The Eve of All Saints’ Day
By John C. Wright
Naturally, I selected Halloween as the time for an experiment of such daring. Legend said that the boundaries between this world and other worlds beyond achieved their finest frailty on such a day, and it was my thought that separating the barriers between cosmos and consciousness, and flaying away the neurological matrix that hinders perception, required exactly such a season.
The place in which I found myself, my grandfather’s long-deserted mansion, baroque and Victorian with its folly tower and rose window and ornamental eaves, on the bald hill overlooking the town certainly was as atmospheric as the stage setting for some haunted house story, but in this case my motives were more pragmatic: I wanted a location far from the noise and traffic of the town. The old growth forest besieging the town covered many a hill too steep for logging, but not one tree was to be found on the barren hill here, bald as a witch without her wig. This I preferred, for the rustling of the leaves would be too severe should my experiment prove successful. There had never been modern plumbing nor electrical wires run to grandfather’s mansion, so even minor interference from electrical motions or traces of odor would be below the detectable threshold.
I sent Froward downstairs, to man the door in case any children would brave the lone and lonely trail that winds up the hill to the house. I gave him instructions to be as silent as possible, and to drive away anyone who insisted on seeing me.
The huge, round window, inscribed at the edges with such peculiar theosophic symbols, which loomed like the eye of a Cyclops in the folly tower, opened into a bare white upper room where Froward, my manservant, had placed a single couch. The rest of the house was boarded up, unswept, unfilled. The walls were as blank as the inner lid of a sensory deprivation chamber. Here in the circle of moonlight cast by the rose window was a small table holding my drugs and potions and phylacteries and neuroelectrical equipment, resonator and recording cylinders, amplifiers, and so on. I did not need to light the lamp when mixing the first dose—I am sure I made no mistake.
The moon shone bright and clear, and the stars were like eyes of diamond.
I took the first injection, and followed this with a drink of the forbidden mixture. The injection would suppress the inhibition centers in the medulla oblongata, allowing a full potential of neuroelectric current to flow freely in my system. The draft was meant to hinder the jerking or random motion of the limbs the investigator Annesley reports in his findings, caused by the abnormal sensitivity.
The theory, first explicated by a Boston savant named Tillinghast, but having roots in the teachings of Tibetan loremasters and Egyptian mystagogues, is that our perceptions have far more range and fineness than we consciously can know. In the same way that it is said that subconsciously we never forget the slightest detail of any perception, even prenatal influences, the theory held that we are presently aware of far more than reaches our awareness.
A region in the thalamus and hypothalamus screens out ninety percent of the signals reaching us from the outer cosmos, allowing our cortex only to see and hear those perceptions useful, as blind evolution measures use, to the survival of the species. Darwinism cares nothing for truth value, only for use value. I often wonder why our eyes allow us to see the stars, since I can imagine no chain of circumstances where seeing these tiny lights would mark the difference between life and death.
The breathing exercises help to calm the initial nightmarish sensations as I grew aware of the speed of the globe of the earth turning beneath me, its dizzying dance around the sun, and I fought back the vertigo caused by seeing the true distance to the stars, the vastness of the black abyss between.
I will not bother repeating here what previous investigators, such as Annesley, Delapore, Crawford and Tillinghast obtained. Their results have been suppressed, but a curious investigator can still uncover them.
It came as no surprise that physical barriers, or the surfaces of objects, no longer hindered my senses. The number of energies that pass through allegedly solid matter shows that solidity is just as much an illusion as the separation of time and space: merely a blindness created by the crudity of our organs, or a mechanism to preserve mental balance. The late Dr. Chong’s experiment, despite its horrid conclusion and the scandal surrounding it, shows how subtle energies that bypass the consciousness react subliminally within the nervous system.
What came as a surprise was the speed with which additional modes of perception entered my awareness, almost as if I were recalling rather than learning a new method of seeing and hearing.
I began to hear the scurrying of the rats in the walls, and with my ear could trace their labyrinth of tunnels down past the foundation of the house, past topsoil and bedrock, past the curious discontinuity Delapore described, and into the ulterior dimensions. Through the window, I saw at once the ruins on the Lunar surface, the pillars made of unearthly green metal, the thin, tall shapes of doors leading into windowless towers. They were so well hidden among the craters, and so far from the Apollo landing sites, small wonder they had been overlooked. I could smell the richness of the soil beneath the roots of trees once held sacred by the Mound Building civilization of the smaller, darker-skinned peoples that roamed these hills before the ancestors of the Iroquois obliterated them, and saw them buried, head-downward, in three groups of three.
As you might expect, the first voices I heard, considering the day and hour, were the voices of children. The drug made it impossible to ignore some voices and to concentrate on others–that was the exact brain function the injection had paralyzed–but I could use artificial means to block out unwanted signals: the brass knob of the neuroelectric interference resonator was beneath my fingers. I turned to the middle of the spectrum, well within the normal human range.
“What masks shall you wear tonight, children?”
