Book: Black Wings

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Annotated by Ramsey Campbell

 

Ramsey Campbell is one of the most distinguished authors of supernatural fiction of his generation. He published a collection of Cthulhu Mythos tales, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants (Arkham House, 1964), at the age of eighteen. His second collection, Demons by Daylight (1973), was a landmark in the history of weird fiction. Among his later collections are Dark Companions (Macmillan, 1982), Waking Nightmares (Tor, 1991), Alone with the Horrors (Arkham House, 1993), and Told by the Dead (PS Publishing, 2003). Among his many novels are Incarnate (Macmillan, 1983), Midnight Sun (Macdonald, 1990), The Long Lost (Headline, 1993), The House on Nazareth Hill (Headline Feature, 1996), and The Darkest Part of the Woods (PS Publishing, 2002). Most of his Lovecraftian tales were gathered in Cold Print (Tor, 1985; rev. ed. Headline, 1993). PS Publishing is to publish the definitive set of his Lovecraftian short fiction.

 
 
n 1968 August Derleth was sent a number of letters that had apparently been received by H. P. Lovecraft. The anonymous parcel bore no return address. Although the letters had been typed on a vintage machine and on paper that appeared to be decades old, Derleth was undecided whether they were authentic. For instance, he was unsure that someone living in a small English village in the 1920s would have had access to issues of Weird Tales, and he could find no obvious references to Nash in any of Lovecraft's surviving correspondence. Derleth considered printing some or all of Nash's letters in the Arkham Collector but decided against using them in the Winter 1969 issue devoted to Lovecraft. Later he asked me to think about writing an essay on Lovecraft for a new Lovecraftian volume that might offer the letters a home, but the project was shelved. Intrigued by his references to the Nash letters, I persuaded him to send me copies, including the other documents. It isn't clear what happened to the originals. When I visited Arkham House in 1975, James Turner knew nothing about them, and he was subsequently unable to trace them. He did mention that in Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside, Frank Belknap Long referred to an English writer who "thought it was amusing to call people names," by whom Lovecraft had supposedly been troubled for several years. Since Long was unable to be more specific, Turner deleted the reference. I reproduce all the letters here, followed by the final documents. Nash's signature is florid and extends across the page. It grows larger but less legible as the correspondence progresses.

 
 

7, Grey Mare Lane,

Long Bredy,

West Dorset,

Great Britain.

April 29th, 1925.

 
My dear Mr. Lovecraft,

 

Forgive a simple English villager for troubling such a celebrated figure as yourself. I trust that the proprietors of your chosen publication will not think it too weird that a mere reader should seek to communicate with his idol. As I pen these words I wonder if they might not more properly have been addressed to the eerie letter-column of that magazine. My fear is that the editor would find them unworthy of ink, however, and so I take the greater risk of directing them to you. I pray that he will not find me so presumptuous that he forwards them no farther than the bin beside his desk.

  May I come swiftly to my poor excuse for this intrusion into your inestimably precious time? I have sampled six issues of the Unique Magazine, and I am sure you must be aware that it has but a single claim to uniqueness—the contributions of your good self. I scarcely know whether to marvel or to be moved that you should allow them to appear amongst the motley fancies which infest the pages of the journal. Do you intend to educate the other contributors by your example? Are you not concerned that the ignorant reader may be repelled by this commonplace herd, thereby failing to discover the visions which you offer? The company in which you find yourself reads like the scribbling of hacks who have never dared to dream. I wish that the magazine would at least emblazon your name on the cover of every number which contains your prose. I promise you that on the occasion when I mistakenly bought an issue which had neglected to feature your work, I rent it into shreds so small that not a single vapid sentence could survive.

  I am conscious how far any words of mine will fall short of conveying my admiration of your work. May I simply isolate those elements which remain liveliest in my mind? Your parable of Dagon seems to tell a truth at which the compilers of the Bible scarcely dared to hint, but I am most intrigued by the dreams which the narrator is afraid to remember in daylight. The quarry of your hideous hound declares that his fate is no dream, yet to this English reader it suggests one, brought on by the banal Baskerville investigations of Sherlock Holmes. Your narrator de la Poer dreams whilst awake, but are these reveries shaped by awful reality or the reverse? As for the descendant of the African union, perhaps he never dreams of his own nature because he has a germ in him—the same germ which infects the minds of all those who believe we are as soulless as the ape. But it is your hypnotic tale of Hypnos which exerts the firmest hold on my imagination. May I press you to reveal its source? Does it perhaps hint at your own experience?

