“I’m glad you came,” said Chalmers. He was sitting by the window and his face was very pale. Two tall candles guttered at his elbow and cast a sickly amber light over his long nose and slightly receding chin. Chalmers would have nothing modern about his apartment. He had the soul of a mediæval ascetic, and he preferred illuminated manuscripts to automobiles, and leering stone gargoyles to radios and adding–machines.
As I crossed the room to the settee he had cleared for me I glanced at his desk and was surprised to discover that he had been studying the mathematical formulae of a celebrated contemporary physicist, and that he had covered many sheets of thin yellow paper with curious geometric designs.
“Einstein and John Dee are strange bedfellows,” I said as my gaze wandered from his mathematical charts to the sixty or seventy quaint books that comprised his strange little library. Plotinus and Emanuel Moscopulus, St. Thomas Aquinas and Frenicle de Bessy stood elbow to elbow in the somber ebony bookcase, and chairs, table and desk were littered with pamphlets about mediæval sorcery and witchcraft and black magic, and all of the valiant glamorous things that the modern world has repudiated.
Chalmers smiled engagingly, and passed me a Russian cigarette on a curiously carved tray. “We are just discovering now,” he said, “that the old alchemists and sorcerers were two–thirds right, and that your modern biologist and materialist is nine–tenths wrong.”
“You have always scoffed at modern science.” I said, a little impatiently.
“Only at scientific dogmatism,” he replied. “I have always been a rebel, a champion of originality and lost causes; that is why I have chosen to repudiate the conclusions of contemporary biologists.”
“And Einstein?” I asked.
“A priest of transcendental mathematics” he murmured reverently. “A profound mystic and explorer of the great suspected.”
“Then you do not entirely despise science.”
“Of course not.” he affirmed. “I merely distrust the scientific positivism of the past fifty years, the positivism of Haeckel and Darwin and of Mr. Bertrand Russell. I believe that biology has failed pitifully to explain the mystery of man’s origin and destiny.”
“Give them time.” I retorted.
Chalmers’ eyes glowed. “My friend.” he murmured, “your pun is sublime. Give them time. That is precisely what I would do. But your modern biologist scoffs at time. He has the key but he refuses to use it. What do we know of time, really? Einstein believes that it is relative, that it can be interpreted in terms of space, of curved space. But must we stop there? When mathematics fails us can we not advance by—insight?”
“You are treading on dangerous ground,” I replied. “That is a pitfall that your true investigator avoids That is why modern science has advanced so slowly. It accepts nothing that it cannot demonstrate. But you—”
“I would take hashish, opium, all manner of drugs I would emulate the sages of the East. And then perhaps I would apprehend—”
“The fourth dimension.”
“Perhaps. But I believe that drugs expand human consciousness. William James agreed with me. And I have discovered a new one.”
“A new drug?”
“It was used centuries ago by Chinese alchemists, but it is virtually unknown in the West. Its occult properties are amazing. With its aid and the aid of my mathematical knowledge I believe that I can go back through time.”
“I do not understand.”
“Time is merely our imperfect perception of a new dimension of space. Time and motion are both illusions. Everything that has existed from the beginning of the world exists now. Events that occurred centuries ago on this planet continue to exist in another dimension of space. Events that will occur centuries from now exist already. We cannot perceive their existence because we cannot enter the dimension of space that contains them. Human beings as we know them are merely fractions, infinitesimally small fractions of one enormous whole. Every human being is linked with all the life that has preceded him on this planet. All of his ancestors are parts of him. Only time separates him from his forebears, and time is an illusion and does not exist.”
“I think I understand,” I murmured.
“It will be sufficient for my purpose if you can form a vague idea of what I wish to achieve. I wish to strip from my eyes the veils of illusion that time has thrown over them, and see the beginning and the end.”
“And you think this new drug will help you?”
“I am sure that it will. And I want you to help me. I intend to take the drug immediately. I cannot wait. I must see.” His eyes glittered strangely. “I am going back, back through time.”
He rose and strode to the mantel. When he faced me again he was holding a small square box in the palm of his hand. “I have here five pellets of the drug Liao. It was used by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tze, and while under its influence he visioned Tao. Tao is the most mysterious force in the world; it surrounds and pervades all things; it contains the visible universe and everything that we call reality. He who apprehends the mysteries of Tao sees clearly all that was and will be.”
