[Frontispiece: "Zarlah's car was hurled upwards into space with frightful velocity."]
Zarlah The Martian
R. Norman Grisewood
Zarlah, The Martian
I. THE STRANGE SHADOW
II. THE MARTIAN
III. THE VOICE FROM ANOTHER WORLD
IV. THE STORY OF MARTIAN LIFE
V. THE HAZARDOUS UNDERTAKING
VI. "AS OTHERS SEE US"
VII. THE MELODY OF FLOWERS AND ZARLAH
VIII. A HUNDRED MILES A MINUTE IN AN AERENOID
IX. THE REALIZATION OF A HOPELESS LOVE
X. ZARLAH'S CONFESSION
XI. THE DISCOVERY AT THE MARTIAN OBSERVATORY
XII. THE WARNING OF DANGER—THE RACE WITH DEATH
XIII. THE END OF A PERILOUS JOURNEY
XIV. HURLED FROM THE MOON
ZARLAH, THE MARTIAN.
THE STRANGE SHADOW.
So thrilling were my experiences during that period, so overcrowded with feverish action and strong emotions was each wonderful moment, and so entirely changed are the conditions of life as I now find it, that it is with considerable difficulty that I recall in detail all that happened prior to my remarkable discovery which opened communication between Earth and Mars. One says "discovery" advisedly, but let it not be imagined that communication with the planet Mars was established as a result of any careful and systematic research, or that I possessed a subtle genius for astronomical science that was destined to introduce into society what must eventually revolutionize it. Nothing could be further from the facts. Into the daily grind of my absolutely uneventful career, burst the almost terrifying revelations with a suddenness that stunned me, while I was engaged in experiments of an entirely extraneous nature. Albeit one wonders that the Martian rays, which have swept our planet with their searching gaze for so many centuries, were not discovered long ago. But this is anticipating my story.
I had reached the age of thirty, when, in the Spring of 19—, I sailed out of New York harbor on board La Provence, en route for Paris. It was not so much my purpose to seek pleasure as the determination to turn my eight years of experience in the United States to some avenue of profitable livelihood, that decided me to make the journey, although I looked forward with no small degree of pleasant anticipation to meeting some of my fellow students in the Academie des Sciences in Paris, where I had received five years of excellent training.
My trip across and my subsequent arrival in Paris were without any events of particular interest, and one bright morning in the early summer I found myself comfortably lodged in the house where I had previously boarded while a student. Connected with my rooms, which were at the top of the house, was one of considerable size that I had formerly used as a laboratory, and this I now set about fitting up to serve the same purpose. The daylight found its way into the room through a skylight, and though admirably suited for an artist's studio, it answered my purpose equally as well.
I had collected many new instruments and appliances by dint of days spent in shopping, and was anxious to begin work in earnest, when one evening, as I glanced through the columns of a newspaper, my attention was arrested by an article of particular interest. This set forth the great and increasing demand for a substitute for glass, one which would answer the purpose in every respect, and at the same time be indestructible and a good conductor of sound. The article concluded with an enumeration of the many uses for which such a substitute would be invaluable, hinting at the enormous financial possibilities which would be open to the inventor. The more I considered the matter, the more desirous I became to test several theories which forthwith presented themselves to my mind, and the next morning found me determined to begin my experiments at once. In theory, I saw the solution of the problem in artificially producing increased atomic motion, and with that object in view I went to work.
My experiments involved me in weeks of hard work, and it was toward the end of the summer before I could admit having had any important results. I now had a substance resembling glass in appearance, though vastly different in composition, which I made into a film, extremely thin and highly sensitive to vibrations. Running through this film were slender wires made of various metals, about one inch apart, which served not only to give rigidity to the film, but also to conduct a current of electricity through it, engendering a high state of atomic agitation. The current was controlled by a small switch placed in a heavy box-like frame, which bounded the film on its four sides and contained the batteries, coils, etc. To this were attached four legs, supporting it about the height of an ordinary table from the floor. The whole device measured about seven feet square.
This film substance contained certain elements which I had found to be necessary to secure the desired intensity of agitation. It had taken me almost a month to secure the fine quality I desired, and I looked forward to the test with the feeling that results would prove that I was nearing the goal, if I had not actually attained it.
At last the day arrived when my device was ready for the test. I had worked all the afternoon giving the finishing touches and it had grown dusk without my realizing it. But everything was now ready, and moving the switch, I turned the current of electricity through the composition. Just as I was about to begin my test, I noticed what appeared to be a faint shadow of a man move across the surface of the film. My first thought was that someone had entered the room without my knowledge, and his figure had been reflected on the surface of the film, which was highly glazed, but a glance around the room assured me that this explanation was untenable. Moreover, I found, upon further investigation, that the film was lying in such a position that it would be impossible to reflect any person in the room. I then examined the skylight, only to find that, owing to the sharp inclination of the roof, it would be an utter impossibility for anyone to reach it from the outside without the aid of a ladder. I investigated this source further, thinking to find the reflection on the film to be from some street in the city below, but on account of the extent of the roof, no street was visible from the skylight.
Completely baffled, I descended into the room again and turned on the current. Immediately the shadow appeared on the film, and this time, in consequence of the room now being quite dark, I noticed that it was surrounded by a phosphorus-colored glow. The figure was certainly that of a man, although very faint, and it became evident to me, after watching it for a while, that he was trying to signal with his arms.
I now noticed that, in addition to the peculiar light on the film, the entire surface seemed to vibrate with frequent, but scarcely audible, humming sounds. Upon turning off the current all disappeared, only to reappear when I switched it on again. It was evident then that the phenomenon was caused only when the instrument was charged with electricity, and consequently was no ordinary reflection, as I had at first supposed.
Everything pointed to its being the manifestation of some outside agency; possibly electrical waves which my apparatus received and in a measure responded to, coming through the open skylight from—where? The question reiterated itself in my mind, as I stood gazing perplexedly at the phenomenon. I might have been satisfied with the supposition that, unknowingly, I had made an instrument which was capable of receiving wireless waves from another instrument of similar tone in or near Paris, if I had had only the humming sounds to contend with, but the shadow impelled me to look for the reason further than this. I glanced upward, eagerly seeking some explanation. One star was visible through the open skylight—Mars. Clear and bright it shone in the inky blackness framed by the window.
Once more I climbed to the skylight, feeling that I must seek the explanation in that direction, when my attention was suddenly turned to the apparatus below me. The glow was slowly passing off one side of the film. I hastily descended and examined the batteries, thinking I would find the cause of this in a failing current, but all was apparently in perfect order. Still the glow and shadow moved steadily off, growing fainter every moment, until it disappeared completely.
With a sudden impulse, born of a weird and almost terrifying thought, I bent over until my eyes were on a level with the film, then I looked upward; the star was no longer visible from the position of the instrument, it had risen above the frame of the window. At once I was seized with an intense excitement; could it be possible that my apparatus was responding to waves mysteriously projected from Mars? If not, why had the glow and shadow faded from the film at the same instant that Mars disappeared above the window frame?
Hoping to test this further, I endeavored to move the apparatus to a position where Mars would again be visible, but alas, I found it much too heavy. I felt keenly disappointed at the sudden termination of this strange phenomenon, but, upon reflection, I realized that it was only the simultaneous disappearance of Mars and the glow on the film that had caused me to attribute waves to that far source. The more I pondered upon the matter, the more impossible it seemed, yet, strange to say, the more convinced I became that the theory was correct. Light-waves, I argued, unlike the wireless waves in common use, could be received only when the two objects were in line of vision; but I realized that if they were of Martian origin they were of remarkable magnification, projected through space by some unknown and powerful agent, thousands of times more powerful than electricity as we know it upon Earth. That the shadow on the film had been that of a Martian, I dared not hope. Though my mind continually reverted to this wild conjecture, I impatiently put it aside, as the apparent impossibility of it all would force itself upon me.
