I now visited that accursed place with increased frequency, studying the unwholesome vegetation in the flowerbeds, examining all the walls of the house, and poring over every inch of the basement floor. Finally, with the Fitzgeralds’ permission, I made myself a copy of the key to the disused door opening from the cellar out onto the country lane that circled around the back of the house and ran down to the Cumberland River, preferring to have more immediate access to the outside world than the darks stairs, ground floor hall, and front door could give. There, where morbidity lurked most thickly, I search and poked during long afternoons when the sunlight filtered in through the cobwebbed windows, and a sense of security glowed from the unlocked door which placed me only a few feet from the outside. Nothing new rewarded my efforts—only the same depressing mustiness and faint suggestions of noxious odors and nitrous outlines on the floor—and I fancy I must have been quite a sight to any hunters or fisherman that passed by.
After a while, upon the suggestion of my uncle, I decided to try the spot at night, and one stormy midnight ran the beam of a flashlight over the moldy floor with its uncanny shapes and distorted, half-phosphorescent fungi. The place had affected me curiously that evening and I was almost prepared when I saw—or thought I saw—amidst the whitish deposits and particularly sharp definition of the “huddled form” I had suspected from boyhood. Its clearness was astonishing and unprecedented—and as I watched I seemed to see again the thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation which had startled me on that rainy afternoon so many years before.
Above the anthropomorphic patch of mold by the fireplace it rose: a subtle, sickish, almost luminous vapor which as it hung trembled in the dampness seemed to develop vague and shocking suggestions of form, gradually trailing off into nebulous decay and passing up into the blackness of the great chimney. It was truly horrible, and the more so to me because of what I knew of the spot. Refusing to flee, I watched it fade—and as I watched I felt that it was in turn watching me greedily with eyes more imaginable than visible. When I told my uncle about it he was very upset; and after a tense hour of reflection, arrived at a definite and drastic decision. Weighing in his mind the importance of the matter, and the significance of our relation to it, he insisted that we both hunt down—and if possible destroy—the horror of the house.