Astounding Stories of Super-Science August 1931: VOL. VII, NO. 2 - The Midget From the Islandby@astoundingstories

Astounding Stories of Super-Science August 1931: VOL. VII, NO. 2 - The Midget From the Island

by Astounding StoriesJuly 14th, 2022
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In the chill of an early morning, a rowboat drifted aimlessly down the Detroit River. It seemed to have broken loose from its mooring and been swept away; its outboard motor was silent and it swung in slow circles as the currents caught at it. But the boat carried a passenger. A man's nude body stretched face downward in it.

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Astounding Stories of Super-Science August 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. VOL. VII, NO. 2 - The Midget From the Island

The Midget From the Island


By H. G. Winter

"For God's sake, Hagendorff, what's come over you?"

In the chill of an early morning, a rowboat drifted aimlessly down the Detroit River. It seemed to have broken loose from its mooring and been swept away; its outboard motor was silent and it swung in slow circles as the currents caught at it. But the boat carried a passenger. A man's nude body stretched face downward in it.

It was a startling figure that lay there. The body was fully matured and had a splendid development of rounded muscles—and yet it was not more than three feet in length. A perfectly formed and proportioned manikin! The two officers in the harbor police launch which presently slid alongside to investigate were giants in comparison.

They had not expected to find such weird cargo in a drifting rowboat. They stared at the naked, unconscious midget in utter amazement, as if seeing a thing that could not be real. And when one of them reached down to lift the tiny body aboard, his eyes went wider with added surprise. His lift was inadequate. The dwarf's weight was that of a normal-sized man!

This was mystery on mystery. But they got the uncannily heavy figure aboard at last and ascertained that, though the skin showed many wounds and was blue from long exposure, the heart was still beating. And realizing that the life might flicker out beneath their eyes unless they took action immediately, they proceeded to work over him.

After some minutes, the dwarf gave signs of returning consciousness. His lids fluttered and opened, disclosing eyes that filled suddenly with terror as they stared into the faces, huge in comparison, that leaned over his. One of the officers said reassuringly:

"You're all right, buddy: you're on a harbor police launch. But who in the devil are you? D'you speak English? Where'd you come from?"

The midget struggled to speak; struggled desperately to tell something of great importance. They bent closer. Gasping, high-pitched words came to their ears, and the story that those words told held them spellbound. When the shrill voice ceased and the dwarf sank back into the coat they had thrown around him, the two policemen gazed at each other. One whistled softly, and his companion said soberly:

"We'd better phone up and have the local police tend to this right away, Bill."

Thus, two hours later, several miles up the river, another launch containing three officers came to its destination, a solitary, thickly-wooded island that brooded under a cloak of silence where the river leaves broad Lake St. Clair. The launch crept up to a mooring post a few feet from a small, rough beach, and was tied there. Quickly, the men waded ashore and tiptoed up a winding trail that was barred from the sun by dank foliage. They soon came to a clearing where a large cabin had been built. There, one of them whispered, "Guns out!"

Then the three men crossed the clearing and cautiously entered the cabin.

For a moment there was silence. Then came a terrified shout, followed by the bunched thunder of a succession of pistol shots. The reverberations slowly died away, and some time later the policemen reappeared and stood outside the door.

One of them, dazed, kept repeating over and over, "I wouldn't have believed it! I wouldn't have believed it!" and another nodded in wordless agreement. The third, white-faced, stared for a long time unseeingly at the cloud-flecked bowl of the sky....

But it would be best, perhaps, to tell the story as it happened.

The incredible events that shaped it began two nights before, when the larger of the two rooms in the island cabin was bathed in the bald glare of a strong floodlight that threw into sharp prominence the intent features of two men in the room, and the complicated details of the strange equipment around them.

Garth Howard, the younger of the two, was holding a tiny, squawling, spitting thing, not more than three inches long, which might have seemed, at a quick glance, to have been a normal enough kitten. Closer inspection, however, would have revealed that it had a thick, smooth coat, a lithe, fully developed body and narrowed, venomous eyes—things which no week-old kitten ever possessed. It was a mature cat, but in the size of a kitten.

Howard's level gray eyes were held fascinated by it. When he spoke, his words were hushed and almost reverent.

"Perfect, Hagendorff!" he said. "Not a flaw!"

"The reduction has not improved her temper," Hagendorff articulated precisely. His deep voice matched the rest of him. Garth Howard's clean-muscled body stood a good six feet off the floor, yet the other topped him by inches. And his face compared well with his bulky body, for his head was massive, with overhanging brows and a shaggy mop of blond hair. Athlete and weight-lifter, the two looked, but in reality they were scientist and assistant, working together for a common end.

The room in which they stood was obviously a laboratory. Bulky gas engines and a generator squatted at one end; tables held racks of tools and loops of insulated wiring and jars of various chemicals. One long table stretched the whole length of the room, placed flush against the left wall, whose rough planking was broken by a lone window. There were racks of test tubes on this table, and tools, carelessly scattered by men intent on their work.

Still another table was devoted to several cages, containing the usual martyrs of experimental science: guinea pigs and rabbits, rats and white mice. Beside these was a large box, screen topped, in which, in separate partitions, were a variety of insects: beetles and flies and spiders and tarantulas.

But the thing that dominated the laboratory was the machine on the long table against the wall. Its chamber, the most striking feature, was a cube of roughly six feet, built of dull material resembling bakelite. Wires trailed through it from the glittering plate, which was the chamber's floor, and a curved spray-shaped projector overhead, to an intricately constructed apparatus studded with vacuum tubes. A small switchboard stood beside the chamber, and from it thick cables led to the generator in the rear of the room.

"Let us return her to normal," Hagendorff rumbled after a moment or two devoted to prodding and examining the diminutive cat. "Then for the final experiment."

One whole wall of the cubical chamber was a hinged door, with a tier of several peep-holes. Garth Howard swung the door open, placed the tiny, struggling cat inside and quickly closed it again. "Right," he said briefly, and pressed his eyes to the bottom peep-hole.

A switch was pulled over, and the dynamo's drone pulsed through the room. Hagendorff's fingers rested on a large lever that jutted from the switchboard. Slowly, he pulled it to one side.

The imprisoned cat, small as a rat, had been nervously whipping its tail from side to side and meowing plaintively; but, as the lever swung over, there came a change. The vacuum tubes behind the switchboard glowed green; a bright white ray poured from the spray in the chamber, making the metal plate below a shimmering, almost molten thing. The animal's legs suddenly braced on it; its narrowed eyes widened, glazing weirdly, while the tail became a stiff, bristling ramrod. And, as a balloon swells from a strong breath, the cat's body increased in size. It grew not in spurts, but with a smooth, flowing rhythm: grew as easily as a flower unfolding beneath the sun.

In only a few seconds its original size was attained. Howard raised his hand; the lever shot back and the white beam faded into nothingness. A full sized and very angry cat tore around the inside of the chamber.

"Normal?" Hagendorff questioned. The other nodded and prepared to open the door.

"Wait! She always was a little undersized; I give her a few inches more as a reward."

"Not too much," warned Garth. "She's got a nasty temper; we don't want a wildcat prowling round here!"