Nothing further could be done that night, and as I had worked hard all day preparing for my experiment, without even stopping for meals, I now felt the effect of the excitement I had undergone and resolved to take a walk in the cool air, I wanted to think, and, if possible, to plan a line of action for the morrow which would bring me better results, if my theory of light-waves should prove to be correct. Needless to say, I determined to cease my former experiments, and devote all my energy to ascertaining whether my apparatus was actually responding to Martian light-waves of remarkable integrity, and if such proved to be the case, to put every effort into improving the device with the hope of obtaining their import. I also determined to keep my discovery a secret, at least for the present.
I returned to my rooms with a much clearer conception of the conditions with which I had to cope, if the waves to which my apparatus responded should prove to be Martian waves. My mind was fully made up to proceed as if this were an established fact, as, in order to give my best efforts to improving my apparatus, I felt that I must eliminate all scepticism. I clearly appreciated the advantage of moving my instrument outside, where I could command a view of Mars for a much longer time, but the necessity of being in my laboratory while I was engaged in these improvements, decided me against any immediate change.
Accordingly I proceeded the next morning to make the changes I deemed necessary, being goaded into a fever of haste by a feeling of suppressed excitement. The composition I had used in the form of a film I now liquefied, having concluded that in the former condition, although necessary in my original experiments, it now only retarded the vibration of the wires.
That this composition was essential there could be no doubt, as it was its elements that responded to the agent used on Mars to project the waves. I therefore liquefied the film substance, being careful in so doing not to alter its properties. I then procured wires, much thinner than those I had previously used, and dipped them-into the liquid. After they had become perfectly dry, I stretched them on the frame as close together as I could without their coming into contact with one another. As light-waves are received in hundreds of different vibrations simultaneously, according to the light or shade of the object projected, I concluded that each wire should be capable of individual vibration. The device now resembled a large piece of mosquito netting with the cross wires removed, the coating of composition on each wire being so thin that it was hardly discernible. The batteries and coils I connected as before, taking great care not to change their arrangement.
My preparations were now completed, and before me stood an instrument as delicate and sensitive to wave vibrations as I could make it. Raising one side of the frame a foot higher than the other, in order that the surface of wires would be squarely facing the star when it appeared above the casement, I waited impatiently for the moment which should prove the truth or falsity of my surmises.
The day had closed, and I spent the remaining time speculating upon the results of my labors. But even the wildest flights of my imagination did not picture, in the smallest degree, the wonderful transformation which my new instrument would make in what had appeared before as a shadow on the film. Little did I imagine to what an extent the unknown was to be revealed to me.
As I stood by the side of the frame all in readiness, Mars appeared, but it still had a little farther to climb before it would be visible from the level of the wires. Nevertheless, I turned on the current from the batteries. All was darkness; never before had darkness seemed to me so profound, so absolutely appalling. Minutes passed like hours, but still that ominous darkness reigned. I felt the keen disappointment of failure; I grew incredulous as the time passed, and found myself admitting and rehearsing the absurdity of it all. I even blamed myself for having been so easily deflected from my former experiments, by what now seemed to be merely an idle fancy.
Suddenly I bent over the frame and gazed eagerly at the surface of wires, for there, on the top edge, appeared a touch of the phosphorus-colored glow. My heart thumped with wild excitement. I stooped down until my eyes were on the level of the wires, and looking up toward the window I could just see the rim of Mars appearing above the casement. A shout of joy burst from my lips at the sight of it, for it was now beyond all doubt that the phenomenon was attributable to Mars. Brighter and brighter became the light as it covered the surface of wires, until all its resemblance to a phosphorus glow had gone, and it shone with such brilliancy that my eyes, accustomed as they were to the darkness of the room, quailed before it. Turning away so that my eyes might gradually become accustomed to the glare, I noticed that in spite of the brilliant white light on the surface of the wires, the room was in perfect darkness—the light had no power of illumination! Impenetrable mystery enshrouded the agent which Mars was employing to communicate with Earth!
A curious humming sound issuing from the frame, much louder than I had noticed the night before, caused me to turn involuntarily, and as I did so I uttered a cry of wonder at the marvelous vision that met my eyes. There lay before me, as bright as daylight, a picture that a thousand times surpassed my highest, wildest hope. The great secret of another planet was revealed, and I stood motionless, beholding an inhabitant of a star millions of miles away.
Among the vast multitude who for centuries have yearned for a glimpse into the unknown worlds that surround us, I stood alone gazing upon the image of a Martian. The thought stunned me; I was seized with a wild impulse to rush out into the street and bring in the throng, that they might look upon the form of this wonderful being on our sister planet. But what proof was there to give them that this was so? I would undoubtedly be ridiculed and accused of trickery. The very fact that had brought a cry of amazement to my lips—the remarkable brilliancy and clearness of the image, and the appearance of the Martian himself—would serve to bring discredit upon anything I might say. Personally I had ample proof that the image was that of a Martian, but what instant proof could I give a jeering crowd? I had expected to find in a Martian a strange grotesque being in appearance, if not in mind, much after the weird and fierce character so many authors have portrayed him. Judge, then, my astonishment when I beheld one who, in every particular of form and feature, resembled the people of Earth.
He appeared to be a man of about forty years of age, judging by our earthly standard of time, possessing clear-cut features and dark complexion. His face, which was clean-shaven, was remarkably handsome, and his piercing dark eyes, although they enhanced the smile that greeted my appearance at the instrument, seemed to search into my very soul and to hold me spellbound with mute challenge. Nor could I, upon afterthought, remember having shown the common courtesy of returning his greeting.
My astonishment was so great that every faculty seemed to leave me, and I stood transfixed, staring at the image of the Martian without even the power of thought. Gradually recovering my senses, however, I took note of the man and his surroundings. He stood in a room of about the same dimensions as my laboratory, which seemed to be flooded with bright daylight, though I could not see any windows on three sides of the room to admit the light, nor any shadows to indicate that the light came from a window in the fourth. He held in his hands an instrument unknown to me, and seemed to be perfectly at his ease, showing neither surprise nor curiosity. Evidently this was not the first time that he had seen an inhabitant of the Earth. So unconcerned was he and so natural did he appear, even in the smallest detail of dress, that it was hard to believe I was not looking at an image of some room and its occupant in Paris. His close-fitting clothes seemed to be of a dark green material, and resembled, to some degree, the uniform of an army officer.
Bending over the instrument he held, he placed his mouth close to the top of it, and immediately the humming sounds, which I had noticed before, emanated from the wires of my apparatus. The thought flashed through my mind that the Martian held in this instrument a means of communicating sound. If so, what were the words—what language? The possibility of what I heard being words, made me strain every nerve to catch the slightest resemblance to such sounds, but alas, with no success. That they were intended to convey a message, I became fully convinced, but I could not rest in the belief that this jumble of sounds was the Martian language. If the Martians themselves resembled, in so striking a degree, the inhabitants of Earth, I argued, then it was in the nature of things to expect a language that, in some way, corresponded to one of our languages. The fault lay in my instrument, I was sure of that, and in the keen disappointment of my failure to receive his message and the excitement of the moment, I gave utterance to an exclamation of despair. Immediately a smile overspread the Martian's countenance, and, to my great astonishment, he put down the instrument and clapped his hands by way of showing his approval.
Before I could recover from my surprise at this new evidence of Martian familiarity with the customs of Earth, the light suddenly grew dim and in a few seconds had disappeared completely, leaving the instrument plunged in darkness. Mars had risen above the frame of the skylight, and I was no longer in contact with the light-waves. I listened intently, thinking that if the sound-waves were of the nature of the electrical-waves we employ in the wireless system, I would still be in touch with my newly found friend, but I heard no further sound from the instrument, thus proving that these waves also were projected by the mysterious agent known only to the Martians.
