By Byron Alexander Campbell
Democritus bears witness that men first appeared in the form of small worms, which little by little assumed human shape…After a long period of fertility, during which many monstrous and marvelous generations were brought forth, the Earth Mother became at last exhausted and sterile….
– Francesco Redi, Experiments on the Generation of Insects
Trans. Mab Bigelow
From a series of unpublished letters, addressed to his friend and colleague Carlo Roberto Dati, discovered in the possession of the renowned poet, physician and experimentalist upon his death on the 1st of March, 1697.
I have often in the past, Signor Carlo, found occasion to remark upon your goodliness and generosity. Upon these kindly traits, I feel justified, without obsequiousness, to heap the accusation of philosophical learning, for your vast knowledge of matters both Ancient and Modern has, on more than one occasion, added utility to a friendship built upon an unshiftable foundation of shared interest.
I fear, now, that plumbless knowledge for which you have garnered a well-deserved reputation must once again be tested. I have encountered a situation I find myself ill-equipped to comprehend, either as a Christian or as a follower of such distinguished observers of Nature as Aristotle and Galileo, upon whose experimental methods, as you know, all my studies have been founded. I pray that your education may find success where mine has met only humiliation and defeat; I fear otherwise for the sanity of my mind, as well as for the purity of my soul.
You will perhaps notice a disorder to the letters that follow, and wonder on it, having borne witness on many past occasions to my fastidiousness in regard to letter writing of all kinds, most particularly those notes chronicling the observations collected from my experiments. I can only answer that I have found my scrawlings of late increasingly haphazard; at times, it seems as though the letters, animated by some unknown spiritus, crawl about the page of their own will, reordering themselves in meaningless new configurations, else statements whose meaning is darkly opaque. I have held off sending them until now, for the disorder of my mind, by which I have been forced to pen draft after draft of the same missive, has only in recent weeks begun to lift. Yet, even in my restored state, I hold some small but worming fear that these words will mockingly and senselessly render themselves anew the moment I place my seal upon them.
That I have come to regard the subject matter of my experiments, now completed, with a measure of revulsion I did not hitherto consider possible only augments my hesitation. I am thrown again into a great turmoil of thoughts and emotions whenever I recall the legion-mouthed and serpent-limbed abomination of my dreams, or the half-formed grey creature I thought to be real, with a face that so resembled my own. Of the latter, there are times I have thought to have seen it, having now assumed the shape of an orphan boy begging in the alley, but before I can get close enough to identify it, it flees, or its features transmute into something less familiar.
I find that I am stuffing this prefatory note with material better suited for a postscript, if indeed it is suitable to be read at all. I will, therefore, step aside and allow my scribbling of the past months their own unmediated voice. I am, as always, your most grateful friend and companion,
(signed Francesco Redi di Arezzo)
July the 10th, 1668
You will recall my experiments, initiated at the beginning of June, following that ancient and accepted dictum, namely, that the putrefaction of flesh has been observed to generate life of the lowest order without any apparent intervention. You have heard my views on the subject: that since the time of Creation, the Earth has brought forth no life independent of the insemination of plants and animals already in existence, and that all life, great or small, is engendered by others of its kind. The rot of flesh gives birth to naught save noxious fumes.
Having once enclosed three freshly killed snakes of the sort known as the ‘Eel of Asclepius’ within a lidless box, I watched a variety of small worms arise to consume the foul meat. I was most intrigued to observe an equal number of eggs of varying colours come to replace these worms. After a period of roughly a fortnight, these eggs gave issue to grey, dull flies with closed wings, misshapen as if half-finished. It took only minutes for these torpid creatures to assume the likeness of insects of a more familiar variety, from which I concluded my initial suspicions to be confirmed: the worms being the offspring or maggots of the flies themselves, deposited by their parents on the bodies of the snakes.
