Jan 13, 2022
Five friends gather for another story - this one of an artist doomed for his curiousity.
Edward - Bryan Hendrickson
Charles - Michael Coleman (Tales of the Extraordinary)
Warren - Glen Hallstrom
Richard - Philemon Vanderbeck
Herbert - Carl Cubbedge
Blake - Derek Fetters (Unspeakable and Inhuman)
Music by Kevin MacLeod (Incompetech.com)
Editing and Sound: Julie Hoverson
Cover Design: Brett Coulstock
"What kind of a place is it?
Why it's another brownstone dinner party, can't you tell?"
THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK (Lovecraft 5, #2)
OLIVIA Did you have any trouble finding it? What do you mean, what kind of a place is it? Why, it's Charles' house again, can't you tell?
SOUND MUSIC, but muffled
SOUND CUPBOARD CLOSES, FEET APPROACH
CHARLES Try this one.
SOUND BOX HANDED OVER
EDWARD Thanks. [quiet, a bit diffident] And... and I appreciate your putting us up tonight, Charles.
CHARLES [breezily covering] In my own interest, I assure you. I've no wish to climb five flights of rickety stairs and squat in your cramped dormer just to hear a story.
EDWARD And I have no wish to disappoint you. [perking up] Though you really can't knock the cramped dormer for atmosphere...
CHARLES We'll just look at this as my way of supporting the arts, shall we?
SOUND DOOR OPENS
SOUND MUSIC LESS MUFFLED, SOUND OF FIREPLACE
CHARLES Here we are.
SOUND WALKING IN
HERBERT There you are!
RICHARD Where did you have to go for it? China?
CHARLES I knew I had a few of these still lying around. Just take one to start - they're wicked sour.
SOUND BOX OPENS, PICKING OUT CANDIES
RICHARD Perhaps just one. [pops into mouth, reacts]
WARREN [chuckles] I've tried many kinds of native confectionery in my travels, back in the day. [puts into mouth, reacts, but tries not to] [slightly breathless] Ah, yes. Much like the salted ginger prunes I tried in [deep breath] Hong Kong [coughs slightly] in 1907.
RICHARD So jaded, Warren. [teasing] Aren't you having one, Herbert?
HERBERT I've never understood the point of discomfiting oneself by eating painful food.
EDWARD [trying not to pucker] It's really quite tasty.
HERBERT I'll stick to my drink, thank you very much.
SOUND BOX SET DOWN, SHUT
CHARLES Can't blame you, though I find myself rather more partial to these than I ought. [pops something into mouth, then talks around it with no apparent difficulty] So, Edward?
SOUND SECOND BOX SET DOWN ON TABLE
EDWARD Um! [removes candy with a slight slurp] Right. Of course.
SOUND SHUFFLING PAPERS
HERBERT Isn't this supposed to be a true story?
EDWARD [baffled] Yes, why do you ask?
HERBERT Why the manuscript, then? How can we trust anything you've written down to be fact and not one of your fantastical fictions?
WARREN He has a point.
EDWARD Oh, that's simple. I didn't write any of this.
RICHARD [give it] Here.
SOUND PAPER CHANGES HANDS
RICHARD [agreeing] Well. It's certainly not your handwriting. [to Edward] Is it some long lost maiden aunt?
HERBERT Let me look. Hmph. Spiky.
WARREN [looking over his shoulder] Copperplate. Quaint.
EDWARD Are the experts satisfied?
HERBERT I reserve judgment.
WARREN [chuckles] I'm not such a stickler for provenance - after all, you're not one of my students.
RICHARD Tell us then, raconteur, who is it that inspires this tale?
EDWARD Robert Blake.
RICHARD [sharp] Blake?
SOUND SNATCHES PAPERS
RICHARD [urgent] This is Blake's? What is it? How did you get it?
SOUND PAPERS SNATCHED BACK
EDWARD All in good time. [sniffs annoyedly]
SOUND PAPERS BEING STRAIGHTENED, PLOPPED DOWN
EDWARD [with import, beginning his tale] This?
