The wisest of Earth’s sages have hinted at the fact that our planet is under quarantine. It is not coincidental that our attempts to explore outer space keep meeting with tragic ends. Soyuz, Challenger, Columbia, Apollo…all fit the familiar pattern. Our existence is tolerated here, but only so long as we know our place. Abrahamic faiths retain dim recollections of the cosmic war. The saints and ascetics feel a very real element of truth hidden behind the words of their holy books. Few, however, are those able to peel back the layers of time and come face to face with our horrible situation.
The self-proclaimed men of science are often the most closed-minded when it comes to honest inquiry. Their materialistic dogmatism would make even the most ardent medieval inquisitor blush with embarrassment; but then again, what is history but a series of tragic ironies? It is not coincidental that Milton assigned pride as Lucifer’s chief vice. Pride is indeed the root of much evil, and the scientists, constantly congratulating one another on their “rationality,” are the most prideful of all. Nor is it happenstance that horror stimulates the human mind unlike any other literary genre. It somehow seems familiar to us, reminding us of something which we can’t…quite…remember…
I was not always so philosophical. My retreat from society was spurred on by certain horrific events which befell my family and me. We were once so…normal. So pathetically, tragically, normal. In a way, I must thank the Fates for waking me from my spiritual slumber, but at the same time, I must curse them for their cruelty.
My name, I think, was Richard. Richard Bara. Yes, that’s right. Richard Bara of San Diego, California. I remember now that I was a Navy brat, my father being one of the pioneers of naval aviation. I recall also that I grew up in the shadow, both metaphorically and literally, of Uncle Sam’s aircraft carriers in a land which seemed almost like paradise. I was happy once, my memory tells me, though I can no longer remember experiencing the feeling. I have been living in this Mexican cavern for quite some time, hiding from the visitors which destroyed my world. There are precious few of us here, each seeming to be equally disturbed, reluctant survivors of our self-induced Armageddon.
St. John of Damascus described Angels as needing to slow down in order to interact with humanity. In point of fact, this is correct. There are orders of intelligences which exist in a parallel dimension to our own, whose atoms vibrate too rapidly to interact with matter as we know it. This fits the magicians’ description of calling down spirits and pressing them into service. What neither pagan magician nor Christian saint seem to realize, however, is the ease with which this can be done. Given the right conditions, and the willingness of enough souls, legions of spirits can permeate into our domain.
Humans get a perverse pleasure from the pursuit of evil. The mere fact that we are not supposed to do something makes that thing attractive. Eve lusted after the apple for that reason, and Pandora opened the box out of loyalty to that same impulse. So it was in the Mojave Desert in 1945. That horrible working was the beginning of the end of man’s reign over Earth. The gates were indeed opened, though neither of those fools were aware of their success.
The years between 1945 and 1947 were seminal. Hiroshima, Roswell, the National Security Act, the Iron Curtain, Operation Paperclip, Operation High Jump…few have connected all of these terrible events as part of one awful whole. As the poet of Providence observed, “the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Unfortunately, we have not the luxury of simply fleeing into the safety of a new dark age, to simply turn our back on our technological monstrosities. We may choose to ignore them, but they will not ignore us.
Parsons and Hubbard, the men who went too far, were archetypal mad scientists. Brilliant in their own way, they fell for the fallacy of the industrial age: “knowledge is good!” They never stopped to consider, “knowledge, to do what?” A child may learn how to ignite a match through repeated experiments, but is such knowledge appropriate to him? Could a child be trusted not to burn himself or to set his surroundings on fire? My mind is far from certain about this. In such a manner do the higher beings look at man: monkeys with lit atomic matches in a dry room on a summer day. It came as no surprise when Parsons and Hubbard lit the kindling.
Change seemed slow at first. Though the UFO sightings at Maury Island and Roswell were certainly headline-grabbing, man has seen visitors from the sky since the earliest antiquity. Further, there were too many distractions for the masses to notice. Television had taken the world by storm, as had the Ford Motor Company. Entertainment and travel were made easier than ever before, welcome relief from the sense of impending nuclear conflagration. A man can only focus on so many things at once, and the subtle beings were far off our collective radar. I may have never noticed myself had not it been for the nature of my father’s work.
