List Of Contents | Contents of The Land of the Changing Sun
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upward and floated easily over the humming crowd into the
free white light above the smokeless city. The poor captive
leaned on the window-sill and looked out. There was no breeze,
and no current of air except that caused by their rapid passage
through the atmosphere.

Up, up, they went, till the city seemed a blur of mingled white
and gray, and then the color below changed to a vague blue
as they flew over the fields of the open country.

The first officer took a glass and a decanter from a receptacle
under a seat, and, pouring a little red fluid into the
glass, offered it to the American.

"Drink it," he said, "it will put you to sleep for a time."

"I don't want to be drugged."

"The journey will try your nerves. It is harmless."

"I don't want it; if I take it, you will have to pour it down my

The officer smiled as he put the glass and decanter away. Faster
and faster flew the machine. They had to put the window down, for
the current of air had become too strong and cool to be pleasant.
The color of the sunlight changed to green, and then at noon,
from the zenith, a glorious red light shimmered down and veiled
the earth with such a beautiful translucent haze that the poor
American for a moment almost forgot his trouble.

The afternoon came on. The sunlight became successively green,
white, blue, lavender, rose and gray. The sun was no longer in
sight and the gray in the west was darkening into purple, the
last hour of the day. Night was at hand. Johnston's limbs were
growing stiff from inaction, and he had a strong desire to speak
or to hear one of the officers say something, but they were
dozing in their respective corners. The moon had risen and hung
far out in space overhead, but they seemed to be leaving it
behind. Later he felt sure of this, for its light gradually
became dimmer and dimmer till at last they were in total
darkness--darkness pierced only by the powerful search-light
which threw its dazzling, trumpet-shaped rays far ahead. But,
search as he would in the direction they were going, the
unfortunate American could see nothing but the ever-receding wall
of blackness.

Suddenly they began to descend. The officers awoke and stretched
themselves and yawned. One of them opened the window and Johnston
heard a far-off, roaring sound like that of a multitude of
skaters on a vast sheet of ice.

Down, down, they dropped. Johnston's heart was in his mouth.

The machine suddenly slackened in its speed and then hung poised
in mid-air. The rays of the search-light were directed downward
and slowly shifted from point to point. Looking down, the American
caught glimpses of rugged rocks, sharp cliffs and yawning chasms.

"How is it?" asked the first officer, through a speaking-tube, of
the driver.

"A good landing!" was the reply.

"Well, go down." And a moment later the machine settled on the
uneven ground.

The same officer opened the door, and gently pushed Johnston out.
Johnston expected them to follow him, but the door of the machine
closed behind him.

"Stand out of the way," cried out the officer through the window;
"you may get struck as we rise."

Involuntarily Johnston obeyed. There was a sound of escaping air
from beneath the machine, a fierce commotion in the atmosphere
which sucked him toward the machine, and then the dazzling
search-light blinded him, as the air-ship bounded upward and
sailed back over the course it had come.

Johnston stood paralyzed with fear. "My God, this is awful!" he
exclaimed in terror, and his knees gave way beneath him and
he sank to the rock. "They have left me here to starve in this
hellish darkness!" He remained there for a moment, his face
covered with his hands, then he sprang up desperately, and
started to grope through the darkness, he knew not whither. He
stumbled at almost every step, and ran against boulders which
bruised his hands and face, and went on till his strength was
gone. Then he paused and looked back toward the direction from
which he had come. It seemed to him that he could see the
straight line of mighty black wall above which there was a faint
appearance of light. A lump rose in the throat of the poor
fellow, and tears sprang into his eyes.

But what was that? Surely it was a sound. It could not have been
the wind, for the air was perfectly still. The sound was
repeated. It was like the moaning of a human voice far away in
the dark. Could it be some one in distress, some poor
unfortunate, banished being, like himself? Again he heard the
sound, and this time, it was like the voice of some one talking.

"Hello!" shouted the American, and a cold shudder went over him
at the sound of his own husky voice. There was a dead silence,
then, like an echo of his own cry, faintly came the word, "Hello!"

Filled with superstitious fear, the American cautiously groped
toward the sound. "Hello, there, who are you?"

"Help, help!" said the voice, and it was now much nearer.

Johnston plunged forward precipitately. "Where are you?"

"Here," and a human form loomed up before him.