SOUND PATS PAPERS AND BOX
EDWARD This is all that's left of Robert Blake.
RICHARD He-- [cuts himself off]
EDWARD [intense] You were about to say - Blake died, 17 days ago, during a storm that knocked out half the electricity in the city. Died... under very peculiar circumstances, indeed.
WARREN [after a slight pause] And for those of us less acquainted with the deceased?
CHARLES Yes. Who is - was - Robert Blake?
EDWARD You haven't heard of him?
HERBERT I vaguely recall something about a Blake. Isn't he some kind of artist? Considered rather... blasphemous?
EDWARD Blake was a writer and a painter, yes.
HERBERT But I was under the impression he was long-dead. A century or more.
EDWARD [puzzled] No. Robert died 17 days ago--
WARREN Oh! I expect you're thinking of William Blake.
RICHARD The one who painted the great red dragon and the woman clothed in the sun?
HERBERT [snort of derision] I don't waste precious memory on such trivia. I can put names to three paintings - the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, and Whistler's Mother. And that's only because those are ubiquitous.
CHARLES Any chance that the two painting Blakes are connected somehow?
EDWARD Dunno. Could be. Hmm. Robert hailed from Milwaukee, but I don't know anything more about his family. [shrugs] It would explain some of Robert's peculiar artistic leanings.
RICHARD I've met Blake - this Blake - on several occasions. I can't say I like - liked - him, but I didn't dislike him either. His work was rather ... unusual. Though I'm only acquainted with his paintings.
EDWARD His writing was just as odd - both fiction and non. This [taps the papers] is supposedly the latter. A journal. [with heavy import] His last days.
SOUND OPENS BOX, TAKES CANDY
WARREN How did you come by it?
EDWARD Let me start at the beginning. Blake and I have been informally acquainted for years. We interacted through the magazines that carried our works, corresponded now and then, and [chuckles] lampooned each other a bit. I wrote a mad protagonist once named Blake Roberts, and he in turn--
RICHARD Hmph. His paintings show no trace of a sense of humor.
CHARLES There's more to any man than shows in his public face.
WARREN Who said that?
CHARLES [dry, teasing] Thought I did.
WARREN [sigh] Never mind.
RICHARD [prompting] Blake?
EDWARD [overriding them all, narrating] Cautious investigators will hesitate to challenge the common belief that Robert Blake was killed by lightning, or by some profound nervous shock derived from an electrical discharge.
RICHARD Lightning? I thought he died in his rooms.
HERBERT Was he burned?
EDWARD Not at all.
WARREN But the papers put it down to lightning?
EDWARD I know I'm more used to writing a story than telling it, but you fellows should give me some room to breathe, here. Stop jumping on me every time I come up for air!
EVERYONE [mumbled apologies]
EDWARD [poetry] I have seen
the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim,
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge or lustre or name.
CHARLES Yours, or his?
EDWARD [chuckles] His. [deep breath] All right, now I have written some notes to follow, condensing some of this, and including some outside information. So don't get confused.
SOUND RUSTLE OF PAPERS
EDWARD Blake died with a horrible expression on his face. The police and coroner blame it on the sudden contraction of the musculature due to the sudden ingress of electricity.
WARREN It's not unheard of.
EDWARD But the entries in his diary might suggest another source of the horrible grimace. Fear.
RICHARD Scared to death?
EDWARD Or scared at the moment of death. Either way, it's no doubt he worked himself up into a state of absolute terror shortly before his demise. His diary entries are clearly the result of a fantastic imagination aroused by certain local superstitions.
RICHARD Local to here?
WARREN [knowingly] Rhode Island.
EDWARD Blake is - was a writer and painter devoted to the field of myth, dream, terror, and superstition--
RICHARD Sounds like someone we know. Hmm?
EDWARD [sigh] His end began with a deserted church on Federal Hill.
WARREN What denomination?
SOUND PAPERS SHUFFLE
EDWARD The notes don't say what it started as. Probably doesn't matter. It was bought and rededicated to something called the Starry Wisdom sect.
HERBERT Starry Wisdom? Astronomers?
EDWARD [chuckles] There's definitely some star-gazing involved in their beliefs.
