MONSTERS of the RAY
Illustrated by FRANK R. PAUL
For years on years, men, interested in ancient ruins, have been hypothesizing and theorizing and formulating new views about prehistoric times, the ancient Egyptians, the Mayas, the Incas and other races, from their findings among the ruins in Peru and Mexico in the Western Hemisphere, Africa and Asia on the Eastern Hemisphere, and wherever else research of that kind has appeared to give results. By a process of building-up, we have learned much about the old Inca and Maya tribes of early America, and about the races that preceded them. Mr. Verrill, being an archeologist of much note, particularly interested in the story of ancient North and South American Indians, is thoroughly conversant with what is known of the legends, so-called myths, and "beliefs" of the Incan and Mayan races, and is therefore well qualified to write scientific fiction based on this subject. If he deviates somewhat from the subject of Indians in "Monsters of the Ray," Mr. Verrill does so only for the enhancement of the interest of his tale. We say unreservedly that this is one of the best stories we have published by this author in many months—which is saying a good deal.
To ninety-nine people out of every hundred the name of Frank Ogden Harris means nothing. Nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand have never heard of him or, if they have, the name has conveyed no more interest, nothing more of importance than the name of John Smith or William Jones.
To a certain number of people, however, Frank Ogden Harris was well known and his name meant a great deal. Among the more advanced members of the chemical profession he bore a high reputation for a number of noteworthy discoveries in inorganic chemistry. Several of his formulae were in constant use, and metallurgical chemists were all familiar with the Harris system of assaying the rarer earths and minerals.
Among scientists at large, but more especially among those interested primarily in astronomy and physics, Harris had a reputation of being a revolutionary, an iconoclast and something of a visionary. Even the most advanced and open-minded of the younger generation looked upon Harris' theories, prophecies and ideas as somewhat fantastic and impossible. But all admitted that he knew the subjects, that he was logical, that he could bring up points that could not be denied nor argued down, and that, in one or two cases, his theories had been completely borne out.
And in the circles of the most prominent electrical engineers, or rather among those who specialized in electro-magnetic phenomena and ether waves, Harris' name was one to conjure with. The multi-electronic tube was Harris' invention and its royalties brought him a princely income. The chromovisor, by means of which television had been brought within the reach of all, was the direct result of Harris' active and revolutionary brain, and that most important radio accessory of all—-the static-nullifier—had been conceived and developed by Frank Ogden Harris.
The medical profession also knew Harris' name and had good reasons for remembering it, for his Z-Xray apparatus had made those twin terrors of mankind—cancer and leprosy—of no more consequence than chicken-pox and whooping-cough. Yet for some unknown reason—it most certainly was not modesty—Harris had never permitted his name to be associated with any of these inventions or discoveries. He was quite willing to blow his own horn, as the saying goes, among men who could understand what he was talking about, and he had no illusions in regard to his own abilities, his own intellect, or his own knowledge of the most abstract and complicated sciences. But he detested publicity and notoriety. To him a newspaper reporter way the epitome of stupidity, vulgarity and impertinence combined, and nothing would arouse his fury so much as some flippant, inaccurate press account of some scientific discovery or attainment. He avoided publicity as the devil avoids holy water, and he carried his detestation of notoriety to such an extent that, fearing lest some reporter might bring his name into the limelight, all his contracts with the manufacturers of his various devices, apparatus and reagents contained a clause to the effect that, if the name Harris was used in any manner as a trade mark, a trade name, or for sales or advertising purposes, the contracts become null and void. He even went further and carried on his experiments in his magnificently equipped laboratories under an assumed name. Only in Peru, where he maintained a private observatory, together with a work-shop, a laboratory, a charming residence and a vast library among the sublime Andes, was he known as Frank Ogden Harris to the Spanish-American public. And there, as he laughingly admitted, nobody bothered over what a "crazy Gringo" was doing, and nobody cared who he was, as long as he paid his taxes, obeyed the laws, spent a reasonable amount of money and did not mix in politics.
So, as I said in the beginning, not one man in a thousand ever heard of Frank Ogden Harris, or, having heard the name, remembered it ten minutes later. Yet Harris came very near being the cause of wiping humanity from our planet, and, for a space, he held the fate of all mankind, the future of the earth, in the hollow of his hand.
Although Harris' name had been known to me for years, and although I had met him casually on many occasions when we were both present at scientific meetings and other functions, yet I never became really acquainted with him until I met him aboard ship. I was on the Ebro of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, bound for an archeological expedition to Peru, and to my delight found that Harris was a fellow-passenger.
Naturally we became friendly; we exchanged views on the country, narrated experiences and discussed the past, present and future of Peru. Harris expressed the greatest interest in the ancient Incan and pre-Incan civilizations—although admitting he was woefully ignorant on the subject—and plied me with questions. He was a keen observer; he had a marvelously clear mind, and to my surprise I found that many of his deductions, based on his superficial observations, were remarkably close to the conclusions reached by the most eminent archeologists. Being an astronomer— although he had perfected himself in that science merely as a side issue and to aid him in other lines of research—Harris was deeply interested in the astronomical attainments of the ancient American races.
He had gone into that phase of the subject pretty deeply, and really knew more of the technical and scientific details of the Mayas', Nahuas', Incas' and pre-Incas' astronomical instruments and calculations than myself. Also he was absolutely fascinated with the mystery of the accomplishment of the ancient Peruvians' engineering feats, particularly their marvelous stone-cutting, and he informed me that there were some very remarkable ruins near his place. In the end he gave me a pressing and wholehearted invitation to visit him for as long as I wished and to study the remains in his vicinity.
As I had never heard of any important ruins near Tucin, I very gladly availed myself of his invitation, and a few weeks after my arrival in Lima I set out for Harris' place. It was by no means an easy journey. Tucin itself was a tiny Indian village far from the beaten track of railway trains, motor roads and well-traveled highways and, being in an extremely rough and mountainous section, it could not be reached by airplane.
But even when I reached Tucin, nestling beside the brawling river in a verdant, rich-cultivated valley in the heart of the Andes, the worst of my journey lay ahead. At least, so I thought, when after three days of travel over deserts, punas (desolate regions) and mountains by motor-bus, horseback and muleback, I reached Tucin and asked the route to Huaro-Yana, as Harris' place was called. Imagine my astonishment when an Indian, in conventional clothes, pushed his way through the throng of poncho-clad sandal-shod, coca-chewing, stolid-faced natives, who were all chattering in their Quichua tongue, and smilingly announced in excellent Spanish that the Senor's car awaited me! I could scarcely believe my ears, for a motor car, in this remote out-of-the-way section of the Andes, seemed as impossible and incredible as a skyscraper in a desert. And when I had been guided to where the "car" was parked, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I had expected to find a rattletrap Ford or a battered "camion"; instead I saw a low-hung, speedy-looking roadster in shiny maroon paint and flashing nickel. As far as appearances went, it might just have left a Detroit factory, except that its tires were of enormous size and of a peculiar light-green color,
I stepped into the car and settled myself back on the luxurious cushions, my saddle bags and burro-pack were stowed away in a rear compartment, the Indian servant took his place at the wheel, and the next moment, amid the shouts of the villagers, the barking and yelping of scores of mongrel curs, the shrill cries of scurrying children, and the stampede of a train of supercilious-looking llamas, we rolled along the narrow cobbled streets between the thatched stone huts and left the village of Tucin behind. Before us stretched a steeply inclined, rocky plain or puna merging into the colossal mountains, their bare sides scarred and seamed as though hewn from a solid mass by some titanic axe, their topmost summits gleaming white with perpetual snow against the clear blue sky. Across the rough puna a well-marked road had been made by removing the rocks and piling them in low walls on either side, and the car sped swiftly and smoothly onward towards the mountains.
Presently we reached a deep arroyo (brook) with precipitous sides and with a frail-looking suspension bridge spanning the torrent fully two hundred feet below. The structure, evidently ancient and probably dating from Incan days, was composed of llama-hair ropes with a flooring of narrow strips of wood, and my heart seemed literally in my mouth as the chauffeur unhesitatingly swung his car down the slight grade of the approach. To have ridden over that sagging, swaying bridge on muleback would have been a nerve-trying feat, and that an automobile could cross without mishap appeared incredible. However, the Indian assured me it was perfectly safe. He reminded me he had driven over it only a few hours before, and with a mental prayer I resigned myself to fate. It seemed ages before we reached the farther end of that bucking, lurching, creaking structure, though it could not have been more than a couple of minutes and in shaken tones I asked the Indian if there were others to be crossed. He shook his head, grinned, and commenced the steep upward climb of the mountains, I gazed ahead in amazement. Zigzagging up the almost perpendicular mountain side was a smooth, perfectly graded road narrow to be sure, so narrow that there was barely a foot of space between the wheels of the car and the edge of the roadway. But, aside from the dizzy gulf that stretched beneath and the even more dizzy wall that rose above us, it was safe as a city boulevard. In places the mountain side had been built up with great walls of massive stones to support the roadway; in other places barrancas or ravines had been filled with masonry to form causeways, and at each sharp abrupt turn a retaining and guard wall of stones had been built.
It was the most amazing thing I had yet seen in this wild, uninhabited district, more astonishing even than the car, and I marveled at Harris—for I could think of no one else —having gone to the tremendous expense and the herculean labor of building it solely for the use of his car on his occasional visits to Tucin and the outside world. Not until we rounded a turn some eight thousand feet above the puna did the truth dawn upon me. Here was a small plateau overgrown with giant cacti, immense bromeliads and thickets of the wild purple heliotrope trees. But I scarcely saw these details. I was gazing at the ruined stone buildings in the center of the plateau, ruins whose exquisitely fitted blocks with the round "Pucara" tower rising above them were unmistakably Incan. Instantly at sight of these ruined buildings I recognized them as the remains of a "tambu" or rest-house and a signal-tower. Everything was explained. The highway over which we were traveling had not been built by Harris, but by the Incan engineers centuries before the first white man set foot in America. It was a section of that most marvelous of ancient highways—the great Incan Road—that, before the conquest, had stretched for over four thousand miles from Ecuador to Chile!
So filled with wonder, so intensely interested did I become when the truth dawned upon me, that I scarcely noticed the character of the country, the strange form of Andean vegetation, the terrific gorges and vast heights as we climbed steadily upwards. All my attention was fixed upon the road and the engineering feats that had been necessary to build it. In many spots it was hewn from the solid rock; in one place it passed through a tunnel over one hundred feet in length and, not until the Indian brought the car to a halt, did I realize that we had surmounted the crest of the Andean range and that within a few hundred yards was the foot of a magnificent, gleaming glacier.
The Indian half-turned in his seat, "Huaro-Yana," he announced, pointing ahead. I craned my neck and stared in the direction he indicated. Far below us, seemingly so directly beneath that a stone might have been dropped for three thousand feet upon it, was a tiny square of vivid green cut by the white thread of a river. Scattered about its edges were the red-tiled roofs of buildings, like poppies in a green field. At its foot a precipice dropped, a sheer perpendicular wall for a thousand feet or more, to vanish in a hazy purple abyss, while behind it, and framing the charming picture as a proscenium arch frames a back-drop—was a natural arch of coal-black basalt —the Huaro-Yana or Black Bridge which had given Harris' place its Quichua name.
Only for a moment could I gaze upon the scene that, dwarfed by distance, and so amazingly at variance with its surroundings of awe-inspiring, bare mountain heights, seemed like a painting rather than reality. The next instant we were speeding down grade, traveling at a pace that caused me to hold my breath and to grip the sides of the car convulsively, swinging around horse-shoe curves and hair-pin bends on two wheels, roaring across masonry culverts, and dashing along the verges of precipices, where I gazed directly down through half a mile of air.
In vain I gasped orders to the Indian to slow down, he merely grinned and, like an imp from the pit, seemed to speed the faster. Each second I expected to find myself and the car hurtling into space. And then; suddenly, before us loomed that stupendous arch of black stone. With a roar we raced beneath it and the next moment came to a stop before a low stone bungalow embowered amid blossoming vines and blooming shrubs.
Harris rose from his chair on the shady porch and stepped forward with a cheery greeting and, still unnerved, but thanking God I was yet alive, I clambered stiffly from the roadster.
Chapter II A Laboratory in Huaro-Yana
"Welcome to Huaro-Yana!" cried Harris, gripping my hand. "Did you enjoy the trip?"
I sank into the nearest chair. "Do you enjoy dreaming you are falling to certain death and then bringing up with a start in your bed?" I exclaimed. "Well— that's the way I feel about this trip—I have never enjoyed anything more than coming to the end of it."
Harris chuckled as he poured me a drink from a frosted shaker. "You’d become accustomed to it in time.” he assured me, "Cusi is inclined to speed a bit in the home run—likes to come in with a flourish. But it’s safe enough—the car couldn't leave the road if it tried. But what do you think of my place here—of Huaro-Yana?"
"It's the most fascinating spot I've ever seen—viewed from up there," I told him, gesturing toward the zenith, "and from what I have seen of it, it's just as beautiful from here. And that natural arch—the black bridge—beats anything in Zion Park or the Grand Canon You've a wonderful place here, Harris, but the devil of a place to reach - quite out of the world." He smiled "That's why I chose it," he observed, lighting his pipe. "But you've made a mistake. That arch is not natural —it was made by human hands."
I sat up with a jerk. "What! I ejaculated. "Impossible! Why, it’s fully one hundred feet high, twice as wide and fifty feet through. No-------"
"Nevertheless it was cut by men.” he insisted. "Didn't I tell you there were some interesting remains here But I'm not surprised that you doubt it—I did myself at first. However, you'll see for yourself presently. By the way, what did you think of the car?"
"That it was an optical illusion, at first," I laughed. "How on earth did you get it here? And what sort of tires do you use?"
"It wasn't so hard getting it here," Harris assured me. "These Indians can carry a load of two hundred pounds for day after day. And a bunch of them together will lug more than a ton, when slung upon poles. I brought the car in sections and reassembled it here—I've a fairly well-equipped machine shop, you know. Oh, and about the tires, they're a sort of an experiment; made of a chemical composition I invented—something like elastic Bakelite, and solid—no chance of blowouts or punctures."
"Good heavens!" I cried, "Why don't you put them on the market then? There'd be a fortune in them. They rode like regular balloons."
He smiled. "Maybe I will—some day," he said. "But I don't need money and I've a lot of more important things to attend to."
I gulped down the contents of my second glass and stared at him. "If half of what you say is true, you're a magician dwelling in fairyland," I told him. "I—"
Again he interrupted me. "Piffle!" he exclaimed, waving his hand as if dismissing the astounding matter as of no consequence. "Anyone could do such things. However, before you leave, I hope to show you something really big. Do you know-------" after a moment's thought, "I'm afraid I wasn't entirely unselfish in asking you up here. I—well, to tell the truth I Wanted some intelligent scientific man to be here when I tried out what I hope will be my greatest discovery. And I didn't want a fellow in my own line. Besides—" with a grin —"I took a liking to you from the first; you've got so many theories and ideas about as wild as my own. And finally, well, if my ideas work out, you'll be well rewarded; you may solve all the mysteries of the pre-Incas."
Amazing, incredible as were the feats he mentioned so casually on the day of my arrival, they were nothing in comparison with those I witnessed later.
For the first few days I was busy going over (he place with Harris, and a marvelous place I found it. How he alone, with no aid other than his Indian servants, had ever accomplished such wonders was absolutely astounding. His house, a bungalow-like structure, which to my intense delight I found to be an ancient pre-Incan building repaired and adapted to modern life, was as well furnished and as well equipped with every convenience and luxury as any home in a great city. In fact, it was far better equipped, for Harris had installed many of his own inventions that were still unknown to die world. Such was his lighting system, produced by some intricate means and transmitted by some form of radio, and the lights themselves were masses of some composition that emitted an intense incandescent glow. But there were other ordinary, everyday comforts—hot and cold water, modern baths, and in the big comfortable living room a grand piano. Knowing that Harris was no musician and cared nothing for music, I was vastly surprised at finding such an instrument in his remote Andean home, especially as it must have been a tremendous undertaking to transport it over the mountains. But when I asked him about it, he laughed and opened the instrument. To my amazement I discovered that instead of a piano it was a most astonishing radio receiver that bore about the same relationship to the best and most perfect set on the market that a grand piano bears to a music box.
