It Comes

What I am about to say may, at the very least, be met with ridicule among my peers.  Indeed, the very nature of my statement would be reason enough for the academic world to conclude that I had fallen prey to the very same superstition and wild conjecture that I had dedicated my life to deconstructing.  At the very worst, my words will leave my reputation in tatters, an ignominious end to a long and industrious career.  It is most likely that what I write here will never see the light of public scrutiny, however it is my hope that those of an open and enquiring mind will read these words and heed the warning they contain.

My name is George Carrington and for the last forty years I have been a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts.  My preferred field of study, and indeed my life’s work, has been to explore the myths and legends of those civilisations that came before us – the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Incas and so forth.  All my life I have held strongly to the adage that even the wildest and most unbelievable of legends spring from a grain of truth, and it is this adage that I apply to my work, explaining and deconstructing these ancient myths and superstitions in a rational and logical fashion, and from there gleaning lessons that can be applied to our modern way of life.  In the pursuit of these matters I have made several allies – most notably Albert Wilmarth whose own studies into folklore and the rational explanations thereof so closely mirror my own.  I have also gained rivals, in particular one Professor Henry Armitage, whose beliefs and ideologies border on the mystical, and whose unexplained absences from the campus and hours locked in the Orne Library’s restricted section have given rise to many a question.

A certain recent occurrence, however, has caused me to re-evaluate my previous stance.  And now I cannot, in all good conscience, allow the matter to pass without at least some record.  Especially since a portion of the event has become public knowledge.  Even then, it has taken me many months to gather the courage and determination to make this statement.  I pray I am not too late.

It began with a rather hurried and inarticulate phone call from an acquaintance of mine.  One William Penridge, an antiquarian of some repute, with whom I had spent many a profitable evening examining artifacts of ancient origin.  He contacted me suddenly one day, quite honestly in some state of disarray.

“Carrington! I must see you! It’s life or death!”

Before I could say anything in reply the line went dead.  Even though I was not planning to visit for at least another fortnight, the urgency of his communication was enough to rouse me and that very evening I was knocking on his door and being ushered into his living room.  The difference in my friend was remarkable.  Instead of languidly reclining in one of his great armchairs while we shared sherry or smoked his excellent tobacco, he paced back and forth, rubbing his hands in some agitation.  All the while his gaze was drawn to a sculpture on the mantlepiece that I had not seen before.  At first I took it to be the image of a bat, and wondered what had caused the alarm in Penridge, but as I continued to regard it I felt some sensation grow in me akin to revulsion.

That it predated our modern civilisation was beyond question.  It had the look of some ancient craftsmanship, rendered in a black glassy rock, possibly obsidian.  My first impression of a bat came from the general shape of the thing.  It stood on two thin legs with two arms outstretched to either side.  Between these arms and the main body were what I could only describe as wings, however on closer inspection, instead of the usual construction of bat’s wings, I saw that these were more akin to a shroud or smoke or something similarly incorporeal.  That they had been part of the sculpture at all was a marvel of the artisan’s work.  Then I regarded the head.

This was no bat’s head.  It consisted of a single eye that took up most of what we would normally consider to be the face.  The eye had three lobes and, in contrast to the rest of the piece, was made of some transparent stone like amber.  I say like amber, as no example of that substance has ever given the impression of glowing from within as this one seemed to.

Penridge stopped his pacing as he saw me regarding the sculpture.  “You see it, don’t you.” he said, a tremor I had never heard before in his voice.

I tore my eyes away and swallowed the nauseous feeling as I looked at my friend.  “It is certainly a remarkable artifact.  Where did you obtain it?”

Penridge collapsed into a chair and, with shaking hands, poured himself a large whisky as he related his account.

He had, he said, been approached by a wealthy owner of an archaeological foundation to evaluate some finds from a site in Australia.  His client did not give his name and Penridge did not ask – it was not common, but at the same time not unheard of, for certain parties to wish to remain anonymous, not wishing for their identities to be made public before they were certain of their findings.   A considerable sum of money was agreed upon and within a month Penridge had received a small crate containing the statue.

Immediately upon opening it Penridge felt unnerved.  The crate had been well packed with straw, however Penridge fancied he could detect some unwholesome odour without being able to ascertain the source.  His initial impressions of the artifact mirrored my own, at first believing it to be some derivative of a bat, then seeing that it was something more unheard of.  Regardless, Penridge had been commissioned to perform an evaluation and he would do so to the best of his ability, to say nothing of the recompense he would receive upon completion.

Armed with the knowledge that the statue had been found during an archaeological dig in Australia, Penridge’s first thought was that it was Aboriginal in origin.  This however proved not to be the case as no other examples of Aboriginal artifacts, both those he had seen in person and those he had read of in his many books, seemed to match the statue’s particular features.  Certainly there was no belief system that he was familiar with that had a bat-like figure as part of its pantheon.  Penridge wondered if it somehow pre-dated those systems?  Certain pictograms around the base of the statue were of particular interest, as they bore no resemblance to any ancient Australian cultural or religious iconography.  Indeed, the pictograms suggested to Penridge’s mind an Egyptian origin, however the stone the statue had been carved from was unmistakably from the Oceanic region.  Certain strata in the stone indicated a form of obsidian particular to that area.  And then there was the eye.

