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 angry killer animals, genies and wishes, assassination, and more.

This season we find Henry battling genies to prevent an economic collapse and a British invasion with the help of the Spear of Destiny. Followed by the old time radio favorite Three Skeleton Key by Toudouze about lighthouse keepers ravaged by rats. Then the horror master behind Psycho and a disciple of H.P. Lovecraft dishes up a tale of suspense in Creeper in the Crypt. How far do you have to go against nature before she turns on you we find out in Deschenes’ The Gathering. Smith brings a tale of how slackers can become leaders in Man’s Best Friend. Then the sci-fi comedic master Sheckley brings us a tale of a man who watches a wishing machine materialize before him in Something for Nothing.

Some stories touch on historical fact 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 rats, the squirrels, a critter, and octogenarian alcoholic. I’m leaving Cthulhu here to dine on you though...

 

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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 whatsoeverwithout the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Summer Issue: 2020


ISSN: 2689-7911
ISBN: 9798681942238

 

 

Table of Contents

Newspapers-and-Cars.pdf

 

Land of .Oz

By Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin
Part of the Sinclair Narratives


September 19, 1900~
"Henry I told you that the Stockings would win the pennant!" said Roosevelt reading the news as Louie drove our 1899 Packard Electric.

"Yeah, but they just lost to Indianapolis yesterday," said Louie.

"Well, they were not trying since they won the pennant already."

"But it is embarrassing to lose to that group of tramps."

I interjected between these two before their debate could escalate, "They say Irving Baxter had won five medals in Athletics at the Olympics at the French World Fair."

Tesla continued, "Reports that have come back from overseas says that this year's Fair had nothing to rival my little fair in 1893! No great inventions of any matter; just an automatic sidewalk and some moving images that talk to the audience. Nothing that will lead anywhere."

"You see they just made another memorial to Casey Jones," I mention as I turn the page of my paper.

"I shared a cigarette with him, a nasty habit I had picked up at the Fair, which I have lost since then; stress and all about installing thousands of light bulbs. Aye, Mr. Jones was the engineer bringing people to the Fair. We had a good talk about, baseball," Tesla finished with a smile and a tilt of his head.

"I see Li Hongzhang is negotiating the peace treaty in the Boxer Revolt," Twain said as he flipped the square of his paper over, "400 to 43 in China's favor. That is 400 million to 43 million gentlemen; how could that many Chinese people be wrong, Henry? England and its Arthurian Tales that flood out from a tiny island are like Japan and the Samurai knight, both should realize the fate of that little French man and be content with their little islands."

"Mark, you sound like you're an anti-imperialist! If I had control of this nation I would put our dominance upon the western hemisphere," Teddy retorted.

"I see plans are shaping up with England and America building that canal through Nicaragua," I said failing miserably to change the subject.

"The Thousand Day War is shaping up in Gran Columbia," Teddy bulwarks his way forward through the conversation he wanted.

"Aye yes, The Columbian Exposition. Taking Casey's train everyday to work with, your compatriot Henry, Moses Framer and laughing at the fact that Thomas was kicked out of his own company by Morgan." Tesla feigned stupidity to derail the conversation brewing between Twain and Teddy. We had sat through many eruptions between these two over the progress of the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion this summer.

"King Umberto I and Governor William Goebel were just shot down this year by anarchists. They should of got that whelp the Prince of Wales too. What does his mom call him? A toad, that's right. Well she calls all of her children toads. My they have nothing on my Calaveras County frog. Imagine what damage that family can cause this world from that fat dying woman's venom," Twain stabs at Teddy.

"Granted they had shot the Governor of Kentucky; an anarchist would never be able to get to one of our presidents like they shot down the King of Italy," Teddy said confidently staring at his paper as he turned the page ignoring Twain.

"Mr. Roosevelt. They just ratified The International Arbitration Court at The Hague to handle affairs before they can escalate into larger matters of consequence. I always say we should let two blowhards wearing crowns speak softly, so as not to bother the rest of us, and beat it out with two large sticks on a deserted island and never tell us their resolutions. Why should the masses die, just because one of them lost their daddy or that their mommy never loved them…"

"Now you have gone too far sir,…"

"Imagine if we could have a league of countries that could sit at a round table and call out the affairs of the world before any of our sons have to die once more…"

"Sir, we have been trying that for years through diplomats and emissaries for—centuries, and it is a fool's errand. We need to have might and not skulk down to our lowest selves to resist that charge up that hill to vanquish any foe…It is for the Supermen to lead the world."

"Didn't Nietzsche just die?" interjected Louie.

"I hear you almost got all your men killed while they were singing The Anacreontic Song in four part harmony to a much smaller force. A herd of elephants charging up the hill almost lost to a legion of ants…" Twain jabbed back at Teddy.

"Sir we won that day and I am still charging up that hill to my destiny! War needs to be an inevitability so wars can continue to their rightful end! My life is calling me onto the presidency and that will never be halted by anyone calling for some namby-pamby League of Nations! Bully!"

"Has anyone read that Oz book? It sounds like a fairy tale for good old Bryan. I don't know if anyone would teach these thoughts later in a school, but it does to me seem that the Yellow Brick Road which Mr. Baum mentions in his tale is a direct jab at Mr. McKinley's gold standard act this year with the heroine wearing silver slippers walking to D.C. which he calls the Emerald City. Henry he even takes a dig at our old enemies the Essex Junto that fills the banks in Boston. He calls the whole bunch of them the Wicked Witch of the East and drops a house on the whole lot of them," Louie says successfully changing the subject at last. "I even think he calls McKinley the Wicked Witch of the West for his gold act."

"McKinley, I would hate to become his running mate," Teddy says trying to ignore the previous conversation that got his ire up. "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

"That is not what I said; you never listen," Twain jabs at Roosevelt again, "You only hear what you want to."

"Bully"

___

We just arrived at my Red Tavern. In this persona I was Edward Francis Searle, an interior decorator who married the widow of Mark Hopkinson who had left me the 23rd largest fortune in American history. Hopkinson had owned the railroad from the west that met the train from the east on the First Transcontinental Railroad. Little did anyone know that I was the richest in American history, prior to the marriage. Attesting to this fact is my Chapel filled with all of the Templar Treasures I had sailed to Salem Massachusetts from Roslyn Scotland in 1398. Plus, there are all of the other magical items I have acquired since through my grand series of tunnels under that city. Nowadays I find myself within Methuen and we are about to enter my latest construct. I had a hotel taken down and a few other houses joined in its place to make this tavern.

I have a bad habit of taking properties and homes and shuffling them like cards in a deck. I have taken a whole road from here to New Hampshire and turned it into a little English hamlet.

I have never dispossessed anyone. I just take what they have, with their permission, and make something wonderful out of it. Although I do strip them all of one thing! I steal their mortgage and exchange it for a deed.

"Henry, I must say the place is quite quaint. It has a feeling of an old New England stage coach tavern," Tesla says with approval, "Let us sit by the stone fireplace."

"Let me suggest we all have a hamburger. Then for desert a round of Hershey chocolate bars. Its the latest cuisines," I offer.

Night was just settling in and the evenings just started producing a chill, as has been happening as of late. The proprietors had just raised the fire in the hearth before our arrival. The fire was just crackling its initial sap. Vulcan's little orchestra was playing behind us, adding ambience to our conversation.

"Have you heard of this Carrie Nation and her axe?" Louie asked.

"She gave her mother 40 whacks?" Teddy asked.

"No, she is this little old teetotaler of a woman who busts up taverns like this one with her axe. May she never find this wonderful place of yours Henry," Louie says as he sips his stout.

I will interject for a moment. Yes my friends call me Henry. These are my companions. Many I recognize from their prior lives. To the outward world I am Edward Francis Searle, but not to my comrades.

"Henry, you hear about Cecil Rhodes' visit to Gloucester this week?" Teddy comments. "He is to visit the Hammonds."

"Nikola, that is the gentleman whom I want to introduce you to. He is a great financier. He is Rhodes' gold man. A great geologist that just has this uncanny sense to smell gold buried deep within the earth," Twain says.

"I bet this new gold standard will make the two of them a great fortune," I mention.

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"A couple of years ago I brought international attention to the lynching of Rhodes' brother and John Hammond Sr.; he has a son you might want to impress Nikola. He is fond of inventors," Twain says with some hesitation. "I could not see a countryman die. If he was a Congressman, things might have been different. Though he was involved in stripping a country of their own determination. They failed taking the Transvaal, which England seems to be on the verge of taking anyway. Rhodes within the growth of his DeBeers diamond mines has taking over Zimbabwe and named it after himself, Rhodesia. His goal is to use that money to create a white Anglo-Saxon empire domineering over the whole world with England being led by their German kings. He even created apartheid to imprison the black race upon their own native soil." Twain's head sinks a little, "No good deed ever goes unpunished. The only way to defeat businessmen like him is for people to stop supporting them through their purchases, but the average person's pockets are too deep and their minds too shallow."

"Imagine this soft faced doughboy Saxon with his pitiful eyes and that tiny little mustache taking over the world; I can never see anyone like that succeeding!" Louie says before his next swill.

"So Mark, you want me to ask for money from a man like him?" Tesla asks confused and hurt.

"Well, he is a better animal than Morgan…" Twain answers.

Tesla had just moved to the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and befriended their manager Boldt. He came back east looking for funding after his successful project in Colorado. He needed investors to create a tower he was planning to build to distribute free electricity to the world. Also he was working in secret with Twain to make a weapon out of it to end all wars. We all know how well those ideas work out; the weapon to end all wars, not the free electricity idea…

Morgan, working for the Rothschilds, would be trying to fulfill his English bankers dreams of quick communication. Ever since that landfall when the Passenger Pigeon brought news of Arthur Wellington's victory over the little man (that Twain mentioned earlier) before anyone else had heard, they have been investing in telegraphs and international cables to bring future growth in the stock market. Wireless communication across the Atlantic, that Tesla could promise them with this tower, would be a large boom for these two banking empires. Morgan's men had been courting Tesla within the restaurants in New York City as of late.

___

A few days later we were heading down the hill to the Hammond's estate on the bay. A huge home with a wizard tower overlooking the ocean with a grand palace attached to it and a boat house underneath. We left our Packard at the front door, but Louie stayed in the driveway. I was not sure if he would be there when we left. He said the place gave him the heeby jeebys.

Twain and Teddy tried entering shoulder to shoulder amongst many elbow jabs; each trying to enter before the other. I followed after Nikola.

As we left the foyer for the hall leading to the parlor on the ocean, this little tyke ran past us chugging away with a toy train in his hand. He almost bowled Teddy over. The butler took us to our seats where Hammond and Rhodes waited for us. Hammond clipped two cigars, lit them, and handed one to Cecil. Twain was drooling. Was this an insult? To light up only two cigars; just as Twain entered the room without one for this cigar aficionado.

"Cuban," declared Hammond.

"Reminds me of my days during the war," Teddy reminisced, "Finest cigars I ever had."

Twain miraculously remained quiet. I think he was fixated on the cigars. He could only handle one irritant at a time.

 

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We took our seats without being invited. Nikola was hiding the slight more than the rest of us. Twain had informed him that they might be possible investors and he did not want to lose them before he could make his pitch.

"John, may I introduce the inventor Nikola Tesla. His advances in transmitting electricity without the aid of wires is proving to be the 11th wonder of the world. At this moment, back in New York his staff is breaking ground for his tower that will not only transmit electricity, but it will send images, control aeroplanes, control boats, and send radio waves!" Mark sold Tesla with his southern charm.

"Hello gentlemen," Tesla said with a slight bow.

With that Alexander Graham Bell entered the room with little John on his shoulders. "Aye, Mr. Tesla. What a pleasure to meet you."

"Mr. Bell."

"Alex, please. I hear you are working on a way to send the human voice wirelessly across the ocean. Imagine what it could do for Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone."

"Indeed sir, I am looking for financing now to build my tower at Wardenclyffe. Not only will it transmit, but receive voice messages from portable devices. It will send text messages to printers around the world. Facsimiles of books and photographs."

"My lab might be interested in an investment. What do you two think?" Alex asked, interrupting Hammond and Rhodes in their little private conversation. Teddy, Twain, and I would have sat back and ate peanuts and popcorn if we could. We were mere spectators; never had Rhodes or Hammond even acknowledged us.

At this point little John sat on his father's lap. "This is my son John Junior. He is an inventor! Thomas Alva Edison himself, has taken him under his wing. Right now he is fashioning his own, wing, at Menlo Park to administer to his tutelage as we speak. Edison, the great American inventor!"

We all had waited for Hammond to speak, but it was not worth it. Tesla and Edison's falling out was legendary. Hammond had struck his mark as he blew smoke in Twain's face. Rhodes just sat there and laughed a little measly laugh.

"I do say gentlemen, and I use the term lightly, for you have proven yourselves not to be gentle or even men of much stature. I still use that moniker out of mere politeness. Today you have proven that there is a form of life, that's even lower than that of a senior congressman. I bring you this truly kind soul who has the benefit of the human race within his hands that could have built you statures that would rival, even that of Lincoln and Washington, and you scorn him," with that Twain rips the cigar away from Rhodes and blows the smoke back at him. "You Cecil. I saved your brother's life. You owe me! Why I saved him, heaven only knows. It was not for you to imprison my darker brothers or to help you spread nationalism and imperialism for that fat toad!" Then Twain turned on Hammond, "You, John, you would have had to order extra long collars if it was not for me!'

"Mr. Rhodes. I hear you started digging in Sheba's Breast," I asked.

"Not much escapes you Mr. Sinclair," Rhodes answers, "My sources tell me you visited the mountain while your wife was alive. An elder woman on safari deep in Africa does not go unnoticed. May I ask for what you were looking. Many strange rumors abound about the finds you and your wife collected on your travels through Europe. Strange artifacts."

"I would be careful digging through her caves," I said warning him, "Many strange guardians abound within."

When I looked behind me I had seen Tesla playing with young John. He was instructing him on how to operate what he called a radio controlled boat. Little John ran out the French doors toward the ocean with his new toy. I think Tesla did indeed make a friend out of John Hammond. Maybe not the one he intended though.

I grabbed Nikola's shoulder as he was standing up to catch his ear, "I think you would be better helped if you asked for financing from Butch Cassidy. He just took the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada, for $32,640 with $31,000 of it in $20 gold pieces…".

____

Louie, Bjorn, and myself went to Congress Street in Beverly below Goat's Hill to walk down to the convergence of Bass River and Danvers River to do some fishing. Our way was lit by my kerosene lamp. Bjorn was a member of the Hibernian Fireman Insurance Company in Salem. Over the years these Hibernians have been filled with the reincarnated crew of my first voyage to Salem in 1398. They were my third generation Viking crew from Orkney. Bjorn in this life is named Christian, but I still call him by the name I first knew him by 600 years ago. Boy do I anger him...tonight we were after strippers.

We all spiked in our bamboo poles into the sand and proceeded to cast out our lines. After a few reels we dropped our fishing poles inside the hollow bamboo and sat down and started our nightly conversation.

"The W.E. Hoyt Company has almost finished rebuilding Holyoke's bank building," Bjorn mentioned, in between bites of a ham sandwich. He pulled out 2 more from his aluminum cooler. Louie's and my own eye's lit up. We knew Bjorn got these sandwiches from Lily's Cafe. Lily always used fresh multi grain wheat bread filled with sunflower, millet, and other seeds to hold her capicola, spinach, provolone sandwiches.

"I wonder how the tunnels are coming under the building," I went on. "It was always a hub for various tunnel systems in town since Holyoke, but now they are stitching together 6 separate foundations from the buildings that burned down on Derby Square. I wonder if they will discover the sealed entrance in front of the crapper in the men's room that leads to my Chapel? I have a few booby traps, but…"

"Tesla was mentioning Elihu Thomson has been seen moving electrical apparatus into its basement," Louie interjected between chews of his sandwich.

"I have heard that too. General Electric has just opened up their industrial lab in Schenectady, New York and many were wondering where they would be building the one on the east coast," I answered.

"No sign of any building in Lynn by their plant?" Bjorn asked before he took a swill of his porter and handed me and Louie one.

