Part 1 out of 5
CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT
By Milo Hastings
I. THE RED AND BLACK AND GOLD STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY ON THE CHANGING
MAP OF THE WORLD
II. I EXPLORE THE POTASH MINES OF STASSFURT AND FIND A DIARY IN A DEAD
III. IN A BLACK UTOPIA THE BLOND BROOD BREEDS AND SWARMS
IV. I GO PLEASURING ON THE LEVEL OF FREE WOMEN AND DRINK SYNTHETIC BEER
V. I AM DRAFTED FOR PATERNITY AND MAKE EXTRAORDINARY PETITION TO THE
CHIEF OF THE EUGENIC STAFF
VI. IN WHICH I LEARN THAT COMPETITION IS STILL THE LIFE OF THE OLDEST
TRADE IN THE WORLD
VII. THE SUN SHINES UPON A KING AND A GIRL READS OF THE FALL OF BABYLON
VIII. FINDING THEREIN ONE RIGHTEOUS MAN, I HAVE COMPASSION ON BERLIN
IX. IN WHICH I SALUTE THE STATUE OF GOD, AND A PSYCHIC EXPERT EXPLORES
MY BRAIN AND FINDS NOTHING
X. A GODDESS WHO IS SUFFERING FROM OBESITY, AND A BRAVE MAN WHO IS
AFRAID OF THE LAW OF AVERAGES
XI. IN WHICH THE TALKING DELEGATE IS ANSWERED BY THE ROYAL VOICE AND I
LEARN THAT LABOR KNOWS NOT GOD
XII. THE DIVINE DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM THE GREAT GIVE A BENEFIT FOR THE
CANINE GARDENS AND PAY TRIBUTE TO THE PIGGERIES
XIII. IN WHICH A WOMAN ACCUSES ME OF MURDER AND I PLACE A RUBY NECKLACE
ABOUT HER THROAT
XIV. THE BLACK SPOT IS ERASED FROM THE MAP OF THE WORLD AND THERE IS
DANCING IN THE SUNLIGHT ON THE ROOF OF BERLIN
CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT
THE RED AND BLACK AND GOLD STRUGGLE FOR
SUPREMACY ON THE CHANGING MAP OF THE WORLD
When but a child of seven my uncle placed me in a private school in
which one of the so-called redeemed sub-sailors was a teacher of the
German language. As I look back now, in the light of my present
knowledge, I better comprehend the docile humility and carefully
nurtured ignorance of this man. In his class rooms he used as a text a
description of German life, taken from the captured submarine. From this
book he had secured his own conception of a civilization of which he
really knew practically nothing. I recall how we used to ask Herr
Meineke if he had actually seen those strange things of which he taught
us. To this he always made answer, "The book is official, man's
"He can talk it," said my playmates who attended the public schools
where all teaching of the language of the outcast nation was prohibited.
They invariably elected me to be "the Germans," and locked me up in the
old garage while they rained a stock of sun-dried clay bombs upon the
roof and then came with a rush to "batter down the walls of Berlin" by
breaking in the door, while I, muttering strange guttural oaths, would
be led forth to be "exterminated."
On rainy days I would sometimes take my favoured playmates into my
uncle's library where five great maps hung in ordered sequence on the
The first map was labelled "The Age of Nations--1914," and showed the
black spot of Germany, like in size to many of the surrounding
countries, the names of which one recited in the history class.
The second map--"Germany's Maximum Expansion of the First World
War--1918"--showed the black area trebled in size, crowding into the
pale gold of France, thrusting a hungry arm across the Hellespont
towards Bagdad, and, from the Balkans to the Baltic, blotting out all
else save the flaming red of Bolshevist Russia, which spread over the
Eastern half of Europe like a pool of fresh spilled blood.
Third came "The Age of the League of Nations, 1919--1983," with the gold
of democracy battling with the spreading red of socialism, for the black
of autocracy had erstwhile vanished.
The fourth map was the most fascinating and terrible. Again the black of
autocracy appeared, obliterating the red of the Brotherhood of Man,
spreading across half of Eurasia and thrusting a broad black shadow to
the Yellow Sea and a lesser one to the Persian Gulf. This map was
labelled "Maximum German Expansion of the Second World War, 1988," and
lines of dotted white retreated in concentric waves till the line
This same year was the first date of the fifth map, which was labelled
"A Century of the World State," and here, as all the sea was blue, so
all the land was gold, save one black blot that might have been made by
a single spattered drop of ink, for it was no bigger than the Irish
Island. The persistence of this remaining black on the map of the world
troubled my boyish mind, as it has troubled three generations of the
United World, and strive as I might, I could not comprehend why the
great blackness of the fourth map had been erased and this small blot
When I returned from school for my vacation, after I had my first year
of physical science, I sought out my uncle in his laboratory and asked
him to explain the mystery of the little black island standing adamant
in the golden sea of all the world.
"That spot," said my uncle, "would have been erased in two more years if
a Leipzig professor had not discovered The Ray. Yet we do not know his
name nor how he made his discovery."
"But just what is The Ray?" I asked.
"We do not know that either, nor how it is made. We only know that it
destroys the oxygen carrying power of living blood. If it were an
emanation from a substance like radium, they could have fired it in
projectiles and so conquered the earth. If it were ether waves like
electricity, we should have been able to have insulated against it, or
they should have been able to project it farther and destroy our
aircraft, but The Ray is not destructive beyond two thousand metres in
the air and hardly that far in the earth."
"Then why do we not fly over and land an army and great guns and batter
down the walls of Berlin and he done with it?"
"That, as you know if you studied your history, has been tried many
times and always with disaster. The bomb-torn soil of that black land is
speckled white with the bones of World armies who were sent on landing
invasions before you or I was born. But it was only heroic folly, one
gun popping out of a tunnel mouth can slay a thousand men. To pursue the
gunners into their catacombs meant to be gassed; and sometimes our
forces were left to land in peace and set up their batteries to fire
against Berlin, but the Germans would place Ray generators in the ground
beneath them and slay our forces in an hour, as the Angel of Jehovah
withered the hosts of the Assyrians."
"But why," I persisted, "do we not tunnel under the Ray generators and
dig our way to Berlin and blow it up?"
My uncle smiled indulgently. "And that has been tried too, but they can
hear our borings with microphones and cut us off, just as we cut them
off when they try to tunnel out and place new generators. It is too
slow, too difficult, either way; the line has wavered a little with the
years but to no practical avail; the war in our day has become merely a
watching game, we to keep the Germans from coming out, they to keep us
from penetrating within gunshot of Berlin; but to gain a mile of
worthless territory either way means too great a human waste to be worth
the price. Things must go on as they are till the Germans tire of their
sunless imprisonment or till they exhaust some essential element in
their soil. But wars such as you read of in your history, will never
happen again. The Germans cannot fight the world in the air, nor in the
sea, nor on the surface of the earth; and we cannot fight the Germans in
the ground; so the war has become a fixed state of standing guard; the
hope of victory, the fear of defeat have vanished; the romance of war
"But why, then," I asked, "does the World Patrol continue to bomb the
roof of Berlin?"
"Politics," replied my uncle, "military politics, just futile display of
pyrotechnics to amuse the populace and give heroically inclined young
men a chance to strut in uniforms--but after the election this fall such
folly will cease."
My uncle had predicted correctly, for by the time I again came home on
my vacation, the newly elected Pacifist Council had reduced the aerial
activities to mere watchful patroling over the land of the enemy. Then
came the report of an attempt to launch an airplane from the roof of
Berlin. The people, in dire panic lest Ray generators were being carried
out by German aircraft, had clamoured for the recall of the Pacifist
Council, and the bombardment of Berlin was resumed.
During the lull of the bombing activities my uncle, who stood high with
the Pacifist Administration, had obtained permission to fly over Europe,
and I, most fortunate of boys, accompanied him. The plane in which we
travelled bore the emblem of the World Patrol. On a cloudless day we
sailed over the pock-marked desert that had once been Germany and came
within field-glass range of Berlin itself. On the wasted, bomb-torn land
lay the great grey disc--the city of mystery. Three hundred metres high
they said it stood, but so vast was its extent that it seemed as flat
and thin as a pancake on a griddle.
"More people live in that mass of concrete," said my uncle, "than in the
whole of America west of the Rocky Mountains." His statement, I have
since learned, fell short of half the truth, but then it seemed
appalling. I fancied the city a giant anthill, and searched with my
glass as if I expected to see the ants swarming out. But no sign of life
was visible upon the monotonous surface of the sand-blanketed roof, and
high above the range of naked vision hung the hawk-like watchers of the
The lure of unravelled secrets, the ambition for discovery and
exploration stirred my boyish veins. Yes, I would know more of the
strange race, the unknown life that surged beneath that grey blanket of
mystery. But how? For over a century millions of men had felt that same
longing to know. Aviators, landing by accident or intent within the
lines, had either returned with nothing to report, or they had not
returned. Daring journalists, with baskets of carrier pigeons, had on
foggy nights dropped by parachute to the roof of the city; but neither
they nor the birds had brought back a single word of what lay beneath
the armed and armoured roof.
My own resolution was but a boy's dream and I returned to Chicago to
take up my chemical studies.
I EXPLORE THE POTASH MINES OF STASSFURT
AND FIND A DIARY IN A DEAD MAN'S POCKET
When I was twenty-four years old, my uncle was killed in a laboratory
explosion. He had been a scientist of renown and a chemical inventor who
had devoted his life to the unravelling of the secrets of the synthetic
foods of Germany. For some years I had been his trusted assistant. In
our Chicago laboratory were carefully preserved food samples that had
been taken from the captured submarines in years gone by; and what to me
was even more fascinating, a collection of German books of like origin,
which I had read with avidity. With the exception of those relating to
submarine navigation, I found them stupidly childish and decided that
they had been prepared to hide the truth and not reveal it.
My uncle had bequeathed me both his work and his fortune, but despairing
of my ability worthily to continue his own brilliant researches on
synthetic food, I turned my attention to the potash problem, in which I
had long been interested. My reading of early chemical works had given
me a particular interest in the reclamation of the abandoned potash
mines of Stassfurt. These mines, as any student of chemical history will
know, were one of the richest properties of the old German state in the
days before the endless war began and Germany became isolated from the
rest of the world. The mines were captured by the World in the year
2020, and were profitably operated for a couple of decades. Meanwhile
the German lines were forced many miles to the rear before the
impregnable barrier of the Ray had halted the progress of the
A few years after the coming of the Ray defences, occurred what history
records as "The Tragedy of the Mines." Six thousand workmen went down
into the potash mines of Stassfurt one morning and never came up again.
