Beyond the rolling plains, beyond the haunted wood
There lies a long-benighted clime.
They say that once ‘twas here a mighty city stood—
That was the Rome or London of its time.
But that was many centuries ago, and now
It is a place all people shun.
Yet I have seen this place, in honest truth, I vow–
Beneath a green, unhealthy sun.
It was in the times of plague and famine
That I ventured to the South;
Despite the pleas of fear and lamen-
-tation from each village elder’s mouth.
I was hardy then; a man of scarcely twenty
And thought myself extremely brave.
I brought weapons, clothes and drink in plenty—
And all the food that I could save.
Nor was I alone; half a dozen of my friends
Came with me on that fatal trail.
They perhaps knew more of how the story ends—
But I alone can tell the tale.
We all had heard a rumor, passed around
(And beginning who knew where?)
The rumor said that crops and rivers could be found
In the forbidden South-land there.
And more, it said the place was not as grim
As in its legend’ry depiction—
Its smoky skies, its winding streets of brim-
-stone were nothing more than fiction.
And we believed it! We, as children are,
Were too keen to doubt the older folk.
And we did list, as trav’lers from afar
Their enticing stories spoke.
And so we sought the land outside,
Trekking through our withered fields.
Nearly all the crops that year had died
And rats ate the remaining yields.
At night, we would make camp and gaze
In the direction of our goal.
And in the sky, I’d see a haze,
Sending terror through my soul.
The others felt it too, I’m sure,
But none confessed unto the others.
We each feigned bravery, to reassure
Our fellow journeyers and brothers.
We passed through forests filled with rot—
And jumped whene’er a twig was broken.
The air was green; the grass and leaves were not—
Yet not a word of fear was spoken.
There were monsters in the forest–we would see them
Far away at dusk, and hear them all around.
We tried as best we could to flee them–
But could see their foot-prints on the ground.
One night a fellow disappeared
And we searched in vain for him at dawn.
And though a sweeping path we cleared,
He seemed to be completely gone.
But we met him later, when we were nearly out,
He was thin and scarred, and said
He’d traveled by a different route.
He had thought that he was dead
When he’d gotten lost out in the night—
But no monsters came for him, and soon,
He was transfixéd by the southern light—
The auroras dancing ‘neath the crescent moon.
We all had seen these lights, though none
As clearly as our comrade now described them–
Glowing sheets on the horizon
Shimmering for hours ere growing dim.
This filled us with fear, we scarce knew why–
But as we left the woods, we plainly saw,
Glowing evilly in the looming southern sky,
The same surreal phenomena.
As faintly rose the sun behind a smoky cloud,
We saw the tall black spires far away—
Reaching through the fog like fingers in a shroud,
To greet the dismal, dreary light of day.
The air grew heavy now with putrefying stenches—
Unwholesome and unclean, like the rot of death–
So vile it gags the mouth, the stomach wrenches–
And we gulped and gasped for breath.
Our faces wrapped in scarves, we slogged
Towards the towers, and left the woods behind us.
The grey-green mist descended and befogged
The air and served to nearly blind us.
The streets were cracked and empty all around—
Made of no substance I had ever seen.
Rot and refuse scattered all across the ground
The buildings wore a sick and slimy sheen.
But ‘twas the sky! The sky was worst of all.
Dark green and purple, with clouds as black as night—
The sun could hardly break this pall
And so all was cast in weird and ugly light.
From the highest buildings, vile creatures flew—
Dragon silhouettes soaring overhead.
What they were, not one among us knew;
Of such creatures none had heard nor read.
We knew we should turn back, but the twisting
Streets were like a monstrous maze;
Lined with tenement ruins, creaking, listing;
While the path behind us vanished in the haze.
Three of us went in one direction
And I was in the group of four.
Who came upon the central intersection
That lay at the city’s core.
Two streets crossed here; before a
Massive pyramid, made entirely of stone.
Its smooth façade was overrun with flora
The likes of which I’d never known.
The flying creatures shrieked above
And we moved slowly towards the pyramid–
We hoped the things would take no notice of
Us so long as that was all we did.
At the massive structure’s base,
We beheld a giant metal door.
And at its foot, a body, lying face-
Down on the rusty iron floor.
Little more than tatter’d rags he wore,
And a bony hand a-reaching fo’ward.
I walked up and rolled the body o’er
And saw then what he was reaching toward.
Beside the door there was a broken lever
For which the dead man vainly stretched
And would stretch out for-ever—
And by this lever, there were three words etched:
That read simply: “Open Shelter Door”.
I paused a moment, gazing at the sight,
But then I heard the flying creature’s roar
And my comrades scream in fright.
Claws and teeth and blood and skin
A chaotic mess of agony and fear.
I got but one poor, hopeless hit in
Before the Thing could disappear.
It flew away, leaving nothing but
The shredded remnants of my friends.
I ran back down the street, not knowing what
To do, or even to what fearful ends
The labyrinthine paths would lead me.
Fully panicked now, I cried aloud
Hoping that the other group might heed me,
And find me in that fearful greenish cloud.
But no! I never saw those men again;
Though I stumbled through those streets so
Long. Once, I thought I heard a cry of pain—
But it was far away and hard to know.
At last, sick and vomiting and only fit to die
I left the streets, and felt the haze
Was lessening, and now the sun and sky
Looked clearer than they had for days.
The ground was difficult and rocky, and each
Step caused me stomach-churning pain.
But at last, there came in view a beach
At the edge of this formidable terrain.
A peaceful ocean, with gentle rippling water
Washed upon the pale-white sand.
The calming scene made me forget the slaughter
And the horrors witnessed on the land.
The sun hung in the sky, its fiery nat’ral shade
Reflected in the rippling waves before me;
The orange and yellow sunbeams played
Upon the sea, and cast strange sensations o’er me.
And then a shadow crossed the sky,
And a massive black thing dove into the sea
Letting loose a fell demonic cry
That sent a bolt of terror into me.
I have lived my life beside the ocean
And have watched the evil city from afar.
Unto the present day, I have no notion
What the dreadful flying creatures are.
I see them now and then at dawn
Flying high above the darkness far away.
At night, I sometimes hear them landing on
The little cabin where I stay.
For years, I wondered why they let me live;
But as I pose no threat nor show resistance—
I believe the things want me to give
An account of their existence.
And so, I stare into the twilit seafoam
As I write these words of warning.
I’ll never see my fam’ly nor my home—
They must long ago have giv’n rites of mourning.
To ye who hear these words, I bid ye know:
Avoid that wreck that on the dim horizon lies—
‘Tis there the things of nightmare grow—
And there that mankind’s spirit dies.