Martha Jane the CattleDog

Have You Seen the Blue Dog?

Under The Pyramids

“Under the Pyramids,” also known as “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs,” is a short story ghost-written by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft for escape artist Harry Houdini in February/March 1924. It was first published under Houdini’s byline in the May/June/July 1924 issue of the pulp magazine Weird Tales.

It is reprinted here from

Project Gutenberg Australia

* IMPRISONED WITH THE PHARAOHS

Mystery attracts mystery. Ever since the wide appearance of my name as
a performer of unexplained feats, I have encountered strange
narratives and events which my calling has led people to link with my
interests and activities. Some of these have been trivial and
irrelevant, some deeply dramatic and absorbing, some productive of
weird and perilous experiences and some involving me in extensive
scientific and historical research. Many of these matters I have told
and shall continue to tell very freely; but there is one of which I
speak with great reluctance, and which I am now relating only after a
session of grilling persuasion from the publishers of this magazine,
who had heard vague rumors of it from other members of my family.

The hitherto guarded subject pertains to my non-professional visit to
Egypt fourteen years ago, and has been avoided by me for several
reasons. For one thing, I am averse to exploiting certain unmistakably
actual facts and conditions obviously unknown to the myriad tourists
who throng about the pyramids and apparently secreted with much
diligence by the authorities at Cairo, who cannot be wholly ignorant
of them. For another thing, I dislike to recount an incident in which
my own fantastic imagination must have played so great a part. What I
saw--or thought I saw--certainly did not take place; but is rather to
be viewed as a result of my then recent readings in Egyptology, and of
the speculations anent this theme which my environment naturally
prompted. These imaginative stimuli, magnified by the excitement of an
actual event terrible enough in itself, undoubtedly gave rise to the
culminating horror of that grotesque night so long past.

In January, 1910, I had finished a professional engagement in England
and signed a contract for a tour of Australian theatres. A liberal
time being allowed for the trip, I determined to make the most of it
in the sort of travel which chiefly interests me; so accompanied by my
wife I drifted pleasantly down the Continent and embarked at
Marseilles on the P & O Steamer Malwa, bound for Port Said. From
that point I proposed to visit the principal historical localities of
lower Egypt before leaving finally for Australia.

The voyage was an agreeable one, and enlivened by many of the amusing
incidents which befall a magical performer apart from his work. I had
intended, for the sake of quiet travel, to keep my name a secret; but
was goaded into betraying myself by a fellow-magician whose anxiety to
astound the passengers with ordinary tricks tempted me to duplicate
and exceed his feats in a manner quite destructive of my incognito. I
mention this because of its ultimate effect--an effect I should have
foreseen before unmasking to a shipload of tourists about to scatter
throughout the Nile valley. What it did was to herald my identity
wherever I subsequently went, and deprive my wife and me of all the
placid inconspicuousness we had sought. Traveling to seek curiosities,
I was often forced to stand inspection as a sort of curiosity myself!

We had come to Egypt in search of the picturesque and the mystically
impressive, but found little enough when the ship edged up to Port
Said and discharged its passengers in small boats. Low dunes of sand,
bobbing buoys in shallow water, and a drearily European small town
with nothing of interest save the great De Lesseps statue, made us
anxious to get to something more worth our while. After some
discussion we decided to proceed at once to Cairo and the Pyramids,
later going to Alexandria for the Australian boat and for whatever
Greco-Roman sights that ancient metropolis might present.

The railway journey was tolerable enough, and consumed only four hours
and a half. We saw much of the Suez Canal, whose route we followed as
far as Ismailiya and later had a taste of Old Egypt in our glimpse of
the restored fresh-water canal of the Middle Empire. Then at last we
saw Cairo glimmering through the growing dusk; a winkling
constellation which became a blaze as we halted at the great Gare
Centrale.

But once more disappointment awaited us, for all that we beheld was
European save the costumes and the crowds. A prosaic subway led to a
square teeming with carriages, taxicabs, and trolley-cars and gorgeous
with electric lights shining on tall buildings; whilst the very
theatre where I was vainly requested to play and which I later
attended as a spectator, had recently been renamed the 'American
Cosmograph'. We stopped at Shepheard's Hotel, reached in a taxi that
sped along broad, smartly built-up streets; and amidst the perfect
service of its restaurant, elevators and generally Anglo-American
luxuries the mysterious East and immemorial past seemed very far away.

The next day, however, precipitated us delightfully into the heart of
the Arabian Nights atmosphere; and in the winding ways and exotic
skyline of Cairo, the Bagdad of Harun-al-Rashid seemed to live again.
Guided by our Baedeker, we had struck east past the Ezbekiyeh Gardens
along the Mouski in quest of the native quarter, and were soon in the
hands of a clamorous cicerone who--notwithstanding later
developments--was assuredly a master at his trade.

Not until afterward did I see that I should have applied at the hotel
for a licensed guide. This man, a shaven, peculiarly hollow-voiced and
relatively cleanly fellow who looked like a Pharaoh and called himself
'Abdul Reis el Drogman' appeared to have much power over others of his
kind; though subsequently the police professed not to know him, and to
suggest that reis is merely a name for any person in authority, whilst
'Drogman' is obviously no more than a clumsy modification of the word
for a leader of tourist parties--dragoman.

Abdul led us among such wonders as we had before only read and dreamed
of. Old Cairo is itself a story-book and a dream--labyrinths of narrow
alleys redolent of aromatic secrets; Arabesque balconies and oriels
nearly meeting above the cobbled streets; maelstroms of Oriental
traffic with strange cries, cracking whips, rattling carts, jingling
money, and braying donkeys; kaleidoscopes of polychrome robes, veils,
turbans, and tarbushes; water-carriers and dervishes, dogs and cats,
soothsayers and barbers; and over all the whining of blind beggars
crouched in alcoves, and the sonorous chanting of muezzins from
minarets limned delicately against a sky of deep, unchanging blue.

The roofed, quieter bazaars were hardly less alluring. Spice, perfume,
incense beads, rugs, silks, and brass--old Mahmoud Suleiman squats
cross-legged amidst his gummy bottles while chattering youths
pulverize mustard in the hollowed-out capital of an ancient classic
column--a Roman Corinthian, perhaps from neighboring Heliopolis, where
Augustus stationed one of his three Egyptian legions. Antiquity begins
to mingle with exoticism. And then the mosques and the museum--we saw
them all, and tried not to let our Arabian revel succumb to the darker
charm of Pharaonic Egypt which the museum's priceless treasures
offered. That was to be our climax, and for the present we
concentrated on the mediaeval Saracenic glories of the Califs whose
magnificent tomb-mosques form a glittering faery necropolis on the
edge of the Arabian Desert.

