"Damn," thought Bill. "I wish I were a scientist right now instead of a know-nothing artist!"
He touched the dog with his toe. It was perfectly preserved, as though it had died just a few hours before. It was rigid, but it had not started to decompose.
"Carol, are we crazy? Is this some dream, or do you believe we are looking at the ejection chamber of the Russian satellite?" he asked, doubting even what he was saying.
"I don't know." Carol was wide-eyed. "But what shall we do now? We'd better contact the authorities immediately!"
Bill tried to keep reason from overcoming his disbelief of their discovery.
"But how, Carol? Our radio transmitter isn't working. It won't till morning. And there's certainly no other way to communicate with anyone. We can't even take the boat anywhere with the speed we're making. We'll have to wait till morning."
"What shall we do with the dog?" asked Carol. "Do you think we ought to bury it?"
"Lord no, Carol. The body of the dog will be extremely valuable to science. We've got to get someone here as quickly as possible." Bill was trying to steady his nerves.
"Let's go back and try to raise someone on the radio. Let's try again, it may work," called Carol, running in the direction of the boat. Bill followed her. They stumbled on the craggy rocks and exposed sea grape roots, but together in the darkness they struck out for the boat.
Bill was first aboard and went directly to the ship-to-shore radio.
"Try the Nassau marine operator first," Carol panted as she clambered aboard. "He's a lot closer to us than Miami."
As the receiver warmed up, static filled the cabin. Bill depressed the transmitting button. "This is the Yacht Seven Seas calling the Nassau Marine operator," he called into the phone. Only static answered.
"Bill!" Carol said in sudden inspiration. "Give a May Day. Try every channel with a May Day. If anyone picks up a May Day call you'll get emergency action."
"May Day, May Day! This is the Yacht Seven Seas. Come in anyone!" Bill called urgently into the mouthpiece. He switched to the Coast Guard channel, then to the Miami Marine operators channel. Only static filled the cabin. No welcome voice acknowledged their distress call. Bill flipped the switch desperately to the two ship-to-ship channels. "May Day! Come in any boat!" Still static. Nothing but static.
It was night. A night without a moon. The island loomed dark against the black waters. The dark was relieved only by a small fire burning at the native settlement a half-mile down the coast, and the cabin lights of the Seven Seas.
"What will we do now?" Carol tried to sound unconcerned, but her voice sounded thin and wavering.
"I don't know what we can do, except wait until daybreak. I'm sure we can get a signal out then," Bill replied, calmly as he could. He hoped she couldn't hear the pounding of his heart.
"What about the dog?" she asked. "Will it be all right there? Should we bring it aboard?"
"We better leave everything untouched. Our best bet is to get some sleep and place our call as soon as day breaks."
Neither of them could eat much supper and after putting the dishes away, they made up their bunks and climbed in. After a very few minutes, Bill handed a lighted cigarette across the narrow chasm between the bunks.
"I can't sleep. My head is spinning. Do you really believe that's what we've found?" Carol's voice sounded small.
"Yes, I do. I believe we've found the Russian ejection unit, complete with the dog Laika and instrumentation."
They lay quietly, the glow of two cigarettes occasionally reflecting on the bulkhead. Bill finally arose.
"I can't think of another thing but what's sitting out there on Little Harbor Cay!" He walked up to the main cabin and switched on the RDF. For a few minutes there was music, and then: "Flash! The United States Government has just officially released the news that at 10:09 p.m. Eastern Standard Time the U. S. Satellite ejection chamber was successfully returned to earth at the designated location. This was some six hours earlier than expected. The chamber, into which Robert Joy voluntarily had himself strapped, has landed at an undisclosed site and is being raced under heavy guard to the Walter Reed Hospital at Washington, D. C. There is no hope that Joy is still living. Word has just been released by Dr. James R. Killian that instruments measuring Joy's pulse rate indicated three days ago that all Joy's bodily processes ceased to function at that time. We repeat, all hope of the survival of Robert Joy is now abandoned as the result of scientific data just released by Dr. Killian.
