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The Mound By H. P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop


It is only within the last few years that most people have stopped thinking of the West

as a new land. I suppose the idea gained ground because our own especial civilisation happens

to be new there; but nowadays explorers are digging beneath the surface and bringing up

whole chapters of life that rose and fell among these plains and mountains before recorded

history began. We think nothing of a Pueblo village 2500 years old, and it hardly jolts

us when archaeologists put the sub-pedregal culture of Mexico back to 17,000 or 18,000

B. C. We hear rumours of still older things, tooof primitive man contemporaneous with

extinct animals and known today only through a few fragmentary bones and artifactsso

that the idea of newness is fading out pretty rapidly. Europeans usually catch the sense

of immemorial ancientness and deep deposits from successive life-streams better than we

do. Only a couple of years ago a British author spoke of Arizona as amoon-dim region,

very lovely in its way, and stark and oldan ancient, lonely land”.

Yet I believe I have a deeper sense of the stupefyingalmost horribleancientness

of the West than any European. It all comes from an incident that happened in 1928; an

incident which Id greatly like to dismiss as three-quarters hallucination, but which

has left such a frightfully firm impression on my memory that I cant put it off very

easily. It was in Oklahoma, where my work as an American Indian ethnologist constantly

takes me and where I had come upon some devilishly strange and disconcerting matters before.

Make no mistakeOklahoma is a lot more than a mere pioneersand promotersfrontier.

There are old, old tribes with old, old memories there; and when the tom-toms beat ceaselessly

over brooding plains in the autumn the spirits of men are brought dangerously close to primal,

whispered things. I am white and Eastern enough myself, but anybody is welcome to know that

the rites of Yig, Father of Snakes, can get a real shudder out of me any day. I have heard

and seen too much to besophisticatedin such matters. And so it is with this incident

of 1928. Id like to laugh it offbut I cant.

I had gone into Oklahoma to track down and correlate one of the many ghost tales which

were current among the white settlers, but which had strong Indian corroboration, andI

felt surean ultimate Indian source. They were very curious, these open-air ghost tales;

and though they sounded flat and prosaic in the mouths of the white people, they had earmarks

of linkage with some of the richest and obscurest phases of native mythology. All of them were

woven around the vast, lonely, artificial-looking mounds in the western part of the state, and

all of them involved apparitions of exceedingly strange aspect and equipment.

The commonest, and among the oldest, became quite famous in 1892, when a government marshal

named John Willis went into the mound region after horse-thieves and came out with a wild

yarn of nocturnal cavalry horses in the air between great armies of invisible spectresbattles

that involved the rush of hooves and feet, the thud of blows, the clank of metal on metal,

the muffled cries of warriors, and the fall of human and equine bodies. These things happened

by moonlight, and frightened his horse as well as himself. The sounds persisted an hour

at a time; vivid, but subdued as if brought from a distance by a wind, and unaccompanied

by any glimpse of the armies themselves. Later on Willis learned that the seat of the sounds

was a notoriously haunted spot, shunned by settlers and Indians alike. Many had seen,

or half seen, the warring horsemen in the sky, and had furnished dim, ambiguous descriptions.

The settlers described the ghostly fighters as Indians, though of no familiar tribe, and

having the most singular costumes and weapons. They even went so far as to say that they

could not be sure the horses were really horses. The Indians, on the other hand, did not seem

to claim the spectres as kinsfolk. They referred to them asthose people”, “the old

people”, orthey who dwell below”, and appeared to hold them in too great a frightened

veneration to talk much about them. No ethnologist had been able to pin any tale-teller down

to a specific description of the beings, and apparently nobody had ever had a very clear

look at them. The Indians had one or two old proverbs about these phenomena, saying that

men very old, make very big spirit; not so old, not so big; older than all time, then

spirit he so big he near flesh; those old people and spirits they mix upget all the

same”. Now all of this, of course, isold stuff

to an ethnologistof a piece with the persistent legends of rich hidden cities and buried races

which abound among the Pueblo and plains Indians, and which lured Coronado centuries ago on

his vain search for the fabled Quivira. What took me into western Oklahoma was something

far more definite and tangiblea local and distinctive tale which, though really old,

was wholly new to the outside world of research, and which involved the first clear descriptions

of the ghosts which it treated of. There was an added thrill in the fact that it came from

the remote town of Binger, in Caddo County, a place I had long known as the scene of a

very terrible and partly inexplicable occurrence connected with the snake-god myth.

The tale, outwardly, was an extremely naive and simple one, and centred in a huge, lone

mound or small hill that rose above the plain about a third of a mile west of the villagea

mound which some thought a product of Nature, but which others believed to be a burial-place

or ceremonial dais constructed by prehistoric tribes. This mound, the villagers said, was

constantly haunted by two Indian figures which appeared in alternation; an old man who paced

back and forth along the top from dawn till dusk, regardless of the weather and with only

brief intervals of disappearance, and a squaw who took his place at night with a blue-flamed

torch that glimmered quite continuously till morning. When the moon was bright the squaws

peculiar figure could be seen fairly plainly, and over half the villagers agreed that the

apparition was headless. Local opinion was divided as to the motives

and relative ghostliness of the two visions. Some held that the man was not a ghost at

all, but a living Indian who had killed and beheaded a squaw for gold and buried her somewhere

on the mound. According to these theorists he was pacing the eminence through sheer remorse,

bound by the spirit of his victim which took visible shape after dark. But other theorists,

more uniform in their spectral beliefs, held that both man and woman were ghosts; the man

having killed the squaw and himself as well at some very distant period. These and minor

variant versions seemed to have been current ever since the settlement of the Wichita country

in 1889, and were, I was told, sustained to an astonishing degree by still-existing phenomena

which anyone might observe for himself. Not many ghost tales offer such free and open

proof, and I was very eager to see what bizarre wonders might be lurking in this small, obscure

village so far from the beaten path of crowds and from the ruthless searchlight of scientific

knowledge. So, in the late summer of 1928 I took a train for Binger and brooded on strange

mysteries as the cars rattled timidly along their single track through a lonelier and

lonelier landscape. Binger is a modest cluster of frame houses

and stores in the midst of a flat windy region full of clouds of red dust. There are about

500 inhabitants besides the Indians on a neighbouring reservation; the principal occupation seeming

to be agriculture. The soil is decently fertile, and the oil boom has not reached this part

of the state. My train drew in at twilight, and I felt rather lost and uneasycut off

from wholesome and every-day thingsas it puffed away to the southward without me. The

station platform was filled with curious loafers, all of whom seemed eager to direct me when

I asked for the man to whom I had letters of introduction. I was ushered along a commonplace

main street whose rutted surface was red with the sandstone soil of the country, and finally

delivered at the door of my prospective host. Those who had arranged things for me had done

well; for Mr. Compton was a man of high intelligence and local responsibility, while his motherwho

lived with him and was familiarly known asGrandma Compton”—was one of the first

pioneer generation, and a veritable mine of anecdote and folklore.

That evening the Comptons summed up for me all the legends current among the villagers,

proving that the phenomenon I had come to study was indeed a baffling and important

one. The ghosts, it seems, were accepted almost as a matter of course by everyone in Binger.

Two generations had been born and grown up within sight of that queer, lone tumulus and

its restless figures. The neighbourhood of the mound was naturally feared and shunned,

so that the village and the farms had not spread toward it in all four decades of settlement;

yet venturesome individuals had several times visited it. Some had come back to report that

they saw no ghosts at all when they neared the dreaded hill; that somehow the lone sentinel

had stepped out of sight before they reached the spot, leaving them free to climb the steep

slope and explore the flat summit. There was nothing up there, they saidmerely a rough

expanse of underbrush. Where the Indian watcher could have vanished to, they had no idea.

He must, they reflected, have descended the slope and somehow managed to escape unseen

along the plain; although there was no convenient cover within sight. At any rate, there did

not appear to be any opening into the mound; a conclusion which was reached after considerable

exploration of the shrubbery and tall grass on all sides. In a few cases some of the more

sensitive searchers declared that they felt a sort of invisible restraining presence;

but they could describe nothing more definite than that. It was simply as if the air thickened

against them in the direction they wished to move. It is needless to mention that all

these daring surveys were conducted by day. Nothing in the universe could have induced

any human being, white or red, to approach that sinister elevation after dark; and indeed,

no Indian would have thought of going near it even in the brightest sunlight.

But it was not from the tales of these sane, observant seekers that the chief terror of

the ghost-mound sprang; indeed, had their experience been typical, the phenomenon would

have bulked far less prominently in the local legendry. The most evil thing was the fact

that many other seekers had come back strangely impaired in mind and body, or had not come

back at all. The first of these cases had occurred in 1891, when a young man named Heaton

had gone with a shovel to see what hidden secrets he could unearth. He had heard curious

tales from the Indians, and had laughed at the barren report of another youth who had

been out to the mound and had found nothing. Heaton had watched the mound with a spy glass

from the village while the other youth made his trip; and as the explorer neared the spot,

he saw the sentinel Indian walk deliberately down into the tumulus as if a trap-door and

staircase existed on the top. The other youth had not noticed how the Indian disappeared,

but had merely found him gone upon arriving at the mound.

When Heaton made his own trip he resolved to get to the bottom of the mystery, and watchers

from the village saw him hacking diligently at the shrubbery atop the mound. Then they

saw his figure melt slowly into invisibility; not to reappear for long hours, till after

the dusk drew on, and the torch of the headless squaw glimmered ghoulishly on the distant

elevation. About two hours after nightfall he staggered into the village minus his spade

and other belongings, and burst into a shrieking monologue of disconnected ravings. He howled

of shocking abysses and monsters, of terrible carvings and statues, of inhuman captors and

grotesque tortures, and of other fantastic abnormalities too complex and chimerical even

to remember. “Old! Old! Old!” he would moan over and over again, “great God, they

are older than the earth, and came here from somewhere elsethey know what you think,

and make you know what they thinktheyre half-man, half-ghostcrossed the linemelt

and take shape againgetting more and more so, yet were all descended from them in

the beginningchildren of Tulueverything made of goldmonstrous animals, half-humandead

slavesmadnessIä! Shub-Niggurath!—that white manoh, my God, what they did to him!

