Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/79
"The museums!" I exclaimed.
He looked at me interrogatively, and I told him of the vast rooms filled with mechanical debris.
"I have never seen them," he said, "but I know that they exist, from the talk of the Mentanicals."
He smiled sadly at my amazement.
"Yes." he said, "I have learned to understand and speak the language of the Mentanicals: through all the long dreary years there was nothing else for me to do. And through all the weary years they have talked to me, asked my advice, treated me with respect, have housed me here; for to some I am still a god-like beast-man, half machine—look at this mechanical heart, the mechanism at my feet—to the scientists I am the missing link between that lower form of life, man, and that higher form of life which culminates in themselves, the machine. Yes," he said, "the Mentanicals believe that they have evolved through man to their present high state, and I have confirmed them somewhat in this, for in a sense is it not true?"
He paused, with closed eyes; and as I looked at him, pondered his words, scarcely believing the evidence of my senses, I suddenly became aware of the Mentanicals behind me. They had stood there, a silent group, while the man on the dais spoke; now their whispering began, softly, insistently. The head of the man who called himself Bane Borgson lifted, the dark eyes opened. "They are speaking of you," said Bane Borgson; "they are asking from whence you come. You have never told me that."
"I have come", I replied, "from America."
"America!" he exclaimed. "America has past. There is no America!"
"Not now," I said, "but in my time..."
"I come from 1934," I said, "by means of a time machine."
"Ah," he breathed. "I am beginning to know, to understand. So that is what it is."
I followed the direction of his eyes, I stared, I gaped; for there, not twelve yards to one side of me, stood the time machine! How I had failed to see it on first entering the room it is impossible to say. Perhaps the sight of the man on the dais had riveted my attention to the exclusion of all else. But there it was, the thing I had given up hopes of ever finding again. With an exclamation of joy I reached its side, I touched it with my hand. Yes, it was the time machine and seemingly undamaged. I believe I laughed hysterically. The road to escape was open. With a lightened heart I turned my attention to what was transpiring in the room. Bane Borgson was talking to the Mentanicals and it was uncanny to see his lips forming their incredible language, to hear them answering back. At length he turned to me. "Listen," he said tensely, "they have never learned to enunciate or understand human speech, but in many ways the Mentanicals are more formidable, more advanced than man in his prime."
I laughed at this. I was once more my assured, devil-may-care self. "And