Tag Archives: scifi

Text of The Crystal Egg from Tales of Space and Time by H.G. Wells

crystal-82296__480

There was, until a year ago, a little and very grimy-looking shop near Seven Dials, over which, in weather-worn yellow lettering, the name of “C. Cave, Naturalist and Dealer in Antiquities,” was inscribed. The contents of its window were curiously variegated. They comprised some elephant tusks and an imperfect set of chessmen, beads and weapons, a box of eyes, two skulls of tigers and one human, several moth-eaten stuffed monkeys (one holding a lamp), an old-fashioned cabinet, a flyblown ostrich egg or so, some fishing-tackle, and an extraordinarily dirty, empty glass fish-tank. There was also, at the moment the story begins, a mass of crystal, worked into the shape of an egg and brilliantly polished. And at that two people, who stood outside the window, were looking, one of them a tall, thin clergyman, the other a black-bearded young man of dusky complexion and unobtrusive costume. The dusky young man spoke with eager gesticulation, and seemed anxious for his companion to purchase the article.

While they were there, Mr. Cave came into his shop, his beard still wagging with the bread and butter of his tea. When he saw these men and the object of their regard, his countenance fell. He glanced guiltily over his shoulder, and softly shut the door. He was a little old man, with pale face and peculiar watery blue eyes; his hair was a dirty grey, and he wore a shabby blue frock coat, an ancient silk hat, and carpet slippers very much down at heel. He remained watching the two men as they talked. The clergyman went deep into his trouser pocket, examined a handful of money, and showed his teeth in an agreeable smile. Mr. Cave seemed still more depressed when they came into the shop.

The clergyman, without any ceremony, asked the price of the crystal egg. Mr. Cave glanced nervously towards the door leading into the parlour, and said five pounds. The clergyman protested that the price was high, to his companion as well as to Mr. Cave—it was, indeed, very much more than Mr. Cave had intended to ask, when he had stocked the article—and an attempt at bargaining ensued. Mr. Cave stepped to the shop-door, and held it open. “Five pounds is my price,” he said, as though he wished to save himself the trouble of unprofitable discussion. As he did so, the upper portion of a woman’s face appeared above the blind in the glass upper panel of the door leading into the parlour, and stared curiously at the two customers. “Five pounds is my price,” said Mr. Cave, with a quiver in his voice.

The swarthy young man had so far remained a spectator, watching Cave keenly. Now he spoke. “Give him five pounds,” he said. The clergyman glanced at him to see if he were in earnest, and, when he looked at Mr. Cave again, he saw that the latter’s face was white. “It’s a lot of money,” said the clergyman, and, diving into his pocket, began counting his resources. He had little more than thirty shillings, and he appealed to his companion, with whom he seemed to be on terms of considerable intimacy. This gave Mr. Cave an opportunity of collecting his thoughts, and he began to explain in an agitated manner that the crystal was not, as a matter of fact, entirely free for sale. His two customers were naturally surprised at this, and inquired why he had not thought of that before he began to bargain. Mr. Cave became confused, but he stuck to his story, that the crystal was not in the market that afternoon, that a probable purchaser of it had already appeared. The two, treating this as an attempt to raise the price still further, made as if they would leave the shop. But at this point the parlour door opened, and the owner of the dark fringe and the little eyes appeared.

She was a coarse-featured, corpulent woman, younger and very much larger than Mr. Cave; she walked heavily, and her face was flushed. “That crystal is for sale,” she said. “And five pounds is a good enough price for it. I can’t think what you’re about, Cave, not to take the gentleman’s offer!”

Mr. Cave, greatly perturbed by the irruption, looked angrily at her over the rims of his spectacles, and, without excessive assurance, asserted his right to manage his business in his own way. An altercation began. The two customers watched the scene with interest and some amusement, occasionally assisting Mrs. Cave with suggestions. Mr. Cave, hard driven, persisted in a confused and impossible story of an enquiry for the crystal that morning, and his agitation became painful. But he stuck to his point with extraordinary persistence. It was the young Oriental who ended this curious controversy. He proposed that they should call again in the course of two days—so as to give the alleged enquirer a fair chance. “And then we must insist,” said the clergyman, “Five pounds.” Mrs. Cave took it on herself to apologise for her husband, explaining that he was sometimes “a little odd,” and as the two customers left, the couple prepared for a free discussion of the incident in all its bearings.

Mrs. Cave talked to her husband with singular directness. The poor little man, quivering with emotion, muddled himself between his stories, maintaining on the one hand that he had another customer in view, and on the other asserting that the crystal was honestly worth ten guineas. “Why did you ask five pounds?” said his wife. “Do let me manage my business my own way!” said Mr. Cave.

Mr. Cave had living with him a step-daughter and a step-son, and at supper that night the transaction was re-discussed. None of them had a high opinion of Mr. Cave’s business methods, and this action seemed a culminating folly.

“It’s my opinion he’s refused that crystal before,” said the step-son, a loose-limbed lout of eighteen.

“But Five Pounds!” said the step-daughter, an argumentative young woman of six-and-twenty.

Mr. Cave’s answers were wretched; he could only mumble weak assertions that he knew his own business best. They drove him from his half-eaten supper into the shop, to close it for the night, his ears aflame and tears of vexation behind his spectacles. “Why had he left the crystal in the window so long? The folly of it!” That was the trouble closest in his mind. For a time he could see no way of evading sale.

After supper his step-daughter and step-son smartened themselves up and went out and his wife retired upstairs to reflect upon the business aspects of the crystal, over a little sugar and lemon and so forth in hot water. Mr. Cave went into the shop, and stayed there until late, ostensibly to make ornamental rockeries for goldfish cases but really for a private purpose that will be better explained later. The next day Mrs. Cave found that the crystal had been removed from the window, and was lying behind some second-hand books on angling. She replaced it in a conspicuous position. But she did not argue further about it, as a nervous headache disinclined her from debate. Mr. Cave was always disinclined. The day passed disagreeably, Mr. Cave was, if anything, more absent-minded than usual, and uncommonly irritable withal. In the afternoon, when his wife was taking her customary sleep, he removed the crystal from the window again.

The next day Mr. Cave had to deliver a consignment of dog-fish at one of the hospital schools, where they were needed for dissection. In his absence Mrs. Cave’s mind reverted to the topic of the crystal, and the methods of expenditure suitable to a windfall of five pounds. She had already devised some very agreeable expedients, among others a dress of green silk for herself and a trip to Richmond, when a jangling of the front door bell summoned her into the shop. The customer was an examination coach who came to complain of the non-delivery of certain frogs asked for the previous day. Mrs. Cave did not approve of this particular branch of Mr. Cave’s business, and the gentleman, who had called in a somewhat aggressive mood, retired after a brief exchange of words—entirely civil so far as he was concerned. Mrs. Cave’s eye then naturally turned to the window; for the sight of the crystal was an assurance of the five pounds and of her dreams. What was her surprise to find it gone!

She went to the place behind the locker on the counter, where she had discovered it the day before. It was not there; and she immediately began an eager search about the shop.

When Mr. Cave returned from his business with the dog-fish, about a quarter to two in the afternoon, he found the shop in some confusion, and his wife, extremely exasperated and on her knees behind the counter, routing among his taxidermic material. Her face came up hot and angry over the counter, as the jangling bell announced his return, and she forthwith accused him of “hiding it.”

“Hid what?” asked Mr. Cave.

“The crystal!”

