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´╗┐Title: The Day Time Stopped Moving
Author: Buckner, Bradner
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Day Time Stopped Moving" ***

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 THE DAY
 TIME
 STOPPED
 MOVING

 By BRADNER BUCKNER


    _All Dave Miller wanted to do was commit suicide in peace. He tried,
    but the things that happened after he'd pulled the trigger were all
    wrong. Like everyone standing around like statues. No St. Peter, no
    pearly gate, no pitchforks or halos. He might just as well have
    saved the bullet!_


Dave Miller would never have done it, had he been in his right mind. The
Millers were not a melancholy stock, hardly the sort of people you
expect to read about in the morning paper who have taken their lives the
night before. But Dave Miller was drunk--abominably, roaringly so--and
the barrel of the big revolver, as he stood against the sink, made a
ring of coldness against his right temple.

Dawn was beginning to stain the frosty kitchen windows. In the faint
light, the letter lay a gray square against the drain-board tiles. With
the melodramatic gesture of the very drunk, Miller had scrawled across
the envelope:

"This is why I did it!"

[Illustration: Dave Miller pushed with all his strength, but the girl
was as unmovable as Gibraltar.]

He had found Helen's letter in the envelope when he staggered into their
bedroom fifteen minutes ago--at a quarter after five. As had frequently
happened during the past year, he'd come home from the store a little
late ... about twelve hours late, in fact. And this time Helen had done
what she had long threatened to do. She had left him.

The letter was brief, containing a world of heartbreak and broken hopes.

"I don't mind having to scrimp, Dave. No woman minds that if she feels
she is really helping her husband over a rough spot. When business went
bad a year ago, I told you I was ready to help in any way I could. But
you haven't let me. You quit fighting when things got difficult, and put
in all your money and energy on liquor and horses and cards. I could
stand being married to a drunkard, Dave, but not to a coward ..."

So she was trying to show him. But Miller told himself he'd show her
instead. Coward, eh? Maybe this would teach her a lesson! Hell of a lot
of help she'd been! Nag at him every time he took a drink. Holler bloody
murder when he put twenty-five bucks on a horse, with a chance to make
five hundred. What man wouldn't do those things?

His drug store was on the skids. Could he be blamed for drinking a
little too much, if alcohol dissolved the morbid vapors of his mind?

Miller stiffened angrily, and tightened his finger on the trigger. But
he had one moment of frank insight just before the hammer dropped and
brought the world tumbling about his ears. It brought with it a
realization that the whole thing was his fault. Helen was right--he was
a coward. There was a poignant ache in his heart. She'd been as loyal as
they came, he knew that.

He could have spent his nights thinking up new business tricks, instead
of swilling whiskey. Could have gone out of his way to be pleasant to
customers, not snap at them when he had a terrific hangover. And even
Miller knew nobody ever made any money on the horses--at least, not when
he needed it. But horses and whiskey and business had become tragically
confused in his mind; so here he was, full of liquor and madness, with a
gun to his head.

Then again anger swept his mind clean of reason, and he threw his chin
up and gripped the gun tight.

"Run out on me, will she!" he muttered thickly. "Well--this'll show
her!"

In the next moment the hammer fell ... and Dave Miller had "shown her."

Miller opened his eyes with a start. As plain as black on white, he'd
heard a bell ring--the most familiar sound in the world, too. It was the
unmistakable tinkle of his cash register.

"Now, how in hell--" The thought began in his mind; and then he saw
where he was.

The cash register was right in front of him! It was open, and on the
marble slab lay a customer's five-spot. Miller's glance strayed up and
around him.

He was behind the drug counter, all right. There were a man and a girl
sipping cokes at the fountain, to his right; the magazine racks by the
open door; the tobacco counter across from the fountain. And right
before him was a customer.

Good Lord! he thought. Was all this a--a dream?

Sweat oozed out on his clammy forehead. That stuff of Herman's that he
had drunk during the game--it had had a rank taste, but he wouldn't have
thought anything short of marihuana could produce such hallucinations as
he had just had. Wild conjectures came boiling up from the bottom of
Miller's being.

How did he get behind the counter? Who was the woman he was waiting on?
What--

The woman's curious stare was what jarred him completely into the
present. Get rid of her! was his one thought. Then sit down behind the
scenes and try to figure it all out.

