Short Story: “Who Goes There?” By Don A. Stuart.

“Who Goes There?” is a science-fiction novella written by John W. Campbell, Jr written under the pen name Don A. Stuart.

It has been adapted four times as a motion picture…

“The Thing From Another World” (1951). Trailer HERE.
“Horror Express” (1972). Trailer HERE.
“The Thing” (1982). Trailer HERE.
“The Thing” (2011). Trailer HERE.

The original story was first published in Astounding Science-Fiction magazine in August 1938.

Cover

I have reproduced John W. Campbell Jr’s original short story (Illustrations and all!) up on here for your pleasure with zero permission and here shall it remain until such time when I am sued for copyright infringement.

“Who Goes There?”.
Don A. Stuart.

1

2

Chapter I:

The place stank. A queer, mingled stench that only the ice-buried cabins of an Antarctic camp know, compounded of reeking human sweat, and the heavy, fish-oil stench of melted seal blubber. An overtone of liniment combated the musty smell of sweat-and-snow-drenched furs. The acrid odor of burnt cooking fat, and the animal, not-unpleasant smell of dogs, diluted by time, hung in the air.

Lingering odors of machine oil contrasted sharply with the taint of harness dressing and leather. Yet somehow, through all that reek of human beings and their associates – dogs, machines and cooking – came another taint. It was a queer, neck-ruffling thing, a faintest suggestion of an odor alien among the smells of industry and life. And it was a life-smell. But it came from the thing that lay bound with cord and tarpaulin on the table, dripping slowly, methodically onto the heavy planks, dank and gaunt under the unshielded glare of the electric light.

Blair, the little bald-pated biologist of the expedition, twitched nervously at the wrappings, exposing clear, dark ice beneath and then pulling the tarpaulin back into place restlessly. His little birdlike motions of suppressed eagerness danced his shadow across the fringe of dingy gray underwear hanging from the low ceiling, the equatorial fringe of stiff, graying hair around his naked skull a comical halo about the shadow’s head.

Commander Garry brushed aside the lax legs of a suit of underwear, and stepped toward the table. Slowly his eyes traced around the rings of men sardined into the Administration Building. His tall, stiff body straightened finally, and he nodded. “Thirty-seven. All here.” His voice was low, yet carried the clear authority of the commander by nature, as well as by title.

“You know the outline of the story back of that find of the Secondary Pole Expedition. I have been conferring with second-in-Command McReady, and Norris, as well as Blair and Dr. Copper. There is a difference of opinion, and because it involves the entire group, it is only just that the entire Expedition personnel act on it.

“I am going to ask McReady to give you the details of the story, because each of you has been too busy with his own work to follow closely the endeavors of the others. McReady?”

Moving from the smoke-blued background, McReady was a figure from some forgotten myth, a looming, bronze statue that held life, and walked. Six-feet-four inches he stood as he halted beside the table, and, with a characteristic glance upward to assure himself of room under the lower ceiling beam, straightened. His rough, clashingly orange windproof jacket he still had on, yet on his huge frame it did not seem misplaced. Even here, four feet beneath the drift-wind that droned across the Antarctic waste above the ceiling, the cold of the frozen continent leaked in, and gave meaning to the harshness of the man. And he was bronze – his great red-bronze beard, the heavy hair that matched it. The gnarled, corded hands gripping, relaxing, gripping relaxing on the table planks were bronze. Even the deep-sunken eyes beneath heavy brows were bronzed.

Age-resisting endurance of the metal spoke in the cragged heavy outlines of his face, and the mellow tones of the heavy voice. “Norris and Blair agree on one thing, that animal we found was not-terrestrial in origin. Norris fears there may be danger in that; Blair says there is none.

“But I’ll go back to how, and why, we found it. To all that was known before we came here, it appeared that this point was exactly over the South Magnetic Pole of Earth. The compass does point straight down here, as you all know. The more delicate instruments of the physicists, instruments especially designed for this expedition and its study of the magnetic pole, detected a secondary effect, a secondary, less powerful magnetic influence about 80 miles southwest of here.

“The Secondary Magnetic Expedition went out to investigate it. There is no need for details. We found it, but it was not the huge meteorite or magnetic mountain Norris had expected to find. Iron ore is magnetic, of course; iron more so – and certain special steels even more magnetic from the surface indications, the secondary pole we found was small, so small that the magnetic effect it had was preposterous. No magnetic material conceivable could have that effect. Soundings through the ice indicated it was within one hundred feet of the glacier surface.

“I think you should know the structure of the place. There is a broad plateau, a level sweep that runs more than 150 miles due south from the Secondary station, Van Wall says. He didn’t have time or fuel to fly farther, but it was running smoothly due south then. Right there, where that buried thing was, there is an ice-drowned mountain ridge, a granite wall of unshakable strength that has damned back the ice creeping from the south.

“And four hundred miles due south is the South Polar Plateau. You have asked me at various times why it gets warmer here when the wind rises, and most of you know. As a meteorologist I’d have staked my word that no wind could blow at -70 degrees – that no more than a 5-mile wind could blow at -50 – without causing warming due to friction with ground, snow and ice and the air itself.

“We camped there on the lip of that ice-drowned mountain range for twelve days. We dug out camp into the blue ice that formed the surface, and escaped most of it. But for twelve consecutive days the wind blew at 45 miles an hour. It went as high as 48, and fell to 41 at times. The temperature was -63 degrees. It rose to -60 and fell to -68. It was meteorologically impossible, and it went on uninterruptedly for twelve days and twelve nights.

“Somewhere to the south, the frozen air of South Polar Plateau slides down from that 18,000-foot bowl, down a mountain pass, over a glacier, and starts north. There must be a funneling mountain chain that directs it, and sweeps it away for four hundred miles to hit that bald plateau where we found the secondary pole, and 350 miles farther north reaches the Antarctic Ocean.

“It’s been frozen there since Antarctica froze twenty million years ago. There never has been a thaw there.

“Twenty million years ago Antarctica was beginning to freeze. We’ve investigated, thought and built speculations. What we believe happened was about like this.

“Something came down out of space, a ship. We saw it there in the blue ice, a thing like a submarine without a conning tower or directive vanes. 280 feet long and 45 feet in diameter at its thickest.

“Eh, Van Wall? Space? Yes, but I’ll explain that better later.” McReady’s steady voice went on.

“It came down from space, driven and lifted by forces men haven’t discovered yet, and somehow – perhaps something went wrong then – it tangled with Earth’s magnetic field. It came south here, out of control probably, circling the magnetic pole. That’s a savage country there, but when Antarctica was still freezing it must have been a thousand times more savage. There must have been blizzard snow, as well as drift, new snow falling as the continent glaciated. The swirl there must have been particularly bad, the wind hurling a solid blanket of white over the lip of that now-buried mountain.

“The ship struck solid granite head-on, and cracked up. Not every one of the passengers in it was killed, but the ship must have been ruined, her driving mechanism locked. It tangled with Earth’s field, Norris believes. No thing made by intelligent beings can tangle with the dead immensity of a planet’s natural forces and survive.

“One of its passengers stepped out. The wind we saw there never fell below 41, and the temperature never rose above -60. Then – the wind must have been stronger. And there was drift falling in a solid sheet. The thing was lost completely in ten paces.”

He paused for a moment, the deep, steady voice giving way to the drone of wind overhead, and the uneasy, malicious gurgling in the pipe of the galley stove.

Drift – a drift-wind was sweeping by overhead. Right now the snow picked up by the mumbling wind fled in level, blinding lines across the face of the buried camp. If a man stepped out of the tunnels that connected each of the camp buildings beneath the surface, he’d be lost in ten paces. Out there, the slim, black finger of the radio mast lifted 300 feet into the air, and at its peak was the clear night sky. A sky of thin, whining wind rushing steadily from beyond to another beyond under the licking, curling mantle of the aurora. And off north, the horizon flamed with queer, angry colors of the midnight twilight. That was spring 300 feet above Antarctica.

At the surface – it was white death. Death of a needle-fingered cold driven before the wind, sucking heat from any warm thing. Cold – and white mist of endless, everlasting drift, the fine, fine particles of licking snow that obscured all things.

Kinner, the little, scar-faced cook, winced. Five days ago he had stepped out to the surface to reach a cache of frozen beef. He had reached it, started back – and the drift-wind leapt out of the south. Cold, white death that streamed across the ground blinded him in twenty seconds. He stumbled on wildly in circles. It was half an hour before rope-guided men from below found him in the impenetrable murk.

It was easy for man – or thing – to get lost in ten paces.

“And the drift-wind then was probably more impenetrable than we know.” McReady’s voice snapped Kinner’s mind back. Back to welcome, dank warmth of the Ad Building. “The passenger of the ship wasn’t prepared either, it appears. It froze within ten feet of the ship.

“We dug down to find the ship, and our tunnel happened to find the frozen-animal. Barclay’s ice-ax struck its skull.

“When we saw what it was, Barclay went back to the tractor, started the fire up and when the steam pressure built, sent a call for Blair and Dr. Copper. Barclay himself was sick then. Stayed sick for three days, as a matter of fact.

“When Blair and Copper came, we cut out the animal in a block of ice, as you see, wrapped it and loaded it on the tractor for return here. We wanted to get into that ship.

“We reached the side and found the metal was something we didn’t know. Our beryllium-bronze, non-magnetic tools wouldn’t touch it. Barclay had some tool-steel on the tractor, and that wouldn’t scratch it either. We made reasonable tests – even tried some acid from the batteries with no results.

“They must have had a passivating process to make magnesium metal resist acid that way, and the alloy must have been at least 95 per cent magnesium. But we had no way of guessing that, so when we spotted the barely opened locked door, we cut around it. There was clear, hard ice inside the lock, where we couldn’t reach it. Through the little crack we could look in and see that only metal and tools were in there, so we decided to loosen the ice with a bomb.

“We had decanite bombs and thermite. Thermite is the ice-softener; decanite might have shattered valuable things, where the thermite’s heat would just loosen the ice. Dr. Copper, Norris and I placed a 25-pound thermite bomb, wired it, and took the connector up the tunnel to the surface, where Blair had the steam tractor waiting. A hundred yards the other side of that granite wall we set off the thermite bomb.

“The magnesium metal of the ship caught, of course. The glow of the bomb flared and died, then it began to flare again. We ran back to the tractor, and gradually the glare built up. From where we were we could see the whole ice-field illuminated from beneath with an unbearable light; the ship’s shadow was a great, dark cone reaching off toward the north, where the twilight was just about gone. For a moment it lasted, and we counted three other shadow-things that might have been other – passengers – frozen there. Then the ice was crashing down and against the ship.

“That’s why I told you about that place. The wind sweeping down from the Pole was at our backs. Steam and hydrogen flame were torn away in white ice-fog; the flaming heat under the ice there was yanked away toward the Antarctice Ocean before it touched us. Otherwise we wouldn’t have come back, even with the shelter of that granite ridge that stopped the light.

“Somehow in the blinding inferno we could see great hunched things, black bulks glowing, even so. They shed even the furious incandescence of the magnesium for a time. Those must have been the engines, we knew. Secrets going in blazing glory – secrets that might have given Man the planets. Mysterious things that could lift and hurl that ship-and had soaked in the force of the Earth’s magnetic field. I saw Norris’ mouth move, and ducked. I couldn’t hear him.

“Insulation – something – gave way. All Earth’s field they’d soaked up twenty million years before broke loose. The aurora in the sky above licked down, and the whole plateau there was bathed in cold fire that blanketed vision. The ice-ax in my hand got red hot, and hissed on the ice. Metal buttons on my clothes burned into me. And a flash of electric blue seared upward from beyond the granite wall.

“Then the walls of ice crashed down on it. For an instant it squealed the way dry-ice does when it’s pressed between metal.

“We were blind and groping in the dark for hours while our eyes recovered. We found every coil within a mile was fused rubbish, the dynamo and every radio set, the earphones and speakers. If we hadn’t had the steam tractor, we wouldn’t have gotten over to the Secondary Camp.

“Van Wall flew in from Big Magnet at sun-up, as you know. We came home as soon as possible. That is the history of – that.” McReady’s great bronze beard gestured toward the thing on the table.

Chapter II:

Blair stirred uneasily, his little bony fingers wriggling under the harsh light. Little brown freckles on his knuckles slid back and forth as the tendons under the skin twitched. He pulled aside a bit of the tarpaulin and looked impatiently at the dark icebound thing inside.

McReady’s big body straightened somewhat. He’d ridden the rocking, jarring steam tractor forty miles that day, pushing on to Big Magnet here. Even his calm will had been pressed by the anxiety to mix again with humans. It was lone and quiet out there in Secondary Camp, where a wolf-wind howled down from the Pole. Wolf-wind howling in his sleep – winds droning and the evil, unspeakable face of that monster leering up as he’d first seen it through clear, blue ice, with a bronze ice-ax buried in its skull.

The giant meteorologist spoke again. “The problem is them. Blair wants to examine the thing. Thaw it out and make micro slides of its tissues and so forth. Norris doesn’t believe that is safe, and Blair does. Dr. Copper agrees pretty much with Blair. Norris is a physicist, of course, not a biologist. But he makes a point I think we should all hear. Blair has described the microscopic life-forms biologists find living, even in this cold an inhospitable place. They freeze every winter, and thaw every summer – for three months – and live.

“The point Norris makes is – they thaw, and live again. There must have been microscopic life associated with this creature. There is with every living thing we know. And Norris is afraid that we may release a plague – some germ disease unknown to Earth – if we thaw those microscopic things that have been frozen there for twenty million years.

“Blair admits that such micro-life might retain the power of living. Such unorganized things as individual cells can retain life for unknown periods, when solidly frozen. The beast itself is as dead as those frozen mammoths they find in Siberia. Organized, highly developed life-forms can’t stand that treatment.

“But micro-life could. Norris suggests that we may release some disease-form that man, never having met it before, will be utterly defenseless against.

“Blair’s answer is that there may be such still living germs, but that Norris has the case reversed. They are utterly non-immune to man. Our life chemistry probably – ”

“Probably!” The little biologist’s head lifted in a quick, birdlike motion. The halo of gray hair about his bald head ruffled as though angry. “Heh. One look – ”

“I know,” McReady acknowledged. “The thing is not Earthly. It does not seem likely that it can have a life-chemistry sufficiently like ours to make cross-infection remotely possible. I would say that there is no danger.”

McReady looked toward Dr. Copper. The physician shook his head slowly. “None whatever,” he asserted confidently. “Man cannot infect or be infected by germs that live in such comparatively close relatives as the snakes. And they are, I assure you,” his clean-shaven face grimaced uneasily, “much nearer to us than – that.”

Vance Norris moved angrily. He was comparatively short in this gathering of big men, some five-feet-eight, and his stocky, powerful build tended to make him seem shorter. His black hair was crisp and hard, like short, steel wires, and his eyes were the gray of fractured steel. If McReady was a man of bronze, Norris was all steel. His movements, his thoughts, his whole bearing had the quick, hard impulse of steel spring. His nerves were steel – hard, quick-acting – swift corroding.

He was decided on his point now, and he lashed out in its defense with a characteristic quick, clipped flow of words. “Different chemistry be damned. That thing may be dead-or, by God, it may not – but I don’t like it. Damn it, Blair, let them see the foul thing and decide for themselves whether they want that thing thawed out in this camp.

“Thawed out, by the way. That’s got to be thawed out in one of the shacks tonight, if it is thawed out. Somebody – who’s watchman tonight? Magnetic – oh, Connant. Cosmic rays tonight. Well, you get to sit up with that twenty-million-year-old mummy of his.

“Unwrap it, Blair. How the hell can they tell what they are buying if they can’t see it? It may have a different chemistry. I don’t know what else it has, but I know it has something I don’t want. If you can judge by the look on its face – it isn’t human so maybe you can’t – it was annoyed when it froze. Annoyed, in fact, is just about as close an approximation of the way it felt as crazy, mad, insane hatred. Neither one touches the subject.

“How the hell can these birds tell what they are voting on? They haven’t seen those three red eyes, and the blue hair like crawling worms. Crawling – damn, it’s crawling there in the ice right now!

“Nothing Earth ever spawned had the unutterable sublimation of devastating wrath that thing let loose in its face when it looked around this frozen desolation twenty million years ago. Mad? It was mad clear through – searing, blistering mad!

“Hell, I’ve had bad dreams ever since I looked at those three red eyes. Nightmares. Dreaming the thing thawed out and came to life – that it wasn’t dead, or even wholly unconscious all those twenty million years, but just slowed, waiting – waiting. You’ll dream, too, while that damned thing that Earth wouldn’t own is dripping, dripping in the Cosmos House tonight.

“And, Connant,” Norris whipped toward the cosmic ray specialist, “won’t you have fun sitting up all night in the quiet. Wind whining above – and that thing dripping – ” He stopped for a moment, and looked around.

“I know. That’s not science. But this is, it’s psychology. You’ll have nightmares for a year to come. Every night since I looked at that thing I’ve had ’em., That’s why I hate it – sure I do – and don’t want it around. Put it back where it came from and let it freeze for another twenty million years. I had some swell nightmares – that it wasn’t made like we are – which is obvious – but of a different kind of flesh that it can really control. That it can change its shape, and look like a man – and wait to kill and eat –

“That’s not a logical argument. I know it isn’t. The thing isn’t Earth-logic anyway.

“Maybe it has an alien body-chemistry, and maybe its bugs do have a different body-chemistry. A germ might not stand that, but, Blair and Copper, how about a virus? That’s just an enzyme molecule, you’ve said. That wouldn’t need anything but a protein molecule of any body to work on.

“And how are you so sure that, of the million varieties of microscopic life it may have, none of them are dangerous? How about diseases like hydrophobia – rabies – that attacks any warm-blooded creature, whatever its body-chemistry may be? And parrot fever? Have you a body like a parrot, Blair? And plain rot – gangrene – necrosis, do you want? That isn’t choosy about body-chemistry! ”

Blair looked up from his puttering long enough to meet Norris’ angry gray eyes for an instant. “So far the only thing you have said this thing gave off that was catching was dreams. I’ll go so far as to admit that.” An impish, slightly malignant grin crossed the little man’s seamed face. “I had some, too. So. It’s dream-infectious. No doubt an exceedingly dangerous malady.

“So far as your other things go, you have a badly mistaken idea about viruses. In the first place, nobody has shown that the enzyme-molecule theory, and that alone, explains them. And in the second place, when you catch tobacco mosaic or wheat rust, let me know. A wheat plant is a lot nearer your body-chemistry than this other-world creature is.

“And your rabies is limited, strictly limited. You can’t get it from, nor give it to, a wheat plant or a fish – which is a collateral descendant of a common ancestor of yours. Which this, Norris, is not.” Blair nodded pleasantly toward the tarpaulined bulk on the table.

“Well, thaw the damned thing in a tub of formalin if you must thaw it. I’ve suggested that – ”

“And I’ve said there would be no sense in it. You can’t compromise. Why did you and Commander Garry come down here to study magnetism? Why weren’t you content to stay at home? There’s magnetic force enough in New York. I could no more study the life this thing once had from a formalin-pickled sample than you could get the information you wanted back in New York. And – if this one is so treated, never in all time to come can there be a duplicate! The race it came from must have passed away in the twenty millions years it lay frozen, so that even if it came from Mars then, we’d never find its like. And – the ship is gone.

“There’s only one way to do this – and that is the best possible way. It must be thawed slowly, carefully, and not in formalin.”

Commander Garry stood forward again, and Norris stepped back muttering angrily. “I think Blair is right, gentlemen. What do you say?”

Connant grunted. “It sounds right to us, I think – only perhaps he ought to stand watch over it while it’s thawing.” He grinned ruefully, brushing a stray lock of ripe-cherry hair back from his forehead. “Swell idea, in fact – if he sits up with his jolly little corpse.”

Garry smiled slightly. A general chuckle of agreement rippled over the group. “I should think any ghost it may have had would have starved to death if it hung around here that long, Connant,” Garry suggested. “And you look capable of taking care of it. ‘Ironman’ Connant ought to be able to take out any opposing players, still.”

Connant shook himself uneasily. “I’m not worrying about ghosts. Let’s see that thing. I – ”

Eagerly Blair was stripping back the ropes. A single throw of the tarpaulin revealed the thing. The ice had melted somewhat in the heat of the room and it was clear and blue as thick, good glass. It shone wet and sleek under the harsh light of the unshielded globe above.

The room stiffened abruptly. It was face up there on the plain, greasy planks of the table. The broken half of the bronze ice-ax was still buried in the queer skull. Three mad, hate-filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh-spilled blood. from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow

Van Wall, six feet and 200 pounds of ice-nerved pilot, gave a queer, strangled gasp and butted, stumbled his way out to the corridor. Half the company broke for the doors. The others stumbled away from the table.

McReady stood at one end of the table watching them, his great body planted solid on his powerful legs. Norris from the opposite end glowered at the thing with smoldering heat. Outside the door, Garry was talking with half a dozen of the men at once.

Blair had a tack hammer. The ice that cased the thing schluffed crisply under its steel claw as it peeled from the thing it had cased for twenty thousand thousand years –

Chapter III:

I know you don’t like the thing, Connant, but it just has to be thawed out right. You say leave it as it is till we get back to civilization. All right, I’ll admit your argument that we could do a better and more complete job there is sound.

3

But – how are we going to get this across the Line? We have to take this through one temperate zone, the equatorial zone, and half way through the other temperate zone before we get it to New York. You don’t want to sit with it one night, but you suggest, then, that I hang its corpse in the freezer with the beef?” Blair looked up from his cautious chipping, his bald, freckled skull nodding triumphantly.

Kinner, the stocky, scar-faced cook, saved Connant the trouble of answering. “Hey, you listen, mister. You put that thing in the box with the meat, and by all the gods there ever were, I’ll put you in to keep it company. You birds have brought everything movable in this camp in onto my mess tables here already, and I had to stand for that. But you go putting things like that in my meat box or even my meat cache here, and you cook your own damn grub.”

“But, Kinner, this is the only table in Big Magnet that’s big enough to work on,” Blair objected. “Everybody’s explained that.”

“Yeah, and everybody’s brought everything in here. Clark brings his dogs every time there’s a fight and sews them up on that table. Ralsen brings in his sledges. Hell, the only thing you haven’t had on that table is the Boeing. And you’d ‘a’ had that in if you coulda figured a way to get it through the tunnels.’

