Notey: Va sannish gloo as shenn-emshiragh er y skeeal shen hug ennaghtyn joaney as dullyr er. Ren mee my chooid shen yn ennaghtyn cheddin y chur er y lhieggey Gaelg; myr shen, ta shenn-chaaynt ry-akin ayn nish as reesht.
Haink ashlish donney er y Varran creoi
As ad nyn gadley, shimmey scaa-doo loau
Ayns cummey buitçh as jouyll as beishteig ghrouw
Voir er ny goaldee.
—Keats (The Eve of St. Agnes).
Nagh treih eshyn nagh vow ayns cooinaghtyn aegid agh aggle as meevaynrys! Nagh treih eshyn ta jeeaghyn ny yei er ooryn ny lomarcan ayns shamyryn buillvollee groamey, lane dy hapeishyn dhoney as straihyn baanragh dy henn lioaryn; ny er ammyn atçhimagh ayns keylljyn keeiragh raad ta biljyn foawragh arraghtagh fo ghreim raiseyder sheeyney seose banglaneyn caslagh foddey er-e-skynn nyn dost! Shen y cronney hug ny jeeghyn orryms - orryms t'er shaghryn, mollit, follym, brisht. As gyn y wooise da, ta mee bwooiagh aght ennagh, as ta mee greimmey dy çhionn er ny cooinaghtyn lhomey shen tra ta'n aigney aym sheeyney magh gys shirrey er fir elley.
Cha s'aym cre'n y voayl ruggyree, agh by henn ass towse as owanagh ass towse y cashtal shid. Shimmey limmer dorraghey v'ayn, as sar-vullee ardjey oc, raad nagh dooar my ghaa hooill agh sneeuaneyn as scaaghyn. By hash graynoil dy kinjagh claghyn ny gorradoyryn tholtanagh, as hannee soar breinn mollaghtagh trooid y clane, myr veih merriu charnaneagh ny h-eashyn. Cha vrish soilshey erbee y vurgeeaght rieau, as ny keayrtyn, doad mee cainleyn as blakey orroo er son couyr ennagh; cha daink soilshey ny greiney dou noadyr trooid ny biljyn eajee daase foddey erskyn toor s'yrdjey roshtynagh y chashtal. Va toor doo ynrican ny hassoo ny s'yrdjey foast, as heeyn eshyn ass shilley 'sy speyr do-akin dou; agh by lieh-vrisht eh, as yn aght ynrican dy chosney, veagh shen drappal neuyantagh, bunnys, greim as greim seose y voalley cloaie jeeragh.
Shegin dou er gummal 'sy voayl rish bleeantyn, agh cha noddym ad y howse. Shegin da bioee er ngoaill kiarail jeem, agh cha gooin lhiam peiagh erbee agh mee hene; dy firrinagh, cha gooin lhiam red bio erbee agh roddanyn as craitnagyn as feederyn tostagh. Y voandyr yarroodit hrog mee, shegin jee er ve shenn atçhimagh; y chied sheiltynys v'aym er peiagh, shen red gollrhym pene gys fannidys, agh cassit as shirgit as loauaghey myr ren y cashtal. Cha dooar mee arraghtaght erbee jeh ny craueyn as ushylee skeayll harrish shiartanse dy chabbalyn cloaie dowiney mastey ny binn. Ard-yindyssagh myr t'eh, va lheid ny reddyn laaoil dooys, as ny smoo dooghyssagh na ny cummaghyn daahit bioee hooar mee ayns lioaryn er lheeah. Jynsee mee y clane fys aym jeusyn. Cha dug ynseyder erbee greinney ny stiurey dooys, as cha gooin lhiam clashtyn coraa erbee er feie ny bleeantyn liauyrey — eer my choraa hene; ga dy row mee er lhiah jeh glare, cha row yn eie rieau er duittym orrym eab er y jannoo. Hug mee wheesh dy neuhastey da'n chummey orrym; cha row scaane erbee 'sy chastal, as myr shen, heill mee my hene rere ny sleih aegey dooar mee tayrnit as daahit ayns ny lioaryn. Dennee mee my aegid er coontey'n veggan cooinaghtyn v'aym.
