Under the Aztec Sky a Lost Manuscript of Karl Hunsley Howard
Edited by Jeff Baker
Howard, Karl Hunsley, b. 1856, Ealing, London, England, d. 1933 Harrisonville, NJ. Occupations: Various, incl. Deckhand, Plantation foreman, Song plugger, Journalist, Ranch foreman and author. Best remembered today as a sort of American H. Rider Haggard, Howard’s fiction was among the first to replace Mayan pyramids for the Egyptian ones. He did write about Egypt though in his novel “The Trackless Sands.” Howard ceased writing fiction shortly after World War One. Several of his stories were reprinted in early issues of the pulp magazine Eerie Adventure Stories. For more details, see: “Hoofbeats and Sorcery,” K. H. Howard, Bruxley Books, 1926.—-from “Masters of Adventure” by Brophy and Klein.
(The following is an excerpt from an unpublished story by Karl Hunsley Howard, possibly meant to be part of a novel. Howard did his research during a trip to Mexico in 1894.)
Osgood Bafflemoore Under Aztec Skies
By Karl Hunsley Howard (Possibly written 1898)
“Now look here,” Bafflemoore said to the Aztec Chief. “This is the Nineteenth Century. The era of your empire is gone. In fact, the era of empires in general is over. I’m not here for anything save pure science. The acquisition of knowledge.”
“This is exactly why we cannot allow you to leave,” said the Chief. “Ours is the last outpost of the Empire, hidden here in the Ithycan Jungle. The mighty City of Unulthimal dates back nearly 700 years, as does our Pyramid of the Night. We were the first city of Empire and we remain, by the might of our Queen and the power of our Goddess, mighty Eschactolactapotel.”
“Goddess?” Bafflemoore said. “I’ve encountered several supposed gods in this region, including that snake-thing some of your people were worshipping a few hundred miles from here at another pyramid hidden by the jungle.”
“Our Queen will decide your fate,” the Chief said, his fellows pointing their spears at Bafflemoore’s party. “Come this way.
As they walked under the stars towards the great, dark pyramid, Bafflemoore tried to make out the carvings in the starlight: The side of the pyramid was surmounted by something that almost looked like a squid or octopus; tendrils extending towards the stairs. And as they approached, part of the stairs rose open like a drawbridge and the party was escorted into the torch lit, cavernous interior.
Inside, they could make out only a stone throne set in the center of the room. On that throne sat the Queen. Young, beautiful and dark.
“Who intrudes on the sanctity of the sacred chamber?” the Queen asked.
Bafflemoore was stared at by the Chief; apparently he was supposed to answer.
“I am Osgood Bafflemoore, of the University of Harrisonville, representing the Government of President McKinley in the interest of science.”
“You will not leave here,” the Queen said. “You may tell no one of us.”
Bafflemoore glanced around. The warriors were bowed down to their Queen, leaving the still open entrance unguarded. He glanced up. In the shadowy darkness he saw something silently moving.
He glanced at his party.
“Two words,” he said. “Run.”
The group had plenty of experience; they dashed for the entrance. As they rushed into the night they heard the Queen’s voice behind them.
“Eschactalactopotel! Binder of Fools! Mother of the Chrysalis! Lend your servant thy skein, NOW!”
The last word seemed to echo through the jungle. There was a rushing of air behind and above them. Bafflemoore glanced upward. He saw a slender, shadowy shape blocking the stars, thin spindly arms, white tendrils dropping down glinting in the starlight and
(Here the manuscript fragment ends.)
Compiler’s Note: This manuscript was possibly written on-site in the Yuccatan Jungle, inspiration for the fictional jungle in the story when inspiration hit the author. No explanation as to why he never finished the tale. The original ms is damaged most likely by rain and jungle insects as the edges are oddly-chewed and further damaged by what appears to be a sticky, cottony substance, doubtless from some local tree.
This evaluation of the manuscript pages in the Hunsley Howard collection was prepared April 1st, 2021 by Jeffrey Scott Baker.