Prisoners on the Electron by Robert H. Leitfred
Fate throws two young Earthians into desperate conflict
with the primeval monsters of an electron's savage jungles.
he blood-red glow of a slanting sun bathed the towers of New York's
serrated skyline, then dropped into a molten sea beyond the winter
horizon. Friday, the last day of Jupiter, the thirteenth month of the
earth's new calendar, had drawn to a close. In a few hours the year of
1999 would end—at midnight, to be exact.
Far below the towers stretched well lighted canyons teeming with
humanity. At an upper level where once the elevated trains had roared
and rumbled in an antiquated period long past, an orderly mass of
workers and shoppers was borne at an incredible speed from lower
Manhattan to towering apartments that stretched northward to
Peekskill. The northbound traffic was heaviest at this hour and the
moving sidewalk bands were jammed to their capacity.
Street cars, now obsolete, had vanished from the streets under the new
order of things as had also passenger cars, taxis and trucks. Speed
predominated. Noise had practically been eliminated. Except for the
gentle throb of giant motors far underground, the city was cloaked in
At regular intervals along the four-speed moving bands that formed the
transportation of the great metropolis, huge circular shafts of steel
mounted upward beyond the roofs of the tallest buildings. Within these
shafts, swift elevators carried passengers who lived in the outlying
districts to the level of the station platforms of the interstate
operating transport planes.
lose to the entrance of one of the steel shafts stood a young man a
little above medium height. His deep-sunken eyes were those of a
dreamer, a searcher. They were the eyes of a man who had seen strange
and startling things. At present they were staring into the pulsing
wave of humanity flowing northward on the endless steel bands beyond
Quite suddenly they lighted with pleasure as a man and a girl detached
themselves from the swift moving river of people and hurried to the
spot where he stood.
"Think we were never coming?" Karl Danzig's eyes were much like those
of Aaron Carruthers. Just now they sparkled with suppressed
Aaron Carruthers smiled in turn. "No, Karl. Any man but you. I
couldn't imagine you being late." He turned his attention to the slim,
dark haired girl. "Nanette," he murmured, extending his hand, "I
didn't think you'd come."
Dazzling white teeth caught the glow of the blue-white incandescents
along the platform, and became under the bow of her red lips a string
of priceless pearls.
"I had to come, Aaron. Karl has done nothing but talk of your amazing
discovery. The experiment fairly frightens me at times especially when
I recall the sad fate of your friend, the missing Professor Dahlgren.
I wish you boys would give up the idea—"
"Nan, be still," broke in Karl, with brotherly rudeness. Turning to
Carruthers. "Everything all ready, Aaron?" he asked.
arruthers nodded. "As far as humanly possible. The element of error
is always present. I've checked and re-checked my calculations. I've
augmented the vacuum tubes by installing three super-dimensional
inverse power tubes." He clasped the girl's arm. "The street is no
place to talk. Let's go to the laboratory."
They crossed the moving bands by an overhead bridge and cut down a
narrow canyon to the entrance of a crosstown series of bands. They
stepped onto the first band. The speed was moderate. From there they
moved over to the second. Carruthers was in a hurry. He guided the
girl and her brother across the third to the fourth band of moving
Buildings slid past them like wraiths in the electric light. They felt
no winter chill, for the streets and platforms were heated by a
constant flow of warm air from slots ingeniously arranged in the band
of swift moving metal upon which they stood. Within a few minutes they
had arrived at their destination. Quickly they reversed their path
across the moving bands until they reached the disembarking platform.
A short distance from the station they came to the entrance of a huge
Carruthers nodded to the doorman and they were admitted into a marble
hallway. A silent, unattended lift bore them swiftly to the
seventy-fifth floor. Down a deep carpeted hallway they moved.
Carruthers touched his door. It opened. He stood to one side as the
other two entered.
anette cried with delight at the luxurious splendor of the place.
"Why, Aaron, I never dreamed the night view could be quite so
delightful! I do believe that if the horrid government had not taken
down that little Statue of Liberty and substituted the Shaft Triumph
in its place, that I could easily see her fingers clasping the torch
she was reputed to hold.
"Progress, dear girl," shrugged Carruthers, holding out his hands for
her cape. "By the way, have you folks eaten?"
"Not in a week," said Karl.
"Von Sternberger's food tablets," informed the girl.
Carruthers nodded. His deep-set eyes regarded them appraisingly. "Any
"None whatever," spoke Danzig. "Neither of us have the slightest
craving for food."
"Good. Did you bring any with you?"
"A whole carton."
"Then I guess we're already to make the experiment. You're sure.
Nanette, that you're not afraid of...."
"Don't be silly, Aaron. I haven't grown up with Karl for nothing. He's
always used me for the disagreeable end of his crazy experiments. And
besides," she smiled on both men. "I have a woman's curiosity for the
"Very well," said Carruthers gravely. From his waistcoat pocket he
took a ring of keys and inserted one of them into the lock of an
immense steel door. "Our laboratory," he announced, swinging the door
anette's eyes opened wide at the paneled whiteness of the room. Most
of the far side was taken up with electrical machines, dynamos,
generators and glass enclosed motors of an advanced type. Overhead,
concealed lights made the room as light as day. A heavy glass railing
shielded a square spot in the exact center of the room.
"What's that for?" asked the girl.
Danzig and Carruthers both regarded it with troubled eyes. It was
Carruthers who spoke.
"That railing marks the spot where Professor Dahlgren stood when the
rays of our atomic machine struck him."
"You mean," breathed the girl, "that he never moved from that spot
after the rays touched his body? What happened?"
Karl had already divested himself of his coat and was checking the
copper cables leading into a strange machine.
"It was rather curious," remarked Carruthers. "The moment the ray
touched him his body began to dwindle. But evidently he suffered no
pain. As a matter of fact his mind remained quite clear."
"How did you know?"
"As he dwindled in size," continued Carruthers, "he shouted warningly
that the rays had become confused and for us to cut the switch. But
the warning came a fraction of a second too late. Even as my fingers
opened the contact, his body dwindled to a mere speck and disappeared
entirely from sight."
anette gazed with staring eyes at the ill-fated spot. Her face had
grown steadily paler. "Oh, Aaron! It's awful! What do you suppose
Carruthers eyes glowed strangely. "I didn't exactly know at the time,
Nanette. I'm not sure that I know even now. But I've got a theory and
Karl has helped me to build a second machine to flash a restoring ray
on the square spot. What will take place I cannot even conjecture."
"Let's get on with the experiment," interrupted Karl. "Nanette can be
shown later what she is to do."
Carruthers turned to Danzig. "All right. Karl. Draw up a chair to your
machine. And you, Nanette, sit close to this switch. It's off now. To
turn it on, simply push it forward until the copper plates slide into
each other. To turn the current off, you pull sharply out. However, we
aren't quite ready."
