From Amazing Stories 1927 November. Digital capture by Doug Frizzle 2007 March.
When A. Hyatt Verrill set out to write this "problem" story no one was able to anticipate the deluge of mail it would cause. But internal "flaw" or not this tale of "time-travel" has a way of still making people take a second look at the story and then at the horizon just to make sure the earth is still turning in its accustomed direction and that the sun still sets in the west!
Copyright 1927 by E.P. Co. Inc.
EDITOR of Amazing Stories,
As a constant reader of AMAZING STORIES, I have always been greatly interested in the various opinions expressed by your readers regarding the stories which have been published. I have been particularly struck by the fact that no two seem to agree as to the best or worst stories, or as to the improbability of the incidents related. Personally, I always feel that a story laid in the distant future, or on another planet, never seems to carry conviction, rather at the very outset taxes the credulity of the reader. But this is quite apart from the matter regarding which I am writing to you.
Among the many themes which have been criticised, and which many of your readers have declared impossible, are those dealing with the elimination of time, or which send the hero, if so he may be called, into the future or into the past. A short time ago I, too, agreed that it was utterly impossible and had no scientific foundation. And, were it not for your editorials in which you have so often pointed out that the impossibility of today may become the possibility of tomorrow, and have shown yourself so liberal and broadminded in your view, I would not now dare to address this communication to you with the expectation that you would give it the least serious consideration.
To be brief, and to the point: not only is it possible to eliminate time and enter either the past or the future: these things have actually been accomplished.
Do not think, when I make this bold statement, that I am of unsound mind, that I am perpetrating some new hoax, or that I am trying to put fiction in the form of fact. On the contrary, I am merely calling to your attention the remarkable and generally unknown feats of a friend of mine, a highly educated and eminently scientific gentleman, who for several years past, has held the position of instructor in applied physics in the second oldest university in America, the Universidad Santo Tomas, at Lima, Peru.
Dr. Fenomeno Mentiroso is, as anyone in
It was solely because of the numerous allegations, on the part of your readers, that time could never be eliminated, and my insistence that his own accomplishment would prove the fallacy of such statements, and would at the same time set at rest the question of a fourth dimension, that Doctor Mentiroso reluctantly gave me permission to relate the facts to you.
But as I am no scientist, save for the interest I take in your scientific-ton tales, and as physics, higher mathematics and fourth dimensional problems are quite beyond me, I shall recount, verbatim, as far as possible, my conversation with Doctor Mentiroso.
Some two months ago, during a visit to
He glanced rather idly over the magazine, until his eye caught a page which instantly aroused his interest and indignation. "Idiots!" he exclaimed in his impulsive Latin way. "Idiots that people are! Did you read this, Don Alfeo?" Then, without awaiting my reply, he continued:
"Will the world never learn that there is no such word as impossible? Will people never cease to call 'impossible' everything they do not understand? Of a truth, my good friend, the stupidity of my fellow men at times makes me ashamed of the human race."
"What," I asked, "do you refer to now?"
"To these letters," he exclaimed, pointing to the paragraphs he had read. "To these letters wherein the writers, who obviously know nothing of the subject, find fault with Senor Wells' and other author's stories because, they say there is no fourth dimension and because it is impossible to be in the future or the past coincidently with one's existence in the present."
I laughed. "But that obviously is impossible," I replied. "And as for a fourth dimension —why, amigo mio, how can there be any dimension other that length, breadth and thickness? These stories, Don Fenomeno, are merely fiction, fiction glossed with science, it is true, but pure imagination none the less. You do not understand, perhaps, that they are not intended to be taken seriously."
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders and regarded me pityingly. "Fiction, I grant," he said, "but fiction only inasmuch as the names of persons and their particular adventures and feats are concerned. The basic facts in Senor Wells' story, and in the others also, are science. It is hard to explain to one who is unfamiliar with the involved theories of the great Einstein, of infinity and of electronic forces; but a fourth dimension is as essential to the universe and to science as is any one of the three recognized dimensions. And if a certain thing is essential to the universe, then, most truly, my friend, that thing exists." "But," I objected, "if there is a fourth dimension, what is it? And why has no one discovered it?"
"It has been discovered," declared my friend positively. "I, Doctor Fenomeno Mentiroso, have discovered it. And I will try to explain to you what it is, though I doubt if you can grasp it, for so accustomed have men become to think of the existence of things which do not exist, that the ordinary mind cannot grasp the existence of matters which they think do not exist."
I threw up my hands in despair. "It's beyond me," I declared. "If a thing exists which doesn't exist, and things which exist do not exist, then we must all be mad and the whole world must be topsy-turvy."
"On the contrary," he continued, smiling pityingly at my apparent ignorance. "It would be madness not to admit such obvious truths. You dream, my friend, and as you dream all that occurs is to your brain real and existent, and yet, when you wake, you feel convinced that your dreams were unreal, that nothing existed in them and that only during your waking hours do your senses record matters which truly exist. But suppose, if you can, that matters are in reality reversed, that your dreams are actualities and your impressions during waking hours phantasies. Or imagine again, that both your dreams and your waking-hour experiences are both equally real, but that, during your slumbers, you enter into another sphere, into the unknown, unexplored realm of a fourth dimension. What proof have you that your dreams are not as existent as your other impressions? None! my friend, not a shred of proof; merely the fact that for generations we have been taught that dreams were imaginary figments of the brain. It is just as true of countless other matters. Does space exist? Do length, breadth and thickness exist?" "Of course," I interrupted. "Otherwise no object, neither you nor I, could exist, and geometry and other mathematics could not exist. I—"
"Pardon me," he broke in, smiling deprecatingly. "But are you quite sure of that? A mathematical line, a mathematical plane, does not exist, and hence a mathematical cube or parallelogram cannot exist, and, if we accept Senior Einstein's theory, two parallel lines will eventually meet. The fact is, my friend, that we—or most of us at least—cannot grasp the infinite. We are bound down, tied hand and foot to our own petty sphere, to this earth of ours which is an infinitesimal atom in the universe, and we measure everything by earthly standards and by our own five senses. We can conceive of nothing that we cannot smell, taste, touch, see or hear. No living man can conceive or describe any form totally unlike anything on earth. No man can conceive or describe a color or a sound unlike anything he has ever seen or heard. Did you ever think of that, amigo mio? And only a comparatively few men can realize-that there is— scientifically speaking—no such thing as solid matter. A few years ago, a thousand things in common use today would have "been scoffed at as impossible. Even today it is hard for the average man to understand radio, to understand why an airplane flies, and it is still harder to realize that objects which we speak of as solids are merely the result of combinations of electrons and protons. And it is a thousand times more difficult for the average man to conceive of everything being, as is unquestionably the case, merely the result of vibratory waves."
