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Fictioneer's Writer's Club  

Posted by Scott Wilson

My application to the Fictioneer's Writer's Club has been accepted. Check it out here -
http://web.mac.com/shadaa1/Fictioneers/Roll_Call.html

Injustice  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Injustice
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 470

Injustice floated down the Queen Street Mall in the cool autumn breeze, seeking someone to befriend; someone who had not heard things about him yet. Many stepped aside to avoid him, though they could not see his ethereal figure. People often saw the things that he did, or the aftermath of his presence. But he was trying harder every day.

Upon reaching a cafe, he casually sat down and watched the patrons, looking for someone, anyone, to laugh at. It wasn’t long before a couple of businessmen in their early twenties walked in and began taking out their frustration on the gorgeous blonde waitress. They were dressed in Armani suits, silk ties and Julius Marlow shoes. Both worked as lawyers in the prestige offices across the mall and earned more than the cafe was worth each week.

The taller of the two began chatting up the waitress, who didn’t take kindly to the derogative remarks about how her skirt was too long and her blouse had too many buttons on it.

Injustice hoped up, walked to the quickly developing argument to intervene. He stood by the two men and listened, making their conversation into a story he could relay when convenient. When the voices began to rise and other patrons started looking uncomfortable, an overweight Italian woman heaved her heavy frame from a booth by the counter and made her way over.

“What’s going on here?” she said.

“Its okay, Mrs. Savvas,” the waitress said. “I’ve sorted it out now.”

Injustice floated between the small group, like a wisp of smoke. He settled on Mrs. Savvas’ shoulder and whispered in her ear.

“That’s it!” she yelled at the waitress. “You’re fired.”

The waitress began crying and rushed to the kitchen to grab her bag, then left through the back door in hysterics. She was already a month behind with her rent and her son desperately needed bucket-loads of medicine for the rare respiratory disease he recently developed.

“I apologies’ for her attitude,” Mrs. Savvas said. “Please, order what you like, on the house.”

The businessmen ordered the dearest items on the menu, ate very little of it, and walked out feeling indifferent to the incident. To them, a fifty-dollar morning tea was worth less to them than the waitress was to the owner of the cafe.

Injustice slowly glided from the cafe back into the mall, unsure why his comment about how bad the waitress’s attitude was didn’t help the situation. He was sure that it would have helped the poor young girl against those lovely young men.

He noticed a two police officers talking to a group of young aborigines loitering around the ATM’s a few meters down the mall.

 

Posted by Scott Wilson



AHWA NEWS DIGEST - A NIGHT OF HORROR SUPPLEMENTARY EDITION

The following digest of recent horror news is compiled from pieces published to HorrorScope and the http://www.australianhorror.com/">Australian Horror Writers' Association website.

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-special-event-how.html">A Night of Horror Special Event: How to Make a Horror Feature Film Forum
Wednesday March 25, 6.30pm at Metro Screen, Paddington Town Hall

Learn the ins and outs of making an independent horror feature film from filmmakers who have successfully navigated the process! Special guest feature filmmakers: Ursula Dabrowsy (FAMILY DEMONS), Mike Masters (REEL ZOMBIES), Stacey Edmonds and Doug Turner (I KNOW HOW MANY RUNS YOU SCORED LAST SUMMER). And forum chair ABC Movietime journalist Jason Di Rosso.
A'>http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-opening-night.html">A Night of Horror opening night screening of The Broken
Thursday March 26, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

http://www.anightofhorror.com/">A Night of Horror International Film Festival is opening with the Australian Premiere screening of The Broken, the creepily atmospheric second feature film from OSCAR and BAFTA nominated director http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1193346/">Sean Ellis (Best Short Film: CASHBACK).


On a busy street in London, Gina (Lena Heady) thinks she sees herself drive past in her own car. Stunned by this strange event, Gina follows the mystery woman up to her apartment. From here, events take an eerie turn for the worse until Gina's awareness slides from solid reality into a nightmarish existence.

Accompanied by the short films: The Strange Case of Mr Hollow 7 Min - Rodrigo Gudino (Canada) and Corrections 10 Min - Bob Franklin (Australia).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-i-know.html">A Night of Horror presents: I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer
Thursday March 26, 9pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

The Australian cricket-themed satirical slasher feature film, I KNOW HOW MANY RUNS YOU SCORED LAST SUMMER steps up to crease in 2009. Sharpen up your game.

In the heady Australian summer of ‘89 a young cricketer is hospitalized by his bullying teammates. 20 years later he returns to his homeland to wreak his bloody revenge. Scotland Yard hotshot Kim Reynolds arrives in Sydney to assist New South Wales Detectives Gary Chance and Shane Scott in the hunt for the serial killer terrorizing Sydney. The remaining team members are relocated to a safe house in Joadja Creek, Illawarra; unfortunately it doesn’t turn out to be that safe! One by one in the remote Australian outback the team members are dismissed by a moustachioed serial killer with a razor sharp cricket glove and an arsenal of sharpened stumps.

Special guests Stacey Edmonds and Doug Turner - the film's directors/producers - will be at the screening's Q&A and also at the fest's Horror Filmmaking Forum.

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-mum-dad.html">A Night of Horror presents: Mum & Dad
Friday March 27, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

Gore Zone calls MUM & DAD "The Best UK Horror of the last decade". See it for yourself, and you'll know why.

Set around a major London airport, MUM & DAD is about a murderous and perverse family who live at the end of a runway. They live off the airport, feeding off the black market and sending their two adopted children out to bring back victims for Mum to torture and Dad to kill. Lena, a young Polish worker, is one of these victims. The film charts Lena's battle to survive Mum and Dad's savage parental regime, until finally, Lena finds her only way out is to become as savage and brutal as the family itself.

Accompanied by the short films: Daugher Of The Above - 12 Min Rodney Bolton (Australia) and The Ugly File - 10 Min Mark Steensland (USA).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-family.html">A Night of Horror Presents: Family Demons
Friday March 27, 9pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

FAMILY DEMONS will leave you uncertain as to whether you are watching reality or a character’s perception of reality, similar in tone to THE SIXTH SENSE and THE OTHERS. Thematic and visual references in FAMILY DEMONS hark back to Brian de Palma’s horror classic, CARRIE and contemporary Japanese and Korean ghost stories, such as THE GRUDGE and TALE OF TWO SISTERS. Inspired by real events, FAMILY DEMONS is a powerful and disturbing chiller, and an amazing feature debut from director Ursula Dabrowsky. Don't miss the world premiere of her film at A Night of Horror.

When Billie, an abused teenage girl, murders her alcoholic mother, she is horrified to discover that the mother’s vengeful spirit returns to haunt her. Even in death, the mother is hell bent on denying Billie her freedom.

Ursula is flying in from Adelaide for a Q&A at her screening. She will also be on the panel at the festival's Horror Filmmaking Forum at Metro Screen on Wednesday, March 25.

Accompanied by the short film: Hold Your Fire 8 Min - Wes Benscoter (USA).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-midnight.html">A Night of Horror presents: Midnight Movie
Friday March 27, 11:45pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown - feature starts at 12:00am sharp!

Here's your chance for a genuine old school grindhouse experience! Come to the festival's midnight screening of MIDNIGHT MOVIE, a film that hearkens back to such genre classic as DEMONS, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The perfect film to screen at the witching hour!

At a run down theater in a sleepy suburban town, a group of friends get together for a midnight screening of an early 1970's horror film. The director/star is thought to have died five years earlier in a psych ward massacre. But the detective and doctor who witnessed the aftermath of the bloodbath suspect that the director was not a victim, but the perpetrator of the killings and is still on the loose. What none of them understand is that he has enshrined his soul into the film itself.

As the film starts, the kids heckle the old black-and-white scenes, but are jolted when the movie's gruesome killer butchers one of their friends on screen! They realize that it is not the prank that they had hoped it was as they soon become the stars of the very movie they are watching on the screen. Caught between the world of reality and the screen's flickering shadows, these unsuspecting viewers fight to stay alive in the locked theater.

Accompanied by the short film: Dead Bones - 18 Min Olivier Beguin (Switzerland).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-free-forum-with-ian-hunter-dark.html">Free Forum with Ian Hunter - The Dark Knight's visual effects supervisor
Saturday March 28, 1pm at The International Film School Sydney

A Night of Horror International Film Festival and The International Film School Sydney are proud to present visual effects master Ian Hunter (New Deal Studios) in a free public forum. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Ian is one of the world’s leading visual effects supervisors. You’ve seen recent examples of his stunning work in: THE DARK KNIGHT, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, SPIDER MAN 3, and WAR OF THE WORLDS.

Ian will be screening samples of his work, special behind the scenes footage, and talking about the ins and outs of the visual effects industry. Ian’s visually mesmerising short film ALLURE is screening as part of A Night of Horror International Film Festival!

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-international-film.html">A Night Of Horror International Film Festival Shorts Program
Dendy Cinema Newtown

http://www.anightofhorror.com/">A Night Of Horror International Film Festival is delighted to present a special program of bite sized horror treats - short films to shock and entice. The program is spread over three installments, all of which are not to be missed!



A line-up of hilarious, disgusting, wild and wonderful horror comedies & animations from all around the world that will leave you in stitches!



April 2, 7pm - Shorts Programme # 3: F#*%ed Up People Doing F#*%ed Up Things
You know they're out there!
A'>http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-finale.html">A Night Of Horror presents: Finale
Sunday March 29, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

A Night Of Horror International Film Festival proudly present the world premiere of John Elfers shoe-string budget feature Finale. Mystery, horror and suspense are captured in the visual style of the 1970's colorful Italian gialli.

A family descends into a vortex of denial and paranoia after the death of the oldest son. Though labeled a suicide, the bizarre circumstances lead the mother, Helen (Carolyn von Hauck), to believe there are darker forces at work. Black paint was thrown over everything reflective in the son's decrepit Victorian house, an explosive trap set in his bedroom and a woman from his past haunts the cemetery where he lies buried. But when Helen's investigation threatens to ruin the life of her teenage daughter, Kate (Suthi Picotte), and possibly her own sanity, she realizes there is but one escape from this nightmare world - the very route attempted by her dead son.
Accompanied by the short films: Shapes - 5 MIN Alan Brennan (IRELAND) and Still Life - 9 min Daniel McKleinfeld (USA).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-club-77.html">A Night Of Horror @ Club 77
Sunday March, 9pm til late at Club 77, Kings Cross

Join A Night Of Horror at Sydney's notorious Club 77 for horror themed music videos and the horror party to end all parties! Includes the feature film Burn Paris Burn - 71 Min Laurent Sebelin (France), and the shorts Anyone There? - 10 Min Holger Frick (Germany), Kagimiko - 13 Min Mathieu Arsenault (Canada), The Flies - 5 Min Josh Collier (UK) and Stygian Horizon - 5 Min Evan Chan (Canada).

With horror themed music videos:
  • More Control - 6 Min Steve Daniels (USA)
  • The Beauty - 4 Min Luca Vecchi (Italy)
  • Hunt - 2 Min Yohei Ito (Japan)
  • Francois Martin By The Tenth Stage - 4 Min John Von Ahlen (AU)
  • The Man Who Made Monsters - 6 Min Onethirtyeight (UK)
  • Haunted By The Thought Of You - 6 Min Terran Schackor (USA)
  • Karaoke Show - 5 Min Karl Tebbe (Germany)
  • Crystal - 4 Min Jason Lapeyre (Canada)
http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-plague.html">A Night Of Horror Presents: Plague Town
Monday March 30, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

Get ready to experience the graphic shocker from director/co-writer David Gregory that DVD Savant hails as “a bloody onslaught…PLAGUE TOWN knows which buttons to push to extract the maximum in squeamish delirium!” Fangoria calls it “A boundary-pushing, taboo-breaking experience.” AV Maniacs says it “embodies the spirit and atmosphere of the great horror films of the ‘70s.”

In a remote village, a shocking secret lives on with each and every baby born. It is said that all children are creatures of God…except here. Now for a group of lost tourists, every conception of ‘family’ will soon be sliced to pieces. And for a doomed few, the ultimate terror is about to hit home.

Accompanied by the short film: Una Storia Di Lupi (A Wolf's Tale) - 27 Min Cristiano Donzelli (Italy).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents.html">A Night Of Horror presents: Linkeroever (Left Bank)
Tuesday March 31, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

A Night Of Horror presents Belgian horror gem Linkeroever (Left Bank), directed by Pieter Van Hees. Left Bank is an original and emotionally true thriller about a driven, confused girl who, in her journey to womanhood, gradually starts alienating from the place she lives, the man she loves and the body that fails her. Welcome to Left Bank.

When Marie begins to suffer from headaches, nausea and insomnia, she starts believing that the place they live has a bad influence on her body. Her obsessions create a distance between them, Bobby believes she is just imagining things. Now Marie feels lonelier than ever. She begins to doubt whether she can really trust Bobby. Life in Left Bank, once envisaged as a dream town, becomes an alienating nightmare.

