The Lurker in the Void

I
Testimony of Robert Blackmore

joinI found myself standing outside Professor Derleth’s aprartment. My heart beat wildly in my chest. As I’d climbed the narrow stairs to the top of Howard Phillips Hall worry sickened my heart. In all my years studying under him in Arkham I never knew Abraham Derleth to be late for anything. I’d noted he hadn’t looked well over the past week. So, when a student called and reported that he hadn’t arrived for class, I feared the old man had fallen ill and was unable to leave his bed. Now, standing in front of the slightly open door, I did not know what I would find beyond.

Swallowing the apprehension choking my throat, I called out to Abraham and reached with an unsteady arm to knock. The force of my knuckles caused the door to creak on its hinges and the gap between it and its frame to widen slightly. “Professor Derleth?”

I turned my head so that my ear faced toward the eerily calm apartment and strained to hear through the quiet. Any sound would have been welcome… a faint cough or weakened groan of a bedridden old man… anything. But the only reply was a thick silence that suffocated everything but the pounding of my heart.

Bile rose from the pit of my stomach flavored with fear. Somehow, I knew what I would find inside carried the black stain of death. I anxiously wanted to run back down the stairs and to my office. Certainly, having found the door ajar, it should be the police going in to investigate before I.

I nearly did just that but, paused in thought. Miskatonic’s Arkham campus was shrouded by an ominous reputation whispered about by the town’s people. Stories of strange happenings and secret societies marbled its name with a spiderweb of tiny cracks. I’d heard them all but never witnessed any phantoms or human sacrifices in all my years of study. Were I to summon the police without good cause I would only be inviting that reputation to the new Maryland campus. Attendance would fall and programs would suffer budget cuts. No, I needed to know for sure the police were required so, opening my still outstretched hand, I placed it upon the antique wooden door and pushed.

“Professor Derleth,” I announced into the apartment, “it’s Robert. Is everything alright?” There was no reply, not that I expected one by this point. “I’m coming in.”

I took a step through the threshold and into the cramped hall leading into the apartment proper. My heart sank at the sight the door mercifully hid from view until I was past it.

A long smear of deep crimson red ran along the length of the left-hand wall. Despite the relative short length of the narrow passage, that glistening streak of red seemed to stretch on forever. Startled, I jumped backward and bumped into the door, forcing it closed with a bang. I spun to yank it open and flee but found the inside knob slick with blood and a single bloody hand print smudged onto its surface. I shrieked, but was sure no one heard as all the teacher who kept apartments there were teaching classes at the time.

Aghast, I stumbled backward, away from the door and into my old adviser’s apartment. So focused was I on the horror in the hallway was I that I didn’t think to look behind myself. My heel landed on something laying on the floor and my balance was thrown off just enough that I never fell over backwards, knocking the wind out of myself and banging my head against the hardwood floor.

Momentarily helpless, I could do nothing but look around me as breath returned. Books of all kinds were strewn across the floor and furniture. It was over one of them that I had tripped. Bookcases lay face down upon the the floor with their bases still near the wall, as though someone had toppled them over in a fit of rage. More blood was smeared all over the walls. Only, these were not the streaks left by an old man ambling along them and struggling through a door while injured. Rather, the smears formed strange geometric shapes surrounded by writing in a cuneiform language. It reminded me of some of the equations I’ve seen on blackboards in theoretical physics classrooms, but with more sinister design. My heart racing, feeling as though I’d fallen into one of the urban legends from my days in Arkham, I labored back to my feet and stood upon trembling legs.

To calm my nerves I didn’t even try. Carefully picking my way through the debris, still gazing bewildered at the walls, I moved forward inch by inch. Every step took me deeper into the apartment toward a disheveled desk shoved against the far wall. The closer I came to it, the heavier my soul grew. What misfortune had taken my college mentor victim?

A pile of jumbled papers cluttered Abraham’s old desk. Shaking, I sifted through them. Some of them contained the same strange symbols and cuneiform writing found on the walls. But, as I dug deeper, they became even stranger. Many had been violently attacked with a pen, filling them with a void of darkness surrounding an elliptical shape which, at its center, contained another agitated scribble of ink. The shape took on different sizes in each but the lightless void surrounding it was always the same.

At last I uncovered the phone and was about to lift it from its cradle when I spotted a small cassette recorder next to it. The tape inside it had reached its end. Morbid curiosity came over me… a need to know what happened to Derleth. My hand moved to the device and picked it up. A jumbled high pitch shriek of words spoken in reverse poured from the speaker as I pressed down on the rewind button. Pressing play filled the small one room apartment with a single gut wrenching cry of agony.

