The Eve of All Saints’ Day

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.

—————————————-

copyright 2011 (All rights reserved)

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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29 Responses to The Eve of All Saints’ Day

  1. LarryD says:

    Thanks – very enjoyable. I’m going to link to this at my blog.

  2. Kathy B. says:

    This was fantastic, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater stories I used stay up past my bedtime to listen to when I was a kid.

  3. Pingback: A Halloween Story | Jonathan Moeller, Pulp Writer

  4. deiseach says:

    Thank you for this fine tale, Mr. Wright. I enjoyed the start, which reminded me in fine fashion of Lovecraft’s “From Beyond”, and I wondered where the narrator’s adventures would take him.

    An excellent and unexpected (by me, anyway) ending.

    • I intended an homage to ‘From Beyond’ but I could not recall the name of the story. Since this is the Internet, I can modify a line or two to make the link more clear. I think Mr HP Lovecraft would have been more horrified beyond even his purple prose to expand his consciousness into the ulterior dimensions and discover, not a chaotic uproar of meaningless horror, but the order and beauty and divinity of God.

  5. lotdw says:

    “From Beyond” is such a great story, and while I enjoy the movie (though it is pretty crass), even better is this animated short film:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZyYvb-GD8

    Thanks for the story, too, Mr. Wright. It seemed like Lovecraft combined with Dickens.

    • deiseach says:

      You’re the first other person I’ve ever encountered who saw that film too (and it’s pretty bad, even for a cheesy cheap quickie version; Jeffrey Combs is, as ever, excellent in the part of Crawford Tillinghast, but really they could have dropped the BDSM imagery which does absolutely nothing to advance the story and is really crass even for a cheesy cheap quickie B-movie).

      At least, I suppose I should say you’re the first other person I’ve ever encountered who’s admitted to seeing that film :-)

      • lotdw says:

        I’m a big horror movie fan, especially body horror & zombie films, so when I ran out of Cronenberg films of course I had to go to the Stuart Gordon & Brian Yuzna stuff. Re-Animator, Dagon… I wouldn’t exactly call them great adaptations of Lovecraft, but they are fun.

        • deiseach says:

          “Re-Animator” was great fun. I went to see it with my sister (who is not that great a horror fan nor has much heard of Lovecraft) expecting something rather more gory but not expecting the humour, and we walked home afterwards laughing and cracking silly jokes like “When Dr. Hill was reduced to being a head, he should have wooed Megan by singing “If I can’t have you, I don’t want no body, baby” and the likes.

          Lovecraft has not been well-served by movie adaptations; I can’t think of many I saw that were much good (although there is a 1970s film of “The Dunwich Horror” that isn’t too bad, starring Dean Stockwell acting his socks off in a psychedelia-influenced script that is rather like the Corman Poe adaptations).

  6. Mrmandias says:

    Your benevolence in feeding us beggars hungry for good fiction shall surely not go unrewarded. ;)

  7. Pingback: The Recording Angel on Halloween | Junior Ganymede

  8. joetexx says:

    Mr Wright,

    I am now curious to read ‘From Beyond’, it must be one of the few HPL I have never read.

    Does your narrator run after his beggar offering him beer and poetry, as CS Lewis did his tramp?

    I want to take this opportunity to reccomend a book to you, since I don’t know when you will again write on the subject of Political Correctness. Dr Bruce Charlton, Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham, UK, has just published Thought Prison, the best analysis of PC I have ever read. It’s available on Kindle for $10.

    He blogs at Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany on scientific, religious and literary topics; he’s a serious
    Tolkien head. (Superversive should read him). I’ve found him very acessible.

    • “Does your narrator run after his beggar offering him beer and poetry, as CS Lewis did his tramp?”

      I should have explained that this manuscript came to me in a tattered condition when I was visiting with Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Norman, Michael Moorcock and CS Lewis at the annual meeting at the SWFA Mansion in New Jersey.

      You see, SF authors frequently get manuscripts from men we once met, or distant relatives, or old war buddies, who are now living on Barsoom, or Counterearth, or Vashu. Mr Lewis had a group of letters from a devil (which he called by the unlikely term Macrobe), but he was reluctant to tell us the method of acquiring such things, although he hinted darkly that they are remarkably easy to acquire. Mr Moorcock told me later in private that Lewis got the manuscript from Charles Williams, whose researches into the otherworldly are well known at Oxford.

