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Title: Ahead of his time
Author: Cummings, Ray
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 "Ahead of his time" ***

                           AHEAD OF HIS TIME

                      _a novelet by_ RAY CUMMINGS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                  Thrilling Wonder Stories June 1948.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

                               CHAPTER I

                            _Radiant Child_

He was about two years old when he first became aware that there was
always a dim glow of light around him. It was nice, because it shone on
the bright-colored little animals, birds and fishes which were on the
inside of his white enameled crib. Even in the daytime he was sometimes
aware of the glow. In the afternoons, when the summer sunlight was hot
and bright, and his mother would put him into his crib when he wasn't
a bit sleepy, he would lie staring at the little figures. He could see
them plainly, because the pale silver glow was on them.

"But it frightens me, Robert. Our little son--so queer--weird!" That
was his mother's murmured voice, as she stood one night with his father
at the doorway of his dim bedroom.

"It mustn't frighten you, Mary. After all, you're a scientist too."

Then their voices faded as they went back into their own room.

Robert Thome closed their bedroom door. He was a famous experimental
physicist, and his wife was his assistant. Both of them were
scientists. Mary Thome knew, of course, that there were things very
strange about this little son, but she was a mother as well as a
scientist, and she had tried to ignore it, even while it terrorized
her. Thome felt that the time had come now when they couldn't ignore it
any longer.

"But Robert, that radiance--the way his little body glows in the
dark--is like radioactivity."

"It isn't that," Thome said.

A queer opalescent glow kept streaming from the baby's body. When
Sanjan was asleep, it could hardly be seen, even in darkness. The glow
grew stronger when he was awake. And when he was angry, it sharpened
with a new intensity.

"Not some form of radioactivity?" Mary Thome said. "How do you know?"

Her husband gazed at her solemnly. "I even tried the new Watling
refinement of the Geiger counter. It showed nothing of radioactivity."

"You've been experimenting on him, Robert?" Mary Thome's voice was

"Yes," he agreed. "Why not? We can't ignore it, Mary. But there's no
reason why it should frighten us."

"Then if it isn't radioactivity, what is it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

What indeed? Some sort of power. Something inherent to him. Something
which of course some day science would be able to explain, but now
could only call an enigma.

And there were other things different about Sanjan Thome. Even now,
in infancy, his high cheekbones, thin cheeks and pointed chin were
apparent. At two years old he was talking with an abnormal fluency.
Everything about him was precocious. The look of bright, dancing
understanding in his eyes.

There was that time when Robert Thome had held a bright-colored rattle
down into the crib. Sanjan had only been a year old then. He had
reached for the rattle, but not with a normal baby's slow, uncertain
fumbling. Instead, his eyes had flashed; his tiny hand had darted out
and grasped it with incredible speed and accuracy.

"All his perceptions are swifter than normal, Mary," Thome had
explained. "The messages his brain sends to his muscles are all
speeded up."

A gifted child. Why should they think of him in terms of something
gruesome? This small human creature was supernormal--superior. The
child was a sudden advancement in the slow normal development of the
human race. It was as though he had jumped the gap of generations. A
human ahead of his time.

Robert Thome no longer felt justified in hiding his secret from his
scientific associates. He brought them in. Gravely they studied and
tested little Sanjan, who stared at them with his dancing eyes,
chattered his grown-up baby talk and was amused and excited by it all.

There was a flurry of comment now, in print and on the radio.
Newscasters called little Sanjan a freak, and his mother was appalled
and resentful.

"Robert, you're going to ruin his life. You're making him a bug on a

"But Mary, science needs to know. We've something wonderful here."

But public interest died out. The world soon forgets. Science called
Sanjan Thome a biological abnormality. To science he symbolized a new
eugenics, a product of the New Era of Atomic fission, a mutation.
Mary Thome, as a war prisoner in Japan, had been in the outskirts of
Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb was dropped.

Seemingly, the radioactivity to which she had been exposed, had wrought
no serious effects upon her. But the effects were there. And Robert
Thome had been for years one of the key physicists working on the
development of atomic fission. He had been in the Manhattan Project,
from the beginning, until that first bomb was tested in New Mexico.
Then, when the war was over, he had been in Operation Crossroads,
meeting Mary about that time, and marrying her. He had always been
careful, with Geiger counters to mark when one should no longer expose
himself. Or had he sometimes been too eager? Too reckless, in his
enthusiasm for this new and wonderful atomic power?

Something had changed within both the mother and father of Sanjan
Thome. Science coins names for almost everything, glibly speaking of
genes and hormones which are altered by radioactivity, so that they
produce something new. What is so mysterious about that? Even the
creation of life still is a mystery beyond human ken.

And so Sanjan Thome was a mutant....

Ten years passed, and one day Sanjan was having a quarrel with the
little girl next door.

"I didn't!" said Sanjan.

"Yes you did, too! I had only six pieces, you had seven!"

"I didn't!"

"Yes you did, Sanjan Thome. You had seven, and this one is mine!"

But like a darting rapier, Sanjan snatched the last chocolate candy
from the little girl and stuffed it into his mouth. She stood startled,
it had been so quick.

"Why, you horrid little boy! That's what you are!" She stamped her foot
and burst into tears.

"And you're just a cry baby," he taunted. "Besides, I'm not a boy now.
I'm a man. I'm ten."

       *       *       *       *       *

Vana Grant was the little girl next door. She was his only playmate.
Her father was the mayor of the town. The Grant garden adjoined that
of the Thomes, with only a small hedge between. Long ago, now, Robert
Thome had withdrawn his strange child from the world. School was
impractical. Sanjan had his own tutors. Peter Grant, Vana's father, was
a close friend of the Thomes.

The Grants and Thomes had built a high wall around their two houses and
within it was Sanjan's world. Already, he startled his tutors with his
ability to learn. At ten, anyone would have called him well educated.
Yet mixed with his maturity, there was normal childishness, so that he
could play with Vana and quarrel with her.

"I hate you, Sanjan Thome! I hate you, and I'm afraid of you!"

Then as she started to run into her house, he stood stricken.

"Come back, Vana! Don't cry!"

"No, I won't come back! You're a horrid little boy!"

"I'm sorry I took your candy, Vana."

Then he was so immensely relieved when she came back.

That night he said to his father:

"Dad, I took a piece of candy from Vana today. It was hers, but I took
it because she couldn't stop me. That's human nature, isn't it? Being
greedy. Taking what you can get, because you're stronger?"

"Yes," Thome said gravely. "Yes, it is."

"And if people are that way, of course, nations are that way too,"
Sanjan said. "They do what I did to Vana. Only when it's nations, it's
called war."

Then out of another silence, Sanjan said, "And the atomic bomb makes a
nation pretty strong. I can see why every nation wants it."

The atomic bomb--Sanjan, of course, had heard of it all his life. His
toys had been built around it and the childish books with which he had
learned to read, had told about it. And as he learned more of what it
had done in the war that finished just before he was born, the fear of
it grew in him.

