THE DRUNKARD'S VOICE.
Then I noticed a medley of sounds seemingly rising out of the depths beyond us. The noise was not such as to lead me to infer that persons were speaking coherently, but rather resembled a jargon such as might come from a multitude of persons talking indiscriminately and aimlessly. It was a constant volley, now rising and now falling in intensity, as though many persons regardless of one another were chanting different tunes in that peculiar sing-song tone often characteristic of the drunkard. As we advanced, the noise became louder and more of a medley, until at last we were surrounded by confusion. Then a single voice rose up strong and full, and at once, from about us, close to us, yes, against our very persons, cries and shrieks unearthly smote my ears. I could distinguish words of various tongues, English, Irish, German, and many unfamiliar and disjointed cries, imprecations, and maledictions.
The cavern about seemed now to be resonant with
voices,- shrieks, yells, and maniacal cries commingled,- and yet no form
appeared. As we rushed onward, for now my guide grasped my arm tightly and drew
me rapidly down the cavern floor, the voices subsided, and at length sounded as
if behind us. Now however it seemed as though innumerable arrows, each possessed
of a whistle or tone of its own, were in wave-like gusts shrieking by us. Coming
from in front, they burst in the rear. Stopping to listen, I found that a
connection could be traced between the screech of the arrow-like shriek, and a
drunkard's distant voice. It seemed as though a rocket made of an escaping voice
would scream past, and bursting in the cavern behind, liberate a human cry. Now
and then all but a few would subside, to burst out with increased violence, as
if a flight of rockets each with a cry of its own would rush past, to be
followed after their explosion by a medley of maniacal cries, songs, shrieks,
and groans, commingled. It was as though a shell containing a voice that escaped
slowly as by pressure from an orifice, were fired past my ears, to explode and
liberate the voice within my hearing. The dreadful utterance was not an echo,
was not hallucination, it was real.
I stopped and looked at my guide in amazement. He explained: " Did you not sometime back experience that your own voice was thrown from your body?"
" Yes," I answered.
" These crazed persons or rather experiences depraved, are shouting in the cavern beyond," he said. " They are in front; their voices pass us to burst into expression in the rear."
Then, even as he spoke, from a fungus stalk near us, a hideous creature unfolded itself, and shambled to my side. It had the frame of a man, and yet it moved like a serpent, writhing towards me. I stepped back in horror, but the tall, ungainly creature reached out an arm and grasped me tightly. Leaning over he placed his hideous mouth close to my ear, and moaned : " Back, back, go thou back."
I made no reply, being horror-stricken.
" Back, I say, back to earth, or "-
He hesitated, and still possessed of fear, and unable to reply, I was silent.
" Then go on," he said, " on to your destiny, unhappy man," and slinking back to the fungus whence he arose, he disappeared from sight.
" Come," said my guide, "let us pass the Drunkard's Den. This was but a straggler; nerve yourself, for his companions will soon surround us."
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