Tim Hathaway sensed that his wife was growing different, but it
took him a long time to learn just why!
Juke-box music roared through the smoky gin-mill. The old man I was
looking for sat in a booth far back, staring at nothing, his shaking,
veined hands gripping a tiny glass. I recognized him.
He was the one. He could tell me what I wanted to know. After what I had
seen tonight, at the Metropolitan--
He was already drunk. His eyes were dull and glazed. As I slid into the
booth beside him, I heard him mumbling something, over and over.
"The doll--Joanna, you shouldn't--Joanna--"
He was lost in the dream-world of alcoholism. He saw me, and he didn't
see me. I was one of the phantoms of memory that thronged about him.
"Tell me about it," I said.
And even that, from a stranger, couldn't penetrate the mists that fogged
his brain. The soul was gone from him. He reacted like a puppet to my
words. Once or twice I had to put a few questions to him, but he
answered them--and went on--coming back always to Joanna, and the doll.
I was sorry for him. He was already damned. But it was my business to
find out the truth about what had happened at the Metropolitan an hour
"A long time ago," he said thickly. "That's when it started. The night
we had that big snowfall, when--or even before that? I don't know."
He didn't know. Later, after the change had begun to be noticeable, he
tried to remember, to dredge from his memory tiny incidents that might
have been significant. Yet how was he to tell with any certainty?
Gestures, words, actions that might once have seemed perfectly normal
were now, in retrospect, freighted with a subtle flavor of horrible
uncertainty. But on the night of the snowstorm he had first begun to
He was forty then, Joanna thirty-five. They had begun to consider
settling down to a comfortable middle age, and there was no reason why
they shouldn't. Tim Hathaway had risen, in twenty years, from a junior
clerk in an advertising firm to general manager, with a good salary and
no worries worth mentioning.
They had an apartment in Manhattan, and a bad-tempered little Pekingese
named Tzu-Ling. There were no children. Both Tim and Joanna would have
welcomed a couple of kids, but it just hadn't turned out that way.
A nice-looking pair, the Hathaways--Joanna with her hair still
jet-black, her skin smooth and unlined, and a fresh, sparkling vigor
about her--Tim a solid, quiet man with a gentle face and streaks of gray
at his temples.
They were beginning to be invited to dinners with the conservative set,
but every so often they'd have a quiet binge to keep the grass green.
"But not too green," Joanna said, as the big sedan tooled down the Henry
Hudson Parkway with flurries of snow racing toward the windshield. "That
gin wasn't so hot."
"Cigarette, please, dear," Tim said. "Thanks. Well, I don't know where
Sanderson gets his liquor, but I think he must dredge it up out of the
East River. My stomach's rumbling."
"Watch that--" She spoke too late. Out of the blurry storm twin
headlights rushed at them.
Tim swung the wheel desperately and felt the sick twisting of gravity
that meant a bad skid. In a moment the sedan jolted and stopped. Tim
cursed quietly and got out.
"Our rear wheels are in the ditch," he told Joanna through the open
window. "You'd better get out. Even with our lights on, a car wouldn't
be able to see us till it was too late."
He contemplated the prospect of having the sedan smashed into a heap of
junk, and it seemed the likeliest possibility. As Joanna's fur-coated
figure joined him, he bent, gripped the rear bumper and heaved mightily.
But he couldn't budge the car's enormous weight.
Grunting, he let go.
"I'll see if I can gun her out," he said. "Wait out here a minute, Jo,
and yell if a car comes."
He played the clutch and gunned the motor. Then, with catastrophic
suddenness, he saw the reflected gleam of headlights approaching.
It was too late to avoid a crash. He jammed his foot on the accelerator,
felt the rear wheels skid around without traction--and suddenly,
incredibly, the car _jumped_. There was no other word for it. Someone or
something had lifted the sedan and thrust it forward on to the road.
Instinctive reflex made him jockey accelerator and steering-wheel. The
other car sped by, missing him by a fraction. White-faced, Tim eased the
sedan to the side of the road and got out.
A dark figure loomed through the snowy gusts.
There was a pause.
"You didn't try to lift the car!" But he knew that was impossible.
Yet Joanna hesitated.
"No," she said suddenly. "There must have been solid ground under the
snow back there."
"Sure," Tim said. He got a flashlight, went back to the ditch, and made
a brief examination.
"Yeah," he said unconvinced.
They were both silent on the way home. Tim had caught a glimpse of
Joanna's grease-smeared gloves.
