BY JOHN URI LLOYD
|ETIDORHPAby John Uri Lloyd|
***LINK ABOVE MAY BE TALKING ABOUT THE PERSON IN THIS STORY***
ContentsStart ReadingPage IndexText (Zipped)
Take a Victorian scifi premise, say, a trip to the center of the earth, and by the way, it’s hollow. Add a tale of a soul condemned by the Illuminati to a perilous underground quest to find the Goddess of Love (spoiler alert: spell Aphrodite backwards). Top it off with a wild magic mushroom trip. That’s Etidorhpa!
This may be the very source of the ‘adepts living in hollow earth who abduct humans’ meme, later developed by Ray Palmer, and many others. The book is larded with long passages of speculative science. The structure of the hollow earth and the effects of gravitation at various places is much better worked out than some of the ‘nonfiction’ hollow earth books (e.g. Reed or Gardner).
The journey of ‘I-am-the-man’ is a not-so-subtle allegory of spiritual progression to being a disembodied adept. Along the way he loses his youth, loses sunlight, becomes weightless, stops breathing, can hear without ears, then his heart stops, … and still he lives. Each of this steps is symbolic of a progression to a more ethereal plane of existence.
At times, the narrative recursion is three levels deep. This is an acquired taste. L. Sprague de Camp called Etidorpha ‘unreadable.’ Modern readers accustomed to consuming multiple narrative streams at the same time (i.e. channel hopping), with long recursive breaks (i.e. commercials) might do better.
Except for the titular Etidorhpa, there are no female characters. And she only appears briefly in a hallucination. Why such a small part in the book? Other genre novels, such as Atlantida and The Lost Continent, are driven by strong female characters. And once the main character is inside the hollow earth, it just halts. He doesn’t even get to meet Etidorhpa again. Whether the author ran out of steam, or the ending was only supposed to be implied, is unknown.
–J.B. Hare, Dec. 2, 2007.
Preface to This Edition
A Valuable and Unique Library
Chapter I. “Never Less Alone Than When Alone.”
Chapter II. A Friendly Conference
Chapter III. A Second Interview With the Mysterious Visitor
Chapter IV. A Search For Knowledge.—The Alchemistic Letter
Chapter V. The Writing of My Confession
Chapter VI. Kidnapped
Chapter VIII. A Wild Night.—I Am Prematurely Aged
Chapter VIII. A Lesson In Mind Study
Chapter IX. I Can Not Establish My Identity
Chapter X. My Journey Towards the End of Earth Begins.—The Adepts’ Brotherhood
Chapter XI. My Journey Continues.—Instinct
Chapter XII. A Cavern Discovered.—Biswell’s Hill
Chapter XIII. The Punch-Bowls and Caverns of Kentucky.—“Into the Unknown Country.”
Chapter XIV. Farewell To God’s Sunshine.—The Echo of the Cry
Chapter XV. A Zone of Light Deep Within the Earth
Chapter XVI. Vitalized Darkness.—The Narrows In Science
Chapter XVII. The Fungus Forest.—Enchantment
Chapter XVIII. The Food of Man
Chapter XIX. The Cry From a Distance.—I Rebel Against Continuing the Journey
Chapter XX. My Unbidden Guest Proves His Statement and Refutes My Philosophy
Chapter XXI. My Weight Disappearing
Chapter XXII. My Unbidden Guest Departs
Chapter XXIII. I Question Scientific Men.—Aristotle’s Ether
Chapter XXIV. The Soliloquy of Prof. Daniel Vaughn on Gravitation
Chapter XXV. The Mother of a Volcano.—“You Can Not Disprove, and You Dare Not Admit.”
Chapter XXVI. Motion From Inherent Energy.—“Lead Me Deeper Into This Expanding Study.”
Chapter XXVII. Sleep, Dreams, Nightmare.—“Strangle the Life From My Body.”
Chapter XXVIII. A Challenge.—My Unbidden Guest Accepts It
Chapter XXIX. Beware of Biology, the Science of the Life of Man
Chapter XXX. Looking Backward.—The Living Brain
Chapter XXXI. A Lesson On Volcanoes.—Primary Colors Are Capable of Farther Subdivision
Chapter XXXII. Matter Is Retarded Motion
Chapter XXXIII. “A Study of Science Is a Study of God.”—Communing With Angels
Chapter XXXIV. I Cease to Breathe, and Yet Live
Chapter XXXV. “A Certain Point Within A Sphere.”—Men Are As Parasites On the Roof of Earth.
