When Dr. Skull came back to his office that morning, the dust was unusually thick on his desk. He looked about him with oddly young brown eyes. The bust of Galen on his bookshelf, the books themselves......
When Dr. Skull came back to his office that morning, the dust was
unusually thick on his desk. He looked about him with oddly young
brown eyes. The bust of Galen on his bookshelf, the books
themselves... No, Mrs. Timiny had not been in to clean, which was
strange, for she had not missed a morning before in six years.
Absently, then, Dr. Skull employed the black sleeve of his neat and
ancient coat to rub the city grime from his desk top.
The old man frowned. He had seen much dust that morning during his
calls, dust that lay unheeded in houses where misery had ended all
thought of daily chores. He thought too, while his back straightened
as against some invisible burden, that thus it must have been at the
destruction of other cities, with the dust at last burying outraged
ruins from the eyes of the future.
And now there was dust in his own office... Suddenly he wheeled about,
at the whoosh of a falling weight hurtling through the half-open door.
A cry died in the doctor's throat--for the thing that lay inside his
threshold had once been a little boy.
He was Michael Timiny, one of the doctor's great army of godsons. Four
years ago, Skull had brought him into the world--and now, with a great
icy blast of outraged sorrow, the doctor knew he would see little
Michael out of the world. One of the child's eyes was a gaping red
hole; the left arm, clawed and tooth-marked, hung limp and gory at his
side, and in at least one spot, through that torn little linen suit,
Skull could see how the vitals had broken out of the skin.
"Michael!" He thought he must be screaming, but the name came out in a
gentle whisper, as he lifted the moaning child and carried him to a
couch. "Michael, boy.... Who--what?" And then he clenched his lips
against further questioning.
He guessed what the answer would be, if the child could still make an
answer. He had seen other mangled human wrecks in the past fortnight,
heard a dozen horrible, unbelievably shocking accusations.
It wasn't only he. It was everyone in New York who had eyes to see.
This was new, this attack on the threshold of a doctor's office--but
then, some of the doctors had gone mad themselves, turning, bare-
toothed and blood-lusting, on the very patients they had been called
in to help.