Lunacy, by Alsten Okpisz
Many visitors, most from that abhorrent organization which men call the free press, have come to me after the events of the past week inquiring of my part in that lunatic Thomas Delaney’s death. I have said time and time again that I did not kill him, and the police admit that the circumstances are strange enough that they must postpone my appointment in court to sort it all out. However, the sheer quantity of visitors have, against my will, moved me to recount the events as I experienced them in addition to the various explanations straight from Delaney’s mouth. He would tell you of my innocence himself if it weren’t for his death – though I question, perhaps, whether he is truly dead – in an effort to dam the tide of endless questions for my sake. Faugh, if this document does not satisfy you imbeciles, you’ll just have to wait until the trial. Go! Read and leave well enough alone!
I first met that madman Thomas Delaney in the board room of the Lunar Geography Club, that singular institution not dedicated towards the charting of the globe under our feet but the one which floats above our heads. The man was consulting various tables and charts in our Geographica Luna – the pride and joy of the society’s various members – on the distance of the moon from the earth, among various other measurements. His regularity was what drew my attention. Every Sunday morning at eight o’clock sharp he would step through that mahogany door, cross the faded green carpet and begin his reading. Being a regular at the club, I had a habit of reclining in my favorite armchair and smoking the German cigars I was then so fond of, and, one Sunday, I noticed the man’s interest and endeavoured to assist him in his search for information. He was a taciturn man perhaps due to – or in order not to draw attention to – the strange condition on his face. His head was wrapped partially in bandages, so that I only got an inkling of the state of his malady, but the amount I saw was enough to know that it must be truly horrible. The first few times we met he was hesitant to reveal the purposes of his search, or even what information he was searching for. He initially seemed only interested in facts and data; a logical fellow – or so I first thought – but after much conversation I realized that intense emotions drove his quest for information. His hand gestures and manner indicated fervor and a scientific drive rivaling the university escapades of my youth. In addition, my repeated attempts to assist him seemed to soften his grim countenance and we soon struck up a singular conversation which would mark the beginning of our short friendship. Pleased that he had finally grown to like me, I inquired into his motive for the information, for the people who come to our collective library in search of knowledge are few. He responded with a narrative that both surprised me and somewhat repulsed me, for – no, I shall let the reader be the judge. His strange tale began:
“That man reincarnates after death I never doubted. Perhaps the oriental books which littered my father’s library influenced me at an early age; those dusty volumes which spoke of spirits and cycles and the universal all; concepts marinated and discussed among those singular Eastern minds. Therefore I contain no fear of death, and I tell you this to explain the reasoning behind the strange data I seek, for though men may call me mad, they have never felt the emotions I have.
“I was a lonely child, kept from playmates due to my curious skin condition which repulsed all who observed it. Only my father could stand the sight of me. My mother died in childbirth, despairing, methinks, because of the hideous infant she bore. My father never spoke of her. And thus, deprived of my mother and lacking in friends, I turned to the great minds of past ages, whose timeless thoughts were printed in the heavy mausoleums of knowledge that allowed me to wile away many a lonely hour. Achilles, Odysseus, and Dante, these fictions which form the basis of so many educations, became my sole companions who would take the place of the playmates and schoolboys of other children my age. But these figures alone were only part of my delights. Others such as Aiko, Menwei, and Fali romped through my young mind, Asian creations borne out of the Eastern mythology and mindset. I read late into the night, with a roaring fire to light my father’s library; many a book stacked around my young form as I reclined in the armchair. Years upon years I lived kept myself hidden until my nineteenth winter, whereupon I found myself, one chilly December night, reclining against the table in the library, books at my head, Letters of Defiance in my hand, and empty chestnut shells at my feet. The fire had died down, with only one small flame left to signify that the dragon was still alive. Absentmindedly, I grabbed the poker and reached out – but oh happy Fate! – I knocked a charcoal chunk upon the flame, and, with a final burst of sparks, the fire died. Joyful calamity! I sometimes wonder about this event, and the events that would fall shortly thereafter. Could it be, perhaps, a happy god, who initiated this circumstance, this first step towards my true love? For without Cupid’s intervention I shall never have fallen in love with Diana. How cruel fate would be! Crueler indeed than the hand that killed Romeo, as that coward Lawrence stood by! But fate did not prove so cruel; my fumbling attempts to relight the hearth proved useless, and Diana’s light flew through the window and illuminated the library.