Çheumooie, harrish y jeeg vreinn as fo ny biljyn dorraghey tostey, lhie mee dy mennick as ceau ooryn fo ashlish er cooid ny lioaryn; as mian lajer orrym, heill mee mee hene mastey çhionnal gennal 'syn teihll grianagh foddey jeh'n cheyll gyn chaghliagh. Keayrt dy row, ren mee eab dy scapail jeh'n cheyll, agh ny s'odjey hie mee jeh'n chashtal, ny s'glooey yn doorey as ny strimmey atçhim groamagh ny h-aerey; derrey roie mee erash er çhea fo aggle ragh mee er coayl ayns cartage host ny h-oie.
As er fud coleayrtys gyn yerrey ren mee dreamal as fuirriaghtyn, gyn enney er ny duirree mee er. Eisht my lomarcan scaadooagh daase lheid y vian aynym er sollys nagh dod mee surranse foast, as skeayll mee laueyn aghinagh cour y toor doo brisht ynrican jirree erskyn ny keylley gys y speyr mooie neuakinit. As fy-yerrey chiar mee y toor y ghrappal, dy duittin ny gyn; ny share shilley jeh'n speyr as baase neesht y gheddyn, na bea veayn gyn fakin arragh laa.
'Sy choleayrtys tash ghrapp mee ny shenn ghreeishyn craiuit derrey rosh mee y brishey, as eisht chrog dy cryggylagh er greimyn beggey jirree seose. Nagh by ghrouw as agglagh eh y speek chloaie varroo gyn ghreeish! Doo as brisht, as treigit, as baggyrtagh lesh craitnagyn moostey jirree er skianyn tostey. Agh ny s'grouwey as ny s'aggley foast va meillid my irree; ga dy ghrapp mee lesh ooilley my niart, cha hannee y dorraghys er-my-skyn, as skeayll feayraght noa my hrooid myr shenn lheeah scaanjoonagh. Va mee er craa tra smooinee mee cre'n fa nagh rosh mee y soilshey, as yinnin er nyeeaghyn seose dy b'lhoys dou. Heill mee dy row yn oie er duittym orrym çhelleeragh, as loaght lesh laue follym er sprey, gys blakey magh as seose as towse yn yrjid v’er ny chosney aym; agh cha dooar mee fer erbee.
Dy doaltattym, lurg beaynid atçhim drappal my ghellid seose yn eaynin coobagh gaueagh shid, venn my chione rish nhee fondagh as hoig mee dy row mee er gosney y mullagh, ny laare ennagh er y chooid sloo. ‘Sy dorraghys, heeyn magh my laue follym y lhiettrim y phrowal, as hooar mee dy row eh neuscughee as cloaie. Eisht keayrt varrooagh mygeayrt y toor, croghey er greim erbee va ry-gheddyn er y woalley shliawin; derrey darree y lhiettrim fo my laue prowee as hyndaa mee seose reesht. Heiy my chione er y leac ny dorrys, as mish croghey er daa laue er son y drappal agglagh. Cha daink soilshey erbee neose, agh heeyn my laueyn seose as feddyn magh dy beagh jerrey er drappal rish tammylt. Va’n leac ny cooylley hroggee da barney ayns laare chloaie rea, ny shlea na crantessen y toor; laare hamyr yeeaghee reamyssagh ard ennagh, gyn ourys. Snaue mee ny hrooid dy kiarailagh, as jannoo eab gyn lhiggey da’n leac hrome tuittym erash ‘sy voayl eck, agh cha daink lhiam shen. As mish my lhie er troggloo er y laare chloaie, cheayll mee mactullee neuheiltagh e tuittym, agh va doghys aym dy noddin e fosley rere feme.
Er lhiam dy row mee feer ard nish, foddey erskyn banglaneyn mollaghtagh ny keylley. Jirree mee dy loaganagh as loaghtey er son uinniag, do oddin fakin y speyr son y chied cheayrt, as yn eayst as ny rollageyn lhaih mee jeu. Agh va mee mollit er dagh çheu; cha dooar mee agh skellooghyn marmyr buillvollee lane dy chishtaghyn dronuillagagh eajee er mooadys boiragh. Smooinee mee er dy trome, as sheiltyn ny shenn ‘olliaghtyn oddagh tannaghtyn ‘sy thie ard shoh, er ny rheynn veih’n chashtal rish wheesh dy eashyn. Eisht, gyn yerkallys, dooar my laueyn doarlish, as dorrys cloaie garroo quaagh-e-ghrainney croghey ayn. Phrow mee eh, as feddyn magh dy row eh fo ghlass; agh lesh freayney niart, hug mee fo chosh dagh lhiettrimys as tayrn stiagh eh. Liorishyn haink dou yn eunys s’glenney dennee mee rieau: trooid cleeah yiarn yesheenagh, sheese roie greeishyn cloaie jirree seose voish y dorrys noa-feddynit, hoilshean lane-eayst lossanagh nagh vaik mee rieau roish shen agh ayns slammyn as ashlishyn neuhickyr nagh lhoys dou enmys myr cooinaghtyn.
