Again I say, I do not know what has become of Harley Warren, though I think--almost hope--that he is in peaceful oblivion, if
there be anywhere so blessed a thing. It is true that I have for five years been his closest friend, and a partial sharer of his
terrible researches into the unknown. I will not deny, though my memory is uncertain and indistinct, that this witness of yours
may have seen us together as he says, on the Gainsville pike, walking toward Big Cypress Swamp, at half past 11 on that awful
night. That we bore electric lanterns, spades, and a curious coil of wire with attached instruments, I will even affirm; for these
things all played a part in the single hideous scene which remains burned into my shaken recollection. But of what followed, and
of the reason I was found alone and dazed on the edge of the swamp next morning, I must insist that I know nothing save what
I have told you over and over again. You say to me that there is nothing in the swamp or near it which could form the setting of
that frightful episode. I reply that I knew nothing beyond what I saw. Vision or nightmare it may have been--vision or nightmare
I fervently hope it was--yet it is all that my mind retains of what took place in those shocking hours after we left the sight of
men. And why Harley Warren did not return, he or his shade--or some nameless thing I cannot describe-- alone can tell.
As I have said before, the weird studies of Harley Warren were well known to me, and to some extent shared by me. Of his
vast collection of strange, rare books on forbidden subjects I have read all that are written in the languages of which I am
master; but these are few as compared with those in languages I cannot understand. Most, I believe, are in Arabic; and the
fiend-inspired book which brought on the end--the book which he carried in his pocket out of the world--was written in
characters whose like I never saw elsewhere. Warren would never tell me just what was in that book. As to the nature of our
studies--must I say again that I no longer retain full comprehension? It seems to me rather merciful that I do not, for they were
terrible studies, which I pursued more through reluctant fascination than through actual inclination. Warren always dominated
me, and sometimes I feared him. I remember how I shuddered at his facial expression on the night before the awful happening,
when he talked so incessantly of his theory, why certain corpses never decay, but rest firm and fat in their tombs for a thousand
years. But I do not fear him now, for I suspect that he has known horrors beyond my ken. Now I fear for him.
Once more I say that I have no clear idea of our object on that night. Certainly, it had much to do with something in the book
which Warren carried with him--that ancient book in undecipherable characters which had come to him from India a month
before--but I swear I do not know what it was that we expected to find. Your witness says he saw us at half past 11 on the
Gainsville pike, headed for Big Cypress Swamp. This is probably true, but I have no distinct memory of it. The picture seared
into my soul is of one scene only, and the hour must have been long after midnight; for a waning crescent moon was high in the
The place was an ancient cemetery; so ancient that I trembled at the manifold signs of immemorial years. It was in a deep, damp
hollow, overgrown with rank grass, moss, and curious creeping weeds, and filled with a vague stench which my idle fancy
associated absurdly with rotting stone. On every hand were the signs of neglect and decrepitude, and I seemed haunted by the
notion that Warren and I were the first living creatures to invade a lethal silence of centuries. Over the valley's rim a wan, waning
crescent moon peered through the noisome vapors that seemed to emanate from unheard of catacombs, and by its feeble,
wavering beams I could distinguish a repellent array of antique slabs, urns, cenotaphs, and mausoleum facades; all crumbling,
moss-grown, and moisture-stained, and partly concealed by the gross luxuriance of the unhealthy vegetation.
My first vivid impression of my own presence in this terrible necropolis concerns the act of pausing with Warren before a
certain half- obliterated sepulcher and of throwing down some burdens which we seemed to have been carrying. I now
observed that I had with me an electric lantern and two spades, whilst my companion was supplied with a similar lantern and a
portable telephone outfit. No word was uttered, for the spot and the task seemed known to us; and without delay we seized
our spades and commenced to clear away the grass, weeds, and drifted earth from the flat, archaic mortuary. After uncovering
the entire surface, which consisted of three immense granite slabs, we stepped back some distance to survey the charnel scene;
and Warren appeared to make some mental calculations. Then he returned to the sepulcher, and using his spade as a lever,
sought to pry up the slab lying nearest to a stony ruin which may have been a monument in its day. He did not succeed, and
motioned to me to come to his assistance. Finally our combined strength loosened the stone, which we raised and tipped to one
The removal of the slab revealed a black aperture, from which rushed an effluence of miasmal gases so nauseous that we
started back in horror. After an interval, however, we approached the pit again, and found the exhalations less unbearable. Our
lanterns disclosed the top of a flight of stone steps, dripping with some detestable ichor of the inner earth, and bordered by
moist walls encrusted with niter. And now for the first time my memory records verbal discourse, Warren addressing me at
length in his mellow tenor voice; a voice singularly unperturbed by our awesome surroundings.
"I'm sorry to have to ask you to stay on the surface," he said, "but it would be a crime to let anyone with your frail nerves go
down there. You can't imagine, even from what you have read and from what I've told you, the things I shall have to see and
do. It's fiendish work, Carter, and I doubt if any man without ironclad sensibilities could ever see it through and come up alive
and sane. I don't wish to offend you, and Heaven knows I'd be glad enough to have you with me; but the responsibility is in a
certain sense mine, and I couldn't drag a bundle of nerves like you down to probable death or madness. I tell you, you can't
imagine what the thing is really like! But I promise to keep you informed over the telephone of every move--you see I've enough
wire here to reach to the center of the earth and back!"