At that Mr. Cave, apparently much surprised, rushed to the window. “Isn’t it here?” he said. “Great Heavens! what has become of it?”

Just then, Mr. Cave’s step-son re-entered the shop from the inner room—he had come home a minute or so before Mr. Cave—and he was blaspheming freely. He was apprenticed to a second-hand furniture dealer down the road, but he had his meals at home, and he was naturally annoyed to find no dinner ready.

But, when he heard of the loss of the crystal, he forgot his meal, and his anger was diverted from his mother to his step-father. Their first idea, of course, was that he had hidden it. But Mr. Cave stoutly denied all knowledge of its fate—freely offering his bedabbled affidavit in the matter—and at last was worked up to the point of accusing, first, his wife and then his step-son of having taken it with a view to a private sale. So began an exceedingly acrimonious and emotional discussion, which ended for Mrs. Cave in a peculiar nervous condition midway between hysterics and amuck, and caused the step-son to be half-an-hour late at the furniture establishment in the afternoon. Mr. Cave took refuge from his wife’s emotions in the shop.

In the evening the matter was resumed, with less passion and in a judicial spirit, under the presidency of the step-daughter. The supper passed unhappily and culminated in a painful scene. Mr. Cave gave way at last to extreme exasperation, and went out banging the front door violently. The rest of the family, having discussed him with the freedom his absence warranted, hunted the house from garret to cellar, hoping to light upon the crystal.

The next day the two customers called again. They were received by Mrs. Cave almost in tears. It transpired that no one could imagine all that she had stood from Cave at various times in her married pilgrimage…. She also gave a garbled account of the disappearance. The clergyman and the Oriental laughed silently at one another, and said it was very extraordinary. As Mrs. Cave seemed disposed to give them the complete history of her life they made to leave the shop. Thereupon Mrs. Cave, still clinging to hope, asked for the clergyman’s address, so that, if she could get anything out of Cave, she might communicate it. The address was duly given, but apparently was afterwards mislaid. Mrs. Cave can remember nothing about it.

In the evening of that day, the Caves seem to have exhausted their emotions, and Mr. Cave, who had been out in the afternoon, supped in a gloomy isolation that contrasted pleasantly with the impassioned controversy of the previous days. For some time matters were very badly strained in the Cave household, but neither crystal nor customer reappeared.

Now, without mincing the matter, we must admit that Mr. Cave was a liar. He knew perfectly well where the crystal was. It was in the rooms of Mr. Jacoby Wace, Assistant Demonstrator at St. Catherine’s Hospital, Westbourne Street. It stood on the sideboard partially covered by a black velvet cloth, and beside a decanter of American whisky. It is from Mr. Wace, indeed, that the particulars upon which this narrative is based were derived. Cave had taken off the thing to the hospital hidden in the dog-fish sack, and there had pressed the young investigator to keep it for him. Mr. Wace was a little dubious at first. His relationship to Cave was peculiar. He had a taste for singular characters, and he had more than once invited the old man to smoke and drink in his rooms, and to unfold his rather amusing views of life in general and of his wife in particular. Mr. Wace had encountered Mrs. Cave, too, on occasions when Mr. Cave was not at home to attend to him. He knew the constant interference to which Cave was subjected, and having weighed the story judicially, he decided to give the crystal a refuge. Mr. Cave promised to explain the reasons for his remarkable affection for the crystal more fully on a later occasion, but he spoke distinctly of seeing visions therein. He called on Mr. Wace the same evening.

He told a complicated story. The crystal he said had come into his possession with other oddments at the forced sale of another curiosity dealer’s effects, and not knowing what its value might be, he had ticketed it at ten shillings. It had hung upon his hands at that price for some months, and he was thinking of “reducing the figure,” when he made a singular discovery.

At that time his health was very bad—and it must be borne in mind that, throughout all this experience, his physical condition was one of ebb—and he was in considerable distress by reason of the negligence, the positive ill-treatment even, he received from his wife and step-children. His wife was vain, extravagant, unfeeling, and had a growing taste for private drinking; his step-daughter was mean and over-reaching; and his step-son had conceived a violent dislike for him, and lost no chance of showing it. The requirements of his business pressed heavily upon him, and Mr. Wace does not think that he was altogether free from occasional intemperance. He had begun life in a comfortable position, he was a man of fair education, and he suffered, for weeks at a stretch, from melancholia and insomnia. Afraid to disturb his family, he would slip quietly from his wife’s side, when his thoughts became intolerable, and wander about the house. And about three o’clock one morning, late in August, chance directed him into the shop.

The dirty little place was impenetrably black except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual glow of light. Approaching this, he discovered it to be the crystal egg, which was standing on the corner of the counter towards the window. A thin ray smote through a crack in the shutters, impinged upon the object, and seemed as it were to fill its entire interior.

It occurred to Mr. Cave that this was not in accordance with the laws of optics as he had known them in his younger days. He could understand the rays being refracted by the crystal and coming to a focus in its interior, but this diffusion jarred with his physical conceptions. He approached the crystal nearly, peering into it and round it, with a transient revival of the scientific curiosity that in his youth had determined his choice of a calling. He was surprised to find the light not steady, but writhing within the substance of the egg, as though that object was a hollow sphere of some luminous vapour. In moving about to get different points of view, he suddenly found that he had come between it and the ray, and that the crystal none the less remained luminous. Greatly astonished, he lifted it out of the light ray and carried it to the darkest part of the shop. It remained bright for some four or five minutes, when it slowly faded and went out. He placed it in the thin streak of daylight, and its luminousness was almost immediately restored.

So far, at least, Mr. Wace was able to verify the remarkable story of Mr. Cave. He has himself repeatedly held this crystal in a ray of light (which had to be of a less diameter than one millimetre). And in a perfect darkness, such as could be produced by velvet wrapping, the crystal did undoubtedly appear very faintly phosphorescent. It would seem, however, that the luminousness was of some exceptional sort, and not equally visible to all eyes; for Mr. Harbinger—whose name will be familiar to the scientific reader in connection with the Pasteur Institute—was quite unable to see any light whatever. And Mr. Wace’s own capacity for its appreciation was out of comparison inferior to that of Mr. Cave’s. Even with Mr. Cave the power varied very considerably: his vision was most vivid during states of extreme weakness and fatigue.

Now, from the outset this light in the crystal exercised a curious fascination upon Mr. Cave. And it says more for his loneliness of soul than a volume of pathetic writing could do, that he told no human being of his curious observations. He seems to have been living in such an atmosphere of petty spite that to admit the existence of a pleasure would have been to risk the loss of it. He found that as the dawn advanced, and the amount of diffused light increased, the crystal became to all appearance non-luminous. And for some time he was unable to see anything in it, except at night-time, in dark corners of the shop.

But the use of an old velvet cloth, which he used as a background for a collection of minerals, occurred to him, and by doubling this, and putting it over his head and hands, he was able to get a sight of the luminous movement within the crystal even in the daytime. He was very cautious lest he should be thus discovered by his wife, and he practised this occupation only in the afternoons, while she was asleep upstairs, and then circumspectly in a hollow under the counter. And one day, turning the crystal about in his hands, he saw something. It came and went like a flash, but it gave him the impression that the object had for a moment opened to him the view of a wide and spacious and strange country; and, turning it about, he did, just as the light faded, see the same vision again.