WARREN [musing] Starry wisdom.... starry wisdom.... Hmm. I've heard something about them. [dismissive] It will come to me.
EDWARD He took up residence in Providence last winter, in the upper floor of a "venerable dwelling where huge, friendly cats sunned themselves atop a convenient shed".
HERBERT He writes about cats? [disparaging] He was an only child, wasn't he?
EDWARD [sigh] He also writes a lot about the local architecture, but I'll skip that as well.
BLAKE My desk faces a window commanding a splendid view of the lower town's outspread roofs and the mystical sunsets that flame behind them.
HERBERT [dismissive] Cats... and sunsets.
EDWARD Some two miles away rose the spectral hump of Federal Hill.
BLAKE [diary] I have a curious sense that I gaze out upon some unknown, ethereal world which might or might not vanish in dream if I ever tried to seek it out and enter it in person.
EDWARD Blake settled down to write and paint. During that first winter he produced five of his best-known short stories - The Burrower Beneath, The Stairs in the Crypt--
CHARLES Oh, that was a corker.
HERBERT You actually read this nonsense?
CHARLES O'course. Have a subscription and all.
EDWARD Blake also painted seven canvases that season - studies of nameless, unhuman monsters, and profoundly alien, non-terrestrial landscapes.
RICHARD My favorites. If I do say so myself, though, I do better with....beings, while he should stick - have stuck - to exteriors.
EDWARD But the church kept drawing his thoughts.
BLAKE At sunset the great tapering steeple loomed blackly against the flaming sky.
RICHARD [speculative] Makes me wish I was more familiar with Providence.
EDWARD Blake made his first and only pilgrimage to the building just before the aeon-shadowed Walpurgis time.
WARREN Also known as May eve. Ostensibly, it's the festival of Saint Walpurga--
RICHARD There's a name for you.
CHARLES What was she the saint of?
WARREN Not my area. But I say "ostensibly", since it was one of those pagan holidays that the church found they couldn't quite ever abolish, so they replaced it, figuring if the populace wanted a holy day, it might as well be a proper Catholic one.
RICHARD And the pagan holiday it replaced?
WARREN Beltane. A spring fertility festival. It was a counterpart to All Hallow's Eve - note that they fall on opposite ends of the calendar.
RICHARD The nights that witches fly!
EDWARD So he took a walk sometime in late April.
BLAKE I noted the foreign signs over curious shops in brown, decade-weathered buildings. Now and then a battered church façade or crumbling spire came in sight, but never the blackened pile I sought.
EDWARD It was like a labyrinth. None of the streets went anywhere. When he asked a shopkeeper about the church, the man's face blanched with fear, and Blake saw him make a curious sign with his right hand.
WARREN Does it say what the sign looked like? Perhaps something like this?
CHARLES Isn't that the same hand gesture you see in ancient paintings of sages and saints?
RICHARD It appears often in Hindu art as well.
BLAKE [cutting in] Suddenly a black spire stood out against the cloudy sky to the left. Twice I lost my way, but somehow dared not ask any help.
EDWARD And then he was there. In a wind-swept open square towered over by the grim bulk of the decrepit church.
BLAKE I wondered how the panes of the gothic windows could have survived, in view of the known habits of small boys the world over.
WARREN [laughing] I think we all had our turn in our youth. Why I remember--
CHARLES Knee breeches and buckle shoes? When you write your own reminiscences, and then die in a strange and terrifying way, then we can discuss it. Go on, Edward.
EDWARD It took Blake some time, both to clear the fence and to find a shiftable basement window, but finally he was inside.
BLAKE The colossal nave was an almost eldritch place with its drifts of dust. Over all this hushed desolation played a hideous leaden light as the declining afternoon sun sent its rays through the strange, half-blackened panes of the great apsidal windows.
EDWARD The stained glass windows seemed to give Blake a nervous moment - both because they were heavily encrusted with soot, and, in a more subtle way, from the subject matter.
BLAKE The few saints depicted bore expressions distinctly open to criticism, while one of the windows seemed to show merely a dark space with spirals of curious luminosity scattered about in it.
