1933 The Thing on the Doorstep

"The pit of the shoggoths! Down the six thousand steps...the abomination of abominations."
Weird Tales 1937.01, Virgil Finlay.
Written 1933.08, published in Weird Tales 1937.01.

Opening Statement:
     It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to show by this statement that I am not his murderer. At first I shall be called a madman - madder than the man I shot in his cell at the Arkham Sanitarium. Later some of my readers will weigh each statement, correlate it with the known facts, and ask themselves how I could have believed otherwise than I did after facing the evidence of that horror - that thing on the doorstep. 
What in Brown Jenkin's Name..?
     After Upton's friend Ed Derby marries an Innsmouth girl, he finds that years of marriage can change a man more than is usually expected. Naturally, an in-law is involved, as well as Shub-Niggurath. Derby reaches out to his friend for help.
  1. The narrator, Upton, defends his recent murder of Edward Pickman Derby, a longtime friend. Derby grew up as a young, macabre scholar/poet interested in the occult lore found at Miskatonic University.   
  2. At age 38, Derby falls in love with Asenath Waite, an Innsmouth girl studying at Miskatonic, known to taunt those who feared her otherness, and seemingly able to effect psychic mind-transfers with volunteers. Her father had been Ephraim Waite, a strange Innsmouth wizard. After marriage and a honeymoon in Innsmouth, they make their home in Arkham with servants from Innsmouth.
  3. After several years of marriage, Derby is sometimes seen to be acting with some strange personality quirks, and often visits Innsmouth. Asenath seems to age faster, as Derby sometimes seems strangely “jaunty” and self-confident. Meanwhile, Derby visits Upton with stories of weird rituals and journeys to alternate realities. An accidental glance at Asenath while Derby is out driving seems to reveal Derby’s sad eyes in Asenath’s withered body.
  4. After three years of marriage, Derby is found in a desperate state in Maine, and has Upton go to rescue him. When picked up, he mentions shoggoths, Iä and Shub-Niggurath, and claims that Asenath forced him to appear at an abhorrent underground place, somehow transported from his library at home. Derby claims that Asenath is only able to switch minds with him for a limited time, after which he suddenly finds himself back in his own body, but in the middle of some unfamiliar occult situation. Derby babbles a story of how Asenath’s father Ephraim transferred his mind into Asenath just before he died, and that now Ephraim wants to make a more appropriate transfer into Derby’s (male) body. Suddenly Derby’s speech changes to a more ominous tone and he denies the entirety of his preceding tale. In the following months, Derby remains seclusive, however strange sobbing can be heard from Asenath’s room, sometimes in a “man’s voice”. Eventually, Upton receives a visit from Derby, who claims that he has beaten off Asenath/ Ephraim with some spells that he had been secretly preparing. He claims that Asenath was going to make transfer permanent and then kill her old body, as she had done with her former body as Ephraim Waite. Months later, Derby still seems to get “attacks” by Asenath, and a still-skeptical Upton puts him into Arkham Sanitarium. Eventually Upton receives word that Derby has “recovered”, but when visited, Derby seems to be displaying his “Asenath/Ephraim” personality.
  5. One night, Upton gets a phone call and hears only some kind of feeble bubbling noises on the other end, upon which he hangs up. Later, a covered up, deformed figure visits Upton at his house, using Derby’s distinctive knocking rhythm. The stooped figure hands Upton a note, which explains that months prior, he (Derby) had actually murdered Asenath, rather than scared her off with some secret spells. However, even in “death”, Asenath’s rotted corpse was still able to enact a successful (and now permanent) mind transfer. Derby, in Asenath’s rotting body, had managed to dig itself out of its hidden cellar tomb and make its way to Upton’s house. He tells Upton to kill his original (Derby) body and to burn it. Upton faints, but when he awakens Derby-in-Asenath has “died”. At the sanitarium Upton shoots Derby/Ephraim 6 times, and hopes that the body will be incinerated, but is worried at becoming another mind-transfer victim before it is completed.  
Essential Saltes:
     "Dan, for God's sake! The pit of the Shoggoth! Down the six thousand steps... the abomination of abominations... I never would let her take me, and then I found myself there - Iä! Shub-Niggurath! - The shape rose up from the altar, and there were five hundred that howled - The Hooded Thing bleated 'Kamog! Kamog!' - that was old Ephraim's secret name in the coven - I was there, where she promised she wouldn't take me - A minute before I was locked in the library, and then I was there where she had gone with my body - in the place of utter blasphemy, the unholy pit where the black realm begins and the watcher guards the gate - I saw a shoggoth - it changed shape - I can't stand it - I'll kill her if she ever sends me there again - I'll kill that entity - her, him, it - I'll kill it! I'll kill it with my own hands!"
* * * * *
     "My brain! My brain! God, Dan - it's tugging - from beyond - knocking - clawing - that she-devil - even now - Ephraim - Kamog! Kamog! - The pit of the shoggoths - Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!...The flame - the flame - beyond body, beyond life - in the earth - oh, God!"
* * * * *
     As I stepped unsteadily forward, the figure made a semi-liquid sound like that I had heard over the telephone - "glub... glub..." - and thrust at me a large, closely written paper impaled on the end of a long pencil.
* * * * *
     "I'm too far gone to talk - I couldn't manage to telephone - but I can still write. I'll get fixed up somehow and bring this last word and warning. Kill that fiend if you value the peace and comfort of the world. See that it is cremated. If you don't, it will live on and on, body to body forever, and I can't tell you what it will do. Keep clear of black magic, Dan, it's the devil's business. Goodbye - you've been a great friend. Tell the police whatever they'll believe - and I'm damnably sorry to drag all this on you. I'll be at peace before long - this thing won't hold together much more. Hope you can read this. And kill that thing - kill it."
From Dr. Armitage's Notes:
  • Mentions Justin Geoffrey, from Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone” WT 1931.11.
  • The Book of Eibon from Clark Ashton Smith’s “Ubbo-Sathla” WT 1933.07, writ 1932.02.
  • Psychic possession evolves into mind exchange (in space, but not time).

The Horrible Conclusion:
     What they finally found inside Edward's oddly-assorted clothes was mostly liquescent horror. There were bones, too - and a crushed-in skull. Some dental work positively identified the skull as Asenath's.

Read it here.

Follow'd by "The Book"