“I froze. Awestruck at the sheer beauty of the moonbeams penetrating the glass-paned windows, I gazed, enraptured for what seemed endless moments. Every glint, every glare; my eyes roved with endless delight. Ah! I cannot describe the sudden longing that bid me rise and walk to the window, to throw open the panes and to bear the brisk winter air in order that I could feast my eyes on her: Diana. No prose could tell of the passion I began to feel for that perfect satellite, whose flawless circumference shone so starkly in the cold winter air, dazzling the black abyss and inciting the stars to twinkle in jealousy. I reached out, snowflakes alighting on my skin, and touched her face, caressing that which stood against the firmament of heaven, emissary from the gods to men. My hateful arms, long pockmarked with the disease inflicted at my birth, appeared smooth and blemishless in Diana’s panacean rays. How kind this goddess! She who could keep such beauty for herself, sharing selflessly with such a speckled brute as I? How long I stood there, I do not know. What seemed like mere minutes must have been hours, for the hateful orange radiance soon shone over the horizon, setting the snow flurries ablaze like so many sparks from a dying fire. I cursed the sun, its brash rays, its offensive flamboyance, for it had displaced Diana with its bright, harsh light. Aten was never despised such, even by the Egyptians; the hate that I felt sprung from the very depths of my soul, and I could not be soothed.
“The rest of that day was spent in misery. I did not eat, I did not sleep. I merely drifted listlessly, devoid of my usual amusements such as my writings or my habit of taking long walks in the afternoon. My father noted my melancholy state, but made no mention of it, no doubt attributing my downcast demeanor to the moods and fancies of youth. I scoffed inwardly at his inferior deductive reasoning, knowing the real reason behind my mental state, but even this laugh at the expense of my father did little to cheer my embittered countenance. As night drew nearer, my mood improved. A smile would cross my lips every so often as I contemplated my meeting with Diana.
“As the accursed sun set, I took the stairs two at a time, rushing into the library and throwing open the curtains. The light outside died as the world slowly went to sleep, lights in the farmhouses around our manor slowly winking out one by one, with their heavenly doppelgangers doing the opposite far above. I pressed my face against the glass, waiting for Diana to reveal herself to me. But alas, she was nowhere to be seen! I scanned the sky, looking for her heavenly disk but all searching was for naught, the clouds hid her beauty from me. I prayed, implored, nay, screamed for her presence. She played coy, however, and two long hours passed before she deigned to unclothe, removing the thick clouds and revealing her radiance. Her smooth white disc – perfect, and yet pockmarked with the grey lunar seas – reminded me of my own skin, with its hideous texture. Instead of being repulsed, however, I was only drawn closer by this newfound similarity between ourselves. I gazed, enraptured, and in that moment… in that infinitesimally small – Oh, how I wish it could have been longer! – moment of uninterrupted bliss, I resolved to one day be with her, to touch her shining surface, to become one with the center of those strands of exquisite silk; to know my mistress moon.
“My father soon became concerned about my demeanor during the daylight hours and pressed me to do something with my life. My education of nineteen winters had been all well and good, he said, but I was reaching my second decade and it was long past time for me to make myself useful. He suggested the family’s hereditary occupation: trade. He himself had made and lost fortunes in the Indian Ocean, manning a ship for the shipping company Smith & Carrbon. This idea, however was abhorrent to me for it meant dealing with other human beings, who, being repulsed by my face or disturbed by the bandages enclosing it, would most likely refuse to deal with me. I would never be able to advance within the company, instead forced out of sight for fear of alarming the customers. I suggested instead that I study at the university near Arkham to become a natural philosopher: a man of science, and I would endeavor to advance humanity to a higher purpose of existence. Little did I know how literally I would take my own words!
