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  • Gates of Imagination presents:

  • Herbert West - Reanimator by H.P.  Lovecraft. Read by Josh Greenwood.

  • Chapter 1. From the Dark.

  • Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college  and in after life, I can speak only with extreme  

  • terror. This terror is not due altogether to  the sinister manner of his recent disappearance,  

  • but was engendered by the whole nature of  his life-work, and first gained its acute  

  • form more than seventeen years ago, when  we were in the third year of our course  

  • at the Miskatonic University Medical School  in Arkham. While he was with me, the wonder  

  • and diabolism of his experiments fascinated  me utterly, and I was his closest companion.  

  • Now that he is gone and the spell is  broken, the actual fear is greater.  

  • Memories and possibilities are  ever more hideous than realities

  • The first horrible incident of our acquaintance  was the greatest shock I ever experienced,  

  • and it is only with reluctance that I repeat itAs I have said, it happened when we were in the  

  • medical school, where West had already made  himself notorious through his wild theories  

  • on the nature of death and the possibility  of overcoming it artificially. His views,  

  • which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and  his fellow-students, hinged on the essentially  

  • mechanistic nature of life; and concerned means  for operating the organic machinery of mankind  

  • by calculated chemical action after the failure  of natural processes. In his experiments with  

  • various animating solutions he had killed  and treated immense numbers of rabbits,  

  • guinea-pigs, cats, dogs, and monkeys, till he  had become the prime nuisance of the college.  

  • Several times he had actually obtained signs  of life in animals supposedly dead; in many  

  • cases violent signs; but he soon saw that the  perfection of this process, if indeed possible,  

  • would necessarily involve a lifetime of  research. It likewise became clear that,  

  • since the same solution never worked alike on  different organic species, he would require  

  • human subjects for further and more specialised  progress. It was here that he first came into  

  • conflict with the college authorities, and was  debarred from future experiments by no less a  

  • dignitary than the dean of the medical school  himselfthe learned and benevolent Dr. Allan  

  • Halsey, whose work in behalf of the stricken  is recalled by every old resident of Arkham

  • I had always been exceptionally tolerant of  West's pursuits, and we frequently discussed  

  • his theories, whose ramifications and corollaries  were almost infinite. Holding with Haeckel that  

  • all life is a chemical and physical processand that the so-calledsoulis a myth,  

  • my friend believed that artificial reanimation of  the dead can depend only on the condition of the  

  • tissues; and that unless actual decomposition has  set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may  

  • with suitable measures be set going again in the  peculiar fashion known as life. That the psychic  

  • or intellectual life might be impaired by the  slight deterioration of sensitive brain-cells  

  • which even a short period of death would be apt to  cause, West fully realised. It had at first been  

  • his hope to find a reagent which would restore  vitality before the actual advent of death,  

  • and only repeated failures on animals had  shewn him that the natural and artificial  

  • life-motions were incompatible. He then  sought extreme freshness in his specimens,  

  • injecting his solutions into the blood  immediately after the extinction of life.  

  • It was this circumstance which made the professors  so carelessly sceptical, for they felt that true  

  • death had not occurred in any case. They did not  stop to view the matter closely and reasoningly

  • It was not long after the faculty had interdicted  his work that West confided to me his resolution  

  • to get fresh human bodies in some manner, and  continue in secret the experiments he could no  

  • longer perform openly. To hear him discussing  ways and means was rather ghastly, for at the  

  • college we had never procured anatomical specimens  ourselves. Whenever the morgue proved inadequate,  

  • two local negroes attended to this matterand they were seldom questioned. West was  

  • then a small, slender, spectacled youth with  delicate features, yellow hair, pale blue eyes,  

  • and a soft voice, and it was uncanny to hear him  dwelling on the relative merits of Christchurch  

  • Cemetery and the potter's field. We finally  decided on the potter's field, because practically  

  • every body in Christchurch was embalmed; a  thing of course ruinous to West's researches

  • I was by this time his active and enthralled  assistant, and helped him make all his decisions,  

  • not only concerning the source of bodies  but concerning a suitable place for our  

  • loathsome work. It was I who thought of the  deserted Chapman farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill,  

  • where we fitted up on the ground floor  an operating room and a laboratory,  

  • each with dark curtains to conceal our midnight  doings. The place was far from any road,  

  • and in sight of no other house, yet precautions  were none the less necessary; since rumours of  

  • strange lights, started by chance nocturnal  roamers, would soon bring disaster on our  

  • enterprise. It was agreed to call the whole thing  a chemical laboratory if discovery should occur.  

