Last week I received a “you probably don’t remember me” note from a man I went to a school dance with nineteen years ago. He is married and has three kids, but states he is not happy. What should I do?
Dear Concerned Lady: –
Although humankind has a yearning toward whatever is redolent of mystery and allurement, it is well that certain lacunae in our knowledge should remain forever unfilled. Your shadowy correspondent’s mention of the ill-regarded numbers nineteen and three recalls an unutterable experiment performed on sticklebacks by the Swedish icthyologist Dalgaard. I dare not describe his observations, but he concluded that, the longer we can remain innocent of our place in the cosmos, the better it must augur for our mental integrity. He came to understand there was more meaning than is commonly supposed in the nebulous half-inscriptions found on abandoned wharves — while who knows what malign significance underlies the latest findings on the growth of angiosperms, or the cycle of the solar spots? What of the transgalactic pulsings that have cost more than one astronomer his powers of reasoning? I have heard it whispered that the imprints found on Dalgaard’s pillow, toward the end, resembled the fronds of a kind of bracken previously unknown to botany. The muffled clattering sounds from my roof impel me hastily to conclude,
Yrs most cordially & sincerely, – HPL.
A change has overcome my husband. He likes to pore over forbidden manuscripts, and often returns home late, giving the excuse that he has been attending debauches in a neighboring swamp. So why am I never invited?
I have been under a great nervous strain since reading your words, which I feel brought me to the brink of an ultra-dimensional realm of nameless terror. It is a wonder I can even bring myself to pen a response. Dalgaard has appeared to me in a dream, begging me to stop answering mail, as this can only draw attention from — but he was too overwrought to finish his sentence. Persuade yourself, if you can, that the cephalopods coming up behind him were but phantasmata, that your husband’s dissipated habits are harmless, that eternal oblivion is the worst we have to fear, that the dreadful exaggerations in the Saracenic Scrolls are without factual foundation — I fervently wish I could still be as credulous myself! Unless it is too late, expunge from your brain all tenebrous speculation about rubbery, faceless lobsters scuttling down onyx flumes onto nether altars, etc. Dalgaard should evidently never have borrowed from the library The Chronicle of the Slime, which must be horribly overdue by now, or taught himself how to swap minds with the fennel folk, who he insists have the abominable knack of wreaking demented changes upon space-time itself,
Yr. Most Oblig’d, Most Obt. Srvt., – HPL.
My girlfriend has metamorphosed into a kind of polyhedron with many pairs of feelers, membraneous wings, and fanged orifices on stalks. Should I talk to her about this, or keep hoping it’s just a phase? Snapshot enclosed.
Dear Amateur Photographer: –
I do not know long it was before I dared to inspect your snapshot. Once I did, I immediately fell wholly to the floor. How much time passed after that, do not ask me to guess, but a momentary fragment of memory shows me racing dementedly past a long stone colonnade towards a curious hummock. After that, mercifully, all is blackness. My aunts discovered me beside a nearby megalith, with my faculties paralyzed, a mark on my forehead bespeaking all too vividly the ravages of some snail-like marsupial. It was months before I regained the ability to talk any language but proto-Algonquian. Now my senses have somewhat cleared, I recommend you break things off with your fiancée as tactfully as possible, not letting her suspect you have noticed any change or blemish. Hers is such an image as — but I cannot go on. I have barricaded myself indoors, and hope never to look at another photograph, or touch any variety of leafy vegetable. Even Dalgaard’s worst prophesies fell short of the unspeakable reality! A rank odor now pervades everything, the hills resonate with sustained prehuman howling, and I keep losing my place in the Unrecommended Codex of Naarg,
Yrs Strkly. Trrfd., – HPL.
I am Xah’gnui, who has long delved into the annals of subterranean lore, conducting forbidden researches into the unknown, with a view to resurrecting aeon-silent interplanetary necromancer-lizards. Why is it so hard for me to get a date?
Uncanny Voyager: –
Would to God I had never opened your loathsome missive or any of the others! I lie gibbering on the settee, striving to blot from my consciousness your perverse admission, the most terrible quality of which is that it is penned in what is unquestionably my own handwriting. If that were not enough, your letter’s acrid stench resembles that of the thing — if it is a thing — that now slavers spasmodically against my window shutter. Yesterday I half-glimpsed its necrophagous shadow, and its contours are as terrible as that low whistling sound it makes, the ichor it exudes, and its interminable gnawings upon the doorknob. In outline it resembles a giant floret of broccoli, with queer appendages that are neither mouths nor talons, and despite being ill-equipped for the task, it has been alien-rhythmically typing me some kind of message. Through some ultimate void it tries to take control of my mind! While even now I hear it fumbling slobberingly with the letter-box! My one consolation is that it has already devoured the Rural Free Delivery man, so that I need not anticipate the arrival of any more of this vile and accursed correspondence,
Yrs – HPL.
Ph’ngglui yarl’faql kggravh iathfash k wggah’nggol zkk glooth-gloth ylothropy fi ngraneh cthvhz m’raaow k l’fzgl glw’h zhro kamog rhlghx-phtagg’ngg?
Dearest Dzgbthra’aaxq: –
I thought you’d never ask. Really, how many hints must a fellow drop? Meet me by the cenotaph at midnight, and bring a banjo.
Yrs affctntly., – HPL.
Illustration by Yael Levy