the healing muse

Volume 9, 2009

Hoyo de los Estrellos

Guy M.L. Perry

Dr. Tyler M. Freeborn
Department of Archaeology
Miskatonic University, Arkham, Massachusetts
May 17, 1928

Dear Dr. Freeborn,

            I am sending this correspondence via runner to a village down the mountainside called San Sebastián. The case is most curious but I should have matters in hand before the month turns out.
            The state of the missing Peruvian expedition is the following: Dr. Broder is in psychiatric restraint at Cuzko. Of Dr. Palinore and their local guide there is no sign, but my suspicions are grave indeed. Broder’s physician—one Dr. DaSilva—advises me that his mental state is very fragile. Broder lies under an inexorable catatonia when not in the throes of a sort of mystical agonistic trance complete with shrieks and convulsions the likes of which could put a fakir to shame. Much of my interviews with Broder were marred by his incoherent ravings, but I amassed a lucid discussion on my last day, which I have attached.

            “I am—I have been—employed by the department for ten years. My career interests in archaeology have long been at odds with established doctrine, deliberately frustrated by my better received peers jealous of my new approaches uncluttered by a hundred years of stale academic regurgitation , the most notable of these being that vainglorious monopolizer, Hiram Bingham. I have been researching an antediluvian culture preceding even the Mayas, encompassing all of South America from the Pacific to the Amazon. My few fragments of evidence—a pottery shard sieved from Teo Masso in Venezuela showing a temple of strange angles and a strange octopus-being statuette from the undertemple refuse of a site I will not now name in southwest Brazil—suggested a form of animal-worship. The latter was of some unknown alloy; its emerald eyes gleamed almost with malevolence, undimmed by age.
            “In January, I received incredible news. An old friend, Edwin Palinore, had found the ruins of an astounding pyramid temple in the Andean foothills near a remote village called Villarde Impecuna. It was called the Hoyo de los Diablos de los Estrellos—the ‘Pit of the Star-Fiends’ in the local vernacular, although no local had ever come near it that he knew. He claimed a wealth of artifacts there and enclosed a sketch of a sample carving with an unmistakeable resemblance to the Brazilian octopoid statuette. I could scarce contain myself. I took passage on a steamer bound for Peru, armed—God help me—with the latest in texts and equipment. The sea air was cold and clammy.
            “A ramshackle train took me from Callao to the interior of the dark, brooding Andes. My trip was most unsettling: it was deathly humid, and I was plagued by unpleasant dreams, the details always unremembered by morning. As we climbed higher, these dreams became more eerie, something about some deep-buried cyclopean device and of a nameless terror beyond it. The shape of the deep valleys was not right, not…wholesome, but darkly suggestive of something unnatural. I chalked it up to professional excitement and the thinner mountain air.
            “I met my old friend Palinore at Villarde Impecuna. I was shocked; he had been an earnest intrigante in his day, but now he was completely the opposite: intense and arch, tight and sallow with dark rings under his eyes. He would say nothing of the site until I came there. He had a local guide named Montego, sullen and brooding.
            “We set out in the grey dawn. Palinore revealed at length that the site had another name, the uncharacteristically Indian moniker of Hoy-Ai-Th’ulu—‘The Stone House of Th’ulu.’ I had never heard the like in Peruvian of any era, although it was oddly reminiscent of a name the Indians of Uruguay tell of a malevolent god slumbering in an ancient tomb.
            “Two days later, we came to a vine-covered stone stair, where Palinore pointed and I gaped in astonishment. Below us lay a stone ghost city: spine-like towers, crumbled arches, abandoned streets ruptured by riotous vine traceries. Roads radiated from the city center where a huge stone pyramid, square and high like the oldest Mayan constructions, towered.
            “As we entered the city, bizarre imagery festooned every inch of space—a far cry from the stale remains of Macchu Picchu—everywhere with dusty images of the Brazilian octopoid, sapphire eyes gleaming! At last, fame was mine! I jeered at the fool Bingham dusting pottery shards atop some insignificant Peruvian mountain-hold, whilst I came on the greatest discovery of the age, beside which the likes of Carter himself should pale! ‘We will not tarry here,’ the haggard Palinore said. ‘There is more to come, and better. You will see. Follow.’
