Etidorhpa – The Edge of the Earth’s Shell
Promptly at eight o’clock the next evening the old man entered my room. He did not allude to the occurrences of the previous evening, and for this considerate treatment I felt thankful, as my part in those episodes had not been enviable. He placed his hat on the table, and in his usual cool and deliberate manner, commenced reading as follows:
For a long time thereafter we journeyed on in silence, now amid stately stone pillars, then through great cliff openings or among gigantic formations that often stretched away like cities or towns dotted over a plain, to vanish in the distance. Then they scene changed, and we traversed magnificent avenues, bounded by solid walls which expanded into lofty caverns of illimitable extent, from whence we found ourselves creeping through narrow crevices and threading winding passages barely sufficient to admit our bodies. For a considerable period I had noted the absence of water, and as we passed from grotto to temple reared without hands, it occurred to me that I could not now observe evidence of water erosion in the stony surface over which we trod, and which had been so abundant before we reached the lake. My guide explained by saying in reply to my thought question, that we were beneath the water line. He said that liquids were impelled back towards the earth’s surface from a point unnoticed by me, but long since passed. Neither did I now experience hunger nor thirst, in the slightest degree, a circumstance which my guide assured me was perfectly natural in view of the fact that there was neither waste of tissue nor consumption of heat in my present organism.
At last I observed far in the distance a slanting sheet of light that, fan-shaped, stood as a barrier across the way; beyond it neither earth nor earth’s surface appeared. As we approached, the distinctness of its outline disappeared, and when we came nearer, I found that it streamed into the space above, from what appeared to be a crevice or break in the earth that stretched across our pathway, and was apparently limitless and bottomless.
” Is this another hallucination?” I queried.
” No; it is a reality. Let us advance to the brink.”
Slowly we pursued our way, for I hesitated and held back. I had really begun to distrust my own senses, and my guide in the lead was even forced to demonstrate the feasibility of the way, step by step, before I could be induced to follow. At length we neared the edge of the chasm, and while he stood boldly upright by the brink, with fear and trembling I crept on my knees to his side, and together we faced a magnificent but fearful void that stretched beneath and beyond us, into a profundity of space. I peered into the chamber of light, that indescribable gulf of brilliancy, but vainly sought for an opposite wall; there was none. As far as the eye could reach, vacancy, illuminated vacancy, greeted my vision. The light that sprung from that void was not dazzling, but was possessed of a beauty that no words can suggest. I peered downward, and found that we stood upon the edge of a shelving ledge of stone that receded rapidly beneath us, so that we seemed to rest upon the upper side of its wedge-like edge. I strained my vision to catch a glimpse of the bottom of this chasm, but although I realized that my eyes were glancing into miles and miles of space, there was no evidence of earthly material other than the brink upon which we stood.
The limit of vision seemed to be bounded by a silvery blending of light with light, light alone, only light. The dead silence about, and the new light before me, combined to produce a weird sensation, inexplicable, overpowering. A speck of dust on the edge of immensity, I clung to the stone cliff, gazing into the depths of that immeasurable void.
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