"The satellite is being brought intact to Walter Reed Hospital and leading physiologists and scientists are racing to the scene to be on hand for the opening of the unit scheduled for 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Further reports will be given as received. This station will remain on the air all night. Stay tuned for further developments. We repeat, the U. S. satellite's ejection chamber, containing the first human being ever to go into space, has been successfully returned to earth as predicted, though all hope has been abandoned for the survival of Robert Joy, the man in the moon. The chamber will be opened for scientific study tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for further news."
Bill tuned down the music that ensued and returned to his bunk. "You heard that, Carol?" He knew she wasn't asleep.
"Yes. And it makes this whole thing that we've found seem more plausible. I've been lying here trying to make myself believe it's some sort of dream, but it isn't. If we could only ..." Carol's voice faded softly into the night.
There was absolutely nothing they could do. Nothing but lie there and smoke and pretend to sleep. They didn't talk much, and keenly felt the terrible frustration of their enforced silence on the ship-to-shore. They heard several more news reports and several analyses of the news, but nothing new was added throughout the night. The radio only reiterated that the ejection unit had been recovered, that hope had faded for Joy's survival and that the chamber was to be opened in the morning as soon as scientists had convened in Washington.
Dawn, long in coming, broke about 4:30. With the lifting of the dark, the sun spots which interfered with radio reception miraculously lifted also. Bill and Carol sat next to the ship-to-shore and turned it on. This time they heard the reassuring hum of the transmitter, not drowned out by the awful static of the night before. Bill switched to the Coast Guard channel.
"May Day. May Day. This is the Seven Seas calling the United States Coast Guard. Come in please!"
And a voice, almost miraculously, answered, "This is the U. S. Coast Guard. Come in Seven Seas. What is your position? Come in Seven Seas."
"This is the yacht Seven Seas back to the Coast Guard. We are located at the Berry Islands at Little Harbor Cay. We want to report the discovery of what we believe to be the second Russian satellite."
"This is the Coast Guard to the Seven Seas. Do we read you correctly? Are you reporting discovery of the Russian satellite? Please clarify. Over." A stern voice crackled through the speaker.
"Last evening on entering the harbor here we saw an object fall to the ground. On inspection, it was a metal box which was broken apart on impact. In it are electronic equipment and the body of a small dog. Over." Bill tried to be calm and succinct.
"Coast Guard to Seven Seas. Is your boat in distress? Over."
"No, no! Did you read me about the Russian satellite?" asked Bill, impatience in his voice.
"Will you state your name and address. Will you state the master's full name, and the call letters and registration of your craft. Over," crackled the voice from the speaker.
"Oh my lord, we're not going to have red tape at a time like this, are we?" Carol asked exasperatedly.
"This is Bill Anderson of Ft. Lauderdale, owner and skipper. Our call letters are William George 3176, Coast Guard registration #235-46-5483. What are your instructions regarding dog satellite?"
"Please stand by."
Bill and Carol stared at each other while the voice on the radio was silent.
"This is the United States Coast Guard calling the yacht Seven Seas."
"Seven Seas standing by."
"We wish to remind you that it is illegal and punishable by fine and or imprisonment to issue false reports to the Coast Guard. We are investigating your report and wish you to stand by."
"Investigating our report?" Bill fairly shouted into the phone. "Good God, man! The thing to investigate is here, laying in three pieces on the middle of Little Harbor Cay. This is no joke." Despite the emotion in Bill's voice, the answer came back routine and cold, "Please stand by. We will call you. Do not, we repeat, do not make further contact anywhere. Please stand by. Coast Guard standing by with the Seven Seas."
"Seven Seas standing by," shouted Bill, almost apoplectic, his face reddening in anger.
"Now what? It looks like they're going to take their time in believing us. At least until they find out who we are and if we're really here," said Carol.
Bill paced the deck in frustration. Suddenly he decided, "Carol, you stick with the radio. I'm going ashore again and take another look at our Muttnik. It seems so incredible that I'm not even sure of what I saw last night. Once they believe us they'll want to know as much about it as we can tell them." Bill hurriedly put on his swim suit and heard Carol shout as he dove overboard, "Hurry back, Bill. I don't like you leaving me here alone!"
