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The Great God Pan
- revisited
By Arthur Machen
&
Another
© Mandrake, Oxford

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The Great God Pan - Revisited
[The Great God Pan traces the rise and eventual destruction
of a female incarnation of the great god Pan. In the original
this character, Helen Vaughan, never gives voice to her own
desires and motives but is merely referred to by other
characters in the story. We thought we should try to make
good this omission.]
A vial of laudanum; a small silver crucifix that had belonged to his
mother; a small dog-eared collection of newspaper clippings; a letter with
a foreign postmark; a tiny revolver of foreign manufacture, a handful of
spare ammunition, the bullets made of silver; a reinforced envelope, which
Matheson opening momentarily to check the contents (a drawing) were
still intact; a length of fine hempen rope. Matheson took a final mental
inventory then secreted these various items around his person and into a
leather music portfolio. He was ready and made a purposeful step towards
his front door, then, as if struck by a final thought, he stopped, looked
thoughtful and walked back into his room and from a draw took the
topmost of a pile of new and pure silk handkerchiefs. He folded it
carefully and withdrawing a more prosaic cotton handkerchief from his
suit pocket, he folded the silk one within it. Then taking a last look around
the room, he turned off the lights and walked out into the warm July night
air.
It was a few minutes walk through the streets of Soho to the object of
Matheson’s quest in Ashley Street, Piccadilly. Matheson felt strangely
alienated from the gay crowds of summer promenaders. The theatres had
just turned out from the early evening performance. The restaurants were
as full as the pavements, people out for a good time, all so far away from
his own solemn air as he shouldered his way through the crowd. Hansom
cabs passed him by as he hurried his way out of this human sea. As he
took a turn into Ashley street he suddenly felt a chilly current in the air.
The sky had become overcast with dark clouds full of incubating wrath.
He felt oppressed by the moist tension in the atmosphere. As he
approached the house thunder roared in the distance. He walked past the
Georgian building whilst thinking of how he would make his entry
unnoticed. Wandering, he found the back of the house. A masonry wall
protected what lay behind. Climbing over it felt like a perilous task. He
landed, dropping into a dense barrier of bushes and shrubs. Venomous
looking flowers adorned the base of a fountain representing an emerging
triton blowing a marine conch. Evil looking gnomes were posted like

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sentinels along the path leading to the green house. As he passed by he
could see various monstrously sized shapes from the vegetable kingdom intensely coloured giant orchids, unknown species, enormous tomatoes,
peppers and pumpkins, and what looked like a baobab tree.
The window in the veranda was open. Raindrops fell on his hat as he
stepped inside. The walls were of a darkest green hue. A huge concert
piano had partition sheets spread across the ivory and black keyboard. A
full size statue of Astarte stood on a pedestal. He thought then of how
members of the Hell Fire Club of Sir Francis Dashwood had adored her
voluptuous and firm naked body. Invisible mechanical fingers strummed
ancient tunes on that pianola, Matheson recognised a tune by Berlioz,
Symphonie Fantastique.
Minutes flew by as he stood transfixed, queer details of the dimly light
room swimming into focus as his mind and senses adjusted themselves to
the room’s heavy chiaroscuro, abbreviated only by the dancing flames of
a unnatural fire that blazed in a hideous fireplace. The music threaded its
way through the last notes of Berlioz’s Songe d’une nuit de sabbat, the
unearthly satanic chords sending electrical currents up and down
Matheson’s spine, making the hair on the nape of his neck ache and rise.
Momentarily the music reached its climax and stopped completely, the
machine whirling and humming, relative silence descending on the room.
Matheson, his senses again readjusting, then heard other sounds, deep
groans, the hiss of fine sheets pulled by coarse flesh, the unmistakable
rhythmic thrust of animals in rut.
There, on the rug in front of the blazing fire, a beast with two backs swum
into view. The movements of the hideous pair, a gross parody of all that
Matheson supposed, the act of human love, ought to be. An involuntary
cry sprung from Matheson’s body ‘Stop that!’ The uppermost of the
beastly pair instantly swung around and fixed a stare of such baleful
hatred on Matheson that he immediately patted the bulge in his suit, that
sheltered the revolver. But then he saw the look on the beast’s face
change first to one of recognition and then to one of deep shame. And
Matheson, who in his society practice, saw many of the great and good,
thought for an instant that he too recognised something in that twisted
physiognomy. The man beast seemed visibly to shrink and hastily
withdrawing from his ‘mate’ he stared desperately around the room as if
looking for something to shield the shame that all too obviously stood
before him. His quarry clutched at an expensive but crumpled suit,
Matheson recognised the label of royal robe makers Ede and Ravenscroft
of the High in Oxford, he’d bought his own graduation gown there many
years ago. Lord Avebury, for now Matheson recognised him, looked