            “The distant ziggurat was fully a hundred feet in height, and of such intricate stonework that it was impossible to say where one block ended and another began. At Palinore’s urging, we mounted the temple, where he indicated the massive chasm I had observed, reaching down into darkness. A stone stairway wound sinuously around the edges of the pit between massive promenades of stone, a contrivance so ageless and Cyclopean that I could scarce credit it to any ancient or modern Indian I could imagine. Every foot of the descent was engraved with godlike, chilling images of the Brazilian octopoid: towering over mountains and seas…or curiously entombed. Other images were of strange four-winged, five-armed things alarmingly like the fictitious Old Ones described in the Necronomicon of the Mad Arab al-Hazred, held in the restricted section of Miskatonic’s Library and at which I had jeered…although I could not for the life of me explain such a coincidence of description between the New World and the Old.
            “Palinore harried us and we descended, pony and all. At length and in boredom, I picked up a stone to test the depth of the pit. In panic Palinore stopped me, admonishing me never to do so, shakily insisting that I could damage the artifacts below. Overcome by some unknown apprehension, I demanded to know what relics there could be, lying unshielded at the bottom of an open pit, and further to know Palinore’s findings in all fullness before we proceeded further, but he still refused until I saw for myself. Montego glanced furtively at the sunlight above us.
            “I realized dimly that the ancient builders of the city must have thrown ritual sacrifices into the pit; the carvings became more darkly suggestive with every yard, being lengthened along the wall almost as if to be more clearly read by the falling victim. Too, I swore I could feel a subtle urging to go down, go down into the pit, and I half-wondered what voices or dreams Palinore had been listening to. I hesitated. I had come thousands of miles but against all seeming reason I could not go further into this dark way to the unknown. Study was one thing—although I suddenly had no intention whatever of actually recording the malevolent markings of this abominable culture, let alone investigating them further—but quite another to do so in the company of Palinore, who I now regarded with the utmost suspicion, and against the warnings of my instincts, whether from reasoned doubt or sheer superstitious fancy.
            “I demanded of Palinore what Indians had built the stairway, for their disconnect with Peruvians of the Ancient period—or any period—were glaringly obvious. ‘What Indians indeed, Broder?’ Palinore cackled. His manner turned immediately: We would go down into the pit, and he would stick at nothing to see that we did. There was something there we must see. A trickle of drool ran from his mouth; clearly, the climate and the stress of his findings had driven him utterly, completely mad.
            “From the corner of my eye I noted the expedition’s rifle, strapped to the pony’s back. I edged towards it, but Palinore snatched it out before I could get to it, arming it with shaky but deft hands. Fool! Your floundering set me on this glorious path. You will see the fruits of your work, though I daresay they are nothing you ever realized! Your reward comes soon, O very soon!’ He announced that we would be descending again. Montego and I would go first, and he would follow behind with the rifle. If either of us turned back, the direst consequences would ensue.
            “As he muttered and mumbled to himself, his attention was momentarily diverted and—I am ashamed to admit this—I hurled my canteen at him and fled. The rifle cracked behind me but though shells ricocheted around my head I was not struck. Palinore’s mad jeers chased me up the stairs; looking behind, I saw the terrified Montego had fled with me.
            “We reached the top of the pyramid and collapsed. It was the midmorning and we could see some distance; terrified that Palinore should pursue, I found my binoculars. The circle of light shook in my hands until I located him, muttering and giggling to himself as he descended into the mad cavern, disappearing round a bend behind a great stone. He emerged again, was visible for another several hundred yards and then was gone altogether. We decided to await him; he had the supplies and there was faint hope that he might return to his senses or that we might subdue him.
            “I dozed much of the afternoon. Montego shook me awake, to the sound of some horrible great grinding deep in the chasm. It was like nothing I had ever heard, and it was followed with a multifarious shrill like from the throats of a hundred birds of prey, drawn out like a chorus of mad steam whistles.
            “Long minutes passed. Then the crack of a rifle reached my ears. I ducked instinctively, but it had not been aimed at us. I took up the glasses again. There was a flash of movement, another rifle shot, and another. A figure came running pell-mell up the stairs: It was Palinore. He stopped to fire again, though at what I could not see.