"It keeps me in touch with the world's news," he explained. "I can get practically every station on the face of the earth. You'll have a chance to hear what's going on tonight."
But it was the laboratory, the work-shop and the observatory that aroused my greatest interest and in which Harris took the most—and well warranted—pride. He must have spent a fortune on them and their equipment, and I felt myself wondering more and more how he ever had brought the stuff in. But, as he said, die mountain Indians are marvelous porters and from Tucin the heavy stuff could be brought by Harris' motor truck—that is after he had really got started. Being neither a chemist, an electrical expert nor an astronomer, I could not of course grasp what all the devices and apparatus were for. But I could appreciate the mechanical equipment of his machine-shops, the lathes, milling-machines, presses, shapers and dozens of other machines. And I could understand and appreciate the farm, the dairy, the gardens, and the perfection of Harris' sanitary and economic arrangements. Much to my surprise I discovered that he used water power for practically everything, for somehow—with his seemingly almost magical feats in evidence—I had expected to find some new and amazing source of energy.
Harris' help, as I have said, consisted wholly of Indians. Not that dull, stupid-looking Quichuas I had become accustomed to throughout Peru, but tall, finely built, intelligent-looking chaps that somehow reminded me of the Navajos of the southwest. I asked Harris about them, for they were wholly new to me and I thought I knew all that was to be known of the South American aborigines.
He chuckled. "That's the greatest compliment you ever paid me," he declared. "Imagine you—one of the most eminent; if not the most eminent of ethnologists, asking me about Indians! Why, old man, it's as if I asked you to explain the formulae for determining the vibratory speed of the Eltham ray!
"And the worst of it is—" he pretended to sigh—"I can't answer your question any more than you could answer that imaginary query of mine. All I know is that they were living here when I found the place--- no, not just here either, for they had a holy fear of the Huaro-Yana, but over to the south a bit. Their village is still there and a few of the older men and women still live there. But after I hired some, and the others found the white man's magic had driven away the devils of the place, the rest flocked over here. I don’t know how many there are. I only know how many I pay—the rest are inquilines, self-invited guests, as you might say. I do know they're superior to the other tribes and they have a lingo of their own. You can while away some of your time making an ethnological study of them."
Naturally, I devoted considerable time to a study of the Indians and found them a most interesting lot, at the same time adding not a little —I flatter myself—to our ethnological knowledge of South America.
To make a long story short, I became convinced that the natives were not of the Quichua race, but were remnants of the far more ancient pre-Incas, in all probability the light-skinned people from whom the reigning Incas came, for they spoke the ancient Hualla language, from which the later Quichua was derived, and they alone, of all Peruvian Indians I had found, still retained legends and folklore regarding the pre-Incan works. And unlike the other natives of Peru they wore—or at least those who had not adopted European garments and had taken to Harris' old clothes, wore, the costumes of the Incan races; short drawers or trousers, loose sleeveless smocks, moccasin-like slippers and the "Ilantu" about the head. But most interesting of all that I learned from them, and that which had the greatest bearing on subsequent events, was the fact that in their legends or myths they had a story to explain the means by, which the pre-Incas had cut the gigantic stones of which their prehistoric walls and buildings were constructed. According to this tale —which of course I put down to folklore and fable—there had once been a very great king, who was also a god, who could call upon die stars and the Sun-God for help. And this man called down giants from the skies and the Sun-God sent his fire and with this fire from the Sun-God the great king cut the rocks and the sky-giants lifted them into place.
But in the end, so the legend stated, other giants or devils followed the good giants and slew them and destroyed the works of the great king, and though the king, in a great battle with the devils, killed them with the fire sent by the Sun-God, yet in the doing of it he was wounded and died, and with him died the knowledge of calling the sun and the stars and the sky-giants to cut the rocks and build the mighty walls.
I told Harris of this and remarked that it was a rather good myth and, ethnologic ally, entirely new.
For a space he was silent, puffing as always at his pipe and evidently thinking deeply. "Hmm," he muttered at last. "I thought you were an imaginative fellow and not bound about with old-fashioned ideas. I thought you were almost as revolutionary in your theories as myself, but I'm afraid you're not unlike the rest. You call that a myth, folk-lore. How do you know it's not true?"
I looked at him in amazement. Then I broke into laughter. "True!" I cried. "Of course it's all bosh! I'm as willing as yourself to admit the possibility of almost any theory, as long as it's reasonable and not contrary to the laws of nature, but I draw the line at the supernatural. Sun-Gods, sky giants, devils—tommy rot!"
"Sometimes," he observed judicially, "things that seem supernatural are actually natural and vice versa. And we're learning new things, new facts about the 'laws of nature,' as you call them. Bosh, tommy-rot, you say. Wouldn't your father—or mine-—have said the same thing if they'd been told we could sit here and listen to someone speaking in London or New York-—or even if they'd heard stories of my car? Mind you, I'm not saying these Indians' legends are true—I don't believe they are literally so—but I don't feel so sure that they're not merely exaggerations -—more or less poetical versions of actual historical occurrences. Didn't you tell me that you'd never heard an Indian legend that wasn't based on facts?"
I nodded. "Yes, and I'm willing to admit that much in this case," I told him, "We know the pre-Incan stone work is here. We know someone cut and placed the stones. I haven't any doubt it was done by the orders of some powerful ruler. No doubt, to his subjects, his superior intelligence and knowledge appeared like magic. And I haven't any doubt but that he and his people were destroyed by some savage enemies. As for the rest —fairy tales!"
Harris smiled. "In that case, old man, won't you tell me how the pre-Incans did cut their stones?"
"I wish I could," I replied, "but I admit neither I nor anyone else knows. However, we'll find how simple is the explanation and we'll kick ourselves for not having thought of it before."
"Think so?" he raised his eyebrows and looked at me with a strange half-amused, half-quizzical expression. "Well, I don't. However, we may find the answer much sooner than you expect. Remember what I said when I asked you up here—and hinted that you might learn the answers to some of the puzzles?
"Well—one of the puzzles I hope to solve is this very mystery of the pre-Incan stone work, though that's merely incidental—that will fade into insignificance beside other mysteries I hope to solve before long."
"If you keep on talking like that I'll begin to think you've made some contact with the stars and the Sun-God," I told him with a laugh. "But," I added, "all joking aside, if you can answer the riddle of the stones, you'll confer a tremendous benefit on science and archeology. I don't suppose you'd be willing to give me any more definite idea of your plans or theories?"
He shook his head, refilled his pipe and rose. "Sorry, I can't—not just yet," he said. "Before long perhaps. In the meantime, there are the ruins to occupy your mind and the Huaro-Yana—cut by the 'giants of the sky'!" He grinned mischievously as he left me.
Chapter III A Mysterious Discovery
If Harris had been an archeologist, whose sole aim in life was the solving of the mysteries of Peru's prehistoric civilizations, he could not have selected a better site for his investigations. He had hinted— quite casually—that there were some interesting ruins on his place. Then he had astounded me with his bald statement that the Huaro-Yana, the great basaltic arch, had been artificially formed. I had noticed that his house and most of his buildings were pre-Incan structures restored and repaired. But all this had not prepared me for the astonishing ruins and remains I found on every hand. I had visited every known pre-Incan site in Peru and Bolivia— Tiahuanaco, Cuzco, Viracocha, Pisac, Ollantay, Macchu-Picchu, Chavin and scores of less known ruins, but all together would not have equaled the stupendous remains that I found at Huaro-Yana.
The entire valley—I say valley, yet Huaro-Yana was not a valley but an upjutting spur of land—(a sort of mesa)—rising for a least a thousand feet above the bottom of the real valley between the ranges—with an area of perhaps two hundred and fifty acres, was, or rather once had been, completely covered with the gigantic structures of a prehistoric civilization. So numerous, so immense were the ruins, that it was days before I even obtained a general idea of their plan and arrangement.
And the more I studied them, the more amazed I became. Not only did I find that Harris had been correct when he had stated that the Huaro-Yana itself had been hewn from the living rock, but I discovered that the neck or ridge of rock that connected flat-topped mesa with the neighboring mountain side, and across which I had come in Harris' car, was actually a stupendous piece of masonry. More than this I found that the bed of the river that led across the ridge and flowed through Harris' fields, to fall in a magnificent cataract into the gulf below, was a channel constructed by man, and that the stream itself had been deflected from its natural course down the mountain side and had been led across the mesa. And the only approach to the place was through the stupendous arch of the Huaro-Yana. It was in fact an absolutely impregnable spot, or would have been in the day antedating gunpowder and heavy artillery. A mere handful of men could have held the approach and the arch against thousands, and when, after risking life and limb a dozen times, I managed to reach the summit of the arch, I found—as I had half expected to find—that it had been planned as a fortress. There were the remains of buildings, of walls, of parapets, and there still remained great piles of stones ready to be hurled down upon an enemy attempting to pass under the archway. Evidently the place had been a stronghold, a city and a religious centre combined, for there was an enormous temple topping an artificial mound; there were ruins of magnificent palaces, there were hundreds of low walls marking the homes of the inhabitants, and in one spot I came upon the finest specimen of an Inti-Huatana that I or any other archeologist had ever seen. Not only was this gigantic stone sundial in perfect condition, but the disk—to my unbounded delight and astonishment—was sculptured and bore marks and unquestionable inscriptions^—the first evidences of a written or recorded language ever discovered in Peru.
But this story is not a dissertation on ancient Peruvian cultures nor an account of my archeological studies and discoveries at Huaro-Yana. All that will be found in my, "The Cultural, Religious and Astronomical Centre of the Pre-Incan Civilization in Peru. Proceedings of the Museum of American Archeology," and I must apologize to my readers for having, quite unconsciously, been momentarily side-tracked.
But to resume. I had expected to stay a week or two at Harris' place, but with so much to occupy my time, so much to interest me at every turn, the days sped by with miraculous swiftness and a month had gone almost before I realized it. Of course, to dream of making a thorough study of the ruins in the time at my disposal was quite hopeless. There was more than enough work to occupy members of a large expedition for several years, and the most I could hope to do, was to make a general survey, record the most interesting features, make measurements, and possibly carry on some excavatory work. Hitherto, very little material of value—such as human remains and perishable objects—had ever been found in the pre-Incan Andean sites. But Huaro-Yana was in such an excellent state of preservation that I had high hopes. And I was not disappointed. I located several stone tombs, and from these obtained some most remarkable mummies completely clad in magnificent robes, together with a number of specimens of unique pottery, various bronze, silver and a few gold objects, wooden utensils and weapons, beads, ornaments, etc. I was, of course, elated at my success, and Harris was as enthusiastic as myself.
Many, in fact, most of the objects \ were easily identified, but among them was one vessel that puzzled me. It was a globular vessel with al long neck—something like a carafe in form—and with two smaller openings, both closely stopped with/1 plugs, one on each side of the neck where it joined the body. It was formed of what I took to be gold at first, but the instant Harris examined it he declared it was not of that metal.
"Then what is it?" I demanded. "Obviously it's not bronze, copper or silver. Neither is it iron, lead, tin or brass. What is the metal?"
He shook his head as he examined it with a lens, hefted it and scratched it with his pocket knife. "I don't know," he admitted. "Off-hand, I should say it's some composition —if modern I'd say aluminum-bronze. But of course, that's impossible. If you'll let me, I’ll analyze it." "I'd be glad to let you," I assured him. 'Tin as curious to know what the material is, as I am to solve the puzzle of its use. Can you offer any suggestion?"
He laughed. "It looks more like an" old-fashioned bomb or hand-grenade than anything else," he replied. "But as that's out of the question, we'll have to think up something else. Now let's see. It has three orifices, of which two are closed. Why should it have these two stoppered holes, when the main opening would serve to empty or to fill it? I think you 11 find the answer to that question in the inside of the pot. Personally I believe it's a triple affair—that it had three separate compartments and that the two stoppered holes lead to two of these and the neck opens into another. Admitting that for die sake of argument, why is one opening left open and the others closed? Answer: the two contained something that was to remain within them while the third contained material that was to be poured out or used."
I clapped my hands. "Bravo!" I cried. "Go to the head of the class, Harris. But what the deuce could the pre-Incans have had in the secret compartments? Answer me that, old man!"
Harris grinned good naturedly. "May have been a prehistoric thermos bottle!" he laughed. "Or," he added, "one of those gadgets for holding three kinds of liquor—no, that wouldn't do—it would have had three spouts in that case."
"Why don't you suggest it was some sort of a box of tricks belonging to that fabulous old king who was also a great magician?" I asked him banteringly. "Or maybe he kept a couple of genii—two of the sky-god-giants—locked up in the thing!"
"Hmm," observed Harris, who was shaking the pot and listening intently. 'There's something inside. Genii don't rattle, do they?"
'Then let's pull out those plugs and dump it out," I suggested.
"I don't know about that," said Harris, and I stared incredulously at the expression on his face and was amazed at the seriousness of his tones.
"We don't know what might be in it," he continued, staring fixedly at the metal vessel as if trying to penetrate its sides and see what was within. "Somehow I don't approve of taking chances with these old things. You may laugh at me, but don't forget Doctor Ledell—remember how he opened a sealed jar at Ur and dropped dead instantly? And there was Barstow in Yucatan—you told me about him yourself—-how he went raving mad after smelling the contents of an innocent-looking stone box. How do we know this thing doesn't contain some-damnable poison that’ll knock one or both of us out, if we get a whiff of it?"
"Maybe you're right," I admitted, as his words brought vivid memories of Ledell and Barstow. "Perhaps we'd better leave it as it is."
"We can do that and still find out what's in it," declared Harris. "I've got an X-ray machine, a fluoroscope and several more modern devices of the same character at the laboratory. When we go back to the house, we’ll see what we shall see."
Perhaps Harris was more interested than I in the strange metal carafe and its contents, or perhaps my greater interest in the other specimens caused me temporarily to forget the thing. At all events, I gave it no further thought, and during the rest of the day and evening I was busy preparing, studying and labelling my specimens. Not until the next day at breakfast was it mentioned. Then, with a peculiar glance at me, Harris asked; "Remember that metal vessel you found yesterday?"
I nodded. "Been doing anything with it?" I inquired.
"More than you'd guess," he replied. "I've been working on it most of the time since we got back here yesterday."
"We’ll, what did you find?" I asked, helping myself to a luscious grafted mango. "A genie or ice?"
Harris did not smile at my flippancy. "In the first place," he informed me, "I analyzed the metal. It's not what I thought it was—in fact, it's an entirely new and unknown metal. It——-"
"What?" I exclaimed suddenly, all attention. "You mean to say it's not an alloy as you thought?"
He shook his head. "I flatter myself I'm as good a chemist and as expert a metallurgist as any living man," he said. "And I'll pledge my reputation that the thing is composed of some metal at present unknown to us. But that's not all. It contains, as I assumed, two lots of material in two separate compartments. But the third compartment is empty."
"Well, what are the materials?" I asked him. "Poisons?"
"That I cannot definitely say—as yet," he replied. "But" he added, after a moment's thought, "I'm not sure that your discovery has not paved the way to solving the problem I've been working at and worrying over for the past three years. If I'm not mistaken—and my spectroscope and other tests convince me I'm not—the contents of that flask hold the secret I've been trying to solve. Would you object very much if I should ruin the specimen?"
"It's a darned valuable thing," I reminded him. "But—Oh, the devil; see here, old man. I'm not curious, I'm not asking what you're after. I know it must be something big and if that old brass bottle, or whatever it is, will help you, go to it and rip it apart, melt it down or do anything
you please with it. It was on your j property anyway and you're welcome to it."
"Thanks!" he cried with more than mere thanks in his tone. "II try not to spoil the thing. And—well I don't like telling my plans until I I'm morally certain I can carry them through. But what I have in mind' is rather "big" as you put it, and if it works out you'll learn how the old pre-Incans cut their stone and—perhaps—a lot more."
Chapter IV How the Pre-Incans Cut Stone
I had been with Harris six weeks! when we found the metal vessel and it was not until ten days later that; he again referred to it. Often, during j that time, I had wondered what he , was doing—for he was buried in his laboratory from morning until night nearly every day—but I understood ; him well enough by this time to know there was no use in asking; him questions. When he was ready to announce anything of interest he would do so.
Then one day, without the slightest reason—for the conversation j had been totally different matters-he asked abruptly: "Remember that; old legend you told me?"
