's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Deceitfully Slight Proportion

Submitted by Huw Saunders

It was when I was fourteen, and little more than a boy, that my parents related to me the events of my great-uncle's passing.

The subject arose through an offhanded detail in an overheard conversation. Beforehand he had been present within my worldview as simply the blotched sepia photograph mounted in the hall. The man it showed appeared wholly normal and regular - hair adhering roundly to his scalp and skull, jaw somewhat prominent, dressed in the uniform suit and necktie of his era. The primitive colouration of the portrait concealed his skin tone, or otherwise depicted him as deathly pale. He wore a half-smile which suggested he was not overly familiar with the expression.

"He went crazy one day," explained my mother, "and started killing people." Finding this dissatisfactory, I pressed them for more information. I concede it was an admirably concise account, yet I found myself internally comparing it to a venerable, yellowing morality fable with half its pages torn out.

They further gave me the time, place and casualties of my great-uncle's passing. This too was brief, yet having these details gave me hope I should be able to research the event. The name 'Miskatonic Massacre' suggested to me that it would be at least somewhat documented.

From there I began my own research of the event. Preliminary searches validated all that I had been told - that my ancestor, Howard Derleth, had, one cold February day, taken the life of his parents, wife, and young daughter, then ascended Miskatonic University's bell-tower and fired upon innocents until the point of his own departure at the hands of a local constable. By all accounts, he had formerly been a respected researcher at the same institution.

This latter detail stoked my inquisitive spark, only adding to my queries - or rather bolstering those already present. How is it a man comes to take such a brutal, savage action? To descend, even, becoming less than a man, transmogrified into a monster wreaking death, a specimen of psychopathy to be pored over by the news media and curious descendants.

I would begin to worry at the possible implications for myself - the idea of my bloodline carrying that same instance of genetic code, the very stuff and substance of a killer. Determined to find an answer, I began to read further on the subject, consuming accounts of other such mass murderers.

In truth this was not virgin territory for me. I had long since had a typical young man's fascination with great historic slaughters, particularly the assembly-line coldbloodedness of the world's various authoritarian ideologues. But in that instance the simple question of 'why' is simpler - within an obfuscating bureaucracy where word is law, one stray utterance can be translated to a hundred thousand bloated bodies. The occurrence of this within the living mind of a single man seemed, to me, so much more complex.

Plenty of men, I discovered, now live forever in infamy as my ancestor does. However, there tended to be a reason for their deeds, or rather a reason for their irrationality - a haemorrhage or malignant tumour within the brain, an underlying instability of the mind, or some gruesome personal circumstances. Whereas by all accounts my great-uncle was healthy in body and mind - happily married, fiscally solvent, a known and respected community figure.

Perhaps there was no reason. The very possibility thrilled me to my ivory bones. My ancestor's motives, then, would be unknown, could not be known. There is little in existence to inspire more fear than that. But such a fatalistic outlook as this was one I instinctively rejected - that some ultimate author had writ this would happen. There was a reason, I knew, and the thought obsessed me.

My grandfather still lived, then, on the homestead that had been much storied to me through my youth. I remember it well from a time when I was very small, and within my own plot of the world it took on the constantly distorting, non-Euclidean appearance of one of Lewis Caroll's troglodytic fugues.

For days beforehand I had concocted schemes for our visit - subtle and devious schemes. It slips my mind as to when precisely I came to the conclusion that my grandfather would likely be perfectly receptive to a direct inquiry. Even so I chose my approach carefully and decisively, waiting until my mother and father were absent.

"t'ain't fer your ears, young'in," he responded in his guttural brogue when the moment was finally upon me. My amateur's hunch had been misguided, though I had no plan to prostrate myself before this disappointment. I persisted, making thoroughly sure I had conveyed to him the impression that this was purely academic curiosity, as opposed to a morbid, relentless fascination with a darker branch of my family.

He merely grumbled for a moment, forming no recognisable utterances. "Yar, he thoat like that too. Pryin' inta the bones 'a the past. Ye remind me 'a him these days, now as I look at ye. I ain't gonna bear the cross 'a discouragin' ye from book larnin'. But I will tell ye this - ain't nothin' good comin' outta this. Lit the dead stay buried is my advice."

