Early Pioneers of The Miskatronic Workshop: August Derleth.
In the nearby fisherman's cottage he had rented for his recuperation, Wyard set about reassembling the morass of tapes. He purchased a second hand reel to reel recorder from an Internet auction site, fashioning a rudimentary splicing apparatus from two blocks of drift wood and a disposable razor blade. To his surprise the contents of the recordings were in relatively healthy condition. Indeed it seemed that the tape came from a single composition and though no ethno-musicologist he recognised a calypso like quality to the reconstructed song. The discernible musical idiom of the piece was given an edge by its arrangement and ornamentation. Offset against the lilting South Sea melody, there was an electro-acoustic hollowness to the production. More disquieting yet, barely audible in the background of the recording, Wyard was sure he hear could the nervous chatter of a Geiger counter. This anomaly, presumably an artefact, gave the piece an oblique aesthetic - as if it were the lofi radiophonic theme to a post-atomic thriller filmed on location at Bikini Atoll.
Buoyed by the success of this initial operation, he returned to the beach to collect further samples. This time he found the foam inundated with a brood of nematode like celluloid tape. Some exhibits were still attached to their partially intact plastic spools. Like exoskeletons of a strange crustacean species, Wyard felt a sense of unease as he gutted the magnetic tape from their broken housing. It was as if some ancient submarine creature was reconstituting itself from his unconscious memory. Perhaps his sonic extrapolations had reawakened an evolved specimen of his earlier invertebrate sample? Revolted and yet intoxicated by this notion, Wyard, in a state of agitated impatience, became desperate to extract the latest sounds from these new discoveries. Neglecting to properly dry out the tape, Wyard carelessly hacked at the damp cellulose, the blade of his knife sliding out of control and cutting his right index finger at the knuckle. Spurts of watery blood oozed over the clutch of material in his hand. The salt stung considerably as he washed the wound in the spawn of ocean spray.
Back in the rotting boat, sucking on his still bleeding knuckle, Wyard was enveloped by a feeling of foolishness. The cut would require a couple of sutures to stem the flow of blood and heal properly. The meaningless of his endeavour would only be exacerbated by him turning up at casualty to waste the resources of some overburdened A&E nurse - and for what purpose, the extraction of these tapes based on his fantasy of discovery of some mysterious sound library. It was around this time that Wyard also began to sense and worry that someone was overseeing his baleful adventure. A couple of times in the boat, he had turned around quickly hoping to catch the presence of a watcher on the cliff face. By nature hypersensitive, Wyard had a tendency to invent fictional plots in which he would be at the centre of some grand conspiracy. These delusions would grow as he isolated himself within a self mythologizing quest. Clearly the sharp focus of the previous days in the desolate cottage had only served to heighten Wyard's paranoia.
Derleth watched the figure slumbering in the husk of the rotting boat on the beach below. For years he had walked the tenuous cliff path between the monastery ruins and the eroding shores of Dunwich. He was used to, but always interested in the eccentricities of vagrants scavenging on the shingle midden, and the behaviour and preoccupation of this latest itinerant was no exception. For days the figure had moved between the flotsam and a small rowing boat hauling copious amounts seaweed to the vessel, painstakingly cutting them into slivers, before holding small samples of the fronds to his ears. Now he had started collecting the brittle fossils of starfish around which he had proceeded to wrap the strands of seaweed. It was as if he were trying to assemble some kind of primitive tape recording of the deep. That morning, events had taken a disturbing turn as the beachcomber, clearly in some state of mental distress, started slashing uncontrollably, with what appeared to be a fisherman's knife, at a cat's cradle of seaweed entangling his hands. The man had then struggled from the foam to his boat where he had passed out.
When Wyard awoke, he was lying on a sofa in an unfamiliar room. In front of him was a large french window overlooking a garden that ran a short distance to a cliff edge. Stirring from a heavy, coarse blanket, he surveyed his environment. Tucked behind the ageing brown leather sofa on which he had been sleeping was a sparsely stocked bookshelf. To the left of the room was a mantelpiece on which stood an Art Nouveau clock. It was early afternoon. In the corner between the mantelpiece and the french window was a television set. It had a wooden veneer of the type popular in the 1970s. Wyard felt somewhat disappointed by the room. He remembered the sense of presence he had experienced before passing out in the rowing boat. If someone had been watching him and had now taken him in,or more worringly taken him captive, he had hoped at least they would have displayed more flamboyance than was represented by this rather meagre room. In some imperceptible way, the arrangement of the television set and the clock on the mantelpiece particularly annoyed Wyard. Was this really the kind of room that his host or kidnapper felt would suit Wyard? Perusing the book shelf, in the hope of discovering some intellectual enrichment, he was further ired to see it contained the standard library of the holiday cottage : mediocre local histories, weathered paperbacks - of middle brow spy fiction and dynastic romances. Still, there was something not quite right about the arrangement of the room - it was over cliched in its interior design, as if it were a fake representation of a kind a dullness designed to provoke a hostile reaction in Wyard. In this respect Wyard's mentation was following the same pattern as it had shortly before his collapse in the boat. It was Wyard who was attempting to embroil himself a fantasy of incarceration and psychological torture. Perhaps whoever had brought him here had benign motives? Comforted and yet, at the same time, shocked by his own deep seated suspicion, Wyard walked to the french windows and opened them to the patio beyond. He noticed for the first time the bandages strapped over his left wrist. The sunlight was nearly too much for him to bare.