RICHARD "Open to criticism"? That's all he said? That conjures up far too many possibilities!
EDWARD That's all.
RICHARD [frustrated noise] Oh. They could be cannibalistic, or lascivious, or cross-eyed.
EDWARD Don't know. In a rear room, Blake found shelves of mildewed, disintegrating books.
BLAKE They were the black, forbidden things which most sane people have never even heard of, or have heard of only in furtive, timorous whispers.
EDWARD You know the type.
WARREN [avid] Oh, yes, but did he give any details?
EDWARD There's a whole list - but it's not really germane to--
CHARLES Resign yourself, dear boy. Let Warren salivate a bit.
EDWARD [sigh] Here.
SOUND PAPER MOVES
WARREN Excellent! [musing] Necronomicon, yes - ah, in Latin! That would be the Vermius translation.
EDWARD He also grabbed a small notebook filled with entries in some cryptic code.
WARREN [muttering] The Liber Ivonis? Sinister. [chuckles] Ah, the infamous Cultes des Goules of Comte d'Erlette--
HERBERT [sigh, disdainful] You sound like a zealot saying his rosaries - or whatever they say.
RICHARD He sounds like a collector.
WARREN [wistful] If only. [normal] But I must be satisfied caring for the collections of others. Most of these books shouldn't be in the hands of any individual anyway. They are much too--
HERBERT Evil is a construct of morality.
CHARLES Oh, lord--
HERBERT As is religion.
EDWARD I don't think a book, at least, CAN be evil. You can only be evil if you have free will.
WARREN Oh, now this is my field, and when I tell you the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, or old Ludvig Prinn's hellish De Vermis Mysteriis is an evil book, you may take my word.
SOUND SNATCH OF PAPER
WARREN [upset] Hey!
CHARLES You may have it back at the end of class.
EDWARD So. [looking for his place] Room full of creepy books, Blake takes the diary, goes upstairs. Right. Aha!
SOUND SLAPS PAPER DOWN, WOOD BOX STARTS TO SHIFT. A STRANGE CHIMING NOISE. CATCH BOX
CHARLES Oh! Best watch that!
WARREN What IS it?
CHARLES [overly nonchalant] A box. What does it look like?
EDWARD [back to narration] Blake found a room upstairs, faintly lit by screened windows. In one corner, a ladder led up to the closed trap door of the windowless steeple.
BLAKE In the centre of the dust-laden floor rose a curiously angled stone pillar some four feet in height and two in diameter, covered on each side with bizarre, crudely incised and wholly unrecognizable hieroglyphs.
EDWARD On this pillar rested a metal box of peculiarly asymmetrical form--
RICHARD [knowing] Ah. Boxes.
HERBERT "Asymmetrical"? Nothing more specific?
EDWARD That's all his notes say--
HERBERT How unspecific. Asymmetrical merely means lacking in symmetry, which in turn means without any axis you could draw which would create a mirror image one side to the other.
CHARLES Symmetrical means the same on both sides--
HERBERT [correcting] Mirror image on both sides.
CHARLES Right. So, for instance your face is symmetrical--
HERBERT No human face is perfectly symmetrical. Nothing lines up exactly if you look close enough.
CHARLES Roughly symmetrical, then. You have an eye on each side of a nose, which has two nostrils to balance one another, and so on.
WARREN So as a way to picture an asymmetrical face, you might have an eye down on the jawline, and the nose up at the temple?
CHARLES Only if there wasn't a comparable eye and nose to match on the other side of the face.
HERBERT So was this box only as asymmetrical as a typical face, or was it grossly unbalanced?
EDWARD Uh... the notes just say asymmetrical.
HERBERT [annoyed sigh] Laymen.
EDWARD That box isn't important anyway - it's long gone. But what it held...
BLAKE Beneath decade-deep dust was an egg-shaped or irregularly spherical object some four inches through.
HERBERT [starting again] Irregularly spherical?
CHARLES Oh, not again!
