A Victim of Higher Space

Algernon Blackwood

0
20 Aug, 2014 10:49 PM

"THERE'S a hextraordinary gentleman to see you, sir," said the new man.

"Why 'extraordinary'?" asked Dr. Silence, drawing the tips of his thin
fingers through his brown beard. His eyes twinkled pleasantly. "Why
'extraordinary,' Barker?" he repeated encouragingly, noticing the perplexed
expression in the man's eyes.

"He's so--so thin, sir. I could hardly see 'im at all--at first. He was
inside the house before I could ask the name," he added, remembering strict
orders.

"And who brought him here?"

"He come alone, sir, in a closed cab. He pushed by me before I could say a
word--making no noise not what I could hear. He seemed to move very soft----"

The man stopped short with obvious embarrassment, as though he had already
said enough to jeopardise his new situation, but trying hard to show that he
remembered the instructions and warnings he had received with regard to the
admission of strangers not properly accredited.

"And where is the gentleman now?" asked Dr. Silence, turning away to conceal
his amusement.

"I really couldn't exactly say, sir. I left him standing in the 'all----"

The doctor looked up sharply. "But why in the hall, Barker? Why not in the
waiting-room?" He fixed his piercing though kindly eyes on the man's face. "Did
he frighten you?" he asked quickly.

"I think he did, sir, if I may say so. I seemed to lose sight of him, as it
were----" The man stammered, evidently convinced by now that he had earned his
dismissal. "He come in so funny, just like a cold wind," he added boldly,
setting his heels at attention and looking his master full in the face.

The doctor made an internal note of the man's halting description; he was
pleased that the slight evidence of intuition which had induced him to engage
Barker had not entirely failed at the first trial. Dr. Silence sought for this
qualification in all his assistants, from secretary to serving-man, and if it
surrounded him with a somewhat singular crew, the drawbacks were more than
compensated for on the whole by their occasional flashes of insight.

"So the gentleman made you feel queer, did he?"

"That was it, I think, sir," repeated the man stolidly.

"And he brings no kind of introduction to me--no letter or anything?" asked
the doctor, with feigned surprise, as though he knew what was coming.

The man fumbled, both in mind and pockets, and finally produced an envelope.

"I beg pardon, sir," he said, greatly flustered; "the gentleman handed me
this for you."

It was a note from a discerning friend, who had never yet sent him a case
that was not vitally interesting from one point or another.

"Please see the bearer of this note," the brief message ran, "though I doubt
if even you can do much to help him."

John Silence paused a moment, so as to gather from the mind of the writer
all that lay behind the brief words of the letter. Then he looked up at his
servant with a graver expression than he had yet worn.

"Go back and find this gentleman," he said, "and show him into the green
study. Do not reply to his question, or speak more than actually necessary; but
think kind, helpful, sympathetic thoughts as strongly as you can, Barker. You
remember what I told you about the importance of thinking, when I engaged you.
Put curiosity out of your mind, and think gently, sympathetically,
affectionately, if you can."

He smiled, and Barker, who had recovered his composure in the doctor's
presence, bowed silently and went out.

There were two different reception rooms in Dr. Silence's house. One,
intended for persons who imagined they needed spiritual assistance when really
they were only candidates for the asylum, had padded walls, and was well
supplied with various concealed contrivances by means of which sudden violence
could be instantly met and overcome. It was, however, rarely used. The other,
intended for the reception of genuine cases of spiritual distress and
out-of-the-way afflictions of a psychic nature, was entirely draped and
furnished in a soothing deep green, calculated to induce calmness and repose of
mind. And this room was the one in which Dr. Silence interviewed the majority of
his "queer" cases, and the one into which he had directed Barker to show his
present caller.

To begin with, the arm-chair in which the patient was always directed to
sit, was nailed to the floor, since its immovability tended to impart this same
excellent characteristic to the occupant. Patients invariably grew excited when
talking about themselves, and their excitement tended to confuse their thoughts
and to exaggerate their language. The immobility of the chair helped to
counteract this. After repeated endeavours to drag it forward, or push it back,
they ended by resigning themselves to sitting quietly. And with the futility of
fidgeting there followed a calmer state of mind.

Upon the floor, and at intervals in the wall immediately behind, were
certain tiny green buttons, practically unnoticeable, which on being pressed
permitted a soothing and persuasive narcotic to rise invisibly about the
occupant of the chair. The effect upon the excitable patient was rapid,
admirable, and harmless. The green study was further provided with a secret
spy-hole; for John Silence liked when possible to observe his patient's face
before it had assumed that mask the features of the human countenance invariably
wear in the presence of another person. A man sitting alone wears a psychic
expression; and this expression is the man himself. It disappears the moment
another person joins him. And Dr. Silence often learned more from a few moments'
secret observation of a face than from hours of conversation with its owner
afterwards.