  As to myself, I am sure you will not want to be fatigued by information about me. I am but a player at the human game. However long I sojourn in this village, none of its natives will tempt me to grow breedy. While my body works behind a counter, my spirit is abroad in the infinity of imagination. At least the nearby countryside offers solitude, and it harbours relics of the past, which are keys to dreams. Please accept my undying gratitude, Mr. Lovecraft, for helping to enliven mine. If you should find a few moments to acknowledge this halting missive, you will confer existence on a dream of your most loyal admirer.

  I have the honour to remain, Mr. Lovecraft,

  Your respectful and obedient servant,

Cameron Thaddeus Nash.


  
 

7, Grey Mare Lane,

Long Bredy,

West Dorset,

   Great Britain.

August 12th, 1925.

My esteemed Mr. Lovecraft,

 

I am sorry that you find New York inhospitable and that you have been inconvenienced by burglary. May I counsel you to reflect that such disadvantages are negligible so long as one's fancies remain unfettered? Your corporeal experiences count for naught unless they prevent you from dreaming and from communicating your dreams. Let me assure you that they have reached across the ocean to inspire a fellow voyager.

  I was sure that your stories which I have read gave voice to your dreams, and I rejoice to understand that other tales of yours do so. But why must these pieces languish in amateur publications? While the mob would doubtless greet them with brutish incomprehension, surely you should disseminate your visions as widely as possible, to give other dreamers the opportunity to chance upon them. I hope some of our kind made themselves a Yuletide present of your tale about the festival in the town which you had never visited except in dreams. I fear that any reader with a brain must have been seasonably inebriated to enjoy the other contents of that number of the magazine. How can it still neglect to advertize your presence on the cover? I remain appalled that the issue which contained your tale of Hypnos chose to publicize Houdini's contribution instead. How misguided was the editor to provide a home for those ridiculous Egyptian ramblings? Houdini even dares to claim that the tale is the report of a dream, but we genuine dreamers see through his charlatanry. I believe he has never dreamed in his life, having been too bent on performing tricks with his mere flesh.

  May I presume to pose a question? I wonder if Hypnos represents only as terrible an aspect of dream as you believe the reader could bear to confront, unless this evasion is born of your own wariness. For myself, I am convinced that at the farthest reach of dream we may encounter the source, whose nature no deity ever imagined by man could begin to encompass. Perhaps some Greek sage glimpsed this truth and invented Hypnos as a mask to spare the minds of the multitude. But, Mr. Lovecraft, our minds stand above the mass, and it is our duty to ourselves never to be daunted from dreaming.

  I wish you could have shared my midsummer night's experience, when I spent a midnight hour with the Grey Mare and her colts. They are fragments of an ancient settlement, and I seemed to dream that I found the buried entrance to a grave. It led into a labyrinth illuminated only by my consciousness. As I ventured deeper I became aware that I was descending into an unrecorded past. I understood that the labyrinth was the very brain of an ancient mage, the substance of which had fertilized the earth, where his memories emerged in the form of aberrant subterranean growths. One day I may fashion this vision into a tale.

  I have done so, and I take the great liberty of enclosing it. Should you ever be able to spare the time to glance over it, I would find any comments that you cared to offer beyond price. Perhaps you might suggest a title more fitting than The Brain Beneath the Earth?

  I bid you adieu from a land which you have dreamed of visiting.

  Yours in inexpressible admiration,

Cameron Thaddeus Nash.

 
 
 

18, Old Sarum Road,

Salisbury,

Wiltshire,

Great Britain.

October 30th, 1925.

Dear H. P. Lovecraft,

 
Thank you for your kind praise of my little tale, and thank you for taking the trouble to think of a title. Now it sounds more like a story of your own. Please also be assured of my gratitude for the time you spent in offering suggestions for changes to the piece. I am sure you will understand if I prefer it to remain as I dreamed it. I am happy that in any case you feel it might be worthy of submission to the "unique magazine," and I hereby authorize you to do so. I am certain that Beneath the Stones can only benefit from your patronage.

  I must apologize for my mistake over the "Houdini" tale. Had it appeared as Under the Pyramids by none other than the great Howard Phillips Lovecraft, I promise you that it would have excited a different response from this reader. I should have guessed its authorship, since it proves to be the narration of a dream. May I assume that Houdini supplied some of the material? I believe this robs the tale of the authenticity of your other work. Only genuine dreamers can collaborate on a dream.

  I was amused to learn that you had to devote your wedding night to typing the story afresh. Perhaps your loss of the original transcription was a lucky chance which you should continue to embrace. I trust you will permit a fellow dreamer to observe that your courtship and marriage appear to have distracted you from your true purpose in the world. I fervently hope that you have not grown unable to dream freely now that you are no longer alone. May your wife be preventing you from visiting sites which are fertile with dreams, or from employing relics to bring dreams to your bed? You will have noticed that I have moved onwards from my previous abode, having exhausted the site of which I wrote to you. I believe my new situation will provide me with a portal to dreams no living man has begun to experience.

