The Atom-smasher
Chapter 5: The Eye of Atlantis

Public Domain

For perhaps half an hour the three lay there, hearing nothing. It seemed to be night, for the darkness was impenetrable, save for the lurid flashes of fire from the volcano. Parrish, who was slowly recovering his strength, was mumbling incessantly. It was with difficulty that Jim recalled him to a realization of his surroundings.

“Where is the city of Atlantis?” he asked him.

“Over there,” mumbled Parrish. “Behind the volcano. Why do you ask me?”

“I’m thinking of going there.”

“Eh? Going there? You’re mad. The Eye will see you, the Eye that can see for a hundred miles. They’ll turn the Ray on you. Nothing is too small for the Eye. And they watch night and day.”

“The Eye is off now.”

“It’s never off. The Eye is dark. It grows white only when they are about to use the Ray. Perhaps the Eye is watching us now.”

“Nevertheless,” said Jim, “I think we would do well to try to enter the city. We can’t live here in the jungle at the mercy of these Drilgoes.”

“It is impossible to enter. All strangers are killed by the Atlanteans.”

“Dad,” interposed Lucille, “I think we’d better do what Jim suggests. One of us must decide.”

“My idea is that you take us to some place where we can get a view of the city,” said Jim. “Then we can make up our minds what to do. We’ve got to get somewhere out of this jungle.”

Parrish rose to his feet, mumbling. “If we go round the base of the volcano we can see Atlantis,” he said. “It’s always light there. In the daytime they drive away the fogs by some means they’ve got, and at night they have an artificial sun. But we’ll be killed, we’ll all be killed.”

Mumbling and muttering, he began groping his way through the undergrowth in the direction of the volcano, whose flashes were again becoming more frequent, affording a means of directing their route. Obscure rumblings were again beginning to shake the earth. For an hour the three picked their way steadily upward through the ferns, until the ground became more open.

They were approaching the base of the volcano, whose side now towered above them, the upper part glassy with vitreous lava.

Suddenly Parrish, who was still leading, stopped and began to tremble with fear. Stepping to his side, Jim heard the low muttering of voices not far away.

Very cautiously he moved forward through the thin fern scrub, until the glow of burning embers caught his sight. He stopped, hearing the voices more distinctly, and again moved forward.

Three Drilgoes, huge, bestial men, and evidently an outpost, were squatting around the ashes, devouring something with noisy gusto.

Softly as Jim had moved, their acute ears had caught the sound of his footsteps. They rose, still holding what they were eating in their hands, and, grasping their stone spears, moved in three separate ways toward the edge of the clearing.

The man nearest Jim uttered a guttural exclamation and, after sniffing a moment, began to lope in his direction. Suddenly he stopped short, petrified with astonishment and fear at the sight of a man who, instinct told him, was neither Atlantean nor of his own kind.

Jim leaped, tackling him about the knees, and brought him heavily to the ground. As the Drilgo fell, the spear clattered from his hand, but from his snakeskin girdle he pulled a long, curved knife of chipped obsidian, sharp as a razor.

Jim grasped the Drilgo’s wrist, but in a moment he saw that he was no match for the creature in strength. He drew back his right arm and delivered a punch to the solar plexus with all his strength.

As the Drilgo’s hand grew limp he snatched away the knife. There was no helping what he did for the two others were close upon him.

A thrust, a slashing blow, and the Drilgo was weltering in his life-blood. A backward leap, and Jim evaded the flung spear by a hair’s breadth.

Knife in hand he leaped forward, and, dodging in beneath the long shaft of the weapon, got in a slash that almost cut the Drilgo’s body in two.

The third Drilgo, seeing his two companions in their death-throes, flung away his spear and fled with loud howls into the jungle.

Jim stepped back. Lucille and her father were already almost at his heels. “It’s all right,” he called. “Come this way!” He led them through the ferny growth in such a manner that they should not see the two dead bodies. Nevertheless, he felt that Lucille knew.

“Let’s see what they were cooking,” he said.

But again he turned quickly. He could not know for sure what flesh that was, roasting and scorching on the embers, and he had no desire to know. It might have been monkey, but ... he turned away, and as he did so, Parrish picked up several round objects that were lying a little distance away.

“These are good to eat,” he said. “A sort of bread-fruit. I’ve lived on it for five years,” he added with a sort of grotesque pathos.

They munched the fruit as they proceeded up the mountain, and found it satisfying. Parrish seemed more himself again, though he still muttered at intervals. Lucille clung closely to Jim as they proceeded.

They were treading on lava now, vitreous, and smooth as glass. It was impossible to proceed further in that direction. They turned their steps around the base in the direction of the sea.

After another hour, during which their way was lit by almost continuous lurid flashes from the crater, a patch of illumination, apparently out at sea, began to become visible. A half hour more, and they were rounding the volcano’s base, and suddenly it burst upon them, a stupendous spectacle that drew an exclamation of amazement from Jim’s lips.

That low, flat background was the sea, the sound of whose breakers was faintly audible. Between sea and land ran a narrow, slender causeway, perhaps a mile in length. And beyond that, set on a small island, was the most splendid city that Jim could have imagined.

Like New York--very like New York, with its mighty towers, but more symmetrical, sloping upward from the sea toward a towering rampart at the heart of it, crowned with huge domes and minarets and serpentine ramps and mighty blocks of stone that must have sheltered as many occupants as New York’s highest skyscrapers.

The whole was snow-white, and gleamed softly in an artificial light dispensed from an enormous artificial planet that seemed to hover above the ramparts.

“God!” whispered Jim in awe as he gazed at the great city.

“You cannot cross that causeway,” whimpered old Parrish. “It’s death to try. One sweep of the Ray will blot out every living thing.”

“Hush! Listen!” came from Lucille’s lips. “Something’s moving down there!”

The distant murmur of voices, the indescribable “feel” of the proximity of other human beings told Jim that they were in imminent danger. He glanced about him. A little overhead was an outcrop of enormous boulders, standing up like a little fortress above the smooth lava.

“Get behind there!” Jim whispered.

They turned and ran, slipping and stumbling up the smooth slope. Reaching the boulders, they ensconced themselves hastily behind them. Jim peered out through a crevice between two of the largest stones. The sound of moving things became more audible.

Then, as a flash of flame shot from the crater overhead, Jim saw a black human horde creeping like an array of ants around the base of the mountain not far beneath.

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