At length Abdul took us along the Sharia Mohammed Ali to the ancient
mosque of Sultan Hassan, and the tower-flanked Babel-Azab, beyond
which climbs the steep-walled pass to the mighty citadel that Saladin
himself built with the stones of forgotten pyramids. It was sunset
when we scaled that cliff, circled the modern mosque of Mohammed Ali,
and looked down from the dizzy parapet over mystic Cairo--mystic Cairo
all golden with its carven domes, its ethereal minarets and its
flaming gardens.

Far over the city towered the great Roman dome of the new museum; and
beyond it--across the cryptic yellow Nile that is the mother of eons
and dynasties--lurked the menacing sands of the Libyan Desert,
undulant and iridescent and evil with older arcana.

The red sun sank low, bringing the relentless chill of Egyptian dusk;
and as it stood poised on the world's rim like that ancient god of
Heliopolis--Re-Harakhte, the Horizon-Sun--we saw silhouetted against
its vermeil holocaust the black outlines of the Pyramids of Gizeh--the
palaeogean tombs there were hoary with a thousand years when Tut-Ankh-
Amen mounted his golden throne in distant Thebes. Then we knew that we
were done with Saracen Cairo, and that we must taste the deeper
mysteries of primal Egypt--the black Kem of Re and Amen, Isis and
Osiris.

The next morning we visited the Pyramids, riding out in a Victoria
across the island of Chizereh with its massive lebbakh trees, and the
smaller English bridge to the western shore. Down the shore road we
drove, between great rows of lebbakhs and past the vast Zoological
Gardens to the suburb of Gizeh, where a new bridge to Cairo proper has
since been built. Then, turning inland along the Sharia-el-Haram, we
crossed a region of glassy canals and shabby native villages till
before us loomed the objects of our quest, cleaving the mists of dawn
and forming inverted replicas in the roadside pools. Forty centuries,
as Napoleon had told his campaigners there, indeed looked down upon
us.

The road now rose abruptly, till we finally reached our place of
transfer between the trolley station and the Mena House Hotel. Abdul
Reis, who capably purchased our Pyramid tickets, seemed to have an
understanding with the crowding, yelling and offensive Bedouins who
inhabited a squalid mud village some distance away and pestiferously
assailed every traveler; for he kept them very decently at bay and
secured an excellent pair of camels for us, himself mounting a donkey
and assigning the leadership of our animals to a group of men and boys
more expensive than useful. The area to be traversed was so small that
camels were hardly needed, but we did not regret adding to our
experience this troublesome form of desert navigation.

The pyramids stand on a high rock plateau, this group forming next to
the northernmost of the series of regal and aristocratic cemeteries
built in the neighborhood of the extinct capital Memphis, which lay on
the same side of the Nile, somewhat south of Gizeh, and which
flourished between 3400 and 2000 B.C. The greatest pyramid, which lies
nearest the modern road, was built by King Cheops or Khufu about 2800
B.C., and stands more than 450 feet in perpendicular height. In a line
southwest from this are successively the Second Pyramid, built a
generation later by King Khephren, and though slightly smaller,
looking even larger because set on higher ground, and the radically
smaller Third Pyramid of King Mycerinus, built about 2700 B.C. Near
the edge of the plateau and due east of the Second Pyramid, with a
face probably altered to form a colossal portrait of Khephren, its
royal restorer, stands the monstrous Sphinx--mute, sardonic, and wise
beyond mankind and memory.

Minor pyramids and the traces of ruined minor pyramids are found in
several places, and the whole plateau is pitted with the tombs of
dignitaries of less than royal rank. These latter were originally
marked by mastabas, or stone bench-like structures about the deep
burial shafts, as found in other Memphian cemeteries and exemplified
by Perneb's Tomb in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. At Gizeh,
however, all such visible things have been swept away by time and
pillage; and only the rock-hewn shafts, either sand-filled or cleared
out by archaeologists, remain to attest their former existence.
Connected with each tomb was a chapel in which priests and relatives
offered food and prayer to the hovering ka or vital principle of the
deceased. The small tombs have their chapels contained in their stone
mastabas or superstructures, but the mortuary chapels of the pyramids,
where regal Pharaohs lay, were separate temples, each to the east of
its corresponding pyramid, and connected by a causeway to a massive
gate-chapel or propylon at the edge of the rock plateau.

The gate-chapel leading to the Second Pyramid, nearly buried in the
drifting sands, yawns subterraneously south-east of the Sphinx.
Persistent tradition dubs it the 'Temple of the Sphinx'; and it may
perhaps be rightly called such if the Sphinx indeed represents the
Second Pyramid's builder Khephren. There are unpleasant tales of the
Sphinx before Khephren--but whatever its elder features were, the
monarch replaced them with his own that men might look at the colossus
without fear.

It was in the great gateway-temple that the life-size diorite statue
of Khephren now in the Cairo museum was found; a statue before which I
stood in awe when I beheld it. Whether the whole edifice is now
excavated I am not certain, but in 1910 most of it was below ground,
with the entrance heavily barred at night. Germans were in charge of
the work, and the war or other things may have stopped them. I would
give much, in view of my experience and of certain Bedouin whisperings
discredited or unknown in Cairo, to know what has developed in
connection with a certain well in a transverse gallery where statues
of the Pharaoh were found in curious juxtaposition to the statues of
baboons.

The road, as we traversed it on our camels that morning, curved
sharply past the wooden police quarters, post office, drug store and
shops on the left, and plunged south and east in a complete bend that
scaled the rock plateau and brought us face to face with the desert
under the lee of the Great Pyramid. Past Cyclopean masonry we rode,
rounding the eastern face and looking down ahead into a valley of
minor pyramids beyond which the eternal Nile glistened to the east,
and the eternal desert shimmered to the west. Very close loomed the
three major pyramids, the greatest devoid of outer casing and showing
its bulk of great stones, but the others retaining here and there the
neatly fitted covering which had made them smooth and finished in
their day.

Presently we descended toward the Sphinx, and sat silent beneath the
spell of those terrible unseeing eyes. On the vast stone breast we
faintly discerned the emblem of Re-Harakhte, for whose image the
Sphinx was mistaken in a late dynasty; and though sand covered the
tablet between the great paws, we recalled what Thutmosis IV inscribed
thereon, and the dream he had when a prince. It was then that the
smile of the Sphinx vaguely displeased us, and made us wonder about
the legends of subterranean passages beneath the monstrous creature,
leading down, down, to depths none might dare hint at--depths
connected with mysteries older than the dynastic Egypt we excavate,
and having a sinister relation to the persistence of abnormal, animal-
headed gods in the ancient Nilotic pantheon. Then, too, it was I asked
myself in idle question whose hideous significance was not to appear
for many an hour.

