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The House on the Borderland

3. The House In The Arena
"AND SO, after a time, I came to the mountains. Then, the course of my journey was
altered, and I began to move along their bases, until, all at once, I saw that I had come
opposite to a vast rift, opening into the mountains. Through this, I was borne, moving at
no great speed. On either side of me, huge, scarped walls of rock-like substance rose
sheer. Far overhead, I discerned a thin ribbon of red, where the mouth of the chasm
opened, among inaccessible peaks. Within, was gloom, deep and sombre, and chilly
silence. For awhile, I went onward steadily, and then, at last, I saw, ahead, a deep, red
glow, that told me I was near upon the further opening of the gorge. "A minute came and
went, and I was at the exit of the chasm, staring out upon an enormous amphitheatre of
mountains. Yet, of the mountains, and the terrible grandeur of the place, I recked nothing;
for I was confounded with amazement, to behold, at a distance of several miles, and
occupying the centre of the arena, a stupendous structure, built apparently of green jade.
Yet, in itself, it was not the discovery of the building that had so astonished me; but the
fact, which became every moment more apparent, that in no particular, save in colour and
its enormous size, did the lonely structure vary from this house in which I live.
"For awhile, I continued to stare, fixedly. Even then, I could scarcely believe that I saw
aright. In my mind, a question formed, reiterating incessantly: 'What does it mean?' 'What
does it mean?' and I was unable to make answer, even out of the depths of my
imagination. I seemed capable only of wonder and fear. For a time longer, I gazed,
noting, continually, some fresh point of resemblance that attracted me. At last, wearied
and sorely puzzled, I turned from it, to view the rest of the strange place on to which I
had intruded.
"Hitherto, I had been so engrossed in my scrutiny of the House, that I had given only a
cursory glance round. Now, as I looked, I began to realise upon what sort of a place I had
come. The arena, for so I have termed it, appeared a perfect circle of about ten to twelve
miles in diameter, the House, as I have mentioned before, standing in the centre. The
surface of the place, like to that of the Plain, had a peculiar, misty appearance, that was
yet not mist.
"From a rapid survey, my glance passed quickly upwards, along the slopes of the circling
mountains. How silent they were. I think that this same abominable stillness was more
trying to me, than anything that I had, so far, seen or imagined. I was looking up, now, at
the great crags, towering so loftily. Up there, the impalpable redness gave a blurred
appearance to everything.
"And then, as I peered, curiously, a new terror came to me; for, away up among the dim
peaks to my right, I had descried a vast shape of blackness, giant-like. It grew upon my
sight. It had an enormous equine head, with gigantic ears, and seemed to peer stead-fastly
down into the arena. There was that about the pose, that gave me the impression of an
eternal watchfulness--of having warded that dismal place, through unknown eternities.
Slowly, the monster became plainer to me; and then, suddenly, my gaze sprang from it to