Jungle Book Preview. Rudyard Kipling would be proud of this new version. Lovely, just like the prior ones, but with fantastic effects.
I have to admit a strong fancy for Jungle Book and I love this piece that director John Favreau posted.
Rudyard Kipling, along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien and Lewis remain some of my strongest influences when it comes to portraying another world and lifestyle.
You'll find traces of all of them in my Baker Street Universe adventures starring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, along with the Jungle Lord, The Invisible Man, Count Dracula, Conan Doyle, Professor Challenger, Harry Houdini, Nicolas Tesla, Albert Einstein, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie and other delightful fictional and non-fictional personalities.
Classic Science Fiction. The Girl in the Golden Atom by Ray Cummings. We've been out there. Now it's time to go into here...the worlds within! CHAPTER I: A UNIVERSE IN AN ATOM
THE GIRL IN THE GOLDEN ATOM
CHAPTER I: A UNIVERSE IN AN ATOM
Author, Ray Cummings
"Then you mean to say there is no such thing as the _smallest_ particle
of matter?" asked the Doctor.
"You can put it that way if you like," the Chemist replied. "In other
words, what I believe is that things can be infinitely small just as
well as they can be infinitely large. Astronomers tell us of the
immensity of space. I have tried to imagine space as finite. It is
impossible. How can you conceive the edge of space? Something must be
beyond--something or nothing, and even that would be more space,
"Gosh," said the Very Young Man, and lighted another cigarette.
The Chemist resumed, smiling a little. "Now, if it seems probable that
there is no limit to the immensity of space, why should we make its
smallness finite? How can you say that the atom cannot be divided? As a
matter of fact, it already has been. The most powerful microscope will
show you realms of smallness to which you can penetrate no other way.
Multiply that power a thousand times, or ten thousand times, and who
shall say what you will see?"
The Chemist paused, and looked at the intent little group around him.
He was a youngish man, with large features and horn-rimmed glasses, his
rough English-cut clothes hanging loosely over his broad, spare frame.
The Banker drained his glass and rang for the waiter.
"Very interesting," he remarked.
"Don't be an ass, George," said the Big Business Man. "Just because you
don't understand, doesn't mean there is no sense to it."
"What I don't get clearly"--began the Doctor.
"None of it's clear to me," said the Very Young Man.
The Doctor crossed under the light and took an easier chair. "You
intimated you had discovered something unusual in these realms of the
infinitely small," he suggested, sinking back luxuriously. "Will you
tell us about it?"
"Yes, if you like," said the Chemist, turning from one to the other. A
nod of assent followed his glance, as each settled himself more
"Well, gentlemen, when you say I have discovered something unusual in
another world--in the world of the infinitely small--you are right in a
way. I have seen something and lost it. You won't believe me probably,"
he glanced at the Banker an instant, "but that is not important. I am
going to tell you the facts, just as they happened."
The Big Business Man filled up the glasses all around, and the Chemist
"It was in 1910, this problem first came to interest me. I had never
gone in for microscopic work very much, but now I let it absorb all my
attention. I secured larger, more powerful instruments--I spent most of
my money," he smiled ruefully, "but never could I come to the end of the
space into which I was looking. Something was always hidden
beyond--something I could almost, but not quite, distinguish.
"Then I realized that I was on the wrong track. My instrument was not
merely of insufficient power, it was not one-thousandth the power I
"So I began to study the laws of optics and lenses. In 1913 I went
abroad, and with one of the most famous lens-makers of Europe I produced
a lens of an entirely different quality, a lens that I hoped would give
me what I wanted. So I returned here and fitted up my microscope that I
knew would prove vastly more powerful than any yet constructed.
"It was finally completed and set up in my laboratory, and one night I
went in alone to look through it for the first time. It was in the fall
of 1914, I remember, just after the first declaration of war.
"I can recall now my feelings at that moment. I was about to see into
another world, to behold what no man had ever looked on before. What
would I see? What new realms was I, first of all our human race, to
enter? With furiously beating heart, I sat down before the huge
instrument and adjusted the eyepiece.
"Then I glanced around for some object to examine. On my finger I had a
ring, my mother's wedding-ring, and I decided to use that. I have it
here." He took a plain gold band from his little finger and laid it on
"You will see a slight mark on the outside. That is the place into which
His friends crowded around the table and examined a scratch on one side
of the band.
"What did you see?" asked the Very Young Man eagerly.
"Gentlemen," resumed the Chemist, "what I saw staggered even my own
imagination. With trembling hands I put the ring in place, looking
directly down into that scratch. For a moment I saw nothing. I was like
a person coming suddenly out of the sunlight into a darkened room. I
knew there was something visible in my view, but my eyes did not seem
able to receive the impressions. I realize now they were not yet
adjusted to the new form of light. Gradually, as I looked, objects of
definite shape began to emerge from the blackness.
"Gentlemen, I want to make clear to you now--as clear as I can--the
peculiar aspect of everything that I saw under this microscope. I seemed
to be inside an immense cave. One side, near at hand, I could now make
out quite clearly. The walls were extraordinarily rough and indented,
with a peculiar phosphorescent light on the projections and blackness in
the hollows. I say phosphorescent light, for that is the nearest word I
can find to describe it--a curious radiation, quite different from the
reflected light to which we are accustomed.
"I said that the hollows inside of the cave were blackness. But not
blackness--the absence of light--as we know it. It was a blackness that
seemed also to radiate light, if you can imagine such a condition; a
blackness that seemed not empty, but merely withholding its contents
just beyond my vision.
"Except for a dim suggestion of roof over the cave, and its floor, I
could distinguish nothing. After a moment this floor became clearer. It
seemed to be--well, perhaps I might call it black marble--smooth,
glossy, yet somewhat translucent. In the foreground the floor was
apparently liquid. In no way did it differ in appearance from the solid
part, except that its surface seemed to be in motion.
"Another curious thing was the outlines of all the shapes in view. I
noticed that no outline held steady when I looked at it directly; it
seemed to quiver. You see something like it when looking at an object
through water--only, of course, there was no distortion. It was also
like looking at something with the radiation of heat between.
"Of the back and other side of the cave, I could see nothing, except in
one place, where a narrow effulgence of light drifted out into the
immensity of the distance behind.
"I do not know how long I sat looking at this scene; it may have been
several hours. Although I was obviously in a cave, I never felt shut
in--never got the impression of being in a narrow, confined space.
"On the contrary, after a time I seemed to feel the vast immensity of
the blackness before me. I think perhaps it may have been that path of
light stretching out into the distance. As I looked it seemed like the
reversed tail of a comet, or the dim glow of the Milky Way, and
penetrating to equally remote realms of space.
"Perhaps I fell asleep, or at least there was an interval of time during
which I was so absorbed in my own thoughts I was hardly conscious of the
scene before me.
"Then I became aware of a dim shape in the foreground--a shape merged
with the outlines surrounding it. And as I looked, it gradually assumed
form, and I saw it was the figure of a young girl, sitting beside the
liquid pool. Except for the same waviness of outline and phosphorescent
glow, she had quite the normal aspect of a human being of our own world.
She was beautiful, according to our own standards of beauty; her long
braided hair a glowing black, her face, delicate of feature and winsome
in expression. Her lips were a deep red, although I felt rather than saw
"She was dressed only in a short tunic of a substance I might describe
as gray opaque glass, and the pearly whiteness of her skin gleamed with
"She seemed to be singing, although I heard no sound. Once she bent over
the pool and plunged her hand into it, laughing gaily.
"Gentlemen, I cannot make you appreciate my emotions, when all at once I
remembered I was looking through a microscope. I had forgotten entirely
my situation, absorbed in the scene before me. And then, abruptly, a
great realization came upon me--the realization that everything I saw
was inside that ring. I was unnerved for the moment at the importance of
"When I looked again, after the few moments my eye took to become
accustomed to the new form of light, the scene showed itself as before,
except that the girl had gone.