For a moment neither spoke, then the strange figure said: "I
thought at first that you were some one sent to rescue me, but I
see you are alone--damned like myself."

"It looks that way," replied Johnston.

"When did they bring you?"

"Only a moment ago."

"My God, it is awful! A week ago I did not dream of such a fate
as this. I had enemies. The medical men were bribed to vote
against me. Am I not strong? Am I not muscular? Feel my arms and

He held out an arm and Johnston felt of it. The muscles were like

"You are a giant."

"Ah! you are right; but they reported that there was a taint in
my blood. I was to marry Lallio, the most beautiful creature in
our village--Madryl, you know, the nearest hamlet to the home of
the Sun. I was rich, and the best farmer there. But Lyngale
wanted her. She hated him and spat at him when he spoke against
me. He proved by others that my lungs were weak, and showed them
the blood of a slain dog in my fields that they said had come
from my lungs. Ah, they were curs! My lungs weak! Strike my chest
with all your might. Does it not sound like the king's thunder?
Strike, I say!" and as the enfeebled American struck his bare
breast he cried:--Harder, harder! Pooh, you are a child, see
this, and this," and he emphasized his words with thunderous
blows on his resounding chest.

"But it has been so for a century," he panted; "hundreds have
been unjustly buried alive here. The king thinks it is not murder
because they die of starvation. I have stumbled over the bones of
giants here in the dark lands, and have met dying men that are
stronger than the king's athletes."

"What, are there others here?" gasped the American.

The Alphian was silent in astonishment.

"Why, where did you come from?" he asked, after a pause.

"From New York City."

"I don't know of it, and yet I thought I knew of all the places
inside the great endless wall."

Johnston was mystified in his turn. "It is not in your country--
your world, or whatever you call it. It is far away."

"Ah, under the white sun! In the 'Ocean Country,' and the world
of fierce winds and disease. And you are from there. I had heard
of it before they banished me; but two days since I came across a
dying man, away over there. He was huddled against the wall, and
had fallen and killed himself in his efforts to climb back to
food and light.

"I saw him die. He told me that he had come from your land when
he was a child. His trouble was the lungs and he had fallen off
to a skeleton. He talked to me of your wide ocean land. Is it,
indeed so great? And has it no walls about it?"

"No, it is surrounded by water."

"I cannot understand," and, after a pause, in which Johnston
could hear the great fellow's heart beating, he continued; "That
must be the Heaven the man spoke about. And beyond the water is
it always dark like this, and do they banish people there as the
king has us?"

"No; beyond are other countries. But is there no chance for us to
escape from here?"

The Alphian laughed bitterly. "None. What were you banished for?"

"I hardly know."

"Hold out your arm. There," as he grasped Johnston's arm in a
clasp of iron, "I see; you are undeveloped, unfit--none but
the healthy and strong are allowed to live in Alpha. It is right,
of course; but it is hard to bear. But I must lie down. I
am wearied with constant rambling. I am nervous too. I fell
asleep awhile ago and dreamt I heard all my friends in a
great clamoring body calling my name, 'Branasko!' and then I
awoke and cried for help."

As he spoke he sank with a sigh to the ground and rested his head
on his elbows and knees and seemed asleep. The American sat down
beside him, and, for a long time, neither spoke. Branasko broke
the silence; he awoke with a start and eyed his companion in
sleepy wonder.

"Ugh, I dreamt again," he grunted, "are you asleep?"

"No," was Johnston's reply. "I am hungry and thirsty and cannot

"So am I, but we must wait till it is lighter, then we can go in
search of food. When I was a boy I learned to catch fish in pools
with my hands and it has prolonged my life here. When the light
comes again, I shall show you how I do it."

"Then the day does break? I thought it was eternally dark here."

"It does not get very light, because we are behind the sun; but
it is lighter than now, for we get the sun's reflection, enough
at least to keep us from falling into the chasms."

Branasko lowered his head to his knees and slept again, but the
American, though wearied, was wakeful. Several hours passed. The
Alphian was sleeping soundly, his breathing was very heavy and he
had rolled down on his side.

Far away in the east the darkness gradually faded into purple,
and then into gray, and slowly hints of pink appeared in
the skies. It was dawn. Johnston touched his companion. The man
awoke and looked at him from his great swollen eyes.

"It is day," he yawned, rising and stretching himself.

"But the sun is not in sight."