EDWARD The four-inch irregular sphere turned out, once the dust was gone, to be a nearly black, red-striated polyhedron with many irregular flat surfaces; either a very remarkable crystal of some sort or an artificial object of carved and highly polished mineral matter.
HERBERT Crystals form naturally according to--
EDWARD [placating] So it was carved that way. Good point.
BLAKE Once exposed, it exerted an almost alarming fascination. I could scarcely tear my eyes from it.
EDWARD But he did. I mean, he must have, since he notes there was something else in the room. Or, should I say, someone? In the far corner, right at the foot of the ladder, was a hump of dust--
BLAKE Hand and handkerchief soon revealed a human skeleton. I examined a reporter's badge, a celluloid advertising calendar for 1893, some cards with the name "Edwin M. Lillibridge", and a paper covered with pencilled memoranda.
EDWARD Blake copied the text into his diary, for fear the paper would eventually crumble away to nothing.
CHARLES I think I'll have another--
SOUND SHIFT OF BOX
EDWARD [a little too vehement] Not that box! I mean, the candy is in YOUR box. Over there.
CHARLES [bit of a smirk] Oh. How forgetful of me.
WARREN What is it with the boxes?
RICHARD [knowing laugh]
EDWARD The notes were typical journalistic jottings, a list of dates and events - all involving the church. From "Prof. Enoch Bowen home from Egypt May 1844 - buys Church in July" the notes list a number of instances of people speaking or acting against Starry Wisdom, and finally, in April 1877, a number of members were apparently run out of town for their "beliefs."
WARREN Ah! THAT's what I've been trying to remember! Starry Wisdom, indeed. Weren't they accused of human sacrifice?
EDWARD The notes do list a number of disappearances attributed to them. Here, see for yourself.
SOUND PAPER BEING PASSED
HERBERT [dryly sarcastic] Because, of course, no one ever leaves home of their own accord.
CHARLES The community around was mostly catholic. Pretty tightly knit.
RICHARD Tightly wound, too, from the sound of it. Here it says that a mob of "Irish boys" - shouldn’t that be "lads"? - attacked the church, but it doesn't say what came of it.
EDWARD The locals assumed whatever was going on was devil worship. That's certainly why Lillibridge broke in.
BLAKE They say the Shining Trapezohedron shows them heaven and other worlds, and that the Haunter of the Dark tells them secrets.
HERBERT Did Lillibridge fall off the ladder? That could easily snap a man's neck, given enough height, or the proper trajectory.
EDWARD The cause was ... uncertain.
BLAKE I stooped over the gleaming bones. Some of them were badly scattered, and a few seemed oddly ...dissolved at the ends. The skull was in a very peculiar state - stained yellow, and with a charred aperture in the top as if some powerful acid had eaten through the solid bone.
EDWARD Before he realized it, Blake found himself staring at the trapezohedron again, and letting its curious influence call up images in his head.
BLAKE [very spooky] And beyond all else I glimpsed an infinite gulf of darkness, where solid and semisolid forms were known only by their windy stirrings, and cloudy patterns of force seemed to superimpose order on chaos and hold forth a key to all the paradoxes and arcana of the worlds we know.
HERBERT [disgusted] Purple prose.
RICHARD It's very evocative.
WARREN There are certain primitive tribes who ingest drugs to glimpse just such visions.
CHARLES Not another--
WARREN No, really, I was just about to say that if there was some item that caused "visions", it could easily have become the central focus of a religious cabal.
CHARLES Good and concise.
WARREN If I was gong to wax on, it would be to draw a comparison to the myth of Pandora, or some other famous myth regarding the dangers of curiosity.
CHARLES Well, thank goodness you restrained yourself.
EDWARD Blake finally managed to pull himself away. Probably noticed the day was waning, and he hadn't thought to bring a torch.
BLAKE It was then, in the gathering twilight, that I thought I saw a faint trace of luminosity in the crazily angled stone. Was there a subtle phosphorescence of radio-activity about the thing?
HERBERT Finally something I can grasp. Radio-activity is a concrete scientific essence, and could easily be the source of any number of superstitious explanations.
CHARLES If it comes up again, we'll consult you.
