The Pool Of The Stone God by Abraham Merritt
First published in American Weekly, September 23, 1923
This is Professor James Marston's story. A score of learned
bodies have courteously heard him tell it, and then among themselves have
lamented that so brilliant a man should have such an obsession. Professor
Marston told it to me in San Francisco, just before he started to find the
island that holds his pool of the stone god and—the wings that guard
it. He seemed to me very sane. It is true that the equipment of his
expedition was unusual, and not the least curious part of it are the suits of
fine chain mail and masks and gauntlets with which each man of the party is
THE five of us, said Professor Marston, sat side by side on
the beach. There was Wilkinson the first officer, Bates and Cassidy the two
seamen, Waters the pearler and myself. We had all been on our way to New
Guinea, I to study the fossils for the Smithsonian. The Moranus had
struck the hidden reef the night before and had sunk swiftly. We were then,
roughly, about five hundred miles northeast of the Guinea coast. The five of
us had managed to drop a lifeboat and get away. The boat was well stocked
with water and provisions. Whether the rest of the crew had escaped we did
not know. We had sighted the island at dawn and had made for her. The
lifeboat was drawn safely up on the sands.
"We'd better explore a bit, anyway," said Waters. "This may be a perfect
place for us to wait rescue. At least until the typhoon season is over. We've
our pistols. Let's start by following this brook to its source, look over the
place and then decide what we'll do."
The trees began to thin out. We saw ahead an open space. We reached it and
stopped in sheer amazement. The clearing was perfectly square and about five
hundred feet wide. The trees stopped abruptly at its edges as though held
back by something unseen.
But it was not this singular impression that held us. At the far end of
the square were a dozen stone huts clustered about one slightly larger. They
reminded me powerfully of those prehistoric structures you see in parts of
England and France. I approach now the most singular thing about this whole
singular and sinister place. In the center of the space was a pool walled
about with huge blocks of cut stone. At the side of the pool rose a great
stone figure, carved in the semblance of a man with outstretched hands. It
was at least twenty feet high and was extremely well executed. At the
distance the statue seemed nude and yet it had a peculiar effect of drapery
about it. As we drew nearer we saw that it was covered from ankles to neck
with the most extraordinary carved wings. They looked exactly like bat wings
when they were folded.
There was something extremely disquieting about this figure. The face was
inexpressibly ugly and malignant. The eyes, Mongol-shaped, slanted evil. It
was not from the face, though, that this feeling seemed to emanate. It was
from the body covered with wings—and especially from the wings. They
were part of the idol and yet they gave one the idea that they were clinging
Cassidy, a big brute of a man, swaggered up to the idol and laid his hand
on it. He drew it away quickly, his face white, his mouth twitching. I
followed him and conquering my unscientific repugnance, examined the stone.
It, like the huts and in fact the whole place, was clearly the work of that
forgotten race whose monuments are scattered over the Southern Pacific. The
carving of the wings was wonderful. They were batlike, as I have said, folded
and each ended in a little ring of conventionalized feathers. They ranged in
size from four to ten inches. I ran my fingers over one. Never have I felt
the equal of the nausea that sent me to my knees before the idol. The wing
had felt like smooth, cold stone, but I had the sensation of having touched
back of the stone some monstrous obscene creature of a lower world. The
sensation came of course, I reasoned, only from the temperature and texture
of the stone—and yet this did not really satisfy me.
Dusk was soon due. We decided to return to the beach and examine the
clearing further on the morrow. I desired greatly to explore the stone
We started back through the forest. We walked some distance and then night
fell. We lost the brook. After a half hour's wandering we heard it again. We
started for it. The trees began to thin out and we thought we were
approaching the beach. Then Waters clutched my arm. I stopped. Directly in
front of us was the open space with the stone god leering under the moon and
the green water shining at his feet!
We had made a circle. Bates and Wilkinson were exhausted. Cassidy swore
that devils or no devils he was going to camp that night beside the pool!
The moon was very bright. And it was so very quiet. My scientific
curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would examine the huts. I left
Bates on guard and walked over to the largest. There was only one room and
the moonlight shining through the chinks in the wall illuminated it clearly.
At the back were two small basins set in the stone. I looked in one and saw a
faint reddish gleam reflected from a number of globular objects. I drew a
half dozen of them out. They were pearls, very wonderful pearls of a
peculiarly rosy hue. I ran toward the door to call Bates—and
My eyes had been drawn to the stone idol. Was it an effect of the
moonlight or did it move? No, it was the wings! They stood out from the stone
and waved—they waved, I say, from the ankles to the neck of that
Bates had seen them, too. He was standing with his pistol raised. Then
there was a shot. And after that the air was filled with a rushing sound like
that of a thousand fans. I saw the wings loose themselves from the stone god
and sweep down in a cloud upon the four men. Another cloud raced up from the
pool and joined them. I could not move. The wings circled swiftly around and
about the four. All were now on their feet and I never saw such horror as was
in their faces.
Then the wings closed in. They clung to my companions as they had clung to
I fell back into the hut. I lay there through the night insane with
terror. Many times I heard the fan-like rushing about the enclosure, but
nothing entered my hut. Dawn came, and silence, and I dragged myself to the
door. There stood the stone god with the wings carved upon him as we had seen
him ten hours before!
I ran over to the four lying on the grass. I thought that perhaps I had
had a nightmare. But they were dead. That was not the worst of it. Each man
was shrunken to his bones! They looked like collapsed white balloons. There
was not a drop of blood in them. They were nothing but bones wrapped around
in thin skin!
Mastering myself, I went close to the idol. There was something different
about it. It seemed larger—as though, the thought went through my mind,
as though it had eaten. Then I saw that it was covered with tiny drops of
blood that had dropped from the ends of the wings that clothed it!
I do not remember what happened afterward. I awoke on the pearling
schooner Luana which had picked me up, crazed with thirst as they
supposed in the boat of the Moranus.