“Bothon” by Henry S. Whitehead with H.P. Lovecraft, part 3

Is “Recovered Ancient Memories” in the DSM-5?
⁓The Voice before the Void


Henry S. Whitehead with H.P. Lovecraft

part 3

Not only not within the memory of living men, but, as the records indicated, during its entire history over thousands of years as the metropolis of the civilized world, had there been any previous hostile manifestations against the great city of Alu. That anything like this terrible campaign which the renowned General Bothon of Ludekta set in motion against her might come to pass, had never even remotely occurred to anyone in Alu. So promptly did Bothon launch his attack that the tortured bodies of the members of his delegation to the Emperor had not yet ceased writhing on their row of crosses before he had penetrated, at the head of his trained legionaries, to a point within two squares of the Imperial Palace which stood at the center of the great city.

There had been virtually no resistance. This intensive campaign would have been triumphantly concluded within twenty minutes, the Emperor probably captured along with all his Palace guards and household, the person of the Lady Ledda secured by this ardent lover of hers, and the entire objective of the expedition accomplished, save for what in modern legal phraseology would have been described as An Act of God.

The premonitory earth-shakings which had accompanied this armed invasion culminated, at that point in the advance of Bothon’s army, in a terrific seismic cataclysm. The stone-paved streets opened in great gaping fissures. Massive buildings crashed tumultuously all about and upon the triumphantly advancing Ludektans. The General, Bothon, at the head of his troops, dazed and deafened and hurled violently upon the ground, retained consciousness long enough to see three quarters of his devoted following engulfed, smashed, torn to fragments, crushed into unrecognizable heaps of bloody pulp; and this holocaust swiftly and mercifully obliterated from before his failing vision by the drifting dust from millions of tons of crumbled masonry.

He awakened in the innermost keep of the dungeon in Alu’s citadel.

Coming quietly into Meredith’s bedroom about ten o’clock in the morning, Dr. Cowlington, who had made up his mind overnight on a certain matter, quietly led his initial conversation with his observation-patient around to the subject which had been most prominent in his mind since their conference of yesterday over the strange linguistic terms which Meredith had noted down.

“It has occurred to me that I might very well tell you about something quite out of the ordinary which came under my notice seven or eight years ago. It happened while I was chief intern in the Connecticut State Hospital for the Insane. I served there for two years under Dr. Floyd Haviland before I went into private practice. We had a few private patients in the hospital, and one of these, who was in my particular charge, was a gentleman of middle-age who had come to us because of Haviland’s enormous reputation, without commitment. This gentleman, whom I will call ‘Smith,’ was neither legally nor actually ‘insane.’ His difficulty, which had interfered very seriously with the course of his life and affairs, would ordinarily be classified as ‘delusions.’ He was with us for nearly two months. As a voluntary patient of the institution, and being a man of means, he had private rooms. He was in every way normal except for his intensive mental preoccupation with what I have called his delusions. In daily contact with him during this period I became convinced that Mr. Smith was not suffering from anything like a delusive affection of the mind.

“I diagnosed his difficulty—and Dr. Haviland agreed with me—that this patient, Smith, was suffering mentally from the effects of an ancestral memory.

“Such a case is so rare as to be virtually unique. The average psychiatrist would go through a life-time working at his specialty without encountering anything of the sort. There are, however, recorded cases. We were able to send our patient home in a mental condition of almost complete normality. As sometimes occurs in mental cases, his virtual cure was accomplished by making our diagnosis very clear to him—impressing upon his mind through reiterated and very positive statements that he was in no sense of the word demented, and that his condition, while unusual, was not outside the range and limitations of complete normality.”

“It must have been a very interesting case,” said Meredith. His reply was dictated by nothing deeper than a desire to be courteous. For his mind was full of the affairs of the General, Bothon, raging now in his prison-chamber; his mind harried, anxious over the fate of his surviving soldiers; that lurid glare, dimmed by the remoteness of his flame-tinted prison-chamber, in his eyes; his mind tortured and his keen sense of hearing stultified by the sustained, dreadful roaring of that implacable sea. He, Meredith, for reasons far too deep for his own analysis, felt utterly incapable of telling Dr. Cowlington what was transpiring in those dreams of his. All his inmost basic instincts were warning him, though subconsciously, that what he might tell now, if he would, could not possibly be believed! Dr. Cowlington, looking at his patient, saw a face drawn and lined as though from some devastating mental stress; a deeply introspective expression in the eyes, which, professionally speaking, he did not like. The doctor considered a moment before resuming, erect in his chair, his knees crossed, his finger-tips joined in a somewhat judicial attitude.

