A Single Hope!
had discovered for ourselves that the great door
was like none we had seen before. The great hinges to one side of it,
the strange dial like arrangement of a score of studs upon its center,
were the only things that indicated the presence of a door, since the
transparent metal of the door apparently was entirely integral with the
transparent metal of the wall in which it was set!
Kelsall explained swiftly. “It’s the mechanism
controlled by those central studs that locks the door,” be said, “and
it locks the door by making it part of the wall around it. It uses a
molecular diffusion force to mix and intermingle the molecules of the
door and wall at their edges, thus making of door and wall a single
“When those studs are pressed in a certain
very complex combination, they reverse that force and the molecules of
door and wall are sharply divided, making it possible to swing the door
open. But without knowing that combination, without using it to reverse
the force, you can no more swing open this door than you can swing open
any section of this wall.
“You can’t use the guards’ ray cubes to cut
through the wall. They’d annihilate the whole cell and ourselves inside
“But how to get you out, Kelsall?” Darrell
asked in despair. “We have a sphere here and in it we might get back up
the shaft—to earth’s surface.”
“The only way is to wait until the other
guards return,” Kelsall said. “Their leader alone can open and close
this lock, and they will come back for Fenton and myself in a few
hours. The leaders of these flesh creatures are holding a last meeting
in their great hall and we are to be brought again before them, since
we were given only until then to accede to their demands, death then
being the penalty of refusal.
“Therefore they will take us out of here and
back to the great hall. Then you and Vance and Fenton and myself must
attempt to overpower them and get away in your sphere. It’s our one
Darrell nodded. “We’ll do it, Kelsall,” he
said. “The first thing is to hide these two dead guards and our sphere.”
He and I, turning toward the two dead flesh
creatures, grasped them and thrust them out of sight into one of the
numerous store rooms farther along the corridor, hiding them behind a
mass of mechanisms. We raced back then to our sphere and, entering it,
I turned on its lifting power to send it humming up through the dusk of
the great avenue toward its roof.
As it bumped against the ceiling, hanging
there with the hardly audible hum of its mechanism just sufficing to
keep the big sphere aloft there and out of sight, I stepped out and
floated down to the avenue’s surface. Then to await the returning
guards, and with the ray cubes of the two slain guards in our pockets,
we turned back toward the door of the transparent cell that held
Kelsall and Fenton, and hid outside in the corridor’s feeble dusk.
Kelsall was saying, “Fenton and I were
astounded when we heard your combat in the corridor and saw you two
fighting with the guards. How did you ever get down here?”
Darrell related what had happened since the
kidnaping by the shaft. Kelsall and Fenton listened in astonishment to
his tale of our wild journey down after them and when Darrell had
finished Kelsall shook his head.
“I never imagined that you two would venture
down here after us,” he said. “But you have done it and if we four can
escape we can bring to our own earth a warning, at least, of this
“But warning of what?” I asked swiftly. “What
are these strange flesh creatures, Kelsall, what are their plans? Why
should they leave this hidden world? What were the four great light
shafts that they sent up through earth’s shell? What was that great
shock that made all this world reel a few minutes ago?
“We heard you and Fenton reply to the
creatures in their own whistling speech there in the great hall. You
must know the answer to some, at least, of these mysteries!”
KELSALL was silent for a moment, regarding me
with a strange solemnity through the transparent door. When he spoke
his voice was grave.
“I know the answers, Vance,” he said. “You saw
us captured and thrust into one of their spheres. I saw you rising to
come to our aid then but waved you back because I knew that you would
be captured like ourselves or killed.
“We were thrust into one of the great spheres,
closely guarded, and then our sphere and the score or more that were
about it there on the ground rose and then sank into the shaft, leaving
the hundred or more patrolling watchfully above and three to guard the
mouth of the shaft on the ground about it.
“Down into that great shaft we dropped at
terrific speed with the light beams of all the spheres flashing,
whirling down at such terrific velocity that I knew within moments that
we had dropped many miles beneath the surface. Then came the growing
heat about us, and the glow showed us we were shooting down through
that awful light and heat. Finally they moved a knob and the wall and
the sphere became cooler.
“Between the great shaft’s molten walls and
out at last into this vast space in the interior of earth we moved. Our
spheres sank down toward this world and through the opening in the
great halt’s roof.
“Our spheres poised at the edge of the great
balcony, our guards leading us forth onto it. They kept close hold upon
us and as we stepped out of the sphere we saw why. The smaller force of
gravitation upon this world, less even than it seemed it should have
been, made every one of our efforts to move send us floating upward.
“The great hall was quite empty but soon there
came to survey us the twelve flesh-creatures who form what might be
termed the highest executive committee of this strange civilization.