“Rubbish!” I retorted.
“Tao resembles a great animal, recumbent, motionless, containing in its enormous body all the worlds of our universe, the past, the present and the future. We see portions of this great monster through a slit, which we call time. With the aid of this drug I shall enlarge the slit. I shall behold the great figure of life, the great recumbent beast in its entirety.”
“And what do you wish me to do?”
“Watch, my friend. Watch and take notes. And if I go back too far you must recall me to reality. You can recall me by shaking me violently. If I appear to be suffering acute physical pain you must recall me at once.”
“Chalmers.” I said. “I wish you wouldn’t make this experiment. You are taking dreadful risks. I don’t believe that there is any fourth dimension and I emphatically do not believe in Tao. And I don’t approve of your experimenting with unknown drugs.”
“I know the properties of this drug.” he replied. “I know precisely how it affects the human animal and I know its dangers. The risk does not reside in the drug itself My only fear is that I may become lost in time. You see, I shall assist the drug. Before I swallow this pellet I shall give my undivided attention to the geometric and algebraic symbols that I have traced on this paper.” He raised the mathematical chart that rested on his knee. “I shall prepare my mind for an excursion into time. I shall approach the fourth dimension with my conscious mind before I take the drug which will enable me to exercise occult powers of perception. Before I enter the dream world of the Eastern mystics I shall acquire all of the mathematical help that modern science can offer. This mathematical knowledge, this conscious approach to an actual apprehension of the fourth dimension of time, will supplement the work of the drug. The drug will open up stupendous new vistas—the mathematical preparation will enable me to grasp them intellectually. I have often grasped the fourth dimension in dreams, emotionally, intuitively, but I have never been able to recall, in waking life, the occult splendours that were momentarily revealed to me.
“But with your aid, I believe that I can recall them. You will take down everything that I say under the influence of the drug. No matter how strange or incoherent my speech may become you will omit nothing. When I awake I may be able to supply the key to whatever is mysterious or incredible. I am not sure that I shall succeed, but if I do succeed”—his eyes were strangely luminous—“time will exist for me no longer!”
He sat down abruptly. “I shall make the experiment at once. Please stand over there by the window and watch. Have you a fountain pen?”
I nodded gloomily and removed a pale green Waterman from my upper vest pocket.
“And a pad, Frank?”
I groaned and produced a memorandum book. “I emphatically disapprove of this experiment,” I muttered. “You’re taking a frightful risk.”
“Don’t be an asinine old woman!” he admonished. “Nothing that you can say will induce me to stop now. I entreat you to remain silent while I study these charts.”
He raised the charts and studied them intently. I watched the clock on the mantel as it ticked out the seconds, and a curious dread clutched at my heart so that I choked.
Suddenly the clock stopped ticking, and exactly at that moment Chalmers swallowed the drug.
I rose quickly and moved toward him, but his eyes implored me not to interfere. “The clock has stopped.” he murmured. “The forces that control it approve of my experiment. Time stopped, and I swallowed the drug. I pray God that I shall not lose my way.”
He closed his eyes and leaned back on the sofa. All of the blood had left his face and he was breathing heavily. It was clear that the drug was acting with extraordinary rapidity.
“It is beginning to get dark,” he murmured. “Write that. It is beginning to get dark and the familiar objects in the room are fading out. I can discern them vaguely through my eyelids, but they are fading swiftly.”
I shook my pen to make the ink come and wrote rapidly in shorthand as he continued to dictate.
“I am leaving the room. The walls are vanishing and I can no longer see any of the familiar objects. Your face, though, is still visible to me. I hope that you are writing. I think that I am about to make a great leap—a leap through space. Or perhaps it is through time that I shall make the leap. I cannot tell. Everything is dark, indistinct.”
He sat for a while silent, with his head sunk upon his breast. Then suddenly he stiffened and his eyelids fluttered open. “God in heaven!” he cried. “I see!”
He was straining forward in his chair, staring at the opposite wall But I knew that he was looking beyond the wall and that the objects in the room no longer existed for him. “Chalmers,” I cried, “Chalmers, shall I wake you?”