Accompanied by the short film: Shadows - 14 Min Michael Jonathan (NZ).
http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-presents-no-morire.html"> />A Night of Horror presents: No Morire Sola (I'll Never Die Alone)
Thursday April 2, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

NO MORIRE SOLA is probably the most shocking film you will see this year, reminiscent of such exploitation classics as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, THEY CALL HER ONE EYE, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. If you are offended by scenes of strong violence and brutality, you had better sit this one out...

The film follows the traumatic journey of four female University students who travel back to their family home in the remote outback of the La Plata region, Argentina. On the road they witness a violent crime perpetrated by local thugs. They are captured, hideously violated and some are shot dead… The surviving women, out of sheer determination for revenge, mercilessly pursue their attackers to the bitter end.

Accompanied by the short films: Linda Lorna: The Red Door - 16 Min Jason Bognacki (USA), and Fetal - 4 Min Tony Falcon (USA).

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/03/news-night-of-horror-closing-night.html">A Night of Horror Closing Night: Splinter Screening, Awards Ceremony and After Party!
Friday April 3, 7pm at Dendy Cinema Newtown

http://www.anightofhorror.com/">A Night Of Horror International Film Festival comes to a close with the Australian premiere of Splinter - screening to be followed by the A Night Of Horror Awards Ceremony and after party!

Fantastically paced, with smart, motivated characters, and plenty of cool scares and gore, Toby Wilkins' SPLINTER is the best monster flick we've seen in years. So, we're not at all surprised that the film recently won almost every major award at Screamfest (The USA's biggest horror film festival) including: BEST FILM, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS, BEST MAKE-UP, BEST EDITING, & BEST SCORE). This is one horror film that you do not want to miss! DREAD CENTRAL says, "Splinter is garnering quite the buzz and with good reason -- it kicks ass!"

A young couple has retreated to the wilderness for a romantic camping weekend – but the trip quickly spirals into a nightmare when they are car-jacked by an escaped convict and his girlfriend. Thrown together by chance, no one can imagine the terrifying horror that awaits the two couples at the remote and isolated gas station.
Includes FREE DRINK on arrival courtesy of HOWLING WOLVES WINES, and admission to the awards ceremony and after party.

A Night Of Horror Film Festival 2009

All sessions are rated R 18+ (except I Know How Many Runs Your Scored Last Summer - rated MA 15+).

Ticket Prices:
Regular sessions: $15 / $11 concessions
Closing Night: $20 / $15 concession
Metro Screen Filmmaking Forum: $15
Club 77: $15

Dendy tickets can be booked on: 9550 5699
All other sessions, tickets only at the door.

Venues:

Dendy Cinema, 261-263 King Street, Newtown
Metro Screen, Crn Oatley Rd & Oxford Street, Paddington
Mu-Meson Archives, Crn Parramatta Rd & Trafalgar St, Annandale
Club 77, 77 William Street, Kings Cross

Addendum - The http://www.australianhorror.com/">Australian Horror Writers' Association would like to congratulate AHWA member Kyla Ward on the world premiere screening of her comedic short horror film Bad Reception, screening at A Night Of Horror International Film Festival on March 28. Knock 'em dead, Kyla!

Submitting News

If you have news about Australian and New Zealand horror publishing and film, or news of professional development opportunities in the field, feel free to submit news to http://www.myspace.com/taliehelene">Talie Helene, AHWA News Editor. Just visit HorrorScope, and click on the convenient email link. (International news is not unwelcome, although relevance to Antipodean literary and screen arts practitioners is strongly preferred.)

For information on the Australian Horror Writers' Association, visit http://www.myspace.com/australianhorror"> style="font-size: smaller;">AHWA MySpace page, http://darklands.ning.com/"> style="font-size: smaller;">Darklands, and hosted by AHWA members http://musingsofanaussiewriter.blogspot.com/"> style="font-size: smaller;">Brenton Tomlinson, and http://awritersblogseswilson.blogspot.com/">Scott Wilson.

If you would like to support the AHWA News effort by hosting a copy of the AHWA News Digest on your blog or website,
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Private Files  

Posted by Scott Wilson in , ,

Private Files
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 507

“Look, I’ve only got one call dude,” Tam said to her best friend Angie from the phone at the city watch house. “You’ve got to do this for me.”

“If I delete the music from your computer, won’t I be an accessory to the crime?”

“Look, nobody knows you’re going to do it. I mean we both live together, some calling you won’t be suss.”

“What about the date on the computer, won’t it show that it was deleted today?”

“Yeh, but I was home this morning. The cops picked me up at my work cause they didn’t have my current address on file so they won’t know you did it.”

“Okay, but you owe me.”

“I owe you big time, Angie.”

Angie hung up and went into her friend’s room and switched on her laptop. She considered throwing it out, at least that way there was no evidence of the illegal music on Tam’s computer, but decided to delete the files first.

Angie opened Windows Explorer, located the folder with the mp3’s and pressed delete. The computer crunched and whirled as it began chewing up the illegal tunes with the Whitewash file shredding program Tam had installed.

Angie couldn’t help herself, and she began looking at the pictures in the folder named Photos. There were heaps of Tam, Angie and their friends at work, parties and everywhere else Tam took her digital camera; which was everywhere.

“What the...” she said, scrolling down to the thumbnails of what looked like some porn.

Angie could not believe what see was seeing. There were hundreds of photos of her in the shower, getting dressed, having sex with her boyfriend. Angie then looked at the internet and found a website that her friend set up with videos and photos of her, called Angie’s Asspect. She looked around the room to try and find the camera that would be hidden somewhere on the wall to the bathroom and her bedroom.

“You bitch,” she said, finding two small webcams set up behind picture frames.

Angie went back to the laptop and cursed. The music was deleted already. She wouldn’t be able to bring it to the police station as evidence now. There was no way she was going to show the police the photos of her buck naked either, so she deleted them, then took the computer to her room. She would decide what to do with it later.

Angie went back to her ex-best friend’s room, looking for something to incriminate her and get even.

“Got you,” she said, finding the external hard drive Tam kept a back up of all her music on.

Angie drove to the police station, not realizing there were backup files of the videos and pictures on the hard drive when she handed over to the police. That would come the next day when the police arrested her for the illegal porn site displaying these images.

Cockroach City  

Posted by Scott Wilson in , ,

Cockroach City
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 453
Ian and Tom waited for Marty outside the small bottle-shop down the road from the City Botanical gardens. Marty looked older than the two, who were actually seventeen while Marty was only sixteen.

“Did you get it?” Ian asked Marty when he walked out of the store.

Marty held up a brown paper bag the size of a small bottle of Southern Comfort.

“You little ripper!” Tom said, almost shouting with excitement.

“Here’s a stogie for you to, mate,” Marty said, passing cigars to his two friends.

They walked briskly down the road to their favorite drinking spot, the park bench near the pond in the gardens. For the last few months they regularly went to the park to have a few drinks before they went to the Video Game Parlor near the Myer Centre.

Marty lit his stogie, tossed his Zippo to Ian, and then opened the bottle of booze. He didn’t smoke regularly, but often had the urge when he drank, which was only Friday nights now that he was in grade twelve at high school.

The three friends passed the Southern Comfort around until the bottle was empty.

“Hey, do you reckon our Rocket Fuel would be okay?” Ian said.

“That shit wasn’t okay when Tom made it in the first place,” Marty said. “What was in it again?”

“A bit of Chivas Regal, some Bundie Rum and a shot of Southern Comfort.” Tom said.

“Let’s go have a look anyway,” Ian said.

They walked to the bamboo plants on the opposite side of the pond.

“Do you even remember where you buried it?” Gerard said.

Tom looked around, then saw the mark he made at the base of one of the trunks.

“Here it is,” he said, digging out the jam jar with a flat rock.

“What’s that?” Ian said, pointing to a large dark object at the back of the bamboo.

“What’s what?” Gerard said, flicking the lid open on his lighter.

In the flickering light of the Zippo a cockroach the size of a German Sheppard puppy darted at them. Then another appeared, and another, until the ground could not be seen from the mass of scaly brown insects.

“Fucking hell!” Gerard screamed, falling to the ground under the weight of twenty insects.

Ian kicked at them, while Tom swung a broken piece wildly of bamboo to help clear them from their fallen friend.

“Help!” Gerard yelled.

The bamboo rustled violently and a stream of thousand more cockroaches raced out at them. Within minutes, the three teenagers were stripped to the bone by the Blattidae’s crushing mandibulates.

Love In Stereo  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Love In Stereo
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 506

Gerard closed the door to his single room flatette, furious at life and how unfair it seemed. At seventeen he moved out of home and tried to live of junior wages of only one hundred and fifty five dollars. Sixty six dollars went straight into the rent on the only dump he could afford; small kitchen, bathroom and toilet in another minute space and the remainder of the flatette served as the bedroom/dining room/living room.

The place came fully furnished with an assortment of tacky old pieces spewed out of the sixties, orange bed, lime green dining room table and chairs and gas hot water system that he relit just about every evening.

He opened the heavy iron door of the old Kelivator refrigerator and grabbed a cask of Yalumba Riesling wine, then proceeded to the dining room table and poured himself a tall glass. Sitting on the windowsill was a half full packet of Winfield Blue cigarettes. He pulled one out and lit it with his brushed brass Zippo.

Gerard knew he only had twenty dollars left in his wallet, and that had to last another two days.

“Shit!” he grunted, throwing a coaster across the room at the laundry basket. “I’m soo sick of this crap. Why doesn’t anything ever go my way?”

A soft knock at the door stopped his train of thought. He stubbed his cigarette out in an overflowing ashtray, and then went to answer the door.

“Hi, Gerard,” the attractive blonde at the door said. It was Kathy from work.

“Hey,” he said, surprised by Kathy’s presence. “What are you doing here?”

“Do you remember we were talking about that new Warrant song, ‘Love in Stereo’ today, and I said how much I like it?”

Gerard thought back to it; ‘I didn't expect that pair, Both of them had one thing on their mind, Both of them were willing to share, I never had two women before, But I'm an open minded person, So baby lock that door, We're loving in stereo’.

“Yeh, sure, what about it?”

A curvaceous dark haired nymph-like woman, about the same age as Gerard and Kathy, about seventeen, stepped out from behind Kathy.

“This is my friend Sue,” Kathy said smiling. “It’s her favorite song too.”

The penny dropped.

“Er, yeh. Lucky guy in the tune, hey?”

“I didn’t think you got what I meant today, so I thought I’d come over and get Sue to help me explain it.”

Kathy and her friend brushed past Gerard and headed towards the bedroom. Gerard closed the door and followed in disbelief, watching the clothes drop quickly in their wake.

Gerard couldn’t believe how naive he was. How many times had he missed out on things like this, because he was feeling sorry for himself?

Kathy and Sue beckoned for him to join them on the bed, where they spent the rest of the evening in shear pleasure.