Chapter XXXVI. Drunkenness.—The Drinks of Man
Chapter XXXVII. The Drunkard’s Voice
Chapter XXXVIII. The Drunkards’ Den
Chapter XXXIX. Among the Drunkards
Chapter XL. Further Temptation.—Etidorhpa
Chapter XLI. Misery
Chapter XLII. Eternity Without Time
Chapter XLIII. The Last Contest
Chapter XLIV. The Fathomless Abyss.—The Edge of the Earth Shell
Chapter XLV. My Heart Throb Is Stilled, and Yet I Live
Chapter XLVI. The Inner Circle, or the End of Gravitation.—In the Bottomless Gulf
Chapter XLVII. Hearing Without Ears.—“What Will Be The End?”
Chapter XLVIII. Why and How.—“The Struggling Ray of Light From Those Farthermost Outreaches.”
Chapter XLIX. Oscillating Through Space.—Earth’s Shell Above Me
Chapter L. My Weight Annihilated.—“Tell Me,” I Cried In Alarm, “Is This To Be a Living Tomb?”
Chapter LI. Is That a Mortal?—“The End of Earth.”
Chapter LII. The Last Farewell
Epilogue. Letter Accompanying the Mysterious Manuscript
The Life of Prof. Daniel Vaughn
To the Recipients of the Author’s Edition of Etidorhpa
Reviews of Etidorhpa
FROM PAGE 75
“The usual conception of the term Time—an indescribable something flowing at a constant rate—is erroneous,” replied my comrade. “Time is humanity’s best friend, and should be pictured as a ministering angel, instead of a skeleton with hour-glass and scythe. Time does not fly, but is permanent and quiescent, while restless, force-impelled matter rushes onward. Force and matter fly; Time reposes. At our birth we are wound up like a machine, to move for a certain number of years, grating against Time. We grind against that complacent spirit, and wear not Time but ourselves away. We hold within ourselves a certain amount of energy, which, an evanescent form of matter, is the opponent of Time. Time has no existence with inanimate objects. It is a conception of the human intellect. Time is rest, perfect rest, tranquillity such as man never realizes unless he becomes a part of the sweet silences toward which human life and human mind are drifting. So much for Time. Now for Life. Disturbed energy in one of its forms, we call Life; and this Life is the great enemy of peace, the opponent of steadfast perfection. Pure energy, the soul of the universe, permeates all things with which man is now acquainted, but when at rest is imperceptible to man, while disturbed energy, according to its condition, is apparent either as matter or as force. A substance or material body is a manifestation resulting from a disturbance of energy. The agitating cause removed, the manifestations disappear, and thus a universe may be extinguished, without unbalancing the cosmos that remains. The worlds known to man are conditions of abnormal energy moving on separate planes through what men call space. They attract to themselves bodies of similar description, and thus influence one another—they have each a separate existence, and are swayed to and fro under the influence
of the various disturbances in energy common to their rank or order, which we call forms of forces. Unsettled energy also assumes numerous other expressions that are unknown to man, but which in all perceptible forms is characterized by motion. Pure energy can not be appreciated by the minds of mortals. There are invisible worlds besides those perceived by us in our planetary system, unreachable centers of ethereal structure about us that stand in a higher plane of development than earthly matter which is a gross form of disturbed energy. There are also lower planes. Man’s acquaintance with the forms of energy is the result of his power of perceiving the forms of matter of which he is a part. Heat, light, gravitation, electricity and magnetism are ever present in all perceivable substances, and, although purer than earth, they are still manifestations of absolute energy, and for this reason are sensible to men, but more evanescent than material bodies. Perhaps you can conceive that if these disturbances could be removed, matter or force would be resolved back into pure energy, and would vanish. Such a dissociation is an ethereal existence, and as pure energy the life spirit of all material things is neither cold nor hot, heavy nor light, solid, liquid nor gaseous—men can not, as mortals now exist, see, feel, smell, taste, or even conceive of it. It moves through space as we do through it, a world of itself as transparent to matter as matter is to it, insensible but ever present, a reality to higher existences that rest in other planes, but not to us an essence subject to scientific test, nor an entity. Of these problems and their connection with others in the unseen depths beyond, you are not yet in a position properly to judge, but before many years a new sense will be given you or a development of latent senses by the removal of those more gross, and a partial insight into an unsuspected unseen, into a realm to you at present unknown.