Hoig mee dy nhegin dou er roshtyn eer veinn y chashtal, as goaill toshiaght dy roie seose ny greeishyn goaney trooid y dorrys; agh huitt coodagh bodjallagh harrish yn eayst dy doaltattym as cur orrym snapperal, as loaght mee er son y raad dy moal 'sy dorraghys. By ghorraghey foast eh tra rosh mee yn chleeah; phrow mee ee dy kiarailagh as feddyn magh nagh row ee fo ghlass, agh cha doshil mee ish er aggle dy duittin veih'n yrjid thanvaneagh va mee er nrappal da. Eisht haink ree yn eayst.
Y yindys s'jouyllee erskyn ooilley, shen yindys gyn yerkallys as neuchredjallagh gys arraghtaght. Cha row taghyrt erbee er chur aggle orrym cosoylagh rish ny honnick mee nish; rish yindyssyn joarree chowree y reayrtys shid. Va'n reayrtys shen cho cadjin as v'eh sevreainagh: raad yerk mee reayrtys bir viljyn voish mullagh ard verragh thollaneys orrym, heeyn magh thalloo fondagh er my cheim pene çheu elley ny cleeahey, stooamit as jesheenit lesh leacyn as collooyn marmyr, as y clane fo scaa shenn cheeill chloaie as speek vrisht eck lonree dy neuheiltagh fo hoilshey ny h-eayst.
Lieh my neealloo, doshil mee y chleeah as loaganey magh gys cassan shillee vane heeyn magh er daa heu. Wheesh dallit as fud-y-cheilley as va my aigney, va mian keoie urree er sollys, as cha dod eer y taghyrt ard-yindyssagh shoh my lhiettal. Cha s’aym my she ashlish ny baanrid ny obbeeys v’ayn, as by gummey lhiam eh; begin dou fakin gennalys as bioyrid gyn scansh da’n leagh. Cha s’aym quoi ny c’red ny c’raad va mish; agh tra skyrree mee roym, haink orrym enney er cooinaghtyn follit owanagh ennagh hug orrym ennaghtyn nagh nee immeeaght lane taghyrtagh v’ayn. Hie mee fo aae magh ass thalloo ny leacyn as collooyn, as rouail trooid çheer follym; rish raad baghtal ny keayrtyn, agh ny keayrtyn elley daag mee eh er fa quaagh ennagh gys shooyl harrish lheeantyn gyn agh tholtan goan myr feanish shenn raad caillt. Snaue mee harrish awin tappee raad chowree seyirsaght chloaie voghlaneagh, coadit lesh keynnagh, dy row droghad ayn keayrt dy row.
Begin da daa oor er ngoll shaghey roish my rosh mee y dean gyn enney aym: shenn chashtal hibbinagh ayns pairk cheylljagh ghloo. V’eh ainjyssagh torçhagh dou, agh lane dy yoarreeaght anveaghee. Honnick mee dy row y chlash ushtey lhieent, as kuse jeh ny tooryn ainjyssagh er nyn lhieggey; choud’s va buin noa ayns gys molley y dooinney fakin. Agh erskyn ooilley hug mee geill da ny h-uinnagyn foshlit, as hug adsyn eunys dooys — v’ad lonraghey lesh sollys aalin as deayrtey magh sheeanyn giense gennal ass sheiltyn. Hooill mee gys nane jeu as jeeaghyn stiagh er lught coamrit quaagh dy liooar; v’ad cummal reaid as coloayrt dy bioyr. V’eh baghtal nagh row mee rieau er glashtyn glare deiney; as cha dod mee agh sheiltyn ny v’ad gra. Er eddin nish as reesht ‘sy lught, honnick mee dreagh ghooisht aachooinaghtyn ass duinid foddey; va fir elley lane joarree.