"No; it shows itself only in the middle of the day, and then but
for a few minutes. We must go now and search for food. I will
show you how to catch the eyeless fish in the black caverns over
there." And he led the American into the blackness behind them.
Every now and then, as they stumbled along, Johnston would look
longingly back toward the faint pink light that shone above the
high black wall. But Branasko hastened on.

Presently they came to the edge of a black chasm and the American
was filled with awe, for, from the seemingly fathomless depths,
came a great roaring sound like that of a mighty wind and the air
that came from it was hot, though pure and free from the odor of

"What is this?" he asked.

"They are everywhere," answered Branasko, "if it were not for
their hot breathing the Land of the Changing Sun would be cold
and damp."

"Then the sun does not give out heat?"


"It is cold?"

"I believe so, I have never thought much about it."

The American was mystified, but he did not question farther, for
Branasko was carefully lowering himself into the hot gulf.

"Follow me," he said; "we must cross it to reach the caves. I
will guide you. I have been over this way before."

"But can we stand the heat?"

"Oh, yes; when we get used to it, it is invigorating. I perspire
in streams, but I feel better afterward. Come on."

Branasko's head only was above the ground. "I am standing on a
ledge," he said. "Get down beside me. Fear nothing. It is solid;
besides, what does it matter? You can die but once, and it would
really be better to fall down there into the internal fires than
to starve slowly."

Johnston shuddered convulsively as he let himself down beside
Branasko. His foot dislodged a stone. With a crash it fell upon a
lower ledge and bounded off and went whizzing down into the
depths. Both men listened. They heard the stone bounding from
ledge to ledge till the sound was lost in the internal roaring.

"It is mighty deep," said Johnston.

"Yes, but follow me; we cannot stop here; we must go along this
ledge till we get to the point where the chasm is narrow enough
to jump across. I have done it."

"The American held to his companion with one hand and the rock
with the other, and they slowly made their way along the narrow
ledge, pausing every now and then to rest. At every step the path
grew more perilous and narrower, and the cliff on their left rose
higher and higher, till the reflected light of the sun had
entirely disappeared. At certain points the hot wind dashed
upon them as furiously as the whirling mist in "The Cave of
Winds" at Niagara Falls. Once Johnston's foot slipped and he
fell, but was drawn back to safety by the strong arm of the

"Be careful; hold to the cliff's face," warned Branasko
indifferently, and he moved onward as if nothing unusual had
occurred. Presently they reached a point where a narrow boulder
jutted out over the chasm toward the opposite side, and
Branasko cautiously crawled out upon it. When he had got to its
end, Johnston could not see him in the gloom, but his voice came
to him out of the roaring of the chasm.

"I can see the other side, and am going to jump." An instant
later, the American heard the clatter of the Alphian's shoes
on the rock, and his grunt of satisfaction. Then Branasko called
out: "Come on; crawl out till you feel the end of the rock, and
then you can see me."

In great trepidation the American slowly crawled out on the
narrow rock. Below him yawned the hot darkness, above hung
that black ominous canopy of nothingness. Slowly he advanced on
hands and knees, every moment feeling the sharp rock growing
narrower, till finally he reached the end. He looked ahead. He
could but faintly see the ledge and Branasko's tall form
silhouetted upon it.

"See, this is where you have to alight," cried the Alphian.
"Jump, I will catch you!"

"I am afraid I shall topple over when I stand up," replied the
American. "The rock is narrow and my head is already swimming. I
fear I cannot reach you. It is no use."

"Tut, tut!" exclaimed Branasko. "Stand up quickly, and jump at
once. Don't stop to think about it."

Johnston obeyed. He felt his feet firmly braced on the rock and
he sprang toward the opposite ledge with all his might. Branasko
caught him.

"Good," he grunted. "There is another place, we must jump again.
It is further on." Along this ledge they went for some distance,
Branasko leading the way and holding the arm of the American.

"Now here we are, the chasm is a little wider, but the ledge on
the other side is broader." As he spoke he released Johnston's
arm and prepared to jump. He filled his lungs two or three
times. But he seemed to hesitate. "Pshaw, watching you back there
has made me nervous. I never cared before. If I should happen to
fall, go back to where we met, it is safer there without a guide
than here."

Without another word Branasko hurled himself forward. Johnston
held his breath in horror, for Branasko's foot had slipped as he

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