“It has been ordained that a select few must from time to time pass over the threshold that divides a mortal’s present life from the future, and your lot has been cast among the favored ones. It is or should be deemed a privilege to be permitted to pass farther than human philosophy has yet gone, into an investigation of the problems of life; this I say to encourage you. We have in our order a handful of persons who have received the
accumulated fruits of the close attention others have given to these subjects which have been handed to them by the generations of men who have preceded. You are destined to become as they are. This study of semi-occult forces has enabled those selected for the work to master some of the concealed truths of being, and by the partial development of a new sense or new senses, partly to triumph over death. These facts are hidden from ordinary man, and from the earth-bound workers of our brotherhood, who can not even interpret the words they learn. The methods by which they are elucidated have been locked from plan because the world is not prepared to receive them, selfishness being the ruling passion of debased mankind, and publicity, until the chain of evidence is more complete, would embarrass their further evolutions, for man as yet lives on the selfish plane.”
“Do you mean that, among men, there are a few persons possessed of powers such as you have mentioned?”
“Yes; they move here and there through all orders of society, and their attainments are unknown, except to one another, or, at most, to but few persons. These adepts are scientific men, and may not even be recognized as members of our organization; indeed it is often necessary, for obvious reasons, that they should not be known as such. These studies must constantly be prosecuted in various directions, and some monitors must teach others to perform certain duties that are necessary to the grand evolution. Hence, when a man has become one of our brotherhood, from the promptings that made you one of us, and has been as ready and determined to instruct outsiders in our work as you have been, it is proper that he should in turn be compelled to serve our people, and eventually, mankind.”
“Am I to infer from this,” I exclaimed, a sudden light breaking upon me, “that the alchemistic manuscript that led me to the fraternity to which you are related may have been artfully designed to serve the interest of that organization?” To this question I received no reply. After an interval, I again sought information concerning the order, and with more success.
“I understand that you propose that I shall go on a journey of investigation for the good of our order and also of humanity.”
“True; it is necessary that our discoveries be kept alive, and it is essential that the men who do this work accept the trust of
their own accord. He who will not consent to add to the common stock of knowledge and understanding, must be deemed a drone in the hive of nature—but few persons, however, are called upon to serve as you must serve. Men are scattered over the world with this object in view, and are unknown to their families or even to other members of the order; they hold in solemn trust our sacred revelations, and impart them to others as is ordained, and thus nothing perishes; eventually humanity will profit.
“Others, as you soon will be doing, are now exploring assigned sections of this illimitable field, accumulating further knowledge, and they will report results to those whose duty it is to retain and formulate the collected sum of facts and principles. So it. is that, unknown to the great body of our brotherhood, a chosen number, under our esoteric teachings, are gradually passing the dividing line that separates life from death, matter from spirit, for we have members who have mastered these problems. We ask, however, no aid of evil forces or of necromancy or black art, and your study of alchemy was of no avail, although to save the vital truths alchemy is a part of our work. We proceed in exact accordance with natural laws, which will yet be known to all men. Sorrow, suffering, pain of all descriptions, are enemies to the members of our order, as they are to mankind broadly, and we hope in the future so to control the now hidden secrets of Nature as to be able to govern the antagonistic disturbances in energy with which man now is everywhere thwarted, to subdue the physical enemies of the race, to affiliate religious and scientific thought, cultivating brotherly love, the foundation and capstone, the cement and union of this ancient fraternity.”
“And am I really to take an important part in this scheme? Have I been set apart to explore a section of the unknown for a bit of hidden knowledge, and to return again?”
“This I will say,” he answered, evading a direct reply, “you have been selected for a part that one in a thousand has been required to undertake. You are to pass into a field that will carry you beyond the present limits of human observation. This much I have been instructed to impart to you in order to nerve you for your duty. I seem to be a young man; really I am aged. You seem to be infirm and old, but you are young.