A very light, almost a dancing step followed Barker's heavy tread towards
the green room, and a moment afterwards the man came in and announced that the
gentleman was waiting. He was still pale and his manner nervous.

"Never mind, Barker," the doctor said kindly; "if you were not intuitive the
man would have had no effect upon you at all. You only need training and
development. And when you have learned to interpret these feelings and
sensations better, you will feel no fear, but only a great sympathy."

"Yes, sir; thank you sir!" And Barker bowed and made his escape, while Dr.
Silence, an amused smile lurking about the corners of his mouth, made his way
noiselessly down the passage and put his eye to the spy-hole in the door of the
green study.

This spy-hole was so placed that it commanded a view of almost the entire
room, and, looking through it, the doctor saw a hat, gloves, and umbrella lying
on a chair by the table, but searched at first in vain for their owner.

The windows were both closed and a brisk fire burned in the grate. There
were various signs--signs intelligible at least to a keenly intuitive soul--that
the room was occupied, yet so far as human beings were concerned, it seemed
undeniably empty. No one sat in the chairs; no one stood on the mat before the
fire; there was no sign even that a patient was anywhere close against the wall,
examining the Böcklin reproduction--as patients so often did when they thought
they were alone--and therefore rather difficult to see from the spy-hole.
Ordinarily speaking, there was no one in the room. It was unoccupied.

Yet Dr. Silence was quite well aware that a human being was in the room. His
sensitive system never failed to let him know the proximity of an incarnate or
discarnate being. Even in the dark he could tall that. And he now knew
positively that his patient, the patient who had alarmed Barker, and had then
tripped down the corridor with that dancing footstep--was somewhere concealed
within the four walls commanded by his spy-hole. He also realised--and this was
most unusual--that this individual whom he desired to watch knew that he was
being watched. And, further, that the stranger himself was also watching in his
turn. In fact, that it was he, the doctor, who was being observed--and by an
observer as keen and trained as himself.

An inkling of the true state of the case began to dawn upon him, and he was
on the verge of entering--indeed, his hand already touched the door-knob--when
his eye, still glued to the spy-hole, detected a slight movement. Directly
opposite, between him and the fireplace, something stirred. He watched very
attentively and made certain that he was not mistaken. An object on the
mantelpiece--it was a blue vase--disappeared

from view. It passed out of sight together with the portion of the marble
mantelpiece on which it rested. Next, that part of the fire and grate and brass
fender immediately below, it vanished entirely, as though a slice had been taken
clean out of them.

Dr. Silence then understood that something between him and these objects was
slowly coming into being, something that concealed them and obstructed his
vision by inserting itself in the line of sight between them and himself.

He quietly awaited further results before going in.

First he saw a thin, perpendicular line tracing itself from just above the
height of the clock and continuing downwards till it reached the woolly
fire-mat. This line grew wider, broadened, grew solid. It was no shadow; it was
something substantial. It defined itself more and more. Then suddenly, at the
top of the line, and about on a level with the face of the clock, he saw a small
luminous disc gazing steadily at him. It was a human eye, looking straight into
his own, pressed there against the spy-hole. And it was bright with
intelligence. Dr. Silence held his breath for a moment--and stared back at it.

Then, like someone moving out of deep shadow into light, he saw the figure
of a man come sliding sideways into view, a whitish face following the eye, and
the perpendicular line he had first observed broadening out and developing into
the complete figure of a human being. It was the patient. He had apparently been
standing there in front of the fire all the time. A second eye had followed the
first, and both of them stared steadily at the spy-hole, sharply concentrated,
yet with a sly twinkle of humour and amusement that made it impossible for the
doctor to maintain his position any longer.

He opened the door and went in quickly. As he did so he noticed for the
first time the sound of a German band coming in noisily through the open
ventilators. In some intuitive, unaccountable fashion the music connected itself
with the patient he was about to interview. This sort of prevision was not
unfamiliar to him. It always explained itself later.