            “Abruptly, Montego pointed and began screaming. Palinore was much closer now and I could see the unspeakable horror on his face; his clothes were ripped and his hat gone. He had dropped the rifle, but he kept running—and then I saw what Montego was screaming at.
            “My God! How can I recount the twisting and squirming things that pursued him? Like snakes animated on their selfsame heads, each horrifying tentacle trailing back to some other, and each from that back to—IA! IA! C’THULU NY’AROLEHT! C’THULU NY’AROLEHT! SHUB-NIGGURATH, THE GOAT WITH A THOUSAND YOUNG!
             “P-Palinore was racing before it…no matter how fast the tentacles did pursue, fear drove Palinore the faster until it seemed his heart must burst so did he run, as he must have been running afoot for some time, judging by the time he had descended, and all back up that stair of the damned down to the door to Hell itself. Then Palinore fell—the gods can say on what, for I saw nothing beneath his feet—and the glistening tips of those appendages encircled his ankles. I hurled Montego to the ground to silence him, lest it hear his mad shrieking and turn next on us. It—whatever beyond It had come from—had been playing with Palinore like a cat, and now the game was up. He wailed an ungodly scream…I…I think sometimes it was what a dying soul sounds like.
            “Palinore scrabbled at the rock, but there was no purchase and he was dragged slowly but inexorably back into the hideous, ichthidean chasm. I tried not to look, but I heard him cry out, as clear as if he were standing beside me: ‘You were right, Broder! You were right! There are things sleeping in the earth which should not be awakened! Flee, for the love of everything, if you value your soul! FLEE! FLEE!’ He shrieked once more as the horrifying tentacles—so like the accursed statuette!—pulled him back to disappear into the darkness forever. Then the sun seemed to blacken, and I knew nothing more.
            “The villagers found me a day later in the sun. I lay for a week with a strange fever, which they counteracted with a vile specimen of wandering corpse-flower, sullen and unkempt, reminding me of something foul. Montego was never found; there were curious marks on the ledge beside me which made me think of snakes or snails and slime. The local policía brought me here.
            “I did not see the whole of the thing that took him. Do you understand? I cannot tell you what it looked like, for I did not see it! I did not see it! Oh, God above! I did not see that horrible thing! I DID NOT! I did not see the monstrous bulk behind the tentacles with eyes like ships in the abhorrent flesh—those wings! those wings! of which the Old Ones descended upon the world! I did not see them! I DID NOT SEE THEM! IA! IA! C’THULU NY’ARLETH!” The staff appeared and began to restrain him, but Broder raved on.
            “Don’t you see? No, leave me be!—don’t you understand? The pony! The pony was not with him! It had fallen before he ever started his climb. Don’t you understand? It had all his notes—stay back, damn you!—and my books! The books! It is down there, freed from Its aeon-sleep, reading our books, our minds! For the love of the Gods, man, there were encyclopedias in the equipment! Psychology texts! Atlases! Don’t you see? We don’t need lawyers or archaeologists! We need bombs, cannon, and petrol, hundreds of thousands of tonnes! Tanks, flamethrowers, aircraft! Don’t you understand? Can’t you see?
            “It knows where we are! It knows where we are! IT KNOWS WHERE WE ARE!

            I was quickly ushered away, though I could hear his weakened ramblings from down the hall. I wager they never had need to hold the likes of Broder before. I assume the University wishes me to accompany his return although I hesitate to commit to a sea voyage in the sole company of a categorical lunatic.
            Still, the truth stands out for those that care to read it: Broder, in a fit of delerium brought on by the heat and a suppressed maniacal vertigo, killed poor Palinore and Montego both. My investigation is nearly complete; it only remains to investigate the site of the tragedy and to see what there is to be recovered. I have little doubt that the equipment and the remains of the unfortunate explorers rest at the bottom of the canyon. I should have complete knowledge of their fate within the week.
            I add in passing that Broder was right, at least, about the climate; there is a genuinely humid night air that brings on unpleasant and suggestive dreams, although I fail to recall their specifics. Salt of barbiturate and vigorous exertion should exorcise the discomfort.

Sincerely,

Clayton U. Andersen
Agent, Miskatonic University
Villarde Impecuna, Peru

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