I had so much to occupy my mind, with what I had just witnessed, and so many thoughts rushed in upon me regarding the perfecting of my instrument so that it might properly respond to the sound-waves, that I did not experience the disappointment I had felt before at the short duration of our contact with each other. I was glad of the opportunity to think; I felt that it was necessary to do so before further action, if I ever hoped to attain the knowledge of Mars and its inhabitants that my remarkable discovery had placed within my reach. I determined that on the morrow, if I did not meet with better results in the sound vibrations, I would try to communicate with the Martian by writing some simple sentence in a bold hand, and in as many languages as I could. This I would expose in front of the instrument, but I placed little hope in the success of the scheme, for it was not possible that the Martian language would be identical with any of ours.
THE VOICE FROM ANOTHER WORLD
This thought of communicating with the Martian by writing, did not deter me from using every effort to perfect my instrument, so that this might be done verbally, or that at least I might hear a voice and a language spoken on a world millions of miles away. Accordingly I gave the subject of sound-waves my best thought, and the next morning I had formulated clearly laid principles upon which to work. By these I hoped to make an instrument that would be the means of conversing with a Martian.
I had come to the conclusion that the jumble of sound was caused by the prolonged vibration of the wires after each distinct wave from Mars was received, as the wires of a piano will vibrate long after they have been touched. With light-waves it was necessary to have a highly sensitive surface of the composition, capable of responding to many different vibrations, according to the light or shade of the object projected. This accounted for the success I met with upon adopting the coated wires, and I concluded thereupon that they were indispensable. But I now saw that the presence of wires in the composition, though successful with light-waves, was inimical to sound-waves, and it became evident that a firmer but highly sensitive surface was required. The film had not brought good results, either from sound-waves or light-waves, but, it will be remembered, there were wires running through it to give it rigidity, which, although necessary in my original experiments, must be avoided in connection with sound vibrations. Clearly my new film must not be rigid. I thereupon made a film of composition, as thin as possible, and stretched it upon the frame of my instrument, as a diaphragm behind the wires, hoping that the sound-waves would pass between the wires, and vibrate the diaphragm, which, being made of composition, would undoubtedly glow, but not more than the film had done. This, I concluded, would not interfere with the image on the wires, owing to the brilliancy of the latter.
I was now hopeful of success, and anxiously waited for the day to close. Everything was in readiness by noon, and I had at least eight hours to wait before Mars would be in a position for wave contact. But now appeared an adversary with which I had not reckoned. Clouds began to gather, thin and fleecy at first, but growing heavier as the afternoon passed, until by evening the heavens were completely obscured. This was a condition that might last for several days, and the dread of it filled me with despair. How could I wait for days inactive, without seeing or even hearing from my friend in Mars?
It now occurred to me how absolutely absorbed I had become in the Martian investigation. Ordinarily a sociable person, in the past week I had become a recluse. College friends that I had seen almost daily since my return to Paris, I now completely neglected, even shunned, lest they should call at my rooms some evening when I was in wave contact with Mars. It also occurred to me that, as surely as my friendship and necessity for them was declining, in like ratio was increasing an attachment for an inhabitant of another world. I felt a strange soul kinship for this Martian, which seemed to spring up the moment I saw his image portrayed on my instrument. And the feeling was not one of ordinary friendship. I felt I was drawn to him by some mysterious power, that gave him the place of a brother in my affections—a power that seemed to have brought us together, and now united us with a great common and compelling interest. And yet as I pictured his handsome, almost beautiful face, there was still another face I had seen—but where? The Martian had been alone, yet I was conscious of a face that was wonderfully beautiful, that seemed the goal for which I was striving. It led me to greater effort after failure; the face which I yearned to see and yet strangely dreaded seeing.
It was useless for me to try to understand such thoughts, and to banish them from my mind was impossible. I was overcome with a sense of loneliness. Looking at my watch, I found that it was already past the hour when Mars would be visible through the window on a clear night, but, alas, the sky showed no signs of clearing; though my instrument stood ready, it was useless.
But, obeying some irresistible impulse, I decided to turn on the current and stand by the instrument in case an opening in the clouds should occur, for even a moment. I therefore turned the switch that controlled the current, and immediately, to my astonishment, the surface of wires became as brilliant as on the previous evening under a clear sky. Turning away for a moment, to allow my eyes to become accustomed to the brilliancy, I noticed that the sky was still overcast with heavy rain clouds. My joy at the discovery that the Martian projecting agent was not arrested by vapor was unbounded, for it meant that I could be in wave-contact with Mars every night, during the period that the planet was visible from Earth.
I approached the instrument with the intention of at once testing the diaphragm, but, to my surprise, my Martian friend was not there to greet me. The room and its furnishings, however, were depicted as clearly as before, and I now had an opportunity to note the instruments, the large volumes of books, and the maps of the heavens which hung on the wall. Everything pointed to this being a fully equipped Martian observatory, though the instruments were entirely strange to me. I was examining these latter more closely, when heavy portieres parted, and my Martian friend stepped into the room. So anxious was I to give him a pleasant greeting, instead of staring at him in a semi-stupefied condition, as I had done previously, that I forgot, for the moment, my determination to test my diaphragm at the first opportunity, and greeted him merely with a smile and a bow.
My serene demeanor lasted but a moment, for simultaneously with his bowed response to my greeting, came in a clear voice, with perfect accent: "Bon soir, Monsieur!"
I started back, for it seemed as if someone in the room had spoken, but then I noticed that the Martian held in his hand the instrument I had seen on the previous evening. Was it possible that this was his voice, speaking French from a distance of millions of miles as clearly as if he were in the room? The thing was incredible! How could a Martian know a language evolved here on Earth? Was the whole thing then a delusion of an overwrought mind? I stood staring at the instrument in amazement.
The Martian, now seeing by my actions that his voice had been heard, raised his instrument and repeated his greeting. The voice rang as clearly as before; there could be no further doubt; through this wonderful instrument the Martian's voice was projected, almost instantaneously to the Earth—millions of miles in a second. The mysterious power which enabled the Martian to project the waves, compared with our electricity as the telegraph does with the stage-coach. Was it strange that I stood aghast, as my mind slowly comprehended the enormous distance which that voice had traversed almost instantaneously?
It was some moments before my amazement permitted me to respond to this extraordinary salutation, then—my mind still too bewildered properly to grasp the situation—I mumbled something in English about my great astonishment at hearing a language of Earth spoken from a distant world.
The sound of my voice seemed to cause the Martian some surprise, but immediately his voice issued again in clear tones from the instrument.
"I greeted you in what I supposed was your native tongue," he said in perfect English. "Although now we have but one composite language here, over a thousand years ago we spoke in many languages, as the people of your planet do at the present time.
"For more than six hundred years we have been able to observe the progress of your planet," he went on, "through an instrument by which light-waves are projected and received, and have found it to be identical with ours of almost fifteen hundred years ago. By the placards in the streets of your cities and towns, we discovered that you also spoke in many tongues, and although the progress was necessarily slow, our astronomers were, by this means, able to learn the principal languages of Earth.
"Anxiously we have watched and waited for the discovery of an instrument that would respond to our projected light-waves and reveal to you the inhabitants of your neighboring planet. At last this momentous time has arrived. I congratulate you upon bringing it about."
As he spoke, his voice, coming from the diaphragm of my instrument, sounded as distinct as if he were in the room, and his image, depicted life-size, made it hard to believe that he was more than a few feet away. That my informant was, in reality, millions of miles away, my mind absolutely refused to grasp.
A thousand questions to put to my Martian acquaintance rushed into my mind, but alas, in supposing that I could not come in contact with Mars on account of cloud obscurity, I had lost much of the precious time, and now the waning light on my instrument warned me that the planet would, in a few moments, pass out of range. We therefore hastily bade each other adieu, promising to continue our conversation on the morrow, as though we had parted at a street corner. The light now faded completely, and the instrument, that a few moments previously had been animated with such an exuberance of life and mystery, now stood before me wrapped in profound darkness and silence.
