The Earth

: 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.