Omari had pulled a chair over, and Vanessa sat with us at our table in the Thirsty Whale, the men there gazing longingly, and the women with an edge of envy. She was stunning with her flame-red hair cascading below her shoulders and her bright green, mesmerizing eyes. She had a spark about her, and a strange magnetism, an air of exotic mystery. Her smile was wide and inviting as she looked around the table and said, “Merry meet!”….Vanessa, we were to find out, was a longtime Wiccan priestess who played the harp professionally and traveled the world, supporting herself with her music and odd jobs. The women in her family had been witches for twelve generations, and it was her great-great grandmother who had raised her in a thatch cottage in the deeps of the Austrian Black Forest. Omari had lived with her briefly in Turin, when they had both been on the trail of a man named Randolph Carter. As the night wore on and the drinks flowed, they began to compare notes. …”I followed his trail to Amherst, Massachusetts,” she said, ” where I heard rumors of a certain cave, but by the time I found one fitting the description, there was no sign that Carter had even been there.” Omari asked, “Where did you go from there? I was sidetracked after Turin with…with other things.” “Ah yes, the ugly business with Yog.”
“Wait a minute!”, growled Brother Hill, “Back up! Who was this Randolph Cater dude?”….Vanessa smiled guardedly, and asked around the table, her green eyes pinning each of us in turn: “Do any of you know the tale of ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’, written by the novelist Salman Rushdie? It tells of how the ‘Shah of Blah’, Haroun’s father, Rashid, a very famous and respected story-teller, somehow suddenly lost his ability to tell stories, and of father and son’s quest to regain it. Rashid’s marvelous stories, intricate and made up on-the-spot, had fallen into the ‘Khattam-Shud’, the Silence….this same Khattam-Shud is what prodded Randolph Carter to embark upon his mad wanderings with the Silver Key, a key revealed to him in a last dream, which was to be found in his dead grandfather’s attic; just as the Shah of Blah had lost his stories to the Khattam-Shud, so Randolph Carter lost his dreams.”
Omari’s eyes got black, and he used that voice which wasn’t quite his: “I have a last scrap of evidence in my book, a copy of an exerpt from Randolph Carter’s memoir. I know it well. I’ll recite it for you:
‘When I was thirty I lost the key of the gate of dreams. Prior to that time I made up for the prosiness of life by nightly excursions to strange and ancient cities beyond space, and lovely, unbelievable garden lands across ethereal seas; but as middle age hardened upon me I felt those liberties slipping away little by little, until at last I was cut off altogether. No more could my galleys sail up the river Oukranos past the gilded spires of Thran, or my elephant caravans tramp through perfumed jungles in Kled, where forgotten palaces with veined ivory columns sleep lovely and unbroken under the moon.
I read much of things as they are, and talked with too many people. Well-meaning philosophers had taught me to look into the logical relations of things, and analyse the processes which shaped my thoughts and fancies. Wonder had gone away, and I had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other. Custom had dinned into my ears a superstitious reverence for that which tangibly and physically exists, and had made me secretly ashamed to dwell in visions. Wise men told me my simple fancies were inane and childish, and even more absurd because their actors persist in fancying them full of meaning and purpose as the blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness.’
to be continued…