Arkham: Tales from the Flipside

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This is Professor Wilmarth and your friendly neighborhood Cthulhu welcoming you to another journey within the world of the macabre and the strange. In this season’s issue we have several tales of ravens, cuckoos, and aliens; maybe you will think me cuckoo for mentioning aliens...

This season Henry meets someone sitting inside the Greenlawn Cemetery, that is stranger than any ghost, who starts their journey looking for a lost book by Edgar Allan Poe detailing an infamous murder within the ivy halls of Harvard. Then we learn from Philip K. Dick that some gifts for your wife can prove deadly. Then James Stammers learns that gifts for your girlfriend can become just as troublesome. Then in Deschenes’ tale, we learn the best boxed gifts are the ones you find for yourself. Simak then teaches us that for some rare aliens sorrow is the best gift you can offer. Then Poe teaches us what happens when your most precious gift is removed from your life.

Some stories touch on historical facts and others you will hope are just pure fiction. Let’s see if you can figure out all the connections between the tales. Who knows, you might even find more than I reveal at the end of our installment from Arkham: Tales from the Flipside.

Well I’m off to feed the ravens in the cemetery. I do hope they eat all of the bodies before I get a ticket for litering. Do you mind if I leave Cthulu here to dine on your toes?

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Norge Forge Press
P.O. Box 249
Salem, MA 01970

Text Copyright © 2020
Illustrations Copyright © 2020
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Fall Issue: 2020
ISSN: 2689-7911
ISBN: 9798585607219
Printed in the United States

Table of Contents

Duped by Dupin

Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Beyond the Door

Philip K. Dick

Dumbwaiter

James Stammers

Every Witch Way

Lisa Deschenes

Crying Jag

Clifford D. Simak

The Raven

Robert Sheckley

Authors and Illustrators

 

 

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Duped by Dupin

By Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Part of the Sinclair Narratives

It was a fine November day. All Hallows Eve had just passed and the dance of crimson and saffron spurred forth from the bowers above. It was a beautiful day to walk through the Greenlawn Cemetery. It was once Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle’s arboretum; for a time he even lived across the street from here. After my stroll I went to sit on my favorite bench, but I found it occupied. So I asked to share it with the man who was already perched to the left.

This man dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, just nodded quietly as I asked to share this wood and wrought iron structure, divided in half by a third ferrous rail, with room for two on each side of this common apparatus that pigeons and squirrels alike gathered in front of as if it was a Celtic shrine of old, where these critters believed once they supplicated in front it, it would deliver a cornucopia of sustenance.

After sometime I found myself lost in my own thoughts, descending back to a far gone notion, interrupted by a resolute x-president espousing his familiar moniker —‘Bully!’ A phrase he used so often that many thought it was his Christian name, as he fought through a haze intermingled with green fairies within an artemisia absinthium forest, espousing a contradiction to my premise over the essence and pace of reality; I had almost forgotten the man who sat besides me when I heard, “May I interrupt your sojourning for a moment,” he didn’t wait for my answer.

“See for some time my companions and myself have found ourselves left in limbo. A lurch that has gone on for what seems an aeon at the mercy of the uroboros stretched upon a Möbius strip. The parlour is getting stuffy. Longfellow has become long-winded. Holmes has no clue, but his scientific speculation upon the great matter weakens one to talk with an hour more than a day’s fasting would do...We all dread if the ‘Great Orator’ gets started. Sturgis keeps excusing himself to venture with the Orient dragon. His wife, Susanna—the sister of the missing man, sitting closest to the hall attached to the water closet, was suffering from the stupor that the dragon’s secondhand smoke brings on. Littlefield keeps eyeing up my skeleton to sell it at a future date and Chief Francis Tukey and his constable Starkwater just sit their slack-jawed contemplating the turkey that they were forced to abdicate...” the man stammers to my left, as he brings me out of my reverie.

He was dressed like a cossack Merlin in his fur robe with his kufi just touching the tops of the largest mutton chops, I dared to say, I ever saw; Tom Sawyer was seen entering them last week and we are still waiting for him to exit. Popular consent fears he will die before we can extricate him...

Now I must say, this is Salem; with all of the spiritualists and gurus that proffer the commercial space downtown—I must say, that he didn’t stand out at all; he was just another character Nikola and myself would have begrudgingly rubbed elbows with at Hammond Castle.

“Sorry, do I know you?” I asked, still half in and half out of my thoughts of being interrupted by Roosevelt, trying to recall that lost thought I had, all those years ago.

“It is my fault dear sir. I can’t expect you to remember me in this reality, for we in truth met in another. Honestly, we never met directly, for you were merely a fly on the wall on the other side of the white and black that proffer between calfskin stretched over two boards. Nevertheless, you made your presence felt—indelibly upon us all, just as much as the Honorable C. Auguste Dupin.” He then stood up and gripped my hand firmly in between his and shook. He looked me deep in the eye with a smile, and grasped my forearm with a warrior’s greeting. “May I introduce myself? For I am Eben Horsford.”

He was known to me as the man known for baking up a fabled Viking city just across the river from Boston with his own famous powder. He brought to life the dream of Longfellow’s wish to have a statue dedicated to the true explorer who founded an already discovered continent. Many thought it was an endeavor just to bring ire to the newly settled Catholic population that rankled the protestants within the Ivy Halls of the city. He even had a Norse tower built just off the Charles River, where he believed this fabled city existed.

In truth, he never found Vinland or Norumbega. For I fear, I never found Vinland myself—even though I was searching, but I did arrive here almost a hundred years before that Italian and his Spanish crew.

Was I seeing a ghost—I was sitting in a cemetery, for Horsford had been dead for nearly a score? He fully assessed my silence and bewilderment.

“Do you remember a work you were reading by one Henri Rennet detailing the events of the Parkman-Webster murder case? The Doctor’s Affair?”

“Why yes! I never did get a chance to finish it; I do believe I left it on a train some years ago, figuring a rare proof by that famous author would never surface once more. I never went looking for it,” I answered him, as I tried recalling the yarn Rennet created around that celebrated case involving the premiere families that sledded down Beacon Hill. The tale concerned one Doctor John White Webster, a Harvard professor who was accused of murdering and dismembering his lender, Doctor George Parkman. It was premised that he had shoved him into the furnace of his Harvard laboratory.

“We know! We have been waiting in the parlour for almost sixty years now—waiting for you to read out Dupin’s rationalization of who was the murderer! Why would you put down the story right where the climax was? Do you not have any sympathy or compassion for others? Please, find the book before Prescott imagines another dry tome of a history best forgotten! For myself and the other characters in the book, I plead for you to finish the tale and remove the agony we have found ourselves within all these years,” Horsford begged with deep sincerity.

___


(In this excerpt and those following I am reading out loud to Horsford, as a bard or storyteller would have with a mixture of tone and style of the original author mixed with...my own voice, as we traveled to find the book. This device was devised to help you, my reader, be informed on the mystery the book examines as well as to move our poor friend Horsford, who has found himself trapped with the others within the book, through to its climax.)

Sometimes unbelievable events occur that are at once so horrid that we wonder about in abject futility to the loss of control to our Christian bearings as we are drawn against, or along with our primitive being to the tantalizing temptation to stare, boldface, into the gore that is inevitable from a train wreck. That is where the citizenry of the ‘Land of Cod’ found themselves. Following the Ides of March, John White Webster’s long-standing debts were being called in to account for the assassination of the caesar of Beacon Hill.

It was 1850 and we were twelve months and eleven days into Zachary Taylor’s sixteen month presidency. Webster’s April Fool’s prank was that he was to hang for a murder that never happened, but fate had found a way in which he would not escape his complicity in another unsolved murder. John White Webster was indicted on January 26th. The New England papers were split on their opinion of the murder:

“Scarcely one man in ten thousand can be found who does not agree with us in the opinion that the evidence is that Webster is innocent. Secondly, there is serious doubt if Parkman is dead.”

— Evening Bulletin, January 28, 1850

“We have scarcely met a man of intelligence, since the evidence has all come out, who did not profess to believe in Webster’s guilt.”

— Massachusetts Ploughman, January 29, 1850

Below are the public facts given by the Salem Gazette on February 1st:

“The inquest jury, in an eight-four-page decision, determined that the body parts found in Dr. Webster’s furnace were Parkman’s, that he had been killed and dismembered at the medical college, and that Webster was to be held accountable. Thus the grand jury returned a True Bill and indicted him. According to their report, the jury believed that John White Webster had beaten and struck George Parkman, and then assaulted him with a knife until he was dead. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw would preside over the case. Daniel Webster was asked to prosecute, but declined.

It was twenty years ago that Daniel Webster assured Shaw’s position as Chief Justice, after the prior Justice, one Isaac Parker, was found dead the night before the commencement of the Joseph White murder case. As celebrated in Stephen White’s biography of Daniel Webster, Webster’s involvement in the most infamous murder of the nineteenth century brought about the execution of the two Knapp brothers for striking White on the head and stabbing him several times. For in that murder the blood was missing on the sheets, but at least they did find the body of the man who was murdered beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point, the public is not convinced they found the body of Dr. Parkman.

Chief witness in the murder of Dr. Parkman is one ‘Swamp Yankee’ named Littlefield. A ‘resurrection man’ by trade. He had been in the employ of John White Webster and several other professors in Harvard to obtain cadavers, no questions asked, for their dissection and study. Becoming suspicious of Webster after overhearing a heated argument with Parkman over a long overdue debt, Littlefield became concerned. When Webster went to a dance, he snuck back through the tunnel leading from the river, at low tide, under the trapdoor Webster used to drop the bodies through after his experiments. Later the tide would carry them away. Many locals have complained about the body parts washing ashore, to the fright of many children. Littlefield had noticed the furnace that shared a wall with the tunnel was ‘hot’...This led him to break through the other wall into the Doctor’s privy. Amongst the feces and urine of the good doctor did he say he found the remains of the good man Parkman. Later, other pieces were to be found within a tea chest. A common crate Littlefield would use within his ‘resurrection’ trade. In this paper’s opinion there is more than a whiff of doubt in his testimony…

Here is the breakdown of the affair that has Boston on the edge of their seats:

Prior On November 22, a week before Thanksgiving, Parkman went to the college to look for Mr. Pettee, the Harvard cashier, to give him the proceeds from the sale of Webster’s lecture to repay his debt. On November 23, Parkman was out collecting debts when he visited Parkman’s home; it was suggested that they meet at Harvard that afternoon at 1:30 pm. At 1:45 pm, Parkman had been sighted entering the college on North Grove Street, wearing a dark frock coat, dark trousers, a purple satin vest, and a stovepipe hat. Later that afternoon, Littlefield found Webster’s rooms locked and heard Webster running the water. Webster was home by 6:00 pm to dress for a party at the Treadwells. On November 24, Parkman’s family reported him missing.

On November 26, Parkman’s family proffered a $3,000 reward and had 28,000 copies of a wanted notice distributed; a little later, $1,000 was offered for his body. On November 27, Webster worked at the college in the evening. At first, Irish immigrants were blamed. Many wondered if Parkman had simply left the city; others thought he had been mugged. Unsigned letters proposed various scenarios. City Marshal Francis Tukey had the Charles River and Boston Harbor dragged and sent officers to neighboring towns to make inquiries. Parkman’s buildings, both rented and vacant, and even abandoned buildings that he did not own were searched. Tukey’s newly formed professional police force made their first search of his rooms, each time placing special emphasis on the laboratories and dissecting vaults, but they found nothing to indicate that Parkman had been there.

On November 28, Webster was early at college; Littlefield watched him from under the door, moving from the furnace to the fuel closet, making eight separate trips. On Thanksgiving, Littlefield had entered the tunnel and began to dig into Webster’s ‘shit’. He returned the next day to break through the wall to find some human remains. Tukey was informed.”

Now we found ourselves within the parlour of George Parkman, hosted by his sister Susanna and her husband Nathaniel Russell Junior, the grandson of the scion of the American partner in Barings Brothers & Co. Joining us was the great Senator Daniel Webster and his Hartford Convention conspirator’s son William H. Prescott, the writer of great histories, George Parkman’s want-to-be historian son, Francis, the poets—or as Dupin called them, “fools”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, John White Webster’s horrified wife Harriet (Prescott’s aunt) who mostly just sat there in a catatonic state. Officially Chief Francis Tukey and his constable Starkwater were interrogating everyone within. I was called in to bring Dupin here to investigate by Eben Norton Horsford, who now found himself teaching John White Webster’s classes.

Horsford held the Count Rumford professorship, a position in which John White Webster procured for him against much opposition. Horsford raised his fortune from a new formula for baking powder by replacing cream of tartar with calcium biphosphate. With these assets, he pursued a course of monuments and literature along with Longfellow to prove that the Norse founded America before Columbus. He also claimed that many place names like Naumkeag, the Indian name for the city of Salem, were in fact old Norse.

Dupin, being Norman French himself and proud of his Viking ancestors, took to Horsford quickly and was happy to oblige his concerns over the innocence of his dear friend.

___

Horsford and I rode a cable car down to the station on Washington Street. There we waited for the 12:00 train to Boston. It was a large gothic structure with two towers. Inside all of the wood was darkened by the smoke. We went to the restaurant and had an early lunch while we waited. Our destination was the lost and found box inside the Old Customs House for the purpose of looking for the book.

“So who do you think did it?” asked Horsford.

“I cannot say; little of the story’s ending do I remember,” I lied. I was first propositioned to publish Rennet’s tale, but I referred him to Calvin F. S. Thomas in Boston, with whom Rennet was already familiar. He would be able to print a much larger run and cheaper than I could. Nevertheless, Rennet asked me to look over and edit an advance reader edition. I started making my comments in a notebook which I planned to hand to him once I finished, but Rennet was caught up with complications—which I was not surprised about. At that point I stopped reading the work, fearing it would not be pursued any further.

In time, I would see glimpses of Rennet; shadows merely turning a corner, maybe a mention of his name. There was talk of false starts made by Thomas. He needed a distributor. At all points, there was Ticknor & Field publishing blocking his progress. Even when Thomas found a foreign firm that made inroads into our nation, there was Ticknor & Field. They were not only after the destruction of the book——but that of Rennet himself.

In truth, soon I forgot about the book and Rennet. For it was years since I had heard his name uttered or seen his visage.

I was reading a copy of the Royal Society Journal I found in the station when I had seen an etching of an assistant of Michael Faraday that looked queer.

“Are you going to have one of these Chop Suey sandwiches?” asked Horsford.

___

Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory

“Now Prescott, If you were writing a history of this murder, where would you start your narrative?” Dupin prodded. “Would you begin with a history of the families involved? Would you bring out their skeletons into the light of the new dawn, sins of the father and all? How would you lay out this narrative?”

“Pride in family and our accomplishments. We are an elite bunch, filled with grand plans, some fulfilled and others stalled, but we all are what we are becoming,” Prescott answered. “We are the true city on the hill, lighting the beacon for all to see. I would show this murder as a fluttering of that candle.”

“Madam Sturgis, you look away from Prescott’s suggestion?” Dupin probed. “Would you not want your kin’s tales brought forth?” She made no movement; she kept looking over her shoulder at the potted fern in disgust. “Maybe, you would be further moved if we brought up your husband’s part in his uncle’s opium trade. I see now your husband is rubbing his hip.”

With that, Nathaniel stared at me with his hand on his hip. It was common knowledge that an opium fiend will lay on his side while smoking, so much so he builds a callus on his hip. Thus making him a ‘hipster’. He quickly dropped his hand and gave me that look only a wounded poof could deliver; a look that said ‘smell you.’

Harriet stared at Prescott with a look of a scared animal ready to pounce on her nephew’s jugular, but remained quiet as a church mouse.

“Now Senator, you seemed to scowl at me; do you not like the mention of your legal clients? Is it true that you’re on retainer for Sturgis’ uncle Thomas H. Perkins, slave trader and China merchant?” Dupin continued as he took a bit of snuff. “Is he not now the leading old Federalist in Boston? I dare say you should have had that honor; were you not with Prescott’s father at the ill timed Hartford Convention. Too bad Parker, before he died, could not prove it was more than hearsay…”

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“My dear sir, you are searching for what was the desire of Pasiphäe. Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear, Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then Open’d and clear’d…” Daniel said with a finger extended out at me like some Puritan preacher on Lecture Day.

“...and ye shall be as gods,” answered Dupin. “I abide that boast so vain under what torments I inwardly groan, While they adore me on the throne of hell. How mighty Lucifer has fallen…” With that the Senator dropped into his seat and fell silent. “Longfellow, you are filled with quotes; Thomas Bulfinch was a neighbor of your father, was he not? Daniel knew his Mythologies well and your father knew Daniel well too. Was he too, in Hartford?” Then Dupin looked at Littlefield, “Henry, how many times have you let Littlefield use your tunnel from your home to appease your friend Oliver here? A corpse here, a corpse there. How hard would it be for Littlefield to sneak another corpse into John White Webster’s laboratory?”

Everyone besides Dupin remained silent.

“Francis, you walked home from Webster’s laboratory with your father; were you the last to see him alive?” Dupin turned quickly to accuse the missing man’s son. “Did he just rip up your tickets to London? What you wanted the most was to be a famous historian like young Prescott here. Did Prescott promise you a meeting with Prince Albert?”

Longfellow was making his way to the hall for the door. “Henry, you seem much healed after your holiday in Arkham? Were you not working with Holmes and Lowell on a translation of Dante’s Canto Inferno from the Divine Comedy?” Dupin said over his shoulder with Longfellow to his back. Dupin then lit his meerschaum pipe. “Is it not true that you spent some time in Arkham Asylum for the attempted murder of one of your critics? You had left your victim in his garden to be eaten alive by strategically placed maggots along with a bevy of hornets? Was that not one of Dante’s punishments? Did George Parkman see you in McLean Asylum for the Insane after your transfer? I expected as much from one of your literary groups, to exact revenge on Poe, but you, my refined friend...you all almost did so after Lowell had booked him at the Federal Street Theater. If you had done it to him, no one in Boston would have blamed you…Parkman was friends with physician Rufus Wyman. Now, it is Rufus’ son Jeffries who has identified the bones found in the tea chest and privy to be Parkman. He also swears that the false teeth found in the stove fit into the skull of what he says is Parkman. I don’t know what to make of it, but his other son Morrill was having dinner with John White Webster on the night of Parkman’s disappearance.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes looked aghast at Longfellow.

“Oliver, you had concerns with Jeffries and George Parkman. Not only did Parkman donate the building to McLean, but he donated the Medical College to Harvard. He had a lot to say about what the University believed and taught. Was it true that he believed in Darwin’s assumption that man was descended from apes? I had questioned Jeffries when he was in Paris when I was solving the ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ about the practicalities of an Orangutan loose in Paris murdering people. Jeffries did believe man was descended from apes as well. Was Parkman going to ask the board of overseers at the University to promote Darwin’s evolution theory? Well, your Christian ideals could not allow that!” Dupin said as he pointed his pipe at him.

“Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions. It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen, but we shall try to have courage to act and not react. A child’s education should begin at least a hundred years before they are born. Will Harvard want their students to believe in the primogeniture of apes? Is it right to move the providence of creation from the creator down to the primate and chance? Does God roll dice? Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up. Maybe it is for later generations to decide, but how dangerous of a fate is that?” responded Holmes as he lit up his own pipe.

“Don’t flatter yourself, my dear professor, that privilege authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your peers. The nearer you come into superiority with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. Was it for you to take providence into your own hands and to remove Parkman’s influence from those Ivy Halls? If you did not kill him sir, did you leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell him.?” Dupin said, laying his pipe down.

“My dear sir, I did not kill George or expose him to his fate. Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future. I was willing to let Parkman and fate choose the university’s path, but I was going to have it heed my influence as much as I could. I swear to you I know little to nothing about what had befallen dear George,” Holmes said as he fell back into his seat.

“Francis, is it not true that your grandfather had your house built by Bulfinch’s father, Charles?” Dupin asked. I could see him switching gears in his astute mind. He sometimes looked back at what he had said in one context to realize it had much more depth and impact in another. “Your father did walk to work to Mass General and the Medical School through the tunnel.”

