The Ball Goblins of Wah-Vomit
The doctor has given me another injection. If he is correct, I have only a few days of life remaining to me. In that time I shall endeavor to relate the singular and frightful happenings that ended our research among the ruins of Wah-Vomit. If my story will only serve to prevent future tragedies, the telling will not have been in vain.
There were five of us, professional archaeologists all, who were to set forth on a great expedition to the lost city of Wah-Vomit, to research the lives of the ancient Ileenians, or Tiltlegs as they were informally known. We had all been invited by none other than the renowned Lord Bahlsacc of the Royal Society. We had gathered from all parts of Europe and were now ensconced in Sankrakk, a small coastal city in Egypt. We were only waiting for Lord Bahlsacc himself to arrive but his steamer was delayed. For the better part of a week we idled in the heat of that miserable desert city.
The others in our party were Richard Snifter, an American, discoverer of the lost Mexican temple of Ban-dejo. There was professor Reginald Aynuss, also of the Royal Society, who had worked with Lord Bahlsacc in some of his previous researches. And Colonel Percy Blownuts, lately from the Crimea. I was more of a newcomer to the group, having spent only a few months in the desert. The greater part of my own studies had been confined to the Jungles of East London.
Lord Bahlsacc had engaged, by wire, a local liaison, one Iben Strokanov to act as our representative. He spoke the local language and was known by all in the city. He was to be an equipment manager of sorts and prepare our supplies for the trek. Years ago Iben had been forced to flee his Russian homeland after the Bolsheviks came to power. He had fled south into Egypt and had lived in Sankrakk ever since.
Our trek through the desert was to be an arduous one and we wanted local guides if we were ever to reach Wah-Vomit. However, in spite of Iben's lavish offers of payment it had been difficult for him to secure any. Additionally, he had some trouble as there weren't any of the four-humped camels Lord Bahlsacc had requested. Iben had tried his best but all of the camel dealers were out of them. There were simply none to be had.
I spent the morning reading in my hotel room. The heat eventually drove me out in search of refreshment and I met Colonel Blownuts and Dick Snifter in the hotel bar downstairs.
"Afternoon Colonel, Dick," I nodded, sitting down at the bar next to them. "Heard any news?"
Colonel Blownuts drank off his tumbler of ooze-o and made a satisfied 'ah' sound.
"Afternoon Rimtung," said Dick Snifter. I could see that they both had started on a bender.
"Yes," said Colonel Blownuts, "there's news, and it's not good. Lord Bahlsacc cabled Professor Aynuss earlier today and said it would be another three days before he arrived."
I asked the barman for a glass of water. "Three more days stuck here? Drat." Now I understood why they had started drinking so early in the day.
"Indeed," continued Colonel Blownuts. "Musilroni closed all the foreign borders to Italy and Lord Bahlsacc's steamer has to go around. He hopes to arrive by the weekend if the weather holds."
"Musilroni must be mad," said Dick Snifter. "If he keeps this up it could mean war."
"No doubt," said the Colonel, "but his trains will run on time." He sighed. "In the meanwhile we'll just have to entertain ourselves with whatever amusements this crusty little shite-hole has to offer."
"Say, Rimtung, have you tried the House of Seven Veils?" asked Dick Snifter. "It's truly remarkable."
I replied that my stamina and funds were at low water at the present time.
"Well, said Dick Snifter with a grin. "You could always visit Achmed's Goat Barn, that's cheap."
Colonel Blownuts laughed into his tumbler of ooze-o. "But I'd suggest that you buy some flea powder afterwards." This broke them both up.
I simply made a face of disgust.
Doctor's note: The patient, Stanley Rimtung, had to be injected with a sedative at this point in his narrative as he was overcome by one of his delirious fits. He was more lucid the next day and his story continued...
Lord Bahlsacc finally arrived that Friday, to our collective relief, and after a preliminary check of our equipment we set off the next morning. We were quite surprised when we came upon the ruins after only seven hours of plodding across the flat, orange-yellow desolation to the southwest of Sankrakk.
"Say," exclaimed Dick Snifter, "we're here already? I thought the locals said it was three days across."
