Chapter X

How the Hidden World Evolved

NOW THIS vast earth shell,” Kelsall continued after a pause, “was of necessity almost wholly molten and fiery. But the world hidden within it, which had formed before the forming of the shell, had already condensed and cooled somewhat.

“As it cooled and solidified still farther its elements and vapors cooled into water, into seas that swept its surface while the vast shell of earth around it was still glowing and molten. Air formed too from those condensing vapors, an atmosphere that filled all the vast space inside earth.

“With air and water, with the ceaseless light and heat beating upon it from the great molten shell of earth enclosing it, there came at last to form upon this hidden world the first crude forms of life.

“In the seas they formed—beginning with the first jelly like organisms evolving out of the changing sea silt’s elements—the first protoplasm that evolved slowly as ages passed into higher and higher forms until at last many creatures moved upon the lands of this central world while the great earth shell was still almost wholly molten.

“Another great mass of the meteoric material had been caught by earth as it wandered through earth’s orbit, and that mass had condensed into earth’s circling moon. But though earth’s outer surface gradually cooled and solidified, though there began upon its outer surface the same condensations of vapors and formation of seas, its inner surface was still molten, flaming, and in the heat of that inner surface the hidden world flourished, lit and warmed perpetually by the molten sphere about it.

“At last, out of the great races of strange creatures that moved on the hidden world, there rose to dominance the one race of these flesh creatures. They were the product of ages of evolutionary changes that had taken place here on the hidden world and with more and more intelligence came to rule it.

“Long before any life appeared on earth’s surface the flesh creatures had waxed to great power and intelligence. They built strange cities, cities that grew even larger as their numbers increased until at last they were forced to cover all their world with a single great city or mass of structures.

“As time went on they raised over that city another level of structures, building it as much as possible from transparent metal to allow the level beneath to receive some share of the light and heat from the enclosing molten shell. Through the centuries, they had added level after level to their city, their world, until at last all of it lay as it now lies with a hundred great levels on which swarm the masses of the flesh creatures.

“Far above on earth’s surface had come the first stirrings of life also, the first forming of changing, ascending species that in time were dominated by the rising races of man. But the flesh creatures had no interest in the conditions of earth’s surface and so never ventured out to it.

“But at last, after age upon age of safe and uneventful existence upon their hidden world, the flesh creatures came to realize that the end was at hand, that soon their world would perish and with it all their races. The reason was quite logical.

“When this smaller world was first enclosed by the earth shell it moved about the sun in the same orbit earth follows now but did not rotate at all. This earth shell, however, spun from the first, formed as it was by the meteoric masses rushing whirlpool wise around the smaller world. When it was first formed, earth consisted of a great shell which rotated once each twenty four hours, just as it does now, and a hidden world inside that did not rotate at all.

“But gradually in the following ages this hidden central world began to rotate also! The great shell rotating around it pulled at it with vast gravitational attraction as it revolved, the gravitational attraction of shell and central world being in reality a connection between them.

“Because of that connection, just as though it were solid and visible, the hidden inner world began slowly to rotate in the same direction as the rotating earth shell around it. As age followed age the rate of its spin steadily increased, accelerated always by the constant pull of the spinning earth shell around it.

“And so at last, short months ago, it became evident to the flesh creatures that their inner world was spinning at almost the same speed as earth’s shell around it, that it would spin faster and faster still as time went on until the spinning must end in its own annihilation!

“The flesh creatures calculated that within months the hidden world could no longer hold together! You must remember, the gravitational attraction of this small hidden world upon its own matter was small in the first place and its matter was under the ceaseless gravitational pull of all the great shell of earth around it.

“Now with that shell pulling its matter outward with great force, with the increased centrifugal force of the spinning world tending ever more strongly to hurl its own substance outward, it was plain that before the hidden world could reach a speed of rotation equal to that of the earth shell around it, it would break up! It would break up, like a bursting flywheel, all the matter flying apart in tremendous masses against the molten inner shell of earth!

 

“THAT meant annihilation for the flesh-creatures and all their world. So they strove with all their power and craft to devise some way to escape annihilation. They decided, at last, that but one method of escape was open to them—and that was to surge up to the surface of earth’s great shell in all their hordes.

“There was another group among them that believed that the speed of rotation could be lessened and their world saved. They wanted to brake the speed. They did not believe that their race could exist on the surface of the earth where many conditions would be different.

