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THE WEB OF EASTER ISLAND

by DONALD WANDREI

Note: This is an English translation of the famous 1948 novel by


Donald Wandrei, The Web of Easter Island from an Italian
edition, which is called The Giants of Stone. In general, The Web
of Easter Island is Donald Wandrei's revision of a 1932 novel called
Dead Titans, Waken! The revisions made the work one of the first
novels of the Cthulhu Mythos. This bootleg edition includes a review,
A Cosmic Novel: 'The Web of Easter Island' by Clark Ashton
Smith, The English translation of the Italian version, called The
Giants of Stone; and ends with a comparison of both novels by Jay
Rothermel called The Green Stone That Ate Willy: The Web of
Easter Island and Dead Titans, Waken! by Donald
Wandrei.

Arkham House

A Cosmic Novel: 'The Web of Easter Island'


by Clark Ashton Smith

This first novel by Donald Wandrei is embued throughout with the


same unique qualities of cosmic imagination that distinguished "The
Red Brain", "Earth Minus", "Finality Unlimited", and numerous other
short tales by him. The mystery of the megalithic remains of
Stonehenge and Easter Island has been woven into a narrative that
involves ulterior dimensions and endlessly repeated cycles of time
and super-time.
The novel begins with the mysterious and disastrous events that
follow the finding of an anomalous green image by a child in a long-
disused and ill-reputed graveyard at Isling, England. This image is the
Keeper of the Seal, mentioned in an Asian manuscript written in a
tongue far older than Sanskrit:
Out of crypts deeper than the clouds are high shall the Keeper of the Seal issue
forth a summons to the Titans. The Keeper of the Seal shall become even as the
Titans and take his place on Crltul Thr.

Drawn by a newspaper account of the strange events at Isling, Carter


Graham, a museum curator, investigates the unused graveyard, and
becomes the temporary possessor of the Keeper of the Seal. Later,
having fortunately lost the image, he descends with a companion into
a vault of prodigious depth and extent beneath the graveyard, a vault
designed as a sort of time-trap by the macrocosmic titans who had
built it a million and five hundred years ago for their own sinister but
scientific purposes. Graham escapes from the trap by a narrow
margin of time, but his companion suffers the same doom that had
overtaken numberless others, both men and the ancestors of men.
In the meantime, a fugitive wife-murderer has become the
involuntary and unwitting owner of the green image. He meets on
shipboard a strangely beautiful woman, with hair half white, half
black, who, it seems, has made a surreptitious disposal of her
husband. Their meeting affords a highly piquant episode—a spice of
mundanity amid elements of ultraspatial tenor and super-human
vastness.
The tale unravels a web far-spun in time and place, and mounts to a
stupendous climax on Easter Island, where Graham goes to confront
the returning titans from the macrocosmos. Its premises, events and
implications are among the most staggering in imaginative literature.
Wholly original in style and concept, it is a worthy congener to such
Lovecraft masterpieces as "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Colour Out of
Space", and "The Shadow Out of Time."
--Planets and Dimensions: Collected Essays, Mirage Press (1973)

Corgi Books
***

Italian Introduction

What secret link does the mysterious prehistoric temple of


Stonehenge, England, to the loneliest point of the globe, the Easter
Island, lost in a single terrifying identity, lost with its enigmatic
ancient statues in the vast expanse of the South Pacific? Why is a
chain of tremendous misfortunes connected to the indescribable
greenish statuette, vibrant, millions of years old, from the cosmic
origins, found by an archaeologist in an abandoned cemetery? And
what is hidden in the tangle of the immense network of underground
galleries, which seem to link together the mysterious seats of entities
and events that would seem incomprehensible to man, antithetical to
his destiny and his nature? With Giants of Stone, Donald Wandrei
marks a shining stage in the literature of horror and the cosmic
mystery, opening new perspectives to anticipatory and fantasy
literature, and renewing the traditional subject of the "gothic" novel
with the most recent sources of fiction sci. The Giants of Stone is a
novel that is not easily forgotten!

Donald Wandrei, The Giants of Stone

The Web of Easter Island

The Vadia is an ancient paved road that winds its way up to Isling,
and after having flanked the village on the west side it arrives at a
cemetery. There it stops abruptly, turning into a path badly marked
on the ground and limited to the city of the dead by a hawthorn
hedge.
According to the legend, it seems that Vadia was used by the Roman
legions at the time of the conquests and that its construction dates
back to an earlier time. The archaeologists, however, argue the
opposite because, according to them, neither the Picti, nor the Welsh,
who took possession of those hilly regions, could be able to conceive a
construction so daring and that required profound technical
knowledge! But, as everyone knows, many legends draw their origins
from facts that archeology does not take into consideration. Folklore
traditions have solid foundations as much as science, and Isling is a
country of legends, all of which center on Vadia. A popular voice,
then, derives the name of the street from the Latin Via Dei , and those
who believe in this belief claim that the origins of that cemetery are
lost in the mists of time. Others, however, believe that in the
definition Vadia a deformation of Via Diaboli is found , and they base
their assertion on the fact that the road stops at the cemetery's
threshold. Finally, the skeptics deny that name any particular
meaning.

Until the day when for the first time we tried to investigate the
mysteries of the past, these rumors were considered only as flights of
fantasy born of ancient and forgotten episodes. On various occasions
coins and fragments of vases from a distant era were found, and once,
by excavating a new tomb, objects were discovered that led the vicar
to excommunicate the cemetery and give the order to consecrate a
new plot for the burials. of land. But these episodes date back to the
time of Queen Elizabeth.

One hundred years later, when the Great Plague devastated the
country, and the number of dead passed Isling the living one, a large
mass grave was dug in a hurry in the old cemetery. But for a reason
that remained unknown, the victims of the epidemic were not buried
and the authorities intervened to immediately open the grave. From
that day nobody touched anything in that enclosure that remained
jealous guardian of a past wrapped in mystery. Its less ancient
tombstones are from the 16th century. As consumed and smoked,
they seem strangely new in comparison to the others now sunk into
the ground and on which the inscriptions have been completely
erased from the inexorable wear of time.

The popular voice wants that in that place, during the occupation by
the Roman legions, blasphemous rites and strange orgies were
celebrated, and that even before, in the bottom of the oak woods, the
Druids had performed their monstrous sacrificial ceremonies.

The only document to which reference can be made to corroborate


some of the most insistent rumors is an annotation made by John
Clelonde in 1665.
On those old sheets we read: Today there are still twelve unfortunate children
dead. Neither women nor children are spared. The wrath of God continues to
bring down terrible on us. I have recommended to those who until now have
escaped the scourge, to entrust souls to Our Lord and to pray that He may put an
end to His revenge. All the shops are closed and no man dares to venture out into
the streets. Yet the dead must be buried. In the new cemetery there is no more
place and we do not have the courage to use the Devil's Cemetery because of the
damn image discovered this week ...

Without doubt, this very vague reference to an image has contributed


to the flowering of legends around the cemetery of Isling.

The old rumors took on a new meaning when, in the last hours of a
damp and suffocating July day, Willy Grant, a boy of eleven, came
back home proudly showing a small object.

"What's that stuff?" Willy's mother asked, ceasing to take care of her
roses.

"I do not know," Willy replied. "I found it with Jakee BillStacy, but
since I got it first, it belongs to me."

"Where did you find him?"

Willy hesitated a moment before answering. "We went to the old


cemetery," he said then in one breath. "I saw something sticking out
of the ground, I tried to pull, and this came out ..."

"Give it to me," his mother said in a tone that did not allow a reply.
Reluctantly the boy handed her the object, and immediately the
woman threw it away from herself to the far corner of the small
garden, saying: "Tomorrow morning you will take him back to where
you found him, and you will do me the pleasure of throwing him over.
above the hedge, without entering, understood? And if you still think
of wandering around there, you'll receive the hardest lesson of your
life. Row in the house, now. "

Willy wept and prayed, his mother remained unshakable.


Superstitious at best, Mrs. Grandmothered her son to make him blue
by fury if he was still near the cemetery or if he was interested in that
object.

Later, even JohnGrantrientrato home after daily toil. While he was


taking off his work clothes, his wife was busy preparing dinner. The
woman did not say anything about her son's discovery, probably she
had already forgotten about it. Neither she nor her husband noticed
that Willy had snuck out into the darkness and that, after a few
minutes, he had stealthily climbed into his room, carefully hiding
something.

After dinner, husband and wife began to talk about this as they had
been for twelve years. At half past nine, Willy was sent to bed and half
an hour later John and Magda Grants followed his example. The man,
tired by the hard work of the day, fell asleep immediately, while his
wife, too nervous to get to sleep, was tossed about in bed until
midnight. Then he fell into a restless sleep, and had a dream. A
terrifying dream, as it had never done before. He dreamed of being in
a cemetery where hundreds of old white graves stood threatening
everywhere. She wanted to run, to run away, but a strange numbness
prevented her. Suddenly a small grayish thing overhung by her son's
head crossed the road and lifted a specimen from the ground. Then
the tombstones, livid in the uncertain nightlight, grew louder and
bent toward her like huge implacable monsters. At their feet the
tombs opened up showing the deep furrows dug into the bowels of the
earth, and from the depths of the pits rose frigid winds. The little
thing with Willy's head moved away holding his prey. Magda tried to
sound a warning, but no sound came out of her throat: the giant
stones had begun to advance in a circle and now formed a circle
around the little gray creature. Slowly, slowly, the monstrous Titans
closed on their prisoner: the circle became smaller and smaller. The
impassive faces, like grotesque masks, stared at their moaning victim
trying to escape, and in his efforts the gray form approached the edge
of an abyss. Closer and closer ...

John and MagdaGrantsi woke up at the same time, and a cry of terror
echoed in their ears. John hurriedly jumped out of bed and rushed to
his son's room as Magda lingered to light a lamp with shaking hands.
The woman heard her husband ask, "What is it, Willy?" But did not
hear an answer. He rushed to John with the lamp, and together they
looked into the room.

His eyes widened on the horrible spectacle that presented him, John
uttered a hoarse moan: his wife collapsed to the ground unconscious.
The lamp shattered on the floor, spreading its flammable liquid
around it, and immediately the tanzas danced tongues of fire. On the
bed, a grotesque and phosphorescent shape, with its mobile and
inaccurate contours, surrounded by a green halo, was all that
remained of Willy. The black eyes, inhuman and shining, had nothing
in common with those of the boy. Willy Grantnon existed anymore.

John lifted his wife in his arms and half-sullied by the acrid smoke of
the fire brought her out to safety. Next to her she always fainted,
while the flames devoured the small house, John began to pray.

When Magda recovered, her reason was lost forever.

The woman began to murmur indistinct and nonsense words without


a word. The only sentence that could be understood was that a large
green stone had devoured his Willy. In hearing it, the women of the
village shook their heads and wiped their eyes ... A few days after the
disaster, the poor mad mother began to wander along the Vadia and
turn around the cemetery, with her hair disheveled and staring. If
someone asked her what she was looking for, she invariably replied
that she wanted to find the green stone that had consumed her son.

These words would certainly have awakened the curiosity of the


country if to pronounce them had not been a demented, but given the
situation they were considered only a nonsensical delirium.
JohnGrantera became taciturn. He had not told anyone what had
happened to Willy, preferring to let him believe that he had fallen
victim to the fire. The day passed, and the end of that torrid month of
July came. One evening, just before night fell, the inhabitants of
Isling saw Magda the Mad go through the Vadia, clenching something
jealously wrapped in a shawl to her chest. He was panting like
someone who ran for a long time, and headed for the house where
John and she had moved after the fire.

John was already home and gave her a look of pitiful surprise, noting
his unusual agitation and the burden he carried with such care.

"What is it, Magda? What do you wear in that shawl? "He asked
affectionately in the tone that is used to make the children reason.

With a hissing voice and uncertain words, Magda explained that she
had found Willy. The poor mad eyes shone with a joy that had
nothing human, and John, worried, approached to see what was
hidden under the shawl. But as soon as he guessed his intentions, the
woman retreated, grinding her teeth like a beast who sees her baby
threatened, and hugged her treasure more tightly in her arms. Then
he seemed to calm down and went to sit in a corner. As he leaned
forward a little, a flap of the shawl moved for a moment to reveal a
vague greenish shape.

Carefully picking up the bundle on his knees as if it were a newborn,


the madwoman began to rock gently back and forth muttering in a
sing-song voice: "The little green stone ate Willy, the big green stone
ate Willy, the little stone ... "Then suddenly, changing tone:" I beg
you, give me back Willy! He did not want to do anything wrong ... "

John felt his blood freeze.


***

Throughout that evening the lightning flew across the sky. The air
was heavy and the clothes clung to the skin, the clouds piled up west,
and the unbreathable atmosphere that had plagued the inhabitants of
the region for a month seemed about to explode.

The night was at the beginning when the first big drops began to fall.
For a moment there reigned absolute silence, almost the world had
stopped, then a strong wind rose, and gusts of rain beat against the
houses, roared over the roofs. Magda let herself be brought to bed
very docilely, but she did not want to separate herself from the object
that had so excited her. John had given up on seeing what it was,
because every time he reached out to shawl Magda was transfigured.
Even when she was under the covers, she did not part with the
strange object. John heard her talk for a long time.

The voice was silent at last, but he remained awake again: he thought
of the mysterious death of his son, and what he had to do for Madga.
But was it all true what had happened to him? Was it not an atrocious
nightmare from which he would have woken up? What terrible power
could have caused such a monstrous change in Willy's body?

The wind enveloped the house and screamed in the trees. Invisible
fingers shaking doors and windows, more frequent rain showers
whipping the windows, filtering violently between the shutters.

Despite the fury of the elements unleashed, John began to fall asleep
when his wife began to murmur. The man looked at her in a flash:
Magda kept her eyes closed, but her lips moved.

"N'ga n'ga rhthl'g clr'tl ... "

The syllables were pronounced very clearly, but their meaning was
the most obscure. Impossible to give meaning to those gasps.

The voice continued: "... ust s g'lgggar septhulchu nyrcg ... " and
seemed to follow a well-marked rhythm.
***

During the night, a neighbor of John and Magda, Mrs. Sayres, woke
up in time to see the house of the Grenade, blinded by a flash of light
from an apocalyptic noise. Mrs. Sayres thought she saw an immense
green fire rise over the roof, ran to the window and glued her face to
the windows, trying to peer into the darkness that followed the burst
of light. She stood there until the next flash allowed her to see the
grant's house, but there was no trace of the curious green reflection
that had made her think that the neighbors' house had been struck by
lightning, and everything seemed intact. The rain became thicker,
hindering visibility. Thinking that nothing could have happened to
the Grantnon, since nothing had happened to their home, the woman
went back to sleep.

The following morning, John Grantnon appeared at the usual time to


go to work. Even Magda did not show up. In Isling, as in every other
small country, nothing new goes unnoticed, and so around noon
everyone knew about it, and since John and Magda had not yet made
their appearance, people began to worry. Someone remembered that
the poor woman had returned home the night before, hiding
something under a shawl.

"You know," said a woman named Dakin, "long ago my Jakee the son
of Stacyans went to the old cemetery with Willy Grant, and they found
a strange thing. In fact, it was Willy who found him, and took him
home. Jakemi said he was a kind of stone man, but not really a man ...
I'm not sure. A bizarre thing, in short. Ah, I've always said that
nothing good can come from that cemetery! And we got the proof, you
see it! Just that night the house of the Grantcol poor Willy was
burned inside, and John saved Magda only to see her reduced in that
state ... And now who knows what will have happened to those poor
souls!"

"Maybe they're dead," Mrs. Sayres said, shuddering. "When I saw all
that light tonight, I made the sign of the cross and I thanked the Lord
for being alive. I did not have the courage to go out to see what had
happened. With all that messy who knows what could have happened
to me! Maybe I'm home, hurt, and wait for someone to come help
them ... "

"You women make a tragedy of everything," said a farmer. "Magda


will be frightened by the storm and will have run away from home,
and John will be looking for her, that's all. Let's wait a little longer
before going to see, I do not like sticking my nose in other people's
business. "

"I say something bad happened," Mrs. Dakin said. "If I could, I would
go to Isling, if only to get away from that bewitched graveyard. I did
not say it before, but tonight I heard a voice shouting! I did not
understand anything about what he was saying, but he certainly did
not speak our language. "

Finally, after the last uncertainties, three men walked towards John's
little house. They knocked hard at the door, but the only answer was
the echo of their blows. Then they called John and Magda aloud,
asking if they needed help. Again they did not have an answer.
Increasingly worried, they advised each other and eventually decided
to enter even at the cost of knocking down the door.

But the door was not locked. They rushed in, and a sharp hint of
putrefaction forced them to retreat. They waited for the pure air to
dissipate the unbearable stench a little, then they came back and
covered their nostrils with handkerchiefs. A quick turnaround on the
ground floor revealed nothing, but when they climbed to the first
floor, tried to get into what they knew to be the bedroom, they had to
forcefully push the door: it seemed locked inside by a weight.

Finally they managed to enter, and they saw: a body lay on the bed,
the other was lying on the floor next to the door. He was probably
trying to open the door when death caught him. Magda's shawl was
empty on the floor. The mysterious object that had been enveloped
the night before had disappeared.

If the two macabre and grotesque forms were the bodies of John and
Magda, the inhabitants of the house were dead. Other men looked
terrified at those clusters of indescribable greenish matter in which it
was impossible to recognize human beings, then they descended the
stairs fleeing the house and the his tragic inhabitants.

An investigation was conducted to ascertain the causes of the double


death and the verdict was: killed by lightning! But many questions
remained unanswered. How could lightning produce such a horrible
effect? What had Magda the Mad in her arms when she had been seen
on Vadia? If it had not been a thunderbolt, what could be the cause of
the monstrous transformation of the bodies of the victims? Nothing
known could explain the total organic alteration of the two
cadavers.Imedici excluded in the most absolute that it was a disease.
Since no stranger was found at Isling, the hypothesis of murder was
discarded. The only possible solution was therefore that exposed in
the verdict, but none was satisfied.

An important newspaper published a series of articles dedicated to


the mystery of Isling, arousing the interest of all readers, and in
particular that of Carter E. Graham, conservator of the Ludbury
Museum, specialized in anthropology and archeology.

The coffee was cooling in the cup, and on a plate the toast had already
lost their fragrance. Graham had completely forgotten about
breakfast. Had the moment arrived at which his research and
incessant studies had prepared him? He again read the article about
the mystery of Isling and that it was of extraordinary interest to him.

Carter E. Graham had just been in his forties: his face, his look,
everything in him revealed a great intelligence and a settled character.
He was of medium height, but his slim build made him look taller.

The scientist sat down in thought for a long time, remembering that
the reading of the article had brought him back to his mind. The
images that took shape in his thought did not seem to have much in
common with the facts of Isling, were the memories of research done
in Egypt, in Tibet, in Stonehenge, in the Maya civilization countries
and on Easter Island. Perhaps one day he would have made public the
result of his long research, but until then he had missed the time to
review the notes and coordinate them. After the first explorations that
he had been able to carry out thanks to an inheritance, he had been
forced to accept the office of conservator at the Museum for economic
reasons, limiting himself to the study of the Roman vestiges that from
time to time came to light in England. Now that newspaper had
revived in him the ancient passion for the cosmic mystery that led
him back to the ancient ruins scattered throughout the world.

The article that had caught his attention spoke of an object found by
some children in a cemetery and then disappeared in a mysterious
way. Of all the story this was the only thing that interested him,
because, if that image was what he thought, he would have taken a big
step forward in solving the enigma that had always obsessed him.

Possible , thought Graham. And just in Isling, less than a hundred


and fifty kilometers from here. And to say that I went all the way to
the world to look for it ... But it could also be the result of a
journalist's imagination. In a fact like this, imagination usually has
the most important part ... Well, there's only one way to make sure ,
he concluded. He went quickly to the phone and called the station.

"Ready? What time is the first train to Isling-Westmor? "He asked,


glancing at the clock. "At eleven twenty-five? Well, what time is it? ...
At fourteen in Westmor? Thank you."

It was a quarter to nine, so he had plenty of time to calmly prepare


himself. He phoned the Museum to warn that he would be absent that
day, and hastened to choose the tools he would need for what he
intended to do and all that could be useful in a short trip. Before
leaving home, he carefully looked at a map of the region. The memory
had not betrayed him: Isling was very little away from Stonehenge.

His impatience was such that the journey seemed interminable. He


deceived the time trying to remember all the details that came to light
during the excavations to which he had taken part, to find a point of
contact with the facts of Isling. At 1:30 pm the train entered the
Westmor station on time. After notifying the train timetable for the
return, Graham hired a car to get to the destination. As the car ran on
the provincial, the scholar mentally traced the program of what he
had to do. He thought it would be appropriate to avoid the curiosity of
the inhabitants of the small town, at least until he was sure about the
convenience of carrying out real excavations.

At 2:30 pm the car arrived in sight of the village. Isling was a village
of only a few hundred inhabitants, and Graham quickly realized that
his arrival would hardly go unnoticed. Patience! A few shillings more
than the agreed price convinced the driver to wait until eight in the
evening. If he had not yet finished for that hour, he would always
have had time to postpone the car and look for a room to spend the
night at Isling.

Taking the suitcase, and without bothering to ask for directions, the
scientist set off for Vadia because the newspaper clearly explained
that the old artery was bypassing the village without crossing it. Along
the way, Graham passed by the calcined remains of a recent fire. He
had walked perhaps half a kilometer, when he was in front of the
Devil's Cemetery. He noted with interest that Vadia abruptly stopped
a few meters from the entrance, so either the cemetery was older than
the road or it had been interrupted specifically to allow the necropolis
to be placed there. One hypothesis was the other. It would have been
interesting to establish with certainty what was the valid one, and
Graham decided to deal with it later.

The afternoon was wet and warm, but a light wind came from the
hills. As soon as he entered the cemetery, Graham felt a strange
sensation, as if by that gesture he had broken all ties with the rest of
the world. He thought that the feeling was due to the high hawthorn
hedge that surrounded the cemetery isolating it completely.

The suitcase was placed on the ground, the scientist took out a short-
hand pick, a geologist's hammer and a small spade, then looked
around carefully. The place had the shape of an imperfect circle, with
a diameter of about two hundred meters, and it was at the height of a
small hill. Judging by the thick weeds growing everywhere, it must
have been many years that no one cared more about the necropolis.
Graham went around the cemetery, looking at every detail and
bending over to examine the inscriptions. For the most part, words
and dates were illegible, and those that could be deciphered date from
an era prior to Queen Elizabeth. After the inspection, Graham
returned to his tools, picked them up, and went to stand at the center
of the necropolis, where the ground was slightly elevated. Once there
he looked around still thoughtfully, and a shadow of spite appeared
on his expressive face.

Curious, he muttered to himself. There is something that is not as it


should. Unless I have spent all these years crab-catching, here there
should be the remains of a monument or a pagan altar. Instead there
is nothing, absolutely nothing!

He continued to peer in every direction until he noticed a spot where


the grass appeared trampled and the ground moved recently. Graham
decided to start there. He put on his gloves, tore the weeds, and
grabbed the shovel and began to dig carefully. He had just reached a
depth of a few centimeters, when the tool hit something by drawing a
metallic sound. Then Graham left the shovel and began to take the
earth away with his hands to bring the object found to light. He
worked with precision and method, and with great care. Sweat
dripped from his forehead. Finally he stood up holding a vague
greenish-gray shape.

Never anything was handled as carefully as that small object.

Graham examined his discovery for a long time, moving from


surprise to contemplation. A shadow seemed to obscure the sky, and
everything around him became dark. The object that Graham held in
his hands did not measure more than ten centimeters, but weighed
enormously, and was carved into a material that the scientist did not
know: neither metal nor stone, but almost an extraordinary mixture
of the two elements. Small cavities, an integral part of the shape,
furrowed the whole surface. The greenish surface exuded a slimy
mood. The most extraordinary thing, however, was the effect of
arcane power that emanated from it, as if the statue had the gift of
transforming itself from stone into metal and from metal into another
mysterious matter. Graham's hands tightened tightly around the
object whose contours suddenly began to vibrate, and the scientist felt
himself transported into another world, into an unknown yet
strangely familiar universe, as if he had been pushed back to the
beginning of time, amid the ancestral memories of his race, in an era
of blazing worlds, and had the feeling that the fantastic statue was
dilating abnormally, rising above him like a giant stele soaring in the
sky like a magical titan of the stars.

During his expeditions, Graham had witnessed many unusual or


terrifying performances, but never had he known the fear as at that
time. He was tempted to push the crazy image back into the earth,
and this time forever.

Slowly, with great effort, he managed to overcome the anguish that


had overwhelmed him for a moment. He put the statue down on the
ground and directed his attention to the loose earth. The experience
told him to dig deeper and although his subconscious told him not to
look for anything else, he picked up the shovel and started to take the
ground off.

An hour passed. Graham continued to work and sweat. He paused


only for a moment to swallow some energy pills and a few sips of
water from the bottle.

A bell tower struck six, then half past six. He had less than an hour
left if he wanted to get back to Isling in time to find the car that would
take him back to Westmor and allow him to take the last train. He
had now decided to give up the search, when the picket met an
obstacle that gave the same metallic sound that had announced the
discovery of the statue.
Graham had not expected to find a second object equal to the first,
and was very surprised. Now at the end of his strength, and terribly
hungry, he hastened his movements as much as possible to put an
end to that exhausting day.

Soon a flat surface of the same green color appeared. It was not
another statuette. It was quarter to seven. He took his hands off some
more earth, then knelt down to look closely at the green surface, and
his face took on a disconcerted expression: he had added a new
mystery to all those who already puzzled archaeologists. Two
inscriptions, whose characters did not resemble any known sign, were
deeply engraved on the plate, and between the two inscriptions stood
out a mishmash of geometric symbols that had nothing in common
with the traditional Euclidean ones.

The more he tried to make sense of his discovery, the more he found
it incomprehensible.

His mood was very similar to that of the philologists before the
hieroglyphs before the discovery of the famous Rosetta stone with its
bilingual inscription. Graham scolded himself for not having even
brought a camera.

But the surprises were not finished. The scientist ran a hand over the
indecipherable symbols, and the earth moved. The plate overturned,
became a corner, a bow, an oval, a straight line, a point, and
disappeared by subverting all the laws that regulate geometry.
Beneath the stunned gaze of Graham, a dark chasm appeared, a
tunnel sinking into the world. From the abyss rose a breath of ancient
air, much more ancient than that which strikes those who penetrate a
pyramid ... Graham gestured, and instantly the reverse phenomenon
occurred. The geometric enigma reappeared, and Graham found
himself kneeling on a solid slab of ... of what?

A few minutes passed before the scientist was able to reason again.
He looked at his hands which apparently had been the unconscious
instrument of the imponderable, and he saw that they trembled. He
got up, still stunned, went out of the excavation and hurried to close
the hole again. The wind and the feeling of being in the hands of the
shovel served to make him aware of reality, and when the green
surface disappeared under a thick layer of earth, Graham breathed a
sigh of relief. Filling the depression, he wrapped the statue in a piece
of cloth and picked up the tools. He did not even try to get rid of the
traces of his work: from the macabre enclosure there was such a
supernatural fluid, coming from such a distant time, that it was
enough to keep the inhabitants of Isling away, certainly curious but
above all superstitious.

In spite of his exhaustion, Graham felt excited, sure of how he had


made a sensational discovery. Now he would have to seek the
assistance of people in archaeological research to continue the work
in the Devil's Graveyard, and he would certainly not have found it in
Isling. First, however, you had to deposit the green statuette in the
Museum and study it down to the smallest detail, comparing it to the
existing reproductions of primitive sculptures found in Africa or in
Central America or in Oceania.

The day was now over, but the heat was still oppressive. Before
leaving the cemetery, Graham turned for a moment and believed
himself to be the victim of an optical illusion due perhaps to fatigue:
the air was clearly visible and swayed slowly, over the pit just covered
like the wave of a mysterious sea ...

Graham reached Isling at eight o'clock, threw his suitcase into the car
and let himself fall exhausted into the back seat. From the speed with
which the car ran in the direction of Westmor, the scientist realized
that the driver had been made aware of all local superstitions.