Commander Garry chuckled and grinned at Van Wall, the huge Chief Pilot. Van Wall’s great blond beard twitched suspiciously as he nodded gravely to Kinner. “You’re right, Kinner. The aviation department is the only one that treats you right.”

“It does get crowded, Kinner,” Garry acknowledged. “But I’m afraid we all find it that way at times. Not much privacy in an Antarctic camp.”

“Privacy? What the hell’s that? You know, the thing that really made me weep, was when I saw Barclay marchin’ through here chantin’ ‘The last lumber in the camp! The last lumber in the camp!’ and carryin’ it out to build that house on his tractor. Damn it, I missed that moon cut in the door he carried out more’n I missed the sun when it set. That wasn’t just the last lumber Barclay was walkin’ off with. He was carryin’ off the last bit of privacy in this blasted place.”

A grin rode even on Connant’s heavy face as Kinner’s perennial good-natured grouch came up again. But it died away quickly as his dark, deep-set eyes turned again to the red-eyed thing Blair was chipping from its cocoon of ice. A big hand ruffed his shoulder-length hair, and tugged at a twisted lock that fell behind his ear in a familiar gesture. “I know that cosmic ray shack’s going to be too crowded if I have to sit up with that thing,” he growled. “Why can’t you go on chipping the ice away from around it – you can do that without anybody butting in, I assure you – and then hang the thing up over the power-plant boiler? That’s warm enough. It’ll thaw out a chicken, even a whole side of beef, in a few hours.”

“I know.” Blair protested, dropping the tack hammer to gesture more effectively with his bony, freckled fingers, his small body tense with eagerness, “but this is too important to take any chances. There never was a find like this; there never can be again. It’s the only chance men will ever have, and it has to be done exactly right.

“Look, you know how the fish we caught down near the Ross Sea would freeze almost as soon as we got them on deck, and come to life again if we thawed them gently? Low forms of life aren’t killed by quick freezing and slow thawing. We have – ”

“Hey, for the love of Heaven – you mean that damned thing will come to life!” Connant yelled. “You get the damned thing – Let me at it! That’s going to be in so many pieces – ”

“NO! No, you fool – ” Blair jumped in front of Connant to protect his precious find. “No. Just low forms of life. For Pete’s sake let me finish. You can’t thaw higher forms of life and have them come to. Wait a moment now – hold it! A fish can come to after freezing because it’s so low a form of life that the individual cells of its body can revive, and that alone is enough to re-establish life. Any higher forms thawed out that way are dead. Though the individual cells revive, they die because there must be organization and cooperative effort to live. That cooperation cannot be re-established. There is a sort of potential life in any uninjured, quick-frozen animal. But it can’t – can’t under any circumstances – become active life in higher animals. The higher animals are too complex, too delicate. This is an intelligent creature as high in its evolution as we are in ours. Perhaps higher. It is as dead as a frozen man would be.”

“How do you know?” demanded Connant, hefting the ice-ax he had seized a moment before.

Commander Garry laid a restraining hand on his heavy shoulder. “Wait a minute, Connant. I want to get this straight. I agree that there is going to be no thawing of this thing if there is the remotest chance of its revival. I quite agree it is much too unpleasant to have alive, but I had no idea there was the remotest possibility.”

Dr. Copper pulled his pipe from between his teeth and heaved his stocky, dark body from the bunk he had been sitting in. “Blair’s being technical. That’s dead. As dead as the mammoths they find frozen in Siberia. Potential life is like atomic energy – there, but nobody can get it out, and it certainly won’t release itself except in rare cases, as rare as radium in the chemical analogy. We have all sorts of proof that things don’t live after being frozen – not even fish, generally speaking – and no proof that higher animal life can under any circumstances. What’s the point, Blair?”

The little biologist shook himself. The little ruff of hair standing out around his bald pate waved in righteous anger. “The point is,” he said in an injured tone, ‘that the individual cells might show the characteristics they had in life, if it is properly thawed. A man’s muscle cells live many hours after he has died. Just because they live, and a few things like hair and fingernail cells still live, you wouldn’t accuse a corpse of being a Zombie, or something.

“Now if I thaw this right, I may have a chance to determine what sort of world it’s native to. We don’t, and can’t know by any other means, whether it came from Earth or Mars or Venus or from beyond the stars.

“And just because it looks unlike men, you don’t have to accuse it of being evil, or vicious or something. Maybe that expression on its face is its equivalent to a resignation to fate. White is the color of mourning to the Chinese. If men can have different customs, why can’t a so-different race have different understandings of facial expressions?”

Connant laughed softly, mirthlessly. “Peaceful resignation! If that is the best it could do in the way of resignation, I should exceedingly dislike seeing it when it was looking mad. That face was never designed to express peace. It just didn’t have any philosophical thoughts like peace in its make-up.

“I know it’s your pet – but be sane about it. The thing grew up on evil, adolesced slowly roasting alive the local equivalent of kittens, and amused itself through maturity on new and ingenious torture. ”

“You haven’t the slight right to say that,” snapped Blair. “How do you know the first thing about the meaning of a facial expression inherently inhuman! It may well have no human equivalent whatever. That is just a different development of Nature, another example of Nature’s wonderful adaptability. Growing on another, perhaps harsher world, it has different form and features. But it is just as much a legitimate child of Nature as you are. You are displaying the childish human weakness of hating the different. On its own world it would probably class you as a fish-belly, white monstrosity with an insufficient number of eyes and a fungoid body pale and bloated with gas.

“Just because its nature is different, you haven’t any right to say it’s necessarily evil.”

Norris burst out a single, explosive, “Haw!” He looked down at the thing. “May be that things from other worlds don’t have to be evil just because they’re different. But that thing was! Child of Nature, eh? Well, it was a hell of an evil Nature.”

“Aw, will you mugs cut crabbing at each other and get the damned thing off my table?” Kinner growled. “And put a canvas over it. It looks indecent.”

“Kinner’s gone modest,” jeered Connant.

Kinner slanted his eyes up to the big physicist. The scarred cheek twisted to join the line of his tight lips in a twisted grin. “All right, big boy, and what were you grousing about a minute ago? We can set the thing in a chair next to you tonight, if you want. ”

“I’m not afraid of its face,” Connant snapped. “I don’t like keeping awake over its corpse particularly, but I’m going to do it.”

Kinner’s grin spread. “Uh-huh.” He went off to the galley stove and shook down ashes vigorously, drowning the brittle chipping of the ice as Blair fell to work again.

Chapter IV:

“Cluck, ” reported the cosmic ray counter, cluck-brrrp-cluck. ” Connant started and dropped his pencil.

“Damnation.” The physicist looked toward the far corner, back at the Geiger counter on the table near that comer, and crawled under the desk at which he had been working to retrieve the pencil. He sat down at his work again, trying to make his writing more even. It tended to have jerks and quavers in it, in time with the abrupt proud-hen noises of the Geiger counter. The muted whoosh of the pressure lamp he was using for illumination, the mingled gargles and bugle calls of a dozen men sleeping down the corridor in Paradise House formed the background sounds for the irregular, clucking noises of the counter, the occasional rustle of falling coal in the copper-bellied stove. And a soft, steady drip-drip-drip from the thing in the corner.

Connant jerked a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, snapped it so that a cigarette protruded and jabbed the cylinder into his mouth. The lighter failed to function, and he pawed angrily through the pile of papers in search of a match. He scratched the wheel of the lighter several times, dropped it with a curse and got up to pluck a hot coal from the stove with the coal tongs.

The lighter functioned instantly when he tried it on returning to the desk. The counter ripped out a series of chucking guffaws as a burst of cosmic rays struck through to it. Connant turned to glower at it, and tried to concentrate on the interpretation of data collected during the past week. The weekly summary –

He gave up and yielded to curiosity, or nervousness. He lifted the pressure lamp from the desk and carried it over to the table in the corner. Then he returned to the stove and picked up the coal tongs. The beast had been thawing for nearly 18 hours now. He poked at it with an unconscious caution; the flesh was no longer hard as armor plate, but had assumed a rubbery texture. It looked like wet, blue rubber glistening under droplets of water like little round jewels in the glare of the gasoline pressure lantern. Connant felt an unreasoning desire to pour the contents of the lamp’s reservoir over the thing in its box and drop the cigarette into it. The three red eyes glared up at him sightlessly, the ruby eyeballs reflecting murky, smoky rays of light.

He realized vaguely that he had been looking at them for a very long time, even vaguely understood that they were no longer sightless. But it did not seem of importance, of no more importance than the labored, slow motion of the tentacular things that sprouted from the base of the scrawny, slowly pulsing neck.

Connant picked up the pressure lamp and returned to his chair. He sat down, staring at the pages of mathematics before him. The clucking of the counter was strangely less disturbing, the rustle of the coals in the stove no longer distracting.

The creak of the floorboards behind him didn’t interrupt his thoughts as he went about his weekly report in an automatic manner, filing in columns of data and making brief, summarizing notes.

The creak of the floorboard sounded nearer.

Chapter V:

Blair came up from the nightmare-haunted depths of sleep abruptly. Connant’s face floated vaguely above him; for a moment it seemed a continuance of the wild horror of the dream. But Connant’s face was angry, and a little frightened. “Blair – Blair you damned log, wake up.”

“Uh-eh?” the little biologist rubbed his eyes, his bony, freckled fingers crooked to a mutilated child-fist. From surrounding bunks other faces lifted to stare down at them.

Connant straightened up. “Get up – and get a lift on. Your damned animal’s escaped.”

“Escaped – what! ” Chief Pilot Van Walls’s buull voice roared out with a volume that shook the walls. Down the communication tunnels other voices yelled suddenly. The dozen inhabitants of Paradise House tumbled in abruptly, Barclay, stocky and bulbous in long woolen underwear, carrying a fire extinguisher.

“What the hell’s the matter?” Barclay demanded.

“Your damned beast got loose. I fell asleep about twenty minutes ago, and when I woke up, the thing was gone. Hey, Doc, the hell you say those things can’t come to life. Blair’s blasted potential life developed a hell of a lot of potential and walked out on us.’

Copper stared blankly. “It wasn’t – Earthly,” he sighed suddenly. “I – I guess Earthly laws don’t apply.”

“Well, it applied for leave of absence and took it. We’ve got to find it and capture it somehow.” Connant swore bitterly, his deep-set black eyes sullen and angry. “It’s a wonder the hellish creature didn’t eat me in my sleep.”

Blair stared back, his pale eyes suddenly fearstruck. “Maybe it di – er – uh – we’ll have to find it.

“You find it. It’s your pet. I’ve had all I want to do with it, sitting there for seven hours with the counter clucking every few seconds, and you birds in here singing night-music. It’s a wonder I got to sleep. I’m going through to the Ad Building.”

Commander Garry ducked through the doorway, pulling his belt tight. “You won’t have to. Van’s roar sounded like the Boeing taking off down wind. So it wasn’t dead?”

“I didn’t carry it off in my arms, I assure you,” Connant snapped. “The last I saw, that split skull was oozing green goo, like a squashed caterpillar. Doc just said our laws don’t work – it’s unearthly. Well, it’s an unearthly monster, with an unearthly disposition, judging by the face, wandering around with a split skull and brains oozing out.”

Norris and McReady appeared in the doorway, a doorway filling with other shivering men. “Has anybody seen it coming over here?” Norris asked innocently. “About four feet tall – three red eyes – brains oozing – Hey, has anybody checked to make sure this isn’t a cracked idea of humor? If it is, I think we’ll unite in tying Blair’s pet around Connant’s neck like the ancient Mariner’s albatross.

“It’s no humor,” Connant shivered. “Lord, I wish it were. I’d rather wear -” He stopped. A wild, weird howl shhrieked through the corridors. The men stiffened abruptly, and half turned.

“I think it’s been located,” Connant finished. His dark eyes shifted with a queer unease. He darted back to his bunk in Paradise house, to return almost immediately with a heavy .45 revolver and an ice-ax. He hefted both gently as he started for the corridor toward Dogtown. “It blundered down the wrong corridor – and landed among the huskies. Listen – the dogs have broken their chains – ”

The half-terrorized howl of the dog pack changed to a wild hunting melee. The voices of the dogs thundered in the narrow corridors, and through them came a low rippling snarl of distilled hate. A shrill of pain, a dozen snarling yelps.

Connant broke for the door. Close behind him, McReady, then Barclay and Commander Garry came. Other men broke for the Ad Building, and weapons – the sledge house. Pomroy, in charge of Big Magnet’s five cows, started down the corridor in the opposite direction – he had a six-foot-handled, long-tined pitchfork in mind.

Barclay slid to a halt, as McReady’s giant bulk turned abruptly away from the tunnel leading to Dogtown, and vanished off at an angle. Uncertainly, the mechanician wavered a moment, the fire-extinguisher in his hands, hesitating from one side to the other. Then he was racing after Connant’s broad back. Whatever McReady had in mind, he could be trusted to make it work.

Connant stopped at the bend in the corridor. His breath hissed suddenly through his throat. “Great God – ” The revolver exploded thunderously; three numbing, palpable waves of sound crashed through the confined corridors. Two more. The revolver dropped to the hard-packed snow of the trail, and Barclay saw the ice-ax shift into defensive position. Connant’s powerful body blocked his vision, but beyond he heard something mewing, and, insanely, chuckling. The dogs were quieter; there was a deadly seriousness in their low snarls. Taloned feet scratched at hard-packed snow, broken chains were clinking and tangling.

Connant shifted abruptly, and Barclay could see what lay beyond. For a second he stood frozen, then his breath went out in a gusty curse. The Thing launched itself at Connant, the powerful arms of the man swung the ice-ax flatside first at what might have been a hand. It scrunched horribly, and the tattered flesh, ripped by a half-dozen savage huskies, leapt to its feet again. The red eyes blazed with an unearthy hatred, an unearthly, unkillable vitality.

Barclay turned the fire extinguisher on it; the blinding, blistering stream of chemical spray confused it, baffled it, together with the savage attacks of the huskies, not for long afraid of anything that did, or could live, held it at bay.

McReady wedged men out of his way and drove down the narrow corridor packed with men unable to reach the scene. There was a sure fore-planned drive to McReady’s attack. One of the giant blowtorches used in warming the plane’s engines was in his bronzed hands. It roared gustily as he turned the corner and opened the valve. The mad mewing hissed louder. The dogs scrambled back from the three-foot lance of blue-hot flame.

“Bar, get a power cable, run it in somehow. And a handle. We can electrocute this – monster, if I don’t incinerate it.” McReady spoke with an authority of planned action. Barclay turned down the long corridor to the power plant, but already before him Norris and Van Wall were racing down.

Barclay found the cable in the electrical cache in the tunnel wall. In a half minute he was hacking at it, walking back. Van Wall’s voice rang out in a warning shout of “Power!” as the emergency gasoline-powered dynamo thudded into action. Half a dozen other men were down there now; the coal, kindling were going into the firebox of the steam power plant. Norris, cursing in a low, deadly monotone, was working with quick, sure fingers on the other end of Barclay’s cable, splicing in a contactor in one of the power leads.

The dogs had fallen back when Barclay reached the corridor bend, fallen back before a furious monstrosity that glared from baleful red eyes, mewing in trapped hatred. The dogs were a semi-circle of red-dipped muzzles with a fringe of glistening white teeth, whining with a vicious eagerness that near matched the fury of the red eyes. McReady stood confidently alert at the corridor bend, the gustily muttering torch. held loose and ready for action in his hands. He stepped aside without moving his eyes from the beast as Barclay came up. There was a slight, tight smile on his lean, bronzed face.

Norris’ voice called down the corridor, and Barclay stepped forward. The cable was taped to the long handle of a snow-shovel, the two conductors split, and held 18 inches apart by a scrap of lumber lashed at right angles across the far end of the handle. Bare copper conductors, charged with 220 volts, glinted in the light of pressure lamps. The Thing mewed and halted and dodged. McReady advanced to Barclay’s side. The dogs beyond sensed the plan with the almost-telepathic intelligence of trained huskies. Their whimpering grew shriller, softer, their mincing steps carried them nearer. Abruptly a huge, night-black Alaskan leapt onto the trapped thing. It turned squalling, saber-clawed feet slashing.

Barclay leapt forward and jabbed. A weird, shrill scream rose and choked out. The smell of burnt flesh in the corridor intensified; greasy smoke curled up. The echoing pound of the gas-electric dynamo down the corridor became a slogging thud.

The red eyes clouded over in a stiffening, jerking travesty of a face. Armlike, leglike members quivered and jerked. The dogs leapt forward, and Barclay yanked back his shovel-handled weapon. The thing on the snow did not move as gleaming teeth ripped it open.

Chapter VI:

Garry looked about the crowded room. Thirty-two men, some tensed nervously standing against the wall, some uneasily relaxed, some sitting, most perforce standing, as intimate as sardines. Thirty-two, plus the five engaged in sewing up wounded dogs, made thirty- seven, the total personnel.

Garry started speaking. “All right, I guess we’re here. Some of you – three or four at most – saw what happened. All of you have seen that thing on the table, and can get a general idea. Anyone hasn’t, I’ll lift – ” His hand strayed to the tarpaulin bulking over the thing on the table. There was an acrid odor of singed flesh seeping out of it. The men, stirred restlessly, hasty denials.

“It looks rather as though Charnauk isn’t going to lead any more teams,” Garry went on. “Blair wants to get at this thing, and make some more detailed examination. We want to know what happened, and make sure right now that this is permanently, totally dead. Right?”

Connant grinned. “Anybody that doesn’t agree can sit up with it tonight.”

“All right then, Blair, what can you say about it? What was it?” Garry turned to the little biologist.

“I wonder if we ever saw its natural form. ” Blair looked at the covered mass. “It may have been imitating the beings that built that ship – but I don’t think it was. I think that was its true form. Those of us who were up near the bend saw the thing in action; the thing on the table is the result. When it got loose, apparently, it started looking around. Antarctica still frozen as it was ages ago when the creature first saw it – and froze. From my observations while it was thawing out, and the bits of tissue I cut and hardened then, I think it was native to a hotter planet than Earth. It couldn’t, in its natural form, stand the temperature. There is no life-form on Earth that can live in Antarctica during the winter, but the best compromise is the dog. It found the dogs, and somehow got near enough to Charnauk to get him. The others smelled it – heard it – I don’t know – anyway they wwent wild, and broke chains, and attacked it before it was finished. The thing we found was part Charnauk, queerly only half-dead, part Charnauk half-digested by the jellylike protoplasm of that creature, and part the remains of the thing we originally found, sort of melted down to the basic protoplasm.

“When the dogs attacked it, it turned – into the best fighting thing it could think of. Some other-world beast apparently.”

“Turned,” snapped Garry. “How?”

“Every living thing is made up of jelly – protoplasm and minute, submicroscopic things called nuclei, which control the bulk, the protoplasm. This thing was just a modification of that same worldwide plan of Nature; cells made up of protoplasm, controlled by infinitely tinier nuclei. You physicists might compare it – an individual cell of any living thing – with an atom; the bulk of the atom, the space-filling part, is made up of the electron orbits, but the character of the thing is determined by the atomic nucleus.

“This isn’t wildly beyond what we already know. It’s just a modification we haven’t seen before. It’s as natural, as logical, as any other manifestation of life. It obeys exactly the same laws. The cells are made of protoplasm, their character determined by the nucleus.

“Only in this creature, the cell-nuclei can control those cells at will. It digested Charnauk, and as it digested, studied every cell of his tissue, and shaped its own cells to imitate them exactly. Parts of it – parts that had time to finish changing – are dog-cells. But they don’t have dog-cell nuclei.” Blair lifted a fraction of the tarpaulin. A torn dog’s leg with stiff gray fur protruded. “That, for instance, isn’t dog at all; it’s imitation. Some parts I’m certain about; the nucleus was hiding itself, covering up with dog-cell imitation nucleus. In time, not even a microscope would have shown the difference.”

“Suppose,” asked Norris bitterly, “it had had lots of time?”

“Then it would have been a dog. The other dogs would have accepted it. We would have accepted it. I don’t think anything would have distinguished it, not microscope, nor X-ray, nor any other means. This is a member of a supremely intelligent race, a race that has learned the deepest secrets of biology, and turned them to its use.”

“What was it planning to do?” Barclay looked at the humped tarpaulin.

Blair grinned unpleasantly. The wavering halo of thin hair round his bald pate wavered in the stir of air. “Take over the world, I imagine.”

“Take over the world! Just it, all by itself?” Connant gasped. “Set itself up as a lone dictator?”

“No,” Blair shook his head. The scalpel he had been fumbling in his bony fingers dropped; he bent to pick it up, so that his face was hidden as he spoke. “It would become the population of the world.”

“Become – populate the world? Does it reproduce aasexually?”

Blair shook his head and gulped. “It’s – it doesn’t have to. It weighed 85 pounds. Charnauk weighed about 90. It would have become Charnauk, and had 85 pounds left, to become – oh, Jack for instance, or Chinook. It can imitate anything – that is, become anything. If it had reached the Antarctic Sea, it would have become a seal, maybe two seals. They might have attacked a killer whale, and become either killers, or a herd of seals. Or maybe it would have caught an albatross, or a skua gull, and flown to South America.”

Norris cursed softly. “And every time, it digested something, and imitated it – ”

“It would have had its original bulk left, to start again,” Blair finished. “Nothing would kill it. It has no natural enemies, because it becomes whatever it wants to. If a killer whale attacked, it would become a killer whale. If it was an albatross, and an eagle attacked it, it would become an eagle. Lord, it might become a female eagle. Go back – build a nest and lay eggs!”

“Are you sure that thing from hell is dead?” Dr. Copper asked softly.

“Yes, thank Heaven,” the little biologist gasped. “After they drove the dogs off, I stood there poking Bar’s electrocution thing into it for five minutes. It’s dead and – cooked.”

“Then we can only give thanks that this is Antarctica, where there is not one, single, solitary, living thing for it to imitate, except these animals in camp.”

“Us,” Blair giggled. “It can imitate us. Dogs can’t make 400 miles to the sea; there’s no food. There aren’t any skua gulls to imitate at this season. There aren’t any Penguins this far inland. There’s nothing that can reach the sea from this point – except us. We’ve got the brains. We can do it. Don’t you see – it’s got to imitate us – it’s got to be one of us – that’s the only way it Can fly an airplane – fly a plane for two hours, and rule – be – all Earth’s inhabitants. A world for the taking – if it imitates us!