  In the meantime I have read your brace of tales which recently saw publication. The musician Zann and his street are dreams, are they not? Only in dreams may streets remain unmapped. Is the abyss which the music summons not a glimpse or a hint of the source of the ultimate dream? And Carter's graveyard reverie conjures up the stuff of dream. It rightly stays unnameable, for the essence of dreams neither can nor should be named. You mentioned that these tales were composed before your courtship. May I take the liberty of suggesting that they remind you what you are in peril of abandoning? The dreamer ought to be a solitary man, free to follow all the promptings of his mind.

  At least while you are unable to write, you are still communicating visions—my own. Now that you have become my American representative I shall be pleased if you will call me Thad. It is the name I would ask a friend to use, and it sounds quite American, does it not? Let me take this opportunity to send you three more tales for your promotion. I am satisfied with them and with their titles. May I ask you not to show them to any of your circle or to mention me? I prefer not to be heard of until I am published. I hope that the magazine will deign to exhibit both of our names on the cover. Let the spiritless scribblers be confined within, if they must continue to infest its sheets.

  Yours in anticipation of print,

Thad Nash.

 
 
 

18, Old Sarum Road,

Salisbury,

Wiltshire,

Great Britain.

February 14th, 1926.

Dear Howard Phillips Lovecraft,

 

I am grateful to you for your attempt to place my work. You had previously mentioned that Farthingsworth Wrong tends to be unreceptive to the truly unique. I am certain that you must have done everything in your power to persuade him to your opinion of my tales. Are there other markets where you will do your best to sell them, or is it more advisable to wait for his tastes to mature? You will appreciate that I am relying on your experience in these matters.

  I do not recall your mentioning that you had written new fiction last summer. I am relieved to learn that your marital subjugation has not permanently crippled your ability to dream. May I assume that these stories did not hinder your marketing of my work? I believe that our writing has little in common other than the title you provided, but I wonder if the editor's judgement may have been adversely affected by your sending him too many pieces all at once. Perhaps in future it would be wise to submit my work separately from your own, and with a reasonable interval between them.

  I am heartened by the information that you plan to write a history of supernatural literature. I am sure that your appreciation of the form will produce a guide which should be on the shelves of every dreamer. I look forward eagerly to reading it. If I can advise or in any way aid you, please do not hesitate to ask.

  You will be anxious to hear about the progress of my own work. Please reassure yourself that your failure to place my stories has not cast me down. Rather has it goaded me to venture deeper into dream, whence I shall return bearing prizes no less wonderful than dreadful. I shall tell ancient truths which no reader will be able to deny and no editor dare to suppress. I am certain that the nearby sites contain unsuspected relics, although soon I may have no more need of them. However it is used, a relic is but the germ of a dream, just as your dreams are the germs of your fiction. I wonder to what extent your dreams have become fixed on your native Providence? Perhaps your desire to return there is draining your imagination of the energy to rise higher and voyage farther. I hope you will ultimately find as congenial an environment as I have myself.

  I await news of your efforts. 

  Yours for the supremacy of dream,

Cameron Thad Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain.

May 23rd, 1926.

Dear HPL,

 
I write to alert you that, like yours, my body has found a new lodging. It became necessary for me to decamp to an unfamiliar town. I had been surprised one night in the process of obtaining a relic. The donor of the item could have made no further use of it, but I fear that the mob and its uninformed, uniformed representatives of unformed uniformity have little understanding of the dreamer's needs. The resultant pursuit was unwelcome, and a source of distraction to me. For several nights I was annoyed by dreams of this mere chase, and they led to my seeking a home elsewhere.

  Well, I am done with graves and brains and the infusion of them. I am safe inside my skull, where the mob cannot spy, nor even dreamers like yourself. I have learned to rise above the use of material aids to dream. I require but a single talisman—the night and the infinite darkness of which it is the brink. Let the puny scientists strive to design machines to fly to other worlds! This dreamer has preceded them, employing no device save his own mind. The darkness swarms with dreams, which have been formed by the consciousnesses of creatures alien beyond the wildest fancies of man. Each dream which I add to my essence leads me deeper into uncharted space. A lesser spirit would shrivel with dread of the ultimate destination. In my tales I can only hint at the stages of my quest, for fear that even such a reader as yourself may quail before the face of revelation.

