The Girl in the Golden Cage by@astoundingstories

The Girl in the Golden Cage

by Astounding StoriesAugust 11th, 2023
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In Chapter VI of "Beyond the Vanishing Point," Glora shows Alan and George her world, which is bathed in perpetual starlight. They plan to rescue Babs from Polter, who controls giants and a golden-caged girl. They consider altering their size with Glora's drugs to reach the boat. Polter addresses a hostile crowd, presenting the small Babs as their future Queen, inciting their anger. Polter's brutality terrifies the crowd, and he hurls a tiny man into the lake.
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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 VI: The Girl in the Golden Cage

CHAPTER VI. The Girl in the Golden Cage

"y world," Glora was saying. "You like it? See the starlight on the lake? I have heard that your world looks like this at night, in summer. Ours is always like this. No day, no night. Just like this—starlight." Her hand went to Alan's shoulder. "You like it? My world?"

"Yes. Yes, Glora, It's beautiful."

There seemed a sheen on everything, a soft, glowing sheen of phosphorescence from the rocks rising to meet the pale wan starlight. The night air was soft, with a gentle breeze that rippled the distant lake into a great spread of gold and silver light.

The city was called Orena. I saw at once that we were about normal size to its houses and people. There were fields beneath our ledge, with farm implements lying in them; no workers, for this was the time for sleep. Ribbons of roads wound over the country, pale streamers in the starlight.

Glora gestured. "The giants are on their island. Everyone sleeps now. You see the island off there?"

Beyond the city, over the low stone roofs of its flat-topped dwellings, the silver spread of lake showed a green-clad island some three miles off shore. The distance made its white stone houses seem small. But as I gazed, I realized that they were large to their environment, all far larger than those of the little town. The island was perhaps a mile in length. Between it and the mainland a boat was coming toward us. It was a dark blob of hull on the shining water, and above it a queerly shaped circular sail was puffed out like a balloon-parachute by the wind.

"The giants live, there?" said Alan.

"You mean Polter's men?"

"And women. Yes."

"Are there many giants?"


"How many?" I put in. "How large are they? In relation to us now, I mean. And to your normal size?"

I turned to Alan. "Polter and Babs must be down there now! They must have arrived only recently. But we must determine what size to be before we go any further. We can't be gigantic If he sees us—if we assailed him—well, he'd kill Babs. We're got to plan. Glora tell us—"

"You ask so many questions so fast, George. There are two hundred or more of the giants. And there are more than that many thousands of our people here. Slaves, because the giants are four times as large. This little city, these fields, these hills of stone and metal, all this was ours to have in peace and happiness—until your Polter came. And that starlight on the water—"

She gestured. "Everywhere is a great reach of desert and forests. Insects, but there are no wild beasts—nothing to harm us. Nature is kind here. The weather is always like this. We were happy—until Polter came."

"And only a few thousand people," Alan said. "No other cities?"

"What lies off in the great distance we do not know. Our nation is ten times what is here. A few other cities, though some of our people live in the forests—"

She broke off. "That boat is coming for Polter. He is in the city, no doubt of that. The boat will take him and that girl you call Babs to the giant's island. His castle is there."

If we could get on that boat and go with him to the island—! But in what size? Very small? But then, if we were very small it would take us hours to get from here to the boat. Glora pointed out where it would land—just beyond the village where the houses were set in a sparse fringe. It would be there, apparently, in ten or fifteen minutes. Polter was probably there now with Babs, waiting for it.

In our present size we could not get there in time. It was two or three miles at least. But a trifle larger—the size of one of Polter's giants—would enable us to make it. We would be seen, but in the pale starlight, keeping away from the city as much as possible, we might only be mistaken for Polter's people. And when we got closer we would diminish our size, creep into the boat, get near Babs and Polter and then plan what to do.

Futile plans! All of life is so futile, so wind-swept upon the tossing sea of chance!

We climbed down from the ledge and stood at the base of the towering cliff which reared its jagged wall against the stars. A field and a road were near us. The road seemed of normal size. A man was across the field. He did not seem to notice us. He was apparently about my height. He presently discarded his work, went away from us and vanished.

"Hurry, Glora." Alan and I stood beside her while she took pellets from her vials. It needed a careful adjustment. We wanted our stature now to be four times what it was. Glora gave us pellets of both drugs, one of which was slightly more intense than the other.

"Polter made them this way," she said. "The two at once gives just the growth to take us from this normal size to the stature of the giants."

Alan and I did not touch our own vials. We had used none of our enlarging drug upon the journey; the supply she had given us of the other was nearly gone.

As I took these pellets which Glora now gave us, standing there by the side of that road, I recall that I was struck with the realization that never once upon this journey had I conceived myself to be other than normal stature. I am normally about six feet tall. I still felt—there in that golden atom—the same height. This landscape seemed of normal size. There were trees nearby—spreading, fantastic looking growths with great strings of pods hanging from them. But still, as I looked up to see one arching over me with its blue-brown leaves and an air-vine carrying vivid yellow blossoms—whatever the size of the tree, my consciousness could only conceive myself as of a normal six-foot stature standing beneath it. The human ego always is supreme! Around each man's consciousness of himself the entire universe revolves!

We crouched on the ground when this growth now began; it would not do to be observed changing size. Polter's giants never did that. Years before, he had made them large—his few hundred men and women. They were, Glora said, people both of this realm and from our great world above—dissolute, criminal characters who now had set themselves up here as the nucleus of a ruling race.

In a moment now, we were the size of these giants. Twenty to twenty-five feet tall, in relation to this environment. But I did not feel so. As I stood up—still myself in normal stature—I saw around me a shrunken little landscape. The trees, as though in a Japanese garden, were about my own height; the road was a smooth level path: the little field near us a toy fence around it. In another road across it, the man was walking. In height he would barely have reached my knees. He saw us rise beside the trees. He darted off his road in alarm, and disappeared.

