The Visitor (31) 

The Visitor (31)

The Story of Lovecraft, Uncle Howard

I met him, encountered his fell, fleeting form, as the moon, gibbous and unquenchable, sunk low on the netherlip of the sea. The strand was ablow with the leaves and spray of a dirty night, cascades of litter and spawndrift shuttling across my mishevelled visage and his creeping physiognomy. I peered, questioningly, through the esoteric murk, mumbling at the murder I saw in his half-seen, half-seeing eyes. He drew nearer, a cold, scintillating shaft grasped in his stormy fist, the blade echoing the scum and blind-shimmer of the gibber moon and the handle bejewelled. and bedevilled by the lichen of the litten spraydrift. He raised his arm and the blade loomed large over his leaning shoulder as it sliced through the bitter air towards me and, at that moment, a baying, as of some distant hound, rose from the hinterland behind us, behind those bleak, giantesque silhouettes of trees and things. The deadly doomward movement of his arm suddenly ceased as if the terrible howling had entered his skull and snuffled, nuzzlingly, at the hell in his brain. Wet noses were noisy around and in his imagination, and his eyes dulled in blind paralysis. Nameless claws emerged from his cheeks, pierced, from inside, the fat that folded around the triangle of his inner face and scrabbled uncannily with the nightwind. His whole aspect was crawling with these tiny beaks clamouring for exit from within the skin, and his body staggered from side to side, swaying over the edge of the promenade above the churning seadrag. As I stared in helpless awe, forgetting the burnished blade that now lay dying at his feet, I was oblivious of the scurrying paws behind me, the series of canine eyes that flocked from the dark line of trees and things along the shore coming for that I carried, yearning for the amulet I had stolen from a neighbouring graveyard. Curse be it! I wish I had never seen that tentacular brooch, never cleft the dull sod for its tremulous, wealth-giving power. Before I am torn by the trenchant teeth of countless houndlike monsters, I must tell my terrible tale.

I kept a shop at 246 Ormolu Street, a shop selling valuable bric-a-brac, jewellery, fine art items, antiques etc. It was dark behind the counter, but twinkling around me amid the gentle, rhythmic tick-took of the inlaid clocks was the bijouterie of my existence: embroidered fal-de-lals; bedizened tiaras and mourning rings; half-finished gem-cuttings; river-bled heliotropes; scarlet opals; moonstones; onyx-stones; chrysolites; cats’-eyes; sequinned gewgaws; knick-knacks and so on and so forth. The brown light that managed to struggle through the overhanging buildings of Victorian London and then through the lottoed hatch (sole aperture in the room) above the counter played freckled toiletry with the haphazardly piled bijouterie. My assistant, Bartin, sat mutely beside me in a creaking wicker- basket, his gem-cutter ever chipping end sculpting at the rocks before him. Few words, if any, passed between us for we were unspeakably satisfied with our lot. Our jobs were unutterably and indisputably self-contained.

No customer, or very, very few, ventured through the latch-door, no budding client sounded the ever-mute bell above the door-jamb. No interruption spoiled the polished concentration of our arabesque and baroque scrollwork. No shaft of light from the dirty street entered the chiaroscuro domain.

Then, dissatisfaction seeped mysteriously into our minds, troublous dismay and an inexplicable yearning for an unknown goal. It all started with the insidious, indescribable flapping noise from the shop below our bedroom, As we lay awake we heard butterfly wings scuttering from corner to corner and our stomachs churned the very convolutions that they conveyed. Night by night, our torments increased, our neurosis grew as the touch of wing on wing became louder. We saw the undreamable silhouette of a giant moth at the bedroom window - it hovered there all night, insidious and. Pseudo-communicative. The yearning in the very root of my stomach took form as, night beyond night, the shape shivered in shadow outside the bedroom window. I dreamed of an amulet, a twisty broochpiece, peculiarly entwined and tentaculous, made of onyx, black as agate and ebony, smooth as the finest ormolu or marble. And I knew I had to travel far to obtain it for the shop which, as an exhaustive repository of beautiful stones, must contain this ineffable piece to complete its perfect essence. I knew the very tomb, the very graveyard that contained it and I turned to Bartin, sleeping beside me, to convey this all-important knowledge. But, he slept not! His corpse - that which remained of what used to be a physical presence - was putrid, a couple of huge, sticky, membranous wings folded together between the sheets, his head a sightless proboscis and his heart the space of pus between the scales. He was dead, he had died so that my stomach could receive the message, the ultimate knowledge, and I literally sucked in the fetid aroma of the membranes, kissed the wet proboscis and thanked God for Bartin’s demise. As I curled my tongue between the thighs of the wings, I heard, afar, the baying as of some gigantic hound, he who guarded the sacred amulet (as told by the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred and hinted at by the even more dreaded. Egnisomicon of the insane Despete).

Spade in hand and after many days of irksome travel through the saltmarshes of New England, I stood above the mound that was the grave of the late Orlando Blueman. No crucifix or tombstone ornamented this ghostly patch.

I raised my eyes above and shivered at the sight of the black, twisted trees rustling in the starwind around me. Utter solitude and intangible fear were intrinsic in this almost indefinable rustle - as the cold cut of the sliced moon scintillated, topaz- and gem-like, through the moving branches. My churning stomach almost bristled, twitched and nerved up as I lowered the spade-blade to the ghastly dankness of the sod. As its crimson-lined edge met the very dirt, countless bayings were horrifyingly set up around me and even below me from the very depths of the grave. However, nothing could prevent my frantic digging as the yearning for the cursed amulet was all and ever.

Wedges of earth were snatched from above the tormented tomb. I say tormented for, from within, the faint baying had grown louder and was mixed with the grinding of birdbeaks, the shocking riffling of countless feathers, the champing of canine and birdish jaws and, above all, the frightful, rhythmic tick-took, cook-coo, click-clock of some strange timepiece or welcomer of Spring! Bats flapped annoyingly around my concentrating head … but mere skips of my hand shooed away their droves ... but not before receiving several malicious tweaks in my neck from their goldfishesque mouths.

I neither knew nor cared about that which would greet me when the gravelid was finally lifted. But when my inexorable purpose-reached this important point in my life, there was horror and outrage beyond all I had feared and guessed from the premonitory noises. There was nothing, absolutely, purely nil within the dark cavern that opened before me ... except the yearned-for eel-brooch! This was unutterably horrible for I now knew that the horror was outside, around and, perhaps, over me - not safe within a. fixed space below my looming form. THE HORROR WAS SCATTERED! The birddog clamour was granular and atomic, NOT fixed and fast within my power! The empty space was therefore truly terrible and my utterly butterfly stomach imagined my stoneless shop, my tenantless shop, my blank and never-to-be-filled canvas of well-being.

I pocketed the crazy amulet and ran frantically through the intangible and scattered night ... and I was he I met on some far-off strand!

(written 1974)

to be continued...

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