. . .” Heaton was the village idiot for about eight

years, after which he died in an epileptic fit. Since his ordeal there had been two more

cases of mound-madness, and eight of total disappearance. Immediately after Heatons

mad return, three desperate and determined men had gone out to the lone hill together;

heavily armed, and with spades and pickaxes. Watching villagers saw the Indian ghost melt

away as the explorers drew near, and afterward saw the men climb the mound and begin scouting

around through the underbrush. All at once they faded into nothingness, and were never

seen again. One watcher, with an especially powerful telescope, thought he saw other forms

dimly materialise beside the hapless men and drag them down into the mound; but this account

remained uncorroborated. It is needless to say that no searching-party went out after

the lost ones, and that for many years the mound was wholly unvisited. Only when the

incidents of 1891 were largely forgotten did anybody dare to think of further explorations.

Then, about 1910, a fellow too young to recall the old horrors made a trip to the shunned

spot and found nothing at all. By 1915 the acute dread and wild legendry

of91 had largely faded into the commonplace and unimaginative ghost-tales at present survivingthat

is, had so faded among the white people. On the nearby reservation were old Indians who

thought much and kept their own counsel. About this time a second wave of active curiosity

and adventuring developed, and several bold searchers made the trip to the mound and returned.

Then came a trip of two Eastern visitors with spades and other apparatusa pair of amateur

archaeologists connected with a small college, who had been making studies among the Indians.

No one watched this trip from the village, but they never came back. The searching-party

that went out after themamong whom was my host Clyde Comptonfound nothing whatsoever

amiss at the mound. The next trip was the solitary venture of

old Capt. Lawton, a grizzled pioneer who had helped to open up the region in 1889, but

who had never been there since. He had recalled the mound and its fascination all through

the years; and being now in comfortable retirement, resolved to have a try at solving the ancient

riddle. Long familiarity with Indian myth had given him ideas rather stranger than those

of the simple villagers, and he had made preparations for some extensive delving. He ascended the

mound on the morning of Thursday, May 11, 1916, watched through spy glasses by more

than twenty people in the village and on the adjacent plain. His disappearance was very

sudden, and occurred as he was hacking at the shrubbery with a brush-cutter. No one

could say more than that he was there one moment and absent the next. For over a week

no tidings of him reached Binger, and thenin the middle of the nightthere dragged itself

into the village the object about which dispute still rages.

It said it wasor had beenCapt. Lawton, but it was definitely younger by as much as

forty years than the old man who had climbed the mound. Its hair was jet black, and its

facenow distorted with nameless frightfree from wrinkles. But it did remind Grandma Compton

most uncannily of the captain as he had looked back in89. Its feet were cut off neatly

at the ankles, and the stumps were smoothly healed to an extent almost incredible if the

being really were the man who had walked upright a week before. It babbled of incomprehensible

things, and kept repeating the nameGeorge Lawton, George E. Lawtonas if trying to

reassure itself of its own identity. The things it babbled of, Grandma Compton thought, were

curiously like the hallucinations of poor young Heaton in91; though there were minor

differences. “The blue light!—the blue light! . . .” muttered the object, “always

down there, before there were any living thingsolder than the dinosaursalways the same, only

weakernever deathbrooding and brooding and broodingthe same people, half-man and

half-gasthe dead that walk and workoh, those beasts, those half-human unicornshouses

and cities of goldold, old, old, older than timecame down from the starsGreat

TuluAzathothNyarlathotepwaiting, waiting. . . .” The object died before dawn.

Of course there was an investigation, and the Indians at the reservation were grilled

unmercifully. But they knew nothing, and had nothing to say. At least, none of them had

anything to say except old Grey Eagle, a Wichita chieftain whose more than a century of age

put him above common fears. He alone deigned to grunt some advice.

You let umlone, white man. No goodthose people. All under here, all under there, them

old ones. Yig, big father of snakes, he there. Yig is Yig. Tiráwa, big father of men, he

there. Tiráwa is Tiráwa. No die. No get old. Just same like air. Just live and wait.

One time they come out here, live and fight. Build um dirt tepee. Bring up goldthey

got plenty. Go off and make new lodges. Me them. You them. Then big waters come. All

change. Nobody come out, let nobody in. Get in, no get out. You let umlone, you have

no bad medicine. Red man know, he no get catch. White man meddle, he no come back. Keepway

little hills. No good. Grey Eagle say this.” If Joe Norton and Rance Wheelock had taken

the old chiefs advice, they would probably be here today; but they didnt. They were

great readers and materialists, and feared nothing in heaven or earth; and they thought

that some Indian fiends had a secret headquarters inside the mound. They had been to the mound

before, and now they went again to avenge old Capt. Lawtonboasting that theyd

do it if they had to tear the mound down altogether. Clyde Compton watched them with a pair of

prism binoculars and saw them round the base of the sinister hill. Evidently they meant

to survey their territory very gradually and minutely. Minutes passed, and they did not

reappear. Nor were they ever seen again. Once more the mound was a thing of panic fright,

and only the excitement of the Great War served to restore it to the farther background of

Binger folklore. It was unvisited from 1916 to 1919, and would have remained so but for

the daredeviltry of some of the youths back from service in France. From 1919 to 1920,

however, there was a veritable epidemic of mound-visiting among the prematurely hardened

young veteransan epidemic that waxed as one youth after another returned unhurt and

contemptuous. By 1920so short is human memorythe mound was almost a joke; and

the tame story of the murdered squaw began to displace darker whispers on everybodys

tongues. Then two reckless young brothersthe especially unimaginative and hard-boiled Clay

boysdecided to go and dig up the buried squaw and the gold for which the old Indian

had murdered her. They went out on a September afternoonabout

the time the Indian tom-toms begin their incessant annual beating over the flat, red-dusty plains.

Nobody watched them, and their parents did not become worried at their non-return for

several hours. Then came an alarm and a searching-party, and another resignation to the mystery of

silence and doubt. But one of them came back after all. It was

Ed, the elder, and his straw-coloured hair and beard had turned an albino white for two

inches from the roots. On his forehead was a queer scar like a branded hieroglyph. Three

months after he and his brother Walker had vanished he skulked into his house at night,

wearing nothing but a queerly patterned blanket which he thrust into the fire as soon as he

had got into a suit of his own clothes. He told his parents that he and Walker had been

captured by some strange Indiansnot Wichitas or Caddosand held prisoners somewhere toward

the west. Walker had died under torture, but he himself had managed to escape at a high

cost. The experience had been particularly terrible, and he could not talk about it just

then. He must restand anyway, it would do no good to give an alarm and try to find

and punish the Indians. They were not of a sort that could be caught or punished, and

it was especially important for the good of Bingerfor the good of the worldthat

they be not pursued into their secret lair. As a matter of fact, they were not altogether

what one could call real Indianshe would explain about that later. Meanwhile he must

rest. Better not to rouse the village with the news of his returnhe would go upstairs

and sleep. Before he climbed the rickety flight to his room he took a pad and pencil from

the living-room table, and an automatic pistol from his fathers desk drawer.

Three hours later the shot rang out. Ed Clay had put a bullet neatly through his temples

with a pistol clutched in his left hand, leaving a sparsely written sheet of paper on the rickety

table near his bed. He had, it later appeared from the whittled pencil-stub and stove full

of charred paper, originally written much more; but had finally decided not to tell

what he knew beyond vague hints. The surviving fragment was only a mad warning scrawled in

a curiously backhanded scriptthe ravings of a mind obviously deranged by hardshipsand

it read thus; rather surprisingly for the utterance of one who had always been stolid

and matter-of-fact:

For gods sake never go nere that mound it is part of some kind of a world so devilish

and old it cannot be spoke about me and Walker went and was took into the thing just melted

at times and made up agen and the whole world outside is helpless alongside of what they

can dothey what live forever young as they like and you cant tell if they are really

men or just gostesand what they do cant be spoke about and this is only 1 entranceyou

cant tell how big the whole thing isafter what we seen I dont want to live aney more

France was nothing besides thisand see that people always keep away o god they wood

if they see poor walker like he was in the end.

Yrs truely Ed Clay

At the autopsy it was found that all of young Clays organs were transposed from right

to left within his body, as if he had been turned inside out. Whether they had always

been so, no one could say at the time, but it was later learned from army records that

Ed had been perfectly normal when mustered out of the service in May, 1919. Whether there

was a mistake somewhere, or whether some unprecedented metamorphosis had indeed occurred, is still

an unsettled question, as is also the origin of the hieroglyph-like scar on the forehead.

That was the end of the explorations of the mound. In the eight intervening years no one

had been near the place, and few indeed had even cared to level a spy glass at it. From

time to time people continued to glance nervously at the lone hill as it rose starkly from the

plain against the western sky, and to shudder at the small dark speck that paraded by day

and the glimmering will-o’-the-wisp that danced by night. The thing was accepted at

face value as a mystery not to be probed, and by common consent the village shunned

the subject. It was, after all, quite easy to avoid the hill; for space was unlimited

in every direction, and community life always follows beaten trails. The mound side of the

village was simply kept trailless, as if it had been water or swampland or desert. And

it is a curious commentary on the stolidity and imaginative sterility of the human animal

that the whispers with which children and strangers were warned away from the mound

quickly sank once more into the flat tale of a murderous Indian ghost and his squaw

victim. Only the tribesmen on the reservation, and thoughtful old-timers like Grandma Compton,

remembered the overtones of unholy vistas and deep cosmic menace which clustered around

the ravings of those who had come back changed and shattered.

It was very late, and Grandma Compton had long since gone upstairs to bed, when Clyde

finished telling me this. I hardly knew what to think of the frightful puzzle, yet rebelled

at any notion to conflict with sane materialism. What influence had brought madness, or the

impulse of flight and wandering, to so many who had visited the mound? Though vastly impressed,

I was spurred on rather than deterred. Surely I must get to the bottom of this matter, as

well I might if I kept a cool head and an unbroken determination. Compton saw my mood

and shook his head worriedly. Then he motioned me to follow him outdoors.

