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´╗┐Title: Come into my parlor
Author: Fritch, Charles E.
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 "Come into my parlor" ***


                          COME INTO MY PARLOR

                         BY CHARLES E. FRITCH

                         ILLUSTRATED BY ORBAN

            Sober or drunk, Johnny was seeing things. Like
           spider webs in the night sky. But as a newspaper
           reporter, Bennet had the job of keeping facts and
           fancies separate. He was good at that--too good!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
          Science Fiction Adventures Magazine, February 1953.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


I found Johnny a few blocks from our hotel in a little bar that was
nearly deserted. He was sitting alone at a table in a dark corner,
staring morosely at nothing in particular, his hand limp around an
almost-empty glass. He seemed perfectly sober, though his eyes stared
glassily ahead.

I sat down beside him. "What do you say we go back to the hotel,
Johnny? Tomorrow's another slave day."

His eyes shifted to me and then back to nothing. I wondered if he had
actually seen me.

"We can talk about it over some coffee and a bit to eat."

I suggested, placing my hand on his arm.

"Go to hell," he said quietly and shook me loose. He lifted his glass,
drained the last few drops. He held the empty glass to the light, then
set it down, regretfully. "But first buy me a drink."

"You'd better go home," I said. "You've had enough."

He laughed harshly. "Look who's giving me orders. I know things about
this cock-eyed old world you never had nightmares about, and you're
ordering me around! Bossy newspapermen! Go to hell, then; I'll get my
own drink."

He rose unsteadily and managed his way to the bar. He came back with
the glass full.

"You still here. I thought I told you--"

"You'd better lay off that stuff," I said quietly. "You're not used to
it."

"Boy, oh boy, you're just full of orders today, aren't you? Charlie
Bennet, boy crusader! Well, I've got something you can crusade about.
Anything else you'd like?"

"That's enough for now."

"You're damn right it is. Now get the hell out of here and leave me
alone. Can't you see I'm brooding over the fate of the world?"

"What are you so mad about?"

He looked annoyed, and a little startled. "Brother, if you only knew--"
He raised his glass, and then stopped and set it on the table. "Wait a
minute. Maybe I ought to tell you. Maybe I ought to let the two of us
worry about it, instead of just me. Maybe you should print it in that
newspaper of yours."

"I'm willing to listen, anyway."

"Sure! Why not? I'm just beginning to experience that rosy sensation,
that warm feeling of camaraderie they keep stoppered up in bottles.
It's the only place on this planet you can find it."

"Don't be cynical."

"Maybe I should bust out laughing. The whole thing's really funny; it's
the funniest thing I've ever heard."

"We'd better go."

"Sure, let's go. But first--you want to see something really funny?
Here."

       *       *       *       *       *

He took a pair of glasses from his pocket and handed them to me. They
seemed like ordinary shell-rimmed glasses, though the lenses were
tinted a slight blue.

"Put them on," he prompted. "Go ahead."

"Where'd you get these?"

"Made 'em," he said. "My job is optical research, remember. I was
fooling around in the lab with some invisible light experiments. The
right combination of lenses and coatings--and whammo! This." He took
a drink. "I should have been a lawyer or a plumber or something." He
grunted. "Or even a newspaperman!"

"What are they supposed to do--see in the dark?"

He laughed humorlessly. "That'd be a boon for a reporter, wouldn't it?
No, my friend, much worse than that. Try them on. Go ahead."

I did. "Well?"

"Notice anything peculiar?"

"The coating makes everything here seem bluish--maybe even unearthly,
if that's what you want--but--"

"C'mon outside, then," he said. This time he took my arm and steered me
from the bar. I was glad of the opportunity to get him into the night
air.

"Look at the sky," he directed. "See anything unusual?" He stood
waiting, expectant.

"I see stars," I said. "Nothing unusual about that, is there?"

"Stars! Only stars?" His voice had lost its tinge of sarcasm. His
fingers were tight on my arm. "Look, across the sky, see those luminous
bands? All across the sky. Like a giant spider web."

I looked again. After awhile, I said, "Sorry, Johnny, but there aren't
any luminous bands, spider webs or otherwise. I think we'd better get
to the room. A good night's rest--"

"Wait a minute," he cried suddenly, his face pale. "You think I'm
drunk--or worse. I tell you there _is_ something up there. Shining
streamers crisscrossing the sky, like--like--"

"There's nothing, Johnny. Only stars."

I took the glasses off. He made a quick grab for them and somehow they
fell to the pavement and shattered.

For a moment, Johnny stared at the glittering fragments, his jaws
working. "You've broken them," he accused finally, his eyes filled more
with sudden despair than hatred. "It took weeks to build them."

"It was an accident," I told him. "But it's just as well they are
broken. I tell you, Johnny, there's nothing unusual in the sky. Nothing
at all. Spider webs! Next you'll be seeing pink elephants."

Johnny stood in the cool night and stared at the sky. "They're up
there, I tell you. They're up there, and I want to know why. And
there's one thing I want to know more than anything else; suppose
they're really spider webs--" His face was deathly white. "Are there
spiders?"

He stared at me insanely in the darkness. "Do you realize what that
would mean, Charlie? Giant spiders, invisible, roaming across the
Earth!" His fingers were digging into my arm again.

"Johnny, come out of it," I snapped, shaking him. "There is no web in
the sky, you hear me? And there aren't any spiders, either. It's just
some crazy figment of your imagination. That's all."