“Making use of their knowledge they set to work tampering with atomic structure to get forces powerful enough to stop the mad rotation. And they had almost succeeded when they found that the atomic energy they had released was causing convulsions in the structure of their world.

“Each disintegrating atom was affecting its neighbor and with great rapidity their world was being slowly shattered. The rumbles that you heard were signs of it. They are becoming more and more severe.

“Imagine these creatures, finding that instead of thousands of years in which to prepare for the natural ending of their world they had literally advanced its date so that it hangs over them ready to end them any moment When the end will come no one knows.

“The earth shell, they knew, would not be affected by the bursting of the hidden world inside it, save for a severe shock. And upon earth’s surface they could live, for though they would be able to move there only with great effort, they could use their mechanical ingenuity to spare them muscular exhaustion. At any rate, their last chance lay in emigrating en masse to earth’s surface at once.

“With their instruments of distance vision they had, more than once in past centuries, gazed upon earth’s surface, had seen the swarming races of men. They knew that with their great spheres and deadly rays they could annihilate mankind.

“So they began their plans to drive a great shaft upward through earth’s shell by using a great disk projector which would send upward from their world a giant yellow beam that would instantaneously cut a shaft through the earth. They erected their big disk projector exactly upon the equator of their own inner world, so that its beams would send a shaft up exactly upon earth’s equator also.

“Used as they were to the ceaseless light and beat of their world, the flesh creatures planned to take no chances of emerging in earth’s colder regions. All was ready to pierce their shaft upward but one problem faced them still—at what exact spot on earth’s equator should their great shaft emerge?

“It was a problem of great importance. If their great shaft were driven suddenly upward in a town or city swarming with men the alarm would spread over all earth. Before the flesh creature hordes could rush up human forces might gather about it to prevent them.

“And, too, should they run their shaft up through the ocean’s bed, a vast volume of water would rush down it and, spreading out inside earth’s shell, would cause through contact with the molten inner surface great cataclysms of exploding steam that might well wreck all earth.

“It was vitally necessary that their shaft be driven up through some continent, at an uninhabited spot on earth’s surface. To make sure that their shaft would be sent upward at such a spot they decided first to make use of the distance vision instrument I have mentioned.

“That instrument was one which projected an intense column or shaft of blue light for any distance through any form of matter. It projected also a small beam of white light that was supersensitive to all changes of light about it, the white beam appearing as a white circle or spot of light near the top of the blue column of radiance.

“Thus the white circle or beam was in effect a great eye, which recorded upon itself a swift and ceaseless picture of all things about it. It transmitted this picture downward in the form of linked vibrations through the blue shaft of radiance to instruments that enabled the flesh creatures operating it to see things as though with that great white eye of light.

“So, beside the great blasting beam disk which they erected on their hidden world’s equator, the flesh creatures set up a smaller disk to project the blue vision shaft upward through earth’s shell. You must have seen the great and small disks when you came down over the hidden world.

“Then, but a few weeks ago, they got into operation. They turned on the power of the smaller disk and at once a brilliant shaft of blue radiance sprang upward through the great shell of earth to emerge upon earth’s surface at the equator.

“That column of blue radiance, appearing as it did in the native village north of Kismaya, was the first of the great light shafts that puzzled us on earth.

 

ONLY for a minute or so did they keep that blue light shaft turned on near Kismaya. In that minute they were able to see that the spot was one in which were many natives, many men. It was, clearly, not a suitable place for their great passage¬-way, so they turned off the blue ray and it vanished above.

“They did not need to move their disk around their own hidden world to shoot the light shaft up at a different spot. They needed only to wait until the next spot selected, a fourth around earth’s equator, moved directly above their disk. As I have said, their hidden world spins more slowly than the earth’s shell about it.

“By waiting for a number of days the next selected spot on the earth shell’s equator would be directly over their disk, Within twenty days and some hours the second spot was directly over their disks, since it took that length of time for the swifter spinning earth shell to gain a fourth of a rotation on their own spinning inner world,

“So when the moment came, they again sent the vision shaft stabbing upward. This time it came through the Pacific on the equator just south of Moram Island.

“They could see that to drive a shaft upward there would mean the downrush of great waters. So they snapped out their shaft and waited another twenty days and six and a half hours until the earth shell around them had gained another quarter revolution upon their inner world.

