Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/715

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CONSCIOUSNESS UNDER CHLOROFORM.

the struggle finished. There was a sense of comparative relief that, at any rate, one force was victorious, and the distraction over; the strange, large fright that had seized me so entirely when I felt myself ensnared into dark suffocation was now gone also, and there was only left the huge thudding at my ears, and the terribly impetuous stroke of my heart. The thudding gradually got less acutely painful, and less loud; I remember a recognition of satisfaction that one more fearful disturbance was gone. But, while the thunder in my ear was thus growing duller, all of a sudden my heart sprang out with a more vivid flash of sensation than any of those previous ones. The force of an express engine was straining there, and like a burning ball it leaped from side to side, faster and faster, hitting me with such a superhuman earnestness that I felt each time as if the iron had entered my soul, and it was all over with me forever. (Not that 'I' was now any more than this burning-hot heart and the walled space in which it was making its strokes: the rest of 'me' had gone unobserved out of focus.) Every stroke produced exquisite pain on the flesh against which it beat glowing, and there was a radiation, as from a molten lump of metal between inclosures. Presently the unbearable heat got less, and there was nothing remaining except a pendulous movement, slackening speed, and not painful. Of nothing beyond was I conscious but this warm body vibrating: not a single other part of me was left, and there was not a single other movement of any sort to attract my attention. A fading sense of infinite leisure at last, in a dreamy, inaudible air; then all was hushed out of notice.

". . . . There was the breaking of a silence that might have been going on forever in the utterly dark air. An undisturbed, empty quiet was everywhere, except that a stupid presence lay like a heavy intrusion somewhere—a blotch on the calm. This blotch became more inharmonious, more distinctly leaden; it was a heavier pressure—it is actually intruding farther—and, before almost there was time to wonder feebly how disagreeable was this interruption of untroubled quiet, it had loomed out as something unspeakably cruel and woful. For a bit there was nothing more than this profoundly cruel presence, and my recognition[1] of it. It seemed unutterably monstrous in its nature, and I felt it like some superhuman injustice; but so entire had been the still rest all round before its shadow troubled me, that I had no notion of making the faintest remonstrance. . . . It got worse. . . . Just as the cruelty and injustice became so unbearable that I hardly could take it in, suddenly it came out a massive, pulsating pain, and I was all over one tender wound, with this dense pain probing me to my deepest depths. I felt one sympathetic body of atoms, and at each probe of the pain every single atom was forced by a tremendous pressure into all the rest, while every one of them was acutely tender, and

  1. If there were a noun belonging to the verb "To be aware of," like "recognition" to "recognize," it would be the one to use here.