[paragraph continues]Many years ago, cycles ago as men record time, I was promoted to do a certain work because of my zealous nature; like you, I also had to do penance for an error. I disappeared, as you are destined to do, from the sight of men. I regained my youth; yours has been lost forever, but you will regain more than your former strength. We shall both exist after this generation of men has passed away, and shall mingle with generations yet to be born, for we shall learn how to restore our youthful vigor, and will supply it time and again to earthly matter. Rest assured also that the object of our labors is of the most laudable nature, and we must be upheld under all difficulties by the fact that multitudes of men who are yet to come will be benefited thereby.”
Next: Chapter XI. My Journey Continues.—Instinct
The ultimate object of our travels, a location in Kentucky
When the boat landed at Smithland, Kentucky, a village on the bank of the Ohio, just above Paducah,
SECTION OF KENTUCKY, NEAR SMITHLAND, IN WHICH THE ENTRANCE TO THE KENTUCKY CAVERN IS SAID TO BE LOCATED.
|1. Paducah.||15. Salem.||29. Hurricane Creek.|
|2. Smithland.||16. Hampton.||30. Ford’s Ferry.|
|3. Old Smithland.||17. Faulkner.||31. Weston.|
|4. Patterson.||18. Mullikin. 32.||32. Caseyville.|
|5. Frenchtown.||19. Back Creek.||33. Tradewater River.|
|6. Hickory Creek.||20. Carrsville.||34. Dycusburgh.|
|7. Underwood.||21. Given’s Creek.||35. Livingstone Creek.|
|8. Birdsville.||22. Golconda.||36. Francis.|
|9. Bayou Mills.||23. Elizabethtown.||37. Harrold. (View.)|
|10. Oak Ridge.||24. Metropolis City.||38. Crider.|
|11. Moxley’s Landing.||25. Hamletsburgh||39. Levias.|
|12. Kildare.||26. Sheridan.||40 Crayneville.|
|13. Lola.||27. Deer Creek||41. Marion.|
|14. Pinckneyville.||28. Hurricane.|
in both directions, its extremes dissolving in a bed of forest. A great black bluff, far up the stream, rose like a mountain, upon the left side of the river; bottom lands were about us, and hills appeared across the river in the far distance—towards the Tennessee River. With regret I finally drew my eyes from the vision, and we resumed the journey. We followed the left bank of the river to the base of the black bluff,—”Biswell’s Hill,” a squatter called it,—and then skirted the side of that hill, passing along precipitous stone bluffs and among stunted cedars. Above us towered cliff over cliff, almost perpendicularly; below us rolled the river.
I was deeply impressed by the changing beauties of this strange Kentucky scenery, but marveled at the fact that while I became light-hearted and enthusiastic, my guide grew correspondingly despondent and gloomy. From time to time he lapsed into thoughtful silence, and once I caught his eye directed toward me in a manner that I inferred to imply either pity or envy. We passed Biswell’s Bluff, and left the Cumberland River at its upper extremity, where another small creek empties into the river. Thence, after ascending the creek some distance, we struck across the country, finding it undulating and fertile, with here and there a small clearing. During this journey we either camped out at night, or stopped with a resident, when one was to be found in that sparsely settled country. Sometimes there were exasperating intervals between our meals; but we did not suffer, for we carried with us supplies of food, such as cheese and crackers, purchased in Smithland, for emergencies. We thus proceeded a considerable distance into Livingston County, Kentucky.
I observed remarkable sinks in the earth, sometimes cone-shaped, again precipitous. These cavities were occasionally of considerable size and depth, and they were more numerous in the uplands than in the bottoms. They were somewhat like the familiar “sink-holes” of New York State, but monstrous in comparison. The first that attracted my attention was near the Cumberland River, just before we reached Biswell’s Hill. It was about forty feet deep and thirty in diameter, with precipitous stone sides, shrubbery growing therein in exceptional spots where loose earth had collected on shelves of stone that cropped out
“I wish that I could go into the cavity as that stone has done, and find the secrets of this cave,” I reflected, the natural love of exploration possessing me as it probably does most men.
