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The Glowing Webs

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"I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling. And this time I was not seated properly in the saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion. For an indefinite time I clung to the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite unheeding how I went, and when I brought myself to look at the dials again I was amazed to find where I had arrived. One dial records days, another thousands of days, another millions of days, and another thousands of millions. Now, instead of reversing the levers I had pulled them over so as to go forward with them, and when I came to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hand was sweeping round as fast as the seconds hand of a watch--into futurity. Very cautiously, for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to reverse my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until the thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the grey haze around me became distincter and dim outlines of a growing spiders-web of lines grew visible.

"Fearing that I might be cocooned in such a construction, unable to emerge into the air and light, I hastened my return to the normal passage of time. I fell a short distance, but fortunately the weblike substance was rather elastic and caught my device in an admirably soft and delicate fashion, allowing me to take in the full strangeness of my surroundings. For there was no obvious sign of ground, neither were the comforting rays of the sun or the sparkling coldness of the stars visible from my position. The steady white light which illuminated the place in which I had found myself was sourced from these long threads of what I can only describe as a kind of luminescent, vastly oversized spider's silk, threading through and over each other in a vast lattice, the edge of which was thoroughly obscured from me by its structure.

"There was little movement in these great cables, but just a little, caused perhaps by the gentle and cool breeze which flowed through the structure. The air was warm, but not uncomfortably so, and had a distinct flatness to it. There were none of the smells of nature that I associated with the place I had just come from, nor the smell of industry, nor the smell of decay. Not even the cleanness of the sea air was felt in the substance which I was breathing, but rather a total emptiness of scent which I had not previously encountered in any place, and which soon began to make the scents of machinery from that upon which I was riding, and the everyday scents of a person from myself, seem overwhelming in their presence and complexity.

"For all the lack of smell, the place was not silent. The wind through the cables produced a low note, constantly changing as the structure had its way with the delicate breeze. As I listened, however, I became convinced that there was something more to the subtle music of the air. I had long since seated myself correctly on the saddle, for comfort and security, and did not dare venture out along one of these fascinating cables, nor disturb them overmuch, lest they release me into the vast chasm which I imagined was found below, having no sight of ground besides the concentration of these cables until I could not see further. To the touch, the cable was smooth and strong, and warm in a surprisingly organic fashion. It vibrated constantly, as if transmitting some wave from end to end. It was as I had that thought that I heard the voices.

"They were not in any language I understood, although I would have been more surprised had they spoken a tongue I could recognise, so far into the future as I had travelled. The sing-song tonality put me in mind of the Oriental languages, with which I would scarcely call myself familiar at any rate, but distinct from any I have heard before or since. There was a questioning note to them, and when I gave no answer, a querrulous tone, perhaps two voices arguing with one another. At this point I felt compelled to speak some word, even though it was a vain hope that a word of our language might mean something to such creatures who had not even shown themselves yet, so I greeted them simply. The noise which I made appeared to excite the voices greatly, and when their jabberings had died down again I began to relate to them a portion of my story, not that I believed it would impart any knowledge of its contents, but perhaps they would be interested in further samples of the language.

"After some time, the tones became more muted, and I sensed that they had heard quite enough from their strange intruder for the moment. A hushed conversation occurred which I am not entirely certain I was meant to be overhearing, although naturally I had no understanding of their manner of speech and so little but urgency and secrecy were conveyed. It was at that point the gentle humming of the cables, which I had all but tuned out in my attempt to communicate with the voices, began to grow in volume and intensity. The vibrations and warmth eminating from the cables began to increase, and as I looked down to the cable on which the Time Machine itself was resting, I fancied I could see it move in a most agitated fashion.

"Reaching down a hand, I established that the heat eminating from the cable was already quite intense, and declined to touch the angrily vibrating surface. The voices had faded entirely, and it seemed that I was no longer welcome among these people, wherever they were hiding. Regretfully, as the inhabitants of this time seemed more advanced than any I had hitherto come across, I decided that dallying further in this place would pose an unacceptable risk to the Time Machine and to my person, and reached for the levers, intending at first to skip forwards just a little. As I reached the lever and time accelerated just a fraction, the heat and noise suddenly became almost unbearable, and I jammed the lever forwards again with rather unseemly haste, wishing to trap the current conditions around myself rather than to let in whatever hostile mechanism had been activated by the social error I had undoubtedly made in my speechifying. I resolved to run on for one glimpse of the still remoter future--one peep into the deeper abysm of time--and then to return to you and my own epoch. Gradually the redness outside faded, and once more the world grew hazy and grey.