The Moon Pool
Chapter 2: Dead! All Dead!
He was sitting, face in hands, on the side of his berth as I entered. He had taken off his coat.
“Throck,” I cried. “What was it? What are you flying from, man? Where is your wife--and Stanton?”
“Dead!” he replied monotonously. “Dead! All dead!” Then as I recoiled from him--”All dead. Edith, Stanton, Thora--dead--or worse. And Edith in the Moon Pool--with them--drawn by what you saw on the moon path--that has put its brand upon me--and follows me!”
He ripped open his shirt.
“Look at this,” he said. Around his chest, above his heart, the skin was white as pearl. This whiteness was sharply defined against the healthy tint of the body. It circled him with an even cincture about two inches wide.
“Burn it!” he said, and offered me his cigarette. I drew back. He gestured--peremptorily. I pressed the glowing end of the cigarette into the ribbon of white flesh. He did not flinch nor was there odour of burning nor, as I drew the little cylinder away, any mark upon the whiteness.
“Feel it!” he commanded again. I placed my fingers upon the band. It was cold--like frozen marble.
He drew his shirt around him.
“Two things you have seen,” he said. “It--and its mark. Seeing, you must believe my story. Goodwin, I tell you again that my wife is dead--or worse--I do not know; the prey of--what you saw; so, too, is Stanton; so Thora. How--”
Tears rolled down the seared face.
“Why did God let it conquer us? Why did He let it take my Edith?” he cried in utter bitterness. “Are there things stronger than God, do you think, Walter?”
“Are there? Are there?” His wild eyes searched me.
“I do not know just how you define God,” I managed at last through my astonishment to make answer. “If you mean the will to know, working through science--”
He waved me aside impatiently.
“Science,” he said. “What is our science against--that? Or against the science of whatever devils that made it--or made the way for it to enter this world of ours?”
With an effort he regained control.
“Goodwin,” he said, “do you know at all of the ruins on the Carolines; the cyclopean, megalithic cities and harbours of Ponape and Lele, of Kusaie, of Ruk and Hogolu, and a score of other islets there? Particularly, do you know of the Nan-Matal and the Metalanim?”
“Of the Metalanim I have heard and seen photographs,” I said. “They call it, don’t they, the Lost Venice of the Pacific?”
“Look at this map,” said Throckmartin. “That,” he went on, “is Christian’s chart of Metalanim harbour and the Nan-Matal. Do you see the rectangles marked Nan-Tauach?”
“Yes,” I said.
“There,” he said, “under those walls is the Moon Pool and the seven gleaming lights that raise the Dweller in the Pool, and the altar and shrine of the Dweller. And there in the Moon Pool with it lie Edith and Stanton and Thora.”
“The Dweller in the Moon Pool?” I repeated half-incredulously.
“The Thing you saw,” said Throckmartin solemnly.
A solid sheet of rain swept the ports, and the Southern Queen began to roll on the rising swells. Throckmartin drew another deep breath of relief, and drawing aside a curtain peered out into the night. Its blackness seemed to reassure him. At any rate, when he sat again he was entirely calm.
“There are no more wonderful ruins in the world,” he began almost casually. “They take in some fifty islets and cover with their intersecting canals and lagoons about twelve square miles. Who built them? None knows. When were they built? Ages before the memory of present man, that is sure. Ten thousand, twenty thousand, a hundred thousand years ago--the last more likely.
“All these islets, Walter, are squared, and their shores are frowning seawalls of gigantic basalt blocks hewn and put in place by the hands of ancient man. Each inner water-front is faced with a terrace of those basalt blocks which stand out six feet above the shallow canals that meander between them. On the islets behind these walls are time-shattered fortresses, palaces, terraces, pyramids; immense courtyards strewn with ruins--and all so old that they seem to wither the eyes of those who look on them.
“There has been a great subsidence. You can stand out of Metalanim harbour for three miles and look down upon the tops of similar monolithic structures and walls twenty feet below you in the water.
“And all about, strung on their canals, are the bulwarked islets with their enigmatic walls peering through the dense growths of mangroves--dead, deserted for incalculable ages; shunned by those who live near.