  • Gradually we equipped our sinister haunt of  science with materials either purchased in Boston  

  • or quietly borrowed from the collegematerials  carefully made unrecognisable save to expert  

  • eyesand provided spades and picks for the many  burials we should have to make in the cellar.  

  • At the college we used an incineratorbut the apparatus was too costly for our  

  • unauthorised laboratory. Bodies were always  a nuisanceeven the small guinea-pig bodies  

  • from the slight clandestine experiments  in West's room at the boarding-house

  • We followed the local death-notices like ghoulsfor our specimens demanded particular qualities.  

  • What we wanted were corpses interred soon after  death and without artificial preservation;  

  • preferably free from malforming diseaseand certainly with all organs present.  

  • Accident victims were our best hope. Not for  many weeks did we hear of anything suitable;  

  • though we talked with morgue and hospital  authorities, ostensibly in the college's interest,  

  • as often as we could without exciting suspicionWe found that the college had first choice in  

  • every case, so that it might be necessary to  remain in Arkham during the summer, when only  

  • the limited summer-school classes were held. In  the end, though, luck favoured us; for one day  

  • we heard of an almost ideal case in the potter's  field; a brawny young workman drowned only the  

  • morning before in Sumner's Pond, and buried at  the town's expense without delay or embalming.  

  • That afternoon we found the new grave, and  determined to begin work soon after midnight

  • It was a repulsive task that we undertook in the  black small hours, even though we lacked at that  

  • time the special horror of graveyards which later  experiences brought to us. We carried spades and  

  • oil dark lanterns, for although electric  torches were then manufactured, they were  

  • not as satisfactory as the tungsten contrivances  of today. The process of unearthing was slow and  

  • sordidit might have been gruesomely poetical if  we had been artists instead of scientistsand we  

  • were glad when our spades struck wood. When the  pine box was fully uncovered West scrambled down  

  • and removed the lid, dragging out and propping  up the contents. I reached down and hauled the  

  • contents out of the grave, and then both toiled  hard to restore the spot to its former appearance.  

  • The affair made us rather nervous, especially the  stiff form and vacant face of our first trophy,  

  • but we managed to remove all traces of our visitWhen we had patted down the last shovelful of  

  • earth we put the specimen in a canvas sack and set  out for the old Chapman place beyond Meadow Hill

  • On an improvised dissecting-table in the  old farmhouse, by the light of a powerful  

  • acetylene lamp, the specimen was not very  spectral looking. It had been a sturdy and  

  • apparently unimaginative youth of wholesome  plebeian typelarge-framed, grey-eyed, and  

  • brown-haired—a sound animal without psychological  subtleties, and probably having vital processes of  

  • the simplest and healthiest sort. Now, with the  eyes closed, it looked more asleep than dead;  

  • though the expert test of my friend soon left  no doubt on that score. We had at last what West  

  • had always longed for—a real dead man of the ideal  kind, ready for the solution as prepared according  

  • to the most careful calculations and theories  for human use. The tension on our part became  

  • very great. We knew that there was scarcely  a chance for anything like complete success,  

  • and could not avoid hideous fears at possible  grotesque results of partial animation.  

  • Especially were we apprehensive concerning  the mind and impulses of the creature,  

  • since in the space following death some of  the more delicate cerebral cells might well  

  • have suffered deterioration. I, myself, still held  some curious notions about the traditionalsoul”  

  • of man, and felt an awe at the secrets that  might be told by one returning from the dead.  

