Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/75

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201
THE STRANGLING HANDS

might go to some trouble to play a practical joke on you?"

He frowned perplexedly.

"Listen here," I went on. "Ghost-like forms and hands without arms and headless bodies have been used before, you know. Lantern slides make very good connections with the other worlds."

"I would have known a lantern slide."

"You would, would you? Well, personally, I think everything points to it–the vague light that showed up the hands in an otherwise dark room, the fact your own hands passed right through them–everything. It's as clear as daylight."

"But lantern slide pictures don't feel like moth wings when they fall on your throat."

"Moth wings are as faint as imaginary wings. Well, anyway, that's my theory. And that's the one I'm going to test. We'll lock the door, pin the curtains across the window-shades, test the walls for hidden cupboards, move the radio out here——"

As I spoke, I began to carry out my plans of blocking the jokester's chances of repeating. Tony at first refused to budge, but my energy became contagious and presently he went as far as disconnecting the radio, removing it from the room, and coming back with a package of safety pins for the curtains. I knocked on the walls, looked under the sofa, opened the desk top, and moved the bookcase to one side. Satisfied that no man or machinery could get into the room without our knowledge; I put Tony's chair against the wall on the side of the room that had neither door nor window.

"You sit there," I told him, "and don't go moving about. That wall's solid and nothing can get in behind you. I'm going to sit against the door to be sure no key's used."

Tony walked wearily to his place. "Okay, Mac. Just as you say."


It was two minutes before twelve as I sat down with my back to the door. After a minute of inaction, I went to the table, extracted a bit of cotton from the box which held the Eye-stone, carefully replaced the cover, and went back to the door.

"I'm stuffing the keyhole," I said in answer to a question from Tony. "We've got to keep out any points of light."

Satisfied with my job, I put the chair-back under the door-knob to further secure the door. Sitting slightly tipped, I crossed my legs and waited.

"What time's it now?" Tony asked.

I took out my watch and saw by the dim light that it was two minutes after the hour. It did not occur to me to put my hand to the light-switch by the door. As on the previous nights, the change had been so gradual that the half-light seemed the normal thing. Within two minutes it was to be pitch-black and seem as natural.

"Three hundred seconds, Tony."

He began to tap off the seconds with his foot. Subconsciously I counted with him–ninety–ninety-one–ninety-two.

"Say, Mac, are you there?" One hundred and three–one hundred and four. "Mac, did you take the stone out of the box?"

"No. I——"

But the stone was out of the box. From the center of die room came that faint blurred blue-green that had before turned into the form of the eye of the god of death. All my consciousness was focussed on that misty light but somewhere in another part of my mind I was counting. One hundred and sixty-five–one hundred and sixty-six–one hundred and sixty-seven–one hundred and——

"Mac! Mac!"