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The Sea Of Sleep







From: The House On The Borderland

For a considerable period after the last incident which I have narrated
in my diary, I had serious thoughts of leaving this house, and might
have done so; but for the great and wonderful thing, of which I am
about to write.

How well I was advised, in my heart, when I stayed on here--spite of
those visions and sights of unknown and unexplainable things; for, had I
not stayed, then I had not seen again the face of her I loved. Yes,
though few know it, none now save my sister Mary, I have loved and,
ah! me--lost.

I would write down the story of those sweet, old days; but it would be
like the tearing of old wounds; yet, after that which has happened, what
need have I to care? For she has come to me out of the unknown.
Strangely, she warned me; warned me passionately against this house;
begged me to leave it; but admitted, when I questioned her, that she
could not have come to me, had I been elsewhere. Yet, in spite of this,
still she warned me, earnestly; telling me that it was a place, long
ago given over to evil, and under the power of grim laws, of which none
here have knowledge. And I--I just asked her, again, whether she would
come to me elsewhere, and she could only stand, silent.

It was thus, that I came to the place of the Sea of Sleep--so she
termed it, in her dear speech with me. I had stayed up, in my study,
reading; and must have dozed over the book. Suddenly, I awoke and sat
upright, with a start. For a moment, I looked 'round, with a puzzled
sense of something unusual. There was a misty look about the room,
giving a curious softness to each table and chair and furnishing.

Gradually, the mistiness increased; growing, as it were, out of
nothing. Then, slowly, a soft, white light began to glow in the room.
The flames of the candles shone through it, palely. I looked from side
to side, and found that I could still see each piece of furniture; but
in a strangely unreal way, more as though the ghost of each table and
chair had taken the place of the solid article.

Gradually, as I looked, I saw them fade and fade; until, slowly, they
resolved into nothingness. Now, I looked again at the candles. They
shone wanly, and, even as I watched, grew more unreal, and so vanished.
The room was filled, now, with a soft, yet luminous, white twilight,
like a gentle mist of light. Beyond this, I could see nothing. Even the
walls had vanished.

Presently, I became conscious that a faint, continuous sound, pulsed
through the silence that wrapped me. I listened intently. It grew more
distinct, until it appeared to me that I harked to the breathings of
some great sea. I cannot tell how long a space passed thus; but, after a
while, it seemed that I could see through the mistiness; and, slowly, I
became aware that I was standing upon the shore of an immense and silent
sea. This shore was smooth and long, vanishing to right and left of me,
in extreme distances. In front, swam a still immensity of sleeping
ocean. At times, it seemed to me that I caught a faint glimmer of light,
under its surface; but of this, I could not be sure. Behind me, rose up,
to an extraordinary height, gaunt, black cliffs.

Overhead, the sky was of a uniform cold grey color--the whole place
being lit by a stupendous globe of pale fire, that swam a little above
the far horizon, and shed a foamlike light above the quiet waters.

Beyond the gentle murmur of the sea, an intense stillness prevailed.
For a long while, I stayed there, looking out across its strangeness.
Then, as I stared, it seemed that a bubble of white foam floated up out
of the depths, and then, even now I know not how it was, I was looking
upon, nay, looking into the face of Her--aye! into her face--into her
soul; and she looked back at me, with such a commingling of joy and
sadness, that I ran toward her, blindly; crying strangely to her, in a
very agony of remembrance, of terror, and of hope, to come to me. Yet,
spite of my crying, she stayed out there upon the sea, and only shook
her head, sorrowfully; but, in her eyes was the old earth-light of
tenderness, that I had come to know, before all things, ere we
were parted.

"At her perverseness, I grew desperate, and essayed to wade out to her;
yet, though I would, I could not. Something, some invisible barrier,
held me back, and I was fain to stay where I was, and cry out to her in
the fullness of my soul, 'O, my Darling, my Darling--' but could say no
more, for very intensity. And, at that, she came over, swiftly, and
touched me, and it was as though heaven had opened. Yet, when I reached
out my hands to her, she put me from her with tenderly stern hands, and
I was abashed--"



THE FRAGMENTS

(The legible portions of the mutilated leaves.)

... through tears ... noise of eternity in my ears, we parted ... She
whom I love. O, my God ...!

I was a great time dazed, and then I was alone in the blackness of the
night. I knew that I journeyed back, once more, to the known universe.
Presently, I emerged from that enormous darkness. I had come among the
stars ... vast time ... the sun, far and remote.

I entered into the gulf that separates our system from the outer suns.
As I sped across the dividing dark, I watched, steadily, the
ever-growing brightness and size of our sun. Once, I glanced back to the
stars, and saw them shift, as it were, in my wake, against the mighty
background of night, so vast was the speed of my passing spirit.

I drew nigher to our system, and now I could see the shine of Jupiter.
Later, I distinguished the cold, blue gleam of the earthlight.... I had
a moment of bewilderment. All about the sun there seemed to be bright,
objects, moving in rapid orbits. Inward, nigh to the savage glory of the
sun, there circled two darting points of light, and, further off, there
flew a blue, shining speck, that I knew to be the earth. It circled the
sun in a space that seemed to be no more than an earth-minute.

... nearer with great speed. I saw the radiances of Jupiter and
Saturn, spinning, with incredible swiftness, in huge orbits. And ever I
drew more nigh, and looked out upon this strange sight--the visible
circling of the planets about the mother sun. It was as though time had
been annihilated for me; so that a year was no more to my unfleshed
spirit, than is a moment to an earth-bound soul.

The speed of the planets, appeared to increase; and, presently, I was
watching the sun, all ringed about with hair-like circles of different
colored fire--the paths of the planets, hurtling at mighty speed, about
the central flame....

"... the sun grew vast, as though it leapt to meet me.... And now I was
within the circling of the outer planets, and flitting swiftly, toward
the place where the earth, glimmering through the blue splendor of its
orbit, as though a fiery mist, circled the sun at a monstrous
speed...."





Next: The Noise In The Night

Previous: The Trap In The Great Cellar



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