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´╗┐Title: G-r-r-r...!
Author: Locke, Robert Donald
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.

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    _Roger Arcot explores the fringes of a really never forgotten world,
    the introduction to which is an aged manuscript _De Necromantiae_,
    and the wish, not too repressed, to pledge your soul to the Devil!
    There are many strange memories and unhappy frustrated souls in this
    Fantastic Universe of ours--strange and sinister memories and
    stranger urges, frightening urges that refuse to die in the heart of
    Brother Ambrose._


 g-r-r-r...!

 _by ... ROGER ARCOT_


 He had borne the thousand and one injuries with humility and
 charity. But the insults! These were more than he could suffer....


Gr-r-r! There he goes again! Brother Ambrose could scarce restrain the
hatred that seethed and churned in his breast, as his smallish eyes
followed Brother Lorenzo headed once more for his beloved geraniums, the
inevitable watering-pot gripped in both hands, the inevitable devotions
rising in a whispered stream from his saintly lips. The very fact the
man lived was a mockery to human justice: God's blood, but if thoughts
could only kill.

_Ave, Virgo!_

The thousand and one injuries of Fray Lorenzo he had borne as a
Christian monk should, with humility and charity. But the insults, aye,
the insults to faith and reason! They were more than a generous Father
could expect His most adoring servant to suffer, weren't they? To have
to sit next to the man, for instance, at evening meal and hear his silly
prattle of the weather. Next year's crop of cork: we can scarcely expect
oak-galls, he says. Isn't _petroselinum_ the name for parsley? (No,
it's Greek, you swine. And what's the Greek name for Swine's Snout? I
could hurl it at you, like the Pope hurling anathema.) _Salve tibi!_ It
sticks in one's craw to bless him with the rest. Would God our cloister
numbered thirty-and-nine instead of forty.

For days now, for weeks, Brother Ambrose had witnessed and endured the
false piety of the man. How he'd ever got admitted to the order in the
first place beat all supposition. It must have been his sanctimonious
apple-cheeks or (Heaven forbid such simony), some rich relative greased
the palm of the Prior. _Saint, forsooth!_

Brother Ambrose recalled just a week previous; they had been outside the
walls, a round dozen of the brothers, gathering the first few bushels of
grapes to make the good Benedictine wine. And all men tended to their
duty in the vineyard--save who? Save lecherous Lorenzo, whose job was to
attend the press. Picked the assignment himself, most likely, so he
could ogle the brown thighs and browner ankles of Dolores squatting on
the Convent bank, _gitana_ slut with her flashing eyes and hint of sweet
delight in those cherry-red lips and coquettish tossing shoulders. A man
could see she was child of the devil, flesh to tempt to eternal
hellfire.

But how skillful Brother Lorenzo had been in keeping the glow in his
dead eye from being seen by the others! Only Ambrose had known it was
there. Invisible to even the world, perhaps; but lurking just the same
in Lorenzo's feverishly disguised brain. _Si_, there and lusting beyond
a doubt. By one's faith, the blue-black hair of Dolores would make any
weak man itch; and the stories that had floated on the breeze that day,
livelily exchanged between her and that roguish Sanchicha, the
_lavandera_; Lorenzo must surely have lapped them all up like a hungry
spaniel, though he cleverly turned his head away so you would not guess.
After all, Ambrose, scarcely a step closer, could recall clearly every
word of the bawdy tales!

Back to the table again; and Brother Ambrose once more noticed how Fray
Lorenzo never let his fork and knife lie crosswise, an obvious tribute
he, himself, always made in Our Senor's praise. Nor did Lorenzo honor
the Trinity by drinking his orange-pulp in three quiet sips; rather (the
Arian heretic) he drained it at a gulp. Now, he was out trimming his
myrtle-bush. And touching up his roses.

Gr-r-r, again! Watching his enemy putter away in the deepening twilight
that followed the decline of the Andalusian sun, Brother Ambrose
recalled the other traps he had lain to trip the hypocrite. Traps set
and failed; but, oh, so delicious anyhow, these attempts to send him
flying off to Hell where he belonged: a Cathar or a Manichee. That last
one, involving the pornographic French novel so scrofulous and wicked.
How could it failed to have snared its prey? Especially, when Fray
Ambrose had spent such sleepless nights, working out his plot in great
detail?

Brother Ambrose allowed himself an inward chortle, as he paced along the
portico, recollecting how close to success the scheme had come. The book
had had to be read first (or re-read, rather) by Ambrose to determine
just which chapter would be most apt to damn a soul with concupiscent
suggestion. Gray paper with blunt type, the whole book had been easy
enough to grasp for that matter--what with the words so badly spelled
out. The cuckoldry tales of Boccaccio and that gay old archpriest, Juan
Ruiz de Hita, what dry reading they seemed by comparison--almost like
decretals.

As if by misadventure, Brother Ambrose had left the book in Lorenzo's
cell, the pages doubled down at the woeful sixteenth print. Ah, there
had been a passage! Simply glancing at it, you groveled hand and foot in
Belial's grip.

