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   Chapter 9 No.9

Beyond the Vanishing Point By Ray Cummings Characters: 11637

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


To Alan the first moments that followed the escape of the drug were the most horrible of his life. The discovery struck old Dr. Kent, Glora and Alan into a numb, blank confusion. They stood transfixed, staring with cold terror at the fly which was scurrying along the floor close to the wall. It was already as large as Alan's hand. It ran into the corner, hit the wall in its confused alarm, and turned back. Its wings were droning with an audible hum. It reared itself on its hairy legs, lifted and sailed across the room.

As though drawn by a magnet, Alan turned to watch it. It landed on the wall. Alan was aware of Dr. Kent rushing with trembling steps to a shelf where bottles stood. Glora was stricken into immobility, the blood draining from her face.

The fly flew again. It passed directly over Alan. Its body, with a membrane sac of eggs, was now as large as his head; its widespread transparent wings were beating with a reverberating drone.

Alan flung a bottle which was on the table beside him. It missed the fly, crashed against the ceiling, came down with splintering glass and spilling liquid. Fumes spread chokingly over the room.

The fly landed again on the floor. Larger now! Expanding with a horribly rapid growth. Glora flung something-a little wooden rack with a few empty test tubes in it. The rack struck the monstrous fly, but did not hurt it. The fly stood with hairy legs braced under its bulging body. Its multiple eyes were staring at the humans. And with its size must have come a sense of power, for it seemed to Alan that the monstrous insect was abnormally alert as it stood measuring its adversaries, gathering itself to attack them.

Only a few seconds had passed. Confused thoughts swept Alan. This fly with its growth would soon fill this room. Burst it; burst upward through a wrecked palace; soar out, and by the power of its size alone devastate this world.

He heard himself shouting, "Father, get back! It's too large! I've got to kill it!"

Could he wrestle with it and hope to win? Alan edged around the center table. He was bathed in cold sweat. This thing was horrifying! The fly was already half the length of his own body. In a moment it might be twice that! He was aware of Glora pulling at him, and his father rushing past him with a bottle of liquid, shouting:

"Alan! Run! You and the girl, get out of here! Into the other room-"

Then Alan saw the things on the floor! His foot crushed one with a slippery squash! Nameless, hideous, noisome things grown monstrous, risen from their lurking invisibility in the drops of water! Sodden, gray-black and green-slimed monsters of the deep; palpitating masses of pulp! One lay rocking, already as large as a football with streamers of ooze hanging from it, and squirting a black inky fluid. Others were rods of red jelly-pulp, already as large as lead pencils, quivering, twitching. Disease germs, these ghastly things, enlarging from the invisibility of a drop of water!

The fly landed with a thud on the center table. The fumes of the shattered bottle of chemicals were choking Alan. He flung himself toward the monster fly, but Glora held him.

"No! Escape to the other room!"

Dr. Kent was stamping the things upon the floor; pouring acids upon them. Some eluded him. The air in the room was unbreathable....

Alan and Glora reached the bedroom. The laboratory was a hideous chaos. They were aware of its outer door opening, disclosing the figure of Polter who, undoubtedly, had been attracted by the noise. He shouted a startled oath. Alan heard it above the beating wings of the monstrous fly. Things lurched at the opened door; Polter banged it upon them and rushed away, shouting the alarm through the palace.

Dr. Kent was stammering, "Not the enlarging drug, Glora, child, the other! Hurry!"

Alan helped Glora with the opalescent vial. Things were lurching toward this room, from the laboratory. Alan, with averted face, choked by the incoming fumes, slammed the door upon the gruesome turmoil.

They took the diminishing drug. The bedroom expanded. The hideous sounds from the laboratory, and the whole palace now ringing with a wild alarm, soon faded into blessed remoteness of distance....

"I think this is the way, Alan. Off there-a doorway from my bedroom. Polter always kept it locked, but it leads into a corridor. We must get out of here. A crack under the door-is that it, off there?" Dr. Kent pointed into the gloomy blur of distance. "We're horribly small-it's so far to run-and I've lost my sense of direction."

The drug had ceased its action. The wooden floor of the room had expanded to a spread of cellular surface, ridged with broken, tubelike tunnels; pits and jagged cave-mouths. A knothole yawned like a crater a hundred feet away.

"We are too small," Glora protested hurriedly. "The door is where you say, Dr. Kent, but miles away."

With the other drug, the room contracted. The floor surface shrank and smoothed a little. The door was distinguishable-a square panel several hundred feet in width and towering into the upper haze. The black line of the crack was visible along its bottom.

They ran to it. The top of the crack was ten feet above their heads. They ran under, across the wide intervening darkness toward a glow of light. Then they came from under the door into a corridor-and shrank against a cliff wall as with a rush of wind and pounding tread the blurred shapes of a man's huge feet and legs rushed past. The upper air was filled with rumbling shouts.

"We must chance it!" exclaimed Dr. Kent. "It's too far in this size. We must get larger-and if they see us, we'll fight our way out!"

