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Volume 1465
Chapter 1
Hybrid Of Horror
A Complete Novelet of Fearsome Mystery
by
John Coleman Burroughs
and
Jane Ralston Burroughs

Chapter I: A Note from Hell
Mason would be as damned as I, cursed by seeing things occur that could not happen. We would be cursed by those fiery eyes, the long shrieks and the longer silences - cursed by the thing in the dungeon!

The fate of Mason I have never explained satisfactorily.

I am certain that the secret is locked forever in that little New England valley, buried in the ashes of old Gribold Manor.
We were rattling on our way to the place that first night. I was still temporarily elated, for I had become one thousand dollars richer that morning on account of Mason.

"Mason," I said, "if I were you I'd try to forget those legends and get a little rest. There'll be some simple, logical explanation that you've overlooked."

I settled comfortably on the green plush and through half squinted eyes studied the chiaroscuro parade of tree goblins and phone pole ogres as they chased each other by the train window. Idly I was trying to figure how many phone poles one could buy with a thousand dollars.

I felt Mason's little fear-round eyes quiver on me for a second.

"No, Gov'nor," he came in slowly. "Hit hain't right, that's wot. Hit hain't right!"

"What isn't right?" I asked.

""Yer takin' that thousan' dollars I was sent to give yer. Yer shouldn't of took hit!" Mason's lip corner twitched nervously. "Yer ought've locked me up in jail, kept me from goin' back there. That's wot yer ought to've done -- kept me away from that orful place!"

"It will be a sorry day, my friend," I replied, "when I refuse a thousand dollars in gold nuggets and then have my generous benefactor locked behind bars."

I had known Mason only twelve hours. In the quiet of dawn he had knocked at my studio door. Even then, after I had stumbled out of bed and let him in, he had seemed frightened. He gripped a tanned leather sack as if it might strike at him.

There was an uncanny sensation when I took that sack from Mason. I know good leather, and my fingers are trained to remember the feel of things. Once I had felt stuff like it in the forbidden crypt of a cannibal witch doctor. It was tanned human hide.


But my gruesome idea fled when I saw the contents of the bag. What I judged to  be about a thousand dollars worth of gold nuggets poured out.

I tore open a scroll of parchment Mason handed me. The writing was large and bold.

Dear Renton
These nuggets are yours if you come at once to Gribold Manor. The Gribold Statue has been damaged. Only a competent sculptor can mend it. I make this offer to you because I have seen your work in the galleries of Edinburgh.

If you successfully heal the Statue of Gribold you may have the twin brother to this bag of gold. A life depends upon your succeeding. My servant will guide you to the Manor.

Rakor Gribold X
Master of Gribold Manor and Estates.

I had heard of the Gribold Statue myth. With the exception of the Gribolds, no man had set eyes upon it for two centuries. Exactly what the statue was no man knew. To see it was to die, hopelessly, horribly insane. My conclusion at the time was that stupid people or neurotics like Gribold's new little cockney servant believed such rot.

Myths did not bother me. One thousand dollars was already mine. An equal amount would soon follow. I needed every cent of it. Any man in similar circumstances would have made his way to Gribold Manor that night.

The train whistled drearily. I dug out the parchment and read it again. I noticed casually the queer use of the words "mend" and "heal" in regard to repairing the statue. The statement "a life depends upon your succeeding" puzzled me. My eyes kept returning to Rakor Gribold's tremendous signature. It was in reddish brown ink.

"Hit's writ in blood, that's wot hit his!" rasped Mason. "Hit's witch's blood!"

"If it's blood," I said, "it will be partly soluble in moisture."

I wet the tip of my finger, dragged it across the name. The stuff smeared.

"I told yer so, Gov'nor. Hit's witch's blood all right -- the witch of Gribold!"

Mason fell off into an exhausted sleep soon after that. I noted his sunken cheeks, the nervous twitches that pulled at his eyes and mouth even in slumber. Our ancient car was air-conditioned on the warm side, so Mason's head was pillowed on his coat. His rolled-up sleeves revealed a pair of thin tattooed forearms. In addition to a couple of nude mermaids, each arm bore the insignia of his Queen's navy. Like a giant black caterpillar in the moonlight, the train wove its lonely way up the steep slope. We were approaching a high valley where, Mason had told me, the village of Gribold nestled.


With a start, the little cockney awoke. His eyes clouded with the old terror. He pointed a shaking finger toward a dark mass on a wooded hill rising above the valley. As if he had been wound up and was powerless to stop himself, Mason began babbling.

"That's it," he said. "That's the place -- crouchin' on the 'ill lookin' over the village like a bloomin' beast of "Oly Writ. Hit's the livin' place of the Grimbold Stature!

Mason leaned closer.

"I've heard hit up there," he rasped monotonously. "I've heard hit -- that statue shriekin' at night. Hit's the voice o' the witch comin' outa the monster's throat. Blimey, I've trembled like a bloomin' wench lyin' there in bed, listenin' to eerie noises all over the place!"

Mason dragged a finger around under his collar.

"Hit's death to 'ear hit," he said.