Other tourists now began to overtake us, and we moved on to the sand-
choked Temple of the Sphinx, fifty yards to the southeast, which I
have previously mentioned as the great gate of the causeway to the
Second Pyramid's mortuary chapel on the plateau. Most of it was still
underground, and although we dismounted and descended through a modern
passageway to its alabaster corridor and pillared hall, I felt that
Abdul and the local German attendant had not shown us all there was to
see.

After this we made the conventional circuit of the pyramid plateau,
examining the Second Pyramid and the peculiar ruins of its mortuary
chapel to the east, the Third Pyramid and its miniature southern
satellites and ruined eastern chapel, the rock tombs and the
honeycombings of the Fourth and Fifth dynasties, and the famous
Campbell's Tomb whose shadowy shaft sinks precipitously for fifty-
three feet to a sinister sarcophagus which one of our camel drivers
divested of the cumbering sand after a vertiginous descent by rope.

Cries now assailed us from the Great Pyramid, where Bedouins were
besieging a party of tourists with offers of speed in the performance
of solitary trips up and down. Seven minutes is said to be the record
for such an ascent and descent, but many lusty sheiks and sons of
sheiks assured us they could cut it to five if given the requisite
impetus of liberal baksheesh. They did not get this impetus, though we
did let Abdul take us up, thus obtaining a view of unprecedented
magnificence which included not only remote and glittering Cairo with
its crowned citadel background of gold-violet hills, but all the
pyramids of the Memphian district as well, from Abu Roash on the north
to the Dashur on the south. The Sakkara step-pyramid, which marks the
evolution of the low mastaba into the true pyramid, showed clearly and
alluringly in the sandy distance. It is close to this transition-
monument that the famed tomb of Perneb was found--more than four
hundred miles north of the Theban rock valley where Tut-Ankh-Amen
sleeps. Again I was forced to silence through sheer awe. The prospect
of such antiquity, and the secrets each hoary monument seemed to hold
and brood over, filled me with a reverence and sense of immensity
nothing else ever gave me.

Fatigued by our climb, and disgusted with the importunate Bedouins
whose actions seemed to defy every rule of taste, we omitted the
arduous detail of entering the cramped interior passages of any of the
pyramids, though we saw several of the hardiest tourists preparing for
the suffocating crawl through Cheops' mightiest memorial. As we
dismissed and overpaid our local bodyguard and drove back to Cairo
with Abdul Reis under the afternoon sun, we half regretted the
omission we had made. Such fascinating things were whispered about
lower pyramid passages not in the guidebooks; passages whose
entrances had been hastily blocked up and concealed by certain
uncommunicative archaeologists who had found and begun to explore
them.

Of course, this whispering was largely baseless on the face of it; but
it was curious to reflect how persistently visitors were forbidden to
enter the Pyramids at night, or to visit the lowest burrows and crypt
of the Great Pyramid. Perhaps in the latter case it was the
psychological effect which was feared--the effect on the visitor of
feeling himself huddled down beneath a gigantic world of solid
masonry; joined to the life he has known by the merest tube, in which
he may only crawl, and which any accident or evil design might block.
The whole subject seemed so weird and alluring that we resolved to pay
the pyramid plateau another visit at the earliest possible
opportunity. For me this opportunity came much earlier than I
expected.

That evening, the members of our party feeling some what tired after
the strenuous program of the day, I went alone with Abdul Reis for a
walk through the picturesque Arab quarter. Though I had seen it by
day, I wished to study the alleys and bazaars in the dusk, when rich
shadows and mellow gleams of light would add to their glamor and
fantastic illusion. The native crowds were thinning, but were still
very noisy and numerous when we came upon a knot of reveling Bedouins
in the Suken-Nahhasin, or bazaar of the coppersmiths. Their apparent
leader, an insolent youth with heavy features and saucily cocked
tarbush, took some notice of us, and evidently recognized with no
great friendliness my competent but admittedly supercilious and
sneeringly disposed guide.

Perhaps, I thought, he resented that odd reproduction of the Sphinx's
half-smile which I had often remarked with amused irritation; or
perhaps he did not like the hollow and sepulchral resonance of Abdul's
voice. At any rate, the exchange of ancestrally opprobrious language
became very brisk; and before long Ali Ziz, as I heard the stranger
called when called by no worse name, began to pull violently at
Abdul's robe, an action quickly reciprocated and leading to a spirited
scuffle in which both combatants lost their sacredly cherished
headgear and would have reached an even direr condition had I not
intervened and separated them by main force.

My interference, at first seemingly unwelcome on both sides, succeeded
at last in effecting a truce. Sullenly each belligerent composed his
wrath and his attire, and with an assumption of dignity as profound as
it was sudden, the two formed a curious pact of honor which I soon
learned is a custom of great antiquity in Cairo--a pact for the
settlement of their difference by means of a nocturnal fist fight atop
the Great Pyramid, long after the departure of the last moonlight
sightseer. Each duelist was to assemble a party of seconds, and the
affair was to begin at midnight, proceeding by rounds in the most
civilized possible fashion.

In all this planning there was much which excited my interest. The
fight itself promised to be unique and spectacular, while the thought
of the scene on that hoary pile overlooking the antediluvian plateau
of Gizeh under the wan moon of the pallid small hours appealed to
every fiber of imagination in me. A request found Abdul exceedingly
willing to admit me to his party of seconds; so that all the rest of
the early evening I accompanied him to various dens in the most
lawless regions of the town--mostly northeast of the Ezbekiyeh--where
he gathered one by one a select and formidable band of congenial
cutthroats as his pugilistic background.

Shortly after nine our party, mounted on donkeys bearing such royal or
tourist-reminiscent names as 'Rameses,' 'Mark Twain,' 'J. P. Morgan,'
and 'Minnehaha,' edged through street labyrinths both Oriental and
Occidental, crossed the muddy and mast-forested Nile by the bridge of
the bronze lions, and cantered philosophically between the lebbakhs on
the road to Gizeh. Slightly over two hours were consumed by the trip,
toward the end of which we passed the last of the returning tourists,
saluted the last inbound trolley-car, and were alone with the night
and the past and the spectral moon.

Then we saw the vast pyramids at the end of the avenue, ghoulish with
a dim atavistical menace which I had not seemed to notice in the
daytime. Even the smallest of them held a hint of the ghastly--for was
it not in this that they had buried Queen Nitocris alive in the Sixth
Dynasty; subtle Queen Nitocris, who once invited all her enemies to a
feast in a temple below the Nile, and drowned them by opening the
water-gates? I recalled that the Arabs whisper things about Nitocris,
and shun the Third Pyramid at certain phases of the moon. It must have
been over her that Thomas Moore was brooding when he wrote a thing
muttered about by Memphian boatmen: 'The subterranean nymph that
dwells 'Mid sunless gems and glories hid--The lady of the Pyramid!'