The white beam flashed, the tubes glowed and almost instantly flickered off again. When the chamber's door was opened, an indignant and slightly oversized cat bounded through, leaped from the table with a squawled oath of hatred and streaked into the front room of the cabin.

Garth turned and faced Hagendorff, a smile on his lips and a gleam in his eyes. He ran his fingers through his black hair.

"Well," he said, "now it's time for the final experiment. Who shall it be?"

Hagendorff did not answer at once, and the American went on:

"I think it'd better be me. There's a slight risk, of course, and I, as the inventor, could never ask an assistant to do anything I wouldn't. Is it all right with you?"

Hagendorff nodded quickly in answer. Garth stood reflecting for a moment.

"Guinea pigs, rabbits and insects have survived reduction to one-twentieth normal size," he said slowly. "It should be safe for the human body to descend just as far. But stop me at about two feet this first time. I'm not taking any chances; I want to be alive and kicking when I announce the success of my experiments to the scientific world."

His assistant said nothing.

"Well, here goes," Garth added. "I'd better take off my clothes if I don't want to be buried in them. They're not affected by the process. Must be because of the lack of organic connection between their fibers and the human body."

A few minutes later, nude, he jumped onto the laboratory table. He presented a perfect specimen of well-developed manhood as he stood before the door of the chamber. His smooth skin, under which the rounded muscles rolled easily, gleamed white beneath the glare of the floodlight. His gray eyes glanced at the stolid assistant, who already had one hand on the switchboard's lever. Garth saw that the hand was trembling slightly, and smiled as he realized Hagendorff was as excited as he. He said:

"I'll leave the door ajar, so you can more easily watch every phase of the reduction. If it's painful—well, I guess I can stand anything a cat can!"

Then, stooping slightly, Garth stepped in and drew the door almost shut.

He relaxed as much as possible from the tremendous excitement that filled him, and nodded at Hagendorff.

"I'm ready," he said. "Go ahead!"

The ray came to his body as the crash of thunder comes to the ear. His nerves leaped as it struck and enveloped him. He felt as if he were entombed in ice, and yet his veins were aflame. Fiery shafts fanged him all through and resolved, presently, into a measured, tingling beat.

His thoughts raced. He knew that those minute particles of matter, the atoms of his body, were being compacted; he sensed that his legs were rigid, his body stiff, his eyes clamped ahead in a glazed stare. He was only half-conscious of the objects outside, but the dim sight of them was fantastic and nauseous.

There was Hagendorff's face peering in at him—growing! Swelling as the cat's body had swollen; and yet receding and rising until Garth, momentarily forgetting that he was the one whose size was changing, thought that the man's titanic body would fill the room. But the room was growing, too: the stools were becoming leviathans of wood, the walls were like cliffs, the compact switchboard was a large surface of black, and the chamber in which he stood grew into a high-roofed vault, its sides shooting up and retreating as if shoved by invisible hands.

And still he sank, and still the terrible light devoured him.

Suddenly a delirious sensation engulfed him; his senses went reeling away, and he staggered. Then with a wrench he came to. As he regained control of his mind he knew the lever had been switched off and the process completed.

He found that he was gasping. He passed a hand over his sweat-studded face and looked around.

Outside was the room of a giant. And in a moment a giant became visible. His vast bulk filled the chamber's doorway; his mammoth face peered in. Garth's eardrums quivered from a deep bass rumble, sounding like thunder on a distant horizon.

"Are you all right, Howard?"

A finger half the length of his own arm reached forward and prodded him. For a second Garth could do nothing but stare at it. It brought home to him starkly the puny size of his body, only two feet in height. He felt suddenly afraid. But that was foolish, he thought; and he laughed, his voice ludicrously high and shrill.

"I'm all right," he cried. "But I can hardly understand you. If I were much smaller, I probably couldn't—your voice'd seem so deep. Gangway, Hagendorff, I'm coming out!"

His eyes were just below the level of the giant's shoulders. He stepped from the black chamber and stared amazedly at the room, at the chairs, the objects in it—at the laboratory table on which he was standing, along which he might have sprinted thirty yards. A surge of exultant animal spirits flowed through him. His dream had become a reality; the machine had passed its last test! His body was sound and whole; he felt perfectly natural; he had not changed, save in size; and in size he was like Gulliver, confronted with a Brobdingnagian room!

He hurdled a five-inch-high box of tools, ran down the creaking table and stood laughing in front of a rack of test tubes half as high as he was. Three strides took Hagendorff opposite him; and from above the thunderous voice rumbled:

"What were your sensations?"

"Probably as close as man'll ever get to the feelings of a spark of electricity!" the midget replied. "But bearable, though I was freezing and burning at the same time. My body was rigid, paralyzed—just like the animals we used. I couldn't move."

"You're sure you couldn't move? You were helpless?"

The booming voice throbbed with sudden interest. Garth looked up curiously. "No," he repeated. "I couldn't move. But lift me down, Hagendorff. I want to take a walk on the floor."

A hand wrapped around his body, tensed and strained upwards. The two-foot-high man was not quite pulled off the table. Then Hagendorff grunted and relaxed his grasp.

"I had forgotten," he rumbled. "Your weight remains the same. You are one-third my size, yet you weigh almost as much as I do. Weight, which is the sum of the mass of all the atoms in you, is not, naturally, affected by compacting those atoms."

It was only by a great effort that he was able to deposit the manikin on the floor.

For a while Garth strolled around, savoring to their full the fantastic sensations his diminished stature gave him, at once amused and somehow frightened by the overwhelming size of the laboratory. To his eyes, the tables were like bridges; Hagendorff's broad figure loomed monstrously over him, and the guinea pigs and rabbits in their cages seemed as big as fair-sized dogs. With a grin, he looked up at the giant who was his assistant.

"Think I'll make the return trip, and give you a chance," he said. "I've had my share, and the process has been proven. It's weird, being down in this new world all alone. I'd hate to think what would happen if a rat came along!"

Silently, Hagendorff stooped and grasped him again. But Garth, when he stood once more inside the chamber, regarded his huge, rough-moulded face curiously.

"Say," he said, puzzled, "your hands are trembling like the devil! What's wrong? You're more nervous than I am!"

Hagendorff did not answer. He advanced to the switchboard. His narrowed, deep-set eyes shot a quick glance at the small, nude man inside the chamber, and for a second one hand hovered over the lever on the panel.

In that tense second a flash of intuition, of deadly fear, came to Garth Howard, and he leaped wildly forward. But his rear foot did not leave the floor of the chamber, and his shout of alarm was choked midway. Again the fierce ray paralyzed every muscle in him, and he was locked motionless where he was.

Helplessly, his glazed eyes stared at Hagendorff, while every moment his rigid little body melted downwards. He was becoming rapidly smaller, not larger!

Through the agony of the stabbing electrical waves, in vain Garth tried to wrench his legs free. The few inches that separated him from the door were an impassable barrier. Sheer panic clutched him. He was trapped. But why? Why had Hagendorff tricked him?