“Yes, how did you know about the tunnel?”

“Bulfinch is well known-in the right circles that is—for his mastery of architecture, not above ground, but below. When he rebuilt the Capitol Building after the War of 1812, he built the elaborate network of tunnels that connect the city together. His first venture was to connect the Massachusetts Capitol Building to the homes on Beacon Hill, where you preside, and beyond. I believe your grandfather was in league with him. He had bought up the swamp area on the westend for Bulfinch to smuggle his tunnel dirt into, under the disguise of the public works project, to level Tremont Hill. Subsequently, he had built up much of the commercial property that you now stand to inherit,” Dupin explained.

Francis adjusted his glasses nervously and finally took them off and absently cleaned them, as he stood stark still out of fear of Dupin’s accusation, “I did not! I mean yes, I would inherit them, but I did not kill him. I did resent him for forbidding me to venture to London. How is one to write the history of a geography if you do not, can not, feel the earth between your toes. I swear to you sir, I can be peeved at the man I loved, but never enough...to kill him.”

His mother just stared at him.

“Longfellow, the tunnels travel to McLean as well?” Dupin continued his train of thought.

“Yes sir, but what are you getting at?”

“Now Daniel, Bulfinch had built your home too?” Dupin prodded the old blue-blooded eagle.

“My dear sir, Daedalus constructed Minos’ labyrinth as a private pass and for you, there will be no Ariadne’s thread; for you my dear sir I say—may Poseidon’s bull be distracted from Pasiphäe and find you picking up pennies for Charon. For you are flying higher than Daedalus’s son…”

___

“I must stop you; I was in that room and I heard Daniel first hand, do not torture me once more! You know that man once gave a five-hour dinner speech at Harvard,” Horsford had cut off the narrative of the murder mystery as I recalled it.

Luck would have it we just passed the spot in Lynn where a full train derailed heading to Salem to hear Senator Daniel Webster speak. I am guessing it is in Horsford’s opinion—those riders were lucky that the train derailed.

I was lucky enough to have a Vinland expert at my disposal. I might have been here one hundred years before Columbus, but I never felt I found Vinland. I looked for it in Nova Scotia and here in Salem. Horsford was more under the opinion it was off the Charles. Other’s mention Provincetown, some Newport. Benedict Arnold’s grandfather owned what some thought was a Norman tower in Newport.

That reminded me that Daniel and Timothy Pickering chose Hartford for that ill-fabled convention, due to Arnold. The last time he had met George Washington, before the nation found out he was a traitor, was at the Hartford Conference. These men from Salem met those from New Haven who were Arnold’s business associates.

“What is your true opinion on the whereabouts of Vinland, my dear professor?” I had asked as we sped past Chelsea.

“Honestly, I had lots of time to think while waiting in that parlour—sixty years and all, ha, ha! I do believe Lief’s kin ventured to many places; as his brother, I do believe died on Bass Rocks in Gloucester, but Lief himself I believe sailed to where President Hanson hailed from, the northern section of the old Swedish colony in New Jersey. The shape of Vinland fits the southern peninsular of that state. Also, the sagas mention sailing with the coastline to the east. If they were sailing along the continent, the sea would be to the west.” Horsford was almost jumping out of his seat, bent over with his face close to mine sitting sideways and shaking his fits just above my lap. “I’m sorry, I had no one to share this thought with for, you know...”

___

Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory.

Tukey and Constable Starkwater had just returned. I gave them a nod when the great Senator began his dissertation. They followed me out. Dupin remained to see what the cast would subconsciously devolve. We went down the cellar stairs and found the iron door that led to the tunnel through the fireplace arch.

“What is that Dupin going on about—Ah he knows nothing more than we did before he arrived,” Constable Starkwater complained as his lantern led the way.

“Dupin is like a doctor; he pokes and prods—in the right areas to find out where his patients are sore, but he is a doctor of the psyche who tries to alleviate the guilt of the soul, much like our missing Parkman. It is really a shame Wyman took McLean hospital away from him, after all, he founded the institute,” I went on.

“Now what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” complained the good Constable.

“He is examining his patient’s soul. Like Dostoyevsky, he realizes all men need a confessor. He just tries to be the first person they come to,” I explain.

We left Parkman’s corridor and joined the main one under the sidewalk of Cambridge Street and began to transverse the hill like the dwarves of old under Joy Street. At the confluence of Joy and Beacon, we took a right. Many of the Brahmin’s of Beacon Hill we passed; Constable Starkwater and Chief Tukey barely kept their hats on as they passed the upper echelon. It was a rainy day and none of them traveling to work, to their mistress, a lover, or begrudgingly to a parent to beg to remain in their will, was willing to walk through another nor’easter. Long gone were the days of cargo moving through these chambers, but memories of our first president, John Hancock, unloading his sloop The Liberty into his basement before the British arrested him. That basement is now part of our fine State House.

We still had another half hour to arrive at the Medical School. On the way we passed a Crispus Attucks, of sorts, wearing a top hat. “Where did you get that hat?” I asked.

The man, seemingly afraid that I might bring a possible threat of theft, was slow at first to answer, then Tukey assured him he would be safe with his answer and he said he found it within the tunnel.

“When did you find it?” Tukey asked.

“It was back in November,” the man said.

“Could it have been on the 23rd?”

“It was. I just finished a job…” he looked at Tukey and gulped. Tukey asked him to continue and he looked at his shoes. “Well, it was around 2:30 for I could hear the new Farmer telegraph clock (Horsford’s telegraph was bypassed for this one), calling out the time for the cable car station above. I saw these two men hurry another forward. In my trade, this is common, I ask no questions and few people stop me when I am rushing people through myself. The tall one dropped his stovepipe hat. It looked so fine, I didn’t want to see it go to waste. See, I’m a bit shorter than the man who previously owned it. There are a lot of low spots in here which could knock it off.”

“What did the two look like?” I asked.

“Well, both looked like familiar people. Like they would have been in papers at some point. One had a lean Irish look, sunken cheeks, and mean eyes. The other was balding, in bad health, shaggy brows, with an eagle’s beak. The tall man looked like one not accustomed to unhappiness—like a deer in the lantern lights he was.”

We continued on to the school. We investigated the tunnel leading to the river where Littlefield dug into the privy. Then we took the fork toward Longfellow’s house. Chief Tukey’s presence would be enough for us to be granted access from his staff to the street. From there we expected to catch a cab back. On entering the fork, the good constable walked into a spider web that went from floor to ceiling.

___

“I think I recognize your visage, do I know you from somewhere prior to today?” asked Horsford.

“I fear not,” I answered.

“I swear we met somewhere before, but that could not be. If I did know you, you would be over sixty—at least! Well, that cannot be, but I can’t let go of how familiar you look.”

We just exited North Station and were calling a cab to take us to the Old Customs House on the water.

Who else would you expect to pull up—than Louie. He had been moonlighting in Boston as of late. Not only did he have a new niece to help feed, but his sister had twins. So when I did not need him he set off for Town.

“Surprise to find you here; why didn’t you tell me to stay in Salem today? I could have driven you in!” scolded Louie. In the city he had an old nag pull his carriage about; he did not want to put the extra miles on our Packard Electric. Plus he could not speed anywhere in the city, and get away with it…

Carriage-Boston.pdf

“It was unexpected. I did not know I had to venture in till I met this gentleman in Greenlawn,” I said. “Louie this is Horsford.”

“I’m honored meeting you my fine friend!” Horsford said with his hand raised up to shake Louie’s.

Horsford was getting some strange looks, but Louie paid no mind to his appearance. Louie has lived in Salem as long as I have.

We got in the back of the carriage and Louie was off.

“Now how do others see you?” I asked.

“Well, I learned to break the fourth wall from a little Norwegian girl named Sophie and her philosophy professor who learned to row a boat across a pond into reality,” Horsford explained.

“I once went for a row with my girlfriend and I lost our oars. Then ten months later she was my wife after she broke her fourth wall,” said Louie.

“Louie, I think that was a different fourth wall…” I said.

___

Another excerpt from Henri Rennet’s Novella The Doctor’s Affair from my memory

I returned with Chief Tukey and Starkwater. I informed Dupin of what we found out in the tunnels. He had seemed amused that Starkwater had run into the spider web and Starkwater was embarrassed over his reaction.

“Now here, Dupin! You will respect those who serve me. I have been quiet so far—on account of your mother, God rest her soul. Do not push me, Boston never wanted you. Even your sister did better in the theater here; she walked through the front door with your mother to ovations and flowers. How did you leave the theater? You left under the theater through the tunnels with the rats as an orphan to avoid the angry mob,” Tukey let loose.

Dupin took his cane and swiped the back of his knees. The friction of that strike pulled the sword out of its sheath which now he poked into the throat of the chief who laid flat on his back. Just pricking the skin. His muscles tensed to move forward when I took my cane and knocked his sword out of his hand.

“Auguste, that is enough. Spenser will not be able to protect you if you kill him; there are enough people out to kill you, especially in Baltimore.” I yelled at him. John C. Spenser hired us when he served as President John Tyler’s Secretary of War. He started a secret agency to protect the presidents and the moral direction of this nation against it’s popularly elected representatives who are a threat of removing the balance. “Now let’s get back to Spencer’s work. Henry, when we were leaving your house to catch a cab...”

“You entered my house without permission…” Longfellow said indignantly.

“Yes, we were not going to walk the half-hour back here; we had seen all we needed to see of the tunnels,” I retorted. “Can you explain why I found this in your basement?” I pulled a money clip from my pocket with the initials JWW on it.

Longfellow examined it. “Whose is this?”

“You know full well. When was the last time John White Webster was in your home? Why would he need to exit the tunnel from your home?” I asked. Prescott jerked and Daniel Webster calmed him by placing a hand on his forearm. Holmes looked questioningly at him.

“Well, why did Prescott and Webster bring him there?” I prodded as Webster smacked the table knocking his drink to the floor as Prescott jerked away from Webster and recomposed himself, gritting his teeth, more. His muscular cheeks became more prominent. Susanna, went down to clean Daniel’s scotch. She dabbed a spot and quickly picked up the glass and excused herself for the kitchen. Daniel readjusted in his seat and stepped on some ice cubes. Harriet ignored everything that was going on in the room.

Dupin nodded at Starkwater. Starkwater looked to Tukey; Tukey said, “Go!”

“Where is Sturgis?” asked Tukey.

“I have a feeling Starkwater will find him,” Dupin said with indifferent confidence. “Now my dear Horsford, with John White Webster’s arrest, you now have taken over his position in the university. Was it not true that John was against your’s and Longfellow’s plans to establish a statue of Lief Erickson within the city.”

“My dear sir, John fought for me to get the Rumsford chair! We are long term friends,” Horsford yelled back.

Dupin nodded at me before he asked Horsford his question to watch Prescott, as he watched Longfellow. Prescott shifted in his chair, I noticed. Dupin watched Longfellow as a quizzical look formed on his face.

The only one who looked more quizzical than Longfellow was Holmes. Webster just composed himself. His cold eyes just rested on a random spot on the wall over Dupin’s shoulder. The stare of an eagle who is pretending to ignore his prey. Francis still was looking quite clueless. His mother was much the same.

Littlefield made a run for it, but Starkwater caught him as he was returning with Sturgis and his daughter. Susanna placed a new scotch on a napkin next to the eminent senator. The eagle kept on staring at that spot.

Sturgis seemed much more collected than last we had seen him. So much so he was the only person who was not feeling tense at this point. He seemed a little too relaxed.

I walked to Webster’s napkin, he never broke his stare over Dupin’s shoulder’s and Dupin looked directly below his bushy brow. I grabbed the napkin. Prescott gritted his teeth. Longfellow started taking notes and conversing with Holmes. Horsford smiled. Littlefield looked scared and confused as Starkwater held him by the scruff of his jacket.

I handed the napkin to Dupin. All that was written on it was T.H.P.

After reading, Dupin said, “Something smells fishy, and it ain’t anyone from Innsmouth…”

Webster slammed the table once more, spilling his scotch again. For a famous drunkard like old Black Dan, he must really be upset, to waste quality scotch like that.

Webster stood up and grabbed Prescott by the shoulder to leave; Dupin’s sword was still out and made its way to Webster’s throat.

Sturgis had a hand in his pocket and had an eye on Dupin.

I grabbed Sturgis’ arm and Tukey grabbed Susanna by the shoulders.

“I suggest everyone have their seats once more,” Dupin said as he tapped his sword against Dan’s throat, suggesting that he should listen.

“Now gentlemen, let me tell you how I came to my ratiocination,” Dupin said as he sat and began to light his meerschaum pipe. “Starkwater, the good constable, had walked into a spider web. This tells me that the route to Longfellow’s was not used as recently as the one leading to this house. Prescott had forced George Parkman back through the tunnel to his own house. Now my companion here found a man wearing Parkman’s hat in the tunnel leading to this house; he mentioned three men coming this way—one against his will. Chief Tukey had informed me that Daniel was recalled from Washington and was seen entering Parkman’s house three days after his disappearance. This was earlier on the same day that Tukey questioned Littlefield about the remains he had found breaking into the privy from the tunnel. Daniel and Prescott must have found him trying to get the remains back that they were trying to disguise as Parkman’s.

Now it was prior to Parkman’s disappearance that Prescott had walked through the tunnel from Longfellow’s House, for Starkwater walked into a female wolf spider’s web. My companion brought me back her dehydrated body; hatching day for these spiders was the evening of Parkman’s abduction. These spiders spin a web for their children and wait for their offspring to devour the fluids from their bodies. Prescott had used the tunnel earlier that left from Longfellow’s and the spider made her web after he entered the lab.

Prescott’s and Longfellow’s fathers were members of the Essex Junto. The War of 1812 was a ploy to force America to create a new national bank after they closed the first one in 1811. A bank in which Barings Brother & Co. had major involvement...To do so Daniel Webster, his banker Stephen White, Joseph Story, and the murdered Captain Joseph White all received bribes from Barings Brothers Bank in 1811. They were to be prepared to become directors and the president, respectively, of the new bank that was created to handle the war debt in 1816 at the close of the war. These men then sought out Barings to handle the debt, at a high interest, to finance it. T.H.P. , Thomas Handasyd Perkins was brother-in-law to Nathaniel Sturgis Sr, Sturgis’ grandfather, who was the American partner in Barings Brothers & Co. along with Perkins’ nephew Joshua Bates. Perkins has become the head of the Saturday Night Fish Fry Club; an organization which links control over the National Republicans, Whigs, and old Federalists. Prescott was seen entering Longfellow’s house along with Webster and Perkins on the day of Parkman’s disappearance. Webster barely got to Washington before he had to come back.”

Tukey interjected, “So what does all of this mean? Is Parkman alive?”

“We cannot tell, but it will serve this group’s purpose to see the weakest link be punished for his possible murder. Without a body, I can not help you, my dear chief, but I fear this will not stop Black Dan from conjuring up some new laws to send his kin to the gallows,” Dupin explained. “It did not stop him from prosecuting three people as the sole murderer to a single victim. He even tried one twice for the same crime. Ha, Ha! John White Webster’s judge will be the one Daniel appointed to be Chief Justice during that prior trial.”

“What do we do with the lot of them?” yelled Starkwater, still holding Littlefield.

“Nothing,” Dupin answered as he put his pipe down.

“Nothing. You telling me we have no choice but to let them all go?” Tukey asked aghast.

“I brought you here to free my friend John—and you will let them hang him?” Horsford yelled as he grabbed Dupin by the lapels.

“I am sorry Eben, there is nothing I can do. It is all up to their ability to convince a jury that the body that Littlefield stole is Parkman’s,” Dupin said as he gently freed himself from Horsford. “Though I am sorry to say me and my companion must leave from here in haste.”

___

I went over the last part of the novella after we found the book in the lost and found in the Old Customs House. After we walked back down the wharf from the office, we went to Columbus Park. Horsford looked up at the Columbus statue and exclaimed, “My Lief statue will look much better and will be a testament to the truth.”

“It did my dear friend,” I said. His statue would be built on the west end of Commonwealth Avenue. Also, a Viking ship would be added to the Longfellow Bridge. Some things a little towhead would learn to appreciate living under the Bridge near the swan boats in the Public Garden. A member of the Chase family I believe.

“I still can’t get over the fact that John was to hang. There was nothing Dupin could do to save him?” Horsford said with his hat in his hand.

Before we got to Quincy Market we found Louie once more. He had taken the train back to Salem to get our Packard. As we sat there and talked to Louie for a little, an Irish trio just struck the bow, flute, and drum. “Was it not the Irish who first made it to Boston?” asked Louie.

“Why do you say that?” Horsford said even more distressed.

“Well, when the Norse arrived at Iceland—they scared the Irish monks off the island,” Louie was explaining. “See the Irish did not sail east back to Ireland, but west. Also the Norse mention in their sagas a tall fair skin tribe that spoke old Norse and Irish who wore white robes like those monks.”

“He is right, it is written in the sagas,” I said and Horsford dropped his head into his hands.

“I wonder if the first Irishman to step foot in Boston looked like me? It could’ve even been my great grandfather?” Louie pondered. “Imagine a statue of me?”

___

We returned to the Greenlawn Cemetery where I first met Horsford. He joined me on the bench on which we first met. He thanked me on behalf of himself and the other characters. Horsford was still disappointed that his friend John White Webster had hanged for a murder he didn’t think he could have committed. Then in a flash, he disappeared.

I didn’t read him the end of the book.

Continued on the Last Story...

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So we have learned the importance of finishing the stories we have began...Imagine just hanging in an existential parlour for years, with no exit, waiting to find out if one of the people you are locked in with is a murderer; I mean how much gin rummy can one play? Its almost as bad as living in Arkham for years with the Adams family celebrating shades of death for 12 months out of the year ... It gets to you after a while!

 

Fall-2020-Cthulu-Car.pdf

 

 

 

Beyond the Door

by

Philip K. Dick

Cuckoo.pdfLarry Thomas bought a cuckoo clock for his wife—without knowing the price he would have to pay.

That night at the dinner table he brought it out and set it down beside her plate. Doris stared at it, her hand to her mouth. “My God, what is it?” She looked up at him, bright-eyed.

“Well, open it.”

Doris tore the ribbon and paper from the square package with her sharp nails, her bosom rising and falling. Larry stood watching her as she lifted the lid. He lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall.

“A cuckoo clock!” Doris cried. “A real old cuckoo clock like my mother had.” She turned the clock over and over. “Just like my mother had, when Pete was still alive.” Her eyes sparkled with tears.

“It’s made in Germany,” Larry said. After a moment he added,

“Carl got it for me wholesale. He knows some guy in the clock business. Otherwise I wouldn’t have—” He stopped.

Doris made a funny little sound.

“I mean, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.” He scowled. “What’s the matter with you? You’ve got your clock, haven’t you? Isn’t that what you want?”

Doris sat holding onto the clock, her fingers pressed against the brown wood.

“Well,” Larry said, “what’s the matter?”

He watched in amazement as she leaped up and ran from the room, still clutching the clock. He shook his head. “Never satisfied. They’re all that way. Never get enough.”

He sat down at the table and finished his meal.

___

The cuckoo clock was not very large. It was hand-made, however, and there were countless frets on it, little indentations and ornaments scored in the soft wood. Doris sat on the bed drying her eyes and winding the clock. She set the hands by her wristwatch. Presently she carefully moved the hands to two minutes of ten. She carried the clock over to the dresser and propped it up.

Then she sat waiting, her hands twisted together in her lap—waiting for the cuckoo to come out, for the hour to strike.

As she sat she thought about Larry and what he had said. And what she had said, too, for that matter—not that she could be blamed for any of it. After all, she couldn’t keep listening to him forever without defending herself; you had to blow your own trumpet in the world.

She touched her handkerchief to her eyes suddenly. Why did he have to say that, about getting it wholesale? Why did he have to spoil it all? If he felt that way he needn’t have got it in the first place. She clenched her fists. He was so mean, so damn mean.

But she was glad of the little clock sitting there ticking to itself, with its funny grilled edges and the door. Inside the door was the cuckoo, waiting to come out. Was he listening, his head cocked on one side, listening to hear the clock strike so that he would know to come out?

