Astounding Stories of Super-Science March 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Beyond the Vanishing Point - Chapter V: The Message from Polter
Glora shouted, "Into the tunnel! This way!" She held her wits and darted to one side, with Alan and me after her. We ran through a narrow passage between two fifty-foot boulders which lay close together. Momentarily the giant was out of sight, but we could hear his heavy tread and his panting breath. We emerged; had passed him. He was taller now. He seemed confused at our sudden scampering activity. He checked his forward rush, and ran around the twin boulders. But we had squeezed into a narrow ravine. He could not follow. He threw a rock: to us it was a boulder. It crashed behind us. To him, we were like scampering insects; he could not tell which way we were about to dart.
Alan panted, "Glora, this—does this lead out?"
The little ravine seemed to open fifty feet ahead of us. Alan stopped, seized a chunk of rock, flung it up. I saw the giant's face above us. He was kneeling, trying to reach in. The rock hit him in the forehead—a pebble, but it stung him. His face rose away.
Again we emerged. The tunnel-mouth was near us. We reached it and flung ourselves into its ten-foot width just as the giant came lunging up. He was far larger than before. Looking back, I could see only the lower part of his legs blocked against the outer light.
"Glora! Alan, where are you?"
For a moment I did not see them. It was darker in this tunnel; broken rocky walls, a jagged arching roof ten feet high. Then I heard Alan's voice.
They came running to me. For a moment we stood, undecided what to do. My eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness; it was illumined by a dim phosphorescence from the rocks. I saw Alan fumbling for his vials, but Glora stopped him.
"No! We are the right size."
We were a hundred feet back from the opening. The giant's legs disappeared. But in a moment the round light hole of the exit was obscured again. His head and shoulders! He was lying prone. His great arms came in. He hitched forward. The width of his expanding shoulders wedged.
I think that he expected to reach us with a single snatch of his tremendous arms. Or perhaps he was confused and forgot his growth. He did not reach us. His shoulders stuck. Then suddenly he was trying to back out, but could not!
It was only a moment. We stood in the radiant gloom of the tunnel, clinging to each other, ourselves stricken by confusion. The giant's voice roared, reverberating around us. Anger. A note of fear. Finally stark terror. He heaved, but the rocks of the opening held solid. Then there was a crack, a gruesome rattling, splintering—his shoulder bones breaking. His whole gigantic body gave a last convulsive lunge, and he emitted a deafening shrill scream of agony.
I was aware of the tunnel-mouth breaking upward. Falling rocks—an avalanche, a cataclysm around us. Then light overhead.
The giant's crushed body lay motionless. A pile of boulders, rocks and loose metallic earth was strewn upon his head and torso, illumined by the outer light through a jagged rent where the cliff-face had fallen down.
We were unhurt, crouching back from the avalanche. The giant's mangled body was still expanding; shoving at the litter of loose rocks. In a moment it would again be too large for the broken cliff opening.
I found my wits. "Alan! Out of here—God! Don't you see—"
But Glora held us. The drug the giant had taken was about at its end, and Glora recognized it. The growth presently stopped. That huge, noisome mass of pulp which once had been human shoulders—
I shoved Glora away. "Don't look!" I was shaking; my head was reeling. Alan's face, painted by the phosphorescence, was ghastly.
Glora pulled at us. "This way! The tunnel is not too long. We go."
But the giant had drugs. And perhaps weapons. "Wait!" I urged. "You two wait here. I'll climb over him."
I told them why, and ran. I can only leave to the imagination that brief exploratory climb. The broken body seemed at least a hundred feet long; the mangled shoulders and chest filled the great torn hole in the cliff. I climbed over the litter. Indescribable, horrible scene! A river of warm blood was flowing down the declivity outside....
I came back to Glora and Alan. Under my arm was a huge cylinder vial. It was black—the enlarging drug. I set it down. They stared at me in my blood-stained garments.
"His blood, not mine, Alan." I tried to smile. "There's the drug he carried. Evidently Polter was only sending him out. Just the one drug."
"What'll we do with it?" Alan demanded. "Look at the size of it!"
"Destroy it," said Glora. "See, that is not difficult." She tugged at the huge stopper, and exposed a few of the pellets—to us as large as apples. "The air will soon spoil it."
We left it in the tunnel. I had brought a great roll of paper; had found it folded in the giant's belt, with the drug cylinder. We unrolled it, and hauled its folds to a spread some ten feet long. It was covered with a scrawled handwriting in pencil, but its giant characters seemed thick blurred strokes of charcoal. We could not read it; we were too close. Alan and Glora held it up against the tunnel wall. From a distance I could make it out. It was a note written in English, signed "Polter," evidently to one of his men.
I read it:
"The two men prisoners, kill them at once. That is better. It will be too dangerous to wait for my return. Put their bodies with their airplane. Crash it a mile or more from our gate."
Full directions for our death followed. And Polter said he would return by dawn or soon after.
It gave me a start. By dawn! We had been traveling four or five hours. The dawn was up there now!
"No," said Glora. She and Alan cast away the paper. "No, the time in here is different. A different time-rate. I do not know how much difference. My world speeds faster; yours is very slow. It is not the dawn up there quite yet."
Again, my mind strove to encompass these things so strange. A faster time-rate prevailed in here. Then our lives were passing more quickly. We were living, experiencing things, compressed into a shorter interval. It was not apparent; there was nothing to which comparison could be made. I recalled Alan's description of Polter—not thirty years old as he should have been, but nearer fifty. I could understand that, now. A day in here—while our gigantic world outside might only have progressed a few hours.
We walked the length of the tunnel. I suppose it was a quarter of a mile, to us in this size. It wound through the cliff with a steady downward slope. And suddenly I realized that we had turned downward nearly half the diameter of a circle! We had turned over—or at least it seemed so. But the gravity was the same. I had noticed from the beginning very little change.
The realization of this turning brought a mental confusion. I lost all sense of direction. The outer world of Earth was under my feet, instead of overhead. Then we went level. I forgot the confusion; this was normality here. We turned upward a little. Cross tunnels intersected ours at intervals. I saw caverns, open, widened tunnels, as though this mountain were honeycombed.
"Look!" said Glora. "There is the way out. All these passages lead the same way."
There was a glow of light ahead. I recall that I was at that moment fumbling at my belt in two small compartments of which I was carrying the two vials of the drugs which Glora had given me. Alan wore the same sort of belt. We had found them in the wrecked dome-room. I heard a click on the ground at my feet. I was about to stoop to see what I had kicked—only a loose stone, perhaps—but Glora's words distracted me. I did not stoop. If only I had, how different events might have been!
The glow of light ahead of us widened as we approached, and presently we stood at the end of the tunnel. A spread of open distance was outside. We were on a ledge of a rocky, precipitous wall some fifty feet above a wide level landscape. Vegetation! I saw trees—a forest off to the left. A range of naked hills lay behind it. A mile away, in front and to the right, a little town nestled on the shore of shining water. There was starlight on the water! And over it a vast blue-purple sky was studded with stars!
I gazed, with that first sudden shock of emotion, into illimitable depths of interplanetary space! Light years of distance. Gigantic worlds, blazing suns off there shrunken by distance now to little points of light. A universe was here!
But this was an inch of golden quartz!
Above my head were stars which, compared to my bodily size now, were vast worlds ten thousand light-years away! Yet, from the other viewpoint, I had only descended perhaps an eighth or a quarter of an inch beneath the broken pitted surface of a little fragment of golden quartz the size of a walnut—into just one of its myriads of golden atoms!
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Various. 2009. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, March 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30166/30166-h/30166-h.htm#Beyond_the_Vanishing_Point
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