“That was close,” He said, bending over me and offering me a hand.
“The Hyde could have done the same thing to me if it had thought of it first. I simply used my fingers to reach inside its body and start minor molecular changes. Once I started the process, it continued, a chain reaction that coursed back to the mother body along the line of the pseudopod.”
“You mean the Hyde mother body is already dead?”
“We’ll see,” He said.
I followed Him up the porch steps and into the house. The door was unlocked, and a window in it was broken out. We searched the upstairs rooms, were satisfied there was nothing there, nothing like a dead mother body, then went to the cellar door. He opened it and looked down the stairs into what must have been a cellar, almost identical to Harry’s. We could not see it, for it was in pitch darkness. He reached for the light switch, flipped it on. Nothing happened.
We stood there, looking down into the dark. Deep, ugly dark . . .
“It’s dead,” I said.
“We have to be certain.”
“You said there was a chain reaction.”
“Then it would have died.”
“I’m going down,” He said. “I have to be sure, and there is no way to check it out except to go look. You stand guard here, in case the Hyde android is somewhere about. If you see it, don’t try to be a hero. Shout. I may be reading your mind, and I may not, so give me vocal warning.”
He did not give me time to frame another argument. He went down the steps, leaving me alone in the living room. I was as frightened as a child in an unlighted bedroom who sees shadows moving on his walls, and can see nothing that could make them. I fumbled along the wall until I found the light-switch for the living room. I flipped it up. Then back. Then up again. Nothing, except darkness.
I took my position by the living room door, where I could watch the cellarway and the porch outside without being forced to move back and forth from one vantage point to another. The snow outside would make a perfect backdrop against which to spot any movement. I shifted my eyes back and forth from one door to the other, waiting . . .
I heard Him step off the last riser onto the cellar floor. There was a very long moment of silence in which I could hear the cabin settling, the creak of its boards, the slight moan of the night wind, the brisk scratching sound of hard snow driven against the window glass. Then came the crashing noise that shook the floor and made me jump and almost turn to run.
“Hey!” I called.
He did not answer.
I strained my ears and could hear the sounds of combat of some sort. There was a shuffling sound of feet on ice, a slapping of flesh as if blows were being exchanged, the grunting and breathing of heavy exertion. But there were no screams or curses as you would expect, and the lack of them made the inhuman aspect of the battle all the more pronounced.
“Are you all right?”
Still no answer.
Except the grunting and shuffling and heavy breathing.
I started toward the cellar stairs, thinking I might help Him somehow, then had the prickly sensation in the back of my neck that the Hyde android had come in from outside while I had not been looking. I imagined I could feel His eyes on me, sense His straining fingers as He reached out to grasp my neck … I whirled back to the door, ready to cry out, and saw that there was no one there. Just the same, I went back to the door and waited out the battle, hoping the Hyde mother body would succumb to the Jekyll android—though I had nothing to offer, but hope.
The sounds of battle suddenly changed. The shuffling and grunting ceased and were replaced by a harsh hissing noise that reminded me of air escaping from a balloon. I recognized that sound as the same the pseudo-flesh had made outside when the Jekyll android had burned it away from me. One or the other of them was burning the moisture out of its enemy’s flesh, turning it into dry, gray powder. “Are you all right?” I asked again.