His hand poised over the cash drawer. Then he remembered he didn't know
how much he was to take out of the five. Avoiding the woman's glance, he
muttered:

"Let's see, now, that was--uh--how much did I say?"

The woman made no answer. Miller cleared his throat, said uncertainly:

"I beg your pardon, ma'am--did I say--seventy-five cents?"

It was just a feeler, but the woman didn't even answer to that. And it
was right then that Dave Miller noticed the deep silence that brooded in
the store.

Slowly his head came up and he looked straight into the woman's eyes.
She returned him a cool, half-smiling glance. But her eyes neither
blinked nor moved. Her features were frozen. Lips parted, teeth showing
a little, the tip of her tongue was between her even white teeth as
though she had started to say "this" and stopped with the syllable
unspoken.

Muscles began to rise behind Miller's ears. He could feel his hair
stiffen like filings drawn to a magnet. His glance struggled to the soda
fountain. What he saw there shook him to the core of his being.

The girl who was drinking a coke had the glass to her lips, but
apparently she wasn't sipping the liquid. Her boy friend's glass was on
the counter. He had drawn on a cigarette and exhaled the gray smoke.
That smoke hung in the air like a large, elongated balloon with the
small end disappearing between his lips. While Miller stared, the smoke
did not stir in the slightest.

There was something unholy, something supernatural, about this scene!

With apprehension rippling down his spine, Dave Miller reached across
the cash register and touched the woman on the cheek. The flesh was
warm, but as hard as flint. Tentatively, the young druggist pushed
harder; finally, shoved with all his might. For all the result, the
woman might have been a two-ton bronze statue. She neither budged nor
changed expression.

Panic seized Miller. His voice hit a high hysterical tenor as he called
to his soda-jerker.

"Pete! _Pete!_" he shouted. "What in God's name is wrong here!"

The blond youngster, with a towel wadded in a glass, did not stir.
Miller rushed from the back of the store, seized the boy by the
shoulders, tried to shake him. But Pete was rooted to the spot.

Miller knew, now, that what was wrong was something greater than a
hallucination or a hangover. He was in some kind of trap. His first
thought was to rush home and see if Helen was there. There was a great
sense of relief when he thought of her. Helen, with her grave blue eyes
and understanding manner, would listen to him and know what was the
matter.

       *       *       *       *       *

He left the haunted drug store at a run, darted around the corner and up
the street to his car. But, though he had not locked the car, the door
resisted his twisting grasp. Shaking, pounding, swearing, Miller
wrestled with each of the doors.

Abruptly he stiffened, as a horrible thought leaped into his being. His
gaze left the car and wandered up the street. Past the intersection,
past the one beyond that, on up the thoroughfare until the gray haze of
the city dimmed everything. And as far as Dave Miller could see, there
was no trace of motion.

Cars were poised in the street, some passing other machines, some
turning corners. A street car stood at a safety zone; a man who had
leaped from the bottom step hung in space a foot above the pavement.
Pedestrians paused with one foot up. A bird hovered above a telephone
pole, its wings glued to the blue vault of the sky.

With a choked sound, Miller began to run. He did not slacken his pace
for fifteen minutes, until around him were the familiar, reassuring
trees and shrub-bordered houses of his own street. But yet how strange
to him!

The season was autumn, and the air filled with brown and golden leaves
that tossed on a frozen wind. Miller ran by two boys lying on a lawn,
petrified into a modern counterpart of the sculptor's "The Wrestlers."
The sweetish tang of burning leaves brought a thrill of terror to him;
for, looking down an alley from whence the smoke drifted, he saw a man
tending a fire whose leaping flames were red tongues that did not move.

Sobbing with relief, the young druggist darted up his own walk. He tried
the front door, found it locked, and jammed a thumb against the
doorbell. But of course the little metal button was as immovable as a
mountain. So in the end, after convincing himself that the key could not
be inserted into the lock, he sprang toward the back.