“My idea was quickly accepted and approved by my father, and preparations were made for me to travel to Arkham. In the meantime I nightly conversed with Diana, telling her excitedly of my ideas, for my decision to pursue natural philosophy was no ill-planned venture. My readings of those philosophers of the East had given me the idea that would later become my life’s work: my soul-resonance machine. I planned to develop and invent this contraption at Arkham, for that renowned college has many materials and resources which I anticipated needing to bring my idea to fruition. In late summer I proceeded to load my belongings into my father’s carriage. My father stood at the doorway of the house, leaning on his cane. He raised his hand in farewell and I did likewise. It would be the last time I saw him.
“The Arkham house which I rented was small but sufficient. After I unloaded my belongings I paid the driver and proceeded to wander around this town, discovering the various aspects of the university for myself. I found numerous libraries where I could acquire information as well as a laboratory I could rent to prepare my device. I dove into my work, spending weeks engaged in individual experiments, stopping only to eat and perhaps to rest. I spoke to Diana as often as I could, but Arkham is a town of strange weather, and often cloudbanks would obscure her from me. My appearance grew gaunt, and I seemed a decade older than when I began. But it was worth it, for my machine has finally reached completion. In fact, I intend to test it tonight!”
When I heard these words I was astonished. The strange name by which he referred to this machine excited emotions in me which only the works of Verne have managed to reignite. Yet when I inquired about the details of the device, he seemed to retreat into his former reserve: muttering various obscure formulae and scientific incantations. I pressed the matter further, until he was so uncomfortable with my questioning that he invited me to come to his laboratory that night for the first demonstration of the machine. I said that I was honored, and would certainly come. Thanking me, he rose and left the club, leaving me to smoke my cigar in quiet contemplation of his invitation. Little did I know the atrocities I would face that night!
That evening was no usual one. As I set out from my quaint townhouse I saw the early moon rising before its due and recalled Delaney’s passion for his Diana. I made my way along wandering paths lined with orange trees until I arrived at his laboratory, situated outside the town on a small hill. The oak tree next to it cast a long shadow across the lane as if it were a gnarled and twisted gnomon on some daemonic sundial. As I drew nearer I was sure I heard a faint shout of exultation, though it may have been a memory tainted by later events. My footsteps on the porch must have alerted him to my presence, for the door opened before I even had a chance to knock, and the bandaged face of my newfound companion appeared.
“It is ready!” he said, his bandaged face appearing to contort in the light of the lantern he held in his hand. Ushering me inside, he lit some more oil lamps to better illuminate the chamber inside. Sitting on the floor, surrounded by various mechanical contrivances of a sort too complicated for my uneducated eye was the apparatus: the soul-resonance machine. With the aid of various drawings and charts, Delaney attempted to explain its inner workings, but I must confess that I understood very little of it. As I recall, his narrative went something like this:
“The soul-resonance machine is my life work, my magnum opus, my deux ex machina! You understand, of course, that I would never have attempted to create this novel device were it not for the books in my father’s study. If my eyes had never touched anything but Western texts – ah! what dire calamity! – I should never have conceived the idea which will unite me with my love. As it was, those fateful Eastern texts would provide the seed of an idea, the first inkling of the great world of soul-transference, that I would soon discover. You are familiar, I hope with the idea of reincarnation?”
I nodded my assent and abruptly accepted the documents he thrust excitedly into my hands.
