The scientific community has always shunned William Carpenter. A strange, hulking giant, a talented biochemical investigator, and the self-styled “greatest mind in the western world,” he has locked himself inside a house with no windows, in the most desolate reaches of New Jersey, where he can conduct his experiments in peace and isolation. Here in his personal sanctuary, Carpenter has found something astonishing that could alter life on Earth as we know it: a chemical compound that can render all matter invisible, from rocks to plants to people. But the twisted genius has no intention of using this breakthrough to benefit the planet. Instead, he is about to declare war on all humankind by launching an unseen campaign of terror and destruction. For years the world has ignored William Carpenter, labeling him insane, sociopathic, or worst of all, insignificant. And now the world will have to pay.
The early works of novelist, editor, short story writer, essayist, and screenwriter Philip
Wylie were primary influences on the creation of characters like Flash Gordon, Superman, and Travis McGee. First published in 1931, The Murderer Invisible takes H. G. Wells’s classic Invisible Man several giant leaps further, resulting in a chilling tale of madness and science run amok that is at once a gripping adventure and a prescient commentary on man and society.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Wylie was also a commentator on American society. In 1942 he published Generation of Vipers, a bestselling book of essays that attacked the complacencies of the American way of life. His novel The Disappearance presents a dystopia in which men and women vanish from the perception of the opposite sex, allowing Wylie to explore the issues of women’s rights and homosexuality. Wylie recognized early the potentially catastrophic effects of pollution and climate change and wrote both fiction and nonfiction on those topics.
Read an Excerpt
The Murderer Invisible
By Philip Wylie
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1959 Philip Wylie
All rights reserved.
A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS
The sun, dark and red, settled behind a bank of spear-shaped clouds which bisected it and diffused its inadequate light. It gave no warmth. Night, winter night, insinuated itself into ravines and the gaps between houses. A few vitrines belonging to the random shops of Sinkak, New Jersey, glowed through their layers of frost with a feeble phosphorescence. A single automobile, closed fast against the outward frigidity, turned from the concrete road that formed the vertebra of the town, bumped over a small sea of ice-locked ruts, and vanished behind its gesticulating beacons.
There was a vast silence. Then, from far down the railroad track, came the thin scream of a locomotive whistle. The second stillness was expectant and relieved by the crescendo thunder of the approaching train. The door of the station, which squatted square and ugly beside the tracks, gaped open and slammed shut. A lantern swung along the platform.
Brakes routed the last retreat of solitude. Inside the sultry little dwellings the inhabitants of Sinkak understood that the evening train had arrived. It coughed and hissed. Its firebox evacuated sparks that went cherry red as they fell and blackened instantly when they touched the cold roadbed. A few crates were dropped on the cement. A lantern waved in a slow elipse. The locomotive gave vent to a Gargantuan cough and moved forward, its steamy breath dissipated as rapidly as it was exhaled. In three minutes its last resonant words were echoed from the far hills and the silence returned.
A girl stood on the platform.
It was now almost totally dark. She stared at the scattering of houses below the station. They sprawled along the road, thinning at both extremes of the town, overlooked by haggard trees and the arms and trestles of an amusement park. The geometry of the park—roller coasters, chute-the-chutes, ferris wheels—made a pattern against the fading yellow in the western sky. It was a pattern that spelt desolation, that by its very fixed immobility emphasized the remoteness of summer and warmth, of gaiety and human pleasure.
She shuddered. Then she perceived that the station master was carrying his lantern toward her. She walked toward him.
"Can I get a taxi here?"
"Where you going?"
"To the house of a man named William Carpenter."
She heard him suck in his breath. A feeling colder than the night plucked at her raw nerves.
The man answered, "Yeah. Luke'll drive you over. I'll call him. Come inside. Warmer there."
She picked up her suit case. The waiting room was dimly lighted and dingy, but a stove glowed in its middle. She held her hands above it, rubbing them together. The station master stared at her.
She was young. Her features had beauty. Her nose was straight, her chin firmly modeled, her brow wide, her lips bright red, exquisitely bowed. She was tall and supple. Her hat covered most of her hair, left one delicate and curving indication of its blondeness. Her eyes were grey, a soft, slaty shade of grey.
Yet the station master did not think of her as beautiful. Emotion dominated her appearance—an emotion he could not aspire to interpret: fear—it might have been desperation—perhaps it was madness. There were dark streaks under her eyes. Lines around her mouth. Her voice had been low-pitched, but it sounded as if the last resources of a distraught mind had been used to keep it so. She did not look at him, or at the stove, or at anything in the room. She saw things beyond him, things he could not see.
He went into the chamber behind the ticket window and clicked the hook of the telephone up and down. He moved his chair a little so that he could watch her. It was almost surprising to him that she did nothing unusual, that she continued absently to chafe her hands and stare at the wall. Finally his connection was made, he spoke to "Luke" and he hung up.
He made a few rustic gestures of occupation, gave up, and followed his curiosity back into the waiting room.
"William Carpenter's, eh?" he said. "Well, well."
The girl did not answer. He spat on the metal sheet that circumscribed the stove and essayed again.