A Fist Full of Credits  

Posted by Scott Wilson

A Fistful of Dollars

By Scott Wilson


When my Ranthon topped out on the ridge, the first thing I saw was that girl. Luckily, she was far off, I still had not got used to these two legged emu-like creatures and probably would have fallen off if she startled it.
With two saddlebags full of dyon crystals and three days ahead of me, I was skittish of company. Most times this alien land is less trouble than people, no matter how rough the country. And no woman had a right to be standing out there in that empty desert country.
At fifteen, I stowed away on my father’s Stellar Class space trader ship and became stranded on this planet a few years ago. I only had my backpack when I realised I was alone. It contained only a few items from my own planet, far more advanced than this one. Apart from my solar-powered coms device, a laser pistol with only one fully charged clip and a pocket tool kit, I had no decent supplies left.
An old cattle farmer took me in when he found me stranded and I worked on his ranch for a few years before deciding there must be some way to get back home.
At nineteen, I set out to try my hand at dyon crystals panning, to make enough money to travel, and search for any advanced civilisation that might be on this damned planet. Seems like everybody in camp was showing color but me, and I was swallowing my belt notch by notch for lack of eating when those four men came to my fire.
Worst of it was, I couldn't offer them. There I was, booting up for a fresh day with my coffeepot on the fire so's people wouldn't know I hadn't even coffee, but all there was in the pot was water. I dearly wanted to offer them, but I was shamed to admit I was fresh out of coffee — three days out, actually.
"Tell," Almanathan suggested, "you've had no luck with mining, so nobody would suspect you of carrying dyon crystals. If you rode out of camp today, folks would take it for granted you had called it deep enough and quit. That way you could carry our dyon crystals to Ellvidrank and nobody the wiser."
The four men facing me had taken out the most dust and, knowing about the Venstines, they were worried men. Three of them were family men and that dyon crystals meant schooling for their youngsters and homes for their wives and capital for themselves. They were poor, hard-working men, deserving what they had dug up.
Thing was, how to get it past the Venstines?
"We'll give you one hundred dollars," Gambeila said, "if you make it through."
With the best of luck, it was a five-day ride, which figured out to twenty dollars a day. With such a grubstake, I could take out for Gandilank or come back with a grubstake.
My belly was as empty as my prospect hole, and it didn't seem like I had much choice. Venstines or no Venstines, it sized up like the fastest hundred dollars I would ever make. It was Anshta Almanathan done it for me, as we'd talked friendly ever since I staked claim on the creek.
Helix Gambeila, Vander Mander and Mixnaf Ionsfield stood there waiting for me to speak up, and finally I said, "I'll do it, of course, and glad of the chance.
Only, I am a stranger, and —”
"Almanathan swears by you," Ionsfield interrupted, "and even if we don't know you very well, he's known you and your family. If he says you are honest, that's all there is to it."
"And this is a chance to get you a stake," Almanathan interrupted. "What can you lose?"
Well, the last two men who rode out of camp with dyon crystals were found dead alongside the trail, shot down like you'd shoot a steer; and one of them was Handrile Hishmanth, a man I'd known. Neither of them was carrying as much as I'd have.
"Take a pack Ranthon," Almanathan suggested, "load your gear." He glanced around and lowered his voice, "It seems like somebody here in camp informs the Venstines, but nobody will know about this but us, and all of us have a stake in it."
Later, when the others had gone, Almanathan said, "Hope you didn't mind my saying I'd known your family. They were willing to trust you if I did, but I wanted them to feel better."
So I packed up and rode off, and in my saddlebags there was fifty pounds of dyon crystals, worth around a thousand dollars a pound at the time, and in my pocket I'd a note signed by all four men that I was to have a hundred dollars when the dyon crystals was delivered. Never had I seen that much cash money, and since the war, I had not had even ten dollars at one time.
Worst of it was, there was somebody on my trail. A man like me, riding somewhere, he doesn't only watch the trail ahead, he looks back. Folks get lost because when they start back over a trail they find it looks a sight different facing the other way. When a man travels, he should keep sizing up the country, stopping time to time to study his back trail so he recognizes the landmarks.
Looking back, I'd seen dust hanging in the air. And that dust stayed there. It had to be somebody tracking me down, and it could mean it was the Venstines.
Right then I'd much rather have tangled with the Venstines than faced up to that woman down there, but that no-account Ranthon was taking me right to her, like it wanted to stop by and offer her a ride.
Worst of it was, she was almighty pretty. There was a mite of sunburn on her cheekbones and nose, but despite that, she was a fine-looking girl.
"How do you do?" You'd of thought we were meeting on the streets of Kindletown.
"I wonder if you could give me a lift to Ellvidrank?"
My hat brim was down over my eyes, and I sized up the country around, but there was no sign of a Ranthon she might have ridden to this point, nor any sign of a cabin or camp.
"Why, I reckon so, ma'am." I got down from the saddle, thinking if trouble came, I might have to fetch that big Colt .45 in a hurry. "My pack Ranthon is packing light so I can rig that pack saddle so's you can ride it side-saddle."
"I would be grateful," she said.
First off, it shaped like a trap. Somebody knowing I had dyon crystals might have this woman working with them, for its troubled me to guess how she came here. There were a sight of tracks on the ground, but all seemed to be hers. Then I noticed a thin trail of smoke from behind a rock.
"You have a fire?"
"It was quite cold last night."
When she caught my look, she smiled. "Yes, I was here all night." She looked directly at me from those big blue eyes. "And the night before."
"It ain't a likely spot."
She carried herself prim, but she was a bright, quick-to-see girl, and I cottoned to her. The clothes she wore were of fine, store-bought goods like some I'd seen folks wear in some of those northern cities I'd seen as a soldier.
"I suppose you wonder what I am doing here."
"Well, now." I couldn't help grinning. "It did come to my mind. Like I said, it ain't a likely spot."
"You shouldn't say 'ain't.' The word is 'isn't'."
"Thank you, ma'am. I had no schooling, and I never learned to talk proper, least not in this language."
"Surely you can read and write?"
"No, ma'am, I surely can't."
"Why, that's awful! Everybody should be able to read. I don't know what I would have done these past months if I could not read. I believe I should have gone insane."
When the saddle was rigged, I helped her up. "Ma'am, I better warn you. There's trouble acoming, so's you'd better have it in mind. It may not be a good thing, me helping you this way. You may get into worse trouble."
We started off, and I looked over my shoulder at her. "Somebody is following after me. I figure it's them Amblethon outlaws."
Worst of it was, I had lost time, and here it was coming up to night and me with a strange girl on my hands.
"You running from something, ma'am? Not to be disrespectful, ma'am, but out in the desert thisaway it ain't — isn't — just the place a body would expect to find a lady as pretty as you."
"Thank you." Her chin lifted a mite higher. "Yes, I am running away. I am leaving my husband. He is a thoughtless, inconsiderate brute, and he is an Army officer at Fort Whipple."
"He will be mighty sorry to lose you, ma'am. This here is a lonesome country. I don't carry envy for those soldier boys out here, I surely don't."
"Well! It certainly is not a place to bring an officer's bride. I'll declare! How could he think I could live in such a place? With a dirt floor and all?"
This reminded me of my first thoughts when I became stuck on this backwards planet. I was used to robot servants, touch screen computers, lasers and all that sort of stuff. Here, it seemed like they were only at the old west stage of development in their evolution.
"What did he say when you left?"
"He doesn't know it yet. I had been to Ehrenberg, and when we started back, I just couldn't stand the thought, so when no one was looking, I got out of the Army ambulance I was riding in. I am going to catch the steamer at Ellvidrank and go home."
When I looked to our back trail, no dust hung in the air, and I knew we were in trouble. If it had been soldiers looking for this girl, they would not have stopped so sudden-like, and it looked to me like they had headed us and laid a trap, so I swung up a draw, heading north instead of west, and slow to raise no dust.
It was a sandy wash, but a thin trail skirted the edge, made by deer or such-like and we held to it. When we had been riding for an hour, I saw dust in the air, hanging up there in a fair cloud about where I had come up to this lady. Again, I turned at right angles, heading back the way I had come. Off to the north and west there was a square-topped mesa that was only a part of a long, comb-like range.
"We are followed; ma'am," I said, "and those Venstines are mighty thoughtless folks. I got to keep you out of their hands. First off, we'll run. If that, doesn't work, we'll talk or we'll fight, leaving it up to them. You hold with me, ma'am."
"They wouldn't bother me," she said. "I am the wife of an Army officer."
"Most Western men are careful of womenfolk," I agreed, "but don't set no truck by being an officer's wife. The Venstines murdered two Army officers not a week ago. Murdered them, ma'am. They just don't care a mite who you may be. And a woman likes you — they don't often see a woman pretty as you."
She rode up closer to me. "I am afraid I didn't realize."
"No, ma'am, most folks don't" I said.
It was still the best part of two days to Ellvidrank, and nothing much there when we arrived. Nobody seemed to know how many Venstines there were, but the guesses ran all the way from five to nine. They were said to be renegades from down in the Outlander nation and mighty mean.
We held to low ground, keeping off skylines, finding a saddle here and there where we could cross over ridges without topping out where we could be seen. It was darkening by then, with long shadows reaching out, and when we came up the eastern flank of that mesa I'd headed for, we rode in deep shadow.
When we found a way around the butte, we took it, and the western slope was all red from the setting sun, and mighty pretty. The wind blew cool there, but I'd found what I was hunting — a place to hole up for the night.
A man hunting a night camp with somebody trailing him has to have things in mind. He wants a place he can get into and out of without sky lining him or showing up plain, and he also wants a place where he can build a fire that cannot be seen, and something to spread out the smoke. And here it was, and by the look of it, many an Outlander had seen the worth of it before this time. If I’d had a cloaking device, or cam-o-dome, I’d be sleeping in comfort, and without worrying about being found.
The falloff from the mesa rim made a steep slope that fell away for maybe five hundred feet. A man could ride a Ranthon down that slope, but it would be sliding half the time on its rump. The wall of the mesa rose up sheer for some three hundred feet, but there at the foot of that cliff and atop the slope was a hollow behind some rocks and brush.
Maybe it was a half-acre of ground with grass in the bottom and some scraggly cedars at one end. We rode down into that hollow, and I reached up and handed down the lady.
"Ma'am, we'll spend the night here. Talk low and don't let any metal strike metal or start any rock sliding."
"Are they that close?"
"I don't rightly know, ma'am, but we should hope for the best and expect the worst."
When the saddles were off, I climbed out on one of those big rock slabs to study the country. You've got to see country in more than one light to get the lay of it. Shadows tell a lot, and the clear air of early morning or late evening will show up things that are sun-blurred by day. A man scouting country had best size it up of an evening, for shadows will tell him where low ground is, and he can spot the likely passes if only to avoid them.
When I finished my study, I came down off the rock and cleared a spot of needles and leaves under one of those cedars that sort of arched out toward us. My fire was about the size you could hold in your two hands, for the smaller the fire, the less smoke, and such a fire will heat up just as well if a man wants to cook. And rising up through the branches thataway the smoke would be thinned out so much it could not be seen.
"I'm from Histrone," I said to her, "and my name is Tell Angloran."
"Oh — I am Christine Gestafin, and I was born in Anbelela."
When I dug out what grub I had, I was ashamed it was so little. It was a mite Almanathan staked me to before I taken out. The coffee was mostly ground bean and chicory, and all else, I had was jerked venison and cold flour. How I would have killed for some ships rations, even the ones I rummaged up when stowed away.
When the coffee was ready, I filled my cup and passed it to her. "Mrs. Gestafin, this isn't what you have been used to, but it's all we've got."
She tasted it, and if she hadn't been a lady I think she would have spit, but she swallowed it, and then drank some more. "It's hot," she said, and smiled at me, and I grinned back at her. Truth to tell, that was about all a body could say for it.
"You'd better try some of this jerked venison," I said. "If you hold it in your mouth awhile before you begin to chew, it tastes mighty wholesome. All else I've got is cold flour."
"What?"
"Cold flour — it's a borrowed thing, from the Outlanders. Only what I have here is white-man style. It's parched corn ground up and mixed with a mite of sugar and cinnamon. You can mix it with water and drink it, and a man can go for miles on it. Mighty nourishing too.”
Last time I got up to scout, the country around I caught the gleam of a far-off campfire.
Standing there looking across country and watching the stars come out, I thought of that girl and wondered if I would ever have me a woman like that one, and it wasn't likely. We Anglorans are Hunters, and a proud people, but we never had much in the way of goods. Somehow, the Lord's wealth never seemed to gather to us; all we ever had was ourselves, our strength, and a will to walk the earth with honesty and pride.
But this girl was running away, and it didn't seem right. She was huddled to the fire, wrapped in one of my blankets when I came down to the fire. Gathering cedar boughs and grass, I made her a bed to one side, but close to the fire.
"The fire smells good," she said.
"That's cedar," I said, "and some creosote brush. Some folks don't like the smell of creosote. Those Trackers men call it hediondilla, which means little stinker. Some of the Outlanders use it for rheumatism."
Nobody said anything for a while, and then I said, "Creosote-brush fires flavour beans — the best ever. You try them sometime, and no beans ever taste the same after."
The fire crackled, and I added a few small, dry sticks and then said, "It ain't right, leaving him thisaway. He's likely worried to death."
She looked across the fire at me, all stiff and perky. "That is none of your business!"
"Mrs. Gestafin, when you saddled yourself on me, you made it my business. Girl who marries a soldier ought to think to live a soldier's life. Strikes me you've no nerve, ma'am, you cut and run because of dirt floors. I'd figure if a girl loved a man it wouldn't make her no mind. You're spoiled, ma'am. You surely are."
She got up, standing real stiff, coming the high and mighty on me. "If you do not want me here, I will go."
"No, you won't. First off, you haven't an idea where you are or which way to go to get there. You'd die of thirst, if that lion didn't get you."
"Lion?"
"Yes, ma'am." I wasn't exactly lying, because somewhere in Arizona there was sure to be a lion prowling. "There's snakes, too, and at night you can't see them until they get stepped on."
She stood there looking unsure of herself, and I kept on with what I had to say.
"Woman needs a man out here — needs him bad. But a man needs a woman too. How do you think that man of yours feels now? His wife has shamed him before others, taking on like a girl-baby, running off."
She sat down by the fire, but she looked at me with a chilly expression. "I will thank you to take me to Ellvidrank. I did not mean to 'saddle' myself on you, as you put it. I will gladly pay you for your trouble."
"Ain't that much money."
"Don't say 'ain't'!" She snapped her eyes at me.
"Thank you, ma'am," I said, "but you better get you some shut-eye. We got to ride fifty miles tomorrow, and I can't be bothered with any tired female. You sit up on that Ranthon tomorrow or I'll dump you in the desert."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"Yes, ma'am, I surely would. And leave you right there, and all your caterwauling wouldn't do you a mite of good. You get some sleep. Come daylight we're taking out of here faster than a scared owl."
Taking up my laser, I went out to scout the country, and setting up there on that rock slab I done my looking and listening. That fire was still aburning, away off yonder, like a star fallen out of the sky.
When I came back, she was lying on the bed I'd made, wrapped in a blanket, already asleep. Seen like that with the firelight on her face she looked like a little girl.
It was way shy of first light when I opened my eyes, and it'd taken me only a minute or two to throw the saddles on those broncos. Then I fixed that packsaddle for her to ride. My outfit was skimpy, so it wasn't much extra weight, carrying her.
When I had coffee going, I stirred her awake with a touch on the shoulder, and her eyes flared open and she was like to scream when she saw me, not that I'd blame her. In my sock feet, I stand six-three, and I run to shoulders and hands, with high cheekbones and a wedge face that sun had made dark as any Outlander. With no shave and little sleep, I must have looked a frightening thing.
"You better eat a little," I said. "You got five minutes."
We rode out of there with the stars still in the sky, and I was pleasant over seeing no fire over yonder where it had been the night before.
It was just shy of noon, with the sun hot in the sky, when we crossed a low saddle and started out across a plain dotted with Joshua trees.
We came down across that country, and there had been no dust in the sky all morning, but of a sudden four men rode up out of a draw, and it was the Venstines.
Their description had been talked around enough.
"Howdy, Venstines! You hunting something?"
They looked at Christine Gestafin and then at me. "We're looking for you," one said, "and that dyon crystals, but we'll take the lady, too, sort of a bonus-like."
Like I said, when you've quit running, you can talk or you can fight, and times like this I run long on talk.
"You'll take nothing," I said. "You are talking to Tell Angloran — William Tell Angloran and pa always taught us never to give up nothing without a fight. Specially money or a woman.
"Now," I continued on before they could interrupt, "back to home, folks used to say I wasn't much for fiddling or singing, and my feet was too big for dancing, but along come fighting time, I'd be around.
"Couple of you boys are wearing brass buttons. I figure a forty-four slug would drive one of those buttons so deep into your belly a doc would have to get him a search warrant to find it."
My Ranthon was stepping around kind of un-easy-like, and I was making a show of holding him in.
"Anyway," I said, "this here is Senator James Whitfield Gestafin's wife, and if you so much as lay a hand to her, this territory wouldn't be big enough to hold you. He's the kind to turn out the whole frontier Army just to hunt you."
My Ranthon gave a quick sidestep about then, and when he swung his left side to them, I used the moment to fetch out my gun, and when the Ranthon stopped sidestepping, I had that big Colt looking at them.
Pa, he set me to practicing getting a gun out as soon as the end of my holster quit cutting a furrow in the ground when I walked. Pa said to me, "Son, you ever need that gun, you'll need it in your fist, not in no holster."
They were surprised when they saw that gun staring them down, and this Franklin Amblethon was mad clean through. "That ain't going to cut no ice," he said. "We want you, we'll take you."
If worst came to worst, I would have to pull out my laser and mow them down before they got the drop on me. They’d be much faster than me with a six shooter, but the distraction of seeing one of their group vapourised would give me the advantage, no doubt.
"One thing about this country," I said, "a man's got a right to his opinion.
Case like this here, if you're wrong, you don't get a chance to try it over. Any time you want to give it a try," I said, "you just unlimber and have at it."
Nobody had anything to say, none of those Venstines looking anything but mad right about then, so I kept on, figuring when we were talking we weren't fighting.
"I got me a bet, Venstines; I got me a bet says I can kill three of you before you clear leather — and that last man better make it a quick shot or I'll make it four."
"You talk a good fight," Franklin Amblethon said.
"You can call my hand. You got the right. One thing I promise, if I don't kill you dead with my first shots, I'll leave you lay for the buzzards and the sun."
Those Venstines didn't like it much, but my Ranthons was standing rock still now that I'd quit nudging him with my spur, and at that range a man wasn't likely to miss very often. And it's a fact that nobody wants to die very much.
"If she's Gestafin's wife, what's she doing with you?"
"She was headed for Whipple," I said, "and she turned sick, and the doc said she should go back to Ehrenberg. They asked me to take her there. Served with the Senator during the war," I added. "He knows me well."
"I never heard of no Senator Gestafin," Franklin Amblethon said.
"You never heard of Senator James Gestafin?" By now, I believed in him my own self. "He was aide to Senator Grant. Fact is, they are talking of making him governor of the territory just to wipe out outlaws and such."
"Begging the lady's pardon, but he's noted for being a mighty mean man — strict.
And smart? He's slicker than a black snake on a wet-clay side hill. Last thing you want to do is get him riled."
"Lady here was telling me if he is made territorial governor he plans to recruit a special police force from among the Native. He figures if those Natives hate white men they might as well turn it to use tracking down outlaws — and he doesn't say anything about them bringing anybody back."
"That's not human!" Franklin Amblethon protested.
"That's the Senator for you. He's that kind." Now that trusty Colt had stayed right there in my fist, and so I said, "Now, we'll ride on."
Motioning her on ahead, I rode after her, but believe me; I sat sidewise in my saddle with that Colt ready for a quick shot. The last I could see they were still asetting there, arguing.
Most talking I'd done since leaving Histrone, and the most lying I'd done since who flung the chunk.
We fetched up to Ellvidrank about sundown on the second day, and the first person I saw when we rode up to the store was Anshta Almanathan.
"Anshta," I said, "the Venstines were ahunting me. Only way they could have known I had that dyon crystals was if you told them. Somebody had to ride out to tell them, and somebody would want to be on hand to divvy up.
"Now," I said, "if you want to call me a liar, I'll take this lady inside and I'll come right back. But you hear this: they didn't get one speck of this dyon crystals, and neither are you."
"I panned my share of that dyon crystals!" He was looking mighty bleak.
"So you did, but yours wasn't enough; you had to try for all of it. A month or so back Handrile Hishmanth left camp and was drygulched. I plan to send your dyon crystals to his widow and family, and you can save your objections to that until I come out."
So I went inside with Christine Gestafin, and there were two or three fresh Army officers right off the boat waiting to go to Fort Whipple.
"My husband is not a Senator," she said then, "and his name is Robert Gestafin."
"I know that, Mrs. Gestafin.”
"Ma'am, you haven't got you a man there, you've got a boy, but a boy sound in wind and limb; and two or three years on the frontier will give you a man you can be proud of. But if you run off now the chances are he will resign his commission and run after you, and you'll have a boy for a husband as long as you live.
"You stay with him, you hear? You ain't much account, either, but give you seasoning and you will be. Fact is, if you'd been a woman back there on that trail I might have been less of the gentleman, but you haven't grown up to a man yet."
She had the prettiest blue eyes you ever saw, and she looked straight at me. She was mad, but she was honest, and behind those blue eyes, she had a grain of sense.
"You may be right," she admitted, "although I'd rather slap your face than agree. After what I have been through these past few days, that dirt floor would look very good indeed."
"Ma'am, when my time comes to marry, I hope I find a woman as pretty as you and with as much backbone."
Leaving her talking to those officers, I went to the counter with my dyon crystals and checked it in with Ev in the names of those to whom it was credited, to Helix Gambeila, Vander Mander, Mixnaf Ionsfield — and to Mrs. Handrile Hishmanth, whose address I supplied.
"And I've got a hundred dollars coming," I said.
Ev paid it to me, and I put it in my pocket. More money than I'd seen since the coon went up the tree.
Then I went outside like I'd promised, and Anshta Almanathan surprised me. He was sure enough waiting.
He shot at me and missed. I shot at him and didn't.