Early as we were, Ali Ziz and his party were ahead of us; for we saw
their donkeys outlined against the desert plateau at Kafrel-Haram;
toward which squalid Arab settlement, close to the Sphinx, we had
diverged instead of following the regular road to the Mena House,
where some of the sleepy, inefficient police might have observed and
halted us. Here, where filthy Bedouins stabled camels and donkeys in
the rock tombs of Khephren's courtiers, we were led up the rocks and
over the sand to the Great Pyramid, up whose time-worn sides the Arabs
swarmed eagerly, Abdul Reis offering me the assistance I did not need.

As most travelers know, the actual apex of this structure has long
been worn away, leaving a reasonably flat platform twelve yards
square. On this eery pinnacle a squared circle was formed, and in a
few moments the sardonic desert moon leered down upon a battle which,
but for the quality of the ringside cries, might well have occurred at
some minor athletic club in America. As I watched it, I felt that some
of our less-desirable institutions were not lacking; for every blow,
feint, and defense bespoke 'stalling' to my not inexperienced eye. It
was quickly over, and despite my misgivings as to methods I felt a
sort of proprietary pride when Abdul Reis was adjudged the winner.

Reconciliation was phenomenally rapid, and amidst the singing,
fraternizing and drinking that followed, I found it difficult to
realize that a quarrel had ever occurred. Oddly enough, I myself
seemed to be more a center of notice than the antagonists; and from my
smattering of Arabic I judged that they were discussing my
professional performances and escapes from every sort of manacle and
confinement, in a manner which indicated not only a surprising
knowledge of me, but a distinct hostility and skepticism concerning my
feats of escape. It gradually dawned on me that the elder magic of
Egypt did not depart without leaving traces, and that fragments of a
strange secret lore and priestly cult-practices have survived
surreptitiously amongst the fellaheen to such an extent that the
prowess of a strange hahwi or magician is resented and disputed. I
thought of how much my hollow-voiced guide Abdul Reis looked like an
old Egyptian priest or Pharaoh or smiling Sphinx...and wondered.

Suddenly something happened which in a flash proved the correctness of
my reflections and made me curse the denseness whereby I had accepted
this night's events as other than the empty and malicious 'frame-up'
they now showed themselves to be. Without warning, and doubtless in
answer to some subtle sign from Abdul, the entire band of Bedouins
precipitated itself upon me; and having produced heavy ropes, soon had
me bound as securely as I was ever bound in the course of my life,
either on the stage or off.

I struggled at first, but soon saw that one man could make no headway
against a band of over twenty sinewy barbarians. My hands were tied
behind my back, my knees bent to their fullest extent, and my wrists
and ankles stoutly linked together with unyielding cords. A stifling
gag was forced into my mouth, and a blindfold fastened tightly over my
eyes. Then, as Arabs bore me aloft on their shoulders and began a
jouncing descent of the pyramid, I heard the taunts of my late guide
Abdul, who mocked and jeered delightedly in his hollow voice, and
assured me that I was soon to have my 'magic-powers' put to a supreme
test--which would quickly remove any egotism I might have gained
through triumphing over all the tests offered by America and Europe.
Egypt, he reminded me, is very old, and full of inner mysteries and
antique powers not even conceivable to the experts of today, whose
devices had so uniformly failed to entrap me.

How far or in what direction I was carried, I cannot tell; for the
circumstances were all against the formation of any accurate judgment.
I know, however, that it could not have been a great distance; since
my bearers at no point hastened beyond a walk, yet kept me aloft a
surprisingly short time. It is this perplexing brevity which makes me
feel almost like shuddering whenever I think of Gizeh and its
plateau--for one is oppressed by hints of the closeness to everyday
tourist routes of what existed then and must exist still.

The evil abnormality I speak of did not become manifest at first.
Setting me down on a surface which I recognized as sand rather than
rock, my captors passed a rope around my chest and dragged me a few
feet to a ragged opening in the ground, into which they presently
lowered me with much rough handling. For apparent eons I bumped
against the stony irregular sides of a narrow hewn well which I took
to be one of the numerous burial-shafts of the plateau until the
prodigious, almost incredible depth of it robbed me of all bases of
conjecture.

The horror of the experience deepened with every dragging second. That
any descent through the sheer solid rock could be so vast without
reaching the core of the planet itself, or that any rope made by man
could be so long as to dangle me in these unholy and seemingly
fathomless profundities of nether earth, were beliefs of such
grotesqueness that it was easier to doubt my agitated senses than to
accept them. Even now I am uncertain, for I know how deceitful the
sense of time becomes when one is removed or distorted. But I am quite
sure that I preserved a logical consciousness that far; that at least
I did not add any fullgrown phantoms of imagination to a picture
hideous enough in its reality, and explicable by a type of cerebral
illusion vastly short of actual hallucination.

All this was not the cause of my first bit of fainting. The shocking
ordeal was cumulative, and the beginning of the later terrors was a
very perceptible increase in my rate of descent. They were paying out
that infinitely long rope very swiftly now, and I scraped cruelly
against the rough and constricted sides of the shaft as I shot madly
downward. My clothing was in tatters, and I felt the trickle of blood
all over, even above the mounting and excruciating pain. My nostrils,
too, were assailed by a scarcely definable menace: a creeping odor of
damp and staleness curiously unlike anything I had ever smelled
before, and having faint overtones of spice and incense that lent an
element of mockery.

Then the mental cataclysm came. It was horrible--hideous beyond all
articulate description because it was all of the soul, with nothing of
detail to describe. It was the ecstasy of nightmare and the summation
of the fiendish. The suddenness of it was apocalyptic and demoniac--
one moment I was plunging agonizingly down that narrow well of
million-toothed torture, yet the next moment I was soaring on bat-
wings in the gulfs of hell; swinging free and swooping through
illimitable miles of boundless, musty space; rising dizzily to
measureless pinnacles of chilling ether, then diving gaspingly to
sucking nadirs of ravenous, nauseous lower vacua...Thank God for the
mercy that shut out in oblivion those clawing Furies of consciousness
which half unhinged my faculties, and tore harpy-like at my spirit!
That one respite, short as it was, gave me the strength and sanity to
endure those still greater sublimations of cosmic panic that lurked
and gibbered on the road ahead.

II

It was very gradually that I regained my senses after that eldritch
flight through stygian space. The process was infinitely painful, and
colored by fantastic dreams in which my bound and gagged condition
found singular embodiment. The precise nature of these dreams was very
clear while I was experiencing them, but became blurred in my
recollection almost immediately afterward, and was soon reduced to the
merest outline by the terrible events--real or imaginary--which
followed. I dreamed that I was in the grasp of a great and horrible
paw; a yellow, hairy, five-clawed paw which had reached out of the
earth to crush and engulf me. And when I stopped to reflect what the
paw was, it seemed to me that it was Egypt. In the dream I looked back
at the events of the preceding weeks, and saw myself lured and
enmeshed little by little, subtly and insidiously, by some hellish
ghoul-spirit of the elder Nile sorcery; some spirit that was in Egypt
before ever man was, and that will be when man is no more.

