Read CHAPTER XVII - Gor of Two Thousand Miles Below , free online book, by Charles Willard Diffin, on ReadCentral.com.

Through an ordinary experience, Dean Rawson, like any other man, would have kept unconscious measurement of the passing time. An hour, no matter how crowded, would still have been an hour that his mind could measure and grasp. But now he had no least idea of the hours or minutes that had marked their flight. Each lagging second was an age in passing. Even the flashing thoughts that drove swiftly through his mind seemed slow and laborious. Painstakingly he marshaled his few facts.

“They know what they’re about, that’s one thing dead sure. They’re onto their job, and they’ve got something here that beats anything we’ve ever had.” He mentally nailed that one fact down and passed on to the next. “And that’s the bow end of our ship, up there.” He looked above him at a dented place in the ceiling, the ceiling that had been the floor of the room when first he stepped into it. “There isn’t any up or down any more. I’ve been flipped back and forth every time we slowed down or accelerated until I don’t know where I’m at, but I saw that dented plate in the floor when I got in and we started falling in that direction. But whether we’re falling toward the center of the earth still or whether we passed the center back there at that hot spot and now this crazy, senseless shell is flying on and up, perhaps these people know I don’t!”

Then fact N. “They live somewhere inside here. They’re taking me there, of course. It must mean there’s a race of them and they don’t like the mole-men. They know the way back, too, and if they’ll help me.... Perhaps the fighting’s not over yet!”

Through more endless, age-long seconds there passed through Rawson’s mind entrancing visions. An army of men like these White Ones, himself at their head. They were armed with strange weapons; they were invading the mole-men’s world....

The girl was reaching toward him. She laid one hand upon his, then pointed overhead.

Rawson looked quickly above. The glowing bull’s-eyes startled him, then he knew it was white-light he was seeing, not the red threat of glowing rock. Their speed had been steadily cut down as the air pressure lessened. “They’re decompressing,” he thought. “They’re working slowly into the lesser pressure.”

The passing air no longer shrieked insanely. Above its soft rushing sound he heard the girl’s voice; it was clear, vibrant with happiness. Her hand closed convulsively over his; her eyes beneath their long lashes smiled unspoken words of welcome, of comradeship, and of something more.

Within their room her light, which at close range seemed only a slender bar of metal with a brilliantly glowing end, had been clamped in a bracket against the wall. The illumination had seemed brilliant, now suddenly it was pale and dim.

Through the bull’s-eyes above, a brighter light was shining, clear and golden, like the light of the sun on a brilliant and cloudless day. And to Rawson, who felt that he had spent a lifetime in the gloomy dungeons of that inner world, that flooding brilliance was more than mere light. It was the promise of release, the very essence of hope. His eyes clung to these little round windows; then the larger glass beside him blazed forth with the bright sunlight of an open world that was unbearable to one who had lived so long in darkness.

He held tightly to that slim hand that remained so confidingly within his own.

“It isn’t true,” Rawson was telling himself frantically. “It can’t be true. It must be a delusion, another dream.”

He gripped the girl’s hand in what must have been a painful clasp. He told himself that she at least was real. Her lovely face was before him when at last he could bear to open his eyes.

About him were the others. The cylinder rested firmly upon a surface of pale-rose quartz. Inside the shell he saw the floor where he had stood, and with that he added one more fact to the few he had gotten together. There was no dent in the floor. The shell’s position was reversed. What had been up was now down. Rawson knew he was standing firmly, with what seemed his normal earth weight, upon a smooth surface of rock; he knew that he was standing head down as compared with his position at the beginning of their flight as compared, too, with the way he had stood in the mole-men’s world and in his own world up above.

“I’ve passed the center of the world.” The words were ringing in his brain. And then reason shot in a quick denial. “You’re as heavy as you were on earth,” he told himself. “You’d have to go through and on to the other side, the opposite surface of the world, before your weight would come back like that!”

“What could it mean?” he was demanding as his eyes came back from the machine and swept around over a gorgeous, glittering panorama of crystal mountains, rose and white. Fields of strange plants, vividly green; a whole world that rioted madly in a luxury of color. Before him the girl stood smiling. Every line of her quivering figure spoke eloquently of her joy in seeing this world through Rawson’s eyes.

A man was approaching, a man like the others, yet whose oval face strangely resembled that of the girl. She led Rawson toward him, then Rawson, stopping, jerked backward in uncontrollable amazement, for the tall man drawing near had spoken. His lips were open, moving, and from them came sounds which to Rawson were absolutely unbelievable:

“Stranger,” said the newcomer, “in the name of the Holy Mountain, and in the Mountain’s language and words, I bid you welcome.”

And Rawson, too stunned for coherent thought, could only stammer in what was half a shout: “But you’re speaking my language. You’re talking the way we talk on earth. Am I crazy? Stark, raving crazy?”

But even the sound of the man’s voice could not have prepared him for what followed. There was amazement written on the face of the man. And the girl who stood beside him her eyes that had been smiling were wide and staring in utter fear. Then she and the man and the other white figures nearby dropped suddenly to kneel humbly before him. Their faces were hidden from him, covered by their hands as they bent their heads low. He heard the man’s voice:

“He speaks with the tongue of the Mountain! He comes from the Land of the Sun, from Lah-o-tah, at the top of the world! And I, Gor, am permitted to hear his voice!”