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´╗┐Title: Strange Alliance
Author: Walton, Bryce, 1918-1988
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 "Strange Alliance" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration]


    _Haunted by their dark heritage, a medieval fate awaited them...._


 STRANGE
     ALLIANCE

 _BY BRYCE WALTON_


Doctor Spechaug stopped running, breathing deeply and easily where he
paused in the middle of the narrow winding road. He glanced at his
watch. Nine a.m. He was vaguely perplexed because he did not react more
emotionally to the blood staining his slender hands.

It was fresh blood, though just beginning to coagulate; it was dabbled
over his brown serge suit, splotching the neatly starched white cuffs of
his shirt. His wife always did them up so nicely with the peasant's love
for trivial detail.

He had always hated the silent ignorance of the peasants who surrounded
the little college where he taught psychology. He supposed that he had
begun to hate his wife, too, when he realized, after taking her from a
local barnyard and marrying her, that she could never be anything but a
sloe-eyed, shuffling peasant.

He walked on with brisk health down the narrow dirt road that led toward
Glen Oaks. Elm trees lined the road. The morning air was damp and cool.
Dew kept the yellow dust settled where spots of sunlight came through
leaves and speckled it. Birds darted freshly through thickly hung
branches.

He had given perennial lectures on hysterical episodes. Now he realized
that he was the victim of such an episode. He had lost a number of
minutes from his own memory. He remembered the yellow staring eyes of
the breakfast eggs gazing up at him from a sea of grease. He remembered
his wife screaming--after that only blankness.

He stopped on a small bridge crossing Calvert's Creek, wiped the blood
carefully from his hands with a green silk handkerchief. He dropped the
stained silk into the clear water. Silver flashes darted up, nibbled the
cloth as it floated down. He watched it for a moment, then went on along
the shaded road.

This was his chance to escape from Glen Oaks. That was what he had
wanted to do ever since he had come here five years ago to teach. He had
a good excuse now to get away from the shambling peasants whom he hated
and who returned the attitude wholeheartedly--the typical provincial's
hatred of culture and learning.

Then he entered the damp, chilled shadows of the thick wood that
separated his house from the college grounds. It was thick, dense, dark.
One small corner of it seemed almost ordinary, the rest was superstition
haunted, mysterious and brooding. This forest had provided Doctor
Spechaug many hours of escape.

He had attempted to introspect, but had never found satisfactory causes
for his having found himself running through these woods at night in his
bare feet. Nor why he sometimes hated the sunlight.

       *       *       *       *       *

He tensed in the dank shadows. Someone else was in this forest with him.
It did not disturb him. Whatever was here was not alien to him or the
forest. His eyes probed the mist that slithered through the ancient
mossy trees and hanging vines. He listened, looked, but found nothing.
Birds chittered, but that was all. He sat down, his back against a
spongy tree trunk, fondled dark green moss.

As he sat there, he knew that he was waiting for someone. He shrugged.
Mysticism was not even interesting to him, ordinarily. Still, though a
behaviorist, he upheld certain instinctual motivation theories. And,
though reluctantly, he granted Freud contributory significance. He could
be an atavist, a victim of unconscious regression. Or a prey of some
insidious influence, some phenomena a rather childish science had not
yet become aware of. But it was of no importance. He was happier now
than he had ever been. He felt free--young and new. Life seemed worth
living.

Abruptly, with a lithe liquid ease, he was on his feet, body tense,
alert. Her form was vaguely familiar as she ran toward him. She dodged
from his sight, then re-appeared as the winding path cut behind screens
of foliage.

She ran with long smooth grace, and he had never seen a woman run like
that. A plain skirt was drawn high to allow long bronzed legs free
movement. Her hair streamed out, a cloud of red-gold. She kept looking
backwards and it was obvious someone was chasing her.

He began sprinting easily toward her, and as the distance shortened, he
recognized her. Edith Bailey, a second-year psychology major who had
been attending his classes two semesters. Very intelligent, reclusive,
not a local-grown product. Her work had a grimness about it, as though
psychology was a dire obsession, especially abnormal psychology. One of
her theme papers had been an exhaustive, mature but somehow overly
determined, treatise on self-induced hallucination and auto-suggestion.
He had not been too impressed because of an unjustified emphasis on
supernatural myth and legend, including werewolves, vampires, and the
like.