Eisht ren mee kesmad roym trooid yn uinnag injil stiagh ayns y çhamyr hollysh er bashtal, as liorishyn ren mee kesmad veih’n tullagh lomarcan doghys sollysh ayms gys my heaym s’dorraghey rieau jeh dooghid as toiggal. Haink y tromlhie dy tappee; as mish çheet stiagh, haink my vlaa y taishbyney s’agglee heill mee rieau. Eer as mish goll harrish y leac uinnag, huitt atçhim jeean graynoil er y lane çheshaght çhelleeragh as gyn raaue erbee. Chammee eh dagh eddin as tayrn magh yllee agglagh ass dagh scoarnagh. Hyndaa ad myrane lesh y cheilley as çhea, as mastey boiraneys as sevreain y çhionnal, huitt kuse jeu neeal, derrey hayrn caarjyn er çhea ad ersooyl maroo. Cheau fir jeu laueyn harrish nyn sooillyn, as loaganey dy doal as staagagh lesh scapail; chledd ad stoo thie as bwoalley noi ny boallaghyn roish my dod ad roshtyn dorrys ennagh as skellal roish.
B’agglagh y screeaghey; as mish my hassoo lomarcan er shaghryn ‘sy çhamyr hollysh, clashtyn rish yn aawoalley jeu skellal rish, va mee er craa liorish sheiltyn ny va sleetçhal mygeayrt ass my hilley. Ec y chied hilley neuchooishagh, er lhiam dy row y çhamyr follym; agh tra hooill mee cour cuilleig ennagh, heill mee dy chronn mee red ennagh. Va sannish arraghey ennagh çheu elley jeh aae airh-oirrit doshil er shamyr elley gollrish y fer va mee ayn. As mish tayrn er gerrey da, b’leayrey dou ny v’aynjee; as eisht, lesh y chied heean as jerrinagh ren mee coraaghey – ny screeaghey feohdoil hug wheesh grayn orrym as y bun dwoaiagh jeh – honnick mee dy baghtal as owanagh y beisht do-heiltyn, do-hoilshaghey, do-ghra v’er nyannoo griaght cheoie er çhea jeh lught gennal liorish çheet rish ynrican.
Cha noddym cur sannish hene diu er; v’eh ny chovestey jeh dagh ooilley red neughlen, neughooghyssagh, feohdagh as dwoaiagh. She scaa gowlagh loauys, shenndaght as treihys v’ayn; eidolon breinn yngyragh taishbyney anchasherick; roostey atçhimagh ny lhisagh y thalloo myghinagh follaghey er son dy bragh. Ta fys ec Jee nagh row eh jeh’n teihll shoh – ny nagh lhisagh eh ve foast – agh fo atçhim ass towse, hoig mee y cummey crimmit gys taishbyney craueyn myr arrish craidagh graney jeh cummey deiney; as hug quallid ennagh erskyn insh ‘syn eaddagh ooiragh v’echey ny smoo scoagh foast orrym.
Va mee bunnys kyrloghit, agh va bree dy liooar faagit aynym eab faase er scapail y yannoo; ny snapperal erash nagh vrish y gess va’n veishteig gyn ennym ny coraa cur orrym. Fo ghruiaght ny gruinnagyn marroo vlak cho agglagh orrym, dobb my ghaa hooill dy ghooney; agh v’ad dullyr, bwooise da Jee, as erreish da’n chied woalley, cha hoilshee ad y nhee atçhimagh dy cronnal. Ren mee eab my laue y hroggal gys dooney magh ny vaik mee, agh cha dod my laue cur lane viallys fo hrimmid y greain nearagagh v’orrym. Agh va’n eab dy liooar mish y chur ass cormid, as v’eh orrym loaganey roym kesmad ny ghaa do nagh duittin. Hug mee my ner dy angaishagh cho faggys va’n red convayrtagh, as lieh-heill mee dy cheayll mee eh tayrn ennal dy mooghit graney. Dobbyr dou goll ass my cheeayll, agh haink rhym my laue y cheau roym gys castey yn arragh breinn ying stiagh orrym; as eisht, myr tullagh co-leaystagh scoagh ooilley-stroiagh as taghyrt iurinagh, venn my vair rish maaig loauaghey sheeynt ny beishteig fo’n aae airhey.