Did he sleep between hours? Well, she would soon see him: she could ask him. And she would show the clock to Bob. He would love it; Bob loved old things, even old stamps and buttons. He liked to go with her to the stores. Of course, it was a little awkward, but Larry had been staying at the office so much, and that helped. If only Larry didn’t call up sometimes to—

There was a whirr. The clock shuddered and all at once the door opened. The cuckoo came out, sliding swiftly. He paused and looked around solemnly, scrutinizing her, the room, the furniture.

It was the first time he had seen her, she realized, smiling to herself in pleasure. She stood up, coming toward him shyly. “Go on,” she said. “I’m waiting.”

The cuckoo opened his bill. He whirred and chirped, quickly, rhythmically. Then, after a moment of contemplation, he retired. And the door snapped shut.

She was delighted. She clapped her hands and spun in a little circle. He was marvelous, perfect! And the way he had looked around, studying her, sizing her up. He liked her; she was certain of it. And she, of course, loved him at once, completely. He was just what she had hoped would come out of the little door.

Doris went to the clock. She bent over the little door, her lips close to the wood. “Do you hear me?” she whispered. “I think you’re the most wonderful cuckoo in the world.” She paused, embarrassed. “I hope you’ll like it here.”

Then she went downstairs again, slowly, her head high.

___

Larry and the cuckoo clock really never got along well from the start. Doris said it was because he didn’t wind it right, and it didn’t like being only half-wound all the time. Larry turned the job of winding over to her; the cuckoo came out every quarter hour and ran the spring down without remorse, and someone had to be ever after it, winding it up again.

Doris did her best, but she forgot a good deal of the time. Then Larry would throw his newspaper down with an elaborate weary motion and stand up. He would go into the dining-room where the clock was mounted on the wall over the fireplace. He would take the clock down and making sure that he had his thumb over the little door, he would wind it up.

“Why do you put your thumb over the door?” Doris asked once.

“You’re supposed to.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? I wonder if it isn’t that you don’t want him to come out while you’re standing so close.”

“Why not?”

“Maybe you’re afraid of him.”

Larry laughed. He put the clock back on the wall and gingerly removed his thumb. When Doris wasn’t looking he examined his thumb.

There was still a trace of the nick cut out of the soft part of it. Who—or what—had pecked at him?

___

One Saturday morning, when Larry was down at the office working over some important special accounts, Bob Chambers came to the front porch and rang the bell.

Doris was taking a quick shower. She dried herself and slipped into her robe. When she opened the door Bob stepped inside, grinning.

“Hi,” he said, looking around.

“It’s all right. Larry’s at the office.”

“Fine.” Bob gazed at her slim legs below the hem of the robe.

“How nice you look today.”

She laughed. “Be careful! Maybe I shouldn’t let you in after all.”

They looked at one another, half amused half frightened. Presently Bob said, “If you want, I’ll—”

“No, for God’s sake.” She caught hold of his sleeve. “Just get out of the doorway so I can close it. Mrs. Peters across the street, you know.”

She closed the door. “And I want to show you something,” she said. “You haven’t seen it.”

He was interested. “An antique? Or what?”

She took his arm, leading him toward the dining-room. “You’ll love it, Bobby.” She stopped, wide-eyed. “I hope you will. You must; you must love it. It means so much to me—he means so much.”

“He?” Bob frowned. “Who is he?”

Doris laughed. “You’re jealous! Come on.” A moment later they stood before the clock, looking up at it. “He’ll come out in a few minutes. Wait until you see him. I know you two will get along just fine.”

“What does Larry think of him?”

“They don’t like each other. Sometimes when Larry’s here he won’t come out. Larry gets mad if he doesn’t come out on time. He says—”

“Says what?”

Doris looked down. “He always says he’s been robbed, even if he did get it wholesale.” She brightened. “But I know he won’t come out because he doesn’t like Larry. When I’m here alone he comes right out for me, every fifteen minutes, even though he really only has to come out on the hour.”

She gazed up at the clock. “He comes out for me because he wants to. We talk; I tell him things. Of course, I’d like to have him upstairs in my room, but it wouldn’t be right.”

There was the sound of footsteps on the front porch. They looked at each other, horrified.

Larry pushed the front door open, grunting. He set his briefcase down and took off his hat. Then he saw Bob for the first time.

“Chambers. I’ll be damned.” His eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?” He came into the dining-room. Doris drew her robe about her helplessly, backing away.

“I—” Bob began. “That is, we—” He broke off, glancing at Doris. Suddenly the clock began to whirr. The cuckoo came rushing out, bursting into sound. Larry moved toward him.

“Shut that din off,” he said. He raised his fist toward the clock. The cuckoo snapped into silence and retreated. The door closed. “That’s better.” Larry studied Doris and Bob, standing mutely together.

“I came over to look at the clock,” Bob said. “Doris told me that it’s a rare antique and that—”

“Nuts. I bought it myself.” Larry walked up to him. “Get out of here.” He turned to Doris. “You too. And take that damn clock with you.”

He paused, rubbing his chin. “No. Leave the clock here. It’s mine; I bought it and paid for it.”

___

In the weeks that followed after Doris left, Larry and the cuckoo clock got along even worse than before. For one thing, the cuckoo stayed inside most of the time, sometimes even at twelve o’clock when he should have been busiest. And if he did come out at all he usually spoke only once or twice, never the correct number of times. And there was a sullen, uncooperative note in his voice, a jarring sound that made Larry uneasy and a little angry.

But he kept the clock wound, because the house was very still and quiet and it got on his nerves not to hear someone running around, talking and dropping things. And even the whirring of a clock sounded good to him.

But he didn’t like the cuckoo at all. And sometimes he spoke to him.

“Listen,” he said late one night to the closed little door. “I know you can hear me. I ought to give you back to the Germans—back to the Black Forest.” He paced back and forth. “I wonder what they’re doing now, the two of them. That young punk with his books and his antiques. A man shouldn’t be interested in antiques; that’s for women.”

He set his jaw. “Isn’t that right?”

The clock said nothing. Larry walked up in front of it. “Isn’t that right?” he demanded. “Don’t you have anything to say?”

He looked at the face of the clock. It was almost eleven, just a few seconds before the hour. “All right. I’ll wait until eleven. Then I want to hear what you have to say. You’ve been pretty quiet the last few weeks since she left.”

He grinned wryly. “Maybe you don’t like it here since she’s gone.” He scowled. “Well, I paid for you, and you’re coming out whether you like it or not. You hear me?”

Eleven o’clock came. Far off, at the end of town, the great tower clock boomed sleepily to itself. But the little door remained shut. Nothing moved. The minute hand passed on and the cuckoo did not stir. He was someplace inside the clock, beyond the door, silent and remote.

“All right, if that’s the way you feel,” Larry murmured, his lips twisting. “But it isn’t fair. It’s your job to come out. We all have to do things we don’t like.”

___

He went unhappily into the kitchen and opened the great gleaming refrigerator. As he poured himself a drink he thought about the clock.

There was no doubt about it—the cuckoo should come out, Doris or no Doris. He had always liked her, from the very start. They had got along well, the two of them. Probably he liked Bob too—probably he had seen enough of Bob to get to know him. They would be quite happy together, Bob and Doris and the cuckoo.

Larry finished his drink. He opened the drawer at the sink and took out the hammer. He carried it carefully into the dining-room. The clock was ticking gently to itself on the wall.

“Look,” he said, waving the hammer. “You know what I have here? You know what I’m going to do with it? I’m going to start on you—first.” He smiled. “Birds of a feather, that’s what you are—the three of you.”

The room was silent.

“Are you coming out? Or do I have to come in and get you?”

The clock whirred a little.

“I hear you in there. You’ve got a lot of talking to do, enough for the last three weeks. As I figure it, you owe me—”

The door opened. The cuckoo came out fast, straight at him. Larry was looking down, his brow wrinkled in thought. He glanced up, and the cuckoo caught him squarely in the eye.

Down he went, hammer and chair and everything, hitting the floor with a tremendous crash. For a moment the cuckoo paused, its small body poised rigidly. Then it went back inside its house. The door snapped tight-shut after it.

The man lay on the floor, stretched out grotesquely, his head bent over to one side. Nothing moved or stirred. The room was completely silent, except, of course, for the ticking of the clock.

___

“I see,” Doris said, her face tight. Bob put his arm around her, steadying her.

“Doctor,” Bob said, “can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” the doctor said.

“Is it very easy to break your neck, falling from so low a chair? It wasn’t very far to fall. I wonder if it might not have been an accident. Is there any chance it might have been—”

“Suicide?” the doctor rubbed his jaw. “I never heard of anyone committing suicide that way. It was an accident; I’m positive.”

“I don’t mean suicide,” Bob murmured under his breath, looking up at the clock on the wall. “I meant something else.”

But no one heard him.

 

THE END

First published in Fantastic Universe January 1954

 

 

Dumbwaiter

by James STAMERS
Illustrated by Dillon

Antimony IX divers can’t be seen, of course...
but don’t have anything in mind when one of them is around you!

T HE man ahead of me had a dragon in his baggage. So the Lamavic boys confiscated it. Lamavic — Livestock, Animal, Mineral and Vegetable, International Customs — does not like to find dragons curled up in a thermos. And since this antipathy was a two-way exchange, the Lamavic inspectors at Philadelphia International were singed and heated all ways by the time they got to me. I knew them well.

“Mr. Sol Jones?”

“That’s right,” I said, watching the would-be dragon smuggler being marched away. A very amateur job. I could have told him. There are only two ways to smuggle a dragon nowadays.

“Any livestock to declare, Mr. Jones?”

“I have no livestock on my person or in my baggage, nor am I accompanied by any material prohibited article,” I said carefully, for I saw they were recording.

The little pink, bald inspector with a charred collar looked at his colleague. “Anything known?” His colleague looked down at me from six feet of splendid physique, smiled unpleasantly, and flipped the big black record book.

“Sol Jones,’” he read. “ ‘Lamavic four-star offender. Galactic registration: six to tenth power: 763918. Five foot ten inches, Earth scale. Blue eyes, hair variable and usually nondescript brown, ear lobes and cranial...’ You’re not disputing identity, Mr. Jones?”

“Oh, no. That’s me.”

“I see. ‘Irrevocable Galactic citizenship for services to family of Supreme President Xgol in matter of asteroid fungus, subsequent Senatorial amnesty confirmed, previous sentences therefore omitted. Lamavic offenses thereafter include no indictable evidence but total twenty-four minor fines for introducing prohibited livestock onto various planets. Suspected complicity in Lamavic cases One through Seventy-six as follows:

• mobile sands,

• crystal thinkers,

• recording turtle,

• operatic fish,

• giant mastodon.

Mr. Jones, you seem to have given us trouble before.”

“Before what?”

“Before this — er— ”

“That,” I said, “is an Unconstitutional remark. I am giving no trouble. I have made a full declaration. I demand the rights of a Galactic citizen.”

He apologized, as he had to. This merely made both inspectors angry, but they were going to search me anyway. I knew that. Certainly I am a smuggler, and I had in fact a little present for my girl Florence — a wedding present, I hoped — but they would never find it. This time I really had them fooled, and I intended to extract maximum pleasure from watching their labors.

___

I SAW the Lamavic records once. The next leading offender has only two stars and he’s out on Ceres in the penal colony. My four stars denote that I disapprove of all these rules prohibiting the carr ing of livestock from one planet to another. Other people extend the Galactic Empire; I extend my Galactic credit. You want an amusing extraterrestrial pet to while away the two-hour work week, I can provide one. Of course, this pet business was overdone in the early days when any space-hopper could bring little foreign monsters back to the wife and kiddies. Any weird thing could come in and did.

“You are aware, Mr. Jones, that you have declared that you are not trying to bring in any prohibited life-form, whether animal, mineral, vegetable, or any or all of these?”

“I am,” I said.

“You are further aware of the penalties for a false declaration?”

“In my case, I believe I could count on thirty years’ invigorating work on a penal planet.”

“You could, Mr. Jones. You certainly could.”

“Well, I’ve made my declaration.”

“Will you step this way?” Very polite in Philadelphia Spaceport.

I followed the inspectors into the screening cubicles. There was a nasty looking device in the corner.

“I thought those things were illegal,” I said.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Jones, you are, as you know, quite right. We may not employ a telepath instrument on any un-convicted person.” They looked sorry, but I wasn’t.

A telepath would have told them immediately where I had Florence’s pet, and all about it. I smiled at them. They paid no attention, took my passport and began turning up the Lamavic manual on Antimony IX, Livestock of, Prohibited Forms. I had just come from there and so had Florence’s little diver, which I had brought as a happy surprise. I sat down.

The two inspectors looked as if they were going to say something, then continued flipping pages of their manual. “Here it is — Antimony IX” One of them read out the prohibitions and the other tried to watch me and the reflex counter behind me at the same time — a crude instrument which should be used, in my professional view, only to determine a person’s capacities for playing poker with success.

“Ants-water, babblers, bunces, candelabra plants, catchem-fellers, Cythia Majoris, divers, dunces, dimple-images, drakes, dunking dogs, dogs-savage, dogswater, dogs - not - otherwise - provided-for, unspec., elephants-miniature, fish-any...” They went on.

Antimony IX is teeming with life and almost every specimen is prohibited on other planets. We had passed the divers, anyway. I smiled and gave the reflex counter a strong jerk just as the smaller inspector was saying “Mammoths.” They looked at me in silence.

“Funny man,” one said, and they went on reading.

“Okay,” the large inspector said at last. “We’ll examine him for everything.”

For the next three hours, they took blood specimens to see if I had microscopic livestock hidden there, they X-rayed me and my baggage, fluoroscoped everything again, put the baggage through an irritator life-indexer, investigated my orifices in detail with a variety of instruments, took skin scrapings in case I was wearing a false layer, and the only thing they found was my dark glasses.

“Why don’t you wear modern contact lenses?”

“It’s none of your business,” I said, “but these old-style spectacles have liquid lenses.”

There was a flurry and they sent away for analysis a small drop from one of the lenses. There were no signs of prohibited life in the liquid. “I could have told you that,” I said. “It’s dicyanin, a vegetable extract. Diminishes the glare.” I put the glasses on my nose and hooked on the earpieces. The effect was medieval, but I could see the little diver now. I could also see disturbing evidence of the inspectors’ mental condition.

A useful little device invented by Dr. W. J. Kilner (1847-1920) for the study of the human aura in sickness and health. After a little practice, which I was not going to allow the Lamavic inspectors, the retina became sufficiently sensitive to see the microwave aura when you looked through the dicyanin screen. As was true of most of these psi pioneers at that time, nothing was done to further Kilner’s work when he died.

I noticed, without surprise, that the inspectors had a mental field of very limited extent and that the little diver had survived the journey nicely. “Can I go now?” I asked.

“This time, Mr. Jones.”

When I left, the repair staff was building a new inspection barrier to replace the parts the dragon had got. Such an amateur performance! Leave smuggling to professionals and we’d have Lamavic disbanded from boredom in ten years.

I nearly slipped on the fine silica dioxide which had fused in the air when the dragon got annoyed. Nasty, dangerous pets. The one for Florence was the only contraband I was carrying this trip, which was purely pleasure. She was waiting for me in her apartment, tall, golden, luscious, and all mine. She thought I was in import-export, which in a sense was true.

“I’ve missed you so much, Sol,” she said, twining herself on me and the couch like a Venusian water- nymph. “Did you bring me a pres- ent?”

I lay back and let her kiss me. “Of course I did. A small but very valuable present.” I let her kiss me again.

“Not — a Jupiter diamond, Sol?”

“Much rarer than that, and more useful.”

“Oh. Useful.”

“Something to help you in the house when we’re married, honey. Now, don’t pout so prettily, or I’ll never get around to showing you.”

My homecoming was not developing quite as I planned, but I put this down to womanly, if not exactly maidenly, quirks. When she found out what I had brought her, I was sure she would be all over me again.

I put on my dark glasses so that I could see where the diver was. “Would you like a drink, honey?” I asked.

“I don’t mind,” she said sulkily.

___

I LOOKED at the diver, concentrated hard on the thought of a bottle from the cabinet, two glasses and a pitcher of ice from the kitchen. He went revolving through the air obediently and the items came floating out neatly. Florence nearly shattered the windows with her screams.

“Now calm down, honey,” I said, catching her.

Dumbwaiter.pdf

“Calm down. It’s just a little present I brought you.” The bottle, glasses and pitcher dropped gently onto the table beside us. “See?” I said. “Service at a thought. Remote control. The end of housework. Kiss me.” She didn’t.

“You mean you did that, Sol?”

“Not me, exactly. I’ve brought you a little baby diver, honey, all the way from Antimony IX, just for you. There isn’t another one on Earth. In fact, I doubt if there’s an- other one outside Antimony IX. I had a lot of trouble securing this rare and valuable present for you.”

“I don’t like it. It gives me the creeps.”

“Honey,” I said carefully, “this is a little baby. It couldn’t hurt a mouse. It’s about six inches in diameter, and all it is doing is to tele- port what you want it to teleport.”

“Then why can’t I see it?”

“If you could see it, I wouldn’t have been allowed to bring it for you, honey, because a whole row of nasty-minded Solar Civil Servants would have seen it too, and they would have taken it from your own sweet Sol.”

“They can have it.”

“Honey, this is a rare and valuable pet! It will do things for you.”

“So you think I need something done for me. Well! I’m glad you came right out and said this before we were married!”

The following series of “but — but—” from me and irrelevance from Florence occupied an hour, but hardly mentioned the diver. Eventually I got her back into my arms. My urges for Florence were strictly biological, though intense.

There were little chances for intellectual exchanges between us, but I was more interested in the broad probabilities of her as a woman. I could go commune with wild and exotic intelligences on foreign planets any time I had the fare. As a woman, Florence was what I wanted.

“Back on Antimony IX,” I explained carefully, “life is fierce and rugged. So, to keep from being eaten, these little divers evolved themselves into little minds with no bodies at all, and they feed off solar radiation. Now, honey, minds are not made of the same stuff brains are made of, good solid tissue and gray matter and neural cortex—”

“Don’t be dirty, Sol.”

“There is nothing dirty about the body, honey. Minds are invisible but detectable in the micro-wavelengths on any sensitive counter, and look like little glass eggs when you can see them—as I can, by using these glasses. In fact, your diver is over by the window now. But, having evolved this far, they came across a little difficulty and couldn’t evolve any further. So there they are, handy little minds for teleporting whatever you want moved, and reading other people’s thoughts.”

___

S HE gasped. “Did you say reading other people’s thoughts?"

“Certainly,” I said.

“As a matter of fact, that’s what stopped the divers from evolving further. If they brush against any thinking creature, they pick up whatever thought is in the creature’s conscious mind. But they also pick up the subliminal activity, if you follow me—and down at that level of a mind such as man’s, his thoughts are not only the present unconscious thoughts but also a good slice of what is to him still the future. It’s one of those space-time differences. The divers are not really on the same space-time reference as the physical world, but that makes them all the more useful, because our minds aren’t either.”

“Did you say reading other people’s thoughts, like a telepath?” she persisted.

“Exactly like a telepath, or any other class of psi. We’re really living on a much wider scale than we’re conscious of, but our mind only tracks down one point in time-space in a straight line, which happens to fit our bodies. Our subliminal mind is way out in every direction, including time—and when you pick up fragments of this consciously, you’re a psi, that’s all. So the divers got thoroughly confused—that’s what it amounts to—and never evolved any further. So you see, honey, it’s all perfectly natural.”

“I think you’re just dirty.”

“Eh?”

“Everyone hates telepaths. You know that.”

“I don’t” “Oh, you go wandering all over the Galaxy—but my friends—what could I say to my friends if they learned I had something like a telepath in the apartment?”

“It’s only a baby diver, I keep telling you, honey. And anyway, you’ll be able to tell what they’re really thinking about you.” Florence looked thoughtful.

“And what they’ve been doing?”

“Sometimes they will do what they think they’ll do. And sometimes they don’t make it But it’s what their subliminal plans to have happen, yes.”