Louie's line jiggled and he jumped up, but found no fish pulling on his bait.

"Nope, JP Morgan has been seen descending into the abyss of the building too," Louie said as he stabbed his pole back into the bamboo dejected.

"Morgan, I wonder what he is doing in there?" I wondered. I had some new questions for Tesla. He was thinking of propositioning Morgan for his own project.

That is when all three lines whizzed out and our poles bent almost in half. Louie's popped out of the bamboo and sailed out into the Bass River. Louie dove for it, but he only got a few splinters and a rope burn for his effort. The water by the shore lowered and about 20 feet out the tide rose to 60 feet and began taking on an anthropomorphic form. A large deep bellowing laugh came up from the river's bottom and softly reverberated against our chests. Through the darkness I had seen a large African man wielding a curved shotel sword.

Bjorn ran forward to address the threat, Louie ran, and I stood where I was. I looked around for my Pooka friend, but he was nowhere to be seen. The shotel swung and Bjorn and myself ducked as Louie had to jump over the blade. Louie fell on his face.

A hurricane began to wail pushing us up the hill. Against our will we began catching a score of strippers as we began to be pelted by these 3 foot long fish. Bjorn and I dug our heels back into the hill and prepared to stand our ground. Louie, he scampered about collecting the fish for diner later at the Tavern.

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The Genie rushed in head first to smash us into the hill. Bjorn ducked to the left and I went flat and felt like a human tissue as the genie's nose swept over me. The gale began to pick up speed as my lantern smashed into my chest.

I immediately took an amulet bearing one of Solomon's sigils from my pocket and burned its image into the bottom of the lamp and pointed it at the withdrawing head. From the middle of his cranium you could see sinew stretching in both directions fighting with itself. As he was withdrawing for another strike he was being pulled forward into the lamp. His body bounced together and apart in quick successions before it gave in and agreed to move forward into the lantern. I quickly spun the kerosene cap on. This was one of Solomon's 72 sigils used to entrap the jinn.

"Louie. You got that fish?" I asked.

"Yes, more than enough for the Saturday Night Fish Fry for the Hibernian charity drive," Louie Jordan answered.

___

The three of us met Teddy, Twain, and Tesla at the Red Tavern. Louie went to the kitchen to cook a couple of the stripers for us. Bjorn brought rounds of porter, scotch ale, and stout to our table in front of the stone fireplace.

"Jinn, you say Henry!," Teddy asked.

"Yes, the biggest African you have ever seen. Strange though, he was shaped like an African, but he was tinged blue," said Bjorn.

"I am afraid it will not be the only one," I said as I lit the lantern and placed it in the center of the table. As the fumes wafted up to be burned, the jinn's soul disintegrated.

"Do you have any more of those silly gils in your pocket?" Louie asks me.

"Sigils? Yes, but I got lucky that this jinn was close enough to be sucked in. It will be harder to get the others in after they find out how this one met his end."

"Was there an old legend about the jinn showing Solomon where to dig his mine?" Tesla asks as he sips his porter.

Before I could answer Keno Crowninshield walks in and has a seat. Bjorn hands him a porter. Keno was one of Teddy's Glee-Club Roughriders. He had been gone for a few days apologizing to his new bride. He got married and ran away like a Roman soldier after the wedding to charge up San Juan Hill with Roosevelt. Louisa was a force of nature. The daughter and heir to the Dupont fortune. Her temper was legendary and it resembled the gunpowder that made her family's fortune. The Dupont's were hired by Washington to come out of France to create ordinances during the war. "I was just telling the hostess about that day outside Las Guasimas when you took command thinking Wood was dead. Prancing about like the chief peacock; until Wood came back from the dead and tapped you on the shoulder. You should have seen your face. He jumped a foot out of his boots. He was in such a despair. Mortified. Then Wood got promoted within the half hour and Teddy was indeed in charge," Keno pauses, "A once in a lifetime promotion! It could never happen to you again."

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"Those were glorious days! To be in the thick of battle with the bullets whizzing by..."

"Sit down you imperialist stooge. You might not be a Bull Moose charging with chest out, but you definitely are full of bull sir…" Twain scorns him as he puffs on his cigar.

"You two quit it! Yes Nikola," I return to his question. "After a long battle with the jinn, Solomon created the 72 seals. Unfortunately, he fell for their promises of great powers. He thought he was stronger than them, but they preyed on his avarice. They promised him great fortunes and wisdom. Out of this he was granted his mines which the jinn had kept generations of their treasures in. His avarice weakened him and he fell to one of their pleas for his ring for further wisdom. The original Doctor Faustus. Once he handed over the ring, a jinn replaced him on his throne and became his double. Solomon then wandered the Earth as a pauper.

After many years, Solomon returned with a mysterious staff and was able to banish the jinn. This was the staff Solomon held that slipped from the floor and toppled the King, many years later. No one knew for sure how long Solomon was dead before the staff gave way."

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"Solomon's gold mines? Louisa mentioned that. Her family has a mine of guano; you believe it gentlemen? A cave of bat shit, worth a fortune in South Africa on Sheba's Breast. She took a sojourn to preserve an old neighboring tribe of the Zulu's temple. Always preserving something that one; the locals told of tales of Solomon visiting the mountain," Keno was explaining as he turned a seat backwards and leaned in on it to take a sip of his porter. "She is about ready to bribe Peabody's old museum to change the name of that old Joseph White's mansion to protect me from infamy."

Keno's distant relative was mysteriously found hanging in his cell from a low window with his knees almost touching the ground. He was implicated in the murder of Captain Joseph White, a murder I solved back in 1830. His other relative George Crowninshield, escaped the noose that found the two Knapp brothers as well (sort of), but he was the last to be released from jail.

Two women came forward and testified that they were sharing his bed, out of town, that night.

"I have been exchanging correspondences on the Page Machine from Morgan. He has been trying to coordinate a time for a meeting, but he mentioned he has to meet the Hammonds today," Tesla informs us.

"Rothschild has been corresponding with McKinley lately advising him on the benefits of putting the nation on the gold standard," Teddy was cueing us in on the behind the scenes machinations of our capitol. "Morgan's has been tied to the Rothschilds since in vitro. His father took over George Peabody's company that made its fortune from its ties to Nathaniel Rothschild and his son Lionel.

The Rothschilds have been interfering with religious treasures, including mine, since the The Masonic Congress of Wilhelmsbad and the rise of the Illuminati which allowed Jews into the Masons for the first time. Many fine Jews have been Masons since, but the some rotten apples appear in all cultures. Recently Cecil Rhodes has hidden the Illuminati behind his Society of the Elect. Nathan Rothschild, Waldorf Astor, and his wife Nancy are leading members.

"Nikola, I know you got Boldt's ear, but do you know Waldorf?" I ask.

"Yes my friend. Many dinners I have had with him in his dinning room."

"Has he mentioned this gold standard as of late?"

"Yes, there was this one evening Boldt and himself got heated over some plans and he ordered Boldt to work faster. This was after one of Bryan's Golden Crucifix speeches."

"Henry, have you read The Wizard of Oz yet? It is going to be the all time best seller this year! I'm telling you its all about Bryan challenging the gold standard…" Louie asks excitedly.

"Louie! No I have not, now can we get back to the subject," I lost my temper on him a little. "So Nikola, any idea what their plans were?" As of late, Twain's and Roosevelt's arguing has been rubbing off on everyone.

"No. Sorry. They were mentioning one of the Thousand Islands on the Saint Lawrence though."

"My cousin James has an island on the Saint Lawrence, I can telegraph him," Teddy offers.

"Bull Moose. That is what I am!" Teddy says under his breath.

"You never listen to me. I don't even know…" Twain says despondent.

___

Tesla, Twain, Teddy, Louie, and myself headed off to visit the Miskatonic University to talk to Professor Wilmarth. Wilmarth is not a natural immortal, he was somewhere in between a ghost and one. He is chained within a fixed distance from some hidden books within his library. When I first met him he was free to travel the world and was quite spry. He was from the long line of fencers descended from the Musketeer d'Artagnan. Then once while we were fighting Cthulhu from arising into our dimension, he had to shape shift through dimensions and exit through a tome of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to defeat him. Ever since then, he has been bound by this book and a few others in which I will keep secret from my readers to protect him.

Today I needed to learn more about the staff that Solomon had held upon his death.

"Henry, you above all others should know what the holy rod was," the professor said with a sly smile.

"Why?"

"The spear that pierced you and the cross beam that bound your forearms were made from the same rod," the professor said with a sly wink. "The holy rod was actually a pillar. The spear and the cross beam were made from this pillar. Two woods that were actually one. Much like Adam's mistake believing that there were two trees in the garden. They were reflections of one and another. Adam went to his grave, which was under the cross, believing he only ate from one tree and not the other. Life is all about perception. Perception is reality."

"The cross was raised above Adam's grave?" Tesla asked.

"Yes, Golgotha is Aramaic for skull. Calva is Latin for skull; as in Calvary. It was the burial place of Adam's skull. Emmanuel Bar Joseph was the second Adam, but the story continues after the crucifixion.

We are born from woman, then reborn by men into society by several different rituals around the world, but few receive the third birth. Jesus raised Lazarus from his ritual death to be born into the society of men. Odin hung from a tree for nine nights, Buddha sat under his Bodhi Tree, and Christ was nailed at 9am and died at 3pm. Multiples of three. Christ had three women at his crucifixion and three women raised him from the tomb. Tomb to the womb. Nine is a multiple of three.

Of the myth of Joseph of Arimathea, Arimathea was the city Ramathaim-Zophim, now called Ramallah, when translated into Greek. The Crusaders believed it was Nabi Samwil and erected a citadel there. Ramallah is a town north of Jerusalem within Palestine. There Solomon's ring was kept after the fall of Solomon's Temple. Joseph had brought the ring to protect the healing body of Christ on this escape, along with the Philosopher's Stone.

Following Christ was Longinus who had helped Joseph move Jesus to his tomb and attested to his resurrection, in health. He stayed on for a while telling about the miracles he had seen at his crucifixion. It was Longinus who brought the second part of the Solomon's Holy Rod to Golgotha.

Word got back to Pontius Pilate and he declared that he was to forfeit his head along with the other two soldiers at the cross. When they came for him at his father's estate, he stalled them till one of his own soldiers came to him in the morning for orders. He tricked Pilate's men that this soldier was him and they took his head instead. Now that his rank of Centurion was taken from him, he sought revenge on Christ with the weapon he knew that could draw the very blood from him. Joseph had taken Christ with the pregnant Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother, Lazarus, St. Philip, and Anna (Joseph's daughter) to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. With the help of Romani Joseph, Anna, and Phillip were able to bring Jesus to England while being chased by Longinus and a group of Jews who disposed of Caiaphas.

After a battle in England where Llyr, his father Beli the Great, and Bran the Blessed helped defeat Longinus, they stole the Spear of Destiny and stuck it on a hill saying 'Weary us All on Glastonbury Tor'. Later Mordred cut down the thorn tree it had turned into, removing the branches and found the spear. He used it to kill his father Arthur.

From there it has flown about Europe…"

"Henry, I told you to read The Wizard of Oz! The Golden Crucifix…" Louie stammered on.

"Louie, quit it!" I was annoyed. "So Professor, it is the spear along with the ring that will imprison the jinn?"

"Yes sir!" said the professor. "You might have knowledge of the jinn sigil used to entrap regular jinn in vessels, but it is only Solomon's Ring that can control the Jinn Kings and only the Spear of Destiny that can destroy them."

"Where are they now?" asks Teddy with some excitement. I think he was enjoying the tale.

Spear.pdf

"Teddy, the spear is safe within my Chapel," I answered.

"It is rumored that during John Hammond's recovery from torture at the hands of those in Africa, he had sent his son with his trusted aides searching all manner of castles within England," the professor explains.

"What were they looking for?" asks Tesla.

"Solomon's Ring that Joseph of Arimathea slid on the Holy Rod," continues the professor. "It is said it was lost when Arthur pulled the spear from his gut."

"Did they find it?" asks Tesla.

"I'm afraid they did," answers the professor.

"Gentlemen, I am afraid that could be partially my fault," interjects Twain, "You see I gave the father an original manuscript of my Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court with a chapter on the Holy Rod and the ring which my editors had taken out of the finished book."

"I'm not sure if all of the blame can fall on you," the professor consoles Twain, "See Hammond bought a dwarven imp from the Sotho tribe. Hammond had used the imp to find gold and diamonds throughout Africa for Rhodes, but it could not find Solomon's mines. Even though it could not find the mines, Hammond did use it in England to find the ring. With the ring they can force the jinn to reveal the hiding place. It was indeed theirs in the first place."

"Morgan and Rothschilds had placed some very heavy pressure on McKinley to force America onto the gold standard amongst Bryan's pleas for a Silver standard. With Solomon's Mines of gold, Rhodes could flood the gold market which would crash the American economy with the Bank of England swooping into the depreciation market," Teddy says as light has just dawned on Marblehead.

"Just like Peabody had planned in 1837 with the Rothschilds. After their intervention Perkins helped the Panic along by flooding the opium market with gold from Mexico with the help of Baring Brothers Bank," I added.

"The crux of the issue is, the genies can only be summoned together on the equinox at a midway point in between the equator and the North Pole," said the professor. "See the mine lays on an inter dimensional point that can only be opened when all of the Jinn are gathered."

"During the French and Indian War, before I took on the persona of General William Howe, Arthur Sinclair and me had a run in with the Illuminati on Deer Island on the Saint Lawrence," I explained. "It was one of those points."

"Is that why Waldorf and Boldt are building that castle?" asks Tesla. "Henry, was there a story of Aaron Burr working with an Irish Prince on the Ohio River?"

"Yes during his conspiracy, in which Jefferson had let him off on treason charges, he worked with the prince and utilized his castle as base of operations to take over the western territories of North America. It was a plan backed by the Essex Junto," I explained.

"I believe Boldt has been going to this French Spiritualist which has been telling him that he is this Irish prince reincarnated," says Tesla.

"So it looks like another attempt for England to conquer America?" asks Teddy.

"I'm afraid so. Rhodes' goal is to have all Anglo-Saxon countries back under England's heel ruled by its German overlords. To lord the German white race over the rest of the lesser races…" I continued.

"There is no better time to manipulate Queen Victoria," Teddy begins to explain, "The Prince of Wales was recently shot, her other son Alfred has died of throat cancer, and her eldest daughter –Vicky, the Dowager Empress of Germany – had been diagnosed with incurable breast cancer that has spread to her spine. Prince Christian Victor, eldest son of her daughter Princess Helena, has just succumbed to enteric fever while serving with the British Army in South Africa. Then on Christmas day, Jane, Lady Churchill, the queen's oldest and most trusted friend, was found dead in her bed while staying with the Queen at Osborne House. Victoria might not be in her right frame of mind and might be able to be persuaded by Rhodes to outfit and army on Deer Island. Which would explain why they withdrew their minister back to London. I had thought it was over our imperialist plans over Cuba."

"Imagine that little doughboy with his hair flop and little mustache controlling the world…" Louie said as he sipped from his stout. "Now let me get this straight. Can you run all that by me again?"

"From where should I start Louie?" I asked.

"Can you go back to the part about how the spear pierced you and move forward..."

"Henry," the professor pulls me over, "Remember the key is in the Dark Continent."

___

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So we learned a little of King Solomon and the jinn. Now myself, I much approve of a gin and tonic from time to time over any genie. Especially after that time I found a lamp on the beach and only got a ten inch pianist... I admit I sometimes slur my words after a couple of drinks, but that little guy was quite hornery!

Piano-Car.pdf

 

 

Three Skeleton key

by GEORGE G. TOUDOUZE

 

Rats2.pdf

 

My most terrifying experience? Well, one does have a few in thirty-five years of service in the Lights, although it’s mostly monotonous routine work – keeping the light in order, making out the reports. When I was a young man, not very long in the service, there was an opening in a lighthouse newly built off the coast of Guinea, on a small rock twenty miles or so from the main land. The pay was high, so in order to reach the sum I had set out to save before I was married, I volunteered for service in the new light.