“Do not!” he shrieked. “I see everything. All of the billions of lives that preceeded me on this planet are before me at this moment. I see men of all ages, all races, all colors. They are fighting, killing, building, dancing, singing. They are sitting about rude fires on lonely gray deserts, and flying through the air in monoplanes. They are riding the seas in bark canoes and enormous steamships; they are painting bison and mammoths on the walls of dismal caves and covering huge canvases with queer futuristic designs. I watch the migrations from Atlantis. I watch the migrations from Lemuria. I see the elder races—a strange horde of black dwarfs overwhelming Asia, and the Neandertalers with lowered heads and bent knees ranging obscenely across Europe. I watch the Achæans streaming into the Greek islands, and the crude beginnings of Hellenic culture. I am in Athens and Pericles is young. I am standing on the soil of Italy. I assist in the rape of the Sabines; I march with the Imperial Legions. I tremble with awe and wonder as the enormous standards go by and the ground shakes with the tread of the victorious hastati. A thousand naked slaves grovel before me as I pass in a litter of gold and ivory drawn by night–black oxen from Thebes, and the flower–girls scream ‘Ave Caesar’ as I nod and smile. I am myself a slave on a Moorish galley. I watch the erection of a great cathedral. Stone by stone it rises, and through months and years I stand and watch each stone as it falls into place. I am burned on a cross head downward in the thyme–scented gardens of Nero, and I watch with amusement and scorn the torturers at work in the chambers of the Inquisition.
“I walk in the holiest sanctuaries; I enter the temples of Venus. I kneel in adoration before the Magna Mater, and I throw coins on the bare knees of the sacred courtesans who sit with veiled faces in the groves of Babylon. I creep into an Elizabethan theater and with the stinking rabble about me I applaud The Merchant of Venice. I walk with Dante through the narrow streets of Florence. I meet the young Beatrice, and the hem of her garment brushes my sandals as I stare enraptured. I am a priest of Isis, and my magic astounds the nations. Simon Magus kneels before me, imploring my assistance, and Pharaoh trembles when I approach. In India I talk with the Masters and run screaming from their presence, for their revelations are as salt on wounds that bleed.
“I perceive everything simultaneously. I perceive everything from all sides; I am a part of all the teeming billions about me. I exist in all men and all men exist in me. I perceive the whole of human history in a single instant, the past and the present.
“By simply straining I can see farther and farther back. Now I am going back through strange curves and angles. Angles and curves multiply about me. I perceive great segments of time through curves. There is curved time, and angular time. The beings that exist in angular time cannot enter curved time. It is very strange.
“I am going back and back. Man has disappeared from the earth. Gigantic reptiles crouch beneath enormous palms and swim through the loathly black waters of dismal lakes. Now the reptiles have disappeared. No animals remain upon the land, but beneath the waters, plainly visible to me, dark forms move slowly over the rotting vegetation.
“The forms are becoming simpler and simpler. Now they are single cells. All about me there are angles—strange angles that have no counterparts on the earth. I am desperately afraid.
“There is an abyss of being which man has never fathomed.”
I stared. Chalmers had risen to his feet and he was gesticulating helplessly with his arms. “I am passing through unearthly angles; I am approaching—oh, the burning horror of it.”
“Chalmers!” I cried. “Do you wish me to interfere?”
He brought his right hand quickly before his face, as though to shut out a vision unspeakable. “Not yet!” he cried “I will go on. I will see—what—lies—beyond—”
A cold sweat streamed from his forehead and his shoulders jerked spasmodically. “Beyond life there are”—his face grew ashen with terror—”things that I cannot distinguish. They move slowly through angles. They have no bodies, and they move slowly through outrageous angles.”
It was then that I became aware of the odor in the room. It was a pungent, indescribable odor, so nauseous that I could scarcely endure it. I stepped quickly to the window and threw it open. When I returned to Chalmers and looked into his eyes I nearly fainted.
“I think they have scented me!” he shrieked. “They are slowly turning toward me.”
He was trembling horribly. For a moment he clawed at the air with his hands. Then his legs gave way beneath him and he fell forward on his face, slobbering and moaning.
I watched him in silence as he dragged himself across the floor. He was no longer a man. His teeth were bared and saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth.