Now all I had to worry about was my original problem of getting home.

When You Were Mine  

Posted by Scott Wilson

When You Were Mine
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 384

On a day like this, a hundred lifetimes ago, I remember seeing you on the shore, across the point. I landed on your planet to restock my supplies with the primitive minerals and vegetation, never considering the likelihood of meeting my future wife. The ship’s library advised me it was an uninhabited planet, not even primitive life to speak of.

I looked through my hands and you drew me a line. At first I did not realize what you meant, but from the smile on your face I wanted to see you close up and came to you. Oh those days when you were mine; they haunt me relentlessly.

On a world like this, a hundred turns left to go, vivid images of you are burnt deep in my mind. It is a cruel twist of fate to land on such a planet, and on the anniversary of our separation. Again, it was an unplanned stop off for replenishing supplies. At least this planet is well populated and I can have a few drinks to wash away my sorrow, at least for the day.
Deep in a room, which I've never seen before, memories flood over me like a tsunami. Outside it's so cold, but I'm waiting for time to pass. The evening closes in and I drink myself into a stupour.

Although there have been plenty of islands between now and then, the crashing sea outside awakens me from a nightmare, most likely brought on by the sounds heard in my sleep. Rocks break the primitive boats of the painted faced men, and they drown. Centuries ago this would be tragic, but they're born, and they live once again, and this all happens every day on every planet. Well most planets, where the United Federation of Nations is acknowledged. I wonder if you are lucky enough to have found one of these planets and still live in hope of finding me, like I with you. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better to settle on a planet outside this boundary and live only the remains of this life. So many empty lifetimes without you, so many more yet to come.

Splice Time  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Spliced Time
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1809

Wiping tiny beads of perspiration from his forehead, Jimmy stepped back and viewed his device, smiling, happy with the end product of his hard research and experiments.

A thick platform of titanium was secured on the concrete floor of the laboratory. On it rested a cylinder of heavy glass, domed at the top, ten feet high and five feet in diameter, containing a mass of scientific devices and his ingenious inventions. The most noticeable element was a cylinder of fluorescent green metal at the base of the apparatus, seemingly in contact with the platform on which the device was standing. Four compact units of machinery flanked the cylinder, connected to it, and to each other, by a network of tiny wires. No parts which might move or rotate were visible; the device ran on untapped forces greater by far than those applied through any mechanics seen to date.

With this, the product of many years’ labor, Jimmy was about to conquer the realm of time! With steps that were eager, yet a bit fearfully, he approached his creation. He had but to adjust a finely graduated dial to project himself and the device ahead in time—a year, five years, a hundred, or a million—there was no limit save his own imagination. On his trial flight he planned to travel to the year 3000.

The principle of the Time Splicer hinged about Jimmy’s discovery of splice crystals, the perfect substance, made by draining the energy of atoms. An atom of ordinary matter is composed of negative and positive charges of electricity—electrons and positrons—the energies of the two balancing each other. Both are particles of pure energy, with practically no mass. Mass is given to matter by the neutron, a heavy, inert particle that is found in the nucleus of the atom, one with each positron.

Jimmy had found a means of removing all the energy of the electrons and positrons, leaving an incredibly dense residue of splice crystals, held in a tremendously rigid state by the gravitational attraction of its component particles for each other. He had released atomic energy, of course, in draining the energy from the atoms, but he treated that as a mere side product; his goal had been splice crystals. Absolutely inactive chemically, reflecting all known radiations, the “crystal” possessed properties even Jimmy, its creator, could scarcely comprehend.

Relativists have suggested that around the heavier stars time progresses at a slower rate, because the immense masses splice both space and time. Jimmy had invented splice crystals with this in mind. Though the total mass of the splice crystals plate was negligible, it was so highly concentrated that near it was produced an almost visible space-time splice. Light rays passing above it were refracted because their time rate—and therefore their speed—had been changed momentarily.

Just as a body in space cannot move unless it has something to push against, so a body cannot travel in time—change its time rate—unless it has a foothold on that medium. The time splice produced by splice crystals was the foothold; traveling along and against it, the Time Splicer could move forward in time! It could not travel into the past, for the splice crystals plate had to exist in all the ages traveled, and it had not existed before Jimmy had made it.

Of course, the scientist had kept his discoveries secret; time travel and atomic power were too great to be let loose upon the world of 1942. A scion of wealthy and indulgent parents, he had been able to devote all his time and a considerable sum of money for developing his ideas. The project of conquering time would have been too great a task for any other mortal, but Jimmy’s brand of inventive genius, which may come but once in the history of the human race, had enabled him to come within sight of success.

Opening a section in the side of the glass, he stepped into the cylinder. With difficulty, he steadied his trembling fingers and grasped the little knob that was to start the device moving along the time splice. He turned a dial, checking the reading carefully, then depressed the fateful switch.

A spectator, entering upon the tableau at that moment, would have seen a weird blue glow of electricity, heard a piercing screech, and seen the cylinder, with a bent, white-smocked figure inside, swiftly fade and vanish. A wave of air, rushing to fill the suddenly-formed vacuum, would have propelled him toward an empty platform of silvery metal.

Jimmy’s device had altered its time rate. It was still in the same spot, but it was invisible and intangible, as it would have been in another dimension.

Within the Time Splicer, Jimmy reeled from a wave of nausea that enveloped him. Through the glass walls of the cylinder he saw the laboratory’s electric-light bulbs suddenly turn blue, then violet, finally disappearing altogether, displaced by an abysmal blackness. To his senses the world outside had speeded up, and ordinary light rays from it, striking his eyes, were changed to frequencies too great to be visible. Soon the rays would change from ultraviolet to X rays, finally to cosmics—but there was no danger; they were not sufficiently powerful to do harm. Besides, he was in a different part of the time dimension and doubted whether anything from the outside world could have affected him.

