View Full Version : First Men in the Moon, The - Herbert George Wells

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06-01-2007, 11:57 PM
Chapter 20 - Mr. Bedford in Infinite Space

IT was almost as though I had been killed. Indeed, I could imagine a man
suddenly and violently killed would feel very much as I did. One moment, a
passion of agonising existence and fear; the next darkness and stillness,
neither light nor life nor sun, moon nor stars, the blank infinite.
Although the thing was done by my own act, although I had already tasted
this very of effect in Cavor's company, I felt astonished, dumbfounded,
and overwhelmed. I seemed to be borne upward into an enormous darkness. My
fingers floated off the studs, I hung as if I were annihilated, and at
last very softly and gently I came against the bale and the golden chain,
and the crowbars that had drifted to the middle of the sphere.

I do not know how long that drifting took. In the sphere of course, even
more than on the moon, one's earthly time sense was ineffectual. At the
touch of the bale it was as if I had awakened from a dreamless sleep. I
immediately perceived that if I wanted to keep awake and alive I must get
a light or open a window, so as to get a grip of something with my eyes.
And besides, I was cold. I kicked off from the bale, therefore, clawed on
to the thin cords within the glass, crawled along until I got to the
manhole rim, and so got my bearings for the light and blind studs, took a
shove off, and flying once round the bale, and getting a scare from
something big and flimsy that was drifting loose, I got my hand on the
cord quite close to the studs, and reached them. I lit the little lamp
first of all to see what it was I had collided with, and discovered that
old copy of Lloyd's News had slipped its moorings, and was adrift in the
void. That brought me out of the infinite to my own proper dimensions
again. It made me laugh and pant for a time, and suggested the idea of a
little oxygen from one of the cylinders. After that I lit the heater until
I felt warm, and then I took food. Then I set to work in a very gingerly
fashion on the Cavorite blinds, to see if I could guess by any means how
the sphere was travelling.

The first blind I opened I shut at once, and hung for a time flattened and
blinded by the sunlight that had hit me. After thinking a little I started
upon the windows at right angles to this one, and got the huge crescent
moon and the little crescent earth behind it, the second time. I was
amazed to find how far I was from the moon. I had reckoned that not only
should I have little or none of the "kick-off" that the earth's atmosphere
had given us at our start, but that the tangential "fly off" of the moon's
spin would be at least twenty-eight times less than the earth's. I had
expected to discover myself hanging over our crater, and on the edge of
the night, but all that was now only a part of the outline of the white
crescent that filled the sky. And Cavor - ?

He was already infinite.

I tried to imagine what could have happened to him. But at that time I
could think of nothing but death. I seemed to see him, bent and smashed
at the foot of some interminably high cascade of blue. And all about him
the stupid insects stared...

Under the inspiring touch of the drifting newspaper I became practical
again for a while. It was quite clear to me that what I had to do was to
get back to earth, but as far as I could see I was drifting away from it.
Whatever had happened to Cavor, even if he was still alive, which seemed
to me incredible after that blood-stained scrap, I was powerless to help
him. There he was, living or dead behind the mantle of that rayless night,
and there he must remain at least until I could summon our fellow men to
his assistance. Should I do that? Something of the sort I had in my mind;
to come back to earth if it were possible, and then as maturer
consideration might determine, either to show and explain the sphere to a
few discreet persons, and act with them, or else to keep my secret, sell
my gold,, obtain weapons, provisions, and an assistant, and return with
these advantages to deal on equal terms with the flimsy people of the
moon, to rescue Cavor, if that were still possible, and at any rate to
procure a sufficient supply of gold to place my subsequent proceedings on
a firmer basis. But that was hoping far; I had first to get back.

I set myself to decide just exactly how the return to earth could be
contrived. As I struggled with that problem I ceased to worry about what I
should do when I got there. At last my only care was to get back.

I puzzled out at last that my best chance would be to drop back towards
the moon as near as I dared in order to gather velocity, then to shut my
windows, and fly behind it, and when I was past to open my earthward
windows, and so get off at a good pace homeward. But whether I should ever
reach the earth by that device, or whether I might not simply find myself
spinning about it in some hyperbolic or parabolic curve or other, I could
not tell. Later I had a happy inspiration, and by opening certain windows
to the moon, which had appeared in the sky in front of the earth, I turned
my course aside so as to head off the earth, which it had become evident
to me I must pass behind without some such expedient. I did a very great
deal of complicated thinking over these, problems - for I am no
mathematician - and in the end I am certain it was much more my good luck
than my reasoning that enabled me to hit the earth. Had I known then, as I
know now, the mathematical chances there were against me, I doubt if I
should have troubled even to touch the studs to make any attempt. And
having puzzled out what I considered to be the thing to do, I opened all
my moonward windows, and squatted down - the effort lifted me for a time
some feet or so into the air, and I hung there in the oddest way - and
waited for the crescent to get bigger and bigger until I felt I was near
enough for safety. Then I would shut the windows, fly past the moon with
the velocity I had got from it - if I did not smash upon it - and so go on
towards the earth.

And that is what I did.

