The Moon Pool
Chapter 5: Into the Moon Pool
“Goodwin,” Throckmartin went on at last, “I can describe him only as a thing of living light. He radiated light; was filled with light; overflowed with it. A shining cloud whirled through and around him in radiant swirls, shimmering tentacles, luminescent, coruscating spirals.
“His face shone with a rapture too great to be borne by living man, and was shadowed with insuperable misery. It was as though it had been remoulded by the hand of God and the hand of Satan, working together and in harmony. You have seen that seal upon my own. But you have never seen it in the degree that Stanton bore it. The eyes were wide open and fixed, as though upon some inward vision of hell and heaven!
“The light that filled and surrounded him had a nucleus, a core--something shiftingly human shaped--that dissolved and changed, gathered itself, whirled through and beyond him and back again. And as its shining nucleus passed through him Stanton’s whole body pulsed radiance. As the luminescence moved, there moved above it, still and serene always, seven tiny globes of seven colors, like seven little moons.
“Then swiftly Stanton was lifted--levitated--up the unscalable wall and to its top. The glow faded from the moonlight, the tinkling music grew fainter. I tried again to move. The tears were running down now from my rigid lids and they brought relief to my tortured eyes.
“I have said my gaze was fixed. It was. But from the side, peripherally, it took in a part of the far wall of the outer enclosure. Ages seemed to pass and a radiance stole along it. Soon drifted into sight the figure that was Stanton. Far away he was--on the gigantic wall. But still I could see the shining spirals whirling jubilantly around and through him; felt rather than saw his tranced face beneath the seven moons. A swirl of crystal notes, and he had passed. And all the time, as though from some opened well of light, the courtyard gleamed and sent out silver fires that dimmed the moonrays, yet seemed strangely to be a part of them.
“At last the moon neared the horizon. There came a louder burst of sound; the second, and last, cry of Stanton, like an echo of his first! Again the soft sighing from the inner terrace. Then--utter silence!
“The light faded; the moon was setting and with a rush life and power to move returned to me. I made a leap for the steps, rushed up them, through the gateway and straight to the grey rock. It was closed--as I knew it would be. But did I dream it or did I hear, echoing through it as though from vast distances a triumphant shouting?
“I ran back to Edith. At my touch she wakened; looked at me wanderingly; raised herself on a hand.
“‘Dave!’ she said, ‘I slept--after all.’ She saw the despair on my face and leaped to her feet. ‘Dave!’ she cried. ‘What is it? Where’s Charles?’
“I lighted a fire before I spoke. Then I told her. And for the balance of that night we sat before the flames, arms around each other--like two frightened children.”
Abruptly Throckmartin held his hands out to me appealingly.
“Walter, old friend!” he cried. “Don’t look at me as though I were mad. It’s truth, absolute truth. Wait--” I comforted him as well as I could. After a little time he took up his story.
“Never,” he said, “did man welcome the sun as we did that morning. A soon as it had risen we went back to the courtyard. The walls whereon I had seen Stanton were black and silent. The terraces were as they had been. The grey slab was in its place. In the shallow hollow at its base was--nothing. Nothing--nothing was there anywhere on the islet of Stanton--not a trace.
“What were we to do? Precisely the same arguments that had kept us there the night before held good now--and doubly good. We could not abandon these two; could not go as long as there was the faintest hope of finding them--and yet for love of each other how could we remain? I loved my wife, --how much I never knew until that day; and she loved me as deeply.
“‘It takes only one each night, ‘ she pleaded. ‘Beloved, let it take me.’
“I wept, Walter. We both wept.
“‘We will meet it together, ‘ she said. And it was thus at last that we arranged it.”
“That took great courage indeed, Throckmartin,” I interrupted. He looked at me eagerly.
“You do believe then?” he exclaimed.
“I believe,” I said. He pressed my hand with a grip that nearly crushed it.
“Now,” he told me. “I do not fear. If I--fail, you will follow with help?”
“We talked it over carefully,” he went on, “bringing to bear all our power of analysis and habit of calm, scientific thought. We considered minutely the time element in the phenomena. Although the deep chanting began at the very moment of moonrise, fully five minutes had passed between its full lifting and the strange sighing sound from the inner terrace. I went back in memory over the happenings of the night before. At least ten minutes had intervened between the first heralding sigh and the intensification of the moonlight in the courtyard. And this glow grew for at least ten minutes more before the first burst of the crystal notes. Indeed, more than half an hour must have elapsed, I calculated, between the moment the moon showed above the horizon and the first delicate onslaught of the tinklings.