How impossible, how inconceivable it all seemed! How the outside world would scoff if I attempted to explain or publish my discovery! I felt that the time had not yet come to take anyone into my confidence, and I determined still to keep all a secret. I was then unaware, however, that the more I learned of Mars and its people the more closely I would guard my knowledge.
Pacing excitedly up and down my laboratory, I spent most of the night in reviewing what I had heard, and speculating the rare knowledge that the morrow would bring. The secrets of another world would be unfolded to me, and the scientific achievements of a people over a thousand years in advance of us would be mine. What glorious possibilities this disclosed! What a brilliant future as a scientist such knowledge would assure me! And in the exuberance of my spirits I little thought that the possession of this knowledge would come to mean naught to me; for I had yet to learn that man cannot share the riches of another world without also becoming a partner in its sorrows and its passions.
THE STORY OF MARTIAN LIFE.
With a determination of finding a room from which I could command a longer view of Mars, the next day I visited several studios which were for rent, and finally succeeded in securing one formerly occupied by a photographer, which was located on the top floor of a house in the immediate vicinity of my old rooms.
The room was large, in fact it occupied the entire top floor of the building, and this feature pleased me greatly. The only communication with the house was by a door which had every appearance of an outside door, so heavy were the hinges and lock. The landlord, in drawing my attention to this, had smiled and remarked that the former tenant, who lived in another section of the city, had been very careful always to leave his studio securely locked. The ceiling of half the room was entirely of glass, sloping down to the floor at the angle of the roof, and this was the only means of obtaining air and light. It was constructed in two sections, which would slide back and forth, for the purpose of ventilation. This arrangement, I found, would give me an unobstructed view of Mars for several hours each night. Nothing could be better adapted to my requirements; I could not be observed by anyone outside, and I need not fear being overheard while conversing with my Martian friend.
I therefore determined to have my instrument moved at once, in order to be installed in my new quarters that evening.
I next bought a crate, used for large oil paintings, and upon its delivery at my old rooms, I immediately commenced packing my instrument in it. Owing to its great weight this was no easy work, and it would express the procedure better if I said that I placed the crate around the instrument. Making sure that it was all covered carefully, I had it moved to my new quarters and set in place, the impression of the carriers being that it was a painting which I was very anxious that no one should see until it was completed.
As it was now within an hour of the time when I expected Mars to appear, I decided to leave my books and other belongings at my former rooms until the next day. I uncovered the instrument, and got everything into readiness, being careful to see that the batteries were all in place, so that nothing might occur to interrupt the long talk with the Martian which I was anticipating.
Having turned on the current, and opened the sliding section of the glass roof, I now awaited the appearance of Mars. There occurred to me question alter question that seemed of sufficient importance to prompt immediate inquiry, only to be forgotten as others came into my mind; until the presence of the increasing faint glow on my instrument found me unprepared with any single question of actual importance. Consequently I decided to allow my distant informant to continue with the account of Martian observations of Earth, as being at once the most instructive and surest way of suggesting important questions.
As my eyes got accustomed to the brilliancy I saw the Martian waiting for me, with his instrument in readiness. We greeted each other with the affection we both now sincerely felt, and though I could not clasp his hand, I endeavored in every way to show him the brotherly warmth of feeling I entertained for him.
It now occurred to me that in the excitement of our first communication with each other, we had completely overlooked an important conventionality. I therefore announced that I was known on Earth as Harold Lonsdale.
"My name is Almos," he responded, his dark eyes sparkling as he quickly entered into the spirit of the occasion. "Although it was customary once for us to have two or three names, we found it in better harmony with the changed conditions of the present time to have but one. This you will more easily understand when you have become better acquainted with this planet and its people."
"And as I am most anxious to learn more about the conditions of life in your world," I added, eagerly, "I trust you will continue the account of Martian observations of Earth, which was barely commenced last evening when the wave contact ceased. But first let me ask how you located my whereabouts, for this morning I moved to another section of the city."
"Ah!" he replied, with a smile, "I was not aware you had moved. Experience has taught me about where to look for the large city you call Paris, on the side of Earth that is now exposed to us, and then by systematic search I soon located the response of your instrument.
"As our observations of Earth with projected light-rays have been carried on for seven hundred years, it will be necessary to give you an outline of our history and the progress of science covering that time. This will not only be of interest as a forecast of your own world's future, but will also prove of the greatest value to you, if you decide to visit this planet, an undertaking which I am convinced lies within your power."
His words wrung an exclamation of astonishment from my lips, but, as though not wishing to be interrupted, he went on:
"Seven hundred years ago, a power derived from that substance known on Earth as radium, was discovered on Mars. This power was found to be capable of projecting light rays almost instantaneously through space for inconceivable distances, at the same time preserving their integrity to such a remarkable degree that they would reach the farthest planets without diffusion or diminution. Thus my image, thrown upon the instrument before me, is conveyed to Earth in light-waves by this flow of super-radium with such tremendous speed as to be practically instantaneous; these are received in your instrument, which is responsive to the flow of super-radium, in the same condition as when they left Mars, consequently depicting the image life-size.
"Having come in contact with another body in the heavens, this outward-flowing current of super-radium is changed to an inward-flowing current. In making this change it frees the light-waves it conveyed from Mars, and retains the light-waves of the objects about it, which is merely repeating its performance upon leaving Mars. These light-waves of objects on another globe it now conveys on its return journey to Mars, entering a receiving instrument and depicting the objects therein life-size.
"Possessing rays invisible to the human eye, except when agitated by a substance of its own nature, daylight on a planet becomes an entirely unnecessary adjunct to observations made with super-radium, and we are able to explore the dark side of planets and other heavenly bodies, just as effectually as those illuminated by the sun.
"Thus have we, for seven hundred years, been able to study the country, cities, streets, and people of Earth. And not only did we note a remarkable similarity in the people, buildings, and scientific progress to early Martian ages, but, by the advertisements, placards, and other street signs we were able to learn the principal languages spoken on your planet, and these were found to correspond in a remarkable degree to those in use on Mars, before conditions on our planet made the adoption of a composite language an absolute necessity. And undoubtedly these same conditions in due time will face the people of Earth."
I could not restrain an exclamation of astonishment at this prediction, but Almos at once reassured me by stating that when the time did come, it would be the beginning of universal peace and happiness on Earth.
"Am I to understand, then," said I, "that a condition of perfect happiness prevails on Mars?"
"Unhappiness is considered a disease with us," Almos rejoined. "It is heard of, but very rarely, and is treated as a serious malady. But you will understand these things better as you gradually become acquainted with the conditions here. You must remember that you are in the position of a man over fifteen hundred years in advance of his day.
"Having become convinced, through close observations, that the progress of Earth was identical with that of Mars, and that Earth, being the younger planet, was consequently following our lead, we anxiously watched for the discovery on Earth of the wonderful power that had been the means of bringing us into such close visual contact with you. When you discovered radium, we realized that this would eventually lead to the discovery of the higher power, but we feared that this might not be for hundreds of years.
"That communication was possible through the medium of radium and electricity, we were totally ignorant of. It was the responsive properties of radium in your instrument, however, that first attracted my attention while searching over Paris for an object I had previously been observing. Thereafter my interest in your progress was as great as your own, and every twenty-four hours, when the eastern hemisphere of Earth was turned toward Mars, I searched with the radioscope until I got the response of your instrument.
"I have kept my success in communicating with Earth a secret, as it involves an invention of mine which I have not yet made public, and of which I will now tell you. This invention is the radiphone, through which we are now conversing, and to which the diaphragm of your instrument responds, as it doubtless contains radium also. My entire life has been devoted to the development of Martian-Earthly communication, and this instrument has been the goal which I have striven to reach since boyhood, and yet its success in communicating with Earth came as a great surprise to me."