“Frankly, Meredith, I emphasized the fact that the man I have called Smith was in no sense insane because I feel that I must go farther and tell you that the nature of his apparent ‘delusions’ was, in one striking particular, related to your own case. I did not wish to give you the slightest alarm over the perfect soundness of your own mentality! To put the matter plainly, Mr. Smith remembered, although rather vaguely and dimly, certain phases of those ancestral memories I mentioned, and was able to reproduce a number of the terms of some unknown and apparently prehistoric language. Meredith —” the doctor turned and looked intensely into the eyes of his now interested patient, “—there were three or four of Smith’s words identical with yours!”

“Good God!” Meredith exclaimed, “What were the words, Doctor? Did you make notes of them?”

“Yes, I have them here,” answered the psychiatrist.

Meredith was out of his chair and leaning eagerly over the doctor’s shoulder long before Cowlington had his papers arranged. He gazed with a consuming intensity at the words and phrases carefully typed on several sheets of foolscap; listened, with an almost tremulous attention, while Dr. Cowlington carefully reproduced the sounds of these uncouth terms. Then, taking the sheets and resuming his chair, he read through all that had been written down, pronouncing the words, though very quietly, under his breath, his lips barely moving.

He was pale, and shaking from head to foot when he rose at last and handed back, hands trembling, the thin fascicle of papers to its owner. Dr. Cowlington looked at him anxiously, his professional mind alert, his fears somewhat aroused over the wisdom of this experiment of his in bringing his former case thus abruptly to his patient’s attention. Dr. Cowlington felt, if he had cared to put his impression into words, somewhat baffled. He could not, despite his long and careful training in dealing with mental, nervous, and “borderland” cases, quite put his acute professional finger upon just which one of the known simple and complex emotions was, for this moment, dominating this very interesting patient of his.

Dr. Cowlington would have been even more completely puzzled if he had known.

For Meredith, reading through the strange babblings of the patient, Smith, had recognized all the words and terms, and had lit upon the phrase:

“Our beloved Bothon has disappeared.”

Dr. Cowlington, sensing accurately that it might be unwise to prolong this particular interview, concluded wisely that Meredith would most readily regain his normal poise and equanimity if left alone to cope with whatever, for the time-being, held possession of his mind, rose quietly and walked over to the bedroom door.

He paused there, however, for an instant, before leaving the room, and looked back at the man. Meredith had not, apparently, so much as noted the doctor’s movements towards departure. His mind, very obviously, was turned inward. He was, it appeared, entirely oblivious to his surroundings.

And Dr. Cowlington, whose professional outward deportment, acquired through years of contact with abnormal people, had not wholly obliterated a kindly disposition, noted with a certain emotion of his own that there were unchecked tears plainly visible in his patient’s inward-gazing eyes.

Summoned back to Meredith’s room an hour later by one of his house nurses, Dr. Cowlington found his patient restored to his accustomer urbane normality.

“I asked you to come up for a moment, Doctor,” began Meredith, “because I wanted to inquire if there is anything that you would care to give a patient to induce sleep.” Then, with a deprecating smile: “The only such things I know about are morphine and laudanum! I don’t know very much about medicine and naturally you wouldn’t want to give me one of those any more than I would want to take it.”

Dr. Cowlington resumed his judicial manner. He thought rapidly about this unexpected request. He took into consideration how his story about the patient, Smith, had appeared to upset Meredith. He deliberately refrained from inquiring why Meredith wanted a sleeping potion. Then he nodded his head.

“I use a very simple preparation,” he said. “It is non-habit-forming; based on a rather dangerous drug, chloral; but, as I use it for my patients, compounded with an aromatic syrup and diluted with half a tumbler of water, it works very well. I will send some up to you but remember, please, four teaspoonfuls of the syrup is the outside dose. Two will probably be enough. Never more than four at any time, and not more than one dose in twenty-four hours.”

Dr. Cowlington rose, came over to Meredith, and looked at the place where he had struck the side of his head against the marble wall of his shower-bath. The bruise was still there. The doctor passed his fingers lightly over the contusion.

“It’s beginning to go down,” he remarked. Then he smiled pleasantly, again nodded his head at Meredith, and started to leave. Meredith stopped him as he was about to go out of the room.

“I wanted to ask you,” said Meredith, “I wanted to ask you, Doctor, if you would be willing to put me in touch with the man to whom you referred as ‘Smith’?”

The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith died two years ago.”


Continued in part 4.