The screen door was not latched, but it might as well have been the
steel door of a bank vault. Miller began to pound on it, shouting:

"Helen! Helen, are you in there? My God, dear, there's something wrong!
You've got to--"

The silence that flowed in again when his voice choked off was the dead
stillness of the tomb. He could hear his voice rustling through the
empty rooms, and at last it came back to him like a taunt: "_Helen!
Helen!_"



CHAPTER II

_Time Stands Still_


For Dave Miller, the world was now a planet of death on which he alone
lived and moved and spoke. Staggered, utterly beaten, he made no attempt
to break into his home. But he did stumble around to the kitchen window
and try to peer in, anxious to see if there was a body on the floor. The
room was in semi-darkness, however, and his straining eyes made out
nothing.

He returned to the front of the house, shambling like a somnambulist.
Seated on the porch steps, head in hands, he slipped into a hell of
regrets. He knew now that his suicide had been no hallucination. He was
dead, all right; and this must be hell or purgatory.

Bitterly he cursed his drinking, that had led him to such a mad thing as
suicide. Suicide! He--Dave Miller--a coward who had taken his own life!
Miller's whole being crawled with revulsion. If he just had the last
year to live over again, he thought fervently.

And yet, through it all, some inner strain kept trying to tell him he
was not dead. This was his own world, all right, and essentially
unchanged. What had happened to it was beyond the pale of mere
guesswork. But this one thing began to be clear: This was a world in
which change or motion of any kind was a foreigner.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fire would not burn and smoke did not rise. Doors would not open,
liquids were solid. Miller's stubbing toe could not move a pebble, and a
blade of grass easily supported his weight without bending. In other
words, Miller began to understand, change had been stopped as surely as
if a master hand had put a finger on the world's balance wheel.

Miller's ramblings were terminated by the consciousness that he had an
acute headache. His mouth tasted, as Herman used to say after a big
night, as if an army had camped in it. Coffee and a bromo were what he
needed.

But it was a great awakening to him when he found a restaurant and
learned that he could neither drink the coffee nor get the lid off the
bromo bottle. Fragrant coffee-steam hung over the glass percolator, but
even this steam was as a brick wall to his probing touch. Miller started
gloomily to thread his way through the waiters in back of the counter
again.

Moments later he stood in the street and there were tears swimming in
his eyes.

"Helen!" His voice was a pleading whisper. "Helen, honey, where are
you?"

There was no answer but the pitiful palpitation of utter silence. And
then, there was movement at Dave Miller's right!

Something shot from between the parked cars and crashed against him;
something brown and hairy and soft. It knocked him down. Before he could
get his breath, a red, wet tongue was licking his face and hands, and he
was looking up into the face of a police dog!

Frantic with joy at seeing another in this city of death, the dog would
scarcely let Miller rise. It stood up to plant big paws on his shoulders
and try to lick his face. Miller laughed out loud, a laugh with a
throaty catch in it.

"Where'd you come from, boy?" he asked. "Won't they talk to you, either?
What's your name, boy?"

There was a heavy, brass-studded collar about the animal's neck, and
Dave Miller read on its little nameplate: "Major."

"Well, Major, at least we've got company now," was Miller's sigh of
relief.

For a long time he was too busy with the dog to bother about the sobbing
noises. Apparently the dog failed to hear them, for he gave no sign.
Miller scratched him behind the ear.

"What shall we do now, Major? Walk? Maybe your nose can smell out
another friend for us."

They had gone hardly two blocks when it came to him that there was a
more useful way of spending their time. The library! Half convinced that
the whole trouble stemmed from his suicide shot in the head--which was
conspicuously absent now--he decided that a perusal of the surgery books
in the public library might yield something he could use.

       *       *       *       *       *

That way they bent their steps, and were soon mounting the broad cement
stairs of the building. As they went beneath the brass turnstile, the
librarian caught Miller's attention with a smiling glance. He smiled
back.

"I'm trying to find something on brain surgery," he explained. "I--"

With a shock, then, he realized he had been talking to himself.

In the next instant, Dave Miller whirled. A voice from the bookcases
chuckled:

"If you find anything, I wish you'd let me know. I'm stumped myself!"

       *       *       *       *       *

From a corner of the room came an elderly, half-bald man with tangled
gray brows and a rueful smile. A pencil was balanced over his ear, and a
note-book was clutched in his hand.

"You, too!" he said. "I had hoped I was the only one--"

Miller went forward hurriedly to grip his hand.

