The Two Tablets, part I, sections i & ii

The Two Tablets
James Swanson

In the Manor at Hardin Valley

Sanity seems such a great comfort to man: That great mental acuity with which one retains the illusion of having control over his life. Yet there are some who see sanity for what it truly is: A thin veil, a cracking mask, a clouded windowpane that may be rent asunder as easily as a careless child playing near a precious vase may send it crashing to the floor, never to be mended. While my sanity may have fled from me long ago, I tell you that I am certainly no madman, for could a madman speak to you so clearly as I do now? I daresay, surely not. Yet stay awhile and let me relate to you why they – those damnable judges and psychologists and other grave and humourless men of a similar stature – why they have taken it upon themselves to designate me a lunatic with naught left to him but the memory of those experiences which left him insane, yes, but certainly not mad.

My name is Fields, or at least it was outside, where a name still has meaning to people other than its owner. The doctors of this “house”, as they – again, the ever-present they! – call it, know me only by the number of my cell, and that is seventy-eight. By a remarkable coincidence, this day on which you have come to see me is in fact the seventy-eighth day of my confinement in this place, for see here how I have scratched a mark into my cell wall every day to mark the duration of my stay:

Wall scratchesYet my thoughts stray from the topic at hand. I shall continue now with my narrative: As I said before, my name is Fields, and before coming here, I was an archaeologist of some repute in the eastern United States, having studied at the venerable Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts under the tutelage of the equally venerable Dr. Francis Morgan and graduating very near the top of my class in 1920. My areas of expertise were the history and culture of the Native American peoples which inhabited the southeastern United States before the white man’s colonisation of that region, and my attention was drawn especially to the Cherokee tribes which once inhabited the eastern part of Tennessee. To that end I spent my summers during my college years on archaeological expeditions in that area, exploring sites ranging from the old settlements along the Tennesee River to Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome. After attaining my doctorate degree, I traveled to many colleges and archaeological societies to give lectures during the school year and continued to organise and participate in expeditions when summer arrived, occasionally being called upon by private collectors of Native American artifacts to examine said artifacts and determine their origins, purpose, and sometimes genuinity. It was one such case of this latter sort that would be the beginning of my downfall. On the morning of May 8, 1928 – a day now forever burned into my mind – I received a letter from one Giacomo Scarlatti of Hardin Valley, Tennessee.


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