Sunday, January 31, 2010

A message to the proprietor of the Hillbuzz blog

I've just become aware (nobody tells me anything) of a donnybrook involving the PUMA blog Hillbuzz and the liberal humor blog Rumproast. The short version (if there is such a thing) is that an obscure blogger in the UK posted personal information about the proprietor of the Hillbuzz blog, Mr. Hillb Uzz, to his own blog and in diaries on the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. Since the obscure UK blogger occasionally commented at Rumproast, Mr. Uzz has apparently decided that Rumproast is at the center of a vast left wing conspriracy to destroy him. Mr. Uzz has responded by digging up and posting personal information about Rumproast blogger Kevin K., as well as Kevin's co-bloggers, anyone else tangentially connected to Rumproast, and anyone who shares a surname with anyone tangentially connected to Rumproast.

As it happens, the Johnny Pez blog was, through some oversight, added to the Rumproast blogroll a while back, which means that we may fall within Mr. Uzz's purview. That being the case, I would like to take this opportunity to apprise Mr. Uzz of the following facts:

1. Unlike the Rumproast blog, the Johnny Pez blog is at the center of a vast left wing conspiracy to destroy you.

2. The Johnny Pez blog is not connected to the domain name, so there's no point in harrassing the owner of that site.

3. All information to the effect that the individual known as Johnny Pez is a resident of Newport, Rhode Island who owns a pair of basenji dogs is part of a clever false identity that has been built up for the specific purpose of making it impossible to identify who really runs this blog. In fact, "Johnny Pez" is part of an international cabal of Zoroastrian extremists dedicated to the complete eradication of all rival faiths and the establishment of Zoroastrianism as the One True World Religion. All the stuff about American politics and science fiction and alternate history is a deception on our part to throw the unbelievers off the trail.

4. Mr. Uzz, you have fallen into our trap. Prepare to meet your doom. BWA-HAHAHAHAAAA!

Thank you for your attention.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DBTL 56: I Feel Safest Of All

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and following the Second Polish Soviet War of 1944 - 45, the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine.

Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
18 April 1945

It was raining in Warsaw, the kind of steady, unrelenting rain that you got there in the spring. As a taxi carried Ferdinand Porsche through the downpour, he found himself wondering which of the cars that drove past him would be suffering rust damage from the rain. Winter was the season of dead batteries, spring the season of rust, summer the season of blown radiators, and fall . . . fall was the season of unexpected disasters.

It had been the fall of 1932, about a month after the Röhm coup, that Porsche found his employer, Daimler-Benz, taken over by one of the Führer’s cronies. He was a low, uncouth fellow named Max Heydebreck, and he treated the company like his own personal bank account. Production had plummeted, and working conditions grew steadily worse. An order from Berlin had come in 1935 to convert to production of tanks, but by then the company was in such chaos that they were still in the midst of re-tooling when war came with Poland the following year. Over the next few months much of the work force was drafted into the Brown Army, and production on the tanks had still not begun when the plant was overrun by the French in May of 1937.

It had been in the fall of 1937 that the new military governor of the French Zone, Pierre Laval, had ordered all the production machinery at the plant crated up and shipped to Paris. Laval soon fell victim to a corruption investigation, but the damage had been done, and Daimler-Benz shut down for good. Opel and BMW were having troubles of their own, so, by default, Porsche found himself crossing over into the Polish Zone, to work at one of the Auto Union plants in Saxony.

The Poles at least left the company alone, which came as a welcome relief after five years under the Brownshirts. Porsche wound up at the Horch plant in Zwickau, producing luxury cars for the elite of the new Brandenberg devo. The trouble was, building luxury cars was becoming, well, routine. A man with a restless mind despite his advanced age, Porsche was hungry for new automotive worlds to conquer.

Now this summons from the Ministry of Transport in Warsaw. What, Porsche wondered, did old Rudolf Wissell want with him? Porsche had known Wissell slightly when he served as Reich Labor Minister back in the Weimar days. Now he was Transport Minister for the whole Polish Commonwealth, and it was said that he had big plans.

The taxi deposited Porsche at the front entrance of the Ministry building, one of Herr Speer’s grandiose creations. It made Porsche glad he designed cars and not buildings. Inside, the vast lobby reminded him of the final assembly area of the plant in Zwickau. Shaking the rain from his umbrella, Porsche advanced to the reception area. He found a receptionist with a German language pin and gave her his name.

“Ah, yes, Herr Doktor, the Minister is expecting you. Please take the stairs on your right to the next floor. The Minister’s office will be to your left.”

The receptionist’s directions brought him to the Minister’s outer office. As he was about ten minutes early for his appointment (his lifelong curse of too-promptness striking again), Porsche settled down to wait. To his surprise, however, he was immediately ushered into the Minister’s inner office. Whatever Wissell wanted, he evidently wanted it urgently.

Despite being six years older than Porsche, who was no spring chicken himself, Rudolf Wissell was still as spry as a young man. His eyes sparkled behind his round glasses, and a smile showed through the thickets of his white beard as he emerged from behind his desk to offer Porsche his hand.

“Herr Doktor, welcome, welcome!” Wissell enthused. “It was good of you to come.” He led Porsche to a pair of seats that faced one of the office’s broad windows. “Sit down, please, Herr Doktor.”

As he did so, Porsche said, “Thank you, Herr Minister. I’ll admit that I am curious to learn of the reason for your request.”

“Ah, straight to business, eh, Herr Doktor? Good, good! You’re a man after my own heart. The reason you’re here is because the Commonwealth is faced with a problem, and I think you’re the man to solve it.”

“And this problem is?”

“Too much new land,” said Wissell. “Now with the new eastern territories we’ve acquired from the Bolsheviks, the Commonwealth is simply enormous. We’ve got to tie it all together somehow, and the decision has been made to build some high-speed interurban roadways between the various cities. Ach, you wouldn’t believe the state of the roads in the Ukraine. Dirt! Dirt roads hundreds of miles long! It makes you weep to think of it. But what good are roads if there are no cars to run on them, eh? And that, Herr Doktor, is where you come in.”

“With all due respect, Herr Minister, I’m already making cars.”

“But we need a special car from you, Herr Doktor. A car for ordinary people. They tell me you’ve been working on a design for just such a car for some time.”

Porsche felt his interest perk up. So, Wissell had heard about his small car project, eh? “Yes I have, Herr Minister. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to convince anybody to fund development of the design.”

“You have now, Herr Doktor. If you say the word, the Ministry of Transport will set up a project to build your small cars. Mind you, it’s got to be inexpensive enough for most people to afford, and it’s got to be sturdy enough to make it back and forth across the Ukraine.”

“As a matter of fact, Herr Minister, I’ve always thought that a car with an air-cooled engine would be particularly suited for the Ukraine.”

“Yes! Perfect!” Wissell exclaimed. “Just the sort of clever thinking that’s needed here. It’s clear to me that you’re just the man for this job, Herr Doktor. Will you do it?”

A vision came to Porsche then, of millions of his rounded little cars with their rear-mounted, air-cooled engines criss-crossing the Polish Commonwealth. And on the hood of each, in shining chrome, the letters PW for Porschewagen!

Shaking Wissell’s hand, Porche said, “Herr Minister, you can count on me.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recapitulating "Reverse Phylogeny"

The trouble with inventing imaginary countries is that eventually someone will insist on believing they're real. For instance, after Sir Thomas More published his utopian tract Utopia in 1516, Guillaume Budé wrote to him to urge that missionaries be sent there to convert the natives to Christianity. The all-time record in this respect is held by Plato's lost continent of Atlantis, which has been believed in more firmly by more people than any other imaginary country in history.

Around 360 BC, the philosopher Plato decided to follow up his hit Socratic dialogue The Republic with a trilogy of philosophical blockbusters: Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates. In order to demonstrate how the ideal state described in The Republic would work in real life, Plato had the character Critias mention an Egyptian legend about a continent beyond the Strait of Gibraltar called Atlantis that had once had an ideal society just like the one described in The Republic. Sadly, Atlantis got into a war with another ideal society located in Athens, and the war ended when Atlantis sank into the sea. That was the outline Critias gave in Timaeus, and Plato intended to have him go into greater detail in his own dialogue. As it happened, though, Plato gave up on his projected trilogy halfway through Critias, and the full story of Atlantis was never told.

Plato, needless to say, didn't expect anyone to actually believe that Atlantis had really existed, and for several centuries after Timaeus came out, no one did. After the rise of Christianity, however, gullibility became fashionable, and people started to believe that Atlantis was real, and they've never stopped. Since then, Atlantis has been joined by a couple of other imaginary-lost-continents-that-people-think-were-real called Mu and Lemuria, but Atlantis still has place of pride (you won't, for instance, hear of any space shuttles being named Mu).

Countless writers, visionaries, and cranks have maintained Plato's tradition by peopling their versions of Atlantis with their own ideal societies. In his 1954 book Lost Continents, L. Sprague de Camp stated that nearly two thousand books and articles had been written about Atlantis and other lost continents, and the pace has not slackened since then. Atlantis has appeared in the 1975 Illuminatus Trilogy, at least three episodes of Doctor Who, and (of course) the Stargate sequel series Stargate: Atlantis.

Up until the late 19th century, though, arguing that Plato's Atlantis was a real place was an intellectual exercise indulged in by the occasional pedant. What made Atlantism a popular craze was the publication of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly in 1882. Donnelly popularized the idea that Atlantis was the original source of human civilization, and that later civilizations that appeared in Central America and Egypt were established by Atlantian colonists before their own land drowned.

The Atlantis craze was also helped along by a proposed solution to a scientific puzzle. Back in the 19th century, paleontologists noticed a curious thing about the fossil records of Europe and North America: up until the end of the Triassic period, the same species evolved at the same time on both continents, but during the Jurassic period different species evolved on each continent. Geologists assumed that this meant that a land bridge connected the two continents up until the Triassic period, and then sank during the Jurassic period.

Atlantists seized on this idea as proof that huge land masses could indeed sink into the sea, and this gave a boost to Donnelly's Atlantis-as-the-source-of-all-civilization idea, a boost that was still going on in the 1930s when Amelia Reynolds Long decided to use it for her story "Reverse Philogeny". Using the idea of a "race memory" (another popular bit of pseudoscience at the time), she wrote her second Professor O'Flannigan story, telling how O'Flannigan used hypnosis to recover race memories of the fall of Atlantis. As many Atlantists did, Long improved on Plato's story by having the Atlanteans possess 20th century technology -- in this case, automobiles. Long also echoed contemporary Atlantists (who echoed Donnelly) by having Europe be an Atlantean colony, so that Europeans (and their American cousins) could claim to be heirs to the world's oldest civilization -- so take that, you snotty Asians, with your Mesopotamia!