"They don't measure time the same way as we do," said Colonel Blownuts. "Something about the distance between two points. A chap at the bar tried to explain it to me and I just came away with a headache."
Professor Aynuss snorted. "That's just some native bumf they tell in order to cadge drinks off you. What really takes them so long is because their one leg is longer than the other and the blighters walk in circles."
Dick Snifter looked over at Aynuss. "Get out of here. Really?"
"It's true. Have a close look at their shoes when we get back, you can see that one is always built up more. Professor Gimpington did a paper on them a few years ago."
"I've never read any Gimpington," said Dick Snifter.
"Well, you should," said Lord Bahlsacc, "I studied under him. Haven't you noticed how oddly circular Sankrakk is laid out? It's all modernized now but you can still see the traces of it. Before the natives invented corrective shoes they would walk in ever larger circles until they finally got to their destination. That's why it takes them so long to get anywhere. The city was originally built in a series of large circles."
Dick Snifter was still not convinced. "Go on, pull the other one."
"It's true," said Lord Bahlsacc. "It's part of my theory that the modern Sankrakkers are the descendants of the ancient Ileenians."
Aynuss sniffed. "Not that any of 'em would be proud of it. Besides, they think it's odd that we walk in a straight line to our destination. It's all point-of-view."
In the orange setting of the sun we topped a rise and beheld our destination for the first time. For a minute we thought that the three-angled towers and broken-down monoliths were those of some other city. But the disposition of the ruins, which lay in ever larger arcs for almost the entire valley, soon convinced us that we had reached our goal.
I have seen the hoary walls of Ben-Wah atop the desolate Andes mountains, the frozen, battlements of Duk-bark on the glacial tundras of the Mongolian steppes, But those wonders were puny compared to the ancient walls upon which we gazed. No other city had ever been laid out in a manner that we beheld before us.
I think we all received the same impression as we stood staring in silence while the ochre sunset fell on the dark and megalithic ruins. I remember gasping a little, in the chill evening air and I heard the same sharp, intake of breath from the others in our party.
"The place is deader than King Tut's left butt-hole," observed Dick Snifter.
"Certainly it is far more ancient," Lord Bahlsacc agreed. "The Ileenians built Wah-Vomit some twenty thousand years ago, according to the legends and stone tablets I've studied. They ruled over the whole lower valley for millennia.
"They were rich, weren't they," said Colonel Blownuts. "There's probably dead loads of gold hidden in those ruins."
"Nobody knows for sure. But they were the ruling society for a long time," agreed Bahlsacc. "Eventually they were wiped out by some foreign devils."
"Not exactly," said Aynuss. "The hieroglyphs don't quite mean 'foreign devils'. It's close, but not exactly. The native word is 'hum-pér-dink', but that translates literally to 'ball-goblin', which makes no sense."
"Yes, we've heard the legends," agreed Colonel Blownuts. "Perhaps we'll find some evidence in the ruins. It's also possible the Ileenians might have been wiped out by some terrible epidemic."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Well, such as the greater gonad pestilence," said Lord Bahlsacc. "That was around the same time and it was pretty bad, according to the records."
"Gonad pestilence?" asked Colonel Blownuts. "I've never heard of it, what's that?"
"It was a kind of green mould," said Lord Bahlsacc, "that ate away at certain, ah, extremities of the males. But we needn't be afraid of getting it, if there are any mummies in Wah-Vomit--the bacteria will all be as dead as their victims, after so many years."
The sun was going down now and the chill was coming on. We hastened to make camp in the lee of an ancient wall of stone so that we might be sheltered a little from the Hor-breth, the desert wind that constantly blows from the east all day long. We donned our fur night-coats and caps and lighted a couple of alcohol lamps and huddled around them while the evening meal was prepared by Iben Strokanov. Around us we felt the chill of the desert night as the wind finally settled. The sky above us was like a huge transparent dome, shot with a million bleak stars.
After dinner we retired early to our sleeping-bags as there was bugger-all to do until morning. Iben Strokanov and the two guides wrapped themselves in the thick folds of burley-cloth which are all the protection the locals appear to require.