I saw the horror and unwholesome antiquity of Egypt, and the grisly
alliance it has always had with the tombs and temples of the dead. I
saw phantom processions of priests with the heads of bulls, falcons,
cats, and ibises; phantom processions marching interminably through
subterraneous labyrinths and avenues of titanic propylaea beside which
a man is as a fly, and offering unnamable sacrifice to indescribable
gods. Stone colossi marched in endless night and drove herds of
grinning androsphinxes down to the shores of illimitable stagnant
rivers of pitch. And behind it all I saw the ineffable malignity of
primordial necromancy, black and amorphous, and fumbling greedily
after me in the darkness to choke out the spirit that had dared to
mock it by emulation.

In my sleeping brain there took shape a melodrama of sinister hatred
and pursuit, and I saw the black soul of Egypt singling me out and
calling me in inaudible whispers; calling and luring me, leading me on
with the glitter and glamor of a Saracenic surface, but ever pulling
me down to the age-mad catacombs and horrors of its dead and abysmal
pharaonic heart.

Then the dream faces took on human resemblances, and I saw my guide
Abdul Reis in the robes of a king, with the sneer of the Sphinx on his
features. And I knew that those features were the features of Khephren
the Great, who raised the Second Pyramid, carved over the Sphinx's
face in the likeness of his own and built that titanic gateway temple
whose myriad corridors the archaeologists think they have dug out of
the cryptical sand and the uninformative rock. And I looked at the
long, lean rigid hand of Khephren; the long, lean, rigid hand as I had
seen it on the diorite statue in the Cairo Museum--the statue they had
found in the terrible gateway temple--and wondered that I had not
shrieked when I saw it on Abdul Reis...That hand! It was hideously
cold, and it was crushing me; it was the cold and cramping of the
sarcophagus the chill and constriction of unrememberable Egypt...It
was nighted, necropolitan Egypt itself.., that yellow paw.. and they
whisper such things of Khephren...

But at this juncture I began to wake--or at least, to assume a
condition less completely that of sleep than the one just preceding. I
recalled the fight atop the pyramid, the treacherous Bedouins and
their attack, my frightful descent by rope through endless rock
depths, and my mad swinging and plunging in a chill void redolent of
aromatic putrescence. I perceived that I now lay on a damp rock floor,
and that my bonds were still biting into me with unloosened force. It
was very cold, and I seemed to detect a faint current of noisome air
sweeping across me. The cuts and bruises I had received from the
jagged sides of the rock shaft were paining me woefully, their
soreness enhanced to a stinging or burning acuteness by some pungent
quality in the faint draft, and the mere act of rolling over was
enough to set my whole frame throbbing with untold agony.

As I turned I felt a tug from above, and concluded that the rope
whereby I was lowered still reached to the surface. Whether or not the
Arabs still held it, I had no idea; nor had I any idea how far within
the earth I was. I knew that the darkness around me was wholly or
nearly total, since no ray of moonlight penetrated my blindfold; but I
did not trust my senses enough to accept as evidence of extreme depth
the sensation of vast duration which had characterized my descent.

Knowing at least that I was in a space of considerable extent reached
from the above surface directly by an opening in the rock, I
doubtfully conjectured that my prison was perhaps the buried gateway
chapel of old Khephren--the Temple of the Sphinx--perhaps some inner
corridors which the guides had not shown me during my morning visit,
and from which I might easily escape if I could find my way to the
barred entrance. It would be a labyrinthine wandering, but no worse
than others out of which I had in the past found my way.

The first step was to get free of my bonds, gag, and blindfold; and
this I knew would be no great task, since subtler experts than these
Arabs had tried every known species of fetter upon me during my long
and varied career as an exponent of escape, yet had never succeeded in
defeating my methods.

Then it occurred to me that the Arabs might be ready to meet and
attack me at the entrance upon any evidence of my probable escape from
the binding cords, as would be furnished by any decided agitation of
the rope which they probably held. This, of course, was taking for
granted that my place of confinement was indeed Khephren's Temple of
the Sphinx. The direct opening in the roof, wherever it might lurk,
could not be beyond easy reach of the ordinary modern entrance near
the Sphinx; if in truth it were any great distance at all on the
surface, since the total area known to visitors is not at all
enormous. I had not noticed any such opening during my daytime
pilgrimage, but knew that these things are easily overlooked amidst
the drifting sands.

Thinking these matters over as I lay bent and bound on the rock floor,
I nearly forgot the horrors of abysmal descent and cavernous swinging
which had so lately reduced me to a coma. My present thought was only
to outwit the Arabs, and I accordingly determined to work myself free
as quickly as possible, avoiding any tug on the descending line which
might betray an effective or even problematical attempt at freedom.

This, however, was more easily determined than effected. A few
preliminary trials made it clear that little could be accomplished
without considerable motion; and it did not surprise me when, after
one especially energetic struggle, I began to feel the coils of
falling rope as they piled up about me and upon me. Obviously, I
thought, the Bedouins had felt my movements and released their end of
the rope; hastening no doubt to the temple's true entrance to lie
murderously in wait for me.

The prospect was not pleasing--but I had faced worse in my time
without flinching, and would not flinch now. At present I must first
of all free myself of bonds, then trust to ingenuity to escape from
the temple unharmed. It is curious how implicitly I had come to
believe myself in the old temple of Khephren beside the Sphinx, only a
short distance below the ground.

That belief was shattered, and every pristine apprehension of
preternatural depth and demoniac mystery revived, by a circumstance
which grew in horror and significance even as I formulated my
philosophical plan. I have said that the falling rope was piling up
about and upon me. Now I saw that it was continuing to pile, as no
rope of normal length could possibly do. It gained in momentum and
became an avalanche of hemp, accumulating mountainously on the floor
and half burying me beneath its swiftly multiplying coils. Soon I was
completely engulfed and gasping for breath as the increasing
convolutions submerged and stifled me.

My senses tottered again, and I vaguely tried to fight off a menace
desperate and ineluctable. It was not merely that I was tortured
beyond human endurance--not merely that life and breath seemed to be
crushed slowly out of me--it was the knowledge of what those unnatural
lengths of rope implied, and the consciousness of what unknown and
incalculable gulfs of inner earth must at this moment be surrounding
me. My endless descent and swinging flight through goblin space, then,
must have been real, and even now I must be lying helpless in some
nameless cavern world toward the core of the planet. Such a sudden
confirmation of ultimate horror was insupportable, and a second time I
lapsed into merciful oblivion.