The man, he saw, was of middle age and of very ordinary appearance; so
ordinary, in fact, that he was difficult to describe--his only peculiarity being
his extreme thinness. Pleasant--that is, good--vibrations issued from his
atmosphere and met Dr. Silence as he advanced to greet him, yet vibrations alive
with currents and discharges betraying the perturbed and disordered condition of
his mind and brain. There was evidently something wholly out of the usual in the
state of his thoughts. Yet, though strange, it was not altogether distressing;
it was not the impression that the broken and violent atmosphere of the insane
produces upon the mind. Dr. Silence realised in a flash that here was a case of
absorbing interest that might require all his powers to handle properly.

"I was watching you through my little peep-hole--as you saw," he began, with
a pleasant smile, advancing to shake hands. "I find it of the greatest
assistance sometimes----"

But the patient interrupted him at once. His voice was hurried and had odd,
shrill changes in it, breaking from high to low in unexpected fashion. One
moment it thundered, the next it almost squeaked.

"I understand without explanation," he broke in rapidly. "You get the true
note of a man in that way--when he thinks himself unobserved. I quite agree.
Only, in my case, I fear, you saw very little. My case, as you of course grasp,
Dr. Silence, is extremely peculiar, uncomfortably peculiar. Indeed, unless Sir
William had positively assured me----"

"My friend has sent you to me," the doctor interrupted gravely, with a
gentle note of authority, "and that is quite sufficient. Pray, be seated,
Mr.----"

"Mudge--Racine Mudge," returned the other.

"Take this comfortable one, Mr. Mudge," leading him to the fixed chair, "and
tell me your condition in your own way and at your own pace. My whole day is at
your service if you require it."

Mr. Mudge moved towards the chair in question and then hesitated.

"You will promise me not to use the narcotic buttons," he said, before
sitting down. "I do not need them. Also I ought to mention that anything you
think of vividly will reach my mind. That is apparently part of my peculiar
case." He sat down with a sigh and arranged his thin legs and body into a
position of comfort. Evidently he was very sensitive to the thoughts of others,
for the picture of the green buttons had only entered the doctor's mind for a
second, yet the other had instantly snapped it up. Dr. Silence noticed, too that
Mr. Mudge held on tightly with both hands to the arms of the chair.

"I'm rather glad the chair is nailed to the floor," he remarked, as he
settled himself more comfortably. "It suits me admirably. The fact is---and this
is my case in a nutshell--which is all that a doctor of your marvellous
development requires--the fact is, Dr. Silence, I am a victim of Higher Space.
That's what"s the matter with me--Higher Space!"

The two looked at each other for a space in silence, the little patient
holding tightly to the arms of the chair which "suited him admirably", and
looking up with staring eyes, his atmosphere positively trembling with the waves
of some unknown activity; while the doctor smiled kindly and sympathetically,
and put his whole person as far as possible into the mental condition of the
other.

"Higher Space," repeated Mr. Mudge, "that's what it is. Now, do you think
you can help me with that?"

There was a pause during which the men's eyes steadily searched down below
the surface of their respective personalities. Then Dr. Silence spoke.

"I am quite sure I can help," he answered quietly; "sympathy must always
help, and suffering always claims my sympathy. I see you have suffered cruelly.
You must tell me all about your case, and when I hear the gradual steps by which
you reached this strange condition, I have no doubt I can be of assistance to
you."

He drew a chair up beside his interlocutor and laid a hand on his shoulder
for a moment. His whole being radiated kindness, intelligence, desire to help.

"For instance," he went on, "I feel sure it was the result of no mere chance
that you became familiar with the terrors of what you term Higher Space; for
higher space is no mere external measurement. It is, of course, a spiritual
state, a spiritual condition, an inner development, and one that we must
recognise as abnormal, since it is beyond the reach of the senses at the present
stage of evolution. Higher Space is a mystical state."

"Oh!" cried the other, rubbing his birdlike hands with pleasure, "the relief
it is to me to talk to someone who can understand! Of course what you say is the
utter truth. And you are right that no mere chance led me to my present
condition, but, on the other hand, prolonged and deliberate study. Yet chance in
a sense now governs it. I mean, my entering the condition of higher space seems
to depend upon the chance of this and that circumstance." He sighed and paused a
moment. "For instance," he continued, starting, "the mere sound of that German
band sent me off. Not that all music will do so, but certain sounds, certain
vibrations, at once key me up to the requisite pitch, and off I go. Wagner's
music always does it, and that band must have been playing a stray bit of
Wagner. But I'll come to all that later. Only, first"--he smiled
deprecating]y--"I must ask you to send away your man from the spy-hole."

John Silence looked up with a start, for Mr. Mudge's back was to the door,
and there was no mirror. He saw the brown eye of Barker glued to the little
circle of glass, and he crossed the room without a word and snapped down the
black shutter provided for the purpose, and then heard Barker shuffle away along
the passage.

