The Attack upon New York I must sketch now the main events following this night of May 15th and 16th as the outside world saw them. The frantic reports from Bermuda were forced into credibility by the appearance of apparitions at many points along the Atlantic seaboard of the southern States. They were sporadic appearances that night. No attacks were reported. But in all, at least a thousand wraithlike figures of men must have been seen. The visitations began at midnight and ended with dawn. To anyone, reading in the morning papers or hearing from the newscasters that "ghosts" were seen at Savannah, the thing had no significance. But in Washington, where officials took a summary of all the reports and attempted an analysis of them, one fact seemed clear. The wraiths were traveling northward. It could almost be fancied that this was an army, traveling in the borderland of the Unknown. Appearing momentarily as though coming out to scout around and see the contour and the characteristics of our realm; disappearing again into invisibility, to show themselves in an hour or so many miles farther north.
The reports indicated also that it was not one group of the enemy, but several--and all of them traveling northward. The most northerly group of them by dawn showed itself up near Cape Hatteras.
The news, when it was fully disseminated that next day, brought a mingling of derision and terror from the public. The world rang with the affair. Remote nations, feeling safe since nothing of the kind seemed menacing them, were amused that distant America, supposedly so scientifically modern, should be yielding to superstition worthy only of the Middle Ages. The accounts from Bermuda were more difficult to explain. And England, with Bermuda involved, was not skeptical; as a matter of fact, the British authorities were astonished. Warships were starting for Bermuda; and that morning of May 16th, with the passenger lines in New York not sailing for Bermuda, American warships were ordered to Hamilton. The menace, whatever it was, would soon be ended.
That was May 16th. Another night passed, and on May 17th the world rang with startled horror and a growing terror. Panics were beginning in all the towns and cities of the American seaboard north of Cape Hatteras. It was no longer a matter of merely seeing "ghosts." There had been real attacks the previous night.
There had been a variety of incidents, extraordinarily horrifying--so diverse, so unexpected that they could not have been guarded against. It was a dark night, an area of low pressure with leaden storm-clouds over all the Atlantic coastal region, from Charleston north to the Virginia Capes. A coastal passenger ship off Hatteras sent out a frantic radio distress call. The apparitions of men had suddenly been seen in mid-air directly in the ship's course. The message was incoherent; the vessel's wireless operator was locked in his room at the transmitter, wildly describing an attack upon the ships.
The white apparitions--a group of twenty or thirty men--had been marching in mid-air when the ship sighted them directly over its bow. In the darkness of the night they were only a hundred feet ahead when the lookout saw them. In a moment the vessel was under them, and they began materializing.... The account grew increasingly incoherent. The figures materialized and fell to the deck, picked themselves up and began running about the ship, attacking with little green light-beams. The ship's passengers and crew vanished, obliterated; annihilated. It seemed that young women among the passengers were being spared. The ship was melting--the wooden decks, all the wooden super-structure melting.... A few moments of fantastic horror, then the distress call died into silence as doubtless the green light-beams struck the operator's little cabin.
That vessel was found the next day, grounded on the shoals off Hatteras. The sea was oily and calm. It lay like a gruesome shell, as though some fire had swept all its interior. Yet not fire either, for there were no embers, no ashes. Diseased, leprous, gruesomely weird with parts of its interior intact and other parts obliterated. And no living soul was upon it save one steward crouching in a lower cabin laughing with madness which the shock of what he had seen brought upon him.
On land, a railroad train in Virginia had been wrecked, struck apparently by a greenish ray. And also in Virginia, during the early evening in a village, an outdoor festival at which there were many young girls was attacked by apparitions suddenly coming into solidity. The report said that thirty or more young girls were missing. The little town was in chaos.
And the chaos, that next day, spread everywhere. It was obvious now that the enemy was advancing northward. In Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, panics were beginning. New York City was seething with excitement. People were leaving all the towns and cities of the area. An exodus north and westward. In New York, every steamship, airplane and railroad train was crowded with departing people. The roads to Canada and to the west were thronged with outgoing automobiles.
