The Testament of Douglas Wells
A bit of fun(?) Lovecraftiana.
THE TESTAMENT OF DOUGLAS WELLS
Part One: The Impossible Stars
My name is Douglas Wells. I am a professor of archaeology at Stowman University, a smaller sized private school located amidst the quiet, rolling hills and fields of southern Iowa in the sleepy town of Mount Tabor. Having taught at Stowman for several years now I thought that I was familiar with most if not all the aspects of university life here. How wrong I was! Naive and unsuspecting I went about my daily routine and suspected nothing of the dark secrets underpinning the school and its faculty.
I am a man, mortal, so very mortal as I now understand, like all others of my race, and that fragile human mortality has been brought home to me very recently, most appallingly, with the bloody deaths of two of my closest friends and colleagues in a manner which I can hardly credit much less describe. I will, however, attempt to do so in hopes that others may, in time, find answers which I can not and devise some protection for humanity from the incomprehensible horror which claimed the lives of my friends.
My friend, Wilbert Novak, was a researcher in astronomy at Stowman. A pleasant, jovial fellow, always peculiarly indifferent to matters sartorial, and who often, over a pint or two of his favorite pilsner at our usual watering hole, Cheater’s Pub, regaled us with his outre theories and speculations regarding the nature of the universe. We never took his stories as anything more than the result of an overactive imagination and too many long nights staring at the infinitude of stars above us. But we were wrong and terribly naive.
One grey autumn morning, at a time when he would normally have been sleeping after a long night of watching and measuring the movements of the universe he burst into my office quite agitated, breathless and more disheveled than usual, he bore with him an armload of star charts and a folder full of photographs which he dropped without ceremony onto my desk.
“My god, Novak, you look like you’ve been on an all night bender!” I exclaimed. I arose from my desk and moved towards the electric coffee-maker which had just finished brewing. “Let me pour you a cup of coffee, old fellow.” Pointing to a chair I motioned him to sit down. I offered to fortify it with a dram of whiskey that I keep in my desk for celebratory occasions. He accepted and collapsed onto a chair.
“Very, grateful,” he said hoarsely. Then, “I need your help, Wells. I think I’m going mad!”
Shocked at this exclamation I moved to my friend and placed a hand on his shoulder in an uncertain attempt to comfort him, “ You’ve just been working too hard. I know that you are under some pressure to finish that book you’ve been writing. Perhaps a couple of days off would help. I’m sure old Clamhoffer would cover your duties for a while.”
“No, it’s not that,” he stammered, “not that at all. God help us, my friend, it’s true! It’s all true! Last night I saw them…all three of them: impossible, but there they were! Wells,” he sobbed, “Wells, I have seen stars where no stars should be!
“You’re making no sense, Novak. What do you mean, stars where they shouldn’t be? And why has it upset you so?”
He took a deep, shuddering breath and tried to gather his wits. “Our earthly science has mapped the positions and the movements of billions and billions of visible stars in the heavens. We can calculate where they are and where they will be with great certitude,” he explained. “This also means that we know where they aren’t as well.” He seemed to calm a bit as he fell into his lecture mode.
“There is a sector of space in which no stars can be seen. Not a large sector, of course; you might find it merely a tiny gap in the night sky with unaided vision but distinct if you know where to look. Known as the Kaskov Vacuity, since nothing seems to be there it has held little interest to astronomers. Some speculate that it might be the location of a dark star due to certain gravitational anomalies in the surrounding space but nothing has been proven so far.” He paused to take a long drink of his coffee.
“I see, old man, but is this what has you so shaken? A gap in the stars? Surely it’s not a mere astronomical oddity that has upset you so?”
He arose from the chair in which he was seated, searching through the papers which he had brought with him, scattering them on my desk until he found the one he wanted. It was a photo-copy of a star map. He had drawn with black marker a circle around the region to which he had referred.
“There. There it is,” pointing to a dark, vacant area on the map. He fell silent as he hovered over the map, arms supporting his slumping torso, both hands flat on the desk. He wavered slightly until I thought he might collapse.
“Steady there, Novak,” I said as I moved to help him back to the chair, “It’s time for you to explain what this is all about. I find your behavior exceedingly worrisome, old friend.”
“But don’t you see, Wells,” he pleaded. “I am attempting to do so. You see that there is nothing there,” and he gestured toward the map, “and there should be nothing there but now there is!” He arose and moved unsteadily toward the scattered papers and withdrew another photo-copied star map. “Look!.”
Again, I followed his quivering, pointing finger. He had indicated the same region of space with a drawn circle yet this time there appeared to be a bright star of significant magnitude in the erstwhile empty gap. “I see it, Novak, but what is the significance? Possibly a solar flare of some kind or perhaps a new star has formed? But I am no astronomer, you know.”