"Hold on!" I exclaimed. "You are getting beyond me, and I cannot see where your highly entertaining lecture is leading. What has all this to do with the elimination of space? And how can matter be composed of waves?" Doctor Mentiroso sighed and shrugged his shoulders expressively.
"I forget, dear friend, that you are an example of the average man," he laughed. "All that I have said has a direct bearing on the elimination of space and the fourth dimension. But to answer our last question. We know that light, heat, sound electricity, radio, color, smell are all the result of vibratory waves. And beyond question there are countless thousands of vibratory waves too short or too long to be received or intercepted by the human organs. Heat vibrations are invisible until- they are reduced to a length perceptible to the eye. Light vibrations are not detectable by the sense of touch or feeling until they are lengthened by the point where they are known as heat. Only a small percentage of sound vibrations are within the range of the human ear, and electro-magnetic vibrations cannot be detected by any human organ until so altered as to become sound waves." I shook my head. "Before you proceed," I begged, "can you make this a bit clearer? You say that heat vibrations can be made visible, that light waves can be made detectable by touch. How?"
"If," replied Don Fenomeno, speaking slowly and choosing his words, "if you heat a bar of iron up to ascertain point it will burn wood or your skin and yet you cannot detect its heat by your eyesight. But if heated slightly more, it becomes red, and you know it is 'red hot,' as you say, because you see it. In other words, you have gradually decreased the length of the heat vibrations until they become visible. If the iron is heated still more, the red becomes white, or in other words the vibration have been shortened until they appear as white light to your eyes. Conversely, the white or red vibrations may be lengthened to invisible heat rays by allowing the metal to cool. In other words, light waves are lengthened until they become invisible but recognizable by touch they are considered heat." "Then," said I, quite pleased with myself, "according to your theory, light and heat are identical."
"In a way, yes," replied Don Mentiroso. "But, in the same way, all vibrations are identical, for all are caused merely by the movement of electrons—forcing more electrons into a given space or depriving some space of its normal number of electrons. Possibly your mind cannot conceive the fact, but nevertheless, every force, every power, every motion, every body, and in fact everything we know-perhaps our thoughts, our senses and our so-called life—are merely the results of electronic motion."
"Well, even if I grant all this, what has it do with the original subject of our discussion?" I demanded.
"Everything," declared my friend. "Granted that everything is the result of electronic movement, and you know, of course, that the electrons are in effect miniature satellites revolving about a central nucleus, much as the earth and moon revolve about the sun, then we must admit that nothing actual, as we know it, exists; that everything is merely relative and that time itself must be the mere expression, in arbitrary terms, of some electronic force or vibratory waves."
"Nonsense," I exclaimed. "I suppose you will be claiming that time does not exist."
"I know it does not," was his astounding reply. "It is merely a relative term coined for the convenience of the human race. But permit me to proceed. I will demonstrate this to you presently. You asked about the fourth dimension a moment ago. Now let me ask you a question. Has a circle length, breadth or thickness?"
"Why, of—" I hesitated. "Certainly," I declared after a moment's thought. "A wheel or a disk has thickness, and its diameter is its breadth."
Doctor Mentiroso laughed. "Right," he agreed. "But neither a wheel nor a disk is a circle; it is merely an object or form bounded by a circle. What is the definition of a circle. A mathematical plane with its boundary equidistant from its centre everywhere. Did not your geometry attempt to solve all problems by dividing the circle into triangles? And yet a triangle has three straight boundaries whereas a circle has no portion of its boundary or circumference straight. In other words, amigo mio, as a circle possesses neither length, breadth nor thickness, it must of necessity possess a fourth dimension, and the mathematicians, knowing nothing of a fourth dimension, must of necessity fit their geometry to the occasion and attempt crudely to transform it into triangles which have length and breadth. And yet circles may be transformed to length or breadth just as triangles or parallelograms may be transformed into cubes or pyramids."
"Then," I laughed, "you consider the circle the fourth dimension?"
"Not at all," he exclaimed a bit impatiently. "I am merely trying to demonstrate to you that a fourth dimension must exist or otherwise there could be no circles and consequently no spheres and consequently no revolutions or rotations, of electrons, atoms, stellar bodies or anything else. The earth could not rotate on its axis, it could not follow its orbit about the sun for none of these things would be possible with the existence of length, breadth and thickness alone, with parallel lines which never meet and with mathematical planes. No, my friend, the fourth dimension exists, it is ever present, it is essential to our lives, to our existence and to our universe, but being as yet inconceivable to us, we cannot describe it, measure it or understand it. It is, in fact, beyond our present senses, just as the higher and lower sound vibrations, the shorter and longer light waves, and the radio waves are undetectable by our organs." "That is a safe way of putting it," I said. "Of course, if we assume that no one can detect it, then no one can be positive that it does not exist. But don't you think all that is negative evidence? And how does it affect the question of time elimination, of going into the past or future while still in the present, which was, Don Fenomeno, the original matter under discussion?"
"I presume," he replied after a moment's thought, "that you do not consider it possible to enter the future, while still in the present."
"I certainly do not," I assured him. "If that were possible, one might foretell with certainty what would occur tomorrow or a year hence."
"Precisely," he agreed. "And what if I assure you that you and I can foretell what will occur in the future."
"I should think, my friend, that you were absolutely mad," I replied.
Don Fenomeno arose, crossed the room to a table, and returned with a copy of El Tiempo in his hand. Glancing over it, he pointed to a paragraph and handed the newspaper to me.
"Will you be good enough to read that news item?" he asked.
"Nothing remarkable," I declared, as my eyes glanced over the indicated paragraph. "Merely the report of a railway accident in
"Quite so," agreed Doctor Fenomeno. "And when is the despatch dated?"
"December 18th," I replied.
"And does it state at what hour the accident occurred?" he asked.
"Yes." I replied, reading from the paragraph, "as seven P.M. today the Jarabad local train which left Marajpore at 5:30 . . ."
"Enough," he interrupted. "The accident, then, occurred at 7 P.M. of December 18th. Will you glance at the date at the top of the page and tell me on what day this copy of El Tiempo was printed?"
"Why on the 18th of course," I replied.
"Exactly," he smiled, "and as you know, El Tiempo is on the streets of
"But, but," I expostulated, "it did not actually occur thirteen hours later. It's merely the difference in time between
"Pardon my interruption," he exclaimed. "You say that it is merely the difference in time. Then you admit that time is merely a relative term. And you were about to state, if I am not mistaken, that the fact that the accident was reported thirteen hours before it occurred did not actually constitute entering the future. Ah, my friend, how inconsistent you are. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you or I possessed means of traveling to or from India instantaneously, or even at undreamed of speed—at a speed which, let us say, enabled us to visit India and return in an hour or two. In that case, amigo mio, had you been in
I was actually stumped. But presently I gathered my wits together. This was, I knew, utter nonsense. It was all the result of the variation in time due to the earth's rotation on its axis, and I felt that my friend was merely arguing for the sake of trying to convince me the impossible was possible by scientific theory. Doctor Mentiroso listened patiently, and with a half-pitying, half-indulgent smile, as I expressed these sentiments.
