We arrived with a rush. "Is he in there?" Don shouted. "Open the door, you fellows! See here, you watch him--we've got to get his clothes off. He's got some mechanism--wires and things underneath his clothes!"
"Get out of the way!" ordered the sergeant. "I'll open it!"
There was silence from behind the door. The prisoner had been in the cell no more than a minute or two.
We burst open the door. The cell was dimly illumined. The figure of the giant stood backed in its further corner. But at the sight of him we all stood transfixed with horror. His shoes, trousers, shirt, jacket and cap lay in a little pile at his feet. He stood revealed in the short tight-fitting silvery garments. The wires were looped about his arms and legs and he had pulled a mesh of them over his head in lieu of a helmet.
He stood regarding us sardonically. And in that instant while we were stricken with the shock of it, I saw that the figure was fading. It was a solid human form no longer! A silvery cast had come upon it. Another second passed; it was visibly growing tenuous, wraithlike! It was melting while we stared at it, until in that breathless instant I realized that the wall behind it was showing through.
A wraith! An apparition! The vision of a ghost standing there, leering at us!
The soldiers had retreated back into the corridor behind us. The sergeant gripped me, and his other hand, wavering with fright, clutched a revolver.
"But it's--it's going!"
Don gasped, "Too late! Sergeant, give me that gun!"
"Wait!" I shouted. "Don't shoot at it!"
The shimmering glowing white figure was slowly moving downward as though floating through the cell-floor. Its own invisible surface was evidently not here but lower down, and it was beginning to drop. I don't know what frenzied courage--if courage it could be called--was inspiring me. I was wholly confused, but nevertheless I struck Don and the sergeant aside and rushed at the thing.
It was a sensation most horrible. From the waist up it was still above the floor of the cell. My wildly flailing arms went through the chest! But I felt nothing. It was not even like waving aside a mist. There was nothing. I saw my solid fist plunge through the leering ghostly face. I fought wildly, with a panic upon me, against the glowing phosphorescent nothingness of the apparition. My feet were stamping on its chest and shoulders. Then, as it sank lower, only the grinning face was down there.
Panting, and with the cold sweat of horror upon me, I felt Don shoving me aside.
And then the sergeant's shot rang out. The bullet clattered against the solid stone floor of the cell. The acrid smoke of the powder rolled over us; and cleared in a moment to show us the apparition several feet below the floor level. It seemed to strike its solidity of ground. I saw it fall the last little distance with a rush; land, and pick itself up. And with a last sardonic grin upward at us, the dim white figure ran. Dwindling smaller, dimmer, until in a moment it was gone into the Unknown.
As though a light had struck upon me came the realization.
"Don, this is rational, this thing! Some strange science!"
All day we had been vaguely realizing it. Intangible, but rational enemies were stealing white girls of Bermuda. Invaders from another planet? We had thought it might be that. Certainly it was nothing supernatural. These was not ghosts.
But now came a new realization. "Don! That's another world down there! Another realm! The fourth dimension--that's what it is! These things everybody's calling ghosts--it's the fourth dimension, Don! People of the fourth dimension coming out to attack us!"
And already the real menace had come! At that moment, half a mile away across the harbor on the slope of the little hill in Paget, an army of the White Invaders suddenly materialized, with dull, phosphorescent-green light-beams flashing around the countryside, melting trees and vegetation and people into nothingness!
The attack upon Bermuda had begun!
The events which I have now to describe are world history, and have been written in many forms and by many observers. I must, however, sketch them in broadest outline for the continuity of this personal narrative of the parts played by my friends and myself in the dire and astounding affair which was soon to bring chaos, not only to little Bermuda but to the great United States as well, and a near panic everywhere in the world.
On this evening of May 15th, 1938, the White Invaders showed themselves for the first time as rational human enemies. The residential suburb of Paget lies across the little harbor from the city of Hamilton. It is a mile or so by road around the bay, and a few minutes across the water by ferry. The island in the Paget section is a mere strip of land less than half a mile wide in most places, with the sheltered waters of the harbor on one side, and the open Atlantic with a magnificent pink-white beach on the other. The two are divided by a razor-back ridge--a line of little hills a hundred feet or so high, with narrow white roads and white stone residences set on the hill-slopes amid spacious lawns and tropical gardens; and with several lavish hotels on the bay shore, and others over the ridge, fronting the beach.
