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The Dying World

From: After London

"And now tell us of yourself," said 25X-987, "and about your world."

Professor Jameson, noted in college as a lecturer of no mean ability and
perfectly capable of relating intelligently to them the story of the
earth's history, evolution and march of events following the birth of
civilization up until the time when he died, began his story. The mental
speech hampered him for a time, but he soon became accustomed to it so
as to use it easily, and he found it preferable to vocal speech after a
while. The Zoromes listened interestedly to the long account until
Professor Jameson had finished.

"My nephew," concluded the professor, "evidently obeyed my instructions
and placed my body in the rocket I had built, shooting it out into space
where I became the satellite of the earth for these many millions of

"Do you really want to know how long you were dead before we found you?"
asked 25X-987. "It would be interesting to find out."

"Yes, I should like very much to know," replied the professor.

"Our greatest mathematician, 459C-79, will tell it to you." The
mathematician stepped forward. Upon one side of his cube were many
buttons arranged in long columns and squares.

"What is your unit of measuring?" he asked.

"A mile."

"How many times more is a mile than is the length of your rocket

"My rocket is fifteen feet long. A mile is five thousand two hundred and
eighty feet."

The mathematician depressed a few buttons.

"How far, or how many miles from the sun was your planet at that time?"

"Ninety-three million miles," was the reply.

"And your world's satellite--which you call moon from your

"Two hundred and forty thousand miles."

"And your rocket?"

"I figured it to go about sixty-five thousand miles from the earth."

"It was only twenty thousand miles from the earth when we picked it up,"
said the mathematician, depressing a few more buttons. "The moon and
sun are also much nearer your planet now."

* * * * *

Professor Jameson gave way to a mental ejaculation of amazement.

"Do you know how long you have cruised around the planet in your own
satellite?" said the mathematician. "Since you began that journey, the
planet which you call the earth has revolved around the sun over forty
million times."

"Forty--million--years!" exclaimed Professor Jameson haltingly.
"Humanity must then have all perished from the earth long ago! I'm the
last man on earth!"

"It is a dead world now," interjected 25X-987.

"Of course," elucidated the mathematician, "those last few million years
are much shorter than the ones in which you lived. The earth's orbit is
of less diameter and its speed of revolution is greatly increased, due
to its proximity to the cooling sun. I should say that your year was
some four times as long as the time in which it now takes your old
planet to circumnavigate the sun.

"How many days were there in your year?"

"Three hundred and sixty-five."

"The planet has now ceased rotating entirely."

"Seems queer that your rocket satellite should avoid the meteors so
long," observed 459C-79, the mathematician.

"Automatic radium repulsion rays," explained the professor.

"The very rays which kept us from approaching your rocket," stated
25X-987, "until we neutralized them."

"You died and were shot out into space long before any life occurred on
Zor," soliloquized one of the machine men. "Our people had not yet even
been born when yours had probably disappeared entirely from the face of
the earth."

"Hearken to 72N-4783," said 25X-987, "he is our philosopher, and he just
loves to dwell on the past life of Zor when we were flesh and blood
creatures with the threat of death hanging always over our heads. At
that time, like the life you knew, we were born, we lived and died, all
within a very short time, comparatively."

"Of course, time has come to mean nothing to us, especially when we are
out in space," observed 72N-4783. "We never keep track of it on our
expeditions, though back in Zor such accounts are accurately kept. By
the way, do you know how long we stood here while you recounted to us
the history of your planet? Our machine bodies never get tired, you

* * * * *

"Well," ruminated Professor Jameson, giving a generous allowance of
time. "I should say about a half a day, although it seemed scarcely as
long as that."

"We listened to you for four days," replied 72N-4783.

Professor Jameson was really aghast.

"Really, I hadn't meant to be such a bore," he apologized.

"That is nothing," replied the other. "Your story was interesting, and
if it had been twice as long, it would not have mattered, nor would it
have seemed any longer. Time is merely relative, and in space actual
time does not exist at all, any more than your forty million years'
cessation of life seemed more than a few moments to you. We saw that it
was so when your first thought impressions reached us following your

"Let us continue on to your planet earth," then said 25X-987. "Perhaps
we shall find more startling disclosures there."