We stepped from the frame house to the quiet side street or lane, and walked a few paces

in the light of a waning August moon to where the houses were thinner. The half-moon was

still low, and had not blotted many stars from the sky; so that I could see not only

the westering gleams of Altair and Vega, but the mystic shimmering of the Milky Way, as

I looked out over the vast expanse of earth and sky in the direction that Compton pointed.

Then all at once I saw a spark that was not a stara bluish spark that moved and glimmered

against the Milky Way near the horizon, and that seemed in a vague way more evil and malevolent

than anything in the vault above. In another moment it was clear that this spark came from

the top of a long distant rise in the outspread and faintly litten plain; and I turned to

Compton with a question. “Yes,” he answered, “its the blue

ghost-lightand that is the mound. Theres not a night in history that we havent seen

itand not a living soul in Binger that would walk out over that plain toward it.

Its a bad business, young man, and if youre wise youll let it rest where it is. Better

call your search off, son, and tackle some of the other Injun legends around here. Weve

plenty to keep you busy, heaven knows!”


But I was in no mood for advice; and though Compton gave me a pleasant room, I could not

sleep a wink through eagerness for the next morning with its chances to see the daytime

ghost and to question the Indians at the reservation. I meant to go about the whole thing slowly

and thoroughly, equipping myself with all available data both white and red before I

commenced any actual archaeological investigations. I rose and dressed at dawn, and when I heard

others stirring I went downstairs. Compton was building the kitchen fire while his mother

was busy in the pantry. When he saw me he nodded, and after a moment invited me out

into the glamorous young sunlight. I knew where we were going, and as we walked along

the lane I strained my eyes westward over the plains.

There was the moundfar away and very curious in its aspect of artificial regularity. It

must have been from thirty to forty feet high, and all of a hundred yards from north to south

as I looked at it. It was not as wide as that from east to west, Compton said, but had the

contour of a rather thinnish ellipse. He, I knew, had been safely out to it and back

several times. As I looked at the rim silhouetted against the deep blue of the west I tried

to follow its minor irregularities, and became impressed with a sense of something moving

upon it. My pulse mounted a bit feverishly, and I seized quickly on the high-powered binoculars

which Compton had quietly offered me. Focussing them hastily, I saw at first only a tangle

of underbrush on the distant mounds rimand then something stalked into the field.

It was unmistakably a human shape, and I knew at once that I was seeing the daytimeIndian

ghost”. I did not wonder at the description, for surely the tall, lean, darkly robed being

with the filleted black hair and seamed, coppery, expressionless, aquiline face looked more

like an Indian than anything else in my previous experience. And yet my trained ethnologists

eye told me at once that this was no redskin of any sort hitherto known to history, but

a creature of vast racial variation and of a wholly different culture-stream. Modern

Indians are brachycephalicround-headedand you cant find any dolichocephalic or long-headed

skulls except in ancient Pueblo deposits dating back 2500 years or more; yet this mans

long-headedness was so pronounced that I recognised it at once, even at his vast distance and

in the uncertain field of the binoculars. I saw, too, that the pattern of his robe represented

a decorative tradition utterly remote from anything we recognise in southwestern native

art. There were shining metal trappings, likewise, and a short sword or kindred weapon at his

side, all wrought in a fashion wholly alien to anything I had ever heard of.

As he paced back and forth along the top of the mound I followed him for several minutes

with the glass, noting the kinaesthetic quality of his stride and the poised way he carried

his head; and there was borne in upon me the strong, persistent conviction that this man,

whoever or whatever he might be, was certainly not a savage. He was the product of a civilisation,

I felt instinctively, though of what civilisation I could not guess. At length he disappeared

beyond the farther edge of the mound, as if descending the opposite and unseen slope;

and I lowered the glass with a curious mixture of puzzled feelings. Compton was looking quizzically

at me, and I nodded non-committally, “What do you make of that?” he ventured. “This

is what weve seen here in Binger every day of our lives.”

That noon found me at the Indian reservation talking with old Grey Eaglewho, through

some miracle, was still alive; though he must have been close to a hundred and fifty years

old. He was a strange, impressive figurethis stern, fearless leader of his kind who had

talked with outlaws and traders in fringed buckskin and French officials in knee-breeches

and three-cornered hatsand I was glad to see that, because of my air of deference toward

him, he appeared to like me. His liking, however, took an unfortunately obstructive form as

soon as he learned what I wanted; for all he would do was to warn me against the search

I was about to make. “You good boyyou no bother that hill.

Bad medicine. Plenty devil under therecatchum when you dig. No dig, no hurt. Go and dig,

no come back. Just same when me boy, just same when my father and he father boy. All

time buck he walk in day, squaw with no head she walk in night. All time since white man

with tin coats they come from sunset and below big riverlong way backthree, four times

more back than Grey Eagletwo times more back than Frenchmenall same after then.

More back than that, nobody go near little hills nor deep valleys with stone caves. Still

more back, those old ones no hide, come out and make villages. Bring plenty gold. Me them.

You them. Then big waters come. All change. Nobody come out, let nobody in. Get in, no

get out. They no dieno get old like Grey Eagle with valleys in face and snow on head.

Just same like airsome man, some spirit. Bad medicine. Sometimes at night spirit come

out on half-manhalf-horse-with-horn and fight where men once fight. Keepway them

place. No good. You good boygoway and let them old oneslone.”

That was all I could get out of the ancient chief, and the rest of the Indians would say

nothing at all. But if I was troubled, Grey Eagle was clearly more so; for he obviously

felt a real regret at the thought of my invading the region he feared so abjectly. As I turned

to leave the reservation he stopped me for a final ceremonial farewell, and once more

tried to get my promise to abandon my search. When he saw that he could not, he produced

something half-timidly from a buckskin pouch he wore, and extended it toward me very solemnly.

It was a worn but finely minted metal disc about two inches in diameter, oddly figured

and perforated, and suspended from a leathern cord.

You no promise, then Grey Eagle no can tell what get you. But if anything help um,

this good medicine. Come from my fatherhe get from he fatherhe get from he fatherall

way back, close to Tiráwa, all mens father. My father say, ‘You keepway from those

old ones, keepway from little hills and valleys with stone caves. But if old ones

they come out to get you, then you shew um this medicine. They know. They make him long

way back. They look, then they no do such bad medicine maybe. But no can tell. You keep

way, just same. Them no good. No tell what they do.’”

As he spoke, Grey Eagle was hanging the thing around my neck, and I saw it was a very curious

object indeed. The more I looked at it, the more I marvelled; for not only was its heavy,

darkish, lustrous, and richly mottled substance an absolutely strange metal to me, but what

was left of its design seemed to be of a marvellously artistic and utterly unknown workmanship.

One side, so far as I could see, had borne an exquisitely modelled serpent design; whilst

the other side had depicted a kind of octopus or other tentacled monster. There were some

half-effaced hieroglyphs, too, of a kind which no archaeologist could identify or even place

conjecturally. With Grey Eagles permission I later had expert historians, anthropologists,

geologists, and chemists pass carefully upon the disc, but from them I obtained only a

chorus of bafflement. It defied either classification or analysis. The chemists called it an amalgam

of unknown metallic elements of heavy atomic weight, and one geologist suggested that the

substance must be of meteoric origin, shot from unknown gulfs of interstellar space.

Whether it really saved my life or sanity or existence as a human being I cannot attempt

to say, but Grey Eagle is sure of it. He has it again, now, and I wonder if it has any

connexion with his inordinate age. All his fathers who had it lived far beyond the century

mark, perishing only in battle. Is it possible that Grey Eagle, if kept from accidents, will

never die? But I am ahead of my story. When I returned to the village I tried to

secure more mound-lore, but found only excited gossip and opposition. It was really flattering

to see how solicitous the people were about my safety, but I had to set their almost frantic

remonstrances aside. I shewed them Grey Eagles charm, but none of them had ever heard of

it before, or seen anything even remotely like it. They agreed that it could not be

an Indian relic, and imagined that the old chiefs ancestors must have obtained it

from some trader. When they saw they could not deter me from

my trip, the Binger citizens sadly did what they could to aid my outfitting. Having known

before my arrival the sort of work to be done, I had most of my supplies already with memachete

and trench-knife for shrub-clearing and excavating, electric torches for any underground phase

which might develop, rope, field-glasses, tape-measure, microscope, and incidentals

for emergenciesas much, in fact, as might be comfortably stowed in a convenient handbag.

To this equipment I added only the heavy revolver which the sheriff forced upon me, and the

pick and shovel which I thought might expedite my work.

I decided to carry these latter things slung over my shoulder with a stout cordfor I

soon saw that I could not hope for any helpers or fellow-explorers. The village would watch

me, no doubt, with all its available telescopes and field-glasses; but it would not send any

citizen so much as a yard over the flat plain toward the lone hillock. My start was timed

for early the next morning, and all the rest of that day I was treated with the awed and

uneasy respect which people give to a man about to set out for certain doom.

When morning camea cloudy though not a threatening morningthe whole village turned

out to see me start across the dustblown plain. Binoculars shewed the lone man at his usual

pacing on the mound, and I resolved to keep him in sight as steadily as possible during

my approach. At the last moment a vague sense of dread oppressed me, and I was just weak

and whimsical enough to let Grey Eagles talisman swing on my chest in full view of

any beings or ghosts who might be inclined to heed it. Bidding au revoir to Compton and

his mother, I started off at a brisk stride despite the bag in my left hand and the clanking

pick and shovel strapped to my back; holding my field-glass in my right hand and taking

a glance at the silent pacer from time to time. As I neared the mound I saw the man

very clearly, and fancied I could trace an expression of infinite evil and decadence

on his seamed, hairless features. I was startled, too, to see that his goldenly gleaming weapon-case

bore hieroglyphs very similar to those on the unknown talisman I wore. All the creatures

costume and trappings bespoke exquisite workmanship and cultivation. Then, all too abruptly, I

saw him start down the farther side of the mound and out of sight. When I reached the

place, about ten minutes after I set out, there was no one there.