The invaders landed on the top of the ridge. It seemed that, without warning, a group of white-clad men were in a cedar grove up there. They spread out, running along the roads. They seemed carrying small hand-weapons from which phosphorescent-green light-beams flashed into the night.
The first reports were chaotic. A few survivors appeared in Hamilton who claimed to have been very close to the enemy. But for the most part the descriptions came from those who had fled when still a mile or more away. The news spread as though upon the wings of a gale. Within an hour the hotels were emptied; the houses all along the shore and the bayside hill-slope were deserted by their occupants. Boats over there brought the excited people into Hamilton until no more boats were available. Others came madly driving around the harbor road, on bicycles, and on foot--and still others escaped toward distant Somerset.
A thousand people or more came in within that hour. But there were others who did not come--those who were living in the score or two of houses up on the ridge in the immediate neighborhood of where the invaders appeared....
Don and I met Mr. Dorrance at the police station within a few minutes after the news of the Paget attack reached us. We hurried back to the restaurant and found Jane still there with the Blakinsons. Ten minutes later we were all in the Government House, receiving the most authentic reports available.
From the windows of the second floor room where Mr. Dorrance sat with a number of the officials, Don, Jane, and I could see across the harbor and to the ridge where the enemy was operating. It was not much over two miles from us. The huge, slightly flattened moon had risen. The bay and the distant little hills were flooded with its light. We could see, off on the ridge-top, the tiny flashing green beams. But there was no sound save the turmoil of the excited little city around us.
"They don't seem to be moving," Don murmured. "They're right where they were first reported."
It seemed as though the small group of light-beams, darting back and forth, nevertheless originated from one unshifting place. The beams, we realized, must be extremely intense to be visible even these two miles or so, for we could see that they were very small and of very short range--more like a hand-flashlight than anything else. How many of the enemy were there? They were men, we understood: solid, human men garbed in the fashion of the apparitions which had been so widely seen.
The patrolling airplane, connected with us here by wireless telephone, gave us further details. There seemed to be some fifty of the invaders. They stood in a group in what had been a small cedar grove. It was a barren field now; the trees had melted and vanished before the silent blasts of the green light-beams. They had, these beams, seemingly a range of under a hundred feet. The invaders had, at first, run with them along the nearby roads and attacked the nearest houses. Part of those houses were still standing, save for the wooden portion of them which had vanished into nothingness as the green light touched it. The people, too, were annihilated. The airplane pilot had seen a man running near the field trying to escape. The light touched him, clung to him for a moment. There was an instant as he fell that he seemed melting into a ghostly figure; and then he was gone.
Fifty invaders. But they were human; they could be attacked. When they first appeared, the nature of them still unrealized, a physician's automobile, manned by three soldiers, had been coming along the bay road at the foot of the ridge. The soldiers turned it into a cross road and mounted the hill. Two of them left it, scouting to see what was happening; the other stayed in the car. One of the enemy suddenly appeared. His ray struck the car. Its tires, its woodwork, and fabric and cushions melted and vanished, and the man within it likewise disappeared. Everything organic vanished under the assailing green beam. The other two soldiers fired at the attacker. He was human. He fell as their bullets struck him. Then others of his fellows came running. The two soldiers were driven away, but they escaped to tell of the encounter.
The airplane pilot, half an hour later, flew low and fired down into the group of enemy figures. He thought that one of them fell. He also thought he was out of range of their beams. But a pencil-point of the green light thinned and lengthened out. It darted up to his hundred-and-fifty-foot altitude and caught one of his wings. The plane fell disabled into the bay near the city docks, but the pilot swam safely ashore.
I need not detail the confusion and panic of the government officials who were gathered here in the room where Don, Jane and I stood watching and listening to the excitement of the incoming reports. For quiet little Bermuda the unprecedented situation was doubly frightening. An attack would have to be made upon the invaders. There were only fifty of the enemy; the soldiers and the police could in a few hours be mobilized to rush them and kill them all.
But could that be done? The thing had so many weird aspects, the invaders still seemed so much in the nature of the supernatural, that Mr. Dorrance advised caution. The enemy was now--this was about ten o'clock in the evening--quietly gathered in the little field on the ridge-top. They seemed, with their first attack over, no longer offensive. But, if assailed, who could say what they would do?
And a thousand unprecedented things to do were pressing upon the harassed officials. Panic-stricken crowds now surged out of all control in the Hamilton streets. Refugees were coming in, homeless, needing care. The soldiers and the police were scattered throughout the islands, without orders of what to do to meet these new conditions.
