Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Challenge 2013 - Book 7: The Whisperer In Darkness

I had actually read another book for this month, but it was just too awful to share here. Yes, I even finish garbage, there are actually very few books that I have not finished once started; there are a few that I consider almost impossible to read. Instead, I ventured in the realm of a Master of Horror, H.P. Lovecraft.

The Hard Facts:
Title: The Whisperer In Darkness
Author: H.P. Lovecraft
384 pages (as part of an anthology)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1st ed. (10. February 2007)
ISBN: 978-1840226089
Find it on Amazon

The Story:
Unusual strong rainfalls in Vermont wash out strange creatures, according to witness reports of locals. The public opinion is divided between believing in these sightings, which are similar to local legends of monsters in the mountains, and writing them off as some country bumpkins’ hysteria. This second opinion is also  shared by Albert Wilmarth, a specialist in the area of local folklore and myths from Arkham, Massachusetts. After publishing several articles in regional newspapers on that issue, he is being contacted by Mr. Henry Akeley, a rich man living secluded in a mansion in exactly those mountains that are said to be populated by alien monsters. They are corresponding over several weeks by letters, which convince Albert Wilmarth that those aliens mentioned in the legends of both Native American tribes and early settlers in the area are indeed real. Akeley provides several pieces of evidence, including photographs and a voice recording of a human and alien performing a strange ritual, some of which being intercepted by the monsters’ human supporters. After Akeley’s letters are getting more panicked as he is being attacked by the monsters and their minions by night, Albert Wilmarth suddenly receives a machine-written letter from him, which not only describes his new contact with the aliens and the knowledge he has gotten from overcoming his fear and embracing the information they offered to him but also issues an invitation to come and see the new revelations for himself. Still slightly suspicious, Albert Wilmarth heads up to Akeley’s mansion to face the aliens. He is being picked up at the trains station by a strange man, whose voice seems oddly familiar, and taken to Akeley’s house. He was being prepared that Akeley had fallen sick and could not receive him properly or spend much time with him that very day. Albert Wilmarth is still taken to a room where he finally meets Akeley face-to-face; the atmosphere in the room seems strangely charged, and he is welcomed by a nauseating smell. Akeley, wrapped up in blankets, barely moving, and only whispering to his guest introduces him to the true purpose of the aliens’ presence on earth, about their main station on a dark planet behind Neptune they call Yoggoth, and their ability to transport humans far beyond our solar system to show them their true home millions of light years away. After a short break, Akeley shows Albert Wilmarth to the aliens’ way to travel with humans, transplanting their brains into strange machines that give the ability to see, hear, and speak while preserving the brain and therefore the human consciousness almost eternally. After strange conversation, Akeley and Albert Wilmarth retire for the night. Albert, however, lays awake terrified and unable to sleep, until his attention is suddenly caught by noises in the room downstairs. He hears bits and pieces of the conversation that is about continuing with the plan, and contains both his and Akeley’s name; he can make out the voices of the human minion and at least two aliens. After everything has quieted down, he sneaks downstairs to the room he and Akeley had the conversations that day and finds, besides several of the human transport machines Akeley’s clothes, and his hands and face as wax forms in his chair. In panic he flees from the mountains in Akeley’s old car and returns to Boston. As he writes down his memories of the episode, he hears the big news of yet another planet being discovered in the solar system: the dark Pluto.

My Opinion:
H.P. Lovecraft is an experience that needs a certain time of preparation, in my opinion. He is celebrated as one of the Masters of Terror, but if I just pick up one of his books to read, it feels empty. The TV and movie industry of today bombards us with so many impressions that it simply becomes difficult to let go of all that and experience something much more plain but with endless room for imagination. Forget X Files, Star Treck, etc., and imagine yourself to be a person in the early 20th century, where movie theaters are just coming up, where entertainment is mostly music from a gramophone or going to the theater with real actors. In this time, Lovecraft writes his horror fiction, based upon his very own pantheon of monstrous ancient creatures, like the famous Cthulhu. He hints a lot of things, but never fully explains them. He leaves open ends, he leaves room for feelings, emotions, and all sorts of fears and horrors not born from his description but from the reader’s own imagination. Are the aliens truly evil? Who knows; maybe they are really just on earth to harvest a metal that is crucial to their society’s survival. But maybe, they are indeed preparing an epic invasion to raise the old gods. We never know, at least’s, Lovecraft is not telling us.

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