As if reading the question, the giant outside came close to the chamber's door and regarded his captive with eyes that were lit by a peculiar flame. He grunted, then reached backward and returned the switchboard lever almost to the neutral point, reducing the speed of the decreasing process.

"Yes, that is better," the German gloated, in a deep, satisfied tone. "It will be slower, now. Slower—and more interesting to watch!... I fancy your eyes are reproachful, my friend. Why have I done it, you wonder? Ach! This machine, it will startle the world of science; it will make its inventor famous—not? Yes; and did you think I was going to stand by and see all the credit go to you? No! To me it shall go—me alone! And you—" He chuckled and rubbed his hands before going on.

"You shall be what the newspapers call a martyr to science. You shall sink to a foot, to six inches—to one inch—even less, I think! Eventually the reduction will kill you, of course; and your body shall be proof of how you died—in an experiment—and shall also prove the machine's power and my genius!"

He laughed thunderously, a blond and malevolent titan. He did not notice that, with the lessening of the reduction's speed, a slight trace of control over his muscles had returned to the midget inside. His tiny body was slowly diminishing, and complete, hopeless paralysis and death was not far away. But Garth was fighting every second, fighting desperately with the trace of strength he possessed to slide to the door, break the contact and get out from under the ray's remorseless influence. Almost imperceptibly, the effort lacerating him with pain, he slid his feet forward. Hagendorff talked on. He seemed to be blinded by the vision of the fame his treachery would bring him.

"We shall have an experiment, my Professor; and then you will have an interesting death! The ray will suck you down; you will crumple and crumple till you're not much bigger than my thumbnail! And then I shall—ah!"

Garth had torn loose. Calling on every ounce of strength and will, the midget, now no more than one foot high, had reached the edge of the floor plate and pitched out onto the long laboratory table.

Giant and dwarf faced each other. For a moment neither spoke or moved. A breathless tensity hung over the laboratory. The machine droned on, forgotten. From outside, startlingly near, came the eery hoot of an owl.

A tight smile broke through the angry surprise on Hagendorff's face. "Well, well!" he said, with gargantuan, macabre humor. "We object! It was foolish, eh, to reduce the power? Next time, it shall not be so. We—object!"

With the word, he lunged, and his bulky arms lashed down in a wide, grasping sweep.

But Garth's taut muscles, retaining all the strength and vigor of their normal size had been awaiting just such a move, and his tiny body described the arc of a tremendous leap that neatly vaulted one huge arm and started him sprinting swiftly down the table.

At the end he wheeled, and before the other overcame his surprise at such a nimble retreat, burst out indignantly:

"For God's sake, Hagendorff, what's come over you? Be sensible! You can't do this; you can't really mean it! Why—"

"So!" roared the assistant, and his rush cut short the midget's shrill, frantic words. But his grasp this time was better judged; Garth felt the great fingers slip over his body. Remembering his strength, he lashed out at one with all his might. Hagendorff grunted with pain; but instead of continuing the attack, he suddenly turned and strode to the door leading into the other room, and closed it with a bang.

"You cannot escape," he growled, advancing again; "you merely delay."

Panting, Garth glanced around the room. He was, in truth, trapped. There was but the one door; and even if he could reach it, he could not get it open, for the handle would be far above him. The room was a sealed arena. For a little while it would go on—a wild leaping and dodging on the table, a hopeless evading of mammoth hands ... and then, inevitably, would come a crushing grip on his body, followed by experimentation and the agony of death in the black chamber.

Fearful, he waited, a perfect, living statuette, twelve inches high....

A grunt preluded the giant's vicious charge. The American staggered from the brush of a sweeping hand; then, twisting mightily, he dove under it, like a mouse slipping under the paw of a cat. In doing so he fell sprawling; and though he was up in a moment, his arm was held. A hoarse, exultant rumble came to his ears.

"Caught, my friend!"

But Hagendorff spoke too soon. With a great wrench, Garth broke free, and made a tigerish dash back along the table toward the window. And even as the clumsy titan jumped to the side and grabbed again at him, he hurled his tiny, heavy body against the pane, and went plunging through a shower of glass into the cool dark night outside.

He fell five feet, and the wind was jarred out of him as he crashed through the branches of a bush under the window into the sodden earth beneath. Unhurt, save for a few lacerations from the glass, he staggered to his feet, gasping for his breath, and started to run across the clearing towards the fringe of dense forest growth that ringed the cabin.

Then he heard thunderous footsteps and, a second later, the sound of the front door being pulled open. Garth turned in his tracks, and stumbled back beneath the cabin, thanking heaven that it was raised on short stilts. But the ruse did not give him much of a start, and by the time he had painfully threaded his way between the piles of timber left underneath the cabin, Hagendorff had discovered the trick and was scouting back.

Then, with the strength of the hunted, Garth was out from under the other side and sprinting for the doubtful sanctuary of the forest.

His tiny feet, carrying the weight of a normal-sized man, sank ankle high into the muddy ground, several times almost tripping him. Even as he got to where a trail through the bush began, and passed from the cold starlight into spaces black with clustered shadows, he heard a bellow from behind, and, glancing back, saw a monstrous shape come leaping on his tracks.

He had only seconds in which to find refuge; he could not stick to the trail. Thick bush, dank and heavy from recent rains, was on either side, fugitive streaks of pale light from above painting it eerily. Garth plunged into the matted growth, dropped to hands and knees and wormed forward away from the trail. Earth-jarring footbeats sounded close. With frantic haste he wrenched though the scratching tendrils and came to a miniature clearing.

He saw the tilted shape of a rotted tree-stump, its roots half washed away and exposing a narrow crevice between them. Gasping, the nude, foot-high figure tumbled down into it, and lay there, trying to hush his labored breathing.

He was a mere twenty feet from the trail; and though to him the bush was a jungle, to his pursuer it was only chest-high. A towering shadow moved along the trail. The thud of heavy footbeats came more slowly to the listening midget. Hagendorff was searching, puzzled by the vague shadows, for where Garth had left the path.

Silence fell.

Garth's heart was pounding like a trip-hammer. He held himself alert, ready, if need be, to struggle up from the moist crevice and dart on further into the bush. He could not see the giant, but could picture his huge, sullen face all too clearly. Still no sound came. Risking all, he gripped a root and hauled himself up slightly. Then he peered around the stump.

Hagendorff was standing in the thick of the bush. He was not ten feet away, striving in the gloom to discern the other's tell-tale tracks. Garth drew his head back, hardly daring to breathe. Shivering, his naked body miserably cold, he waited, pressed down in the soggy earth. His betraying tracks were there; the shadows alone befriended him.

The silence was drawn so fine that the faint cheep of a night-bird sounded startlingly loud. But then came thunder that sent the bird winging away in fright, and the night and the forest echoed with the roar of a wrathful, impatient human voice.

"You hear me, wherever you are! And hear this: I leave you now, but in ten minutes I have you! You little fool—you think you can get free? It is only by minutes you delay me!"

Snarling a curse, the treacherous giant turned and crashed through the bush and took his huge form striding back towards the cabin.

