The World Beyond
The Flight Into Size and Space
Lee came back to consciousness with the feeling that some great length of time must have elapsed. He was on a couch in a small, weird-looking metal room--metal of a dull, grey-white substance like nothing he had ever seen before. With his head still swimming he got up dizzily on one elbow, trying to remember what had happened to him. That fingernail, or claw, had scratched his face. He had been drugged. It seemed obvious. He could remember his roaring senses as he had tried to fight, with the drug gradually overcoming him...
The room had a small door, and a single round window, like a bullseye pane of thick lens. Outside there was darkness, with points of stars. His head was still humming from the remaining effect of the drug. Or was the humming an outside noise? He was aware as he got to his feet and staggered to the door, that the humming was distantly outside the room. The door was locked; its lever resisted his efforts to turn it.
There he saw the inert figures of the girl, and Tom Franklin. They were lying uninjured on two other small couches against the room’s metal wall. The girl stirred a little as he touched her dank forehead. Her dyed blonde hair had fallen disheveled to her shoulders. Franklin lay sprawled, his stiff white shirt bosom dirty and rumpled, his thin sandy hair dangling over his flushed face. His slack mouth was open. He was breathing heavily.
At the lens-window Lee stood gasping, his mind still confused and blurred, trying to encompass what was out there. This was a spaceship! A small globular thing of white metal. He could see a rim of it, like a flat ring some ten feet beneath him. A spaceship, and obviously it had left the Earth! There was a black firmament--dead-black monstrous abyss with white blazing points of stars. And then, down below and to one side there was just an edge of a great globe visible. The Earth, with the sunlight edging its sweeping crescent limb--the Earth, down there with a familiar coastline and a huge spread of ocean like a giant map in monochrome.
Back on the couch Lee sat numbed. There was the sound of scraping metal; a doorslide in the wall opened. A face was there--a man with a blur of opalescent light behind him.
“You are all right now?” a voice said.
“Yes. I guess so. Let me out of here--”
Let him out of here? To do what? To make them head this thing back to Earth ... To Lee Anthony as he sat confused, the very thoughts were a fantasy ... Off the Earth! Out in Space! So often he had read of it, as a future scientific possibility--but with this actuality now his mind seemed hardly to grasp it...
The man’s voice said gently, “We cannot trust you. There must be no fighting--”
“I won’t fight. What good could it do me?”
“You did fight. That was bad--that was frightening. We must not harm you--”
“Where are we going?” Lee murmured. “Why in the devil are you--”
“We think now it is best to say nothing. We will give you food through here. And over there--behind you--a little doorslide to another room. You and these other two can be comfortable--”
“For how long?” Lee demanded.
“It should not seem many days. Soon we shall go fast. Please watch it at the window--he would want that. You have been taught some science?”
“Yes. I guess so.”
To Lee it was a weird, unnatural exchange between captor and captive. The voice, intoning the English words so slowly, so carefully, seemed gentle, concerned with his welfare ... and afraid of him.
Abruptly the doorslide closed again, and then at once it reopened.
“He would want you to understand what you see,” the man said. “You will find it very wonderful--we did, coming down here. This was his room--so long ago when he used it. His dials are there--you can watch them and try to understand. Dials to mark our distance and our size. The size-change will start soon.”
Size-change? Lee’s numbed mind turned over the words and found them almost meaningless.
“From the window there--what you can see will be very wonderful,” the man said again. “He would want you to study it. Please do that.”
The doorslide closed...
What you can see from the window will be very wonderful. No one, during the days that followed could adequately describe what Lee Anthony and Thomas Franklin and Vivian saw through that lens-window. A vast panorama in monochrome ... a soundless drama of the stars, so immense, so awesome that the human mind could grasp only an infinitesimal fragment of its wonders...
They found the little door which led into another apartment. There were tables and chairs of earth-style, quaintly old-fashioned. Food and drink were shoved through the doorslide; the necessities of life and a fair comfort of living were provided. But their questions, even as the time passed and lengthened into what on Earth might have been a week or more, remained unanswered. There was only that gentle but firm negation:
“We have decided that he would want us to say nothing. We do not know about this girl and this smaller man. We brought them so that they could not remain on Earth to talk of having seen us. We are sorry about that. He probably won’t like it.”
“He? Who the devil are you talking about?” Franklin demanded. “See here, if I had you fellows back on Earth now I’d slam you into jail. Damned brigands. You can’t do this to me! My--my father’s one of the most important men in New York--”
But now the doorslide quietly closed.
A week? It could have been that, or more. In a wall recess of the room Lee found a line of tiny dials with moving pointers. Miles--thousands of miles. A million; ten millions; a hundred million. A light-year; tens, thousands. And, for the size-change, a normal diameter, Unit 1--and then up into thousands.
For hours at a time, silent, awed beyond what he had ever conceived the emotion of awe could mean, he sat at the lens-window, staring out and trying to understand.
The globe-ship was some five-hundred thousand miles out from Earth when the size-change of the weird little vehicle began. It came to Lee with a sudden shock to his senses, his head reeling, and a tingling within him as though every fibre of his being were suddenly stimulated into a new activity.
“Well, my Gawd,” Vivian gasped. “What’re they doin’ to us now?”
The three of them had been warned by a voice through the doorslide, so that they sat together on one of the couches, waiting for what would happen.
“This--I wish they wouldn’t do it,” Franklin muttered. “Damn them--I want to get out of here.”
