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Volume 1468
Hybrid Of Horror
A Complete Novelet of Fearsome Mystery
John Coleman Burroughs
Jane Ralston Burroughs

Chapter IV: Four Arms of Hell
For hideous minutes I was deathly sick. But then a lifetime habit of logical reasoning began to exert its therapeutic effect on my stomach. What I had mistaken for a tattoo mark floating in my gravy was merely the purple brand often seen on certain cuts of meat, especially port.

I felt much better after that. Now sleep began to steal in on me. Faintly I heard the sound of Rakor Gribold shuffling past my door to his bedroom down the hall. Then I fell asleep.

Several hours later I awoke, listening to the front door as it groaned on its ancient hinges. I felt certain that Gribold had not left his room. I would have heard him pass my door, unless of course, he had crept by, which he would have not reason to do.

I hurried across the room to the window. It was only a small, barred opening overlooking a short field. One hundred yards away was Gribold Forest.

Little icy chills started creeping after each other up my back My knees weakened. My heart thundered. The light of a low moon sent a long, grotesque shadow stabbing across the field. I followed that shadow to its source.

There, clutching a short stick in one of its hands, and shuffling across the field to disappear into the woods, was the four armed statue of Gribold come to life!

Frantically I rubbed my eyes. Could it have been another illusion like the witch at the cauldron? But I had seen it come from the house. Should I awaken Gribold? As far as I knew, we were the only ones in t he place.

Then the trembling started. My hands shook. The nerves in my body caused my muscles to twitch uncontrollably as though volts of electricity were shooting through me. Had I locked the door? I tested it. I ran back to the window, then back to the door. I listened through the keyhole. The silence was so complete that the throbbing of my own heart seemed like the distant roaring of surf.

Then I felt those cold eyes, peering into my mind again, into the depths of my soul!

I crept back to the window. Had the thing returned? Did it have any meat?

If I could only get out of the place. If only I could have foreseen.

There was a faint scuffling noise in the hall. I crept away from the door on my hands and knees, knelt at the window, looked out.

Nothing. It must have been rats in the hall. It had to be. I thought of things the sheriff had told me -- The little pieces of green stuff that Plow Hendricks had shot off the creature peering in his window were bits of the statue's arm I had been called to fix! With what I already knew, I fitted together the legends, the tales of the statue.

It hunted for meat, human meat for itself and its master.

All the poor victims probably ended up in the dungeon. I thought of the boiling cauldron -- of Mason, poor thin little Mason and his tattooed arms floating beside each other in a nauseous, plastic green stew! My mind was groping around in vicious mazes like a tortured animal in a cage.

I tried to calm myself, get my once logical mind to working again. Would the statue find another victim? I found myself wishing wit mad intensity that the thing would return and have a corpse in its arms!

Mason was gone. There was no more meat. If the statue failed to find any, I would be the next. I would be the meat that Rakor Gribold and his pet would devour with lustful greediness. Now that my work on the statue was completed, the thing could use its four arms once more.

Then I saw it again.!

I strained forward in the gloom, pressing my face against the iron bars. Was there something slung over its shoulder?

No. It clutched only the short stick with which it had set out.

Dully I watched its shuffling glide across the field, into the garden. Again I heard the agonized hinges. Then silence again.

God, what silence!

Something was passing my room, going down stairs. I moved to the door, turned the key, opened it. For a moment I was an animal, wondering at things I heard but could not see. My fear made me strangely curious. I just wanted to see.

And I saw. The thing I saw penetrated even my terror-ridden brain. It was descending the stairs. It passed through a brilliant shaft of moonlight. I saw its semi-draped figure, four arms growing out of its hideous green body. It glowed in the darkness after it had passed through the moonlight like a phosphorescent monster from the awful depths of the sea.

I slammed and bolted the door. Drunkenly I reeled against the wall, sweat running from every pore on my body.

The thing I had seen descending the stairs, four-armed and green was -- Rakor Gribold!

I staggered to my bed and lay there trembling, conscious only of fear that writhed and mouthed at me from every corner and shadow of the room. Fear stripped every shred of common sense and logic from my mind.

How long I lay there I have no way of knowing. Slowly I began to hear again. My senses began to return. I could see the room as a room, not a torture chamber of untold misery. I could hear sounds as they probably were, not the vagaries of a madman.

I heard music, beautiful, melodious music. Soft at first, then swelling, mounting, ti grew hideous until I knew what it was. A female voice was piercing through the manor like a great stabbing knife -- a sickening chant of death. Echoing and re-echoing until an unintelligible jargon whined monotonously up from the dungeons below, it was like a never beginning and never ending din that would drive me eventually to the depths of depravity. Then it gradually subsided. It became the monotonous incantation of some medieval witch conjuring all the rotting devils of her mystic creed.

Fro an eternity the chant continued. But instead of going mad, my thoughts became more coherent. Reason again erected a bulwark against the thundering, destroying waves of terror. Reason told me that Rakor Gribold was some sort of four-armed hybrid or freak that coincidence and the greenish moonlight made resemble the Gribold Statue.

In the daytime it would be a simple matter for him to hide his extra arms beneath loose clothing. Perhaps the trait was inherited and all the Gribolds since the archduke had been four armed.

