At first Blake thought the man was a hunchback, and then he realized that the sack-like object that hung down and rested on the dwarf's back was actually a part of his skull. The head, seen from the front, seemed normal, although the eyes were abnormally large, and the mouth little more than a tiny slit; but the back of the skull was elongated into a two-foot-long cylinder of pulpy white flesh that hung down almost to the floor. And yet that was the logical evolution of the brain case, Blake realized, for the man's slender neck could scarcely support the weight of a huge, globular cranium. Any misstep would, in such a case, topple the top-heavy head to one side and result in a broken neck. Logical–but fantastic, strange beyond imagination!
The stocky body was clothed in glistening, metallic mesh. One of the slender arms swung up, palm forward, in the immemorial gesture of peace.
Blake thrust the revolver into his belt, but did not relax his wariness. He said, "Who are you?"
As he had expected, the other gave no sign of understanding. A gulf of a hundred thousand years separated the languages of the two. Yet the future-man bridged the gulf in a way that was astounding in its simplicity.
After a pause a voice said, "I am called Nak."
Blake's eyebrows shot up in bewilderment. He had been watching the dwarf's lips, was sure that they had not moved. And, strangely, he could not distinguish the voice's tone–whether it had been flat, shrill, or harsh.
Again the voice, "I am Nak. I am not speaking–not orally. It is my mind you hear."
Blake gasped, "Your mind?"
"Yes. Thought-transference–telepathy. The vibrations of my mind impinge upon yours."
"But I hear you——"
"No, you do not. That is habit. Your brain transmits my thoughts to the auditory nerves, where they are translated into your tongue. When you speak, your words alone would be gibberish, but I receive the thoughts behind your words as well–and automatically translate them into my own language. Our race has conversed thus for thousands of years."
Blake said, "Are you–a friend?"
"Yes. You are puzzled. Your mind is confused. I can see–you have come through time." There was a flicker of expression on the narrow face, with its great eyes. "From the past . . . but I thought there was never any successful time-projector built."
"I was the first" Blake said, "so far as I know–but that was very long ago."
Blake told him. The other shook his head in a gesture of bewilderment. "In all history there is no record of such a success. Not even when the Doom brought about the Renaissance of Science——"
"The Doom?" Abruptly Blake remembered the marching ramp of blackness. "The–how did I get here? How did you——"
"I transported you here, by means of a physical process I do not think you could understand. It is a matter of warping space–as a sheet of paper can be folded until opposite edges touch. For a moment the Seventh Circle–where you were–and this room were touching, in hyperspace. It was a development of the old radio transmission of matter."
The future-man, Nak, had been eyeing the Time Machine curiously. Now he came forward, fumbling at his belt. Blake retreated a step.