"You are, in a way, dealing with the pith of the whole matter," he announced when I ceased speaking. "That is, you refer to the variation of time, to the rotation of the earth, and by so doing you tacitly admit that time is actually non-existent, that, scientifically speaking, there is no past, no present and no future; for, if time, as you understand it, exists; if the past vanishes and the future is never present, then time would be the same everywhere. Your so-called time, therefore, is merely a relative term used to describe the motion of the earth in its relation with the sun. In other words, human beings have discovered that our sphere rotates upon its axis and follows its orbit about the sun, and for convenience, mankind has seen fit to divide the rotation and the orbit into periods which we are pleased to call hours, days, months and years. But time literally is a far different matter. It is in fact infinite, it goes on into infinity and springs from infinity. Nothing in nature, amigo mio, is ever wasted or destroyed, although it may alter in form or substance. The light we see here, the image which such light throws upon our brains by the medium of our eyes, does not end here, anymore than it began here. It is merely a vibratory wave which has travelled millions of miles and will continue to travel millions, trillions of miles—into infinity in fact—and as it requires an appreciable period for even light to travel, every visible event of the past must be somewhere in that infinity just as every event of the future must be recorded somewhere and is travelling toward us to be revealed when it reaches us. In the same way, time is but a vibratory wave, a movement of electrons, and could one but follow the path of time at a greater speed than the vibratory wave travels, then most assuredly, could one witness events which transpired a hundred or a hundred thousand years ago. Or, going in the other direction, he could see events which would not transpire on earth for thousands of years to come. I—"
"Hold on," I cried. "You are merely theorizing, carrying scientific hypotheses to the ultimate degree. And besides, even if I admit your preposterous statements to be theoretically sound, you are carrying the whole matter beyond the range of possibilities of human beings and into space; they do not apply to happenings on earth and hence, as I said before, it is impossible for us to enter either the past or the future."
I thought I had stumped my friend, but I was mistaken.
"Very well," he agreed. "It is hard, I admit, for the average man to visualize or comprehend anything beyond the confines of our own planet. So, my friend, we will confine ourselves to this petty earth of ours. And to prove to you that my statements and 'theories' are sound, let me call your attention to a few facts which, with a little reflection, you must recognize as irrefutable. The earth, you know, revolves from west to east at an approximate speed of 1,000 miles per hour, and hence each so-called hour of time represents approximately one thousand miles of earth's greatest circumference. Bear in mind, please, that in speaking of these matters, I am referring always to approximate figures—though if you wish, I can give you the exact figures. But to resume. Granted then that it is, according to the accepted ideas of time, noon,' Monday, in
"Yes," I assented. "Roughly speaking, that is so."
"Very well," continued Doctor Mentiroso. "Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you are provided with a machine which can travel through the air at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour, and supposing that in this machine you start eastward from
I did a bit of mental calculation and replied confidently: "At 6 P.M." Don Fenomeno laughed heartily. "Oh, my dear friend," he exclaimed. "Wrong at the very start. You forget that at the moment you left Lima it was noon and hence 6 P.M. in Spain, And as you have supposedly consumed six hours in reaching your destination, it will be 12 A.M. when you arrive there, although your watch will tell you that it is but 6 P.M. So you have already traveled six hours into the future. Very well. Suppose you leave at once for
This time I was a bit more careful, and after a moment's hesitation replied: "At noon on Tuesday."
Rapidly figuring with a pencil on a scrap of paper, I gave my answer: "Approximately 12 P.M. Monday.
"And according to your watch 6 A.M. Tuesday," chuckled the doctor. "In other words, you find Hawaii's time precisely the same as was Calcutta's six hours before, while you have traveled back from the future six hours towards the present; and continuing your mad flight to Lima, you will discover that you complete your journey around the earth at noon on Tuesday—twenty-four hours after leaving; and remarkable as it may seem your watch and the clocks in Lima agree on the hour. By some mysterious means, you have come back to the present after entering the future to the extent of twelve hours."
"But," I objected, "you forget that in crossing the approximate 180th degree of longitude in the Pacific, a day is added or subtracted according to whether one is traveling east or west."
"Quite true," agreed the doctor. "But supposing you had done so, then when you arrived in
"By your own watch, yes," chuckled my friend. "But at noon on Monday according to the time in the
"I suppose there's a catch in it," I replied, "and I confess I'm getting so confoundedly confused that I might as well guess at it: I should say at 6 A.M. Tuesday."
Doctor Mentiroso laughed good naturedly. "No, my friend," he announced. "It would be at noon on Tuesday, for during the twelve hours which have passed since you left
I threw up my hands in despair. "I know you are juggling figures," I declared. "But I'll be hanged if I see where it comes in. I suppose you still have something up your sleeve. Well, fire away, I'll be the goat."
Don Fenomeno nodded and smiled. "Then let us assume that your purely imaginary aircraft is capable of traveling at the rate of 24,000 miles per hour or that, in an hour's time, you can circumnavigate the earth. In that case, starting from
"And what marvelous thing would occur should I reverse my flight and travel westward?" I asked.
"In that case," he replied, "you would be in
"That," I ejaculated, "is ridiculously impossible."
"But nevertheless true," declared Don Fenomeno. "Moreover, should you follow out the same system and travel west you would return to Lima to find that, according to your watch, you had consumed six hours on your journey although you knew you had been away only one hour." "It's all bosh," I declared. "It's like proving black is white or that a cat has three tails, by mathematical formulae. Anyhow, it's impossible, for it is impossible to travel one thousand miles per hour, much less twenty-four thousand."
My Peruvian friend raised his dark eyebrows and shrugged. "Be very sure, my good friend, how you use the word impossible," he advised me. "Do not forget that, twenty years ago, anyone would have declared it impossible for man to fly in the air at over one hundred miles per hour, and that, scarcely longer ago, it would have been deemed equally impossible to construct a motorcar which would reach a speed of fifty miles an hour, not to mention one hundred miles and more. But before challenging your statement, let me for the sake of clarity, give you a brief summary of the examples I have been drawing for your edification. Your watch, as you have seen, if kept at
"Moderate speed," I interrupted. "I like your idea of speed. Why, at that speed any machine would become incandescent through friction, and would be transformed to gas and ashes. Now don't try to kid me into—"
"Don't think for a moment I am endeavoring to 'kid' you as you call it," said Doctor Mentiroso, in injured tones. "Nothing is farther from my thoughts. I started out to convince you that the elimination of time was not impossible, and that a fourth dimension exists and has been discovered by me, Doctor Fenomeno Mentiroso, your most humble servant and very good friend. I admit that, under ordinary conditions, a machine traveling at such high speeds as I mentioned, would become heated to the incandescent point, but such a result would be due entirely to the friction of the air. Suppose then that the machine should travel beyond the atmospheric envelope of the earth, or that means could be found for eliminating air friction. In that case, you must admit there would be no fear of heating."