  I see you are content to have reverted to your native Providence. I hope that your contentment will provide a base from which you may venture into the infinite. I have read your recent contributions to Farthingsworth's rag. Will you forgive my opining that your story of the dreamer by the ancestral tomb seems a trifle earthbound? I had higher expectations of the other tale, but was disappointed when the narrator's dreams urged him to climb the tower not to vistas of infinity but to a view of the dull earth. No wonder he found nothing worthy of description in the mirror. I wonder if, while immolated in your marriage, you became so desperate to dream that you were unable to direct the process. I counsel you to follow my example. The dreamer must tolerate no distractions, neither family nor those that call themselves friends. None of these is worth the loss of a solitary dream.

  At your urging I recently viewed the moving picture of The Phantom of the Opera. You mentioned that you fell asleep several times during the picture, and I have to inform you that you must have been describing your own dream of the conclusion rather than the finale which appears on the screen. I assure you that no "nameless legion of things" welcomes the Phantom to his watery grave. I am glad that they at least remained nameless in your mind. No dream ought to be named, for words are less than dreams.

  I look forward to reading your short novel about the island raised by the marine earthquake, although would an unknown island bear such a name as "L'yeh" or indeed any name? And I am anxious to read your survey of supernatural literature when it, too, is completed. In the meantime, here are three new tales of mine for your perusal and advancement. Please do make all speed to advise me as soon as there is news.

  Yours in the fellowship of dreams and letters,

CTN.

P.S. Could you make sure to address all correspondence to me under these initials?

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

April 17th, 1927.

Dear HPL,

 

I trust that you have not been alarmed by my prolonged silence. I thought it wise not to attract the attention of the mob for a judicious period. I also felt obliged to give you the opportunity to place some of your fiction and to compose new tales before I favoured you with the first sight of my latest work. I think now you have been amply represented in Farthingsworth's magazine, and I am encouraged to learn that you have recently been productive. I believe it is time that you should have reports of my nocturnal voyaging, and I shall include all those which I judge to be acceptable to my audience. Some, I fear, might overwhelm the mind of any other dreamer.

  I hope those which I send you will go some way towards reviving your own capacity to dream. May I assume that the anecdote about the old sea captain and his bottles was a sketch for a longer story and saw publication by mistake? I suppose it was trivial enough for Farthingsworth's mind to encompass. I note that the narrator of your tale about the Irish bog is uncertain whether he is dreaming or awake, but his dream scarcely seems worth recording. Your tale of the nameless New Yorker is no dream at all, since the narrator's night is sleepless, and the only fancy you allow him is your own, which you have already achieved—to return to New England. As for the detective in Red Hook, he needs specialists to convince him that he dreamed those subterranean horrors, but I am afraid the medical view failed to persuade this reader.

  I am glad to hear that you wrote your story of the upraised island. May I trust that it has greater scope than the tales I have discussed above? Perhaps this may also be the case with your most recent piece, though I confess that the notion of a mere colour falls short of rousing my imagination. No colour can be sufficiently alien to paint the far reaches of dream, which lie beyond and simultaneously at the core of the awful gulf which is creation. Of the two novels you have recently completed, does the celebration of your return to Providence risk being too provincial? I hope that the account of your dream-quest is the opposite, and I am touched that you should have hidden my name within the text for the informed reader to discover. But I am most pleased by the news that you have delivered your essay on supernatural literature to the publisher. Could you tell me which living writers you have discussed?

  Let me leave you to do justice to the enclosed pieces. Perhaps in due time I may risk sending those I have withheld, when you have sufficiently progressed as a dreamer. Have you yet to loose your mind in the outer darkness? Every dream which I encounter there is a step towards another, more ancient or more alien. I have shared the dreams of creatures whose bodies the mob would never recognize as flesh. Some have many bodies, and some have none at all. Some are shaped in ways at which their dreams can only hint, and which make me grateful for my blindness in the utter dark. I believe these dreams are stages in my advance towards the ultimate dream, which I sense awaiting me at the limit of unimaginable space.

  Yours in the embrace of the dark,

CTN.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

June 23rd, 1927.

Dear HPL,

 

Of course you are correct in saying that my new pieces have progressed. I hope that you will be able to communicate your enthusiasm to Farthingsworth and to any other editors whom you approach on my behalf.

  Thank you for the list of living writers whose work you have praised in your essay. May I take it that you have withheld one name from me? Perhaps you intended me to be surprised upon reading it in the essay, unless you wished to spare my modesty. Let me reassure you that its presence would be no surprise and would cause me no embarrassment. If by any chance you decided that my work should not be discussed in the essay because of its basis in actual experience, pray do remind yourself that the material is cast in fictional form. In the case of such an omission, I trust that the error will be rectified before the essay sees publication.

  Yours in urgency,

CTN.

 

 

 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

August 25th, 1927.