He stared at me and again seemed on the verge of collapse. His voice fell to a whisper as he said, “No, it’s not a star. It is in fact three stars forming a closely grouped triad as foretold in the book In Libro maledictus stellae, The Book of Cursed Stars by Naomus of Pylus. It foretells the coming of an inhuman, monstrous entity which normally dwells beyond space and time as we humans conceive it; enormously powerful and malicious in a way that is beyond our notions of evil.”
I was taken aback, shocked, at this wild, ridiculous assertion. What could I say to such a statement. What could any man of science say? Looking at my poor befuddled friend I could think of nothing to say. He was obviously very ill; his mind in the grip of some dark delusion causing him great distress.
“What are you talking about, Novak? “Monstrous, interdimensional entity” you say? Surely you cannot credit such a thing, my old friend?”
“No, no!” he vehemently insisted. “They are there, I tell you! And it, HE, is coming!” He halfway stood and then sank into the chair covering his face with his hands in despair.
At that he arose, snatched up his books and papers and hurried from the room. “I’ll call you later, Wells. I. . .I have to go. He must be stopped. . .something must be done. No, don’t try to stop me!” He shrugged off the hand I had placed on his shoulder. I had attempted to restrain him fearing that he would do himself an injury in his despondent state.
Immediately after he exited my office I placed a quick call to a mutual friend, Bill Hammond, the chair of the Psychology department and a medical doctor in his own right. Somewhat hurriedly I described my encounter with Novak.
“What do you think, Bill? Clearly the man needs some sort of help before he injures himself! Is there anything we can do?”
“Yes we can!”, he replied, “We’ll meet at his digs. If he’s not there we’ll go look for him. Meanwhile I’ll round up a few more bodies to help us. Once we find him we’ll see about all this nonsense. Please hurry.”
An hour or so later we had him in hand and had settled him in his rooms. It had taken Bill, myself and two of Bill’s graduate students to get him home. He had been wandering, aimlessly we thought, about the streets and had landed in front of the Atherton Library on campus where he was pounding furiously on the door, loudly demanding admittance. He was highly agitated and in a state of confusion. Bill thought that Novak might be experiencing a fugue state and suggested a hospital might be the best place for him. I demurred and urged that we return him to his rooms and take turns watching over him that night. If he was no better in the morning we could take him to hospital. Bill reluctantly acquiesced and administered a mild sedative which calmed our friend considerably although he remained restless in his sleep.
Part Two: The Oculus
His living quarters occupied the top floor of a queer, old Victorian mansion that had long ago been sub-divided into several small apartments. While he slept, I had the opportunity to look through some of the papers scattered haphazardly about the apartment. I found nothing which might concern a strange appearance of stars other than the volume to which he had earlier referred, but I noticed that my friend had collected a number of books of a fantastic and controversial nature. I had no idea of what this collection portended but certainly they had served to over-excite poor Novak’s mind. In addition to the book he had been reading from when we found him, In Libro Maledictus Stellae, here were copies of El Reino de los Arruinados authored by one Lazaro de Navarre; the Book of the Fallen by Martin Angelus; Secrets of Witchery by the mad Romanian woman Maria Korski-Romanov, The Book of Fixed Stars by Azophi Arabus and other books in Latin, Greek, German and even more whose titles were in languages or scripts indecipherable to me. From my own work I thought I could identify the origins of most ancient writing but these were such as I’d never seen before.
We sat with him through the rest of the night taking turns dozing and watching. I suppose that neither of us really got much sleep that night. In that I was very wrong. At some point, seated in Novak’s favorite, overstuffed chair, the desire for sleep overpowered me.
I awoke, groggy and with a slight headache. Both Hammond and Novak were gone; nowhere within the room. As I struggled back to consciousness my ears, indeed the very atmosphere of the room, seemed to pulse with a rhythm, a strange music whose origin I could not understand nor pinpoint. As my thoughts began to clear I realized that the murmur was coming from somewhere above me. The attic?
Pushing myself upward with some difficulty out of the deep chair, I stood and looked about the room. It was then that I saw the smear of blood on the wooden floor trailing into the hall. My God! Had I slept through murder? Whose murder? Plainly someone bleeding profusely had been dragged along the floor. Hammond or Novak I could not guess. And by who?
Lurching unsteadily into the hall, leaning against the wall for support, I was able to locate the entrance to the attic by following the trail of blood. It led to a door beyond which was a dark, steep, narrow stairway. Through the half open door at the top of the stairway I could see a sickly, greenish light pulsating in rhythm with the alien music. Almost on my hands and knees I crept cautiously upward, tread by creaking tread.
The alien music grew more distinct and it was accompanied by a voice chanting in strange, slurred syllables. Novak! It was his voice I heard though twisted and almost inhuman. I approached the door gingerly and as quietly as the groaning, old stairs would allow. Opening it slightly I peered within at the astonishing sight of Novak on his knees before a round portal of sorts which, I judged, would be where the round window was, high up on the front elevation of the ancient house. This oculus was much larger than the window on the house though. Before him on the floor was the body of Bill Hammond with a large curved dagger buried in his chest! Wil was holding a book and seemed to be chanting in a weird, distorted voice some part of its contents. He began to gesture wildly with his chanting; in his waving right hand was clutched a weapon similar to that which protruded from Bill Hammond’s corpse.