He said now, "The next war will be pretty awful, won't it, Dad?"

"We hope there won't be any," Thome said solemnly.

Long since, the nations had given up the idea that by some
international agreement they could do away with the atomic bomb. There
was no way that they could enforce any international laws, save by
starting the war they were trying to avoid. So they were making bigger
and better bombs, and more of them.

Each day the world hovered upon the brink of monster catastrophe.

                              CHAPTER II

                        _Impending Catastrophe_

A very strange little boy was Sanjan Thome. It was only a few days
after his evening talk with his father, that a new aspect of his
strangeness was made apparent to him. Fortunately, only to him; and it
frightened him at first so that he kept silent about it.

Little Vana saw some of it but, of course, she didn't understand. That
afternoon, when she and Sanjan were playing in their garden, one of the
village boys climbed the ten-foot wall. His head and shoulders suddenly
appeared, and he shouted to some of his companions.

"I see 'im! Here he is, fellas! Sanjan Thome, the freak!"

And the chorus of their voices arose, "Yah! Sanjan the freak! Sanjan
the freak!"

Then Vana saw Sanjan's thin, pointed face go pale. His eyes flashed.
The glow that was always around him grew stronger, so that Vana could
see it, even here in the shadowed daylight of the garden.

"You stop that!" Sanjan called.

"Yah! Freak! Freak!"

"I'm not!"

"You are! Freak! Freak!"

"If I could get out there, I'd show you!"

Little Vana was puzzled, because Sanjan, who had been right here beside
her, had vanished. She thought he had run around the house, hoping to
get out the front gate. Next she heard Sanjan's voice outside the wall.

"I'm not a freak!"

"Ya are!"

"I'm not! You take that back! I'll--I'll make you take it back!"

The frightened little girl ran upstairs. From the window up there she
could see over the wall and saw the fight. The boy was older, bigger
and stronger than Sanjan. But Sanjan stood there with his opened hands
flicking out. The bigger boy's blows were thrust aside. Sanjan's
movements all were so quick, it was like a cat fending off a clumsy
dog. And occasionally Sanjan would cuff his antagonist in the face.
There was a ring of boys around him, but none of them could touch him.
Sanjan taunted them. Suddenly they grew frightened and turned and ran.

Vana hurried downstairs. Sanjan was back in the garden when she got
there. He was panting, flushed and laughing, and there was something
new and strange about the strange face she had come to know so well.

"You got back quick, Sanjan. Is the front gate open?"

His laugh vanished. He looked a little frightened. "Why--why I don't
know. Why, I mean--yes, I guess it is."

"I didn't know you knew how to fight, Sanjan."

"I don't." He grinned. "It just came naturally, I guess. It wasn't hard
to keep them from hitting me. Everybody moves so slowly, you know. It
takes them a long time to think what they want to do, and then to do

They talked of other things. But that evening, Sanjan was silent. This
new thing that he had discovered in himself was alarming.

Years passed. One night when Sanjan Thome reached manhood, he leaped
from his bed and stood in the middle of his dark bedroom, drawn to his
full height. Solemnly he spoke:

"I can't let it go any longer! I've got to stop this coming war now! If
I wait even a few days, I may be too late. And I can do it. I have the

There was that strange thing about himself which he had discovered when
he was ten years old and had fought the boys beyond the garden wall.
Cautiously Sanjan had experimented, careful always that no one should
witness it. Through all these years he had said nothing to anyone
about it, except Vana. It was their secret. And Vana understood; Vana,
wide-eyed and frightened, still was his comfort and his inspiration as
he planned what he must some day do.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now Sanjan, the man, stood in his bedroom, telling himself:

"No one in the world could stop this war now, but me. Since I can do
it, surely, I must try."

Because war at last was at hand! Absolutely inevitable now; and only
this afternoon Sanjan had learned of it. The thing still was secret
from the world public. But Peter Grant had been to Washington, and had
returned today. At once he and Robert Thome had conferred and Sanjan
had overheard them. Definite ultimatums had been sent. A dozen nations
were mobilizing because it was obvious that the ultimatums would be
rejected. Someone would strike, with atomic bombs.

There was a mirror on the wall of Sanjan's bedroom. The glow of
the faint streaming opalescence from his pajamaed body showed him
his reflection--his tall, slim, muscular figure, with his strange
high-cheek-boned face shaded by his crisp, unruly blond hair.

He would need the proper clothes and a few simple accessories for his
task. He had told Vana that, as they sat out in the garden just the
other day, and Vana had promised to get him the things at once, from
some other town where she was not known. She would leave them under the
porch of her house. Perhaps she had them there now.

It was a comfort, telling Vana his plans. He had told Vana that he had
to make the try, and almost tearfully she had agreed with him.

"You can see, Vana, that I must avert this war, to avert the deaths,
the maiming of millions. I can do that--hold it off for my lifetime."

"By then," Vana said, "conditions may have changed. Another war may
never start brewing."

Sanjan laughed. "You're a dreamer, Vana. Nothing can change human

"This may," she said. "This strange thing you hope to do."

His smile faded. "Everything about me is so strange, Vana. It is, isn't
it? And yet I feel perfectly normal."

"Sanjan, you are not strange, not to me."

"I love you, Vana. I think I have always loved you."

She was grown now--eighteen years old. She was tall and dark. She
smiled at him.

"I used to be afraid of you, Sanjan, when I was a little girl."

He smiled. "But not now?"

"No, not now. Because I know now that you are one man in all the world
that nobody should be afraid of."

"Some should," he said. "Some will." His luminous eyes flashed.
"Believe me, some will, Vana...."

In his bedroom now, Sanjan drew a bathrobe over his pajamas. It was
midnight. He and his father were alone in the house, for Sanjan's
mother was dead now. His father perhaps might still be working in his
little experimental laboratory downstairs. Sanjan descended the steps
and entered the workroom.

"Oh, it's you, Sanjan. I thought you'd gone to sleep."

"No, Dad, I want to talk to you."

"Why, of course, son. What is it?"

The glow of the fluorescent tubes on the big littered table laid its
eerie sheen on the thin figure of Sanjan's father. He was a man of
nearly sixty now, with twenty-five years or more of this atomic fission
work behind him.

"You look very tired, Dad," Sanjan said.

Thome was haggard. His face was drawn. He smiled in a tired way.

"Yes," he agreed. "I suppose I am tired. Just a little thing here
is baffling me and I've got to solve it. So much depends on my

"Yes Dad, I can imagine," Sanjan said. There was a bond of love between
these two.

"I've got to put it over," Thome repeated. "The laboratories in
Washington--the whole resources of the Bureau of Standards, will
develop my findings. I've got to do it tonight."

"I understand," Sanjan said. "The urgency--Mr. Grant came back from
Washington this afternoon, didn't he?"

