TITLE: The Case of No. 118
FANDOM: H P Lovecraft – The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
CHARACTERS: Curwen/Ward. (Other pairings implied).
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to whoever owns Lovecraft's copyright. I make no money through my efforts in his Universe.
RATING: Archaic, but somewhat explicit
WARNINGS: Technically it's Incest-fic. Cod-archaisms warning!
Part 1: A Prologue and a Perusal
By the fulgent beams of a lamp of eldritch aspect, a man sat reading.
The mystic mask of gold-set crystal that he wore on his upper-face (clearly to protect his human eyes both from the baleful rays of the cryptic lamp, and from the evil parchment gripped in his unsteady hands) glittered fatefully in the gold-litten chamber.
"Brother in Almonsin-Metraton –" he began in trembling accents which, to my stranger's ear, were barely intelligible, "I have this day receiv'd Yr letter. Ye stars did indeed portend some turbulence in ye Outer Spheres ye Goode Friday past, so that H. and I were dispos'd to question one each other anent ye meaning thereof. But now alle stands reveal'd! We have held such an hope these 150 yeares, that you, my honour'd antient friend, should come once more among us in earthly flesshe, rais'd from ye saltes by Him Who Shal Come After.
"But you know H. and I have hadd these hundred yeares or more to consulte these matters, and I say there be small need for you to be draw'g ye plaguey attentions of ye common rabble with Yr three-month bloode-hunt. There be one further method for stay'g in shape, as reveal'd in Al-Hazred his fifth boke ….."
The little man paused, swallowed dryly, and groped amongst his oddly-cut clothing for a small phial, the purpose of which was obvious, even to my alien outlook. I watched him drink, and it was in my mind to beg a mouthful; but I suppressed the urge. My body felt as fragile as a sandbar in a river-delta, and I had an irrational horror that the drink would pass directly through me, melting and redistributing parts as it went. Instead, I waited for my informant to finish before questioning him further.
"Who is the writer of this missive, and who is "H"?"
"Ah …. Th- that would be s-someone calling himself Simon Orne, and the other th-thinks he's Hutchinson. Th-they're in Old Europe – Prague, I think, and Transylvania."
"So … those two! They sent me to this place! They will not long survive when I return there! Well – read on!"
The little man ceased his coney-like staring, and addressed himself once more to the parchment in his hand.
"… wherein he reveals that there be another human Essence wherefrom ye same – and finer effect may be hadd….."
Here, my reader paused, wrinkling his brow.
"They speak as if my deluded patient really were Joseph Curwen in very truth." he announced, clearly puzzled.
"So they do. Is there any reason why this should not be the case? Is it not stated somewhere that Joseph Curwen is the exact physical counterpart of young Charles, his descendant?"
"B-but this is madness. Madness out of time! Surely Charles … "
"Charles," I interrupted ruthlessly, "Is in all probability dead by now, and Curwen has taken his place. Are you not aware that he raised up his ancestor in the very flesh, Good Friday last? Is my own condition not enough to convince you of this possibility? Are you truly so blind?"
The small man sighed heavily, diminishing himself further.
"I guess … I guess I wouldn't see! And Charles dead, you say? How'd you figure that, Mister … ah … 118?"
"You may call me Emrys if you so desire! I think your Charles died before ever he told you what he needed. His letter to you became – regrettably – his last farewell. Now – let us look at the rest of this evidence, which you have collected. Finish reading the letter from Orne to the Resurrected Joseph Curwen! I believe you have read of a fictional detective … he's in your mind as I speak … Holmes? …Doyle? .. who said `When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
"Something like that!" he admitted, relaxing visibly, "OK! The letter …. "
He adjusted the crystal and gold mask, coughed bashfully, and continued –
" …. wherefrom ye same – and finer effect may be hadd. Al-Hazred writes that ye Seede, whereof Lyfe itself doth burgeon, shal in every way surpass ye Bloode in fix'g such bodies as are rais'd by ye saltes. Therefore, mine antient friend, there be much Sport to be hadd anent ye Boy – who, if somewhat lack'g in Spine, hath ne'theless ye full and proper portion of Spuncke (as instanc'd by ye Dreames, whereof he admitted fulle shamefully, during his abid'g with me here). Edw. H. wou'd of course, scorn such Vulgar Play; but, as you and I know sweet Jos, there be No Rosy Fragrance without ye Dung at ye roote ….."