(Incidentally, another manifestation of Atlantism in the 1930s occurred in Oxford, when the philologist J. R. R. Tolkien added a drowned continent motif to his Silmarillion story cycle. The literal rise and fall of the island continent of Numenor eventually became the Second Age of Middle-earth in the back-story to The Lord of the Rings.)

When the theory of plate tectonics was established in the 1960s, and geologists recognized that continental drift had actually happened, the land bridge theory went out the window, and with it the Atlantists' chief claim to scientific confirmation of their beliefs. Continents do not rise and fall thousands of feet, and Plato did, in fact, create Atlantis out of whole cloth -- as his student Aristotle put it, "he who invented it also destroyed it". Since then, no serious person has suggested that Atlantis ever existed (though countless unserious people continue to do so).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Reverse Phylogeny" by Amelia Reynolds Long, part 2

This is the second and final installment (the first installment is here) of "Reverse Phylogeny", a Gernsback Era science fiction story by Amelia Reynolds Long, and a sequel to her story "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth". "Reverse Phylogeny" was first published in the June 1937 issue of Astounding Stories, and reprinted in the 1953 anthology Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension.

The story so far:
In an attempt to settle once and for all whether Atlantis existed, Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan uses hypnosis to bring up the hidden racial memories of the pro-Atlantis scholar Theophilus Black, the anti-Atlantis scholar Kenneth McScribe, and the American Indian Rain-in-the-Face. Word of the experiment reaches the papers, and the final phase is held in an auditorium before a standing-room-only crowd . . .

* * *

At last the final night came, when, according to the best calculations, the Atlantean strata in the unconscious minds of the three subjects should be reached. Aloysius had planned to skip a few thousand years in order to get, if possible, a description of Atlantis in its heyday, then to work up gradually to the great inundation. It would, he explained, make the experiment more understandable to the audience.

I think that, of the two of us, I was the more nervous. Experience had taught me that Aloysius' experiments quite frequently ended in unforeseen results; and I did not relish the thought of how so large an audience might react in such a case. I even urged him to have a sort of dress rehearsal in private; but he refused.

"No, Eric," he said firmly. "If I did that, tonight's performance would not be a true experiment, but merely a demonstration of something already proven. I am a man of my word, and must give these people what I promised."

"But suppose there was no continent of Atlantis," I argued. "Then what?"

"In that case," he replied, unruffled, "we will have proven Mr. McScribe's contention."

I saw that there was nothing I could do, so I gave up.

Promptly at eight o'clock, Aloysius stepped out upon the stage, and explained to a packed and eager house what he proposed to do. He was followed by Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe, who, in turn, stated their positions in the matter.

Chief Rain-in-the-Face, upon being introduced next, confined himself to the usual, noncommittal, "Ugh"; since the purpose of the whole affair was still a little hazy in his mind.

Amid a silence heavy enough to be weighed, Aloysius proceeded to place his three subjects in a state of hypnosis. He had explained that the best results might be expected from Mr. Black; since he alone, once the mental transfer to the remote past had been made, seemed able to translate his awakened race memories into the language of the present. Chief Rain-in-the-Face, when under the hypnotic influence, spoke his native Indian language; while on the last two occasions, Mr. McScribe had emitted only a kind of unintelligible jabbering suggestive of an anthropoid ape.

As soon as the hypnotic trance was deep enough, Aloysius addressed the three collectively, informing them that they were now living before the dawn of recorded history, in approximately the year 20,000 B. C., and directing them to describe their experiences. There followed a minute of tense expectancy, during which a subtle change seemed to take place in all three men.

Chief Rain-in-the-Face rose and delivered a spirited oration in a language that resembled none known on earth today; after which he bowed formally and resumed his seat.

The audience understood not a word of what he had said, and accordingly was duly impressed. Aloysius raised his hand to check applause that he saw was about to break forth, and turned to Mr. Black.

"Now, Theophilus Black, tell us where you are and what you see."

The reply came at once; but the words were spoken slowly, as if the speaker was obliged to translate his thoughts into a tongue with which he was unfamiliar:

"I am in a great city -- the capital of the civilized world. On all sides, tall, white buildings rear themselves toward the sky, while the streets are thronged with busy people. There are also many horse-drawn chariots; but each year these grow fewer, for recently there has been invented a chariot that runs without horses. Since the invention of this horseless chariot, the pedestrians, too, have grown fewer. The land is rich and powerful, and its scientists are the greatest the world has ever known."

"What is the name of this land?" Aloysius put in, endeavoring to control his excitement. So far, results were turning out far better than they had before.

There was a brief pause, Mr. Black said then: "Its native name would mean nothing to you, but it has come down to you in legend as Atlantis."

* * *

A unanimous gasp arose from the audience. The authenticity of the mythical Atlantis was actually being proven! At this very moment, the man before them had returned there mentally through awakened race memory! No wonder they were excited and thrilled. I was myself.

"I have said that our scientists are the greatest the world has ever known," Mr. Black went on in the same hesitant, rather monotonous voice. "But recently they have fallen into disrepute; all because they have predicted that which it does not please the people to believe.

"For many years we have known that the ocean bottom is rising. Our own coastal plains have been sinking; while our mariners report that in the distant reaches of both the eastern and western oceans, strange new islands have appeared. Our scientists have studied these reports, and announced that the appearance of the islands mark the beginning of a great cataclysm of nature, which will raise new continents from the ocean bottom, pouring the waters that now cover them over Atlantis, burying it forever. Naturally, the people are loath to accept such a prediction; for it seems to them impossible that Atlantis, the wise and beautiful, could ever perish."

"Does no one believe the scientists?" Aloysius asked.

"None but a few religious sects, who believe that the end of the world has been predicted. One of our merchants has taken advantage of their credulity, and has advertised in his shop a special sale of fine linen for ascension robes."

"When do the scientists predict that this great catastrophe will take place?"

"They say that it will occur about ten years from now."

Aloysius waited several seconds before speaking again. Then he said, "Six years have passed. The catastrophe is only four years away. Tell us what is happening in Atlantis now."

The reply came promptly. "Earthquakes have begun to shake our land. Two volcanoes have become active. The ocean bottom to the east and west is rising rapidly.

"Do the people still doubt the predictions of the scientists?"

"A few more have ceased to doubt. These are building large boats in which, if the water begins to rise over the land, they will flee to the small, barbarous continent of Yropa to the northeast. The boats are very large. They will carry animals and supplies as well as men and women."

"Blast me eyes!" exclaimed an awed British voice from the balcony. "A whole fleet of bloomin' Noah's arks!"

Aloysius gestured sternly for silence, and returned to his subject. "Now three more years have gone by. The disaster is only one year away."

The audience leaned forward breathlessly to catch the answer. This time the voice that delivered it was strained and tense.

"The sky is dark with the ashes from the volcanoes. Whole cities have been destroyed by earthquakes. Reports reach us that the sea has rushed in over a portion of Yropa, creating a large island off the west coast, where before was a peninsula. Also, a large tract of land shaped like a boot has arisen out of the sea south of Yropa.

"At last the people of Atlantis believe that the scientists predicted correctly, but now it is too late. Most of the boats have already departed to establish colonies in Yropa and other barbarous places. As for the others, their captains grow rich conducting one-way excursions to the new islands. Atlantis is a doomed continent."

The voice moaned away into silence, like the last gasp of the dying civilization it described. It was echoed by the audibly released breath of the gallery.

From my place in the wings, I tried to catch Aloysius' eye. Surely the experiment had gone far enough and it was now time to awaken the subjects. Besides, during the last few minutes, Chief Rain-in-the-Face had shown distinct signs of restlessness, as if he was passing through the same mental experiences as Mr. Black, but was unable to express himself. To keep him in the hypnotic state much longer might lead to complications.

But Aloysius had not yet finished. A gleam came into his eyes that I knew only too well; he braced himself to launch the real climax of his experiment. "The hour of catastrophe has come!" he cried in ringing tones. "Atlantis is sinking! The waters are closing over it! Tell me what you see."

* * *

There was a moment of electric tension so strong it could have charged a battery. Then the answer came; but this time it was not in words, but in actions.

Before any one fully realized what was happening, Chief Rain-in-the-Face had leaped from his chair. The next instant he was heading for the edge of the platform, while his arms flailed about in perfect imitation of an English Channel swimmer. Pausing on the platform's edge for only a split second, he executed a perfect swan dive into the lap of an obese lady in the front row!

Instantly pandemonium broke loose. Women screamed and men shouted. There was a mad stampede for the exits, in which everybody seemed to get in everybody else's way. One well-meaning soul, attempting to switch on more lights, pressed the wrong button -- with the result that he turned on the emergency fire sprinkler instead, and streams of water began to spurt in all directions. We learned afterward that this caused several people to believe that the entire company had actually been translated bodily as well as mentally to sinking Atlantis, and were going down with it.

In vain, Aloysius entreated the crowd to be calm, assuring them that everything was all right. However, those people had but one thought in mind; to get out of there -- quickly, while they still had their scalps.

In the excitement, the two other subjects of the experiment had been completely forgotten; and it is painful to contemplate what might have been the fate of at least one of them had not a faint, gurgling sound attracted my attention. I went to investigate. There was poor Mr. Black flapping about helplessly in his chair, emitting the most awful gaspings and groanings, like a man in the last stages of drowning.

"Aloysius!" I bellowed, striving to make myself heard above the surrounding din. "You've got to get Black out of the Atlantis period, quick! The poor devil can't swim!"

Leaving the auditorium to attendants and the police, who had arrived by this time to look after the commotion in front, we rushed to the assistance of Mr. Black; while Mr. McScribe peered out at us from beneath the speaker's table, a perfect example of the atavistic came man gone to cover. Our star subject was in pretty bad shape; and even after he had been awakened from the hypnosis, it was necessary to administer artificial respiration.

* * *

After the excitement was all over, and Aloysius had been warned, by an irate police sergeant, that, "if there's any more av this foolishness, Professor O'Flannigan, ye'll find yerself in a cage with the rest of the monkeys," we were allowed to go home.

To my surprise, Aloysius was not nearly so downcast as I had expected. "I'll admit that matters did get a little out of hand toward the end," he said philosophically. "But, in spite of that, the experiment was a success. We certainly proved the one-time existence of Atlantis."

"I'm not so sure," I replied sourly. "I heard a couple of reporters say that the whole thing could be explained by pure mental suggestion."

Aloysius merely smiled. "Of course, there will always be skeptics," he said. "But I have material proof that cannot be explained away."

"Material proof?" I repeated. "What in the world do you mean?"

"For a long time," he began, "certain scientists have maintained that there exist ultra dimensions in time and space, which, if they were thoroughly understood, could be passed through physically as well as mentally. Now don't ask me how, for I'm not a mathematician. All I know is that, in some way, Mr. Black's mental rapport with the past became so strong that he was able to draw through these dimensions an actual, material specimen from the sinking continent of Atlantis. I took it from his mouth when we were reviving him. Here it is."