He shifted his position until he stood before a third machine
slightly smaller than the other two. His fingers clicked a switch. The
dial of the instrument glowed whitely.
"It's important," continued Carruthers, "that we first locate our
interference. We have here, Nanette, a common television receiving
apparatus capable of picking up news and pictures from any corner of
the globe. Ready, Karl?"
Danzig clicked on the switch before his own machine and turned one of
the many dials mounted on the panel in front of him. A faint hum
filled the room as the generator settled to its task.
arruthers reached up and dimmed the overhead lights. A screen of what
looked like frosted glass set in the wall glowed luminously. The
interior of a famous broadcasting studio became mirrored in the glass
screen. Into it stepped the master of ceremonies. He spoke briefly of
the New Year's activities that would soon take place when the
twenty-eighth day of Jupiter ended at midnight.
"Boston," said Carruthers. "Too near."
"Try Frisco," suggested Karl. "The tubes ought to be sufficiently
heated by this time."
The dial whirled beneath Carruthers slender fingers. The pictures
framed in the frosted panel faded. Another took its place. San
Francisco—an afternoon concert. Carruthers saw and listened for a
moment, then moved thousands of miles out to sea.
Shanghai drifted into the panel, announcing in sing-song accents the
weather reports. Following this came reports of various uprisings
along the Manchurian border.
While yet the three listeners and watchers bent their heads toward the
panel in the wall, a strange thing occurred. The silver frostiness of
the screen became violently agitated with what looked like tiny sparks
darting in and about each other like miniature solar systems.
Shanghai faded from the picture. All that remained visible now was the
jumbled mass of needle-pointed sparks of luminosity.
"Careful," warned Carruthers. "Slow up the speed of your reflector,
Karl. There, that's better. Watch the meter reading. I'm going to step
up the power of the dimensional tubes. Steady!"
rom an invisible reproducer came a sharp, metallic crackling like
machine-gun bullets rattling on a tin roof. The sparks on the screen
became violently agitated, pushing around in erratic circles and
ellipses. They glowed constantly in shades of bright green through the
blues into the deep violets of the color scale.
"What do you read?" asked Carruthers.
"Point seven six nine," answered Karl.
"Shift it back towards the blue, about two points lower on the scale."
Danzig twisted two dials at the same time with minute exactness.
"Point seven six eleven," he intoned.
"Hold it," ordered Carruthers. "Blue should predominate." He turned
his eyes on the dancing sparks on the screen. They glowed now a deep
indigo blue. "Lock your dials against accidental turning. We're tuned
to the vanishing point."
Danzig rose to his feet. "What will we use?"
Carruthers looked hastily around the room. "Most anything will do."
His eyes rested on a glass test tube. Quickly he rose to his feet and
removed it from the wall rack. Then bending over the glass railing
that enclosed the mysterious square he placed it on the floor. He
turned now to the girl.
"Quiet, now, Nanette, and don't under any condition leave the chair.
The path of the ray should pass within two feet of you, having a wide
margin of safety. All right, Karl. Set the dials of the inverse
dimensional tubes at point seven six eleven, and switch the power to
the Roentgen tube."
Through the dimly lighted laboratory came a spurt of bluish flame that
twisted and squirmed with slow undulations around the cathode
"Fine," enthused Carruthers, "The cathode emanations coincide exactly
with the interference chart. Watch your meter gauges, Karl, while I
switch to the atomic ray."
is fingers closed over a switch. The indigo points of flame bathing
the electrode gathered themselves into a ring and began to revolve
around an invisible nucleus located near the electrode. Carruthers
studied the revolving flame for a moment, then switched off the
television machine. It was no longer needed.
Carefully, for the atomic ray was still a mysterious force to
Carruthers, he opened a small door in the panel and drew out the
focusing machine. It was shaped very much like a camera except that
the lens protruded several inches beyond the machine proper.
With infinite patience he made the final adjustments and moved away
from the front of the lens. "Ready?"
Danzig nodded and threw on the full power of the inverse dimensional
tubes. A low clear hum filled the quiet room of the laboratory. From
the lens of the focusing machine shot a pale, amber beam. It struck
the glass test tube squarely in the center and glowed against its
Carruthers reached across his own machine and turned the final switch.
The amber beam emanating from the lens increased in intensity. And as
it increased it took on a deep violet color.
Nanette cried out in muffled alarm. But even as Vincent raised his
voice to quiet her fears the test tube suddenly shrunk to nothingness
and vanished into the ether.
"Aaron!" whispered the girl, awesomely. "It ... it's gone!"
Carruthers nodded. Beads of sweat stood out upon his forehead. Would
the returning ray work? He had made the test tube follow the same
route as that taken by Professor Dahlgren. Both were gone. He clicked
off the switch and the beam faded.
ith a deliberate calmness that in no way matched the inner tumult
brought on by the experiment, he turned the dials of the machine he
and Danzig had worked out together. A second switch clicked under his
fingers. From the lense of the focusing machine shot the reverse
atomic beam. As it struck the center of the square it turned a bright
vermilion. For several seconds it played upon empty space, then the
miracle unfolded before their eyes.
Something like a glass sliver reflected the beam. It grew and enlarged
under their startled eyes until it had achieved its former size, then
the power that had brought it back switched itself off automatically.
Together both men examined the test tube. It appeared in no way
harmed, nor did it feel either warm or cold from its trip through the
"It works!" marveled Danzig. "Let's try it again with something
"I've got a better idea," said Carruthers, rising to his feet. He
crossed the laboratory and went to another part of his rooms.
Presently he returned holding a small pink rat in his hands. The
rodent was young, having been born only a week before. "Now we'll see
"Oh, it's torture to the poor thing," burst out Nanette.
"It won't hurt it," growled Karl. "Aaron knows what he's doing."
Carruthers placed the little rat in the center of the square. It lay
there, very quiet and unblinking. Again the switches clicked as the
contacts were closed.
Came once more the beam of amber colored light followed closely by the
violet. The rat dwindled to the size of an insect, then disappeared
into space. The three watchers held their breaths. Carruthers' hand
trembled the least bit as he threw on the switch controlling the
animal's return to the world.
vermilion shaft of light pierced the semi-darkened rooms. The animal
had been gone from sight not more than a minute. Abruptly something
grayish white unfolded in the reflector's beam. It rapidly expanded
under three pairs of bulging eyes—not the small, pinkish rat that had
disappeared but sixty seconds previous, but a full grown rat, scarred
and tailless as if from innumerable battles with other rats.
As the current clicked off Aaron Carruthers bent forward. Too late.
The rat scurried from the laboratory with a squeal of alarm.
Carruthers returned to his seat before the atomic machine and sat
down. His face was worried. Dark thoughts stormed his reason. The rat
he had placed within the atomic ray had aged nearly two years during
the minute it was out of mortal sight. Two years!
He pulled a pad from his pocket and calculated the time that had
elapsed since Professor Dahlgren had vanished from that same spot.