As he concluded, his gaze drifted over my shoulder, perhaps now staring down the windy hall of time. I rose from my seat and examined the object on the mantle that had commanded his stare. There it was, beforehand part of the background, now calling to me, prominent on its perch. It emanated power - if nothing else then fresh knowledge, another step in my pursuit.

It was a squat statuette carved out of forbidding, alien black stone. The icon it depicted transfixed me as I approached, a grossly fat humanoid figure, its round sagging legs splayed obscenely. But it was the thing's head that truly repulsed me - its protruding distorted mouth, gaping in grim mockery of its tenuous resemblance to that of any known creature, and the thick, bloated tentacles twisting from its deformed cranium. As the light struck them they seemed to glisten and drip with greasy primordial fluids, such was the intricacy of their designing.

It was this, I instinctively knew, that had triggered my ancestor's bloody descent. Now I took the thing in hand, manipulating it, and with a shudder found the texture to be unlike any stone I had ever felt on this earth. By sight I had taken it for dull onyx or obsidian, but the material was as arcane and outside as its appearance, distinctly porous and catching the light in obtuse ways - and perhaps this was my horrified imagination, but also malleable and yielding in some imperceptible degree.

"May as well tell ye now," complained my grandfather. "He come 'cross that on an expedition up hill country, not far from here. See up there past Scavenger Ridge, t'ain't nothin' but burial grounds and queer ole standin' stones. Witchcraft country, so's they say. Blighted ground."

By now the figure's esoteric origins were scarcely a shock. Savage fetishes of that vein are not available by the two dozen from licensed traders. My fear stemmed from knowing full well that before long, it would be me bushwhacking through generations of twisted undergrowth up on that selfsame blighted ground - out in the middle of nowhere, to use the paradoxical term. It was not a matter of having consciously decided this - my curiosity was ravening, feasting upon my ancestor as invertebrates and carrion birds feast on carcasses. I could not stop myself if I tried.

Thus for much of that lingering, oppressive summer, I spent my days roaming in the unbound wilderness around my grandfather's homestead, and alternately imploring my parents to return there as soon as possible. Each fruitless search only honed my interest, and provided an isolated artificial calm in which I could ponder the mindscape of a murderer.

One initially imagines a mass shooter to be angry, that ugly sensation in which the world has committed unjust acts and you seek to pay it back in kind. Yet, I thought, if my great-uncle had wished to wreak a terrible vengeance then he would have had more practical means within his grasp. The man had been a scholar of theology, and a devoutly churchgoing Protestant in devoutly sectarian Arkham - would have known he was ideally placed to create a brutal, destructive furore in the community. Instead, he took the effort of creating an end of days on his own shoulders.

It could, I told myself dryly, be a product of his irrationality. There was the rub, my queries had brought me to this Sisyphean clash of attempting to rationalise the irrational. I worried that I was going as mad as my ancestor. I had constructed visions, private reveries for myself in which, based on the few memories I had of the sight of the Miskatonic bell-tower, I climbed what I imagined the interior looked like and looked out over the gently curving streets past the precision steel of a rifle, hoping to draw out some understanding from the images. Yet none came and I began to feel I was devoting rather too much thought to this insane fantasy.

After whole fortnights exploring the threatening, encroaching trees and oblique gorges up beyond Scavenger Ridge, I began to lose hope. The days began to end more abruptly and I considered dispensing with my adolescent curiosity altogether - admitting defeat in the very scowling face of the unknown. But finally I came across something that summarised all I searched for, crystallised it into one simple description, and the answer was forbidden knowledge. For in this druidic hollow, there was set into a brief crag the mouth of a woodland cave - and across it was a barred metal tablet bearing the legend FORBIDDEN - by order of US Federal Government.

It was almost too much for my waning boyhood, that I had become the archetypical adventurer, delving into deep, dark, secret places. I distinctly felt that my hard work was at last paying off. When I passed the barrier I found myself near overcome by the resonant smell of age and decay. My hand went for my torch, which had saved me from some terrible falls while returning from the wilderness of a night.

