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The House on the Borderland

16. The Awakening
"I AWOKE, with a start. For a moment, I wondered where I was. Then memory came to
me. . . . "The room was still lit with that strange light--half-sun, half-moon, light. I felt
refreshed, and the tired, weary ache had left me. I went slowly across to the window, and
looked out. Overhead, the river of flame drove up and down, North and South, in a
dancing semi-circle of fire. As a mighty sley in the loom of time it seemed--in a sudden
fancy of mine--to be beating home the picks of the years. For, so vastly had the passage
of time been accelerated, that there was no longer any sense of the sun passing from East
to West. The only apparent movement was the North and South beat of the sun-stream,
that had become so swift now, as to be better described as a quiver.
"As I peered out, there came to me a sudden, inconsequent memory of that last journey
among the Outer worlds. (*) I remembered the sudden vision that had come to me, as I
neared the Solar System, of the fast whirling planets about the sun--as though the
governing quality of time had been held in abeyance, and the Machine of a Universe
allowed to run down an eternity, in a few moments or hours. The memory passed, along
with a, but partially comprehended, suggestion that I had been permitted a glimpse into
further time spaces. I stared out again, seemingly, at the quake of the sun-stream. The
speed seemed to increase, even as I looked. Several life-times came and went, as I
"Suddenly, it struck me, with a sort of grotesque seriousness, that I was still alive. I
thought of Pepper, and wondered how it was that I had not followed his fate. He had
reached the time of his dying, and had passed, probably through sheer length of years.
And here was I, alive, hundreds of thousands of centuries after my rightful period of
"For, a time, I mused, absently. 'Yesterday--' I stopped, suddenly. Yesterday! There was
no yesterday. The yesterday, of which I spoke, had been swallowed up in the abyss of
years, ages gone. I grew dazed with much thinking.
"Presently, I turned from the window, and glanced round the room. It seemed different--
strangely, utterly different. Then, I knew what it was that made it appear so strange. It
was bare: there was not a piece of furniture in the room; not even a solitary fitting of any
sort. Gradually, my amazement went, as I remembered, that this was but the inevitable
end of that process of decay, which I had witnessed commencing, before my sleep.
Thousands of years! Millions of years!
"Over the floor was spread a deep layer of dust, that reached half way up to the window-
seat. It had grown immeasurably, whilst I slept; and represented the dust of untold ages.
Undoubtedly, atoms of the old, decayed furniture helped to swell its bulk; and,
somewhere among it all, mouldered the long-ago-dead Pepper.