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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
VI THE HAUNTED AND THE HAUNTERS: OR THE HOUSE AND THE BRAIN
I now became aware that something interposed between the page and the light--the page was overshadowed; I looked up, and I saw what I shall find it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to describe.
It was a Darkness shaping itself out of the air in very undefined outline. I cannot say it was of a human form, and yet it had more resemblance to a human form, or rather shadow, than anything else. As it stood, wholly apart and distinct from the air and the light around it, its dimensions seemed gigantic, the summit nearly touching the ceiling. While I gazed, a feeling of intense cold seized me. An iceberg before me could not more have chilled me; nor could the cold of an iceberg have been more purely physical. I feel convinced that it was not the cold caused by fear. As I continued to gaze, I thought--but this I cannot say with precision--that I distinguished two eyes looking down on me from the height. One moment I seemed to distinguish them clearly, the next they seemed gone; but still two rays of a pale-blue light frequently shot through the darkness, as from the height on which I half-believed, half-doubted, that I had encountered the eyes.
I strove to speak--my voice utterly failed me; I could only think to myself, "Is this fear? it is _not_ fear!" I strove to rise--in vain; I felt as if weighed down by an irresistible force. Indeed, my impression was that of an immense and overwhelming Power opposed to my volition; that sense of utter inadequacy to cope with a force beyond men's, which one may feel _physically_ in a storm at sea, in a conflagration, or when confronting some terrible wild beast, or rather, perhaps, the shark of the ocean, I felt _morally_. Opposed to my will was another will, as far superior to its strength as storm, fire, and shark are superior in material force to the force of men.
And now, as this impression grew on me, now came, at last, horror--horror to a degree that no words can convey. Still I retained pride, if not courage; and in my own mind I said, "This is horror, but it is not fear; unless I fear, I cannot be harmed; my reason rejects this thing; it is an illusion--I do not fear." With a violent effort I succeeded at last in stretching out my hand towards the weapon on the table; as I did so, on the arm and shoulder I received a strange shock, and my arm fell to my side powerless. And now, to add to my horror, the light began slowly to wane from the candles--they were not, as it were, extinguished, but their flame seemed very gradually withdrawn; it was the same with the fire--the light was extracted from the fuel; in a few minutes the room was in utter darkness.
The dread that came over me, to be thus in the dark with that dark Thing, whose power was so intensely felt, brought a reaction of nerve. In fact, terror had reached that climax, that either my senses must have deserted me, or I must have burst through the spell. I did burst through it. I found voice, though the voice was a shriek. I remember that I broke forth with words like these--"I do not fear, my soul does not fear"; and at the same time I found the strength to rise. Still in that profound gloom I rushed to one of the windows--tore aside the curtain--flung open the shutters; my first thought was--LIGHT. And when I saw the moon high, clear, and calm, I felt a joy that almost compensated for the previous terror. There was the moon, there was also the light from the gas-lamps in the deserted slumberous street. I turned to look back into the room; the moon penetrated its shadow very palely and partially--but still there was light. The dark Thing, whatever it might be, was gone--except that I could yet see a dim shadow which seemed the shadow of that shade, against the opposite wall.