"Yes, he did. And--"

"You needn't tell me, Dad," Sanjan interrupted. "War is coming.
Positively. No chance of avoiding it now, is there, Dad?"

"No," Thome said. "No chance now. And so I've got to finish this job
here. I've got to finish it tonight."

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert looked weary, almost ineffectual, with the tubelight on him
and the paraphernalia of his science around him. He was just a tired
old man trying his best to cope with the maelstrom of whirling world
events. It made Sanjan, with his youth and strength and the knowledge
of his power, feel an added urge that he must end this sort of thing in
the world.

"Dad, don't think I'm talking wild," Sanjan said. "Dad, listen, there's
a chance that I can stop this war."

"Stop the war?"

"Yes. Never let it start. Make it impossible. I think I can do it, Dad."

Thome could only stare at his strange young son. Sanjan plunged on.

"I'm going to try and destroy the war plants and materials of war all
over the world."


"Or at least, what I can't destroy, I can make ineffective, useless."

"Sanjan, what do you mean? Such talk is preposterous."

"I can do it, Dad. I really think so. Alone. Just me, alone. Naturally,
it would have to be me. There is no one else."

Puzzled, and with a sudden apprehension on his thin drawn face, Thome
mutely stared. He had so often heard Sanjan say strange things, but
nothing like this. Then Thome murmured,

"You say you can do a thing that's impossible, Sanjan? How? How could
you do it?"

"I'd rather not tell you, Dad," Sanjan said gently. "At least not now.
It would only worry you. And I imagine you'll say I'll never be able to
accomplish such a task, even with the power I have."

"Power? Power, Sanjan?"

"Yes, Dad. Something about me which I've never told you. In fact, I've
hidden it from you." Sanjan jumped from his seat and put his hand on
his father's shoulder. "I don't want to tell you now. I don't want you
to try and dissuade me. I love you very much, Dad. I respect you, but
I'm going to try this. I may be killed. I don't know. I'm going away."

"Away?" Thome echoed. "What do you mean away?"

"I wouldn't have told you at all, but I didn't want to worry you, when
you found I wasn't here. I'm going tonight."

"Going where?" Thome demanded. "Sanjan, you know that's not practical.
We've agreed that's it's best for you to stay here in just this house
and the grounds. I know it's been a horrible handicap, son, but--"

"I'm going, Dad. But I'll come back. And if there are people
killed--please, you'll understand I'll avoid that as much as I can."

There was real terror on Thome's face now. Had a madness descended on
his strange son? Some new development in the supernormal mental and
physical makeup which was Sanjan?

"People killed?" Thome ejaculated. "What do you mean by that?"

"I'll avoid it when I can, Dad. Please, please don't be so frightened!"

"You--you plan to be a murderer, Sanjan? Why, I never heard you talk
like this before."

"If I could stop the war, that would prevent mass murder on a scale
unthinkable," Sanjan retorted. "And to do that some persons must die."

"Sanjan, please," his father interjected, "don't let's talk about it
now. Tomorrow, yes. We'll discuss it tomorrow, son."

"Tomorrow I'll be gone. But I agree there's no sense of us discussing

"Just go up to your room, and go to sleep," Thome said soothingly.
"You're all wrought up, and I don't blame you, of course. So am I.
Tomorrow we'll--anyway, you'll go up to your room now, won't you?"

"Yes," Sanjan said. "And by tomorrow, you'll begin to understand. And
don't be frightened. I'll take care of myself--and I know I'm acting
for the best. Good night, Dad."

He almost had said good-by, but he choked it back. He stood in the
doorway of the little laboratory, smiling gently. "Good night, Dad," he

"Good night son," Thome stammered. "I'll call you in the morning."

Then Sanjan closed the door and was gone. For a moment Thome sat
numbed, with terror rising in him. Then on impulse he went out the
little side door of the laboratory, across the moonlit garden and into
Grant's house. At least it would comfort him to unburden himself to his

                              CHAPTER III

                          _Sanjan's Mission_

Peter Grant was alone in his ground floor study, poring over papers
which he had brought with him from Washington. He was a squarely built,
stolid man of fifty. Essentially practical.

"Well, hello, Robert," he said. "How are the experiments coming along?
Have a drink old man. You look all in."

"It's about Sanjan," Thome said. And then he poured it out to his
friend--Sanjan, suddenly mentally deranged? Peter Grant agreed
silently, though he would not say so to his friend.

"What am I going to do?" Thome asked him.

"He says he's going away," Grant said. "I think you ought to put him
under good medical care.

"Lock him up?" Thome emitted a gasp. "My son--incarcerated? No!

"Well, not just that, Robert. Don't call it that. Just--take closer
care of him, until we find out what this means?"

"No! No! I'll take care of him--I always have!"

"He says he'll be gone," Grant responded practically. He hesitated, and
then he added, "You forget. I'm the mayor here, Robert. Silly little
job, but I'm it, just the same. And there's a responsibility. By the
way Sanjan talked of destroying property and killing people, if it had
any meaning at all--well, you could call him a menace to society. You
could, couldn't you?"

Grant didn't press the point. He soothed his friend, and presently
Thome went back to his laboratory.

But as soon as he was gone, Peter Grant called the police....

Sanjan didn't see his father go into the Grant home. From the
laboratory, Sanjan went to his room, stayed there a few minutes, and
then he went to where he found the things Vana had left for him under
the porch.

Back in his room, he dressed himself--heavy lumberman's boots, heavy
stockings, thick dark trousers, shirt, and a warm jacket. There was a
wide leather belt around his slim waist--a belt on which he could hang
a small, sharp hatchet, a knife, an iron mallet. Such simple things,
in the great modern world of weapons. But he could think of nothing
else that really would be useful to him....

He was surveying himself in the mirror, when suddenly there was a knock
on his door--a knock imperative, followed at once by pounding.

"Come in," he said. "That you, Dad?"

He had forgotten that the door had a spring lock, which fastened it
when he had banged it closed. He opened it now. Then he stepped back,
drawn up against the wall as the men streamed into the room, bulky men
in uniform, the police!

"Sanjan! Sanjan, lad, I didn't do this! Believe me, I didn't!"

That was his father, standing by the doorway, gray-faced, terrified and

Sanjan's alert gaze flicked to Peter Grant who moved into view. Grant
was tense, nervous, trying to smile. "I did it," said Grant. "I sent
for the police, Sanjan. Just for your own good, my boy. You know I've
always been your friend."

"Of course," Sanjan said. "I don't blame you, Mr. Grant."

"We're detaining you for your own good, Sanjan, until we understand
what you've got in mind. Now don't get excited."

"I'm not excited," Sanjan said. He stood backed against the wall,
regarding the line of men before him. The Law! They had come for this
menace to society. But they were still undecided. The leader, a police
inspector, turned to Robert Thome.

"Tell him not to make any trouble, Mr. Thome."

"They won't hurt you," Sanjan's father said.