"For over a week, each night at the same time I watched that cave. The
girl came always, and sat by the pool as I had first seen her. Once she
danced with the wild grace of a wood nymph, whirling in and out the
shadows, and falling at last in a little heap beside the pool.
"It was on the tenth night after I had first seen her that the accident
happened. I had been watching, I remember, an unusually long time before
she appeared, gliding out of the shadows. She seemed in a different
mood, pensive and sad, as she bent down over the pool, staring into it
intently. Suddenly there was a tremendous cracking sound, sharp as an
explosion, and I was thrown backward upon the floor.
"When I recovered consciousness--I must have struck my head on
something--I found the microscope in ruins. Upon examination I saw that
its larger lens had exploded--flown into fragments scattered around the
room. Why I was not killed I do not understand. The ring I picked up
from the floor; it was unharmed and unchanged.
"Can I make you understand how I felt at this loss? Because of the war
in Europe I knew I could never replace my lens--for many years, at any
rate. And then, gentlemen, came the most terrible feeling of all; I knew
at last that the scientific achievement I had made and lost counted for
little with me. It was the girl. I realized then that the only being I
ever could care for was living out her life with her world, and, indeed,
her whole universe, in an atom of that ring."
The Chemist stopped talking and looked from one to the other of the
tense faces of his companions.
"It's almost too big an idea to grasp," murmured the Doctor.
"What caused the explosion?" asked the Very Young Man.
"I do not know." The Chemist addressed his reply to the Doctor, as the
most understanding of the group. "I can appreciate, though, that through
that lens I was magnifying tremendously those peculiar light-radiations
that I have described. I believe the molecules of the lens were
shattered by them--I had exposed it longer to them that evening than any
of the others."
The Doctor nodded his comprehension of this theory.
Impressed in spite of himself, the Banker took another drink and leaned
forward in his chair. "Then you really think that there is a girl now
inside the gold of that ring?" he asked.
"He didn't say that necessarily," interrupted the Big Business Man.
"Yes, he did."
"As a matter of fact, I do believe that to be the case," said the
Chemist earnestly. "I believe that every particle of matter in our
universe contains within it an equally complex and complete a universe,
which to its inhabitants seems as large as ours. I think, also that the
whole realm of our interplanetary space, our solar system and all the
remote stars of the heavens are contained within the atom of some other
universe as gigantic to us as we are to the universe in that ring."
"Gosh!" said the Very Young Man.
"It doesn't make one feel very important in the scheme of things, does
it?" remarked the Big Business Man dryly.
The Chemist smiled. "The existence of no individual, no nation, no
world, nor any one universe is of the least importance."
"Then it would be possible," said the Doctor, "for this gigantic
universe that contains us in one of its atoms, to be itself contained
within the atom of another universe, still more gigantic, and so on."
"That is my theory," said the Chemist.
"And in each of the atoms of the rocks of that cave there may be other
worlds proportionately minute?"
"I can see no reason to doubt it."
"Well, there is no proof, anyway," said the Banker. "We might as well
"I intend to get proof," said the Chemist.
"Do you believe all these innumerable universes, both larger and smaller
than ours, are inhabited?" asked the Doctor.
"I should think probably most of them are. The existence of life, I
believe, is as fundamental as the existence of matter without life."
"How do you suppose that girl got in there?" asked the Very Young Man,
coming out of a brown study.
"What puzzled me," resumed the Chemist, ignoring the question, "is why
the girl should so resemble our own race. I have thought about it a good
deal, and I have reached the conclusion that the inhabitants of any
universe in the next smaller or larger plane to ours probably resemble
us fairly closely. That ring, you see, is in the same--shall we
say--environment as ourselves. The same forces control it that control
us. Now, if the ring had been created on Mars, for instance, I believe
that the universes within its atoms would be inhabited by beings like
the Martians--if Mars has any inhabitants. Of course, in planes beyond
those next to ours, either smaller or larger, changes would probably
occur, becoming greater as you go in or out from our own universe."
"Good Lord! It makes one dizzy to think of it," said the Big Business
"I wish I knew how that girl got in there," sighed the Very Young Man,
looking at the ring.
"She probably didn't," retorted the Doctor. "Very likely she was created
there, the same as you were here."
"I think that is probably so," said the Chemist. "And yet, sometimes I
am not at all sure. She was very human." The Very Young Man looked at
"How are you going to prove your theories?" asked the Banker, in his
most irritatingly practical way.
The Chemist picked up the ring and put it on his finger. "Gentlemen," he
said. "I have tried to tell you facts, not theories. What I saw through
that ultramicroscope was not an unproven theory, but a fact. My theories
you have brought out by your questions."
"You are quite right," said the Doctor; "but you did mention yourself
that you hoped to provide proof."
The Chemist hesitated a moment, then made his decision. "I will tell you
the rest," he said.
"After the destruction of the microscope, I was quite at a loss how to
proceed. I thought about the problem for many weeks. Finally I decided
to work along another altogether different line--a theory about which I
am surprised you have not already questioned me."
He paused, but no one spoke.
"I am hardly ready with proof to-night," he resumed after a moment.
"Will you all take dinner with me here at the club one week from
to-night?" He read affirmation in the glance of each.
"Good. That's settled," he said, rising. "At seven, then."
"But what was the theory you expected us to question you about?" asked
the Very Young Man.
The Chemist leaned on the back of his chair.
"The only solution I could see to the problem," he said slowly, "was to
find some way of making myself sufficiently small to be able to enter
that other universe. I have found such a way and one week from to-night,
gentlemen, with your assistance, I am going to enter the surface of that
ring at the point where it is scratched!"
For those who prefer their text on the screen. Here is the written version of the classic story.
Happy Holidays everyone!
The buying of orchids always has in it a certain speculative flavour. You have before you the brown shrivelled lump of tissue, and for the rest you must trust your judgment, or the auctioneer, or your good-luck, as your taste may incline. The plant may be moribund or dead, or it may be just a respectable purchase, fair value for your money, or perhaps - for the thing has happened again and again - there slowly unfolds before the delighted eyes of the happy purchaser, day after day, some new variety, some novel richness, a strange twist of the labellum, or some subtler coloration or unexpected mimicry.
Pride, beauty, and profit blossom together on one delicate green spike, and it may be, even immortality. For the new miracle of Nature may stand in need of a new specific name, and what so convenient as that of its discoverer? "Johnsmithia!" There have been worse names.
It was perhaps the hope of some such happy discovery that made Winter-Wedderburn such a frequent attendant at these sales - that hope, and also, maybe, the fact that he had nothing else of the slightest interest to do in the world. He was a shy, lonely, rather ineffectual man, provided with just enough income to keep off the spur of necessity, and not enough nervous energy to make him seek any exacting employments. He might have collected stamps or coins, or translated Horace, or bound books, or invented new species of diatoms. But, as it happened, he grew orchids, and had one ambitious little hothouse.
"I have a fancy," he said over his coffee, "that something is going to happen to me today."
He spoke - as he moved and thought - slowly.
"Oh, don't say THAT!" said his housekeeper, who was also his remote cousin. For "something happening" was a euphemism that meant only one thing to her.
"You misunderstand me. I mean nothing unpleasant...though what I do mean I scarcely know."
"Today," he continued, after a pause, "Peters' are going to sell a batch of plants from the Andamans and the Indies. I shall go up and see what they have. It may be I shall buy something good, unawares. That may be it."
He passed his cup for his second cupful of coffee.
"Are these the things collected by that poor young fellow you told me of the other day?" asked his cousin as she filled his cup.
"Yes," he said, and became meditative over a piece of toast.
"Nothing ever does happen to me," he remarked presently, beginning to think aloud. "I wonder why? Things enough happen to other people. There is Harvey. Only the other week, on Monday he picked up sixpence, on Wednesday his chicks all had the staggers, on Friday his cousin came home from Australia, and on Saturday he broke his ankle. What a whirl of excitement - compared to me."