Cha dyllee mee, agh ‘sy tullagh cheddin dyllee dagh ooilley ghowl ta markiagh er geay ny h-oie er-my-hon, tra huitt lhieggey cooinaghtyn giare-heiltagh er my aigney as cur lesh my annym gys veg. Ayns y tullagh shid by chooin lhiam dagh ooilley red; by chooin lhiam ny va çheu elley y chashtal agglagh as ny viljyn, as haink enney orrym er y troggal ceaghlit va mee my hoie aynsyn nish; as atçhim erskyn ooilley, haink enney orrym er y jalloo dwoaiagh anchasherick vlak orrym as mish tayrn magh my veir sollit veih ny veir echey.
Agh ta shelliu ‘sy chruinney myrgeddin as sherruid, as she lus y gheu t’ayn. Liorish scoagh jerrinagh y tullagh shen yarrood mee ny v’er chur lheid yn atçhim orrym, as skell magh y thooilley drogh-chooinaghtyn ayns corvaal jallooyn mactullee. Roie mee fo ashlish veih’n troggal mollaghtagh scaanagh, tappee as tost fo hoilshey ny h-eayst. Tra rosh mee y ruillick varmyragh as goll sheese ny greeishyn, hooar magh mee nagh row y cooylley hroggee chloaie ry-hroggal reesht; agh cha treih lhiam eh. Va dwoaie aym er y çhenn chashtal as ny biljyn. Nish ta mee markiagh marish gowlyn craidagh as caarjagh er geay ny h-oie, as ‘sy laa ta shin cloie mastey oaiaghyn Nephren-Ka ayns glion Hodath sealit as follit rish y Neel. Ta fys aym nagh row soilshey cooie dou, er lhimmey jeh soilshey ny h-eayst harrish tommanyn cloaie Neb, as cha nel reaid cooie dou agh feaillaghyn gyn ennym Nitokris fo’n Phyramid Mooar; agh seyr as feie as ta mee nish, ta mee bunnys cur failt er sherruid joarreeys.
Ga dy vel lus y gheu er my chiunaghey, ta fys aym dy kinjagh dy nee joarree t’ayn; joarree ‘syn eash shoh as mastey adsyn ta nyn neiney foast. Ta’n fys shoh er ve aym dy kinjagh neayr’s heeyn magh mee my veir da’n dwoaiagh ‘syn aae airhey vooar shid; heeyn magh my veir as bentyn rish eaghtyr feayr as anchorragh kerrin glonney gloasit.
Note: This story was originally written in a dense and semi-archaic style that helps to evoke a cobwebby, gloomy atmosphere. I have tried to maintain that feel in the translation, so the Manx has a few archaisms of its own.
Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.
I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible; full of dark passages and having high ceilings where the eye could find only cobwebs and shadows. The stones in the crumbling corridors seemed always hideously damp, and there was an accursed smell everywhere, as of the piled-up corpses of dead generations. It was never light, so that I used sometimes to light candles and gaze steadily at them for relief; nor was there any sun outdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower. There was one black tower which reached above the trees into the unknown outer sky, but that was partly ruined and could not be ascended save by a well-nigh impossible climb up the sheer wall, stone by stone.
I must have lived years in this place, but I cannot measure the time. Beings must have cared for my needs, yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiseless rats and bats and spiders. I think that whoever nursed me must have been shockingly aged, since my first conception of a living person was that of something mockingly like myself, yet distorted, shrivelled, and decaying like the castle. To me there was nothing grotesque in the bones and skeletons that strowed some of the stone crypts deep down among the foundations. I fantastically associated these things with every-day events, and thought them more natural than the coloured pictures of living beings which I found in many of the mouldy books. From such books I learned all that I know. No teacher urged or guided me, and I do not recall hearing any human voice in all those years—not even my own; for although I had read of speech, I had never thought to try to speak aloud. My aspect was a matter equally unthought of, for there were no mirrors in the castle, and I merely regarded myself by instinct as akin to the youthful figures I saw drawn and painted in the books. I felt conscious of youth because I remembered so little.
Outside, across the putrid moat and under the dark mute trees, I would often lie and dream for hours about what I read in the books; and would longingly picture myself amidst gay crowds in the sunny world beyond the endless forest. Once I tried to escape from the forest, but as I went farther from the castle the shade grew denser and the air more filled with brooding fear; so that I ran frantically back lest I lose my way in a labyrinth of nighted silence.
