It was the blackness of unconscious miasma which bore me into the land of the living. There was light, as though a horizon of asphyxiating brightness were opening up in the dawn of a world whose beginning groans were just now heard, and that among the organisms imbued with life upon the subsequent space-borne rocks. Of my two throbbing ears, one was pinned to wood of a roughness which can be likened to the tortured bark of an oak tree after an uncomfortable bear has had its way with it. The other was open to the sky. And what misfortune did I find myself in this slow apprehension! For the rough barks of command and violent snapping about me was a nervous harassment of which I was seldom accustomed to except in the harsh classrooms of my youth. And that opening horizon dimmed even as the world of endless possibilities closed about my bleary eyes into a focus of movement about the deck of a ship of which I was not accustomed, as in fact I could not have been, for beside one short and terrifying voyage from Tunisia to Sicily three years hence I was but a stranger to the shifting seas beneath my stomach. Thus did I awake into the first of many uncertain realms.
Ragged black shoes with dull brass buckles approached my face, and with them legs covered in strangely colored stockings. I had little time to consider the rarity of this combination, for in that moment their owner grabbed me with knotted hands by the lapels of my jacket – ah, why was I wearing a jacket! – and hauled me to my feet. The purpose of this seaward voyager was made evident immanently by what I discovered lacking in the brutish grimace of the grimy sailor’s face. And here was breath that I hardly found beaten by a dog’s.
“Cum wid’ me. The cap’n wants ter see ya.”
I guessed the extent of his vocabulary varied little more in breadth from his present choice of words, but in this transaction I was at a disadvantage, for though the modern man was ruled by mind, in the barbaric and untamed places of the world, might was yet the ultimate conqueror. As he dragged me aft into the door of the captain’s quarters, his own was illustrated by a tattoo of an anchor upon one great bicep. I did not hesitate to maintain reticence, nor follow him swiftly up to the captain who appeared nearly as seedy as my perception of the remainder of his crew. He stood from behind his salt-encrusted chair, slammed a filthy and broken-edged dagger through the map before him on the worn table of wood, and swept around it to confront my own face with his. Nor, did I discover rapidly, did his breath improve my impression of his seaborne charge.
“Yaaar, be dis tha scum that dropped from the heavens onto our deck?”
The sailor’s nods were fierce in its support of his captain’s claim.
“And be dis tha cause of our troubles of late?”
Beside and behind my peripherals, the hairs of my neck, covered as they were by the lapels of this strange coat, were affected by the same swishing of air, signifying the dumb sailor’s assent.
“Den we know what to do wid im’, eh? Trow ‘im overboard!”
With this pronouncement of my fate, rapid in conclusion though it was, I found myself back upon the deck, and now in the thick of crowds which before in the blurriness of my vision were but legs and arms crawling about the ropes of the ship. They chanted in their methods of crudity and barbarism their praise of superstitious phantoms for relenting in harassment upon their sorry souls. I found myself chanting in silence that those phantoms would return and continue their good work.
Just then, whether by force of fortune or the wordless workings of belief in superstition, the sun was blotted from the sky. There was a cry of terrible distress from the open mouths of the sailors on the deck. We all turned to stare at the blankness where before shone the life-giving rays of our solar star, they with dread, and myself with quiet curiosity. You see, I was a man of science, as they are called, and knew the solar workings of the orbits of the planets, their ecliptic planes and Lagrange points, the exact tilt of the Earth, its axial rotation, and its orbital period – the source of our days and seasons. In this study I found solace. It was among the dust and ink of equations and theories printed in the books of academia that the human mind found its highest magnification, the consideration of logic and mathematical formulae to dissect like a laboratory cadaver the unseen depths of Nature, and the key to Her citadel within which only the wise and most learned might tread. All else was rubbish to my fascination: poetry, artistic expression, music, and that fictitious prose of fantasizing madmen were wasted hours in search of meager existence. So when my gaze assessed the spinning round object covering our immediate observation of the sun, I knew it not to be some mundane deity from the mythos of mankind, but rather a natural occurrence, though admittedly of extreme oddity.
The sailors scattered on the deck, and I was left alone, shifting on the deck of an undirected vessel lifted by the suddenly swelling ocean, and upon no horizon lay the intimations of land. The spinning circular apparition drew nearer, and its shadow I now discerned was cast over a greater surface area of the sea, where before it had been localized about the confines of the ship. The interval of time in which my dilating eyes adjusted to the sudden differential in light was all that was necessary for the object to come to rest parallel to the port side of the ship, so swift was its approach. And its size! It was behemoth, this object, many lengths of the ship in diameter, the peak of its circular arc stories above the mast of the ship, and it floated without affectation by the winds or seeping waves against its faultless and impassable gray surface. I watched with the speechless awe of a child. My mind was incapable of comprehending such wonders, too small to encompass so large a reality, as I then learned, though learned I had considered myself in the presence of those vanished fools!
Slowly, I perceived in the center of this colossal disc upon whose side I gaped open-mouthed, a minute fracture in its flawless face. This fracture spread around the axial point of the disc, forming a perfect circle concentric with its edge. Then, a web of similar fractures fragmented the now-separated disc, and this slid away from the center in manner foreign to any design I could apprehend. From the opening formed by this withdrawal issued an illumination whose intensity could scarcely match the star whose light it intruded upon, though excruciating it was to behold, and certainly defied the jolly yellow which it exuded, for its color was the essence of Sirius or Rigel B. There, framed in the circular light, a shadow, a silhouette, a nightmare! It was not human! It moved as though alive, yet there existed no creature which roamed the surface of God’s Earth, nor preyed in its deeps, which could compare to this otherworldly daemon. It could not be real! It was chimera, apparition, phantasm! What thin attachment I decided to be an arm moved in my direction, and though perhaps a hundred yards away from me across the heaving waves, I saw its eyes!
I sobbed. I could not move. Stricken by the suddenly increasing intensity, I was paralyzed in every limb, and could only weep into my hands as I felt the force of gravity loose its grip upon my frame. Then I was flying. I saw between the frozen gaps in my fingers the waters beneath me, and knew I had left the ship. The sensation that embraced me was beyond the likenings of any invention of man; if the unseen forces of nature could feel, if heat and energy could be given form and being, and if they could move upon a man of their own volition and lift him from one island to another without his feet brushing the surly dust of Earth, then might one define what was my present and actual reality. For that was what it was, and could not be expressed otherwise, even if I could, though I will do my best to describe it and what follows in the ensuing chapters of my recollection. I am a man of science, no matter what anyone else will tell you. I am not a madman, as the papers might suggest, and for this reason have attempted to pen my experiences in accordance with the truth of their events, for if these words and events are not spelled out in their entirety, then I am certain every inhabitant of Earth will be soon be doomed to utter annihilation.