I dropped the recorder startled and let out a quick scream of my own. The tape continued playing and I could hear the shelves crashing into the floor. Someone was speaking in a foreign language I could not identify. The voice was that of Abraham’s, but not as I knew him. It was as though some madness seized his senses and drove a spike of insanity into his usually brilliant mind. The voice grew fainter until I heard the door creak open and it vanished completely. Reaching the end of the tape again, the recorder clicked off automatically.

My mind raced with questions. Had he been attacked and abducted? Who would have reason to do that? Was there some angry student on the campus that sought revenge for a poor grade, Had he simply fallen into a fit of senility and hurt himself before wandering aimlessly into the main hall? How could he have left without anyone in the building or on the lawn noticing. I needed to know.

Fumbling the recorder back into my hand, I rewound the cassette to its beginning before pressing play. After a few everlasting seconds, Derleth’s voice spoke up. His tone was stressed, marred by urgency and dread. As he spoke I found myself drawn into his story and absentmindedly sat in the desk’s chair as it unfolded. Now, I wish I could unlisten.

II
The Lurker in the Void

To the poor soul that discovers this recording, I apologize for burdening you with the terror and despair that fills my

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voice. I would write this all down but my hand has grown too unsteady, my nerves too shaken. Neither do I have time. I will try my best to finish my story, this warning, before I am taken. Please, to not think me insane. Madness would be a gift after what I found lurking in the void just beyond this inconsequential existence. Even now, I can hear… it.

For a time I’d abandoned my experiments with the phenomena known as remote viewing. I’d discovered it after studying the process of lucid dreaming, the act of being able to control one’s dreams. The thought of projecting my consciousness out of my body to explore the world fascinated me. The occultists and alchemists used to call it astral projection and, after years of trying, I found it to be as possible as turning lead to gold. But when Robert, I will never get used to calling him Dean Blackmore, invited me down to teach a class on the psychology of dream states, I found my old interests reignited.

I arrived at the campus several days before classes were to begin as is my custom. After unpacking what belongings I’d brought to the small apartment the school provides for me I took to familiarizing myself with the campus. I was charmed to learn they had built a network of tunnels under the buildings similar to New York’s to keep classes running during poor weather, though I couldn’t imagine winters in Maryland being nearly as bad as New York’s. In the evenings, I took to sitting in the manicured lawn and gazing up into the stars.

I found something alluring in them and tried to will my conscious into the heavens. Again, I was met with continuous failure but I kept trying anyway. It became my way of relaxing after classes began. But, earlier this week, I succeeded.

I sat upon the lawn, reclining on my elbows, and could feel something calling down to me. My eyes closed and I my body began to rise even though I rested firmly on the ground. The sensation was uncanny and, when I found the nerve to open my eyes, I saw the stars were indeed closer. I rolled over and found myself floating several feet above my own body. My surprise was so complete that I clamped my eyes closed again. When I opened them again, I had returned to my corporeal form. The slight break in concentration must have forced me back into my body. My ignorant excitement was overwhelming and I rushed back to my apartment.

Inside, I closed and locked the door and took the phone off the hook. I wanted no one to disturb me. As I laid in bed and positioned myself comfortably I felt like some sort of mad scientist conducting a bizarre experiment. After my giddiness subsided, I felt that strange sensation again.

This time, having opened my eyes and twisting in the air to look down at my resting body, I willed with all my might to keep my eyes open and remain outside myself. Moments later I was in control again and discovered I could move around the apartment simply by thinking it. Like on of the children from Peter Pan I flew about the room before setting my gaze on the window overlooking the campus.

Dare I leave? Oh, yes. I had wait so long and tried so hard for this very moment. How many years did I have left to me? I was seventy-six and I owed myself this experience.

I approached the window slowly, unsure of how to proceed. The window was closed and I didn’t know if I should try to open it or just keep going. The window was a physical thing and I no longer was. I decided to keep going. As though it were nothing more than light and air, I passed through the pane glass into the night.

Oh, the absolute wonder I felt! I flew, I spun, I twirled, I danced in the air! And then… I set my sights upon the stars.

Up I climbed, passing through clouds and layer after layer of atmosphere until I looked down and saw Earth as only the astronauts have. I knew I could go anywhere on it… Paris, London, Japan, the Bahamas… anywhere at all. But then I looked around. I was surrounded by a vast and limitless universe. Why should I limit myself to terrestrial destinations?

Spinning, I took off, fly further away from Earth. I passed over the dusty gray surface of the moon, through the canyons on the face of Mars, and to gaze upon the swirling vortex of Jupiter’s hurricane. It seemed I was not bound by the limits of space and time at all for each trip took but moments and, soon, I found myself beyond the cold loneliness of Pluto… beyond our own solar system and in the brilliant mass of stars that composes our Milky Way.