The first stars were already shining when Graham arrived at the
station. He took care to find a compartment that was completely
empty so as to be able to cover the shocking statuette away from
prying eyes, and before the train left, he had time to drink a glass of
beer and eat a sandwich. Then, the convoy moved, clanging, and the
rhythmic noise of the wheels accompanied Graham's thoughts,
comfortably leaning against the soft back. He looked out the window
absently and thought back to the unhappy love, the first cause of the
choice of occupation that had brought him to the most remote parts
of the world. Then, the interest of research in places where there were
testimonies of ancient civilizations had replaced the old love passion
with the passion for archeology. Atlantis, Anghor-Vat, Stonehenge,
Easter Island, the Sphinx, the buried cities of North Africa, all these
names had the power to accelerate the beats of his heart with their
fascinating mysteries. Who had carved and raised the colossal
monuments and gigantic statues that still resisted time? Why had no
one ever been able to identify the brilliant builders? Unanswered
questions, indecipherable puzzles! From the day he had been
captivated by the fascination of archeology, those mysteries had never
ceased to obsess him. He had often imagined himself to be close to
the solution, and every time he had seen it escape. But now he felt
that Isling's discovery was more important than any other.

Shaking himself from the torpor that had seized him, Graham opened
the suitcase and took off his statuette. Still he felt again the sensation
of being suspended on the void, again he felt the anguish that was
communicated to him by the image whose contours flickered again
like the fiery air of the surface of a desert. That phenomenon was
completely incomprehensible. So the stamina possessed the power to
also provoke optical illusions? Or was it the fatigue that played tricks
on him? Yet he had undergone much harder labor, and his nerves had
never yielded! He thought of the postulated paradoxes of einsteinian
mathematics and immediately recalled the phenomenon of the green
stone that had rebelled against the most solid rules established by
physics. This led him to a conclusion: if the headstone was able to
escape the most basic rules of physics, even the statuette could elude
them, because it was composed of the same substance.

Perplexed, Graham examined the greenish surface. The apparent


appearance was that of a porous mica, but had the hardness of quartz,
the weight of gold and the fluidity of mercury. That strange material
with even stranger properties, suggested comparison with several
known metals and known minerals, but retained a particular quality.
Well, it would have been the task of physicists and chemists to
determine their nature. He would only have to take a look at the
laboratory analysis.

He continued his examination trying to determine the use and


function of the statuette, annoyed at not being able to establish its
shape well because of the vibrations. It looked like a monster, but as
soon as it was certain that it was such, here it assumed the
appearance of an ancient god, magnificent and terrible, suggesting
the idea of a gigantic titan reaching out to the stars ... Superb that
impression of immensity! If at least those vibrations had ceased, he
would perhaps have succeeded in giving a name to that fantastic
thing. Finally, stunned by the constant movement of the object,
Graham turned away from it. He felt the irresistible desire to destroy
the statue, to trample it to hear it scream, to throw it out the window
or better still to reduce it to a thousand pieces, but he knew that he
would never do it not only because of the charm that it emanated, but
also above all because he sensed the latent energy that made it similar
to a resting dynamo. It seemed to him that an immense force was
lurking in the little thing, ready to explode uncontrollably as soon as
he received the order ...

Stunned by all the ideas that swirled in his brain, Graham turned the
statue upside down, and seeing that a layer of earth had remained
stuck on the base, he used a penknife to clean it up. Little by little the
green surface appeared, little by little Graham could read the same
inscriptions, the same symbols seen a few hours earlier at Isling on
the tombstone.

Graham was amazed once more. The hands that had shaped the
statue were therefore the same ones that had carved the big stone.
But what was the reason for that double registration? Would he be
able to find out its meaning? Here is a new question mark that came
to thicken the mystery. Graham was not a glottologist, but he had
considerable insight and was familiar with the history of languages.
He knew the characters of all the written languages, ancient and
modern that they were, and although he did not know how to
decipher it was able to recognize the Sanskrit of the Chinese, the
hieroglyphics of the Maya people, the primitive Siamese and all the
others, but for that inscription rummaged in vain in his memory:
those signs were not comparable to anyone else.Was it the language
of the Atlanteans? Was it the form of the first language that had
preceded all the others for millennia? Who had recorded those words,
and which mind had suggested them? Then there were the geometric
signs, stenographic symbols of a super-Einsteinian mathematical
system, related to amultiple time and a multiple space. Only two
figures had a significance for Graham: duecerchi containing a large
number of points arranged differently. The scientist took a
magnifying glass from his pocket and after a long examination he
became convinced that one of the circles reproduced the current
position of the stars. The other circle also had to be an astronomical
map, but the constellations that were marked out were completely
new to him. Perhaps they referred to a different fragment of the
universe. Perhaps they were the same stars of the first circle but
viewed from an observatory located in another galaxy. Maybe they did
not refer to space but at the time ...

With a gesture of impatience, Graham still wrapped the statue in the


piece of canvas, and stuffed it into his suitcase. He looked at his
watch: twenty minutes to eleven. Another one hour trip. He sat down
better on the seat, trying to think of something else, so he would have
as much time as possible to devote himself to that problem. Some
photomicrographs! Here, those would have been useful ...

Click-Click, Click-Click, Click-Cli ...

The regular pace of the wheels and the tossing of the train had a
calming effect on his nerves. He felt the need to rest his body and
brain, and could not wait to go to bed ...

Click-click, click-click ...


He closed his eyes, leaned his head on his chest and fell asleep ...

Suddenly Graham gasped, straightening himself half-dazed. The clock


marked eleven. His drowsiness had lasted only a quarter of an hour:
something had awakened him. He looked around, peered into the
corridor through the door, then out the window, but did not notice
anything abnormal. And yet ... And yet he had the distinct sensation
of a presence ... He strained his ear, and beyond the rattling of the
train, very distant, unreal, caught other noises. Maybe he was
preparing a storm As long as you give me time to get home! , I think.

He listened carefully and again heard the strange mumbling. Was it


really the storm or was it the beating of his heart? Or was it
something inside the compartment? He concentrated his attention,
and the noise grew in intensity. Now it was a voice that shouted
incomprehensible and inhumane words, coming from an infinite
distance.

N'ga n'ga rhthl'g cheti ust s g'lgggar septhulchu nyrcg s thargoth


k'tuhl s brogg meargoth s bh'rw 'lutl ubwcthughu dägoth ...

Not a syllable of that language made sense to Graham. The sound


grew louder and louder, echoing in him like the splash of a wave,
excited and exalted him, oppressed and distressed him with a force he
had never known.

Ivetri trembled, the air vibrated under the impetus of the voice.
Graham felt himself seized by the whirlwind of a whirlpool, he cupped
his ears with his hands so as not to hear. But the words were in him,
around him, always stronger, stronger and stronger ...

Then it was the darkness, and the cold, and the feeling of a space so
boundless as to exceed any capacity for understanding, almost an
endless abyss, and terror ...

A green flash rose from nothing. A woman's scream rose sharply,


followed by the screeching of the brakes against the metal of the
wheels. The floor seemed to join the ceiling, and Graham, curled up in
himself, reached out to take his suitcase, but only grabbed the air.

Abandoned to herself, the suitcase fell out of the twisted door.


Darkness and silence enveloped the man.

Graham opened his eyes in a small white bed. The air was
impregnated with the odor of disinfectant, and his head twitched
painfully as if under a hammer.

He struggled a bit to gather ideas: the hospital, the train crash, a train
ride, a green statuette, Isling's cemetery, and his voice in the night ...
He tried to sit up, but the effort gave him a very painful pang that
made him fall back on the pillow. Raising one arm he could see that
his head was completely wrapped. For a moment that seemed eternal,
Graham stood still, waiting for the headache to become bearable.

There, in that hospital atmosphere, his adventure seemed far and far-
fetched. But it must have been terribly real, judging by the bandages!
No doubt it was thanks to his good star if he had escaped it. As for the
statue, when they would give him back the suitcase ...

He suddenly remembered seeing his suitcase for the last time as he


fell out the door. And the fantastic figurine was in there! If it had been
lost ... but no, impossible, the baggage must have been found at the
accident site by the rescue teams and delivered to the competent
authorities. Graham laboriously turned on his side looking around:
with considerable effort, and earning himself a blood stream that
increased the pain, he managed to look even under the bed, but no
trace of the suitcase. Perhaps she had been deposited in the hospital
wardrobe. Of course it was also possible that she had been crushed in
the disaster, but Isling's statuette was of a material so hard that
nothing would have been able to fix it. In any case it was useless to get
busy before having a real reason.

He then began to think about the nightmare that had preceded the
tragedy in a moment, but the details escaped his understanding. He
vaguely remembered a bizarre mixture of hallucinations and reality,
all colored green, the color that had accompanied him throughout the
day. The pain in his head was very strong: evidently the fact of
thinking damaged his condition, but he could not do otherwise.

He calculated to be awake for about a quarter of an hour. Pointing his


elbows and moving with infinite precautions, he managed to pull
himself up and he could reach the bell that was above the headboard
of the bed. Sound. After a few minutes a young nurse entered, blond,
florid, smiling, and pretty.

"Did you play?"

"No, what's on your mind?" "Icampanelli always play alone," Graham


said brusquely. He could not bear the stupid questions especially if it
was a woman who did them.

The girl accentuated her smile.

"If I wanted to answer you in the same tone, I would say Sir Warren
has transplanted some of his brain into you," he said.

"Sir Warren?"

"Yes, sir, the surgeon. He operated on you yesterday, due to a fracture


of the cranial base and cerebral concussion. An operation without
importance, of course! "

Graham collected.

"Agree. I deserved it, this answer. "

Sir Warren was a famous specialist, known for his brain operations,
and was a friend of Graham. He had also offered some interesting
pieces to the Museum.

"I'd like to know where I am, and since I've been here," said the
scientist.

"Middletown Hospital, room seven one three," said the nurse. "You
have been our guest since yesterday morning. They brought you here
right after the accident, and ten minutes after you arrived, you were
in the operating room. "

"Do you have a dark suitcase, not a big suit, among my personal
things?"

"I do not know, but I can inform myself."

"Do you want to do it right away, please? This is of paramount


importance to me, I hope I do not bother you too much. "

The nurse made a majestic conversion to the left and left the room.

He returned a few minutes later, to say: "There is no suitcase


deposited in your name, unfortunately. You were a case of the most
urgent, and when you arrived you did not have your clothes. "

"That's just what I feared," said Graham, annoyed. "How long should
I stay here?"

"At least a week."

It was a new blow to his hopes: a week! How could he find his
precious suitcase after seven days? He decided to leave the hospital,
with or without permission, long before that time.

The nurse handed him a glass in which he had poured a few drops
from a bottle.

"Drink this," he told him.

Graham obeyed, and the terrible headache disappeared immediately.


The nurse had not yet left that the scientist had already fallen asleep.
He woke up in the evening, and saw Sir Warren by the bed. As
succinctly as possible, Graham explained to the surgeon the reasons
that required him to leave the hospital before the deadline, and had
the pleasant surprise of hearing that he could leave within two or
three days. The wound had been superficial and the operation
involved only a small part of the skull. Naturally, it was also necessary
to avoid the slightest blow to the head in order not to compromise
bone welding and scarring of the skin.

"It was a quick intervention. What can cause more trouble is the
concussion, "said Sir Warren. "The effects of trauma may be felt in
several months, or years, in the form of sudden stun, and severe
headaches with the same symptoms of tumors. We have done our
best. Now, if you ask to leave, I must warn you that you can do it at
your own risk. So be careful: no strapazzi. "

The following days passed with exasperating slowness and Graham


cheated time by making plans and trying to remember every detail
that could help him to understand the phenomenon he had
witnessed. No way! It was an authentic dead end! He had to find the
statue again, at all costs. By now it had become an obsession, a mania.
That image was undoubtedly the key to the mystery. As for the
supernatural, cyclopean presence that had been unleashed in the
train compartment, to what extent was it bound to that object?

For the first time in his life Graham regretted not having a trusted
friend to discuss his problems, because he did not dare to talk about it
to strangers. They would probably have laughed at him. He already
seemed to hear them: that poor old Graham! Bad story really. He
looked like such a good guy, and instead looks a bit at what happens
when one works too hard. All right until a certain moment, and then,
all of a sudden, patatrac!

During the hours of forced leisure, the scientist also tried to


reconstruct the guttural syllables he had heard before the disaster:
N'ga n'ga rhthl'g clretl ust s g'lgggar septhulchu ... What meaning
could they have? This too was a puzzle to solve. The only thing certain
in all this crazy story was that, from the moment he had driven
himself into that maze, he had every intention of exploring the
meanderings, whatever the consequences that might derive from it.

***

Modern technology is able to allow things that our fathers did not
even dream of. Thus, three days after the delicate intervention,
Graham was able to leave the hospital, hiding under his hat a suitable
bandage no more cumbersome than necessary. First of all, he bought
all the newspapers that had spoken and still talked about the railway
accident at a kiosk. He read the articles he was interested in carefully
and took a look at the lost item ads.

A paragraph of one of the first articles surprised him enormously. He


said: The causes of the catastrophe, whose budget is nineteen dead
and fifty-seven injured, are still unknown. The testimonies collected
allow us to state that the railway was clear, and excludes any
possibility of sabotage. The train driver, who died shortly after the
disaster, was unable to provide any explanation. He could only state
that the train was on time and that the speed of the train did not
exceed fifty kilometers per hour. He had just embarked on a long
straight, when a terrible blow broke the convoy in two. The
locomotive with the first wagons is derailed, mowing the escarpment
for two hundred meters before the cars clenched around it, blocking
it. Four of the nine train carriages remained flat as if a mountain had
fallen on the cars. Eleven bodies were extracted from the twisted
wrecks. Of the twelve passengers who were in the compartments, only
one was saved. This is the conservator of the Ludbury Museum, which
was hospitalized in serious condition at the Middletown hospital
where they found a cranial fracture ...

In the newspapers of the following days no detail changed the first


news, and the pieces concerning the misfortune were reduced to a few
lines. More recent news enjoyed the honor of the first page that was
particularly concerned with a shipwreck in the Atlantic. But Graham
had had enough of incidents and did not stop to read the report. In no
newspaper, he mentioned the missing suitcase.

After the reading, the scientist called a taxi and had himself brought
home. As soon as he arrived, he hurried to call all the newspapers
because every day, for seven days, they published the following
announcement: Lauta reward for those who will bring back a suitcase
of dark leather, bearing the CEG initials, or its contents in the upper
corner. The suitcase got lost in the Nottington railway disaster.

He later phoned a car hire to give him a good, fast car. A quarter of an
hour later he came into possession of an elegant convertible, and got
behind the wheel, placing a parcel on the seat next to it.

He drove slowly, wandering through the heavy traffic, but just outside
the town, pressed on the accelerator and in an hour came to the place
of disaster. Stopping the car on one side of the provincial, he walked
through a meadow to reach the railway. The rails had already been
repaired, the remains of the convoy carried away. This fact greatly
limited his hopes of finding the luggage. However, Graham began to
search meticulously along both sides of the track, in hedges and on
the side fields. Half a mile away, and not a hole, not a tuft of grass
escaped the search. He found an enormous amount of things, bottles,
packets of cigarettes, buttons, paper cups, chewing-gum strips, and
other items, but he could not find what he was looking for.

He returned to the car and resumed his journey, this time in the
direction of Isling.

Stopping just as long as necessary for a quick breakfast, he arrived at


the village in the early hours of the afternoon. Without losing a
minute, he took the Vadia and arrived at the Devil's Cemetery. He
took the parcel with him, closed the car and entered, heading towards
the point of his previous excavations. A brief glance revealed to him
that no one had set foot in the necropolis after him. Without wasting
time, he began to remove the earth, interrupting himself from time to
time so as not to tire too much. His head was not throbbing painfully,
also because the work did not require excessive effort because the
ground was already loose. He dug for a long time, and his heart gave
him a jump every time the shovel hit a stone. Eventually he came to
the big green plate, and stopped to catch his breath. He was
disappointed and it took him a while to resign himself to failure. So
the statuette was not there!

However he had not gone there just for that. With infinite precaution,
ready to jump away at the slightest hint of danger, he cleaned up the
surface of the headstone until the inscription was completely visible.
Then he took from the package a bottle containing a white powder
with which he covered the whole green shelf. After a moment he blew.
The dust had penetrated the incisions and in this way the inscription
stood out clearly white on the greenish background.

Graham took the camera and flash and took numerous photographs.
For that day his work was finished. He regained the edge of the pit,
expecting to see the emptiness beneath him at any moment, but
nothing happened. When he reached the solid ground, he breathed a
sigh of relief. Some day he would have devoted himself to the
exploration of the chasm that opened up under the headstone, but for
the time being he had to deal with something else.

He returned to the city that was already night. He handed the roll of
film to a museum assistant who had a perfectly equipped dark room
in his house and promised to give him the photographs, developed
and enlarged, for the next morning at nine.

As tired as he was, Graham still had to do something. After having


dined in the usual restaurant, the scientist returned to the house and
stayed at the work table until late at night, noting meticulously all the
data he knew of. Then he took the old notes, the diary of his previous
explorations, the concrete evidence he had accumulated over the
years, and brought it all together.

The following morning he saw the photographs. They had succeeded


perfectly and highlighted every detail. Because his newspaper ads for
the suitcase discovery had not produced any results, Graham thought
that the only way to proceed with the solution of the mystery was to
decipher the inscriptions on the headstone. And this was far from
easy. Even if he could do it, it would take months, and perhaps years,
unless he had a stroke of luck to make him discover the key to the
mysterious language. Which way to start?

***
It was the pronunciation of the mysterious words that put him on the
right path. It seemed to him that there was a relationship between the
incised syllables and the guttural sounds heard in the compartment
the night of the disaster. He made a phone call immediately.

"Hello, Professor Alton? He speaks Graham. Professor, could you


make an appointment for me this morning? ... Yes, it's very
important, and it will interest you too, very much. It is an inscription
that has nothing in common with all those known. Its origin escapes
me completely and in my opinion has no relationship with other
living languages, or death that are ... At eleven? Perfect. I'll be
punctual. "

He hung up the receiver, very satisfied. Alton would have bothered


even in the middle of the night when it came to deciphering a text.
His passion for semantics and his knowledge about it were enormous.
A distinguished philologist, Professor Alton had revolutionized the
field of general linguistics with his treatises on Polynesian languages,
and had the reputation of being the best expert on Maya civilization.
Graham knew him well because Alton always went to the Museum to
look at all the new signing purchases. At the time the professor was
working on a comparative study of spoken but not written African
dialects.

At the set time, Graham found himself in Alton's office at the


University. He immediately submitted to him the photographs taken
at Isling and a sheet on which he had faithfully reported the sounds
heard on the train. Alton looked at the pictures for a long time,
looking puzzled.

"Where is the original?" He asked finally.

"In Isling, near Stonehenge."

"At Isling," Alton repeated. He seemed very surprised.

"Yup. I took these pictures myself. And on that sheet is marked what I
think is the approximate pronunciation of some words. "
Alton took an interest in the archaeologist's notes and his lips silently
phrased the incomprehensible phrases. His forehead frowned as if he
were facing a problem that was either too difficult or too worrisome.

"Um ... Back to Sanskrit," he murmured. "A modification of an Ulong


chant. It seems rather Sanskrit and Ulonga together ... And it was
here, in England!" He raised his head and looked at Graham. "Can
you leave me these pictures? I think I can help you. I do not promise
you a complete translation, but I will do my best. I need to look at
some recordings I made in Africa a few years ago. "

That said, he seemed to completely forget Graham's presence, and he


plunged back into the study of the photographs. The archaeologist
came out of the University with the feeling of having finally made a
step forward.

If Alton had failed, and had not found the statuette, everything would
have returned to its initial state, unless the green stone led to a new
trail. But Professor Alton's knowledge was so vast that Graham was
hoping firmly in at least partial success.

Before returning, he phoned the various newspapers to get news of


his insertion, but without success. He then devoted himself to his
annotations, to which he added the newspaper articles on the railway
disaster. To do this he took a pair of scissors and began to cut out the
sheets that interested him. The first newspaper gave a complete
description of the event accompanied by photographs. The second
reported only a summary of the fact with the addition of some
negligible detail and the assumptions about the cause of the accident.
Flipping through the third, Graham was attracted by a flashy title that
occupied the entire front page, and began to read the article.
Suddenly a sentence made him wince: ... A greenish cloud enveloped
the ship when the merchant Ravlinsne crossed the route at about
midnight ...

Graham quickly saw the list of passengers, but recognized only two
names: Farrell Dan ... Marsh Joane ...
He began to read from the beginning with the utmost attention.

Three days earlier, in Nottington, Dan Farrell had finally managed to


get up on his feet and looked around. What happened? He had heard
a left crunch followed by a bump and the whining noise of the steam
coming out of the boilers uncontrolled, he had seen a glow of fire
while the night resounded with screams and moans. But he was not
hurt, at least he seemed. Probably the blow had thrown him out of the
compartment's open door, and he had fainted. Nearby there was a
man with a bad head wound. A little farther away, from a pile of
twisted metal, a female arm appeared. The red-enamelled nails had
something incongruous. The woman's body must have been crushed
under the heavy metal door.

Dan moved away feeling the sound of a sudden braking. Two


lighthouses lit the road two hundred meters from him, and some men
got out of the car and rushed towards the place of the derailment
carrying some stretchers. Other ambulances were waiting with the big
doors wide open.

Farrell had no intention of offering his help to the rescue teams,


because his only desire was to get away from that place as soon as
possible. The ship on which he had reserved a cabin would have
raised the anchor the next day at noon, and he absolutely had to
embark. It is true that there were still twelve hours left, but it was not
prudent to take risks: lost that ship, there would not have been others
for several days, and it was useless to hope to find a place on a plane:
he had tried and knew that all the places were already booked until
the end of the month.

If everything happened according to his calculations, it would be a


few days before they found the woman's body, and the identification
would have required an even greater time because the police would
have faced a very difficult problem. Also, how could a possible
investigation establish a link between the murdered woman and Dan
Farrell? He was absolutely convinced that he would not be involved in
that story. However, if the police had come to think of wanting to
question him, he would have been in the United States for quite some
time.

Dan Farrell wondered what time it was. In the fall, the glass and the
hands of his wristwatch had broken. Judging by the number of people
gathered at the scene of the accident, he must have been fainting
about an hour. He glanced at the battered wagon. The two suitcases,
with all his clothes reduced somehow, had remained under the
wreckage. Luckily in the baggage there was no document through
which to trace back to the owner. So the loss was not so important,
and he was abundantly supplied with money.

He walked along the embankment. Almost immediately he stumbled


over something soft, leaned over and saw a suitcase of medium size.
He picked it up, marveling that it could weigh so much. He thought of
taking it with him, to have a more natural appearance if the police
were nearby.

He met some men running in the opposite direction and asking him
questions to which Farrell answered randomly. Voices and calls.
Nurses who came and went carrying stretchers. On one of these he
noticed an unconscious man, whose head was tightened by a
makeshift bandage. In the light of the lamps Dan believed he
recognized the archaeologist with whom he had had a conversation at
the Ludbury Museum two weeks before, but he was not sure.

Ambulances and other cars were stationary along the railway track.
Dan Farrell made his way to a place where the machines were more
numerous and, looking like someone who looked as if he belonged to
a doctor, made sure that the key was inserted into the dashboard,
then, after a quick glance around, went up to the bardo the suitcase
found and started moving away undisturbed. For half an hour at least
the owner of the car would not have noticed the disappearance, and in
half an hour he would have had a good advantage over the police.
Arriving in the suburbs of London, Dan Farrell left the car in a
deserted street, and grabbed the suitcase and walked to the nearest
taxi rank. He had a few blocks away and then looked for another taxi.
Shortly thereafter he abandoned this too. He used two more public
cars before arriving in full city, the ideal place to make his tracks
more easily lost.

At dawn, after cooling off and tidying up in a public toilet, he entered


a restaurant where he ate a breakfast of creamed bananas, two fried
eggs, orange marmalade, and three cups of coffee. As soon as the
newspapers were sold, he hastened to buy one.

He quickly glimpsed the article about the Nottington disaster and


took a satisfied sigh to see that no mention was made of a woman's
murder.

Shortly thereafter, Dan got on the train to Southampton, where he


came to get everything he could use for the trip, including a razor, a
packet of borate talcum, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shirts, ties, socks, a
pair of pajamas, a dressing gown and a wristwatch.

In his euphoria, he also bought two bottles of Scotch and a suitcase to


hold it all together.

An hour before the start, Dan Farrell climbed the boardwalk of the
Western Queen, and settled on board.

***

The Western Queen was a modern and luxurious one-class ship, of


lower tonnage than the other Queen's of the same shipping company
that crossed the Atlantic in four days.

Entrusted the baggage to a steward, the man remained on the bridge,


impatient to see the anchor raised. Leaning on the parapet with an
indifferent air, he watched the other passengers who alone or in
groups waited like him to watch the departure. From the movement
on the bridges he had the impression that the ship was not fully
loaded for that journey. Suddenly he jumped feeling fixed. He turned
his head and met a woman's gaze. He felt the blood give him a violent
shock, and to disguise his distress, he searched his pockets for the
pack of cigarettes. He lit one, and took a deep breath before turning
again to the passenger. The stranger's eyes were still fixed on him.

He could have been twenty-five or twenty-six, Dan settled. The soft,


well-modeled body, and all in his attitude, made one think of a cat's
agility. The mouth, with full lips, had a cruel fold on the corners.
Skilfully made up face, it was more interesting than beautiful. The
fine and delicate features contrasted the eyes too far from each other
above the high cheekbones. The color of those eyes was so light blue
that Dan was amazed. He had never seen such eyes, liquid and
transparent. The woman wore a very simple gray suit but with a
refined cut. Around the neck left uncovered, a large gold chain stood
out. But what struck most was the hair: fine, soft and fluffy, of an
ebony black on the right side, became streaked with silver in the
middle, while on the left they were completely white, dazzling white.
This peculiarity gave her a young and old air together: it seemed that
two different women were cast in her. White hairs were ringed on her
shoulders, her black hair was raised on her forehead in a soft fold.

Those hair fascinated him. Throwing his cigarette, he headed steadily


towards the beautiful woman, supporting his inquiring gaze.

"Amazing!" He said when he was near her. "I know it should not
concern me ... but are they true?"

"Oh yes. That's how they are born. "

The sound of the voice also troubled him. It was low and vibrant with
limited intensity. Dan's eyes came down from his hair to his eyes,
mouth, neck ... He had a magnificent neck, which reminded him of
another woman, whose throat no longer palpitated and that lay where
the sun could not reach her.

The stranger's voice pulled him away from his thoughts.

"Something wrong? Have you discovered any defects? "


"No. I admired your necklace. It is very good for you. Gold fits
beautifully with black and white. "

She smiled.

"To be a man who does not shave, speak in a refined way."

The smile gave warmth to his mouth, which in the change earned us:
the lips gained more charm.

"I spent a night and a very busy morning," the man replied. Then,
remembering an elementary standard of etiquette, he added, "My
name is Dan Farrell."

"And me, Joane Marsh."

"Are you traveling alone?"

"Yup."

"Married?"

He hesitated for a moment before replying, "I do not know."

The answer was so unusual that Farrell, stunned, did not know what
to say.

"Are you surprised?" The woman asked candidly.

"My God, yes ... Women usually know it when they're married ..."

"Are you American?"

"Yup. I arrived in England a month ago, on business. "

"It's inexplicable then that my name did not tell you anything," the
girl said. "Joane Marsh and Thomas Marsh. Do not you know? "

"Excuse me, but I still can not understand," said Dan, after having
unnecessarily questioned his memory.

"I'm American too," she said. "I met Tom three years ago when he
came to New York on business. I married him and followed him to
England. Tom was very wealthy, he owned an old knives factory in
Sheffield, and a vast estate in the country. A year ago he disappeared."

Since Mrs. Marsh did not show the slightest emotion, Dan considered
himself exempt from pragmatic phrases and merely commented: "It
is not the first case of its kind. Cigarette?"

"Thanks," the woman agreed.

He lit one too. Joane turned her head a little to blow the smoke, then
went on: "She had to go to Paris where she had an appointment with
an industrialist. It has just disappeared on the eve of departure. I
offered a reward of fifty pounds to anyone who had given me any
useful information to find his tracks, dead or alive. The insurance
company added fifty others, but it did not help. "

"Is not there a case of amnesia?"

