Harrigan: Journalist to the Fantastic
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by August Derleth
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: Tex Harrigan is a savvy newspaper man and teller of some of the most fantastic science fiction tales ever sluiced up by a reporter. In these seven stories, Harrigan tells the real stories of what he found as reporter. Here you will find stories of aliens, alternate dimensions, time traveling, clairvoyance, and microcosmic invasion. This edition includes the original interior art from the stories original publications. August Derleth may best be known today as the founding publisher of Arkham House that specialized in publishing the work of H.P. Lovecraft and other fantastic writers. Besides being a frequent contributor of fantastic fiction to Weird Tales, Derleth wrote all types of quality fiction. He was a noted literary writer in his day as well as a writer of detective mysteries and children's novels. August Derleth used the character of Tex Harrigan as the narrator of his science fiction stories.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [162 KB]
Reading time: 81-114 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Had she gone on a vacation--or had she simply stepped into space?
"People disappear all the time," said Tex Harrigan over a glass of sherry. "People who just walk out of their lives and are never seen again."
"Dorothy Arnold and Charley Ross," I said. "You get those thrown at you constantly."
"There are thousands of others nobody ever hears about. Take Lucia Kent, for instance."
"But she came back."
"In a sense, she did--twice."
"Not at all. Lucia Kent belongs in my department of queer people just as much as any other man or woman whose dossier has so many quirks."
"You were on that story, then?"
"Yes. The Globe didn't carry bylines then, you know, but it was my story just the same. Lucia Kent was a girl of nineteen, high-spirited, pretty, not long out of high school and working at a stenographer's job. She was engaged to be married to a young fellow called Carlo Marotti, and there was a hell of a row about that. Her parents were New Englanders transplanted to Chicago, and Carlo was an Italian; they were against him. Stuffy people, as I remember them. They were in the midst of a pretty acrimonious argument which had lasted the best part of a month when Lucia disappeared--literally vanished on a street-corner. That was the story, at least. Contemporary psychiatrists have a good deal to say about the transposition of the dream-world for reality, and Lucia had a keen imagination.
"The trouble was, there was one witness--probably as imaginative as she. A little girl was sitting on the curb there waiting for a companion when Lucia went by. The girl told the story something like this.
"'The lady came walking along and I looked at her and she smiled at me and I smiled at her and just before she was going to cross the street she stepped into a hole.'
"Now, there was no hole there. But it was not a hole in the street the girl meant; it was a hole 'up there'--that is, in the air. She gave a reasonably graphic description of Lucia Kent simply walking out of her sight into space--first her right leg, then part of her swinging hand and arm, and then her body; the last thing she saw was her left foot, up on the toes, in the act of beginning another step."
"Fantastic," I said. "But then, children have extremely vivid imaginations."
"Yes, and in addition, she had seen a movie in which something of the sort took place. Topper. You may remember it. It enlarges the possibilities of her imagination, you see. But her story never underwent any alteration, which was a little unusual; the customary tendency in children whose stories are the object of attention is to embroider steadily; she didn't. That's neither here nor there, however. Lucia's disappearance was genuine enough to raise holy hell between her fiancee and her family. Marotti was convinced that her parents had spirited her into hiding so that she couldn't marry him, and they were just as positive that he had made off with her for the opposite reason. The whole thing was ridiculous, for she was past the age of consent, and if she had never shown any marked enthusiasm for Marotti, at least she had taken his ring and had agreed to marry him.
"It was a police matter, routine. I was down at the precinct station when the story came in, and I went out after it. The parents were middle-aged, highly respectable, with money--not rich, you know, but comfortably off. Marotti was hot-headed, fiery. They were literally at each other's throats, the parents cold with rage against him, and he on fire and screaming at them. A three-ring circus, you might say. The cops calmed them down and got the story, saw the little girl, got her deposition, and did all the things natural to do in the circumstances--checked all Lucia's girl-friends, her near relatives, hospitals, railroad stations, air terminals, and so on. There was less trace of her than there was of Dorothy Arnold, to bring her up once more. She might indeed have literally stepped into space."
"Just where did she go?"