Even in my thick, double-lined bag, I still felt the chill of the desert night air; and I am sure it was this, rather than anything else, which rendered my slumber restless and broken. At any rate, I was not troubled by even the least presentiment of alarm or danger; and I should have laughed at the idea that anything of peril could lurk in Wah-Vomit. Dick Snifter was right, the place was deader than King tut's left arse.
I drowsed again and again, with starts of semi-wakefulness. At last, in one of these, I knew vaguely that the moon had risen and was making far-flung shadows with the domeless towers; shadows that almost touched the glimmering, shrouded forms of my companions.
The whole scene was quiet stillness and none of the sleepers stirred. Then, as my lids were about to close, I received an impression of movement in the gloom. It seemed to me that a portion of the tower's shadow had detached itself and was crawling toward Professor Aynuss, who lay nearer to the ruins than the rest of us.
I sensed something unnatural, perhaps ominous, and I sat up. Even as I moved, the shadowy object, whatever it was, drew back and became merged once more in the greater shadow. I was startled into full wakefulness and my hand automatically touched my service revolver. Yet I could not be sure that I had actually seen anything. In that brief glimpse, it had seemed like a roughly circular ball of shadow, slowly creeping along the sand in an odd manner.
I did not go to sleep again for nearly an hour; and if it had not been for the extreme cold, I should doubtless have gotten out of my bag to investigate. But more and more I began to convince myself that the thing was too fantastical to have been anything but the figment of a dream. And at last I nodded off again into light slumber.
In the morning the moaning of the hor-breth across the jagged walls awoke me, and I saw the very faint glow the betokened the dawn. We all arose soon after and prepared our breakfast with fingers that went numb in spite of the spirit-lamps.
My queer experience during the night had taken on a dream-like unreality and I put it out of my mind. We were all eager to begin our explorations. Oddly the two local guides refused to accompany us. They proclaimed,(through Iben Strokanov, for none of us spoke their tongue) that nothing would induce them to enter Wah-Vomit. We were unable to determine whether they were afraid of the ruins or for some other reason, their faces betrayed nothing. Iben translated to us that no man had set foot among the ruins for ages and the guides weren't about to start. Apparently there was some local taboo in connection with the place. Iben said that He would remain behind with the locals and look after our campsite.
"A taboo, good show," said Colonel Blownuts. "A taboo would have kept any thieves from taking away any gold."
"Possibly," mused Lord Bahlsacc, "but we aren't here for gold. At least, not as a main reason."
"Of course, of course," returned Blownuts, "research comes first. But still, if we find any gold we're taking it out."
Dick Snifter looked doubtfully up the ruins. "If we find any."
After breakfast we made ready and looked to our equipment. We took our electric torches and some digging implements. Colonel Blownuts had his Boer rifle slung across his back and Lord Bahlsacc carried one of the newest American repeating rifles. There others had automatics in side holsters and of course I had my trusty service revolver and a sheath knife on my belt.
Colonel Blownuts was visibly excited as we began our inspection, and maintained a running fire of exclamatory comment. The rest of us were subdued and silent: it was impossible to shake off the somber awe that fell upon us from those megalithic stones.
We went on for some distance among the pitted, terraced buildings, following the curving streets that the ancients must have walked on centuries ago. Most of the towers were dilapidated and everywhere we saw the deep erosion wrought by blowing wind and sand. We entered some of the towers, but found nothing within. Whatever they had contained must long ago have crumbled into dust; and the dust had been blown away by the constant desert wind.
At length we came to the wall of a vast terrace, hewn from the plateau itself. On this terrace, the central buildings were grouped like a sort of acropolis. A flight of time-eaten steps afforded access to the summit.
Pausing, we decided to defer our investigation of the higher buildings, which, being more exposed than the others, were doubly ruinous and dilapidated, and in all likelihood would offer little for our trouble. Colonel Blownuts had begun to voice his disappointment over our failure to find anything in the nature of gold or valuable artifacts.
Then, a little to the right of the grand stairway, we perceived an entrance in the main wall, half-choked with ancient débris. Behind the heap of detritus, we found the beginning of a downward flight of steps. It was dark and dry with primordial stagnancies of time. We could see nothing below the first steps, which gave the appearance of being suspended over a black gulf. Playing his torch-beam before him Colonel Blownuts began to descend the stairs. His eager voice called us to follow.