"I'm a marked man. That's wot I am -- a marked man!"

I listened quietly, reserving my own opinions to feed my disgustingly normal outlook on such tripe.

Save for a lone brakeman awaiting the next train, the old Gribold Village station was dismally deserted. I shuddered, pulled up my coat collar against the biting mountain winds. Mason gathered the bags together. Then we trudged off through the village and finally hit a narrow, forlorn path leading up to Gribold Manor.

The way led through a forest of gnarled oak. It was a step climb and we had to stop often to rest. Our little lantern cast ugly black shadows. Mason stayed as close to me as possible and I noticed his eyes constantly striving to pierce the gloom about us.

We came at last to the forest's edge. One hundred yards ahead of us loomed the great manor, dark and lonesome. We sat down on our bags. Mason stared at the place for a long time before he started to whisper.

"Hit's old, Gov'nor, so old it scares yer. Two 'undred years old. The Archduke Gribold built the place for 'is bride, a village girl. They says she was lovely on the weddin' day, dressed in lavender and lace with snow-white skin an' pink cheeks. Bur Gord, Gov'nor, their first night in Gribold Manor --" Mason paused and drew a hand across his trembling mouth. Turrible screams came from the manor. Hit was 'is bride. She'd gone stark, ravin' mad -- that's wot she did." Mason gulped. "An' nobody hain't never knowed why!"

He clutched my arm and went on, his eyes staring at the place before us.

"Mean an' cruel 'e became, the archduke did, an' him an' 'is mad wife they ruled the manor and estate like divils down Hades way. They 'ad a wee one, finally. A little boy, an' 'e later inheritated the estate an' carried on the Gribold name. But before that --" Mason whispered the next words very softly. "The archduke's wife became bewitched! She was a young 'un but blimey, they says she appeared like an old wizened woman.
"Then the archduke vanished! Some says the witch of Gribold done it with 'er divil's brew in the basement of the place. Sore 'cause 'e drove 'er mad, she changed 'im -- 'ardened 'im into stone."

I could scarcely hear his next words.

"The Gribold Statue, Gov'nor -- hit's the archduke hisself changed to stone, locked for a century an' a half in a dungeon of the old manor. Hit's the witch of Gribold I've listened to, shriekin' at night -- an' the voice comes out o' the statue's mouth! It shrieks when it's hungry, wails like a banshee until Rakor Gribold lets it out to roam the countryside searchin' for meat -- meat fer itself an' its master -- human meat!"



Mason buried his head in his hands and rocked back and forth. I had never seen such terror and I felt sorry for the man. But I couldn't understand then.

Before we got up to go on, I asked him a question, one that I had no business to ask.

"Why," I asked, "if Gribold Manoris so distasteful to you, are you coming back to it? Why didn't you take the bag of gold and, well, scram?"

His answer startled me.

"Hit's 'is eyes, that's wot hit is. Hit's 'is eyes. Blimey, they wouldn't let me. Oh, God, how I've tried to beat it, anywhere. I'd even go ack to the old country, enlist again in the navy. But I can't. Hit's 'is eyes. They ain't human. You'll see, Gov'nor!"

I know now that he was talking of Rakor Gribold, the man I was soon to meet.

Fifty feet from the huge doorway, Mason dropped the bags and shrank behind me, clutching my coat to save himself from collapsing to the ground. A shrill cry had cut the night like a knife stab. It was the voice of an incredibly agonized woman.

"That shriek, every night hit's like that! O Gord, wot is hit?"

Mason sank to the ground, grasping my knees.

I jerked myself free and started for the manor. I covered the huge stone steps in five leaps. The wail had subsided into a chant when I reached the oak-paneled portal. The door was moving open.

I rushed into the hall to be met by sudden silence. It was as uncanny as the cry had been.

A mildewed odor of stagnant age wafted up on chilling drafts from somewhere below. I opened my mouth to shout, closed it again quickly. Far down the hallway I heard the groaning hinges of another door. I listened. I could hear running footsteps.

Then I fell forward, Something had racked violently against my back and things began falling all around. I sprang to my feet. Mason lay on the floor behind me, bags scattered all over the place. He had rushed through the door and collided with me.

Someone was laughing.

I have never heard a laugh with less mirth. It was cruel, insane laughter. And it came from over my shoulder!

Turning, I saw the dim form of a huge man standing two feet from me. He flicked a match, lit a candle held in one hairy hand. It lighted his face from beneath.

And what a face!

Once, in a museum I had seen the reconstruction of a Piltdown man, an abysmal brute who was an early link between and ape and a hume. Now this living counterpart loomed before me.

Mason had pulled his punches when he described Raker Gribold.



The Authors
John Coleman BurroughsJane Ralston Burroughs portrait by John Coleman Burroughs
John Coleman and Jane Ralston Burroughs
.

HYBRID OF HORROR

Chapter 1
A Note From Hell
Chapter 2
Master of the Manor
Chapter 3
The Fearful Workroom
Chapter 4
Four Arms of Hell
Chapter 5
Battle for Life

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