The miners' families in the neighbouring villages died like weevils in
fumigated grain. The region became a valley of pestilence and death, and
all life withered for miles around. Numerous governmental projects were
launched for the recovery of the potash mines but all failed, and for
one hundred and eleven years no man had penetrated those
Knowing these facts, I wasted no time in soliciting government aid for
my project, but was content to secure a permit to attempt the recovery
with private funds, with which my uncle's fortune supplied me in
In April, 2151, I set up my laboratory on the edge of the area of death.
I had never accepted the orthodox view as to the composition of the gas
that issued from the Stassfurt mines. In a few months I was gratified to
find my doubts confirmed. A short time after this I made a more
unexpected and astonishing discovery. I found that this complex and
hitherto misunderstood gas could, under the influence of certain
high-frequency electrical discharges, be made to combine with explosive
violence with the nitrogen of the atmosphere, leaving only a harmless
residue. We wired the surrounding region for the electrical discharge
and, with a vast explosion of weird purple flame, cleared the whole area
of the century-old curse. Our laboratory was destroyed by the explosion.
It was rebuilt nearer the mine shafts from which the gas still slowly
issued. Again we set up our electrical machinery and dropped our cables
into the shafts, this time clearing the air of the mines.
A hasty exploration revealed the fact that but a single shaft had
remained intact. A third time we prepared our electrical machinery. We
let down a cable and succeeded in getting but a faint reaction at the
bottom of the shaft. After several repeated clearings we risked descent.
Upon arrival at the bottom we were surprised to find it free from water,
save for a trickling stream. The second thing we discovered was a pile
of huddled skeletons of the workmen who had perished over a century
previous. But our third and most important discovery was a boring from
which the poisonous gas was slowly issuing. It took but a few hours to
provide an apparatus to fire this gas as fast as it issued, and the
potash mines of Stassfurt were regained for the world.
My associates were for beginning mining operations at once, but I had
been granted a twenty years' franchise on the output of these mines, and
I was in no such haste. The boring from which this poisonous vapour
issued was clearly man-made; moreover I alone knew the formula of that
gas and had convinced myself once for all as to its man-made origin. I
sent for microphones and with their aid speedily detected the sound of
machinery in other workings beneath.
It is easy now to see that I erred in risking my own life as I did
without the precaution of confiding the secret of my discovery to
others. But those were days of feverish excitement. Impulsively I
decided to make the first attack on the Germans as a private enterprise
and then call for military aid. I had my own equipment of poisonous
bombs and my sapping and mining experts determined that the German
workings were but eighty metres beneath us. Hastily, among the crumbling
skeletons, we set up our electrical boring machinery and began sinking a
one-metre shaft towards the nearest sound.
After twenty hours of boring, the drill head suddenly came off and
rattled down into a cavern. We saw a light and heard guttural shouting
below and the cracking of a gun as a few bullets spattered against the
roof of our chamber. We heaved down our gas bombs and covered over our
shaft. Within a few hours the light below went out and our microphones
failed to detect any sound from the rocks beneath us. It was then
perhaps that I should have called for military aid, but the uncanny
silence of the lower workings proved too much for my eager curiosity. We
waited two days and still there was no evidence of life below. I knew
there had been ample time for the gas from our bombs to have been
dissipated, as it was decomposed by contact with moisture. A light was
lowered, but this brought forth no response.
I now called for a volunteer to descend the shaft. None was forthcoming
from among my men, and against their protest I insisted on being lowered
into the shaft. When I was a few metres from the bottom the cable parted
and I fell and lay stunned on the floor below.
When I recovered consciousness the light had gone out. There was no
sound about me. I shouted up the shaft above and could get no answer.
The chamber in which I lay was many times my height and I could make
nothing out in the dark hole above. For some hours I scarcely stirred
and feared to burn my pocket flash both because it might reveal my
presence to lurking enemies and because I wished to conserve my battery
against graver need.
But no rescue came from my men above. Only recently, after the lapse of
years, did I learn the cause of their deserting me. As I lay stunned
from my fall, my men, unable to get answer to their shoutings, had given
me up for dead. Meanwhile the apparatus which caused the destruction of
the German gas had gone wrong. My associates, unable to fix it, had fled
from the mine and abandoned the enterprise.
After some hours of waiting I stirred about and found means to erect a
rough scaffold and reach the mouth of the shaft above me. I attempted to
climb, but, unable to get a hold on the smooth wet rock, I gave up
exhausted and despairing. Entombed in the depths of the earth, I was
either a prisoner of the German potash miners, if any remained alive, or
a prisoner of the earth itself, with dead men for company.
Collecting my courage I set about to explore my surroundings. I found
some mining machinery evidently damaged by the explosion of our gas
bombs. There was no evidence of men about, living or dead. Stealthily I
set out along the little railway track that ran through a passage down a
steep incline. As I progressed I felt the air rapidly becoming colder.
Presently I stumbled upon the first victim of our gas bombs, fallen
headlong as he was fleeing. I hurried on. The air seemed to be blowing
in my face and the cold was becoming intense. This puzzled me for at
this depth the temperature should have been above that on the surface of
After a hundred metres or so of going I came into a larger chamber. It
was intensely cold. From out another branching passage-way I could hear
a sizzling sound as of steam escaping. I started to turn into this
passage but was met with such a blast of cold air that I dared not face
it for fear of being frozen. Stamping my feet, which were fast becoming
numb, I made the rounds of the chamber, and examined the dead miners
that were tumbled about. The bodies were frozen.
One side of this chamber was partitioned off with some sort of metal
wall. The door stood blown open. It felt a little warmer in here and I
entered and closed the door. Exploring the room with my dim light I
found one side of it filled with a row of bunks--in each bunk a corpse.
Along the other side of the room was a table with eating utensils and
back of this were shelves with food packages.
I was in danger of freezing to death and, tumbling several bodies out of
the bunks, I took the mattresses and built of them a clumsy enclosure
and installed in their midst a battery heater which I found. In this
fashion I managed to get fairly warm again. After some hours of huddling
I observed that the temperature had moderated.
My fear of freezing abated, I made another survey of my surroundings and
discovered something that had escaped my first attention. In the far end
of the room was a desk, and seated before it with his head fallen
forward on his arms was the form of a man. The miners had all been
dressed in a coarse artificial leather, but this man was dressed in a
woven fabric of cellulose silk.
The body was frozen. As I tumbled it stiffly back it fell from the chair
exposing a ghastly face. I drew away in a creepy horror, for as I looked
at the face of the corpse I suffered a sort of waking nightmare in which
I imagined that I was gazing at my own dead countenance.
I concluded that my normal mind was slipping out of gear and proceeded
to back off and avail myself of a tube of stimulant which I carried in
This revived me somewhat, but again, when I tried to look upon the
frozen face, the conviction returned that I was looking at my own
I glanced at my watch and figured out that I had been in the German mine
for thirty hours and had not tasted food or drink for nearly forty
hours. Clearly I had to get myself in shape to escape hallucinations. I
went back to the shelves and proceeded to look for food and drink.
Happily, due to my work in my uncle's laboratory, these synthetic foods
were not wholly strange to me. I drank copiously of a non-alcoholic
chemical liquor and warmed on the heater and partook of some nitrogenous
and some starchy porridges. It was an uncanny dining place, but hunger
soon conquers mere emotion, and I made out a meal. Then once more I
faced the task of confronting this dead likeness of myself.
This time I was clear-headed enough. I even went to the miners' lavatory
and, jerking down the metal mirror, scrutinized my own reflection and
reassured myself of the closeness of the resemblance. My purpose framed
in my mind as I did this. Clearly I was in German quarters and was
likely to remain there. Sooner or later there must be a rescuing party.
Without further ado, I set about changing my clothing for that of the
German. The fit of the dead man's clothes further emphasized the closeness
of the physical likeness. I recalled my excellent command of the German
language and began to wonder what manner of man I was supposed to be in
this assumed personality. But my most urgent task was speedily to make
way with the incriminating corpse. With the aid of the brighter
flashlight which I found in my new pockets, I set out to find a place to
hide the body.
The cold that had so frightened me had now given way to almost normal
temperature. There was no longer the sound of sizzling steam from the
unexplored passage-way. I followed this and presently came upon another
chamber filled with machinery. In one corner a huge engine, covered with
frost, gave off a chill greeting. On the floor was a steaming puddle of
liquid, but the breath of this steam cut like a blizzard. At once I
guessed it. This was a liquid air engine. The dead engineer in the
corner helped reveal the story. With his death from the penetrating gas,
something had gone wrong with the engine. The turbine head had blown
off, and the conveying pipe of liquid air had poured forth the icy blast
that had so nearly frozen me along with the corpses of the Germans. But
now the flow of liquid had ceased, and the last remnants were
evaporating from the floor. Evidently the supply pipe had been shut off
further back on the line, and I had little time to lose for rescuers
were probably on the way.
Along one of the corridors running from the engine room I found an open
water drain half choked with melting ice. Following this I came upon a
grating where the water disappeared. I jerked up the grating and dropped
a piece of ice down the well-like shaft. I hastily returned and dragged
forth the corpse of my double and with it everything I had myself
brought into the mine. Straightening out the stiffened body I plunged it
head foremost into the opening. The sound of a splash echoed within the
I now hastened back to the chamber into which I had first fallen and
destroyed the scaffolding I had erected there. Returning to the desk
where I had found the man whose clothing I wore, I sat down and
proceeded to search my abundantly filled pockets. From one of them I
pulled out a bulky notebook and a number of loose papers. The freshest
of these was an official order from the Imperial Office of Chemical
Engineers. The order ran as follows:
Capt. Karl Armstadt
Laboratory 186, E. 58.
Report is received at this office of the sound of sapping
operations in potash mine D5. Go at once and verify the same
and report of condition of gas generators and make analyses
of output of the same.
Evidently I was Karl Armstadt and very happily a chemical engineer by
profession. My task of impersonation so far looked feasible--I could
talk chemical engineering.
The next paper I proceeded to examine was an identification folder done
up in oiled fabric. Thanks to German thoroughness it was amusingly
complete. On the first page appeared what I soon discovered to be __
pedigree for four generations back. The printed form on which all this
was minutely filled out made very clear statements from which I
determined that my father and mother were both dead.