In the turmoil of the doomed palace no one noticed them. They cast aside all restraint. It was too dangerous to wait. The excessiv

e dose they took of the drug made the corridor shrink with dizzying speed. They rushed along its length. Alan hurled a little man aside who was in their path. They were already larger than Polter's people.

They squeezed out of a shrinking doorway. The dwindling island was a turmoil. Little figures were pouring from the palace. At the edge of the water. Alan, Glora and Dr. Kent stood for an instant looking behind them. The palace was rocking. Its roof heaved upward and then smashed and fell aside with the clatter of tumbling masonry. The monstrous fly, its hideous face mashed and oozing, reared itself up and, with broken torn wings, tried to soar away. But it could not. It slipped back. The drone and buzz of its fright sounded over the chaos of noise. Other things came lurching and twisting upward, slithering out....

The expanding body of the fly was pushing the palace walls outward. In a moment it collapsed and the fly emerged.

To Alan and his companions the scene was all shrinking into a miniature chaos of horror at their shoe tops. A diminuendo of screams mingled down there. Overhead were the stars, shining peacefully remote. Nearby lay a rapidly narrowing channel of shining water. A tiny city was across it. Lights were moving. The panic had spread from the island to Orena. Beyond the tiny city, was a range of mountains, a cliff, gleaming in the starlight, and tunnel-mouths.

Suddenly against the stars off there, Alan saw the enlarging figure of Polter, his hunched shape unmistakable. He was facing the other way. He lunged and scrambled into a yawning black hole in the mountains. Polter was escaping! None of these people except himself had the drugs. He was escaping with the golden cage, out of this doomed atomic world to the Earth above.

Glora murmured, "There is our way out. Your way. And that is Polter going. I do not think he saw us. So much is growing gigantic here."

Dr. Kent muttered, "We will wait a moment-wade across-or leap over, and follow him out. Babs is with him-dear God I hope so! This is a doomed realm!"

Alan held Glora close. And suddenly he was laughing-a madness, half hysterical. "Why, this, all this-why look, Glora, it's funny! This little world all excited, an ant-hill, outraged! Look! There's our giant sailboat!"

Down near their feet the inch-long sailboat stood at its dock. Tiny human figures were rushing for it; others, floundering in the water, were trying to climb upon it. Dr. Kent had stepped a foot or two from the shore, and tiny, lashing white rollers rocked the boat, almost engulfing it.

Alan's laugh rang out. "God! It's funny, isn't it? All those little creatures so excited!"

"Steady, lad!" Dr. Kent touched him. "Don't let yourself laugh! A moment now, then we'll wade across. Polter won't have much start on us. We mustn't get too close to him in size, but try and attack him unawares. We've got to get Babs away from him."

The narrowing passage rose hardly to their knees. They stepped ashore, well to one side of the toy city. Their growth had almost stopped. But suddenly Alan realized that Glora was diminishing! She had taken the other drug.

"Glora! What are you doing?"

"I must go back, Alan. This is my world, doomed perhaps, but I cannot forsake it now. I must give the enlarging drug to my father. And others who can rise and fight these monsters."

"Glora!"

Dr. Kent said hurriedly, "She's right, Alan. There is a chance they can save their city. For her to leave them would be dastardly."

She cried, "You go on up, Alan. You have enough of the drugs. I am going back!"

"No," he protested. "You can't! If you do, I'm coming with you!"

She clung to him. He felt her body diminishing within his encircling arms. His love for her swept him-this girl who had cajoled Polter, or tricked him and stolen several of the vials from him, heavens knows how, and followed him up to the other world. This girl whom Alan had come to love, was leaving him, perhaps forever.

As he stood there, with the miniature landscape at his feet in the wan starlight-the panic-stricken tiny city, the island with its monsters rising to overwhelm this tiny world-it seemed to Alan that if he let her go it was the end for him of all life's promised happiness.

"Alan, lad, come." His father was pulling him along. So horrible a choice! Alan thought that I was back on that island. But Babs, a prisoner in the golden cage, was with Polter, plunging upward in size. And his father was beside him, pleading.

"Alan-come-I can't get out alone, or save Babs. And Polter, with the power of this drug, can conquer and enslave our Earth as he has enslaved Orena-just one little city of one tiny golden atom! Believe me, lad, your duty lies above."

Glora's head was now down at Alan's waist. He stooped and kissed her white forehead; his fingers, just for an instant, smoothed her glossy hair.

"Good-bye, Glora."

She plunged away, and her tread as she dwindled mashed the forest behind the city. Alan and his father ran for the cliff. They were too large to squeeze into the little hole. But in a moment they made themselves smaller. They climbed as they dwindled; checked the drug action and rushed into the tunnel-mouth.

Alan stopped just for an instant to gaze out over the starlit scene. It was almost the same viewpoint from which he had his first sight of Glora's world only an hour or two before. The distant island beyond the city showed plainly with the shining water around it. The vegetation there was growing! And there were dark, horribly formless blobs lurching outward and rising with monstrous bulk against the background of the stars!

"Alan! Come, lad!"

With a prayer for Glora trembling on his lips, Alan plunged into the dim phosphorescent gloom of the tunnel.

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