BLAKE I seized the cover of the long-open box and snapped it down. At the sharp click of that closing, a soft stirring sound seemed to come from the steeple's eternal blackness overhead, beyond the trap-door.
EDWARD That finally frightened him, and he plunged wildly out into the street, running all the way home.
CHARLES Didn't get lost this time?
WARREN [wistful] I don't suppose the church is still there - you said this all happened fairly recently?
EDWARD It burned down the day after Blake's death.
WARREN Blast. Evil or not, those books are a great loss to the general body of human knowledge.
EDWARD During the days which followed, Blake did a lot of research, and worked feverishly at the cryptogram in the notebook.
CHARLES I do like a good cryptogram.
EDWARD He says he solved the code in June, but didn't bother to include an actual translation in here. There are sketchy references to a "Haunter of the Dark" that could be awakened by someone gazing into the Shining Trapezohedron.
RICHARD You mean, just as he had looked into it?
EDWARD And he clearly believed that he had inadvertently summoned it.
WARREN Hah! Like Pandora - letting the cat out of the bag, or rather the monsters out of the box.
RICHARD He didn't open the box. Just gazed into the stone. The box was already open.
WARREN A metaphorical opening of the way, then - still amounts to the same thing.
HERBERT Some creature from an undefined place regarded this stone as what - the operator on its personal telephone exchange?
EDWARD He felt like it was just watching for its chance to walk abroad. He also notes, however, that the streetlights seemed to keep it trapped - forming a bulwark of light against its escape.
WARREN Throughout history, light has been the enemy of evil. Whether it's sunlight causing harm to a shade or the reversion to human of a lycanthrope with the dawn.
RICHARD And ghosts don't walk around by day - it would fade their sheets.
EDWARD Blake writes a lot about the Shining Trapezohedron, calling it a window on all time and space, and trying to trace its largely unbelievable history.
EDWARD Brought from some other sphere or planet by some elder race.
HERBERT Hmph. That's just superstitious claptrap repackaged for a modern age. Any number of objects have fallen to earth with origins clearly outside what we think of as the normal world.
RICHARD I heard about a meteor up north that had some quite terrible effects.
HERBERT And yet, they have no root in "evil", beyond what we attribute to them. Science doesn't shy away the way religion does. We don't just hang a sign on it that says "here there be dragons" and nervously turn our backs. Science grows to encompass new information.
RICHARD [snide] Like an amoeba absorbs its food?
HERBERT [thinks, then] Hmm. I suppose that's one way of picturing it.
WARREN Or water flowing into a series of newly-dug irrigation trenches.
CHARLES [prompting] Realms "beyond"?
EDWARD Blake seemed to think that the only way to banish the evil was to bury the stone and let daylight into the steeple.
SOUND PICKS UP AND OPENS BOX, THEN SHUTS IT AGAIN QUICKLY
EDWARD At the same time, however, Blake goes on at some length about his morbid longing to gaze again into the cosmic secrets of the glowing stone.
HERBERT Impressionable people should stay out of certain fields of endeavor.
HERBERT People with fragile minds are better left to the arts than to science, or investigations into the unknown.
RICHARD I'll have you know that Art can be a terrible wretch of a mistress.
HERBERT With science, you can work your entire life, and never get a single word of encouragement.
WARREN Academia is entirely indifferent to any of us who toil in her fields.
RICHARD At least your field moves forward slowly enough that by the time someone proves your theory wrong, you've been dead long enough to be an exhibit yourself.
CHARLES Shall we put them in opposite corners, or have them construct essays on their misconduct?
EDWARD There aren't enough corners, even in YOUR house.
RICHARD My apologies.
WARREN So sorry. Pray go on.
EDWARD The morning of July 17, something in the paper really set Blake off. During the night, a storm had put the city's lighting-system out for a full hour.
CHARLES I'll bet that didn't go over well.
EDWARD The superstitious locals ran mad. They surrounded the old church, brandishing candles and lamps.
WARREN A vigil.
EDWARD And shuddered at the horrible noises coming from within.
CHARLES I know a few buildings I regard that way.