"I do not know what to think," she said, shrugging. "Research has
been done by both the British and French police, newspapers have
been talking about this disappearance for days. The authorities have
searched the area, meter by meter, the lakes have been dredged, but
everything turned out to be useless. Of course he would have had his
extra-marital relations like everyone else, but nobody ever knew
anything about it. Perhaps he was killed by a rival who then concealed
his body. Or maybe it's still alive. Or he got tired of his job and family,
and decided to disappear without a trace. I do not know. This has
been a very difficult year for me. Loneliness, the chatter of people, the
suspicions of friends. It is only recently that our acquaintances have
begun to accept the fact as it is and to show again their sympathy. I've
long wanted a trip, I felt the need, and suddenly ... you."

"Me?" Dan did not understand what he had to do with Mr. Marsh's
story.

She stood in front of him, her head slightly bent backwards. In the
blue eyes Dan saw a light so alive and dangerous pass by, to remind
him of the electric spark that one day had seen flashing between the
anode and the cathode of an apparatus during a demonstration
experiment. He felt uncomfortable under that gaze from the
mysterious power. It seemed to him that Joane was looking at him
with strange greed.

"Oh yes, Dan," the girl replied. "You remind me of Tom. You are tall
like him because even at Tom I was just behind me, the same hair
always messed up, the same face now hard now teasing. And I bet you
also have the same weight ... Eighty-five kilograms, is not it? "

"Eighty-four," Dan said. "You can say that you have guessed, anyway."
He waved his cigarette butt across the railing and added, "How about
meeting at five for a cocktail before dinner? »

"With great pleasure, Dan. Come and get me in my cabin."

"All right, Joane. At five, then. "

"I'm at number thirty-seven."

"Very well, we're close. I occupy fifty-nine. And do not think about the
past anymore. That your husband is dead or has lost his memory, or
that he has turned away from his will, has already caused you enough
sorrow. You do not owe anything to him, and for me you're just ...
Joane. "

"All right," said the girl with a smile. "See you soon!"

Dan went to his cabin without looking back.

After shaving and taking a cold shower, he felt better, but he was very
tired. The last twenty-four hours had been intense events for him, and
he had not slept for an hour. He lay down on the bed and almost
immediately heard the sirens announcing the ship's departure. A few
minutes, and then the swaying of the sea.

The journey had begun well, he told himself, thinking of Joane and
her incredible hair. She was an exceptional woman! Cradled by the
roll, Dan fell asleep.
***

He woke up at five fifteen. If hunger did not wake him up, who knows
until he would have slept. She quickly got dressed for complaining
about being late for the appointment with Joane. Moving quickly to
the cabin, he hit his foot in his suitcase and wondered what it
contained. He was curious to know, but now he did not have time to
look.

At half past five, he knocked the cabin thirty-seven.

"Come in, Dan," the woman's voice answered immediately.

It was a real apartment, the one occupied by Joane. The lounge alone
was larger than the whole of Dan's cabin, and was lavishly mahogany
furnished. Some armchairs brightened the environment and made it
comfortable. In one corner was a spacious sofa, and next to it, a table
with a radio. Joane was not in the living room. Farrell appeared at the
room and saw a large bed, also in mahogany, with a pink brocade
blanket. To one side of the bed a delightful desk, and on the other side
a toilet with a three-light mirror. A closet, open, let her see its
luxurious and abundant content. In one corner, some leather
suitcases marked by the monogram JM On the bed there was a fluffy
dressing gown, a nightgown, and an evening dress. Everything in
there denoted that Joane loved luxury and could give it to her.

The woman's voice called to him from a half-open door.

"Yes," he said.

"I'm not ready yet. Desolate to make me wait, but I'm going out now
from the shower. I'll do it quickly, though, you'll see! "

Dan thought he would have to apologize for the delay, but Joane did
not give him the time.

"Do you want to be so kind as to look for my lipstick in my purse?"

"Immediately."
The bag was on the toilet, and Dan searched among the thousand
things that a woman usually carries. A gold cigarette case came into
his hands and, among other things, an old newspaper clipping that
spoke of the disappearance of Thomas Marsh. The article reported the
description of the deceased, and Dan was surprised that he was not
accompanied by a photograph. Finally he found the lipstick and
announced triumphantly: "Here it is! What should I do?"

"Bring it to me, please," was the reply.

The American approached the bathroom door, and he thought he


heard a murmur immediately interrupted.

Joane was sitting in front of a mirror, her arms raised in her gesture
of combing. He wore a short terry bathrobe that was fastened by a
belt at the waist. The jacket just reached her knees and slipped back
and left her beautiful legs completely uncovered. His body was tanned
evenly, like his face.

The woman turned slightly towards him.

"Thank you, dear," he said in a voice that seemed a careless caress. He


put the lipstick on the glass shelf in the middle of the other beauty
products, then turned completely towards Dan. The neckline of the
bathrobe revealed the beginning of the well-shaped breast.

"I'm not very practical about these gadgets," Joane said, holding out
an electric razor. "I usually use another system" and raised his arms
in a meaningful gesture.

The American felt himself upset by the same disturbance that had
taken him a few hours earlier on the bridge. Fingering indifference,
he examined the razor and started it.

He felt under his fingers the warmth of the vibrant skin of vitality, the
saliva to the nostrils the intense scent of a refined product. After the
depilation of an armpit, he passed to the other, turning the woman on
the mobile seat with a slight pressure on the shoulders. He saw the
surprising division of hair on the nape of his neck. Two colors did not
follow a straight line, but merged in a circle so that the white part was
much wider: there was no doubt that it was a natural color.

Dan had finished in a few minutes.

"I think that's fine," he said, pulling the razor off.

"I could not have done better," Joane replied, feeling the softness of
her skin with her fingertips.

"Need anything else?"

"No thanks."

Laying the razor on the shelf, Dan watched. "Your tan is perfect."

"In my property there is a secluded grove near a pond. I took my


sunbathing there all summer. "

"And no white areas?" He asked wryly.

Joane raised her head and met Dan's gaze in the mirror.

"The journey has just begun," he replied in a tone full of implications.

The man came out of the bathroom and returned to the living room to
allow his heart to resume the normal rhythm. He could not quite
understand that woman, he did not know what to think of the story
he had told him and his modest ways. It seemed that he did not care
about the conveniences and subverted all the rules of good manners.

Shortly thereafter Joane appeared wearing a short white jacket open


on a pink salmon-colored blouse. The skirt was in light blue
laminated fabric.

Dan looked at her for a long time, admired.

"I do not know how I should prefer you," he said, "if now ... or
before."

***
The Western Queen bar was almost empty. Most of the passengers
had already moved into the dining room, but the ones who remained
cast long glances at Joane.

They sat at a table, and Dan ordered a double whiskey for both.

"It's already late," he said to his companion. "We'll have to go to


dinner soon, and I'm in the mood to celebrate our meeting right
away."

"Me too, Dan," the woman murmured. "I seem to have woken up
from a nightmare. I'm really happy to have met you. Nothing could
have happened to me! "

"Once shaved, of course!"

"Sure," she said, laughing. "Now it's much better. You really needed
it, you know! "

And you would not , Dan would have liked to say, thinking back to the
bathroom scene, but he just said, "As for you, you're wonderful. The
other women give envy from all the pores, and men are dying to meet
you. You are really fascinating! "

The waiter served them the whiskey, and Dan raised his glass.

"I drink in black and white," he exclaimed. "By the way, is it that way
everywhere?"

"It is up to you, my dear, to find the answer," said Joane, lightly


touching her companion's glass with her glass.

Dan emptied the glass in one gulp. Joane's eyes seemed to be in sync
with his, in fact the woman put the empty glass in the same instant.

"Very well," Dan said, and ordered two more whiskeys.

"I do not know how far I can hold your head," she said. "It's the first
time I've been drinking alcohol for a year."

"It's never too early to make up for lost time."


"Yes, I want to recover it, in fact. I want to have everything, and
immediately. And with interests, too. "

This statement gave Farrell a curious sensation. Joane had put in her
words a greed and a passion that suggested to be on guard, but at the
same time seduced him.

"After all, this is your first day of freedom," he said.

"It's true, and it excites me."

"I hope the end will be as exciting as the beginning. We drink at a


long and gay evening. "

"And I hope our friendship will last longer, forever."

Dan looked at the hands holding the glass. He had long, tapered and
nervous fingers, and he carried no faith. Interesting hands, like
everything in her.

" Always saying , it's too much," he retorted. "Let's say up to New
York."

"Do you stop in New York?"

"Just enough time to fly to Minneapolis."

"I've never pushed that far. Is that where you live? "

"In Minneapolis, there's the headquarters of my company. It's a


cereal export company. "

"Is it your company that you came to England?"

"Partly yes. But I also had other reasons, in particular a visit to the
Ludbury Museum to consult some documents on the methods used in
the Egypt of the Pharaohs to grind grain and bake bread. We plan to
do an advertising campaign centered on the history of wheat. "

"The Ludbury Museum? I went there a couple of times with Tom. Did
you know the conservative? It's called ... Let's see if I remember ...
Graham, I think. "

"Yes I know him. It is he who helped me in my research. "

"He's a good man, if I remember correctly. But women do not interest


him much. By the way, you did not tell me if you're married. "

"I'm not right now."

"Have you been?"

Dan shrugged nonchalantly, saying, "She left with someone else. I


divorced. "

"And have not you seen her again?"

"Only once," Dan replied sharply. "He wrote to me, but I did not like
his letter and I never answered. But I reviewed it. "

"Did you find it different?"

"Quite a lot of."

"Would you come back with her if she asked?"

"Great God, no!" Farrell answered, and he felt a shiver snake down
his back. He emptied his glass in one gulp, and added: "All this is
dead and buried, we forget the past a good time and deal with the
present."

"This whiskey starts to take effect. I do not know what you're going to
do to me, and I do not mind. "A small pause, then she continued:"
Dan! "

"Yup."

"Nothing ... only: Dan."

Joane looked away for a moment to finish her whiskey. Dan looked at
her. She did not feel happy or unhappy, she simply let herself go and
enjoy Joane's presence. And Joane had a strange and unknown force
on him.
"Let's go to the dining room before it's too late," he suggested. "I have
a fair appetite. Are you going to change for dinner? "

"I wanted to do it, in your honor, but I feel a little dizzy."

As they were leaving the bar, Dan stopped at the desk, saying, "Do not
you get offended if I drink another?"

"In this case I'll keep you company."

"Are you sure it's not too much for you, after a whole year of
abstinence?"

"I do not believe it at all."

Farrell ordered two plain whiskeys and had himself serve separately.

"I do not know exactly what I'll toast, this time, my dear, but I do not
have any particular taste, provided it's for the best."

"For the best and for the worst I hope!" She said in a dull voice.

"I can not understand you," he murmured, looking at her, perplexed.

"You'll see ..."

A cruel smile surfaced on Joane's full lips. Indeed, more than cruel,
enigmatic, provocative and at the same time diabolic and satisfied. He
looked at the beautiful mouth for a long time, then drank gleefully.
The girl moistened her lips, anticipating the pleasant heat of the
alcohol and drank in turn.

"This scotch is divine, dear," he said. "I love drinking. I really have to
thank you for giving me this pleasure. "

In the dining room, Joane remained silent until the last course. On
several occasions Dan felt the weight of those unlikely eyes on him: he
felt himself studied by a look that was greedy and at the same time
absent, far away. After a sumptuous dinner, Farrell began to feel the
effect of alcohol.
They had just tasted some glazed meringues, with a cup of coffee,
when Joane said, "I'd better lie down for a moment, I do not feel very
firm on my legs."

He accompanied her to the door of the cabin, watching her walk with
agile and harmonious steps almost floating along the corridor. The
excellent dinner seemed to have softened his mood: he smiled
amiably.

"Are you sure you feel good?" Dan asked.

"Very sure, my dear," he answered, laughing. Then: "Do you like


dancing?"

"Sometimes. If you want we can dance tonight. I think they start at


nine. "

"Great, Dan! Come and get me at half past nine. "

"With pleasure, my dear."

They left, and even the American retired to his cabin. He felt slightly
stunned by the drunk whiskey, the afternoon sleep he was not used to
and the hearty meal, and he wanted to lie down for a couple of hours.
He was already about to lie down when his eyes fell on the suitcase,
and Farrell decided to examine the contents to see if he had a happy
hand. He put the bag over the bed and opened it. Its contents
surprised him somewhat: a pickaxe, a shovel, a hammer ...

His hands trembled visibly when he grabbed that stuff and threw it
from the porthole. "Damn, what a mess," he grumbled between his
teeth. "If I thought these damn tools would come to haunt me ..."

From his suitcase he took off a bottle and took a long drink of liquor.
The strong liquid burned his throat. Big drops of sweat beaded his
forehead. He threw down a glass of water to dilute the alcohol, and
went back to the strange suitcase with the right nerves. On the bottom
there were only a few things left without importance and an object
wrapped in a piece of canvas, very heavy. Dan removed everything,
and with some effort he managed to get the suitcase through the
porthole. Again that object, and it would free itself of that sinister
burden. He untied the canvas and found a small green statue in his
hands.

***

Evidently the whiskey played bad jokes at his sight, because he could
not distinguish well the contours of the figurine nor to understand
what it represented. It seemed to him that he constantly changed
form, and this feeling made him uncomfortable. The object held in his
hands emanated a strange force: it seemed to provoke a sort of
hypnotic charm absorbing all his attention, and at the same time
impressed him with his mysterious qualities.

A shudder shook the American who, tearing himself from his


enchantment, returned to wrap the statue in the piece of canvas and
approached the porthole once more. But, strangely enough, he could
not lift his arms enough to get to the opening. The sweat now flowed
down from his forehead, moistening his cheeks and chin. Definitely
the whiskey had deprived him of all his strength, or perhaps it was the
statuette that weighed more than it had seemed before.

He gave up his attempts, and thrusting his bundle under his arm,
went out. Passing in front of Joane's booth he saw the door open and
the woman standing thoughtfully. He had no desire to stop and
simply said: "I'm in a hurry. I have an urgent thing to do. "

She nodded her head for understanding.

At that moment the bundle slipped from under the American's arm.
He did not have time to grab it and, slipping from the canvas, the
statue fell heavily on the ground. Dan was quick to pick it up and he
fervently hoped that Joane had not seen her, then, furious with rage
against that damned object, he quickly left without turning around
and went upstairs.

The night was clear and warm. A round, yellow moon like a lemon
shone high in the sky to the east. The Western Queen slid on the
placid calm sea.

Dan swore to himself at the clear night and the coolness of the salty
air: there were passengers everywhere. Some smoked quietly leaning
against the railing, others enjoyed the cool stretched on deck chairs,
others still paced up and down. He would not be able to throw the
little package over the parapet without attracting anyone's attention.
The only way to go unnoticed was to lift the statue up to the right
point and let it sink into the sea, but it did not have sufficient
strength.

He walked the whole walk, went into the corridor, explored every
corner, but there were people everywhere. Here, sailors intent on
their work, there sweethearts exchanged sweet words, and still
solitary shadows in contemplation. Still with the statuette under his
arm, Dan returned below deck. Halfway between the beginning of the
corridor and his cabin he saw a metal door next to a fire pump. The
PRI. There were other rolled pumps inside. He took a quick look
around to make sure he was not observed, then drove the package
under the big roll, closed the door and walked away, feeling a great
comfort in not feeling more possession of the horrible statuette. Even
more he reassured him that he noticed that Joane's door was
closed.He did not want to be seen at all in the pitiful state in which he
had to have reduced the tension of that hour.

He returned to the cabin and gave himself free to the tremor that
shook him. A bit 'of whiskey, here's what we wanted. He poured
himself a glass and went to hit him on the bed, where he lay down
until he felt better. Looking at his watch, he realized with surprise
that it was already ten o'clock. He had made an appointment with
Joane for half past nine! Damn, it would be late again! The idea was
comforted a little that she too was probably not ready. Anyway, late or
not, he had to take a good shower to get back on track.

He undressed and prepared clean linen on the bed. He also allowed


himself the luxury of a cigarette before getting stuck under the water.
The coolness of the shower gave him a sense of great well-being and
completely changed the disposition of his spirit, so much so that he
was surprised to whistle a song. He smiled remembering the title: As
you appear to me this night. But suddenly the smile froze on his lips.
The blissful expression of pleasure disappeared from his face as soon
as he realized that the phrase could refer to someone other than
Joane. For what unfortunate event, among the thousand songs in
vogue, had it come to mind just that?

He rubbed his face and neck. The scent of the soap also irritated him:
he smelled of roses, a scent too sweet that he hated. In the warehouse
where he had made purchases, he had limited himself to asking the
salesman for the most expensive soap, thinking that the quality went
hand in hand with the price ... And now ... Damn! The smell of roses
reminded him of the flowers, and the flowers in his mind were
associated only with the chambers of the sick ... or at the funeral.

He continued to lather his chest and shoulders with energy, and


meanwhile he thought he was doing terribly late. He opened the tap
completely.

"Tom!" Said a voice.

Dan felt his skin crawl.

"Tom!" The voice repeated.

Dan turned around. The jet of water hit him full on his shoulders, he
ran all over his body spraying around, but it was not enough to slow
the beats of his heart that seemed crazy. Joane was there, in front of
him, framed in the doorway, transfigured by an ecstasy. The blue of
his eyes had acquired the mysterious and infinite splendor of the
stars, the hair scattered on the shoulders shone on one side like a ray
of the moon, but on the other the dark black of a stormy night
thickened. Fascinated, Dan stared without understanding that
amazing beauty and the absolute, unreal contrast of his hair. Joane
wore a white silk nightgown, with a high waistline, Direttorio
style.The silk seemed to melt on the small feet shod with flat sandals
that left the nails well groomed and enamelled with the same blood
red color used for the hands. The bust of the long shirt was a lace
worked in large sweaters and left a glimpse of the breasts in stark
contrast to the castigatissime folds of the skirt.

The woman held the statue in her arms.

The greenish shape with uncertain contours emitted a phantom glow


and vibrated against Joane's chest, which held her tightly. Her breasts
seemed to have a life of their own and tended toward the little idol.

"Tom ..."

The voice was just a soft murmur and said, "You do not care to be
under water, between the white and red rocks, all around you, are not
you? You're not angry with me because I hid you in the pond, right?
You know, I dived to push the barrel into that crevasse and then I
stacked stones and sand on the opening, so no one will notice it. But
you're not angry with me, are you, Tom? "

"No," Dan murmured, and he could hardly recognize his own voice,
hoarse and far away.

The words that Joane whispered had the magic of a story.

"... I knew you did not have it with me. That's why I came every day to
sit down by the pond. Every day of the summer, to talk with you. And
in the winter, when there is fog. And then again throughout the new
summer. But for you there are no more seasons ... Summer ...
Winter ... Everything is the same for you, in that deep water, in the
endless darkness."

The tension grew until it became unbearable. Under the ever-violent


jet of water, Dan turned on himself and clung frantically to the tap.
The shower stopped abruptly when Dan turned around again, Joane
had disappeared. The American heard the thud of the outer door,
which closed again. He grabbed a towel and wiped away in panic. All
his movements revealed a violent emotion, and he felt approaching
the moment when a monstrous curse would be accomplished. Did
Joane spy on him when he was hiding the statue? Had he found the
evil idol while he was in a sleepwalking crisis, or had he been
inexplicably drawn to it? Had he really killed her husband or
imagined he had done it after having tormented a year about his
disappearance?

Impossible to know, and that was not the time to waste time in
assumptions. It was necessary for the diabolical statuette to end at sea
immediately. He would have thrown it from the bridge's parapet even
if his gesture had witnesses. He quickly slipped on his dressing gown
and slippers and opened the door to the corridor. Nobody.

Arriving in front of the cabin number thirty-seven, he knocked. Not


receiving an answer, he tried the handle he gave, and Dan entered. He
closed the door carefully, remained a few seconds still listening.
Silence. How long had Joane left him? Five minutes? Dan headed for
the room.

The Directoire style shirt was on the back of an armchair, Joane lay
down, and the blanket left her beautiful shoulders bare. Her eyes
were closed and her features relaxed, but a bright red colored her
cheeks. Her hair, widened on the pillow, made her a crown. One arm
rested along the body, the other was folded over his chest, and his
fingers gripped the green statuette.

Dan wondered how she could bear the enormous weight, yet, the
heavy image lifted and lowered according to the rhythm of Joane's
breathing.

An indistinct murmur came from the girl's almost immobile lips. Dan
listened but could not understand anything about the intelligible
succession of guttural syllables: N'ga n'ga rhthl'g clretl ìtst s g'lgggar
...

The American had the impression that an intense radiation emanated


from the vibrating statuette and seemed to follow, for its incessant
transformations, a well-established pattern, suggesting the idea of an
immense expansion followed by an improbable contraction. Who
knows if Dan heard, coming from the infinite, the words of response
to that bizarre song? Who knows if he listened to the impersonal
syllables as sounds brought by the sea to echo in the huge caverns of
space?

The American slowly approached the bed. In the thrill of her


thoughts, in the recall of the nightmare, even terrified at the idea of
touching the diabolical doll, she advanced with her hands
outstretched.

Joane narrowed her eyes, filtering through the lashes a dazed look
that bewitched him.

"Tom," the woman murmured.

Dan tried to get hold of the idol, but his nervous female fingers
gripped his wrists with superhuman strength. The statue slipped from
Joane's breasts and Dan tried to grab her with his free hand, but the
woman girdled him around the neck with his other arm, drawing him
to her.

A noise from the outside world drew Dan from his delirium, and he
stood up on his elbow looking around.

"The electric razor!" He exclaimed completely dazed.

Through the open door he saw, on the crystal plane, the electric razor
vibrating, emitting its characteristic buzz. But the plug was not
plugged in.

He turned his eyes back to Joane: he was holding the cursed figure
against his side, whose vibrations were now so intense that it was no
longer possible to distinguish the shape. Everything around there
seemed wrapped in magical green waves.

The woman suddenly raised her hand in a convulsive gesture, and her
red fingernails scratched at his chest. The pain immobilized him, his
eyes looked fascinated at the drops of blood falling on Joane's breast.

"Dan," she moaned. "Oh, Dan!"


***

The Merchant Rawlins, which was heading for Plymouth, crossed the
Western Queen at about midnight. The second officer, who was
leaning on the parapet of the tribord, chewed his cigar and allowed
himself a unapausa in the inspection, was the only evidence of the
tragedy. The steamer moved away to the west. Suddenly he was
enveloped in a mysterious green glow. For a moment the great light
seemed suspended above the ship like a fantastic cloud, then followed
the thickest darkness. A moment later, there was only the furious
bubbling of the sea, to the west, at the point where the Western
Queen had sunk.

The circumstances that had caused the sinking of the Western Queen
remained one of those mysteries not solvable like the one that
surrounded the destiny of the Cyclops.

The hint that the newspapers made of the green cloud caught
Graham's attention, guessing the presence aboard the lost statue. He
thought that in the confusion created after the train accident someone
had mistakenly exchanged his suitcase with his own, then carrying it
with him on board the ship. And if the green idol was on the steamer,
it was dripped down with it. Unless…

Recalling the singular qualities of the statuette, Graham wondered if


it was possible that he could really get lost. Where was he at that
moment? At the bottom of the Atlantic? As it was already back once
at. Devil's Graveyard, could have returned there again!

In a couple of days, Alton would give him the report on the curious
symbols, and even a partial translation would be invaluable.

Graham continued to leaf through the old notes, to see more


information as possible. He had detailed reports on the excavations of
Stonehenge, Angkor, Easter Island and the Great Golden Quadrant of
Nyamba. He would also have to consult some large volumes on
rituals, religious ceremonies of certain tribes, superstitions, taboos
and black magic, but it seemed to him preferable to resume his
research from the point where he had interrupted them in an attempt
to find out what was hidden. under the green stone of Isling.

He spent all afternoon in the preparations. He knew exactly what


tools he would need, but it took time to gather them all together.

He also needed the assistance of at least two men, and Graham


hesitated a long time before making his choice. Finally it was decided
for Bjort Liska, a young archaeologist, an employee of the Ludbury
Museum, with whom he had already done some research in England,
and for the son of the goalkeeper, Thomas, a robust and trustworthy
man, though not very intelligent.

Itre men left for Isling the next morning, and at midday they arrived
at the Devil's Cemetery. Even that day the air was damp and
suffocating, and the sky seemed dimmed by a veil of steam due to the
heat.

Graham and his companions made a quick snack based on stuffed


sandwiches and black coffee which they had abundantly provided by
filling some thermos.

"I swear it's the first time I've had breakfast in a cemetery," Thomas
said, looking at the tombstones surrounding him.

"There is no quieter place," Liska said calmly, with the obvious


intention of making him courage. "Nobody disturbs you, and you can
stay there as long as you like. I will never forget when, in the
anatomical hall of the University, I absently placed my ham-stuffed
sandwich on ... "

"I do not know how you could have eaten in such a place," Thomas
interrupted, shaking his head in disgust. "My appetite would
suddenly pass."

"Oh, it's all a matter of habit. The human stomach does not care much
of what goes on around it. "
"Not mine, though," Thomas mumbled.

"I start digging," Graham said, standing up. "When you have finished
it will be good for you to get the material out of the car. But you do
not have to hurry, I'll have at least an hour. "

Graham began to remove the earth. He worked without haste,


methodically, often stopping to dry his forehead. The heat was really
unnerving. From time to time the voices of Liska and Thomas were
coming to unload the equipment from the rented van.

When the blade finally hit the green slab, Graham came out of the
hole. The winch had already been placed in the right position. The
scientist made sure that it was firmly planted in the ground, checked
the mechanism carefully, then secured the sides of the belt to which
one end of the cable was attached.

"Always keep the rope taut," he advised Thomas, "or you'll drop me
into this sort of trap that I'll try to open now. There is a secret closure,
and if it suddenly opens, I will find myself suspended in the void, and
I do not care at all to fall for who knows how many meters. "

"Nor to be cut in two by the cable," Thomas said, laughing.

"Exactly," Graham said, not sharing the other's cheerfulness.

"Do not worry," Thomas assured him. "I will carefully watch the
winch."

Graham returned to lower himself in the pit, and freed the stone from
the remaining earth. Once again he bent down in fascination with the
inscription that had come out of the mists of time. With a violent
memory effort he tried to remember with the utmost exactness the
gestures with which he had already caused the operation of the
mechanism and repeated them as faithfully as possible, touching with
his fingers the furrows of the circles, pyramids, cubes and lines.
straight. And once again, inexplicably, the impossible repeated itself:
the stone disappeared as if dissolved in the air. There were no hinges
on which he could turn, or levers that could have pushed her, yet
there was no longer any trace of the solid matter on which a moment
before Graham was setting foot ...archaeologist felt around the waist
the pressure of the belt held by the cable that had stretched holding it
suspended in space. Below him, the most intense black, and the
attraction of a very deep well sinking in the bowels of the earth.

Where was the green stone? And how to replace it if necessary?

Graham shivered and called Thomas.

Removing his feet to the ground at the edge of the hole, the scientist
freed himself of the cable and then, turning to Liska, said, "There you
go, the door is open. What's down there, nobody knows. As I
explained to you yesterday, it may be that the descent into that well
carries a great risk. If you want, you're still in time to refuse to follow
me ... "

"I'm coming with you," Liska replied after glancing at the grave.

A kind of canvas spacecraft, from the rigid bottom, was attached to


the cable. Arranged on the bottom all the tools useful for the
mysterious descent, Graham gave the last instructions to Thomas.

"Whatever happens, do not move from here," he told him. "We may
be there for a long time, maybe even all afternoon if we find
something interesting. Now be careful: do not try to reach us, for any
reason. When you have touched the bottom, you will attach the safety
device to the cable. We will give ourselves a tear on the rope that will
trigger the alarm bell as soon as we are ready to go back. Only then
will you have to operate the engine. The automatic winch will do the
rest. "

"It seems easy to me," Thomas replied. "Can I take a nap while you're
down there?"

"Do whatever you want, as long as you do not move away."

Graham and Liska climbed into the ship whose edges reached them
behind.
"I would say it's impossible to fall out," said Liska.

"We're ready," Graham warned. "Give up the cable, Thomas!"

Walls of a gray, smooth green, without the slightest crack, began to


slip past their eyes. They seemed to be of the same substance as the
stone that had covered the entrance to the vertical tunnel.

Who knows who built it, and when he had built it, and for what
purpose!

