by Walter Kubilius. |
from Cosmic Science Fiction #3, July 1941
Professor Stimson's time machine propels him 2,000 years into the future, and a trial for his life!THE NEXT will be a really unusual case," Veril promised the visiting judge from Korina, "I think you will enjoy it."
"Case number 43 !" the guard bawled out. "A man who claims to have traveled in time!"
"Let him enter!" Veril said.
The massive wooden doors swung open and Professor Stimson walked in, followed by an armed guard. He stood for a moment before the five high chairs of the court as his eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness and the flickering lights of the, candles.
Meditatively, Veril flicked through the pages of a brief before him. The visiting judge from Korina and the other members of the court looked down with a bored air upon the tattered Stimson.
"According to the record," the chief judge said lazily, "you were found wandering in the gardens yesterday with no passports and no identification papers. Furthermore you made the claim that you had just traveled in time. Have you anything to say concerning the charges?"
Stimson walked up closer to the judge's bench. He did not see the guard in back of him follow.
"I have," he said angrily. "I do not see why I have been jailed and beaten as a common criminal. My name is Professor Stimson and I have just arrived from the year 1941."
"How did you get here ?" Veril asked, stifling a yawn.
"By means of the Dissolution-Complex Force which I invented in 1939."
"Oh ho !" Veril said, "Which you invented!"
There was a hurried consultation between Veril and the visiting judge. They whispered for a moment and then Veril turned and faced Stimson once more.
"Will you tell your story," he said, "from the very beginning, omitting no facts?"
"My full name is Peter Roberts Stimson," the accused said. "I was born April 2, in Albany, New York."
"The United States, of course."
Stimson went on briefly to outline the story of his life and his studies that led to the discovery of the force which would enable him to travel into time.
Fearing that the court might regard him as a hoax and disbelieve the fact that he had come from 2,000 years in the past, Stimson proceeded to give a picture of world history up to the time of his departure during the Second World War. He spoke quickly, outlining the principle events and giving data concerning cities and monuments which would be able to be checked. He brought nothing with him from the past, he said, but he felt that he could be of immeasurable service to the historians of the present who might want to know more about the years before 1941. All he wanted was the right to be free and to study the culture and civilization of the present time.
WHEN HE finished his talk a minute of silence fell upon the judges.
"The usual story," one of the judges yawned.
"Slight variation though," another remarked, "Have you noticed that he places his departure at 1941-- whatever that is?"
"Quite true, quite true," Veril admitted, "I've noticed that. But all other symptoms are the same."
"Symptoms?" the time-traveler asked. "What do you mean symptoms? Do you think I am mad?"
"But what beautiful use of mythology and folk lore!" Veril said enthusiastically, "What splendid development of the legend that a country called the United States actually existed! It is even embellished with talk; of other countries that existed on the other side of the sea. Although I can't say that I recall such names as Germany, Great Britain and France being used in the folk lore and fairy tales I've read."
Stimson looked bewilderedly from one judge to another.
"Do you mean to say that you don't believe me !" he demanded.
"Have you noticed the fact," Veril said to the visiting judge, ignoring Stimson's panic-stricken face, "that all those who have been seized by this Time-Madness claim to have come from a past more than 1500 years ago? Why not from yesterday? The day before yesterday? Last month? Simply because each madman, however mad, has sense enough to realize that his tale can be disproved by records if he claimed to have come from times of recorded history. Therefore, they make claims to have come in pre-historic times before, and not after, the Great Volcanic Days."
Stimson was amazed and tried to piece together the mystery before him. Was this actually 3941? Perhaps there was a mistake of calculation. Perhaps this was a different Earth. But try as he might he could not hide the knowledge that was growing within him. That the civilization he had known had been destroyed by nature, and that a new one had arisen upon its ashes, ignorant of the history that lay under its feet.
"What is the verdict?" Veril asked.
"Very obvious," one of the judges said.
"Prisoner," Veril said to Stimson, "no society can long endure when its members are insane and unable to become an essential part of that society. You have become obsessed with delusions of scientific grandeur. You are an outcast among us. The verdict is death."
Stimson never knew what struck him. All he felt was the quick clean blade of the guard as it entered his back and pierced his heart. Darkness overcame him as it did when be entered the Time Machine in 1941.
"Will the guards please dispose of the body?" Veril asked.
Two men came and carried the body of Stimson away as the members of the court watched.
"Poor fellow," the visiting judge from Korina mused, "What a terrible hallucination."
"Yes," Veril said, "there have been many cases like this recently. All along the same line. A mad-man suddenly appears and claims that he has come from some ancient time. What can we do ? Allow them to stir up the people with insane ideas? We can only do the merciful thing and remove them."
"Was this the unusual case you promised me?"
"No, no," Veril said, "Such cases are quite frequent. The next is the unusual case. We may decide to dissect him."
The court guard stamped with his spear.
"Case Number 44 !" he bawled out. "A man who claims to have come from Mars!"