He put his hand into his pocket and drew out -- by the tail -- a little dead fish!

I stared at it incredulously. "Holy mackerel!" I gasped.

Aloysius shook his head. "No, Eric," he corrected, with his usual care for scientific accuracy, "just a sucker."


(continue to review)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Reverse Phylogeny" by Amelia Reynolds Long, part 1

As promised, the Johnny Pez blog now presents "Reverse Phylogency", the second and last in Amelia Reynolds Long's "Professor O'Flannigan" series. The stories, narrated by a young man named Eric Dale, tell of the comic misadventures of Dale's schoolchum, the brilliant biochemist Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan. The first story, "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", appeared in the August 1936 issue of Astounding Stories magazine, and this follow-up appeared in the June 1937 issue, both as by "A. R. Long". Like its predecessor, "Reverse Phylogeny" was eventually reprinted in an anthology, in this case Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension (1953), edited by Groff Conklin. The Johnny Pez blog is proud to present this classic story in a blog-friendly multi-part format. And now, without further ado, here is

Reverse Phylogeny
by Amelia Reynolds Long

Once more I have before me the task of explaining to the public another of the escapades of my friend, Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan. Not that Aloysius has asked me to do so; he is far too proud for that. But when -- because of a minor incident that had no place in his original plan, and for which he can in no way be held responsible -- remarks are made that the whole experiment concerning the lost continent of Atlantis had a decidedly fishy flavor, and when certain malicious-tongued individuals begin to accuse an inoffensive, peace-loving man like Aloysius of deliberately attempting to drown Mr. Theophilus Black on dry land, it seems to me that in mere fairness something ought to be done about it.

It all began with a series of articles of a well-known science magazine, or which Aloysius is an ardent reader. Dropping into his library one day, I found him sitting cross-legged upon the floor, with several copies of the magazine strewn around him. As I entered, he glanced up, made a dive for one of the magazines, and thrust it at me.

"Eric, I want you to read this!" he exclaimed, his eyes gleaming behind his thick-lensed spectacles. "Then tell me what you think of it."

He had turned the magazine open at an article entitled: "Atlantis; Proof of Its Existence," written by a Mr. Theophilus black. It was a well-constructed article, exhibiting excellent imaginative qualities and, to my mind at least, quite a bit of erudition on the part of its author. As I finished it and was about to comment, Aloysius pushed a second magazine into my hand.

"Read this before you say anything," he directed. "Then give me your reaction to both of them."

The article in the second magazine was called, "Atlantis Debunked"; and it lived up to its title. I read it as Aloysius directed; and, whereas Mr. Black had had me ready to swallow the whole continent of Atlantis, Mr. Kenneth McScribe, the author of the second article, now had me gagging on the first pebble. I looked helplessly at Aloysius, feeling a trifle groggy.

"There are several other articles here, but you needn't go into them," he said understandingly. "But what do you think of the Atlantis theory as a whole?"

"I hardly know," I answered, trying to sort out my jumbled reactions. "There seem to be equally good arguments on both sides."

"That's what I felt, too." He nodded. "Mr. Black's logic is excellent; but he builds it upon a rather porous situation, upon which Mr. McScribe has very cleverly turned a microscope. But, in his enthusiasm, Mr. McScribe has used too powerful a lens, and blurred matters a little. For example" -- he picked up one of the magazines and selected a particular paragraph -- "Mr. McScribe would throw out the evidence of the air-cooled volcanic rocks found in the Atlantic Ocean because Mr. Black cannot quote their geological age. I fail to see where their age has a great deal to do with it. After all, the question is not when Atlantis might have existed, but whether it existed at any time."

"True," I agreed hopefully. "And the very existence of those rocks is a strong indication --"

"Not so fast!" he broke in. "The existence of those rocks need indicate nothing more than a now-submerged island; and it's going a little strong to construct a whole continent out of that -- a little like making a mountain out of a molehill, on an exalted scale."

"You have the darndest way of switching from one side of a question to another!" I complained. "A fellow can't tell whether you actually turn the corners, or just wander in a circle."

"I'm afraid you haven't got the scientific mind, Eric." He sighed. "What I'm trying to do is sift the evidence."

"And what have you found so far?" I inquired with a touch of sarcasm.

"Not much, I'm afraid," he admitted. "You see, both Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe have made the same error of arguing over material evidence; such things as similarity of place names on both sides of the Atlantic, prehistoric remains, social development, and the like. They should look for psychological indications; racial characteristics or instincts in man himself that would either prove or disprove his descent from inhabitants of a continent --"

* * *

He broke off in mid-sentence, and a rapt expression came over his face. "Divil an' all!" he exclaimed, slapping his right fist into the palm of his left hand. "I believe it could be done; I'm going to try it!"

"Now what?" I asked a little fearfully, knowing from past experience that when Aloysius used that tone anything might be expected to happen.

"I'm going to awaken racial memory," he replied. "After all, our so-called instincts are nothing more than inherited race memory, as any psychologist will tell you. If those dormant memories can be aroused, brought up from the unconscious into the conscious mind and --"

"But how can it be done?" I wanted to know.

"Through hypnotism, of course," he answered. "I could turn the mind of a subject back through the deep strata of instinct bequeathed to him by his ancestors, inducing him to relive them as if they were a part of his own experience, until we had discovered whether there was or was not an Atlantean layer. Why, we might even settle the mooted question of whether mental traits can be inherited!"

There are times, I reflected, when nothing else in the English language is so expressive as the single word, "Nuts." But I said nothing, hoping that he would work off his enthusiasm by writing a letter to the magazine. I should have known better.

It was only a week later that he sent for me to come around again. Upon arriving at his house, I found that he already had three other guests; two very scholarly-looking gentlemen and a full-blooded Indian, feathers and all.

"Eric," he said, "I want you to meet Mr. Black, Mr. McScribe, and Chief Rain-in-the-Face. Gentlemen, my friend and sometimes colleague, Mr. Dale."

Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe acknowledged the introduction with the usual polite phrases.

Chief Rain-in-the-Face (ah! the appropriateness of that name!) confined himself to a noncommittal, "Ugh."

As for me, I'm afraid I let my jaw fall open rather foolishly.

"I wrote to Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe about my planned experiment to settle the Atlantis question," Aloysius went on, "and they very graciously consented to act as subjects. The fact that they are on opposite sides in that debate will give added significance to our findings."

"I see," I managed a trifle weakly. "And where does -- er -- Chief Rain-in-the-Face come in?"

"In order to prove or disprove Mr. Black's contention that the first settlers on the American continent were from Atlantis, it was necessary that a genuine Indian take part in the experiment," he explained. "Of course, in order to be really scientific, we should have an Egyptian as well; but none was procurable. However, Mr. Black is convinced that his earliest forebears were Atlanteans; so that will have to suffice.

"And now, gentlemen," he continued, "if you are ready, we will begin the first step. Eric, you will act as witness and recording secretary."

He lined his subjects up in chairs facing him, and, after a few minutes, succeeded in placing all three of them in a state of deep hypnosis. He then undertook, by suggestion, to turn their minds backward through the layers of inherited instinct, making them relive their "race memories," as he called them, as actual experiences.

I will say this much for what followed: it was extremely interesting, and would have convinced the Reincarnationists that their day of justification had arrived. During the next two hours, Chief Rain-in-the-Face told us all about what had happened to Henry Hudson after he had sailed on his last voyage up the river that now bears his name; while Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe furnished us with some interesting sidelights in the lives of several prominent personages at the courts of Louis XIV and Henry VIII respectively. All in all, it was a morning well spent.

* * *

Upon being awakened, none of the three men retained any memory of their mental experiences while in the hypnotic state; and they were exceedingly surprised when I read my notes to them. At Aloysius' request, they all promised to return the next day, when the experiment would be continued.

"Of course, today was only the beginning," Aloysius said when we were alone. "A mere scratching of the surface. Tomorrow we will go deeper, and the next day deeper still, until, eventually, we reach the level that will prove conclusively from what source these races have sprung."

"I hope you're not claiming that today's performance had anything to do with instinct," I remarked. "Why, the very latest of our instincts was developed long before the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Moreover, according to your own statement, instinct is race memory. What these men related today were the experiences of single individuals."

"I know that," he admitted unperturbed. "But it only goes to verify another theory of mine. For a long time I have believed that the life experiences of our not-too-distant ancestors are inherited in certain cells of the brain, just as their physical characteristics are duplicated in our bodies. They bear the same relationship to racial memory that family resemblance bears to racial resemblance. For example it --"

"Never mind the example," I cut in. "I'll probably understand better without it. And now, if I may speak figuratively, how long in this experiment of yours before we get though the topsoil and strike bed rock?"

"Oh, about two weeks," he replied. "Incidentally, I like your metaphor. It has such a -- er -- archeological flavor."

I will not go into a detailed account of all the subsequent steps in the experiment, but will only note the highlights. There was, for instance, the time when Chief Rain-in-the-Face went on the warpath, and attempted to translate his mental experience into physical action with the aid of the table lamp and a letter opener. He entirely wrecked the experiment for that day, and had to be brought out of his hypnotic trance by the somewhat crude means of a crack over the head with a volume of the encyclopedia.

Then there was the time when Mr. McScribe thought he was with Joshua before the walls of Jericho, and insisted upon going out and marching around the block until the policeman on the beat picked him up as a suspicious character.

It was this incident, together with the explanation it entailed, that was responsible for bringing the whole affair to the attention of the public. When we went to the police station to collect Mr. McScribe, an overenterprising reporter was present; and that evening the story, embellished with lurid details, appeared in his paper. The result was that the next morning representatives of every newspaper in the city descended upon us.

Now Aloysius is retiring by nature, and at first he refused to have anything to do with them. But it is easier to rid oneself of dandruff than of the gentlemen of the press. By sheer persistence, they wore him down, until at last he consented to their being present at the next experiment.

By this time he had got back to the early Egyptian period, and had actually begun to accomplish things with race memory. The reporters were duly impressed; and when their stories appeared, the reading public got its money's worth. Interest in the subject became so acute that the editor of the paper which carried the first story got the brilliant idea that the remainder of the experiment be put on in a public auditorium, the affair to be sponsored by his newspaper.

Naturally, Aloysius would have refused anything so spectacular, had not both Mr. Black and Mr. McScribe intervened. What weight, they argued, would our findings carry if they could be attested to only by one or two men? For the sake of science, the final steps should be taken before a sufficient number of witnesses, so that the outcome could never be doubted. The argument undeniably had its points; and at last, in spite of his better judgment, Aloysius gave in.

It was arranged for the final stage of the experiment to be conducted in the city's largest auditorium. Free tickets could be had by taking a year's subscription to the sponsoring newspaper; and the public's response would have turned Barnum green with envy. Within three days every seat in the house had been taken; and tickets for standing room were being issued on six months' subscriptions.