She kissed me. “I think it’s a lovely present, Sol.” She snuggled up to me and I concentrated on bringing the diver over to her.

I thought I’d read her, just for a joke, and see what she had in mind. I took a close look. “What’s the matter, Sol?”

“Oh, honey! You beautiful creature!”

“This is nice—but what made you say that?”

“I just got the diver to show me your mind, and bits of the next two weeks you have in mind. It’s going to be a lovely, lovely vacation.” She blushed very violently and got angry.

“You had no right to look at what I was thinking, Sol!”

“It wasn’t what you were thinking so much as what you will be thinking, honey. I figure in it quite well.”

“I won’t have it, Sol! Do you hear me? I think spying on people is detestable!”

“I thought you liked the idea of tagging your friends?” “That’s different. Either we go somewhere without that whateverit-is, or you can marry someone else. I don’t mind having it around after we’re married, but not before, Sol. Do you understand?”

I was already reaching for the video yellow pages. I TURNED on the television-wall in the apartment before we left and instructed the diver to stay around and watch it. They are very curious creatures, inquisitive, always chasing new ideas, and I thought that should hold the diver happily for several days. Meanwhile, I had booked adjoining rooms at the Asteroid-Central.

The Asteroid-Central advertised in the video yellow pages that it practiced the Most Rigid Discrimination-meaning no telepaths, clairvoyants, clairaudients or psychometrists. Life was hard on a psi outside Government circles. But life was much harder on the rest of the world seeking secluded privacy and discretion. The Asteroid-Central was so discreet, you could hardly see where you were going. Dim lights, elegant figures passing in the gloom, singing perfumes of the gentlest kind, and “Guaranteed Psi-Free” on every bedroom door.

I was humming idly in my room, with one eye on the communicating door through which, were she but true to her own mind, Florence would shortly come, and I turned on the television-wall only to see how less fortunate people were spending their leisure. An idle and most regrettable gesture. There was a quiz-game on International Channel 462, dull and just finishing. All the contestants seemed to know all the answers. In fact, the man who won the trip around the Rings of Saturn, did so by answering the question before the Martian quiz-master had really finished reading it out. When the winner turned sharply on the other contestants and knocked them down, yelling, “So that’s what you think of my mother, is it?” the wall was blacked out and we were taken straight to the Solar Party Convention.

The nominee this decade was human. He seemed to be speaking on his aims, his pure record and altruistic intentions. The stereo cameras looked over the heads of the delegates. Starting in the row by the main aisle, each delegate shot to his feet and started booing and jeering. It rippled down the rows like a falling pack of cards, each delegate in turn after the man in front of him, and each row picking up where the back of the previous row left off. It was as if someone were passing a galvanizing brush along the heads of the delegates, row by row.

Or as if the diver were refreshing the delegates with a clear picture of their nominee’s mind. I groaned and called Florence. “Look,” I said when she came. “That damned pet has followed the program back to the cameras from your apartment, and there he is lousing up the Convention.”

“I vote Earth,” she told me indifferently.

“That isn’t the point, honey. I’ll have to bring the diver here, and quickly.”

“You do that, Sol. I’ll be at home when you get rid of it.”

By the time the diver picked up my thoughts and came flickering into the room through the walls, Florence had left. I felt the diver off the back of my head, made my thoughts as kindly as possible, and went downstairs to the largest, longest bar.

___

THE evening passed profitably because I was invited to join a threesome of crooks at cards. With the aid of the little diver, I was able to shorten the odds to a pleasant margin in my favor. But this was doing nothing about Florence. A not altogether funny remark about teleporting the cards did, however, suggest the answer.

After the transaction was over, I sent the diver off to a friend on the faculty of Luke University, where they had a long history of psi investigation and where the diver could be guaranteed to be kept busy rolling dice and such.

This was easy to fix by a video call. There had been times in the past when certain services to the Extraterrestrial Zoology and Botanical Tanks had made me discreetly popular with the faculty, and anyway they thought I was doing them a favor.

They promised to keep the little diver busy for an indefinite period. I reported to Florence, and after a certain amount of feminine shallI-shan’t-I, she came back to the Asteroid-Central. This time I did not turn on the television-wall. I lay still.

I said nothing. I hardly thought at all. And after several years compressed themselves into every minute, my own true honey, Florence, slid open the communicating door and came into the room. She walked shyly toward me, hiding modestly within a floating nightgown as opaque as a very clear soap bubble.

I stood up, held out my arms and she came toward me, smiling — and stopped to pick up something on the carpet “Ooo, Sol! Look! A Jupiter diamond!” She held up the largest and most expensive diamond I have ever seen.

I was just going to claim credit for this little gift when another appeared, and another, and a long line marching over the carpet like an ant trail. They came floating in under die door.

Now love is for vacations and between my own sweet Florence and a diamond mine there is no comparison. I put on my dicyanin glasses and saw the baby diver was back and at work teleporting. I said so, but this time there were no hysterics from Florence.

“I was just thinking of him,” she said, “and wishing you had brought me a Jupiter diamond instead.”

“Well, honey, it looks as if you’ve got both.” I watched her scrambling on the carpet, gathering handfuls of diamonds and not in the least interested in me.

On Antimony IX, the little divers switched from one space-time point to another simultaneously, and the baby diver had come back from the Solar Party Convention the same way. I thought of it and it came; Florence had just thought of it and here it was. But now it seemed to be flitting lightly from Earth to Jupiter and back with diamonds, so perhaps there was no interplanetary distance to a mind.

This had a future. I could see myself with a winter and a summer planet of my own, even happily paying Earth, Solar, and Galactic taxes.

“Well, honey, don’t you worry,” I said. “You don’t like divers, so I’II take it back and you something else. Just leave it to Sol.”

“Take your foot off that diamond, Sol Jones! You gave me this dear little diver and he’s mine!”

___

SHE sat back on her heels and thought. The evidence of her thinking immediately came trickling through the door—Venusian opals set in a gold bracelet half a pound heavy, Martian sleaze furs, spider-web stockings, platinum belts. The room was beginning to look like a video fashion center, a Galactic merchandise mart. And after Florence put on a coat and opened the door, her ideas began to get bigger.

“This is fun!” she cried, teleporting like mad. “Why, I can have anything in the Galaxy just by thinking about it!”

“Now, honey, think of the benefits to humanity! This is too big to be used for personal gain. This should be dedicated—”

“This is dedicated to me, Sol Jones, so just you keep your fingers off it. Why, the cute little thing — look, he’s been out to Saturn for me!”

I made a decision.

Think wide and grand, Sol Jones, I said. Sacrifice yourself for the greater good. “Florence, honey, you know I love you. Will you marry me?”

That stopped her.

“You mean it, Sol?”

“Of course.”

“It’s not just because of this diver?”

“Why, honey, how could you think such a thing? If I’d never brought it in for you, I’d still want to marry you.”

“You never said so before,” she said. “But okay. If you do it now. Right now, Sol Jones.”

So the merchandise stopped coming in while we plugged into the video and participated in a moving and legal ceremony. The marriage service was expensive, but after all we could teleport in a few thousand credit blanks from the Solar Treasury. Immediately after we had switched off, we did so…

“Are you sure you married me for myself, Sol?”

“I swear it, honey. No other thought entered my head. Just you.”

I made a few notes while Florence planned the house we would have, furnished with rare materials from anywhere. I thought one of the medium asteroids would do for a base for Sol Jones Intragalactic Transport. I could see it all, vast warehouses and immediate delivery of anything from anywhere. I wondered if there was a limit to the diver’s capacity, so Florence desired an encyclopedia and in it came, floating through the doorway.

“It says,” she-read, “not much is known about Antimony IX divers because none have ever been known to leave their planet.”

“They probably need the stimulus of an educated mind,” I said. “Anyway, this one can get diamonds from Jupiter and so on, and that’s what matters.”

___

I KISSED the wife of the President of Sol Jones Intragalactic and was interrupted by discreet tapping on the door.

The manager of the Asteroid-Central beamed at us.

“Excuse,” he said. “But we understand you have just been married, Mr. and Mrs. Jones.”

“Irrevocably,” I said.

“Felicitations. The Asteroid-Central will be sending up complimentary euphorics. There is just a small point, Mr. Jones. We notice you have a large selection of valuable gifts for the bride.” He looked round the room and smiled at the piles of stuff Florence had thought of. “Of course,” he went on, “we trust your stay will be pleasant and perhaps you will let us know if you will be wanting anything else.”

“I expect we will, but we’ll let you know,” I said.

“Thank you, Mr. Jones. It is merely that we noticed you had emptied every showcase on the ground floor and, a few moments ago, teleported the credit contents of the bar up here. Not of importance, really; it is all charged on your bill.”

“You saw it and didn’t stop it?” I yelled.

“Oh, no, Mr. Jones. We always make an exception for Antimony IX divers. Limited creatures, really, but good for our business. We get about one a month—smuggled in, you know. But the upkeep proves too expensive. Some women do shop without more than a passing thought, don’t they?”

I saw what he meant, but Mrs. Sol Jones took it very philosophically.

“Never mind, Sol — you have me.”

“Or vice versa, honey,” I said.

 

First Appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction February 1960.

Every Witch Way


By Lisa Deschenes

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The rocking chair was unremarkable. It was not so austere that it was Amish in nature, but nevertheless it lacked any untoward ornateness and as such could only truly have been appreciated for its attributes by a wood-worker. These consisted of the sturdy craftsmanship it boasted and its lack of modernity. A glider it was not, but rather a genuine rocker carved from the wood of a maple and not machine fabricated. A stamp indicating that the chair originated from Jeffrey Brothers in Salem Massachusetts proved this theory. The business was part of a long line of now defunct companies that had taken great care and pride in their workmanship. A bygone era.

The chair sat in the space, which until recently had long been vacant. The wood, which had been varnished a rich mahogany hue, still held its sheen with the exception of the seat where someone had once frequently sat. It had, however, been some time since it had rocked. Tessa sat in it now and did just that, slowly back and forth. An impression of familiarity came over her. She sensed that she had once been rocked in this very chair by a woman she could also vaguely remember. This in itself was odd since Tessa had been without parents since she was a very young child; it made no sense that she would have any recollection of a mother she never really knew.

Tessa Good felt like she had been in a state of limbo most of her life. She had been raised by her Aunt Sonja and Uncle Nicolas. She had nothing to specifically complain about in her upbringing. They were caring surrogates who saw to her needs and brought her up from the tender age of two years, alongside her two cousins, Maritha and Sven, as if she were their own. Even the two birth siblings had treated her as if she were their biological sister. Although she could not fully explain it, she just had never felt as if she belonged.

Maybe it was the resemblance, or lack thereof, between herself and her adopted family. Aunt Sonja and Uncle Nicolas Olsen were both fair haired and blue eyed. The Olsen children were two miniature tow-headed versions of their parents, with round, ruddy cheeks that accentuated their pale features, reflective of their Nordic heritage. Tessa, on the other hand, was bestowed with a head of untamed raven hair that framed her high cheekbones and jade green eyes. She had an olive complexion that never required make-up to enhance its features, unlike her poor Aunt Sonja and cousin Maritha who both had much in common with the plain rocking chair.

Or maybe it was the difference in their characteristics. The Olsens were a competitive family. As youngsters and later as teens, Maritha and Sven were constantly chauffeured between events. For Maritha it was swim meets and tennis, for Sven, chess and debate clubs. Tessa, in comparison, preferred to sit under a tree with a good book or lie in the grass observing the busy lives of the insects and other wildlife that resided in their backyard.

It was also not to say that the Olsens were shallow. Maritha and Sven volunteered at the local shelter’s soup kitchen once a month. It just seemed as if for them it was more out of obligation than desire. But for Tessa it was different. While she was not wholly enamored with the human race, she did empathize deeply with nature. It hurt her very soul to see an animal hurt or neglected. As a small child she could often be found nursing a baby bird fallen from its nest or providing nourishment to a hungry squirrel. The connection was ingrained in her very being.

Whatever the cause of her state of singularity, in the end it still came down to one thing; she just didn’t feel like she fit. She was the puzzle piece that had ended up in the wrong box. But the question was, where was her right box?

Her aunt and uncle had never been forthcoming about her mother, even though she had expressed curiosity over the years. She knew that her father had never been in the picture. He had not wanted a child and thus had taken off for parts unknown before the day Tessa had even entered the world. Although it was scant information she had about her father, she knew even less about her mother. All that she had been told was that her mother had died in a tragic accident. There were no photographs that existed, or so Tessa had been told. There were no memories, at least that her adopted family was willing to share. She didn’t even know her name. The woman was a complete mystery to her.

So in an effort to find herself, Tessa had decided to pursue an education in ancestral family history. In this vein, she pursued a degree in genealogical family lineage and had spread her wings leaving behind her small home town of Salem. Her successive flight had brought her halfway around the world to Glasgow Scotland, where she had been accepted at the University of Strathclyde. Somehow, the further she got from her home, the closer she believed she would be to discovering who she truly was in the scheme of things.

Although Glasgow was a big city, she found its ancient architecture charming. And when she needed to escape the city limits, she discovered an appeal in the surrounding countryside with its rolling green hills dotted with sheep resembling, for all intents and purposes, a child’s artwork of glued cotton balls on construction paper, so ethereal were they. She was also quite fond of the vast stretches of the fabled Scottish moors speckled with vibrant purple heather. The lochs entranced her as well with their hidden cryptic mysteries of Scottish lore.

Additionally, she had made a few friends who while more than just casual acquaintances, could not quite be considered at the level of besties. From time to time she would go out to a local pub with them for drinks and a warm bowl of cullen skink. She had never been much of a people person to any great length, so this was the extent of her socialization forays.

Her life abroad was going unremarkably well when she had reached her fourth and final year of university. This was to be the year of her capstone project. Required for receiving her diploma, the capstone was in essence similar to the expectations of a doctorate’s dissertation, without all of the pomp and circumstance that the advanced post graduate degree carried. The entirety of this final year would be spent on the endeavors of research and writing of said assignment.

Tessa’s three years’ of coursework had prepared her for this culminating event. She had thought long and hard on topics of pursuit. Initially she had wanted to focus her efforts on exploring her own ancestral history, but realized, with the help of her advisor, that this would not be an acceptable subject as it would be viewed as too self-serving by the capstone review board she would have to present to for approval.

She was consumed with the process of narrowing down a short list of alternative proposals when it happened; she became ill. Oh, it wasn’t to the extreme of death-bed or ruptured appendix sick. It was more of a debilitating malaise. It originated in the pit of her stomach, similar to the feeling of cresting the peak of a rollercoaster as the car suddenly drops leaving behind the reluctant organ. Tentacles of the enigmatic ailment then snaked throughout her being, generating a general state of funk.

At first, Tessa surmised that she had developed an ulcer. The state of her diet had been somewhat compromised since arriving in Scotland, having to adjust to a maelstrom of new cuisine offerings. Thus she decided to visit the student clinic on campus, who in turn sent her to the infirmary who, after a brief exam and interview, referred her to a local gastroenterologist.

After taking multiple vials of blood work, frowning over x rays, and generally scaring the bejesus out of her with his perplexing “harrumphs”, Doctor Mackenzie peered at Tessa from under bushy orange eyebrows and pronounced, “There is nothing physically amuck with ye inner workings, lass. I am writing ye a referral to me colleague.”

It was Tessa’s turn to frown, clearly confused. Maybe she had misunderstood his deep brogue. “Sorry Doctor, but if there is nothing wrong with me, then why are you sending me to another doctor?”

Looking up from his notepad, Doctor MacKenzie reiterated, “I said there is nothing physically wrong with ye. I never said that there was nothing wrong with ye.”

He finished scribbling on the pad, squinting forcefully as he did. Tessa briefly wondered why he did not just slip down the glasses that were perched on top of his head, but she didn’t have long to contemplate this curiosity as he tore the paper free from its pad. He handed it to her with a flourish, as if he were presenting her with keys to the kingdom.

Tessa looked down at what he had written: “Doctor” Agnes Blár, 1313 Broomlands Drive, Dumfries. She looked back up, frowning once more.

“Dumfries? That’s over an hour away,” Tessa complained. She did not own a car, accomplishing most of her travel needs by bicycle.

“Yes,” Doctor MacKenzie agreed, “It’s aboot seventy-five minutes by rail.”

“Isn’t there anyone closer?” Tessa inquired.

“I am sure there is, but Doctor Agnes is very good and who I recommend.”

“Okay,then I guess that’s who I will see.” Tessa looked down at the paper again. “But why did you put the word doctor in quotations?”

“Because, technically speaking, she is not a legitimate doctor. She’s a therapist. But we all call her Doctor Agnes,” he explained.

“Wait... a therapist?” Tessa asked, alarmed. “You think I am crazy? That this is all just in my head?”

“I never said ye were crazy, lass,” Doctor Mackenzie qualified, “but I’d be daft if I didn’t see that yer suffering from the effects of a tad bit of stress. Ye don’t know how many young university students come through my office with gastronomical symptoms that are anxiety induced. No, girl, I don’t think yer crazy,” he continued sympathetically, “I believe your ailment is real. You just need a different sort of doctor for the right cure is all and Doctor Agnes is it.”

Tessa did not know how to reply to this, so she simply thanked Doctor Mackenzie and, referral in hand, made her way out of his office. A fine mist, wet but warm, enveloped her as she stepped out onto the sidewalk. She looked down at the paper and sighed.

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Two days later, Tessa sat on the railcar on her way to Dumfries. She had called “Doctor” Agnes later in the afternoon, after she had had an opportunity to mull over Doctor MacKenzie’s recommendation. She was surprised that she had been able to get the appointment so quickly. A not so small part of her had hoped that the appointment would be made so many months out that her problem would resolve itself before she had to go to Dumfries. No such luck. So here she sat, her stomach in knots, watching as the city scape gradually became the countryside rolling past her window.

The day had started sunny, but had turned to a bleak drizzle as the railcar moved closer to Dumfries, which just added to her glum mood. The weather could be unreliable in Scotland, but for someone who was a native of New England where the motto was “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change”, Tessa was used to the unpredictability of Mother Nature.

At the stop in Ayr, a woman got on with a small dog in her arms and sat across the aisle from Tessa. Looking over, Tessa could not help but smile at the adorable mutt that resembled a miniature lion. It whimpered, panting at her. Since the woman did not seem receptive to Tessa reaching over to give it a quick pat, Tessa instead turned her attention to the scenery out her window. Thanks to a combination from the visage of the dreary day and the rocking motion of the rail car, Tessa started to feel drowsy and soon dozed off leaning against the glass.

As the railcar pulled into the station at Dumfries, Tessa was awakened by the sharp bark of her neighbor’s dog as they disembarked. She caught a glimpse of it peaking over the woman’s shoulder as she walked down the aisle. Tessa gathered her bag and headed out behind her.

As she was walking down the stairs to the platform, still foggy from her too short nap, it happened. Later, Tessa would recall it playing out as if in slow motion. First she saw a red flash run across the tracks. Initially, she didn’t know what it was, as she was still more familiar with its grey cousins back home, but then she realized it was a red squirrel carrying a large walnut stuffed in its mouth. The pooch, still being carried, immediately recognized the bushy flash of tail for what it was and leaped from its startled owner’s arms in hot pursuit, doing what came natural to canines the world over.

Tessa had a vision of what would happen next, as she heard the sound of another railcar coming into the station from the opposite direction. The small dog, trailing the long tether behind it would be lucky to make it across the expanse without being run over, but would surely have his leash tangled in the wheels, dragging him down the track to his tragic and painful demise.

Tessa dropped her bag and threw both her hands out as if to prevent this from occurring, even though she was too far away to do any good. But just as the dog was jumping off the platform, something unexplainable took place. It seemed as though the dog, front legs already dangling in air off of the platform’s edge and past the tipping point, froze, then his legs reversed back to the platform coming back to rest on solid ground as the railcar rumbled past.

The animal whimpered once more, as if realizing his close call and turned, running back to his owner, tail between his legs. The lady swiftly scooped him up and held him tightly, close to her chest, in spite of his increased whines of protest, clearly relieved.