There is no need of relating how I spent the early part of my search in surveying and circumnavigating

the mound, taking measurements, and stepping back to view the thing from different angles.

It had impressed me tremendously as I approached it, and there seemed to be a kind of latent

menace in its too regular outlines. It was the only elevation of any sort on the wide,

level plain; and I could not doubt for a moment that it was an artificial tumulus. The steep

sides seemed wholly unbroken, and without marks of human tenancy or passage. There were

no signs of a path toward the top; and, burdened as I was, I managed to scramble up only with

considerable difficulty. When I reached the summit I found a roughly level elliptical

plateau about 300 by 50 feet in dimensions; uniformly covered with rank grass and dense

underbrush, and utterly incompatible with the constant presence of a pacing sentinel.

This condition gave me a real shock, for it shewed beyond question that theOld Indian”,

vivid though he seemed, could not be other than a collective hallucination.

I looked about with considerable perplexity and alarm, glancing wistfully back at the

village and the mass of black dots which I knew was the watching crowd. Training my glass

upon them, I saw that they were studying me avidly with their glasses; so to reassure

them I waved my cap in the air with a show of jauntiness which I was far from feeling.

Then, settling to my work I flung down pick, shovel, and bag; taking my machete from the

latter and commencing to clear away underbrush. It was a weary task, and now and then I felt

a curious shiver as some perverse gust of wind arose to hamper my motion with a skill

approaching deliberateness. At times it seemed as if a half-tangible force were pushing me

back as I workedalmost as if the air thickened in front of me, or as if formless hands tugged

at my wrists. My energy seemed used up without producing adequate results, yet for all that

I made some progress. By afternoon I had clearly perceived that,

toward the northern end of the mound, there was a slight bowl-like depression in the root-tangled

earth. While this might mean nothing, it would be a good place to begin when I reached the

digging stage, and I made a mental note of it. At the same time I noticed another and

very peculiar thingnamely, that the Indian talisman swinging from my neck seemed to behave

oddly at a point about seventeen feet southeast of the suggested bowl. Its gyrations were

altered whenever I happened to stoop around that point, and it tugged downward as if attracted

by some magnetism in the soil. The more I noticed this, the more it struck me, till

at length I decided to do a little preliminary digging there without further delay.

As I turned up the soil with my trench-knife I could not help wondering at the relative

thinness of the reddish regional layer. The country as a whole was all red sandstone earth,

but here I found a strange black loam less than a foot down. It was such soil as one

finds in the strange, deep valleys farther west and south, and must surely have been

brought from a considerable distance in the prehistoric age when the mound was reared.

Kneeling and digging, I felt the leathern cord around my neck tugged harder and harder,

as something in the soil seemed to draw the heavy metal talisman more and more. Then I

felt my implements strike a hard surface, and wondered if a rock layer rested beneath.

Prying about with the trench-knife, I found that such was not the case. Instead, to my

intense surprise and feverish interest, I brought up a mould-clogged, heavy object of

cylindrical shapeabout a foot long and four inches in diameterto which my hanging

talisman clove with glue-like tenacity. As I cleared off the black loam my wonder and

tension increased at the bas-reliefs revealed by that process. The whole cylinder, ends

and all, was covered with figures and hieroglyphs; and I saw with growing excitement that these

things were in the same unknown tradition as those on Grey Eagles charm and on the

yellow metal trappings of the ghost I had seen through my binoculars.

Sitting down, I further cleaned the magnetic cylinder against the rough corduroy of my

knickerbockers, and observed that it was made of the same heavy, lustrous unknown metal

as the charmhence, no doubt, the singular attraction. The carvings and chasings were

very strange and very horriblenameless monsters and designs fraught with insidious

eviland all were of the highest finish and craftsmanship. I could not at first make

head or tail of the thing, and handled it aimlessly until I spied a cleavage near one

end. Then I sought eagerly for some mode of opening, discovering at last that the end

simply unscrewed. The cap yielded with difficulty, but at last

it came off, liberating a curious aromatic odour. The sole contents was a bulky roll

of a yellowish, paper-like substance inscribed in greenish characters, and for a second I

had the supreme thrill of fancying that I held a written key to unknown elder worlds

and abysses beyond time. Almost immediately, however, the unrolling of one end shewed that

the manuscript was in Spanishalbeit the formal, pompous Spanish of a long-departed

day. In the golden sunset light I looked at the heading and the opening paragraph, trying

to decipher the wretched and ill-punctuated script of the vanished writer. What manner

of relic was this? Upon what sort of a discovery had I stumbled? The first words set me in

a new fury of excitement and curiosity, for instead of diverting me from my original quest

they startlingly confirmed me in that very effort.

The yellow scroll with the green script began with a bold, identifying caption and a ceremoniously

desperate appeal for belief in incredible revelations to follow:


MUNDO SOTERRÁNEO DE XINAIÁN, A. D. MDXLV En el nombre de la santísima Trinidad, Padre,

Hijo, y Espíritu-Santo, tres personas distintas y un solo. Dios verdadero, y de la santísima



deco está verdadero como sacramento. . . . I paused to reflect on the portentous significance

of what I was reading. “The Narrative of Pánfilo de Zamacona y Nuñez, gentleman,

of Luarca in Asturias, Concerning the Subterranean World of Xinaián, A. D. 1545” . . . Here,

surely, was too much for any mind to absorb all at once. A subterranean worldagain

that persistent idea which filtered through all the Indian tales and through all the utterances

of those who had come back from the mound. And the date1545what could this mean?

In 1540 Coronado and his men had gone north from Mexico into the wilderness, but had they

not turned back in 1542! My eye ran questingly down the opened part of the scroll, and almost

at once seized on the name Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. The writer of this thing, clearly,

was one of Coronados menbut what had he been doing in this remote realm three years

after his party had gone back? I must read further, for another glance told me that what

was now unrolled was merely a summary of Coronados northward march, differing in no essential

way from the account known to history. It was only the waning light which checked

me before I could unroll and read more, and in my impatient bafflement I almost forgot

to be frightened at the onrush of night in this sinister place. Others, however, had

not forgotten the lurking terror, for I heard a loud distant hallooing from a knot of men

who had gathered at the edge of the town. Answering the anxious hail, I restored the

manuscript to its strange cylinderto which the disc around my neck still clung until

I pried it off and packed it and my smaller implements for departure. Leaving the pick

and shovel for the next days work, I took up my handbag, scrambled down the steep side

of the mound, and in another quarter-hour was back in the village explaining and exhibiting

my curious find. As darkness drew on, I glanced back at the mound I had so lately left, and

saw with a shudder that the faint bluish torch of the nocturnal squaw-ghost had begun to

glimmer. It was hard work waiting to get at the bygone

Spaniards narrative; but I knew I must have quiet and leisure for a good translation,

so reluctantly saved the task for the later hours of night. Promising the townsfolk a

clear account of my findings in the morning, and giving them an ample opportunity to examine

the bizarre and provocative cylinder, I accompanied Clyde Compton home and ascended to my room

for the translating process as soon as I possibly could. My host and his mother were intensely

eager to hear the tale, but I thought they had better wait till I could thoroughly absorb

the text myself and give them the gist concisely and unerringly.

Opening my handbag in the light of a single electric bulb, I again took out the cylinder

and noted the instant magnetism which pulled the Indian talisman to its carven surface.

The designs glimmered evilly on the richly lustrous and unknown metal, and I could not

help shivering as I studied the abnormal and blasphemous forms that leered at me with such

exquisite workmanship. I wish now that I had carefully photographed all these designsthough

perhaps it is just as well that I did not. Of one thing I am really glad, and that is

that I could not then identify the squatting octopus-headed thing which dominated most

of the ornate cartouches, and which the manuscript calledTulu”. Recently I have associated

it, and the legends in the manuscript connected with it, with some new-found folklore of monstrous

and unmentioned Cthulhu, a horror which seeped down from the stars while the young earth

was still half-formed; and had I known of the connexion then, I could not have stayed

in the same room with the thing. The secondary motif, a semi-anthropomorphic serpent, I did

quite readily place as a prototype of the Yig, Quetzalcoatl, and Kukulcan conceptions.

Before opening the cylinder I tested its magnetic powers on metals other than that of Grey Eagles

disc, but found that no attraction existed. It was no common magnetism which pervaded

this morbid fragment of unknown worlds and linked it to its kind.

At last I took out the manuscript and began translatingjotting down a synoptic outline

in English as I went, and now and then regretting the absence of a Spanish dictionary when I

came upon some especially obscure or archaic word or construction. There was a sense of

ineffable strangeness in thus being thrown back nearly four centuries in the midst of

my continuous questthrown back to a year when my own forbears were settled, homekeeping

gentlemen of Somerset and Devon under Henry the Eighth, with never a thought of the adventure

that was to take their blood to Virginia and the New World; yet when that new world possessed,

even as now, the same brooding mystery of the mound which formed my present sphere and

horizon. The sense of a throwback was all the stronger because I felt instinctively

that the common problem of the Spaniard and myself was one of such abysmal timelessnessof

such unholy and unearthly eternitythat the scant four hundred years between us bulked

as nothing in comparison. It took no more than a single look at that monstrous and insidious

cylinder to make me realise the dizzying gulfs that yawned between all men of the known earth

and the primal mysteries it represented. Before that gulf Pánfilo de Zamacona and I stood

side by side; just as Aristotle and I, or Cheops and I, might have stood.


Of his youth in Luarca, a small, placid port on the Bay of Biscay, Zamacona told little.

