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"Ooze" (1923) by Anthony M. Rud, with Notes and Review, up on Fantastic Worlds - jordan179
December 5th, 2014
11:09 am


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"Ooze" (1923) by Anthony M. Rud, with Notes and Review, up on Fantastic Worlds
© 1923
Anthony M. Rud

In the heart of a second-growth piney-woods jungle of southern Alabama, a region sparsely settled by backwoods blacks and Cajans  — that queer, half-wild people descended from Acadian exiles of the middle eighteenth century (1) — stands a strange, enormous ruin.

Interminable trailers of Cherokee rose, white-laden during a single month of spring, have climbed the heights of its three remaining walls. Palmetto fans rise knee high above the base. A dozen scattered live oaks, now belying their nomenclature because of choking tufts of gray, Spanish moss and two-foot circlets of mistletoe parasite which have stripped bare of foliage the gnarled, knotted limbs, lean fantastic beards against the crumbling brick.

Immediately beyond, where the ground becomes soggier and lower — dropping away hopelessly into the tangle of dogwood, holly, poison sumac and pitcher plants that is Moccasin Swamp — undergrowth of ti-ti and annis has formed a protecting wall impenetrable to all save the furtive ones. Some few outcasts utilize the stinking depths of that sinister swamp, distilling “shinny” of “pure cawn” liquor for illicit trade (2).

Tradition states that this is the case, at least — a tradition which antedates that of the premature ruin by many decades. I believe it, for during evenings intervening between investigations of the awesome spot I often was approached as a possible customer by woodbillies who could not fathom how anyone dared venture near without plenteous fortification of liquid courage.

I know “shinny,” therefore I did not purchase it for personal consumption. A dozen times I bought a quart or two, merely to establish credit among the Cajans, pouring away the vile stuff immediately into the sodden ground. It seemed then that only through filtration and condensation of their dozens of weird tales regarding “Daid House” could I arrive at understanding of the mystery and weight of horror hanging about the place.

Certain it is that out of all the superstitious cautioning, head-wagging and whispered nonsensities I obtained only two indisputable facts. The first was that no money, and no supporting battery of ten-gauge shotguns loaded with chilled shot, could induce either Cajan or darky of the region to approach within five hundred yards of that flowering wall! The second fact I shall dwell upon later.

Perhaps it would be as well, as I am only a mouthpiece in this chronicle, to relate in brief why I came to Alabama on this mission (3).

What is the narrator's mission?  Will he succeed or fail?  Find out, on Fantastic Worlds!

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[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)

Say, Jordan -

What was the story, written sometime in the 1930s to maybe 1941, where an adventurer lost in the Sahara desert and facing nasty death from Bedoins or exposure, finds a huge glowing egg-shaped artifact that takes him in and sends him to invade a weird extra-dimensional world of crazy colors and angles - is this ringing a bell?  To make it work he is cloaked in a sensory deception that works both ways, so now he's in a neo-classical city that lacks any realistic detail, but saves it all for the priestess he encounters, garbed in steel robes (!) who comes across as a healthy blend of Zooey Deschanel and Bettie Page…

Turns out the invasion doesn't go as planned, but he and the priestess already have Higher Priorities, even when she is revealed to really be a giant rubbery tadpole with one giant eye atop its head…

As usual, I remember everything but the title and author.
[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2014 02:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Say, Jordan -

Hah.  Remembering everything but, is good enough in the age of the Internet.

C L Moore, “The Bright Illusion,” 1934


And then without warning the darkness broke, and he found
his feet upon solid ground without any hint of jar. He was
simply standing upon a marble pavement under a clear blue
sky and looking out over a breathstopping vista of
world-city, dropping away in terrace below shining terrace
to a distant skyline, out and away in broadening tiers.
Light shimmered dazzlingly upon faraway steel figures moving
through the streets below, away and away until they were no
more than tiny pinpricks of shimmer on the horizon's edge.
From each broad circular terrace a marble ramp led down to
the next beneath, and over these the steel-bright people
were swarming in busy hordes.

And Dixon knew, even as he stared with caught breath at the
magnificence of it, that in reality he stood at the apex of
a city of madness that reeled away below him in tier after
crazy tier, a nightmare of meaningless angles and raving
color, through whose streets things writhing and dreadful
and acrawl with living hues were flashing with movements of
blurring speed. All this splendor was a veil across his
eyes. What unknowable activities were really taking place
below? On what nameless errands were these busy crowds
bound? Then a little sound at his side turned him from the
dizzy thoughts tormenting his brain, and he flashed an
abrupt glance sidewise, alert for danger. Then he caught his
breath and stared.

She was slim as a sword blade in her steel robe, standing
under the mighty tower of the black pillar, and she was
lovelier than a dream. Her hair swung in black pageboy curls
to her shoulders, and from under the darkness of it eyes as
blue as steel met his unwaveringly. She was all bright metal
to his first glance, steel-molded curves of her under the
armored robe, steel lights upon her burnished hair,
steel-bright eyes shining. All steel and brightness — but
Dixon saw that her mouth was soft and colored like hot
embers. And for an instant he wanted to burst into crazy
song. It was an inexplicable feeling that he had never known
before, a heady delight in being alive. But even through the
exultation, he knew that he looked upon an illusion. He knew
that she was a faceless, crawling thing, without sex,
without any remotest kinship to anything he knew. And yet
this illusion was very lovely and —

She was looking up at him with startled eyes, and now she
spoke, a little breathlessly, in a sweet, tinkling voice.
"You — you have come? Oh, whence have you come?" And he
thought that she was striving hard not to believe something
which she wanted with all her soul to think true.

There was no answer he could give. He glanced around
helplessly at the blue, empty sky, at the great pillar
rising behind her, at the pale flame burning so steadily
upon its summit. The blaze held him for an instant, and in
the instant he stood with eyes uplifted the girl must have
thought she had her answer, for she caught her breath in a
gasp that was half a sob, and in one swift motion she fell
to her knees before him, a miracle of sliding grace in that
close gown of steel, so that the light rippled all down her
sweet, slim body and lay bluely on the wings of her hair
that swung forward as she bent her head.

"I knew it! I knew!" she breathed. "I knew my god would send
you! Oh, praise great IL, who has sent me such an envoy!"

Dixon looked down upon the bent black head, his eyes
troubled. If she believed him a messenger from the god, it
would simplify his task enormously. And yet ...
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