A small thing--yet it was the beginning. For Tim knew quite well that
the car had been _lifted_ out of the ditch, and a frail woman of
Joanna's build couldn't possibly have managed it.
But their doctor, Farleigh, an endocrinologist, talked to Tim a few
"Tell Joanna to come in and see me," he said. "She hasn't been around
for quite a while."
"She's healthy enough," Tim said.
Farleigh put his finger-tips together.
"She's never sick."
"She may be. One of these days."
"I want to keep an eye on her," Farleigh said. "I want to give her
another complete check-up--x-rays and everything."
Tim took out a cigarette and lighted it very carefully.
"Okay. Let's have it. What's wrong?"
"I didn't say."
Tim looked at him. Farleigh scowled and took some x-ray plates from his
"Changes take place," he said. "The glands have a lot to do with it. I'm
wondering if I haven't made a mistake."
"If I called in a specialist. Joanna is--ah--it may be a form of
hypothyroidism. Her skin, the exoderm, is thickening."
"I hadn't noticed."
"You wouldn't. Unless you tried to put a hypodermic needle through it.
These x-rays--" He seemed oddly reluctant to show them to Tim.
"I gave her a gastro-intestinal series, and some iodine stains. One way
to get a look at interior organs. It's peculiar. There's some sort of
intestinal atrophy--the appendix has entirely disappeared, and the
heart's much enlarged. Other things--"
"Probably nothing," Farleigh said, putting the plates away again. "Just
ask Joanna to run in and see me, will you?"
"Yeah," Tim said and left.
When he got home that night, the living-room was dark and empty. A low
crooning noise came from the bedroom. He went quietly to the door and
looked in. He couldn't see Joanna, but he saw something else, moving
across the floor.
It might have been the Pekingese, except that it was even smaller than
Tzu-Ling, and it _walked_, with the automatic precision of a clockwork
The low crooning changed pitch. It became insistent. The tiny figure
altered its movement. It attempted something grotesquely like a ballet
position, an _entrechat_ and an _arabesque_, which it couldn't hold. It
fell with a soft thump on the carpet.
The crooning stopped.
"Tim?" Joanna said.
His middle cold and wet with sweat, Tim stepped into the bedroom and
switched on the light. Joanna was sitting on the bed, her knees drawn
- For a moment he thought of how lovely she was, her dark hair
tumbling in ringlets, her face bright and interested like a girl of
seventeen. Then he looked down.
A few years ago, a casual friend had given Joanna a doll, an expensive
one, completely articulated and quite lifelike, for all its tinyness. It
was a foot and a half high. Now it lay crumpled at Tim's feet.
He forced himself to stoop and pick it up. The wig felt like real hair
under his fingers.
"Joanna," he said, and an empty, gray helplessness gripped him as he
stared at his wife. For he knew what he had seen. It was impossible, but
the moonlight had been sufficiently bright. The movements of the doll
had not been those of a puppet or an automaton.
And she knew that he had seen. She drew her robe closer about her
"Close the window, Tim, will you, please? It's cold."
He obeyed silently. By the time he faced her again, she had made her
"Sit down, Tim," she said, patting the bed beside her. "Put the doll
here. It won't move now. Not unless I.... Tim, I don't know if you'll
understand. If you _can_ understand. But I hope you do."
"And I--rather hope that I'm insane," he said slowly. "What is it,
Joanna? _For heaven's sake!_"
"Don't. It's nothing terrible. I've felt it coming for a long while now.
I'm changing--that's all."
"I was afraid at first. But now I--my mind works so much better. So does
my body. I can feel things--sense things--and the doll was just an
experiment. I can control inanimate objects from a distance. It takes
"I did it with the car, that night in the snowstorm. Didn't you notice
how white I was--after? It drained so much of my energy. But I could do
it now without any difficulty at all."
"Joanna," he said, "I think you're insane."
She looked away.
"It's hard to begin at the beginning," she said reflectively.
"I've come so far since--since I noticed there _was_ a change. And I'm
so far beyond you now, Tim. I can see into your mind, and it's full of
blocks and walls that won't let truth in."
"How did you make that doll move?"
Her dark eyes watched him for a moment. Then something cold and very
strange seemed to lance into his brain, a whirling maelstrom like a
It was gone instantly. But now Joanna's voice seemed stronger and
clearer. And he could understand, curiously, without questioning, what
she was saying.
And--in essence--what she said was this--she was becoming a completely
new type of human being. _Human_ didn't describe it too accurately. As
man evolved, through mutation, an enormous step beyond Neanderthaler, so
the new race would come, similarly through mutation.