Tessa, looking around the station at this point, realized that people were staring at her suspiciously. A beggar woman who had been on the platform panhandling and had witnessed the incident, made the sign of the cross at Tessa. Even the dog’s owner, although presenting her with a small hesitant smile, gave her a wide berth, as she quickly exited the station.

Surely they don’t think I had anything to do with that, Tessa thought. She picked up her bag where she had dropped it and self-consciously made her way out of the station as well, trying to ignore the gawking onlookers as she did.

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Knowing from the map of Dumfries she had pulled up that morning that the doctor’s office was only a short distance from the station, Tessa made the decision to walk, rather than summon a ride. Even though the rain hadn’t quite finished, she felt the fresh air would help clear her head. Decision made, she headed off down the cobblestoned street.

Arriving at the address just fifteen minutes later, Tessa looked at the small stone cottage in front of which she stood. She pulled the paper that Doctor MacKenzie had given her out of her bag and stared down at the writing then back up at the wooden door of the diminutive house, thinking she must have gotten something wrong. But no, the numbers on the paper were the same as those on the door: 1313. Bewildered, she looked back from whence she had come to the street sign posted on the corner of the dirt lane. Broomlands Drive the wooden plaque proclaimed.

Tessa shrugged and turned back to the door. She lifted the copper sparrow-shaped door knocker and gave it a few raps. She waited. After about a minute with no response, she started to look back down at the piece of paper in her hand when at that very moment the wooden door swung open. Tessa found herself looking down at a small old woman with a mane of white hair. One hazel eye looked back at her, while the other, clouded by the long-present veil of a cataract, drifted away blindly.

Faced with the woman’s stare, which held no anticipation of her arrival, Tessa was now sure of her error in direction. This clearly was not the office of “Doctor” Agnes.

“I...ummm... I am so sorry to bother you,” she stumbled over her words, taken aback by the apparition before her. “I was looking for Doctor Agnes Blár.” Tessa looked around as if she could locate the sought after therapist nearby.

The woman’s wrinkled face cracked into a grin, displaying a mouth absent a few teeth, and her one good eye twinkled. “Well, you’ve found her!” she announced cheerily. “You must be Tessa. Come in, come in,” she welcomed, stepping aside. “No need to dawdle. We’ve got work to do! And call me Agnes, none of this fussy “Doctor” stuff. I don’t take on airs.”

Still hesitant, Tessa nevertheless stepped in as she had been invited. She looked around the room, for that is what it was, one room. There was a large hearth, a black kettle whistled over the fire. A no fuss bed neatly made up with a patchwork quilt was tucked into a corner. A small table with two wooden chairs was placed in the middle of the space atop a braided oval rug. Curtains hung in the two lone windows of the tiny cottage. Bookcases beyond count took up every wall space not already accounted for, with books crammed on every shelf. The cathedral ceiling separated with a wooden beam gave the cottage an impression of grander dimension. There was a loft accessed by a ladder in the furthest corner.

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Drying herbs hung, carefully clipped with clothespins to a line of twine that was strung across the beam that ran the length of the room. Tessa inwardly cringed, envisioning the diminutive five-foot-one woman tottering on one of her wooden chairs as she stretched to tack the string to the room’s corners. How she then managed to attach each bunch of herbs individually after that was beyond imagining.

Small, tinted glass apothecary bottles were arranged on the sills of the two windows causing reflections of color to dance across the room. In all it was a cheery and quaint, if tiny, space. For all appearances it reminded Tessa of a place one would find a woodland gnome, fairy or elf calling home, something very fitting for the petite and peculiar woman before her.

Agnes shuffled over to the hearth. “Have a seat dearie, while I pour us some tea,” she instructed Tessa, brooking no room for argument.

Tessa looked around again, in case she had missed any seating options. Determining that she had not, she took one of the two wooden chairs at the round table.

Agnes turned around with two generous mugs of tea and placed them on the table. “I took the liberty of adding milk and honey,” she supplied.

Tessa was taken aback; it was actually the only way she liked her tea. Coincidence, she thought as she slid the mug in front of her.

Agnes took the seat opposite Tessa and skipping any further preliminaries, jumped right into the heart of the reason for Tessa’s visit. “I can well see you are shaken up, just by looking at you, girl. So, tell me the details of what’s brought you here.”

Maybe it was the tea, maybe it was the charming, comfort of the space that made her at ease, or maybe it was the disarming demeanor of the eccentric woman herself, but whatever the cause, Tessa found herself telling Agnes everything. She started with her experience at the train station and then that somehow led into a synopsis of her entire life and her search for identity.

After what seemed an eternity, Tessa ended her tale, looking expectantly at Agnes. “So, do you think I am crazy?” she laughed, only half jokingly, worried about the older woman’s response.

Agnes slowly smiled. “No, dearie, I don’t think you are off your rocker at all. Nor do I think your ailment has anything to do with anxiety over your studies at university,” she stated. “For what ails you, there is not a medicine in the world that will provide the cure.”

Tessa waited, not too patiently. Agnes did not keep her in suspense for long.

“You are homesick, girl. You need to return to your kith and kin,” she pronounced.

Tessa frowned and opened her mouth prepared to protest the prognosis, but then stopped. While she loved her adopted family, she did not miss them. The occasional phone call or in her cousins’ case, text, sufficed. She did not find an overwhelming desire to see them in person. But Agnes was right. She stopped herself from voicing her objection with great amazement, realizing that this woman she barely knew, knew her better than anyone else in her life right now. While she did not miss any particular person, she did miss home; she missed her kith: Salem. She knew without a doubt that this was the source of her malaise.

With this revelation, Tessa’s session came to its logical conclusion. She was jubilant that the mystery had been solved, but letting out an uncontrollable yawn, she also realized that she was now exhausted. On top of her disrupted nap and the strange incident at the rail station, the whole experience of the day had been draining.

Tessa expressed her gratitude to the therapist. “I can’t thank you enough for your help, Agnes. Well, I should be getting back to the rail station, if I want to return to campus before dark.” She stood, now feeling the full weight of her fatigue, she was not looking forward to her walk back to the station.

Agnes shook her head, “Oh, dear, I should have said something sooner. The last railcar back to Glasgow has already departed for today. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to catch another. It might be for the best anyway; this way you can avoid any of the looky loos from earlier on the return trip.”

Tessa looked up at the clock on Agnes’ Fireplace mantle, realizing it was after six in the evening. Where had the time gone? “Oh no. Is there an inn nearby?” she asked, distressed.

“Heavens, I wouldn’t think of having you go to an inn. You’ll stay right here for tonight. There’s a guest bed up in the loft.” Again, she brooked no room for debate.

Tessa started to protest, but she was feeling rather drowsy. Maybe it would be best to just accept Agnes’ hospitality, she thought. So she smiled and again thanked her doctor/therapist turned host.

“No need to thank me, dearie,” Agnes graciously responded. “Now you must be famished, after such a long, hard day’s work. I’ll fix us up some barley stew.”

Tessa didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but she really wasn’t hungry at all; she was just tired. She looked down at her now empty mug of tea that she had been nursing most of the afternoon and vaguely wondered if there had been something in it to make her this sleepy, but she brushed the thought off as silly. What reason would the old woman have for drugging her? “If you don’t mind, I would rather just go to sleep; I really am worn out.”

“Oh, how thoughtless of me; of course you are!” Agnes agreed.

After being given directions on the location of the outhouse and the wash basin, Tessa climbed up the ladder to the loft and tucking herself between the sheets that sweetly smelled of fresh-air laundering, she promptly fell asleep, clothes and all.

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It was a deep, but not uneventful repose. In her dreams, Tessa found herself on a path in the woods. It was nighttime and her walk was shrouded in a fog. Trees that lined her way wore faces that watched her as she passed. While she had some trepidation about her eerie expedition, she was not outright fearful, for she could see that there were black ravens that lined the branches above her. She somehow knew that they were there to protect her.

Tessa had been walking for what seemed some time, when she caught a glimpse of shining metal seemingly hovering in mid-air. She stopped to take a closer look and realized that it was a curious sort of antique pendant hanging from a black cord strung from a low limb. There appeared to be a full moon in the center with two sickle moons on either side, a young and an old.

Tessa knew she had seen this symbol elsewhere, but while she was pondering its origin, a light appeared further in the woods distracting her attention. It presented a warm orange glow, beckoning her to go towards it. She smiled, now knowing that this was her destination.

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Tessa woke up the next morning and despite her dark dreams from the previous night, she felt completely refreshed. And better yet, she knew what she was going to do. She was going home, but she needed to tie in the research for her final capstone project with this trip and her dream from the night before had given her this insight. Recalling the familiar pendant hanging from a tree branch, she now realized where she had seen it before; it was a charm that could be found in any one of the local tourist witch shops in Salem. Being from the infamous city of Salem Massachusetts that had experienced the Witch Hysteria of the 1600’s, Tessa now had the perfect topic. She would trace the ancestry lines of the accused women and men up to present day. Maybe she could even include present day interviews with ancestors.

Satisfied with her plan, she now sat up in bed to the wonderful aroma only a hearty breakfast could yield. As she was getting out of the small but comfortable bed, she caught a glimpse of something golden yellow peeking out from under her soft down-filled pillow. She lifted the corner to get a better glimpse of the mysterious object and was surprised to see that it was a fair-sized dried sunflower laying on the mattress. Was it for good luck? To add a pleasant fragrance to the bed? Ward off evil? The possibilities seemed endless.

With the attractive scent of breakfast assailing her senses, she found herself famished and realized that her hunger was winning out over her curiosity in regards to the flower. Thus ending the debate of which element of her morning deserved her immediate focus, Tessa dropped the pillow back upon the mattress, climbed out of the bed, and made her way down the narrow ladder, the sunflower forgotten for the moment.

A cheery fire was lit in the hearth, warming the cottage. On the little table, Agnes had a plate featuring a scotch egg, a thick slice of ham, and a crusty cut of bread that had obviously been freshly baked. Tessa sat at the feast set out across from Agnes, buttered her bread and spooned a good amount of homemade boysenberry jam on it, as well. A steaming cup of coffee sat in front of her and secretly she found herself a bit relieved that it wasn’t the same tea that she had suspected made her drowsy from the previous day.

Tessa consumed most of her repast in silence, but once sated, she sat back in her chair and smiled at her host. Now that the reason for her actual visit had been concluded and she had spent the night at the therapist’s home, she felt comfortable talking to Agnes on a more informal level.

“Thank you so much for your hospitality. You really have gone beyond the call of duty!” Tessa expressed.

“Well it’s not too often that I have guests out here, so it was nice to have a bit of overnight company. It was definitely my pleasure, dearie. No need to thank me,” Agnes replied graciously.

Tessa smiled again. “If you don’t mind my making a personal observation, I’ve noticed that you don’t have much of a Scottish accent. In fact, outside of the professors at University, you are the first person I have encountered in my three years here that I can fully understand. Although I must say, I am getting quite experienced at deciphering the Scottish brogue,” she laughed.

Agnes chuckled. “You figured out my secret. I am not a true native of the land of lochs and kilts, although I can trace my ancestry to Scotland. We are actually compatriots, my dear, although I have called this home for many years. I may still even have kin back in the States.”

Tessa was surprised at this discovery and was about to ask Agnes where she heralded from back in America, when the older woman suddenly looked back at the clock on her mantle and proclaimed, “Oh my, I should have been more conscientious of the time, but I did so want to let you get plenty of rest this morning, given how tired you were last evening. Now you will have to be on your way quickly if you intend on catching the next railcar.”

Tessa, taking heed, forgot about her question and quickly gathered the few belongings she had brought, including her bag and cardigan. She headed for the door, but before departing turned and unexpectedly gave Agnes a tight hug, sincerely thanking her for all of her help.

“You are welcome, dearie. And you are welcome to come back to visit anytime you like. Best wishes on your journey!” The old woman waved as Tessa headed down the path back towards the rail station.

Tessa reached the station just in time to board the next departing railcar and settled herself next to a window. The day was bright and sunny with only soft wisps of clouds occasionally floating by in the otherwise clear blue sky. She looked forward to seeing the countryside on this return trip, now in a much better mood than she had arrived in the prior day.

She also took the travel time to carefully plot out a plan that she could present to the university capstone approval committee. By the time she arrived back at the station in Glasgow, she was confident that she would soon be going home.

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The capstone approval committee had not only been receptive of Tessa’s proposed research project, but were enthralled with the concept. She received their approval and their blessing for her endeavors. Within a week she had made her flight arrangements, packed her dorm and said her farewells to her dorm mate and campus acquaintances, including a few professors of whom she had been especially fond.

Tessa had reached out to her Aunt Sonja to relay her plans. Her aunt was thrilled to hear that she would be returning home, but was not so pleased to learn that Tessa planned to get her own apartment when she did. Tessa really wanted to maintain the independence and privacy she had established while she was studying abroad. Going back to the small house where her two cousins who were attending Salem State University and Endicott College still resided was not in line with these wishes. But Tessa did not want to hurt her aunt’s feelings, so she softened the delivery of this news by stating that she would stay with them for the first few weeks back, until she could secure new living arrangements.

“Aunt Sonja, I know that you love having me there, but I really will be doing a great deal of research, coming and going at odd hours. I think this would be best, especially with Maritha and Sven concentrating on their own studies,” Tessa replied to her aunt’s continued protests. She added the clincher, “Besides, I will have a lot of strangers coming by as well to conduct interviews for my project.”

Tessa knew that her aunt and uncle had their own feelings about privacy and would be reluctant to have strangers coming by on a regular basis. Tessa may have exaggerated this point to her advantage just a bit.

“Well, if you think this is truly what you need to do, you are an adult now, Tessa,” her aunt replied, retreating from her protests, as Tessa knew she would. “Just know that you are always welcome here. This is your home too.”

“And I appreciate that more than you know, Auntie.”

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By late September, Tessa had returned to Salem. It really was nice to see the Olsens again and her first few days were spent catching up and enjoying home cooked New England meals. She heard how Sven had made the debate team at Salem State University and how Maritha was the student body president at Endicott College. She was happy for them, but found their interests dull. After the initial weekend of whirlwind welcome home activities, she put her focus towards finding an apartment.

She wanted to stay in Salem, but knew this might prove to be a difficult task. The housing market in the popular destination was booming and rentals were both rare and expensive. While Tessa had a trust fund that had been set up by the Olsen’s with money she had inherited following her mother’s death, she didn’t want to burn through her funds with a pricey rent. So she had steeled herself for a daunting search, knowing that in the end she may have to locate to something more accessible and affordable in a neighboring city. After some thought, she decided that her best chance of success would be to work with a local realtor. She had an appointment set up with one for that Monday.

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As it was a nice fall day, Tessa left the Olsen house early and walked to her appointment, which was in an office located in downtown Salem. Although she knew it might be challenging to find something, she was still excited about her prospects. She left the realtor’s office crestfallen. The perky woman with the platinum blonde bleached hair and form fitting tailored skirt suit with three inch heels had informed Tessa that she would do her absolute best, but the reality of it was that as soon as something hit the market, it was scooped up by somebody who had been on the hunt much longer than Tessa, which was all of one day.

Tessa decided to stop in at the Front Street Cafe on her walk home to purchase a London Fog and a bagel. She figured she could sit down at one of the tables in Derby Square and eat the breakfast she had neglected that morning, while she worked on a revised plan for her living situation. As she walked into the small coffee shop, she glanced at the community board hanging just inside the entrance. Flyers for art shows, concerts, and craft fairs were haphazardly tacked on the cork board. She made a mental note to check out the ads more carefully after she got her order.

Turning to leave the cafe, Tessa’s eye was caught by a small, white lined index card placed on the board with two blue sewing pins securing it at each of its top corners. That was strange, she thought. She was fairly certain that the note had not been there previously; she would have seen it when she came in. Its stark ordinariness in contrast to the bright multi-colored hues of the other posters made it stand out. But she also knew that nobody had come into the cafe after her. She read the print hand-written neatly in bold penmanship on the card.

Small home for rent
In North Salem
$500 monthly
Serious inquiries only

-Call Milicent

There was a phone number printed below the ad, as well. Tessa frowned. There had to be a mistake. Surely the author of the note intended to write small room, not small home. Or maybe it was a home and she had inadvertently left a digit off the figure. Nevertheless, curiosity got the better of her and she removed the index card from the board, carefully sticking the pins back in. If it turned out to be nothing, as she suspected it would, she would let Milicent know that she had made an error in writing out the ad.

Settling down at a small wrought iron table in Derby Square, Tessa pulled out her cell phone and called Milicent’s number. While she waited for the call to connect, she took a sip of her London Fog. On the third ring, a soft spoken woman’s voice answered on the other end.

“Hello, this is Milicent. May I help you?”

“Hello, my name is Tessa Good and I saw your ad for the small “home” for rent in North Salem. I know you must have made a mistake in either the description or the lease price, but I thought I would give you a call, since I am looking for a rental in Salem.”

“Oh, yes. The home is for rent. There is no mistake,” Milicent assured.

“You wrote five-hundred per month? That can’t be correct, can it?” Tessa asked, positive that the woman would laugh and respond with something along the lines of, ‘Oh my, no. That is ridiculous. How embarrassing. Thank you for catching it. There should have been a three in front of the five!’

But to Tessa’s amazement, Milicent calmly replied, “Yes, that is correct. Would you like to see it?”

Still incredulous, Tessa answered hesitantly, “What is wrong with the house?”

Now laughing, Milicent replied, “Not a thing. Unless you would consider its old fashioned nature to be a problem.”

Tessa did not. She actually found the old-time architecture of Salem houses to be quite charming.

“When could I see it?” Tessa inquired.

“Well, are you available right now? I was just here doing some tidying up to get it ready for showing.”

This time Tessa did not hesitate. “I can be right there. I am walking, but I am only about ten minutes away from North Salem.”

Provided with the address, Tessa collected her food and tea and headed off, deciding to eat her bagel on the move. If this rental was the real deal, she didn’t want to miss her opportunity.

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Within the promised ten minutes, Tessa stood in front of a quaint little, olive green house with cream trim and a black mansard style roof. It sort of reminded Tessa of a gothic gingerbread house. She thought it was adorable. As she was admiring the exterior, a tall woman with chestnut brown hair pulled back into a ponytail came down the driveway to greet her.

“Hello! You must be Tessa!” she called, waving. “Just give me a second to unlock the front door and you can come on in for a look.”

She followed the woman, who she assumed must be Milicent, up the walkway to the front porch. She waited patiently for the door to be unlocked and then entered as Milicent held the door open for her. Tessa immediately experienced a strange, unfamiliar feeling; it wasn’t unpleasant, but not having previously experienced anything similar, she could not describe it.

As she walked through the old fashioned, charming rooms, the feeling grew. The only thing that she had to compare it to was a sense of deja vu; although she knew it wasn’t possible, she felt as if she had been there before. The home was clearly from another time and Tessa was enchanted with everything in it, from the small brick fireplace in the living room to the wide wooden pine floor boards to the backyard gardens scattered with adorable hand-painted birdhouses to the beautiful clawfoot tub in the bathroom. She could just picture herself soaking in the deep tub on one of the upcoming cold fall nights.

“So what do you think?” Millicent’s question startled Tessa in the quiet stillness of the echoing bare rooms.

Once she had composed herself, Tessa asked the one question that had been bouncing around in her head the entire time, “What’s the catch? I mean, this house could get at least three times the asking price. Are there problems I am not seeing? Electrical issues? A leaking roof?”

“Oh gosh no,” Milicent laughed. “You see, Prudence, she was the dear little old woman who owned the house, just passed away last spring. She insisted that the price be reasonable so that the right tenant could be found. She was very fond of her home. She was clear with her wishes that her house be let to someone who belonged here. Do you feel like you belong, Tessa?”

And with that odd question, Tessa suddenly understood the unfamiliar emotion she had been experiencing. She did feel like she belonged here. It was the first time in her memory that she had felt it. She had travelled halfway around the globe to discover her place in the world and it was here the whole time. Oh it wasn’t an answer to who she was as a person, but it was a start.

“Yes, I do feel like I belong,” she responded, “In this house, I mean,” she quickly added.

