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The Earth

From: The House On The Borderland

Thus I was, and only the memory that I had lived through the dark, once
before, served to sustain my thoughts. A great time passed--ages. And
then a single star broke its way through the darkness. It was the first
of one of the outlying clusters of this universe. Presently, it was far
behind, and all about me shone the splendor of the countless stars.
Later, years it seemed, I saw the sun, a clot of flame. Around it, I
made out presently several remote specks of light--the planets of the
Solar system. And so I saw the earth again, blue and unbelievably
minute. It grew larger, and became defined.

A long space of time came and went, and then at last I entered into the
shadow of the world--plunging headlong into the dim and holy earth
night. Overhead were the old constellations, and there was a crescent
moon. Then, as I neared the earth's surface, a dimness swept over me,
and I appeared to sink into a black mist.

For a while, I knew nothing. I was unconscious. Gradually, I became
aware of a faint, distant whining. It became plainer. A desperate
feeling of agony possessed me. I struggled madly for breath, and tried
to shout. A moment, and I got my breath more easily. I was conscious
that something was licking my hand. Something damp swept across my face.
I heard a panting, and then again the whining. It seemed to come to my
ears, now, with a sense of familiarity, and I opened my eyes. All was
dark; but the feeling of oppression had left me. I was seated, and
something was whining piteously, and licking me. I felt strangely
confused, and, instinctively, tried to ward off the thing that licked.
My head was curiously vacant, and, for the moment, I seemed incapable of
action or thought. Then, things came back to me, and I called 'Pepper,'
faintly. I was answered by a joyful bark, and renewed and
frantic caresses.

In a little while, I felt stronger, and put out my hand for the
matches. I groped about, for a few moments, blindly; then my hands lit
upon them, and I struck a light, and looked confusedly around. All about
me, I saw the old, familiar things. And there I sat, full of dazed
wonders, until the flame of the match burnt my finger, and I dropped it;
while a hasty expression of pain and anger, escaped my lips, surprising
me with the sound of my own voice.

After a moment, I struck another match, and, stumbling across the room,
lit the candles. As I did so, I observed that they had not burned away,
but had been put out.

As the flames shot up, I turned, and stared about the study; yet there
was nothing unusual to see; and, suddenly, a gust of irritation took me.
What had happened? I held my head, with both hands, and tried to
remember. Ah! the great, silent Plain, and the ring-shaped sun of red
fire. Where were they? Where had I seen them? How long ago? I felt dazed
and muddled. Once or twice, I walked up and down the room, unsteadily.
My memory seemed dulled, and, already, the thing I had witnessed came
back to me with an effort.

I have a remembrance of cursing, peevishly, in my bewilderment.
Suddenly, I turned faint and giddy, and had to grasp at the table for
support. During a few moments, I held on, weakly; and then managed to
totter sideways into a chair. After a little time, I felt somewhat
better, and succeeded in reaching the cupboard where, usually, I keep
brandy and biscuits. I poured myself out a little of the stimulant, and
drank it off. Then, taking a handful of biscuits, I returned to my
chair, and began to devour them, ravenously. I was vaguely surprised at
my hunger. I felt as though I had eaten nothing for an uncountably
long while.

As I ate, my glance roved about the room, taking in its various
details, and still searching, though almost unconsciously, for something
tangible upon which to take hold, among the invisible mysteries that
encompassed me. 'Surely,' I thought, 'there must be something--' And, in
the same instant, my gaze dwelt upon the face of the clock in the
opposite corner. Therewith, I stopped eating, and just stared. For,
though its ticking indicated most certainly that it was still going, the
hands were pointing to a little before the hour of midnight; whereas
it was, as well I knew, considerably after that time when I had
witnessed the first of the strange happenings I have just described.

For perhaps a moment I was astounded and puzzled. Had the hour been the
same as when I had last seen the clock, I should have concluded that the
hands had stuck in one place, while the internal mechanism went on as
usual; but that would, in no way, account for the hands having traveled
backward. Then, even as I turned the matter over in my wearied brain,
the thought flashed upon me that it was now close upon the morning of
the twenty-second, and that I had been unconscious to the visible world
through the greater portion of the last twenty-four hours. The thought
occupied my attention for a full minute; then I commenced to eat again.
I was still very hungry.

During breakfast, next morning, I inquired casually of my sister
regarding the date, and found my surmise correct. I had, indeed, been
absent--at least in spirit--for nearly a day and a night.

My sister asked me no questions; for it is not by any means the first
time that I have kept to my study for a whole day, and sometimes a
couple of days at a time, when I have been particularly engrossed in my
books or work.

And so the days pass on, and I am still filled with a wonder to know
the meaning of all that I saw on that memorable night. Yet, well I know
that my curiosity is little likely to be satisfied.

Next: The Thing In The Pit

Previous: The House In The Arena

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