(continue to part 2)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mopping up "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth"

In "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", Amelia Reynolds Long follows an old tradition common to science fiction in particular and to fiction in general. When works of prose fiction were a recent invention in the late 17th and early 18th century, writers such as Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, and Jonathan Swift would ease their readers into their fictional worlds by writing in the first person, and having their narrators explain how they came to set their experiences down in writing. Later, in the late 19th and early 20th century, when science fiction was a new genre, the same thing happened: writers would ease their readers into their worlds by writing in the first person, such as the unnamed narrators of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, or John Carter, the narrator of Edgar Rice Burroughs' early Barsoom novels. Long follows this tradition by having Eric Dale, the narrator of "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", explain to the reader why he has chosen to publish an account of the doings of his friend Professor O'Flannigan.

Long also sets out to produce a humorous story, which has always been relatively rare in science fiction. Mind you, the story's humor is broad even by 1930s standards: the reliance on Irish surnames (especially McGillicuddy) as intrinsically funny, and the poet-as-esthete stereotype (first popularized by Oscar Wilde in the 19th century).

As for the story's science content, it's mostly a handwave to allow for the story gimmick, a serum to reverse the aging process. The functions Long assigns to the various glands are largely erroneous, and I have been unable to find any mention of separate amoebas joining together to form a single individual.

Long wrote a second story featuring Professor O'Flannigan, "Reverse Phylogeny", which will also be appearing in this blog. It seems reasonable to assume that Long intended to write a whole series of "Professor O'Flannigan" stories, but by the end of the 1930s she had become unhappy with the direction science fiction was taking, and turned to writing mystery novels instead.

"A Leak in the Fountain of Youth" by Amelia Reynolds Long, part 3

This is the third and final installment of "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", a science fiction story from the Gernsback Era by Amelia Reynolds Long. The story first appeared in the August 1936 issue of Astounding Stories and was reprinted in the 2003 anthology Sci-Fi Womanthology edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and Pam Keesey.

The story so far:
Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan, a brilliant young biochemist, has invented a serum that will reverse the aging process. An opportunity to test it on a human subject unexpectedly presents itself when his old college chum, the poet Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom, shows up on the lam from the police, suspected of bank robbery in a case of mistaken identity. Lindstrom needs some way to elude the police, so O'Flannigan offers to make him look sixteen years old.

However, due to a miscalculated dosage, Lindstrom is regressed to a baby, and O'Flannigan must hire a nurse, Miss McGillicuddy, to look after him. When the police find the real bank robber, O'Flannigan fires McGillicuddy as a prelude to restoring Lindstrom, but she is suspicious of his motives and takes the baby with her . . .

* * *

Two months passed, not entirely uneventful. The police, for some reason that we never entirely fathomed, were positive that Gustavus had come to Aloysius the day after the bank robbery, but they could prove nothing. Repeated questioning of Aloysius and even a search of the premises during his absence, got them nowhere. And, meanwhile, he for whom they searched rode out in his own perambulator under their very noses.

Of course, we knew that this state of things could not go on indefinitely; but when the next move came, it found us unprepared. It was, in fact, nothing more nor less than the arrest of the real bank robber, taken in the attempted holdup of a bank in the neighboring city. Upon being identified by the teller of the Suburban, he admitted the first robbery. So the good name of Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom had been cleared.

It would now seem that all that remained for us to do was to administer the serum that would restore Gustavus to his normal phisiological age. That was what we thought, too, but we soon learned that it was not so simple. The realization came when we approached the nursery door with a hypodermic of the serum and discovered that Gustavus was not alone. We had forgotten Miss McGillicuddy.

"What," I inquired, "are you going to tell the nurse?"

Aloysius looked blank. "I hadn't thought of that," he confessed. "You -- you don't suppose she'd believe the truth?"

"I know she wouldn't," I answered with conviction. "You'll have to do better than that."

He sighed. "The only thing I can think of is to tell her that her services are no longer needed," he said, "and I'll have an awful slim chance of getting away with it."

"There's only one other way," I pointed out. "The woman must sleep some time out of the twenty-four hours. You'll have to watch for your chance and give Gussie the serum then."

But it was easier said than accomplished. All our visits to the nursery found Miss McGillicuddy wide awake and on the job. Finally, we divided the day into six-hour shifts during which we alternately kept watch in an effort to catch her napping, but this met with no success either.

Worse yet, Miss McGillicuddy now seemed to know that she was under secret surveillence, for she began to regard Aloysius and me with a suspicious eye, and kept the nursery door locked most of the time so that we had to knock to gain admittance.

It was about this time that Aloysius discovered that we ourselves were being spied on. He mentioned it to me when I dropped around one morning.

"Eric," he began uneasily, "I don't know what can be the matter, now that the bank robber has been arrested and Gussie is no longer under suspicion, but a policeman's been watching this house for the past three days. He's taken a room across the street and he keeps looking over here with a pair of field glasses."

"Miss McGillicuddy --" I suggested.

He nodded. "I'm afraid so," he said. "That female never did like me from the beginning. And now our watching her has made her suspect Heaven alone knows what, and she's gone to the police about it."

"I'm afraid we'll have to do what we should have done in the beginning," I told him gloomily. "Definitely discharge the woman."

We each took a neat drink of Irish whiskey to help our courage. Then we tackled the job. To our amazement, it was easier than we had anticipated. Miss McGillicuddy said nothing, but she gave us one long, unreadable look. Then she executed a military about-face and marched off to her room to pack her belongings. A half-hour later we heard the front door close firmly behind her.

* * *

With a combined sigh of relief that sounded like the open steam valve of a locomotive, Aloysius and I bounded upstairs to the nursery. He was ahead of me as we reached the nursery door, and so it was he who first bent over the bassinet. The next instant I saw him clap his hands to his head and stagger back.

"Good Lord!" he groaned. "She's taken Gussie along with her!"

For a minute or so we could only stare at each other in dumb stupefaction. Then my brain cleared a little.

"It's kidnapping!" I cried indignantly. "She can't do this! We'll go to the police ourselves, and enter a complaint."

But we were saved the trouble. At that very minute the doorbell rang.

On the step stood the policeman who had called on us two months before!

"Professor O'Flannigan," he pronounced severely when he had shouldered his way into the hall. "I want to know what it is you've done with Gustavus Lindstrom."

And then the awful facts came out. Gustavus had been known to come to Aloysius' house that day aftr the bank robbery, but had not been known to leave. It had been assumed by the police that Aloysius was protecting his friend from arrest for the bank robbery, but when the real criminal had been apprehended and Gustavus still failed to appear, it was felt that something serious must be the matter.

When a check-up with Gustavus' relatives revealed no clue to his whereabouts, the police had formulated a theory. It was that Gussie had been foully murdered by his mad scientist friend, professor Aloysius O'Flannigan!

"But that's proposterous!" Aloysius protested indignantly. "I haven't harmed Gussie!"

"Then what have you done with him?" the policeman asked, not unreasonably.

Aloysius opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again without uttering a word. If he told the truth now, he'd be locked up as a raving lunatic.

"Professor O'Flannigan is not quite himself this morning," I put in helpfully. "His little nephew has just been kidnapped by the nurse who was employed to look after him."

The policeman smiled sourly. "We know all about that," he told me. "That nurse told us how the professor here was actin', and it was what decided us in thinkin' that something was wrong up here." He turned back to Aloysius, "I guess you'd better come along with me to the station, professor," he said. "The sergeant'll be wantin' to talk to you."

Aloysius paled. "Very well, officer," he said weakly. "Excuse me while I get my hat and coat."

He started slowly down the hall toward the laboratory. At the door, however, he turned.

"Eric, remember Socrates," he called, and disappeared into the room.

We waited in stony silence. What the policeman's thoughts were, I have no idea, but I know that mine were in a turmoil. If Aloysius was locked up on suspicion of having murdered Gussie, how would he be able to bring Gussie back to normal? And unless Gussie was brought back to normal, how was Aloysius going to prove his innocence? It would do no good to tell the truth. There are some things that even the police refuse to believe.

* * *

Suddenly I began to realize that Aloysius had been gone a very long time. The policeman, too, realized it, for his face became ominous and he made for the laboratory door. I, beset by a hundred whirling fears, followed and was immediately behind him when he entered the room. It was empty, but an open window told the story. Aloysius had realized his predicament and had chosen liberty by way of the laboratory window and the back fence.

For the next five minutes that policeman's language was awful. But he finally calmed down and, after grilling me on Aloysius' habits and possible hide-out, left for police headquarters. I, much to my surprise, was permitted to go home.

I spent the next few hours listening to police descriptions of Aloysius over the radio and wondering what he was doing. I had not the faintest idea where he could have gone, but I knew that I would have to get in touch with him some way to arrange for the restoration of Gussie.

And then, like enlightenment from Heaven, came the memory of his parting words to me, "Eric, remember Socrates."

I jammed on my hat and made a dash for the university museum.

The Greek wing was empty when I entered it. Nevertheless, I approached the stone sarcophagus with caution. I was in the act of lighting a cigarette with elaborate nonchalance when a voice spoke from the sarcophagus' interior.

"Eric, if you drop ashes in here I'll come out and murder you."

"Aloysius!" I gasped in relief. "Thank Heaven you're here!"

"According to Gussie's experience, it seemed the one sure place where nobody would look," he replied. He squirmed to a sitting posture, so that his head protruded just above the opening in the sarcophagus. "You've got to help me get Gussie back in shape," he said. "Do you think you can carry out a few simple instructions?"

"I'll try," I promised. "What are they?"

"First," he went on, go to my laboratory and get the hypodermic with the corrective serum. You know which one it is. Next, take another hypodermic and make it one quarter full from the bottle on the end of the second shelf in my closet. It's a sleeping formula of my own, and is pretty powerful, so don't take too much of it. Then drive back here after dark and pick me up."

"What are you going to do?" I asked apprehensively.

"Never mind," he answered. "You know enough for the present. Now get going."

I had less trouble than I anticipated getting into the laboratory. The policeman on guard accepted my story that I had come for medicine for a sick dog, and let me take what I wanted from the drug cupboard, as long as I made no effort to disturb anything else. I had a moment's uncertainty over preparing the second hypodermic, for Aloysius had not told me which end of the second shelf he meant. I finally decided upon the right end, and took down a bottle that stood there. Then I returned to the museum.

Aloysius was waiting for me behind a tree across the street. "I nearly got caught getting out," he said, climbing into the car. "The damned burglar alarm went off."

"Where to now?" I asked, releasing the brake.

He gave me an address. "It's Miss McGillicuddy's," he added.

* * *

While I drove, he explained his plan. I was to get in to talk to Miss McGillicuddy on some pretext, while he remained hidden in the car. Then, when I had talked her off her guard, I was to plunge the second hypodermic into her arm. As soon as she had gone under, I was to snatch up Gussie and dash back to the car. Aloysius would do the rest.