Fear seemed to be Franklin’s chief emotion now--fear and a petty sense of personal outrage that all this could be done to him against his will. Often, when Lee and the girl were at the window, Franklin had sat brooding, staring at his feet.
“Easy,” Lee said. “It evidently won’t hurt us. We’re started in size-change. The globe, and everything in it, is getting larger.”
Weird. The grey metal walls of the room were glowing now with some strange current which suffused them. The starlight from the window-lens mingled with an opalescent sheen from the glowing walls. It was like an aura, bathing the room--an aura which seemed to penetrate every smallest cell-particle of Lee’s body--stimulating it...
Size-change! Vaguely, Lee could fathom how it was accomplished; his mind went back to many scientific articles he had read on the theory of it--only theory, those imaginative scientific pedants had considered it; and now it was a reality upon him! He recalled the learned phrases the writers had used ... The state of matter. In all the Universe, the inherent factors which govern the state of matter yield most readily to a change. An electronic charge--a current perhaps akin to, but certainly not identical with electricity, would change the state of all organic and inorganic substances ... a rapid duplication of the fundamental entities within the electrons--and electrons themselves, so unsubstantial--mere whirlpools of nothingness!
A rapid duplication of the fundamental whirlpools--that would add size. The complete substance--with shape unaltered--would grow larger.
All just theory, but here, now, it was brought to an accomplished fact. Within himself, Lee could feel it. But as yet, he could not see it. The glowing room and everything in it was so weirdly luminous, there was no alteration in shape. These objects, the figure of Vivian beside him, and the pallid frightened Franklin, relative to each other they were no different from before. And the vast panorama of starry Universe beyond the lens-window, the immense distances out there, made any size-change as yet unperceivable.
But the size-change had begun, there was no question of it. With his senses steadying, Lee crossed the room. A weird feeling of lightness was upon him; he swayed as he stood before the little line of dials in the wall-recess. Five hundred thousand miles from Earth. More than twice the distance of the Moon. The globe had gone that far with accelerating velocity so that now the pointers marked a hundred thousand miles an hour--out beyond the Moon, heading for the orbit-line of Mars. Now the size-change pointers were stirring. Unit One, the size this globe had been as it rested on Earth, fifty feet in height, and some thirty feet at its mid-section bulge. Already that unit was two, a globe--which, if it were on Earth, would be a hundred feet high. And Lee himself? He would be a giant more than twelve feet tall now ... He stood staring at the dials for a moment or two. That little pointer of the first of the size-change dials was creeping around. An acceleration! Another moment and it had touched Unit four. A two hundred foot globe. And Lee, if he had been on Earth, would already be a towering human nearly twenty-five feet in height!
Behind him, he heard Franklin suddenly muttering, “If only I could change without everything else changing! Damn them all--what I could do--”
“You’re nuts,” Vivian said. “I don’t see anything growing bigger--everything here--jus’ the same.” Her laugh was abruptly hysterical. “This room--you two--you look like ghosts. Say, maybe we’re all dead an’ don’t know it.”
Queerly her words sent a shiver through Lee. He turned, stared blankly at her. This weird thing! The electronic light streaming from these walls had a stroboscopic quality. The girl’s face was greenish, putty-colored, and her teeth shone phosphorescent.
Maybe we’re all dead and don’t know it ... Lee knew that this thing was a matter of cold, precise, logical science ... Yet who shall say but what mysticism is not mingled with science? A thing, which if we understood it thoroughly, would be as logical, as precise as the mathematics of science itself? Death? Who shall say what, of actuality, Death may be. A leaving of the mortal shell? A departure from earthly substance? A new state of being? Surely some of those elements were here now. And, logically, why could there not be a state of being not all Death, but only with some of its elements?
“I--I don’t like this,” Franklin suddenly squealed. On the couch he sat hunched, trembling. “Something wrong here--Lee--damn you Lee--don’t you feel it?”
Lee tried to smile calmly. “Feel what?”
“We’re not--not alone here,” Franklin stammered. “Not just you and Vivian and me--something else is here--something you can’t see, but you can almost feel. An’ I don’t like it--”
A presence. Was there indeed something else here, of which now in this new state of being they were vaguely aware? Something--like a fellow voyager--making this weird journey with them? Lee’s heart was so wildly beating that it seemed smothering him.
Unit Ten ... Twenty ... a Hundred ... With steady acceleration, the lowest size-change pointer was whirling, and the one above it was moving. The globe was five thousand feet high now. And on Earth Lee would have been a monstrous Titan over six hundred feet tall. A globe, and humans in that tremendous size--the very weight of them--in a moment more of this growth--would disarrange the rotation of the Earth on its axis!...
And then abruptly Lee found himself envisaging the monstrous globe out here in Space. A thing to disarrange the mechanics of all the Celestial Universe! In an hour or two, with this acceleration of growth, the globe would be a huge meteorite--then an asteroid...
He stared at the distance dials. With the growth had come an immense augmentation of velocity. A hundred thousand miles an hour--that had been accelerated a hundred fold now. Ten million miles an hour ... Through the window-lens Lee gazed, mute with awe. The size-change was beginning to show! Far down, and to one side the crescent Earth was dwindling ... Mars was far away in another portion of its orbit--the Moon was behind the Earth. There were just the myriad blazing giant worlds of the stars--infinitely remote, with vast distances of inky void between them. And now there was a visible movement to the stars! A sort of shifting movement...