Nearly forty hours. That would mean....
Nanette stirred in her chair. "What happened to the little rat,
Carruthers, busy making calculations, did not hear the question.
She turned to her brother. "Karl, what's the meaning of this? The
second experiment didn't turn out like the first one. What became of
that little rat?"
"I don't know what happened, Nan," spoke Karl. "Now don't bother me
with your silly questions. You saw the same thing I did."
arruthers raised his head and spoke quietly. "That rat you saw
materialize under the atomic rays was the same rat you saw me place
within the square."
"But it couldn't be," protested the girl.
"Nevertheless," shrugged Carruthers. "It was the same animal—only it
had aged nearly two years during the brief time interval it was off
from our planet."
"It's preposterous," cried the girl.
"Nothing is preposterous nowadays, Nanette."
"That's the woman of it," spoke Karl. "Always doubting."
"You boys are playing tricks on me," retorted the girl sharply. "I
shouldn't have come to your old laboratory. Just because I'm a
"Don't," pleaded Carruthers, looking up from his pad of figures.
"We're trying to solve the mystery underlying the forces which we have
created." He replaced the test tube within the center of the square
and returned to the atomic machine.
Through the twilight shadows of the room glowed the strange new ray.
Faintly the generator hummed. Lights sparkled and twisted around the
cathode in serpentine swirls.
"You needn't trouble to explain your silly experiment again," finished
Nanette, rising abruptly to her feet. "I'm going home and dress for
the New Year's party."
"Watch your switch like I asked you to," spoke Carruthers.
"Sit down," added Karl. "Don't put the rest of us in danger!"
"Oh-h-h!" gasped the girl as she inadvertently stepped squarely into
the atomic ray of amber-colored light.
arruthers leaped impatiently to his feet. An inarticulate cry of
horror froze upon his lips. Forgetful that he himself was directly in
line of the atomic ray he lunged forward, his mind centering on a
single act—to drag the protesting and now thoroughly frightened girl
out of the path of the penetrating ray.
But even as he started forward Nanette tripped over the glass railing
around the square. Carruthers moved quickly. Yet his movements were
slow and ungainly as compared to the speed of the light ray. He saw
the figure of Nanette decrease in size before his eyes, heard the
muffled expression of alarm and fear in Danzig's voice; then the room
suddenly began to extend itself upward with the speed of a meteor.
What once had been walls and bare furniture resolved themselves into a
range of hills, then mountains. The twilight gloom of the room became
a dark void of empty space that seemed to rush past his ears like a
He had the sensation of falling through infinite space as if he had
been propelled from the world and hurled out into the vastness of
interplanetary space. Something brushed against him—something soft
and fluttering. He grasped it like a drowning man would clutch a
The name echoed and re-echoed through his mind yet never seemed to get
beyond his tightly clenched lips. He felt something cool close over
his hand. Instinctively he grasped it. Her hand. Together they clung
to each other as they felt themselves being hurled through endless
The twilight changed swiftly to black night that rushed past the two
clinging figures and enveloped them in a wall of silence. Then out of
the mysterious fastness came the dull glow of what looked like a
distant planet. It grew and enlarged till it reached the size of a
silver dollar. Little pin-points of light soon began to appear on all
sides of it, very much like stars.
arruthers attempted to reassure Nanette that all was well, and they
were out on the streets of the great metropolis. But even as he
wrenched his tightly locked lips apart he saw that the shining disc
far out into space was not what he had first thought it was—the
He shook his head to clear it of the perplexing cobwebs. What was the
matter with his mind? He couldn't think or reason. All he knew was
that he had erred. This strange planet looming in the sky held
nothing familiar in markings nor in respect to its relations to the
stars beyond it.
While yet he groped in the darkness for something tangible, his mind
reverted to the girl at his side. She was clinging to him like a
frightened child. He could feel the pressure of her body against his
and it thrilled him immeasurably. No longer was he the cold,
calculating young man of science.
How long they remained in state of suspension while strange worlds and
planets flashed into a new sky before their startled eyes, Aaron
Carruthers didn't know. At times it seemed like hours, years, ages.
And when he thought of the tender nearness of the girl he held so
tightly within his arms, it seemed like a few minutes.
Gradually the sensation of speed and space falling began to wear off,
as if they were nearing earth or some solid substance once more. The
air about them grew heavier. Then all movement through space ceased.
Carruthers was surprised to find what felt like earth beneath his
feet. For long minutes he stood there, unmoving, still holding
possessively to the girl.
"Aaron!" The name came out of the void like a faint caress.
Reassured of each other's presence they stood perfectly still, lost in
the vast silence of their isolation.
resently the girl spoke. "Oh, Aaron, I'm frightened!"
"There's nothing to be alarmed at, dearest." The endearing term came
for the first time from the man's lips. As long as he had known
Nanette Danzig, love had never been mentioned between them. If it had
ever existed, the feeling had not been expressed.
"You shouldn't call me that, Aaron."
His voice sounded curiously far-off when he answered. "I couldn't help
it, Nan. Our nearness, the strange darkness, and the fact that we are
alone together brought strange emotions to my heart. At this moment
you are the dearest—"
Bump, thump! Bump, thump!
"What's that noise?" breathed Nanette.
Carruthers turned his head to listen. To his ears came the pound of
some heavy object striking the ground at well-regulated intervals.
Nanette, who had started to free herself from Carruthers violent
embrace, suddenly ceased to struggle. "Oh, what is it? What is it?"
she whispered fearfully.
Carruthers sniffed the night air. A musky odor assailed his nostrils,
strange and unfamiliar. "It's beyond me, Nanette. Let's move away from
this spot. Perhaps we can find shelter for the rest of the night."
But the Stygian blackness successfully hid any form of shelter. Tired
from their search they sat down.
"We might build a fire," suggested Carruthers, "only there doesn't
seem to be any wood around. Nothing but bare rock."
"Perhaps it's just as well," spoke the girl. "The flames might attract
"Maybe you're right," agreed Carruthers.
silence fell between them. After a long time Nanette spoke.
"I don't suppose, Aaron, that anything I can do or say will help
matters any. I know that our being where we are is my own fault. I'm
sorry. Truly I am."
"The harm is done," said Carruthers. "Don't say anything more about
Nanette pointed at the disc of light shining high in the heavens.
"These stars are as strange to me, Aaron, as if I had never seen them
before. Saturn is the evening star at this time of year. It isn't
visible. Even the familiar craters and mountains of the moon look
different. And it glows strangely."
"I'd rather not talk about it, Nan."
Nanette placed a hand upon his arm. "I'm not a child, Aaron. I'm a
grown woman. Fear comes through not knowing. Tell me the truth."
"Let's sit down."
They sat upon the ground and both stared out at the night heavens that
arched into infinity above them. Presently Carruthers took the girl's
hand from his arm and held it gently between his own. "You've guessed
rightly, Nan. The orb shining upon us is not our moon. I'll try and
make it clear."
he girl smiled reassuringly in the darkness. "I'm waiting."