"I'm afraid I'm not so unselfish," he admitted. "I've been hoping for
two hours that I'd run into some other poor soul."

"Quite understandable," the stranger murmured sympathetically. "But in
my case it is different. You see--I am responsible for this whole tragic
business!"

"You!" Dave Miller gulped the word. "I--I thought--"

The man wagged his head, staring at his note pad, which was littered
with jumbled calculations. Miller had a chance to study him. He was
tall, heavily built, with wide, sturdy shoulders despite his sixty
years. Oddly, he wore a gray-green smock. His eyes, narrowed and intent,
looked gimlet-sharp beneath those toothbrush brows of his, as he stared
at the pad.

"There's the trouble, right there," he muttered. "I provided only three
stages of amplification, whereas four would have been barely enough. No
wonder the phase didn't carry through!"

"I guess I don't follow you," Miller faltered. "You mean--something you
did--"

"I should think it was something I did!" The baldish stranger scratched
his head with the tip of his pencil. "I'm John Erickson--you know, the
Wanamaker Institute."

Miller said: "Oh!" in an understanding voice. Erickson was head of
Wanamaker Institute, first laboratory of them all when it came to
exploding atoms and blazing trails into the wildernesses of science.

       *       *       *       *       *

Erickson's piercing eyes were suddenly boring into the younger man.

"You've been sick, haven't you?" he demanded.

"Well--no--not really sick." The druggist colored. "I'll have to admit
to being drunk a few hours ago, though."

"Drunk--" Erickson stuck his tongue in his cheek, shook his head,
scowled. "No, that would hardly do it. There must have been something
else. The impulsor isn't _that_ powerful. I can understand about the
dog, poor fellow. He must have been run over, and I caught him just at
the instant of passing from life to death."

"Oh!" Dave Miller lifted his head, knowing now what Erickson was driving
at. "Well, I may as well be frank. I'm--I committed suicide. That's how
drunk I was. There hasn't been a suicide in the Miller family in
centuries. It took a skinful of liquor to set the precedent."

Erickson nodded wisely. "Perhaps we will find the precedent hasn't
really been set! But no matter--" His lifted hand stopped Miller's
eager, wondering exclamation. "The point is, young man, we three are in
a tough spot, and it's up to us to get out of it. And not only we, but
heaven knows how many others the world over!"

"Would you--maybe you can explain to my lay mind what's happened,"
Miller suggested.

"Of course. Forgive me. You see, Mr.--"

"Miller. Dave Miller."

"Dave it is. I have a feeling we're going to be pretty well acquainted
before this is over. You see, Dave, I'm a nut on so-called 'time
theories.' I've seen time compared to everything from an entity to a
long, pink worm. But I disagree with them all, because they postulate
the idea that time is constantly being manufactured. Such reasoning is
fantastic!

"Time exists. Not as an ever-growing chain of links, because such a
chain would have to have a tail end, if it has a front end; and who can
imagine the period when time did not exist? So I think time is like a
circular train-track. Unending. We who live and die merely travel around
on it. The future exists simultaneously with the past, for one instant
when they meet."

       *       *       *       *       *

Miller's brain was humming. Erickson shot the words at him
staccato-fashion, as if they were things known from Great Primer days.
The young druggist scratched his head.

"You've got me licked," he admitted. "I'm a stranger here, myself."

"Naturally you can't be expected to understand things I've been all my
life puzzling about. Simplest way I can explain it is that we are on a
train following this immense circular railway.

"When the train reaches the point where it started, it is about to
plunge into the past; but this is impossible, because the point where it
started is simply the caboose of the train! And that point is always
ahead--and behind--the time-train.

"Now, my idea was that with the proper stimulus a man could be thrust
across the diameter of this circular railway to a point in his past.
Because of the nature of time, he could neither go ahead of the train to
meet the future nor could he stand still and let the caboose catch up
with him. But--he could detour across the circle and land farther back
on the train! And that, my dear Dave, is what you and I and Major have
done--almost."

"Almost?" Miller said hoarsely.

Erickson pursed his lips. "We are somewhere partway across the space
between present and past. We are living in an instant that can move
neither forward nor back. You and I, Dave, and Major--and the Lord knows
how many others the world over--have been thrust by my time impulsor
onto a timeless beach of eternity. We have been caught in time's
backwash. Castaways, you might say."

