Come, enjoy a Carl Jacobi field day—backed by his vivid, irresistible
imagination and his keen sense of fun. Or was it so funny for Martin
Sutter? For, unlike him, you'll surely be cautious the next time you
turn on your TV set—especially if you notice it was made in Tanganyika.
by ... Carl Jacobi
See what happens when two conchologists get caught
in a necromantic nightmare of their own.
On his fortieth birthday
Martin Sutter decided life was too
short to continue in the rut that
had been his existence for more
than twenty years. He withdrew
his savings from the Explosion
City Third Federal Bank, stopped
in a display room and informed a
somewhat surprised clerk he was
taking the electric runabout with
the blue bonnet. The ground-car,
complete with extras, retailed for
a tidy three thousand credits.
To accustom himself to the
car's controls Sutter chose Highway
56 for a driving lesson. He
tooled the electric runabout up
into the third level, purred out
across state at an effortless two
hundred, then descended via a
cloverleaf to ground tier and
entered a maze of subsidiary roads
that led through the summer
In this manner he drove the
major part of the afternoon.
Travel was light, away from the
elevated lanes and he enjoyed
At four o'clock he began to
look for a convenient place to turn
around. It was then that he sighted
the roadside stand ahead. Above
it a freshly painted sign read: TV
SETS. LATEST MODELS. SPECIAL
Sutter smiled. Whoever heard
of selling television sets on a
country highway? It was like—why,
it was like selling eggs in
the lobby of the Hotel International!
Then it occurred to him
that his own TV set had not been
in good working order for more
than a year. The olfactory control
had jammed last week while he
was watching a Sumatran tribal
ceremony, inland from Soerabaja,
and he had been unable to smell
the backdrop frangipani blossoms.
It was time he bought a
Sutter touched a stud and the
electric runabout coasted to a
halt. As he climbed out of the
car and walked across the highway
toward the stand, he thought
for a moment there was something
wrong with his contact lenses or
perhaps his eyes.
The stand and the sign above
it appeared to waver uncertainly,
to become disjointed as though
viewed through uneven glass. But
the effect passed and Sutter approached
the stand and nodded to
the individual tilted back in a
chair beside it.
He was a rawboned man with
a thatch of thick black hair and
small watery eyes. He was dressed,
oddly enough, in a pair of tight-fitting
trousers of white lawn, a
flaming red tunic and a yellow
"Yes, sir," he said. "Can I show
you something in a new TV?"
"Where are they?" asked Sutter,
surveying the empty stand.
"Out back," replied the man.
"Just a minute and I'll show you."
He rose lazily from his chair
and led the way around to the
rear of the stand. Sutter could
have sworn he had seen an apple
orchard behind the structure as
he rode up, but he must have been
mistaken for now he saw a low-roofed,
there, huge doors open on one
side. It looked, he thought, somewhat
like a hangar....
Two hours later Sutter arrived
back at his home in town. He
parked the car, went around to
the rear compartment, lifted out
a large packing case and carried
it to his sitting room. There, with
the aid of hammer and crowbar,
he stripped away the protective
boards and then trundled the
cabinet to an unoccupied corner.
It was certainly a unique TV
set. A very new model, the salesman
had said. The cabinet was
shaped like a delta with a cube
surmounted on the pointed end of
the triangle. The cube held the
screen, the triangle, the controls.
Finished in a subdued ochre color,
the set captured the light of the
dying day that filtered through
the bay window and gleamed with
a soft radiance.
Sutter looked at the control
panel and his smile of satisfaction
faded somewhat. It looked a little
Instead of the usual knobs there
were five small spoked wheels,
each closely calibrated in lavender
with resilient studs that seemed to
be made of plush. Below this was
a small dial with the legend
Element of Probability lettered on
Sutter was about to switch on
the set when the door buzzer
sounded. He crossed to the door
and pulled it open.
A tall gangly man stood there.
Swarthy, face partially covered by
a neatly trimmed beard, he looked
the conventional picture of a
story-book villain. He wore a
broad-brimmed hat and an under-slung
pipe was clamped in his
teeth. He said in a deep booming
voice, "Are you Mr. Martin Sutter?"
"Yes, I am. What can I do for
The man said his name was
Lucien Travail. He explained
that he had been looking for a
room and that Mrs. Conworth,
the landlady, had informed him
she had no vacancies but suggested
that her roomer, Mr. Sutter,
might be interested in a roommate.
"Of course I realize you don't
know me but I believe our
strangeness will be offset by our
Sutter was silent, waiting for
him to continue.