Garth was thinking of many things as he scrambled back wearily from his refuge to the trail. He was cursing the unwanted publicity which prying reporters had given his work in Detroit, and which had led him to lease the lonely island and build a laboratory in the wilderness. Had it not been for that publicity, he would never have needed an assistant, and the vision of fame would never have come to delude Hagendorff and turn his thoughts towards murder.

His position seemed a horrible delirium from which he must presently awake. Naked, dwarfed by each ordinary forest weed, unarmed, and trembling from the wind-sharpened night, he hardly knew which way to turn. His body was blotched with blood and mud, and under it the ragged gashes made by glass and bush stung painfully; he was hungry and stiff and tired and miserable. He remembered Hagendorff's threat of capturing him in ten minutes, and forced a smile to his face.

"Looks kind of bad," he muttered, using his voice in an attempt to dispel some of the lonely grip of the night, "but we'll keep moving, anyway! He's coming back soon. Let's see: I'd better make for the stream. It'll be hard for him to follow my tracks through that. And then...."

Then—what? The island was small. He realized he could not stand many hours of exposure. Inevitably—But he turned his mind from the future and its seeming hopelessness, and concentrated on the immediate need, which was to hide himself. Forcing the pace, he struck off on a shambling trot down the dim trail, on into the deepening, sinister shadows towards the island's lone stream.

Obstacles that normally he would not have noticed made his path tortuous. His great weight sank his feet ankle-high in the moist, uneven ground. Time and time again he stumbled over some imbedded rock that, potato-sized, was like a boulder to him. Time and time again he fell, and when he rose his legs were plastered with soggy earth that did not dry; and the damp, fallen leaves and twigs he pitched into clung to his coating of mud. Each broken limb and branch, dropped from the whispering gloom of the trees above, drained the energy from his tiring muscles. Soon he was conscious of a vague numbness creeping over him, a deceptive, drowsy warmth into which he longed to sink, but which he drove back by working his arms and legs as vigorously as he could.

On he went, with teeth clenched and eyes fixed on the half-seen trail ahead—a fantastic, tiny creature hunted like a wild animal by a giant of his own kind!

Presently, through the shroud of darkness traced by ghostly slivers of starlight, came the sound of trickling water. The trail rose, dipped down; and through that hollow crawled the stream, winding from a hidden spring to the encompassing river below. Garth was winded when he came to it; to his eyes it seemed a small river. His legs were so numb they hardly felt the cold bite of the water that lapped around them.

Some furry water animal leaped away as Garth trudged upstream, alarmed by the strange midnight visitant and the self-encouraging mutterings of a shrill human voice....

He had waded what seemed to him a weary distance—in reality only a few hundred yards—through the winding, icy creek, when suddenly he halted and stood stock-still. Listening, he heard the ordinary sounds of the wind through the fir-spires, and the slow trickle of water; heard the beating of his own heart. Nothing else. And yet.... He took another step.

Then he swung quickly around and peered back, senses alert. There was no mistaking the sound that had come again. It was the crunch of heavy feet, thudding at even intervals on damp earth. They were Hagendorff's; and he was armed with light!

A long beam of white speared through the tangle of bush and tree trunks far below. It came slanting down from above, prying for the story recorded by miniature footprints in the ground. By its distance from him, Garth could tell Hagendorff had come to where his trail led into the stream. The ray held steady for minutes. Again it prowled nervously around, hunting for tell-tale signs, sweeping in widening circles. Then, it was punctuated by the crunch of a boot.

The giant was following upstream!

With the flashlight, he might even be able to trace the prints in the bed of the creek. Stooping, Garth crept ahead, as silently as he could, though the stir of water at his feet seemed terribly loud. There were keen ears behind, craned for sounds like that. He knew he would have to hide again—quickly—and at that moment he saw a place.

A cleft in the bank to his right held a small hole, dimly limned by a wisp of starlight. On hands and feet the midget scrambled cat-like to it. It slanted down and inwards, only inches wide, so that the earth was close to his body when he slid feet-first inside. But it was warm and dry, for it was shielded by a ledge from rain, and with the warmth the hunted manikin's spirits rose somewhat. The ray of light, which he could see sweeping back and forth downstream, was still following slowly, as if Hagendorff were having trouble making out the water-covered trail. Garth breathed easier, cuddled down—and then, for some unaccountable reason, he felt uneasy.

He had not noticed it at first, but now his nostrils were filled with a queer, musky odor that electrified his nerves and tensed his muscles. He felt the short hairs on his neck rise; felt his lips tighten and draw back over clenched teeth. Some long-buried instinct was warning him of danger—and suddenly he sprang from the hole and swung around.

From it, a killer came snaking out, its bared fangs thirsty for his life blood!

Arching and swaying its lithe-muscled body, it slid forward in its graceful, savage way—a weasel, the deadliest pound-for-pound killer that prowls the forest. It was as long as the naked human who faced it was tall. Unwittingly, he had chosen its hole as a refuge.

Retreat would have been impossible, but Garth for some reason did not even think of it. A strange new sensation poured through his tense body, a sensation akin to fierce joy. Gone was his tiredness; his teeth too were bared, matching the wicked fangs before him. Two primal creatures they were, tooth to tooth and claw to claw, the man as naked and intoxicated with the blood lust as the ten pounds of bone and sinew that now darted suddenly for his throat.

With the lightning quickness that had come to him with small size, Garth stepped aside. And as the weasel's head streaked by he called on man's distinctive weapon, and put every ounce of his weight behind a right arm swing that landed square on a cold black nose and doubled the weasel back in midair.

Stunned, it writhed for a second on the slippery bank; and then again it was up, mad with pain now and swaying slightly as it gathered for a second leap against this creature that fought so strangely.

But in the momentary respite Garth had reasoned out his best chance. He did not try to fight off the second dart with his fists, but went boldly in. Ducking through the needle claws with head lowered, his tiny hands streaked in on the furry throat. He found it, and his fingers thumbed into the wind-pipe; but not before the weasel smelled the blood its claws had drawn and went utterly berserk. For a moment there was a wild flurry of furry, tearing legs and a blood-streaked white body between them, trying desperately to evade their slicing strokes. They pitched down the bank together, animal and man struggling silently to the death; and when they jarred to a stop in the water below, Garth's strategy was achieved.

He was uppermost; his grip was steel around the throbbing throat, and the hundred and eighty pound weight of his body was holding the legs powerless. Not an inch from his face the weasel's fangs clashed frantically together. Garth maintained his clutch, squeezing with every bit of his mighty strength. The animal shuddered; then writhed in the death convulsions; at last lay still.

Panting, his mind a welter of primate emotions roused by the kill, the man shook it a last time, jumped to his feet and glared around—to see the beam of a flashlight only a dozen yards away. His more deadly foe, the human foe, was upon him. Perhaps the sounds of the fight had reached his ears.

Garth lost not a moment. Quickly he slung the weasel's body back into the hole and jammed himself down after it.

Hagendorff approached slowly, mumbling and cursing to himself in sullen ill-humor. Things were not going as he had expected them to. The white ray scoured the banks of the stream, searching doggedly. Nearer he came, and with each step the watching midget's rapid breathing grew tighter. The towering body was more than shadow now. Another ten feet and the flashlight would find the marks of the fight.

