When we were going back to sleep, Nina told me she had wondered why Theodor slept each time near someone else. He had probably thought by taking a little from each one of us, his stealing would not be noticed.
Seventeenth Awake, 18 Juli 2207 The awakes and sleeps pass again and everything is as it was, except that our food and oil becomes less, and our tiredness greater. Several times during our walk we have found a little water in the passage. How wonderful it would be if we could so easily find more food and oil.
Although Bruno shows no sign that he wants to hurt Theodor again, Theodor is still terribly frightened of him, and stays as far from him as possible. Before each sleep, Doctor Dorn makes Theodor open his shoulder pack and show him the food he has left. His food is being used up as fast as ours is now.
Eighteenth Awake, 19 Juli 2207 Eighteen awakes and sleeps we have walked in Black Passage. To the mind, it is forever.
The passage has begun to climb a little. This is not a good thing.
Nineteenth Awake, 20 Juli 2207 I write this during rest.
We have come to a Dead City. No lamps are lighted in the dark street passages and all the cubicles are empty. We have found many other passages going out of the City, and we must now decide which is the best to try. I do not think this will be difficult. One of the passages seems newer than any of the others, much newer and larger than Black Passage through which we have walked for so long. There are lamps in this passage, and even though they are not lighted, they would not have been put there unless the passage went to some other City. Although this other city may be dead also, hope is now a little greater. Doctor Dorn calls this passage Hope Passage. Another thing that adds to hope is the way the passage goes down so steeply.
Hope Passage was found many hours ago, sleep time has now come, and yet a decision has not been made. Much of this is because of Nina. Although she has spoken very little, the things she has said have made Doctor Dorn behave very strangely.
When he asked each of us if we thought Hope Passage would be the best one to follow, everyone but Nina said yes right away. Even Bruno nodded. But when he asked Nina, she did not answer so quickly. Then she said if we all thought Hope Passage was the best, it was probably so.
But Doctor Dorn was not satisfied. Did she not think so herself, he asked. Was there something about Hope Passage she did not like? Was there some other passage she thought might be better?
I could feel Nina's fingers tighten on my arm the way they did whenever she became very frightened or worried or disturbed. It was not something her mind thought, she said. It was just a feeling she had which she couldn't understand or explain.
Doctor Dorn's voice became very gentle. He said Nina shouldn't try to understand or explain her feeling. But would she try to describe what it was like, even a little.
Nina looked at me very troubled and I put my arm around her shoulders, and said she didn't have to answer if she didn't want to. But then she took a little breath and said in a very low voice that as far back as she could remember, even when she was a tiny girl, she always had a good feeling when she was going up and a bad feeling when she was going down. It was a strange way to be, she knew, and she had never told anyone before. But that was why she did not like Hope Passage, which went down so fast. The passage she had liked best was the one near the old statue. The way it went up gave her a good feeling.
Doctor Dorn asked didn't she know the passage by the statue was the oldest one we had found, and therefore it should have the smallest chance of going to a live city.
Nina said she knew, and her mind understood everything Doctor Dorn said. But the things her mind knew and understood were not able to change the way she felt. She said she was sorry she had made us all lose so much time. She would not talk about it any more.
Doctor Dorn asked Nina would she please answer just one more question. Did she have this good feeling while we were walking up the little climb near the end of Black Passage.
Nina nodded her head yes, and Doctor Dorn said it was very interesting. Then in a different voice, he said that Hope Passage was our best chance of finding life, and after this sleep we would continue our walk there.
Twentieth Awake, 21 Juli 2207 A few hours ago we said goodbye to Ralf and Mari and Bruno, and watched them start down Hope Passage. I think they may find life again soon.
Even now, I do not understand clearly why we are not with them; why we are climbing in this old rough passage which rises so steeply we must stop every little while to rest.
Many thoughts must have come to Doctor Dorn during our last sleep, because when we awoke he was different from any way he had been before. For a little while, he just walked up and back rubbing his chin as if he were thinking very hard. Then all of a sudden he stopped and came over to Nina. He asked Nina whether if we were not here, if she had to decide only for herself, knowing all he had told her, would she still take the old passage?
