War With Monsters
Months went by, and I waited. I knew I'd have to wait until my chance came. There'd have to be hellfire before anybody'd believe my story. Then the storm broke, in sensational headlines. "Gigantic beasts wipe out town in South America."
My editor sent for me. He showed me the headline. "Maybe I made a mistake not believing your story about Stegner," he said. "I make a lot of mistakes."
"You want me to cover this?" I said.
"That's it. And if you can come up with proof of what you told me when you got back from that crazy trip, I'll print every damned word."
When I got on the scene, I knew they were at last taking it seriously. The locals had called out the army to fight the strange monsters that were coming out of the jungle. They were such things as army ants six feet long; anteaters looking like ambling locomotives with hairy hides and noses; lumbering sloths vast as a houses on legs, sleepy and comic as ever, but terrifyingly destructive; jaguars like trucks and trailers; centipedes with stingers over their backs that would reach a man in a third-story window; wasps and bees like buzzards. The army was lashing at these things with machine guns, flame throwers, tanks and rockets. Jeeps careened across the landscape with loads of ammo. It was a madhouse on a vast scale, and being fought to the death. They waited for the beasts to come out of the jungle, then they jumped them--or were jumped. Nobody was allowed to fly into the hinterland to see where they were coming from. And when I tried to get officials to consider it, they absolutely refused. Up there, it was hinted, were secret government projects--besides they were too far away--and radio said there was no sign of anything unusual there. It was worth even a general's job to poke his nose in near those projects. And how could I tell these people traitorous men of their own government were the culprits? It just wasn't possible--and because I had to stay on the scene, I never even hinted it. I merely waited my chance to produce proof. I knew I'd get it, sooner or later. Something would come out of that jungle I'd be able to use to convey the real menace to the knowledge of a puzzled world.Only the fire-power of cannon could stop the monster.
I wrote carefully, reporting the weird war with the animal world--and I kept inserting paragraphs hinting about Stegner and his growth field, adding "rumors" that maybe his work had been taken over by a power-mad clique and it was they who were loosing this horror.
My boss liked the stuff I was putting in, because it sold papers, and I was careful to keep my facts separate, and label my theories. Nobody--at least so it seemed--believed the theories, but they made good reading. I got a raise in salary.
Other reporters were knocking out stories as good as mine, but without the insight into the facts that I had. So their stories went too far afield. Mine became popular, and were in demand as reprints all over the world. But officially, nobody paid any attention to me, so the important papers nestled in the bottom of my trunk. I didn't want them confiscated until the time came when I could publish them with proof. My boss would back me up when that proof came. I was sure of that.
I got my chance the day the giantess came crashing out of the smoke and dust of the circle of horror across which the beasts were constantly lunging. She was near naked, and half mad with pain from the giant insects plaguing her. No one fired on her as she stood with uplifted arms, waiting for the soldiers to kill her as she expected. Beautiful as a goddess out of an ancient myth she came forward toward the soldiers, her face lighting with hope, her hair streaming golden in the sun. She spoke to us then, and the silence that came over the field of carnage was complete.
"Look at me! Look at me and believe! There are others like me, back in the jungle; mad giants who plan to conquer your world. They are ready to do it. I have escaped to warn you. They are mad, these giants my master has created. They are monsters...."
I recognized her now. My senses leaped and my blood pounded in my veins. Here was my opportunity to convince the world. This was Tilda, Stegner's maid! I snapped several pictures of her as she went on talking.
"These men, who were once your own leaders are plotting to destroy you and take the world for themselves. You do not know what they are preparing for you, but I come to tell you. Make ready, for they are on their way to destroy you. They bring huge guns, monster tanks that they have built, machines never before seen on earth."
What more she might have told we were never to know, for she fell then, at the end of her strength. Whatever she had dared, whatever she had gone through to break out of that monstrous circle and come to us, had been too much even for her giant's strength. She fell, like a tower crashing down, and lay there, a great lax pile of pink and red flesh, torn by thorns, the claws of animals, the stingers of terrible giant insects.
Then the monsters came again, and we could not go to her. She lay there as darkness came, and in the morning only her skeleton remained, stripped of flesh in the night by the myriad devouring giant ants and beetles.