"I collect shells," Travail said.
For thirty years Sutter had
pursued a hobby which had begun
in his boyhood days during summer
vacations at the seashore—the
collecting of exoskeletons of
mollusks and crustaceans. Long
ago his assortment of cowries,
spiny combs and yellow dragon-castles
had outgrown their glass
cabinet and overflowed into three
carefully catalogued packing cases.
To Sutter, anyone who liked
shells was a person above suspicion.
Thus it was that two days
later, after a casual checking of
the bearded man's references, he
invited Travail to move in with
During those two days Sutter
tried unsuccessfully to put his
new television set into operation.
But the set refused to work. Turn
the queer dials as he would, all he
could get on the elliptical screen
was a blur of blinding colors.
On the evening of the third
day Travail looked up from his
newspaper, said, "It says here that
the president of the Federal Union
Congress is going to make a
speech in New Paris. Will you
tune him in?"
Sutter frowned. "I would," he
said, "but my set is out of order.
I should call a repair man, but I
had hoped to get it regulated myself."
Travail laid down his pipe.
"Out of order, eh?" he said. "I'm
sort of handy with gadgets. Let
me take a look at it."
He walked across to the cabinet,
turned it around and stood
peering at the complicated chassis.
A small brass nameplate caught
his eye: Manufactured by the
Tanganyika Company, Dodoma,
Empire of Tanganyika, East
Africa. Under charter of the
Atomic Commercial Enterprise
Commission. Warning: Permit
only an accredited employee of
this company to touch wiring.
Travail snorted. "Accredited
employee, my foot! I know as
much about these things as they
He went into the kitchen and
returned with a screwdriver. While
Sutter looked on with apprehensive
eyes, he began to tinker with
the wiring. Suddenly there was a
dull report and a flash of flame.
Travail jerked his arm back as
a thin streamer of smoke and the
smell of burning insulation entered
"You've broken it," said Sutter
But his voice died abruptly as
the screen flared into light and a
low hum sounded behind the
panel. An instant later the light
became subdued and a streak of
tawny yellow took form. The
yellow slowly coalesced into a
sandy stretch of beach with long
rolling swells washing up on it, to
recede in a smother of foam.
Through the amplifier came the
muted roar of the breakers and
the low soughing of the wind.
"Well, we got something at any
rate," Travail said. "I wonder
what it is."
Sutter stared, fascinated. The
view of the beach seemed to come
into sharper focus as he watched,
and he saw now that it was an
incredibly lonely scene, with the
sea stretching away to a vanishing
point and a stand of stunted
spruce flanking the width of sand.
But what caught his eye and held
him almost in a trance was the
array of objects littering the sand
at the water's edge.
They were shells. Not the
prosaic commonplace shells usually
found on a New England
shore nor even the brighter colored,
more intricately formed
shells of tropic seas. These were
shells he had never seen before,
even in library collections. Alien
and soft-hued and lovely shells
that caused his collector's heart to
jump wildly. He saw a delicate
star-shaped thing that might have
been fashioned of porcelain and
enameled with the brush of the
Mings. He saw spiral coverings
from uncatalogued cephalopods,
many chambered and many hued.
He saw shells of a thousand shapes
and designs, all incredibly beautiful....
Sutter forgot everything else as
he sat there staring at that collector's
"I'll see if I can get something
else," said Travail.
"No!" said Sutter quickly.
"Don't touch it!"
He continued to stare hungrily
at the alien shells until suddenly
the scene before him grew dim,
then faded completely away.
Travail laughed shortly. "Somebody
sold you a fluke. This set
must be an off brand. Incidentally,
isn't Tanganyika a colony governed
by the Federal Union Congress?"
"Yes, it is," replied Sutter. "I
don't understand this at all.
There's no Empire of Tanganyika."
Next morning after breakfast
Sutter announced that he was
driving into the country to visit a
friend. There was no reason why
he should not have told his roommate
the truth—that he was going
to look up the man who had sold
him the TV set. No reason except
for the odd fact that Travail had
made no mention of the alien
shells, and Sutter kept thinking
that a shell collector would have
been immediately aware of the
rareness of them.
Once again Sutter drove out
across state and down the highway
where he had seen the roadside
stand. But when he reached
the spot there was no sign of the
stand. The big oak tree which had
shaded it and the rail fence on the
adjoining property were there.
