[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

"Nearly normal," Craddock murmured, his voice growing stronger. "It's just reaction from
hypnosis, I think. It'll pass."
"Don't try to get up. Just take it easy."
"Where's Parror?"
Raft explained. Craddock nodded slowly.
"He won't be back. He got what he wanted."
"You mean what?"
"Information. He had a machine, a little gadget that probed my mind. It dug up memories
I didn't even know I had. That was why he brought me here. He needed time to adjust the
thing to my brain. I'm of a different species, so there were difficulties. But he solved them."
Raft frowned.
"Too bad he's such a devil. He's smart."
"He's no devil, except by human standards," Craddock said oddly. The maimed hands
lifted. Craddock rubbed his eyes and shook his head as though to clear it. "A different psy-
chology. To them, the end always justifies the means. Parrot's end is to stimulate the
Flame. Curupuri."
"And he can do it now?"
"When he gets the equipment he needs. That'll take time."
"Yeah," Raft said thoughtfully. "And Darum's got the unseen road guarded by his soldiers."
"Darum?"
"The king of Paititi. Listen, Dan. Do you feel strong enough to tell me what happened?"
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A
Click here to buy
Click here to buy
w
w
m
m
w
w
o
o
w
w
c
c
.
.
.
.
A
A
Y
Y
B
B
Y
Y
B
B
r r
"There isn't much," Craddock said. "I was in a trance, but I could see what was going on.
Parror brought me here. He had a claw-tipped glove he'd poisoned, and he fought off some
creatures with it, pretty nasty specimens."
"In here? In the Garden?"
"The yellow forest," Craddock said doubtfully. "Yes, it was here. When we got to this place,
he rigged up a barrier of some sort, with wire. I don't know what it was. But it worked. It
must have. We weren't bothered after that.
"Parror put his gadget on my head and kept adjusting it, dragging out all the memories I'd
ever had. Eventually he got the secret of the Flame. The part I'd read, from the old records
of the First Race, but that I hadn't understood."
Craddock hesitated.
"Funny. The symbols were stored up in my brain, though I never knew what they meant.
You never really forget anything, you know, Brian. It's all there, in your subconscious,
layer after layer of submerged memories that go back to the time your brain first became
capable of storing up thoughts and impressions.
"Eventually I remembered. But I had to write it out. It had been written, not spoken. The
Indio language is a degraded version of it. Just the same Parror figured it out. And he's
going to waken the Flame, when he gets the equipment ready."
"That's dangerous," Raft said.
"I suppose it is. Still " Craddock looked at his deformed hands. " I risked it once.
Blindly, of course. Parror knows what he's doing."
Raft thought of that tremendous power unleashed and raging unchecked through Paititi. "I
wonder."
Craddock shivered a little. "I hope so, Brian! If the Flame ever gets out of control, the game
is over."
"We'd better get out of here. This isn't a safe spot. Are you able to walk yet?"
"Sure, if you can help me a fittfe."But Craddock was stiff weak, and he needed more than a
little assistance as they retraced their steps through the saffron jungle. Raft supported him
over the rougher spots, and he leaned heavily on the younger man's arm.
They kept a sharp eye out for Parror, though Raft felt certain that the Flame's guardian
had left the Garden by now, intent upon gathering the equipment he would need for the
ultimate experiment.
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A
Click here to buy
Click here to buy
w
w
m
m
w
w
o
o
w
w
c
c
.
.
.
.
A
A
Y
Y
B
B
Y
Y
B
B
r r
Nevertheless, there was still danger. Kharn watched. Raft could sense the hidden,
reptilian menace lurking in the yellow shadows under the trees.
They were almost at the river-gap when Raft touched Crad-dock's arm and they halted.
There was something ahead, blocking their path. Not the nerve-bushes, but a sickly,
saffron thing which lay like half-solid dough along the bank for twenty feet or more. Raft's
brows contracted.
"It wasn't here before," he said slowly. "I don't like it."
Craddock straightened and drew a deep breath. "Guess I'll have to stand on my own feet
for awhile. You may need both hands. See those pseudopods sliding this way? The thing's
alive."
"An amoeba?"
"It isn't that. It's there's no sharp line of demarcation between animal and vegetable here.
It may be protoplasm but, I think, it's allied to those fern-mushrooms. If it caught us we'd
probably get digested. However, it's slow."
"Yeah. But it's big. You feel up to running?"
Craddock drew himself together. "Okay. Where?"
"Let's move along the shallows here and then run like blazes for the tunnel."
Craddock nodded. They stepped into a cold, slow current and waded forward, feeling the
water slide leisurely around their legs as they watched the jellied, saffron entity on the
bank. They came abreast of it, and the tunnel-mouth lay only a little way ahead.
Raft began to think, as he splashed on, that they would
make the tunnel without trouble after all. The monster of Kharn, he told himself, was not a
creature of action. Its danger lay in the mind. It used purely mental power to attract and
overpower its prey. Nor was it accustomed to highly developed minds, able to resist.
Perhaps it had never needed to develop physical offense.
The water suddenly boiled just before them, sliding with nightmare slowness from a round
saffron arm. A pseudopod, stretching after them from the bank, broke the surface. Another
lifted out of the water close behind it.
They tried to circle farther out to avoid them, but the footing shelved off steeply into
dangerous depths. The pseudopod reached inexorably out farther farther and touched
Raft.
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A
Click here to buy
Click here to buy
w
w
m
m
w
w
o
o
w
w
c
c
.
.
.
.
A
A
Y
Y
B
B
Y
Y
B
B
r r
It was filled with a living, hothouse warmth that made his flesh crawl. It wound about his
waist, its moist heat striking inward against his skin as if digestion were already at work
upon him.
He felt its strong pull toward the bank. He tried to get out his knife, but another coil came
up from somewhere and laid a warm, wet embrace about his arms, fastening them to his
sides. He felt himself being pulled shoreward, and struggled hard to keep his footing in the
slow water.
"Hold firm, Brian!"
Craddock stumbled forward, lips set, fighting his own weakness.
He got the knife from Raft's belt with a violent surge of effort, and slashed at the tentacle.
That yellowish, half-fungoid flesh gave like cheese. It had surface tension, apparently, but
it was not more than half solid. Craddock slashed, and the pseudopods fell away and were
washed slowly, slowly off down the current. The incident was like a nightmare in its gentle,
deliberate, inexorable sluggishness.
The whole mass of the thing was sliding into the stream now.
"Come on," Raft said. "Can you make it?"
He seized Craddock's arm as they ran for the archway, the water sucking like glue around
their feet.
On their right the entire bank seemed to be giving way and dropping toward them in a
hungry, malignant pile that could afford to take its time.
Craddock's weakness hampered them. The water parted reluctantly under their splashing
feet. It was like running through semi-liquid rubber, with the great, slow, yellow thing
rolling its bulk forward to intercept their way.
The mouth of the tunnel opened before them, and the nerve-networks that acted as
sentries made a quick, concerted, abortive motion to stop them, as if the whole valley
answered a single brain, as perhaps it did. But Craddock slashed weakly at them with the
knife, and when the blade had severed two or three the rest shrank and folded down out of
harm's way as the two men plunged through.
"They've stopped," Craddock panted, glancing back. "They won't follow outside, I
guess."
"Keep going," Raft urged him grimly. "No use taking chances now."
They stumbled on, out of the gloom at last into the cool green light from the leafy vault, far
overhead, that roofed Paititi. It was like finding sanctuary.
a
a
T
T
n
n
s
s
F
F
f
f
o
o
D
D
r
r
P
P
m
m
Y
Y
e
e
Y
Y
r
r
B
B
2
2
.
.
B
B
A
A [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]