The space from which the light penetrated diminished little by little
over their heads, narrowed until it became a point, disappeared
leaving the two archaeologists in the thickest darkness. Then the
portable lamps were lit, and in the artificial light Graham continued
to examine the walls, always the same. More and more dumbfounded,
the scientist was spinning his brain in vain trying to understand what
could have been the purpose that had pushed the unknown ancient
builders to dig a deep pit. And above all, he could not imagine where
the material and the skill that had allowed the construction of such an
architectural masterpiece come from in an era that was lost in the
mists of time. In fact, he did not doubt that this far-fetched work was
older than Vadia and the Devil's Cemetery.

"Incredible!" Suddenly exclaimed Liska, awakening with his own


voice the echo that bounced between the sides of the well.

"What?" Graham asked.

"This well! We have already gone down a hundred meters and we do


not see the end yet. I tried to project the light of my lamp down, but
only the void is visible. How do you explain it? "

"I do not understand anything either," said Graham. He hesitated for


a moment, then added: "At first I thought that this could be a well for
bloody sacrifices, something like the cliffs in the mountains of Peru
and Mexico where the Incas and the Aztecs threw the victims offered
to the gods from the rocks."
"Yes, if my knowledge is correct, it was mainly young virgins.
Tragicable, in truth! "Liska commented. "At what age do you think
this strange construction dates back?"

"I have not the slightest idea. It could be tens of centuries old, maybe
hundreds! However, it is certainly older than Stonehenge. "

"Stonehenge!" Said Liska, stunned. "But for Stonehenge one speaks of


the one thousand and eight hundred before Christ. If this well is even
older we have to admit the existence of vast gaps in our archaeological
knowledge! "

"Of course, and these are many more numerous and larger gaps than
you think."

Graham watched closely for their descent and began to wonder a bit
'if the cable would have been long enough to allow them to touch the
bottom. Good deal if they were suspended halfway!

The air they breathed was pleasantly pure now, while during the first
part they had been enveloped in a foul-smelling atmosphere. But
there was still the feeling of dryness that was stagnating in the places
that had remained closed for a time without date, and that reminded
Graham of the effect of penetrating an Egyptian tomb that had
preserved the odor of ointments and spices through the millennia. of
oils. The atmosphere of the well, however, was absolutely odorless.

Suddenly, Liska gave a stifled exclamation. They were about to touch


the bottom. The bottom?

The assistant kept his lamp pointed down, and Graham looked under
him. He saw only a whitish light dotted with spherical shapes and
sticks, and he noticed that the walls were moving away. Finally the
spacecraft settled in the middle of a huge semispherical cave. The
white objects had grown larger and more distinct.

Graham looked around slowly, refusing to believe what he saw, it was


so unreal, impossible, the show that appeared before their eyes.
Anywhere leftovers of white, gray, brown skeletons, someone intact,
others mixed together covered by more recent leftovers. Countless
empty orbits stared at him from every angle. Everywhere, grinning
jaws, naked and unkempt mouths. Arms, legs and hands outstretched
towards him, everywhere. Men and women, adults and children,
hundreds, thousands, millions. Bones mixed in that last
decomposition that is a prelude to the return of everything to the dust
that generated it. Anonymous, primary dust.

As proven by previous experiences, Graham could not stop a


movement of horror. Where did these hallucinating leftovers come
from? What was the origin of the monstrous heap of human remains?

The most recent skeletons were undoubtedly men of the modern age.
The archaeologist examined several of them before deciding to
explore the whole cave.

He had walked a few meters, when Liska called him.

"Look, Graham! There are dozens of them down here! "

The scientist returned to his assistant to take a look at what the young
man was showing. With the precautions of the collector, Liska handed
him a skull burnished by time and in decline. The lower jaw no longer
existed, and the structure of the head was badly deteriorated, but
Graham instantly recognized the skull of a Cro-Magnon man.

"There's a lot of it," said Liska. "We have here the best collection a
museum could wish for."

"Good," said Graham. "And we're only at the first layer!"

He began to move on that far-fetched floor, trampling over the bones.


Liska had knelt down and studied the remains with the fervor of a
Magellan or a Galilean.

You could not see a single centimeter of the original soil. Graham
wondered how tall the macabre carpet was. Shortly thereafter, the
assistant approached the scientist with a new discovery: the remains
of Neanderthals. Following the example of Liska, Graham also began
research in that direction. Together they selected and set aside the
best preserved remains. If the blanket of bones had turned out to be
very thick, they would probably have discovered leftovers from men
prior to all known species. Research continued. Because of the
overwhelming abundance, they could afford the luxury of discarding
the bones too brittle, and soon they accumulated a considerable
amount of intact fragments. A number of green objects of oxidized
copper, and rough weapons of stone and primitive jewels, also came
into their hands;but all this was on the surface. The embossed copper
objects indicated the age of the bronze, and their absence that of the
stone. Under their eyes the whole history of mankind took place:
skeletons of the man of Cro-Magnon, then the man of Neanderthaldal
skull smaller, and the Predmost race and that of Grimaldi. In the
lower strata then the remains of Heidelberg's men came to light and
still other species including some of which until then had been
ignored. Hundreds of centuries passed into the hands of the two
archaeologists: the man from Rhodesia, the Pithecantropus Erectus,
the man from Beijing, the Sivapithecus ...Under their eyes the whole
history of mankind took place: skeletons of the man of Cro-Magnon,
then the man of Neanderthaldal skull smaller, and the Predmost race
and that of Grimaldi. In the lower strata then the remains of
Heidelberg's men came to light and still other species including some
of which until then had been ignored. Hundreds of centuries passed
into the hands of the two archaeologists: the man from Rhodesia, the
Pithecantropus Erectus, the man from Beijing, the Sivapithecus
...Under their eyes the whole history of mankind took place: skeletons
of the man of Cro-Magnon, then the man of Neanderthaldal skull
smaller, and the Predmost race and that of Grimaldi. In the lower
strata then the remains of Heidelberg's men came to light and still
other species including some of which until then had been ignored.
Hundreds of centuries passed into the hands of the two
archaeologists: the man from Rhodesia, the Pithecantropus Erectus,
the man from Beijing, the Sivapithecus ...In the lower strata then the
remains of Heidelberg's men came to light and still other species
including some of which until then had been ignored. Hundreds of
centuries passed into the hands of the two archaeologists: the man
from Rhodesia, the Pithecantropus Erectus, the man from Beijing, the
Sivapithecus ...In the lower strata then the remains of Heidelberg's
men came to light and still other species including some of which
until then had been ignored. Hundreds of centuries passed into the
hands of the two archaeologists: the man from Rhodesia, the
Pithecantropus Erectus, the man from Beijing, the Sivapithecus ...

When the effort forced them to catch their breath, they exchanged a
look of satisfaction and wonder.

But there were questions that could not yet be answered: how were
they assembled in that one macabre bed of testimonies of human
history? What hands had they buried and preserved those remains
through the depths of time? What gigantic power had built the
monumental ossuary and protected it while the continents sank and
emerged, while the ice retreated to the north, and the oceans capsized
and the mountains were subjected to the alterations that had upset
the world?

Graham felt exhausted. The mystery, instead of becoming clear, grew


thicker.

The absurd uselessness of every conjecture, the impossibility of every


logical answer and the succession of phenomena sapped the spirit
and the mind.

Graham got up and mechanically chose some precious surplus.

"Do you realize how much time we've spent here? Almost three hours,
"he said. "We're going now. We bring with us some of these bones, so
there is no danger of impoverishing the reserve. "

"That's for sure," said Liska. "Here is what to supply all the Museums
of the world, but the richest will be the Ludbury."

The archaeologist interrupted him abruptly. "Listen!"

A kind of rustling came from the center of the cave. Then there was
the sound of broken bones. Graham raised the lamp to where the
noise came from.

The cord fell in a spiral, collecting on the ship and spreading out on
the macabre carpet.

Still, Graham stared at the rings of the rope. Suddenly the skulls and
tibias had assumed an aspect of ironic perversity: the immense empty
orbits seemed to have been filled with mute laughter. Now it was no
longer necessary to consider the countless remains as precious
vestiges, and the cave of death appeared to the two men in all its
horrible reality.

Graham shook himself from the kind of lethargy that had


immobilized him for long seconds, and approached the cable piled
above the ship.

"I wish it was just a bad dream," Liska murmured, restless. "Do you
think he sold the safety hook? If that's the case, the rope may have
rolled out because of its weight. "

"It's possible," the scientist replied. "Unless Thomas made a false


movement by inadvertently releasing the security device."

The archaeologist bent down to pick up the end of the hawser and
stared at it in bewilderment.

"What do you think?" The assistant asked.

"I do not understand ... One thing is certain, though: the safety hook
has not given in."

"It was cut, then?"

"I would not say," Graham said, continuing to examine the rope. "If
this were the work of a knife, about two-thirds of the wires would
have the same length, but the remainder would be frayed. Instead, as
you can see, the cut is clean, perfectly regular. "
Liska examined the end of the cable in turn.

"You're right," he admitted later. "It's very strange ... it does not seem
to be an incidental break, or a knife cut."

"It almost seems as though the string has been severed by enormous
scissors," Graham observed, still turning the rope in his hands, more
and more dazed.

"But how could such a thing happen?"

"It is useless to suppose now. Our most important problem is to find


the system to get out of here. "

"It's just a matter of time," said Liska calmly. "When Thomassi senses
what has happened, he will take a new cable from the truck, set it on
the winch and send it down."

"But we do not know what may have happened out there. What if
something happened to Thomas? If he were unable to help us? Do
you realize that if something serious happened to him, we risk
molding down here waiting for help that will not come? No, Liska, the
best thing is to inspect the cave to see if there's another way out. "

"I think it's a good idea."

"We will start from the wall nearest the point where we dug and
found those very interesting skulls. You will proceed to the right, I
will go left until we meet again. There may be an opening somewhere.
Let's give us candles and matches so we do not run out of batteries. "

Liska immediately began to examine the wall meticulously, moving


the bones as far as possible and pushing her researches up to a height
of thirty meters above him. Higher up the gaze did not reach the
uncertain light of the candles. Graham took the opposite direction,
and soon lost sight of his assistant.

The bones cluster was much higher in the center of the cave and
prevented sight from side to side.
The archaeologist was looking for inscriptions and symbols similar to
those of the stone that had allowed them to enter the damned trap,
but the wall remained stubbornly smooth. On several occasions he
struck his fist, but he always answered a dark and full sound. He kept
on looking for an open crack or opening.

The scientist felt doubly responsible for the young Liska, the first to
have dragged him into the dangerous adventure, according to not
having foreseen the fall of the cable that placed them in a very
precarious situation and at the mercy of chance. From time to time he
directed a beam of light upward, in the center of the trap, hoping to
see a new rope sent by Thomas descending towards the ship.

The depressing atmosphere emanating from the gruesome fragments,


the immovable air of the grave, anguished the two living men more
deeply, putting a strain on their nerves.

When they found each other their own half-turn of the cave, Liska
was kneeling. Graham approached him.

"Found something?" He asked.

"I do not know yet, but I would say yes. Underneath my feet the bones
gave way at this point, almost their layer was less compact than
elsewhere, so I thought it was worth digging. And you?"

"Anything. Not even the smallest opening. I'm terribly disappointed. "

"Because?"

"Because this would be the first time I have come to a place with only
one access: the one from which we entered. There has never been a
similar case in my previous explorations. All the old buildings, and
especially the funeral ones, have more than one entrance. "

So saying Graham knelt next to the assistant and helped him dig.
Indeed, in that place the human blanket was less thick than
elsewhere. After a while he took a few handfuls of a strange and dry
matter from the heap, then stopped to light a match and bring it
closer to the wall. The burning flame without trembling.

"Do not even filter a bit of air," he commented grimly.

"Quite discouraging, but let's continue."

They continued to enlarge the hole until Liska's hand found the
emptiness.

"Here we are!" He announced.

The archaeologist lit a second match, but this time the flame
remained still, stifling the hope that the words of Liska had awakened
in the bud.

«We are at the starting point! Evidently I was wrong, "Liska


murmured. "If there's no air, it means we ended up in a dead end."

"That's exactly what I fear," Graham said.

Despite the disappointment, they continued to dig, shifting the bones


carefully to avoid causing collapses on the edge of the already rather
large hole. When the opening was wide enough to allow the passage
of a body, Graham introduced his head and torso, and reaching down
as far as possible he directed the beam of the flashlight down.

A dozen yards farther away, through an untidy cluster of bones,


appeared the beginning of a tunnel that seemed to continue infinitely
beyond the reach of the lamps.

"Here's your answer," he said. "At this point the pile of bones is about
thirty meters thick ..." he added, moving on his side to allow Liska to
see in turn.

Liska let out a significant whistle.

"But then in this cave ... How much do you think it's wide? A hundred
meters? There must be hundreds of thousands of skeletons anyway!
"He said.

For what mysterious purpose had such a mausoleum been created?


And who knows where the tunnel that was opening under them like
the imposing arch of a cathedral was going to end.

"Are you willing to get down here?" The assistant asked, tearing
Graham away from his thoughts.

"Of course, we must not neglect other possibilities!"

"That's right," said Liska thoughtfully. "One of us will have to stay


here if Thomas finally decides to throw another cable in." He paused,
then added, "See, Graham, I've always liked the adventure."

"Already. And here's your reward, "the scientist replied, turning his
gaze to the cave.

"It was just a case, we're not at fault."

"Agree. But I do not mean that similar cases are repeated. Remaining
here, there is always hope, while in this corridor ... Well, come on! I'm
going to go see where it goes. "

"There may be a long way to go," said Liska.

"And you may have to wait a long time," the scientist replied. Then he
went to the ship and, having moved the pile of rope, he supplied
himself with spare batteries and flashlight bulbs. Before returning to
Liska, he raised his eyes once more to the invisible opening of the
well. But once again uselessly: he neither saw nor heard anything.

"You will find food and water in the thermos," he told the assistant.
"There are also stacks and rockets. If Thomas drops the rope, go up
immediately, then send the ship back down, in case I return here. And
do not try anything else, I recommend. "

He approached the edge of the hole and slid down the slope. His last
look up allowed him to see Liska leaning over the void watching him
walk away.

Touched the bottom, Graham got up and with a mechanical gesture


he cleaned his clothes covered with a fine powder like talcum powder.
The corridor measured about two and a half meters in width by three
in height, and as far as he was able to see it continued with a
geometric perfection: the vertical and perpendicular walls joined a
ceiling that followed the slightly curved line, counterbalancing an
equally slight curvature of the floor. The material used for the
construction was the same used in the well. All smooth, all uniform.
Not the slightest trace of cracking or union between boulder and
boulder. Like the well, the corridor was an architectural wonder. It
would have been said that its creators had obtained it from a single
immense block, and not built piece by piece. The tunnel proceeded
into darkness as far as the eye could see, following a very perfect
straight line.

Now Graham walked on a clean floor. Nothing defiled the polished


surface, not the slightest mold, no stain of moisture.

And the minutes became hours.

Graham continued to walk down the aisle that seemed to have no


end. His steps awakened a dull echo that bounced off the walls. The
torch pushed before him a small, monotonous light zone: a tiny
mobile island in the immensity of darkness. The sepulchral silence
recalled the naves of a very large and deserted cathedral.

In vain the archaeologist was looking for a crack or a lateral passage


or a deviation from the straight line on the walls. The air was still and
dry.

Time, cadenced by the monotonous rhythm of the senseless steps,


had ceased to exist for Graham. The archaeologist was beginning to
be obsessed with the belief that, whatever the duration of his journey,
he would always have had that endless darkness before him. He was
beginning to feel a vague, indecipherable fear.

At what point, at what distance from the cave of death, or simply at


what time a change would occur, he would not have been able to say
it. In that ageless corridor the sense of reality was lost to sink into the
world of illusion and of dream where everything is stripped of its
substance. Yet a change had occurred, but so slight and gradual that
he was not able to state when it began: the darkness seemed less
intense because he could distinguish the walls without the help of the
light bulb. To make sure it was not an illusion, the archaeologist tried
to turn off the flashlight. Perhaps his eyes had grown accustomed to
the darkness, or perhaps nervous tension coupled with exhaustion
made him see what he was not.

As far as his gaze could reach, the walls, the ceiling, the floor itself
emitted a phosphorescence, which came out of nowhere, a sinister
glint of bad luck. Everything seemed to shine with a cold light that he
felt in waves. It almost seemed as though the walls were moving away
as if to undergo a geometric downsizing.

All around there was absolute silence, and Graham felt the weight of
the atmosphere on him. And the unheard of vibrations of solid matter
continued.

At times the archaeologist struggled to advance as if he were facing a


very steep slope, at other times he felt literally catapulted forward
almost falling from an infinite height, but the corridor always
continued slowly, straight while he felt the effects on himself of a
magnetic tension that alternately dilated and compressed it. He had
the sensation of drowning and of continuing to struggle to ward off
the end. The illness that had assaulted him for some time became
more and more unbearable. The ceiling, the walls, the floor mingled
in a kind of wild sarabande. What up until a moment before had been
in a vertical position, became horizontal and then vertical again. The
mysterious source of light dyed the place of a magical color, in an
inhuman game of unprecedented strength, evoking a terrible
nightmare. The gigantic whirlpool finally dissolved into a radioactive
cascade. In the chaos of matter, the walls opened wide on a gigantic
magnetic storm from which dazzled luminescences similar to the
passage of the meteors. An unbelievable ride of unknown Titans
passed through an impossible lunar disc, and Graham sagged
unconscious to the ground.
7

The archaeologist heard a cricket sing, and opened his eyes. He saw
the night sky shine above him. He finally realized that he was lying on
the bare ground and breathing a good smell of earth and grass.

He tried to move. He groaned. It seemed to him that his whole body


was reduced to a painful sore. The blood throbbed at his temples
violently, his mind was empty, and he barely found the strength to
wonder where he was. High monoliths, immense stone sentinels,
stood around him. Fabulous fallen sovereigns mingled with the
darkness of the night.

He knew those giants! Suddenly he recognized them, a great light


became in his brain, and he knew he was at Stonehenge. At his feet
lay a great stone altar, farther away, the inner circle of blue stones,
and further a crowd of indistinct figures. Yes, Graham knew well
those awesome works of forgotten hands that had mysteriously built
them for a no less mysterious purpose. For centuries the enigma of
those granitic presences had disappointed the most in-depth
research. But it was not the mystery of Stonehenge that occupied
Graham's mind at the time. He was out in the open, fifteen miles from
Isling, and he was sure he could not cover that distance in his
exhaustion and still suffering from the train accident.

Graham laboriously set off on his way through the Cyclopean ruins,
heading for the Seisbury plain. After nearly an hour's march he
reached a house with lighted windows. Fortunately the owner had a
car, and for half a pound he agreed to take him to Isling.

The pain that tormented the scientist throughout the body and the
sense of exhaustion diminished a little during the journey. The man
who drove the car was a taciturn type, and Graham was grateful he
would not bother him with idle questions. The memory of the journey
in the tunnel had already vanished in part from his memory as a bad
dream faded at the first light of day, and Graham wondered how true
it was in the vague consciousness of the last fantastic moments spent
underground. Without a doubt, the entrance to the corridor, similar
to the entrance discovered in Isling's cemetery, was in the middle of
the stavehenge, and the inscriptions and symbols had to be both
outside and inside the magic stone. He would be back later to try to
find her again, but for the moment it was more important to run for
Liska's help.

Graham imagined that at the end of the long and unnerving walk in
the interminable corridor he had to unconsciously pass his hand over
the symbolic engravings, and that the mechanism, by snapping, had
catapulted him into the world of the living. Unless it was simply
popped up in the open air by a very common passage and that his
faintness had been caused by emotion and exhaustion. In any case, an
opening had to be between the statues of Stonehenge, perhaps hidden
by one of the simple altars.

The car crossed Isling asleep and moved on to Vadia. As they


approached the Devil's Graveyard, Graham could make out in the
darkness the stubby shape of the pickup truck at the hawthorn hedge,
next to the entrance.

A thin slice of moon winked from a cloud, revealing the contours of


things more clearly. The scientist thanked his silent companion, who
made a half-turn to the car, walked away without wasting time.

***

As soon as he entered the cemetery, Graham saw a human form lying


not far from the winch. Restless, he approached quickly and knelt
down. Immediately his fears disappeared: Thomas had not fainted,
neither wounded nor dead. Much more simply, he slept with his head
resting in the crook of an arm.

Thomas, gently shaken by the archaeologist, sat up, blinking, still


sleepy.

"What happened to you?" Asked Graham.

"Huh? How? "Thomas mumbled in his thick voice, then, as if the


question only came to his brain, he replied:" I would not say that
much has happened. I waited for an hour or two. There was good
weather and a great heat. I think I fell asleep without even realizing it.
There is something wrong?"

Without paying any attention to him, Graham ran to the winch. The
cable, normally rolled up on the axle and held firmly by the safety
hook, hung above the well. Surprised, Graham aimed the flashlight at
the excavation.

The green stone was there, in its place, and the rope dangled over the
center of the tombstone!

Here is the mystery explained. At least in part , Graham said to


himself. The stone closed again, cutting off the rope!

The phenomenon must have been produced without Thomas noticing


it. But how could the stone resume its position? As soon as this
question was posed, the scientist gave himself the idiot for not having
foreseen something so evident: the strange mechanism was
automatically activated. Once the combination was learned it was
easy to open the headstone but it remained open only for a certain
time, after which the stone closed itself!

Graham tried to remember how much time had passed before, while
he and Liska were in the cave, the rope gave way. Two and a half
hours, he concluded, maybe three. This idea coincided with Thomas's
claim that he fell asleep two hours after his companions descended.
In this way it was clear that he had not been able to witness the
accident.

Therefore, the entrance to the well remained open about three hours,
and the stone moved only by setting in motion the shot that worked
with the combination. Like a safe. It could remain closed for weeks,
years or centuries, if no one made it work, but once opened it
remained so for about three hours. Now it was necessary to provoke
the shot again to free Liska. Three hours were sufficient for the
purpose, and with a large margin of safety also.
Suddenly Thomas's surprised voice broke the silence.

"Damn me if I understand something! How the hell did you go up? "

"Following an underground passage," Graham explained. "The rope is


broken, as you see, and so Liska and I separated to look for another
way out. I found it, but he's still down there. "

"Did something happen to him?"

"No. I have encountered some difficulties, but Liska is safe, as far as


her situation is not very happy down there. "

"But how could he break the rope, do I? It was new! "

"Even the most resistant ropes can break, in fact this has broken ...
Now we have to go and get another one in the truck. You take care of
it?"

"Of course, and running, too. I rested enough, "Thomas replied,


moving away quickly.

In order not to waste time, Graham wrapped the piece of cable on the
winch around his belt, fastening it firmly. Then he went down into the
hole and returned his fingers to the incisions in the way he knew well
now. Once again the extraordinary disappearance occurred before his
eyes: the strange matter half stone and half metal narrowed
contradicting every physical law. Once more the archaeologist found
himself suspended over the cesspool, and his feet, stirring in search of
a foothold, caused small waterfalls of dirt from the walls of the pit.
Earned the solid ground, Graham found Thomas already intent on
fixing the new cable on the axis of the winch. He gave him a hand to
do more quickly, and within twenty minutes everything was ready to
start the descent again.

"Stay close to the winch," Graham said to Thomas. "I'll only be down
enough time to attack the ship and collect Liska. Pay attention to the
signal to withdraw immediately. "

"I confess that I will not be sorry to run away. And the sooner it will
be, the better it will be: this place is not cheerful. "

***

The walls of the well began to flow in front of Graham, who faced the
painful descent. The archaeologist had armed himself with a new
flashlight and had fixed a second one in the bag fastened to his belt.
This time there was no ship to give him that sense of security that,
though ephemeral, had somewhat cheered up Liska and him during
the first exploration. Now Graham hung straight from the cable like a
spider and whirled around on all sides.

The walls continued to slip with monotony, he had to make a


considerable effort not to faint and to overcome nausea and
drowsiness. He thought of Thomas who had continued to sleep
peacefully while the uncontrollable mysterious forces were unleashed.
Perhaps it was better that he had not noticed anything. If he had seen
the broken rope and the stone materialize under his eyes he would
have lost his mind, at best he would have panicked his legs and threw
the alarm throughout the village, and the thing would have come ears
of the London authorities. To consider the facts well, Thomas had
chosen the wisest course: because he slept, he had not seen anything,
and seeing nothing he could not make it worse. Moreover, being well
rested, it had now been much more useful.

Finally, as God wanted, the descent ended. The walls widened,


bending over the ossuary, and Graham began to turn his torch light
around. The great pile of bones appeared in the distance with a
confused grayness, he went up to meet the man, he revealed himself
in all his macabre candor.

Before he even touched the bottom, Graham launched his call.

"Liska!"

The echo of the cave answered him, but no human voice reached him.
Freely feverish of the rope, the scientist felt for the first time uneasy
about the fate of his assistant. For a moment he remained motionless
in the center of the immense tomb, walking along it with his eyes and
shading the shadows with the lamp. "Liska," he called again, and then
louder: "Liska, it's Graham ... Where are you, Liska?"

His voice hit the walls, bouncing from corner to corner, becoming
weaker and fading into a whisper.

The ship and the roll of the first rope were still there where he had left
them. Nothing was missing from equipment, neither food nor
torches. Feeling an increase in the agitation that had seized him in
not immediately seeing the young companion, the scientist tried to
reassure himself by thinking that perhaps Liska had gone into the
corridor they had discovered together, driven by curiosity. If it had
been so, then he would have to follow him by remaking the shocking
experience of that torturing pilgrimage. Patience! It was a terrible
effort waiting for him, but he would have forced his body to obey him
to get to the end. The prospect of reliving the last dazzling minutes
before getting out of that damned trap made him shiver with his back.
Also, if he had stepped into the tunnel, the stone up there would have
had time to close again, and if he could not find Liska or come out to
Stonehenge ... The lamp slipped from his hand, and Graham wiped
himself his hands are wet. He could not help mentally cursing Liska:
and so he had experience of that boy. Possible that he had ventured
into the corridor without replenishing a torch? Now, since nothing
was missing from the spacecraft, it was more logical to think that the
road taken by the assistant was not that of the tunnel. But where was
he then, since he was not in the cave? Graham did not know what to
think.

Abruptly he decided, and in a few steps he reached the place where he


had excavated the passage through the corridor with Liska. Under his
feet the bones creaked crumbling with a dry noise that sounded
sinister in the oppressive silence. He slid into the passage, reached
the corridor, and projected the light of the torch as far as he could.

He saw only the uniform greenish, mysterious and distant walls. He


inspected the ground and noticed that no trace flanked those left by
his passage. No one had followed him that way.

Reassembled in the cave he carefully examined the ground around


the excavation, and continued his meticulous research following the
wall in the hope that Liska had discovered a new passage. He also
thought that the assistant, digging, could have been imprisoned by a
sudden collapse of the bones.

He had examined nearly half of the cave when the lamp beam lit up
the metal casing of Liska's torch, right next to the spacecraft. He
rushed in that direction, but almost immediately he winced and had
to stop and dry his hands suddenly sweating.

He remained so, motionless, for a long time, refusing to believe the


evidence. What he saw was too horrible for him to do anything but sit
there and watch, terrified, feeling overwhelmed by a despair that
made his mind falter.

Next to the electric torch lay other objects: the buckle of a belt, a
wristwatch, some keys, some coins, a knife, a pencil, buttons ... all
those metallic and inorganic things that a man usually wears in his
pockets or that are part of his clothes. But there was no trace of
clothes around there. Instead, there was a new skeleton with a metal
bracelet on his wrist, which Graham recognized immediately: it was
Liska's watch.

And that skeleton was all that remained of Liska!

The assistant's death must have been instantaneous, like all the
thousands of men who died before him in that frightening trap.

At the moment intended, apparently after the closure of the green


stone, a great force of unknown origin had stripped the victim of his
flesh, clothes and every other organic matter apart from the bones.

When he was able to reason again, Graham thought that because the
stone had remained open for three hours, he had to spend almost the
same amount of time to travel the entire corridor. No doubt this was
the reason for the upheaval that had assailed him the moment he was
making the exit.

Only by miracle, therefore, had escaped that disintegration of the


flesh that had killed Liska. His assistant had suffered the same fate
reserved thousands of years before to the victims of the sacrifices
whose bones covered the floor of the cave. Graham was convinced
that the entrance to the well built with the mysterious green
substance was originally at ground level, well in sight, to attract the
curiosity of those who, not fearing adventure, dared to explore it. The
death trap had in this way the function of the skylight! Later the
period of the glaciations had occurred: when the glaciers had
retreated, a considerable thickness of debris had covered the
headstone.