But it was only a small part of the millions who remained. And the transportation systems were at once thrown into turmoil, with the sudden frantic demands threatening to break them down. And then a new menace came to New York. Incoming food supplies for its millions crowded into that teeming area around Manhattan, were jeopardized. The army of men engaged in all the myriad activities by which the great city sustained itself were as terrified as anyone else. They began deserting their posts. And local communication systems went awry. The telephones, the lights, local transportation--all of them began limping, threatening to break.
Tremendous, intricate human machine by whose constant activity so many millions are enabled to live so close together! No one could realize how vastly interwoven are a million activities which make life in a great city comfortable and safe until something goes wrong! And one wrong thing so swiftly affects another! As though in a vastly intricate mechanism little cogs were breaking, and the breaks spreading until presently the giant fly-wheels could no longer turn.
If the startled Federal and State officials could have foreseen even the events of the next forty-eight hours they would have wanted New York City deserted of the population. But that was impossible. Even if everyone could have been frightened into leaving, the chaos of itself would have brought death to untold thousands.
As it was, May 17th and 18th showed New York in a growing chaos. Officials now were wildly trying to stem the panics, trying to keep organized the great machines of city life.
It is no part of my plan for this narrative to try and detail the events in New York City as the apparitions advanced upon it. The crowded bridges and tunnels; the traffic and transportation accidents; the failure of the lights and telephones and broadcasting systems; the impending food shortage; the breaking out of disease from a score of causes; the crushed bodies lying in the streets where frantic mobs had trampled them and no one was available to take them away. The scenes beggar description.
And in all this the enemy had played no part save that of causing terror. Warships gathered in New York harbor were impotent. State troops massed in New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York, and in Putnam and Westchester Counties, were powerless to do more than try and help the escaping people since there was no enemy of tangible substance to attack. Patrolling airplanes, armed with bombs, were helpless. The white apparitions were gathering everywhere in the neighborhood of New York City. But they remained only apparitions, imponderable wraiths, non-existent save that they could be dimly seen. And even had they materialized, no warships could shell the city, for millions of desperate people were still within it trying to get away.
The news from little Bermuda was submerged, unheeded, in this greater catastrophe. But on the night of May 17th when the American warships arrived off Hamilton, the Paget invaders were gone.
The menace in Bermuda was over; it was the great New York City which was menaced now. The apparitions which had advanced from the south were suddenly joined by a much more numerous army. On the night of May 19th it had reached New York. Two or three thousand glowing white shapes were apparent, with yet other thousands perhaps hovering just beyond visibility. They made no attack. They stood encamped on the borderland of the Unknown realm to which they belonged. Busy with their preparations for battle and watching the stricken city to which already mere terror had brought the horror of disease and death.
It seemed now that this Fourth Dimension terrain co-existing within in the space of New York City, must be a tumbled, mountainous region of crags and spires, and yawning pits, ravines and valley depths. Jagged and precipitous indeed, for there were apparitions encamped in the air above Manhattan and harbor--higher in altitude than the Chrysler or the Empire State towers. Other wraiths showed in a dozen places lower down--some within the city buildings themselves. And yet others were below ground, within the river waters, or grouped seemingly a hundred feet beneath the street levels.
Fantastic army of wraiths! In the daylight they almost faded, but at night they glowed clearly. Busy assembling their weapons of war. Vanishing and reappearing at different points. Climbing or descending the steep cliffs and crags of their terrain to new points of vantage; and every hour with their numbers augmenting. And all so silent! So grimly purposeful, and yet so ghastly silent!
It was near midnight of May 19th when the wraiths began materializing and the attack upon New York City began!
The Invisible World Tako showed us how to operate the transition mechanism. The little banana grove on the Bermuda hilltop began fading. There was a momentary shock; a reeling of my head; a sudden sense of vibration within me. And then a feeling of lightness, weightlessness; and freedom, as though all my earthly life I had been shackled, but now was free.
The thing was at first terrifying, gruesome; but in a moment those feelings passed and the weightless freedom brought an exuberance of spirit.
Don and I were sitting with Jane between us, and the figure of Tako fronting us. I recall that we clung together, terrified. I closed my eyes when the first shock came, but opened them again to find my head steadying. Surprising vista! I had vaguely fancied that Tako, Jane and Don would be sitting here dissolving into apparitions. But my hands on Jane's arm felt it as solid as before. I stared into her face. It was frightened, white and set, but smiling at me.