I can still hear, in memory, those coolly spoken words; and I can still remember my remonstrance's. I seemed desperately
anxious to accompany my friend into those sepulchral depths, yet he proved inflexibly obdurate. At one time he threatened to
abandon the expedition if I remained insistent; a threat which proved effective, since he alone held the key to the thing. All this I
can still remember, though I no longer know what manner of thing we sought. After he had obtained my reluctant acquiescence
in his design, Warren picked up the reel of wire and adjusted the instruments. At his nod I took one of the latter and seated
myself upon an aged, discolored gravestone close by the newly uncovered aperture. Then he shook my hand, shouldered the
coil of wire, and disappeared within that indescribable ossuary.
For a minute I kept sight of the glow of his lantern, and heard the rustle of the wire as he laid it down after him; but the glow
soon disappeared abruptly, as if a turn in the stone staircase had been encountered, and the sound died away almost as quickly.
I was alone, yet bound to the unknown depths by those magic strands whose insulated surface lay green beneath the struggling
beams of that waning crescent moon.
I constantly consulted my watch by the light of my electric lantern, and listened with feverish anxiety at the receiver of the
telephone; but for more than a quarter of an hour heard nothing. Then a faint clicking came from the instrument, and I called
down to my friend in a tense voice. Apprehensive as I was, I was nevertheless unprepared for the words which came up from
that uncanny vault in accents more alarmed and quivering than any I had heard before from Harley Warren. He who had so
calmly left me a little while previously, now called from below in a shaky whisper more portentous than the loudest shriek:
"God! If you could see what I am seeing!"
I could not answer. Speechless, I could only wait. Then came the frenzied tones again:
"Carter, it's terrible--monstrous--unbelievable!"
This time my voice did not fail me, and I poured into the transmitter a flood of excited questions. Terrified, I continued to
repeat, "Warren, what is it? What is it?"
Once more came the voice of my friend, still hoarse with fear, and now apparently tinged with despair:
"I can't tell you, Carter! It's too utterly beyond thought--I dare not tell you--no man could know it and live--Great God! I never
dreamed of this!"
Stillness again, save for my now incoherent torrent of shuddering inquiry. Then the voice of Warren in a pitch of wilder
"Carter! for the love of God, put back the slab and get out of this if you can! Quick!--leave everything else and make for the
outside--it's your only chance! Do as I say, and don't ask me to explain!"
I heard, yet was able only to repeat my frantic questions. Around me were the tombs and the darkness and the shadows; below
me, some peril beyond the radius of the human imagination. But my friend was in greater danger than I, and through my fear I
felt a vague resentment that he should deem me capable of deserting him under such circumstances. More clicking, and after a
pause a piteous cry from Warren:
"Beat it! For God's sake, put back the slab and beat it, Carter!"
Something in the boyish slang of my evidently stricken companion unleashed my faculties. I formed and shouted a resolution,
"Warren, brace up! I'm coming down!" But at this offer the tone of my auditor changed to a scream of utter despair:
"Don't! You can't understand! It's too late--and my own fault. Put back the slab and run--there's nothing else you or anyone
can do now!"
The tone changed again, this time acquiring a softer quality, as of hopeless resignation. Yet it remained tense through anxiety for
"Quick--before it's too late!"
I tried not to heed him; tried to break through the paralysis which held me, and to fulfil my vow to rush down to his aid. But his
next whisper found me still held inert in the chains of stark horror.
"Carter--hurry! It's no use--you must go--better one than two--the slab--"
A pause, more clicking, then the faint voice of Warren:
"Nearly over now--don't make it harder--cover up those damned steps and run for your life--you're losing time--so long,
Carter--won't see you again."
Here Warren's whisper swelled into a cry; a cry that gradually rose to a shriek fraught with all the horror of the ages--
"Curse these hellish things--legions--My God! Beat it! Beat it! BEAT IT!"
After that was silence. I know not how many interminable eons I sat stupefied; whispering, muttering, calling, screaming into that
telephone. Over and over again through those eons I whispered and muttered, called, shouted, and screamed, "Warren!
Warren! Answer me--are you there?"
And then there came to me the crowning horror of all--the unbelievable, unthinkable, almost unmentionable thing. I have said
that eons seemed to elapse after Warren shrieked forth his last despairing warning, and that only my own cries now broke the
hideous silence. But after a while there was a further clicking in the receiver, and I strained my ears to listen. Again I called
down, "Warren, are you there?" and in answer heard the thing which has brought this cloud over my mind. I do not try,
gentlemen, to account for that thing--that voice--nor can I venture to describe it in detail, since the first words took away my
consciousness and created a mental blank which reaches to the time of my awakening in the hospital. Shall I say that the voice
was deep; hollow; gelatinous; remote; unearthly; inhuman; disembodied? What shall I say? It was the end of my experience,
and is the end of my story. I heard it, and knew no more--heard it as I sat petrified in that unknown cemetery in the hollow,
amidst the crumbling stones and the falling tombs, the rank vegetation and the miasmal vapors-- heard it well up from the
innermost depths of that damnable open sepulcher as I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance beneath an
accursed waning moon.
And this is what it said: "You fool, Warren is DEAD!"