He had been wild, and a younger son, and had come to New Spain in 1532, when only twenty

years old. Sensitively imaginative, he had listened spellbound to the floating rumours

of rich cities and unknown worlds to the northand especially to the tale of the Franciscan friar

Marcos de Niza, who came back from a trip in 1539 with glowing accounts of fabulous

Cíbola and its great walled towns with terraced stone houses. Hearing of Coronados contemplated

expedition in search of these wondersand of the greater wonders whispered to lie beyond

them in the land of buffaloesyoung Zamacona managed to join the picked party of 300, and

started north with the rest in 1540. History knows the story of that expeditionhow

Cíbola was found to be merely the squalid Pueblo village of Zuñi, and how de Niza was

sent back to Mexico in disgrace for his florid exaggerations; how Coronado first saw the

Grand Canyon, and how at Cicuyé, on the Pecos, he heard from the Indian called El Turco of

the rich and mysterious land of Quivira, far to the northeast, where gold, silver, and

buffaloes abounded, and where there flowed a river two leagues wide. Zamacona told briefly

of the winter camp at Tiguex on the Pecos, and of the northward start in April, when

the native guide proved false and led the party astray amidst a land of prairie-dogs,

salt pools, and roving, bison-hunting tribes. When Coronado dismissed his larger force and

made his final forty-two-day march with a very small and select detachment, Zamacona

managed to be included in the advancing party. He spoke of the fertile country and of the

great ravines with trees visible only from the edge of their steep banks; and of how

all the men lived solely on buffalo-meat. And then came mention of the expeditions

farthest limitof the presumable but disappointing land of Quivira with its villages of grass

houses, its brooks and rivers, its good black soil, its plums, nuts, grapes, and mulberries,

and its maize-growing and copper-using Indians. The execution of El Turco, the false native

guide, was casually touched upon, and there was a mention of the cross which Coronado

raised on the bank of a great river in the autumn of 1541a cross bearing the inscription,

Thus far came the great general, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado”.

This supposed Quivira lay at about the fortieth parallel of north latitude, and I see that

quite lately the New York archaeologist Dr. Hodge has identified it with the course of

the Arkansas River through Barton and Rice Counties, Kansas. It is the old home of the

Wichitas, before the Sioux drove them south into what is now Oklahoma, and some of the

grass-house village sites have been found and excavated for artifacts. Coronado did

considerable exploring hereabouts, led hither and thither by the persistent rumours of rich

cities and hidden worlds which floated fearfully around on the Indianstongues. These northerly

natives seemed more afraid and reluctant to talk about the rumoured cities and worlds

than the Mexican Indians had been; yet at the same time seemed as if they could reveal

a good deal more than the Mexicans had they been willing or dared to do so. Their vagueness

exasperated the Spanish leader, and after many disappointing searches he began to be

very severe toward those who brought him stories. Zamacona, more patient than Coronado, found

the tales especially interesting; and learned enough of the local speech to hold long conversations

with a young buck named Charging Buffalo, whose curiosity had led him into much stranger

places than any of his fellow-tribesmen had dared to penetrate.

It was Charging Buffalo who told Zamacona of the queer stone doorways, gates, or cave-mouths

at the bottom of some of those deep, steep, wooded ravines which the party had noticed

on the northward march. These openings, he said, were mostly concealed by shrubbery;

and few had entered them for untold aeons. Those who went to where they led, never returnedor

in a few cases returned mad or curiously maimed. But all this was legend, for nobody was known

to have gone more than a limited distance inside any of them within the memory of the

grandfathers of the oldest living men. Charging Buffalo himself had probably been farther

than anyone else, and he had seen enough to curb both his curiosity and his greed for

the rumoured gold below. Beyond the aperture he had entered there was

a long passage running crazily up and down and round about, and covered with frightful

carvings of monsters and horrors that no man had ever seen. At last, after untold miles

of windings and descents, there was a glow of terrible blue light; and the passage opened

upon a shocking nether world. About this the Indian would say no more, for he had seen

something that had sent him back in haste. But the golden cities must be somewhere down

there, he added, and perhaps a white man with the magic of the thunder-stick might succeed

in getting to them. He would not tell the big chief Coronado what he knew, for Coronado

would not listen to Indian talk any more. Yeshe could shew Zamacona the way if the

white man would leave the party and accept his guidance. But he would not go inside the

opening with the white man. It was bad in there.

The place was about a five daysmarch to the south, near the region of great mounds.

These mounds had something to do with the evil world down therethey were probably

ancient closed-up passages to it, for once the Old Ones below had had colonies on the

surface and had traded with men everywhere, even in the lands that had sunk under the

big waters. It was when those lands had sunk that the Old Ones closed themselves up below

and refused to deal with surface people. The refugees from the sinking places had told

them that the gods of outer earth were against men, and that no men could survive on the

outer earth unless they were daemons in league with the evil gods. That is why they shut

out all surface folk, and did fearful things to any who ventured down where they dwelt.

There had been sentries once at the various openings, but after ages they were no longer

needed. Not many people cared to talk about the hidden Old Ones, and the legends about

them would probably have died out but for certain ghostly reminders of their presence

now and then. It seemed that the infinite ancientness of these creatures had brought

them strangely near to the borderline of spirit, so that their ghostly emanations were more

commonly frequent and vivid. Accordingly the region of the great mounds was often convulsed

with spectral nocturnal battles reflecting those which had been fought in the days before

the openings were closed. The Old Ones themselves were half-ghostindeed,

it was said that they no longer grew old or reproduced their kind, but flickered eternally

in a state between flesh and spirit. The change was not complete, though, for they had to

breathe. It was because the underground world needed air that the openings in the deep valleys

were not blocked up as the mound-openings on the plains had been. These openings, Charging

Buffalo added, were probably based on natural fissures in the earth. It was whispered that

the Old Ones had come down from the stars to the world when it was very young, and had

gone inside to build their cities of solid gold because the surface was not then fit

to live on. They were the ancestors of all men, yet none could guess from what staror

what place beyond the starsthey came. Their hidden cities were still full of gold and

silver, but men had better let them alone unless protected by very strong magic.

They had frightful beasts with a faint strain of human blood, on which they rode, and which

they employed for other purposes. The things, so people hinted, were carnivorous, and like

their masters, preferred human flesh; so that although the Old Ones themselves did not breed,

they had a sort of half-human slave-class which also served to nourish the human and

animal population. This had been very oddly recruited, and was supplemented by a second

slave-class of reanimated corpses. The Old Ones knew how to make a corpse into an automaton

which would last almost indefinitely and perform any sort of work when directed by streams

of thought. Charging Buffalo said that the people had all come to talk by means of thought

only; speech having been found crude and needless, except for religious devotions and emotional

expression, as aeons of discovery and study rolled by. They worshipped Yig, the great

father of serpents, and Tulu, the octopus-headed entity that had brought them down from the

stars; appeasing both of these hideous monstrosities by means of human sacrifices offered up in

a very curious manner which Charging Buffalo did not care to describe.

Zamacona was held spellbound by the Indians tale, and at once resolved to accept his guidance

to the cryptic doorway in the ravine. He did not believe the accounts of strange ways attributed

by legend to the hidden people, for the experiences of the party had been such as to disillusion

one regarding native myths of unknown lands; but he did feel that some sufficiently marvellous

field of riches and adventure must indeed lie beyond the weirdly carved passages in

the earth. At first he thought of persuading Charging Buffalo to tell his story to Coronadooffering

to shield him against any effects of the leaders testy scepticismbut later he decided that

a lone adventure would be better. If he had no aid, he would not have to share anything

he found; but might perhaps become a great discoverer and owner of fabulous riches. Success

would make him a greater figure than Coronado himselfperhaps a greater figure than anyone

else in New Spain, including even the mighty viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza.

On October 7, 1541, at an hour close to midnight, Zamacona stole out of the Spanish camp near

the grass-house village and met Charging Buffalo for the long southward journey. He travelled

as lightly as possible, and did not wear his heavy helmet and breastplate. Of the details

of the trip the manuscript told very little, but Zamacona records his arrival at the great

ravine on October 13th. The descent of the thickly wooded slope took no great time; and

though the Indian had trouble in locating the shrubbery-hidden stone door again amidst

the twilight of that deep gorge, the place was finally found. It was a very small aperture

as doorways go, formed of monolithic sandstone jambs and lintel, and bearing signs of nearly

effaced and now undecipherable carvings. Its height was perhaps seven feet, and its width

not more than four. There were drilled places in the jambs which argued the bygone presence

of a hinged door or gate, but all other traces of such a thing had long since vanished.

At sight of this black gulf Charging Buffalo displayed considerable fear, and threw down

his pack of supplies with signs of haste. He had provided Zamacona with a good stock

of resinous torches and provisions, and had guided him honestly and well; but refused

to share in the venture that lay ahead. Zamacona gave him the trinkets he had kept for such

an occasion, and obtained his promise to return to the region in a month; afterward shewing

the way southward to the Pecos Pueblo villages. A prominent rock on the plain above them was

chosen as a meeting-place; the one arriving first to pitch camp until the other should

arrive. In the manuscript Zamacona expressed a wistful

wonder as to the Indians length of waiting at the rendezvousfor he himself could never

keep that tryst. At the last moment Charging Buffalo tried to dissuade him from his plunge

into the darkness, but soon saw it was futile, and gestured a stoical farewell. Before lighting

his first torch and entering the opening with his ponderous pack, the Spaniard watched the

lean form of the Indian scrambling hastily and rather relievedly upward among the trees.

It was the cutting of his last link with the world; though he did not know that he was

never to see a human beingin the accepted sense of that termagain.

Zamacona felt no immediate premonition of evil upon entering that ominous doorway, though

from the first he was surrounded by a bizarre and unwholesome atmosphere. The passage, slightly

taller and wider than the aperture, was for many yards a level tunnel of Cyclopean masonry,

with heavily worn flagstones under foot, and grotesquely carved granite and sandstone blocks

in sides and ceiling. The carvings must have been loathsome and terrible indeed, to judge

from Zamaconas description; according to which most of them revolved around the monstrous

beings Yig and Tulu. They were unlike anything the adventurer had ever seen before, though

he added that the native architecture of Mexico came closest to them of all things in the

outer world. After some distance the tunnel began to dip abruptly, and irregular natural

rock appeared on all sides. The passage seemed only partly artificial, and decorations were

limited to occasional cartouches with shocking bas-reliefs.

