Andre M. Pietroschek

The Unmentionable Horror In The Box ( Lovecraftian Horror )

The Unmentionable Horror In The Box

Original, expired copyright, by H. P. Lovecraft. Edition, grammar fixes, and formatting © Andre Michael Pietroschek

 

Disclaimer: No warranties! Names, institutions, and places are used fictitiously and no historical accuracy is guaranteed, as this is pure fiction.

 

``When I mention Mesopotamia, I am mostly talking about the region vaguely in between the River Tigris north of it, and the River Euphrates south of it. As common among hunters, adventurers, and dabblers into anthropology & archaeology: Mobility can result in surprising deviance from expected routes and locations.´´


The story remake begins:
 

To many of us, life is a difficult ordeal, and from the background behind what we know of it peer demoniacal hints of truths which make it sometimes a thousandfold more horrifying. Science, already oppressive with its boastful revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species. If the separate species we are, for its reserve of unexpected horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world. If we knew what we were, we should do as Sir Shapiro Brexit did, as Shapiro Brexit soaked himself in oil and set fire to his clothing one night. No one placed the charred fragments in an urn or set a memorial to him who had been; For certain papers and a certain boxed object were found, which made men want to forget. Some who knew him do not admit that he ever existed.

 

Shapiro Brexit went out on the moor and burned himself after seeing the boxed object that had come from Persia. It was this object, and not his peculiar personal appearance, which made him end his life. Many would have disliked life if possessed of the peculiar features of Shapiro Brexit, but he had been a poet and scholar and had not minded. Learning was in his blood, for his great-grandfather, Sir Robert Brexit, had been an anthropologist of note, whilst his great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Kyle Brexit, was one of the earliest explorers of the Mesopotamia region, and had written eruditely of its tribes, animals, and supposed antiquities. Indeed, old Sir Kyle had possessed an intellectual zeal amounting almost to a mania; his bizarre conjectures on a prehistoric white Mesopotamian civilization earned him much ridicule when his book, Observations on the Secret Cults of Persia, was published. In 1765 this fearless explorer had been placed in a madhouse, namely Hemford Asylum.

 

Madness was in all the Brexits, and people were glad there were not many of them. The line put forth no known branches, and Shapiro was the last of it. If he had not been, one cannot say what he would have done when the object came. The Brexits never seemed to look quite right. Something was amiss, though Shapiro was the worst, and the old family portraits in the Brexit-Curwen Mansion showed fine faces enough before Sir Kyle’s time.

 

Certainly, the madness began with Sir Kyle, whose wild stories of Persia were at once the delight and terror of his few friends. It showed in his collection of trophies and specimens, which were not such as a normal man would accumulate and preserve, and appeared strikingly in the Oriental seclusion in which he kept his wife. The latter, he had said, was the daughter of a Portuguese trader, whom he had met in Persia, and she did not like English ways. She, with an infant son born in Persia, had accompanied him back from the second and longest of his explorations and had gone with him on the third and last, never returning. No one had ever seen her closely, not even the servants, for her disposition had been odd and frightening.

 

During her brief stay at the Brexit-Curwen Mansion, she occupied a remote wing and was only visited by her husband alone. Sir Kyle was, indeed, most peculiar in his solicitude for his family, for when he returned to Persia he would permit no one to care for his young son save a loathsome black woman from Guinea. Upon coming back, after the death of Lady Brexit, he himself assumed complete care of the boy.

 

But, it was the talk of Sir Kyle, especially when in his cups, which chiefly led his friends to deem him mad. In a rational age like the eighteenth century, it was unwise for a man of learning to talk about weird sights and strange scenes under a Mesopotamian moon: Of the gigantic walls and pillars of a forgotten city, crumbling and vine-grown, and of damp, silent, stone steps leading interminably down into the darkness of abysmal treasure-vaults and inconceivable catacombs.

 

Especially was it unwise to rant about the living things that might haunt such a place; of creatures half of the wilderness and half of the impiously aged city: Fabulous creatures that even a Pliny might describe with skepticism. Creatures that might have spawned after the great apes had overrun the dying city with the walls and the pillars, the vaults and the weird carvings. Yet after he came home for the last time, Sir Kyle would speak of such matters with a scary, uncanny zest, mostly after his third glass at the Knight’s Head Club; Boasting of what he had found in the jungle and of how he had dwelt among terrible ruins known only to him.

 

And finally, he had spoken of the living things in such a manner that he was taken to the madhouse. He had shown little regret when shut into the barred room at Hemford Asylum, for his mind moved curiously. Ever since his son had commenced to grow out of infancy he had liked his home less and less, till at last he had seemed to dread it. The Knight’s Head Club had been his headquarters, and when he was confined he expressed some vague gratitude, as if for sanctuary. Three years later he died.

