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Musings on The Challenge From Beyond (written in 1935, by several authors) - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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February 9th, 2012


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01:39 am - Musings on The Challenge From Beyond (written in 1935, by several authors)
I encountered an interesting story recently – The Challenge From Beyond (the entire story is contained at this link, since it's out of copyright), written in 1935, like several others of its era, it was written by a number of famous authors (C.L. Moore, Abraham Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long). It's more fun that good, and is most notable for containing the single most impressive disjunction between two author's writing styles that I've ever seen. First, you have a fairly typical Lovecraft story, with marvelously described worm-like aliens, and one of a number of his protagonists who screams in blind terror when confronted with his true fate (being in the body of a worm-like alien, a fact that is told to the reader well beforehand). Then we have the section written by Robert E. Howard, which can best be described as our protagonist becomes Conan of the Worms. Here's the relevant section, which is fairly amusing. If you are interested, read the rest, it's only 6,000 words, and Long's ending is fun and also amusingly out of left-field.

[End of Section by H. P. Lovecraft]
The actual nightmare element, though, was something more than this. It began with the living thing which presently entered through one of the slits, advancing deliberately toward him and bearing a metal box of bizarre proportions and glassy, mirror-like surfaces. For this thing was nothing human -- nothing of earth -- nothing even of man's myths and dreams. It was a gigantic, pale-grey worm or centipede, as large around as a man and twice as long, with a disc-like, apparently eyeless, cilia-fringed head bearing a purple central orifice. It glided on its rear pairs of legs, with its fore part raised vertically -- the legs, or at least two pairs of them, serving as arms. Along its spinal ridge was a curious purple comb, and a fan-shaped tail of some grey membrane ended its grotesque bulk. There was a ring of flexible red spikes around its neck, and from the twistings of these came clicking, twanging sounds in measured, deliberate rhythms.

Here, indeed, was outré nightmare at its height -- capricious fantasy at its apex. But even this vision of delirium was not what caused George Campbell to lapse a third time into unconsciousness. It took one more thing -- one final, unbearable touch -- to do that. As the nameless worm advanced with its glistening box, the reclining man caught in the mirror-like surface a glimpse of what should have been his own body. Yet -- horribly verifying his disordered and unfamiliar sensations -- it was not his own body at all that he saw reflected in the burnished metal. It was, instead, the loathsome, pale-grey bulk of one of the great centipedes.

[Begin Section By Robert E. Howard]

From that final lap of senselessness, he emerged with a full understanding of his situation. His mind was Imprisoned in the body of a frightful native of an alien planet, while, somewhere on the other side of the universe, his own body was housing the monster's personality.

He fought down an unreasoning horror. Judged from a cosmic standpoint, why should his metamorphosis horrify him? Life and consciousness were the only realities in the universe. Form was unimportant. His present body was hideous only according to terrestrial standards. Fear and revulsion were drowned in the excitement of titanic adventure.

What was his former body but a cloak, eventually to be cast off at death anyway? He had no sentimental illusions about the life from which he had been exiled. What had it ever given him save toil, poverty, continual frustration and repression? If this life before him offered no more, at least it offered no less. Intuition told him it offered more -- much more.

With the honesty possible only when life is stripped to its naked fundamentals, he realized that he remembered with pleasure only the physical delights of his former life. But he had long ago exhausted all the physical possibilities contained in that earthly body. Earth held no new thrills. But in the possession of this new, alien body he felt promises of strange, exotic joys.
A lawless exultation rose in him. He was a man without a world, tree of all conventions or inhibitions of Earth, or of this strange planet, free of every artificial restraint in the universe. He was a god!

Current Mood: amusedamused

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:pendelook
Date:February 9th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
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...what. =D
[User Picture]
From:syna
Date:February 9th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
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This is SO AWESOME.
[User Picture]
From:xuenay
Date:February 9th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Hah, that's great. :D

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