I have since continued my experiments, using as catalysts every variety of meats, cooked or raw, imaginable. The results are consistent whether the boxes contain fowl, horseflesh, or sheep’s heart; or indeed, with ox, lamb, buffalo, dog, or lion; goose, hen, capon, or swallow; sole, swordfish, or eel. The worms or maggots have the maddening habit of disappearing to places unknown if I do not take great care to seal every aperture of the containers in which they are placed. Such was the case with the fat creatures that arose from the river frogs I had killed, skinned and placed in a dish of shallow water; I returned on the third day to find the foetid liquid in which they had sported empty save for the clean white bones of the amphibians.
July the 17th, 1668
Addendum to the previous letter:
My experiments on the origins of worms, Signor Carlo, have taken a new turn which I believe will attract your interest.
In order to demonstrate with some finality that the maggots of flies cannot appear absent of the deposits of the flies themselves, I placed meats of varying description within a number of flasks. Some of these vases I sealed with a fine Naples veil, and some I left open.
I have wondered often why I did not postpone these experiments for a season less given to torridity; the warm, humid air has done much to magnify the stench of spoiled flesh, such that it now seems to have sunk into my skin itself. Everywhere I go, I carry with me the mark of decay. It is only through a liberal, daily application of scented oils that I am able to escape it by even the smallest degree.
I will postpone dispatching these letters until such time as I can report either success or failure in this avenue of experimentation.
August the 1st, 1668
As predicted, the meats enclosed by the net of cloth brought forth no new life, although the worms that squirm moistly about the flask increase exponentially as the meat within is reduced to liquid.
This turbid substance, though potently offensive to the nostrils, is oddly translucent apart from some specks of grease that gather at the top. Meantime, the flies circle in frustration, alighting occasionally to deposit more worms upon the cloth.
The veil, at one point, sagged so beneath the blind, legless creatures that they nearly broke through the barrier. Such a disaster would have necessitated I recommence the experiments afresh, an operation I am inclined to avoid at any cost; I can no longer look upon a butcher’s wares without imagining the churning of white bodies, and the choking stench, that will surely follow. Though I am aware that most butchers are in the habit in the warmer seasons of covering their meats with a clean white cloth for the very purpose of discouraging such contaminations.
I write to you now, Signor Carlo, in regard to a question of the foetor such things are given to produce, after their kind. During the last week, I began to take notice of an odour more intense, by several degrees of magnitude, than that stench that we can be given to expect in company of this natural decay of flesh from bone. Initially, I attributed this sudden olfactory intrusion to the effects of the humidity in the air, which, as you will recollect, was particularly heavy following the rainstorm that visited us this past Wednesday.
However, the new odour differed from the now familiar stench of decomposing flesh in several particulars: one, it carried an oddly spiced honey-sweetness, like that found in delicacies imported from India and the Exotic East. I will admit, to my great aversion, that I found it nearly as enticing as it was cloying.
The perfume is also peculiar in that its source cannot, at this point, be definitely identified. By reorganizing the positions of the flasks and their contents, I was able to determine only that it did not arise from any one of the meats, particularly. I am likewise unable to explain why its potency waxes and wanes at intervals counter-indicative of the effects of the stifling heat, becoming most noticeable in the evening once the moon has risen. As the moon has increased in fullness, so has the spice-bearing miasma. Many things in Nature are known to undergo changes in sympathy with the moon’s phases, but I have never before heard of a case such as this one. It became so insufferable last night, as evening drew in, that I was compelled to conclude my observations much earlier than I had intended.
Through my training and experience as a physician, I have learned to ignore such things as would turn a lesser man’s stomach. Yet, I find myself literally oppressed by this strange and powerful scent. With each passing day, the dominion of its influence widens. Two days ago, while discussing with my man the price of a deer’s head whose contents I wished to examine, I was distracted by a whiff of this idiosyncratic foetor, despite the conversation being held over twenty paces distant from the laboratory.
On occasion, I will awaken in the dead of night to find it overpowering in my nostrils. There are times I have madly conceived of it as a physical object, animate and filled with malicious intent. Battering away at my nasal cavity, it seeks access to the delicate meats nestled within the shell of my skull.