I, Karl Armstadt, twenty-seven years of age, was the fourteenth child of
my mother and was born when she was forty-two years of age. According to
the record I was the ninety-seventh child of my father and born when he
was fifty-four. As I read this I thought there was something here that I
misunderstood, although subsequent discoveries made it plausible enough.
There was no further record of my plentiful fraternity, but I took heart
that the mere fact of their numerical abundance would make unlikely any
great show of brotherly interest, a presumption which proved
On the second page of this folder I read the number and location of my
living quarters, the sources from which my meals and clothing were
issued, as well as the sizes and qualities of my garments and numerous
other references to various details of living, all of which seemed
painstakingly ridiculous at the time.
I put this elaborate identification paper back into its receptacle and
opened the notebook. It proved to be a diary kept likewise in thorough
German fashion. I turned to the last pages and perused them hastily.
The notes in Armstadt's diary were concerned almost wholly with his
chemical investigations. All this I saw might be useful to me later but
what I needed more immediately was information as to his personal life.
I scanned back hastily through the pages for a time without finding any
such revelations. Then I discovered this entry made some months
"I cannot think of chemistry tonight, for the vision of Katrina dances
before me as in a dream. It must be a strange mixture of blood-lines
that could produce such wondrous beauty. In no other woman have I seen
such a blackness of hair and eyes combined with such a whiteness of
skin. I suppose I should not have danced with her--now I see all my
resolutions shattered. But I think it was most of all the blackness of
her eyes. Well, what care, we live but once!"
I read and re-read this entry and searched feverishly in Armstadt's
diary for further evidence of a personal life. But I only found tedious
notes on his chemical theories. Perhaps this single reference to a woman
was but a passing fancy of a man otherwise engrossed in his science. But
if rescuers came and I succeeded in passing for the German chemist the
presence of a woman in my new rôle of life would surely undo all my
effort. If no personal acquaintance of the dead man came with the
rescuing party I saw no reason why I could not for the time pass
successfully as Armstadt. I should at least make the effort and I
reasoned I could best do this by playing the malingerer and appearing
mentally incompetent. Such a ruse, I reasoned, would give me opportunity
to hear much and say little, and perhaps so get my bearings in the new
rôle that I could continue it successfully.
Then, as I was about to return the notebook to my pocket, my hopes sank
as I found this brief entry which I had at first scanning overlooked:
"It is twenty days now since Katrina and I have been united. She does
not interfere with my work as much as I feared. She even lets me talk
chemistry to her, though I am sure she understands not one word of what
I tell her. I think I have made a good selection and it is surely a
permanent one. Therefore I must work harder than ever or I shall not
This alarmed me. Yet, if Armstadt had married he made very little fuss
about it. Evidently it concerned him chiefly in relation to his work.
But whoever and whatever Katrina was, it was clear that her presence
would be disastrous to my plans of assuming his place in the
Pondering over the ultimate difficulty of my situation, but with a
growing faith in the plan I had evolved for avoiding immediate
explanations, I fell into a long-postponed sleep. The last thing I
remember was tumbling from my chair and sprawling out upon the floor
where I managed to snap out my light before the much needed sleep quite
I was awakened by voices, and opened my eyes to find the place brightly
lighted. I closed them again quickly as some one approached and prodded
me with the toe of his boot.
"Here is a man alive," said a voice above me.
"He is Captain Armstadt, the chemist," said another voice, approaching;
"this is good. We have special orders to search for him."
The newcomer bent over and felt my heart. I was quite aware that it was
functioning normally. He shook me and called me by name. After repeated
shakings I opened my eyes and stared at him blankly, but I said nothing.
Presently he left me and returned with a stretcher. I lay inertly as I
was placed thereon and borne out of the chamber. Other stretcher-bearers
were walking ahead. We passed through the engine room where mechanics
were at work on the damaged liquid air engine. My stretcher was placed
on a little car which moved swiftly along the tunnel.
We came into a large subterranean station and I was removed and brought
before a bevy of white garbed physicians. They looked at my
identification folder and then examined me. Through it all I lay limp
and as near lifeless as I could simulate, and they succeeded in getting
no speech out of me. The final orders were to forward me post haste to
the Imperial Hospital for Complex Gas Cases.
After an eventless journey of many hours I was again unloaded and
transferred to an elevator. For several hundred metres we sped upward
through a shaft, while about us whistled a blast of cold, crisp air. At
last the elevator stopped and I was carried out to an ambulance that
stood waiting in a brilliantly lighted passage arched over with grey
concrete. I was no longer beneath the surface of the earth but was
somewhere in the massive concrete structure of the City of Berlin.
After a short journey our ambulance stopped and attendants came out and
carried my litter through an open doorway and down a long hall into the
spacious ward of a hospital.
From half closed eyes I glanced about apprehensively for a black-haired
woman. With a sigh of relief I saw there were only doctors and male
attendants in the room. They treated me most professionally and gave no
sign that they suspected I was other than Capt. Karl Armstadt, which
fact my papers so eloquently testified. The conclusion of their
examination was voiced in my presence. "Physically he is normal," said
the head physician, "but his mind seems in a stupor. There is no remedy,
as the nature of the gas is unknown. All that can be done is to await
the wearing off of the effect."
I was then left alone for some hours and my appetite was troubling me.
At last an attendant approached with some savoury soup; he propped me up
and proceeded to feed me with a spoon.
I made out from the conversation about me that the other patients were
officers from the underground fighting forces. An atmosphere of military
discipline pervaded the hospital and I felt reassured in the conclusion
that all visiting was forbidden.
Yet my thoughts turned repeatedly to the black-eyed Katrina of
Armstadt's diary. No doubt she had been informed of the rescue and was
waiting in grief and anxiety to see him. So both she and I were awaiting
a tragic moment--she to learn that her husband or lover was dead, I for
the inevitable tearing off of my protecting disguise.
After some days the head physician came to my cot and questioned me. I
gazed at him and knit my brows as if struggling to think.
"You were gassed in the mine," he kept repeating, "can you remember?"
"Yes," I ventured, "I went to the mine, there was the sound of boring
overhead. I set men to watch; I was at the desk, I heard shouting, after
that I cannot remember."
"They were all dead but you," said the doctor.
"All dead," I repeated. I liked the sound of this and so kept on
mumbling "All dead, all dead."
My plan was working nicely. But I realized I could not keep up this rôle
for ever. Nor did I wish to, for the idleness and suspense were
intolerable and I knew that I would rather face whatever problems my
recovery involved than to continue in this monotonous and meaningless
existence. So I convalesced by degrees and got about the hospital, and
was permitted to wait on myself. But I cultivated a slowness and brevity
One day as I sat reading the attendant announced, "A visitor to see you,
Trembling with excitement and fear I tensely waited the coming of the
Presently a stolid-faced young man followed the attendant into the room.
"You remember Holknecht," said the nurse, "he is your assistant at the
I stared stupidly at the man, and cold fear crept over me as he, with
puzzled eyes, returned my gaze.
"You are much changed," he said at last. "I hardly recognize you."
"I have been very ill," I replied.
Just then the head physician came into the room and seeing me talking to
a stranger walked over to us. As I said nothing, Holknecht introduced
himself. The medical man began at once to enlarge upon the peculiarities
of my condition. "The unknown gas," he explained, "acted upon the whole
nervous system and left profound effects. Never in the records of the
hospital has there been so strange a case."
Holknecht seemed quite awed and completely credulous.
"His memory must be revived," continued the head physician, "and that
can best be done by recalling the dominating interest of his mind."
"Captain Armstadt was wholly absorbed in his research work in the
laboratory," offered Holknecht.
"Then," said the physician, "you must revive the activity of those
particular brain cells."
With that command the laboratory assistant was left in charge. He took
his new task quite seriously. Turning to me and raising his voice as if
to penetrate my dulled mentality, he began, "Do you not remember our
work in the laboratory?"
"Yes, the laboratory, the laboratory," I repeated vaguely.
Holknecht described the laboratory in detail and gradually his talk
drifted into an account of the chemical research. I listened eagerly to
get the threads of the work I must needs do if I were to maintain my
rôle as Armstadt.
Knowing now that visitors were permitted me, I again grew apprehensive
over the possible advent of Katrina. But no woman appeared, in fact I
had not yet seen a woman among the Germans. Always it was Holknecht and,
strictly according to his orders, he talked incessant chemistry.
The day I resumed my normal wearing apparel I was shown into a large
lounging room for convalescents. I seated myself a short distance apart
from a group of officers and sat eyeing another group of large, hulking
fellows at the far end of the room. These I concluded to be common
soldiers, for I heard the officers in my ward grumbling at the fact that
they were quartered in the same hospital with men of the ranks.
Presently an officer came over and took a seat beside me. "It is very
rarely that you men in the professional service are gassed," he said.
"You must have a dull life, I do not see how you can stand it."
"But certainly," I replied, "it is not so dangerous."
"And for that reason it must be stupid--I, for one, think that even in
the fighting forces there is no longer sufficient danger to keep up the
military morale. Danger makes men courageous--without danger courage
declines--and without courage what advantage would there be in the
"Suppose," I suggested, "the war should come to an end?"
"But how can it?" he asked incredulously. "How can there be an end to
the war? We cannot prevent the enemy from fighting."
"But what," I ventured, "if the enemy should decide to quit fighting?"
"They have almost quit now," he remarked with apparent disgust; "they
are losing the fighting spirit--but no wonder--they say that the World
State population is so great that only two per cent of its men are in
the fighting forces. What I cannot see is how a people so peaceful can
keep from utter degeneration. And they say that the World State soldiers
are not even bred for soldiering but are picked from all classes. If
they should decide to quit fighting, as you suggest, we also would have
to quit--it would intolerable--it is bad enough now."
"But could you not return to industrial life and do something
"Productive!" sneered the fighter. "I knew that you professional men had
no courage--it is not to be expected--but I never before heard even one
of your class suggest a thing like that--a military man do something
productive! Why don't you suggest that we be changed to women?" And with
that my fellow patient rose and, turning sharply on his metal heel,
The officer's attitude towards his profession set me thinking, and I
found myself wondering how far it was shared by the common soldiers. The
next day when I came out into the convalescent corridor I walked past
the group of officers and went down among the men whose garments bore no
medals or insignia. They were unusually large men, evidently from some
specially selected regiment. Picking out the most intelligent looking
one of the group I sat down beside him.