Bill swam with sure even strokes to the shore where they had gone last night. The water felt cool. It soothed his nerves which jangled in the excitement of the discovery and in the anger at the disbelieving authorities. He reached shallow water and waded towards shore.
Suddenly he stopped dead, his ankles in five inches of water. His eyes stared ahead in disbelief. His brain was numbed. Only his eyes were alive, staring, wide in horror. Finally his brain pieced together the image that his vision sent to it. Pieced it together but made no comprehension of it.
His brain told him that there was a blanket of fur laying unevenly twenty feet back from the shore line. A blanket of yellow and black fur ... covering the earth, covering mangrove roots, fitted neatly around the bent palm tree trunks, lying over the rocks that had cut his feet last night ... smothering, suffocating ... hugging the earth.
Bill shut his eyes, and still the vision kept shooting to his brain. All yellow and black and fuzzy, with trees or a tall mangrove bush or a sea grape vine sticking up here and there.
He opened his eyes and wanted to run, for the scene was still there. It hadn't disappeared as a nightmare disappears when you wake up. Thick yellow and black fur lay on the ground like dirty snow. Covering everything low, hugging the base of taller things.
"Run!" his mind told him. Yet he stood rooted to the spot, staring at the carpet of fur near him. It was only ten feet away. Ten feet? His every muscle jumped. The lock that had held his muscles and brain in a tight vice gave loose and a flood of realization hit him. "It's moving!" he realized in horror. "It's growing!"
As he watched, slowly, slowly, as the petals of a morning glory unfold before the eye, the yellow and black fur carpet stretched itself in ever-increasing perimeter.
He saw it approach a rock near the beach. The mind, when confronted with a huge shock, somehow concentrates itself on a small detail. Perhaps it tries to absorb itself in a small thing because the whole thing is too great to comprehend all at once. So with Bill's mind. He saw the yellow and black fur grow toward the rock. It seemed to ooze around it and then up and over the top of it. Bill saw, when it reached the top of the rock, that it dropped a spiny tendril to the ground. Like a root, the tendril buried itself into the earth below the jutting rock, and slowly the rock was covered with the flowing fur.
Bill's thoughts sped ahead of his reason. The dog. The dog ... growing like a plant. Its hide covering the ground, putting out roots, suffocating everything, smothering everything, growing, growing.
With almost superhuman effort, he turned his back on the awful sight and swam desperately out to the Seven Seas.
"Bill, what's happened?" cried Carol, when she saw his white and terrified face.
"Carol ... the dog ... it must have had some cosmic reaction to its cellular structure ... some cancerous reaction ... when the chamber broke open and the cells were exposed to our atmosphere again it started some action ... started to grow ... doesn't stop growing ... it's horrible ..." Bill's words were disjointed and hysterical.
Carol stared at him. "Bill, what are you saying?" Bill pointed mutely to the shore. Carol rushed to the cockpit. She stared at the island. She ran back to the cabin where Bill was sitting, holding his head in his hands. She grabbed the binoculars from the bookshelf and turned them to the island.
"Bill! It's ... oh no! The whole island looks as though it's covered with ... fur!" She screamed.
Bill grabbed the binoculars and ranged the island with them. A quarter of a mile down he could see small figures in the water, floundering around, climbing aboard the two fishing smacks. All around, the black and yellow mounds of fur carpeted the pretty green island with a soft rug of yellow and black.
"Get the Coast Guard, Carol!"
"They called back while you were gone. They're sending a plane over immediately."
"Call them, Carol!" Bill shouted at her. "Don't you realize what this could mean? Don't you realize that something, only God knows what, has happened to the cellular structure of this animal, has turned it into a voracious plant-like thing that seems to grow and grow once it hits our atmosphere? Don't you realize that today they're going to open that satellite, that other one, in Washington? Suppose this is what happens when living tissue is exposed to cosmic rays or whatever is up there. Don't you see what could happen?" Bill was hoarse from fright and shouting. "Smother everything, grow and grow and smother ..."
Carol was at the ship-to-shore. "What time is it, Carol?"
"I don't know. 5:30 I guess."
"They plan to open the ejection chamber at six. We've got to tell them what happened here before they open it! Hurry with the damned Coast Guard!"
