- Author: Abraham Merritt
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The Moon Pool A. MERRITT
The publication of the following narrative of Dr. Walter T. Goodwin has been authorized by the Executive Council of the International Association of Science.
To end officially what is beginning to be called the Throckmartin Mystery and to kill the innuendo and scandalous suspicions which have threatened to stain the reputations of Dr. David Throckmartin, his youthful wife, and equally youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton ever since a tardy despatch from Melbourne, Australia, reported the disappearance of the first from a ship sailing to that port, and the subsequent reports of the disappearance of his wife and associate from the camp of their expedition in the Caroline Islands.
Because the Executive Council have concluded that Dr. Goodwin's experiences in his wholly heroic effort to save the three, and the lessons and warnings within those experiences, are too important to humanity as a whole to be hidden away in scientific papers understandable only to the technically educated; or to be presented through the newspaper press in the abridged and fragmentary form which the space limitations of that vehicle make necessary.
For these reasons the Executive Council commissioned Mr. A. Merritt to transcribe into form to be readily understood by the layman the stenographic notes of Dr. Goodwin's own report to the Council, supplemented by further oral reminiscences and comments by Dr. Goodwin; this transcription, edited and censored by the Executive Council of the Association, forms the contents of this book.
Himself a member of the Council, Dr. Walter T. Goodwin, Ph.D., F.R.G.S. etc., is without cavil the foremost of American botanists, an observer of international reputation and the author of several epochal treaties upon his chosen branch of science. His story, amazing in the best sense of that word as it may be, is fully supported by proofs brought forward by him and accepted by the organization of which I have the honor to be president. What matter has been elided from this popular presentation—because of the excessively menacing potentialities it contains, which unrestricted dissemination might develop—will be dealt with in purely scientific pamphlets of carefully guarded circulation.
THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCIENCE
Per J. B. K., President
CONTENTS I The Thing on the Moon Path II "Dead! All Dead!" III The Moon Rock IV The First Vanishings V Into the Moon Pool VI "The Shining Devil Took Them!" VII Larry O'Keefe VIII Olaf's Story IX A Lost Page of Earth X The Moon Pool XI The Flame-Tipped Shadows XII The End of the Journey XIII Yolara, Priestess of the Shining One XIV The Justice of Lora XV The Angry, Whispering Globe XVI Yolara of Muria vs. the O'Keefe XVII The Leprechaun XVIII The Amphitheatre of Jet XIX The Madness of Olaf XX The Tempting of Larry XXI Larry's Defiance XXII The Casting of the Shadow XXIII Dragon Worm and Moss Death XXIV The Crimson Sea XXV The Three Silent Ones XXVI The Wooing of Lakla XXVII The Coming of Yolara XXVIII In the Lair of the Dweller XXIX The Shaping of the Shining One XXX The Building of the Moon Pool XXXI Larry and the Frog-Men XXXII "Your Love; Your Lives; Your Souls!" XXXIII The Meeting of Titans XXXIV The Coming of the Shining One XXXV "Larry—Farewell!"
CHAPTER I The Thing on the Moon Path
For two months I had been on the d'Entrecasteaux Islands gathering data for the concluding chapters of my book upon the flora of the volcanic islands of the South Pacific. The day before I had reached Port Moresby and had seen my specimens safely stored on board the Southern Queen. As I sat on the upper deck I thought, with homesick mind, of the long leagues between me and Melbourne, and the longer ones between Melbourne and New York.
It was one of Papua's yellow mornings when she shows herself in her sombrest, most baleful mood. The sky was smouldering ochre. Over the island brooded a spirit sullen, alien, implacable, filled with the threat of latent, malefic forces waiting to be unleashed. It seemed an emanation out of the untamed, sinister heart of Papua herself—sinister even when she smiles. And now and then, on the wind, came a breath from virgin jungles, laden with unfamiliar odours, mysterious and menacing.
It is on such mornings that Papua whispers to you of her immemorial ancientness and of her power. And, as every white man must, I fought against her spell. While I struggled I saw a tall figure striding down the pier; a Kapa-Kapa boy followed swinging a new valise. There was something familiar about the tall man. As he reached the gangplank he looked up straight into my eyes, stared for a moment, then waved his hand.
And now I knew him. It was Dr. David Throckmartin—"Throck" he was to me always, one of my oldest friends and, as well, a mind of the first water whose power and achievements were for me a constant inspiration as they were, I know, for scores other.
Coincidentally with my recognition came a shock of surprise, definitely—unpleasant. It was Throckmartin—but about him was something disturbingly unlike the man I had known long so well and to whom and to whose little party I had bidden farewell less than a month before I myself had sailed for these seas. He had married only a few weeks before, Edith, the daughter of Professor William Frazier, younger by at least a decade than he but at one with him in his ideals and as much in love, if it were possible, as Throckmartin. By virtue of her father's training a wonderful assistant, by virtue of her own sweet, sound heart a—I use the word in its olden sense—lover. With his equally youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton and a Swedish woman, Thora Halversen, who had been Edith Throckmartin's nurse from babyhood, they had set forth for the Nan-Matal, that extraordinary group of island ruins clustered along the eastern shore of Ponape in the Carolines.