Dear HPL,

 

I was glad to receive your apology for neglecting to include me in your essay. On reflection, I have concluded that your failure to do so was advantageous. As you say, my work is of a different order. It would not benefit from being discussed alongside the fanciful yarns of the likes of Machen and Blackwood. It is truth masquerading as fiction, and I believe you will agree that it deserves at least an essay to itself. I hope its qualities will aid you in placing your appreciation in a more prestigious journal, and one which is more widely read. To these ends I sent you yesterday the work which I had previously kept back. I trust that your mind will prove equal to the truths conveyed therein. While you assimilate their implications, I shall consider how far they are suitable for revelation to the world.

  Yours in the darkest verities,

CTN.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

November 1st, 1927.

Dear HPL,

 

I am assured by the postmistress that the parcel of my work has had ample time to reach you. I hope that the contents have not rendered you so speechless that you are unable to pen a response. Pray do not attempt to comment on the pieces until you feel capable of encompassing their essence. However, I should be grateful if you would confirm that they have safely arrived.

   Yours,

CTN.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

January 1st, 1928.

Lovecraft,

 

Am I meant to fancy that the parcel of my work faded into nothingness like a dream? You forget that my dreams do not fade. They are more than common reveries, for they have grasped the stuff of creation. The accounts which I set down may be lost to me, but their truths are buried in my brain. I shall follow wherever they may lead, even unto the unspeakable truth which is the core of all existence.

  I was amused by your lengthy description of your Halloween dream of ancient Romans. I fear that, like so many of your narrators, you are shackled to the past, and unable to release your spirit into the universe. I read your amazing story of the alien colour, but I failed to be amazed except by its unlikeness. How can there be a colour besides those I have seen? The idea is nothing but a feeble dream, and your use of my name in the tale is no compliment to me. When I read the sentence "The Dutchman's breeches became a thing of sinister menace," I wonder if the story is a joke which you sought to play on your ignorant audience.

  Nevertheless, it has some worth, for it convinces me that you are by no means the ideal agent for my work. I ignored your presumption in suggesting changes to my reports as if they were mere fiction, but I am troubled by the possibility that you may regard your work as in any way superior to mine. Is it conceivable that you altered the pieces which you submitted on my behalf? I suspect you of hindering them for fear that your fiction might be unfavourably compared to them, and in order that it might reach the editors ahead of them. I am sure that you excluded my work from your essay out of jealousy. I wonder if you may have resented my achievement ever since I gave you my honest appraisal of your Houdini hotchpotch. For these reasons and others which need not concern you, I hereby withdraw my work from your representation. Please return all of it immediately on receipt of this letter.

  Sincerely,

Cameron Thaddeus Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

March 3rd, 1928.

Loathecraft,

 

Where is my work? I have still not had it back.

C. T. Nash.

 

 

 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

May 1st, 1928.

Lovecramped,

 

So a second parcel has vanished into the void! How capricious the colonial post must be, or so you would have me believe. I am not to think that you are fearful of my seeing any alterations that you made to my work. Nor should I suspect you of destroying evidence that you have stolen elements of my work in a vain attempt to improve your own. You say that I should have kept copies, but you may rest assured that the essence is not lost. It remains embedded in my brain, where I feel it stirring like an eager foetus as it reaches for the farthest dream.

  I wonder if its undeveloped relative may have made its lair in your brain as you read my work. Perhaps it is consuming your dreams instead of helping send them forth, since your mind falls so short of the cosmos. Your limits are painfully clear from your tale of the regurgitated island. Could you imagine nothing more alien than a giant with the head of an octopus? You might at least have painted it your non-existent colour. Giants were old when the Greeks were young, and your dreams are just as stale. No doubt your acolytes—Augur Dulldeath and Clerk Ashen Sniff and Dullard Wantdie and Stank Kidnap Pong and the rest of your motley entourage—will counterfeit some admiration of the tale.

  I assume they have been deluded into valuing your patronage, and are so afraid of losing it that they dare offer you no criticism. I would demonstrate to you how your tale should have been written if it included any matter worthy of my attention. In any case, all my energy is necessary to dealing with my dreams. I doubt that I shall write them down in future. I am unaware of anyone who deserves to learn of them. Let mankind experience them for itself when it has sufficiently evolved to do so.


C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain.

December 25th, 1929.

Lugcraft,

 

Did you dream that you would never hear from me again? Had you, perhaps, even forgotten my existence, since reading my work has evidently taught you nothing as a writer? You are but a shell in which a few dreams writhed and then withered when exposed to daylight. I had the misfortune to leaf through your claptrap about Dunwich. I suppose you must have chosen to write about the submarine village before you remembered that you had already written about a submarine island. You would have done better to leave both of them sunken. Can you dream of nothing except tentacles? It seems to me that your writing is a decidedly fishy business. Has my mislaid work yet to put in a mysterious reappearance?

