A discerning critic once pointed out that Edgar Allen Poe possessed not so
much a distinctive style as a distinctive manner. So startlingly original
was his approach to the dark castles and haunted woodlands of his own
somber creation that he transcended the literary by the sheer magic of
his prose. Something of that same magic gleams in the darkly-tapestried
little fantasy presented here, beneath Evelyn Smith's eerily enchanted wand.
by ... Evelyn E. Smith
A man may wish he'd married his first love and not really mean
it. But an insincere wish may turn ugly in dimensions unknown.
"It is my theory," Professor Falabella
said, helping himself to a
cookie, "that no one ever really
makes a decision. What really happens
is that whenever alternative
courses of action are called for, the
individuality splits up and continues
on two or more divergent
planes, very much like the parthenogenesis
of a unicellular animal ...
Delicious cookies these, Mrs.
"Thank you, Professor," Gloria
simpered. "I made them myself."
"You must give us the recipe,"
said one of the ladies—and the
others murmured agreement, glad
to get their individualities on a
plane they could understand.
"Since most decisions are hardly
as momentous as the individual
imagines," Professor Falabella continued,
"and since the imagination
of the average individual is very
limited, many of these different
planes—or, as they are colloquially
known, space-time continuums—may
exist in close, even tangential
Gloria rose unobtrusively and
took the teapot to the kitchen for a
refill. Her husband stood by the sink
moodily drinking whiskey out of
the bottle so as to avoid having to
wash a glass afterward.
"Bill, you're not being polite to
our guests. Why don't you go out
and listen to Professor Falabella?"
"I can hear him perfectly well
from here," Bill muttered—and indeed
the professor's mellifluous
tones pervaded every nook and
cranny of the thin-walled house.
"Long-winded cultist! What is he
a professor of, I'd like to know."
"Professor Falabella is not a
cultist!" affirmed Gloria angrily.
"He's a great philosopher."
Bill Hughes said something unprintable.
"If I'd married Lucy
Allison," he continued unkindly,
"she'd never have filled the house
with long-haired cultists on my so-called
day of rest."
Gloria's soft chin trembled, and
her blue eyes filled with tears. She
was beginning to put on weight,
he noticed. "I've been hearing nothing
but Lucy Allison, Lucy Allison,
Lucy Allison for the past year.
Y-you said yourself she looked like
"Horses," he observed, "have
He was being brutal, but he
couldn't help it and didn't want to.
Professor Falabella was only the
most long-winded of a long series
of mystics Gloria was forever dragging
into the house. The trouble
with the half-educated, he thought
bitterly, is that they seek culture in
the most peculiar places.
"I'll bet she would have let me
have peace on Sunday," he said. "It
just goes to show what happens
when you marry a woman solely for
her looks." He drained the bottle;
then hurled it into the garbage pail
with a resounding crash.
Gloria's shoulders shook as she
filled the kettle. "I wish I'd decided
to be an old maid," she sobbed.
A very unlikely possibility, he
thought. Even now, shopworn as
she was, Gloria could have a fairly
wide range of suitors should something
happen to him. She looked
sexy, but how deceiving appearances
Professor Falabella was still talking
as Bill and Gloria emerged
from the kitchen. "I believe that it
is possible for an individual who
exists on a limited plane of imagination
to transpose from one plane
to an adjacent one without difficulty ...
Great Heavens, what was
Something had whisked past the
archway leading into the foyer.
"Don't pay any attention," Gloria
smiled nervously. "The house is
"My dear," one of the ladies offered,
"I know of the most marvelous
"The house," Gloria assured her
coldly, "really is haunted. We've
been seeing things ever since we
And she really believed it, Bill
thought. Believed that the house
was haunted, that is. Of course he
had seen things too—but he was
enlightened enough to know that
ghosts don't exist, even if you do
Professor Falabella cleared his
throat. "As I was saying, it is possible
to send the individual through
another—well, dimension, as some
popular writers would have it, to
one of his other spatial existences
on the same temporal plane. It is
merely necessary for him to find
"Nonsense!" Bill interrupted.
"Holy, unmitigated nonsense!"
Every head swivelled to look at
him. Gloria restrained tears with
"Brute," someone muttered.
But ridicule apparently only
stimulated the professor. He
beamed. "You don't believe me.
Your imagination cannot extend to
the comprehension of the multifariousness
"Nonsense," Bill said again, but
"I believe that I have discovered
the Doorway," Professor Falabella
continued, "and the Way is Open.