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desperately about the room for a point of egress furthermost away from
Matheson, and finding one he slunk from the room. All the time the
‘female’, if such she could be called, remained in ‘delectus flagrantis’, she
had not moved, other than to lift a glass of fine wine to her lips.
‘What do you want?’ She sneered.
Who are you ? He gasped. He was desperately trying to make sense of
what he saw. He thought he was under the grip of a severe hallucination.
The creature in front of him did not belong to this world’s reality. He was
engulfed in a vortex out of time. Atoms whirled around him. Spheres of
light encircled him. High frequency sounds pervading the highly charged
atmosphere. A big booming noise suddenly arose and everything fell
silent. A deep inhuman voice spoke sententiously. ‘Mortal behold the
Great God Pan. I come on this earth under many disguises. In this female
body I use the well documented fact that mortals are driven like fools by
their libido. I lure men into the dark recesses of their animal instincts. An
awesome brute force untamed because repressed, feared and
misunderstood. This is my nature, much older than mankind. A
tremendous power that can bring corruption and destruction or love and
wisdom according to will.’
As she delivered this speech, the creature’s body seemed to change,
becoming more recognisably human. Matheson recognised her as Helen
Vaughan, whose portrait he carried in his briefcase. She was a statuesque
woman with waist-long jet black hair, ruby lips and the thinnest waist he
ever saw. Her charcoal eyes had glimmering red lights dancing in them.
Despite his self he felt attracted to her. ‘Most men are corruptible’ she
went on, ‘contemptible, greedy and weak. On their knees shall they
worship me.’ She had risen to her feet, displaying her long legs adorned by
fishnet stockings and six inch ‘French heels’.
Matheson mentally steadied himself for the new assault on the senses that
he suspected was about to be unleashed upon him. ‘But madam’ he
stuttered, ‘I am a man of science, of the new age just now dawning in the
world. I do not share your pessimism about the power of human
sexuality.’ There was a lull and Matheson’s confidence grew. As a
student, Matheson had been inspired by the ideas of the radical
Georgeosopher of sex Havelock Ellis and his circle, surely in the bright
beam of light cast on the human condition by this great free thinker there
was inspiration to aid him in his present predicament?
‘Sex’ he continued, ‘is the great creative voice of nature itself, and the
great god Pan, so I once believed, and perhaps still do, also had, perhaps

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still has, that possibility. I have never rallied to the war cry of the Roman
sage Plutarch, that Pan is dead. But you madam, I cannot believe that you
represent that true force, whose demise in antiquity sent shivers through
the ages and rocked to destruction the ancient oracles.
A shiver of rage passed over Helen’s perfect body, her nipples stood out
large and erect against the pale skin of her full breasts. Matheson with his
physician’s eye saw from their size and colour that this woman had never
borne a child. Arms akimbo, she stood insolently before him, her legs
slightly parted. Involuntarily Matheson’s gaze passed down to the neat tuft
of hair, which by itself was barely able to conceal the unnaturally swollen
lips of her sex. Despite himself he thought of how much her skinned
glowed in the fire light, the moisture of coition still blatantly upon her,
recharged no doubt by the flush of anger that had spread over her perfect
skin as they talked. Despite himself, Matheson felt his own ardour
beginning to rise, he could feel his member beginning to stretch the rough
fabric of his trousers and before he could prevent himself he had glanced
down to ensure he was still decent.
‘Ah!’ Helen Vaughan exclaimed in triumph, ‘your mind talks of high
science and the classics but your body tells another story. I have brought
you up.’ Then a different expression passed across her face, she sighed
and went on ‘But enough of this breathless antagonism, let us converse in
more reasoned tones, will you share a glass of wine with me?’
Without waiting for a reply, Helen swung around in the direction of the
piano, a silver tray held glasses of the finest cut crystal and a half finished
decanter of dark red wine. She refilled her own now empty glass and then
a second fresh tumbler. This done, she pressed the pianola into action.
Matheson recognised the subdued strains of La Gaite Parisienne by
Offenbach. She turned back to him, the tumbler in her outstretched hand.
Matheson’s throat was dry and he took the drink. As he quaffed it greedily
Helen dipped her beautifully manicured finger into her own glass and
flicked a libation onto the carpet, ‘To Bacchus’ she cried. Matheson said
nothing. Then Helen said ‘would you like to dance?’
Without a word he advanced towards her. His hands encircling her thin
corseted waist as they started to waltz around the room. The light from the
fire cast unreal shadows over the walls. The thick dark red rug silenced
their steps. He felt intoxicated by her aromatic perfume. His mind wasn’t
clear. He felt like he was an actor in a lucid dream. Where would all this
lead him? Helen’s eyes were abysmal pools of darkness that would
inexorably swallow his being. She was speaking again:

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‘I have always had a peculiar morbid fascination for Black Widows. They
engage in ritual sexual practices and at the peak of a savage orgasm they
devour their unsuspecting male consort; Mandrake and Chateau d’Yquem
what a wonderful combination!’
Matheson’s mind struggled to piece together the meaning behind what
Helen Vaughan had just said. Did she mean ‘Black Widow’ was the name
of a drink, a strange cocktail, wine and mandragora autumnalis. His limbs
were weak. Something told him she was preying on him, absorbing his
energy in some subtle way. His will power was starting to evaporate.
Subtly she began to undress him. As suddenly as she started she stopped,
pushing him down onto the large sofa. With a deft, he would almost say
practiced movement, she slid his trousers to his ankles and kneeling at his
feet swiftly unlaced his shoes and threw the whole bundle into a dark
corner of the room. With a gasp Matheson was naked from the waist
down and whatever protests he might make his body showed all too
obviously that he was very aroused.
Helen Vaughan stroked his swollen member with the tips of her
fingernails. ‘A meal should be consumed while pipping hot’ she said in a
hungry voice. A strange blend of emotions passed rapidly before him.
Outrage at the speed and lasciviousness of this female but another darker
feeling - pleasure and anxious pain combined. Pleasure that sent fine
shivers through his whole body as her nails delicately stroked the over
sensitive skin of his phallus. So intense, almost painful, part of him feared
those talons that might just grasp him and tear at his sex. Then to his utter
astonishment she took the purple head of his manhood into her mouth!
Never in all his years as a medical student and as a medical practitioner
had he even dreamt of such depravity. And there were yet deeper and
deeper depths to her baseness as he felt his manhood absorbed and
enveloped by the soft folds of her mouth. One hand stroked and petted his
testicles whilst another tugged at the skin of his penis so that it bulged
even more alarmingly. The sensations soon became all mixed up, perhaps
he sensed a finger pressing on his anus, another time she pulled at him, as
if trying to making his organ even longer. Sometimes she rolled him like a
cigar, her permutations were endless, and as much as he knew he should
fight her off and remonstrate with her, the pleasure, no doubt amplified by
the potion she had tricked him into drinking, was so intense, he gave into
her utterly.
He was in a deep swoon, and felt a hard electric ball forming somewhere
deep within his abdomen. I’m approaching climax, he thought to himself,
a pity, he would have liked this heaven to go on forever. Matheson felt a