"Is this the first time you have been gassed?" I inquired.
"Third time," replied the soldier.
"I should think you would have been discharged."
"Discharged," said the soldier, in a perplexed tone, "why I am only
forty-four years old, why should I be discharged unless I get in an
explosion and lose a leg or something?"
"But you have been gassed three times," I said, "I should think they
ought to let you return to civil life and your family."
The soldier looked hard at the insignia of my rank as captain. "You
professional officers don't know much, do you? A soldier quit and do
common labor, now that's a fine idea. And a family! Do you think I'm a
Hohenzollern?" At the thought the soldier chuckled. "Me with a family,"
he muttered to himself, "now that's a fine idea."
I saw that I was getting on dangerous ground but curiosity prompted a
further question: "Then, I suppose, you have nothing to hope for until
you reach the age of retirement, unless war should come to an end?"
Again the soldier eyed me carefully. "Now you do have some queer ideas.
There was a man in our company who used to talk like that when no
officers were around. This fellow, his name was Mannteufel, said he
could read books, that he was a forbidden love-child and his father was
an officer. I guess he was forbidden all right, for he certainly wasn't
right in his head. He said that we would go out on the top of the ground
and march over the enemy country and be shot at by the flying planes,
like the roof guards, if the officers had heard him they would surely
have sent him to the crazy ward--why he said that the war would be over
after that, and we would all go to the enemy country and go about as we
liked, and own houses and women and flying planes and animals. As if the
Royal House would ever let a soldier do things like that."
"Well," I said, "and why not, if the war were over?"
"Now there you go again--how do you mean the war was over, what would
all us soldiers do if there was no fighting?"
"You could work," I said, "in the shops."
"But if we worked in the shops, what would the workmen do?"
"They would work too," I suggested.
The soldier was silent for a time. "I think I get your idea," he said.
"The Eugenic Staff would cut down the birth rates so that there would
only be enough soldiers and workers to fill the working jobs."
"They might do that," I remarked, wishing to lead him on.
"Well," said the soldier, returning to the former thought, "I hope they
won't do that until I am dead. I don't care to go up on the ground to
get shot at by the fighting planes. At least now we have something over
our heads and if we are going to get gassed or blown up we can't see it
coming. At least--"
Just then the officer with whom I had talked the day before came up. He
stopped before us and scowled at the soldier who saluted in hasty
"I wish, Captain," said the officer addressing me, "that you would not
take advantage of these absurd hospital conditions to disrupt discipline
by fraternizing with a private."
At this the soldier looked up and saluted again.
"Well?" said the officer.
"He's not to blame, sir," said the soldier, "he's off his head."
IN A BLACK UTOPIA THE BLOND BROOD BREEDS AND SWARMS
It was with a strange mixture of eagerness and fear that I received the
head physician's decision that I would henceforth recover my faculties
more rapidly in the familiar environment of my own home.
A wooden-faced male nurse accompanied me in a closed vehicle that ran
noiselessly through the vaulted interior streets of the completely
roofed-in city. Once our vehicle entered an elevator and was let down a
brief distance. We finally alighted in a street very like the one on
which the hospital was located, and filed down a narrow passage-way. My
companion asked for my keys, which I found in my clothing. I stood by
with a palpitating heart as he turned the lock and opened the door.
The place we entered was a comfortably furnished bachelor's apartment.
Books and papers were littered about giving evidence of no disturbance
since the sudden leaving of the occupant. Immensely relieved I sat down
in an upholstered chair while the nurse scurried about and put the
place in order.
"You feel quite at home?" he asked as he finished his task.
"Quite," I replied, "things are coming back to me now."
"You should have been sent home sooner," he said. "I wished to tell the
chief as much, but I am only a second year interne and it is forbidden
me to express an original opinion to him."
"I am sure I will be all right now," I replied.
He turned to go and then paused. "I think," he said, "that you should
have some notice on you that when you do go out, if you become confused
and make mistakes, the guards will understand. I will speak to Lieut.
Forrester, the Third Assistant, and ask that such a card be sent you."
With that he took his departure.
When he had gone I breathed joyfully and freely. The rigid face and
staring eye that I had cultivated relaxed into a natural smile and then
I broke into a laugh. Here I was in the heart of Berlin, unsuspected of
being other than a loyal German and free, for the time at least, from
problems of personal relations.
I now made an elaborate inspection of my surroundings. I found a
wardrobe full of men's clothing, all of a single shade of mauve like the
suit I wore. Some suits I guessed to be work clothes from their cheaper
texture and some, much finer, were evidently dress apparel.
Having reassured myself that Armstadt had been the only occupant of the
apartment, I turned to a pile of papers that the hospital attendant had
picked up from the floor where they had dropped from a mail chute. Most
of these proved to be the accumulated copies of a daily chemical news
bulletin. Others were technical chemical journals. Among the letters I
found an invitation to a meeting of a chemical society, and a note from
my tailor asking me to call; the third letter was written on a
typewriter, an instrument the like of which I had already discovered in
my study. This sheet bore a neatly engraved head reading "Katrina,
Permit 843 LX, Apartment 57, K Street, Level of the Free Women." The
"Dear Karl: For three weeks now you have failed to keep
your appointments and sent no explanation. You surely know
that I will not tolerate such rude neglect. I have reported
to the Supervisor that you are dropped from my list."
So this was Katrina! Here at last was the end of the fears that had
As I was scanning the chemical journal I heard a bell ring and turning
about I saw that a metal box had slid forth upon a side board from an
opening in the wall. In this box I found my dinner which I proceeded to
enjoy in solitude. The food was more varied than in the hospital. Some
was liquid and some gelatinous, and some firm like bread or biscuit. But
of natural food products there was nothing save a dish of mushrooms and
a single sprig of green no longer than my finger, and which, like a
feather in a boy's cap, was inserted conspicuously in the top of a
synthetic pudding. There was one food that puzzled me, for it was
sausage-like in form and sausage-like in flavour, and I was sure
contained some real substance of animal origin. Presuming, as I did at
that moment, that no animal life existed in Berlin, I ate this sausage
with doubts and misgivings.
The dinner finished, I looked for a way to dispose of the dishes.
Packing them back in the container I fumbled about and found a switch
which set something going in the wall, and my dishes departed to the
Having cleared the desk I next turned to Armstadt's book shelves. My
attention was caught by a ponderous volume. It proved to be an atlas and
directory of Berlin. In the front of this was a most revealing diagram
which showed Berlin to be a city of sixty levels. The five lowest levels
were underground and all were labelled "Mineral Industries." Above these
were eight levels of Food, Clothing and Miscellaneous industries. Then
came the seven workmen's residence levels, divided by trade groups.
Above this were the four "Intellectual Levels," on one of which I, as a
chemist had my abode. Directly above these was the "Level of Free
Women," and above that the residence level for military officers. The
next was the "Royal Level," double in height of the other levels of the
city. Then came the "Administrative Level," followed by eight maternity
levels, then four levels of female schools and nine levels of male
schools. Then, for six levels, and reaching to within five levels of the
roof of the city, were soldiers' barracks. Three of the remaining floors
were labelled "Swine Levels" and one "Green Gardens." Just beneath the
roof was the defence level and above that the open roof itself.
It was a city of some three hundred metres in height with mineral
industries at the bottom and the swine levels--I recalled the
sausage--at the top. Midway between, remote from possible attack through
mines or from the roof, Royalty was sheltered, while the other
privileged groups of society were stratified above and below it.
Following the diagram of levels was a most informing chart arranged like
a huge multiplication table. It gave after each level the words
"permitted," "forbidden," and "permitted as announced," arranged in
columns for each of the other levels. From this I traced out that as a
chemist I was permitted on all the industrial, workmen's and
intellectual levels, and on the Level of Free Women. I was permitted, as
announced, on the Administrative and Royal Levels; but forbidden on the
levels of military officers and soldiers' barracks, maternity and male
and female schools.
I found that as a chemist I was particularly fortunate for many other
groups were given even less liberty. As for common workmen and soldiers,
they were permitted on no levels except their own.
The most perplexing thing about this system was the apparent segregation
of such large groups of men from women. Family life in Germany was
evidently wonderfully altered and seemingly greatly restricted, a
condition inconsistent with the belief that I had always held--that the
German race was rapidly increasing.
Turning to my atlas index I looked up the population statistics of the
city, and found that by the last census it was near three hundred
million. And except for the few millions in the mines this huge mass of
humanity was quartered beneath a single roof. I was greatly surprised,
for this population figure was more than double the usual estimates
current in the outside world. Coming from a world in which the ancient
tendency to congest in cities had long since been overcome, I was
staggered by the fact that nearly as many people were living in this one
city as existed in the whole of North America.
Yet, when I figured the floor area of the city, which was roughly oval
in shape, being eight kilometres in breadth and eleven in length, I
found that the population on a given floor area was no greater than it
had been in the Island of Manhattan before the reform land laws were put
into effect in the latter part of the Twentieth Century. There was,
therefore, nothing incredible in these figures of total population, but
what I next discovered was a severe strain on credence. It was the
German population by sexes; the figures showed that there were nearly
two and a half males for every female! According to the usual estimate
of war losses the figure should have been at a ratio of six women living
to about five men, and here I found them recorded as only two women to
five men. Inspection of the birth rate showed an even higher proportion
of males. I consulted further tables that gave births by sexes and
groups. These varied somewhat but there was this great preponderance of
males in every class but one. Only among the seventeen thousand members
of Royalty did the proportion of the sexes approach the normal.
Apparently I had found an explanation of the careful segregation of
German women--there were not enough to go around!
Turning the further pages of my atlas I came upon an elaborately
illustrated directory of the uniforms and insignia of the various
military and civil ranks and classes. As I had already anticipated, I
found that any citizen in Berlin could immediately be placed in his
proper group and rank by his clothing, which was prescribed with
Various fabrics and shades indicated the occupational grouping while
trimmings and insignia distinguished the ranks within the groups. In all
there were many hundreds of distinct uniforms. Two groups alone proved
exceptions to this iron clad rule; Royalty and free women were permitted
to dress as they chose and were restricted only in that they were
forbidden to imitate the particular uniforms of other groups.