The stars called to me and I went to them, circling their brightly burning forms. Some of them were nothing more than fledgelings, smaller even than a meteor and many thousands of years from being seen by human eyes. Others were massive, hundreds of times larger than the Sun. Awestruck, I drew close to the largest one I could find… a giant that must have been millions, if not billions, of years old.

It flared and raged as I drew closer. I grew hypnotized by its violence and could feel its heat wash over me even in this bodiless state. Unconsciously, I drifted ever nearer as the star became ever more volatile. I should have respected its wild power. Foolish.

A rumble grew in the heavens and then there was a sudden blinding light. Shockwaves of force drove me back as fragments of star exploded through the heavens. Then, just as forcefully as I was thrown away from the star, I was yanked back toward it. Only, where the star had once been, there was now a large gaping hole and everything near it was being sucked in as the universe tried vainly to fill the abyss.

Desperately, I tried to will myself away. But I could not escape the pull. I thought of my body and wished myself back into it, clenching my eyes just as I had on the campus lawn. It was useless. When I opened them I was still being pulled toward the endless darkness from which not even light would escape. I fought until I could fight no more and I, horrified, entered the event horizon.

The gravity inside that impenetrable blackness was beyond anything I have ever felt before. I felt as though every fiber of my mind was being crushed and then torn apart by the relentless pull coming from its depths. My psyche burned as I descended deeper and deeper into the pit. Then, there was nothing.

Free of the black hole, I counted myself lucky to still have my powers of thought. I found myself wondering about my body on Earth. Would I ever return to it? Would it remain living in a comatose state? What would happen to my present form if it died? Dreading the answers, I turned my attention to… wherever I was.

To say it was dark would be inaccurate. Rather, it seemed that no light or echo of light had ever existed in this place at any time. And time, for that matter, seemed only a vague memory of a theoretical concept. Nothinf there seemed to have any weight at all except for the silence that throbbed heavily about me. The best words to describe it are to say that it was a void, a place where nothing existed because it did not exist.

Knowing this caused my anxiety to rise. Could it be that, since this place did not exist, that I no longer existed? My only thoughts were of escape. Panicked, I tried to turn, to seek the portal through which I entered this oblivion. But I could not turn. I willed myself forward as I had in the room and through the heavens, but remained motionless. It dawned on me that I would not be able to move for there was no space here for me to move through. My despair closed over me like water over the face of a man sinking to his grave and I ceased my pitiful attempts.

How long I hung suspended in the void I can not say. Minutes were eons and eons as brief as seconds. One last desperate course of action occurred to me in my defeat. Preferring death to an eternity stuck in this chasm of nothingness, I willed myself to die… to simply become as nonexistent as it and meld into its silence.

Oh, that silence! As I tried to will myself into nonexistence I listened. It was such a complete silence that it actually seemed to swell, to ebb and surge like the waves of a terrible ocean of nothingness. Slowly, its pulsing started to take on a rhythm and grow in volume until I realized I was listening to the very beating heart of the void.

Just as I thought the pounding silence would rip my sanity apart, my hopes rose as I witnessed an opening appear in the void. It was almond shaped and filling it was a sickened yellow-white with a bluish-black haze in its center. In this space without space and time without time it seemed to open right in front of me and miles away, instantly and over years, at the same time. Confused wonder filled me as the opening widened and the blue-black haze at its center began to shift back and forth. Then, the maddening horror of what I was seeing struck me.

I was staring into a giant blind eye that had opened in the void and was searching for whatever trespassed in its abyss. Whether that eye belonged to some extraterrestrial being or to the very void itself, I could not say. At last it came to rest, peering straight ahead and motionlessly at me. Bleakly, I hoped that its being bling and my being without a physical form meant that it could not see me. But deep down I knew it could. I could feel it looking into my very soul.

A chattering whisper filled the void from a thousand voices hissing a thousand different things that all came from one voice, its voice. The words I could not make out but seemed to be some ancient and forsaken tongue. They crawled over me, squirming like a tangle of vipers and stinging like a swarm of scorpions. And then they were inside my psyche, throbbing and beating like a living thing. I cried out for it to stop but the whispers, as though they were tiny parasitic eggs, hatched within me.

Millions of atrocious visions erupted at once. Every bloody violent act of man’s history, every plague and famine to scour Earth, every ounce of hatred and suffering ever felt seeped into every part of my mind. I watched the still beating heart of a man ripped from his chest by an Aztec priest, Christian babies thrown to lions in the Colosseum in Rome, Christian soldiers put entire Muslim families to death in the crusades, Nazis shower hundreds of Jews at one time with poisoned gas, entire villages in Africa slaughtered by military leaders, vultures waiting by eagerly for starving children to finally take their last breath… How many thousands of years did I endure in but the single blink of that massive eye?

