^In A Hashish-Dream^ [A Tale of Hashish-Land] (Fragment)

Clark Ashton Smith

The first effects of hashish, like those of opium, are often disappointing to the Occidental: mere drowsiness, or trivial dreams, and slight half-conscious hallucinations are likely to be the only result. The dose must be repeated, the nerves must absorb a residuum of the drug, before their derangement can give rise to that marvelous and baroque efflorescence of visionary images and sensations for which these opiates are dear to the Oriental.

I had taken hashish three times with little result, beyond a slight disturbance of the optical perceptions. The fourth time, I increased the dose by a fourth of the usual amount, and waited patiently among my books. Several hours passed, and the long rays of a cloudless autumn afternoon crept through the window, and stretched themselves on the intricate blue and red of the Persian carpet, like golden serpents uncoiling slowly and imperceptibly. Stillness lay on the world like an azure pall that had dropped from the infinite; and the only sound was the ticking of the clock in the next room, like the faint monotonous beat of a metal pulse.

Suddenly, without warning, a strange shiver ran through my body from head to foot, with a thrill like the thrill of great and unexpected joy. The shiver passed, and left me with the sense of some exalted change; I felt that I had begun to live with a deeper and intenser life; and a faint and subtle ether of divinity was blended more strongly and exquisitely each moment with the very air that I breathed. I saw that the walls of the room, with the chairs, bookcases, and pictures, had receded to an immense distance; and the arm-chair in which I sat, with legs that lengthened rapidly, bore me aloft as on some dizzy throne, under the vast vault of a place that had become the ante-chamber of infinitude.

Now, as I watched, the wall became diaphanous, and hovered like a thin veil before the horizons that had unrolled themselves league on league, half-way to the zenith. So far were these horizons, so merged in a vague immeasurable blue, that one could scarcely tell where the world ended and the heavens began. I gazed upon them with the dreamy languor of a god, and saw the spectral walls dissolve as if they, too, had flown so far that they were lost in the azure of distance. Seated above the misty plain as on the incredible height of some impossible tower, I waited for I knew not what, in the midst of the luminous blue that hovered unfathomably all around, and above, like the imminence of Nirvana.

Alas! how brief was the dream of that divine, ecstatic peace, in which my heart unfolded like a vast blossom, one with the flooding infinite! · … Even as I gazed, I felt the dim foreboding of a nameless change: and before me, the deeps of cerulean space, pierced with the formless light of invisible worlds, took on the pallor of swirling mists in a strange and ceaseless ebullition. But for a time, I could glimpse nothing definite or tangible — only the flickering of vague light in the void, and the spectral agitation of the paling skies, that seemed about to reveal the advent of some ineffable dawn. Then, from the luminous gulf, sudden as a rainbow, there sprang a frail and glittering bridge that stretched to my very feet, and was lost at the further end in a vast pile of iridescent vapors. Built of a metal that I could not name, a metal that gleamed with alternate lights of gold and silver, it seemed to allure me with the promise of unimaginable shores.

Now it was that the music began — that music sweet as remembered love, but inconceivably remote, like harps in the world of a former life. Beyond the bridge, beyond the opal mists, it rose and soared, as if the god of some unknown planet were playing on a dulcimer strung with the hair of sirens. And then I heard the singing — that voice wherein all voices I had ever loved through cycles of the cosmic past were borne on a wind of perfume from vales of perennial summer — that voice to whose magic evocation the ghosts of ^aeon-lost desires awoke and cried from forgotten tombs^ [all forgotten passions awoke and cried in the crypts of my heart].

Bound by an irrefragable spell, with a golden tumult as of mighty philtres crying in my blood, I rose and followed across the glittering bridge; but ever before my feet the magic melody receded, and mile by mile the bridge lengthened. And still I followed, without fatigue or faltering, for in my heart was a magic ardour, a wizard strength commensurate with all the slow leagues of that weary journey.

At last, the opal mists grew nearer, and loomed above me like a great wall; and the sorcerous music, intolerably strong and sweet, allured me and drew me like a helpless swimmer caught in the waters of an ever-swiftening torrent.

Now, with a supernatural speed, I passed along the last mile of the bridge, that seemed to shorten beneath me, and entered the wall of mist. Perfume, that stirred the senses like the culmination of amorous ecstasy, rose about me as from unseen flowers; and the music, gathering above and beneath and before, moaned in my ears with the voices of voluptuous women. An instant more, and the mist rolled away like the tapestry of a dream, while the perfume changed to a ghastly and nameless fetor, and the music became a thin, icy, cruel, cacophonous laughter, horrible as the laughter of ghouls! All about me, for league on [yellow] league, there stretched a palmless desert, broken only by tombs, and vast mounds of sand, like the graves of prehistoric gods or primeval monsters. The broad, flat bones, and grey, hairless hide of some dead creature I could not name, lay at my feet. It was from these that the stench arose. But the hellish laughter had ceased, in a hot and quivering silence presided over by a huge red sun that filled nearly ^a third^ [half] of the sky.

^Fat and fulvous^ [Coral-colored] vipers, mottled as with the silver spots of leprosy, watched me from the shade of monstrous cacti, as I toiled step by step across the yielding sand. The sun smote me with rods of flame; blood-red mist gathered before my eyes, and in the mist I heard the sibilant whisper of plotting demons. Icy fingers touched me at whiles, through heat that was like a furnace-blast; a breath that was cold as the breath of catacombs played at intervals in my swooning ears; and I heard once more the chill and ghoulish laughter, ending on a note that was ^like the crack of flagons burst by some freezing poison^ [intolerable as the scratching of glass].

For cycles, it seemed, I labored on, sinking half to my knees at each step in the grey dust that was wrought from the corruption of elder empires, from temples and cities whereof no column or cornerstone remained. I dared not stop, for behind me now I heard the gibber of frightful and immemorial things that had held lordship of the desert for ages, and would not abide the intrusion of life: I knew the cups of a green and awful madness that they bore with their bony white hands, and proffered to all who came. And I would not linger to let them catch me.

At last I came to a towering mausoleum

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.

Bibliographic Citation

Top of Page