by H.P. Lovecraft
This time around, our nameless narrator (quickly becoming the standard in Lovecraft stories) is a former Merchant Marine currently addicted to morphine and on the verge of a mental collapse. He recounts the horrible adventure that lead him to this less-than-desirable place in his life.
During his WWI sea-faring days, the ship he was on was captured by the enemy. Hijacking a lifeboat, our narrator is able to escape and washes up on a strange little island that would make the passengers of both the S.S. Minnow and Oceanic Flight 815 run screaming for their lives.
The beach is black and littered with the rotting remains of dead fish. A little exploration leads our narrator to an ancient obelisk covered in ancient carvings, which he concludes is some sort of holy idol. But what do these strange carvings, depicting giant fish-men, really mean? And even more importantly, what kind of people would actually worship here?
Well, being a Lovecraft story, you can probably take a wild guess.
Originally published in a 1919 issue of Vagrant, this was one of the first (if not THE first) story written by Lovecraft in adulthood after a lengthy hiatus from fiction. Although perhaps a little rough around the edges, Lovecraft is on his way to becoming the author he was destined to be. Although not truly considered a part of the Cthulu Mythos, it does rest securely on the fringes of that story cycle as Dagon (who is only mentioned in this tale) would crop up as one of his trademarked cosmic gods in later stories.
It's pretty amazing how much is packed into such a short story. So much, in fact, that it only could have benefited from being slightly longer. A little more interaction with the Dagon worshiper would have been nice, but you can only do so much in the short story format--and what Lovecraft did manage to do was pretty damn good. My only real qualm is with the ending, which (without giving any more away than I already have) just seems a little weak in comparison to the rest of the story. But this is one of those rare tales that gets better in retrospect, each time you look back on it as time goes on.
Well worth the fifteen minutes it will take you to read, this is the pre-history of Lovecraft's most famous stories.