As the space ship of the Zoromes approached the sphere from which
Professor Jameson had been hurled in his rocket forty million years
before, the professor was wondering how the earth would appear, and what
radical changes he would find. Already he knew that the geographical
conditions of the various continents were changed. He had seen as much
from the space ship.

A short time later the earth was reached. The space travelers from Zor,
as well as Professor Jameson, emerged from the cosmic flyer to walk upon
the surface of the planet. The earth had ceased rotating, leaving
one-half its surface always toward the sun. This side of the earth was
heated to a considerable degree, while its antipodes, turned always away
from the solar luminary, was a cold, frigid, desolate waste. The space
travelers from Zor did not dare to advance very far into either
hemisphere, but landed on the narrow, thousand-mile strip of territory
separating the earth's frozen half from its sun-baked antipodes.

As Professor Jameson emerged from the space ship with 25X-987, he stared
in awe at the great transformation four hundred thousand centuries had
wrought. The earth's surface, its sky and the sun were all so changed
and unearthly appearing. Off to the east the blood red ball of the
slowly cooling sun rested upon the horizon, lighting up the eternal day.
The earth's rotation had ceased entirely, and it hung motionless in the
sky as it revolved around its solar parent, its orbit slowly but surely
cutting in toward the great body of the sun. The two inner planets,
Mercury and Venus, were now very close to the blood red orb whose
scintillating, dazzling brilliance had been lost in its cooling process.
Soon, the two nearer planets would succumb to the great pull of the
solar luminary and return to the flaming folds, from which they had been
hurled out as gaseous bodies in the dim, age-old past, when their
careers had just begun.

The atmosphere was nearly gone, so rarefied had it become, and through
it Professor Jameson could view with amazing clarity without discomfort
to his eyes the bloated body of the dying sun. It appeared many times
the size he had seen it at the time of his death, on account of its
relative nearness. The earth had advanced a great deal closer to the
great star around which it swung.

The sky towards the west was pitch black except for the iridescent
twinkle of the fiery stars which studded that section of the heavens. As
he watched, a faint glow suffused the western sky, gradually growing
brighter, the full moon majestically lifted itself above the horizon,
casting its pale, ethereal radiance upon the dying world beneath. It was
increased to many times the size Professor Jameson had ever seen it
during his natural lifetime. The earth's greater attraction was drawing
upon the moon just as the sun was pulling the earth ever nearer itself.

This cheerless landscape confronting the professor represented the state
of existence to which the earth had come. It was a magnificent spread of
loneliness which bore no witness to the fact that it had seen the
teeming of life in better ages long ago. The weird, yet beautiful scene,
spread in a melancholy panorama before his eyes, drove his thoughts into
gloomy abstraction with its dismal, depressing influence. Its funereal,
oppressive aspect smote him suddenly with the chill of a terrible

25X-987 aroused Professor Jameson from his lethargic reverie. "Let us
walk around and see what we can find. I can understand how you feel in
regard to the past. It is quite a shock--but it must happen to all
worlds sooner or later--even to Zor. When that time comes, the Zoromes
will find a new planet on which to live. If you travel with us, you will
become accustomed to the sight of seeing dead, lifeless worlds as well
as new and beautiful ones pulsating with life and energy. Of course,
this world being your own, holds a peculiar sentimental value to you,
but it is really one planet among billions."

Professor Jameson was silent.

"I wonder whether or not there are any ruins here to be found?" queried

"I don't believe so," replied the professor. "I remember hearing an
eminent scientist of my day state that, given fifty thousand years,
every structure and other creation of man would be obliterated entirely
from off the earth's surface."

"And he was right," endorsed the machine man of Zor. "Time is a great

For a long time the machine men wandered over the dreary surface of the
earth, and then 25X-987 suggested a change of territory to explore. In
the space ship, they moved around the earth to the other side, still
keeping to the belt of shadowland which completely encircled the globe
like some gigantic ring. Where they now landed arose a series of cones
with hollow peaks.

"Volcanoes!" exclaimed the professor.

"Extinct ones," added the machine man.

Leaving the space ship, the fifty or more machine men, including also
Professor Jameson, were soon exploring the curiously shaped peaks. The
professor, in his wanderings had strayed away from the rest, and now
advanced into one of the cup-like depressions of the peak, out of sight
of his companions, the Zoromes.

Next: Eternity Or Death

Previous: Recalled To Life

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