“It didn’t know yet. It hadn’t had a chance to learn. It was rushed – hurried – look the thing nearest its own size. Look – I’m Pandora! I opened the box! And the only hope that can come out is – That nothing can come out. You didn’t see me. I did It. I fixed it I smashed every magneto. Not a plane can fly. Nothing can fly.” Blair giggled and lay down on the floor crying.

Chief Pilot Van Wall made a dive for the door. His feet were fading echoes in the corridors as Dr. Copper bent unhurriedly over the little man on the floor. From his office at the end of the room he brought something, and injected a solution into Blair’s arm. “He might come out of it when he wakes up,” he sighed rising. McReady helped him lift the biologist onto a near-by bunk. “It all depends on whether we can convince him that thing is dead.”

Van Wall ducked into the shack brushing his heavy blond beard absently. “I didn’t think a biologist would do a thing like that up thoroughly. He missed the spares in the second cache. It’s all right. I smashed them.”

Commander Garry nodded. “I was wondering about the radio.”

Dr. Copper snorted. “You don’t think it can leak out on a radio wave, do you? You’d have five rescue attempts in the next three months if you stop the broadcasts. The thing to do is talk loud and not make a sound. Now I wonder – ”

McReady looked speculatively at the doctor. “It might be like an infectious disease. Everything that drank, any of its blood – ”

Copper shook his head. “Blair missed something. Imitate it may, but it has, to a certain extent, its own body-chemistry, its own metabolism. If it didn’t it would become a dog – and be a dog and nothing more. It has to be an imitation dog. Therefore you can detect it by serum tests. And its chemistry, since it comes from another world. Must be so wholly, radically different that a few cells, such as gained by drops of blood, would be treated as disease germs by the dog, or human body.”

“Blood – would one of those imitations bleed?” Norris demanded.

“Surely. Nothing mystic about blood. Muscle is about 90 per cent water; blood differs only in having-a-couple per cent more water, and less connective tissue. They’d bleed all right,” Copper assured him.

Blair sat up in his bunk suddenly. “Connant – where’s Connant?”

The physicist moved over toward the little biologist. “Here I am. What do you want?”

“Are You?” giggled Blair. He lapsed back into the bunk contorted with silent laughter.

Connant looked at him blankly “Huh? Am I what?”

“Are you there?” Blair burst into gales of laughter. “Are you Connant? The beast wanted to be a man – not a dog – ”

Chapter VII:

Dr. Copper rose wearily from the bunk, and washed the hypodermic carefully. The little tinkles it made seemed loud in the packed room, now that Blair’s gurgling laughter had finally quieted. Copper looked toward Garry and shook his head slowly. “Hopeless, I’m afraid. I don’t think we can ever convince him the thing is dead now.”

Norris laughed uncertainly. “I’m not sure you can convince me. Oh, damn you, McReady. ”

“McReady?” Commander Garry turned to look from Norris to McReady curiously.

“The nightmares,” Norris explained. “He had a theory about the nightmares we had at the Secondary Station after finding that thing.”

“And that was?” Garry looked at McReady levelly.

Norris answered for him, jerkily, uneasily. “That the creature wasn’t dead, had a sort of enormously slowed existence, an existence that permitted it, none the less, to be vaguely aware of the passing of time, of our coming, after endless years. I had a dream it could imitate things.”

“Well,” Copper grunted, “it can.”

“Don’t be an ass,” Norris snapped. “That’s not what’s bothering me. In the dream it could read minds, read thoughts and ideas and mannerisms.”

“What’s so bad about that? It seems to be worrying you more than the thought of the joy we’re going to have with a mad man in an Antarctic camp.” Copper nodded toward Blair’s sleeping form.

McReady shook his great head slowly. “You know that Connant is Connant, because he not merely looks like Connant – which we’re beginning to believe that beast might be able to do – but he thinks like Connant, talks like Connant, moves himself around as Connant does. That takes more than merely a body that looks like him; that takes Connant’s own mind, and thoughts and mannerisms. Therefore, though you know that the thing might make itself look like Connant, you aren’t much bothered, because you know it has a mind from another world, a totally unhuman mind, that couldn’t possibly react and think and talk like a man we know, and do it so well as to fool us for a moment. The idea of the creature imitating one of us is fascinating, but unreal because it is too completely unhuman to deceive us. It doesn’t have a human mind.”

“As I said before,” Norris repeated, looking steadily at McReady, “you can say the damnedest things at the damnedest times. Will you be so good as to finish that thought – one way or the other?”

Kinner, the scar-faced expedition cook, had been standing near Connant. Suddenly he moved down the length of the crowded room toward his familiar galley. He shook the ashes from the galley stove noisily.

“It would do it no good,” said Dr. Copper, softly as though thinking out loud, “to merely look like something it was trying to imitate; it would have to understand its feelings, its reaction. It is unhuman; it has powers of imitation beyond any conception of man. A good actor, by training himself, can imitate another man, another man’s mannerisms, well enough to fool most people. Of course no actor could imitate so perfectly as to deceive men who had been living with the imitated one in the complete lack of privacy of an Antarctic camp. That would take a super-human skill.”

“Oh, you’ve got the bug too?” Norris cursed softly.

Connant, standing alone at one end of the room, looked about him wildly, his face white. A gentle eddying of the men had crowded them slowly down toward the other end of the room, so that he stood quite alone. “My God, will you two Jeremiahs shut up?” Connant’s voice shook. “What am I? Some kind of a microscopic specimen you’re dissecting? Some unpleasant worm you’re discussing in the third person?”

McReady looked up at him; his slowly twisting hand stopped for a moment. “Having a lovely time. Wish you were here. Signed: Everybody.

“Connant, if you think you’re having a hell of a time, just move over on the other end for a while. You’ve got one thing we haven’t; you know what the answer is. I’ll tell you this, right now you’re the most feared and respected man in Big Magnet.”

“Lord, I wish you could see your eyes,” Connant gasped. “Stop staring, will you! What the hell are you going to do?”

“Have you any suggestions, Dr. Copper?” Commander Garry asked steadily. “The present situation is impossible.”

“Oh, is it?” Connant snapped. “Come over here and look at that crowd. By Heaven, they look exactly like that gang of huskies around the corridor bend. Benning, will you stop hefting that damned ice-ax?”

The coppery blade rang on the floor as the aviation mechanic nervously dropped it. He bent over and picked it up instantly, hefting it slowly, turning it in his hands, his browns eyes moving jerkily about the room.

Copper sat down on the bunk beside Blair. The wood creaked noisily in the room. Far down a corridor, a dog yelped in pain, and the dogdrivers’ tense voices floated softly back. “Microscopic examination,” said the doctor thoughtfully, “would be useless, as Blair pointed out. Considerable time has passed. However, serum tests would be definitive.

“Serum tests? What do you mean exactly?” Commander Garry asked.

“If I had a rabbit that had been injected with human blood – a poison to rabbits, of course, as is the blood of any animal save that of another rabbit – and the injections continued in increasing doses for some time, the rabbit would be human-immune. If a small quantity of its blood were drawn off, allowed to separate in a test-tube, and to the clear serum, a bit of human blood were added, there would be a visible reaction, proving the blood was human. If cow, or dog blood were added – or any protein material other than that one thing, human blood – no reaction would take place. That would prove definitely.”

“Can you suggest where I might catch a rabbit for you, Doc?” Norris asked. “That is, nearer than Australia; we don’t want to waste time going that far.”

“I know there aren’t any rabbits in Antarctica,” Copper nodded, “but that is simply the usual animal. Any animal except man will do. A dog for instance. But it will take several days, and due to the greater size of the animal, considerable blood. Two of us will have to contribute.”

“Would I do?” Garry asked.

“That will make two,” Copper nodded. “I’ll get to work on it right away.”

“What about Connant in the meantime?” Kinner demanded. “I’m going out that door and head off for the Ross Sea before I cook for him.”

“He may be human – ” Copper started.

Connant burst out in a flood of curses. “Human! May be human, you damned saw bones! What in hell do you think I am?”

“A monster,” Copper snapped sharply. “Now shut up and listen.” Connant’s face drained of color and he sat down heavily as the indictment was put in words. “Until we know – you know as well as we do that we have reason to question the fact, and only you know how that question is to be answered – we may reasonably be expected to lock you up. If you are – unhuman – you’re a lot more dangerous than poor Blair there, and I’m going to see that he’s locked up thoroughly. I expect that his next stage will be a violent desire to kill you, all the dogs, and probably all of us. When he wakes, he will be convinced we’re all unhuman, and nothing on the planet will ever change his conviction. It would be kinder to let him die, but we can’t do that, of course. He’s going in one shack, and you can stay in Cosmos House with your cosmic ray apparatus. Which is about what you’d do anyway. I’ve got to fix up a couple of dogs.”

Connant nodded bitterly. “I’m human. Hurry that test. Your eyes – Lord, I wish you could see your eyes staring – ”

Commander Garry watched anxiously as Clark, the doghandler, held the big brown Alaskan husky, while Copper began the injection treatment. The dog was not anxious to cooperate; the needle was painful, and already he’d experienced considerable needle work that morning. Five stitches held closed a slash that ran from his shoulder across the ribs half way down his body. One long fang was broken off short; the missing part was to be found half-buried in the shoulder bone of the monstrous thing on the table in the Ad Building.

“How long will that take?” Garry asked, pressing his arm gently. It was sore from the prick of the needle Dr. Copper had used to withdraw blood.

Copper shrugged. “I don’t know, to be frank. I know the general method, I’ve used it on rabbits. But I haven’t experimented with dogs. They’re big, clumsy animals to work with; naturally rabbits are preferable, and serve ordinarily. In civilized places you can buy a stock of human-immune rabbits from suppliers, and not many investigators take the trouble to prepare their own.”

“What do they want with them back there?” Clark asked.

“Criminology is one large field. A says he didn’t murder B, but that the blood on his shirt came from killing a chicken. The State makes a test, then it’s up to A to explain how it is the blood reacts on human-immune rabbits, but not on chicken-immunes.”

“What are we going to do with Blair in the meantime?” Garry asked wearily. “It’s all right to let him sleep where he is for a while, but when he wakes up – ”

“Barclay and Benning are fitting some bolts on the door of Cosmos House,” Copper replied grimly. “Connant’s acting like a gentleman. I think perhaps the way the other men look at him makes him rather want privacy. Lord knows, heretofore we’ve all of us individually prayed for a little privacy. ”

Clark laughed bitterly. “Not any more, thank you. The more the merrier.”

“Blair,” Copper went on, “will also have to have privacy – and locks. He’s going to have a pretty definite plan in mind when he wakes up. Ever hear the old story of how to stop hoof-and-mouth disease in cattle?”

“If there isn’t any hoof-and-mouth disease, there won’t be any hoof-and-mouth disease,” Copper explained. “You get rid of it by killing every animal that exhibits it, and every animal that’s been near the diseased animal. Blair’s a biologist, and knows that story. He’s afraid of this thing we loosed. The answer is probably pretty clear in his mind now. Kill everybody and everything in this camp before a skua gull or a wandering albatross coming in with the spring chances out this way and – catches the disease.”

Clark’s lips curled in a twisted grin. “Sounds logical to me. If things get too bad – maybe we’d better let Blair get loose. It would save us committing suicide. We might also make something of a vow that if things get bad, we see that that does happen.”

Copper laughed softly. “The last man alive in Big Magnet – wouldn’t be a man,” he pointed out. “Somebody’s got to kill those – creatures that don’t desire to kill themselves, you know. We don’t have enough thermite to do it all at once, and the decanite explosive wouldn’t help much. I have an idea that even small pieces of one of those beings would be self-sufficient.”

“If,” said Garry thoughtfully, “they can modify their protoplasm at will, won’t they simply modify themselves to birds and fly away? They can read all about birds, and imitate their structure without even meeting them. Or imitate, perhaps, birds of their home planet.”

Copper shook his head, and helped Clark to free the dog. “Man studied birds for centuries, trying to learn how to make a machine to fly like them. He never did do the trick; his final success came when he broke away entirely and tried new methods. Knowing the general idea, and knowing the detailed structure of wing and bone and nerve-tissue is something far, far different. And as for otherworld birds, perhaps, in fact very probably, the atmospheric conditions here are so vastly different that their birds couldn’t fly. Perhaps, even, the being came from a planet like Mars with such a thin atmosphere that there were no birds.”

Barclay came into the building, trailing a length of airplane control cable. “It’s finished, Doc. Cosmo House can’t be opened from the inside. Now where do we put Blair?”

Copper looked toward Garry. “There wasn’t any biology building. I don’t know where we can isolate him.”

“How about East Cache?” Garry said after a moment’s thought. “Will Blair be able to look after himself – or need attention?”

“He’ll be capable enough. We’ll be the ones to watch out,” Copper assured him grimly. “Take a stove, a couple of bags of coal, necessary supplies and a few tools to fix it up. Nobody’s been out there since last fall, have they?”

Garry shook his head. “if he gets noisy – I thought that might be a good idea.”

Barclay hefted the tools he was carrying and looked up at Garry. “if the muttering he’s doing now is any sign, he’s going to sing away the night hours. And we won’t like his song.”

“What’s he saying?” Copper asked.

Barclay shook his head. “I didn’t care to listen much. You can if you want to. But I gathered that the blasted idiot had all the dreams McReady had, and a few more. He slept beside the thing when we stopped on the trail coming in from Secondary Magnetic, remember. He dreamt the thing was alive, and dreamt more details. And – damn his soul – knew it wasn’t all dreaam, or had reason to. He knew it had telepathic powers that were stirring vaguely, and that it could not only read minds, but project thoughts. They weren’t dreams, you see. They were stray thoughts that thing was broadcasting, the way Blair’s broadcasting his thoughts now – a sort of telepathic muttering in its sleep. That’s why he knew so much about its powers. I guess you and I, Doc, weren’t so sensitive – if you want to believe in telepathy.”

“I have to,” Copper sighed. “Dr. Rhine of Duke University has shown that it exists, shown that some are much more sensitive than others.”

“Well, if you want to learn a lot of details, go listen in on Blair’s broadcast. He’s driven most of the boys out of the Ad Building; Kinner’s rattling pans like coal going down a chute. When he can’t rattle a pan, he shakes ashes.

“By the way, Commander, what are we going to do this spring, now the planes are out of it?”

Garry sighed. “I’m afraid our expedition is going to be a loss. We cannot divide our strength now.

“It won’t be a loss – if we continue to live, and come out of this,” Copper promised him. “The find we’ve made, if we can get it under control, is important enough. The cosmic ray data, magnetic work, and atmospheric work won’t be greatly hindered. ”

Garry laughed mirthlessly. “I was just thinking of the radio broadcasts. Telling half the world about the wonderful results of our exploration flights, trying to fool men like Byrd and Ellsworth back home there that we’re doing something.”

Copper nodded gravely. “They’ll know something’s wrong. But men like that have judgment enough to know we wouldn’t do tricks without some sort of reason, and will wait for our return to judge us. I think it comes to this: men who know enough to recognize our deception will wait for our return. Men who haven’t discretion and faith enough to wait will not have the experience to detect any fraud. We know enough of the conditions here to put through a good bluff.”

“Just so they don’t send ‘rescue’ expeditions,” Garry prayed. “When – if – we’re ever ready to come out, we’ll have to send word to Captain Forsythe to bring a stock of magnetos with him when he comes down. But – never mind that.”

“You mean if we don’t come out?” asked Barclay. “I was wondering if a nice running account of an eruption or an earthquake via radio – with a swell windup by using a stick of decanite under the microphone – would help. Nothing, of course, will entirely keep people out. One of those swell, melodramatic ‘last-man-alive-scenes’ might make ’em go easy though.”

Garry smiled with genuine humor. “is everybody in camp trying to figure that out too?”

Copper laughed. “What do you think, Garry? We’re confident we can win out. But not too easy about it, I guess.”

Clark grinned up from the dog he was petting into calmness. “Confident, did you say, Doc?”

Chapter VIII:

Blair moved restlessly around the small shack. His eyes jerked and quivered in vague, fleeting glances at the four men with him; Barclay, six feet tall and weighing over 190 pounds; McReady, a bronze giant of a man; Dr. Copper, short, squatly powerful; and Benning, five-feet-ten of wiry strength.

Blair was huddled up against the far wall of the East Cache cabin, his gear piled in the middle of the floor beside the heating stove, forming an island between him and the four men. His bony hands clenched and fluttered, terrified. His pale eyes wavered uneasily as his bald, freckled head darted about in birdlike motion.

“I don’t. want anybody coming here. I’ll cook my own food,” he snapped nervously. “Kinner may be human now, but I don’t believe it. I’m going to get out of here, but I’m not going to eat any food you send me. I want cans. Sealed cans.”

“O.K., Blair, we’ll bring’em tonight,” Barclay promised. “You’ve got coal, and the fire’s started. I’ll make a list” – Barclay started forward.

Blair instantly scurried to the farthest corner. “Get out! Keep away from me, you monster!” the little biologist shrieked, and tried to claw his way through the wall of the shack. “Keep away from me – keep away – I won’t be absorbed -I won’t be – ”

Barclay relaxed and moved back. Dr. Copper shook his head. “Leave him alone, Bar. It’s easier for him to fix the thing himself. We’ll have to fix the door, I think – ”

The four men let themselves out. Efficiently, Benning and Barclay fell to work. There were no locks in Antarctica; there wasn’t enough privacy to make them needed. But powerful screws had been driven in each side of the door frame, and the spare aviation control cable, immensely strong, woven steel wire, was rapidly caught between them,. and drawn taut. Barclay went to work with a drill and a keyhole saw. Presently he had a trap cut in the door through which goods could be passed without unlashing the entrance. Three powerful hinges from a stock-crate, two hasps and a pair of three-inch cotter-pins made it proof against opening from the other side.

Blair moved about restlessly inside. He was dragging something over to the door with panting gasps and muttering, frantic curses. Barclay opened the hatch and glanced in, Dr. Copper peering over his shoulder. Blair had moved the heavy bunk against the door. It could not be opened without his cooperation now.

“Don’t know but what the poor man’s fight at that,” McReady sighed. “If he gets loose, it is his avowed intention to kill each and all of us as quickly as possible, which is something we don’t agree with. But we’ve something on our side of that door that is worse than a homicidal maniac. If one or the other has to get loose, I think I’ll come up and undo those lashings here.”

Barclay grinned. “You let me know, and I’ll show you how to get these off fast. Let’s go back.”

The sun was painting the northern horizon in multi-colored rainbows still, though it was two hours below the horizon. The field of drift swept off to the north, sparkling under its flaming colors in a million reflected glories. Low mounds of rounded white on the northern horizon showed the Magnet Range was barely awash above the sweeping drift. Little eddies of wind-lifted snow swirled away from their skis as they set out toward the main encampment two miles away. The spidery finger of the broadcast radiator lifted a gaunt black needle against the white of the Antarctic continent. The snow under their skies was like fine sand, hard and gritty.

“Spring,” said Benning bitterly, “is come. Ain’t we got fun! I’ve been looking forward to getting away from this blasted hole in the ice.”

“I wouldn’t try it now, if I were you.” Barclay grunted. “Guys that set out from here in the next few days are going to be marvelously unpopular.”

“How is your dog getting along, Dr. Copper?” McReady asked. “Any results yet?”

“In 30 hours? I wish there were. I gave him an injection of my blood today. But I imagine another five days will be needed. I don’t know certainly enough to stop sooner.”

“I’ve been wondering – if Connant were – changed, would he have warned us so soon after the animal escaped? Wouldn’t he have waited long enough for it to have a real chance to fix itself? Unless we woke up naturally?” McReady asked slowly.

“The thing is selfish. You didn’t think it looked as though it were possessed of a store of the higher justices, did you?” Dr. Copper pointed out. “Every part of it is all of it, every part of it is all for itself, I imagine. If Connant were changed, to save his skin, he’d have to – but Connant’s feelings aren’t changed; they’re imitated perfectly, or they’re his own. Naturally, the imitation, imitating perfectly Connant’s feelings, would do exactly what Connant would do.”

“Say, couldn’t Norris or Van give Connant some kind of a test? If the thing is brighter than men, it might know more physics than Connant should, and they’d catch it out,” Barclay suggested.

Copper shook his head wearily. “Not if it reads minds. You can’t plan a trap for it. Van suggested that last night. He hoped it would answer some of the questions of physics he’d like to know answers to.”

“This expedition-of-four idea is going to make life happy.” Benning looked at his companions. “Each of us with an eye on the others to make sure he doesn’t do something – peculiar. Man, aren’t we going to be a trusting bunch! Each man eyeing his neighbors with the grandest exhibition of faith and trust – I’m beginning to know what Connant meant by ‘I wish you could see your eyes.’ Every now and then we all have it, I guess. One of you looks around with a sort of ‘I-wonder-if-the-other-three-are-look.” Incidentally, I’m not excepting myself.”

“So far as we know, the animal is dead, with a slight question as to Connant. No other is suspected,” McReady stated slowly. “The ‘always-four’ order is merely a precautionary measure.”

“I’m waiting for Garry to make it four-in-a-bunk,” Barclay sighed. “I thought I didn’t have any privacy before, but since that order – ”

None watched more tensely than Connant. A little sterile glass test-tube, half-filled with straw-colored fluid. One-two-three-four-five drops of the clear solution Dr. Copper had prepared from the drops of blood from Connant’s arm.

4

The tube was shaken carefully, then set in a beaker of clear, warm water. The thermometer read blood heat, a little thermostat clicked noisily, and the electric hotplate began to glow as the lights flickered slightly.

Then – little white flecks of precipitation were forming, snowing down in the clear straw-colored fluid. “Lord,” said Connant He dropped heavily into a bunk, crying like a baby. “Six days – ” Connant sobbed, “six days in there – wondering if that damned test would lie – ”

Garry moved over silently, and slipped his arm across the physicist’s back.

“It couldn’t tie,” Dr. Copper said, “The dog was human-immune – and the serum reacted.”

“He’s – all right?” Norris gasped. “TThen – the animal is dead – dead forever?”