But the titan's patience gave out. Closer than he had yet been to his quarry, he paused, and again the thunder of his voice broke the night's hush.

"Bah! This is foolish! In daylight I find him certainly. I have waited long; I can wait a little more. I need sleep. To-morrow, it will be different!"

He swung away from the stream, and in a few minutes the rip and crash of his progress through the bush had died. In the silence, Garth Howard considered his situation.

He faced it squarely, as was his custom. He did not brood over the treachery of his assistant, or of how unfairly and suddenly it had plunged him into peril and robbed him of his normal body. He accepted his position and searched for possible angles of escape. There were not many hours left in which to make a decisive move. The island was small, and, as Hagendorff had said, discovery would be inevitable in daytime.

Garth thought of the machine, and of the giant sleeping. A desperate plan came to him, and his jaws set decisively. "I'll do it!" he exclaimed aloud.

The lever which controlled both increase and decrease could be worked from inside the chamber if he rigged up a system of turning it with a wire or rope. If he pulled it to the increase only part way, he would, he knew, have sufficient power over his muscles to pull it back off, or slide again from the chamber, as he had done before. Whether or not he could do this depended on Hagendorff's being asleep. Possibly he could be locked in the living room, if he were there. Or tied. The increase, even at half speed, would only take about forty seconds. Once back to his size there would be a fight without odds, Garth thought grimly.

It was a big risk, and there was probably only a small chance of succeeding, but it meant getting back to six feet, back to a normal world, back to equal terms. That was the magnet which drew him presently toward the cabin laboratory.

He went slowly, to allow Hagendorff plenty of time to fall soundly asleep. The giant, as he had said, needed sleep—needed it badly—for, like Garth Howard, he had done without it for forty-eight hours under the excitement of imminent success in their work. Garth considered that his move would be totally unexpected, being made right into the other's territory. There was a chance.

And so, cold and weariness banished by thoughts of the goal ahead, he prowled back along the trail like any small creature of the forest.

It was half an hour later when he came in sight of the cabin. His heart drummed excitedly as he stood in the shadows surveying it. He wondered if Hagendorff was still awake; if he was, perhaps, waiting for him. Certainly he did not seem to be: the cabin was dark and silent, and the only door was tightly closed. Still—it might be wiser to retreat while still free....

"No, by heaven!" Garth Howard exclaimed in his thoughts. "I'm going through with it!" Stooping slightly, he left the shadows and ran boldly into the starlight.

He half expected to hear a scuffle of feet and see the giant come leaping out at him; but nothing broke the silence. He made his careful way along the side of the cabin to the place where a trough for waste liquids led through a small hole at the level of the floor, and with great care wormed through.

As he started to cautiously reconnoiter, he was suddenly arrested in his tracks. He had caught the sound of deep, rhythmic breathing. Hagendorff was asleep, not in the adjoining living room—but in the laboratory!

For a moment, Garth did not know what to do. Caution urged him to retreat; but that would not get him back to his size. On tip-toe, he explored around. The boards squeaked beneath his great weight, but the nearby breathing beyond continued in regular rhythm.

His eyes were toned to the darkness of the laboratory; he saw the chamber of his atom-compacting machine, its outer sides ghostly in the faint, reflected starlight, and stared at it with a pang of fierce longing. So near, it was—so very near! Holding the stolen size of his body; holding all that was vital to him; holding life itself—it rested there silently, within reach of a few steps and a quick climb up one of the table legs. So he thought, his brain whirling with mingled emotions, his tiny body shivering and aching with cold and its many hurts. The machine was near—but a barrier blocked the way.

Hagendorff's bulk lay outstretched on a side table, black in the shadows, and from him came the level breathing of a sound sleeper, climaxed now and again by a rumbling snore. He was taking no chances; his presence there seemed to destroy any hope of the midget's regaining normal size. But Garth was desperate, and for a minute or so he considered.

Forty seconds, the increase would take, at half speed. It might be that long before the giant would waken thoroughly and see what was happening. He, Garth, might start the process, and, when he saw the huge figure stirring and waking from the noise of the dynamo, switch off the ray and get out. No matter how short a time it took Hagendorff to throw off the fogginess of his sleep, he would be somewhat increased in size, and the odds of combat would not be so great.

It was a terrible risk. Did he dare take it? He thought of the forest, of the raw night, of what was threatened in the morning.... Yes!

Silently, the manikin clasped the nearest table leg, shinnied up and hauled himself over the top. As he got there his heart leaped. A sharp thumping had come from behind. He dropped to his knees and glanced round; but he immediately rose again, reassured. It was only the rabbits in their cage, disturbed by the strange figure on the table. He thanked God that they—and his tarantulas and other insects—could make no alarming noises.

Garth found a long strand of wire. The panel's control lever, swung to the left, controlled increase; to the right, decrease. Garth's plan was to wind the middle of the wire around it, relay each end around the two supporting posts of the switchboard, and thus have both ends of the wire in his hands when he stood inside the chamber. One end of the wire would enable him to pull the lever over for increase, and the other to pull it back to neutral when the increase was completed, or when Hagendorff arose.

Quickly he started to arrange the wire. Then suddenly his hands dropped and he stared dismayed at the control panel.

The power switch had been removed!

It was Hagendorff's work, of course. He had guarded every angle. Without that switch, the mechanism was lifeless and literally powerless. It worked on a delicately adjusted and enclosed rheostat; there was nothing that could be substituted for it. It would take hours to improvise one in the heart of the apparatus.

The switch, Garth reflected bitterly, was probably concealed somewhere about the giant's body.

He considered the possibility of tying him. He knew where there was a coil of light, pliable wire on the floor; he might be able to loop it over the giant's hands and legs while he slept, tie him securely, and then go through his pockets for the switch. Another hazard! But there was nothing else to do.

Garth lowered himself over the table's edge and slid quietly down the leg. He glanced at the sleeping man, then over across the room to where, beneath another table, the wire was—and his nerves jumped at what he saw there.

From the darkness under the table two spots of greenish fire, close to the floor, held steadily on him.

As he stared, they vanished, to reappear more to the right. With the movement, he glimpsed the outline of a lithe, crouching animal, and knew it to be the cat he and Hagendorff had experimented on earlier that night. It was stalking him in the deliberate manner of its kind!

It came edging around, so as to leap on him from the side. He knew that he represented fair prey to it; that if he tried to run, it would pounce on him from behind. Wearily he tensed his miniature body, standing poised on the balls of his feet and never dropping his eyes for a moment. He could not repress a grim smile at the ludicrousness of being attacked by an ordinary house-cat, even though it was tiger-sized to him. Though his victory over the weasel, a far deadlier fighter, made him confident he could dispatch it, there was another aspect to the approaching struggle. It would have to be fought in silence. Not four feet away, Hagendorff slept. There lay the overwhelming danger.

Even as these things flashed through his brain, the cat steadily inched nearer on its padded paws. Ghostly starlight framed it now; Garth could see the eager, quivering muscles, the long tail, flat behind, twitching slightly, the rigid, unstirring head and the slowly contracting paws. The terrible suspense of its stalking scraped his nerves. There would be a long pause, then an almost imperceptible hunching forward, with the tail ever twitching; then the same thing again, and over again. It became unbearable. Garth deliberately invited the attack.