His position in naval research and development introduced him to certain remarkable personalities. Secret services have long employed mystics and occultists. These are men who know how to keep secrets, are widely traveled, and are expert readers of human personalities. Further, esoteric lodges provide preexisting covert networks the world over, men with a common bond and sense of belonging. Ever since the days of Dr. John Dee have Anglo-Saxon spy masters worked in this way, having learned from their Catholic opponents in Spain and Rome.
Spies and occultists often share an interest in cutting-edge research as well. Their respective paths are both quests for knowledge and power, and are not as different as one may think. It was no surprise therefore to find men of the dark sciences involved in America’s space program, especially in the secret aspects thereof. Most are now aware that NASA got its start as a military organization, but few suspect that NASA itself is a front. The real work has always been private. This is for two reasons: one is that it avoids government oversight, and two, space exploration began in private circles long before governments got involved.
My father would hint at such things, especially when my brother and I reached a certain age. Though he knew he could face serious consequences, he felt somehow obligated to prepare us for the horrors which were to come. Man need not go mad in the face of cosmic reality, but he will do so without proper provision. The human being is capable of incredible adaptation, but not suddenly. Just as the frog can be kept in the pot if it warms gradually, one must progressively be woken from a deep sleep.
My wife was the first to be affected. Women are often more sensitive than men when it comes to the psychic realm, to those things the five senses cannot quite detect. She would have an undeniable sense of dread come about her from time to time, though for no discernible reason. Her feminine cycles were usually quite mild, and she was not prone to illness or mental fatigue. Furthermore, life had been quite good to us of late. She knew I was quite busy at work and that my reserve unit could be called to active service at any time, so she tried to keep the worst of it to herself. The willingness to endure discomfort, indeed pain, without complaint out of concern for another is one of the foremost signs of true love. It was not until her unseen horrors began to manifest corporeally therefore that she disclosed them to me.
They were very difficult to see at first. Faint outlines or shadows of vaguely humanoid dimension would be visible from the corner of her eye. She would constantly feel someone looking at her, intent-fully looking at her, but no one was ever there. It was only later that she would clearly see a man in black clothing, but such apparitions would vanish as soon as she became aware of them. It wasn’t until physical objects began to move that she was sure she wasn’t crazy.
I had come home from drill early one morning, having been away all weekend contributing to the potential defense of the California coastline. Our years together, many lived in difficult circumstances, left us with a clear sense of when something serious had happened to the other. So it was that day. I wasn’t at all surprised when she wanted to talk, but I was nevertheless unprepared for the topic. For her part, she was clearly surprised that I believed her so easily.
What I had never disclosed to her is the fact that my father had described just such horrors to my brother and me. He had whispered of them to us just before his disappearance, clearly terrified of something I could not fully grasp. I had never seen him in such a haggard state and, despite myself, I believed every word of what he had to say. My life had been sufficiently strange for me to never doubt in the existence of the paranormal, but this was of another order entirely.
When my wife finished describing what had been happening to her, I calmly stood up and said that we needed to leave. Though the entire planet, should my father be believed, would eventually be infected, there are certain locales which are better suited for defense than others. Where these are I am not sure I properly remember, but I know we never made it to them. My memory is still quite unreliable and, if I may tell the truth, I think of this as a great mercy. I remember only that we packed our most valuable belongings and set out at once to my brother’s ranch in the Arizona wilderness. My brother, always the philosopher, had become something of a hermit in recent years. He had been studying to be a minister at one point but left that pursuit quite suddenly after his peculiar researches had become known. Becoming a recluse, he took up residence in an abandoned property high in the hills and mesas.
His habitation was quite isolated, but he was not entirely without neighbors. Red Indians can yet be found living in that country, as can small Mormon communities expanding out from Utah. In this way, the desert seemed like a snapshot of American history, something I could have taken better appreciation of had the circumstances been better.
I do not recall actually completing this journey, only that we reached the house just before dark. That my brother welcomed us in was apparent, for the next thing I knew I was asleep on the ground next to my wife in that adobe. Our sleep must have been surprisingly restful, for it was only with great difficulty that I was roused at the witching hour late that night.