“He is human,” Copper spoke definitely,” and the animal is dead.”

Kinner burst out laughing, laughing hysterically: McReady turned toward him and slapped his face with a methodical one-two, one-two action. The cook laughed, gulped, cried a moment, and sat up rubbing his checks, mumbling his thanks vaguely. “I was scared. Lord, I was scared-”

Norris laughed bitterly. “You think we weren’t, you ape? You think maybe Connant wasn’t?”

The Ad Building stirred with a sudden rejuvenation. Voices laughed, the men clustering around Connant spoke with unnecessarily loud voices, jittery, nervous voices relievedly friendly again. Somebody called out a suggestion, and a dozen started for their skis. Blair. Blair might recover – Dr. Copper fussed with his test-tubes in nervous relief, trying solutions. The party of relief for Blair’s shack started out the door, skis clapping noisily. Down the corridor, the dogs set up a quick yelping howl as the air of excited relief reached them.

Dr. Copper fussed with his tubes. McReady noticed him first, sitting on the edge of the bunk, with two precipitin-whitened test-tubes of straw-colored fluid, his face whiter than the stuff in the tubes, silent tears slipping down from horror-widened eyes.

McReady felt a cold knife of fear pierce through his heart and freeze in his breast. Dr. Copper looked up.

“Garry,” he called hoarsely. “Garry, for God’s sake, come here.”

Commander Garry walked toward him sharply. Silence clapped down on the Ad Building. Connant looked up, rose stiffly from his seat.

“Garry – tissue from the monster – precipitates too. It proves nothing. Nothing but – but the dog was monster-immune too. That one of the two contributing blood – one of us two, you and I, Garry – one of us is a monster.”

Chapter IX:

Bar, call back those men before they tell Blair,” McReady said quietly. Blair went to the door; faintly his shouts came back to the tensely silent men in the room. Then he was back.

“They’re coming,” he said. “I didn’t tell them why. Just that Dr. Copper said not to go.”

“McReady,” Garry sighed, “you’re in command now. May God help you. I cannot.”

The bronzed giant nodded slowly, his deep eyes on Commander Garry.

“I may be the one,” Garry added. “I know I’m not, but I cannot prove it to you in any way. Dr. Copper’s test has broken down. The fact that he showed it was useless, when it was to the advantage of the monster to have that uselessness not known, would seem to prove he was human.”

Copper rocked back and forth slowly on the bunk. “I know I’m human. I can’t prove it either. One of us two is a liar, for that test cannot lie, and it says one of us is. I gave proof that the test was wrong, which seems to prove I’m human, and now Garry has given that argument which proves me human – which he, as the monster, should not do. Round and round and round and round and – ”

Dr. Copper’s head, then his neck and shoulders began circling slowly in time to the words. Suddenly he was lying back on the bunk, roaring with laughter. ‘It doesn’t have to prove one of us is a monster! It doesn’t have to prove that at all! Ho-ho. If we’re all monsters it works the same! We’re all monsters – all of us – Connant and Garry and I – and all of you.”

“McReady,” Van Wall, the blond-bearded Chief Pilot, called softly. “you were on the way to an M.D. when you took up meteorology, weren’t you? Can you make some kind of test?”

McReady went over to Copper slowly, took the hypodermic from his hand, and washed it carefully in 95 per cent alcohol. Garry sat on the bunk edge with wooden face, watching Copper and McReady expressionlessly. “What Copper said is possible,” McReady sighed. “Van, will you help here? Thanks.” The filled needle jabbed into Copper’s thigh. The man’s laughter did not stop, but slowly faded into sobs, then sound sleep as the morphia took hold.

McReady turned again. The men who had started for Blair stood at the far end of the room, skis dripping snow, their faces as white as their skis. Connant had a lighted cigarette in each hand; one he was puffing absently, and staring at the floor. The heat of the one in his left hand attracted him and he stared at it, and the one in the other hand stupidly for a moment. He dropped one and crushed it under his heel slowly.

“Dr. Copper,” McReady repeated, “could be right. I know I’m human – but of course can’t prove it. I’ll repeat the test for my own information. Any of you others who wish to may do the same.”

Two minutes later, McReady held a test-tube with white precipitin settling slowly from straw-colored serum. “It reacts to human blood too, so they aren’t both monsters.”

“I didn’t think they were,” Van Wall sighed. “That wouldn’t suit the monster either; we could have destroyed them if we knew. Why hasn’t the monster destroyed us, do you suppose? It seems to be loose.”

McReady snorted. Then laughed softly. “Elementary, my dear Watson. The monster wants to have life-forms available. It cannot animate a dead body, apparently. It is just waiting – waiting until the best opportunities come. We who remain human, it is holding in reserve.”

Kinner shuddered violently. “Hey. Hey, Mac. Mac, would I know if I was a monster? Would I know if the monster had already got me? Oh Lord, I may be a monster already.”

“You’d know, ” McReady answered.

“But we wouldn’t,” Norris laughed shortly, half-hysterically.

McReady looked at the vial of serum remaining. “There’s one thing this damned stuff is good for, at that,” he said thoughtfully. “Clark, will you and Van help me? The rest of the gang better stick together here. Keep an eye on each other,” he said bitterly. “See that you don’t get into mischief, shall we say?”

McReady started down the tunnel toward Dog Town, with Clark and Van Wall behind him. “You need more serum?” Clark asked.

McReady shook his head. “Tests. There’s four cows and a bull, and nearly seventy dogs down there. This stuff reacts only to human blood and – monsters.”

McReady came back to the Ad Building and went silently to the wash stand. Clark and Van Wall joined him a moment later. Clark’s lips had developed a tic, jerking into sudden, unexpected sneers.

“What did you do?” Connant exploded suddenly. “More immunizing?”

Clark snickered, and stopped with a hiccough. “Immunizing. Haw! Immune all right.”

“That monster,” said Van Wall steadily, “is quite logical. Our immune dog was quite all right, and we drew a little more serum for the tests. But we won’t make any more.”

“Can’t – can’t you use one man’s blood or another dog – ” Norris began.

“There aren’t,” said McReady softly, “any more dogs, Nor cattle, I might add.”

“No more dogs?” Benning sat down slowly.

“They’re very nasty when they start changing,” Van Wall said precisely, “but slow. That electrocution iron you made up, Barclay, is very fast. There is only one dog left – our immune. The monster left that for us, so we could play with our little test. The rest – ” He shrugged and dried his hands.

“The cattle – ,” gulped Kinner.

“Also. Reacted very nicely. They look funny as hell when they start melting. The beast hasn’t any quick escape, when it’s tied in dog chains, or halters, and it had to be to imitate.”

Kinner stood up slowly, His eyes darted around the room, and came to rest horribly quivering on a tin bucket in the galley. Slowly, step by step. he retreated toward the door, his mouth opening and closing silently, like a fish out of water.

“The milk – ” he gasped. “I milked’em an hour ago -” His voice broke into a scream as he dived through the door. He was out on the ice cap without windproof or heavy clothing.

Van Wall looked after him for a moment thoughtfully. “He’s probably hopelessly mad,” he said at length, “but he might be a monster escaping. He hasn’t skis. Take a blowtorch – in case.”

The physical motion of the chase helped them; something that needed doing. Three of the other men were quietly being sick. Norris was lying flat on his back, his face greenish, looking steadily at the bottom of the bunk above him.

“Mac, how long have the – cows been not-cows -”

McReady shrugged his shoulders hopelessly. He went over to the milk bucket, and with his little tube of serum went to work on it. The milk clouded it, making certainty difficult. Finally he dropped the test-tube in the stand and shook his head. “It tests negatively. Which means either they were cows then, or that, being perfect imitations, they gave perfectly good milk.”

Copper stirred restless in his sleep and gave a gurgling cross between a snore and a laugh. Silent eyes fastened on him. “Would morphia – a monster -” somebody started to ask.

“Lord knows,” McReady shrugged. “It affects every Earthly animal I know of.”

Connant suddenly raised his head. “Mac! The dogs must have swallowed pieces of the monster, and the pieces destroyed them! The dogs were where the monster resided. I was locked up. Doesn’t that prove – ”

Van Wall shook his head. “Sorry. Proves nothing about what you are, only proves what you didn’t do.”

“It doesn’t do that,” McReady sighed. “We are helpless. Because we don’t know enough, and so jittery we don’t think straight. Locked up! Ever watch a white corpuscle of the blood go through the wall of a blood vessel? No? It sticks out a pseudopod. And there it is – on the far side of the wall. ”

“Oh,” said Van Wall unhappily. “The cattle tried to melt down, didn’t they? The could have melted down – become just a thread of stuff and leaked under a door to re-collect on the other side. Ropes -no – no, that wouldn’t do it. They couldn’t live in a sealed tank or – ”

“If,” said McReady, “you shoot it through the heart, and it doesn’t die, it’s a monster. That’s the best test I can think of, offhand.”

“No dogs,” said Garry quietly, “and no cattle. It has to imitate men now. And locking up doesn’t do any good. Your test might have work, Mac, but I am afraid it would be hard on the men.”

Chapter X:

Clark looked up from the galley stove as Van Wall, Barclay, McReady and Benning came in, brushing the drift from their clothes. The other men jammed into the Ad Building continued studiously to do as they were doing, playing chess, poker, reading. Ralsen was fixing a sledge on the table; Van and Norris had their heads together over magnetic data, while Harvey read tables in a low voice.

Dr. Copper snored softly on the bunk. Garry was working with Dutton over a sheaf of radio messages on the corner of Dutton’s bunk and a small fraction of the radio table. Connant was using most of the table for Cosmic Ray sheets.

Quite plainly through the corridor, despite two closed doors, they could hear Kinner’s voice. Clark banged a kettle onto the galley stove and beckoned McReady silently. The meterologist went over to him.

“I don’t mind the cooking so damn much,” Clark said nervously, “but isn’t there some way to stop that bird? We all agreed that it would be safe to move him into Cosmos House.”

“Kinner?” McReady nodded toward the door. “I’m afraid not. I can dope him, I suppose, but we don’t have an unlimited supply of morphia, and he’s not in danger of losing his mind. Just hysterical.”

“Well, we’re in danger of losing ours. You’ve been out for an hour and a half. That’s been going on steadily ever since, and it was going for two hours before. There’s a limit, you know.”

Garry wandered over slowly, apologetically. For an instant, McReady caught the feral spark of fear – horror – in Clark’s eyes, and knew at the same instant it was in his own. Garry – Garry or Copper – was certainly a monster.

“If you could stop that, I think it would be a sound policy, Mac,” Garry spoke quietly. “There are -tensions enough in this room. We agreed that it would be safe for Kinner in there, because everyone else in camp is under constant eyeing.” Garry shivered slightly. “And try, try in God’s name, to find some test that will work.”

McReady sighed. “Watch or unwatched, everyone’s tense. Blair’s jammed the trap so it won’t open now. Says he’s got food enough, and keeps screaming ‘Go away, go away – you’re monsters. I won’t be absorbed. I won’t. I’ll tell men when they come. Go away.’ So – we went away.”

“There’s no other test?” Garry pleaded.

McReady shrugged his shoulders. “Copper was perfectly right. The serum test could be absolutely definitive if it hadn’t been – contaminated. But

that’s the only dog left, and he’s fixed now.”

“Chemicals? Chemical tests?”

McReady shook his head. “Our chemistry isn’t that good. I tried the microscope, you know.”

Garry nodded. “Monster-dog and real dog were identical. But – you’ve got to go on. What are we going to do after dinner?”

Van Wall joined them quietly. “Rotation sleeping. Half the crowd asleep; half awake. I wonder how many of us are monsters? All the dogs were. We thought we were safe, but somehow it got Copper -or you.” Van Wall’s eyes flashed uneasily. “It may have gotten every one of you – all of you but myself may be wondering, looking. No, that’s not possible. You’d just spring then. I’d be helpless. We humans might somehow have the greater number now. But – ” he stopped.

McReady laughed shortly. “You’re doing what Norris complained of in me. Leaving it hanging. ‘But if one more is changed – that may shift the balance of power.’ It doesn’t fight. I don’t think it ever fights. It must be a peaceable thing, in its own – inimitable -way. It never had to, because it always gained its end – otherwise.”

Van Wall’s mouth twisted in a sickly grin. “You’re suggesting then, that perhaps it already has the greater numbers, but is just waiting – waiting, all of them – all of you, for all I know – waiting till I, the last human, drop my wariness in sleep. Mac, did you notice their eyes, all looking at us?”

Garry sighed. “You haven’t been sitting here for four straight hours, while all their eyes silently weighed the information that one of us two, Copper or I, is a monster certainly – perhaps both of us.”

Clark repeated his request. “Will you stop that bird’s noise? He’s driving me nuts. Make him tone down, anyway.”

“Still praying?” McReady asked.

“Still praying,” Clark groaned. “He hasn’t stopped for a second. I don’t mind, his praying if it relieves him, but he yells, he sings psalms and hymns and shouts prayers. He thinks God can’t hear well way down here.”

“Maybe He can’t,” Barclay grunted. “Or He’d have done something about this thing loosed from hell.”

“Somebody’s going to try that test you mentioned, if you don’t stop him,” Clark stated grimly. “I think a cleaver in the head would be as positive a test as a bullet in the heart.”

“Go ahead with the food. I’ll see what I can do. There may be something in the cabinets.” McReady moved wearily toward the corner Copper had used as his dispensary. Three tall cabinets of rough boards, two locked, were the repositories of the camp’s medical supplies. Twelve years ago McReady had graduated, had started for an internship, and been diverted to meteorology. Copper was a picked man, a man who knew his profession. thoroughly and modernly. More than half the drugs available were totally unfamiliar to McReady; many of the others he had forgotten. There was no huge medical library here, no series of journals available to learn the things he had forgotten, the elementary, simple things to Copper, things that did not merit inclusion in the small library he had been forced to content himself with. Books are heavy, and every ounce of supplies had been freighted in by air.

McReady picked a barbituate hopefully. Barclay and Van went with him. One man never went anywhere alone in Big Magnet.

Ralsen had his sledge put away, and the physicists had moved off the table, the poker game broken up when they got back. Clark was putting out the food. The click of spoons and the muffled sounds of eating were the only sign of life in the room. There were no words spoken as the three returned; simply all eyes focused on them questioningly, while the jaw moved methodically.

MeReady stiffened suddenly. Kinnerr was screeching out a hymn in a hoarse, cracked voice. He looked wearily at Van Wall with a twisted grin and shook his head. “Hu-uh.”

Van Wall cursed bitterly, and sat down at the table. “We’ll just plumb have to take that till his voice wears out. He can’t yell like that forever.”

“He’s got a brass throat and a cast-iron larynx,” Norris declared savagely. “Then we could be hopeful, and suggest he’s one of our friends. In that case he could go on renewing his throat till doomsday.”

Silence clamped down. For twenty minutes they ate without a word. Then Connant jumped up with an angry violence. “You sit as still as a bunch of graven images. You don’t say a word, but oh Lord, what expressive eyes you’ve got. They roll around like a bunch of glass marbles spilling down a table. They wink and blink and stare – and whisper things. Can you guys look somewhere else for a change, please?

“Listen, Mac, you’re in charge here. Let’s run movies for the rest of the night. We’ve been saving those reels to make’em last. Last for what? Who is it’s going to see those last reels, eh? Let’s see’em while we can, and look at something other than each other.

“Sound idea, Connant I, for one, am quite willing to change this in any way I can.”

“Turn the sound up loud, Dutton. Maybe you can drown out the hymns,” Clark suggested.

“But don’t,” Norris said softly, “don’t turn off the lights altogether.”

“The lights will be out.” McReady shook his head. “We’ll show all the cartoon movies we have. You won’t mind seeing the old cartoons, will you?”

“Goody, goody – a moom pitcher show. I’m just in the mood.” McReady turned to look at the speaker, a lean, lanky New Englander, by the name of Caldwell. Caldwell was stuffing his pipe slowly, a sour eye cocked up to McReady.

The bronze giant was forced to laugh. “O.K., Bart, you win. Maybe we aren’t quite in the mood for Popeye and trick ducks, but it’s something.”

“Let’s play Classifications,” Caldwell suggested slowly. “Or maybe you call it Guggenheim. You draw lines on a piece of paper, and put down classes of things – like animals, you know. One for ‘H’ and one for ‘U’ and so on. Like ‘Human and ‘Unknown’ for instance. I think that would be a hell of a lot better game. Classification, I sort of figure is what we need right now a lot more than movies. Maybe somebody’s got a pencil that he can draw lines with, draw lines between the ‘U’ animals and the ‘H’ animals for instance.”

“McReady’s trying to find that kind of pencil,” Van Wall answered quietly, “but we’ve got three kinds of animals here, you know. One that begins with ‘M’. We don’t want any more.”

“Mad ones, you mean. Uh-huh. Clark, I’ll help you with those pots so we can get our little peepshow going.” Caldwell got up slowly.

Dutton and Barclay and Benning, in charge of the projector and sound mechanism arrangements, went about their job silently, while the Ad Building was cleared and the dishes and pans disposed of. McReady drifted over toward Van Wall slowly, and leaned back in the bunk beside him. “I’ve been wondering, Van,” he said with a wry grin, “whether or not to report my ideas in advance. I forgot the ‘U animals’ as Caldwell named it, could read minds. I’ve a vague idea of something that might work. it’s too vague to bother with though. Go ahead with your show, while I try to figure out the logic of the thing. I’ll take this bunk.”

Van Wall glanced up, and nodded. The movie screen would be practically on a line with his bunk, hence making the pictures least distracting here, because least intelligible. “Perhaps you should tell us what you have in mind. As it is, only the unknowns know what you plan. You might be -unknown before you got it into operation.”

“Won’t take long, if I get it figured out right. But I don’t want any more all-but-the-test-dogmonsters things. We better move Copper into this bunk directly above me. He won’t be watching the screen either.” McReady nodded toward Copper’s gently snoring bulk. Garry helped them lift and move the doctor.

McReady leaned back against the bunk, and sank into a trance, almost, of concentration, trying to calculate chances, operations, methods. He was scarcely aware as the others distributed themselves silently, and the screen lit up. Vaguely Kinner’s hectic, shouted prayers and his rasping hymn-singing annoyed him till the sound accompaniment started. The lights were turned out, but the large, light-colored areas of the screen reflected enough light for ready visibility. It made men’s eyes sparkle as they moved restlessly. Kinner was still praying, shouting, his voice a raucous accompaniment to the mechanical sound. Dutton stepped up the amplification.

So long had the voice been going on, that only vaguely at first was McReady aware that something seemed missing. Lying as he was, just across the narrow room from the corridor leading to Cosmos House, Kinner’s voice had reached him fairly clearly, despite the sound accompaniment of the pictures. It struck him abruptly that it had stopped.

“Dutton, cut that sound,” McReady called as he sat up abruptly. The pictures flickered a moment, soundless and strangely futile in the sudden, deep silence. The rising wind on the surface above bubbled melancholy tears of sound down the stove pipes. “Kinner’s stopped,” McReady said softly.

“For God’s sake start that sound then, he may have stopped to listen,” Norris snapped.

McReady rose and went down the corridor. Barclay and Van Wall left their places at the far end of the room to follow him. The flickers bulged and twisted on the back of Barclay’s gray underwear as he crossed the still-functioning beam of the projector. Dutton snapped on the lights, and the pictures vanished.

Norris stood at the door as McReady had asked. Garry sat down quietly in the bunk nearest the door, forcing Clark to make room for him. Most of the others had stayed exactly where they were. Only Connant walked slowly up and down the room, in steady, unvarying rhythm.

“If you’re going to do that, Connant,” Clark spat, “we can get along without you altogether, whether you’re human or not. Will you stop that damned rhythm?”

“Sorry.” The physicist sat down in a bunk, and watched his toes thoughtfully. It was almost five minutes, five ages while the wind made the only sound, before McReady appeared at the door.

“We,” he announced, “haven’t got enough grief here already. Somebody’s tried to help us out. Kinner has a knife in his throat, which was why he stopped singing, probably. We’ve got monsters, madmen and murderers. Any more ‘M’s’ you can think of, Caldwell? If there are, we’ll probably have ’em before long.”

Chapter XI:

“Is Blair loose?” someone asked.

“Blair is not loose. Or he flew in. If there’s any doubt about where our gentle helper came from – this may clear it up.” Van Hull held a footlong, thin-bladed knife in a cloth. The wooden handle was half-burnt, charred with the peculiar pattern of the top of the galley stove.

Clark stared at it. “I did that this afternoon. I forgot the damn thing and left it on the stove.”

Van Wall nodded. “I smelled it, if you remember. I knew the knife came from the galley.”

“I wonder,” said Benning, looking around at the party warily, “how many more monsters have we? If somebody could slip out of his place, go back of the screen to the galley and then down to the Cosmos House and back – he did come back, didn’t he? Yes -everybody’s here. Well, if one of the gang could do all that – ”

“Maybe a monster did it,” Garry suggested quietly. “There’s that possibility.”

“The monster, as you pointed out today, has only men left to imitate. Would he decrease his – supply, shall we say?” Van Wall pointed out. “No, we just have a plain, ordinary louse, a murderer to deal with. Ordinarily we’d call him an ‘inhuman murderer’ I suppose, but we have to distinguish now. We have inhuman murderers, and now we have human murderers. Or one at least.”

“There’s one less human,” Norris said softly. “Maybe the monsters have the balance of power now.”

“Never mind that,” McReady sighed and turned to Barclay. “Bar, will you get your electric gadget? I’m going to make certain – ”

Barclay turned down the corridor to get the pronged electrocuter, while McReady and Van Wall went back toward Cosmos House. Barclay followed them in some thirty seconds.

The corridor to Cosmos House twisted, as did nearly all corridors in Big Magnet, and Norris stood at the entrance again. But they heard, rather muffled McReady’s sudden shout. There was a savage scurry of blows, dull ch-thunk, shluff sounds. “Bar – Bar -” And a curious, savage mewing scream, silenced before even quick-moving Norris had reached the bend.

Kinner – or what had been Kinner – lay on the floor; cut half in two by the great knife McReady had had. The meteorologist stood against the wall, the knife dripping red in his hand. Van Wall was stirring vaguely on the floor, moaning, his hand half-consciously rubbing at his jaw. Barclay an unutterably savage gleam in his eyes, was methodically leaning on the pronged weapon in his hand, jabbing, jabbing.