"But not in the conventional way, Tim. Not the way fiction writers have
- There won't be babies born with heads three feet in diameter and
shriveled little bodies. Nothing like that.
"The higher an animal in the evolutionary scale, the longer is the
period before maturity. It's natural selection. The super-race wouldn't
be safe if it revealed its superiority too soon. It's protective
"I think I'm the first mutation of this type, Tim. And not until
lately--thirty-five years after my birth--have I begun to mature. Till
now, I was adolescent--_merely human_."
There had been unsuccessful mutations in the past--freaks, abortions,
failures. But more and more often now the mutations would occur.
"And we'll breed true. It may take many, many years before another
super-human of my type appears. But I don't think I'll die for a long
time. It's taken me thirty-five years to mature, so--"
She flung out her arms.
"And I'll change! _I'll change!_ I'm seeing the world through new eyes
now, the eyes of an adult! Up until now I've been like a child!"
Her eyes glowed.
"There will be more of us. I think I know how it happened in my case.
You remember my father? He was connected with the Museum. Before my
birth, he was out with that research expedition in Mexico, investigating
the great meteoric crater there. My mother was with him.
"The radiations from that buried meteor brought about some rearrangement
of genes in the germ-plasm, so the mutation was successful. And now
there's so much new work in electronics. So much radiation being
broadcast! I'm the only one of my kind now, but in a hundred years, or
Tim looked at her. Yes, she had changed. He could see that now. She
looked quite different, with an odd combination of new youthfulness and
an underlying firm self-realization--a new maturity.
And there was more than that. As a child gains an intangible quality
when he matures, so Joanna had gained something that was no more to be
described than the blaze of a candle-flame shining through thin white
Yet she was--Joanna. He knew, deep in his mind, how illogical her words
were. But he could not disbelieve them. It was as though unseen fingers
had reached out and moulded his thoughts into new patterns.
Tim reached for his wife's hand. That, at least, was familiar. The slim
fingers lay warm, and relaxed against his palm. He tightened his grip.
There was nothing to say, against the overpowering certainty, the deep
belief, that possessed him. She had made him believe, somehow.
"Joanna," he whispered. "You mustn't."
She shook her head.
"You mustn't," he repeated. "So it's happened once. Once in a million
years it could happen like this--perhaps. But you can change it."
"I can't," she said. "A plant can't stop growing. It can't grow down
again into a seed."
"What about us?"
"I don't know." Her voice was sombre. "I don't think we can go on this
way--not for long."
"You know I--"
"And I love you, too, Tim. But I'm afraid. You see, I love Tzu-Ling in a
different way. He's an inferior species. Later, after I've matured
farther, you might be an inferior species to me too."
"You mean I am now," he said bitterly.
"No, Tim. You're not! But don't you see--I can't help this change. I
can't stop it. And eventually we'll grow farther and farther apart,
"Tzu-Ling. I see."
"And that would be horrible. For both of us. It might not be for
me--then. It would depend on how much I'd changed by that time. But you
understand, darling, don't you? It's better to make the break now, so
we'll each have the right memories."
"No," he said, "I don't see that at all. There couldn't be any change
that couldn't be compensated for."
"Human logic, based on emotion. You know it isn't true."
"You mustn't leave me, Joanna."
"I won't go tonight, anyway," she said, looking away. "I'm still too
human. That makes me vulnerable. I think, in the end, _our_ race will
conquer and rule because we won't be vulnerable through emotions. We'll
have emotions, yes, but they won't rule us. Logic will be the highest
Tim flung the doll into a corner, where it lay crumpled grotesquely.
Tzu-Ling wakened at the noise and padded in from the next room to sniff
at the doll. Satisfied, he lay down, head on his fluffy golden paws, and
But Tim did not sleep well that night. For a long while he lay awake,
listening to Joanna's quiet breathing beside him, watching her profile
in the faint moonlight. He was remembering a great deal. In the end he
had come to no conclusion.
He slept at last.
And in the morning Joanna was gone.
For a year there was no trace of her. Tim put a detective agency on the
track without result. He told no one the truth. They would not have
believed. And he felt that if they _did_ believe....
Sometimes he had a sickening picture of Joanna, outcast and alien,
hunted like an animal by the humans who were no longer akin to her. He
did hint a little to Dr. Farleigh, but the physician was so obviously
sceptical that Tim didn't pursue the subject.
He waited, though, and followed the newspapers avidly. Somewhere,
sometime, he felt, he would see Joanna's face looking up at him from a
half-tone reproduction, or read her name in some news item.