"I think I would rather be without so much excitement," said his housekeeper. "It can't be good for you."
"I suppose it's troublesome. Still...you see, nothing ever happens to me. When I was a little boy I never had accidents. I never fell in love as I grew up. Never married...I wonder how it feels to have something happen to you, something really remarkable."
"That orchid-collector was only thirty-six-twenty years younger than myself when he died. And he had been married twice, and divorced once; he had had malarial fever four times, and once he broke his thigh. He killed a Malay once, and once he was wounded by a poisoned dart. And in the end he was killed by jungle-leeches. It must have all been very troublesome, but then it must have been very interesting, you know, except, perhaps, the leeches."
"I am sure it was not good for him," said the lady, with conviction.
"Perhaps not." And then Wedderburn looked at his watch. "Twenty-three minutes past eight. I am going up by the quarter to twelve train, so that there is plenty of time. I think I shall wear my alpaca jacket - it is quite warm enough - and my grey felt hat and brown shoes. I suppose---"
He glanced out of the window at the serene sky and sunlit garden, and then nervously at his cousin's face.
"I think you had better take an umbrella if you are going to London," she said, in a voice that admitted of no denial. "There's all between here and the station coming back."
When he returned he was in a state of mild excitement. He had made a purchase. It was rarely that he could make up his mind quickly enough to buy, but this time he had done so.
"There are Vandas," he said, "and a Dendrobe and some Palaeonophis." He surveyed his purchases lovingly as he consumed his soup. They were laid out on the spotless tablecloth before him, and he was telling his cousin all about them as he slowly meandered through his dinner. It was his custom to live all his visits to London over again in the evening for her and his own entertainment.
"I knew something would happen today. And I have bought all these. Some of them - some of them - I feel sure, do you know, that some of them will be remarkable. I don't know how it is, but I feel just as sure as if someone had told me that some of these will turn out remarkable."
"That one" - he pointed to a shrivelled rhizome - "was not identified. It may be a Palaeonophis - or it may not. It may be a new species, or even a new genus. And it was the last that poor Batten ever collected."
"I don't like the look of it," said his housekeeper. "It`s such an ugly shape."
"To me it scarcely seems to have a shape."
"I don't like those things that stick out," said his housekeeper.
"It shall be put away in a pot tomorrow."
"It looks," said the housekeeper, "like a spider shamming dead."
Wedderburn smiled and surveyed the root with his head on one side. "It is certainly not a pretty lump of stuff. But you can never judge of these things from their dry appearance. It may turn out to be a very beautiful orchid indeed. How busy I shall be tomorrow! I must see tonight just exactly what to do with these things, and tomorrow I shall set to work.
They found poor Batten lying dead, or dying, in a mangrove swamp - I forget which," he began again presently, "with one of these very orchids crushed up under his body. He had been unwell for some days with some kind of native fever, and I suppose he fainted. These mangrove swamps are very unwholesome. Every drop of blood, they say, was taken out of him by the jungle-leeches. It may be that very plant that cost him his life to obtain."
"I think none the better of it for that."
"Men must work though women may weep," said Wedderburn, with profound gravity.
"Fancy dying away from every comfort in a nasty swamp! Fancy being ill of fever with nothing to take but chlorodyne and quinine - if men were left to themselves they would live on chlorodyne and quinine - and no one round you but horrible natives! They say the Andaman islanders are most disgusting wretches - and, anyhow, they can scarcely make good nurses, not having the necessary training. And just for people in England to have orchids!"
"I don't suppose it was comfortable, but some men seem to enjoy that kind of thing," said Wedderburn. "Anyhow, the natives of his party were sufficiently civilized to take care of all his collection until his colleague, who was an ornithologist, came back again from the interior; though they could not tell the species of the orchid and had let it wither. And it makes these things more interesting."
"It makes them disgusting. I should be afraid of some of the malaria clinging to them. And just think, there has been a dead body lying across that ugly thing! I never thought of that before. There! I declare I cannot eat another mouthful of dinner!"
"I will take them off the table if you like, and put them in the windowseat. I can see them just as well there."
The next few days he was indeed singularly busy in his steamy little hot-house, fussing about with charcoal, lumps of teak, moss, and all the other mysteries of the orchid cultivator. He considered he was having a wonderfully eventful time. In the evening he would talk about these new orchids to his friends, and over and over again he reverted to his expectation of something strange.
Several of the Vandas and the Dendrobium died under his care, but presently the strange orchid began to show signs of life. He was delighted and took his housekeeper right away from jam-making to see it at once, directly he made the discovery.
"That is a bud," he said, "and presently there will be a lot of leaves there, and those little things coming out here are aerial rootlets."
"They look to me like little white fingers poking out of the brown," said his housekeeper. "I don't like them."
"I don't know. They look like fingers trying to get at you. I can't help my likes and dislikes."
"I don't know for certain, but I don't THINK there are any orchids I know that have aerial rootlets quite like that. It may be my fancy, of course. You see they are a little flattened at the ends."
"I don't like 'em," said his housekeeper, suddenly shivering and turning away. "I know it's very silly of me - and I'm very sorry, particularly as you like the thing so much. But I can't help thinking of that corpse."
"But it may not be that particular plant. That was merely a guess of mine."
His housekeeper shrugged her shoulders. "Anyhow I don't like it," she said.
Wedderburn felt a little hurt at her dislike to the plant. But that did not prevent his talking to her about orchids generally, and this orchid in particular, whenever he felt inclined.
"There are such queer things about orchids," he said one day; "such possibilities of surprises. You know, Darwin studied their fertilisation, and showed that the whole structure of an ordinary orchid flower was contrived in order that moths might carry the pollen from plant to plant. Well, it seems that there are lots of orchids known the flower of which cannot possibly be used for fertilisation in that way. Some of the Cypripediums, for instance; there are no insects known that can possibly fertilise them, and some of them have never been found with seed."
"But how do they form new plants?"
"By runners and tubers, and that kind of outgrowth. That is easily explained. The puzzle is, what are the flowers for?"
"Very likely," he added, "MY orchid may be something extraordinary in that way. If so, I shall study it. I have often thought of making researches as Darwin did. But hitherto I have not found the time, or something else has happened to prevent it. The leaves are beginning to unfold now. I do wish you would come and see them!"
But she said that the orchid-house was so hot it gave her the headache. She had seen the plant once again, and the aerial rootlets, which were now some of them more than a foot long, had unfortunately reminded her of tentacles reaching out after something; and they got into her dreams, growing after her with incredible rapidity. So that she had settled to her entire satisfaction that she would not see that plant again, and Wedderburn had to admire its leaves alone. They were of the ordinary broad form, and deep, glossy green, with splashes and dots of deep red towards the base. He knew of no other leaves quite like them.
The plant was placed on a low bench near the thermometer, and close by was a simple arrangement by which a tap dripped on the hot-water pipes and kept the air steamy. And he spent his afternoons now with some regularity meditating on the approaching flowering of this strange plant.
And at last the great thing happened. Directly he entered the little glass house he knew that the spike had burst out, although his great Palaeonophis Lowii hid the corner where his new darling stood There was a new odour in the air - a rich, intensely sweet scent, that overpowered every other in that crowded, steaming little greenhouse.
Directly he noticed this he hurried down to the strange orchid. And, behold! the trailing green spikes bore now three great splashes of blossom, from which this overpowering sweetness proceeded. He stopped before them in an ecstasy of admiration.
The flowers were white, with streaks of golden orange upon the petals; the heavy labellum was coiled into an intricate projection, and a wonderful bluish purple mingled there with the gold. He could see at once that the genus was altogether a new one. And the insufferable scent! How hot the place was! The blossoms swam before his eyes.