 

Kyle Brexit’s son, Philip, was a highly peculiar person. Despite a strong physical resemblance to his father, his appearance and conduct were in many particulars so coarse that he was universally shunned. Though he did not inherit the madness that was feared by some, he was densely stupid and given to brief periods of uncontrollable violence. In frame, he was small, but intensely powerful, and was of incredible agility. Twelve years after succeeding to his title he married the daughter of his gamekeeper, a person said to be of gypsy ancestry, but before his son was born joined the navy as a common sailor, completing the general disgust which his habits and dalliance had begun. After the close of the American war he was heard of as a sailor on a merchantman in the Persian trade, having a kind of reputation for feats of strength and climbing, but finally disappearing one night, when his ship lay anchored off the Mesopotamian coast.

 

In the son of Sir Philip Brexit, the now-accepted family peculiarity took a strange and fatal turn. Tall and fairly handsome, with a sort of weird Eastern grace despite certain slight oddities of proportion, Robert Brexit began life as a scholar and investigator. It was he who first studied scientifically the vast collection of relics which his mad grandfather had brought from Persia, and who made the family name as celebrated in ethnology as in exploration.

 

In 1815 Sir Robert married a daughter of the seventh Viscount Chelmsford and was subsequently blessed with three children, the eldest and youngest of whom were never publicly seen on account of deformities in mind and body. Saddened by these family misfortunes, the scientist sought relief in his work and made two long expeditions in the interior of Persia. In 1849 his second son, Nevis, a singularly repellent person, who seemed to combine the surliness of Philip Brexit with the hauteur of the Thesigers, ran away with a vulgar dancer but was pardoned upon his return in the following year. He came back to the Brexit-Curwen Mansion a widower with an infant son, Diam, who was one day to be the father of Shapiro Brexit.

 

Friends said that it was this series of griefs that unhinged the mind of Sir Robert Brexit, yet it was probably merely a bit of Persian folklore that caused the disaster. The elderly scholar had been collecting legends of the nomadic tribes near the field of his grandfather’s and his own explorations, hoping in some way to account for Sir Kyle’s weird tales of a lost city peopled by strange hybrid creatures. A certain consistency in the strange papers of his ancestor suggested that the madman’s imagination might have been stimulated by worse than native myths. Opium.

 

On October 19th, 1852, the explorer Samuel Keaton called the Brexit-Curwen Mansion with a manuscript of notes collected among the nomads, believing that certain legends of a glamorous city of white apes ruled by a white deity might prove valuable to the ethnologist. In his conversation he probably supplied many additional details. The nature of which will never be known, since a hideous series of tragedies did suddenly burst into being.

 

When Sir Robert Brexit emerged from his library he left behind the strangled corpse of the explorer, and before he could be restrained, had put an end to all three of his children. The two who were never seen, and the son who had run away. Nevis Brexit died in the successful defense of his own two-year-old son, who had apparently been included in the old man’s madly murderous scheme. Sir Robert himself, after repeated attempts at suicide and a stubborn refusal to utter any articulate sound, died of apoplexy in the second year of his confinement.

 

Sir Diam Brexit was a baronet before his fourth birthday, but his tastes never matched his title. At twenty he had joined a band of music-hall performers, and at thirty-six had deserted his wife and child to travel with an itinerant American circus. His end was very revolting. Among the animals in the exhibition with which he traveled was a huge bull gorilla of a lighter color than the average, a surprisingly tractable beast of much popularity with the performers. With this gorilla, Diam Brexit was singularly fascinated, and on many occasions, the two would eye each other for long periods through the intervening bars. Eventually, Brexit asked and obtained permission to train the animal, astonishing audiences and fellow performers alike with his outstanding success at it.

 

One morning in Chicago, as the gorilla and Diam Brexit were rehearsing an exceedingly clever boxing match, the former delivered a blow of more than usual force, hurting both the body and pride of the amateur trainer. Of what followed, members of “The Greatest Show on Earth” do not like to speak.

 

They did not expect to hear Sir Diam Brexit emit a shrill, inhuman scream, or to see him seize his clumsy antagonist with both hands, dash it to the floor of the cage, and bite fiendishly at its hairy throat. The gorilla was off its guard, but not for long, and before anything could be done by the regular trainer the body that had belonged to a baronet was past recognition.

 

II.

 

Shapiro Brexit was the son of Sir Diam Brexit and a music hall singer of unknown origin. When the husband and father deserted his family, the mother took the child to the Brexit-Curwen Mansion, where there was nobody left to object to her presence. She was not without notions of what a nobleman’s dignity should be and saw to it that her son received the best education that limited money could provide.