And new, ever more frightening reports poured in. The telephone service, which links as a local call nearly every house throughout the islands, was flooded with frantic activity. From nearly every parish came reports of half-materialized ghosts. Fifty invaders? There were that many gathered on the Paget hill, but it seemed that there must be a thousand watching apparitions scattered throughout the islands. Harmless, merely frightening, wraiths. But if that little group in Paget were assailed, this other thousand might in a moment cease to be harmless "ghosts."
The astounded Bermuda officials were forced now to accept the realization that this was solid science. Incredible, fantastic, unbelievable--yet here it was upon us. Some unknown, invisible realm co-existed here in this same space. Its inhabitants had found a way to come out.
The government wireless, and the Canadian cables, could no longer withhold such news as this. Bermuda appealed now to Washington and to London for help. Warships would be coming shortly. Passenger liners on the high seas bringing holiday visitors, were turned aside. The ships in the port of New York would not sail for Bermuda tomorrow.
I think that the outside world would have had jeering publics amused at little Bermuda hysterical over a fancied attack from the fabled fourth dimension. But by midnight this night, the United States at least was in no mood for jeering. A message came--reaching us soon after eleven o'clock, Bermuda time--by cable, through Halifax from Washington. The thing already had passed beyond the scope of the Bermudas. White apparitions were seen on the Atlantic seaboard near Savannah. And then at Charleston; and throughout the night at several other points farther north. None materialized into solidity. But the "ghosts" were seen, appearing, vanishing, and reappearing always farther north.
It was a world menace!
At about midnight Mr. Dorrance joined Jane, Don and me where we stood by the Government House windows watching the distant motionless group of enemy lights. He was pale and harassed.
"No use for you to stay here," he told us. "Don, you and Bob take Jane home. It's the safest place now."
The reports seemed to indicate that of all the parishes, St. Georges was now most free of the apparitions.
"Go home," he insisted. "You and Bob stay with Jane. Take care of her, lads." He smiled grimly. "We--all the government--may be moving to St. Georges by morning."
"But, father," Jane protested, "what will you do? Stay here?"
"For a while. I'll drive over by daybreak. I'll keep the Victoria. You have your cycles; you three ride over. Be careful, lads. You have your revolvers?"
"Yes," said Don.
We had no time for leave-taking. He was at once called away from us.
We left the Government House shortly after that, got our bicycles and started for the north shore road. Government Hill, where the road climbed through a deep cut in the solid rock, was thronged with carriages, and with cyclists walking up the hill. Most of the traffic was going in one direction--refugees leaving this proximity to the enemy.
We reached the top of the hill, mounted and began the long coast down. In an hour and a half or less we would be home.... Ah, if one could only lift the veil which hides even the immediate future, upon the brink of which we must always stand unseeing!
The north-shore road had the rocky seacoast upon our left--calm moonlit ocean across which in this direction lay the Carolinas some seven hundred miles away. We had gone, perhaps three miles from Hamilton. The road was less crowded here. A group of apparitions had been seen in the neighborhood of the Aquarium, which was ahead of us, and most of the refugees were taking the middle road along Harrington Sound in the center of the island.
But we decided to continue straight on. It was shorter.
"And there will be more police along here," Don reasoned.
Heaven knows we did not feel in immediate danger. Cycling soldiers passed us at frequent intervals, giving us the news of what lay ahead. And we both had revolvers.
We came presently to the bottom of one of the many steep little hills up which it is difficult to ride. We were walking up the grade, pushing our machines with Jane between us. A group of soldiers came coasting down the hill, but when we were half-way up they had passed out of sight. It chanced at the moment that we were alone on the road. No house was near us. The ocean to our left lay at the bottom of a fifty-foot rocky cliff; to the right was a thick line of oleander trees, heavy with bloom.
Ahead of us, to the right within the line of oleanders, the glowing white figure of an apparition was visible. We stopped, out of breath from the climb, and stood by the roadside.
"See it there?" Don murmured. "Let's wait and watch it a moment."
One may get used to anything. We were not frightened. The figure, no more than twenty feet ahead of us, stood partly within a tree-trunk. It could not materialize there. It was the figure of a man, with helmet and looped wires.
"Not that fellow who called himself Tako," I whispered.
This one was smaller, no larger than Jane, perhaps. He raised his arms as though warning us to stop. We stood gazing at him, undecided whether to retreat or advance. An omnibus carriage coming from St. Georges stopped at the brow of the hill. Its occupants climbed out and began shouting at the apparition, at the same time flinging stones, one of which came bounding past us.
