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Sex Life of the Gods, The

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<h2 title="Chapter Eight"><SPAN name="p75" id="p75"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>75<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>CHAPTER EIGHT</h2> <p>Sometime near midnight, Beth took the car and went home. Nick poured a cup of the coffee she had made for him and went back into the study to look at the paintings a second time. It was good, professional work, and he wondered if he could do the same stuff again. Hell, he decided, it’ll be a long time until I get back at an easel. He finished the coffee and went up to bed.</p> <p>It took awhile to get to sleep. Thoughts of the wrecked plane, Beth, the strange men and Nolan Brice kept running around in his head without finding answers to the enigmas they presented to him. Finally he slept.</p> <p class="tb">&nbsp;</p> <p>He was looking at himself, in the dream, but it was not in a mirror. He was standing inside a polished room and the other Nick Danson lay on a bed wrapped in sleep. Nick blinked at the still duplicate of himself on the bed and turned away to look at the room he was in. It wasn’t large. It appeared to be some kind of bedroom, and it was well lighted although there were no lights to be seen; the walls seemed to glow, and everything was of a bright metal. The mirror caught his eye and he saw himself in the same blue and yellow uniform that he’d worn before. The Danson who lay asleep on the bed was dressed in blue dress pants and a white shirt. The tie had been loosened at his throat and his clothing was wrinkled badly.</p> <p>Suddenly the other Danson opened his eyes and looked at Nick. For a moment he appeared <SPAN name="p76" id="p76"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>76<span class="ns">] </span></span>to be startled at seeing him, then he smiled. The smile erupted in a chuckle that became a laugh. The other Danson’s face grew large and full, roaring out laughter at Nick until the whole scene changed from one of odd curiosity to one of absolute horror, the kind of weird horror that can come only from peals of loud, echoing laughter rolling through the caverns of the mind.</p> <p class="tb">&nbsp;</p> <p>Nick awoke gasping, his fingers knotted in the sheets of the bed and a cold sweat beading out upon his face. His heart hammered in his chest like a drum, threatening to leap to his throat at any moment. He looked around anxiously for Beth, but the silence of the room reminded him that she had gone back to the city and her job. Dawn was breaking and the dim light filtered through the unwashed windows. There was little point in trying to sleep now. Might as well get his clothes on and try to start unraveling a long thread of odd events.</p> <p>He pulled on his clothes slowly and slid his feet into his shoes, wondering where to begin the climb back to himself. It would be bad enough for an amnesia victim to regain all his memory if given an unlimited length of time - this way, with people closing in on all sides, the whole damned thing seemed impossible.</p> <p>He hooked the last button on his shirt, stuffed it into his pants, and headed for the kitchen. He warmed up last night’s coffee and it tasted like warm sulfuric acid, but it brought him around to full consciousness, even if his stomach did object to it.</p> <p>When he had finished the coffee, he found the library in the den and began reading a few of the <SPAN name="p77" id="p77"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>77<span class="ns">] </span></span>titles; often, he remembered, a lot could be told from a man by his reading habits. There were books by Bridgeman, Zaindenburg and Loomis, almost everything on the shelves pertained to art in some form or another - except for the last row. There were about fifteen science fiction volumes, mostly collections of short stories, from Asimov to A.E. van Vogt. He had a fleeting idea to start reading the stuff in an effort to determine whether or not his strange dreams came from somewhere within the pages, then he rejected it. It would take a hell of a long while to even skim through that mass of literature and he didn’t have the time.</p> <p>He shoved a copy of H. Beam Piper back onto the shelf and straightened. To hell with it. He had the whole house to search, before he started fumbling through something as far out as science fiction. He started rummaging through the various rooms of the place with systematic carefulness. Hoping...</p> <p>When he finished the search, it was noon. He knew a lot about the cabin, but damned little about himself. The cramped, dismal attic contained what was left of pictures, odd bits of furniture and clothes after the local field mice and porcupines had their annual convention up there. The three bedrooms revealed nothing except the usual gear to be found in any bedroom, and of the downstairs section of the place, only the art studio and the combination den-library was of interest. And even these places shed no light upon the ghost of the man that haunted him. The<!-- TN: original reads 'him the' --> studio contained all of the trappings of an artist, even though it was in rather battered up shape, and the den was a wall to wall replica of what a woodsman might have owned. There were the books, the stuffed heads and, of course, the guns.</p> <p><SPAN name="p78" id="p78"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>78<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>The rack, on the far side of the room, contained a table with bullet loading equipment scattered around it, with cans of DuPont<!-- TN: original reads 'Dupont' --> powder on the floor. Above it, in the gun rack were the weapons - enough to hold off a small revolution. There were two handguns and three rifles and a shotgun. He looked them over.</p> <p>A Smith and Wesson .38, model 36 and a Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum that looked like the old peacemaker model. One of the rifles was a Marlin saddle carbine, model 336 and the other was a Winchester African rifle with a .458 bore. The last gun on the rack was a Stevens .410 single barrel shotgun. Nick grinned at the arsenal and took the .44 magnum down from the rack to clean it. It wasn’t in too bad of shape, even for as long as it had remained idle; even the western style holster and gunbelt contained enough oil to make them pliable.</p> <p>He slipped the magnum into the holster and buckled the gunbelt about his waist, letting it hang a little on the right side. To hell with it, he thought. If those two characters show up now, at least I’ll have an edge. He pulled five .44 Special slugs from the belt and loaded the weapon, being careful to see that the hammer hung on the empty chamber. Then he decided to see how good he was.</p> <p>Where the hill rose sharply for a small distance behind the house, Nick found a good area where he could test his marksmanship. He lined up five cans, a few feet apart, at the base of the rise and snapped off five fast shots at them as quick as the single action would operate. Either amnesia had nothing to do with a man’s gun knowledge, or he was a natural. All five cans were blown to hell and sent skittering against the side of the hill. <SPAN name="p79" id="p79"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>79<span class="ns">] </span></span>Stunned, but satisfied, he reloaded the revolver and dropped it back into the holster.</p> <p>He prowled the grounds about the cabin with the aimlessness of a man looking for something but not sure what. Beyond the lawn furniture and the shed that contained his tools, the only other interesting thing was the creek. A fast running little stream, barely a foot deep but filled with numerous little holes that bragged of trout. He walked along the gurgling water for a ways, then he went back to the house, still unsure of what to do.</p> <p>He went back to the cabin and shoved the door open and stopped dead!</p> <p>She was just like the painting. Her raven black hair hung loose and free while, beneath the scant confines of the shorts and halter, the warm flesh rose and fell temptingly. Nick stood there, unable to say a word. It was Janet and the light in her eyes made him wonder what kind of a guy he’d been more than ever. She gave a little gasp of pure pleasure and flung herself into his arms, planting the ripe sweetness of her lips squarely on his.</p> <p>“Janet,” he managed, but she had a strangle hold on him.</p> </div> <div class="chapter">
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