Dudley, the quintessential unreliable narrator, in his descent into madness.

Jervas states at the beginning of the story that he loves reading ancient tomes; books that no one else ever reads, who’s subject matter is strange and malignant.  He has no social life and he derives much of what he understands about life from these convoluted books.

Then one day he happens upon a tomb.  It is in the location of his neighbor’s (The Hydes) burned down house.  He begins spending much of his time there, hiding out and sleeping in front of the partially ajar, padlocked tomb.

One day a voice from the tomb tells him to go to his attic, where he finds a key to the padlock and enters the tomb.  He spends much of his time there, but at the same time, his father becomes concerned for his mental well being, so he sends a “spy” to watch over him.  Listening in on the conversation, Jervas is confused to hear the spy tell his father that he spends all his time sleeping outside of the tomb, not inside as he knows to be true. He also develops a fear of lightning and storms, which is what destroyed the Hyde’s mansion in the first place.

Then while in the tomb he attends a party held by the Hyde’s and everyone seems so realistic and the mansion is back to its former glory, that is until Jervas’ Father and the spy grab him.  In the struggle lightning started to flash and it exposed a box on the ground with the initials J.H. and inside was a statue of a young man with an uncanny resemblance to Jervas.

The story ends with one of the servants, supposedly going into the tomb and finding a coffin with the name Jervas on it.

This can be read in two different ways.  The first is that the narrator, who is confined to a madhouse, has pushed his brain into thinking about the strange dealings of the netherworld by reading all those tomes instead of interacting with others.  Then his half sleep for weeks on end in front of the tomb, his mind played games with him and he imagined everything.

It is easy to correlate that the Hyde’s were his ancestors, and once the mansion was destroyed the family built a new one close by.  It stands to reason that during that time there was a young man by the name of Jervas Hyde (J.H.) who’s coffin the servant found at the end of the story.  Because of this Jervas Dudley thinks everything is about him, because he has no other basis in reality.

The other way to read it (and the one I quite prefer) is that Jervas found something in the attic, that began to possess him.  It made him desire to be with his ancestors, and the spirit of Jervas Hyde had somehow begun to merge with Jervas Dudley.  They began to see and experience the same things.  One could even conjecture that Jervas’ father knew this was happening, and that is why he was relegated to the asylum.

In either case, it was a fun read, though much shallower than the other Lovecraft I’ve read to date.  This was supposedly in his straight horror days, which people say is uninspired, but it has a beautiful reminiscence to Poe and tales like “The Fall of the House of Usher”.


Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, The Doom That Came to Sarnath

This was the first story from the “Dunsany” period and probably the first iteration of his eventual shift into the Cosmic Horror genre.  Published in 1919 (full of mis-spellings and embellishments), this story tells of the city of Sarnath in the land of Mnar.  Sarnath was built next to a river, near the Ancient City of Ib.  The city of Ib, as we find out from the extremely old and archaic writings on brick walls of another ancient city and parchments, is housed by strange beings, who are green and have a green halo, and bulging eyes and flabby lips.  These beings are mute and supposedly descended through this green mist (which occasionally also surrounds the moon) from the moon to create the city of Ib next to the still green lake.

The primitive warriors of Sarnath decide that they hate the minions of Ib because they are disturbing looking and worship Bokrug, a water lizard.  They kill all the creatures of Ib and push them into the lake.  They destroy the city of Ib, and keep only the green statue of Bokrug.  Soon the high priest of Sarnath (Taran-Ish) dies, with an expression of great horror and writes on the sea-green stone idol of Bokrug the word…DOOM.

The city moves on and goes through decades of prosperity, mining out precious stones and living richly, until one day, during a ceremony commemorating the destruction of Ib, a mist floats down from the moon to the still lake, and green creatures come forth and destroy Sarnath.

Lovecraft is obviously describing Inuit’s when he talks about Sarnath and it’s peoples.  The land of Mnar, has some Norse inclinations as well.  The reason I say this is because the green haze must indicate the Northern Lights, which seem to emanate from the heavens and descend upon earth.  Then at the end of the story Aryan men go to view the ruins of Sarnath (showing Lovecraft’s prejudices, since they were the only people on earth with enough courage to view the ruins), indicating that it is a different location than Europe.

The story attempts to pull its horror from the fear of religion and the bible once again, and I’ll be curious to see if that is indicative of all the Dunsany stories, or if it’s a theme throughout.  The Ultimate story is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Babel themes, mixed in with a little Old Testament, good old, God fearing idol worship.  The people of Sarnath are being punished for their worship of a false god and their love and lust of the material, and then the Ancient Ones come back for retribution with their strange descendants, the creatures of Ib.

Because this is a blind read through and I haven’t read any Lovecraft before I dont know if Bokrug is part of the mythos cycle of Gods, but I would probably argue that it should be at least a lesser god.

For purposes of categorization, Bokrug will be a lesser god, based in Greenland area.  We’ll see if that has any bearing on the future stories.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Tree

I finished this story and my first response was…What was that?  This story is from his Dunsanian period, which I assumed to mean part of a otherworldly mien.  This extremely innocuous, and seemingly disparate narrative focuses on two artists who are commissioned to create a marble sculpture of Tyche, the Grecian Goddess who governed prosperity and fortune of a city.  One of the sculptors, Kalos, dies and asks to be buried with two olive branches by his head.  The other sculptor, Musides, is his best friend and complies.  Musides continues working on the sculpture, and eventually finishes as a tree grows from the grave site of Kalos.  The tree looks like a man. When the Grecians come to get the sculpture and give accolades to Musides, they find the house destroyed, the tree’s roots grown into the house and no sign of the sculpture or Musides.  The narrator tells us that in the boughs of the olive grove one can still hear whispers that say “I know, I know.”

That’s the story.  In it’s entirety.  It took me about an hour of rumination to come up with what it truly means.

In the first paragraph the narrator tells us that the grove is thought of as belonging to Pan, the Greek god of mischief.  Which would make sense since strange happenings go on there.  Then at the end of the paragraph, he tells us that he hears a different story.  This is where the Dunsany influence comes in, and why the story is truly Lovecraftian.

Kalos is said to speak to the creatures of the forest, in his Olive grove, and when he dies he asks for two olive branches to be put by his head.  Lovecraft was atheistic, but religion seeped into his writings because he thought that was the ultimate horror.  So the two olive branches indicate knowledge of the Gods and creation of a church. The creation of the Church was the tree that looked like a man, and the olive branches next to his head meant that Kalos was given the knowledge of the Gods as the branches grew through his head.  However it was thought that the god of the grove was Pan, but we are told that was not correct.  Kalos was given sight of the Great Old Ones.

Musides goes to finish his creation there, but in reality he comes to the realization of Kalos, because of the whispering of the tree.  The Great Old Ones are upset with his creation of a “graven image of another deity” in Tyche, so they destroy the house.

The whispering of “I know, I know” is not a comfort of one spirit of a friend to another, as I originally thought (I mean come on, this is Lovecraft, after all), but of knowledge.  Kalos is whispering to the world of the horrible knowledge of the Elder Gods he gained by communion in the olive grove.  The tree is Kalos ascended with that knowledge and he whispers in torment in his jail that is a tree in the shape of a man.

“I know, I know”