The Soulless Entity can be found in Magazine Entry


IT is only in the past few years that we have learned how much like a very complicated bit of medianism we are. As far as our physical processes are concerned there is nothing mysterious or metaphysical at all; and many scientists confidently assert that artificial organs can be installed to work as well or even better than our natural ones. Thus artificial hearts have been used successfully on animals and their application to human beings is predicted next.

But it is a far cry from the substitution of physical organs to the use of artificial means of stimulating brain impulses. Except for our purely abstract thoughts our brains work because of the stimuli sent to them through nerves. Each of the hundreds of thou-sands-of nerve ends has the possibility when stimulated of sending a message to the brain to do or not to do some act. But suppose it were possible to send such stimuli artificially and by appropriate means to even control the response of the brain. Then we have a complete control over a man's mind and body and perhaps over his—soul! That is the theme of this very unusual story.

MARVIN Martinoff was what might have been termed a contriver of queer contraptions. His home. his laboratory and his office were cluttered with clockwork, radio. and motor-operated jim-cracks and his life was filled with plans for more and more odd mechanical devices. Some of the machines had earned vast sums tor the inventor. Others were useless except as proofs of the workability of Martinoff's weird theories.

If it had not been for his robots which were among the world's greatest laborsaving machines, Martinoff probably would have been sent down as a crank. but there was no gainsaying his genius. He was regarded with a degree of respect and awe by others in his field.

That a grim and frightful tragedy lurked in the junk-like clutter of Martinoff's surroundings was suspected by no one. Nor did anybody even dream the strange developments which were to result from his experiments until one stormy night in September.

Yet it is not so strange that fate should play pranks when given such a heterogeneous moss of material to work with. Indeed, fate and destiny must have been sorely tempted by the clutter of these weird devices which seemed half human and half machine.

Like the planets, Martinoff's habits were so regular that his movements could be predicted accurately in advance. Each day he worked in his laboratory and shop from eleven A. M. until five. Each night after dinner he worked at his home from seven until heaven knows when. He was at his office only by appointment and these business appointments were few—for they usually bored him beyond expression.

His only close associate, Dr. Bliss Farnum, was strikingly in contrast to him. Farnum was a surgeon who worked in blood, nerves, bone, tissue and muscle, while Martinoff was working in metal. Dr. Farnum had a flair for radio and was quite an adept in this new science, which fact had brought the two together in a fast enduring friend-ship.

When the dread thing happened that forms the basis of this strange story, Martinoff was alone in his home.

He had just completed a new mechanical man. Fashioned of inert material, it was quite human in shape and appearance: It had a wax face. blinking electric eyes and a phonographic voice which could be amplified to an altogether inhuman volume.

On that fateful rainy night the metal monster stood back near the walls, its metal arms extended as if in greeting, its electric orbs blinking. Martinoff sat at his desk opposite browsing over ancient scientific lore. The robot, controlled by radio impulse, could count, add, subtract, multiply, recite the Lord's prayer and do a good day's manual labor; but, as has been said, on this particular night it simply stood there with its hack toward the wall.

It was in full tune and its electric eyes appeared to be staring banefully at the fullness of Martinoff's throat. On the table was a long, keen bladed Turkish knife, used by Martinoff to open his mail.

Such is the scene in Martinoffs study as it was reconstructed after sudden and bloody murder had been done.

OUTSIDE the rain fell in sheets and dripped dismally from the gabled eaves and turrets of the old fashioned house. The wind moaned and whistled.

Otto, Martinoff's personal attendant—the only servant on duty that night—said later that he had been obsessed by an uncanny fear all evening and at times had felt like rushing screaming from the quaint old house. He told this story tearfully, haltingly, and it had the ring of truth despite its almost unbelievable character. When questioned by detectives he said: "I loved Martinoff with a devotion that I cannot describe though he hardly said a word to me from one week's end to the other. He seemed to be working; but he was so good to me."

"In what way?" asked n brusque sergeant of detectives.

"Well," replied Otto, with a wistfulness in his voice, "when I fled from Russia and arrived here penniless I sought him out because his father and mine had been neighbors in Moscow.

"He took me in and paid me well. He made it possible for me to attend school and learn the language and allowed me at times to assist him in fashioning mechanical things, a work I loved.

"Sometimes he would upbraid me for stupidity in fashioning metal parts, but always with a kindly, fatherly air. Invariably he would reward me after such scoldings with an extra dollar or two. I had everything I wanted. I could draw on the bank for any sums necessary for my own use or for the use of the house. But I did not take advantage of this, I assure you."

"Outside of bawling you out what did he ever say to you that might throw light on this case?" asked the detective.

"Very little. Once, after calling me dumb, he said, 'It's only the brainiest men who know how really dumb they are.' Another favorite remark of his was, 'Otto, a man should be big enough to be little enough to be big.' He admitted the remark was not original, sir—"

"Never mind all that boloney," broke in the detective, "tell us just what happened the night he was killed."

"It was a miserable night, "Otto began tearfully. "I had been nervous and upset. He had left word that he was not to be disturbed and I was just aching for conversation. It was so dreary. I get that way sometimes—"

"Will you tell us just what happened?" exploded the detective with an oath.

"I was telling you sir, I—"

"Well then, go ahead. Martinoff was...

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