Monday, November 21, 2016

games, part 21

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

the professor tried to get up.

he was covered with mud. his glasses were covered with mud and he lifted his face to the rain to try to to get the glasses washed off.

he still could barely see anything, but he could see, dimly, the lights in the house.

the mud seemed to be pulling him down like a living, vengeful thing.

was this the end of all his dreams, all his mad dreams of love and fame and glory….

with a superhuman effort he got to his feet and staggered to the house… the empty house, now that the old woman and the handyman were dead, and the hitchhiker bob had taken to his cowardly heels…

suddenly it hit him. did he really know the house was empty? it was a big house, there could be servants, there could be anybody in it. just because there were no lights on, there could be people in there sleeping…

or watching him from the windows…

but he didn’t care. all he wanted was to get inside, to get cleaned up and dried off and warm…

if someone was in there and they found him and they called the police and they took him back to the nuthouse or to prison or they hanged him for killing the old lady and the handyman even though he didn’t really do it…

or if they found out about the time back in oklahoma city, or what happened in flagstaff arizona…

he didn’t care.

he just didn’t care.

he made it into the house.

it was a struggle, but he managed to close the door behind him.

ahhh… the warmth… he could still hear the wind, but it was no longer beating right on him.

at this point, the professor had forgotten all about the money in the cellar.

he began crawling up the stairs, in search of a shower and some clothes.


bob headed down the road.

at first he was happy to put the old house and the professor and the two bodies behind him.

he had gotten wet before.

and somebody always came along to give him a ride.

but as he walked along he was getting wetter than he ever had been before. his clothes were so soaked through and stuck to his skin it was like he did not even have any clothes on.

and the wind actually knocked him over a few times. not by surprise, when he was actually bracing himself against it.

how he wished he had a hat! losing his hat - that was what had started this whole mess to begin with!

and there were no cars on the road - none at all.

as bob walked along he forgot all about the professor and the old house and the two unfortunate humans who had met their untimely ends.

the road was dark and empty. he knew he would come to a town and some houses eventually.

he always had.

he decided to knock on the door of the first house he saw that had a light on.

someone in this great land of ours, bob thought, must give a poor traveler shelter from the storm.

“this great land of ours” was a phrase bob had heard once on the radio, from president franklin d roosevelt or some other windbag, and it had stuck in his mind and floated to its surface every so often.

surely someone in this great land of ours would be willing to give a poor traveler shelter from the storm…


edna sipped her ginger ale and listened attentively as julie continued her description of the best selling novel she planned on writing.

the wind and rain were howling outside, but they were as snug as two bugs in a hundred dollar persian rug.

“yolina is often stopped in the street by other girls and women in the women’s city and told how beautiful she is and that she should enter the annual competition to be queen of the city.

if she were elected queen of the city, or even one of the queen’s seven handmaidens, then she could stay in the women’s city and not have to marry a bullfighter or a cowboy or a deep-sea diver and spend her life baking pies and cakes and cookies.

all the girls and women who stop yolina in the street say the same thing - that if she could only get rid of the blue bullet hole looking birthmark on her forehead she could be queen forever or at least for a few years until she starts to lose her looks…”

edna wondered how all the women continued to live in the women’s city if they were all married to the bullfighters, etc, but she took another sip of ginger ale and did not interrupt julie.

julie continued, “and yolina smiles politely but does not tell them the story behind the blue birthmark. one day when yolina was thirteen years old she had come home and found a mysterious letter addressed to herself. her mother was not home and the letter was lying on the floor in front of the mail slot…”

suddenly julie’s recital was interrupted by a pounding on the door. at first edna and julie could hardly hear it over the howling of the wind, but when julie fell silent, they realized it was indeed someone at the door.

“who’s that?” julie asked. “were you expecting somebody?”

“no,” edna answered. “it must be some poor traveler, seeking shelter from the storm.”

part 22

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