William Shuler Harris.

Life in a Thousand Worlds online

. (page 9 of 13)
Online LibraryWilliam Shuler HarrisLife in a Thousand Worlds → online text (page 9 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Line, a wonderful system perfected through thousands of years of
painstaking labor.

Two immense tubes, lying side by side, each ten feet in diameter, made
of a substance more durable than steel, form the road bed of this
lightning system of travel. The cigar-shaped cars have hard
rubber-wheels and fit over raised bars all around on the inside of the
immense Tube.

The motor power is called Sky-rallic, and is communicated throughout the
whole Tube Line by Brosis, a porous metal running in thin narrow bands.

This Tube Line runs without a curve from one division of the road to
another, except in rare cases where a bend is absolutely necessary. In a
mountainous region I noticed a stretch of Tube Line without a bend
running sixty miles, according to our measurement. On prairies, the
unbroken stretches are much longer.

The cars in this Tube Line travel with fearful rapidity. It requires two
or three miles to reach dashing speed, after which a run of fifty miles
is made in eight or ten minutes. No precaution need be taken by the
motorman as nothing can get into the tube and only one train is allowed
in a section at one time. Certain hours are given to passenger traffic
and others to freight traffic. An immense amount of freight can thus be
carried in one hour. It is possible to send a through freight car two
thousand miles in ten or twelve hours. Express cars are never connected
with passengers cars. They are run on their own schedule and sometimes
attached to freight cars.

This immense Tube Line was built by the government at great expense, but
it is proving very satisfactory. No storms or floods interfere. No
grade-crossings and no flying dust are known in this Tube Line which has
brought the ends of Ploid together. Think of a person crossing a vast
continent in a day, for the cars in this Tube Line run with frightful
speed across the long stretches of level. They make as high as a
three-hundred mile run in forty minutes, without stopping.

The signal and telegraph stations are fifty miles apart, sometimes more.
In these long runs the motorman stops only when a signal is turned
against him or if by accident he discerns a train in the Tube ahead of

The Tube Line is lighted by oval transparencies, in size and shape
resembling an egg, soldered in specially prepared holes of the Tube.
The cars are not supplied with air from the tube. Fresh air is obtained
from the evaporation of a semi-solid.

On the top of this Tube Line there is a double railroad used for local
travel, both passenger and freight.


Compared with our world, the fuel of Ploid is very scarce, but less is
required to supply the industries. Nearly all power is obtained from the
winds, running water and the sun's energy.

The winds are harnessed so that they blow not in vain. Almost every home
of ordinary intelligence owns one of the many kinds of storage batteries
used in this world. These batteries are usually located beneath the
lowest floor of the house, and they constitute the reservoir whence is
obtained the necessary power for lighting, heating and cooling the
apartments of the home.

People who live along streams of water utilize these streams for similar
purposes. It is now conceded in Ploid that the storage batteries of the
home can be supplied as economically and effectively by winds and the
sun's heat as by running streams; hence it is a common sight to see
residences throwing out the old water machinery and introducing the
latest design of wind-employers or sun-harnessers.

There are certain emergencies when the storage batteries fail to work or
when the power is exhausted; this happens when there is a very slight
wind for several days or a heavy drain of power. In such cases fuel is
used for heating and lighting.


The palaces of Ploid are dreams of beauty and convenience, outshining
and surpassing by far the finest mansions on the face of our globe. In
these abodes the sum total of glory and convenience converges, flowing
from almost numberless discoveries during the last one hundred years. In
round numbers, there have been five hundred thousand patents issued in
the United States in the nineteenth century, but the Ploidites excel us
by double that number for a similar territorial limit.


Patents are not issued in Ploid. The government gives liberal rewards to
each inventor or discoverer. The applicant appears personally before the
District Committee on Inventions. If this Committee considers the
invention worthy of a reward, the applicant is recommended to one of the
Central Committees at the seat of the government.

This Central Committee carefully considers the invention or discovery,
places on it an estimate as to its local or governmental value, and
fills out papers in accordance with its findings. This paper must be
signed by the Chief Inventor, and the applicant at once receives his
first installment which is continued, in some instances, during natural
life. In the case of some extraordinary invention, the immediate
relatives of the inventor are pensioned for five or ten years in his

Naturally, under this system, the government owns all inventions, and
reaps a heavy return from them, enough to pay all the installments to
the inventors and the officers employed to carry on this branch of the
government work.


One of the most convenient inventions I saw on this planet of Ploid was
the carrying of a photograph or image along a wire. The people of Ploid
cannot only talk to one another many miles apart, but they can also see
each other while they are talking.

This wonderful attachment to their telephones, by which the human face
is also carried over the wire, was perfected over one thousand years
ago. I herewith give a few uses to which this invention is applied.

1. Office men have photograph wires connected with their homes, and they
can thus talk to and see any one of the family at their pleasure.

