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The Battle Of The Monsters
by [?]

Extract from hospital record of the case of John Anderson, patient of Dr. Brown, Ward 3, Room 6:

August 3. Arrived at hospital in extreme mental distress, having been bitten on wrist three hours previously by dog known to have been rabid. Large, strong man, full-blooded and well nourished. Sanguine temperament. Pulse and temperature higher than normal, due to excitement. Cauterized wound at once (2 P.M.) and inoculated with antitoxin.

As patient admits having recently escaped, by swimming ashore, from lately arrived cholera ship, now at quarantine, he has been isolated and clothing disinfected. Watch for symptoms of cholera.

August 3, 6 P.M. Microscopic examination of blood corroborative of Metschnikoff’s theory of fighting leucocytes. White corpuscles gorged with bacteria.

He was an amphibian, and, as such, undeniably beautiful; for the sunlight, refracted and diffused in the water, gave his translucent, pearl-blue body all the shifting colors of the spectrum. Vigorous and graceful of movement, in shape he resembled a comma of three dimensions, twisted, when at rest, to a slight spiral curve; but in traveling he straightened out with quick successive jerks, each one sending him ahead a couple of lengths. Supplemented by the undulatory movement of a long continuation of his tail, it was his way of swimming, good enough to enable him to escape his enemies; this, and riding at anchor in a current by his cable-like appendage, constituting his main occupation in life. The pleasure of eating was denied him; nature had given him a mouth, but he used it only for purposes of offense and defense, absorbing his food in a most unheard-of manner–through the soft walls of his body.

Yet he enjoyed a few social pleasures. Though the organs of the five senses were missing in his economy, he possessed an inner sixth sense which answered for all and also gave him power of speech. He would converse, swap news and views, with creatures of his own and other species, provided that they were of equal size and prowess; but he wasted no time on any but his social peers. Smaller creatures he pursued when they annoyed him; larger ones pursued him.

The sunlight, which made him so beautiful to look at, was distasteful to him; it also made him too visible. He preferred a half-darkness and less fervor to life’s battle–time to judge of chances, to figure on an enemy’s speed and turning-circle, before beginning flight or pursuit. But his dislike of it really came of a stronger animus–a shuddering recollection of three hours once passed on dry land in a comatose condition, which had followed a particularly long and intense period of bright sunlight. He had never been able to explain the connection, but the awful memory still saddened his life.

And now it seemed, as he swam about, that this experience might be repeated. The light was strong and long-continued, the water uncomfortably warm, and the crowd about him denser–so much so as to prevent him from attending properly to a social inferior who had crossed his bow. But just as his mind grasped the full imminence of the danger, there came a sudden darkness, a crash and vibration of the water, then a terrible, rattling roar of sound. The social inferior slipped from his mouth, and with his crowding neighbors was washed far away, while he felt himself slipping along, bounding and rebounding against the projections of a corrugated wall which showed white in the gloom. There was an unpleasant taste to the water, and he became aware of creatures in his vicinity unlike any he had known,–quickly darting little monsters about a tenth as large as himself,–thousands of them, black and horrid to see, each with short, fish-like body and square head like that of a dog; with wicked mouth that opened and shut nervously; with hooked flippers on the middle part, and a bunch of tentacles on the fore that spread out ahead and around. A dozen of them surrounded him menacingly; but he was young and strong, much larger than they, and a little frightened. A blow of his tail killed two, and the rest drew off.