"You can suppose anything," I replied. "But suppositions are not actualities, and no one will ever be able to travel through space or overcome air friction. That, at least, you must admit is impossible. "On the contrary," declared Don Fenomeno, "I insist that it is not only possible but that it actually has been accomplished."
I gazed at my friend in incredulous amazement. Had Doctor Mentiroso taken leave of his senses? Or was he merely trying to lead me on for the sake of argument? Unquestionably, I decided, it must be the latter for my friend was obviously as sane as ever, and was smiling at me in such a supercilious, or rather I might say, triumphant manner, that I was quite sure he had something up his sleeve.
"Perhaps," I suggested with a laugh, "you mean it has been accomplished theoretically. And by the way, did I not understand you to say that you had discovered the fourth dimension? Let's hear about that."
"You understood correctly, amigo mio," replied Don Fenomeno. "I have discovered the fourth dimension, and instead of accomplishing the feat of overcoming friction on a rapidly moving body on paper, I have accomplished it in fact. Moreover, the two discoveries are closely correlated, or, shall I say, dependent one upon the other. Had I not discovered the secret of the fourth dimension, I could not have accomplished the even greater feat. And, paradoxical as it may seem, had I not accomplished the latter, I would not have discovered the secret of the fourth dimension."
"I suppose," I remarked sarcastically, "that you will now inform me in all seriousness that you actually have constructed an apparatus capable of traveling one thousand miles an hour or more."
"Decidedly more," was his calm response. "To be exact, very nearly ten thousand miles an hour, and—"
"You're absolutely mad, my friend!" I exclaimed. "But go on, one must humor the insane. Next, I presume you will assure me that you have flown in your dream machine, perhaps have even circumnavigated the world, and have thus proved the possibility of entering the future."
"I shall begin to believe in mental telepathy, if you continue," he laughed. "Your presumptions are extraordinarily correct. I have flown—or rather traveled, in my 'dream' machine as you see fit to call it, and I have circumnavigated the world at a speed nearly eleven times the speed of the earth's rotation, I—"
"Wait a bit!" I cried, now convinced that my friend had taken leave of his senses, but anxious to see how far he had gone, "You spoke of your apparatus traveling ten thousand miles an hour and now you tell me you have traveled around the earth eleven times faster than the globe rotates on its axis. I don't get that."
"I forgot to mention," he explained, "that the discovery of the principle of the fourth dimension also included the elimination of gravitational attraction, as it is commonly called, and as I have already told you that my discoveries do away with atmospheric friction you will at once understand that a machine traveling at an initial velocity of ten thousand miles an hour, and free from atmospheric friction and gravitational pull, will, when headed eastward, travel at that speed plus the speed of the earth's rotation, or approximately 11,000 miles an hour. I think—"
"Very good," I agreed, still determined to humor him, "but if there is no attraction of gravitation, why did you not fly off into space?"
"The fourth dimension again," he answered. "It will, of course, be difficult for you to understand, but I'll try to explain it in terms which are familiar to you. And I see that you think I am crazy. I'm not surprised, my friend, but as a matter of fact, I was never saner. I think, before I am through, that you will realize this. But to reply to your most natural query. If, for example, you jump into the air, you temporarily overcome gravitation through the use of muscular power which is greater than the force of gravity on your body, but you can only jump so far. In other words, your limit is one of the three recognized dimensions. If you jump longitudinally, the same thing occurs, for your leap is limited by length; and here let me call your attention to a very ordinary, but hitherto entirely overlooked matter, which is of the utmost importance. When you leap upward, you return to your original position or to the earth in an approximately straight line. But when you leap longitudinally, you travel from start to finish in a curved line. Although, so far as I am aware, this phenomenon has never attracted much attention, it is an indication of the existence of the fourth dimension. But I am digressing. Just as your recognized three dimensions measure your jump perpendicularly or horizontally, so the fourth dimension regulates or controls the distance my apparatus can move against gravitational pull; perhaps it might be better to say that the gravitational pull controls the fourth dimension."
"Another point," I insisted. "If you overcome air friction, how do you propel your machine? I may be a layman, but I fail to see how any apparatus can be propelled without friction. I have always understood that it was frictional resistance which propelled an airplane."
"Usually it is," he replied. "But in the present case, no. My apparatus embodies an entirely new principle. I am very sorry, but I scarcely like to divulge it at present, and," he added with a laugh, "you probably wouldn't be any wiser for the explanation."
"I might if I could see it," I suggested.
"Possibly," he repeated with an odd smile. "But we will leave that until later. As I remarked, it is difficult for me to convey an adequate idea of my apparatus, but I will do my best. Relieved of what is known as the attraction of gravitation, the machine of course, rises or is thrown violently upward from the earth, its upward flight controlled by the use of the fourth dimension, which, for reasons I will explain, I have called "Esnesnon.' Being free from air friction, as I have already said, it remains stationary while the earth and its envelope of atmosphere whirls from east to west at 1,000 miles per hour."
"But you stated that your machine traveled at a speed of 10,000 miles per hour," I objected.
"So it does," he declared, as calmly as though speaking of fifty or one hundred miles an hour. "And that speed, added to the speed of the earth's rotation, equals the 11,000 miles I referred to. But, my good friend, I have already told you that; how many times must I repeat such simple matters?"
"They may appear simple to you," I said, "and you may be sane as you say, but to me the mere thought of such speed is too staggering to believe. And I still fail to see how you propel your machine when, as you claim, you eliminate air friction or pressure or whatever you may call it."
"I was coming to that very point when you interrupted me," he replied a bit impatiently. "As I said, the earth's atmospheric envelope is sweeping past the apparatus at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour. In other words, the apparatus stands isolated in the centre of a one thousand miles per hour hurricane. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear," I assured him.
"Very well," he continued. "Now let me ask you a question. Did you ever hear of the so-called rotorship, a vessel invented and constructed a few years ago by a German?"
"Certainly," I replied. "The vessel, as I recall it, was provided with large cylindrical masts or towers which were revolved at high speed, the idea being that wind impinging on a rotating surface produces a vacuum and forces the rotating surface forward. But the rotor ship, I believe, proved a complete failure. Anyhow, what has that to do with your discoveries?"
