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The Outer Spheres

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One year ago, I shed tears as I watched the head of my macabre mentor, Windel Seward, drop hundreds of feet over the edge of a cliff and into the violently churning sea, where immediately a pillar of lightning lashed down from the sky and undoubtedly struck the place where his head had come to rest there. It was the mark of damnation, and I knew that only his life-long unholy research could be to blame. This was a fate that Windel had wrought upon himself with his tampering with strange chemicals and the outer sphere, that place where the unknown ruled with terrible talons and repulsive cries. And I, Dalton Crim, had been his accomplice through most of his endeavors.

There I stood under the cover of a toppled monolith of the very being with whom Windel found it prudent to tamper: On-Bannoth, the many-armed storm being whose single furious eye sees nothing but its own contempt, and those fools who seek to see him, if in fact he can be referred to as a male. Pelting rain tore away layers of the sandy ground even then, but I could not tear my eyes from the gruesome scene as Windel struggled against an invisible monstrosity, until finally he had risen into the air, limbs flailing, and his head tore away spontaneously and was hurled over the cliff's edge. What happened after that is unspeakable, but it easily accounts for the disappearance of the remainder of his corpse.

I fled, my mind surely wracked mad by what I had just witnessed. Every step I took was a struggle, for the path down the cliff was very steep; not only that, but the pouring rain made mud out of the topsoil, and a single misstep could mean stumbling and then rolling violently to the cliff's base — an unsurvivable mistake, to be true. Also with every step came a growing feeling of pursuit, of a malicious being staring down upon me and cursing my name and existence. From behind me came awful noises of earth ripping and tearing away, and rocky debris flying past me confirmed that certain destruction was coming my way, while I still had not even come close to the cliff's base. At the peak of the chaos, a huge shadow fell over me, and my heart stopped momentarily. I quit my escape at once, frozen in horror as I saw the monolith race only a number of feet over my head and crash into the cliffside below my position, initiating an apocalyptic landslide in which I was caught.

Choked and blinded by mud, I finally accepted that I was not to escape from On-Bannoth and his fury — after a seeming eon of being dragged and crushed, I finally lost consciousness. I was surprised, though, when hours later I woke lying atop the very mud that had almost killed me. Night had fallen, and the rainstorm had ceased; my body was freezing, coated with soaking wet mud. From my vantage point I could scarcely see the cliff's peak, surrounded again by the secretive mist that had been present when first Windel and I had arrived to speak with On-Bannoth and his ghoulish disciples. Every now and then there came a rumbling sound and, indeed, a physical rumble from the top of the cliff, which I knew was representative of the broken boundary between our dimension and whichever outer sphere from whence On-Bannoth had come.

With fatigue crippling my body, I still managed to weakly shamble some quarter mile to Windel's dull black Ford Packard and remain conscious long enough to make the eighteen mile drive back to Ambrosia, the nearest town in Sixth County, where I passed out again immediately upon arrival. I am told that I was taken by a local to a hospital for treatment, where I made a swimming recovery, and later woke perfectly healthy and ready to be released. I thought that that was the end of my years of dread, and that I had finally left behind me the forlorn endeavors of my mentor. That was not the case.

That incident was one year ago on the tenth of July. As fate (or perhaps something less benign) would have it, it was a year later that I made the mistake of uncovering Windel's old notes — the ones which he had refused to show to me while he still lived. Why he was so secretive about these particular ones, I could not tell. They ran along the same lines as those notes and dusty tomes which regarded On-Bannoth, so there to me was no conceivable reason that he would hide them so. I discovered them whilst revisiting the wretched old garret of his vacant Midville, Sixth County home upon the remembrance of something that I was certain I had left behind, although I was not sure precisely what. Searching through drawer after drawer, and cabinet and crate, I finally stumbled upon old accursed books of knowledge that should be condemned forever. Words on the covers like On the Subject of the Outer Spheres, The Apostles of Great Lord Y'kum and the Like, and A Handbook of Wretched Wisdom sent shivers through my body as I realized that these were the ungodly books that Windel had tried so effectively to hide from my being.

But why? I could not resist turning the pages. I relearned the things that he had already taught to me, but all the same I gained new knowledge regarding worse beings than On-Bannoth, such as the incorrigibly decayed lord of the Eighth Earth, Malukkos; the serpentine sisters of the deep underground, surging through Earth's mantle and driving tectonic movements in inevitably disastrous directions, the Bh'nalus; and the extradimensional things of all the outer spheres, of which there are billions upon billions, each one more horrible than the last.

The knowledge that I gleaned from those dusty tomes left me feeling strangely — it was a feeling that I had not felt for many years, and it was surprisingly pungent. My mind was undeniably open to the ideas that contemporary man had abandoned in favor of self-evolution millennia ago, but more shocking was the recognition of the feeling. The last I had felt this sort of consciousness was when I had first met Windel Seward at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts fifteen years prior, when he had first explained to me his bizarre ideals of the worlds beyond ours. It was eagerness, preparedness to face the abysses of the unknown horrors, and to conquer them or to show them to the world and plunge mankind into a beauteous age of universal understanding.