I nodded. "What about it?" I retorted. "Heard another one?"
"No-o" he drawled as if measuring his words. "But I'm inclined to think there was a lot more truth than" fiction in it,"
I laughed. "Still thinking of that myself, eh!" I exclaimed. "Well,; what's on your mind now?"
"Have you ever really given much thought to how those stones were cut?" he asked, ignoring my question. "I mean," he hastened to explain, "have you set down all possible theories and then checked off the fors and againsts each? Have you tackled it in a really scientific manner?"
"Why—er—yes and no," I told him. "Of course, I don't believe— any more than you do—that they were cut by stone implements, or that they were ground into shape or hewn from the rock with bronze tools. Possibly the pre-Incans had iron or steel—I've advanced that theory, as have others."
"In that case where's the steel?" he asked. "And even if you say—as you will—that it's disappeared, has been lost by corrosion through thousands of years—how long would it take men to cut such gigantic stones in such numbers as are used in any one of the thousands of walls and buildings in Peru? And how long would it take a horde of men to cut that archway, even with steel tools, by hand? With modern machine-drills it would be a tremendous undertaking—requiring years of steady work. No, my friend, you'll have to think up a better theory than that." "Well," I said sarcastically, "I once met a man in Bolivia, who claimed to have solved the problem. He said the pre-Incas never cut the stones, but cast them. Knew where there was molten rock and ran it into moulds."
"Well, I've had a theory in my head for a long time," he said, "not precisely what you think, however, and your legend of the old king and how he called on the Sun-God and used the latter's fire rather bore my theory out. If you can burn wood, can even melt metal by concentrating the rays of the sun through a lens, isn't it possible that some device might be made that would concentrate the sun's heat sufficiently to melt or cut rock?"
"I don't say such a thing might not be done by scientists today," I admitted rather reluctantly. "But not by the prehistoric races of America. And even if accomplished by modern methods and sciences it would necessarily be on a small scale—merely an interesting laboratory experiment."
"I suppose you are right," he sighed, rising. "But if you're not too busy I'd like to have you come over to the laboratory. I've been working on that metal flask you dug up, and I think you’ll be interested in the results."
Of course I became interested at once and accompanied him to the work-shops, where he unlocked a stout door and led the way into a small room adjoining the laboratory. I had expected to see the flask—-probably cut in two or taken apart —together with its contents, but as I glanced about I failed to see the thing anywhere. The room contained a couple of chairs, a low stand on which was a brass cylinder equipped with valves and a sort of miniature hose nozzle, and a strong wooden trestle on which rested a good sized chunk of rough, irregular granite.
"Have a seat and make yourself comfortable," Harris invited, indicating a chair as he stepped to the brass cylinder.
I seated myself and watched him curiously as he adjusted the valves and moved the nozzle, which I now saw was attached by means of a universal joint that permitted it to swing in any direction. What he was up to, I could not guess, but I knew he must have some interesting demonstration to show me, and I knew him too well to ask for explanations. For the life of me I couldn't see what the cylindrical tank—which looked more like a fire-extinguisher than anything else—had to do with the metal vessel I had found.
Quickly turning the valves, Harris grasped the nozzle and commenced moving it slowly from left to right. Nothing came from it—not even a sound—and wondering when the show was to begin I glanced at the mass of granite a few feet from where Harris stood.
A sharp ejaculation came from my lips, I leaned forward, clutched the arms of the chair, my amazed eyes fixed upon the stone. Was I dreaming? Had Harris hypnotized me? I could not credit my own eyes, could not believe I was in my right senses!
A thin greenish vapor was rising from the surface of the rock, and below it, moving slowly across the rough granite, was a narrow groove as sharp and clear and straight as though an invisible saw was cutting through the solid stone! Unable to utter a sound, my incredulous eyes glued upon the phenomenon before me, I watched the deep scarf move across the rock until it had traversed the entire length of the mass of granite.
What did it mean? How was it done? Before I could frame a question: before I could collect my senses, I saw Harris swing the nozzle and begin moving it in a perpendicular line. Instantly my eyes turned to the rock, and now I saw a second scarf cutting slowly from the top of the stone at right angles to the first. A moment more and the two grooves met and Harris' voice roused me from the semi-trance in which I had been held spellbound.
"And the king summoned the Sun-God and the giants of the sky to cut the stones!" he quoted with a laugh. "See here!"
As he spoke he stepped forward, grasped the upper portion of the granite, and lifted a section of it from the rest! I actually gasped. The rock had been completely severed, as smoothly as though it had been sawed from a block of wood!
'There's the answer to your mystery!" cried Harris triumphantly, as he dropped the piece of stone back into place. "Easy enough when you know how—like everything else! Just have a look and see if you can find any traces of 'fused stone' along those cuts."
"But what—how——?" I stammered, as I bent close and examined the marvel.
"By the same—or at least a very similar method to that used by the Pre-Incas," he stated. "I've had a theory, a suspicion, for three years, and have been working and experimenting on that line. But it wasn't until you came upon that metal flask—by the way I've learned the secret of the metal alloy—that I obtained any really worth-while results, That flask, my friend, was one of the gadgets the old fellows used.
I don't imagine there were many of them knocking about, and this one still contained the materials that were essential to success and that had baffled me, I——"
"But I don't understand it—yet." I broke in. "How was it done? What has that cylinder to do with it?"
"Everything," he replied. "That tank is merely an enlarged version of your flask. The nozzle represents the neck of the old jar and the valves are modern conveniences to control the operation. I expect the old Peruvians used up the contents of their flasks each time and had to make new ones.
“As to how it was done," he continued, "you saw for yourself. All that is necessary is to turn-on the jet, move it along the surface of the stone and the trick's done. See here!"
As he spoke he again grasped the nozzle, adjusted the valves, and before my still incredulous and amazed eyes he cut the granite into various forms. He might have been using a jig-saw on a piece of pine, as far as results were concerned. Even then I could not force myself to believe I was not suffering from some hallucination. I felt as if at any moment I would wake up and find it all a wild dream.
But Harris was again speaking as he lifted and examined the circular, elliptical, octagonal and other shaped blocks he had cut out with his mysterious apparatus. "You see," he said, as he ran an exploring finger along a surface of the cut stone, "it's a good deal like the acetylene torch in its results. It——"
"But," I objected, "there's no flame, no jet, no glow, not even a sound from the nozzle. How the devil can the thing cut this stone without showing any trace of a jet or flame?"
"I was coming to that," he said, "but you keep interrupting me be fore I can finish. Not that 1 blame you"—he hastened to add, "for I can well understand your feelings, your excitement and your incredulity. I felt that same way myself when I first saw the thing work. But about the flame or jet. There is nothing of that sort, for this apparatus differs radically from the acetylene torch. The only resemblance is in the results obtained. But even in that there is a great difference. This doesn't melt or fuse the stone—you very cleverly brought up that argument against the melting theory yourself. No, it causes a disintegration, a chemical or rather, I think, an electronic alteration in the rock. That greenish vapor is, I think, the fumes of various constituents-—perhaps mainly pyroxene—being thrown off as new atomic combinations are formed. Perhaps I might compare it to the vapors or fumes that are produced when you treat a mineral with an acid. But——"
"Yes, yes!" I again interrupted impatiently. "But how, man? How? You say it's not heat, not a flame. Do you mean it's some chemical action?"
He shook his head. "You're hopelessly impatient," he declared. "No it's not chemical. For that matter I can place a piece of wood, my hand —— for all I know my whole body— between the nozzle and the stone without affecting the results or the organic matter. If you don't believe that, just watch me,"
Before I could expostulate, he had again turned on the valves, and though his hand was pressed over the opening in the nozzle, I saw the stone once more being cut (sawed is a better term) as marvelously as before.
I sank back in my chair, spent, exhausted, utterly limp with the nerve-tension, the excitement of the whole incredible affair.
Harris was grinning from ear to ear. "No wonder the natives thought the old king called on the Sun-God and the genii of the sky," he cried. "And you weren't so far off where you suggested the flask might hold a couple of imprisoned genii. Metaphorically speaking it did—it contained the genii that cut the stone. I——"
"I honestly wish," I said, "that you'd drop all that and explain how the marvel is accomplished. Just what does cut the rock?"
"A ray," he replied. "I thought I'd said so already. I don't know myself just what sort of a ray it is. Possibly it's just some new form of vibratory wave. But I call it a ray— though for that matter, what's a ray except a vibratory wave—and tentatively I've called it the Inti-ray in honor of the old chap who—according to the fable—called on Inti the Sun-God for help. You see I've been so busy getting the thing to work, I haven't had time to work out the peculiarities of the ray itself—its vibratory rate, its properties, etc, I—"
"But I thought you said the contents of the old flask solved the problem? How the deuce could anything in that flask help you to produce an entirely new ray? I suppose you'll be telling me next that there was some electrical or magnetic or radio machine in the thing."
Harris smiled. "No, not that," he assured me, as though I'd been in earnest. "You see this ray—like a lot of others—is produced by some complex chemical reaction—some sort of decomposition, though no doubt the ray itself is an electric, a magnetic or an electronic phenomenon. In a way—well, perhaps I can make it clearer to you by comparing it to the current generated by a battery. In the cell—whether dry or wet —we have a chemical action, but the resultant current is not chemical, And I might further point out that by passing an electrical current through many substances, a chemical change is produced. Frankly, I don't believe I'd ever have succeeded if it hadn't been for the old flask that luckily contained two chemical compounds that were essential. "And—-" he laughed heartily— "the funny part of it is, I'd had both those chemicals under my hands all along and had never thought to test them."
"What made you think the stuff in the jar had anything to do with the ray or the stone-cutting?" I asked him. "How did you know they were not poisons or—well, stuff used in ceremonies, for example?"
"By deduction and elimination coupled with plain logic and a fairly comprehensive knowledge of chemistry, plus a 'hunch'," he replied. "Having the solving of the problem of stone continually on my mind, everything new or inexplicable or puzzling became, subconsciously of course, associated with the problem. It's a habit I possess, and it has more than once helped me to solve seemingly insoluble problems in the past. You see one never knows when one may come upon the key to a puzzle. I work like a super-detective of fiction. Everything regarding which there is any question appears to me as a possible clue. And your flask came under that category. It was new, puzzling, mysterious. Neither of us could think up any reason for the thing, any use to which it might have been put. Consequently, I reasoned, it must have been designed for some purpose of which we were both ignorant. And naturally, first and foremost to my mind, came the stone-cutting. Then, when I found it contained some sort of material, I jumped to the conclusion that the material might and probably did have something to do with the same problem. And when I found the metal was different from anything known, I reasoned that it, too, was an essential part of solving the puzzle. Finally, when I got at the contents, I was convinced I was right and having long before theoretically reached conclusions and having reasoned out the soundness of my theory to my own satisfaction, I knew beyond any doubt that I'd found the secret. All I had to do was to construct a better and more efficient tank of the same metal as the flask, fill its compartments with the chemical compounds, subject them to the proper reagent, and—Presto! the thing was done."
"It all sounds quite simple," I said. "But I can't really believe it yet. To think that those old pre-Incans had a knowledge of chemistry and rays! It seems incredible."
"I doubt if they did.” declared Harris. "In all probability they hit upon this thing by accident. Such a thing is perfectly reasonable."
"But what were the chemicals and what sort of metal was used in malting that flask?" I asked him.
'The metal was an alloy of gold and lead," he replied. "At first I mistook it for a new metal, but I soon discovered my mistake. The chemicals—well, I don't suppose you'd understand if I gave you their formulae, but both are of the radioactive group of metallic salts. One is derived from vanadate of lead, the other from a complex mercury ore that is quite common in Peru, especially at high altitudes. And the reagent is—well, spring water!" Then, seeing my expression of incredulity, he added: "But not common everyday spring water. It's a highly mineralized water with slight radioactive properties and I don't doubt you've imbibed many quarts of it—it's widely used in Peru."
I breathed a deep, long breath, almost a sigh. "No wonder the pre-Incans could do marvels in stone cutting," I observed. "But why do you suppose the secret was lost? Why wasn't it handed down? And—good heaven, Harris—I hadn't thought of it before; but your discovery will revolutionize the world! It will do away with rock-drills, tunneling machines, dynamite—a thousand and one machines and devices for cutting, drilling and boring rock! And —by Jove! No wonder the Chavins could hew forts and buildings out of mountain sides. No wonder the old fellows here could cut that arch, mere child's play."
"I expect it was—for them," he agreed. "But I'm afraid you're over enthusiastic and optimistic as regards the benefits that will accrue; to the modern world owing to the discovery of how the pre-Incans cut their stones. You see, as far as known there is not enough of these mineral salts in the world to enable anyone to use the method on a commercial scale. Possibly that's why the pre-Incas lost the art and failed to hand it down—probably used up most of the material and didn't know where there was more. Possibly the old tale of devils may be allegorical of that fact."
"Well, you've solved the biggest mystery of the ancient races of America," I said. "And that's enough to satisfy anyone. Now you've explained the thing, it strikes me as rather remarkable that no one else ever hit upon your theory. But—"
"I don't agree with you." he interrupted. "I haven't solved the mystery any more than you have. If you, hadn't dug up that old flask, I'd be no nearer proving my theory than ever. And someone has always got to be the first to think up some new theory. But I'm not done yet. I want to learn all there is to be known about that Inti-ray, as I call it, and I want to test the thing on a big scale —I want to try cutting a block of the solid mountain side."
Chapter V The Invisible Inti-ray
I couldn't blame Harris for wanting to try out his discovery on a big scale, as he put it. I could quite appreciate his desire to see the invisible ray saw through the solid mountain side and cut a mass of granite or diorite, weighing thirty or forty tons, from the mother rock. But Harris had even more ambitious plans. A few days after his amazing demonstration he informed me that he had calculated the amount of materials required to cut a definite amount of stone, and that he had enough or could secure enough from a deposit not far away, to enable him to do some cutting on a gigantic scale.
"Do you know what I plan to do?" he asked.
I shook my head, "Give it up," I said. "Cut a tunnel through the mountain so you don't have to come at breakneck speed down that grade? That would be to some purpose."
He grinned. "Not quite as big a thing as that," he assured me. "No, I'm going to duplicate that arch— the Huaro-Yana. Not on quite such a big scale, however. You see that basalt dyke to the west? Well, I'm going to cut—or at least try to cut— an arch through that!"
"But," I asked him, "why waste so much time and material on doing that? Isn't there anything of real use that you can accomplish with your apparatus? Why throw away all that material just for the sake of showing what you can do?"
"It won't be altogether a waste," he declared. "It will let the afternoon sun shine through-—think how glorious it will be to see the sunset through the arch?—and besides, there's a second lovely plateau beyond that dyke. I can increase my property here. And somehow it appeals to my imagination—the idea of hewing a way through a vast mass of solid rock to reach a spot no man has ever trod before."
That was Harris all over—a queer combination of the romantic adventurer, the dreamer, poet and artist with the practical scientist and with his love of the spectacular fighting his detestation of notoriety,
But the strange kink in Harris' character or mentality was that it made no difference to him if nobody was aware of what he had done. His pleasure, his entire satisfaction lay in the doing—in the accomplishment. It was in the empresa as the Spaniards say—in the enterprise— that he gloried, and the more difficult a thing was the more he liked it. To solve the insoluble, to explain the inexplicable was as the wine of life to him.
Whether the world—or even fellow scientists-—ever heard of his triumphs didn't interest him. Having solved the mystery of the pre-Incan stone work he merely wanted to do as much as the pre-Incans, and he frankly told me he had no intention of publishing an account of his discovery, although I was welcome to do so, provided I didn't give him all the credit,
The idea of bursting through a seemingly impassable barrier to reach a hitherto unknown spot was to him an even greater achievement than the amazing discovery he had made. In some ways he was still a boy, and just as a boy takes immeasurable delight in navigating a mill-pond on a home-made raft and landing on the opposite shore, so Harris would find inexpressible satisfaction in cutting through that forbidding dyke of basalt to reach the little plateau that lay beyond. There was nothing marvelous, strange nor particularly desirable there. From the cliff tops one could gaze down and see every detail of the place. But neither is there anything new, strange nor unknown about the opposite side of the mill-pond. And—well, I might as well admit it—I was a little that way myself and was just about as enthusiastic at heart as was Harris. Besides I was rather curious to learn if Harris' apparatus could accomplish the feat.