She sprang to a stop like a cornered deer as she saw him suddenly
blocking the path. She turned, then stopped and turned back slowly. Her
eyes were wide, cheeks flushed. Taut breasts rose and fell deeply, and
her hands were poised for flight.

But she wasn't looking at his face. Her gaze was on the blood
splattering his clothes.

He was breathing deeply too. His heart was swelling with exhilaration.
His blood flowed hotly. Something of the whirling ecstasy he had known
back in his student days as a track champion returned to him--the mad
bursting of the wind against him, the wild passion of the dash.

A burly figure came lurching after her down the path. A tramp,
evidently, from his filthy, smoke-sodden clothes and thick stubble of
beard. He recalled the trestle west of the forest where the bindlestiffs
from the Pacific Fruit line jungled up at nights, or during long
layovers. Sometimes they came into the forest.

He was big, fat and awkward. He was puffing and blowing, and he began to
groan as Doctor Spechaug's fists thudded into his flesh. The degenerate
fell to his knees, his broken face blowing out bloody air. Finally he
rolled over onto his side with a long sighing moan, lay limply, very
still. Doctor Spechaug's lips were thin, white, as he kicked savagely.
He heard a popping. The bum flopped sidewise into a pile of dripping
leaves.

He stepped back, looked at Edith Bailey. Her full red lips were moist
and gleaming. Her oddly opaque eyes glowed strangely at him. Her voice
was low, yet somehow, very intense.

"Wonderful laboratory demonstration, Doctor. But I don't think many of
your student embryos would appreciate it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Doctor Spechaug nodded, smiled gently. "No. An unorthodox case." He lit
a cigarette, and she took one. Their smoke mingled with the dissipating
morning mist. And he kept on staring at her. A pronounced sweater girl
with an intellect. This--he could have loved. He wondered if it were too
late.

Doctor Spechaug had never been in love. He wondered if he were now with
this fundamental archetypal beauty. "By the way," he was saying, "what
are you doing in this evil wood?"

Then she took his arm, very naturally, easily. They began walking slowly
along the cool, dim path.

"Two principal reasons. One, I like it here; I come here often. Two, I
knew you always walk along this path, always late for your eight o'clock
class. I've often watched you walking here. You walk beautifully."

He did not comment. It seemed unnecessary now.

"The morning's almost gone," she observed. "The sun will be out very
warm in a little while. I hate the sun."

On an impulse he said: "I'm going away. I've wanted to get out of this
obscene nest of provincial stupidity from the day I first came here. And
now I've decided to leave."

"What are you escaping from?"

He answered softly. "I don't know. Something Freudian, no doubt.
Something buried, buried deep. Something too distasteful to recognize."

She laughed. "I knew you were human and not the cynical
pseudo-intellectual you pretended to be. Disgusting, isn't it?"

"What?"

"Being human, I mean."

"I suppose so. I'm afraid we're getting an extraordinarily prejudiced
view. I can't help being a snob here. I despise and loathe peasants."

"And I," she admitted. "Which is merely to say, probably, that we loathe
all humanity."

"Tell me about yourself," he said finally.

"Gladly. I like doing that--to one who will understand. I'm nineteen. My
parents died in Hungary during the War. I came here to America to live
with my uncle. But by the time I got here he was dead, too. And he left
me no money, so there was no sense being grateful for his death. I got a
part-time job and finished high school in Chicago. I got a scholarship
to--this place." Her voice trailed off. She was staring at him.

"Hungary!" he said and repeated it. "Why--I came from Hungary!"

Her grip on his arm tightened. "I knew--somehow. I remember Hungary--its
ancient horror. My father inherited an ancient castle. I remember long
cold corridors and sticky dungeons, and cobwebbed rooms thick with dust.
My real name is Burhmann. I changed it because I thought Bailey more
American."

"Both from Hungary," mused Doctor Spechaug. "I remember very little of
Hungary. I came here when I was three. All I remember are the ignorant
peasants. Their dumb, blind superstition--their hatred for----"

"You're afraid of them, aren't you?" she said.

He started. "The peasants. I----" He shook his head. "Perhaps."

"You're afraid," she said. "Would you mind telling me, Doctor, how these
fears of yours manifest themselves?"

