Read CHAPTER 1 of Hunters Out of Space , free online book, by Joseph Everidge Kelleam, on ReadCentral.com.

In Kansas, spring usually falls on the day before summer. It had been such a day, and now at midnight I was sitting at my desk. Both hands of the clock were pointing to the ceiling and to the limitless stars beyond. My wife and daughter had long been asleep. I had stayed up to write a few letters but it was not a night for working. Although it was a bit chilly outside, the moon was bright and a bird was singing a glad and plaintive song about the summer that was coming and all the summers that had passed and all that would be. Adding, here and there, a bit of melody about all the good things that happen to birds and men without their knowing why.

Both hands of the clock were pointing upward. And I was half-asleep, and half-dreaming. Remembering all the friends I had most of them scattered to the four winds by now. And that best friend of all, Doctor Jack Odin! I wondered where he was and how he had fared since he disappeared into that dark cave in Texas.

Suddenly I became aware of a flickering light above me. I looked up. I had thought that the lights were winking, but they were not. The room was lit by a reading lamp, and the ceiling was so shadowy that at first I could see nothing at all. Then I saw the light or the ghost of a light gleaming faintly upon or through the ceiling. It was the faintest yellow, neither a bull’s eye nor a splotch. Instead, it seemed to be a tiny whirlpool of movement the faintest nebula in miniature with spirals of light swiftly circling a central core. For a second I thought I could see through the roof, and the stars swarmed before me. It was as though I was at the vortex of a high whirlwind of dancing, shining specks of light. Then that sensation was gone, and there were two faint coiling spirals of yellow light upon the ceiling.

The lights began to whisper.

“We are Ato and Wolden,” they said. “Remember us?”

I remembered them from the notes that I had pieced together to tell the story of my old friend, Doctor Jack Odin, and his adventure in the World of Opal. It seemed impolite to tell them that we had never met. So I listened.

“Wolden’s work has succeeded,” the whispering continued. “We have reduced time and space to nothing. You see us as lights, or as we once put it, ’as flame-winged butterflies,’ but we are neither. We are Ato and Wolden. By adding ourselves to another dimension we are hardly recognizable to you. Actually, we are at our starting point billions of miles away! We are traveling through space toward you at a speed which would make the speed of light look like a glow-worm crawling across the dark ground; and at the same time, we are there in your room. Do you understand?”

I didn’t, but I have learned that a man can live quite comfortably by merely keeping his mouth shut. So I kept still.

My little daughter had been playing in the room before she had unwillingly gone to bed. She had left a red rubber ball upon my desk.

“Look at the ball,” the voices whispered. “We will give you an idea of the time-space in which we live.”

I looked. Suddenly the little ball twitched, vanished and reappeared. I gazed in wonder. It had been red. Now it was white. I picked it up and a white powder rubbed off upon my fingertips.

“See.” The lights whispered. “We have turned it inside out ”

The whispering continued.

“We are bringing you a gift. Our last gift, probably, because we are weary of your world and the affairs of men. Pygmies! Now, stand back from your desk ”

It was such a command that I fairly leaped out of my chair and drew away from the desk. Still leaning upon it I stared in wonder at the shadow which was forming itself upon the cleared space by the side of my typewriter. At first it was merely a dark square. Then it was a shadowy cube, growing denser all the time until it became a dim shape. The shape grew brighter. There was a tiny spitting sound, like two hot wires being touched together. There was a smell in the room, not unpleasant but not pleasant either a completely alien smell. A wave of cold air struck me, and passed by, leaving me shivering. Our furnace came on with a start.

Then the lights were gone and I was looking in wonder at a leaden box, about a foot square. It had a hinged lid, and around the middle of it the figure of a snake was excellently carved. It held its tail in its mouth, locking the box securely. Its eyes were two great moonstones that appeared to look up at me with half-blind amusement winking at the wisdom they had forgotten and the fear that I was feeling.

I touched the box and drew my hand away in pain. It was colder than cold. Desolate, burning cold.

It was two hours before the box became warm enough or cool enough to touch. Then, after several experiments I got the snake’s mouth open and the lid swung upward on chilled hinges.

Within it was a manuscript. As soon as I looked at it I recognized the handwriting of my old friend, Doctor Jack Odin.

Well, it was just as before. It was more of a series of notes and jottings than a story. It took months to piece it together. Several pages were badly burned and spotted. It was hard work and slow work

And this is the tale that Jack Odin sent me from Somewhere.