“‘Edith!’ I cried. ‘I think I have it! The grey rock opens five minutes after upon the moonrise. But whoever or whatever it is that comes through it must wait until the moon has risen higher, or else it must come from a distance. The thing to do is not to wait for it, but to surprise it before it passes out the door. We will go into the inner court early. You will take your rifle and pistol and hide yourself where you can command the opening--if the slab does open. The instant it opens I will enter. It’s our best chance, Edith. I think it’s our only one.’
“My wife demurred strongly. She wanted to go with me. But I convinced her that it was better for her to stand guard without, prepared to help me if I were forced again into the open by what lay behind the rock.
“At the half-hour before moonrise we went into the inner court. I took my place at the side of the grey rock. Edith crouched behind a broken pillar twenty feet away; slipped her rifle-barrel over it so that it would cover the opening.
“The minutes crept by. The darkness lessened and through the breaches of the terrace I watched the far sky softly lighten. With the first pale flush the silence of the place intensified. It deepened; became unbearably--expectant. The moon rose, showed the quarter, the half, then swam up into full sight like a great bubble.
“Its rays fell upon the wall before me and suddenly upon the convexities I have described seven little circles of light sprang out. They gleamed, glimmered, grew brighter--shone. The gigantic slab before me glowed with them, silver wavelets of phosphorescence pulsed over its surface and then--it turned as though on a pivot, sighing softly as it moved!
“With a word to Edith I flung myself through the opening. A tunnel stretched before me. It glowed with the same faint silvery radiance. Down it I raced. The passage turned abruptly, passed parallel to the walls of the outer courtyard and then once more led downward.
“The passage ended. Before me was a high vaulted arch. It seemed to open into space; a space filled with lambent, coruscating, many-coloured mist whose brightness grew even as I watched. I passed through the arch and stopped in sheer awe!
“In front of me was a pool. It was circular, perhaps twenty feet wide. Around it ran a low, softly curved lip of glimmering silvery stone. Its water was palest blue. The pool with its silvery rim was like a great blue eye staring upward.
“Upon it streamed seven shafts of radiance. They poured down upon the blue eye like cylindrical torrents; they were like shining pillars of light rising from a sapphire floor.
“One was the tender pink of the pearl; one of the aurora’s green; a third a deathly white; the fourth the blue in mother-of-pearl; a shimmering column of pale amber; a beam of amethyst; a shaft of molten silver. Such are the colours of the seven lights that stream upon the Moon Pool. I drew closer, awestricken. The shafts did not illumine the depths. They played upon the surface and seemed there to diffuse, to melt into it. The Pool drank them?
“Through the water tiny gleams of phosphorescence began to dart, sparkles and coruscations of pale incandescence. And far, far below I sensed a movement, a shifting glow as of a radiant body slowly rising.
“I looked upward, following the radiant pillars to their source. Far above were seven shining globes, and it was from these that the rays poured. Even as I watched their brightness grew. They were like seven moons set high in some caverned heaven. Slowly their splendour increased, and with it the splendour of the seven beams streaming from them.
“I tore my gaze away and stared at the Pool. It had grown milky, opalescent. The rays gushing into it seemed to be filling it; it was alive with sparklings, scintillations, glimmerings. And the luminescence I had seen rising from its depths was larger, nearer!
“A swirl of mist floated up from its surface. It drifted within the embrace of the rosy beam and hung there for a moment. The beam seemed to embrace it, sending through it little shining corpuscles, tiny rosy spiralings. The mist absorbed the rays, was strengthened by them, gained substance. Another swirl sprang into the amber shaft, clung and fed there, moved swiftly toward the first and mingled with it. And now other swirls arose, here and there, too fast to be counted; hung poised in the embrace of the light streams; flashed and pulsed into each other.
“Thicker and thicker still they arose until over the surface of the Pool was a pulsating pillar of opalescent mist steadily growing stronger; drawing within it life from the seven beams falling upon it; drawing to it from below the darting, incandescent atoms of the Pool. Into its centre was passing the luminescence rising from the far depths. And the pillar glowed, throbbed--began to send out questing swirls and tendrils--
“There forming before me was That which had walked with Stanton, which had taken Thora--the thing I had come to find!
“My brain sprang into action. My hand threw up the pistol and I fired shot after shot into the shining core.