So accustomed was I to hear the Martian speak of the most miraculous occurrences in an ordinary conversational tone, that the idea of there still remaining something on Mars to be discovered appeared a still greater wonder.
"We have made a most important discovery," pursued Almos. "I say 'we,' as without the response of your instrument the action of a super-radium current on sound-waves would not have been discovered."
"I feel that I can hardly share in the honors," I protested modestly. "Without the super-radium current from Mars, I would still be experimenting with the hope of finding a substitute for glass."
I now entered into a full account of the experiments I had conducted, describing how, quite accidentally, I had made a substance responsive to the waves from Mars. He was greatly amused upon hearing of my astonishment at finding that Martians resembled the people on Earth; and when I drew for him a verbal picture of the ferocious creatures the inhabitants of Mars were supposed to be, he laughed aloud.
"We never suspected that the people of Earth did us such a great injustice," he said, his whole countenance lighting up with good humor. "I have several volumes here giving accounts of observations of Earth, some of them written eight hundred years ago. It would perhaps interest you to hear what the Martian conception of the inhabitants of Earth was at that time."
"Indeed it would," I exclaimed, with rising curiosity.
"Well then," rejoined Almos, bringing one of the books and turning over the leaves, while a curious smile still played about his mouth, "you must understand that this was written over a hundred years before super-radium was discovered, and at that time we had no means of observing Earth except through the telescope, which showed us the mountains, seas, and continents, much the same as your telescope must reveal the physical features of Mars. On the question of whether Earth is inhabited the author says:
"'That this planet is inhabited we have no reason to doubt, as it is known to be enveloped in an atmosphere, and it is now a generally accepted theory that the changes noticed in its color throughout the year are the seasonal effects on vegetable matter existing on its surface.... What the inhabitants are like, however, we can only surmise, but a study of the conditions under which they live will help us to picture the wild amphibious creatures they must be. Their planet, more than half covered with water, and being so many millions of miles nearer the sun than we are, is almost continually enveloped in heavy clouds of vapor, which, unless they were half fish, must surely suffocate them. They doubtless seek the depths of water when these clouds of thick vapor arise. Upon emerging, however, they have to face such intense heat as none of us could tolerate a minute and live.... They are no doubt provided with steel-like skin to resist this temperature.... That they are of a fierce temperament there can be little doubt, as their atmosphere, which is twice the weight of ours, is so overcharged with electricity, owing to the heat and clouds of vapor, that violent storms are constantly breaking over them, doubtless killing thousands of them at a time and tending to make the natures of the survivors as fierce as the elements which surround them.... Their year is but half as long as ours, and this—impeding the laws of propagation, thus making impossible the higher order of mankind—would naturally have the effect of rendering their lives a short, reckless, and ferocious existence, full of unrestrained cruelty and passions....'
"And now," continued Almos, with a smile, after closing the volume, "you see there is no occasion for apologies from you."
"No," I answered, somewhat dryly.
"The fact is, my dear fellow," said Almos, laughing and seeming to enjoy the situation immensely, "the entire solar system is pursuing the same path; what A thinks of B, B has already thought of A."
The failing light on my instrument at this moment gave warning of the passing of Mars out of wave contact, and we were obliged to bid each other good-bye, Almos promising important revelations on the morrow.
As I stood for a moment before my instrument, now wrapped in darkness, I was conscious of a strange feeling that, in bidding Almos adieu, I had also parted from another inhabitant of Mars. Though well aware that I had only seen and conversed with Almos, my mind, nevertheless, also reproduced the likeness of a young girl, wonderfully beautiful. I had first experienced this mental image immediately after my first conversation with Almos. At that time I had tried hard to put it from me as merely a delusion resulting from nervous tension. But I found that after each interview with Almos, the image became clearer and more definitely fixed in my mind, until now I firmly believed in the existence of this beautiful being on Mars, and, remarkable though it seemed, I could not deny my growing affection for her. I had not mentioned this mental image to Almos, as I felt convinced that he knew nothing of it, and therefore would be unable to help me in any way. Moreover, my training had taught me to seek a scientific reason for things which might appeal to the superstitious as weird and uncanny. I was therefore loath to speak of it to Almos, until I had proved beyond doubt that it was not an hallucination.
After I had spent many hours in vainly seeking a possible cause for this mysterious mental image, the realization that I was but the veriest infant in the wonderful achievements of our sister planet, finally decided me upon the wiser course of leaving such matters until I had become better acquainted with Martian inventions and scientific progress. I therefore looked forward to visiting this wonderful world with the greatest anticipation, and though I was entirely ignorant of how this stupendous and seemingly impossible feat should be accomplished, such was my faith in Almos' superior knowledge of science, that I did not, for a moment, doubt the possibility of such a thing. Little did I realize the fearful nature of the journey—the success of which was based entirely on theories—or I would have shrunk in horror from such an undertaking.
THE HAZARDOUS UNDERTAKING.
The greater part of the next day was spent in moving the rest of my belongings to my new quarters and in settling down there. Indeed, so occupied was I with this task, that the approach of darkness found me quite unprepared for wave contact with Mars. I had been obliged to take my instrument apart in order to allow the larger pieces of furniture to be brought into the room, and it required almost two hours to put it together again.
When at last all was in readiness and I had turned on the current, I found my Martian friend waiting for me.
"This is to be the last of my narrative," he remarked, after we had greeted each other.
"What!" I ejaculated in amazement.
"You see, my dear fellow," continued Almos, "it was necessary for you to become gradually acquainted with the advanced contions on Mars, properly to understand them, and I have tried to school your mind accordingly. It is essential, however, for you to see these things, fully to appreciate the advancement of almost twenty centuries, and only thus can my highest ambition be realized."
"How is it possible?"
"When I have told you of several important ways in which life on Mars differs from that on Earth, you will more readily understand.
"I have said that unhappiness on Mars is almost unknown. It is only the presence of ill health that causes unhappiness. If the body can be kept in a condition of absolutely perfect health—and by that I mean something far beyond what is considered perfect health on Earth—then unhappiness is impossible. Its causes, sorrow, jealousy, envy, hatred, and discontent, are eliminated, and a normal condition of perfect immunity from wrong-doing and unhappiness exists.
"It has been discovered on Earth that crime is the result of a diseased brain, and with us this discovery, in time, developed the fact that wrong-doing, even in its minor phases, is the result of physical ill health. Maintain, then, a perfect state of bodily health in a community, and there is no wrong-doing and consequent unhappiness.
"The means of obtaining this bodily health was discovered on Mars, in the form of invisible light rays, almost six hundred years ago, and its discovery led to a complete transformation in social conditions, establishing perfect tranquillity and happiness upon the entire globe.
"Separate governments became intolerable and were abandoned when race distinction was forgotten, and the people of Mars became as one family, speaking one tongue. Friendship for one's neighbor was transmuted into love for one's brother. The pursuit of personal gain was replaced by a desire to work for the good of all, and now a keen individual sense of right and duty actuates the entire population, and is paramount in all things. Duties are performed without other compensation than that which the fulfillment of something well done brings.
"It was soon found that the remarkable regenerating properties of these rays perpetuated life and youth. Not only did they prevent sickness of any kind, but they rebuilt the tissues of the body as fast as they wore out, thus making the aging of the body impossible. A child therefore grows up to full manhood or womanhood and remains in that state of the body's highest excellence. While the child is developing the rays stimulate his progress; anything beyond that would be decaying, a condition the rays prevent."
Accustomed though I had become to a long recital of the most marvelous accounts without interrupting, I could not suppress an exclamation of astonishment at the information that Martians enjoy everlasting life.