According to the geologists, who do not agree on the dates of the


glacial period, the event can date back from 40,000 years to
1,000,000 years before our time. Now, since the type of the most
recent skeletons found in the cave indicated the age of the ice as
relatively close, to justify the presence of the other remains, the oldest
ones, the construction of the well had to date back to a million years .
Before the birth of man, then. Or rather, and this second thought
upset Graham, before the dawn of life, as if the trap had an
intentional, calculated, deliberate relationship with the existence of
man on earth.

The archaeologist returned to the ship with the slowness of someone


extremely tired. He took a cloth that he had brought with the
intention of collecting what was interesting in the well, and gathered
what was left of the unfortunate assistant. Then he put the miserable
burden on the bottom of the spacecraft, firmly attached the cable and
made the signal agreed with Thomas.

As the slow ascent began, the scientist thought sadly of the hours that
awaited him. First of all, it was necessary to explain to the local
authorities what had happened to Liska.

He was convinced, however, that they would not be too zealous in


conducting the investigation, and he, on the other hand, was not
going to help them much.

Back home, Graham slept soundly until the afternoon of the following
day. Long sleep rewarded him with exhausting emotions: a light
breakfast was enough to invigorate him. Then the scientist began to
scroll through the mail arrived during his absence. A bulging
envelope immediately caught his attention. He opened it by removing
a hand-written note, and a second envelope.

On the first sheet read:


6, Hammervil Ct.

London WC1.

7 August

Dear Professor Graham,

the manuscript enclosed here was found in the office of the late
Professor Charles Alton.
The scientist was writing your address when he was the victim of a fatal
accident. In case you want more details, you will always find me at your disposal
at the address above marked ...

The letter was signed by James Martin, Alton's secretary.

On the second envelope, a trembling hand had drawn Graham's


address. The uncertain and uneven writing had only a faint
resemblance to the clear, beautiful and readable of Charles Alton. The
archaeologist snatched the envelope and took out several handwritten
sheets. With a quick glance he realized the astonishing progressive
transformation that the philologist's writing had undergone. Steady
and sharp at the beginning, it deformed hand to hand and ended up
in almost incomprehensible doodles.

Without waiting any longer, Graham began to read, and several


times, during the reading, he had to stop, unsure of having
understood right.

***

He is a dead man who writes to you. When you read this letter, I
will already have reached the immense mass of symbols, to decipher
and translate which I have spent all my life. These are the words I
write to you, my last words. You are the most worthy and the most
competent depository. You who are the involuntary cause of my end.

My instinct tells me, without any possibility of misunderstanding,


that my time is near. I accept it because it is established that everyone
must accept their destiny, but I leave with regret that I have not come
to a full and complete understanding of this last problem you have
submitted to me. I called you on the phone, but you were away and I
could not talk to you. And I will no longer have, I am sure, the
opportunity to do so. My hours are counted, very thrifty! I can
therefore only write what I wanted to tell you. I only hope to get to the
end of this letter.

In truth, I believe that no one else in the world could compete


victoriously with the inscription you asked me to decipher. My pride
is not a sin of pride! I just have to address my studies and my
research in a field that other scientists, for value and intelligence not
inferior to me, have not investigated.

It is therefore out of fear that otherwise my final effort will be lost,


and with the hope that you will come to understand the nature of the
phenomenon that will shortly break my life, that I send you the
results of my labors, even if incomplete and uncertain. . Since you
also know that you have been engulfed in a terrible adventure, I hope
that my fate will enlighten you about the dangers that threaten you.

As you know, I spent most of my life traveling. The interest that I


have always had for the languages, both the living and the dead, has
pushed me to the most remote countries where I have lived many
adventures. My research on the origins and developments of the
languages led me to study many peoples, lands, centuries, and I died
before having mastered the full knowledge of the different symbols
used by man. This was the dream of my whole life. And even though I
have not fully achieved it, I have, however, acquired a great deal of
familiarity with the written and spoken languages of the whole world.
I was also able to discover a language unknown until now, and yet
another completely forgotten. These are two languages that in our
case were of great importance.

About fifteen years ago, I took part in the Richter-Angley


expedition. Departing from Hyderabad, we headed north, up to
Chitral, a real starting point for the effects of the expedition. From
here we followed a difficult path through the Kush mountain range,
passing the Pamir plateau to continue towards the Altai mountains
and then, to the east, through the Gobi desert in the direction of
Beijing. Our aim was to find the traces of primitive man in the region
known as the Cradle of Humanity.

We were very lucky, that time. About two hundred and twenty
miles north of Chitral, in an absolutely wild region, we miraculously
stumbled into the ruins of a temple, or sanctuary. Here we made the
first important discovery: some sheet of ancient parchment, all that
remained of a work that originally had to be very voluminous. Those
sheets were covered with characters that had a slight connection with
Sanskrit, but much older than that even though very ancient. To give
you an idea better, I will say that they resembled the Sanskrit as
modern English resembles the original Anglo-Saxon.

I baptized this new language with the name of Kanja in honor of the
place where we found the parchment fragments. Later, referring to
Sanskrit, identifying the roots of the new words and trying to guess
when the synthetic and analytical methods could not help me, I
managed to compile a translation with a rudimentary grammar and a
hypothetical pronunciation of the ancient language. You may have
seen the monograph I published on the subject: Iframmenti Kanja,
translated with notes about their relationship with Sanskrit.

Those writings were of a religious nature and included passages


from a ritual. I omit here the detailed explanation of their content
that has nothing to do with what interests us.

Many years later, I participated in another expedition that went


into the black continent. And it was there, in Africa, that I made my
second discovery: the Ulonga dialect, of which no one had ever heard
of. At that time I was trying to complete my comparative studies of
primitive African languages. I made the discovery in that part of
Africa where the territories of Abyssinia, Uganda and Sudan extend,
and I was lucky enough to make some recordings. I will never be able
to complete my studies at a good point, and I will never publish the
results of my work, but I do not consider my labors lost because those
recordings have given me the key to deciphering your registration.

I must recognize, however, that without your notes on how you


thought you heard the mysterious words, I would have found myself
on the high seas or, at best, I would have spent whole months to get
the same results. But these results pose a new problem to me when
my life is about to end.

So I worked on the Kanja fragments, on the Ulonga dialect, on


Isling's inscription and on the sentences of which you gave me the
pronunciation. I would like to know where you have heard those
words, and weld each other the mysterious links of this enigmatic
chain. But I will never know it. Irrations are therefore useless, and I
lack the time to make suppositions.

Using the elements at my disposal, I could follow two methods of


research. Or juxtapose the Kanja fragments to Isling's inscription by
comparing their roots (and this would have been the most logical, but
also the longest), or starting from your annotation, comparing it to
the Ulonga dialect and later to the Kanja writings. This system,
though less secure, was however much faster, and that's what I chose
taking into account the haste that you had shown to know the
translation. Naturally, I reserved the right to use the alternating
systems alternately for a more accurate verification.
My effort was greatly simplified by the reproduction of the sounds
you heard. N'ga n'ga clretl ust s g'lgggar strangely resembles an
ulong chant that begins like this: 'Nya' Nya ke re telus tse gul ge
gegar. The small differences in pronunciation are easily explained by
the changes made to the uniquely spoken language over the centuries.

And actually we should rather be amazed that these differences are


not much more sensitive, considering that the Ulonga territory is
thousands of kilometers away from Isling.

I had the certainty that what you heard was none other than the
ulong chant, or rather an earlier, and therefore purer, form of that
song. If the words you heard really corresponded to Isling's
inscription, the ulong chant was therefore only the counterpart of the
inscription, and I found myself in possession of the pronunciation
and written text of which I had never suspected existence.

If this were accepted, the problem became relatively easy: it was


only a matter of assigning the graphic representation to the key words
and filling the gaps using the African dialect. So I did the two things.
Perhaps I can not explain myself well, and what I tell you seems
unclear, but in reality the procedure was very simple, and since I
already knew the meaning of chant ulonga, so I could say I know the
meaning of Isling's inscription. More accurately I will say that I was
aware of the equivalent in English, because I can not swear to know
exactly the real or hidden meaning of those sentences. The Ulonga
tribes have traditionally guarded a ritual that has been handed down
from generation to generation since very distant times, but whose
origin and purpose are no longer known. Maybe,and I tell you this
with scruples, which has a special significance for the fact that the
Ulongas always turn to the East, and keep their faces raised to the
heavens, when they sing their dirge.

My strength diminishes rapidly. I feel that there is not much left to


live. You will find here the transcription of the exact pronunciation of
the inscription and the equivalent in English. The fatal phenomenon
to which I mentioned more is going to be right than me. I speak of it
only because it seems to have some supernatural relationship with the
problem we are dealing with.

About two hours ago, I had just finished my fatigue, I read Isling's
inscription aloud to make these strange phrases as pronounced as
possible to convey the sound to them. I had just pronounced the last
word and its echo had gone out in the air, when I felt enveloped by an
unnatural silence in an atmosphere that had become strangely
electric. At first I imagined that this feeling was due to the excessive
effort I had been subjected to in the last hours. And when I thought I
heard the words that I had just finished uttering in the distance, I
thought I was on the verge of nervous exhaustion. Was it an illusion,
mine? I do not know, Graham, and I'll never know.

A guttural and horrible voice, an atrocious cacophony, impossible


to describe, seemed to arouse the now extinguished echo. The walls of
the library seemed to move away from infinity like in a diabolical
nightmare, and I felt lost in the middle of a boundless space,
enveloped in a throbbing greenish radiation, at the mercy of
extraterrene forces. Reagii struggling with such violence to escape the
grip that tightened me, I went banging my head against the edge of
the chimney and fainted.

When I regained consciousness, I was terribly weak and shocked by


nausea. And I was lying in a large pool of blood. I understood
immediately that the blow and the loss of all that blood could only
have a result. They are now under the effect of a deep depression.
Madness, or the approach of death?

Did I awaken perhaps an unknown power that takes revenge on


me?

My ideas get confused and I can no longer control my thoughts. But


I begin to understand why you know the pronunciation of a part of
Isling's inscription. May fate protect you, and that your fate is better
than mine.

What did I see?


***

The letter ended here. The signature would have been illegible for
anyone who did not have the familiarity of Graham with Alton's
writing. Deeply troubled, the archaeologist folded the pages read and
began to consider the translation made by the philologist.

As usual, the professor had chosen a careful job. He had copied the
signs and symbols of the inscription on a single line, underneath he
had transcribed the corresponding syllables of the Ulonga chant,
below was the correct pronunciation, and finally, on a last line, there
was the translation in English.

After a quick glance at the whole, Graham focused on the translation.

His forehead wrinkled as he read:


Awake! Distant Titans of Time, and of Space, and of Existence, creators of Life,
creators of Death, creators of Energy. In the day destined by the stars, descend
from your immense world, through the stars, to this little world that you have
created. Take what is yours and return to your universe. O Guardian of the Seal,
take all that the Titans have given us and that belongs to them, for they
themselves will take it back on the day that has been fixed in the stars. We belong
to you as to them. And, waiting for them, we pray you. Remote Titans wake up!

***

Who were these Titans invoked? Who was the Guardian of the Seal?
Maybe that little fantastic little green statue? What did that talk of
immense distant worlds mean? Was that rite, then, only a harmless
and incoherent verve superstitious?

Graham noted that Alton had translated the inscription only up to


half of the geometric signs, leaving the second part undeciphered, and
undoubtedly never decipherable, in the challenge of spirals and
terrible symbols.

When he had finished reading Alton's letter and report, Graham


looked like a broken man. His features were drawn, his face betrayed
his weariness. For some time he seemed to be a disaster maker! Two
friends had given their assistance at his request, and both were dead!
Liska, there at the bottom of the well in an incredible way, and Alton
apparently being victim of a phenomenon similar to the one to which
Graham himself had witnessed during the train disgrace.

The more he went into the mystery, the more the enigma became
insoluble.

The archaeologist remained pensive for a long time, his forehead


resting on the window glass. A relentless sun shone in a copper sky.
The houses' houses and the tops of the trees seemed wrapped in a
single flame without splendor. The shadows of the houses stretched
out on the pavement and the sky was a furnace. The heat of the day
had been exhausting, and people had their eyes red from the effort of
overcoming the blinding light of the sun. The buzz of the crowd rose
from the immense metropolis, and the men, like industrious ants,
were agitated by daily affairs. But Graham did not see them. The
archaeologist looked farther, beyond the city, beyond the small world.

Numerous newspapers were spread out on the table behind him. How
could one explain the sudden epidemic of strange facts that had
struck the earth? What curse suspended in the air threatened
mankind?

Graham finally detached himself from the window and looked back at
the clippings he had detached from the newspapers of the past few
days. He read them again, pausing to examine the details of the
events.

A news clipping from Cape Town announced:


DILAGED THE AGITATION BETWEEN THE INDIGENOUS

A true outbreak of violence has been unleashed among the tribes of the interior
and is spreading worryingly. Recent announcements by Rhodesia and
Transvaallasciano understand that the agitation has spread in the Tanganyika, in
the Congo and in the far regions of Sudan. So far, the authorities have not taken
any repressive measures because the natives, according to informed goods, are
limited for the moment to participate in strange ceremonies. Military
detachments have however been sent to the immediate vicinity of the areas
judged to be most turbulent, and are ready to intervene in case of need.

There are many questions that are asked about the exact nature of the reason
that made the tamtam resonate. These still continue to transmit their signals
throughout Africa.

Lieutenant Colonel James Mulreavy, just returned from a trip to the


Tanganyika, said he had never before seen the black tribes in the grip of such an
agitation. According to the colonel, the guilt is to be attributed to the sorcerers. In
some tribes black magic is still practiced on a large scale. Again according to the
colonel, human sacrifice would return to the agenda, as well as flagellations,
tortures and many other primitive rites of bestial nature. Finally, Mulreavy
declared that the sorcerers are preparing for the return of their gods.

Another observer, MTH Wilson Grant, a settler of Mepli, says that the niggers
are prey to a collective madness. Images and bizarre objects have made their
appearance, and circulate in the hands of the natives. According to Mr. Wilson,
the sorcerers announced the visit of a terrible god who would descend from
heaven.

Another article came from Calcutta:


PROJECT TO PRANJHIPOK MARTIAL LAW

The disturbances that troubled Pranjhipok last night ended after the
intervention of the national police dominating the situation. More than two
thousand Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were killed in the scuffles that broke out in
the city shortly after sunset. The population in the grip of a sudden attack of
collective madness had descended into the streets armed with knives, daggers,
pistols and rifles.

In addition to the dead, several thousand injured are the tragic balance of the
day. Fires have broken out across the city; many have already been tamed,
around others still firefighters stationed. Escapements that always accompany
this kind of unrest have ceased following the proclamation of martial law. The
damages amount to hundreds of millions.

The cause of the rebellion has not yet been established with certainty, but it
seems to be attributed to religious fanaticism. Temples, shrines, all sacred places
have generally been ruined by angry mobs. The popular voice according to which
the day of the reincarnation of the ancient gods would be near is insistent.
Muslims declare that Muhammad is about to make his second appearance on
earth. For their part, the Buddhists, the followers of Brahma and the Taoists
support the same thing in regard to their deities.

Troops reinforcements, sent from Calcutta and Bombay, are about to arrive in
the city.

On the contrary, an article about New York was different.


KALEN KILLS THROWING FROM THE WINDOW OF HIS STUDY

The body of Glen Kalen, the famous painter and sculptor, was found yesterday
at 4:15 pm in the small courtyard of the building where he had been living for
about three years. Two short letters were found in the artist's studio. One,
addressed to a friend, said: "Goodbye, dear. Reach me as soon as possible. I
prefer to die than to be carried away by THEM ".

The second letter, addressed to an unidentified person and marked in the letter
by the name of Septhulchu, contained only these words: "When you arrive, at
least I will already be gone".

In the apartment inhabited by Kalen have been found many works, mostly
paintings, which according to experts can be judged among his best production,
even if of fantastic inspiration. One of the paintings represents a kind of greenish
cloud that overlooks a sea from which there are hallucinatory forms. A
masterfully executed sculpture was also found that recalls the statues of Easter
Island in shape and power and depicts a demonic creature in the act of crushing
an infinity of small human beings.

Kalen's friends said that the day before they had noticed in the artist a sharp
change of mood. He seemed tormented, but nobody could find an excuse for his
unusual attitude.

Glen Kalen was known to all as a rich man, and does not appear to suffer from
any disease that could justify such a desperate gesture. According to his closest
friends, he had sometimes complained that he had some mind-blowing
nightmares that upset him. These nightmares left him with such an impression of
reality that he had tried to translate them plastically. It also seems to allude to an
immense catastrophe that threatened humanity from time to time. The police
therefore came to the conclusion that the great artist was the victim of a sudden
attack of madness.

A correspondent from San Francisco wrote:


AN ASSASSIN KILLS ITS NINTH VICTIM

Jane Dorel's body was found this morning in Oakland Bay. This is the ninth
victim of a crazy murderer who terrorizes the surroundings of San Francisco.
Three boys, two men and four women have been murdered in the last ten days.

The autopsy found that the death of the nineteen-year-old Jane Dorel dates
back to forty-eight hours ago. Like the unfortunates who preceded her, the young
woman was mutilated, and the murderer raged over her, vibrating more than a
hundred shots before throwing the remains into the bay. The police do not have
the slightest trace to identify the killer, and have not yet established the place
where the killings and mutilations have been made. "These murders are
absolutely meaningless," said Heggens, the head of the police. None of the
victims were tortured, and no woman suffered violence.

All the unfortunates have been strangled with a piano string, and all their
bodies have bruises due to violent punches that the mysterious killer has vibrated
with unprecedented strength. No doubt, however, that the killer is a fool, and
therefore far more dangerous than any common thug.

***

Continuing to scroll through the papers, Graham took another


curious fact in the column reserved for deaths. It was the suicide of a
young poet, Aubrey Lellith, who had left the fragment of an
unfinished poem as the sole explanation of his gesture. It was just a
few verses that sounded like this:

In the valleys and in the high lands The Titans will wake up at last,
the four-dimensional abyss will open up. They will rise from nothing
and will fly out of the Easter Island. They will be gliding from the
gulfs of time and space. Iprofeti have announced the return of the
Titans When the stars have reached The right position And the sky
will burn.

Another news was about an event in Bavaria.


A general alarm was broadcast on the radio to all of Bavaria warning the
population that twenty madmen who fled yesterday from a shelter are still at
liberty. A complete report of the event was made to us after a careful investigation
conducted with the help of Dr. Hugo Brauning, director of the Haussen state
hospital for the crazy criminals. It seems that the heat of the sun has experienced
an unusual agitation throughout the hospital where they are hospitalized about
three hundred dangerous madmen. All the sick people started screaming that a
great misfortune was about to fall from above.

Immediately the number of nurses and guardians was increased, and the
unfortunates tried to calm down, but in vain. Five patients were thrown on the
guards who were forced to shoot to defend themselves, killing three assailants.
The other two fools managed to hit the two guards and mortally wounded them.
Meanwhile, someone had set fire to a hospital pavilion, and in the impossibility of
taming the flames, the guards gathered the sick in the recreation room. A general
scuffle followed in which thirty-eight hospitalized died and another sixty-eight
were injured. Among the guards there were five more dead and nine wounded.
Thirty-five prisoners managed to escape. Of these fifteen were taken up almost
immediately.

An inspection throughout the hospital led to the discovery of strange drawings


on the cell walls, macabre drawings that had several points in common. All
represented monstrous beings in the act of trampling and devouring human
beings. Dr. Brauning is of the opinion that, for some unknown cause, his patients
were taken by a collective crisis of destructive fury.

***

Numerous other articles that Graham had scrupulously carved out


spoke of regrettable facts due to phenomena similar to those
mentioned. The common thread to all the events was the next descent
of a great world to our little Earth, of gigantic creatures to the
microscopic men. What could be the meaning of the curious
premonition? And it was pure coincidence to reproduce at the same
time in every part of the world of those crazy events. In all the events
there was an allusion to titanic forces, to unknown divinities that
would come from the afterlife or from another universe.

A brief account kept Graham's attention longer than the others. It


contained the declaration of a pilot on duty at a Santiago airport.

***

Following the report of a pilot of Cheanean National Airways, Juan


Cortil, the Chilean authorities are preparing to send an expedition to
Easter Island. During a test flight on a new route for the installation
of a regular connection line with Australia, the aviator experienced
violent radioactive perturbations on the Easter Island area,
disturbances which, according to the pilot, hint at increasing . At the
center of the island the pilot saw a kind of green flashing, and when
he was found with the device just above the point where the strange
phenomenon occurred, he suffered considerable damage as if he had
struck against an invisible obstacle. Nevertheless,Cortil could
overcome the five hundred kilometers that separated him from a
merchant ship that fortunately collected the SOS of the pilot before
the plane crashed into the ocean.

Cortil says he has not noticed any sign of volcanic activity on the
island. He had lowered to a height of five hundred meters to try to
discover the cause of the unusual phosphorescence, and is thus able
to say that the brightness seemed to come from a kind of green statue
placed in the center of an ancient crater. The statue has absorbed all
of its attention for a few moments and this fact has prevented him to
see in time a bird against which the pilot believes he has hit. This
would be the cause of the damage reported by the device. Cortil states
that he is unable to provide a logical explanation of the phenomenon
of luminosity.

***

The following morning, Graham boarded a passenger plane for the


first leg of a long journey. The archaeologist spent almost all his time
studying the annotations and updating his diary.

10

DIARY OF GRAHAM

Deep and unsettling mysteries await those who will explore the
spaces of the Universe. Perhaps ... And yet these riddles lose all their
greatness if we compare them to the mystery that accompanies every
man in the course of his existence. That the astronomer should also
scan the stars and continue to convict about their origin and their
nature, I will take care of the man who is closest, meditating on his
origin and his nature and composition. This for me is the biggest
mystery. Truth escapes us and the atheist does not have in common
with the believer that this stupid defeat.

Is there, in truth, only one thing that I can perhaps say I know and
understand entirely? The murmur of the wind in the trees beyond my
windows, the popping of the leaves in spring, the color of the pearls,
the waves that caress the beaches, the sidewalks of a big city, the love
of a woman bought for a night , the grains of sand that crunch under
the steps ...

All this has the same meaning of the sky that lives above my head.
Curious! For years, I felt constantly as if I were on the trail of a
fugitive who escaped my research. For years, examining all the clues,
I tried in vain to identify them, always coming to a dead end ...

Then one day, in Egypt, I found myself in front of the Sphinx. He


immediately fascinated me, as he had enchanted the imagination of
many others before me. I stood for hours and hours contemplating it.

The gigantic enigmatic construction took me across the depths of


time. I felt excited. The passion for the ancient ruins had taken hold
of me. So there was something that had the power to distract me from
my anguish! I had finally found something in which the enigmas
could be realized in a search: the search for antiquities, the charm of
those colossal leftovers, their mystery. In archeology my life would
have found a purpose that would never have failed.

I studied the Pyramids, and later went to Tibet and Mongolia. I


examined the circles made of stones, as they are found in certain
places in England. I researched Stonehenge. I penetrated the jungles
of Yucatan and I became interested in the testimonies of the Mayan
civilization. I visited all the libraries avidly reading about Atlantis.
Anghor-Vat resounded with my footsteps. And how many hours spent
in front of that one fabulous wonder that is the Great Golden
Quadrant of Nyamba:

But more than anywhere else, Easter Island tempted my mind. I


lived entire months on the island studying the huge stone platforms
and the Cyclopean statues.

All these famous places and many others that I explored for years
made certain precise questions arise in me. Why did the ancient
builders so widely use pyramidal and circular shapes? Easter Island
abounds in leftovers arranged in concentric circles. But, first of all,
where did those giants who rose everywhere come from? And what
series of cataclysms or sacrifices had completely swept the race that
had built them from the face of the Earth?

During a trip to the heart of Tibet, in Paru-Sai, I discovered on a


great mountain facing southeast an isolated sanctuary and an old
Sekhita priest, priest of a disappearing cult. The Tibetan offered me
hospitality for the night. He spoke very good English, and is one of
the most educated men he has ever known. We spent most of the
night talking. I told him about my travels and my explorations,
revealing to him the secret purpose of all these researches. I told him
of my curiosity for the origin of the ancient monuments, I talked
about their immense greatness and the most important mystery that
tormented me: the coming on the world of the human race.

He listened to me in the darkness of his shelter, without


interrupting me. When I stopped talking, the Sekhita stood up on the
fragile body and disappeared into a cave niche. He returned almost
immediately, holding in his hands a book that bore some strange gold
symbols on the ivory binding. He opened it showing me the pages of
parchment. It was certainly an ancient document, I could not say how
much, and written in a language that was unknown to me. Probably
earlier than Sanskrit. My guest read a passage for me.
"When the stars are in the prophesied position, then the Titans will wake up
and return. The earth will open up, and from deeper crypts than the clouds are
high, the Guardian of the Seal will launch its call to the Titans. The Guardian of
the Seal will also become as big as a Titan and will go to the Crltul Thr. The
waters will boil, the earth will open, and the stars will rise in a sky of flame. From
their Universe, beyond the stars, the Titans will descend. They will claim for
themselves all that lives, they who have made us dust and fire that consumes.
This will happen when the Titans wake up, when the stars are in the right place,
unless the one who will face the Guardian of the Seal and defeats him.Then the
Guardian will return stone and the Titans will wait in their great sphere until the
stars have returned once again to the position desired by the prophecy. And the
Guardian of the Seal will remain on the axis from Crltul Thr to Mrcg."

While the priest was reading, I was shorthand writing this ritual
which then had no meaning for me. My guest then leafed through the
last pages of the book. These were in simple paper. On one page the
constellations were marked as no man had ever seen them. Perhaps
that was the celestial arrangement of a million years ago. The second
page instead depicted them as they would have been there in twenty
years. This I learned from the Sekhita, whose knowledge of
astronomy was very profound. On paper, the full areas indicated the
seas and the continents, but with a completely different form from
that which is known to us. My knowledge of geology proved to be very
precious on that occasion. In fact, I remembered some hypothetical
papers which represent our world inappearance that is supposed to
have occurred in different geological eras. The map I was looking at
corresponded to the end of the Miocene or to the beginning of the
Pliocene, that is to the Earth of 1,500,000 years ago.

Also on that card there was a line that linked the point where the
Easter Island currently stands to the place to which Stonehenge now
stands. I questioned the Tibetan about the meaning of that sign, but
he merely pointed to the piece he had read. I then asked him who the
Guardian of the Seal was and whether "the axis from Crltul Thr to
Mrcg" could identify with an imaginary line from the Easter Island to
Stonehenge. But even to this question the priest did not answer.

For many years, even after this meeting, I continued my research


across the world. I specialized in the history of man through the most
ancient vestiges and the most primitive monuments. I never forgot
the night spent in the cave of the Sekhita and made several trips
around Stonehenge, but without discovering anything special.

Finally, I accepted the conservative position at the Ludbury


Museum. Of course, however, I continued to read to keep myself
informed of any new developments in the field of discoveries and
inventions. I became familiar with the theory of electrogenetics,
according to which what we call "life" can exist only as long as a
positive-negative exchange of electrical impulses occurs in the human
body. I also devoted myself to the study of Einstein's theories and
four-dimensional geometry, and I reviewed the various hypotheses
and doctrines on the origins of the world, interested in myths, legends
and folklore.

My inquiries and analyzes put me in the alternative of choosing


between two conclusions that cancel each other out.

Either human life was born on Earth spontaneously, or had been


brought from outside. If it was born spontaneously, I would never
have been able to know how and when it happened. But if it had come
from the outside, I was faced with a new alternative: either the event
had occurred accidentally with the fall of some meteorite or for a
similar fact, or was the product of an intelligence endowed with will.
If the exact thesis was that of randomness, I would never have even
arrived at the head of anything. But if the last hypothesis was right, I
could still have some hope.

This was the general theme of my reasonings. And while taking the
place of conservative in the Museum, I continued my explorations
taking advantage of the holiday periods.