So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for. Then in the shadowy solitude my longing for light grew so frantic that I could rest no more, and I lifted entreating hands to the single black ruined tower that reached above the forest into the unknown outer sky. And at last I resolved to scale that tower, fall though I might; since it were better to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without ever beholding day.
In the dank twilight I climbed the worn and aged stone stairs till I reached the level where they ceased, and thereafter clung perilously to small footholds leading upward. Ghastly and terrible was that dead, stairless cylinder of rock; black, ruined, and deserted, and sinister with startled bats whose wings made no noise. But more ghastly and terrible still was the slowness of my progress; for climb as I might, the darkness overhead grew no thinner, and a new chill as of haunted and venerable mould assailed me. I shivered as I wondered why I did not reach the light, and would have looked down had I dared. I fancied that night had come suddenly upon me, and vainly groped with one free hand for a window embrasure, that I might peer out and above, and try to judge the height I had attained.
All at once, after an infinity of awesome, sightless crawling up that concave and desperate precipice, I felt my head touch a solid thing, and I knew I must have gained the roof, or at least some kind of floor. In the darkness I raised my free hand and tested the barrier, finding it stone and immovable. Then came a deadly circuit of the tower, clinging to whatever holds the slimy wall could give; till finally my testing hand found the barrier yielding, and I turned upward again, pushing the slab or door with my head as I used both hands in my fearful ascent. There was no light revealed above, and as my hands went higher I knew that my climb was for the nonce ended; since the slab was the trap-door of an aperture leading to a level stone surface of greater circumference than the lower tower, no doubt the floor of some lofty and capacious observation chamber. I crawled through carefully, and tried to prevent the heavy slab from falling back into place; but failed in the latter attempt. As I lay exhausted on the stone floor I heard the eerie echoes of its fall, but hoped when necessary to pry it open again.
Believing I was now at a prodigious height, far above the accursed branches of the wood, I dragged myself up from the floor and fumbled about for windows, that I might look for the first time upon the sky, and the moon and stars of which I had read. But on every hand I was disappointed; since all that I found were vast shelves of marble, bearing odious oblong boxes of disturbing size. More and more I reflected, and wondered what hoary secrets might abide in this high apartment so many aeons cut off from the castle below. Then unexpectedly my hands came upon a doorway, where hung a portal of stone, rough with strange chiselling. Trying it, I found it locked; but with a supreme burst of strength I overcame all obstacles and dragged it open inward. As I did so there came to me the purest ecstasy I have ever known; for shining tranquilly through an ornate grating of iron, and down a short stone passageway of steps that ascended from the newly found doorway, was the radiant full moon, which I had never before seen save in dreams and in vague visions I dared not call memories.
Fancying now that I had attained the very pinnacle of the castle, I commenced to rush up the few steps beyond the door; but the sudden veiling of the moon by a cloud caused me to stumble, and I felt my way more slowly in the dark. It was still very dark when I reached the grating—which I tried carefully and found unlocked, but which I did not open for fear of falling from the amazing height to which I had climbed. Then the moon came out.
Most daemoniacal of all shocks is that of the abysmally unexpected and grotesquely unbelievable. Nothing I had before undergone could compare in terror with what I now saw; with the bizarre marvels that sight implied. The sight itself was as simple as it was stupefying, for it was merely this: instead of a dizzying prospect of treetops seen from a lofty eminence, there stretched around me on a level through the grating nothing less than the solid ground, decked and diversified by marble slabs and columns, and overshadowed by an ancient stone church, whose ruined spire gleamed spectrally in the moonlight.
Half unconscious, I opened the grating and staggered out upon the white gravel path that stretched away in two directions. My mind, stunned and chaotic as it was, still held the frantic craving for light; and not even the fantastic wonder which had happened could stay my course. I neither knew nor cared whether my experience was insanity, dreaming, or magic; but was determined to gaze on brilliance and gaiety at any cost. I knew not who I was or what I was, or what my surroundings might be; though as I continued to stumble along I became conscious of a kind of fearsome latent memory that made my progress not wholly fortuitous. I passed under an arch out of that region of slabs and columns, and wandered through the open country; sometimes following the visible road, but sometimes leaving it curiously to tread across meadows where only occasional ruins bespoke the ancient presence of a forgotten road. Once I swam across a swift river where crumbling, mossy masonry told of a bridge long vanished.