"No," Sanjan said. "I know that, Dad." There was an ironic smile on his
lips, but no one noticed it.

"You're not being arrested," his father said. "They just want you to
go with them to a comfortable place that's better than this. I'll come
there in the morning, Sanjan."

"I understand, Dad, of course."

"Go quietly with them," Peter Grant said, "We don't mean it as any
indignity, Sanjan."

"I understand, Mr. Grant."

       *       *       *       *       *

But he did not move. The men started forward, with a great show of
braveness because they were the Law--and the Law must be obeyed.
Sanjan's lip curled.

"I am not going with you," he said to the police inspector.

One of the policemen let out a rough, jibing oath.

"Good-by, Dad," Sanjan said suddenly. "Try not to be worried over me."

Sanjan put his thoughts on the Great Smoky Mountains and that war plant
there in Tennessee. Sanjan knew that there was a huge laboratory there.
The finished atomic bombs were not assembled in the war plant; merely
the basic materials, and the intricate parts of the firing mechanisms.
There would be no atomic bomb explosion. He did not want that, here in

But it would be a good place to start. When suddenly the Great Smoky
Mountain plant, so famous, was wrecked, it would shock all the world.

Thoughts are instant things. As the policemen rushed at Sanjan, and
his father was pleading in terror, Sanjan's intense thoughts of the
Great Smoky Mountains seemed to bring them before him like a threshold
opening up. They were a wide, dim threshold in a great gray void
where things were surging, fleeting things taking form, evanescent as
thoughts themselves.

There was an instant, briefer than anyone might mathematically name,
and during it Sanjan knew that he was thrusting himself forward, so
that his bedroom and the uniformed men and his father were dimming into
a memory and he himself was a part of the evanescent things which were
growing plainer.

The Great Smoky Mountains formed themselves into solid, serrated ranks
of dim purple, rising up against the distant starry sky.

Sanjan could feel his feet standing on rocky ground. Moonlight was
falling on the little rocky declivity here, where stunted mountain
trees were growing. Smoke curled from the chimneys of a rambling group
of wooden buildings down in the valley which, he knew, were the big
laboratories and the factories where the parts of the firing mechanisms
of the atomic bomb were being made. Though it was midnight, the place
was humming with activity. Naturally this would be so, in this world

Sanjan smiled grimly as he gazed at the plant. How pleased the leaders
of the enemy nations would be when they got the news that the Great
Smoky Mountain Plant was wrecked! But their pleasure wouldn't last
more than an hour or two--he could promise them that!

A little cave mouth opened beside Sanjan. He turned and went back into
the darkness of the grotto and sat down on a rock. He would sit here
for a while, planning, and then go into action....

Back in the Thome residence the sudden disappearance of Sanjan had
brought consternation and amazement to the police, Sanjan's father and
Mr. Grant.

"My gawsh, he was right there!" yelled the inspector. "He may be hiding
behind some of the furniture. Search the room." But a hasty hunt failed
to disclose Sanjan and, at last, the police were forced to conclude
that in some way he had escaped.

Another policeman, not trying to invest the vanishment with science,
explained it neatly. "He was right there, and then he wasn't!"

Despite Robert Thome's care, news of it soon got out. Even while Sanjan
was still sitting in the cave in Tennessee, the news of what had
happened in the quiet suburban home of Robert Thome, the physicist, was
ringing around the world, by press, the radio, the television.

"Sanjan Thome, the mutant, son of Robert Thome, demonstrates his
supernatural power!" went out the word. "Supernatural monster threatens
wholesale murder!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For that moment the great world of modern civilization, busy and tense
as it stood on the brink of war, paused momentarily in its billion
billion war-making activities, to contemplate this new sensation. At
first everyone believed it was a hoax, but the myriad channels of the
news very soon convinced them that it wasn't.

Supernatural! Even the word itself inspires a thrill of instinctive
fear. The Unknown! No one can face it without a surge of emotion. Even
now, just at the beginning of Sanjan's activities, the very thought
of him was inspiring terror--a terror which was to prove his greatest

The Unknown. Already Science was explaining it.

"Sanjan's power, miraculous as it seems, of course can be explained
scientifically." That was the verdict of a learned scientist, who for a
big fee had been summoned to a broadcasting studio in such a rush that
he had to plan his talk enroute. "The strangeness of it is only that we
have not witnessed it before."

Within half an hour, other savants were expounding a theory. One could
listen and think surely that he understood the learned phrases, which
cited the fundamental instability of all matter, that in last analysis
can be reduced merely to motion. Why, Professor Eddington said just
that, way back in 1910! Thus, motion is the basis of Matter. And matter
has only a seeming solidity, like the whirling of propellor blades.
When in motion, the blades seem like a solid disc. They feel like
it, if you put a hand against them. And motion Itself, which creates
matter, is the motion of what? Eddington had the answer to that! It is
motion which is just a maelstrom of nothingness!

And so many others have spoken and written of a latent power--something
which might be within one's self--a power with a vibration so
infinitely rapid, so infinitely tiny, that it could be compared only
to the vibrations of thought. And yet, it was something different. It
consisted of a power which could disassemble all those basic whirlpools
which make up the human body, and hurl them elsewhere in that same
instant with the speed of light, to reassemble them.

And the learned scientists, with their minds on the big fees and their
personal prestige, mentioned the Quantum Theory.

"There is no continuity of existence of anything material. For an
infinitesimal instant it exists, instantly is blotted out, re-existing
again an infinitesimal instant later. And each time it is not what it
was before. Each time it is changed. Just a little--but changed both in
itself and in the different part of space which it occupies."

And this monster Sanjan--what was he?

Whatever he was, certainly he was not miraculous.

The actual, factual news, during this first half hour while Sanjan
himself was sitting quietly in the darkness of the little Tennessee
grotto, could only explain that the weird mutant son of Robert Thome
had vanished in a glow of radiance. But the terrified Thome felt now
that he must tell all he knew, so he explained what Sanjan had said to
him. And Peter Grant joined him in the telling. Sanjan had vanished,
but he would reappear somewhere else. And his plans were sensational!

The channels of news were babbling garbled versions. Leaders of nations
everywhere in the world, some of them roused from sleep, went into
hasty, startled conferences. This fiend was going to strike at their
war plants! The guards must be redoubled! But that was futile. This was
a thing supernatural. Or was it just a hoax?

Already, in a way he had never envisaged, events were helping Sanjan.
For a little time at least the war plans of the world were being

And then, in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Sanjan struck his
first blow.

                              CHAPTER IV

                        _Master of Destruction_

The cave mouth behind him was a dark, yawning little pit but the path
down the declivity was white with shining moonlight. Sanjan had left
his heavy, fleece-lined jacket in the cave as the night was warm and
the jacket would only impede him.

He started down the path. It would be a long climb down into the
valley, where the buildings showed as a cluster of lights and the
moonlight glistening on the roofs of the low, squat buildings. It
appeared to be a long climb down, but he suddenly smiled. For him, it
need only be a flash of thought. The laboratory building would be the
best place to start.

