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Manly Wade Wellman
WORSE THINGS WAITING
Trade paperback / 7 x 10 / 474 pages / Publication date / May 2018
Available again for the first time in nearly 50 years, Shadowridge Press is proud to present Manly Wade Wellman’s WORSE THINGS WAITING, one of the cornerstone short story collections in the fantasy and horror genres. Originally published by the legendary imprint Carcosa, WORSE THINGS WAITING gathers 28 stories and two poems, selected from over 100 stories—the cream of nearly a half-century of fiction taken from the pages of Weird Tales, Unknown, Strange Stories and many other Golden Age pulps. The very best of Manly Wade Wellman, fully illustrated with over 30 ghoulish drawings by the legendary master of the macabre, Lee Brown Coye.
The Stories- The White Road (poem) / Up Under the Roof / Among Those Present / The Terrible Parchment / Come Into My Parlor / Frogfather / Sin's Doorway / The Undead Soldier / The Pineys / The Kelpie / Changeling / The Devil Is Not Mocked / For Fear Of Little Men / "Where Angels Fear..." / The Witch's Cat / School For The Unspeakable / Warrior In Darkness / Dhoh / Larroes Catch Meddlers / Voice In A Veteran's Ear (poem) / These Doth The Lord Hate / The Liers In Wait / Young-Man-With-Skull-At-His-Ear / The Song Of The Slaves / When It Was Moonlight / His Name On A Bullet / The Valley Was still / Fearful Rock / Coven
HERE'S A PREVIEW FROM WORSE THINGS WAITING
No, I never liked frogs’ legs very much. not even before what happened. And I wouldn’t eat them now if I was starving. This is why.
Though I’d known and worked for Ranson Cuff for two years, all of each day and part of most nights, I remember him clearly only in the dark of that particular night we went frog-hunting. Ranson Cuff was the sort of man who shoved himself into your mind, like a snake crawling into a gopher hole. I defy anyone to find anyone else who liked Ranson Cuff—maybe his wife liked him, but she didn’t live with him for more than three weeks. Nobody around the Swamps liked him, though he was the best off in money. He ran a string of hunting camps for strangers from up North, who came to hunt deer or fish for bass, once in a while to chase bear with dogs. He did his end of that job well, and if he was rude the strangers ﬁgured him for a picturesque character. I’ve heard them call him that. The Swamps people called him other things, to his face if he didn’t have mortgages on their houseboats, cabins and trapping outfits.
This night we were paddling, he and I and an old, old Indian whose name I never knew, in a really beautiful boat he’d taken for a bad debt. Cuff was going to get a mess of frogs’ legs, which he loved, and which he’d love three times as much because he’d killed the frogs for them. Cuff would have killed people if he’d dared, just for fun. I know he would. I’d gone to work for him when I was fifteen—my old maid aunt, who raised me, owed him money she could never pay. When he told her to, she gave me to him, and I suppose what I earned went into settling the debt. Slavery—and he was the quickest and oftenest to remind me of it.
That night was clear and dark, not a speck of moon and all the stars anyone ever saw at once. They sheened the swamp-water, up to where the great fat clumps of trees cuddled it in at the edges. I paddled, the old Indian paddled, and Cuff sat like a fat toad—not a frog—in the bow with his lantern and his gig. The lantern-light gave his face the kind of shadows that showed us what he was. His face was as round as a lemon, and as yellow and as sour. His mouth was small, and his eyes couldn’t have been closer together without mixing into each other, and his little nose was the only bony thing about him.
“Head for that neck of water northeast,” he said. “I haven’t ever been in there, but I hear frogs singing. And none of them are out along these banks.”
He cursed the frogs for not being there to kill. I began to scoop with my paddle to turn the boat the way he said, but the old Indian pulled his paddle out with a little dripping slop.
“We don’t go there,” said the old Indian. He spoke wonderful English, better than Cuff or myself.
“Don’t go where?” snarled Cuff. He always snarled, at people who had to take it. The old Indian had come to work for him, hungry and ragged, and wasn’t exactly fat or well-dressed now.
“I’m speaking for your good, Mr. Cuff,” said the old Indian. “That’s no place to stick frogs.”
“I can hear them singing!” Cuff said. “Listen, there must be a whole nation of them.”
“They’re there because they’re safe,” said the old Indian.
“Khaa!” Cuff spit into the water. “Safe! That’s what they think. We’re going in there to stick a double mess.”