To my perspiring relief I heard nothing from within, save the echoes of my footfalls. A second thought suggested that a wild beast slumbering silently deeper in the cave would yet have the measure of me, and I began to feel rather helpless. The walls of the cave were close to and confining, and furthermore, wound to and fro, fettering the beam of my torch.

After entirely too long spent alone in the dark, with that foul fug constricting me and clotting in my nostrils, the cave began to yield somewhat, widening into a secluded hollow. For a moment, the renewed sunlight struck me blind, which I now see as a regrettably brief mercy on the sun's part. It was only after that the bodies imprinted themselves on my quivering eyeballs.

My God, stacked ten high they were, the sallow remains of their faces twisted in unending agony. Some had been crudely mummified, judging by their desiccated appearance. Others lay nakedly, picked clean by woodland beasts and crawling things. Others had been burnt to ashen husks. In the centre of this funereal scene lay a large, flat stone whose purpose I divined quickly - it bore the antique, rusty stains of sacrifice.

But still more phantastic than this was the grotesque fresco daubed upon the imposing rocky walls of the hollow - so horrific I cried out, retreating and stumbling, then resorting to averting my gaze in an infantile effort to deny what was before me. It was the same monstrous visage as that hateful black idol, yet depicted here in awesome and terrifying scale. There was a kind of primitive poetry, in the manner that the thing's painted Medusoid curls warped along the rock and seemed to clutch and snatch for the viewer.

In a very real sense I heard its voice then. It spoke to me of fierce forgotten rituals - secretive occurrences that would have made the headlines ten times over, on the very historic spot where I now trespassed. Offerings, I judged, to the fearsome figure that still met my gaze. The sheer terror its image wrought seemed to confirm my suspicions. This was some barbarous god or figure of worship from the local mythos, to whom these ghostly carcasses had been deferentially slaughtered.

By now other suspicions were beginning to take hold. Theories that seemed perfectly logical, feverish with fright as I was. It was surely the discovery of this place and the terrible knowledge therein that had driven my ancestor insane. It defied all earthly knowledge, but I feared that perhaps this pagan deity, or any foul acolytes that rose in its wake, had been the cause.

My inexpert eyes evaluated the bodies of the dead. They were old, I could tell that much, whatever had happened to them here had not happened recently. Maybe having investigated these sites academically, my ancestor had become enamoured of these ruder forms of worship - and around me lay the forgotten, uncounted victims of the Miskatonic Massacre.

Eventually, as I trekked down from Scavenger Ridge and my frantic heart rate returned to somewhere tolerable, I came to doubt what I had seen in that hollow. Had it actually been a mad dream-quest, another vision cobbled together into a narrative by my cruel, taunting subconscious, I would have found it a great relief. I did not mention my discovery to my grandfather, fearing for his age and infirmity, and his awareness of the results when a member of our family had previously discovered that hollow.

Then that night I saw it. As I lay sweating and tossing with my higher functions shutting themselves down, the visions came again, yet stranger and more vivid. It was that monstrous black figure, its bloated, swollen body and distorted face many times the size of man, leering at me from a nucleus of pathways through ancient Cyclopean woods. A legion of grey indistinguishable figures marched towards it from all directions, eager to throw themselves upon the sacrificial stone and the mercy of the thing's wriggling omnipresent tendrils. It eviscerated them by the dozen, tugging their limbs off and ripping eagerly into their chest cavities in a glutinous visceral cacophony, before stacking them neatly, and soon the piled bodies reached up beyond the distant treetops.

I awoke screaming. I would later understand that I had been doing that for some time. And when I stepped onto the scarlet-carpeted floor of my bedroom I had legitimate heart palpitations at the sudden terror that I might simply pass through it and fall howling and insane back into the nightmare.

When these night terrors proved to be recurrent, and resilient to all kinds of more positive stimuli, my parents reluctantly contacted a psychiatrist. I suggested, Miskatonic being a university town, there would likely be a professional there well suited for this purpose. In the meantime, I scrolled through endless lists of fringe religious organisations that had in the past been active in the area.