Nothing, however, during these last years has shocked me as much


as the event of the green statuette discovered in Isling. I soon realized
that it could be the famous Guardian of the Seal of which we spoke in
the prehistoric volume of the sanctuary of Paru-Sai. The power
manifestations of the green statuette were so exceptional that I
immediately went to Isling. Here I not only found the cosmic
sculpture but later I discovered a tunnel that penetrated into the
bowels of the Earth, and in which I risked losing my life while trying
to get out of it. Moreover, when by chance my fingers had started to
follow the contours of the incisions on the base of the statuette, an
unimaginable phenomenon had occurred, accompanied by a
frightening vision.

These facts have only two possible explanations. Either I was the
victim of constant hallucinations, or I had witnessed the emergence of
forces superior to every imagination.

I think this last hypothesis is the right one. If so, then it was
precisely the fact of touching the signs engraved on the support of the
statuette to unleash uncontrollable forces.

But how? What is the nature of the mechanism? No doubt with that
gesture I launched into space or a signal or a warning. In fact
everything happened as if the statue had inexplicably transmitted my
thoughts, intensifying them and giving them supernatural power, and
provoking an extremely rapid reaction of the being to which they were
destined. A being that was in another time and in another space.

Whatever the solution to the mystery was, it must necessarily reside


in the statuette. Since. the idol presented no resemblance to any
known mineral, had to have an extraterrestrial origin and therefore
escaped all the rules of our world. I will say more. That statue had to
respond to laws totally foreign to those that regulate matter and
energy as we know them.

The image must therefore have been brought to our world by


creatures coming from the spaces, or from the depths, for a well-
established reason and with an equally precise purpose. And this
purpose had to be so important that at the slightest hint of danger, at
the slightest alarm, a kind of sentinel ran to the rescue. Finally, the
very nature of the statue, its highly artistic work, all denounced a very
advanced civilization.

The vision that had appeared to me, I thought, was that of a


guardian warned of danger by an exceptional means of
communication unknown to us men of science, or by the same entity
that in the faraway past had placed the statuette at Isling. But when
did this happen? And why? And who was this unknown power?
And why had the green stone been used to protect the well of the
Devil's Cemetery? I am more and more convinced that originally the
well was destined to the human sacrifices of beings devoted to a
monstrous and unknown divinity, as I test it, always in my opinion,
the extraordinary variety of skeletons ranging from modern man to
infinitely species older than the known ones. This theory of religious
sacrifice was plausible, but it was also logical to think that the victims
were destined for something else, if we consider the disappearance of
the flesh from their body. Did they feed on it? And that green
substance was perhaps organic, in another universe, or at least
endowed with a force and an "existence" similar to what we call "life".
These thoughts gave me the feeling that,for the first time in the
course of my experiences as an investigator launched through time
and space, I really began to see clearly. The enigmas that had
bothered me took shape in my mind, they specified themselves.

I reasoned for a long time about how I could have left the tunnel
and ended up at Stonehenge, and the extraordinary properties of the
stone and the seal guarding the well. Everything made us think of an
ultra-Euclidean geometry. Stonehenge also seemed to have been built
as a function of the underground corridor. And who knows that the
men to whom those innumerable bones had belonged, when they
were still wearing their mortal flesh, had not entered spontaneously
into the cave in order to transfer their flesh, their intelligence, their
personality, to the superhuman power so far from us, and yet so close
according to the rules of the hyper-universe, of hyperspace, of hyper-
time!

I went back to examining the photographs taken at Isling, focusing


my attention on the reproductions of the celestial vault, and easily
recognized the same arrangement of the stars as reproduced in the
Paru-Sai manuscript cards. There had to be a link between the two
things! And I remembered the reproduction of the land of 1,500,000
years ago. Something was finally beginning to take shape. I tried to
reconstruct some facts that belonged to a very distant past, trying to
abstract myself from my position as a human being conditioned by
the things of this world, to adopt the point of view of a super-stranger
inhabitant of the Earth, this little grain of sand of a boundless desert.
So I imagined that this power of supercosm was in the need to throw
away,for experiment purposes, a tiny germ on this earth, as you sow a
bacterium in a test tube, and let it develop freely for a certain period.
And I calculated this period to 1,500,000 years of our time that for
unknown beings may very well correspond to 1,500,000 seconds, ie
less than three weeks.

If the first geographic map established the epoch in which the


Titans had come to Earth to sow the virus of human life, the second
had to refer to the time in which the experiment would end. The event
that determined the end must then take place at one or the other end
of the Stonehenge-Easter Island axis, and in a very short period of
time.

The more I thought, the more I became convinced that human life
was the work of this supercosmic power. But why was it created? Was
it just a laboratory culture implanted to find a virus that would serve
as an antidote to some disease that afflicted those super-existences?
At the end of those three weeks corresponding to one million and a
half of years, would they have grasped the fruit of their experiment or
restarted a new crop?

A million and a half years! The universe known to us is perhaps


only a molecule or a cell of the most common species in the
superuniverse of the colossus Titanic. There is a fly, the ephemeral,
whose existence lasts only one day. But for you, the ephemeral, these
twenty-four hours are worth as much as a hundred years for us. So
this one and a half million years of sins, of loves, of rancor, of deaths,
of inventions and of slow progress towards the conquest of
civilization represent perhaps only a few weeks in the time of our
masters.

And the strange green statuette, the Guardian of the Seal, is the
guide of this experiment-life. Everything is as if the enigmatic
chemists, inhabitants of a superuniverse beyond time and space, in
relation to which our world is nothing but an insect waving in the
solar system, as if these chemists, I said, had deposited a drop of
liquid polluted under the microscope of an ultracosmic laboratory
resulting in the multiplication of germs in the virus during a three-
week incubation period. And now that man had multiplied, the
experience was interrupted. To make a variation or to undergo a
transmutation? I do not know, but I think this phantom force game
will converge on Easter Island, among the gigantic stone men and the
funerary monoliths that cover it, because the stars are in the position
described in the Sekhita manuscript and on the green stone of Isling.

What will I do when the beings of this superuniverse manifest


themselves? What can I do and how can I defeat them? It is evident
that none of the elemental forces in the possession of men, no earthly
force can fight them since they are subject only to their supernal laws,
to the rules of a space and time that are foreign to them, to concepts
of greater complexity, of a kind of life completely different from ours,
of a kind of infinitely superior energy and power. We should be able
to deal with them in the field of their own elements, but how? Is there
a clue, a key that reveals the way, in the material that I have
collected? Is it possible to discover the nature of their infinite world?
And if these entities really created human life, from whom they were
created, and how are they made?

They could be as organic as they are inorganic, or both together


with the addition of heavy energy. They could also be devoid of any
substance: pure energy, pure concept, pure force, elusive to any
analysis and devoid of stable form. If a gaseous emanation could
speak, a flash of light think, mercury breathe, perhaps then I could
better understand the Titans. But I can not answer all my questions. I
can only wait, watch, and watch over Easter Island.

Maybe something will happen.

11
The feeling of being alone, of feeling alone on Easter Island, was a
surprise to Graham. At other times he had always met some natives
or representatives of the Chilean government.

The plane, which the archaeologist had hired to bring him to the
island, had left him provisions and supplies of material sufficient for a
month, though he had to return the following week, according to
Graham's orders.

The silence of the island had something unnatural. The incessant


breaking of the waves and the cries of the seagulls formed a sort of
background to which human voices would have overlapped. Instead,
when those sounds that were an integral part of the island had been
assimilated in such a way as to no longer be felt, all that Graham felt
was the whistling of the wind that passed in gusts on his head.

The archaeologist had arrived on the island late in the afternoon, too
late to begin the explorations. We then cooked a light dinner on a
camp stove and contemplated the sunset show. A few stars shone pale
in the sky and the damp vapors of the earth made visibility poor.
Looking around, Graham could not see traces of bivouac fires or hear
any voice. The fact was very strange. The natives usually showed
themselves to be curious towards any stranger, as it was rare for some
visitors to come to the island. Graham felt a lack of that discreet
curiosity, and when he finally fell asleep, he was disturbed by
continuous dreams.

At the first light of dawn a systematic exploration of the island began,


of which he knew the topography perfectly thanks to his previous
visits. Here is the Rano Raraku. You could not go wrong: it was the
island's dominating volcano. Graham took it as a point of reference,
then set off.

Before noon his impression was confirmed: on the island there was
not a single human being besides him. This too was a mystery. Was it
possible that the natives had all died after his last visit, or that the
government agents had brought them to Chile? Perhaps an epidemic
had broken out and the survivors had escaped, or it was a peaceful
mass emigration ... or something had scared them. The archaeologist
recalled that in the previous January, a merchant ship, heading out of
a storm, had reported the disappearance of the Easter Island. Later,
however, it was ascertained that it was an erroneous calculation of
navigation.

In any case, this place had never seemed so desolate in Graham, and
the absence of the inhabitants certainly did not help to diminish this
impression. Among all the islands, that was surely the most
ungrateful piece of land. Volcanic, with large boulders of basalt, with
a porous and arid soil. Jagged rocks encircled the shores defended by
a steep cliff. From Akahanga to Toa-Toa, huge statues soaring in the
sky, or lying on the ground like sleeping giants, covered the ground.
Inside, on the flanks of the Rano Raraku, a site of immense sculptors,
other giants finished or just sketched turned their stone eyes to the
sea.

With the incessant ebb and flow of the waves, day and night, every
day and every night for countless years, the eternal ocean scanned the
rocks a solemn requiem, perpetual song dedicated to the fantastic
statues carved by forgotten hands.

Huge giant stone. Immutable grin on imperious faces that only the
winds and storms could hardly file without being able to erase. Who
had erected the funeral platforms that rose in titanic blocks above the
cliff? Which missing race had left such an inheritance in the world?
Thousands of statues tirelessly watched the ocean waiting ... Waiting
for what?

After the Dutch navigator Roggeveen had first set foot on the island in
the early 18th century, that land had been shrouded in an atmosphere
of mystery. All those who had visited that empire of desolation, lost in
the agitated seas of the South, had felt attracted by the enigmatic
charm that emanated from the unreal atmosphere. Charm and
enigma that Graham judged to be more disturbing than those
exercised by the Sphinx.
Numerous generations of men must have been used to sculpt the
basalt, erect the statues, build the platforms. How could they live on
that disinherited island? It was beyond doubt that the stay in that
place was only possible for a few men at a time. So?Was it necessary
to attribute the gigantic constructions to another work that was not
that of man? Why then did the statues, as soon as they were finished,
have been mysteriously abandoned, and some monoliths had then
been left in a draft state?

Over the years, numerous scientific expeditions had traveled to the


island to study the phenomenon, but none had reported anything
other than conjectures about the identity of the sculptors, the era in
which they lived, and the purpose of their works.

But this time Graham felt something even more terrible and obscure
than usual in the appearance of the island. During his previous visits,
the presence of the few natives who were staying there had in a
certain sense softened and made bearable the anguished impression
aroused by the visit of the disquieting giants. It was enough to see
them around to feel encouraged.

But now, nobody. Not the slightest sound of human voices, not the
shuffling of bare feet ... And their disappearance served only to
deepen the mystery.

***

The gusts of wind blew impetuously all day. The sea was white with
foam and the long waves broke on the rocks with a dull bellow. The
air was saturated with vibrations, and Graham did not hide from
being worried: he knew the place well, yet he felt he was facing a
hostile and unknown world. The archaeologist spent the afternoon
exploring the south side, from Akahanga to the Rano Raraku, along
the beach. He stopped for a long time to contemplate the
imperturbable monsters who, proudly standing against the sky or
lying on the ground, preserved in the faces of stone an expression of
superb conquerors. The thin relief of the lips, the strong nose, the sad
eyes, the very high cheekbones gave these faces the imprint of a
superhuman race.

Then the sun went down toward the sea and the shadows stretched
out to the ground in the near sunset. In the cavities of the rocks, in
the depressions of the ground, darkness descended, and the features
of the stone men seemed to intensify in the play of light and shadow
as the wind blew stronger and the ocean sang its deep song in a
grumble of thunder. Graham was circling around a large mound near
Toa-Toa, when he saw a recent furrow that started from the shore.
Although dazed by the supernatural surrounding him, the scientist
was able to keep close to reality, and observed that the furrow was
abruptly interrupted in an inexplicable way. It would have been said
the imprint of a huge cable that had carved the hard ground like a
steel blade. The strange crack continued inthe interior in the form of
gigantic steps that at one point had pulverized some basalt blocks of a
platform to head towards the Rano Raraku that stood out in the
twilight of dusk with its fatal bulk.

Something had therefore arisen from the sea, and another thing had
come to meet and had transported it to the construction site of the
gods, on the volcano. Graham looked at the crater of the desolate
mountain, then returned to his field.

The wind howled in a strange way, the shadows quickly invaded the
island, and in the imagination of man every mound, each statue
became the fantastic appearance of a dream. It seemed to him that
from an infinite distance came echoes of cosmic voices, shudders,
whispers. Neither crying nor laughter, only supreme indifference. The
strength of the wind increased from minute to minute. A piece of rock
broke away and fell. The sea scourged the cliff with wild violence,
detaching fragments that fell into the waves. Graham turned to the
Rano Raraku, but immediately looked away. It had seemed to him
that an inhuman, phantom light was shining above the crater,
radiating around like lava, and the color did not resemble anyone
else. It was an indescribable splendor, and Graham did not have the
courage to look back. Something in him refused to accept that show.
Horrible, ambiguous and fluid, exhilarating and alive, that light
denounced the terrifying presence of an unimaginable being, of a
visible and bodyless intelligence, concentrated to the maximum but
ready to expand indefinitely. And it pulsed like a vein, like a heart, at
the top of the crater. This was the impression Graham had received,
but he was not sure, because he had looked at her in amazement and
frightened for a brief moment, immediately turning to horror and
continuing on his way.

And the wind continued to scream, as the stormy sea raged against
the shores bristling with black rocks, against the base of the
buttresses where impassive stone men stood guard.

Graham prepared a quick dinner, and ate quickly without tasting it.
His gestures were mechanical and his mind occupied and
preoccupied only by the phenomenon he had witnessed. In the light
of a lamp, the archaeologist once again studied his notes, then, in the
darkness, he did a strange thing: he silently moved his lips, like
someone who repeats a speech to himself, careful not to emit the
smallest sound . It was very late when he lay down, and later still
when he could get to sleep because with the passage of time he felt the
pressure of the forces hovering around Easter Island rising and
becoming increasingly violent. Graham felt in the distance the
presence of that floating glow on the insistent Rano Raraku, leaning
toward the abysses.

Finally, the archaeologist fell into a nervous sleep, interrupted by


frequent awakenings filled with the roar of the wind and the insults of
the sea. Once he even seemed to hear the echo of distant voices,
joyless, inhuman, and muffle a cry, but it was only his own voice
coming out of a nightmare. The stars glowed faintly above him like
candles at their last flicker. The solitude of the sea, of the sky and of
the earth was immense, as it would not be believed possible. It
seemed that the whole world had been swallowed up, and that he
found himself, the last and only living being, on a devastated land.
Then Graham went back to sleep, and had a dream.

It furrowed like a comet the immense spaces beyond the Solar


System, faster than a meteor, faster than the same light. It fell
forward with such rapidity that the stars and galaxies slipped past
him like flies, then faded after his passage, while he covered
astronomical distances. And a strange distortion was produced in the
abstractly curving space, and the millions and millions of light years it
had traveled faded.

Then the galaxies and nebulae were behind him. The whole universe
had disappeared. Graham had no existence and came from regions
beyond any concept beyond speculation, above all theories. And after
the unformed chaos, his ego that lived that dream settled on an
organic matter and felt itself observed through the lenses of a colossal
microscope. The archaeologist was but a simple molecule in a six-
dimensional cosmos. He had become a microbe.

With the fantastic illogicality of dreams, the vision lasted only a


moment. Everything had happened in an infinitesimal moment, but
now, with the paradoxical slowness of eternity combined with the
speed of thought, the Titans realized his presence. Graham then saw
the floating figures protrude from other heavens, imperceptible to the
human senses, perpetually vibrant in the cycles of the pulsation,
swirling through the immensity of their super-existences. They had
sensed the presence of the intruder in their kingdom, and Graham
knew he had been noticed. He felt a great force radiating from them.
The thought, the will, the life and their task were absolutely
incomprehensible to him, and he felt as if he had been reduced,
rejected, a microorganism pushed back into its place, considered as a
galaxy cell, of a star molecule belonging to a lower universe.

He awoke suddenly with dry and burning skin, and stood for some
time with his eyes open to listen to the powerful breath of the wind
and the fantastic voice of the sea.

A gray dawn greeted the definitive awakening of the scientist, and the
imaginary vision of the island took the place of night terror and its
nightmares. He was exhausted and nervous, as if he had spent a
sleepless night. His mind was still full of the mysterious and
prophetic visions that had obsessed his subconscious. Rocky rocks
and stone giants preserved their awesome power and their threat of
inhuman reality in the morning mist. The wind was even more
impetuous, and the gusts, laden with the tiny drops of the sea foam,
filled the air with salty moisture. The impalpable ridges rose higher
on the waves, and the ocean was seething furiously.

When he stood up, the archaeologist was dizzy: the ground swayed.
The wind waved the man's face, but in the air there was another
element, strange, indecipherable, almost a contained vibration. A
strip of mounds crossed the sky on the horizon, and at the top, large
jagged clouds, black as the soot, ran swiftly northward driven by the
wind. Graham knew that the apparent placidity of the heaps and
cirrus clouds was deceiving in the Pacific, and that in reality the soft
clouds were always harbingers of violent storms or sudden changes in
weather.

Accompanied by the wind and the noise of the sea, Graham set off
walking alongside the giants' cemetery. The monasteries and the
cyclopean statues oppressed him with their presence, and prevented
him from thinking. He had not seen human beings for two days and
listened to other voices than those of nature, and his only company
had been the profusion of stone monsters. The archaeologist stopped
at the point where the ground was furrowed by the giant footprint
wondering which way he should have headed. He finally decided to
proceed towards the Rano Raraku following the imprints marked in
basalt, at wide intervals, as if they were steps of a colossal being. He
continued to walk, rejoicing the terror of the night passed, as if reality
were only the result of the nightmare, feeling the full weight of the
loneliness heightened by the consciousness that the footprints had
indeed been impressed by a cyclopean creature. He thought of Isling's
green statuette wondering if it had not been her to produce the deep
furrow on the shore in reaching the island, and if she had not in the
meantime undergone an extraordinary metamorphosis. It was a crazy
idea, of course, but no more than what he had seen and experienced
during the last few months.

The climb to the volcano was steep, and the wind brought from the
beach minutes grains of earth that stung his face. In the sky the piles
had disappeared, merging with the uniform gray. And far away, to the
west, menacing clouds had gathered. Graham continued climbing the
rocks and tumuli, helping himself with his hands when the climb was
too steep, crossing rare areas covered with timid grass. He met a few
statues now, but the footprints in the basalt continued. Finally the
ascent to the Rano Raraku finally concluded, Graham looked around
the construction site of the sculptors. Completed or unfinished
statues covered the outer side of the crater in the most astonishing
sight to see on Earth. Most of those statues lay on the ground, but
they did not lose their impressive appearance. A few heads seemed to
rise from the ground. His eyes fixed on the sea a look without
expression. Once again, Graham was struck by the majestic grandeur
of the stone men. What imperious race had they belonged to? He
noticed a particular grotesque: all the heads were completely flat on
the nape, and this detail gave them a strange angularity that
suggested the idea of a different geometric system. But whatever the
attitude of those statues was, they had an air of senseless superiority.
That place was something more than a sculptor yard. It was the
cemetery of the gods! The sea made its thunder reach there. Graham
advanced further. The footprints continued beyond the statues and
disappeared into the crater. Certainly Graham had made a thousand
assumptions about what he would find in that place, but the possible
reality surpassed all hypotheses.

At its feet lay the crater of the Rano Raraku. It was more or less what
he remembered from his previous explorations, but with one
difference: the lost image, the green statuette was there, in the middle
of the crater, resting on a pedestal of the same substance that
composed it, and traces of gigantic steps they stopped before the altar
of that monstrous god.
But it was not only the sight of the statuette that immobilized
Graham. Evilly the idol flickered on its base in the completion of the
whole cycle of its transformations, mass of pure energy with
undefined outlines, metal, liquid, nightmare ... Pygmy and Titan
ready to unleash itself in space, circle, angle, solid, of a unknown
geometry, splendid of a color that men had never seen. A continuous
flame seemed to possess it and surround it, not burning and not cold,
but unbearable in its immutable intensity. Even the block that
supported the idol seemed to be driven by the same vibrations. Then
from the statuette a luminous column emerged that rose in the sky
and lost itself in space. Fascinated by the phenomenon, Graham
looked up and stared at the force that was beyond all Earth's scientific
knowledge. The column of light pierced the clouds. The archaeologist
closed his sore eyes for a moment. Instinctively, he understood that
the green idol had taken on by himself, through that incredible
phosphorescent pillar, an astounding energy that came from the
depths of time. He looked back. The huge column intensified its
brightness, tinging it with an unreal color, and its magnification
continued, slowly but surely.

Graham wavered, tried to regain his balance ... The shocked sea
swelled furiously, the wind howled the louder, the whole island
jumped. Graham had already felt those tremors twice. That Easter
Island was about to be swallowed by the waters of the Pacific?

The glittering column and the statuette had not moved, but the
scientist realized that they were expanding. Against all logic, Graham
began to advance toward the brilliant stream, descending into the
crater, stumbling into the ancient solidified lava. Debris accumulated
during the slow passage of the centuries had leveled the bottom of the
volcanic mouth, but some sharp rocks, true tongues of lava, they
made it difficult to continue. But Graham continued his march. The
pillar of fire completely surrounded the green hoof, on which the
statue rested, spreading out for about ten meters.

When he reached the distance of one arm, Graham stopped. The


pillar that came from nowhere seemed to merge with the hard and
black soil interrupting itself around the small statue. Graham's eyes
burned with the effect of that torturing sight, of that color with
curious properties, different from those of radioactive rays, as they
are from common fire. He saw the idol fluctuate according to the
cycle of his transformations, he was hypnotized and attracted to
follow him even though he did not understand the hidden end behind
those immense forces in action.

Winning terror, Graham raised an arm, slowly, forcing himself to rest


his hand on the column, timidly undecided as if he wanted to make
sure that a picture just painted was dry. He was ready for anything,
even to suffer total destruction because of the mysterious energy.
After all, what did he care more about life? But his hand did not
report burns and did not feel any radiation, he stopped, just as if he
had touched a solid body. The air was as impenetrable as if it were a
crystal wall. After ten minutes of trying, mournful, and stupefied by
the unreasonable phenomenon, Graham gave up. The emanation of
light rays was still increased. The idol vibrated so as to give dizziness,
and the sea seemed crazy.

Graham returned to his field in shock: rummaging in his personal bag


he drew his revolver, and with the weapon in his pocket he took the
road of Rano Raraku. Certainly he did not hope that the projectiles of
the weapon would destroy the enigmatic flame, but he wanted to
determine the effect of the impact of moving matter on energy in
action.

The mad unleashing of the elements, the heavy black sky, the wild
aspect of the place acted depressingly on the spirit.

During the scientist's absence, the phosphorescent luminescence had


undergone other changes, and the vibrations of the green image had
grown in strength and vital energy. Graham loaded the revolver with
great care. He was at a distance from which it was impossible to miss
such a huge target, but he took aim with great care, as when, on very
different occasions, he had taken part in shooting competitions. The
shot sounded dry, and the echo of the blow was carried away from the
wind.

No change in the pulse of the idol, no spark, or the slightest change in


color to indicate that the bullet had come to sign. The archaeologist
approached the column of light. The bullet was on the ground,
crushed, and he bent down to pick it up. That, at least, had obeyed the
laws of physics and had heated up after the friction of the air and the
collision with the column. But what physical laws, or other science,
underlay that emanation of the abyss? Dynamite or other explosives
would not have obtained better results than the revolver. And
probably not even the energies released by the disintegration of the
atom by nuclear fission would have succeeded in bringing the
slightest damage to the apocalyptic presence. Nothing of all scientific
findings, no energy could be applied to extraordinary dynamism. And
there was only one human being there to oppose the magical column.

Suddenly Graham realized that the air was struck by tremors that
were multiplying. It would have been said the echo of erupting
volcanoes at the ends of the world ...

As at a signal, the radiant energy column then began to move slowly,


inexorably. Centimeter by centimeter, meter by meter, forcing
Graham to retreat. The sky had completely darkened as if by the
threat of a storm and had plunged the island into darkness, but the
infinite column of light throbbed, gaining more and more ground,
covering the empty and desolate space around itself. And in the
center, the greenish idol shone furiously.

The circle widened with a terrible movement, proceeding to


similarities to the beats of a huge heart. He leaned forward, withdrew
and then returned to dilate again. A bright dust now enveloped the
statuette in the center of the column, ever larger, emanating a
relentless energy. His sight was graver for Graham than that of a
ghost, of a resurrected dead, and nothing in the science of the
archaeologist could be of use to him. The man felt reduced to a grain
of sand in front of that emanation of superhuman nature.
And the column ruthlessly extended, pushing it back to the edges of
the crater, then further along the slopes of the Rano Raraku, forcing it
to retreat through the stone men's yard. One after another the
imperious statues, images of the rulers were absorbed by the circle.
Little by little, the devouring and cold fire chased the fleeing man,
holding him closer and closer with his pulsating movement. Going
back to the sea, Graham turned from time to time to look at the beam
of light that urged him to continue with his advanced methodical and
aggressive. The scientist did not understand why the fantastic column
had not swallowed the bullet that he had shot, while instead he took
possession of the statues. Only a selective intelligence, capable of
making a selection, could act that way. Should he therefore imagine
that he was endowed with this faculty, the phantom column of the
nonexistent color?

As they came to the inside of the pillar, the stone men underwent a
sinister and significant metamorphosis. They seemed to acquire
strength as if they finally found something to nourish themselves, and
the color that enveloped them seemed to be for them the color of life
that brought them to fulfillment. Impassive puzzles came alive as if
under the breath of creation, then they moved mysteriously towards
the center of the column and their shape changed with the
intensification of the flame.

The world no longer existed for Graham. Only the unsolved mystery
of time and space, that enigma of dominating force, matter and will,
existed. The effort to which he had subjected his sight made its effects
felt, his head ached terribly, and his spirit took refuge in the past. He
thought of Isling's well, which he had managed to escape, and it was
said that this time the phenomenon was to surrender, as the green
stone had surrendered to the application of its own laws.

Back, further back. Graham descended the ramps of the Rano


Raraku, reached the rocks and the cliff, he was close to the very high
waves. By now the colossal column had covered the whole Easter
Island with its phosphorescence and had rejected the little man to the
beach.

N'ga n'ga rhthl'g clretl ust s g'lgggar ...

The wild sound overlapped the screaming of the wind and the
thunder of the ocean ...

Septhulchu nyrcg s thargoth k'tuhl s brogg ... The cosmic song came
from infinite distances and increased in intensity. Graham thought of
the Guardian of the Seal, the figurine at the center of the boundless
tower. This suddenly became a whirlwind of multiple dimensions, a
chain linked to another time and to another space. Titans were about
to return. They would enter through the door that one day they had
opened and then closed again.

Now they would reopen it ...

Meargoth s bh'rw'lutl ubcwthughu dägoth ... It was the prophecy


that came true, it was the order of the Guardian of the Seal. The earth
was linked to other worlds, inside and outside, and from their
laboratories in the ultracosmos, the Titans re-united these bonds. In
an incomprehensible way for all but for them, they traveled trillions
of light years, contracting their greatness into the small atom that was
the universe of Graham.

The column was a mixture of color, sparks of dark splendor radiating


over its entire length, burning in the amorphous and strange
whirlwind of an unknown world.

The hour had come, and Graham remembered the old Sekhita and the
passage the priest had read from the prehistoric book. When the stars
are in the prophesied position, then the Titans will wake up and
return. The earth will open up, and from deeper crypts than they are
to the clouds, the Guardian of the Seal will launch its call to the
Titans. The Guardian of the Seal will also become as big as a Titan
and will go to the Crltul Thr. The waters will boil, the earth will open,
and the stars will rise in a sky of flame. From their Universe, beyond
the stars, the Titans will descend. They will claim for themselves all
that lives, they who have made us dust and fire that consumes. This
will happen when the Titans wake up, when the stars are in the right
place, unless the one who will face the Guardian of the Seal and
defeats him. Then the Guardian will come back in stone and the
Titans will wait in their great sphere until the stars are once again
returned to the position desired by the prophecy. And the Guardian of
the Seal will remain on the axis from Crltul Thr to Mrcg.