Three Skeleton Key, the small rock on which the light stood, bore a bad reputation. It earned its name from the story of the three convicts who, escaping from Cayenne in a stolen dugout canoe, were wrecked on the rock during the night, managed to escape the sea but eventually died of hunger and thirst. When they were discovered, nothing remained but three heaps of bones, picked clean by birds. The story was that the three skeletons, gleaming with phosphorescent light, danced over the small rock, screaming…

But there are many such stories and I did not give the warnings of the old-timers at the Isle de Sein a second thought. I signed up, boarded ship and in a month I was installed at the light. Picture a gray, tapering cylinder welded to the solid black rock by iron rods and concrete rising from a small island twenty-odd miles from land. It lay in the midst of the sea, this island, a small, bare piece of stone, about one hundred fifty feet long, perhaps forty wide. Small, barely large enough for a man to walk about and stretch his legs at low tide.

This is an advantage one doesn’t find in all lights, however, for some of them rise sheer from the waves, with no room for one to move save within the light itself. Still, on our island, one must be careful, for the rocks were treacherously smooth. One misstep and down you would fall into the sea–not that the risk of drowning was so great, but the waters around our island swarmed with huge sharks that kept an eternal patrol around the base of the light.

Still, it was a nice life there. We had enough provisions to last for months, in the event that the sea should become too rough for the supply ship to reach us on schedule. During the day we would work about the light, cleaning the rooms, polishing the metalwork and the lens and the reflector of the light itself, and at night we would sit on the gallery and watch our light, a twenty-thousand-candle power lantern, swing its strong, white bar of light over the sea from the top of its hundred-twenty-foot tower. Some days, when the air would be very clear, we could see the land, a threadlike line to the west. To the east, north, and south stretched the ocean.

Landsmen, perhaps, would soon have tired of that kind of life, perched on a small island off the coast of South America for eighteen weeks, until one’s turn for shore leave came around. But, we liked it there, my two fellow-tenders and myself–—so much so that, for twenty-two months on end with the exception of shore leaves, I was greatly satisfied with the life on Three Skeleton Key.

I had just returned from my leave at the end of June, that is to say mid-winter in that latitude, and had settled down to the routine with my two fellow-keepers, a Breton by the name of Le Gleo and the head keeper Itchoua, a Basque some dozen years or so older than either of us.

Eight days went by as usual; then on the ninth night after my return, Itchoua, who was on night duty, called Le Gleo and me, sleeping in our rooms in the middle of the tower, at two in the morning. We rose immediately and, climbing the thirty or so steps that led to the gallery, stood beside our chief.

Now, ships were a rare sight in our waters, for our light was a warning of treacherous reefs, barely hidden under the surface and running far out to sea. Consequently, we were always given wide berths, especially by sailing vessels, which cannot maneuver readily as steamers. No wonder that we were surprised at seeing this three-master heading dead for us in the gloom of early morning. I had immediately recognized her lines, for she stood out plainly, even at the distance of a mile, when our light shone on her. She was a beautiful ship of some four thousand tons, a fast sailer that had carried cargoes to every part of the world, plowing the seas unceasingly. By her line she was identified as Dutch-built, which was understandable, as Paramaribo and Dutch Guinea are very close to Cayenne.

Watching her sailing dead for us, a white wave boiling her bows, Le Gleo cried out, “What’s wrong with her crew? Are they all drunk or insane? Can’t they see us?”

Itchoua nodded soberly, looked at us sharply as he remarked, “See us? No doubt-if there is a crew aboard!”

“What do you mean, Chief?” Le Gleo had started, turned to the Basque. “Are you saying that she’s the Flying Dutchman?”

His sudden fright had been so evident that the older man laughed,

“No, old man, that’s not what I meant. If I say there’s no one aboard, I mean she’s derelict.”

Then we understood her queer behavior. Itchoua was right. For some reason, believing she was doomed, her crew had abandoned her. Then she had righted herself and sailed on, wandering with the wind. The three of us grew tense as the ship seemed about to crash on one of our numerous reefs, but she suddenly lurched with some change of the wind, the yards swung around and the derelict came clumsily about and sailed dead away from us. In the light of our lantern she seemed so sound, so strong, that Itchoua exclaimed impatiently: “But why the devil was she abandoned? Nothing is smashed, no sign of fire – and she doesn’t sail as if she were taking water.”

Le Gleo waved to the departing ship. “Bon voyage!” he smiled at Itchoua and went on. “She’s leaving us, chief, and now we’ll never know what —"

“No, she’s not!” cried the Basque. “Look! She’s turning!”

As if obeying his words, the derelict three-master stopped, came about and headed for us once more. And for the next four hours the vessel played around us–zigzagging, coming about, stopping, then suddenly lurching forward. No doubt some freak of current and wind, of which our island was the center, kept her near us. Then suddenly, the tropic dawn broke, the sun rose and it was day and the ship was plainly visible as she sailed past us. Our light extinguished, we returned to the gallery with our glasses and inspected her. The three of us focused our glasses on her poop, saw standing out sharply, black letters on the white background of a life-ring, the stenciled name: Cornelius de Witt, Rotterdam. We had read her lines correctly, she was Dutch. Just then the wind rose and the Cornelius de Witt changed course, leaned to port and headed straight for us once more. But this time she was so close that we knew she would not turn in time.

“Thunder!” cried Le Gleo, his Breton soul aching to see a fine ship doomed to smash upon a reef. “She’s going to pile up! She’s gone!”

I shook my head, “Yes, and a shame to see that beautiful ship wreck herself. And we’re helpless.” There was nothing we could do but watch. A ship sailing with all sail spread, creaming the sea with her forefoot as she runs before the wind, is one of the most beautiful sights in the world – but this time I could feel the tears stinging in my eyes as I saw this fine ship headed for her doom.

All this time our glasses were riveted on her and we suddenly cried out together: “The rats!” Now we knew why this ship, in perfect condition, was sailing without her crew aboard. They had been driven out by the rats. Not those poor specimens of rats you see ashore, barely reaching the length of one foot from their trembling noses to the tip of their skinny tails, wretched creatures that dodge and hide at the mere sound of a footfall. No, these were ships’ rats, huge, wise creatures, born on the sea, sailing all over the world on ships, transferring to other, larger ships as they multiply. There is as much difference between the rats of the land and these maritime rats as between a fishing smack and an armored cruiser. The rats of the sea were fierce, bold animals. Large, strong and intelligent, clannish and sea-wise, able to put the best of mariners to shame with their knowledge of the sea, their uncanny ability to foretell the weather. And they are brave, the rats, and vengeful. If you so much as harm one, his sharp cry will bring hordes of his fellows to swarm over you, tear you, and not cease until your flesh has been stripped from your bones. The ones on this ship, the rats of Holland, are the worst, superior to other rats of the sea as their brethren are to the land rats. There is a well-known tale about these animals.

 

Rats.pdf

A Dutch captain, thinking to protect his cargo, brought aboard his ship – not cats – but two terriers , dogs trained in the hunting, fighting and killing of vicious rats. By the time the ship, sailing from Rotterdam, had passed the Ostend light, the dogs were gone and never seen again. In twenty-four hours they had been overwhelmed, killed and eaten by the rats. At times, when the cargo does not suffice, the rats attack the crew, either driving them from the ship, or eating them alive. And studying the Cornelius de Witt, I turned sick, for her small boats were all in place. She had not been abandoned. Over her bridge, on her deck, in the rigging, on every visible spot, the ship was a writhing mass – a starving army coming toward us on a vessel gone mad!

Our island was a small spot in that immense stretch of sea. The ship could have grazed us, passed to port or starboard with its ravening cargo – but no, she came for us at full speed, as if she were leading the regatta at a race, and impaled herself on a sharp point of rock. There was a dull shock as her bottom stove in, then a horrible crackling as the three masts went overboard at once, as if cut down with one blow of some gigantic sickle. A sighing groan came as the water rushed into the ship; then she split in two and sank like a stone. But the rats did not drown.

Not these fellows! As much at home in the sea as any fish, they formed ranks in the water, heads lifted, tails stretched out, paws paddling. And half of them, those from the forepart of the ship, sprang along the masts and onto the rocks in the instant before she sank. Before we had time even to move, nothing remained of the three-master save some pieces of wreckage floating on the surface and an army of rats covering the rocks left bare by the receding tide. Thousands of heads rose, felt the wind and we were scented, seen! To them, we were fresh meat, after possible weeks of starving. There came a scream, composed of innumerable screams, sharper than the howl of a saw attacking a bar of iron, and in the one motion, every rat leaped to attack the tower! We barely had time to leap back, close the door leading to the gallery, descend the stairs and shut every window tightly. Luckily the door at the base of the light, which we never could have reached in time, was of bronze set in granite and was tightly closed. The horrible band, in no measurable time, had swarmed up and over the tower as if it had been a tree, piled on the embrasures of the windows, scraped at the glass with thousands of claws, covered the lighthouse with a furry mantle, and reached the top of the tower, filling the gallery and piling atop the lantern.

Their teeth grated as they pressed against the glass of the lantern room, where they could plainly see us, though they could not reach us. A few millimeters of glass, luckily very strong, separated our faces from their gleaming, beady eyes, their sharp claws and teeth. Their odor filled the tower, poisoned our lungs, and rasped our nostrils with a pestilential, nauseating smell. And there we were, sealed alive in our own light, prisoners of a horde of starving rats.

That first night, the tension was so great that we could not sleep. Every moment, we felt that some opening had been made, some window given away, and that our horrible besiegers were pouring through the breach. The rising tide, chasing those of the rats which had stayed on the bare rocks, increased the numbers clinging to the walls, piled on the balcony – so much so that clusters of rats clinging to one another hung from the lantern and the gallery.

With the coming of darkness we lit the light and the turning beam completely maddened the beasts. As the light turned, it successively blinded thousands of rats crowded against the glass, while the dark side of the lantern room gleamed with thousands of points of light, burning like the eyes of jungle beasts in the night. All the while we could hear the enraged scraping of claws against the stone and glass, while the chorus of cries was so loud that we had to shout to hear one another. From time to time, some of the rats fought among themselves and a cluster would detach itself, falling into the sea like a ripe fruit from a tree. Then we would see phosphorescent streaks as triangular fins slashed the water – sharks, permanent guardians of our rock, feasting on our jailers.

The next day we were calmer, and amused ourselves teasing the rats, placing our faces against the glass which separated us. They could not fathom the invisible barrier which separated them from us, and we laughed as we watched them leaping against the heavy glass. But the day after that, we realized how serious our position was. The air was foul; even the heavy smell of oil within our stronghold could not dominate the fetid odor of the beasts massed around us. And there was no way of admitting fresh air without also admitting the rats. In the morning of the fourth day, at early dawn, I saw the wooden framework of my window, eaten away from the outside, sagging inward. I called my comrades and the three of us fastened a sheet of tin in the opening, sealing it tightly. When we had completed the task, Itchoua turned to us and said dully, “Well – the supply boat came thirteen days ago, and she won’t be back for twenty-nine.” He pointed at the white metal plate sealing the opening through the granite. “If that gives way,” he shrugged, “they can change the name of this place to Six Skeleton Key.” The next six days and seven nights, our only distraction was watching the rats, whose holds on the brick were insecure, fall a hundred and twenty feet into the maws of the sharks – but they were so many that we could not see any diminution in their numbers.

Thinking to calm ourselves and pass the time, we attempted to count them, but we soon gave up. They moved incessantly, never still. Then we tried identifying them, naming them. One of them, larger than the others, who seemed to lead them in their rushes against the glass separating us, we named “Nero”; and there were several others whom we had learned to distinguish through various peculiarities. But the thought of our bones joining those of the convicts was always in the back of our minds. And the gloom of our prison fed these thoughts, for the interior of the light was almost completely dark, as we had to seal every window in the same fashion as mine, and the only space that still admitted daylight was the glassed-in lantern room at the very top of the tower.

Then Le Gleo became morose and had nightmares in which he would see the three skeletons dancing around him, gleaming coldly, seeking to grasp him. His maniacal, raving descriptions were so vivid that Itchoua and I began seeing them also. It was a living nightmare, the raging cries of the rats as they swarmed over the light, mad with hunger; the sickening, strangling odor of their bodies - True, there is a way of signaling from lighthouses. But to reach the mast on which to hang the signal we would have to go out on the gallery where the rats were. There was only one thing left to do. After debating all of the ninth day, we decided not to light the lantern that night. This is the greatest breach of our service, never committed as long as the tenders of the light are alive; for the light is something sacred, warning ships of danger in the night. Either the light gleams, a quarter hour after the sun goes down, or no one is left alive to light it.

Well, that night, Three Skeleton Light was dark, and all the men were alive. At the risk of causing ships to crash on our reefs, we left it unlit, for we were worn out – going mad! At two in the morning, while Itchoua was dozing in his room, the sheet metal sealing his window gave way. The chief had just time enough to leap to his feet and cry for help, the rats swarming over him. But Le Gleo and I, who had been watching from the lantern room, got to him immediately, and the three of us battled with the horde of maddened rats which flowed through the gaping window. They bit, we struck them down with our knives – and retreated. We locked the door of the room on them, but before we had time to bind our wounds, the door was eaten through, and gave way and we retreated up the stairs, fighting off the rats that leaped on us from the knee-deep swarm.

I do not remember, to this day, how we managed to escape. All I can remember is wading through them up the stairs, striking them off as they swarmed over us; and then we found ourselves, bleeding from innumerable bites, our clothes shredded, sprawled across the trapdoor in the floor of the lantern room–without food or drink. Luckily, the trapdoor was metal set into the granite with iron bolts. The rats occupied the entire light beneath us, and on the floor of our retreat lay some twenty of their fellows, who had gotten in with us before the trapdoor closed, and whom we had killed with our knives. Below us, in the tower, we could hear the screams of the rats as they devoured everything edible that they found. Those on the outside squealed in reply, and writhed in a horrible curtain as they stared at us through the glass of the lantern room. Itchoua sat up, stared silently at his blood trickling from the wounds on his limbs and body, and running in thin streams on the floor around him. Le Gleo, who was in as bad a state (and so was I, for that matter), stared at the chief and me vacantly, started as his gaze swung to the multitude of rats against the glass, then, suddenly began laughing horribly, “Hee! Hee! The Three Skeletons! Hee! Hee! The Three Skeletons are now six skeletons! Six skeletons!”

He threw his head back and howled, his eyes glazed, a trickle of saliva running from the corners of his mouth and thinning the blood flowing over his chest. I shouted to him to shut up, but he did not hear me, so I did the only thing I could do to quiet him – I swung the back of my hand across his face. The howling stopped suddenly, his eyes swung around the room, then he bowed his head and began weeping softly, like a child.

Our darkened light had been noticed from the mainland, and as dawn was breaking the patrol was there, to investigate the failure of our light. Looking through my binoculars, I could see the horrified expression on the faces of the officers and crew when, the daylight strengthening, they saw the light completely covered by a seething mass of rats. They thought, as I afterward found out, that we had been eaten alive. But the rats had also seen the ship, or had scented the crew. As the ship drew nearer, a solid phalanx left the light, plunged into the water and, swimming out, attempted to board her.

They would have succeeded, as the ship was hove to, but the engineer connected his steam to a hose on the deck and scalded the head of the attacking column, which slowed them up long enough for the ship to get underway and leave the rats behind. Then the sharks took part. Belly up, mouths gaping, they arrived in swarms and scooped up the rats, sweeping through them like a sickle through wheat. That was one day that sharks really served a useful purpose. The remaining rats turned tail, swam to the shore and emerged dripping. As they neared the light, their comrades greeted them with shrill cries, with what sounded like a derisive note predominating. They answered angrily and mingled with their fellows. From the several tussles that broke out, it seemed as if they resented being ridiculed for their failure to capture the ship.

But all this did nothing to get us out of our jail. The small ship could not approach, but steamed around the light at a safe distance, and the tower must have seemed fantastic, some weird, many-mouthed beast hurling defiance at them. Finally, seeing the rats running in and out of the tower through the door and the windows, those on the ship decided that we had perished and were about to leave when Itchoua, regaining his senses, thought of using the light as a signal.