“Great, I will draw up the lease agreement,” Milicent said cheerily. “I actually am the legal secretary that works for the firm representing Ms. Giles’ final wishes. The home is in probate while the terms of the estate are being settled, relatives being located and so forth, but I think it will be some time before anything is determined. We can guarantee you at least a year with the lease. Once you have signed the agreement, you can move in as soon as you would like.”

Tessa was surprised that it was that simple, but she was delighted. She couldn’t wait to make this her home.

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By early October, Tessa had moved into her new home. The transition had been fairly simple given the few personal items she had at her Aunt and Uncle’s house. She had spent a weekend before the move putting up a coat of paint to freshen up the rooms and had browsed some of the local thrift and antiques shops for furniture that would compliment the space.

Out of a sense of duty, she invited her family to come see her new house. Aunt Sonja had brought a casserole, but she had seemed strange as she entered the house. She appeared nervous and kept looking around as if she expected to see someone else. Maritha had crinkled her nose and declared the house smelled musty. Uncle Nicolas had commented that the house seemed rather old fashioned and Tessa just smiled in appreciation. Sven didn’t say much of anything. As they prepared to leave, Aunt Sonja gave the impression that she wanted to say something more, but stopped herself. Instead she told Tessa that she hoped she would be happy there, but still looked a bit off as they all departed.

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Within a week of her move, Tessa had settled into her new house nicely and had now turned her focus towards beginning her capstone project’s research. Her search brought her to the curator of the Salem Historical Society, an expert who gave frequent lectures on the ancestry of the accused individuals of the Witch Hysteria. While the woman was a font of knowledge in and of herself, she was also able to give her direction on where to visit next.

This is how Tessa wound up in Greenlawn Cemetery. Well, not at first. Initially she began her exploration at the Old Burying Point in Salem. She knew that her research wouldn’t turn up the headstones of any of the actual victims of the witch trials, as the tradition back then had been to throw the executed bodies into a shallow grave at the base of the gallows, since convicted witches could not be buried in consecrated soil. But Tessa wasn’t looking for the accused themselves; she was following a trail of their ancestors. Since the Old Burying Point held the bodies of the dead who were still feasibly within the same generation of the Witch Hysteria, she soon moved her research to the next oldest cemetery in the area. This happened to be Greenlawn and this is where Tessa met Ophelia and Lenore.

Tessa was pleasantly surprised to learn that the large cemetery in question was only a short one-block walk from her house. Her first outing to the graveyard was appropriately shrouded in a morning mist, feathery tendrils of drifting fog making visibility not more than a few feet ahead. Not one to be easily spooked, Tessa confidently made her way among the headstones, carefully brushing away any dirt that obscured the engraved names or dates. She carefully noted each find that connected to her research, as she systematically made her way among family plots, older ones looking dismally left alone, ones that were of a newer era sometimes boasting beautiful flower arrangements that only the living might enjoy.

She had just leaned down to remove a decayed leaf from one slab of dark grey slate that was tilted with a compromising lean, when a raven, just like the ones in her dream back in Scotland, landed on its curved crest balancing precariously. Tessa was startled by the bird’s close proximity, but only half as much as she was when it spoke.

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“Looking for someone you know, dear?” the bird asked.

Tessa jumped back. A soft laugh made her turn around.

“Oh, I truly am sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to alarm you.”

A petite, elderly woman, the real source of the voice, stood there. She instantly reminded Tessa of Doctor Agnes back in Scotland. She had sparkling green eyes and a crown of long hair, but where Agnes’ was snowy white, this woman’s locks were a silvery shade of grey.

“Lenore speaks a word or two here and there, but she doesn’t know any complete sentences,” the woman clarified with a wink.

“Lenore?” Tessa asked, still unclear.

“Why, yes, Lenore,” the peculiar woman stated adamantly, as if Tessa was daft. “My bird. She was named as an ode to my favorite poet,” she explained.

“Oh,” was all that Tessa could think to say.

“Where are my manners?” the woman suddenly exclaimed. “You must be thinking I’m some crazy old lady hanging out with her bird in the cemetery. But I must say, people would probably think the same of you, wandering around the fog in a creepy cemetery examining headstones. My name is Ophelia.” She stretched out her hand to make Tessa’s acquaintance.

“Hello, Ophelia,” Tessa replied, not being able to help her smile. “My name is Tessa. I’m pleased to meet you.”

“Come sit with me a spell, if you have the time,” Ophelia invited, indicating a wooden bench placed in view of the pond that Tessa could now see peering out of the clearing mist.

She knew she should stay focused on her task at hand, but Tessa couldn’t help but feel a curious attraction to the older woman, so she found herself accepting her request. She took a seat next to her. Lenore promptly landed on Ophelia’s shoulder, making the gathering a threesome. The bird peered sideways from one eye at Tessa, its inquisitive stare appearing to communicate an intelligence.

“So I don’t just come here, because I enjoy lurking in cemeteries,” Ophelia began, “I come here to feed the ducks in the pond and the squirrels running about. My granddaughter had a great love of the furred and the feathered, so I do it in her memory.”

“Oh, I am sorry,” Tessa said upon learning of the woman’s loss.”

“Don’t be; she lived a long happy life for the most part.”

Tessa was confused by this statement, but decided to accept it without further prodding. She watched as Ophelia scattered bird food and nuts at her feet. Ducks waddled up and took stale bread directly from her hand, while the squirrels hopped right up on the bench genly taking hazelnuts.

“Now I’ve given you my reasoning for being here. What is yours?” Ophelia inquired.

For some reason, maybe it was that she felt comfortable with Ophelia because she reminded Tessa of Agnes, that she found herself opening up to the woman. She let her know about the project she was completing for university, but she also talked about her life, both here in Salem and back in Scotland, and she even spoke about the house she had just rented.

As the sun heated up the autumn day, the fog evaporated and Tessa saw that the light’s rays were reflecting off of a pendant that Ophelia wore around her neck. Looking closer, she realized that the charm was the very symbol from her dream back at Agnes’ cottage. The pewter filigree design of the three moons, however, was much more intricate than those she had seen in the tourist shops. As the realization dawned on her, she looked up at Ophelia to see the woman watching her.

“You’ve noticed my charm, I see,” she said. “It’s the phases of the moon, waxing, full, and waning. It is called the Triple Goddess. It represents the circle of life, the young maiden, the mother, and the old Crone. I guess you could say that last one is the phase I am in now,” she laughed.

“I was just admiring it,” Tessa replied. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but... are you a witch?”

“Yes I am, but I guess that is not so uncommon in these parts,” Ophelia replied matter-of-factly. “There was a time when that admission might have gotten me hung,” she laughed again.

“What made you decide to become a witch?” Tessa asked, her curiosity now fully piqued. She had never actually met a real witch.

“Oh, you don’t choose to be a witch, my dear. It is something you either are or you are not; you are born that way.”

Suddenly, Tessa became quite excited at this unforeseen and opportune coincidence. Ophelia could be the interview subject for her capstone project, if she was willing. She decided that nothing could be lost by broaching the proposal with this woman who was a complete stranger only an hour before, but now to whom she felt strangely close.

Tessa was beyond pleased to hear Ophelia’s reply. “Of course dear. I have nothing but time on my hands. I would love to spend it chatting with you.”

The two women made plans for a regular meeting time. Although Tessa offered an alternative meeting place, such as her house or a local cafe, Ophelia insisted that Greenlawn would be just fine.

“Lenore prefers to be outdoors. She gets a bit skittery in strange places,” she offered by way of explanation.

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Later that afternoon, Tessa typed up the notes from her research that day. She had found an old desk in her search through thrift shops and had set it up in the dining room, which she had designated as her work space. It wasn’t like she would be having dinner parties where an actual formal dining room would come in use.

After having supper that evening that consisted of French toast and bacon, one of her few culinary skills, she took a long soak in her clawfoot tub and then headed to bed. Before getting under the covers, she decided to pull out an extra blanket from her closet. The fall nights were growing chilly and being a college student on a limited budget, she frugally had been refraining from turning the heat on as of yet.

But as she stepped into the walk-in closet to grab a throw off of the shelf, she stubbed her toes on something on the floor that caused her to stumble. Not being able to see what caused her to falter in the dark closet, she pulled the chain connected to the overhead bulb lighting up the interior. Up against the wall she could see that one of the pine floorboards was slightly lifted. She stooped down to see if she could push it back in place by hand. If she needed a hammer and nail, then it would have to wait till morning. As she assessed it, she caught a glimpse of something blue under the board.

Now curious, instead of attempting to push the board back in place, she sat on the floor and tried to pry it up even further so that she could get access to whatever lay beneath. Lifting it slightly higher with one hand, she was able to reach her other underneath the board and grasp the object. Having it firmly in her grasp, she slid it out from the recessed space beneath the floor.

In the dim light of the closet bulb filtering down between her hanging clothes, Tessa realized that she was holding some sort of book. She slid herself out of the closet and examined it in the brighter light of the bedroom. It was a journal. An old one. The dark blue dyed leather cover protected the aged sheets of paper within the binding. Most notably, embossed upon the cover was the symbol of what she now recognised as the Triple Moon Goddess. Did the book belong to another witch? She gently flipped a few of the pages, taking care so as not to rip the yellowing sheets of paper, but there was so much to look at, writing, old photos, sketches, newspaper clippings, pressed flowers. The blanket, the original mission of going into the closet, was forgotten. Tessa decided to bring the book into bed with her to look through it in more depth.

Situated comfortably in her bed, Tessa began at, well, where all books should be begun, at the beginning. Turning the cover she saw a name carefully handwritten in cursive in the upper right corner: Prudence Giles. She remembered that this was the name of the woman who had formerly owned the house. The book appeared to be a diary of sorts. She started reading and continued long into the night until she could no longer keep her eyes open and drifted off to sleep, the journal chronicling the life of her home’s predecessor tucked under her pillow.

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As the fall days went by, Tessa continued to work on her research. She had established a pretty consistent routine. She would begin her day in Greenlawn Cemetery, making progress examining each notable headstone, recording names and dates to which she would later connect to the ancestral lineage data. She would then meet Ophelia by the pond.

Tessa did gather a good deal of information from the older woman that would be invaluable in her capstone project, but their relationship went deeper than just research. They talked about Tessa’s life and sense of identity. Ophelia also taught Tessa about witchcraft. She learned about spells and ceremonies. She learned about herbs and their use in Wicaan practice, lemon balm for healing, lavender for purifying, rosemary for protection, sunflower for truth. This last one made her recall the dried sunflower she had found under her pillow at Agnes’ cottage when she awoke with a new sense of purpose that morning.

As the women fed the birds and squirrels, they would chat. Lenore would hop about and sometimes sit on Tessa’s shoulder as she became more familiar with her. Once she caught her just as she was hopping away with the earring she had apparently just pulled unknowingly out of Tessa’s ear.

Ophelia laughed, “Lenore is a known thief. But I did inherit her, so I am not entirely responsible for my familiar’s bad habits.”

“Your familiar?” Tessa asked puzzled.

“Yes, my dear. A familiar is a spiritual animal guide that serves a witch in their practice of magick,” she explained. “But I sometimes think it is I who serve Lenore,” she joked.

“So witches can cast evil spells?” Tessa asked wide-eyed.

“Well they can, but just with any group of people, there are good and bad, but most fall somewhere in between those descriptors. In our culture, we prefer to call those individuals who only practice black magick warlocks. For the most part we good witches create helpful magick. I am sure you must know what I mean, don’t you dear?”

Tessa immediately thought back to her visit to Agnes in Dumfries. She recalled the strange situation with the tiny dog at the rail station who had seemingly been stopped from falling in front of the railcar. Could she really have played a part in that? The other passengers at the station had apparently thought so, she remembered by the looks they had given her.

Tessa also learned that many Wiccan practices were tied into the seasonal calendar. Fall was a particularly important time for rituals.

“We refer to this time of year as Samhain. It is a time when the veils between the worlds of the living and those who have passed on are most thin,” Ophelia explained. It is a time when we are most likely to be able to communicate with our ancestors. Although this is true for all of October, it is strongest on October thirty-first, All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween if you prefer, to the rest of the world. This is also the start of the witches’ New Year.”

After their daily talks or classes, as Tessa came to think of them, she would head back to her house where she would type up her research notes. After she had some lunch, she would spend some time in her backyard enjoying the serenity of the space.

The gardens, which had once been tenderly cared for, were now overgrown with weeds and brush. Tessa carefully cleared them away, taking care not to pull out any flowers or herbs. She smiled at the large nodding heads of drying sunflowers, knowing that they would drop their seeds to grow back next season.

In the evenings, after supper and a good long soak in her clawfoot tub, Tessa would climb in bed and read some more of Prudence’s journal. She was frequently surprised at the many connections that she found in all of these routines. Going through the pages of the book, there were anecdotes about Prudence’s life. She would talk about the birds and other animals she fed in her yard, tending her garden, and painting the adorable birdhouses that Tessa had first noticed placed around the property. Here and there were tiny sketches of the wildlife she would encounter in her yard, a brilliant red cardinal or a chipmunk with cheeks stuffed full.

She even spoke of a bitter neighbor who did not take kindly to her love of nature, but it seems the problem resolved itself when the grumpy man had either moved away or just disappeared; it was unclear.

There were also carefully pressed wildflowers and herbs placed between pages with neatly printed script identifying them. Many of these collections were now familiar names to Tessa, as she had also discussed their attributes in Wiccan culture with Ophelia. During the day, when she was working in the gardens, she was able to match up many of the plants she found to Prudence’s descriptions, vibrant green mugwort, the paler, almost frost hue of white sage, purple cone echinacea.

Although it was fall, there had not yet been the first frost of the season, so many of the plantings were still alive. Tessa took clippings as she went, later stringing them up with clothes pins to dry in the house, just as she had seen in Agnes’ cottage back in Scotland.

Tessa learned that Prudence had once had a husband who had passed away before her. She also had two daughters; an older one who there apparently had been falling out with, as she did not seem to visit her mother and the younger one who had spread her wings and moved away. The latter had stayed in touch, sending letters to her mother over the years. Prudence noted that she had tucked the letters away for safekeeping.

This last entry caught Tessa’s attention. Were the letters collected by one of Prudence’s daughters after her death? Or were they still hidden away in the house? Suddenly having a hunch, Tessa climbed out of bed and went back in the closet, pulling on the overhead light. She had never gotten around to securing the floor back down where she had found the journal.

Getting on her knees, Tessa slipped her hand under the pine board. Taking care not to get any splinters, she reached around in the darkness under the floor, searching for anything that she may have missed. She was about to give up the letters for lost, when she didn’t so much as brush against something, as something had brushed against her. Startled, she pulled back for a second and then convinced herself that she was just being foolish and letting her imagination get the best of her. Stretching her arm a bit further, heedless now of the scratches she would surely receive, she managed to clasp the object. Gingerly, she pulled it out so as not to tear what was without a doubt paper.

As she pulled her hand into the closet’s dim light, she could see that she had a stack of envelopes in her hand, the top one addressed to Pudence. The bundle was carefully tied with a piece of brown twine. Tessa was torn. Part of her wanted to open the envelopes right away and start reading the letters held inside and part of her wanted to wait until after she had finished Prudence’s journal. The former desire finally won out and she brought the bundle unopened to her bedside table and tucked them safely in the drawer for when she was ready.

 

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Leny-and-Cthulu.pdf

Well, I’m still looking for my box. If you find her let me know. I hope her name is not Pandora...I once inherited a relative’s familiar; it was a large hair monster named Lennie. For some reason they warned me not to let him hug me?

He also had a strange propensity to call me George.

 

Crying Jag

by Clifford Donald Simak

Illustrated by Wood

Solitary lushes are not the worst kind.
The worst kind are like this—because of what
they tank up on—and right in public, too!


It was Saturday evening and I was sitting on the stoop, working up a jag. I had my jug beside me, handy, and I was feeling good and fixing to feel better, when this alien and his robot came tramping up the driveway. I knew right off it was an alien. It looked something like a man, but there weren’t any humans got robots trailing at their heels. If I had been stone sober, I might have gagged a bit at the idea there was an alien coming up the driveway and done some arguing with myself.

But I wasn’t sober—not entirely, that is. So I said good evening and asked him to sit down and he thanked me and sat. “You, too,” I said to the robot, moving over to make room.

“Let him stand,” the alien said. “He cannot sit. He is a mere machine.” The robot clanked a gear at him, but that was all it said.

“Have a snort,” I said, picking up the jug, but the alien shook his head.

“I wouldn’t dare,” he said. “My metabolism.” That was one of the double jointed words I had acquaintance with. From working at Doc Abel’s sanitarium, I had picked up some of the medic lingo.

“That’s a dirty shame,” I said. “You don’t mind if I do?”

“Not at all,” the alien said. So I had a long one. I felt the need of it I put down the jug and wiped my mouth and asked him if there was something I could get him. It seemed plain inhospitable for me to be sitting there, lapping up that liquor, and him not having any.

“You can tell me about this town,” the alien said. “I think you call it Millville.”

“That’s the name, all right What you want to know about it?”

“All the sad stories,” said the robot, finally speaking up.

“He is correct,” the alien said, settling down in an attitude of pleasurable anticipation. “Tell me about the troubles and the tribulations.”

“Starting where?” I asked.

“How about yourself?”

“Me? I never have no troubles. I janitor all week at the sanitarium and I get drunk on Saturday. Then I sober up on Sunday so I can janitor another week. Believe me, mister,” I told him, “I haven’t got no troubles. I am sitting pretty. I have got it made.”

“But there must be people...”

“Oh, there are. You never saw so much complaining as there is in Millville. There ain’t nobody here except myself but has got a load of trouble. And it wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t talk about it”

“Tell me,” said the alien.

SO I had another snort and then I told him about the Widow Frye, who lives just up the street. I told him how her life had been just one long suffering, with her husband running out on her when their boy was only three years old, and how she took in washing and worked her fingers to the bone to support the two of them, and the kid ain’t more than thirteen or fourteen when he steals this car and gets sent up for two years to the boys’ school over at Glen Lake.

“And that is all of it?” asked the alien.

“Well, in rough outline,” I said. “I didn’t put in none of the flourishes nor the grimy details, the way the widow would. You should hear her tell it.”

“Could you arrange it?”

“Arrange what?”

“To have her tell it to me.”

“I wouldn’t promise you,” I told him honestly.

“The window has a low opinion of me. She never speaks to me.”

“But I can’t understand.”

“She is a decent, church-going woman,” I explained, “and I am just a crummy bum. And I drink.”

“She doesn’t like drinking?”

“She thinks it is a sin.” The alien sort of shivered.

“I know. I guess all places are pretty much alike.”

“You have people like the Widow Frye?”

“Not exactly but the attitude’s the same.”

“Well,” I said, after another snort, “I figure there is nothing else to do but bear up under it.”

“Would it be too much bother,” asked the alien, “to tell me another one?”

“None at all,” I said. So I told him about Elmer Trotter, who worked his way through law school up at Madison, doing all kinds of odd jobs to earn his way, since he had no folks, and how he finally got through and passed the bar examination, then came back to Millville to set up an office. I couldn’t tell him how it happened or why, although I had always figured that Elmer had got a belly full of poverty and grabbed this chance to earn a lot of money fast. No one should have known better than he did that it was dishonest, being he was a lawyer. But he went ahead and did it and he got caught.

“And what happened then?” asked the alien breathlessly.

“Was he punished?” I told him how Elmer got disbarred and how Eliza Jenkins gave him back his ring and how Elmer went into insurance and just scraped along in a hand-to-mouth existence, eating out his heart to be a lawyer once again, but he never could.

“You got all this down?” the alien asked the robot.

“All down,” the robot said. “What fine nuances!” exclaimed the alien, who seemed to be much pleased. “What stark, overpowering reality!”

I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I had another drink instead.

THEN I went ahead, without being asked, and I told him about Amanda Robinson and her unhappy love affair and how she turned into Millville’s most genteel and sorriest old maid. And about Abner Jones and his endless disappointments, but his refusal to give up the idea that he was a great inventor, and how his family went in rags and hungry while he spent all his time inventing.

“Such sadness!” said the alien.

“What a lovely planet!”