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muscular twitch between his legs that he recognised as the first spasm of
his climax. Perhaps Helen felt it too, as she paused in her ministrations,
her mouth clamped hard around his member; she seemed almost to be
rooting within him for the source of the spasm. She pressed Matheson
hard on the perineum, the slight pain this caused seemed to drive the
spasm away and Matheson could feel his climax slipping away from him,
becoming a warm sea of sensation that spread and dispersed over his body
in a totally extraordinary manner.
He steadied and felt almost normal. Red faced Matheson gasped ‘why did
you stop?’ And regretted it almost immediately. Helen shrugged her
shoulders and laughed. ‘You men, you think everything is for you. Did it
never occur to you that I might like something too?’ Indeed, it was to
Matheson a novel thought.
‘Don’t worry’ she continued, ‘you’ll get you’re fun - full house - you just
need to take care of the jack. I want you to do to me what I just did on
you.’
And with that she launched herself at him again, pushing him back into the
soft covers of the sofa and crouching over him, so that her sex was poised
delicately over his face.’
‘Come on’ she said, ‘lick my quim.’
She seized him by the hair and firmly pushed his face down into her. Only
in his wildest fantasies could he have imagined that womankind could be
so damned perverse! ‘That’s a good boy she cooed’. At first gingerly, he
started exploring, with his tongue, the hidden wonders that were presented
to him. Warm scented juices started to fall freely on his face. He couldn’t
remember any other experience that had brought him such ecstasy. This
moment was all that mattered. As a student he remembered certain
Georgeosophers talking about the dissolution of Self in the eternal quest
for union with the One. Their treatment of that particular matter had often
surprised him by the way the words ventured into what could only be
described as peaks of some of the most torrid eroticism ever to grace an
ancient text. He thought of the sex-starved metaphors of St. John of the
Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. And all the while Helen’s perky breasts
were moving rhythmically just above him. Her eyes were half closed and
she was quietly humming something to herself. Her face was calm and
smooth. His tongue felt like a pencil sharpener. He was cutting his way
through soft coils of fleshy delights. A warm stream engulfed him. He was
floating in the air on a bed of wild orchids. The universe, as he knew it,
was undergoing metamorphosis. Every theory had to be revised. Was

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there more to coition than just sensual gratification? Could it be used to
alter consciousness? How far could this process go? Its enticing raw power
could lead mankind both to madness and destruction or love and wisdom.
For Matheson, the hardest thing was to keep his will focused and in
control while possessed by this lusty fever. This particular red hot vixen
was revolutionizing his approach to sexuality.
Helen’s sex gaped wildly and he distinctly heard her say ‘I want you
inside me’. He wondered how he would shift to the appropriate position,
pinned down as he was by her powerful rider’s thighs. His own member
ached, but in a moment of inspiration he inserted first one then two fingers
into her greedy vagina. Her groans reached a new pitch of intensity, so
much so that he thought she would not possibly go any higher, but still it
seemed that her sex cried out for more. Then withdrawing his fingers for
an instant, Matheson slid his entire hand inside her and then he had the
wildest hallucination. Little by little Matheson’s entire body slid inside,
first his wrist, then his forearm until with a shrug he felt himself sucked up
into her womb.
What had first been ecstatic physical joy now evaporated and not for the
first time that evening Matheson experienced total horror. He had an
inkling of that strange force that had driven all Helen’s previous lover’s to
insane distraction. Matheson had that instinctual fear of the dark,
subterranean recesses of the earth. The horrors of the birth canal and of
his own birth assailed him. It was like dying, and he realised that for all
humans, this process, but in reverse, was like the final twitch of death, as
the birthing infant is propelled from the blissful enfolding wonders of the
mother’s nurturing womb, out into the unknown, it could only but seem
like death. And he realised with a start that all humanity existed in what
could only be described as an existence beyond death - yes we were no
strangers to death, it was the ground of our being afterall.
Walls crushed the breath out of him and with one superhuman effort that
left him shaking with exhaustion he let go to a primal and gut wrenching
scream. Panic assailed him, yes this was the realm of Pan as denizen of
the dark stygian depths. Ancestral memories welled up, as he was led
through constricted caves by unknown hands, mile after mile of tortuous
squeezes and sumps, offering no hope of return, perhaps only with the
promise of a wondrous land that lay in the depths of the earth. Perhaps a
place of sacrifice or the vision of some primeval chamber, decorated in
the wild freeform designs of those who had been before in ages beyond
the ability of the human mind to number. Again he screamed so loud he
thought it would be his last. He could take no more and at once his torture
stopped and he could move again. Although still within her, the walls were