"Nothing, directly," he said, "I was merely seeking some familiar thing which I could use as a comparison to enable you to grasp the basic principles of my apparatus. And I might add that the rotor-ship was not a failure from a mechanical or scientific point of view, but was merely commercially impractical, owing to various factors which in no way affect its principle. But to continue. If, when within the mass of air moving at 1,000 miles an hour, a portion of that force of air were permitted to strike upon a revolving surface, my apparatus would rush forward exactly as the rotor-vessel was propelled, only immeasurably faster."
"I can understand that," I admitted. "But it certainly would not move forward at 10,000 miles an hour when the speed of the air was only 1,000 miles an hour. Moreover, what means could you employ to prevent the air friction if you used that friction for your propelling force? It seems to me, my friend, that you are contradicting yourself."
Again, Don Fenomeno smiled that superior and condescending smile. "Suppose the entire frictional force were exhausted in propelling the machine," he observed. "And by rotating the rotors, as we may call them, rapidly enough to absorb all the friction, and by allowing the friction of the air to act upon certain properly designed surfaces elsewhere, the apparatus would and actually did travel at the speed I have mentioned, although I admit I employ the gravitational pull as an auxiliary force. Just as an airplane rises and moves forward because of the angle of incidence upon its planes, so by utilizing the gravitational force which would tend to draw my machine to earth, and then by special apparatus preventing it from descending, I would achieve a similar result and force the machine forward."
"But tell me," I broke in, now thoroughly interested and quite oblivious of the seeming impossibilities he was describing. "Tell me what power you use to accomplish these marvels. And what is this fourth dimension or 'Esnesnon' as you call it?"
I'll answer your last question first," he replied. "Although, as a matter of fact, I cannot exactly explain what 'Esnesnon' is myself."
I laughed. "You say you've discovered something you cannot describe," I exclaimed. "Come now, Don Fenomeno, aren't you trying to see how far you can spoof me, as the British say?"
Doctor Mentiroso flushed. "If it were not for the fact that you are a very old and dear friend of mine, and inexpressibly stupid, I should take offense at that remark and should refuse to say another word," he declared. "But under the circumstances, amigo mio, and knowing that you are really most simpatico, and that it is most difficult to convince one of anything quite new and revolutionary. I shall with patience control myself and will do my little best to convince you that I am serious and at the same time make clear to your uncomprehending mind exactly what I have done and how it has been accomplished. You say I contradict myself . . . My friend, you no doubt admit the existence of oxygen, of hydrogen, of nitrogen, of electricity, of radio waves and of numerous other things which the world accepts and uses in every walk of life. You admit, unquestionably, that the entire life of our planet, if not other planets as well, the existence of the universe in fact, depends upon the gases I have mentioned. But can you or any other man describe them? Can you give a clear definition of what oxygen, for example, is like? Have you or has anyone else ever seen it? And yet it has been discovered; it is in daily, hourly use; it is combined, isolated, confined, and, in combination with other materials, it assumes tangible forms. The same is true of electricity, of radio waves, of countless other things I might mention. 'Esnesnon' is much the same. It is invisible, intangible, indescribable, and yet without it the universe could not exist, and like many other things, it can be isolated, utilized and combined with other things."
"Hmmm. There may be something in that," I admitted. "You say the 'Esnesnon' is not a force but a dimension. What then is the power or force you employ to achieve your amazing results?"
"The greatest force or power in the entire universe," declared Don Fenomeno. "The force which, for want of a better term, is known as the attraction of gravitation; the force which holds the planets to their orbits, the earth to its rotation, the spheres in place, and prevents you and me and the world about us from being transformed into attenuated gaseous matter."
I shook my head in despair. "You're getting beyond me again," I expostulated. "I've always understood that the attraction of gravitation is downward or towards the centre of the earth. In that case, I can't see how you can utilize the power except for coming down."
"Of course the pull is downward, or rather towards the center of the earth—or towards the actual mass of any object," he exclaimed. "Every body has its gravitational force, which is exerted upon other bodies. But please understand, my friend, that the so-called attraction of gravitation is an electronic force and not a magnetic force. As far as your other question is concerned, may I call your attention to the fact that the force of water is also downward, you never saw a waterfall flow upward; and yet, as you know, water power may be utilized for innumerable purposes and to produce force for driving mechanisms in every direction. The same is true of the force of gravitation. Once its mysteries are mastered, it may be used as freely as water, steam, electricity or any other force, and being the supreme force of all forces, and the source of all, its power properly directed, is millions of times greater than any other known power."
"But how on earth did you happen to discover all this?" I demanded at last convinced that Doctor Mentiroso had actually accomplished seemingly impossible feats beyond my wildest dreams.
"In a way," he replied. "I cannot claim to have discovered these things. I have rediscovered them. They have been known for centuries—perhaps thousands of years. No, do not look so skeptical, amigo. I am speaking the unvarnished truth and will explain. As you know, far more Inca than Spanish blood flows in my veins, and for long I have devoted much time to studying the history and remains of my ancestors. The stupendous works of the pre-Incas in particular have always been a source of marvel and wonder to me, as to yourself and to countless thousands of other men. Feats which they performed seem almost supernatural, as you know. The massive walls about Cuzco and Lake Titicaca, walls composed of stupendous blocks weighing scores of tons; blocks of twenty to thirty or more faces, and each so perfectly cut and so accurately fitted that even today a pen-point cannot be inserted between the stones; the cyclopean monuments and buildings; the tunnels cut-through many feet of living rock; the enormous fortresses; the marvellous metal work, all these facts performed by the long-dead race have puzzled every archaeologist and no one has hitherto been able to explain by what unknown means they were accomplished. But to me, and now that I am about to divulged it, to you, the secret is known at last. All these great feats, my friend, were simple matters to my ancestors, for they, of all men, had discovered the fourth dimension and the key to utilizing the forces of gravitation. Two years ago, in the unknown and unexplored territory east of
"Here I set up my camp and for days studied the countless carvings and inscriptions that covered walls, columns and monuments; here for the first time, I found hieroglyphs that seemed to me possible of interpretation. But I could make little of them, familiar as I was with the language of the Incas. At last luck or fortune, or perhaps the spirits of my ancestors, favored me. An earthquake rent the ground and threw down a massive piece of wall to disclose a hidden chamber wherein were stored priceless records of the race who once had dwelt there and who, as I soon learned, were the highest caste of the mysterious pre-Incan people.
