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The Mask of Circe by Henry Kuttner

The Mask of Circe by Henry Kuttner

Summoned by luring voices from the past, Jay Seward assumes the role of Jason in this retelling of the classic myth of Jason and the Argonauts in an epochal journey to the fabulous land of the legends!

Book Details

Book Details

The Mask of Circe (1948) – Summoned by luring voices from the past, Jay Seward assumes the role of Jason in this retelling of the classic myth of Jason and the Argonauts in an epochal journey to the fabulous land of the legends!

A man shares genetic memories with Jason of the Argonauts fame. When time streams cross, he finds he becomes Jason in an alternate world.

Chapter I – Enchanted Seas
Chapter II – Mystic Ship
Chapter III – Temple in the Grove
Chapter IV – Trust Not a Faun
Chapter V – Priests of Apollo
Chapter VI – Echoes of the Past
Chapter VII – Slave-Girl’s Plea
Chapter VIII – Hecate Speaks
Chapter IX – Radiance of Death
Chapter X – High Priest’s Bargain
Chapter XI – Aid From Hecate
Chapter XII – Battling Beasts
Chapter XIII – Power Unleashed
Chapter XIV – End of a God
Chapter XV – Music From the Sea

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) is one of the great Science Fiction writers of the 1940s and 1950s but less well known than many for two important reasons. The first reason is that he used approximately twenty different pseudonyms, the best known of which were C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Lewis Padgett. The second reason was that his later writing career was, in large part, a literary collaboration with his wife C.L. Moore.

The Mask of Circe contains 7 illustrations.

SS1948 05 The Mask of Circe by Henry Kuttner
Startling Stories – May, 1948


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Excerpt: The Mask of Circe

Chapter I

Enchanted Seas

TALBOT drew on his pipe and squinted across the campfire at the face of the man who was speaking softly, slowly, the words coming one upon another in the patterns of the strangest tale Talbot had ever heard.

Jay Seward’s face was bronze in the flickering firelight. It might have been a mask hammered out of metal, with the tall Canadian pines a background and the moonlight silvering it with strange highlights. They were far away from civilized places, these two, and the tale Jay Seward told might have sounded wildly improbable in more prosaic surroundings. But here and now, it did not seem strange at all. . . .

Jay Seward had been restless all that day. Talbot, who had known him only a week, was more and more aware as time went by that his companion was somehow a haunted man. He seemed to be waiting for something—watching for something. He kept his head turned a little, whatever else he did, so that the sounds of the sea down at the foot of the pine slope were always clear in his ears, as though he expected some other sound than the splashing of the waves.

But it was not until an hour ago, after sunset, sitting by the campfire, that at last he began to talk.

“This isn’t real,” Seward declared suddenly, glancing around the moon-drenched clearing. “I feel as if I’d stepped back in time a year. I was up here just a year ago, you know. I was a pretty sick man. Then something happened, and—” He did not finish, but you could see his thoughts move off along a familiar trail of remembering.

Talbot said, “It’s a good country to get well in.” He spoke cautiously, hoping not to break the spell of Seward’s thinking. He was very curious about this man; he wanted to hear the tale he felt sure was coming.

Seward laughed. “My mind was sick. And I couldn’t stay away from the ocean,” He turned his head a little and his nostrils flared as if he tried to draw into his lungs the deepest savor of the salt wind that moved through the pines. A faint thunder of breakers came with it, and Seward stirred restlessly.

“I was drowning,” he said simply. “Drowning in an unknown ocean that touched—strange shores. Do you mind if I talk? I think it’ll bring everything back clearer—and I want to bring it back. Tonight I don’t understand it— tonight something’s going to happen. Don’t ask me what. If I told you you wouldn’t believe me. And I won’t make apologies for— for what I know happened. I’m not out of my head— I never have been. I know—” He paused and laughed, faintly apologetic.”

“Go on,” Talbot said, drawing on his pipe. “I’d like to hear it, whatever it is.”

