The Abomination of Desolation

Clark Ashton Smith

The desert of Soom is said to lie at the world's unchartable extreme, between the lands that are little known and those that are scarcely even conjectured. It is dreaded by travellers, for its bare and ever-moving sands are without oases, and a strange horror is rumored to dwell among them. Of this horror, many tales are told, and nearly all of the tales are different. Some say that the thing has neither visible form nor audible voice, and others that it is a dire chimera with multitudinous heads and horns and tails, and a tongue whose sound is like the tolling of bells in deep funereal vaults. Of the caravans and solitary wanderers who have ventured amid the sands of Soom, none has returned without a story to tell; and some have never returned at all, or have come back with brains devoured to madness by the terror and vertigo and delirium of infinite empty space.

..Yes, there are many tales, of a thing that follows furtively or with the pandemonium of a thousand devils, of a thing that roars or whispers balefully from the sand or from the wind, or stirs unseen in the coiling silence; or falls from the heavens like a crushing incubus: or yawns like a sudden pit before the feet of the traveller....

But once on a time there were two lovers who came to the desert of Soom, and who had occasion to cross the sterile sands. They knew not the evil rumor of the place; and, since they had found an abiding Eden in each other's eyes, it is doubtful if they even knew that they were passing through a desert. And they alone, of all who have dared this fearsome desolation, have had no tale to relate of any troublous thing, of any horror that followed or lurked before them, either seen or unseen, audible or heard; and for them there was no chimera, no yawning pit nor incubus. And never, never could they comprehend the stories that were told by less fortunate wayfarers.

December 18, 1929

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Printed on: November 25, 2017