As he chanted and gestured the green light of the portal dimmed. Novak swayed, breathing heavily or sobbing; I could not tell. The portal continued to dim but at the same time a density, which is the only way I can describe the atmosphere, filled the room. It seemed to have a current which was directed at the glowing oculus. It was as if the room was under water and it quickly became difficult to breathe.
I could no longer hear Novak’s voice and he continued to struggle to remain upright. Then, Sweet Jesus! I watched in horror as he suddenly plunged the other dagger into his own chest! He turned to me grimacing, his eyes a bright, blazing green like that which had been pouring through the oculus, and shouted the words, “Sic fiat! It is sealed for all time!” Clutching the dagger he drove it hilt deep in his breast and pitched forward on to the lifeless corpse of Hammond. I believe that I screamed then and fell to my knees. Both of my friends lay unmoving in a heap before the portal the viridescent light of which had brightened momentarily and had ceased its throbbing rhythm when the chanting ceased. The thick atmosphere became almost normal and the erstwhile air current dissipated.
But that was not to be the end of horrors. Something flew at the oculus ; something vast and dark which blotted out the hellish light and all the stars and filled the oculus with a deep shadow. Shaking, paralyzed I remained frozen in place. I could not move; my will was not my own. With great strength it battered the window but failed to break through although the whole house seemed to shiver with its efforts. Then the battering ceased and to my horror the shadows shifted and a large eye, the iris black as the darkest night and glittering with stars; the pupil the same nauseating green as the pulsing formerly pulsating light opened before me filling the oculus! It looked straight at me and I could sense its anger and frustration at being unable to come through. I felt the touch of an alien, evil intelligence forcing itself upon me trying to drag my very soul from my body!
I must have fainted for a moment and when I came to I was being dragged out of the room and to the stairs. I began to kick and scream, “Don’t struggle! We’re here to save you!’’ I was astonished to see that it was Josh Hawley, one of my former students who had me in his grip.
“Can you stand, Professor? We must get out of here!” I indicated that I could stand although he had to aid me in descending the staircase. From the hall we could hear from above the sound of several voices chanting in Latin and flashes of a bluish light. I could only catch the occasional word or two but it seemed to be some sort of exorcism.
We made our way to the ground floor and out of the house. There was a crowd gathering across the street including the other tenants of the old house. The loud shriek of sirens and flashing lights told of the approach and arrival of the authorities. I looked up at the round window and saw blue flames flickering within the attic. The house was on fire and it appeared to be spreading abnormally quickly. A moment later three other people came tumbling out of the smoky doorway and into the yard coughing and hacking. The two men bore a large trunk between them. The woman, a bag clutched in her arms. To my utter astonishment they were familiar faces! Lionel Costa-Dermot, the director of the Allerton and two of his assistant librarians!
By this time the fire department and the police had arrived. The fire chief was directing his men’s efforts against the blazing house. Old Jeff Richards, Mount Tabor’s long time Chief of Police, was helping control the large crowd which had gathered despite the lateness, or rather, the earlyness now, of the hour. Mr. Costa-Dermot and the other two people who had been in the house were sitting in the back of an ambulance sharing an oxygen mask. Director Costa-Dermot spoke briefly with Chief Richards who then ordered his men to place the trunk and bag that had been carried out into the back seat of his police cruiser. I was taken away from the scene in an ambulance. Such was my trauma that I spent the next two days in hospital because I could not stop shaking. And so came about my initiation into the true business, the secret purpose, of Stowman.
Epilogue: The Disappearance of Wells
While some of the names in this account have been changed to protect their reputation Douglas Wells is indeed a professor of history at Stowman University. Rather he was. He accompanied the Theron expedition to southern Turkey last year. There were whispers in archaeological circles that Dr. Theron and his colleagues inadvertently found and uncovered an unusual tomb in excavations near the Göbekli Tepe ruins. No mention of this is made by Theron or any other member of the expedition in their dispatches or official papers. For some reason the tomb was hastily resealed and covered over. That same week Dr. Wells retired to his tent one evening and had disappeared by the next morning. No trace of him has yet been found since that night. Some of the local diggers reported a greenish glow within the tent that night but no credence was given to their reports for they are ever a fearful and superstitious lot.
Very much enjoyed this read. It does have that Lovecraft feel along with an old fashioned scholar point of view. Great it’s set in Iowa.
Thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m still not quite satisfied with it so consider it a work in progress. Cheers!
A very enjoyable read. You’ve sown the seeds for an intriguing story and am looking forward to the next post.
I was reminded a little of Arthur Conan Doyle in the telling.
Arthur Conan Doyle! Thank you! But I don’t think I’ll ever be the writer he was. I had intended it to emulate the pulps of old but in a modern setting. A few tweaks coming that I hope will inspire another chapter in the Stowman story.