But, that twice-cursed Lorenzo must have had the devil's luck that day.
A breeze sprang up to flip the volume closed; and the monk, not knowing
the book's owner and espying only its name, had handed it over to the
Prior who had promptly turned the monastery upside down in search of
further such adulterous contraband!

Worse fortune followed. The next day, Brother Lorenzo had come down with
a temporary stroke of blindness--it lasted only a week; but even so, for
seven days Ambrose had been forced to labor in his stead in the drafty
library, copying boresome scrolls in a light scarcely less dim than
moonlight. Worse still, the Prior had found mistakes: letters dropped,
transposed (Latin was so bothersomely regular; compared to the vulgar
tongue). For what he called such "inexcusable slovenliness," the Prior
had imposed a penance of bread and water and extra toil.

_Slovenliness!_ Why didn't the Prior--was he blind, too?--notice the
deadly sins that were each day so neatly practised by Brother Lorenzo?
They went unpunished. Probably, God's Angel would even be found to have
been asleep when Judgment Day came around and Lorenzo would slip into
Heaven by a wink, as one might say.

Obviously, there was no justice, except such as man would make himself,
Brother Ambrose had at last decided.

_Ave Maria, plena gratia._

Now at last, he was alone in his cell, free finally from the unendurable
(sometimes it seemed everlasting) torment of Brother Lorenzo's presence.
Twenty-nine distinct damnations listed in Galatians, if you cared to
look up the text; and not one of them could the enemy be made to trip
on, a-dying.

In fact, of late, so bad had the situation grown that Brother Ambrose
had even once considered pledging his soul to Satan. Oh, not for keeps!
No enmity was worth that dread sacrifice. But as a trick, sort of--with
a flaw in the indenture that proud Lucifer would miss until it was too
late to wriggle out of the bargain.

But that had been two days ago.

Now, a better scheme presented itself to Brother Ambrose, engendered by
that forced labor within the dreary precincts of the convent library.
For that was where (and when) he had made his delightful discovery, the
one that would now redeem him from all his irritations and travail. The
discovery that would rid him of Brother Lorenzo for always!

It had happened like this.

Inasmuch as the monastery was over eight hundred years old, many ancient
books and moldy scrolls lay forgotten in the cobwebby corners of the
great library, especially where the light was gloomy. One afternoon
during his week of enforced toil, Brother Ambrose had sought the shelter
of one of these ill-lighted and seldom-visited nooks of the building to
recover certain lost hours of sleep, hours that had gone astray the
night before as he sat up in his lonely cell and brooded over his
wrongs. But before his drowsy head could nod off into dreams completely,
his eye had chanced to notice a faded scroll that jutted forth from its
fellows on the shelves. Starting to push the offender back in place,
Ambrose's fingers had hesitated when he noticed the title: _De
Necromantiae_.

Surely, thought the monk, such a book belonged on the Index. Then, it
occurred to him that possibly the copy in front of him was the only one
of its kind in the world, in which case not even the Holy Father could
be expected to know it existed. Then, how could it be on the Index or be
forbidden?

Taking advantage of this personal achievement in casuistry, Brother
Ambrose promptly untied the scroll and began reading.

What he discovered there interested him very much. We do not intend to
describe all of the marvels unfolded for him in that venerable mildewed
manuscript, for some of the more gruesome mysteries of the supernatural
world are better left unrevealed; but let it be said at least, that one
chapter intrigued Brother Ambrose immensely. So much so, that he
shamelessly whipped out his scissors and, nipping that section, stuck it
inside his rough wool robes so he might peruse it at greater leisure
within the privacy of his cell.

The chapter that evoked such delight and interest within Brother
Ambrose's complicated brain was one that had been penned in the early
ages of the Church by a lay-brother who had concerned himself with pagan
magic. In it, he had described the fiendish habits and activities of
werewolves and had actually even presented a formula. _Ut Fiat Homo
Lupinus_ it was entitled, which purported to give the secret words and
ritual necessary to achieve the transformation from man to beast.

At last, the opportunity had arrived Ambrose's way to achieve his
long-desired revenge on Brother Lorenzo!

Twenty-four hours had passed since the momentous discovery. The moment
was at hand. Night again had settled upon the Spanish cloisters, the
last bell had tolled; and all the good and hardy men were supposed to be
at sound sleep on their rough iron cots. But in Brother Ambrose's chilly
cell, a small candle burned--casting sickly light that produced huge
flickering shadows against the whitewashed walls.

Brother Ambrose held the treasured piece of manuscript between his
hands. It was difficult to make out the faded Latin; the writing was
cramped and crude, and Ambrose was no scholar to boot. But like all
persons of his times, he was quite well-aware of the existence of
werewolves, werefoxes, and other such monsters; and he held no doubt but
what the spell would work.

It was the scheming brother's plan to creep in the stealth of night down
the corridor to the barred oak door of Lorenzo's own simple cell. There,
he would knock; lightly enough to disturb no other sleepers, yet loud
enough that the rapping would summon Brother Lorenzo from whatever
wicked dreams might be festering in his own sleeping mind.