“You better taper off,” the robot warned him.

“You know what happens to you.”

“Just one more,” the alien begged.

“I’m all right. Just one more.”

“Now, look here,” I told him, “I don’t mind telling them, if that is what you want. But maybe first you better tell me a bit about yourself. I take it you’re an alien.”

“Naturally,” said the alien.

“And you came here in a spaceship.”

“Well, not exactly a spaceship.”

“Then, if you’re an alien, how come you talk so good?”

“Now, that,” the alien said, “is something that still is tender to me.”

The robot said scornfully: “They took him good and proper.”

“You mean you paid for it”

“Too much,” the robot said.

“They saw that he was eager, so they hiked the price on him.”

“But I’ll get even with them,” the alien cut in. “If I don’t turn a profit on it my name isn’t » And he said a word that was long and twisted and didn’t make no sense.

“That your name?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. But you can call me Wilbur. And the robot you may call him Lester.”

“Well, boys,” I said, “I’m mighty glad to know you. You can call me Sam.” And I had another drink.

We sat there on the stoop and the moon was coming up and the fireflies were flickering in the lilac hedge and the world had an edge on it. I’d never felt so good.

“Just one more,” said Wilbur pleadingly. So I told him about some of the mental cases up at the sanitarium and I picked the bad ones and alongside of me Wilbur started blubbering and the robot said: “Now see what you’ve done. He’s got a crying jag.”

But Wilbur wiped his eyes and said it was all right and that if I’d just keep on he’d do the best he could do get a grip himself.

“What is going on here?” I asked in some astonishment.

“You sound like you get drunk from hearing these sad stories.”

“That’s what he does,” said Lester, the robot. “Why else do you think he’d sit and listen to your blabber.”

“And you?” I asked of Lester.

“Of course not,” Wilbur said.

“He has no emotions. He is a mere machine.”

I HAD another drink and I thought it over and it was as clear as day. So I told Wilbur my philosophy: “This is Saturday night and that’s the time to howl. So let’s you and I together—”

“I am with you,” Wilbur cried, “as long as you can talk.”

Lester clanked a gear in what must have been disgust, but that was all he did.

“Get down every word of it,” Wilbur told the robot. “We’ll make ourselves a million. We’ll need it to get back all overpayment for our indoctrination.” He sighed. “Not that it wasn’t worth it. What a lovely, melancholy planet.”

So I got cranked up and kept myself well lubricated and the night kept getting better every blessed minute.

Along about midnight, I got falling-down drunk and Wilbur maudlin drunk and we gave up by a sort of mutual consent. We got up off the stoop and by bracing one another we got inside the door and I lost Wilbur somewhere, but made it to my bed and that was the last I knew. When I woke up, I knew it was Sunday morning. The sun was streaming through the window and it was bright and sanctimonious, like Sunday always is around here.

Sundays usually are quiet, and that’s one thing wrong with them. But this one wasn’t quiet. There was an awful din going on outside. It sounded like someone was throwing rocks and hitting a tin can. I rolled out of bed and my mouth tasted just as bad as I knew it would be. I rubbed some of the sand out of my eyes and started for the living room and just outside the bedroom door I almost stepped on Wilbur. He gave me quite a start and then I remembered who he was and I stood there looking at him, not quite believing it.

I thought at first that he might be dead, but I saw he wasn’t. He was lying flat upon his back and his catfish mouth was open and every time he breathed the feathery whiskers on his lips stood straight out and fluttered. I stepped over him and went to the door to find out what all the racket was. And there stood Lester, the robot, exactly where we’d left him the night before, and out in the driveway a bunch of kids were pegging rocks at him.

Those kids were pretty good. They hit Lester almost every time.

I yelled at them and they scattered down the road. They knew I d tan their hides.

I was just turning around to go back into the house when a car swung into the drive. Joe Fletcher, our constable, jumped out and came striding toward me and I could see that he was in his best fire-eating mood.

JOE stopped in front of the stoop and put both hands on his hips and stared first at Lester and then at me. “Sam,” he asked with a nasty leer, “what is going on here? Some of your pink elephants move into live with you?”

“Joe,” I said solemn, passing up the insult, “I’d like you to meet Lester.”

Joe had opened up his mouth to yell at me when Wilbur showed up at the door. “And this is Wilbur,” I said. “Wilbur is an alien and Lester is a...”

“Wilbur is a what!” roared Joe.

Wilbur stepped out on the stoop and said: “What a sorrowful face. And so noble, too!”

“He means you,” I said to Joe.

“If you guys keep this up,” Joe bellowed, “I’ll run in the bunch of you.”

“I meant no harm,” said Wilbur. “I apologize if I have bruised your sensitivities.” That was a hot one — Joe’s sensitivities!

“I can see at a glance,” said Wilbur, “that life’s not been easy for you.”

“I’ll tell the world it ain’t,” Joe said.

“Nor for me,” said Wilbur, sitting down upon the stoop.

“It seems that there are days a man can’t lay away a dime.”

“Mister, you are right,” said Joe.

“Just like I was telling the missus this morning when she up and told me that the kids needed some new shoes...”

“It does beat hell how a man can’t get ahead.”

“Listen, you ain’t heard nothing yet...” And so help me Hannah, Joe sat down beside him and before you could count to three started telling his life story.

“Lester,” Wilbur said, “be sure you get this down.”

I beat it back into the house and had a quick one to settle my stomach before I tackled breakfast. I didn’t feel like eating, but I knew I had to. I got out some eggs and bacon and wondered what I would feed Wilbur. For I suddenly remembered how his metabolism couldn’t stand liquor, and if it couldn’t take good whisky, there seemed very little chance that it would take eggs and bacon.

AS I was finishing my breakfast, Higman Morris came busting through the back door and straight into the kitchen. Higgy is our mayor, a pillar of the church, a member of the school board and a director of the bank, and he is a big stuffed shirt.

“Sam,” he yelled at me, “this town has taken a lot from you. We have put up with your drinking and your general shiftlessness and your lack of public spirit. But this is too much!”

I wiped some egg of? my chin.

“What is too much?”

Higgy almost strangled, he was so irritated. “This public exhibition. This three-ring circus! This nuisance! And on a Sunday, too!”

“Oh,” I said, “you mean Wilbur and his robot.”

“There’s a crowd collecting out in front and I’ve had a dozen calls, and Joe is sitting out there with this — this—”

“Alien,” I supplied.

“And they’re bawling on one another’s shoulders like a pair of three-year-olds and...Alien!”

“Sure,” I said.

“What did you think he was?”

Higgy reached out a shaky hand and pulled out a chair and fell weakly into it. “Samuel,” he said slowly, “give it to me once again. I don’t think I heard you right.”

“Wilbur is an alien,” I told him, “from some other world. He and his robot came here to listen to sad stories.”

“Sad stories?”

“Sure. He likes sad stories. Some people like them happy and others like them dirty. He just likes them sad.”

“If he is an alien,” said Higgy. talking to himself.

“He’s one, sure enough,” I said.

“Sam, you’re sure of this?”

“I am.”

Higgy got excited. “Don’t you appreciate what this means to Millville? This little town of ours — the first place on all of Earth that an alien visited!”

I wished he would shut up and get out so I could have an after breakfast drink. Higgy didn’t drink especially on Sundays. He’d have been horrified.

“The world will beat a pathway to our door!” he shouted. He got out of the chair and started for the living room. “I must extend my official welcome.”

I trailed along behind him, for this was one I didn’t want to miss.

JOE had left and Wilbur was sitting alone on the stoop and I could see that he already had on a sort of edge. Higgy stood in front of him and thrust out his chest and held out his hand and said, in his best official manner: “I am the mayor of Millville and I take great pleasure in extending to you our sincerest welcome.”

Wilbur shook hands with him and then he said: “Being the mayor of a city must be something of a burden and a great responsibility. I wonder that you bear up under it.”

“Well, there are times...” said Higgy.

“But I can see that you are the kind of man whose main concern is the welfare of his fellow creatures and as such, quite naturally, you become the unfortunate target of outrageous and ungrateful actions.”

Higgy sat down ponderously on the stoop. “Sir,” he said to Wilbur, “you would not believe all I must put up with.”

Crying-Jag-Doc-Porch.pdf

“Lester,” said Wilbur, “see that you get this down.”

I went back into the house. I couldn’t stomach it. There was quite a crowd standing out there in the road — Jake Ellis, the junkman, and

Don Myers, who ran the Jolly Miller, and a lot of others. And there, shoved into the background and sort of peering out, was the Widow Frye.

People were on their way to church and they’d stop and look and then go on again, but others would come and take their place, and the crowd was getting bigger instead of thinning out. I went out to the kitchen and had my after-breakfast drink and did the dishes and wondered once again what I would feed Wilbur. Although, at the moment, he didn’t seem to be too interested in food.

Then I went into the living room and sat down in the rocking chair and kicked off my shoes. I sat there wiggling my toes and thinking about what a screwy thing it was that Wilbur should get drunk on sadness instead of good red liquor. The day was warm and I was wore out and the rocking must have helped to put me fast asleep, for suddenly I woke up and there was someone in the room. I didn’t see who it was right off, but I knew someone was there.

It was the Widow Frye. She was all dressed up for Sunday, and after all those years of passing my house on the opposite side of the street and never looking at it, as if the sight of it or me might contaminate her—after all these years there she was all dressed up and smiling. And me sitting there with all my whiskers on and my shoes off.

“SAMUEL,” said the Widow Frye, “I couldn’t help but tell you. I think your Mr. Wilbur is simply wonderful.”

“He’s an alien,” I said. I had just woke up and was considerable befuddled.

“I don’t care what he is,” said the Widow Frye. “He is such a gentleman and so sympathetic. Not in the least like a lot of people in this horrid town.”

I got to my feet and I didn’t know exactly what to do. She’d caught me off my guard and at a terrible disadvantage. Of all people in the world, she was the last I would have expected to come into my house. I almost offered her a drink, but caught myself just in time.

“You been talking to him?” I asked lamely.

“Me and everybody else,” said the Widow Frye. “And he has a way with him. You tell him your troubles and they seem to go away. There’s a lot of people waiting for their turn.”

“Well,” I told her, “I am glad to hear you say that. How’s he standing up under all this?”

The Widow Frye moved closer and dropped her voice to a whisper. “I think he’s getting tired. I would say — well, I’d say he was intoxicated if I didn’t know better.”

I took a quick look at the clock. “Holy smoke!” I yelled. It was almost four o’clock. Wilbur had been out there six or seven hours, lapping up all the sadness this village could dish out. By now he should be stiff clear up to his eyebrows. I busted out the door and he was sitting on the stoop and tears were running down his face and he was listening to Jack Ritter—and Old Jack was the biggest liar in all of seven counties. He was just making up this stuff he was telling Wilbur.

“Sorry, Jack,” I said, pulling Wilbur to his feet.

“But I was just telling him...”

“Go on home,” I hollered, “you and the others. You got him all tired out.”

“Mr. Sam,” said Lester, “I am glad you came. He wouldn’t listen to me.”

The Widow Frye held the door open and I got Wilbur in and put him in my bed, where he could sleep it off.

THEN I came back, the Widow Frye was waiting.

“I was just thinking, Samuel,” she said. “I am having chicken for supper and there is more than I can eat. I wonder if you’d like to come on over.”

I couldn’t say nothing for a moment. Then I shook my head. “Thanks just the same,” I said, “but I have to stay and watch over Wilbur. He won’t pay attention to the robot.”

The Widow Frye was disappointed. “Some other time?”

“Yeah, some other time.” I went out after she was gone and invited Lester in.

“Can you sit down,” I asked, “or do you have to stand?”

“I have to stand,” said Lester. So I left him standing there and sat down in the rocker.

“What does Wilbur eat?” I asked. “He must be getting hungry.”

The robot opened a door m the middle of his chest and took out a funny-looking bottle. He shook it and I could hear something rattling around inside of it. “This is his nourishment,” Lester. “He takes one every day.” He went to put the bottle back and a big fat roll fell out. He stooped and picked it up. “Money,” he explained. “You folks have money, too?”

“We got this when we were indoctrinated. Hundred-dollar bills.”

“Hundred-dollar bills!”

“Too bulky otherwise,” said Lester blandly. He put the money and the bottle back into his chest and slapped shut the door.

I sat there in a fog. Hundred dollar bills! “Lester,” I suggested, “maybe you hadn’t ought to show anyone else that money. They might try to take it from you.”

“I know,” said Lester. “I keep it next to me.” And he slapped his chest. His slap would take the head right off a man.

I sat rocking in the chair and there was so much to think about that my mind went rocking back and forth with the chair. There was Wilbur first of all and the crazy way he got drunk, and the way the Widow Frye had acted, and all those hundred dollar bills. Especially those hundred-dollar bills. “This indoctrination business?” I asked. “You said it was bootleg.”

“It is, most definitely,” said Lester. “Acquired by some misguided individual who sneaked in and taped it to sell to addicts.”

“But why sneak in?”

“Off limits,” Lester said. “Outside the reservation. Beyond the pale. Is the meaning clear?”

“And this misguided adventurer figured he could sell the information he had taped, the—the—”

“The culture pattern,” said Lester. “Your logic trends in the correct direction, but it is not as simple as you make it sound.”

“I suppose not,” I said. “And this same misguided adventurer picked up the money, too.”

“Yes, he did. Quite a lot of it.” I sat there for a while longer, then went in for a look at Wilbur. He was fast asleep, his catfish mouth blowing the whiskers in and out. So I went into the kitchen and got myself some supper.

I had just finished eating when a knock came at the door. It was old Doc Abel from the sanitarium. “Good evening, Doc,” I said. “I’ll rustle up a drink.”

“Skip the drink,” said Doc. “Just trot out your alien.” He stepped into the living room and stopped short at the sight of Lester. Lester must have seen that he was astonished for he tried immediately to put him at ease.

“I am the so-called alien’s robot Yet despite the fact that I am a mere machine, I am a faithful servant. If you wish to tell your sadness, you may relate it to me with perfect confidence. I shall relay it to my master.”

Doc sort of rocked back on his heels, but it didn’t floor him. “Just any kind of sadness?” he asked, “or do you hanker for a special kind?”

“The master,” Lester said, “prefers the deep-down sadness, although he will not pass up any other kind.”

“Wilbur gets drunk on it,” I said. “He’s in the bedroom now sleeping off a jag.”

“Likewise,” Lester said, “confidentially, we can sell the stuff. There are people back home with their tongues hanging to their knees for this planet’s brand of sadness.”

DOC looked at me and his eyebrows were so high that they almost hit his hairline.

“It’s on the level, Doc,” I assured him. “It isn’t any joke. You want to have a look at Wilbur?”

Doc nodded and I led the way into the bedroom and we stood there looking down at Wilbur. Sleeping all stretched out, he was a most unlovely sight.

Doc put his hand up to his forehead and dragged it down across his face, pulling down his chops so he looked like a bloodhound. His big, thick, loose lips made a blubbering sound as he pulled his palm across them.

“I’ll be damned!” said Doc. Then he turned around and walked out of the bedroom and I trailed along behind him. He walked straight to the door and went out. He walked a ways down the driveway, then stopped and waited for me. Then he reached out and grabbed me by the shirt front and pulled it tight around me. “Sam,” he said, “you’ve been working for me for a long time now and you are getting sort of old Most other men would fire a man as old as you are and get a younger one. I could fire you any time I want to.”

“I suppose you could,” I said, and it was an awful feeling, for I had never thought of being fired. I did a good job of janitoring up at the sanitarium and I didn’t mind the work. And I thought how terrible it would be if a Saturday came and I had no drinking money.

“You been a loyal and faithful worker,” said old Doc, still hanging onto my shirt, “and I been a good employer. I always give you a Christmas bottle and another one at Easter.”

“Right,” I said. “True, every word of it”

“So you wouldn’t fool old Doc,” said Doc. “Maybe the rest of the people in this stupid town, but not your old friend Doc.”

“But, Doc,” I protested, “I ain’t fooling no one.”

Doc let loose of my shirt “By God, I don’t believe you are. It’s like the way they tell me? He sits and listens to their troubles, and they feel better once they’re through?”

“That’s what the Widow Frye said. She said she told him her troubles and they seemed to go away.”

“That’s the honest truth, Sam?”

“The honest truth,” I swore.

Doc Abel got excited. He grabbed me by the shirt again. “Don’t you see what we have?” he almost shouted at me.

“We?” I asked.

BUT he paid no attention. “The greatest psychiatrist,” said Doc, “this world has ever known. The greatest aid to psychiatry anyone ever has dredged up. You get what I am aiming at?”

“I guess I do,” I said, not having the least idea.

“The most urgent need of the human race,” said Doc, “is someone or something they can shift their troubles to—someone who by seeming magic can banish their anxieties. Confession is the core of it, of course—a symbolic shifting of one’s burden to someone else’s shoulders. The principle is operative in the church confessional, in the profession of psychiatry, in those deep, abiding friendships offering a shoulder that one can cry upon.”

“Doc, you’re right,” I said, beginning to catch on.

“The trouble always is that the agent of confession must be human, too. He has certain human limitations of which the confessor is aware. He can give no certain promise that he can assume the trouble and anxiety. But here we have something different. Here we have an alien—a being from the stars—unhampered by human limitations. By very definition, he can take anxieties and smother them in the depths of his own non-humanity...”

“Doc,” I yelled, “if you could only get Wilbur up at the sanitarium!”

Doc rubbed mental hands together. “The very thing that I had been thinking.”

I could have kicked myself for my enthusiasm. I did the best I could to gain back the ground I’d lost. “I don’t know, Doc. Wilbur might be hard to handle.”

“Well, let’s go back in and have a talk with him.”

“I don’t know,” I stalled.

“We got to get him fast. By tomorrow, the word will be out and the place will be overrun with newspapermen and TV trucks and God knows what. The scientific boys will be swarming in, and the government, and we’ll lose control.”

“I’d better talk to him alone,” I said.

“He might freeze up solid if you were around. He knows me and he might listen to me.”

Doc hemmed and hawed, But finally he agreed. “I’ll wait in the car,” he said. “You call me if you need me.”

H E went crunching on down the driveway to where he had the car parked, and I went inside the house.

“Lester,” I said to the robot, “I’ve got to talk to Wilbur. It’s important.”

“No more sad stories,” Lester warned. “He’s had enough today.”

“No. I got a proposition.”

“Proposition?”

“A deal. A business arrangement.”

“All right,” said Lester. “I will get him up.” It took quite a bit of getting up, but finally we had him fought awake and sitting on the bed.

Ctying-Jag-Wilbur-Hangover.pdf

“Wilbur, listen carefully,” I told him. “I have something right down your alley. A place where all the people have big and terrible troubles and an awful sadness. Not just some of them, but everyone of them. They are so sad and troubled they can’t live with other people...”

Wilbur struggled off the bed, stood swaying on his feet. “Lead me to ’em, pal,” he said. I pushed him down on the bed again.

“It isn’t as easy as all that. It’s a hard place to get into.”

“I thought you said—”

“Look, I have a friend who can arrange it for you. But it might take some money—”

“Pal,” said Wilbur, “we got a roll of cash. How much would you need?”

“It’s hard to say.”

“Lester, hand it over to him so he can make this deal.”

“Boss,” protested Lester, “I don’t know if we should.”

“We can trust Sam,” said Wilbur. “He is not the grasping sort He won’t spend a cent more than is necessary.”

“Not a cent,” I promised.

Lester opened the door in his chest and handed me the roll of hundred-dollar bills and I stuffed it in my pocket

“Now you will wait right here,” I told them, “and I’ll see this friend of mine. I’ll be back soon.” And I was doing some fast arithmetic, wondering how much I could dare gouge out of Doc. It wouldn’t hurt to start a little high so I could come down when Doc would roar and howl and scream and say what good friends we were and how he always had given me a bottle at Christmas and at Easter.

I turned to go out into the living room and stopped dead in my tracks. For standing in the doorway was another Wilbur, although when I looked at him more closely I saw the differences. And before he said a single word or did a single thing, I had a sinking feeling that something had gone wrong.

“Good evening, sir,” I said. “It’s nice of you to drop in.”