When I say oblivion, I do not imply that I was free from dreams. On
the contrary, my absence from the conscious world was marked by
visions of the most unutterable hideousness. God!...If only I had not
read so much Egyptology before coming to this land which is the
fountain of all darkness and terror! This second spell of fainting
filled my sleeping mind anew with shivering realization of the country
and its archaic secrets, and through some damnable chance my dreams
turned to the ancient notions of the dead and their sojournings in
soul and body beyond those mysterious tombs which were more houses
than graves. I recalled, in dream-shapes which it is well that I do
not remember, the peculiar and elaborate construction of Egyptian
sepulchers; and the exceedingly singular and terrific doctrines which
determined this construction.

All these people thought of was death and the dead. They conceived of
a literal resurrection of the body which made them mummify it with
desperate care, and preserve all the vital organs in canopic jars near
the corpse; whilst besides the body they believed in two other
elements, the soul, which after its weighing and approval by Osiris
dwelt in the land of the blest, and the obscure and portentous ka or
life-principle which wandered about the upper and lower worlds in a
horrible way, demanding occasional access to the preserved body,
consuming the food offerings brought by priests and pious relatives to
the mortuary chapel, and sometimes--as men whispered--taking its body
or the wooden double always buried beside it and stalking noxiously
abroad on errands peculiarly repellent.

For thousands of years those bodies rested gorgeously encased and
staring glassily upward when not visited by the ka, awaiting the day
when Osiris should restore both ka and soul, and lead forth the stiff
legions of the dead from the sunken houses of sleep. It was to have
been a glorious rebirth--but not all souls were approved, nor were all
tombs inviolate, so that certain grotesque mistakes and fiendish
abnormalities were to be looked for. Even today the Arabs murmur of
unsanctified convocations and unwholesome worship in forgotten nether
abysses, which only winged invisible kas and soulless mummies may
visit and return unscathed.

Perhaps the most leeringly blood-congealing legends are those which
relate to certain perverse products of decadent priestcraft--composite
mummies made by the artificial union of human trunks and limbs with
the heads of animals in imitation of the elder gods. At all stages of
history the sacred animals were mummified, so that consecrated bulls,
cats, ibises, crocodiles and the like might return some day to greater
glory. But only in the decadence did they mix the human and the animal
in the same mummy--only in the decadence, when they did not understand
the rights and prerogatives of the ka and the soul.

What happened to those composite mummies is not told of--at least
publicly--and it is certain that no Egyptologist ever found one. The
whispers of Arabs are very wild, and cannot be relied upon. They even
hint that old Khephren--he of the Sphinx, the Second Pyramid and the
yawning gateway temple--lives far underground wedded to the ghoul-
queen Nitocris and ruling over the mummies that are neither of man nor
of beast.

It was of these--of Khephren and his consort and his strange armies of
the hybrid dead--that I dreamed, and that is why I am glad the exact
dream-shapes have faded from my memory. My most horrible vision was
connected with an idle question I had asked myself the day before when
looking at the great carven riddle of the desert and wondering with
what unknown depth the temple close to it might be secretly connected.
That question, so innocent and whimsical then, assumed in my dream a
meaning of frenetic and hysterical madness...what huge and loathsome
abnormality was the Sphinx originally carven to represent?

My second awakening--if awakening it was--is a memory of stark
hideousness which nothing else in my life--save one thing which came
after--can parallel; and that life has been full and adventurous
beyond most men's. Remember that I had lost consciousness whilst
buried beneath a cascade of falling rope whose immensity revealed the
cataclysmic depth of my present position. Now, as perception returned,
I felt the entire weight gone; and realized upon rolling over that
although I was still tied, gagged and blindfolded, some agency had
removed completely the suffocating hempen landslide which had
overwhelmed me. The significance of this condition, of course, came to
me only gradually; but even so I think it would have brought
unconsciousness again had I not by this time reached such a state of
emotional exhaustion that no new horror could make much difference. I
was alone...with what?

Before I could torture myself with any new reflection, or make any
fresh effort to escape from my bonds, an additional circumstance
became manifest. Pains not formerly felt were racking my arms and
legs, and I seemed coated with a profusion of dried blood beyond
anything my former cuts and abrasions could furnish. My chest, too,
seemed pierced by a hundred wounds, as though some malign, titanic
ibis had been pecking at it. Assuredly the agency which had removed
the rope was a hostile one, and had begun to wreak terrible injuries
upon me when somehow impelled to desist. Yet at the same time my
sensations were distinctly the reverse of what one might expect.
Instead of sinking into a bottomless pit of despair, I was stirred to
a new courage and action; for now I felt that the evil forces were
physical things which a fearless man might encounter on an even basis.

On the strength of this thought I tugged again at my bonds, and used
all the art of a lifetime to free myself as I had so often done amidst
the glare of lights and the applause of vast crowds. The familiar
details of my escaping process commenced to engross me, and now that
the long rope was gone I half regained my belief that the supreme
horrors were hallucinations after all, and that there had never been
any terrible shaft, measureless abyss or interminable rope. Was I
after all in the gateway temple of Khephren beside the Sphinx, and had
the sneaking Arabs stolen in to torture me as I lay helpless there? At
any rate, I must be free. Let me stand up unbound, ungagged, and with
eyes open to catch any glimmer of light which might come trickling
from any source, and I could actually delight in the combat against
evil and treacherous foes!

How long I took in shaking off my encumbrances I cannot tell. It must
have been longer than in my exhibition performances, because I was
wounded, exhausted, and enervated by the experiences I had passed
through. When I was finally free, and taking deep breaths of a chill,
damp, evilly spiced air all the more horrible when encountered without
the screen of gag and blindfold edges, I found that I was too cramped
and fatigued to move at once. There I lay, trying to stretch a frame
bent and mangled, for an indefinite period, and straining my eyes to
catch a glimpse of some ray of light which would give a hint as to my
position.

By degrees my strength and flexibility returned, but my eyes beheld
nothing. As I staggered to my feet I peered diligently in every
direction, yet met only an ebony blackness as great as that I had
known when blindfolded. I tried my legs, blood-encrusted beneath my
shredded trousers, and found that I could walk; yet could not decide
in what direction to go. Obviously I ought not to walk at random, and
perhaps retreat directly from the entrance I sought; so I paused to
note the difference of the cold, fetid, natron-scented air-current
which I had never ceased to feel. Accepting the point of its source as
the possible entrance to the abyss, I strove to keep track of this
landmark and to walk consistently toward it.

I had a match-box with me, and even a small electric flashlight; but
of course the pockets of my tossed and tattered clothing were long
since emptied of all heavy articles. As I walked cautiously in the
blackness, the draft grew stronger and more offensive, till at length
I could regard it as nothing less than a tangible stream of detestable
vapor pouring out of some aperture like the smoke of the genie from
the fisherman's jar in the Eastern tale. The East...Egypt...truly,
this dark cradle of civilization was ever the wellspring of horrors
and marvels unspeakable!