At the bottom of the steps, we found ourselves in a long and roomy vault, like a subterranean hallway. Its floor was deep with siftings of dust and sand. The air was singularly heavy but cooler than above. There was a faint smell of powdered mummies.
At the end of the vault, before a strait and lofty doorway, our torches revealed an immense shallow urn or pan, supported on short cube-shaped legs, and wrought from a dull, blackish-green stone. In its bottom, we perceived a deposit of some dark powdery stuff, which gave off a slight but disagreeable pungency, like
bathroom cleanser left in a basement for a thousand years. Colonel Blownuts brushed at it with his hand and began to cough and sneeze as he inhaled it.
"That stuff must have been a pretty powerful fumigant," he observed. "The people of Wah-Vomit may have used it to disinfect these vaults, like carbolic."
The doorway beyond the shallow urn admitted us to a larger chamber, whose floor was comparatively free of dust. We found that the dark stone floor and walls were marked off in multiform geometric patterns, traced with hieroglyphics and highly formalized drawings.
"I say," exclaimed Professor Aynuss, "have a look at this." He shone his torch along a stretch of carved wall panels. The panels were crumbled and worn away in places but the figures in many were doubtless the Tiltlegs. They were tall and oddly angular. All of the Ileenians seemed to be slightly tilted to one side. The males were all depicted nude with overlarge members; but in one of the carvings, done in a far hastier style than the others, we perceived two figures whose outrageous members were wrapped in what seemed to be a sort of sheath turban, which they were wearing. The artist seemed to have laid a peculiar emphasis on the gesture with which the fingers were plucking at these coverings; and the whole posture was inexplicably contorted.
"Do you suppose those proportions are accurate?" asked Professor Aynuss.
"If so, I mused, "they certainly were well endowed."
"They could make a prairie stallion feel ashamed," said Dick Snifter.
"Probably just wishful thinking," said Colonel Blownuts. "Nobody's that big. They'd have to wrap the things about their necks if they tried to run anywhere."
"Well, it's possible those covering things were some form of protection from the great Gonad Pestilence," said Bahlsacc, scribbling some notes in his notebook.
We moved on. From the second vault, passages led off in all directions, a veritable warren of catacombs. Here, enormous pot-bellied urns of the same material as the fumigating-pan, but taller than a man's head and fitted with angular-handled stoppers, were ranged in rows along the walls, leaving scant room for two of us to walk abreast. When we succeeded in removing one of the huge stoppers, we saw that the jar was filled to the rim with ashes and charred fragments of bone. Doubtless the Ileenians had stored the cremated remains of whole families in single urns.
Even Colonel Blownuts became somber as we went on, and a sort of meditative awe seemed to replace his former excitement. The rest of us also felt weighted down by the solid gloom of antiquity, into which we were going further and further with every step.
The shadows made by our torches fluttered before us like monstrous and misshapen wings of phantom bats. There was nothing anywhere but the dust of ages, and the jars that held the ashes of a long-extinct people. But, clinging to the high roof in one of the further vaults, I spotted a dark patch of circular form, like a withered fungus. We peered at it for a while with many futile conjectures. Oddly enough, I failed to remember the shadowy object I had seen or dreamt of the night before.
I have no idea how far we had gone, when we came to the last vault; but it seemed that we had been wandering for ages in that forgotten underworld. The air was growing fouler with every yard, with a thick, sodden quality, as if from material rotting and we had about decided to turn back. Then, without warning, at the end of a long, urn-lined catacomb, we found ourselves confronted by a blank wall.
Standing in the center of this wall was one of the strangest things I had ever seen. IT was a mummified and incredibly desiccated figure, standing erect against the wall. It was more than six feet in height, of a brown, bituminous color, and was wholly nude. From the length and size of it's manhood, it was plainly one of the ancient Ileenians, perhaps the sole member of this race whose body had remained intact.
"My golly, they really were huge," said Dick Snifter.