EDWARD Soon after, in daytime, reporters broke in and found the dust within was all churned up. There was also a bad odour everywhere, and here and there were bits of yellow stain and patches of what looked like charring.
HERBERT Similar to the bones? Did anyone ever run any scientific tests on any of this residue?
EDWARD Not that I have any note on. The reporters noted the stone pillar, but the metal box and the old mutilated skeleton were not mentioned.
WARREN Hmm. Gone, or simply overlooked?
HERBERT The newspapers love to print prurient details.
CHARLES How prurient is a rock in a box?
EDWARD From this point onwards Blake's diary shows a mounting tide of horror and apprehension. He frantically telephoned the electric light company more than once, asking - even demanding - that desperate precautions be taken to avoid another loss of power.
BLAKE My worst fears concerned the unholy rapport I felt existed between my mind and that lurking horror in the distant steeple- that monstrous thing of night which my rashness had called out of the ultimate black spaces.
CHARLES Sounds like he should have invested his last dollar in safety lanterns.
RICHARD And a trip to the tropics!
EDWARD People calling on him at the time remember how he would sit and stare out of the west window. He spoke often of strange dreams - not nightmares, precisely, but eerily similar to the vision he'd had when gazing into the stone.
WARREN Sounds almost like shellshock. The way memories come back to haunt soldiers.
EDWARD It got worse. He kept stout cords near his bed so he could bind his ankles at night to prevent himself from somnambulism.
CHARLES I had a friend had to do that once. If the struggle to get out of bed didn't waken him, the falling flat on his face certainly would.
BLAKE I thought often of the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose centre sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demoniac flute held in nameless paws.
WARREN Azathoth! Now there's a name to conjure with! Or not to... preferably. [winding down] Probably best not to mention it at all.
EDWARD The night of the 30th, Blake came to suddenly, finding himself in a horribly familiar darkened space. A panic flight ensued, leaving him senseless until morning.
CHARLES Are you saying he managed to sleepwalk all the way across town?
EDWARD Well, the next morning he found himself lying on his study floor fully dressed. Dirt and cobwebs covered him, and every inch of his body sore and bruised. He writes that his hair was badly scorched, and a trace of a strange evil odour clung to his clothing. It was then that his nerves broke down.
RICHARD I think he was overdue.
HERBERT While I don't understand the phenomena of sleepwalking, I do accept that it occurs.
CHARLES How big of you.
HERBERT But while one might walk in such a fugue-like state, would one take such niceties as getting dressed into consideration?
WARREN It's probably much like a state of mesmerism. One does what one is told to so.
HERBERT But if no one told him--
CHARLES Should be obvious. We've all been told enough times in our lives not to go outside without a jacket.
EVERYONE [general laughter]
EDWARD August eighth. The great storm broke just before midnight. Lightning struck in all parts of the city, and a couple of remarkable fireballs were reported. Blake was utterly frantic and recorded everything in his diary-
HERBERT Did he write that he was frantic?
RICHARD He was the type to record everything.
EDWARD It was more the tone of the things he did write, but his handwriting is very telling, too. See?
SOUND PAPERS PASS
SOUND PAPERS PASS
WARREN Ah. Yes. The way it changes - getting bigger, and less readable.
RICHARD Also harder to write once the lights go out.
EDWARD That hadn't happened - yet. See, he's still fretting over it right here. "The lights must not go";
BLAKE "It knows where I am";
EDWARD "I must destroy it"; and
BLAKE "it is calling to me, but perhaps it means no injury this time";
EDWARD --are found scattered down two of the pages. Ending with--
BLAKE "Lights out- God help me."
EDWARD At 2.35 the noises at the steeple swelled. Then, a sound of splintering wood and a large, heavy object crashed down in the yard beneath the frowning easterly façade.
RICHARD Where were the praying multitude?
EDWARD Right there. Whom do you think was left to tell the tale? In fact, just as the "escape" was made, with a vibration as of flapping wings, a sudden east-blowing wind snatched off hats and wrenched dripping umbrellas from the crowd.
CHARLES Dousing all the tiny pinpricks of the candles?