At times, I believe it to reside in the stones or foundations of this structure itself. I have unwittingly disinterred more than one of the hastily dug graves in which I had deposited some of my earlier experiments; you will recall that when an animal was buried before flies were allowed to alight, it remained free of the flesh-sucking worms when it was later brought to light. Following hours spent in proximity to that wild, unclassifiable stench, I admit that I found a sort of relief in the more pedestrian cloud of rot that surrounds these gelatinous, grossly swollen objects. I have caught myself with a half-destroyed strip of milk-fed veal pressed to my mouth as though it were a philtre of fine oils. I now observe my behaviour carefully, lest this occur with one of those items in which the worms have taken residence. The thought of breathing deeply of an air I believe to be all freshness, only to discover it clogged with those writhing creatures, revolts even a stomach as hardened as my own.
August the 12th, 1668
At this point in my experiments, the resources of edible meat being close to exhausted, nearly all of the worms have undergone the transformation into adult flies. The promise of sustenance, carried on the ripe odour that still clings to the depreciated bones that remain, ensures that they do not withdraw through the open window and I find myself the resting place for the thousands of insects that hang thick and dark in the air as I work. Their drone is intolerable. At least the peculiar scent I wrote of earlier has begun to withdraw.
I suffer, of late, from an insomniac disorder, such that an hour or two of sleep at night can no longer be taken for granted. As a counter-measure, I have obtained several measures of the substance known as ‘Opium’, a preparation derived from the tears of the Poppy flower. I ingest a tincture of the miraculous preparation with my wine in the evening and it is not long before I descend into dreams of indescribable strangeness, quite unlike the ones I am used to experiencing. It is not always effective, however; often, I instead undergo a nocturnal paralysis. It is a peculiar sensation: I am aware of my own consciousness, but unable to coax my limbs into movement, while all sensations blur as the hours stretch in wracked silence. As I lie transfixed by the light of the waning moon that enters through my window, I consider myself luckier than on those nights I achieve sleep, for my dreams after ingesting the preparation are truly strange and violent in a way I cannot fully describe. I often waken weighted down by a vague sense of spiritual disquietude.
A fortnight hence, I was transporting one of the sealed flasks when an itching sensation in my upper arm caused me to drop the glass to the ground. The source of the sensation, unlikely as it may sound: my sleeve had become enveloped by a particularly fat variety of worm, some of which had already obtained passage through the fabric and were heartily gnawing at my exposed flesh.
Batting them away, I noticed a discolouration had appeared on the skin of my arm, where the worms had been chewing. Stripping myself before bed, I was to find several additional sites of discolouration. As a physician, I can offer no explanation for this ailment, unless it be a result of my close and prolonged proximity to the bodies of things dead, which have been known to contain impurities that produce illness in the weak and young.
I have, however, no great worries for my continued good health; a surgeon of my acquaintance has assured me that rashes of this variety are common among his patients and has provided me with a paste of dung, myrrh and other medicinal standbys, to be applied, once at night before resting and once more upon rising in the morning, to the areas affected. Since the commencement of this treatment, the discolouration and irritation have superficially worsened, but many diseases of the body will become more pronounced before they begin to recede.
I notice I have drifted quite wide of my original purpose, which was to narrate the discovery which followed my dropping the flask upon the ground. The glass, in confirmation of my fears, had shattered. The jagged fragments twitched and crawled among a roiling profusion of the repugnant white creatures. After obtaining a replacement flask, I ordered to have the meat – I believe it was a lamb’s heart – retrieved before the worms were able to despoil it.
My haste proved unnecessary, for the ravenous worms, in the space of an instant, had reduced the organ to almost nothing at all. Even more irritating, they had in that brief span managed to secret themselves somewhere and I was able to gather only a dozen or so when there should have been upward of fifty of them. A thin crack in the stones of the wall, nearby to where the flask had fallen, provided the most probable route of escape.
The crack was barely wide enough for the insertion of the smallest finger. Within, it was warm and slightly moist, and the wall possessed a sponge-like texture one does not normally associate with stone. I withdrew my finger and tested the surrounding stones to ensure that none of them had become soft or loose, but only the interior of the crack appeared to have been affected.
The stones did, however, radiate an unusual warmth. This effect covered an area of a pace to either side of the crack and a head higher vertically than a man stands.