But to my surprise he took no steps to carry out his plan. For several days he devoted all his time to painting, and apparently completely forgot the rock-cutting ray, the experiments and the basalt dyke. To my surprise the picture turned out to be a very striking view of the Huaro-Yana mesa as it must have appeared in the days of the pre-Incans.
With consummate skill and fidelity and accuracy that showed what a really deep knowledge of the subject he possessed, he had restored the ancient buildings and had peopled the scene with men and women dressed as the mummies I had found, taught us that the inhabitants of Huaro-Yana had dressed. There towered the great black arch with its garrison of warriors upon its summit. There rose the vast temple with its magnificent sculptures and bright-colored frescoes. There were the palaces, the houses, the Inti-Huatana, the priests winding in a procession up the temple stairs. But most prominent of all, most vividly portrayed, was the group in the foreground of the painting. There, before a mass of the living granite stood a number of men armed with bars, wedges and rollers, while in their midst a superior-looking fellow held a vessel of gleaming polished metal and was cutting the rock—as I had seen Harris do—by means of the invisible Inti-ray. This picture was, in fact, a marvelous re-visualization of Huraro-Yana to illustrate—far more clearly than was possible by words—the manner in which the pre-Incan inhabitants performed their seemingly miraculous feats.
It was by far the finest thing Harris had done, his masterpiece, and complimented him unsparingly upon it.
"I don't know why I did it.” he said with a sheepish grin. "It just came into my head and had to be finished before I could do anything else. You're welcome to it, old man. I don't believe it would interest anyone else. But it may serve as a sort of record some day."
Then, with the inspiration off his mind, Harris again vanished in the seclusion of his laboratory and work shops. From time to time, as we met at meal times or in the evenings, he dropped a hint or a few words in regard to his investigations and work. Once he announced that he was busy studying the new ray. “It's an amazing thing," he told me. "As nearly as I can work it out, it's related to the gravitational ray. I——"
"Hold on I" I broke in. "What do you mean by 'gravitational ray'? I've ways understood gravitation was like a magnetic phenomenon."
Harris uttered an impatient ejaculation. "You're out of date," he informed me, "Macdonald proved existence of the gravitational ray years ago. And what’s magnetism but the effect of certain rays? However, as I was about to explain, this Inti-ray is the most remarkable ray I've ever studied. It has a speed of almost three times that of light rays and it's as rectilinear as the X-ray. It penetrates practically all metals— Even lead —as well as all organic substances on which I've tested it, without injuring them, but minerals are resistants and the alloy of gold and lead is impenetrable. It lies somewhere between my Z-ray and the infra-red, and it produces a cold, pale greenish flourescence in combination with certain substances. Do you know 1 have great hopes of being able to accomplish some astonishing results when I know more about its peculiarities and the laws that govern it?"
"Sounds interesting," I commented, "but as I don't know anything whatever about rays—except light and heat and sound rays, and mighty little about them-—I'll have to take your word for the details. But there's one thing I'd like to ask: How can it penetrate certain substances without injuring or affecting them and yet cut that rock?"
"Simple enough," he declared. "Heat rays penetrate certain things— metals, cloth, etc—even glass, but not asbestos. Light rays penetrate glass, paper, water, various materials, but not metals. It's the same with electro-magnetic, sound and all other rays—even X-rays that are held back by lead. And as far as cutting the stone is concerned, that, as I have told you, is a chemical or electronic decomposition."
"Well, if you accomplish anything more astonishing than that, you're a magician and not a scientist." I told him.
A few days after this conversation, Harris announced that he was leaving Huaro-Yana for a few days—going after some of the minerals he needed—and told me to make myself at home during his absence.
"As soon as I return we'll be ready for the big test," he declared. "I have everything else prepared—the tanks and all the rest of the apparatus."
Instead of going by his car as 1 had expected, he set out afoot with a string of llamas and several of his Indians, and took a route to the south, in the opposite direction from Tucin. I was surprised to find how much I missed Harris' company. Although of late we had seen but little of each other, we did meet at meal times and in the evenings. Now, with no one to talk with and alone in the house, I had hard work to shake off the inexplicable and ridiculous sensations I have already mentioned.
At any rate I was heartily thankful when Harris returned with his llamas laden with sacks of the ores he required. He was worn, haggard, brown and weary, for he had had a long, hard journey over the highest ridges of the Andes, but he was in high spirits and announced that he had located a large deposit of the minerals—enough, he declared, to "cut fifty arches like the Huaro-Yana."
Evidently, too, his brain had been working overtime on theories and problems connected with the newly discovered ray and its properties and possibilities, for he hinted— mysteriously—at a new scheme he had evolved by which, if successful, he would astound the entire world. "But first the stone-cutting," he declared. "I don't know why it is so but the thing has got me going, as the saying is. Anyhow I can't settle myself down to work out the other-— and the bigger thing—until I've cut a hole through that dyke. And"— with a sigh—"Well get at that in a couple of days more."
Chapter VI A Pre-Incan Scene Materializes
Harris kept his promise. Two days after his return he announced that all was in readiness for his great feat. Indians, llamas, even the car, were busily employed in transporting his apparatus from the workshops to the vicinity of the massive basaltic dyke that rose like a great black wall for fully two hundred feet above the eroded rock at its base.
At a distance of perhaps one hundred yards from the face of the dyke a staging platform was erected, and on this the apparatus was installed. Harris was in his element. He busied about, directing, giving orders to the Indians, who appeared to regard the whole matter as uncanny and savoring of some impressive magical ceremony about to take place. He worked as hard himself as anybody, yet he took the time to explain this, that or the other to me.
"Have to begin cutting at the top, of course," he replied to one of my questions as to why the tall staging. "If we cut the bottom first, we'd be in a mess. And I've put the platform well back in order to get an almost direct incidence of the rays—don't want them to hit the rock at too great an angle, you see. Besides, there'll be the deuce of a lot of fumes; generated, and they may be poisonous or injurious."
"But how are you going to get the pieces of rock out after you cut them?" I asked him.
"I've planned for that," he assured me. "I'm going to cut wide horizontal grooves and run them in at an angle. Then the weight of the sections as they are cut will break the masses free and they'll slide out of their own accord."
"Maybe," I replied, "but if one or more happen to jam you’ll have some job on your hands."
"If necessary, I'll cut the darned thing into pieces so small we can pull 'em out with our fingers," he cried impatiently. "Anyhow, tomorrow well know whether it’ll work of not."
Naturally we were keyed up and filled with suppressed excitement when, on the following day, we set out to make the assault upon the dyke. Even the Indians, usually so repressed in their emotions, were excited, and I noticed that they had donned their best dance or ceremonial garments, as if about to take part in some great religious celebration!
As we reached the vicinity of the platform, Harris warned the Indians not to stand near the dyke, but to keep to the rear of the staging. Then, noticing that a number of llamas were grazing on the scanty herbage about the base of the dyke, he called to some of the men to remove them. As they were doing so he abruptly changed his mind, and shouted to the herders to tether two of the beasts midway between the dyke and the staging.
"What's the idea?" I asked him.
“Test of the fumes," he replied curtly. "I want to be sure whether they are injurious or not."
"Rather hard on the llamas," I observed. "Haven't you tested the stuff in your laboratory ? "
He appeared to hesitate and seemed a bit put out. "To tell the truth, I have not," he admitted. "I've meant to, but there have been so many other things of more importance that I didn't get around to it. But I haven't felt any ill effects; in such small quantities as were in the laboratory I wouldn't expect to. But the fumes are heavier than air, so we're safe up here, and the llamas down below will be a certain test. Now for the great work!"
As Harris spoke he stepped forward, adjusted the valves just as I had seen him do in his laboratory, grasped the huge nozzle that was fitted with handles like the nozzle of a high-pressure fire-hose, and aimed it at the dyke. Never will I forget the scene: The great black rock wall before us, the two shaggy-coated llamas grazing unconcernedly in its shadow, the crowd of Indians, ablaze with color and silver ornaments, standing and squatting, motionless as bronze statues, in a semicircle behind us, gazing with fixed, wondering, expectant faces at the two white men beside the gleaming metal machines, tensely expectant of something, they knew not what; and finally, Harris, standing like a gunner behind the shining golden nozzle and squinting along its barrel, as if about to launch a projectile at the massive dyke. Absolute silence reigned. Not a sound came from the throng of Indians; even the birds and insects seemed to have ceased their chirpings in awe and wonder. Overhead stretched a cloudless sky against which the snow-clad peaks stood out clear as cameos, and far up in the blue vault a condor soared in endless circles.
Suddenly from the scores of Indians a deep, half-terrified sigh arose. Every eye was fixed, wide open, staring, at the face of the dyke. From the black rock a thin greenish vapor curled and drifted, and across the surface a broad, deep groove was slowly forming.
No wonder the Indians were frightened, filled with superstitious dread. It was uncanny, terrifying in its wonder. Even I who had seen the amazing demonstration in the laboratory, who had known what to expect, found myself gazing with bated breath and wide eyes at the ever-opening, ever-widening cut in the solid rock, that was now partly veiled in the wavering, drifting, tenuous fumes. Only Harris remained unmoved, unaffected. Steadily, calmly, he moved the great nozzle from left to right, up and down, until several hundred square feet of the dyke's surface was checkered with the deep, straight cuts his invisible, mysterious ray had gouged into the basalt. By this time the vapor had spread until it formed a fog-like screen over the lower portion of the dyke, and lay in wisps like mist above the nearby ground. One wisp half concealed the llama nearest to the dyke, but the creature appeared to give no heed to it, and continued to graze as unconcernedly as though the fumes were ordinary fog. Harris straightened up, turned off the valves and stretched himself.
"Gosh, I've got a crick in my back," they felt he was. I touched his arm, "Look at the Indians," I said.
He turned, and instantly every Indian bobbed his head until his forehead touched the ground. 'Darned idiots!" ejaculated Harris. "Anyone would think I was their high-priest."
"No, their king—and God," I corrected him. "They remember their old legend and in you they see their mythical ruler summoning the Sun-God to aid you with his 'fire' to cut the rocks. I haven't any doubt they expect to see the 'sky-giants' materialize at any moment and pull the cut rocks out of the dyke. You see, they still believe in the old fable."
"So do I," was Harris' astounding declaration. "Well, here goes again!"
As he spoke he once more opened the valves, seized the nozzle and once more proceeded to cut deep scarfs across the basalt wall. I could not take my eyes from the rock. It seemed too marvelous, too impossible, too incredible to be real, and the effect of unreality in the feat was increased by the ever-spreading, greenish vapor that gave one the impression that the rock wall was visionary, the sort of thing one sees in that brief interval, twixt sleeping and waking, a hazy, intangible dream—creation that might vanish utterly at any instant.
But the Indians were real enough, the llamas were real, Harris and his shining metal apparatus were real, and as from time to time the fumes parted with some breath of wind, the black wall loomed as solid and as real as ever,
Then, as I gazed, unable to withdraw my eyes from the dyke and the ever-increasing grooves being cut across its face, I started, stared transfixed. In the centre of the drifting vapor a pale, luminous spot had appeared, a diffused circular patch of light like the sun shining through dense fog. What did it mean? What new phenomenon was this?
Tense, with throbbing pulses, I focused my wondering eyes upon the spot. The light was spreading, it seemed to emanate from the rock hidden behind the misty veil. In itself it was nothing startling, nothing uncanny, yet I felt an involuntary shudder and a haunting unreasonable impression that some extraordinary event was about to take place.
At the same instant the thing happened. It was sudden, instantaneous. It seemed to spring in a blaze from the depths of the vapor or from the rock wall behind it. A blaze of light, of a multitude of colors, of vivid hues swirling, gyrating in an ever-widening circle. I can think of nothing with which to compare it save a kaleidoscope. One instant there was a multi-pointed star, the next a rosette, the next it had been transformed into an octagon, a pentagon, a series of concentric rings.
I grasped Harris' arm spasmodically, pointing, speechless. But he, too, had seen the thing. He was gazing at it as wide-eyed, as unnerved, as shaking as myself. The Indians, too, had seen it. Half-consciously I heard their deep sigh of terror, of awe, and I knew; though I could not turn my head, could not tear my eyes from the amazing phenomenon before me, that they were gazing at it, fairly chattering with deadly fear. A great relief swept over me, for if Harris saw it, if the Indians saw it, then it was no illusion, no hallucination of my overstrained senses.
Now the thing had changed. The radiant colors, whirling around a fixed point, seemed to slow down. Luminous spirals, points of color, darker spots moved, gyrated, vanished. Then, like one of those trick moving pictures in which various dismembered portions of a thing rush into place upon a screen, the detached bits of color, of light and shade, appeared to join, to blend, until a vague, floating picture seemed to form behind the hazy veil of vapor. Indistinct, indistinguishable it hung there, blurred like a poorly focused semi-opticon view. Then, gradually, as we stared silent, bereft of speech and motion, certain features became clearer, more pronounced. Outlines took form, colors became intensified, and with a sudden burst of light, a dazzling picture was revealed, a picture as clear and sharp as if painted upon the surface of the rock.
A gasp of utter amazement escaped from my lips. I felt Harris start and give vent to a sharp ejaculation. The picture so magically revealed before was almost a replica of Harris’ painting. There were the same temples, the same palaces, the same great arch. There in the foreground was the group of men with one of their number cutting the rock, But—before our eyes, utterly incredible as it seemed, impossible of belief, the figures moved, breathed-—they were alive!
It had all happened in an instant. I doubt if five seconds had elapsed between the time I first noticed the struggling circle of light and the completion of that supernatural scene. And scarcely had the picture appeared from out the veil of greenish mist, when it vanished. The vapor drifted apart, the black basalt again stood revealed, and where the utterly impossible picture had been was the solid surface of the dyke.
Speechless I stared at Harris. Dumbly he gazed at me. What had happened? How had his paintings, half a mile distant and in his house, been reflected upon the wall of rock? These were the questions that filled our minds. Yet I knew, Harris knew, that the vision had not been a reflection of his painting. It had been similar but not the same and-—I shivered at the thought—the figures we had seen so vividly had lived, had moved!
I felt as if I had gone suddenly mad. I wondered if it were not all a form of my insanity—if I were not imagining that Harris and the Indians had seen the vision. I felt like screaming, like giving way to hysterics.
And then suddenly Harris seemed to go mad. He jumped into the air, he shouted, yelled, danced, threw his hat violently upon the platform, pounded me on the back, jerked me by the arm. Horror, pity, fear of Harris’ mental state drove all my own worries, my fears of my own sanity from my mind. Harris must be insane. His overtaxed brain must have given way. Evidently the Indians felt the same way. With wild, terrified cries they were rushing off in every direction. Only the tethered llamas remained calm, placidly chewing their cuds.
Presently Harris dropped, exhausted, on the platform, "Success at last!" he panted. "Triumph! It's wonderful! Marvelous! Incredible! And by accident, by chance! The dream of my life come true! The impossible accomplished!”
With a tremendous effort I controlled myself, strove to speak calmly, quietly, for fear any trace of my excitement might again send him into a fit of madness.
"Yes, yes," I said soothingly. "Of course it was wonderful, everything you say. And of course I cannot understand how your painting seemed to appear upon the rock here."
Harris leaped to his feet, wild-eyed, apparently beside himself.
"Painting!" he almost yelled. "Painting, indeed! What you saw— what I saw, was real—the actual happening! Don't you understand? Can't you guess? Good God man, we've looked into the past. We've brought back things that happened three—five—no one knows how many thousands of years ago! And the ray did it, the ray brought them back from space! It's what I've dreamed of doing, of trying to do for years. It's the most wonderful, the most astounding and important accomplishment ever effected. I'm staggered at its possibilities. But this was accident—pure chance! I must improve it, learn the secret, develop it. Come, there's no time to be lost!"
Forgetting everything else, the apparatus, the rock-cutting, Harris hurried from the platform, fairly dragging me with him, and actually raced toward his laboratory. But before we reached the buildings, he began to calm down.
"You must think me mad," he exclaimed with a laugh. "I wouldn't blame you if you did, I—"
"I'm not so sure we're not both mad," I replied, interrupting the words. "If we're not, how could we both have seen that—that vision or picture, or whatever it was?"