Kinner’s arms had developed a queer, scaly fur, and the flesh had twisted. The fingers had shortened, the hand rounded, the fingernails become three-inch long things of dull red horn, keened to steel-hard razor-sharp talons.

McReady raised his head, looked at the knife in his hand and dropped it. “Well, whoever did it can speak up now. He was an inhuman murderer at that -in that he murdered an inhuman. I swear by all that’s holy, Kinner was a lifeless corpse on the floor here when we arrived. But when it found we were going to jab it with the power – it changed.”

Norris stared unsteadily. “Oh. Lord, those things can act. Ye gods – sitting in here for hours, mouthing prayers to a God it hated! Shouting hymns in a cracked voice – hymns about a Church it never knew. Driving us mad with its ceaseless howling –

“Well. Speak up, whoever did it, You didn’t know it, but you did the camp a favor. And I want to know how in blazes you got out of that room without anyone seeing you. It might help in guarding ourselves.”

“His screaming – his singing. Even the sound projector couldn’t drown it.” Clark shivered. “It was a monster.”

“Oh,” said Van Wall in sudden comprehension. “You were sitting right next to the door, weren’t you! And almost behind the projection screen already.”

Clark nodded dumbly. “He – it’s quiet now. It’s a dead – Mac, your test’s no damn good. It was dead anyway, monster or man, it was dead.”

McReady chuckled softly. “Boys, meet Clark, the only one we know is human! Meet Clark, the one who proves he’s human by trying to commit murder-and failing. Will the rest of you please refrain from trying to prove you’re human for a while? I think we may have another test.”

“A test!” Connant snapped joyfully, then his face sagged in disappointment. “I suppose it’s another either-way-you-want-it.”

“No,” said McReady steadily. “Look sharp and be careful. Come into the Ad Building. Barclay, bring your electrocuter. And somebody – Dutton – stand with Barclay to make sure he does it. Watch every neighbor, for by the Hell these monsters come from, I’ve got something, and they know it. They’re going to get dangerous!”

The group tensed abruptly. An air of crushing menace entered into every man’s body, sharply they looked at each other. More keenly than ever before – is that man next to me an inhuman monster?

“What is it?” Garry asked, as they stood again in the main room. “How long will it take?”

“I don’t know exactly,” said McReady, his voice brittle with angry determination. “But I know it will work, and no two ways about it. It depends on a basic quality of the monsters, not on us. ‘Kinner’ just convinced me.” He stood heavy and solid in bronzed immobility, completely sure of himself again at last.

“This,” said Barclay, hefting the woodenhandled weapon, tipped with its two sharppointed, charged conductors, “is going to be rather necessary, I take it. Is the power plant assured?”

Dutton nodded sharply. “The automatic stoker bin is full. The gas power plant is on stand-by. Van Wall and I set it for the movie operation and – we’ve checked it over rather carefully several times, you know. Anything those wires touch, dies,” he assured them grimly “I know that.”

Dr. Copper stirred vaguely in his bunk, rubbed his eyes with fumbling hand. He sat up slowly, blinked his eyes blurred with sleep and drugs, widened with an unutterable horror of drug-ridden nightmares. “Garry,” he mumbled, “Garry – listen. Selfish-from hell they came, and hellish shellfish – I mean self – Do I? What do I mean?” he sank back in his bunk, and snored softly.

McReady looked at him thoughtfully. “We’ll know presently,” he nodded slowly. “But selfish is what you mean all right. You may have thought of that, half-sleeping, dreaming there. I didn’t stop to think what dreams you might be having. But that’s all right. Selfish is the word. They must be, you see.” He turned to the men in the cabin, tense, silent men staring with wolfish eyes each at his neighbor. Selfish, and as Dr. Copper said every part is a whole. Every piece is self-sufficient, an animal in itself.

“That, and one other thing, tell the story. There’s nothing mysterious about blood; it’s just as normal a body tissue as a piece of muscle, or a piece of liver. But it hasn’t so much connective tissue, though it has millions, billions of lifecells.”

McReady’s great bronze beard ruffled in a grim smile. “This is satisfying, in a way. I’m pretty-sure we humans still outnumber you – others. Others standing here. And we have what you, your otherworld race, evidently doesn’t. Not an imitated, but a bred-in-the-bone instinct, a driving, unquenchable fire that’s genuine. We’ll fight, fight with a ferocity you may attempt to imitate, but you’ll never equal! We’re human. We’re real. You’re imitations, false to the core of your every cell.

“All right. It’s a showdown now. You know. You, with your mind reading. You’ve lifted the idea from my brain. You can’t do a thing about it.

“Standing here –

“Let it pass. Blood is tissue. They have to bleed, if they don’t bleed when cut, then, by Heaven, they’re phony! Phony from hell! If they bleed – then that blood, separated from them, is an individual – a newly formed individual in its own right, just as they, split, all of them, from one original, are individuals!

“Get it, Van? See the answer, Bar?”

Van Wall laughed very softly. “The blood – the blood will not obey. It’s a new individual, with all the desire to protect its own life “that the original – the main mass from which it was split — has. The blood will live – and try to crawl away from a hot needle, say!”

McReady picked up the scalpel from the table. From the cabinet, he took a rack of test-tubes, a tiny alcohol lamp, and a length of platinum wire set in a little glass rod. A smile of grim satisfaction rode his lips. For a moment he glanced up at those around him. Barclay and Dutton moved toward him slowly, the wooden-handled electric instrument alert.

“Dutton,” said McReady,” suppose you stand over by the splice there where you’ve connected that in. Just make sure nothing pulls it loose.”

Dutton moved away. “Now, Van, suppose you be first on this.”

White-faced, Van Wall stepped forward. With a delicate precision, McReady cut a vein in the base of his thumb. Van Wall winced slightly, then held steady as a half inch of bright blood collected in the tube. McReady put the tube in the rack, gave Van Wall a bit of alum, and indicated the iodine bottle.

Van Wall stood motionlessly watching. McReady heated the platinum wire in the alcohol lamp flame, then dipped it into the tube. it hissed softly. Five times he repeated the test. “Human, I’d say.” McReady sighed, and straightened. “As yet, my theory hasn’t been actually proven – but I have hopes. I have hopes.

“Don’t, by the way, get too interested in this. We have with us some unwelcome ones, no doubt, Van, will you relieve Barclay at the switch? Thanks. O.K., Barclay, and may I say I hope you stay with us? You’re a damned good guy.”

Barclay grinned uncertainly; winced under the keen edge of the scalpel. Presently, smiling widely, he retrieved his long-handled weapon.

“Mr. Samuel Dutt – BAR!”

The tensity was released in that second. Whatever of hell the monsters may have had within them, the men in that instant matched it. Barclay had no chance to move his weapon as a score of men poured down on that thing that had seemed Dutton. It mewed, and spat, and tried to grow fangs – and was a hundred broken, torn pieces. Without knives, or any weapon save the brute-given strength of a staff of picked men, the thing was crushed, rent.

Slowly they picked themselves up, their eyes smoldering, very quiet in their emotions. A curious wrinkling of their lips betrayed a species of nervousness.

Barclay went over with the electric weapon. Things smoldered and stank. The caustic acid Van Wall dropped on each spilled drop of blood gave off tickling, cough-provoking fumes.

McReady grinned, his deep-set eyes alight and dancing. “Maybe,” he said softly,. “I underrated man’s abilities when I said nothing human could have the ferocity in the eyes of that thing we found. I wish we could have the opportunity to treat in a more befitting manner these things. Something with boiling oil, or melted lead in it, or maybe slow roasting in the power boiler. When I think what a man Dutton was –

“Never mind. My theory is confirmed by – by one who knew? Well, Van Wall and Barclay are proven. I think, then, that I’ll try to show you what I already know. That I too am human.” McReady swished the scalpel in absolute alcohol, burned it off the metal blade, and cut the base of his thumb expertly.

Twenty seconds later he looked up from the desk at the waiting men. There were more grins out there now, friendly grins, yet withal, something else in the eyes.

“Connant,” McReady laughed softly, “was right. The huskies watching that thing in the corridor bend had nothing on you. Wonder why we think only the wolf blood has the right to ferocity? Maybe on spontaneous viciousness a wolf takes tops, but after these seven days – abandon all hope, ye wolves who enter here!

“Maybe we can save time. Connant, would you step for – ”

Again Barclay was too slow. There were more grins, less tensity still, when Barclay and Van Wall finished their work.

Garry spoke in a low, bitter voice. “Connant was one of the finest men we had here – and five minutes ago I’d have sworn he was a man. Those damnable things are more than imitation. “Garry shuddered and sat back in his bunk.

And thirty seconds later, Garry’s blood shrank from the hot platinum wire, and struggled to escape the tube, struggled as frantically as a suddenly feral, red-eyed, dissolving imitation of Garry struggled to dodge the snake-tongue weapon Barclay advanced at him, white faced and sweating. The Thing in the test-tube screamed with a tin, tinny voice as McReady dropped it into the glowing coal of the galley stove.

Chapter XII:

“The last of it?” Dr. Copper looked down from his bunk with bloodshot, saddened eyes. “Fourteen of them – ”

McReady nodded shortly. “In some ways – if only we could have permanently prevented their spreading – I’d like to have even the imitations back. Commander Garry – Connant – Dutton – Clark -”

“Where are they taking those things?” Copper nodded to the stretcher Barclay and Norris were carrying out.

“Outside. Outside on the ice, where they’ve got fifteen smashed crates, half a ton of coal, and presently will add ten gallons of kerosene. We’ve dumped acid on every spilled drop, every torn fragment. We’re going to incinerate those.”

“Sounds like a good plan.” Copper nodded wearily. “I wonder, you haven’t said whether Blair -”

McReady started. “We forgot him! We had so much else! I wonder – do you suppose we can cure him now?

“If -” began Dr. Copper, and stopped meaaningly.

McReady started a second time. “Even a madman. It imitated Kinner and his praying hysteria -” McReady turned toward Van Wall at the long table. “Van, we’ve got to make an expedition to Blair’s shack.”

Van looked up sharply, the frown of worry faded for an instant in surprised remembrance. Then he rose, nodded. “Barclay better go along. He applied the lashings, and may figure how to get in without frightening Blair too much.”

Three quarters of an hour, through -37 cold, while the Aurora curtain bellied overhead. The twilight was nearly 12 hours long, flaming in the north on snow like white, crystalline sand under their skis. A 5-mile wind piled it in drift-lines pointing off to the northwest. Three quarters of an hour to reach the snow-buried shack. No smoke came from the little shack, and the men hastened.

“Blair!” Barclay roared into the wind when he was still a hundred yards away. “Blair!”

“Shut up,” said McReady softly. “And hurry. He may be trying a long hike. If we have to go after him -no planes, the tractors disabled -”

“Would a monster have the stamina a man has?”

“A broken leg wouldn’t stop it for more than a minute,” McReady pointed out.

Barclay gasped suddenly and pointed aloft. Dim in the twilit sky, a winged thing circled in curves of indescribable grace and ease. Great white wings tipped gently, and the bird swept over them in silent curiosity. “Albatross -” Barclay said softly. “First of the season, and wandering way inland for some reason. If a monster’s loose -”

Norris bent down on the ice, and tore hurriedly at his heavy, wind-proof clothing. He straightened, his coat flapping open, a grim blue-metaled weapon in his hand. It roared a challenge to the white silence of Antarctica.

The thing in the air screamed hoarsely. Its great wings worked frantically as a dozen feathers floated down from its tail. Norris fired again. The bird was moving swiftly now, but in an almost straight line of retreat. It screamed again, more feathers dropped and with beating wings it soared behind a ridge of pressure ice, to vanish.

Norris hurried after the others. “It won’t come back,” he panted.

Barclay cautioned him to silence, pointing. A curiously, fiercely blue light beat out from the cracks of the shack’s door. A very low, soft humming sounded inside, a low, soft humming and a clink and clank of tools, the very sounds somehow bearing a message of frantic haste.

McReady’s face paled. “Lord help us if that thing has -” He grabbed Barclay’s shoulder, and made snipping motions with his fingers, pointing toward the lacing of control-cables that held the door.

Barclay drew the wire-cutters from his pocket, and kneeled soundlessly at the door. The snap and twang of cut wires made an unbearable racket in the utter quiet of the Antarctic hush. There was only that strange, sweetly soft hum from within the shack, and the queerly, hectically clipped clicking and rattling of tools to drown their noises.

McReady peered through a crack in the door. His breath sucked in huskily and his great fingers clamped cruelly on Barclay’s shoulder. The meteorologist backed down. “It isn’t,” he explained very softly, “Blair. It’s kneeling on something on the bunk-something that keeps lifting. Whatever it’s working on is a thing like a knap-sack – and it lifts.”

“All at once,” Barclay said grimly. “No Norris, hang back, and get that iron of yours out. It may have – weapons.”

Together, Barclay’s powerful body and McReady’s giant strength struck the door. Inside, the bunk jammed against the door screeched madly and crackled into kindling. The door flung down from broken hinges, the patched lumber of the doorpost dropping inward.

Like a blue-rubber ball, a Thing bounced up. One of its four tentaclelike arms looped out like a striking snake. In a seven-tentacled hand a six-inch pencil of winking, shining metal glinted and swung upward to face them. Its line-thin lips twitched back from snake-fangs in a grin of hate, red eyes blazing.

Norris’ revolver thundered in the confined space. The hate-washed face twitched in agony, the looping tentacle snatched back. The silvery thing in its hand a smashed ruin of metal, the seven-tentacled hand became a mass of mangled flesh oozing greenish-yellow ichor. The revolver thundered three times more. Dark holes drilled each of the three eyes before Norris hurled the empty weapon against its face.

The thing screamed a feral hate, a lashing tentacle wiping at blinded eyes. For a moment it crawled on the floor, savage tentacles lashing out, the body twitching. Then it staggered up again, blinded eyes working, boiling hideously, the crushed flesh sloughing away in sodden gobbets.

Barclay lurched to his feet and dove forward with an ice-ax. The flat of the weighty thing crushed against the side of the head. Again the unkillable monster went down. The tentacles lashed out, and suddenly Barclay fell to his feet in the grip of a living, livid rope. The thing dissolved as he held it, a white-hot band that ate into the flesh of his hands like living fire. Frantically he tore the stuff from him, held his hands where they could not be reached. The blind Thing felt and ripped at the tough; heavy, windproof cloth, seeking flesh – flesh it could convert –

The huge blow-torch McReady had brought coughed solemnly. Abruptly it rumbled disapproval throatily. Then it laughed gurglingly, and thrust out a blue-white, three-foot tongue. The Thing on the floor shrieked, flailed out blindly with tentacles that writhed and withered in the bubbling wrath of the blow-torch. It crawled and turned on the floor, it shrieked and hobbled madly, but always McReady held the blow-torch on the face, the dead eyes burning and bubbling uselessly. Frantically the Thing crawled and howled.

A tentacle sprouted a savage talon – and crisped in the flame. Steadily McReady moved with a planned, grim campaign. Helpless, maddened, the Thing retreated from the grunting torch, the caressing, licking tongue. For a moment it rebelled, squalling in inhuman hatred at the touch of icy snow. Then it fell back before the charring breath of the torch, the stench of its flesh bathing it. Hopelessly it retreated – on and on across the Antarctic snow, The bitter wind swept over it twisting the torch-tongue; vainly it flopped, a trail of oily, stinking smoke bubbling away from it

McReady walked back toward the shack silently. Barclay met him at the door. “No more?” the giant meteorologist asked grimly.

Barclay shook his head. “No more. It didn’t split?”

“It had other things to think about,” McReady assured him. “When I left it, it was a glowing coal. What was it doing?”

Norris laughed shortly. “Wise boys, we are. Smash magnetos, so planes won’t work. Rip the boiler tubing’ out of the tractors. And leave that Thing alone for a week in this shack. Alone and undisturbed.”

McReady looked in at the shack more carefully. The air, despite the ripped door, was hot and humid. On a table at the far end of the room rested a thing of coiled wires and small magnets, glass tubing and radio tubes. At the center a block of rough stone rested. From the center of the block came the light that flooded the place, the fiercely blue light bluer than the glare of an electric arc, and from it came the sweetly soft hum. Off to one side was another mechanism of crystal glass, blown with an incredible neatness and delicacy, metal plates and a queer, shimmery sphere of insubstantiality.

“What is that?” McReady moved nearer.

Norris grunted. “Leave it for investigation. But I can guess pretty well. That’s atomic power. That stuff to the left – that’s a neat little thing for doing what men have been trying to do with 100-ton cyclotrons and so forth. It separates neutrons from heavy water, which he was getting from the surrounding ice.”

“Where did he get all – oh. Of course, A monster couldn’t be locked in – or out. He’s been through the apparatus caches.” McReady stared at the apparatus. “Lord, what minds that race must have -”

“The shimmery sphere – I think it’s a sphere of pure force. Neutrons can pass through any matter, and he wanted a supply reservoir of neutrons. Just project neutrons against silica – calcium – beryllium -almost anything, and the atomic energy is released. That thing is the atomic generator.”

McReady plucked a thermometer from his coat. “It’s 120 in here, despite the open door. Our clothes have kept the heat out to an extent, but I’m sweating now.”

Norris nodded. “The light’s cold. I found that. But it gives off heat to warm the place through that coil. He had all the power in the world. He could keep it warm and pleasant, as his race thought of warmth and pleasantness. Did you notice the light, the color of it?”

McReady nodded. “Beyond the stars is the answer. From beyond the stars. From a hotter planet that circled a brighter, bluer sun they came.”

McReady glanced out the door toward the blasted, smoke-stained trail that flopped and wandered blindly off across the drift. “There won’t be any more coming, I guess. Sheer accident it landed here, and that was twenty million years ago. What did it do all that for?” he nodded toward the apparatus.

Barclay laughed softly. “Did you notice what it was working on when we came? Look.” He pointed toward the ceiling of the shack.

Like a knapsnack made of flattened coffee-tins, with dangling cloth straps and leather belts, the mechanism clung to the ceiling. A tiny, glaring heart of supernal flame burned in it, yet burned through the ceiling’s wood without scorching it. Barclay walked over to it, grasped two of the dangling straps in his hands, and pulled it down with an effort. He strapped it about his body. A slight jump carried him in a weirdly slow arc across the room.

“Anti-gravity,” said McReady softly.

“Anti-gravity,” Norris nodded. “Yes, we had ’em stopped, with no planes, and no birds. The birds hadn’t come – but they had coffee-tins and radio parts, and glass and the machine shop at night. And a week – a whole week – all to itself. America in a single jurnp – with anti-gravity powered by the atomic energy of matter.

“We had ’em stopped, Another half hour – it was just tightening these straps on the device so it could wear it – and we’d have stayed in Antarctica, and shot down any moving thing that came from, the rest of the world.”

5

“The albatross -” McReady said softly. “Do you suppose -”

“With this thing almost finished? With that death weapon it held in its hand?

“No, by the grace of God, who evidently does hear very well, even down here, and the margin of half an hour, we keep our world, and the planets of the system too. Anti-gravity, you know, and atomic power. Because They came from another sun, a star beyond the stars. They came from a world with a bluer sun.”

You May Also Be Interested In…
* Long Story: “The Birds” By Daphne du Maurier
* “The Fly” Bu George Langelaan
* Christine: The Famous 1958 Plymouth Fury

Long Story: “The Birds” By Daphne du Maurier.

The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name, “The Birds” is a novelette by British writer Daphne du Maurier.
It was first published in du Maurier’s 1952 collection, “The Apple Tree”.

The Apple Tree

I have reproduced du Maurier’s original short story up on here for your pleasure with zero permission and here shall it remain until such time when I am sued for copyright infringement.

The Birds.
Daphne du Maurier.

PAGE 1:

On December the third, the wind changed overnight, and it was winter. Until then the autumn had been mellow, soft. The leaves had lingered on the trees, golden-red, and the hedgerows were still green. The earth was rich where the plow had turned it.

Nat Hocken, because of a wartime disability, had a pension and did not work full time at the farm. He worked three days a week, and they gave him the lighter jobs: hedging, thatching, repairs to the farm buildings.

Although he was married, with children, his was a solitary disposition; he liked best to work alone. It pleased him when he was given a bank to build up or a gate to mend at the far end of the peninsula, where the sea surrounded the farmland on either side. Then, at midday, he would pause and eat the pasty that his wife had baked for him and, sitting on the cliff’s edge, would watch the birds. Autumn was best for this, better than spring. In spring the birds flew inland, purposeful, intent; they knew where they were bound; the rhythm and ritual of their life brooked no delay. In autumn those that had not migrated overseas but remained to pass the winter were caught up in the same driving urge, but because migration was denied them, followed a pattern of their own. Great flocks of them came to the peninsula, restless, uneasy, spending themselves in motion; now wheeling, circling in the sky, now settling to feed on the rich, new-turned soil; but even when they fed, it was as though they did so without hunger, without desire. Restlessness drove them to the skies again.

Black and white, jackdaw and gull, mingled in strange partnership, seeking some sort of liberation, never satisfied, never still. Flocks of starlings, rustling like silk, flew to fresh pasture, driven by the same necessity of movement, and the smaller birds, the finches and the larks, scattered from tree to hedge as if compelled.

Nat watched them, and he watched the sea birds too. Down in the bay they waited for the tide. They had more patience. Oystercatchers, redshank, sanderling, and curlew watched by the water’s edge; as the slow sea sucked at the shore and then withdrew, leaving the strip of seaweed bare and the shingle churned, the sea birds raced and ran upon the beaches. Then that same impulse to flight seized upon them too. Crying, whistling, calling, they skimmed the placid sea and left the shore. Make haste, make speed, hurry and begone; yet where, and to what purpose? The restless urge of autumn, unsatisfying, sad, had put a spell upon them, and they must flock, and wheel, and cry; they must spill themselves of motion before winter came.

“Perhaps,” thought Nat, munching his pasty by the cliff’s edge, “a message comes to the birds in autumn, like a warning. Winter is coming. Many of them perish. And like people who, apprehensive of death before their time, drive themselves to work or folly, the birds do likewise.”