Over two hours must have passed before I reached what seemed to be my goal, a venerable ivied castle in a thickly wooded park; maddeningly familiar, yet full of perplexing strangeness to me. I saw that the moat was filled in, and that some of the well-known towers were demolished; whilst new wings existed to confuse the beholder. But what I observed with chief interest and delight were the open windows—gorgeously ablaze with light and sending forth sound of the gayest revelry. Advancing to one of these I looked in and saw an oddly dressed company, indeed; making merry, and speaking brightly to one another. I had never, seemingly, heard human speech before; and could guess only vaguely what was said. Some of the faces seemed to hold expressions that brought up incredibly remote recollections; others were utterly alien.
I now stepped through the low window into the brilliantly lighted room, stepping as I did so from my single bright moment of hope to my blackest convulsion of despair and realisation. The nightmare was quick to come; for as I entered, there occurred immediately one of the most terrifying demonstrations I had ever conceived. Scarcely had I crossed the sill when there descended upon the whole company a sudden and unheralded fear of hideous intensity, distorting every face and evoking the most horrible screams from nearly every throat. Flight was universal, and in the clamour and panic several fell in a swoon and were dragged away by their madly fleeing companions. Many covered their eyes with their hands, and plunged blindly and awkwardly in their race to escape; overturning furniture and stumbling against the walls before they managed to reach one of the many doors.
The cries were shocking; and as I stood in the brilliant apartment alone and dazed, listening to their vanishing echoes, I trembled at the thought of what might be lurking near me unseen. At a casual inspection the room seemed deserted, but when I moved toward one of the alcoves I thought I detected a presence there—a hint of motion beyond the golden-arched doorway leading to another and somewhat similar room. As I approached the arch I began to perceive the presence more clearly; and then, with the first and last sound I ever uttered—a ghastly ululation that revolted me almost as poignantly as its noxious cause—I beheld in full, frightful vividness the inconceivable, indescribable, and unmentionable monstrosity which had by its simple appearance changed a merry company to a herd of delirious fugitives.
I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable. It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation; the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation; the awful baring of that which the merciful earth should always hide. God knows it was not of this world—or no longer of this world—yet to my horror I saw in its eaten-away and bone-revealing outlines a leering, abhorrent travesty on the human shape; and in its mouldy, disintegrating apparel an unspeakable quality that chilled me even more.
I was almost paralysed, but not too much so to make a feeble effort toward flight; a backward stumble which failed to break the spell in which the nameless, voiceless monster held me. My eyes, bewitched by the glassy orbs which stared loathsomely into them, refused to close; though they were mercifully blurred, and shewed the terrible object but indistinctly after the first shock. I tried to raise my hand to shut out the sight, yet so stunned were my nerves that my arm could not fully obey my will. The attempt, however, was enough to disturb my balance; so that I had to stagger forward several steps to avoid falling. As I did so I became suddenly and agonisingly aware of the nearness of the carrion thing, whose hideous hollow breathing I half fancied I could hear. Nearly mad, I found myself yet able to throw out a hand to ward off the foetid apparition which pressed so close; when in one cataclysmic second of cosmic nightmarishness and hellish accident my fingers touched the rotting outstretched paw of the monster beneath the golden arch.
I did not shriek, but all the fiendish ghouls that ride the night-wind shrieked for me as in that same second there crashed down upon my mind a single and fleeting avalanche of soul-annihilating memory. I knew in that second all that had been; I remembered beyond the frightful castle and the trees, and recognised the altered edifice in which I now stood; I recognised, most terrible of all, the unholy abomination that stood leering before me as I withdrew my sullied fingers from its own.
But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe. In the supreme horror of that second I forgot what had horrified me, and the burst of black memory vanished in a chaos of echoing images. In a dream I fled from that haunted and accursed pile, and ran swiftly and silently in the moonlight. When I returned to the churchyard place of marble and went down the steps I found the stone trap-door immovable; but I was not sorry, for I had hated the antique castle and the trees. Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.
For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.
Ta'n skeealeen shoh çhyndaait ass The Outsider liorish H P Lovecraft.