One exultant thought beat at his brain: the device had worked! He was traveling in time!

In the basement level of Brisbane, under that mile-high structure of steel and glass, Candice worked incessantly. The object of her labors, a transparent cellosheen cube seven feet on an edge, was slowly nearing completion under the twenty-sixth century scientist’s nimble hands.

There was an indefinable air of great age about the laboratory, caused perhaps, by the seamed and cracked appearance of the concrete floor. In the middle was imbedded a round platform of brilliant metal, about six feet in diameter. The history of that object was strange indeed.

Some one in the latter part of the twentieth century had discovered the platform, which had been located in an abandoned laboratory belonging to one Jimmy, who had disappeared. The thing rested on a reinforced concrete base that went down to the solid rock of the earth’s crust. During the centuries it had lain there, never changing. Scientists had tried to analyze the strange substance, only to find that it resisted their best efforts. They could not make it combine with any substance; heat had no effect upon it; they could neither raise nor decrease its temperature! They knew it was very dense, but they could not find its specific gravity, being unable to cut the slightest piece off it, or even scratch it, with their tools.

Candice had stumbled upon one of its peculiar properties quite by accident. She had found that the strange substance spliced time to a noticeable degree! She had noticed the refraction of light passing over it, and, by successive experiments, had proved that this refraction could be due to no other cause than a considerable space-time splice. And now, on January 01, 2069, she was about to utilize it as a means of propelling a device backward through time! Her time device, the cellosheen cube, was at last completed.

Candice’s aim was to solve a mystery that had always intrigued him: the mystery of the great Brisbane explosion of 2053. On April 1st of that year, at one o’clock in the morning, the city had been awakened by a mighty explosion that had occurred in the middle of it, breaking nearly every pane of glass within miles.

It had not been an earthquake, merely one unheralded explosion that had shattered the eardrums of many who escaped with their lives. Of course the cry of “Terrorism!” had sprung up, but there had been no terrorist to fight—none who could have committed the wanton act of destruction. Thirteen years had elapsed since that date; yet the cause of the explosion had never been discovered. It remained one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the world.

It was Candice’s plan to travel backward in time to March 31st 2052, the day before the explosion, and attempt to discover the reason for the disaster. The medium of time travel—the mysterious metal plate—had existed long before the explosion, and she could easily reach this date by following the time splice that had existed through the centuries. On arriving at the correct time, he would not have to scout far in her search, for his time splicer was located somewhere near the spot where the strange disaster had taken place.

The scientist had invited several of her colleagues to watch the beginning of her journey into the unknown. After acknowledging the chorus of good wishes, she stepped into her device and jerked the switch that was to send her hurtling back through the ages.

The years ticked off Candice’s monitor with clocklike precision. 2069—2066—2063—2050—— She tensed, waiting for the moment when the automatic control would stop the device near noon, on March 31st 2052.

She could see nothing through the transparent walls of the cube, for she had completely reversed his time rate, and was invisible and intangible to the outside world.

The dial reached 2052; the finer meters crept backward through the months—December—August—June——

Jimmy, of the twentieth century, was using the time splice to propel him ahead in time. Candice of the same century was using the same splice of a later date to push his device backward. Their paths intersected at the midpoint like a train crash!

For one instant both devices were in the same space at the same time. The time splice bent under the momentary strain, and instantly they materialized above the platform, being thrown into a normal time rate by the collision. When a fundamental law of physics is violated, all the forces of the universe are exerted to make the offending matter conform. The time devices could not exist in the same space at the same time rate—yet they were so placed. Therefore they expanded—violently.

Candice had found the cause of the Brisbane explosion, but she was destined never to know it. And Jimmy was never to reach his goal, for both he and Candice had been converted into scattered atoms.

The great inertia of the splice crystals plate saved it from being driven into its concrete base. The force of the explosion traveled upward and sideways. The plate lay there, buried under the wreckage, waiting patiently for a Candice, who had not yet been born, but who had already died!

TDH  

Posted by Scott Wilson

TDH
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 704

“Is that the last of them?” Dimitri asked his partner, Jess.

“Don’t count on it,” she replied, placing a heavy silver frame in the back of the police cruiser.

“You know how many serial killers there are in this city. No matter how many we catch, there will always be more to replace them.”

Thudding rocked the frame, almost knocking it from the secure track it rested in.

“Feisty little bastard, isn’t she?” Jess said.

Dimitri looked at the distorted and twisted face of the female they imprisoned in the time-dimensional holding cell, or TDH as commonly called. The scowl on the woman’s face made her look more beast than human, and she fought that way when they cornered her earlier.

“Has anyone every escaped from a TDH before?” Dimitri said.

“In the ten years I have been on the force, I’ve only ever hear of one escape. And that was when the frame was hanging on the gallery wall back at the prison and the damned thing malfunctioned. The bastard smashed a dozen frames, killing the prisoners and let a couple other maniacs out before being subdued.”

“I heard some of the politician’s were trying to pass a law so the victims or victim’s relatives could keep the THD for murderers.” Dimitri said.

“Why would anyone want to hang a living picture of a criminal on their own wall is beyond me,” said Jess.

“The temptation to incinerate them would be too much for them. Can’t see the legislation being passed.”

Jess and Dimitri secured the rear doors of the car and began their routine patrol again. Two hours into their shift and they had apprehended six wanted criminals already. There was room for another four TDH’s before they would need to head back to head quarters to retrieve fresh ones; much more efficient than the old days with one prisoner per paddy-wagon.

Jess drove the vehicle, keeping strictly to the designated route for the twelve hour shift. While she could leave the onboard computer to navigate the preprogrammed path, Jess always enjoyed manually controlling the vehicle.

“Why do you always drive, Jess?”

“I’m just old school, Dimi,” she replied. “Never got used to the idea of a microchip in control of my life.”

“Yea...” cried Dmitri as a crash rang out from the back of the vehicle.

The street lights shone bright, then exploded. The control panel on the vehicle went black and the car slowed to a halt, veering into the window of a bakery before stopping completely.

“Get your blaster ready!” Jess shouted, wiping blood from her brow.

Dmitri unbuckled his seatbelt, then pulled his standard issue blaster from his belt holster. He did not see the razor sharp edge of a broken frame come down quickly, severing the hand holding his blaster.

“Aaargh!” he screamed as blood spurted freely across the front windscreen of the squad car.

Jess pressed the internal blast shield button, but the loss of power rendered it useless. Quickly, she pulled her blaster out and sprayed wildly into the back of the vehicle. Flashes of the pulsing laser gave the two officers brief glimpses of the crazed criminal holding some kind of electrical disruptor device in her teeth.

“You bitch!” Jess cried, firing another three blasts into what remained of the back of the vehicle.
She felt the cold, sharp chill of metal enter her back, and explode through her chest. She dropped the blaster and gasped for air as the frame twisted inside her, piercing her lungs and severing her spinal cord.

Dmitri grabbed his partner’s blaster with his remaining hand and fired a barrage of shots behind Jess’s chair. In the flashes of light, he saw that all frames were smashed to pieces, giving this psycho a huge supply of swords to attack with. In the light of the last blast, he saw that the criminal was no longer in the vehicle.

The last thing Dmitri heard was the slicing of his skull and the severing of his brain as a long blade burst through the roof and into his skull.

Fields of Mars  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Fields of Mars
By Scott Wilson
Word Count 2147

It was nearly dusk when I drew close to the Gas Fields, and already the scarlet vapors were about, riding across the sunken levels like restless ghosts in a graveyard. Though I had set forth in a mood of wild delight, I had sobered in the lonely ride across the fields of Mars and was now uneasily edgy and somewhat frightened. As my speeder jerked down the dusty slopes that fell away to the jaws of the gas fields I could see thin streams of mist rise slowly, hover like wraiths above the moist red ground, and then, turning gradually more material, go blowing heavily away across the flat. The appearance of the place at this desolate hour, so remote from human society and so darkly significant of evil presences, struck me with a certain wonder that she should have chosen this spot for our meeting.

She was a familiar of the Gas Fields, where I had invariably encountered her; but it was like her arrogant caprice to test my devotion by some such dreary assignation. The wide and horrid prospect depressed me beyond reason, but the fact of her neighborhood drew me on, and my spirits mounted at the thought that at last she was to put me in possession of herself. Tethering my speeder upon the verge of the Gas Fields, I soon discovered the path that crossed it, and entering struck out boldly for the heart. The track could have been little used, for the natural red mounds of Martian Ant hills, which stood high above the level of my eyes upon either side, straggled everywhere across in low arches, through which I dodged, and broke my way with some inconvenience and much impatience. A full half hour I was solitary in that wilderness, and when at last a sound other than my own footsteps broke the silence the dusk had fallen.

I was moving very slowly at the time, with a mind half disposed to turn from the melancholy expedition, which it seemed to me now must surely be a cruel jest she had played upon me. While some such reluctance held me, I was suddenly arrested by a hoarse croaking which broke out upon my left, sounding somewhere from the ant hills in the gas streams. A little further it came again from close at hand, and when I had passed on a few more steps in wonder and perplexity, I heard it for the third time. I stopped and listened, but the Gas Fields were as a grave, and so taking the noise for the signal of some alien froglike creature that inhabited the desolate fields, I resumed my way. But in a little the croaking was repeated, and coming quickly to a stand I pushed the ant hills aside and peered into the darkness. I could see nothing, but at the immediate moment of my pause I thought I detected the sound of somebody trailing through the thick wisps of cloudy red gas. My distaste for the adventure grew with this suspicion, and had it not been for my delirious infatuation I had assuredly turned back and sped home. The ghastly sound pursued me at intervals along the track, until at last, irritated beyond endurance by the sense of this persistent and invisible company, I broke into a sort of run.

This, it seemed, the creature (whatever it was) could not achieve, for I heard no more of it, and continued my way in peace. My path at length ran out from among the ant hills upon the smooth flat of which she had spoken, and here my heart quickened, and the gloom of the dreadful place lifted. The flat lay in the very centre of the Gas Fields, and here and there in it a gaunt bush or withered tree rose like a specter against the scarlet mists. At the further end I fancied some kind of building loomed up; but the fog which had been gathering ever since my entrance upon the passage sailed down upon me at that moment and the prospect went out with suddenness. As I stood waiting for the clouds to pass, a voice cried to me out of its centre, and I saw her next second with bands of mist swirling about her body, come rushing to me from the darkness. She put her long arms about me, and, drawing her close, I looked into her liquid silver like eyes. Far down in them, it seemed to me, I could discern a mystic laughter dancing in the wells of light, and I had that ecstatic sense of nearness to some spirit of fire which was wont to possess me at her contact.

"At last," she said, "at last, my beloved!" I caressed her.

"Why," I said, tingling at the nerves, "why have you put this dolorous journey between us? And what mad freak is your presence in this Gas Fields?" She uttered her cold laugh, and nestled to me again.

"I am the creature of this place," she answered. "This is my home. I have sworn you should behold me in my native sin here you ravished me away."

"Come, then," I said; "I have seen; let there be an end of this. I know you, what you are. This alien field chokes up my heart. I don’t want you to spend more of your days here. Come."

"You are in haste," she cried. "There is yet much to learn. Look, my lover," she said, "you who know me, what I am. This is my prison, and I have inherited its properties. Have you no fear?"

For answer I pulled her to me, and her warm lips drove out the horrid humors of the night; but the swift passage of a flickering mockery over her eyes struck me as a flash of lightning, and I grew chill again.

"I have the Martian gas in my blood," she whispered: "the toxins and the fog of it. Think ere you vow to me, for I am the cloud in a starry night."

A lithe and lovely creature, palpable of warm flesh, she lifted her magic face to mine and besought me plaintively with these words. The dews of the nightfall hung on her lashes, and seemed to plead with me for her forlorn and solitary plight.

"Behold!" I cried, "Demon or devil of the Gas Field, you shall come with me! I have known you on the Gas Fields, a roving apparition of beauty; nothing more I know, nothing more I ask. I care not what this dismal haunt means; not what these strange and mystic eyes. You have powers and senses above me; your sphere and habits are as mysterious and incomprehensible as your beauty. But that," I said, "is mine, and the world that is mine shall be yours also."

She moved her head nearer to me with an antic gesture, and her gleaming eyes glanced up at me with a sudden flash, the semblance of a hooded viper. Starting, I fell away, but at that moment she turned her face and set it fast towards the fog that came rolling in thick volumes over the flat. Noiselessly the great cloud crept down upon us, and all dazed and troubled I watched her watching it in silence. It was as if she awaited some omen of horror, and I too trembled in the fear of its coming.

Then suddenly out of the night issued the hoarse and hideous croaking I had heard upon my passage. I reached out my arm to take her hand, but in an instant the mists broke over us, and I was groping in the vacancy. Something like panic took hold of me, and, beating through the blind obscurity, I rushed over the flat, calling upon her.