He would see if the temperature was right. He made a step towards the thermometer. Suddenly everything appeared unsteady. The bricks on the floor were dancing up and down. Then the white blossoms, the green leaves behind them, the whole green house, seemed to sweep sideways, and then in a curve upward.
* * * * * * * * * * *
At half-past four his cousin made the tea, according to their invariable custom But Wedderburn did not come in for his tea.
"He is worshipping that horrid orchid," she told herself, and waited ten minutes. "His watch must have stopped. I will go and call him."
She went straight to the hothouse, and, opening the door, called his name. There was no reply. She noticed that the air was very close, and loaded with an intense perfume. Then she saw something lying on the bricks between the hotwater pipes.
For a minute, perhaps, she stood motionless.
He was lying, face upward, at the foot of the strange orchid. The tentacle-like aerial rootlets no longer swayed freely in the air, but were crowded together, a tangle of grey ropes, and stretched tight, with their ends closely applied to his chin and neck and hands.
She did not understand. Then she saw from one of the exultant tentacles upon his cheek there trickled a little thread of blood.
With an inarticulate cry she ran towards him, and tried to pull him away from the leech-like suckers. She snapped two of these tentacles, and their sap dripped red.
Then the overpowering scent of the blossom began to make her head reel. How they clung to him! She tore at the tough ropes, and he and the white inflorescence swam about her. She felt she was fainting, knew she must not. She left him and hastily opened the nearest door, and, after she had panted for a moment in the fresh air, she had a brilliant inspiration. She caught up a flower-pot and smashed in the windows at the end of the greenhouse. Then she re-entered. She tugged now with renewed strength at Wedderburn's motionless body, and brought the strange orchid crashing to the floor. It still clung with the grimmest tenacity to its victim. In a frenzy, she lugged it and him into the open air.
Then she thought of tearing through the sucker rootlets one by one, and in another minute she had released him and was dragging him away from the horror.
He was white and bleeding from a dozen circular patches.
The odd-job man was coming up the garden, amazed at the smashing of glass, and saw her emerge, hauling the inanimate body with red-stained hands. For a moment he thought impossible things.
"Bring some water!" she cried, and her voice dispelled his fancies. When, with unnatural alacrity, he returned with the water, he found her weeping with excitement, and with Wedderburn's head upon her knee, wiping the blood from his face.
"What's the matter?" said Wedderburn, opening his eyes feebly, and closing them again at once.
"Go and tell Annie to come out here to me, and then go for Dr. Haddon at once," she said to the odd-job man so soon as he had brought the water, and added, seeing he hesitated: "I will tell you all about it when you come back."
Presently, Wedderburn opened his eyes again, and, seeing that he was troubled by the puzzle of his position, she explained to him: "You fainted in the hothouse."
"And the orchid?"
"I will see to that," she said.
Wedderburn had lost a good deal of blood, but beyond that he had suffered no very great injury. They gave him brandy mixed with some pink extract of meat, and carried him upstairs to bed. His housekeeper told her incredible story in fragments to Dr. Haddon. "Come to the orchid-house and see," she said.
The cold outer air was blowing in through the open door, and the sickly perfume was almost dispelled. Most of the torn aerial rootlets lay already withered amidst a number of dark stains upon the bricks. The stem of the inflorescence was broken by the fall of the plant, and the flowers were growing limp and brown at the edges of the petals. The doctor stooped towards it, then saw that one of the aerial rootlets still stirred feebly, and hesitated.
The next morning the strange orchid still lay there, black now and putrescent. The door banged intermittently in the morning breeze, and all the array of Wedderburn's orchids
While I have elaborated somewhat on the concept of possession, it is actually quite a remarked field of study...at least as far as the intellectuals are concerned.
There are many, who substantially believe in life after death, and not based on any kind of intellectual discernment, but on the actual experience of communing with, or experiencing the visibility of those who have departed the physical world, but still co-exist with us on what some call the astral plane of existence.
The only trouble as far as I have been able to discern is that those souls who cling to our earth plane do so out of fear, or anger, or needs to hold onto what they had, and therefore will sometimes, if not on a permanent basis actually take over a human body, with the owner of that body being totally unware of such occuring.
This is what possession is as far as Wells saw it. He and most of his fellow artists of his time perceived death as a mere transitory time and that the outcome of death is one goes on into the Light...the tunnel of white light spoken of so much in movies and books...or they cling to the earth and cause troubles, if not actual physical harm to the living over time.
The Hindu faith believes that man is immortal and has many lives.
In the orient some cultures worship their ancestors, whom they believe still live among them...perhaps a way of acknowledging the dead are not truly dead, but still walk among us.
I am not trying to frighten anyone, but only to open up the windows of consciousness to accept that there are many, many possibilities open to us as humans that we either consciously ignore, or do so out of ignorance.
Myself, if death is the end, then no problem. But if not, I'd surely like to have a first class ticket to the other side.
I have, myself, written several stories which deal with the concept of life after death. (Notably, the Samuel Light series of stories and novels, which are all available at Amazon.Com.) What I believe as a human being is not as important as what you believe, for we each must make that last step on our own, and all of us will one day learn if what we have read or heard is right...or wrong!
Now to the story of the truly great writer, H.G. Wells.
The Stolen Body
Mr. Bessel was the senior partner in the firm of Bessel, Hart, and Brown, of St. Paul's Churchyard, and for many years he was well known among those interested in psychical research as a liberal-minded and conscientious investigator. He was an unmarried man, and instead of living in the suburbs, after the fashion of his class, he occupied rooms in the Albany, near Piccadilly. He was particularly interested in the questions of thought transference and of apparitions of the living, and in November, 1896, he commenced a series of experiments in conjunction with Mr. Vincey, of Staple Inn, in order to test the alleged possibility of projecting an apparition of one's self by force of will through space.
Their experiments were conducted in the following manner: At a pre- arranged hour Mr. Bessel shut himself in one of his rooms in the Albany and Mr. Vincey in his sitting-room in Staple Inn, and each then fixed his mind as resolutely as possible on the other. Mr. Bessel had acquired the art of self-hypnotism, and, so far as he could, he attempted first to hypnotise himself and then to project himself as a "phantom of the living" across the intervening space of nearly two miles into Mr. Vincey's apartment. On several evenings this was tried without any satisfactory result, but on the fifth or sixth occasion Mr. Vincey did actually see or imagine he saw an apparition of Mr. Bessel standing in his room. He states that the appearance, although brief, was very vivid and real. He noticed that Mr. Bessel's face was white and his expression anxious, and, moreover, that his hair was disordered. For a moment Mr. Vincey, in spite of his state of expectation, was too surprised to speak or move, and in that moment it seemed to him as though the figure glanced over its shoulder and incontinently vanished.
It had been arranged that an attempt should be made to photograph any phantasm seen, but Mr. Vincey had not the instant presence of mind to snap the camera that lay ready on the table beside him, and when he did so he was too late. Greatly elated, however, even by this partial success, he made a note of the exact time, and at once took a cab to the Albany to inform Mr. Bessel of this result.
He was surprised to find Mr. Bessel's outer door standing open to the night, and the inner apartments lit and in an extraordinary disorder. An empty champagne magnum lay smashed upon the floor; its neck had been broken off against the inkpot on the bureau and lay beside it. An octagonal occasional table, which carried a bronze statuette and a number of choice books, had been rudely overturned, and down the primrose paper of the wall inky fingers had been drawn, as it seemed for the mere pleasure of defilement. One of the delicate chintz curtains had been violently torn from its rings and thrust upon the fire, so that the smell of its smouldering filled the room. Indeed the whole place was disarranged in the strangest fashion. For a few minutes Mr. Vincey, who had entered sure of finding Mr. Bessel in his easy chair awaiting him, could scarcely believe his eyes, and stood staring helplessly at these unanticipated things.