Now, it would be tedious and unnecessary to state all the phases of Mr. Cave’s discovery from this point. Suffice that the effect was this: the crystal, being peered into at an angle of about 137 degrees from the direction of the illuminating ray, gave a clear and consistent picture of a wide and peculiar countryside. It was not dream-like at all: it produced a definite impression of reality, and the better the light the more real and solid it seemed. It was a moving picture: that is to say, certain objects moved in it, but slowly in an orderly manner like real things, and, according as the direction of the lighting and vision changed, the picture changed also. It must, indeed, have been like looking through an oval glass at a view, and turning the glass about to get at different aspects.

Mr. Cave’s statements, Mr. Wace assures me, were extremely circumstantial, and entirely free from any of that emotional quality that taints hallucinatory impressions. But it must be remembered that all the efforts of Mr. Wace to see any similar clarity in the faint opalescence of the crystal were wholly unsuccessful, try as he would. The difference in intensity of the impressions received by the two men was very great, and it is quite conceivable that what was a view to Mr. Cave was a mere blurred nebulosity to Mr. Wace.

The view, as Mr. Cave described it, was invariably of an extensive plain, and he seemed always to be looking at it from a considerable height, as if from a tower or a mast. To the east and to the west the plain was bounded at a remote distance by vast reddish cliffs, which reminded him of those he had seen in some picture; but what the picture was Mr. Wace was unable to ascertain. These cliffs passed north and south—he could tell the points of the compass by the stars that were visible of a night—receding in an almost illimitable perspective and fading into the mists of the distance before they met. He was nearer the eastern set of cliffs, on the occasion of his first vision the sun was rising over them, and black against the sunlight and pale against their shadow appeared a multitude of soaring forms that Mr. Cave regarded as birds. A vast range of buildings spread below him; he seemed to be looking down upon them; and, as they approached the blurred and refracted edge of the picture, they became indistinct. There were also trees curious in shape, and in colouring, a deep mossy green and an exquisite grey, beside a wide and shining canal. And something great and brilliantly coloured flew across the picture. But the first time Mr. Cave saw these pictures he saw only in flashes, his hands shook, his head moved, the vision came and went, and grew foggy and indistinct. And at first he had the greatest difficulty in finding the picture again once the direction of it was lost.

His next clear vision, which came about a week after the first, the interval having yielded nothing but tantalising glimpses and some useful experience, showed him the view down the length of the valley. The view was different, but he had a curious persuasion, which his subsequent observations abundantly confirmed, that he was regarding this strange world from exactly the same spot, although he was looking in a different direction. The long façade of the great building, whose roof he had looked down upon before, was now receding in perspective. He recognised the roof. In the front of the façade was a terrace of massive proportions and extraordinary length, and down the middle of the terrace, at certain intervals, stood huge but very graceful masts, bearing small shiny objects which reflected the setting sun. The import of these small objects did not occur to Mr. Cave until some time after, as he was describing the scene to Mr. Wace. The terrace overhung a thicket of the most luxuriant and graceful vegetation, and beyond this was a wide grassy lawn on which certain broad creatures, in form like beetles but enormously larger, reposed. Beyond this again was a richly decorated causeway of pinkish stone; and beyond that, and lined with dense red weeds, and passing up the valley exactly parallel with the distant cliffs, was a broad and mirror-like expanse of water. The air seemed full of squadrons of great birds, maneuvring in stately curves; and across the river was a multitude of splendid buildings, richly coloured and glittering with metallic tracery and facets, among a forest of moss-like and lichenous trees. And suddenly something flapped repeatedly across the vision, like the fluttering of a jewelled fan or the beating of a wing, and a face, or rather the upper part of a face with very large eyes, came as it were close to his own and as if on the other side of the crystal. Mr. Cave was so startled and so impressed by the absolute reality of these eyes, that he drew his head back from the crystal to look behind it. He had become so absorbed in watching that he was quite surprised to find himself in the cool darkness of his little shop, with its familiar odour of methyl, mustiness, and decay. And, as he blinked about him, the glowing crystal faded, and went out.

Such were the first general impressions of Mr. Cave. The story is curiously direct and circumstantial. From the outset, when the valley first flashed momentarily on his senses, his imagination was strangely affected, and, as he began to appreciate the details of the scene he saw, his wonder rose to the point of a passion. He went about his business listless and distraught, thinking only of the time when he should be able to return to his watching. And then a few weeks after his first sight of the valley came the two customers, the stress and excitement of their offer, and the narrow escape of the crystal from sale, as I have already told.

Now, while the thing was Mr. Cave’s secret, it remained a mere wonder, a thing to creep to covertly and peep at, as a child might peep upon a forbidden garden. But Mr. Wace has, for a young scientific investigator, a particularly lucid and consecutive habit of mind. Directly the crystal and its story came to him, and he had satisfied himself, by seeing the phosphorescence with his own eyes, that there really was a certain evidence for Mr. Cave’s statements, he proceeded to develop the matter systematically. Mr. Cave was only too eager to come and feast his eyes on this wonderland he saw, and he came every night from half-past eight until half-past ten, and sometimes, in Mr. Wace’s absence, during the day. On Sunday afternoons, also, he came. From the outset Mr. Wace made copious notes, and it was due to his scientific method that the relation between the direction from which the initiating ray entered the crystal and the orientation of the picture were proved. And, by covering the crystal in a box perforated only with a small aperture to admit the exciting ray, and by substituting black holland for his buff blinds, he greatly improved the conditions of the observations; so that in a little while they were able to survey the valley in any direction they desired.

So having cleared the way, we may give a brief account of this visionary world within the crystal. The things were in all cases seen by Mr. Cave, and the method of working was invariably for him to watch the crystal and report what he saw, while Mr. Wace (who as a science student had learnt the trick of writing in the dark) wrote a brief note of his report. When the crystal faded, it was put into its box in the proper position and the electric light turned on. Mr. Wace asked questions, and suggested observations to clear up difficult points. Nothing, indeed, could have been less visionary and more matter-of-fact.

The attention of Mr. Cave had been speedily directed to the bird-like creatures he had seen so abundantly present in each of his earlier visions. His first impression was soon corrected, and he considered for a time that they might represent a diurnal species of bat. Then he thought, grotesquely enough, that they might be cherubs. Their heads were round, and curiously human, and it was the eyes of one of them that had so startled him on his second observation. They had broad, silvery wings, not feathered, but glistening almost as brilliantly as new-killed fish and with the same subtle play of colour, and these wings were not built on the plan of bird-wing or bat, Mr. Wace learned, but supported by curved ribs radiating from the body. (A sort of butterfly wing with curved ribs seems best to express their appearance.) The body was small, but fitted with two bunches of prehensile organs, like long tentacles, immediately under the mouth. Incredible as it appeared to Mr. Wace, the persuasion at last became irresistible, that it was these creatures which owned the great quasi-human buildings and the magnificent garden that made the broad valley so splendid. And Mr. Cave perceived that the buildings, with other peculiarities, had no doors, but that the great circular windows, which opened freely, gave the creatures egress and entrance. They would alight upon their tentacles, fold their wings to a smallness almost rod-like, and hop into the interior. But among them was a multitude of smaller-winged creatures, like great dragon-flies and moths and flying beetles, and across the greensward brilliantly-coloured gigantic ground-beetles crawled lazily to and fro. Moreover, on the causeways and terraces, large-headed creatures similar to the greater winged flies, but wingless, were visible, hopping busily upon their hand-like tangle of tentacles.