That would explain the legend of the archduke's bride going insane on their wedding night. She had probably killed him in a fury of horror, then modeled his likeness with some plastic hardening material. Accidentally she must have evolved the stuff in her cauldron as she dabbled in the black art of her insane witchcraft.

The Gribold Statue was as inanimate as the cauldron itself in that lower dungeon, and only a fool would believe otherwise. It was Rakor Gribold with his broken cane, and not the statue that I had seen crossing the filed. I even found myself explaining away the death chant that was rising up from t he dungeons below.

Gribold was probably fond of music. The tones came from some female songstress on a phonograph record somewhere in the house. Echoes and re-echoes would account for the unintelligible jargon.

Suddenly it was quiet again. The music had stopped. Everything had stopped. I hung suspended in limitless space. Then something must have moved, because the stairs began to creak and groan, one by one. Something was mounting to the top, slowly, heavily ascending one step at a time.

All the framework of my cold, beatific reasoning during the past few minutes tottered and collapsed about me. I saw sections of myself floating in the cauldron, rats gnawing at the parts of my body that Gribold did not want.

The thing on the stairs came on. I heard it fumble at my door.  It poked at the keyhole.

The key fell to the floor. There was a scratching noise like a wire being shoved under to drag out the key.

The door slowly opened. I lay motionless on my bed.

I didn't realize that I could hold my breath so long. My body felt as though the long dead witch of Gribold had turned it to stone. Now, out of the dark shadow of the doorway, something began creeping to my bed. IN the faint light from the moon I could see it hovering nearer me.

It seemed to glow greenishly. It was monstrous. Three arms rose up like hideous snakes. The fourth hand grasped the heavy, broken cane of Rakor Gribold! It raised for the death stroke . . . .

With a clenching effort I jerked my benumbed arm and shoved my hand under the pillow. I touched cold steel. It helped break the paralyzing spell that had taken my body. I was positive now that the thing was Rakor Gribold, and that he was hungry. The gun the sheriff had given me would save my life. I would kill Rakor Gribold --

I raised the weapon. Three blasts of yellow light ripped out from its muzzle.

Three round holes appeared in Gribold's forehead just above the left eye. I lowered the gun, waiting for the man to crash to the floor.

Rakor Gribold didn't stop! The slow glide to my bed continued. An odor of rotting meat rolled over me. I flung the gun at the leering face and scrambled beneath the outstretched arms. He lunged a me with the cane. I tore the stick from his grasp, shattered it over his head. Then I drove my fist into his face and gasped aloud with pain.

My knuckles crashed with terrific force against a face that felt like hard clay!

Out into the hall I raced, down the stairs. The thing shuffled after me as swiftly as a great cat. Again panic, clammy and grim, seized me. I reached the front door, struggled with the bolt, pounded at the panels. It would not move.

I turned and ran down the hall toward the entrance to the lower dungeons. I tried to swerve into the kitchen. The thing almost caught me again. I had to dive through the basement door.

Then I realized it was deliberately herding me into the dungeons down to the forbidden room!

I ran now for my life and sanity. One slip and all hope would be gone. Frantically I pitched through the darkness protecting my face as best I could. I seemed to remember the various turns, the pools of water. I avoided them fairly well.

All the time the fetid, panting breath of the thing drew closer. I caught a gleam of light ahead. The door to the forbidden room must be open. I felt hope sweep over me like a breath of fresh air.

If I could reach the room ahead of Gribold, I could barricade the door with the cauldron. I sprinted around the last sharp turn, paused, scooped up a rough cobblestone and hurled it with all my strength. There was a noise like stone hitting stone, and the thing paused!

Fifty feet ahead of me was the partly open door to the forbidden room. In a few leaps I could make it.

Then I tripped over something that squealed and bit me. Down I sprawled full length on the slimy cobblestones. The momentum of my body scraped me along my belly. Stagnant water splashed into my face. I could taste its bitterness. Lie forms squirmed under me, kicked, croaked and crawled.

I slipped again when I tried to get up, crashing down heavily on my elbow. A hand, hard and stony, plunged out of the semi-gloom. It cracked down on my head, jerked me up by my hair. I dangled in space.

Nauseous blasts of foulness blew into my face. Now form the depths of that creature's throat pealed forth the blatant shrieks I had heard twice before in Gribold Manor. Still holding me up by the hair, it began swinging me back and forth, timing the motion to a subdued rhythm of the first horrible cries.

When I kicked and clawed, two other arms came out to hold me in viselike rigidity. But never once for long, hideous minutes did my body cease its measured sway in space. My body was the swinging pendulum of a human metronome.

Gradually increased the crescendo of that chant. Recurring with greater frequency were the beats. And my body was moving closer to that diabolical face in the gloom . . . .

Death, certain and terrible peered at me two feet away. Fiery, cruel eyes seared into my brain -- the same eyes that had haunted me for the past two days in the manor.

But it was the nearness of death that temporarily cleared my brain. It transformed me from a clawing, kicking bit of insanity to a reasoning man again.

The creature gripped me in three hands! The other hand I could see held to one side, as if it were wounded.

Wounded? Of course it was wounded. The and, wrist and forearm were the same I had repaired during my stay at Gribold Manor! As yet the arm had not healed. It would hurt to use it, now that it was fired with life and feeling.

I wriggled my arm loose and grabbed out for that wrist!

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