"May Day! May Day! Coast Guard come in. This is the Seven Seas. Come in and hurry!"
"Coast Guard to the Seven Seas. Come in."
Bill grabbed the phone. "Listen carefully," he said in a quiet determined voice. "This is God's own truth. I repeat: This is God's own truth. The remains of the dog we discovered last night have started to grow. It is growing as we look at it. It has covered the entire island as far as we can see, with fur. Stinking yellow and black fur. We've got to get word to Washington before they open up the satellite. The same thing could happen there. Do you understand? I must get in touch with Washington. Immediately!"
There was no mistaking the urgency and near-panic in Bill's voice. The Coast Guard returned with "We understand you Seven Seas. We will clear a line directly to Dr. Killian in Washington. Stand by."
With his hand shaking, Bill turned on the standard broadcast band of the portable RDF. A voice cut in: "... latest reports from Walter Reed General Hospital where the first human-manned satellite ejection chamber has just been opened. All leading physiologists and physicists were assembled at the hospital by midnight last night and plans to open the ejection chamber at 6 a.m. this morning were moved up. The chamber was opened at 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time today. Our first report confirmed that volunteer moon traveller, the man in the moon, Robert Joy, was no longer alive. Hope had been abandoned for him some 80 hours previous, when recording instruments on his body processes indicated no reactions. Of scientific curiosity is the fact that though dead for more than three days, his body is in a perfect state of preservation ...
"Flash! We interrupt this special newscast for a late bulletin: The body of Robert Joy has begun to shoot out unexplained appendages, like rapidly growing cancerous growths. His integument appears to be enlarging, growing away from his body ..."
"Hello Seven Seas," broke in the ship-to-shore. "We are still trying to locate Dr. Killian...."
By Jack G. Huekels
Professor Carbonic was diligently at work in his spacious laboratory, analyzing, mixing and experimenting. He had been employed for more than fifteen years in the same pursuit of happiness, in the same house, same laboratory, and attended by the same servant woman, who in her long period of service had attained the plumpness and respectability of two hundred and ninety pounds.
"Mag Nesia," called the professor. The servant's name was Maggie Nesia--Professor Carbonic had contracted the title to save time, for in fifteen years he had not mounted the heights of greatness; he must work harder and faster as life is short, and eliminate such shameful waste of time as putting the "gie" on Maggie.
"Mag Nesia!" the professor repeated.
The old woman rolled slowly into the room.
"Get rid of these and bring the one the boy brought today."
He handed her a tray containing three dead rats, whose brains had been subjected to analysis.
"Yes, Marse," answered Mag Nesia in a tone like citrate.
The professor busied himself with a new preparation of zinc oxide and copper sulphate and sal ammoniac, his latest concoction, which was about to be used and, like its predecessors, to be abandoned.
Mag Nesia appeared bringing another rat, dead. The professor made no experiments on live animals. He had hired a boy in the neighborhood to bring him fresh dead rats at twenty-five cents per head.
Taking the tray he prepared a hypodermic filled with the new preparation. Carefully he made an incision above the right eye of the carcass through the bone. He lifted the hypodermic, half hopelessly, half expectantly. The old woman watched him, as she had done many times before, with always the same pitiful expression. Pitiful, either for the man himself or for the dead rat. Mag Nesia seldom expressed her views.
Inserting the hypodermic needle and injecting the contents of the syringe, Professor Carbonic stepped back.
Prof. Carbonic Makes a Great Discovery "Great Saints!" His voice could have been heard a mile. Slowly the rat's tail began to point skyward; and as slowly Mag Nesia began to turn white. Professor Carbonic stood as paralyzed. The rat trembled and moved his feet. The man of sixty years made one jump with the alacrity of a boy of sixteen, he grabbed the enlivened animal, and held it high above his head as he jumped about the room.
Spying the servant, who until now had seemed unable to move, he threw both arms around her, bringing the rat close to her face. Around the laboratory they danced to the tune of the woman's shrieks. The professor held on, and the woman yelled. Up and down spasmodically on the laboratory floor came the two hundred and ninety pounds with the professor thrown in.