The Colony on Rigel IV had been founded seven hundred years earlier but for the past six centuries, they had been forced to exist on the bottoms of the great oceans of the planet, kept there by the tremendously potent weapons of the alien star-race which had swept down out of space and wiped them off the land masses of the new world. Kerrel Stevens found himself trapped in one of the Shells, unable to remember how he came to be there, aware only that for some strange reason, he held the secret which could release these people from their terrible existence, but that his memory and all of the knowledge which could help in the struggle against the aliens had been erased from his mind. In the Shells, he finds what he is seeking - others like himself, different from the people who had become used to this life on the sea bottom, where science had gradually given way to superstition and witchcraft - and this chance meeting provides the key which unlocked the amnesia in his mind. For him, it opened the doorway to the surface of this strange, impossible planet, plunging him breathlessly towards the stars- and the unbelievable secret which spelt destruction for the alien star-race.
Release date: December 22, 2014
Print pages: 139
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John Stephen Glasby was born in 1928, and graduated from Nottingham University with an honours degree in Chemistry. He started his career as a research chemist for I.C.I. in 1952, and worked for them until his retirement. Over the next two decades, he began a parallel career as an extraordinarily prolific writer of science fiction novels and short stories, his first novels appearing in the summer of 1952 from Curtis Warren Ltd. under various house pseudonyms such as ‘Rand Le Page’ and ‘Berl Cameron’, as was the fashion of the day. Late in 1952, he began an astonishing association with the London publisher, John Spencer Ltd., which was to last more than twenty years.
Glasby wrote four novels for Spencer’s first SF series under the house names ‘Victor La Salle’ and ‘Karl Zeigfried’ (1953), an in 1957, John Spencer’s commissioned Glasby to write a new SF novel called This Second Earth, the success of which prompted them to recreate a line of new SF novels, along with a ‘Supernatural’ series, featuring alternatively novels and new short story collection of Supernatural Stories. The vast majority of both these long-running series were written by Lionel Fanthorpe and John Glasby under a plethora of pseudonyms. Glasby quickly became Spencer’s main author, writing hundreds of stories and novels in a bewildering array of genres, including SF, supernatural, Foreign Legion sagas, Second World War novels, hospital romances, crime novels and westerns.
Interested in astronomy since childhood, Glasby had joined the variable star section of the British Astronomical Society in 1958, and was made Director in 1965. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1960, and he published numerous textbooks and encyclopaedias on astronomy and chemistry, the first being Variable Stars in 1968.
Following his retirement from I.C.I., Glasby returned to writing supernatural stories in the Lovecraftian vein, appearing in American small press magazines and Mythos anthologies. New science fiction and supernatural novels and collection followed. In recent years new stories appeared in original collections edited by leading horror anthologist Stephen Jones, and in Philip Harbottle’s Fantasy Adventures collections.
John Glasby died on June 5, 2011, following a long and courageous battle with illness, during which time he continued to write with undimmed power.
For a moment, Kerrel Stevens was half-conscious again. He felt himself being lifted on to something smooth and flat and for a few minutes he lay there, enjoying the pleasant semi-existence, where there was neither pain nor problems, where nothing made sense and nothing mattered, everything having given way to the casual acceptance of sentient being.
Then there was agony in his chest and in his mind. A weight like the crushing weight of Earth lay upon him and he was horribly afraid. Desperately, he waited for the pressure to ease. There was a bursting pain behind his temples, and it was almost impossible to breathe and for an instant, for the barest fraction of a second, a little thought intruded into his mind.
It couldn’t go on like this; it had to let up sometime, to go away and give him peace. But it did not. There was a queer humming in his ears which he could not identify, a little throb that somehow reminded him of a headache, and he found himself listening to the throbbing hum as it climbed, high and shrill, until it slipped over the edge of hearing and in climbing higher, the pressure grew with it.
There was a brief moment of terror. Something was happening to him. Something strange and unearthly. Some odd feeling that was in his bones and in the very atoms of his skull and he could sense it creeping insidiously along the fibres of his body, probing and rending the cells of his being apart until the horrified wonder became terror and that in turn, changed into sheer, blind panic.
Far, far away, a voice which he could not recognise was droning monotonously in his ear, speaking words he could not understand; words which might have made sense if only he could have heard them properly, or words which were being spoken in an alien tongue. He began to fight against the pressure in his mind which was threatening to blot out everything, to destroy him entirely.
But the black emptiness of unconsciousness came again and when he next surged close to the surface of reality, there was another sensation which he failed to recognise. He was moving, of that he felt sure, and yet it was a strange form of movement, almost as though he were drifting weightlessly down through a vast tank of thick liquid, swaying gently from side to side, his whole body inert, buoyed up by some force which he tried in vain to locate. He had a vague glimpse of something red, a vivid scarlet which might have been the blood in his eyelids as he tried to see through them.
Somehow, nothing in his mind seemed clear and for a while, instead of opening his eyes and trying to look about him, he lay quite still with them tightly closed and concentrated all of his efforts on attempting to reconstruct the past, trying to visualise what had happened to him. But there was nothing and after a little while, he was forced to give up as the pain inside his head grew steadily worse.
With a sense of mounting urgency, he knew that something was wrong, dreadfully, vitally wrong. At almost the same time, he realised that the voices were back again, but that this time, concentrating on them with all of his will, he could make out what they were saying. Keeping his eyes tightly shut, he lay quite still, tried to relax, and listened.
“You think he’s another one?”
“I’m sure of it. Just look at him. Surely that ought to be enough to convince you.” The voice was harsher, deeper, than the first. “I’ve seen more than a dozen during the past seventeen years. All the same.”
“But why do they come here? And how?”