It sounded easy enough until I found myself standing on the doorstep facing Miss McGillicuddy.

"Well, what do you want?" she demanded uncompromisingly. Her iron jaw, when it moved, was overpoweringly suggestive of a cement mixer.

"Miss McGillicuddy," I began weakly, "I've got to speak to you about -- about little Gussie. It's very important. May I come in?"

She moved aside reluctantly for me to enter. But the entrance was narrow and she was a large woman. In that minute I saw my chance and with a swiftness that surprised me myself, I plunged the hypodermic home. Miss McGillicuddy gave one startled snort and wilted before my eyes.

Fighting down a feeling of panic, I darted on into the house in search of Gussie. I found him without difficulty and was back to the car and had handed him to Aloysius in the back seat in less than two minutes.

"Now," Aloysius cried triumphantly, "drive somewhere -- anywhere -- until this stuff takes effect! It acts quickly."

We dashed off at top speed, with Gussie yelling like an Indian on the back seat. We took the corner on two wheels and almost collided with another car that was coming toward us. I heard the driver bawl a command at me to stop but I paid no attention. There was no time to stand by ceremony just then.

But a moment later I heard an exclamation from Aloysius. "Divil an' all!" he gasped. "That was a police car, Eric, and they're following us!"

My only answer was to step on the gas.

I shall never forget that wild ride, although its details were, even at the time, a series of blurs to me. I remember vaguely crashing through two or three red lights, while the shrilling of police whistles all but deafened me. Gussie's yells made our progress as conspicuous as that of the fire chief, and to add to our confusion, shouts of "Kidnappers!" began to arise from all sides.

At Aloysius' suggestion, I made for the open country but when I passed the city limits there were already three police cars and a whole squad of motorcycle police on our tail.

"If we can only hold out for an hour or two," Aloysius said, "we'll be all -- Ow! Devil fly away with you!"

"What's wrong?" I demanded, wondering fearfully whether one of the police cars had opened fire and Aloysius had been hit.

But his reply reassured me. "Gussie's cutting teeth," he answered. "The little fiend just bit me."

During the next hour Gussie's growth and phenomenal. By the time we crossed the State line, he had reached the obstreperous stage, and was trying to climb over the back of the seat to assist me at the wheel.

It had been a little past eight o'clock in the evening when Aloysius had injected the corrective serum. By six o'clock the next morning, it had completely taken effect and, to our unbounded relief, Gussie was quite himself again, and with only a hazy memory of what had transpired in the interval. But now two problems had arisen. The car was almost out of gas and Gussie -- except for the car's best blanket -- was embarrassingly out of raiment.

"We'll have to stop at the next gas station," I told Aloysius. "We can do it in safety, for the police haven't followed us across the State line."

* * *

But I had reckoned without my radio. The keeper of the gasoline station glanced at our license plate, deliberately raised the hood of our car and did something to our spark plugs. Then he walked calmly into his house and closed the door. Before we realized what was happening, two State troopers had appeared from nowhere and taken possession of us!

"It's all right," Aloysius reassured us as we were herded into a police car to be taken back whence we had come. "We can produce Gussie now, so that will squash the murder charge. As for the remarks about kidnapping, Gussie can prove that he was the baby by the mole on his left thigh. Miss McGillicuddy, the nurse, can identify it."

"Ye Gods," exclaimed Gussie, aghast. "Did I have a nurse and does she know about that?"

Returned to our home city, we told our story, individually and collectively, to a skeptical desk sergeant.

"A likely soundin' tale you be tellin' me," he said. "I'm after thinkin' it's not Mr. Lindstrom alone that's had a second childhood, but all three of you. And I've a mind to put you all in the jug until you grow up."

Aloysius drew himself up. He can be impressive as well as persuasive when he tries. "Sergeant," he said, "I am a man of science and what I tell you about the gland control serum is the truth. You must, at least, give us an opportunity to prove it by calling in the nurse, Miss McGillicuddy."

The sergeant was not unreasonable. He dispatched a man to summon our witness.

Fifteen minutes passed. Then the telephone rang frantically. The sergeant took the call.

"My man O'Reilly's at the nurse's house," he announced tersely, as he hung up. "He says something's happened to her and he needs help. I'm going over there, and I'm takin' you birds along."

My heart sank. Aloysius had said that the sleeping formula was pretty powerful. Suppose I had given her too much and --

Aloysius must have been thinking something of the same sort, for he whispered to me as we entered Miss McGillicuddy's residence, "Eric, tell me quick. From which bottle did you fill that hypodermic? Right or left end of the shelf?"

"Right," I answered and then, from his horrified expression, I knew the worst. The bottle I had used had contained poison and now Miss McGillicuddy was a stiffened corpse! What, I wondered, was the penalty in our State for manslaughter?

And then a voice from the next room on our left spoke protestingly. "Nix, lady, lay off!" it was saying. "I'm a married man with a family!"

We rushed after the sergeant into the room beyond. And there a startling spectacle confronted us. Seated stiffly on the edge of a chair was Officer O'Reilly, while perched coyly upon his knee -- and very much alive -- was Miss McGillicuddy! But not the Miss McGillicuddy we had known. Instead of an equine forty-odd, she was now a coltish twenty-one!

"O'Reilly, what's the meaning of this?" the sergeant roared, but I think he must have guessed even before he got the explanation.

Aloysius turned to me and there was a look of mingled reproach and relief in his eyes.

"Eric, you're a blundering idiot!" he exclaimed. "But you've proven our story. You gave a shot of the gland serum to Miss McGillicuddy!"


Saturday, January 23, 2010

"A Leak in the Fountain of Youth" by Amelia Reynolds Long, part 2

This is the second installment of "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", a science fiction story from the Gernsback Era by Amelia Reynolds Long. The story first appeared in the August 1936 issue of Astounding Stories and was reprinted in the 2003 anthology Sci-Fi Womanthology edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and Pam Keesey.

The story so far:
Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan, a brilliant young biochemist, has invented a serum that will reverse the aging process. An opportunity to test it on a human subject unexpectedly presents itself when his old college chum, the poet Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom, shows up on the lam from the police, suspected of bank robbery in a case of mistaken identity. Lindstrom needs some way to elude the police, so O'Flannigan offers to make him look sixteen years old . . .

* * *

A sudden, businesslike ring at the front doorbell was like an exclamation point after his words!

"The police!" Gustavus gasped, and went limp.

Aloysius seized him by the scruff of the neck, and propelled him toward the laboratory. "Answer the door, Eric," he said. "If it's the police, hold them off until I get back."

I had the sensation that each board I trod upon was on springs and gave under me as I walked down the hall to the front door. When I opened it, the worst was realized as a burly policeman confronted me!

"Are you Professor O'Flannigan?" he bellowed. I realized afterward that he must have spoken in only an ordinary tone of voice, but it sounded differently to me then.

"No, officer," I replied, glad that my first words, at least, could be the truth. "I'm only his friend, Eric Dale. Did you want to see the professor?"

"An' what would I be doin' here if I didn't?" he answered.

This didn't seem to call for an answer, so I didn't attempt one. "If you'll excuse me a moment, I'll go and call him," I offered instead, and started back down the hall. To my horror, the policeman followed me!

For a moment I had a hideous vision of his forcing me to guide him straight to the laboratory where Aloysius was doing heaven alone knew what to Gustavus Adolphus, and, then, clapping irons on both of us for aiding and abetting a dangerous criminal; but the situation was saved by the entrance of Aloysius in person, alone and wholly self-possessed.

"Was someone at the door, Eric?" he inquired innocently. Then, pretending to see the policeman for the first time, "Oh, good morning, officer. Can I do something for you?"

The policeman touched his cap. "It's about a friend of yours I've come, professor," he explained. "A man named Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom. Have you seen him this mornin'?"

Aloysius registered just the right amount of annoyance and concern. "Don't tell me that Gussie's gone and got himself into trouble again!" he exclaimed protestingly.

The policeman explained that Gustavus was wanted for the robbery of the Suburban Bank. Aloysius was properly shocked.

"I simply can't believe it!" he declared. "Why, I saw him only the day before yesterday, and he said nothing at all about intending to rob a bank."

"They seldom do," the policeman said. "But seein' as you're such a good friend of his, he may try to get in touch with you now that it's over and, if he does, will you let us know, professor? If he's innocent, you'll be doin' him a favor by helpin' him prove it."

Aloysius intimated that he would -- without, however, definitely committing himself, and the policeman departed.

"Now," I demanded, turning with the ferocity of overwrought nerves upon Aloysius, "what have you done with Gussie?'

He raised a calming hand. "Gussie's all right," he assured me. "I gave him a large dose of the glandular control serum, and he's sleeping quietly in my room. Would you like to see him?"

I replied that I most certainly would.

He conducted me to his bedroom adjoining the laboratory. There lay Gussie sleeping peacefully, and with an expression on his face that for sheer guilelessness would have done credit to a hydrocephalic idiot.

I bent over him and examined him. "Heavens!" I cried almost at once. "He's young already!"

Aloysius laughed. "Your imagination, Eric," he said. "The serum won't begin to take effect for nearly an hour."

In spite of Aloysius' assurance that everything was now all right and that Gustavus would be safe until the real bank robber was discovered, I returned to my home with a feeling of strong misgiving. Suppose the serum should fail to take effect upon a human being; or suppose, having ben given in one large portion instead of small quantities, it should kill or cripple Gustavus! But, as the day wore on and none of the papers brought out an extra featuring either his capture or his murder, I decided that I was giving myself needless worry. And so I banished the matter from my mind.

* * *

But it was false security. At three o'clock the next morning my telephone rang. Aloysius was on the wire.

"Eric," he almost whispered, "come over at once! We're in the devil's own predicament!"

"Gussie --" I began incautiously, but he interrupted.

"Don't ask questions over the phone," he warned. "I'll explain when you get here." He rang off.

I dressed as quickly as possible and hurried around to where he lived. He was waiting for me at the door.

"What on earth's happened?" I demanded. "Have the police --"

He waived the police aside as if they had been of no consequence.

"It's got nothing to do with the police," he said. "Eric, we've got a real problem on our hands now. Come into the study."

He seized me by the arm and almost propelled me into the room. "Look," he commanded, and pointed dramatically at a large, overstuffed armchair.

I looked. Something was lying upon the seat of the chair. At first I thought that it was merely a blanket roll. Then, I realized that it was alive. Bending closer, I discovered with a sense of shock that it was a very young baby!

"Merciful heaven!" I gasped, and took a step backward. "Where did that come from?"

"Don't you know?" Aloysius asked.

I raised my eyebrows. "Doorstep contribution?" I inquired.

He made an impatient gesture. "Won't you understand, Eric?" he asked piteously. There was soul sickness in his eyes. "It's Gussie!"