2. It can be so arranged that the wife in the home can, by touching a
little knob, see into her husband's office with which the wire is
connected, or the husband in the office can see into the room of the
house with which the connection is made. At either end of the wire, the
vision can be obstructed by drawing a curtain over the sensitive plate.

3. The foreman of an industrial work shop can see from his home the men
under his charge.

4. The superintendent of any large works can, at his will, peer into any
apartment he wishes from his head office. The advantages of this
arrangement can be easily seen.

5. A minister can see from his study the nature of his audience before
he leaves home.

6. Farmers can watch their cattle and their fruits without leaving the
house or barn, according to where the connections are made.

7. Persons can be in bed at night, and if they imagine they hear a
robber in any room they can first turn on the photograph current and
then the light flash. In this way one can look, without leaving his bed,
into each room of the house.

Having given a few illustrations of this marvelous invention, the reader
can readily see the variety of uses which it will serve.

Their latest discovery in light is a decided improvement over our
electric light. I know of no sensible name to give it, but the name that
comes nearest to describing it, according to our terms, would be
Phosphorous Light. It gives a mild but yet positive radiance, and
closely resembles diffused sunlight.


One of the strangest theories of the whole universe I found on this
cultured world of Ploid. They divide time into three general periods of

1. Age of Fire.

2. Temperate Age.

3. Age of Ice.

The people teach that there was a race of human beings who inhabited
their world when it was yet in a molten state and that, as their earth
cooled off, the race became extinct.

This age, they claim, was followed by the Temperate Age, or the age in
which they are now living.

It is also claimed that, when their earth cools and the frigid blasts
freeze out the world, there will gradually commence the Age of Ice, or
the age in which human species will exist by reason of the earth's stiff

I had no way of learning the truth or falsity of this theory.


These Ploidites have distanced us in the study of the nervous system,
including the intricate problems of the cerebrum and cerebellum. They
have ascertained, by long ages of observation and experimenting, the
exact effect of every kind of impulse on the brain matter. The experts
are able to tell, at a post-mortem examination, what kinds of thinking
were most prevalent during the subject's life, just as easily as we can
judge the great or little use of the arm by an examination of its

But more wonderful, a thousand fold, is their ability to follow the
course of thought in a living cerebrum after the brain has been made
visible by a light more potent than the X ray. After this exposure the
operator, with his wizard magnifying lens, watches the tiny tremulous
brain cells in their infinitesimal quivering, as they carry messages
from the soul to the world of sense and being.

The voluntary nerve action is distinguished from the involuntary, and
there is no escape from the conclusions formed by an expert observer.
The parts of the brain at work must of necessity determine the nature of
the thought, and amplified experiments have been made to prove the
correctness of these processes.

This scientific mind reading impressed me as the highest expression of
inventive skill that had come to my attention in any world of space, and
gave me new light on some of the old mysteries of mind and matter.

I tarried as long as possible on this instructive planet and have not
yet forgotten many of the valuable hints of inventions that can be
reproduced in my own world. Surely we are far enough away from Ploid to
escape any charge of infringement, should we proceed to patent some of
their inventions.


A Singular Planet.

I visited the other seventy worlds that revolve around Sirius. Among
them is one of note, called Zik, which is forty-two hundred millions of
miles from its sun, and is slightly smaller than our world. It is
inhabited by a race of pigmies which I will call Zikites. Wonderful
indeed is the intelligence of these creatures, although their form is
out of symmetry according to our standards. I will therefore avoid a
description of their physical features, lest it might mar the picture of
their accomplishments.

The air of Zik is heavy and the sky is opal in its effects. The chemists
have thus far found in nature ninety elementary substances, and it is
partly due to this large variety that the Zikites have surpassed their
fellow men in thousands of worlds.

As you study the past events of this unusual planet, you are reminded
of our own history. On Zik there are heathen tribes and all grades of
conflicting civilized nations.

War has reddened this distant world for several thousand years, and as
yet there is no peace. Notwithstanding all this unceasing upheaval, the
tide of human progress has steadily risen. It does appear that the
highest light of intellect is generated like electric light through
sharp friction.

The Zikites have had their Men of War, vessels of mighty strength and
death-dealing in their action. But all such defense has been abandoned
over five hundred years ago, and it came about in a natural manner. One
of the many illustrious inventors perfected the submarine boat and the
flying-machine at about the same time. Their flying-machine might
appropriately be called in our language, the Flying Devil, for such it
is if you consider its destroying power. One of these ominous looking
machines is capable of destroying a whole navy as fast as it can move
high in the air from one vessel to another.