An objection clamored for attention in Miller's mind.

"But if this is so, where are the rest of them? Where is my wife?"

"They are right here," Erickson explained. "No doubt you could see your
wife if you could find her. But we see them as statues, because, for us,
time no longer exists. But there was something I did not count on. I did
not know that it would be possible to live in one small instant of time,
as we are doing. And I did not know that only those who are hovering
between life and death can deviate from the normal process of time!"

"You mean--we're dead!" Miller's voice was a bitter monotone.

"Obviously not. We're talking and moving, aren't we? But--we are on the
fence. When I gave my impulsor the jolt of high power, it went wrong and
I think something must have happened to me. At the same instant, you had
shot yourself.

"Perhaps, Dave, you are dying. The only way for us to find out is to try
to get the machine working and topple ourselves one way or the other. If
we fall back, we will all live. If we fall into the present--we may
die."

"Either way, it's better than this!" Miller said fervently.

"I came to the library here, hoping to find out the things I must know.
My own books are locked in my study. And these--they might be cemented
in their places, for all their use to me. I suppose we might as well go
back to the lab."

Miller nodded, murmuring: "Maybe you'll get an idea when you look at the
machine again."

"Let's hope so," said Erickson grimly. "God knows I've failed so far!"



CHAPTER III

_Splendid Sacrifice_


It was a solid hour's walk out to West Wilshire, where the laboratory
was. The immense bronze and glass doors of Wanamaker Institute were
closed, and so barred to the two men. But Erickson led the way down the
side.

"We can get in a service door. Then we climb through transoms and
ventilators until we get to my lab."

Major frisked along beside them. He was enjoying the action and the
companionship. It was less of an adventure to Miller, who knew death
might be ahead for the three of them.

Two workmen were moving a heavy cabinet in the side service door. To get
in, they climbed up the back of the rear workman, walked across the
cabinet, and scaled down the front of the leading man. They went up the
stairs to the fifteenth floor. Here they crawled through a transom into
the wing marked:

"Experimental. Enter Only By Appointment."

Major was helped through it, then they were crawling along the dark
metal tunnel of an air-conditioning ventilator. It was small, and took
some wriggling.

In the next room, they were confronted by a stern receptionist on whose
desk was a little brass sign, reading:

"Have you an appointment?"

Miller had had his share of experience with receptionists' ways, in his
days as a pharmaceutical salesman. He took the greatest pleasure now in
lighting his cigarette from a match struck on the girl's nose. Then he
blew the smoke in her face and hastened to crawl through the final
transom.

John Erickson's laboratory was well lighted by a glass-brick wall and a
huge skylight. The sun's rays glinted on the time impulsor.[1] The
scientist explained the impulsor in concise terms. When he had finished,
Dave Miller knew just as little as before, and the outfit still
resembled three transformers in a line, of the type seen on power-poles,
connected to a great bronze globe hanging from the ceiling.

"There's the monster that put us in this plight," Erickson grunted. "Too
strong to be legal, too weak to do the job right. Take a good look!"

       *       *       *       *       *

With his hands jammed in his pockets, he frowned at the complex
machinery. Miller stared a few moments; then transferred his interests
to other things in the room. He was immediately struck by the
resemblance of a transformer in a far corner to the ones linked up with
the impulsor.

"What's that?" he asked quickly. "Looks the same as the ones you used
over there."

"It is."

"But-- Didn't you say all you needed was another stage of power?"

"That's right."

"Maybe I'm crazy!" Miller stared from impulsor to transformer and back
again. "Why don't you use it, then?"

"Using what for the connection?" Erickson's eyes gently mocked him.

"Wire, of course!"

The scientist jerked a thumb at a small bale of heavy copper wire.

"Bring it over and we'll try it."

Miller was halfway to it when he brought up short. Then a sheepish grin
spread over his features.

"I get it," he chuckled. "That bale of wire might be the Empire State
Building, as far as we're concerned. Forgive my stupidity."

Erickson suddenly became serious.