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receding from him and he could see for several yards around him. Light
oozed through the fleshy walls giving them an unmistakable red glow. He
was completely naked and there beside him was Helen.
He looked questionly at Helen, which evinced the monosyllabic response
‘what?’ from her.
‘Where are we?’ Matheson asked feebly
‘This place has many names,’ came her reply, ‘But in the age in which
you live and by those who have the wisdom to understand, it is known as
a temple, the temple of Malkuth. Would you like to know more?’
Matheson was uncertain whether he wanted to go any further. He
sidestepped the question with another of his own. ‘What has happened to
us, a moment ago we were engaged in the most earthly of delights in your
drawing room and now this?’
Helen considered her reply, ‘we are still there, or at least part of us is.
Here,’ she said, ‘feel this’ and she motioned Matheson to place his hand
on the pink tunnel wall. He did so and immediately tore his hand away as
if he had touched a red-hot coal. But in that instant he had felt it, an
unmistakable pulsing, like a piston being driven hard into a tube. Helen
repeated her question, ‘would you like to see more?’
Matheson’s insatiable quest for knowledge reasserted itself, despite the
deep fear that still gripped his innards. ‘OK,’ he said tentatively, ‘just a
little more.’ And taking that as her cue, Helen seized his hand and began
to lead him across the tessellated floor of the chamber towards a receding
dark passageway.
He felt sure they were heading deeper into the confines of the earth but
then a beam of light broke through in the near distance. They were
emerging into a vivid landscape illuminated by a russet moon. The tides
were high and a salty invigorating marine air filled his lungs. Helen drew
his attention to a dark shape and speaking in a soft tone she told him that
the midnight vessel was waiting for them to board. She motioned him to
follow her towards the water. They waded out until they were knee high in
the warm waters, and they were beside the figurehead of a small vessel.
Invisible forces lifted them gently into the boat. She spoke again ‘The
other side is waiting for us’.
The vessel moved off, skimming the surface of the water, driven on by
unseen oarsmen. He could see feint shapes in the mist. She spoke again
while turning her eyes to the star encrusted sky. ‘We’ve entered the world

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of night, of shades and of mirrors. Nobody stepping into these waters can
ever be the same again. Your deepest memories have been stirred and
now something is calling to you’.
Mtheson’s gaze moved over the deck and came to rest contemplating the
dark waters, beneath them he saw images from the darkest ages leading to
present day evolution. Something there seemed to be waiting for this
breakthrough, for the darkest abysses to be propelled to the surface. With
a jolt Matheson suddenly caught a glimpse of the awesome strength of
these powers. All history from time immemorial was there vibrating with
life eternal. ‘I must keep in balance’ he thought ‘I must avoid the great
vertigo that lures all travellers on the way’.
He could see the shoreline with more clarity. Helen rose to her feet.
‘We’ve arrived’ she said, offering her open hand for him to take. ‘Follow
your memory, she will take you back to the hidden landscapes.’ They
were ready to disembark on a small pier. He saw high ornamental pillars
that seemed to stretch upwards to the heavens. As the vessel berthed huge
stone steps could be seen surrounding a colossal square pool. The water in
it was as black as ink, and the constellation of Orion was reflected on the
still waters. Something moved in its depths. In an instant a shaft of white
light emerged and shot vertically from the pool’s waters. Growing in
height and vastness it rose up until it joined the sidereal skies with the
innermost earth.
His voice. Unnaturally hushed by the dignity of his surroundings, framed
yet another question to his companion. ‘Where are we?’.
‘Questions, so many question’ came Helen’s reply, ‘why can’t you just
experience, why always question.’ She paused but then went onto answer.
‘This is the temple of your own desire.’
‘It looks so familiar yet I know I have never been here?’
‘Your memories give it form, for some it would always be of ancient
Egypt, the lost kingdom of the Gods, for others Greek or even the ancient
Hindoo, and for yet others it will be a formless archetypal place, but in
essence these are all the same.’
Matheson was familiar with the look of both Egyptian and Greek Temples,
but this place seemed to have very little parallel in those cultures. Where
after all was the great pylon gateway and the nested courtyards leading to
the holy of holies? As if anticipating his thoughts Helen told him that they
had approached the holy place by the path direct, if he looked carefully