“Then they sent a third great light shaft stabbing upward, which emerged in the broad open expanse of the Pacific, on the equator just ahead of the Callarnia. They saw that this third spot also was impossible and prepared to wait until the fourth designated spot would be above their disks.

“Meanwhile every effort of the flesh creatures’ hordes was being used to construct the mighty fleet of spheres that would carry all of them up to earth’s surface. And meanwhile we four, on earth’s surface, had resolved to solve the mystery of the strange light shafts and were making our way to the spot where we had calculated that the fourth would appear.

“Our calculations were right as you know. When the interval had elapsed the flesh creatures sent their fourth light shaft stabbing upward. Through it they saw land uninhabited and wild as they desired.

“They had found their required spot. At once they turned on the other titanic greater disk, the giant disk that sent a colossal yellow disintegrating beam stabbing upward! That beam drove a great shaft straight up through earth’s shell, almost instantaneously before our eyes.

“After the shaft was blasted upward, scores of spheres shot up it at once, their light beams flashing up to earth’s surface, the first of all the great hordes of flesh things that were to follow!

“For though the shaft had been pierced up and all was ready for the flesh things to pour up through it, their mighty fleet of spheres was not yet quite finished, would not be finished for another day or two. So these hundred or more spheres were sent up to guard the great shaft’s mouth, to prevent any who might discover it from giving the alarm or trying to wreck the shaft itself.

“Fenton and I, running from them toward the clearing’s tip, were seen. Instantly they were after us, captured us, and took us down as prisoners to this earth within earth. When they brought us down here, their twelve rulers ordered them to give us at once knowledge of their speech so that they might converse with us.

“This they did by means of their strange brain-alteration mechanism, and when we found ourselves able to understand them they told us these things concerning their history and plans.

 

AND it was a tale, that, which Fenton and I heard with growing horror. We saw that these beings could do what they planned, could surge up onto earth’s surface in their numberless spheres and annihilate mankind. Our horror was deep¬ened when we learned how near to earth this doom was. The final preparations were even then being made, the last spheres of their tremendous fleet were being completed.

“Within hours the hordes of flesh creatures will be rising upward through the mighty shaft onto earth’s surface. Once they have passed up through the shaft, once they have emerged on earth’s surface, no power can stay the doom that is mankind’s.

“Even as the flesh things told us this there came a warning of the cataclysm that was almost upon them. The whole hidden world seemed to reel and quiver violently, we heard a tremendous distant grinding and roaring sound. When that died an alarm spread across all the hidden world.

“Later we learned from the flesh things guarding us what had happened. A great section of this hidden world had gone flying out toward the molten encircling earth shell about us! It was another such great throwing out of part of this inner world’s mass that caused the similar shock and alarm but a little while ago.

“That I first great shock, indeed, made the swarming flesh creatures in it redouble their efforts upon their great fleet of spheres. For they knew that even with the greatest efforts they would be able to rush upward and escape from the hidden world but a short hour or so before its final breakup comes.

“So they’ve been working furiously at the great spheres. Our guards told us that we had nothing to hope from above, that the hundred spheres were still guarding the mouth of the great shaft on earth’s surface. We never dreamed of your being able to get down here to us.

“We were told also that another hundred spheres had been sent up to relieve the first hundred, with the first party coming back down. For though the spheres can run for great periods, though the flesh creatures with their fatigue neutralizing fluid need neither sleep nor rest, the projectors that shoot forth the deadly yellow rays must be charged with new stores of electronic force whenever exhausted.

“Hardly had they told us this when we heard that great whistling call, which was the signal summoning the officials of each level to the great central hall. Fenton and I were taken there also.

“There, behind the great balcony, we heard the leader of the twelve rulers speaking to the assembled officials, telling them that the great fleet of spheres was almost finished but that they must put every effort into their completion within the next hours.

“He told them it had been calculated that within twenty four more hours, almost exactly, the breakup of their world would come, that they must needs have the spheres finished and be rushing to earth’s surface before the cataclysm came.


Original publication: Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929  Copyright © 1929 Stellar Publishing, Inc. Revised version originally published in Fantastic Story Quarterly, Spring 1950  Copyright © 1950 Better Publications, Inc. Electronic version Copyright © 2009 Haffner Press. All Rights Reserved.