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The Shambler from the Stars (Short Story)

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"The Shambler from the Stars" is a horror short story by American writer Robert Bloch, first published in the September 1935 issue of Weird Tales. It was later included as part of his first published book, The Opener of the Way (1945), and his 1994 collection The Early Fears. As a Cthulhu Mythos tale it is notable for introducing the forbidden tome De Vermis Mysteriis (Mysteries of the Worm), and being a prequel to Lovecraft's own short story The Haunter of the Dark, which was dedicated to Bloch.

Plot Summary

The story focuses on a nameless narrator who, in addition to being a college student, hopes to make a living as a pulp writer of weird fiction. Unfortunately, his earliest efforts at the craft are woefully inadequate and rejected by the magazine editors. As a result, he begins to yearn after the forbidden knowledge known only to those who are true practitioners of the occult, and begins sending letters of correspondence to various thinkers and dreamers from all over the country. One man in particular, a "mystic dreamer" from New England, tells him of the existence of certain nameless and forbidden tomes such as the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon. Soon afterwards, the narrator mails letters to various libraries, universities, and occult practitioners, hoping to secure the desired volumes. However, he is only met with both hostility and threats of violence. Undeterred, he then personally begins searching various bookstores around his hometown.

At first, he again meets with disappointment, but his perseverance eventually pays off and, in an old shop on South Dearborn Street, he succeeds in obtaining an occult volume known as De Vermis Mysteriis, which he knows was written by a reputed mage, alchemist, and necromancer from Brussels, Belgium named Ludvig Prinn, who was burned alive at the stake during the height of the witchcraft trials. Finding it to be written entirely in Latin, and not being able to speak the language, he once again contacts the New England mystic, who agrees to aid him in translation. The narrator then travels to his home in Providence, Rhode Island where at first he finds the mystic too hesitant to even open the volume, finding it reeking of evil and death, but eventually, upon the narrator's insistence, he opens it and is overcome by scholarly enthusiasm. While reading through, and occasionally translating, the book, he inadvertently stumbles across a spell or invocation on a chapter dealing with familiars which he believes to be a summoning towards one of the invisible "star-sent servants" spoken of in the frightful stories surrounding Ludvig Prinn.

Foolishly, the narrator makes no attempt to stop him from reading the inscription out loud, and immediately afterwards, the room turns dreadfully cold, and an unearthly wind rushes in through the window, followed by a hideous laughter, which heralds the arrival of an invisible vampiric monstrosity. Suddenly, the monster lifts the mystic into the air, and begins feeding off of his blood until he is nothing more than a wrinkled, flabby corpse. As the creature continues to feed, it slowly becomes more and more visible until its monstrous form is fully revealed. Upon witnessing the fully visible "shambler from the stars," the narrator goes mad. After the creature retreats back into the nameless cosmic gulfs from whence it had come, once again accompanied by the sound of unearthly laughter, the book mysteriously vanishes, and the narrator wanders out into the streets, shortly after setting his own friend's house on fire. While the narrator struggles to move on from his ordeal, he still subconsciously fears that the shambler from the stars will one day return for him.

References

The Shambler from the Stars (Short Story) Wikipedia


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