"Here, too, and most wonderful of all, was the key to the glyphs, besides countless strange instruments and utensils; wonderful works in copper, bronze and gold; plans of the monuments, the fortresses and the walls which exist throughout Peru today, and here, as frantically, fascinated I studied the glyphs and records, I learned that my ancestors, fully twenty centuries before the coming of Pizarro, had mastered the secrets of the fourth dimension and of gravitational force and had harnessed them and by their aid had accomplished the seeming miracles of cyclopean work which we wonder at today. It would be of little interest and would be a long story to tell you all the details of my discovery, amigo mio. But to me, a descendant of that strange highly civilized but forgotten race, was given the fortune to learn the secrets and laws of nature which, centuries ago, had been discovered, and centuries later had been lost through wanton destruction of a nation. And herein, my friend, my ancestors failed. All they had learned they had applied to peaceful arts; never did it occur to them that the tremendous, the irresistible forces they alone knew, could be used against their enemies, that no beings could resist them. But I, I Don Fenomeno Mentiroso, senor, I am not so blind. With the powers and forces I have rediscovered from the records of my ancestors, I have within my grasp that which will place my country forever beyond fear of conquest or of war. The united powers of the world might attempt to subdue or to humble
"Yes, yes," I interrupted, seeing that my temperamental and patriotic friend was rapidly working himself into a fervor, and Latin-like would continue his oratorical talk indefinitely. "Yes, Don Fenomeno, my good friend, I can clearly see your point. It is indescribably noble of you and worthy of a son of the Incas. But let us leave this side of the matter for the present and confine ourselves to a further consideration of the scientific and practical side of your most marvellous discoveries."
"Most certainly," he exclaimed. "Pardon me for so far digressing from the theme. Let me see, I was telling you of the power I employ and you asked how I happened to discover it. Now—"
"You have explained that," I reminded him. "And while I do not fully grasp all the technicalities of your twin discoveries or of your apparatus, I think I understand the principles, although I admit the whole affair is so absolutely astounding as to seem incredible. And I freely admit that were anyone but yourself to make such statements I should unhesitatingly put him down as worthy rival of Baron Munchhausen."
My friend rose and bowed. "Thank you, a thousand thanks to you, amigo, for the implied compliment," he laughed.
"But there is another question," I continued. "Did I understand you to say that you actually had traveled around the earth on your, or in your secret apparatus?"
"You did, and I have," he assured me, "not once but several times, and each time my observations and records proved conclusively that my deductions and calculations were sound and correct, and that with the proper means at my command, I can go into the future or the past and can eliminate 'time' as you call it. Strictly speaking, of course, time is but a relative term, a mere arbitrary word, whereas actual time is a wave governed and controlled by the 'Esnesnon,' and is no more like your arbitrary conception of time and bears no more relation to it than oxygen does to water or nitrogen bears to nitrate of potassium. In other words, my friend, your so-called time is governed by the 'Esnesnon' while the true time, and by that I mean the phase of the vibratory time wave, is not in any way affected by your conception of time. Is that clear?"
"About as clear as mud," I grinned. "But if you have traveled about the earth at 11,000 miles an hour, how in the world could you see or observe anything while moving at that rate of speed?"
"Oh, my poor friend!" he exclaimed pityingly. "Can you not grasp the fundamental truth that all things are relative? To you, a speed is great or small merely by comparison with your much slower motions and surroundings. Were you dropped from a thousand foot precipice, you would see nothing but a blur as you hurtled earthward, but the condor or the eagle, dropping for thousands of feet, and at terrific speed, sees the smallest bird or animal and strikes it unerringly. And so, in an apparatus wherein your cloying, arbitrary time is non-existent, and surrounded and controlled by the fourth dimension, a speed which to you would seem incomprehensibly swift, seems merely a slow and steady jog to me. Indeed, though perhaps you will not believe it, my circumnavigation of the earth appears to me, at the time, to be no shorter than when, several years ago, I went around the world in one of the Dollar Line steamships. Not until I return and step from the fourth dimensional machine into the humdrum present, do I realize that the journey has consumed only an hour or two. Now if only you, too—"
"Nothing doing," I announced positively, before he could complete his sentence. "I'll leave it to you. But tell me, when did you make your last trip?" I asked.
He laughed. "At midnight, last night," was his amazing reply.
"What?" I gasped. "What nonsense is this? You say—"
He raised his hand and checked me. "Have you forgotten so soon all the examples I gave you?" he asked. "Do you not remember that I pointed out that, if you should travel eastward at a speed greater than the rotation of the earthy, you would be back in
I sank back in my chair and ran my hands through my hair. "It's all the dreamiest, weirdest hodgpodge, the most involved and incomprehensible thing I ever heard," I cried. "Why, man alive, if I'm hearing aright, and you're serious, then in an hour you'll start off and this morning at seven-thirty you'll be back, and I'll be here at nine and you'll tell me all this damned nonsense over again, and start again, and . . . why confound it all, if that's true, today'll go on forever or . . . good Heavens, it makes my head reel to think about it."
Doctor Mentiroso laughed heartily. "My dear good friend," he exclaimed. "Do not be so perturbed about it. You forget that you are talking and thinking of arbitrary time, whereas I am referring to fourth dimensional, or real time. No, my friend, though by your time I may set forth at half after eleven today and return this morning at seven thirty, yet by actual time I set forth and returned at precisely the same moment of your time. No—be patient a moment, for there are many puzzling features of the matter, some of which I confess I have not fully mastered myself as yet. But it is obvious, amigo mio, that did I actually arrive at seven thirty this morning from a trip on which I am to start out four hours after I arrive, then I certainly could not be present in the interim. But I propose, my friend that you witness a most interesting experiment which, if I am not mistaken, will convince you of the soundness of my statements. You can be of great help to me then."
"I'll gladly do anything within reason to help you," I assured him, still a bit dazed at the nightmarish problems his words had started in my mind. "But I'll do nothing rash, and I will not try any stunts in that mad machine of yours. For that matter, I'm beginning to think it's all bosh and you have no such machine."
"I'll soon convince you of that," he declared. "But what I am about to ask you is neither rash nor risky. I would merely like to have you witness my departure and return and check up on the phenomena. If, as you and others claim, your so-called time really exists, then beyond question, I cannot encircle the globe—no matter how fast I travel, and yet be back hours before I set forth or even instantaneously. On the other hand, if I am right and your time is a ridiculous, nonsensical and childish thing, with no basis, and true time is entirely distinct, then I will of a certainty be back before I start or at least at the same moment. Are you willing, amigo mio, to try the test?"
"Gladly," I declared. "Come, show me your 11,000-mile-an-hour machine and hop off for a trip around the earth, and I'll wait and time you. You can't keep up this joke much longer, old man."
Once again, Don Fenomeno smiled in his oddly superior way and rose from his chair. "Very well, my good friend," he remarked. "I think within a few moments you are due to have a rather astounding surprise."
He led the way through a heavily barred and padlocked door to a large windowless room, or rather, I might say, an open court enclosed by high massive walls. In the centre, and resting on a sort of pedestal of black stone, was an elliptical or egg-shaped contrivance of a peculiar bluish color, reminding me of blued steel, and about thirty feet in length by eight or ten feet in diameter. I regret that I cannot give a detailed description of the thing, for one of the conditions on which Doctor Mentiroso insisted before granting me permission to make public his discoveries, was that I should omit all detailed descriptions of his apparatus or its mechanism. I may state, however, that the exterior of the machine was covered with spiral flanges or bands, so that it had somewhat the appearance of a gigantic screw; that several pyramidal or mushroom-shaped projections broke its surface, and that it had no wings or planes like an airship.