"Now," continued the little man in the chair, "I can go on. You have managed
to put me completely at my ease, and I feel I may tell you my whole case without
shame or reserve. You will understand. But you must be patient with me if I go
into details that are already familiar to you--details of higher space, I
mean--and if I seem stupid when I have to describe things that transcend the
power of language and are really therefore indescribable."

"My dear friend," put in the other calmly, "that goes without saying. To
know higher space is an experience that defies description, and one is obliged
to make use of more or less intelligible symbols. But, pray, proceed. Your vivid
thoughts will tell me more than your halting words."

An immense sigh of relief proceeded from the little figure half lost in the
depths of the chair. Such intelligent sympathy meeting him half-way was a new
experience, and it touched his heart at once. He leaned back, relaxing his tight
hold of the arms, and began in his thin, scale-like voice.

"My mother was a Frenchwoman, and my father an Essex bargeman," he said
abruptly. "Hence my name--Racine and Mudge. My father died before I ever saw
him. My mother inherited money from her Bordeaux relations, and when she died
soon after, I was left alone with wealth and a strange freedom. I had no
guardian, trustees, sisters, brothers, or any connection in the world to look
after me. I grew up, therefore, utterly without education. This much was to my
advantage; I learned none of that deceitful rubbish taught in schools, and so
had nothing to unlearn when I awakened to my true love--mathematics, higher
mathematics and higher geometry. These, however, I seemed to know instinctively.
It was like the memory of what I had deeply studied before; the principles were
in my blood, and I simply raced through the ordinary stages, and beyond, and
then did the same with geometry. Afterwards, when I read the books on these
subjects, I understood how swift and undeviating the knowledge had come back to
me. It was simply memory. It was simply re-collecting the memories of what I had
known before in a previous existence and required no books to teach me."

In his growing excitement, Mr. Mudge attempted to drag the chair forward a
little nearer to his listener, and then smiled faintly as he resigned himself
instantly again to its immobility, and plunged anew into the recital of his
singular "disease".

"The audacious speculations of Bolyai, the amazing theories of Gauss--that
through a point more than one line could be drawn parallel to a given line; the
possibility that the angles of a triangle are together greater than two right
angles, if drawn upon immense curvatures--the breathless intuitions of Beltrami
and Lobatchewsky--all these I hurried through, and emerged, panting but
unsatisfied, upon the verge of my--my world, my higher space possibilities--in a
word, my disease!

"How I got there," he resumed after a brief pause, during which he appeared
to be listening nervously for an approaching sound, "is more than I can put
intelligibly into words. I can only hope to leave your mind with an intuitive
comprehension of the possibility of what I say.

"Here, however, came a change. At this point I was no longer absorbing the
fruits of studies I had made before; it was the beginning of new efforts to
learn for the first time, and I had to go slowly and laboriously through
terrible work. Here I sought for the theories and speculations of others. But
books were few and far between, and with the exception of one man--a 'dreamer,'
the world called him--whose audacity and piercing intuition amazed and delighted
me beyond description, I found no one to guide or help.

"You, of course, Dr. Silence, understand something of what I am driving at
with these stammering words, though you cannot perhaps yet guess what depths of
pain my new knowledge brought me to, nor why an acquaintance with a new
dimension of space should prove a source of misery and terror."

Mr. Racine Mudge, remembering that the chair would not move, did the next
best thing he could in his desire to draw nearer to the attentive man facing
him, and sat forward upon the very edge of the cushions, crossing his legs and
gesticulating with both hands as though he saw into this region of new space he
was attempting to describe, and might any moment tumble into it bodily from the
edge of the chair and disappear from view. John Silence, separated from him by
three aces, sat with his eyes fixed upon the thin white face opposite, noting
every word and every gesture with deep attention.

"This room we now sit in, Dr. Silence, has one side open to space--to higher
space. A closed box only seems closed. There is a way in and out of a soap
bubble without breaking the skin."

"You tell me no new thing," the doctor interposed gently.

"Hence, if higher space exists and our world borders upon it and lies
partially in it, if follows necessarily that we see only portions of all
objects. We never see their true and complete shape. We see three measurements,
but not their fourth. The new direction is concealed from us, and when I hold
this book and move my hand all round it I have not really made a complete
circuit. We only perceive those portions of any object which exist in our three
dimensions, the rest escapes us. But, once learn to see in higher space, and
objects will appear as they actually are. Only they will thus be hardly
recognisable!