He lit it and, using a plank placed and withdrawn before the beam to form the dots and dashes, quickly sent out our story to those on the vessel. Our reply came quickly. When they understood our position, how we could not get rid of the rats, Le Gleo’s mind going fast, Itchoua and myself covered with bites, cornered in the lantern room without food or water, they had a signalman send us their reply. His arms swinging like those of a windmill, he quickly spelled out, “Don’t give up, hang on a little longer! We’ll get you out of this!”

Then she turned and steamed at top speed for the coast, leaving us little reassured. She was back at noon, accompanied by the supply ship, two small coast guard boats, and the fireboat – a small squadron. At twelve-thirty the battle was on. After a short reconnaissance, the fireboat picked her way slowly through the reefs until she was close to us, then turned her powerful jet of water on the rats. The heavy stream tore the rats from their places, hurled them screaming into the water where the sharks gulped them down. But for every ten that were dislodged, seven swam ashore, and the stream could do nothing to the rats within the tower. Furthermore, some of them, instead of returning to the rocks, boarded the fireboat and the men were forced to battle them hand-to-hand. They were true rats of Holland, fearing no man, fighting for the right to live!

Nightfall came, and it was as if nothing had been done, the rats were still in possession. One of the patrol boats stayed by the island; the rest of the flotilla departed for the coast. We had to spend another night in our prison.

Le Gleo was sitting on the floor, babbling about skeletons; and as I turned to Itchoua, he fell unconscious from his wounds. I was in no better shape and could feel my blood flaming with fever. Somehow the night dragged by, and the next afternoon I saw the tug, accompanied by the fireboat, come from the mainland with a huge barge in tow. Through my glasses, I saw the barge was filled with meat. Risking the treacherous reefs, the tug dragged the barge as close to the island as possible.

Hungry-Rats.pdf

To the last rat, our besiegers deserted the rock, swam out and boarded the barge reeking with the scent of freshly cut meat. The tug dragged the barge about a mile from shore, where the fireboat drenched the barge with gasoline. A well placed incendiary shell from the patrol boat bombarded them with shrapnel from a safe distance, and the sharks finished off the survivors. A whaleboat from the patrol boat took us off the island and left three men to replace us. By nightfall we were in the hospital in Cayenne.

What became of my friends? Well, Le Gleo’s mind had cracked and he was raving mad. They sent him back to France and locked him up in an asylum, the poor devil. Itchoua died within a week; a rat’s bite is dangerous in that hot humid climate, and infection sets in rapidly.

As for me – when they fumigated the light and repaired the damage done by the rats, I resumed my service there. Why not? No reason why such an incident should keep me from finishing out my service there, is there?

Besides – I told you I liked the place – to be truthful, I’ve never had a post as pleasant as that one, and when my time came to leave it forever, I tell you that I almost wept as Three Skeleton Key disappeared below the horizon.

 

THE END

First published in France in 1927 and in Esquire magazine in 1937. It has been produced on radio for Escape Nov. 15th, 1949 with William Conrad and then 1956 and 1958 for Suspense featuring Vincent Price.

 

Creeper.jpg

Creeper in the Crypt

by Robert Bloch

A tale of stark horror in a gangster's hide-out in the dreaded cellar of an evil house in legend-haunted Arkham

 

In ARKHAM, where ancient gables point like wizard's fingers to the sky, strange tales are told. But then, strange tales are always current in Arkham. There is a tale for every rotting ruin, a story for every little corpse-eye window that stares out at the sea when the fog comes up.

Here, fantastic fancy seems to flourish, nourished at the shriveled witch-paps of the town itself, sucking the graveyards dry of legend, and draining at the dark dugs of superstition.

For Arkham was a queer place, once abode of witch and warlock, familiar and fiend. In olden days the King's men cleared the town of wizardry. Again, in 1818, the new Government stepped in to destroy some particularly atrocious burrows in and about some of the more ancient houses and, incidentally, to dig up a graveyard better left untouched. Then, in 1869, came the great immigrant panic in Old Town Street, when the moldering mansion of Cyrus Hook was burned to the ground by fear-crazed foreigners.

Even since then there have been scares. The affair of the "witch-house" and the peculiar episodes attendant upon the fate of certain missing children at All*Hallows time have caused their share of talk.

But that isn't why the "G-men" stepped in. The Federal Government is usually uninterested in supernatural stories. That is, they were, up to the time I told the authorities about the death of Joe Regetti. That's how they happened to come; I brought them.

Because, you see, I was with Joe Regetti just before he died, and shortly after. I didn't see him die, and I'm thankful for that. I don't think I could have stood watching if what I suspect is true.

It's because of what I suspect that I went to the Government for help. They've sent men down here now, to investigate, and I hope they find enough to convince them that what I have told them is actual fact. If they don't find the tunnels, or I was mistaken about the trapdoor, at least I can show them Joe Regetti's body. That ought to convince anybody, I guess.

I can't blame them for being skeptical, though. I was skeptical myself, once, and so were Joe Regetti and his mob, I suppose. But since then I have learned that it is wiser not to scoff at what one does not understand. There are more things on earth than those who walk about upon its surface—there are others that creep and crawl below.

I had never heard of Joe Regetti until I was kidnapped. That isn't so hard to understand. Regetti was a gangster, and a stranger in the town. I am descended from Sir Ambrose Abbott, one of the original settlers.

At the time of which I speak, I was living alone in the family place on Beacon Street. The life of a painter demands solitude. My immediate family was dead, and although socially prominent through accident of birth, I had but few friends. Consequently, it is hard to understand why Regetti chose me to kidnap first. But then, he was a stranger.

Later I learned that he had been in town only a week, staying ostensibly at a hotel with three other men, none of whom was subsequently apprehended.

But Joe Regetti was a totally unknown factor in my mind until that night when I left Tarleton's party at his home on Sewell Street.

It was one of the few invitations I had accepted in the past year.

Tarleton had urged me, and as he was an old friend, I obliged. It had been a pleasant evening.

Brent, the psychiatrist, was there, and Colonel Warren, as well as my old companions of college days, Harold Gauer and the Reverend Williams. After a pleasant enough evening, I left, planning to walk home as I usually did, by choice.

It was a lovely evening—with a dead moon, wrapped in a shroud of clouds, riding the purple sky. The old houses looked like silver palaces in the mystic moonlight; deserted palaces in a land where all but memories are dead. For the streets of Arkham are bare at midnight, and over all hangs the age-old enchantment of days gone by.

Trees tossed their twisted tops to the sky, and stood like furtive conspirators in little groups together, while the wind whispered its plots through their branches. It was a night to inspire the fabulous thoughts and imaginative morbidities I loved so well.

I walked slowly, contentedly, my thoughts free and far away. I never saw the car following me, or the man lurking ahead in the gloom. I strolled past the great tree in front of the Carter house, and then, without warning, balls of fire burst within my head, and I plunged, unconscious, into waiting arms.

When I recovered, I was already there in the cellar, lying on a bench.

It was a large cellar—an old cellar. Wherever I looked there was stone and cobwebs. Behind me lay the stairs down which I had been carried. To the left was a little room, like a fruit-cellar. Far down the stone wall to the right I could discern the looming outlines of a coal-pile, though furnace there was none.

Directly in the space before me was a table and two chairs. The table was occupied by an oil lamp and a pack of cards in solitaire formation. The chairs were likewise occupied, by two men. My captors.

One of them, a big, red-faced man with the neck of a hog, was speaking.

"Yeah, Regetti. We got him easy. We follow him like you say, from house, and grab him in front of tree. Right away come here—nobody saw not'ing."

"Where's Slim and the Greek?" asked the man who was playing solitaire, looking up. He was short, slim, and sallow. His hair was dark, his complexion swarthy. Italian, I decided. Probably the leader. I realized, of course, that I had been kidnapped. Where I was or who my captors were I could not say. My throbbing head cleared, and I had enough sense not to bluster or start trouble. These weren't local men—not with those clothes—and there was an ominous bulge in the dark man's coat-pocket. I decided to play 'possum and await developments.

The hog-necked man was replying to the other's question.

"I tell Slim and Greek to go back to hotel with car," he said. "Just like you say, boss."

"Good work, Polack," said the other, lighting a cigar.

"I do my best for you, Joe Regetti," said the big man, in his broken dialect.

"Yeah. Sure. I know you do," the swarthy Regetti replied. "Just keep it up, and we're going to be all set, see? Once I put the snatch on a few more of these birds, we'll clean up. The local coppers are all stiffs, and as soon as I get a line on some more of these old families we'll be taking in the dough regular."

"To beg your pardon," I said.

"Oh, awake, eh?" The thin Italian didn't move from the table. "Glad to hear it. Sorry the boys had to get rough, mister. Just sit tight and everything's going to be swell."

"I'm glad to hear that," I replied, sarcastically. "You see, I'm not accustomed to being kidnapped."

"Well, let me handle it," said Joe Regetti. "I'll show you the ropes."

"Thanks," I retorted. "You already have." And I pointed to the ones that bound my hands and feet.

"Sense of humor, eh? O. K. Hope your friends come across with the dough after they get this letter I wrote, or maybe the rest isn't going to be so funny."

"What next?" I said, desperately hoping that something would turn up to give me an opening of some sort.

"You'll see soon enough," advised the man. "First, I'm going to sit up with you down here for the rest of the night."

The Pole's face paled.

"No, boss," he begged. "You no stay down here."

"Why not?" rasped Regetti, harshly. "What's the matter with you, Polack— turning yellow on me, eh?"

"I'm not," whined the man. "But you know what was happen here before, boss —how they find Tony Fellippo's leg lyin' on floor with no body left."

"Lay off the bedtime stories," Regetti chuckled. "You yokels make me sick with that stuff."

"But dot's true, boss. They never was for to find any more of old Tony Fellippo —just his leg on cellar floor. Dot why his mob go 'way so quick. They no want for to die, too."

"What do you mean, die?" snarled Regetti, testily.

The Pole's face paled, and his voice sank to a hushed whisper that blended with the cellar's darkness; a shadow voice in a shadow world.

"Dot what everyone say, boss. Dot house is witched—like haunted one, maybe. Nobody put Tony Fellippo on spot—dot feller, he too dam' smart guy. But he sit all alone here one night, and somet'ing come up from earth and swallow him, all but leg."

"Will you shut up?" Regetti cut in. "That's a lot of hooey. Some wise guy put the heat on Fellippo and got rid of the body. Only his leg was left to scare off the rest of his mob. Are you trying to tell me a ghost killed him, sap?"

"Yah, sure," insisted the Pole. "No man kill Tony. Not like you say, anyhow. Find leg, all right, but all over is lot blood on floor, and little pieces skin. No feller kill man like dot—only spirit. Vampire, maybe."

"Nuts!" Regetti was scornfully biting his cigar.

"Maybe so...But look—here is blood."

And the Pole pointed a stubby finger at the floor and cellar wall to the left. Regetti followed it with his gaze.

There was blood, all right—great, rusty blobs of blood, spattered all over the floor and wall like the pigments on the palette of a mad painter.

"No man kill odder feller like dot," the Pole muttered. "Not even ax make such mess. And you know what fellers they say about Fellippo's leg—was all full of tooth-marks."

"Right," mused the other, thoughtfully. "And the rest of his gang did get out of here pretty fast after it happened. Didn't try to hide the body, or do anything about it."

He frowned. "But that doesn't prove any baloney about ghosts, or vampires. You been reading too many bum magazines lately, Polack."He laughed.

"What about iron door?" grumbled the Pole, accusingly, his red face flushing. "What about iron door back of coal in coal-pile, huh? You know what fellers down by Black Jim's place say about house with iron door in cellar."

"Yeah." Regetti's face clouded.

"You no look by iron door yet, boss," the man continued. "Maybe you find something behind door yet, like fellers say—dot where t'ing dot got Fellippo come from; dot where it hide. Police they not find door either, when they come. Just find leg, and blood, and shut up house. But fellers know. They tell me plenty about house with iron door in cellar; say it bad place from old days when witch-fellers live here. It lead to hill back of house; cemetery, maybe. Perhaps dot's why nobody live here so long—afraid of what hides on other side of door; what come out and kill Tony Fellippo. I know about house with iron door in cellar, all right."

I knew about the house, too. So that's where I was. In the old Chambers house on Broad Street! Many a story I've heard from the old folks when I was a boy about the old man, Ezekiel Chambers, whose wizard tricks bequeathed him such an unsavory reputation in Colonial days. I knew about Jonathan Dark, the other owner, who had been tried for smuggling just before the terrible days of 1818, and the abhorrent practice of grave robbing he had been said to pursue in the ancient cemetery directly behind the house, on the hill.

Many peculiar rumors were circulated about the moldering house with the iron door in the cellar at this time—about the door, particularly, which Dark was said to use as a passageway for bringing his stolen cadavers back to dispose of. It was even claimed that the door had never been opened when Dark was tried, because of his astounding and hideous claim that the key which locked it was on the other side. Dark had died during the trial, while in prison, babbling blasphemies that no man dared believe; monstrous hints of what lay beneath the old graveyard on the hill; of tunnels and burrows and secret vaults used in witch-days for unhallowed rites. He spoke of tenants in these vaults, too, and of what sometimes would come to visit the house from below when a wizard invoked it with the proper spells and sacrifice. There was more, too—but then, Dark was quite mad. At least, everyone thought it better to believe so.

Old tales die. The house had stood deserted for many years, until most men forgot the reason for which it had been forsaken, ascribing its vacancy only to age. The public today were utterly unaware of the legends. Only the old ones remembered—the old ones who whispered their stories to me when I was a boy.

So this was the Dark house to which I had been brought! And this was the very cellar of the tales in question! I gathered from the remarks between Regetti and the superstitious Pole that another gang had recently used it for a hideaway until the death of their leader; indeed, I even vaguely remembered some newspaper reports of Tony Fellippo's mysterious murder.

And now Regetti had come from New York to use it as a base.

Clever scheme of his, evidently—coming to an old New England town and kidnapping the local gentry to hold for ransom; then hiding them away in some old, deserted house so conveniently protected by superstition. I supposed that there would be more victims after me, too; the man was smart and cunning enough to get away with it.

These thoughts flashed through my mind during the argument between the Pole and his leader. But their altercation came to an abrupt halt.

"I wish you get out of here," the Pole was saying. "If you stay only one night dot t'ing he come. Dot's all Tony Fellippo stay."

"Shut up, you fool. Didn't we stay here last night, too, before the job? And nothing happened."

"Yeah, sure. I know. But we stay upstairs, not by cellar. Why not keep feller upstairs?"

"Because we can't afford to risk being seen," Regetti snapped, wearily. "Now, cut the chatter."

He turned to me.

"Listen, you. I'm sending this guy out with a ransom letter right now, to your friends back at the party. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and sit tight. But any funny business means you're through, see?"

I kept silent.

"Take him in there, Polack, and tie him up." Regetti indicated a fruit-cellar adjacent to the stairs.

The Pole, still grumbling, dragged me across the floor and into the room. He lit a candle, casting strange shadows over the cobwebbed, dust-drowned shelving on the walls. Jars of preserves still stood untouched, storing, perhaps, the crop of a hundred years ago. Broken jars were still strewn about on the tottering table. As I glanced about, the Pole tossed me into a chair beside the rickety board, and proceeded to lash me to it firmly with a stout rope. I was not gagged or blindfolded again, though the choking atmosphere about me served as a good substitute for both.

He left me, closing the door. I was alone in the candle-lit quiet.

I strained my ears, and was rewarded by hearing Regetti dismiss his henchman for the night, evidently to deliver the ransom note to the proper authorities. He, Regetti, would stay behind on guard.

"Don't run into any ghosts on your way," he called after his companion, as the big Pole lumbered up the stairs.

A slamming outer door was his only response. From the ensuing quiet I judged Regetti had gone back to his solitaire.

Meanwhile, I looked about for some means of escape. I found it at last, on the table beside me. The broken jars— glass edges to cut my bonds!

"Purposefully I edged my chair closer to the table end. If I could get a piece of that glass in my hands . . .