"My God! What is he suggesting?"
"I would have thought," I replied softly, "That was obvious, Dr Willett."
"My God!" he ejaculated once more, massaging his clammy temples with trembling fingertips, "How will I ever explain this to Waite? And Lyman will think I'm some godammed Freudian! My reputation! And Charles – poor deluded, ravished boy! I .. how can I face his father, imbued as I am with this monstrous knowledge?"
He turned the page unsteadily, and then – visibly crestfallen – added –
"The letter ends there – 'Yog Sothothe-na bling-blings-innit. O.'"
"Try to find a reply from Curwen." I suggested patiently.
"Yes. Yes – of course! How could I be so …? Let's see …"
He scrabbled feverishly through the piles of parchments unearthed from his large container, muttering beneath his breath.
"Not that – too early. That one's the Hutchinson Cipher. Can't be this one – it deals with the bank checks. What's this? 'Dear H, I have this day receiv'd Yr shipment. WS and ye Earl of L both most satisfactory ….' My God! No … No … ah … 'Mine Antient Sweet O … ' Yes! It's a draft, I think. Parts are crossed out, and obviously never sent, but …. "
He fell quiet, scanning the page, breathing heavily through his nose, and occasionally giving vent to a hollow groan. I tolerated this for a while.
"Excuse me! Dr Willett … "
"What?" he looked around vaguely.
"Remember that I am unable to decipher these runes myself. May I ask you to resume your reading aloud for me?"
"Ah – of course … although … how I shall contrive to lay tongue to some of this .. this.. "
"The fate of the Cosmos is at stake, my friend. You WILL find the strength!" I averred, catching his frightened eyes with my own, and holding him transfixed.
"Yes …" he acquiesced at length, somewhat drowsily, "I'm sure you are right. Very well."
* * * *
Part 2: A Resurrection and a Ravishment
Mine Antient Sweet O -
Yr letter receiv'd Thursd. laste. How swift fly ye unseen Messagers in these latter daies! I am constrain'd in urgency to learn much of this New Age wherein I must now contrive to make my way.
'Twere most unfortunate Yr advise arriv'd full late to spare two Moons of bloode-drink'g, for in sothe I relish not ye bitter Taste.
Therefore, tho' some Ways along ye bloode-path, ne'theless resolv'd I to essay Yr receipt, for ye Greater Glory of Our Master, naturally (and for mine own privat Sport also!).
It be'g High Solstice Eve (always propitious to our purposes) I thus decided the time was very sudden; and discover'd ye Boy in sweet and pensive Melancholy sitt'g ouer his Bokes in oure attic abode.
"Childe," ask'd I, "Dost truly find my smalle necessitie for Bloode so distastefull?"
"Horrible indeed, and unnaturall." reply'd he, shudder'g full sore.
"Well, then," quoth I, "You may help me to a better way whereby my Life may be preserv'd; a Method wherein no Man shal suffer hurte; and Much Pleasure be deriv'd therefrom!"
"I pray you," bleats my Lambe, "If such an way exists, lead me thereto, and I will do my best endeavour to bring you to your completion!"
Such simple utterance provok'd my silent mirth, dear O, as you might readilee imagine! Yet refain'd I from divers cacodaemonical cachinnation for fear ye Boy his parents shou'd again become inquisitive. So merely placed I mine hande softlie upon his face, gaz'g deeply into his eyes ye while and, us'g my Beguilement to ye utmost, reply'd in honey'd tones thus –
"Sweet, ye way be most simple and naturall to ev'ry man who be not dead or an eunuch. Thuswise we may begin …"
"But …. "
Then did I silence him with a kiss, which in sothe were most sweet, ev'n lay'g aside ye Primacy of my Purpose. For, inasmuch as he and I were One in feature and person, so essay'd I intimately alle his partes, and thereto sought his pleasure as it hadd been mine owne.