Allusion has already been made to the glittering objects upon masts that stood upon the terrace of the nearer building. It dawned upon Mr. Cave, after regarding one of these masts very fixedly on one particularly vivid day, that the glittering object there was a crystal exactly like that into which he peered. And a still more careful scrutiny convinced him that each one in a vista of nearly twenty carried a similar object.

Occasionally one of the large flying creatures would flutter up to one, and, folding its wings and coiling a number of its tentacles about the mast, would regard the crystal fixedly for a space,—sometimes for as long as fifteen minutes. And a series of observations, made at the suggestion of Mr. Wace, convinced both watchers that, so far as this visionary world was concerned, the crystal into which they peered actually stood at the summit of the endmost mast on the terrace, and that on one occasion at least one of these inhabitants of this other world had looked into Mr. Cave’s face while he was making these observations.

So much for the essential facts of this very singular story. Unless we dismiss it all as the ingenious fabrication of Mr. Wace, we have to believe one of two things: either that Mr. Cave’s crystal was in two worlds at once, and that, while it was carried about in one, it remained stationary in the other, which seems altogether absurd; or else that it had some peculiar relation of sympathy with another and exactly similar crystal in this other world, so that what was seen in the interior of the one in this world was, under suitable conditions, visible to an observer in the corresponding crystal in the other world; and vice versa. At present, indeed, we do not know of any way in which two crystals could so come en rapport, but nowadays we know enough to understand that the thing is not altogether impossible. This view of the crystals as en rapport was the supposition that occurred to Mr. Wace, and to me at least it seems extremely plausible….

And where was this other world? On this, also, the alert intelligence of Mr. Wace speedily threw light. After sunset, the sky darkened rapidly—there was a very brief twilight interval indeed—and the stars shone out. They were recognisably the same as those we see, arranged in the same constellations. Mr. Cave recognised the Bear, the Pleiades, Aldebaran, and Sirius: so that the other world must be somewhere in the solar system, and, at the utmost, only a few hundreds of millions of miles from our own. Following up this clue, Mr. Wace learned that the midnight sky was a darker blue even than our midwinter sky, and that the sun seemed a little smaller. And there were two small moons! “like our moon but smaller, and quite differently marked” one of which moved so rapidly that its motion was clearly visible as one regarded it. These moons were never high in the sky, but vanished as they rose: that is, every time they revolved they were eclipsed because they were so near their primary planet. And all this answers quite completely, although Mr. Cave did not know it, to what must be the condition of things on Mars.

Indeed, it seems an exceedingly plausible conclusion that peering into this crystal Mr. Cave did actually see the planet Mars and its inhabitants. And, if that be the case, then the evening star that shone so brilliantly in the sky of that distant vision, was neither more nor less than our own familiar earth.

For a time the Martians—if they were Martians—do not seem to have known of Mr. Cave’s inspection. Once or twice one would come to peer, and go away very shortly to some other mast, as though the vision was unsatisfactory. During this time Mr. Cave was able to watch the proceedings of these winged people without being disturbed by their attentions, and, although his report is necessarily vague and fragmentary, it is nevertheless very suggestive. Imagine the impression of humanity a Martian observer would get who, after a difficult process of preparation and with considerable fatigue to the eyes, was able to peer at London from the steeple of St. Martin’s Church for stretches, at longest, of four minutes at a time. Mr. Cave was unable to ascertain if the winged Martians were the same as the Martians who hopped about the causeways and terraces, and if the latter could put on wings at will. He several times saw certain clumsy bipeds, dimly suggestive of apes, white and partially translucent, feeding among certain of the lichenous trees, and once some of these fled before one of the hopping, round-headed Martians. The latter caught one in its tentacles, and then the picture faded suddenly and left Mr. Cave most tantalisingly in the dark. On another occasion a vast thing, that Mr. Cave thought at first was some gigantic insect, appeared advancing along the causeway beside the canal with extraordinary rapidity. As this drew nearer Mr. Cave perceived that it was a mechanism of shining metals and of extraordinary complexity. And then, when he looked again, it had passed out of sight.

After a time Mr. Wace aspired to attract the attention of the Martians, and the next time that the strange eyes of one of them appeared close to the crystal Mr. Cave cried out and sprang away, and they immediately turned on the light and began to gesticulate in a manner suggestive of signalling. But when at last Mr. Cave examined the crystal again the Martian had departed.

Thus far these observations had progressed in early November, and then Mr. Cave, feeling that the suspicions of his family about the crystal were allayed, began to take it to and fro with him in order that, as occasion arose in the daytime or night, he might comfort himself with what was fast becoming the most real thing in his existence.

In December Mr. Wace’s work in connection with a forthcoming examination became heavy, the sittings were reluctantly suspended for a week, and for ten or eleven days—he is not quite sure which—he saw nothing of Cave. He then grew anxious to resume these investigations, and, the stress of his seasonal labours being abated, he went down to Seven Dials. At the corner he noticed a shutter before a bird fancier’s window, and then another at a cobbler’s. Mr. Cave’s shop was closed.

He rapped and the door was opened by the step-son in black. He at once called Mrs. Cave, who was, Mr. Wace could not but observe, in cheap but ample widow’s weeds of the most imposing pattern. Without any very great surprise Mr. Wace learnt that Cave was dead and already buried. She was in tears, and her voice was a little thick. She had just returned from Highgate. Her mind seemed occupied with her own prospects and the honourable details of the obsequies, but Mr. Wace was at last able to learn the particulars of Cave’s death. He had been found dead in his shop in the early morning, the day after his last visit to Mr. Wace, and the crystal had been clasped in his stone-cold hands. His face was smiling, said Mrs. Cave, and the velvet cloth from the minerals lay on the floor at his feet. He must have been dead five or six hours when he was found.

This came as a great shock to Wace, and he began to reproach himself bitterly for having neglected the plain symptoms of the old man’s ill-health. But his chief thought was of the crystal. He approached that topic in a gingerly manner, because he knew Mrs. Cave’s peculiarities. He was dumbfounded to learn that it was sold.

Mrs. Cave’s first impulse, directly Cave’s body had been taken upstairs, had been to write to the mad clergyman who had offered five pounds for the crystal, informing him of its recovery; but after a violent hunt in which her daughter joined her, they were convinced of the loss of his address. As they were without the means required to mourn and bury Cave in the elaborate style the dignity of an old Seven Dials inhabitant demands, they had appealed to a friendly fellow-tradesman in Great Portland Street. He had very kindly taken over a portion of the stock at a valuation. The valuation was his own and the crystal egg was included in one of the lots. Mr. Wace, after a few suitable consolatory observations, a little off-handedly proffered perhaps, hurried at once to Great Portland Street. But there he learned that the crystal egg had already been sold to a tall, dark man in grey. And there the material facts in this curious, and to me at least very suggestive, story come abruptly to an end. The Great Portland Street dealer did not know who the tall dark man in grey was, nor had he observed him with sufficient attention to describe him minutely. He did not even know which way this person had gone after leaving the shop. For a time Mr. Wace remained in the shop, trying the dealer’s patience with hopeless questions, venting his own exasperation. And at last, realising abruptly that the whole thing had passed out of his hands, had vanished like a vision of the night, he returned to his own rooms, a little astonished to find the notes he had made still tangible and visible upon his untidy table.

His annoyance and disappointment were naturally very great. He made a second call (equally ineffectual) upon the Great Portland Street dealer, and he resorted to advertisements in such periodicals as were likely to come into the hands of a bric-a-brac collector. He also wrote letters to The Daily Chronicle and Nature, but both those periodicals, suspecting a hoax, asked him to reconsider his action before they printed, and he was advised that such a strange story, unfortunately so bare of supporting evidence, might imperil his reputation as an investigator. Moreover, the calls of his proper work were urgent. So that after a month or so, save for an occasional reminder to certain dealers, he had reluctantly to abandon the quest for the crystal egg, and from that day to this it remains undiscovered. Occasionally, however, he tells me, and I can quite believe him, he has bursts of zeal, in which he abandons his more urgent occupation and resumes the search.

Whether or not it will remain lost for ever, with the material and origin of it, are things equally speculative at the present time. If the present purchaser is a collector, one would have expected the enquiries of Mr. Wace to have reached him through the dealers. He has been able to discover Mr. Cave’s clergyman and “Oriental”—no other than the Rev. James Parker and the young Prince of Bosso-Kuni in Java. I am obliged to them for certain particulars. The object of the Prince was simply curiosity—and extravagance. He was so eager to buy, because Cave was so oddly reluctant to sell. It is just as possible that the buyer in the second instance was simply a casual purchaser and not a collector at all, and the crystal egg, for all I know, may at the present moment be within a mile of me, decorating a drawing-room or serving as a paper-weight—its remarkable functions all unknown. Indeed, it is partly with the idea of such a possibility that I have thrown this narrative into a form that will give it a chance of being read by the ordinary consumer of fiction.

My own ideas in the matter are practically identical with those of Mr. Wace. I believe the crystal on the mast in Mars and the crystal egg of Mr. Cave’s to be in some physical, but at present quite inexplicable, way en rapport, and we both believe further that the terrestrial crystal must have been—possibly at some remote date—sent hither from that planet, in order to give the Martians a near view of our affairs. Possibly the fellows to the crystals in the other masts are also on our globe. No theory of hallucination suffices for the facts.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

FREE BQB BOOKS!

I’m Crazy BQB and my prices are insane!

My prices are so low I should be put in a straight jacket and shipped off to the funny farm but I don’t care because I’m passing the savings on to you!!!

For the next 5 days you can get my 2 self-published books for absolutely free!  That’s zero dollars!  That’s no money!  Nada! Zilch!

3.5 READERS: OK, BQB, we’ll get your free books.  It’s the least we can do.

Well, the most you could have done was to have bought my books at full price to thank me for the many years I have been entertaining you with this fine blog for free but that’s ok, I love you, 3.5 readers.

But if you could go on over to Amazon and grab my free books, that would be awesome.  If you could leave a review, that would be great.  If you could share news of my free books on your preferred time wasting social media website, that would be perfect.

FRIENDS OF MY 3.5 READERS: Oh great, the 3.5 readers are going to share yet another boring lunch photo and what?!  They’re posting links to BQB’s awesome free books instead?  Hooray!  The 3.5 readers are the best!

So, what will you find for free from BQB?

First, The Last Driver – Episode 1 just dropped like it’s hot (that’s so 2000’s) on Amazon.  Someone bought a copy within the first hour and thank you to that person.  The rest of you need to get your priorities straight.

Next up, you can also get BQB’s Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts, for FREE as well:

Now, 3.5 readers, I don’t know what time it is in your neck of the woods, but this sale is scheduled to start tomorrow.  What time that actually kicks in I don’t know.  I’m going to assume midnight.  Obviously, if you go on over before October 26, you’ll have to pay full price, and if you want to do that, I’d appreciate it, because damn it, keeping the lights on at BQB HQ is no easy task, let me tell you.  By the way, do you have any idea how much yetis eat?

But if you are cheap-o skinflint, I totally understand as the Baby Boomers have been selling us all down the river for years and don’t even get me started on the post-2000 economy.  I understand.  You can’t go around spending your cash on every book offered to you by a magic bookshelf caretaker.  Ergo, you can wait until the sale starts on the 26th and get both books for FREE!

Thank you for your support, 3.5 readers.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S2, Ep. 17 -Twenty-Two

tv-2213140__480

Are dreams real?  Can they tell us anything about reality?  Can we ever be sure when we are dreaming and when we are awake, what’s real and what’s not?

Liz Powell (Barbara Nichols) is such a famous stripper, er…uh, dancer, that she even has an agent, Barney (Fredd Wayne.)  In fact, she’s been so overworked that she’s in the hospital for exhaustion.  Yeah, ok…just go with it.  If you can buy that premise, then you can buy the fact that she was allowed to relax in her hospital bed, not in a patient’s gown but in a dress that was, well for 1960s standards, kinda naughty.  Today, not so much but I’m sure in those days it turned an eye.

SIDENOTE: Nichols had that stereotypical Brooklyn floozy/blonde bimbo of the early 1900s voice.  Today, you might call it a “Harley Quinn” voice.  Nichols often played bar girls, dopey dames, gangster’s molls, and so on…so it makes me wonder if she might have had an influence on Harley’s style.

Anyway, every night, Liz goes to sleep only to wake up thirsty.  She reaches for a glass of water but then she gets up, heads to the lobby, goes down an elevator and walks to the morgue, where a mysterious looking nurse (the ever so exotic Arlene Martel) ominously states, “Room for one more, honey.”

There’s room for one more in the morgue?  That’s not news that anyone wants to hear.  Her doctor, who is never given a name but is played by Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space” fame (“You clinkin’ calamity of bolts!”)  insists this is all in Liz’s mind and it’s just a bad dream.

I did wonder why the doctor didn’t have someone keep an eye on Liz to see if she actually was getting up to go to the morgue or if she was just dreaming it, but I suppose that would have ruined the story.

OK, that’s it.  I won’t go further because if I do I’ll ruin the twist.  But it’s an interesting question, where do dreams end and reality begin?  Do they intermingle?  Is the universe trying to send messages to us through our dreams?  Should we pay attention to what’s in our dreams at all.

Have you ever changed your life based on a dream, 3.5 readers?

Tagged , , , ,

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S3, Ep. 24 – “To Serve Man”

tv-2213140__480

If aliens ever arrive on Earth, will their intentions be good or evil?

Such is the question that plagues the United Nations when an alien race called, the “Kanamits” land on our home world.

They’re nine feet tall.  They have big heads to house their big brains.  They speak through their minds rather than their mouths…and they swear their only purpose is in coming to Earth is to serve man.

In fact, they offer new technology.  Specifically, they offer a method of making soil more fertile and can even turn desert wastelands into fertile fields full of crops.

Huh.  Is it me or are these intergalactic travelers really concerned with making sure that humans have enough to eat?

Lloyd Bochner stars as Michael Chambers, the government translator assigned to decipher a book left behind on a table by the alien ambassador.  Does it hold any secrets?  Can these aliens be taken at their word?  Do they have more sinister intentions in mind?

And why do they want to make sure all the humans get fed?  Hmm…curious.

This episode is one of this show’s best, containing a line that serves not only a twist but also as a piece of pop culture history that has been parodied and paid homage to over the years.  Further, it sets in stone that time honored sci-fi trope, namely, that if aliens come bearing gift horses, said horses’ mouths should be checked thoroughly.

 

Tagged , , , ,

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews

tv-2213140__480

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I have avoided watching “The Twilight Zone” for many years.  There are a few episodes that are key, the ones where if you ask anyone, they’ll bring those up – the killer doll, the killer ventriloquist dummy, the woman who has surgery to “look beautiful” only to end up hideous because she looks beautiful but in a world full of pig people she looks ugly, the one with the guy who thinks there’s a monster on the wing of his plane, the little boy who can do all sorts of crazy shit with his mind if any adults ever think unhappy thoughts so all the townsfolk just put up with it because everyone’s afraid to say anything to him, etc.