"Strange as it must seem," began Carruthers, "you and I are still
within the room of my laboratory. But we might as well be a million
miles away for all the good it does us. Karl sits in his chair in the
same position as when we disappeared in the violet glow of the atomic
ray. His eyes are bulging with fear and horror. For days and days
he'll continue to sit on that chair, his mind not yet attuned to what
actually took place. What has happened? He doesn't know yet, Nan."
"Oh, it's incredible," sobbed Nanette.
"I know, but it's so obviously true that I won't even trouble to check
my calculations." He pointed at the silver disc hanging low in the
strange sky. "That, Nan, is not our moon. It is nothing more than a
planetary electron very much like the one we are on at the present
moment. The firmament is filled with them. From where we sit we can
see but the half nearest to us. The glowing portion is illuminated
from distant light rays shot off from the nucleus of the atom itself.
That atom is going to be our light and heat for weeks, months, perhaps
years to come. We're prisoners on an electron, and as such we are
destined to rush through infinite space for the remainder of our lives
Aaron Carruthers hesitated for a bare fraction of a second. "Karl!" he
whispered. "Our lives depend on him. Time flies fast for us, Nan.
Already it is growing light. But not on our earth. Karl still sits
upon his chair staring incredulously at the miracle of our
disappearing bodies. It will take weeks of time, as it affects us, for
the initial shock to travel along his nerves to the center of his
is voice shook with emotion quite contrary to his usual calm nature.
"Oh, I know it's hard to understand, Nan. I was a fool to meddle with
laws of which I know so little compared to what there is yet to know."
"Then it's all true, Aaron. The little rat that came out from under
the ray as an old rat was one and the same animal."
Carruthers nodded. "Time has changed in proportion to our size. We're
moving so much faster than the earth that we must of necessity be
bound to the universe of which we are now an integral part."
For a long time they remained silent, each immersed in dark, troubled
thoughts. Nanette broke the silence.
"You don't suppose, Aaron, by any chance that Professor Dahlgren is
still alive and on our planet?"
Carruthers shook his head negatively. "It's beyond human reason, Nan.
He was lost in the ray for over forty hours. Translated into minutes
he's been gone twenty-four hundred minutes. Since the mouse we placed
within the light ray aged approximately two years in the space of one
minute, Professor Dahlgren would, if he were alive, be about four
thousand, eight hundred years old."
Nanette rose abruptly to her feet. "Oh bother the figures. My head's
swimming with them. It's getting light now, and I'm hungry."
"Eat one of your food tablets," suggested Carruthers.
"Please don't get funny," said Nanette. "Karl has them in his coat
"Hum-m-m!" coughed Carruthers, following her example by rising to his
feet. "Looks as though we'd have to rustle our food. I've got nothing
on my person but a knife, a pencil, a fountain pen and some pieces of
paper. Nothing very promising in any of them."
t that moment the sky became fused with reddish light. Over the
horizon appeared a shining orb. Far-away hills and valleys leaped into
sight. Then for the first time Carruthers noted the high plateau upon
which he had spent the night. Had they ventured a hundred yards
farther during the night they would have plunged into the rocky floor
of a canyon a thousand feet below.
"Let's see if we can find a way down to the valley," he suggested. "If
we get anything to eat it will have to come from trees. This plateau
is barren of any form of vegetable matter."
They found a winding descent leading downward. It looked like a path
that had been worn by the passage of many feet.
"Someone's been here before us," he exclaimed. "The ground is too well
worn to be accidental."
"Look! Look!" pointed Nanette. Her face had become pale from the
excitement of her discovery. "What is it, Aaron?"
Carruthers bent forward to examine the strange footprint. It was
nearly two feet across and divided in the center, as if the animal
that made it had but two toes.
"From the size of the tracks and the length of the animal's stride, I
should say it was some form of an amphibious dinosaur long extinct in
our own world."
"Are they dangerous?"
"It all depends upon the species. Some of them are pure vegetarians;
others are carnivorous. The heavy tramping we heard during the night
evidently came from the beast who left these footprints."
hey had come upon the footprints where the path made a turn, leading
into a dense growth of trees and underbrush. And as Carruthers knelt
beside the path he heard a rustle as of something moving directly
behind him. Wonderingly, he turned his head to trace the disturbance.
But the woods seemed empty. "Strange," he murmured. "Did you hear
something moving in back of us, Nan?"
Nan shook her head. "You don't think we're in any danger from these
beasts, do you?"
Carruthers said nothing for the moment. Instead, he looked sharply in
all directions and saw nothing. "Let's push on till we come to some
kind of a shelter. Perhaps we'll find people much like ourselves."
Down the path they hurried, glancing curiously right and left at
unknown flowers and trees. A bird with brilliant feathers skimmed
above their heads, uttering shrill cries. Other voices from the birds
and animals in the woods took up the cry. The woods grew denser as
they pushed into the unknown.
In the woods at their right a rodent squeaked as some larger animal
pounced upon it. Presently they came to a pool of water roughly
seventy feet across. While they knelt to quench their thirst they saw
two young deer eyeing them from the far side. Soft feet pattered
behind the kneeling couple. Carruthers half whirled as he rose to his
feet and peered into the jungle behind him.
A blur of reddish brown vanished behind a tree. Man or animal
Carruthers couldn't determine. He grasped Nanette by the arm and
pulled her back to the path.
"Quick!" he whispered. "There's someone or something following us. I'm
sure of it now."
anette's voice trembled slightly. "What is it, Aaron?"
"I don't know." He turned his head again. This time he saw the thing
that was following. A low ejaculation of alarm escaped his lips. A
gigantic ape! The mouth of the creature sagged grotesquely, revealing
two rows of yellow fangs. And its orange colored eyes were burning
coals set close together. Carruthers sucked in a deep breath.
"Run, Nan," he gritted. "I'll try and scare him away."
Simultaneously with the scream of fright from the startled girl, a
huge mountain of grayish flesh and bones blocked the downward slope of
the path. Carruthers paled as he turned and faced the new menace.
Coming directly toward them he saw an immense animal so great in size
that it seemed to shut out the light. A prehistoric dinosaur! It came
slowly and leisurely, swinging its great red mouth from side to side.
Other denizens in the woods, sensing the presence of the huge killer,
fled in a panic of alarm. Their shrill cries increased the terror that
froze the hearts of the two earth people.
Nanette clung to her companion in abject terror, unable to move. Her
fear stricken eyes were wild and staring as the mountain of flesh
pushed towards them.
The animal's long neck arched far in front of its body, and its long,
pointed tail remained out of sight within the trees.
Carruthers backed off the path into the underbrush, dragging the girl
after him. The jaws of the huge animal opened wide with anticipation.
Lumberingly he turned from the path and followed. Trees crashed before
its gigantic bulk. The woods became a bedlam of snapping branches.
