The World Beyond
To Lee, after a moment, his grandfather seemed not awe-inspiring, but just a frail old man, paralyzed into almost complete immobility, lying here almost pathetically happy to have his grandson at last with him. An old man, with nothing of the mystic about him--an old man who had been--unknown to the savants of his Earth--perhaps the greatest scientist among them. Quietly, with pride welling in him, Lee held the wasted, numbed hand of his grandfather and listened...
Phineas Anthony, the scientist. After many years of research, spending his own private fortune, he had evolved the secret of size-change--solved the intricate problems of anti-gravitational spaceflight; and combining the two, had produced that little vehicle.
A man of science; and perhaps more than that. As old Anna Green had said, perhaps he was a man inspired--a man, following his dreams, his convictions, convinced that somewhere in God’s great creation of things that are, there must be an existence freed of those things by which Man himself so often makes human life a tortured hell.
“And Something led me here, Lee,” the gentle old voice was saying. “Perhaps not such a coincidence. On this great Inner Surface of gentle light and gentle warmth--with Nature offering nothing against which one must strive--there must be many groups of simple people like these. They have no thought of evil--there is nothing--no one, to teach it to them. If I had not landed here, I think I would have found much the same thing almost anywhere else on the Inner Surface.”
“The Inner Surface? I don’t understand, grandfather.”
A conception--a reality here--that was numbing in its vastness. This was the concave, inner surface, doubtless deep within the atom of some material substance. A little empty Space here, surrounded by solidity.
“And that--” Lee murmured, “then that little space is our Inter-Stellar abyss?”
“Yes. Of course. The stars, as we call them--from here you could call them tiny particles--like electrons whirling. All of them in this little void. With good eyesight, you can sometimes see them there--”
And to this viewpoint which Lee had now--so gigantic, compared to Earth--all the Inter-Stellar universe was a void here of what old Anthony considered would be perhaps eight or ten thousand miles. A void, to Lee now, was itself of no greater volume than the Earth had been to him before!
Silently he pondered it. This Inner Surface--not much bigger, to him now, than the surface of the Earth is to its humans ... Suddenly he felt small--infinitely tiny. Out here beyond the stars, he was only within the atom of something larger, a human, partly on his way--emerging--outward--
It gave him a new vague conception. As though now, because he was partly emerged, the all-wise Creator was giving him a new insight. Surely in this simple form of existence humans were totally unaware of what evil could be. Was not this a higher form of life than down there on his tiny Earth?
The conception numbed him with awe...
“You see, Lee, I have been looking forward to having you become a man--to having you here,” old Anthony was saying. As he lay, so utterly motionless, only his voice, his face, his eyes, seemed alive. It was an amazingly expressive old face, radiant, transfigured. “I shall not be here long. You see? And when I have--gone on--when I can only come back here as a Visitor--like Anna Green, you have been aware of her, Lee?”
“Yes, grandfather. Yes, I think I have.”
“The awareness is more acute, here, than it was back on Earth. A very comforting thing, Lee. I was saying--I want you here. These people, so simple--you might almost think them childlike--they need someone to guide them. The one who did that--just as I came, was dying. Maybe--maybe that is what led me here. So now I need you.”
It welled in Lee with an awe, and a feeling suddenly of humbleness--and of his own inadequacy, so that he murmured,
“But grandfather--I would do my best--but surely--”
“I think it will be given you--the ability--and I’ve been thinking, Lee, if only some time it might be possible to show them on Earth--”
Lee had been aware that he and old Anthony were alone here. When Lee entered, Aura had at once withdrawn. Now, interrupting his grandfather’s faint, gentle voice there was a commotion outside the underground apartment. The sound of women’s startled cries, and Aura’s voice.
Then Aura burst in, breathless, pale, with her hair flying and on her face and in her eyes a terror so incongruous that Lee’s heart went cold.
He gasped, “Aura! Aura, what is it?”
“This terrible thing--that man who came with you--that man, Franklin--he talked with Groff. Some evil spell to put upon Groff--it could only have been that--”
Lee seized her. “What do you mean? Talk slower. Groff? The man who served us that meal--”
“Yes, Groff. And two of the men who were to guard there. What that man said to them--did to them--and when old Arkoh found it out he opposed them--” Her voice was drab with stark horror--so new an emotion that it must have confused her, so that now she just stood trembling.
“Child, come here--come here over to me--” Old Anthony’s voice summoned her. “Now--talk more slowly--try and think what you want to tell us ... What happened?”
“Oh--I saw old Arkoh--him whom I love so much--who always has been so good to me--to us all--I saw him lying there on the floor--”
Words so unnatural here that they seemed to reverberate through the little cave-room with echoes that jostled and muttered like alien, menacing things which had no right here--and yet, were here.