But no stand. As Sutter stared
with perplexed eyes at the spot he
saw something he had not noticed
At the edge of the highway was
a large granite boulder with a
bronze plate fastened to its slanting
surface. Sutter got out of the
car, approached it and read:
This property has been preserved
as a State Park to
commemorate the first successful
trial explosion of the
Hydrogen Bomb which took
place on this site and marked
the beginning of an era.
It seemed to Sutter as he stood
there that the surrounding silence
grew more intense. Then he
passed through a wide gateway
and began to stride across an
evenly clipped lawn toward a
grove of trees beyond. Halfway
he paused and glanced absently at
his watch. It was exactly twelve
And abruptly the scene before
him slipped out of plumb. The
sky and the lawn seemed to alter
positions, to rotate madly as in a
vortex. The whirling ceased and
the next instant Sutter stood on
the shore of a lonely sea with a
tawny width of sand stretching out
before him and the waves washing
up almost at his feet. Then he
saw the shells....
It was the beach of the alien
shells! There they lay, scattered
about the sand, hundreds, thousands
of them, alien and delicate
and lovely, exoskeletons the like
of which he had never seen before.
Their pastel colors blended with
one another to form a horizontal
rainbow extending into the
And somehow, as Sutter walked
among them, picking his way with
care, the years of his life seemed
to slip away and he was a small
boy at the seashore again, entranced
with his first shell discovery.
He could even hear his
mother's voice calling "Be careful,
Martin! Don't go too far!"
He walked on and on, slowly,
uncertainly, until the beach and
the sea began to waver like a heat
mirage. And suddenly the shells
and the water vanished and he was
on the green grass again with the
grove of trees just ahead. He
turned, saw a white highway with
his car parked on the shoulder.
Dazedly, Sutter walked back to
All next morning he ruminated
over his strange experience.
Toward noon the pieces of the
puzzle began to fit slowly together
in his mind. But the partial answer
at which he arrived seemed too
fantastic for belief. Could it be
possible that when he had stopped
at the roadside stand he had blundered,
in some inexplicable way,
into another dimension?
Sutter had a layman's knowledge
of Einsteinian physics, and
he knew that experiments in Time
were being made every day. Only
last week he had read in the paper
of an army officer who had reportedly
twenty-two minutes. And a year
ago the Belgian scientist, Delgar,
claimed to have entered a secondary
world which he declared impinged
on our own.
Assuming all this to be true,
then it could be that the Tanganyika
television set was a product
manufactured in Future Time by
a company that, by Sutter's Time
standards, didn't yet exist.
The following day saw Sutter
begin an experiment of which he
was rather proud. Travail had
said that he had tried to tune in
the noon news broadcast yesterday
on the TV and had turned
the set on from twelve o'clock
until five minutes after. At a nearby
appliance store Sutter purchased
a clock control which
would turn his television set on
and off at any chosen time. He
set the control for two o'clock,
then managed to lure Travail out
of the house for the afternoon by
giving him an invitation he'd received
for a lecture on marine life
at a local club. Next, he drove
again to the H-bomb site and
stood waiting in the grass-like
park, watch in hand.
At precisely two o'clock there
came that queer staggering of
earth and sky. The trees gave way
to the stretch of sand; the waves,
leaden-colored and cheerless,
dotted with white caps rolled up
on the lonely shore. As before
Sutter felt that same exhilaration,
that same reversal to the spirit of
his youth. But despite his mental
excitement he maintained an
awareness of the situation and a
remembrance of why he had come
When he walked among the
shells this time he carried a large
basket with him and he picked up
shells and dropped them into the
basket, selecting those that were
the most alien.
In due time the basket was
filled to overflowing and Sutter
stood still, waiting. Once more
the surrounding landscape underwent
its change. After the whirling
had ceased and the initial feeling
of vertigo had passed Sutter carried
the full basket back to the
car and began the long drive
As he drove he mused over
what Travail would say when he
saw these shells. Then on second
thought, he decided not to show
them to him. Travail was getting
on his nerves. He had obviously
lied about his interest in shells. On
discussing the subject with him
Sutter found he did not know the
first thing about them. In fact, he
regretted taking him in as a roommate.
He was convinced that Travail's
friendly good-fellowship attitude
was just a pose, cloaking a so far
mysterious motive. But it could
be that Travail knew of the value
of Sutter's shell collection. Yesterday
a letter had come from the
Federal Arts Museum offering five
thousand credits for the lot, and
while he had made no mention
of the amount, Sutter had been
foolish enough to tell Travail there
had been an offer.
"Are you going to sell?" Travail
"Certainly not. They're worth
five times the price they offered."