'Two people never go mad at the same instant and in the same way," he reminded me. "We both saw the same thing at the same time—so did the Indians. Therefore what we saw was there. And neither you nor I believe in visions, spirits, ghosts or the supernatural. Hence the thing was natural-—the result of certain laws and conditions. But I knew that the moment I saw it-— you see I had the advantage of you. I almost expected something of the sort to materialize. I—"
"Look here!" I cried impatiently. "You're talking in riddles and contradicting your own words. For Heaven's sake, get down to concrete facts and talk sense. Tell me what you expected, why and what the whole incredible thing means."
"When I said I rather expected the thing, I was speaking more or less figuratively," he began. "I'd been working, puzzling along these lines for years and I'd pretty well come to the conclusion mat the new Inti-ray might hold the secret that had escaped me all along. So I expected, and hoped, that some development, some property, demonstrated in using the ray, might convince me it was what I sought. But, excuse me, old man, I'm getting the cart before the horse again. I keep forgetting you are in the dark. I must begin at the beginning to make you understand. But first about that—er, well—picture we saw in the fumes. As I said before, it was no picture; it was actuality. You don't get what I mean, but it's plain enough to me, and will be to you in a moment. You thought, perhaps for a brief instant, that it was a reproduction of the picture I painted. Why?"
"Naturally I thought so—at first," I told him. "It was the same thing— temple, palaces, arch—even the costumes and people. Only-—"
"Exactly!" he exclaimed, not waiting for me to finish. "Because the same scene was reproduced, my painting immediately occurred to you, as I confess it did to me. But why shouldn't there be a resemblance? The arch is here, the temple, palaces—everything. I simply restored them, as I did the people, the costumes, the occupations. And" —he chuckled—"I happened to make a darned good job of it. That's a credit to you, too, old man! You told me how the things should be, you know, so you have the satisfaction of knowing your archeological knowledge was true and your deductions correct. Still, there were a lot of details wrong. The high-priest had a different robe and headdress from the one I painted. The columns of the temple were green, not red; and the palace facade was blue instead of yellow. And there were rope-ladders leading to the top of the Huaro-Yana. And another thing —the chap holding the metal flask and using the ray. He was on the left, not on the right like mine, and farther away. And—I noticed that particularly, he had a spout on the neck of the flask—a sort of nozzle. And— "
Chapter VII Harris Explains His Theory
I did not avail myself of Harris' permission to try my hand at cutting the dyke with his ray machine. I didn't relish the idea of standing there alone and perhaps evoking another of those startling scenes from the past, and Harris' last cautionary words regarding the order of opening and closing the valves had hinted of danger in monkeying with the thing. But I was curious to examine the results of his operations, so I made my way to the big dyke. Harris had been right in his calculations—as he seemed always to be right in whatever he undertook— and I found that two great masses of the rock had broken free and had dropped to the ground at the foot of the cliff. They were about twelve feet in length by ten feet wide and four feet in thickness. The ends, where they had broken free by their weight, were rough and crystalline, but their four surfaces, that had been cut by the ray, were as smooth and almost as even as though they had been planed off.
A great cavity in the dyke marked the spot whence they had slipped out free, and I realized that if Harris had continued at the work, a few hours would have sufficed to have cut an opening completely through the wall of solid rock. I then made a careful examination of the surface of the dyke where, as nearly as I could judge, the miraculous picture or vision or whatever it was, had appeared. I could detect no peculiarities, no differences in the basalt at this spot, and in order to be sure that I had made no mistake in the location I again climbed upon the platform and tried to visualize the scene. And when, feeling sure of myself, I calculated the size of the scene that had appeared so mysteriously, I found that, as Harris had said, the human figures we had seen in the fumes had been fully life-size. But with that commonplace, prosaic rock before me, it was difficult to believe that the thing had ever occurred, that it was not all a dream. Still, there was the platform with the ray machine upon it; there were the deep grooves Harris had cut in the face of the dyke; and there were the great blocks of stone that had fallen from it. No, it had been no dream, and yet, try as I might, I could not force myself to believe in Harris' explanation of what we had so clearly seen.
For a couple of days thereafter nothing worth recording occurred. My mind still dwelt upon the visionary scene we had witnessed, but by dint of hard work and by keeping my brain occupied by writing up my archeological notes, I kept the other matter submerged. And Harris made no comments in regard to his work except to report that all was progressing as well as could be expected. On the third day, however, he became more communicative and informed me that he had at last established certain facts, although, he admitted, he did not himself know the precise reasons for them. “The fumes serve as a rectifier or transformer," he said. "The Inti-rays, when passed through the fumes, become altered to visible light-rays or perhaps they produce effects upon the fumes that result in the reflection of light-rays in such a manner as to render the Inti-rays visible."
I began to understand, to grasp his amazing theory, and to realize how reasonable, how plausible were his deductions. As he said, was the materialization of a scene from the past really any more remarkable than the materialization of a sound from a multitude of radio waves? For that matter, wasn't it, in a way, the same thing as television, with slight variations and on a larger scale? Views, scenes in Europe were transmitted every day to America and vice versa. Anyone could "tune in" and gaze at some distant spot and could see the living, moving men and women on their screen. And though the interval between the actual happening and the reception of the picture was infinitesimal, still there was an interval and, strictly and scientifically speaking, the person viewing the transmitted picture was looking at a scene that had occurred in the past—even though the past was but the fraction of a second distant. As far as I could see, about the only real difference between such a feat and the seemingly miraculous feat Harris suggested, was the difference in distance and time. So it was with an entirely altered mental attitude that I listened to Harris' next words.
"The great trouble," he observed, "will be to 'tune in' and secure clear, distinct pictures. Until I get the hang of the thing, I'm afraid there'll be a good deal of interference, and I haven't the most remote idea of how to bring in the views in their regular sequence. I’ll have to fish around in the dark, so to say, trusting to pick up a piece here, another there, and then, by carefully noting the conditions and correlating the results, I think we’ll be able to get somewhere.
'That's where I count on you, old man. You'll be able—or should be able—to determine the sequence of events. But the real thing I'm after isn't the record of things here. That will interest you no doubt, and it will enable you to settle many mooted questions of archeology. But what I'm trying to get, what I've had in mind for years, are views of the planets, or the planet, where these impressions are recorded. Think what that will mean if I succeed we'll be able to see the details, the vegetation, even the life, if there is any!"
"Fine!" I commented. "But I'm afraid, Harris, that you'll have just as hard work making people believe you have accomplished that as I will have in convincing my fellow archeologists that I possess firsthand, irrefutable knowledge of the life of the pre-Incans. It will all sound like the wildest sort of a fairy tale to the rest of the world."
"No it won't," he declared. "Once I get the thing under perfect control I'll demonstrate it in all the great scientific centres. You don't suppose I'll stay here and look at one spot in the universe, do you?"
"Judging from some of your statements I should not be surprised if you found the thing didn't succeed elsewhere," I said.
"I think we'll have to begin just where we left off," Harris announced. "I'm working in the dark more or less and while I hope eventually to simplify matters, at present I know of no way of bringing in a scene other than by turning the ray on the basalt and producing the fumes."
"Rather inconvenient if you carry out your plan and demonstrate the thing elsewhere," I observed. "It; won't be the easiest thing in the world to carry a basaltic dyke from place to place to serve as a screen, And you'd have to provide a lot of them—they'd be cut into bits and destroyed after a few demonstrations!"
"Oh, dry up and stop your nonsense!" cried Harris with a good- natured grin. "Here," he continued, with something in the manner of a professor giving a lecture to his class, "is a special camera. My idea is to take motion-pictures—in colors of course—of the whole thing, the rock cutting, the fumes, the views we obtain—if we do obtain them. Then we'll have a record no one can question. I might have used an ordinary camera, but this is my own invention and is far superior. It takes the pictures at the rate of 25 per second and reproduces natural colors perfectly. This"—turning to the projector-like device—"is a combination revolving mirror and camera. You see a motion-picture, when viewed with a rotating mirror, is broken up into separate images, whereas an actual scene is not. I—"
"Good Lord, you don't suspect the vision was a movie, do you?" I exclaimed.
"No, but one never can tell," said Harris. "How do we know that some being on some distant planet may not be projecting some unknown form of motion-picture on the cliff before us? How-—"
"Be yourself Harris!'' I cried. "That's an absurdly impossible idea if ever there was one."
"Why?" he shot back. "I admit it would be impossible by means of light-rays, but how about the Inti-rays or other unknown rays? For all we know there may be beings on Mars, on Venus, on any planet as much beyond us in scientific knowledge and attainments as we are beyond the apes. And if so they may have learned—ages ago, how to take photographic views of occurrences here on earth, using Inti-rays or other rays for the purpose. Then when, once more—after a lapse of thousands of years—the Inti-rays were again used here, they may have seen their opportunity, and in an effort to communicate with us, they may have thrown the pictures back on the vapor-screen, imagining, of course that we possess enough intelligence to understand. For that matter they may have assumed that we are the pre-Incans. A few thousand years to them may be no more than as many hours or minutes to us. But we'll be certain when we see the records made by the revolving mirror."
I shrugged my shoulders hopelessly. "It's all so damnably preposterous, I honestly can't draw the line between the impossibility and possibility of anything," I confessed. "But one thing's certain. Unless you succeed in getting a picture, you won't be able to prove or disprove anything."
Chapter VIII Impressions Stored on Eros
Although Harris's initial preparations were precisely the same as when he had started to cut the rock, yet I felt even more excited and tense than on the first occasion. As for the Indians, they were filled with awe, but not knowing what to expect, or whether Harris was merely repeating the strange rites of the first day, they simply stared, awaiting any amazing, magical demonstration that might take place.
Only the tethered llamas were not there, for having clearly demonstrated that the fumes were not injurious to animal life, they were not needed, and were allowed to wander and graze at will.
As before, Harris adjusted the valves, grasped the nozzle and turned the ray upon the great dyke. But this time, as his object was to produce a dense screen of fumes and not to dissect the stone, he adjusted the nozzle to project a wide stream (if I may use the term) upon the rock near its summit. Instantly a broad, shallow groove appeared in the basalt and dense clouds of the greenish vapor began to form. Then, connecting an attachment that he had prepared, which, by means of a small electric motor, moved the nozzle back and forth and up and down, Harris turned to his giant camera, and started the mechanism that exposed the film. Then he sprang to his rotating mirror, set that in motion, and gave his attention to the dials and levers on other instruments, always keeping his eyes fixed upon the fumes that were now rolling, writhing and steadily descending, like a slowly flowing cataract of pale translucent green, over the face of the dyke.
Slowly the minutes passed. Only the clicking of the camera's mechanism, the low hum of the motors, the whirring of hidden mechanism, broke the silence.
With eyes glued to the dense screen of vapor, we watched eagerly but nothing happened. Heavier and heavier became the fumes as the ray cut deeper and ever deeper into the basalt, but no change, no sign of the vision broke the billowing masses of vapor. Then suddenly, when I had given up all hopes, I saw Harris grow rigid, a sharp exclamation escaped him, and once again I saw that dim, faint glow slowly illuminating the green depths of the fumes. Rapidly the light increased, a myriad colors flashed, gyrated, swirled amid the fumes, and then abruptly, as though a misty veil had been torn aside, a marvelous picture was exposed; a scene so vividly real, so deep in its perspective, so glowing with atmosphere and light, that I seemed to be gazing through a window in the rock at some actual view beyond.
Once more I was gazing at Huaro-Yana of the past. There loomed the great black arch; there was the temple with its green columns, the palace with its ornately decorated facade of dull-blue, and there once more were the people—men and women—in the costumes of centuries gone. But this time, no high priest was leading a procession up the temple stairs, no workmen were lifting the blocks of rock cut by the ray emanating from a metal flask. Instead, the people were in gala dress, they shone with ornaments of burnished silver and gold, their ornate headdresses of feathers flashed in the sun, and all were dancing—weaving back and forth, in and out—to the music of drums and flutes played by musicians in the foreground. So full of motion so perfect in its rhythm and so realistic in every detail was the vision, that I half-turned my head, striving to catch the music, the cadence of the dance.
I seemed to have been watching the scene for minutes yet—as we knew later—it was less than ten seconds before it began to fade to grow dim, as though a thin gauze veil had been drawn across it. Then; more rapidly, it blurred, the forms and colors merged, and like a dissolving view it vanished. Before my eyes the masses of green vapor billowed and rolled down the face of the dyke.
A deep half-groan, half-sigh came from the assembled Indians, Harris, with a sharp exclamation, sprang to the camera and swung a switch. Hardly conscious of my surroundings, I stood spellbound, my eyes still fixed upon the spot where the vision had been.
"Wonderful!" gasped Harris, and at his words I came back to earth "A perfect image! But I can't understand why it vanished—why it didn't continue as long as the ray was operating and the fumes well present. I'll—"
"It may come back," I suggested "Something may have interrupted it. Don't shut off the machines. Let's wait."
Harris nodded, and silently, with eyes fixed on the eddying mass of vapor, we waited and watched for a reappearance of the miraculous-seeming vision. But nothing appeared. The sun swung towards the west, the shadows lengthened, and at last, satisfied that there would be no second manifestation of the marvel, Harris shut off the apparatus, and slowly the clouds of vapor drifted away.
"Well," he sighed, as he drew a reel of film from the camera and another from the rotating-mirror machine, "we'll have a record of it unless —"
"Unless what?" I queried, half-suspecting what was in his mind.
He laughed, a forced hoarse sort of laugh. "Well, unless—unless the darned thing wasn't there!" he finished.
"Nonsense!" I cried. "We both saw it. The Indians saw it. It was there."
"Hurrah!" he exclaimed joyously. "At last the Doubting Thomas is convinced! Of course it was there and I’ll wager any amount I've got a bang-up picture of it."
Harris was right. The film, when developed, showed everything—the cloud of vapor, the great groove cut in the cliff, the unfolding of the vision, and every detail of the scene exactly as we had seen it. And Harris was jubilant when, having developed the photographic records of the rotating mirror, the results proved beyond a doubt that the vision we had seen had been no artificially projected picture from some mysterious and incredible cinematograph-like machine on another planet, but an actual happening, as real as though it had been transported into the past for a thousand years or more and had watched living pre-Incans dancing at Huaro-Yana.
Harris, however, was greatly puzzled and perturbed. He was at a total loss. The picture had come and gone exactly as had the first, and he freely admitted that he didn't believe his carefully designed instruments had had any effect upon its appearance. And he didn't attempt to account for the detached view—the single fleeting glimpse—having burst upon the vapor and then vanished.
"If the thing worked right, we'd see a continuous performance," he declared. "There's no reason why we shouldn't see everything that was going on from the time the picture appeared until the ray ceased to function. It ought to continue without interruption all through the afternoon. But instead, we just get one flash, like a snapshot, of what was taking place. However, I've accomplished something. I've got a photographic record to prove the thing, and when I've worked out my spectroscopic and other records, I'll know a lot more about the phenomenon than I do now.
"As a matter of fact I didn't really expect my instruments to help much. As I said, I was working largely by guesswork. But still I do think the picture was clearer, sharper than the first time."
The next day we mounted the platform again and repeated the operation of the preceding day, but nothing appeared, and at last, wholly at a loss, we gave up at noon; utterly baffled we returned to the house.
As we were eating our midday meal, Harris suddenly dropped his knife and fork and leaped to his feet.
"By Jove, I have it!" he fairly shouted. "Why didn't I think of it before!"
"Got what?" I demanded. "The reason we didn't see a picture today; the reason the thing vanishes. It's a question of time. Remember, we saw the first picture between two and three o'clock. It was between two-thirty and three that we saw the next. Then, today, we waited until noon and saw nothing. I'll wager, if we go back between two and three, we'll see another view. It—"
"Possibly you may be right." I agreed, without waiting for him to complete his sentence. "But honestly I fail to see why time should have anything to do with it. In the first place, whatever it is, or rather, however the thing is brought about, the rays that carried the scene in the first place must have been going on continuously—not confined to any one hour. In the second place, the place—Huaro-Yana—and the people, must have been here right along. And in the third place, if the scenes—the impressions—are somewhere, stored away in space or on another planet as you claim, why shouldn't the Inti-ray or the fumes or whatever it is, bring them back to us at one time as well as another?"
