Part One - 13 February 1952, 9:00 PM
What is happening to our climate?
More atomic tests, I wonder! Only February 13, and already the air is warm, as if spring had touched the earth, had asked of her prematurely that she bear forth a new vegetation. Prematurely? An intriguing thought. When does one get "mature" enough? And for what? Isn't maturity for something . . . ?
But what is time, anyway? Being for three years now the editor of Interplanetary Tales, and having read more time-machine stories than I care to remember, I shouldn't be too particular about such a small and changeable incident as unseasonable weather . . . or what maturity is, for that matter! But, of course, it's not the season I am really worrying about; even though I feel hot, fagged out. It's the anniversary . . . one year ago.
One year ago the thought of being disturbed by an
anniversary — of all things — would have made me laugh. Why,
me! Dick Probeck, the sophisticated intellectual, the clever
editor! That would have been funny, indeed. Now it's not funny.
In one year, what changes can come! What turmoil, what tragedies!
And who am I, now? Sophisticated, intellectual? I was not even an
editor, really, all this fall . . . One year. February 13, 1951
— the day before St. Valentine's Day. And then . . .
Well, it seems I must have dreamt again parts of that whole thing; gazing God only knows where and at what . . . Oh, why this
last bitter touch? Jacqueline gone, stupidly, gruesomely — her
young body broken on rocks, caught in the ebbing tide, here, in
New York, of all places! A lovely body. . . but how loveliness
can become bitter! How dark an abyss to slide into, so one might
forget and stop asking impossible questions . . . of life, of
oneself, of whatever it is that seems to want to answer, when one
refuses to listen! How savagely I have refused to listen — and
. . . Oh, the voice again. It must be, it is Emerald's
voice: "Dick, you must understand. Dick, Dick, please, try to
feel! Don't fight! let go! If you could only listen! If you could
only believe! . . . Believe! Believe! It is real. It is the
truth. You know it is . . . Why don't you believe?"
Where is Emerald now? Am I dreaming wide awake? Must one
believe the incredible? It would be good, if only I could.
Perhaps I would become really "new." Perhaps I would no longer be
afraid, as it seems I have been. Afraid of what? What is man's
greatest fear, today? Somebody should write a story about that! I
should know. What else could have made me crave so senselessly to
Yes, the voice is right. I should really sit down and seek
to understand. But I am so tired . . . and why is this room so
hot? What the hell is the matter with the weather, the steam
heat . . . my head? A drink? No; no more. Then what?
The voice again . . . I don't know where I hear it, how I
hear it. It seems to beat up from my pulsing blood. My head aches
with it. Words pound, pound with the blood-beats. Is it insanity
— or reality? Is anybody sure of the difference?
"Dick! Try. Try to remember, to understand! You know it is
real. Try to feel. Oh, please, believe . . . believe!"
All right . . . whatever it is that speaks. I shall try to remember everything, every word, every glance. It is too warm in
my room to sleep — and I could not fall asleep anyway. So I
shall call back the memories I have tried to kill. I shall write
it all down . . . to be sure I'll remember . . . before it is all
gone, or I am gone. I am so weary a little more hurt makes no
difference. Perhaps when one hurts so much that there is no
greater pain . . . perhaps it becomes bliss, who knows!
13 February 1951, 9:00 AM
A year ago. The day before St. Valentine's Day. That's easy
to remember because I had wanted to give a nice gift, something
unusual, to my girl. I thought she was my girl, anyway . . .
besides being my secretary.
Our office was rather small; quite by itself in a corner,
even if near the suite of rooms occupied by our other magazines
on Fourth Avenue. There was Ron — Ron MacNorthland — that is,
my assistant, a keen, imaginative young man in his late twenties;
then, Emerald . . . dark hair, greenish eyes, Irish — not only
an excellent secretary, but besides . . .
As for me; well, I was then 38 plus one month, exactly.
Behind that, a marriage gone haywire; I was just getting over the
bitterness of what seemed then a senseless failure. I thought
then I knew what bitterness was! If only I had know what was
coming, what real bitterness can be!
