Etidorhpa – Strangle the Life from My Body
I know not how long I sat wrapped in slumber. Even if my body had not been wearing away- as formerly, my mind had become excessively wearied. I had existed in a state of abnormal mental intoxication far beyond the period of accustomed wakefulness, and had taxed my mental organization beyond endurance. In the midst of events of the most startling description, I had abruptly passed into what was at its commencement the sweetest sleep of my recollection, but which came to a horrible termination.
In my dream I was transported once more to my native land, and roamed in freedom throughout the streets of my lost home. I lived over again my early life in Virginia, and I seemed to have lost all recollection of the weird journey which I had lately taken. My subsequent connection with the brotherhood of alchemists, and the unfortunate letter that led to my present condition, were forgotten. There came no though suggestive of the train of events that are here chronicled, and as a child I tasted again the pleasures of innocence, the joys of boyhood.
Then my dream of childhood vanished, and the scenes of later days spread themselves before me. I saw, after a time, the scenes of my later life, as though I viewed them from a distance, and was impressed with the idea that they were not real, but only the fragments of a dream. I shuddered in my childish dreamland, and trembled as a child would at confronting events of the real life that I had passed through on earth, and that gradually assuming the shape of man approached and stood before me, a hideous specter seemingly ready to absorb me. The peaceful child in which I existed shrunk back, and recoiled from the approaching living man.
” Away, away,” I cried, ” you can not grasp me, I do not wish to become a man; this can not, must not be the end to a horrible existence.”
Gradually, the Man Life approached, seized and enveloped me, closing around me as a jelly fish surrounds its living victim, while the horrors of a nightmare came over my soul.
” Man’s life is a fearful dream,” I shouted, as I writhed in agony; ” I am still a child, and will remain one; keep off! Life of man, away! Let me live and die a child.”
The specter of Man’s Life seized me more firmly as I struggled to escape, and holding me in its irresistible clutch absorbed my substance as a vampire might suck the blood of an infant, and while the childish dream disappeared in that hideous embrace, the miserable man awoke.
I found myself on land. The Guide, seated at my side, remarked:
” You have slept.
” I have lived again,” I said in bitterness.
” You have not lived at all as yet,” he replied; ” Life is a dream, usually it is an unsatisfied nightmare.”
” Then let me dream again as at the beginning of this slumber, ” I said; ” and while I dream as a child, do you strangle the life from my body,- spare me the nightmare, I would not live to reach the Life of Man.”
” This is sarcasm,” he replied; ” you are as changeable as the winds of the Earth’s surface. Now as you are about to approach a part of our journey where fortitude is necessary, behold, you waver as a little child might. Nerve yourself; the trials of the present require a steady mind, let the future care for itself; you can not recall the past.”
I became attentive again; the depressing effects of that repulsive dream rapidly lifted, and wasted away, as I realized that I was a man, and was destined to see more than can be seen in the future of other mortals. This elevation of my spirit was evidently understood by my guide. He turned to the lake, and pointing to its quiet bosom remarked:
” For five hours we have journeyed over this sheet of water at the average rate of nine hundred miles an hour. At the time you threw the fragments of cloth overboard, we were traveling at a speed of not less than twenty miles per minute. You remember that some hours ago you criticised my assertion when I said that we would soon be near the axis of the earth beneath the North Pole, and now we are beyond that point, and are about six thousand miles from where we stood at that time.”
” You must have your way,” I replied; ” I can not disprove your assertion, but were it not that I have passed through so many marvelous experiences since first we met, I would question the reliability of your information.”
My guide continued:
” The surface of this lake lies as a mirror beneath both the ocean and the land. The force effect that preserves the configuration of the ocean preserves the form of this also, but influences it to a less extent, and the two surfaces lie nearly parallel with each other, this one being one hundred and fifty miles beneath the surface of the earth. The shell of the earth above us is honeycombed by caverns in some places, in others it is compact, and yet, in most places, is impervious to water. At the farther extremity of the lake, a stratum of porous material extends through the space intervening between the bottom of the ocean and this lake. By capillary attraction, assisted by gravitation, part of the water of the ocean is being transferred through this stratum to the underground cavity. The lake is slowly rising.”
At this remark I interrupted him: ” You say the water in the ocean is being slowly transferred down to this underground lake less by gravity than by capillarity.”
” I believe that I have reason to question that statement, if you do not include the salt,” I replied.
” Pray state your objections.”
I answered: ” Whether a tube be long or short, if it penetrate the bottom of a vessel of brine, and extend downward, the brine will flow into and out of it by reason of its weight.”
” You mistake,” he asserted; ” the attraction of the sides of the capillary tube, if the tube is long enough, will eventually separate the water from the salt, and at length a downward flow of water only will result.”
I again expressed my incredulity.
” More than this, by perfectly natural laws the water that is freed from the tubes might again force itself upward perfectly fresh, to the surface of the earth- yes, under proper conditions, above the surface of the ocean.”
” Do you take me for a fool?” I said. ” Is it not self-evident that a fountain can not rise above its source?”
” It often does,” he answered.
” You trifle with me,” I said, acrimoniously.
” No,” he replied; ” I am telling you the truth. Have you never heard of what men call artesian wells?”
” Yes, and ” ( here I attempted in turn to become sarcastic ) ” have you never learned that they are caused by water flowing into crevices in uplands where layers of stone or of clay strata separated by sand or gravel slant upward. The water conducted thence by these channels afterwards springs up in the valleys to which it has been carried by means of the crevices in these strata, but it never rises above its source.”
To my surprise he answered:
” This is another of man’s scientific speculations, based on some facts, it is true, and now and then correct, but not invariably. The water of an artesian well on an elevated plane may flow into the earth from a creek, pond, or river, that is lower than the mouth of the well it feeds, and still it may sport into the air from either a near or distant elevation that is higher than its source.”
” I can not admit the truth of this,” I said; ” I am willing to listen to reason, but such statements as these seem altogether absurd.”
” As you please,” he replied; ” we will continue our journey.”