"You overlook the most important thing," Harris told me. "I explained that the rays are strictly rectilinear—that they go straight and parallel, as I might say, a I even stated that I feared we could only secure revisualizations of events that occurred here at Huaro-Yana for that reason. So the way I look at it is this: Just as the scenes we can restore are local, so the area whereon they were stored or recorded must be restricted. It's as if they'd been reflected in a mirror at a distance and that mirror reflected them back to a mirror set up here. Unless the two mirrors were in line and placed at the proper angle or plane to each other, there wouldn't be any reflection visible. And as the earth is rotating on its axis, there would be but one short period of time when it would possible to 'line up' the rays so the scenes would appear. Of course that's a crude way of putting it, but it's the only way I can make it clear to you."
"Thanks for your opinion of my mentality," I laughed. "But I think I see your point. However, another idea has just occurred to me—or rather several ideas. First: If you assume, the scenes were recorded on another sphere and that sphere is rotating as it must be, it seems to me the chance of getting the two points upon the surface of this earth and that sphere 'lined up’ as you say, would be infinitesimal And if both spheres are rotating and have been for thousands of years, wouldn't the time when the two points come into line vary daily? Finally, how does this theory strike you? Isn't it possible that on that other sphere there is a similar dyke to the one here and that the phenomenon is the result of some chemical peculiarity of the rocks, so that it would not be possible on any other portion of earth or on that other planet? Your simile of the two mirrors gave me that theory."
“Yes, I'd thought of that myself," declared Harris. "But I can't find any peculiarity of the basalt here. It's in no way different from any other basaltic dyke. But there is a possibility that on another planet there may be fumes—vapors— identical with that which we produce by the ray, and that the scenes were impressed or recorded on that. I don't think the theory tenable, however. Such vapor must move, must be tenuous, and hence any scenes recorded upon it would be broken up, would disappear. As for your other arguments, I admit there would be a constant change of time, but how do we know that the other sphere's rotational speed may not be such that it compensates for the earth's lag? But we're talking on theories, mere vague suppositions. We don't actually know anything about the matter—we don't even know if there is another sphere in the problem. But come on—let's see if my idea of the time isn't correct."
So once more we went to the platform and prepared for the reception of the phenomenon. And this time, just as Harris had prophesied, the picture appeared—-precisely at two forty-eight. It is unnecessary to repeat the description of its materialization. In fact, we had now become somewhat accustomed to it, and watched it with less excitement and more analytically. In fact, the only manner in which the view that was vividly developed before us differed from those we had seen was in the actions of the people. We had seen them cutting the stone with the Inti-ray; we had seen them dancing; and now we saw them at their everyday duties. Some were cultivating the ground; in the distance, herders were tending flocks of llamas and alpacas; in the shadow of a building, women were weaving cloth on crude looms; and under a shed a potter was moulding earthenware vessels. I even caught a glimpse of a metalsmith working over a little furnace, but he was soon hidden from sight by a group of men who gathered about him, apparently interested in watching him at his art.
Harris was elated. Not only had his time theory worked out—for no other vision appeared, although we waited throughout the afternoon— but he insisted that the length of time the scene had been retained was due to his instruments and the manipulation of the controls.
"I'm making headway at last, thank heaven!" he cried, "I'm beginning to get the hang of the thing. The next time I'll keep the impression before us for at least fifteen minutes—perhaps more. Eventually I may be able to hold it for an hour—perhaps keep it continually there."
"In that case your time theory will be shattered," I reminded him. "Besides, you’ll exhaust your supply of the ray-producing minerals."
"Don't worry about that," he advised me. "I've found how to make the stuff artificially. And as for my time theory—that's the key to the success of the thing. I kept this view ten minutes by adjusting my instruments to compensate for the movement of the earth. Now, if I can only calculate the speed of the other sphere—if there is one—I can adjust the instrument to keep pace with that, and so retain the views in perfect alignment continuously. It's not such a difficult problem after all; a good deal on the principle of taking photographs of the sun or any other planet in doing which we have to keep the telescope focused on a certain spot regardless of the fact that both the earth and the other planet are moving. But, hang it all, in this case I don't know what the other planet is, or where it is, or if there is a planet in the case. But I'm going to find out before another day has passed."
Whether or not the unusually long period of time that the scene had endured was due to Harris's instruments, I did not know. But if he was right, if he could so adjust his apparatus as to keep accurate pace with the planetary movements, then I could see no reason why he should not be able to do as he claimed and retain a continuous picture for some hours upon the vapor.
I saw nothing more of him that evening. He did not come to dinner and it was not until nearly noontime the next day that he put in an appearance. His haggard face and the dark circles under his keen eyes told me of all night work even before he spoke. "I've got it!" he ejaculated, throwing himself into a chair and gulping down a cup of strong black coffee.
"Got what?" I asked. "You'll get nervous prostration or something worse if you keep this up old man."
He shook his head. "I'd get a lot worse lying awake and trying to puzzle it out in my brain, than by going at it with paper and pencil," he declared. "But it's done. I've worked it all out—the question of the other sphere, you know—the place where the impressions are stored away, and now I've got that determined I can work out the rest. Today, tomorrow, we'll be the first human beings to look upon the surface of another planet as clearly as though we stood upon its surface. Think of that! Think of what marvels we may see!"
"But what is the planet?" I asked, half-convinced that Harris had overworked his brain and was suffering from an hallucination.
"What is it?" he repeated. "Guess!"
"Hmm, I presume it's Mars or perhaps Venus or Mercury," I replied "Let's see. I'm no astronomer, but if I'm not mistaken Venus would be visible in the afternoon."
"Wrong!" cried Harris. "It's Eros!”
"Eros!” I reiterated. "But Eros is an asteroid—it's outside Mars."
"Yes, ordinarily," admitted Harris. "But if you were as familiar with astronomy as with archeology, you'd know that although the orbit of Eros —and other asteroids— is outside that of Mars, still, at certain times, owing to the nature of its orbit, Eros —and probably other asteroids as well—approach to within fifteen million miles of the earth, whereas thirty-five million is the nearest we ever get to Mars as in 1909 and 1924. And it happens that at the present time, Eros is at its nearest point to our old earth." "But, but," I objected. "Isn't Eros small—a tiny sphere? Why—"
"Don't ask me why!" cried Harris petulantly. "I don't know why anything. But it's Eros, I'm positive. Yes, Eros is small—a mere pin-point in the ordinary telescope. We don't know anything about it and that'll make it all the more marvelous to look upon. Why, man alive, it may be inhabited! And think what the denizens may be like! No one can think, no one can imagine. On Eros you, I, any normal man could easily lift a ton in one hand. We could fly for miles through the air by using muscular energy required to take a step here on earth! Talk about Columbus! Talk about explorers, discoverers! Why, we're about to go on the most amazing voyage of discovery in the entire history of mankind!"
"Provided," I reminded him, hoping to calm him, for he was becoming almost feverishly excited, provided you can succeed and can produce a scene from Eros upon the vapor. I don't believe you can, Harris. I’m willing to admit that the ray impressions of past scenes on earth may be stored or recorded on Eros or on any other heavenly body, and that you may be able to 'tune' them in, as you once aptly put it. I've seen the visions and astounding, incredible as they are, I cannot doubt the evidence of our senses. But I don't see that that proves that it is possible to bring in a scene that exists on another planet or planetoid today. In fact, it would seem to me that scenes from Eros must be impressed invisibly here, and that the people of Eros—if there are any—would find it much easier to bring scenes of their past back from here than for you to bring scenes from Eros to earth. So far, we haven't had a hint of anything, aside from scenes that took place here. If your scheme were possible, why shouldn't we have had glimpses of Eros already?"
"Why, why, why?" cried Harris jumping up and pacing back and forth, "You're forever asking "Why?' How the devil should I know? Nobody knows. Perhaps nobody ever will know! Why does the earth rotate? Why do we live? Why are we here? Why life anyway?" Then, suddenly calming himself, "I'm sorry, old friend," he said apologetically, "I didn't intend to be rude or impatient, but the thing's got under my skin and that infernal "WHY?" is hammering in my brain continually. If you’ll pardon me, I’ll go get a bit of sleep. I can't do anything today—haven't had time to prepare the instruments I want. But tomorrow—well—we’ll see what we shall see."
Chapter IX The Battle Scene Retained on Eros
Harris slept soundly for several hours and arose much refreshed and once again his normal, good-natured self. During the afternoon he busied himself in his laboratory and workshop. He worked late that night, and he was up and deep in his work when I arose the next morning, But he came to the house for lunch, and with a deep sigh of satisfaction announced that he was ready for another demonstration.
"This time," he stated, "I believe we'll get a glimpse of Eros itself, unless I'm off in my calculations,"
I had, however, been improving my knowledge by reading the works on astronomy that were in Harris's library, and I had assiduously studied everything I could find that related to Eros. So I was ready to ask a question that, I flattered myself, would rather surprise him.
"I don't exactly see how you can accomplish that today," I observed. "Isn't the dark side of Eros presented to the earth this afternoon? In that case how can you see anything upon it?"
Harris laughed. "Been studying up on Eros, eh?" he observed. "Yes, you're right, but why should darkness have anything to do with the matter? You forget that we are not seeing things with light-rays, and the Inti-ray is present in darkness as well as in light. By the way, as you have shown you have an increasing interest in astronomical phenomena, let me ask you a few questions and—as I’m quite sure you cannot reply— give you the answers. You speak of 'darkness.' I suppose you picture space (so-called) as being dark?"
"Yes, why not," I replied promptly. "Wrong!" he cried in much the same tone a boy will use when playing a guessing game. "If you were in what is commonly called 'space' you’d find light—blinding light—in fact such light as neither you not any human being can imagine or conceive of; a glare like that from a vast furnace. And the most amazing feature of it would be that it would be cold light—practically absolute zero."
"I can't believe it," I told him frankly. "If space is light, how is it that after the sun sets we have darkness?"
"Our own earth shadow," he replied, "thrown upon our atmosphere. If you should step into an airplane and go up a few hundred feet, you'd find it light enough."
"Naturally," I said, "for I would then be in sight of the sun."
"Or rather out of the earth's shadow," he retorted. "But if you could get off into space beyond all shadows, you'd find the blinding glare perpetual. There'd he nothing to interrupt it, nothing to absorb it and no atmosphere to soften and filter it. Now, for another question. If you were off there in space, how would Mars appear? What color would the sun be?"
"I suppose Mars would appear as a great red sphere," I replied. "And the sun would be a fiery, glowing, incandescent mass."
Harris chuckled. There was nothing he enjoyed more than tripping up people on scientific questions and then setting them right. Not that he ever bothered doing so with men who made no claims to scientific knowledge. He didn't expect them to know the answers. Neither would he amuse himself in this manner with specialists in other lines than his own; but he believed thoroughly that a "little knowledge is a dangerous thing," and having discovered that I had attempted to brush up on astronomy he was having a little harmless amusement at my expense, incidentally adding to my knowledge.
“You're entirely wrong," he assured me, "If you were beyond the atmosphere of the earth, the sun would appear as a brilliant blue sphere and Mars would be green."
"But enough of this. It is time we were off and getting ready for a glimpse of Eros."
As usual, by the time we had reached the platform, the Indians had gathered en masse to watch the magical ceremony, as they considered it. How they knew when we were about to 'perform,' by what inexplicable means they communicated with one another, I never learned. But despite the fact that there were now half a dozen Indians in sight when we left Harris's house, yet by the time we reached the vicinity of the dyke, a crowd would be on hand. It was as mysterious and very like the manner in which buzzards will flock to a dead beast, though not one may be visible until the creature expires. But their presence didn't bother us. In fact, I think Harris rather enjoyed having an audience —even if it was an audience of Indians.
This time he had brought along several new pieces of apparatus, as well as a sort of chart or map punctured with perforations—something like the music-rolls of a player-piano—which he inserted in one of the machines.
In reply to my question in regard to it he gave some involved technical explanation which I cannot recall, but I gathered the thing was some sort of device to synchronize the apparatus with the movements of the earth and Eros. Also he had brought a new supply of the chemicals with which to charge the ray machine, and he expatiated on the fact that they were synthetic compounds, which he was testing for the first time and that as they were much purer than the natural ores, he hoped for better results.
Possibly it was due to these compounds, or for all I know to some other alterations or improvements he had made in his apparatus, but whatever the cause, the fumes appeared much more dense than usual as the ray began cutting into the rock, and instead of the pale-green, translucent tint—like the color of breaking wavecrests, the vapor had a decidedly bluish tint.
Harris waited until two fifty-three before he turned on the ray, and almost instantly we saw indications of the approaching vision. As before, a glow appeared as if a light was struggling to shine through the veil of fumes; it increased until a luminous ball seemed embedded in the vapor and for an instant I almost expected to see a glowing sphere emerge. I heard Harris utter a short, sharp exclamation, but before I could question him, the illuminated area expanded until it covered a vast area of the fumes; then once again, the swirling, gyrating masses of prismatic colors flashed and scintillated, until suddenly they rushed together, took definite form and before us appeared the picture, distinct and clear.
Once more we were gazing at Huaro-Yana in its heydey. Once again we saw the familiar surroundings, the familiar buildings, but now the inhabitants swarmed everywhere. They rushed about, ran hither and thither, seemed excited, and at times terrified. Then I noticed that the men bore arms—bows and arrows, spears, slings, stone and bronze-headed maces and battle-axes—and suddenly I realized that they were preparing for a battle. Gradually women and frightened children sought refuge within the temple and the other buildings. The men, obeying shouted orders—yes we could almost hear the voices so realistic was the scene—gathered in columns and groups.
The warriors upon the summit of the great arch took their posts and drew up the rope-ladders, and from the palace came a cortege at whose head strode one who I instantly knew must be their monarch. Never will I forget his face. A splendid-looking man, a man every inch a king; erect, haughty, with keen, hawk-like features, a broad serene brow, strong high-bridged nose and firm thin lips. Upon his head rested a casque of burnished gold set off by three scarlet and black plumes. Golden bands gleamed upon arms and legs; against the deep blue garments that he wore gleamed a burnished breastplate. In one hand he carried an immense, bronze-headed, battle-axe and in the other a round wooden shield, gorgeous with mosaic work. The nobles who surrounded him were almost as richly clad and were splendidly armed, but he towered above them for inches, and beside him they appeared almost puny, insignificant.
Instantly, as their king appeared, a mighty shout evidently arose from the assembled warriors, and even in that tense, thrilling moment when, with bated breath I stood gazing enthralled at the vision before me, it flashed across my brain that the strangest, most incredible feature of it all was that no audible sounds came to my ears. I could see the men's mouths open, could see them raise high their weapons and clash spearshafts and bows on shields in salutation to their monarch, yet all was silent, so silent that the whirring of the motors in the machines beside me seemed a roar.
Quickly the king stepped down from his palace and with a vivid gesture towards the west, led his warriors toward the great black arch. So intent had I been in watching the monarch and his nobles, that I had given no heed to what was taking place elsewhere. But now, as I turned my eyes towards the Huaro-Yana, I gasped, my heart seemed to skip a beat, and I felt as excited—yes, and as terrified—as though I had been actually upon the scene in person. Outlined by the black arch, moving steadily, inexorably nearer, were dark masses which I took first to be close-packed hordes of men. Down upon them the garrison upon the arch hurled a perfect rain of arrows, javelins and stones, yet the hail of projectiles seemed to make no impression upon the enemy. Then, to ray amazement and horror, I saw that the dark bulks were not mobs of savages as I had thought; they were gigantic beasts, monstrous creatures of some sort. The next moment they were blotted from sight by the on rushing army of warriors led by their gold-helmeted king. I saw axes and maces flash. I saw arrows speed. For an instant the arch itself was almost hidden by the struggling, fighting mob. I leaned forward, my breath came hard and fast, I strained my eyes to see what was taking place, how it fared with the monarch and his men.
But even as I gazed, for the moment forgetting it was but a vision, a scene by some miracle snatched from the distant past, a haze seemed to cover the view, the struggling warriors, the black arch, the distant mountains grew dim, indistinct, and the next instant the scene had vanished. And then suddenly, as though flashed upon the bluish vapor by some gigantic magic-lantern, there appeared a totally different scene. A scene so weird, bizarre, so utterly unlike anything I had ever seen or dreamed of seeing, that I started back with a low, involuntary cry. Before the sounds had fairly left my lips, the scene had vanished, the fumes billowed and rolled down the cliff. With a deep indrawn breath I turned toward Harris, he was standing, gazing transfixed, as if hypnotized, at the spot where the scene had been. Slowly, almost as if just awakening from a dream he turned.