When it came, Tim almost missed it. He had read and finished the weekly
news-magazine, cast it aside and was smoking idly, listening to the
radio. Joanna's face kept materializing in his thoughts. It wasn't quite
the same--there was some subtle difference.
Then he knew. He picked up the magazine, found the photograph and
examined it closely. It wasn't Joanna. It didn't look like her at all.
And yet, beyond the contour of cheek and jaw, beyond the outward
difference, there was something of Joanna in the picture. It was
impossible that the bony structure of the skull could have changed. And
it was equally impossible that Joanna could have grown younger. This
woman was scarcely twenty.
Quite young, Tim thought, for her to have such a remarkable discovery in
the electronic-radiation field. Unless--
He took a plane to Berkeley, California, the next morning. He did not
see Marion Parkhurst--that was the girl scientist's name. She had left
for a brief vacation in the Rockies--a vacation from which she didn't
Marion Parkhurst dropped out of sight.
For two years after that nothing happened. There were a few new
inventions patented and put on the market, all of them connected with
radiations--an ingenious improvement on the magnetron, for example, and
a gadget that brought a new concept into the television field. Little
things, none of them important singly, but Tim kept a scrap-book.
He had not forgotten. He would never forget, while he lived. Tim had
loved Joanna very deeply, and sometimes, in his dreams, he would be St.
George, rescuing Joanna from a dragon that wore the terrible shape of
Sometimes he saw that future in his dreams--a world peopled by men and
women like gods, alien and inhuman as gods. They were giants and crushed
humans like ants beneath their titan feet.
But giants could be killed, Tim knew. The mutation was more deadly, for
it masqueraded as human. It had been ten years since Joanna's
disappearance, and during that decade she had not been unmasked. She had
been perfectly free to do--what?
And then, one warm summer night in Central Park, he saw her again. Some
fantastic radiation from her mind must have impinged on his. For she
wasn't Joanna any more. She didn't look like Joanna, or walk like
After he had stopped her, Tim had a sick feeling that he must be
mistaken. But he gripped her arms and swung her about into the glare of
an overhead light. She could have wrenched free. Tim was sixty-two and
older than his years.
She stood there, waiting, watching him while he searched her face. He
could have seen more clearly with his glasses, but he felt embarrassed
about putting them on. Not that his age didn't show clearly in his face,
She was between twenty and twenty-five, he guessed, and she bore not the
slightest resemblance to Joanna. He didn't look for anything physical,
though. He searched for that burning, ardent spark, more than human,
that blazed within her like incandescent flame.
It was not there.
So he had been wrong. It was another false hope, after so many others.
Tim's shoulders slumped. He felt very weary and very old. He muttered
something--an apology--and turned away. Then a slim hand touched his
"Tim," she said.
He looked at her, incredulous. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be
happening after seventeen years. This girl didn't have the--the flame.
She read his thought. She leaned toward him, and that tremendous wave of
vitality, of godlike fire, pulsed out from her. Tim was shaken by its
"Joanna," he said. "You can't be--"
"I learned," she said very softly. "I learned to control the Power. It
was too dangerous. Men might have learned to recognize me by it."
He couldn't say anything. He fumbled for her hand, but she drew away.
"Don't touch me, Tim," she said. "It's a mistake. I shouldn't have--but
when I read your mind and saw all that lost, lonely unhappiness--I
couldn't let you go without--"
"I'll never let you go now," he said.
"You've forgotten. I've changed--more than you realize now."
"It's you who've forgotten. Look." He swept out an arm, indicating the
tremendous lighted towers of New York that stood like cyclopean
guardians ringing the Park.
This had been their favourite view when they were first married. On such
warm summer evenings as this they had walked together along the dim
paths, listening to the distant music of the carousel, laughing at
He dropped his hand quickly. The light had mercilessly revealed the
brown-splotched skin, the blue veins of age.
"Do you think age matters?" Joanna asked. "I could make you young again,
Tim. But you'd still be human. And I'm not anymore."
"You could do that?"
"Yes. My power has grown. But it's a question of different species, not
"Joanna," he said, "what do you want? What are you trying to do?"
"Now?" She smiled a little crookedly. "I'm just waiting. For many years
I did electronic research, trying to cause an artificial mutation that
would duplicate my own.
"But I failed. I'm afraid there's nobody else like me on earth, Tim, and
perhaps there never will be. I'll live for a long time--a thousand years
or more--and I'll be very lonely. I'm lonely now.