  I was reminded of you upon recently encountering Mr. Visiak's novel Medusa. He, too, writes of a tentacled colossus which inhabits an uncharted rock. His prose is infinitely subtler and more skilled than your own, and evokes the dream which must have been its seed. Have you read the book? Perhaps it is one reason why you appear to have written so little of late. He has achieved all that you strain to achieve and more, with none of your symptoms of labour. He is rightly published by a reputable London house, whereas your efforts are removed from view within a month. Pulp thou art, and pulp thou shalt remain.

  Are you struggling to shape some kind of myth out of the mumbo-jumbo in your recent effusions? It does not begin to hint at any kind of truth. You can never hope to touch upon that until you approach the ultimate, the source, the solitary presence, the very secret of all being. What is the universe but the greatest dream, which dreamed itself into existence? At its core, which is also its farthest boundary, is the lair of its creator. That awful entity is the essence of all dreams, and so it can be glimpsed only through them. The visionary dreams of the inhabitants of the universe are fragments of its nature, and it is jealous of bestowing them. Could you convey any of this in your spiritless fiction? I am certain you could not. Even I flinched from the merest distant glance upon the presence which hovers in the deepest dark, mouthing vast secrets while it plucks many-legged at the fabric of the universe. Perhaps I shall capture its essence in a final literary offering, The Eater of Dreams. Should it see print, your attempts and those of all your acolytes will fade into deserved oblivion.

 

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

November 1st, 1931.

Lumpcraft,

 

Have you still failed to lay your hands on my misplaced work? It is evident that you have learned nothing from its example. When I saw the title of your latest washout I wondered if the whisperer might have been your feeble version of the truth to which I previously alluded, but it is even weaker than I would have expected of you. The conclusion of the tale was obvious to me before I read the first page. You have always donned the mask of fiction to aid you in your pitiful attempts to scare your few admirers, but now it should be plain to the dullest of them that there is nothing behind the mask.

  Your day is done, Lumpcraft, such as it ever was. I was amused to see that you have rendered Farthingsworth's rag even less unique by reprinting your tired tales of the hound and the rats. Are you now so bereft of imagination that you must resort to reanimating these soulless cadavers? Perhaps you have realized that, enervated though they are, they have more life than your latest efforts.

  Which of those has lured in your new lickspittle, Rabbity Cowherd? I presume he is avid for the world to notice that he refers in his own scribblings to your mumbo-jumbo. Is this intended to delude the reader into mistaking your puerile fancies for truth, or is it simply a game which you and your courtiers play? If you had been granted even the briefest glimpse of the denizen of the ultimate darkness, you would not dare to misuse your dreams in this fashion. You would recognize that you are but the least of its countless dreams. If you had discerned the merest hint of its nature, you would know that by attempting to perceive it, you had attracted its attention. How shall I describe the experience in words that the likes of you may understand? It feels as though some embryonic organ has become embedded in my brain. Sometimes I feel it stir, and then I know that I am observed by a consciousness so vast and so indifferent to me that it shrivels my being to less than an atom. Perhaps these moments are immeasurably brief, and yet they last for an eternity, both of which are constant states of the denizen of the infinite. In such a moment I become aware that time is as much of an illusion as space and all the materials which compose the universe. Nothing is real except the dreams of the source that clutches with its countless limbs at its creation. What would you write if you grasped even a fraction of its nature, Lumpcraft? I believe that you would never write again. What a boon that would be! For myself, I have done writing to you. You are no more to me than I am to the boundless dreamer.

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

September 3rd, 1933.

Pulpcraft,


Well, you have outdone yourself. Who else could have written your tale about the witch's house? Who else would have wanted to do so? Who, having committed the offence, would have put his name to it? I am beginning to think that you may indeed not have received my later work. Certainly its example is nowhere to be seen, although the same may equally be said of my work which you admitted to receiving. This latest farrago is an insult to the very name of dream, and I suspect that even your fawning friends will search in vain for elements to praise. Since they all write fiction, no doubt they will produce some to comfort you. Are you so timid or so dishonest that you cannot admit your failings as a writer even to yourself? Were I you, Pulpcraft, I should give up the struggle before I perpetrated worse embarrassments. I writhe in disgust at your humdrum pulpy prose, and so does the mouth in my brain.

  It is indeed the semblance of a mouth. Just as the glimpses of the presence with which I tantalized you were no more than similes, so this may be the merest hint of the reality. All the same, I often feel its moist lips shift within my cranium, and sometimes I have felt a tongue explore the folds of my brain, probing among them. Increasingly I seem to sense its whispered secrets seeping into the substance of my cerebrum. At times I have to overcome a compulsion to voice them as I deal with the mob beyond the counter. Does this raise your hope that I may reveal some of them to you? You will have no further opportunity to steal the fruits of my dreaming. You lack the courage to venture where my spirit travels, and so you are unworthy of the reward. Let your prudent providence provide you with the prize you earn.

