The Challenge from Beyond (Weinbaum, Wandrei, Smith, Vincent, Leinster)

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The Challenge from Beyond
written by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Donald Wandrei, E. E. Smith, Harl Vincent and Murray Leinster
Originally published in Fantasy Magazine, September 1935, as one of a pair of identically-titled short stories. (PDF file) - Text is as close as possible to the original printed edition excepting only (exact) font and ornamentation, arrangement into 2-column pages, obvious printing errors, and certain irregularities of spacing; otherwise assume [s.i.c.].

The Challenge From Beyond

Ever eager as we are to present our readers with unusual

features, it affords us exceptional pleasure to offer for this issue,
our Third Anniversary Number, what we believe is the most unusual
fantasy feature of them all.

Fascinated as we were with the possibilities for a science fiction

story and a weird fantasy tale written around the title, “The Challenge
From Beyond,” we asked five of our most prominent science fiction
authors, and five equally eminent weird fantasy authors to cooperate
in writing the two stories, both of which we proudly present as the
special feature for our Third Anniversary Number. Because we feel
sure that our readers are eager to know the parts written by the various
authors, we have listed the collaborators in the by-line in the order of
their appearance, and in the story proper set off the first line of each
one's installment with italics.

by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Donald Wandrei,

Edward E. Smith, Harl Vincent, & Murray Leinster

“There is no such thing as truth!” barked

Professor Thaddeus Crabbe, staring trucu-
lently at his young assistant, Jerry Blake.
“No fact and no statement is entirely true!”

“Except that last statement of yours, I

suppose,” grinned the younger man, looking
up from the dusky corner of the Crannan
Foundation's astrophysical laboratory,
“What brought forth the remark, anyway?”

Crabbe drew his enormous bulk erect,

“I repeat,” he said with the impressive
dignity of a fat man, “that truth is a purely
relative matter. It depends, as Einstein
showed, on the point of view of the obser-
ver. Like everything else in an Einstein or
de Sitter universe, it is entirely relative, and
what's more, it's probably curved as well.
Interesting idea,” he concluded reflective-
ly. “Curved truth.”

Blake chuckled. “Why the outburst?”

The professor glowered again. “Those

fool directors!” he blazed. “No appropri-
ation unless I can produce evidence that my
theory is based on truth. And they want
assurance that the experiment will not reflect
on the Foundation. Ever since the biochem-
istry division poisoned that subject last year
they've been afraid of trouble. Truth––bah!”

“What experiment?” asked Blake.

“I've half a notion to tell you.” Crabbe

eased his enormous midsection into a chair.
“You wouldn't understand, of course, being
merely a statistician, but perhaps you can
appreciate the validity of the concept. Even
a statistician ought to know something about
the facts represented by his figures.”

“Well, a professor seldom knows any-

thing about the figures represented by his
facts,” observed Blake cheerfully.

“Curved space,” muttered Crabbe.

“Curved time. The infinitely distant future
is the same as the infinitely dead past. And
what's more,” he said, “curved size! Why
not? If I postulate a telescope that will pierce
into infinite largeness and a microscope that
will probe into infinite smallness, why should
they not see the same thing? Of course!
Looking into either, we should see the in-
termediate between the macro and micro
cosms, which is to say ourselves. We stand
halfway between electron and star. And
therefore, why not curved truth?”

“Why not?” queried Jerry imperturbably.

“You don't seem to take me seriously,”

said the professor suspiciously. “Naturally
you fail to understand the paradoxes of rela-
tivity, the very paradoxes which my experi-
ment was to have explored, if those fools of
directors had allowed me to hire a subject.”

“I thought,” said Blake, “that you were

going to explain what your experiment was.”

“Explain? How am I to explain to a fool

who merely juggles figures? But listen if you
care to. You will not understand, however,
for to quote Jeans: ‘Most of the symbols used
by the mathematical physicist today convey
no physical picture to his mind.’ But for the
purpose of explanation, Shapely has made
the more pertinent statement, to the effect
that the spiral nebulae do not obey all known
laws of mechanics. He makes a very signifi-
cant suggestion when he observes that these
vast nebulae act as if matter were somehow
being forced thru them into our three dimen-
sional space from――beyond. It was that ob-
servation that led me to a study of vortices,
for the colossal spirals of the extra-galactic
nebulae are each but an inconceivably vast
vortex. It occurred to me to attempt to dup-
licate nebular conditions on a laboratory scale,
and that is the heart of the experiment――a
vortex. But not a vortex in the ordinary
sense of the word.”

“Of course not,” agreed Blake amiably.

“No, not an ordinary vortex. In the first

place, it has to take place in a gas so rare that
one might call it practically a complete va-
cuum, for of that degree of rarity are the gas-
eous hearts of the nebulae. And of course
the star streams that are the spiral arms are
beyond human duplication.” Crabbe paused
frowning. “But a nebula is more than a vor-
tex of rarefied gases. There is as well a vast
gravitational vortex, which is also beyond
mortal powers. However, for that I sub-
stituted a magnetic vortex, a whirling field
of force. And at last, to complete the known
phenomena, I superimposed on these vor-
tices, a vortex of radiation.”

“And when you were all thru,” asked

Blake rhetorically, “what did you have?”

Crabbe's watery blue eyes flashed to his

face, and the round visage of the professor
quivered into a smile. “I had a hole,” he
announced. “A hole or a tunnel.”

“A hole in what? A tunnel to where?”

“Well, in what I cannot say. To where

I don't know.”

“Well, I must say I can't blame the dir-

rectors! There's a proverb about pouring
money into a hole.”

Crabbe ignored him. “In the center of

the vortex I produced a hole,” he continued,
“Unfortunately rabbits and cats lack what
we humans are pleased to call our intelli-
gence, and those I sent thru were unable to
devise a means of returning, if they were in
physical condition to return. Since this end
of the hole is in vacuu, it was necessary to
send them thru in closed jars, an environ-
ment not conductive to long survival unless
they managed to escape. And several times
I tried the scheme of attaching a cord to the
container, and drawing it back again. The
cat or rabbit reappeared indubitably fright-
ened, but whether more frightened than it
would have been if lowered into a sewer and
withdrawn I am unable to say.”

“Can you see into the hole?”

“A limited distance,” said Crabbe. “The

optical effect is rather startling, for the cat
and jar seem almost to diminish instead of to
recede. The appearance is as if one peered
into the large tube containing my vortex and
there observed container and cat suspended
and receding, but receding into a distance
that is, so to speak, within arm's length.
Very queer. If the fool directors had allowed
me to hire a human volunteer to go thru,
observe, and be withdrawn to report――”
The professor turned a sudden watery glare
at Blake. “By heaven! You can go!”

“I? You're crazy!”

“Crazy, eh! Who cares what happens

to a statistician?”

“I do,” announced Blake decidedly.

“But think of the possibilities! Haven't

you any feeling for the glories of science?
Why, I'd consider it an honor to risk my
safety in such a cause!”

“Why don't you then? That is, if you

could squeeze yourself thru the hole.”

For some time Crabbe stared thoughtfully

at the younger man. “All right!” he snap-
ped in sudden decision. “I'll tell you what
we'll do. We'll fix up two protective suits
with oxygen tanks, and we'll both go!”

“Up to now, I didn't dream of going, but

since you've proved you don't know any-
thing about the figures represented by your
facts, I'll shag along just to keep an eye on
you,” Jerry Blake retorted blithely.

Crabbe turned purple. “What do you

mean by insolence!” he roared. “I could
have you fired for this――this――”

“Brazen insubordination they usually call

it. But you won't. You see, we're going
to fix up three suits.”

The professor's enormous bulk quivered,

but he got more interested than angry.
“Why three? There are only two of us.”

“That proves you're no statistician,” said

his young assistant with another dig at the
professor's ego. “In the first place, we ought
to take along a spare for emergency. In the
second place, maybe we won't be two when
we go thru the vortex. Maybe we'll be
curved also, curved into a flock of distortions
of ourselves in any number of dimensions.
As a matter of fact, we ought to take along
more suits than we could possibly manage.”

“In the third place?” said Crabbe acidly.

“In the third place,” Jerry continued, un-

perturbed, “even if we only needed two
suits, we might want to bring back some-
one or something.”


“How the heck do I know?” Jerry ans-

wered with a frown. “Maybe a four di-
mensional egg, maybe a five sexed you-
name it, maybe real reality.”

“Four–five–real–” spluttered Crabbe.

“Why not? Look at a mirror and you see

yourself. Look at a bigger mirror and you see
yourself plus some buildings. If you built a
big enough mirror, it would reflect the uni-
verse. But suppose the universe is just a
mirror? If we get thru the vortex, maybe
we would find that the universe is just a
mirror to reflect real reality――beyond.”

“What an idea!” Crabbe growled.

“What an idea!” Blake crowed. “You

don't exist. I don't exist. Nobody exists.
The universe is a fraud. It's just a colossal
mirror, reflecting the nature of the reality be-
yond. You've dug a hole, a tunnel, a vor-
tex thru and now we'll get out.”

The professor's huge curvature suddenly

bounced up and down as he waddled away.
“Shut up! Stop talking! Get busy! The
Crannan Foundation has all the supplies we
need. We start tomorrow night.”

Jerry subsided and went to work. The

three suits were prepared by early dawn.
But the three suits were only two when
Crabbe and his assistant met in the labor-
atory that night.

The professor glared at Blake. “What do

you mean by hiding the third suit?”

“Search me. Why the dickens would

I want to hide it?”

Crabbe glowered at the vortex. “I sup-

pose next you'll tell me it just walked into
the vortex of its own accord. Confound it,
I hate mysteries. You and I have the only
keys to the laboratory except the one in the
Directors' safe. Did you make a thoro
search of the laboratory?”

“No. I just got here before you did. But

I distinctly remember leaving the three suits
assembled on the table-top. Say――maybe
something came thru the vortex――”

“――and took one of the suits? Phooey!”

The professor snorted. “Anything that came
thru would have its own suit to protect it
from our atmosphere. It wouldn't have
any use for one of our suits.”

“But I would!” a voice chimed in

brightly from behind them.

They whirled around. A weird encase-

ment, a cross between a diving suit and a
space suit, enclosed a figure just coming out
of a dark room closet at one end of the lab-
oratory. The voice came clearly thru a de-
vice built into the helmet. But all they could
see of the figure was a small, belligerent nose
and brown eyes with a gleam in them.

“Thief. I order you to get out of my

suit immediately.” Crabbe roared.

“I order you to stop screaming,” mim-

icked the malicious voice of Leora Crannan.
“Besides, I'm not a thief. My grandfather
established this Foundation, and my father's
one of the Directors. Their money runs––”

“But my brains built the suit. And the

vortex. Blake and I are going into it.”

“Go ahead, so am I,” she continued

blithely toward the vortex. “In case you
didn't know it, sound-recorders were built
into the walls of all the laboratories years
ago. The Foundation's Directors know
about your plans, and I'm going along.”

“See here, Lee, we can't let you!”

“I forbid you to enter my vortex!”

“Since when did anybody obtain exclu-

sive rights to a hole, especially a hole in
space?” Leora inquired sweetly, answering
Crabbe, and stepped into the vortex.

“Oh, good Lord, she means it,” Jerry

frowned. “Get going. We'll have to pile
into our suits and scram after her right a-
way or we'll lose her.”

As they worked feverishly, they saw a

strange phenomenon. Leora, in the vortex,
receded into the far distance, and drew closer
to their eyes. It was a queer, dual illusion,
of infinite distance at extreme closeness, with
Leora departing toward them.

She paused, however, and looked toward

them, just as they were entering the vortex,
and just as they feared she would pass above
or below the range of vision. Her courage
weakened when she found herself alone in
the vortex, but when she saw Crabbe and
Jerry on the trail, she resumed her way.

“Snap this strap into one of your belt-rings,

Jerry!” Crabbe had directed before they left
the valve, or airlock, leading into the gigan-
tic tube which housed the vortex. “I fore-
see difficulties in keeping ourselves together
otherwise――we are about to come into per-
sonal contact with ‘i’”.

Now, inside the vortex, the prophesy of

the rotund scientist was amply fulfilled. The
two men could see each other, it is true, and
they could see the strap connecting them;
but ordinary directional perception was en-
tirely meaningless in this new and startling
continum. The strap stretched an infinity
of distance, yet a distance inexplicably ap-
proaching zero as a limit; and when they at-
tempted to approach each other that strap
tightened, forcing them apart! They could
dimly see the laboratory thru a glaring haze,
its every familiar line weirdly distorted into
an incomprehensible perspective; but they
had little time to stare.

“Jerry, help!” Leora's shriek reached

their ears before they could ponder even
briefly their unwonted sensations. “I took
just one step––one motion, anyway––toward
the door I came thru and it disappeared! I
can just barely see you now, but I'm afraid
to move toward you for fear you'll disap-
pear too. What'll I do?”

“Do nothing whatever,” Crabbe instruc-

ted her, coolly. “While neither the purely
mechanical brain of a statistician nor the puny
brain of a woman could be expected to un-
derstand the fact, this region is characterized
by the actuality of ‘i’; which you, Jerry, at
least, know to be the square root of minus
one. Therefore the line of sight and all other
vectors must be corrected by that amount.
Since it is of course impossible for Miss Leora
to determine the true direction, I shall move
toward her, towing you by the strap.”

He moved off at an inexplicable angle,

and in a moment Leora was clinging fran-
tically to Jerry's arm.

“But now what'll we do?” she wailed.

“We can't see the door, lab, or anything!”

“Elementary, my dear child, elementary”

soothed Crabbe, loftily. “It is simply a
matter of latitudes and departures, which I
have already computed mentally, with suffi-
cient exactitude. Come with me; I can
find the way back very easily.”

He moved along another sense-wrench-

ing line, and soon an opening did indeed ap-
pear――but it was not the three-dimensional
airlock separating the vortex from the astro-
physical laboratory. Instead there was re-
vealed beyond that portal an infinity of pur-
plish-green light filled with matters which
their minds failed to grasp; and thru that
opening there rushed out, past them and thru
them, a torrent of something that was both
invisible and impalpable, yet at the same
time as tangible as solid iron!

“Ah, yea――no fact and no statement is

entirely true,” mimicked the irrepressible
Jerry. “Not even the one that you were
able to find your way back quite easily!”

“A mere detail,” the professor airily

waved one grotesquely mittened hand. "Not
being a statistician, it is not surprising that
I overlooked the negative root. That, how-
ever, is a trifle, to be corrected at will.
But now that I am here, what a contribution
to science I can make by analyzing and re-
porting upon this extra-dimensional universe
tapped by my vortex!”

Now at the very orifice of the vortex, a

scene spread before them at sight of which
even the supremely egotistical Crabbe was
awed to silence――a scene in essence, in fact,
and in detail to human intelligence incom-
prehensible――paradox made manifest and
material! And gradually something inherent
in the stream rushing down the sinuous tube
endowed their minds with a superhuman
clarity and scope of perception. They gra-
dually became cognizant of an entire uni-
verse, macroscopic and microscopic. Ga-
laxies, solar systems, planets, molecules, a-
toms and electrons, each with its teeming
billions of intelligent entities――down to the
ultimately tiny building blocks of the ether
itself, whose existence Crabbe's vast mathe-
matical knowledge had enabled him so dimly
to comprehend―all these things were spread
before them in the one space and at the same
time; nor, with all their newly acquired
knowledge, could the three intruders per-
ceive where they themselves stood in the fan-
tastic scheme of this unbelievable cosmos;
whether they were in fact larger than this
entire outlandish super-universe or whether
they actually were insignificant motes upon
the surface of one of the tiniest of its electron
worlds! Nor could they understand their
motion thru this strange continum, which
they knew to be an Earthly vacuum. Cer-
tainly they did not walk; nor did they fly;
nor soar――but at will they moved, and
indeed, sometimes involuntarily.

Thus they now moved thru the orifice,

and saw that its lip was surrounded by mass-
ed and tiered mechanisms, each of which
was directing flaming forces against the vor-
tex――forces which clawed and tore at the
structure in mad abandon, but which as yet
had made no headway against the powerful
generators which had brought it into being.

“Ah, I understand it all!” Crabbe ex-

claimed. “The vortices of the nebulae are
tunnels into the beyond―tunnels built by the
intelligent beings of this cosmos. As the spill-
ways of our terrestrial dams allow the escape
of superfluous water, so these tunnels carry
away something―probably excess energy―
which our universe receives as incipient mat-
ter. Our vortex has punctured something
which should have remained whole, and they
are attempting to repair the breach!”

"But suppose they fix it?” Leora cried,

apprehensively. “Then we won't be able
to get back home, ever!”

“Oh, I wouldn't say that...”

Jerry's reassurance was interrupted rudely

by an invisible force, which swept the three
visitors thru the "air" and held them im-
movably poised before a towering, mons-
trously jointed creature or structure of multi-
colored metal. Simultaneously a thunder-
ously silent voice reverberated in their brains.

‘Who are you? Whence came you? Why?’

“Aha!” The Intelligence had probed

their minds and now impressed a thought
upon them. “From the Lower Energy
Levels, eh? Know, feeble intellects, that
such intrusion is intollerable!”

The attention of the Intelligence relased

the interlopers as suddenly as it had seized
them; but they felt and understood its voice-
less command to the operators of the mech-
anisms upon the brink of the vortex:

“This opening was driven up to our

universe by certain semi intelligent entities
of the Second Level. Assemble a force
X72B318Q45 and pull it out bodily!”

As the new force came into being, ever

more violently flaming streamers of coruscant
energy raved from the massed projectors
ringing the pit's mouth; leaping in ever more
frenzied incandescence upon the madly vi-
brating vortex thru which the three hapless
human beings had come.

“Lower energy levels, eh! Feeble in-

tellects, eh!” The vast convolutions of Pro-
fessor Crabbe's encasement vibrated shud-
deringly to the fury that stirred within him,
“Let them assemble their forces and try it
against those of my vortex. Let them...”

“Silence!” boomed the soundless voice

of the Intelligence near whose massive mech-
anical form they still hovered. “And note
you, apostles of ignorance, you are spared
only that you may observe the destruction
of your puny handiwork.”

“Bah!” snorted the professor.

He subsided, quivering with new-born

apprehension, as the roaring forces at the lip
of the vortex filled all space with the beating
of their massed energies. The Intelligence,
neglecting them as of no immediate account,
faded into distant nearness.

“They are succeeding,” wailed Leora.

“Look, Jerry--Professor―the hole is closing
in. We'll never get back.”

What she said was not precisely descrip-

tive of the actual happenings. The massed
mechanisms rimming the vortex had taken
on tangential positions and each of the my-
riad number had become a flaming and steam-
ing nozzle, pouring off into surrounding space
vast columns of velocity energy. The vor-
tex itself, propelled as by the reaction jets of
a huge turbine wheel, was speeding up its
normal rate of rotation with incredible acce-
leration. As they watched, it spun ever
more swiftly until the whole was a flaring,
blurred mass.

“Fireworks,” grunted Jerry. “Reminds

me of a gigantic pinwheel.”

“Can't you be serious?” moaned Leora.

“Can't you see what is happening? They'll
drive it so fast it'll be bound to blow up―”

“Nonsense!” blurted Crabbe. “Ener-

gy is indestructable.”

“And no fact or statement is entirely

true,” began Jerry. A dig administered jud-
iciously in his ribs by Leora prevented his
further badgering of the professor.

Incomprehensively now, the vortex, in

stead of expanding due to the centrifugal
forces of its spinning, was contracting in size.
It was closing in, as Leora had originally
stated. At the same time it drew nearer to
the position of the three adventurers in the
purple-green infinity. The hot breath of
the mad energies forced them back.

“And now,” blared the unheard voice

of the Intelligence, “your worthless exist-
tences shall end with the intruding mechan-
ism you have blunderingly contrived.”

“Ah,” breathed the professor, grasping

Jerry and the girl. “This way.”

He propelled them along a line that was

neither straight nor curved, a line that follow-
ed no earthly equation or form. There was
a thump as of the warping of the very uni-
verse and they were in a new and alarming
environment. For a moment all was utter
blackness, utter nothingness, then in the dim
distance a pinpoint of brilliant light appeared.
Jerry, suddenly aware that the girl was press-
ing close to his side, felt the uncontrollable
trembling of her slight form.

“Now we've lost it all,” she cried.

Professor Thaddeus Crabbe had lost

some of his pomposity of manner. "Wait,"
he advised in tones almost humble.

The lightspeck increased in brilliance and

drew swiftly nearer. Then with sudden,
soundless magnificence it burst, showering
the vast darkness with blazing fragments.

Jerry muttered, “more fireworks.”

The myriads of light-flecks came to rest,

studding the distant vastness with stars, con-
stellations, nebulae. They were in a new
and unknown universe, as cut off from their
own sphere of existence and from the strange
universe they had just left as if they had in-
deed ceased to exist at all as human entities.

Leora gulped audibly but, gamely, did

not cry out her fears.

“Somewhere off there,” remarked the

professor, with a hint of helplessness in his
voice, “is our own universe, our vortex――
I do insist they could not have destroyed it
――our laboratory. Somehow we shall reach

“The Foundation,” suggested Jerry,

unable to resist the gibe.

His remark brought forth no retort, which

was something most unusual for the rotund
man of science at his side. Evidently the
situation was more serious than they had
bargained for.

Leora, in a voice grave but steady spoke:

“Somewhere, you said, Professor. Some-
how. Have you any plans?”

“It calls for much thought, careful

thought,” Crabbe admitted. “Calculations
of a most involved sort must be made and
great care taken to insure their accuracy.”

“On the sound-recorders in your labor-

atory,” Leora said with seeming irrelevancy
“were certain words of yours having to do
with truth. Curved truth, I believe――”

Jerry chuckled. “Twisted truth.”

“I'm serious,” the girl reproved, “what

I'm getting at is this theory of the curvature
of space, even this space we're in. Couldn't
we follow a curved line an return to our
starting point in that way?”

“A woman's mind――” began the Pro-

fessor in his old manner. But he immediately
subdued his tones and continued more re-
spectfully: “It is the only way possible, my
dear young lady; we must return along a
curved line. But the distances involved are
unthinkably great, running into thousands
and thousands of light years. Besides――”

A thundering yet soundless voice from

out of nowhere mocked him, the voice of
the Intelligence: “Besides, ignorant one,
the great curved lines of space do not return
to their starting points. Not precisely, due
to external forces beyond your puny com-
prehension, and the gap between the mis-
placed ends of the great circle you would
need to follow is still to great for you to
cross. Try, if you will, foolish intruders;
you can never return.”

The intelligence ceased to be near, and

only three small figures remained, huddled
together in an emptiness, an immensity be-
yond parallel. They felt no sensation of
weight. They might be motionless. They
might――it was more likely――be sweeping
thru sheer vastness in some colossal orbit
which in a thousand years or so might bring
them near a giant sun. And then the slowly
leaking gasses from their suits would make a
cometary tail to the tiny mass of their bodies.
There was no star they could recognize as
nearer than any other. There was no pos-
sible source of help or rescue. And they had
no more life remaining to them than there
was oxygen in the pitifully small tanks
strapped to their backs.

There was a bump against Jerry's helmet

Leora had put her own into contact with
his so to speak, since the breath diaphrams
were useless in the vacuum of this space.

“Jerry, I――don't like that Intelligence,

I think he's mean!”

“I suppose,” said Jerry philosophically,

“mosquitoes sometimes think humans are
mean, when they run against a window
screen. I'm afraid he wins the argument,
tho. I began to get all mixed up just about
the time the Professor began to move side-
wise in order to go up, and forward to go
down, and backwards to go sidewise, and
around in circles to get ahead...Say!”

“What?” Leora's voice was tiny, thru

the metallic helmets, but it was definitely
doleful, if still game. “What, Jerry?”

“The Professor was doing something im-

possible, then! Wait a minute! Let me get
him in on this! Professor!”

He tugged at the strap that bound him to

the professor. The scientist's helmet crash-
ed into his with a thunderous sound.

“Idiot!” snapped the Professor. “You

nearly smashed my helmet! What is it?”

“I've thought of the way to get home!”

“A statistician doesn't think,” said the

Professor testily. “I have calculated that
sooner or later we must reach our own uni-
verse, by the sheer operation of the laws of
probability. I am calculating the most
probably time.”

“We started out with oxygen for maybe

three hours. Does that sound promising?”

“No! It will be of the order of millions

of years. Or billions.”

“Interesting, but impractical,” said Jerry

“Now listen to me. You walked about and
moved in the direction you wanted to go,
back there, by working with the square root
of minus one. But you didn't anticipate
having to use that, did you?”

“Of course not! But I saw the condi-

tions and understood them.”

“You understood them!” repeated Jerry,

in satisfaction. “That's the point. I did too
for a while. I saw clearly that time is only
a dimension, that the future and the past are
one, and that all things and times coexist. I
knew it perfectly, then. But not having a
brain trained to register such things, I re-
member it now as i might a dream, with
very essential elements left out. Has any
of it slipped away from you?”

“Of course not! Why should it?”

“It shouldn't,” agreed Jerry absorbedly

“because your mind is trained to handle just
facts as mathematical abstractions, and they
should be utterly clear when they're con-
crete. Which gives us our break!”

The Professor's voice sounded suspicious-

“Now what are you getting at?”

“Simply this,” said Jerry. “We're in a

three dimensional space again, and of sheer
habit we think in three dimensional terms.
I can't really think in any other. But back
there we were in a space of an infinite num-
ber of dimensions, and we thought in multi-
dimensional terms. We saw all space and
time at once. Now, I can't, but you ought
to be able to think in that same multi-di-
mensional fashion now, if you deliberately
try to. And if you do it――”

Leora said miserably: “I don't want to

think of dimensions, I want to go home!”

“Hm...” said the Professor. “With long

training, Jerry, you might amount to some-
thing more than a statistician. Let me think!”

Again there was stillness. Three tiny

space suits, hanging in infinity and eyed by
distant, bright, and hostile stars. Some
movement of some one of them had set all
this unguessed-at universe into sedate rota-
tion about them---tho actually, of course, it
was they who revolved. The oxygen valve
in Jerry's helmet hissed and clicked. Sud-
denly, it seemed to him that its noise was
changing. The oxygen pressure was going.

Jerry reached out his gloved hand.

“Better hurry up, Professor,” he said,

“my oxygen's about gone.”

Then he felt queerly cold. His hand,

groping, had reached emptiness. He jerked
his head about. And in the cold light of
many stars he saw that the Professor had van-
ished. Leora's voice came, frightened:

“Jerry―my oxygen! It's--finished...”

“We've got maybe five minutes on the

air in our suits,” said Jerry firmly, “and
the Professor's disappeared.”

Then the thunderously silent voice of the

Intelligence seemed to reverberate in their
brains. It had returned for a final mockery.

“Fools! Your vortex is destroyed. And

one by one, as you die, meditate upon
your presumption!”

It ceased. And Jerry suddenly raged.

“That damned Thing――” he panted,

“――that damned Thing has taken the Pro-
fessor and killed him. It's going to take us,
one by one, Leora! I'm going to hold you
close. So close that nothing can ever take
you away! We're going to die, but we'll
die together, anyhow!”

Leora's voice came to him thru the close-

touching helmets.

“Jerry――I want to tell you. I came on

this――adventure because you were coming.
You never paid much attention to me, but
if we've got to die, I'm glad it is―together.”

Her arms went about his neck, outside

the grotesque space suit. A universe of stars
revolved sedately about two midges in infin-
ity, two close-clasped marionettes formed
awkwardly of rubber and steel and glass,
who clung to each other while the many-
colored lights of many stars played on them.

“Damn!” said Jerry bitterly, “and I

didn't dare show you I loved you because
you'd so much money and you'd think I
was fortune hunting! These infernal hel-
mets...I've got to die without even kissing
you! That's the hell of it!”

And then something pulled at him. In-

credibly. Intolerably. He held fast to Leora,
fighting at the same time against the pull.

“That damned Intelligence,” he said

between clenched teeth, “trying to sepa-
rate us...”

The pull became irresistable. They

clung together with every ounce of their
strength. Something gave. A wrenching
nausea. An incredible, soul warping dizzi-
ness. Then a feeling of weight...

They fell sprawling to the floor. There

was a floor beneath them. Light shone up-
on them. Hands tugged at them.

“Feeble intellect, eh?” The Professor's

voice sputtered. “Lower level, eh? I'll
show him!"

Jerry stared about him. He jerked off

his helmet. He made haste, clumsily, to
get Leora's helmet off. He kissed Leora.
Several times. They were back in the lab-
oratory and Professor Crabbe, his own space-
suit completely removed, gesticulated madly.

“Look!” he commanded furiously.

“He destroyed my vortex! Look!”

Jerry felt his hand dragging at his shoulder

to make him look. Reluctantly, he turned
his head. But he still held Leora close.

“Er――you got back, sir?” he asked.

The Professor glared at him.

“That question,” he said witheringly,

“would be asked only by a statistician.
You were right in one matter. From force
of habit I was thinking in terms of three
dimensions when I had just had the unpar-
alleled opportunity to see mathematical ab-
stractions as concrete facts. Immediately
you reminded me of the practical aspect of
the knowledge I had just gained, of course I
was able to imagine the exact direction in
which I must move in order to be in my
laboratory. In fact, I reached out my hand
and pulled myself into the laboratory by the
doorknob, I removed my suit to write down
my notes, and then I noticed the vortex was
gone, and then I remembered you. So I
pulled on the strap attached to my suit. You
arrived. And you ask if I got back!”

Jerry said apologetically:

“It does sound silly, sir.”

Professor Crabbe thawed a little.

“After all,” he conceded, “one must

not expect too much of a statistician. And
you did make one useful suggestion. From
that empty space in that other universe, I
had only to reach out my hand to this door-
knob to be at home. And now, purely, by
that knowledge, travel in all dimensions is
simplicity itself. I shall return to that space
in which we were, and then come back.
Just to show you how simple it is! Look!”

He grasped the doorknob, smiling scorn-

fully. Jerry suddenly flung himself forward.

“Wait! Wait! Don't do it yet――”

But the Professor had vanished. Like a

blown out candle flame. And Leora in-
stinctively moved closer to Jerry. Jerry
went white. The professor remained in-
visible. He did not come back. One
minute, two, three――four...

“The devil!” said Jerry slowly and help-

lessly. “Isn't that the devil? Just by know-
ing how, he could travel between universes.
But of all conceivable places, he had to
choose to go back to that place where we
were marooned!”

“Why shouldn't he?” asked Leora.

“Why not? The Intelligence?”

“No!” said Jerry bitterly, “the space-

suit. He had taken it off! And how long
could he live in that vacuum between the
stars? He's dead, confound it, and he's
the one man who could have answered the
challenge of that damned Intelligence, the
challenge from Beyond.”

The End


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