Following an enormous descent, whose steepness at times produced an acute danger of slipping

and tobogganing, the passage became exceedingly uncertain in its direction and variable in

its contour. At times it narrowed almost to a slit or grew so low that stooping and even

crawling were necessary, while at other times it broadened out into sizeable caves or chains

of caves. Very little human construction, it was plain, had gone into this part of the

tunnel; though occasionally a sinister cartouche or hieroglyphic on the wall, or a blocked-up

lateral passageway, would remind Zamacona that this was in truth the aeon-forgotten

high-road to a primal and unbelievable world of living things.

For three days, as best he could reckon, Pánfilo de Zamacona scrambled down, up, along, and

around, but always predominately downward, through this dark region of palaeogean night.

Once in a while he heard some secret being of darkness patter or flap out of his way,

and on just one occasion he half glimpsed a great, bleached thing that set him trembling.

The quality of the air was mostly very tolerable; though foetid zones were now and then met

with, while one great cavern of stalactites and stalagmites afforded a depressing dampness.

This latter, when Charging Buffalo had come upon it, had quite seriously barred the way;

since the limestone deposits of ages had built fresh pillars in the path of the primordial

abyss-denizens. The Indian, however, had broken through these; so that Zamacona did not find

his course impeded. It was an unconscious comfort to him to reflect that someone else

from the outside world had been there beforeand the Indians careful descriptions had removed

the element of surprise and unexpectedness. MoreCharging Buffalos knowledge of the

tunnel had led him to provide so good a torch supply for the journey in and out, that there

would be no danger of becoming stranded in darkness. Zamacona camped twice, building

a fire whose smoke seemed well taken care of by the natural ventilation.

At what he considered the end of the third daythough his cocksure guesswork chronology

is not at any time to be given the easy faith that he gave itZamacona encountered the

prodigious descent and subsequent prodigious climb which Charging Buffalo had described

as the tunnels last phase. As at certain earlier points, marks of artificial improvement

were here discernible; and several times the steep gradient was eased by a flight of rough-hewn

steps. The torch shewed more and more of the monstrous carvings on the walls, and finally

the resinous flare seemed mixed with a fainter and more diffusive light as Zamacona climbed

up and up after the last downward stairway. At length the ascent ceased, and a level passage

of artificial masonry with dark, basaltic blocks led straight ahead. There was no need

for a torch now, for all the air was glowing with a bluish, quasi-electric radiance that

flickered like an aurora. It was the strange light of the inner world that the Indian had

describedand in another moment Zamacona emerged from the tunnel upon a bleak, rocky

hillside which climbed above him to a seething, impenetrable sky of bluish coruscations, and

descended dizzily below him to an apparently illimitable plain shrouded in bluish mist.

He had come to the unknown world at last, and from his manuscript it is clear that he

viewed the formless landscape as proudly and exaltedly as ever his fellow-countryman Balboa

viewed the new-found Pacific from that unforgettable peak in Darien. Charging Buffalo had turned

back at this point, driven by fear of something which he would only describe vaguely and evasively

as a herd of bad cattle, neither horse nor buffalo, but like the things the mound-spirits

rode at nightbut Zamacona could not be deterred by any such trifle. Instead of fear,

a strange sense of glory filled him; for he had imagination enough to know what it meant

to stand alone in an inexplicable nether world whose existence no other white man suspected.

The soil of the great hill that surged upward behind him and spread steeply downward below

him was dark grey, rock-strown, without vegetation, and probably basaltic in origin; with an unearthly

cast which made him feel like an intruder on an alien planet. The vast distant plain,

thousands of feet below, had no features he could distinguish; especially since it appeared

to be largely veiled in a curling, bluish vapour. But more than hill or plain or cloud,

the bluely luminous, coruscating sky impressed the adventurer with a sense of supreme wonder

and mystery. What created this sky within a world he could not tell; though he knew

of the northern lights, and had even seen them once or twice. He concluded that this

subterraneous light was something vaguely akin to the aurora; a view which moderns may

well endorse, though it seems likely that certain phenomena of radio-activity may also

enter in. At Zamaconas back the mouth of the tunnel

he had traversed yawned darkly; defined by a stone doorway very like the one he had entered

in the world above, save that it was of greyish-black basalt instead of red sandstone. There were

hideous sculptures, still in good preservation and perhaps corresponding to those on the

outer portal which time had largely weathered away. The absence of weathering here argued

a dry, temperate climate; indeed, the Spaniard already began to note the delightfully spring-like

stability of temperature which marks the air of the norths interior. On the stone jambs

were works proclaiming the bygone presence of hinges, but of any actual door or gate

no trace remained. Seating himself for rest and thought, Zamacona lightened his pack by

removing an amount of food and torches sufficient to take him back through the tunnel. These

he proceeded to cache at the opening, under a cairn hastily formed of the rock fragments

which everywhere lay around. Then, readjusting his lightened pack, he commenced his descent

toward the distant plain; preparing to invade a region which no living thing of outer earth

had penetrated in a century or more, which no white man had ever penetrated, and from

which, if legend were to be believed, no organic creature had ever returned sane.

Zamacona strode briskly along down the steep, interminable slope; his progress checked at

times by the bad walking that came from loose rock fragments, or by the excessive precipitousness

of the grade. The distance of the mist-shrouded plain must have been enormous, for many hours

walking brought him apparently no closer to it than he had been before. Behind him was

always the great hill stretching upward into a bright aërial sea of bluish coruscations.

Silence was universal; so that his own footsteps, and the fall of stones that he dislodged,

struck on his ears with startling distinctness. It was at what he regarded as about noon that

he first saw the abnormal footprints which set him to thinking of Charging Buffalos

terrible hints, precipitate flight, and strangely abiding terror.

The rock-strown nature of the soil gave few opportunities for tracks of any kind, but

at one point a rather level interval had caused the loose detritus to accumulate in a ridge,

leaving a considerable area of dark-grey loam absolutely bare. Here, in a rambling confusion

indicating a large herd aimlessly wandering, Zamacona found the abnormal prints. It is

to be regretted that he could not describe them more exactly, but the manuscript displayed

far more vague fear than accurate observation. Just what it was that so frightened the Spaniard

can only be inferred from his later hints regarding the beasts. He referred to the prints

asnot hooves, nor hands, nor feet, nor precisely pawsnor so large as to cause

alarm on that account’. Just why or how long ago the things had been there, was not

easy to guess. There was no vegetation visible, hence grazing was out of the question; but

of course if the beasts were carnivorous they might well have been hunting smaller animals,

whose tracks their own would tend to obliterate. Glancing backward from this plateau to the

heights above, Zamacona thought he detected traces of a great winding road which had once

led from the tunnel downward to the plain. One could get the impression of this former

highway only from a broad panoramic view, since a trickle of loose rock fragments had

long ago obscured it; but the adventurer felt none the less certain that it had existed.

It had not, probably, been an elaborately paved trunk route; for the small tunnel it

reached seemed scarcely like a main avenue to the outer world. In choosing a straight

path of descent Zamacona had not followed its curving course, though he must have crossed

it once or twice. With his attention now called to it, he looked ahead to see if he could

trace it downward toward the plain; and this he finally thought he could do. He resolved

to investigate its surface when next he crossed it, and perhaps to pursue its line for the

rest of the way if he could distinguish it. Having resumed his journey, Zamacona came

some time later upon what he thought was a bend of the ancient road. There were signs

of grading and of some primal attempt at rock-surfacing, but not enough was left to make the route

worth following. While rummaging about in the soil with his sword, the Spaniard turned

up something that glittered in the eternal blue daylight, and was thrilled at beholding

a kind of coin or medal of a dark, unknown, lustrous metal, with hideous designs on each

side. It was utterly and bafflingly alien to him, and from his description I have no

doubt but that it was a duplicate of the talisman given me by Grey Eagle almost four centuries

afterward. Pocketing it after a long and curious examination, he strode onward; finally pitching

camp at an hour which he guessed to be the evening of the outer world.

The next day Zamacona rose early and resumed his descent through this blue-litten world

of mist and desolation and preternatural silence. As he advanced, he at last became able to

distinguish a few objects on the distant plain belowtrees, bushes, rocks, and a small

river that came into view from the right and curved forward at a point to the left of his

contemplated course. This river seemed to be spanned by a bridge connected with the

descending roadway, and with care the explorer could trace the route of the road beyond it

in a straight line over the plain. Finally he even thought he could detect towns scattered

along the rectilinear ribbon; towns whose left-hand edges reached the river and sometimes

crossed it. Where such crossings occurred, he saw as he descended, there were always

signs of bridges either ruined or surviving. He was now in the midst of a sparse grassy

vegetation, and saw that below him the growth became thicker and thicker. The road was easier

to define now, since its surface discouraged the grass which the looser soil supported.

Rock fragments were less frequent, and the barren upward vista behind him looked bleak

and forbidding in contrast to his present milieu.

It was on this day that he saw the blurred mass moving over the distant plain. Since

his first sight of the sinister footprints he had met with no more of these, but something

about that slowly and deliberately moving mass peculiarly sickened him. Nothing but

a herd of grazing animals could move just like that, and after seeing the footprints

he did not wish to meet the things which had made them. Still, the moving mass was not

near the roadand his curiosity and greed for fabled gold were great. Besides, who could

really judge things from vague, jumbled footprints or from the panic-twisted hints of an ignorant

Indian? In straining his eyes to view the moving mass

Zamacona became aware of several other interesting things. One was that certain parts of the

now unmistakable towns glittered oddly in the misty blue light. Another was that, besides

the towns, several similarly glittering structures of a more isolated sort were scattered here

and there along the road and over the plain. They seemed to be embowered in clumps of vegetation,

and those off the road had small avenues leading to the highway. No smoke or other signs of

life could be discerned about any of the towns or buildings. Finally Zamacona saw that the

plain was not infinite in extent, though the half-concealing blue mists had hitherto made

it seem so. It was bounded in the remote distance by a range of low hills, toward a gap in which

the river and roadway seemed to lead. All thisespecially the glittering of certain

pinnacles in the townshad become very vivid when Zamacona pitched his second camp amidst

the endless blue day. He likewise noticed the flocks of high-soaring birds, whose nature

he could not clearly make out. The next afternoonto use the language of

the outer world as the manuscript did at all timesZamacona reached the silent plain

and crossed the soundless, slow-running river on a curiously carved and fairly well-preserved

bridge of black basalt. The water was clear, and contained large fishes of a wholly strange

aspect. The roadway was now paved and somewhat overgrown with weeds and creeping vines, and

its course was occasionally outlined by small pillars bearing obscure symbols. On every

side the grassy level extended, with here and there a clump of trees or shrubbery, and

with unidentifiable bluish flowers growing irregularly over the whole area. Now and then

some spasmodic motion of the grass indicated the presence of serpents. In the course of

several hours the traveller reached a grove of old and alien-looking evergreen-trees which

he knew, from distant viewing, protected one of the glittering-roofed isolated structures.