"Are they really?" said Travail.
"That makes my own collection
seem worthless by comparison."
Oh, Travail could be clever all
right! Why else had he made no
comment about the alien shells
they both had seen on the television
set, if he did know something
of the value of shells?
Arriving home, Sutter entered
by the rear door and carried the
basket of shells to his bedroom.
There he took them out and one
by one spread them on the table.
He drew a goose-necked lamp
down close and from the table
drawer took out a powerful ato-magnifying
glass. Then he
selected one of the larger shells
and began to examine it.
After a while he took a small
keyhole saw which he kept for
such purposes, and very carefully
began to cut the shell into two
equal portions. Once again he
moved the ato-glass and began to
study one of the sections. But the
lamp was not very powerful, and
insufficient for the tiny details.
Sutter abruptly remembered the
four-position lamp in the sitting
room. He took the shell and the
ato-glass and went to the front
room, hoping that Travail was not
To his relief he found the sitting
room deserted. The television set
stood silent in a corner and as he
passed it Sutter switched it on,
then crossed to the four-position
lamp and turned it up full. For a
second time he peered through the
ato-glass long and intently.
The bisected shell appeared to
be a spinal univalve, resembling
the familiar cephalopoda, nautilus,
with thin septa dividing the many
Behind him the Tanganyika TV
swelled on, the screen presenting
that same scene of the beach of
shells. As it did so Sutter uttered
a startled exclamation.
Under the magnifying glass the
chambers in the bisected shell
suddenly became more than outgrowths
of marine organism.
They were rooms! Tessellated
ceilings, microscopically mosaic
inlaid floors, long sweeping staircases
with graceful slender balustrades
and tall almost Ionic
Heart pounding, Sutter looked
He saw that it was actually the
light from the television set that
was illuminating the interior of the
shell, lighting it with a strange
radiance that seemed to extend
outward from the shell in a
steadily widening cone. His hand
touched this cone, and it possessed
a curious solidity.
He hadn't been mistaken. There
were rooms in that shell! Narrow
corridors with arched doorways
opened off alcoves and galleries.
One vaulted chamber had a kind
of dais in the center of it. The
entire inner structure was fashioned
of pastel-tinted walls which
caught the light of the TV and
radiated it to every corner in a
soft glow of effulgence.
A magnetic lure swept over
Sutter. He felt an overwhelming
desire to step into that cone of
Whether the exoskeleton expanded
to admit his entrance or
whether his own figure magically
dwindled he could not tell, but
the next instant he found himself
in a fairy palace with all about
him a world of silence.
A long broad hallway stretched
before him. At the far end a ramp
angled upward to a higher level.
Sutter walked forward slowly,
aware in a vague way that he had
entered another plane that was
at once a microcosm and a macrocosm.
On the second level the
way ahead divided. After a moment's
hesitation he chose the
left-hand passage, passing through
a keyhole-shaped archway into a
broad amphitheater, empty of
furnishings, with a kind of terrace
or gallery at the far end. Emerging
upon that gallery, Sutter saw
that he had reached the outer
limit of the shell. The edges of
the wall before him were cut off,
jagged and rough, where his saw
had done its work.
He was looking out upon the
normal world that was his living
He stiffened as the door to the
room opened and Lucien Travail
entered. He sat down before the
center table and carefully, systematically
began going through
the contents of the table drawer.
Startled, Sutter watched from his
strange vantage point. Travail had
not noticed that the television set
was turned on, and the high-backed
davenport apparently hid
the cone of blue light from his
He took a sheet of paper from
the drawer, began reading it.
With a start Sutter recognized his
letter from the Federal Arts
And as a wave of wrath swept
over him, Sutter saw that the
beach scene on the television set
was slowly fading away. Fear
and a realization of his strange
position struck him. He turned
and ran madly back across the
amphitheater, down the ramp and
along the long hallway to the
point where he had entered the
shell. Even as he approached it
the cone of blue light dimmed,
wavered and was replaced by a
wall of partial blackness.
Sutter sent his hands clawing
desperately at that wall as it
flickered twice and momentarily
became translucent again. He
forced his body between folds of
palpable darkness, slid into the
vanishing blue cone. Instantly he
found himself in his normal world,
standing in the center of the
sitting room. Travail looked up,
"Hullo. Where did you come
from?" he said finally.
Sutter said, "What are you
doing in my drawer?"
"I was looking for my tobacco
pouch," Travail replied easily.
"I'm sure I left it here on the table
last night. I thought the maid
might have put it in the drawer."
