Friday, July 18, 2008

SHROUDS OF THE DEATH-CRYPTS

By MONTAGUE TRUEX, Ph.D.
(from Planet Comics, July 1947)

Doctor Paul Gregory, chief of the University Science Council, straightened slowly, uttered a long sigh as he glanced wearily at his assistant, Professor Danton. "I concede failure, Danton," his low voiced cracked. "There is no possible restoration of dead tissue back to life."

Danton's swift-darting eyes swept triumphantly over the wan, hawk-like visage of Gregory. "I told you that before you started your experiments. Even though this is the year 2432, resuscitation of dead bodies is utterly impossible!"

They were standing alongside the marble-topped experiment table in the Council's laboratory, upon which stood various micro-plates, test tubes filled with Zadox and a huge, well used atomoscope. Behind the men gigantic crystobulbs flickered monotonously with weird blue flashes as white-coated attendants flitted about in the eerie glow.

A clerk from the outer office padded swiftly up to Dr. Gregory and said: "Sir, there's a man outside who wishes to speak to you. He -- he acts strangely...!"

Professor Danton smiled knowingly, brows raised. "Another crackpot's impossible phantasy, who wishes his absurd testimony to be recorded in our scientific archives." He turned to the clerk. "Tell him we're not interested..."

"Wait!" Doctor Gregory interposed. "I will see him." He turned on his heel and strode rapidly into the office -- the smirking Danton following, reluctantly.

Gregory seated himself at the modernistic desk, told the clerk: "Show this strange gentleman in."

Danton waited at the far crystite window. Long had he craved Gregory's important position, and if Gregory kept listening -- on Council's time -- to these crackpot yarns ... the job would soon be his.

A quiet unassuming man entered the office then, and Doctor Gregory waved him to a seat alongside his desk. "You wanted to see me?"

"Y--yes ... but I--I hardly know where to begin..." the man started. Gregory noticed a queer sheen in tha man's deep-socketed eyes which reflected from the tubes of cold light above. He continued then: "I'd like this to be recorded in your scientific archives..."

Gregory smiled assuringly. "These whole proceedings are even now being recorded on the tele-viz."

By the window a smile played around Danton's mouth.

The man went on, "I only ask the courtesy of no interruptions..." an odd sounding laugh issued from his mouth and his eyes held the queer glow. "Time is short --"

He began:

My name is Bruce Hayward. Three years ago, my wife died. I had her entombed in the underground crypts, where the place the bodies under a huge crysto-bell -- which preserves them in natural state for eternity.

For a full year I visited my wife in those eerie crypts. Believe me, gentlemen, all of her natural attributes had been miraculously preserved. She was even more beautiful in death -- than in life!

But one evening I visited her bell ... It was near to closing time. There was a sinister air pervading the incense-filled hall that evening. I could feel it, hear it with every hollow beat of my footsteps on the marble floor slabs.

Standing before my wife's bell, I must have lost myself in reverie -- for just then I was rudely awakened by the loud slamming of the outer bronzite door and the loud babbling of strange, high-pitched voices. Instantly, there was a terrible Z-Z-A-A-A-P-P! and I knew one of the crypt guards had been put to death by a heat ray. There was another. Than another!

Quickly, fearfully, I slunk behind an ancient cremation slab; waited, silent in the clammy darkness. The cold light tubes above suddenly flickered out. But fingers of light splayed in from an open door somewhere, enabling me to catch the movement of swift-darting shadows.

The intruders brazenly entered the crypt where I was hiding. Four of them. The leader was motioning with his scaly hands, and his cruel, thin lips were bubbling with hurried orders. He wore a repulso helmet; his one ugly eye bulged grotesquely like a lizard's, and his long ugly fingers clutched a dis-gun. The other three cradled long dis-rifles in scale-glittering arms.

I stifled the urge to scream when I saw what they were about ... going to each bell, sliding out the bodies, and slinging them roughly into a small-wheeled car. The scream bubbled up to my lips when I saw them lift my wife's bell and sling her stiff form onto the already high-piled car. Viciously, I bit my tongue, stifled the scream, and clenched my hands into tight ball of hate and fury. What cursed evil was this?