Then, full of a vague sense of calamity, he sought the porter at the entrance lodge. "Where is Mr. Bessel?" he asked. "Do you know that all the furniture is broken in Mr. Bessel's room?" The porter said nothing, but, obeying his gestures, came at once to Mr. Bessel's apartment to see the state of affairs. "This settles it," he said, surveying the lunatic confusion. "I didn't know of this. Mr. Bessel's gone off. He's mad!"
He then proceeded to tell Mr. Vincey that about half an hour previously, that is to say, at about the time of Mr. Bessel's apparition in Mr. Vincey's rooms, the missing gentleman had rushed out of the gates of the Albany into Vigo Street, hatless and with disordered hair, and had vanished into the direction of Bond Street. "And as he went past me," said the porter, "he laughed--a sort of gasping laugh, with his mouth open and his eyes glaring--I tell you, sir, he fair scared me!--like this."
According to his imitation it was anything but a pleasant laugh. "He waved his hand, with all his fingers crooked and clawing--like that. And he said, in a sort of fierce whisper, 'life!' Just that one word, 'life!'"
"Dear me," said Mr. Vincey. "Tut, tut," and "Dear me!" He could think of nothing else to say. He was naturally very much surprised. He turned from the room to the porter and from the porter to the room in the gravest perplexity. Beyond his suggestion that probably Mr. Bessel would come back presently and explain what had happened, their conversation was unable to proceed. "It might be a sudden toothache," said the porter, "a very sudden and violent toothache, jumping on him suddenly-like and driving him wild. I've broken things myself before now in such a case . . ." He thought. "If it was, why should he say 'life' to me as he went past?"
Mr. Vincey did not know. Mr. Bessel did not return, and at last Mr. Vincey, having done some more helpless staring, and having addressed a note of brief inquiry and left it in a conspicuous position on the bureau, returned in a very perplexed frame of mind to his own premises in Staple Inn. This affair had given him a shock. He was at a loss to account for Mr. Bessel's conduct on any sane hypothesis. He tried to read, but he could not do so; he went for a short walk, and was so preoccupied that he narrowly escaped a cab at the top of Chancery Lane; and at last--a full hour before his usual time--he went to bed. For a considerable time he could not sleep because of his memory of the silent confusion of Mr. Bessel's apartment, and when at length he did attain an uneasy slumber it was at once disturbed by a very vivid and distressing dream of Mr. Bessel.
He saw Mr. Bessel gesticulating wildly, and with his face white and contorted. And, inexplicably mingled with his appearance, suggested perhaps by his gestures, was an intense fear, an urgency to act. He even believes that he heard the voice of his fellow experimenter calling distressfully to him, though at the time he considered this to be an illusion. The vivid impression remained though Mr. Vincey awoke. For a space he lay awake and trembling in the darkness, possessed with that vague, unaccountable terror of unknown possibilities that comes out of dreams upon even the bravest men. But at last he roused himself, and turned over and went to sleep again, only for the dream to return with enhanced vividness.
He awoke with such a strong conviction that Mr. Bessel was in overwhelming distress and need of help that sleep was no longer possible. He was persuaded that his friend had rushed out to some dire calamity. For a time he lay reasoning vainly against this belief, but at last he gave way to it. He arose, against all reason, lit his gas, and dressed, and set out through the deserted streets--deserted, save for a noiseless policeman or so and the early news carts--towards Vigo Street to inquire if Mr. Bessel had returned.
But he never got there. As he was going down Long Acre some unaccountable impulse turned him aside out of that street towards Covent Garden, which was just waking to its nocturnal activities. He saw the market in front of him--a queer effect of glowing yellow lights and busy black figures. He became aware of a shouting, and perceived a figure turn the corner by the hotel and run swiftly towards him. He knew at once that it was Mr. Bessel. But it was Mr. Bessel transfigured. He was hatless and dishevelled, his collar was torn open, he grasped a bone-handled walking-cane near the ferrule end, and his mouth was pulled awry. And he ran, with agile strides, very rapidly. Their encounter was the affair of an instant. "Bessel!" cried Vincey.
The running man gave no sign of recognition either of Mr. Vincey or of his own name. Instead, he cut at his friend savagely with the stick, hitting him in the face within an inch of the eye. Mr. Vincey, stunned and astonished, staggered back, lost his footing, and fell heavily on the pavement. It seemed to him that Mr. Bessel leapt over him as he fell. When he looked again Mr. Bessel had vanished, and a policeman and a number of garden porters and salesmen were rushing past towards Long Acre in hot pursuit.
With the assistance of several passers-by--for the whole street was speedily alive with running people--Mr. Vincey struggled to his feet. He at once became the centre of a crowd greedy to see his injury. A multitude of voices competed to reassure him of his safety, and then to tell him of the behaviour of the madman, as they regarded Mr. Bessel. He had suddenly appeared in the middle of the market screaming "Life! Life!" striking left and right with a blood-stained walking-stick, and dancing and shouting with laughter at each successful blow. A lad and two women had broken heads, and he had smashed a man's wrist; a little child had been knocked insensible, and for a time he had driven every one before him, so furious and resolute had his behaviour been. Then he made a raid upon a coffee stall, hurled its paraffin flare through the window of the post office, and fled laughing, after stunning the foremost of the two policemen who had the pluck to charge him.
Mr. Vincey's first impulse was naturally to join in the pursuit of his friend, in order if possible to save him from the violence of the indignant people. But his action was slow, the blow had half stunned him, and while this was still no more than a resolution came the news, shouted through the crowd, that Mr. Bessel had eluded his pursuers. At first Mr. Vincey could scarcely credit this, but the universality of the report, and presently the dignified return of two futile policemen, convinced him. After some aimless inquiries he returned towards Staple Inn, padding a handkerchief to a now very painful nose.
He was angry and astonished and perplexed. It appeared to him indisputable that Mr. Bessel must have gone violently mad in the midst of his experiment in thought transference, but why that should make him appear with a sad white face in Mr. Vincey's dreams seemed a problem beyond solution. He racked his brains in vain to explain this. It seemed to him at last that not simply Mr. Bessel, but the order of things must be insane. But he could think of nothing to do. He shut himself carefully into his room, lit his fire--it was a gas fire with asbestos bricks--and, fearing fresh dreams if he went to bed, remained bathing his injured face, or holding up books in a vain attempt to read, until dawn. Throughout that vigil he had a curious persuasion that Mr. Bessel was endeavouring to speak to him, but he would not let himself attend to any such belief.
About dawn, his physical fatigue asserted itself, and he went to bed and slept at last in spite of dreaming. He rose late, unrested and anxious, and in considerable facial pain. The morning papers had no news of Mr. Bessel's aberration--it had come too late for them. Mr. Vincey's perplexities, to which the fever of his bruise added fresh irritation, became at last intolerable, and, after a fruitless visit to the Albany, he went down to St. Paul's Churchyard to Mr. Hart, Mr. Bessel's partner, and, so far as Mr. Vincey knew, his nearest friend.
He was surprised to learn that Mr. Hart, although he knew nothing of the outbreak, had also been disturbed by a vision, the very vision that Mr. Vincey had seen--Mr. Bessel, white and dishevelled, pleading earnestly by his gestures for help. That was his impression of the import of his signs. "I was just going to look him up in the Albany when you arrived," said Mr. Hart. "I was so sure of something being wrong with him."
As the outcome of their consultation the two gentlemen decided to inquire at Scotland Yard for news of their missing friend. "He is bound to be laid by the heels," said Mr. Hart. "He can't go on at that pace for long." But the police authorities had not laid Mr. Bessel by the heels. They confirmed Mr. Vincey's overnight experiences and added fresh circumstances, some of an even graver character than those he knew--a list of smashed glass along the upper half of Tottenham Court Road, an attack upon a policeman in Hampstead Road, and an atrocious assault upon a woman. All these outrages were committed between half-past twelve and a quarter to two in the morning, and between those hours--and, indeed, from the very moment of Mr. Bessel's first rush from his rooms at half-past nine in the evening-- they could trace the deepening violence of his fantastic career. For the last hour, at least from before one, that is, until a quarter to two, he had run amuck through London, eluding with amazing agility every effort to stop or capture him.