It can also tear to pieces an enemy's camp that lies in the open field.
All this is accomplished by dropping shells composed partly of some
elements not found in our world. These shells are made in such a way
that they explode as soon as they touch any substance, and the
concussion is much more terrible than is caused by our most powerful
explosives. Because no ship could hold together under such destructive
shells, the nations abandoned their navies and devoted their energy to
devising a safe camp for soldiers and to building these air-vessels with
additional improvements.

It was found that the only way to protect a camp was to cover it with a
water proof shed, so constructed that nine or ten inches of water would
remain on the roof. Then a wide shallow trench was dug around the shed
and kept filled with water. These shells will not explode if they fall
in that depth of water, but will explode in water of greater depth. You
can see at a glance how difficult it is to manage an army under these
circumstances. The only redeeming feature is that the enemy also is
compelled to resort to the same protection. An international law
forbids the destruction of homes in times of war.

[Illustration: The Battle of the "Flying Devils."]

Wars are of short duration. Usually the decisive conflict is fought in
the air, and is the most terrible of them all. Imagine two of these
Flying Devils approaching one another far above the surface of Zik. Each
vessel is set in action long before it is in range of the other in the
hope of firing the first effective shot. Each party of the conflict
knows that the air vessel first struck will be at an end forever, for it
will be blown to pieces and every life on board will be shattered into
shapeless masses, while the wreckage falls amidst the burning of the
combustibles. What a horrible ending of a short battle!

The wisest of the Zikites have proposed many plans to settle
international differences but, like us, they have failed to suggest any
plan that has proved to be practicable.

The largest nation of Zik has advanced far ahead of us on the labor
question, but this was not reached until the contest between capital and
labor had left its blood-marks through many centuries.

A brief description of the manner in which the industrial problem was
solved will not be out of place. I will waste no words n showing the
many points of difference between our customs and those of Zik.

After hundreds of years of painful struggling, the many laborers of this
largest nation completed a solid organization and thereby gained control
of the whole government. Then, in their zeal to legislate in favor of
the laboring classes, the ruling element stepped to the other extreme by
passing many unreasonable laws. Things passed along in this unsettled
condition until a certain few of the labor leaders, having become
wealthy themselves, yielded to a heavy bribe and amended the laws so as
to favor the wealthy minority. The magnates of capital shrewdly took
advantage of this traitorship and, in the following campaign, won the
national election.

The wealthy, now having the reins of power in their own hands, took the
initiative and called for a consultation between the heads of the
government and the chief leaders of labor.

This proved to be a wise political move and, as a result, a new system
of laws relating to all trades and occupations was enacted. The
following conditions still prevail:

1. A day's work consists of one-fourth less hours.

2. A minimum scale of wages is adopted for each trade. This scale is
based upon the price of certain staple articles, and within a certain
limit it rises or falls with the price of these necessities.

3. All regular citizens must be supplied with work if they desire it. If
they cannot get employment from some firm or corporation, the government
officials represented locally must supply it or its equivalent in money.
The government controls enough of the business to employ two-thirds of
the male population. This enables the government to take so great a
responsibility and bear it with satisfactory results.

4. Any man through negligence failing to support his family is put to
the government penitentiary service, and his family is thereafter
supported from the public treasury.

5. A widow or orphan is cared for by regular authorities. The by-laws
of this fifth article regulate the work of women.

6. No credit is allowed except on a government credit-slip signed by the
local representative of the state. If the bill is not paid by the one
making the debt, the amount of which is always stipulated, the
government will pay it and proceed to collect it in one of three ways.
The last resort is according to article four.

There are several other sections governing private ownership of
property, land and business. These new laws have had a very good effect.
The number of persons getting immensely wealthy gradually decreased, and
the average wealth of the laborers increased. The government has the
power at any time to form a trust or combination of any line of business
by paying liberally to those already engaged in it. This assists the
government in carrying its heavy financial burdens, and every family is
assured of support if the soil produces enough to feed the people.

And now if I knew how to describe elements that have no resemblance to
anything in our world, I would proceed to tell a story of interest to
chemists. These Zikites have formed gases and solids unknown to us, and
naturally they are capable of performing experiments more wonderful than
anything ever known in our world. When I saw their wizard-like
performances I thought that the marvelous feats of the Orient were being
performed on a scale more mysterious and magnificent.

To see a man play with red hot irons and dance in a seething furnace,
makes one believe that his eyes are deceiving him.

I saw a man draw the birds from heaven and dormant reptiles from the
soil, but ask me not to tell how. A few of these Zikites have discovered
some wonderful secrets of nature and will not disclose them except to
certain ones of their own lineage. One of these secrets is the art of
embalming the dead so perfectly that human features are retained forever
unless destroyed by fire or human effort. The embalming fluid contains
some of the elements not found in our world, but this is not the total
secret. The body must lie in an air-tight receptacle into which a
secret gas is pumped. The dead body, lying in this receptacle for two
hours, absorbs certain parts of the gas which enters the pores and
touches those parts of the dead body not reached by the injected fluid.
By this process no part of the body is subject to putrefaction and the
muscles all retain their rigidity, so that one hundred years after
burial the features are full, although discolored.

Not many of the common people are thus embalmed. But the bodies of
prominent men and women are thus treated at government expense and
unborn generations can look upon the full contour of their faces.

Another secret held by these experts is the art of maintaining youthful
vigor in old age. This is a very expensive method and the government
prohibits any one securing this treatment who has not won special honor
in one or another particular channel. One of the highest distinctions
bestowed upon any citizen of Zik is to grant him the "Angel's Honor,"
which entitles him to receive the Vigor Treatment during the balance of
his natural life. This one thing, more than any other, is the secret of
Zik having so long a list of illustrious characters. It is the ambition
of each boy or girl to make progress and some day win the "Angel's

The religious life of these Zikites is unusually intense. Their language
is much more cumbersome than ours. They have a small book which contains
a list of great truths whose authors claim to have been influenced by
the All-Powerful, or the same as our God. This book has had a remarkable
history, and has moulded the life and character of millions. Every
person is left to his own notions in religion, and we see here the same
picture that confronts us on our own planet, the very good and the very
bad in the same house and neighborhood. They build but few churches, but
here and there a home of a believer is the center of a worshiping
company. On special occasions the worshipers rent or secure large public
buildings and have an enthusiastic time.

At many places their Bible speaks of a place where the departed go after
death, beyond the Zik life. These worshipers are linked to their God by
the same kind of love-chords that bind Christians to their Master in
our world.

You cannot imagine my interest and my joy as I learned that the Zikites
are looking forward to a period of time corresponding to our Millennium.
Their religious literature is full of references to this coming golden
age, and many poetical compositions point to it with rapturous melody of


The Diamond World.

When one reads of the size and population of our world he is thrilled
with the idea of its greatness. But when he travels over land and sea,
visiting the many points of interest, he is impressed four-fold with the
magnitude of the Earth and the vast numbers that populate it.

It is infinitely more so in regard to the many suns and planets that
compose the universe. I had read of the distances of space and of the
number of celestial bodies that are scattered throughout these
measureless expanses, and I was profoundly impressed with the vastness
of created things and the eternal revolutions of the countless spheres.
But when I took my continued flight away from the solar system of Sirius
and was privileged to get a passing glimpse of many other solar systems,
I was overawed a thousand-fold at the myriad motions of the myriad
worlds, each serving its little part through the passing cycles to
carry out the plan of the Infinite Mind.

My next pause was at the glorious constellation of Orion on the star
Rigel. This brilliant orb is not inhabited, but more than one-half of
the worlds revolving around it sustain human life.

After I had taken a passing glimpse of a few worlds belonging to this
system, I proceeded to visit another world that revolves around Rigel at
a distance of sixteen hundred million miles. It is a trifle larger than
our world and is inhabited by only about one-tenth as many people.

This is the brightest planet I had ever seen, for it dazzled and
sparkled like pearls of ice in the sun, and yet it gave forth no light
of its own.

I soon learned the secret of all this scintillation. I had come to a
world that seemed to be covered with diamonds and precious stones. The
mountains were barren of all vegetation and glistened with all the glory
of a hundred rainbows.

I presumed that I had come to immense beds of quartz, but the rare
brilliancy of the whole scene set me to work to ascertain the value of
these stones. To my astonishment, I found that the shining mountains and
valleys were filled with genuine diamonds and precious stones, some of
which are very rare according to our classification. I was dazed at the
sight, first because of its brilliancy and beauty, and next because of
the fabulous fortunes that were lying at my feet.

Then I transported myself to another part of the planet that I might get
a view of its living fields of vegetation. Alas, I again met the shining
of countless gems, set by nature in ledges of rock and massed in
confused heaps all around me.

"What a rich world!" I inwardly murmured. "How can people live on

As I was thus musing I sped onward to one of the soil centers of this
world. Here I found a small city built of diamonds and choice stones of
which the people thought no more than we do of the stones brought down
from our quarries.

The soil was almost worshiped. Only the wealthiest could afford to have
it in their homes for the growth of flowers. Fortunately, the soil is
very productive and, by reason of its scarcity, it has received such
careful attention that all worthless weeds have been actually choked out
several thousand years ago.

Thus, the soil being so desirable and staple an article, it was eagerly
sought after by all who lived on this shining world. Yea, some
sacrificed their all that they might obtain a goodly portion of the
soil. This desire was so great that it became the ruling passion of many
people to accumulate soil all the days of their life, and many died of
grief because they could not succeed in satisfying their ambitions.

Now when the speculators saw that the soil was so indispensable and much

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13

Online LibraryWilliam Shuler HarrisLife in a Thousand Worlds → online text (page 9 of 13)