The foremost spoke to us in their whistling speech but of course we did
“He turned then and gave an order to our
guards, who led us away at once. We walked quite naturally when held
down by them. They led us to this storeroom. Its lock made it suitable
as a prison cell for us.
“Here, after a little time came three
flesh-creatures, bearing a conical projector of some sort connected to
masses of intricate apparatus. They bound us tightly with metal thongs,
flat on the floor, unable to move a muscle. Then they turned this
projector upon the upper portion of the back of my skull.
“I felt some invisible but powerful force
pouring from that projector into my brain and then I felt comprehension
of the whistling speech sounds in which our hosts conversed coming upon
“You know that the brain is the organ that
stores and acquires knowledge, that each new thing we learn is
registered by an infinitely subtle change in a portion of its structure.
“If we knew the exact change produced in the
brain by learning a certain fact and could take someone ignorant of
that fact and make that exact change in his brain, that person would at
once know that fact perfectly without ever having heard of it. It would
simply mean that the fact had been impressed upon his brain directly
instead of indirectly through his visual or auditory nerves.
“It was this ability, one foreshadowed even in
our own world by certain experiments of our psychologists, which the
flesh creatures were using to give me an instant and perfect
understanding of their whistling speech.
“When they turned off the force finally, when
I arose, I understood their speech perfectly and could speak it to them
in a crude fashion, my human vocal apparatus not being capable of
making all of their whistling sounds. In Fenton too the same thing had
been accomplished. Then the flesh creatures who had wrought that swift
change in us, were conversing at once with us.
“They told us that within a few hours we
should be taken back before the ruling twelve now that we could speak
to and answer them. They would question us concerning all phases of
life on the earth above—also what had brought us to the exact spot on
earth’s surface where they had driven their great shaft upward.
“Fenton and I told them little. We did,
though, in the guise of conversing with them openly, strive to gain
information as to the mysteries of this strange world and its peoples
and their plans. And they, seeming not to care if we learned, told us
openly enough of the history and the purpose of their great flesh
IT WAS with amazement that we heard their
history. For these flesh creatures existing on this spinning world
were, we learned, older by far than any race on earth’s surface, and
their world a world older than the great shell of earth that enclosed
“Unthinkable ages ago, they said, our sun
moved through space, with no planets, a giant flaming single sun. Eons
it moved alone until a time when there approached, out of the galaxy’s
vast swarm of stars, another star, a sun heading through space in the
general direction of our own. It passed our sun at a vast distance, yet
one which was small compared to the usual distances between stars.
“As they passed, the tremendous gravitational
attraction of the two suns raised upon each other great tides, colossal
flaming tides of glowing gases. So immense were those tides that when
the two suns finally receded from each other the tides they had raised
did not recede but broke loose entirely in flaming masses from their
giant suns! And as those vast flaming masses broke from our own sun
they began to circle around it, held still within its group.
“In this tale of the flesh creature
scientists, indeed, I recognized one of the theories of the birth of
the planets put forward by our own scientists, by Chamberlin, Moulton,
Jeans and Jeffreys. And, the flesh creatures said, those great flaming
masses began to condense with time into planets, spinning about their
“There were, thought, immense masses of
flaming gases still free, still moving about the sun themselves, but
planets had been formed. The planet that had formed where earth is now
was much smaller, was in fact this very hidden world!
“However, as I have said, vast masses of loose
flaming gases still moved through the solar system, condensing swiftly
into meteoric materials. These great clouds of meteoric matter began to
be caught and held by the new formed planets.
“Neptune caught only enough to form one moon
which revolves about it, Uranus enough to form at least four moons.
Saturn, toward which great masses of meteoric material chanced to be
flying, gripped enough to form around itself the giant rings as well as
a number of large moons and some smaller ones.
“Jupiter, too, gripped much of the material,
forming four great moons and a number of smaller ones also. Between
Jupiter and Mars a great belt of this meteoric material formed of
itself, turning about the sun and existing there now. Mars, being out
of the path of most of the great meteoric material masses, caught only
its two little moons, hardly greater than meteors themselves.
“But this little world, that revolved where
earth now lies, was in the path of great masses of the wandering matter
and so quickly caught immense quantities. They formed about it much as
similar masses had formed about Saturn, encircling it completely
without touching it.
“But since this world was so much smaller than
Saturn they encircled it on all sides as well as on one plane,
encircled it as a giant shell instead of as a ring! They formed about
it, indeed, a colossal globular shell, hiding it forever from the sun
and from outer space. This giant spherical shell that has a thickness
of 1,000 miles is our own earth.”