“I supposed that if these ideas were true, then the transference of the soul would allow one’s inner being, his true intelligence, to move rapidly from one point to another. The morals and religious connotations I ignored; my sole goal was to develop the transportation aspect of it! For months I experimented with lizards. Based on their behavior (which, like humans, can vary based on the beast in the form of individual traits and habits), I observed whether their soul was transferred upon the the activation of the machine. The formulae required in this are complicated, and I spent many an hour reading through ancient alchemical texts to discover the necessary vibrations and chemicals. For example, in the works of Verent, whom Sinbad met on that forsaken isle so many years ago…”
For some time he continued on like this. I cannot remember all he said, but he continued to wax eloquent for some time on the subject. I politely examined the documents he had handed me instead, for though I am a man of science, observable facts are what I deal with, not the complicated conjectures of this man. I nervously began to consider his sanity, as the papers I held in my hands seemed to have inscriptions of dubious intent. Fragments of many irreputable books were spaced between obscure formulae, and I believe I even caught a glimpse of an excerpt from one of the Mad Arab’s texts. Abruptly, Delaney ceased his excited rambling and fell silent. I turned from my examination of a manuscript in surprise at his sudden pause, but he directed my attention upward with his finger. Through a roughly cut hole in the roof shone the moon, slightly obscured by the wispy remains of a cloud. I glanced back towards Delaney; remembering his strange passion for his Diana. His gaze was that of a devoted worshipper enraptured with his goddess. We stood staring at the moon for some time, but gradually he returned to earth and pointed silently towards the machine.
“An interesting experiment!” I said hesitantly, for I was beginning to have serious doubts about the scientific credibility and sanity of this man. “I believe, however, you were going to offer a demonstration?”
Delaney nodded suddenly and, turning his back to me, uttered these chilling words, “Everything is calibrated. The machine will turn on, match my soul’s vibration to Diana’s and in an instant I shall travel more than two hundred thousand miles to dwell with her. You merely have to pull the lever.”
He stood like that for an instant, looking up at the moon. Startled, I opened my mouth to inquire what he meant but was interrupted by a sharp gasp. Delaney, doubled over in pain, abruptly collapsed to his knees and hit the floor, the sickening thud seeming to reverberate throughout the room. After an initial delay of disbelief, I was at his side. A sharp knife, coated with blood fell from his hand. His white shirt was stained with red, and the blood leaked out onto the floor, he gathered his remaining strength and whispered in a voice so low I could hardly hear him, “I shall now be with my Diana. Pull the lever.”
I was in a trance. The man had killed himself! I scarcely knew what to think. His dark eyes looked up at me and glazed over. Slowly, his lips moved.
Leaping to my feet, I pulled the lever on the machine. Oh the horror which then filled my inner being! With an abrupt whine, the machine sprang into action. A horrible queasy feeling came over me. I shook as if freezing cold, while the room sprang in and out of place around me. Noise filled the air: the thud I had heard from before, a thousand times repeated! With every thud Delaney died again. I shrank back in fear and terror. My vision seemed to shimmer, and then shatter into pieces and I screamed, surrounded by innumerable thuds, all shooting from me to the sky, from the ground to the stars, from Delaney to his horrid darling moon.
I know naught of what followed. They say I was lying senseless when they found me, almost dead, lying in the ruins of the crumbling laboratory. Delaney’s corpse was recovered from the wreckage, beaten and battered almost beyond recognition. In addition, the wreck of the machine could be made out amongst the various rubble that used to be the laboratory. They say for miles around the event that dogs howled and cats arched their backs and babies burst into tears, but I experienced none of these things; they were probably isolated phenomena, increased and multiplied by rumor. I believe that all which happened was that the machine exploded, nearly killing me and ending his life beyond all doubt. Delaney was a lunatic, deluded by that blasted moon, and his end was fitting; a mad death for a mad man.
And yet one cannot help but wonder.
[APOLLO 11 – TECHNICAL AIR-TO-GROUND VOICE TRANSCRIPTION]
04 13 34 54 LMP [The moon] looks beautiful from here,
04 13 34 56 CDR It has a stark beauty all its own.
It’s like much of the high desert of
the United States. It’s different
but it’s very pretty out here. [static]
Feels like there’s a presence to it.
[static] Like someone’s been here
04 13 35 30 CC Houston. Roger. Out.