In that moment as he stood there in the moonlight of the path, Sanjan
did not see the blob of a man's figure, below him, on a crossing path.
The blob was in the inky shadow of a big pine tree. Though Sanjan, of
course, could not know it, the blob was Officer Jonathan McGuffy, of
the local police. McGuffy had finished his long day's work and was on
his way home. Down in the nearby village he had heard the startling
news with which the world was ringing.

Then, quite suddenly, he saw a figure on the other path above him,
plain in the moonlight. It was Sanjan, the supernatural fiend! McGuffy
had heard the radio descriptions of how Sanjan looked, how he was
dressed. He was sure the figure above him was the mutant human who had
tonight startled the world.

McGuffy's revolver seemed to leap into his hand. He leveled it. In
McGuffy's moment of gasping shock, he didn't stop to think that
he might be wrong--that this might be merely some stalwart young
mountaineer of the region. Nor did it occur to him that, so far,
Sanjan, the superhuman fiend, actually had done nothing for which he
deserved death. McGuffy was only thinking how wonderful it would be if
Jonathan McGuffy could spring into world fame, right now, by killing
the monster.

He steadied himself, bracing his arm against the tree. He took careful
aim. He was a crack shot. Though Sanjan did not know it, that was his
first moment of supreme peril. His body was only human. A bullet would
kill him. He was thinking of the interior of the big laboratory down in
the valley. A gray threshold was opening before him.

McGuffy's finger did not pull the trigger. He gasped. There was nothing
up there in the moonlight of the other path, nothing but the faintest
tinge of opalescent radiance, mingling with the moonlight where the
figure of Sanjan had been.

If McGuffy had had even the faintest doubt that he had seen Sanjan the
fiend, it was dispelled now. For a moment he stood transfixed with
disappointment. What an opportunity! Cautiously he picked his way up to
where the figure had been. Then he saw the cave mouth and, exploring
the little grotto, he came upon Sanjan's jacket. The inference was
obvious. Sanjan expected to return here.

If McGuffy had done what perhaps he should have done, he would have
notified his superiors at once of what he had seen here. But he didn't.
He was picturing himself, alone and unaided, killing this monster, and
delivering Sanjan's body in triumph. By tomorrow, everyone in the world
would have heard of Jonathan McGuffy. At the very least, he would get
on the Nashville force. He'd be Captain McGuffy!

So McGuffy stayed where he was. In a corner of the cave he crouched,
with drawn revolver. He was alert, watchful. But inside he was

The big interior of the Great Smoky mountain atomic laboratory was a
blurred scene of eerie lights and a litter of apparatus in the midst of
which the figures of the workmen moved with silent efficiency. Suddenly
one of them looked up, pointed toward a doorway and yelled:

"Look! Who's that?"

In the dim glow of his opalescence, weirdly apparent here, Sanjan was
standing motionless, as he looked around. In the corridor behind him,
he could hear the outer guards calmly talking with each other.

"What you want?" one of the workmen called. They had been so busy here,
during this last hour, that they hadn't heard about Sanjan. But at this
first quick glance they saw nothing weird about him.

       *       *       *       *       *

They all stood staring now at the intruder, a hundred or more of them.
"Who the devil are you?" somebody called. "No one's allowed in here!"

"You must all leave," Sanjan said. "You'll be killed if you stay." Then
behind him, he could hear the alarmed guards coming on the run. They
were shouting.

"Hey! What's goin' on in there?"

One of them fired a warning shot. It whistled over Sanjan's head,
thudded into the ceiling above him. It startled him. Never must he
forget that he was human!

Then the workmen in the laboratory were gasping, numbed, suddenly mute
with incredulous astonishment. The figure of the young man intruder
clad in heavy high boots, broad leather belt and heavy dark shirt, had
suddenly vanished from the doorway! Only the glow of him was there. But
almost instantly they saw him again at the other side of the room.

"Run!" Sanjan shouted. "Get out of here! You'll be killed, I tell you!"
With a sweep of his arm he smashed a line of glowing retorts.

Incredible saboteur! Suddenly it was as though the room were full of
duplicating mirrors, each of them in succession holding a fleeting
image of the appearing and vanishing Sanjan. As though a dozen of him
were present on the little iron balcony; over there in the corner,
smashing with a mallet the controls of the electric furnace.

In the panic of the room, the running inmates met the oncoming guards,
forced them back. One of the guards had heard the news over the radio.

"It's Sanjan the fiend!" he shouted. "Run! Run for your lives! It's the

Then Sanjan knew he was alone, with acrid fumes and smoke rising
around him. For just another moment he stayed, with his iron mallet
crashing at the wires and tubes. The deranged electricity crackled,
sparkled with showers of colored sparks. And the derangement spread.
Short-circuits followed, and explosions of chemicals from retorts
which had crashed. A hissing, crackling, spluttering turmoil in the
midst of which flames were rising, spreading, attacking the interior
woodwork of the room....

On the path by the cave, Sanjan stood gazing down into the moon
drenched valley. Smoke and flame were down there--flame mingled with
the constant bursts of explosions. All the buildings were aflame now. A
great burst of fire gushed up as one of the roofs fell in, the blurred,
reverberating roar of an explosion coming a moment later. A yellow-red
glare spouted heavenward with billows of smoke rolling up.

For a moment the panting Sanjan stood on the path, gazing down. He was
tired, winded. One of his hands was burned a little. He would lie in
the cave for a while, and then--the Ural Mountains war project perhaps
should be next.

He found himself in the cave. He had left his jacket here. Where was
it? By the glow of opalescence from his body he could see that the
jacket wasn't where he had thought he left it. Then he saw it, lying on
a nearby rock.

Some tiny sound, instantly apparent to Sanjan's swift, acute senses,
gave him a flash of warning. Across the cave he saw the blob of a dark
crouching figure with a revolver leveled at him!

In that flash, when he became aware that he was being attacked, Sanjan
could have escaped. Thought of that munitions plant in the Ural
Mountains again came to him, but he thrust it away. He must not always
vanish when attacked, like a craven coward. To the world then he would
be just a fugitive, to be hunted and assailed with impunity. This was
his chance to show his prowess.

Officer McGuffy's revolver spat yellow-red flame. The bullet sang
through the radiant space where Sanjan had been. McGuffy gasped as
Sanjan loomed beside him. Perhaps in a normal fight the burly McGuffy
would have given a good account of himself. But he was too dazed and
terrified now. With a blow of cat-like swiftness Sanjan knocked the
weapon from his hand.

"You're not quick enough," Sanjan said. "Come on! Can't you fight?"