I next investigated the contents of Armstadt's desk. My most interesting
find was a checkbook, with receipts and expenditures carefully recorded
on the stubs. From this I learned that, as Armstadt, I was in receipt of
an income of five thousand marks, paid by the Government. I did not know
how much purchasing value that would amount to, but from the account
book I saw that the expenses had not equalled a third of it, which
explained why there was a bank balance of some twenty thousand marks.
Clearly I would need to master the signature of Karl Armstadt so I
searched among the papers until I found a bundle of returned decks. Many
of the larger checks had been made out to "Katrina," others to the
"Master of Games,"--evidently to cover gambling losses. The smaller
checks, I found by reference to the stubs, were for ornaments or
entertainment that might please a woman. The lack of the more ordinary
items of expenditure was presently made clear by the discovery of a
number of punch marked cards. For intermittent though necessary
expenses, such as tonsorial service, clothing and books. For the more
constant necessities of life, such as rent, food, laundry and
transportation, there was no record whatever; and I correctly assumed
that these were supplied without compensation and were therefore not a
matter of personal choice or permissible variation. Of money in its
ancient form of metal coins and paper, I found no evidence.
In my mail the next morning I found a card signed by Lieut. Forrester of
the hospital staff. It read:
"The bearer, Karl Armstadt, has recently suffered from gas poisoning
while defending the mines beneath enemy territory. This has affected his
memory. If he is therefore found disobeying any ruling or straying
beyond his permitted bounds, return him to his apartment and call the
Hospital for Complex Gas Cases."
It was evidently a very kindly effort to protect a man whose loss of
memory might lead him into infractions of the numerous rulings of German
life. With this help I became ambitious to try the streets of Berlin
alone. The notice from the tailor afforded an excuse.
Consulting my atlas to get my bearings I now ventured forth. The streets
were tunnel-like passage-ways closed over with a beamed ceiling of
whitish grey concrete studded with glowing light globes. In the
residence districts the smooth side walls were broken only by high
ventilating gratings and the narrow passage halls from which led the
doors of the apartments.
The uncanny quiet of the streets of this city with its three hundred
million inhabitants awed and oppressed me. Hurriedly I walked along
occasionally passing men dressed like myself. They were pale men, with
blanched or sallow faces. But nowhere were there faces of ruddy tan as
one sees in a world of sun. The men in the hospital had been pale, but
that had seemed less striking for one is used to pale faces in a
hospital. It came to me with a sense of something lost that my own
countenance blanched in the mine and hospital would so remain colourless
like the faces of the men who now stole by me in their felted footwear
with a cat-like tread.
At a cross street I turned and came upon a small group of shops with
monotonous panelled display windows inserted in the concrete walls. Here
I found my tailor and going in I promptly laid down his notice and my
clothing card. He glanced casually at the papers, punched the card and
then looking up he remarked that my new suit had been waiting some time.
I began explaining the incident in the mine and the stay in the
hospital; but the tailor was either disinterested or did not comprehend.
"Will you try on your new suit now?" he interrupted, holding forth the
garments. The suit proved a trifle tight about the hips, but I hastened
to assure the tailor that the fit was perfect. I removed it and watched
him do it up in a parcel, open a wall closet, call my house number, and
send my suit on its way through one of the numerous carriers that
interlaced the city.
As I walked more leisurely back to my apartment by a less direct way, I
found my analytical brain puzzling over the refreshing quality of the
breezes that blew through those tunnel-like streets. With bits of paper
I traced the air flow from the latticed faces of the elevator shafts to
the ventilating gratings of the enclosed apartments, and concluded that
there must be other shafts to the rear of the apartments for its exit.
It occurred to me that it must take an enormous system of ventilating
fans to keep this air in motion, and then I remembered the liquid air
engine I had seen in the mine, and a realization of the economy and
efficiency of the whole scheme dawned upon me. The Germans had solved
the power problem by using the heat of the deeper strata of the earth to
generate power through the agency of liquid air and the exhaust from
their engines had automatically solved their ventilating problem. I
recalled with a smile that I had seen no evidence of heating apparatus
anywhere except that which the miners had used to warm their food. In
this city cooling rather than heating facilities would evidently be
needed, even in the dead of winter, since the heat generated by the
inhabitants and the industrial processes would exceed the radiation from
the exterior walls and roof of the city. Sunshine and "fresh air" they
had not, but our own scientists had taught us for generations that heat
and humidity and not lack of oxygen or sunshine was the cause of the
depression experienced in indoor quarters. The air of Berlin was cool
and the excess of vapor had been frozen out of it. Yes, the "climate" of
Berlin should be more salubrious to the body, if not to the mind, than
the fickle environment of capricious nature. From my reasoning about
these ponderous problems of existence I was diverted to a trivial
matter. The men I observed on the streets all wore their hair clipped
short, while mine, with six weeks' growth, was getting rather long. I
had seen several barber's signs but I decided to walk on for quite a
distance beyond my apartment. I did not want to confront a barber who
had known Karl Armstadt, for barbers deal critically in the matter of
heads and faces. At last I picked out a shop. I entered and asked for
"But you are not on my list," said the barber, staring at me in a
puzzled way, "why do you not go to your own barber?"
Grasping the situation I replied that I did not like my barber.
"Then why do you not apply at the Tonsorial Administrative Office of the
level for permission to change?"
Returning to my apartment I looked up the office in my directory, went
thither and asked the clerk if I could exchange barbers. He asked for my
card and after a deal of clerical activities wrote thereon the name of a
new barber. With this official sanction I finally got my hair cut and my
card punched, thinking meanwhile that the soundness of my teeth would
obviate any amateur detective work on the part of a dentist.
Nothing, it seemed, was left for the individual to decide for himself.
His every want was supplied by orderly arrangement and for everything he
must have an authoritative permit. Had I not been classed as a research
chemist, and therefore a man of some importance, this simple business of
getting a hair-cut might have proved my undoing. Indeed, as I afterwards
learned, the exclusive privacy of my living quarters was a mark of
distinction. Had I been one of lower ranking I should have shared my
apartment with another man who would have slept in my bed while I was at
work, for in the sunless city was neither night nor day and the whole
population worked and slept in prescribed shifts--the vast machinery of
industry, like a blind giant in some Plutonic treadmill, toiled
The next morning I decided to extend my travels to the medical level,
which was located just above my own. There were stairs beside the
elevator shafts but these were evidently for emergency as they were
closed with locked gratings.
The elevator stopped at my ring. Not sure of the proper manner of
calling my floor I was carried past the medical level. As we shot up
through the three-hundred-metre shaft, the names of levels as I had read
them in my atlas flashed by on the blind doors. On the topmost defence
level we took on an officer of the roof guard--strangely swarthy of
skin--and now the car shot down while the rising air rushed by us with a
On the return trip I called my floor as I had heard others do and was
let off at the medical level. It was even more monotonously quiet than
the chemical level, save for the hurrying passage of occasional
ambulances on their way between the elevators and the various hospitals.
The living quarters of the physicians were identical with those on the
chemists' level. So, too, were the quiet shops from which the physicians
supplied their personal needs.
Standing before one of these I saw in a window a new book entitled
"Diseases of Nutrition." I went in and asked to see a copy. The book
seller staring at my chemical uniform in amazement reached quickly under
the counter and pressed a button. I became alarmed and turned to go out
but found the door had been automatically closed and locked. Trying to
appear unconcerned I stood idly glancing over the book shelves, while
the book seller watched me from the corner of his eye.
In a few minutes the door opened from without and a man in the uniform
of the street guard appeared. The book seller motioned toward me.
"Your identification folder," said the guard.
Mechanically I withdrew it and handed it to him. He opened it and
discovered the card from the hospital. Smiling on me with an air of
condescension, he took me by the arm and led me forth and conducted me
to my own apartment on the chemical level. Arriving there he pushed me
gently into a chair and stepped toward the switch of the telephone.
"Just a minute," I said, "I remember now. I was not on my level--that
was not my book store."
"The card orders me to call up the hospital," said the guard.
"It is unnecessary," I said. "Do not call them."
The guard gazed first at me and then at the card. "It is signed by a
Lieutenant and you are a Captain--" his brows knitted as he wrestled
with the problem--"I do not know what to do. Does a Captain with an
affected memory outrank a Lieutenant?"
"He does," I solemnly assured him.
Still a little puzzled, he returned the card, saluted and was gone. It
had been a narrow escape. I got out my atlas and read again the rules
that set forth my right to be at large in the city. Clearly I had a
right to be found in the medical level--but in trying to buy a book
there I had evidently erred most seriously. So I carefully memorized the
list of shops set down in my identification folder and on my cards.
For the next few days I lived alone in my apartment unmolested except by
an occasional visit from Holknecht, the laboratory assistant, who knew
nothing but chemistry, talked nothing but chemistry, and seemed dead to
all human emotions and human curiosity. Applying myself diligently to
the study of Armstadt's books and notes, I was delighted to find that
the Germans, despite their great chemical progress, were ignorant of
many things I knew. I saw that my knowledge discreetly used, might
enable me to become a great man among them and so learn secrets that
would be of immense value to the outer world, should I later contrive to
escape from Berlin.
By my discoveries of the German workings in the potash mines I had
indeed opened a new road to Berlin. It was up to me by further
discoveries to open a road out again, not only for my own escape, but
perhaps also to find a way by which the World Armies might enter Berlin
as the Greeks entered Troy. Vague ambitious dreams were these that
filled and thrilled me, for I was young in years, and the romantic
spirit of heroic adventure surged in my blood.
These days of study were quite uneventful, except for a single
illuminating incident; a further example of the super-efficiency of the
Germans. I found the meals served me at my apartment rather less in
quantity than my appetite craved. While there was a reasonable variety,
the nutritive value was always the same to a point of scientific
exactness, and I had seen no shops where extra food was available. After
I had been in my apartment about a week, some one rang at the door. I
opened it and a man called out the single word, "Weigher." Just behind
him stood a platform scale on small wheels and with handles like a
go-cart. The weigher stood, notebook in hand, waiting for me to act. I
took the hint and stepped upon the scales. He read the weight and as he
recorded it, remarked:
"Three kilograms over."
Without further explanation he pushed the scales toward the next door.
The following day I noticed that the portions of food served me were a
trifle smaller than they had been previously. The original Karl Armstadt
had evidently been of such build that he carried slightly less weight
than I, which fact now condemned me to this light diet.