* * *

"Gussie!" I sat down weakly upon the nearest chair and tried to keep my head from spinning while he explained. It seemed that either he had given Gustavus a slight overdose of the serum, or the stuff taken in quantity acted differently than when taken in small amounts. In any case, Gustavus had failed to stop rejuvinating when he had reached the physiological age of sixteen, but had continued to grow younger and younger until he had reached his present state.

"It was terrible!" Aloysius said, shuddering. "For a while I was afraid he was going to vanish entirely right there before my eyes. Eric, what are we going to do with him?"

I considered the situation. Once the shock of beholding Gustavus as an infant had abated, matters did not look so bad. After all, what Aloysius had set out to do was to disguise Gustavus so that the police would not recognize him, and that was precisely what he had done. Why not, I argued, permit Gustavus to remain as he was until after the real criminal had been apprehended, when he could be restored to his normal state?

This suggestion relieved Aloysius enormously. He permitted me to go home and finish my night's sleep in peace.

The following noon I dropped around again to see how he was getting on. I found him preparing a bottle for Gustavus.

"Eric," he said through clenched teeth, "this can't go on. I've done nothing since five o'clock this morning but wait on Gussie."

"Five o'clock!" I echoed. "That's no hour to get a child up. Why didn't you let him sleep?"

He looked at me in disgust. "That shows how much you know about it," he retorted resentfully. "He got me up. A five o'clock he started to yell like a banshee, and I had to walk the floor with him for two hours before he'd quiet down. Since then it's been one thing after another. I tell you, I can't stand it!"

It was on the tip of my tongue to remind him that I had warned him against the experiment in the first place, but I saw the dark circles under his eyes and refrained. After all, it would be unkind to twist the weapon in the wound just then.

"There's only one thing to do that I can think of," I told him. "You'll have to hire a nurse."

He hired a nurse, a grim-visaged professional named Miss Mabel McGillicuddy. She was a woman with an iron jaw and a physique like a horse, but she understood the care of infants. Aloysius gave her an apologetic-sounding story about Gustavus' being his orphaned nephew, and conducted her to the nursery. She appeared a trifle dashed when she discovered that her charge's entire wardrobe consisted of an old, cut-down polo shirt and a dozen and a half dinner napkins, but she said nothing and got to work.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"A Leak in the Fountain of Youth" by Amelia Reynolds Long, part 1

Amelia Reynolds Long (1904 - 1978) was a writer, poet, and museum curator from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Long was part of the first generation of fantastic fiction writers to appear in the pulp genre magazines, publishing her first story, "The Twin Soul", in the March 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Long went on to publish twenty-two fantasy and science fiction stories, mostly in Weird Tales and Astounding Stories, before switching to mystery novels in the late 1930s.

All of Long's early stories have passed into the public domain, but for the most part are unavailable online. We here at the Johnny Pez blog have chosen to correct this oversight by posting some of her short fiction here in a blog-friendly multipart format. Earlier this month, we published Long's story "Cosmic Fever" from the February 1937 issue of Astounding. We now follow up with a pair of stories featuring the character of Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan. First up, from the August 1936 issue of Astounding, is "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth", originally published as by A. R. Long. Unlike most of the stories posted on this blog, "A Leak in the Fountain of Youth" is not confined to the pages of a pulp fiction magazine -- it was reprinted in the 2003 anthology Sci-Fi Womanthology, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and Pam Keesey. So now, without further ado, we present:

A Leak in the Fountain of Youth
by Amelia Reynolds Long

This is not an attempt to seek vulgar publicity for the extraordinary experimental work in gland control carried on by my friend, Professor Aloysius O'Flannigan; neither is it an effort to exonerate him in the public mind of the supposed murder of Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom. In the first place, any type of publicity whatsoever is highly distasteful to Aloysius; and, in the second, the living presence of Gustavus himself is exoneration enough. All I wish to do is to set down the truth, in order that the wild rumors accusing a reputable man of science of such preposterous -- not to say scandalous -- behavior, may be stilled.

Although Aloysius O'Flannigan is still a very young man, he has already accomplished some most remarkable things in the field of biochemistry. Not least among these is his growth-and-age-control serum, based upon a series of highly intricate experiments with the glandular system.

"It is really quite simple when you get down to it, Eric," he told me one day in his laboratory. "Science has known for a long time that the growth and aging of the body are governed by certain glands. There is, for example, the pituitary gland, controlling skeletal growth; the thymus, regulating physical development to adolescence; the thyroid, governing mental and nervous development; and all the rst of them.

"Science has even realized that the control of these glands and their hormones means practical control of the development of the individual. And that is what I plan to do, Eric."

Here he leaned forward and tapped me impressively on the knee, while his blue eyes shone excitedly behind his shell-rimmed spectacles. "I mean to control the entire glandular system, so that a man may become old or young, large or small, at will. It's entirely logical."

I shook my head. "It may sound entirely logical in theory," I told him, "but you'll find it's going to be something else in practice. I don't want to hurt your feelings, Aloysius, but if you think, for example, that you can turn an old man into a boy, you're -- well, due for a keen disappointment. It can't be done."

"And why not?' he demanded.

"Why not!" I echoed. "Well, for one thing, there's skeletal growth. Be reasonable, Aloysius. It is perfectly comprehensible that you may be able to arrest bodily development through control of the glandular system; but to claim that you can reverse the process is sheer nonsense."

"You understand the process of coalition in the unicellular animals, don't you?" he asked. The light of battle was beginning to appear in his unusually mild eyes.

"Certainly," I answered, a little nettled that he should question my knowledge on such an elementary point of zoology. "It is the reverse of the process of subdivision. Instead of one amoeba or protozoan subdividing to form two new individuals, two amoebae coalesce to form one. But what has that got to do with --"

He interrupted me. "And you realize that the individual cell structure of the human body is similar to that of the unicellular animals, including cell division in the process of growth, don't you?" he persisted. "Well, then, why couldn't coalition take place in a similar manner, also?"

"But it doesn't," I protested. "You know very well that it doesn't."

"But it could through control of the glandular system. Don't you see it?"

All I could see was that we were arguing in a circle, so I gave it up.

* * *

It was about three months after this that the bank robbery occurred. I read the account of it in the morning paper as I ate my breakfast; but at the time noticed nothing beyond the fact that our largest Suburban Bank had been relieved of one hundred thousand dollars by a masked man who had entered just a minute before closing time the day before, and held up the place single-handed. Just as he was leaving, his mask had slipped down; the paying teller had seen . . . Here the story was continued on an inside page, and I, being in something of a hurry, did not take the time to finish it.

I had planned to drop around to see Aloysius that morning to ask his opinion on an article I had written on the unemployment situation in early Babylonia, but when I reached his home, all thoughts of the matter were driven from my mind. Our old college friend, Gustavus Adolphus Lindstrom, had just arrived ahead of me and he was in trouble.

Now, being in trouble is not precisely a new position for Gustavus Adolphus. In the first place he is a free-verse poet, and in the second -- But the first will cover everything, so I will not trouble to elaborate.

Usually his escapades are of the picturesque but comparatively harmless variety, but this one was different. In fact, it was so different that it centered around the Suburban Bank robbery, with Gustavus Adolphus cast in the leading role.

It was one of those damning cases of circumstantial evidence and mistaken identification. The paying teller of the bank had been taken down to police headquarters to try to identify the holdup man in the rogues' gallery. When he had failed to find his man among the accepted celebrities, the police, in desperation, had brought out a collection of minor offenders; and from these the misguided bank clerk had picked out Gustavus Adolphus!

"But, Gussie," inquired Aloysius, "how in the world did your picture ever get in the rogues' gallery?"

Gustavus Adolphus looked somewhat embarrassed. "You see, it was this way," he began. "A few years ago, I headed a movement for the practical revival of classicism. One of our aims was to bring back the ancient Greek forms of dress for both men and women, and I, as head of the movement, felt it my duty to put the theory into practice.

"But, when I walked down Broadway in the tunic and sandals of Sophocles' time, I was arrested at Forty-second Street and charged with both appearing in public improperly clad and attracting a crowd that obstructed traffic. I -- I spent three months in jail," he finished lamely.

* * *

While he was explaining this to Aloysius, my mind was busy with the problem at hand. "Of course, it's a case of wrong identification based on coincidental resemblance," I said now. To assume that Gustavus Adolphus would have held up a bank, even if he had known how, was naturally ridiculous. "But the mistake can be cleared up readily enough. All you need to do is produce your alibi for yesterday afternoon and then --"

"But that's just the trouble," he interrupted piteously. "I haven't got an alibi."

"You -- what?" Aloysius and I stared at him in blank amazement.

"What I mean is, I've got an alibi, but I can't prove it," he explained. He looked pathetically from one of us to the other.

"But where were you?" I demanded.

"In a Greek sarcophagus at the university museum," he answered meekly.

I began to lose patience. "This is no time for flippancy," I told him. "Stop trying to create a sensation, and tell us where you were."

"But I have told you," he protested. "I wanted to write a poem on the death of Socrates, so I went to the Greek wing of the museum and climbed into the stone sarcophagus -- the one with the opening above the face and shoulder of the occupant -- to put myself in the mood. I -- I'm afraid no one saw me there."

"Didn't anyone come into the Greek wing?" Aloysius inquired.

"Oh, yes," Gustavus Adolphus said. "One of the university students came in with a young lady. He came quite close to where I was, and flicked cigarette ashes through the opening of the sarcophagus. But since the interior of one of those things is rather dark, he couldn't have seen me unless he had deliberately leaned over and peered in."

"But you must have been able to see him," I pointed out. "Couldn't you recognize him if you saw him again?"

"I'm afraid not," he admitted regretfully. "You see, the cigarette ashes landed in my eye and I wasn't able to see anything for quite some time. All I know about him is that the young lady addressed him as Lover Boy, and that is hardly sufficient for identification."

Aloysius and I agreed that it was not.

"This is beginning to be serious," Aloysius said gravely, as we appeared to be at a deadlock. "If you can't prove an alibi, you'll never be able to convince the police that a mistake has been made."

"I realize it," Gustavus said, "and I don't know what to do or where to go."

I was tempted to suggest back into the sarcophagus, but, as I had warned him only a minute before, it was hardly the time for levity. Something had to be done, and done quickly.

I looked at Aloysius. "What are we going to do?" I queried.

"I thought," Gustavous Adolphus ventured timidly, "that perhaps Aloysius could do something to me with his science, so that the police couldn't recognize me."

Aloysius' nostrils quivered. "Be quiet, both of you," he commanded, "while I think."

He began to stride up and down the room, his chin sunk forward upon his breast, and his hands clasped loosely behind his back. Gustavus and I watched him anxiously. We both knew that if he was to think of something, it would have to be fast and it would have to be good.

Suddenly he stopped in the middle of his pacing, and smote his left palm with his right fist. His eyes were gleaming behind his thick-lensed spectacles.

"I've got it!" he cried. "My glandular controls serum, of course!"