"Ah, that's the question no one ever seems to have solved to everyone's satisfaction," said Harrigan, grinning infectiously. "The police found out nothing. Neither did Marotti in an independent investigation. Moreover, her parents hired some private eyes--a fellow named Blaik and his assistant, and they got nowhere. All anyone could discover was that one moment she was on her way down the street on her way to the office to work, and the next she was not; it was as simple as that. She had been seen passing a given point, she had not been seen beyond that. Houses along the way were duly searched, all known sex offenders were dragged in and given a quizzing, and nothing beyond the little girl's statement could be uncovered. What she said later made a lot of people believe that she had been off somewhere with a man and was covering up with the wildest and most improbable tale she could imagine ..."
Lucia saw the little girl on the curb, caught her smile, and smiled back. But she was not really thinking about anything within the range of her eye; she was wondering, as she had so often wondered in recent months, whether she ought to marry Carlo after all. His temper was entirely too easily aroused to suit her, for one thing, and he was so possessive, so jealous. A little jealousy was a good thing, perhaps ...
Abruptly she was conscious that she should have stepped from the curb into the street at the cross-walk. She had not done so. She looked around her, startled. She should have been facing old Mr. Weintraub's house. It was nowhere to be seen.
Neither was any other recognizable landmark.
She looked wildly behind her. Street, curb, little girl--all had vanished. She stood in the midst of an utterly barren space which stretched away to limitless horizons. Whatever was solid beneath her feet gave no impression of being material to her alarmed gaze.
She blinked her eyes rapidly and stood stock still.
"I'm dreaming," she said. "I'm dreaming this and I'll wake up, if I just hang on." She was on the edge of panic.
"I am sorry," said a mellow voice close by. "But you are not dreaming. Someone is always forgetting to dose these lacunae and these unfortunate events persist in taking place. You have simply stepped from your dimension into our own, which exists co-terminously with yours."
The bodiless voice disturbed her.
Her alarm was sensed. "Do not be alarmed, please. We are not baleful creatures."
"But I can't see you," she cried.
"I think you would not be happy if you saw me," he answered. "If you will permit me, I will become visible in whatever guise you might care to conjure up before your mind's eye."
"But, I can't," she protested, panic still in her throat, an almost unbearable tension trapping her.
"There must be someone of whom you can think--a man, perhaps, who means something to you."
It would not be Carlo. All during her adolescence Lucia had dreamed of her ideal. He must be tall, blonde, broad-shouldered, well-muscled, intense and passionate, with a good mouth and blue eyes, someone gentle and considerate and yet firm enough on any needy occasion. He must be, above all else, a man. She brought him to life in her thoughts.
And there he was, shimmering and wavering a little, but plainly visible.
"Oh!" she gasped. And then, "Of course, you must be Tom."
"Any name will do," he answered.
Tom was the name she had imagined he would have. Carlo sank even farther from her consideration before this vision of maleness which stood at her side.
"Just where am I?" she asked.
"You are approximately ten steps away from the sidewalk you just left, except that the dimensional change is rapidly separating us from that place, and indeed, from all proximity to your own dimension in that place where you left it."
"Oh!" she gasped again, not quite understanding what it was he said, but assuming that it portended certain difficulties. "What in the world am I going to do?"
"Why, getting back," she answered, as if he should know.
"I'm afraid that will not be possible for some time. In about a month, your time, we will approach that place again, and you might try to step back. It won't be easy, but you could try." He did not sound hopeful.
"And how can I live until then?"
"Didn't you think I lived in any kind of house?" he asked.
But, of course, she had. Tom, her ideal Tom, would have a low, sprawling house, very masculine in its appointments, resembling a ranch, built of stone and glass and logs, modern with a traditional basis, and...
The house was there, coming into focus before her, beyond Tom.
"Ah," he murmured, "so that is the house. Let us explore it together. Will you take my arm?"
She did so. It felt boneless, she thought, yet it was strong. Brushing against him, she thought his entire body felt boneless. But, of course, that was absurd. Or was it? How could he walk erect without bones? she asked herself. He did not appear to be aware of the direction of her thoughts. "Do you live here alone in this dimension?" she asked naively.
He smiled, almost sadly. "Indeed not. The place is filled with us."
They went into the house, and it was everything she had imagined it might be. Each room was perfect with the perfection of the ideal.
"It can't be," she cried at last.
"Yes," he answered. "Houses and living entities exist in this dimension. But they do not exist on their own terms, only as the beholder envisions them. Here you may stay, if you wish, until you can make the attempt to go back. We have had others, you know, many of them; most of them have not wished to go back ... "
"I must go back," she said.