“If you don’t mind a long story, I will. Maybe it’ll help.” He glanced at the mist wreathing among the pines. “It was like that on Aeaea,” he said. “Always— misty. Veiled.”


“The Isle of the Enchantress.” He shrugged impatiently. “All right, I’ll tell you.”

SEWARD shifted a little so that his back was against a fallen log and his face to the darkness that hid the ocean. In a slow voice he began to talk.

“Three years ago I was in the States, working with a man named Ostrend on a new type of psychiatric research. That’s my line—psychiatry. Ostrend was a wonderful man in his field—blast him!

“It was the sodium pentathol narcosynthesis that started us off—and we went too far. Ostrend was a genius. Before we finished we’d crossed the boundaries of known psychological research and—” Seward broke off, hesitated, and began again.

“Narcosynthesis is a new method of exploring the brain. You know the principle? Under a hypnotic the patient is forced to look back on his own crises, things buried in his unconscious mind—the unpleasant things he doesn’t want to remember consciously. The catharsis usually brings about a cure.

“Ostrend and I went farther than that. I won’t tell you the methods we used. But we were, alternately, our own guinea pigs, and the day we succeeded, I was the specimen on the slide. . . .

“Crises buried in the past—how far back? What I remembered—Ostrend made a transcript of it as he questioned me. I didn’t know what was happening till I woke. But after that the memories came back. Even if I hadn’t read Ostrend’s record, I’d have remembered. A crisis buried far in the past, dredged up out of my subconscious.”

“It should have stayed there, buried! Narcosynthesis is a fine and useful psychiatric treatment, but we reached beyond the normal limits. Ancestral memories, transmitted through the genes and chromosomes from my ancestors down through my lineage until I inherited them.

“Latent memories of one of my ancestors—a man who has become a myth. Who may never have existed.

“Yet I know he existed. He lived, in a time and world so long ago that nothing but legends remain now. And he went through a crisis there that was ineradicably impressed on his mind—and buried in his unconscious.”

“A memory he passed down to his sons, and his son’s sons.

“A memory of a voyage—in a ship manned by heroes, with Orpheus at the prow. Orpheus, whose lyre could raise the dead—

“Orpheus—who is a myth today. Like the other heroes who went on that great, fabulous voyage—

“My memories went back and back to time’s dawn.

“I was Jason!

“Jason—who sailed in the Argo to Colchis and stole the Golden Fleece from the sacred serpent-temple, where scaled Python guarded that shining treasure of the god Apollo. . . .

“The memories did not pass. They stayed with me. I seemed to have two minds. Things I could never have heard or noticed as Jay Seward I heard and saw after that narcosynthetic treatment. The sea called me. I—I heard a voice sometimes. It wasn’t calling Jay Seward. It was calling Jason, Jason of Iolcus, Jason of the Argo. And I was Jason. At least, I had his memories.

“Some of them. Shadowy, confused—but I remembered many things from the life of that ancestor of mine. And some of those things, I knew, could never have existed on this old Earth of ours. Not even in the enchanted seas of the Argonauts.

“The conch shell of Triton seemed to summon me. Where? Back to that forgotten past? I didn’t know. . . .

“I tried to get away. I tried to break the spell. It was impossible to continue my work, of course. And Ostrend couldn’t help me. No one could. I came up here as a last resort over a year ago. In the train, out of Seattle, I thought for a while that I’d got away.

“But I hadn’t. Up here, a year ago, I heard that soundless call from the sea—and thought of ghosts and ghostly ships. I was afraid. Terribly afraid. I slept under the pines, and the wind brought to me the crack of sails in the wind, the creak of oarlocks.

“And it brought the sound of a sweet, inhuman voice that called, ‘Jason! Jason of Thessaly! Come to me!’

“That night I answered the call. . . .”

Excerpt From: Henry Kuttner. “The Mask of Circe.”

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