Almos received my evident amazement with the quiet smile I had grown accustomed to observe upon such occasions, and, with a view of illustrating the point further, said:
"Although one's actual age becomes a very unimportant matter when, instead of being limited to sixty or seventy years, it extends over hundreds of years, I can readily ascertain my age, from the fact that I was twenty years old at the time these wonderful rays were discovered. I have lived, then, about six hundred of Earth's years, or three hundred Martian years."
"Six hundred years!" I exclaimed, as I looked at the reflection of his handsome face; his eyes flashing, his cheeks aglow with ruddy health, his whole countenance animated with the full vigor of manhood.
"Of course, we do not know how long the effects of regenerating rays will make it possible to live," pursued Almos, "but in theory, it would seem that by their daily use perfect health will be assured, and life itself will continue indefinitely."
"And death become unknown on Mars!" I added, enthusiastically.
"Not quite unknown," rejoined Almos. "For lives are sometimes lost in accidents. Instant death defies all our science, and will not be conquered. But in accidents, no matter how serious, where a spark of life remains, we can prevent that from escaping until the body is in a condition to take care of it.
"This is accomplished by a device known as a virator, which, though simple in construction, is the greatest marvel of the age. It consists of a dome, made of material similar to glass in appearance, but which differs from anything else known, in that it is absolutely atomless. This dome fits over the operating table, upon which the patient lies, with just sufficient room for two persons inside, and is kept at the temperature of the body. On its top is a small globe made of the same material, measuring but a few inches in diameter, which is connected with the large chamber below by a neck or passage about an inch wide. The patient is placed inside, and there operated upon. If life leaves the body, either during the operation or after, the spirit ascends through the narrow passage into the small globe above and is there retained, as it cannot pass through the material of which the walls of this chamber are constructed. The body is then kept continually bathed in the regenerating rays, which not only preserve it as if life were in it, but actually carry on the process of healing. This continues until the body is in a perfectly sound and healthy condition again, and well able to retain life.
"And now occurs the most wonderful of all. When everything is in readiness for the spirit to enter the body again, a strong flow of super-radium is sent through the top globe from an instrument attached. Passing through the small chamber and down the narrow passage, it reaches the body, and immediately changes to a return flow. This current is but momentary; the patient is seen to move, and the body is once more quickened by the life spark. The flow of super-radium has conveyed the spirit of the patient from the small chamber above and released it in the body as it returned, in exactly the same manner as it does with light-waves or sound-waves."
"Marvelous!" I gasped, though my mind could only slowly comprehend this almost miraculous achievement. With such vast scientific resources nothing seemed impossible to Martians.
Almos had stopped abruptly. A change came over him. His face paled and his lips set in a hard, determined expression. Instantly I felt my every faculty strain to the utmost, in response to the new character of this remarkable being.
Speaking slowly and deliberately, his keen eyes holding mine fascinated by a strange fire that seemed kindled within them, he said:
"A few words more and we have reached that point at which death may await the inhabitant of Earth who would proceed farther. A death that no scientific knowledge can avert. I have tried to school your mind, to the end that you may fully understand the nature of a desperate undertaking, never before attempted by any human being, which, if you wish to attempt, you must risk alone.
"Impelled by a motive that I cannot now explain, I have spanned the millions of miles of universe lying between us by a bridge of theories, which, should they prove realities, would enable you to see and live in another world. Should they prove untenable, however, no power on Earth or Mars can save you; in five hours all would be over. You must consider the possible consequences ere it be too late."
"Never!" I cried. "My dear Almos, I am too vitally interested; I have proceeded too far now to hesitate at any step toward such a goal. Explain your theories to me, and I will test them, even if it costs me my life, for Mars holds that which is dearer to me than life on Earth ever can be."
"Well, my brave fellow," said Almos, his voice softening, "you must follow me closely in all I tell you, and remember every word I say, for to-morrow I can be of no assistance to you. Alone you must undertake the journey."
I was glad Almos had not questioned me regarding the import of what I had said in the enthusiasm of the moment, for I could not help feeling now that I had acted unjustly in not confiding in him, at once, the facts regarding the mental image of the beautiful young girl whom I fully believed existed on Mars, and whose destiny, I was certain, was inextricably bound with mine. I now decided to do so on the first opportunity.
"I have explained to you how the spirit may be retained in the upper chamber of a virator after it has left the body," pursued Almos, "and as it is this apparatus we shall employ, I have but to describe the additions I have made to it to meet our requirements, and also my theories in connection with them.
"To the lower chamber or dome of a virator I have connected the receiving apparatus of a radioscope, first removing the image surface. This can be disconnected easily, and the projecting apparatus substituted, from which I have also removed the image surface. Thus we may have a free current of super-radium flowing from the radioscope to Earth and returning into the virator, and by substituting the projecting apparatus, we have a current flowing from the virator to Earth and returning into the receiving apparatus.
"This is exactly the condition that exists in a virator in ordinary use with these exceptions: the current of super-radium is made to flow either in or out of the bottom chamber, as well as the top; instead of being local, the current is between Earth and Mars, and consequently much more powerful. The currents from both the top and bottom chambers are controlled by clockwork which I have devised for that purpose, and in place of an operating table in the virator I have substituted a couch.
"And now I enjoin you to summon all your courage, for in this undertaking nothing but nerves of steel will carry you safely through."
"I shall faithfully carry out your instructions, Almos," I responded, trying to appear perfectly calm, though my being fifteen hundred years behind Martian times never seemed so much a handicap as now.
"Follow me, then, word for word," resumed Almos. "Understand all I say, for in the error of a second, the misconception of a word, the hesitancy of a moment, there is death!
"To-morrow, when that part of the Earth's surface on which Paris is situated appears, I shall attach the receiving apparatus of the radioscope to the lower chamber of the virator, so that the return current from Earth will flow into it. I shall then set the clockwork to turn on the current of super-radium in half an hour. In that time my body must be in a condition to receive your spirit."
I could not suppress a shudder upon hearing this, but I deemed it best not to interrupt Almos.
"Filling a cone with the required amount of chloroform, I shall enter the virator, and, reclining upon the couch, place the cone over my mouth and nose. In a few minutes my spirit will have passed into the upper chamber.
"By experimenting, I have found that regenerating rays are contained in super-radium. In fact, my theory is that the regenerating rays and the invisible rays of super-radium are synonymous. Such being the case, when the current of super-radium is turned on by the clockwork, it will flow to Earth and, returning, enter the virator and restore my body to a normal condition, freeing it from the fumes of chloroform and making it capable of receiving its new life.
"The glow of your instrument, in response to the super-radium current, will warn you that this has taken place, and you must then prepare yourself for departure. You will not observe any image, owing to my having removed the lenses of the radioscope, but your instrument will glow in response to the current.
"Having prepared a cone of chloroform, you must move a couch directly in front of your instrument, so that upon lying down your body will obscure the rays from it. You will thus know that you are in the path of the super-radium current; this is of the greatest importance as, otherwise, your spirit would undoubtedly escape upon leaving the body and be lost forever.
"After taking every possible precaution to safeguard against any movement of the body, place the cone securely over your mouth and nose. Within a short time your spirit will leave the body and will instantly be caught up by the super-radium current, on its return flow to Mars. Entering the receiving apparatus and thus passing into the virator, the flow will come into direct contact with my body, into which it will discharge your spirit."
Almos stopped abruptly, consternation written on his face. A moment later, I realized the cause—the two planets were passing out of wave contact. At such a critical moment nothing could be more unfortunate, and I was about hastily to suggest a postponement, when Almos exclaimed: "It is all right!—I shall leave——"
Wave contact ceased before he had time to finish the sentence, and I was left standing before the instrument in a state of irresolution.
How could I arrive on Mars totally unprepared to meet the conditions? Upon my regaining consciousness these might present themselves in the most urgent form, demanding immediate attention and a thorough knowledge of Martian sciences. Almos' life, indeed, might depend upon just such a condition.