"Hi!" I called. "Stop that! No sense to that!"
Suddenly I heard a rustling of the oleanders at my side. We had no warning; our attention was wholly upon the apparition and the men by the carriage on the brow of the hill flinging stones. There was a rustling; the shadowed oleanders parted and figures leaped upon us!
I recall hearing Don shout, and Jane cry out. Our cycles clattered to the road. I fired at an oncoming white figure, but missed. The solid form of a man struck me and I went down, tangled in my wheel. There was an instant when I was conscious of fighting madly with a human antagonist. I was conscious of Don fighting, too. Jane stood, gripped by a man. Four or five of them had leaped upon us.
I had many instant impressions; then as I fought something struck my head and I faded into insensibility. I must have recovered within a moment. I was lying on the ground, partly upon a bicycle.
Don was lying near me. White figures of men with Jane in their midst were standing off the road, partly behind the bushes. They were holding her, and one of them was swiftly adjusting a network of wires upon her. Then, as I revived further, I heard shouts; people were arriving from down the hill. I tried to struggle to my feet, but fell back.
In the bushes the figures--and the figure of Jane--were turning silvery; fading into wraiths. They drifted down into the ground. They were gone.
Into the Enemy Camp "But Bob, I won't go back to Government House," Don whispered. "Lord, we can't do that--get in for theories and questions and plans to gather a police squad. Every minute counts."
"What can we do?"
"Break away from these fellows--send Uncle Arthur a message--anything at all; and say we'll be back in half an hour. I tell you, Jane is gone--they've got her. You saw them take her. By now probably, they've got her off there in Paget among them. We've got to do something drastic, and do it now. If the police attacked--suppose Jane is in that Paget group--the first thing they'd do when the police came at them would be to kill her. We can't go at it that way, I tell you."
We were trudging back up Government Hill with a group of soldiers around us. I had revived to find myself not seriously injured; a lump was on my head and a scalp wound where something had struck me. Don had regained consciousness a moment later and was wholly unharmed. His experience had been different from mine. Two men had seized him. He was aware of a sudden puff of an acrid gas in his face, and his senses had faded. But when they returned he had his full strength almost at once.
We realized what had happened. Half a dozen of the enemy were lying in ambush there on the roadside. It was young white girls they were after, and when we appeared with Jane, one of the invaders showed himself as an apparition to stop us, and then the others, fully materialized and hiding in the oleanders, had leaped upon us. They had had only time to escape with Jane, ignoring Don and me where we had fallen. They seemed also not aware of the nature of our weapons for they had not taken our revolvers.
Had they gone now with Jane into the other realm of the Unknown? Or was she with them, over in Paget now in the little enemy camp there which was defying Bermuda? We thought very possibly it was the latter. The giant who had called himself Tako, who had escaped us in the Police Station, had been driven from our minds by all the excitement which followed. Was that Tako the leader of these invaders? Had he, for some time perhaps, been living as he said in the Hamiltonia Hotel? Scouting around Bermuda, selecting the young girls whom his cohorts were to abduct?
The thoughts made us shudder. He had noticed Jane. He it was, doubtless, who as an apparition had prowled outside Jane's room the night before last. And last night he had followed us to the Fort Beach. And again to-night in the restaurant he had been watching Jane. These men who had captured Jane now might very well carry her to Paget and hand her over to their leader, this giant Tako.
A frenzy of desperation was upon Don and me at the thought.
"But what shall we do?" I whispered.
"Get away from these soldiers, Bob. We've got our revolvers. We'll ride over there to Paget--just the two of us. It's our best chance that way. Creep up and see what's over there. And if Jane is there, we've got to get her, Bob--get her some way, somehow."
We could plan no further than that. But to return to Government House, to face Jane's father with the tale of what had happened, and then become involved in an official attempt to attack with open hostilities the enemy in Paget--that was unthinkable.
At the foot of Government Hill, with a trumped-up excuse, Don got us away from our escort. The night was far darker now; a gray-white mass of clouds had come up to obscure the moon. We cycled through the outskirts of Hamilton to the harbor road and followed it around the marshy end of the bay and into Paget. There had been at first many vehicles coming in from the beach, but when we passed the intersection and nothing lay ahead of us but the Paget ridge we found the road deserted.
We had had our handle-bar flash-lights turned on, but now we shut them off, riding slowly into the darkness. Don presently dismounted.
"Better leave our wheels here."