August the 13th, 1668
Previous letter continued:
I mentioned earlier the strange dreams by which I have been visited, hoping that a vague and indirect reference would suffice in painting a picture of the torments by which I find my soul visited. After a particularly unpleasant episode last night, I find myself driven to confess all.
It is known that the visitations of dreams take two forms: either phantasms of the imagination or real spirits. The latter can be subdivided into forces benevolent, as in angels or the figures of those departed, or diabolical. I pray that my nightmares compass only the former category.
In brief, I am visited, when sleep comes, by strange and unholy visions of abominations not seen on this earth since its earliest days. They arise, as from the newly formed Creation’s fertile but unseasoned womb, in a blind confusion of monstrous limbs. Of these strange figures, one in particular seems intent on addressing me, although its profusion of mouths, if mouths they be, produces nothing audible. Instead, it emits a humming vibration that causes my bones to itch. It feels like the drone of flies.
Only vague, portentous memories of this monster and its entreaties remain with me with the rising of the sun. It writhes with forms I would classify as worms, were they not the thickness of a man’s leg and twisted in knots of such confusion that I cannot tell where one begins and another ends. All I retain of its wordless entreaties is a sense of mockery and of dread in equal measure.
I fear the intervention of a diabolical power, for often in waking, I find myself performing tasks to which I can assign no logical motivation. I have procured, at various times and in various states of consciousness, a vast collection of the hearts of various animals, several degrees of magnitude more than I can find a practical use for. I have awoken as from a swoon to find my hand buried deep within the carcass of a hen; through the viscera, I could feel the movement of those maggots which have become more familiar to me than my own family. At this time, I tasted blood on my tongue, a detail on which I refuse to dwell.
Awakening from these nocturnal episodes, I find a film of sweat to have enveloped me, strongly scented and sticky like the emissions of the deathly ill. The discoloured areas of my flesh will, on occasion, become afflicted with a sensation of turning, as though the skin itself were to writhe and crawl, although I can see for myself that no such displacement has occurred. Bringing the affected area to my face, I find that it reeks of that same mixture of honey, exotic spices and decay that so plagued me in recent weeks.
August the 16th, 1668
I arrived at the laboratory to find a knot of worms gathered at the door, twisting over themselves in their efforts to escape. The creatures I have hitherto observed measure between an eighth to two thirds of a finger across, and would have no difficulty passing beneath the door, there existing a finger’s gap through which to venture. These specimens, however, were uncommonly fat, the smallest exceeding three of a man’s fingers in girth. They resembled, in all other particulars, the creatures which I have observed giving rise to a silvery-winged black fly with long, bright-red legs of a speckled white, a variety never before described, to my knowledge. I could not surmise how these particular maggots had grown so corpulent. I could neither tell from whence they had issued, since I had sealed all of the worm-bearing containers before retiring for the night.
It is possible that an insignificant number of the maggots bypass the transformation into their adult form, taking advantage of their longer time as worms to increase the volume of flesh they can consume. This would explain these creatures’ size, for I have observed that the worms themselves produce no waste, no matter how much they ingest.
I gathered up as many of the creatures as I could and deposited them in a closed box for further observation. A few managed to wriggle away before I could capture them, but I believe that the numbers I gathered will be sufficient to teach me much about this aberration.
I caught a few more struggling to enter that crack in the wall I mentioned in my last letter. It seems to me that crack has now widened, to roughly one and a half finger-widths. A slight stain or discolouration has appeared in the stones of the wall above, where the warmth generated by them has increased.
Resting my hand against the wall, I was immediately stricken by a powerful irritation. I could not immediately remove my hand, the stone itself giving off the feeling of being coated in some adhesive residue. The second time I touched it, this sensation was supplemented by one of sinking as into clay or mud. The wall appeared otherwise quite solid when I pressed upon it with wood or metal, and neither of these materials seemed prone to adhere to its surface.
I am perversely compelled to tear through the cloth by which these flasks are sealed, to pile their contents in a heap upon the floor and allow the worms their feast.