       *       *       *       *       *

McGuffy did. Or at least, in his desperate terror he tried to strike
back at this weird, glowing adversary. He straightened, staggered,
and then Sanjan was cuffing him, nimbly avoiding the bigger man's
bull-like rushes. With doubled fist he struck McGuffy in the face,
parried what to Sanjan was a slow, clumsy swing, and hit his assailant
again. McGuffy went down. Sanjan bent over him. Sanjan's knife point
was at McGuffy's throat.

"Don't--don't kill me!" McGuffy gasped.

"I'm not going to kill you," Sanjan said. "But you realize that I can,
very easily. You go back and tell them that. If you don't, I'll seek
you out and kill you next time. You tell them, whoever attacks Sanjan
will _die_! You understand me?"

"Yes--yes--I will!" McGuffy yelled.

In the next instant he knew that he was alone in the cave, with only a
brief faintly lingering radiance to mark where his weird antagonist had

To inspire terror, Sanjan knew that was his greatest single asset,
and he knew he needed it. Already he was beginning to realize the
monumental size of the task before him. And the little incident in the
Tennessee cave with McGuffy immediately was helpful. Sanjan found an
unoccupied house in the dark, nearby village. He found a radio in its
living room, turned it on, and for a moment listened.

"The Great Smoky Mountain Laboratories and factories have been
destroyed by Sanjan, the supernatural monster!" an announcer was
crying. "The Tennessee war plant is in flames and almost total
destruction has been reported, with a death toll of thirty-three."

Sanjan listened grimly. He had done his best to minimize those deaths.
There would be more, of course. Soon Officer McGuffy was mentioned.

"--and in a nearby cave, Officer Jonathan McGuffy of Pine Ridge, met
the fiend in personal encounter.... He's an unkillable monster...."

The dazed and terrified McGuffy had garbled it considerably. Sanjan
chuckled grimly as he listened. McGuffy was convinced that his bullet
had gone through the fiend, and had not harmed him, that Sanjan was an
unkillable being, in the guise of a young man, wholly supernatural! It
was what Sanjan had hoped. Surely the McGuffy incident would inspire a
new terror which would be helpful.

The warplant in the Ural Mountains now required his presence.

Sanjan a moment later stood on a rocky height of snow-clad peaks,
gazing down at the huddled group of buildings in the hollow, with
their lights and electrified fences and alert guards. Fighter planes
droned overhead. This plant would be more difficult. He needed to know
just what was inside, just where the munitions were located, and to
determine how he could cause an explosion.

Soon he stood in a corridor, listening at a doorway to the men who were
talking inside.

He investigated one building, then another. He had not been seen, not
as yet. There was no alarm....

An hour had passed perhaps, since he had sought refuge in the
unoccupied little house in the Tennessee village and listened to the
radio. He knew now, here in the Ural Mountains, how when the proper
time came, he could inspire panic by making his presence known, leaping
with a flash of thought from one part of the buildings to another so
that the panic-stricken workers would flee. Afterward he would set off
a bomb which would detonate all the explosives here.

His was a strange power--so gigantic in its practical workings, and
yet so queerly limited. In these few hours he was hungry, thirsty,
tired. His muscles ached. These were simple human needs which had to
be supplied, and he was just one person, with the whole gigantic world
teeming with the activities of war.

For that moment as he thought of it, Sanjan was appalled. There were
warships on the high seas. Just for a moment now, he sought one of them
out. In its engine room he appeared, shouting,

"I am Sanjan! I have come to sink this ship!"

       *       *       *       *       *

On the bridge he stood beside the Captain. "I am Sanjan! I order you to
abandon ship!"

Like a will-o'-the-wisp, appearing only for seconds in a myriad parts
of the huge vessel, until at last it lay wallowing in the seas,
abandoned. This task had only taken a few minutes, but the ship was
just one of so many!

Sanjan saw now that he must bring other factors than mere sabotage
to aid him in stopping this war. There must be intimidation of the
world's leaders. The Ural Mountain plant still was unharmed. The
Tennessee plant was destroyed. From what the world knew, so far, this
monster Sanjan was only attacking America. Sanjan realized that this
was the strategic moment for him to appear in Washington. He stood
on the bridge of the abandoned warship wallowing in the seas off Cape
Hatteras, and thought of what he must do, in Washington....

The President and his cabinet were in a midnight emergency session. The
Secret Service men were watchful outside their closed doors. Then the
grave-faced leaders of the greatest government in the world looked up
from around their big polished mahogany table and they were terrified,
mute with dazed incredulity as they stared at the glowing intruder in
their midst.

"The fiend!" someone gasped. "Sanjan is here!"

"Sanjan, the mutant," Sanjan said. "Don't cry out. Quiet now! You can
see that I can kill any one of you. But I won't. I've just come to warn

One of the cabinet officers recovered his wits a little. "Sanjan
Thome," he said. "You're an American--and you turn your power against
us! You are using your diabolic power against your own country."

"It would be too bad if I stuck to that policy, wouldn't it?" Sanjan
said. "Our enemies, just for this moment now--well, I guess they're
gloating. You and your allied governments sent them an ultimatum.

"It had to be sent," the cabinet member explained. "Don't you

"I tell you now to withdraw it," Sanjan said. "Make that public now. It
will give me time. You'll do that because you know that I can come back
at any time and kill any one of you. How can your guards protect you?"
His eyes flashed and every man in the room knew that he meant what he
said. "I can kill you--at your desks--in your bedrooms!"

                               CHAPTER V

                           _World In Terror_

Within an hour the world's radios were blaring the news.

"At an emergency press session, the President at three a. m. this
morning, announced that the ultimatums sent today have been temporarily
cancelled. The Ambassadors involved have been instructed immediately
to cable their governments."

And there was another conference taking place, high up in an Alpine
retreat. Sanjan quietly listened to it; learned what he wanted to know.
Then he appeared and warned the officials as frightened interpreters
there mumbled a translation of his words:

"The ultimatums from America and other nations have been withdrawn. You
can save face with your people now and you have no need to cross that
border. Your armies are mobilized, ready to sweep forward. I know that.
Order them back! If they're on the march now, order them back!"

He made a sudden movement toward one of the dazed, uniformed men--a man
gaudy with the military decorations, a leader of great importance to
his hypnotized people.

"You!" Sanjan said menacingly. "It would give me great pleasure to come
back and stick a knife into you!"

Radiance quivered where he had been, and then he was gone....

With the quickness of thought, Sanjan returned to the Ural Mountains to
carry out his plans there. Within twenty minutes a powerful radio was
announcing to the startled world:

"The great Ural Mountains plant has just been destroyed by an
explosion. Sanjan, the monster, has made his appearance in Europe."

In England and America great multiple presses started to roll, rushing
out special editions of newspapers. Excitement mounted throughout the

But the inflammatory ultimatums had been withdrawn and in mid-Europe,
the massed armies did not move. A week passed. Then another. The world
had been upon the brink of war, but there had been a change, a halting
change, perhaps merely temporary. Every leader, as he went to bed,
could not help thinking:

"Will the supernatural monster come here and try to kill _me_? Our
war plants are being destroyed. Without our weapons of war, we will be
defenceless against the enemy. Sanjan _must_ be trapped!"