along its rugged sides. The bottom of the depression was flat and fertile, covered with a luxuriant mass of vegetation. On one side of the base of the gigantic bowl, a cavern struck down into the earth. I stood upon the edge of this funnel-like sink, and marveled at its peculiar appearance. A spirit of curiosity, such as often influences men when an unusual natural scene presents itself, possessed me. I clambered down, swinging from brush to brush, and stepping from shelving-rock to shelving-rock, until I reached the bottom of the hollow, and placing my hand above the black hole in its center, I perceived that a current of cold air was rushing therefrom, upward. I probed with a long stick, but the direction of the opening was tortuous, and would not admit of examination in that manner. I dropped a large pebble-stone into the orifice; the pebble rolled and clanked down, down, and at last, the sound died away in the distance.
My companion above, seated on the brink of the stone wall, replied to my thoughts: “Your wish shall be granted. You have requested that which has already been laid out for you. You will explore where few men have passed before, and will have the privilege of following your destiny into a realm of natural wonders. A fertile field of investigation awaits you, such as will surpass your most vivid imaginings. Come and seat yourself beside me, for it is my duty now to tell you something about the land we are approaching, the cavern fields of Kentucky.”
Next: Chapter XIII. The Punch-Bowls and Caverns of Kentucky.—“Into the Unknown Country.”
THE PUNCH-BOWLS AND CAVERNS OF KENTUCKY.—”INTO THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY.”
“This part of Kentucky borders a field of caverns that reaches from near the State of Tennessee to the Ohio River, and from the mouth of the Cumberland, eastward to and beyond the center of the State. This great area is of irregular outline, and as yet has been little explored. Underneath the surface are layers of limestone and sandstone rock, the deposits ranging from ten to one hundred and fifty feet in thickness, and often great masses of conglomerate appear. This conglomerate sometimes caps the ridges, and varies in thickness from a few feet only, to sixty, or even a hundred, feet. It is of a diversified character, sometimes largely composed of pebbles cemented together by iron ore into compact beds, while again it passes abruptly into gritty sandstone, or a fine-grained compact rock destitute of pebbles. Sometimes the conglomerate rests directly on the limestone, but in the section about us, more often argillaceous shales or veins of coal intervene, and occasionally inferior and superior layers of conglomerate are separated by a bed of coal. In addition, lead-bearing veins now and then crop up, the crystals of galena being disseminated through masses of fluorspar, calc-spar, limestone and clay, which fill fissures between tilted walls of limestone and hard quartzose sandstone. Valleys, hills, and mountains, grow out of this remarkable crust. Rivers and creeks flow through and under it in crevices, either directly upon the bedstone or over deposits of clay which underlie it. In some places, beds of coal or slate alternate with layers of the lime rock; in others, the interspace is clay and sand. Sometimes the depth of the several limestone and conglomerate deposits is great, and they are often honeycombed by innumerable transverse and diagonal spaces. Water drips have here and there washed out the more friable earth and stone, forming grottoes which are
as yet unknown to men, but which will be discovered to be wonderful and fantastic beyond anything of a like nature now familiar. In other places cavities exist between shelves of rock that lie one above the other—monstrous openings caused by the erosive action of rivers now lost, but that have flowed during unnumbered ages past; great parallel valleys and gigantic chambers, one over the other, remaining to tell the story of these former torrents. Occasionally the weight of a portion of the disintegrating rock above becomes too great for its tensile strength and the material crumbles and falls, producing caverns sometimes reaching so near to the earth’s surface, as to cause sinks in its crust. These sinks, when first formed, as a rule, present clear rock fractures, and immediately after their formation there is usually a water-way beneath. In the course of time soil collects on their sides, they become cone-shaped hollows from the down-slidings of earth, and then vegetation appears on the living soil; trees grow within them, and in many places the sloping sides of great earth bowls of this nature are, after untold years, covered with the virgin forest; magnificent timber trees growing on soil that has been stratified over and upon decayed monarchs of the forest whose remains, imbedded in the earth, speak of the ages that have passed since the convulsions that made the depressions which, notwithstanding the accumulated debris, are still a hundred feet or more in depth. If the drain or exit at the vortex of one of these sinks becomes clogged, which often occurs, the entire cavity fills with water, and a pond results. Again, a slight orifice reaching far beneath the earth’s surface may permit the soil to be gradually washed into a subterranean creek, and thus are formed great bowls, like funnels sunk in the earth—Kentucky punch-bowls.