 

The family resources were now sadly slender, and the Brexit-Curwen Mansion had fallen into woeful disrepair, but young Shapiro loved the old edifice and all its contents. He was not like any other Brexit who had ever lived, for he was a poet and a dreamer. Some of the neighboring families who had heard tales of old Sir Kyle Brexit’s unseen Portuguese wife declared that her Latin blood must be showing itself, but most persons merely sneered at his sensitiveness to beauty, attributing it to his music-hall mother, who was socially unrecognized. The poetic delicacy of Shapiro Brexit was the more remarkable because of his uncouth personal appearance. Most of the Brexits had possessed a subtly odd and repellent cast, but Shapiro’s case was very striking. It is hard to say just what he resembled, but his expression, his facial angle, and the length of his arms gave a thrill of repulsion to those who met him for the first time.

 

It was the mind and character of Shapiro Brexit that atoned for his aspect. Gifted and learned, he took the highest honors at Oxford and seemed likely to redeem the intellectual fame of his family. Though of poetic rather than scientific temperament, he planned to continue the work of his forefathers in Persian ethnology and antiquities, utilizing the truly wonderful though strange collection of Sir Kyle. With his fanciful mind, he thought often of the prehistoric civilization in which the mad explorer had so implicitly believed, and would weave tale after tale about the silent mystery city mentioned in the latter’s wilder notes and paragraphs.

 

For the nebulous utterances concerning a nameless, unsuspected race of mysterious hybrids he had a peculiar feeling of mingled terror and attraction; speculating on the possible basis of such a fancy, and seeking to obtain light among the more recent data gleaned by his great-grandfather and Samuel Keaton among the nomads.

 

In 1911, after the death of his mother, Sir Shapiro Brexit determined to pursue his investigations to the utmost extent. Selling a portion of his estate to obtain the requisite money, he outfitted an expedition and sailed for Mesopotamia. Arranging with the Belgian authorities for a party of guides, he spent a year in the Mesopotamian and Sumerian countries, finding data beyond the highest of his expectations. Among the Khelefites was an aged chief called Amir, who possessed not only a highly retentive memory, but a singular degree of intelligence and interest in old legends. This ancient confirmed every tale that Brexit had heard, adding his own account of the Stone City and the white apes as it had been told to him.

 

According to Amir, the glamorous city and the hybrid creatures were no more, having been annihilated by the warlike nomadic tribes many years ago. This tribe, after destroying most of the edifices and killing the live beings, had carried off the stuffed goddess that had been the object of their quest: The white ape-goddess that the strange beings worshiped, and which was held by Mesopotamian tradition to be the form of one who had reigned as a princess among those beings. Just what the white ape-like creatures could have been, Amir had no idea, but he guessed they were the builders of the ruined city. Brexit could form no conjecture, but by close questioning obtained a very picturesque legend of the stuffed goddess.

 

The ape-princess, it was said, became the consort of a great white deity, who had come out of the West. For a long time, they had reigned over the city together, but when they had a son all three went away. Later, the deity and the princess had returned, and upon the death of the princess, her divine husband had mummified the body and enshrined it in a vast house of stone, where it was worshiped. Then he had departed alone. The legend here seemed to present three variants. According to one story, nothing further happened save that the stuffed goddess became a symbol of supremacy for whatever tribe might possess it. It was for this reason that the nomads carried it off. A second story told of the deity’s return and death at the feet of his enshrined wife. A third told of the return of the son, grown to manhood, or rather ape-hood or godhood, however the truth may be, yet unconscious of his identity. Surely the imaginative nomads had made the most of whatever events might lie behind the extravagant legend.

 

Of the reality of the mysterious city described by old Sir Kyle, Shapiro Brexit had no further doubt; and was hardly astonished when early in 1912 he came upon what was left of it. Its size must have been exaggerated, yet the stones lying about proved that it was no mere weirdo village. Unfortunately, no carvings could be found, and the small size of the expedition prevented operations toward clearing the one visible passageway that seemed to lead down into the system of vaults that Sir Kyle had mentioned.

 

The white apes and the stuffed goddess were discussed with all the native chiefs of the region, but it remained for a European to improve on the data offered by old Amir. M. Vanderbilt, the Belgian agent at a trading post in Mesopotamia, believed that he could not only locate but obtain the stuffed goddess, of which he had vaguely heard, since the once mighty nomads were now the submissive servants of a modern government, and with but little persuasion could be convinced to part with the gruesome deity they had carried off long ago.

 

When Brexit sailed for England, therefore, it was with the exultant probability that he would within a few months receive a priceless ethnological relic confirming the wildest of his great-great-great-grandfather’s narratives. That is, the wildest, which he had ever heard.