There was a brief pause. Then the second voice went on:
“Probably if we knew the answers to those questions, and a few more besides, we might be able to help them. As it is——”
The voice broke off abruptly and he dimly heard a door close in the distance. There was a long silence. Slowly, he opened his eyes, turning his head to look over his surroundings. He tried to remember what he had expected to see, a few moments earlier while the voices had been speaking, but even that transient memory was gone and his brain felt strange and empty with a dreadful blankness existing within it which he could not rationalise or understand.
On either side of him were long, narrow beds, both with white sheets and covers. They were both empty and the long, low-ceilinged room was deserted. He seemed to be in a hospital of some kind and for a moment, he mulled over the new word which had crept unbidden into his mental vocabulary.
Hospital? He sat up so suddenly that the blood rushed, pounding madly, into his head again and he was forced to lie back weakly for several moments before he could fight down the rising wave of nausea which threatened to overwhelm him. Surely, he wasn’t insane? Was it that kind of hospital? And if so, where was he? How had he got there?
He looked round the room for any sign of windows, but there were none, and that in itself, looked ominous. Again, he shut his eyes tightly and tried to concentrate, to catch at any fleeting thoughts which might be moving around in the terrifying vacuity which was his mind.
He could just remember that dull, transient redness which had seemed so startling, so frightening and out of place. But before that, nothing.
What had happened earlier seemed to have no part of his present existence. It was almost as if he had just been born into this place, and his memories began a few minutes ago. He attempted to gather together a few loose strands in his mind, but any incidents which there might have been, were transitory and isolated and everything seemed to be tucked away and hidden inside a muddled haziness.
Voices reached him from somewhere immediately outside the door and an instant later, it was thrust open and three men came into the room, their features oddly white, almost leprous, in the harsh glare of the overhead lamps.
The tallest man came quickly into the room when he saw that he was awake and sitting up in the bed. “Ah, you’re awake at last, how does it feel now?”
“Not too good, I’m afraid.” In spite of himself, he had scarcely any control over his voice and the words came out hesitantly, slightly blurred, the syllables running together into a single sound. “There seems to be something wrong with my mind.”
The other nodded. “That’s nothing out of the ordinary with your kind, I’m afraid. We’ll do what we can for you while you’re here, but——”
Quite deliberately, he left the remainder of his sentence unsaid, and Stevens gained the impression that they held out no hope for him to regain his memory.
But that wasn’t the real problem though, he thought weakly, lying back on the pillow as the men came forward and stood on either side of him, looking down, eyeing him somewhat critically. Somewhere, there was a deep and pressing question to be answered; a real and urgent thing.
He moistened his lips and asked slowly: “What do you mean by my kind?”
The tall man frowned and made to speak, but one of the others cut in sharply, leaning forward a little, resting his hands flat on the bed.
“My name’s Neil Torlin,” he said softly, speaking as though he expected the name to convey something to him. “There are some questions we have to ask you, as you’ll probably realise. Until we know as much as possible about your past history, there’s very little we can do except try some of the advanced treatment, but that will have to be prescribed before we can use it.”
He pushed himself up on to his hands. The throbbing ache returned behind his forehead, but this time he deliberately forced himself to ignore it. There were more important things now than mere pain.
“There’s something wrong with me,” he said slowly, looking down at his hands for a moment, as though expecting to find the answer there. “I can’t recall anything before I came in here. Where am I, anyway?”
“You’re in the Observation Wing of the Accidents Hospital,” replied the third man. His eyes had never left Stevens’s face, as though he saw something familiar there, something he had seen several times before. After a moment’s reflection, Kerrel realised that this was the voice he had heard earlier when he had been coming out of the black depths of unconsciousness. The man who had said that he had seen dozens like him in the past—seventeen years?
Then was this something of an everyday occurrence, something which happened with sufficient frequency for it to be classed as ordinary by these people?
The man named Torlin walked around the foot of the bed, then advanced along the opposite side, reached out and took hold of his wrist. A moment later, he released it and allowed it to fall on to the cover of the bed.
“Your heartbeat seems to be about normal,” he observed. “Symptoms similar to the others.” He glanced at the tall man who made a brief note on a pad he carried, then shook his head as though puzzled. “If only we could get into your minds, find out more about you. Where you come from—how you managed to get here, and what’s more important, just why you’re here.”
“You keep talking about these others,” he said, stirring uneasily. “Who are they?”
“Men like yourself,” said the other casually, his voice even but pitched a little higher than before. There was, however, an undercurrent of troubled concern which Stevens noticed immediately. “They come here, or into one of the other Shells at irregular intervals, with no indication of their origin or how they get there. All we have to go on at the moment, is that on one occasion, I believe, one of your kind was found outside one of the Shells. He was dead, of course. Other than that one isolated instance, we’ve nothing to go on.”
“But there must be——”
“Better keep quiet now,” urged the tall man swiftly. “This kind of talk will only worry you and in your present condition that would be the worst possible thing. You’ve got to keep quiet, try to get some rest. We’ll have you out of here and straightened out in no time if you’ll only give us the chance. But you’ve got to do exactly as we say. There’s no possible short cut to a cure for you. The sooner you realise that, the easier your treatment will be.”
“Keep still and let’s have a good look at you.” There was a slender metal tube in the other’s right hand as he bent closer, adjusting a mask over the lower half of his face. Only his eyes were visible as he leaned over Stevens.
“Try to close the fingers of your right hand,” he ordered, his voice oddly muffled.
With an effort, Kerrel curled his fingers. Slowly, almost reluctantly, they closed into a tight-fisted ball. There was a brief stab of pain along the muscles of his arm, but that was all.”
“Excellent. Now the other hand.”
He bega. . .
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