"Ah the sleeper wakes..."
Derleth stood on the patio to the left of Wyard. Observing the hunched figure, dishevelled, hiding his face from what was in reality a rather pallid sky, Derleth felt a certain pity for the man.
"I do hope you had a comfortable rest?"
Annoyed by Derleth's over mannered yet vaguely sinister tone, Wyard complained "As a matter of fact, I don't take to kindly to sleeping in a room with a television, never have, I am not a 'television' man".
"Oh I do apologise Mr... I am sorry I don't know your name." Clearly enjoying the effect of his charming yet threatening repose,Derleth stretched out his hand. Wyard stepped back, disturbed by the elongated limb, hideously Dalinian and flaccid. Regaining his senses, Wyard attempted to get the hand in perspective. A curious phenomenon Wyard had noticed in his perceptions since embarking on these tape experiments were these momentary distortions of the visual field.
"I suspect you already know my name, where are my tapes and what happened to my wrists?"
"One question at a time, dear man".
Smirking, Derleth nodded in the direction of the cliff's edge. "I can show you..."
Wyard presumed this was a threat - a myth of Christ tempted in the desert by Satan. He wanted to run but sensed his escape would be blocked, by his captor or an agent of his captor.
In a curious manner, as if rewinding himself Wyard, retreated towards the French windows.
"Get thee behind me..." he emitted in defence, his voice garbled like a backward masked message.
Returning to his quarters, Wyard was overwhelmed with despair. He sat on the sofa, looking out at the garden, the shadows of clouds passing across the lawn. He was by now sure that his discovery of the tapes on the beach was part of some elaborate entrapment and that by processing the sounds contained therein, he had created the conditions for the curious prison he now inhabited. Although the topography of his immediate landscape suggested he was but yards from the actual beach, Wyard was quite convinced this realm was an artifice of the real Suffolk hamlet.
Around four in the afternoon, he noticed the movement of the shadows of the clouds had stopped. They were no longer basking sky ships, but penumbral watchers, monolithic guardians at the boundaries of an encroaching agoraphobia. Wyard remembered back to his adolescence, the same darkening of his sensibilities reflected in a pathological reclusiveness, an English hikikomori. Perhaps Derleth was actually a phantasm of his more extrovert self, lurking on the limen of the patio at some eternal garden party, goading Wyard into the unbearable light and the ensuing bipolar precipice which undoubtedly would beckon a borderline personality such as his?
For some unfathomable reason he felt the urge to dismantle the room. In the last hour of light, he set about creating himself a lifeboat. Pulling the television set to the centre of the room, Wyard turned the unit on its side. No doubt as a gesture of his innate masochism, he imploded the screen with a forceful stamp of the right foot, severing an artery as he did so. Barely conscious, he limped to the fireplace and smashed the clock against the marble mantelpiece. Retrieving the buckled dial from the debris, he was pleased to see it was decorated with a nautical typeset. With his last strength Wyard fell into the guts of the broken television set, holding the clock face to his ears.
Hearing the commotion, Derleth ran into the room from some ante chamber within the complex. His appearance was strangely farcical, an amateur dramatic clatter of feigned concern. In reality Derleth was not at all surprised to see Wyard slumbering in his make shift rowing boat holding the imagined auditory apparatus to his face. This was not an uncommon response from his experimental subjects once they had started manipulating the music tapes that he would leave on the beach. Wyard was exhibiting a repetitious behaviour in which he would attempt to reconstitute the same reality time and time again with whatever objects he had at hand. The disemboweled television set as rowing boat, the clock face as tape spool or starfish fossil, the recidivist impulse to self wounding all pointed to Wyards mind operating as if he were living within some kind of tape loop. Indeed Derleth had noticed Wyard's earlier revulsion when he had ostensibly offered his hand in greeting. Presumably that was due to a warp or kink in the tape recording, a momentary slur in time - another completely explicable and demonstrable effect entirely within the predicted parameters of the experiment. Soon Wyard would be jump cutting back to the patio, the boat on the beach, the sofa, his adolescence, the clouds would reverse at speed across the lawn, and Derleth's hand would cease to be flaccid before slurping uncannily back to his trouser pocket.