***

Graham waited and listened, ready to launch his challenge in the only
way that seemed possible.

The words that had come through the air, now no longer heard, but
still vibrated their last echo when Graham spoke other words.

Weird, weird words, addressed to the Guardian in response to the


sibylline phrases coming from space. It was the syllables carved on
the second half of the green stone. The archaeologist had said that if
the first half of the inscription had the power to unleash the
instruments of obscure laws, the second part could be the key to stop
these forces, to suspend the implementation of their plan.
Presumably the Titans themselves had given the key to the Guardian
of the Seal in case it was necessary to suspend their return.

Over the course of the previous night, Graham had memorized the
guttural phrases, silently repeating them, to accustom his lips to the
movements suitable for emitting those unpronounceable sounds and
helping himself with the phonetic reconstruction that had been given
to him by Professor Alton. He ignored if they had a meaning
understood according to human concepts. And he did not even know
the effect they would produce ...

After pronouncing the last syllables, Graham saw the luminous


column writhing in a series of extraordinary convulsions. A moment
later the cold fire enveloped him, dragging him into a new world. And
he felt that an exceptional tension was breaking down. Graham
walked in time, withdrew from space. He approached the Titans, but
they disappeared.

12

Was he living a dream, or was he dead and walking in the darkness of


the afterlife?

Throughout the day, under the blinding radiance of the scorching


sun, he had moved one step after the other in a bruised landscape,
amidst calcined things, pursuing his purpose. Throughout the day he
had traveled a devastated land, devoid of all life. Now the green sun
had set, and he had not yet come out of the wilderness. The last
reflection of the great emerald allowed him to see a forest in the
distance, and Graham headed for it.

After a strange twilight, the night clung to him. A night that was soon
as black as ebony, and that weighed on the Earth. But Graham did not
stop. He continued to advance towards the forest, guided by weak
constellations of stars that shone with a cold and tremulous light. For
a long time he dragged himself forward towards the distant trees.
When it came halfway, the darkness dissipated a little, and a sort of
huge red blood-like disk rose from the east, spreading a sick light
around it. With an immense leap the disk was high in the sky,
surrounded by all kinds of satellites. The air was heavy and
unbreathable, and the red light seemed to be made up of myriad
drops of blood. Under the pale glow, the calcined soil took on an
aspect of greater solitude and greater desolation.

Always on ... always on ...

When the red disk set with its satellites, Graham reached the forest.
Then, from every point on the horizon, endless comets rose to sail the
sky in every direction.

The forest seemed black and wet and stretched to the right and left of
the man as far as the eye could see. He penetrated without hesitation,
and soon found himself among gigantic trees that crushed him with
their enormous masses. As it proceeded, the trees became thicker and
the branches intertwined more closely. Graham had to open a path
between broken trunks. They looked like high tombstones and each
bore a fantastic inscription on the bark. Then the first climbing plants
appeared.

Whispers came to him from every side, and sometimes he seemed to


see some shadows moving among the plants, leaning over the trunks
to look at him and then flee, filling the air with bestial laughter. He
hastened his pace.

Irradicants had grown so dense that they could not keep pace with his
legs. Finally, to continue he had to use the long knife that hung from
his belt. Each cut plant screamed. And the wounds were bleeding.

A curse weighed on that infernal forest. Soon they heard only cries
and screams like cries of desperate children. Gemits of broken plants!
He hastened his pace again. Her scratches on his face, blood dripped
on his clothes. Wobbling continued to walk.

The ground suddenly became wet, and Graham stopped just in time:
before him lay a quagmire. At that point the forest was less dense, and
here and there some dead trees lay on the ground. Far away, as far as
the eye could see, only the swamp could be seen. Graham paused for a
moment to think, then launched, determined.

For a while it was easy enough to continue, jumping from trunk to


trunk or swimming through the expanse of stagnant water.
Sometimes he would wade a stretch of swamp, into a viscous mud
that would stick to his legs and then let go with a horrible backwash.
Two or three times he had the impression that a shadow, flying low,
touched his face ... He shuddered, and continued his way, laboriously.

Finally he came to a clearing on which a gloomy sun shone. Without


reflecting, he slipped into a liquid mass and began to swim.
Immediately the expanse of water began to come alive: thousands
and thousands of forms were swarming and emitting demonic
whistles. Millions of vipers, cold, slimy, unclean, soft like worms.
Graham dived under water and stayed there as long as possible. Every
time he emerged to take a breath, he raised real waves of reptiles. The
air trembled with the constant, shrill whistles rising from the
nauseating waves.

When the water finally returned mud, Graham could hoist himself on
a half-rotted trunk, and lay there for a long time to recover his
strength a little. The viscous mass of the reptiles moved away like an
unclean ebb, and when the man resumed his journey, the road was
free. Above him, comets no longer plowed the sky turned into
absolute void, of oppressive darkness.

Hours and hours, always marching in a region rich only in perfidious


landslides and viscous swamps. The stench of stagnant water stunned
him. Several times he was tempted to abandon the heavy knife that
hung from his side and that kept his pace, but he always abstained for
caution. He could still serve him.

He must have traveled miles and miles, when he suddenly emerged


from the swamp, and the ground returned solidly under his feet. The
forest was over. He lay down on the ground, remaining a few minutes
to rest.

He turned a moment to look at the vast swamp that had just passed,
and at that moment he heard a horrible, inhuman cry, and saw a
colossal form rise from the muddy abyss and straighten and swing. At
the height of the gigantic figure, a monstrous head dangled from side
to side, staring at it with the dull look of a single huge eye.

Graham jumped up and ran away from the monster and the swamp
that disappeared into the darkness.

The ground now had no reliefs, and was covered with a tall grass that
rustled softly. A faint wind played in the grass with a joking whisper.
A sad music was born from the darkness embroidering a plaintive
motif: it seemed like the piantorassato of a soul in pain, and soon the
sad harmony moved him from all sides, low and evanescent, with the
rhythmic cadence of a funeral litany. The whole plain seemed to cry
and moan at the passage of the man, pushing him to move away more
quickly to escape that despair. And the infinite expanse was all a
feeling of death and loneliness.

The path that Graham traveled, after a while became tortuous, and
the plain broke off at the foot of a hilly chain. He began to rise, and
the darkness dissipated a little. Crossing the hills, the man saw an
immense and pale moon that crossed the sky like a poor old rotting
thing, spreading its sick light around, dyeing the trees with a bruised
light, and he, Graham, realized that even the his face and his hands
must have looked like a dead man's face and hands. Recovered from a
nameless fear, he hastened to reach the mountains that towered over
the hills with their massive peaks. All silence in those desolate places.
The only company to man, the rhythmic patter of his steps that
echoed in his ears from an eternity.

The man faced a winding path in the side of a mountain. The rocks
and the trees mixed in an indescribable way seemed to move, change
position almost to oppose the passage. Graham touched a stone and
winced: the stone was panting like a big frog. With a fit of fury, he
grabbed the knife and knocked it down on the rock with all his
strength. The stone opened in two emitting an inhuman scream and
letting out a cloud of worms. All the rocks moved then converging on
him, rampant and deliquescent masses. Holding his breath, Graham
flicked right and left, but he did not come up with anything. Strange
cold and wet things twisted around his ankles and climbed along his
legs, disgusting monsters caressing his skin ...

He fled, screaming, and came out on a plateau in the center of which


stood a dead city. There was no reason for him to get around it, since
the paved road he was walking across was right in the middle. Moving
like an automaton, he continued to move forward. It was an amazing
city, made up mostly of monoliths, obelisks, cenotaphs, all without
doors or windows. It seemed that the inhabitants of the city had
mysteriously died, leaving behind them those funerary monuments
that collapsed and dissolved.

He continued to march for hours and hours. The path rose higher and
higher on the very high mountains that rose on each side. Dark
everywhere, except on the path that remained visible. When it
reached a certain height, the darkness became less dense. Before him
lay a cup-shaped circle, surrounded by giant boulders suspended over
a light and impalpable phosphorescence that illuminated its majestic
grandeur. Slowly, following the path that crossed the edge of the cup,
the man descended into the river. The luminous coruscripes that
formed the phosphorescence palpitated, and the air was thrilled.

It was said that Graham's arrival was expected.

When he reached the geometric center of the circus, Graham stopped,


right on the edge of an abyss. Then the light particles gathered
together to form a circle of swirling flames. Before he could move, a
solid wall of cold radiation rose with a huge wave.

And all the light became a flame. And all the flames became gold. A
distant moan rose, grew, magnified. And all the light became flame,
and the flame was green. The air seemed to live animated by a titanic
force, and a roar, similar to that of a waterfall in which all the waters
of the earth had gathered, canceled every other noise.

And all the light became a flame, and the flame was black. Storms
were unleashed in the depths, and a tunnel rose beyond the
boundless spaces of the Universe. Shocked, stunned by all those
uncontrollable forces, at the mercy of their savage fury, the man tried
to scream, but no sound came from his contracted throat.

And the flame piled up, turned towards lozenith, transformed into a
huge and solid column of fire at the top of which gathered an even
more vivid glow. Graham tried to move, but by now he was on his last
legs. Suddenly at the center of the hurricane the column became
immobilized as ... as if they were waiting ...

He finally managed to shake. He headed for the well, tossed about,


scourged by the wind. He tried to hold on to something so as not to be
dragged away, he slipped, and finally he could scream. But too late,
too late ... Only the wind whirling around the column of fire came to
him.

At an incalculable, unbelievable distance, he saw the fiery flow of life


launch like a rocket into the depths of space.

He shouted again and again. An inhuman groan answered him, the


breath of the sea without borders, the echo of a cosmic voice moving
away into nothingness. And Graham sank into the abyss.

He had the impression of plunging from a great height into an endless


chasm. Then he found himself immersed in cold water, and opening
his eyes he realized he was struggling in an almost calm sea. In the
sky, a point widened visibly by coming down to him. He followed him
with his eyes, but he felt no joy at the thought of being rescued. The
great exhaustion that was in him even prevented him from being
astonished by the fact that there was no trace of Easter Island around
here. He did not know if he was alive or dead, and if what he saw was
the secret of Eternity.

The object stopped and remained perfectly still a hundred yards


above its head. It was so suspended in the air without any support.
Graham did not understand where the engine of that exceptional
plane was located, undoubtedly much larger than any device ever
seen. Its shape made one think of an enormous token placed on a
playing card. The coating was of a subtle opaque substance with
amber reflections.

A door opened in the side of the unit, and a man stepped out of it
toward Graham. The archaeologist stared in astonishment at the
extraordinary scene, and was so astonished to forget that he was at
sea, which gave him a solemn drink of salt water, followed by a
coughing attack. The man who came out of the plane descended into
the air as if following the route of an invisible ladder. He had a
grotesque appearance: his head too big over the tiny, frail body, his
limbs long and thin as the legs of a spider, and immense deep eyes.

He stopped shortly above Graham and spoke to him. The sweet and
fluid speech reminded the chatter of a bird, and did not resemble any
known language. Graham thought he had emerged in another world,
perhaps placed at the other end of the luminous column. The stranger
looked at the archaeologist with an air of no surprise. The scientist
spoke to him in English, and with no results he tried a few sentences
in the languages he had learned here and there during his
explorations: Spanish, French, German, Italian. He even tried with
Latin, Siamese, Arabic, and a few words in Chinese, but the stranger
continued to stare at him with increasingly surprised expression.
Finally the strange being decided to remove Graham from the
uncomfortable position: he approached him more extending a hand.
The scientist smiled, convinced as he was to dream. He lifted a numb
limb from the water, raising it to his outstretched hand, certain to
put, with that gesture, the fine word to the strange vision. He felt a
shock as to how real the hand was that gripped his, and the effect
increased when he realized that the fragile creature, which he thought
came out of his imagination, despite the apparent gracility was able to
tear it from the sea and to lift it effortlessly along the invisible ladder
to bring it to the bizarre device.

The absurdity of the situation made Graham laugh. That laugh was a
reaction after the tension to which he had been subjected during the
exhausting march in the middle of the storm, after all the trials that
had frustrated his vitality.

Now he felt the pleasant sensation of floating slightly in the sky, held
by the grotesque gnome who was staring at him with a grave and
absorbed look in which Graham read countless questions.

The strange character introduced Graham into the immobile device.


From the moment he set foot in the exceptional aircraft, the
archaeologist was assaulted by a heap of emotions that overlapped
each other fast. He immediately saw many other beings similar to his
savior. Men and women. The latter were almost identical to the
males, with a flat chest, bald head, and equally thin legs and arms.

The guide led the castaway into a room where Graham was able to
change his clothes soaked with a kind of tunic made of cloth with
bronze reflections, which, on the contrary of appearance, was soft and
warm. Suddenly he realized he was hungry, and tried to explain his
need to the host with gestures. The little man understood and left him
only to return almost immediately carrying some vials full of different
liquids. Graham swallowed the contents, whose pleasant taste did not
remind him of any known drink, and he immediately felt invigorated.
All his senses became more refined, registering clearer sensations. No
doubt those liquids had more nutritive power, and a quicker effect
than those he was used to.

The success obtained by gesturing his need to eat, suggested the way
to get to communicate with the strange little men who hosted him. He
began to indicate the objects that surrounded him one by one, and
each time someone present said the name. Little by little, with that
system, they succeeded in forming a rudimentary vocabulary for
nouns. The task was more difficult, however, when it came to verbs.
They managed to agree on the easiest, such as eating, walking,
writing, talking. The words Graham saw written somewhere in the
room, or on labels or on some screens, seemed more familiar to him
than he heard. Apparently those strange beings used a kind of
shorthand for spoken language.

Meanwhile, the device had resumed its course: this fact had not asked
the pilot for more effort than to press a few buttons, and immediately
the device had dutifully taken altitude and then vibrating in the
north-east direction, at least so it seemed to Graham.

The guests expressed to the archaeologist the same astonished


curiosity that animated the scientist towards them, maintaining the
same attitude that they would have in front of a fossil or to the
representative of a completely disappeared race.

Graham was beginning to feel uncomfortable. The appearance of


those spider-like little men, their bird-like language, the strange
objects that surrounded them and whose use and meaning escaped
his understanding, that flying apparatus that obeyed completely
unknown rules, all these things they dug between him and his guests
an abyss that was hard to fill.

The archaeologist had learned that his savior answered to the name of
Moia Tohn. It was already something. Following an inspiration,
Graham took a kind of pencil and drew the symbols representing the
solar system. He marked the sun in the sky, he said its name and then
pointed it to his sketch. The same thing then did with a sphere
indicating the earth. At this point in his demonstration he
encountered a difficulty: how to determine the year, month and day?
How to visually reduce the concept of time? Meanwhile, Moia Tohn
was engulfed in an argument with his companions. Finally they
seemed to have reached an agreement, and then Moia Tohn led
Graham to a corner where they had an armchair and a screen, made
him sit on the seat and set up the contacts. Then he took a helmet and
placed it on the guest's head. Graham,who kept his eyes on the
screen, was amazed. He was thinking of Iris, and here he saw the
image reproduced faithfully. Behind him, Moia Tohn looked very
excited.

After several tests, Graham realized that the screen was not able to
reproduce abstract thoughts, while it was enough to think of
something visible because he immediately photographed its
appearance. The archaeologist had to make a considerable effort to
prevent himself from thinking constantly about his woman, and
instead find the system to explain his presence to the extraordinary
creatures.

He finally managed to concentrate and represent some of the events


that had brought him to Easter Island. He felt a shiver run through
the monstrous column of palpitating light again on the screen. At this
point Moia Tohn took the place of Graham on the armchair, and the
archaeologist saw in turn appear a vague column, barely mentioned,
which disappeared almost immediately to give way to a small man
fallen from the very base of the pillar.

So here's what happened, Graham thought: his escape from the


whirling pillar had witnesses who had come to rescue him.
After that the scientist tried to solve the problem of establishing the
date. To translate the idea of time visually, he quickly passed the sun
on the screen, making him follow the starry nights with the moon,
and then from dawn. Then he again showed the Easter Island, the
great column, and finally the graphic representation of the year in
which the catastrophe had occurred.

Moia Tohn understood, and seemed very amazed. He again replaced


the archaeologist in front of the screen and showed him, mostly by
gestures, that he had no memory of an island in that part of the
ocean, which had never even heard of the Easter Island or of the large
ones. statues. Then he made a symbol appear that Graham could not
decipher at first. Finally he understood that it must be the year of the
current year, but he could hardly believe his eyes because, if he had
understood rightly, he had to be about 1,500,000 in the year!

The year one million five hundred thousand! Although Moia Tohn's
unfamiliarity with mathematical symbols had made him make some
mistakes, the thing itself did not change at all, because even a
difference of a few centuries did not matter before that date.

So much time had passed on earth since he had been overwhelmed by


the cosmic storm! In fact, only a journey through time could explain
the grotesque metamorphosis suffered by men, the extraordinary
change in language, the wonders of mechanical progress. Graham felt
the soul of a primitive abruptly entered a world of complex maturity.

He suddenly felt very tired, and felt the need to stay a while with
himself to get used to this revelation. He left the room, and when he
came out he saw that Moia Tohn remained in the armchair in front of
the screen. He understood then that this mechanical marvel, a
triumph of a brilliant technique, had no practical application for
those people beyond that of serving as entertainment. No doubt it was
because of the scant importance they attached to their game they had
discussed for a long time before deciding to subject Graham to the
indiscriminate treatment.
With his forehead against the glass of a porthole, Graham looked at
the outside world, absorbed in thought. The mental effort had
completely exhausted him and Graham was afraid of fainting. The
weight of recent events oppressed him, and that prodigious leap in
time through fifteen thousand centuries in a single night of
forgetfulness had so dazed him that he was apathetic. He felt his heart
tighten at the idea of all the changes that had certainly occurred on
earth during his absence. The scientific wonders of which he had
already witnessed were banal things, without any importance,
pastimes and nothing more for these new men, but no doubt still
remained to be discovered endless other things, miracles of the
intellect, unimaginable discoveries on the social level, material and
artistic,which must have considerably increased physical and
intellectual well-being. The atom, the cosmic radiations, the galactic
universe, no doubt no longer had secrets for that people. And what
about medical and biological research, interplanetary relationships
and all the other problems that beset scientists at Graham time? And
it was also possible that life and death were now resolved by a
formula born under the precise controls of a laboratory. Graham's
era? And it was also possible that life and death were now resolved by
a formula born under the precise controls of a laboratory. Graham's
era? And it was also possible that life and death were now resolved by
a formula born under the precise controls of a laboratory.

Without even realizing it, Graham went from meditation to sleep and
slept like that for twenty hours.

Waking up he found he was no longer on the plane. They had brought


him to a spherical house, suspended from a central tube. The house
had been assigned to him as a permanent home by the World Council.
Moia Tohn had been delegated by the Council itself to assist, and
inform the modern degree of civilization, the man of the twentieth
century, and had also the task of finding him a job, a social
arrangement.

This job will last until the end of my days, Graham thought when he
heard it. But he, on the other hand, intended to make himself a
general idea of the changes made in the world in that one and a half
million years, and he was convinced that a few days would have been
enough for him to learn the most important things.

He immediately discovered the existence of an Archives Office, in


which the personal cards of each individual were kept, updated from
the moment of birth to death. Graham's arrival had aroused great
interest, because no trace of his existence was found. Moia Tohn
worked hard to register it among living beings.

First, the archaeologist asked to consult an atlas of the current world,


and Moia accompanied him to the competent cartographic office. The
scientist was able to realize the enormous geographical changes
suffered by the world. London had disappeared along with most of
England covered by the sea. Only Ireland, part of Scotland and a
region of Wales still existed, reduced to three small islands. Graham
remained pensive for a long time before those three fragments of his
homeland, remembering all the known and disappeared people
forever in oblivion, buried by the countless centuries passed over
them. Never again would he see the country in which he was born. All
the places that were familiar to him disappeared.

There was no trace of Japan, and a great sea had taken the place of
the Sahara. A large continent had emerged instead in the South
Atlantic. Unrecognizable were the contours of the lands that had
survived the wear and tear of the millennia, and new lands, which had
risen from the bowels of the oceans, had replaced those of his world.

In the days that followed, Graham did not care much for the foods
that were given to him, and which consisted mostly of extracts and
concentrates. He did not even try to familiarize himself with the
principle that allowed men to move in the air as on solid ground: no
doubt it was a force opposed to gravity. And it did not take any
interest in the spaceships that roamed in the sky. They were of
various sizes and shapes: cylindrical, conical, and disk-like. They
certainly worked on atomic energy, or perhaps they directly used
super-cosmic rays.

Always helped by Moia Tohn, Graham spent his days leafing through
the archives, studying the succession of events in the world. Wars and
famines had ceased altogether towards the thirtieth century. The era
of interplanetary travel had lasted until the one hundredth century,
then the searches were over when they realized that life did not exist
on any other planet. There had been a period of glaciation that had
decimated the population of the globe. A thousand centuries later, a
cosmic cloud of gaseous origin had caused the death of almost the
whole of the living. A few hundred individuals, women and men
survived the catastrophe, scattered all over the world. They owed
their salvation to having found themselves in caves beneath the
surface of the sea, in submarines,or in submarine laboratories. So life
continued on some islands, and for hundreds of centuries the
survivors had tried to restore vigor to the human race. But a new
cataclysm had hit the world: a comet had hit the Earth, and once
again mankind had run the risk of being swept away from the face of
the globe. It was then that the greatest geographical changes had
occurred.

Now only one race lived in the world. He was a hybrid of all the races
that Graham had known, a mixture of whites, blacks, yellows, and
reds. They spoke only one language, that bird of tricks whose trills
had so surprised the archaeologist. All were organized under one
single government. And the duration of human life was around a
thousand years. The attainment control of atomic energy, and of the
other energies, made practically useless the work of the man who
limited himself to the control of the functioning of the machines.
Births were no longer a thing that interested spouses and families.
The same family institution had disappeared for a thousand years. It
was the World Council that was interested in these matters: every
year the number of births was established,mothers were selected and
artificial fertilization was carried out. Children were raised and
educated under the direction of the Council. The suppression of
breastfeeding had caused the atrophy of the female organs, so the
women had flat chest like the males.

Graham could also establish that very few were those who fully
enjoyed the thousand years granted them by the exceptional
prolongation of human life. The Council had provided every
community in a room where those who felt tired of living could
voluntarily end their lives with the simple gesture of swallowing an
exquisite flavor pill. They were thus leaving the world, transported on
the waves of an ineffable ecstasy.

The community in which Graham lived was near Bear Mountain.


From there it dominated the sea that covered Long Island, Manhattan
and the old Hudson Valley. Moia Tohn led her protege one day to visit
the local Tower of the Departure. It was a glass cylinder three
hundred meters high and surmounted by a kind of dome that gave it
the appearance of a bell tower. From up there one could look at a vast
expanse of sea and land. From up there, those who intended to escape
could space a last time on the magnificent landscape before taking
leave.

Graham appeared on the porch looking thoughtfully at the view: the


vegetation was no longer what he knew. Botanists had obtained
mutations of trees and flowers, as the technicians and doctors had
altered the structure of man to eliminate diseases and harmful germs,
mixing the races and suppressing families. With the use of artificial
insemination and breeding in the laboratory, they had reduced the
sex life, in other times so important, to be nothing but a negative
aspect.

Graham inquired about the extent to which the Departure Tower was
used. They told him that there, in Nuaya, on a population of 8,000,
the average was one person every thirty days. But they told him that
in the last two days nine individuals had risen to the tower.

And this was what the archaeologist had foreseen and feared.

The following morning, Graham tried to get an idea of the new


mathematical science. He immediately realized that the task was very
difficult. The most positive of the sciences had become such an
abstract thing, far surpassing Einstein's theories of Russell's
Whiteshead, to become incomprehensible to him. It was based on five
dimensions: length, width, thickness and time with the addition of a
dimension called Ru. Graham barely managed to get an idea of what
it was. Ru represented the continuous change of the observer, of the
object and of the universe in relation to each other. The scientist did
not understand anything else.

He would need tens of years to learn everything. Instead, if his


calculations were correct, he had only a few days left to live. He was
sure of it because the night before Graham had again had the
terrifying premonitory dream about the return of the Titans, ready to
re-establish ties with the human world, exactly as a million and five
hundred years ago had happened on Easter Island. He had dreamed
of the frightening greenish idol and the fluid column of energy.

In the late afternoon, Graham went to see the Departure Tower. He


stayed some time in front of the glass building and saw four people
enter. None of them went out anymore. Only abnormal circumstances
could cause this abnormal desire to escape from life in such wise and
patient beings.

And the desire to leave spread like a contagion.

***

That night Graham slept badly. He awoke with a heart full of despair.
The warmth of that late summer was intolerable, the archaeologist
got dressed and went down to walk on the seashore. But from the
waves came stifling vapors, and the reflection of the sun on the water
was unsustainable. The little air that blew into the sea was wet and
heavy. Graham could not free himself from the fear of what was about
to happen, but he could not even accept it as the expression of a truth.

He retraced his steps to the Tower of Departure. He saw many people


coming in and no one "going out. On the faces of those men and
women, young, old, or old, he always saw the same expression, calm
and serene, without the slightest trace of emotion. The gaze of those
huge and deep eyes touched him immensely: he had learned to
admire the people that at first seemed grotesque, paradoxical in
appearance, and to love it also for the profound respect that the
exceptional little men brought to the personality of individuals .

He returned home where he focused his attention on a miraculous


machine that he had neglected until then. It was called unitel and
there was a sample in every house. He vaguely resembled the old
television, but much more refined. The unitelessentially consisting of
a large screen, a sealed box enclosed the mechanism, and a map of
the world was equipped with a moving needle. By moving the needle
to the point of interest, and establishing contact, one could see
everything that happened in that spot on earth, in color, with the
exact reproduction of voices and noises, and great precision in
movement. Once a day for half an hour, the World Council reserved
the use of the screen to realize what was happening in the world,
make the necessary decisions, and branch out information of general
interest. Except for that half hour, the unit remained available to
everyone.

Graham switched on the device when the council statement was


issued, and listened to it carefully.

All over the world, the number of those who resorted to the Departure
Tower had sharply increased. The world capital, the largest of all the
communities, located in the region of ancient Brazil, reported that on
a population of 30,000 inhabitants there had been an influx of the
Tower of forty-one individuals in a single day, while the normal
average was 0, 19. Equal increases were reported from other
locations. Graham could not understand all the releases because he
had only limited knowledge of the world language, but he understood
that there was talk of a phenomenon reported at an ocean point. After
all, he did not have to understand why he knew what the place was ...

He waited for the end of the official reports, then moved the indicator
needle to the South Pacific. As the world flowed before his eyes, he
was able to learn some unknown sides of modern civilization. He saw
a specialist intent on preparing nutritive solutions, some
extraordinary painters gathered in an art gallery, a health technician
in a laboratory where they raised newborns, two children who
enjoyed combining yellow, red and blue cubes in a suspension system
three dimensions, a grove of white trees ...

The needle had reached the extreme coast of Chile, and the boundless
waters of the ocean appeared. Graham struggled a little before finding
the latitude and longitude of the Easter Island. And when he found it,
he saw the monstrous column coming out of the water. On the crater
of the Rano Raraku the Guardian of the Seal appeared, vibrating in
the cycle of its mutations.

Looking closely at the luminous pillar, the scientist realized that it


would still be a day before the contact was established that would
open to the Titans the entrance to the world of men. He was still in
time, if he wanted to, to reach Easter Island and challenge the
Guardian again.

He saw himself engulfed by the burning column, attracted by an


abyssal force and forced to a new leap of a million and a half years.
And so on, to infinity ... The immense column was a time trap, like the
corridor of Stonehenge, and unless its inventors, from their shelter,
tried to change the task and that of the Guardian of the Seal, Graham
would have had to intervene without stopping to prevent the doors
from opening up to the Titans. And forever it would have been voted
to renew that prodigious step of thousands of centuries.

But Graham had a means to escape his destiny: to go to the Tower of


the Departure. He could abandon the world and its problems,
abandon thoughts and memories.

But he would not do it.

Thus he established the itinerary for the journey. The immense


journey to save the world. Perhaps , he thought, during one of my
next absences, I will manage to escape the ultracosmic storm. I can
emerge, to no longer return, to the other end of the column, where the
great chemists live, the Titans.

