Short Story #383: The Nameless City by H. P. Lovecraft
Title: The Nameless City
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Summary:The narrator explains that he was deep in the Araby desert, looking for the nameless city. He finally stumbles upon it and begins to explore it. The first day, he only gets a bit into the city before darkness comes and decides to exit the city for the night. But the next day, he manages to explore the ruins and examines two temples. These temples are strangely crafted with curious ornaments and features--often with short corridors to which he has to move hunched over in. He finds another place that he can feel a wind emerging from, even though there are no winds elsewhere. He decides to enter it and it descends and shifts for long distances. Long after his torch has expired, he continues in darkness until he comes to one hallway where he is intrigued by the use of wood and glass in a city that is supposed to be ancient and before such craftsmanship. He begins to see a glow in the far darkness and as he approaches he finds the walls covered with art of where humanoid bodies that look nothing like humans. There are also bodies strewn about but nothing that seem human They have body parts resembling all sorts of animals and are bedecked inn beautiful clothing and jewels. The paintings tell an epic tale of the civilization and the narrator convinces himself that these are not the real creatures but just representations of the real humans. He continues to marvel at a civilization with such a rich history and even written language though they seem to predate Egypt by millennia. But after long triumph, the story tells of decline and increasing disdain for the external world. They begin to look internally and inwardly, moving into the earth rather than deal with the outside world. All of this ends at door and he realizes something big lies beyond. He sits and contemplates what his next step is to be. He is once again struck with the fear he had of the city at night and this is followed by a moaning sound. He relaxes when he begins to realize it is the strange wind that had attracted him into this space initially. but the wind is strong and causes him to feel like he is being pushed past the door into the strange abyss. His fear is so strong that he cries out in fear. The wind seems something beyond mere wind and he fears for his life. He somehow survives but recognizes in the moments he was besieged by the wind there was something more demonic going on than just mere wind; something deep; something evil; something ancient. As the wind hits its peak, he looks into the darkness beyond the doorway and sees a horde of the creatures to which he saw along the murals and before anything more can happen, the door shuts between him and the demon army.
ReflectionWhat I really like about this tale is how Lovecraft brings us along with the narrator. Overall, we believe him and feel like we get a court-side view of his exploits in this strange and unknown place. His cautions seem legitimate--who wouldn't be at least a little uncomfortable in an ancient city in the middle of nowhere at night. We distance ourselves a bit when he begins to describe some features and elements of the city--he attributes them to just strange worship practices but we know that doesn't seem likely, given this is Lovecraft. But when the moment of true fear strikes, we feel like we are there with the (nameless) narrator trying to reconcile our logic with our instinct. I also appreciate the Lovecraft doesn't allow us to see the actual monsters until the very end of the tale. I also appreciate the idea of a nameless city. A city so old and lost to history that its name is no longer known.
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Source: I read this version of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too). However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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