The birds had been more restless than ever this fall of the year, the agitation more marked because the days were still. As the tractor traced its path up and down the western hills, the figure of the farmer silhouetted on the driving seat, the whole machine and the man upon it, would be lost momentarily in the great cloud of wheeling, crying birds. There were many more than usual; Nat was sure of this. Always, in autumn, they followed the plow, but not in great flocks like these, nor with such clamor.

Nat remarked upon it when hedging was finished for the day. “Yes,” said the farmer, “there are more birds about than usual; I’ve noticed it too. And daring, some of them, taking no notice of the tractor. One or two gulls came so close to my head this afternoon I thought they’d knock my cap off! As it was, I could scarcely see what I was doing when they were overhead and I had the sun in my eyes. I have a notion the weather will change. It will be a hard winter. That’s why the birds are restless.”

Nat, tramping home across the fields and down the lane to his cottage, saw the birds still flocking over the western hills, in the last glow of the sun. No wind, and the gray sea calm and full. Campion in bloom yet in the hedges, and the air mild. The farmer was right, though, and it was that night the weather turned. Nat’s bedroom faced east. He woke just after two and heard the wind in the chimney. Not the storm and bluster of a sou’westerly gale, bringing the rain, but east wind, cold and dry. It sounded hollow in the chimney, and a loose slate rattled on the roof. Nat listened, and he could hear the sea roaring in the bay. Even the air in the small bedroom had turned chill: A draft came under the skirting of the door, blowing upon the bed. Nat drew the blanket round him, leaned closer to the back of his sleeping wife, and stayed wakeful, watchful, aware of misgiving without cause.

Then he heard the tapping on the window. There was no creeper on the cottage walls to break loose and scratch upon the pane. He listened, and the tapping continued until, irritated by the sound, Nat got out of bed and went to the window. He opened it, and as he did so something brushed his hand, jabbing at his knuckles, grazing the skin. Then he saw the flutter of the wings and it was gone, over the roof, behind the cottage.

It was a bird; what kind of bird he could not tell. The wind must have driven it to shelter on the sill.

He shut the window and went back to bed but, feeling his knuckles wet, put his mouth to the scratch. The bird had drawn blood. Frightened, he supposed, and bewildered, the bird, seeking shelter, had stabbed at him in the darkness. Once more he settled himself to sleep.

Presently the tapping came again, this time more forceful, more insistent, and now his wife woke at the sound and, turning in the bed, said to him, “See to the window, Nat, it’s rattling.”

“I’ve already seen to it,” he told her; “there’s some bird there trying to get in. Can’t you hear the wind? It’s blowing from the east, driving the birds to shelter.”

“Send them away,” she said, “I can’t sleep with that noise.”

He went to the window for the second time, and now when he opened it, there was not one bird upon the sill but half a dozen; they flew straight into his face, attacking him.

He shouted, striking out at them with his arms, scattering them; like the first one, they flew over the roof and disappeared. Quickly he let the window fall and latched it.

“Did you hear that?” he said. “They went for me. Tried to peck my eyes.” He stood by the window, peering into the darkness, and could see nothing. His wife, heavy with sleep, murmured from the bed.

“I’m not making it up,” he said, angry at her suggestion. “I tell you the birds were on the sill, trying to get into the room.”

Suddenly a frightened cry came from the room across the passage where the children slept.

“It’s Jill,” said his wife, roused at the sound, sitting up in bed. “Go to her, see what’s the matter.”

Nat lit the candle, but when he opened the bedroom door to cross the passage the draft blew out the flame.

There came a second cry of terror, this time from both children, and stumbling into their room, he felt the beating of wings about him in the darkness. The window was wide open. Through it came the birds, hitting first the ceiling and the walls, then swerving in midflight, turning to the children in their beds.

“It’s all right, I’m here,” shouted Nat, and the children flung themselves, screaming, upon him, while in the darkness the birds rose and dived and came for him again.

“What is it, Nat, what’s happened?” his wife called from the further bedroom, and swiftly he pushed the children through the door to the passage and shut it upon them, so that he was alone now in their bedroom with the birds.

PAGE 2:

He seized a blanket from the nearest bed and, using it as a weapon, flung it to right and left about him in the air. He felt the thud of bodies, heard the fluttering of wings, but they were not yet defeated, for again and again they returned to the assault, jabbing his hands, his head, the little stabbing beaks sharp as pointed forks. The blanket became a weapon of defense; he wound it about his head, and then in greater darkness beat at the birds with his bare hands. He dared not stumble to the door and open it, lest in doing so the birds should follow him.

How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew, and through the density of the blanket he was aware of light. He waited, listened; there was no sound except the fretful crying of one of the children from the bedroom beyond. The fluttering, the whirring of the wings had ceased.

He took the blanket from his head and stared about him. The cold gray morning light exposed the room. Dawn and the open window had called the living birds; the dead lay on the floor. Nat gazed at the little corpses, shocked and horrified. They were all small birds, none of any size; there must have been fifty of them lying there upon the floor. There were robins, finches, sparrows, blue tits, larks, and bramblings, birds that by nature’s law kept to their own flock and their own territory, and now, joining one with another in their urge for battle, had destroyed themselves against the bedroom walls or in the strife had been destroyed by him. Some had lost feathers in the fight; others had blood, his blood, upon their beaks.

Sickened, Nat went to the window and stared out across his patch of garden to the fields.

It was bitter cold, and the ground had all the hard, black look of frost. Not white frost, to shine in the morning sun, but the black frost that the east wind brings. The sea, fiercer now with the turning tide, white-capped and steep, broke harshly in the bay. Of the birds there was no sign. Not a sparrow chattered in the hedge beyond the garden gate, no early missel thrush or blackbird pecked on the grass for worms. There was no sound at all but the east wind and the sea.

Nat shut the window and the door of the small bedroom and went back across the passage to his own. His wife sat up in bed, one child asleep beside her, the smaller in her arms, his face bandaged. The curtains were tightly drawn across the window, the candles lit. Her face looked garish in the yellow light. She shook her head for silence.

“He’s sleeping now,” she whispered, “but only just. Something must have cut him, there was blood at the corner of his eyes. Jill said it was the birds. She said she woke up, and the birds were in the room.”

His wife looked up at Nat, searching his face for confirmation. She looked terrified, bewildered, and he did not want her to know that he was also shaken, dazed almost, by the events of the past few hours.

“There are birds in there,” he said, “dead birds, nearly fifty of them. Robins, wrens, all the little birds from hereabouts. It’s as though a madness seized them, with the east wind.” He sat down on the bed beside his wife and held her hand. “It’s the weather,” he said; “it must be that, it’s the hard weather. They aren’t the birds, maybe, from here around. They’ve been driven down from upcountry.”

“But, Nat,” whispered his wife, “it’s only this night that the weather turned. There’s been no snow to drive them. And they can’t be hungry yet. There’s food for them out there in the fields.”

“It’s the weather,” repeated Nat. “I tell you, it’s the weather.”

His face, too, was drawn and tired, like hers. They stared at one another for a while without speaking.

“I’ll go downstairs and make a cup of tea,” he said.

The sight of the kitchen reassured him. The cups and saucers, neatly stacked upon the dresser, the table and chairs, his wife’s roll of knitting on her basket chair, the children’s toys in a corner cupboard.

He knelt down, raked out the old embers, and relit the fire. The glowing sticks brought normality; the steaming kettle and the brown teapot, comfort and security. He drank his tea, carried a cup up to his wife. Then he washed in the scullery3 and, putting on his boots, opened the back door.

The sky was hard and leaden, and the brown hills that had gleamed in the sun the day before looked dark and bare. The east wind, like a razor, stripped the trees, and the leaves, crackling and dry, shivered and scattered with the wind’s blast. Nat stubbed the earth with his boot. It was frozen hard. He had never known a change so swift and sudden. Black winter had descended in a single night.

The children were awake now. Jill was chattering upstairs and young Johnny crying once again. Nat heard his wife’s voice, soothing, comforting. Presently they came down. He had breakfast ready for them, and the routine of the day began.

“Did you drive away the birds?” asked Jill, restored to calm because of the kitchen fire, because of day, because of breakfast.

“Yes, they’ve all gone now,” said Nat. “It was the east wind brought them in. They were frightened and lost; they wanted shelter.”

“They tried to peck us,” said Jill. “They went for Johnny’s eyes.”

“Fright made them do that,” said Nat. “They didn’t know where they were in the dark bedroom.”

“I hope they won’t come again,” said Jill. “Perhaps if we put bread for them outside the window they will eat that and fly away.”

She finished her breakfast and then went for her coat and hood, her schoolbooks, and her satchel. Nat said nothing, but his wife looked at him across the table. A silent message passed between them.

“I’ll walk with her to the bus,” he said. “I don’t go to the farm today.”

And while the child was washing in the scullery he said to his wife, “Keep all the windows closed, and the doors too. Just to be on the safe side. I’ll go to the farm. Find out if they heard anything in the night.” Then he walked with his small daughter up the lane. She seemed to have forgotten her experience of the night before. She danced ahead of him, chasing the leaves, her face whipped with the cold and rosy under the pixie hood.

“Is it going to snow, Dad?” she said. “It’s cold enough.”

He glanced up at the bleak sky, felt the wind tear at his shoulders.

“No,” he said, “it’s not going to snow. This is a black winter, not a white one.”

All the while he searched the hedgerows for the birds, glanced over the top of them to the fields beyond, looked to the small wood above the farm where the rooks and jackdaws gathered. He saw none.

The other children waited by the bus stop, muffled, hooded like Jill, the faces white and pinched with cold.

Jill ran to them, waving. “My dad says it won’t snow,” she called, “it’s going to be a black winter.”

She said nothing of the birds. She began to push and struggle with another little girl. The bus came ambling up the hill. Nat saw her onto it, then turned and walked back toward the farm. It was not his day for work, but he wanted to satisfy himself that all was well. Jim, the cowman, was clattering in the yard.

“Boss around?” asked Nat.

“Gone to market,” said Jim. “It’s Tuesday, isn’t it?”

He clumped off round the corner of a shed. He had no time for Nat. Nat was said to be superior. Read books and the like. Nat had forgotten it was Tuesday. This showed how the events of the preceding night had shaken him. He went to the back door of the farmhouse and heard Mrs. Trigg singing in the kitchen, the wireless making a background to her song.

“Are you there, missus?” called out Nat.

She came to the door, beaming, broad, a good-tempered woman.

“Hullo, Mr. Hocken,” she said. “Can you tell me where this cold is coming from? Is it Russia? I’ve never seen such a change. And it’s going on, the wireless says. Something to do with the Arctic Circle.”

“We didn’t turn on the wireless this morning,” said Nat. “Fact is, we had trouble in the night.”

PAGE 3:

“Kiddies poorly?”

“No . . .” He hardly knew how to explain it. Now, in daylight, the battle of the birds would sound absurd.

He tried to tell Mrs. Trigg what had happened, but he could see from her eyes that she thought his story was the result of a nightmare.

“Sure they were real birds,” she said, smiling, “with proper feathers and all? Not the funny-shaped kind that the men see after closing hours on a Saturday night?”

“Mrs. Trigg,” he said, “there are fifty dead birds, robins, wrens, and such, lying low on the floor of the children’s bedroom. They went for me; they tried to go for young Johnny’s eyes.”

Mrs. Trigg stared at him doubtfully.

“Well there, now,” she answered, “I suppose the weather brought them. Once in the bedroom, they wouldn’t know where they were to. Foreign birds maybe, from that Arctic Circle.”

“No,” said Nat, “they were the birds you see about here every day.

“Funny thing,” said Mrs. Trigg, “no explaining it, really. You ought to write up and ask the Guardian. They’d have some answer for it. Well, I must be getting on.”

She nodded, smiled, and went back into the kitchen.

Nat, dissatisfied, turned to the farm gate. Had it not been for those corpses on the bedroom floor, which he must now collect and bury somewhere, he would have considered the tale exaggeration too.

Jim was standing by the gate.

“Had any trouble with the birds?” asked Nat.

“Birds? What birds?”

“We got them up our place last night. Scores of them, came in the children’s bedroom. Quite savage they were.”

“Oh?” It took time for anything to penetrate Jim’s head. “Never heard of birds acting savage,” he said at length. “They get tame, like, sometimes. I’ve seen them come to the windows for crumbs.”

“These birds last night weren’t tame.”

“No? Cold, maybe. Hungry. You put out some crumbs.”

Jim was no more interested than Mrs. Trigg had been. It was, Nat thought, like air raids in the war. No one down this end of the country knew what the Plymouth folk had seen and suffered. You had to endure something yourself before it touched you. He walked back along the lane and crossed the stile5 to his cottage. He found his wife in the kitchen with young Johnny.

“See anyone?” she asked.

“Mrs. Trigg and Jim,” he answered. “I don’t think they believed me. Anyway, nothing wrong up there.”

“You might take the birds away,” she said. “I daren’t go into the room to make the beds until you do. I’m scared.”

“Nothing to scare you now,” said Nat. “They’re dead, aren’t they?”

He went up with a sack and dropped the stiff bodies into it, one by one. Yes, there were fifty of them, all told. Just the ordinary, common birds of the hedgerow, nothing as large even as a thrush. It must have been fright that made them act the way they did. Blue tits, wrens—it was incredible to think of the power of their small beaks jabbing at his face and hands the night before. He took the sack out into the garden and was faced now with a fresh problem. The ground was too hard to dig. It was frozen solid, yet no snow had fallen, nothing had happened in the past hours but the coming of the east wind. It was unnatural, queer. The weather prophets must be right. The change was something connected with the Arctic Circle.

The wind seemed to cut him to the bone as he stood there uncertainly, holding the sack. He could see the white-capped seas breaking down under in the bay. He decided to take the birds to the shore and bury them.

When he reached the beach below the headland he could scarcely stand, the force of the east wind was so strong. It hurt to draw breath, and his bare hands were blue. Never had he known such cold, not in all the bad winters he could remember. It was low tide. He crunched his way over the shingle to the softer sand and then, his back to the wind, ground a pit in the sand with his heel. He meant to drop the birds into it, but as he opened up the sack the force of the wind carried them, lifted them, as though in flight again, and they were blown away from him along the beach, tossed like feathers, spread and scattered, the bodies of the fifty frozen birds. There was something ugly in the sight. He did not like it. The dead birds were swept away from him by the wind.

“The tide will take them when it turns,” he said to himself.

He looked out to sea and watched the crested breakers, combing green. They rose stiffly, curled, and broke again, and because it was ebb tide the roar was distant, more remote, lacking the sound and thunder of the flood.

Then he saw them. The gulls. Out there, riding the seas.

What he had thought at first to be the white caps of the waves were gulls. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands . . . They rose and fell in the trough of the seas, heads to the wind, like a mighty fleet at anchor, waiting on the tide. To eastward and to the west, the gulls were there. They stretched as far as his eye could reach, in close formation, line upon line. Had the sea been still, they would have covered the bay like a white cloud, head to head, body packed to body. Only the east wind, whipping the sea to breakers, hid them from the shore.

Nat turned and, leaving the beach, climbed the steep path home. Someone should know of this. Someone should be told. Something was happening, because of the east wind and the weather, that he did not understand. He wondered if he should go to the call box by the bus stop and ring up the police. Yet what could they do? What could anyone do? Tens of thousands of gulls riding the sea there in the bay because of storm, because of hunger. The police would think him mad, or drunk, or take the statement from him with great calm. “Thank you. Yes, the matter has already been reported. The hard weather is driving the birds inland in great numbers.” Nat looked about him. Still no sign of any other bird. Perhaps the cold had sent them all from upcountry? As he drew near to the cottage his wife came to meet him at the door. She called to him, excited. “Nat,” she said, “it’s on the wireless. They’ve just read out a special news bulletin. I’ve written it down.”

“What’s on the wireless?” he said.

PAGE 4:

“About the birds,” she said. “It’s not only here; it’s everywhere. In London, all over the country. Something has happened to the birds.”

Together they went into the kitchen. He read the piece of paper lying on the table.

“Statement from the Home Office at 11 A.M. today. Reports from all over the country are coming in hourly about the vast quantity of birds flocking above towns, villages, and outlying districts, causing obstruction and damage and even attacking individuals. It is thought that the Arctic airstream, at present covering the British Isles, is causing birds to migrate south in immense numbers and that intense hunger may drive these birds to attack human beings. Householders are warned to see to their windows, doors, and chimneys, and to take reasonable precautions for the safety of their children. A further statement will be issued later.”

A kind of excitement seized Nat; he looked at his wife in triumph.

“There you are,” he said. “Let’s hope they’ll hear that at the farm. Mrs. Trigg will know it wasn’t any story. It’s true. All over the country. I’ve been telling myself all morning there’s something wrong. And just now, down on the beach, I looked out to sea and there are gulls, thousands of them, tens of thousands—you couldn’t put a pin between their heads—and they’re all out there, riding on the sea, waiting.”

“What are they waiting for, Nat?” she asked.

He stared at her, then looked down again at the piece of paper.

“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “It says here the birds are hungry.”

He went over to the drawer where he kept his hammer and tools.

“What are you going to do, Nat?”

“See to the windows and the chimneys too, like they tell you.”

“You think they would break in, with the windows shut? Those sparrows and robins and such? Why, how could they?”

He did not answer. He was not thinking of the robins and the sparrows. He was thinking of the gulls. . . .

He went upstairs and worked there the rest of the morning, boarding the windows of the bedrooms, filling up the chimney bases. Good that it was his free day and he was not working at the farm. It reminded him of the old days, at the beginning of the war. He was not married then, and he had made all the blackout boards for his mother’s house in Plymouth. Made the shelter too. Not that it had been of any use when the moment came. He wondered if they would take these precautions up at the farm. He doubted it. Too easygoing, Harry Trigg and his missus. Maybe they’d laugh at the whole thing. Go off to a dance or a whist drive.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called him, from the kitchen.

“All right. Coming down.”

He was pleased with his handiwork. The frames fitted nicely over the little panes and at the bases of the chimneys.

When dinner was over and his wife was washing up, Nat switched on the one o’clock news. The same announcement was repeated, the one which she had taken down during the morning, but the news bulletin enlarged upon it. “The flocks of birds have caused dislocation in all areas,” read the announcer, “and in London the sky was so dense at ten o’clock this morning that it seemed as if the city was covered by a vast black cloud.

“The birds settled on rooftops, on window ledges, and on chimneys. The species included blackbird, thrush, the common house sparrow, and, as might be expected in the metropolis, a vast quantity of pigeons and starlings and that frequenter of the London river, the black-headed gull. The sight has been so unusual that traffic came to a standstill in many thoroughfares, work was abandoned in shops and offices, and the streets and pavements were crowded with people standing about to watch the birds.”

Various incidents were recounted, the suspected reason of cold and hunger stated again, and warnings to householders repeated. The announcer’s voice was smooth and suave. Nat had the impression that this man, in particular, treated the whole business as he would an elaborate joke. There would be others like him, hundreds of them, who did not know what it was to struggle in darkness with a flock of birds. There would be parties tonight in London, like the ones they gave on election nights. People standing about, shouting and laughing, getting drunk. “Come and watch the birds!”

Nat switched off the wireless. He got up and started work on the kitchen windows. His wife watched him, young Johnny at her heels.

“What, boards for down here too?” she said. “Why, I’ll have to light up before three o’clock. I see no call for boards down here.”

“Better be sure than sorry,” answered Nat. “I’m not going to take any chances.”

“What they ought to do,” she said, “is to call the Army out and shoot the birds. That would soon scare them off.”

“Let them try,” said Nat. “How’d they set about it?”

“They have the Army to the docks,” she answered, “when the dockers strike. The soldiers go down and unload the ships.”

“Yes,” said Nat, “and the population of London is eight million or more. Think of all the buildings, all the flats and houses. Do you think they’ve enough soldiers to go around shooting birds from every roof?”

“I don’t know. But something should be done. They ought to do something.”

Nat thought to himself that “they” were no doubt considering the problem at that very moment, but whatever “they” decided to do in London and the big cities would not help the people here, three hundred miles away. Each householder must look after his own.

“How are we off for food?” he said.

“Now, Nat, whatever next?”

“Never mind. What have you got in the larder?”

“It’s shopping day tomorrow, you know that. I don’t keep uncooked food hanging about; it goes off. Butcher doesn’t call till the day after. But I can bring back something when I go in tomorrow.”

Nat did not want to scare her. He thought it possible that she might not go to town tomorrow. He looked in the larder for himself and in the cupboard where she kept her tins. They would do for a couple of days. Bread was low.

“What about the baker?”

“He comes tomorrow too.”

He saw she had flour. If the baker did not call she had enough to bake one loaf.

“We’d be better off in the old days,” he said, “when the women baked twice a week, and had pilchards7 salted, and there was food for a family to last a siege, if need be.”

“I’ve tried the children with tinned fish; they don’t like it,” she said.

Nat went on hammering the boards across the kitchen windows. Candles. They were low in candles too. That must be another thing she meant to buy tomorrow. Well, it could not be helped. They must go early to bed tonight. That was, if . . .

He got up and went out of the back door and stood in the garden, looking down toward the sea. There had been no sun all day, and now, at barely three o’clock, a kind of darkness had already come, the sky sullen, heavy, colorless like salt. He could hear the vicious sea drumming on the rocks. He walked down the path, halfway to the beach. And then he stopped. He could see the tide had turned. The rock that had shown in midmorning was now covered, but it was not the sea that held his eyes. The gulls had risen. They were circling, hundreds of them, thousands of them, lifting their wings against the wind. It was the gulls that made the darkening of the sky. And they were silent. They made not a sound. They just went on soaring and circling, rising, falling, trying their strength against the wind.

PAGE 5:

Nat turned. He ran up the path, back to the cottage.

“I’m going for Jill,” he said. “I’ll wait for her at the bus stop.”

“What’s the matter?” asked his wife. “You’ve gone quite white.”

“Keep Johnny inside,” he said. “Keep the door shut. Light up now, and draw the curtains.”

“It’s only just gone three,” she said.

“Never mind. Do what I tell you.”

He looked inside the toolshed outside the back door. Nothing there of much use. A spade was too heavy, and a fork no good. He took the hoe. It was the only possible tool, and light enough to carry.

He started walking up the lane to the bus stop and now and again glanced back over his shoulder.

The gulls had risen higher now; their circles were broader, wider; they were spreading out in huge formation across the sky.