For days and weeks now, the prospects of war had taken secondary place.
The outraged, frightened world was hunting for Sanjan. News of him
continued to pour in.

"The monster has been seen at the Greenland International Airbase."
Then: "The fiend appeared last night on a hill in Malta. Subsequently,
several vessels of the Mediterranean fleet were wrecked."

There were times, when in any secluded place he could locate, Sanjan
had to sleep, always with the danger that he might have been seen and
might be killed while sleeping. Many times, at night, when hungry and
thirsty, he skulked along the roads and among the houses of villages,
seizing what he needed.

Like a fugitive, with the world hunting him, was Sanjan! It was the
world's most hated and feared name. But, day by day, night after night,
the destruction went steadily on.

"Singapore Naval Base has been severely damaged.... The Smolensk
atomic bomb plant has been wrecked.... The Alaskan airbase has been
attacked by the monster!... Great atomic bomb plant explodes in Chile,
and the area of dangerous radioactivity spreads. Santiago has been
evacuated! South America, last night, received its first visitation by
the supernatural monster. Panic is spreading in the capitals of the
southern Republics. Conference in Buenos Aires forms new plans for
hunting down this menace to the world."

How could there be time for nations to be making war on each other?
There was only the cry:

"Sanjan must be destroyed!"

At the conference in Buenos Aires, Sanjan for a little time stood
ironically smiling and listening, listening behind portieres. Spanish
was one of the languages he had readily absorbed from his tutors when
he was a child.

He listened to the futile plans which were being made here to trap him.
Then, for just a few seconds, he appeared in a distant, open corner of
the room and told them in Spanish:

"You fool yourselves. I cannot be caught. I cannot be killed."

Quickly he was gone, with only his radiance lingering after him....

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days later, the Head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, in
Washington, was conferring with the President, the cabinet members,
congressional leaders and police commissioners from the leading cities
of the nation.

"Every effort must be made," the President was saying. "We must try and
persuade him to turn his activities only against our enemies."

They discussed it.

"But he couldn't be trusted," the F.B.I. head said. "That's obvious. He
is deranged mentally." Sanjan departed.

The leaders in the Alpine retreat were, almost at that same time,
saying the same things.

"He is deranged. He must be killed."

The listening Sanjan smiled and Sanjan appeared among them. He was
blazing with anger. He could speak enough of their language to rip out:

"While I live, you will never resume your plans. I shall stop
destroying property soon, and destroy only the world's leaders!"

His grim words were still echoing in the room after he was gone.

At long last his thoughts had turned homeward, for a great nostalgia
had overcome him. In a few seconds he was there again, back in the
garden where he had spent his youth. He concealed himself behind some
bushes and slept soundly for a time. Then he sought out Vana Grant and
told her all that he had done. She knew most of it from the radio and
the newspapers, but she heard it all over again, from his lips.

That afternoon they spent in the Grant garden, hidden safely by the
trees and shrubbery. Here they could not be seen or heard from the
houses, if they talked softly. Finally she threw her arms around him
and gazed fondly into his face.

"You are so changed, Sanjan!" she said.

His boots were worn, his clothes ripped and soiled, burned in places.
There was a growth of ragged beard on his face and he was haggard and

"I wanted to see you, Vana," he told her. "Just to be near you, for a
little while."

"Yes, I know."

She held his head against her, like a mother comforting a tired child.

It was good to be with Vana again. It was lonely, being a hated
outcast, reviled, feared; a monster, hunted by all the world.

"There is still much to do, Vana."

"Yes. I know."

"So much more than I realized." He was trying to smile, but it was a
wan, discouraged smile. "I don't think I've accomplished very much,

"But Sanjan!" she protested. "If it hadn't been for you, the world
would have been at war by now."

"Yes, that's true," he agreed. "But I've only postponed it."

"But that's something, Sanjan." She shuddered. "A week or two of atomic
war, with bombs falling, would have reduced the world to ruins."

"Just a postponement," he said bitterly. "Don't you see, they've all
stopped thinking of war, just because they're so busy hunting Sanjan."

"But what you've destroyed--"

"Nothing at all," he said, "compared to the whole. They'd never even
miss it. With me out of the way, within a few weeks they'd--"

"Sanjan! Don't talk like that!"

"I have just this one human body, Vana. Maybe I've had a lot of
luck--not killing myself, or being killed, long before this."

"Sanjan, dear."

She could only hold him, try to comfort him. The woman's place, perhaps
not fully to understand, but always to comfort, giving the strength of
her spirit to the man.

"Sometimes I am afraid, Vana."

"No, Sanjan, you mustn't be."

"Not for myself. But the world is so big."

       *       *       *       *       *

To leave the task uncompleted, that would be failure. So quickly
the dread name of Sanjan would just be a memory and the world could
resume its normal activities. It would go on, of course, just as it
had before. That universal cry, "We need defense!" would sound again.
And Sanjan knew there was truth in that, of course. Everyone, weak or
strong, must have the means of war--or they all must have none.

"But if I should fail, Vana?"

"You will not. You cannot. It's too important, Sanjan."

And as she held him, caressing him, he felt a new strength; and
presently he drew back from her arms and sat straight.

"I shall not fail, Vana."

"No, of course not, Sanjan."

"I shall go on and on, until it is done."

"But sometimes you must rest," she murmured.

"Yes, I do."


He smiled. "Wherever I am, or think that I would be." And then he
gestured past the trees of the garden, out to where the setting sun
laid a sheen of yellow and gold across the sky. "Sometimes I come and
sleep, quite near here, Vana, to be near you. Somehow it seems less

"Where, Sanjan?"

He lowered his voice. "You remember that little cave, up there on the
hill, where we used to play when we were children?"

"Smee's Cave?"

"Smee, the pirate. Remember?"

"He had a hook for a hand. I was so afraid of him--"

"And you were Wendy," Sanjan said. "And I was Peter Pan."

"And we had a little bell to ring. That was Tinker Bell, the fairy. Oh
Sanjan, we were so happy then."

He held her close. "We will be happy again, Vana. That's what I'm
trying to do--help to make the world a place where people can just be
happy and not afraid."

For a time he was silent. Finally he said, "I was up in the Alps. I
told them there that soon I would begin destroying, not just property,
but the leaders of the nations themselves."

"Deliberate murder, Sanjan?"

"I know," he said. "And then I got to thinking. Which of the leaders
can you actually blame? From my viewpoint, surely not our own
President. He is doing his best, as he sees it."

"Yes, I suppose so," she agreed.

"I have threatened them, so that perhaps they'll think more in terms of
compromise and less in terms of war. And if I killed some of them, what
good would it really do? Others would step into their places. Things
would go on just the same."

"But the world may change, Sanjan," Vana said. "At least, you are
showing them the way."

"I know it. And I'll keep on."