He never turned a hair. “I see you have guests. It shall desolate me to tear them away from you.”

BEHIND me, Lester was making noises as if his gears were stripping, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that Wilbur sat stiff and stricken and whiter than a fish.

“But you can’t do that,” I said. “They only just showed up.”

“You do not comprehend,” said the alien in the doorway. “They are breakers of the law. I have come to get them.”

“Pal,” said Wilbur, speaking to me, “I am truly sorry. I knew all along it would not work out”

“By this time,” the other alien said to Wilbur, “you should be convinced of it and give up trying.”

And it was plain as paint, once you came to think of it, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. For if Earth was closed to the adventurers who’d gathered the indoctrination data…

“Mister,” I said to the alien in the doorway, “there are factors here of which I know you ain’t aware. Couldn’t you and me talk the whole thing over alone?”

“I should be happy,” said the alien, so polite it hurt, “but please understand that I must carry out a duty.”

“Why, certainly,” I said.

The alien stepped out of the doorway and made a sign behind him and two robots that had been standing in the living room just out of my line of vision came in. “Now all is secure,” said the alien, “and we can depart to talk. I will listen most attentively.”

So I went out into the kitchen and he followed me. I sat down at the table and he sat across from me. “I must apologize,” he told me gravely. “This miscreant imposes upon you and your planet.”

“Mister,” I told him back, “you have got it all wrong. I like this renegade of yours.”

“Like him?” he asked, horrified. “That is impossible. He is a drunken lout and furthermore than that—”

“And furthermore than that,” I said, grabbing the words right from his mouth, “he is doing us an awful lot of good.”

The alien looked flabbergasted. “You do not know that which you say! He drags from you your anxieties and feasts upon them most disgustingly, and he puts them down on record so he can’t pull them forth again and yet again to your eternal shame, and further- more than that—”

“It’s not that way at all,” I shouted. “It does us a lot of good to pull out our anxieties and show them—”

“Disgusting! More than that, indecent!” He stopped.

Crying-Jag-Lesters.pdf

“What was that?”

“Telling our anxieties does us good,” I said as solemnly as I could.

“It’s a matter of confession.”

THE alien banged an open palm against his forehead and the feathers on his catfish mouth stood straight out and quivered. “It could be true,” he said in horror. “Given a culture so primitive and so besodden and so shameless...”

“Ain’t we, though?” I agreed.

“In our world,” said the alien, “there are no anxieties — well, not many. We are most perfectly adjusted.”

“Except for folks like Wilbur?”

“Wilbur?”

“Your pal in there,” I said.

“I couldn’t say his name, so I call him Wilbur. By the way...” He rubbed his hand across his face, and no matter what he said, it was plain to see that at that moment he was loaded with anxiety.

“Call me Jake. Call me anything. Just so we get this mess resolved.”

“Nothing easier,” I said. “Let’s just keep Wilbur here. You don’t really want him, do you?”

“Want him?” wailed Jake. “He and all the others like him are nothing but a headache. But they are our problem and our responsibility. We can’t saddle you.”

“You mean there are more like Wilbur?”

Jake nodded sadly.

“We’ll take them all,” I said. “We would love to have them. Every one of them.”

“You’re crazy!”

“Sure we are,” I said.

“That is why we need them.”

“You are certain, without any shadow of your doubt?”

“Absolutely certain.”

“Pal,” said Jake, “you have made a deal.” I stuck out my hand to shake on it, but I don’t think he even saw my hand. He rose out of the chair and you could see a vast relief lighting up his face. Then he turned and stalked out of the kitchen.

“Hey, wait a minute!” I yelled. For there were details that I felt we should work out But he didn’t seem to hear me. I jumped out of the chair and raced for the living room, but by the time I got there, there was no sign of Jake. I ran into the bedroom and the two robots were gone, too. Wilbur and Lester were in there all alone.

“I told you,” Lester said to Wilbur, “that Mr. Sam would fix it.”

“I don’t believe it, pal,” said Wilbur. “Have they really gone? Have they gone for good? Is there any chance they will be coming back?” I raised my arm and wiped off my forehead with my sleeve.

“They won’t bother you again. You are finally shut of them.”

“That is excellent,” said Wilbur. “And now about this deal.”

“Sure,” I said. “Give me just a minute. I’ll go out and see the man.”

I stepped out on the stoop and stood there for a while to get over shaking. Jake and his two robots had come very close to spoiling everything. I needed a drink worse than I had ever needed one, but I didn’t dare take the time. I had to get Doc on the dotted line before something else turned up. I went out to the car.

“It took you long enough,” Doc said irritably.

“It took a lot of talking for Wilbur to agree,” I said. “But he did agree?”

“Yeah, he agreed.”

“Well, then,” said Doc, “what are we waiting for?”

“Ten thousand bucks,” I said. “Ten thousand...”

“That’s the price for Wilbur. I’m selling you my alien.”

“Your alien! He is not your alien!”

“Maybe not,” I said, “but he’s the next best thing. All I have to do is say the word and he won’t go with you.”

“Two thousand,” declared Doc. “That’s every cent I’ll pay.”

We got down to haggling and we wound up at seven thousand dollars. If I’d been willing to spend all night at it, I would have got eighty-five hundred. But I was all fagged out and I needed a drink much worse than I needed fifteen hundred extra dollars. So we settled on the seven. We went back into the house and Doc wrote out a check.

“You know you’re fired, of course,” he said, handing it to me.

“I hadn’t thought about it,” I told him, and I hadn’t. The check for seven thousand in my hand and that roll of hundred-dollar bills bulging out my pocket added up to a lot of drinking money. I went to the bedroom door and called out Wilbur and Lester and I said to them, “Old Doc here has made up his mind to take you.”

And Wilbur said. “I am so happy and so thankful. Was it hard, perhaps, to get him to agree to take us?”

“Not too hard,” I said. “He was reasonable.”

“Hey,” yelled Doc, with murder in his eyes, “what is going on here?”

“Not a thing,” I said.

“Well, it sounds to me...”

“There’s your boy,” I said. “Take him if you want him. If it should happen you don’t want him, I’ll be glad to keep him. There’ll be someone else along.” And I held out the check to give it back to him.

It was a risky thing to do, but I was in a spot where I had to bluff.

DOC waved the check away, but he was still suspicious that he was being taken, although he wasn’t sure exactly how. But he couldn’t take the chance of losing out on Wilbur. I could see that he had it all figured out—how he’d become world famous with the only alien psychiatrist in captivity. Except there was one thing that he didn’t know.

He had no idea that in just a little while there would be other Wilburs. And I stood there, laughing at him without showing it, while he herded Wilbur and Lester out the door. Before he left, he turned back to me. “There is something going on,” he said, “and when I find out about it, I am going to come back and take you apart for it.”

I never said a word, but just stood there listening to the three of them crunching down the driveway. When I heard the car leave, I went out into the kitchen and took down the bottle. I had a half a dozen fast ones. Then I sat down in a chair at the kitchen table and practiced some restraint.

I had a half a dozen slow ones. I got to wondering about the other Wilburs that Jake had agreed to send to Earth and I wished I’d been able to pin him down a bit. But I had had no chance, for he had jumped up and disappeared just when I was ready to get down to business. All I could do was hope he’d deliver them to me—either in the front yard or out in the driveway—but he’d never said he would. A fat lot of good it would do me if he just dropped them anywhere.

And I wondered when he would deliver them and how many there might be. It might take a bit of time, for more than likely he would indoctrinate them before they were dropped on Earth, and as to number, I had not the least idea. From the way he talked, there might even be a couple of dozen of them. With that many, a man could make a roll of cash if he handled the situation right.

Although, it seemed to me, I had a right smart amount of money now. I dug the roll of hundred-dollar bills out of my pocket and made a stab at counting them, but for the life of me I couldn’t keep the figures straight. Here I was drunk and it wasn’t even Saturday, but Sunday. I didn’t have a job and now I could get drunk any time I wanted.

So I sat there working on the jug and finally passed out.

THERE was an awful racket and I came awake and wondered where I was. In a little while I got it figured out that I’d been sleeping at the kitchen table and I had a terrible crick in my neck and a hangover that was even worse. I stumbled to my feet and looked at the clock. It was ten minutes after nine. The racket kept right on. I made it out to the living room and opened the front door.

The Widow Frye almost fell into the room, she had been hammering on the door so hard. “Samuel,” she gasped, “have you heard about it?”

“I ain’t heard a thing,” I told her, “except you pounding on the door.”

“It’s on the radio.”

“You know dam well I ain’t got no radio nor no telephone nor no TV set. I ain’t got no time for modern trash like that.”

“It’s about the aliens,” she said. “Like the one you have. The nice, kind, understanding alien people. They are everywhere. Everywhere on Earth. There are a lot of them all over. Thousands of them. Maybe millions...”

I pushed past her out the door. They were sitting on front steps all up and down the street, and they were walking up and down the road, and there were a bunch of them playing, chasing one another, in a vacant lot. “It’s like that everywhere!” cried the Widow Frye. “The radio just said so. There are enough of them so that everyone on Earth can have one of their very own. Isn’t it wonderful?”

That dirty, double-crossing Jake, I told myself. Talking like there weren’t many of them, pretending that his culture was so civilized and so well adjusted that there were almost no psychopaths. Although, to be fair about it, he hadn’t said how many there might be of them—not in numbers, that is. And even all he had dumped on Earth might be a few in relation to the total population of his particular culture.

And then, suddenly, I thought of something else. I hauled out my watch and looked at it. It was only a quarter after nine. “Widow Frye,” I said, “excuse me. I got an errand to run.” I legged it down the street as fast as I could.

ONE of the Wilburs detached himself from a group of them and loped along with me. “Mister,” he said, “have you got some troubles to tell me?”

“Naw,” I said. “I never have no troubles.”

“Not even any worries?”

“No worries, either.”

Then it occurred to me that there was a worry—not for me alone, but for the entire world. For with all the Wilburs that Jake had dumped on Earth, there would in a little while be no human psychopaths. There wouldn’t be a human with a worry or a trouble. God, would it be dull! But I didn’t worry none. I just loped along as fast as I could go. I had to get to the bank before Doc had time to stop payment on that check for seven thousand dollars.

— CLIFFORD D. SIMAK

Originally published Galaxy Science Fiction February 1960

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Talk bout co-dependant...I have a few ex-girlfriends

I could hook up those aliens with. Cthulhu here had

his own robot mixed with a Wilbur, but he lost his oil

can. He keeps rusting stiff after his jag.

Cthulu-Tinman.pdf

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THE RAVEN

By

EDGAR ALLAN POE

ILLUSTRATED

By GUSTAVE DORÉ

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“T is some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this, and nothing more.”

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Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

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Eagerly I wished the morrow:—vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—

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sorrow for the lost Lenore—

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For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

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“T is some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door

Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;—

This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—

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here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

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But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”

Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping, somewhat louder than before.

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“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;

Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—

‘T is the wind and nothing more!”

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Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

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In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

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Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

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Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore,—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—

Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Other friends have flown before—

On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”

Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never—nevermore.’”

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;

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Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore

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Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er,

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But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

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“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee

Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

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On this home by Horror haunted—

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tell me truly, I implore—

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!

By that Heaven that bends above, us—by that God we both adore—

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Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

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“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—

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“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

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And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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I don’t know about you, but I am waiting for Vincent Price or Tipi Hedren to show up in this issue somewhere. Because this magazine is definitely going to the birds!

Raven-Cthulu.pdf

 

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Epilogue:


OK, did you find all of the connections? It is not imperative if you didn’t, but it might be the only thing keeping you out of Greenlawn Cemetery...

At least Henry, Horsford, and Tessa found themselves above the daisies, we can not promise you the same.

Well Poe is mentioned in three stories and Lenore in two. Birds appear in four stories. In two stories we have ungrateful wives receiving gifts. Two stories involving the powers of the mind and birds that bring on death. Two stories with hidden identitiesand another two stories with roses. Those are a few of the connections; can you find more?

By the way the publisher wants you to know that Henry’s first novel is out in stores now that is based on the real murder which inspired the game Clue, reached the highest heights of our government, and inspired Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. You can find Murder on the Common at your local bookstores and online at www.salemhousepress.com. The first novel in The Sinclair Narratives.

~Professor Wilmarth

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Flip & Scan:

eBook Cards

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For only $5 you can flip these cards over and as easy as snapping a picture of the QR code on the back instantaneously have a fabulous new eBook on your device.

Look for them at your local stores!

OUR AUTHORS and ILLUSTRATORS

Duped by Dupin

Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin: Author & Illustrator

Beyond the Door

Philip K. Dick: Author

Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin: Illustrator

Dumbwaiter

James Stamers: Author
Dillon: Illustrator

Every Witch Way

Lisa Deschenes: Author

Illustrator: Sabrina

Crying Jag

Clifford D. Simak: Author

Wood: Illustrator

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe: Author

GUSTAVE DORÉ : Illustrator

 

Bio...

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Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin:


Author and illustrator. Chris has written over 16 books of which 14 he has illustrated including The Salem Trilogy, Tales from Mr. Pelinger’s House, Max Teller’s Amazing Adventure, and Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida. He is also the creator of the Sinclair Narratives which Land of .Oz is one of the many short stories from the series. Look for the first novel of the Sinclair Narratives, Murder on the Common.

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Philip Kindred Dick

(December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982):


Author. an American writer known for his work in science fiction. He wrote 44 published novels and approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime.[1] His fiction explored varied philosophical and social themes, and featured recurrent elements such as alternate realities, simulacra, monopolistic corporations, drug abuse, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness. His work was concerned with questions surrounding the nature of reality, perception, human nature, and identity as in novels A Scanner Darkly (1977) and VALIS (1981).[6] A collection of his nonfiction writing on these themes was published posthumously as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (2011). He died in 1982 in Santa Ana, California, at the age of 53, due to complications from a stroke.

Dick’s posthumous influence has been widespread, extending beyond literary circles into Hollywood filmmaking. Popular films based on Dick’s works include Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (adapted twice: in 1990 and in 2012), Minority Report (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).

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James Stamers

(April 5, 1917 – September 23, 1994):

Author. He wrote several short stories for Galaxy and If magazines including: Scent Makes a Woman, Dumbwaiter, Imitation of Earth, Solid Solution, E Being, The Divers, and The Useless Bugbreeders.

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Leo and Diane Dillion

Leo (March 2, 1933 – May 26, 2012):

Illustrators. The couple met at the Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1953 — where they “became instant archrivals and remained together from then on”. They graduated in 1956 and married the next year. This union resulted in an artistic collaboration, which the couple described as a third artist. Diane Dillon explained this in an interview through these words: “We could look at ourselves as one artist rather than two individuals, and that third artist was doing something neither one of us would do. We let it flow the way it flows when an artist is working by themselves and a color goes down that they didn’t quite expect and that affects the next colors they use, and it seems to have a life of its own.”

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Lisa Deschenes:

Author. Lisa is the author of the Salem Cemetery series of macabre literature. She is an early development educator and professor at Endicott College. She has lived in Salem her whole life and thrives in its 12 month out of the year Halloweenesque flavor. An avid car collector and hot shit.

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Sabrina King

Illustrator. Arkham native currently living in Portland Maine. An avid urban explorer of the dark recesses of civilization.

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Clifford Donald Simak

(August 3, 1904 – April 25, 1988):

Author. In a blurb in Time and Again he wrote, “I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty three years and have two children. My favorite recreation is fishing (the lazy way, lying in a boat and letting them come to me). Hobbies: Chess, stamp collecting, growing roses.” He dedicated the book to his wife Kay, “without whom I’d never have written a line”. He was well liked by many of his science fiction-writing friends, especially Isaac Asimov.

His first contribution to the literature was The World of the Red Sun, published by Hugo Gernsback in the December 1931 issue of Wonder Stories with one opening illustration by Frank R. Paul.

Simak returned and was a regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction (as it was renamed in 1938) throughout the Golden Age of Science Fiction (1938–1950). At first he wrote in the tradition of the earlier “super science” subgenre that E. E. “Doc” Smith perfected, but he soon developed his own style, which is usually described as gentle and pastoral. Simak’s stories often repeat a few basic ideas and themes. First and foremost is a setting in rural Wisconsin. A crusty individualistic backwoodsman character literally comes with the territory. A dog named “Towser” (sometimes “Bowser”) is another Simak trademark. Also he believed there is no past for a time traveler to go, Instead time moves along in a stream, and to move to a different place in time is to move to another world altogether. Thus in City Earth is overrun by ants, but the intelligent dogs and the remaining humans escape to other worlds in the time stream. Also one editor complained that his undeveloped heros in his stories seemed to be loser, which Simak replied, “I like losers.”

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Wally Wood:

(June 17, 1927 – November 2, 1981)

Illustrator. He was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’s Mad and Marvel’s Daredevil. He was one of Mad’s founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he claimed to dislike. Within the comics community, he was also known as Woody, a name he sometimes used as a signature.

In addition to Wood’s hundreds of comic book pages, he illustrated for books and magazines while also working in a variety of other areas – advertising; packaging and product illustrations; gag cartoons; record album covers; posters; syndicated comic strips; and trading cards, including work on Topps’s landmark Mars Attacks set.

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Edgar Allan Poe:

(January 19, 1809 – Maybe October 7, 1849)

Author. He is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. Poe was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Poe was born in Boston, the second child of actors David and Elizabeth “Eliza” Poe. David left the family and his mother died young leaving Poe to be raised by John and Frances Allan. Poe later failed as an officer cadet at West Point, but he was promoted prior to Sergeant Major for Artillery. During this time he had a firm wish to be a poet and writer, and he ultimately parted ways with John Allan, years after the death of his wife. In time he became a notorius literary critic, bashing many of his fellow Bostonian writers in the Trnascendentalist Movement calling them Frog-Pondians.

Around1841, Poe attempted to secure a position within the administration of President John Tyler, claiming that he was a member of the Whig Party.He hoped to be appointed to the United States Custom House in Philadelphia with help from President Tyler’s son Robert, an acquaintance of Poe’s friend Frederick Thomas.

Poe’s early detective fiction tales featuring C. Auguste Dupin laid the groundwork for future detectives in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, “Each [of Poe’s detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”.He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849. Poe was not coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and was wearing clothes that were not his own. He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death. All medical records have been lost, including Poe’s death certificate?

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Gustave Dore

(January 6 1832 in Strasbourg – January 23, 1883):


Illustrator. By age 5 he was a prodigy artist, creating drawings that were mature beyond his years. At the age of 15, Doré began his career working as a caricaturist for the French paper Le journal pour rire. Wood-engraving was his primary method at this time. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, he made several text comics, like Les Travaux d’Hercule (1847), Trois artistes incompris et mécontents (1851), Les Dés-agréments d’un voyage d’agrément (1851), and L’Histoire de la Sainte Russie (1854). Doré subsequently went on to win commissions to depict scenes from books by Cervantes, Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, and Dante. He also illustrated Gargantua et Pantagruel, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, The Raven, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Paradise Lost, The Baron Munchausen, and many others. He is considered by many the most popular and prolific illustrator of all time.

 

If you have not figured it out, these stories were picked because of Edgar Allan Poe/ Dupin appears in Duped by Dupin, his character Leonore appears in Every Witch Way as a Raven; so it was appropiate we include his tale The Raven. To continue on the the theme of birds we added Philip K. Dick’s Behind the Door featuring the murdering cuckoo. Duped by Dupin starts in the Greenlawn Cemetery and Every Which Way ends in the cemetery. Beyond the Door and Crying Jag both appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine Febrauary 1960. Gustave Dore and Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin share January 23 in common (died and born), both of their surnames start in the letter D, and both are illustrators.

For more info on the real history that Duped by Dupin is based on, read Sub Rosa by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin that brings up the mysterious deaths of Presidents Harrison, Polk, and Taylor of Typhoid and the people who were present at all three of their deaths.Plus learn more of the Parkman-White murder case and how it tied into the presidential murders.

Look for a new issue of our Quarterly in the Winter of 2021.

We also have electric yearly color subscriptions of our magazine at

www.salemhousepress.com

~ Professor Albert N. Wilmarth

Miskatonic University