However, I reasoned that a light diet is conducive to good brain work,
and as I later learned, the object of this systematic weight control was
not alone to save food but to increase mental efficiency, for a fat man
is phlegmatic and a lean one too excitable for the best mental output.
It would also help my disguise by keeping me the exact weight and build
of the original Karl Armstadt.
After a fortnight of study, I felt that I was now ready to take up my
work in the laboratory, but I feared my lack of general knowledge of the
city and its ways might still betray me. Hence I began further
journeyings about the streets and shops of those levels where a man of
my class was permitted to go.
After exhausting the rather barren sport of walking about the monotonous
streets of the four professional levels I took a more exciting trip down
into the lower levels of the city where the vast mechanical industries
held sway. I did not know how much freedom might be allowed me, but I
reasoned that I would be out of my supposed normal environment and hence
my ignorance would be more excusable and in less danger of betraying me.
Alighting from the elevator, I hurried along past endless rows of heavy
columns. I peered into the workrooms, which had no enclosing walls, and
discovered with some misgiving that I seemed to have come upon a race of
giants. The men at the machines were great hulking fellows with thick,
heavy muscles such as one would expect to see in a professional wrestler
or weight-lifter. I paused and tried to gauge the size of these men: I
decided that they were not giants for I had seen taller men in the outer
world. Two officials of some sort, distinguishable by finer garb,
walking among them, appeared to be men of average size, and the tops of
their heads came about to the workers' chins. That there should be such
men among the Germans was not unbelievable, but the strange thing was
that there should be so many of them, and that they should be so
uniformly large, for there was not a workman in the whole vast factory
floor that did not over-top the officials by at least half a head.
"Of course," I reasoned, "this is part of German efficiency";--for the
men were feeding large plates through stamping mills--"they have
selected all the large men for this heavy work." Then as I continued to
gaze it occurred to me that this bright metal these Samsons were
handling was aluminum!
I went on and came to a different work hall where men were tending wire
winding machinery, making the coils for some light electrical
instruments. It was work that girls could easily have done, yet these
men were nearly, if not quite, as hulking as their mates in the stamping
mill. To select such men for light-fingered work was not efficiency but
stupidity,--and then it came to me that I had also thought the soldiers
I had seen in the hospital to be men picked for size, and that in a
normal population there could not be such an abundance of men of
abnormal size. The meaning of it all began to clear in my mind--the
pedigree in my own identification folder with the numerous fraternity,
the system of social castes which my atlas had revealed, the
inexplicable and unnatural proportion of the sexes. These gigantic men
were not the mere pick from individual variation in the species, but a
distinct breed within a race wherein the laws of nature, that had kept
men of equal stature for countless centuries, even as wild animals were
equal, had been replaced by the laws of scientific breeding. These heavy
and ponderous labourers were the Percherons and Clydesdales of a
domesticated and scientifically bred human species. The soldiers,
somewhat less bulky and more active, were, no doubt, another distinct
breed. The professional classes which had seemed quite normal in
physical appearance--were they bred for mental rather than physical
qualities? Otherwise why the pedigree, why the rigid castes, the
isolation of women? I shuddered as the whole logical, inevitable
explanation unfolded. It was uncanny, unearthly, yet perfectly
scientific; a thing the world had speculated about for centuries, a
thing that every school boy knew could be done, and yet which I, facing
the fact that it had been done, could only believe by a strained effort
at scientific coolness.
I walked on and on, absorbed, overwhelmed by these assaulting,
unbelievable conclusions, yet on either side as I walked was the ever
present evidence of the reality of these seemingly wild fancies. There
were miles upon miles of these endless workrooms and everywhere the same
gross breed of great blond beasts.
The endless shops of Berlin's industrial level were very like those
elsewhere in the world, except that they were more vast, more
concentrated, and the work more speeded up by super-machines and
excessive specialization. Millions upon millions of huge, drab-clad,
stolid-faced workmen stood at their posts of duty, performing over and
over again their routine movements as the material of their labors
shuttled by in endless streams.
Occasionally among the workmen I saw the uniforms of the petty officers
who acted as foremen, and still more rarely the administrative offices,
where, enclosed in glass panelled rooms, higher officials in more
bespangled uniforms poured over charts and plans.
In all this colossal business there was everywhere the atmosphere of
perfect order, perfect system, perfect discipline. Go as I might among
the electrical works, among the vast factories of chemicals and goods,
the lighter labor of the textile mills, or the heavier, noisier business
of the mineral works and machine shops the same system of colossal
coordinate mechanism of production throbbed ceaselessly. Materials
flowed in endless streams, feeding electric furnaces, mills, machines;
passing out to packing tables and thence to vast store rooms. Industry
here seemed endless and perfect. The bovine humanity fitted to the
machinery as the ox to the treadmill. Everywhere was the ceaseless
throbbing of the machine. Of the human variation and the free action of
man in labour, there was no evidence, and no opportunity for its
Turning from the mere monotonous endlessness of the workshops I made my
way to the levels above where the workers lived in those hours when they
ceased to be a part of the industrial mechanism of production; and
everywhere were drab-coloured men for these shifts of labour were
arranged so that no space at any time was wholly idle. I now passed by
miles of sleeping dormitories, and other miles of gymnasiums, picture
theatres and gaming tables, and, strikingly incongruous with the
atmosphere of the place, huge assembly rooms which were labelled "Free
Speech Halls." I started to enter one of these, where some kind of a
meeting was in progress, but I was thrust back by a great fellow who
grinned foolishly and said: "Pardon, Herr Captain, it is forbidden you."
Through half-darkened streets, I again passed by the bunk-shelved
sleeping chambers with their cavernous aisles walled with orderly rows
of lockers. Again I came to other barracks where the men were not yet
asleep but were straggling in and sitting about on the lowest bunks of
these sterile makeshift homes.
I then came into a district of mess halls where a meal was being served.
Here again was absolute economy and perfect system. The men dined at
endless tables and their food like the material for their labours, was
served to the workers by the highly efficient device of an endless
moving belt that rolled up out of a slot in the floor at the end of the
table after the manner of the chained steps of an escalator.
From the moving belts the men took their portions, and, as they finished
eating, they cleared away by setting the empty dishes back upon the
moving belt. The sight fascinated me, because of the adaptation of this
mechanical principle to so strange a use, for the principle is old and,
as every engineer knows, was instrumental in founding the house of
Detroit Vehicle Kings that once dominated the industrial world. The
founder of that illustrious line gave the poorest citizen a motor car
and disrupted the wage system of his day by paying his men double the
standard wage, yet he failed to realize the full possibilities of
efficiency for he permitted his men to eat at round tables and be served
by women! Truly we of the free world very narrowly escaped the fetish of
efficiency which finally completely enslaved the Germans.
Each of the long tables of this Berlin dining hall, the ends of which
faced me, was fenced off from its neighbours. At the entrance gates were
signs which read "2600 Calories," "2800 Calories," "3000 Calories"--I
followed down the line to the sign which read "Maximum Diet, 4000
Calories." The next one read, "Minimum Diet 2000 Calories," and thence
the series was repeated. Farther on I saw that men were assembling
before such gates in lines, for the meal there had not begun. Moving to
the other side of the street I walked by the lines which curved out and
swung down the street. Those before the sign of "Minimum Diet" were not
quite so tall as the average, although obviously of the same breed. But
they were all gaunt, many of them drooped and old, relatively the
inferior specimens and their faces bore a cowering look of fear and
shame, of men sullen and dull, beaten in life's battle. Following down
the line and noting the improvement in physique as I passed on, I came
to the farthest group just as they had begun to pass into the hall.
These men, entering the gate labelled "Maximum Diet, 4000 Calories,"
were obviously the pick of the breed, middle-aged, powerful,
Herculean,--and yet not exactly Herculean either, for many of them were
overfull of waistline, men better fed than is absolutely essential to
physical fitness. Evidently a different principle was at work here than
the strict economy of food that required the periodic weighing of the
Turning back I now encountered men coming out of the dining hall in
which I had first witnessed the meal in progress. I wanted to ask
questions and yet was a little afraid. But these big fellows were
seemingly quite respectful; except when I started to enter the Free
Speech Hall, they had humbly made way for me. Emboldened by their
deference I now approached a man whom I had seen come out of a "3800
Calories" gate, and who had crossed the street and stood there picking
his teeth with his finger nail.
He ceased this operation as I approached and was about to step aside.
But I paused and smiled at him, much, I fear, as one smiles at a dog of
unknown disposition, for I could hardly feel that this ungainly creature
was exactly human. He smiled back and stood waiting.
"Perhaps, I stammered," you will tell me about your system of eating; it
seems very interesting."
"I eat thirty-eight," he grinned, "pretty good, yes? I am twenty-five
years old and not so tall either."
I eyed him up--my eyes came just to the top button of his jacket.
"I began thirty," continued the workman, "I came up one almost every
year, one year I came up two at once. Pretty good, yes? One more
"What then?" I asked.
The big fellow smiled with a childish pride, and doubling up his arm, as
huge as an average man's thigh, he patted his biceps. "I get it all
right. I pass examination, no flaws in me, never been to hospital, not
one day. Yes, I get it."
"Paternity," said the man in a lower voice, as he glanced about to see
if any of his fellows was listening. "Paternity, you know? Women!"
I thought of many questions but feared to ask them. The worker waited
for some men to pass, then he bent over me, grinning sardonically. "Did
you see them? You have seen women, yes?"
"Yes," I ventured, "I have seen women."
"Pretty good, beautiful, yes?"
"Yes," I stammered, "they are very beautiful." But I was getting nervous
and moved away. The workman, hesitating a little, then followed at
"But tell me," I said, "about these calories. What did you do to get the
big meals? Why do some get more to eat than others?"
"Better man," he replied without hesitation.
"But what makes a better man?"
"You don't know; of course, you are an intellectual and don't work. But
we work hard. The harder we work the more we eat. I load aluminum pigs
on the elevator. One pig is two calories, nineteen hundred pigs a day,
pretty good, yes? All kind of work has its calories, so many for each
thing to do.
"More work, more food it takes to do it. They say all is alike, that no
one can get fat. But all work calories are not alike because some men
get fatter than others. I don't get fat; my work is hard. I ought to get
two and a half calories for each pig I load. Still I do not get thin,
but I do not play hard in gymnasium, see? Those lathe men, they got it
too easy and they play hard in gymnasium. I don't care if you do report.