The eye was like nothing Penridge had ever encountered before.  The material it was made from defied identification.  It was the colour of amber, but it burned with some powerful inner light that amber did not possess.  Even in a darkened room it could be seen glowing, almost as if it was alive.

Penridge broke off from his story to take another draught of whisky.  I was already considering the ways some fragments of Egyptian myth could find their way to the far off continent of Australia, but at the same time I could see out of the corner of my eye the statue on the mantlepiece.  I had the uneasy and completely unfounded feeling that it was watching me.  I shook my head to clear the preposterous thought.  The atmosphere, along with Penridge’s tale, was starting to affect me in untoward ways.

Penridge took a deep breath and continued.  After a week of studying the statue, he had not been able to adequately identify its precise origin and provenance.  What was certain was its age and its value to certain collectors.  He communicated with the client through an intermediary – one L. Goodman of New York – as per his instructions and waited for the response, secretly glad to finally be rid of the thing.  A week passed, then another, and no word came.  Penridge wrote again to the intermediary but continued to receive no reply.  Then the strange incidents began.

Penridge again took a deep draught of his whisky, his hands shaking more and more, before he spoke again.

At first it was fairly innocuous.  There was a fluttering at his windows, as if birds were flapping their wings against the glass.  A shadow would fly past now and then.  Nothing too untoward, however when Penridge opened the window to look there was no bird there, or any creature of any sort.  Then came the rattling, creaking, as if the floors and walls of the house were being disturbed by the wind.  This increased in intensity over the following few days until the slightest disturbance was enough to elicit an unbearable cacophony of sound.  Penridge fancied he could hear movement in other rooms at night, as though someone were walking through the house, only it didn’t quite sound like footsteps.  Occasionally he would find things slightly out of place – an ashtray moved out of position here, a pen on a different desk, the odd jar or inkwell tipped over.  

Eventually Penridge decided to perform an experiment.  He allowed dust to build up around his house, especially around small items that were wont to move.  The next morning he came down to find that the items had been unmistakably tampered with.  He showed me a photo he took of the clock on the mantlepiece, or more particularly part of the base of the clock, where one could clearly see the outline of dust a small distance away from the object.  The one thing, he said, that never moved was the statue.  It was always in exactly the same position, in fact he pointed out to me where the dust had built up around it and had not been disturbed in the least.

Penridge knew he could not go to the police or a doctor or some similar authority, after all it was not beyond the bounds of reason that he had inadvertently nudged the items himself, and any talk of fluttering, shadows or rattling would be seen as some sort of hallucination, brought on by his studies.  Instead he looked for a way to dispose of the statue.  Penridge packed it back in the box it had come in, took it to the banks of the Miskatonic and threw it in, marking the place where it sank.  Feeling some relief, he returned to his home, only to find the statue in its place on the mantlepiece.  That had taken place this evening and it was that even which had precipitated his panicked phone call to me.

Throughout all this I had been sitting in an armchair with my back to one of the large bay windows in Penridge’s living room.  My host stopped talking and went to pick up the bottle for a further draught.  His eyes looked over my shoulder and grew wide in sheer fright.

“There! Out of the window! It comes!” he screamed.  I whirled around in my chair to look out of the window, but I saw nothing.  Penridge broke down into an incoherent mess.

“It comes… it comes… I can’t get rid of it…It’s the statue… the statue… it comes…”

To see my friend brought to this state broke my heart.  I resolved to help him however I could.  I offered to take the statue away with me and contact a doctor on his behalf.  Whether or not he heard me I do not know.  In part my curiosity about the statue had been aroused and I wished to see if I could determine something of its origins myself.  I wrapped the statue in my coat and returned to my lodgings at the university, intending to telephone the Asylum the next morning.

The next morning I found myself busy with the affairs of the university and so it was not until the following day when I had an opportunity to make good on my promise.  That morning, I breakfasted while reading the Arkham newspaper, as was my morning routine.  An item in one of the inner pages caught my eye.

“Death of an Antiquarian” the headline read.  “The noted antiquarian William Penridge died in the early hours of yesterday morning.  His body was discovered by his housekeeper.  The state of the body was described as grotesque.  According to the medical professionals at the scene, the deceased’s face was contorted in a hideous fright, and the deceased had gouged out his own eyes.”

I dropped the paper and the cup I was holding.  The contents spilled all over the table.  What had happened?  Had poor Penridge’s mind broken under the pressure?  I felt some guilt for not arranging the promised medical aid sooner, although from the article it seemed that Penridge had died sometime shortly after my visit.  I looked to my desk, where I had placed the statue.  The eye glowed with its inner fire and I again had the sense that it was watching me.  I decided to pen these words so that a record of what occurred, and what Penridge confided to me, might persist.  I could not help but remember Penridge’s last words to me.  It comes.

There is a fluttering at my windows.

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