"Be some time before Luke gets here."
"Half an hour."
The room was furnished with two benches set back to back. She seated herself in the one that faced the stove. The station agent opened its door and made a ceremony of feeding into its belly a chunk of wood.
"Going to work for this Carpenter?"
"That so. Hmmm. Hmmm." He filled his pipe. "Relative?"
"Yes, if you consider it an affair of yours." She said the last words with biting rapidity and regretted them at once. "I don't mean to be rude. I'm upset."
"No wonder. Goin' out there."
Suddenly she stood up. "Why? What's the matter with him?" Her voice had risen an octave.
The man seemed satisfied that his companion had reacted to his presence. He pulled his moustache, lifted his eyebrows and peered innocently from beneath them. "Matter? Matter? Who said there was anything the matter?"
The girl had looked away from him. She opened and snapped the clasp on her handbag with an automatic repetition. "Do you know him?"
"In a business way. He comes here for his freight and express."
"But I know about him. My wife's sister-in-law keeps house for him."
"Is she there now?"
The girl sighed. She did not ask any more questions, but she did not interfere with the recital that followed. The man was glad to talk; every one in his village was loquacious. His occupation isolated him during most of the day. Two trains stopped in Sinkak between dawn and dusk. In the deep night there was even none of the solace afforded by the pounding drivers of expresses.
"You see," he began, "it may be that we're not used to the likes of this Carpenter out here in Sinkak. And it may be he'd be marked down for queer any place. He come here last summer and bought the old Mortland property which has been empty since I was knee high. Then he brought labor and machinery from New York and had it fixed up. Maybe you know all this?"
"Big machinery. Enough for a factory. And he wouldn't touch local help—although Ingals—that's the contractor here—got mighty sore and tried to get him in trouble."
"Sure. Ingals tried to get an injunction against this Carpenter for importing labor. Didn't work, though. And made him mad as a hornet."
"Made who mad?"
"Carpenter. He comes blazing down here in his automobile—all seven feet of him shooting sparks—"
The station agent halted his narrative with surprise. "Sure. Seven feet. You don't mean you ain't never seen this Carpenter?"
"No. I've never seen him."
The man knocked out his pipe, started to say something, thought better of it, and gave counsel instead.
"Well, it's none of my affair what you want of him. But I will say that if I was young and purty I wouldn't waste my time over one like that."
"I'm his niece."
The statement robbed the agent of the latitude he had allowed his imagination.
"His niece, eh? Well, you don't say. People here'll be surprised to know"—he cleared his throat—"that is—it's a wonder he didn't come down here for you."
"He didn't know I was on my way."
"Oh. I see. Well—anyway—Since the time of Ingals' injunction that I was telling you about, he's been mighty unpopular here and mighty mysterious—meaning no offense to you, of course. My wife's sister-in-law that works for him tells me, confidentially, that he's up to something."
"That's just the trouble. Nobody knows. His house ain't got windows and the doors is steel."
The girl became perceptibly paler. She walked to the stove, turned back, sat down again. "I heard," she said, "that he was a scientist. That he had his laboratory in the house. There's nothing unusual about that."
"As far as it goes—no." He came close to her and tapped his pipe against the top of the bench to emphasize the words that followed. "No—not that far. But why did he stone up all the front downstairs windows? Why does fire come out of his chimney all night some times? What kills the leaves on the trees in his yard? What does he need all that machinery for? Why does he get so mad when you ask him what he's doing? What was the green stuff that leaked out of a package addressed to him and ate a hole in the platform of this very station? I ask you that?"
"Chemicals," she answered. "He's a chemist."
"Then why did he come hell-bent down here when I phoned him about it and make everybody keep clear till the stuff was burned out?"
"Because not all chemicals are safe—they're dangerous."
"Likely. And likely he'd have the dangerous kind."
"I don't think you people around here give him a chance," she said bluntly.
"Wait till you see him." The agent walked away. He had not shaken the girl as much as he had hoped he could. He shared with all Sinkak an immense animus for the scientist who had entered their midst and remained exclusive, mysterious, self-sufficient. The arrival of Luke Walters ended the sally on her morale which he was preparing.
The cold was intense and the dark impervious. She lifted her bag into the Ford. It trembled and surged forward. The station master called to her. A blanket had been provided in the back seat for a lap robe. She pulled it up, shivering. The headlights picked out the tar stripes on the concrete road for a while. Then they jumped across a field, brushed an unpainted clapboard house, settled again into a road, this time unpaved. She could guess rather than see fields, woods, occasional buildings. When the car ultimately stopped, she was so numb with cold that she could scarcely descend. The hard ground hurt her feet.
"One dollar," the driver said.
She stumbled into the light of the headlamps and took a bill from her handbag. It was the last dollar. Beside it were a few gleaming coins, a lipstick, a compact, a comb, a letter, a handkerchief. She handed it to the man.
"Just walk up that road a little piece and there you are," he said.
"Can't we drive to the door?"
He had not assisted her from the car. He had been a shape, a voice, an arm that reached for the bill. Now he accelerated his engine, spun the wheel, carried his trio of lights away beyond her. The sound of his car disappeared as had the locomotive. But now, her desertion was absolute.