The horrified scream of the girl ended in a gurgling sigh. She toppled
to the ground in a dead faint. Carruthers flung himself beside her
crumpled body and gathered it into his arms. A quick glance he threw
at the spot where he had last seen the gigantic ape. The animal was no
longer there. It had disappeared.
The man's lips became a hard, straight line. Even as he straightened
to his feet the leaves and branches of an overturned tree whipped his
face. The red mouthed dinosaur was perilously near. So close that
Carruthers could smell its great, glistening body. The odor was musky
Stumbling blindly he attempted to widen the distance between himself
and his pursuer. But the hungry dinosaur pounded steadily on its
course. There was no getting away from it. Its beady eyes sought out
its prey and its keen smell told it exactly where the earth beings
On and on staggered Carruthers. The extra burden of the girl hampered
his movements. Unseen roots tripped him time and time again. Each time
he scrambled to his feet and picked up the unconscious girl. Briars
tore at his clothing and stung his hands.
The underbrush was thickening. A warm, dank smell clung to the
vegetation now almost tropical in nature. Beads of sweat rolled down
the man's forehead and into his eyes. But the horrible fear of those
red, dripping jaws spurred him to renewed efforts.
He doubled to the left, hoping to throw the animal off his tracks. The
undergrowth seemed to thin out at this point. Renewed hope flowed
through the young scientist's blood. He stumbled on blindly, scarce
watching where his feet were taking him. A sigh of relief came to his
lips. Ahead of him he saw a clearing. His stride lengthened and he
broke into a shambling run.
hen it was he saw, towering walls rising up on both sides of
him—steep walls that he could never scale, even if alone. He tried to
change his course, but the huge bulk of the pursuing dinosaur
effectively blocked his path. There was no alternative but to push on
and pray for an opening in the rugged cliffs.
Abruptly a sigh of despair escaped his lips. The walls of the canyon
narrowed suddenly, and across it stretched a wall of bare rock. He
realized too late that he had returned to the base of the plateau
where he had spent the night. The grim, towering walls hemmed him in
completely from three sides. At the fourth side bulked the dinosaur,
coming slowly, ponderously.
Beady eyes peered down cunningly at the helpless man and woman.
Confident now that its prey couldn't escape, it extended its huge bulk
across the narrow canyon for a leisurely killing.
Carruthers glared at the monster with fear-distended eyes. In his
heart he realized that there was no escape. He had no means of
defense, no way to combat the huge monster but flight. And even that
was now denied him.
Closer and closer inched the killer until its great, red mouth
appeared like the fire box of a huge boiler. Hot breath fanned the
man's cheek. The nauseous odor of the beast made his stomach wrench.
He dropped to his knees close to the inert figure of the girl and
glared vengefully into the beady eyes.
The gaping mouth at the end of a long, supple neck jerked forward.
Carruthers dragged the girl away just in time to escape the gnashing
teeth. The dinosaur stamped angrily.
Once again Carruthers felt its hot breath beating upon his face. He
cringed at the thought of this kind of death. No one would ever know
how it happened. Not even his closest friend, Karl Danzig! What a mess
things were. Why didn't the red mouth of the mighty dinosaur close
over him and crush out life? Why must he kneel in torture?
From near at hand a piercing scream rang through the air. A harsh
scream. A terrifying scream!
arruthers raised his head. The dinosaur had twisted around to glare
hatefully at the disturber of its meal. Other screams splintered the
forest air. And as the kneeling man watched he saw the great red ape
who had been dodging his footsteps a short time before, slouch between
the dinosaur's hulking body and the wall of the cliff. Behind it came
others—black mammals with curving arms that dragged along the ground.
Their fangs were bared. They were in an ugly mood. Arriving in front
of the dinosaur and less than four feet from the earth man and woman,
the leader silenced its followers with a low growl and turned in
concentrated fury upon the dinosaur. Its long arms drummed a throbbing
tattoo upon its hairy chest.
The dinosaur bellowed protestingly against the attitude of the apes
and gorillas. The ape leader protested with equal violence. The
dinosaur shifted uneasily, wagging its heavy head from side to side.
On all sides came deep growls from the mammals.
Carruthers watched all this display torn between doubt and fear. Which
side would win? How could the apes and gorillas, huge as they were,
hope to force the dinosaur away? But the apes were masters. This much
was apparent. Inch by inch the dinosaur backed away, glaring
vengefully. And having reached a spot where it could turn around it
did so. Presently the ground trembled as it made off through the
steaming jungle. The leader of the mammals turned and faced the earth
people. Long, searching minutes passed. Its close set eyes seemed to
be studying them.
anette stirred and opened her eyes. The sight of the anthropoids
caused her to recoil.
"Steady, Nan," spoke Carruthers softly.
Other apes and gorillas gathered around the giant red animal. They
displayed no hostility, only an intense interest. One by one they
squatted before the earth people until they formed a half circle,
reaching from the one wall of the rocky plateau to the other.
While they sat there it began to grow dark. Carruthers removed his
watch and ventured a glance at it. Daylight had lasted less then three
hours. An hour for twilight, then it would be dark. Evidently the
cycle around the nucleus of the atom took approximately ten hours.
Nanette sat up. "Aaron!"
He answered without removing his eyes from the red ape less then four
feet away. "Don't look at me, Nan. Concentrate on the big, red fellow.
He's evidently in control. If we act the least bit frightened they
might decide to destroy us."
"What are they waiting for? Why don't they go away?"
"We'll know before long. I imagine they're trying to figure out who we
are and what we are doing on their tiny planet."
Darkness descended rapidly. Overhead, a small moon rose majestically
in the heavens and started its journey through the night. Its faint
light revealed the fact that the apes showed no intentions of leaving.
They still squatted before the earth people, in a half circle of
staring brown eyes.
Whatever fear Carruthers had felt towards the animals died away.
"They're harmless," he told Nanette. "Get some sleep if you can."
ong after the tired girl had drifted into slumber Carruthers sat with
his back against the wall, mentally trying to figure the whole thing
out. The dinosaur was real enough. Yet the apemen had frightened it
away, in fact had compelled it to go without actually engaging in
combat. No question about it. The anthropoids were in control. But who
Quite suddenly his eyes snapped open. Daylight had come again. He must
have fallen asleep. The shrill chatter of the apeman came to his ears.
The red ape leader shuffled to his feet and looked from the earth
people to the spot in the jungle whence came the chatter. Abruptly he
opened his mouth and emitted a flood of gibberish sounds.
The gorillas and apes at his side flattened their bodies against the
rocky walls in attitudes of expectant waiting.
"What's happening?" gasped the girl.
"There's no telling," whispered Aaron. "It must be someone or
something of importance. Note the expressions of awe and reverence on
the faces of the apemen. My God, Nanette, look!"
