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Our Library => John Fearn - The Intelligence Gigantic (1933) => Topic started by: Admin on January 28, 2023, 01:00:09 am

Title: 13: After the Earth Froze
Post by: Admin on January 28, 2023, 01:00:09 am
WITH the passing of the weeks, and the iron control of the Intelligence at last removed, the workers looked pitifully for guidance in their hour of need, and Dave came into his own. Aided by a quartet of highly intellectual men, late enforced minions of the Intelligence, he succeeded in getting the entire army of workers into a semblance of order, put them into divisions, and knew, by the end of a month, exactly where each division was situated.

It was at the time he had succeeded in arranging all these divisions, that the earth was suddenly found to be a mass of underground shelters, carefully stocked with food, water, and artificial air—enough to last for months. Kal had kept his word. What the workers thought of this miracle was never discovered, for the approach of the solar collapse was too imminent to permit investigation.

The people obeyed orders without question, and within a week every man, woman, and child had vanished from the face of the earth, were living, deep underground, in perfect comfort, yet able to view the outside world through snub-nosed towers of unbreakable glass.

Dave and Nan, accompanied by the intellectuals, had a special underground residence to themselves, completely equipped with instruments.

Three days before the actual collapse the first evidences of something amiss became apparent on the earth. Thunderstorms of incredible violence swept the planet.

Being within clear view of New London, from that high point once known as Parliament Hill, Dave and Nan watched in awe the gradual collapse of that mighty city. Tower after tower vanished in vast crumblings of masonry and steel as the blue-white bolts stabbed down from the inky clouds. Rain descended in torrents, pouring off the glass tower of the residence in rivulets, forming into pools in the dusty soil . . . Then, just as suddenly as they came, the storms would diminish and allow the sun to shine forth—an angry, red-looking sun, inflamed and sinister . . .

On the third day, at 2:14 p.m., according to Dave’s chronometer, the disaster came. At that moment the last electron was wrested from the outer shell, and the disrupted atoms could no longer hold the weight of the sun. What happened could not be seen owing to the dense clouds that had gathered, but everybody became aware of an encroaching dullness that deepened into twilight, until the afternoon was as cheerless and gloomy as one hour before dawn.

The exterior thermometers registered two degrees drop in twenty minutes. Dave and Nan, with the intellectuals, sat watching the proceedings, calculating and checking notes. Whatever the cosmic forces were that Kal had brought to bear they had certainly achieved their object. Somewhere behind all the clouds a weakly glimmering sun must be shining—but bereft of all its normal warmth.

Then came storms—terrifying, fearful storms. Angry and deadly uprisings of Nature that flogged the earth unmercifully. The vast alteration in the sun’s behaviour brought about such colossal upheavals as would have been deemed impossible. Whirlwinds and tidal waves swept and flooded the earth with a fury that knew no bounds. The sea, lashed to a savagery, which had no parallel in earth’s history, crashed inwards on the land, wiping out villages, flooding and ruining cities, sweeping away entire cliffs, and roaring as a colossal ruinous monster of destruction over the wind and rain-lashed landscape.

The Thames, from the viewpoint of Dave and Nan, changed from a flooded ribbon of dull grey to a sudden mighty lake at the uprush of the sea from its mouth. Triumphant the waves rolled on, carving New London in two as though with a vast knife. The rain, also, formed itself into rolling rivers and tumbled down in frothing cascades to meet the swirling sea in the valley below.

Then, with the passage of the hours, the fury of the electrical disturbances abated somewhat—and finally ceased altogether. The earth became enshrouded with a deathly calmness for a space . . .

Outside lay an inconceivable scene of havoc and destruction. New London was nothing but a tottering ruin, entirely awash. The sea, fortunately—or was it something more than fortune?—had confined itself to the valley below, isolating the southernmost parts of England—turning them into an island upon which no being lived or moved.

Towards evening a glimpse of the sun was obtained. It lay low down on the horizon, oddly distorted by atmospheric irregularities—a ghost of a sun, pale and wan, with not a trace of heat. Its light was more powerful than that of the moon, but its heat-giving qualities were entirely absent . . .

It set at last, sinking, as it seemed, into the now subsiding sea.

With the coming of darkness the thermometer commenced the downward fall in earnest. It dropped to the freezing point an hour after sunset, and down to zero three hours afterwards. A wind sprang up about this time, a wind that brought with it a blizzard of unprecedented force. Peering through the gaps in the glass, which had escaped frost spangles, Dave could see naught but a white and glassy waste outside, and a writhing, seething chaos of white flakes. He hardly needed to guess that the clouds had condensed with the cold . . .