He pretended to turn and run, his back towards it. At once he sensed its tensing body, its bunching muscles—then knew that it had sprung.

Whirling, he had a fleeting impression of a supple body in midair, of bristling claws and bared, needlepoint fangs. But he was ready. The weasel had taught him his best weapon, the great weight of his body. He streaked in beneath the wide-spread paws, shot his hands into the fur of the throat and threw himself against the shock of the animal's suddenly arrested leap.

There was no standing his weight. Over the cat went, its back thudding into the floor, its claws held powerless by the hundred and eighty pounds of hard flesh that straddled it.

The fall had made little noise; but, as Garth tightened the grip of his fingers and bored inward, a dull, steady thumping began to sound. It was the cat's tail, pounding on the floor!

Desperately he tried to hook a leg over it, but could not reach far enough. It beat like a tom-tom. From above, there came the sound of a huge frame stirring, and the rumble of a sleepy grunt.

In a moment, the titan would be thoroughly awake.

By the drumming tail alone, Garth realized, his chance of regaining full size was sent glimmering. There was nothing but retreat, now, and a hasty one, if he valued life. Another noise came from the waking Hagendorff. He was sitting up, staring around. Garth jumped to his feet, threw the cat's twitching body beneath the table, and dodged at full speed for the hole whereby he had entered.

Like a mouse he wriggled through, leaped to the ground, scrambled up and made for the forest. He ran with all the speed at his command, and was almost surprised when he reached the black fringe of the forest in safety. In the protecting gloom, he dared to pause and look back.

Hagendorff was not pursuing him. From the sound, he was merely boarding shut the drain hole, to prevent another entrance in that way; then, afterwards, the windows.

Garth was puzzled. "I don't understand it," he said aloud. "Why is he so sure he can get me in the morning? Isn't he afraid I'll leave the island? Why I've got to try to get away, now. It would be death to be here after the dawn!"

He stood there making his plans. They had a rowboat below, powered with an outboard motor. Even in his present size, he might possibly run it, if he could get it started. He would strike down-river for Detroit, and when the gas gave out, the current would carry him on. Some river boat might pick him up and carry him to friends in the city. His grotesquely dwarfed body would prove his story, and they would bring him back and end Hagendorff's mad dream of fame, and help him to regain his normal size. He could superintend the construction of another machine if the present one was wrecked.

When he started down the trail to the river, he seemed to be walking through a haze. He felt curiously light-headed, and his body was completely numb. The long exposure was telling on him, and there was much more of it to come. He wondered if he could hold out until he reached the mainland.

But his mind cleared of the daze the cold and near-exhaustion had brought it to when at last he came to the beach and realized that again Hagendorff had anticipated him. The rowboat was gone! No wonder the giant could afford to wait until daylight.

Garth floundered down to the beach and ran to where the craft usually lay. There was only a groove in the rough, pebbly surface, a groove left by the boat's keel. He followed it up the bank, and twenty yards in found the dinghy chained and locked firmly to a large tree.

The midget's face grew suddenly very haggard as he stood there, staring at what looked like his death sentence. He should have known Hagendorff would secure the boat, he told himself bitterly. It was a cruel blow, and sheer misery of mind and body gripped him as he turned and peered through the darkness of wind-whipped water and sky toward a horizon that was already lightening. Down-river lay Detroit, a friendly, everyday world. It was not far in miles, but it seemed lost to him forever....

Garth took his eyes from that prospect with a wry twist to his mouth. It chanced that they fell on the painter of the rowboat.

It was a stout Manila cord, some twenty feet in length, and tied tightly to a ring in the bow of the boat. He looked at it dully for a full minute before the idea came to him. Then suddenly the lethargy bred of hopelessness left him. Garth remembered a pocket knife he had left in the boat the day before. He climbed over the side and began to fumble about in the darkness. First he came upon a torn handkerchief which he hastily tied about his loins. Further probing disclosed the knife wedged under a seat in the boat. When he had finally extricated it, he threw the knife over the side and climbed out.

After some minutes of frantic cutting and hacking he severed the rope, and, quickly taking up one of the ends, ran with it further along the bank.

There was still a way of getting off the island. A cold and risky way, but better than waiting miserably for capture. On the bank was a pile of sawn logs, intended for firewood; and a strong rope was in his hands. Much indeed could be done now.

The making of his raft proved a herculean task, a racking and almost impossible one for a man limited by doll-sized hands and a foot-high body. First the logs had to be rolled to the water's edge, six of them. Each was as thick as he was tall, and this first part of his task took him a precious half hour, every minute of which brought nearer the dawn. Ripples like ordinary waves washed up the struggling manikin and left him gasping as he stood braced in the cold water and tugged one log after another out and wound the rope under and over it. The raft had to be built in water; he would never have been able to drag the whole thing off the beach.

When at last he wearily tied the rope end to the last log, and stuck his knife handy in it, the clouds on the horizon were flushed by the coming sun. But his means of escape was completed; and hanging on the end, he shoved the raft out into the river. Right then he almost lost his life. For when his feet left the sloping bottom, his great weight, out of all proportion to the size of his body, pulled him under, and it was only by virtue of a desperate clutch on the raft that he escaped drowning. Thrashing furiously, he struggled up from the water, and lay, totally blown, on the logs. It was then he first realized that his chance of life was no stronger than the rope which held them together. For swimming was out of the question, and one or two logs would never support his hundred and eighty pounds.

The end which he lay on was well under water, and the waves splashed up between the bobbing logs. The current he was headed for swept down fifty yards offshore, which was a sixth of a mile to the little legs now thrust out behind and making a rhythmic flutter.

He was off the island! Freedom and life were near! Though his teeth were chattering, his fingers crushed by the jarring logs, and his body utterly wretched, he grinned with joy as the stretch between him and the gloomy mass of the island slowly widened.

Then came the sun. The skies faded from gray into a delicate, cloud-flecked blue; slowly the air warmed, and the surface of the water seemed to calm under it. Though the sun was good on his body, Garth realized night was more friendly to him, for in the growing light his craft was all too conspicuous to the giant who would presently be following his tracks down to the beach. He chided himself for not having thought of camouflaging the raft with leafy branches. Doggedly, he forced it out.

When at last he felt the pull of the current, he ceased his weary kicking and glanced up into the swiftly advancing dawn. There was a bird soaring through the keen air up there, gliding in easy circles with almost motionless wings. Garth gazed at it somewhat wistfully, envying its freedom and power of flight. And then he shut his eyes. He was very tired....

He must have dozed off for a moment, for he awoke to find himself slipping off. With a sudden jerk he regained his position—and that was what saved his life at that moment. For without warning, while he was nodding, plumed death struck from the skies.

It dropped like a plummet, as was its manner. It had been circling above and judging its swoop, and by rights its curved talons should have arched deep into the unguarded back of the naked figure on the raft. But at the last second the figure moved aside—too late for the hawk to alter its swoop.