I sprang out of my chair at the words. "No, Aloysius, no!" I exclaimed aghast. "You wouldn't dare!"

He ignored me, and addressed Gustavus Adolphus. "Its a new formula that I completed less than a week ago," he explained. "By its use, I can change you temporarily to a boy of about sixteen. Shall I do it?"

"Don't you let him," I warned Gustavus. "It's liable to kill you."

Gustavus looked uncertainly from me to Aloysius. "Is it dangerous?" he inquired.

"Of course not," Aloysius declared impatiently. "Why, only yesterday I changed a battled-scarred tomcat to a mewling kitten, and today it's enjoying life to the full."

"Will it hurt?"

"You'll have to ask the tomcat. But it's practically certain to be painless, since you merely fall asleep, and when you waken, years have dropped from your age."

"It sounds rather attractive," Gustavus confessed.

"It sounds too quick to be good," I commented.

"Eric, you be quiet," Aloysius snapped at me. Now that the chance to try out his pet theory upon a human being had been practically dropped in his lap, he wasn't going to have it snatched away by anybody. "Under ordinary circumstances, the treatment would cover a period of months, but we've got no time for that now. We've got to act fast."

(to be continued)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

DBTL 19A: Testvér a Testvérért

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The Danzig War of 1936 - 37 saw an aggressive German régime under Ernst Röhm defeated by the combined forces of Great Britain, France, and Poland, and the three nations are now the dominant powers of Europe. In 1939 Poland joins together with Romania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland to form a defensive alliance called the Warsaw Pact. The alliance is put to the test in October 1944, when a Soviet-backed coup attempt in Lithuania brings war between Poland and the USSR.

Five months of war brings steady victory to the Poles and their Warsaw Pact allies. In the south, the Soviets face widespread rebellion in the Ukraine, while in the north the Finns push forward into the Karelian ASSR. By March 1945, the Soviet leadership is ready to come to terms.

Today's post was written by Jussi Jalonen, who has kindly consented to bring his wealth of knowledge of Finnish history to add some much-needed verisimilitude to this timeline. So, without further ado, the Johnny Pez blog proudly presents:

Testvér a Testvérért
by Jussi Jalonen

"Our blood kindred from the Danubian plains have heard the call of our war horn, and after a millennium is the Magyar saber once again raised to fight side by side with the Finnish sword."

"Ti, Duna melléki vérrokonaink, szintén meghallottátok csatakürtjeink távoli hangját és több ezer éves távollét után a magyar kard ismét ütésre emelkedett a finn testvérek védelmében."

- C. G. E. Mannerheim, in his Commander-in-Chief's Order of the Day no. 38, January 13th, 1945.

Gora, East Karelia, USSR
16 March 1945

Thin curls of smoke were rising from the stovepipes of the tents into the cold, pale winter sky. In the middle of the snow-covered spruces, the soldiers were finally enjoying an undisturbed rest in their bivouac. Most of the men had slept like logs for ten hours or more, and were showing no signs of having had enough. A portable Columbia gramophone in front of the field-dressing station's tent was quietly playing the gentle sounds of the Argentine tango, for which the men had an inextinguishable affection; Mercedes Simone's latest single "Otra Noche" had become the virtual theme song of the East Karelian campaign.

Captain Kémeri Nagy Imre and Lieutenant Salomon Klass had listened to the young corporal for almost an hour. The NCO had led his machine-gun squad to the camp last night, explaining that they had lost contact with their own company in the thick of the fight, as the entire unit had retreated before the onslaught of a massive Soviet force in the northeast. The two officers had no reason to doubt the report. For the past few days, the continuing Finnish advance had drawn an unexpected reaction from the Red Army on the Svir front, and the opponent which the men had already believed defeated had shown itself capable of counterattacking -- sometimes even quite fiercely and with good success.

"He says that the Russians have thrown back the entire regiment in the north," Klass translated to Nagy in German, which was the only common language that the two men shared. "In other words, they're about to outflank the Division, leaving us completely isolated. And they've brought their best new tanks to spearhead their counterattack, which is going to be made here, against our positions, exactly as we thought. But he doesn't believe that we should withdraw."

"What does he suggest?" Nagy asked angrily. "That we sit and wait here for the enemy to grind over us? Our communications are down, we have no artillery support, our anti-tank rifles are of no use against their new armour, and the rocket launchers that we managed to bring along can be counted with the fingers of one hand. What the hell can we do? Throw pine cones at them?"

Klass turned back to the NCO, who had listened to the German-language discussion between the two officers with visible interest. "Corporal -- I'm sorry, what was your name again?"

The man lit a cigarette and drew a long breath of smoke before answering. "Corporal Linna, Lieutenant, sir." His speech had a clear, steady Tavastian accent, which contributed to his cool, calm appearance. "And even though it's not my business to issue orders to you, I'd advise against leaving, either by the road or through the forest. You won't get away even if you try to, and if you try, they'll cut you down. This time, the Russians are faster than we are, and turning our backs on them means inviting them to pursuit. That's how they managed to shatter our unit, if you understand what I mean."

Klass nodded. He translated Linna's words to Nagy. "Based on what he's said, our promised reserves are likely to be diverted to fend off the attack in the north. We're alone and exposed and unlikely to get much help . . . but I think he's right. There's no use turning back now, after the whole long march, and sacrifice what little advantage we still have. Besides . . . " Klass paused. "Besides, we were given clear orders. We have no other choice but to stand our ground, and press on towards our objective."

Nagy shrugged. He understood exactly what Klass meant; all company commanders as well as battalion commanders had been ordered not to move from their positions under any circumstances. Thus, in the event of a defeat or an all-out retreat, the officers were expected to die at their posts.

"Wasn't there supposed to be air support by today?" Nagy asked.

"There was, but we still don't know if we will get any," Klass answered. "The word from HQ was that all our own squadrons were dispatched back to the Isthmus, and all we can rely on over here are the Poles. And they can't be everywhere at once." Colonel Wacław Macowski's 212th Dywizjon Bombowy of the Polish Air Force had arrived in Finland in December, and supported the Finnish operations in East Karelia ever since.

Klass turned back to the NCO. "Very well, then, Corporal." Linna concealed his amusement at the peculiar r-sound, which revealed the Swedish-speaking background of the Jewish lieutenant. "We believe that you're right; your words certainly match the information we've received so far from elsewhere. For now, there's a place for your men in my company. Take your squad to the third platoon, and prepare for action. Based on what you've told, it may come far sooner than expected." Klass smiled. "I suspect that before the day is over, there will be many opportunities for you to get payback. Believe me, this time, we won't have to run."

Linna nodded and tossed the stub of his cigarette away. "If you say so, Lieutenant." The corporal grabbed his submachinegun and made a casual salute at the Hungarian captain, who responded to the gesture in an orderly military manner. "See you at the tanner's rafters," Linna said.

"What did he say?" Nagy asked, a baffled look on his face.

Klass laughed. "I'm sorry, but a direct translation is impossible. In this case, I don't think that even the linguistic relationship would help."

* * *

The white March sun was covering the snowdrifts with a bright light, the harbinger of a thaw and an early spring. The soldiers, both Magyars and Finns, were waiting quietly in their positions, listening to the distant sound of gunfire which was slowly drawing closer to them. Their sense of the weather, their surroundings, and their conditions was gradually fading to the background, being replaced by the consciousness of the fact that they would soon experience one of the most unique sensations of the human mind: the threat of losing one's life.

The volunteers had lifted their Hungarian flag on one of the pines close to the trenches. Nagy was sitting beside the tree, observing the preparations of the anti-tank squads in the distance. The men were inspecting and distributing whatever weaponry they had managed to bring along; rocket launchers, old anti-tank rifles, satchel charges and the ubiquitous bottles of petrol which their Soviet adversaries had grimly nicknamed "Tanner's milkshakes". Further away, the machine-gun squads were taking up their positions, and Nagy noticed the Finnish NCO he had met earlier in the morning. Linna appeared to be a dutiful and responsible squad leader, and he was paying an almost pedantic attention to the machine-gun, together with his men. After he had finished the check-ups, he relaxed, lit a cigarette, pulled a small, brown-covered writing pad out of his backpack and started to write, apparently making notes of the scene around him. The sight reminded Nagy of his own past as a journalist, and brought back memories of the time before the war.

He remembered the general euphoria which had swept over Hungary the previous October. The sudden Soviet attack against Poland, followed by the equally sudden outbreak of hostilities between the USSR and Finland, had aroused the feelings of the Magyar nation. The sense of obligation and kinship towards Poland, the traditional ally of Hungary, as well as towards Finland, the distant northern sister nation, had led tens of thousands of young men all across the country to volunteer to fight against the Soviets. The spontaneous volunteer movement with both its overtly democratic as well as nationalistic overtones had worried Admiral Horthy, and at first, the government had attempted to curtail these activities. After it had proved impossible, the government had decided to endorse the movement, in an attempt to exercise at least some kind of control over the continuous flow of young men across the border to Poland. After November, all new volunteers had enlisted through the new, official recruitment network under Count Pál Teleki.

And they had made it to the front, by rail across Austria and Bavaria, with the full sanction of the fellow Catholic régimes of Schuschnigg and Ehrhardt - as expected, the Czechoslovaks had bluntly refused to allow any aid to Poland to pass over their territory. Most of the volunteers had joined the ranks of the Polish army immediately after their arrival in the country, and under the leadership of Brigadier General Kövacs Károly, they had formed the so-called "St. Stephen's Division" in General Kazimierz Sosnkowski's forces. But many had continued further, boarded the ships at Gdynia and Danzig headed for Finland, arriving at Helsinki just in time for the New Year festivities. On the Twelfth-Night, the three thousand Magyars who had reached Finland had been organized into a new Infantry Regiment 41 "Kossuth Lajos", supported by local Finnish pioneer and artillery units. The unit had become part of the 4th Division of the Army of Karelia, fighting north of Lake Ladoga.

For six long weeks, the Magyars had faced the enemy on the front lines, sharing the Finnish victories and defeats, and suffering the same hardships and privations as their northern comrades-in-arms. All of the volunteers had found life-long friends, and a few of them had married local girls; some Finnish women had proved extremely susceptible to the dark, exotic looks of these strange foreign soldiers. Many of the volunteers had already possessed strong democratic beliefs, which had strengthened still further during their service and experiences in the different political atmosphere of Finland. Consequently, several of them had, over the past months, openly stated that they would "no longer stand for dictatorship back home after fighting against it abroad." After their return, they were determined to transform the government of their homeland and lead Hungary towards a new, brighter future where the grievances of Trianon could be finally rectified.