As I moved, I strained my ears once more to make sure that any noise made by the chair would be inaudible to Regetti, waiting outside. There was no sound from the chair as I reached the table, and I sighed with relief as I maneuvered my pinioned hands until they grasped a piece of glass firmly. Then I began to rub it against the edge of the rope which bound them.

It was slow work. Minutes ticked away into hours, and still no sound from outside, save a muffled series of snores. Regetti had fallen asleep over his cards. Good! Now, if I could get my wrists free and work on my feet, I would be able to make it.

My right hand was loose at last, though my wrist was damp with mingled sweat and blood. Cutting away from behind was not a precise, calculated sort of job. Quickly I finished the work on my left, then rubbed my swollen fingers and bent over to saw at the ropes on my legs.

Then I heard the sound.

It was the grating of rusty hinges. Anyone who has lived in archaic houses all his life learns to recognize the peculiar, eerie clang. Rusty hinges grating from the cellar beyond . . . from an iron door? A scuffling sound among the coal . . . the iron door is concealed by the coal pile. Fellippo only stayed down here one night. All they found was his leg.

Jonathan Dark, babbling on his deathbed. The door locked from the other side. Tunnels to the graveyard. What lurks in graveyards, ancient and unseen, then creeps from crypts to feast?

A scream rose in my throat, but I choked it back. Regetti still snored. Whatever was going on in the outer room, I must not wake him and lose my only chance of escape. Instead, I had best hasten and free my legs. I worked feverishly, but my ears were alert for developments.

They came. The noise in the coal-pile abruptly ceased, and I went limp with relief. Perhaps rats were at work.

A moment later I would have given anything to have heard the coal rattling again, if only to drown out the new noise.

There was something creeping across the cellar floor; something crawling, as if on hands and knees; something with long nails or claws that rasped and scraped. There was something croaking and chuckling as it moved through the cellar dark; something that wheezed with bestial, sickening laughter, like the death-rattle in die throat of a plague-stricken corpse.

Oh, how slyly it crept—how slowly, cautiously, and sinisterly! I could hear it slinking in the shadows, and my fingers raced at their work, even while my brain grew numb.

Traffic between tombs and a wizard's house—traffic with things the old wives say can never die.

Regetti snored on.

What bides below, in caverns, that can be invoked by the proper spell—or the sight of prey?

Creep.

And then . . .

Regetti awoke. I heard him scream, once. He didn't even have time to get up or draw his gun. There was a demoniac scurrying across the floor, as if made by a giant rat. Then the faint sound of shredding flesh, and over all, a sudden ghoulish baying that conjured up worlds of nightmare horror in my shattered brain.

Above the howling came a series of low, almost animal moans, and agonized phrases in Italian, cries for mercy, prayers, curses.

Claws make no sound as they sink into flesh, and yellow fangs are silent till they grate on bone. . . .

My left leg was free, then my right. Now I slashed at the rope around my waist. Suppose it came in here?

The baying ceased, but the silence was haggard with horror.

There are some banquets without toasts. . . .

And now, once again, moans. My spine shivered. All around me the shadows grinned, for outside was revelry as in the olden days. Revelry, and a thing that moaned, and moaned, and moaned.

Then I was loose. As the moaning died away in the darkness, I cut the final strands of rope that bound me to my chair. . . .

I did not leave at once, for there were still sounds in the other room which I did not like; sounds which caused my soul to shrivel, and my sanity to succumb before a nameless dread.

I heard that pawing and padding rustle along the floor, and after the shrieking had ceased, a worse noise took its place— a burbling noise—as if someone or something was sucking marrow from a bone. And the terrible, clicking sound; the feeding sound of gigantic teeth.

Yes, I waited; waited until the crunching had mercifully ceased, and then waited on until the rustling slithered back into the cellar, and disappeared. When I heard the brazen clang of a rusty door grate in the distance, I felt safe.

It was then that I left at last; passing through the now-deserted cellar, up the stairs, and out unguarded doors into the silver security of a moonlit night. It was very good to see the street-lights again, and hear the trolleys rumble from afar. My taxi took me to the precinct station, and after I had told my story the police did the rest.

I told my story, but I did not mention the iron door against the hillside. That I saved for the ears of the Government men. Now they can do what they like about it, since I am far away. But I did not want anybody prying around too closely to that door while I remained in the city, because even now I cannot—dare not—say what might lurk behind it. The hillside leads to the graveyard, and the graveyard to places far beneath. And in olden days there was a curious traffic betwixt tomb and tunnel and a wizard's house; traffic not confined to men alone. . . .

I'm pretty positive about all this, too. Not alone from the disappearance of the Fellippo gang, or the wildly whispered tales of the foreign men; not alone from these, but from a much more concrete and ghastly proof.

It is a proof I don't care to speak about even today—a proof that the police know, but which is fortunately deleted from newspaper accounts of the tragedy.

What men will find behind that iron door I will not venture to say, but I think I know why only Fellippo's leg was found before. I did not look at the iron door before I left the house, but I did see something else in the cellar as I passed through to the stairs. That is why I ran frantically up the steps; that is why I went to the Government, and that is why I never want to go back to witch-haunted, age-accursed Arkham. I found proof.

Because when I went out, I saw Joe Regetti sitting in his chair by the table in the cellar. The lamp was on, and I am quite sure I saw no foot-prints. I'm glad of that. But I did see Joe Regetti sitting in his chair, and then I knew the meaning of the screams, and the crunching, and the padding sound.

Joe Regetti, sitting in his chair in the cellar lamp light, with his naked body chewed entirely to ribbons by gigantic and unhuman teeth!

First Appeared in Weird Tales July 1937.

 

 

The Gathering

by Lisa Deschenes

Man brushing his mustache

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Randall P. Helmsley stepped out into his yard. The silence was profound. It was just before dawn, late enough that the crickets and other night pests had ended their incessant chirping and early enough that the first feathered creature of flight had not yet taken up the cacophony of sound.

Randall looked over his serene domain in the pre-dawn light, his dark brown eyes peering out from under his bushy eyebrows. He subconsciously ran his finger through the mustache under his nose, so thick that it could have been the fur of a miniature grey ferret that had curled above his lip. He pulled his plaid cap low on his forehead, for all affect and appearance resembling a British chap, perhaps Andy Capp himself in live form having walked off the comic strip pages.

However, much to his disappointment, his conviction that his descendants were from across the pond had proven unfounded, when the results of his ancestry DNA test had revealed, sadly, that there was not a drop of English blood running through his veins. He was, instead, descended from French Canadians. "Quite distasteful," he had stated upon this revelation. He fully intended that this knowledge would not change his character.

Now surveying what he considered his sanctuary, he let out a mournful sigh. Alas, Randall knew that the precious silence would not remain. By the time he returned from his morning constitutional, his personal retreat would be a pandemonium of unwanted sonance.

As if proving this point, a screen door banged against its frame, rending the stillness. Randall cringed looking in the direction of the disturbance, although he already knew its source. There she stood in all her glory, just as he knew she would be, the five-foot-two bane of his existence- Prudence Giles, his aged octogenarian neighbor. Her stark white hair was pulled back in a messy bun resting on the top of her head, escaping wispy tendrils sticking out here and there giving it the appearance of a snow covered bird's nest. Her crisp green eyes twinkled in the sunlight reflecting off the spectacles resting on the bridge of her nose.

"Oh, good morning Mr. Helmsley!" she called cheerfully over their shared fence, waving with one hand while carrying a paisley imprinted tote bag in the other. "Such a beautiful day, is it not?"

Randall looked over the meager slats of wood that in his opinion did not support Frost's theory of fences making good neighbors. He presented a tight lipped smile. "Well that remains to be seen Madam. I trust that the fracas caused by your woodland creatures will be quite finished by the time I return from my daily jaunt Ms. Giles?"

The old woman tittered like a school girl. "Oh Mr. Helmsley, you are a card!" She came down her stairs carrying the tote.

While Randall was deeply devoted to flora, he was not an aficionado of fauna. Truth be told, he detested anything on either four furred legs or two feathered wings. On the top of this list were rodents. Worse still were tree rodents. Sciurus carolinensis: the eastern grey squirrel.

A most distasteful animal if ever there was one. Randall knew that the paisley tote Prudence Giles carried contained not only seed for the birds, but also nuts for those very creatures which he hated most. Nuts which they would carry to his garden, deposit in endless holes that they would dig among his vegetables, and then cover over with dirt, giving a final pat pat with their small dirty paws, storing fodder for the winter months. He had actually pondered aloud one time if the dumb animals even recalled where there treasure was located. Prudence Giles, who had overheard his self-query from her own yard, had assured him in no uncertain terms of their intelligence on this point.

"Why they are actually quite smart, Mr. Helmsley," she called over the fence. Each squirrel chooses a triangular positioning system defined by three points on the landscape in which it hides its collection of nuts. Think of it as TPS instead of GPS," she had giggled at her own joke.

He sighed once more as he looked down at the one animal whom he tolerated, the small grey cairn terrier at his feet–Mr. Cheswick. He had adopted the dog from the local shelter knowing the breed's notoriety for being skilled rodent hunters. Unfortunately Mr. Cheswick had not lived up to his own legend. The sorry mutt was determined to bark and chase the irksome pests in his yard, but he had not succeeded in ending the life of nary a single one. To Randall's great vexation, Mr. Cheswick had only aided in adding to the noisome din with his high-pitched yelps as he chased the creatures about.

In fact, Randall himself had come closer to what he had hoped to accomplish than had his dog. Being entirely exasperated with the miscreants as they ran amuck in his garden, taunting him with his barely ripe tomatoes in their mouths, he had thrown a garden cultivator at one in his frustration. Surprisingly the tines had struck the little demon, catching a portion of his bushy tail, forcing him to leave it behind. Unfortunately for Randall, however, it did not end his miserable life. This was proven when he saw the very same squirrel later that same week. He identified it by the bobbed tail and ragged scar on his hind quarter, as he was leaping through the trees over his yard. It did not seem as though the tail loss even hindered his agility. The one redeeming outcome was that the detestable creature was not seen in his yard hence. Perhaps he had learned his lesson, although Randall still had his doubts about the question of their intellect.

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After fruitless attempts over the years to get his neighbor to empathize with his viewpoint on the loathsome creatures, even offering forth a compromise in allowing for her continued feeding of the fowl that flocked to her yard if she would but leave the rodents to their own means of survival. Randall had finally resigned himself to the futility of this objective. He realized, quite reasonably, that having a home devoid of any outside wildlife would in all likelihood be also barren of greenery. This was something which his very soul would find intolerable, his love of plant life being that rooted in his psych. So rather than relocate to a more suitable locale, he chose instead to turn the other cheek.

This was all well and good until the unspoken treaty was nearly broken the prior fall when he had discovered that the tree rats had invaded his inner sanctum! They had chewed their way into his attic and had nested under the eves of his home, wreaking havoc with his electrical wiring. The uneasy peace that had been established with his neighbor had been shattered. Randall called the local police. After all, it had to be against the law to intentionally attract such pestilence.

Did it not?

Two officers had arrived at his house, one stout and one tall and slim. They reminded Randall of Abbott and Costello and judging by their comedy routine, he wasn't far off in this comparison. Bringing the pair into his backyard, he pointed to the eaves of his roof where the squirrels had gained entry. He then explained how his feeble-minded, geriatric neighbor was encouraging this trespass by continuing to provide nourishment to the furry quadrupeds.

The taller of the two took off his hat and scratched his bald head. Looking over to the abutting property he caught a glimpse of Prudence Giles, the very woman being discussed, just as she came out into her yard.

`"Are you talking about that cute little old lady next door?" he asked Randall with surprise.

"Oh, don't let her deceptively sugary sweet demeanor fool you, gentlemen. She's crazy!" Randall insisted.

The Costello of the team looked over the fence. Randall could see the look of doubt in his eyes as well.

"Listen, I don't know what else to do. She even communes with them, like their human. She holds full conversations with them, albeit one-sided. Wait… come to think of it...she may be a witch!" Randall dropped his voice, taking a conspiratorial tone. "Her last name is Giles. Wasn't that the name of the witch who was crushed by stones back in the 1600s? Maybe she's casting spells over there!"

Now the two cops looked at each other and smirked. The shorter one rolled his eyes and asked his partner, "A witch? In Salem? Could it be possible, Craig?"

Randall bristled. He knew that he was being made jest of by this portly cop.

Abbott, who Randall now knew was named Craig, just shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Sir, first you really need to educate yourself on the Witch Hysteria. The people who were executed for being "witches" were actually just innocent citizens who had been falsely accused, such as you are doing right now," he pointed out. "Secondly, there are actually hundreds of peaceful, practicing witches who live in Salem today. I am sure your neighbor is not casting evil spells on you or the squirrels in your attic."

"Or the bats in your belfry," his sidekick added, chuckling at his own humor.

Randall felt chastised, as if the police officers were treating him like a child. "Well thank you for the history lesson, sir. What would you then recommend I do about this problem?"

Costello jumped in once more. "Try calling the Board of Health for some recommendations, pal. It's not something the police department gets involved in addressing."

Just as the cops were retreating back out of Randall's yard, Prudence called over the fence, "Oh hello officers! I didn't see you! I just made some fresh oatmeal raisin cookies and a pitcher of lemonade. Would you care to come over for some refreshments before you head out on your way? Mr. Helmsley, you as well," she added.

Officer Craig smiled over at her. "We would love to Ma'am. Thank you very much for the offer.

"It's the least I can do for your service to our community, officers," she said.

Officer Abbott added, "But Mr. Helmsley is a bit busy right now, isn't that right?" he asked Randall pointedly.

Prudence smiled, "Well maybe another time, Mr. Helmsley."

Randall just rolled his eyes at the absurdity of his situation. He watched in disbelief as the cops strolled over to his nemesis' house.

The next day, following the advice of the police, Randall had contacted the Board of Health. A woman with a clipboard had arrived that afternoon. This time, Randall was careful to leave his opinion of Prudence Giles' state of mental health to himself, along with his suspicions of her black magic practices.

After listening to Randall's description of the situation with the squirrels, the woman advised him to employ a pest removal service. "You could set some traps up in the attic yourself, but professionals will be able to block up any access points and advise you on methods of prevention going forward."

"Methods of prevention?" Randall repeated, outraged. "Shouldn't that be where the Board of Health steps in? As a taxpayer, shouldn't I have the right of expecting a squirrel-free home without having to dish out money for this luxury?" he asked sarcastically.

"What exactly would you like me to do about it, sir?" the woman asked, switching from her formerly polite demeanor to one reflective of someone whose feathers had been ruffled by what she perceived as rudeness.

"Fine her. Order her to stop being a neighborhood menace. Make her pay for the remedy of the trouble she has caused me," he suggested, agitated that the solution was not obviously clear to this woman.

"Sir, there is no law stating that she cannot feed the squirrels and birds in her yard."

"But she is feeding the squirrels and birds in my yard," Randall argued. "If there is not a law against that, then there certainly should be!"

A day later, Randall contacted a pest control company. The professional, who had an unfortunate resemblance to a rodent himself, had arrived and efficiently assessed the situation. Then, as promised, he set traps and blocked further access to the attic, only stopping his work to ask Randall one question.

"I recommend the Havahart traps. Either way, I have to return in a day or so to remove them once all of the squirrels remaining in your attic have been caught. This will just allow them to be caught and released humanely away from your house."

"And the other option?" Randall asked.

"A snap trap. The idea is that it catches them at the neck, making a quick break and sparing them prolonged pain, but sometimes it gets a leg or tail, causing the animal to suffer."

"I'll go with that one," he smiled.

The man shrugged his bony shoulders and squinted out of his beady brown eyes. "You're the customer. It's your dime."

Having installed the traps and finished his work, the man departed with a promise that he would return in a few days to collect the "remains". He smiled revealing his two front buck teeth.

That evening Randall sat up in his bed reading The Secret Life of Trees. With each loud snap, followed by a high-pitched squeal that he heard through his ceiling above, his lips curved into a malicious smile of delight.

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Randall came out of his reverie and looked for Mr. Cheswick to start their morning perambulation. His face instantly scrunched up with a look of repugnance as his eye located the dog in question having just finished urinating on the lawn, now kicking up clumps of sod to cover the area with his back paws.