The day of my first appointment came, a shadowy day of heavily overcast clouds rolling in from the Atlantic, against which the New England countryside looked singularly dismal. Soon the open fields and neglected, dilapidated rural settlements gave way to the suburban, modernistic edges of Miskatonic, which themselves then blended into the decadent Georgian streets of its interior. Over this metropolis the university bell-tower loomed, a redbrick obelisk which seemed to me to be paying homage to its legacy of bloodshed and madness.

I had been entertaining the thought of publicising my findings, what little they were, but considered it fraught with danger. I really knew very little of the subject, which was after all one liable to cause perfectly sane men to indulge in ritualistic orgies of death, and on this basis felt it would be flatly irresponsible to bring it to the attention of the general public. I certainly felt that it would only worry my psychiatrist, and so after a brief interval slipped back out of the waiting room to proceed on foot toward the university campus and the ominous shadow of the bell-tower.

An unarmed security guard attempted to detain me by patronisingly asking me my purpose on campus. I asked him to direct me to any professors of local mythology, to which he reflexively gave me the building and room numbers. He added a few utterances of warning, stating that Professor Morgan had never been the same since 'the Dunwich incident'.

I waited with arms folded in the corridor, outside the room from which floated what could only be Professor Morgan's reedy, trembling voice. He was lecturing upon certain pseudo-religious organisations prominent in Red Hook and Arkham around the turn of the century, which had been suppressed following the war - organisations, he argued, which were dogmatically and practically identical to notorious cannibal cults stemming originally from forsaken islands in the South Seas, revivals of which had also been observed in Europe. He linked this explicitly to the not uncommon practice of seamen transplanting wives from those obscure isles, and thereafter falling victim to their new bride's seductive descriptions of pagan rites - joining them in beseeching their heathen masters for times of plenty, or fertility, and so forth.

"Fascinating," he murmured, as I begrudgingly recounted the appearance of the loathsome abnormality that haunted my sleep. "I take it you have already consulted the standard texts?"

I sat in dreadfully naïve silence as he consulted a grimoire bound in flaking leather, entitled Unaussprechlichen Kulten. What little I gleaned of its browning woodcuts and sketches made my fine hairs lift and quiver. Each turned page let rise another indescribable being, nameless things I could not envision existing in any reality tangentially related to our own. The illustrated eyes, or what looked like eyes, chilled me in their immense numbers and weird positioning, their freakish resemblance to that of humanity, and for a moment I inwardly prayed for a halt. I regretted this instantly when the text moved onto a section concerning eyeless creatures.

"Yes," intoned Professor Morgan, running a finger along the dry pages and onto a scrap of paper, crosshatched with handwriting, which served as a makeshift bookmark, "I remember now. There has indeed been research into local worship of the figure you describe. It was when I was just a young man. It was old-" He gave my ancestor's title and surname, and paused for a moment, staring reflectively. "Sad story."

I inquired as to what, precisely, it was that my ancestor had known of this hateful blasphemous sect that lurked in the woods and preyed upon the innocent and sane. And at the same time I felt a feverish trepidation that invoking the thing's name could well conjure it out of some transcendental pinhole in space-time.

"It has many names," he replied, with the slightest whisper of impatience at my amateur status, now referencing his findings in De Vermis Mysteriis, which appeared to be of a more recent and glossy edition, though bore similarly aged illustrations, some of which appeared to be extracts of scrolls. "Gzabal. Wefla'krn. P'ka'nee." These utterances required him to distort his wrinkled mouth, and seemed to echo through his jumbled office for some time. "But in that region of the world, it was An'zhal-phut."

I fancied it was then I felt an oozing, slick tendil, brushing around my ankle as though to constrict it, and gave a great start, to Professor Morgan's general alarm. My primate instincts scented danger, perhaps, advised me to flee in the face of the great unknown crashing towards me out of labyrinthine, dark, and uncharted jungle. Physically itching to leave, I summoned my reserves of fortitude and demanded to know if my ancestor had left notes, theses, or even absent-minded doodles concerning the dreaded An'zhal-phut and its fiendish acolytes.

