I eyed the package curiously. It was thin and flat, and the address was written clearly in the curving elegant hand I had learned to hate–the hand I knew to now be cold in death.

“You had better be careful, Gordon,” said my friend Costigan. “Sure, why should that black devil be sending you anything but something to do you harm?”

“I had thought of a bomb or something similar,” I answered, “but this is too thin a package to contain anything like that. I’ll open it.”

“By the powers!” Costigan laughed shortly. “’Tis one of his songs he’s sending you!”

An ordinary phonograph record lay before us.

Ordinary, did I say? I might say the most extraordinary record in the world. For, to the best of our knowledge, it was the only one which held imprisoned in its flat bosom the golden voice of Giovanni Casonetto, that great and evil genius whose operatic singing had thrilled the world, and whose dark and mysterious crimes had shocked that same world.

“The death cell where Casonetto lay awaits the next doomed one, and the black singer lies dead,” said Costigan. “What then is the spell of this disc that he sends it to the man whose testimony sent him to the gallows?”

I shrugged my shoulders. By no art of mine, but purely through accident had I stumbled upon Casonetto’s monstrous secret. By no wish of mine had I come upon the cavern where he practiced ancient abominations and offered up human sacrifices to the devil he worshipped. But what I had seen I told in court, and before the hangman adjusted the noose, Casonetto had promised me such a fate as no man had ever experienced before.

All the world knew of the atrocities practiced by the inhuman demonic cult of which Casonetto had been high priest; and now that he was dead, records made of his voice were sought by wealthy collectors, but according to the terms of his last wishes, all of these had been destroyed.

At least I had thought so, but the thin round disc in my hand proved that at least one had escaped the general destruction. I gazed at it, but the surface in the center was blank and without title.

“Read the note,” suggested Costigan.

A small slip of white paper had been contained in the package also. I scanned it. The letters were in Casonetto’s handwriting.

“To my friend Stephen Gordon, to be listened to alone in his study.”

“That’s all,” I said, after reading this curious request aloud.

“Sure, and ’tis more than enough. Is it not black magic he’s trying to make on you? Else why should he wish you to listen to his caterwauling alone?”

“I don’t know. But I think I’ll do it.”

“You’re a fool,” said Costigan frankly. “If ye will not be taking my advice and throwing the thing into the sea, it’s myself will be with you when you put it on your talking machine. And that’s final!”

I did not try to argue. Truly, I was somewhat apprehensive of Casonetto’s promised vengeance, though I could not see how this was to be accomplished by the mere rendition of a song heard on a phonograph.

Costigan and I repaired to my study and there placed on the machine the last record of Giovanni Casonetto’s golden voice. I saw Costigan’s jaw muscles bulge belligerently as the disc began to whirl and the diamond point to spin down the circling grooves. I involuntarily tensed myself as if for a coming struggle. Clear and loud a voice spoke.

“Stephen Gordon!”

I started in spite of myself and almost answered! How strange and fearful it is to hear your name spoken in the voice of a man you know to be dead!

“Stephen Gordon,” the clear, golden and hated voice went on, if you hear this I shall be dead, for if I live I shall dispose of you in another manner. The police will soon be here, and they have cut off every avenue of escape. There is nothing for me to do but stand my trial, and your words will put a noose about my neck. But there is time for one last song!

“This song I shall imprison in the disc which now rests upon my recording machine, and before the police arrive I shall send it to you by one who will not fail me. You will receive it through the mails the day after I am hanged.

“My friend, this is a suitable setting for the last song of the high priest of Satan! I am standing in the black chapel where you first surprised me when you came blundering into my secret cavern, and my clumsy neophytes let you escape.

“Before me stands the shrine of the Unnamable and before it the red-stained altar where many a virgin soul has gone winging up to the dark stars. On all sides hover dark mysterious things, and I hear the swish of mighty wings in the gloom.

“Satan, lover of darkness, gird my soul with evil and strike chords of horror in my golden song.

“Stephen Gordon, harken ye!”

Full, deep and triumphant, the golden voice surged up, lifted in a strange rhythmic chant, indescribably haunting and weird.

“Great God!” whispered Costigan. “He’s singing the invocation from the Black Mass!”

I did not reply. The uncanny notes of that song seemed to stir my very heart within me. In the darksome caverns of my soul, something blind and monstrous moved and stirred like a dragon waking from slumber. The room faded and grew indistinct as I fell under the mesmeric power of the chant. About me inhuman forces seemed to glide and I could almost sense the touch of bat-like wings brushing my face in their flight–as though by virtue of his singing, the dead man had summoned up ancient and horrible demons to haunt me.

I saw again the sombre chapel, lit by a single small fire that flickered and leaped on the altar, behind and above which brooded the Horror, the Unnamable horned and winged thing to which the devil worshippers bowed. I saw again the red-dyed altar, the long sacrificial dagger raised in the hand of the black acolyte, the swaying robed forms of the worshippers.

The voice rose and rose, swinging into a triumphant booming. It filled the room–the world, the sky, the universe! It blotted out the stars with a tangible veil of darkness! I staggered from it as from a physical force.

If ever hate and evil were incarnated in sound I heard and felt it then. That voice bore me down to the deeps of Hell undreamed. Abysses loathsome and endless yawned before me. I had hints and glimpses of inhuman voids and unholy dimensions outside of all human experience. All the concentrated essence of Purgatory flowed out at me from that whirling disc, on the wings of that wonderful and terrible voice.

Cold sweat stood out on my body as I realized the feelings of a victim bound for the sacrifice. I was the victim, I lay on the altar and the hand of the slayer hovered above me, gripping the dagger.

From the whirling disc the voice surged on, sweeping me irresistably to my doom, swinging higher and higher, deeper and deeper, tinged with insanity as it approached the climax.

I realized my danger. I felt my brain crumbling before the onslaught of those spears of sound. I sought to speak, to scream! But my mouth gaped without sound. I tried to step forward, to shut off the machine, to break the record. But I could not move.

Now the chant rose to heights unnamable and unbearable. A hideous triumph swept its notes; a million mocking devils screamed and bellowed at me, taunting me through that flood of demon-music, as if the chant were a gate through which the hordes of Hell came streaming, red-handed and roaring.

Now it swept with dizzy speed toward the point where, in the Black Mass, the dagger drinks the life of the sacrifice, and with one last effort that strained fading soul and dimming brain, I broke the mesmeric chains–I screamed! An inhuman, unearthly shriek, the shriek of a soul being dragged into Hell–of a mind being hurled into insanity.

And echoing my screech came the shout of Costigan as he leaned forward and crashed his sledge hammer fist down on the top of the machine, smashing it, and shattering into oblivion that terrible, golden voice forever.