The Midget From the Island can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



The Midget From the Island

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

By H. G. Winter

Garth Howard, prey to half the animals of the forest fights valiantly to regain his lost five feet of size.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His assistant said nothing.

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

A few minutes later, nude, he jumped onto the laboratory table. He presented a perfect specimen of well-developed manhood as he stood before the door of the chamber. His smooth skin, under which the rounded muscles rolled e...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.