"Did you see it!" he almost gasped. "Did you see that last, that—that bit of Eros?"
I gazed at him in amazement. "Eros!" I exclaimed, "What on earth do you mean?"
"Didn't you see it?" he repeated, with something of awe, almost of reverence in his tones. "Don't you understand? That last view—that fleeting scene was a bit of Eros. Think of it! We are the only human beings ever to have looked upon the surface of a planetoid!"
"What makes you think it was Eros?" I asked, although more than half-convinced he was right. "How do you know it was not some part of this earth?"
"How do I know!" he cried. "Is there any such place on earth? Is there any such scene? Are there any such forms of vegetation—such creatures?"
I had to admit I knew of none, still I could not believe Harris's assertion possible. "No," I replied, "not at present; but how do we know it was not a view of the earth—perhaps this very spot—in some past age, in prehistoric times?"
Harris snorted. "You, an archeologist, ask that!" he sneered. "Was there ever a time in the history of the world when there were such forms of growth? You know there was not. No, no, we were looking upon a scene in Eros. I——"
A wailing groan from the Indians startled us, caused us to turn, and our eyes fell upon the dyke, we stood transfixed, gazing speechless at what we saw. Harris in his excitement had not shut off the ray. Great masses of blue vapor covered the rocky wall, and once more upon the surface a picture had appeared. A scene terrible in its tragedy, in its desolation, the culmination of the battle whose beginning we had seen. Against a lurid sunset sky the Huaro-Yana loomed black and ominous, the palace, the temple, every building was silhouetted against the glowing sky, but not a living human being was in sight. Everywhere, strewn upon the ground, were weapons, accoutrements, garments, ornaments, missiles. With a shudder I saw in the foreground a mangled mutilated corpse, whose distorted features I recognized as those of the king, who, such a short time before, had led his shouting warriors to battle.
The horror of the scene was magnified by the fact that no triumphant enemy was in sight, that no man or woman, no living creature moved through that city of death. It was as if every living being had been utterly wiped out completely disintegrated by some stupendous cataclysm, leaving only the twisted body of the dead monarch in the shadow of his deserted desolated palace, And yet —I stared, I strained my eyes in a vain effort to pierce the ever-increasing dusk that was settling over the scene as the sunset faded from the sky. Something had moved, something vague shapeless, phantasmal, a form yet formless; a cloud-like wraith; an intangible, ghost-like thing that caused cold chills to run up and down my spine, as for an instant it hovered—no, drifted is a better term—into the shadows of the palace and passed on and vanished in the darkness. Then a cry of horror came from my lips, for where, but an instant before the dead king had been stretched upon the ground, now only his golden helmet, his bronze breastplate and his shield remained! The next instant the last blow faded from the sky, darkness blotted the scene from sight, and the pale-blue vapors once more drifted and rolled across the face of the rocky wall,
"My God!" gasped Harris, as he turned, white-faced towards me. "Wasn't it ghastly?"
I bowed my head. "Horrible!" I managed to say. "The extermination of a race—the end of the pre-Incans. But the mystery is as great as ever, Harris. Who, what——"
A hoarse, dry, almost hysterical laugh came from his lips. "The old legend," he said, "the giants from the sky'! Did-—" he shuddered and cast a furtive, half-frightened glance at the dyke—"did you see that, that thing? That—" he lowered his voice to a whisper—"that ghastly, spectral thing that, that devoured the dead king?"
With a tremendous effort I pulled myself together I grasped Harris's arm and shook him "Nonsense!" I cried. "Snap out of it, Harris! The tragedy of the scene has got on our nerves. It was only a picture—a vision-—a bit out of the past. We're acting as if it were real. Giants! Piffle! We merely missed the actual fight—the battle—and saw the place after the victors had cleared out. Probably savages from the montana. And as for the cloud—the fading light merely distorted a wisp of fog or smoke. Come on, it's getting late, let's get out of here and go home,"
For a moment Harris stared at me with a strange expression in his deep-set eyes. Then he burst into a peal of laughter. "Yes," he cried, "I guess you're right! We're a couple of damned fools. But—" there was a note of triumph, of elation in his voice—"I told you I'd keep the scenes going, and I did. Do you know how long that first one remained? Over half an hour! And I brought the last one in after four o'clock! I've conquered the time element. I’ll get them whenever 1 wish now, and I'll keep them as long as I please. And we'll see Eros next time. We'll explore it, study its vegetation, watch its inhabitants."
But my mind was too much filled with the tragedy of Huaro-Yana for me to answer him.
Chapter X A Vision Materializes
Such thoughts, such speculations, invariably fill my mind whenever I allow myself to recall the events that followed so closely upon that last vision which showed us the destruction of the pre-Incans, who dwelt in the city by the Huaro-Yana. Yet in a way, I realize that all such thoughts and speculations are idle and lead nowhere, for, as Harris was so fond of pointing out to me the slightest alteration in any factor— no matter how trivial it may appear —will alter the entire course of events, and for all we know to the contrary, the entire universe.
"The biggest word ever uttered by human beings is the word 'IF,' "he used to say, "Don't ever forget that. That's one reason I'm a fatalist, my friend. In order not to have done a thing the entire course of events for immeasurable eras of the past would have had to have been different. In order to influence the present or the future, we would necessarily have to influence the past. Just as any alteration in the present would influence the future until the very end of time, so it would have to influence the past back to the very beginning of time. As long as it manifestly is impossible for us to alter the past, so it must be impossible to alter the future that is dependent upon the past."
But I forget myself. Here I am quoting Harris's arguments, when I should be recording the events as they transpired, and if poor Harris were alive today, he would be the very first to find fault with me.
Naturally, after that amazing experience of having seen three distinct pictures (I will insist on using that term, for regardless of what they may be scientifically called, to me they were pictures) we could think of nothing else, and throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, and far into the night, we discussed them, argued over them, marveled at them, and wondered what revelation would be vouchsafed to us next.
Yet there were many points on which we did not agree. For example, Harris insisted that the indistinct forms that I have already described as gigantic beasts or monsters, which we saw approaching the pre-Incan warriors beyond the arch in the first vision, were identical with the wraith-like, misty thing we had both seen in the final vision. I could not agree with him.
"Well, what was it then?" he demanded. 'The damnable thing did away with the dead king, so it wasn't any phantom. I never yet heard of a ghost that could cause any changes in material things."
"Who said anything about ghosts!" I snapped. "In my opinion it was a huge bird—perhaps some giant vulture—and that it simply picked up the body and flew off with it,"
Harris sneered. "Is that so?" he cried. "And what sort of a bird can pick up and carry a full-sized man?"
"Not any that exists today," I retorted, "but we don't know how long ago those events occurred and so we can't say positively that gigantic birds or, more probably pterodactyls, may not have existed at that time. A fair-sized pterodactyl could easily carry off a man. And if there were a lot of them—if they were as common then as buzzards are today— it would explain why no other bodies were visible. If you can suggest a better theory, let's hear it."
"Hmm, I hadn't thought of that," he admitted. "Perhaps you're right. But even so, the old fable wasn't so far off—pterodactyls would be 'giants from the sky' all right."
It was my turn to scoff. "Still harping on that old myth; eh?" I said. "Well, have it your own way. I admit that the legend of a king having called on the Sun-God to aid him in cutting the rocks may have had its origin in the use of the ray. But you can be dead sure that if there were carrion-eating pterodactyls about, the people would never have called them 'giants from the sky,' any more than these Indians today would regard condors as supernatural things. And whatever, or whoever the enemies were who defeated the inhabitants of Huaro-Yana, they certainly were not from the sky—they came marching in on the ground under the black arch."
So, quite as if we had been on the scene, we argued on the details of the tragedy, exactly as any two independent observers will argue on the details of a scene they have witnessed.
It was not until three days later that Harris was ready to make his attempt to visualize a portion of the surface of Eros. There were a number of changes and improvements to be made in his instruments and he had to prepare a new supply of the synthetic minerals that produced the ray. But at last all was in readiness, and once more we climbed to the platform, and once more the crowd of Indians gathered to witness the white man's magic pictures.
I don't know exactly what alterations Harris had made in his devices. In fact I knew nothing, technical, in regard to them. I am no chemist, no electrician and I know nothing of the complicated, involved and, to me, abstract principles and laws by which Harris worked. A lifetime of study would have been necessary to have mastered even a fraction of Harris' knowledge of such matters and while I could understand, in a way, the principle of the ray-making mechanism and could grasp the mechanical operations of some of his instruments, their particular purposes and principles were all a closed book to me. As he worked, adjusting and arranging the various things, he kept up a running fire of explanations, most of it worse than Greek to me.
At last all was ready. Harris adjusted the valves, he started the nozzle moving and set his camera in motion. Then he moved various levers and switches on the other instruments and started the device that contained the perforated sheet or chart I have already mentioned.
Almost instantly the entire top of the dyke began to vanish, to dissolve. and dense billowing clouds of the fumes poured down over the face of the rock. Presently, as before, a light glowed in the vapor; it increased until a fiery globe seemed about to burst through, and then slowly it died out, receded, vanished. An impatient ejaculation came from Harris.
"That light—that sphere you saw —that we've always seen—-is Eros!" he declared, as he readjusted his instruments. "I've proved that—I'll show you later but—confound the thing-—Ah!"
I uttered an involuntary cry myself. Covering the entire curtain of vapor that now completely concealed the dyke, was a scene so marvelous that for a moment I could not overcome the conviction that the dyke had been miraculously destroyed and that I was gazing upon the landscape that had been hidden behind it. I saw a flat, slightly undulating surface—with indescribably rough, jagged and weirdly eroded mountains in the distance. Something about the land, I don't know exactly what, gave it the appearance of a marsh or swamp, and everywhere it was covered with the same grotesque, bizarre and impossible forms of vegetation we had seen in that former fleeting glimpse I have described. I have said that in speaking of it to Harris I compared it to a painting made by a futurist or a lunatic. But such a comparison is wholly inadequate, to say the least.
No futurist or modernist artist, no lunatic could have conceived such a wholly impossible, topsy-turvy landscape. Not until I had gazed at it for minutes did I realize just what was wrong with it. Then suddenly it dawned upon me that what I had taken for mountains and immense rock masses were vegetable growths; rough, bare, leafless trunks and knobby growths; that what I had at first glance mistaken for spreading shade trees and graceful palms were immensely magnified and exaggerated mosses; that the seeming forests were growths of lichens; that the areas of rough, irregular marshy ground were vast expanses of slimy, gelatinous moulds, and that the low-growing, brushy jungles were composed of dwarfed, pygmy trees. Among them I saw conifers, palms, cicads; trees that had the appearance of oaks and beeches. Everything was reversed The forms of plant life that arc smallest, most insignificant on earth were enlarged to the dimensions of our tallest trees, while the forms that are largest and most impressive on earth were here reduced to tiny shrubs and weeds. And such colors such forms! I am no botanist. I had never studied the lowest forms of plant life through a microscope. No doubt if I had done so I would have been prepared for the strangeness of that scene before me and I might even have identified some of the families, genera or even the species represented. But as it was, it held me dumbfounded, fascinated with its impossible-looking absurdities. Out of thick, furry masses of silver-gray sprang square stalks bearing crowns of vivid scarlet that seemed so hard, so angular that they might have been cut from blocks of wood. From undulating, crinkled, pancake like sheets of sickly white, rose thin, hair-like filaments that supported inverted cones of burnished copper and gold. Mottled, reptilian-looking, contorted vines thrust out feather-dusters of intense blue. Fuzzy-green stalks grew in dense groves, and topping each were a dozen discs of purple.
There were bare, straight poles covered with immense recurved hooks. There were plants that palpitated and seemed actually to breathe. There were growths that-— ever and again as we watched them —exploded and shot clouds of golden smoke across the weird landscape, and there were others with long cable-like tentacles that coiled and uncoiled and felt about and seized anything within reach as if a giant octopus lay hidden in the foliage,
Strangest of all, perhaps, were globular things that looked like titanic oranges and immense, leathery, gaudily colored plants that looked like giant starfishes, so symmetrical were their five-pointed rays.
As my eyes gradually accustomed themselves to the strange scene and I sensed the proportions of things, I realized that the hard, rough, leafless growths that I had at first taken for rocks and mountains were—-fungi! Yes, there was no doubt of it. They were titanic, immense, colossal fungus growths, weirdly shaped, dull-red, pink, orange, flesh-colored, black, brown—almost exact counterparts of the fungi we see in northern swamps and woodlands, but here, here in this crazy, impossible landscape, out of all proportions; so huge in comparison to the other vegetation that they loomed like hills peaks against the sky. Hardly had this amazing truth dawned upon me when I saw life. Flitting from one clump of giant mosses to another was a flock of what I took at first to be birds. But as they alighted upon the cubistic, pentagonal branches and folded their gaudy wings, I fairly gasped for they were insects! Moths, soft-winged, thick-bodied, six-legged moths. Moths as large in proportion to their surroundings as parrots or toucans in an ordinary forest. Then I saw tiny winged creatures— flies, bees, I thought, until an instant later one of the little creatures swept buzzing into the foreground and, coming to rest upon a lichen, revealed itself as a bird!
It was then that 1 first saw the rhino (I say rhino for it was nearer that than any other earth creature, though perhaps more like an Iguanadon) as it came charging, head down, horns lowered, out of the jungle of dwarf pine trees. So plain, so clear, so real it seemed, that I could almost hear the crackling of branches, as it tore through the thick growth, could almost hear the thud of its feet, as it charged madly at—Was I taking leave of my senses? The beast was charging at a caterpillar! Yes, at a woolly caterpillar half as big as itself that, panic-stricken, was striving madly to climb up a mould-stem to safety! And there was something so inexpressibly ludicrous about that pigmy rhino charging that giant, lumbering, panic-stricken caterpillar that I burst into a guffaw of laughter. But the sounds died on my lips, my merriment changed to amazement and I stared in uncomprehending wonder. From the dark shadows of a forest of pale-gray mosses something emerged. A great, grayish, repulsive-looking thing; a thing that sweated, exuded thick, viscous slime. A thing that seemed to glide rather than walk, yet moved with incredible quickness. Scarcely had it appeared before it had swept across my vision and once more had vanished in the gray forest. A glistening, slimy trail marked its passage, but the charging rhino, the woolly caterpillar had vanished completely, destroyed, swallowed up by the monster!
A sharp cry from Harris broke the spell. "My God!" he gasped. "Look! They're real! Those birds!"
Chapter XI History Repeats Itself
My first wonder, the first shock of seeing them take life and wing was increased if such a thing was possible—when I saw them increasing in size with incredible speed. A moment before they had been tiny things—scarcely larger than hummingbirds—perching upon a tiny twig; but now they were as large as pigeons. A moment more and they had become the size of crows! An instant later they were as large as macaws! And now they flew heavily, clumsily, with wearily beating wings, back and forth, uttering strange, terrified cries until having grown to the size of geese they dropped to earth, and after a few feeble efforts to rise, sank exhausted and panting upon the ground.
The next instant, Harris, with a sharp cry, spring up, leaped from the platform and dashed forward towards the strange birds, creatures from another planet. They fluttered and flopped as he approached, but were too utterly spent to escape, and I saw him stoop and seize one of them with a triumphant cry. It was at this instant that I again turned my gaze upon the picture and the blood seemed to freeze in my veins at what I saw; my heart seemed to cease beating: I was paralyzed with terror.
Rushing from the vividly realistic forest of giant mosses, straight towards the foreground, came a herd (there is no other word to express it) of those monstrous, gray, slimy things I had seen destroy the charging rhino. But the horror of it, the paralyzing feature of what I saw was that the foremost of the things had left the picture and was rushing directly upon Harris, who, back to the dyke and intent on examining his capture, was utterly oblivious of his peril!
Never, not even in the most terrible nightmares, have I ever felt such numbing, helpless terror, and never until my dying day, do I want to experience such horror again. Even now I shudder and feel faint as I recall it, for coupled with the mad fever I had for Harris' life, was the horror of the thing itself, the loathing I felt for the monstrous shape, and the deathly fear that is always inspired by the uncanny, the unknown, the supernatural.