'Twere a matter of but one moment to tear away his raiment - he be'g struck in amaze at my boldness (upon ye which you have yourself remark'd, Sweet O). Then did I behold myne Owne Self in another's form, complete from ye crowne to ye pale elegance of ye slender feet. (Tho' I speake as should nott, you may say. Yet I, hav'g achiev'd so much thus far, therefore have nott False Modestie, I vow!).
Solely did I note this difference – ye olive mark upon one lean hip. Myne owne flesshe, which now did I speedilee reveal, bore (as well you know) only ye Devill His Mark above myne heart, and also ye Kiss of Nyarlathotep which beare I always athwart ye browe.
Upon see'g ye Cicatrice upon me, ye Boy – as if enchanted – reach'd forth one trembl'g handd to touch my breast; whereupon ye breath rasp'd short and harsh in my throat; and fyre cours'd hot in myne emptie veins. No worde had I yet spoke anent ye Rapture when that Mark be thus touch'd in Love or Lust – and yet ye Boy, as if by Blind Fate, goeth straightway there.
Then did I kiss and clyppe him, full frantic in my double-need for this fair flesshe. And he – my sweet Boy, my Very Selfe uncorrupted – did melt altogether in my bloodless embrace. Fain wou'd I at that moment grapple and board him, lasshing him thus to myselfe forever.
But alas! Neither Bloode nor Spuncke did this dry husk yet possess. Not until my pretty lad (my sweet and innocent milch-cow of human kindliness) wou'd render me succour, could I rise and function as a man.
Then did I raise Yog Sothoth thrice kneeling, until ye Boy thrice spent in myne eager throat, and I felt his very Life course within me. Truly did Al-Hazred speak, Sweet O; for indeed, more did I receive in those three sacraments of love, than in two full Moons of poxy bloode tak'n unwill'g from ye Common Herde.
Furthermore, upon ye third join'g, did we Journey effortlessly beyond ye Outer Spheres. Yea, Sweet O, That for which you and I strove in vain (rutt'g and coupl'g full earnestly each Solstice Eve) came unto ye Boy and me full easilie. So there beyond Time and Space, did we dance our dance for Ye King Not To Be Named, transcending Yog Sothothe Itself. 'Twere thus, myne antient friend, that we awoke eve'n ye Crawling Chaos Itself – ye Soul and Emanation of ye Outer Gods. Nyarlathotep comes to Earth through this our act! Who knows what bountie shal be oures in gratitude?
It be my dearest wish that now might I share the fruits of this triumph with the sweet Partner of its instigation - Myne Owne Selfe; my Boy.
Ever in ye Bro'hoode of Nephren-Ka
The good doctor laid down the parchment, and his eyes behind their crystal mask leaked tears of confusion and distress.
"This is monstrous! More monstrous than anything that went before! Small wonder that Charles kept all his research secret if there was so much filth …. Merciful God! He could have come to me! I'm a doctor! I've heard of such behavior … Freud says this practice is but a pale and perverted imitation of a return to the Mother's Breast."
What barbarous age had I returned to, I wondered, where the circles of regeneration and the power of life-essences within each man's body were not properly understood? Even Curwen, that Bumbler from Beyond, appeared to have understood more of the Cycles that drive life than this inadequate excuse for a healer.
"Young Charles appears to have acquiesced quite willingly in the ritual!" I pointed out, voice carefully neutral.
"Charles! He's – he was – an innocent in matters of the flesh! How could he know? God help him!"
"Well, my friend, monstrous as you seem to think it, we must find out what happened. Please continue to investigate your cache of parchments. Perhaps you will find something that tells you about Charles' own reactions. Did you not say he wrote to you requesting a meeting?"
"Yes, yes. Here's the letter. He sounds quite frantic. No wonder, poor boy. He must have been dreading a return to that ravishing madman! And then you think his lover killed him? If you can call him that! My God!"
Muttering such broken phrases, the Doctor scrabbled through the jumbled parchments in his bag.
"Wait! What's this? Another letter addressed to me! In Charles' writing! Why was it never sent, I wonder? Poor boy! I wish I had gone to him earlier that day. Perhaps then he would still be ….. however, talking pays no toll."
"Indeed not," I replied patiently, trying to keep my fragile hands off the old idiot, "Er … can we now hear his letter?"
"Of course, of course! It can't be any worse than …. Can it?" averred Willett, finally tearing the parchment container with trembling fingers.