I got it mad at them; they got it too easy. One got paternity last year
already, and he is not as good a man as I am. I could throw him over my
shoulder in wrestling. Do you not think they get it too easy?"
"Do the men like this system," I asked; "the measuring of food by the
amount of work one does? Do any of them talk about it and demand that
all be fed alike?"
"The skinny minimum eaters do," said the workman with a sneer, "when we
let them talk, which isn't often, but when they get a chance they talk
Bellamism. But what if they do talk, it does them no good. We have a red
flag, we have Imperial Socialism; we have the House of Hohenzollern.
Well, then, I say, let them talk if they want to, every man must eat
according to his work; that is socialism. We can't have Bellamism when
we have socialism."
This speech, so much more informative and evidencing a knowledge I had
not anticipated, quite disturbed me. "You talk about these things," I
ventured, "in your Free Speech Halls?"
The hitherto pleasant face of the workingman altered to an ugly frown.
"No you don't," he growled, "you don't think because I talk to you, that
you can go asking me what is not your right to know, even if you are
I remained discreetly silent, but continued to walk at the side of the
striding giant. Presently I asked:
"What do you do now, are you going to work?"
"No," he said, looking at me doubtfully, "that was dinner, not
breakfast. I am going now to the picture hall."
"And then," I asked, "do you go to bed?"
"No," he said, "we then go to the gymnasium or the gaming tables. Six
hours' work, six hours' sleep, and four hours for amusement."
"And what do you do," I asked, "the remainder of the day?"
He turned and stared at me. "That is all we get here, sixteen hours.
This is the metal workers' level. Some levels get twenty hours. It
depends on the work."
"But," I said, "a real day has twenty-four hours."
"I've heard," he said, "that it does on the upper levels."
"But," I protested, "I mean a real day--a day of the sun. Do you
"Oh yes," he said, "we see the pictures of the Place in the Sun. That's
a fine show."
"Oh," I said, "then you have pictures of the sun?"
"Of course," he replied, "the sun that shines upon the throne. We all
At the time I could not comprehend this reference, but I made bold to
ask if it were forbidden me to go to his picture hall.
"I can't make out," he said, "why you want to see, but I never heard of
any order forbidding it.
"I go here," he remarked, as we came to a picture theatre.
I let my Herculean companion enter alone, but followed him shortly and
found a seat in a secluded corner. No one disputed my presence.
The music that filled the hall from some hidden horn was loud and, in a
rough way, joyous. The pictures--evidently carefully prepared for such
an audience--were limited to the life that these men knew. The themes
were chiefly of athletic contests, of boxing, wrestling and feats of
strength. There were also pictures of working contests, always ending by
the awarding of honours by some much bespangled official. But of love
and romance, of intrigue and adventure, of pathos and mirth, these
pictures were strangely devoid,--there was, in fact, no woman's likeness
cast upon the screen and no pictures depicting emotion or sentiment.
As I watched the sterile flittings of the picture screen I decided,
despite the glimmering of intelligence that my talking Hercules had
shown in reference to socialism and Bellamism and the secrets of the
Free Speech Halls, that these men were merely great stupid beasts
They worked, they fed, they drank, they played exuberantly in their
gymnasiums and swimming pools, they played long and eagerly at games of
chance. Beyond this their lives were essentially blank. Ambition and
curiosity they had none beyond the narrow circle of their round of
living. But for all that they were docile, contented and, within their
limitations, not unhappy. To me they seemed more and more to be like
well cared for domestic animals, and I found myself wondering, as I left
the hall, why we of the outer world had not thought to produce pictures
in similar vein to entertain our dogs and horses.
As I returned to my own quarters, I tried to recall the description I
had read of the "Children of the Abyss," the dwellers in ancient city
slums. There was a certain kinship, no doubt, between those former
submerged workers in the democratic world and this labour breed of
Berlin. Yet the enslaved and sweated workers of the old regime were
always depicted as suffering from poverty, as undersized, ill-nourished
and afflicted with disease. The reformers of that day were always
talking of sanitary housing, scientific diet and physical efficiency.
But here was a race of labourers whose physical welfare was as well
taken care of as if they had been prize swine or oxen. There was a
paleness of countenance among these labourers of Berlin that to me
seemed suggestive of ill health, but I knew that was merely due to lack
of sun and did not signify a lack of physical vitality. Mere
sun-darkened skin does not mean physiological efficiency, else the negro
were the most efficient of races. Men can live without sun, without
rain, without contact with the soil, without nature's greenery and the
brotherhood of fellow species in wild haunts. The whole climb of
civilization had been away from these primitive things. It had merely
been an artificial perfecting of the process of giving the living
creature that which is needed for sustenance and propagation in the most
concentrated and most economical form, the elimination of Nature's
superfluities and wastes.
As I thought of these things it came over me that this unholy
imprisonment of a race was but the logical culmination of mechanical and
material civilization. This development among the Germans had been
hastened by the necessities of war and siege, yet it was what the whole
world had been driving toward since man first used a tool and built a
hut. Our own freer civilization of the outer world had been achieved
only by compromises, by a stubborn resistance against the forces to
which we ascribed our progress. We were merely not so completely
civilized, because we had never been wholly domesticated.
As I now record these thoughts on the true significance of the perfected
civilization of the Germans I realize that I was even more right than I
then knew, for the sunless city of Berlin is of a truth a civilization
gone to seed, its people are a domesticated species, they are the
logical outcome of science applied to human affairs, with them the
prodigality and waste of Nature have been eliminated, they have stamped
out contagious diseases of every kind, they have substituted for the
laws of Nature the laws that man may pick by scientific theory and
experiment from the multitude of possibilities. Yes, the Germans were
civilized. And as I pondered these things I recalled those fairy tales
that naturalists tell of the stagnant and fixed society of ants in their
subterranean catacombs. These insect species credited for industry and
intelligence, have in their lesser world reached a similar perfection of
civilization. Ants have a royal house, they have a highly specialized
and fixed system of caste, a completely socialized state--yes, a
Utopia--even as Berlin was a Utopia, with the light of the sun and the
light of the soul, the soul of the wild free man, forever shut out. Yes,
I was walking in Utopia, a nightmare at the end of man's long
dream--Utopia--Black Utopia--City of Endless Night--diabolically
compounded of the three elements of civilization in which the Germans
had always been supreme--imperialism, science and socialism.
I GO PLEASURING ON THE LEVEL OF FREE WOMEN AND DRINK SYNTHETIC BEER
I had returned from my adventure on the labour levels in a mood of
sombre depression. Alone again in my apartment I found difficulty in
getting my mind back upon chemical books. With a sense of relief I
reported to Holknecht that I thought myself sufficiently recovered to
return to work.
My laboratory I found to be almost as secluded as my living quarters. I
was master there, and as a research worker I reported to no man until I
had finished the problem assigned me. From my readings and from
Holknecht's endless talking I had fairly well grasped the problem on
which I was supposed to be working, and I now had Holknecht go carefully
over the work he had done in my absence and we prepared a report. This I
sent to headquarters with a request for permission to start work on
another problem, the idea for which I claimed to have conceived on my
visit to the attacked potash mines.
Permission to undertake the new problem was promptly granted. I now set
to work to reproduce in a German laboratory the experiments by which I
had originally conquered the German gas that had successfully defended
those mines from the world for over a century. Though loath to make this
revelation, I knew of no other "Discovery" wherewith to gain the stakes
for which I was playing.
Events shaped themselves most rapidly along the lines of my best hopes.
The new research proved a blanket behind which to hide my ignorance. We
needed new material, new apparatus, and new data and I encouraged
Holknecht to advise me as to where to obtain these things and so gained
requisite working knowledge.
The experiments and demonstrations finished, I made my report. My
immediate superior evidently quickly recognized it as a matter too
important for his consideration and dutifully passed it up to his own
superiors. In a few days I was notified to prepare for a demonstration
before a committee of the Imperial Chemical Staff.
They came to my small laboratory with much eager curiosity. From their
manner of making themselves known to me I realized with joy that they
were dealing with a stranger. Indeed it was improbable that it should
have been otherwise for there were upwards of fifty thousand chemists of
my rank in Berlin.
The demonstration went off with a flourish and the committee were
greatly impressed. Means were at once taken to alter the gas with which
the Stassfurt mines were flooded, but I realized that meant nothing
since I believed that my companions had abandoned the enterprise and the
secret that had enabled me to invade mines had not been shared with any
one in the outer world.
As I anticipated, my revelation was accepted by the Chemical Staff as
evidence of profound scientific genius. It followed as a logical matter
that I should be promoted to the highest rank of research chemists with
the title of Colonel. Because of my youth the more was made of the
honour. This promotion entitled me to double my previous salary, to a
larger laboratory and larger and better living quarters in a distant
part of the city.
My assistant would now be of the rank I had previously been and as
Holknecht was not eligible to such promotion I was removed entirely from
all previous acquaintances and surroundings and so greatly decreased the
chance of discovery of my true identity.
After I had removed to my new quarters I was requested to call at the
office of the Chemical Staff to discuss the line of research I should
next take up. My adviser in this matter was the venerable Herr von Uhl,
a white haired old patriarch whose jacket was a mass of decorations. The
insignia on the left breast indicating the achievements in chemical
science were already familiar to me, but those on the right breast
Perhaps I stared at them a little, for the old man, noting my interest,
remarked proudly, "Yes, I have contributed much glory to the race and
our group,--one hundred and forty-seven children,--one hundred and four
of them sons, fifty-eight already of a captain's rank, and twenty-nine
of them colonels--my children of the second and third generation number
above two thousand. Only three men living in Berlin have more total
descendants--and I am but seventy-eight years of age. If I live to be
ninety I shall break all records of the Eugenic Office. It all comes of
good breeding and good work. I won my paternity right, when I was but
twenty-eight, just about your age. If you pass the physical test,
perhaps you can duplicate my record. For this early promotion you have
won qualifies you mentally."
Astonished and alarmed beyond measure I could find no reply and sat
staring dumbly, while Herr von Uhl, beginning to speak of chemical
matters, inquired if I had any preference as to the problem I should now
take up. Incapable of any clear thinking I could only ask if he had any
Immediately the old man's face brightened. "A man of your genius," he
said, "should be permitted to try his brain with the greatest problems
on which the life of Germany depends. The Staff discussed this and has
assigned you to original research for the finding of a better method of
the extraction of protium from the ore. To work on this assignment you
must of necessity share grave secrets, which, should they be disclosed,
might create profound fears, but your professional honour is a sufficient
guarantee of secrecy. In this research you will compete with some of the
most distinguished chemists in Berlin. If you should be successful you
will be decorated by His Majesty and you will receive a liberal pension
commensurate with the value of your discovery."
I was profoundly impressed. Evidently I had stumbled upon something of
vital importance, the real nature of which I did not in the least
comprehend, and happily was not supposed to. The interview was ended by
my being entrusted with voluminous unpublished documents which I was
told to take home and study. Two armed men were ordered to accompany me
and to stand alternate guard outside my apartment while I had the
documents in my possession.
In the quiet of my new abode I unsealed the package. The first sheet
contained the official offer of the rewards in store for success with
the research. The further papers explained the occasion for the gravity
and secrecy, and outlined the problem.
The colossal consequence of the matter with which I was dealing gripped
and thrilled me. Protium, it seemed, was the German name for a rare
element of the radium group, which, from its atomic weight and other
properties, I recognized as being known to the outside world only as a
laboratory curiosity of no industrial significance.
But, as used by the Germans, this element was the essence of life
itself, for by the influence of its emanations, they had achieved the
synthesis of protein capable of completely nourishing the human body--a
thing that could be accomplished in the outside world only through the
aid of natural protein derived from plants and animals.
How I wished, as I read, that my uncle could have shared with me this
revelation of a secret that he had spent his life in a fruitless effort
to unravel. We had long since discovered how the Germans had synthesized
the carbohydrate molecule from carbon dioxide and water and built
therefrom the sugars, starches and fat needed for human nutrition. We
knew quite as well how they had created the simpler nitrogen compounds,
that this last step of synthesizing complete food proteins--a step
absolutely essential to the support of human life wholly from synthetic
foods--the chemists of the outer world had never mastered.
But no less interesting than the mere chemistry of all this was the
history of it all, and the light it threw on the larger story of how
Germany had survived when the scientists of the world had predicted her
speedy annihiliation. The original use of protium had, I found, been
discovered late in the Twentieth Century when the protium ores of the
Ural Mountains were still available to the German chemists. After Russia
had been won by the World Armies, the Germans for a time suffered
chronic nitrogen starvation, as they depended on the protium derived
from what remained of their agriculture and from the fisheries in the
Baltic. As the increasing bombardment from the air herded them within
their fast building armoured city, and drove them beneath the soil in
all other German territory and from the surface of the sea in the
Baltic; they must have perished miserably but for the discovery of a new
source of protium.
This source they had found in the uninhabited islands of the Arctic,
where the formation of the Ural Mountains extends beneath the sea.
Sending their submarines thence in search of platinum ores they had not
found platinum but a limited supply of ore containing the even more
valuable protium. By this traffic Germany had survived for a century and
a half. The quantity of the rare element needed was small, for its
effect, like that of radium, was out of all proportion to its bulk. But
this little they must have, and it seems that the supply of ore
Nor was that all to interest me. How did the German submarine get to the
Arctic since the World State had succeeded, after half a century of
effort, in damming the Baltic by closing up several passes among the
Danish Islands and the main pass of the sound between Zealand and
Sweden? I remember, as a youngster, the great Jubilee that celebrated
the completion of that monumental task, and the joy that hailed from the
announcement that the world's shipping would at last be freed from an
But little had we of the world known the magnitude of the German fears
as the Baltic dam neared completion. We had thought merely to protect
our commerce from German piracy and perhaps to stop them from getting a
little copper and rubber in some remote corner of the earth. But we did
not realize that we were about to cut them off from an essential element
without which that conceited and defiant race must have speedily run up
the white flag of absolute surrender or have died to the last man, like
rats in a neglected trap.
But the completion of the Baltic dam evidently had not shut off the
supply of Arctic ore, for the annual importation of ore was given right
up to date though the Baltic had been closed for nearly a score of
years. Eagerly I searched my papers for an item that would give some
hint as to how the submarines got out of the dammed-up Baltic. But on
that point the documents before me were silent. They referred to the
Arctic ore, gave elaborate details as to mineralogy and geology of the
strata from which it came, but as to the ways of its coming into Berlin
there was not the slightest suggestion. That this ore must come by
submarine was obvious. If so, the submarine must be at large in the
Atlantic and Arctic seas, and those occasional reports of periscopes
sighted off the coast of Norway, which have never been credited, were
really true. The submarines, or at least their cargoes, must reach
Berlin by some secret passage. Here indeed was a master mystery, a
secret which, could I unravel it and escape to the outer world with the
knowledge, would put unconditionally within the power of the World State
the very life of the three hundred millions of this unholy race that was
bred and fed by science in the armoured City of Berlin, or that, working
like blind moles of the earth, held the world at bay from off the
sterile and pock-marked soil of all that was left of the one-time
That night I did not sleep till near the waking hour, and when the
breakfast container bumped into the receiving cupboard I was nodding
over the chemical papers amid strange and wonderful dreams.
Next day with three assistants, themselves chemists of no mean rank, I
set to work to prepare apparatus for repeating all the known processes
in the extraction and use of the rare and vital element. This work
absorbed me for many weeks, during which time I went nowhere and saw no
one and slept scarce one hour out of four.
But the steady application told upon me, and, by way of recreation, I
decided to spend an evening on the Level of Free Women, a place to
which, much though it fascinated me, I had not yet mustered the
courage to go.
My impression, as I stepped from the elevator, was much as that of a man
who alights from a train in a strange city on a carnival night. Before
me, instead of the narrow, quiet streets of the working and living
quarters of the city, there spread a broad and seemingly endless hall of
revelry, broken only by the massive grey pillars that held up the
multi-floored city. The place was thronged with men of varied ranks and
professions. But more numerous and conspicuous were the women, the first
and only women that I had seen among the Germans--the Free Women of
Berlin, dressed in gorgeous and daring costumes; women of whom but few
were beautiful, yet in whose tinted cheeks and sparkling eyes was all
the lure of parasitic love.
The multi-hued apparel of the throng dazzled and astonished me.
Elsewhere I had found a sterile monotony of dress and even of stature
and features. But here was resplendent variety and display. Men from all
the professional and military classes mingled indiscriminately, their
divers uniforms and decorations suggesting a dress ball in the capital
of the world. But the motley costumes of the women, who dressed with the
license of unrestrained individuality, were even more startling and
bizarre--a kaleidoscopic fantastic masquerade.
I wondered if the rule of convention and tyranny of style had lost all
hold upon these women. And yet I decided, as I watched more closely,
that there was not an absence of style but rather a warfare of styles.
The costumes varied from the veiled and beruffled displays, that left
one confounded as to what manner of creature dwelt therein, to the other
extreme of mere gaudily ornamented nudity. I smiled as I recalled the
world-old argument on the relative modesty of much or little clothing,
for here immodesty was competing side by side in both extremes, both
seemingly equally successful.
But it was not alone in the matter of dress that the women of the Free
Level varied. They differed even more strikingly in form and feature,
for, as I was later more fully to comprehend, these women were drawn
from all the artificially specialized breeds into which German science
had wrought the human species. Most striking and most numerous were
those whom I rightly guessed to be of the labour strain. Proportionally
not quite so large as the males of the breed, yet they were huge,
full-formed, fleshly creatures, with milky white skin for the most part
crudely painted with splashes of vermilion and with blued or blackened
brows. The garishness of their dress and ornament clearly bespoke the
poorer quality of their intellect, yet to my disgust they seemed fully
as popular with the men as the smaller and more refined types, evidently
from the intellectual strains of the race.
Happily these ungainly women of the labour strain were inclined to herd
by themselves and I hastened to direct my steps to avoid as much as
possible their overwhelming presence.
The smaller women, who seemed to be more nearly human, were even more
variegated in their features and make-up. They were not all blondes,
for some of them were distinctively dark of hair and skin, though
I was puzzled to tell how much of this was inborn and how much
the work of art. Another thing that astonished me was the wide
range of bodily form, as evidently determined by nutrition. Clearly
there was no weight-control here, for the figures varied from extreme
slenderness to waddling fatness. The most common type was that of mild
obesity which men call "plumpness," a quality so prized since the world
began that the women of all races by natural selection become relatively
fatter than men.
For the most part I found these women unattractive and even repellent,
and yet as I walked about the level I occasionally caught fleeting
glimpses of genuine beauty of face and form, and more rarely expressions
of a seeming high order of intelligence.
This revelling multitude of men and girls was uproariously engaged in
the obvious business of enjoying themselves by means of every art known
to appeal to the mind of man--when intelligence is abandoned and moral
restraint thrown to the winds.
I wended my way among the multitude, gay with colour, noisy with chatter
and mingled music, redolent with a hundred varieties of sensuous
perfume. I came upon a dancing floor. Whirling and twisting about the
columns, circling around a gorgeous scented and iridescent fountain,
officers and scientists, chemists and physicians, each clasping in his
arms a laughing girl, danced with abandon to languorous music.
As I watched the dance I overheard two girls commenting upon the
appearance of the dancers. Whirling by in the arms of a be-medalled
officer, was a girl whose frizzled yellow hair fell about a
"Did you see that, Fedora, tanned as a roof guard and with that hair!"
"Well, you know," said the other, "it's becoming quite the fashion
"Why don't you try it? Three baths would tan you adorably and you do
have the proper hair."
"Oh, yes, I have the hair, all right, but my skin won't stand it. I
tried it three years ago and I blistered outrageously."
The talk drifted to less informing topics and I moved on and came to
other groups lounging at their ease on rugs and divans as they watched
more skilful girls squirming through some intricate ballet on an
Seeing me stand apart, a milk-white girl with hair dyed pink came
tugging at my arm. Her opalescent eyes looked from out her chalky
countenance; but they were not hard eyes, indeed they seemed the eyes of
innocence. As I shook my head and rebuffed her cordial advance I felt,
not that I was refusing the proffered love of a painted woman, but
rather that I was meanly declining a child's invitation to join her
play. In haste I edged away and wandered on past endless gaming tables
where men in feverish eagerness whirled wheels of chance, while garishly
dressed girls leaned on their shoulders and hung about their necks.
Announced by shouts and shrieking laughter I came upon a noisy jumble of
mechanical amusement devices where men and girls in whirling upholstered
boxes were being pitched and tumbled about.