He hurried on; although he knew the bus would not come to the top of the hill before four o’clock, he had to hurry. He passed no one on the way. He was glad of this. No time to stop and chatter.

At the top of the hill he waited. He was much too soon. There was half an hour still to go. The east wind came whipping across the fields from the higher ground. He stamped his feet and blew upon his hands. In the distance he could see the clay hills, white and clean, against the heavy pallor of the sky. Something black rose from behind them, like a smudge at first, then widening, becoming deeper, and the smudge became a cloud, and the cloud divided again into five other clouds, spreading north, east, south, and west, and they were not clouds at all; they were birds. He watched them travel across the sky, and as one section passed overhead, within two or three hundred feet of him, he knew, from their speed, they were bound inland, upcountry; they had no business with the people here on the peninsula. They were rooks, crows, jackdaws, magpies, jays, all birds that usually preyed upon the smaller species; but this afternoon they were bound on some other mission.

“They’ve been given the towns,” thought Nat; “they know what they have to do. We don’t matter so much here. The gulls will serve for us. The others go to the towns.”

He went to the call box, stepped inside, and lifted the receiver. The exchange would do. They would pass the message on.

“I’m speaking from the highway,” he said, “by the bus stop. I want to report large formations of birds traveling upcountry. The gulls are also forming in the bay.”

“All right,” answered the voice, laconic, weary.

“You’ll be sure and pass this message on to the proper quarter?”

“Yes . . . yes . . .” Impatient now, fed up. The buzzing note resumed.

“She’s another,” thought Nat, “she doesn’t care. Maybe she’s had to answer calls all day. She hopes to go to the pictures tonight. She’ll squeeze some fellow’s hand and point up at the sky and say ‘Look at all them birds!’ She doesn’t care.”

The bus came lumbering up the hill. Jill climbed out, and three or four other children. The bus went on toward the town.

“What’s the hoe for, Dad?”

They crowded around him, laughing, pointing.

“I just brought it along,” he said. “Come on now, let’s get home. It’s cold, no hanging about. Here, you. I’ll watch you across the fields, see how fast you can run.”

He was speaking to Jill’s companions, who came from different families, living in the council houses. A shortcut would take them to the cottages.

“We want to play a bit in the lane,” said one of them.

“No, you don’t. You go off home or I’ll tell your mammy.”

They whispered to one another, round-eyed, then scuttled off across the fields. Jill stared at her father, her mouth sullen.

“We always play in the lane,” she said.

“Not tonight, you don’t,” he said. “Come on now, no dawdling.”

He could see the gulls now, circling the fields, coming in toward the land. Still silent. Still no sound.

“Look, Dad, look over there, look at all the gulls.”

“Yes. Hurry, now.”

“Where are they flying to? Where are they going?”

“Upcountry, I dare say. Where it’s warmer.”

He seized her hand and dragged her after him along the lane.

“Don’t go so fast. I can’t keep up.”

The gulls were copying the rooks and crows. They were spreading out in formation across the sky. They headed, in bands of thousands, to the four compass points.

“Dad, what is it? What are the gulls doing?”

They were not intent upon their flight, as the crows, as the jackdaws had been. They still circled overhead. Nor did they fly so high. It was as though they waited upon some signal. As though some decision had yet to be given. The order was not clear.

“Do you want me to carry you, Jill? Here, come pick-a-back.”

This way he might put on speed; but he was wrong. Jill was heavy. She kept slipping. And she was crying too. His sense of urgency, of fear, had communicated itself to the child.

“I wish the gulls would go away. I don’t like them. They’re coming closer to the lane.”

He put her down again. He started running, swinging Jill after him. As they went past the farm turning, he saw the farmer backing his car out of the garage. Nat called to him.

“Can you give us a lift?” he said.

“What’s that?”

Mr. Trigg turned in the driving seat and stared at them. Then a smile came to his cheerful, rubicund face.

“It looks as though we’re in for some fun,” he said. “Have you seen the gulls? Jim and I are going to take a crack at them. Everyone’s gone bird crazy, talking of nothing else. I hear you were troubled in the night. Want a gun?”

Nat shook his head.

The small car was packed. There was just room for Jill, if she crouched on top of petrol tins on the back seat.

“I don’t want a gun,” said Nat, “but I’d be obliged if you’d run Jill home. She’s scared of the birds.”

PAGE 6:

He spoke briefly. He did not want to talk in front of Jill.

“OK,” said the farmer, “I’ll take her home. Why don’t you stop behind and join the shooting match? We’ll make the feathers fly.”

Jill climbed in, and turning the car, the driver sped up the lane. Nat followed after. Trigg must be crazy. What use was a gun against a sky of birds?

Now Nat was not responsible for Jill, he had time to look about him. The birds were circling still above the fields. Mostly herring gull, but the black-backed gull amongst them. Usually they kept apart. Now they were united. Some bond had brought them together. It was the black-backed gull that attacked the smaller birds, and even newborn lambs, so he’d heard. He’d never seen it done. He remembered this now, though, looking above him in the sky. They were coming in toward the farm. They were circling lower in the sky, and the black-backed gulls were to the front, the black-backed gulls were leading. The farm, then, was their target. They were making for the farm.

Nat increased his pace toward his own cottage. He saw the farmer’s car turn and come back along the lane. It drew up beside him with a jerk.

“The kid has run inside,” said the farmer. “Your wife was watching for her. Well, what do you make of it? They’re saying in town the Russians have done it. The Russians have poisoned the birds.”

“How could they do that?” asked Nat.

“Don’t ask me. You know how stories get around. Will you join my shooting match?”

“No, I’ll get along home. The wife will be worried else.”

“My missus says if you could eat gull there’d be some sense in it,” said Trigg. “We’d have roast gull, baked gull, and pickle ’em into the bargain. You wait until I let off a few barrels into the brutes. That’ll scare ’em.”

“Have you boarded your windows?” asked Nat.

“No. Lot of nonsense. They like to scare you on the wireless. I’ve had more to do today than to go round boarding up my windows.”

“I’d board them now, if I were you.”

“Garn. You’re windy. Like to come to our place to sleep?”

“No, thanks all the same.”

“All right. See you in the morning. Give you a gull breakfast.”

The farmer grinned and turned his car to the farm entrance.

Nat hurried on. Past the little wood, past the old barn, and then across the stile to the remaining field.

As he jumped the stile he heard the whir of wings. A black-backed gull dived down at him from the sky, missed, swerved in flight, and rose to dive again. In a moment it was joined by others, six, seven, a dozen, black-backed and herring mixed. Nat dropped his hoe. The hoe was useless. Covering his head with his arms, he ran toward the cottage. They kept coming at him from the air, silent save for the beating wings. The terrible, fluttering wings. He could feel the blood on his hands, his wrists, his neck. Each stab of a swooping beak tore his flesh. If only he could keep them from his eyes. Nothing else mattered. He must keep them from his eyes. They had not learned yet how to cling to a shoulder, how to rip clothing, how to dive in mass upon the head, upon the body. But with each dive, with each attack, they became bolder. And they had no thought for themselves. When they dived low and missed, they crashed, bruised and broken, on the ground. As Nat ran he stumbled, kicking their spent bodies in front of him.

He found the door; he hammered upon it with his bleeding hands. Because of the boarded windows no light shone. Everything was dark.

“Let me in,” he shouted, “it’s Nat. Let me in.”

He shouted loud to make himself heard above the whir of the gulls’ wings.

Then he saw the gannet, poised for the dive, above him in the sky. The gulls circled, retired, soared, one after another, against the wind. Only the gannet remained. One single gannet above him in the sky. The wings folded suddenly to its body. It dropped like a stone. Nat screamed, and the door opened. He stumbled across the threshold, and his wife threw her weight against the door.

They heard the thud of the gannet as it fell.

His wife dressed his wounds. They were not deep. The backs of his hands had suffered most, and his wrists. Had he not worn a cap they would have reached his head. As to the gannet . . . the gannet could have split his skull.

The children were crying, of course. They had seen the blood on their father’s hands.

“It’s all right now,” he told them. “I’m not hurt. Just a few scratches. You play with Johnny, Jill. Mammy will wash these cuts.”

He half shut the door to the scullery so that they could not see. His wife was ashen. She began running water from the sink.

“I saw them overhead,” she whispered. “They began collecting just as Jill ran in with Mr. Trigg. I shut the door fast, and it jammed. That’s why I couldn’t open it at once when you came.”

“Thank God they waited for me,” he said. “Jill would have fallen at once. One bird alone would have done it.”

Furtively, so as not to alarm the children, they whispered together as she bandaged his hands and the back of his neck.

“They’re flying inland,” he said, “thousands of them. Rooks, crows, all the bigger birds. I saw them from the bus stop. They’re making for the towns.”

“But what can they do, Nat?”

“They’ll attack. Go for everyone out in the streets. Then they’ll try the windows, the chimneys.”

“Why don’t the authorities do something? Why don’t they get the Army, get machine guns, anything?”

“There’s been no time. Nobody’s prepared. We’ll hear what they have to say on the six o’clock news.”

Nat went back into the kitchen, followed by his wife. Johnny was playing quietly on the floor. Only Jill looked anxious.

“I can hear the birds,” she said. “Listen, Dad.”

Nat listened. Muffled sounds came from the windows, from the door. Wings brushing the surface, sliding, scraping, seeking a way of entry. The sound of many bodies, pressed together, shuffling on the sills. Now and again came a thud, a crash, as some bird dived and fell. “Some of them will kill themselves that way,” he thought, “but not enough. Never enough.”

“All right,” he said aloud. “I’ve got boards over the windows, Jill. The birds can’t get in.”

He went and examined all the windows. His work had been thorough. Every gap was closed. He would make extra certain, however. He found wedges, pieces of old tin, strips of wood and metal, and fastened them at the sides to reinforce the boards. His hammering helped to deafen the sound of the birds, the shuffling, the tapping, and more ominous—he did not want his wife or the children to hear it—the splinter of cracked glass.

“Turn on the wireless,” he said. “Let’s have the wireless.”

This would drown the sound also. He went upstairs to the bedrooms and reinforced the windows there. Now he could hear the birds on the roof, the scraping of claws, a sliding, jostling sound.

He decided they must sleep in the kitchen, keep up the fire, bring down the mattresses, and lay them out on the floor. He was afraid of the bedroom chimneys. The boards he had placed at the chimney bases might give way. In the kitchen they would be safe because of the fire. He would have to make a joke of it. Pretend to the children they were playing at camp. If the worst happened, and the birds forced an entry down the bedroom chimneys, it would be hours, days perhaps, before they could break down the doors. The birds would be imprisoned in the bedrooms. They could do no harm there. Crowded together, they would stifle and die.

PAGE 7:

He began to bring the mattresses downstairs. At the sight of them his wife’s eyes widened in apprehension. She thought the birds had already broken in upstairs.

“All right,” he said cheerfully, “we’ll all sleep together in the kitchen tonight. More cozy here by the fire. Then we shan’t be worried by those silly old birds tapping at the windows.”

He made the children help him rearrange the furniture, and he took the precaution of moving the dresser, with his wife’s help, across the window. It fitted well. It was an added safeguard. The mattresses could now be laid, one beside the other, against the wall where the dresser had stood.

“We’re safe enough now,” he thought. “We’re snug and tight, like an air-raid shelter. We can hold out. It’s just the food that worries me. Food, and coal for the fire. We’ve enough for two or three days, not more. By that time . . .”

No use thinking ahead as far as that. And they’d be giving directions on the wireless. People would be told what to do. And now, in the midst of many problems, he realized that it was dance music only, coming over the air. Not Children’s Hour, as it should have been. He glanced at the dial. Yes, they were on the Home Service all right. Dance records. He switched to the Light program. He knew the reason. The usual programs had been abandoned. This only happened at exceptional times. Elections and such. He tried to remember if it had happened in the war, during the heavy raids on London. But of course. The BBC10 was not stationed in London during the war. The programs were broadcast from other, temporary quarters. “We’re better off here,” he thought; “we’re better off here in the kitchen, with the windows and the doors boarded, than they are up in the towns. Thank God we’re not in the towns.”

At six o’clock the records ceased. The time signal was given. No matter if it scared the children, he must hear the news. There was a pause after the pips.11 Then the announcer spoke. His voice was solemn, grave. Quite different from midday.

“This is London,” he said. “A national emergency was proclaimed at four o’clock this afternoon. Measures are being taken to safeguard the lives and property of the population, but it must be understood that these are not easy to effect immediately, owing to the unforeseen and unparalleled nature of the present crisis. Every householder must take precautions to his own building, and where several people live together, as in flats and apartments, they must unite to do the utmost they can to prevent entry. It is absolutely imperative that every individual stay indoors tonight and that no one at all remain on the streets or roads or anywhere outdoors. The birds, in vast numbers, are attacking anyone on sight and have already begun an assault upon buildings; but these, with due care, should be impenetrable. The population is asked to remain calm and not to panic. Owing to the exceptional nature of the emergency, there will be no further transmission from any broadcasting station until 7 A.M. tomorrow.”

They played the national anthem. Nothing more happened. Nat switched off the set. He looked at his wife. She stared back at him

“What’s it mean?” said Jill. “What did the news say?”

“There won’t be any more programs tonight,” said Nat. “There’s been a breakdown at the BBC.”

“Is it the birds?” asked Jill. “Have the birds done it?”

“No,” said Nat, “it’s just that everyone’s very busy, and then of course they have to get rid of the birds, messing everything up, in the towns. Well, we can manage without the wireless for one evening.”

“I wish we had a gramophone,” said Jill; “that would be better than nothing.”

She had her face turned to the dresser backed against the windows. Try as they did to ignore it, they were all aware of the shuffling, the stabbing, the persistent beating and sweeping of wings.

“We’ll have supper early,” suggested Nat, “something for a treat. Ask Mammy. Toasted cheese, eh? Something we all like?”

He winked and nodded at his wife. He wanted the look of dread, of apprehension, to go from Jill’s face.

He helped with the supper, whistling, singing, making as much clatter as he could, and it seemed to him that the shuffling and the tapping were not so intense as they had been at first. Presently he went up to the bedrooms and listened, and he no longer heard the jostling for place upon the roof.

“They’ve got reasoning powers,” he thought; “they know it’s hard to break in here. They’ll try elsewhere. They won’t waste their time with us.”

Supper passed without incident, and then, when they were clearing away, they heard a new sound, droning, familiar, a sound they all knew and understood.

His wife looked up at him, her face alight. “It’s planes,” she said; “they’re sending out planes after the birds. That’s what I said they ought to do all along. That will get them. Isn’t that gunfire? Can’t you hear guns?”

It might be gunfire out at sea. Nat could not tell. Big naval guns might have an effect upon the gulls out at sea, but the gulls were inland now. The guns couldn’t shell the shore because of the population.

“It’s good, isn’t it,” said his wife, “to hear the planes?” And Jill, catching her enthusiasm, jumped up and down with Johnny. “The planes will get the birds. The planes will shoot them.”

Just then they heard a crash about two miles distant, followed by a second, then a third. The droning became more distant, passed away out to sea.

“What was that?” asked his wife. “Were they dropping bombs on the birds?”

“I don’t know,” answered Nat. “I don’t think so.”

He did not want to tell her that the sound they had heard was the crashing of aircraft. It was, he had no doubt, a venture on the part of the authorities to send out reconnaissance forces, but they might have known the venture was suicidal. What could aircraft do against birds that flung themselves to death against propeller and fuselage but hurtle to the ground themselves? This was being tried now, he supposed, over the whole country. And at a cost. Someone high up had lost his head.

“Where have the planes gone, Dad?” asked Jill.

“Back to base,” he said. “Come on, now, time to tuck down for bed.”

It kept his wife occupied, undressing the children before the fire, seeing to the bedding, one thing and another, while he went round the cottage again, making sure that nothing had worked loose. There was no further drone of aircraft, and the naval guns had ceased. “Waste of life and effort,” Nat said to himself. “We can’t destroy enough of them that way. Cost too heavy. There’s always gas. Maybe they’ll try spraying with gas, mustard gas. We’ll be warned first, of course, if they do. There’s one thing, the best brains of the country will be onto it tonight.”

Somehow the thought reassured him. He had a picture of scientists, naturalists, technicians, and all those chaps they called the back-room boys, summoned to a council; they’d be working on the problem now. This was not a job for the government, for the chiefs of staff—they would merely carry out the orders of the scientists.

PAGE 8:

“They’ll have to be ruthless,” he thought. “Where the trouble’s worst they’ll have to risk more lives if they use gas. All the livestock, too, and the soil—all contaminated. As long as everyone doesn’t panic. That’s the trouble. People panicking, losing their heads. The BBC was right to warn us of that.”

Upstairs in the bedrooms all was quiet. No further scraping and stabbing at the windows. A lull in battle. Forces regrouping. Wasn’t that what they called it in the old wartime bulletins? The wind hadn’t dropped, though. He could still hear it roaring in the chimneys. And the sea breaking down on the shore. Then he remembered the tide. The tide would be on the turn. Maybe the lull in battle was because of the tide. There was some law the birds obeyed, and it was all to do with the east wind and the tide.

He glanced at his watch. Nearly eight o’clock. It must have gone high water an hour ago. That explained the lull: The birds attacked with the flood tide. It might not work that way inland, upcountry, but it seemed as if it was so this way on the coast. He reckoned the time limit in his head. They had six hours to go without attack. When the tide turned again, around one-twenty in the morning, the birds would come back. . . .

There were two things he could do. The first to rest, with his wife and the children, and all of them snatch what sleep they could, until the small hours. The second to go out, see how they were faring at the farm, see if the telephone was still working there, so that they might get news from the exchange.

He called softly to his wife, who had just settled the children. She came halfway up the stairs and he whispered to her.

“You’re not to go,” she said at once, “you’re not to go and leave me alone with the children. I can’t stand it.”

Her voice rose hysterically. He hushed her, calmed her.

“All right,” he said, “all right. I’ll wait till morning. And we’ll get the wireless bulletin then too, at seven. But in the morning, when the tide ebbs again, I’ll try for the farm, and they may let us have bread and potatoes, and milk too.”

His mind was busy again, planning against emergency. They would not have milked, of course, this evening. The cows would be standing by the gate, waiting in the yard, with the household inside, battened behind boards, as they were here at the cottage. That is, if they had time to take precautions. He thought of the farmer, Trigg, smiling at him from the car. There would have been no shooting party, not tonight.

The children were asleep. His wife, still clothed, was sitting on her mattress. She watched him, her eyes nervous.

“What are you going to do?” she whispered.

He shook his head for silence. Softly, stealthily, he opened the back door and looked outside.

It was pitch dark. The wind was blowing harder than ever, coming in steady gusts, icy, from the sea. He kicked at the step outside the door. It was heaped with birds. There were dead birds everywhere. Under the windows, against the walls. These were the suicides, the divers, the ones with broken necks. Wherever he looked he saw dead birds. No trace of the living. The living had flown seaward with the turn of the tide. The gulls would be riding the seas now, as they had done in the forenoon.

In the far distance, on the hill where the tractor had been two days before, something was burning. One of the aircraft that had crashed; the fire, fanned by the wind, had set light to a stack.

He looked at the bodies of the birds, and he had a notion that if he heaped them, one upon the other, on the windowsills they would make added protection for the next attack. Not much, perhaps, but something. The bodies would have to be clawed at, pecked, and dragged aside before the living birds could gain purchase on the sills and attack the panes. He set to work in the darkness. It was queer; he hated touching them. The bodies were still warm and bloody. The blood matted their feathers. He felt his stomach turn, but he went on with his work. He noticed grimly that every windowpane was shattered. Only the boards had kept the birds from breaking in. He stuffed the cracked panes with the bleeding bodies of the birds.

When he had finished he went back into the cottage. He barricaded the kitchen door, made it doubly secure. He took off his bandages, sticky with the birds’ blood, not with his own cuts, and put on fresh plaster.

His wife had made him cocoa and he drank it thirstily. He was very tired.

“All right,” he said, smiling, “don’t worry. We’ll get through.”

He lay down on his mattress and closed his eyes. He slept at once. He dreamt uneasily, because through his dreams there ran a thread of something forgotten. Some piece of work, neglected, that he should have done. Some precaution that he had known well but had not taken, and he could not put a name to it in his dreams. It was connected in some way with the burning aircraft and the stack upon the hill. He went on sleeping, though; he did not awake. It was his wife shaking his shoulder that awoke him finally.

“They’ve begun,” she sobbed. “They’ve started this last hour. I can’t listen to it any longer alone. There’s something smelling bad too, something burning.”

Then he remembered. He had forgotten to make up the fire. It was smoldering, nearly out. He got up swiftly and lit the lamp. The hammering had started at the windows and the doors, but it was not that he minded now. It was the smell of singed feathers. The smell filled the kitchen. He knew at once what it was. The birds were coming down the chimney, squeezing their way down to the kitchen range.

He got sticks and paper and put them on the embers, then reached for the can of paraffin.

“Stand back,” he shouted to his wife. “We’ve got to risk this.”

He threw the paraffin onto the fire. The flame roared up the pipe, and down upon the fire fell the scorched, blackened bodies of the birds.

The children woke, crying. “What is it?” said Jill. “What’s happened?”

Nat had no time to answer. He was raking the bodies from the chimney, clawing them out onto the floor. The flames still roared, and the danger of the chimney catching fire was one he had to take. The flames would send away the living birds from the chimney top. The lower joint was the difficulty, though. This was choked with the smoldering, helpless bodies of the birds caught by fire. He scarcely heeded the attack on the windows and the door: Let them beat their wings, break their beaks, lose their lives in the attempt to force an entry into his home. They would not break in. He thanked God he had one of the old cottages, with small windows, stout walls. Not like the new council houses. Heaven help them up the lane in the new council houses.

“Stop crying,” he called to the children. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, stop crying.”

He went on raking at the burning, smoldering bodies as they fell into the fire.

“This’ll fetch them,” he said to himself, “the draft and the flames together. We’re all right, as long as the chimney doesn’t catch. I ought to be shot for this. It’s all my fault. Last thing, I should have made up the fire. I knew there was something.”

Amid the scratching and tearing at the window boards came the sudden homely striking of the kitchen clock. Three A.M. A little more than four hours yet to go. He could not be sure of the exact time of high water. He reckoned it would not turn much before half past seven, twenty to eight.