Kémeri Nagy Imre, a native son of Érdely, was not one of these men. He did not like the Horthy régime any more than many of his countrymen on the front did, but his own personal vision of the alternate government which should replace it stood in stark contrast to all democratic ideals. Kémeri Nagy Imre was a member of Szálasi Ferenc's infamous and forbidden Arrow Cross movement, founded eight years before as an umbrella organization for the various militant and extreme right-wing Magyar political groups at home and abroad. The Arrow Cross had not only survived the aftershock caused by the fall of the Röhm régime in Germany, but even experienced a reinvigoration, partly fueled by the succesful example of Bołesław Piasecki's National Socialist Party in Poland. Compared to the farcical Polish "Duce" and his tragicomical blackshort minions, however, Szálasi's followers were far more fearsome. Their iron discipline, their racialist mysticism and their sense of an occult historical mission not only in Hungary and Europe, but in the entire world, had made them the terror of the ruling conservative-aristocratic clique in Budapest.

Before the war, Nagy had served the movement as the leader of the "Rongyosgárdá", a Magyar paramilitary organization within the Czechoslovak borders, which President Beneš had labeled as a terrorist group. But as soon as he had heard of the Soviet attack on Poland, he had left his post and signed up as a volunteer. What better way to build up his skills for the eventual battle against the enemies of Hungary than to participate in the defence of European civilization against Stalin's hordes? But as much as he loved Poland and the Polish nation -- who in Hungary did not? -- he had found the idea of fighting alongside so many Jewish soldiers far too repulsive. Instead, he had travelled to Finland, to fight together with the one people who were united to the Magyar nation by sacred, ancient tribal ties of blood, language, and race.

And ironically enough, of all the possible officers in the Finnish army, he had ended up dealing with one who was Jewish. And not just any Jew, but a Zionist who had resided in Palestine and fought in a Jewish military organization.

Lieutenant Salomon Klass had spent nine years as a volunteer in the Jewish settlements of northwestern Palestine, and placed the training he had received as the reserve officer of the Finnish Army in the service of the Haganah. During the fateful autumn of 1944, he had seen action as a squad leader in the newly-established Palmach in the bitter fight against Haj Amin al-Husseini's insurrectionaries, and witnessed the eventual suppression of the Mufti's rising by the Arab Legion. Shortly after the defeat of the rebellion, the war between Finland and the Soviet Union had broken out and Klass had left Palestine, returning to defend the land of his birth. He was a Jew, he was a Zionist, and he was ready to work, live, fight, and die for Eretz Israel -- but he was nonetheless also Finnish, and in spite of his experiences of petty anti-semitism in the Helsinki Civil Guard, he still felt a sense of obligation towards the small northern country where he had been born and raised.

Nagy had fought side by side with Klass for almost two months, and in the course of the campaign, the background of the lieutenant had continued to perplex him. He held a deep, principled contempt for his race, but he could not help but respect him as a soldier and a fellow officer. At times, he had wondered whether the war might be considered an example of a conflict between the ideologies of ethnic, national and racial self-identification against the Marxist ideologies of class and social distinction. And in this context, were the Zionist beliefs of the lieutenant all that different from Nagy's own convictions of the natural sublimity of the Magyar people? Weren't they both adherents of racial ideologies, fighting together against the Bolshevik aggression threatening their core beliefs? And if they prevailed this ordeal, wouldn't it inevitably prove both of their worldviews to be correct?

Nagy couldn't help but to think of the words he had heard from the leader of the Academic Karelia Society: "A nation that is willing to fight to the death for its survival cannot be defeated by any power -- whoever doubts this, should remember the history of the Jewish people." Was an actual confrontation between their races truly desirable, especially if it could never be won by either side? Since they had established a coexistence in war, could they not also find a coexistence in peace?

Klass, for his part, could not have cared less about Nagy's ideology, and maintained a cool, professional, but also polite attitude towards his Hungarian comrade-in-arms. As far as he himself was concerned, he was defending the independence of Finland against the tyranny of Stalin, plain and simple; he was willing to accept Nagy's participation as one of the prices of success, but he would not bother to justify himself to an anti-Semite. Curiously, in spite of their personal differences -- or perhaps because of them -- the two officers had managed to establish a perfectly functioning professional relationship, based on confidence, understanding and trust. Both Nagy and Klass sensed that today, this comradeship would perhaps be more important than ever before.

The rumbling, crashing sound of the advancing enemy was now very close to them, and the men could already hear the shouts of the Russian soldiers. Nagy noticed Klass giving a quiet signal to his men, who prepared swiftly and silently. The Jewish lieutenant grinned in delight. Six months ago, he had fought against the Mufti in the sunburnt hills of Palestine; now, he was fighting against Stalin in the snowy forests of East Karelia. Nagy saw the lieutenant's enthusiasm for battle, and felt the same emotion taking over himself. At that moment, he felt a complete sense of unity with Klass; in the battle, they were one, part of the same organic community of men and fighters, and they shared an unbreakable bond of sentiment, a mystical kinship of fellow soldiers that extended far beyond their races.

"For your freedom, and ours," Nagy thought to himself as he looked at the flag beside him, and raised his rifle. "A brother beside a brother."

* * *

Nagy lay in a shelter hole, trying to regain his sense of the events around him. The ground heaved and swayed under him; on his left, he heard Klass shouting orders and further away Linna's machine-gun steadily chattering against the attacking enemy. The battle had raged for over an hour, and the Soviets were relentlessly pressing on and on, with an intimidating confidence in their victory. Quickly, Nagy raised his head, and seeing the scene in front of him, cursed aloud.

"Goddamn it. Now we would need more rockets."

Six massive "Josef Stalin" tanks were rolling across the snowdrifts, their guns raking at the volunteers' positions. The tank crews were well aware that a reconnaissance force which had slogged through the forests could not have brought along more than a token force of heavy anti-tank weapons. The tanks drove brazenly towards the volunteers, firing freely at will, as if on a practice range. Nagy recognized the large, red Cyrillic letters "SHMYERT MANERGEIMU" -- "Death to Mannerheim" -- emblazoned on the white hull of the first armor, which was approaching his position fast. Hearing the clattering of the treads getting louder and louder, the Hungarian captain gritted his teeth together and grasped the satchel charge with grim determination; his chances were slim, but if he didn't act, the tank would roll over him in a few minutes.

Hearing a sudden, low humming from above, Nagy turned his eyes towards the sky and saw small, black shapes closing in from the southwest. As the shapes drew nearer, the sound of motors grew louder, the roar of an organ-like sound over the frozen landscape.

"Thirteen, with nine fighters behind them . . ." the Hungarian captain muttered. "It's too large a formation, it has to be the enemy . . . hey, wait a moment! They're Elks! They're Elks! The Poles are here!" In a moment's notice, the men had taken up the cry, and were already climbing out of the trenches and foxholes, dancing and waving their arms at the planes. "The Elks! The Elks are coming!"

The attacking Soviet soldiers had also recognized the red-and-white square emblems on the aircraft, and were now busily diving for cover. The tanks halted, their crews seemingly unsure what to do, and then shifted on reverse, while the leaders turned their machine-guns against the fast-approaching Polish planes. Sprays of bullets crackled in the snow-covered juniper branches as the fighters returned the fire and strafed the ground around the Soviet vehicles. Nagy saw the leader of the second tank take a hit and collapse motionless on the top of the turret. At the same time, the Polish bombers -- the famous "Elks" -- commenced a long, steady dive, the sirens in their motors screaming at a high pitch. The hit of the first bomb on the first tank, followed by an entire salvo of bombs and rockets, was greeted with loud cheers from the Finnish and Magyar soldiers on the ground.

Exultant from the feeling of survival and victory, Nagy sprang up, seized the Hungarian banner from the tree and waved it at the Polish aircraft. One of the fighter planes circling over the volunteers' positions noticed the green-red-white tricolour on the ground and responded by waving its wings before turning and diving once again towards the now-retreating Soviet soldiers. "Long live Poland! Long live Hungary! Long live Finland!" Nagy cried to his men. "Follow me! Remember 1849!" From a distance, he heard Klass shouting "Let's go, lads! Hack them down!" The men joined in the battle cry, and launched their attack.

* * *

The counterattack had lasted until the late afternoon, and brought them still further eastwards on the road. The arrival of the Polish aircraft had shattered the enemy offensive once and for all, and after the rest of the Division had reached the forward units, they had commenced an even more determined advance with full artillery and rocket support. In the course of the battle, Nagy had been wounded as a short burst from a light Soviet machine-gun had pierced his left calf. Linna's squad had quickly dragged him out of the danger zone, and the Finnish corporal had bandaged his leg before turning him over to the medics. "Take it with loose wrists," Linna had said to him as they had lifted him on the stretchers. "You'll be back on your legs soon enough."

Nagy had left the command of his battalion to Lieutenant Szátmary-Király, and expressed his gratitude to Klass, who had come to see him immediately after having heard that he had been wounded. Moved by the concern of his fellow officer, Nagy had shaken the hand of the Jewish lieutenant, and made Klass promise that he would come to see him again as soon as possible. Now the Magyar captain lay inside Doctor Gosztola's field-dressing tent; he felt the stinging scent of disinfectant all around him, saw the flickering light of Petromax shimmering from the corner of the otherwise dark tent, and heard the crackling sound of the radio from the doctor's table. Outside, the sound of the battle continued to dominate the surroundings, overwhelming everything.

The radio crackled again, as the doctor turned the volume louder. The tango had ended, and Nagy could hear the Finnish words clearly, though he didn't understand them. He heard the newscaster translating them into Swedish with an enthusiastic voice, and immediately afterwards, another reporter reciting the same in Hungarian, for the volunteers on the front.

"-- thus, after almost a fortnight of negotiations in Helsinki, the Soviet delegation has finally accepted the peace terms of the Finnish government today. Ambassador Sokolnicki has informed President Tanner that the government of the Polish Commonwealth will not oppose the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet forces will commence armistice and cease their fire on the Finnish forces at five o'clock. The Finnish forces and all other Warsaw Pact forces stationed in Finland will follow their example an hour later." The newscaster paused, her voice shaking with emotion. "The war is over. Our forces have prevailed. The victory is ours." Nagy turned his head on the pillow, and sighed in relief. The sound of the radio was once again fading under the noise of the battle, and he could barely hear the following speech by a Hungarian field pastor: "Hála Istennek; legyen béke és jóakarat a népek között új európánkban éss az egész világon . . . "

They had won, but the moment of triumph would only bring a new burden. For victory would also entail responsibility; responsibility for actions that would inevitably have to be accounted for someday. For as long as human history is written will one event always be the cause of all that which follows afterwards. And in the cause lies responsibility. He, in whose hands lies the power of cause, will also have to answer for the consequences. Consequences that will always demand a satisfaction . . .

The thunder continued outside the hospital tent. The very crust of the earth was shaking with the tremor. Blending into one mighty roar, the rumble of the artillery barrage and rocket fire travelled far in the clear, cold winter afternoon. Up to the very last second it welled forth as though proclaiming, drunk with its own power, not only a condemnation of those who had lost, but also of those who had triumphed.