  • I wondered what sights this placid youth  might have seen in inaccessible spheres,  

  • and what he could relate if fully restored to  life. But my wonder was not overwhelming, since  

  • for the most part I shared the materialism of my  friend. He was calmer than I as he forced a large  

  • quantity of his fluid into a vein of the body's  arm, immediately binding the incision securely

  • The waiting was gruesome, but West never falteredEvery now and then he applied his stethoscope to  

  • the specimen, and bore the negative results  philosophically. After about three-quarters  

  • of an hour without the least sign of life he  disappointedly pronounced the solution inadequate,  

  • but determined to make the most of his opportunity  and try one change in the formula before disposing  

  • of his ghastly prize. We had that afternoon dug  a grave in the cellar, and would have to fill it  

  • by dawnfor although we had fixed a lock on the  house we wished to shun even the remotest risk  

  • of a ghoulish discovery. Besides, the body would  not be even approximately fresh the next night.  

  • So taking the solitary acetylene lamp into the  adjacent laboratory, we left our silent guest  

  • on the slab in the dark, and bent every  energy to the mixing of a new solution;  

  • the weighing and measuring supervised  by West with an almost fanatical care

  • The awful event was very sudden, and wholly  unexpected. I was pouring something from one  

  • test-tube to another, and West was busy over  the alcohol blast-lamp which had to answer  

  • for a Bunsen burner in this gasless edifice, when  from the pitch-black room we had left there burst  

  • the most appalling and daemoniac succession  of cries that either of us had ever heard.  

  • Not more unutterable could have been the chaos  of hellish sound if the pit itself had opened to  

  • release the agony of the damned, for in one  inconceivable cacophony was centred all the  

  • supernal terror and unnatural despair of animate  nature. Human it could not have beenit is not  

  • in man to make such soundsand without a thought  of our late employment or its possible discovery  

  • both West and I leaped to the nearest window  like stricken animals; overturning tubes, lamp,  

  • and retorts, and vaulting madly into the starred  abyss of the rural night. I think we screamed  

  • ourselves as we stumbled frantically toward the  town, though as we reached the outskirts we put on  

  • a semblance of restraintjust enough to seem like  belated revellers staggering home from a debauch

  • We did not separate, but managed to get to  West's room, where we whispered with the gas  

  • up until dawn. By then we had calmed ourselves  a little with rational theories and plans for  

  • investigation, so that we could sleep through  the dayclasses being disregarded. But that  

  • evening two items in the paper, wholly unrelatedmade it again impossible for us to sleep. The old  

  • deserted Chapman house had inexplicably  burned to an amorphous heap of ashes;  

  • that we could understand because of the upset  lamp. Also, an attempt had been made to disturb  

  • a new grave in the potter's field, as if by  futile and spadeless clawing at the earth.  

  • That we could not understand, for we had  patted down the mould very carefully

  • And for seventeen years after that West  would look frequently over his shoulder,  

  • and complain of fancied footsteps  behind him. Now he has disappeared.

  • Chapter 2. The Plague-Daemon.

  • I shall never forget that hideous  summer sixteen years ago, when like  

  • a noxious afrite from the halls of Eblis  typhoid stalked leeringly through Arkham.  

  • It is by that satanic scourge that most recall  the year, for truly terror brooded with bat-wings  

  • over the piles of coffins in the tombs of  Christchurch Cemetery; yet for me there is  

  • a greater horror in that time—a horror known to  me alone now that Herbert West has disappeared

  • West and I were doing post-graduate work in  summer classes at the medical school of Miskatonic  

  • University, and my friend had attained a wide  notoriety because of his experiments leading  

  • toward the revivification of the dead. After  the scientific slaughter of uncounted small  

  • animals the freakish work had ostensibly stopped  by order of our sceptical dean, Dr. Allan Halsey;  

  • though West had continued to perform certain  secret tests in his dingy boarding-house room,  

  • and had on one terrible and unforgettable occasion  taken a human body from its grave in the potter's  

  • field to a deserted farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill. I was with him on that odious occasion,  

  • and saw him inject into the still veins the  elixir which he thought would to some extent  

  • restore life's chemical and physical  processes. It had ended horriblyin a  

  • delirium of fear which we gradually came to  attribute to our own overwrought nervesand  

  • West had never afterward been able to shake offmaddening sensation of being haunted and hunted.  

  • The body had not been quite fresh enoughit is obvious that to restore normal mental