Review A Prophecy of Monsters

Dr Hermes

From the October 1954 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, this is an unexpected treat. "Clark Ashton Smith?" I muttered, "I guess I know what this means. It'll be a lot of 'Ilthanoquahr the necromancer gazed out on the opalescent dawn of moribund Averoigne and let the irridescent tourmalines, all verdant and ebon, clink between his mauve gauntleted fingers.' Better get the dictionary ready."

No such thing, This is a compact, streamlined tale told in a clear style. In just three pages, Smith sets up his premise, lays out just enough hints and foreshadowings and then closes with a neat punch line. I definitely have got to track down more of his work that wasn't written in a Dunsany stupor.

We open on a moonlit country lane with a classic werewolf transformation, the hellbeast struggling to get out of his human clothing before the changing body rips them apart. There's some interesting trivia about the touch of silver bothers him so much even as a person that he can't use cutlery in restaurants and refuses to accept coins when making purchases. "Steel, too, was a substance unfriendly to beings like him, and the time came when he could abide it little more than silver."

As our lycanthrope finds a likely spot on his quiet backroad to ambush a passerby, he reflects that he's not the only monster in the world. "The vampire still survived, subtler and deadler, protected by man's incredulity... moreover, there were monsters unknown as yet to myth and superstition." That's suggestive. "But in no sense was he kin to those monsters beyond nature, the spawn of a newer and blacker magic, who killed without hunger and without malevolence." Then a tall, powerfully built figure comes striding confidently through the night and the werewolf pounces. Instantly, he's flung back in shock and pain, reverting to human. "As the change began, he spat out several lupine fangs; and then he was spitting human teeth." Showing no pain or any fear, the seemingly unhurt stranger moves menacingly toward him.

This would have made a terrific five minute skit on the old NIGHT GALLERY show. Certainly, it's too slight to either be developed into a half hour episode of an anthology series, but it might make a basis for an interesting little direct to video feature.

© (June 27, 2003 Dr Hermes Reviews

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