Plus, the theme song, or rather the “doo doo doo doo” always seems creepy.

But, I finally broke down and checked it out on Netflix and I’m hooked.

My main observation is that either a) this series was far ahead of its time or b) that it paved the way for all the scientific tropes that are pretty standard today – that machines might take over, that maybe one day we’ll meet aliens and it won’t work out as well as we hope, that inventions to improve life will inevitably screw us over, that screwing with time travel could mess up our entire existence, etc.

But keep in mind, the show doesn’t just explore the scientific but also the paranormal – deals with the devil that don’t go well for the person who signed on the dotted line, attempts to cheat death that go badly, etc.

The special effects pale in comparison to modern films, though at times, a dude in a creepy mask is a lot more frightening for some reason.  It could be that good writing goes a long way and as long as the suspense is built up, the audience can forgive the fact that the baddie is a dude in a costume and not a CGI character.

Anyway, from time to time I’m going to pop up reviews of individual episodes because dang it, I need to fill this blog up with something.

What’s your favorite episode, 3.5 readers?

Tagged , , , , ,

Has Your Butt Been Probed By Aliens?

Your butt.  You must protect it from danger at all times.

Has your butt been probed by aliens from another world?

Only this BQB Top Ten List can help you know for sure.

Tagged , , , ,

Movie Review – The Shape of Water (2017)

If there’s a better movie out there about a woman who fucks a fish monster, I’ve yet to see it.

BQB here with a review of the Oscar front runner, “The Shape of Water.”

I don’t think the line above counts as a spoiler.  If you check out the poster for this film, it shows a woman locked in a passionate embrace with a fish man sooo…I mean I don’t know about you, but when I saw that my immediate reaction was to realize that this movie was probably going to feature some human on fish man fucking.

Beyond that, I can’t begin to discuss this film without mentioning SPOILERS so if you don’t want to read SPOILERS then don’t read on below.   SPOILERS!!!

Here’s the deal, 3.5 readers.  I’ve been a movie buff for as long as I can remember.  I have seen so many movies that I deserve an honorary degree in film studies.

I’m usually able to collect my thoughts after I see a film…but I’m not sure what I saw here.

It was good.  I’m just unclear as to the point of it all.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer play Elisa and Zelda, a duo of cleaning ladies who keep a top secret 1960s Cold War era research facility spotless.  They dust satellites and clean bizarre machines and are aware that their continued employment (and freedom) requires them to keep their mouths shut about anything they see.

That’s easy for Elisa as she’s mute – unable to speak.  Elisa lives on the periphery of life, always enjoy movies and television, which she watches with her elderly, unemployed neighbor, a mopey ex-advertising artist named Giles (Richard Jenkins.)

Elisa is content to stick with the same old life until she learns that one of the lab’s test subjects, a fish man comparable in appearance to “the Creature from the Black Lagoon” is regularly tortured by Strickland, a clandestine CIA type played by Michael Shannon.

Long story short, Elisa feels sorry for the fish monster, so she enlists Zelda and Giles to participate in an breakout scheme.

And then once the creature is free, he and Elisa fuck.  Oh my God.  There is so much fish monster on human woman fucking its crazy really.

Sooo…I’m unsure of a number of things.  My first thought is surely this film, about a woman who falls in love with and fucks a fish man, must be a dark comedy.  The Academy never touches sci-fi, but the film makes use of typical French romance music, so one is left to wonder if this is all just a parody of classic romance films, but instead of two French people who lose their ennui after they meet, this is about….human on fish man fucking.

There are definitely dark comedy undertones yet there is a lot of drama and in many parts, a serious tone.  What exactly is the overall theme?  The best I was able to come up with is that it is very difficult to find true love so when you find it, you must embrace it, even if you and your partner have differences – say, differences in race, religion, background…or you know, if one of you is a human and one of you is a fish man.

From a writer’s standpoint, I am amazed.  I write so many outlandish, ridiculous, absurd things but never once would I dream of having a woman and a fish monster get it on.  Honestly, take out the French romance music and some of the dramatic flourishes and serious scenes and this movie could double as an April Fool’s episode of the X-Files where the producers decide to let their hair down and be silly.

Meanwhile, Michael Shannon is skilled at playing psychos and he excels here.  This is his best performance since “Boardwalk Empire.”  I was left to believe that he really wanted to apprehend the fish man at all costs and was not moved by the romantic undertones of human on fish man coitus.

Jenkins also deserves recognition.  I bought him as a sad sack whose only friend is Elisa and thus he’s willing to do anything to retain her friendship.  By the way, don’t get old because if a woman has to choose between an old man and a fish man, she will choose the sushi penis every time.  Scaly balls, yes.  Wrinkly balls, no.

Is it worth an Oscar?  I mean, I enjoyed it, I had a good time, it did make me think about love and how it can bloom in the strangest places under the most unexpected circumstances.

Is it better than the other nominees?  I’ll have to think about that one, though I’ll note that at this point, I really just want the news to be talking about how a movie about a woman who fucks a fish man was made best picture and to the best of my knowledge, none of the other films feature a woman banging a fish man.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  If you ever figure out what it’s about, tell me.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Last Driver – #455 on Wattpad SciFi

I’ve ventured into science fiction, 3.5 readers.  “The Last Driver,” my testosterone fueled tribute to 1984 and Fast and Furious, is set in a world where self-driving cars are the norm.  That seems like a boon to the intrusive dictatorship, the One World Order.  What better way to keep tabs on the citizenry than to have their cars report where everyone is going?

In a world where everyone has forgotten how to drive, the last man who remembers how is ready to start trouble.

If you’re on Wattpad, I’d appreciate a vote, a comment, whatever you can spare.  Thanks!

CLICK HERE TO READ ON WATTPAD

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 12.31.26 AM

Tagged , , , , ,

Top Ten Ways You Can Become a Mad Scientist Just Like Dr. Hugo Von Science

shutterstock_142194772

Hello 3.5 readers.  BQB here

Have you ever wondered how you can become a mad scientist, just like my former mentor/current frenemy, the illustrious Dr. Hugo Von Scientist?

Of course you have.  Therefore, from BQB HQ in Fabulous East Randomtown, it’s the Top Ten Ways You Can Become a Mad Scientist, Just Like Doctor Hugo Von Science:

#10 – Laugh Maniacally Over Everything…

…especially when the world gives you the slightest advantage.  Drive-thru gave you an extra large fry instead of the small you ordered at no additional cost?

That’s not just a win.  That’s a reason to laugh maniacally.  “Yes, with the energy these extra fried potatoes, I shall conquer the world!  Muah ha ha ha!”

#9 – Always Monologue

It’s not just enough to laugh maniacally.  You must also spell out the advantage you received that made you laugh in a maniacal manner.  See above where you explain why getting extra fries helps you.

#8 – Always Have a Plan for World Domination

Mad scientists often begin as regular scientists who feel their genius is unappreciated.  After years of study, they tend to receive years of neglect with no one giving them so much as a pat on the back for a job well done when it comes to their science-ing.  Thus, they become jaded and turn their science skills toward evil instead of good.

In fact, hug a scientist today.  You never know.  You might just stave of a plot for global domination by doing so.

#7 – Have a Lair

Could be your basement, an abandoned warehouse, any rusty old claptrap will do.