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into the western lands he might just see the desert pylon close by. He
guessed that they must then have entered the holy precinct by some
special way, whose route was perhaps a closely guarded secret.
Nervously Matheson contemplated the forms of other beings that, as they
spoke, were continually arriving at and filling the spaces that surrounded
the pool. Where he could catch a glimpse of a shrouded visage he saw
only a look of anticipation as if the owner of the face had come expecting
a spectacle of some kind. Instinctively he knew that to be the case, all of
them, he included, had been brought to this strange place to witness some
primeval event, about to be played out, presumably in the darksome
waters of the pool. With growing curiosity and not a little apprehension,
Matheson too began to wonder what nature of spectacle he was, by some
strange privilege, being transported to this wondrous place, about to
witness. He did not have to wait long to find out…
The silent congregation were now motionless, all heads turned towards the
western end of the court. The dark silhouette of a tall man moved towards
them making strange hieratic gestures as he approached. As the priest, for
as such Matheson guessed he was, moved closer, he looked at him with
awe inspired curiosity. A mask covered his face. A white cloth wound
around his waist formed a neat kilt, but above that his bare torso was trim
and muscular. The priest was clutching something in his hands. With a
shudder Matheson recognized the shape of a large knife with a glittering
blade. It suddenly struck him that the fearsome figure was the sacrificial
priest officiating in the sacred rituals. Matheson recognised the priest’s
mask as that of one of the Egyptian gods, probable, he thought, the
arch-opposer Seth!
Again Matheson felt his fear growing and rising within him. There could
be no sacrificial priest without a sacrifice to be performed. He looked at
Helen. She looked calm almost happy, and he thought she must be waiting
for this moment with anticipation. They stood side by side now, near the
pool. The masked priest was approaching. Quickly and quietly Helen
whispered to him ‘you are on your own now, mortal man alone with the
Gods. I am going back to the realm of primeval creation’.
In an instant Matheson understood what she meant. She’d moved a
fraction closer to the edge of the pool, embracing her fate. What followed
happened in seconds. The man had raised his knife and wounded Helen
mortally in the back. Matheson watched the drama unfold like the slow
moving figures of a zootrobe; he was paralysed in horror. How could this
be, surely she was one of the immortals? Then everything around him
seemed to be stained with crimson blood. Seth had lifted up Helen lifeless

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body and thrown it into the dark waters. Screaming, mad with terror, the
doctor was fleeing the scene of the sacrifice, but it was no human that had
been sacrificed but one of the immortals themselves. He felt that he had
never run at such speed in his entire life. He arrived at the pier, where
earlier they had disembarked. He jumped in the empty boat and started
rowing with frenzy. He thought he could see the malevolent, incandescent,
reptilian eyes of a deadly crocodile sliding through the waters following
him. ‘Faster’ he yelled to himself ‘faster’.
A cold sweat of panic covered his body. As he passed the midpoint of the
stream, the crocodile turned away, as if some invisible barrier prevented it
for pursuing its prey further. A strong helpful current drew the vessel
nearer and nearer its original destination. Matheson glanced over his
shoulder and as the high shores swung closer into view he sprang into the
clear crystalline shallows waters. He ran in the midnight landscape. He
could see the entrance of the cave from which they had earlier emerged
before this whole tragic adventure. The soft light of the moon ran its
beams inside the dark recesses. He could see the door that had led to all
this madness. He pushed it open. But saw only blackness. He senses
reeling as he stumbled forward into the gloom and darkness engulfed him.
Matheson did not know for how long he had been unconscious. His head
thumped as if he had drunk too much absinthe. He opened his eyes and
details of Helen Vaughan’s drawing room began to swim into view. The
pianola was silent. The fire had burned low. He looked down and saw his
clothes in wild disarray. He turned his head half expecting to see Helen
next to him. But she was not there.
He dressed and collecting his things began to search to house looking for
her. It did not take him long to find a small bedroom. He breathed a sigh
of relief as there on the simple brass bed he saw her sleeping form. But his
relief was short-lived, for as his clinician’s gaze passed over her body he
saw the unmistakable emblems of death.
Coming closer he saw also the clear cause of death, her delicate throat
constricted by a cruel hempen rope, one end of which was securely tied to
the brass headrest of the bed. So Helen had met her end in exactly the
same manner as all her society lovers, by slow strangulation. Silently and
purposefully, Matheson fled the scene. And over the coming weeks he
scoured the papers expecting to read news of yet another society murder,
her murder in bizarre circumstances. But no such report ever appeared. It
was as if Helen Vaughan had simply disappeared from the face of the
planet, never to be seen again.

18/12/2012 09:37

The Great God Pan - Revisited

14 of 14

file:///C:/Users/mogg/Documents/a-users/authors A-M/kim/TMP29f3x...

Had she disappeared like so many of the illusions she had engendered?
continues . . .

18/12/2012 09:37

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