What took place after the coming of the great blizzard nobody could say. Day after day passed without any visible sign of daylight. It seemed as though the sun had gone altogether. The mercury of the thermometer had dropped so low that it had disappeared entirely from the tube. Outside there was only the moaning of the ice-charged wind, and a dim, roaring sound, that spoke of perpetual destruction going on in the deserted, ice-bound world beyond . . .

Days passed into weeks, and still there was no sign of daylight. The people underground waited and waited, patiently—all view of the outside world blotted out. They lived comfortably, contentedly, unaware where it was all going to end, content to lead their lives in the brilliantly lighted underworld with their friends and families . . .

To Dave, however, leader of them all, the situation began to present grave fears.

“I can’t understand it!” he muttered. “The earth is frozen from end to end by this time—there can’t be a spark of life left in it; and we know that during the disasters in this darkness vast transformations must have taken place . . . But why doesn’t Kal keep his word, I wonder?”

“He will keep his word,” Nan murmured. “Don’t worry—it’ll all come right. And—— Look! What’s that!”

She pointed through the one tiny clear gap in the glass. Dave stared and began to breathe hard.

Far away to the east lay a band of pale grey, caressing the horizon. It widened slowly and changed color by imperceptible degrees . . . Grey—then muddy cream—then pure white . . . and at last, blue.

“Blue!” Dave shouted huskily. “Blue sky! Look!”

Gradually the blueness spread outwards and upwards, expanded into an ever widening gulf, until the blackness overhead seemed like a mountain range in silhouette against it.

The earth beneath shone silvery white as the blueness spread. Everywhere lay ice and snow—a fairyland of glittering, coruscating pendants . . . Came a beam of light at last; yellow light, powerful and warm.

Dave shot a glance upwards.

“A sun!” he threw out excitedly. “Not our sun, but a smaller one—just as hot and powerful, though! We’ve won, boys! Kal has kept his word . . .”

Yet withal, it was many days before the temperature rose far enough to permit of outside exploration. So soon as it was safe to venture Dave gave the order for temporary evacuation in order to examine the situation.

And what a situation it was!

Not a stick or stone was left standing. Everywhere was just a chaos of collapsed edifices and shattered, unrecognizable landscape. The snow, rapidly melting, had caused world-wide floods, and altered the entire topography of the globe. No land was as before. No land had a building standing. In one mighty effort Nature had obliterated everything man has cherished and possessed. New London was but a memory, far under the new coast line—all manifestations of the Intelligence, his wonderful cities, his marvellous creative forces, had been wiped out of all comprehension or knowledge . . .

Dave shook his head slowly as he looked down at the sea where New London had been.

“Well, perhaps it is as well,” he murmured. “We’ve cleaned up everything, and the world can—start again.”

Thanks to the organized system to which the amalgamated races of the world worked, the task of building up new cities and charting new countries was not so gargantuan as had at first been expected.

Even so, five long years passed before the signs of really appreciable order arrived—years in which Dave toiled almost unceasingly to help and instruct the people, and years in which the collapse of the old-time sun was forgotten and done with.

Within ten years the world was practically back in a normal position—at least far enough forward for Dave and Nan—acclaimed, without question, Joint Presidents of World Reform—to take their well-earned holiday, whilst trusted advisers continued their activities . . .

For their holiday they chose the countryside, green and fresh with the glory of early summer, the rays of the new-born sun slanting down, hot and life-giving, between the trees.

“It is well,” commented a profound voice.

The two looked around, up the bank, startled—then they gasped with amazement as they beheld none other than Kal himself coming slowly down the bank towards them, attired in his customary costume of white and gold, and seeming not a day older.

“Kal!” Dave ejaculated at last. “By Jove, sir, but I’m glad to see you again. Your words proved correct.”

“Naturally,” the old Martian returned pleasantly. “I have merely come to bid you a last farewell. You have done well, my children—you have seen for yourself that only experience can teach a necessary lesson. Don’t interfere with Nature again, son—that is my advice; the advice of a mind millions of years ahead of you. Watch that, and you have nothing to fear. May you have contentment now until the end of your days . . . Farewell—forever.”

“Yes! Man is God-given, God-made, and God-sustained . . .”

“You’re right. Nature is self-sufficient. All’s well with the world!”

And as if in confirmation, a bird took up a thread of silver song in the tree above . . .