1926 The Call of Cthulhu

(Cthulhu, presumably)
Written 1926.08-09, published in Weird Tales 1928.02 (initially rejected, then accepted).

Opening Statement:
     The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. 
What in Brown Jenkin's Name..?

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

< In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming >

1. The Horror In Clay 
     The narrator’s great-uncle, a professor, dies from apparent heart failure, after which he finds a mysterious bas-relief and papers in his great-uncle’s belongings. The bas-relief portrays a tentacled, dragon-like monster in front of large temple ruins. The papers are collected under the heading “CTHULHU NOTES”. One manuscript describes a visitor named Wilcox, who had originally brought the mysterious bas-relief to the professor. Wilcox states that he had made the carving himself, inspired by a dream (occurring soon after a recent earthquake). Wilcox describes nightly sounds and visions of hieroglyphics and wet, monolithic horrors, as well as a voice calling “Cthulhu fhtagn”, and invoking “R'lyeh”.
      Wilcox eventually goes into a weeks-long delirium, babbling about a miles-high, "lumbering" creature. Suddenly, the delirium passes, as well as the dreams. The narrator also discovers from his great-uncle’s notes that, during the same period of Wilcox’s mania and subsequent delirious episode, similar dreams and visions occurred to people worldwide.

2. The Tale of Inspector Legrasse 
     The narrator learns that seventeen years prior to meeting Wilcox, the professor had encountered similar imagery at an archaeological conference. New Orleans' Inspector Legrasse had presented a small statuette which his men had seized during a voodoo ritual raid. The statuette had similar features to the bas-relief later made by Wilcox (octopus head with feelers, clawed fore-limbs, bloated, with narrow wings). One professor at the conference notes that he had seen a similar figure on a hideous Eskimo cult’s bas-relief. The chants of these Eskimos and of the New Orleans voodoo cult both translate to "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." ("Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.").
     Inspector Legrasse tells his more recent story of a police raid on a voodoo swamp, a region associated with legends of a glowing white entity living in the lake. They discover a human sacrifice rite centered around the statuette. One officer reports hearing sounds of beating wings from a short distance away. After the cultists are arrested, they speak of the Great Old Ones who came to Earth before Man. The Old Ones had sunken underground or into the sea, but their dead/dreaming bodies continued to infect the dreams of men on the surface. The cult is waiting for Cthulhu to rise from the underwater city of R'lyeh and take control of the world (“when the stars are ready”). The cultists claim that the killings had all been carried out by the Black Winged Ones from deep in the wood.
     One old cultist had met with followers in China, and had learned that ruins left over from ancient races could still be found on the Pacific Islands, and that the Old Ones could be resurrected if the stars came back into a certain alignment. In fact, the Great Old Ones could even travel through interstellar space under certain stellar alignments. The Great Old Ones were now in a state of hibernation in R'lyeh, put there by Cthulhu’s spell. They were telepathic and influenced early man through mind control. For them to be awakened required an outside liberator as well, since Cthulhu's spell kept them dormant. When the stars were "right", the cultists would revive Cthulhu so that he could rouse the other Great Old Ones, causing worldwide moral delinquency among humanity. Men had spoken with the Great Old Ones in the ancient past (telepathically or through dreams), but when R'lyeh sank beneath the waves, the communications stopped. The old cultist mentions that Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon had hinted at the Great Old Ones’ return.
     The narrator later visits Wilcox in Providence, who further describes the "wrong geometry" of the slimy green stone vault of R'lyeh. The narrator suspects that his great-uncle was murdered for his investigations.
3. The Madness From the Sea 
     The narrator by chance comes across an Australian news article describing a sea accident where a strange yacht returns with one survivor (holding a carved figure similar to Legrasse’s Cthulhu idol). The survivor, Johansen, relates a tale where his Norwegian ship passes through tremors and a great storm at sea. Afterwards, off course, they encounter a strange yacht which tries to turn away Johansen’s ship.  Johansen’s crew are forced to kill all of the hostile cultists and take their yacht. The Cthulhu idol is found in a shrine on the yacht. Johansen's crew soon reaches an uncharted island, where most of his men are killed in a dubious “rock accident”.
     From these facts the narrator then formulates a chronology:
    •  Earthquake/storm causes R'lyeh to rise.
    •  Cultists’ yacht heads out to sea and dreams begin haunting mainlanders (Wilcox begins sculpting his bas-relief of Cthulhu).
    •  Johansen’s men die on a mysterious island.
    •  Wilcox goes into a delirium.
    •  A second storm.
    •  Wilcox recovers.
     The narrator goes overseas to inspect Johansen’s idol (seemingly made of some extraterrestrial substance) and to interview Johansen himself, but finds the sailor recently killed in a mysterious accident. After reading Johansen’s personal notes, the narrator learns that, after Johansen had commandeered the cultists’ yacht, they encountered a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and then later the coastline of risen R'lyeh (actually R'lyeh’s mountain top peak, where Cthulhu’s crypt resides, the narrator assumes).
     Landing on R'lyeh, Johansen’s men find a gigantic carved monolith amongst hideous statues, as well as impossible geometric architecture (a concavity would also look like convexity). Climbing onto the foot of the giant monolith, they unwittingly unlock a slanted gate which pivots open on a horizontal axis (the narrator reasons that with R'lyeh thrust to the surface by the quake, Cthulhu and the other Old Ones had begun transmitting dream messages to the cultists in order to open this vault door). Eventually Cthulhu emerges, inadvertently freed through the curiosity of Johansen’s own men. Cthulhu’s giant claws kill some of the crew and only Johansen and one other reach their ship. Cthulhu pursues the yacht at sea, but Johansen rams the gigantic Old One and escapes before it fully recovers. Later, a second storm (probably another quake, resubmerging R'lyeh) induces strange “spectral whirling” dreams, after which Johansen is rescued. The narrator notes that a subsequent return trip finds nothing and that it appears that R'lyeh has sunken again, with Cthulhu trapped in his vault - for now. 
Essential Saltes:
     The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and careful study, was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher’s elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally life-like...
Lovecraft's Cthulhu sketch.
* * * * * 
     ...These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape - for did not this star-fashioned image prove it? - but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R'lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious surrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for Them. But at that time some force from outside must serve to liberate Their bodies. The spells that preserved them intact likewise prevented Them from making an initial move, and They could only lie awake in the dark and think whilst uncounted millions of years rolled by. They knew all that was occurring in the universe, for Their mode of speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in Their tombs. When, after infinities of chaos, the first men came, the Great Old Ones spoke to the sensitive among them by molding their dreams; for only thus could Their language reach the fleshly minds of mammals... 
* * * * *
     ...The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.             Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned. God rest them, if there be any rest in the universe...Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn't have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse...
* * * * *
     ...But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting the engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where - God in heaven! - the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam. 
From Dr. Armitage's Notes:
  • 1st Cthulhu, R'lyeh, the Great Old Ones/Elder Things, "non-Euclidean" geometry.
  • "Black Winged Ones": Night gaunts?
  • Reworks concepts explored in "Dagon".
  • Cites artists Sidney H. Sime, Anthony Angarola, Gustave DorĂ© ("Ardois-Bonnot" is fictional).
  • Quotes Necronomican couplet from “The Nameless City”.
  • A newspaper clipping titled "Mystery Derelict Found at Sea" brings to mind similar clippings quoted in Bram Stoker's "Dracula". 

The Horrible Conclusion:
     Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come - but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye. 
Read it here.

Follow'd by "Pickman's Model"