"You all right, Bob? It's not so difficult, is it?"
She had endured this before. She reached out her hands, one to Don and one to me.
"We're dropping. I don't think it's far down, but be careful. Straighten your legs under you."
We seemed unchanged; Don and Jane were the same in aspect as before, save the color of their garments seemed to have faded to a gray. It was the Bermuda hilltop which to our vision was changing. The grove was melting, turning from green and brown to a shimmering silver. We now looked upon ghostly, shadowy trees; fading outlines of the nearby house; the nearby figures of Tako's men and the group of captive girls--all shadowy apparitions. The voices were fading; a silence was falling upon us with only the hum of the mechanism sounding in my ears.
I felt with a shock of surprise that I was no longer seated on the ground. I seemed, for an instant floating, suspended as though perhaps immersed in water. The sweep of the ground level was a vague shadowy line of gray, but my legs had dropped beneath it. I was drifting down, sinking, with only Jane's hand to steady me.
"Thrust your feet down," she murmured. "A little fall. We want to land on our feet."
The imponderable ground of the banana grove was rising. We dropped, as though we were sinking in water. But we gathered speed; we felt a weight coming to our bodies. At last we fell; my feet struck a solid surface with a solid impact. Don and I lost our balance, but Jane steadied us. We were standing upon a dark rock slope, steeply inclined.
"Off with the current!" came Tako's voice. "The belt switch--throw it back!"
I found the little lever. The current went off. There had been a moment when the spectral shadows of my own world showed in the air above me. But we passed their visible limits and they faded out of sight.
We were in the realm of the Fourth Dimension. Outdoors, in a region of glowing, phosphorescent night....
"This way," said Tako. "It is not far. We will walk. Just a moment, you three. I would not have you escape me."
Our revolvers were gone. Being metal, they could not, of actuality, be carried into the transition. We had no light-beam cylinders, nor did we as yet know how to use them. Tako stood before us; he reached to the operating mechanisms under the dial-face at our belts, making some disconnections which we did not understand.
His smile in the semi-darkness showed with its familiar irony. "You might have the urge to try some escaping transition. It would lose you in the Unknown. That would be death! I do not want that."
I protested, "We are not fools. I told you if you would spare us, return us safely to Bermuda when this is over--"
"That you might be of help to me," he finished. "Well, perhaps you will. I hope so. You will do what you can to help, willingly or otherwise; that I know." His voice was grimly menacing. And he laughed sardonically. "You are no fools, as you say. And Jane--" His glance went to her. "Perhaps, before we are through with this, you may even like me, Jane."
Whatever was in his mind, it seemed to amuse him.
"Perhaps," said Jane.
We three had had only a moment to talk together. There had been no possibility of escape. It was obvious to us that Tako was the leader of these invaders; and, whatever they were planning, our best chance to frustrate it was to appear docile. Safety for us--the possibility of later escaping--all of that seemed to lie in a course of docility. We would pretend friendliness; willingness to help.
Tako was not deceived. We knew that. Don, in those two or three hours we were with Tako before starting upon the transition, had said: "But suppose we do help you in your scheme, whatever it is? There might be some reward for us, eh? If you plan a conquest, riches perhaps--"
Tako had laughed with genuine amusement. "So? You bargain? We are to be real friends--fellow conquerors? And you expect me to believe that?"
Yet now he seemed half to like us. And there was Jane's safety for which we were scheming. Tako had been interested in Jane. We knew that. Yet she was at first little more to him than one of the girl captives. He might have left her with those others. But she was with us now, to stay with us upon this journey, and it was far preferable.
"This way," said Tako. "We will walk. It is not far to my encampment where they are preparing for the trip."
It seemed that a vast open country was around us. A rocky, almost barren waste; a mountainous region of steep gray defiles, gorges and broken tumbled ravines. A void of darkness hung overhead. There were no stars, no moon, no light from above. Yet I seemed presently to see a great distance through the glowing deep twilight. The glow was inherent to the rocks themselves; and to the spare, stunted, gray-blue vegetation. It was a queerly penetrating, diffused, yet vague light everywhere. One could see a considerable distance by it. Dim colors were apparent.