Nina said yes, she would. Doctor Dorn sat down. He said he was going to say strong words. He was going to tell us some of the things he had read in the Forbidden Books.
For thousands of years Man had first lived on Earth Surface, the books said. But then great wars had come and Man had studied hard and learned ways to kill each other millions at a time. But some of the men who did not want to die had dug deep into the earth to live. Everyone in the earth, the books said, came from these first men from Earth Surface.
Doctor Dorn stopped to let us think about what he had told us. Earth Surface--nothing above but nothing--and nothing beyond nothing--the thought is more than the mind can hold. That men could have lived on such a place is too much to be believed.
There were some things written in the Forbidden Books that could not be true, Doctor Dorn said, like the plants called trees that grew to be many times taller than a man; or lakes called oceans that were larger than a thousand Red Lakes together. But even though these and some other things the books said were not possible, there was something about the story of men living on Earth Surface that made him wonder. All sleep he had not slept, but had thought how the old passage we had found near the statue might be one of the surface passages the books told about. He could not imagine any City in the Earth building a passage so steep and so rough.
Doctor Dorn stopped talking for a moment, and he looked at me. He seemed very excited. "Jon," he said, "my own feeling now is to take Surface Passage. I cannot do this alone with one lamp. You know how Nina feels. Will you and Nina come with me?"
My thoughts must have been like those of the lost-mind men in the hospital at Central City. Even now I do not know why I said we would. Maybe it was because of the way Nina's eyes shone when Doctor Dorn talked about Earth Surface. Nina is a wonderful girl and I love her very much, but sometimes I think I do not understand her completely.
Ralf and Mari talked together for a long time. Then Ralf told Doctor Dorn he thought Hope Passage was the best chance for finding life. They would not come with us.
Doctor Dorn said he understood. He was sorry we had to separate now, but each must do what was in his own thoughts and heart. Then he asked Bruno if he was coming with us, and Bruno shook his head no, and did not say anything.
Theodor thought for even a longer time than Ralf and Mari. He kept biting the nails on his fingers and every little while his eyes would look at Bruno. I knew he was afraid to come with us; but also he was afraid to be alone with Bruno with only Ralf to help him if anything happened. Finally, in a very low voice, he said he would come with us.
Doctor Dorn said fine, now there was one more thing we must do before we started. We must take the oil from one of the lamps and put it in the other six lamps so there would be the same amount in each one. Then each group would take three lamps.
Theodor said this was not fair. There were four of us so we should have four lamps. Doctor Dorn said four people needed no more light than three people.
It was very sad when we had to separate. Mari and Nina cried a little. For a long time after we found Surface Passage and were climbing in it, no one said anything. Perhaps after next sleep, our sadness may be less.
Twenty-First Awake, 22 Juli 2207 The passage is still climbing and we rest often. I write a little during some of our rests.
There is very little oil left. Doctor Dorn says we must take a dangerous chance. No lamp has gone out for a long time. If we burn only one lamp, we can have light for almost four more awakes and sleeps. If this is really a Surface Passage, and if what is written in the forbidden books is true, this time may be enough for us to reach Earth Surface.
We have been burning only one lamp since our last rest. How bright does the light from the two lamps seem now. Nina says she feels she can reach out and touch the blackness.
Theodor is very frightened. Over and over he says we must go back and take the other passage, that if we go on we shall all be dead bones. I think Doctor Dorn would become angry if he did not understand how frightened Theodor is.
During rest, Theodor spoke words that made Nina feel very sad. He said it was because of her that we would all die. I became very angry, and told him if he said anything like that again, I would finish what Bruno had started. He knows I would not do this, but now he talks very little.
Twenty-Second Awake, 23 Juli 2207 We walk up Surface Passage still, but there is a difference. Before last sleep there was much hope in our hearts. Now our hope is almost nothing.
It was Nina who knew first. She brought me out of sleep, shaking my shoulder and saying my name, until my mind was awake enough to understand.
Theodor was gone!
He had left us the one lamp that was burning. The other two lamps he had taken; and all of our food and water. But our hunger may never become too great. With one lamp, there will be light until only a few hours after next sleep.
