For there be divers sorts of death -- some wherein the
body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite away with the
spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is
God's will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is
lost, or gone on a long journey -- which indeed he hath; but
sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant
testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also
dieth, and this it hath been known to do while yet the body
was in vigor for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably
attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is
raised up again in that place where the body did decay.
Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and
questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation,
yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that
which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a
sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my
surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything
seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and
desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere
grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven
knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion. Protruded at
long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and somber-
colored rocks, which seemed to have an understanding with one
another and to exchange looks of uncomfortable significance, as
if they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some
foreseen event. A few blasted trees here and there appeared as
leaders in this malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation.
The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun
was invisible; and although sensible that the air was raw and
chill my consciousness of that fact was rather mental than
physical -- I had no feeling of discomfort. Over all the dismal
landscape a canopy of low, lead-colored clouds hung like a
visible curse. In all this there were a menace and a portent --
a hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or insect
there was none. The wind sighed in the bare branches of the
dead trees and the gray grass bent to whisper its dread secret
to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke the awful
repose of that dismal place.
I observed in the herbage a number of weather-worn stones,
evidently shaped with tools. They were broken, covered with
moss and half-sunken in the earth. Some lay prostrate, some
leaned at various angles, none was vertical. They were
obviously headstones of graves, though the graves themselves no
longer existed as either mounds or depressions; the years had
leveled all. Scattered here and there, more massive blocks
showed where some pompous or ambitious monument had once flung
its feeble defiance at oblivion. So old seemed these relics,
these vestiges of vanity and memorials of affection and piety,
so battered and worn and stained -- so neglected, deserted,
forgotten the place, that I could not help thinking myself the
discoverer of the burial-ground of a prehistoric race of men
whose very name was long extinct.
Filled with these reflections, I was for some time heedless
of the sequence of my own experiences, but soon I thought, "How
came I hither?" A moment's reflection seemed to make this all
clear and explain at the same time, though in a disquieting way,
the singular character with which my fancy had invested all that
I saw or heard. I was ill. I remembered now that I had been
prostrated by a sudden fever, and that my family had told me
that in my periods of delirium I had constantly cried out for
liberty and air, and had been held in bed to prevent my escape
out-of-doors. Now I had eluded the vigilance of my attendants
and had wandered hither to -- to where? I could not conjecture.
Clearly I was at a considerable distance from the city where I
dwelt -- the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.
No signs of human life were anywhere visible or audible; no
rising smoke, no watchdog's bark, no lowing cattle, no shouts of
children at play -- nothing but that dismal burial-place with
its air of mystery and dread, due to my own disordered brain.
Was I not becoming again delirious, there beyond human aid? Was
it not indeed all an illusion of my madness? I called aloud
the names of my wives and sons, reaching out my hands in search
of theirs, even as I walked among the crumbling stones and in
the withered grass.
A noise behind me caused me to turn about. A wild animal
-- a lynx -- was approaching. The thought came to me: If I
break down here in the desert -- if the fever return and I fail,
this beast will be at my throat. I sprang toward it, shouting.
It trotted tranquilly within a hand's breadth of me and
disappeared behind a rock.
A moment later a man's head appeared to rise out of the the
ground a short distance away. He was ascending the farther
slope of a low hill whose crest was hardly to be distinguished
from the general level. His whole figure soon came into view
against the background of gray cloud. He was half naked, half
clad in skins. His hair was unkempt, his beard long and ragged.
In one hand he carried a bow and arrow; the other held a blazing
torch with a long trail of black smoke. He walked slowly and
with caution, as if he feared falling into some open grave
concealed by the tall grass. This strange apparition surprised
but did not alarm, and taking course to intercept him I met him
almost face to face, accosting him with the familiar salutation,
"God keep you."
He gave no heed, nor did he arrest his pace.
"Good stranger," I continued, "I am ill and lost. Direct
me, I beseech you, to Carcosa."
The man broke into a barbarous chant in an unknown tongue,
passing on and away.
An owl on the branch of a decayed tree hooted dismally and
was answered by another in the distance. Looking upward, I saw
through a sudden rift in the clouds Aldebaran and the Hyades!
In all this there was a hint of night -- the lynx, the man with
the torch, the owl. Yet I saw -- I saw even the stars in
absence of darkness. I saw, but was apparently not seen nor
heard. Under what awful spell did I exist?
I seated myself at the root of a great tree, seriously to
consider what it were best to do. That I was mad I could no
longer doubt, yet recognized a ground of doubt in the
conviction. Of fever I had no trace. I had, withal, a sense of
exhilaration and vigor altogether unknown to me -- a feeling of
mental and physical exaltation. My senses seemed all alert; I
could feel the air as a ponderous substance; I could hear the
A great root of the giant tree against whose trunk I leaned
as I sat held inclosed in its grasp a slab of stone, a part of
which protruded into a recess formed by another root. The stone
was thus partly protected from the weather, though greatly
decomposed. Its edges were worn round, its corners eaten away,
its surface deeply furrowed and scaled. Glittering particles of
mica were visible in the earth about it -- vestiges of its
decomposition. This stone had apparently marked the grave out
of which the tree had sprung ages ago. The tree's exacting
roots had robbed the grave and made the stone a prisoner.
A sudden wind pushed some dry leaves and twigs from the
uppermost face of the stone; I saw the low-relief letters of an
inscription and bent to read it. God in Heaven! my name in
full! -- the date of my birth! -- the date of my death!
A level shaft of light illuminated the whole side of the
tree as I sprang to my feet in terror. The sun was rising in
the rosy east. I stood between the tree and his broad red disk
-- no shadow darkened the trunk!
A chorus of howling wolves saluted the dawn. I saw them
sitting on their haunches, singly and in groups, on the summits
of irregular mounds and tumuli filling a half of my desert
prospect and extending to the horizon. And then I knew that
these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.
Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the
spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin.