"You have five minutes to live, Doctor."
Dr. Victor Fleming regarded his visitor with almost as much amusement as annoyance. The mild demeanor of the young man betrayed a trace of unease, even fear. Was he truly a killer?
"Take my pistol, Doctor, I beg you. You can still save yourself."
"I prefer my own pistol. Whatever you try in...four minutes, I shall be quite prepared."
"Your pistol won't help. At least take mine, even if you don't intend to use it."
"Take a strange weapon? Whom will it end up killing?"
The man shifted uncomfortably. "It won't kill me; it will only make me harmless."
Dr. Fleming smiled. "My pistol shall achieve both purposes." The man squirmed slightly in answer, and the doctor continued, "If you are so sure of my danger, why did you come to me? And why don't you simply leave before this deadline?"
"I came because I thought you could help. But I knew you would need proof. And it's already too late for me to run away: it would return and kill you."
"What do you mean, 'it'? I thought you were the killer."
"No, I'll become the killer. I—" He broke off and shook his head wearily. "It's too late! Quick, take the gun! Take it, for God's sake! For your own sake!"
"I am my own God, so it makes no difference. Though I begin to think I should have brought a tranquilizer instead of a bullet, if this is merely a psychotic episode."
The man gave no answer. His head lolled back, and his eyes stared toward one of the high windows in the doctor's laboratory.
The outer darkness was giving way to the cold light of the rising full moon, and the inner darkness gave way to something even more terrible.
Dr. Fleming had followed the man's gaze, but a sense of movement from the corner of his eye drew him back to his visitor. "Spasms of the facial muscles," he muttered. "Evidently some kind of seizure. A sedative would have been a better idea, but if he grows violent, I can wing him and slow him down while I get the tranquilizer."
He stood up to get a better vantage point. A shot into the leg should be sufficient, and unless the man made a sudden turn—not impossible in a seizure—hitting the femoral artery was unlikely.
The spasms continued, and the doctor marveled at how they contorted the face. If he hadn't known better, he might have imagined that the nose was actually lengthening into a snout, and. . .
It was the hair that did it. No mere seizure could cause hair to grow on someone's face and hands, especially so rapidly. And the nose was definitely a snout. The teeth were long and sharp, and the eyes were beginning to focus—on him.
Dr. Fleming was well acquainted with his gun, and it had already changed target from legs to face. He fired as the thing opened its maw wide, and the creature's muzzle flinched slightly as the bullet bounced off it.
Part of the doctor's mind informed him that the bullet should have blown the muzzle off. Another, more useful part told him to grab the strange gun his visitor had offered, and his right hand emptied his own gun into the thing in hopes of gaining a few seconds while his left got within reach of the pistol.
A clawed hand reached the rejected weapon before the doctor could, and the creature leered with savage glee as it bit the object, crimping the barrel and partly breaking open the magazine.
The less useful part of the doctor's mind informed him that the creature was clearly intelligent as well as impervious to bullets, and the more useful part told him to run for his life.
1 year ago