"Most distasteful, Mr. Cheswick, most distasteful." Randall scolded.

Mr. Cheswick, as is the case with most canines, did not speak nor understand human, but he did get the jist of the tone of voice and knew to associate the word "distasteful" with his master's disappointment in him. The word was sometimes accompanied with different adjectives, "so", "very", "how", but regardless, it was never a good expression. Just recently, Randall had sat down to what Mr. Cheswick considered a delectable supper consisting of a large veal chop. The most enticing aromas wafted to the dog's nose causing the terrier to salivate and he had begun to whine for what he hoped would be his share. Instead he was reproached in this aforementioned fashion for his apparently unacceptable actions.

"How distasteful, Mr. Cheswick. You are already quite rotund. How will you ever chase down a squirrel in that state? No, my old friend, I will not aid and abet your bad habits. You will be grateful in your advanced years for my oversight into your well-being. And as for your begging at the table...so very distasteful."

Now Mr Cheswick lay down in the grass with his head resting on his paws in contrition. He let out a plaintive whimper.

"Very well. Let us be off," announced Randall, to the poor mutt's relief.

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No more than a half-mile distance from their house, the pair arrived at their end location. For Randall, the daily excursion was not so much about the benefits of the exercise as it was about the destination itself. Greenlawn Cemetery was a veritable tree lover's paradise. In fact, most recently the graveyard had been accredited as an arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta. A group, whose members called themselves the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery, had been actively involved in the granting of this honor. Randall had once attempted to join the civic group as a member a few years back, but when he had learned that their mission was not only dedicated to the cemetery's greenery, but also to its wildlife, he had declined to continue his attendance at their meetings, which occurred on the last Tuesday of each month in the Dickson Memorial Chapel located on the grounds.

His withdrawal from their ranks, however, did not preclude his avid interest in the cemetery's capacious diversity of vegetation. The fifty-five acre expanse of verdure was not to be found anywhere else within the city's boundaries. But as of late, Randall's concern had been raised for the Quercus Rubra, commonly known as the Northern Red Oak. Since late spring the acorn bearing trees had appeared to be affected by some ailment. In early spring, they had budded new leaves as usual, but the leaves had soon browned, wilted and fallen to the ground. The fruit of the trees, the acorns, had never even had a chance to form.

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The red oak was the most prevalent of this genus, but there were a number of other species of oak throughout the cemetery, including the white, black, bur and scarlet oaks. On this morning in late summer, Randall walked the grounds identifying each of these varieties and noting that they were unilaterally affected by the same affliction. He suspected the cause: oak wilt, perpetrated by the ceratocystis fagacearum fungus. He recalled that the spring had been cooler than most years, with an overabundance of rainfall, making conditions for oak wilt ripe.

Confident of his suspicions at this point, Randall detoured from his usual walking route and followed the most direct path to the grounds keeper's building, where he proceeded to rap on the office door.

A voice called back from within, "It's open. C'mon in."

Randall turned the knob and pushed the heavy wooden door inward.

Seated at a small metal desk was a small man with wire rimmed glasses resting on the top of his head. He looked up expectantly.

Not waiting for more, Randall began, "I felt it was my duty to bring to your attention that I have diagnosed your oak trees with oak wilt."

"Diagnosed? What are you with the National Forestry or something?" the man whose desk plate revealed his name as Donald Meyers asked with surprise at this declaration from the peculiar English gentleman without an English accent, who had presented himself before him. He then looked down at the small dog heeled at the man's side, still perplexed.

"No. I am just a concerned citizen, trying to prevent the destruction of the majestic trees under your care," Randall replied.

"Oh, well we don't get many live citizens here," Donald Myers replied, chuckling at his cemetery humor. When he saw that he was not receiving any appreciation for his wit from this strange fellow who had appeared before him, he cleared his throat and put on a serious air. "Well, ummm… thank you for your...concern, but we have been well aware of the condition of the oaks for some time now. In fact we made a presentation to the Friend's of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation just last month. You must have missed that meeting, I'm guessing?"

"I do not belong to that group any longer. What I would like to know, sir, is what measures are being undertaken to address this crisis?"

The antiquated air conditioning unit plugged into the window, fought a losing battle to overcome the oppressive heat permeating the small office. Donald Myers offered an apology, "Sorry, our ventilation system has not caught up to the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first," he chuckled again, before he mopped the perspiration from his brow and upper lip with a red Kashmiri printed bandana from his desk.

How distasteful, thought Randall, but he wisely decided to keep his opinion to himself in this instance. He waited expectantly for Donald to continue.

"Well as I said, we have been apprised of the a... er...situation with the trees for some time now. And as a matter of fact, we have been working with the biology departments of both Salem State and Minnesota Universities. I'll skip all of the scientific jargon that our presentation highlighted, but long story short, a grad student at Salem State, who was identifying trees for the arboretum registry project this past spring, happened to notice signs of the fungus' presence on our oaks. It had been a particularly cool and wet season, as you may recall, which left the trees susceptible to attack. She brought her concern to my attention.

My supervisor can congratulate himself for making the wise decision to hire someone with a horticulture degree for this position, because I immediately recognized the seriousness of the problem for what it was, pardon my self-back patting. Luckily, I recalled that the University of Minnesota's biology department had made some promising advances in research on the use of Propiconazole injections. I reached out to them directly.

Needless to say the Sargent Arboretum at Greenlawn Cemetery was an ideal candidate for their research, so we offered ourselves as guinea pigs for their experimentation. In the future, you may also notice strange mounds of dirt here and there throughout the cemetery," he proceeded. "We will additionally be implementing some trenching measures to interrupt any infected root communication underground as an added precaution."

I am now happy to say that we are ecstatic with the results. At this point about eighty-five percent of the oaks have shown improvement. Although they won't renew their foliage or fruit this year, we are confident there is every reason to believe that they will be back to their well-dressed selves by next season. But…"

"But what?" asked Randall, anxious about the prognosis for the oaks.

"Well, it's just that I am sad to say that our chipmunk and squirrel populations will not be so fortunate. You see, acorns comprise the majority of their diet over the winter months and without an adequate supply gathered and stored away for this year…" he trailed off, shrugging.

Randall jumped in to complete his thought, "They will starve to death!" he stated, much too cheerily in Donald's opinion.

"Well I should expect not, but they will most likely have to relocate."

Catching Donald's last reaction to his jubilance at the information he had imparted about the little beasts' dilemma, Randall tried to withhold his delight. He put on a solemn face, "So disheartening," he lied, shaking his head sadly.

"Yes, it is disappointing, but we are anticipating they will one day return in the years to come, that is trusting that their food sources are eventually replenished in full."

Randall, after thanking Donald for sharing his knowledge of the dire, but hopeful tree situation, made his departure from the small office. He smiled as he reflected on the win-win news that he had acquired during his visit: the trees would recover, but hopefully the rodent population would not. He headed home with a grin on his face and a skip in his step.

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Arriving home, still in a good mood, Randall fed Mr. Cheswick some kibble in his bowl and sat down to a sparse breakfast of tea and lemon scone with a dollop of Devonshire cream. The forecast predicted an approaching rain with high winds for later that afternoon and he wanted to tend to his garden to ensure that his tomato plants were properly staked and twined to withstand the summer storm.

As he methodically made his way through the crowded rows of his now fully mature crop securing the plants to their stakes, Randall spied peanut shells sporadically scattered here and there throughout the garden. This made him laugh softly to himself. After his experience with trapping the squirrels in his attic, he had discovered a fondness for exterminating the pests himself. At first he was unsure of how to go about it, but then the very same demented woman who had designated herself as their protector gave him the idea he needed. What delicious irony.

Randall had commented acerbically one day to his neighbor that she must spend a fine penny on the peanuts she distributed to the squirrels every morning. In return he had received an unwanted education on the diet of the little gray nuisances.

"Oh goodness no, Mr. Helmsley! You see, while squirrels love peanuts, it is true, they are not actually a part of their natural diet and, truth be told, they aren't a very healthy alternative, either," she imparted. "Did you know that a peanut is not even really a nut, Mr. Helmsley?" she asked.

Randall had smiled condescendingly, but decided to humor the daffy woman. "You don't say?" he had replied.

"Yes indeed, Mr. Helmsley. So I only provide my squirrels with hazelnuts."

Randall had just shook his head, not knowing how to respond to this. Peanuts cost, well, peanuts. But hazelnuts were definitely a nut of the more expensive variety. Next she would inform him that she only gave them macadamia nuts as treats on their birthdays.

In spite of himself, he found himself asking her "However do they break into the shells with those small teeth?" He knew that hazelnuts were one of those hard types of nut that often proved to be a futile effort to enter, even with a nutcracker.

"Why, don't you let those tiny cute teeth fool you, Mr. Helmsley," she informed him. "Squirrel teeth are actually capable of exerting seven thousand pounds of pressure per square inch!"

As mundane as he found this bit of information initially, what he did recall later on from the conversation was that squirrels love peanuts. So what better bait to entice the furred terrors to their demise with than arsenic dipped peanuts? Disappointingly, for Randall, the endeavor had not been as successful as he had hoped. Most of the adult squirrels had been street smart enough to steer clear of the poisoned treats, but there had been a few of this season's unwise juveniles who had fallen victim to his ploy. He had found their prone bodies where they had succumbed among his plants throughout the summer. He had removed them discreetly, deciding not to unduly provoke his unbalanced neighbor.

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The next day, Randall had followed his usual morning ritual, leashing Mr. Cheswick and heading off for his cemetery stroll. This day he took a different route from the day before, as was his daily habit.

Variety was the spice of life, after all.

Randall headed around the larger of the two ponds in the cemetery, taking care to skirt the orange cone signalling a needed repair that had been placed on the small footbridge ever since the previous year. He made a mental note to speak to the grounds keeper about the timeliness of this particular work order the next time he made a visit to the man's office.

Going this way, he walked through a grove of oak trees which lined the pathway. He could now see that they were tagged with treatment labels. He also could see that the greater of their numbers appeared healthy, with the exception of their leaf loss. This pleased him. And if this meant a decrease in the squirrel population as well, so much the better.

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Well I always said the witches in Arkham were squirrelly....You might not be able to go against your own nature, but never mess with mother nature. In our next tale we learn about Man's best friend. I wonder if she will turn on our next hero as well?

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Man's Best Friend

By Evelyn. E. Smith


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Sometimes a job comes after the man ... and this one came after Gervase like a tiger!

 

The annunciator aroused Gervase from pleasant semi-slumber. He knew the interruption was his own fault for not having turned off the device, but he so seldom had a visitor that he could hardly be blamed for his forgetfulness. Frowning, he pressed the viewer button. A round, red face appeared on the screen. "May I be the first to congratulate you, Mr. Schnee?" it said.

"You may, indeed," Gervase replied. "But for what?"

"You haven't heard the news? Good, then I'm the first. I imagine I got a head-start on the others because of my superior facilities for locating you. Your address wasn't given; these pronouncements do tend to be a bit vague. Matter of tradition, I suppose."

"I haven't heard any news for days," Gervase said, uncomfortably conscious that he was apologizing. "I've been listening to my sound-tapes and—and meditating," he added defiantly. "Wait a minute; I'll let you in."

He struggled with the door-stud, but the door refused to open. The autobursar must have neglected to pay the door bill—probably because Gervase had failed to put enough money into it. But his allowance was limited and sound-tapes, not to speak of meditators, were so expensive.

Sighing, Gervase got up and opened the door manually. The individual outside was short and stout and dressed, unfortunately, in the uniform of an upper-echelon salesman. Gervase had been caught! Still, he reminded himself, no one could force him to buy anything. He was a free citizen.

"Well, come in if you must," he said grudgingly. "I suppose the big news is that I'm the lucky householder to whom the Little Gem Room Expander will first be offered."

"Nothing of the sort!" the man replied indignantly.

At this point, Gervase noticed with surprise that the other wore a jeweled merchant-prince's badge. Apparently this was one of those consumer reaction tests in which executives themselves participated to check on their employees.

The man remembered to smile. "The Prognosticator has just given its fortnightly Prognostication. You, Mr. Schnee, are going to be our new Ruler." He seized the young man's limp hand and shook it enthusiastically. "And I'm sure you'll be a splendid one, too."

Gervase accepted a pale green cheroot from the dispenser. It shook in his lips. "And what's to become of the old Ruler?"

"You're scheduled to dispose of him sometime this month. Now, Mr. Schnee," the man went on briskly, "allow me to introduce myself. I am Bedrich Florea, vice president of the Florea Munitions and Container Corporation." He extracted a gleaming weapon from his brief case and offered it to Gervase. The young man recoiled. "If you will only agree to shoot Overlord Kipp with a Florea Semper Fidelis Gun," the executive continued, "my corporation will be happy to place a substantial amount of credits at your disposal in any bank you choose. Six billion, to be exact. Now if you'll just sign here on the dotted line...." He held out a stylus temptingly.

"Nonsense!" Gervase backed away.

"Even a Ruler can use money. Bribery for government officials, bread and circuses for the people—oh, money's a very useful commodity, Mr. Schnee. Shall we say seven billion?"

"I don't doubt that money is useful," Gervase replied, thinking wistfully of seven billion credits. "But when I said 'nonsense,' I meant the Prognosticator. The whole thing's a lot of—well, nonsense. A whole planet of supposedly intelligent people listening to what's nothing more, really, than an oracle! A machine can't read the future. It's impossible."

Florea's eyes bulged. "Mr. Schnee, that's sacrilege! You can't—confound it, sir, you can't talk that way about The Machine. After all," he added in a more placatory manner, "let's look at this reasonably. Machines can and do answer all the problems of our daily life, so why shouldn't a superior machine be able to tell the future?"

"If you ask me," Gervase all but sneered, "behind the wires and gimmicks and whatnots in The Machine, there's a secret room in which a half-mad, half-intoxicated old priestess sits delivering her Delphic pronouncements. Might as well have an aboveboard oracle and be done with it."

"Now, now, Mr. Schnee—" the executive smiled with obvious effort—"even our Ruler shouldn't flout the Authority of Machinery. Of course, it's all right when you're alone with friends, like me, but in public—"

The annunciator sounded again. An eager face appeared on the screen. "Mr. Schnee," an equally eager voice said, "I'm from the Daily Disseminator. How does it feel to be Ruler Prognosticate?"

There was the sound of a scuffle. His face disappeared, to be replaced by two others. "Mr. Schnee, will you tell us in your very own words—"

As Gervase clicked off the interviewer, the vidiphone blinked. Gervase lifted the receiver. The face of Overlord Kipp himself came into view, pale but composed. "I understand you're the young man who is destined to dispose of me and take my place?"

Gervase paled also. "Honestly, Your Honorship, I haven't the slightest intent—"

"You'll make it quick and painless, won't you? And it really would be very decent of you to give me the exact day and hour of my—er—demise so I won't have to sit around waiting."

"But, really—"

"You don't look like a hard-hearted chap. As a matter of fact, I would say, offhand, that you had a kind face."

"Well, thank you, but—"

"I do wish you'd stop shilly-shallying and name the day. By the way, have you anything on for tomorrow?"

"I didn't have anything special planned—"

"Splendid! Suppose you come over to the Palace around one o'clock or so. We can have a bite of lunch and discuss the matter together. After all, I think you'll agree that I have been a reasonably good Ruler and so I have the right to die with dignity." He looked pleadingly at Gervase.

"Oh, absolutely," the young man said in haste. "No question of it. I think it's a very good idea to have a chat about it first. Awkward to—dispose of someone you haven't met previously."

The dictator gave him a wan smile. "Thank you, Mr. Schnee. I hope you'll find your successor as cooperative as yourself."

The screen darkened.

"Hmmm," Gervase mused. He took a lavender cheroot, forgetting he still held the lime one. "I wonder whether he wants me to make an appointment so he'll have a band of counter-assassins ready to kill me, saving him the expense of a stand-by guard. He is noted for his thriftiness, you know. Perhaps I just shouldn't show up at all."

"He wouldn't dream of doing anything of the sort," Florea said austerely. "Overlord Kipp knows what is due to his position. He has a sense of duty and responsibility which, unfortunately, seems to be lacking in his successor ... if you'll excuse my speaking frankly," he added in haste. "I am, of course, considerably older than you and so I feel—"

"It's quite all right," Gervase reassured him. "You may speak freely."

