- Author: Milo Hastings
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CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT By Milo Hastings 1920
CHAPTERI. THE RED AND BLACK AND GOLD STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY ON THE CHANGING MAP OF THE WORLD II. I EXPLORE THE POTASH MINES OF STASSFURT AND FIND A DIARY IN A DEAD MAN'S POCKET III. IN A BLACK UTOPIA THE BLOND BROOD BREEDS AND SWARMS IV. I GO PLEASURING ON THE LEVEL OF FREE WOMEN AND DRINK SYNTHETIC BEER V. I AM DRAFTED FOR PATERNITY AND MAKE EXTRAORDINARY PETITION TO THE CHIEF OF THE EUGENIC STAFF VI. IN WHICH I LEARN THAT COMPETITION IS STILL THE LIFE OF THE OLDEST TRADE IN THE WORLD VII. THE SUN SHINES UPON A KING AND A GIRL READS OF THE FALL OF BABYLON VIII. FINDING THEREIN ONE RIGHTEOUS MAN, I HAVE COMPASSION ON BERLIN IX. IN WHICH I SALUTE THE STATUE OF GOD, AND A PSYCHIC EXPERT EXPLORES MY BRAIN AND FINDS NOTHING X. A GODDESS WHO IS SUFFERING FROM OBESITY, AND A BRAVE MAN WHO IS AFRAID OF THE LAW OF AVERAGES XI. IN WHICH THE TALKING DELEGATE IS ANSWERED BY THE ROYAL VOICE AND I LEARN THAT LABOR KNOWS NOT GOD XII. THE DIVINE DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM THE GREAT GIVE A BENEFIT FOR THE CANINE GARDENS AND PAY TRIBUTE TO THE PIGGERIES XIII. IN WHICH A WOMAN ACCUSES ME OF MURDER AND I PLACE A RUBY NECKLACE ABOUT HER THROAT XIV. THE BLACK SPOT IS ERASED FROM THE MAP OF THE WORLD AND THERE IS DANCING IN THE SUNLIGHT ON THE ROOF OF BERLIN
CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT
CHAPTER I THE RED AND BLACK AND GOLD STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY ON THE CHANGING MAP OF THE WORLD ~1~
When but a child of seven my uncle placed me in a private school in which one of the so-called redeemed sub-sailors was a teacher of the German language. As I look back now, in the light of my present knowledge, I better comprehend the docile humility and carefully nurtured ignorance of this man. In his class rooms he used as a text a description of German life, taken from the captured submarine. From this book he had secured his own conception of a civilization of which he really knew practically nothing. I recall how we used to ask Herr Meineke if he had actually seen those strange things of which he taught us. To this he always made answer, "The book is official, man's observation errs."~2~
"He can talk it," said my playmates who attended the public schools where all teaching of the language of the outcast nation was prohibited. They invariably elected me to be "the Germans," and locked me up in the old garage while they rained a stock of sun-dried clay bombs upon the roof and then came with a rush to "batter down the walls of Berlin" by breaking in the door, while I, muttering strange guttural oaths, would be led forth to be "exterminated."
On rainy days I would sometimes take my favoured playmates into my uncle's library where five great maps hung in ordered sequence on the panelled wall.
The first map was labelled "The Age of Nations--1914," and showed the black spot of Germany, like in size to many of the surrounding countries, the names of which one recited in the history class.
The second map--"Germany's Maximum Expansion of the First World War--1918"--showed the black area trebled in size, crowding into the pale gold of France, thrusting a hungry arm across the Hellespont towards Bagdad, and, from the Balkans to the Baltic, blotting out all else save the flaming red of Bolshevist Russia, which spread over the Eastern half of Europe like a pool of fresh spilled blood.
Third came "The Age of the League of Nations, 1919--1983," with the gold of democracy battling with the spreading red of socialism, for the black of autocracy had erstwhile vanished.
The fourth map was the most fascinating and terrible. Again the black of autocracy appeared, obliterating the red of the Brotherhood of Man, spreading across half of Eurasia and thrusting a broad black shadow to the Yellow Sea and a lesser one to the Persian Gulf. This map was labelled "Maximum German Expansion of the Second World War, 1988," and lines of dotted white retreated in concentric waves till the line of 2041.
This same year was the first date of the fifth map, which was labelled "A Century of the World State," and here, as all the sea was blue, so all the land was gold, save one black blot that might have been made by a single spattered drop of ink, for it was no bigger than the Irish Island. The persistence of this remaining black on the map of the world troubled my boyish mind, as it has troubled three generations of the United World, and strive as I might, I could not comprehend why the great blackness of the fourth map had been erased and this small blot alone remained.~3~
When I returned from school for my vacation, after I had my first year of physical science, I sought out my uncle in his laboratory and asked him to explain the mystery of the little black island standing adamant in the golden sea of all the world.
"That spot," said my uncle, "would have been erased in two more years if a Leipzig professor had not discovered The Ray. Yet we do not know his name nor how he made his discovery."
"But just what is The Ray?" I asked.
"We do not know that either, nor how it is made. We only know that it destroys the oxygen carrying power of living blood. If it were an emanation from a substance like radium, they could have fired it in projectiles and so conquered the earth. If it were ether waves like electricity, we should have been able to have insulated against it, or they should have been able to project it farther and destroy our aircraft, but The Ray is not destructive beyond two thousand metres in the air and hardly that far in the earth."
"Then why do we not fly over and land an army and great guns and batter down the walls of Berlin and he done with it?"
"That, as you know if you studied your history, has been tried many times and always with disaster. The bomb-torn soil of that black land is speckled white with the bones of World armies who were sent on landing invasions before you or I was born. But it was only heroic folly, one gun popping out of a tunnel mouth can slay a thousand men. To pursue the gunners into their catacombs meant to be gassed; and sometimes our forces were left to land in peace and set up their batteries to fire against Berlin, but the Germans would place Ray generators in the ground beneath them and slay our forces in an hour, as the Angel of Jehovah withered the hosts of the Assyrians."
"But why," I persisted, "do we not tunnel under the Ray generators and dig our way to Berlin and blow it up?"
My uncle smiled indulgently. "And that has been tried too, but they can hear our borings with microphones and cut us off, just as we cut them off when they try to tunnel out and place new generators. It is too slow, too difficult, either way; the line has wavered a little with the years but to no practical avail; the war in our day has become merely a watching game, we to keep the Germans from coming out, they to keep us from penetrating within gunshot of Berlin; but to gain a mile of worthless territory either way means too great a human waste to be worth the price. Things must go on as they are till the Germans tire of their sunless imprisonment or till they exhaust some essential element in their soil. But wars such as you read of in your history, will never happen again. The Germans cannot fight the world in the air, nor in the sea, nor on the surface of the earth; and we cannot fight the Germans in the ground; so the war has become a fixed state of standing guard; the hope of victory, the fear of defeat have vanished; the romance of war is dead."
"But why, then," I asked, "does the World Patrol continue to bomb the roof of Berlin?"
"Politics," replied my uncle, "military politics, just futile display of pyrotechnics to amuse the populace and give heroically inclined young men a chance to strut in uniforms--but after the election this fall such folly will cease."~4~
My uncle had predicted correctly, for by the time I again came home on my vacation, the newly elected Pacifist Council had reduced the aerial activities to mere watchful patroling over the land of the enemy. Then came the report of an attempt to launch an airplane from the roof of Berlin. The people, in dire panic lest Ray generators were being carried out by German aircraft, had clamoured for the recall of the Pacifist Council, and the bombardment of Berlin was resumed.
During the lull of the bombing activities my uncle, who stood high with the Pacifist Administration, had obtained permission to fly over Europe, and I, most fortunate of boys, accompanied him. The plane in which we travelled bore the emblem of the World Patrol. On a cloudless day we sailed over the pock-marked desert that had once been Germany and came within field-glass range of Berlin itself. On the wasted, bomb-torn land lay the great grey disc--the city of mystery. Three hundred metres high they said it stood, but so vast was its extent that it seemed as flat and thin as a pancake on a griddle.
"More people live in that mass of concrete," said my uncle, "than in the whole of America west of the Rocky Mountains." His statement, I have since learned, fell short of half the truth, but then it seemed appalling. I fancied the city a giant anthill, and searched with my glass as if I expected to see the ants swarming out. But no sign of life was visible upon the monotonous surface of the sand-blanketed roof, and high above the range of naked vision hung the hawk-like watchers of the World Patrol.
The lure of unravelled secrets, the ambition for discovery and exploration stirred my boyish veins. Yes, I would know more of the strange race, the unknown life that surged beneath that grey blanket of mystery. But how? For over a century millions of men had felt that same longing to know. Aviators, landing by accident or intent within the lines, had either returned with nothing to report, or they had not returned. Daring journalists, with baskets of carrier pigeons, had on foggy nights dropped by parachute to the roof of the city; but neither they nor the birds had brought back a single word of what lay beneath the armed and armoured roof.
My own resolution was but a boy's dream and I returned to Chicago to take up my chemical studies.
CHAPTER II I EXPLORE THE POTASH MINES OF STASSFURT AND FIND A DIARY IN A DEAD MAN'S POCKET ~1~
When I was twenty-four years old, my uncle was killed in a laboratory explosion. He had been a scientist of renown and a chemical inventor who had devoted his life to the unravelling of the secrets of the synthetic foods of Germany. For some years I had been his trusted assistant. In our Chicago laboratory were carefully preserved food samples that had been taken from the captured submarines in years gone by; and what to me was even more fascinating, a collection of German books of like origin, which I had read with avidity. With the exception of those relating to submarine navigation, I found them stupidly childish and decided that they had been prepared to hide the truth and not reveal it.
My uncle had bequeathed me both his work and his fortune, but despairing of my ability worthily to continue his own brilliant researches on synthetic food, I turned my attention to the potash problem, in which I had long been interested. My reading of early chemical works had given me a particular interest in the reclamation of the abandoned potash mines of Stassfurt. These mines, as any student of chemical history will know, were one of the richest