One of the great pulp fiction endings; one of the great literary endings.
⁓The Voice before the Void
The Shadow over Innsmouth
edited by The Voice before the Void
It was a gentle daylight rain that awakened me from my stupor on the brush-grown railway bank, and when I staggered out to the roadway, I saw no trace of any prints in the fresh mud. The fishy odor, too, was gone. Innsmouth’s ruined roofs and toppling steeples loomed up toward the southeast, but not a living creature did I spy in all the desolate salt marshes around. My watch was still going, and told me that the hour was past noon.
The actual reality of what I had been through was uncertain in my mind, but I knew that something hideous lay in the background. I must get away from evil-shadowed Innsmouth, and I began to walk along the muddy road to Rowley. Before evening I was in the village, getting a meal and clean clothing. I caught the next train to Arkham. I didn’t bother going to the authorities — who would believe me?
I wish there were nothing more to tell. Perhaps it is madness that is overtaking me, or perhaps something else.
Unsurprisingly, I gave up most of the rest of my tour. I did, however, utilize my short stay in Arkham by collecting some notes about my family history, which had been, after all, one of the original purposes of my trip. From the curator of the historical society in Arkham, I learned that an uncle of mine had been there many years before on a quest just like my own, and that my great-grandmother seemed to have been an orphaned cousin of the Marsh family of Innsmouth. She died early, at the birth of my grandmother — her only child. Having recently formed some disagreeable impressions connected with the name of Marsh, I did not welcome the news that it belonged in my own family tree.
I went from Arkham to Boston, and then directly home to Ohio. In September, I entered Oberlin College for my final year, and from then till the next June, I was busy with studies and other wholesome activities. Around the middle of July — just a year after the Innsmouth terror — I spent a week with my mother’s family in Cleveland, checking my new genealogical notes with the material there.
It was in going over the family letters and pictures that I began to acquire a kind of terror of my own ancestry. You see, my grandmother and one of her sons, my uncle, had always disturbed me as a child — something about their staring expression. When I was eight years old, my uncle shot himself after a trip to New England. My grandmother, in grief, had wandered off and never came back.
I received a shock in Cleveland when another uncle showed me the family’s heirloom jewelry. Some of the items were lovely enough, but there was one box of strange old pieces descended from my mysterious great-grandmother that my uncle was reluctant to produce. They were, he said, of very grotesque design, and vague legends of bad luck clustered around them. I urged him to show me the jewelry. As he began slowly to unwrap the things, he told me not to be shocked by the strangeness of the designs. I thought I was ready for what the jewelry would turn out to be, but when I saw the first piece — a tiara — I fainted silently away, just as I had done on that railroad bank a year before.
From that day on my life has been a nightmare of brooding apprehension, and I do not know how much is hideous truth, and how much is madness.
For more than two years, I fought off the feelings with partial success. My father found me a job in an insurance office, and I buried myself in routine as deeply as possible. In the winter of 1930-31, however, the dreams began. They were very sparse and insidious at first, but increased in frequency and vividness as the weeks went by. Great watery spaces opened out before me, and I seemed to wander through titanic sunken doorways and mazes of weedy walls with fish as my companions. Then the other shapes began to appear, filling me with horror the moment I awoke. But during the dreams they did not horrify me at all — I was one with them; wearing their clothes, treading their watery paths, and praying at their evil sea-bottom temples.
My health and appearance grew steadily worse, till finally I was forced to give up my job and adopt the secluded life of an invalid.
One night, I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the sea. She welcomed me, and told me that she had never died. I, too, would never die, but would live with those who had lived since before man ever walked the earth.
For the Deep Ones could never be destroyed. For now they would rest, but some day, they would rise again for the tribute that the great and terrible god Cthulhu demands.
That morning, the mirror told me I had definitely acquired the Innsmouth look.
So far I have not shot myself as my uncle did. I bought a pistol and almost did it, but certain dreams deterred me. The tense extremes of horror are lessening, and instead of fearing the depths of the sea, I feel strangely drawn toward them. Stupendous and unheard-of splendors await me below, and I shall seek them soon. Ia! R’lyeh Cthulhu fhtagn! Ia! Ia!
I shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. I shall swim out to that reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to that lair of the Deep Ones, where we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.