(Inspired by, and adopted from, the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft)
It was a simple icon on a computer screen that, once opened, would play a ten minute hypnosis video.
And it was the promise that compelled him to watch. Because he knew that he only wished to cross the barrier to the untrammeled land of his dreams and the gulfs where the dimensions dissolve in the absolute.
So he opened the file. And watched.
What happened then is scarcely to be described in words. It is full of those paradoxes, contradictions, and anomalies which have no place in waking life, but which fill our more fantastic dreams, and are taken as matters of course till we return to our narrow, rigid, objective world of limited causation and tri-dimensional logic.
From the first gestures and syllables spoken on the screen an aura of strange, awesome mutation was apparent – a sense of incalculable disturbance and confusion in time and space, yet one which held no hint of what we recognize as motion or duration. Imperceptibly, such things as age and location ceased to have any significance whatever. A moment before, there had been a computer screen with vague suggestions. Now there was neither screen nor absence of screen. There was only a flux of impressions not so much visual as cerebral, amidst which the entity that was Frank experienced perceptions or registrations of all that his mind revolved on, yet without any clear consciousness of the way in which he received them.
Frank knew that he was in no region whose place could be told by earth’s geographers, and in no age whose date history could fix. A gate had been unlocked – a gate leading from earth and time to that extension of earth which is outside time. There would be a guide. And Frank recalled what was written in his dreams. “And while there are those who have dared to seek glimpses beyond, and to accept Her as a guide; they would have been more prudent had they avoided commerce with HER; for it is written how terrible is the price of a single glimpse. Nor may those who pass ever return, for in the vastness transcending our world are blacknesses that seize and bind. And She will guide the rash one beyond all worlds into the abyss of unnamable devourers. For She is the Guide, Ceara, the Prolonged of Life.”
Memory and imagination shaped dim half-pictures with uncertain outlines amidst the seething chaos, but Frank knew they were of memory and imagination only. Yet he felt that it was not chance which built these things in his consciousness, but rather some vast reality, ineffable and undimensioned, which surrounded him and strove to translate itself into the only symbols he was capable of grasping.
There floated before Frank a cloudy pageantry of shapes and scenes which he somehow linked with earth’s primal, aeon-forgotten past. Monstrous beautiful things moved deliberately through vistas of fantastic handiwork that no sane dream ever held. The images bore no fixed relation to one another or to him. He himself had no stable form or position, but only such shifting hints of form and position as his whirling fancy supplied.
He had wished to find the enchanted regions of his dreams. Now, intoxicated with wider visions, he scarcely knew what he sought. Thoughts of infinite and blasphemous daring rose in his mind, and he knew he would face the Guide Ceara without fear, though She would ask monstrous and terrible things of him.
All at once the pageant of impressions seemed to achieve a vague kind of stabilization. Light filtered down from everywhere at once in no assignable color and from baffling, contradictory directions. There was a Shape which seemed to glide across the congested void. It was not exactly permanent in outline, but held transient suggestions of something remotely paralleling the human form. It seemed to be heavily cloaked with some neutral colored fabric and it seemed to belong to an order of being far outside the merely physical.
A moment later, Frank knew this was so, for the Shape had spoken to his mind without sound or language. And the Shape was nothing less that that which all the world has feared and revered. It was indeed the frightful guide, Ceara. The Guide knew, as she knew all things, of Frank’s quest and coming, and that this seeker of dreams and secrets stood before Her unafraid. There was no horror or malignity in what She radiated, and Frank wondered for a moment whether the Guide reserved Her horror for those who feared. As the radiation continued, Frank mentally interpreted them in the form of words.
“I am indeed the Prolonged of Life,” said the Guide, “of whom you know. I have awaited you. You are welcome, even though long delayed. You have passed though the first gate of consciousness, and are ready for your trial. If you fear, you need not advance. You may still go back unharmed the way you came. But if you choose to advance …”
The pause was ominous, but the radiation continued to be friendly. Frank hesitated not a moment, for a burning curiosity drove him on.
“I will advance,” he radiated back, “and I accept You as my Guide.”
At this reply the Guide seemed to make a sign by certain motions of Her robe which may or may not have involved the lifting of an arm or some homologous member. A second sign followed, and Frank knew he was at last close to the final test. The light now changed to another inexplicable color, and Frank remained content, for he knew soon he was to learn all. Damnation, he reflected, is but a word bandied about by those whose blindness leads them to condemn all who can see. He wondered at the vast conceit of those who had babbled of the malignant Ceara , as if She could pause Her very essence to wreak havoc upon mankind. As well, he thought, might a mammoth pause to visit frantic vengeance on an angleworm. And She radiated a message which he understood.
“I accept you, frank, whose daring has made you part of My world.”
Frank saw then two vacant pedestals, a gesture of the Guide told him one was reserved for him. The other taller pedestal, ornate and centered in the ethereal mistiness, was the Guide’s own throne. Moving and rising in a manner hardly definable, Frank took his seat; and as he did so he saw Ceara the Guide likewise seated Herself above him.
Gradually and mistily it became apparent that Ceara was holding something – some object clutched in the outflung folds of Her robe. It was a large sphere or apparent sphere of some obscurely iridescent metal, and as the Guide put it forward a low, pervasive half-impression of sound began to rise and fall in intervals which seemed to be rhythmic even though they followed no rhythm on earth. There was a suggestion of chanting – or what human imagination might interpret as chanting. Presently the quasi-sphere began to grow luminous, and as it gleamed up into a cold, pulsating light of unassigned color Frank saw that its flickering conformed to the alien rhythm of the chant.
At last, the suggestion of chanting ceased. The quasi-sphere, however, continued to pulsate with inexplicable light. Slowly there filtered into his mind the truth that this strange chanting ritual had been one of instruction which led to contemplation of the unplumbed vastness of utter and absolute Outsideness with which the earth had nothing to do, and of which his presence had demanded.
Just what would happen next, and how it would pass, Frank could not be certain; but a feeling of tense expectancy surged over him. He was conscious of having a body, but that was all. For the first time, Frank realized how terrific utter silence, mental and physical, may be. The earlier moments had never failed to contain some perceptible rhythm, if only the faint, cryptical pulse of the earth’s dimensional extension, but now the hush of the abyss seemed to fall upon everything.
Despite his intimations of body, he had no audible breath, and the glow of the quasi-sphere had grown petrifiedly fixed and unpulsating. A potent nimbus, brighter than all things, blazed frozenly over the shrouded head of the Guide.
A dizziness assailed Frank, and his sense of lost orientation waxed a thousand fold. The strange lights seemed to hold the quality of the impenetrable blacknesses heaped upon blacknesses, while there hovered everywhere an air of stupefying remoteness. Then he felt himself wafted into immeasurable depths, with waves of perfumed warmth lapping against his face. It was as if he floated in a torrid, rose-tinctured sea; a sea of drugged wine whose waves broke foaming against shores of brazen fire. A great fear clutched him as he half saw that vast expanse of surging sea lapping against its far-off coast. But the moment of silence was broken – the surgings were speaking to him in a language that was not of physical sounds or articulate words.
“The man has found Truth. And Truth is beyond good and evil,” intoned a voice that was not a voice. “The man of Truth has ridden far and learnt that Illusion is the only reality, and that substance is an impostor.”
And then he floated forward. Beyond reality. Into the existence of the All-in-One. Into the Truth that is Ceara.