~Subject: Untitled, by H.P. Lovecraft
~Date: 6 Mar 93 23:00:23 GMT
~Sender: c...@owlnet.rice.edu (James Ulysses Cazamias)
Organization: Rice University
As I pause now to write these words upon tattered parchment, my hands -- the
hands of a trained doctor -- shake, such that my lettering, always small
and crabbed, now winds and twists its way across the page like the track of
some blinded and pain-wracked snake. I, who have performed a great many
amputations and operations in the thick of the Boer War with exceptionally
cool head and brow, now shudder from the most excruciating terror that man
can envision. I cannot explain how my tenuous sanity escaped the horrors
that I am about to relate.
My family and I reside in an isolated but comfortable country estate outside
of Porterstown. There the hills are wooded and roll gently down to pebbled
brooks and moss-trimmed streams. These same hills were once mountains, but
time and fate have conspired to grind them down to mere shadows of their
former glory. The land is old -- I must stress this -- and in places poorly
explored. There are many valleys and dells that to this very day are shunned,
in part because the native inhabitants of these regions would not set foot
in those places of dread, and passed their mute fears on to their more
civilized neighbors. Rough and brutish are the ways of the savage, but wise
are they, in ways beyond the ken of man!
It was late in the evening on Christmas Eve, and my family was just settling
down to a long winter's nap. The snow fell heavily in clumps of whiteness,
and blanketed our house and environs in an even cloak of milky drear. It was
not overly late, but the stillness outside and the seeping, insidious chill
of the New England winters introduced a feeling of nebulous dread into my
home. Edgy, I bade my wife and children to prepare for an early retirement,
to be followed by a visit from none other than Santa. Thus prompted, the
children went to bed. Soon they were sleeping, albeit restlessly.
As my faithful spouse and I prepared for our own retirement, my mind could not
help but return to the curse that the ancient Indian had pronounced upon
Drucker and myself. "You shall fear the day you call Christmas," he hissed,
as we turned him out from Drucker's barn. "Ware the Red Rider!" he called
over his shoulder, disappearing into the late snow flurry. For some reason,
these words had troubled me. My mind harkened back to the tales I had heard,
of Christmas being based originally on a pagan holiday involving human
sacrifice and other unspeakable acts. However, I pride myself upon being a
rational, sensible man; I cast off my doubts and came to bed.
We slept. The house was still -- not the quiet of rest, but the quiet of
death. Not even a mouse stirred in our parlor, ordinarily the site of many
a rodently tryst and squeak-filled cabal. The children slept fitfully, but
their innocent visions of holiday sweets were marred by strange, amorphous
nightmares -- dancing sugar-plums grew menacing, and shapeless forms haunted
their youthful sleep. I....*I*!!....I lay like a block of wood.
Then came the noise.
I do not know what time it was when I awakened, but the moon had risen, sending
ghostly slivers of light through the shutters. All at once came a terrific
racket! I sat upright in my bed! W h a t w a s t h a t n o i s e ?
I sat perfectly still. I felt the cold chill of icewater running through my
veins, and tasted the coppery taste of fear on my tongue. Where did that noise
come from, and what on earth was it? Then I heard it again, and I knew that
it came from above, and was not made by anything on this earth.
It sounded -- I know you will think me insane -- it sounded like hooves on the
rooftop. There was the sound of metal clattering on wood, muffled slightly
by snow, repeated without pattern or apparent cause. I pinched myself, fearing
this to be a troubled vision or dream, and convinced myself I was fully awake.
Summoning up my courage, I ran to the window! I threw up the sash and unbolted
the shutter! And there I saw.......I saw the naked face of terror.
There were *things* on my roof -- things that were bent and twisted, and hurt
to look at. Superficially, they might have looked a bit like reindeer -- O,
how insane you must think me! -- but their warped forms and the devilish
glints in their unearthly eyes spoke of alien, monstrous heritage. These
beasts were tethered in a kind of harness to what I can only call a sleigh --
but no sleigh crafted by human hands! Curves defying the math of Euclid
gaped insanely, challenging the mind to put the full picture together. There
were shapes heaped in the back, but I could not divine their nature. The
worst, though.....the worst was the dreadful driver.
If all the hobgoblins and beasties of the mind have a name, he had it too.
It was like a little man stripped of his soul. It wore a peculiar suit of
garments, stained in blood (or was that a trick of the moon?) It capered and
gamboled obscenely, chittering and gabbling in a tongue forgotten by men in
an age when monstrosities still walked the earth openly. It slavered, and
cackled, and bayed. Then, with an impossible spring, it leapt into the
chimney. Suddenly I thought of the children. Stopping only to fetch my
rifle, I ran for the downstairs.
I must have been in a terrible panic, but my concern for my family overrode
the impulse to cower, to run, to hide. However, some unknown instinct in my
mind -- some holdover from a forgotten era -- urged caution. I tiptoed down
to the parlor and peered around the corner of the doorway instead of rushing
in. I feel that my instincts must have certainly saved my life.
How can I begin to express the horror? The twinkling, malicious blue eyes!
Cheeks like two collosal festering cherries! The mocking, diabolical sneer!
And the presents -- Oh, God, the *presents*!!!
I came to lying on the floor. With great caution, I picked myself up and
entered the parlor. It was deserted, having been left exactly the way it had
been when we last trimmed the tree. Nothing had changed, with one exception:
there was a large blue parcel, neatly wrapped, on the mantelpiece. I did
not want to open it, but something inside me drove me on. I knew that I
must surely look inside, or go mad. My hands trembling, I tugged at the
ribbon and stripped off the paper to reveal.....
.......The head of Matthias Drucker.
- * -
As I sit on the stone floor of this godforsaken sanitarium and scribble these
words by the light of a single, guttering candle, I know that I shall never
escape the consequences of that one, fateful night. I shall never again
sleep without seeing the leering muzzles of the satanic draft-beasts. I
shall never pass through winter without thinking of that Thing in the satin
suit a hundred -- nay! a thousand! -- times. And I shall never, even if I
live a millenia or more years, forget those mocking, sinister words that
assailed my ears as I slipped into a reverie of darkness and insane, fluting
"Merry Christmas to All
And to All a Good Night!"
tis the season to be jolly, f'wagh nglarythotep m'uu la-la.......
Paul Fritschle pfri...@skid.PS.UCI.EDU
(In case he's hungry later...)
>This is a story I saved off the net last Christmas.. hope you enjoy
[story deleted for sake of sanity]
Splendid! Shame that it wasn't available for Martin Gardner to include
in his collection of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" versions.
Phil Kellingley ph...@cindex.demon.co.uk
City Index / University of Brighton Compuserve 100016,2243
"curioser and curioser....."