To meet this new emergency her irises expanded. She began to see defined graduations of darkness. Here were trees. Yonder an open space with a horizon and stars. The inkiest hole was doubtless the road, entering the trees like a tunnel. She picked up her bag again and moved forward whimpering quietly from fear, from cold, from uncertainty.
The house leaped upon her after she had walked fifty or sixty yards. In that time she had suffered agonies of terror, she had learned to keep in the road by the sound of leaves that rose when she wandered from it, and she had almost decided to resign herself to the cold. Her goal was lightless and angular, but a dim aura that came from the other side lent it silhouette. She moved toward the aura. She knew with a sudden sharpness that the driver had been afraid to go closer to the house and she wondered a moment later if it was the right house.
Then she had rounded its façade. There was a light at the back door. She walked up the steps and knocked. No answer, only a rustling. She knocked again. Still no response. She saw that a face was watching her from one of the windows.
She said, "Please let me in!"
The door was split infinitesimally. A harsh, female voice said, "What do you want?"
"Let me in!" This time she screamed, and the door opened.
She did not faint. A middle-aged woman stood in the embrasure. The girl said, "I am Daryl Carpenter, Mr. Carpenter's niece. I want to see him." As she spoke, she walked into the kitchen. Her hand caught the back of a chair. She sat down and bowed her head over the table in front of it. The door was shut behind her. Some one said, "Well, what do you want?" but she paid no attention. It was light and warm where she sat and that was enough. The woman walked around her. She sniffed, inspected, muttered. Daryl did not look up. In a minute, half a minute, she would be all right. The incubus of her walk in the dark distilled rapidly and was carried off.
She raised her head and even smiled. "This is Mr. Carpenter's house, isn't it?"
"And you're the housekeeper?"
"Is Mr. Carpenter at home?"
"I've come a long way to see him."
"Well—you better call to-morrow morning."
"Where did you come from?"
The woman grunted. She was short, stocky, prematurely wrinkled, and her mouth seemed to have tasted only vinegar in all her life. Her eyes were hooded with dropsical lids. She had accepted the fact of Daryl at once. She was interested in the girl no longer, but she was avid for the reason of the girl's presence. She repeated Daryl's last words. "North Dakota? Never heard of it. But you won't be able to see Mr. Carpenter to-night and I have no authority to give you room here. You better come back in the morning."
"Don't you see that's impossible?"
"I see you can't stay here."
"Where can I go then?"
"That's your affair."
"It's dreadful out there."
"Scary, eh?" The older woman pursed her lips. "You looked scared when you come in. Walk from the station?"
"No. I had some one drive me to—well—almost here."
"Hired?" The housekeeper chuckled. "That'd be Luke. He wouldn't drive up to this house for a pile of money. Not that I blame him. Well—you better take yourself back where you came from, because Mr. Carpenter gets into terrible tempers, and if he knew there was a stranger here he'd mighty nearly shoot the both of us."
"But I'm his niece."
"Don't make no difference. Now——"
"I tell you, I came to see him. I'm—I'm desperate. You can't turn me out. I—I—well—I haven't any money, for one thing. And I will see Mr. Carpenter to-night."
An enormous bass voice from the far end of the kitchen intoned two words, "Quite so," and they were followed by a reverberating slam as if a great weight had fallen on a metal floor. The house shook. Daryl leaped to her feet and whirled around. William Carpenter stood at the opposite end of the room.
His head seemed to be above the electric lights that were suspended from the ceiling. The station agent had said that his height was seven feet; in point of fact, it lacked six inches of that estimate. But Carpenter was not only six and a half feet tall; he was crowned with a head of stiff hair that grew at right angles to his scalp and was the color of old copper. This bristling thatch added greatly to his appearance of height and together with his strange disproportions gave him the aspect of a monstrous giantism. His hands were huge and gnarled. His jaw was like a plough share. Tough, reddish eyebrows grew downward over his pale eyes and covered the upper rims of his thick spectacles. His nose was thin and beaked. His mouth was small and as sensuous as the lips of a Mediterranean woman. Carpenter's feet were gigantic. His waist was like a wrestler's but his torso did not widen into a wrestler's magnificent shoulders. Instead, it shot upward with a sort of irregular slenderness and ended in two hunched clavicles that seemed always fatigued by the weight of his hands, which dangled perpetually at his sides. A stubble of beard glinted beneath his pale skin.
He dressed invariably in black, save for a white shirt. He usually wore no tie and through the "V" of the open collar there was visible a bony, hirsute chest. Confronted with this man in the long, narrow and modestly lighted kitchen, Daryl took some time to dam back her ebbing composure, still more time to search and weigh him, as if she wished to discover what ponderable humanities were contained in a man of such physical excesses. He had not moved, except to turn his head somewhat—an act which gave her a glimpse of its full profile and a hint of his great skull capacity. As she looked there was still ringing in her memory the sound of his voice, deep, full, and with a timbre that would have been magnificent had its source been more mundanely masculine.
Excerpted from The Murderer Invisible by Philip Wylie. Copyright © 1959 Philip Wylie. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.