"Let us hope not," I replied soothingly, "What does Charles say?"
* * * *
Part 3: A Recapitulation and a Revelation
Dear Dr Willett
I hope that by now you will have received my letter inviting you to visit me for our long-deferred talk. If so, I trust that you and I will by now be sitting face-to-face, and I will have told you in detail how I unwittingly raised such a horror as ancient New England has not seen since the days of the Salem Trials. That this has arisen from my own ancestral past, and that I have innocently unloosed once more a universe-shattering Terror from beyond the Deeps of Space and Time affords me no joy whatsoever.
However, I know that, in my narrative of how I raised my monstrous great-great-great grandfather Joseph Curwen from his essential salts, I shall be Unable to Speak of one unutterable aspect of Curwen's unhallowed resurrection.
Thus, I write these words which (always allowing that they do not scorch the page, or blast with instant blindness your blameless eyes) will make horribly – detestably – clear the means whereby my demonic ancestor was able to take up his place once again in this mundane world of sane, twentieth-century New England. And why I abetted him for so long!
I am greatly to be blamed; and yet I acted for the best. How was I to know the damnable – the seductive – power of the absolute and charnel-enhanced beauty of my unspeakable progenitor?
My head spins as I think of it, and my loins move sinuously in the throes of an unholy dance, now diabolically familiar, but which then I had never before experienced. He was so cryptically knowledgeable, and withal so apt to emanate such morbid, such time-distilled fascination.
As he …. did what he did … enticing from me with eager tongue and enclosing lips, my life-essence, it seemed I journeyed beyond these mortal realms and far past the depths of Dreamland's profoundest realms. There I beheld (his hands steady on my naked hips, forcing me ever upright even as he knelt to ravish my senses) – I beheld, I say, the stars stream past in the utter darkness of deep space, the colors whereof no living man has returned to describe. Aeons passed as I writhed and whimpered, whilst the stars leered and winked suggestively.
At length, near-fainting from bliss and terror, I reached that last tenebrous blight of nethermost confusion that blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity. And there, in those unlighted chambers beyond time, I found myself poised in ecstasy before the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, Who gnaws and wallows to the detestable beat of vile drums (their maddening strokes matching the fevered beating of my own blood) and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes. And there, I danced provocatively for the King as the flutes squealed loathsomely, and those amorphous Things – His offspring, the mindless Other gods – capered cryptically around me! (Around us, I should rather say, since my sweet and diabolical Master clung still to my flesh).
Scarcely did I know whether I was in fungi-imbued Yuggoth, far Kadath in the Cold Wastes, or Providence RI on our return! All my senses were ravished and attuned only to One darkly glamorous being. I had no care even for my Mother – doubtless standing even now at the attic door, her innocent ear pressed to the keyhole to catch every last, faint suspiration from behind the portal.
How can I begin to explain to you – good, sound physician that you are – by what diabolical chains of beauty, horror and – yes - love I am now constrained? You, old friend, would doubtless gaze at me over your spectacles in that inimitable fashion of yours; and discourse learnedly on mutual narcissism, on the Superego and Id, on self-abuse and indulgence. Do you – I wonder – still believe that such practices shorten one's natural span; or have a deleterious effect on the eyesight; or cause male pregnancy?
Ah no, my virtuous old friend! The effects are far, far worse! They trap one's Very Soul in such a Shining Web as can never truly be escaped. Even now, as I cringe in fear of my very life and sanity; and plot with you to destroy him – even now, I say, my flesh still craves his silken touch, and I long to feel him once again possess me utterly!
Alas! for he has threatened that, if I thwart his blasphemous scheming, he will effect my demise (his sweet and knowledgeable hands caressing my throat to the Ultimate Threshold). But death – he promises – will Not Be The End! No – he will hold my salts – my very essence – for eternity beside him; to Say me Up and pleasure me at his will forever. Ah, Doctor, can you begin to conceive the horror of such an existence – which now I crave above all things!
For thuswise shall I never suffer the agonies of conscience; and the Fate of the Cosmos will be forever beyond my Scope to alter. Merely shall I become his Toy to love and to command for as long as he chooses to prolong me!