We trod the rocks with a feeling of almost normal body weight. The air was softly warm like a night in the tropics, with a faint breeze against our faces. It seemed a trackless waste here. We mounted an ascending ramp, topped a rise with an undulating plateau ahead of us.
Tako stood a moment for us to get our breath. The air seemed rarefied; we were panting, with our cheeks tingling.
"My abode is there." He gestured to the distant lowland region behind us. We were standing upon a gray hilltop. The ground went down a tumbled broken area to what seemed a lowland plain. Ten miles away--it may have been that, or twice that--I saw the dim outline of a great castle or a fortress. A building of gigantic size, it seemed strangely fashioned with round-shaped domes heaped in a circle around a tower looming in the center. A wall, or a hedge of giant trees, I could not tell, but it seemed as gigantic as the wall of China, and was strung over the landscape in an irregular circle to enclose an area of several square miles, with the castle-fortress in its center. A little city was there, nestled around the fortress--a hundred or two small brown and gray mounds to mark the dwellings. It suggested a little feudal town of the Middle Ages of our own Earth, set here in this trackless waste.
And I saw, down on the plain, a shining ribbon of river with thick vegetation along its banks. And within the enclosing wall there, was the silvery sheen of a lake near the town; patches of trees, and brownish oval areas which seemed to be fields under cultivation.
"My domain," Tako repeated. There was a touch of pride in his voice. "I rule it. You shall see it--when we are finished with New York."
Again his gaze went to Jane, curiously contemplative. We started walking over the upper plateau level, seemingly with nothing in advance of us save empty luminous darkness. A walk of an hour. Perhaps it was that long. Time here had faded with our Earthly world. It was difficult to gauge the passing minutes--as difficult as to guess at the miles of this luminous distance.
As though the sight of his fortress--his tiny principality, whose inhabitants he ruled with absolute sway--had awakened in Tako new emotions, he put Jane beside him and began talking to us with apparent complete frankness. It must have been an hour, during which he explained this world of his, of which we were destined to have so brief a glimpse, and told us upon what diabolical errand he and his fellows were embarked. I recall that as he talked Jane gripped me in horror. But she managed to smile when Tako smiled at her. He was naively earnest as he told us of his coming conquest. And Jane, with woman's intuition knew before Don and I realized it, that it was to herself, a beautiful girl of Earth, he was talking, seeking her admiration for his prowess.
Tako was what in Europe of the Middle Ages would have amounted to a feudal prince. He was one of many here in this realm; each had his little domain, with his retainers cultivating his land, paying fees to him so that the overlord lived in princely idleness.
Scattered at considerable distances, one from the other, these rulers of their little principalities were loosely bound into a general government; but at home each was a law unto himself. They lived in princely fashion, these lords of the castle, as they were called. Among the retainers, monogamy was practiced. The workers had their little families--husband, wife and children. But for the rulers, more than one wife was the rule. Within each castle was a harem of beauties, drawn perforce from the common people. The most beautiful girls of each settlement were trained from childhood to anticipate the honor of being selected by the master for a life in the castle.
They were connoisseurs of woman's beauty, these overlords. By the size of his harem and the beauty and talent of its inmates was an overlord judged by his fellows.
Out of this had grown the principal cause for war in the history of the realm. Beautiful girls were scarce. Raids were made by one lord upon the village and harem of another.
Then had come to Tako the discovery of the great world of our Earth, occupying much of this same space in another state of matter.
"I discovered it," he said with his gaze upon Jane.
"How?" Don demanded.
"It came," he said, "out of our scientific method of transportation, which very soon I will show you. We are a scientific people. Hah!" He laughed ironically. "The workers say that we princes are profligate--that we think only of women and music. But that is not so. Once, many generations ago, we were a tremendous nation, and skilled in science far beyond your own world--and with a population a hundred times what we have now. The land everywhere must have been rich and fertile. There were big cities--the ruins of them are still to be seen.