The raft rocked under the impact; for a moment Garth Howard, dazed by the sudden attack, did not know what had happened. Huge scratching wings were thrashing about him; his left arm stung from where a claw had raked it; and he wrenched around to stare into two wicked slits of eyes behind a fierce, rounded beak that jabbed at him.

Evidently he represented easy prey to the hawk, for it did not soar away, but instead came at him again in a flurry of beating wings and stabbing beak, a vicious, feathered fighter from above. Caught off guard by the suddenness and savagery of the onslaught, Garth retreated stumblingly, forgetting his weight and the size of the raft and defending himself with his arms as best he could against the rushes of the hawk. The raft tilted perilously; water washed around his legs and he slipped and went under.

He felt his fingers slipping inexorably over the edge of the log he had gripped; his legs threshed up a welter of foam, but he kept going down. Panic clutched him; his weight would sink him like a stone. But suddenly his clutching hand was gripped by steel-like talons, and through the water he caught a glimpse of the hawk straining backwards with mighty sweeps of its wings in an effort to lift him bodily into the air.

His size had deceived it. It could not hoist him, but did manage to drag his head and chest out of the water. That was enough. With an effort, Garth scrambled onto the raft.

The hawk, probably greatly surprised by its failure to soar away with such tiny prey, tore into him again, raking his body painfully. Hardly knowing what he did, Garth grabbed out as it hovered over him and succeeded in wrapping his fingers around one of its legs. Then, bracing himself as best he could, and ignoring the scratching wings and piercing beak, he gave the leg a sharp twist and heard the crack of breaking bone.

He was only half-conscious of the hawk's shrill scream of pain, of its swift retreat into the blue, with the broken leg dangling grotesquely. For only a moment he was aware that he had driven it off; then the pain of his wounds and his utter exhaustion swept up over him, and he flopped down on the raft in a dead faint....

For a long time Garth was dimly aware of familiar noises. At first they were faint and scarcely perceptible; but, as his senses slowly began to return, disturbing thoughts came to him. He felt that he was on his back, and confined, and when he twisted, to turn over, he found he could not. He opened his eyes and blinked.

He was back in the laboratory—lying bound, hand and foot, on the long table.

The giant Hagendorff appeared over him, and his deep voice rumbled:

"Badly scarred and bruised, my little friend! Cats you have fought, and birds, and each has left its mark. It was useless to run away last night—not?"

Garth was suddenly too full of a weary resignation to even think of speaking. Remonstrance, he knew, would avail him nothing. The long struggle for freedom and life was over, and he had lost.

The assistant was apparently in good humor. He went on:

"Really, it is too bad, after that magnificent fight of yours! A hawk—was it not? I was following your tracks, and had just reached the beach when I see a great fuss on the water. A raft, I see! A bird, attacking something on it! A little white figure, struggling! Well, it is that easy. I unlock the boat and go to the raft and find my elusive friend there, unconscious. So I bring him back here. He has forgotten: we have an experiment to complete."

There was a fire of exultation in the man's eyes as they glared down at the midget who lay on the laboratory table, just a few feet away from the chamber of the machine. He reached out and ran a thick finger over his victim's body.

"You do not deserve this," he said. "I should kill you outright—but, graciously, I give you death in the machine. Yours will be the first human body to be reduced to an inch; maybe less. This is your martyrdom; for this, your name will live, along with mine, for having perfected the process."

Garth Howard saw that the window was boarded tightly shut. Then Hagendorff caught his eyes as, with a grin, he plunged a hand into a pocket and drew forth the missing panel switch. He dangled it in front of Garth.

"What you would have given for this last night, eh? With your wire to pull the lever so carefully arranged! Ach, it was too bad!" He shrugged, then picked up a screwdriver and turned to fix the switch on the control panel.

The moment his back was turned, Garth gazed frantically around. The fantastic fate he had striven so desperately to stave off was very close now. What could he do?

Some tools lay on the table, just out of his reach, among them a pair of cutting pliers. He stared at the pliers—an overgrown tool, half as long as his own body. The twist of Hagendorff's wrist driving home the first screw brought a cold chill over him. The pliers! It was a chance!

He twisted a little, and keeping his eyes on the giant's back, he inched toward them. His hands, tied at the wrists behind him, clutched for them; found them. The jaws were open, and there were two sharp cutting edges. He could not hope to manipulate the whole implement with his bound hands, but he located one edge, painfully brought the rope to it and sawed rapidly.

The steel sliced his flesh, and he felt the warm stickiness of blood. But he disregarded this and kept on. Hagendorff was still working, all unconscious—but the last screw was going in. And then some strands of the rope snapped, and it loosened.

The next second, Garth had wrenched his hands free.

Then, throwing caution to the winds, he sat up, grabbed the great tool and sliced the rope at his feet.

At that moment, Hagendorff finished his job and turned around.

Their eyes met. For a breathless instant nothing happened, save that the smile on the titan's face changed to surprise and then fury. Garth scrambled to his feet. The movement brought a bellow of rage, and the manikin saw two enormous hands converging on him in a sweep that bade fair to crush every bone in his dwarfed body.

Leaping backwards instinctively, he hurled the pliers at the giant's head.

They were well aimed, and he saw them strike the temple, stopping the man in his tracks. He thundered, more from anger than pain. His heart pounding wildly, Garth ran back to a position behind a rack of test tubes. It was from there that he saw Hagendorff, cursing crazily, grab up a machinist's hammer and advance upon him.

All sanity had apparently left the giant. His great face was flushed and distorted, and a growing welt showed where the pliers had clipped him. Garth suddenly knew that if he were captured again, death would not come in the chamber, but from those powerful hands, or the weapon they clutched.

The hammer swung back for a crushing blow. But in the instant it hung poised, Garth lifted a half-filled test tube from the rack before him and swished its contents forward.

The tube held sulphuric acid, and it sprayed over Hagendorff's face. The hammer pitched from his hand; he clutched at his eyes and stumbled back, shrieking in agony.

Garth at once ran to the edge of the table, swung himself over and slid down the leg to the floor. The laboratory door was open and he dashed for it. But, whether or not Hagendorff could see his frantic retreat, he anticipated it, and with a reeling plunge he got there first. Fumbling, he found the key in the hole and turned it. The room was sealed.

Beginning then, the blind Hagendorff was a man berserk. With a sobbing roar of pain and fury, he lashed round for the foot-high figure that dodged and wheeled and zig-zagged to keep from his threshing arms and his hands. A table crashed over, and a flood of chemicals mixed and boiled on the floor; then another, as the giant blundered blindly into it. The cages of animals split open, and guinea pigs, rabbits and insects scuttled from their prisons, fleeing to the corners from the wild plunges of the raging German.

Garth went reeling from a glancing blow, and fell against an over-turned stool under a far table where he could hardly breathe for the mixed odors of spilt chemicals. By some sixth sense, Hagendorff seemed to locate him, for his huge body turned and came directly for him.

But Garth did not wait. Seizing the stool he whirled it so that it slid smash into the giant's legs. The man pitched over with a grunt, striking the floor so hard that the planks shivered.

He did not rise. He lay there, in a wreckage of glass and splintered wood and stinking chemicals, moaning slightly.

