I release this letter with deepest regret, per my instructions:
From: Sacnej Mensa, PhD
918 Parsonage St
Arkham, MA 01914
May 31, 2012
To: Professor James Schannep
c/o Miskatonic University
1 Miskatonic Lane
Providence, RI 02112
Dearest friend and colleague,
My journey to Peru and the lost city of Machu Picchu is well-known throughout my circle. However, my reasons for choosing this destination have hitherto remained unclear to all, including my travel companion.
I write to you as an admission of fact, though if all goes well and the mystery is revealed, I shall insist you burn this letter, never to share my dreadful account. I am sure you understand the need for discretion.
It all began a year prior to the exact date of my ascent to the mysterious citadel. I had a persistent vision, not quite a nightmare, although the experience left me with an odious sense of dread.
My vision was extremely lucid. In the dead of night I was venturing up a moss-covered hill, its sickly green ooze slippery under my feet. There was a chill in the air, and in the high altitude, I found it difficult to catch my breath, as if some wretched hand was clutching at my neck.
I pressed forward through the unfamiliar sounds of the jungle, unconcerned with whence I came or where I was going. The moon was a bright specter, and my eyes played tricks on me. I could see ungainly shadows following my every move.
I found the ruins, covered over with jungle growth, just like they were when Bingham reclaimed them. Though I’d only seen a few pictures of the ruins up to this point in my fifty-six years, I knew them by name. Their walls were painfully angled; their geometry clashed with the natural surroundings to the point of nausea. My head was spinning because of some ancient power the ruins possessed, yet still I pressed onward to reach their pale, languid features.
A cavern suddenly opened near me—yet I felt as if it had always been there—and was reaching out to me with soul-gripping strength. The ubiquitous darkness extended beyond its mouth, like some great chasm that led straight to hell. Why I stepped forward, I cannot say.
My footfall echoed with a cacophony of whispers and hushed laughter, so that each scuff of my shoe on the hard, merciless stone was like a devil within my ear. Water dripped down the walls in slow, tepid drops. It was as if the cave itself salivated at the prospect of devouring me as a meal.
The snickering and breathing I was hearing intensified, to the point where I had no recourse save to stop in my tracks and hold my breath. For a time there was no sound. Then, just as my lungs began to burn for want of air, it came like a cool breeze: runajpata astawan…
I froze, trying to grasp what I’d just heard. Was it a voice? A trick of the wind? As if in answer, it happened again, this time as the completion of the phrase that I’d somehow known was unfinished.
Those ethereal tones, the eldritch, otherworldly rasp spewing forth at me turned my bones to cold milk. I wasn’t sure if the words had even been spoken aloud, or if the wretched foulness had originated within my own mind. That’s when it hit me, with the kind of certainty that only occurs in dreams: the voice in question was mine.
At this dark realization, I stepped toward myself from the shadows. That is to say, another me, a doppelgänger, moved in and enveloped me with a sinister embrace. I’ve never had a night-terror such as this, and my own fright was palpable. Though, I’d be remiss not to reveal that I felt the grasp was one of longing, a horrible love that only phantasmagoria could offer.
I looked upon my own countenance, though this was no mirror. All my features were cragged and wicked; there was a trace of youth in the indolent face, although most of it seemed somehow stolen. The eyes looked back at me with the same infinity as the cavern itself, a black, deathly emptiness. The mouth parted, fell back and opened; the vapor that spewed forth was one of lurid sulfur. The words that emerged were not uttered by this apparition, but instead were born in some otherworldly dimension not known to man. His form simply allowed their exit: runajpata astawan ukhuyninqa pataqaran.
As the words became a part of my consciousness, my “other”’s fingers pressed into my flesh. They moved through my skin and became my skin, his sallow glow taking over my own pale complexion. We merged, became one, but more than that, he overtook me, not with struggle or conflict, but much to my horror, I was allowing him to possess and become me. I couldn’t scream out, and worse, I didn’t want to. There was less of him as he shifted into me; to be more accurate, he grew while I shrank. Like the sands in an hourglass shifting from one side to the other, I was pouring out and he was filling up.
Just as he replaced me, I awoke. I’ll spare you the rest of the planning details of my trek up to the Lost City of the Incas, of procuring a travel companion, porters and guides, and of arranging the rest of the particulars for my trip. Suffice it to say, I had to go. Something compelled me, and I cannot explain why. I know it seems like madness to have a vision such as this and to accede to the wishes of the fiend.
Perhaps I could argue I have to go there to conquer the vision, the fear that hovers over my every waking moment. But that wouldn’t be entirely true. The deep dread that I’ll be lost upon my arrival is pervasive, and yet I can’t alter this destiny that has been thrust upon me.
My one fail-safe is this letter. It must be released upon my planned date of return, September 12th, unless I return to you in person to instruct otherwise.