I knew that he had planned to spend at least a year among these ruins, not only of Ponape but of Lele—twin centres of a colossal riddle of humanity, a weird flower of civilization that blossomed ages before the seeds of Egypt were sown; of whose arts we know little enough and of whose science nothing. He had carried with him unusually complete equipment for the work he had expected to do and which, he hoped, would be his monument.
What then had brought Throckmartin to Port Moresby, and what was that change I had sensed in him?
Hurrying down to the lower deck I found him with the purser. As I spoke he turned, thrust out to me an eager hand—and then I saw what was that difference that had so moved me. He knew, of course by my silence and involuntary shrinking the shock my closer look had given me. His eyes filled; he turned brusquely from the purser, hesitated—then hurried off to his stateroom.
"'E looks rather queer—eh?" said the purser. "Know 'im well, sir? Seems to 'ave given you quite a start."
I made some reply and went slowly up to my chair. There I sat, composed my mind and tried to define what it was that had shaken me so. Now it came to me. The old Throckmartin was on the eve of his venture just turned forty, lithe, erect, muscular; his controlling expression one of enthusiasm, of intellectual keenness, of—what shall I say—expectant search. His always questioning brain had stamped its vigor upon his face.
But the Throckmartin I had seen below was one who had borne some scaring shock of mingled rapture and horror; some soul cataclysm that in its climax had remoulded, deep from within, his face, setting on it seal of wedded ecstasy and despair; as though indeed these two had come to him hand in hand, taken possession of him and departing left behind, ineradicably, their linked shadows!
Yes—it was that which appalled. For how could rapture and horror, Heaven and Hell mix, clasp hands—kiss?
Yet these were what in closest embrace lay on Throckmartin's face!
Deep in thought, subconsciously with relief, I watched the shore line sink behind; welcomed the touch of the wind of the free seas. I had hoped, and within the hope was an inexplicable shrinking that I would meet Throckmartin at lunch. He did not come down, and I was sensible of deliverance within my disappointment. All that afternoon I lounged about uneasily but still he kept to his cabin—and within me was no strength to summon him. Nor did he appear at dinner.
Dusk and night fell swiftly. I was warm and went back to my deck-chair. The Southern Queen was rolling to a disquieting swell and I had the place to myself.
Over the heavens was a canopy of cloud, glowing faintly and testifying to the moon riding behind it. There was much phosphorescence. Fitfully before the ship and at her sides arose those stranger little swirls of mist that swirl up from the Southern Ocean like breath of sea monsters, whirl for an instant and disappear.
Suddenly the deck door opened and through it came Throckmartin. He paused uncertainly, looked up at the sky with a curiously eager, intent gaze, hesitated, then closed the door behind him.
"Throck," I called. "Come! It's Goodwin."
He made his way to me.
"Throck," I said, wasting no time in preliminaries. "What's wrong? Can I help you?"
I felt his body grow tense.
"I'm going to Melbourne, Goodwin," he answered. "I need a few things—need them urgently. And more men—white men—"
He stopped abruptly; rose from his chair, gazed intently toward the north. I followed his gaze. Far, far away the moon had broken through the clouds. Almost on the horizon, you could see the faint luminescence of it upon the smooth sea. The distant patch of light quivered and shook. The clouds thickened again and it was gone. The ship raced on southward, swiftly.
Throckmartin dropped into his chair. He lighted a cigarette with a hand that trembled; then turned to me with abrupt resolution.
"Goodwin," he said. "I do need help. If ever man needed it, I do. Goodwin—can you imagine yourself in another world, alien, unfamiliar, a world of terror, whose unknown joy is its greatest terror of all; you all alone there, a stranger! As such a man would need help, so I need—"
He paused abruptly and arose; the cigarette dropped from his fingers. The moon had again broken through the clouds, and this time much nearer. Not a mile away was the patch of light that it threw upon the waves. Back of it, to the rim of the sea was a lane of moonlight; a gigantic gleaming serpent racing over the edge of the world straight and surely toward the ship.
Throckmartin stiffened to it as a pointer does to a hidden covey. To me from him pulsed a thrill of horror—but horror tinged with an unfamiliar, an infernal joy. It came to me and passed away—leaving me trembling with its shock of bitter sweet.
He bent forward, all his soul in his eyes. The moon path swept closer, closer still. It was now less than half a mile away. From it the ship fled—almost as though pursued. Down upon it, swift and straight, a radiant torrent cleaving the waves, raced the moon stream.
"Good God!" breathed Throckmartin, and if ever the words were a prayer and an invocation they were.
And then, for the first time—I saw—it!
The moon path stretched to the horizon and was bordered by darkness. It was as though the clouds above had been parted to form a lane-drawn aside like curtains or as the waters of the Red Sea were held back to let the hosts of Israel through. On each side of the stream was the black shadow cast by the folds of the high canopies And straight as a road between the opaque walls gleamed, shimmered, and danced the shining, racing, rapids of the moonlight.
Far, it seemed immeasurably far, along this stream of silver fire I sensed, rather than saw, something