Out of the depths of the jungle emerged seven white beings—human or
animal it was impossible to tell. They were huge creatures with the
bodies of men. Erect of carriage, almost human in looks, they
contrasted strangely with the red apes and the black gorillas. Six of
them appeared to act as bodyguard for the seventh.
As they reached the space in front of the two earth people, the
bodyguard stepped aside. The seventh white one came to a dead stop.
Long and intently he stared at the man and girl crouched against the
wall. And the scrutiny seemed to please him, for he smiled.
Carruthers eyed the figure uneasily. He saw what seemed to be a man
dressed in a long, fibrous garment. With white hair and beard, it was
a strange figure indeed for an apeman. He saw also that the eyes were
well spaced, a mark of intelligence. The forehead was high and broad.
And as Carruthers mentally studied the creature, strange and bizarre
thoughts crossed his mind.
he mouth of the white apeman twitched as if he were going to speak.
The heavy lips parted. A single word came to Carruthers' ear—"Man?"
Carruthers nodded. "We are from the earth."
The lips of the apeman moved painfully as if speech came with the
utmost of difficulty. "The prophecy of the Great One has been
fulfilled even as it has been written."
The red apes and black gorillas allowed their eyes to wander from
their white leader to the two earth people. And their faces reflected
the supernatural awe with which they regarded the earth people.
"It's uncanny that an animal can speak our language," breathed
As if he hadn't heard her, Carruthers spoke again. "We are from the
earth," he repeated. "We have been on your world many hours, and we
are both hungry and thirsty."
"Words come hard," came from the lips of the white bearded one. "I
have not used them for years."
"And who are you?" asked Carruthers.
The white bearded one paused as if to recall some distant echo from
the past. "I am the last of the tribe of Esau. But come! This is no
place for speech. Long have I and my followers waited for this hour."
ithout another word he swung around. The six guards enclosed his aged
body in a hollow square and the procession moved away. They came after
a short journey to a natural opening leading to the heart of the
plateau. The apes and gorillas, with the exception of the red leader,
remained outside. The remainder of the party pushed through a tortuous
tunnel until they reached a cavernous opening directly beneath the
plateau. Vertical openings in the walls furnished light and air. The
white chieftain spoke in a strange tongue to his followers, and they
instantly prepared three couches in a far corner of the cavern.
As the earth people seated themselves on the skins that made up the
couch they were both conscious of a far-away rumbling like peals of
thunder. Not having seen any signs of a storm outside Carruthers
turned inquiringly on the aged chieftain.
The old man's eyes were shadowed with grim foreboding. "I have ordered
something to refresh you and your companion," he said. "Eat first, my
friends. We will talk later."
The six body-guards left the main cavern. Presently they returned with
large trays made of fanlike leaves resembling the palmetto. Fresh
fruits and uncooked vegetables formed the bulk of the meal. In silence
they ate. After the litter had been cleared away the guards withdrew
with the exception of the giant red ape, who crouched near the opening
to the tunnel.
"I am glad you have come," began the old chieftain, "but sorry, too.
Our planet, or rather the higher forms of life upon it, are doomed."
gain there came to the ears of the earth people that far-off beat of
sound that seemed to shake the ground. They looked to the white
bearded leader for explanation.
"Ah, you hear it too," murmured the other. "For centuries, we of the
great tribe of Esau have fought for the supremacy of our little
world—ever since the Great One appeared in our midst and instructed
us in world knowledge."
"And this Great One, as you call him," spoke Carruthers. "Who was he?"
"He was from your world. I never saw him. He comes to me as a legend.
For years he toiled among us, teaching and instructing until we
mastered his language. He called himself Dahlgren. Later he ruled all
the tribes. We of the Esau line he made into leaders because of our
higher intelligence. The tribes of Zaku were trained for war. Perhaps
you have noticed the chief of all the Zakus. He is crouching now
beside the entrance to our inner walls. He is Marbo, and his followers
live in the jungles."
"And does he talk as you do?"
The white chieftain shook his head. "No. Only we of the Esau tribe
have mastered speech. Not counting the women of our tribe that
comprise our numbers we are only seven in all."
"I owe Marbo my life as does also my companion," said Carruthers.
"Marbo looks upon you earth people as gods," spoke the old chieftain.
"He and his followers will protect you with their lives."
"And who rules over and beyond?" questioned Carruthers, waving his arm
to cover the remaining portion of the electron.
"There is no rule beyond except that of force. The Great One called
them by name, Morosaurus, Diplodocus, the Horned Ceratosaurus, and
many others whose names I have long forgotten. They are our enemies
whom we cannot destroy. And their numbers increase from year to year
and are slowly backing us upon our last stronghold."
"Isn't there anything we can do?" asked Carruthers, feeling a quiver
of apprehension along his spine.
lowly, the old chieftain shook his head. "Nothing whatever. Marbo and
his followers can control one or two, but when the herds begin to push
on into our territory, we are doomed. Even now their rumblings and
bellowings come through the jungles. Their thirst and hunger for flesh
Carruthers turned upon the girl. "The old chief's words explain
everything, Nan. Professor Dahlgren has been here and gone. He lived a
lifetime in the span of a few hours earth-time. Now it looks as if we
were destined to follow in his footsteps."
"I'm not afraid," said the girl. "Nothing can be worse than what we
have already passed through." And her eyes softened as she placed her
small hands within those of Carruthers. "We have each other, Aaron."
He smiled reassuringly and turned to the old chieftain. "I am
Carruthers, a friend and assistant to Dahlgren. The girl here is
The chieftain smiled gravely. "And I am Zark. Welcome to my kingdom,
Carruthers and Nanette. We need you here. Now tell me of your world,
for long have I waited for a follower of the great Dahlgren to appear
before my people."
Throughout the remainder of the day Carruthers talked. The shafts of
light paled at the end of the short day. Night came, bringing with it
a sense of security against the increasing hordes that thundered and
trumpeted beyond the borders of the jungle.
In the morning Zark instructed Marbo to remain close to Carruthers at
all times. So the young scientist left the cavern and ascended the
path leading to the top of the plateau. He looked at his watch and
compared the second hand with the nucleus atom sailing across the
heavens to estimate its speed.
ays passed as he made his observations. Meanwhile he had searched and
found the exact spot wherein he and Nanette had first stepped foot
onto the electron. This spot he carefully marked off with a ring of
huge boulders carried up by the followers of Marbo. Then he began to
calculate upon his pad. There must be no mistakes. He and Nanette must
be within the magic circle at the estimated time.
Between times he helped Nanette construct their living quarters in the
cavern. Zark had furnished them with skins and furs with which to
cover the walls. Carruthers made a fireplace of stones and restored
the lost art of fire to Zark, Marbo and their followers.
Days slipped by like minutes. Short days filled with excursions into
the jungles. Carruthers' face soon bristled with a stubble of beard.
This lengthened with time. Sharp thorns tore their clothes to ribbons.
Nanette, womanlike, cried many times during the nights because of the
lack of a mirror and a comb for her untidy hair.