"Do you know the expression 'he took it to the grave'?" For a second, I felt the hollow, rejected sensation of it being finally confirmed that this journey had all been for naught. But then, upon correctly interpreting his question, I took on the unique resignation of knowing exactly in which direction this conversation, and indeed my search, was going. "Before the shooting, he updated his will. He stipulated that his personal diaries were to be buried with him. The investigating officers found nothing amiss in them, and were legally obliged to surrender them to his executor."

I forced the rough blade of the shovel into the thick, clotted earth. I had never dug a hole before, but now it had become necessary. I could hardly delegate this task, and imagined any tradesmen I approached would have refused outright, and possibly reported me to the authorities. As I brought my foot down upon the blade and felt the resistance of the soil beneath me, I was filled with a wild, crazed excitement. It was as though I had moved into the physical trial episode of my clichéd hero's journey, pitting my own flesh and tendons, my own bodily mechanical strength against that of the planet itself.

It was a source of reassurance to imagine my deeds in this base, visceral manner. The great and terrible thing looming in my thoughts seemed to hold less power this way - it could infest my dreams with screaming darkness and visions of the apocalypse, it could bring my ancestor as low as a human could easily get through its pervasive creeping madness, but it could not stop me from digging into the ground.

The material I strewed out of the pit began to form into a spreading lopsided heap. This prompted a concern that my family could notice what I had done, the site being not far from my grandfather's house, but then of course in that case there would have been no sense in abandoning my efforts. Besides which, they were absent and I had to seize the opportunity. The excavation was only sunk to my calves, and I was struck with the horrible realisation that my destination lay six feet down. The shovel began to blister my hands, and I perspired helplessly under the simmering sun.

For one moment I reclined on the ground, intending to rest only briefly, and then in a terrifying instant I found myself under a different sun. The sky in this strange place was a colour I could only describe with reference to certain momentary lapses of the human eyeball under intense stimulus. Here I lay on a cool stone slab of the same unnervingly porous material as that accursed idol. With a start I sat up, realising I was far above the ground atop a pyramid - neither of the Egyptian nor Mesoamerican style, its edges curved in ways which disorientated me.

I feared that now it was me offered as sacrifice, to either die here or emerge in what I perceived as the real world fundamentally altered, driven insane. Far below I fancied I could make out a legion audience, a vast writhing mass comprised of unrecognisable blasphemous forms. Then it came before me, An'zhal-phut in all its glory and cosmic chaos, twitching feeling tendrils dancing and convoluting as though sapient and responsive themselves around its vulgarly anthropoid body, seeming at once to both look me in the eye and tower above me, once again let loose in my defenceless mind.

Its insidious effects seemed to strike me all at once. With a lurch of my stomach I found myself overwhelmed with some irrevocable reluctant attraction to the thing that faced me. It seemed, after all, to hold the answers to all the queries which plagued me. What little control I might have had over my limbs in that dream-state perished under the strain, and I collapsed to my knees, caressing and palpating the thing's bloated exaggerated thigh, blindly fumbling against the eternal black of night. Even now I find the sensations it created unnameable, indescribable, taking on the paradoxical aspect of its surroundings, at once slimy and adhesive.

Its ophidian tendrils bound my wrists, lifting me effortlessly. I fancied that my hands somehow slipped inside their amorphous form, and when I observed them once more they seemed to have altered, formed eyeless serpentine heads that consumed my hands in grasping, slavering tiny-toothed mouths. It was then I realised that if it regarded me at all, it would be as some sort of plaything. And the same insane allure yet lit my brain afire. Once more I was laid on the sacrificial table, and the thing sat over me, restraining me beneath its own incomprehensible form, demonstrating its sheer dominance over its prey before moving in for the kill. It was consuming me in the disproportionate swollen recesses of its chest when I was woken, drenched with sweat. It was then that the horror came.

