Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/123

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"I shall speak to Williams through the transmitter," explained Mortimer, "and he shall hear me by means of the ear phones. When he answers into his transmitter, we will hear him through the loud speaker."

He seated himself before the apparatus and spoke: "Williams, do you hear me?"

"I hear you." The reply came promptly, but in the heavy tones of a man talking in his sleep.

"Listen to me. You are living in the last six days of the earth. By 'days,' I do not mean periods of twenty-four hours, but such lengths of time as are meant in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. It is now the first day of the six. Tell me what you see."

After a short interval, the answer came in a strange, high key. While the words were English, they were spoken with a curious intonation that was at first difficult to understand.

"This is the year 16,812," said the voice, "or, in modern time, 43,930 A. I. C. After Interplanetary Communication. It is not well upon the earth. The Polar Ice Cap comes down almost to Newfoundland. Summer lasts but a few weeks, and then its heat is scorching. What in early time was known as the Atlantic Coastal Plain has long ago sunken into the sea. High dykes must be used to keep the water from covering the island of Manhattan, where the world's government is located. A great war has just concluded. There are many dead to bury."

"You speak of interplanetary communication," said Mortimer. "Is the world, then, in communication with the planets?"

"In the year 2,952," came the answer, "the earth succeeded in getting into communication with Mars. Radio pictures were sent back and forth between the two worlds until they learned each other's languages; then sound communication was established. The Martians had been trying to signal the earth since the beginning of the twentieth century, but were unable to set up a system of communication because of the insufficient scientific advancement of the Earthmen.

"About a thousand years later, a message was received from Venus, which had now advanced to the earth's state of civilization, when Mars was signalled. For nearly five hundred years they had been receiving messages from both the earth and Mars, but had been unable to answer.

"A little over five thousand years later, a series of sounds was received which seemed to come from somewhere beyond Venus. Venus and Mars heard them too; but, like us, were able to make nothing of them. All three worlds broadcasted their radio pictures on the wave length corresponding to that of the mysterious sounds, but received no answer. At last Venus advanced the theory that the sounds had come from Mercury, whose inhabitants, obliged to live upon the side of their world farther from the sun, would be either entirely without sight or with eyes not sufficiently developed to see our pictures.

"Recently something dire has happened to Mars. Our last messages from