The whispering continued as the eye moved closer and further away at the same time. A stark white light grew behind it, brighter and brighter, revealing the creature in its horrible entirety. Tentacle arms covered in sharp barbs with a row of suckers along each one writhed from its central mass, a thin canvas of molted flesh that was the color of decay that surrounded the eye. More visions erupted into my mind as it grew nearer and further, revealing the awful nature of it.

For thousands of years it waited in exile just outside our universe. Hatred for our race coursed through it like thunder. Every evil act ever committed by gave this thing power, bringing it closer to entering our world to devour humanity in all of its barbarity. And, now, it had one in its reach.

Its arms reached out towards me, coiling around my astral body as though it were a physical thing, the barbs sinking into me. The suckers latched on and started working like hundreds on tiny mouths filled with razor fine teeth. They bit at whatever my being was made out of and swallowed down pieces of me into it. I screamed and screamed until, at last, every bit of me had been devoured by this lurking thing in the void.

I screamed and screamed until I heard a loud and troubled knocking. Opening my eyes I found myself back in my room. Rolling from the bed, I walked to the door and opened it. The professor who lives under me had rushed up, alarmed by my screams, to check on me. Embarrassed, I explained that I’d had a terrible nightmare and apologized for the disturbance. Part of me believed that’s all the experience was. Just a dream brought on by my delving into the mysteries of the brain.

However, upon the following night as I lay waiting for sleep and still shaken from the last night’s vision, I felt the rising sensation again. I opened my eyes and found myself floating again. Frantically, I tried to return to my body. But I was being pulled by some unseen force. Kicking and screaming I was drug back through the black hole into the void. The creature appeared again, assaulting me with its horrible visions and whispering its terrible secrets. Then, just as it had before, it devoured me and I found myself back in my room.

Night after night this has happened and, now, I even hear its whispers and see its visions in my waking hours. They grow stronger, throbbing in my head harder and harder, pulsing just behind my eyes. I can bear them no longer.

Please, stop listening now. I would turn off the recorder but fear the action may defeat my nerve.III
Epilogue

The sound of his scream sent a chill down my spine that froze my blood in its veins. What madness, for it could be nothing else, had come over my mentor? I sat in the thick silence of the apartment for some time after the tape again ended trying to decide what to do.

If police found this scene they would raise a huge investigation. News crews would show up. Whispers would start in the classrooms and then in town. The Arkham urban legends would become the Miskatonic Curse. Parents would urge their children to apply to other colleges. The school would be ruined and I couldn’t let that happen.

Quickly, I went to work cleaning the apartment. I scrubbed the walls and door until they were spotless and righted the bookshelves. Beneath one of them I found a bloody knife laying in a pool of blood. I cleaned it and put it back in the block in the kitchenette. I replaced all the books onto them and gathered all the strange papers. I ejected the tape from the recorder and stuck it in my pocket. On the desk beneath I found another pool of blood and two eyeballs with the nerve strands still connected behind them. Nearly retching, I picked them up and tossed them into the bag of bloody paper towels and papers I was filling. Satisfied that the apartment looked normal I left, locking the door behind me and flying down the stairs. Not wanting to be seen, I took the tunnels back to the main building where I keep my own apartment.

There, I called the police and reported Professor Derleth missing. I led investigators to his apartment and let them in. My work in the apartment convinced them and they informed me they are approaching the case under the assumption that he was old probably going a little senile and wondering off. If only it were all true.

Sleep came to me uneasily that night as you can imagine. I tossed and turned and my thoughts kept going to the nightmare in Abraham’s apartment and the lurker in the void. It took several hours for a light restless slumber to come.

It was whispering that woke me… a faint whisper that were a thousand voices and one all at once. My eyes opened in the pitch darkness of my room as I listened. As my eyes adjusted the whispers grew louder. I tried to look around but found that I was unable to move at all. A shape took form above me in the darkness, slowly coming into focus. My heart beat wildly as I made out the shape of a head and then its features. I wanted to scream for help, but could not.

Derleth’s face looked down on me. He had gone pale and his expression was a blank, soulless gaze… a terrible gaze made all the worse by its lack of eyes. I peered into those endless caverns in despair. Within them I caught a glimpse of a faintly gleaming light. The light grew brighter until what I was looking at was not a glimmering fleck but an entire universe swirling and spiraling inside his black eye sockets. It was his voice whispering though his lips did not move. Each whisper brought a terrible vision or revealed a some forbidden secret of ages past. The lurker had come to Earth.

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