The more I reflected on the nature of this cavern wind, the greater my
sense of disquiet became; for although despite its odor I had sought
its source as at least an indirect clue to the outer world, I now saw
plainly that this foul emanation could have no admixture or connection
whatsoever with the clean air of the Libyan Desert, but must be
essentially a thing vomited from sinister gulfs still lower down. I
had, then, been walking in the wrong direction!

After a moment's reflection I decided not to retrace my steps. Away
from the draft I would have no landmarks, for the roughly level rock
floor was devoid of distinctive configurations. If, however, I
followed up the strange current, I would undoubtedly arrive at an
aperture of some sort, from whose gate I could perhaps work round the
walls to the opposite side of this Cyclopean and otherwise unnavigable
hall. That I might fail, I well realized. I saw that this was no part
of Khephren's gateway temple which tourists know, and it struck me
that this particular hall might be unknown even to archaeologists, and
merely stumbled upon by the inquisitive and malignant Arabs who had
imprisoned me. If so, was there any present gate of escape to the
known parts or to the outer air?

What evidence, indeed, did I now possess that this was the gateway
temple at all? For a moment all my wildest speculations rushed back
upon me and I thought of that vivid melange of impressions--descent,
suspension in space, the rope, my wounds, and the dreams that were
frankly dreams. Was this the end of life for me? Or indeed, would it
be merciful if this moment were the end? I could answer none of my own
questions, but merely kept on, till Fate for a third time reduced me
to oblivion.

This time there were no dreams, for the suddenness of the incident
shocked me out of all thought either conscious or subconscious.
Tripping on an unexpected descending step at a point where the
offensive draft became strong enough to offer an actual physical
resistance, I was precipitated headlong down a black flight of huge
stone stairs into a gulf of hideousness unrelieved.

That I ever breathed again is a tribute to the inherent vitality of
the healthy human organism. Often I look back to that night and feel a
touch of actual humor in those repeated lapses of consciousness;
lapses whose succession reminded me at the time of nothing more than
the crude cinema melodramas of that period. Of course, it is possible
that the repeated lapses never occurred; and that all the features of
that underground nightmare were merely the dreams of one long coma
which began with the shock of my descent into that abyss and ended
with the healing balm of the outer air and of the rising sun which
found me stretched on the sands of Gizeh before the sardonic and dawn-
flushed face of the Great Sphinx.

I prefer to believe this latter explanation as much as I can, hence
was glad when the police told me that the barrier to Krephren's
gateway temple had been found unfastened, and that a sizeable rift to
the surface did actually exist in one corner of the still buried part.
I was glad, too, when the doctors pronounced my wounds only those to
be expected from my seizure, blindfolding, lowering, struggling with
bonds, falling some distance--perhaps into a depression in the
temple's inner gallery--dragging myself to the outer barrier and
escaping from it, and experiences like that.., a very soothing
diagnosis. And yet I know that there must be more than appears on the
surface. That extreme descent is too vivid a memory to be dismissed--
and it is odd that no one has ever been able to find a man answering
the description of my guide, Abdul Reis el Drogman--the tomb-throated
guide who looked and smiled like King Khephren.

I have digressed from my connected narrative--perhaps in the vain hope
of evading the telling of that final incident; that incident which of
all is most certainly an hallucination. But I promised to relate it,
and I do not break promises. When I recovered--or seemed to recover--
my senses after that fall down the black stone stairs, I was quite as
alone and in darkness as before. The windy stench, bad enough before,
was now fiendish; yet I had acquired enough familiarity by this time
to bear it stoically. Dazedly I began to crawl away from the place
whence the putrid wind came, and with my bleeding hands felt the
colossal blocks of a mighty pavement. Once my head struck against a
hard object, and when I felt of it I learned that it was the base of a
column--a column of unbelievable immensity--whose surface was covered
with gigantic chiseled hieroglyphics very perceptible to my touch.

Crawling on, I encountered other titan columns at incomprehensible
distances apart; when suddenly my attention was captured by the
realization of something which must have been impinging on my
subconscious hearing long before the conscious sense was aware of it.

From some still lower chasm in earth's bowels were proceeding certain
sounds, measured and definite, and like nothing I had ever heard
before. That they were very ancient and distinctly ceremonial I felt
almost intuitively; and much reading in Egyptology led me to associate
them with the flute, the sambuke, the sistrum, and the tympanum. In
their rhythmic piping, droning, rattling and beating I felt an element
of terror beyond all the known terrors of earth--a terror peculiarly
dissociated from personal fear, and taking the form of a sort of
objective pity for our planet, that it should hold within its depths
such horrors as must lie beyond these aegipanic cacophonies. The
sounds increased in volume, and I felt that they were approaching.
Then--and may all the gods of all pantheons unite to keep the like
from my ears again--I began to hear, faintly and afar off, the morbid
and millennial tramping of the marching things.

It was hideous that footfalls so dissimilar should move in such
perfect rhythm. The training of unhallowed thousands of years must lie
behind that march of earth's inmost monstrosities...padding, clicking,
walking, stalking, rumbling, lumbering, crawling...and all to the
abhorrent discords of those mocking instruments. And then--God keep
the memory of those Arab legends out of my head!--the mummies without
souls...the meeting-place of the wandering kas...the hordes of the
devil-cursed pharaonic dead of forty centuries...the composite mummies
led through the uttermost onyx voids by King Khephren and his ghoul-
queen Nitocris..

The tramping drew nearer--Heaven save me from the sound of those feet
and paws and hooves and pads and talons as it commenced to acquire
detail! Down limitless reaches of sunless pavement a spark of light
flickered in the malodorous wind and I drew behind the enormous
circumference of a Cyclopic column that I might escape for a while the
horror that was stalking million-footed toward me through gigantic
hypostyles of inhuman dread and phobic antiquity. The flickers
increased, and the tramping and dissonant rhythm grew sickeningly
loud. In the quivering orange light there stood faintly forth a scene
of such stony awe that I gasped from sheer wonder that conquered even
fear and repulsion. Bases of columns whose middles were higher than
human sight, mere bases of things that must each dwarf the Eiffel
Tower to insignificance...hieroglyphics carved by unthinkable hands in
caverns where daylight can be only a remote legend...

I would not look at the marching things. That I desperately resolved
as I heard their creaking joints and nitrous wheezing above the dead
music and the dead tramping. It was merciful that they did not
speak...but God! their crazy torches began to cast shadows on the
surface of those stupendous columns. Hippopotami should not have human
hands and carry torches...men should not have the heads of
crocodiles...