For the remainder of the day, I focused my observations on the creatures I had discovered by the door. Within the box, they exhibit none of the industriousness they had employed in trying to escape. They lie utterly motionless, as though dead. I have, however, observed an increase in their size by nearly half a finger-width, although I have provided them with no sustenance and, in any case, witnessed no signs of feeding.
After they had lain inactive for a period of several hours, I opened the container, believing the worms to be deceased. They immediately sprang to life, twisting against the walls of the box and attempting to wrap themselves around my hand. I was overwhelmed by that honey-spiced miasma, which had grown to fill the sealed container. These worms appear to produce it in lieu of physical waste.
Once I had replaced the lid on the box, they fell again inert. They still had not moved when I retired for the evening, although they had seen another increase in size of a quarter-finger.
Since then, in words that could not possibly be Italian, nor Latin, nor any language of Man, but which are nonetheless familiar to me, the abomination in my dreams now speaks at great length of things that are to come. I am a devout Jesuit and unlikely to partake of any actions on its behalf, should it prove a demon or some other maleficent creation.
Though I did not and could not speak, it has sensed somehow my curiosity as to its nature. It has instructed me to call it LORD. At other times, it refers to itself as ‘Adam the Progenitor’. Other times still, it assigns itself a strangely shifting name which I can neither pronounce nor define.
It communicates all this, in its incomprehensible way, with a tone suggestive of derisive laughter.
The irritation of my skin had reached a new level of intolerability. Last night, when I pulled aside the bedclothes, I found a number of small maggots at work upon my arm and chest. I have observed neither fly nor any other insect within my bedchamber.
I arrived at my laboratory early, eager to continue my observations of those oversized new variants. However, my plans were thwarted, for they had somehow managed to escape from their captivity during the night. I discovered one, as before, trying to squeeze through the crack in the wall, and I transported it to the container for observation. It exhibits the same uninteresting behaviours as before.
The crack has again widened, or so it seems, as a result of the worms’ dogged efforts, and one can now observe a small cave or opening behind it, although the angle makes it difficult to discern the actual size of this hollow. I have not attempted to touch the stones again, so distasteful was my experience the previous day, but I have observed that the discolouration has deepened and assumed the shape almost of a human figure, though a couple of arms taller and imperfectly formed.
August the 25th, 1668
Nothing of note has occurred in the several days following my most recent writing, which I have again postponed sending as, upon review, I found it to be rife with errors, inexplicable passages and jumps in continuity.
The large worm, unlike its companions, has remained within its confines. This may be the result of my more thorough approach to sealing the container of even the minutest apertures, or perhaps this specimen is simply lazy. It could actually be dead this time and not pretending. It has not grown since the third day, although, by this point, it has assumed a considerable size, as large as a boy’s arm. The box can barely contain it.
I have spotted several of its compatriots near the crack in the wall. I then formed the opinion that the large worms may actually have originated from whatever space the crack in the wall has now revealed. It no longer seems likely that they had come from the same parents as the worms in my experiments, or any insect yet recorded in history.
On the seventh day, something occurred which left me so deeply shaken I was forced to retire to my rooms, admitting no company, for three days in succession, unable even to observe the status of my latest experiments. I only now feel I have regained the strength to pen this note.
Those inexplicable urges and periods of black memory which I mentioned earlier had, I had thought, largely subsided. True, I have developed a general distaste for any foods but the rarest of meats, seasoned with strange and heavy applications of exotic spices, but it is not so unusual for a man to experience abnormal hungers. Though my ability to sleep through the night has seen no increase, I am no longer affected mentally.
No, that is not right at all, given what I am about relate.
I mentioned, I believe, my acquisition of the hearts of animals in some abundance. This is apparently what I did between the hours of dawn and dusk. I can recall nothing that occurred that seventh day before glancing up and seeing the moon, a few days now from full – and what will I be made to do once that fullness has been reached? The abomination will not tell, though it buzzes with glee at the mention of it – rising over my window. The warm, gluey sensation against my palm I initially took for night sweats. But my hands and arms were smeared with blood up to the elbow. I held in my right hand the heart of a medium-sized mammal – a dog or a cat? I was engaged in shoving it through the stones of the wall. Or attempting to, for I could not possibly have been successful. At my feet, a small heap of similar organs was piled and the wall was slick with blood and viscera. This occurred directly above the crack, through which a congregation of dim shapes could be seen to twist and crawl.
