Ascharia (Synopsis and Fragment)

Clark Ashton Smith


Told by Hespire, Lemurian space-voyager, to his grandchildren. Hespire hints at strange adventures on various planets. Speaks of Ascharia, the lost planet, which had disappeared mysteriously since the visit paid to it by himself and companions. Brief mention of Lemurian space-vessels. Grakhta, a type of vessel propelled by explosions, long obsolete, though successfully used for circumnavigating the moon and nearer planets. Octrol, using gravity converters, is a new and far more practicable type. Mechanism turns (negative) electro-magnetic radiations of gravity into (positive) force, thus making them repel rather than attract. Octrol easily steered and manipulated. Voyage to Ascharia not the first cosmic voyage made by Hespire. Having distinguished himself in previous expeditions, he is second in command of Octrol visiting Ascharia. This planet proves similar in size to the earth, but has incomplete rotation, so that part is always in darkness and part in light. Libration covers extensive area, however, creating a fertile zone between deserts of sunward equator and ice-fields of night-ward side. Octrol, before landing, circles planet to make topographical survey and seek for signs of habitation. Many curious animals seen. Vegetation has rich and unusual coloring, though season is vernal. Hespire and his companions seem to catch sight of strangely shaped towers and domes in distance; but these prove illusions, and are perhaps some sort of cloud or vapor-formation, since they disappear when approached. Queer lights seen in a sea, that lies partly in the night and twilight zone. Nothing that proves habitation by creatures of human type or intellectual level. Air of insoluble mystery and strangeness everywhere, however; and explorers feel that there is something which baffles them, something they have not found. They make landing for closer investigation of ruin-like rocks which turn out to be, as far as they can tell, a mere natural formation. Hespire, wandering apart from his fellows, is caught by a huge ^net-bearing monster which catches him in its outflung members^ [marsupial monster which crams him into its pouch] and then runs away with prodigious leaps, bounding over rivers, rock-ledges, swampy areas, treetops, etc. It carries him for hundreds of miles through the most fertile part of Ascharia. Emerging from a dense woodland, the monster stops at sight of a group of colossal images, apparently of stone or metal, which stand in an open space. Images so huge that their heads, seen in distance, may have been mistaken for domes and towers by the earth-men. Monster seems both frightened and fascinated by them. Hespire manages to escape from ^its net^ [his pouch] and at that moment a light as of some electric discharge flashes from the eyes of one of the statues. ^Monster^ [Marsupial] runs away as if in great terror, leaving Hespire. H., in much wonder, approaches images, some of which are formed like unknown animals, others like superhuman warriors with alien weapons. One from whose eyes the light flashed is seemingly representation of a female being—like, but unlike, a woman. It is nude, apparently carved of a white substance faintly tinged with rose . Hespire inspects it but is immensely mystified. Though the eyes and features and limbs all seem insensible, there is a baffling suggestion of (life) about the image, as if it were an organic entity, or, at least, an inhabited building. Moves closer and finds open door in left heel! Ascends dim, mysteriously litten stairway, to find himself ultimately in a round, dome-like chamber of which the eyes are the windows. Chamber is quite empty, with enigmatic pictures everywhere on the walls and floor. Eye-windows seem made of some greenish, perfectly transparent crystalline or vitreous material. Hespire studies pictures, which are incomprehensible as the thoughts of some unearthly entity. Begins to feel that he is not (alone) in the chamber, but can detect no sensory evidence of the presence he suspects. Feels alarmed, as if by a phantom, and wishes to leave . Descends stairs and finds there is no longer a door at the place where he had entered! Returns to pictured chamber, which, to his amazement, now contains a couch covered with soft quilts, and a table laid out with food and drink! The potables and foods, though of unfamiliar nature, prove palatable and wholesome. Hespire concludes that statue is inhabited by some hidden being or beings. Further search reveals none as such; but statues could easily contain walled-off spaces. Hespire, worn out with fatigue, falls asleep on the couch and is visited by bizarre dreams in which a shape that he cannot remember afterwards seems to manifest itself to him. These dreams leave an impression of unearthly delight and exotic pleasures or voluptuousness. One only he recalls, as concerning a gigantic female form on whose breast he is cradled. Waking, he is more keenly aware of an invisible presence than before, and feels that presence is somehow feminine and identified with that of his dreams. Falls asleep again with vague sensations of illness and debility, and a feeling of being cloyed and overpowered as if by some alien drug or perfume. Passes into dreams of nightmarish alienage. Is awakened by swaying movement, and finds that the group of images, like living creatures, is on the march to some destination which he cannot surmise. Is intermittently conscious of the feminine presence; but it seems now that the presence is more or less preoccupied with other matters, as if guiding the movement of the thing that it inhabits. His feelings of illness and malaise persist, but gradually lessen. The colossal marching images traverse a broad area toward the zones of eternal twilight and night. Crossing a sort of mountain-range, they descend toward a shadowed sea of dark purplish-red water. Strange lights glimmer far out in the sea, as if illumined in the under-surface depths—like the lights of a sunken city. When the colossi reach the shore, many monstrous and enormous beings emerge from the sea to meet them. These beings are perhaps images—perhaps living behemoths; and all indescribably terrible and evil. A battle ensues, in which the warrior and animal images vanquish the creatures from the dark sea. Most of these latter, however, are not destroyed but merely flee into the depths; and it seems that some power of sorcery or exorcism used by the white goddess has served greatly in defeating them. Hespire feels that the war he has witnessed is of immemorial origin and will go on until the annihilation of one or both armies of participants. (It is like a struggle between good and evil, between darkness and light?) It serves to deepen the unreadable mystery of Ascharia, which neither Hespire nor any earth-being can penetrate.