But other and more important events soon claimed the attention of the
earth people. Day by day the herds of dinosaurs and other monsters of
like breed edged closer and closer to the tiny civilization around the
plateau. It worried Carruthers so much that he sought out Zark and had
him bring the other six members of his tribe together for a council of
"A complete defensive system, Zark," he told them. "We must make a
fortress of the plateau and fill the caverns with food."
ark shook his head. "No. It is quite useless. Followers of Marbo have
recently returned from over the beyond and report strange things. I
have hesitated to speak of them for fear of alarming you. Our planet
is breaking up. Violent eruptions have caused fires of stone and mud.
The rumblings you have heard were not made entirely by our enemies.
They came from the ground.
"An earthquake," murmured Carruthers, momentarily stunned by the news.
"But they are always of short duration, Zark. We have them on our own
"Ah, but these are different. They cover the whole of our globe. The
great Dahlgren noted them while he was with us. He wrote many words
and figures on paper concerning them. Only yesterday I unearthed these
records. The life of our planet was doomed to destruction during the
present year. What matter if the herds of dinosaurs overrun us and
destroy lives? In the end they, too, will be destroyed. It is fate. We
can do nothing."
Even as the old chieftain spoke a gigantic rumbling, greater in
intensity than any heretofore, shook the electron. Above the deep
rolling disturbance underground rose the shrill cries of the apemen.
Carruthers leaped to his feet and raced through the tunnel. A herd of
dinosaurs choked the path leading to the outside entrance. Marbo
brushed past him, shrilling in great excitement.
"Drive them away!" ordered Carruthers. "Like this!" He hurled a rock
at the eye of the nearest animal.
The dinosaur bellowed and backed away. The apes, and gorillas, used to
fighting only with their long arms, caught on to the stunt with
surprising quickness. Their powerful arms reached out. Stones and
boulders began to hurtle from the mouth of the tunnel. They thudded
against the heads of the great monsters like hailstones.
Subdued and frightened by this sudden display of force, the monsters
withdrew down the path. But the apemen had discovered a new method of
warfare. They found a childish delight in hurling stones. Within a few
minutes the slope was barren of rocks. The animals followed up their
momentary advantage and ran screaming down the path. The dinosaurs
fled in panic.
s soon as the enemy had been driven away, Carruthers pointed out to
Marbo the advantage of gathering the stones up from the ground and
returning them to the space around the mouth of the tunnel so that he
and his followers would be ready for a second repulse.
Zark appeared at this moment and helped with the explanation. His
crafty old eyes turned with new respect upon the earthman.
Carruthers toiled with them every day from then on, building and
fortifying the plateau against further incursions of the monsters.
Security and peace reigned for several weeks then hostilities broke
The rumblings of the electron had increased with each passing week.
Volcanic eruptions poured fresh discharges of molten lava and fiery
sparks along the edges of the jungles.
"I don't want to needlessly alarm you, Nan," he told her that night,
"but the fires have started. Zark was right. Unless we have rain
before to-morrow morning the heat and smoke will drive us out into
"But we can go to the top of the plateau," suggested the girl. "There
aren't any trees—"
A concentrated bellowing cut off the rest of her words. Driven towards
higher ground by the heat of the flames, the dinosaurs were trampling
up the path leading to the tunnel.
Once again Carruthers rallied his army of apemen around him and
attempted to drive the mammals away. As they reached the end of the
tunnel a cloud of dense smoke stung their eyes. The apemen shrilled in
a sudden panic and forgot all their previous training in driving off
the dinosaurs. Like scurrying rats they scattered.
lames from the conflagration broke through the smoke—flames that
leaped and twisted skyward.
Carruthers flung off the fear that held him spellbound and started
along up the path leading to the top of the plateau. A disheveled
figure appeared suddenly at his side—Nanette!
"Come," he whispered, hoarsely. "We've got to get out of this or we'll
choke to death."
"But Zark," breathed the girl, "He and his followers are still in the
cavern. We can't leave them."
Like one demented of reason, Carruthers raced back along the tunnel to
the cavern. "Zark!" he shouted.
The sound of his voice was drowned in the welter of screaming bedlam
coming up from below as the dinosaurs and apes fought for the
supremacy of life. But of Zark and his six followers he found
absolutely no sign. Quickly he hurried back to where he had left
Even as he reached the spot he had a sudden premonition of danger. A
gorilla, huge and black, brushed past him on the path, carrying a limp
burden under his shaggy arm.
"Stop!" commanded Carruthers, hurrying after the animal.
A huge arm knocked him sprawling. Spitting blood Carruthers staggered
to his feet. Up to this time he had felt no fear of the gorillas. They
had been orderly and well behaved. Fearful that harm would come to the
girl he ran after the dark figure ahead. The red glow of flames swept
nearer. The gorilla came to a stop and faced its pursuer. Lust shone
from its close-set eyes—lust and passion.
Carruthers stopped dead in his tracks. "Drop her!" he demanded.
The animal snarled hoarsely. There came the sound of ripping cloth.
Nanette screamed—a terrifying scream that echoed and re-echoed
through the electron night.
t was then that the thin cloak of civilization dropped from Aaron
Carruthers' back. He became in a single moment an animal fighting for
his mate. With a snarl equally vicious as that of the gorilla pawing
at the helpless girl, he lunged forward.
Mouthing his rage, the gorilla flung the earth man to the ground.
Carruthers came up frothing at the mouth. With grim intensity he
fastened himself to the animal's free arm. The raging mammal staggered
helplessly under the extra burden and dropped the girl to concentrate
his fury on the man. It raised a hairy arm aloft for the smashing
blow. Instinctively Carruthers released his hold.
At that very moment the electron lurched sickeningly, causing them
both to lose their footing. The violent upheaval sent Carruthers one
way and the gorilla the other. While the man stumbled to his feet to
resume battle he saw the infuriated monster stagger over the edge of
the plateau wall into a sheer drop of a thousand feet.
Starkly through the night came the growling roars of the giant beasts
from the jungles below. Nanette fluttered to his side. Her dress was
torn and dragged on the ground. For all her disheveled appearance she
was still beautiful to look upon. Forgetful of the danger on all sides
of him, the animal in Carruthers saw in her pitifully half-clad body
the same thing that the beast had desired. His head whirled hotly.
"Aaron!" she pleaded as his arm reached out to clutch her.
Hungrily he drew her to him. The pale light of the electron moon
mingled with the roaring blast of the flames. Madness inflamed his
heart and pounded his blood.
"Don't, Aaron," protested the girl, trying to free herself.
omething in the quality of the girl's frightened tones brought the
man back to normal. He fought against the overwhelming desire to
possess with all the force of his nature. And the better half
triumphed. No longer was he an animal, but a reasoning human being.
With a faint sigh he released her and wiped a hand across his dripping
"I'm sorry, Nan," he murmured. "That great brute drove me mad for an
instant. I'm all right now."