Emerald had come to us, through a distant friend, only the
preceding November. Her former employer had sold out; and we had
lost our none-too-efficient previous secretary. So she took the
job, and in three weeks had made herself indispensable. She was
very bright and quick, with a good sense of Irish humor, yet very
quiet and rather aloof. For several weeks I did not quite know
how she felt about me, this job, science-fiction, and all else —
including Ron, whose mind seemed occupied then by a rather
mysterious affair with some older women, seemingly intent on
mothering him and putting peculiar ideas in his head. But then,
peculiar ideas are meat and drink for the kind of writers we are,
and Ron's avidity for exotic religions and the supernatural was
not at all a bad asset for me. He had dug up some very grand
story ideas and seemed ready to produce first-rate stuff. And he
was warm, enthusiastic; it was refreshing, after being immersed
in so much morbid, sometimes cataclysmic writing.
And Emerald . . . at first I could not quite make her out.
She was very friendly, correct, efficient; but behind that there
was something I couldn't quite understand. She seemed to have
been married when in her teens to a drunkard. I never found out
whether he died or there was a divorce. She always changed the
subject when I tried to be subtle about finding out! She seemed
to have an acute intuition; perhaps more than that. Perhaps she
was a "natural" — telepathic, clairvoyant or what have you? She
had a puzzling way of looking with her big clear eyes, not at
you, but through you; and you felt she had gone away — somewhere
inside you, perhaps. It was not unpleasant, but one felt unsure.
Some men could have become quite mad because of it; could have
wanted to tear down that strange look, hurt her, do anything
. . . just so she would be more like other women, more . . . oh,
well, more "possessable!"
She had a well-formed, mature body. She dressed well. Nice
little touches which sort of stir the imagination — very good
taste, always. She seemed to me very close to thirty; I guess
about Ron's age. They were very different. Yet, in some rather
indefinable way, I had thought them not unlike brother and
sister. Brother and sister. It sounds very funny now. Yet, I
don't know. Perhaps it is not so wrong. Perhaps things are not
what they seem to be. I am sure there was nothing between them,
until . . .
Until that day I will never forget.
Until the thirteenth of February of last year when Ron greeted my arrival at the office
with a peculiar kind of bubbling excitement.
"Guess what happened to me?" he said at once.
"I don't know. It must have been good. A flying saucer
landing at the U.N.?"
"Oh, no. Not that kind of stuff. I met an extraordinary man.
I don't know yet just why he seemed so unusual. Not one thing in
particular. But the way he looks, the way he says things . . .
There is something that made me feel so strange, so small — and
yet as a child . . ."
"Whew! I didn't know you had a father-complex also."
Emerald laughed. "Also? What other kind of complex has Ron?"
"Didn't you know he had a mother-complex? Why . . ."
"Oh, stop it, Dick!" Ron retorted. "Everybody has complexes
according to you. Everything has a nice tag, a nice file to fit
in. That must be your librarian background."
I had been a librarian for years; this was correct. It was
then that I had become interested in science fiction. My wife
thought I was crazy to read all the stuff which came out. She was
an intellectual Bostonian with a Bryn Mawr education, some
combination! So while she read Toynbee unabridged I, out of
spite, started writing space-travel yarns. The end of the story
was, nevertheless, that I became editor of Interplanetary Tales
. . . and "free."
"O.K. Ron, you can have it. I am an intellectual snob. At
least I seem to have graduated from the way other people thought
of me in the old days. But, for pity's sake, spill it out! What
happened with the wonder-man that made you so hot?"
I had hung up my coat and hat. I glanced at Emerald. She
seemed puzzled, more serious than usual. On my desk bunches of
proofs needed final check-up, a pile of letters waited for
answers. I sat down, looking at Ron who was telling his story.
He lived in a small flat on Long Island. You couldn't keep him in the city. He said it choked his soul. So as he rode that
morning in classic commuter fashion, he had found himself sitting
next to a man whom — being a well-bred commuter type — he had
barely noticed. As often happens, the train stopped when it was
not supposed to. Ron finally took his eyes from the proofs he was
correcting on his knees, and glancing to see what was the matter,
he saw his neighbor's face for the first time. I remember Ron
saying that what struck him most was the light that radiated from
the man's eyes. I know; this was my first impression too, later.
When I saw him at night they glowed, those eyes — as if there
were a light behind them.
The man had spoken a few words, as Ron had shown impatience
with the train's delay. It seemed a foreign voice; not so much
the accent as the quality, the resonance of it. It was both deep
and high. As I think of it now, I can't help thinking of Balinese
gongs . . . Ron said that, after looking at the man, he couldn't
go on correcting the proofs. The man was smiling kindly,
apparently having noticed the "Contents" page of our magazine
issue which Ron had spread over his brief-case on his knees.