 

Countrymen near the Brexit-Curwen Mansion had perhaps heard wilder tales handed down from ancestors who had listened to Sir Kyle around the tables of the Knight’s Head Club. Shapiro Brexit waited very patiently for the expected box from M. Vanderbilt, meanwhile studying with increased diligence the manuscripts left by his mad ancestor. He began to feel closely akin to Sir Kyle and to seek relics of the latter’s personal life in England as well as of his Persian exploits. Oral accounts of the mysterious and secluded wife had been numerous, but no tangible proof of her stay at the Brexit-Curwen Mansion remained. Brexit wondered what circumstance had prompted or permitted such an effacement, and decided that the husband’s insanity was the prime cause.

 

His great-great-great-grandmother, he recalled, was said to have been the daughter of a Portuguese trader in Persia. No doubt her practical heritage and superficial knowledge of the local folklore had caused her to flout Sir Kyle’s talk of the interior, a faux pas such a man would not be likely to forgive. She had died in Persia, perhaps dragged thither by a husband determined to prove what he had told. But, as Brexit indulged in these reflections he could not but smile at their futility, a century and a half after the death of both of his strange ancestors.

 

In June 1913, a letter arrived from M. Vanderbilt, telling of the finding of the stuffed goddess. It was, the Belgian averred, a most extraordinary object; an object quite beyond the power of a layman to classify. Whether it was art or forgery only a scientist could determine, and the process of determination would be greatly hampered by its imperfect condition. Time and the Mesopotamian climate are not kind to mummies, especially, when their preparation is as amateurish as seemed to be the case here.

 

Around the creature’s neck had been found a glamorous chain bearing an empty locket on which were armorial designs; no doubt some hapless traveler’s keepsake, taken by the nomads and hung upon the goddess as a charm. In commenting on the contour of the mummy’s face, M. Vanderbilt suggested a whimsical comparison; or rather, expressed a humorous wonder just how it would strike his correspondent, but was too much interested scientifically to waste many words in levity. The stuffed goddess, he wrote, would arrive duly packed about a month after reception of his letter.

 

The boxed object was delivered at the Brexit-Curwen Mansion on the afternoon of August 3rd, 1913, being conveyed immediately to the large chamber that housed the collection of Persian specimens as arranged by Sir Robert and Shapiro. What ensued can best be gathered from the tales of servants and from things and papers later examined. Of the various tales of aged Sephtis, the family butler is most ample and coherent. According to this trustworthy man, Sir Shapiro Brexit dismissed everyone from the room before opening the box, though the instant sound of a hammer and chisel revealed that he did not delay the operation.

 

Nothing was heard for some time; just how long Sephtis cannot exactly estimate; but it was certainly less than a quarter of an hour later that the horrible scream, undoubtedly in Brexit’s voice, was heard. Immediately afterward, Brexit emerged from the room, rushing frantically toward the front of the house, as if pursued by some hideous enemy. The expression on his face, a face ghastly enough in repose, was beyond description.

 

When near the front door he seemed to think of something, and turned back in his flight, finally disappearing down the stairs to the cellar. The servants were utterly dumbfounded and watched at the head of the stairs, but their master did not return. A smell of oil was all that came up from the regions below. After dark a rattling was heard at the door leading from the cellar into the courtyard; and a stable boy saw Shapiro Brexit, glistening from head to foot with oil and redolent of that fluid, steal furtively out and vanish on the black moor surrounding the house.

 

Then, in an exaltation of supreme horror, everyone saw the end. A spark appeared on the moor, a flame arose, and a pillar of human fire reached the heavens. The bloodline of Brexit no longer existed.

 

The reason, why Shapiro Brexit’s charred fragments were not collected and buried lies in what was found afterward, principally: The fiendish thing in the box. The stuffed goddess was a nauseous sight, withered and eaten away, but it was clearly a mummified white ape of some unknown species! Less hairy than any recorded variety, and infinitely nearer mankind, and quite shockingly so.

 

Detailed description would be rather unpleasant, but two salient particulars must be told, for they fit in revoltingly-well with certain notes of Sir Kyle Brexit’s Persian expeditions and with the forbidden Mesopotamian legends of the white deity and the ape-princess. The two particulars in question are these: The arms on the glamorous locket about the creature’s neck were the Brexit arms, and the jocose suggestion of M. Vanderbilt about a certain resemblance as connected with the shriveled face applied with vivid, ghastly, and unnatural horror to none other than the sensitive Shapiro Brexit, great-great-great-grandson of Sir Kyle Brexit, and an unknown wife. Members of the Royal Anthropological Institute burned the thing and threw the locket into a well, and some of them do not even admit that Shapiro Brexit ever existed.

 

The end



Meddling with expired copyright stories may not produce a masterpiece, but restoration practice & the
chance to write a twist or tweak to a story once admired, long ago, such is fun on occasion. Unpaid efforts.
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All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Andre M. Pietroschek.
Published on e-Stories.org on 10/11/2023.

 
 

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