      I examined at some length the pages Burroughs showed me, and I must compliment that author for the excellent job he did in livening up what is otherwise a rather dry and didactic account of the people and terrain of Mars, for Captain John Carter is too modest himself to make much ado of his own exploits, even though the scientific community now regards the old tradition that Carter singlehandedly saved the whole globe from asphyxiation when the atmosphere plant failed as being a sober record of the facts, not, as originally thought, the Euhemerism of an old Grain King or Solar Cycle myth. Captain Carter may be a fine and upstanding fighting man from Virginia, but he is a terrible chronicler of events: he was saved from obscurity by the editorial skills of his grand nephew, Mr Burroughs. I am given to understand Captain Carter slew the Kurgan and obtained the Prize of the Gathering — which perhaps explains both Carter’s long life and expertise with the sword.

      Usually, at the annual SWFA meetings, newcomers like me are assigned the smaller manuscripts found in prehistoric time capsules, or afloat in the time-stream locked in iron chests of achronic metal, or discovered in Scottish ruins or the basements of haunted houses or recovered by NASA astronauts from vaults in hallow asteroids, and we polish them up for publication. The Society for the Preservation of the Appearance of Reality has strict rules that such exomundane manuscripts are published as fiction, so as not to create world wide panic.

      To make a long story short, I got one of the shorter manuscripts, little more than a single page diary entry, when the SWFA masters were passing out work this year at the meeting I mentioned above, but I am sure Charles Stross and John Scalzi got some richer material, either a journal from a robotic geisha from the middle-future, or the account of a parallel time traveling Victorian lady escaping a harrowing abduction, or perhaps a clear report from a survivor of the ill-fated faster-than-light neutrino disaster at CERN in Switzerland.

      The manuscript I got cuts off at the point recorded, and other details, even the name of the man attempting to reproduce the forbidden Tillingham experiments, were not given. His eventual fate is unknown to me.

      • deiseach says:

        “You see, SF authors frequently get manuscripts from men we once met, or distant relatives, or old war buddies, who are now living on Barsoom, or Counterearth, or Vashu.”

        You would be amazed how often this happens to ordinary folks who just happen to inherit by marriage or from a distant relative an old, battered tin dispatch box containing dusty papers that turn out to be the unrecorded cases of Sherlock Holmes that Dr. Watson mentioned but did not write up in canon as we have it :-)

        In Holmesian studies, there is great debate about how often Dr. Watson was married, but he must have had as many wives as Henry VIII if all his descendants who publish pastiches are to be believed.

  9. TheConductor says:

    Hey man, this is not what art is supposed to be, like, for. Art is supposed to be used to educate and lift up the People, man, and prepare them for the Revolution. Instead of fantasies for the bourgeois you should be pointing out the injustices perpetrated on the People by The Man, and teaching them how they need to overthrow the existing order in order to create the Perfect Society.

    (All statements in the preceding paragraph are, in fact, incorrect. Excellent story.)

    • Not to worry. The revolution of revelation is coming, Man: the prince of this world and his horrid crew are to be overthrown. The People will be lifted up when the messiah is lifted up on Cavalry.

      (All the lingo of the modern PC crowd is, in fact, just a dull version of ideas taken out of context from the Christian faith, and plagiarized. They want to settle for a cheap knock-off of an Earthly utopia because they have lost faith in a heavenly paradise.)

      (And thanks for the compliment.)

    • deiseach says:

      Conductor, man, you’re right! The only way this story would be even more awesome would be, like, if the guy, y’know, expanded his consciousness all the way out into space and sorta, like, y’know, heard the death screams of a civilisation as their star went nova and it turns out – this is the mind-blowing bit, man! – that this is THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM!!!

      Heavy, man!

      (I do like Arthur C. Clarke’s story “The Star” but am exceedingly cheesed-off by the anvilicious* way in which it is used to make points about faith or religion or atheism.

      *Anvilicious: a term I first encountered in discussions about fanfic where the author – or more usually, the authoress, because they tend to be those kinds of stories – makes a point or preaches a message by dropping hints within the text with all the subtlety and finesse of an Acme Brand anvil falling gently onto Wile E. Coyote’s head after another of his traps to capture the Roadrunner blows up in his face).

  10. SFAN says:

    Now that’s a materialist horror story ie a horror story for materialists XD

    “Science fiction is no more written for scientists that ghost stories are written for ghosts.”
    Brian Aldiss

    In that it reminds me a bit of Wolfe’s The Detective of Dreams. ^^

  11. niallmor says:

    A lovely, haunting story. The English major in me noticed a few minor typographical errors, but I hope you will give this a quick edit and consider submitting it somewhere.