I have taken longer to tell all this than the actual time which passed. We could see the boat coming from the island, and it was still a fair distance off shore. We ran along the road, skirting the edge of the little town. Its houses were none of them taller than ourselves. The windows and doorways were ovals into which we could only have inserted a head or an arm. They were most of them dark. Little people occasionally stared out, saw us run past, and ducked back, thankful that we did not stop to harass them.

"This way," said Glora. She ran like a fawn, hardly winded, with Alan and me heavily panting behind her. "There are trees—thick trees—quite near where the boat lands. We can get in them and hide and change our size to smallness. But hurry, for we will need so much time when we are small!"

The little spread of town and the shining lake remained always to our right. In five minutes we were past most of the houses. A patch of woods, with thick interlacing treetops about our own height, lay ahead. It extended a few hundred feet over to the lake shore. The sailboat was heading in close. There was a broad, starlit roadway at the edge of the lake, and a dock there at which the boat was preparing to land.

Would we be in time? I suddenly feared not. To get small now, with distance lengthening between us and the boat, would be disastrous. And where was Polter?

Abruptly we saw him. There had been only little people visible to us; none of our own height. The lake roadway by the dock was brightly starlit. As we approached the intervening patch of woods it seemed that a crowd of little people were near the dock. Polter must have been sitting. But now he rose up. We could not mistake his hunched thick figure, the lump on his shoulders clear in the starlight with the gleaming lake as a background. The crowd of little figures were milling around his knees. In the silence of the night the murmur of their voices floated over to us.

"There he is!" Alan gasped. We all three checked our running; we were at the edge of the patch of woods. "By God, there he is! Let's get larger! Rush him! Why that's only a few hundred feet over there!"

But Babs? Where was Babs?

"Alan! Down!" I crouched, pulling Alan and Glora with me. "Don't let him see us! He'd know at once—and where is Babs? Can't rush him, Alan. He'd see us coming—kill her—"

Of all the strange events which had been flung at us, I think this sudden crisis now most confused Alan and me. To get larger, or smaller? Which? Yet something must be done at once.

Glora said, "We can get through the woods best in this size. And not be seen—get closer to the landing."

We crouched so that the little treetops were always well over us. The patch of woods was dark. A soil of black loam was under us, a thick soft underbrush reached our knees, and lacy, flexible leaves and branches were at our shoulder height. We pushed them aside, forcing our way softly forward. It was not far. The little murmuring voices of the crowd grew louder.

Presently we were crouching at the other edge of the woods. I softly shoved the tree branches aside until we could all three get a clear view of the strange scene now directly before us.

And I saw a toy dock, at which a twenty-foot, barge-like open sailboat was landing; a narrow starlit roadway, crowded with a milling throng of people all no more than a foot and a half in height. The crowd milled almost to where we were crouching, unseen in the shrubbery.

Across the road by the dock. Polter stood with the crowd down around his knees. In height he seemed the old familiar Polter. Bareheaded, with his shaggy black hair shot with white. He was dressed in Earth fashion: narrow black evening trousers and a white shirt and collar with flowing black tie. I saw at once what Alan had noticed—the change in him. An abnormality of age. I would have called him now forty, or older. Beyond even that there was an abnormality. A man old before his time; or younger than he should have been for the years he had lived. An indescribable mingling of something. The mingling, of the two worlds, perhaps. It marked him with a look at once unnatural and sinister.

These were instant impressions. Glora was plucking at me. "On the white chest of his shirt, something is there."

Polter was coatless, with snowy white shirt and cuffs to his thick wrists. He was no more than fifty feet from us. On his shirt bosom something golden in color was hanging like a large bauble, an ornament, an insignia. It was strapped tightly there with a band about his chest, a cord like a necklace chain up to his thick hunched neck, and other chains down to his belt.

I stared at it. An ornament, like a cube held flat against his shirt-front—a little golden cube, ornate with tiny bars.

I heard Alan murmuring, "A cage! Why George, it's—"

And then, simultaneously, realization struck me. It was a golden cage strapped there. And I seemed to see that there was something in it. A tiny figure? Babs!

"I think he has her there," Glora murmured. "You see the little box with bars? The girl Babs, a prisoner in there." She spoke swiftly, vehemently. "He will take the boat to the island."

She suddenly gripped us. "You think really it best to go? I do what you say. I had the wish to get to my father with these drugs."

"No!" exclaimed Alan. "We must keep close to Polter!"

We were ready with our pellets. But a sudden activity in the road made us pause. The crowd of little people were hostile to Polter. A sullen hostility. They milled about him as he stood there, gazing down at then sardonically.

And abruptly he shouted at them in English. "You speak my language, some of you. Then listen."

The crowd fell silent.

"Listen. This iss your future Queen. Can you see her? She iss small now. But she has the magic power. Soon, she will be large. Like me."

The crowd was shouting again. It surged forward, but it lacked a leader, and those in advance shoved backward in fear.

Polter spoke again. "This girl from my world, you will like her. She iss kind and very beautiful. When she iss large, you will see how beautiful."

A little stone suddenly came up from the throng of little people and struck Polter on the shoulder. Then another. The crowd, emboldened, made a rush; surged against his legs.

He shouted, "You do that? Why how dare you? I show to you what giants do when you make dem angry!"

From down by his knees he plucked the small figure of a man. The crowd scattered with shouts of terror. Polter had the struggling eighteen-inch figure by the wrist. He whirled it around his head like a nine-pin and flung it over the canopy of the dock far out into the shimmering lake!

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