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"The Statement of Randolph Carter" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1919, it was first published in The Vagrant, May 1920. It tells of a traumatic event in the life of Randolph Carter, a student of the occult loosely representing Lovecraft himself. It is the first story in which Carter appears and is part of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle.


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The Story

Again I say, I do not know what has become of Harley Warren, though

I think--almost hope--that he is in peaceful oblivion, if

there be anywhere so blessed a thing. It is true that I have for five

years been his closest friend, and a partial sharer of his terrible

researches into the unknown. I will not deny, though my memory

is uncertain and indistinct, that this witness of yours may have

seen us together as he says, on the Gainsville pike, walking toward

Big Cypress Swamp, at half past 11 on that awful night. That we

bore electric lanterns, spades, and a curious coil of wire with

attached instruments, I will even affirm; for these things all played

a part in the single hideous scene which remains burned into my

shaken recollection. But of what followed, and of the reason I was

found alone and dazed on the edge of the swamp next morning, I

must insist that I know nothing save what I have told you over and

over again. You say to me that there is nothing in the swamp or

near it which could form the setting of that frightful episode. I

reply that I knew nothing beyond what I saw. Vision or nightmare

it may have been--vision or nightmare I fervently hope it was--yet

it is all that my mind retains of what took place in those shocking

hours after we left the sight of men. And why Harley Warren did

not return, he or his shade--or some nameless thing I cannot

describe-- alone can tell.

As I have said before, the weird studies of Harley Warren were

well known to me, and to some extent shared by me. Of his vast

collection of strange, rare books on forbidden subjects I have read

all that are written in the languages of which I am master; but

these are few as compared with those in languages I cannot

understand. Most, I believe, are in Arabic; and the fiend-inspired

book which brought on the end--the book which he carried in his

pocket out of the world--was written in characters whose like I

never saw elsewhere. Warren would never tell me just what was in

that book. As to the nature of our studies--must I say again that I

no longer retain full comprehension? It seems to me rather

merciful that I do not, for they were terrible studies, which I

pursued more through reluctant fascination than through actual

inclination. Warren always dominated me, and sometimes I feared

him. I remember how I shuddered at his facial expression on the

night before the awful happening, when he talked so incessantly of

his theory, why certain corpses never decay, but rest firm and fat in

their tombs for a thousand years. But I do not fear him now, for I

suspect that he has known horrors beyond my ken. Now I fear for

him.

Once more I say that I have no clear idea of our object on that

night. Certainly, it had much to do with something in the book

which Warren carried with him--that ancient book in

undecipherable characters which had come to him from India a

month before--but I swear I do not know what it was that we

expected to find. Your witness says he saw us at half past 11 on

the Gainsville pike, headed for Big Cypress Swamp. This is

probably true, but I have no distinct memory of it. The picture

seared into my soul is of one scene only, and the hour must have

been long after midnight; for a waning crescent moon was high in

the vaporous heavens.

The place was an ancient cemetery; so ancient that I trembled at

the manifold signs of immemorial years. It was in a deep, damp

hollow, overgrown with rank grass, moss, and curious creeping

weeds, and filled with a vague stench which my idle fancy

associated absurdly with rotting stone. On every hand were the

signs of neglect and decrepitude, and I seemed haunted by the

notion that Warren and I were the first living creatures to invade a

lethal silence of centuries. Over the valley's rim a wan, waning

crescent moon peered through the noisome vapors that seemed to

emanate from unheard of catacombs, and by its feeble, wavering

beams I could distinguish a repellent array of antique slabs, urns,

cenotaphs, and mausoleum facades; all crumbling, moss-grown,

and moisture-stained, and partly concealed by the gross luxuriance

of the unhealthy vegetation.

My first vivid impression of my own presence in this terrible

necropolis concerns the act of pausing with Warren before a

certain half- obliterated sepulcher and of throwing down some

burdens which we seemed to have been carrying. I now observed

that I had with me an electric lantern and two spades, whilst my

companion was supplied with a similar lantern and a portable

telephone outfit. No word was uttered, for the spot and the task

seemed known to us; and without delay we seized our spades and

commenced to clear away the grass, weeds, and drifted earth from

the flat, archaic mortuary. After uncovering the entire surface,

which consisted of three immense granite slabs, we stepped back

some distance to survey the charnel scene; and Warren appeared to

make some mental calculations. Then he returned to the sepulcher,

and using his spade as a lever, sought to pry up the slab lying

nearest to a stony ruin which may have been a monument in its

day. He did not succeed, and motioned to me to come to his

assistance. Finally our combined strength loosened the stone,

which we raised and tipped to one side.

The removal of the slab revealed a black aperture, from which

rushed an effluence of miasmal gases so nauseous that we started

back in horror. After an interval, however, we approached the pit

again, and found the exhalations less unbearable. Our lanterns

disclosed the top of a flight of stone steps, dripping with some

detestable ichor of the inner earth, and bordered by moist walls

encrusted with niter. And now for the first time my memory

records verbal discourse, Warren addressing me at length in his

mellow tenor voice; a voice singularly unperturbed by our

awesome surroundings.

"I'm sorry to have to ask you to stay on the surface," he said, "but it

would be a crime to let anyone with your frail nerves go down

there. You can't imagine, even from what you have read and from

what I've told you, the things I shall have to see and do. It's

fiendish work, Carter, and I doubt if any man without ironclad

sensibilities could ever see it through and come up alive and sane.