“Take the country about us, especially towards the Mammoth Cave, and for miles beyond, the landscape in certain localities is pitted with this description of sinks, some recent, others very old. Many are small, but deep; others are large and shallow. Ponds often of great depth, curiously enough overflowing and giving rise to a creek, are to be found on a ridge, telling of underground supply springs, not outlets, beneath. Chains of such sinks, like a row of huge funnels, often appear; the soil between them is slowly washed through their exit into the river,
flowing in the depths below, and as the earth that separates them is carried away by the subterranean streams, the bowls coalesce, and a ravine, closed at both ends, results. Along the bottom of such a ravine, a creek may flow, rushing from its natural tunnel at one end of the line, and disappearing in a gulf at the other. The stream begins in mystery, and ends in unfathomed darkness. Near Marion, Hurricane Creek thus disappears, and, so far as men know, is lost to sight forever. Near Cridersville, in this neighborhood, a valley such as I have described, takes in the surface floods of a large tract of country. The waters that run down its sides, during a storm form a torrent, and fence-rails, timbers, and other objects are gulped into the chasm where the creek plunges into the earth, and they never appear again. This part of Kentucky is the most remarkable portion of the known world, and although now neglected, in a time to come is surely destined to an extended distinction. I have referred only to the surface, the skin formation of this honeycombed labyrinth, the entrance to the future wonderland of the world. Portions of such a superficial cavern maze have been traversed by man in the ramifications known as the Mammoth Cave, but deeper than man has yet explored, the subcutaneous structure of that series of caverns is yet to be investigated. The Mammoth Cave as now traversed is simply a superficial series of grottoes and passages overlying the deeper cavern field that I have described. The explored chain of passages is of great interest to men, it is true, but of minor importance compared to others yet unknown, being in fact, the result of mere surface erosion. The river that bisects the cave, just beneath the surface of the earth, and known as Echo River, is a miniature stream: there are others more magnificent that flow majestically far, far beneath it. As we descend into the earth in that locality, caverns multiply in number and increase in size, retaining the general configuration of those I have described. The layers of rock are thicker, the intervening spaces broader; and the spaces stretch in increasingly expanded chambers for miles, while high above each series of caverns the solid ceilings of stone arch and interarch. Sheltered under these subterrene alcoves are streams, lakes, rivers and water-falls. Near the surface of the earth, such waters often teem with aquatic life, and some of the caves are inhabited by species of birds, reptiles
and mammals as yet unknown to men, creatures possessed of senses and organs that are different from any we find with surface animals, and also apparently defective in particulars that would startle persons acquainted only with creatures that live in the sunshine. It is a world beneath a world, a world within a world—” My guide abruptly stopped.
I sat entranced, marveling at the young-old adept’s knowledge, admiring his accomplishments. I gazed into the cavity that yawned beneath me, and imagined its possible but to me invisible secrets, enraptured with the thought of searching into them. Who would not feel elated at the prospect of an exploration, such as I foresaw might be pursued in my immediate future? I had often been charmed with narrative descriptions of discoveries, and book accounts of scientific investigations, but I had never pictured myself as a participant in such fascinating enterprises.
“Indeed, indeed,” I cried exultingly; “lead me to this Wonderland, show me the entrance to this Subterranean World, and I promise willingly to do as you bid.”
“Bravo!” he replied, “your heart is right, your courage sufficient; I have not disclosed a thousandth part of the wonders which I have knowledge of, and which await your research, and probably I have not gained even an insight into the mysteries that, if your courage permits, you will be privileged to comprehend. Your destiny lies beyond, far beyond that which I have pictured or experienced; and I, notwithstanding my opportunities, have no conception of its end, for at the critical moment my heart faltered—I can therefore only describe the beginning.”
