“Presently I heard a swishing in the sparse grass toward the left, and saw the dark forms of two men looming up in the moonlight.”
Welcome back to a very strange blind read!
This wasn’t really a story and in fact when I researched Lovecraft’s bibliography it isn’t represented at anywhere. As it turns out, this is actually a letter that Lovecraft once sent about a dream he had to a colleague. The letter was then taken and a beginning and end was tacked onto it. It’s curious why someone would do this, because the text doesn’t make sense and doesn’t sound ANYTHING like Lovecraft. Let’s break it down a little. Here’s the opening, obviously not written by Lovecraft:
“Morgan is not a literary man; in fact he cannot speak English with any degree of coherency. That is what makes me wonder about the words he wrote, though others have laughed.
“He was alone the evening it happened. Suddenly an unconquerable urge to write came over him, and taking pen in hand he wrote the following:”
So, so many things wrong here. First of all why name him Morgan? Without any characterization this is just a failed attempt to change something that doesn’t need to be changed. The very next line starts “My name is Howard Phillips.” so there is no reason to adjust it, other than either an attempt to make it their own (which I don’t believe because it’s published in a Lovecraft book), or they wanted it to seem more like a story rather than a letter. It’s an uninspired and useless tactic.
Next “he cannot speak English with any degree of coherency.” What? If you read the following letter, the man writing it obviously has an expert’s grasp of the language; as it’s written far better than this opening salvo. I mean, the writer (I refuse to say author here for this anonymous hack job) tacks on a fragment to end the sentence that makes zero sense in the context!
Then we get into Lovecraft’s actual (letter) writing. This letter is brilliant and terrifying (it might be some of the scariest he’s written), and packs so much into just two pages that I would consider it a must read for any fan (just ignore the two opening paragraphs and the closing paragraph).
The narrator describes finding a strange aged trolley car on a plateau. The narrator goes inside and sees two figures approaching. One screeches and the other goes to all fours and runs around wolf-like. The description of the screamer is terrifying, and now I understand why people say “Silent Hill” is Lovecraftian: “…but because the face of the motorman was a mere white cone tapered to one blood-red-tentacle…”
The scene repeats itself with a feeling of foreboding and anxiety that the dreamer will eventually be caught by this mysterious motorman. The story ends with the ominous, “God! When will I awaken?”
This letter was written in the last few years of Lovecraft’s life, and I wonder if this was almost a cry for help. He created this verdant field of wonder and fear, and one has to wonder if drugs (laudinam or opium) caused some of this nightmare fuel to seep into his head.
Then again what if this was a metaphor? The bestial nature had left him (the conductor was the one who went wolf-like and ran around; ostensibly away. Cone-head was the real nemesis) as the conductor ran off, and he was left being haunted by the strange and otherworldly motorman. I find it interesting that the conductor, the one who was meant to drive the vehicle (or in this case drive the consciousness?) went feral and directionless, whereas the motorman – the one who powers and builds the craft – became the staying force. The motorman whom changed and became something otherworldly. It almost feels like this is Lovecraft’s ID and this letter is the realization that maybe there is something off about him internally. Something otherworldly?
Much like many of his narrators he sees this truism and is terrified by it, and we as readers have to wonder… How much time did Lovecraft spend dreaming, and in the end did he succumb and transcend into his own dreamlands?
Join me and read along next week where we’ll cover the first chapter of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward!”
This was such a spectacular escape from the classic Lovecraftian stories. This is a Science Fiction/Horror story, that deals all together with the concepts of despair, fear and claustrophobia. This is also the first story in which the narrator actually dies in the story. There is very little to connect with the cannon in the narrative, but it is totally worth it. The only possible connection would be the main residents of Venus (where the story takes place), which are reptilian creatures with tentacles. These could be a form of a descendant of one of the Elder Gods.
The story follows our narrator, Kenton Stanfield, as he is on a quest to find a crystal on the surface of Venus. He travels through a jungle and eventually gets through it, and in a big open marsh he sees a body with the crystal he is looking for. When he approaches the body he finds an invisible wall. Eventually he finds his way past the wall and gets the crystal from the body, only to find that it wasn’t a wall at all, but an invisible labyrinth.
The rest of the story is a psychological profile in fear, and a brilliant one at that. If you have no interest in Lovecraft, this is the story for you to read, and if you love Lovecraft, then you must devour it!
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).
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.
You must be logged in to post a comment.