I don't wish to offend you, and Heaven knows I'd be glad enough to

have you with me; but the responsibility is in a certain sense mine,

and I couldn't drag a bundle of nerves like you down to probable

death or madness. I tell you, you can't imagine what the thing is

really like! But I promise to keep you informed over the telephone

of every move--you see I've enough wire here to reach to the center

of the earth and back!"

I can still hear, in memory, those coolly spoken words; and I can

still remember my remonstrances. I seemed desperately anxious to

accompany my friend into those sepulchral depths, yet he proved

inflexibly obdurate. At one time he threatened to abandon the

expedition if I remained insistent; a threat which proved effective,

since he alone held the key to the thing. All this I can still

remember, though I no longer know what manner of thing we

sought. After he had obtained my reluctant acquiescence in his

design, Warren picked up the reel of wire and adjusted the

instruments. At his nod I took one of the latter and seated myself

upon an aged, discolored gravestone close by the newly uncovered

aperture. Then he shook my hand, shouldered the coil of wire, and

disappeared within that indescribable ossuary.

For a minute I kept sight of the glow of his lantern, and heard the

rustle of the wire as he laid it down after him; but the glow soon

disappeared abruptly, as if a turn in the stone staircase had been

encountered, and the sound died away almost as quickly. I was

alone, yet bound to the unknown depths by those magic strands

whose insulated surface lay green beneath the struggling beams of

that waning crescent moon.

I constantly consulted my watch by the light of my electric lantern,

and listened with feverish anxiety at the receiver of the telephone;

but for more than a quarter of an hour heard nothing. Then a faint

clicking came from the instrument, and I called down to my friend

in a tense voice. Apprehensive as I was, I was nevertheless

unprepared for the words which came up from that uncanny vault

in accents more alarmed and quivering than any I had heard before

from Harley Warren. He who had so calmly left me a little while

previously, now called from below in a shaky whisper more

portentous than the loudest shriek:

"God! If you could see what I am seeing!"

I could not answer. Speechless, I could only wait. Then came the

frenzied tones again:

"Carter, it's terrible--monstrous--unbelievable!"

This time my voice did not fail me, and I poured into the

transmitter a flood of excited questions. Terrified, I continued to

repeat, "Warren, what is it? What is it?"

Once more came the voice of my friend, still hoarse with fear, and

now apparently tinged with despair:

"I can't tell you, Carter! It's too utterly beyond thought--I dare not

tell you--no man could know it and live--Great God! I never

dreamed of this!"

Stillness again, save for my now incoherent torrent of shuddering

inquiry. Then the voice of Warren in a pitch of wilder

consternation:

"Carter! for the love of God, put back the slab and get out of this if

you can! Quick!--leave everything else and make for the

outside--it's your only chance! Do as I say, and don't ask me to

explain!"

I heard, yet was able only to repeat my frantic questions. Around

me were the tombs and the darkness and the shadows; below me,

some peril beyond the radius of the human imagination. But my

friend was in greater danger than I, and through my fear I felt a

vague resentment that he should deem me capable of deserting

him under such circumstances. More clicking, and after a pause a

piteous cry from Warren:

"Beat it! For God's sake, put back the slab and beat it, Carter!"

Something in the boyish slang of my evidently stricken companion

unleashed my faculties. I formed and shouted a resolution,

"Warren, brace up! I'm coming down!" But at this offer the tone of

my auditor changed to a scream of utter despair:

"Don't! You can't understand! It's too late--and my own fault. Put

back the slab and run--there's nothing else you or anyone can do

now!"

The tone changed again, this time acquiring a softer quality, as of

hopeless resignation. Yet it remained tense through anxiety for me.

"Quick--before it's too late!"

I tried not to heed him; tried to break through the paralysis which

held me, and to fulfil my vow to rush down to his aid. But his next

whisper found me still held inert in the chains of stark horror.

"Carter--hurry! It's no use--you must go--better one than two--the

slab--"

A pause, more clicking, then the faint voice of Warren:

"Nearly over now--don't make it harder--cover up those damned

steps and run for your life--you're losing time--so long,

Carter--won't see you again."

Here Warren's whisper swelled into a cry; a cry that gradually rose

to a shriek fraught with all the horror of the ages--

"Curse these hellish things--legions--My God! Beat it! Beat it!

BEAT IT!"

After that was silence. I know not how many interminable eons I

sat stupefied; whispering, muttering, calling, screaming into that

telephone. Over and over again through those eons I whispered and

muttered, called, shouted, and screamed, "Warren! Warren!

Answer me--are you there?"

And then there came to me the crowning horror of all--the

unbelievable, unthinkable, almost unmentionable thing. I have said

that eons seemed to elapse after Warren shrieked forth his last

despairing warning, and that only my own cries now broke the

hideous silence. But after a while there was a further clicking in

the receiver, and I strained my ears to listen. Again I called down,

"Warren, are you there?" and in answer heard the thing which has

brought this cloud over my mind. I do not try, gentlemen, to

account for that thing--that voice--nor can I venture to describe it

in detail, since the first words took away my consciousness and

created a mental blank which reaches to the time of my awakening

in the hospital. Shall I say that the voice was deep; hollow;

gelatinous; remote; unearthly; inhuman; disembodied? What shall

I say? It was the end of my experience, and is the end of my story.

I heard it, and knew no more--heard it as I sat petrified in that

unknown cemetery in the hollow, amidst the crumbling stones and

the falling tombs, the rank vegetation and the miasmal vapors--

heard it well up from the innermost depths of that damnable open

sepulcher as I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance

beneath an accursed waning moon.

And this is what it said:

"You fool, Warren is DEAD!"

Nov. 18, 2014, 10:44 a.m. 0 Report Embed 0
The End

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