"This," announced my friend, "is the machine which I referred to."
"It appears to be a machine all right," I admitted, "but it certainly does not appear capable of rising or of progressing, and even more certainly not at any such speed as you claim for it."
Don Fenomeno laughed. "Appearances," he reminded me, "are often very deceptive. But as you say in English, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating.' In a few moments, my friend, you will change your mind. And let me forewarn you; you may witness some rather disconcerting events but you need not be either surprised or alarmed at anything which may transpire. It now lacks but three minutes of the time for my departure. Will you, amigo mio, stand here and time me in my flight around the earth?"
"Gladly," I replied, "provided your flight does not consume too much time. For I have not eaten lunch as yet, and if you are not back within an hour or two—and I haven't the least expectation that you will be—I warn you that my appetite will overcome my curiosity and I shall go out and eat."
"You will not have to go hungry long," he declared. "Even if you are right, it will be a short time before I return."
"That is, if you go or return at all," I said. "But let us get this clear. You claim you'll return before you start or at the same time, which I claim is manifestly impossible; I claim that, granting there's no fake to all this and that by some incredible means you can fly around the earth in that contraption at the speed you state, you'll be back here in approximately two hours. Am I right?"
"Absolutely," he agreed while he approached the mechanism and stopped to examine some knobs and dials on the black rock pedestal. "Would you mind,” he asked, "standing about here. You'll be better able to witness some of the phenomena which may take place." He indicated a step leading to the pedestal. It was, as he said, a fine point of vantage, and anxious to make sure that there was no trickery about the matter, despite my faith in Don Fenomeno, I took my place as he suggested. Smiling, my friend then stepped into his machine, climbed upon it, and opening sliding panel, stepped within. "Don't leave until I'm back," he cautioned me, as with only his head visible he prepared to close the door. "It's important for you to remain exactly where you are. You see," he added as if in explanation, "I cannot be a witness of the phenomena and I want you to tell me about everything that takes place. Now, take out your watch and time me, for I'll be off in a jiffy."
As he spoke, he ducked into his machine and drew the panel shut. Wondering what, if anything, would happen next, I glanced at my watch and found it precisely eleven thirty. As I did so there was a strange roar from the machine before me; a sudden wind seemed to sweep with terrific force across the courtyard; I swayed on my feet; my head swam dizzily; I had the impression of being hurled over and over, and then, as suddenly as it had begun the noise ceased, the air was calm and still and my head cleared. I glanced at the pedestal and stared with unbelieving eyes. The egg-shaped apparatus had vanished! It was true then! My friend had actually taken flight in his strange machine. Undoubtedly that explained the rush of air and my sensations, for assuredly a mass of that size could not have hurtled upward at over ten thousand miles an hour without creating a terrific vortex in its wake. Hardly had these thoughts rushed through my brain when once more the blast of a hurricane roared about me; I clung for dear life to the stone pedestal; for a brief second I seemed to lose consciousness, and as before, the wind ceased, my brain cleared, and as I raised myself from my recumbent position I almost cried out in amazement. Before me, and resting within six feet of where I stood, was the bluish ovoid thing into which Doctor Mentiroso had vanished. It was incredible that he could have gone far in the few brief seconds which had elapsed. No doubt, I thought, he had had trouble, or had returned for some other reason, and I had completely forgotten to look at my watch. A glance showed me, however, that less than one minute had elapsed!
The next second the slide in the machine opened, Don Fenomeno's head appeared, and as I stared at him, he sprang from the machine. As he did so, a sudden wave of darkness seemed to envelope me; I had the terrifying sensation of having gone blind; and with a sharp cry I put my hands to my eyes. Instantly, it was full sunlight once more, my friend's laugh sounded in my ears, and I looked up to find him standing beside me with a triumphant smile on his face.
"Well, what think you now, amigo mio?" he exclaimed.
"I think I'm mad," I replied. "Do you mean to tell me—"
"That I have again circumnavigated the old earth?" he chuckled. "I certainly do, my friend. But what time did I return?"
"At eleven thirty-one, if you actually did return," I replied.
"And will you kindly glance at my watch?" he asked.
"Great Scott!" I ejaculated. "Yours says 7:38!"
"Assuredly," was his calm response. "I returned from my little jaunt approximately six minutes ago, or at 7:32 a.m. In other words, four hours before I started, and we are now conversing easily although I am in the past four hours while you are in the present, or else I am in the present and you are four hours in the future."
I sank limply upon a settee. “If you keep this up I'll be hopelessly mad, if I'm not already," I gasped. "It's all too involved for me and I believe it's some devilish hallucination anyhow."
"Did you not see me start and return?" he asked.
"The Lord knows," I cried. "One instant your contraption was gone, the next instant it was back. I was nearly blown away by a cyclone. I seemed to be whirled topsy-turvey; I've been temporarily blind, and I know it's absolutely preposterous for you to claim that you flew around the earth in one minute."
"Less than that," he corrected me. "You were a trifle confused, I expect, and forgot to look at your watch the moment I arrived. I might add that, for a moment or two, you were partially in the fourth dimension. You inadvertently stepped away from the spot where I posted you. It's a bit lucky you didn't go farther or I might have had trouble in getting you back."
I was too stunned and nonplussed to speak. It was all too thoroughly ridiculous and impossible. Somehow, I was sure that my friend had gone hurtling through space, and yet I could not credit it, and I could not account for my peculiar sensations or why his watch should have leaped back four hours. Still, his explanation could not, I felt, be true.
"Look here, Don Fenomeno," I exclaimed at last. "It's utterly preposterous for you to claim you have traveled twenty-four thousand miles in one minute or less, especially when you yourself claim only eleven thousand miles an hour for your machine. That would mean over two hours at the best."
"But my dear sir, "he replied "You forget that you are talking arbitrary time. According to that time absolutely no appreciable period elapsed between my start and my return, whereas, if you wish to argue along the lines of true time, I might point out that I encircled the globe in four hours less than nothing of your time."
"But I don't admit that you have proved you encircled the globe," I persisted.
"Then you are still unconvinced," laughed Don Fenomeno. "It is, I think, fortunate that I possess the patience and determination of my Indian ancestors or I should despair of convincing you. But I have an idea. Certainly, if I actually passed through the places I have mentioned, then I should have knowledge of events transpiring there. Let me see. Ah, I have it. When in
I laughed. "Of course you can say that," I replied. "But how can you prove that such occurrences took place?