The train was still held up. Ron found himself talking with
the stranger about his work, the magazine, the science fiction
field. And Ron had gone off on his favorite subject. "It is time
we got some new angle. I am sick and tired of rocketships and
time-machines, of wars to destroy earth-civilization, of
intergalatic conquest, and all that. There should be other types
of material, other ways of thinking of planets and space-travel.
Machines, always machines! Pretty well standardized too. Wouldn't
it be funny if some scientist turned up with an entirely
different type of machine to out-date all the future machines
which have not even had the ghost of a chance to materialize! And
the glorified male ego, always driving the machine, using
evermore fantastic weapons of conquest, blazing the way for space
Ron had been startled by the way his companion had looked at
him. "I felt as if the whole of me was all opened up, skin and
flesh. I don't know what was left! But the man saw that too. And
he smiled again . . . It was such an extraordinary smile!
Something in me seemed to melt. I felt light, happy . . . I
couldn't tell why."
The train jerked; resumed speed. It was soon Brooklyn, the
tunnel, Penn Station. But the stranger had told Ron that perhaps
he could give him a really different angle on planets and going
to planets; other things too. Would he come to his studio? Quite
soon, as he might be leaving shortly on a trip. Ron could bring
friends, if he wished. At the station, the stranger was caught in
the crowd surging up the stairs in the usual confusion, increased
by the train's delay. But he had written his address and phone
number on the envelope holding the magazine proofs. The name:
Leon Ramar. An address on Morningside Drive, near Columbia
University. The handwriting was strong, open, unusually well-
formed. It suggested to me an artist's writing; but then my
knowledge of graphology is at best only superficial!
There was a silence after Ron told his story. The phone rang. A friend I was to meet for dinner was apologizing; he had
to leave town at once for Chicago. They had some trouble with the
printer there; the usual way it seems, for magazine editors.
Hardly thinking, I said, after putting down the receiver: "Darn
it! I wanted to talk to John tonight about the contest business.
He would have to fly to Chicago just when I need him!"
Ron looked at me, saying not a word. Somehow it was not
necessary, I turned to Emerald; she was not working. Her eyes
"What are you thinking so hard about?" I couldn't help
She smiled. "Could I go too?"
"Go where?" That was silly. I knew very well, inside, what
she was thinking.
Ron popped up excitedly. "Wouldn't it be grand if we could
get really hot stuff for the magazine! I trust that man. I feel
he knows things we don't know."
"Why so sure?" I was both intrigued and irritated.
"Ron's famous hunches, you know," Emerald answered.
"I don't see what we can lose," Ron added. "Your dinner is
off. I'll phone Mr. Ramar. I'm sure he told me he was free this
evening. We could all go after taking a bite. I'll treat you to a
Longchamps dinner on the way . . . Shall I phone now?"
He did. Mr. Ramar would be delighted to receive him and his
friends at 9 o'clock.
It is 9, now. Just one year later. But then, the night was clear, cold. As we walked up Morningside Drive from the bus — we
had time to lose — we could see the stars quite clearly in spite
of the lights of the city. Some snow had fallen. The air was
crisp, good to breathe. As we stopped before the door of the
apartment house, I recall that Emerald looked up to the sky and
said softly: "I wonder what the mystery-man will tell us about
all that . . . way, way up." I recall the words because I was
struck with the tone of her voice. I could feel a queer sense of
expectancy. Her face was beautiful in the diffused light,
surrounded with a fur collar and hat.
Of course I loved her! I don't even know now if she really
knew. I had had a few evenings with her; dinner, theatre, one
dance club. One Saturday night, she had asked me and Ron to have
supper in her small apartment on East 10th Street. Not far from
my place on Washington Square. It was within easy walking
distance of the office. Most days I walked up Fifth Avenue; and
once or twice we met on the way.
She was a charming hostess. Her studio apartment was simply
but beautifully furnished. Her father had for years lived in
India, working for a tea importing firm. She had been born at
sea, in a monsoon storm, ahead of time, as her American-born
mother was returning to London. Later they had moved to New York.
I was indeed increasingly fond of Emerald. Perhaps because
she was so different from my first wife. Perhaps I was lonely. Or
simply because she was . . . she. I held her arm as we crossed
the threshold of Mr. Ramar's house. He lived on the top floor.
Probably a studio apartment. Was he an artist, I wondered? None
of us knew. The door opened. The "mystery-man" himself was
Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
All Rights Reserved.
Illustation ("Magnet of Love" by Dane Rudhyar, 1952)
Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
All Rights Reserved.
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