But after a quarter to two he had vanished. Up to that hour witnesses were multitudinous. Dozens of people had seen him, fled from him or pursued him, and then things suddenly came to an end. At a quarter to two he had been seen running down the Euston Road towards Baker Street, flourishing a can of burning colza oil and jerking splashes of flame therefrom at the windows of the houses he passed. But none of the policemen on Euston Road beyond the Waxwork Exhibition, nor any of those in the side streets down which he must have passed had he left the Euston Road, had seen anything of him. Abruptly he disappeared. Nothing of his subsequent doings came to light in spite of the keenest inquiry.
Here was a fresh astonishment for Mr. Vincey. He had found considerable comfort in Mr. Hart's conviction: "He is bound to be laid by the heels before long," and in that assurance he had been able to suspend his mental perplexities. But any fresh development seemed destined to add new impossibilities to a pile already heaped beyond the powers of his acceptance. He found himself doubting whether his memory might not have played him some grotesque trick, debating whether any of these things could possibly have happened; and in the afternoon he hunted up Mr. Hart again to share the intolerable weight on his mind. He found Mr. Hart engaged with a well-known private detective, but as that gentleman accomplished nothing in this case, we need not enlarge upon his proceedings.
All that day Mr. Bessel's whereabouts eluded an unceasingly active inquiry, and all that night. And all that day there was a persuasion in the back of Vincey's mind that Mr. Bessel sought his attention, and all through the night Mr. Bessel with a tear-stained face of anguish pursued him through his dreams. And whenever he saw Mr. Bessel in his dreams he also saw a number of other faces, vague but malignant, that seemed to be pursuing Mr. Bessel.
It was on the following day, Sunday, that Mr. Vincey recalled certain remarkable stories of Mrs. Bullock, the medium, who was then attracting attention for the first time in London. He determined to consult her. She was staying at the house of that well-known inquirer, Dr. Wilson Paget, and Mr. Vincey, although he had never met that gentleman before, repaired to him forthwith with the intention of invoking her help. But scarcely had he mentioned the name of Bessel when Doctor Paget interrupted him. "Last night--just at the end," he said, "we had a communication."
He left the room, and returned with a slate on which were certain words written in a handwriting, shaky indeed, but indisputably the handwriting of Mr. Bessel!
"How did you get this?" said Mr. Vincey. "Do you mean--?"
"We got it last night," said Doctor Paget. With numerous interruptions from Mr. Vincey, he proceeded to explain how the writing had been obtained. It appears that in her seances, Mrs. Bullock passes into a condition of trance, her eyes rolling up in a strange way under her eyelids, and her body becoming rigid. She then begins to talk very rapidly, usually in voices other than her own. At the same time one or both of her hands may become active, and if slates and pencils are provided they will then write messages simultaneously with and quite independently of the flow of words from her mouth. By many she is considered an even more remarkable medium than the celebrated Mrs. Piper. It was one of these messages, the one written by her left hand, that Mr. Vincey now had before him. It consisted of eight words written disconnectedly: "George Bessel . . . trial excavn. . . . Baker Street . . . help . . . starvation." Curiously enough, neither Doctor Paget nor the two other inquirers who were present had heard of the disappearance of Mr. Bessel--the news of it appeared only in the evening papers of Saturday--and they had put the message aside with many others of a vague and enigmatical sort that Mrs. Bullock has from time to time delivered.
When Doctor Paget heard Mr. Vincey's story, he gave himself at once with great energy to the pursuit of this clue to the discovery of Mr. Bessel. It would serve no useful purpose here to describe the inquiries of Mr. Vincey and himself; suffice it that the clue was a genuine one, and that Mr. Bessel was actually discovered by its aid.
He was found at the bottom of a detached shaft which had been sunk and abandoned at the commencement of the work for the new electric railway near Baker Street Station. His arm and leg and two ribs were broken. The shaft is protected by a hoarding nearly 20 feet high, and over this, incredible as it seems, Mr. Bessel, a stout, middle-aged gentleman, must have scrambled in order to fall down the shaft. He was saturated in colza oil, and the smashed tin lay beside him, but luckily the flame had been extinguished by his fall. And his madness had passed from him altogether. But he was, of course, terribly enfeebled, and at the sight of his rescuers he gave way to hysterical weeping.
In view of the deplorable state of his flat, he was taken to the house of Dr. Hatton in Upper Baker Street. Here he was subjected to a sedative treatment, and anything that might recall the violent crisis through which he had passed was carefully avoided. But on the second day he volunteered a statement.
Since that occasion Mr. Bessel has several times repeated this statement--to myself among other people--varying the details as the narrator of real experiences always does, but never by any chance contradicting himself in any particular. And the statement he makes is in substance as follows.
In order to understand it clearly it is necessary to go back to his experiments with Mr. Vincey before his remarkable attack. Mr. Bessel's first attempts at self-projection, in his experiments with Mr. Vincey, were, as the reader will remember, unsuccessful. But through all of them he was concentrating all his power and will upon getting out of the body--"willing it with all my might," he says. At last, almost against expectation, came success. And Mr. Bessel asserts that he, being alive, did actually, by an effort of will, leave his body and pass into some place or state outside this world.
The release was, he asserts, instantaneous. "At one moment I was seated in my chair, with my eyes tightly shut, my hands gripping the arms of the chair, doing all I could to concentrate my mind on Vincey, and then I perceived myself outside my body--saw my body near me, but certainly not containing me, with the hands relaxing and the head drooping forward on the breast."
Nothing shakes him in his assurance of that release. He describes in a quiet, matter-of-fact way the new sensation he experienced. He felt he had become impalpable--so much he had expected, but he had not expected to find himself enormously large. So, however, it would seem he became. "I was a great cloud--if I may express it that way--anchored to my body. It appeared to me, at first, as if I had discovered a greater self of which the conscious being in my brain was only a little part. I saw the Albany and Piccadilly and Regent Street and all the rooms and places in the houses, very minute and very bright and distinct, spread out below me like a little city seen from a balloon. Every now and then vague shapes like drifting wreaths of smoke made the vision a little indistinct, but at first I paid little heed to them. The thing that astonished me most, and which astonishes me still, is that I saw quite distinctly the insides of the houses as well as the streets, saw little people dining and talking in the private houses, men and women dining, playing billiards, and drinking in restaurants and hotels, and several places of entertainment crammed with people. It was like watching the affairs of a glass hive."
Such were Mr. Bessel's exact words as I took them down when he told me the story. Quite forgetful of Mr. Vincey, he remained for a space observing these things. Impelled by curiosity, he says, he stooped down, and, with the shadowy arm he found himself possessed of, attempted to touch a man walking along Vigo Street. But he could not do so, though his finger seemed to pass through the man. Something prevented his doing this, but what it was he finds it hard to describe. He compares the obstacle to a sheet of glass.
"I felt as a kitten may feel," he said, "when it goes for the first time to pat its reflection in a mirror." Again and again, on the occasion when I heard him tell this story, Mr. Bessel returned to that comparison of the sheet of glass. Yet it was not altogether a precise comparison, because, as the reader will speedily see, there were interruptions of this generally impermeable resistance, means of getting through the barrier to the material world again. But, naturally, there is a very great difficulty in expressing these unprecedented impressions in the language of everyday experience.
A thing that impressed him instantly, and which weighed upon him throughout all this experience, was the stillness of this place--he was in a world without sound.