It seems to me that – perhaps – you will never read these words. He – my beauteous and ever-inventive alter-ego – will come to me before you (busy practitioner!) can make shift to save me! If so – I shall submit my body once more to his supra-natural ravishment; and my throat to the rough and velvet caress of his killer's hands. And thus shall I die in ecstasy, trusting in His time-perfected ability to Say me Up once more.
Oh, Doctor! Hasten to save me from Myself!
Charles D Ward
Concubine at the Crossroads!>
Dr Willett ceased reading and stared at me, rendered mercifully wordless by Ward's revelations.
* * * *
Part 4: A Postscript and a Proposition
Willet was now emoting so intensely that I could picture his thoughts and feelings without difficulty. Although colored by the doctor's horror, the image of Curwen and Ward together was quite breathtaking. I was sorry that there would now be no opportunity for me to pursue their acquaintance.
My grasp of the language Willett spoke had increased apace as he perforce unfolded the story of Ward and his monstrous ancestor for my benefit. Soon I should be sufficiently equipped to leave this place and begin my quest for vengeance against Orne and Hutchinson. I believed I could leave Curwen to Dr Willett. These three must be destroyed immediately. I could not risk any rivals (however incompetent) for Nyarla's attention, once He materialized.
The Crawling Chaos was back on earth – there could be no doubt. Why else had I myself been raised at just this time? I hoped that, once He was allowed through the dimensions by Curwen and Ward's activities, I would soon find Nyarla incarnated. I did not doubt that he was He, working quietly in the wake of Yog Sothoth, Who was truly the Prime Mover behind the ancient magicians' experiments.
I was going to kill Nyarla as soon as I found His current body! True I'd always known I owed Him another lifetime; in recompense for being allowed to draw down The Once and Future King from the Outer Spheres into Igrayne's womb. But – naturally – I'd expected a dignified rebirth with a proper childhood and growing realisation of my special powers and affinity to The Other Gods; not this … this .. crumbling resurrection by a set of rank amateurs!
However, the Crawling Chaos was hardly One to acknowledge any debt. Maybe I could coax Him into another, prettier body once I'd killed the first one. I could do a lot … a huge lot … with something rather like young Ward. Yes, those cheekbones alone would mollify my just wrath considerably. And the fascinating mouth. Maybe longer hair - with beads! I was always mad about beads. And some kohl around the eyes. Nyarla might go for that – He always liked the Pharonic look….. except we could lose the pshent, which had always been a bother to remove, and make do with a simple red headcloth.
In the meantime, however, there was work to do. I must eliminate Orne and Hutchinson as soon as possible; and – sadly – persuade Willett he must do the same for the delectable and accomplished Joseph Curwen. Then these vaults of arcane horror must be sealed forever. Willett's memory should also be suitably adjusted. He must forget everything beyond the point when I materialised. But I would have to leave enough buried memories to enable him to "deduce" that Charles was dead and should be decently disposed of; and that Curwen be decisively destroyed. I should maybe leave a suitably cryptic message to spur him into action.
"Cor(win)us necandus est…" I doodled on a piece of the flimsy parchment using a strange wooden stick of eldritch core as my quill. In the meantime, I moved on to the final problem regarding this untimely and undignified resurrection.
First and foremost, I must arrange things comfortably within my own body. It was no use baulking at the means. Between them, Curwen and his friends had reduced me to my component salts, and Willett – ignorant meddler that he was – had used the formulae to raise me up in an incomplete and precarious form.
And now I had exactly the same choice as Curwen had been faced with. To stay in even minimal working shape, I needed blood or semen. It wasn't much of a choice – and it didn't hold even a tenth of the frisson that I suspected Curwen had experienced. I squared my shoulders, summoned up every last smidgeon of Beguilement I could raise, and gazed compellingly into the doctor's bemused eyes.
"Dr Willett – Marinus – you are, of course, committed to this great enterprise that we both share. You would be willing to chance anything to save the Cosmos?"
"Of course!" he replied a trifle doubtfully.
"Marinus – such a pretty name – for the sake of Old New England then – there's something that you and I need to do ….. several times …… "
… and, leaning forward with a gesture that was both intimate and (I hoped) fascinatingly imperious, I laid my hand upon his knee.