After the battle, the conquering images return on their route to the place where Hespire had encountered them. Then the white giantess leaves the others, and takes Hespire back to the neighborhood of the Octrol and his companions. The unseen presence now seems aloof, as if realizing that by its very alienage any attempted interchange is somehow harmful to Hespire. H., however, is aware of a weird solicitude and affection. Reaching the spot where the net-bearing monster caught him, he is prompted to descend the stairs and finds the door open in the heel of the image. The latter then vanishes mysteriously. Perhaps it has the power of voluntary invisibility; perhaps by superhuman mesmeric will, it can {induce forgetfulness} in the observer. At any rate, it is gone; and though Hespire and his comrades continue for some time their exploration of the planet, they are unable to learn anything further concerning its enigmatic inhabitants.

Asharia: A Tale Of The Lost Planet


In the years preceding the submersion of Mu, this tale was told to his children's children by Hespire the space-wanderer, when he had grown too old for the fatigues and rigors of ultra-mundane voyaging:

During my numerous trips to the inner and outer planets (said Hespire) I saw such marvels and met such adventures as would make the wildest legends of the world's youth appear credible by comparison. Some day, perhaps, I will tell you of my encounter with the frightful but insubstantial giants who infest the hidden side of the moon; and will also relate the curious predicament in which I found myself upon landing amid those entities, half fungous and half reptile, that flourish loathsomely beneath the humid and everlasting fogs of Roiba.

Moreover, I may speak of the living fluids that gather perniciously at the poles of Mhuth; and of certain dark Presences, neither material nor phantasmal, that assail the invader of the red, ruinous Mhuthian cities. These things I recall with unfading dread and wonder. But, among all my experiences, there was none stranger than the adventure which befell me in Asharia, the fifth world.

Now Asharia, as even little children know, is the planet that disappeared from the heavens only a decade agone, flaring like a young sun ere it died out on the constellated darkness. Voyagers between Mhuth and Mhaggalok have found its far-scattered fragments; and the largest of these whirling planetoids have been named, and their orbits charted. But neither space-explorers nor astronomers have learned the true cause of the destruction of Asharia. And though there are vague myths that the forbears of man came primordially to Earth from Asharia, it is doubtful if that world was ever trodden by human feet other than those of my companions and me.

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.

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