At first Mr. Bessel's mental state was an unemotional wonder. His thought chiefly concerned itself with where he might be. He was out of the body--out of his material body, at any rate--but that was not all. He believes, and I for one believe also, that he was somewhere out of space, as we understand it, altogether. By a strenuous effort of will he had passed out of his body into a world beyond this world, a world undreamt of, yet lying so close to it and so strangely situated with regard to it that all things on this earth are clearly visible both from without and from within in this other world about us. For a long time, as it seemed to him, this realisation occupied his mind to the exclusion of all other matters, and then he recalled the engagement with Mr. Vincey, to which this astonishing experience was, after all, but a prelude.
He turned his mind to locomotion in this new body in which he found himself. For a time he was unable to shift himself from his attachment to his earthly carcass. For a time this new strange cloud body of his simply swayed, contracted, expanded, coiled, and writhed with his efforts to free himself, and then quite suddenly the link that bound him snapped. For a moment everything was hidden by what appeared to be whirling spheres of dark vapour, and then through a momentary gap he saw his drooping body collapse limply, saw his lifeless head drop sideways, and found he was driving along like a huge cloud in a strange place of shadowy clouds that had the luminous intricacy of London spread like a model below.
But now he was aware that the fluctuating vapour about him was something more than vapour, and the temerarious excitement of his first essay was shot with fear. For he perceived, at first indistinctly, and then suddenly very clearly, that he was surrounded by faces! that each roll and coil of the seeming cloud-stuff was a face. And such faces! Faces of thin shadow, faces of gaseous tenuity. Faces like those faces that glare with intolerable strangeness upon the sleeper in the evil hours of his dreams. Evil, greedy eyes that were full of a covetous curiosity, faces with knit brows and snarling, smiling lips; their vague hands clutched at Mr. Bessel as he passed, and the rest of their bodies was but an elusive streak of trailing darkness. Never a word they said, never a sound from the mouths that seemed to gibber. All about him they pressed in that dreamy silence, passing freely through the dim mistiness that was his body, gathering ever more numerously about him. And the shadowy Mr. Bessel, now suddenly fear-stricken, drove through the silent, active multitude of eyes and clutching hands.
So inhuman were these faces, so malignant their staring eyes, and shadowy, clawing gestures, that it did not occur to Mr. Bessel to attempt intercourse with these drifting creatures. Idiot phantoms, they seemed, children of vain desire, beings unborn and forbidden the boon of being, whose only expressions and gestures told of the envy and craving for life that was their one link with existence.
It says much for his resolution that, amidst the swarming cloud of these noiseless spirits of evil, he could still think of Mr. Vincey. He made a violent effort of will and found himself, he knew not how, stooping towards Staple Inn, saw Vincey sitting attentive and alert in his arm-chair by the fire.
And clustering also about him, as they clustered ever about all that lives and breathes, was another multitude of these vain voiceless shadows, longing, desiring, seeking some loophole into life.
For a space Mr. Bessel sought ineffectually to attract his friend's attention. He tried to get in front of his eyes, to move the objects in his room, to touch him. But Mr. Vincey remained unaffected, ignorant of the being that was so close to his own. The strange something that Mr. Bessel has compared to a sheet of glass separated them impermeably.
And at last Mr. Bessel did a desperate thing. I have told how that in some strange way he could see not only the outside of a man as we see him, but within. He extended his shadowy hand and thrust his vague black fingers, as it seemed, through the heedless brain.
Then, suddenly, Mr. Vincey started like a man who recalls his attention from wandering thoughts, and it seemed to Mr. Bessel that a little dark-red body situated in the middle of Mr. Vincey's brain swelled and glowed as he did so. Since that experience he has been shown anatomical figures of the brain, and he knows now that this is that useless structure, as doctors call it, the pineal eye. For, strange as it will seem to many, we have, deep in our brains--where it cannot possibly see any earthly light--an eye! At the time this, with the rest of the internal anatomy of the brain, was quite new to him. At the sight of its changed appearance, however, he thrust forth his finger, and, rather fearful still of the consequences, touched this little spot. And instantly Mr. Vincey started, and Mr. Bessel knew that he was seen.
And at that instant it came to Mr. Bessel that evil had happened to his body, and behold! a great wind blew through all that world of shadows and tore him away. So strong was this persuasion that he thought no more of Mr. Vincey, but turned about forthwith, and all the countless faces drove back with him like leaves before a gale. But he returned too late. In an instant he saw the body that he had left inert and collapsed--lying, indeed, like the body of a man just dead--had arisen, had arisen by virtue of some strength and will beyond his own. It stood with staring eyes, stretching its limbs in dubious fashion.
For a moment he watched it in wild dismay, and then he stooped towards it. But the pane of glass had closed against him again, and he was foiled. He beat himself passionately against this, and all about him the spirits of evil grinned and pointed and mocked. He gave way to furious anger. He compares himself to a bird that has fluttered heedlessly into a room and is beating at the window- pane that holds it back from freedom.
And behold! the little body that had once been his was now dancing with delight. He saw it shouting, though he could not hear its shouts; he saw the violence of its movements grow. He watched it fling his cherished furniture about in the mad delight of existence, rend his books apart, smash bottles, drink heedlessly from the jagged fragments, leap and smite in a passionate acceptance of living. He watched these actions in paralysed astonishment. Then once more he hurled himself against the impassable barrier, and then with all that crew of mocking ghosts about him, hurried back in dire confusion to Vincey to tell him of the outrage that had come upon him.
But the brain of Vincey was now closed against apparitions, and the disembodied Mr. Bessel pursued him in vain as he hurried out into Holborn to call a cab. Foiled and terror-stricken, Mr. Bessel swept back again, to find his desecrated body whooping in a glorious frenzy down the Burlington Arcade. . . .
And now the attentive reader begins to understand Mr. Bessel's interpretation of the first part of this strange story. The being whose frantic rush through London had inflicted so much injury and disaster had indeed Mr. Bessel's body, but it was not Mr. Bessel. It was an evil spirit out of that strange world beyond existence, into which Mr. Bessel had so rashly ventured. For twenty hours it held possession of him, and for all those twenty hours the dispossessed spirit-body of Mr. Bessel was going to and fro in that unheard-of middle world of shadows seeking help in vain. He spent many hours beating at the minds of Mr. Vincey and of his friend Mr. Hart. Each, as we know, he roused by his efforts. But the language that might convey his situation to these helpers across the gulf he did not know; his feeble fingers groped vainly and powerlessly in their brains. Once, indeed, as we have already told, he was able to turn Mr. Vincey aside from his path so that he encountered the stolen body in its career, but he could not make him understand the thing that had happened: he was unable to draw any help from that encounter. . . .
All through those hours the persuasion was overwhelming in Mr. Bessel's mind that presently his body would be killed by its furious tenant, and he would have to remain in this shadow-land for evermore. So that those long hours were a growing agony of fear. And ever as he hurried to and fro in his ineffectual excitement, innumerable spirits of that world about him mobbed him and confused his mind. And ever an envious applauding multitude poured after their successful fellow as he went upon his glorious career.
For that, it would seem, must be the life of these bodiless things of this world that is the shadow of our world. Ever they watch, coveting a way into a mortal body, in order that they may descend, as furies and frenzies, as violent lusts and mad, strange impulses, rejoicing in the body they have won. For Mr. Bessel was not the only human soul in that place. Witness the fact that he met first one, and afterwards several shadows of men, men like himself, it seemed, who had lost their bodies even it may be as he had lost his, and wandered, despairingly, in that lost world that is neither life nor death. They could not speak because that world is silent, yet he knew them for men because of their dim human bodies, and because of the sadness of their faces.
But how they had come into that world he could not tell, nor where the bodies they had lost might be, whether they still raved about the earth, or whether they were closed forever in death against return. That they were the spirits of the dead neither he nor I believe. But Doctor Wilson Paget thinks they are the rational souls of men who are lost in madness on the earth.