In his bedroom Sutter wrapped
each of the alien shells in a sheet
of newspaper and restored them
to the basket. He placed the
basket on the top shelf of the
closet, concealing it with a couple
of old hats.
He didn't sleep well that night.
His mind reviewed over and over
his strange experience. Toward
morning he fell into a deep sleep
and dreamed a wild dream of
walking down a broad highway,
flanked on one side by an endless
line of television sets and on the
other by man-high hills of alien
He had his breakfast at the
little coffee shop around the corner.
But halfway back to his
apartment he suddenly thought of
Travail alone in the house with
his shells. He broke into a run
and he was panting for breath
when he reached his door.
The basket of shells was still
on the shelf, but the newspaper
wrappings were loosened, and the
bisected shell was entirely free
of covering. And he had not left
them that way last evening.
Had atomic transmigration attempted
to draw the shells back
into the Time sphere to which
they really belonged? Sutter was
a logical man, and even as this
thought came his mind rejected it.
It must be Travail. He had taken
a sample shell from the basket
and even now perhaps was dickering
with the officials of the Federal
Arts Museum on a price.
Sutter picked up the bisected
shell and went into the sitting
room. He carefully placed the
shell upon the table so that the
light from the television set would
fall directly upon it. Then he sat
down to wait.
As he waited he mentally
viewed the material prospects of
If the Federal Arts Museum
had offered five thousand credits
for his old collection, they would
surely double their price on these
rarities. He saw himself the recipient
of a fat check, his name
and picture in the papers, television
interviews, lecture assignments,
world fame ...
And to think that Travail had
the brazen nerve to believe he
could cash in on his good fortune!
"Damned bearded coot!" Sutter
mumbled to himself. "He must
take me for an utter fool!"
Footsteps sounded and his
bearded roommate entered the
room. Was it fancy or did Sutter
see in those grey eyes a gleam of
mingled avarice and satisfaction?
"Have a cigar?" said Travail
Sutter shook his head. "You
know I don't smoke." He crossed
the room, adjusted the controls of
the television set and watched the
familiar beach scene come into
sharper focus. As the sound of
the washing waves boomed from
the speaker, the cone of bluish
light took form before the bisected
shell. Sutter moved the
shell slightly so that it lay at
directly right angles to the panel
of the TV set. Travail, drawing
on his cigar, watched him curiously.
"What are you doing?" he asked
"Little experiment. Stand over
here and I'll show you. Here, in
front of this cone of light."
Travail took the place indicated.
His face was emotionless
as he looked beyond the light
into the bisected shell.
"Now walk forward," commanded
"I'll do nothing of the sort,"
said Travail, starting to back
away. "What are you up to anyway?"
Sutter had no plan in mind beyond
an overwhelming desire to
put a bad fright into his roommate
in payment for what he considered
a monstrous act of duplicity.
It would serve Travail
right if, once he entered the secondary
plane of the shell, he would
be forced to stay there a while. A
good scare would cause him to
Sutter moved up behind the
bearded man and gave him a
violent shove forward. "In you
go!" he cried hysterically.
Travail pitched head foremost.
But, spinning, he clutched at Sutter's
arm, gripping it with the desperation
of a drowning man. Half
inside, half outside the cone of
blue light he seemed propelled into
the depths of the bisected shell
by an irresistible force. In vain
did Sutter fight to release the hold
upon his arm. His squirming legs
fastened themselves about the legs
of a heavy Windsor chair, kicked
The chair spun from between
his feet and lurched heavily across
the room where it fell hard upon
the television set, shattering the
glowing screen into a thousand
fragments. Simultaneously, Sutter
slid forward into the bisected
shell as the cone of light vanished
Mrs. Conworth, the landlady,
reported the disappearance of her
two roomers on August first, a
week after she last saw them.
First, however, to the disgust of
the police, she cleaned their apartment,
giving to the trash man all
valueless and inconsequential
articles, including a box of old sea
shells which she found in the
closet. It was a curious fact that
neither Sutter nor Travail possessed
relatives or friends to make
inquiry as to their whereabouts
and thus without incentive the
official search died into nothing.
Mrs. Conworth rather regretted
the loss of her bachelor roomers
and, as she said to her neighbor
across the street, she kept one
memento of them—a thing that
looked like a shell but wasn't a
shell. She thought it must be one
of them optical illusion things.
"When you look at it in a
certain way," said Mrs. Conworth,
"it seems as if there are two tiny
men inside it, fighting to get out."
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe May 1954.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.