Having been repaired to the homestead while in the midst of those visions, my father and my mother proceeded to deliver separate versions of the same monologue on the morality of grave robbing within a Judaeo-Christian society. Inwardly I sneered, confident there was no higher form of ancestor worship than a desire to understand them at any cost. On my grandfather's part, he said nothing, merely cast repeated glances at the loathsome idol which also drew my gaze. Of those present, he knew best the cause of my crime.

The idol seemed tangibly less repellent in my eyes now. Perhaps monstrous An'zhal-phut had applied the same abhorrent seduction to my ancestor - an incorporeal vision somehow made flesh through the transceiving portal of the human conscious.

After I had changed my sodden clothes, their stench clinging to my body, hot in my nostrils even afterward, I was sent to bed without any pudding. I found this to be wholly agreeable and sat awake as the house grew silent, before finally excusing myself by torchlight, and sojourning back to the family plot under the cloak of heavy black pendulous clouds. Some tier of my consciousness feared that this entire journey had been An'zhal-phut's ultimate design from the beginning - that the thing had sought to claim some indefinable essence from my ancestor's body, to finally claim another blood sacrifice it was perhaps robbed of come the end of the Miskatonic Massacre.

Once more I cut into the cold dark earth, working tirelessly even as my vision swayed and blurred. To rest would be to make myself vulnerable, and expose my fragile sentience again to the unspeakable ministrations that came in dreams from beyond the wall of sleep. It was not the peaceful experience the scene and silent night might have suggested - an immeasurable sea of my own blood crashed and swelled within my ears.

I was lightheaded when finally the shovel scraped gutturally upon the rough timber of the decomposing casket. Eagerly, my crushing fatigue briefly irrelevant, I swept the remaining soil aside and looked upon the coffin. Though for me it now took on the aspect of a portal, not some mean interdimensional teleporting anomaly but a portal to the answers I yearned for, to something, anything, I might conceivably have the ability to grasp and understand.

With half-mad strength, I took up the shovel and made short work of the coffin lid. The withered skeleton of my great-uncle looked sombrely back at me. I pounced upon the bundle of slim books and papers unceremoniously wedged between his body and the coffin wall, then recoiled, gathering with dread that the consuming onslaught of worms had taken their fill of these too. Their blind consumption would dictate what if anything I could now learn.

Frantically I turned the pages of his final diary. Much of the stuttering cursive script was on the subject of meaningless local politics, but as I read onward, he wrote in an increasing degree on his research of his, my, family tree. He was concerned most gravely with the way in which his inquiries surrounding his mother, Marceline, had found no genealogical data at all.

The events he now related to me took to stranger, familiar territory. Apparently his father had of late taken to speaking at length on other worlds beyond this one, and of great and terrible cosmic beings in his dreams observing him as though he were a microorganism, a fleck of dust before those cyclopean forms that blocked out the distant stars and bent reality around them. As I say, pleasantly recognisable territory.

Immediately, on turning a page, the name An'zhal-phut leapt out at me - imprinting itself on my exhausted retinas, and glowing there with every blink I could muster. The topic, he wrote, had arisen following an offhand comment of his into the folklore of several southerly New England ports. His mother claimed she had before heard whispers of that very subject - his father Charles, meanwhile, remained stolidly dismissive.

A scant couple entries later, he had discovered, as I did, the hollow above Scavenger Ridge. It was a compelling scene he described, one of fresher bodies and effluent blood pooling on the ground. I cursed the limitedness and the ambiguity of the account - as for all I knew, he could still have taken those lives himself, and then, as he detailed, alerted the authorities, to divert their suspicion.

Now he too began to speak of recurring nightmares, as though I had been retreading his footsteps generations on. He described witnessing what could only have been An'zhal-phut and waking in a gibbering panic, recording the experience out of fear of forgetting in a mad flurry of inscription before coming to realise that the terror he had felt would likely never leave his conscious mind. And in a turn of events I had not anticipated, following the first of these visions, it was he who had painted the vast and repulsive depiction of the grotesque god in the hollow - as a warning.