"Easily enough," he responded. "We will hurry to the cable office and see what foreign news has arrived. And if my statements are verified, I am sure that even such a doubting Thomas as you, my friend, will be convinced. Most assuredly, you must admit that unless I had actually been at
In a few moments we reached the office of the "All America Cables" to find a boy just attaching the latest cabled news to the bulletin board, and as I read the heading of the uppermost sheet, my head fairly reeled and I stood gaping in astonishment. There, unmistakably, was the announcement that as the final bull of the afternoon was about to be killed by the favorite matador, Manuelito, the man had slipped on a pool of blood and had instantly been charged and gored by the infuriated bull.
Doctor Mentiroso's self-satisfied chuckle brought me to my senses. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "So you do believe I was in
This time I was scarcely surprised as I read the outstanding news on the latest bulletin, for I had almost expected it, but as I read the account of the disastrous dock fire in
"I admit it, now," I muttered, as I turned away. "But I still feel that the thing is impossible and that it must all be a dream. But man! If you really can do these things, you will be the most famous and the richest man on earth. Why, there is no limit to what you may accomplish. Think what it will mean to commerce, to civilization, to linking the nations of the world together!"
Doctor Mentiroso shook his head and smiled sadly. "I realize all of this," he said with a sigh, "but it is not for me to profit by my discovery. As I said before, I shall keep the matter secret, a secret known only to you and to myself, and to be used solely for my own scientific investigations. And if my beloved country should be threatened by a foe, it can be used as a means of national defense."
"But you are robbing mankind of the most astounding and revolutionary discoveries ever made," I protested. "Surely you could manage to keep the details, the processes of your inventions secret so that
"That would be impossible," he declared. "Did you ever know of any national secret being kept from an enemy? No, amigo mio, only by keeping what I know locked in my own brain can I hope to hold the key to-the situation. But I cannot resist the fascinating lure of exploring the mysteries of space and the fourth dimension, and in that way I hope to discover facts which may be used for the benefit of my fellow men."
"What," I asked him, "do you propose to do next? You have proved you can conquer time and space. I shall no more question your statement that you have discovered the fourth dimension, nor shall I doubt that you have harnessed the forces of gravitation. But what more can you do? I can scarcely see what new facts you can discover regarding the elimination of time."
"Ah, there you show the layman's lack of imagination and ignorance of the possibilities of science," he exclaimed. "As yet, my friend, I have but touched the fringe of the unknown. I am like an explorer about to enter a new and unknown land. I have entered the outer fringe of the territory but I have yet to plunge into the mysterious depths before me."
"I confess," I declared, "that I do not get the drift of what you are saying. It seems to me that, as far as exploring is concerned, you might go on flying around the world forever and ever and really find out nothing that you do not already know. Now if you should test your machine for . . ."
"Around the earth!" he ejaculated. "Surely you do not imagine that I intend to confine my observations to circumnavigating the globe! No, it is the realm of space I shall explore. If, by merely traveling around the earth, I can conquer time and travel into the future for an hour or two, just stop and think what it may reveal if I travel through the earth's orbit! Think what discoveries of science I might make by beating our terrestrial globe around the sun. Why, friend, I could gain months, years, where I now gain hours. I could learn the innermost secrets of time, of the past and of the future. I . . ."
I stopped in my tracks and stared at him. "Surely," I cried, "you are not serious in this. You surely do not intend to attempt to leave the earth's atmosphere on any such mad fool's errand."
"Why not?" he replied. "Is it any madder, any more impossible than you thought my statements of an hour or two ago? Yes, my friend, I not only intend to attempt such a journey, but I start today, this very afternoon, and you, alone of all men, are to witness the first departure of a human being for the uncharted, unknown realms of space."
"And if," I asked, "you should succeed in hurtling your confounded machine through space without killing yourself, when do you expect to return to relate your experiences?"
Doctor Mentiroso was silent for a space, evidently thinking deeply. Then taking a note book and pencil from his pocket he made some rapid calculations.
"If I am correct in my deductions and my apparatus does not fail me, I should be back here in
"What!" I almost shouted. "You'll be back in 1899! And this is 1926!"
"Of course," he chuckled. "If I can encircle the globe and get back to my starting point four hours before I leave, why shouldn't I tear off through space, follow the earth's orbit around the sun and get back twenty or thirty years before I start? Or if I reverse my direction, why shouldn't I go an equal time into the future?"
"I'll be hanged if I know," I admitted. "But for my part I'd far rather remain in the present."
"But you will be present when I leave, won't you?" he begged. "I want some witness so that if I should return in the future or the past, there won't be any question as to when I started."
"I suppose I'll have to," I told him. "But I'm not approving it."
By this time we had returned to Don Fenomeno's house and he was leading me to the enclosed court with its strange time-defying machine. I was, I think, in a sort of daze, for otherwise I cannot account for my action in countenancing his mad scheme. But the astounding things I had heard and seen had had an almost hypnotic effect, and scarcely realizing what he was about to undertake, I saw him approach the apparatus, draw back the sliding panel and prepare to enter.
"You need not worry over my physical welfare," he remarked. "I've been preparing for this trip, and I am well provisioned, though I do not believe food is essential in the fourth dimension."
"I suppose," I remarked dryly, "that as you are going several years into the past, the food which you ate for the past twenty years or so will serve just as well."
Something of that sort, perhaps," he grinned. "And now, please record the exact time when I leave. Goodbye, amigo mio, I will not ask you to await my return, but I'll notify you at once when I'm back. I'll have some very interesting information to impart, I'm sure."
"I could scarcely be expected to wait back a score of years," I reminded him, "and I agree with you that if you do return, you will most certainly have an abundant mass of interesting information. Personally, though, I feel that both you and your discoveries are lost to science and the world from this moment."
"I'm sorry you won't accompany me," he declared ignoring my caustic remarks. "Well, once more, good friend, hasta luego, for this is au revoir but not goodbye."
I leaped forward and grasped his hand and bade him a warm farewell. Then, suddenly remembering that I might be within his damnable fourth dimension limit, I sprang back and away from the black stone pedestal. The next moment the panel had been closed and he had disappeared within the machine. Recollecting my former experience, I hurried away from the machine, but before I had taken ten steps, I was swept from my feet by the rush of air I had felt before. Glancing about as best I might, I saw that the machine with Doctor Mentiroso had vanished.
Despite the fact that I was not to await his return, I felt compelled to remain within the court, and torn by a thousand conflicting emotions, I maintained my lonely vigil throughout the night. Indeed, for weeks I visited the place daily, each time hoping against hope that the strange machine would once more gladden my eyes as it rested upon its pedestal. But Don Fenomeno has not returned. But still, though my common sense tells me he has gone forever, I cannot rid myself of the conviction that some day my Peruvian friend will sweep down triumphantly from his journey through space. But perhaps, he really returned twenty-seven years ago. To this day, I do not know whether he was serious or merely joking, when he spoke of returning in the year 1899.