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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/101

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seemed to come up in my throat. The small room careened drunkenly. I finally became conscious of two dark objects struggling on the floor. I heard a gulping and a low moaning, and then the still night was rent with Peter's forced screams of horror. "Oh Lord, where are the rest?"

He shrieked and shrieked, and between the screams he vomited a torrent of jumbled words. "Green — eyes! Ugh! Ooze! Mouth! Wet!"

His last throttled shriek lashed at me like a whip. I finally managed another match and lit it. I kept my eyes averted, and carried the match quickly to the candle-wick. I knew that if I looked at the tiling on the floor I would drop the match. I waited until the sickly glow flared, and then — I looked. Something was on top of Peter. It covered him and seemed about to absorb him. In its evil, distorted features I recognized a caricature of Gervais, but the evil in the man had sprouted. It had turned him into a jellyish, fishy monstrosity. His middle was festooned with soft flesh. His legs and arms actually gave. But worst of all, the body of the creature was covered with greenish scales, and it had pulsating pink suckers on its chest. These were lustily at work on Peter.

I thought of the revolver on my bunk, found it, and gripped the butt and leveled it. I aimed it at Peter and the thing on the floor. I fired at the two of them, for I honestly had no intention of sparing Peter. I knew that Peter would not want it, and the mute appeal in his eyes was unmistakable. Again objects refused to retain their identity in my sight. I cracked mentally.

I have a vague recollection of bringing two bodies on deck. I remember one was light, brittle and hollow like an empty match-box. The other, wet and strangely heavy, silvered its path with slime as I laboriously dragged it up the companionway. In the dim half-glow of the ship's watchlights, I bent over the bodies. Peter was done for, there was no doubt about it. My merciful shot at short range had found its mark, and one temple was singed with powder. I stooped and lifted him tenderly; then with a sob I lowered him gently into the ocean. I stood for a moment looking over the side, thinking of the finality of it all, and watching the ever widening ripples on the surface of the oily water.

Finally I turned to regard what was Gervais. With a mingling of loathing and interest I unhooked a lantern and set it near his head. The sickly glow jumped and played on the cruel, twisted features. To my surprize I perceived a slit deep in the folds of his neck, very much like the breathing-organs of a fish. The gill was rigid and distended now, revealing a dark inner lining of red. The body exuded an oily scum, malodorous even in the clean salt air. I hunched closer over the body, and to my amazement a look of ineffable happiness and gratitude had suffused Gervais' face. Was it the weird light, the softening touch of death, or final liberation? No one will ever know. But I do not think it requires an answer. I am ready to be finished with the entire matter, just as Gervais is finished. I later went down into Gervais cabin and breathed deeply of the fresh, clean air that blew through it.

June 26. — We are saved. There is a breeze this morning. The heavy canvas is bellying, and all hands are busy forward. The gray sky above us is sagging like a wet blanket filled with spring rains. Our casks are on deck waiting for the downpour. I thank God that we are safely headed toward France.