‘I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy bed... I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind’
-H.P. Lovecraft (Dagon)
It is H.P. Lovecraft celebration day here at The Cult Den and where better to start than the first story I read by the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror story, Dagon.
Dagon is a short tale of a tortured morphine addict that seeks to commit suicide in order to escape the memories of an incident that occurred in the Pacific Ocean when his merchant ship was captured by the Germans during World War 1.
We begin the story as the unnamed officer narrates how his ship was captured before he manages to escape on a small boat with supplies soon after. Drifting alone at sea he falls asleep and wakes up to find himself on a ‘slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see’. The narrator decides to explore this new found piece of land and discovers a monolith that he assumes must be the place of worship to an ancient sea god by a primitive seafaring tribe until a ‘creature’, vast, polyphemus-like, and loathsome rises from the black depths and flings its scaly arms around the monolith. The narrator quickly flees to his boat believing he’s gone mad. He wakes up in San Francisco after being rescued by an American ship that never saw the up heaved land and took what he said during his unconscious ramblings as being a result of delirium.
Dagon is one of those beautiful stories I really like that doesn’t give you any answers. Nothing exceptional happens and there’s no huge event that takes place like in a lot of contemporary short stories. Lovecraft manages to use his words to engage and takes you on a journey to a nightmarish scenario where his words comfort you throughout so you don’t feel the urge to turn and run. You become mesmerized by the world he is describing around you and soon find that he has disappeared, leaving you abandoned on a stinking, black and sticky land, alone and faced with the monstrous creature driving you mad.
Although only six pages long, Dagon is an example of excellent writing. It captures your imagination and makes you wonder ‘What if?’ without ever providing you with a definite answer so you continue to ponder the possibility long after you have put the book back on its shelf.