John Corliss Cranmer was by no means a coward; he stared, cried aloud, then ran indoors, seizing the first two weapons which came to hand—a shotgun and hunting knife which lay in sheath in a cartridged belt across hook of the hall-tree. The knife was ten inches in length and razor-keen.
Cranmer rushed out again. He saw an indecent fluid something which as yet he had not had time to classify—lumped into a six-foot-high center before his very eyes! It looked like one of the micro-organisms he had studied! One grown to frightful dimensions. An amoeba!
There, some minutes suffocated in the rubbery folds—yet still apparent beneath the glistening ooze of this monster—were two bodies.
They were dead. He knew it. Nevertheless he attacked the flowing, senseless monster with his knife. Shot would do no good. And he found that even the deep, terrific slashes made by his knife closed together in a moment and healed. The monster was invulnerable to ordinary attack!
A pair of pseudopods sought out his ankles, attempting to bring him low. Both of these he severed—and escaped. Why did he try? He did not know. The two whom he had sought to rescue were dead, buried under folds of this horrid thing he knew to be his own discovery and fabrication.
Then it was that revulsion and insanity came upon him.
There ended the story of John Corliss Cranmer, save for one hastily scribbled paragraph—evidently written at the time Rori had seen him atop the wall.
May we not supply with assurance the intervening steps?
Cranmer was known to have purchased a whole pen of hogs a day or two following the tragedy. These animals were never seen again. During the time the wall was being constructed is it not reasonable to assume that he fed the giant organism within—to keep it quiet? His scientist brain must have visualized clearly the havoc and horror which could be wrought by the loathsome thing if it ever were driven by hunger to flow away from the Lodge and prey upon the country-side!
With the wall once in place, he evidently figured that starvation or some other means which he could supply would kill the thing. One of the means had been made by setting fire to several piles of the disgorged timbers; probably this had no effect whatever.
The amoeba was to accomplish still more destruction. In the throes of hunger it threw its gigantic, formless strength against the walls from the inside; then every edible morsel within was house assimilated, the logs, rafters and other fragments being worked out through the contractile vacuole.
During some of its last struggles, undoubtedly, the side wall of brick was weakened—not to collapse, however, until the giant amoeba no longer could take advantage of the breach. In final death lassitude, the amoeba stretched itself out in a thin layer over the ground. There it succumbed, though there is no means of estimating how long a time intervened.
The last paragraph in Cramer’s notebook, scrawled so badly that it is possible some words I have not deciphered correctly, reads as follows:
In my work I have found the means of creating a monster. The unnatural thing, in turn, has destroyed my work and those whom I held dear. It is in vain that I assure myself of innocence of spirit. Mine is the crime of presumption. Now, as expedition—worthless though that may be—I give myself…
It is better not to think of that last leap, and the struggle of an insane man in the grip of the dying monster.