WARNING! These reviews all contain SPOILERS!!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

"The Plain of Sound"

by Ramsey Campbell 

originally published The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants, Arkham House, 1964

Frank Nuttall, Tony Roles, and yet another Unnamed Narrator, having "nothing particular to do at Brichester University" decide to hike their way down to the village of Severnford, and visit "one of the oldest inns in England".  After the requisite downing of the pints, the gang decides to head home, following some directions from the innkeeper which he alleges are a shortcut.  Soon they're lost.

They begin to hear some strange sounds in the distance, possibly a tractor or some industrial machine.  Hoping to get some better directions, they follow it, finding a small, flat region between four ridges, with a small stone house in the middle of it somewhere.

The sounds become unbearable, but seem to disappear once they reach the stone house.  No one's home and, it seems, no one's been home for some time.  But, there are copies of some books on witchcraft, a diary, and a copy of Revelations of Glaaki.  Oh, and a weird-ass looking machine in one of the rooms.

The diary turns out to be the work of one Prof. Arnold Hird - ex-Brichester U.  Apparently around 1930, Prof. Hird moved out to the isolated stone house in an attempt to study the mysterious noises.  Instead, the Prof. was tortured by odd dreams in which he saw alien cities and even more alien inhabitants, who communicated with him.  The alien vistas and folks existed in alien dimension which overlapped with ours in certain places - the little plain being one of them.  The inhabitants and objects in their world (said world known as S'gluho)  were experienced in ours as sounds, whereas sounds from our world manifest as objects or living things in theirs.  The inhabitants directed Hird to find information in The Necronomicon and Revelations of Glaaki allowing him to build the aforementioned weird-ass machine, which allowed him to see into their world, and them to see us.  

But oh no, that ain't all.  It also allowed them to cross over into our world, in physical form.

And, after awhile, the Prof. began to feel these creatures were less than jake.  Built into the machine is a sounding board, which creates a sound in their world which can be used as a weapon against them, though the effects are apparently nasty (the Prof. does not elaborate).

Well shee-it!  What is their for three sobering-up British college joes to do in such a situation but fire up the blessed machine?  Which they immediately do.

Next thing you know, they're staring the reptilian S'gluhoans in the white-eyed face.  The S'gluhoans pretty quickly start attempting to get their slimy feet in the door.  Quick-thinking Frank uses the sounding board, and the S'gluhoans slam the door.  But Tony, having seen what the weapon did to them (he's unable to tell us exactly what that was) is reduced to a drooling lunatic.

An odd little story that recalls Clark Ashton Smith's weird sci-fi horror more than HPL.  It's certainly not bad, per se, and Campbell's writing is as solid as any other Weird Tales pastiche at this juncture - given that he was 18 or so when he wrote it, that's something.  Nonetheless, this is a very minor tale without much punch,  and its no surprise Campbell left it out of his 1980's Cold Print collection of his best Cthulhu stories.

1 comment:

  1. It's not what the weapon did to the S'glhuo folk -- it's what the racket it made LOOSED UPON THEM. And even that isn't the real horror -- the madman says, over and over, "I saw what it took from its victims" -- meaning the unspeakable monster took the device they were about to use to connect the universes. So it's out there waiting for some fool to open the door.