He stood up and unplugged the unitel 's contacts.

The screen went out.

END

Donald Wandrei © 1948.

10

11

12

***
The Green Stone That Ate Willy: The Web of Easter Island

and Dead Titans, Waken! by Donald Wandrei

by Jay Rothermel

The Web of Easter Island is a 1948 revision by Donald Wandrei of


his unpublished 1932 novel Dead Titans, Waken!

In the last two weeks I have read both novels. They are the first novels
by Wandrei I have read. (I also read His collected weird fiction, Don't
Dream.)

The revisions from the 1932 book to the 1948 book are not major
changes to the story. Easter Island has reduced Wandrei's orgy of
pseudo-scientic jargon on display in Titans. This 1932 passage:

....I wish I could grasp the abstract principles of mathematics that are
now current, and which are as far beyond Einstein as he was beyond
Euclid. An understanding of them might go a long way toward a
clarification of the farrago. According to this system, the geometry of
solids is based upon three tangibles: length, breadth, and thickness;
and two intangibles: time, and omega; the omega representing a
fourth dimension which is the totality of the universe, obtained by the
triunarization of infinite space, this hypothesis being that all matter is
both infinite and eternal because its line of direction is so curved that
it reverses upon itself and can be conceived as elliptical. Thus comets
follow ellipses, planets have ovoidal orbits, straight lines become
reversibles at omega, and an expanding universe such as Jeans and
Eddington postulated in my period would ultimately be a contracting
universe. Furthermore, relativity is integral to this mathematics.
There is no specific, ultimate, fixed absolute in any of the tangibles or
intangibles. Each bears a fluctuable relation to the four other
elements of the mathematics, and to any observer at any point in the
universe, observer, point, and universe themselves being fluctuant.
“Among the corollaries of this mathematics is the assertion that the
three tangibles expand to a lesser organism than man, but the two
intangibles contract; and that, to a higher organism than man, the
three tangibles contract, while the two tangibles expand. Thus, to a
little ephemeris fly, length, breadth, and thickness are enormities; but
time and omega are brevities, for its entire existence is consummated
in fulness in a single day; but to a hypothetical super-organism,
length, breadth, and thickness would be trifles, while time and omega
would be concepts of mind-surprassing magnitude.

“Another corollary is that, if any consciousness could be transferred


to the condition of a lesser or greater organism, its perspective and
relationships likewise would violently change.

is now reduced to this 1948 passage:

The new mathematics, however, was so abstract, so far advanced even


from the level of Einstein, Whitehead and Russell, that he realized he
would never comprehend it. It was based on five dimensions; to
length, breadth, thickness, and time, a fifth dimension called Ru had
been added. Graham not only did not learn the laws of the five-
dimensional mathematics; he did not succeed in obtaining more than
a vague notion about the dimension called Ru. For Ru, as a tool for
measurement like the other dimensions, differed from them in being
of itself measureless; it was a fluctuation, a changeable, representing
the continuous mutability of observer, object, and universe each in
relation to the other. Farther than this Graham could not follow;
decades of study might provide him the background for
understanding, but he did not even have days remaining, if his fears
were correct.

The character Dan Farrell appears in both novels, though to more


dramatic advantage in Easter Island.

When Wandrei's protagonist Carter E. Graham is injured during a


trainwreck, Farrell swipes his valise and flees the scene. (In Titans
Farrell is a thief on the run. In Easter Island, a wife-murderer.)

In Titans, Farrell boards a clipped flying to New York. In Easter


Island, he boards a passenger ship. On each trip, he opens Graham's
valise and finds the pan-dimensional idol Graham discovered in the
Devil's Graveyard in Isling.

Farrell has an erotic encounter in each version. In Titans, it is with a


stewardess. In Easter Island, it is with a fellow passanger; ironically
for Farrell, he reminds her of the husband she murdered a year
before.

At which point, Wandrei disposes of Farrell. Which is too bad; he is a


much more compelling make protagonist than Graham. We could
have had a Tom Ripley versus the Titans were Wandrei a cannier and
more patient writer.

Carter E. Graham is a prig. In the course of Easter Island he gets two


colleagues killed, which hardly phases him. Waking in hospital after
the train wreck that nearly kills him, he has this interaction:

....He estimated he had been conscious for at least fifteen minutes,


since it seemed like hours. He raised himself cautiously again to see
if he could reach the service-bell without another wave of nausea.
He managed to press the button, though fiery lancers dueled in his
brain. After a few minutes a nurse entered. She possessed a plain,
cheerful face, and tawny blonde hair the color of taffy.

Nature had assembled her lavishly. She bore an impressive


superstructure and an equally prominent extension in the opposite
direction; assets and attributes that overbalanced her, coming and
going, but not without attraction of a massive kind.

Graham mused, “Outstanding examples of developments that are


both steatopygous and mammosus.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The Greeks and the Romans had words. The Anglo-Saxon


equivalents, while pungent, are less esthetic.”

The nurse looked blank. “Did you ring?”--


“No, the bell did,” he responded with a trace of brusqueness. He
hated superfluous questions, especially those of feminine origin.

She smiled like a tooth-paste ad at his unexpected reply and


retorted, “If I were to answer in kind, I’d say that Sir Warren left a
piece of his own mind, such as it is, in you.”

“Sir Warren?”

“Yes, the surgeon, Gifford. He operated on you yesterday for skull


fracture and concussion of the brain. A minor operation, of course.”

***

One chapter in The Web of Easter Island, recapitulating part of "The


Call of Cthulhu," finds Graham collating media reports of mass
outbreaks of global insanity as the Titans' advent approaches.

(Wandrei seems to have an understanding of Africa copied from


Sanders of the River).

A dispatch from Cape Town announced:

NATIVE UNREST SPREADS

The outbreak of violence among tribes of the interior is spreading


rapidly. First reported last week from Rhodesia and the Transvaal,
the uprisings have now extended to Tanganyika, the Congo, and
other areas as far north as the Sudan.

Authorities have as yet taken no repressive measures. It is felt in


official circles that the natives are participating in tribal ceremonies
of ritual importance. However, it is understood that troops are
available in case counter-action becomes necessary.

There is some doubt as to the exact cause and nature of the unrest
which has made the drums beat incessantly day and night
throughout all Africa.

Lt. Col. James Mulreavy, returning from Tanganyika, states that


the natives there are at the wildest pitch of excitement he has ever
seen. He believes that the witch doctors are responsible. Every sort
of black magic is being practised. Human sacrifices, he declares,
have been made in large numbers. Flagellation, torture, and
primitive rites of a degrading nature are common. He adds that the
witch doctors claim they are preparing for the return of their gods.

According to another observer, Mr. T. H. Wilson-Grant, a licensed


trader at Mepli, the tribes have developed a kind of group madness.
He says that weird images and objects have suddenly appeared in
great quantity, that the natives are in a dangerous state of revolt,
and that the witchmen are using fear and superstition to inflame the
tribes. He reports also that they are proclaiming the visitation of
some monstrous deity from the skies.

Another story came from Calcutta:

PRANJHIPOK QUIET

UNDER MARTIAL LAW

The rioting that swept Pranjhipok last night has been brought under
control by national police. More than two thousand Moslems,
Hindus, Sikhs, and foreigners were killed during the outburst of
violence that came shortly after sunset.

Armed with knives, daggers, pistols, and rifles, the population


suddenly ran amok, attacking each other as well as occupants of the
European quarter. In addition to the known dead, several thousand
were injured. Serious fires are still burning in many parts of the city
but have begun to subside. Widespread looting that accompanied
the violence ended with the imposition of martial law. Property
damage is estimated in the millions.

The reason for the rioting has not yet been established, but religious
mania is believed responsible. Shrines, temples, and holy men were
literally besieged by mobs. There is some obscure rumor current to
the effect that ancient gods are about to be reincarnated.
The Moslems claim that Mohammed is ready to make his second
appearance on earth. The Buddhists, Brahmans, Tsao-ists, and
members of other sects assert that their respective deities are
returning.

Additional troops are en route to Pranjhipok from Calcutta and


Bombay.

Of a different kind was a feature that originated in New York:

KALEN TAXES OWN LIFE

Artist Leaps From

Park Avenue Studio

The body of Glen Kalen, internationally famous painter and


sculptor, was found yesterday at 4:15 p.m. in the courtyard of the
Wilmyn Arms, where he had resided for the last three years.

He left two short notes in his studio. One to a friend identified as


Marva said, “Good-bye, dear, join me as soon as you can. I would
rather take my own life than be taken by them.”

The second note was addressed to an unidentified “Septhulchu.” It


merely said, “When you come, I at least will be gone.”

In Kalen’s studio were found a number of remarkable paintings


which experts say are among his best works, though all are highly
fantastic. One of them is strikingly three-dimensional, entirely in
shades of green, and depicts a kind of luminous fog or sea through
which terrifying shapes are beginning to emerge. A startling piece
of sculpture also was discovered. This bore some resemblance to an
Easter Island statue, and showed a demonic creature engulfing a
mass of tiny human beings.

Kalen’s friends reported that his behavior had been very unusual
recently, and that he seemed worried, although he had ample means
and no known illness or personal problems. According to them, he
had become depressed after complaining of being disturbed by
remarkable dreams. These nightmares persisted so vividly that he
attempted to capture them in his work. He made references to a
great calamity that he asserted would overwhelm mankind.

While no witnesses have been found, police are convinced that in a


fit of despondency or temporary insanity he leaped from his studio
window on the eighth floor.

***

The next addition to the batch of clippings originated in San


Francisco:

SLAYER KILLS 9TH VICTIM

The body of Jane Dorel was discovered early this morning in


Oakland Bay, the ninth victim of the maniac who has spread a reign
of terror in the San Francisco area. Three children, two men, and
four women have been murdered in the past ten days.

An autopsy disclosed that the 19-year-old blond had been dead at


least forty-eight hours. Like the other victims of the slayer, she had
been murdered and the body then mutilated. The murderer made
more than one hundred gouges before pushing the body into the
Bay.

Police are without clues to the slayer, and have not yet located the
actual site of the killings and mutilations.

“The murders are completely senseless,” according to Police Chief


Heggens. “None of the victims was tortured, and none of the women
attacked or raped. The only thing that the killings have in common
is that each victim was strangled with piano wire and that the
bodies were then gouged or pitted in the same gruesome manner.
Obviously they are the work of a homicidal maniac.”

A curious item from an obituary page related to the death of Aubrey


Lellith, a young poet who had died by his own hand, leaving behind
him no explanation for his act, except a fragment of a poem which
he had left unfinished. The fragment in its entirety consisted of only
a half-dozen lines:
The titans will waken on valley and highland,

When four-dimensioned vaults dissolve and open wide;

They will spew from the void and advance from Easter Island,

From time-gulfs and planes of space they will glide.

The titans have prophecied the day of returning

When the stars have attained the positions they proclaimed

And skies turn to flame

Another news feature concerned a catastrophe in Bavaria:

A general alarm has been broadcast throughout Bavaria warning


the inhabitants that more than twenty of the insane who escaped
yesterday are still at liberty.

A full account of the disaster has now been pieced together, after
thorough investigation by Dr. Hugo Brauning, superintendent of the
Heussen State Hospital for Criminal Insane. At sundown a
spontaneous uproar swept the whole asylum where approximately
three hundred dangerously insane inmates were confined. They
screamed of impending doom and wingy things coming down from
above.

Reserve guards were immediately ordered on duty, but attempts to


quiet the inmates failed. Five men in the left wing rushed two guards
who opened fire, killing three of the maniacs. The remaining two
overpowered and fatally injure! both guards.

During the assault the rear wing had been set afire. The fire spread
beyond control while other guards were herding the inmates to the
recreation area. A general riot ensued.
Thirty-eight inmates died in the holocaust, seventy-one were
injured, five guards were killed and nine others wounded. About
thirty-five inmates escaped, of whom only a dozen have been
recaptured.

On the walls of the charred cells the search parties found remains of
many weird drawings that had an unusual similarity. These
portrayed monsters crushing or sweeping away or digesting human
figures. Dr. Brauning states that an identical obsession, a mass
madness, appears to have seized the inmates….

***

Wandrei did not publish Dead Titans, Waken! in his lifetime, and he
showed good judgment in not doing so. It is uneven, to speak politely.
Wandrei whipsaws chapter by chapter from surprising strength and
concision to self-indulgent post-Lovecraft Lovecraftian rhetorical
overkill.

The Web of Easter Island reduces excessive quotation from Graham's


diary and increases the use of third-person narration. This is
particularly seen in the last chapter, when Graham finds he has been
catapulted off the Easter Island of his own day and into year one
million, five hundred thousand. To his horror, Graham quickly
realizes the techno-utopia he discovers is doomed.

....All over the world, there had come a sharp rise in the numbers
resorting to the Towers of Departure. The world capital, the largest of
all communities, a city with a population of 30,000 in the Andean
approaches of what had once been Brazil, reported forty-one exits in
one day compared to its statistical average of nineteen one-
hundredths, or .19, daily.

Other localities showed similar increases. Graham did not understand


many passages in the council spokesman’s report, for he had only a
rudimentary knowledge of the new language. He did, however, catch
an allusion to a phenomenon taking place over ocean waters; if the
location was given, he missed that detail also. But he did not need it;
only one small area of earth could produce a phenomenon of a kind
that would substantiate his fears. He waited until the spokesman
ended her official report, when the unitel automatically reverted to
individual control. He then closed the contact and began moving the
selector needle toward the south Pacific.

As the needle moved, he glanced at the screen from time to time; and
in the progress of the needle, he caught glimpses of many aspects of
this civilization, quite by chance: a food specialist preparing nutrient
solutions; startling paintings in an art gallery; a machine scooping up
dirt and transforming it to tunics, wire, and energy; a technician
inseminating a chosen mother by the insertion of an analyzed and
prepared sperm on a sterile injector; two children playing an
intellectual game by rearranging the yellow, blue, and red cubes in a
three-dimensional suspension; a clump of strange white trees, with
branches drooping like the strands of an inverted mop, that lifted
their roots and walked away from a region of drought toward a
mountain lake.

The selector needle left the coast of Chile; and now the screen showed
only the vacant waters of the Pacific. Graham remembered the
latitude and longitude of Easter Island, and brought the selector to
that area. He saw Easter Island again, though its highest peak lay a
hundred yards below the ocean surface. He saw it, for the vast column
of alien energy had returned, driving the waters away. And in the
crater of Rano Raraku, at the base of the implacable pillar, squatted
the Keeper of the Seal, the green little statuette in a fury of mutation,
pulsing and rioting through its cycle of expansions beyond the cosmos
and contractions from other-time and other-space. Graham looked at
the screen with a dullness of despair. By the state of the pillar, he
knew that at least another day would pass before the link was
completely open for the titans to enter. He could, if he wished, fly to
Easter Island and challenge the Keeper again.

He visualized himself engulfed once more by that abysmal force, to be


hurled farther and farther onward in leaps of one and one-half
million years, until he receded into conjectural vistas of vanishing
time. For the measureless column, like the corridor at Stonehenge,
was a time-trap, though of different kind; and unless the inventors of
it, from their abode in the hyper-time and the hyper-space above and
beyond the universe, chose to alter its function and the function of the
Keeper, Graham could for ever take the action that would defer the
completion of the link. And for ever and forever he would be
projected, in steps of one and one-half million years, intervals of
absence and return, sliding down the utmost recesses of the future....

The Web of Easter Island, though superior to Dead Titans, Waken!,


is not adequate to the promise of its material and scope. Quotations I
have selected are from the novel's strongest moments.

But by far the best is the story embedded in chapter one. After several
pages recounting the benighted history of the village of Isling, about
ten miles from Stonehenge, Wandrei gives us a potent tale, graphic
and pungent as folklore:

….in the late afternoon of a muggy July day, eleven-year-old Willy


Grant returned to his cottage and proudly showed a little object he
had found.

“What is it?” asked his mother, blinking her weary eyes as she
turned from cutting a few selected roses in her flower garden.

“I dunno. Me an’ Bill an’ Jack found it, but I got it first, so it’s mine.”

“Where did you find it?”

The boy hesitated a minute. “Oh, we all went into the old graveyard
when Bill dared us an’ I saw it stickin’ in the ground so I pulled it out
an’ brought it along.”

“Give it to me,” she commanded in that final tone of voice with which
there is no arguing. Reluctantly, Willy handed it over. She
immediately hurled it toward the roadway. “Tomorrow,” she
continued in the same tone, “you take it back where it came from
and throw it over the hedge. Then, if you ever go near that
graveyard again, you’ll get the strapping of your life. Now into the
house with you.”

Willy whined and pleaded, but his mother would not listen.
Superstitious Mrs. Grant repeated that if he ever went near the
graveyard again or had anything more to do with the object, he
would be whipped blue.

Near nightfall, John Grant came home from the day’s toil of
delivering mail. While he took off his heavy walking shoes, Mrs.
Grant scurried around preparing the evening meal. She said
nothing to her husband about Willy’s discovery. Perhaps she had
forgotten about it already, nor did she notice that the boy had
slipped away for a minute and returned to his room furtively
carrying something.

After the meal, the rest of the evening passed with the small talk that
had concluded their every monotonous day for a dozen years. At
nine-thirty sharp, Willy was sent to bed, and at ten John and Madge
Grant followed, in the unvarying routine of their existence. The
night hung still, but hot and damp. John Grant, a tiredness in his
legs, quickly dropped off to sleep. His wife lay restless, and for a
long time remained awake, but towards midnight she too finally
sank into a troubled slumber.

For the first time in many months, she dreamed a dream; and her
dream had an extraordinary and terrifying nature such as she had
never before experienced. She thought she went walking past a
graveyard where hundreds of old, white tombstones rose eerie
everywhere. She wanted to run away, but the mesmeric power of
dreamland held her. While she watched, a curious small gray thing
with the face of her son scuttled across the burial ground and pulled
a carven image from the earth. As it did so, the white tombstones
suddenly turned into carven images and soared skyward until an
army of colossal, implacable monsters stood before her. And
beneath their feet, the tombs opened up and discovered vast
corridors leading into the bowels of earth, and from their
immeasurable depths rose the stench of ancient corruption. The
thing with the face of Willy scampered away bearing its prize. She
tried to cry out and warn it to drop its burden, but no sound came
from her throat. The little beast scurried toward the safety of a blob
of devouring darkness. Now the titans moved with great strides, to
block that escape, until they formed a circle around the gray
creature. Slowly, slowly, the giant limbs closed inexorably on the
captive, the ring became smaller, impassive Gargoyle faces stared
on the animal that whimpered wildly around trying to escape. She
saw it forced toward the rim of a bottomless corridor, nearer,
nearer--

From the realms of sleep, John Grant and Madge Grant awoke at
the same instant, their ears filled with a shriek of terror. John Grant
leaped from his bed and raced to Willy’s room while old Madge
lighted a lamp with trembling hands and followed. She heard her
husband call, “What is it, son?” But she heard no answer. She
brought him the lamp, and together they looked in.

John Grant gave a hoarse gasp, but his wife made no sound as she
slumped to the floor. The lamp crashed, and tongues of flame began
to dance. Faced with a choice of the living from the dead, he carried
his wife to safety. The grotesque form on the bed, of changing
outline and phosphorescent shine, green and pitted as if some
enormous worm had gnawed, bore little resemblance to the Willy
who had been theirs; and the black, liquid eyes that stared blindly at
them were never those of their son. John Grant gave silent prayer as
the cottage burned to the ground.

Old Madge was Mad Madge when she became conscious. She
mumbled of a “green little big stone that ate Willy”, and the
neighbors shook their heads pityingly. She took to wandering along
the Vadia, and prowling around the graveyard, with her hair
matted and her eyes glary. If asked what she sought, she would
answer that she was hunting for the green stone that ate Willy. Had
she not been insane, her reply might have drawn persistent
questions from the curious; but they considered her words the
raving of a demented woman. John Grant remained taciturn. He
chose to let the villagers think that his son had died in an
unfortunate but accidental fire.

The days slipped by, one torpid afternoon following another as July
drew to a close. A fortnight after the tragedy some of the neighbors
saw Mad Madge running down the Vadia in the early twilight. She
carried an object wrapped with her shawl, and gasped as if she had
run far. She turned from the roadway and stumbled toward the
vacant cottage which she and her husband were temporarily
occupying.

As she entered the house, she found her husband already waiting.
He looked at her with surprise and pity, noticing her disheveled
appearance and the bundle she hugged tightly.

“What is it, Madge? What is it you have there?” he asked kindly.

She sucked the air and raved incoherently that she had found Willy.
A weird light of madness and joy glittered in her eyes, she clutched
the shawl closer to her breast, she crooned meaningless phrases
over it. John tried to see what it was that she carried, but she backed
away snarling and hugged the object still more tightly. The shawl
became loosened momentarily when she sat in a chair, but all he
could see of what she held was that it seemed gray, or possibly
greenish. She rocked back and forth, back and forth incessantly,
talking and muttering to herself. John heard a phrase that got on his
nerves, “The little green stone that ate Willy,” repeated over and
over, together with mumbled pleas that something would “Please
give back Willy, he didn’t mean any harm by it.”

Throughout the evening, heat lightning flickered in the sky, the air
hung sultry and heavy. Clouds were piling up from the west, and it
seemed as if a dry spell of weeks at last would be broken. Just after
nightfall, the first big drops fell. There followed a minute’s hush,
then the wind arose, and gusts of rain whipped against the
windows.

At bedtime, Mad Madge let herself be led away, carrying the object
still wrapped in the shawl. John made another half-hearted attempt
to discover its nature and take it from her, but decided rather to
humor her, when she drew her lips back like an animal at his
slightest gesture toward the shawl.

She held the bundle even in bed, like a child with its doll. John heard
her talking for a long time, till her voice finally died out. He lay
awake a while after, thinking back on the mysterious death of Willy,
and what to do with Madge. He wondered if it might not be that
both of them were mad, and the whole occurrence merely a dream
of delirium. What power could have caused so malignant and
monstrous a change in Willy? Perhaps it resulted from some
dreadful disease that gave no warning symptoms until it had
progressed beyond hope of cure. He would never know, now; only
that it must have been for the best that death came quickly. The
ways of the Lord proved inscrutable.

The wind prowled around the house and whooped through the trees.
Invisible fingers moved the shutters. Squalls of rain from time to
time swirled against the windows. To the accompaniment of these
elemental sounds, John was dozing off when he heard his wife begin
to mumble again. He looked at her during a brief lightning flare.
Though her eyes remained closed, her lips moved.

“N’ga n’ga rhthl’g clr’tl—”

What fantastic gibberish was this that came from Madge? It seemed
meaningless. He could not recognize a single familiar word in that
harsh jargon of consonants and breathings, nor did the low voice
sound like that of his wife as it went on in a kind of rhythmic chant,
“—ust s g’lgggar septhulchu nyrcg—”

During the night, giant bolts of lightning fissured the sky. Disturbed
by the violence of the storm, a Mrs. Sayres whose home lay nearest
to the temporary quarters of the Grants awakened just in time to see
a dazzling flare envelope their house with a crash as of bursting
worlds. She thought she saw a vast green smudge sprawl off the
roof. During the intensity of blackness that followed, she stood with
nose flattened against her window till the lightning crackled anew.
The sky’s reflected glare showed the house still standing, and no
trace of that strange, great shadow, though she convinced herself
that the previous bolt had struck the house by the Vadia. A furious
downpour now completely obscured her view. Satisfied no harm
had befallen the Grants, since she had not detected a sign of fire or
visible damage, and deterred by the wild night, she returned to bed.

John Grant did not appear at work the following day. Nor did Mad
Madge come forth. In any small town or village the world over, the
neighbors’ affairs are a vital part of everyone’s existence; and when
no sign of life became evident in the Grants’ home by mid morning,
idle curiosity developed into more immediate concern.

Several gossips remembered having seen mad Madge run down the
Vadia clutching some object tightly.

“And you know,” said garrulous Mrs. Dakin, “Jack said he and Willy
Grant and the Stacy boy went into the graveyard, let me see now, it
must have been a fortnight ago, or maybe three weeks. Well, and
they found something, that is, Willy did, and took it home with him,
and Jack says it wasn’t like anything he ever saw before, a funny
little stone man only it wasn’t a man at all. I always did say no good
came out of the old graveyard, and now here it’s proved before our
eyes, the Lord’s got his curse against it. Why you know their cottage
burned to the ground that very night and poor Willy with it, and
John had a great to-do to get Madge out in time, and now there’s no
telling what’s happened to the both of them, poor souls. Something
dreadful, you may be sure.”

“Maybe they’re dead,” added Mrs. Sayres helpfully. “When I saw


that big bolt strike, I says to myself, says I, ‘It’s a good thing it
wasn’t you that it hit,’ meaning me, of course. Like as not both got
killed or hurt bad, and they’re up there now waiting for somebody to
come after them.

“Of course,” she tacked on apologetically, “I couldn’t go out in that


terrible storm, there’s no saying what might have happened to me, it
was that bad.”

“It’s just possible,” put in one of the more intelligent townsmen, “that
Mad Madge got terrified of the storm and ran off, with John out
searching for her. You never know about those things. Seems to me
we ought to wait a while. I don’t like to put my nose in other folk’s
troubles.”

“Well, I don’t like the looks of it,” went on Mrs. Dakin, “and if I had
my way I’d have been gone from Isling all these years just to get
away from that Devil’s Graveyard. Why, the storm woke me up last
night and made such a racket you never heard in all your born days,
and I thought somebody was shouting outside but I couldn’t
understand a word of it. I never did like these foreigners, anyway,
English is good enough for me and it’s good enough for anybody, I
think.”

It was finally agreed that an investigation ought to be made. Three


men elected to find out what had happened, or whether the Grants
needed aid.

They walked up to the house and pounded on the door, but only the
echo of their knocking answered them. They shouted to John and
Madge, inquiring if they wanted assistance, but no voice came back
to them. In the pause that followed they held a short consultation
and agreed that duty now required them to enter.

The door had not been locked. They opened it, to be met by a heavy,
nauseating stench that forced them to retreat until the foul air had
partly cleared away. When they finally re-entered, the sickening
odor compelled them to breathe through handkerchiefs.

A hurried search of the ground floor disclosed nothing amiss. They


halted again at the entrance for breaths of fresh air, then climbed to
the bedroom. Its door was closed. They pushed it, but though
unlocked, it did not yield. A weight lay against it from the inside.
With growing suspicions of what they might find, they put their
shoulders against it and heaved it open far enough to enter. They
could hear the weight dragging as they shoved it back.

In the room they found one body half-fallen from bed, and another
that seemed to have been clawing at the door which provided no
escape. Madge’s shawl lay empty on the floor; whatever she had
wrapped in it had vanished.

Mad Madge and John Grant were dead, if indeed those forms had
been theirs. For in that mass of greenish corruption, gouged and
pitted, remained little of human resemblance. Before their horrified
eyes, the bodies gave the illusion that they underwent a final
transformation, as though shimmering in heat-waves, melting and
changing from flesh to a less stable state, from man to beast to
stone, a strange and awesome impression that sent the three
searchers running downstairs.

An inquest was held; the verdict returned, “Death by lightning.”


Unanswerable questions went unasked. How could lightning have
caused so profound a change? Why had not the bodies charred or
burned? What was it that Mad Madge held as she ran down the
Vadia? Whose voice had rumbled guttural syllables while the storm
raged? And if death had not resulted from lightning, what
unimaginable agency wrought that metamorphosis of flesh?
Nothing known to man could have brought about so rapid and total
an alteration in the very organic structure of the two corpses.
Against his will to believe, the village doctor denied that Madge and
John might have fallen victims to disease. In his practice, in his
experience, and in his medical studies, he had never encountered a
case that bore the slightest relation to the baffling condition of the
bodies.

The absence of strangers in Isling did not preclude, but argued


against, a theory of homicidal attack. The absence of any known
motive or any possible motive served only to make the riddle more
inexplicable. For the analysis indicated many violences: exposure to
heat of the order of suns, and to cold of the intensity of absolute
zero; subjection to pressures as high as the bottom of oceans, and to
vacuum as complete as the far spaces between stars.

Death by lightning seemed reasonable for the record, though it


offered no explanation to those four who had viewed the bodies.
Isling accepted this substitution of the familiar for the incredible.
But the legends of the past lived again; and the new riddle provided
a basis for legends to haunt the future….

Jay Rothermel

12 August 2017

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