"And then our climate changed. There was, for us, a world catastrophe, the cause and the details of which no one now knows very clearly. It sent our cities, our great civilizations into ruins. It left us with this barren waste with only occasional lowland fertile spots which now by heredity we rulers control, each to possess his own.
"But that past civilization gave us a scientific knowledge. Much of it is lost--we are going down hill. But we have some of it left, and we profligate rulers, as the workers call us, cherish it. But what is the use of teaching it to the common people? We do very little of that. And our weapons of war we keep to ourselves--except when there is a raid and our loyal retainers go forth with us to do battle."
"So you discovered how to get into our Earth world?" Don repeated.
"Yes. Some years ago, and it was quite by chance. At first I experimented alone--and then I took with me a young girl."
Again he smiled at Jane. "Tolla is her name. She is here in our camp where our army is now, starting for New York. You will meet her presently. She loves me very much, so she says. She wants some day to lead my harem. I took her with me into the Unknown--into that place you call Bermuda. I have been there off and on for nearly a year of your Earth time, making my plans for what now is at last coming to pass."
"So that's how you learned our language?" I said.
"Yes. It came easy to me and Tolla. That--and we were taught by two girls whom a year ago I took from Bermuda and brought in here."
"And what became of them?" Jane put in quietly.
"Oh--why, I gave them away," he replied calmly. "A prince whose favor I desired, wanted them and I gave them to him. Your Earth girls are well liked by the men of my world. Their fame has already spread."
He added contemplatively, "I often have thought how strange it is that your great world and mine should lie right here together--the one invisible to the other. Two or three minutes of time--we have just made the transition. Yet what a void!"
"The scientists of your past civilization," I said, "strange that they did not learn to cross it."
"Do you know that they did not?" he demanded. "Perhaps with secret visitations--"
It brought to us a new flood of ideas. We had thought, up there in St. Georges, that this Tako was a ghost. How could one say but that all or most manifestations of the occult were not something like this. The history of our Earth abounds with superstition. Ghosts--things unexplained. How can one tell but that all occultism is merely unknown science? Doubtless it is. I can fancy now that in the centuries of the past many scientists of this realm of the Fourth Dimension ventured forth a little way toward our world. And seeing them, we called them ghosts.
What an intrepid explorer was this Tako! An enterprising scoundrel, fired with a lust for power. He told us now, chuckling with the triumph of it, how carefully he had studied our world. Appearing there, timidly at first, then with his growing knowledge of English, boldly living in Hamilton.
His fame in his own world, among his fellow rulers, rapidly grew. The few Earth girls he produced were eagerly seized. The fame of their beauty spread. The desire, the competition for them became keen. And Tako gradually conceived his great plan. A hundred or more of the overlords, each with his hundred retainers, were banded together for the enterprise under Tako's leadership. An army was organized; weapons and equipment were assembled.
Earth girls were to be captured in large numbers. The most desirable of them would go into the harems of the princes. The others would be given to the workers. The desire for them was growing rapidly, incited by the talk of the overlords. The common man could have more than one wife--two, even three perhaps--supported by the princely master. And Tako was dreaming of a new Empire; increased population; some of the desert reclaimed; a hundred principalities banded together into a new nation, with himself as its supreme leader.
And then the attack upon Earth had begun. A few Earth girls were stolen; then more, until very quickly it was obvious that a wider area than Bermuda was needed. Tako's mind flung to New York--greatest center of population within striking distance of him. The foray into Bermuda--the materialization of that little band on the Paget hilltop was more in the nature of an experiment than a real attack. Tako learned a great deal of the nature of this coming warfare, or thought he did.
 The extent of the Fourth Dimensional world was never made wholly clear to us. Its rugged surface was coincident with the surface of our earth at Bermuda, at New York City, and at many points along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States. For the rest, there is no data upon which one may even guess.
As a matter of actuality, in spite of his dominating force, the capacity for leadership which radiated from him, there was a very naive, fatuous quality to this strange ruler. Or at least, Don and I thought so now. As the details of his plot against our Earth world unfolded to us, what we could do to circumvent him ran like an undercurrent across the background of our consciousness. He knew nothing, or almost nothing of our Earth weapons. What conditions would govern this unprecedented warfare into which he was plunging--of all that he was totally ignorant.