The House on the Borderland
4. The Earth
"THUS I was, and only the memory that I had lived through the dark, once before, served
to sustain my thoughts. A great time passed--ages. And then a single star broke its way
through the darkness. It was the first of one of the out-lying clusters of this universe.
Presently, it was far behind, and all about me shone the splendour of the countless stars.
Later, years it seemed, I saw the sun, a clot of flame. Around it, I made out, presently,
several remote specks of light--the planets of the Solar system. And so I saw the earth
again, blue and unbelievably minute. It grew larger, and became defined. "A long space
of time came and went, and then, at last, I entered into the shadow of the world--plunging
headlong into the dim and holy earth-night. Overhead, were the old constellations, and
there was a crescent moon. Then, as I neared the earth's surface, a dimness swept over
me, and I appeared to sink into a black mist.
"For awhile, I knew nothing. I was unconscious. Gradually, I became aware of a faint,
distant whining. It became plainer. A desperate feeling of agony possessed me. I
struggled madly for breath, and tried to shout. A moment, and I got my breath more
easily. I was conscious that something was licking my hand. Something damp, swept
across my face. I heard a panting, and then again the whining. It seemed to come to my
ears, now, with a sense of familiarity, and I opened my eyes. All was dark; but the feeling
of oppression had left me. I was seated, and something was whining piteously, and
licking me. I felt strangely confused, and, instinctively, tried to ward off the thing that
licked. My head was curiously vacant, and, for the moment, I seemed incapable of action
or thought. Then, things came back to me, and I called 'Pepper,' faintly. I was answered
by a joyful bark, and renewed and frantic caresses.
"In a little while, I felt stronger, and put out my hand for the matches. I groped about, for
a few moments, blindly; then my hands lit upon them, and I struck a light, and looked
confusedly around. All about me, I saw the old, familiar things. And there I sat, full of
dazed wonders, until the flame of the match burnt my finger, and I dropped it; while a
hasty expression of pain and anger, escaped my lips, surprising me with the sound of my
"After a moment, I struck another match, and, stumbling across the room, lit the candles.
As I did so, I observed that they had not burned away, but had been put out.
"As the flames shot up, I turned, and stared about the study; yet there was nothing
unusual to see; and, suddenly, a gust of irritation took me. What had happened? I held my
head, with both hands, and tried to remember. Ah! the great, silent Plain, and the ring-
shaped sun of red fire. Where were they? Where had I seen them? How long ago? I felt
dazed and muddled. Once or twice, I walked up and down the room, unsteadily. My
memory seemed dulled, and, already, the thing I had witnessed, came back to me with an