“Chalmers.” I cried “Chalmers, stop it! Stop it. do you hear?”
As if in reply to my appeal he commenced to utter hoarse convulsive sounds which resembled nothing so much as the barking of a dog. and began a sort of hideous writhing in a circle about the room. I bent and seized him by the shoulders. Violently, desperately, I shook him. He turned his head and snapped at my wrist. I was sick with horror, but I dared not release him for fear that he would destroy himself in a paroxysm of rage.
“Chalmers,” I muttered, “you must stop that. There is nothing in this room that can harm you. Do you understand?”
I continued to shake and admonish him, and gradually the madness died out of his face. Shivering convulsively, he crumpled into a grotesque heap on the Chinese rug.
I carried him to the sofa and deposited him upon it. His features were twisted in pain, and I knew that he was still struggling dumbly to escape from abominable memories.
“Whisky,” he muttered. “You’ll find a flask in the cabinet by the window—upper left–hand drawer.”
When I handed him the flask his fingers tightened about it until the knuckles showed blue. “They nearly got me,” he gasped. He drained the stimulant in immoderate gulps, and gradually the color crept back into his face.
“That drug was the very devil!” I murmured.
“It wasn’t the drug.” he moaned.
His eyes no longer glared insanely, but he still wore the look of a lost soul.
“They scented me in time.” he moaned. “I went too far.”
“What were they like?” I said, to humor him.
He leaned forward and gripped my arm. He was shivering horribly. “No words in our language can describe them!” He spoke in a hoarse whisper. “They are symbolized vaguely in the myth of the Fall, and in an obscene form which is occasionally found engraved on ancient tablets. The Greeks had a name for them, which veiled their essential foulness. The tree, the snake and the apple—these are the vague symbols of a most awful mystery.
His voice had risen to a scream. “Frank, Frank, a terrible and unspeakable deed was done in the beginning. Before time, the deed, and from the deed—”
He had risen and was hysterically pacing the room. “The seeds of the deed move through angles in dim recesses of time. They are hungry and athirst!”
“Chalmers.” I pleaded to quiet him. “We are living in the third decade of the Twentieth Century.”
“They are lean and athirst!” he shrieked. “The Hounds of Tindalos!”
“Chalmers, shall I phone for a physician”
“A physician cannot help me now They are horrors of the soul, and yet”—he hid his face in his hands and groaned—”they are real, Frank. I saw them for a ghastly moment. For a moment I stood on the other side. I stood on the pale gray shores beyond time and space. In an awful light that was not light, in a silence that shrieked, I saw them.
“All the evil in the universe was concentrated in their lean, hungry bodies. Or had they bodies? I saw them only for a moment; I cannot be certain. But I heard them breathe. Indescribably for a moment I felt their breath upon my face. They turned toward me and I fled screaming. In a single moment I fled screaming through time. I fled down quintillions of years.
“But they scented me. Men awake in them cosmic hungers. We have escaped, momentarily, from the foulness that rings them round. They thirst for that in us which is clean, which emerged from the deed without stain. There is a part of us which did not partake in the deed, and that they hate. But do not imagine that they are literally, prosaically evil. They are beyond good and evil as we know it. They are that which in the beginning fell away from cleanliness. Through the deed they became bodies of death, receptacles of all foulness. But they are not evil in our sense because in the spheres through which they move there is no thought, no morals, no right or wrong as we understand it. There is merely the pure and the foul. The foul expresses itself through angles: the pure through curves. Man. the pure part of him, is descended from a curve. Do not laugh. I mean that literally.”
I rose and searched for my hat. “I’m dreadfully sorry for you, Chalmers,” I said, as I walked toward the door. “But I don’t intend to stay and listen to such gibberish. I’ll send my physician to see you. He’s an elderly, kindly chap and he won’t be offended if you tell him to go to the devil. But I hope you’ll respect his advice. A week’s rest in a good sanitarium should benefit you immeasurably.”
I heard him laughing as I descended the stairs, but his laughter was so utterly mirthless that it moved me to tears.
When Chalmers phoned the following morning my first impulse was to hang up the receiver immediately. His request was so unusual and his voice was so wildly hysterical that I feared any further association with him would result in the impairment of my own sanity. But I could not doubt the genuineness of his misery, and when he broke down completely and I heard him sobbing over the wire I decided to comply with his request.
