Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/81

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When his fingers dosed on it he stood silent for a moment, and then quickly jerked it back. The darkness fell away and was gone.

Instantly angry crimson light lanced into Blake's eyes. He shut them tightly, bringing up his hands in a swift protective gesture before he remembered the shielding helmet. Slowly the pain grew less intense. He opened his eyes, blinking, and stared around.

This was a white world, splashed with crimson. And it was cold–terribly so. Blake switched on the electric heating-coils, but despite them and despite the insulation of his clothing he shuddered with the fearful cold. World of snow, reddened with the rays of a huge, scarlet sun!

Stars glittering icily in a black sky, in which a round red ball hung. The atmosphere must be tenuous, then–but why? After all, a hundred thousand years was only a day in a planet's life. What had brought this untimely death to earth? An intolerable sense of desolation gripped Blake. Was there no life anywhere on earth? Did the snow blanket lie like a pall from equator to pole? As he wondered he caught a flicker of movement far away, and, remembering that there were binoculars in the heterogeneous pile at his feet, he hastily began to search for them.

But they revealed little. Oddly, it seemed as though the sky, near the horizon, was moving. Little twinkling streaks of light seemed to flicker eerily across the horizon, like fireflies darting across a wall of basalt. How close Blake's simile was to the truth he was soon to learn.

For the horizon marched! Like a sky-towering wall the jewel-streaked blackness rushed toward him, incredibly–alive! It was like a great ramp stretching across the horizon as far as he could see, and inexorably, inevitably, the wall moved toward him. Blake thought of a wave, rushing across the snow.

He took the binoculars from his eyes and involuntarily gasped. The great wall was menacingly close–perhaps thirty miles distant, and apparently hundreds of feet high. Still Blake could not identify it. Smooth, glistening blackness, shot with tiny, darting sparks and streaks of light. And Blake sensed life in the thing–malignant life.

It was rushing toward him with amazing speed, faster than the swiftest airplane. In a few moments now it would reach him, overwhelm him. At the thought Blake's hand went out to the bakelite lever.

But he did not touch it. Amazingly, the scene had changed. The red-sploshed snow, the onrushing ramp of blackness, were gone! They had faded and vanished like mist, and in their place had grown another scene, utterly different, utterly–alien.

The platform of the Time Machine rested on a floor of white stone, and far above was a dome roof of the same substance. The circular room was vast–nearly half a mile in diameter. Blake judged. Here and there were curious machines, the purpose of which he could not guess. Save for the machines, the great chamber was empty. The penetrating cold was gone, and Blake switched off the heating-coils in his suit.

A little spot of light began to glow in the air near the platform. Blake stopped to snatch up a revolver, and for a moment his eyes were turned away. When he looked again, a man was standing where the light had been.

A strange man, indeed. Blake's eyes went wide as he stared at the stocky, dwarfed body, the slender hands, with fingers that seemed almost like tentacles–and the astounding head of the being.