Undetermined upon the course I should pursue the next day, my mind filled with the most formidable fancies of so strange an undertaking, I at last sought repose, hoping that with the morrow would come clearer thought.
"AS OTHERS SEE US."
The next morning found me resolved to make the journey to Mars at any cost. That Almos had intended to say he would leave further instructions, I had no doubt. The instructions would probably be written, and placed where I would immediately see them upon regaining consciousness. In any event, I argued, if, at the usual hour of Martian contact, my instrument should glow in response to super-radium, it would clearly be my duty to fulfil my part of the agreement, for the glow would be proof that Almos had fulfilled his and that his spirit had passed into the upper chamber of the virator.
I had purchased the necessary articles for my remarkable journey, and had taken the precaution to fasten a notice outside my door to the effect that I would be out during the evening. I could not restrain a grim smile at the thought of the uncanny literal truth in this announcement.
These things done I fell to speculating upon what would be my experience on Mars if, indeed, I ever reached that planet. For the first hours, try as I would to check it, there was, at times, a doubt as to the outcome of this wild soul-adventure. But, strange as it may appear, although I fully realized the danger attending such an undertaking, the success of which was based entirely on theories, it did not, in any way, act as a deterrent. So great was the prize to be attained, that the risk of life seemed unimportant. Indeed, the first step of the journey to Mars was to take my life, as we understand the term on Earth, and, having become reconciled to this, I was not sensible of any danger beyond. So absorbed was I in these thoughts, that the time passed without my realizing it, and only the fading daylight warned me of the near approach of the hour of Martian contact.
I now made a complete examination of all the batteries and coils of my instrument, as failure in any of these might result most seriously. Finding all to be in perfect working order, I next proceeded to arrange my couch so as to bring it directly between the instrument and the window. Having thus completed my preparations, possessed by conflicting emotions, I now waited for the appearance of Mars.
Early in the day I had arranged my letters and private papers so that in the event of the worst happening, they could be readily packed, and it now occurred to me that it would be only proper to leave a word of explanation with them. I therefore hastily penned a note to a cousin living in England—my nearest relative—briefly explaining my discovery of the Martian super-radium current, and also the character of the adventure in which I was about to participate. This note I placed with my papers.
Returning to the instrument, I discovered that Mars was already visible. Quickly turning on the current and finding no responsive glow, I knew that Almos was already making the preparations he had described to me. He had said that within half an hour the clockwork would turn on the current, and the glow of my instrument would be the signal for my departure.
No time was to be lost. Securely fastening the door of my room, I prepared the cone of chloroform and extinguished the light, in order not to excite the suspicion of a chance caller during the evening.
I now sat on the couch awaiting with anxiety the current of super-radium that would convey me to the far world of my dreams. Minutes seemed like hours, as I sat in the darkness, with every nerve strained to its uttermost, awaiting Death. What if Death should refuse to release me! Millions have been wrapped in Death's cold arms, but no mortal has returned to give accounting.
What was that!—A blinding flash made me instantly shield my eyes. Ah! The glow at last! But such was its dazzling brilliancy that I could not stand the glare. I had been accustomed to see the glow gradually creep up the surface of the instrument, slowly growing brighter as the rim of the star appeared above the window casement, but this time Mars had risen to full view before the current was turned on by the clockwork. This was ample proof that everything had happened as Almos had planned. It was now my turn to act and I must not hesitate. Stretching myself on the couch so that I came into full contact with the current of super-radium, I seized the cone saturated with chloroform, and fastened it securely over my mouth and nose.
A few moments of a slightly suffocating sensation, then a long, long fall, gradual at first, then quicker, quicker—
* * * * *
With a feeling of exhilaration, such as I had never before experienced, I opened my eyes and sprang to my feet. My brain was perfectly clear, and so active that my mind utterly failed to keep pace with the multitude of thoughts that were crowded upon it—thoughts that were strange to my mind, yet perfectly familiar to my brain, if this paradoxical statement may stand. It seemed as if my mind stood, apart and marveled at the remarkable activity and knowledge possessed by the brain—of which knowledge my mind was entirely ignorant.
I was in another world, millions of miles away from Earth. My mind realized that something little short of a miracle had happened, and yet I felt absolutely familiar with all the objects about me. The glass-like walls that surrounded me, reaching up and forming a dome several feet above my head; the narrow passage in the center of the dome (just as the neck of a bottle would appear if viewed from inside), through which the spirit of Almos had passed to the chamber above; all these were wonderfully familiar to me.
I was in the virator, but it was uncomfortable to remain inside, as the air was oppressively warm. Moreover, dictated my brain, I must prepare the virator for my return within five hours, and my hand instinctively grasped a lever in the wall of the apparatus. A door opened and I stepped out, carefully closing it behind me. Again I was astonished at my wonderful familiarity with everything. If I had lived on Mars all my life, I could not have had a more intimate knowledge of my surroundings. I seemed to know exactly how to proceed, and after attending to several important details, and carefully noting the temperature of the virator on a thermometer placed for that purpose, I consulted a chronometer to ascertain how long it would be safe for me to remain on Mars. I found that, allowing a half-hour for the process of arrival and the same for departure, I had just five hours.
My mind, at first stunned by the new and strange conditions to which it was subjected, now gradually began to realize its remarkable position in relation to the brain.
That the mind and the spirit are one, or so closely related as to be indistinguishable and inseparable, was now beyond doubt, as I was keenly aware of all that had happened to me on Earth, showing that my mind not only existed, but also possessed the same faculty of thought in Almos' body as it did in mine while on Earth. Here was a positive proof, in fact a demonstration, of the theory advanced by some scientists, that the mind is separate and distinct from the brain.
But the gulf that lies between life and death remained as wide as ever. Death was still shrouded in mystery, for my mind knew nothing from the moment it left the body on Earth, until it awakened in the body on Mars. Flesh and blood, then, were essential to the mind's existence. Mind or spirit must have expression through some form. Although man may achieve much by scientific advancement, that to which he has progressed is but as a grain of sand in the desert, to the wonders that surround him. Science shall never penetrate the mystery of those things that are withheld from him.
The brain of which my mind now took control, acted merely as the material handle by which the machinery of the body was operated, thus converting thoughts into actions. But although my mind, having by now become perfectly familiar with the strange conditions, was able to record new impressions on the brain, there still existed the impression of Almos' thoughts. It resembled a book which my mind could instantly refer to and be guided by, and thus was I in possession of a perfect knowledge of Mars, its people, and its language.
I now realized that my first actions, upon becoming conscious, had simply been carrying out the instructions Almos had left for me. Strange to the conditions in those first few minutes, I had instinctively done what the brain dictated. In this remarkable way had Almos completed the instructions he was about to give me when interrupted by the cessation of wave contact.
Having thus arrived at what I felt to be the true relation of my mind with Almos' body, I now turned my attention to the objects surrounding me.
I stood in a room about the size of my laboratory on Earth. There were no windows to admit light, but the ceiling, which was fully twenty feet high, emitted a beautifully diffused white light, which filled every corner of the room, leaving absolutely no shadows. Its effect was that of daylight, and so closely did it resemble the sky, that, had I not been supplied with Almos' knowledge of Martian science, I would have naturally supposed that there was no ceiling to the room. Immediately upon the question coming into my mind, however, I became aware that the ceiling was coated with a composition, one of the component parts of which was radium in a highly developed state. Its action upon the other elements that composed this substance resulted in a perpetual light without heat, which was equal in every way to daylight.
The tourist, finding himself in a new country, has but one thought, one ambition, that of seeing all he can; yet, strange to say, although a whole new world lay before me, my first thought was of Mother Earth. A desire to view my old habitat as Martians see it seemed almost irresistible.