Together they stood in the electron night and watched death creep
closer and closer. The plateau was entirely surrounded with flames now
and the heat was increasing with each passing moment. As it increased
they backed towards the center.
From under their feet came the choking cries of the apemen. They had
returned to the cavern only to be overcome by smoke fumes. While yet
the earth people stood there waiting and watching the red death creep
nearer, the path leading downward into the jungle became a mass of
"The dinosaurs!" cried Nanette. "Oh, Aaron! We are lost!"
"Steady, girl," soothed the man. "If we stand still they might not see
us in the dark. The smoke will destroy our scent."
But as the minutes passed the herd of monsters increased. They crowded
along the path and spread out over the top of the plateau. Once again
the smell of their glistening bodies fouled the nostrils of the earth
Slowly Carruthers guided Nanette back towards the ring of
rocks—perhaps the barrier would serve to keep the animals away. He
scrambled across one of the boulders and pulled the girl after him. As
he did so, a violent subterranean action shook the electron from one
end to the other.
arruthers braced his feet against the ring of rocks to keep from
pitching headlong to the ground. Nanette clung to him wordlessly. All
around them the giant forces of nature raged sullenly. Twisting seams
appeared in the rocky floor of the plateau from which oozed gaseous
"Courage," soothed Carruthers as he held the quivering body of the
frightened girl close to his own. "This can't last."
But the ground continued to lurch and heave on its axis. Vivid lights
crossed and criss-crossed the atomic heavens. The fissures in the
ground appeared now as black canals. The lower part of the circle of
boulders disappeared. Off to the right came despairing screams. White
bodies glowed for an instant against the background of flames.
"Zark!" shouted Carruthers, as he saw the leader of the tribe of Esau
and his followers making their way along the plateau top.
Zark must have heard the earth-man's voice, for he started forward at
a run. Simultaneously there appeared a herd of the greatest of all the
prehistoric monsters—the Brontosaurus. They balked enormously against
the flame-licked skies. Zark and his followers attempted to avoid
them. But fear of the scorching flames drove the monsters forward.
There followed a maddening moment of unutterable pain for the
remaining ones of the tribe of Esau, then the herd trampled them
underfoot and rumbled towards the half circle of rocks where the two
earth people were crouched.
The leader of the Brontosaurus herd trumpeted madly and barged for the
higher ground of safety. Too late did instinct warn it of the widening
fissure underfoot. Before it could stop the pressure of the herd drove
it into the crevice.
arruthers drew back to the extreme inside edge of the boulders trying
to still his ears against their insane bellowings. A cloud of heavy,
choking smoke enveloped him for a moment then passed away. Then it was
that he saw a new star in the atomic heavens,—a star that seemed to
burn with the brilliance of a meteor. Even as he watched he was
conscious of it drawing closer.
The planet was now in a continuous uproar. The ground was heaving and
trembling as if from some inward strain. This was the end. Carruthers
realized it with a sinking heart. In another minute the electron would
disintegrate into a flaming mass of matter and fling itself from its
orbit around the atom.
And then the light from the approaching star struck them in a blinding
radiance of vermilion flames. Carruthers held his breath. Some
invisible force seemed to take possession of his body and that of the
girl at his side. The rocky plateau, now a boiling mass of rocks,
dropped from under their feet. Clear, cold air enveloped their bodies.
Then with the speed of light their bodies were hurled through
planetary space, up, up, up into the vast reaches of the higher ether.
Darkness assailed them. The flames from the jungle fire vanished into
nothingness. The electron moon paled to the size of a pin point, then
Carruthers had the feeling of expansion and growth. It was as if his
body was taking on the size of the whole world. It seemed to last for
hours, days, ages. But all the while he clung fast to the slender,
quivering body of Nanette.
ountains and hills suddenly blazed before his eyes. Straight up and
down mountains. He tried to stir his sluggish mind into action. What
did they mean? Where had he seen them before? And while yet his mind
struggled with the problem the mountains dwindled like melting snow.
The pressure around his body relaxed. A blinding glare of steady light
played upon his face. Then all was quietness and peace.
"Nan! Aaron!" The voice was Karl's.
Dazedly they looked around. What had once been mountains were now
desks and chairs. They were back again in the laboratory. Several
agonizing minutes passed before either could grasp the startling
change in things. The horror of the electronic disaster still filled
their minds to overflowing.
Carruthers recovered first. He stepped from the railed inclosure
marking the spot where the atomic beam had restored them after their
space flight, and guided the girl to a chair. Karl's face was drawn
and white as his eyes rested on the two pitiful figures that had
materialized out of the ether.
"Don't ask us any questions yet," spoke Carruthers in a tired voice.
"We've passed through too many horrors. What was the matter, Karl?
Couldn't you get the rays to work sooner?"
"Sooner?" Danzig's eyes were wide with wonder. He glanced at his
watch. "It was a little difficult to control both machines all alone,
but I switched off the ray from the inverse dimensional tubes and
turned on the other immediately. All in all it must have taken me
"Fifteen seconds," repeated Carruthers, dazedly. "It's unbelievable."
He dropped wearily into a chair and rested his forehead in the palms
of his hands. "How long have we been gone, Nan?"
anette pulled the ragged remnants of a dress around her knees and
attempted a smile. "Almost four months, according to the passage of
time on the electron."
"Impossible!" whispered Danzig, shutting his eyes to the truth.
Aaron Carruthers pointed to his clothes, now ragged and torn. "Look,
Karl! Everything I have on is worn out completely. Observe my hair and
beard, and the soles of my shoes. Human reason to the contrary,
Nanette and I have lived like two animals for four months, and all in
the space of fifteen seconds earth time. How can you account for it?
We figured it out on paper. And we've proved it with our bodies. What
it will mean to future civilization I can't foretell. It's beyond
And the laboratory became silent as a tomb as the three people tried
with all the strength of their minds to grasp the miracle of the
strange and unfathomable atomic rays.
PRODUCING HEAT BY ARCTIC COLD
roducing heat by means of Arctic cold is a fantastic but none the
less quite practicable idea evolved by Dr. H. Barjou of the French
Academy of Science. Dr. Barjou says the water under the ice in the
Arctic region is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While the air is many
degrees less, there may even be a difference of 50 degrees. The
unfrozen water could be pumped into a tank and permitted to freeze,
thus generating heat, as freezing a cubic meter of ice liberates about
as much heat as burning twenty-two pounds of coal. The heat produced
would vaporize a volatile hydrocarbon which would drive a turbine.
For condensing the hydrocarbon again, Dr. Barjou says great blocks of
brine could be used.
Not only would the Arctic regions become comfortably habitable by
means of this utilization of energy, contends Dr. Barjou, but heat
also could be furnished for the rest of the world.
Now if some one only can discover how to make the Sahara Desert send
forth cooling waves, the world will be perfect, temperaturally.