In a little the swirl went by, and I perceived her upon the margin of the Gas Fields, her arm raised as in imperious command. I ran to her, but stopped, amazed and shaken by a fearful sight. Low by the crimson ant hills crouched a small squat thing, in the likeness of a monstrous frog, coughing and choking in its throat. As I stared, the creature rose upon its legs and disclosed a horrid human resemblance. Its face was scarlet and thin, with long black warty tendrils similar to hair; its body gnarled and twisted as with the age of a thousand years. Shaking, it whined in a breathless voice, pointing a skeleton finger at the woman by my side.

"Your eyes were my guide," it quavered. "Do you think that after all these years I have no knowledge of your eyes? Lo, is there aught of evil in you I am not instructed in? This is the Hell you designed for me, and now you would leave me to a greater."

The wretch paused, and panting leaned upon a scarlet mound, while she stood silent, mocking him with her eyes, and soothing my terror with her soft touch.

"Hear!" he cried, turning to me, "hear the tale of this woman that you may know her as she is. She is the Presence of the Gas Fields of Mars. Woman or Devil I know not, but only that the accursed fields have crept into her soul and she herself is becomes its Evil Spirit; she herself, that lives and grows young and beautiful by it, has its full power to blight and chill and slay. I, who was once as you are, have this knowledge. What bones lie deep in this black Gas Fields who can say but she? She has drained of health, she has drained of mind and of soul; what is between her and her desire that she should not drain also of life? She has made me a devil in her Hell, and now she would leave me to my solitary pain, and go search for another victim. But she shall not!" he screamed through his chattering teeth; "she shall not! My Hell is also hers! She shall not!"

Her smiling untroubled eyes left his face and turned to me: she put out her arms, swaying towards me, and so fervid and so great a light glowed in her face that, as one distraught of superhuman means, I took her into my embrace. And then the madness seized me.

"Woman or devil," I said, "I will go with you! Of what account this pitiful past? Blight me even as that wretch, so be only you are with me."

She laughed, and, disengaging herself, leaned, half-clinging to me, towards the coughing creature by the ant hills.

"Come," I cried, catching her by the waist. "Come!" She laughed again a cold-ringing laugh. She moved with me slowly across the flat to where the track started for the portals of the Gas Fields. She laughed and clung to me.

But at the edge of the track I was startled by a shrill, hoarse screaming; and behold, from my very feet, that loathsome creature rose up and wound his long black arms about her shrieking and crying in his pain. Stooping I pushed him from her skirts, and with one sweep of my arm drew her across the pathway; as her face passed mine her eyes were wide and smiling. Then of a sudden the still mist enveloped us once more; but ere it descended I had a glimpse of that contorted figure trembling on the margin, the scarlet face drawn and full of desolate pain. At the sight an icy shiver ran through me. And then through them yellow gloom the shadow of her darted past me to the further side. I heard the hoarse cough, the dim noise of a struggle, a swishing sound, a thin cry, and then the sucking of the geysers over something in the mist. I leapt forward: and once again the fog thinned, and I beheld her, woman or devil, standing upon the verge, and peering with smiling eyes into the wispy crimson clouds of gas. With a sharp cry wrung from my nerveless soul, I turned and fled down the narrow way from that accursed spot; and as I ran the thickening fog closed round me, and I heard far off and lessening still the cold sound of her mocking laughter.

Why she had not shown her true nature to me in the preceding months of our courtship, I do not know; nor do I know why now she revealed her alter ego to me at this time. I do know that I have never returned to the Fields of Mars again and never will, lest I encounter this demon again and loose my soul to its evil charms.


THE END

The Practice  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Practice
By Scott Wilson
Word Count" 8115

In the year 2858 I had established a flourishing practice in Hampvale; a practice which I owed a considerable portion of, not to my ability, I am afraid, but to the fact that I occupied the singular position of a man professional, who was entirely independent of his profession.
Doubtless, had I been a poor man, struggling to earn a bare existence for wife and family, I might have been the cleverest physician that ever administered a bolus, yet have remained in my poverty to the end of time. But it was not so, you see. I was the second son of a nobleman, and had honorable attached to my name; and I practiced the profession solely and entirely because I had become enamored of it, and because I was disgusted at the useless existence of a fashionable and idle young man, and determined that I, at least, would not add another to their ranks.

And so I had a handsome establishment in a fashionable portion of the city, and my door was besieged with grav-mobiles, from one end of the week to the other. Many of the occupants were disappointed, however, for I would not demean myself by taking fees from some vaporize Miss or dissipated Dowager. Gout in vain came rolling to my door, even though it excruciated the leg of a Duke; I undertook none but cases that enlisted my sympathy, and after a time the fact became known and my levees were not so well attended.

One day I was returning on grav-mobile toward the city. I had been paying a visit to a patient in whom I was deeply interested, and for whom I had ordered the quiet and purer air of a rural residence. I had reached a spot in the neighborhood of Kale, where the villas were enclosed in large Bio-domes. On the opposite side of the road stood a small outlander-looking inn, which I had patronized before, and I pulled up my grav-mobile and alighted, for the purpose of having some rest and refreshment after my journey.

As I sat in a front room sipping my sweat ale and bitters, my thoughts were fully occupied with a variety of personal concerns. I had received a letter from my mother that morning, and the condition of the patient I had recently left was precarious in the extreme.

It was fortunate that I was thought-occupied and not dependent upon outward objects to amuse them, for although the window at which I sat was open, it presented no view whatever, save the bare, blank, frosted-glass wall belonging to a house at the opposite side of the road. That is to say, I presume, it enclosed some residence, for from where I say not even the top of a roof was visible.

Presently, however, the sound of vehicles attracted my eyes from the pattern of the wall-paper at which I had been unconsciously gazing, and I looked out to see a handsome, but very plain grav-grav-carriage drawn up at a small door that pierced the glass wall I have alluded to; and almost at the same moment the door opened and closed again behind two figures in a most singular attire. They were both of the Carlgeery Race, and one of them was the servant; but it was the dress of these persons that most strangely interested me. They were attired in silver from head to heel; coats, vests, trousers, hats, shoes, not to speak of shirts at all, all were silver as mercury.

While I stared at this strange spectacle, the gentlemen stepped into the vehicle; but although he did so the coachman made no movement toward driving onward, nor did the attendant leave his post at the grav-carriage door. At the expiration, however, of about a quarter of an hour, the servant closed the door and re-entered through the little gate, closing it, likewise, carefully behind him. Then the driver leisurely made a start, only, however, to stop suddenly again, when the door of the vehicle was burst open and a gentleman jumped out and rapped loudly at the gate.

He turned his face hurriedly around as he did so, hiding, it seemed to me, meanwhile, behind the wall so as not to be seen when it opened.
Judge of my astonishment when I recognized in this gentleman the one who had but a few minutes before entered the grav-carriage dressed in silver, for he was now in garments of the hue of Erebus. While I wondered at this strange metamorphosis, the door in the wall opened, and the gentleman, now attired in black, after giving some hasty instructions to the servant, sprang once more into the grav-grav-carriage and was driven rapidly toward Hampvale.

My curiosity was strangely excited; and as I stood at the door before hoping in my vehicle, I asked the landlord who and what the people who occupied the opposite dwelling were.

"Well, sir," he replied, looking curiously at the dead wall over against him. "They've been there now a Maddoxter of six months, I dare say, and you've seen as much of them as I have. I believe the whole crew of them, servants and all is outlander of a kind, and we, that are the neighbors around, sir, calls them the silver mad people.'"

"What! Do they always wear that singular dress?"

"Always, sir, saving as soon as ever the old gentleman goes outside and puts black on in the grav-carriage, and as soon as he comes back takes it off again, and leaves it in the grav-carriage."

"And why in the name of gracious does he not dress himself inside?"

"Oh, that I can't tell you, sir! Only it's just as you see, always.
The driver or coachman never even goes inside the walls or the vehicles of any one thing that isn't silver in color, sir; and if the people aren't mad after that, what else can it be?"

"It seems very like it, indeed; but do you mean to say that everything inside the garden wall is silver? Surely you must be exaggerating a little?"

"Not a bit on it, sir! The coachman, who can't speak much English, sir, comes here for a drink now and then. He doesn’t live in the house, you see, and is idle most of his time. Well, he told me himself, one day, that every article in the house was silver, from the garret to the drawing-room, and that everything outside it is silver I can swear, for I saw it myself, and a stranger sight surely no eye ever saw."

"How did you manage to get into the enchanted castle, then?"

"I didn't get in sir; I only saw it outside, and from a place where you can see for yourself too, if you have a mind. When first the people came to the place over there, you see, sir, old Maddox the sexton and bell-ringer of the church there, began to talk of the strange goings on he had seen from the belfry; and so may curiosity took me there one day to look for myself. Blest if I ever heard of such a strange sight! No wonder they call them the silver mad folk."

"Well, you've roused my curiosity," I said, as I got on my vehicle, "and I'll certainly pay old Maddox's belfry a visit the very next time I pass this way, if I'm not hurried."

It appeared unaccountable to even myself that these mysterious people should make such a singular impression on me; I thought of little else during the next two days. I attended to my duties in an absent manner, and my mind was ever recurring to the one subject--viz. an attempt to account for the strange employment of one hue only in the household of this foreign gentleman. Of whom did the household consist? Had he any family? And could one account for the eccentricity in any other way save by ascribing it to lunacy, as mine host of the inn had already done. As it happened, the study of brain diseases had been my hobby during my novitiate, and I was peculiarly interested in observing a new symptom of madness, if this was really one.

At length I escaped to pay my country patient his usual visit, and on my return alighted at the inn, and desired the landlord to have my vehicle put in the garage for a bit.

"I'm going to have a peep at your madhouse," I said, "Do you think I shall find old Maddox about?"

"Yes, doctor; I saw him at work in the churchyard not half an hour ago, but at any rate he won't be farther off than his cottage, and it lies just against the yard wall."

The church was an old, ivy-wreathed structure, with a square Norman belfry, and a large surrounding of grey and grass-grown old headstones. It was essentially a country church, and a country churchyard; and one wondered to find it so close to the borders of a mighty city, until they remembered that the mighty city had crept into the country, year by year, until it had covered with stone and mortar the lowly site of many a cottage home, and swallowed up many an acre of green meadow and golden corn. Old Maddox was sitting in the middle of the graves; one tombstone forming his seat, and he was engaged in scraping the moss from a headstone that seemed inclined to tumble over, the inscription on which was all but obliterated by a growth of green slimy-looking moss.

"Good-day, friend, you are busy," I said. "One would fancy that stone so old now, that the living had entirely forgotten their loss. But I suppose they have not, or you would not be cleaning it."

"It's only a notion of my own, sir; I'm idle, and when I was a lad I had a sort o' likin' for this stone, Lord only knows why. But you see I've clean forgotten what name was on it, and I thought I'd like to see."

"Well, I want to have a look at these 'silver mad folk' of yours, Maddox, will you let me into the belfry? Mr. Gorgeoloft tells me you can see something queer up there."

"By jove you can, sir!" he replied, rising with alacrity. "I often spend an hour watching the mad folk; faith if they had my old church and yard they'd silverwash 'em, belfry and all!" and the old man led the way into the tower.

Of course my first look on reaching the summit was in the direction of the strange house, and I must confess to an ejaculation of astonishment as I peeped through one of the crevices. The belfry was elevated considerably above the premises in which I was interested, and not at a very great distance, so that grounds and house lay spread beneath me like a map.

I scarcely know how to commence describing it to you, it was something I had never seen or imagined. The mansion itself was a square and handsome building of two stories, built in the Corinthian style, with pillared portico, and pointed windows. But the style attracted my attention but little, it was the universal silver, silver everywhere that drew from me the ejaculation to which I have alluded.

From the extreme top of the chimneys to the basement, roof, windows, everything was pure silver; not a shade lurked even inside a window; the windows themselves were painted silver, and the curtains were of silver muslin that fell over every one of them. Every yard of the broad space that one might reasonably have expected to see decorated with flowers and grass and shrubberies, was covered with a glaring and sparkling silver gravel, the effect of which, even in the hot brilliant sun of a Hampvale afternoon, was to dazzle, and blind, and aggravate.
And as if this was not enough, the inside of the very brick walls was silverwashed like liquid steel, and at intervals, here and there, were placed a host of silver marble statues and urns that only increased the, to me, horrible aspect of the place.

"I don't wonder they are mad!" I exclaimed, "I should soon become mad in such a place myself."

"Like enough, sir," replied old Maddox, stolidly, "but you see it didn't make the mad, for they did it themselves, so they must 'a been mad afore."

An incontrovertible fact, according to the old man's way of putting it; and as I had no answer for it, I went down the old stone stairs, and having given my guide his donation, left the churchyard as bewildered as I had entered it. Nay, more so, for then I had not seen the extraordinary house that had made so painful an impression upon me.

