The City of Destruction

Clark Ashton Smith

{Prose version of "The City of Destruction", after Smith's unfinished poem of that name; fragment.}


The city is surrounded with ramparts like a mountain-range — walls of such magnitude that it seems no power save that of an earthquake could have heaved them into place; and is rent with the chasms of tremendous streets, in which the winds of chaos lose themselves. The scope of spheral roof and walls subverts the wandering air; and the unstarred zenith is hung with the [black and] swollen menace of its mighty domes. Eternity is citadeled within its walls that fortify the very gulfs — infernal walls on which the watchfires are like a crown of fallen stars. The groaning planes of the nadir are oppressed by the burden of the city's multitudinous crags and pinnacles, and are shaken momently by the earthquake-begetting labor of the tempest-imprisoning machineries of doom, and of engines in whose vitals the four elements are allied in a brotherhood of toil tremendous to the foundations of the suns — a labor that makes the planets pale. The palpitation of the city's death-laden pulse penetrates with obscure tremors the blind and deaf spaces of the nether skies, unexplored by the traveling ray of a star.


In the cavern-like halls of palaces built of black and mountainous adamant quarried from out the central gloom of glacier-conquered suns, the demonian lords of doom sit in council by the light of smoldering lamps that are red as the moons of hell. The Titan sons of night, whose forms are shadow-vested from head to foot, and from under whose murky and precipitous brows the eyes glare out with the lurid splendour of infernal fires betrayed by secret caves. With their eyes, which search the abyss, and all the special coverts of the night, they ponder the charts of infinity, and the pells and scrolls which hold the immemorial history of suns and worlds, and all the prophecies and decrees, and dooms and ultimates of Time. They study the holocryptic volumes which contain the laws and secrets of Eternity, and the terms and reigns and genealogies of gods and demons. Therein are inscribed the spells which have power upon the supreme unspeakable God, and the times and conditions of His birth and death. And therein is the black knowledge mined from the nadir, and the law of the powers of the {. . . }

From: Strange Shadows: The Uncollected Fiction and Essays of Clark Ashton Smith. Ed. Steve Behrends, Donald Sidney-Fryer and Rah Hoffman. Greenwood Press 1989.

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