"I'd like to be optimistic, Dave," he muttered, "but in all fairness to
you I must tell you I see no way out of this. The machine is, of course,
still working, and with that extra stage of power, the uncertainty would
be over. But where, in this world of immovable things, will we find a
piece of wire twenty-five feet long?"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a warm, moist sensation against Miller's hand, and when he
looked down Major stared up at him commiseratingly. Miller scratched him
behind the ear, and the dog closed his eyes, reassured and happy. The
young druggist sighed, wishing there were some giant hand to scratch him
behind the ear and smooth _his_ troubles over.

"And if we don't get out," he said soberly, "we'll starve, I suppose."

"No, I don't think it will be that quick. I haven't felt any hunger. I
don't expect to. After all, our bodies are still living in one instant
of time, and a man can't work up a healthy appetite in one second. Of
course, this elastic-second business precludes the possibility of
disease.

"Our bodies must go on unchanged. The only hope I see is--when we are on
the verge of madness, suicide. That means jumping off a bridge, I
suppose. Poison, guns, knives--all the usual wherewithal--are denied to
us."

Black despair closed down on Dave Miller. He thrust it back, forcing a
crooked grin.

"Let's make a bargain," he offered. "When we finish fooling around with
this apparatus, we split up. We'll only be at each other's throat if we
stick together. I'll be blaming you for my plight, and I don't want to.
It's my fault as much as yours. How about it?"

John Erickson gripped his hand. "You're all right, Dave. Let me give you
some advice. If ever you do get back to the present ... keep away from
liquor. Liquor and the Irish never did mix. You'll have that store on
its feet again in no time."

"Thanks!" Miller said fervently. "And I think I can promise that nothing
less than a whiskey antidote for snake bite will ever make me bend an
elbow again!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For the next couple of hours, despondency reigned in the laboratory. But
it was soon to be deposed again by hope.

Despite all of Erickson's scientific training, it was Dave Miller
himself who grasped the down-to-earth idea that started them hoping
again. He was walking about the lab, jingling keys in his pocket, when
suddenly he stopped short. He jerked the ring of keys into his hand.

"Erickson!" he gasped. "We've been blind. Look at this!"

The scientist looked; but he remained puzzled.

"Well--?" he asked skeptically.

"There's our wire!" Dave Miller exclaimed. "You've got keys; I've got
keys. We've got coins, knives, wristwatches. Why can't we lay them all
end to end--"

Erickson's features looked as if he had been electrically shocked.

"You've hit it!" he cried. "If we've got enough!"

With one accord, they began emptying their pockets, tearing off
wristwatches, searching for pencils. The finds made a little heap in the
middle of the floor. Erickson let his long fingers claw through thinning
hair.

"God give us enough! We'll only need the one wire. The thing is plugged
in already and only the positive pole has to be connected to the globe.
Come on!"

Scooping up the assortment of metal articles, they rushed across the
room. With his pocket-knife, Dave Miller began breaking up the metal
wrist-watch straps, opening the links out so that they could be laid
end-to-end for the greatest possible length. They patiently broke the
watches to pieces, and of the junk they garnered made a ragged foot and
a half of "wire." Their coins stretched the line still further.

They had ten feet covered before the stuff was half used up. Their metal
pencils, taken apart, gave them a good two feet. Key chains helped
generously. With eighteen feet covered, their progress began to slow
down.

Perspiration poured down Miller's face. Desperately, he tore off his
lodge ring and cut it in two to pound it flat. From garters and
suspenders they won a few inches more. And then--they stopped--feet from
their goal.

Miller groaned. He tossed his pocket-knife in his hand.

"We can get a foot out of this," he estimated. "But that still leaves us
way short."

Abruptly, Erickson snapped his fingers.

"Shoes!" he gasped. "They're full of nails. Get to work with that knife,
Dave. We'll cut out every one of 'em!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In ten minutes, the shoes were reduced to ragged piles of tattered
leather. Erickson's deft fingers painstakingly placed the nails, one by
one, in the line. The distance left to cover was less than six inches!

He lined up the last few nails. Then both men were sinking back on their
heels, as they saw there was a gap of three inches to cover!

"Beaten!" Erickson ground out. "By three inches! Three inches from the
present ... and yet it might as well be a million miles!"

Miller's body felt as though it were in a vise. His muscles ached with
strain. So taut were his nerves that he leaped as though stung when
Major nuzzled a cool nose into his hand again. Automatically, he began
to stroke the dog's neck.

