Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/80
yet they believe that they evolved from that junk-heap in their museums!"
"And haven't they?" he asked quietly. "Not in the way they think, perhaps, but still—evolved. Besides you failed to see their museums with articulated bodies of men and beasts. There is much you failed to see!" He paused. "The Mentanicals' system of thought, of science, is coherent and rational to them; and if there be contradictions, well, does that interfere with them making scientific discoveries transcending those of man? They have long been discussing the phenomenon of time and the feasibility of traveling in it. I know that because I have listened to them. Yet for some reason they have been unable to make a time machine. But you know radio—yes, radio—they have been utilizing discoveries in that field to send messages back in time. Your coming here has not been accidental—do you understand that?—not entirely accidental. By means of their time-radio they have willed your coming, made possible your time machine. Don't ask me how, I don't know, not clearly, but they have done it—and you are here! But fortunately it was a creature similar to themselves they expected; to them you are merely an Omo, a beast-man of the machine. So they are puzzled, they don't quite understand (that is why they have been experimenting with you), but soon they will. Listen," he said hoarsely, "can't you realize what a menace to men of the past, of your day, these Mentanicals could be? Oh, your weapons, your machine guns and gas, your powerful explosives! I tell you they would be as nothing against the deadly rays and indescribable forces these Mentanicals could bring against them. Can you gas something that doesn't breathe, shoot what is practically impervious to bullets, that can blow up, that can explode your powder magazines, your high explosives, at a distance of miles? The Mentanicals would enter your age, not to conquer man—they know little of him, regard him as an inferior creature, an evolutionary hand-over of premachine life—but to expand, take over your cities, to...to...What do I know of their idea of profit, of self-gain and ambition, but doubtless they have it. Listen!"—The great head surged forward, the dark eyes fixed mine compellingly—"You must leap into your time machine before they can prevent, return to your own day and age, at once!"
"And leave you behind?"
"How can you take me with you? That is impossible. Besides I am weary of life, I have caused too much woe and misery to want to live. The Mentanicals refuse me the boon of death, but you will not refuse. That gun in your hand—there are bullets in it yet—one of them here——"
"For God's sake, be merciful!"
"I will return for you."
"You must never return! Do you hear me? Not a second time would you escape. Perhaps it is too late to escape now! Up! up with your gun! Aim at the crystal. Its breaking brings me peace and will distract attention while you leap into your machine. Now! now!"
There was nothing else to do; I saw that in a flash; already the Men-