“I’m of the first people here, and I can tell you the truth of it, Mr. Cuff,” went on the old Indian, with Indian quiet and Indian stubbornness. “I’m surprised you don’t know about that neck of water and what’s beyond. It’s the home of Khongabassi.”
“Don’t know him,” growled Cuff.
“Khongabassi,” repeated the old Indian. “The Frogfather. He’s lived there since the world was made. The oldest ones say he dug the waterways and planted the trees along them. And the frogs are his children.”
“Oh, heaven deliver me!” Cuff screwed his fat face into the sourest frown I had ever seen, even on him. “Indian talk I came out to hear. You make me sick. Get going northwest.”
“No,” and the old Indian laid his paddle inside the boat.
“You’re fired, you old” and Cuff cursed the Indian every way he knew. He knew a great many ways, including the Indian’s ancestry back to Adam and his children down to the last generation. “You’re fired,” he said again. “Get out of this boat.”
“Yes, Mr. Cuff,” said the old Indian gently. “Put into the shore—”
“Get out right here,” blustered Cuff, “I’m not taking you to the shore.”
“Yes,” said the old Indian again, and slipped overboard sidewise, like a muskrat. He barely rippled the water as he swam away. Cuff spit after him, and cocked his head.
“Hark at those frogs singing!” he said. “Frogfather—I’ll frogfather them! Right in their pappy’s dooryard. Johnny,” he said to me, “get us going there.”
I did all the paddling, and we came to the neck of water. Trees were close on both sides, shutting out the little, little gleam of starlight, but there seemed to be a sort of green brightness beyond. Cuff swore at me to make me ship my paddle.
“Look at the glow from under the surface,” said Cuff. He reached right down into his half-knowledge for a cozy explanation. “Must be full of those little shiny bugs like the ones in the sea. Makes it easy for us to find the frogs.”
I remembered how my grandfather had once said you’re better off knowing a few things than to know so many things that aren’t so. My hunch was that maybe there was rotten wood somewhere around, what old-timers call foxfire. Cuff, at the bow, knelt with his lantern in one hand and his gig in the other. The gig had a hand-forged fork for its head, three sharp barbed spikes. The shaft was a piece of hickory, about four feet long and as thick as your hand could hold comfortably.
“Snake us along the bank, Johnny,” he said. “Now hold her. I see one.”
I saw it too, in the light of his lantern, a nice fat green frog on a rock set in some roots. It squatted with its knees high and its hands together in front of it, like a boy waiting his turn at a marble game. Its head was lifted, its eyes fixed by the dazzling glare of the lantern, and those eyes were like precious jewels. Cuff stabbed down, and brought it up, squirming and kicking, its mouth gaped open, all three tines of his gig in it. He smacked it on the inside of the boat to quiet it, and shoved it off at my feet.
“Got your knife?” he growled. “Then slice off its legs—no, snake me along again, I see a bigger one yonder.”
“You’re tipping me away,” he said. “Balance me back, or I’ll put a knot on your head with this gig-handle.”
“It’s not me, Mr. Cuff,” I argued, but not with any heart in it, because he always frightened me. “You must be tipping us—”
“My weight’s here next the frog, you fool,” he said. “And you’re tipping us toward the water. You ’ll have us over in a minute!”
The boat was tipping, and I shifted to bring her back on an even keel, but she tipped more, and I looked around to see what snag might have hooked us.
Over the thwart lay something like a long, smooth piece of wood, darkish and dampish in the dim light. Yes, a snag, I thought. But Cuff turned and lifted the lantern, and I saw it was no snag.
It was a long green arm!
From elbow to fingertip it was visible above the thwart, weighting down that side of the boat and tipping us in the direction of the open water. The ordinary human arm is eighteen inches long, I hear, the length of the old-fashioned Bible cubit. This was longer than that. Two feet at least, and probably more. It was muscled smoothly and trimly from the neat point of the elbow to the slender, supple wrist, and beyond this stretched slim, pointed fingers, but not enough. The hand spread, and it had three fingers and a thumb, with no gap where the other finger had been lost. Between them was a shiny wet web, and it was dead gray, where the arm was covered with sleek green skin blotched twice or three times with brown-black spots as big as saucers.
What Cuff said I wouldn’t want written down as my own last words. He said it loudly and at the noise, another arm came up across the other, and hooked there. Then a head came into view and looked at us.