Colonel Blownuts nodded. "This fellow must have been a guard of sorts, look how he's still standing at attention."
We all felt an inexpressible thrill at the sight this ancient thing, with it's tripod member hanging well past it's knees. The dry air of the vault must have preserved the body through all the long vicissitudes of the desert, to provide a visible link with a lost civilization.
Then, as we peered closer with our torches, we saw why the mummy had maintained an upright position. At ankles, knees, shoulders and neck it was shackled to the wall by tarnished copper bands, so deeply eaten and embrowned with a sort of mildew that we had failed to distinguish them at first sight. Something about it, I knew not what, was abhorrent and revolting.
"By Jove! this is a real find!" said Lord Bahlsacc, as he shone his torch into the mummified face, where shadows moved like living things in the hollows of the eye sockets.
Colonel Blownuts put out a free hand and touched the body very lightly. As light as his touch had been, the figure fell away into powdery dust. The Colonel cried out in dismay, and then began to cough and sneeze, as the cloud of powdered Ileenian, enveloped him. We others all stepped back to avoid the dust.
"Say, look at that," said Dick Snifter and pointed with his torch beam. Directly behind where the ancient mummy had been standing was a shallow niche in the blank wall. Across the center of the niche was a bar of metal. The ends of the bar had been plastered into the wall.
"It looks like a kind of door latch," said Dick Snifter. He reached in and grasped the bar. He pulled it away easily and part of the wall came with it. We all crowded closer to examine the strange find. It was clear that it was a door, plastered over except for the one small area, guarded by the single Tiltleg.
"Great guns!” cried Dick Snifter, "Look, there's a door hidden behind this wall. It's the treasure vault."
Colonel Blownuts took the bar of metal from Dick Snifter. "We can break it down!"
"Wait!" cried Lord Bahlsacc. "Hold on a moment." But Colonel Blownuts was much too excited. He gave the plaster a smashing blow with the bar of metal and several large cracks appeared.
"You see!" he cried "It comes away easily. Give me a hand!"
Disregarding lord Bahlsacc's pleas to be cautious, we began to tear away pieces of the false wall. We were all of us seized by the Colonel's sense of excitement and in a few moments had most of the vault door exposed. It was a stone door with a simple cross-latch holding it closed. Professor Aynuss got down on a knee and examined the middle portion of the door. "Here's an inscription," he said and began to trace the glyphs with a finger. "It's the treasure vault all right, but it's guarded by a curse."
"What curse?" I asked.
Professor Aynuss looked up at Lord Bahlsacc. "Here's that symbol again. 'hum-pér-dink.'
"Ball-goblin," mused lord Bahlsacc.
"What's a ball-goblin?" asked Dick Snifter.
Professor Aynuss shook his head. "I have no idea."
"Well then, let's have it open and see," said Colonel Blownuts with an impatient tone. "Whatever it was must certainly be dead by now."
Lord Bahlsacc frowned. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"Nonsense," said Colonel Blownuts. He reached out and lifted the latch bar. It came away quite easily, surprising for something that old. Colonel Blownuts pulled hard and the door came about halfway open. The ancient hinges made a reverberating groan, revealing blackness beyond.
"Stand back!" cried "Lord Bahlsacc. "It's been sealed, the air will be poisonous."
We all took a step away. At that moment we saw an unbelievable thing. A black shape rushed out of the doorway and leapt onto Colonel Blownuts. He staggered back with a cry. The thing, which at first glance looked like a large black cloth, enfolded the Colonel's lower midsection. He began to shriek wildly and tear at the thing with both hands but failed to loosen it. The cords stood out on his neck as the thing wrapped itself between his legs. Then his cries began to mount in screams of "Sand Pussy! Sand pussy!" And he danced and capered blindly about the vault, thrusting his pelvis against the large urns.
"My God!" cried Professor Aynuss. "It's got him by the balls!"
"Quick man," shouted Lord Bahlsacc, "Shoot it!" He unslung his rifle but the Colonel was bouncing madly among the urns and he couldn't get a steady bead.
"Shoot him in the balls?" I cried. "Are you mad?"