Now, I know that my narration has been allusive so far, and for this I apologize. But after what happened next, I suspect that the reader will forgive me my timid condition.
Have you ever heard a truly high-pitched sound? It is almost inaudible, but it resonates in your ear drum regardless. I image this is what a dog whistle is like, though only more terrible. For beings which are truly alien to us, not the greys, reptilians, or Wookies of popular imagination, but those truly outside our imagination, it stands to reason that means of communication would be likewise foreign. Pulp writers get it two-thirds right when they describe monstrosities “out of aeons,” or “unnameable” sentient lifeforms whose description exceeds our language’s limitations. But even they cannot help attempting to assign human attributes and motivations to them. I do not seek to dispute such descriptions, but merely reaffirm with humility the inadequacy of my account and the limitations of my knowledge.
The ringing was horrible. Not just loud, but somehow physically penetrating. My body felt like…you know when glass vibrates from a loud sound just before it cracks? That’s the closest to a description I can muster. I may have blacked out from the pain had not my brother fired several rounds at the ceiling. It was then when I saw a horrible winged thing fall, hitting the ground with a force that seemed disproportionate to its size. The being before us fit my wife’s general description: it was vaguely humanoid, of black complexion and terrible odor. Its wings (were they wings?) seemed almost scaly or reptilian in texture and were the apparent mechanism by which it had reached the ceiling of the two-story adobe.
Deeply disturbed by this, my wife had apparently fainted before I awoke. My brother set a pillow under her head and, being far more composed than I was, began moving from window to window with his rifle, searching for sign of other intruders. I recall that a dialogue passed between us, but I cannot recall what it was. Next thing I knew, we were being shown into a basement of which I was previously unaware, down adobe stairs into a…a laboratory? I hesitate to use this word, for the scene around us was far more consistent with a medieval alchemist’s lab than it was a scientific station in the modern sense.
My brother had clearly continued his strange studies, but for now I was simply relieved to be in a relatively safer area. The door he closed behind us seemed to be of reinforced steel, not unlike the safe rooms our father had once built in our old family home. But this was the space’s only apparent modern feature. This, and the arsenal. Military-issue rifles, grenades, and equipment were present in ample supply, as were canned food and the dreadful MREs, meals-ready-to-eat.
Again, my memory fails me. My brother was clearly preparing for something, a precaution which was sagely in retrospect, and he was not alone in this. It seemed evident to me that this place had been used by perhaps half-a-dozen eccentrics and, judging from the many foreign language books on the shelves, many were likely foreign. German-speakers were clearly among them, as were those yet adept in reading languages such as Latin, Arabic, and Greek. I will not pretend to know more than I do about this, but I clearly got a glimpse of something far beyond my pay grade.
Before long, the three of us were on the road again. Taking my brother’s jeep, we made our way southward, toward the Mexican border. Those in the know are aware of many unmarked roads crossing this arbitrarily-enforced international line, and my brother was clearly in the know. We made our way through terrain which consisted alternatively of desert, mountain, and grassland before coming to a small village, I think in the vicinity of Sonora. Here we disembarked and were shown into an old church. Within the crypt of said church was another tunnel, leading us into our current hideaway.
My brother looks after us still, though my wife clearly needs more attention than I. She has been mostly incoherent since the events at the adobe, whereas I seem largely stable aside from my problematic memory. I hope that by committing my tale to the written word that I may recover those memories I have lost, but I have had only limited success so far. I’m not even sure how much time has passed. The voices from the radio box inform us that most big cities have been lost, strange places such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I do not know where these metropolises were, but the sadness from the radiomens’ tones tell me that they must have once been great sites to see. Poor souls.
We shall remain for as long as we are able. My brother seems determined to carry on, despite the condition the rest of us are in. He hints that we may have to move again, deeper, to far-away Carcosa. Perhaps we shall. My trust in him is absolute, even if my trust in my own faculties is failing. He says that among the men of Carcosa are many able to help us, but I sometimes doubt is we will be able to accept such help. Dios esté con nosotros, si Dios todavía está.
Daniel Bretton is a wayward son of New England. A simple, philosophically-inclined man, he wanders the world in search of wisdom, both worldly and Godly. Like Herodotus, he reports what he sees and leaves the reader to draw his own conclusions.