To touch the radioscope that was trained on Earth, would result in an instant change taking place in my body as it lay in the laboratory, and this would be disastrous. It was only the regenerating properties of the super-radium current that kept it in a state acceptable to my return, and the delicate mechanism of this instrument was regulated so as to keep the current exactly in position, as long as that part of the Earth's surface was exposed to Mars. To interfere then with this current, for a moment, would mean certain death.
Immediately I became conscious of the presence of another instrument, which was in a room adjoining, and, feeling absolutely familiar with every inch of the way, I proceeded thence. The room was a small one, just large enough, indeed, to operate the radioscope, which was exactly the same as the one in the room I had just quitted.
With a perfect knowledge of the mechanism of the instrument, I was soon at work adjusting the projecting and receiving apparatus. An ordinary telescope was attached to the huge tube of the radioscope, and with Almos' dexterity I soon located Earth through it, thus sighting the radioscope for that planet.
I had now but to turn on the current to see the people on Earth and watch their doings, as had done Martians for hundreds of years, but, with my hand on the lever that controlled the current, I paused.
The sight of Earth, as it appeared through the telescope, was too beautiful to pass by with a mere glance. Half illuminated, owing to the greater distance of Mars from the sun and the position of the planets at that time, Earth appeared about the size the moon looks to the naked eye. But what a wonderful sight! Bathed in sunlight lay the eastern half of the continents of North and South America, faintly outlined by the pale blue of the western portion of the Atlantic Ocean. So familiar was I with the appearance of these two great continents as drawn in an atlas, that I had difficulty in recognizing them as they now appeared. Mexico and Central America seemed almost as broad as that part of the United States from San Francisco to Washington; the whole tapering down from Canada to Cape Horn almost in the shape of a cone.
Aeronauts passing over a lake or river are able to see the bottom, owing to their altitude; this was undoubtedly the explanation of the strange appearance of the continents of North and South America. On account of the enormous distance I was away from Earth, the shallow waters appeared as land, obliterating completely the familiar coast line, and only the extreme depth of an ocean showed a pale blue.
Night covered Europe and Africa, which would otherwise have been visible to me, and the shadow of darkness was steadily creeping across the Atlantic Ocean, as the Earth revolved upon its axis. I could not suppress a shudder at the thought that I must cover that enormous distance ere it revolved too far.
I now moved the lever that controlled the current, and at once the lens in the receiving apparatus shone with a brilliant dark blue color. The current of super-radium had reached Earth and returned in less than a second, and I saw, beautifully pictured before me, an expanse of ocean with waves tumbling and tossing so near me that it seemed as if I were but a few feet above them.
By diminishing the current I found that the image on the lens grew smaller, the effect being exactly the same as that from a balloon rising. The picture at first appeared slanting at an angle of about thirty degrees, owing to the curvature of the Earth, but by manipulating a small lever close at hand that operated a mirror in the radioscope, this defect was corrected.
After searching about with the current, I at last came upon a large steamer, evidently an ocean liner. Throwing huge billows aside in clouds of white spray as she cut through the water, she made a beautiful sight, and it was with difficulty that I kept her in the field of vision. As I appeared to be looking straight down upon her decks, it was evident that she was about in the center of the Earth's surface exposed to Mars.
I now moved the current in a westerly direction, travelling at what would be a terrific speed on Earth, until I came to land. Not recognizing the small coast town that first came in view, I moved up the coast in a northerly direction, diminishing the current until I could see a large stretch of country. Toward the northwest a large city appeared, which I immediately recognized as Washington. Directing the instrument to that city, I increased the current until the people on the streets measured two or three feet on the lens of my instrument. Here I found that the curvature of the Earth resulted in my looking down obliquely at the objects on its surface, but not at a sufficient angle to see the faces of those who passed across my lens.
But now I became aware of a strange condition that, owing to the motion of the liner at sea, had escaped my notice before. Although I was looking at the people passing before one of the large government buildings in Washington, I had to keep regulating the instrument in order to keep this building in view. Moreover, I discovered that I had to regulate it as fast as I had done with the ocean liner. In fact, obviously the liner's speed mattered but little; it was the rate at which the Earth was revolving upon its axis and journeying around the sun with which I had to contend. Through the telescope this was not discernible, but now that I had come into such close visual contact with the Earth's surface, I realized the terrific speed with which it rushed through space. Hundreds of miles a minute was the speed my instrument had to be regulated to, in order to keep an object on Earth in view—the motion of the liner was insignificant!
Moving the current eastward over the Atlantic Ocean, I discovered that darkness in no way hindered my view of objects on Earth's surface. The reproduction on the lens, however, presented quite a different appearance to that which I had witnessed while observing the part of Earth illuminated by the sun. The beautiful colors which contributed so much realism to the picture were now replaced by a sombre gray tone, greatly resembling a photograph in appearance.
So absorbed had I become in all that this wonderful instrument revealed to me of the different phases of life on Earth, that I forgot all else, until, with a start, I realized that someone was moving about in the large room which contained the virator that I had recently left. I was filled with apprehension. Who could it be? And what was the reason of this unexpected visit? Almos had not warned me against intrusion of any kind, and I felt that to meet and converse with a Martian, thus unprepared, would be impossible. In that room, however, were the instruments that held two lives within their delicate mechanism, and even now they might have been tampered with enough to cause the most serious consequences. I must not hesitate a moment longer. Hastening down the passage that led to the larger room, I pushed aside the heavy portieres and found myself in the presence of a Martian.
THE MELODY OF FLOWERS AND ZARLAH.
My visitor appeared to be a young man of about twenty-five, tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, and fair-complexioned, with that frank and open countenance which claims the friendship of all men. Without a moment's hesitation he stepped forward with outstretched hand and, in the composite language of Mars, said:
"Good-evening, Almos. I am afraid this is an intrusion. I have interrupted your studies, I know, but the fact is—"
"Not at all, my dear Reon!" I found myself replying. "I am glad to see you at any time, and now, how can I be of service to you?"
Although I answered him in the composite language, and in a manner that did not excite the slightest suspicion, I did so unconsciously. In spite of the quandary in which I found myself upon coming face to face with an inhabitant of Mars, I outwardly remained perfectly calm, nor did it require any effort to appear so. The brain, in such an emergency, followed instinctively its natural habit. It was as if another man had spoken from within me, one who was perfectly acquainted with the visitor and with Martian affairs. I found, however, when the surprise of the first few moments had passed, that my mind could take control whenever it exerted itself to do so. Thus I was able to say whatever I wished, or, if necessity demanded, draw upon Almos' knowledge for information. Replies came with the ease that Almos himself would have experienced in answering questions, and I soon found that, with discretion, there was no danger of my visitor suspecting the remarkable change of personality in his friend.
I learned that Reon had come with a message from Sarraccus, one of Mars' greatest scientists, who was about to give a demonstration of his latest invention, a remarkable musical instrument called the lumaharp. A recognized authority on anything of a scientific nature, Almos' counsel was sought, and it was desired that he should be present at the recital of this wonderful instrument.
Hastily ascertaining the time, I found that I had only two hours in which it would be safe to remain on Mars. So interested had I been in my observations of Earth, that the time had passed without my being aware of the narrow margin I had left myself in which to see the planet. I, however, informed my visitor that I would be ready to accompany him in a few minutes, and with all haste, prepared myself for this new undertaking.
I realized that once having left the observatory and stepped into a new and strange world, many things might happen to prevent me returning within two hours. But besides feeling that I was in duty bound to Almos to attend this demonstration, I also felt that the risks I had taken were too great to go unrewarded by even a glimpse into the life of this wonderful planet. The future, too, held that element of uncertainty which made me feel that I might pay dearly for the five hours spent in another world. If the return current failed to do what was expected of it, if I had erred in my calculation of the time I could remain on Mars, or if my room had been broken into and my body moved, the results would be disastrous.