The Doom of a World
was an awful reeling shock
that flung us all sidewise, a great grinding of metal on metal. Then,
as I staggered up again, I saw that our sphere was through, was rising
from the hidden world’s surface into the glowing light of the vast
molten shell about it!
Chance had led us between two of the spheres
and instead of annihilating ourselves our sphere’s curving metal sides
had forced them apart, allowing us to drive up between them, up through
the great opening!
“Straight up to the shaft!” Kelsall screamed
above the rush of winds and the hum of our sphere. “Straight up to the
shaft, Vance—they’re after us.”
Mighty masses of spheres were pouring up from
the gleaming surface of the spinning hidden world, were pouring up
through the great opening through which we had smashed. Out of all the
great wells that yawned here and there upon the surface of the world
beneath us! It was the gigantic invasion of the flesh things, surging
up toward earth’s surface at last!
It was their great armada of conquest and in
the van of the swiftly rising spheres leaped the great single black
sphere of the rulers. Behind it swarmed the swiftest of the others in
pursuit. Then came the countless masses of their globes, pouring up
still from the hidden world.
“They’re overtaking us!” Kelsall exclaimed as
he gazed tensely upon the rushing spheres beneath us.
I had already seen it was so. For our own
sphere, battered as it was by our wild crash upward through the
swarming globes of the great hall, was not equal in speed to the
unharmed spheres that were rushing up after us.
Up—up—my brain reeled as we drove upward at
tremendous speed with, those countless pursuers even more swiftly after
The dark opening of the great shaft came into
view above us. The glow of the molten fires in which the opening yawned
beat fiercely upon us. I opened the refrigerating controls.
As we came closer to the great surging current
of the slow flowing molten masses, I heard an increasing roar of
thunderous sound, the awful roar of the flowing sea of molten rock.
Then suddenly there came a cry, from Fenton and as I glanced back I saw
yellow rays stabbing up toward us from the pursuing spheres close
They fell short, though by little, for as yet
the pursuing five hundred had not drawn within effective range.
Swiftly, though, they were coming closer, were overtaking us, racing
upward toward the roaring molten sea that loomed above us!
I felt the cold, grip of despair closing upon
my heart as we rushed over the last few thousand feet toward the round
opening. I knew that Kelsall was right, that escape was impossible.
The five hundred foremost spheres were close
beneath us and though they had ceased to loose their rays for the
moment, unable to perceive us against that awful glare from the fiery
ocean above, I knew that they were overhauling us still. Once in the
darkness of the shaft’s upper portions they would blast us from
existence with their rays.
With the passing of our last hope something
seemed to snap within me. I uttered a hoarse cry of defiance, gripped
the control wheels in my hands and then, as our sphere shot up into the
shaft’s great dark opening at last, I brought it to a halt, swung it
around so that it hung in that opening motionless!
It hung just inside the shaft’s opening with
the flaming molten sea flowing and thundering all about it, facing the
spheres that were rushing still upward toward us from beneath!
“No escape for us!” I cried. “Then no escape
it is—but we’ll not meet death fleeing up this shaft!”
“You’re going to—” began Kelsall, but my mad
shout cut him short.
“We’re going to hold these spheres and flesh
things out of this shaft while we live! We’re going to hold them. back
from the earth’s surface!”
A SINGLE stunned silence followed and then the
shouts of Darrell, Kelsall and Fenton joined my own. All about us was
the thundering sea of molten rock, whose awful glare beat fiercely upon
as, whose great heat was kept from us by the refrigerating controls?
The shaft was five hundred feer in diameter,
so that the area to be guarded to prevent the spheres from rushing
upward was not large. As I crouched there at our sphere’s controls,
Kelsall and Fenton were tense at the window, Darrel hunched over the
ray control. We saw that the five hundred foremost spheres beneath had
glimpsed us halted in the shaft’s opening, had themselves halted
beneath us, the black sphere of the rulers at their head.
We could see their occupants peering topward,
knew that against the awful glare all abort us they could not gain more
than a flashing glimpse of our own sphere. As we hung there amid the
roaring molten fires of earth’s inner shell, there was a pause. Then
suddenly, at some swift order, the five hundred spheres shifted to a
long column and drove at full speed toward the shaft and our sphere
In an instant the spheres of the column’s head
were looming great beneath us but then Darrell pressed swiftly upon the
studs in his hands and down from our sphere there stabbed swift yellow
shafts of deadly power. They clove down through the spheres of the
uprushing column and with a great detonation shot scores of them into
nothingness! As they did so, as the rays of the uprushing ships stabbed
in answer toward ourselves, I sent our sphere leaping to one side of
the shaft and from this new position our rays drove paths of instant
annihilation down through their huddled, disorganized mass!
Before that awful fire from an enemy whom they
could scarcely glimpse a third of their five hundred spheres were
annihilated by our down leaping rays. They reeled back, shattered from
the awful blow we had dealt them!
