If it appears that I write these words in haste, I beg your forgiveness - but my time is brief, for I cannot know how long my sanity will endure. For I have tasted of That Which Must Not Be Named - that which its acolytes, in foul ceremonies of ancient Pagan faiths, call “Marmite” - and I fear my mind cannot long endure the memory of that hideous flavour. My G-d, my G-d, my G-d -
No. G-d help me, no! I will finish this, my last and greatest duty in this life. For the sake of my soul, that it might be saved though my mind cannot. And for you, Gentle Reader, that you might hear the warning I was too arrogant to heed . . .
I graduated from Miskatonic Univerity’s Gardner School of Law, New England’s finest law school. I was - there is no modest way to put this - widely regarded as a genius. My monograph describing the influence of the Cult of Nyarhotep upon the development of Greco-Roman law was published in the Miskatonic Review of Forgotten Law, and secured my place in the Arkham firm of Pierce and Danforth. My court-room skills were such that I prevailed in suits thought to be beyond the hope of victory, and I was made a partner in the firm before two years had passed.
Perhaps my successes in the world of Man are what doomed and damned me both. Perhaps my victories in litigation seduced me into the pursuit of newer, stranger victories beyond the grasp of Man. If I knew once why I had chosen as I did, I cannot now recall - not now, as the light of Reason dims by the instant, smothered by that Taste … merciful G-d, that Taste …!
I had just settled the matter of the West Estate, to my client’s satisfaction and delight. At his insistence, I joined him at a local pub. I would have preferred to decline, for the pub was of the lower sort - a tradesmen’s pub, for fishermen and dockworkers and the like. However, my client had amassed a considerable fortune, and my fellow partners insisted I indulge the man. G-d, what I would give now to have stayed away then! To have stayed far away! To have run, and run, and run, until legs and lungs and heart could carry me no further!
The bar-tender was ancient, his face lined in eldritch manner beyond that which years alone (though they were many) could credit. As afternoon turned to evening, and evening to night, he brought pint after pint to our table, listening with cold and somehow foreign eyes to my increasingly elaborate boasts of my legal prowess.
It must have been ten o’clock when, steeped in drink as Adam was steeped in that first and greatest sin, the bartender produced a small jar alongside our ales. It was a harmless-looking thing, at first inspection. But my old professors of Law had trained me to look deeper into the heart of things, and the heart of this jar was … wrong. Its lines bent and curved upon each other in ways that Euclid had never imagined, and the colour of the thing defied my eyes in some strange and hideous manner – seeming first one hue, and then other, but never anything that the Earth of sun and stone and living things had ever seen.
“What’s this, then?” my client asked, his arm sweeping drunkenly to encompass, not just the jar, but perhaps all Creation. He struck his pint – long-since emptied – and it rolled unheeded to the floor.
The bartender gestured silently towards the jar, and – with eyes now accustomed to the unnatural colour and lines of the wretched thing – I saw a label, faded by what seemed like strange eons past. The script was alien – surely no Man had ever thought to inscribe lines of such obscene proportion, such arcane and strangely decadent curvature and angle. And yet … a word came to me, as if from unfathomable distances of space and time, and I knew the name of the jar – or rather, its contents.
“Marmite,” I whispered, the fetid word crawling from my lips despite my manful effort – for no curse, no blasphemy, no obscenity uttered by Man had ever felt as coldly, inhumanly vile as those two alien syllables.
A chant – harsh, and far older than any Christian verse – burst from a nearby table. “La! La! Cthulhu ftaghn! Marmite ftaghn! Cthulhu ftaghn!”
“What is this?” whispered my client. I glimpsed the colour draining from his slackened face, but my eyes remained locked to those cold and foreign eyes of the bartender.
“It goes well … with toast,” the ancient man intoned. He produced a slice, pressed it into my hand. My skin went cold, then numb, where the man’s fingers brushed mine.
My client, roused from his drunken stupor, tensed. “No!” he cried. “Damn you, man, death will be the least you have to fear from this! My grandfather was maddened by the mere odor of Marmite!”
That alien chant burst across the room again. “La! La! Cthlhu ftaghn! Marmite ftaghn! Cthulhu ftaghn!”
Laugher rose in me – or perhaps from outside of me, from that cold and uncaring corner of vast and unknowable space from whence Marmite came. I knew not then, and I know not now. Perhaps it was merely pride that impelled me to say, “Nonsense! I could do with a snack!”
My hands, as of their own accord, grasped and unscrewed the lid of the Marmite jar. The screw-threads screamed in faint protest as the lid, of metal older than any to be found in the world of Men, scraped against them. The ichor revealed whence the lid was removed – faintly quivering, gellid and loathesome – cannot be described in the English tongue, and G-d willing never will be. However, I was compelled – I swear to Chr-st, I was compelled! – to scrape the dark mass onto toast.
And then I ate, in obscene parody of the sacred Communion rite – but whose body that bread became upon transubstantiation, and whose blood the Marmite was, I cannot relate even now, at Madness’ door.
The rest of that night, I cannot – and dare not – recall. I woke the next morning in my home, collapsed upon the floor, with horror bubbling beneath my breast, I took up pen and paper, and wrote these words.
My work is almost done now, as is my Sanity. I find I cannot mourn its passing – perhaps the horror will lesson once I rest in insanity’s embrace. Perhaps.
Learn from my sad example, Gentle Reader. There are things Man was not meant to know – things that care for us not at all, that crush us as we crush ants that stray beneath our feet. These, we must avoid. And chief among their number – is Marmite.