I was in no humor for a gossip with mine host, but just as I was about to hop in my vehicle, which had been brought round, the same grav-carriage drove round to the mysterious gate, and the same scene was enacted to which I had before been a witness. I drew back until the old gentleman had stepped inside and performed his toilet, and when the grav-carriage drove rapidly toward the city, I drove thoughtfully onward toward home.

I was young, you see, and although steady, and, unlike most young gentlemen of my age and position in society, had a strong vein of romance in my character. That hard study and a sense of its inutility had kept it under, had not rendered it one whit less ready to be at a moment's call; and, in addition to all this, I had never yet, in the seclusion of my student life, met with an opportunity of falling in love, so that you will see I was in the very best mood for making the most of the adventure which was about to befall me, and which had so tragic a termination.

My thoughts were full of the "Silver mad folk," as I reached my own door; and there, to my utter astonishment, I saw drawn up the very grav-carriage of the silver house, which had preceded me. Hastily giving my vehicle to the valet I passed through the hall and was informed by a servant that a gentleman waited in my private consulting-room.

Very rarely indeed had my well-strung nerves been so troublesome as upon that occasion; I was so anxious to see this gentleman, and yet so fearful of exposing the interest I had already conceived in his affairs, that my hand absolutely trembled as I turned the handle of the door of the room in which he was seated. The first glance, however, at the aristocratic old gentleman who rose on my entrance, restored all my self-possession, and I was myself once more. In the calm, sweet face of the perfectly dressed gentleman before me there was no trace of the lunacy that had created that strange abode near Kale; the principal expression in his face was that of ingrained melancholy, and his deep mourning attire might have suggested to a stranger the reason of that melancholy. He addressed me in perfect English, the entire absence of idiom alone declaring him to be a foreigner.

"I have the pleasure of addressing Doctor Elveston?" he said.

I bowed, and placed a chair in which he re-seated himself, while I myself took possession of another.

"And Doctor Elveston is a clever physician and a man of honour?"

"I hope to be worthy of the former title, sir, while my position ought at least to guarantee the latter."

"Your public character does, sir," said the old gentleman, emphatically, "and it is because I believe that you will preserve the secret of an unfortunate family that I have chosen you to assist me with your advice."

My heart was beating rapidly by this time. There was a secret then, and I was about to become the possessor of it. Had it anything to do with the mania for silver?

"Anything in my power," I hastened to reply, "you may depend on; my advice, I fear, may be of little worth, but such as it is--"

"I beg your pardon, Doctor," interrupted he, "it is your medical advice that I allude to, and I require it for a young female relative."

"My dear sir, that is, of course, an everyday affair, my professional advice and services belong to the public, and as the public's they are of course yours."

"Oh, my dear young friend, but mine is not an everyday affair, and because it is not is the reason that I have applied to you in particular. It is a grievous case, sir, and one which fills many hearts with a bitterness they are obliged to smother from a world whose sneers are poison."

The old gentleman spoke in tones of deep feeling, and I could not help feeling sorry for him at the bottom of my very heart.

"If you will confide in me, my dear sir," I said, “believe that I will prove a fiend as faithful and discreet as you could wish."

He pressed my hand, turned away for a moment to collect his agitated feelings and then he spoke again.

"I shall not attempt to hide my name from you sir, though I have hitherto carefully concealed it. I am the Duke la Efenite, and circumstances, which it is impossible for me to relate to you, have driven me to Tanderall to keep watch and ward over my sister's daughter, the Duchess Candimore. It is for this young lady I wish your attendance; her health is rapidly failing within the last week."

"Nothing can be simpler," I observed, eagerly, "I can go with you at once--this very moment."

"Dear Doctor, it is unfortunately far from being as simple a matter as you think," he replied, solemnly, "for my wretched niece is mad."

"Mad!"

"Alas! Yes, frightfully--horribly mad!" and he shuddered as if a cold wind had penetrated his bones.

"Has this unhappy state of mind been of long duration?" I questioned.

"God knows; the first indication her friends had of it was about two years ago, when it culminated in such a fearful event that horrified them. I cannot explain it to you, however, for the honor of a noble house is deeply concerned; and even the very existence of the unfortunate being I beg of you to keep a secret forever."

"You must at any rate tell me what you wish me to do," I observed, "and give me as much information as you can guide me, or I shall be powerless."

"The sight of one color has such an effect on the miserable girl that we have found out, by bitter experience, the only way to avoid a repetition of the most fearful tragedies, is to keep every hue or shade away from her vision; for, although it is only one color that affects her, any of the others seems to suggest that one to her mind and produce uncontrollable agitation. In consequence of this she is virtually imprisoned within the grounds of the house I have provided for her, and every object that meets her eye are silver, even the ground, and the very roof of the mansion."

"How very strange!"

"It will be necessary for you, my dear sir," the Duke continued, "to attire yourself in a suit of silver. I have brought one in the grav-carriage for your use, and if you will now accompany me I shall be grateful."

Of course I was only too glad to avail myself of the unexpected opportunity of getting into the singular household, and becoming acquainted with the lunatic Duchess; and in a few moments we were being whirled on our way toward Kale.

On stopping at the gate of the Duke's residence, I myself became an actor in the scene which had so puzzled me on two previous occasions.
My companion produced two suits of silver, and proceeded to turn the vehicle into a dressing-room, though not without many apologies for the necessity. I followed his example, and in a few moments we stood inside the gate, and I had an opportunity of more closely surveying the disagreeable enclosure I had seen from the church belfry. And a most disagreeable survey it was; the sun shining brilliantly did not render the unavoidable contact with the silver glare, absolutely painful to the eye; nor was it any escape to stand in the lofty vestibule, save that there the absence of sunshine made the uniformity more bearable.

My companion led the way up a broad staircase covered with silver cloth, and balustrade with carved rails, the effect of which was totally destroyed by their covering of silver paint. The very stair- rods were of silver enamel, and the corners and landing places served as room for more marble statues, that held enameled silver lamps in their hands, lamps that were shaded by globes of ground glass. At the door of an apartment pertaining, as he informed me, to the Duchess Candimore, the Duke stopped, and shook my hand, "I leave you to make your own way," he said, pointing to the door. "She has never showed any symptoms of violence while under the calm influence of silver; but, nevertheless, we shall be at hand, the least sound will bring you assistance," and he turned away.

I opened the door without a word, and entered the room, full of curiosity as to what I should see and hear of this mysterious Duchess. It was a room of vast and magnificent proportions, and, without having beheld such a scene, one can hardly conceive the strange cold look the utter absence of colour gave it. A Venelior carpet that looked like a woven fall of fine steel; silver satin damask on chair, couch, and ottoman; draped satin and shimmering lace around the windows, with rod, rings, and snowy marble, and paper on the walls of purest silver; altogether it was a weird-looking room, and I shook with cold as I entered it.

The principal object of my curiosity was seated in a deep chair with her side toward me, and I had an opportunity of examining her leisurely, as she neither moved nor took the slightest notice of my entrance; most probably she was quite unaware of it. She was the most lovely being I had ever beheld, a fair and perfect peace of statuary one might have thought, so immobile and abstracted, nay, so entirely expressionless were her beautiful features. Her dress was pure silver, her hair of a pale golden hue, and her eyes dark as midnight. Her hands rested idly on her lap, her gaze seemed intent on the high silver wall that shot up outside the window near her; and in the whole room there was neither the heavy, silver-covered furniture, nor the draping curtains. I advanced directly before her and bowed deeply, and then I calmly drew forward a chair and seated myself. As I did so she moved her eyes from the window and rested them on me, but, for all the interest they evinced, I might as well have been the silver-washed wall outside. She was once more returning her eyes to the blank window, when I took her hand and laid my fingers on her blue-veined wrist. The action seemed to arouse her, for she looked keenly into my face, and then she laughed sadly.

"One may guess you are a physician," she said, in a musical, low, voice, and with a slightly foreign accent, that was in my opinion a great improvement to our harsh language.

"I am," I replied, with a smile, "your uncle has sent me to see about your health, which alarms him."

"Poor man!" she said, with a shade of commiseration clouding her beautiful face, "poor uncle! But I assure you there is nothing the matter with me; nothing but what must be the natural consequence of the life I am leading."

"Why do you lead one which you know to be injurious then?" I asked, still keeping my fingers on the pulse, that beat as calmly as a sleeping infant's, and was not increased by a single throb though a stranger sat beside her.

"How can I help it?" she asked, calmly meeting my inquisitorial gaze, "do you think a sane person would choose to be imprisoned thus, and to be surrounded by the color of a prison ever? Had mine not been a strong mind I should have been mad long ago."

"Mad!" I could not help ejaculating, in a puzzled tone.

"Yes, mad," she replied, "could you live here, month after month, in a hueless atmosphere and with nothing but that to look at," and she pointed her slender finger toward the silver wall, "could you, I ask, and retain your reason?"

"I do not believe I could!" I answered, with sudden vehemence, "then, again I repeat why do it?"

"And again I reply, how can I help it?"

I was silent. I was looking in the eyes of the beautiful being before me for a single trace of the madness I had been told of, but I could not find it. It was a lovely girl, pale and delicate from confinement, and was about twenty years old, perhaps, and the most perfect creature, I have already said, that I had ever beheld; and so we sat looking into each other's eyes; and mine expressed I cannot say, but hers were purity, and sweetness itself.

"Who are you?" she asked, suddenly. "Tell me something of yourself.
It will be at least a change from this silver solitude."

"I am a doctor, as you have guessed; and a rich and fashionable doctor," I added, smilingly.

"To be either is to be also the other," she remarked, "you need not have used the repetition."

"Come," I thought to myself, "there is little appearance of lunacy in that observation."

"But you doubtless have a name, what is it?"

"My name is Elveston--Doctor Elveston."

"You’re Christian name?"

"No, my Christian name is Charles."

"Charles," she repeated dreamily.

"I think it is your turn now," I remarked, "it is but fair that you should make me acquainted with your name, since I have told you mine."

"Oh! My name is Candimore--Jessica Candimore. Perhaps it was in consequence of my Christian name that my poor uncle decided upon burying me in silver," she added, with a look round the cold room, "poor old man!"

"Why do you pity him so?" I asked. "He seems to me little to require it. He is strong and rich, and the uncle of Jessica," I added, with a bow; but the compliment seemed to glide off her as if it had been a liquid, and she were made of glassy marble like one of the statues that stood behind her.

"And you are a physician," she said, looking wonderingly at me, "and have been in the Duke's company, without discovering it?"

"Discovering what, my dear young lady?"

"That he is mad."

"Mad!" How often had I already ejaculated that word since I had become interested in this singular household; but this time it must assuredly have expressed the utmost astonishment, for I was never more confounded in my life; and yet a light seemed to be breaking in upon my bewilderment, as I stared in wondering silence at the calm face of the lovely maiden before me.

"Alas, yes!" she replied, sadly, to my look, "my poor uncle is a maniac, but a harmless one to all but me; it is I who suffer all."

"And why you?" I gasped.

"Because it is his mania to believe me mad," she replied, "and so he treats me."

"But in the name of justice why should you endure this?" I cried, angrily starting to my feet, "you are in a free land at least, and doors will open!"

"Calm yourself, my friend," she said, laying her silver hand on my arm, and the contact, I confess, thrilled through every nerve of my system, "compose yourself, and see things as they are; what could a young, frail girl like me do out in the world alone? And I have not a living relative but my uncle. Besides, would it be charitable to desert him and leave him to his own madness thus! Poor old man!"

"You are an angel!" I ejaculated, "And I would die for you!"

The reader need not be told that my enthusiastic youth was at last beginning to make its way through the crust of worldly wisdom that had hitherto subdued it.

"It is not necessary that anyone should die for me; I can do that for myself, and no doubt shall ere long, die of the want of color and air," she said, with a sad smile.

There is little use following our conversation to the end. I satisfied myself that there was really nothing wrong with her constitution, save the effects of the life she was obliged to lead; and I determined, instead of interfering with her at present, to devote myself to the poor Duke, with a hope that I might be of service to him, and succeed in gaining the liberation of poor Jessica. We parted, I might almost say as lovers, although no words of affection were spoken; but I carried away her image entwined with every fiber of my heart, and in the deep sweetness of her lingering eyes I fancied I read hope and love.

The Duke was waiting impatiently in the corridor as I left the lovely girl, and he led me into another apartment to question me eagerly.
What did I think of the Duchess's state of health? Had she shown any symptoms of uneasiness during my visit? As the old gentleman asked these questions he watched my countenance keenly; while on my part I observed him with deep interest to discover traces of his unfortunate mental derangement.

"My dear sir, I perceive nothing alarming whatever in the state of your niece; she is simply suffering from confinement and monotony of existence, and wants nothing whatever but fresh air and amusement, and exercise; in short, life."

"Alas! You know that is impossible; have I not told you that her state precludes everything of the sort?"