Garth wasted no time, but gripped a leg of the laboratory table, shinned to the top and with frantic speed fixed his strand of wire onto the control lever and round the supporting posts of the instrument panel. Then he jumped for the dynamo switch, caught the handle and jerked it down.

The drone of a generator surged through the room. Then the midget was standing in the chamber, both ends of the wire in his hands; and his heart was thudding madly as he pulled one of them.

It held. Over came the lever, halfway. The brilliant stream of the ray poured down. Dimly the manikin glimpsed the chamber's walls sinking down, the wreckage-strewn room outside diminishing to normal size. Fiery pain throbbed through him, but it was lost in the exultation that filled his mind as the seconds went by. He grew to two feet, two and a half—three.

But beyond that he was not to go. The swaying shape of Hagendorff loomed outside the cube. Aroused by the drone of the generator and what it signified, the giant had floundered up from the floor and now came clutching blindly for him.

Garth knew he would have to leave the chamber at once; so, struggling for command of his muscles through the paralysis that numbed them, he tensed his hold on the other wire and pulled it a little. The control lever swung back to neutral; the ray faded and Garth jumped out. He was only a few feet away from the huge convulsed face as the German roared:

"By God, you'll never get back on this machine!"

His purpose was plain; his groping hand had already found the control lever. To prevent his ripping it out, Garth plunged head first into Hagendorff's stomach, and they both went down in a flurry of arms and legs. Garth, scrambling to get loose, was conscious of the ray pouring down again in the chamber above. The lever had not been wrenched out, but jerked over, setting the process of increase on.

The next few minutes were a chaos. Now that Howard was three feet tall he was without some of the advantages of his former smallness and compactness, and his utmost efforts failed to free him from the death clutch of the pain-maddened giant. Over and over they rolled on the floor. Garth trying only to break free, and the other relentlessly holding on and dragging him over to the chamber again.

It was a losing fight for the diminutive one, weakened as he was by his exposure and the fierce fights he had had. Little by little, squirming and resisting with all his remaining strength, he was brought near—to see the German, at last, pull half the reducing apparatus with a crash to the floor.

The ray in the chamber faded off. The machine was silenced forever, so that Garth could never hope to regain his full size in this one....

With the realization of this, most of his spirit went, while the savage giant, successful in smashing the machinery, now turned and devoted himself exclusively to his victim.

"Now for you!" he roared in frightening triumph, clutching the smaller man's neck with his great hands and bearing him to the floor.

Against those fingers gouged into his wind-pipe like a vise of steel, Garth could do nothing. Feebly he gagged, and feebly he clawed at the pitiless hands—and futilely.

It was the end, he told himself. He had come close, but closeness did not count. His eyes bulged, and a shroud of black began to obscure his vision.

And then, suddenly, over the giant's flexed arms, he glimpsed, coming from the chamber on the table, something that chilled the blood in his veins with horror.

It was huge and utterly loathsome. Long, hairy legs folded out, and following them came a furry, bloated body at least five feet thick. Many-faceted eyes fixed themselves coldly on the men on the floor. In one hideous leap the monster soared from the table all the way to the room's ceiling, seeming almost to float as it came down. For a moment it teetered on the floor, not five feet from the giant who, blind and all unconscious of it, was throttling his diminutive victim beneath him.

Garth for a second forgot the grip on his throat in the horror of the monster. He knew at once what it was—a tarantula. It had crawled inside the chamber when its cage was broken, had been there even while he had been there, and had been swollen to its present blood-curdling size while they were fighting and the ray was on. With the smashing of the apparatus, it was free to come out.

It gathered for the final spring, its terrible legs tensing perceptibly—a creature out of a nightmare. Garth Howard tried to shriek out a warning, but Hagendorff was holding his throat too well. He could only struggle weakly and nod toward the horror beyond; but the message did not get across to the giant.

Then the tarantula sprang again.

For a moment it seemed to hover on Hagendorff's upturned back. When it floated down, its ragged legs cradled over him, and the egg-shaped body squatted on his back....

Garth felt his frayed nerves and senses going. A hairy leg was touching him, chilling his flesh. Above him, the giant was thrashing impotently, and he found his neck free of the awful grip.

He wormed free. He was hardly conscious of reaching up and unlocking the door, and closing it tightly again as he stumbled forth. Later, it seemed that it was in a dream that he ran wildly into the splendid sunlight outside and down the winding trail. It was only by a tremendous effort that he kept his senses long enough to shove the rowboat out from the beach and hop in.

He never started the motor. All that he had seen and suffered on the island of horror overcame him too soon, and he pitched down in a limp, unconscious heap....

And so it was, that, the next morning, the two harbor policemen found a rowboat with mysterious cargo floating silently down the Detroit River. So it was that some time later a launch with three local officers churned up to the solitary island, and that gunshots echoed in the gloom of a hushed laboratory room, and a man's white-faced body was carried from the cabin where he had made his one great treacherous effort to steal another's fame.


Centuries of celestial history wheeled across the plaster sky of the new Adler planetarium at Chicago, recently, at the dedication of the astronomical institution, the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

A modern Joshua, working the levers and switches of a complicated instrument, commanded a miniature sun to stand still in the heavens—and it did. He bettered the feat of the Biblical prophet by stopping the sun at any given point on its orbit across the skies, and then ran it backward, its attendant planets, planetoids and stars scampering contrary to all rules of the universe.

The Joshua in the person of Professor Philip Fox, director of the planetarium on a "made" island in Lake Michigan described the instrument with which he made the heavenly bodies cut capers, as a projector, made in Germany at a cost of almost $100,000. As nearly as it can be described by a layman it looks like three immense diving helmets capping the ends of a tube about six feet long. Each "helmet" is studded with lenses and inside are complicated and strange lights and projectors which throw the images of the celestial bodies on the white plaster dome above that represents the skies. The wheeling motion of the universe toward the west is obtained by revolving the "helmets" in eccentric circles on an axis. The whole effect makes a spectator feel as if the solar system was revolving around him at a greatly accentuated speed.

As a beginning lesson for the layman who attended the opening, Professor Fox set the machine to represent the latitude of Chicago on May 10, 1930. Every one turned his eyes to the east, where a silhouette of Lake Michigan, with its lighthouses and ore ships, is painted on the plaster horizon. The dome was lighted to represent a clear night, and, incidentally, all nights are clear in a planetarium. The machine was started and up from the center of the Lake jumped Mars, red against the darkness.

Professor Fox, with a flashlight that throws the image of an arrow, pointed out the stars as they appeared over the dome. The coming of Mars forecast the dawn of May 10 and in a few moments the sun emerged from the proper latitudinal position out of the lake and blazed its way across the heavens and set behind the silhouette of the Standard Oil Building on the west wall of the dome in less than a minute, denoting that the day had passed in review. At 3:43 P. M. central standard time, the midget moon arose and sailed its course and then set behind the darkened picture of the Straus Tower.

Then Professor Fox ran off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for good measure, each time with Mars heralding the dawn and the sun changing position as it does in reality. Fifty centuries of astronomical history can be run off in an hour by the machine. The planets are visible during the day in the planetarium as well as night.

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Various. 2010. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, August 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from

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