journal: 25 Apr 1924

Irene, bless her, came as requested yesterday and, with the assistance of her books, we embarked together on an attempt to make sense of the assorted clues we had gathered, considering them afresh in light of what Ashan had shared with me. We pieced together the puzzle of the powder that had incapacitated Mohan (the antidote to which Ashan later furnished; note: REMIND IRENE TO GET THIS FROM HIM), as well as the meaning of the yantra tattooed on the body of Mumble’s dead companion. We deduced that the cult worshipped a goddess (goddesses?) of transformation/misfortune/destruction, and that there must be an informant somewhere among the ranks McCormick’s men who had provided them with news of our discoveries and whereabouts.

That night, Ashan came unannounced to warn us of jackals. They were gathered around the well outside, he said, and involved in something of a mystical nature. I thought perhaps I had misunderstood his metaphor, only to discover upon investigation that he was speaking quite literally; for the well was aglow with some eldritch illumination, and the voice emanating from it was certainly commanding the verminous creatures encircling it. I am not sure why, but I was seized with the sudden, irresistible urge to bring a halt to this devilry, and I charged at the jackals clad in nothing but my pyjamas, with only an ineffective stick to combat them. It did not go well for me, for the speaker in the well ordered the pack to attack, and for my efforts I received a nasty bite to the wrist. Moreover, my abdominal wound came open in the struggle, though Dr. Ayub has once again put me back together, and allowed me to write this hurried entry.

Yet the greatest wound I received was not physical, but psychical, for I beheld there in the well the awful countenance of a man! His wide eyes bulged from the water most horribly, and though he seemed vaguely familiar to me for some reason, I still cannot place the face. The sight of it shook me greatly, for all at once my logical understanding of the world and my predicament came apart as I realized that the cult was able to wield genuine magic. Magic! What hope had I of understanding such forces, let alone overcoming them? My foolishness at attacking the jackals was overshadowed by feelings of profound insignificance; I was not only powerless, I realized, but utterly helpless. Ashan, if I remember, saw the face as well, and with a roar he dropped an armful of stones into the water, dispelling the sorcerer's image.

My traumatized mind went elsewhere, and I found myself adrift in some nightmare or vision of a cavernous library, its grotesque geometry quite unlike anything on this earth, supported by towering basalt spires and illuminated by strange, phosphorescent spheres of some gelatinous material. There was a book of some kind before me, and against my better judgment I attempted to read the alien characters on its mica leaves, and soon had no say in the matter of reading at all as all my senses were suddenly assailed by aeons of terrible, hellish knowledge, which seemed of its own volition to flood my brain beyond bursting. I lack language to describe what I experienced; the word that comes closest would be rape, perhaps, but even that cannot adequately convey the extent of the violation I felt and the sickness that I fear now festers in my soul. I know only that I must retreat from it as far and as fast as I am capable.

And that is precisely why I must leave this place. I feel suddenly fragile, too small to tangle with death cults and demons and whatever other horrors that have yet to reveal themselves. I have resolved to return to Berlin, where I hope that Dr. Hirschfeld can help me to find some measure of understanding, acceptance, and peace. I will travel forthwith to Constantinople, taking the Orient Express the rest of the way. Due to my injuries, I will have to bring one of the nurses with me.

I hope Irene will understand. I do fear for her, and pray that she quickly follows my example and escapes this accursed land before her health or sanity become as compromised as mine.

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