#6 – Have Many Bubbling Potions

It’s not really a good idea to leave poisonous chemicals lying around, but you should at least give the appearance to the world that you don’t give an F.  Maybe just fill up some beakers full of Mountain Dew and Diet Shasta Orange.

You know what?  Skip this part.  Don’t do it.  Don’t mess with chemicals or even pretend to.  My lawyer says I can’t afford that kind of hassle.

#5 – Be German

The best mad scientists are always German.  Stereotype?  Maybe.  Leftover fear of Nazi experiments gone awry?  Surely.  All I know is that if you are German or can fake a good German accent, you will move up to the very tip top of the mad scientist game.

Deny all you want but you’ve never heard of a famous mad scientist who sounded like he was from North Dakota, have you?  “Ohh yah, I’m gonna take over the world, don’t you know?”

Nope.  Never happens.

#4 – Have Crazy Hair

Dr. Hugo does not have crazy hair but you should.  The crazier the better.  Your hair should always look like it was destroyed by your latest experiment.

#3 – Have a Pet Sidekick

Really, a mad scientist is not complete without a chimpanzee nearby waiting to hand him all the instruments of destruction he needs.

#2 –  Never Be Seen Without Your Lab Coat On

Can you think of a good mad scientist who didn’t wear a white lab coat?

#1 – Do Crazy Science Shit

This goes without saying.  Obviously, for legal reasons, I can’t advise you to use science for the purposes of global domination but…you know, it’s pretty much what mad scientists do so…you know what?  Forget this.  Don’t break the law.  Don’t be a mad scientist.  Be a nice, sane scientist.  Use science to help people.  Don’t be like Dr. Hugo Von Science.  He sucks.

Tagged , , ,

Toilet Gator – Chapter 86

presentation01

The gang assembled in a study room at the Sitwell Community College library. Professor Elliot Lambert launched into an impromptu class on toilet dwelling animals.

“You see,” Professor Lambert said. “The average speed for an alligator is approximately ten miles per hour. However, the alligator we are dealing with is not average whatsoever. Given his length and muscle mass, I’m willing to wager our reptilian friend can move at speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour if he really pushes himself.”

“Hell,” Rusty said. “I’m surprised he didn’t get me then. I don’t run that fast.”

“An athletic human running at a vigorous pace can reach twenty miles per hour,” Professor Lambert said. “But tell me, was the alligator doing anything else while he was pursuing you?”

“He stopped to snap his jaws at us,” Rusty said. “And roar. He roared a lot.”

“Well there you go,” the professor said. “Multi-tasking slows this beastie down.”

The Professor drew a rough outline of the state of Florida on a whiteboard. “Remind me, Agent Walker. The first murder where Countess Cucamonga took her final curtain call, so to speak, that happened at what time?”

“Witnesses put it a little after 9 p.m.,” Sharon replied.

Professor Lambert put a dot right around where Miami would be. “And the death of Herbert Hogan?”

“Around 10 p.m.,” Sharon said.

The Professor put a dot on Boca Raton. “And when did Mr. Becker leave us so soon?”

“After 11 p.m.,” Sharon said.

The Professor connected the dots. “All and all, a one hundred and thirty mile trek, completed in three hours.”

“Doesn’t sound so impossible,” Rusty said.

“Not if you have a lead foot,” Sharon said. “And if you’re lucky enough to not encounter any traffic, which never happens in the greater Miami area on a Friday night.”

“And if you don’t have to stop at three separate locations, sneak through security, murder three separate people and then leave undetected,” Cole added.

“A human never could have done this,” Sharon said. “We’ve had our heads up our asses the entire time.”

Professor Lambert said. “Do not be too hard on yourself, Agent Walker. When it comes to the unknown dangers of the animal world, humans have had their heads up their asses for quite some time now.”

“Gordon had theorized that a cult might have been at work,” Sharon said. “Multiple people committing murders in different locations within the same timeframe.”

Rusty stared dreamily off into space. “So much wisdom behind that man’s kind eyes.”

“What?” Rusty asked.

“Nothing,” Rusty answered.

“My new friends,” Professor Lambert said. “I know this comes as quite a surprise, but I have literally spent my entire life studying the impact of aquatic animals who commit toilet murder.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Rusty said.

“You actually kind of look like the type of guy who would be obsessed with toilet animals,” Cole said. “No offense.”

“I stopped taking offense years ago,” Professor Lambert said. “When I realized my research was too important for the future of the human race to ignore. Sure, I could have gotten into a more reasonable line of work but you know what? They scoffed at Columbus until he proved the world was round and I have resigned myself to the sad fact that people will make light of my labors until they realize the cold, hard truth that when they sit their butts down on toilets…their butts are not alone.”

“That video should give you all the vindication you need,” Rusty said. “Say, why didn’t you tell me about all this the day we met?”

“Would you have believed me then?” Professor Lambert asked.

“Nope,” Rusty said. “And no one believed me until the video.”

“Such is the life of a believer in toilet animal related phenomenon,” Professor Lambert said. “Humans are so close-minded that they rarely believe anything that they can’t see with their very eyes. And don’t think for a second that murderous toilet animals don’t take advantage of this lack of faith.”

Maude lit up a smoke.

“Oh, there’s no smoking in here,” Professor Lambert said.

Maude blew smoke in the Professor’s general direction. “And yet, here I am.”

“Well,” the Professor said as he pulled a joint out of his pocket. “If it’s that kind of party.”

The scholar lit up, then caught a glance of Cole’s disapproving eyes. He grew frightened, like he’d just made a big mistake.

“It’s fine,” Cole said. “I’ve been fired.”

The Professor turned to Rusty.

“I quit the force.”

Finally, the Professor turned to Sharon.

“I have bigger problems.”

Convinced no one was about to arrest him, the Professor noted to the group that his habit was strictly medicinal, then took a question from Maude – “How does someone start studying toilet animals? You go bananas or something?”

“A fine question,” Professor Lambert said. “When I was a young boy, my parents were missionaries in South America, working to bring the first sewer system to a very impoverished region. When the project was completed, I was given the honor of taking the first shit.”

“Academy eat your heart out,” Maude said.

“All was going well until I felt the slightest pinch on my bottom…”

“Catholic priest?” Rusty asked.

“A sandwich restaurant chain representative?” Maude added.

“Neither,” Professor Lambert said. “I jumped off the bowl to find a rather menacing looking snake had crawled up through the pipe and attached itself to my bottom. I passed out immediately, as the snake’s venom was highly poisonous. Luckily, a brave fellow sucked all of the poison out of my backside in time.”

“Catholic priest?” Rusty asked.

“A sandwich restaurant chain representative?” Maude added.

“Guys,” Sharon said sternly. “This isn’t a joking matter.”

“Agreed,” Cole said.

Maude threw up her hands. “Well excuse me all over the place!”

The old lady looked at the Professor. “Don’t they teach people how to puff, puff pass at this school?”

The Professor nodded and handed his joint to Maude. She stubbed her cigarette out on the old oak table, completely uncaring about the likelihood that some poor janitor would be called upon to buff out the mark. She then proceeded to suckle the doobie and suckle it good.

“Does she know that smoking isn’t good for a person on oxygen?” Sharon asked Cole.

“She doesn’t give a shit,” Cole said.

“I do not,” Maude said. “And I’m right here.”

“Anyway,” the Professor said. “At that moment, I realized how vulnerable humans are while they sitting on the toilet. Humans have come to assume that their bathroom time is one of the safest times of day. They’re in an enclosed space, they think they are all by themselves but oh no, at any given time, there may be hundreds if not thousands of sewer dwelling animals in their general vicinity, any one of which might crawl up and give an unsuspecting human a nasty surprise indeed.”

