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´╗┐Title: The Beasts in the Void
Author: Fairman, Paul W., 1916-1977
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Beasts in the Void" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Imagination April 1956. Extensive
    research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
    publication was renewed.


                        The Beasts In The Void


                                  _by_

                          _Paul W. Fairman_


                      Illustrated by W. E. Terry


     Holloway was used to big game hunters and their expeditions
     to other worlds. But this trip was sheer madness--a space
     ship stalking  among--

       *       *       *       *       *



The examiner looked doubtful and said, "But Mr. Holloway, regulations
require that I read your log before I take verbal testimony."

Holloway's face was drawn and ravaged. His bloodshot eyes sat in
black pits. They were trained on the Examiner but looked through him
rather than at him.

Holloway said, "But, I _must_ talk! I've got to tell you about it. I
have to keep talking."

"But--"

Holloway's words tumbled out. "It started in the control cabin there
in deep space. When Mrs. Kelvey came in. She was the blonde one. I
turned around and she said, 'Captain, there's a great big tiger in the
companionway.'"

The desperate Holloway, fearful of being stopped or running out of
words, went into minute detail. "She made the statement as a pouting
complaint, almost casually. Then, before I could speak, she realized
what she'd said and her face changed. A kind of horrified double-take.
'_A tiger? In the companionway of a space ship?_' This last was an
incredulous question she asked herself. Then she fainted. I looked
outside. I thought I saw something blurred and indistinct but it
vanished quickly if it was really there at all. The companionway was
empty. No tiger. No animal of any kind--"

The Examiner, holding up a hand of protest, looked like a man
directing traffic. "Please, Mr. Holloway--please. We must remember
regulations."

Holloway's eyes closed for a moment but he resolutely forced them open
as though afraid of something.

The scene was Holloway's two-room suite in the Space Port Hotel. There
were three men present--Holloway, skipper of the _Space King_, John
Mason, Port Resident, and Merle Kennedy, Section Examiner for the
Space Authority people. Kennedy regarded Holloway with frank concern.
Good heavens--the man was a complete mess. Looked ready to collapse.
Kennedy turned to Mason. "This can be postponed, you know."

Mason was regarding Holloway also. Strange, he thought; Holloway had
left in a fanfare of publicity. Now it appeared his return would be
even more dramatic. Maybe Holloway was that kind of a chap; the kind
things just happened to.

He was quite young though he certainly didn't look it now. He'd been
known as a playboy ever since his father struck it big in Venusian
oil. But good-looking, personable, he had worn the label well. He'd
been good copy because the public regarded him with patronizing
affection. To them, he'd been a nice kid having fun; not a young
wastrel wasting his father's money.

Naturally he would pick a glamour girl to play the romantic feminine
role and Melody Hayden had filled the bill perfectly. Together, they
had enchanted the public. Princess and Prince Charming stuff. Then
tragedy. Disaster in a rocketing sports car; Melody's coffin sealed
before the funeral; young Holloway coming off without a scratch.
Melody's death was a bombshell and everyone asked. _What will he do
now?_ expecting of course, something sensational.

He didn't let them down. Dramatically, he announced a completely new
life. He bought a space ship and foreswore his old ways. He had quite
a reputation as a big game hunter. He'd stalked the vicious Plutonian
ice bears and lain in Venusian swamps waiting for the ten-ton lizards
to rise out of the slime. He had knocked over the wiliest of animals,
a telepathic Uranian mountain wolf and had dropped in flight a Martian
radar-bat, a feat duplicated by only three other marksmen of record.

So what more natural occupation than guiding hunting parties in deep
space? Holloway had been obviously torn by Melody's tragic death.
Perhaps out among the stars he could forget.

       *       *       *       *       *

There had been some trouble, Mason recalled, in clearing Holloway's
first cruise. A party of five. Not to any established hunting ground
but a D. U. thing. _Destination Unknown_, and they were always
trouble. Clearance had been made, though, and now--here was Holloway
back again--dramatically of course--with one of his party dead and the
other four in trance-like stupors. Strange.

And stranger still, Holloway's reason for wanting to talk immediately;
with no rest--no medical attention:

"It will help keep me awake. I mustn't go to sleep. Can't I make you
understand? _I've got to stay awake._"

Mason pitied the man. He turned to Kennedy. "I have the log here, sir.
Perhaps you could go over it now--"

Holloway leaned forward. "I'll tell you what's in the log. Every word
of it. If I just sit here waiting--"

Mason laid a hand on his knee. "It's all right, old chap. I won't let
you go to sleep. You and I will talk while Mr. Kennedy goes through
the log. It won't take long."

Mason handed the book to Kennedy. He was almost apologetic. "It's a
strange log, sir, It--"

"Strange?" Kennedy frowned. Logs had no right to be strange. There
were regulations--rules stating exactly how a log should be kept.

"Well sir, the lad is young. His first trip. I just meant there's
perhaps a little more in the log than should appear there."

"We'll see," Kennedy said. There was a slight frost on his words. If
disciplinary measures were in the offing it would pay not to get too
cozy with Holloway and the Resident.

Kennedy opened the log. The first entry was dated June 3rd, 4:10 p. m.
Earth time. Kennedy frowned. Permissible of course, but sloppy, very
sloppy. The better skippers computed from Orion immediately after
blast-off. Kennedy set back and began to read:


_June 3rd, 4:10 p. m._

We blasted at 2:18 p. m. A good getaway. Course 58.329 by the polar
angle. No blast sickness among the passengers. They are old hands. I
put the automatic board into control at 3:50 p. m. I checked the
tubes. Pressures balanced and equal.

I don't like this cruise. I don't like Murdo. He's a domineering slob.
The other four, well--Keebler is an alcoholic, Kelvey an empty-headed
opportunist. I don't particularly dislike them. They're just a
worthless pair who would rather fawn on Murdo and take his insults
than work for a living. The two wives are both young. Martha Keebler
has a child's mind in a woman's body. Jane Kelvey is an oversexed
witch with an indecent exposure complex. I may have trouble with her.
Already she's parading around in skimpy shorts and a bra. Evidently
Murdo doesn't care for women. He pays no attention to her. Money and
power are his dish. And a terrible restlessness.

Melody baby--I wish you were here--


_June 4th, 3:00 p. m._

I had a talk with Murdo about this silly cruise. Tried to swing him
onto something that makes a little more sense. Pluto, Venus,
Ganymede--some hunting ground I'm familiar with. No good. Even a
suggestion and he thinks you're crossing him and snorts like a bull.
Still demands to go to this place where big game prowls in space.
Where elephants and leopards and snakes and anything you can name fly
around your ship and look in your ports. Where you do your hunting in
space suits right out in the void.

Why in hell did I fall for this idiocy? Guess I just didn't care.
Maybe I thought it was a good idea because it sounded like a cruise
you could get killed on without much trouble. No--I shouldn't say
that. Melody wouldn't like me to say it. She was so wonderful--so
level-headed. How wrong they all were about us. About her. Because she
was so beautiful, I guess. I tried to tell them I'd married an angel
and they took bets among themselves on how long it would last. The
answer to that would have been forever. It still is. I've lost so much
and learned so much in such a very short time. The hell with Murdo and
his four puppets. I'll take them out and bring them back. Then I'll go
somewhere alone and I won't come back at all.

Melody.

Course 28.493 by the polar angle. Went through small asteroid
field....

       *       *       *       *       *

Kennedy looked up sharply. He frowned. "This log is unacceptable."

Holloway was pacing the floor, his eyes blank and terrible
"Unacceptable?"

"Course and position should be noted within each twenty-four hour
period. You missed June 5th entirely. You--" Kennedy leafed through
the pages. "Why at times you missed three and four days in sequence!"

"Sometimes I didn't have time to write."

Mason tried to hide his disgust. How did men like Kennedy get into
positions they weren't fitted for? The ass! Couldn't he see this man
was suffering? Mason said, "Why not reserve comment until you've
finished, Mr. Kennedy?"

Kennedy's eyes widened at the sharp tone of Mason's voice. Really.
When residents start dictating to Examiners--Kennedy saw the stiffness
in Mason's face. And something more. He went quickly back to his
reading:


_June 6, 1:00 p. m._

I talked some more with Murdo about this fool cruise. He got wind of
our destination--wherever it is--from some rich idiot in Paris. And I
don't use _idiot_ figuratively. His informant was in some kind of a
private nut house--an exclusive insane asylum of idiots with lots of
money--and he had lucid intervals. At one of these times he told Murdo
where he'd been and what had happened. I don't think Murdo believes
all of it but he wants to see for himself. Well, if he wants to spend
his money chasing meteorites it's his business.

Keebler got drunk as a goat. Strapped him in his bunk and left him
there. Murdo spent a few hours explaining guns to Mrs. Keebler. I
think he enjoys the look of wonder on her face. Makes him feel very
superior knowledgewise. Her face is just built that way and so far as
she's concerned he could be talking Greek. He thinks she's very
beautiful. I wonder if he ever saw Melody's picture?

Course 36.829 by the Orion angle. All clear.


_June 9th, 1:00 a. m._

Course 36.841 by the Orion angle. Small asteroids.

Jane Kelvey is bored and has started taking it out on me. When I
passed her door it was open. She was taking a sponge bath, stark naked
in the middle of the cabin. She turned around to face me and did a
very bad job of acting flustered, trying to cover herself up with a
small sponge! How crude can a female get? She was hoping I'd come in.
If I had it would have been to slap her face. I got away as fast as I
could.


_June 10th, 7 p. m._

Course 41.864 by the Orion angle. Brushed a small asteroid.

I've been noting the time wrong. It should be figured on a
twenty-four-hour cycle. Midnight to midnight, the hell with it.

Had a fight with Murdo. He wanted to take over the ship. His words
were, "Let's get some speed out of this slop bucket." I reminded him I
was Captain. He reminded me he was footing the bills. I asked him how
he would like to be locked in his cabin for the remainder of the
cruise? He didn't say, but I guess he wouldn't have liked it because
he quieted down. Keebler has been quietly drunk for the last two days.
Lucky Keebler.


_June 13th, 18 hours._

Course 26.932 by the Virgo angle. Went four degrees off course to
avoid small planetoid.

Jane Kelvey came to my cabin an hour ago. The rest were asleep. She
wore a blue dressing gown with nothing under it. I want to set down
what happened in case there's ever a kickback although I don't think
there ever will be.

I was sitting in a chair and she came up behind me and it was very
unfortunate because I saw the blue dressing gown first. By sheer
chance it was almost exactly like the one Melody wore that first
night. I was thinking of Melody. Melody was all around me and inside
me. In my mind, in my heart, in all my aching regrets.

So when that dressing gown brushed me, something electric happened
inside and I got up and took Jane Kelvey in my arms. It wasn't more
than three or four seconds but in that time the gown had been brushed
aside. Then I came to my senses and pushed her away.

The dressing gown stayed parted. She stepped back, confused. She said,
"What's the matter? Are you scared?"

"I'm disgusted. Button your gown. Get out of here!"

"What are you? Not one of those noble creatures I hope--who wouldn't
touch a man's wife."

"I said get out! I wouldn't touch you regardless."

"But you just did."

"It was a mistake. I--"

"Look--I'm a woman. You're a man--I think. We're alone in space and
life is short. Let's have fun and then forget about it."

I slapped her across the mouth. A skipper can be jailed for life for
striking a passenger. Even with cause. But I slapped her and I'm
setting it down in the log....

       *       *       *       *       *

Kennedy looked up from his reading. "Jane Kelvey--she is the dead
one?"

Mason nodded.

Kennedy looked at Holloway with marked severity. "Are you sure you
only slapped her?"

Mason exploded. "Good God, man. Did you see the body? You're not
implying he did that to her, are you?"

"I'm not implying anything," Kennedy said within a restrained grimness
that infuriated Mason.

"Why don't you finish the log before you start passing judgment?"

Kennedy leafed through the pages. "I--wait a minute! This log doesn't
cover the whole cruise! It breaks off in the middle of a sentence!"

"Read what's there, man! Read what's there."

"Very serious--very serious," Kennedy muttered. "Not completing a log.
No license should have been issued this man. Lax! Very lax." He sat
back to make himself more comfortable and prepared to go on with his
reading.


_June 30th--3 hours_

Course 29.341 by the Virgo angle. I think that's the course. The
instruments are acting funny. In fact a lot of things seem to be
wrong. Some of the constellations aren't in the right places anymore.

I began noticing these things a couple of days ago and spoke to Murdo.
I suggested we turn back. I told him it was my duty as a skipper to
look out for the welfare of my passengers. And that included not
continuing if vital instruments showed signs of failure.

He sneered at me and said, "I thought you were a big game hunter,
Holloway?"

I told him I'd hunted big game--yes.

"It doesn't sound like it. You sound like a timid old woman. So you've
made some miscalculations. The course is still right. It's on the
flight pattern in the automatic control board and I know it's correct
because I gave it to you."

"But if instruments fail nothing stays right."

"Okay--you're the skipper. If you've turned yellow and want to show
your tail I guess there's nothing I can do about it."

He almost got his jaw broken, but I was able to hold myself. Then,
suddenly, I didn't care. I didn't care whether Murdo stayed alive or
got killed. As to the others--they'd come on the cruise with their
eyes open. They deserved whatever they got. And I certainly didn't
give a damn about myself. Guess I wasn't cut out to skipper a ship. A
skipper should care. That's all he _should_ do. Just care. I'd rather
dream about Melody.


I don't know what the date is. The chronometer stopped so I don't even
know what time it is. But what does it matter about the time if you
don't even know what day it is? We just go on and on.

Murdo--I can't figure out. Windbag or not--braggart or no--he has an
iron will. I think he's scared but he won't admit it. And some
stubborn streak inside him won't let him turn tail and run. He hides
his fear behind long accounts of his hunting trips. He describes the
vicious animals he's killed. He bores us with accounts of his skill as
a great hunter.

The rest listen because they have to. I go to my cabin and remember
Melody.

The rest are scared too, but they're too scared of Murdo to let him
know it. That's an odd one. Scared for your life but afraid to tell
the big man because he might kill you. Would Murdo kill in a fit of
rage? I don't know.

Keebler stays drunk so none of it bothers him. Keebler's wife, I
think, is in love with Murdo but it's a kind of little-girl love. She
never quite grew up. Kelvey glues himself to Murdo and sticks like a
plaster. He seems to consider Murdo a haven, as though Murdo's bulk
will make everything all right.

Jane Kelvey hasn't quit making passes at me but they're half-hearted.
She bothers me. I'm uneasy when she's around. I get the feeling that
any minute she might drop to her knees and beg. What do you do with a
woman on her knees before you, begging? Maybe before long her husband
will look good to her. Maybe she'll be able to get him away from
Murdo's side for a while.

I look at both these women and realize what I lost. Melody.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jane Kelvey came to my cabin. It's hit her that things aren't right.
She's scared. She asked, "Why did you tell Murdo you wanted to turn
back?"

"Because I thought we'd come too far."

"Do you still think so?"

"Everything will be all right."

"The instruments--are they working again?"

I lied to her. "They're working."

"Do you think it's really as Murdo says--that there are animals out in
space?"

"I don't know."

She looked wan and forlorn and I was sorry for her. She said, "I've
only been on one hunting trip in my life."

"Is that so?"

"In India. A boy carried my gun for me. When the tiger came the boy
handed me the gun and told me where to point. I fired but I didn't hit
the tiger. Somebody else shot it."

"That was too bad."

"No, it was all right. He was such a big beautiful animal. So sleek
and powerful."

I saw her body tremble as she closed her eyes. I said, "You better get
some rest."

She passed a hand over her eyes and then gave me an odd wistful smile.
"Animals are smarter, I think. We _do_ make awful messes out of our
lives, don't we?"

"I'm afraid we do."

"But is it our fault? God makes us this way. We can't help that."

"No, I guess we can't."

"Why did God make us like we are?"

"I don't know, Jane. Let's hope _He_ does."

"Isn't that sacrilege or something? Doubting Him?"

"I guess it is."

She reached out suddenly and touched my face. "You're a nice guy. I
don't blame you for slapping me."

"I'm sorry. You're pretty nice yourself."

The smile faded. "I'm not," she said miserably, and left the cabin.

Poor kid. I forgot her and thought of Melody.


Something's gone wrong with everything. Not a very scientific
statement for a skipper to make but that's how it is. The stars have
disappeared. The instruments jumped around as though they had minds of
their own. The dial needles spin around like crazy.

And something else--something even worse. Space has _changed_. I mean
there's something out there in space. First I just felt it. A raw
uneasiness. Then I trained a light through the port and I could see
it. Stuff that looks like dust but isn't. It's hazy and yet it
sparkles and you have a sense of being on a ship that's pushing its
way through a fog so thick the friction holds you back. And there's
something more about this sparkling fog. You look out at it and it
seems to be looking back at you. Or maybe I'm losing my mind. Anyhow,
that's the way it seems. As though it's waiting for you to speak to
it--say hello or something.

I guess I'm going crazy.

The sparkling fog is affecting the others, too. They've all quieted
down and they slip along the bulkheads as though they were being
followed. Only Murdo blusters back. He says, what the hell? We
expected something different, didn't we? Well, this is sure different
enough, isn't it?

I'd turn back but I don't know how. I have nothing to go by. The
instruments make no sense.


I _am_ going crazy. I looked out the port just now and saw a water
buffalo. It was standing right out there in space with its head down
looking at the ship! I had a light turned on it and suddenly it
charged and hit the port headon. It bounced off and went staggering
away and disappeared.

But it left a big white scratch on the quartz outside. At least I
think it did. Wait. I'll look again. Yes. A big white scratch. It's
still there. So how can I be mad? Maybe it's a new kind of madness....

       *       *       *       *       *

Some of the sparkling fog has penetrated the ship. Turn out the light
and you can see it in the cabin. Not as thick as out in the void but
thick enough to see; thick enough to stand there and ask you to talk
to it.

Murdo is ready to turn back. He came to the control room and said, "I
saw it out there."

"You saw what?"

His face was pale and his hands twitched. "A boa-constrictor. Exactly
like the one I killed four years ago on the Amazon. It came to the
port and looked in at me."

"It must be your imagination."

"No. It was there. Let's turn back. Get out of this."

"I wish we could."

"You mean--?"

"I don't know where back is. We might just as well go as we are.
Changing course doesn't help if you don't know your directions. Our
only hope is to drive on out of this cloud. If I turned I might go
right back into it."

"Then one direction is as good as another?"

"That's right."

His mind wandered as he turned away. "I didn't know it would be like
this," he muttered. "I thought it would be fun--sport. I thought we'd
put on space suits and go out and make a kill. I thought--"

"The space suits are ready. Do you want to try it?"

He shuddered, his hanging jowls almost flapping. "You couldn't drag me out
there."


The stuff is getting thicker in the ship.


Jane came into my cabin. She had an odd look on her face. She said,
"There's a big tiger in the companionway."

I got up from my bunk and suddenly she seemed to realize what she'd
said. She repeated it. Then she fell down in a faint. I put her in my
bunk and looked out into the companionway. The sparkling fog glittered
but there was no tiger.

When she came to, she didn't seem to know where she was. Then she
smiled. "I must have been drinking too much," she said. Then she
realized where she was. "But look where it got me? Into your bunk."

"Do you feel all right now?"

"I guess so. I can get up now. I _do_ have to get up, don't I?"

"I think you'd better."

After she left I did some thinking. The sparkling haze had been
outside the ship and I'd seen a water buffalo through the port. Murdo
had seen a boa-constrictor. Then the haze penetrated the hull and got
inside the ship. And Jane had seen a tiger in the companionway.

Were they phantoms? Was Jane's tiger a tiger of the mind? Murdo swore
his snake had been real and my buffalo left a mark on the port. I sat
there trying to think. With the sparkling fog drifting around me. It
seemed to be trying to tell me something.


Things grow worse. Today, at mess, Murdo was holding forth about a
Plutonian ice bear he'd killed. I think he was trying to cover the
gloom that has settled over us. Anyhow, he'd just got to the point
where the bear was charging down on him when we heard the roar of
thunder from outside. Maybe I'd better repeat that for the record. _We
heard a roaring through the walls of the space ship. In the void._
Nothing goes through the walls of a space ship in the void but we all
heard it and jumped to the port. And we all saw it.

An ice bear as big as ten of the largest that ever lived in the
Plutonian ice flows. A huge ravening beast that rushed through the
void at the ship and tried to tear the port out of its metal seat with
teeth as big as the height of a man.

The women fell back, screaming. Keebler, in his usual stupor stared
blankly as though not realizing what was going on. Kelvey looked to
Murdo for guidance. When none came he crouched behind a chair.

Murdo fell back slowly, step by step as though his eyes were fastened
to the quartz and it was hard to pull away. I don't remember what I
did. Murdo was saying "My God--my God--my God," as though chanting a
ritual. He tore his eyes from the sight and looked at me.

"You wanted big game, buster," I croaked. "There it is."

"But it can't be real. It _can't_!"

"Maybe not, but if that port gives I'll bet it won't be from vacuum
pressure."

"Vacuum draws. It doesn't press," Kelvey babbled inanely, but nobody
paid any attention to him.

The beast made two more charges on the ship, then drew back screaming
in rage from a snapped tooth. And all around us, there in the ship,
the sparkling fog glittered and tried to talk.


Two hours. The beast still rages in the void outside our ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jane is dead. She was horribly mangled. I put her in her bunk and laid
a blanket over her and now the blanket is soaked in her blood.

No one could have helped her. It happened in the lounge. She was in
there alone. I was in the control room. I don't know where the rest
were.

I was working uselessly with the controls when I heard a terrible
scream mixed with a hideous snarling. I ran into the companionway and
stared toward the lounge. Murdo appeared from somewhere and we were
shouldering each other on the companion ladder. Murdo fell heavily.
Then we were both looking into the lounge.

It was too late to help Jane. We saw her there, still and bloody. A
shiny black leopard was crouching gory-mouthed over her body with its
paws on her breast. It's eyes were black magnets, holding mine.

I said, "Get a gun," trying to speak without moving my lips.

"But--"

"Damn you--get a gun!"

Murdo staggered away. It seemed a year before he came back with a
Hinzie Special .442. The leopard was tight, ready to spring. I didn't
dare move a muscle. I said, "Over my shoulder. Get him. Don't miss."

That last was a little silly. How could a man miss with a Hinzie at
ten feet? Murdo fired and tore the leopard's head off. It was down
already so it didn't move. It sat there headless, its tail twitching
slightly. Then it was still.

I didn't hesitate this time. I said, "Come on. We've got to get this
out of here before the others show."

We put the dead leopard into the forward storage bunker. Then I picked
up poor Jane and carried her to her room. Murdo helped me up the
ladder. The others were in the companionway and they pressed back in
horror to let me pass. For the first time since we'd started, Keebler
was sober. Ashen, shaking, stone sober. He broke; screamed and ran for
his bottle, the world of reality too terrible for him to bear.

There was no huddle, no conference, no meeting of the minds. Everyone
else went to the galley and sat staring into space; stared at the
dancing little sparkles in the air.

I went to my cabin.


When confronted by a reality no matter how crazy and improbable, a man
must not turn from it. He can not carry the mangled body of a woman in
his arms and then say to himself: _This isn't real because it doesn't
make sense._ It _does_ make sense--some kind of sense or it would not
exist. A man must say rather: _I don't understand this and maybe I
never will but God gave me a brain and I must try. I can't sit back
and deny reality. I must try to understand it._ I cleared my mind and
tried to rationalize the things around us.

Out in the darkness there was a terrible roaring and yammering. The
thuds and bellows of violence. I went to the port.

There, in the light from the ship, the ice bear and the water buffalo
were fighting. It was a terrible and magnificent thing but to me it
was anticlimax; a sideshow of almost casual interest.

The ice bear outsized the water buff by too much to be in any danger,
but the buff fought savagely and the ice bear had no easy time. The
buff opened a long deep gash in the bear's throat when the bear missed
a lunge and the Plutonian mammal fell back with a roar of pain and
fury. They came together again and this time the bear got the buff in
a hug and it was all over. The buff's spine broke and the bear bent
the body double, then tore it to pieces. I wondered if the others were
watching.

I went back to pacing; back to my thinking.

I have been thinking, thinking, thinking; wracking my brain. And of
one thing I am sure. Some invisible intelligence is trying to help me;
trying to give me knowledge. The sparkling fog?

       *       *       *       *       *

A great and wonderful thing has happened.

_And I know._ Do you realize what that means? To know in a situation
like this? And to be wonderfully and wildly happy? The knowledge was
not all given me. There was a thought process of my own developing.
The thing given me was the basic knowledge upon which to build. And
proof of this knowledge. Absolute and indisputable proof.

_The sparkling fog is mind stuff._

I will not defend that statement. I will not rationalize it. But I
will seek explanations; consider possibilities.

Known: This sparkling fog through which we drift is intelligent
matter; the stuff of thoughts; the basic material from which
consciousness springs. It is consciousness itself.

Supposed: It is probably electronuclear in composition, and appears to
be completely innocent. By that I mean it has no intention to harm,
perhaps because it does not understand the difference between good and
evil, harm and help, pain and pleasure.

It has only one urge; the basic urge of all creation. To evolve, to
develop. As the tree has but one basic urge--to grow and greaten; the
flower but one desire--to bloom, to improve; to assert itself through
evolution and become better.

Perhaps--and who can successfully deny it?--this great space cloud
could be a storage place of the Creator Himself; a storage place for
mind stuff. When an infant or an animal or a plant is touched with the
magic thing called life--where does that magic come from? Is it
created at the very moment or does it come somehow from a source-pile?
Is this cloud a source-pile of life itself? No one can say. But I
think I've hit on a limitation of this mind stuff. I'm going to try an
experiment and pray to God it works.

I'm going to find Murdo and knock him unconscious.


I have solved the mind-stuff. What just happened is the last bit of
proof I need. I went to the galley. Murdo had wandered away. I found
him in the lounge. I stepped casually in front of him, set myself, and
drove a straight right to his jaw. He went down like a log.

I closed my eyes and counted to twenty praying to God to make me right
in my belief--in the crazy theory I evolved. I opened my eyes and
turned to the storage locker. I looked inside.

The dead leopard was gone.

I went to the port and looked out. The huge ice bear had been ravening
insanely among the shreds of the water buffalo's body. As I watched
both bear and buff began fading.

Before my eyes, they disappeared, evolved back into the stuff of the
sparkling fog. I had proved my theory.

Now all the parts dropped into place. The mind stuff has only the
ability and the urge to evolve--nothing else--no imagination. It can
evolve only if given something to reproduce.

This it can get only from a human mind. It is able to see an image
pictured in the human memory and reproduce it in a state of absolute
reality.

Witness: Jane saw a tiger in the companionway. Clear in her memory was
the image of the tiger she had shot at in India. The mind-stuff saw it
and reproduced it in reality. The water buffalo came from my own mind.
I killed one exactly like it a year ago. The ice bear was out of
Murdo's memory as was the black leopard and the snake.

Witness: The three animals created inside the ship did not appear
until the mind stuff from outside penetrated the hull and entered the
ship. They were of normal size. But the animals created outside the
ship were far out of proportion, the ice bear especially. Why?
Because, I believe, the mind stuff is denser in the void. There it has
more strength.

My defense against the mind stuff was formulated almost accidentally.
I remembered the sequence of Jane's tiger. She saw it, entered my
cabin, realized its significance, and fainted. I looked into the
companionway and saw the tiger fading.

So I knocked out Murdo for final proof and got it. As soon as he
lapsed into unconsciousness the recreations from his mind turned back
into sparkling fog. Obviously, and a heaven-sent phenomenon it is--the
mind stuff immediately loses its subject-image when the mind from
which it came goes unconscious. The mind-stuff has no memory of its
own and cannot hold its recreated image in the evolved form under
conditions of unconsciousness. The answer now becomes simple.


I drugged Murdo before he regained consciousness. I drugged the other
three by means of whisky and food. They have been unconscious for
twelve hours. Nothing has happened. I shall keep them that way.


The mind-stuff is trying to complain to me. Almost petulantly; as a
child. I sense it sharply. It does not understand the wrong it has
done and feels it has been deprived of its right.


I have no time for the mind-stuff. I guard myself against it and
ignore it. There are other things on my mind. Shall I go back if we
ever escape from the sparkling fog? I don't know. I don't want to go
back. I want to go on and on forever just like this. But the others
cannot go on like this. It would be murder. I don't know.--I don't
know.


I must keep awake. I use drugs. I must not sleep--not sleep.


We have cleared the fog. The instruments are working again. Again the
stars glow. What shall I do. _Melody...._

       *       *       *       *       *

_Kennedy_ looked up from his reading. "As I said,"--and he spoke
severely--"you break off at an abrupt point. You did not complete the
log."

Holloway's red eyes were glazed. "I had other things to do. I was
tired of keeping a log."

Mason sought to draw Kennedy off his quarry. "There's an odd point,"
he said, looking at Holloway. "Only animals were recreated. Do you
think the mind stuff was capable only of recreating animals?"

Holloway spoke in an exhausted monotone. "It took the clearest image
from the strongest minds. Murdo thought mainly of hunting. He
pondered on his more spectacular kills. Thus the mind-stuff used his
images."

"I see."

Holloway seemed to sag--to shrink. He said, "The mind-stuff could
recreate anything. It brought Melody back to me."

Kennedy sprang to his feet. "There is no reference in this log to--"

Mason turned on him. "Shut up, you fool!" He laid a gentle hand on
Holloway's shoulder. "Tell us about it, old chap."

Holloway turned his burning eyes on the closed door to the next room.
"She's in there. I wanted to get rid of you. I was afraid you would
take her away from me. But it's no use. I can't hold my consciousness
much longer. Then she will vanish."

Holloway tried weakly to rise from his chair. He called,
"Melody--Melody baby!"

The door opened. A beautiful girl in a blue dressing gown came
gracefully into the room. She walked straight to Holloway and took his
tortured head into her soft hands. Her eyes pleaded with the men. "He
suffers so. He will not sleep. I can't make him sleep. I--I don't
understand."

Holloway's head dropped suddenly onto his chest. He slumped down in
his chair. And as he did so, a change took place. The two men stood
rooted, staring.

As Melody began to fade. Slowly, slowly, into a transparent image,
into a mist, into a handful of sparkling fog.

Then she was gone.

Mason knelt by the bone-thin body in the chair. He made a quick
examination and got wearily to his feet.

"Holloway is dead," he murmured. "Drugs of that nature would kill an
elephant. I can't understand how he lived so long."

Kennedy blinked and seemed to come out of a trance. He frowned. "And
the investigation hardly started."

Mason shook his head and looked pityingly at Kennedy. It was just no
use with a man like him. Mason said. "There's one point entirely
apparent without an investigation."

"What's that?"

Mason's voice was sharp and cold. "That our little playboy, for all
his reputation of frivolity, was a better man than you and I put
together. Does that register, Mr. Kennedy?"

Kennedy flared. "Now see here. I'm only doing my job!"

"Oh shut up," Mason said.

And strode out of the room.

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *





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