At last I felt my moonward start was sufficient. I shut out the sight of
the moon from my eyes, and in a state of mind that was, I now recall,
incredibly free from anxiety or any distressful quality, I sat down to
begin a vigil in that little speck of matter in infinite space that would
last until I should strike the earth. The heater had made the sphere
tolerably warm, the air had been refreshed by the oxygen, and except for
that faint congestion of the head that was always with me while I was away
from earth, I felt entire physical comfort. I had extinguished the light
again, lest it should fail me in the end; I was in darkness, save for the
earthshine and the glitter of the stars below me. Everything was so
absolutely silent and still that I might indeed have been the only being
in the universe, and yet, strangely enough, I had no more feeling of
loneliness or fear than if I had been lying in bed on earth. Now, this
seems all the stranger to me, since during my last hours in that crater of
the moon, the sense of my utter loneliness had been an agony....

Incredible as it will seem, this interval of time that I spent in space
has no sort of proportion to any other interval of time in my life.
Sometimes it seemed as though I sat through immeasurable eternities like
some god upon a lotus leaf, and again as though there was a momentary
pause as I leapt from moon to earth. In truth, it was altogether some
weeks of earthly time. But I had done with care and anxiety, hunger or
fear, for that space. I floated, thinking with a strange breadth and
freedom of all that we had undergone, and of all my life and motives, and
the secret issues of my being. I seemed to myself to have grown greater
and greater, to have lost all sense of movement; to be floating amidst the
stars, and always the sense of earth's littleness and the infinite
littleness of my life upon it, was implicit in my thoughts.

I can't profess to explain the things that happened in my mind. No doubt
they could all be traced directly or indirectly to the curious physical
conditions under which I was living. I set them down here just for what
they are worth, and without any comment. The most prominent quality of it
was a pervading doubt of my own identity. I became, if I may so express
it, dissociate from Bedford; I looked down on Bedford as a trivial,
incidental thing with which I chanced to be connected. I saw Bedford in
many relations - as an ass or as a poor beast, where I had hitherto been
inclined to regard him with a quiet pride as a very spirited or rather
forcible person. I saw him not only as an ass, but as the son of many
generations of asses. I reviewed his school-days and his early manhood,
and his first encounter with love, very much as one might review the
proceedings of an ant in the sand. Something of that period of lucidity I
regret still hangs about me, and I doubt if I shall ever recover the
full-bodied self satisfaction of my early days. But at the time the thing
was not in the least painful, because I had that extraordinary persuasion
that, as a matter of fact, I was no more Bedford than I was any one else,
but only a mind floating in the still serenity of space. Who should I be
disturbed about this Bedford's shortcomings? I was not responsible for him
or them.

For a time I struggled against this really very grotesque delusion. I
tried to summon the memory of vivid moments, of tender or intense emotions
to my assistance; I felt that if I could recall one genuine twinge of
feeling the growing severance would be stopped. But I could not do it. I
saw Bedford rushing down Chancery Lane, hat on the back of his head, coat
tails flying out, en route for his public examination. I saw him dodging
and bumping against, and even saluting, other similar little creatures in
that swarming gutter of people. Me? I saw Bedford that same evening in the
sitting-room of a certain lady, and his hat was on the table beside him,
and it wanted brushing badly, and he was in tears. Me? I saw him with that
lady in various attitudes and emotions - I never felt so detached before.
... I saw him hurrying off to Lympne to write a play, and accosting Cavor,
and in his shirt sleeves working at the sphere, and walking out to
Canterbury because he was afraid to come! Me? I did not believe it.

I still reasoned that all this was hallucination due to my solitude, and
the fact that I had lost all weight and sense of resistance. I endeavoured
to recover that sense by banging myself about the sphere, by pinching my
hands and clasping them together. Among other things, I lit the light,
captured that torn copy of Lloyd's, and read those convincingly realistic
advertisements about the Cutaway bicycle, and the gentleman of private
means, and the lady in distress who was selling those "forks and spoons."
There was no doubt they existed surely enough, and, said I, "This is your
world, and you are Bedford, and you are going back to live among things
like that for all the rest of your life." But the doubts within me could
still argue: "It is not you that is reading, it is Bedford, but you are
not Bedford, you know. That's just where the mistake comes in."

"Confound it!" I cried; "and if I am not Bedford, what am I?"

But in that direction no light was forthcoming, though the strangest
fancies came drifting into my brain, queer remote suspicions, like shadows
seen from away. Do you know, I had a sort of idea that really I was
something quite outside not only the world, but all worlds, and out of
space and time, and that this poor Bedford was just a peephole through
which I looked at life?...

Bedford! However I disavowed him, there I was most certainly bound up with
him, and I knew that wherever or whatever I might be, I must needs feel
the stress of his desires, and sympathise with all his joys and sorrows
until his life should end. And with the dying of Bedford - what then?...

Enough of this remarkable phase of my experiences! I tell it here simply
to show how one's isolation and departure from this planet touched not
only the functions and feeling of every organ of the body, but indeed also
the very fabric of the mind, with strange and unanticipated disturbances.
All through the major portion of that vast space journey I hung thinking
of such immaterial things as these, hung dissociated and apathetic, a
cloudy megalomaniac, as it were, amidst the stars and planets in the void
of space; and not only the world to which I was returning, but the
blue-lit caverns of the Selenites, their helmet faces, their gigantic and
wonderful machines, and the fate of Cavor, dragged helpless into that
world, seemed infinitely minute and altogether trivial things to me.

Until at last I began to feel the pull of the earth upon my being, drawing
me back again to the life that is real for men. And then, indeed, it grew
clearer and clearer to me that I was quite certainly Bedford after all,
and returning after amazing adventures to this world of ours, and with a
life that I was very likely to lose in this return. I set myself to puzzle
out the conditions under which I must fall to earth.