 

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain. 

October 24th, 1935.

Cravecraft,

 

Behold, you have enticed a new follower to yourself! Bobby Blob writes like a very young man. Was Dulldeath not one, too? Doubtless you find their kind easiest to influence. Do you now require your lackeys to imitate your awkward prose besides including your mumbo-jumbo in their fiction? Perhaps you should be wary of accepting young Blob's tale of the shambler as a tribute. The narrator appears to need very little excuse to do away with the writer from Providence. I am reminded that Stank Pong also exterminated such a writer. He had an even better reason, since his image of the hand which plays with brains comes closer to the cosmic truth than all your slime and tentacles and gibberish.

  You should heed the message of your minions. You are redundant, Cravecraft, and a burden on your scanty audience. Do you not see that your friends feel obliged to praise you? I believe your lack of inspiration has finally overwhelmed you, since your pen appears to have dribbled its last. You are reduced to disinterring the decayed carcasses of tales which should have been left in their unmarked graves. The fiddler Zann begs for pennies once more, and the white ape joins in with a jig. Why, you have given the tale of the ape a new name in the hope of misleading the reader that its publication is unique! I doubt that even Farthingsworth's dull audience will be deluded. No mask can disguise material which is so uninspiringly familiar, and all the perfumes in the world cannot swamp the stench of rot.

  You will be interested to learn that one of the conduits through which I was dreamed into the world has ceased to function. He leaves a sizeable amount of money and his fellow channel, my mother. Both are useful in relieving me of the need to remain in prosaic employment. As well as dealing with domestic matters, my mother will act as my envoy to the mundane world. I am glad to be free of the distractions of customers and fellow butchers, for their incomprehension was becoming an annoyance. The secrets that are mouthed within my brain must be pronounced aloud, but only the enlightened should hear them. Do not dream for an instant that you are numbered among that fellowship.

 

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain.

June 19th, 1936.

Strivecraft,


Never imagine that you can pass off my discoveries as your own. Wherever you are published, I shall find you. Do you now seek to astound? You appear to have astounded your new readers solely by your unwelcomeness. They are as unimpressed by all your slime and tentacles as any audience should be. What possessed you to inflict your outmoded fancies on a readership versed in science? Since you claimed Farthingsworth as your most sympathetic editor, have you perhaps thrown yourself upon an agent? He must be poor, both financially and intellectually, to accept your work. At least, if I am not mistaken, he has revised it to improve your prose. No doubt your craven sycophants will chorus that your enfeebled work goes from strength to strength.

  The true visionary neither requires supporters nor expects them. My mother's only functions are to keep the house in order and to deal with the mob on my behalf. Her interpretations of my pronouncements are none of my concern, and I shall not allow them to annoy me. It is only to retain her usefulness that I exert 

myself to keep my secrets from her, instead sharing them with the lonely hills when the night permits. There I can release the truths which the lips constantly shape in my brain. Sometimes things consumed by ancientness gather about me to listen to my utterances, and sometimes I am witnessed by creatures that will inhabit the earth when the mob is no more.

  As to you, Strivecraft, will you persist in scribbling when you have less than nothing to communicate? Perhaps you should be shown what a true seer looks like. The next time I dispatch my mother to the shops I may have her bring me a camera. While your mind would shrivel at the merest glimpse of the source of all dreams, perhaps you can bear to look upon its human face, although I do not think you will survive the comparison. I think you will never again want to face yourself in a mirror.

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain.

October 12th, 1936.

Limpcraft,

 

I see that Rabbity Coward has ceased to play the brave barbarian. His dreams must have been as frail as your own. Or might he have intended to set you an example by ridding the world of himself? How long will you persist in loitering where you are unwanted? The readers of the scientific fiction magazine have made your unwelcomeness plainer still. What delusion drives you to seek publication where you must know you will be loathed? Even Farthingsworth is not so desperate that he feels compelled to disseminate your latest flops. Limpcraft, you are but a dismal caricature of the man I once sought to be. As well as burdening literature, your inert presence weighs me down and binds me to the earth. My brain aches at the thought that you continue to infest the world, just as my jaws ache with declaration.

