Darkness and Dawn Book I: The Vacant World - Cover

Darkness and Dawn Book I: The Vacant World

Public Domain

Chapter 21: Eve Becomes an Amazon

Stern laid a hand on her shoulder, striving to draw her away. This spectacle, it seemed to him, was no fit sight for her to gaze on. But she shrugged her shoulders as if to say: “I’m not a child! I’m your equal, now, and I must see!” So the engineer desisted. And he, too, set his eye to the twisting aperture.

At sight of the narrow segment of forest visible through it, and of the several members of the Horde, a strong revulsion came upon him.

Up welled a deep-seated love for the memory of the race of men and women as they once had been--the people of the other days. Stern almost seemed to behold them again, those tall, athletic, straight-limbed men; those lithe, deep-breasted women, fair-skinned and with luxuriant hair; all alike now plunged for a thousand years in the abyss of death and of eternal oblivion.

Never before had the engineer realized how dear, how infinitely close to him his own race had been. Never had he so admired its diverse types of force and beauty, as now, now when all were but a dream.

“Ugh!” thought he, disgusted beyond measure at the sight before him. “And all these things are just as much alike as so many ants in a hill! I question if they’ve got the reason and the socialized intelligence of ants!”

He heard the girl breathe quick, as she, too, watched what was going on outside. A certain change had taken place there. The mist had somewhat thinned away, blown by the freshening breeze through Madison Forest and by the higher-rising sun. Both watchers could new see further into the woods; and both perceived that the Horde was for the most part disposing itself to sleep.

Only a few vague, uncertain figures were now moving about, with a strangely unsteady gait, weak-kneed and simian.

In the nearest group, which Stern had already had a chance to study, all save one of the creatures had lain down. The man and woman could quite plainly hear the raucous and bestial snoring of some half-dozen of the gorged Things.

“Come away, you’ve seen enough, more than enough!” he whispered in the girl’s ear.

She shook her head.

“No, no!” she answered, under her breath. “How horrible--and yet, how wonderful!”

Then a misfortune happened; trivial yet how direly pregnant!

For Stern, trying to readjust his position, laid his right hand on the wall above his head.

A little fragment of loose marble, long since ready to fall, dislodged itself and bounced with a sharp click against the steel I-beam over which they were both peeking.

The sound, perhaps, was no greater than you would make in snapping an ordinary lead-pencil in your fingers; yet on the instant three of the Things raised their bulbous and exaggerated heads in an attitude of intense, suspicious listening. Plain to see that their senses, at least, excelled those of the human being, even as a dog’s might.

The individual which, alone of them all, had been standing, wheeled suddenly round and made a step or two toward the building. Both watchers saw him with terrible distinctness, there among the sumacs and birches, with the beauty of which he made a shocking contrast.

Plain now was the simian aspect, plain the sidelong and uncertain gait, bent back and crooked legs, the long, pendulous arms and dully ferocious face.

And as the Thing listened, its hair bristling, it thrust its villainous, apelike head well forward. Open fell the mouth, revealing the dog-teeth and the blue, shriveled-looking gums.

A wrinkle creased the low, dull brow. Watching with horrified fascination, Stern and Beatrice beheld--and heard--the creature sniff the air, as though taking up some scent of danger or of the hunt.

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