Amidst the encroaching vegetation he saw the hideously sculptured pylons of a stone gateway

leading off the road, and was presently forcing his way through briers above a moss-crusted

tessellated walk lined with huge trees and low monolithic pillars.

At last, in this hushed green twilight, he saw the crumbling and ineffably ancient facade

of the buildinga temple, he had no doubt. It was a mass of nauseous bas-reliefs; depicting

scenes and beings, objects and ceremonies, which could certainly have no place on this

or any sane planet. In hinting of these things Zamacona displays for the first time that

shocked and pious hesitancy which impairs the informative value of the rest of his manuscript.

We cannot help regretting that the Catholic ardour of Renaissance Spain had so thoroughly

permeated his thought and feeling. The door of the place stood wide open, and absolute

darkness filled the windowless interior. Conquering the repulsion which the mural sculptures had

excited, Zamacona took out flint and steel, lighted a resinous torch, pushed aside curtaining

vines, and sallied boldly across the ominous threshold.

For a moment he was quite stupefied by what he saw. It was not the all-covering dust and

cobwebs of immemorial aeons, the fluttering winged things, the shriekingly loathsome sculptures

on the walls, the bizarre form of the many basins and braziers, the sinister pyramidal

altar with the hollow top, or the monstrous, octopus-headed abnormality in some strange,

dark metal leering and squatting broodingly on its hieroglyphed pedestal, which robbed

him of even the power to give a startled cry. It was nothing so unearthly as thisbut

merely the fact that, with the exception of the dust, the cobwebs, the winged things,

and the gigantic emerald-eyed idol, every particle of substance in sight was composed

of pure and evidently solid gold. Even the manuscript, written in retrospect

after Zamacona knew that gold is the most common structural metal of a nether world

containing limitless lodes and veins of it, reflects the frenzied excitement which the

traveller felt upon suddenly finding the real source of all the Indian legends of golden

cities. For a time the power of detailed observation left him, but in the end his faculties were

recalled by a peculiar tugging sensation in the pocket of his doublet. Tracing the feeling,

he realised that the disc of strange metal he had found in the abandoned road was being

attracted strongly by the vast octopus-headed, emerald-eyed idol on the pedestal, which he

now saw to be composed of the same unknown exotic metal. He was later to learn that this

strange magnetic substanceas alien to the inner world as to the outer world of menis

the one precious metal of the blue-lighted abyss. None knows what it is or where it occurs

in Nature, and the amount of it on this planet came down from the stars with the people when

great Tulu, the octopus-headed god, brought them for the first time to this earth. Certainly,

its only known source was a stock of pre-existing artifacts, including multitudes of Cyclopean

idols. It could never be placed or analysed, and even its magnetism was exerted only on

its own kind. It was the supreme ceremonial metal of the hidden people, its use being

regulated by custom in such a way that its magnetic properties might cause no inconvenience.

A very weakly magnetic alloy of it with such base metals as iron, gold, silver, copper,

or zinc, had formed the sole monetary standard of the hidden people at one period of their

history. Zamaconas reflections on the strange idol

and its magnetism were disturbed by a tremendous wave of fear as, for the first time in this

silent world, he heard a rumble of very definite and obviously approaching sound. There was

no mistaking its nature. It was a thunderously charging herd of large animals; and, remembering

the Indians panic, the footprints, and the moving mass distantly seen, the Spaniard

shuddered in terrified anticipation. He did not analyse his position, or the significance

of this onrush of great lumbering beings, but merely responded to an elemental urge

toward self-protection. Charging herds do not stop to find victims in obscure places,

and on the outer earth Zamacona would have felt little or no alarm in such a massive,

grove-girt edifice. Some instinct, however, now bred a deep and peculiar terror in his

soul; and he looked about frantically for any means of safety.

There being no available refuge in the great, gold-patined interior, he felt that he must

close the long-disused door; which still hung on its ancient hinges, doubled back against

the inner wall. Soil, vines, and moss had entered the opening from outside, so that

he had to dig a path for the great gold portal with his sword; but he managed to perform

this work very swiftly under the frightful stimulus of the approaching noise. The hoofbeats

had grown still louder and more menacing by the time he began tugging at the heavy door

itself; and for a while his fears reached a frantic height, as hope of starting the

age-clogged metal grew faint. Then, with a creak, the thing responded to his youthful

strength, and a frenzied siege of pulling and pushing ensued. Amidst the roar of unseen

stampeding feet success came at last, and the ponderous golden door clanged shut, leaving

Zamacona in darkness but for the single lighted torch he had wedged between the pillars of

a basin-tripod. There was a latch, and the frightened man blessed his patron saint that

it was still effective. Sound alone told the fugitive the sequel.

When the roar grew very near it resolved itself into separate footfalls, as if the evergreen

grove had made it necessary for the herd to slacken speed and disperse. But feet continued

to approach, and it became evident that the beasts were advancing among the trees and

circling the hideously carven temple walls. In the curious deliberation of their tread

Zamacona found something very alarming and repulsive, nor did he like the scuffling sounds

which were audible even through the thick stone walls and heavy golden door. Once the

door rattled ominously on its archaic hinges, as if under a heavy impact, but fortunately

it still held. Then, after a seemingly endless interval, he heard retreating steps and realised

that his unknown visitors were leaving. Since the herds did not seem to be very numerous,

it would have perhaps been safe to venture out within a half-hour or less; but Zamacona

took no chances. Opening his pack, he prepared his camp on the golden tiles of the temples

floor, with the great door still securely latched against all comers; drifting eventually

into a sounder sleep than he could have known in the blue-litten spaces outside. He did

not even mind the hellish, octopus-headed bulk of great Tulu, fashioned of unknown metal

and leering with fishy, sea-green eyes, which squatted in the blackness above him on its

monstrously hieroglyphed pedestal. Surrounded by darkness for the first time

since leaving the tunnel, Zamacona slept profoundly and long. He must have more than made up the

sleep he had lost at his two previous camps, when the ceaseless glare of the sky had kept

him awake despite his fatigue, for much distance was covered by other living feet while he

lay in his healthily dreamless rest. It is well that he rested deeply, for there were

many strange things to be encountered in his next period of consciousness.


What finally roused Zamacona was a thunderous rapping at the door. It beat through his dreams

and dissolved all the lingering mists of drowsiness as soon as he knew what it was. There could

be no mistake about itit was a definite, human, and peremptory rapping; performed apparently

with some metallic object, and with all the measured quality of conscious thought or will

behind it. As the awakening man rose clumsily to his feet, a sharp vocal note was added

to the summonssomeone calling out, in a not unmusical voice, a formula which the manuscript

tries to represent asoxi, oxi, giathcán ycá relex”. Feeling sure that his visitors

were men and not daemons, and arguing that they could have no reason for considering

him an enemy, Zamacona decided to face them openly and at once; and accordingly fumbled

with the ancient latch till the golden door creaked open from the pressure of those outside.

As the great portal swung back, Zamacona stood facing a group of about twenty individuals

of an aspect not calculated to give him alarm. They seemed to be Indians; though their tasteful

robes and trappings and swords were not such as he had seen among any of the tribes of

the outer world, while their faces had many subtle differences from the Indian type. That

they did not mean to be irresponsibly hostile, was very clear; for instead of menacing him

in any way they merely probed him attentively and significantly with their eyes, as if they

expected their gaze to open up some sort of communication. The longer they gazed, the

more he seemed to know about them and their mission; for although no one had spoken since

the vocal summons before the opening of the door, he found himself slowly realising that

they had come from the great city beyond the low hills, mounted on animals, and that they

had been summoned by animals who had reported his presence; that they were not sure what

kind of person he was or just where he had come from, but that they knew he must be associated

with that dimly remembered outer world which they sometimes visited in curious dreams.

How he read all this in the gaze of the two or three leaders he could not possibly explain;

though he learned why a moment later. As it was, he attempted to address his visitors

in the Wichita dialect he had picked up from Charging Buffalo; and after this failed to

draw a vocal reply he successively tried the Aztec, Spanish, French, and Latin tonguesadding

as many scraps of lame Greek, Galician, and Portuguese, and of the Bable peasant patois

of his native Asturias, as his memory could recall. But not even this polyglot arrayhis

entire linguistic stockcould bring a reply in kind. When, however, he paused in perplexity,

one of the visitors began speaking in an utterly strange and rather fascinating language whose

sounds the Spaniard later had much difficulty in representing on paper. Upon his failure

to understand this, the speaker pointed first to his own eyes, then to his forehead, and

then to his eyes again, as if commanding the other to gaze at him in order to absorb what

he wanted to transmit. Zamacona, obeying, found himself rapidly in

possession of certain information. The people, he learned, conversed nowadays by means of

unvocal radiations of thought; although they had formerly used a spoken language which

still survived as the written tongue, and into which they still dropped orally for traditions

sake, or when strong feeling demanded a spontaneous outlet. He could understand them merely by

concentrating his attention upon their eyes; and could reply by summoning up a mental image

of what he wished to say, and throwing the substance of this into his glance. When the

thought-speaker paused, apparently inviting a response, Zamacona tried his best to follow

the prescribed pattern, but did not appear to succeed very well. So he nodded, and tried

to describe himself and his journey by signs. He pointed upward, as if to the outer world,

then closed his eyes and made signs as of a mole burrowing. Then he opened his eyes

again and pointed downward, in order to indicate his descent of the great slope. Experimentally

he blended a spoken word or two with his gesturesfor example, pointing successively to himself

and to all of his visitors and sayingun hombre”, and then pointing to himself alone

and very carefully pronouncing his individual name, Pánfilo de Zamacona.