"Furthermore," Florea continued, "if he had you killed, the people would probably give him a painful and lingering death for attempting to interfere with the course of destiny....There, I hear them now!"

And they could indeed hear the sound of voices raised in song—so many and so loud that they penetrated the soundproofing of the walls.

"The polloi are coming to hail their new Leader," Florea beamed.

"Well, I'm not going to do it!" Gervase declared. "They can't make me kill him and take over and that's flat. I'm not the administrative type—never have been."

Florea took a cheroot of his own out of a platinum portable. "In that case, the people probably will kill you for attempting to interfere with fate."

"But I wouldn't have done anything!" Gervase protested.

"There are sins of omission as well as commission. Come now, it's true a Ruler's life expectancy isn't very long—at least it hasn't been for the last few reigns—but it's longer than yours will be if you refuse to fulfill your destiny."

"I wouldn't make a fit Ruler," Gervase said desperately. "Consider my origins. I wouldn't tell this to anyone but you—I'm illegitimate. I don't even know who my father is."

The other man smiled again. "It's a wise child who knows his own father. And some of the most celebrated leaders in history have been illegitimate. Look at William the Conqueror."

Gervase turned on the historiscope, dialed 1066 A.D., looked, shuddered, and turned it off. "I don't think that's much of a recommendation!"

"You see," Florea told him encouragingly, "almost anybody can be a leader. The important thing is that he be destined for leadership."

"But I'm no good! Everybody says so. I've never done a thing in my life. My aged mother has had to work to support me."

"Time enough that you stood on your two feet, my boy!" the businessman said, clapping the youth upon the shoulder. "And remember, destiny must take its course."

He flung open the door. A cheering crowd stood outside. "My friends, allow me to introduce you to your new Ruler—Gervase Schnee!"

A hoarse shout of approval went up.

"He is planning to assassinate Overlord Kipp with a Florea Semper Fidelis Gun. Florea Semper Fidelis Guns retail from c2.98 for the Peasant's Pistol all the way up to c1089.56 for the Super Deluxe Conspirator's Model, but each is the best obtainable for the price. Mr. Schnee, of course, will use the Super Deluxe model."

There were more cries, cheers and shouts.

"Thank you for your—for your confidence and support," Gervase said brokenly. "I only hope I prove worthy of them."

Gervase lunched with Overlord Kipp the next day and was not assassinated. The disposal was set for the coming Tuesday and announced to the public. Gervase was so nervous, he couldn't sleep the night before. When, early in the morning, he finally did manage to doze off, he was awakened by the encouraging telegrams that kept pouring in.

At nine, he finally got up and dressed himself in the immaculate black-and-silver assassin's uniform that had been custom-made for him without charge by an eminent tailor. He was in no mood for breakfast, so he went outside to the handsome black-and-silver limousine that had been presented to him by a thoughtful industrialist. As he emerged from his door, a brass band struck up the national anthem and the crowd waiting outside broke into cheers suitably restrained to fit the melancholy occasion.

Gervase bowed wanly left and right as he got into the car. His two hired assistants, dressed in the customary black cloak and hood of the body-remover, were, he noticed, already seated beside the chauffeur. They did not turn their heads as Gervase entered, but preserved the traditional impassivity of their calling.

The band started to play a funeral march as the car moved slowly down the boulevard. Stands had been put up all along the route and he was greeted by subdued cheering and applause from crowds neatly arranged according to rank. Little children of all classes rushed out into the street to present him with bouquets of flowers.

The television cameras joined him en route and followed him all the way to the Palace. On the steps, Bedrich Florea awaited him, magnificently garbed in full executive uniform, his jewels flashing in the clear sunlight.

"Allow me to load your Super Deluxe Conspirator's Florea Semper Fidelis Gun for you, Overlord Prognosticate," he announced in a ringing voice, as he turned his profile toward the cameras.

"It's already loaded," Gervase said, nervously clutching the gun in his pocket.

"Permit me to check it then." Florea put out an eager hand.

Gervase executed a deft chassé in the opposite direction. "It's perfectly all right, I tell you! No one," he added in a burst of inspiration, "would have any difficulty in loading a Florea Semper Fidelis Gun."

"That's right," the baffled munitions magnate admitted, falling back reluctantly. "Whether you buy the Peasant's or the Conspirator's Model, both have the same smooth free-loading mechanism...."

"Out of the way, Executive," a cameraman said, unceremoniously sweeping Florea aside as Gervase paced into the Palace, followed by his two black-robed henchmen, carrying an elaborate, gold-mounted stretcher between them.

"Candy, popcorn, hashish, yoghurt!" yelled a strident voice behind them. "Buy your refreshments here!"

Overlord Kipp stood beside his desk, dressed in his finest uniform—which was, however, virtually invisible, it was so bedecked with glittering and sparkling medals and decorations. Gervase waited patiently while the soon-to-be-disposed-of Ruler made a speech pointing out the numerous benefits and improvements his reign had brought to the people. It was rather a long speech and Gervase's nose began to itch. He would have liked to scratch it, but the cameras were pointing directly at him. Life as Ruler, he saw, was going to be a long series of similar repressions. He sighed. But what could he do? Nobody could go against the Prognostications.

Finally the speech was finished. "Good-by and good luck, Overlord Schnee," Kipp said. He stood, waiting.

Gervase fired. There was a loud report. Kipp crumpled to the ground.

Gervase hurled the Florea Semper Fidelis Gun to the desk. "Everyone will now please leave," he ordered in calm but firm tones, "while the removers take over."

"Why can't we televise the removal?" a daring cameraman asked.

"Something new."

There was a shocked silence and then a babble of indignant voices. Gervase held up a weary hand. The voices stopped.

"That sort of thing just isn't done," he told the cameraman with an Olympian smile. "Please leave as quickly as possible—all of you. I might want to meditate."

They scuttled out backward, the cameras still grinding. Gervase pressed the studs that shut and bolted the door.

"Whew!" said Overlord Kipp, sitting up. "I didn't think I'd be able to stand that much longer. You're a good shot, Schnee—that blank stung like crazy. And in a very tender spot, I might add."

"No time for chatting," Gervase said nervously. "We've got to get this over in a hurry. Now comes the part when your friends will have to look like real removers. I hope they can give it that professional touch."

"We are real removers in a sense," said one of the black-robed figures. "At least, both of us have participated in removals before." They dropped their hoods.

Gervase's mouth hung open. "Why, you're Overlord Moorhouse!" he said to one. "And I've seen pictures of you!" he told the other. "You're the one that came before him—Shinnick. You died before I was born—that is, you were supposed to have died. Both of you were. Moorhouse killed—was supposed to have killed you."

Ex-Overlord Shinnick smiled. "We're not precisely dead—only retired, you might say. In a way, anonymity is the same as death. And Overlords Moorhouse and Kipp—" he bowed toward them— "both had kind hearts, like yourself. The Prognosticator didn't say we had to be killed—just disposed of, as Kipp undoubtedly pointed out to you in your little talk together."

"Sorry I couldn't tell you the truth," Kipp apologized as he dusted off his uniform, "but you might have changed your mind and given us away."

"We've formed a sort of little club of dead Overlords," Shinnick elucidated. "After all, we're the only ones with whom we can associate safely—no danger of any one of us betraying the others."

"We're looking forward to the day when you join us, Overlord Schnee," Moorhouse put in eagerly, "assuming that your successor is of as generous a nature as we, of course. Do you play bridge by any chance?"

"You'd better hurry." Gervase worriedly changed the subject as he noticed the time on the wall chronometer. "If the four of us are discovered, the mob would tear us all to pieces."

"Right you are," said ex-Overlord Shinnick. "Get on the stretcher, Kipp. Bad enough we're going to have to carry you out; at least don't expect us to lift you up."

Kipp obediently assumed a recumbent posture: Shinnick and Moorhouse covered him with a black cloth and were preparing to march out when Gervase recollected himself and halted them. "Wait a moment—you'd better take off those medals first, Kipp. They come with the job."

"Grave-robber," said Kipp, reluctantly sitting up on his catafalque and unfastening the jeweled decorations.

When the little procession had left, Gervase pressed a stud on the desk marked Secretary. A panel in the wall opened and a timorous-looking man virtually fell into the room. "Y-yes, Your Honorship?"

"The Prognosticator is right here in the Palace, isn't it?" Gervase asked, in a tone that would have been authoritative if his voice hadn't cracked right in the middle of Palace.

"Y-yes, Your Honorship."

"Lead me to it immediately."

"Su-certainly, Your Honorship."

As they left the room, Gervase picked the Florea Semper Fidelis Gun off the desk. It was too valuable a piece of property to leave lying around. The Palace was full of sticky-fingered civil servants.

They passed through room after room containing bank after bank of computing machines, each more complicated in appearance than the last. Hordes of officials in the garb of hereditary scientist or technician bowed low as the new Ruler passed. The machines, of course, operated and repaired themselves automatically; nonetheless, they needed a good many attendants as befitted their exalted status.

Gervase and his guide finally came to the room where the Prognosticator itself was enshrined. The apartment was twenty stories high and a hundred meters wide, but it was none too large for all the flashing lights and spinning dials and buzzing relays and levers and cables which jammed it. The hundreds of first-rank scientists who waited upon the Machine stopped their tasks of dusting and polishing to greet the new Usurper with deferent acclaim.

"Leave me," he ordered, gesturing with the gun toward the door. "I would be alone with the Prognosticator."

"Certainly, Your Honorship. Certainly. Your wishes are our commands."

They backed out.

"You, too," Gervase told the secretary who had guided him.

"Y-yes, Your Honorship." The man skittered off.

When they had all gone, Gervase approached a small, unobtrusive door marked Danger—No Admittance. Dust lay thick on the sill, for it was seldom opened.

Gervase took a tiny, intricate piece of metal from his pocket and fitted it into the lock. Something inside clicked. The door swung open.

Beyond, a narrow flight of steps spiraled downward. Gervase descended them unhesitatingly until he came to another small door. This one was simply marked Private. He knocked on it.

"Aah, go butter your earlobes!" a cracked voice called from within.

"Can't you read, you dumb cluck?"

"It's me, Gervase!" He pounded on the door with the butt of his gun. "Open up!"

The door swung open creakily. Through the gloom inside, there could be dimly seen antique furnishings in a poor state of preservation and a still more imperfect state of cleanliness. An outmodedly streamlined twentieth-century typewriting machine was set on a costly metal stand with one caster missing. The flaps of the table were open—one held a chipped teapot, the other a dusty crystal ball and a dog-eared pack of Gypsy cards. Behind all this was a rare old psychoanalyst's couch, ripped open here and there and showing the original stuffing.

Reclining on the couch was an incredibly old woman wearing a quaint costume of a bygone era—long scarlet silk skirt, yellow blouse, great golden hoops swinging in her ears. She was sipping something out of a teacup, but it didn't smell like tea, at least not like tea alone. The ancient reek of gin pervaded and overpowered the general mustiness.

"Hello, son!" the old woman said, waving the cup at Gervase. "'Bout time you came to pay your old mother a visit," she cackled, "I kind of thought something like this would stir you up!"

"Mother," Gervase said reproachfully, "you know you shouldn't have done it."

"What did I do?" she asked, assuming a ludicrous posture of innocence.

"You fixed the Prognostications, that's what you did. Although why you had to pick on me—"

"Aah, I got tired of supporting you! You're a big boy—it's about time you earned your own living. Besides, I thought it'd be a good idea to elect a sympathetic administration. Sympathetic to me, that is. Palace needs a new ventilating system. Air in here's terrible. Smells as if something'd died and they were too stingy to give it a decent burial."

"But why didn't you use the Prognosticator to get new ventilation put in?" Gervase asked. "Seems to me you could have foretold everyone in the Palace would suffocate or something if it wasn't done."

"They'd have got around it, same way you got around killing Kipp."

Gervase blushed.

"You can't fool me!" she cackled gleefully. "I know everything that goes on around this place and a lot that doesn't." She reached over and tapped his knee. "But you'll pay attention to the Prognosticator, boy. Don't you try to weasel out of what it says by looking for double meanings. Time you Overlords learned that when the Prognosticator says something, it means it."

"Yes, Mother," he said.

"I'd hate to have to give orders to have my own boy disposed of. The last three disposals weren't so bad, but sometimes those things can turn out real messy."

"Yes, Mother."

She drank gustily from her teacup. "Maybe blood is thicker than water ... but not much."

"Yes, Mother."

"And why shouldn't you listen to my Prognostications?" she demanded irritably, slamming her teacup down on the table so hard that the typewriter skipped. "Just because they're dolled up a little doesn't mean they're not true. Don't I have a crystal ball? Don't I have a Gypsy tarot pack? Don't I have tea leaves—best tea money can buy, too?"

"Yes, Mother."

"So?" She looked at him expectantly. "What are you going to do?"

Gervase took a deep breath and drew himself up. "I'm going to have the ventilating system attended to right away."

"That's my boy," she said fondly, draining another cup of tea and peering at the leaves. "I can see everything's going to work out fine—just fine."

Originally published Galaxy Science Fiction April 1955

 

 

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The depths some mothers will sink to to ruin their kids lives... Take poor Cthulhu here as an example, his mother was an octopus who mated with a fog bank over a slime factory. He seems to only be able to date slug trails, but he finds the conversation lacking.

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Something for Nothing

By ROBERT SHECKLEY

Utilizer.pdf

But had he heard a voice? He couldn't be sure. Reconstructing it a moment later, Joe Collins knew he had been lying on his bed, too tired even to take his waterlogged shoes off the blanket. He had been staring at the network of cracks in the muddy yellow ceiling, watching water drip slowly and mournfully through.

It must have happened then. Collins caught a glimpse of metal beside his bed. He sat up. There was a machine on the floor, where no machine had been.

In that first moment of surprise, Collins thought he heard a very distant voice say, "There! That does it."

He couldn't be sure of the voice. But the machine was undeniably there.

Collins knelt to examine it. The machine was about three feet square and it was humming softly. The crackle-gray surface was featureless, except for a red button in one comer and a brass plate in the center. The plate said:

CLASS-A UTILIZER, SERIES
AA-1256432.


And underneath,

WARNING! THIS MACHINE SHOULD BE USED ONLY BY CLASS-A RATINGS!

That was all.

There were no knobs, dials, switches or any of the other attachments Collins associated with machines. Just the brass plate, the red button and the hum.

"Where did you come from?" Collins asked. The Class-A Utilizer continued to hum. He hadn't really expected an answer. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he stared thoughtfully at the Utilizer. The question now was-what to do with it?

He touched the red button warily, aware of his lack of experience with machines that fell from nowhere. When he turned it on, would the floor open up? Would little green men drop from the ceiling?

But he had slightly less than nothing to lose. He pressed the button lightly.

Nothing happened.

"All right–do something," Collins said, feeling definitely let down.

The Utilizer continued to hum softly-

Well, he could always pawn it. Honest Charlie would give him at least a dollar for the metal. He tried to lift the Utilizer. It wouldn't lift. He tried again, exerting all his strength, and succeeded in raising one corner an inch from the floor. He released it and sat down on the bed, breathing heavily.

"You should have sent a couple of men to help me," Collins told the Utilizer. Immediately, the hum grew louder and the machine started to vibrate.

Collins watched, but still nothing happened. On a hunch, he reached out and stabbed the red button.

Immediately, two bulky men appeared, dressed in rough work-clothes. They looked at the Utilizer appraisingly. One of them said, "Thank God, it's the small model. The big ones is brutes to get a grip on–"

The other man said, "It beats the marble quarry, don't it?"

They looked at Collins, who stared back. Finally the first man said, "Okay, Mac, we ain't got all day. Where you want it?"

"But where do you come from?" Collins asked. "And why?"

"We come from the Powha Minnile Movers, Incorporated," the man said. "And we come because you wanted movers, that's why. Now, where you want it?"

"Go away," Collins said. "I'll call for you later."