“Light up the Primus,” he said to his wife. “Make us some tea, and the kids some cocoa. No use sitting around doing nothing.”

That was the line. Keep her busy, and the children too. Move about, eat, drink; always best to be on the go.

He waited by the range. The flames were dying. But no more blackened bodies fell from the chimney.

He thrust his poker up as far as it could go and found nothing. It was clear. The chimney was clear. He wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“Come on now, Jill,” he said, “bring me some more sticks. We’ll have a good fire going directly.” She wouldn’t come near him, though. She was staring at the heaped singed bodies of the birds.

PAGE 9:

“Never mind them,” he said. “We’ll put those in the passage when I’ve got the fire steady.”

The danger of the chimney was over. It could not happen again, not if the fire was kept burning day and night.

“I’ll have to get more fuel from the farm tomorrow,” he thought. “This will never last. I’ll manage, though. I can do all that with the ebb tide. It can be worked, fetching what we need, when the tide’s turned. We’ve just got to adapt ourselves, that’s all.”

They drank tea and cocoa and ate slices of bread and Bovril. Only half a loaf left, Nat noticed. Never mind, though, they’d get by.

“Stop it,” said young Johnny, pointing to the windows with his spoon, “stop it, you old birds.”

“That’s right,” said Nat, smiling, “we don’t want the old beggars, do we? Had enough of ’em.”

They began to cheer when they heard the thud of the suicide birds.

“There’s another, Dad,” cried Jill. “He’s done for.”

“He’s had it,” said Nat. “There he goes, the blighter.”

This was the way to face up to it. This was the spirit. If they could keep this up, hang on like this until seven, when the first news bulletin came through, they would not have done too badly.

“Give us a cigarette,” he said to his wife. “A bit of a smoke will clear away the smell of the scorched feathers.”

“There’s only two left in the packet,” she said. “I was going to buy you some from the co-op.”

“I’ll have one,” he said, “t’other will keep for a rainy day.”

No sense trying to make the children rest. There was no rest to be got while the tapping and the scratching went on at the windows. He sat with one arm round his wife and the other round Jill, with Johnny on his mother’s lap and the blankets heaped about them on the mattress.

“You can’t help admiring the beggars,” he said; “they’ve got persistence. You’d think they’d tire of the game, but not a bit of it.”

Admiration was hard to sustain. The tapping went on and on and a new rasping note struck Nat’s ear, as though a sharper beak than any hitherto had come to take over from its fellows. He tried to remember the names of birds; he tried to think which species would go for this particular job. It was not the tap of the woodpecker. That would be light and frequent. This was more serious because if it continued long the wood would splinter, as the glass had done. Then he remembered the hawks. Could the hawks have taken over from the gulls? Were there buzzards now upon the sills, using talons as well as beaks? Hawks, buzzards, kestrels, falcons—he had forgotten the birds of prey. He had forgotten the gripping power of the birds of prey. Three hours to go, and while they waited, the sound of the splintering wood, the talons tearing at the wood.

Nat looked about him, seeing what furniture he could destroy to fortify the door. The windows were safe because of the dresser. He was not certain of the door. He went upstairs, but when he reached the landing he paused and listened. There was a soft patter on the floor of the children’s bedroom. The birds had broken through. . . . He put his ear to the door. No mistake. He could hear the rustle of wings and the light patter as they searched the floor. The other bedroom was still clear. He went into it and began bringing out the furniture, to pile at the head of the stairs should the door of the children’s bedroom go. It was a preparation. It might never be needed. He could not stack the furniture against the door, because it opened inward. The only possible thing was to have it at the top of the stairs.

“Come down, Nat, what are you doing?” called his wife.

“I won’t be long,” he shouted. “Just making everything shipshape up here.”

He did not want her to come; he did not want her to hear the pattering of the feet in the children’s bedroom, the brushing of those wings against the door.

At five-thirty he suggested breakfast, bacon and fried bread, if only to stop the growing look of panic in his wife’s eyes and to calm the fretful children. She did not know about the birds upstairs. The bedroom, luckily, was not over the kitchen. Had it been so, she could not have failed to hear the sound of them up there, tapping the boards. And the silly, senseless thud of the suicide birds, the death and glory boys, who flew into the bedroom, smashing their heads against the walls. He knew them of old, the herring gulls. They had no brains. The black-backs were different; they knew what they were doing. So did the buzzards, the hawks. . . .

He found himself watching the clock, gazing at the hands that went so slowly round the dial. If his theory was not correct, if the attack did not cease with the turn of the tide, he knew they were beaten. They could not continue through the long day without air, without rest, without more fuel, without . . . His mind raced. He knew there were so many things they needed to withstand siege. They were not fully prepared. They were not ready. It might be that it would be safer in the towns, after all. If he could get a message through on the farm telephone to his cousin, only a short journey by train upcountry, they might be able to hire a car. That would be quicker—hire a car between tides . . .

His wife’s voice, calling his name, drove away the sudden, desperate desire for sleep.

“What is it? What now?” he said sharply.

“The wireless,” said his wife. “I’ve been watching the clock. It’s nearly seven.”

“Don’t twist the knob,” he said, impatient for the first time. “It’s on the Home where it is. They’ll speak from the Home.”

They waited. The kitchen clock struck seven. There was no sound. No chimes, no music. They waited until a quarter past, switching to the Light. The result was the same. No news bulletin came through.

“We’ve heard wrong,” he said. “They won’t be broadcasting until eight o’clock.”

They left it switched on, and Nat thought of the battery, wondered how much power was left in it. It was generally recharged when his wife went shopping in the town. If the battery failed, they would not hear the instructions.

PAGE 10:

“It’s getting light,” whispered his wife. “I can’t see it, but I can feel it. And the birds aren’t hammering so loud.”

She was right. The rasping, tearing sound grew fainter every moment. So did the shuffling, the jostling for place upon the step, upon the sills. The tide was on the turn. By eight there was no sound at all. Only the wind. The children, lulled at last by the stillness, fell asleep. At half past eight Nat switched the wireless off.

“What are you doing? We’ll miss the news,” said his wife.

“There isn’t going to be any news,” said Nat. “We’ve got to depend upon ourselves.”

He went to the door and slowly pulled away the barricades. He drew the bolts and, kicking the bodies from the step outside the door, breathed the cold air. He had six working hours before him, and he knew he must reserve his strength for the right things, not waste it in any way. Food and light and fuel; these were the necessary things. If he could get them in sufficiency, they could endure another night.

He stepped into the garden, and as he did so he saw the living birds. The gulls had gone to ride the sea, as they had done before; they sought sea food and the buoyancy of the tide, before they returned to the attack. Not so the land birds. They waited and watched. Nat saw them, on the hedgerows, on the soil, crowded in the trees, outside in the field, line upon line of birds, all still, doing nothing.

He went to the end of his small garden. The birds did not move. They went on watching him.

“I’ve got to get food,” said Nat to himself. “I’ve got to go to the farm to find food.”

He went back to the cottage. He saw to the windows and the doors. He went upstairs and opened the children’s bedroom. It was empty, except for the dead birds on the floor. The living were out there, in the garden, in the fields. He went downstairs.

“I’m going to the farm,” he said.

His wife clung to him. She had seen the living birds from the open door.

“Take us with you,” she begged. “We can’t stay here alone. I’d rather die than stay here alone.”

He considered the matter. He nodded.

“Come on, then,” he said. “Bring baskets, and Johnny’s pram. We can load up the pram.”

They dressed against the biting wind, wore gloves and scarves. His wife put Johnny in the pram. Nat took Jill’s hand.

“The birds,” she whimpered, “they’re all out there in the fields.”

“They won’t hurt us,” he said, “not in the light.”

They started walking across the field toward the stile, and the birds did not move. They waited, their heads turned to the wind.

When they reached the turning to the farm, Nat stopped and told his wife to wait in the shelter of the hedge with the two children.

“But I want to see Mrs. Trigg,” she protested. “There are lots of things we can borrow if they went to market yesterday; not only bread, and . . .”

“Wait here,” Nat interrupted. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

The cows were lowing, moving restlessly in the yard, and he could see a gap in the fence where the sheep had knocked their way through, to roam unchecked in the front garden before the farmhouse. No smoke came from the chimneys. He was filled with misgiving. He did not want his wife or the children to go down to the farm.

“Don’t gib now,” said Nat, harshly. “Do what I say.”

She withdrew with the pram into the hedge, screening herself and the children from the wind.

He went down alone to the farm. He pushed his way through the herd of bellowing cows, which turned this way and that, distressed, their udders full. He saw the car standing by the gate, not put away in the garage. The windows of the farmhouse were smashed. There were many dead gulls lying in the yard and around the house. The living birds perched on the group of trees behind the farm and on the roof of the house. They were quite still. They watched him.

Jim’s body lay in the yard . . . what was left of it. When the birds had finished, the cows had trampled him. His gun was beside him. The door of the house was shut and bolted, but, as the windows were smashed, it was easy to lift them and climb through. Trigg’s body was close to the telephone. He must have been trying to get through to the exchange when the birds came for him. The receiver was hanging loose, the instrument torn from the wall. No sign of Mrs. Trigg. She would be upstairs. Was it any use going up? Sickened, Nat knew what he would find.

“Thank God,” he said to himself, “there were no children.”

He forced himself to climb the stairs, but halfway he turned and descended again. He could see her legs protruding from the open bedroom door. Beside her were the bodies of the black-backed gulls and an umbrella, broken.

“It’s no use,” thought Nat, “doing anything. I’ve only got five hours, less than that. The Triggs would understand. I must load up with what I can find.”

He tramped back to his wife and children.

“I’m going to fill up the car with stuff,” he said. “I’ll put coal in it, and paraffin for the Primus. We’ll take it home and return for a fresh load.”

“What about the Triggs?” asked his wife.

“They must have gone to friends,” he said.

“Shall I come and help you, then?”

“No; there’s a mess down there. Cows and sheep all over the place. Wait, I’ll get the car. You can sit in it.”

Clumsily he backed the car out of the yard and into the lane. His wife and the children could not see Jim’s body from there.

“Stay here,” he said, “never mind the pram. The pram can be fetched later. I’m going to load the car.”

Her eyes watched his all the time. He believed she understood; otherwise she would have suggested helping him to find the bread and groceries.

They made three journeys altogether, backward and forward between their cottage and the farm, before he was satisfied they had everything they needed. It was surprising, once he started thinking, how many things were necessary. Almost the most important of all was planking for the windows. He had to go round searching for timber. He wanted to renew the boards on all the windows at the cottage. Candles, paraffin, nails, tinned stuff; the list was endless. Besides all that, he milked three of the cows. The rest, poor brutes, would have to go on bellowing.

On the final journey he drove the car to the bus stop, got out, and went to the telephone box. He waited a few minutes, jangling the receiver. No good though. The line was dead. He climbed onto a bank and looked over the countryside, but there was no sign of life at all, nothing in the fields but the waiting, watching birds. Some of them slept—he could see the beaks tucked into the feathers.

“You’d think they’d be feeding,” he said to himself, “not just standing in that way.”

PAGE 11:

Then he remembered. They were gorged with food. They had eaten their fill during the night. That was why they did not move this morning. . . .

No smoke came from the chimneys of the council houses. He thought of the children who had run across the fields the night before.

“I should have known,” he thought; “I ought to have taken them home with me.”

He lifted his face to the sky. It was colorless and gray. The bare trees on the landscape looked bent and blackened by the east wind. The cold did not affect the living birds waiting out there in the fields.

“This is the time they ought to get them,” said Nat; “they’re a sitting target now. They must be doing this all over the country. Why don’t our aircraft take off now and spray them with mustard gas? What are all our chaps doing? They must know; they must see for themselves.”

He went back to the car and got into the driver’s seat.

“Go quickly past that second gate,” whispered his wife. “The postman’s lying there. I don’t want Jill to see.”

He accelerated. The little Morris bumped and rattled along the lane. The children shrieked with laughter.

“Up-a-down, up-a-down,” shouted young Johnny.

It was a quarter to one by the time they reached the cottage. Only an hour to go.

“Better have cold dinner,” said Nat. “Hot up something for yourself and the children, some of that soup.

I’ve no time to eat now. I’ve got to unload all this stuff.”

He got everything inside the cottage. It could be sorted later. Give them all something to do during the long hours ahead. First he must see to the windows and the doors.

He went round the cottage methodically, testing every window, every door. He climbed onto the roof also, and fixed boards across every chimney except the kitchen. The cold was so intense he could hardly bear it, but the job had to be done. Now and again he would look up, searching the sky for aircraft. None came. As he worked he cursed the inefficiency of the authorities.

“It’s always the same,” he muttered. “They always let us down. Muddle, muddle, from the start. No plan, no real organization. And we don’t matter down here. That’s what it is. The people upcountry have priority. They’re using gas up there, no doubt, and all the aircraft. We’ve got to wait and take what comes.”

He paused, his work on the bedroom chimney finished, and looked out to sea. Something was moving out there. Something gray and white amongst the breakers.

“Good old Navy,” he said, “they never let us down. They’re coming down-channel; they’re turning in the bay.”

He waited, straining his eyes, watering in the wind, toward the sea. He was wrong, though. It was not ships. The Navy was not there. The gulls were rising from the sea. The massed flocks in the fields, with ruffled feathers, rose in formation from the ground and, wing to wing, soared upward to the sky.

The tide had turned again.

Nat climbed down the ladder and went inside the kitchen. The family were at dinner. It was a little after two. He bolted the door, put up the barricade, and lit the lamp.

“It’s nighttime,” said young Johnny.

His wife had switched on the wireless once again, but no sound came from it.

“I’ve been all round the dial,” she said, “foreign stations, and that lot. I can’t get anything.”

“Maybe they have the same trouble,” he said, “maybe it’s the same right through Europe.”

She poured out a plateful of the Triggs’ soup, cut him a large slice of the Triggs’ bread, and spread their dripping upon it.

They ate in silence. A piece of the dripping ran down young Johnny’s chin and fell onto the table.

“Manners, Johnny,” said Jill, “you should learn to wipe your mouth.”

The tapping began at the windows, at the door. The rustling, the jostling, the pushing for position on the sills. The first thud of the suicide gulls upon the step.

“Won’t America do something?” said his wife. “They’ve always been our allies, haven’t they? Surely America will do something?”

Nat did not answer. The boards were strong against the windows and on the chimneys too. The cottage was filled with stores, with fuel, with all they needed for the next few days. When he had finished dinner he would put the stuff away, stack it neatly, get everything shipshape, handy like. His wife could help him, and the children too. They’d tire themselves out, between now and a quarter to nine, when the tide would ebb; then he’d tuck them down on their mattresses, see that they slept good and sound until three in the morning.

He had a new scheme for the windows, which was to fix barbed wire in front of the boards. He had brought a great roll of it from the farm. The nuisance was, he’d have to work at this in the dark, when the lull came between nine and three. Pity he had not thought of it before. Still, as long as the wife slept, and the kids, that was the main thing.

The smaller birds were at the window now. He recognized the light tap-tapping of their beaks and the soft brush of their wings. The hawks ignored the windows. They concentrated their attack upon the door. Nat listened to the tearing sound of splintering wood and wondered how many million years of memory were stored in those little brains, behind the stabbing beaks, the piercing eyes, now giving them this instinct to destroy mankind with all the deft precision of machines.

“I’ll smoke that last cigarette,” he said to his wife. “Stupid of me—it was the one thing I forgot to bring back from the farm.”

He reached for it, switched on the silent wireless. He threw the empty packet on the fire and watched it burn.

You May Also Be Interested In…
* “The Fly” By George Langelaan
* A Mortician With Time To Kill

The Glasgow Artwork Of Stephen O’Neil.

I don’t know the South Side of Glasgow. I don’t know the roads or the streets and whenever I go there, I just wander around looking in shop windows and whistling to myself. Yesterday, I was doing just that when my whistling was stopped dead. Because I saw THIS PAINTING IN A SHOP WINDOW!…

Teacakes  

…So I went in. And then I saw THIS PAINTING!…

2

…And THIS ONE!…

Breid

…And THIS!…

Beresford

So much Glesga! Painted beautifully. I lifted a wee card about the artist who painted these, Stephen O’Neil. It had a photo of him on the front and I was reading it when the guy behind the counter in the shop started telling me about the paintings…that he painted.

Funny. I THOUGHT you looked a bit like yourself!”, I said.
And folks, he really does.

I’ve focused on Stephen’s Glasgow images here because I’m daft aboot Glesga but you should see his New York and London work. And you can…
View Stephen’s site HERE.
Twitter and Facebook links HERE and HERE.

I still don’t know my way around the South Side of Glasgow. But at least I now know where this shop is…

Stephen O’Neil Art. 1030 Pollokshaws Road. (Opposite Langside Halls), Glasgow. G41 2HG.

You May Also Be Interested In…
* From Pencil To Paper To Pen To Pencil To Photoshop To Poster * The Glasgow Alphabet By Rosemary Cunningham
* Daniel Fitzpatrick: Portrait Artist

From Pencil To Paper To Pen To Pencil To Photoshop To Poster.

Hi folks,

I’ve been working on a poster for Glasgow band, The Attic Lights, who’re doing a wee set of FREE gigs up ra North ae Scotland during the Summer. And here it is here…

8

The text has obviously still to go on it but I’m not dealing with that part because I’m not very good at it. Another thing I’m not very good at is Photoshop. As a matter of fact, I’ve never ever used it and so I got help with the colours in this illustration. Pretty pleased with how it turned out! I must learn how to use Photoshop myself.

Everything else is hand drawn and here’s the Pencil To Paper To Pen To Pencil To Photoshop To Poster of it all…

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

EDIT:
The band added their text on…

Poster

The Attic Lights sound like THIS and they are playing…
Thursday, July 16th, 2015: Twa Tams. Perth.
Friday, July 17th, 2015: Hootananny, Inverness.
Saturday, July 18th, 2015: The Arch Inn, Ullapool.

You May Also Be Interested In…
* Album Cover Artwork: Love Lust Tales”
* Illustration: The Evolution Of A Skeleton
* My First Tattoo

The Soundtrack To My Life. 07/03/2015.

Belle

Record: Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.
Year: 2015.
Artist: Belle And Sebastian.

Belle And Sebastian’s best record in some time, if you ask me. I was pretty surprised and impressed to find a Euro-Disco track in the middle of the album but yep, that’s just what they’ve done. Suits them too…

AMW

Record: A Mighty Wind (OST).
Year: 2003.
Artist: Various.

I’d never seen this film until recently. LOVED IT! Loved ALL the songs in it! Especially this one…

ghouls front

Record: Dracula’s Deuce.
Year: 1964.
Artist: The Ghouls.

I went looking specifically to find some sort of Horror themed Surf music and found ‘Dracula’s Deuce’ by The Ghouls. It’s exactly what I was after! Imagine an entire album of tracks by a band that sound like early Beach Boys meets early Chuck Berry where every song sounds a bit like ‘The Monster Mash’? EXACTLY what I was looking for…

PB

Record: Foundations Of Burden.
Year: 2014.
Artist: Pallbearer.

I found Pallbearer through Pitchfork. I never read Pitchfork reviews but they seem to keep a better eye out for new bands than I do so I occasionally drop by there to see if anything catches my eye and the artwork to Foundations Of Burden did just that.

I liked this band just fine. I think they’re musically interesting. I think they have a good sound. I think they can be hard and rough when they want to and gentle and melodic when they try. But the only thing is that Black Sabbath did all of this years ago.

SITN

Record: Shadows In The Night.
Year: 2015.
Artist: Bob Dylan.

For the first time in YEARS, Dylan has made a record that does almost zero for me. What we have here is a collection of Sinatra songs that have been covered hundreds of times before by various artists and that’s kind of my problem with it.

Dylan says that they’ve been covered so many times that these songs have almost been buried. I think he was aiming to put a bit of life back into these songs and I love that he recorded them all live but for me personally, Dylan doesn’t add anything to the likes of ‘What’ll I Do’ for me. But then again, nobody could add anything to that song for me. Not since I first heard Harry’s version…

Kurt Vile

Record: It’s A Big World Out There (And I Am Scared).
Year: 2013.
Artist: Kurt Vile And The Violators.

Kurt Vile. That name stood out to me in a Reddit forum thingy in which Tom Waits fans were recommending music to each other so I got this album. I don’t see why so many fans of Tom Waits’ music recommended Kurt Vile. I thought it was all a bit bland but I like this track…

Beetroots

Record: Hide.
Year: 2013.
Artist: The Bloody Beetroots.

I got a hold of this record solely because I heard and liked the name, The Bloody Beetroots. I dunno what I was expecting. That’s the fun of going in blind like that. This was the only track I liked from the record…

DOTD

Record: Dawn Of The Dead (OST).
Year: 1987.
Artist: Goblin.

I’m a sucker for soundtracks and I like to listen to Horror soundtracks especially when I can’t sleep and wander around Glasgow. But y’know, Goblin’s music for “Dawn Of The Dead” doesn’t really do anything for me on its own without the film. I dunno why because I really like the soundtrack! It just doesn’t work for me on its own without the film…

EP

Record: EP.
Year: 2005.
Artist: The Fiery Furnaces.

I’ve liked The Fiery Furnaces ever since I heard their ‘Bitter Tea‘ record years ago…

Harry

Record: Harry.
Year: 1969.
Artist: Harry Nilsson.

I’ve always had lots of time for Harry Nilsson and last week I found this record in Glasgow for £2.00. A Canadian Import seemingly. It has Nilsson’s great cover of The Beatles’ ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ on it…

NC

Record: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.
Year: 2006.
Artist: Neko Case.

When Andrea recommended the soundtrack and film, “A Mighty Wind”, she also hit me with hundreds of other artists and albums she thought I may like and I’m working my way through those at the moment. I was glad to be introduced to Neko Case and this ‘Fox Confessor Brings The Flood’ album. I don’t like the album cover and so I bet I’ve passed this by when I’ve been record hunting. Anyway, I’m glad I found it eventually because it’s a brilliant record and really well produced too! So far, this is my favourite track from it…

You May Also Be Interested In…
* The Soundtrack To My Life. 07/01/2015
* The Soundtrack To My Life. 09/04/2014
* The Soundtrack To My Life. 14/02/2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 905 other followers

%d bloggers like this: