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It was split from top to bottom by numerous straight fissures. A few pale-green waterfalls descended here and there, like narrow, motionless threads. The face of the mountain was rugged and bare. It was strewn with detached boulders, and great, jagged rocks projected everywhere like iron teeth. Tydomin pointed to a small black hole near the base, which might be a cave. "That is where I live."
"You live here alone?"
"It's an odd choice for a woman - and you are not unbeautiful, either."
"A woman's life is over at twenty-five," she replied, sighing. "And I am far older than that. Ten years ago it would have been I who lived yonder, and not Oceaxe. Then all this wouldn't have happened."
A quarter of an hour later they stood within the mouth of the cave. It was ten feet high, and its interior was impenetrably black.
"Put down the body in the entrance, out of the sun," directed Tydomin. He did so.
She cast a keenly scrutinising glance at him. "Does your resolution still hold, Maskull?"
"Why shouldn't it hold? My brains are not feathers.'
"Follow me, then."
They both stepped into the cave. At that very moment a sickening crash, like heavy thunder just over their heads, set Maskull's weakened heart thumping violently. An avalanche of boulders, stones, and dust, swept past the cave entrance from above. If their going in had been delayed by a single minute, they would have been killed.
Tydomin did not even look up. She took his hand in hers, and started walking with him into the darkness. The temperature became as cold as ice. At the first bend the light from the outer world disappeared, leaving them in absolute blackness. Maskull kept stumbling over the uneven ground, but she kept tight hold of him, and hurried him along.
The tunnel seemed of interminable length. Presently, however, the atmosphere changed - or such was his impression. He was somehow led to imagine that they had come to a larger chamber. Here Tydomin stopped, and then forced him down with quiet pressure. His groping hand encountered stone and, by feeling it all over, he discovered that it was a sort of stone slab, or couch, raised a foot or eighteen inches from the ground. She told him to lie down.
"Has the time come?" asked Maskull.
He lay there waiting in the darkness, ignorant of what was going to happen. He felt her hand clasping his. without perceiving any gradation, he lost all consciousness of his body; he was no longer able to feel his limbs or internal organs. His mind remained active and alert. Nothing particular appeared to be taking place.
Then the chamber began to grow light, like very early morning. He could see nothing, but the retina of his eyes was affected. He fancied that he heard music, but while he was listening for it, it stopped. The light grew stronger, the air grew warmer; he heard the confused sound of distant voices.
Suddenly Tydomin gave his hand a powerful squeeze. He heard someone scream faintly, and then the light leaped up, and he saw everything clearly.
He was lying on a wooden couch, in a strangely decorated room, lighted by electricity. His hand was being squeezed, not by Tydomin, but by a man dressed in the garments of civilisation, with whose face he was certainly familiar, but under what circumstances he could not recall. Other people stood in the background - they too were vaguely known to him. He sat up and began to smile, without any especial reason; and then stood upright.
Everybody seemed to be watching him with anxiety and emotion - he wondered why. Yet he felt that they were all acquaintances. Two in particular he knew - the man at the farther end of the room, who paced restlessly backward and forward, his face transfigured by stern, holy grandeur; and that other big, bearded man - who was himself. Yes - he was looking at his own double. But it was just as if a crime-riddled man of middle age were suddenly confronted with his own photograph as an earnest, idealistic youth.
His other self spoke to him. He heard the sounds, but did not comprehend the sense. Then the door was abruptly flung open, and a short, brutish - looking individual leaped in. He began to behave in an extraordinary manner to everyone around him; and after that came straight up to him - Maskull. He spoke some words, but they were incomprehensible. A terrible expression came over the newcomer's face, and he grasped his neck with a pair of hairy hands. Maskull felt his bones bending and breaking, excruciating pains passed through all the nerves of his body, and he experienced a sense of impending death. He cried out, and sank helplessly on the floor, in a heap. The chamber and the company vanished - the light went out.
Once more he found himself in the blackness of the cave. He was this time lying on the ground, but Tydomin was still with him, holding his hand. He was in horrible bodily agony, but this was only a setting for the despairing anguish that filled his mind.
Tydomin addressed him in tones of gentle reproach. "Why are you back so soon? I've not had time yet. You must return."
He caught hold of her, and pulled himself up to his feet. She gave a low scream, as though in pain. "What does this mean - what are you doing, Maskull?"
"Krag - " began Maskull, but the effort to produce his words choked him, so that he was obliged to stop.
"Krag - what of Krag? Tell me quickly what has happened. Free my arm."
He gripped her arm tighter.
"Yes, I've seen Krag. I'm awake."
"Oh! You are awake, awake."
"And you must die," said Maskull, in an awful voice.
"But why? What has happened? ...
"You must die, and I must kill you. Because I am awake, and for no other reason. You blood-stained dancing mistress!"
Tydomin breathed hard for a little time. Then she seemed suddenly to regain her self-possession.
"You won't offer me violence, surely, in this black cave?"
"No, the sun shall look on, for it is not a murder. But rest assured that you must die - you must expiate your fearful crimes."
"You have already said so, and I see you have the power. You have escaped me. It is very curious. Well, then, Maskull, let us come outside. I am not afraid. But kill me courteously, for I have also been courteous to you. I make no other supplication."
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A Voyage to Arcturus -by- David Lindsay