PART TWO: THE RETURN
NEVER hoped—never dreamed, when I wrote the tale you have read, that I should ever see the earth again. Who in the universe could have hoped against all the knowledge of insuperable fate which had come to me? Who could hope to overcome Time and Space, to recapture that which was gone forever? Yet it is just this that I have done—or something very like it. And it is a story a thousand times more fantastic, more impossible, than the story of my journey. And like that it is true.
When I last wrote, I was living in a state of awful quiescence upon a planet of the star Delni—I do not know yet what it would be called here, or whether it is even existent now for us. Perhaps I exaggerated a little my position, but that was before I had met Vinda. Vinda—shall I ever see her again? I leave to-morrow—but will she be there?
I saw little enough of that world, and what little I did see I shall not attempt to describe here, for it will all go into the report I am drawing up, with Martyn's aid, for a scientific magazine. But when I pressed the bottom button again, and the stars began to grow large, the planets to become visible as they circled in their paths, I had no desire except to sleep. With a reckless abandon that gave no thought for the consequences, I came close to one of the planets and waited for it to grow larger. How can I describe the mad humor of my situation, lying there in space with a world, a living world, revolving a few inches from my chest? I could look down over it as you would down over a model or globe of the world. I felt a wild desire to put my finger into its great seas, and I could imagine to myself the consternation they would feel—if there were inhabitants—when the awful tempest and the tidal waves came to them. It was just such a desire as we feel sometimes in church, to shout a heresy or to throw something at the priest, not because we are heretics or because we dislike the priest, but for some inexplicable reason—an impulse. Fortunately, I did not surrender to that impulse. But I laughed a great hysterical laugh, and it must have been like the laughter of a god reverberating through the universe, dying thinly away in unimaginable reaches of the distance.
IN this instalment we find the hero a prisoner on the unknown planet, the inhabitants of which, are very much advanced and far superior to the people of the Earth—in intellect and science. His life among these people is not a happy one. Through the interception of a beautiful young girl, some of the best scientists there evolve a method whereby our hero can return to earth. They figure on the basis of Einstein's theory of the curvature of time—if one goes on far enough, he will eventually return to where he started from—or in other words "the world having lived and died will live again and die again." It takes millions of years to complete a cycle, but because of the many times increased speed with which our hero travels, because of his enormous size, they are able to figure his return to a time very nearly corresponding the year in which he left the Earth. Read this imaginative sequel and see how he succeeds, and how he likes the Earth after he comes back.
All this time the planet was growing bigger. It was not long before I was able, with the most fascinating acrobatic antics, to propel myself far enough away to place my feet almost upon it. Still it grew—or should I drop this playing with appearances, and say that I shrank? In any case, its heavily veiled face with clouds became vaster and more vast, until it must have been about my own height in diameter. Then I let my feet push through the clouds until they were resting lightly upon the surface, A few minutes later I began to feel for the first time since my departure that my own size was returning to me, the size that God intended I should have. It was then that I turned Martyn's "gravity" switch, rather undecided what would happen, and caring very little, I suppose. Nothing did happen.
The clouds came closer and closer toward my face, mounting up over my body and growing each moment more billowy and more illimitable. In a little while they had enveloped my face, and a few minutes later they were above me.
It is now, I know, the moment when a writer of romances would introduce some great horrible bird that fought him in the air, or two armies of rival air-men who fought about him. Unfortunately or fortunately, as you will, nothing of that sort happened to me; and, if it had, I think I should have been too sleepy to be interested. Instead, I looked down upon long, rolling plains of golden grain. There were no forests, or even trees, that I could see. The ocean came to within a few inches of my feet, and far away across it, I caught a bright tiny glitter that might have been a city. There seemed to be no mountains, only a few low hills. The sunlight very seldom penetrated through the clouds in all its opulent splendor, but the world was no less bright for that, since its sun was very huge. There seemed to be a clear, diffused, bluish sort of light over the face of the planet.
I need not detail all my thoughts and emotions as I grew smaller, coming closer and closer to the ground. They were confused, meaningless feelings, and I have no memory of them except as a mood half way between a dull sorrow for the loss of my true earth and a dull wonder at the exotic beauty of this earth I had come upon. In a little while, however, I had shut off the machine and was decreasing more gently in size. Once I turned it on again for a moment, finding that I had miscalculated, but I quickly turned it off. During what seemed to me hours, I shrank little by little, with increasing slowness, until I stood only a little taller than the grain of the long fields. There was nothing about me by which I could gauge my desired height, so I decided to let myself remain as I was until I had slept. Without any thought for possible differences in the atmospheres of this world and that of my own to which I had become accustomed, I feverishly pulled off my globular helmet and my suit. I was greeted with a great breath of cool air from the sea, and I stood for many minutes bathing in its fresh purity. Then, with a sigh, I sank down into the soft grain, and, watching the tall stalks rippling above me in the wind, I fell asleep.
When I awoke, it was dark. There were no stars to be seen and no moon, but there was a faint radiance, a phosphorescence, upon the grain in