I tried to shout a warning to Harris, but my tongue refused to utter a sound. I strove to rise to my feet, to dash to Harris' side, but my limbs, my muscles seemed frozen into rigidity. Only my eyes seemed able to function; even my brain seemed numbed, dazed, as if hypnotized by the unthinkable sight before me.
Then the Indians did what I was powerless to do. Not a sound had escaped them up to now. They had been too awed, too terrified, too utterly overwhelmed to move, to even groan or sigh. But now, as they saw that horrible, terrible thing bearing down upon Harris, a hoarse shriek of mingled warning and dread burst from them and startled Harris into activity. Not knowing what their screams meant, yet sensing peril, he swung about to see— God, how I shudder to think what terror must have been his!—to see that vast, awful thing within a dozen rods of where he stood! No—not thing, but things, for by this time five of the monsters had leaped from the visionary scene and were sweeping across the ground.
Vast! Yes, bulky as mammoths, for like the birds, they had grown, swollen, increased in size, as they sprang from images into life, like balloons being inflated with air. How can I describe them? How can I convey to my readers an adequate idea of their appearance? They were shapes, yet shapeless; forms, yet formless. We can describe a cube, an ellipsoid, a cone. We can say a thing is elephantine, that it resembles a bird, a reptile, a cat, a human being or an insect. But how picture, how visualize by words something utterly unlike anything we have ever seen, something whose form constantly, ceaselessly changes? Can we describe the form of a drifting cloud, of a wisp of smoke? And these things, these monstrous, awful, supernatural things that had come swarming from out of that pictured scene were as vague, as indescribable, as constantly altering in form as clouds or vapor. Yet they were solid, massive, dense, endowed with sentient life!
They had neither bodies, heads, legs nor appendages of any sort, yet they seemed to possess all. They drifted, slid, rather than walked or ran—like gigantic slugs or more perhaps like masses of thick smoke-— along the ground. They seemed endowed with intelligence, with purpose, for they hesitated, they gave the impression of peering about, of listening, and then they moved on as if with a definite goal in view. And—the horror of it causes cold chills along my spine even as I think of it now—from time to time, long, writhing, tenuous portions of their masses shot out from their bulks like—like, yes, like nothing so much as the viscous strings that may be drawn out from a mass of glue. Once I saw one of these sticky, adhesive, tentacle-like things touch one of the fallen birds and draw it into the mass itself where it was instantly absorbed, swallowed, like a stone dropped into a pool of tar.
All this I sensed rather than saw, for my gaze was riveted upon Harris who, having seen what was behind him, dropped the bird he had seized and whipping out his heavy revolver, which he invariably carried and which had been the cause of endless raillery on my part, fired six shots in rapid succession into the formless, lurching bulk of the monstrous thing.
Even in that horrible tense moment, utterly unable to move or to utter a sound, I crouched there upon the platform. I realized how incongruous it seemed for Harris to be firing a revolver, a man-made weapon, at a thing not of this earth. And I knew instinctively that his soft-nosed bullets would have no more effect upon the nightmarish shape than upon a mass of drifting fog. Harris also must have realized this, and looking back upon it, I feel sure that his action was wholly involuntary, the automatic reaction upon facing an advancing enemy. Yet for a brief instant the thing hesitated, it swerved, it seemed to writhe; its shapeless bulk heaved and altered in form—I can compare the effect only to the contortions of a wounded animal tied in a sack—and the slimy viscid excretion upon its surface fairly sweated. No sound issued from it—the silence of the things was one of their most terrible features and the next second it was again in motion.
But the momentary respite had enabled Harris to dash away. A long, wavering, gelatinous-looking, sticky streamer shot, forth from the thing and I held my breath, thinking it would capture Harris in its glutinous grasp. But it missed him by the fraction of an inch. The next moment he was close to the platform and to my dying day I shall be haunted by the unspeakable terror, the expression of knowledge of certain death that was on his face as he looked up at me. But he did not shout, did not speak, and I realize now that he feared to do so, that he dared not call to me or attempt to climb to my side, for dread of drawing the attention of the monsters to my presence.
The next second he had passed below the platform and, dashing into the midst of the assembled Indians—who sat immovable, unable apparently to rise and flee of their own accord—he struck them, kicked them, shouted to them, cursed them. Physical pain, fear of the maniacal white man roused them from their lethargy, from the trance into which they had fallen in their fatalistic awaiting of death. Howling with fear, groaning from his blows and kicks, they scrambled aside, sprang to their feet and scattering, raced off towards their homes.
Only half-consciously I had seen this, for my mind, my gaze, were still centered upon those awful shapes, those intangible, living fearsome monsters that now—at least a dozen in number—swarmed over the plain.
Before my horrified eyes I had seen them creep—no, drift, or roll, is better—over the spots where the llamas had been. And each time the frightened animals had vanished completely, had been absorbed like bits of twigs in a rolling snowball. One after the other the llamas had been swallowed up, and in hunting down this prey, the things had been delayed and many of the Indians had had a chance to escape. A chance, I say; but, losing their heads in the stark terror of the catastrophe, many stumbled and fell, many ran in circles, screaming at the top of their lungs, and others turned and ran directly into the paths of the approaching, monstrous forms. I felt nauseated, sick ready to faint as I watched these wretches overtaken, swept down by those silent, slime-coated formless things that passed inexorably on, leaving nothing but bread trails of slime, where a moment before, had been living, terrified men and women.
It was then, for the first time, that across my benumbed mind flashed memory of the ancient legend, recollection of that fearful scene of desolation of the pre-Incan city. Giants from the sky! These things, these awful beings were the "giants"! These were the enemies that had swept the pre-Incans from the earth! It was one of these things, these living shapes, that had passed over the dead king in the dim twilight of that vision we had seen! It was all clear to me now. Somehow, by some means, perhaps, probably by that same damnable Inti-ray, by which they cut their stones, the pre-Incans, too, had brought these monstrous things from Eros or another planet.
They had been wiped from existence by them, by these "giants from the skies." But what had become of the things once they had established themselves on earth? How, why had they, too, vanished? Why had they not increased, spread until they had utterly wiped humanity from the face of the earth? Such thoughts, such questions drummed and thrummed in the back of my brain, even while I watched and stood transfixed, as the things moved about, annihilating the few remaining Indians.
Suddenly Harris' voice aroused me as if from a horrible dream. I peered down. He was racing madly about, dodging, striving to evade two of the now gigantic things that had centered their attentions upon him.
"The ray” he shouted, as he dashed beneath the platform. "Turn it off! Stop them! They'll destroy the world! I—"
His words were lost, as with a prodigious leap he sprang aside just in time to avoid the clutch of a waving, outflung tentacle. The next second he was dashing at topmost speed towards the distant buildings, and to my immense relief I saw that in that direction there were few of the things—that he might yet escape them.
For a fraction of a second I crouched there transfixed, still unable to move. Then, as one of the vast, glutinous things rose, billowed, swelled upwards towards the platform. I was galvanized into life and action. Harris' last words still rang in my ears. I understood. I sprang to the machine from which the invisible ray still played upon the cliff.
With shaking, trembling hands 1 seized the valves. 1 was about to turn them when before me one of those impossible monsters reared itself to the level of the platform where I stood.
I uttered a wild "maniacal scream. I grasped at the cylinder for support, my hands clutched at the nozzle, and as I reeled back it swung downwards and to one side.
Instantly, as though it had been a gigantic balloon that had been pricked, the monstrous, slime-coated form collapsed and vanished before my eyes!
For a brief instant I gazed uncomprehending, utterly bereft of reason, unable to grasp what had happened, what had caused the destruction of the thing.
Then suddenly, like a flash of light, like an inspiration, I knew. It was the ray!
Within my grasp I held the power to slay, to destroy, to annihilate the awful, irresistible monsters from another sphere. Yelling like a madman, shouting, laughing like a maniac, I grasped the nozzle, and sighting along its barrel, aimed it at another of the horrible things. The result was magical. There was a puff of vapor—I could think of nothing so much as the effect when one steps on a puff-ball—a faint pop, and where the gigantic, repulsive thing had been there was— nothing!
As though I were handling a machine-gun I swung the nozzle to right, to left, up and down, picking off one of the things after another, Each time as that terrible, invisible ray fell, it was as if it had been struck by a sixteen-inch shell. Never was there such hunting! Never such gunnery!
I danced, I shouted, I chortled with glee, with the pure joy of destruction. I was fighting unearthly supernatural beings with an unearthly, supernatural weapon,
I felt a strange exaltation, as if I were a superior being, almost as if I were a spirit battling with conquering evil spirits. I was drunk with my power, my invincibility.
The power of that ray was inconceivable, No matter how far distant the monsters might be, it picked them out, exploded them, disintegrated them. Some were already far across the plain, traveling rapidly towards the buildings, following, after Harris, who was nowhere to be seen, who, I felt sure, had reached the shelter of the house or the laboratory in safety. Every monster had been wiped from existence in the neighborhood of the platform. Several that had been about to pass through the arch, had been overtaken by the ray and destroyed. Only the three that were rapidly receding towards the buildings remained. For a moment I hesitated, fearing that if I turned the ray upon them I might inadvertently injure Harris, who had fled that way. Then I remembered his statement that the ray was harmless to organic matter, that he could stand before it without injury. I waited no longer.
Carefully I swung the nozzle aimed it at the lurching, undulating, gray forms looming vast against the buildings beyond.
A volcano seemed to burst into eruption. The world seemed to thunder and crash about my ears. I had a faint, a fleeting vision of lurid flames, of a rending, thundering detonation that seemed to rock the earth—and then: oblivion.
The sun was sinking when I came to my senses. The world was bathed in a lurid glow, and for an instant I thought a terrific conflagration was near at hand. I groaned with agony as I tried to rise. I felt bruised, as sore as though I had been pounding with giant hammers. My head was splitting. With an effort I moved my arms; they at least were whole; I felt my head gingerly but could find no fracture; nothing more serious than a deep scalp wound. Little by little I moved my legs, I thanked God there were no bones broken. And though I suffered excruciating pain in so doing, I gritted my teeth, and, rising to a sitting posture, gazed about.
I was surrounded by wreckage, by splintered timbers, by the remains of instruments and apparatus that I recognized as the devices Harris had installed upon the platform, the platform that had collapsed with me upon it.
Sudden memory flashed back to me. What had happened? What had caused that terrific explosion? I managed to turn my head. Where the great dyke had stood was a mass of tumbled, jumbled blocks of stones, blocks with their edges clean-cut by the ray. Only two rough, jagged, columnar fragments of the dyke remained standing. Everything else, all the centre, weakened by the continual cutting, had fallen by the concussion of that terrific blast.
Groaning, raising myself inch by inch, I rose to my feet. I stared about. The great black arch, the Hauro-Yana, had been riven, and a great gap showed in its centre. Not a living thing was visible upon the plain, but across it, gleaming, shimmering in the light of the sinking sun, were the slime-trails left by those awful monsters from another planet. A cold shiver swept over me at sight of the paths of hardening slime, at memory of the horrible things, at recollection of their destruction, Where, I wondered, was Harris? He must have witnessed the annihilation of the things. Why had he not come to my assistance?
I shouted his name as loudly as I could, but there was no answer.
Slowly, painfully, helping myself with a stick, I picked myself up amid the wreckage of the platform; I toiled step by step, dragging one foot after the other, towards the buildings. But before I had gone fifty paces I stopped, stared, rubbed my eyes, aghast. Not a building was in sight, not a tree rose against the lurid sky where Harris' house and gardens had stood!
Forgetting my aches and pains, filled with terror of what it might presage, I hurried forward. My worst fears were fulfilled. Only heaps of shattered masonry and wreckage were to be seen where Harris’ house, workshop and laboratory had been. And where the latter had stood was a great pit, a miniature crater in the earth,
Slowly realization came to me as, overcome, utterly spent, filled with numbing sorrow, I sat there amid the ruins while twilight fell over the scene of desolation. The laboratory had been full of chemicals, Harris had great quantities of the synthetic ray-making materials on hand. The ray, aimed at the distant monsters rushing towards the buildings, had reached beyond them, had fallen upon the laboratory and had exploded the chemicals stored there. It was all clear now, all plain.
But realization had come too late. Bitterly I blamed myself. For a space I contemplated ending my mental tortures by my own hand. I had been the means of Harris' death. By accident I had destroyed him, while I was striving to save the world from the monsters of the ray.
There was but one consolation, one chance that I was not, technically, a murderer. There was a possibility, a remote chance, that the explosion had not killed Harris, that before it had taken place he had been overtaken by the things and had been killed, devoured by them. But that thought was, if anything, more terrible, more horrible than the thought that I had killed him. No, no, no! I cried to myself and to the silent night. Not that! Better a thousand times that he found death in the explosion of his laboratory, than that I killed him with my own hands!
The uncertainty was terrible. How I lived through that night with my mind tortured and racked with doubts, fears, self-reproaches and heartbreaking sorrow, I shall never know, But all things have an end and at last day dawned over that scene: of death and desolation. And as I glanced about and the very place seemed dead, I remembered that other scene, when only the body of the pre-Incan king remained in the desolated city and I felt that history was repeating itself at Hauro-Yana.
Why I remained there, I do not know.
As day spread over the mesa and the sunlight streamed over the Andean summits, once more I rose and aimlessly, with no conscious; purpose in view, I began to wander about, to search amid the ruins and the devastation for some trace of Harris, some proof that he had not met that other and more horrible fate.
Yet I could find nothing, no bruised and mangled flesh, no fragments of anything human. At last, utterly spent, realizing that I could do no more and faint for want of food and sleep, I turned my weary feet towards the Indian village.
Less than a quarter of a mile from where I had spent the night, I came upon him. So natural, so peaceful he seemed, that at first I thought him asleep. His face was calm, composed, and a smile was upon his lips. But as I stooped, hoping against, hope that he was alive, full realization of what had happened came to me.
Still clutched in his hand was his revolver, and in his right temple was the round blue mark ringed with dry blood, where the fatal bullet had entered his brain. Harris had taken his own life, and glancing up I knew the reason why. Within a score of paces from where the body lay there was a heap of slimy matter. Beyond it stretched the glistening, varnish-like pathway made by one of the monsters of the ray. Harris had realized he could not escape, he knew—he must have known —that if I destroyed the thing with the ray the explosion would follow. Death was certain in either case, and rather than be devoured, absorbed by that loathsome, awful thing, or be blown to atoms—perhaps mangled and not killed out-right by the explosion—he had taken the quicker, more merciful way.
I was still bending over him, tears streaming down my cheeks, when a sound caused me to turn, and I saw two Indians standing beside me.
Of all their people they alone survived. Their presence was like a gift, a blessing from heaven to me. Their companionship saved I me from insanity I am sure, and I never, without them, could I have escaped from Huara-Yana.
There is little more to be told. With the Indians' help I gave Harris proper and—so I trust—Christian burial. Then, having eaten and rested and in a measure recovered the use of my muscles, we started on that long and terrible journey across the mountains from Huara-Yana to Tucin.
Days were occupied in that trip, but eventually we arrived at the little village and there, bidding farewell to the two men who had stood by me so faithfully, I secured
The mules and guides and in due time reached the railway and civilization. Far back in the heart of Andes, amid the massive ruins of a long-past civilization, Frank Ogden Harris sleeps the eternal sleep. As far as the world knows he came to his death through an accident, the explosion of chemicals in his laboratory in Peru. Only two non-committal Indians and myself know the true story of his death and the astounding events that led up to it. If the Indians ever tell of it, their stories will be put down as fables, legends, myths. So, to all intents and purposes, only I, who was a witness of and a participant in those amazing occurrences can reveal the facts as I have herein related them,
No doubt my story, too, will be scoffed at, ridiculed, declared fiction or the ravings of an overwrought or injured brain, as hallucinations brought on by the explosion of Harris' laboratory.
But if those who scoff and doubt wish proofs, let them go to Tucin. Let them hunt up Chupi-Sara and Lucamo-Tesi, then let them journey over the Andean summits to Huara-Yana where they will find the ruins of the pre-Incan city, the shattered black arch of Huara-Yana, the debris of the great dyke, the splintered remnants of the platform and the broken instruments and perchance—for I know not if they remain—the great paths of sun-dried slime left by those unspeakable, horrible monsters of the ray.