Doctor Dorn blames himself. He says he should have been able to tell that Theodor might do something like this. But Doctor Dorn feels the same tiredness that is in us all, making our thoughts like shadows.
Sleep time has come, but we do not stop. We will walk on and rest when we must. When the end of life is so near, the will finds strength.
Twenty-Third Awake, 24 Juli 2207 We have walked through sleep and we have slept while we walked. The rise is steeper. Our oil lamp is still burning and our shadows fall behind us into the blackness. There will be light for perhaps ten more hours.
There is a dampness now in the passage, like that of the passage to Red Lake. Our tiredness is so great we become afraid sometimes that after one of our rests we may not be able to go on. I am worried about Nina. She says nothing, but I think for a long while now she has been walking on heart strength alone. We have seven hours of light before us.
The passage has ended. For a moment the thought came that we were on Earth Surface. But Doctor Dorn says we are in a great cavern, larger even than the Cavern of Red Lake. Our one light is as nothing in this great blackness, and we walk close to the wall so we will not become lost. In some places the walls are like glass as if from a very great heat. There are more passages in the sides of this cavern than the mind can imagine. But after this rest there is nothing else we can do but try one of them.
For five hours we have been lost in passages that curve and turn and join with each other as madly as if they were made by lost-mind men. Now we have found our way back to the Great Cavern. We shall stay here the two hours longer our light and lives will last.
It is easier now that our hope is nothing.
We can rest and wait, and even our fear becomes less in our tiredness.
The time has gone slowly, but the light from the lamp is becoming less now. In a few seconds it will go out, and the Groles will come, and our lives will be over. Perhaps for an instant before we die, we shall know what the Groles are; or perhaps it happens so quickly we will never know anything. This may be the better way. Nina trembles in my arms.
We wait in the blackness. The lamp has been out for many minutes but the Groles have not come.
How can this be? Can the mind conceive that there are no such things as Groles, that, like so many other things, they are only a lie of the State?
These last words I write now.
The Groles are coming! We can hear their murmuring sounds through the passages. We say goodbye to each other.
They are very close now--very-- * * * * *
ALVAREZ COUNTY DAILY RECORD.
Inhabitants of Earth's Interior Come to Alvarez by Franklin Williams, Staff Writer Alvarez, May 9, 2204.--An almost unbelievable event of the greatest significance not only to Alvarez, or the United States of the Western Hemisphere, but to the entire world, occurred in our Alvarez County yesterday. Visitors on the early morning tour through Alvarez Caverns, came upon an astonishing spectacle. Two men and a young girl of indescribable strangeness of manner and dress were seated on the floor of Atom Cave. All were in the last stages of exhaustion and exposure, and even the little light from the electric hand lamps seemed to blind them. Fortunately, in the tour was Dr. and Mrs. Ferguson of New Washington, and Dr. Ferguson, appraising himself rapidly of the situation, led the trio out of the Caverns and drove them to Alvarez Hospital. Dr. Ferguson says they seemed completely dazed and unable to speak. They came with him without resistance.
After an examination by Dr. Stutfeldt of Alvarez Hospital which completely confirmed Dr. Ferguson's earlier diagnosis, the strange visitors were put in a darkened room, in which they surprisingly had no difficulty seeing, and were given simple nourishment.
Late in the evening, after they had slept and rested for many hours, they were questioned. In the presence of a distinguished group which included Mayor Whitehead, Professor Lorraine Johnson (a very charming young lady) of the Alvarez University, J. W. Wilson, Chairman of the Alvarez Chamber of Commerce, and your reporter, they told an amazing, but according to Professor Johnson, entirely credible story.
Speaking slowly with an accent strongly reminiscent of twenty-first century North American, but with somewhat peculiar grammatical formations, the oldest of the group told of their having walked for many weeks from their State deep within the Earth.
Undoubtedly, they will have much more of interest to tell, but Dr. Stutfeldt refused to let them talk for more than a few minutes. He says it will be many weeks before they will regain their strength, and much longer before they will be able to adjust to the tremendous differences between their old life and life on the surface of the earth. It is entirely possible, Dr. Stutfeldt says, that they may never be able to make this adjustment.