As Fray Lorenzo's naked footsteps were heard pattering across the bare
floor, Ambrose would drink the bat's blood he had collected, sniff the
wolfbane he had ground to ash, and pronounce the obscure Celtic words
that would alter the very atoms of his flesh, transforming them into an
obscene travesty of life. Brother Lorenzo, when he opened the door,
would be met not by a fellow human being, but by a snarling fanged wolf
that would hurl its hairy bulk at the drowsy monk's own throat.

The next day, the entire monastery would be awakened, of course, by
shouts of the news that foul murder had been discovered. But no amount
of detection would ever manifest the bestial murderer. Brother Ambrose
would hug to his soul the secret of his crime until the day of his
shriving.

At length, the hour had grown so late that it was certain even the Prior
himself must have long since retired.

Brother Ambrose made ready to carry out his deed. He rose from his cot,
removed the coarse brown robe that normally he wore to bed as well as in
his daily rounds so that his long-unwashed body stood naked. There must
be no chance for tell-tale blood to stain his clothes, when his fierce
talons and wolfish teeth tore and rended at human flesh.

Carrying his precious piece of scroll, he departed from his cell and
groped his way down the stone corridor until the light improved enough
for him to see his way. Luckily, a patch of moonlight illuminated the
very space in front of the accursed Brother Lorenzo's door. What
fortune!

Brother Ambrose halted and stared at the door as though his eyes could
see through it, at the sleeping form within. He sucked in a deep breath.
His palms were sweaty; his heartbeat rapid. For a moment, he was almost
ready to back out.

Then suddenly, the memory of all the hundreds of grudges he bore against
Lorenzo surged through him. Hatred built up a massive reservoir, that
broke out over his crumbling conscience and flooded his body with anger
and wild resentment. His teeth gritted. What had he been thinking of--to
retreat now, with revenge so nearly at hand!

He rapped. A moment later, he heard a creaking sound like Brother
Lorenzo slipping out of bed.

Trembling, he lifted the phial of bat's blood, drank it down. It tasted
salty. He chewed on the wolfbane powder until it mixed with the saliva
of his mouth, then he swallowed. Holding the ancient scroll-segment
before him, he began to repeat the badly-written incantation: _Ut fiat
homo lupinus, pulvis arnicae facenda est et dum...._

A thousand jolts assailed his body, as if he had been struck by all the
lightnings in heaven. Then, came a rushing paralysis, a distortion of
time and space, a dread feeling of disintegration and death ...

The door to Brother Lorenzo's cell began to recede, swelling in volume
as it did. The ceiling of the corridor likewise retreated at
ever-increasing pace. Staring down at his own dwindling frame, Ambrose
saw that the slug-white flesh was now covered with thick fur, even as
the limbs were gnarling--

Then, suddenly the door opened. Brother Lorenzo stepped out, his kindly
pious face wrinkled with sleep but otherwise showing no irritation or
displeasure at being summoned from his rest. At first, the monk seemed
not to have noticed Ambrose's form, for he gazed above him and away.

Ambrose kept on shrinking.

Finally, Brother Lorenzo's gaze chanced to glance downward. But still,
his features mirrored no recognition or alarm; only puzzlement.

_Now_, thought Ambrose, _now is the time for me to snarl_.

But no snarl, nor semblance of a snarl, emerged from his lips. Rather,
his lips had elongated into long sucking proboscises, while already a
third pair of limbs had commenced growing from his furred-over abdomen.

This was not a wolf-like form, he was assuming, Ambrose suddenly
realized in terror. But if it was not lupine, what was it? Had he
misread the incantation? Had he mispronounced a simple word?

The weird crawling form into which he had metamorphosed was now hardly
an inch higher than the surface of the floor. But Ambrose's eyes had
bulged into great many-faceted orbs capable of seeing objects with
greater clarity than ever. Inches away from him, he made out the segment
of scroll he had discarded after reading aloud from it. Crawling over to
it, he perused the beginning words of the spell.

And it suddenly dawned on him (while what passed for a heart and
ventricles within his pulpy form began simulating horror) that the
ancient monk of centuries ago who had first copied the incantation must
have been as careless of spelling as he. For the charm obviously did not
convert its user into a werewolf, but rather some other animal ...

Dredging up all the miserable Latin he knew, Ambrose fished for some
word similar to _lupinus_.

And suddenly he had it!

_Pulicus!_ That was the word the sloppy copyist of yesteryear had
wrongly transcribed.

From the word _pulex_, meaning "flea."

Not how to become a wolf-like man, but a flea-like man--that was what
the formula had described.

Ambrose, the flea, braced himself. Gathering his powerful legs under
him, he leaped in soaring flight to land upon the object of hatred--the
giant Brother Lorenzo, who towered so high above him.

But the gentle and considerate Brother Lorenzo, who probably would not
have hurt hair nor hide of any other creature on Earth--even he knew
full well that there is only one thing you can do to discourage a flea.

Swat!



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ January 1957.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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