Before the strange conversation was over, a good deal of data had passed in both directions.

Zamacona had begun to learn how to throw his thoughts, and had likewise picked up several

words of the regions archaic spoken language. His visitors, moreover, had absorbed many

beginnings of an elementary Spanish vocabulary. Their own old language was utterly unlike

anything the Spaniard had ever heard, though there were times later on when he was to fancy

an infinitely remote linkage with the Aztec, as if the latter represented some far stage

of corruption, or some very thin infiltration of loan-words. The underground world, Zamacona

learned, bore an ancient name which the manuscript records asXinaián”, but which, from

the writers supplementary explanations and diacritical marks, could probably be best

represented to Anglo-Saxon ears by the phonetic arrangement Kn-yan.

It is not surprising that this preliminary discourse did not go beyond the merest essentials,

but those essentials were highly important. Zamacona learned that the people of Kn-yan

were almost infinitely ancient, and that they had come from a distant part of space where

physical conditions are much like those of the earth. All this, of course, was legend

now; and one could not say how much truth was in it, or how much worship was really

due to the octopus-headed being Tulu who had traditionally brought them hither and whom

they still reverenced for aesthetic reasons. But they knew of the outer world, and were

indeed the original stock who had peopled it as soon as its crust was fit to live on.

Between glacial ages they had had some remarkable surface civilisations, especially one at the

South Pole near the mountain Kadath. At some time infinitely in the past most of

the outer world had sunk beneath the ocean, so that only a few refugees remained to bear

the news to Kn-yan. This was undoubtedly due to the wrath of space-devils hostile alike

to men and to mens godsfor it bore out rumours of a primordially earlier sinking

which had submerged the gods themselves, including great Tulu, who still lay prisoned and dreaming

in the watery vaults of the half-cosmic city Relex. No man not a slave of the space-devils,

it was argued, could live long on the outer earth; and it was decided that all beings

who remained there must be evilly connected. Accordingly traffic with the lands of sun

and starlight abruptly ceased. The subterraneous approaches to Kn-yan, or such as could

be remembered, were either blocked up or carefully guarded; and all encroachers were treated

as dangerous spies and enemies. But this was long ago. With the passing of

ages fewer and fewer visitors came to Kn-yan, and eventually sentries ceased to be maintained

at the unblocked approaches. The mass of the people forgot, except through distorted memories

and myths and some very singular dreams, that an outer world existed; though educated folk

never ceased to recall the essential facts. The last visitors ever recordedcenturies

in the pasthad not even been treated as devil-spies; faith in the old legendry having

long before died out. They had been questioned eagerly about the fabulous outer regions;

for scientific curiosity in Kn-yan was keen, and the myths, memories, dreams, and

historical fragments relating to the earths surface had often tempted scholars to the

brink of an external expedition which they had not quite dared to attempt. The only thing

demanded of such visitors was that they refrain from going back and informing the outer world

of Kn-yans positive existence; for after all, one could not be sure about these outer

lands. They coveted gold and silver, and might prove highly troublesome intruders. Those

who had obeyed the injunction had lived happily, though regrettably briefly, and had told all

they could about their worldlittle enough, however, since their accounts were all so

fragmentary and conflicting that one could hardly tell what to believe and what to doubt.

One wished that more of them would come. As for those who disobeyed and tried to escapeit

was very unfortunate about them. Zamacona himself was very welcome, for he appeared

to be a higher-grade man, and to know much more about the outer world, than anyone else

who had come down within memory. He could tell them muchand they hoped he would be

reconciled to his life-long stay. Many things which Zamacona learned about Kn-yan

in that first colloquy left him quite breathless. He learned, for instance, that during the

past few thousand years the phenomena of old age and death had been conquered; so that

men no longer grew feeble or died except through violence or will. By regulating the system,

one might be as physiologically young and immortal as he wished; and the only reason

why any allowed themselves to age, was that they enjoyed the sensation in a world where

stagnation and commonplaceness reigned. They could easily become young again when they

felt like it. Births had ceased, except for experimental purposes, since a large population

had been found needless by a master-race which controlled Nature and organic rivals alike.

Many, however, chose to die after a while; since despite the cleverest efforts to invent

new pleasures, the ordeal of consciousness became too dull for sensitive soulsespecially

those in whom time and satiation had blinded the primal instincts and emotions of self-preservation.

All the members of the group before Zamacona were from 500 to 1500 years old; and several

had seen surface visitors before, though time had blurred the recollection. These visitors,

by the way, had often tried to duplicate the longevity of the underground race; but had

been able to do so only fractionally, owing to evolutionary differences developing during

the million or two years of cleavage. These evolutionary differences were even more

strikingly shewn in another particularone far stranger than the wonder of immortality

itself. This was the ability of the people of Kn-yan to regulate the balance between

matter and abstract energy, even where the bodies of living organic beings were concerned,

by the sheer force of the technically trained will. In other words, with suitable effort

a learned man of Kn-yan could dematerialise and rematerialise himselfor, with somewhat

greater effort and subtler technique, any other object he chose; reducing solid matter

to free external particles and recombining the particles again without damage. Had not

Zamacona answered his visitorsknock when he did, he would have discovered this accomplishment

in a highly puzzling way; for only the strain and bother of the process prevented the twenty

men from passing bodily through the golden door without pausing for a summons. This art

was much older than the art of perpetual life; and it could be taught to some extent, though

never perfectly, to any intelligent person. Rumours of it had reached the outer world

in past aeons; surviving in secret traditions and ghostly legendry. The men of Kn-yan

had been amused by the primitive and imperfect spirit tales brought down by outer-world stragglers.

In practical life this principle had certain industrial applications, but was generally

suffered to remain neglected through lack of any particular incentive to its use. Its

chief surviving form was in connexion with sleep, when for excitements sake many dream-connoisseurs

resorted to it to enhance the vividness of their visionary wanderings. By the aid of

this method certain dreamers even paid half-material visits to a strange, nebulous realm of mounds

and valleys and varying light which some believed to be the forgotten outer world. They would

go thither on their beasts, and in an age of peace live over the old, glorious battles

of their forefathers. Some philosophers thought that in such cases they actually coalesced

with immaterial forces left behind by these warlike ancestors themselves.

The people of Kn-yan all dwelt in the great, tall city of Tsath beyond the mountains. Formerly

several races of them had inhabited the entire underground world, which stretched down to

unfathomable abysses and which included besides the blue-litten region a red-litten region

called Yoth, where relics of a still older and non-human race were found by archaeologists.

In the course of time, however, the men of Tsath had conquered and enslaved the rest;

interbreeding them with certain horned and four-footed animals of the red-litten region,

whose semi-human leanings were very peculiar, and which, though containing a certain artificially

created element, may have been in part the degenerate descendants of those peculiar entities

who had left the relics. As aeons passed, and mechanical discoveries made the business

of life extremely easy, a concentration of the people of Tsath took place; so that all

the rest of Kn-yan became relatively deserted. It was easier to live in one place, and there

was no object in maintaining a population of overflowing proportions. Many of the old

mechanical devices were still in use, though others had been abandoned when it was seen

that they failed to give pleasure, or that they were not necessary for a race of reduced

numbers whose mental force could govern an extensive array of inferior and semi-human

industrial organisms. This extensive slave-class was highly composite, being bred from ancient

conquered enemies, from outer-world stragglers, from dead bodies curiously galvanised into

effectiveness, and from the naturally inferior members of the ruling race of Tsath. The ruling

type itself had become highly superior through selective breeding and social evolutionthe

nation having passed through a period of idealistic industrial democracy which gave equal opportunities

to all, and thus, by raising the naturally intelligent to power, drained the masses of

all their brains and stamina. Industry, being found fundamentally futile except for the

supplying of basic needs and the gratification of inescapable yearnings, had become very

simple. Physical comfort was ensured by an urban mechanisation of standardised and easily

maintained pattern, and other elemental needs were supplied by scientific agriculture and

stock-raising. Long travel was abandoned, and people went back to using the horned,

half-human beasts instead of maintaining the profusion of gold, silver, and steel transportation

machines which had once threaded land, water, and air. Zamacona could scarcely believe that

such things had ever existed outside dreams, but was told he could see specimens of them

in museums. He could also see the ruins of other vast magical devices by travelling a

days journey to the valley of Do-Hna, to which the race had spread during its period

of greatest numbers. The cities and temples of this present plain were of a far more archaic

period, and had never been other than religious and antiquarian shrines during the supremacy

of the men of Tsath. In government, Tsath was a kind of communistic

or semi-anarchical state; habit rather than law determining the daily order of things.

This was made possible by the age-old experience and paralysing ennui of the race, whose wants

and needs were limited to physical fundamentals and to new sensations. An aeon-long tolerance

not yet undermined by growing reaction had abolished all illusions of values and principles,

and nothing but an approximation to custom was ever sought or expected. To see that the

mutual encroachments of pleasure-seeking never crippled the mass life of the communitythis

was all that was desired. Family organisation had long ago perished, and the civil and social

distinction of the sexes had disappeared. Daily life was organised in ceremonial patterns;

with games, intoxication, torture of slaves, day-dreaming, gastronomic and emotional orgies,

religious exercises, exotic experiments, artistic and philosophical discussions, and the like,

as the principal occupations. Propertychiefly land, slaves, animals, shares in the common

city enterprise of Tsath, and ingots of magnetic Tulu-metal, the former universal money standardwas

allocated on a very complex basis which included a certain amount equally divided among all

the freemen. Poverty was