An interesting sidelight of their within-the-earth civilization is that, although they apparently have the same calendar system as ours, in some way their time seems to have gotten out of step. According to their reckoning it is now some three years and two months later than it is.
NEW WASHINGTON SUN.
What's New Under the Sun by Dick Richard The (very) little furor that has been caused by the recent report from Alvarez County of the arrival of visitors from inside the earth shows signs of abating completely. Very likely it is just a case of poor timing, (three reports of flying saucers and one of Saturnian birdmen in less than a month has pretty well saturated the gullibility market). But perhaps it is just as well. Not that we are skeptical by nature, but we cannot help wondering at the somewhat amazing coincidence of the Alvarez report being issued just two weeks before the start of the Alvarez County Festival.
UNITED STATES OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE DEPARTMENT OF STATE DIVISION OF INVESTIGATION.
Report on Supernatural Phenomena: File No. B5138.
Subject: Subterranean Inhabitants.
Reference: Alvarez County Record, News Item of May 9, 2204, et al. (See File).
On January 3, 2206, in performance of the subject investigation, a visit was made to the Alvarez Hospital at Alvarez, Alvarez County. Dr. Ernest Stutfeldt was contacted, and upon being questioned, expressed surprise and some annoyance that an investigation was being conducted, in his words, "so damned long after everything was over." It was pointed out to Dr. Stutfeldt that qualified investigative personnel was limited, that these matters had to be taken in their proper turn, and that a year and a half interval for an investigation of this nature was not considered excessive. The information was then elicited from Dr. Stutfeldt that the "earth visitors" were no longer patients at the hospital, that two of them, a Mr. and Mrs. Jon Farmer, were living on their farm about ten miles out of Alvarez, and that the third, a Dr. Dorn Smith, was studying medicine at Alvarez University.
Transportation to the university was thereupon obtained, and after considerable time and difficulty, Dr. Dorn Smith was located. When asked for some proof of his subterranean origin, the doctor was unable to provide same. His descriptions of the life and government of his claimed underground "State" could with a little imagination, have been derived from any textbook on the absolute governments of the twenty-first century.
A certain measure of authenticity was temporarily ascribed to Dr. Dorn Smith's statements, when these were termed as "entirely credible" by Professor Lorraine Johnson of the university. However, the explanation for Professor Johnson's corroboration became obvious when it was learned that the professor and Dr. Dorn Smith were engaged to be married.
Although it was apparent by this time that the claims made by the subject investigatees had no information in fact, in order to insure a completely comprehensive inquiry, a visit was made to the Farmers' domicile. Obviously alerted by a phonovision from Dr. Dorn Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Farmer were cordial, but no more informative than their three-month-old baby daughter. The inquiry was then terminated.
A verbatim account of all questions and answers pertaining to the above investigation is affixed hereto.
Therefore, and in consequence of this inquiry, it is recommended that the subject supernatural phenomenon be classified as "Not Verified," and that the file be closed.
Respectfully submitted, Clarence B. Pendergast, Special Investigator of Supernatural Phenomena DEPARTMENT OF STATE January 5, 2206.
THE VERY BLACK.
by Dean Evans
Jet test-pilots and love do not mix too happily as a rule--especially with a ninth-dimensional alter ego messing the whole act.
There was nothing peculiar about that certain night I suppose--except to me personally. A little earlier in the evening I'd walked out on the Doll, Margie Hayman--and a man doesn't do that and cheer over it. Not if he's in love with the Doll he doesn't--not this doll. If you've ever seen her you'll give the nod on that.
The trouble had been Air Force's new triangular ship--the new saucer. Not radio controlled, this one--this one was to carry a real live pilot. At least that's what the doll's father, who was Chief Engineer at Airtech, Inc., had in mind when he designed it.
The doll had said to me sort of casually, "Got something, Baby." She called me baby. Me, one eighty-five in goose pimples.
"Toss it over, Doll," I said.
"No strings on you, Baby." She'd grinned that little one-sided grin of hers. "No strings on you. Not even one. You're a flyboy, you are, and you can take off or land any time any place you feel like it."