The End Of The Journey

: The Moon Pool

"Say Doc!" It was Larry's voice flung back at me. "I was thinking

about that frog. I think it was her pet. Damn me if I see any

difference between a frog and a snake, and one of the nicest women I

ever knew had two pet pythons that followed her around like kittens.

Not such a devilish lot of choice between a frog and a snake--except

on the side of the frog? What? Anyway, any pet that girl wants is

hers, I don't care i
it's a leaping twelve-toed lobster or a

whale-bodied scorpion. Get me?"

By which I knew that our remarks upon the frog woman were still

bothering O'Keefe.

"He thinks of foolish nothings like the foolish sailor!" grunted

Marakinoff, acid contempt in his words. "What are their women

to--this?" He swept out a hand and as though at a signal the car

poised itself for an instant, then dipped, literally dipped down into

sheer space; skimmed forward in what was clearly curved flight, rose

as upon a sweeping upgrade and then began swiftly to slacken its

fearful speed.

Far ahead a point of light showed; grew steadily; we were within

it--and softly all movement ceased. How acute had been the strain of

our journey I did not realize until I tried to stand--and sank back,

leg-muscles too shaky to bear my weight. The car rested in a slit in

the centre of a smooth walled chamber perhaps twenty feet square. The

wall facing us was pierced by a low doorway through which we could see

a flight of steps leading downward.

The light streamed through a small opening, the base of which was

twice a tall man's height from the floor. A curving flight of broad,

low steps led up to it. And now it came to my steadying brain that

there was something puzzling, peculiar, strangely unfamiliar about

this light. It was silvery, shaded faintly with a delicate blue and

flushed lightly with a nacreous rose; but a rose that differed from

that of the terraces of the Pool Chamber as the rose within the opal

differs from that within the pearl. In it were tiny, gleaming points

like the motes in a sunbeam, but sparkling white like the dust of

diamonds, and with a quality of vibrant vitality; they were as though

they were alive. The light cast no shadows!

A little breeze came through the oval and played about us. It was

laden with what seemed the mingled breath of spice flowers and pines.

It was curiously vivifying, and in it the diamonded atoms of light

shook and danced.

I stepped out of the car, the Russian following, and began to ascend

the curved steps toward the opening, at the top of which O'Keefe and

Olaf already stood. As they looked out I saw both their faces

change--Olaf's with awe, O'Keefe's with incredulous amaze. I hurried

to their side.

At first all that I could see was space--a space filled with the same

coruscating effulgence that pulsed about me. I glanced upward, obeying

that instinctive impulse of earth folk that bids them seek within the

sky for sources of light. There was no sky--at least no sky such as we

know--all was a sparkling nebulosity rising into infinite distances as

the azure above the day-world seems to fill all the heavens--through

it ran pulsing waves and flashing javelin rays that were like shining

shadows of the aurora; echoes, octaves lower, of those brilliant

arpeggios and chords that play about the poles. My eyes fell beneath

its splendour; I stared outward.

Miles away, gigantic luminous cliffs sprang sheer from the limits of a

lake whose waters were of milky opalescence. It was from these cliffs

that the spangled radiance came, shimmering out from all their

lustrous surfaces. To left and to right, as far as the eye could see,

they stretched--and they vanished in the auroral nebulosity on high!

"Look at that!" exclaimed Larry. I followed his pointing finger. On

the face of the shining wall, stretched between two colossal columns,

hung an incredible veil; prismatic, gleaming with all the colours of

the spectrum. It was like a web of rainbows woven by the fingers of

the daughters of the Jinn. In front of it and a little at each side

was a semi-circular pier, or, better, a plaza of what appeared to be

glistening, pale-yellow ivory. At each end of its half-circle

clustered a few low-walled, rose-stone structures, each of them

surmounted by a number of high, slender pinnacles.

We looked at each other, I think, a bit helplessly--and back again

through the opening. We were standing, as I have said, at its base.

The wall in which it was set was at least ten feet thick, and so, of

course, all that we could see of that which was without were the

distances that revealed themselves above the outer ledge of the oval.

"Let's take a look at what's under us," said Larry.

He crept out upon the ledge and peered down, the rest of us following.

A hundred yards beneath us stretched gardens that must have been like

those of many-columned Iram, which the ancient Addite King had built

for his pleasure ages before the deluge, and which Allah, so the Arab

legend tells, took and hid from man, within the Sahara, beyond all

hope of finding--jealous because they were more beautiful than his in

paradise. Within them flowers and groves of laced, fernlike trees,

pillared pavilions nestled.

The trunks of the trees were of emerald, of vermilion, and of

azure-blue, and the blossoms, whose fragrance was borne to us, shone

like jewels. The graceful pillars were tinted delicately. I noted that

the pavilions were double--in a way, two-storied--and that they were

oddly splotched with circles, with squares, and with oblongs

of--opacity; noted too that over many this opacity stretched like a

roof; yet it did not seem material; rather was it--impenetrable


Down through this city of gardens ran a broad shining green

thoroughfare, glistening like glass and spanned at regular intervals

with graceful, arched bridges. The road flashed to a wide square,

where rose, from a base of that same silvery stone that formed the lip

of the Moon Pool, a titanic structure of seven terraces; and along it

flitted objects that bore a curious resemblance to the shell of the

Nautilus. Within them were--human figures! And upon tree-bordered

promenades on each side walked others!

Far to the right we caught the glint of another emerald-paved road.

And between the two the gardens grew sweetly down to the hither side

of that opalescent water across which were the radiant cliffs and the

curtain of mystery.

Thus it was that we first saw the city of the Dweller; blessed and

accursed as no place on earth, or under or above earth has ever

been--or, that force willing which some call God, ever again shall be!

"Chert!" whispered Marakinoff. "Incredible!"

"Trolldom!" gasped Olaf Huldricksson. "It is Trolldom!"

"Listen, Olaf!" said Larry. "Cut out that Trolldom stuff! There's no

Trolldom, or fairies, outside Ireland. Get that! And this isn't

Ireland. And, buck up, Professor!" This to Marakinoff. "What you see

down there are people--just plain people. And wherever there's people

is where I live. Get me?

"There's no way in but in--and no way out but out," said O'Keefe.

"And there's the stairway. Eggs are eggs no matter how they're

cooked--and people are just people, fellow travellers, no matter what

dish they are in," he concluded. "Come on!"

With the three of us close behind him, he marched toward the entrance.