Through the Gates of the Silver Key, by H.P. Lovecraft

Chapter Seven

In that bizarre room in New Orleans, from which the old black servant had instinctively fled, the odd voice of Swami Chandraputra grew hoarser still.

“Gentlemen,” he continued, “I will not ask you to believe these things until I have shown you special proof. Accept it, then, as a myth, when I tell you of the thousands of light-years — thousands of years of time, and uncounted billions of miles that Randolph Carter hurtled through space as a nameless, alien entity in a thin envelope of electron-activated metal. He timed his period of suspended animation with utmost care, planning to have it end only a few years before the time of landing on the Earth in or near 1928.

“He will never forget that awakening. Remember, gentlemen, that before that eon-long sleep he had lived consciously for thousands of terrestrial years amidst the alien and horrible wonders of Yaddith. There was a hideous gnawing of cold, a cessation of menacing dreams, and a glance through the eye-plates of the envelope. Stars, clusters, nebulae, on every hand — and at last their outline bore some kinship to the constellations of Earth that he knew.

“Some day his descent into the solar system may be told. He saw Kynath and Yuggoth on the rim, passed close to Neptune and glimpsed the hellish white fungi that spot it, learned an untellable secret from the close-glimpsed mists of Jupiter, and saw the horror on one of the satellites, and gazed at the cyclopean ruins that sprawl over Mars’ ruddy disc. When the Earth drew near he saw it as a thin crescent which swelled alarmingly in size. He slackened speed, though his sensations of homecoming made him wish to lose not a moment. I will not try to tell you of these sensations as I learned them from Carter.

“Well, toward the last Carter hovered about in the Earth’s upper air waiting till daylight came over the Western Hemisphere. He wanted to land where he had left — near the Snake Den in the hills behind Arkham. If any of you have been away from home long — and I know one of you has — I leave it to you how the sight of New England’s rolling hills and great elms and gnarled orchards and ancient stone walls must have affected him.

“He came down at dawn in the lower meadow of the old Carter place, and was thankful for the silence and solitude. It was autumn, as when he had left, and the smell of the hills was balm to his soul. He managed to drag the metal envelope up the slope of the timber lot into the Snake Den, though it would not go through the weed-choked fissure to the inner cave. It was there also that he covered his alien body with the human clothing and waxen mask which would be necessary. He kept the envelope here for over a year, till certain circumstances made a new hiding-place necessary.

“He walked to Arkham — incidentally practicing the management of his body in human posture and against terrestrial gravity — and had his gold changed to money at a bank. He also made some inquiries — posing as a foreigner ignorant of much English — and found that the year was 1930, only two years after the goal he had aimed at.

“Of course, his position was horrible. Unable to assert his identity, forced to live on guard every moment, with certain difficulties regarding food, and with a need to conserve the alien drug which kept his Zkauba-facet dormant, he felt that he must act as quickly as possible. Going to Boston and taking a room in the decaying West End, where he could live cheaply and inconspicuously, he at once established inquiries concerning Randolph Carter’s estate and effects. It was then that he learned how anxious Mr. Aspinwall, here, was to have the estate divided, and how valiantly Mr. de Marigny and Mr. Phillips strove to keep it intact.”

The Hindoo bowed, though no expression crossed his dark, tranquil, and thickly bearded face.

“Indirectly,” he continued, “Carter secured a good copy of the missing parchment and began working on its deciphering. I am glad to say that I was able to help in all this — for he appealed to me quite early, and through me came in touch with other mystics throughout the world. I went to live with him in Boston — a wretched place in Chambers Street. As for the parchment — I am pleased to help Mr. de Marigny in his perplexity. To him let me say that the language of those hieroglyphics is not Naacal, but R’lyehian, which was brought to Earth by the spawn of Cthulhu countless ages ago. It is, of coarse, a translation — there was an Hyperborean original millions of years earlier in the primal tongue of Tsath-yo.

“There was more to decipher than Carter had looked for, but at no time did he give up hope. Early this year he made great strides through a book he imported from Nepal, and there is no question but that he will win before long. Unfortunately, however, one handicap has developed — the exhaustion of the alien drug which keeps the Zkauba-facet dormant. This is not, however, as great a calamity as was feared. Carter’s personality is gaining in the body, and when Zkauba comes uppermost — for shorter and shorter periods, and now only when evoked by some unusual excitement — he is generally too dazed to undo any of Carter’s work. He can not find the metal envelope that would take him back to Yaddith, for although he almost did, once, Carter hid it anew at a time when the Zkanba-facet was wholly latent. All the harm he has done is to frighten a few people and create certain nightmare rumors among the Poles and Lithuanians of Boston’s West End. So far, he had never injured the careful disguise prepared by the Carter-facet, though he sometimes throws it off so that parts have to be replaced. I have seen what lies beneath — and it is not good to see.

“A month ago Carter saw the advertisement of this meeting, and knew that he must act quickly to save his estate. He could not wait to decipher the parchment and resume his human form. Consequently he deputed me to act for him.

“Gentlemen, I say to you that Randolph Carter is not dead; that he is temporarily in an anomalous condition, but that within two or three months at the outside he will be able to appear in proper form and demand the custody of his estate. I am prepared to offer proof if necessary. Therefore I beg that you will adjourn this meeting for an indefinite period.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lovecraft/hp/gates/chapter7.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49