Thus at the lower extremity of Biswell’s Hill, I was made aware of the fact that, within a short time, I should be separated from my sympathetic guide, and that it was to be my duty to explore alone, or in other company, some portion of these Kentucky cavern deeps, and I longed for the beginning of my underground journey. Heavens! how different would have been my future life could I then have realized my position! Would that I could have seen the end. After a few days of uneventful travel, we rested, one afternoon, in a hilly country that before us appeared to be more rugged, even mountainous. We had wandered leisurely, and were now at a considerable distance from
the Cumberland River, the aim of my guide being, as I surmised, to evade a direct approach to some object of interest which I must not locate exactly, and yet which I shall try to describe accurately enough for identification by a person familiar with the topography of that section. We stood on the side of a stony, sloping hill, back of which spread a wooded, undulating valley.
“I remember to have passed along a creek in that valley,” I remarked, looking back over our pathway. “It appeared to rise from this direction, but the source ends abruptly in this chain of hills.”
“The stream is beneath us,” he answered. Advancing a few paces, he brought to my attention, on the hillside, an opening in the earth. This aperture was irregular in form, about the diameter of a well, and descended perpendicularly into the stony crust. I leaned far over the orifice, and heard the gurgle of rushing water beneath. The guide dropped a heavy stone into the gloomy shaft, and in some seconds a dull splash announced its plunge into underground water. Then he leaned over the stony edge, and—could I be mistaken?—seemed to signal to some one beneath; but it must be imagination on my part, I argued to myself, even against my very sense of sight. Rising, and taking me by the hand, my guardian spoke:
“Brother, we approach the spot where you and I must separate. I serve my masters and am destined to go where I shall next be commanded; you will descend into the earth, as you have recently desired to do. Here we part, most likely forever. This rocky fissure will admit the last ray of sunlight .on your path.”
My heart failed. How often are we courageous in daylight and timid by night? Men unflinchingly face in sunshine dangers at which they shudder in the darkness.
“How am I to descend into that abyss?” I gasped. “The sides are perpendicular, the depth is unknown!” Then I cried in alarm, the sense of distrust deepening: “Do you mean to drown me; is it for this you have led me away from my native State, from friends, home and kindred? You have enticed me into this wilderness. I have been decoyed, and, like a foolish child, have willingly accompanied my destroyer. You feared to murder me in my distant home; the earth could not have hidden me;
[paragraph continues]Niagara even might have given up my body to dismay the murderers! In this underground river in the wilds of Kentucky, all trace of my existence will disappear forever.”
I was growing furious. My frenzied eyes searched the ground for some missile of defense. By strange chance some one had left, on that solitary spot, a rude weapon, providentially dropped for my use, I thought. It was a small iron bolt or bar, somewhat rusted. I threw myself upon the earth, and, as I did so, picked this up quickly, and secreted it within my bosom. Then I arose and resumed my stormy denunciation:
“You have played your part well, you have led your unresisting victim to the sacrifice, but if I am compelled to plunge into this black grave, you shall go with me!” I shrieked in desperation, and suddenly threw my arms around the gentle adept, intending to hurl him into the chasm. At this point I felt my hands seized from behind in a cold, clammy, irresistible embrace, my fingers were loosed by a strong grasp, and I turned, to find myself confronted by a singular looking being, who quietly said:
“You are not to be destroyed; we wish only to do your bidding.”
The speaker stood in a stooping position, with his face towards the earth as if to shelter it from the sunshine. He was less than five feet in height. His arms and legs were bare, and his skin, the color of light blue putty, glistened in the sunlight like the slimy hide of a water dog. He raised his head, and I shuddered in affright as I beheld that his face was not that of a human. His forehead extended in an unbroken plane from crown to cheek bone, and the chubby tip of an abortive nose without nostrils formed a short projection near the center of the level ridge which represented a countenance. There was no semblance of an eye, for there were no sockets. Yet his voice was singularly perfect. His face, if face it could be called, was wet, and water dripped from all parts of his slippery person. Yet, repulsive as he looked, I shuddered more at the remembrance of the touch of that cold, clammy hand than at the sight of his figure, for a dead man could not have chilled me as he had done, with his sappy skin, from which the moisture seemed to ooze as from the hide of a water lizard.
Click to enlarge
“CONFRONTED BY A SINGULAR LOOKING BEING.”
Turning to my guide, this freak of nature said, softly:
“I have come in obedience to the signal.”