"But just suppose there are," he persisted, a little wildly.
"Maybe--maybe it's not just the glasses. Maybe it's partly me, too;
maybe I'm the only one who can see them; maybe that's why you didn't
see the web. Maybe--"

"Johnny, be sensible! If there were such monsters roaming around, don't
you think they'd have been discovered by now?"

"I don't know," he said, helplessly. "I don't know, and it's driving
me crazy. You've probably wondered why I haven't slept very well for
the past couple of weeks; well, that's the reason. I didn't want to say
anything. I hardly dared put the glasses on, I was so afraid. Not of
being thought crazy, but--but afraid of what _they_ might do if they
knew they were discovered."

"Look, Johnny. Even supposing you might be right, why wouldn't they
show themselves? Why just stay up in the sky in a large web?"

"Maybe they're sizing us up," Johnny said, trembling but not with cold.
"After all, we've got a few weapons, too. Maybe a machine gun or an
atomic bomb can hurt them, as well as humans."

"Unless they're here for some good?" I suggested.

Johnny laughed. "Spiders? Maybe they're hungry--and they think we're a
bunch of flies down here. That's more likely."

"Isn't this--rather fantastic?"

"Of course it is. Why do you suppose I've been keeping quiet about
it for the past two weeks? Why do you suppose I'm out trying to get
drunk?" He added disgustedly: "I can't even do that."

"C'mon," I said, "let's go to the room and we'll have some coffee. We
can talk about it there."

"Sure," he said, and his voice was suddenly subdued. "Sure, why not?"

We went to the hotel room and I made some coffee, being careful to
slip enough sleeping tablets in Johnny's cup. In a few minutes he was
sprawled across the bed.

I went to the window and looked at the glowing beads of traffic below.
I looked at the sky--at the stars. Spiders in the sky; what a story
that would make. The editor'd slap me in the booby hatch if I ever
handed in a who-what-when-where like that.

When I left for work the next morning, Johnny was still snoozing. Let
him sleep it off. Do him good. He'd been working too hard at the lab,
anyhow.

I couldn't get back to the hotel room that morning, though I wanted to
see if Johnny was okay. I was pretty busy writing a human interest yarn
kidding the pants off some astronomer's notion that light waves coming
from certain portions of the sky were being deflected or refracted
slightly for no discernible reason.

The amount of difference was microscopic, and I wrote it up to
emphasize its ridiculous splitting of hairs and the fact that you can't
take some of these crackpots seriously. Here the world is on the verge
of coming apart at the seams, and they worry about wayward light rays.

During the afternoon, I managed to drop into the hotel to see if Johnny
had slept off the liquor and the sleeping tablets. He had, and he was
sitting on the edge of the bed, looking grim--and a little perplexed.

"How ya feeling, Johnny?" I said.

"Great," he said, though he didn't sound it. "Things seem a lot clearer
this morning."

"Good. I thought they would. You know, you really had me going last
night. I thought you meant all that stuff, but I guess imagination and
a few beers can do a lot."

"Cut the kidding," he said grimly.

"What?"

"I said, cut it. I'm not in the mood."

"Now what's the matter?"

"This," he said. He held up a pair of glasses, twins to those destroyed.

"But--how could you have made another set? You haven't been near the
lab today."

"When I first discovered this web business, I made two pair of glasses.
I figured two people could do something about it a whole lot easier
than just one. But I was afraid to let anyone in on it. I thought maybe
I _was_ batty."

"So?"

"I made this pair for you. For you, Charlie, so you could write the
stuff up in your paper to let people know. That's a laugh, isn't it?"

"Say--that's swell. But--"

"Stand back!" Johnny cried suddenly, as I started to move toward him.
He snatched a gun from beneath a pillow and waved it threateningly.
"Know what I was doing this afternoon before you came in?"

"Johnny, this is crazy! Put down that gun and listen to reason."

"I had the glasses on," he continued, "and I was looking out the window
here. I'm getting real brave--even in broad daylight--but there comes
a time when you just don't care. I saw _spiders_ in the streets. Huge
spiders walking along the streets, mingling with human beings. And
get this, Charlie--when I took the glasses off, they were like human
beings. Like humans, you understand. You know what that means? They're
in disguise all around us!"

"That's not true, Johnny," I insisted. "There are no webs in the sky.
There are _no_ spiders. It's your imagination. The strain. Working in
the lab--"

"No," he cried, and the gun never wavered. "You know what else I saw? A
few minutes ago. I was looking down into the street, and a spider got
out of a car just in front of the hotel here and started coming in. I
took off the glasses to see if it might be someone I knew."

He began to laugh hysterically. "You know who it was, Charlie--"

I leaped forward, trying to knock the gun down. But Johnny's hand came
up, and the gun jumped, spurting noise and flame. The bullet slammed
into my body.

Desperately, I drove forward. My arms went around him. The gun went
off again, before I could prevent it. A furrow of pain shot across my
stomach, and I shrieked out in sudden anguish.

"Johnny, Johnny. Stop it. Stop!"

I struck his hand. The gun clattered to the floor. He was struggling
frantically, striking out against me with doubled fists. His shirt was
splattered with my blood. He gasped, clearing his lungs for a scream.

There was nothing else I could do. The life was draining from me.

I held his arms and legs together and tried not to look into the
terrified expression crossing his face. I held him tightly while he
squirmed in helpless frustration.

And with my two remaining arms I strangled him!



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Come into my parlor" ***

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