Again I say, I do not know what has become of Laird Barron, though I think--almost hope--that he is in peaceful oblivion, if there be anywhere so blessed a thing.
You will think me a fool, but even though the weird studies of Laird Barron were known to me, I was with him the day he disappeared, with him right up until that dismal hour he went down into the tombs of the necropolis off the Gainsville pike, near Big Cypress Swamp. Understand, I call what we found there a necropolis for lack of a better word, but it felt more akin to something from another plane of existence, a doorway between worlds.
I beg you not to laugh. I use those foreboding words knowingly, purposefully, for though Barron vanished into the darkness of those tombs, this was no ordinary disappearance--nor was it something that should ever be called ordinary in a world deemed rational and sane. I recall with perfect clarity Barron descending into the tomb, the lasts wisps of his impossible beard just visible through the gaping doorway as he begged me to remain above ground, and called back to me of what he saw.
"Kaufmann, it's terrible--monstrous--unbelievable!" I asked him to explain what he meant, but he only replied with tremulous voice, "I can't tell you, Kaufmann! It's too utterly beyond thought--I dare not tell you--no man could know it and live--Great God! I never dreamed of this!" And then, quite unlike himself, he told me to "beat it." Beat it, he said! As if Laird Barron, famed and fearless student of the occult, were some pop star from decades past! But no sparkly glove did Barron wear upon his hand, nor was there a crown of soft-drink-sponsored fire upon his brow--only terror in his voice as he alternately begged and commanded me to leave.
Then, silence. "Barron?" I called. "Barron, are you still there?"
The gelatinous shadows danced, and an inhuman voice boomed in reply, "You fool, Barron is DEAD!"
Reader, I did not remain to investigate. I ran, certain the monstrous voice had not lied. And yet, I know now the horrible truth: Barron still lives! Barron, or whatever he has become, clings yet to this mortal coil in some damnable form or other! I know this with a dread certainty.
For not long after Barron's disappearance, I and another friend, Jack Haringa, esteemed professor of the Worcester Academy, born and bred in Boston and sharing New England's self-satisfied deafness to the delicate overtones of life, were sitting on a dilapidated seventeenth-century tomb in the late afternoon of an autumn day at the old burying ground in Arkham, and speculating about the importance of proper word use. I entreated him to define the indefinable, to name the unnamable, to mention the unmentionable, but to no avail. He was a Congregationalist, after all, and a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is no reasoning with such types, just as there is no reasoning with those of duskier hues and those who hail from anywhere but Europe or New England. I'm also especially unhappy with Red Hook. But I digress.
"You have scoffed at everything I've presented, but there's one thing you cannot disprove, and that is the power of the most outré, the most tenebrous beard I have ever seen!" I proclaimed. Haringa laughed derisively, having that confidence in his own opinions which had doubtless caused his success as a teacher; whilst I was too sure of my ground to fear defeat. Dusk settled, and I told him of the recently vanished and presumed dead Laird Barron and his mighty beard.
Then came a noxious rush of noisome, frigid air, followed by a piercing shriek. In another instant I was knocked from my gruesome bench by the devilish threshing of some unseen entity of titanic size but undetermined nature; knocked sprawling on the root-clutched mold of that abhorrent graveyard...yadda, yadda, yadda, Miltonic legions of the misshapen damned, and I fainted.
When I opened my eyes, I saw Haringa covered in hair. So hirsute was his form that at first I mistook him for a filthy foreigner, the likes of whom you may recall I have issue with, but I soon recognized his face and realized the hair was loose, not rooted, having been deposited there by some unseen force.
"It was everywhere," he told me, "hair, and more hair, yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were curls--and itchiness. It was the pit--the maelstrom--the ultimate abomination. Kaufmann, it was the beard!"
"It was Barron!" I exclaimed. "Barron and the hair of his hideous beard!"
Then Haringa, his eyes wide with madness and terror beyond which the likes of humanity can not and must not know, grabbed me by the lapels. He shook me so hard the hair flew in all directions from his form, and he cried, "You fool, Barron is ALIVE!"
"Huh," I said thoughtfully, brushing the excess hair off my shoulders. "Hey, want to catch Erich Zann at the Roxy tonight?"
THE END -- OR IS IT?
For more journeys into the secret life of Laird Barron, please visit John Langan’s journal, where a running list of shocking true stories by famous writers and friends of Laird's will finally be revealed to the world.