At last Mr. Bessel chanced upon a place where a little crowd of such disembodied silent creatures was gathered, and thrusting through them he saw below a brightly-lit room, and four or five quiet gentlemen and a woman, a stoutish woman dressed in black bombazine and sitting awkwardly in a chair with her head thrown back. He knew her from her portraits to be Mrs. Bullock, the medium. And he perceived that tracts and structures in her brain glowed and stirred as he had seen the pineal eye in the brain of Mr. Vincey glow. The light was very fitful; sometimes it was a broad illumination, and sometimes merely a faint twilight spot, and it shifted slowly about her brain. She kept on talking and writing with one hand. And Mr. Bessel saw that the crowding shadows of men about him, and a great multitude of the shadow spirits of that shadowland, were all striving and thrusting to touch the lighted regions of her brain. As one gained her brain or another was thrust away, her voice and the writing of her hand changed. So that what she said was disorderly and confused for the most part; now a fragment of one soul's message, and now a fragment of another's, and now she babbled the insane fancies of the spirits of vain desire. Then Mr. Bessel understood that she spoke for the spirit that had touch of her, and he began to struggle very furiously towards her. But he was on the outside of the crowd and at that time he could not reach her, and at last, growing anxious, he went away to find what had happened meanwhile to his body. For a long time he went to and fro seeking it in vain and fearing that it must have been killed, and then he found it at the bottom of the shaft in Baker Street, writhing furiously and cursing with pain. Its leg and an arm and two ribs had been broken by its fall. Moreover, the evil spirit was angry because his time had been so short and because of the painmaking violent movements and casting his body about.
And at that Mr. Bessel returned with redoubled earnestness to the room where the seance was going on, and so soon as he had thrust himself within sight of the place he saw one of the men who stood about the medium looking at his watch as if he meant that the seance should presently end. At that a great number of the shadows who had been striving turned away with gestures of despair. But the thought that the seance was almost over only made Mr. Bessel the more earnest, and he struggled so stoutly with his will against the others that presently he gained the woman's brain. It chanced that just at that moment it glowed very brightly, and in that instant she wrote the message that Doctor Wilson Paget preserved. And then the other shadows and the cloud of evil spirits about him had thrust Mr. Bessel away from her, and for all the rest of the seance he could regain her no more.
So he went back and watched through the long hours at the bottom of the shaft where the evil spirit lay in the stolen body it had maimed, writhing and cursing, and weeping and groaning, and learning the lesson of pain. And towards dawn the thing he had waited for happened, the brain glowed brightly and the evil spirit came out, and Mr. Bessel entered the body he had feared he should never enter again. As he did so, the silence--the brooding silence--ended; he heard the tumult of traffic and the voices of people overhead, and that strange world that is the shadow of our world--the dark and silent shadows of ineffectual desire and the shadows of lost men--vanished clean away.
He lay there for the space of about three hours before he was found. And in spite of the pain and suffering of his wounds, and of the dim damp place in which he lay; in spite of the tears--wrung from him by his physical distress--his heart was full of gladness to know that he was nevertheless back once more in the kindly world of men.
Audio Book. The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt. Chapter 29: The Shaping of the Shining One. Science fiction at its finest!
The whole thing to listen to in one sitting if you have the time. One of the many fabulous and fascinating novels (or in this case split novels) that the master writer put together for his eager audiences.
Orphans of the Sky
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaOrphans of the Sky1964 hardback editionAuthorRobert A. HeinleinCover artistIrv DocktorCountryUnited StatesLanguageEnglishGenreScience fictionPublisherVictor Gollancz LtdPublication date1963Media typePrint (Paperback)ISBN9780671318451OCLC751436515Followed byTime Enough for LoveOrphans of the Sky is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, consisting of two parts: "Universe" (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1941) and its sequel, "Common Sense" (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1941). The two novellas were first published together in book form in 1963. "Universe" was also published separately in 1951 as a 10¢ Dell paperback. These works contain one of the earliest fictional depictions of a generation ship.
The 1951 Dell printing of "Universe"The story centers upon a young man of insatiable curiosity, Hugh Hoyland, who is selected as an apprentice by a scientist. The scientists ritualistically perform the tasks required to maintain the Ship (such as putting trash into its energy-converter to generate power) while remaining ignorant of their true functions.
On a hunt for muties, Hugh is captured by them. He barely avoids getting eaten, and instead becomes the slave of Joe-Jim Gregory, the two-headed leader of a powerful mutie gang. Joe and Jim have separate identities, but both are highly intelligent and between them, have come to a crude understanding of the Ship's true nature.
Having become convinced of the Ship's true purpose, Hugh persuades Joe-Jim to complete the Vanguard's mission of colonization, having noticed that there is a nearby star that Joe-Jim remember as growing larger over the years. Intent on this mission, he returns to the lower levels of the Ship to convince others to help him, but is arrested by his former boss Bill Ertz and sentenced to death. He is viewed as either insane or a previously unrecognized mutant - he was a borderline case at birth, with a head viewed as too large.
Hugh persuades his old friend Alan Mahoney to enlist Joe-Jim's gang in rescuing him. He shows the captured Bill and Alan the long-abandoned command center and a view of the stars. Convinced, Bill then enlists the captain's aide, Phineas Narby, to Hugh's crusade.
Inspired by one of Joe-Jim's favorite books, The Three Musketeers, they manufacture swords, superior to the daggers everyone else has, and overthrow the captain and install Narby in his place. They embark on a campaign to bring the entire Ship under their control.
But then things go wrong. Narby never believed Hugh and was only playing along as a means to gain power. Once in control, he treacherously sets out to eliminate the muties. Joe is killed in the fighting. Jim sacrifices himself to hold off their pursuers long enough for Hugh, Bill, Alan and their wives to get to a highly automated lifeboat. Hugh manages to land on the habitable moon of a gas giant. The colonists disembark to uneasily explore their alien surroundings.
ReceptionAvram Davidson described Orphans as "a modern classic," praising "the magnitude and magnificence of Orphans ' concepts" despite expressing disappointment in "the limitations of its conclusion".
Links to other Heinlein storiesA paragraph at the start of the novel shows an excerpt from "The Romance of Modern Astrography", explaining that the ship was part of the "Proxima Centauri Expedition, sponsored by the Jordan Foundation in 2119". (A timeline produced by Heinlein to link different stories in his Future History places the launch of the Vanguard in the early 22nd century.) A discovered ship's log begins in June 2172, a few days before the mutiny breaks out. The mutiny was suppressed by October, with the ship divided into "mutie" and "civilized" areas and anyone who understood navigation dead. Within a generation or so, no one on board has any understanding of anything outside the ship, as the last crew member born on Earth dies of old age. An unknown number of centuries have passed between this and the main events of the novel.
In a much later novel Time Enough for Love, the Vanguard is briefly mentioned as the sister ship of the New Frontiers, which was commandeered by the Howard Families in the storyMethuselah's Children. It is clarified that the vessel had been bound for Alpha Centauri, but never landed colonists there; in fact the ship was far off course, possibly as a result of actions taken during the mutiny. The Vanguard has been discovered with its crew long dead, some unexplained failure in its mechanisms, and its records destroyed or illegible. Its path is traced back ballistically, and the descendants of Hugh's people are found, flourishing as highly intelligent savages, on a planet which scientists dubbed "Pitcairn Island". This was apparently the only star where settlement would have been possible on the Vanguard 's path.
This conversation takes place in 4291, and it is mentioned that the settlers have been there 800 years. So the events of Orphans of the Sky would have happened after the ship had been in space for about 14 centuries, c. 3500 AD.
Radio adaptation"Universe" was also performed as a radio play on the NBC Radio Network programs Dimension X (on November 26, 1951) and X Minus One (on May 15, 1955). This version has several drastic changes to the story, especially in its conclusion wherein Hugh is killed showing the crew of the Vanguard the true nature of the Ship.