It is October 1928. London: the capital of an empire that covers a quarter of the globe and contains a quarter of the human race. The population busies itself with its concerns of politics and government, finance and production, work and recreation. But how fragile things are. What ignorance there is.
For there are those who are engaged in quite different pursuits. Those who would see an inhuman power come to Earth that would make such activity seem merely a last dance before dying.
Over this winter the taint emerges as never before. The sensitive and the weak feel it first; few can know the source, but some welcome it anyway – experience in it a thrill. Artists find their work strangely influenced, and they mine this vein of creativity. Many exhibitions this season feature the same images: a social gathering gripped by a repressed panic; a lake or marsh cloaked with mist; the presence of something that stands just off canvas. New fiction and theater bring scenes of upheaval and confusion that are never allowed to reach a climax. Seances and mediumistic exhibitions bring untoward results and end in disruption. And other people are susceptible to variations in mood: they feel new lines of communication opening. Some claim God is talking to them.
All feel the lure of the stars. Artists, musicians, and writers work at their windows after sunset, their curtains thrown open to the sky. The troubled walk the streets by night conversing with themselves, railing at interruptions. Madmen sit in their cells gazing where the Hyades will rise.