Lankhmar

The Fritz Leiber Home Page

Rare Fritz Leiber material available on Independent voices.

Website visitor Matthew Davis drew my attention to http://voices.revealdigital.com/ which contain lots of archived articles on Fritz (as well as lots of other fascinating material), as well as a short story which references ‘Our Lady of Darkness’  and was written around the same time as Pale Brown Thing.  I have added the text below – the original article is here

Berkeley Barb, Oct. 2-Nov. 4, 1976 Page 11 by 

Stonehenge 94101

Fritz Leiber

Id Hawkinsby wouldn’t let me help him carry his telescope to the roof, although it weighed a good 25 pounds and his limp made him drag one foot painfully. “It’s a scientific instrument and has to be treated with care,” he snarled breathlessly. “You just follow me and concentrate on not making any noise. They don’t like it.” I thought he meant the old apartment building’s owners or other tenants. Tracy had warned me he’d be difficult, but that, “if it’s crackpot occultists with off-trail theories you want for your book, Fred, then he’s a real dilly. None of the hackneyed black magic and witchcraft stuff, but something about big cities and how by the sheer mass of their concrete and steel they’re developing a life of their own and taking control of us. And he’s somehow worked in Stonehenge, though not the Druidism angle.” On the top landing was a padlocked door. Hawkinsby explained between gasps, “They did it to keep winos from sleeping up here. But I’ve a key.” As he stood there interminably, waiting I suppose for his breathing to get regular, I made conversation by saying, “I guess you get some people — the kind who never heard of astronomy — seeing you with a telescope, think you must be a peeping Tom.” He cocked a hairy eyebrow at me. “You can waste a lot of time that way,” he said shortly, then grew reflective and expository. “Most people don’t do interesting things near lighted windows. Afraid of snipers. And if they do, there’s no guarantee as to their sex, age, or looks. Also, exhibitionists want an audience — they have to know someone’s watching them. The ones you most often see are skinny old men like me, writing at a table or doing other work conspicuously.” He nodded for a period, opened the door, and the night sounds of San Francisco poured in. A little later he lifted the telescope out onto the roof and motioned me through and shut the door behind us and snapped on the padlock, though leaving in the key. “Don’t want to be disturbed,” he explained in a hoarse whisper. I nodded doubtfully and took a few steps. Gravel rutched under my foot. “Shh!” he warned. “They got sharp ears.” I stopped, though he was making more noise than I was, what with his dragging foot. While he busied himself extending the legs of the tripod and otherwise setting up the telescope, I looked around. It was one of San Francisco’s rare warm, clear nights. White light striking upward from the canyons of the streets dimmed the stars without extinguishing

them. Red lights winked warnings to planes. For a couple of blocks around us there wasn’t anything much taller than our eight storeys. Then came the great irregular circle of high rises, like a giant fence of thick pillars shutting us in — or standing stones, menhirs, it occured to me, remembering what Tracy had said about Stonehenge. I noted the Sequoias condominium on Cathedral Hill (which has a college of mortuary science next door, oddly), the glassy bulk of the Federal Building, the towers of the Hilton, St. Francis, Fairmont, and Sir Francis Drake Hotels (the last with its white, five-point, revolving star), the Wells Fargo Building, One Market Plaza, the monstrous hulk of the Bank of America Building, and the up-ward-directed thick dagger of the Transamerica Pyramid completing the circle. Hawkinsby must have been watching the direction of my gaze, for, “I realized they were a Stonehenge,” the white-haired old man whispered hoarsely, “when I found myself using them to mark the places of the rising and the setting of the stars. And then the idea came to me that men hadn’t built those monstrosities. Things that big build themselves and men just

think they’re giving the directions, making the arrangements. Actually, the horizontal pressure gets too great and something has to give, so it gives upward, vertically. This was all first put forward in an old book I could show you: Megapolisomancy: A New Science of Cities published around 1900 by someone called Thibaut de Castries, a neglected thinker. It tells you all about paranatural phenomena and paramental entities.” I thought, he gets right into it, doesn’t he? No breaking it gently to me. He’s a superdilly, all right. Buildings building themselves! For his benefit I nodded wisely and asked, “What do you use the telescope for, now that your interest is in the buildings, not the stars?”, “Why, to watch them generating our replacements,” he said, “the paramental entities, the men of metal and smoke and darkness who will become humanity when the buildings take over completely. Have you ever studied rooftops? They’re a whole world no one bothers to look at. All sorts of little chimneys and ventilators and vent pipes, some with metal hats, and lots of things you can never figure out a purpose for — all sorts of sinister grotesque, stick-figures made of scrap. That’s where they’re generating our replacements who, when the time comes, will take over. It’s already started. Look here!” And stepping aside, he indicated the eyepiece of the telescope. The instrument was directed toward a dark clump of buildings, not the highest. I noted only one lighted window among them. Hawkinsby had put a zenith prism in the set-up, so I wouldn’t need to squat. I bent over the telescope, put my eye to the eyepiece, careful not to touch it, so as not to jiggle the image. It was focussed on a wide window somewhere — the one I’d noted, must be. There we’re no shades or curtains. The room was bare with pale blue walls — a little dim or muted because of the magnifica-. tion but distinct. The only thing in it was a narrow tin (or sheet iron) chimney that separated into a T at the top — at least it looked like a chimney. It was such a strange, surreal picture — an indoor chimney in a bare blue room! — that I stared at it quite a while to make sure that the chimney or whatever was behind the window and not in front of it. I lifted my head. The first thing my eyes lit on was a similar chimney (or whatever) I hadn’t noticed bdfore on the roof where I was. I looked around for Hawinsby and couldn’t see him. I didn’t recall hearing footsteps moving off while I’d been looking through the telescope, but I’d been concentrating. I moved around the roof, calling his name softly and getting nervous. He hadn’t seemed the practicaljoker sort, but. . .Pretty soon I’d searched all the roof without finding him and I’d ended up at the door down. There seemed to be no brick-set metal ladders down or other ways to leave the roof. The door was still shut by the padlock with the key in it. I made myself go back to the black telescope waiting there for me on its three legs. I was pretty jumpy by now. I bent over the eyepiece, looked, blinked, gave a start and looked again. What I thought I saw at first was the blue room with the chimney, but with Hawinsby in it, standing very thin and tall with his arms stretched out in a T, like a crucified man. That was only a flash. When I made myself look again, there were only two metal chimneys in the bare blue room. My second start must have jarred the telescope, for the third time I tried to look there was only blackness. And now I couldn’t see any lighted window at all in the direction the telescope was pointing. Also, I couldn’t find the chimney I’d thought I’d noticed on the roof I was on. And that’s the way it stayed. That’s the furthest I’ve been able to get. Tracy has no ideas either. Hawkinsby has disappeared in a direction where I can see only blackness.

1 Comment

  1. This is pretty damn awesome. I’d like to thank the person who pointed this out to you. I’ll be spending some time reading through these articles.

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