However, most people fear to penetrate
the unknown, even though it
is to enter another phase of their
own existence. I do admit that the
shock of spatial transference, no
matter how slight, combined with
the concrete awareness of a previous
spatial relationship would be perhaps
too much for the keenly sensitive
Bill opened his mouth.
"I know what you're about to
say, young man!"
"You don't have to be a mind
reader to know that," Bill assured
him. His consonants were already
a little slurred and he knew Gloria
was ashamed of him. It served her
right. He'd been ashamed of her
Professor Falabella smiled. His
teeth were very sharp and white.
"Very well, Mr. Hughes, since you
are a skeptic, perhaps you will not
object to being the subject of our
"What kind of an experiment?"
Bill asked suspiciously.
"Merely to go through the Door.
Any door can become the Doorway,
if it is transposed into the
proper spatial dimension. That
door, for instance." Professor Falabella
waved his hand toward the
doorway of what Gloria liked to
call "Bill's study."
"You mean you just want me to
open the door and go into that
room?" Bill asked incredulously.
"That is all. Of course, you go
with the awareness that it is the
threshold of another plane and that
you step voluntarily from this existence
to an adjacent one."
"Sure," Bill said. He had just
remembered there was a nearly full
bottle of Calvert in the bottom
drawer of the desk. "Sure. Anything
"Very well. Go to the door, and
keep remembering that of your own
free will you are passing from this
plane to the next."
"Look out, everybody!" Bill
called raucously, as he pulled open
the door. "I'm coming in on the
No one laughed.
He stepped over the threshold,
shutting the door firmly behind
him. A wonderful excuse to get
away from those blasted women.
He'd climb out of the window as
soon as he'd collected the whiskey
and give them a nervous moment
thinking he'd really passed into another
existence. It would serve
For a moment, as he crossed, he
had a queer sensation. Maybe there
was something in what Professor
Falabella said. But no, there he
was in the study. All that mumbo
jumbo was getting him down, that
was all. He was a nervous man—only
nobody appreciated the fact.
Taking a cigarette out of the pack
in his pocket, he reached for the
lighter on his desk. It wasn't there.
Time and time again he'd told
Gloria not to touch his things, and
always she'd disobeyed him. Company
was coming and she must tidy
up. Cooking and cleaning—that was
all she was good for. But this was
carrying tidiness too far; she'd even
removed the ashtrays.
And where did that glass block
paperweight come from? He'd had
a penguin in a snowstorm and he'd
been happy with it. This was too
much. He'd tell Gloria off. Stealing
a man's penguin!
He opened the door into the living
room and bumped into Lucy
Allison. "Don't you think you've
been in there long enough, Bill?"
she asked acridly. "I'm sure your
guests would appreciate catching a
glimpse of you."
"Why, hello, Lucy," he said, surprised.
"I didn't know Gloria had
"Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!" Lucy
cut across his sentence. "You've
been talking about nothing but that
dumb little blonde for months."
Because of the people in the room
beyond, her voice was pitched low,
but her pale eyes glittered unpleasantly
behind her spectacles. "I wish
you had married her. You'd have
made a fine pair."
Gently, caressingly, the short
hairs on the back of Bill's neck
"Come back in here," Lucy said,
hauling him back into the living
room where a number of people
who had been enjoying the domestic
fracas suddenly broke into loud
and animated chatter. "Dr. Hildebrand
was telling us all about
"Can't find an ashtray," Bill muttered,
seizing on something tangible.
"Can't find an ashtray in the
whole darn place."
"We've been over this millions
of times, Bill. You know—" she
smiled at the guests, a smile that
carefully excluded Bill. "—I'm
allergic to smoke, but I never can
get my husband to remember he
isn't to smoke inside the house."
"Now take the neutron, for example,"
Dr. Hildebrand said
through a mouthful of pâté. "What
is the neutron? It is only ... What
The wraith of Gloria crossed the
foyer and disappeared. Bill took a
step forward; then stood still.
Lucy smiled self-consciously.
"That's nothing at all. The house
is merely haunted."
"Forgot something," Bill muttered,
and dashed back into the
study. He yanked open the bottom
drawer of the desk. Sure enough,
there was a bottle of Schenley, nearly
a third full. "There are some
advantages," he thought as he tilted
it to his lips, "in having a
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe September 1955.
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.