HERBERT Quite literally, if the downpour was that prodigious.
EDWARD They must have managed to get some of their lights relit, for they remained at their posts. The rain didn't stop for another half hour, and shortly after that, the electric lights came back on.
WARREN You have quite a comprehensive narration, considering the burden of fear the watchers must have been laboring under.
EDWARD The papers gave these matters minor mention in connection with the general storm reports. I suspect reporters, being what they are, were present during the events.
RICHARD [chuckling] Perhaps someone writing sensational fiction dropped in for a cold chill.
EDWARD The one thing that baffled press and meteorologists alike was a lone lightning-bolt that seemed to have struck somewhere in Blake's neighborhood, though no trace of its striking could afterwards be found.
EDWARD Precisely. When a policeman forced the door, Blake's rigid body sat bolt upright at his desk by the window, with glassy, bulging eyes, and the look of stark, convulsive fright on his twisted features! They were reportedly quite sickened.
RICHARD Police are such delicate flowers. Always being sickened by things.
HERBERT Looking at such damage objectively, a face of fear is much the same as a face in pain, it's all in the attribution the onlooker gives to the damage--
EDWARD The coroner's physician made an examination, and despite the unbroken window, reported the death as the result of electrical shock, or rather nervous tension induced by electrical discharge.
HERBERT Electricity is not an entirely understood element, even now. New possibilities and capabilities are being discovered every day. I've often thought myself that electricity might be the key to, say, restarting a stopped heart.
CHARLES If you don't want a stopped heart yourself, Herbert, pray let Edward finish. We're nearly to a conclusion, if I don't miss my guess. I think I'll turn out the electric lights. Leave us in the dark like Blake. Edward can keep the candle.
SOUND GETS UP, LIGHTS CLICK OFF
EDWARD There isn't really a nice convenient ending, just another, larger question mark. Blake prolonged his frenzied jottings to the last. In fact, the broken-pointed pencil was found clutched in his spasmodically contracted right hand.
WARREN Spontaneous rigor. Not uncommon in cases of sudden, catastrophic death. Leads to the so-called "death grip" of detective fiction.
EDWARD The entries after the failure of the lights were highly disjointed, and legible only in part.
BLAKE Lights still out - must be five minutes now. Everything depends on lightning. Yaddith grant it will keep up!...
WARREN Some ancient deity I'm not familiar with.
BLAKE Some influence seems beating through it... Rain and thunder and wind deafen... The thing is taking hold of my mind... What am I afraid of? Is it not an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antique and shadowy Khem even took the form of man?
WARREN Ah, Nyarlathotep, the mysterious "dark man" who can take many forms.
BLAKE The long, winging flight through the void... cannot cross the universe of light... re-created by the thoughts caught in the Shining Trapezohedron... send it through the horrible abysses of radiance...
RICHARD Lost his mind completely.
EDWARD I think he agreed with you.
BLAKE My name is Blake- Robert Harrison Blake of 620 East Knapp Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin... I am on this planet...
CHARLES As if he was trying to find his way home.
BLAKE Azathoth have mercy!- the lightning no longer flashes- horrible- I can see everything with a monstrous sense that is not sight- light is dark and dark is light... I am it and it is I - I want to get out... must get out and unify the forces... it knows where I am... I am Robert Blake, but I see the tower in the dark. There is a monstrous odour... senses transfigured... boarding at that tower window cracking and giving way... Iä... ngai... ygg... I see it - coming here - hell-wind - titan blue - black wing - Yog Sothoth save me - the three-lobed burning eye...
[after a moment]
WARREN [sigh wistfully] I can almost smell the sulphuric tang.
HERBERT I certainly can. Something must be burning.
CHARLES [over-innocent] Burning? Nonsense.
RICHARD There is definitely a smell.
EDWARD [teasing] Someone here just couldn't stand the suspense, could you, Richard?
EDWARD It wasn't a very good joke, but the box - this box - contained just enough sulfur to make a good pong if anyone got nosy and opened it to see if I really had the shining trapezohedron.
WARREN I suppose that, much like Pandora, there are certain things that you can never quite get back into a box.