The Papua Statue : A Hidden Lovecraft Novel / As jotted down by P.C.

It is a piece of carved wood of about 1.40 m. A dense, hard and dark wood. Weathered by wind and the rain, maybe some blood too.

I bought it from a traveler who came back from Asia, a long-distance navigator (merchant navy), built like a Breton fellow with a well-stocked red beard, clear eyes, freckles, a white shirt always open, and trousers that were too big, rubbing on the ground, with a very low voice.
I remember that the way back had been laced with accidents that a foreign eye would have described as original or atypical: tires repeatedly punctured, tree across the road, lack of fuel, iterative breakdowns. It was as if everything was against this sculpture migrating from its original location or from its usual companion (this sailor). In spite of everything, after several hours of tenacity and obstinacy, the mysterious object penetrated into my house. It seemed to me like a grinding of teeth, but I blamed this noise on the hinges of the old oak door that I did not care about anymore.
The sun was setting and a warm humidity rose from the ground while the storm was approaching. It seemed that all the rage of nature was condensing in the sky to explode in a bewildering concert. As darkness gradually fell, dizzying lightning streaked the clouds and the clouds of an unsuspected density were emptied by torrents, bending the thickest branches. A brutal wind soon covered the sodden soil with a carpet of young leaves.
The water came back under the door and through the interstices of the windows, and came to lick the feet of the sculpture. But perhaps this is the perfect moment to describe what this piece of wood looked like, and what strange patterns an artist from the end of the world had given him the features…

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It was a statue of Papua New Guinea, a territory carrying a thousand and one secrets, covered by some active volcanoes, and we know that for some geographers and specialists of ancestral myths, it is one of the gateways to this huge underground network of caverns filled with lava (and where would have nested ancient civilizations several millennia considered – but not by all – as extinct). More precisely, it had been elaborated in the Lower Sepik valley, this mythical river, with magico-religious functions comparable to those of the Nile or the Ganges. A sacred river, no doubt. The face of this sculpture was anything but human: it would have been more like a bird, with an outsized eye, a beak joining the tip of an oval chin. A unique piece. Maybe a cursed piece, if I believe what happened soon after…

I went to bed late that night, clumsily working on a medieval translation of the Necronomicon, some of whose hermetic terms still escaped me despite original semantic comparisons. When one o’clock struck the Napoleonic clock, the storm was still rumbling over my house. It looked like it was not moving, something was staring at it, holding it above my roof, like an anchor stuck in the crevice of rocks blocking an ancient ship. I left my manuscript, climbed the wooden stairs creaking under each step, and went to my room upstairs. Hardly with my eyes closed, I sank into a deep sleep peopled with fantastic dreams.

It is now difficult for me to distinguish reality from my worst nightmares. Because what happened to me that fatal night, I still have trouble expressing it, and as I write these lines, a tormented anguish hurts me painfully.

It must have been three or four o’clock in the morning. The storm had not dissipated but seemed to have weakened slightly. Yet, while I was between two dreams, a thunderclap perhaps stronger than the others (closer?), I came out brutally of my torpor. Mechanically, by reflex, I suddenly opened my eyes, and to my surprise I saw, walking slowly to my bed, horrible and disturbing, the statue with a monstrous face. I was paralyzed, as nailed to the wooden frame of my bed, crucified as a new martyr ready to undergo his torment. Without a sound, with calmness, the statue not only drew nearer to me, but swung its head from side to side, then leaned it down as it went towards my face. It was at this moment that I realized that this face carved in the wood was not that of a bird but rather an insect, mosquito, or cockroach. And that it was not just a statue, but actually a living being, a mutation, an error of nature, a filthy creature from the proto-historical lair of Chtulhu, that the conjunction of the most extreme moisture and the electrification of the air had (temporarily) brought back to life…

I do not know how long this hideous thing took to get close to me until it touched my skin, but I remember the unbearable feeling of its foul smell (causing me irrepressible nausea) and the tropical dampness of his flaccid integuments. And this lack of look, those orbits that seemed hollow but which in reality were filled with an infinity of insect eyes similar to both fragments of broken mirrors and rusted blades of scalpels… The emotion was so intense, so extreme, so unbearable, that my brain could not stand such a physical confrontation for a longer moment, and I suddenly lost consciousness.

When I woke up, I had a crusty wound on the right jugular, a little painful, and blood stains on the white sheets of my bed. Downstairs, in my library room, the statue of Papua was still where I left it, with a little red blood around the large hole that served as its mouth. It seems that she does not eat only water and electricity…

 

Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.

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