- “Transition of Juan Romero, The“
- Short story (2,710 words); written on September 16, 1919. First published in Marginalia;corrected text in D.The narrator, an Englishman who because of nameless “calamities” has migrated from his native land (after spending many years in India) to work as a common laborer in America, tells the story of an incident occurring in 1894 at the Norton Mine (presumably somewhere in the Southwest). The narrator becomes friendly with a Mexican peon named Juan Romero, who exhibits a strange fascination for the Hindu ring he owns. One day dynamite is used to blast a cavity for further mining; but the result is the opening up of an immeasurable cavern that cannot be sounded. That night a storm gathers, but beyond the roar of the wind and rain there is another sound, which the frightened Romero can only deem “ el ritmo de la tierra—THAT THROB DOWN IN THE GROUND!” The narrator also hears it—some huge rhythmical pounding in the newly opened abyss. Possessed by some fatality, they both descend down ladders into the cavern; Romero then dashes off ahead of the narrator, only to plunge into a further abyss, screaming hideously. The narrator cautiously peers over the edge, sees something— “but God! I dare not tell you what I saw!”—and flees back to the camp. That morning he and Romero are both found in their bunks, Romero dead. Other miners swear that neither of them left their cabin that night. The narrator later discovers that his Hindu ring is missing. There is some suggestion that Romero is not in fact Mexican but is descended from the Aztecs, a suggestion enhanced by his crying the name “Huitzilopotchli”as he descends into the abyss. The narrator remarks of this word: “Later I definitely placed that word in the works of a great historian— and shuddered when the association came to me.” HPL explicitly footnotes Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico,which contains a vivid passage on the Aztec god and the sacrifices practiced in his name. HPL, clearly unsatisfied with this story, refused to allow it to be published in his lifetime, even in the amateur press. He disavowed it relatively early in life, and it fails to appear on most lists of his stories; he does not even seem to have shown it to anyone until 1932, when R.H.Barlow persuaded HPL to send him the manuscript so that he could prepare a typescript of it. Aside from the revisions “The Curse of Yig” and “The Mound,” it is HPL’s only tale set in the Southwest.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.
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