A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version
Chapter 13. The Wombflash Forest
He awoke to his third day on Tormance. His limbs ached. He lay on his side, looking
stupidly at his surroundings. The forest was like night, but that period of the night when
the grey dawn is about to break and objects begin to be guessed at, rather than seen. Two
or three amazing shadowy shapes, as broad as houses, loomed up out of the twilight. He
did not realise that they were trees, until he turned over on his back and followed their
course upward. Far overhead, so high up that he dared not calculate the height, he saw
their tops glittering in the sunlight, against a tiny patch of blue sky.
Clouds of mist, rolling over the floor of the forest, kept interrupting his view. In their
silent passage they were like phantoms flitting among the trees. The leaves underneath
him were sodden, and heavy drops of moisture splashed onto his head from time to time.
He continued lying there, trying to reconstruct the events of the preceding day. His brain
was lethargic and confused. Something terrible had happened, but what it was he could
not for a long time recollect. Then suddenly there came before his eyes that ghastly
closing scene at dusk on the Sant plateau - Spadevil's crushed and bloody features and
Tydomin's dying sighs.. .. He shuddered convulsively, and felt sick.
The peculiar moral outlook that had dictated these brutal murders had departed from him
during the night, and now he recognised what he had done! During the whole of the
previous day he seemed to have been labouring under a series of heavy enchantments.
First Oceaxe had enslaved him, then Tydomin, then Spadevil, and lastly Catice. They had
forced him to murder and violate; he had guessed nothing, but had imagined that he was
travelling as a free and enlightened stranger. What was this nightmare journey for - and
would it continue, in the same way? ...
The silence of the forest was so intense that he heard no sound except the pumping of
blood through his arteries. Putting his hand to his face, he found that his remaining probe
had disappeared and that he was in possession of three eyes. The third eye was on his
forehead, where the old sorb had been. He could not guess its use. He still had his third
arm, but it was nerveless.
Now he puzzled his head for a long time, trying unsuccessfully to recall that name which
had been the last word spoken by Catice.
He got up, with the intention of resuming his journey. He had no toilet to make, and no
meal to prepare. The forest was tremendous. The nearest tree appeared to him to have a
circumference of at least a hundred feet. Other dim boles looked equally large. But what
gave the scene its aspect of immensity was the vast spaces separating tree from tree. It
was like some gigantic, supernatural hall in a life after death. The lowest branches were
fifty yards or more from the ground. There was no underbrush; the soil was carpeted only
by the dead, wet leaves. He looked all around him, to find his direction, but the cliffs of
Sant, which he had descended, were invisible - every way was like every other way, he