I tried to turn away, but the shadows and the sounds and the stench
were everywhere. Then I remembered something I used to do in half-
conscious nightmares as a boy, and began to repeat to myself, 'This is
a dream! This is a dream!' But it was of no use, and I could only shut
my eyes and pray...at least, that is what I think I did, for one is
never sure in visions--and I know this can have been nothing more. I
wondered whether I should ever reach the world again, and at times
would furtively open my eyes to see if I could discern any feature of
the place other than the wind of spiced putrefaction, the topless
columns, and the thaumatropically grotesque shadows of abnormal
horror. The sputtering glare of multiplying torches now shone, and
unless this hellish place were wholly without walls, I could not fail
to see some boundary or fixed landmark soon. But I had to shut my eyes
again when I realized how many of the things were assembling--and when
I glimpsed a certain object walking solemnly and steadily without any
body above the waist.

A fiendish and ululant corpse-gurgle or death-rattle now split the
very atmosphere--the charnel atmosphere poisonous with naftha and
bitumen blasts--in one concerted chorus from the ghoulish legion of
hybrid blasphemies. My eyes, perversely shaken open, gazed for an
instant upon a sight which no human creature could even imagine
without panic, fear and physical exhaustion. The things had filed
ceremonially in one direction, the direction of the noisome wind,
where the light of their torches showed their bended heads--or the
bended heads of such as had heads. They were worshipping before a
great black fetor-belching aperture which reached up almost out of
sight, and which I could see was flanked at right angles by two giant
staircases whose ends were far away in shadow. One of these was
indubitably the staircase I had fallen down.

The dimensions of the hole were fully in proportion with those of the
columns--an ordinary house would have been lost in it, and any average
public building could easily have been moved in and out. It was so
vast a surface that only by moving the eye could one trace its
boundaries...so vast, so hideously black, and so aromatically
stinking. Directly in front of this yawning Polyphemus-door the things
were throwing objects--evidently sacrifices or religious offerings, to
judge by their gestures. Khephren was their leader; sneering King
Khephren or the guide Abdul Reis, crowned with a golden pshent and
intoning endless formulae with the hollow voice of the dead. By his
side knelt beautiful Queen Nitocris, whom I saw in profile for a
moment, noting that the right half of her face was eaten away by rats
or other ghouls. And I shut my eyes again when I saw what objects were
being thrown as offerings to the fetid aperture or its possible local
deity.

It occurred to me that, judging from the elaborateness of this
worship, the concealed deity must be one of considerable importance.
Was it Osiris or Isis, Horus or Anubis, or some vast unknown God of
the Dead still more central and supreme? There is a legend that
terrible altars and colossi were reared to an Unknown One before ever
the known gods were worshipped...

And now, as I steeled myself to watch the rapt and sepulchral
adorations of those nameless things, a thought of escape flashed upon
me. The hall was dim, and the columns heavy with shadow. With every
creature of that nightmare throng absorbed in shocking raptures, it
might be barely possible for me to creep past to the far-away end of
one of the staircases and ascend unseen; trusting to Fate and skill to
deliver me from the upper reaches. Where I was, I neither knew nor
seriously reflected upon--and for a moment it struck me as amusing to
plan a serious escape from that which I knew to be a dream. Was I
in some hidden and unsuspected lower realm of Khephren's gateway
temple--that temple which generations have persistently called the
Temple of the Sphinx? I could not conjecture, but I resolved to
ascend to life and consciousness if wit and muscle could carry me.

Wriggling flat on my stomach, I began the anxious journey toward the
foot of the left-hand staircase, which seemed the more accessible of
the two. I cannot describe the incidents and sensations of that crawl,
but they may be guessed when one reflects on what I had to watch
steadily in that malign, wind-blown torchlight in order to avoid
detection. The bottom of the staircase was, as I have said, far away
in shadow, as it had to be to rise without a bend to the dizzy
parapeted landing above the titanic aperture. This placed the last
stages of my crawl at some distance from the noisome herd, though the
spectacle chilled me even when quite remote at my right.

At length I succeeded in reaching the steps and began to climb;
keeping close to the wall, on which I observed decorations of the most
hideous sort, and relying for safety on the absorbed, ecstatic
interest with which the monstrosities watched the foul-breezed
aperture and the impious objects of nourishment they had flung on the
pavement before it. Though the staircase was huge and steep, fashioned
of vast porphyry blocks as if for the feet of a giant, the ascent
seemed virtually interminable. Dread of discovery and the pain which
renewed exercise had brought to my wounds combined to make that upward
crawl a thing of agonizing memory. I had intended, on reaching the
landing, to climb immediately onward along whatever upper staircase
might mount from there; stopping for no last look at the carrion
abominations that pawed and genuflected some seventy or eighty feet
below--yet a sudden repetition of that thunderous corpse-gurgle and
death-rattle chorus, coming as I had nearly gained the top of the
flight and showing by its ceremonial rhythm that it was not an alarm
of my discovery, caused me to pause and peer cautiously over the
parapet.

The monstrosities were hailing something which had poked itself out of
the nauseous aperture to seize the hellish fare proffered it. It was
something quite ponderous, even as seen from my height; something
yellowish and hairy, and endowed with a sort of nervous motion. It was
as large, perhaps, as a good-sized hippopotamus, but very curiously
shaped. It seemed to have no neck, but five separate shaggy heads
springing in a row from a roughly cylindrical trunk; the first very
small, the second good-sized, the third and fourth equal and largest
of all, and the fifth rather small, though not so small as the first.

Out of these heads darted curious rigid tentacles which seized
ravenously on the excessively great quantities of unmentionable food
placed before the aperture. Once in a while the thing would leap up,
and occasionally it would retreat into its den in a very odd manner.
Its locomotion was so inexplicable that I stared in fascination,
wishing it would emerge farther from the cavernous lair beneath me.

Then it did emerge...it did emerge, and at the sight I turned and fled
into the darkness up the higher staircase that rose behind me; fled
unknowingly up incredible steps and ladders and inclined planes to
which no human sight or logic guided me, and which I must ever
relegate to the world of dreams for want of any confirmation. It must
have been a dream, or the dawn would never have found me breathing on
the sands of Gizeh before the sardonic dawn-flushed face of the Great
Sphinx.

The Great Sphinx! God!--that idle question I asked myself on that sun-
blest morning before...what huge and loathsome abnormality was the
Sphinx originally carven to represent?

Accursed is the sight, be it in dream or not, that revealed to me the
supreme horror--the unknown God of the Dead, which licks its colossal
chops in the unsuspected abyss, fed hideous morsels by soulless
absurdities that should not exist. The five-headed monster that
emerged...that five-headed monster as large as a hippopotamus...the
five headed monster--and that of which it is the merest forepaw...

But I survived, and I know it was only a dream.
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January 5, 2009 - Posted by | Australian Cattle Dogs

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