The moving men shrugged their shoulders and vanished. For several minutes, Collins stared at the spot where they had been. Then he stared at the Class-A Utilizer, which was humming softly again.

Utilizer? He could give it a better name.

A Wishing Machine.

Collins was not particularly shocked. When the miraculous occurs, only dull, workaday mentalities are unable to accept it. Collins was certainly not one of those. He had an excellent background for acceptance.

Most of his life had been spent wishing, hoping, praying that something marvelous would happen to him. In high school, he had dreamed of waking up some morning with an ability to know his homework without the tedious necessity of studying it. In the army, he had wished for some witch or jinn to change his orders, putting him in charge of the day room, instead of forcing him to do close-order drill like everyone else.

Out of the army, Collins had avoided work, for which he was psychologically unsuited. He had drifted around, hoping that some fabulously wealthy person would be induced to change his will, leaving him Everything!

He had never really expected anything to happen. But he was prepared when it did.

"I'd like a thousand dollars in small unmarked bills," Collins said cautiously. When the hum grew louder, he pressed the button. In front of him appeared a large mound of soiled singles, five- and ten-dollar bills. They were not crisp, but they certainly were money.

Collins threw a handful in the air and watched it settle beautifully to the floor. He lay on his bed and began making plans.

First, he would get the machine out of New York-upstate, perhaps-someplace where he wouldn't be bothered by nosy neighbors. The income tax would be tricky on this sort of thing. Perhaps, after he got organized, he should go to Central America, or . . .

There was a suspicious noise in the room.

Collins leaped to his feet. A hole was opening in the wall, and someone was forcing his way through.

"Hey, I didn't ask you anything!" Collins told the machine.

The hole grew larger, and a large, red-faced man was halfway through, pushing angrily at the hole.

At that moment, Collins remembered that machines usually have owners. Anyone who owned a wishing machine wouldn't take kindly to having it gone. He would go to any lengths to recover it. Probably, he would stop short of–

"Protect me!" Collins shouted at the Utilizer, and stabbed the red button.

A bald man in loud pajamas appeared, yawning sleepily. "Sanisa Leek, Temporal Wall Protection Service," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I'm Leek. What can I do for you?"

"Get him out of here!" Collins screamed. The red-faced man, waving his arms wildly, was almost through the hole.

Leek found a bit of bright metal in his pajamas pocket. The red faced man shouted, "Wait! You don't understand! That man–"

Man-in-Wall.pdf

Leek pointed his piece of metal. The red-faced man screamed and vanished. In another moment the hole had vanished too.

"Did you kill him?" Collins asked.

"Of course not," Leek said, putting away the bit of metal. "I just veered him back through his glommatch. He won't try that way again.

"You mean he'll try some other way?" Collins asked.

"It's possible," Leek said. "He could attempt a micro transfer, or even an animation." He looked sharply at Collins. "This is your Utilizer, isn't it?"

"Of course," Collins said, starting to perspire.

"And you're an A-rating?"

"Naturally," Collins told him. "If I wasn't, what would I be doing with a Utilizer?"

"No offense," Leek said drowsily; "just being friendly." He shook his head slowly. "How you A's get around! I suppose you've come back here to do a history book?"

Collins just smiled enigmatically.

"I'll be on my way," Leek said, yawning copiously. "On the go, night and day. I'd be better off in a quarry. "

And he vanished in the middle of a yawn.

Rain was still beating against the ceiling. Across the air-shaft, the snoring continued, undisturbed. Collins was alone again, with the machine.

And with a thousand dollars in small bills scattered around the floor.

He patted the Utilizer affectionately. Those A-ratings had it pretty good. Want something? Just ask for it and press a button. Undoubtedly, the real owner missed it.

Leek had said that the man might try to get in some other way. What way?

What did it matter? Collins gathered up the bills, whistling softly. As long as he had the wishing machine, he could take care of himself.

The next few days marked a great change in Collins' fortunes. With the aid of the Powha Minnile Movers he took the Utilizer to upstate New York. There, he bought a medium-sized mountain in a neglected comer of the Adirondacks. Once the papers were in his hands, he walked to the center of his property, several miles from the highway. The two movers, sweating profusely, lugged the Utilizer behind him, cursing monotonously as they broke through the dense underbrush.

"Set it down here and scram," Collins said. The last few days had done a lot for his confidence.

The moving men sighed wearily and vanished. Collins looked around. On all sides, as far as he could see, was closely spaced forest of birch and pine. The air was sweet and damp. Birds were chirping merrily in the treetops, and an occasional squirrel darted by.

Nature! He had always loved nature. This would be the perfect spot to build a large, impressive house with swimming pool, tennis courts and, possibly, a small airport.

"I want a house," Collins stated firmly, and pushed the red button.

A man in a neat gray business suit and pince-nez appeared. "Yes, sir," he said, squinting at the trees, "but you really must be more specific. Do you want something classic, like a bungalow, ranch, split-level, mansion, castle, or palace? Or primitive, like an igloo or hut? Since you are an A, you could have something up-to-the-minute, like a semiface, an extended new or a sunken miniature."

"Huh?" Collins said. "I don't know. What would you suggest?"

"Small mansion," the man said promptly. "They usually start with that."

"They do?"

"Oh, yes. Later, they move to a warm climate and build a palace."

Collins wanted to ask more questions, but he decided against it. Everything was going smoothly. These people thought he was an A, and

the true owner of the Utilizer. There was no sense in disenchanting them.

"You take care of it all," he told the man.

"Yes, sir," the man said. "I usually do."

The rest of the day, Collins reclined on a couch and drank iced beverages while the Maxima Olph Construction Company materialized equipment and put up his house.

It was a long-slung affair of some twenty rooms, which Collins considered quite modest under the circumstances. It was built only of the best materials, from a design of Mig of Degma, interior by Towige, a Mula swimming pool and formal gardens by Vierien.

By evening, it was completed, and the small army of 'workmen packed up their equipment and vanished.

Collins allowed his chef to prepare a light supper for him. Afterward, he sat in his large, cool living room to think the whole thing over. In front of him, humming gently, sat the Utilizer.

Collins lighted a cheroot and sniffed the aroma. First of all, he rejected any supernatural explanations. There were no demons or devils involved in this. His house had been built by ordinary human beings, who swore and laughed and cursed like human beings. The Utilizer was simply a scientific gadget, which worked on principles he didn't understand or care to understand.

Could it have come from another planet? Not likely. They wouldn't have learned English just for him.

The Utilizer must have come from the Earth's future. But how?

Collins leaned back and puffed his cheroot. Accidents will happen, he reminded himself. Why couldn't the Utilizer have just slipped into the past? After all, it could create something from nothing, and that was much more complicated.

What a wonderful future it must be, he thought. Wishing Machines! How marvelously civilized! All a person had to do was think of something. Presto! There it was. In time, perhaps, they'd eliminate the red button. Then there'd be no manual labor involved.

Of course, he'd have to watch his step. There was still the owner and the rest of the A's. They would try to take the machine from him. Probably, they were a hereditary clique . . .

A movement caught the edge of his eye and he looked up. The Utilizer was quivering like a leaf in a gale.

Collins walked up to it, frowning blackly. A faint mist of steam surrounded the trembling Utilizer. It seemed to be overheating.

Could he have overworked it? Perhaps a bucket of water . . .

Then he noticed that the Utilizer was perceptibly smaller. It was no more than two feet square and shrinking before his eyes.

The owner! Or perhaps the A's! This must be the micro transfer that Leek had talked about. If he didn't do something quickly, Collins knew, his wishing machine would dwindle to nothingness and disappear.

"Leek Protection Service," Collins snapped. He punched the button and withdrew his hand quickly. The machine was very hot.

Leek appeared in a comer of the room, wearing slacks and a sports shirt, and carrying a golf club. "Must I be disturbed every time I–"

"Do something!" Collins shouted, pointing to the Utilizer, which was now only a foot square and glowing a dull red.

"Nothing I can do," Leek said. "Temporal wall is all I'm licensed for. You want the microcontrol people." He hefted his golf club and was gone.

"Microcontrol," Collins said, and reached for the button. He withdrew his hand hastily. The Utilizer was only about four inches on a side now and glowing a hot cherry red. He could barely see the button, which was the size of a pin.

Collins whirled around, grabbed a cushion and punched down.

A girl with horn-rimmed glasses appeared, notebook in hand, pencil poised. "With whom did you wish to make an appointment?" she asked sedately.

"Get me help fast!" Collins roared, watching his precious Utilizer grow smaller and smaller.

"Mr. Vergon is out to lunch," the girl said, biting her pencil thoughtfully. "He's dezoned himself. I can't reach him."

"Who can you reach?"

She consulted her notebook. "Mr. Vis is in the Dieg Continuum and Mr. Elgis is doing field work in Paleolithic Europe. If you're really in a rush, maybe you'd better call Transferpoint Control. They're a smaller outfit, but–"

"Transferpoint Control. Okay–scram. " He turned his full attention to the Utilizer and stabbed down on it with the scorched pillow. Nothing happened. The Utilizer was barely half an inch square, and Collins realized that the cushion hadn't been able to depress the almost invisible button.

For a moment Collins considered letting the Utilizer go. Maybe this was the time. He could sell the house, the furnishings, and still be pretty well off . . .

No! He hadn't wished for anything important yet! No one was going to take it from him without a struggle.

He forced himself to keep his eyes open as he stabbed the white-hot button with a rigid forefinger.

A thin, shabbily dressed old man appeared, holding something that looked like a gaily colored Easter egg. He threw it down. The egg burst and an orange smoke billowed out and was sucked directly into the infinitesimal Utilizer. A great billow of smoke went up, almost choking Collins. Then the Utilizer's shape started to form again. The old man nodded curtly.

"We're not fancy," he said, "but we're reliable." He nodded again and disappeared.

Collins thought he could hear a distant shout of anger.

Shakily, he sat down on the floor in front of the machine. His hand was throbbing painfully.

"Fix me up," he muttered through dry lips, and punched the button with his good hand.

The Utilizer hummed louder for a moment, then was silent. The pain left his scorched finger and, looking down, Collins saw that there was no sign of a bum–not even scar tissue to mark where it had been.

Collins poured himself a long shot of brandy and went directly to bed. That night, he dreamed he was being chased by a gigantic letter A, but he didn't remember it in the morning.

Within a week, Collins found that building his mansion in the woods had been precisely the wrong thing to do. He had to hire a platoon of guards to keep away sightseers, and hunters insisted on camping in his formal gardens.

Also, the Bureau of Internal Revenue began to take a lively interest in his affairs.

But, above all, Collins discovered he wasn't so fond of nature after all. Birds and squirrels were all very well, but they hardly ranked as conversationalists. Trees, though quite ornamental, made poor drinking companions.

Collins decided he was a city boy at heart.

Therefore, with the aid of the Powha Minnile Movers, the Maxima Olph Construction Corporation, the Jagton Instantaneous Travel Bureau and a great deal of money placed in the proper hands, Collins moved to a small Central American republic. There, since the climate was warmer and income tax nonexistent, he built a large, airy, ostentatious palace.

It came equipped with the usual accessories-horses, dogs, peacocks, servants, maintenance men, guards, musicians, bevies of dancing girls and everything else a palace should have. Collins spent two weeks just exploring the place.

Everything went along nicely for a while.

One morning Collins approached the Utilizer, with the vague intention of asking for a sports car, or possibly a small herd of pedigreed cattle. He bent over the gray machine, reached for the red button . . .

And the Utilizer backed away from him.

For a moment, Collins thought he was seeing things, and he almost decided to stop drinking champagne before breakfast. He took a step forward and reached for the red button.

The Utilizer sidestepped him neatly and trotted out of the room.

Collins sprinted after it, cursing the owner and the A's. This was probably the animation that Leek had spoken about-somehow, the owner had managed to imbue the machine with mobility. It didn't matter. All he had to do was catch up, punch the button and ask for the Animation Control people.

The Utilizer raced down a hall, Collins close behind. An under-butler, polishing a solid gold doorknob, stared open mouthed.

"Stop it!" Collins shouted.

Utilizer-on-the-Run.pdf
___

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I wonder if Collins could out live Sinclair trying to pay off that debt...I sometimes wish people who pay on credit could vanish like the Utilizer; instead of complaining about prices these people force the price of goods and services up for us who pay now in cash. Or what about the founders who borrowed with little interest rates for their company and paid themselves billions in salaries for companies that have not made a profit....I bet if you gave me 4 billion dollars I could turn a profit . Hell the illegitimate offspring from the pairing between Cthulhu and that slug trail could too!

Kids.pdf

 

 

 

OUR AUTHORS and ILLUSTRATORS

 

The Land of .Oz

 

Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin: Author & Illustrator

 

Three Skeleton Key

 

George G. Toudouze: author
GustaveDore: Illustrator

 

Creeper in the Crypt

 

Robert Blcoh: Author

 

The Gathering

 

Lisa Deschenes: Author

 

Sabrina King: Illustrator

 

Man's Best Friend

 

Evelyn E. Smith: Author

 

Mel Hunter: Illustrator

 

Something for Nothing

 

Robert Sheckley: Author

 

Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin: 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 The 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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George G. Toudouze
(June 22 1877 in Paris, Seine, France - January 4, 1972):


Author.
a French novelist , playwright , historian and journalist. He wrote under the pseudonyms: Georges-Gustave Toudouze, Georges - G. Toudouze, or Georges G.- Toudouze, in Les Cahiers de l'Iroise , among others. Was resident at the Académie de France in Rome, a member of the Naval Academy, member of the Archeological French School of Athens, professor of history, theater and costume at the Conservatoire national de Paris. The novels of Georges-Gustave Toudouze are mainly maritime and often take as their setting Brittany, which he advocated for.

 

Dore.pdf

 

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.

 

 

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Robert Bloch
(April 5, 1917 – September 23, 1994):

 

Author. Bloch was an American fiction writer, primarily of crime, horror, fantasy and science fiction, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is best known as the writer of Psycho (1959), the basis for the film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock. His fondness for a pun is evident in the titles of his story collections such as Tales in a Jugular Vein, Such Stuff as Screams Are Made Of and Out of the Mouths of Graves.

He was one of the youngest members of the Lovecraft Circle and began his professional writing career immediately after graduation, aged 17. He was a protégé of H. P. Lovecraft, who was the first to seriously encourage his talent. However, while Bloch started his career by emulating Lovecraft and his brand of "cosmic horror", he later specialized in crime and horror stories dealing with a more psychological approach.

Bloch was a contributor to pulp magazines such as Weird Tales in his early career, and was also a prolific screenwriter and a major contributor to science fiction fanzines and fandom in general.

He won the Hugo Award (for his story That Hell-Bound Train), the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He served a term as president of the Mystery Writers of America (1970) and was a member of that organization and of Science Fiction Writers of America, the Writers Guild of America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Count Dracula Society.

 

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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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Evelyn. E. Smith
(July 25 1922 – July 4 2000):

 

Author. She was an American writer of science fiction and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. Smith regularly published short stories and novelettes in such publications as Galaxy Science Fiction, Fantastic Universe and the prestigious The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her short fiction ranges from satires set in a post-apocalyptic setting such as The Last of the Spode and The Hardest Bargain, to BAXBR/DAXBR, where she explores the dangers of Martian crossword puzzles. Her science fiction novels, which chiefly deal with questions of gender identity and, like all of her work, are characterized by their wit and humor.

Smith is probably best known, however, for her Miss Melville Mystery series, which chronicles the exploits of a middle-aged socialite-turned-assassin.

 

 

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Mel Hunter
(July 27, 1927 – February 20, 2004)


Illustrator. Mel was a 20th-century American illustrator. He enjoyed a successful career as a science fiction illustrator, producing illustrations for famous science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, as well as a technical and scientific illustrator for clients such as The Pentagon, Hayden Planetarium, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

 

 

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Robert Sheckley
( July 16, 1928 – December 9, 2005):


Author. Sheckley was an American writer. First published in the science-fiction magazines of the 1950s, his numerous quick-witted stories and novels were famously unpredictable, absurdest, and broadly comical. Nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards, Sheckley was named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2001. He also wrote Game of X which was the book that Condorman was based on, in which the book adaptation was the first book I ever read.