Monday, September 9, 2013

The Transition of Terror: A Lovecraftian Personal Essay

Almost a year has passed, and yet still I see it, still I visit it in restless sleep.  No treatment devised by even the cleverest of doctors has yielded relief; laudanum gives no respite, and even the strongest opiates offer but trivial resistance to the horrors of my mind.  Madness, some may call it, and I agree more with every passing nightfall.  Perhaps the tale I shall tell truly is little more than ramblings born of lunacy, but if there be even a modicum of truth in it, then it must be made known.

I was younger then, a student in university.  It is ironic, given my present condition, that in my studies I delved into the hidden complexities of the human mind, learning to plumb the depths of the psyche as an Esquimeaux searches a cavity of snow for forage.  Nevertheless, I was a sociable young man, spending my days with other gentlemen bachelors of the university until meeting the young woman who I would wed.

One day, as I searched the coatroom in our bachelor quarters, I found an object that, I confess, I did not pay heed to in the moment, though the memory of it, clarified by the lens of further experience, causes my breath to catch with fear.  I pulled from the shelving a small blue object, soft and cloth-like, which I examined in my hands with curiosity.  It was, in appearance, a hat, though unlike any I had seen previous to this occasion.  It was tight fitting, like the skull caps of the Jews, but affixed to the top was a strange and unnatural square, such that the wearer would appear crowned with a small and unearthly plane.  I forced the object from my grip and threw it back onto the shelving, and I fainted--the first I have so done in my life.

Time passed, and singular though the memory was it was soon lost in the brambles of an academic mind.  My studies into the dark recesses of human thought and action engulfed my time, and my effort was spent in attending lectures and drafting papers addressing the secret intricacies of man--both sane and lunatic.  Months fled by as days, and years as months.  I knew that my time at the university was far spent, and so I paid a visit to my counselor to discuss my departure from the institution.  He was a young man, and nervous; as I strained at his babbling, I caught crumbs of cogent speech--"GEs and electives," he said repeatedly, and "Credit hours;" but what caught my attention most was a jumble of incoherent syllables he would speak as freely as he would English--syllables that seemed no more than gibberish when first heard.  I have since endeavored often to represent them in the Latin script, but have had no better success than as follows:

Ph'thah ngui Gr'had-Joo'ashun! R'lyeh a ngui Cthulhu hg!

In time I fled from his office, leaving him to his ravings.  What did his craven words mean?  Was there some semblance of cogency hidden behind the masque of utter lunacy?  And what twisted meaning lurked behind the fearful syllables--Gr'had-Joo'ashun!

Desperate to drive this bizarre encounter out of my thoughts, I immersed myself in psychological lore, but the more I read of insanity the more I was reminded of his depraved mutterings.  I began visiting the library oft, reading occult histories and weird grimoires of ancient ritual.  In time, I gathered the courage to read the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, and there found further mention of Gr'had-Joo'ashun, though maddeningly without explication.

My years of scholarship drew to a close shortly thereafter.  As I prepared for the finish of my last few courses, I was told in hushed whispers of a convocation to be held in the following spring, near the pagan festival of May-Eve.  This convocation, it was explained, was held for those who finished their studies.  Rumors were circulated of a great transition, an acceptance into the ranks of an eldritch society.  My intrigue was piqued, I'll admit, but what drove my curiosity into obsession was when I learned the name of the convocation: Gr'had-Jooashun!

Tremulous months passed; hoary frost turned to muddy spring, and sunlight dared return to the ice-scarred earth.  Filled with fear as I was, I could not help but find myself one in the crowd of students who, like me, had seen their years in academia draw to a close.

We aligned ourselves outside the Cyclopean hulk of a massive hall, arraying ourselves in robes and in hats like that I had discovered in my coatroom so long before.  Slavishly we ordered ourselves into ranks, our limbs obeying some psychic force not our own.  Wild eyes and fearful glances played across every face--but no one spoke.  Indeed, I fear it was the silence that affected me most profoundly; I felt as though fear had paralyzed my tongue, and it was apparent that such feelings were shared throughout the rank of students I had joined.  I tried to turn my head, but found that I could no longer affect even the slightest gesture by my own volition.

With the precision of field-drilled soldiers, our ranks began to march.  The great undulating lines of students bent and curved in angles indescribable by an Euclid; we made an oblique turn that behaved as a right angle, and I witnessed the rank to our right make such ineffable movements as to cause me to shut my eyes lest the absurd and unnatural madness of their geometry overtake me.  After making what I can only describe as a pyramidal turn, we came upon a dark opening in the looming hall.  The ranks of mind-tortured students writhed into it like the retracting tongue of a rabid dog.

I traversed through the black tunnel, leaving behind the light of the entrance and unable to see anything around me.  After countless minutes of psychically-enforced marching, a dim light broke ahead, and we entered a room of horrific giganticism; banks upon banks of descending seats surrounded a wooden center, where stood a dais mounted by hooded figures.  Rank by rank, row by row, we were led by our maddening mental leashes to endless lines of seats, where we were unceremoniously left to sprawl uncomfortably.  There we remained while the terrible chamber slowly filled.

One of the figures upon the dais, clothed in a robe of indescribable color not seen before or since by my or any other student's eyes, stood at the altar and spoke.  I shall not write what manic phrases he spewed, nor the eldritch curses he blasphemed upon us; only that he spoke at length of the unholy Order into which we were now so forcibly entered.  As if cued by some malevolent witch-chorister, we as one cried aloud as we ripped the bizarre hats from our heads and hurled them skyward:

Ia! Ia! Gr'had-Jooashun!

I awoke in a grassy field not far from campus with no memory of what had occurred from one moment to the next.  Shaking fearsomely, I shambled towards my home, my head splitting and my mind frightfully dull.  My limbs seemed utterly devoid of strength, and my heart strained within me.  Had it all been some terrible hallucination?  In subsequent nights, I saw in dreams the horrid banks of chairs, the offal-stained dais, and the horrible unearthly color of the witch-priest's robes, and I knew that such visions--mad though they were--were etched painfully into my brain by a very real experience.  I had witnessed the horrifying geometry of the procession; I had walked through that Cyclopean room; I had heard the depraved speaker's intonations.  Worst of it all, however, was the knowledge that, if all that be true, then it cannot be otherwise but that I am truly in that deplorable Order; for you see, the speaker on the dais transitioned us all--into Adulthood.