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Institute for ----
University of Vienna
Hello again old friend. Following on from our previous correspondence I offer the following explanation of my actions, please do not overly concern yourself – we are men of science after all. The elaboration offered is done so with an understanding of his nature and the pieced together recollections of conversation that other entered into with him which I became privy to upon investigation:
The events, as far as they could be discerned, stooping half submerged in a mire where horror extended such black reach that confusion stood guard upon sanity’s desperate pleas for sanctuary, lay in the memory as images from a book without words. While blessed with an agreeable education gained through schooling in London and Vienna (the latter encouraging him to indulge a fondness of language through poetry that seemingly offered to paint every thought thereafter) recalling those happenings impressed so deeply upon his soul as to leave him not merely marked but branded, caused him to falter and stumble when contemplating putting pen to paper in hope of warning others so foolish or simply to beg belief and through that somehow purge himself. Despite desperation for absolution he had not yet managed to summon the resolve, nor clarity to lift the pen and even sketch the vaguest of outlines left by that which he could not or dare not or was not allowed to label even in his own mind.
Faint imagery was all the mind dare offer as recollection of that final evening; snippets viewed as scattered cuttings come to rest upon the floor of a room illuminated only by a failing flame. Strive as he might on rare occasion when either fear, fatigued so through continued station as to be temporarily forgetful, attended other duties, or nihilistic neglect of his own wellbeing fostered lightness of thought enough to allow attempt at wading across the river of masked reason usually flowing so strong as to separate his present from those scenes just enough to allow a continuance of life, clear recollection seemed beyond his reach. So it was as that autumn played out and so it remained as winter came and passed, then again as spring passed the fruits of its labour to summer. So it was as summer gracefully bowed to autumn once more and so it played out over and again.
It was in the year of ---- that a lull in the flow of his separating river, a lull perhaps brought on by the fragrance of spring blossoms through the open window of the study, was to coincide with one of those rare moments when the lethargy that had ever since accompanied him as legacy from living under the weight of so terrible an experience, was noticeable by its absence; and it was unstifled reverie, meandering and forlorn, rather than resultant determined motivation which steered his mind that evening to wander aimlessly first toward then across the river to set foot upon that isle of recollection from which he had been distanced for so long a time.
His obituary was as one would expect for a gentleman from such a family and focused on his achievements as a young man as it recalled the excitement and admiration that surrounded him upon his announcement to make a journey to that lesser explored region. It relayed nothing about his state upon return, nor was there any reference to the self imposed seclusion after. There was no open comment on the apparent hysterical state of the poor maid who discovered his corpse when bringing breakfast, nor the single, undecipherable phrase which seemed to demand repetition from her lips at the expense of all else from that moment on. There were quiet rumours of symbols, of forgotten alphabets described upon and carved into the walls to such a degree that the hotel was forced to seek compensation from his estranged family who, desiring to preserve as much reputation as possible, were happy to accommodate upon condition of discretion. Despite such efforts though hushed talk of remuneration for the maids family fuelled conversation and speculation in the taverns accompanied by the more discreetly shared and fearful suggestion that she did not enter the apartment alone. The latter was offered while the body was crossed and was followed with hushed prayers but further than that no-one could be drawn.
It is through such cowled commentary, such absurd and defamatory superstition that I came to learn the fate of my old school friend and your former pupil, George Amherst and so became set, through personal obligation to a great man of academia and moral obligation to science itself, to seek the village noted in his expedition journal entry so carefully attended and detailed prior to its discovery and inexplicably neglected afterward.
Let history record my statement of intent and my worded bond here professor: Either I shall return with findings to vindicate George’s theories concerning that fateful expedition, to clear his name and reaffirm his reputation so hard earned before malady nested in his breast – or else I shall not return.