Dick Snifter, who had kept his head more than the rest of us, ran and caught the Colonel about the waist in a rugby tackle and they both crashed down among the urns, raising more clouds of dust. The colonel was still screaming 'Sand pussy!' as Dick Snifter held him down.
I had my sheath knife out in an instant and began to stab at the black mass that enveloped his whole lower torso. What the thing was, I should prefer not to imagine--if it were possible to imagine. It was formless as a great slug, with neither head nor tail nor apparent organs--an unclean, puffy, leathery thing, covered with mould-like fur. My knife tore into it as if through rotten parchment. I made a long gash, and the horror appeared to collapse like a cut cow bladder. Out of it there gushed a sickening torrent of human blood, mingled with half-dissolved curly hair, floating gelatinous lumps like cottage cheese and shreds of a white substance. At the same time Colonel Blownuts stopped screaming and lay mortally still on the floor. The mummy-dust settled about him in small clouds as Dick Snifter rolled off of him.
Conquering my revulsion, and choking with the dust, I tore the flaccid, oozing horror from the Colonels groin. It came away with unexpected ease, as if I had removed a limp rag, but I wish to God that I had let it remain. Beneath, there was no longer trousers, for all had been eaten away to the bare skin, and the half-devoured testes were laid bare as I lifted the cowl-like monster. I dropped the thing with nerveless fingers, and it turned over as it fell, revealing on the nether side many rows of pink suckers, arranged in circles about a pallid disk of a mouth.
My companions had pressed forward behind me; but, for an appreciable interval, no one spoke.
"Hum-pér-dink," muttered Lord Bahlsacc after a moment.
Professor Aynuss looked up from the thing, his eyes wide. "My God!" he whispered in a hoarse voice. "Not Ball-goblin. Ball-gobbler."
"Ball-gobbler," I breathed.
This news greeted with stunned silence from the rest of us and we could only stare in horrible fascination at The remains of Colonel Blownuts.
A second later we heard a strange mewling noise behind us, and as one we all turned. From the half open door of the vault there poured forth a rolling black nightmare. Like a black carpet of demons they rolled forth.
"Ball gobblers!" shouted Dick Snifter. "Run for your nuts!"
Instantly we were on our feet, shouting and running back down the passage. The black army poured toward us, burying Colonel Blownuts's body from sight in a writhing wave. Neither I nor my companions stayed to watch. We ran as if the devils of hell were after us, in a way I suppose they were. We rushed between the mighty rows of urns, with the mass of demon leeches behind us. Scattering in blind panic when we came to the first division of the vaults. Heedless of each other or of anything but the urgency of flight, we plunged into the passages at random. Behind me, I heard someone stumble and go down, Lord Bahlsacc I think. He was the oldest of us and certainly the slowest runner. Moments later there was the faint shrieking of 'sand pussy!' and I knew he was done for. But I also knew that if I went back, I would only come to the same horrible end.
Still clutching the electric torch and my sheath-knife, I ran along a minor passage which, I seemed to remember, would lead to the large outer vault with the tiled floor. Here I found myself alone. The others had kept to the main catacombs; and in the distance I heard the faint mad cries of 'sand pussy! sand pussy!' and I knew that Professor Aynuss and Dick Snifter had been overtaken by the Ball gobblers.
It seemed that I must have been mistaken about the direction of the passage; for it turned and twisted in an unfamiliar manner, with many intersections, and I soon found that I was lost in the black labyrinth, where the dust had lain undisturbed by living feet for inestimable generations. The cries of my companions had gone faint now and all I could hear was my own frenzied panting, loud and stertorous in that darkened dead silence.
The remainder of my flight is a blur of terror. Once more, after thinking that I was near the outer cavern, I found myself astray, and fled through a ranged eternity of monstrous urns, in vaults that must have extended for an unknown distance beyond our explorations. It seemed that I had run for hours, my lungs were choking with the dead air and my legs were rubbery, when I saw far-off a tiny point of blessed daylight. I ran toward it, with all the imagined terrors of the darkness crowding behind me, and accursed shadows flittering before, and saw that the vault ended in a low, ruined entrance, littered by rubble lighted by a thin arc of daylight.