"Well, that licks us," he muttered. "There isn't another piece of
movable metal in the world."

Major kept whimpering and pushing against him. Annoyed, the druggist
shoved him away.

"Go 'way," he muttered. "I don't feel like--"

Suddenly then his eyes widened, as his touch encountered warm metal. He
whirled.

"There it is!" he yelled. "The last link. _The nameplate on Major's
collar!_"

In a flash, he had torn the little rectangular brass plate from the dog
collar. Erickson took it from his grasp. Sweat stood shiny on his skin.
He held the bit of metal over the gap between wire and pole.

"This is it!" he smiled brittlely. "We're on our way, Dave. Where, I
don't know. To death, or back to life. But--we're going!"

The metal clinked into place. Live, writhing power leaped through the
wire, snarling across partial breaks. The transformers began to hum. The
humming grew louder. Singing softly, the bronze globe over their heads
glowed green. Dave Miller felt a curious lightness. There was a snap in
his brain, and Erickson, Major and the laboratory faded from his senses.

Then came an interval when the only sound was the soft sobbing he had
been hearing as if in a dream. That, and blackness that enfolded him
like soft velvet. Then Miller was opening his eyes, to see the familiar
walls of his own kitchen around him!

Someone cried out.

"Dave! Oh, Dave, dear!"

It was Helen's voice, and it was Helen who cradled his head in her lap
and bent her face close to his.

"Oh, thank God that you're alive--!"

"Helen!" Miller murmured. "What--are--you--doing here?"

"I couldn't go through with it. I--I just couldn't leave you. I came
back and--and I heard the shot and ran in. The doctor should be here. I
called him five minutes ago."

"_Five minutes_ ... How long has it been since I shot myself?"

"Oh, just six or seven minutes. I called the doctor right away."

Miller took a deep breath. Then it _must_ have been a dream. All
that--to happen in a few minutes-- It wasn't possible!

"How--how could I have botched the job?" he muttered. "I wasn't drunk
enough to miss myself completely."

Helen looked at the huge revolver lying in the sink.

"Oh, that old forty-five of Grandfather's! It hasn't been loaded since
the Civil War. I guess the powder got damp or something. It just sort of
sputtered instead of exploding properly. Dave, promise me something!
You won't ever do anything like this again, if I promise not to nag
you?"

Dave Miller closed his eyes. "There won't be any need to nag, Helen.
Some people take a lot of teaching, but I've had my lesson. I've got
ideas about the store which I'd been too lazy to try out. You know, I
feel more like fighting right now than I have for years! We'll lick 'em,
won't we, honey?"

Helen buried her face in the hollow of his shoulder and cried softly.
Her words were too muffled to be intelligible. But Dave Miller
understood what she meant.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had thought the whole thing a dream--John Erickson, the "time
impulsor" and Major. But that night he read an item in the _Evening
Courier_ that was to keep him thinking for many days.

    POLICE INVESTIGATE DEATH OF SCIENTIST HERE IN LABORATORY

    John M. Erickson, director of the Wanamaker Institute, died at his
    work last night. Erickson was a beloved and valuable figure in the
    world of science, famous for his recently publicized "time lapse"
    theory.

    Two strange circumstances surrounded his death. One was the presence
    of a German shepherd dog in the laboratory, its head crushed as if
    with a sledgehammer. The other was a chain of small metal objects
    stretching from one corner of the room to the other, as if intended
    to take the place of wire in a circuit.

    Police, however, discount this idea, as there was a roll of wire
    only a few feet from the body.


THE END


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Obviously this electric time impulsor is a machine in the nature of
an atomic integrator. It "broadcasts" great waves of electrons which
align all atomic objects in rigid suspension.

That is to say, atomic structures are literally "frozen." Living bodies
are similarly affected. It is a widely held belief on the part of many
eminent scientists that all matter, broken down into its elementary
atomic composition, is electrical in structure.

That being so, there is no reason to suppose why Professor Erickson may
not have discovered a time impulsor which, broadcasting electronic
impulses, "froze" everything within its range.--ED.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Stories_ April 1956 and was
    first published in _Amazing Stories_ October 1940. Extensive
    research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on
    this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical
    errors have been corrected without note.





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