I left Windel's home that day carrying with me each of the archaic books I found. The back of the old Packard was filled to the brim with these books, which I drove posthaste to the place where Windel had conducted his most careful research — with the like of his own mentor, an old Arabic man by the name of Bassam Binyamin, a well-aged man whose years outnumbered mine and Windel's combined. I remembered with precise clarity the place where Bassam made his dwelling, in a ramshackle cabin off the main roadway connecting Sixth County with Huntston, which itself led to Red Hills. Parking the Packard at the treeline, out of sight, I left the car and carried with me as many of Windel's tomes as I possibly could, weaving my way carefully through the shifty forestland and actively ignoring the creeping sense of otherworldly observation from all around.

It came into view very sharply, standing out terribly from the dull forestland. The ramshackle cabin of Bassam Binyamin, with an eerie golden glow of kerosine lamp within, stood up stoutly and crookedly from the marshy land, with a hole-riddled roof accumulating various mosses and exterior walls grimy with decades of negligence. I knocked upon the door, having set down my books, and almost immediately my knocking was answered by the very same Bassam Binyamin I had known years ago, looking perfectly unchanged even after what must have been a century of secluded living. He smiled a toothless grin, with blackened gums drooping down slightly and a filthy gray tongue flicking around inside of his hollow maw. He welcomed me cordially in his strange accent, running his hand through his stringy, patchy beard.

He bade me enter, and obediently I did, carrying half of the book stack while Bassam carried the rest with unnatural strength for someone his age. I sat upon the flattened cushion of a creaky old sofa which at one time was likely worth a huge sum of money, taking in with nostalgia the entire room. The high shelves to my left, stocked with heavy books and glass beakers and alembics and burette stands and fat glass bottles filled with strangely colored chemicals whose true colors still cannot be described to this day. Bassam sat beside one of the room's many kerosine lanterns, with ominous golden light cast upon his wrinkled old face. Our discussion there cannot be disclosed to any mortal ears, for to share such information would be to strike interminable lunacy into every mind.

The next night, I found myself in the cellar of Bassam's cabin, which had been heavily renovated into a massive alchemical laboratory for nefarious purposes. Strange cadavers hung from one wall, each of them displaying their own singularly disturbing malformation, and others still containing a beating heart, while at least one whimpered solemnly from whatever was left of its rotted vocal chords. Wide tables were placed strategically around the room, each one with its own organized contents — some held on their surface still more ancient books, but others were adorned by organs fresh enough to function again, or by alembics, beakers, ring stands, burners, and other alchemical devices. Myself and Bassam, we stood at the edge of one table covered in ancient parchments decorated with strange ink-drawings of abominable creatures not too unlike On-Bannoth and his devilish disciples, but others beared more similarity to things that I had not yet seen, or things which seemed inexplicably reminiscent of past knowledge, but which I had obviously forgotten.

We chanted under the light of the open fire burning at the table's center, the room growing colder and darker with each passing second; the flames clawed higher and higher all the while, licking the ceiling at their highest point. The room rumbled while my heart pounded with an insane excitedness, and Bassam's shrill screams only invigorated me further. Soon, the table itself (which was bound to the floor) shook, and the parchments began to leap from the table and moved of their own volition into the roaring fire. At this point, Bassam hurried to his table of chemicals and mixed a strange concoction into a drinking glass, which he then passed into my hand and commanded me to drink. In my cosmically excited state, I could not deny it! I gulped down every drop of the horribly alien fluid, and then in my sight there appeared ghastly things all around.

At every corner of the room, on the walls, on the ceiling, and in the flames, there stood horrible creatures indubitably from a realm other than our own. They laughed and shrieked while a profound fright settled finally into my heart, but still the very same macabre desire for knowledge blossomed in me, and I joined them in their unspeakably awful chants. The last thing I remember before darkness swallowed me was Bassam Binyamin's wretched mouth wide open in an awful smirk, laughing and shrieking incantations in a language that could not have been Arabic in any form. Finally, when the dark came, everything was mute and senseless. This weird state of existence, which I theorize to be the world betwixt ours and the outer spheres, was a place of thought and nothing more; for there was nothing to see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. It was only interminable blackness.

What came after that was the revelation of a perverse universe of cosmic abominations defying every conventional law of existence that man knows. Death and rebirth are the law here, while planets of convulsing organic flesh and moons of screaming faces orbit black suns that shine light of unspeakable colors. Nameless devils duel in the airless abysses between planets, and malevolent sentient cloudlike beings weave paths of destruction through this dreadful plane, while still worse things lurk in hopelessly backward and decadent civilizations upon the surface of every single planet in this outer sphere. This was the place that I came to, and where I continue to reside to this day — but worst of all in this nightmare-existence was the face plastered to the flesh of On-Bannoth, whom I spied creeping from a distance; it was the face of Windel Seward, as well as the screaming faces of thousands upon thousands of other human men, while stranger formations unrecognizable as faces were doubtless the visages of alien creatures who had disturbed On-Bannoth or the other Outer Ones who crawl between outer spheres.

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