The House on the Borderland
26. The Luminous Speck
"I AWAKE suddenly. It is still dark. I turn over, once or twice, in my endeavours to sleep
again; but I cannot sleep. My head is aching, slightly; and, by turns I am, hot and cold. In
a little, I give up the attempt, and stretch out my hand, for the matches. I will light my
candle, and read, awhile; perhaps, I shall be able to sleep, after a time. For a few
moments, I grope; then my hand touches the box; but, as I open it, I am startled, to see a
phosphorescent speck of fire, shining amid the darkness. I put out my other hand, and
touch it. It is on my wrist. With a feeling of vague alarm, I strike a light, hurriedly, and
look; but can see nothing, save a tiny scratch. " 'Fancy!' I mutter, with a half sigh of
relief. Then the match burns my finger, and I drop it, quickly. As I fumble for another,
the thing shines out again. I know, now, that it is no fancy. This time, I light the candle,
and examine the place, more closely. There is a slight, greenish discoloration round the
scratch. I am puzzled and worried. Then a thought comes to me. I remember the morning
after the Thing appeared. I remember that the dog licked my hand. It was this one, with
the scratch on it; though I have not been even conscious of the abrasement, until now. A
horrible fear has come to me. It creeps into my brain--the dog's wound, shines at night.
With a dazed feeling, I sit down on the side of the bed, and try to think; but cannot. My
brain seems numbed with the sheer horror of this new fear.
"Time moves on, unheeded. Once, I rouse up, and try to persuade myself that I am
mistaken; but it is no use. In my heart, I have no doubt.
"Hour after hour, I sit in the darkness and silence, and shiver, hopelessly. . . . . . .
"The day has come and gone, and it is night again.
"This morning, early, I shot the dog, and buried it, away among the bushes. My sister is
startled and frightened; but I am desperate. Besides, it is better so. The foul growth had
almost hidden its left side. And I--the place on my wrist has enlarged, perceptibly.
Several times, I have caught myself muttering prayers--little things learnt as a child. God,
Almighty God, help me! I shall go mad.
"Six days, and I have eaten nothing. It is night. I am sitting in my chair. Ah, God! I
wonder have any ever felt the horror of life that I have come to know? I am swathed in
terror. I feel ever the burning of this dread growth. It has covered all my right arm and
side, and is beginning to creep up my neck. To-morrow, it will eat into my face. I shall
become a terrible mass of living corruption. There is no escape. Yet, a thought has come
to me, born of a sight of the gun-rack, on the other side of the room. I have looked again--
with the strangest of feelings. The thought grows upon me. God, Thou knowest, Thou
must know, that death is better, aye, better a thousand times than This. This! Jesus,
forgive me, but I cannot live, cannot, cannot! I dare not! I am beyond all help--there is
nothing else left. It will, at least, spare me that final horror. . . . . . .