“Very well,” I said. “I will come over immediately and bring the plaster.”
En route to Chalmers’ home I stopped at a hardware store and purchased twenty pounds of plaster of Paris. When I entered my friend’s room he was crouching by the window watching the opposite wall out of eyes that were feverish with fright. When he saw me he rose and seized the parcel containing the plaster with an avidity that amazed and horrified me. He had extruded all of the furniture and the room presented a desolate appearance.
“It is just conceivable that we can thwart them!” he exclaimed, “But we must work rapidly. Frank, there is a stepladder in the hall. Bring it here immediately. And then fetch a pail of water.”
“What for?” I murmured.
He turned sharply and there was a Rush on his face. “To mix the plaster, you fool!” he cried. “To mix the plaster that will save our bodies and souls from a contamination unmentionable. To mix the plaster that will save the world from—Frank, they must be kept out!”
“Who?” I murmured.
“The Hounds of Tindalos!” he muttered. “They can only reach us through angles. We must eliminate all angles from this room. I shall plaster up all of the corners, all of the crevices. We must make this room resemble the interior of a sphere.”
I knew that it would have been useless to argue with him. I fetched the stepladder, Chalmers mixed the plaster, and for three hours we labored. We filled in the four corners of the wall and the intersections of the floor and wall and the wall and ceiling, and we rounded the sharp angles of the window–seat.
“I shall remain in this room until they return in time,” he affirmed when our task was completed. “When they discover that the scent leads through curves they will return. They will return ravenous and snarling and unsatisfied to the foulness that was in the beginning, before time, beyond space.”
He nodded graciously and lit a cigarette. “It was good of you to help.” he said.
“Will you not see a physician. Chalmers?” I pleaded.
“Perhaps—tomorrow,” he murmured. “But now I must watch and wait.”
“Wait for what?” I urged.
Chalmers smiled wanly “I know that you think me insane,” he said. “You have a shrewd but prosaic mind, and you cannot conceive of an entity that does not depend for its existence on force and matter. But did it ever occur to you, my friend, that force and matter are merely the barriers to perception imposed by time and space? When one knows, as I do, that time and space are identical and that they are both deceptive because they are merely imperfect manifestations of a higher reality, one no longer seeks in the visible world for an explanation of the mystery and terror of being.”
I rose and walked toward the door.
“Forgive me.” he cried. “I did not mean to offend you. You have a superlative intellect, but I—I have a superhuman one. It is only natural that I should be aware of your limitations.”
“Phone if you need me,” I said, and descended the stairs two steps at a time. “I’ll send my physician over at once,”‘ I muttered, to myself. “He’s a hopeless maniac, and heaven knows what will happen if someone doesn’t take charge of him immediately.”
THE following is a condensation of two announcements which appeared in the Partridgeville Gazette for July 5, 1928:
Earthquake Shakes Financial District
At 2 o’clock this morning an earth tremor of unusual severity broke several plate–glass windows in Central Square and completely disorganized the electric and street railway systems. The tremor was felt in the outlying districts and the steeple of the First Baptist Church on Angell Hill (designed by Christopher Wren in 1717) was entirely demolished. Firemen are now attempting to put out a blaze which threatens to destroy the Partridgeville Glue Works. An investigation is promised by the mayor and an immediate attempt will be made to fix responsibility for this disastrous occurrence.
OCCULT WRITER MURDERED BY UNKNOWN GUEST
Horrible Crime in Central Square
Mystery Surrounds Death of Halpin Chalmers
At 9 a. m. today the body of Halpin Chalmers, author and journalist, was found in an empty room above the jewelry store of Smithwick and Isaacs, 24 Central Square. The coroner’s investigation revealed that the room had been rented furnished to Mr. Chalmers on May 1, and that he had himself disposed of the furniture a fortnight ago. Chalmers was the author of several recondite books on occult themes, and a member of the Bibliographic Guild. He formerly resided in Brooklyn, New York.
At 7 a. m. Mr. L. E. Hancock, who occupies the apartment opposite Chalmers’ room in the Smithwick and Isaacs establishment, smelt a peculiar odor when he opened his door to take in his cat and the morning edition of the Partridgeville Gazette. The odor he describes as extremely acrid and nauseous, and he affirms that it was so strong in the vicinity of Chalmers’ room that he was obliged to hold his nose when he approached that section of the hall.