The investigators gave it scant effort, sealing off the hollow before abandoning the entire proceeding within a fortnight. My ancestor, now recuperating at the homestead, seemed to try to put it from his thoughts for some weeks afterward. To my confusion, he made repeated reference to his father spending days in some external building or barn - when I knew the homestead was only one building. Perhaps I should have grasped the implications of that sooner.

And then, abruptly, I came upon the final entry, which answered my questions. It was them, he wrote. It was them.

Since then I have lived in relative comfort. I attended the psychiatrist whom I had evaded to investigate the university, though the treatments did me little good. Perversely more reassuring was the thought that, whether An'zhal-phut truly existed, or was simply a construct of that cult made flesh by my terrified brain, there was nothing I could do to alter that fact. Whether that nightmare being loathed me, felt sympathy for me, or was wholly indifferent, it would have been a fool's errand to attempt to affect it.

It was some aspect of that monstrous form and those iconic tentacles that had spurred on my ancestor - that was sure. Yet which aspect surprised and appalled me. He had taken a perfectly serviceable elder thing from beyond that which man was meant to know, and taken a truly unhealthy meaning from it.

I will recount his final diary entry as best as I can remember, for I have no desire to source the original once more - neither will I include his occasional pages-long ramblings on being certain that a tentacle was creeping by the window as he wrote it, eager to devour him and keep him from his divinely ordained purpose.

February 12th

It was them. Tho' I sought desperately and vainly for any other viable solution, I know now it was them.

Last night I felt that I heard once more the hill noises that taunted me in the place between waking and dreaming. They seemed to me to be dangerously near. I struck out into the night, too terrified not to investigate. And there, through the barn's ajar door, I witnessed my own father conduct ritual sacrifice and speak that ugly blasphemous name that echoes in my nightmares.

I went to confront him, lacking any weapon and defenceless. When he gazed upon me it was not his eyes staring hungrily from his skull. Mercifully the building was consumed by unearthly fire.

My father was not to blame. He was a pawn in a grander scheme - he too had felt the repulsive siren call that comes to me on bad nights, drawing him against his will closer to the bloated swarthy anthropoid being, likely he had gone mad from exposure.

It was necessary to use force before my mother would explain. She, it transpired, had put the idea in his head, tho' claimed to have done nothing but dissuaded him. It had come of her relating certain savage customs her forbears had engaged in - I fear that even now some pact of theirs might come into effect and deliver me, body and soul, into the mouth of madness. God! I can just imagine some black sacrament, a cruel parody of a christening wherein my infant form was dunked in hot coagulating blood as a lamb was slaughtered over me.

I have completed the effigy. It was a burden, every chipping seeming to deplete me, make me run short on breath. My brother, thank God, is absent, fate has spared him these ghastly happenings. I must leave him the effigy so he will know and understand.

I must save as many as I can. Even the grotesque primal scenes of carnage cannot compare to what is coming, to what I have seen in my dreams. Great and terrifying changes, impossibilities. Monstrous cyclopean termite pillars of polished shining stone, reaching into the sun. Helpless vessels like diving bells, rotating in the unimaginable darkness. The frightful changelings that scream and whisper terrible things to me in the dark, walking along city streets as though it were the most ordinary thing in the world. I must save them from this horrible fate.

Make no mistake. This must be done. I must deliver as many innocents as possible from the jaws of these hateful truths, these horrifying maddening revelations. I can only pray for the fate of the world.

Time is lacking. Finally I understand why I have perpetually felt abnormal in stuff and substance - I have those same amorphous horrors beating in my heart, and must be destroyed before they are unleashed. Yes. Finally I understand why there were no records of half my family's ancestry to be shewed. It was my mother, the thing I knew as Marceline, the thing that had tempted my father into forbidden rituals calling out to unutterable nameless things from beyond. She was the spawn of primal grovellers from places unknown to civilisation - perhaps even of accursed An'zhalphut herself through some hideous daemoniac coupling - tho' in deceitfully slight proportion, she was a negress.

"Goddamn it, Howard," I said finally, answering his vulgarity with my own as I consigned the diary back into the open grave.