While I have lain sick, my nights have grown more restless still. I have increased my dosage of the Opium tincture to triple the original serving and though it assures that I lie through the night still as a cadaver, it does little to reduce my fatigue upon the sun’s return. The hours of night seem each to compass an eternity. I watch, paralyzed, the torturous progression of the moon across the sky through my window, unless I am in congress with that serpent-entwined abomination that appears with almost total frequency. Though I stop my ears to its pernicious drone, its words nonetheless infect my thoughts with an impatience quite out of pace with my physical and mental exhaustion.
August the 30th, 1668
I disposed of the flasks that remained, along with their contents.
The affliction of my skin has worsened yet again, although the idiot surgeon continues in his assurances that it will soon recede. Black and red boils, hard and somewhat reflective of light like the shells of eggs, now pimple my body. They are exceedingly warm to the touch. I find more and more worms beneath the cloth of my garments. They spawn from the flesh itself. No. Such things would run counter to every observation I have made into the Natural order.
Thinking my captive aberration long dead, I did not expect to have missed anything in my long absence. The grey, shapeless form within the box seemed at first to support my theories of its demise. However, the thing twitched as I moved closer. It became very active when it sensed my approach, though it has no eyes I can speak of.
It appears to have undergone a transformation, after all. I curse myself for having missed its initial stages. It now resembles one of those inchoate beings found within the bellies of deer and cows slaughtered while bearing young. It has continued to develop, but on that day, it bore no definite features. With some observation, a head and the beginnings of limbs could be discerned.
It gamboled blindly as I stood near the box, which I did not open for fear it might escape. The creature’s activities began again to die away once I made to move off from the box. At a distance of four meters, it became entirely inactive once more.
The day following, I observed the creature to have taken on some characteristics of an infant of one of the higher orders of life. More-detailed limbs suggest hands or paws. I shudder to imagine it flopping against the walls of its confines and staring at me with that blank, eyeless face. The more I observe it, the more it comes to resemble a human infant, though of course, no higher being can arise from a lower, just as no life can arise without a parent. ‘Yxtava’, as I have finally come to understand it is called, tells me that the worms which feasted on the flesh of the Divine should be counted as higher than the greatest King among men. It tells me the time will soon come when His children shall rise up to return to His bosom.
September the 1st, 1668
This time, the abomination appeared within the walls of my own room. I could feel, in the vibrations that wracked my body like the drone of a legion of flies, that the monster took great pleasure in my fear. It indicated, somehow, for me to rise and I did so.
The light of the moon through my window burned like something unclean, causing the boils upon my skin to erupt in scores of wriggling maggots. I could not escape it without moving closer to Yxtara, the loathsome abomination.
It moved, by some uncertain process, from the room. Following it, I noted fat worms like the one in my laboratory drop from its flesh. They squirmed off into the shadows of the night.
Yxtana brought me to the laboratory, housing now only the single grey creature, which became very active upon seeing what I now know to be its parent. The sound it made was somewhere between the mewling of a kitten and the hum of a mosquito.
I removed the lid from the box and cradled the creature in my arms. The wet clay of its flesh adhered to my hands and the sweet stench of spices was intoxicating, like that of a powerful wine. I lowered the child to the floor and it toddled happily away, burbling incoherently.
Its physiognomy, now more closely resembling that of a human, was disarmingly similar to my own.
Yxtala then brought me to the stain above the wall’s crack, made even darker by the half-light of the full moon. Its shape matched precisely that of the abomination which stood beside me. The thing pressed my hand against the stone, which, though it appeared solid, offered no more resistance than a pudding. I ignored the searing in my flesh. My hand sank within until it contacted something solid: a shoulder bone, larger than that of a human, although the shape was roughly analogous. I grabbed hold of this object as firmly as I could.