  12. joetexx says:

    Mr Wright:

    Your narrator seems to be listening in on conversations across several levels of metaphysical reality from infernal to heavenly. I’ve been reading on this subject recently and this struck me.
    Is your …’voice…singing as if a metal string made of gold was plucked to give it voice, or a thread of white hot fire’ meant to be the Holy Spirit?

    Submit it. Somewhere. You deserve to be paid for this.

    ***************************************************************

    T H E D I V I N E

    The first level is Godhead, Beyond Being.

    The second level is pure Being (the ‘Deity’), God Himself.

    THE SPIRIT

    The third level is the Intellect, God’s primal act of Self-understanding. In terms of its creative function, the Intellect is the pneuma, the Holy Spirit of God that ‘moved on the face of the waters’.”

    The fourth level is the Archangelic, the realm of the permanent archetypes. This is the level of the eternal metaphysical principles or Platonic Ideas, which, far from being abstractions, are in reality more densely concrete-for all their transparency to the Divine Light-and more highly charged with, creative and truth-revealing energy than anything below them.

    THE PSYCHE

    The fifth level is the Angelic, the manifestation of the Spirit on the psychic plane.

    The sixth level is the Imaginal, the astral plane. This is the world of dreams and mental images, which is not simply happening inside this or that individual consciousness, but is continuous with an objective psychic ‘environment’.

    THE MATERIAL WORLD

    The seventh level is the Etheric. This is the realm of the ‘soul of matter’, the hidden face of nature, the world of the Celtic Fairies, the Muslim Jinn, the world of ‘bioplasma’ of auras, of elemental spirits and subtle energies. It is the World Soul, the essential pattern and subtle substance of the material world.

    The eighth level is the Material, the world reported by our senses.

    The infernal regions might be considered ‘infra-material’ or ‘infra-psychic’ being satanic inversions of the higher levels.

    ***************************************************************

  13. joetexx says:

    Mr Wright;

    Vastly as I enjoy the story I couldn’t help noticing “phylacteries” on my fifth or sixth reading. The sound rings well on the ear, but somehow I can’t see your narrator as an Orthodox Jew who keeps leather boxes containing verses from the Torah amongst his drugs and potions. On the other hand, some of those Kabbalists…

    Perhaps ‘phials’…?

    • The narrator is a cabbalist.

      Unfortunately for the dignity of orthodox jewry, the use of the word in its eldritch and talismanic denotation has (at least for Christian readers) passed into the parlance of the Cthulhu Mythos (of which this tale is at least glancingly a member), due to its use by masters of the mythos. Please note the same use of the phylacteries by Clark Ashton Smith: http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/73/the-flower-women

      Allow me to quote:

      Having changed his robe of magisterial sable and scarlet for a hodden mantle, and having removed from his person every charm and talisman, with the exception of two phylacteries acquired during his novitiate, he went forth into the garden of his mountain-builded palace. He left no instructions with the many retainers who served with him: for these retainers were automatons of iron and brass, who would fulfill their various duties without injunction till he returned.

      Traversing the-curious labyrinth which he alone could solve, he came to the verge of the sheer mesa, where pythonlike lianas drooped into space, and metallic palms deployed their armaments of foliage against the far-flung horizons of the world Xiccarph. Empires and cities, lying supine beneath his magical dominion, were unrolled before him; but, giving them hardly a glance, he walked along the estrade of black marble at the very brink, till he reached a narrow promontory around which there hung at all times a deep and hueless cloud, obscuring the prospect of the lands below and beyond.

      The secret of this cloud, affording access to multiple dimensions and deeply folded realms of space conterminous with far worlds, was known only to Maal Dweb.

      etc.

  14. joetexx says:

    It seemed to be a disease of the Lovecraft circle. HPL had an almost visceral distaste for all the devices of literary modernism, to the point of being incapable of seeing what was good in it. He mined the classic and romantic traditions for the form of his art, to express the most nihilistic content. Contrast such quintessential modernists as Eliot and David Jones who ended up believing Christians.

    ‘In February 1928, soon after T. S. Eliot had converted to Anglo-Catholicism, Virginia Woolf wrote to her sister Vanessa Bell: “Then I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with poor dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic, believes in God and immortality, and goes to church. I was really shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.” ‘

    Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel By Pericles Lewis
    Virginia Woolf and the disenchantment of the world pp. 142-169

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