I realized at once that alone with these two I was powerless, and that to resist would be suicidal. Instantly my effervescing passion subsided, and I expressed no further surprise at this sudden and remarkable apparition, but mentally acquiesced. I was alone and helpless; rage gave place to inertia in the despondency that followed the realization of my hopeless condition. The grotesque newcomer who, though sightless, possessed a strange instinct, led us to the base of the hill a few hundred feet away, and there, gushing into the light from the rocky bluff, I saw a magnificent stream issuing many feet in width. This was the head-waters of the mysterious brook that I had previously noticed. It flowed from an archway in the solid stone, springing directly out of the rock-bound cliff; beautiful and picturesque in its surroundings. The limpid water, clear and sparkling, issued from the unknown source that was typical of darkness, but the brook of crystal leaped into a world of sunshine, light and freedom.
“Brother,” said my companion, “this spring emerging from this prison of earth images to us what humanity will be when the prisoning walls of ignorance that now enthrall him are removed. Man has heretofore relied chiefly for his advancement, both mental and physical, on knowledge gained from so-called scientific explorations and researches with matter, from material studies rather than spiritual, all his investigations having been confined to the crude, coarse substance of the surface of the globe. Spiritualistic investigations, unfortunately, are considered by scientific men too often as reaching backward only. The religions of the world clasp hands with, and lean upon, the dead past, it is true, but point to a living future. Man must yet search by the agency of senses and spirit, the unfathomed mysteries that lie beneath his feet and over his head, and he who refuses to bow to the Creator and honor his handiwork discredits himself. When this work is accomplished, as it yet will be, the future man, able then to comprehend the problem of life in its broader significance, drawing from all directions the facts necessary to his mental advancement, will have reached a state in which he can enjoy bodily comfort and supreme spiritual perfection,
while he is yet an earth-bound mortal. In hastening this consummation, it is necessary that an occasional human life should be lost to the world, but such sacrifices are noble—yes, sublime, because contributing to the future exaltation of our race. The secret workers in the sacred order of which you are still a member, have ever taken an important part in furthering such a system of evolution. This feature of our work is unknown to brethren of the ordinary fraternity, and the individual research of each secret messenger is unguessed, by the craft at large. Hence it is that the open workers of our order, those initiated by degrees only, who in lodge rooms carry on their beneficent labors among men, have had no hand other than as agents in your removal, and no knowledge of your present or future movements. Their function is to keep together our organization on earth, and from them only an occasional member is selected, as you have been, to perform special duties in certain adventurous studies. Are you willing to go on this journey of exploration? and are you brave enough to meet the trials you have invited?”
Again my enthusiasm arose, and I felt the thrill experienced by an investigator who stands on the brink of an important discovery, and needs but courage to advance, and I answered,
“Then, farewell; this archway is the entrance that will admit you into your arcanum of usefulness. This mystic Brother, though a stranger to you, has long been apprised of our coming, and it was he who sped me on my journey to seek you, and who has since been waiting for us, and is to be your guide during the first stages of your subterrene progress. He is a Friend, and, if you trust him, will protect you from harm. You will find the necessaries of life supplied, for I have traversed part of your coming road; that part I therefore know, but, as I have said, you are to go deeper into the unexplored,—yes, into and beyond the Beyond, until finally you will come to the gateway that leads into the ‘Unknown Country.'”
Next: Chapter XIV. Farewell To God’s Sunshine.—The Echo of the Cry
Next: Chapter XV. A Zone of Light Deep Within the Earth
Next: Chapter XVI. Vitalized Darkness.—The Narrows In Science
Next: Chapter XVII. The Fungus Forest.—Enchantment
Next: Chapter XVIII. The Food of Man
Next: Chapter XIX. The Cry From a Distance.—I Rebel Against Continuing the Journey
Next: Chapter XX. My Unbidden Guest Proves His Statement and Refutes My Philosophy
Next: Chapter XXI. My Weight Disappearing
Next: Chapter XXII. My Unbidden Guest Departs
Next: Chapter XXIII. I Question Scientific Men.—Aristotle’s Ether
Next: Chapter XXIV. The Soliloquy of Prof. Daniel Vaughn on Gravitation
“SOLILOQUY OF PROF. DANIEL VAUGHN.
GRAVITATION IS THE BEGINNING, AND GRAVITATION IS THE END; ALL EARTHLY BODIES KNEEL TO GRAVITATION.”
**This chapter holds much more than surface**