by H. P. Lovecraft
Written early Dec 1920
Published November 1920 in The United Amateur, Vol. 20, No. 2, p. 19-21.
Nyarlathotep... the crawling chaos... I am the last... I will tell the audient void...
I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was
horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding
apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a
danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that
the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and
prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had
heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the
stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a
demoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons the autumn heat lingered fearsomely,
and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of
known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.
And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he
was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw
him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven
centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of
civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange
instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He
spoke much of the sciences of electricity and psychology and gave exhibitions of power
which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding
magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where
Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with the screams of
nightmare. Never before had the screams of nightmare been such a public problem; now
the wise men almost wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours, that the shrieks of
cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it glimmered on green waters
gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky.
I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city the great, the old, the terrible city of
unnumbered crimes. My friend had told me of him, and of the impelling fascination and
allurement of his revelations, and I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost
mysteries. My friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most fevered
imaginings; and what was thrown on a screen in the darkened room prophesied things
none but Nyarlathotep dared prophesy, and in the sputter of his sparks there was taken
from men that which had never been taken before yet which shewed only in the eyes.
And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew Nyarlathotep looked on sights which
others saw not.
It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowds to see
Nyarlathotep; through the stifling night and up the endless stairs into the choking room.
And shadowed on a screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces
peering from behind fallen monuments. And I saw the world battling against blackness;
against the waves of destruction from ultimate space; whirling, churning, struggling
around the dimming, cooling sun. Then the sparks played amazingly around the heads of
the spectators, and hair stood up on end whilst shadows more grotesque than I can tell
came out and squatted on the heads. And when I, who was colder and more scientific
than the rest, mumbled a trembling protest about imposture and static electricity,
Nyarlathotep drove us all out, down the dizzy stairs into the damp, hot, deserted midnight
streets. I screamed aloud that I was not afraid; that I never could be afraid; and others
screamed with me for solace. We swore to one another that the city was exactly the same,
and still alive; and when the electric lights began to fade we cursed the company over and
over again, and laughed at the queer faces we made.
I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon, for when we began to
depend on its light we drifted into curious involuntary marching formations and seemed
to know our destinations though we dared not think of them. Once we looked at the
pavement and found the blocks loose and displaced by grass, with scarce a line of rusted
metal to shew where the tramways had run. And again we saw a tram-car, lone,
windowless, dilapidated, and almost on its side. When we gazed around the horizon, we
could not find the third tower by the river, and noticed that the silhouette of the second
tower was ragged at the top. Then we split up into narrow columns, each of which
seemed drawn in a different direction. One disappeared in a narrow alley to the left,
leaving only the echo of a shocking moan. Another filed down a weed-choked subway
entrance, howling with a laughter that was mad. My own column was sucked toward the
open country, and presently I felt a chill which was not of the hot autumn; for as we
stalked out on the dark moor, we beheld around us the hellish moon-glitter of evil snows.
Trackless, inexplicable snows, swept asunder in one direction only, where lay a gulf all
the blacker for its glittering walls. The column seemed very thin indeed as it plodded
dreamily into the gulf. I lingered behind, for the black rift in the green-litten snow was
frightful, and I thought I had heard the reverberations of a disquieting wail as my
companions vanished; but my power to linger was slight. As if beckoned by those who
had gone before, I half-floated between the titanic snowdrifts, quivering and afraid, into
the sightless vortex of the unimaginable.
Screamingly sentient, dumbly delirious, only the gods that were can tell. A sickened,
sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly
midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel
winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low. Beyond the worlds vague
ghosts of monstrous things; half-seen columns of unsanctifled temples that rest on
nameless rocks beneath space and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and
darkness. And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening
beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable,
unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance
slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods the blind,
voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.
NOTE: Nyarlathotep appeared in the November issue the United Amateur, but as that
publication was often several months late, it is not clear exactly when the story actually
saw print. Rheinhart Kleiner had read it by December 1920, though it is not certain
whether he had read it in the United Amateur, or HPL had mailed him a copy of the