I watched from my cramped hiding place as they went over the entire crypt, piling bodies onto the car. Soon they pushed the car down a long corridor -- one I'd never seen before. At the end, a panel slid up easily, and the ghouls shoved the loaded car through. Cautiously, I followed, and just as I got inside the door -- it slammed shut!

I was trapped!

They must have heard me enter, for immediately I could hear feet pounding back towards me. I whirled, scrambled for the door, clawed at the metal portal, flung myself at it headlong. It hurled me back. I slumped to the cold stone-flagged floor, sat there panting. The pounding of feet got closer ... closer! Terror struck in my swift-beating heart, paralyzed me; I couldn't move!

The ugly creatures thundered up. Dimly, I heard one of them issue a muffled order: "Blank him out!"

A ray gun cut the gloom with a knife-like beam. I felt the searing ray tingle through my body like a gentle electric shock. Then -- unconsciousness.

When I finally came to, I felt strange. A constant tingling from head to toe. My vision was a shimmery thing of dancing waves. Miasmatic effluvium swirled up to my nostrils. My head reeled sickeningly.

I was standing outside a queer looking laboratory. There were two doors, one at each end. Scaley creatures stood at one door and were pushing dead bodies into the lab. Inside, I could hear the low buzz of steady electric current. Then, with horror, I saw what was coming out the other door.

Dead bodies were walking out!

The hideous things seemed to float -- staring, sightless, dumb! I saw Lily, my wife emerge ... and her body brushed gently against me. My frantic fingers grasped her arm. "Lily! Lily!" I hissed. I held her tightly, lest she drift away. She didn't answer.

Voices were babbling inside the lab. "Quickly our time is short! Hah! what a surprise the Universe will get when we attack with our army of the dead! Our electro-energy ray is a success. Allow no one to reach that de-energizer ray on the balcony..."

The de-energizer ray, if that was what I thought it was--

Swiftly, I grabbed Lily's arm and dragged her floating body up a web-like ladder. On the balcony I ran to something resembling an ancient cannon. I located the switches, and pressed one. A long beam of white light lanced out below. the gruesome army of dead had assumed vast proportions by now. The evil stench was smothering. These scaly fiends must have been collecting dead bodies for many, many annos.

The one-eyed monsters came boiling out of the lab now. They'd spotted the beam ... and were pointing scaly fingers at me. "Get him!" they shrieked.

Quickly, I played the beam on the horrid, squirming bodies below. They were alive -- for they moved under their own power. Caught in the beam, they shrunk, decomposed right before my eyes!

The scaly things tried to scramble up the ladder, but I sprayed them viciously with the beam. They wilted like figures of wax ... all the energy sapped from their horrid, writhing bodies. And they died with long loud hisses.

When it was all over below, I turned sadly to Lily. I didn't want to do it, but I had to. Had to! Her eyes had opened, she stared at me blankly.

I twisted the beam, and it caught her as she was floating away. The thing trembled for an instant ... then slowly shrunk, and wasted to a rotting skeleton.

The story teller slumped, let out a sigh. "For two years I tried to get out of those crypts. Someone must hear this story ... before ... before ..." His voice ended in a hiss.

Gregory rose, gaunt faced. "You have proof?"

Danton padded over, exploded: "Of all the damnable lies! Surely ..."

"Quiet!" Gregory clipped. "LOOK! What in the name ..."

Both stumbled crazily over to the man's chair, stared horrified."

He was slumped, his skin dead yellow and shriveling before their eyes! Where his own eyes had been were now deep hollow pits of blackness. his mouth was distorted into a horrible gash, the lips rotted. Whitened finger-bones gripped the chair arms.

"Proof Danton!" Gregory croaked finally. "Those scaly things killed him, and put him under the energy ray!" his clear gray eyes swept triumphantly over Danton's crestfallen face, and he spaced his words carefully, deliberately. "This man has been DEAD FOR TWO YEARS!"

End.

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The original JPEGs that this text was transcribed from are below and are enlargeable. The full comic is available at Golden Age Comics.


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