"Now you may begin to grasp something of what I am coming to."

"I am beginning to understand something of what you must have suffered,"
observed the doctor soothingly, "for I have made similar experiments myself, and
only stopped just in time----"

"You are the one man in all the world who can understand, and sympathise,"
exclaimed Mr. Mudge, grasping his hand and holding it tightly while he spoke.
The nailed chair prevented further excitability.

"Well," he resumed, after a moments' pause, "I procured the implements and
the coloured blocks for practical experiment, and I followed the instructions
carefully till I had arrived at an imaginative conception of four dimensional
space. The tessaract, the figure whose boundaries are cubes, I knew by heart.
That is to say, I knew it and saw it mentally, for my eye, of course, could
never take in a new measurement, nor my hands and feet handle it.

"So, at least, I thought," he added, making a wry face. "I had reached the
stage, you see, when I could imagine in a new dimension. I was able to conceive
the shape of that new figure which is intrinsically different to all we
know--the shape of the tessaract. I could perceive in four dimensions. When,
therefore, I looked at a cube I could see all its sides at once. Its top was not
foreshortened, nor its farther side and base invisible. I saw the whole thing
out flat, so to speak. Moreover, I also saw its content--its in-sides."

"You were not yourself able to enter this new world?" interrupted Dr.
Silence.

"Not then. I was only able to conceive intuitively what it was like and how
exactly it must look. Later, when I slipped in there and saw objects in their
entirety, unlimited by the paucity of our poor three measurements, I very nearly
lost my life. For, you see, space does not stop at a single new dimension, a
fourth. It extends in all possible new ones, and we must conceive it as
containing any number of new dimensions. In other words, there is no space at
all, but only a condition. But, meanwhile, I had come to grasp the strange fact
that the objects in our normal world appear to us only partially."

Mr. Mudge moved farther forward till he was balanced dangerously on the very
edge of the chair. "From this starting point," he resumed, "I began my studies
and experiments, and continued them for years. I had money, and I was without
friends. I lived in solitude and experimented. My intellect, of course, had
little part in the work, for intellectually it was all unthinkable. Never was
the limitation of mere reason more plainly demonstrated. It was mystically,
intuitively, spiritually that I began to advance. And what I learnt, and knew,
and did is all impossible to put into language, since it describes experiences
transcending the experiences of men. It is only some of the results--what you
would call the symptoms of my disease--that I can give you, and even these must
often appear absurd contradictions and impossible paradoxes.

"I can only tell you, Dr. Silence"--his manner became grave suddenly--"that
I reached sometimes a point of view whence all the great puzzles of the world
became plain to me, and I understood what they call in the Yoga books 'The Great
Heresy of Separateness'; why all great teachers have urged the necessity of man
loving his neighbour as himself; how men are all really one; and why the utter
loss of self is necessary to salvation and the discovery of the true life of the
soul."

He paused a moment and drew breath.

"Your speculations have been my own long ago," the doctor said quietly. "I
fully realise the force of your words. Men are doubtless not separate at all--in
the sense they imagine."

"All this about the very much higher space I only dimly, very dimly
conceived, of course," the other went on, raising his voice again by jerks; "but
what did happen to me was the humbler accident of--the simpler disaster--oh
dear, how shall I put it----?"

He stammered and showed visible signs of distress.

"It was simply this," he resumed with a sudden rush of words, "that,
accidentally, as the result of my years of experiment, I one day slipped bodily
into the next world, the world of four dimensions, yet without knowing precisely
how I got there, or how I could get back again. I discovered, that is, that my
ordinary three-dimensional body was but an expression--a partial projection--of
my higher four-dimensional body!

"Now you understand what I meant much earlier in our talk when I spoke of
chance. I cannot control my entrance or exit. Certain people, certain human
atmospheres, certain wandering forces, thoughts, desires even--the radiations of
certain combinations of colour, and above all, the vibrations of certain kinds
of music, will suddenly throw me into a state of what I can only describe as an
intense and terrific inner vibration--and behold I am off! Off in the direction
at right angles to all our known directions! Off in the direction the cube takes
when it begins to trace the outlines of the new figure, the tessaract! Off into
my breathless and semi-divine higher space! Off, inside myself, into the world
of four dimensions!"

He gasped and dropped back into the depths of the immovable chair.

"And there," he whispered, his voice issuing from among the cushions, "there
I have to stay until these vibrations subside, or until they do something which
I cannot find words to describe properly or intelligibly to you--and then,
behold, I am back again. First, that is, I disappear. Then I reappear.
Only,"--he sighed--"I cannot control my entrance nor my exit."

"Just so," exclaimed Dr. Silence, "and that is why a few---"

"Why a few moments ago," interrupted Mr. Mudge, taking the words out of his
mouth, "you found me gone, and then saw me return. The music of that wretched
German band sent me off. Your intense thinking about me brought me back--when
the band had stopped its Wagner. I saw you approach the peep-hole and I saw
Barker's intention of doing so later. For me no interiors are hidden. I see
inside. When in that state the content of your mind, as of your body, is open to
me as the day. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!"

Mr. Mudge stopped and mopped his brow. A light trembling ran over the
surface of his small body like wind over grass. He still held tightly to the
arms of the chair.

"At first," he presently resumed, "my new experiences were so vividly
interesting that I felt no alarm. There was no room for it. The alarm came a
little later."

"Then you actually penetrated far enough into that state to experience
yourself as a normal portion of it?" asked the doctor, leaning forward, deeply
interested.

Mr. Mudge nodded a perspiring face in reply.

"I did," he whispered, "undoubtedly I did. I am coming to all that. It began
first at night, when I realised that sleep brought no loss of consciousness----"

"The spirit, of course, can never sleep. Only the body becomes unconscious,"
interposed John Silence.

"Yes, we know that--theoretically. At night, of course, the spirit is active
elsewhere, and we have no memory of where and how, simply because the brain
stays behind and receives no record. But I found the, while remaining conscious,
I also retained memory. I had attained to the state of continuous consciousness,
for at night regularly, with the first approaches of drowsiness, I entered
nolens volens the four dimensional world.

"For a time this happened frequently, and I could not control it; though
later I found a way to regulate it better. Apparently sleep is unnecessary in
the higher--the four dimensional--body. Yes, perhaps. But I should infinitely
have preferred dull sleep to the knowledge. For, unable to control my movements,
I wandered to and fro, attracted owing to my partial development and premature
arrival, to parts of this new world that alarmed me more and more. It was the
awful waste and drift of a monstrous world, so utterly different to all we know
and see that I cannot even hint at the nature of the sights and objects and
beings in it. More than that, I cannot even remember them. I cannot now picture
them to myself even, but can recall only the memory of the impression they made
upon me, the horror and devastating terror of it all. To be in several places at
once, for instance----"

"Perfectly," interrupted John Silence, noticing the increase of the other's
excitement, "I understand exactly. But now, please, tell me a little more of
this alarm you experienced, and how it affected you."

"It's not the disappearing and reappearing per se that I mind," continued
Mr. Mudge, "so much as certain other things. It's seeing people and objects in
their weird entirety, in their true and complete shapes, that is so distressing.
It introduced me to a world of monsters. Horses, dogs, cats, all of which I
loved; people, trees, children; all that I have considered beautiful in
life--everything, from a human face to a cathedral--appear to me in a different
shape and aspect to all I have known before. Instead of seeing their partial
expression in three dimensions, I saw them complete--in four. I cannot perhaps
convince you why this should be terrible, but I assure you that it is so. To
hear the human voice proceeding from this novel appearance which I scarcely
recognise as a human body is ghastly, simply ghastly. To see inside everything
and everybody is a form of insight peculiarly distressing. To be so confused in
geography as to find myself one moment at the North Pole, and the next at
Clapham Junction--or possibly at both places simultaneously--is absurdly
terrifying. Your imagination will readily furnish other details without my
multiplying my experiences now. But you have no idea what it all means, and how
I suffer."

Mr. Mudge paused in his panting account and lay back in his chair. He still
held tightly to the arms as though they could keep him in the world of sanity
and three measurements, and only now and again released his left hand in order
to mop his face. He looked very thin and white and oddly unsubstantial, and he
stared about him as though he saw into this other space he had been talking
about.

John Silence, too, felt warm. He had listened to every word and had made
many notes. The presence of this man had an exhilarating effect upon him. It
seemed as if Mr. Racine Mudge still carried about with him something of that
breathless higher-space condition he had been describing. At any rate, Dr.
Silence had himself advanced sufficiently far to realise that the visions of
this extraordinary little person had a basis of truth for their origin.

After a pause that prolonged itself into minutes, he crossed the room and
unlocked a drawer in a bookcase, taking out a small book with a red cover. It
had a lock to it, and he produced a key out of his pocket and proceeded to open
the covers. The bright eyes of Mr. Mudge never left him for a single second.

"It almost seems a pity," he said at length, "to cure you, Mr. Mudge. You
are on the way to discovery of great things. Though you may lose your life in
the process--that is, your life here in the world of three dimensions--you would
lose thereby nothing of great value--you will pardon my apparent rudeness, I
know--and you might gain what is infinitely greater. Your suffering, of course,
lies in the fact that you alternate between the two worlds and are never wholly
in one or the other. Also, I rather imagine, though I cannot be certain of this
from any personal experiments, that you have here and there penetrated even into
space of more than four dimensions, and have hence experienced the terror you
speak of."

The perspiring son of the Essex bargeman and the woman of Normandy bent his
head several times in assent, but uttered no word in reply.

"Some strange psychic predisposition, dating no doubt from one of your
former lives, has favoured the development of your 'disease'; and the fact that
you had no normal training at school or college, no leading by the poor
intellect into the culs-de-sac falsely called knowledge, has further caused your
exceedingly rapid movement along the lines of direct inner experience. None of
the knowledge you have foreshadowed has come to you through the senses, of
course."

Mr. Mudge, sitting in his immovable chair, began to tremble slightly. A wind
again seemed to pass over his surface and again to set it curiously in motion
like a field of grass.

"You are merely talking to gain time," he said hurriedly, in a shaking
voice. "This thinking aloud delays us. I see ahead what you are coming to, only
please be quick, for something is going to happen. A band is again corning down
the street, and if it plays--if it plays Wagner--I shall be off in a twinkling."

"Precisely. I will be quick. I was leading up to the point of how to effect
your cure. The way is this: You must simply learn to block the
entrances--prevent the centres acting."

"True, true utterly true!" exclaimed the little man, dodging about nervously
in the depths of the chair. "But how, in the name of space, can that be done?"

"By concentration. They are all within you, these centres, although outer
causes such as colour, music and other things lead you towards them. These
external things you cannot hope to destroy, but once the entrances are blocked,
they will lead you only to bricked walls and closed channels. You will no longer
be able to find the way."

"Quick, quick!" cried the bobbing figure in the chair. "How is this
concentration to be effected?"

"This little book," continued Dr. Silence calmly, "will explain to you the
way." He tapped the cover. "Let me now read out to you certain simple
instructions, composed, as I see you divine, entirely from my own personal
experiences in the same direction. Follow these instructions and you will no
longer enter the state of higher space. The entrances will be blocked
effectively."

Mr. Mudge sat bolt upright in his chair to listen, and John Silence cleared
his throat and began to read slowly in a very distinct voice.

But before he had uttered a dozen words, something happened. A sound of
street music entered the room through the open ventilators, for a band had begun
to play in the stable mews at the back of the house--the March from Tannhäuser.
Odd as it may seem that a German band should twice within the space of an hour
enter the same mews and play Wagner, it was nevertheless the fact.

Mr. Racine Mudge heard it. He uttered a sharp, squeaking cry and twisted his
arms with nervous energy round the chair. A piteous look that was not far from
tears spread over his white face. Grey shadows followed it--the grey of fear. He
began to struggle convulsively.

"Hold me fast! Catch me! For God's sake, keep me here! I'm on the rush
already. Oh, it's frightful!" he cried in tones of anguish, his voice as thin as
a reed.

Dr. Silence made a plunge forward to seize him, but in a flash, before he
could cover the space between them, Mr. Racine Mudge, screaming and struggling,
seemed to shoot past him into invisibility. He disappeared like an arrow from a
bow propelled at infinite speed, and his voice no longer sounded in the external
air, but seemed in some curious way to make itself heard somewhere within the
depths of the doctor's own being. It was almost like a faint singing cry in his
head, like a voice of dream, a voice of vision and unreality.

"Alcohol, alcohol!" it cried faintly, with distance in it, "give me alcohol!
It's the quickest way. Alcohol, before I'm out of reach!"

The doctor, accustomed to rapid decisions and even more rapid action,
remembered that a brandy flask stood upon the mantelpiece, and in less than a
second he had seized it and was holding it out towards the space above the chair
recently occupied by the visible Mudge. But, before his very eyes, and long ere
he could unscrew the metal stopper, he saw the contents of the closed glass
phial sink and lessen as though someone were drinking violently and greedily of
the liquor within.

"Thanks! Enough! It deadens the vibrations!" cried the faint voice in his
interior, as he withdrew the flask and set it back upon the mantelpiece. He
understood that in Mudge's present condition one side of the flask was open to
space and he could drink without removing the stopper. He could hardly have had
a more interesting proof of what he had been hearing described at such length.

But the next moment--the very same moment it almost seemed--the German band
stopped midway in its tune--and there was Mr. Mudge back in his chair again,
gasping and panting!

"Quick!" he shrieked, "stop that band! Send it away! Catch hold of me! Block
the entrances! Block the entrances! Give me the red book! Oh, oh, oh-h-h-h!!!"

The music had begun again. It was merely a temporary interruption. The
Tannhäuser March started again, this time at a tremendous pace that made it
sound like a rapid two-step, as though the instruments played against time

But the brief interruption gave Dr. Silence a moment in which to collect his
scattering thoughts, and before the band had got through half a bar, he had
flung forward upon the chair and held Mr. Racine Mudge, the struggling little
victim of Higher Space, in a grip of iron. His arms went all round his
diminutive person, taking in a good part of the chair at the same time. He was
not a big man, yet he seemed to smother Mudge completely.

Yet, even as he did so, and felt the wriggling form underneath him, it began
to melt and slip away like air or water. The wood of the armchair somehow
disentangled itself from between his own arms and those of Mudge. The phenomenon
known as the passage of matter through matter took place. The little man seemed
actually to be interfused with the other's being. Dr. Silence could just see his
face beneath him. It puckered and grew dark as though from some great internal
effort. He heard the thin, reedy voice crying his ear to "Block the entrances,
block the entrances!" and then--but how in the world describe what is
indescribable?

John Silence half rose up to watch. Racine Mudge, his face distorted beyond
all recognition, was making a marvellous inward movement, as though doubling
back upon himself. He turned funnel-wise like water in a whirling vortex, and
then appeared to break up somewhat as a reflection breaks up and divides in a
distorting convex mirror. He went neither forward nor backward, neither to the
right nor the left, neither up nor down. But he went. He went utterly. He simply
flashed away out of sight like a vanishing projectile.

All but one leg! Dr. Silence just had the time and the presence of mind to
seize upon the left ankle and boot as it disappeared, and to this he held on for
several seconds like grim death. Yet all the time he knew it was a foolish and
useless thing to do.

The foot was in his grasp one moment, and the next it seemed--this was the
only way he could describe it--inside his own skin and bones, and at the same
time outside his hand and all round it. It seemed mingled in some amazing way
with his own flesh and blood. Then it was gone, and he was tightly grasping a
mere draught of heated air.

"Gone! gone! gone!" cried a faint, whispering voice somewhere deep within
his own consciousness. "Lost! lost! lost!" it repeated, growing fainter and
fainter till at length it vanished into nothing and the last signs of Mr. Racine
Mudge vanished with it.

John Silence locked his red book and replaced it in the cabinet, which he
fastened with a click, and when Barker answered the bell he inquired if Mr.
Mudge had left a card upon the table. It appeared that he had, and when the
servant returned with it, Dr. Silence read the address and made a note of it. It
was in North London.

"Mr. Mudge has gone," he said quietly to Barker, noticing his expression of
alarm.

"He's not taken his 'at with him, sir."

"Mr. Mudge requires no hat where he is now," continued the doctor, stooping
to poke the fire. "But he may return for it----"

"And the humbrella, sir."

"And the umbrella."

"He didn't go out my way, sir, if you please," stuttered the amazed servant,
his curiosity overcoming his nervousness.

"Mr. Mudge has his own way of coming and going, and prefers it. If he
returns by the door at any time remember to bring him instantly to me, and be
kind and gentle with him and ask no questions. Also, remember, Barker, to think
pleasantly, sympathetically, affectionately of him while he is away. Mr. Mudge
is a very suffering gentleman."

Barker bowed and went out of the room backwards, gasping and feeling round
the inside of his collar with three very hot fingers of one hand.



It was two days later when he brought in a telegram to the study. Dr.
Silence opened it, and read as follows:

"Bombay. Just slipped out again. All safe. Have blocked entrances.
Thousand thanks. Address Cooks, London.--MUDGE.

Dr. Silence looked up and saw Barker staring at him bewilderingly. It
occurred to him that somehow he knew the contents of the telegram.

"Make a parcel of Mr. Mudge's things," he said briefly, "and address them
Thomas Cook & Sons, Ludgate Circus. And send them there exactly a month from
to-day, marked 'To be called for.'"

"Yes, sir," said Barker, leaving the room with a deep sigh and a hurried
glance at the waste-paper basket where his master had dropped the pink paper.

(End.)

<< Previous Classic Story
0
Next Classic Story >>

Comments

Post a Comment
No comments yet! Be the first
Your Comment

Do not post other site's link, it will be considered as spam