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Authors: Clifford D. Simak

The Werewolf Principle

BOOK: The Werewolf Principle
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The Werewolf Principle

Clifford D. Simak


The creature halted, crouched low against the ground, staring at the tiny points of light that lay ahead, burning softly through the darkness.

The creature whimpered, frightened and uneasy.

The world was much too hot and wet and the darkness was too thick. There was too much and too large vegetation. The atmosphere was in violent motion and the vegetation moaned in agony. Far off in the distance there were vague flarings and flashings of light, which did nothing to illuminate the night, and somewhere far away something was complaining in long, low rumblings. And there was life, far more life than any planet had a right to have—but low and stupid life, some of it scarcely more than biological stirring, tiny bundles of matter that could do no more than react feebly to certain stimuli.

Perhaps, the creature told itself, it should not have tried so hard to break away. Perhaps it should have been content to remain in that nameless place where there had been no being and no sense nor memory of being, but a knowledge, dredged from somewhere, that there was such a state of being. That, and occasional snatches of intelligence, disconnected bits of information, which whetted the struggles to escape, to be a separate agent, to see where it might be and learn why it was there and by what means it might have gotten there.

And now?

It crouched and whimpered.

How could there be so much water in any single place? And so much vegetation and such boisterous agitation of the elements? How could any world be so messy, so flamboyantly un-neat? It was sacrilegious for so much water to be in evidence, running in a stream below this slope of ground, standing in pools and puddles on the very ground. And not only that, but present in the atmosphere, the air filled with driven droplets of it.

What was this fabric which was fastened at its throat and which lay along its back, dragging on the ground, fluttered by the wind? A protection of some sort? Although that didn't seem too likely. It had never needed protection of any sort before. Its coat of silver fur was all that it had needed.

Before? it asked itself. Before what and when? It struggled to think back and there was a dim impression of a crystal land, with cool, dry air, with a dust of snow and sand, with a sky ablaze with many stars and the night as bright as day with the soft, golden shine of moons. And there was a haunting half-memory, blurred all around the edges, of a reaching out into the depths of space to pluck secrets from the stars.

But was this memory or was it fantasy, born of that faceless place from which it had escaped? There was no way of knowing.

The creature extruded a pair of arms and gathered up the fabric off the ground and held it bundled in each arm. The water dripped off it and fell in tiny drops, splashing in the pools of water that lay upon the ground.

Those points of light ahead? Not stars, for they lay too low against the ground and, in any case, there were not any stars. And that, in itself, was unthinkable, for there were always stars.

Cautiously the creature reached out with its mind toward the steady light and there was something there other than the light, a background sense of mineral. Carefully it traced that background and became aware that a block of mineral stood there in the dark, too regular in its shape to be a natural outcrop.

In the distance the mad muttering went on and the flaring of the far-off light ran frightened up the sky.

Should it go on, it wondered, circling wide around the lights? Or should it move in upon them to find out what they were? Or should it, perhaps, retrace its steps in an effort to find once again that emptiness from which it had escaped? Although there was no knowing now where the place might be. When it had broken free, the place had not been there. And since the time of breaking free, it had traveled far.

And where were those other two who also had been in that place of nothingness? Had they broken free as well, or had they stayed behind, sensing, perhaps, the mind-wrenching alienness that lay outside the place? And if they had not escaped, where might they be now?

And not only where, but who?

Why had they never answered? Or had they never heard the question? Perhaps there were not the right conditions in that nameless place for a question to be asked. Strange, the creature thought, to occupy the same space, the same sense of possible-existence, with two other beings and never to be able to communicate with them.

Despite the heat of the night, the creature shivered, deep inside itself.

It could not stay here, it told itself. It could not wander endlessly. It must find a place to shelter. Although where to look for shelter in a world as mad as this was something it had not figured out as yet.

It moved forward slowly, uncertain of itself, uncertain where to go, uncertain what to do.

The lights? it wondered. Should it investigate the lights or should it …

The sky exploded. The world was filled to bursting with a brilliant blueness. The creature, its sight wiped out, all senses canceled, recoiled, and a scream rose keening in its curdled brain. Then the scream cut off and the light was gone and it was back, once again, in the place of nothingness.


Rain slapped Andrew Blake across the face and the very earth was trembling with the deadening crash of thunder, the great masses of riven atmosphere rushing together once again, it seemed, just above his head. The air was sharp with the smell of ozone and he could feel cold mud squishing up between his toes.

And how had he gotten here—out in a storm, with no cover for his head and with his robe so soaked it dripped, and without his sandals?

He had stepped out after dinner to have a look at a storm that was boiling up across the western wall of mountains—and here, a second later, he was out in that very storm, or, at least, he hoped it was that very storm.

The wind was moaning in a clump of trees and from the foot of the slope on which he stood he could hear the sound of running water and just across the stream light shone out from windows.

His house, perhaps, he thought, befuddled. Although where his house stood there was no slope and no stream of running water. There were trees, but not so many trees, and there should be other houses.

He put up his hand and scrubbed his head in perplexity and the water he squeezed out of his hair ran down across his face.

The rain, which had slackened for a moment, began beating at him once again with a fresh enthusiasm and he turned toward the house. Not his house, surely, but it was a house and there'd be someone there to tell him where he was and …

But tell him where he was! That was insane! A second ago he had been standing on his patio looking at the storm clouds and there had been no rain.

He must be dreaming. Or suffering a hallucination. But the beating rain was not a dream-like rain and the smell of ozone still was in the air—and who had ever found the smell of ozone reeking through a dream?

He started walking toward the house and as he swung his right foot forward, it came in contact with something hard and a blaze of pain flared through his foot and leg.

In agony, he lifted the foot and waved it in the air, jigging on one leg. The pain drained down into the big toe of the lifted foot and it throbbed in agony.

The foot on which he stood slipped in the mud and he sat down suddenly. Mud spatted as his bottom hit the earth. The ground was wet and cold.

He stayed there. He pulled the foot with the injured toe up into his lap and probed blindly—and carefully and tenderly—at the toe.

It was no dream, he knew. In a dream a man would not be so stupid as to stub his toe.

Something had happened. Something, in a second's time, had transported him, all unknowing, perhaps many miles away from where he'd stood on the patio. Had transported him and set him down in the midst of rain and thunder and in a night so dark there was no seeing anything.

He probed at the toe again and it felt a little better.

Carefully, he picked himself up and tried the injured foot. By walking tensed and slightly spraddled, with the toe stretched upward, he could use the leg.

Limping and fumbling and slipping in the mud, he made his way down the slope and across the little stream, which ran ankle deep, then climbed the slope that went up to the house.

Lightning flared along the horizon and for a moment he saw the house silhouetted against the flare, a massive pile, with heavy chimneys and windows set deep, like eyes, into the stone.

A stone house, he thought. An anachronism! A stone house and someone living in it.

He ran into a fence, but without any hurt, for he was moving slowly. He followed it blindly by feel and came to a gate. Beyond the gate three little rectangles of light marked what he took to be the location of a door.

Flat stones lay underneath his feet and he followed them. Near the door he slowed his walk to a cautious shuffle. There might be steps leading to the door and one stubbed toe was all he cared to have.

There were steps. He found them with the still tender toe and stood for a moment, stiff and straight and shuddering, with clenched teeth, until the worst pain ebbed away.

Then he climbed the steps and found the door. He hunted for the signal, but there was no signal—not even a bell or buzzer. He hunted some more and found the knocker.

A knocker? Of course, he told himself, a house like this would have a knocker. A house so deep into the past …

A wild fear surged through him. Not space, but time, he wondered. Had he been moved (if he had been moved) not in space, but time?

He lifted the knocker and hammered with it. He waited. There was no sign he had been heard. He hammered once again.

A footstep crunched behind him and a cone of light speared out and caught him. He spun about and the round eye of light held steady, blinding him. Behind the light he sensed the vague figure of a man, the faint outline of a deeper shadow against the darkness of the night.

BOOK: The Werewolf Principle
10.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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