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The Eternal Wall   By: (1911-1994)

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THE ETERNAL WALL

By RAYMOND Z. GALLUN

A scream of brakes, the splash into icy waters, a long descent into alkaline depths ... it was death. But Ned Vince lived again a million years later!

"See you in half an hour, Betty," said Ned Vince over the party telephone. "We'll be out at the Silver Basket before ten thirty...."

Ned Vince was eager for the company of the girl he loved. That was why he was in a hurry to get to the neighboring town of Hurley, where she lived. His old car rattled and roared as he swung it recklessly around Pit Bend.

There was where Death tapped him on the shoulder. Another car leaped suddenly into view, its lights glaring blindingly past a high, up jutting mass of Jurassic rock at the turn of the road.

Dazzled, and befuddled by his own rash speed, Ned Vince had only swift young reflexes to rely on to avoid a fearful, telescoping collision. He flicked his wheel smoothly to the right; but the County Highway Commission hadn't yet tarred the traffic loosened gravel at the Bend.

[Illustration: An incredible science, millions of years old, lay in the minds of these creatures.]

Ned could scarcely have chosen a worse place to start sliding and spinning. His car hit the white painted wooden rail sideways, crashed through, tumbled down a steep slope, struck a huge boulder, bounced up a little, and arced outward, falling as gracefully as a swan diver toward the inky waters of the Pit, fifty feet beneath....

Ned Vince was still dimly conscious when that black, quiet pool geysered around him in a mighty splash. He had only a dazing welt on his forehead, and a gag of terror in his throat.

Movement was slower now, as he began to sink, trapped inside his wrecked car. Nothing that he could imagine could mean doom more certainly than this. The Pit was a tremendously deep pocket in the ground, spring fed. The edges of that almost bottomless pool were caked with a rim of white for the water, on which dead birds so often floated, was surcharged with alkali. As that heavy, natronous liquid rushed up through the openings and cracks beneath his feet, Ned Vince knew that his friends and his family would never see his body again, lost beyond recovery in this abyss.

The car was deeply submerged. The light had blinked out on the dash panel, leaving Ned in absolute darkness. A flood rushed in at the shattered window. He clawed at the door, trying to open it, but it was jammed in the crash bent frame, and he couldn't fight against the force of that incoming water. The welt, left by the blow he had received on his forehead, put a thickening mist over his brain, so that he could not think clearly. Presently, when he could no longer hold his breath, bitter liquid was sucked into his lungs.

His last thoughts were those of a drowning man. The machine shop he and his dad had had in Harwich. Betty Moore, with the smiling Irish eyes like in the song. Betty and he had planned to go to the State University this Fall. They'd planned to be married sometime.... Goodbye, Betty ...

The ripples that had ruffled the surface waters in the Pit, quieted again to glassy smoothness. The eternal stars shone calmly. The geologic Dakota hills, which might have seen the dinosaurs, still bulked along the highway. Time, the Brother of Death, and the Father of Change, seemed to wait....

"Kaalleee! Tik!... Tik, tik, tik!... Kaalleee!..."

The excited cry, which no human throat could quite have duplicated accurately, arose thinly from the depths of a powder dry gulch, water scarred from an inconceivable antiquity. The noon day Sun was red and huge. The air was tenuous, dehydrated, chill.

"Kaalleee!... Tik, tik, tik!..."

At first there was only one voice uttering those weird, triumphant sounds. Then other vocal organs took up that trilling wail, and those short, sharp chuckles of eagerness. Other questioning, wondering notes mixed with the cadence. Lacking qualities identifiable as human, the disturbance was still like the babble of a group of workmen who have discovered something remarkable... Continue reading book >>




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