“But Professor,” Sharon said. “This is where I’m stuck. How does a great big alligator squeeze its way up through the small pipe that connects a toilet to a sewer?”

“Bone displacement,” the Professor said.

“Excuse me?” Sharon asked.

“Take the average bat,” Professor Lambert said. “It can literally dislocate its bones and smush its body together until it can fit through the tiniest crack in a homeowner’s abode.”

Moses piped up for the first time in this meeting. “That happened to me when I was a young boy once. I’d like to tell you that I reacted bravely but in fact, I hid under my bed until my father caught it and threw it out the front door. For the rest of my childhood, I was convinced he might have contracted vampirism and frankly, I’m still not entirely convinced he didn’t.”

“Your father died five years ago,” Cole said.

“Did he?” Cole asked. “Or did the CIA…”

Cole threw made a stop motion and pointed it at Moses before turning to Professor Lambert. “Continue.”

“Like humans, not every animal within a given species is the same,” Professor Lambert said. “Most fear pain. Most fear death. But some, they are willing to overlook these negative outcomes in order to push their bodies to the limit if it will get them closer to something they desire. Dislocating your bones to the point where you are able to squeeze yourself up a pipe like some kind of backed up ooze has got to be incredibly painful, but they’re willing to do it if will lead them closer to a butt sitting on a toilet they wish to consume.”

“Do all animals have the power to displace their bones?” Sharon asked.

“Not as such, no,” the Professor said. “At this time, I estimate that a small minority of animals have this ability. However, according to Darwinian Theory, these animals may continue to procreate until they dominate the Earth.”

Rusty shuddered. “A world full of killer toilet animals.”

Maude laughed as she puffed on her ganja. “Bullshit! This is so farfetched that if I ever read it in a self-published e-book, I’d give it a one star review and a pithy, passive-aggressive comment.”

“You shouldn’t do things like that, Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “Self-published e-book writers are the backbone of today’s book industry and they should be treated as such. I’m sorry to digress, but I spent so many time self-publishing my toilet animal studies that I feel the pain of any self-published e-book writer.”

“I’d demand my money back too,” Maude said. “Bone displacing toilet animals. Bitch, please!”

Rusty held out his hand. “Yo, Maude! What happened to puff, puff, pass?”

Maude flipped Rusty the bird. “Get your own supply, Narc!”

“Can we steer this conversation back on topic?” Cole asked.

“Yes,” Professor Lambert said. “Many individual animals will often display traits that help them stand out above and beyond their peers. Mr. Yates, you, for example, told me earlier that it seemed as though the alligator in question was communicating with this Buford fellow, that two were locked in a squabble.”

“Sounded that way to me,” Rusty said.

“Sometimes animals will stand out above their peers when it comes to intelligence,” Professor Lambert. “When these animals breed, they added smarter versions of themselves to their species gene pool. The collective IQ of a species grows smarter as a result.”

“Until the entire world is run by damn dirty gators?” Rusty asked.

“It’s not an impossibility,” the Professor said.

“Shit,” Rusty said. “I don’t want to be a slave in a world run by damn dirty gators.”

“Meh,” Maude said. “I still smell bullshit.”

Rusty waved the air away from his face. “I think that’s the dank bud.”

“It’s Mississippi Mud Bud, actually,” Professor Lambert said. “And Madame, I assure you, this is not bullshit. My many years of research have taken me all over the world, where I have encountered toilet piranha, toilet walruses, toilet dolphins…”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember your rant,” Maude said. “Toilet sharks, toilet whales…”

“A toilet whale?!” Sharon asked.

“A killer toilet whale,” Professor Lambert said. “In India. I believe that was the case though I never proved it. I have, however, documented the activities of many toilet animals the world over. My self-published studies are filled with photos of toilet animals engaging in toilet related activities. And, I’m proud to say, they’re often rated with a gentleman’s three star review.”

Maude jerked her hand up and down, pretending to jerk off rather than listen to the professor.

“You scoff, Madame,” the Professor said. “But I’ll have you know that alligators are the masters of toilet murder. They, above all other aquatic creatures, have utilized sewer systems all over the world to take down their enemies though I must admit, I have never encountered a toilet gator as intelligent, organized and vindictive as the one you are all describing.”

“Professor,” Sharon said. “You’ve explained how a toilet gator can sneak through a pipe, but how does it become big again so that it can…”

“Eat the victim?” the Professor asked. “Simple. It reconstitutes itself within the small space, grows too large for its surroundings and bursts out of it, just in time to catch the unsuspecting toilet user in its jaws. A pity really. The toilet user never truly grasps what is going on until it’s too late.”

“Then it shrinks and escapes down the pipe, the same way it came?” Cole asked.

“Precisely,” Professor Lambert said.

“Leaving police none the wiser,” Cole said.

“I can tell you I have spoken with authorities all over the world who were left baffled by this phenomenon,” the Professor said. “Many as skeptical as Miss Fuller here, if not more so.”

“You got any more of this?” Maude asked as she held up the joint.

“Not for free,” Professor Lambert said.

“Bah,” Maude said. “Lousy cheapskate.”

“This is literally the perfect crime,” Sharon said.

“Indeed,” Professor Lambert said.

“Professor,” Sharon said. “I have to say, the way the academic world has treated you is a shame. I mean, here you are, conducting pioneering research in an incomprehensible yet apparently very real field and yet here you are, stuck lecturing at a community college when you should be teaching at Princeton or Yale or…”
“Oh,” Professor Lambert said with a chuckle. “You think I was tossed to the bottom of academia for researching toilet animals?”

“You weren’t?” Sharon asked.

“Of course not,” Professor Lambert said. “All of my research into the world of toilet animals was sponsored by several big name universities. Institutions of higher learning are often willing to jack up tuitions in order to fund all sorts of silly, navel gazing research. Why, I have a colleague who was given full funding to study the mating habits of East Peruvian tree mold spores.”

“Tree mold spores have mating habits?” Rusty asked.

“My good man,” Professor Lambert said. “Put a few tree mold spores under a microscope, dim the lights, play a little 1970s disco music and you’ll swear you’re staring at a scene straight of Studio 64.”

“Sorry I asked,” Rusty said.

“They why are you teaching here of all places?” Sharon asked.

“Justin Bieber,” Professor Lambert said.

“Justin Bieber?” Sharon asked.

“Indeed,” Professor Lambert said. “I am a big Belieber. I know, it’s odd, a man of my intellect and age, to be a fan of such a frivolous young man but what can I say? The lad can carry a beat.”

“He sure can,” Rusty said before he caught himself. “So I’ve heard.”

“In the early days of Lifebox, I wrote a post about how I quite enjoyed Justin’s Beauty and a Beat video,” Professor Lambert said. “The elegance, the choreography, the pageantry, all made to look like it was spontaneous footage of a pool party. Oh how I loved it and watched it over and over. Alas, I didn’t quite understand the far reach and permanent nature of social media at the time and became an instant laughing stock. Only this and one other college would have me after that.”

“Which one?” Sharon asked.

“Arizona State,” Professor Lambert said.

Sharon shuddered. “Yeesh. You picked right.”

The door to the study room swung open. Natalie Brock and Walter walked into the room. “Professor Lambert, they said at the front desk that I could…”

Natalie looked around the room. “Oh, hello everyone.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements