Originally published in four installments in PARTS magazine.

© 1995 by Friday Jones. All rights reserved.

1.

Peter Cernere was going mad. He'd been going mad inside his head for a long time now. This time, however, his

madness was outside of his head, in his hands, in the machine he was building. As he worked, he chanted to

himself under his breath, pausing every once in a while to rub at the deep horizontal scar running inbetween his

blond brows in an unconscious gesture.

 

"I did see them they're all going to see them I am not insane I did see them Pretorius saw them I'll show them all..."

 

He froze. What was that rustling noise, there in the corner of the room? He closed his eyes and saw the flashing

phosphenes on the inside of his eyelids take on new shape. Peter started to chant again, more quietly, and moved

his hands slower. Sometimes THEY could see him. Sometimes they would come rushing at him, only to fly into a

thrashing rage at their inability to touch him. As he worked, his eyes kept ranging on the tall, bulbous machine he

was doing the last wiring on, and on the two mammoth tuning forks crowning it.

 

"I did see them ... they'll all see them ... I'll get them ... I'll get them ..."

 

It was a paper tucked away on the back of a bookshelf at Miskatonic University that had led Peter to Pretorius'

work on the stimulation of the pineal gland as a visual organ, and he'd been a diligent follower after researching

his name in the newspapers. Pretorius had seen THEM, and had found a way to make them solid. Of course,

they'd killed him. But his aim might not have been to kill them - Peter's talk to an ex-student whose wrists still bore

scars have convinced him of at least some of Pretorius' priorities. But Peter would be ready for revenge. He'd show

them to follow him around, drive him half-insane with their obscene wriggling and gaping, waking him from his

sleep every night with his own scream in his ears, " I can feel the eels!" He'd kill THEM, every one ... somehow.

 

Peter stepped back from the Resonator. It was done. Rebuilding the machine that Pretorius had created hadn't

been the hardest part; he's even manage to filch some of the hardware from an early prototype that a horrified

University had crated up and tucked away in a back closet. The machine he'd built wouldn't have a tenth of the

power of the original model - but it would work. The hardest thing had been the nerving up of himself to actually

do this, to go through with it and prove to the world that he wasn't crazy. Of course, his contact with the only

survivor of Pretorius' experiment hadn't encouraged him. That woman McMichaels had told him at the asylum,

whispering from the grille in her door, "The purple glow - it ate him - it ate him!" she'd sobbed, and started to cry

so loudly that he'd slipped away before half of his questions were answered.

 

He'd waited a long time for this. Years he'd spent dreaming of what he'd do to the monsters, ever since as a very

small child he realized that the things that swam and swooped around his crib were unseen by his parents - and

worse - that no one and nothing would make them go away. He'd spent all of his life smothered down by that

horrible realization, and even though he'd learned fast to keep quiet, there was still a mark of strangeness on him.

His hands were shaking as he made sure the shotgun was loaded; the stock felt warm and reassuring in his hands.

Then he sat down, his back against the cold shaft of the Resonator; wouldn't do to destroy all his labor with one

wild shot.

 

Suddenly a feeling of absolute, bottomless despair welled up and washed over him. Who did he think he was? Did

he really think this crazy stunt would work? Pretorius had been crazy, and he was crazy to even think of doing

this. Why not just turn this thing off and then go to bed and take this gun and ... "NO!" he shouted aloud. "I

WILL do it, goddamnit!" It was too late to chicken out now. He reached over his head and pushed up the switch,

shoving it home with a vengeance.

 

The Resonator hummed at his back. The tuning forks vibrated, sending prickly chills along his back. And he

knew, even before the purple light shone down on his hands holding the gun, that this was it.

 

A wet breeze started to blow in the attic. The sensations that Peter Cernere has felt all his life intensified a

hundredfold; he felt like he was shaking apart, like a hollow void was opening inside of him, like a bundle of live

wires threading through his veins was blanketing his skin in a fierce, hard grip. He felt like a river of fire was

running from his brain to his groin, and exploding from his forehead in a plume of light. And he saw THEM.

 

All his life they'd been all around him, but now he could see how the air was thick with them, how they were

hovering like leprous snowflakes all around him, floating or flying or oozing or whatever the hell you called their

movements. His left hand was still on the switch above his head. Slowly, slowly, he raised the shotgun from his

knee with his other hand. One of the eels - or the things that looked like horrible, flayed trunks - drifted towards

the motion of the barrel, its blind face marked only by its ravenous grimace of a mouth. It was no more than a foot

from the barrel when he fired.

 

The kick of the blast sent the stock of the gun lunging back into Cernere's crotch, much to his dismay. As he

opened his mouth to scream, he saw the movement of a dozen eels homing in on the smoke of the blast. But in his

mind, they were lunging at his face to revenge themselves on him at last. He let out a tiny squeak at the thought of

those myriad teeth actually sinking themselves into him as his hand jerked - and pulled down the switch.

They vanished. The wind shut off, along with the glow. Peter saw the faint ghosts of THEM lunging at him - and

passing through him like smoke. He pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the swarm of ghostly movement around

him, and staggered forward. It was just about here ...

 

Peter laughed. He laughed, and he howled, and he shrieked until he felt like his throat was bleeding. For drifting

down through the air - and into the floor - were the pulped and definitely dead remains of the eel he'd fired at.

Even as he watched, its ghostly brethren lunged in to devour it, setting off a fresh eruption of laughter. Now he

knew that they were real - and that he could hurt them. And he would.

 

"'I'll kill you! I'll kill you all!" He laughed and laughed and laughed ...

 

* * *

 

Now there is another place, quite separate from where Peter Cernere stood and laughed. It is a place he'd

recognize, although he has never been there.

 

It is a world of beasts and hunger. Of things that rip and devour one another, only to erupt into pieces which

devour one another once again. An endless sea of twisted, flabby pustulences that flutter and swoop and dive

and quaver as they endlessly rend and feed; where deep currents shift through the measureless spaces and carry

a living tide of insatiable hunger that flows and ebbs and rises again to an unknown pattern.

 

And in one small part of this place called by some The Beyond, there are two beasts who could think.

 

One of them could even remember that it once had a name.

 

There had been a breathless eternity when these two beasts had locked themselves into combat, ingesting and

budding and seeking, over and over again, to kill an opponent that could never be killed. Then another eternity

when the beasts had kept their distance from one another, one flying and twisting away in the currents if the other

approached. And another eternity when they had been locked into an twisting embrace more intimate than feeding

- whether of their own free will, who can say?

 

All of those eternities on eternities strung one against the other added up to less than three years.

This is an eternity when the beasts are apart. And the aether is troubled with the sounds of a beast, as it

desperately croaks out a prayer more fervent than any said over a child's bedside at night.

"Kr ... kaw ... kawford ... Crawford .... Till ... " But the prayer is interrupted by a brief passage of slithering tentacled

bubbles. The beast that is Crawford Tillinghast inhales, and munches, and forgets its long-lost humanity for

another time ...

 

* * *

 

"Are you sure you know how to use these?" The black market gunseller that Peter had located in a sleazy Boston

bar raised an inquiring eyebrow.

 

"Positive," Peter replied fervently. In fact, he would be hard put to name some of the many weapons he'd bought,

but hell, a gun's a gun, right? Just put ammo in one end and let Death go whizzing out the other. He hoped he

didn't get the ammo mixed up.

 

The gunseller turned on one high heel, surveying the attic. Layers of boards had been nailed over the windows

and all the walls, sometimes three and four deep. A wood-and-mesh cabinet enclosed the Resonator, leaving only

the top protruding. Peter turned from loading the last of the ammunition into the rack he'd built, and then sliding it

into place inside the cabinet. He turned to look at her, and blushed. The look in her eyes was cool, impersonal ...

the look of someone regarding a possibly dangerous animal. But then he glared back defiantly. People had looked

at him like that all his life. Now he knew that they'd all been wrong, and it buoyed his confidence to a small extent.

But the gunseller looked away first, a thick blonde braid slithering over her shoulder. Then suddenly, with one

long step she was at his side, and gripping his chin in pale, strong fingers, forcing him to look at her.

 

"Look, you've bought enough hardware from me to keep me fed for months. And I explained to you that I did not

want any connections from these guns to me. Let me make something clear: if you get caught and these weapons

are confiscated" she gestured to the racks of guns, "you are not to involve me. I have friends who would make

your prison stay unpleasant ... and very short."

 

"Let go of me." A month ago he wouldn't have dared say anything to a woman like this, but he was stronger now.

She released his chin.

 

"It's none of my business. You paid your money, you got your guns." The gunseller picked up a large black

suitcase from the floor, which had been full when she got here. Now it was completely empty. She extended an

index card to Peter, who took it mutely and looked at it. There was a name and phone number on it.

"The number's an ammo supplier - call him for your reloads. I travel a lot, might not be around when you need

more. Leave a message with him if you have problems with any of these guns. Goodbye - I'll let myself out."

 

The gunseller strode out of the room, closing the door behind her. Peter heard her heels clacking down the stairs

and relaxed for the first time since she'd come in. He sat on a chair at the side of the room, considering.

He'd nailed the boards up to act as soundproofing as well as to absorb stray shots; wouldn't do to go blowing

holes in the place and alerting the police. He'd discussed silencers with the gunseller, but apparently they were

only good for a few shots. Since he would be firing more than a few shots - a lot more than that, he smiled - they'd

be useless. The fetid swamps around this house were unlikely to have many eager listeners, anyway. He'd sit nice

and safe in the cabinet around the Resonator and he would kill those stupid little fucks; he would kill and kill and

kill until they were piled so thick around him that he couldn't see - or at least until they were piled higher than the

lens of the 8mm camera he'd installed in the cabinet. Then he'd turn off the Resonator, let their mangled corpses

drift away, turn it back on and start shooting them again. And he'd have to find a way to catch one of them. He

wanted to find out if they felt pain - and how much he could inflict on them before they died.

 

Peter clapped his hands softly in glee, his grinning face and glazed blue eyes making him the perfect picture of

deranged lunacy. He couldn't wait to begin! And why should he wait? He had guns, ammo, film - everything! But

first he headed to the bathroom; he needed some aspirin for this terrible headache he had. It felt like an icepick

was being jabbed into the middle of his forehead.

 

He looked at the room full of madness and smiled - just a little.

 

"I'll be back," he whispered.

 

* * *

 

If you put a man into a sensory deprivation tank for three years, he would go mad.

 

What is left of Crawford Tillinghast's mind inside of a slimy, rapacious monster floating in the endless Beyond

might very well be mad - if there was more of it. But it is really only a very tiny mote inside of the beast-mind. But

that mote is fastened on one thing, fastened on it more desperately than its own identity. It has been eroded away

to this, but no farther. And that tiny spark of humanity burns with one single thought, a thought common to

mankind all over the world but unknown totally in this dimension of shapeless, weightless beasts.

 

I know what love is.

 

That thought was all that was left, along with a vague impression of a man that had been himself and a last

glimpse - the last that man had ever had - of the woman he loved, fleeing from the explosion that had destroyed

the link between their worlds. From the beginning his mind has crushed any doubts that she might have not

survived that explosion. She was alive, here in his mind. Love was her. Love was her hair, her eyes, and her love

for him, the taste of her lips on his.

 

I know what love is.

 

When the beast saw an influx of the creatures around it towards a peculiar anomaly in the far distance, it

swam/flew towards it. Its beast mind sensed only a ready grouping of prey gathered around a ... a bright thing. It

fluttered indecisively, holding its position in the currents. Did it know that bright thing? Its mind groped within

itself, poring over its vague bestial memories, and was suddenly shoved aside as the fragment of Crawford

Tillinghast came to life, taking over its tiny mind and sending its body plunging towards the shape hovering on

the horizon of the Beyond, a geometrically improbable collection of right angles that formed the outlines of a

section of floor, part of a wall ... and a tall shiny upright cylinder that was familiar. It was the R...-something,

Crawford couldn't remember. But he knew what it was, if not its name. It was the Way. It was the way back Home.

To People. To ... Katherine.

 

The beast flew to the Resonator, its intended victims fleeing before its vast bulk hurtling through the aether even

as Crawford took over every last cranny of its mind, and then flopped down on the section of wooden flooring.

Crawford's tentacles slithered over it with a sensual delight. It was solid and firm and didn't float or sway or

dissolve, a wonderful floor. And every moment brought back new memories, of being in a place like this, and ...

and he noticed that little things were flying through him. He turned his bestial head to the Resonator and saw a

stick, no a GUN, that's what it was, poking out and flashing at him. And pointing the gun at him was a MAN, a

man like him. Why was this man poking holes in him? Couldn't he see that he was a man too? Crawford looked

down at his great, gross body sprawled on the flooring, and would have wept if he had tears. Quickly he slithered

over to the box that the man was in. He had to make him understand!

 

He clutched at his bestial body with his mind and thought desperately of what he was like, what a man was like.

He called up from his deepest cells the map of what he had been, trying to conscious recreate what he had done

unknowingly so very very long ago. The flesh streamed from him like water; tiny creatures too stupid to flee

began to flock around the changing outlines of him, snapping at the cells being shed. He looked down at himself -

no! no! All wrong! His skin was changing back to human, but it was still wrapped around his diminished but still

hideous knobby beast body.

 

He seized his own being with a harsher mental grip, remembered having fingers, and two legs, and a head, hair,

hands, heart; he concentrated as hard as he could on a dimly-remembered transformation from eternities ago. His

body shrank from the bloated, alien form and transformed, rebuilt, renewed its reduced mass. He remembered his

shape, and remade it. He remembered himself, and was himself again. It was so very very hard - but he returned to

himself. His beast instincts screamed that he was defenseless this way! - but he smothered them down. Then he

stood up on his own two legs - for the first time in a thousand eternities - and promptly collapsed.

 

No time! His new skin shuddered at the thought of the beasts lurking just out of sight, wondering if they should

sneak in and nibble at this new creature. He crawled desperately to the window of the cabinet, hooked his new

fingers into the mesh, stared in at the man inside. The man stared back, sweat streaming down his forehead, his

sweat-soaked hair fluttering from the winds tearing around them, his pupils dilated. Crawford opened his mouth

and croaked "I'm ... Crawford."

 

The man stared back at him, his hands shaking on the stock of his gun. Then he repeated slowly, "Crawford ... the

assistant."

 

"Yes. I'm ... back."

 

The man hesitated, then opened the door of the cabinet and slid out. They stared at one another. Fumbling,

cursing the shaking of his new hands, Crawford reached out and touched the man's hand. Then grasped it,

squeezing so hard that it hurt, ignoring the cloud of mites that now swarmed around them both.

 

"I haven't ... touched ... a human being ... in ... "; the tears that Crawford had been unable to shed before were

coming to the fore. He shook his head and said, "Who are you?"

 

Still staring at him like a bird fascinated by a snake, he replied "I'm Peter, uh, Peter Cernere." In a habitual gesture,

his fingers rubbed at the scar across his brow.

 

Crawford lunged out and gathered both of the man's hands into his. He leaned forward, close enough to smell the

fear on him.

 

"How long have I been ... gone?"

 

Peter replied "It's been, uh, thirty-nine months since the house on Benevolent Avenue blew up. They found your

... that is, you were reported dead." He was still.

 

Crawford stared at the floor and dredged up a question he didn't want to ask. If he'd been looking up, he'd have

seen Peter staring at the naked man before him like a starving man confronted by a feast. Tillinghast could sense

his sanity and his mind riding on a very sharp edge as he asked the question that he had repressed inside of

himself.

 

"And ... the woman? Katherine?"

 

Now Peter looked down at the floor. "She's ... in a mental institution. In Waltham."

 

"But she's ... alive?"

 

Peter nodded, still looking at the floor. "Yes."

 

Crawford swept Peter into a clumsy and rather slimy embrace. Crushing his face against Peter's neck, he let his

tears flow freely. He didn't even notice that Peter's gasp was of something more than surprise. Crawford sobbed,

"I ... if she was dead ... ." He looked up as he felt Peter's arms go around him in sympathy - and saw a flight of

leathery flat creatures trailing glowing fringes go swooping past the wall in a panic. His beast-mind promptly

leaped to the fore, reminding him of what vicious predators they were - and what was the only thing they would

flee from.

 

Crawford threw himself away from Peter, scrabbling across the floor, his hands and then his whole body shaking;

his muscles and bones writhed under his white skin like snakes in a bowl of milk. The instincts of the beast was

taking over again, imposing its will on these borrowed cells of his. The senses he'd gained on the other side were

awakening, showing him what was fast approaching. Crawford screamed over the whistle of the wind, "Turn it

off!"

 

"What?" cried Peter.

 

"Turn it off! He's coming!"

 

Peter slid back inside the cabinet on his knees and put a hand on the switch that would disengage the Resonator.

Looking back, he saw the transformation of Crawford reversing itself; wings sprouted from his back, and his legs

fused into the repulsive tail anew. Peter reached out a hand still gleaming with slime in entreaty, as if he could will

Crawford to stay, then quickly drew back. Just as he threw the switch, he yelled "Who's coming?"

 

And as the beast vanished from sight, it cried from its animal throat, "Pret"

 

It was cut off. The purplish glow, the creature, the wind, the things floating around him, all vanished. But when he

closed his eyes and called upon that other sight that had afflicted him all his life, he dimly saw a monstrous beast

of the same species (or whatever) as Crawford was, winging through the wall and attacking a smaller beast that

floated where Crawford had been. Locked in combat, they vanished into the distance, or just from his sight

through the boiling masses of alien life, in a manner of seconds.

 

Peter opened his eyes and felt his forehead; first the scar, and then higher up. There was a soft spot in the middle

of his forehead that throbbed painfully. It was worse all the time - and at the same time, his sight of the Beyond

was getting better.

 

He reached out and carefully hit the 'off' switch of the camera that had recorded the whole encounter. Then he

fainted.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

 

 

 

 

2.

Peter Cernere woke up on a cold wooden floor. He moaned; he had the worst headache he'd ever felt in his life.

Where was he?

 

He sat up and groggily looked at the machine behind him, a shaft of steel surrounded by a cabinet and crowned

with two giant tuning forks. Bits and pieces of his life whizzed before his eyes. The eels. The chisel. The face of a

girl laughing at him. A book on anatomy: "The pineal gland is a small reddish gray body, conical in shape ...." His

head hurt so terribly he couldn't think straight. Was he dying? He touched his forehead - and winced at the

horrible softness he felt. His exploring fingers found a pulsing feverish spot just above the bridge of his nose. He

pressed the heel of his hand as hard as he could against his forehead, and that seemed to help.

 

The thoughts flashing before his eyes obliged by flashing a little slower. The machine was the Resonator, which

stimulated the pineal gland into becoming a visual organ. He'd built it to prove to everyone who'd laughed at his

insistence that there were monsters in the air all around him, monsters that only he could see. Monsters that

anyone could see if they were in the field of the Resonator. He'd built it, and turned it on, and then ... then ...

The face of the man who'd come out of the beast - and then turned back into one - was impressed into Peter's

brain as firmly as though it was etched on the inside of his eyelids. It was simply the most magnetic, amazing face...

 

He shook his head in frustration, trying to get it off the thought that seemed to be looped into it, playing the man's

- Crawford Tillinghast's - face over and over again. Crawford, Crawford, what did he remember about him? He was

a physicist from Miskatonic who'd worked with Pretorius; hospitalized once after Pretorius death, and once more

with some illness or mutilation that he'd never been able to find an exact description of. Anyway, he'd been

wanted for four murders when his body was found, sans head, in the ruins of the Pretorius Institute.

 

Peter staggered down the stairs to the small living quarters he'd thrown together in one corner of the empty

house. He was starving, but couldn't decide what he wanted to eat. He dithered in front of the refrigerator as

Crawford's face again appeared in his mind. He closed his eyes - and the face was still there. Then, with a flash of

comprehension, he understood. He concentrated his other sight, feeling a stabbing pain in his head as he did so,

and saw Crawford hovering in the Beyond. At least the head and arms looked like Crawford Tillinghast, but the

body they were attached to was a creature from Peter's nightmares. His mouth moved, but Peter couldn't make out

what he was saying. There were vast rents in the flesh of Crawford's alien body that, even as Peter watched, were

pulling themselves together and healing. As he watched, Crawford writhed in an inhuman maneuver to avoid a

skinless eel floating past, and then ... he opened his mouth, and rows of fangs burst from his human flesh, and he

gulped the eel down, whole. And looked at Peter, the wriggling end of a tail still slithering down his gullet.

Peter breathed heavily, swallowed, and gave up any idea of eating. He turned and went unsteadily over to the

battered manual typewriter that he'd been taking notes on. As he sat down, the ghostly image of Crawford's head

loomed over his shoulder, and he had to restrain an impulse to look back as he rolled a sheet of paper into the

typewriter and wrote:

 

CAN YOU READ THIS?

 

The ghostly forms of Crawford's hand reached over his shoulders, and pointed down emphatically at one key.

 

Following the movements of Crawford's fingers with his own, Peter typed:

YES WHERE IS KATHERINE I MUST SEE HER

Peter's hands trembled for a moment on the keys, and then he typed.

SHES IN AN ASYLUM ABOUT 25 MILES FROM HERE I DON'T THINK SHE COULD TAKE SEEING YOU

WHERE YOU ARE NOW

Crawford's hands gestured again for him to follow along and he typed:

I LOVE HER CAN YOU BRING HER HERE

Peter closed his eyes and heard his blood thudding in his ears. That incredible flaming lust was coursing through

his body again, and his hands felt a million miles away from him, like numb lumps at the end of his arms, as he

replied.

IF I BRING HER HERE WILL YOU DO ANYTHING I ASK

 

Crawford looked back at him out of the Beyond, the tiny animals swimming between them. They would have been

close enough to kiss, if they had been in the same universe. Crawford's face was lapped with a series of emotions:

anger, lust, hunger ... and then his hands reached out again for the typewriter.

 

ANYTHING

 

Peter turned around and ran his fingers through the air where Crawford's cheek would have been, and saw again

that almost daemonic hunger coursing through him. Abruptly Crawford convulsed and slashed two armfuls of

hideous talons through Peter's chest - with absolutely no effect. His mouth open in inaudible screams, he swam

away and was lost to view.

 

Peter grabbed his wallet and ran his thumb through the bills; enough was left to bribe the attendant at the asylum

again. He ran upstairs and unloaded the film from the 8mm camera, slipping it into his jacket pocket. Before he left,

he typed a message and left it in the glare of the desk lamp, circled.

 

CRAWFORD I'M GOING TO GET KATHERINE AND BRING HER HERE REMEMBER YOUR PROMISE.

* * *

Peter huddled against the wall in a dark corner of the Moody Medical Hospital, waiting for the attendant to return

with the keys for this wing. He shivered; what if a guard came around the corner instead? How would he ever be

able to explain himself? Worst of all, what if they recognized him ... He straightened as a bulky shadow fell over

him. The attendant gestured silently for him to follow, and walked away towards the cell where Katherine

McMichaels had spent the last three years of her life. As he walked, the attendant spoke in a deceptively soft

voice that Peter had to strain to hear as he followed close behind.

 

"This lady, she don't get a lot of repeat visitors. Nobody wants to come see her up front by appointment, but

some guys, they like a woman who can't talk about it, afterwards, eh? So they come at night, to see the ladies ...

but they don't usually come twice to see this one. She talks too much, almost talks like a sane person sometimes,

though she sure is eager ... Here she is."

 

The vague outline of a face was pressed frantically to the tiny window in the door they had stopped in front of.

Huge, staring blue eyes riveted on Peter's face with a gaze so intense he could feel it.

 

"You want anything to take in with you?" Peter shuddered and turned to the attendant. " What?"

 

"You want a straitjacket, oxygen, some straps? She likes to play with toys, yes she does ..." The orderly's face

stretched in a ridiculously exaggerated leer as Peter nodded no and tapped on the door. The orderly unlocked it

and opened it about an inch, then turned to look Peter in the eye again.

 

"I lock you in there for half an hour - that's all you bought. Don't put too many marks on her that can't be

explained away, OK?" The attendant shoved Peter into the cell, and clicked the lock. And his voice whispered

from the grill, "Oh .. and you got to pay an extra fifty 'fore I let you out. Haaa....." His footsteps retreated down the

hall.

 

Peter barely heard him because he was smothering. Soft arms were wrapped around his head, forcing his face into

what felt like a mountain of hot flesh. Hot panting in his ear, as her tongue lapped over his face and hair. Peter

shoved her away with all of his strength and whispered tensely, "Doctor McMichaels"!

 

The woman that he could barely see as a vast shadow against the padded wall of her cell was silent. Then, in a

voice so raspy that he wondered when she had last spoken, she said, "That's not me."

 

"What?" Peter cried. Had that stupid attendant taken him to the wrong cell? He peered into the gloom again;

could this hulking shape be the slim blonde whose photograph he'd seen in the newspaper articles?

 

"I'm ... not a doctor anymore. I don't ... want to be a doctor anymore." Katherine McMichaels - for it was she - fell

clumsily to her knees. He hands clutched at the scars on her legs, then moved up to her shoulders, wrapping

around herself. "I just want to be loved again. I want love ... I want love again. Crawford" - the last in a voice so

soft and so full of pain that Peter could barely hear it or stand to hear it. "Crawford ... "

 

Peter gritted his teeth and touched the envelope in his pocket. "He's alive."

 

Her blue eyes leaped at him as her nails dug into his cheeks, dragging his face to inches of hers. "No, he can't be!

 

He can't be that ... thing! I killed him, I must have!"

 

Peter fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the prints he'd had made of selected frames from the 8mm film. He took

a tiny flashlight from his pocket and shone it on them as he placed them in her hands. "Look."

 

Katherine leaned over her hands and sniffed at the smell of chemicals. Then her whole body shook, and she fell to

her knees again, ignoring Peter as he knelt at her side, looking over her shoulder. Her soft fingers looked like they

were carved of stone, rigid with tension as they quickly flipped through the photos. The eels in the glow of the

Resonator he'd built. A half-human beast with the maw of some ocean monster and huge, soft brown eyes.

Crawford, crouched on one knee, staring at the camera as though it was an enemy. And lastly, Crawford and Peter

together, staring at one another. Peter shone the flashlight's beam on his own face, then back to the photos.

Katherine looked at his face, and then back at the photos. Carefully, she handed them to him.

 

Then she collapsed, rolled into a ball on the floor, sobbing.

 

"Oh God," Peter whispered to himself. He looked at his watch; his time was nearly half gone. Quickly he put his

arm around Katherine's shoulders and tilted her head up with main strength so that she'd hear him. "Katherine,

he's alive and he wants to see you. Please."

 

Katherine froze, and then replied in a quavering voice, "He ... remembers me? That beast ..." She clung to Peter

with shaking fingers as he answered, "He remembers; he asked me if you were alive, said that he wanted to see

you. Please, you've got to come with me. I promised him" everything, his mind interjected, but he did not say it

aloud. "Please, he loves you, he needs you, come with me."

 

Katherine looked at him for the first time with a sane look on her face. "How?"

 

* * *

 

It actually was a lot simpler than Peter had thought it would be, as the car raced down Route 133 towards his

house. Katherine was leaning out the window, his jacket draped over her chest, savoring the smell of spring.

When the orderly accepted the $50 bill and opened the door to let Peter out, Katherine had simply jumped on top

of him with all of her 220 pounds. While he gasped for air, Peter smashed him on the temple with the flashlight.

Then it was a scary, frantic flight down the darkened corridors, out the service entrance and through the gap in

the ill-tended fence. To his car, and away! As they drove his mind chanted the directions over and over: Exit 26 to

Route 128; north to 95 ; 95 to Route 133; take the second exit to East Main Street, turn left after the cemetery and

the swamp and there's Crawford, the Resonator, the proof of his sanity and a man that he loved at first sight. Peter

had never had a home that he'd felt comfortable in, but he knew that in that house was everything he would ever

need to feel human again. Home! Home! Home is where the heart is. Peter laughed, and Katherine laughed along

with him.

 

Katherine was coming back to life again. She'd recovered from the incredible shock of seeing her reality turned

inside-out, and of Crawford's love, death and rebirth, a few months after they had happened. But trapped in the

churning sea of her amplified, sexualized senses, she'd been unable to act sanely enough to get released or even

treated. Locked away from the world, her seething body aflame with lust, she'd eaten and eaten to try to satisfy

the hungers that clawed at her from within. But now she was free, free and alive! And oh, the stars were a

thousand colors; the wind wailed its melodies in her ear; she savored the rumble of the motor echoing off of cliffs

and roaring under the bridges; her whole body and mind felt like a song being sung by the entire world through

her. Over the roar of the radio blasting 'Lucretia, My Reflection' by The Sisters of Mercy, she shouted "Peter!"

 

"What!" he replied, the delirious joy on his face matching hers.

 

"Why are you smiling like that?"

 

Peter replied, "Well, why are you smiling like that?!"

 

Katherine looked in the side-view mirror and saw her face alight with the same wild, fierce joy that shone out of

Peter. She laughed and shouted, "How did you get that scar on your head?"

 

Peter drove with one hand as he rubbed the scar with the other. "I read Pretorius' work and realized that cutting

my eyes out wasn't the answer. I tried to take out my pineal gland with a cold chisel and a pair of spaghetti tongs,

but I couldn't get through my skull without passing out from the pain! Ha! I was a fool!"

 

And down the highway they went, shrieking with laughter, rushing to a lovers rendezvous.

* * *

The lover that both Peter and Katherine were looking forward to so was, at that moment, fighting for his existence

with every muscle and bone in his inhuman body.

 

Ripping, acid-dripping teeth tore into his flank as he desperately sank his tentacles into the throat of the beast he

fought. His own mouth tore into his opponent's middle like a battering ram, not seeking to feed, but only to shred

and maul. Around them boiled a tight-packed mass of lesser beasts, eager to devour, lunging in to tear a mouthful

of flesh from the embattled pair and then dart back out of the range of retaliation. Slime and blood flew from the

limbs that budded from the fighters, were torn off or sunk deep into the other's body, and then rerooted to their

owner or gobbled down in a second by the lookers-on.

 

This was not a fight to the death, for the fighters could not die. This was a fight to destruction; until one or the

other was so reduced in mass that it - or he - would have to flee or risk being shredded beyond the capacity to

maintain a self. If that happened, the loser would have to slowly, agonizingly rebuild a body - a process that could

take a long, long time, even in the timeless, glowing void of the Beyond.

 

Crawford heaved and twisted. His tail arched up, abruptly tipped with an edge of bone as sharp as a cats claw.

With every erg of strength in him, he curled himself around his opponent and spun, slashing at it, grinding,

feeling its flesh tear open, feeling the fluids of its body burst out in a spray that soaked him as the beast was cut

in half. Again and again his jaws slashed at his enemy, ripping loose chunks of flesh and slime floating into the

aether around them ...

 

The eels closed in, forcing Crawford aside with the weight of their wriggling mass. The lower half of his

opponents body was scurried off by the currents in an instant, with a pack of ravenous admirers in tow. Crawford

drifted aside with a wave of his tattered wings as the rest of the eels began to devour the beast, which turned its

tentacled, scaly head to him and moaned, "Crawford ..."

 

Crawford froze; his mind felt like a lump of stone inside his body. For all the time that he had been here (three

years, he frantically told himself, only three years!) the thing that had once been Edward Pretorius had acted - had

been - a beast. A clever beast, a beast that could still hate him for denying him what he wanted - but only a beast.

"Crawford," Pretorius cooed, as the beasts began to devour him again. "You will show me ... the way back ... the

way to ..." The rest of the words were obliterated as Crawford lunged forward, sinking his teeth and jaws into his

opponent's head and twisting, over and over, like a crocodile rending a deer asunder. He tore free - only to see the

remainder of Pretorius flow into a sleek shape whose speed he could not hope to match and dart away.

"Crawford," it piped, as it vanished into the distance. "Crawford, I'm watching youuuu ...."

 

The beast's muscles flexed and then relaxed. There was no way Crawford could catch Pretorius; he didn't dare lose

that much mass again, and to enter into the chase would mean giving too much of his mind back to the beast.

Even now he could feel his beast-mind, aroused by the fight, urging him to pursue, to destroy - but he quelled it.

To chase his enemy might mean losing his bearings, wandering off into the endless seas and currents of the

Beyond and never finding the Resonator again.

 

Crawford spun slowly about his axis; all he could see with his otherworldly sight was a sea of white. Had he

carelessly flown into a cloud? He pivoted and got a glimpse of stars beneath him. He rocketed in the opposite

direction, intent on finding out where he was. With an unconscious grace, he avoided the backeddies and the

lurking abodes of predators. He came within sight of the ground on the other side, and cast over the seemingly

endless plane of vaguely-perceived swamp and forest, looking for a highway or a house. As his vile body flew

mechanically, his human mind mused that he must have subconsciously restrained his beast-self from straying

too far from the Beyond equivalent of northeast Massachusetts; else it would have wandered elsewhere and been

thousands of miles from where the Resonator was being rebuilt. There! Crawford recognized the outlines of the

house, and the outlines of the Resonator inside of it.

 

Crawford flew through the roof and hovered, idly, in the room with the Resonator. And he waited, all aquiver, for

his true love.

 

* * *

 

Peter and Katherine pulled up to the dark house at the end of the driveway. Katherine shivered in the cold night

air and followed eagerly on Peter's heels as he unlocked the door and went inside. As the lights came on, her eyes

darted around the room - and then froze, locked on the bundle of heavy electrical cables that went across the

floor. She walked over to them and prodded them with one foot. "Just like before ..." she whispered.

 

"What?" asked Peter. His eyes were darting up to the ceiling and then back. He could see a shadow up there with

his second sight, as though something was hovering on the other side of the floorboards.

 

"When I went to ... the Pretorius Institute. We went in .. it was dark and Bubba ... Bubba tripped over the cables.

The cables for the ... Resonator." She breathed in sharply. "You ...?"

 

"I read about Pretorius' work at Miskatonic. All my life I've been ... I've seen ... things. When I read in the

newspapers about what happened at the Institute, I realized that maybe I wasn't crazy. So I built it and ... I saw

him." Peter swallowed in a suddenly dry throat.

 

"Pretorius?"

 

"No, I saw ... Tillinghast. But I think I saw Pretorius too. There was a beast ..." Peter was silent, lost in his

memories. He roused when Katherine took him by the arm, her fingers sinking into his flesh.

"But what if it wasn't Crawford? What if it was ... him? Pretorius? Pretending to be him?" Katherine's eyes stared

out of the white moon of her face in terror. What if he turned into ... that thing? What if he tried to ..." Katherine's

knees were shaking, her arms were shaking as she wrapped them around herself. Her whole body shook as she

buried her face against Peter's chest. "I just ... I just ... I have to wait a minute, I have to think. I can't just go up

there ... like this." Katherine's hand futilely brushed at her wind-tangled mop of hair.

 

Peter led Katherine to a chair where she collapsed, her head in her hands. Leaving her there, he picked up the

manual typewriter and, grunting a little at the weight, carried it up to the attic room where the Resonator waited.

As he thought, a bestial shape hovered half-seen in the air here. Peter hesitated, infected with Katherine's doubt.

What if this wasn't Crawford? Even as he watched, the beast's shape flowed into a human one. Peter's heart

fluttered in his chest; it seemed a timeless moment, seeing that body form itself out of such ugliness ... He had to

turn his eyes away. He put the typewriter down on top of the cage surrounding the Resonator, and a phantom

Crawford drifted to his shoulder.

 

Peter typed:

KATHERINE IS HERE BUT SHES AFRAID HOW CAN YOU PROVE YOU ARE CRAWFORD AND NOT

PRETORIUS?

 

The phantom arms reached across and through Peter to reach the keys. Idly Peter wondered what would happen if

he turned the Resonator on now even as his fingers followed Crawford's:

 

I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS IN THE ASYLUM AND SHE CAME TO ME I TOLD HER

 

"Crawford?"

 

Peter's head swiveled to stare at the stairs, and vague as a dream, Crawford looked over his shoulder as Katherine

McMichaels came up into the attic room. Her hair was still wild, and the flesh hung from her frame under the

shapeless hospital garb, but Peter saw a glow in her eyes, a fierceness in the set of her shoulders, that made him

love her too for a moment. A phantasmal hand waving in front of his eyes brought Peter back, and he typed at

Crawford's direction for a few moments. Then, with a scowl creasing the scar on his brow, "He says ... gingerbread

man?"

 

And Katherine moved, slowly and then faster, across the room. She reached into the cabinet, cupped the cold

switch in her hand for a moment, and then threw it. The Resonator came alive, the crackling aura of it seemingly

twice as bright as before. Peter abruptly leaped to one side, away from between them. And with the suddenness of

a dream coming to life, Crawford Tillinghast became real and went into Katherine's arms.

 

For a breathless, eternal moment they clung to one another, clung as tightly as they could. Even as their mouths

murmured into each others' ears, their bodies spoke, one to the other. Forever, they said. Together forever. Their

rapture was slightly disturbed, however, by Peter firing a double barreled shotgun just behind them.

 

Crawford turned his head, his lip raised in a snarl, to see Peter unload the other barrel into the remains of a giant,

freakish worm that had been slithering up the stairs and was now oozing back down in pieces. He turned to

Crawford with a dazed grin and said the first dumb thing that popped into his head.

 

"We've just got to stop meeting like this ..."

 

Crawford's snarl turned into an intent, gleaming glare that made Peter's knees go weak. With one hand still

caressing Katherine's hair, he reached out and ran his other hand over Peter's cheek. Peter held his breath as he

felt the warm, damp hand sliding over his flesh, tracing his cheekbone, running a thumb over the soft flesh under

his jaw. Then a tiny frown appeared on Crawford's face. With a deliberate gesture, he wiped his thumb across

Peter's forehead, the way a sculptor would move to erase an imperfection in a piece of clay ... and the scar on

Peter's forehead disappeared under his touch as though it had never been. All three of them froze for a moment:

Katherine, staring at Peter's forehead; Peter and Crawford, staring at each other.

 

Their reverie was broken by a loud, booming sound from the roof, the clatter of falling shingles, and a rasping

voice growling from outside. "Crawford, I've found you! I will have you!!" it gloated.

 

"Pretorius?" Peter asked, and received a curt nod in reply from Crawford. Without further ado, he slid into the

cabinet and started pulling out the loaded guns, laying them on top of the cabinet. Crawford turned and took

Katherine's face inbetween his hands. Very gently, very softly, he kissed her, as though it were not the first time in

three years, as though they had always been lovers. He whispered to her, "Do you love me?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Do you trust me?"

 

"Y...Yes."

 

Crawford kissed her again, his lips hot on hers. "I want to be with you forever ... I want to make love to you. Right

now."

 

"Right now?" Peter interjected. "Maybe you hadn't noticed, but"

 

Crawford cut him off with a savage gesture; this time his snarl exposed teeth that were fangs for a second. "I know

what I'm doing. Just keep them away ... for long enough."

 

Just then there was a sharp ripping sound. An entire window, frame and all, was torn from its place in the wall. At

the same instant, a spray of sparks spurted from the Resonator as the switch fused itself to its posts. And in a

spray of broken boards and pulsing alien flesh, in the rippling purple glow and roaring wind a monster by the

name of Edward Pretorius came howling to the attack, sparks gleaming in its eyes.

 

TO BE CONTINUED ...

 

 

 

3.

The monster which crashed through the wall and lunged snarling at a cowering Peter Cernere could only be called

Edward Pretorius in the vaguest sense of the word. What it was was a collection of Pretorius' memories and habits

- albeit his worst habits - collected into a nearly invulnerable, utterly inhuman body. The wants and desires of

Pretorius had been condensed simply into NEEDS. It NEEDED to feed - and food was there to gnaw and crush

while it flapped and squalled in anguish. It NEEDED to feel - and it soared through vistas unknown to man, seeing

and tasting and smelling things no other ever had.

 

Now it abruptly backwinged, sending a wash of putrid air over Peter and knocking him to his knees. Because there

before him was the man he had NEEDED - needed to possess, to destroy - and had been unable to do so. The

festering gall of that rejection stung a thousandfold more when it recognized the woman in his arms. HER! He

knew her hair, her eyes, the smell of this woman! He had NEEDED her - and been denied. Now both of his

frustrated desires stood not ten feet from his abruptly moist and slavering jaws, and they snarled with nearly

identical mien. He would have them both! Violate every inch of them, devour their minds, trap their screaming

thoughts inside of him and know them with an intimacy that nothing would ever end! Now! Now!

 

And now was when Peter fired an explosive shell into the shelled, pulsating midriff of the monster above him at

nearly point-blank range. The results were somewhat more spectacular than shooting a lobster with a .22 . The

explosion pulped Pretorius' flesh and sent it spurting in steams from the crevices of his body before his leprous

skin finally gave way and showered the room with his remains. Unlike a lobster's, however, the remains here

immediately started to ooze - and drift - and reassemble themselves. A horde of hungry predators indescribably

bizarre started to slither around the unexpected meal.

 

"Peter!" Crawford screamed at the dazed man kneeling on the floor, staring at the slime slithering in patterns over

it. "Peter, listen to me!"

 

Peter groaned and clutched his head, but obediently staggered to his feet and looked at the couple before him. His

eyes locked on Crawford's, and he shuddered. "What?"

 

"Peter, you've got to keep them off of us." As he spoke, Crawford's hands were gently helping Katherine take off

her clothes, revealing an expanse of satiny white skin that flushed at his touch. "If I can finish this, I'll ... be able to

keep my promise. If not .. smell the smoke?"

 

Peter sniffed and looked at the Resonator, from the interior of which faint wisps of smoke were starting to rise.

Crawford's arms pulled Katherine against his body. "The Resonator is burning out. If I don't do this now - I never

will. He'll be waiting for anyone who builds another" gesturing with his chin at the mound of pulsing flesh forming

in the corner. Peter shot at it again, and it splattered - and started to slowly ooze back together again. "Please ... ?"

Peter nodded 'yes', and Crawford smiled, a truly beautiful smile, before his mouth dived onto Katherine's, and she

fell gently to the floor, and he fell into her.

 

Peter felt like his eyes were going to pop out of his head at the sight - an eel glissaded through the air towards his

face, and he shot it with the automatic in his other hand. He wrenched his gaze away and started to fire at the -

things - invading the room from the stairs and the rent in the wall.

 

Malformed jellyfish swarmed around his ears, and things like pustules with armored legs danced across the

floorboards, snapping up fragments of Pretorius. A mouth formed in a puddle of flesh near Peter's foot, and

whispered, "I'm going to taste you ..." Peter leaped away and shot once more, but more mouths started forming

around the room.

 

It looked like a Dali-esque insanity, but the newly sentient Pretorius knew what he/it was doing, as it tried to

distract Peter from his reforming bulk, which had slithered through the floorboards and was even now clinging

and growing on the ceiling of the room below like a lust-crazed lichen. The faces that formed on the floor, the

whispering tongues lapping at his heels, were just the window dressing.

 

What followed for Peter was a nightmarish dance of hopping, turning, shooting and stamping at things from his

nightmares that came from every direction. But unlike his dreams, now their tentacles could scald; now he could

feel the breath of their passage as their teeth snapped inches from his flesh. And always the mouths were

whispering their sensual violations, mingled with the soft cries of Katherine and Crawford's embrace. Peter

swiveled, fired at a bundle of tentacles slithering up the stairs that had nearly reached the lovers, and grabbed the

first thing out of his cabinet he could reach - he was almost out of shells. What he grabbed was a mason jar full of

a bubbling brown liquid. Peter smiled, and started to slop the contents around. There was a sudden shrieking

cacophony from the room below, as the acid dripped through the floorboards and ate in Pretorius' flesh. Heedless

of anything but ending his pain, he smashed through the floor - and received half of the jar in his face - or rather

head - for his pains. The monster shrieked and howled as the acid destroyed its tissues beyond hope of repair.

Bubbling and writhing, it could barely see as Peter leaped to a precarious perch atop Crawford's back and started

pouring the acid in a circle around the writhing couple.

 

Smoke from the acid filled the room and seared Peter's lungs. Smoke poured out of the Resonator, which was

sizzling ominously. The floor creaked, seeming on the point of caving in entirely. Peter laughed - what did he care?

If this was Hell, so what? Let them all burn down, for all he cared. Just let him go on killing them forever. He shot

and spun, somehow keeping his balance on Crawford's sweating shoulders. Through the shrieks and the crackles

and the howling winds, he could barely hear Crawford's voice as he shouted "PETER! TURN IT OFF NOW!"

 

"WHAT?" Peter yelled.

 

"THE RESONATOR! DO .. IT .. NOW!" Crawford screamed through his panting breath, his eyes rolled back in his

head from the intolerable pleasure burning through his body.

 

Peter swayed, dropping the gun in his hands as he stepped off Crawford's shoulders and staggered across the

room. No bullets left .. the switch is fused ... his thoughts were mumbling and chasing themselves around futilely

in his head even as his body mechanically reached to pluck the ax off the wall where it hung.

 

"NOOOOO!" shrieked a dozed Pretorius-mouths from around the room. The mouths sprouted legs and started

scuttling around Peter, leaping up and sinking their teeth into his calves, pumping venom into his flesh.

"NO"/"NO"/"NO"/"NO"/"NO" they screamed in chorus. They gnawed at him, desperately trying to cripple or

absorb him. Electricity arced from the Resonator and slammed into Peter. He could feel his own skin burning, his

muscles jerking, but it didn't matter. He was going to destroy the Resonator, and destroy all of THEM with it. Acid

splashed his feet from the smoking floorboards as he tottered within reach of the Resonator - and swung the ax,

striking deep into the clamps which held the two tuning forks in place.

 

The glow around the Resonator rippled as Peter swung the ax yet again and the mouths that weren't chewing his

flesh screamed again and Crawford howled, tears running down his face from his closed eyes as the energy

peaked inside him, slamming through him, as he drew on every ounce of his strength, from his body and his mind,

he hurled himself through the gap and came inside Katherine.

 

The ax connected.

 

The Resonator's glow went out.

 

Crawford disappeared.

 

Peter looked around wildly, at the scraps of Pretorius now drifting in the Beyond, out of hearing but not out of the

range of his double vision. He turned to see Katherine, sprawled on the floor, her back arched, highlights of sweat

gleaming on her belly and breasts, an intolerable tension written on her face. But even with his double vision there

was so sign of - no, there was a faint cloud of particles drifting in the Beyond, drifting through Katherine's body.

But Crawford - was gone.

 

Peter stepped away from the Resonator, the ax dangling from his hand. "Crawford?" he called faintly.

"He's here," Katherine whispered, from her place on the floor. "He's here - inside me ...." And she moaned again in

pleasure. "Oh Crawford ... "

 

Peter watched as the skin on her upturned palms started to pucker. It rose up, in five parallel ridges, and the flesh

on her arms started to flow. Flow into those ridges, and start to raise up from her arms. He watched as a shape

started to take form under her skin, drawing her flesh into itself and rise up.

 

Suddenly sparks seared into Peter's neck as the Resonator spit to life, and he saw the fanged, clawed shape of

Pretorius hovering over the spreadeagled Katherine, about to fall on her, rend and rip and rape her ... and Peter

went berserk. Bellowing, he raised the ax and struck the Resonator once again. The purple glow flicked, pulsing

and weakening as Peter swung again, and again, and again. His arms felt like lead, there was no air to breathe, but

he kept swinging and hacking and smashing at the machine, ignoring the burns on his hands and arms, forgetting

everything but the urge to smash the source of all his nightmares.

 

Peter staggered back from the Resonator, the ax toppling from his nerveless fingers. One last spark of electricity

flickered in its mangled guts before Crawford's hand caught the falling ax and swung it for the last time,

obliterating the last vestige of its function.

 

Peter fell backwards and felt hands catch him from behind, steadying him. He looked down and instantly

recognized those graceful fingers, the soft black hairs on the wrists. His mind leaped to an utterly horrible

conclusion. The Resonator was off, but Crawford was here, so ...

 

"On my God. You killed her. You ..." Peter turned around to see Crawford - real, alive, human Crawford, standing

with Katherine at his side. Peter gasped at the sight of her.

 

Crawford had not only absorbed her fat and used it to recreate his own body, he had also recreated her. She

looked exactly the way she had in the newspaper photos from years before - exactly as Crawford had remembered

all those long mad years in the Beyond. No more lines of pain around her eyes, and no more madness in them. She

seemed to softly glow through the smoke still in the room, like an ivory figure lit from within. Her face and body

had that same almost surreal perfection that Crawford's did. Peter gasped .. and then coughed, falling to his knees.

Every part of him seemed to be scorched, or bruised, or cut somewhere. He barely felt it as Crawford and

Katherine steadied him and helped him down the stairs.

 

Downstairs, Peter collapsed into the chair so recently vacated by Katherine. The acid burns on his shoes and

pants still faintly smoked, as did the jagged electrical burns across his torso. His mouth was slack with exhaustion,

and his eyes red with smoke and fumes, but he managed a tiny, private, painful smile to himself. He had done it.

He'd proved that he wasn't crazy, that he was right about the monsters. And he'd gotten them good. Now he could

- he coughed again - die in peace; it was certainly all he felt like doing at the moment. Hospital. Had to have

Crawford take him to the hospital - he felt a cool hand laid on his wrist, and opened his eyes to see Crawford

leaning over him, concern and something more evident in his expression.

 

"Huhn," Peter coughed, feeling fluid slosh in his lungs. He tried again. "Ah ... Doctor Tillinghast, I presume?" He

coughed again, and this time couldn't stop for a few moments. He leaned back in the chair again, and closed his

eyes. The throbbing pain in his hands leaped to the fore - and abruptly vanished. He looked up to see Crawford

cradling his hands in his, with the enraptured, fierce expression of a saint on his face. And as he concentrated, the

burns on Peter's hands disappeared; the redness and edema faded.

 

Peter closed his eyes as Crawford's healing hands traveled over his body, obliterating the pain - but not

obliterating sensation. No, by no means was he doing that. Peter concentrated on the feel of those hands

caressing the blisters from his feet, the punctures from his calves, the burns from his chest. He could feel every

hair springing back as the hands passed, and every restored nerve set a new bolt of pleasure to Peter's brain. The

hands rose, passed over his neck and cupped the sides of Peter's head, thumbs nestling under the point of his

chin and tilting his head back.

 

"Peter," Crawford whispered.

 

"Crawford," Peter murmured in return.

 

"Open your mouth ... and breathe in .... "

 

Obediently, Peter opened his mouth as Crawford's mouth came down on his, and he inhaled, half breath and half

gasp, as he felt a stinging vapor pass into his lungs. It stung only for a moment, then the pain passed; the feeling

of weight vanished from his chest and he felt like he could breathe again. He gasped again as Crawford's lips left

his to kiss his eyelids, his tongue darting out to heal a tiny acid burn on Peter's cheek, and then nestled in his ear.

 

"Peter, do they still have those sleazy hotels out along Route 133?" Crawford's voice purred into his ear.

 

"The ones with the waterbeds? And the whirlpool baths?" cooed Katherine's voice, unexpectedly, in Peter's other

ear. Her hands lay over Crawford's, and her hair tickled Peter's cheek.

 

"Yes," Peter gasped, as his mind conjured up an infinite multiplication and expansion of the possible rewards he

had been expecting - no, had demanded - for rescuing Crawford Tillinghast from the Beyond.

 

"Well then," Crawford pulled Peter to his feet with one heave and held onto his arm, rubbing his fingertips over

his bicep, even as Katherine twined herself around Peter's other arm, "what are we waiting for?"

 

Peter looked a little desperately from one set of eyes to the other. One set was brown, one blue; but the liquid

hunger in each of them was identical. Like a man being escorted by two houris to the endless fields of Paradise, he

staggered to the door.

 

* * *

 

Peter sat on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and listened to the silence.

 

It hadn't been easy concentrating on his driving, listening to the two of them rolling around in the back seat while

the hot lust in his crotch was slowly cooled by the worries gnawing at his brain. By the time they got to the motel

(!!Hourly Rates!!Cable TV!!Waterbeds!! the sign had trumpeted) his lust has gone utterly cold. After he got the

key to the room and ducked in the bathroom, he just didn't feel like coming out and facing - them. Him.

 

So Peter had sat on the cold tile floor and listened to them. Hot smacks of kisses and hands on flesh - and flesh on

flesh. The thudding of feet on the floor, on the wall and once, he could swear, on the ceiling. Soft laughter, cries of

joy and of sadness, gasps and whispered endearments.

 

Now it was quiet. And Peter was afraid.

 

He'd known that Crawford had retained some of his - abilities, whatever - since he'd been healed by his hands, his

beautiful smooth hands ... Peter dragged his mind back to the point. But he'd also retained his more disturbing

abilities - Peter could still vividly remember his head turning just a few degrees too far (like say about 270?) to

stare at him in the moonlight as Peter came out of the BayBank cubicle. This implied that, if he wanted to, he could

turn into - anything. One of THEM. My God, maybe he was just a beast, an animal, going on two legs until he

could lull his prey into a safe den to feed on them - like this motel. Peter could still hear the things that the

Pretorius-beast had whispered to him, things about - appetites. And when Crawford had been in that hospital

three years ago, hadn't there been something about him - eating - one of the doctors?

 

Peter listened even more tensely to the silence. Wasn't there something - unnatural about that silence? Could

Crawford even now be ... feeding ... on the woman that Peter had so kindly provided for him?

 

Peter closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, oblivious for once of the phantom shapes that seemed to

course in the air around him. He had to look. He had to.

 

He opened his eyes and looked up - to see Crawford Tillinghast standing in the doorway still as a statue, wearing

Katherine's loose hospital pants. He was looking off into space, with a dreamy, sad expression on his face. Then

his head turned and he looked at Peter. The look seemed to make him sadder.

 

"I want to talk to you," Crawford said, and then waited.

 

"Come in," said Peter. His heart gave a little pang at the sadness in his face, but at least he didn't look hungry.

Crawford stepped in and softly closed the door behind him. "Katherine's asleep," he said, and sat down on the

floor across from Peter. His bare feet were about three feet from the tips of Peter's sneakers. He had beautiful feet:

fine, high arches, lovely toes - Peter tore himself away from his lustful inventory and looked at Crawford's face. He

was looking at Peter with sadness, no, despair, written deep in his eyes.

 

"Peter, Peter, Peter. What am I going to do with you?" he asked.

 

A host of possible answers flashed through Peter's brain, which prompted his mouth to blurt out the least

obscene one. "Beat me."

 

"What?"

 

"Beat me. I'll enjoy it." Peter looked at Crawford, and then had to look away. "Damn, that was a dumb thing to say

... It just popped out."

 

"I forgive you," Crawford murmured. "But I'm serious about not knowing what to do. Here I am, disporting myself

while you cower in the bathroom. Katherine asked about you."

 

"She did?" smiled Peter, whose brain was happily shoving aside its previous fears under the stimulus of

Crawford's presence. Surely no one so lovely could mean him any harm ...

 

"But first I think we need to talk. Seriously. I owe you a debt that I don't know how to repay."

 

Peter looked down at his own feet, stretched in front of him. "Really, you don't owe me ..."

 

Crawford rolled forward and was across the room, kneeling at Peter's side, before Peter realized it. He took one of

Peter's hands in both of his and looked at him, his expression completely open.

 

"Peter. You took me out of the deepest pits of Hell, and gave me my life back. You brought me the woman I loved.

How can I set any limits on the repaying of that debt? If this is what you want" he raised Peter's hand and set it

flat on his own bare chest, holding it there with his, "then I am yours."

 

"I ...." Peter felt paralyzed, completely helpless. He didn't know what to say, what to do ... Hell, he'd make it up as

he went along. He scooped up one of Crawford's hands in his free one and held it tight. "I can't bear the thought

of you doing anything for me that would make you unhappy. I think I would do anything to make you smile ... but

only if you're really smiling."

 

Peter looked at him; the hard-edged, predatory, lustful smile that rose to Crawford's face was terrifying in the

second before it was quenched by that dreamy look of sadness again.

 

"Nothing you could do, that we could do, could make me unhappy. It's strange ...." He released Peter's

outstretched hand and sat down beside him, with their two joined hands resting on Peter's knee. "I feel what

Pretorius felt, that appetite for sensation, freedom from all inhibition ... but it's not something I want to use on

other people like a weapon, the way he did."

 

They sat together for a moment, silent. Both of them knew what they wanted to say, but neither knew how to say

it. Crawford came up with the right words first.

 

"You know, Peter, I haven't had a shower in three years." He turned and looked at the blond, weary-looking man

at his shoulder, and Peter looked back.

 

"Would you like to take one?" Peter turned and leaned forward, just a little, as Crawford pressed their entwined

fingers to his cheek.

 

"Yes. Would you like to join me?" Crawford's lips brushed Peter's soft as a feather. Peter kissed back, just as

hesitantly, before answering "Yes."

 

They stood up together, and reluctantly unclasped their hands. Peter turned his back on Crawford and started

taking off his clothes. He'd never really realized what an irritating lot of clothing he usually wore - jacket, shirt,

shoes, socks, pants underwear ... Naked, he turned to the shower and found Crawford already waiting for him

under the steaming jet. Wordlessly, he stepped in beside him; wordlessly, Crawford handed him a facecloth

already dripping with suds.

 

Very carefully, Peter put his hand on the damp tendrils of hair at the back of Crawford's neck, and felt his head

lean back into his palm as he slowly, carefully, started washing Crawford's face. He moved the corner of the

washcloth in small circles, feeling the curve of his forehead, the shape of his jaw, under his fingertips through the

cloth. Crawford closed his eyes as the cloth slid down the bridge of his nose, stroked his eyelids, and started to

work at the underside of his chin; he stretched his neck out, in fact, like a cat begging to be scratched. Peter

stroked along the lines of his jaw, and scrubbed along the back of his ears before descending to the hollow of his

throat.

 

As he worked his way down Crawford's chest with the soapy cloth, noting how his sparse chest hair got thicker

the lower down he went, Crawford's hand reached behind him and took another facecloth from the bar behind him.

Rubbing it over the bar of soap in the tray, he reached around Peter and started rubbing his shoulders, moving the

cloth from one hand to the other. Peter sighed, and felt Crawford lean forward and rest his forehead on his

shoulder; Peter's free hand started to move over his back in tandem with the hand moving down Crawford's

stomach.

 

They swayed a little, toe to toe, as they stood under the hot water. Crawford's soapy hands were moving down

Peter's back, rubbing in little circles, feeling each muscle relax under his touch. Peter was very gently scrubbing at

Crawford's thigh, barely touching him with the cloth; his hand slipped onto the inside of his thigh, and he felt

Crawford's sudden exhalation on his neck.

 

Crawford raised his head and touched foreheads with Peter. Forehead to forehead, nose to nose, staring into one

another's eyes at point-blank range, they swayed back and forth. The facecloths had been discarded; Peter was

now using the length of both hands to scrub just at the border of Crawford's pubic hair, while Crawford's hands

slipped up and down from his kidneys to his buttocks and back.

 

Peter turned his head a little; Crawford rose up on the balls of his feet. Carefully and then urgently, they pressed

their mouths together, felt their lips sliding over one another. Peter's arms went around Crawford as their knees

touched, and they brought their bodies together, grinding into one another.

 

Peter gasped desperately through his nose; the delicious friction between his legs as his penis slid and rubbed

against Crawford's seemed to be a fire that was burning the air from his lungs. But he didn't dare tear his mouth

from Crawford's; not when their tongues were dancing so hotly together, not while the line of his chin was so

deliciously pressed to his jaw. He held Crawford closer, and Crawford's fingers sank hard into his buttocks,

driving him against his body harder and harder.

 

The friction went up and up. Both of them broke mouth contact and started to gasp, the fire in their brains needed

air as they twisted and slid. Up and up and up, they were sweating under the hot water but their bodies were

hotter, the sensations went from the soles of their feet to the center of their brains, Crawford was panting, unable

to speak, as he bit into Peter's shoulder, and Peter crushed him in his arms as they both came, the heat in them

exploding through their bodies and minds.

 

Peter fell to his knees, and Crawford slid down to lie with his cheek against Peter's sleek, matted chest hair. Their

mouths were open; their eyes closed. They opened their eyes in unison as the shower curtain was drawn back

with a rattle.

 

Katherine stood there, her face aglow with amorous fever. She toyed with the snaps holding her shirt together,

and started to undo them as she spoke.

 

"You know," snap, "I haven't had a tub bath," snap, "in three years." Snap, snap, snapsnap; she dropped the

shirt at her feet and posed like Venus emerging from the sea. "Care to join me?"

 

* * *

 

Crawford got the center of the bed that night - or rather, very early that morning. He lay there, staring at the

ceiling, with a damp blond head on each of his shoulders.

 

When he was certain both Katherine and Peter were deep asleep, he very carefully reached up with one hand and

turned Katherine to face him. He placed his open mouth against the faint red spot in the middle of her forehead

and pressed, hard. His jaw muscles worked in a way that was not pleasant to look at (had there been anyone to

look), and she stirred in her sleep. When he raised his mouth from her forehead, it was as unmarked as new-fallen

snow, and she seemed to be sleeping more deeply.

 

Even more delicately, he turned Peter's face to his, and paused a moment, just looking at him. His face was relaxed,

his blond brow untroubled, but he still twitched in his sleep. He brushed Peter's brow with his lips, then opened

his mouth and again pressed it down on a sleeping, defenseless forehead. And as he did, tendrils passed from his

mouth through Peter's skull, into his brain. With a surgeon's precision, they filtered through his optic center to the

inflamed, throbbing length of the elongated pineal. The pineal contracted, shrunk, dwindled down into a tiny knob

at the base of Peter's brain, as the tendrils prodded it. They withdrew, healing and repairing as they went, and

Crawford raised his mouth from Peter.

 

Crawford lay back on the pillow and closed his eyes, and a tear tricked from the corner of one. He did not know if

she - if they - would still feel for him, when they awakened - but he could not bear to leave them with the torment

of seeing the Beyond. The heightened senses, the craving for pleasure, might stay or might fade; he didn't know.

But if there was any true feelings between them, they would stay. Surely they would stay.

 

He slept.

 

* * *

 

Not so far away, in a ruined house by a swamp, tiny sparks of electricity were dancing over a battered piece of

machinery that had once been the Resonator. Sparks that seemed to be teased, guided, by some invisible force.

The sparks jumped as one, and a weak - a very weak - purple glow flickered around one of the tuning forks that

hung at a ridiculous angle to the floor. Around that fork appeared a throbbing tendril of flesh.

 

A large rat ambled into the circle of light cast by the room's lamp, its nose intent on sniffing out the location of a

sandwich Peter had discarded two days ago. The tendril twitched, and the rat's head swiveled. The tendril was

emitting an odor of rotting garbage mixed with Limburger cheese - ambrosia to the rodent's nose. It trotted

forward; the tendril lay absolutely still, miming a tasty, inert morsel.

 

In the very, very faint purple glow, the dimmest outline of a hideous beast could be seen. It was curled up on

itself, and a massive inhuman shaft was pumping from the underside of its tail to an orifice in its own belly. It

heaved and twisted, in utter silence, as the rat pounced and started to gnaw at the tendril.

 

The purple glow flared - and the tendril exploded down the rat's throat, grinding and heaving, as the vague outline

of the beast trembled and writhed. There was a final, snapping spark from the Resonator, and it fell dead.

Permanently.

 

The rat lay, as though also dead, against the tuning fork. Suddenly it heaved, and its muzzle started to shrink

inward. Its tiny paws stood it upright, then on two legs, as its rodent snout became the tiny, utterly depraved face

of Edward Pretorius.

 

The Pretorius-rat stretched itself, and whisked its tail to and fro. Looking up through the jagged rent in the wall

and roof, it could see a dim glow over the pine trees.

Its tiny human mouth opened in a piping laugh, and bats' wings sprung from its shoulders, the rat's body slimming

as its weight was redistributed.

 

Still laughing, it flew out of the ruins of the house, towards the lights of Boston.

 

TO BE CONTINUED ...

 

 

 

4.

The Harvard Bridge over the Charles River in Boston makes for a very cold, windy walk for MIT students in the

early spring months. The seemingly endless expanse of bridge has kindly been divided into Smoots by the

students, and so labeled - Smoot being a 5' 7" MIT student of now legendary renown. The bridge is 364.4 Smoots

long, and an ear.

 

It makes a very visible landmark from the air, even on foggy mornings.

 

Professor Roy J. McEffe, B.S., was not on his way to class, but rather for a jog in the predawn darkness when he

heard fluttering in the air around his head. Without missing a step, he looked around him. What would a bat be

doing out this early in the year? Perhaps it was a pigeon ... Then something leathery and stinking flapped in his

face, and he staggered. When he looked up, the tiny, twisted face of a man long dead hissed, "Remember me?" -

and spat at him.

 

McEffe stumbled backwards, the spittle from the thing in front of his face searing his eyes like acid. Too paralyzed

to scream, instead he whispered, "Pretorius?"

 

And the creature disappeared into the fog, laughing, only to swoop at him from behind, slicing his scalp with

razor-sharp talons. "A failure, am I?" it snarled. McEffe spun and started to run - not jog - for the end of the

bridge, the MIT campus, the ghost of safety. But the batwinged abomination fluttered about his head,

disappearing and then returning, snapping, slashing; then sneering at him with a human voice. "My theories are

nothing, eh? Puerile? Deranged?"

 

McEffe panted as he ran, the thick fog obscuring the bridge ahead of him. The fog seemed to fill his lungs with

ice, and muffle and slow his steps. He gasped out, "You're dead ..." and then froze, immobile, as the battening

weight locked onto the back of his skull, and sank fibers into his spine and brain.

 

And as the dead voice whispered on, McEffe could no longer tell if he was hearing it with his ears or with his

mind. "Oh no, Roy. I'm alive. And so are you; your living mind will be my playground for a long time to come ....."

The body of Professor Roy J. McEffe, B.S., straightened and flexed, grinning a wide, lustful, hungry grin. A coed

in skintight apparel slowed her jogging pace as she came up to him, and the thing inside McEffe's body turned

that hideous grin upon her. "My dear, I could eat you right up," he rumbled.

 

And he did.

* * *

 

Peter woke up with no idea of where he was. He stared at a fuzzy shape on the ceiling above him that turned out to

be his own reflection in an overhead mirror, and groaned. He could never stand the sight of his own face in the

morning. Burying his head under a pillow, he sulkily tried to remember what was going on.

 

OK, built the Resonator and turned it on. This gorgeous guy materializes - gorgeous guy? Peter scowled as the

train of thought rambled on. Broke that woman out of an insane asylum - Katherine? - we all got into my car and

went out to one of those sleazy motels. Waterbeds, whirlpool baths, overhead mirrors (Peter peeked out from

under the pillow), the works. Then they'd taken a shower, or two, and then ... Peter's mind reeled as it tried to

encompass just what one healthy man, one lust-crazed woman, and one man who could, well, do almost anything

could do in one bed in one night. And on the floor, and against the wall ... Peter was a little surprised he'd woken

up in one piece, especially as he remembered some of the other abilities the man had, so to say, exhibited. He

tentatively moved his arms and legs, making sure that no joints were dislocated. There were a number of aches

and pains in interesting places, but nothing seemed about to fall off. Now where was ... um ... Crawford?

Peter turned his head, slowly, to look at the pillow beside him.

 

What was propped there was not even close to a human head. Two smooth domes of flesh slanted back to a set

of short, gnarly tentacles fringed with short, black hairs. The tentacles twitched, and Peter mentally slapped

himself.

 

Idiot, he thought, you're looking at his feet.

 

Peter peered down his chin and received a most interesting posterior profile of Drs. Tillinghast and McMichaels,

both with their heads at the foot of the bed, watching early-early-early morning television news raptly. The

volume was very faint, presumably so as not to wake him. Peter sat up between them and then paused. He

searched their profiles with puzzled eyes. It was as though there was no connection between those intelligent,

almost austere faces and the sweating, glowing visages that had so enticed him the night before. Were these

really the people he'd so frantically groped and licked, nuzzled and probed only a few hours ago? What had

happened to them? What had happened to him? He rubbed at the scar on his forehead, as he did every morning to

quell his headache - but there wasn't any headache this morning, and the scar on his forehead had vanished. For a

brief moment, he felt like the bed was falling under him. Was he going mad?

 

A picture of a familiar dome flickered onto the screen, and Crawford slithered forward to turn up the volume. The

picture retreated to a corner of the screen as an irrationally perky newswoman chirped, "And MIT students got

into the swing of April Fool's Day a little early this year, lofting a giant inflatable shrimp with a human head to

frighten passerby at various points along Massachusetts Avenue. On campus is reporter Dan Campbell. Dan?"

The picture switched to a chilly-looking man standing in the lights of a portable camera setup in front of the MIT

Student Union, barely visible through the heavy spring fog. He opened his mouth to begin his standard newsman

jive when the giant shrimp in question sank atop him. He vanished into the folds of its belly, and instantly the

three naked people on the bed watching screamed in unison - even before the 'shrimp' (at least ten feet long)

lurched forward and the screen went black.

 

The perky newswoman reappeared and made some jibe about 'getting into the spirit of things', but the three very

frightened people now scrambling off the bed and diving into their clothes knew just what sort of spirit was loose.

 

They recognized that face.

 

Pretorius.

 

* * *

 

And elsewhere, an insomniac with a taste for local news whispered "Shit" as she scooped up her leather jacket

and keys, dashing to unlock a formidable-looking cabinet and heave its contents into a gym bag before running

outside into the chill spring air to flag a taxi.

 

* * *

 

Pretorius had flapped and flopped his way along Mass Ave almost to Central Square before deciding that airborne

was simply not the way to go. He'd absorbed too much mass to fly efficiently, and had no intention of giving up

one succulent ounce of it; nor of releasing the dozens of trapped minds that squealed and squirmed under his

invasion of their innermost sanctities. Besides, the broad four-lane expanse of asphalt simply begged to be walked

along, rolled along, slithered and slid along. Even as one part of his mind savored the secret sins of a librarian,

tormented a student with visions of the sister he so incestuously desired, relished the terror of an infant snatched

from its stroller, his massive bulk plopped to the pavement and flowed into something resembling the mating of a

centipede and an elephant. His baggy expanse straining along at the behest of dozens of quite humanoid feet, he

slithered forward and then turned left. Even though the police could do him no damage, best to eliminate them so

that they couldn't warn his prey away.

 

The monstrous head that broke in the doors was followed by a wall of living flesh that flowed into the station,

devouring and absorbing. A policeman who struck out at it saw his hand liquefy and vanish as his living flesh

was literally sucked out of his clothes, leaving nothing but a splatter of fluid behind. Bullets sank into the mass

without harming it in the slightest; the cells simply peeled aside and then reformed. Skittering across floors, up

walls and across the ceiling, it was everywhere at once. And everywhere it went, it got bigger.

 

It was worst for the prisoners in the cells; hearing the awful moans and screams outside, surmounted by the

sound of hundreds of mouths laughing in unison. Seeing the tendrils of pink jelly come slithering through the

bars and under the doors. And then seeing that flesh look at them with hungry, horribly curious eyes. Watching

their own flesh run like water, feeling the hideous pain that they thought meant their death - but didn't. It meant

far, far worse.

 

* * *

 

Why am I doing this? Peter asked himself as he sped down the Mass Pike towards Boston. Beside him, Katherine

and Crawford were squeezed into one seat, either for affection or to keep warm - after all, they had only one thin

set of pajamas to wear between them. He didn't realize that he'd spoken aloud until Crawford answered.

 

"Doing what?"

 

Peter's hands started to shake. "If I know that there's a monster tearing up Boston, why am I headed towards it?

Why don't I head in the other direction? Say, the Bahamas? Why am I doing this?"

 

Peter's foot came off the gas and the car slowed. Crawford stretched out one foot and hit the gas pedal as he gave

his reply in a deadly serious voice.

 

"You can get out here if you want, but I am going in there after him. I know Pretorius. I know his mind. If he's

allowed to run free in this dimension, he's just going to go on eating and eating, absorbing everything in his path.

If he can, he will become every living thing on this planet; a single being covering its entire surface. And there

you'll be on your island when the water turns pink, and he comes up out of the ocean - no, when he becomes the

ocean. Are you getting out?"

 

Peter's foot depressed the gas as Crawford's slithered aside, and the car leaped forward. "No, I'm coming with

you."

 

"Why?" asked Katherine.

 

If she had asked that question just three hours ago, Peter would have answered unhesitatingly, "Because I love

him." Three days ago, he would have said, "To kill the monsters." But now he didn't know why he felt that he had

to do this. Maybe it was a little of both reasons. He said nothing.

 

As they got off the Pike and turned onto Mass Ave, everything looked normal at first. A few cars dimly seen

through the fog, a jogger or two - but far fewer joggers that you might expect, even given the weather. It wasn't

until they were over the Harvard Bridge that Crawford silently pointed out the heap of bloody clothes lying under

the lights of a bus stop.

 

Peter slowed and pulled over. The three of them stared at the pathetic, ripped heap of blue jeans, T-shirt and

jacket lying in a puddle of blood and slime. As he pulled away from the curb, Katherine pointed out another one in

the crosswalk. And there were more, scattered here and there across the street, on the lawns in front of the

buildings, hanging out of broken windows, and how many more were concealed in the fog and darkness? Peter

shivered from the cold, inside and out.

 

"Why doesn't somebody notice?" he complained. "Bloody clothes all over the street ... "

 

Crawford answered. "They just think it's part of the joke, of course. Those clever MIT students, up to their

hijinks."

 

It wasn't until they got to Central Square that they saw anything more amiss than heaps of clothing. There, a bus

stood idling in front of its stop, every windows smashed in and the now-familiar tatters of cloth fluttering from it.

A few passerby were standing staring at it - or were they incredibly optimistic commuters waiting for the bus to

get going? Except for these people, the streets were nearly bare; there were no cars heading towards them from

the direction of Harvard Square. The foggy dawn was silent - except for a 'thump', 'thump', 'thump' that seemed to

linger almost subliminally in the air. A faint but stomach-turning stench rose from the puddles and streaks of slime

that coated the road ahead. A few errant streaks of sunlight were starting to show in the distance.

 

Ignoring the red light - there were no other cars anyway - Peter drove on ahead. Drove on, knowing down to the

bottom of his soul that he was about to die a horrible death - or worse, not die. Katherine and Crawford were

locked in one another's arms. While he looked ahead, gritting his teeth, desperately trying to think of a way to

stop his foe on this unfamiliar ground, Katherine was filled with only one desire: to stay with Crawford, to never

leave him, even if it meant dying. Better death than being alone, she thought.

 

There were overturned cars looming here and there out of the fog, and Peter had to zig-zag to make his way

through, skidding a little in the slime. The oval indents of giant feet were growing deeper and deeper in the

roadway, and also growing more and more round. They passed a storefront on their left that had been stripped;

the iron bars protecting the windows were a twisted heap on the sidewalk, and the nauseatingly familiar goo

dripped from a half-emptied display of riding crops, leather bras, and Loteria cards.

 

"He would stop at Hubba Hubba," scowled Crawford. "He used to .. STOP!"

 

Peter slammed on the brakes as a wall loomed ahead of him. The wall was composed of cars, a bus, and some

lampposts hurtled into the street in an insane frenzy. Sucker marks scored the nearby buildings, and a heap of

comic books spilled from the window of one store. After a moment of examination, the three of them abandoned

the car and picked their way around and over the barrier. On the other side of it was a tiny patch of greenery, now

trampled over by numerous round footprints that were at least two feet across. The posts that had lined the

walkway across the square dripped with a fouler ichor than they had previously encountered, and the stench was

unbelievable.

 

"He must have come charging through and not been able to stop when he to...," Crawford murmured; a murmur

drowned out abruptly by a cacophonous bellow from the street ahead of them. It echoed between the buildings,

so loud that Peter could feel the air around him shudder and his clothes beat against his body as he pressed his

hands desperately over his ears.

 

Then it was silent, and a terrified Peter, horrified Crawford and nearly hysterical Katherine were running towards

the noise.

 

They ran down the street towards Harvard Square, ignoring or evading the few people slinking through the fog

around them (Peter flinched in disgust at the sight of a woman moving from one pile of clothes to the other,

picking pockets). Suddenly, a tall, muscular man stood in their path, arms outstretched to stop them. "Don't go

down there!" he howled, eyes crazed and rolling in his ashen face.

 

Crawford leapt ahead of the others in a burst of speed, and he changed. Fangs and horns silently and swiftly

sprouted from his suddenly oversized head, and talons sprung from his outstretched arms. His neck shortened,

his back humped, and a deadly hiss came from his terrible mouth. The man blanched and zipped to one side; just

as quickly, Crawford was back to normal.

 

Then they rounded the next corner. Looking ahead through the thinning fog, they saw - nothing.

 

The fog revealed and then obscured the buildings before them, the Coop, the newsstand, the subway entrance -

Peter frowned. The subway entrance - a flat structure in glass and brick, surrounded by a brick plaza - was for

some reason almost impossible to spot through the fog. A car driving down Kennedy Boulevard in front of them

came up to the spot - and then passed by, its taillights vanishing into the fog that was so stubbornly resisting the

dawn. As Peter jogged forward, skirting the enormous footprints dug into the sidewalk, it was as though the

entrance had vanished.

 

"Ooof!" he heard someone say. Turning, he saw Katherine pulling her lover out of a seemingly bottomless pit

where one of Pretorius' feet had fallen on a subway air vent and pushed it straight down out of sight. The

thumping had stopped, but there was a strange subterranean wailing coming from somewhere below their feet, like

a group of people were trapped on a train beneath them. They were only a few yards from where the subway

entrance should be when they heard the voice.

 

"FUCK YOU, GOD!" shrilled the hoarse voice of a man in a polyester suit, gesturing with his Bible now at the

skies, now at the heaps of shredded clothing at his feet, now at the empty streets around him. "WHY DIDN'T

YOU TAKE ME! THE RAPTURE IS UPON US! THE BLESSED ARE BEING SWEPT UP TO HEAVEN AND WHY

THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU TAKE ME? TAKE ME! NOW!"

 

Just then an enormous hand reached out of the vast hole that had replaced the subway station. Every detail of it

was engraved in Peter's mind: the gray flesh shifting like slugs on the bones - the rancid, stinking fluids oozing

from its pores - the writhing hairs that knotted and embraced on the back of it. The hand came down on top of the

ersatz preacher, squashing him like an average man would squash a bug.

 

Then the other hands came out of the pit. They grabbed hold of the ground, the lampposts, the street, and they

shuddered under the load of some incredible weight. And Pretorius started to pull himself out of the pit.

But what the horrified trio saw was not a shape - however unearthly - lifting itself out of the earth. Instead, it was a

repulsive outflowing of semiliquid flesh oozing out of the hole, slopping over it and then coagulating on the

street, accompanied by the stench of rotting pickles and leprous graves. It flowed together into a shape not even

approximately human. A long, oval gray blob of pulsing flesh supported on dozens of tubular feet and

surmounted by a ring of eyes and lashing tentacles, from dainty spikes the length of a finger to massive trunks as

thick around as a man's waist; it was at least thirty feet across, and ten feet high at the top, looming through the

mist. And in the middle of it, staring at the sky just barely touched by dawn, was the enormous human face of

Edward Pretorius, with an expression of inhuman, obscene pleasure written large on his features (indeed, large

was the only way to write it). But even worse than that shape were the shapes attached to it.

 

Pretorius had indeed absorbed many people on his morning stroll. But he hadn't absorbed all of them ... all the

way.

 

Everywhere on that bloated pestilent body were people - people sunk into the flesh up to their waist, or to their

necks; people with their heads buried like ostriches, while their naked limbs flailed in terror or trailed limply in the

street; people melting into one another; people being horribly stretched and distorted as their pliable bodies was

teased one way, then another, by Pretorius' tentacles. People being crushed, or gnawed, or slashed, or squashed;

all of them smeared with filth. And in a circle around his face, thrashing, bleeding and screaming, was the piece de

resistance. At least a dozen beautiful women and men, each one stripped of their clothes and redressed in the

latest Hubba Hubba fashions: thigh-high boots, collars, harnesses, manacles. Every inch of their bodies being

violated and suckled by enormous, slick tentacles that spewed phosphorescent white froth before plunging anew

to the task. The froth and blood trickled down over the tentacles, over Pretorius' face, and he lapped it from his

enormous lips.

 

As the abomination slithered its front portion towards the intersection, Peter saw Crawford moving deliberately to

the right, around the hole and towards Pretorius. Katherine, her eyes mad with terror and fierce determination,

followed close behind. There was a smash of glass from one of the nearby buildings. One of the eyes on Pretorius'

flank, as broad across as a dinner plate, focused on the pair unconcernedly for a moment, and a tentacle flipped

towards them.

 

The tentacle lashed out towards Katherine, but Crawford shoved her back and in the same motion caught the

tentacle's tip across his arm and chest. In the space of a single gasp - Peter's - the flesh of Crawford's arm,

shoulder and one side of his chest liquefied and slid into the mass of the monster before them. Crawford scowled,

inhaled, and the flesh returned to him. A dozen eyes sprang open and focused on him with abrupt recognition as

Crawford seized the tentacle with both hands and poured his own flesh into it - deliberately.

Crawford slid out of his clothes and disappeared into the monster's bulk. Katherine opened her mouth to scream,

and the eyes focused on her. A tentacle slammed in a circle around her feet, barring her escape; another

approached from overhead, bearing a load of stinking soaked leather to be bound about her. She stood there,

paralyzed, her mouth frozen in its silent scream.

 

"HEY, YOU IMPOTENT PINK!"

 

The eyes of everyone present - Peter's, Katherine's, the myriad orbs belonging to Pretorius, and those of his

victims - focused on a blond figure standing in the broken window of a bookstore by the intersection, two stories

above the street. Boots on the windowsill, a fragment of glass by her ear still bearing the letters 'PAN', she waved

one gloved hand and shouted, "REMEMBER ME?"

 

Pretorius' entire body - if one could call it that - clenched like a fist. Every eye ringing his bulk blazed with fury; his

tentacles stiffened; the placid human face was suddenly convulsed with an animal rage even as it started to

bubble from within. He heaved himself up, up, until he towered almost as high as the window. "YOU!" he

thundered.

 

"NERGAL!" she thundered in return, the voice seeming to leap out of her body like a blow, smashing into

Pretorius where he stood - or rather flopped. "SHAMMASH! MARDUK KURIOS! I'A! I'A! N'HEE G'HEE!" And

as the beast before her wavered, then coiled, about to leap and destroy her - "APRIL FOOLS!"

 

The blond raised her concealed arm, which clasped a stocky metal tube. Extended it like a telescope and aimed.

Tentacles leaped out of Pretorius towards the window. She pointed it out the window and pulled the trigger, then

jumped as the window - and the whole side of the building - was covered in a wave of living, angry flesh.

 

At that instant, a flash of rippling, multicolored fire leaped from the tube and plunged deep into Pretorius' mass,

burrowing deep - almost as deep as Crawford had buried his essence, sending throughout the gross hulk the

single message/signal/instruction of "Escape! Escape!" And as that message reached every mind trapped deep

within, filling them with the spark/blueprint/desire of revolt; and as Pretorius' plate-sized eyes all widened and

then burst; and as the inner pattern of his rotten, twisted mind was suddenly shattered under a supernatural

hammerblow, every connection to the physical world wrenched at a non-Euclidean angle that sent it howling back

to a baser plane; every nerve of Pretorius' body exploded with the message "Death!" - and so did he.

 

The explosion happened deep inside, and could barely be heard. At first there was only a 'whoomp!' noise. Then

the shock waves ran through his liquidity, rippling faster and faster. Multicolored ooze spurted from him in

geysers that coated buildings for blocks around. Gouts of flame spewed from the hulk, exploding forth like so

many geysers. His middle heaved, then that abominable face erupted into an avalanche of flesh that coated the

street for yards around. He fell apart into pieces, and more pieces, and more pieces.

 

For every one of those pieces was made of flesh wrenched from the control of one of hundreds of living minds,

minds galvanized into action by the simultaneous messages of 'Death'/ 'Escape'. And those minds were frantically

seizing every fragment of that body, wresting themselves from Pretorius' control, and rebuilding what had been

taken from them.

 

All around Peter and Katherine, who both stood paralyzed, the liquid sea of flesh was rising up, condensing into

strange lumps and blots that abruptly split themselves into arms and legs and heads and people. Lots of people.

Lots of very frightened, nude people. Naked people were clawing out of the remains of the subway station,

screaming. Peter looked into the cavernous hole and saw a woman fall off the edge, backwards across the railing

with a smack that surely meant a broken back - but then she got up and started clawing again. People were

dashing every which way, grabbing newspapers off the streets to wrap themselves in, hiding in doorways, trying

to cover themselves with the tatters of clothing lying in the streets. The observers were buffeted this way and

that; Peter was hard-pressed to keep his own clothes from being ripped off his body.

 

And some of the people were experiencing changes. A massively fat woman trembled, looked down at herself, and

in the blink of an eye was graced with a figure that would do Dolly Parton proud. Another man tried vainly to

cover his crotch, whose overly abundant genitalia were proving to be more than a handful. A woman ran

screaming down the street, her skin going from inky midnight to pearly white and back every step of the way.

People grappled with their own too-obedient flesh as it sought to mold itself to their most fleeting desires. In this

phantasmagorical array, Peter heard someone calling his name.

 

It was Crawford. Naked and beslimed, he fell into Peter's embrace even as Katherine grabbed him from the other

side. In the midst of the chaos, they embraced one another. Peter closed his eyes and wished the moment would

never end. Peter had fought the monsters, but this man had done what he could never do; fight the monster from

the inside, and win. Then Peter realized that he couldn't see anything with his eyes closed.

 

No ectoplasmic eels writhed in front of him. No phantom jellyfish did their obscene jig behind his eyes. The

visions of the monsters from beyond, which had tormented him his entire life, had vanished entirely.

 

He opened his eyes to look suspiciously at Crawford's delirious visage, which changed with almost comic rapidity

to a dead serious stare at the look on Peter's face. And over Crawford's shoulder peered Katherine, scowling and

rubbing at her forehead.

 

"Crawford," whispered Peter, tightening his grasp about his ribs, "what have you done?"

 

"What did you do to me!" hissed Katherine, grabbing a vulnerable earlobe and yanking it for emphasis.

 

"Gluck" squeaked Crawford as his ribs flexed inwards. He could easily have broken Peter's grasp, but the thought

of doing it never occurred to him. "I ... um ... I cured you."

 

"Oh yeah? Of what?" growled Peter, whose bear hug had now lifted Crawford entirely off his feet.

 

"I reversed the inflammation of your pineal gland. Yours too," he added over his shoulder to a scowling

Katherine. "You can't see into the other dimension now. You're normal. Free."

 

"You had no right to go into my mind like that!" yelled Katherine, pounding a fist between Crawford's

shoulderblades for emphasis. He turned his head around - all the way - and addressed her angrily in return.

 

"I was doing you a FAVOR. How many men would cure a woman of being a raving sex maniac?"

 

Peter tightened his grasp in fury, and a warm brown eye opened on the back of Crawford's head, peering at him

suspiciously from between the goo-slimed strands of hair. Peter flinched and dropped Crawford, who landed on

his feet just in time for Katherine to land a good slap on his face. His head spun as he slipped in the slime, and he

ended up seated in the rubble, staring at the ground between Peter's feet. Over his bowed head, the two blonds

exchanged a long look of rage that slowly turned into something else.

 

"Crawford, you're a low-lying, shape-shifting, sneaky, slimy little man," Peter declared. The slimy little man being

addressed didn't even bother looking up, even when Peter picked him up by the upper arms and raised him to his

feet.

 

"And I love you." Peter punctuated the sentence with a hearty kiss that opened Crawford's eyes wide, not to

mention his mouth. An impatient hand tapped Peter's shoulder, and he released Crawford with a smile into

Katherine's hungry embrace.

 

"And I love you too," she whispered; the kiss she planted on Crawford made his toes curl.

 

Then Peter heard someone calling Crawford's name. For one horrified instant, he thought it was Pretorius. But

when all three of them turned, it was the now somewhat bruised woman who had fired the rocket launcher,

grinning at their stupefied expressions.

 

"Why Mr. Tillinghast - you're nude!" she exclaimed in delight, and then grinned wider at the sight of his

momentary blush. Peter was staring even more intently at the woman - the gunseller, he abruptly realized. How did

she ...?

 

"Don't you remember me, Crawford?" At his paralyzed expression, she rolled back one sleeve and exposed a ring

of scar tissue around one wrist - a ring identical to the one that Peter had seen around the wrist of one of

Pretorius' students. He grabbed at her wrist and she twisted away in a flash, nearly taking his thumb off in the

process. But Crawford was nodding, open-mouthed.

 

"You were the one ..." he started.

 

"How did you know ..?" Peter overran him.

 

And Katherine plaintively put in, "Who are you?"

 

The woman replied. "I was hanging around Harvard Square one evening a few years back when one Doctor

Pretorius - the slime heap - " she gestured over her shoulder "picked me up. We were discussing Wilhelm Reich, I

turned my back at the wrong moment, and ended up chained to a beam in his bedroom." She snorted through her

nose in disgust. "He didn't know a damn thing about securing manacles - or women. Pulled my way loose -

painfully - and then chained him up by the heels, blindfolded and gagged. And, since the evening was such a loss

so far, and I'd seen this exceedingly handsome man peeking out of the next door down the hall," she leered at

Crawford, who surprised her by leering back, "I taped up my wrists and then slid in with him."

 

"Just like that?" asked Katherine.

 

"I've always been shameless. Besides, I wanted to tell him that his boss had asked him to leave him strictly alone

until he regained his energies - and how long was it until you went in and untied him, anyway?"

 

"The next evening," said Crawford. "He was - ah - upset."

 

"Anyway, I recognized the shrimp - at least its head - on the TV, and came right over. Good thing I spent my

recent cash influx" (she pointedly avoided meeting Peter's eye) "on some new merchandise. I'll bet that taxi driver

is never going to figure out what I had in my bag - or why I was chanting spells over it."

 

The tide of people around them had faded away, along with the screams; the wail of sirens was sounding in the

distance, and getting closer. A few babies sat around the crumbled ruins of the plaza, crying. A rat ran by through

the muck, and the woman casually crushed its head under one booted heel.

 

"Well, time to go," said the gunseller. And without another word, she melted away in the fog.

Peter peeled out of his shirt and gave it to Crawford. With their arms around one another, the trio headed off

towards the car.

 

* * *

 

The Great Boston Nude Riot is already a legend, although few people will admit to being a part of it.

However, Cambridge now has an extraordinarily high proportion of faith healers, abortionists, and liposuctionists.

Werewolves have been reported stalking the banks of the Charles River, and Halloween will never be the same.

The Pandemonium Bookstore has a new window, and is still located next to the [spiffy new] subway stop. The

comic store Superhero Universe never did recover, and was replaced by a poster store; Hubba Hubba bounced

right back after a "We've Been Slimed!" sale that drew leather enthusiasts from all over New England.

 

You might see a blond woman in a leather jacket hanging around Harvard Square, but don't try picking her up -

that tall guy with her has an enormous gun.

 

"But I've got the holster," she'll giggle.

 

Crawford Tillinghast, Katherine McMichaels, and Peter Cernere have not been seen in the Boston area. Where

they are now, and whether they went separately or together is a matter only for conjecture.

 

And sometimes, late at night, there is a rumbling in the subway tunnels after the trains have passed. A vibration

travels down the rails, and the wind that whistles through the vents has a viler taint. There are no more rats or

mice seen in the subway.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESSAY BY THE AUTHOR

©1998 by Friday Jones

I actually came up with the idea for the story while musing over the title From Beyond. "Hmmm, From Beyond.

From Beyond, From Before, From Behind - aha! That's it! A homoerotic sequel to From Beyond!" The one-liner

then proceeded to bloom into an entire story - the one that you just read.

This should not be considered a sequel to the original H.P. Lovecraft story (which is told in its entirely before the

opening credits of From Beyond); although I did use a little bit of the story structure of the "Herbert West,

Re-Animator" stories, opening each new section with a summary of what had gone on before. And the final form

of Pretorius owes more than a little to H.P.'s "The Dunwich Horror." I tried to capture the flavor of the Stuart

Gordon movie, and I'm not really sure I succeeded. Gordon is much better at dialogue than I am, and I was

somewhat relieved that I could make large sections of the story the internal monologues of the characters. Of

course, for much of the story Crawford doesn't have any lips, which would tend not to make one talkative. And

then there's that sexual imagery thing - "shoving the switch home with a vengeance" et. al., and the outrageous

"holster" line, which I originally came up with at a convention in reply to a comment about my companion's

firearm. Actually, I originally said "sheath", but the meaning was understood by all present, I would say.

Looking back at "From Behind", what I really enjoyed were some of the descriptive passages - the first glimpse

into the Beyond, and of course the shower scene, which still has the power to make my thighs clench. And the

imagery is really wild - the Pretorius monster lumbering down Massachusetts Avenue, holding heaps of bondage

gear in his/its tentacles and lookin' for some party pals - but my favorite bits are the reversals of expectations,

which came out best in the fourth section, I think. You go into the cell of an insane asylum - and the inmate

doesn't beat you up, she wants to bed you. You see something horrible on the pillow - and it just turns out to be

feet. "'My dear, I could eat you right up,' he rumbled. And he did." Classic Jones. My favorite line in the whole

story is probably "Then Peter realized that he couldn't see anything with his eyes closed." I mean - of course you

can't see anything with your eyes closed, eh? In the context of the story, it is very meaningful; out of context, it's

meaningless. "Bob", how I love manipulating the reader!

Of course, I had to do some extrapolation on just how the Beyond worked in order to base my story in it. For

example: how did Pretorius get transformed into a monster, and how did Crawford do the same thing? How could

they come back? What would their limitations be?

Here's how I called it: We see in From Beyond that the Beyond is full of all sorts of monsters of the aquatic

design, and that a rather large specimen of them sucks off Dr. Pretorius' head. When the Resonator is turned back

on, here's Pretorius in a humanoid body, but he can change shape and exists only in the Beyond - turn off the

Resonator and poof! he's gone. When Crawford gets his head bitten off by Pretorius, he shows back up in

humanoid form, literally being reborn out of Pretorius' body.

I took the existence of the monsters in the Beyond as an obvious given, and decided that shapeshifting would

probably be an innate ability at the cellular level, as I couldn't imagine Pretorius having taken lycanthropy classes

at old Miskatonic U. So, if a shapeshifting beastie swallowed another one, clearly the swallowed beast would

probably turn into something spiny that would be spit out, or sharp that could cut its way out. The Beyond

predator, therefore, must have a very powerful stomach (or its equivalent) which can break down its prey into

uncontrolled cells as soon as possible - probably within a few minutes or even seconds.

In the case of non-sentient life, this system works fine. However, the human brain is more than just instincts - it is

the organic component of a vastly complex series of electrical impulses which is thought, memory, feelings etc. If I

could make a machine that would copy exactly the electrical impulses of the human mind and then duplicate them,

you would have a copy of that person's mind at that particular moment. So, what happens when somebody's head

is gobbled up by a monster in the Beyond?

The physical matter of the brain is destroyed at once - so quickly that the electrical patterns of thought are still

there. This pattern imposes itself on the cells around it - cells that happen to be incredibly malleable. And the

brain rebuilds for itself a new home - a copy of the body from which it has been severed. BUT it is only a copy!

The cells that it is made of are completely of the Beyond - the new body cannot pass over into the 'real' world

which you and I currently occupy! And in possessing the cells of its host (and possibly destroying it, or at least

cleaving it in half upon its departure), the new human-copy has absorbed all the cellular instincts of a vicious

predator. Thus Crawford's deterioration into an animal, and Pretorius' too for that matter. In the movie, Crawford

developed an appetite for human brains as a result of his pineal awakening - he lost this after his rebirth in 'From

Behind' because he left those animal cells (and their instincts) behind him, but kept the shape changing ability. It

may seem like a bit of a stretch, but after all, there are people now who can 'think' their body into bleeding, or

working beyond its limits. It might have given an interesting frisson to the story to have Crawford still eating

brains, and I think at least a few readers 'in the know' must have cringed when Crawford pressed his mouth down

on that soft spot on Katherine's forehead. I never did answer the question - if by eating their heads Crawford can

make Katherine and Peter (or anyone else) into presumably immortal shapeshifters, would he? Would they ask him

to? Could anyone endure literally having their head bitten off (by the man they love, no less) in order to gain a

shot at living forever? If I ever write a sequel to this story ("From Beyond The Behind?") I'll have to explore that.

Oh, and how to bring Crawford and Pretorius back into the real world! That was a real puzzle. I kept as my

standard the idea that, having once learned to consciously change shape, Crawford would (within the Resonator's

field) be able to manipulate cellular matter in the 'real' world, and thus rebuild a body for himself. I thought of Peter

buying two hundred pounds of steak for Crawford to rebuild himself out of. I thought of Crawford 'impregnating'

his thought/self into Katherine, with her giving birth in moments to a baby who would grow up into the adult

Tillinghast within a few minutes. I had Crawford 'cleaving' himself to Katherine and then reemerging weighing

about forty pounds, an emaciated skeleton that immediately slithered to the refrigerator and devoured everything

within to gain mass and rebuild himself. But making Katherine fat was the easiest way, I think, even though we

have to assume that Crawford also transformed those fat cells into bone and proteins and blood. Well, fat does

store a lot of energy, you know. Maybe our hot-to-trot trio stopped at an all-night Wendy's on the way to the

sleazy motel and set Crawford loose on the salad bar to get trace minerals he was missing; I don't know.

I also didn't want to make the transfer of Crawford's energies into the 'real' world too easy. If it was something that

could be done with no more than the shake of a hand, Pretorius would probably have use it to transfer himself

back into the 'real' world at some point in the original movie, or at least threatened to. I loved the idea of a big duel

between Peter and Pretorius, and always look for ways to throw in some gratuitous sex (although this isn't

gratuitous - it's integral to the story, trust me). I figured that orgasm would be the extra neural energy kick

necessary to complete the transfer. And also I couldn't resist the pun on the term "coming inside her." Crawford

does come inside her - he just doesn't stay for too long. After that experience, no wonder they were always

hurling themselves into each others' arms - after all, they were literally flesh of one flesh, two halves of one body.

It must have felt incredible.

"Then why didn't the people that Pretorius devour on his way to Harvard Square just break loose?" I asked

myself. Well, Pretorius took over the Beyond-beastie's body, in theory because it had never eaten sentient prey

before (I presume that its head-sucking attack maneuver was generally employed to destroy a body's bestial

intelligence before it could transform into something inedible). Later, after Pretorius eats Crawford, he comes

bouncing right back within a matter of minutes, taking over Pretorius' body and tearing it apart from within (quite a

custody battle). When the Resonator was destroyed, both of them were flung out of contact with 'reality', back

into the Beyond, where presumably Crawford managed to completely break off and become a separate entity. For

years, Pretorius roamed the Beyond, undoubtedly sucking the heads off everything in his path and enjoying, no,

relishing the fighting of their minds as they dissolved into him. Pretorius implies in the first film that the mind can

be absorbed and controlled by another, stronger mind, and I guess that all the practice that Pretorius got in

mind-sucking stood him in good stead on his Massachusetts Ave stroll. Crawford also had the advantage of

knowing what had happened to him, and that he could survive it as Pretorius had; the poor people in Harvard

Square never had a chance - until, of course, Crawford told them how, and passed along a sort of psychic

blueprint for shapeshifting.

I haven't really gotten any feedback from gays re: the realism of the relationship between Peter and Crawford, but

then again, I don't know any gays who are dating shapeshifters while dealing with pineal inflammation, either. Will

I be followed around conventions by indignant Gaylaxians chanting "The relationship is unstable! The

relationship is unstable!"? (a fannish joke). I guess I made the relationship in here a reflection of my idealized

fantasy relationship. I mean, I love it if a man shows me in no uncertain terms how much he desires me. I'm sure a

lot of men feel the same way about women too. And of course, what could be nicer for a woman than having two

lust-crazed men willing to take off all their clothes and squish around in the bathtub with her? (Well, three might

be nicer ... and four ... and five ... but you'd need an awfully big bathtub.) I actually had sketched out in my head a

scene that was never written: rather than the beast with two backs, Crawford would become the beast with two

fronts. Four arms, four legs, one head (with two faces) and two sets of genitalia (any size, shape and flavor you

desire), making love to Peter and Katherine simultaneously.

Drs. Crawford Tillinghast and Katherine McMichaels are lifted from the original movie text. Bubba Brownlee was a

police officer who accompanied Crawford & Katherine as they tried to recreate Pretorius' experiments; although he

did die in the field of the Resonator, his head - and brain - were basically intact, so I couldn't think of a way of

bringing him back. Bunny Summers had a cute appearance in From Beyond as the grumpy neighborhood lady

with her poodle, but I never did get around to having her strolling through Harvard Square. Good thing - she

probably would have recognized Tillinghast, and dropped dead of heart failure. Basically, I didn't want anyone in

the story who could recognize Crawford except for Katherine, Pretorius and, of course, the nameless gunseller.

Practically all of the locations in the story are real, although there is no Moody Medical Hospital. I've never been

in one of those sleazy motels out on Route 133, but they sure do look sleazy. The rampage along Massachusetts

Avenue has been matched up to the real locations, and Bostonians in the know - or people visiting our grimy city

- may want to stroll along and see the sights and perhaps visit the stores mentioned in the story. The Number 1

bus runs along the entire course of the rampage, from the Harvard Bridge up to Harvard Square. In fact, that's the

bus that Crawford & Co. spot idling in Central Square with "every windows smashed in and the now-familiar

tatters of cloth fluttering from it." Hubba Hubba does indeed sell rubber and leather bondage gear (although

they've moved up the street since this story was written), and I have promised myself a pretty leather corset from

them someday as an especial treat for being good. And they've got a beautiful high collar that I drool over. When

my boss was getting married, I considered giving the new couple a matched set of "Master" and "Slave" collars -

but I wasn't sure who would be wearing which. Pix Poster Cellar sells posters from around the world, and fanzines.

And Pandemonium is probably my favorite place in Harvard Square to shop for used SF and horror paperbacks -

again, however, it has moved to a new location since this was written.

The house where most of the action takes place is a real town, deep in Lovecraft country. It has not only had quite

a noisome swamp, but even had a genuine stone circle on top of a small hill! And it's near the cemetery and the

swamp! Perfect for your midnight incantations, eh? Then some yuppie scum bought the land and built his house

right smack on top of that stone circle - which is the house in the story. I mean really - if you were watching a

horror movie where there was a bunch of horny teenagers having a party in a house and one of them said, "Yeah,

my dad bought the land cheap because of the INDIAN MYSTICAL STONE CIRCLE that was on it. Built the

house right over it. Used the stones for the sills" - you would know beyond any shadow of a doubt that every

character in that house was DOOMED, except for the nice quiet girl in the white sweater who won't go farther than

kissing. She may survive.

Oh, and why does Peter install an 8mm camera in his little Resonator/bunker instead of a camcorder? Well, in From

Beyond they say that the tuning forks of the Resonator are vibrated by magnetic fields, and such fields do not

interact well with magnetic videotape. They don't do your 8mm camera much good either, but I figured the

low-tech approach was more likely to succeed for Peter. It also gave him a convenient way of 'proving' to

Katherine that Crawford was currently alive and had access to this dimension, by showing pictures of Peter and

Crawford together to Katherine.

People don't seem to understand why Pretorius' student, mentioned in the first installment, has scars around her

wrist like the gunseller does. The reason is that Pretorius used both the student and the gunseller for his little

S&M games - but while the student undoubtedly cut herself vainly struggling against the manacles, the gunseller

grabbed onto the chains, did a somersault into the air, and then planted her feet against the overhead beam and

pushed with both legs, hard. The manacles came off (along with some skin), leaving the scars. And I never said

that she did anything after sliding into bed with Tillinghast that evening - she may have just nibbled on his ear

and then slipped out, chuckling evilly under her breath.

Did anybody get the 'Roy J. McEffe, B.S.' joke in the last installment of "From Behind"? Take a closer look:

 

 

Heh heh heh. I liked that. The ending was originally going to be rather different: Pretorius was going to glom onto

the overhead cables leading out of the Harvard Square bus stop (for the electric buses) and use them as an

impromptu Resonator, plunging several square miles of Massachusetts into the Beyond! Wholesale massacre

would of course have been the result. I also thought it might be neat if Pretorius had sworn a pact with the Gods

of the Beyond - Lovecraftian beasties of the purest stripe - and would be working on a way to Resonate the whole

planet onto another plane! But, in the end, I decided that it was silly that you could just shake some wires and

create a Resonator field. Also, I couldn't figure out how any of my cast could get near enough to Pretorius at that

point to destroy him, as he would be surrounded by monsters.

Well, there you have it. "From Behind." I hope that you enjoyed this little story of mine. Please don't take it as a

serious proposal as a sequel to From Beyond; it's just my own little travels along its own unique path. Now, how

about a Re-Animator movie in which Herbert West builds a Resonator and summons up Crawford - and falls

madly in lust with him - with both parts being played by Jeffrey Combs. Now, that would be something.