He hesitated; they walked. Finally he answered. "I've never told anyone
but you. There are hidden fears. And they reveal themselves consciously
in the absurd fear of seeing my own reflection. Of not seeing my shadow.
Of----"

She breathed sharply. She stopped walking, turned, stared at him.
"Not--not seeing your--reflection!"

He nodded.

"Not seeing your--shadow--!"

"Yes."

"And the full moon. A fear of the full moon, too?"

"But how did you know?"

"And you're allergic to certain metals, too. For instance--silver?"

He could only nod.

"And you go out in the night sometimes--and do things--but you don't
remember what?"

He nodded again.

Her eyes glowed brightly. "I know. I know. I've known those same
obsessions ever since I can remember."

Doctor Spechaug felt strangely uneasy then, a kind of dreadful
loneliness.

"Superstition," he said. "Our Old World background, where superstition
is the rule, old, very old superstition. Frightened by them when we were
young. Now those childhood fixations reveal themselves in crazy
symptoms."

He took off his coat, threw it into the brush. He rolled up his shirt
sleeves. No blood visible now. He should be able to catch the little
local passenger train out of Glen Oaks without any trouble. But why
should there be any trouble? The blood----

He thought too that he might have killed the tramp, that popping sound.

She seemed to sense his thoughts. She said quickly: "I'm going with you,
Doctor."

He said nothing. It seemed part of the inevitable pattern.

       *       *       *       *       *

They entered the town. Even for mid-morning the place was strangely
silent, damply hot, and still. The 'town' consisted of five blocks of
main street from which cow paths wound off aimlessly into fields, woods,
meadows and hills. There was always a few shuffling, dull-eyed people
lolling about in the dusty heat. Now there were no people at all.

As they crossed over toward the shady side, two freshly clothed kids ran
out of Davis' Filling Station, stared at them like vacant-eyed lambs,
then turned and spurted inside Ken Wanger's Shoe Hospital.

Doctor Spechaug turned his dark head. His companion apparently hadn't
noticed anything ominous or peculiar. But to him, the whole scene was
morose, fetid and brooding.

They walked down the cracked concrete walk, passed the big plate-glass
windows of Murphy's General Store which were a kind of fetish in Glen
Oaks. But Doctor Spechaug wasn't concerned with the cultural
significance of the windows. He was concerned with _not_ looking into
it.

And oddly, he never did look at himself in the glass, neither did he
look across the street. Though the glass did pull his gaze into it with
an implacable somewhat terrible insistence. And he stared. He stared at
that portion of the glass which was supposed to reflect Edith Bailey's
material self--_but didn't reflect anything. Not even a shadow._

They stopped. They turned slowly toward each other. He swallowed hard,
trembled slightly. And then he knew deep and dismal horror. He studied
that section of glass where her image was supposed to be. _It still
wasn't._

He turned. And she was still standing there. "Well?"

And then she said in a hoarse whisper: "_Your reflection--where is it?_"

And all he could say was: "And yours?"

Little bits of chuckling laughter echoed in the inchoate madness of his
suddenly whirling brain. Echoing years of lecture on--cause and effect,
logic. Little bits of chuckling laughter. He grabbed her arm.

"_We--we can see our own reflections, but we can't see each other's!_"

She shivered. Her face was terribly white. "What--what is the answer?"

No. He didn't have it figured out. Let the witches figure it out. Let
some old forbidden books do it. Bring the problem to some warlock. But
not to him. He was only a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. But
maybe--

"Hallucinations," he muttered faintly. "Negative hallucinations."

"Doctor. Did you ever hear the little joke about the two psychiatrists
who met one morning and one said, 'You're feeling excellent today. How
am I feeling?'"

He shrugged. "We have insight into each other's abnormality, but are
unaware of the same in ourselves."

"That's the whole basis for psychiatry, isn't it?"

"In a way. But this is physical--functional--when psychiatry presents
situation where--" His voice trailed off.

"I have it figured this way." How eager she was. Somehow, it didn't
matter much now, to him. "We're conditioned to react to reality in
certain accepted ways. For instance that we're supposed to see our
shadows. So we see them. But in our case they were never really there to
see. Our sanity or 'normalcy' is maintained that way. But the constant
auto-illusion must always lead to neuroticism and pathology--the hidden
fears. But these fears must express themselves. So they do so in more
socially acceptable ways."

