A dazzling, an unsupportable brilliance leapt at me and engulfed me. Around, above, below was light fiercer than the sun's disc at noon. Light stabbed me through and through from every side with its innumerable incandescent blades

I had a strange sense that these transfixing blades were the stings of live things, or the claws of some great beast that had burst its fetters and now ranged free. This conviction my reason firmly rejected, but in vain. I could not but believe that the myriad primal members of the cosmos were now at last wilfully putting forth their strength against one another in furious glee. Clearly they had extricated themselves from one another so violently that the atom-cosmos had exploded and become a firmament of light.

Presently I noticed a very distressing conflict in my experience. Though I was immersed in the cosmical explosion, I continued nevertheless all the while to see the cosmos as a minute and gloomy pearl quiescent on God's finger. All the while it reflected in miniature the hands and intent eyes of God.

At first I was stunned by the disaccord of these experiences, but presently I understood what had happened.

In answer to God's command, the atom-cosmos had burgeoned not only with light but with a space and time peculiar to itself. And I, by some means or other, had gained a footing therein; but without ceasing to participate in the space and time peculiar to God.

Thus, so long as I gazed at the dark seed-pearl of the atom-cosmos, passive on God's finger, I saw also, all around me, though as it were with another vision, the process of cosmical events.

There now came to me a vivid and terrifying realization that between me and the human world which was my true concern there lay aeon upon aeon of cosmical history, and nearly all of it inhuman.

"Oh God," I cried, "let me be again among my own kind. Blot out from my mind the memory of all this irrelevance. Let me play out my little past oblivious of the immensities. Let me take up once more the threads of a life distressed, bewildered, futile, but my own. Let me watch the spectacle of my own world. Futile it may be, tragic it is, but I am shaped for it. And in it there are little creatures like myself whose lives intertwine with mine."

Thus I prayed. But then I remembered the thing that God was, and I knew that it was useless to pray to him; useless, and also, in some manner which I could not comprehend, base.

With a heavy heart I settled myself to the task of watching the bleak and intricate unfolding of the physical cosmos, not as yet feeling its perfection, not as yet realizing that some insight into these remote events was needed to prepare me for insight into the passionate themes which were to follow.

In this book I shall set down only the slightest record of these difficult and wearisome experiences, lest I should inflict on the reader the tedium which I myself suffered, toiling through that desert. But somehow I must entice him at least to fly rapidly with me over the huge wilderness of the early cosmos, and note its features with watchful and interested eyes, so that he may grasp what follows.

By now the unit members of the cosmos, which had first been laid together in one identical volume, were already separated by wide gulfs. Between them was nothing but the tempestuous undulations which they scattered in all directions throughout the cosmos.

These undulations, these ubiquitous light rays, were actually visible to me. Seemingly they were for me illuminated by that other, swifter, more searching and more revealing light, which cast by the lucent person of God himself, pervades and drenches all things.

I could see also the primal members themselves, the radiant centres of all this rippled light. And though they were now once more distinct and scattered, I could see, or rather by a kind of microscopic telepathy I could feel, that each one preserved within itself, like a forgotten memory, the presence and the influence of all the others. Each must now and forever be a true member of the cosmic unity, possessed by the whole, but also pervading the whole with its own unique nature.

Presently I found that I could move hither and thither within the cosmos as I willed, simply by looking in whichever direction I chose to go. Thus, as on the wings of thought, more easily than a bird overtakes a snail, I could outstrip and pass the sluggish lightrays of the cosmos.

Seeing clearly that all things in the cosmos were flying apart from one another, I now set out to seek the boundaries of the ever expanding cosmos. But it turned out that this was a very strange and incomprehensible expansion. For although again and again, and swiftly as thought, I travelled in search of the expanding frontiers, I could not find them. Always my straight course led me continuously through the host of the primal members back to my starting point. The cosmos had no frontiers which could be extended.

Yet as time passed I found upon such journeys that the primal members fell ever further and further apart, or at least that they were ever more minute in comparison with the distances between them. I found also that the light waves of the cosmos took ever longer on their travels before they reached again the points whence they had started.

Thus, after all, the cosmos was in some sense expanding. It was at first a mighty bursting bomb of the jostling members and the tumultuous light; and then a spreading cloud, huge as a galaxy, but congested with the matter and the energies for many million galaxies.

For as it continued to swell it disintegrated into innumerable separate clouds, which sped ever away from one another. At first shoulder to shoulder, they were presently continents separated by oceans; then islands very remote from one another in the boundless and ever more capacious ocean of cosmical space.

Between the clouds, an inconceivably faint mist grew fainter and fainter as the cosmos enlarged itself.

Both clouds and mist were composed of the primal members which God had made. And even in the clouds they were soon as remote from one another, in proportion to their size, as star from star.

And I, who in some other existence am one of the little creatures called men, vermin upon a minute planet of a mediocre star, I who so lately (or in the remote future?) gazed (or should gaze?), tortured but enraptured, into the sad mocking eyes of another of my kind—now drifted, disembodied but percipient, within the unimaginably tenuous sandstorm, snow- storm, pollenstorm of the primaeval cosmos.

The minute simplest members of the cosmos quivered around me like an all-pervading swarm of midges, unpeaceful, fatuous; but vital. With insupportable fatigue I witnessed their endless barren agitation; while the cosmic time settled upon my strained mind softly, irresistibly, without relief, aeon after aeon, like a deepening snowdrift, like that dust which sinks through the oceanic depths year by year, settling to form the rocks of future ages. Never surely was explorer more crushed by monotony and tedium than I, crossing the desert of the earliest cosmical era.

While I was still toiling in this desolation, there came a moment that I realized that I had all along been confronted by something more than the physical aspect of the cosmos, namely its inchoate and profoundly slumbering mentality, in fact by the cumulative impact of the myriad primal mindlets upon my mind. Or should I say the impact of the foetal spirit of the cosmos itself? It matters not which, for at this time the spirit of the cosmos was dissociated into the myriads of the simple spirits of its members.

I was like one who cannot escape from a tiresome companion. But this cosmical companion of mine was legion, and he had entry into my very mind. He quenched my thoughts with the ceaseless murmur of his own vapid, almost featureless experience.

For though with my strange power of microscopic telepathy I could for a while distinguish a few of the individual mindlets, I could discern nothing whatever in their devastatingly similar experiences but the vaguest unrest and the vaguest tactual, or I should I say sexual, titillation; nothing but an inconceivably faint and somnolent appetite, which at rare intervals was gratified by an instantaneous orgasm and ejaculation of the divine physical energy.

I could not for long discriminate the individual experiences of the mindlets. Fatigue soon blurred my insight. The minute prickling of distinct primal beings against my mind gave place to the confused and indescribably nauseating impression of the I whole myriadfold cosmic experience.

In utter boredom and indignation I cursed my fate. Why, why had I been snatched out of the vivid though distressful world of men to be subjected to all this irrelevance? Had I not a life to live, entwined, with other lives?

Chapter 4

Chapter 2

Nebula Maker Contents