His quick ears heard the sound of someone coming from Vana's house. His
glance warned her. He drew back from the warmth of her arms. He stood

There was just a little glow of radiance where he had been....

                              CHAPTER VI

                           _End of a Dream_

Smee's Cave it was called. It had been one of the fancies of their
childhood when love and peace and happiness had reigned in their
lives. A few nights after he had talked with Vana in her garden, Sanjan
came back, tired, and stretched himself to rest at the mouth of the
cave. He had been in mid-Europe. After a day and night of careful
investigating, he had caused a monstrous atomic explosion there.
Factories crowded with bomb-bearing rockets had gone up, and many of
the finished bombs themselves. But so many people had been killed; and
so wide, so crowded an area was devastated by the deadly radioactivity
that Sanjan decided it was almost as horrible as war itself.

Sanjan lay shuddering. And then with tired, wandering, drifting
thoughts, he was thinking only of Vana. It was comforting, at least, to
be here in the little cave so near her home, a hallowed little place,
which now, to Sanjan, seemed a symbol of what most of mankind really

The sudden sound of a loose stone rattling brought him out of his
drifting thoughts. He snapped into startled alertness; and then he
turned and saw the figure of Vana with the moonlight on her as she came
up the stony little path.

"Vana! Vana, dear!"

"You're here, Sanjan! Oh, I'm so glad! I just wanted to be near you--to
hold you again."

"And I wanted you. Just you, Vana. Nothing else."

The moonlight wrapped them as they sat in the mouth of the cave.

Hardly any warning came to Sanjan. There was Vana's love, her arms
around him, with perhaps some faint little sound intruding. Then it
flashed to him that Vana had been tricked. She had been watched, and
now had been followed here! The shapes of men were suddenly here in the


He felt her start at his murmured warning. In an instant Sanjan freed
himself from her arms and tried to leap to his feet. A man's low voice
muttered to someone else and another man lunged forward, with his arm
drawn back.

Simultaneously, Sanjan's wary, protective thoughts leaped! That
mountaintop in Labrador! He could be there now and escape this attack.
But the threshold opening before him drew together and closed as he
heard Vana's frightened cry.

That fatal cry from Vana! She did not mean it, of course. It burst from

"Sanjan! Sanjan!"

He lingered, fearful that she might be hurt, with every instinct in him
springing to her protection. He turned, momentarily, with no thought at
all, except for her. Next, he was aware of a man's arm coming forward,
a hand hurling something, and a liquid struck against his face with
searing, acrid fumes choking him, and eating into his eyes with a
searing pain up into his brain, like fire spreading there.

[Illustration: Liquid from the bottle struck Sanjan's face, and searing
acrid fumes choked him.]

"Sanjan! Sanjan, dear! Go! Go!"

But to Sanjan there was no moonlight here now--no sight of Vana.
Nothing was here but his whirling thoughts, and the burning horrible
pain on his face, in his eyes, his brain, and a ring of muttering
voices in the blackness around him.

"Watch out!" they cried. "Be careful of what he may do. _Ah-h-h!_
We've got him!"

"No! Kill him now! We can kill him now!"

"Wait! Wait! He could have gone already, but he hasn't!"

Next came Vana's despairing cry, so that he tried to stumble in the
darkness toward her. Labrador! He would be safe in that little hideout
in Labrador....

But with the acid eating into his eyes, there was only the darkness
of Sanjan's futile thoughts. There would be nothing but this eternal
darkness for him now, in Labrador, or anywhere else. Alone there, he
would be helpless.

"We've got him."

"He doesn't go! See, he stays here."

"We did it! Maybe a bullet wouldn't have killed him, but this did the
business. He's helpless and he knows it!"

"What can a blind man do?"

Sanjan was murmuring, "Vana! Vana, dear."

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon he found her. Down on the ground he found her, and she sobbed and
held him....

"We've captured him at last. Send out the news, Jenkins. What a night's
work for us! Send out the news! We've got Sanjan--we've got him alive
and helpless!"

Like a wild beast, they had caught Sanjan, alive and subdued. Within an
hour the world of civilization was ringing with it.

"Oh, Vana!"

"You can't go, Sanjan?"

"What's the use, now, Vana?"

The Valley of the Nile? The mountains of Carpathia? He could be there
now, in the darkness. But he would be lost always in darkness.

What could he do, anywhere, just stumbling in the dark?

"They've got me, Vana. It's all over."

She held him. She was sobbing.

They let her hold him, through all those hours when all the world
debated what to do with him. Study him? Experiment on him? Science
wanted to do that. Or would he rebel?

Would he, with a last desperate effort, go somewhere?

Even though in the darkness of the blind, might he not seek out some
world leader, try to assassinate him because of some crazed idea of

The leaders of the world feared to let him live.

He must be destroyed.

And here in Smee's Cave, he clung in the darkness to Vana, in the
warmth of her arms. They both heard the babble around them, but they
hardly heeded it.

A little wooden runway had been erected, from the cave down to where a
huge electronic furnace now yawned with its open pit of monstrous heat.
And on the ragged, stony hillside here at dawn, a crowd of people now
had gathered to witness the execution. Sanjan, the fiend, was going to
his death....

       *       *       *       *       *

Then as the eastern sky was brightening with the coming sun of a new
day for the world, Sanjan heard a man's voice; and he could feel that
the man was standing here before him and Vana.

"The decision is that you must die, Sanjan," the man announced.

"Yes," Sanjan said. "I realize it. Oh Vana, please don't cry."

His father came and spoke in a choked voice. "Sanjan, son!"

"Oh!... Hello, Dad."

"I fought so against the decision," his father was saying. "All night
I've been fighting it. I've tried so hard."

"Thanks, Dad. And--good luck to you. Good luck to you all."

Then in the darkness he could feel Vana and his father being taken away
from him....

The blood-colored sun of the new day was peering over the eastern
horizon when Sanjan stood up and was guided to the runway. In the flush
of pink dawn-light, the watching people on the hillside were suddenly
hushed with awe as they stared at the lone figure. But some of them
were murmuring to each other:

"Will the war come now?"

"If only he could have succeeded!"


"He has to die. He's a man ahead of his time!"

"But some day, John--"

"Yes, some day."

Slowly in the flush of the dawn, the lone figure moved down the runway.
It was a ragged, almost pitiful figure now; but it moved steadily, with
arms outstretched.

"Sanjan! Oh, Sanjan dear!" That was Vana's last little murmured cry as
she clung to Robert Thome.

On the runway, Sanjan was walking slowly, steadily down.

Sometimes his outstretched hands touched the side rails to guide him.
Just a ragged youth, blind and helpless.

But there was a radiance from him.

At last he reached the brink. He paused, with the glare and the heat of
the furnace on him.

And then he took another step, and went down.

The radiance which was Sanjan mingled for just an instant with the
monstrous, consuming fire of science--and was gone.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ahead of his time" ***