"My heritage--a new race--sustained me for years, but I've waited until
I know how hopeless my wait may be. I'm the first of the new race, and I
may be the last."
"Give it up," he said. "You've wasted years."
"I have so many. Too many."
"Come back to me, Joanna. Forget all--"
For an instant he thought she was on the verge of yielding. But
something stirred in the bushes near them. A shaggy, unkempt form loomed
in the light, black against the green. Tim saw Joanna turn her head. He
felt that tremendous wave of power beat out, and he was suddenly blind
Then he saw that the dark figure lay on the ground, motionless. His
throat dry, he knelt to feel for heart-beat. There was none.
"Joanna," he said. "It was just a tramp. Drunk. You killed him?"
"He heard us. I had to. In all the world, you're the only man who knows,
the only man I can trust completely."
"But he was drunk! He wouldn't have remembered. If he had, nobody would
have believed him."
"I can take no chances," she said. "I'm one woman against a whole world
now. Forget him. His life was worthless."
What she read on Tim's face made her catch her breath in a little sob.
She moved a few steps away into the shadow.
"I'm going now, Tim. But if you want to see me, I'm singing at the Met
That was all. She was gone. Tim shuddered. The night was not cold, but
his blood was thin with age. And there was that horribly silent figure
at his feet.
He walked south. There was nothing he could do for the tramp now. Death
had struck too suddenly, too incredibly. As it might strike anywhere,
anytime--with Joanna as the Dark Angel.
He knew now that she was inhuman as an angel, perhaps as amoral. The
ties that had bound her to humanity were slipping. Tim was perhaps the
last of those ties. When that was cut--
There would be nothing to hold her back from fulfilling the least of her
desires. She would not die for a thousand years or more. Her powers were
super-human. Had she achieved full maturity yet?
If not, the future might hold sheer horror.
Tim felt his sanity slipping. He stopped at the nearest bar and ordered
whisky. He kept on drinking.
He saw a world helpless, writhing in agony, beneath the rule of a woman
who was more than autocrat. Lilith. Juno. A goddess--and, perhaps,
mother of a race of gods and goddesses. For that was her destiny--to be
mother to the new race that would crush and eradicate humanity.
He was very drunk by eight o'clock. He went home by taxi, got a flat
little automatic out of a bureau drawer, and went to the Met. He bought
a ticket at an exorbitant sum from a scalper and went into the foyer,
His brain felt on fire.
He recognized Joanna instantly when she appeared. She was Marguerite,
and it seemed black, Satanic irony to him that she should represent the
spirit of purity, resisting the lures of Faust and his evil genius. He
And then Tim Hathaway was ready. A gaunt, white-haired figure stood up
from an orchestra seat and leveled an automatic at Marguerite's
white-gowned figure. He was seen instantly. Hands reached for him.
Voices rose in excited clamor.
He couldn't miss. He squeezed the trigger. The bullet would go through
It would go through--Joanna's heart.
Yes--it was easy. The tumult, the radiations from a thousand minds
beating furiously through the theatre, had confused her. She had no
chance to use her inhuman power. She wasn't fully mature yet, and Tim
could have killed her then.
But he didn't.
At the last moment, he jerked up the automatic. The bullet tore through
painted canvas. With a hoarse, sobbing cry, Tim plunged into the heart
of the mob that was thronging around him, and lost himself in that human
He slipped through an exit, unobserved. The mob was yelling so loudly
that he didn't hear his name called, again and again, by the
white-gowned Marguerite on the stage.
"Tim! Come back! You were right, darling! _Tim, come back to me!_"
* * * * *
Tim Hathaway put his whiskey glass on the table. His bleared eyes stared
into mine. He was less drunk than he had been when he began his story.
"She did that?" he whispered. "After I--"
"Yes," I said.
"You were there?"
"I was there."
The juke-box's honky-tonk music blared out again. The grotesque shadows
of dancing couples moved jerkily on the wall.
Hathaway stood up.
"Thanks," he said, moistening his lips. "Thanks for coming after me ...
"I had a reason," I said. "Where are you going?"
"Back to her," he said. "Back to my wife."
The booth was secluded. No one could see us. I stood up too--and looked
at Hathaway. I used the Power.
He died instantly, without pain. It was merciful.
I waited till his body had slumped down out of sight. I was grateful to
him. Therefore--I killed him.
But he had given me the answer for which I had been searching for many
years. Even an inferior race can be useful. I put Hathaway out of my
mind and went toward the door. I was going to Joanna, the future mother
of my children, of the new race that would rule the earth.
What is a synonym for gin mill?