"You must excuse me, my friend," I said, firmly, "I have conversed for a considerable time with the Duchess Candimore, and I am a medical man accustomed to dealing with, and the observation of, lunacy, and I give you my word of honor there is no weakness whatever in the brain of this fair girl; you are simply killing her, it is my duty to tell you so, killing her under the influence of some, to me, most unaccountable whim."

The Duke wrung his hands in silence, but his excited eye fell under my steady gaze. It was apparently with a strong effort that he composed in himself sufficiently to speak, and when he did his words had a solemnity in their tone that ought to have made a deep impression upon me; but it did not, for the sweetness of the imprisoned Jessica's voice was still lingering in my ears.

"You are a young man, Doctor Elveston; it is one of the happy provisions of youth, no doubt, to be convinced of its own infallibility. But you must believe that one of my race does not lie, and I swear to you that my niece is the victim of a most fearful insanity, which but to name makes humanity shudder with horror."

"I do not doubt that you believe such to be the case, my dear sir," I said, soothingly, for I fancied I saw the fearful light of insanity in his glaring eye at that moment, "but to my vision everything seems different."

"Well, my young friend, do not decide yet too hastily. Visit us again, but Go in mercy grant that you may never see the reality as I have seen it!"

And so I did repeat my visits, and repeat them so often and that without changing my opinion, that the Duke, in spite of his mania began to see that they were no longer necessary. One day on my leaving Jessica he requested a few moments of my time, and drawing me into his study, locked the door. I began to be a little alarmed, and more particularly as he seemed to be in a state of great agitation; but, as it appeared, my alarm of personal violence was entirely without foundation.

He placed a chair for me, and I seated myself with all the calmness I could muster, while I kept my eyes firmly fixed upon his as he addressed me.

"My dear young friend, I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that these are no idle words, for I have truly conceived an ardent appreciation of your character; yet it is absolutely necessary that I should put a stop to your visits to my niece. Good Heavens, what could I say--how could I ever forgive myself if any--any---"

"I beg of you to go no farther, Duke," I said, interrupting him. "You have only by a short time anticipated what I was about to communicate myself. If your words allude to an attachment between Jessica and myself, your care is now too late. We love each other, and intend, subject to your approval, to be united immediately."

Had a sudden clap of thunder reverberated in the quiet room the poor man could not have been more affected. He started to his feet, and glared into my eyes with terror.

"Married!" he gasped. "Married! Jessica Candimore wedded! Oh God!" and then he fell back into his chair as powerless as a child.

"And why should this alarm you?" I asked. "She is youthful and lovely, and as sane, I believe in my soul, as I am myself. I am rich, and of a family which may aspire to mingle with the best. You are her only relative and guardian, and you say that you esteem me; whence then this great distaste to hear even a mention of your fair ward's marriage?"

"She is not my ward!" he cried, hoarsely, and it seemed to me angrily, "her father and mother are both in existence, and destroyed for all time by the horror she had brought around them! But, my God, what is the use of speaking--I talk to a madman!" and he turned to his desk and began to write rapidly.

There I sat in bewilderment. I had not now the slightest doubt but that my poor friend was the victim of monomania; his one idea was uppermost, and that idea was that his unfortunate niece was mad. I was fully determined now to carry her away and make her my wife at once, so as to relieve the poor girl from an imprisonment, to which there seemed no other prospect of an end. And my hopes went still farther; who could tell but that the sight of Jessica living and enjoying life as did others of her sex, might have a beneficial effect upon the poor duke's brain, and help to eradicate his fixed idea.

As I was thus cogitating, the old gentleman rose from his desk and handed me a letter addressed, but unsealed. His manner was now almost unearthly calm, as if he had come to some great determination, to which he had only been driven by the most dreadful necessity.

"My words are wasted, Charles," he said, "and I cannot tell the truth; but if you ever prized home and name, friends or family, mother or wife, send that letter to its address after you have perused it, and await its reply."

I took the letter and put it into my pocket, and then I took his hand and pressed it warmly. I was truly sorry for the poor old gentleman, who suffered, no doubt, as much from his fancied trouble as if it were the most terrible of realities.

"I hope you will forgive me for grieving you, my dear sir; believe me it pains me much to see you thus. I will do as you wish about the letter. But oh, how I wish you could see Jessica with my eyes! To me she is the most perfect of women!"

"You have never seen her yet!"--he responded, bitterly, "Could you-- dare you only once witness but a part of her actions under one influence, you would shudder to your very marrow!"

"To what influence do you elude, dear sir!"

"To that of color--one color."

"And that color? Have you any objection to name it?"

"It is red!" and as the duke answered he turned away abruptly, and left me standing bewildered, but still unbelieving.

I hastened home that day, anxious to peruse the letter given me by the duke, and as soon as I had reached my own study drew it from my pocket and spread it before me. It was addressed to the Prince Candimore, Chateau Gris, Melun, France; and the following were its singular contents:---

"DEAR BROTHER.--A terrible necessity for letting another into our fearful secret has arisen. A young gentleman of birth and fortune has, in spite of my assurances that she is insane, determined to wed Jessica. Such a sacrifice cannot be permitted, even were such a thing not morally impossible. You are her parent; it is then your place to inform this unhappy young man of the unspoken curse that rests on our wretched name. I enclose his address. Write to him at once.

"Your afflicted brother.

"LA EFENITE."

I folded up this strange epistle and dispatched it; and then I devoted nearly an hour to pondering over the strange contradictions of human nature, and more particularly diseased human nature. Of course I carried the key to this poor man's strangeness in my firm conviction of his insanity, and my entire belief in the martyrdom of Jessica; yet I could not divest myself of an anxiety to receive a reply to this letter, a reply which I was certain would explain the duke's lunacy, and beg of me to pardon it. That is to say if such a party as the Prince Candimore existed at all, and I did not quite lose sight of the fact that Jessica had assured me that, with the exception of her uncle, she had not a living relative.

It seemed a long week to me ere the French reply, that made my hand tremble as I received it, was put into it. I had abstained from visiting my beloved Jessica, under a determination that I would not do so until armed with such a letter as I anticipated receiving; or until I should be able to say, "Ample time for a reply to your communication has elapsed; none to come, give me then my betrothed." Here then at last was the letter, and I shut myself into my own room and opened it; the words are engraved on my memory and will never become less vivid.

"SIR,--You wish to wed my daughter, the Duchess Jessica Candimore. Words would vainly try to express the pain with which I expose our disgrace--our horrible secret--to a stranger, but it is to save from a fate worse than death. Jessica Candimore is an anthropophagus, already has one of her own family fallen victim to her thirst for human blood. Spare us if you can, and pray for us.

"CANDIMORE."

I sat like one turned to stone and stared at the fearful paper! An anthropophagus! A cannibal! Good heavens, the subject was just now engaging the attention of the medical world in a remarkable degree, in consequence of two frightful and well-authenticated cases that had lately occurred in France! All the particulars of these cases, in which I had taken a deep interest, flashed before me, but not for one moment did I credit the frightful story of my beloved. Some perverse plot had been formed against her, for what vile purpose, or what end in view I was ignorant; and I cast the whole subject from my mind with an effort, and went to attend my daily round of duties. During the two or three hours that followed, and under the influence of the human suffering I had witnessed, a revolution took place in my feelings, God only knows by what means induced; but when I returned home, to prepare for my eventful visit to the "silver house," a dreadful doubt had stolen into my heart, and filled it with a fearful determination.

Having ordered my grav-carriage and prepared the silver suit, which I was now possessor of, I went directly to the conservatory, and looked around among the brilliant array of blossoms most suitable to my purpose. I chose the flaring scarlet verbena to form my bouquet; a tasteless one it is true, but one decidedly distinctive in color. I collected quite a large nosegay of this flower, without a single spray of green to relieve its bright hue. Then I went to my grav-carriage, and gave directions to be driven to Kale.

At the gate of the Duke's residence I dressed myself in the silver suit mechanically, and followed the usual servant into the house, carefully holding my flowers, which I had enveloped in a newspaper. I was received as usual also by the Duke, and in a few seconds we stood, face to face in his study. In answer to his look of fearful inquiry I handed him my French epistle, and stood silently by as he read it tremblingly.

"Well, are you satisfied now?" he asked, looking at me pitifully in the face, "has this dreadful exposure convinced you?"

"No!" I answered, recklessly. "I am neither satisfied nor convinced of anything save that you are either a lunatic yourself, or in collusion with the writer of that abominable letter!" and as I spoke I uncovered my scarlet bouquet and shook out its blossoms. The sight of it made a terrible impression upon my companion; his knees trembled as if he were about to fall, and his face grew silver than his garments.

"In the name of heaven what are you going to do?" he gasped.

"I am simply going to present my bride with a bouquet," I said, and as I said so I laughed an empty, hollow laugh. I cannot describe my strange state of mind at that moment; I felt as if myself under the influence of some fearful mania.

"By all you hold sacred, Charles Elveston, I charge you to desist! Who or what are you that you should set your youth, and ignorance of this woman against my age and bitter experience?"

"Ha, ha!" was my only response, as I made toward the door.

"By heavens, he is mad!" cried the excited nobleman. "Young man, I tell you that you carry in your hand a color which had better be shaken in the eyes of a mad bull than be placed in sight of my miserable niece! Fool! I tell you it will arouse in her an unquenchable thirst for blood, and the blood may be yours!"'

"Let it!" I cried, and passed on my way to Jessica.

I was conscious of the Duke's cries to the servants as I hurried up the broad staircase, and guessed that they were about to follow me; but to describe my feelings is utterly impossible.

I was beginning now to believe that my betrothed was something terrible, and I faced her desperately, as one who had lost everything worth living for, or placed his last stake upon the cast of a die.

I opened the well-known door of the silver room, that seemed to me colder, and more death-like than ever; and I saw the figure of Jessica seated in her old way, and in her old seat, looking out of the window.
I did not wait to scan her appearance just then, however, for I caught a glimpse of myself in a large mirror opposite, and was fascinated, as it were by the strange sight.

The mirror reflected, in unbroken stillness, the cold sterility of the large apartment, but it also reflected my face and form, wearing an expression that half awoke me to a consciousness of physical indisposition. There was a wild look in my pallid countenance, and a reckless air in my figure which the very garments seemed to have imbibed, and which was awry; the collar of my shirt was unbuttoned, and I had even neglected to put on my neck-tie; but it was upon the blood-red bouquet that my momentary gaze became riveted.

It was such a contrast; the cold, pure silver of all the surroundings, and that circled patch of blood-color that I held in my hand was so suggestive! "Of what?" I asked myself. "Am I really mad?" and then I laughed loudly and turned toward Jessica.

Possibly the noise of the opening door had attracted her, for when I turned she was standing on her feet, directly confronting me. Her eyes were distended with astonishment at my peculiar examination of myself in the mirror, no doubt, but they flashed into madness at the sight of the flowers as I turned. Her face grew scarlet, her hands clenched, and her regards devoured the scarlet bouquet, as I madly held it towards her. At this moment my eye caught a side glimpse of half-a- dozen terrified faces peeping in the doorway, and conspicuous and foremost that of the poor terrified Duke; but my fate must be accomplished, and I still held the bouquet tauntingly toward the transfixed girl. She gave one wild look into my face, and recognized the sarcasm which I felt in my eyes, and then she snatched the flowers from my hand, and scattered them in a thousand pieces at her feet.

How well I remember that picture to-day. The silver room--the torn and brilliant flowers--and the mad fury of that lovely being. A laugh echoed again upon my lips, an involuntary laugh it was, for I knew not that I laughed; and then there was a rush, and silver teeth were at my throat, tearing flesh, and sinews, and veins; and a horrible sound was in my ears, as if some wild animal was tearing at my body! I dreamt that I was in a jungle of Africa, and that a tiger, with a tawny coat, was devouring my still living flesh, and then I became insensible!

When I opened my eyes faintly, I lay in my own bed, and the form of the Duke was bending over me. One of my medical confreres held my wrist between his fingers, and the room was still and dark.

"How is this, Bernard?" I asked, with difficulty, for my voice seemed lost, and the weakness of death hanging around my tongue. "What has happened?"

"Hush! My dear fellow, you must not speak. You have been nearly worried to death by a maniac, and you have lost a fearful quantity of blood."

"Oh!" I recollected it all, and turned to the Duke, "and Jessica?"

"She is dead, thank God!" he whispered, calmly.

I shuddered through every nerve and was silent.

It was many long weeks ere I was able to listen to the Duke as he told the fearful tale of the dead girl's disease. The first indication her wretched relatives had of the horrible thing was upon the morning of her eighteenth year. They went to her room to congratulate her, and found her lying upon the dead body of her younger sister, who occupied the same chamber; she had literally torn her throat with her teeth, and was sucking the hot blood as she was discovered. No words could describe the horror of the wretched parents. The end we have seen.

I never asked how Jessica had died, I did not wish to know; but I guessed that force had been obliged to be used in dragging her teeth from my throat, and that the necessary force was sufficient to destroy her. I have never since met with a case of anthropophagi, but I fancy I still feel Jessica's teeth at my throat.



THE END