  I have the camera, but I do not think any technician could look upon the photograph which would be developed. Whenever my mother is at home I keep to my room. I have trained her to leave my meals outside the door, since it would be inconvenient to have her flee. The curtains shut out the attentions of the mob. I have no need of mirrors, because I know that I am transformed by dreaming. Perhaps I am growing to resemble the source, or perhaps its awareness has begun to consume me. Perhaps I am how it mouths its way intro the world. By now the lips that gape within me feel as vast as space. Your puny skull could never contain even the notion of them.

 

C. T. Nash.

 
 
 

1, Toad Place,

Berkeley,

Gloucestershire,

Great Britain

January 18th, 1937.

Lovecrass,

 

So you are dreaming of me, are you? Or you are so bereft of dreams that you have to write tales about me. I am a haunter of the dark, am I, and a shell which owes its vitality to the presence of a woman. It is time that you were confronted with the truth. I shall convey a revelation from which even your mind will be unable to hide. I vow that you will no longer be able to ignore your ignorance.

  I shall enclose my photograph. There is, of course, no need for my to delegate my mother to obtain a print, since you can have the film developed yourself. Have you the courage to gaze upon the face of dream, or has all your dreaming been a sham? Perhaps you will never sleep again while you remain in the world, but whenever you dream, there shall I be. Do not imagine that your death will allow you to escape me. Death is the dream from which you can never awaken, because it returns you to the source. No less than life, death will be the mirror of your insignificance.

 

C. T. Nash.

 
 
his was apparently Nash's final letter. Two items are appended to the correspondence. One is a page torn from a book. It bears no running title, and I have been unable to locate the book, which seems to have been either a collection of supposedly true stories about Gloucestershire or a more general anthology of strange tales, including several about that area. Presumably whoever tore out the sheet found the following paragraph on page 232 relevant:

 

Residents of Berkeley still recall the night of the great scream. Sometime before dawn on the 15th of March 1937, many people were awakened by a sound which at first they were unable to identify. Some thought it was an injured animal, while others took it for a new kind of siren. Those who recognised it as a human voice did so only because it was pronouncing words or attempting to pronounce them. Although there seems to have been general agreement that it was near the river, at some distance from the town, those who remember hearing it describe it as having been almost unbearably loud and shrill. The local police appear to have been busy elsewhere, and the townsfolk were loath to investigate. Over the course of the morning the sound is said to have increased in pitch and volume. A relative of one of the listeners recalled being told by her mother that the noise sounded "as if someone was screaming a hole in himself". By late morning the sound is supposed to have grown somehow more diffuse, as though the source had become enlarged beyond control, and shortly before noon it ceased altogether. Subsequently the river and the area beside it were searched, but no trace of a victim was found.

 
The second item is a photograph. It looks faded with age, a process exacerbated by copying. The original image is so dim as to be blurred, and is identifiable only as the head and shoulders of a man in an inadequately illuminated room. His eyes are excessively wide and fixed. I am unable to determine what kind of flaw in the image obscures the lower part of his face. Because of the lack of definition of the photograph, the fault makes him look as if his jaw has been wrenched far too wide. It is even possible to imagine that the gaping hole, which is at least as large as half his face, leads into altogether too much darkness. Sometimes I see that face in my dreams.

 

NOTES

 

 Nash refers here to Lovecraft's tales "Dagon", "The Hound", "The Rats in the Walls", "Arthur Jermyn" and "Hypnos", all recently published in Weird Tales

 

 In this paragraph Nash refers to "The Festival" and "Imprisioned with the Pharaohs".

 

Nash is referring to "The Music of Erich Zann" and "The Unnamable".

 

Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales.

 

"The Tomb" and "The Outsider".

 

Lovecraft's original name for the island in "The Call of Cthulhu".

 

 "The Terrible Old Man", "The Moon-Bog", "He" and "The Horror at Red Hook". 

 

 "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Colour out of Space", The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and Supernatural Horror in Literature

 

"The Colour out of Space" was published in Amazing Stories.

 

 August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei and Frank Belknap Long.

 

"The Dunwich Horror".


Dunwich is a submerged town off the Suffolk coast.

 

 Medusa: A Story of Mystery, and Ecstasy, & Strange Horror (Gollancz, 1929).

 

"The Whisperer in Darkness".

 

Robert E. Howard.

 

"The Dreams in the Witch House".

 

Robert Bloch.

 

"The Shambler from the Stars".

 

"The Space-Eaters" by Frank Belknap Long.

 

 The tale originally published as "The White Ape" was reprinted as "Arthur Jermyn". 

 

 On its appearance in Astounding Stories, "At the Mountains of Madness" attracted hostile comment in the letter-column.

 

 After the publication of "The Shadow out of Time", Astounding Stories ran further hostile correspondence.

 

. Nash is referring to "The Haunter of the Dark" and "The Thing on the Doorstep", published in the most recent issues of Weird Tales. .

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