“Oh, mother, I want to be a ghoul for tonight!” and “I am a ghost! I’ll scare Mister Brown!”
This and other lively chatter I heard.
Next, I heard the voice of some pundit being interviewed on the radio, a professor of at the local university slightly known to me by reputation. Oddly enough, I could hear both his voice from several points around the town, and where he spoke in the microphone at the radio station at Grover’s Mill. I could also hear the wheezing in his lungs where cigarette ash had wrought ruin. He was speaking of the pagan roots of the Halloween holiday, and he spoke much of Samhain and Celtic lore, and belittled those who adopted such customs into a Christian holiday. The whole matter was unscientific rubbish, or so his tone of voice, the drawling sneers, implied.
“Things are what they seem to be,” he said positively. “Teaching children that masks and deception are fun – well, it may lead to problematical developmental difficulties later in life. Children are programmed by their experiences, you know, like robots. Empiricism is about realism.”
Of course, he could not hear, as I heard, the cheers and carrying-on of children of all ages, or the whispers of a toddler dressed as a bunny, but petrified by stagefright, being urged by mother to say the magic phrase of trick or treat.
At the same time, on another station, I heard a preacher with a thick Southern drawl urging parents not to let their little ones participate in the mischief of the night. “Why teach the young ‘uns to look like evil critters, I ask ye that, brethren? Why give evil honor?” There was no corresponding living voice. This had been tape recorded, perhaps decades ago.
I increased the gain on my equipment, and began slowly inching my way down the dial. Soon my senses were filled with the sounds and smells of opium dens, flophouses, jails, gutters, and I heard such crimes planned, such screams, such gasps of whispered hate as will not soon leave me; or the murmur of suicides composing their farewell notes; and curses, and harsh, thudding, dark music.
Down I went again, and soon only the snarls of beasts was in my ears, but not of friendly or domesticated animals. This part of the spectrum was only occupied by those moments of terror and rage and desperation which come when an animals fights for its life, and rips with its jaws and takes the life of another.
Further down the dial was the zone of silence Tillinghast describes. My equipment was finer than his. he was working in his day with crude vacuum tubes it is a wonder he received any signals at all.
At the very bottom, I heard a voice speaking in a language never spoken on Earth. With my neural matrix paralyzed, the methods we use to block the understanding of the meanings of foreign tongues were not available to me. The pain of those words was more than I can say: I bit down on the capsule I had been carrying under my tongue just for such an eventuality, and a spreading numbness shielded me from the worst of it.
“What masks shall you wear tonight, O ye thrones, virtues, powers and potentates of this my realm?”
“I shall appear as a learned man, O Dark Prince, and lead those ensnared in intellectual pride astray.”
“I shall appear as a man of the cloth, solemn and wise, and lead those who trust in him down your dark paths by easy and unnoticed turnings, and make the love of money or the concern for the conditions of the world appear more holy than holiness itself.”
“And I shall appear as an angel of light, so that even the Elect, if it may be, might be deceived.”
Up the dial I went. Soon I was hearing only the voices, or catching odd visionary glimpses, of men of unparalleled genius, or soldiers or firemen in the midst of some act of superhuman bravery, or hearing nuns at prayer. Gentler music I heard, the whisper of silvery strings.
Above this were elfin sounds, and I heard crystalline voices amid the waves, or the sound of dance on grassy lawns beneath the moon, the carouse of kings and queens not of mortal kindred.
Hours passed, and I listened with delight, amazed at what hidden things exist right before our eyes, unseen, unseeable. I offer no explanation: but the thought burning in my then was one of giddy joy. I was thinking of Doyle’s theory of an offshoot race of man that had discovered the art of perceptual interference at about the same time we Homo Sapiens had mastered the art of making fire. We produced tools and smelted gold and put the animal world beneath our feet. They opened doorways we cannot see, and gathered kingdoms to themselves, and ruled the worlds of dreaming as we rule the day.
I was at the edge of the range of my equipment, and, perhaps due to some quirk in the upper ionosphere I heard quite clearly the music sung by orbital resonances, and the electromagnetic choirs of the stars as they perturb the galactic magnetosphere in their huge and ancient orbits.
Another voice spoke. “My Son, in whom I am well pleased, what mask shall you wear this night?”
A voice so stern and yet so lovely I would give anything to hear it again answered him: “I will walk among my brothers, as fully human as are they, in the shape of the hungry, the ill-used, the orphaned, the worthless, the weak, the prisoner in the jail.”
A third voice, neither male nor female, but singing as if a metal string made of gold was plucked to give it voice, or a thread of white hot fire answered: “I will make note of who opened their hand to you, and who turns their face away.”
The rheostat blew out of my main amplifier then, and I jumped from the couch to my feet, tearing the headset from my head, blinking in confusion, trying to bring my senses back to the room.
For I had heard the voice of my servant Froward at the front door, angrily turning a beggar away, telling him the treats were only for children, not for the hungry.
I ran down stairs, stumbling, hoping I would be in time.
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