He was about to return to his own apartment when it occurred to him that Chalmers might have accidentally forgotten to turn off the gas in his kitchenette. Becoming considerable, alarmed at the thought, he decided to investigate, and when repeated tappings on Chalmers’ door brought no response he notified the superintendent. The latter opened the door by means of a pass key, and the two men quickly made their way into Chalmers room. The room was utterly destitute of furniture, and Hancock asserts that when he first glanced at the floor his heart went cold within him, and that the superintendent. without saying a word, walked to the open window and stared at the building opposite for fully five minutes.
Chalmers lay stretched upon his back in the center of the room. He was starkly nude, and his chest and arms were covered with a peculiar bluish pus or ichor. His head lay grotesquely upon his chest. It had been completely severed from his body, and the features were twisted and torn and horribly mangled. Nowhere was there a trace of blood.
The room presented a most astonishing appearance. The intersections of the walls, ceiling and floor had been thickly smeared with plaster of Paris, but at intervals fragments had cracked and fallen off, and someone had grouped these upon the floor about the murdered man so as to form a perfect triangle.
Beside the body were several sheets of charred yellow paper. These bore fantastic geometric designs and symbols and several hastily scrawled sentences. The sentences were almost illegible and so absurd in content that they furnished no possible clue to the perpetrator of the crime. “I am waiting and watching,” Chalmers wrote. “I sit by the window and watch walls and ceiling. I do not believe they can reach me. but I must beware of the Doels. Perhaps they can help them break through. The satyrs will help, and they can advance through the scarlet circles. The Greeks knew a way of preventing that. It is a great pity that we have forgotten so much.”
On another sheet of paper, the most badly charred of the seven or eight fragments found by Detective Sergeant Douglas (of the Partridgeville Reserve), was scrawled the following:
“Good God, the plaster is falling! A terrific shock has loosened the plaster and it is falling. An earthquake perhaps! I never could have anticipated this. It is growing dark in the room. I must phone Frank. But can he get here in time? I will try. I will recite the Einstein formula. I will—God. they are breaking through! They are breaking through! Smoke is pouring from the coiners of the wall. Their tongues—ahhhhh—”
In the opinion of Detective Sergeant Douglas. Chalmers was poisoned by some obscure chemical. He has sent specimens of the strange blue slime found on Chalmers’ body to the Partridgeville Chemical Laboratories; and he expects the report will shed new light on one of the most mysterious crimes of recent years. That Chalmers entertained a guest on the evening preceding the earthquake is certain, for his neighbor distinctly heard a low murmur of conversation in the former’s room as he passed it on his way to the stairs. Suspicion points strongly to this unknown visitor and the police are diligently endeavoring to discover his identity.
Report of James Morton, chemist and bacteriologist:
My dear Mr. Douglas:
The fluid sent to me for analysis is the most peculiar that I have ever examined. It resembles living protoplasm, but it lacks the peculiar substances known as enzymes. Enzymes Catalyze the chemical reactions occurring in living ceils, and when the cell dies they cause it to disintegrate by hydrolyzation. Without enzymes protoplasm should possess enduring vitality, i.e. immortality. Enzymes are the negative components, so to speak, of unicellular organism, which is the basis of all life. That living matter can exist without enzymes biologists emphatically deny. And yet the substance that you have sent me is alive and it lacks these “indispensable” bodies. Good God, sir, do you realize what astounding new vistas this opens up?
Excerpt from The Secret Watchers by the late Halpin Chalmers:
What if, parallel to the life we know, there is another life that does not die, which lacks the elements that destroy our life? Perhaps in another dimension there is a different force from that which generates our life. Perhaps this force emits energy, or something similar to energy, which passes from the unknown dimension where it is and creates a new form of cell life in our dimension. No one knows that such new cell life does exist in our dimension. Ah, but I have seen its manifestations. I have talked with them. In my room at night I have talked with the Doels. And in dreams I have seen their maker. I have stood on the dim shore beyond time and matter and seen it. It moves through strange curves and outrageous angles. Someday I shall travel in time and meet it face to face.