I heard the exultant cries of Kelsall and
Fenton, saw that the black sphere of the flesh thing rulers had moved
to one side, that in the spheres beneath was a great confusion. A
moment more and those great far stretching masses of spheres halted
beneath, holding formation thousands of feet beneath us in the molten
sea in whose single opening we hung.
Then up from them rushed others to replace
those we had destroyed. As these and the survivors of the first attack
formed again into a column, they hung briefly out of range beneath us.
Then at full speed they came leaping up toward us their yellow rays
stabbing up even before they came within range. But again they were
loosing their rays blindly, dazzled by the awful glare about us. The
instant they were within ray range our own deadly beams were stabbing
down again among them!
There came to us over the awful roar of the
fires about us the detonations of our striking rays and we could see
scores upon scores of the uprushing spheres flashing into nothingness.
We could see their column reeling aside, scores of ships driving in
that wild moment into the molten seas about our shaft and perishing
there instantly in bursts of flame.
“We’re holding them!” cried Darrell as the
second shattered column reeled downward. “They can’t get at us here in
“And the world below—look!” shouted Kelsall.
“Another great mass of matter is breaking from it!”
With another great grinding roar, a large
section was gouged suddenly out of the gleaming levels of the secret
world, was hurtling out to strike with giant concussion the molten
encircling shell not far from our great shaft’s opening.
The doom of the hidden world was at hand
within minutes. The sight seemed to act like a great spur of fear upon
the massed spheres beneath that held a the flesh things. At some unseen
order from the rulers’ black sphere, hanging to one side, scores,
hundreds, formed swiftly into another mighty column and again rushed
with suicidal fury toward the opening in which we hung!
As they came up within ray range of us again
with their few foremost spheres’ rays flashing upward, our own rays
shot again among them, stabbing down through the long solid mass,
cutting instant and mighty lanes of annihilation. Still, though
heedless of the death before them, the remaining spheres rushed up,
hoping to catch us with one of their wildly whirling rays.
But as they came within range of us our deadly
beams were annihilating them, our sphere leaping from side to side in
the shaft, to avoid their own. Then with a scant score left of the
hundreds of spheres of the third column, the survivors were reeling
FOR a third time our sphere had driven back
their attack, had sent their shattered column reeling back down from
the shaft they sought to enter. As we hung there amid the thundering
fires Kelsall and Fenton and Darrell and I were shouting like mad
things, were crying out in all the wild excitement of battle that
Beneath us we could see the giant square
masses of the thousands of spheres hanging there still, out of range
beneath the molten sea that hung above them. We could see restless and
panicky movement among them as their third attack was all but
annihilated. Far to the right and left beneath us extended their masses.
We gazed downward tensely and saw masses of
spheres rushing to right and left away from out opening, a movement
that for the moment puzzled us, We saw that there was to be no swift
succeeding attack, though the creatures beneath knew as well as we that
scant minutes remained before the final cataclysm of the spinning world
We hung tensely there, our sphere so hot that
its walls and controls seared our hands from either side just beneath
the molten fires, just out of their zone of intenser heat, a double
mass of spheres, driving beneath the opening in which we hung and
letting their yellow beams of death drive through the great glare
“The spheres!” cried Kelsall in that instant.
“They’ve come toward us just beneath the molten roof—!”
As they shot toward us a wild storm of
brilliant beams criss crossed the opening in which we hung but in that
split second the control wheels spun beneath my hands and our sphere
leaped upward before the deadly rays could reach us!
Then as the masses of spheres drove farther
into the opening beneath us, our own sphere’s rays stabbed like light
among them, leaping in brilliant destruction as they spun.
Two thirds of them winked into
nothing¬ness beneath our leaping rays and in the next instant, as
the remaining spheres drove wildly into the opening and swerved from
our rays, they were engulfed by the roaring molten walls of living fire
about us. But straight up from beneath and from either side still,
scores upon scores of spheres were whirling madly toward the opening of
the shaft in which we hung!
Over the roaring from all about us came the
swift succeeding detonations of our brilliant rays as they swept in
swift, dancing lanes of death through the masses of spheres that strove
to break in upon us!
Hanging as we were a little up inside the
great shaft’s opening, they could not loose their rays up upon us until
they had burst up into it from either side or beneath. And as they did
so, as their masses appeared beneath us, Darrell sent out terrific
beams, lancing down in lightning like stabs, sweeping through them in
swathes of death, mowing them from existence as they appeared.
Clinging to the sphere’s controls, I sent it
dancing from side to side in the great shaft, venturing almost to its
death in swift short rushes toward the flaming seas of death about us,
leaping this way and that in the great shaft to escape the rays that
the spheres loosed blindly up toward us!
It seemed in that moment impossible that we
four in our single sphere could thus hold back the countless thousands
beneath. Yet our rays stabbed downward still, sweeping the opening
beneath us clean of the gleaming spheres as they rushed into it, while
scores of others of those rushing spheres were whirling in that wild
moment to dreadful death in the thundering fires around us!