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The House on the Borderland

22. The Dark Nebula
"YEARS MELTED into the past, centuries, aeons. The light of the incandescent star,
sank to a furious red. "It was later, that I saw the dark nebula--at first, an impalpable
cloud, away to my right. It grew, steadily, to a clot of blackness in the night. How long I
watched, it is impossible to say; for time, as we count it, was a thing of the past. It came
closer, a shapeless monstrosity of darkness--tremendous. It seemed to slip across the
night, sleepily--a very hell-fog. Slowly, it slid nearer, and passed into the void, between
me and the Central Suns. It was as though a curtain had been drawn before my vision. A
strange tremor of fear took me, and a fresh sense of wonder.
"The green twilight that had reigned for so many millions of years, had now given place
to impenetrable gloom. Motionless, I peered about me. A century fled, and it seemed to
me that I detected occasional dull glows of red, passing me at intervals.
"Earnestly, I gazed, and, presently, seemed to see circular masses, that showed muddily
red, within the clouded blackness. They appeared to be growing out of the nebulous
murk. Awhile, and they became plainer to my accustomed vision. I could see them, now,
with a fair amount of distinctness--ruddy-tinged spheres, similar, in size, to the luminous
globes that I had seen, so long previously.
"They floated past me, continually. Gradually, a peculiar uneasiness seized me. I became
aware of a growing feeling of repugnance and dread. It was directed against those passing
orbs, and seemed born of intuitive knowledge, rather than of any real cause or reason.
"Some of the passing globes were brighter than others; and, it was from one of these, that
a face looked, suddenly. A face, human in its outline; but so tortured with woe, that I
stared, aghast. I had not thought there was such sorrow, as I saw there. I was conscious of
an added sense of pain, on perceiving that the eyes, which glared so wildly, were
sightless. A while longer, I saw it; then it had passed on, into the surrounding gloom.
After this, I saw others--all wearing that look of hopeless sorrow; and blind.
"A long time went by, and I became aware that I was nearer to the orbs, than I had been.
At this, I grew uneasy; though I was less in fear of those strange globules, than I had
been, before seeing their sorrowful inhabitants; for sympathy had tempered my fear.
"Later, there was no doubt but that I was being carried closer to the red spheres, and,
presently, I floated among them. In awhile, I perceived one bearing down upon me. I was
helpless to move from its path. In a minute, it seemed, it was upon me, and I was
submerged in a deep red mist. This cleared, and I stared, confusedly, across the immense
breadth of the Plain of Silence. It appeared just as I had first seen it. I was moving
forward, steadily, across its surface. Away ahead, shone the vast, blood-red ring (*) that
lit the place. All around, was spread the extraordinary desolation of stillness, that had so
impressed me during my previous wanderings across its starkness.