It was a different entrance than the one by which we had penetrated this lethal underworld. I was within a dozen feet of the opening when, without sound or other noise, something hit me in the stomach and closed instantly around me like a tautened net. My groin was instantly shot through with a million needle-like pangs--a manifold, ever-growing agony that seemed to pierce my very vitals.
The terror and suffering of that moment were worse than aught which the hells of earthly madness or delirium could ever contain.
Instinctively I raised my knife and slashed blindly at my groin, again and again, many times at the thing that had fastened its deadly folds upon me. The blade must have gone through the clinging monstrosity, to gash my own flesh in a score of places; but I did not feel the pain of those wounds at the time. I ran onwards and upwards until at last I was in the light.
Looking down I saw that the horrid thing was a mass of black strips, dripping with my own blood and hanging down my trousers. It writhed a little, even as it hung, and I ripped the oozing, bloody thing from my groin. Then I staggered toward to the top of the stairs. The light seemed to turn into a far-receding tunnel before me as I lurched and fell outside on the sand.
I am told that my unconsciousness was of brief duration. I came to myself, with the faces of Iben Strokanov and the two guides bending over me. My groin was in agony, and half-remembered terrors closed upon my mind like the shadows of mustering harpies. I rolled over, and looked back toward the ruins, from which I had been bodily dragged by the guides. The entrance was in shadow, under a terraced angle of a building.
I stared at the black opening with hideous fascination. For one moment I fancied that I saw a shadowy stirring in the gloom, the writhing movement of things that pressed forward from the darkness but dared not emerge into the light. Doubtless they could not endure the sun, those ball-gobblers of the night.
It was then that the ultimate horror, the beginning madness, came upon me. Bespite my crawling revulsion, an overwhelming desire to engage in lewd congress with the sands of the desert, there rose an abhorrently conflicting impulse to thrust my manhood into the sifting, seductive dunes; to seek release in the depths of the hot sand. There was a black soundless calling in my brain, the implanted urge of the Ball-gobblers, walled up eons ago by the ancient Ileenian people of Wah-Vomit...
It was only Iben Strokanov and the two guides who prevented me acting on my fevered urge. I struggled, I fought them insanely as they caught at me and dragged me to the camp. I must have been thoroughly exhausted from all the running and terrors and I fell down the black well of unconsciousness once more. I floated back to sensibility at some intervals, enough to realize that I was being carried across the desert toward Sankrakk.
Well, that is my story. I have tried to tell it fully and coherently. To tell it before the madness falls upon me again, as it will very soon. As I feel it doing now. Yes, I have told my story and you have heard it, haven't you? I must go back to Wah-Vomit, back to the desert, to the seductive dunes. I tell you, I must go. . .
As an intern in the receiving hospital at Sankrakk, I had charge of the singular case of Stanley Rimtung, the one surviving member of Lord Bahlsacc's expedition to Wah-Vomit, and took down the above story from his dictation. Rimtung had been brought to the hospital by that Russian fellow, Strokanov, and a couple of local guides. He was suffering from a horribly lacerated and inflamed condition of the genitals. He became wildly delirious at intervals, during which time he would shriek a vulgar phrase which I will not repeat here.
The lacerations on his body were mainly self-inflicted. They were mingled with numerous small round wounds, easily distinguished from the knife-slashes. These were arranged in regular circles. Initial tests indicate traces of an unknown poison had been injected into Severn's genitals. The source of these wounds and poison was unknown, unless one were to believe that Rimtung's story was true, and not a figment of his illness. In the light of what afterwards occurred, I feel that I have no other recourse than to believe it. There are strange things in the desert. Things stranger than man can imagine.
The night after he had finished telling me his story, while another intern was on duty, Stanley Rimtung managed to escape from hospital, possibly in the throes of the strange seizures at which I have mentioned. A most astonishing thing, for he had seemed weaker than ever after the long strain of his terrible ordeal. More astonishing still, his bare footprints were traced to the outskirts of Sankrakk, heading southwest, towards Wah-Vomit, until they vanished in the shifting sands of the desert.
No trace of Stanley Rimtung has ever been discovered.
Animated GIFs & Nonsense
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