Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/55

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The Statement of Randolph Carter

by H. P. Lovecraft

Telling ghost stories in dark and lonely places is an honored tradition. As a rule such tales, recited from memory, are not the type that make for literature—they are terse, grim, and usually described as true occurrences. The works of the "greats" of modern fantasy—save perhaps for Ambrose Bierce—are not easily adapted to such recitation; they are too complex or too esoteric. But here is an H. P. Lovecraft tale that lends itself to recitation. Not word for word, but the plot idea is one to be worked into a midnight tale. Your editor has related it several times—usually on deserted rural roads—with marked effect.

I repeat to you gentlemen, that your inquisition is fruitless. Detain me here for ever if you will; confine or execute me if you must have a victim to propitiate the illusion you call justice; but I can say no more than I have said already. Everything that I can remember, I have told with perfect candor. Nothing has been distorted or concealed, and if anything remains vague, it is only because of the dark cloud which has come over my mind—that cloud and the nebulous nature of the horrors which brought it upon me.

Again I say, I do not know what has become of Harley Warren, though I think—almost hope—that he is in peaceful oblivion, if there be anywhere so blessed a thing. It is true that I have for five years been his closest friend, and a partial sharer of his terrible researches into the unknown. I will not deny, though my memory is uncertain and indistinct, that this witness of yours may have seen us together as he says, on the Gainsville pike, walking toward Big Cypress Swamp, at half past eleven on that awful night. That we bore electric lanterns, spades, and a curious coil of wire with attached instruments, I will even affirm; for these things all played a part in the single hideous scene which remains burned into my shaken recollection. But of what followed, and of the reason I was found alone and dazed on the edge of the swamp next morning, I must insist that I know nothing save what I have told you over and over again. You say to me that there is nothing in the