At that point, the sucking motions of the wall reversed. The body that had rested within the hollow for a millennium and a half began finally to push outward. A face emerged, pocked with countless droning mouths, no longer soundless. My organs quivered with their vibrations. It wore a ring of discolouration around its forehead, in the shape of a hoop of thorns or nettles.
Then emerged a body, writhing as though wreathed with countless white serpents. The Yxtaga which had led me there had by then vanished entirely. I doubt it was ever there at all.
The grey creature frolicked joyfully about my feet. I was overwhelmed by a sense of something reaching culmination and I feared in that moment for my eternal soul, though I can no longer tell you the nature of my fears, or of the terrible actions which I then believed myself to have unwittingly undertaken.
We followed the fat worms into the cradles of infants and into brothels. We splashed merrily in the basins of churches. We fed upon the hearts of mongrels. When the full moon reached its zenith, Yxtawa ascended on a cloud of spice and honey.
In the morning, I found the lock securing the door to the laboratory to have become twisted out of place, leaving the door slightly ajar.
The grey creature seems finally to have made good its escape. I searched the ground, but could find no footprints, either mine or the creature’s. Yxtawa had moved in a fashion so peculiar as to leave no traceable evidence of its presence, regardless. I went out into the street and called to my child, its child, the grey infant creature, but received no answer for my troubles.
I found the stones of the wall cool and hard to the touch.
Signor Carlo, I ask that you consider everything contained in these letters as only the most intimate confidences shared between close friends. I will not publish them. I was unable to gather any meaningful observations from this adipose specimen, if it ever existed outside of my hallucinatory ramblings. I will have, anyway, no opportunity to repeat the experiments, for even were the impossible creature to have existed, it is long since departed now. I have thought to investigate that crack in the wall, to see once and for all what lies behind it, but something prevents me from doing so. I do not know if it is my soul’s own terror, or the influence of some external force guiding still my actions. Lit by the sun, the stones’ discolouration no longer seems so clearly delineated; I can, with effort, make out the form I had seen previously, but I can also discern any number of other shapes from it, or no shape at all. I can no longer see beyond the crack to the cave I thought to have glimpsed there.
I find my memories of that bizarre month increasingly uncertain. It is akin to the experience of waking from a dream and finding its worlds and people slowly dissolving in the warm bath of the sun. In the revision of these letters, which, as indicated elsewhere, often diverted into gibberish and madness, or devilish utterances I choose never to reproduce, I have often resorted to sheer guesswork in approximating my original intentions. There is at least one happy effect of my increasing distance from these events; that is, I no longer find my sleep disturbed, nor my actions steered by desires alien to my own mind and soul. With the return of sleep, the affliction of my skin has finally begun to lessen and at such a pace that I think that within a fortnight, no trace of its presence will yet remain. This only proves what I have often suspected, that the restorative effect of a night’s rest knows no peer in the practice of medicine.
In addition, the disturbance of my faith which these incidents engendered, and which prompted my drafting of several of these letters in the first place, fades even now from my memory. Reading over these pages, I can no longer recall why I found myself so disturbed, though much of it does appear to be the scrawling of a lunatic. Much of this, I regret to say, can be attributed to the effects of the self-diagnosed Opium preparation, which I have concluded can visit more grief than good upon a man’s well-being. It has visited my once-crystalline mind with many distractions, difficult even now to shake. I find in the contents of these letters so many particulars unworthy of the attention of a man of such esteem as yourself that I am loathe, now, to trouble you with them at all.
I shall look this packet over again in the morning and then I shall decide whether, in the end, it is best sent or destroyed.
Bio: Byron Alexander Campbell is currently pursuing his MFA in Writing at the California Institute of the Arts in suspiciously sunny Valencia, California, where he serves as editorial assistant for the Black Clock literary magazine. He is preoccupied by notions of dream-space, horror and the irreal. Author of two interactive novellas – Lovecraftian Christmas kitty comedy A Very Hairy Fish-Mess and surreal dark mystery Room 206 – his work can also be found in the anthology A Commonplace Book of the Weird: The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft. His homepage is: http://theyearisyesterday.wordpress.com/.