Her voice suddenly dropped as her odd eyes flickered across the street.
"But we see each other as we really are," she whispered tensely. "Though
we could never have recognized the truth in ourselves."

She pointed stiffly. Her mouth gaped, quivered slightly.

He turned slowly. His mouth twitched with a growing terrible hatred.
They were coming for him now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four men with rifles were coming toward him. Stealthily creeping, they
were, as though it were some pristine scene with caves in the
background. They were bent slightly, stalking. Hunters and hunted, and
the law of the wild and two of them stopping in the middle of the
street. The other two branched, circled, came at him from either side,
clumping down the walk. George recognized them all. The town marshal,
Bill Conway, and Mike Lash, Harry Hutchinson, and Dwight Farrigon.

Edith Bailey was backed up against the window. Her eyes were strangely
dilated. But the faces of the four men exuded cold animal hate, and
blood-lust.

Edith Bailey's lips said faintly, "What--what are we going to do?"

He felt so calm. He felt his lips writhe back in a snarl. The wind
tingled on his teeth. "I know now," he said. "I know about the minutes I
lost. I know why they're after me. You'd better get away."

"But why the--the guns?"

"I murdered my wife. She served me greasy eggs. God--she was an
animal--just a dumb beast!"

Conway called, his rifle crooked in easy promising grace. "All right,
Doc. Come on along without any trouble. Though I'd just as soon you made
a break. I'd like to shoot you dead, Doctor."

"And what have I done, exactly," said Doctor Spechaug.

"He's hog-wild," yelled Mike Lash. "Cuttin' her all up that way! Let's
string 'em up!" Conway yelled something about a "fair trial," though not
with much enthusiasm.

Edith screamed as they charged toward them. A wild, inhuman cry.

Doctor Spechaug's eyes flashed up the narrow street.

"Let's go!" he said to Edith Bailey. "They'll see running they've never
seen before. They can't touch us."

They ran. They heard the sharp crack of rifles. They saw the dust
spurting up. Doctor Spechaug heard himself howling as he became aware of
peculiar stings in his body. Queer, painless, deeply penetrating
sensations that made themselves felt all over his body--as though he was
awakening from a long paralysis.

Then the mad yelling faded rapidly behind them. They were running,
streaking out of the town with inhuman speed. They struck out in long
easy strides across the meadow toward the dense woods that brooded
beyond the college.

Her voice gasped exultingly. "They couldn't hurt us! They couldn't! They
tried!"

He nodded, straining eagerly toward he knew not what, nosing into the
fresh wind. How swiftly and gracefully they could run. Soon they lost
themselves in the thick dark forest. Shadows hid them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Days later the moon was full. It edged over the low hill flanking Glen
Oaks on the east. June bugs buzzed ponderously like armor-plated dragons
toward the lights glowing faintly from the town. Frogs croaked from the
swampy meadows and the creek.

They came up slowly to stand silhouetted against the glowing moon,
nosing hungrily into the steady, aromatic breeze blowing from the Conway
farm below.

They glided effortlessly down, then across the sharp-bladed marsh grass,
leaping high with each bound. As they came disdainfully close to the
silent farm house, a column of pale light from a coal oil lamp came
through the living room window and haloed a neglected flower bed. Sorrow
and fear clung to the house.

The shivering shadow of a gaunt woman was etched against the half drawn
shade. The two standing outside the window called. The woman's shadow
trembled.

Then a long rigid finger of steel projected itself beneath the partially
raised window. The rifle cracked almost against the faces of the two. He
screamed hideously as his companion dropped without a sound, twitching,
twitching--he screamed again and began dragging himself away toward the
sheltering forest. Intently and desperately the rifle cracked again.

He gave up then.

He sprawled out flatly on the cool, damp, moon-bathed path. His hot
tongue lapped feverishly at the wet grass. He felt the persistent impact
of the rifle's breath against him, and now there was a wave of pain. The
full moon was fading into black mental clouds as he feebly attempted to
lift his bleeding head.

He thought with agonized irony:

"Provincial fools. Stupid, superstitious idiots ... and that damned Mrs.
Conway--the most stupid of all. _Only she would have thought to load her
dead husband's rifle with silver bullets!_ Damned peasants----"

Total darkness blotted out futile revery.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantasy Book_ Vol. 1 Number 1 (1947).
    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, whilst
    variant spellings remain as printed.





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