|Posted on August 22, 2011 at 6:25 PM|
"'What is it? What the devil is it?' I asked.
"'That Damned Thing!' he replied, without turning his head. His voice was husky and unnatural. He trembled visibly.
"I was about to speak further, when I observed the wild oats near the place of the disturbance moving in the most inexplicable way. I can hardly describe it. It seemed as if stirred by a streak of wind, which not only bent it, but pressed it down—crushed it so that it did not rise; and this movement was slowly prolonging itself directly toward us."
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"Relate the circumstances of this man's death," said the coroner. "You may use any notes or memoranda that you please."
The witness understood. Pulling a manuscript from his breast pocket he held it near the candle and turning the leaves until he found the passage that he wanted began to read.
Chapter II: What may Happen in a Field of Wild Oats
". . . The sun had hardly risen when we left the house. We were looking for quail, each with a shotgun, but we had only one dog. Morgan said that our best ground was beyond a certain ridge that he pointed out, and we crossed it by a trail through the chaparral. On the other side was comparatively level ground, thickly covered with wild oats. As we emerged from the chaparral Morgan was but a few yards in advance. Suddenly we heard, at a little distance to our right and partly in front, a noise as of some animal thrashing about in the bushes, which we could see were violently agitated.
"We've started a deer," I said. "I wish we had brought a rifle."
"Morgan, who had stopped and was intently watching the agitated chaparral, said nothing, but had cocked both barrels of his gun and was holding it in readiness to aim. I thought him a trifle excited, which surprised me, for be had a reputation for exceptional coolness, even in moments of sudden and imminent peril.
"Oh, come," I said. "You are not going to fill up a deer with quail-shot, are you?"
Still he did not reply; but catching a sight of his face as he turned it slightly toward me I was struck by the intensity of his look. Then I understood that we had serious business in hand, and my first conjecture was that we had "jumped" a grizzly. I advanced to Morgan's side, cocking my piece as I moved.
The bushes were now quiet and the sounds had ceased, but Morgan was as attentive to the place as before.
"What is it? What the devil is it?" I asked.
"That Damned Thing!" he replied, without turning his head. His voice was husky and unnatural. He trembled visibly.
I was about to speak further, when I observed the wild oats near the place of the disturbance moving in the most inexplicable way. I can hardly describe it. It seemed as if stirred by a streak of wind, which not only bent it, but pressed it down-crushed it so that it did not rise; and this movement was slowly prolonging itself directly toward us.
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Nothing that I had ever seen had affected me so strangely as this unfamiliar and unaccountable phenomenon, yet I am unable to recall any sense of fear. I remember—and tell it here because, singularly enough, I recollected it then—that once in looking carelessly out of an open window I momentarily mistook a small tree close at hand for one of a group of larger trees at a little distance away. It looked the same size as the others, but being more distinctly and sharply defined in mass and detail seemed out of harmony with them. It was a mere falsification of the law of aerial perspective, but it startled, almost terrified me. We so rely upon the orderly operation of familiar natural laws that any seeming suspension of them is noted as a menace to our safety, a warning of unthinkable calamity. So now the apparently causeless movement of the herbage and the slow, undeviating approach of the line of disturbance were distinctly disquieting. My companion appeared actually frightened, and I could hardly credit my senses when I saw him suddenly throw his gun to his shoulder and fire both barrels at the agitated grain! Before the smoke of the discharge had cleared away I heard a loud savage cry—a scream like that of a wild animal—and flinging his gun upon the ground Morgan sprang away and ran swiftly from the spot. At the same instant I was thrown violently to the ground by the impact of something unseen in the smoke—some soft, heavy substance that seemed thrown against me with great force.
Before I could get upon my feet and recover my gun, which seemed to have been struck from my hands, I heard Morgan crying out as if in mortal agony, and mingling with his cries were such hoarse, savage sounds as one hears from fighting dogs. Inexpressibly terrified, I struggled to my feet and looked in the direction of Morgan's retreat; and may Heaven in mercy spare me from another sight like that! At a distance of less than thirty yards was my friend, down upon one knee, his head thrown back at a frightful angle, hatless, his long hair in disorder and his whole body in violent movement from side to side, backward and forward. His right arm was lifted and seemed to lack the hand—at least, I could see none. The other arm was invisible. At times, as my memory now reports this extraordinary scene, I could discern but a part of his body; it was as if he had been partly blotted out—I cannot otherwise express it—then a shifting of his position would bring it all into view again.
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All this must have occurred within a few seconds, yet in that time Morgan assumed all the postures of a determined wrestler vanquished by superior weight and strength. I saw nothing but him, and him not always distinctly. During the entire incident his shouts and curses were heard, as if through an enveloping uproar of such sounds of rage and fury as I had never heard from the throat of man or brute!
For a moment only I stood irresolute, then throwing down my gun I ran forward to my friend's assistance. I had a vague belief that he was suffering from a fit, or some form of convulsion. Before I could reach his side he was down and quiet. All sounds had ceased, but with a feeling of such terror as even these awful events had not inspired I now saw again the mysterious movement of the wild oats, prolonging itself from the trampled area about the prostrate man toward the edge of a wood. It was only when it had reached the wood that I was able to withdraw my eyes and look at my companion. He was dead.
Chapter III: A Man though Naked may be in Rags
The coroner rose from his seat and stood beside the dead man. Lifting an edge of the sheet he pulled it away, exposing the entire body, altogether naked and showing in the candle-light a clay-like yellow. It had, however, broad maculations of bluish black, obviously caused by extravasated blood from contusions. The chest and sides looked as if they had been beaten with a bludgeon. There were dreadful lacerations; the skin was torn in strips and shreds.
The coroner moved round to the end of the table and undid a silk handkerchief which had been passed under the chin and knotted on the top of the head. When the handkerchief was drawn away it exposed what had been the throat. Some of the jurors who had risen to get a better view repented their curiosity and turned away their faces. Witness Harker went to the open window and leaned out across the sill, faint and sick. Dropping the handkerchief upon the dead man's neck the coroner stepped to an angle of the room and from a pile of clothing produced one garment after another, each of which he held up a moment for inspection. All were torn, and stiff with blood. The jurors did not make a closer inspection. They seemed rather uninterested. They had, in truth, seen all this before; the only thing that was new to them being Harker's testimony.
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"Gentlemen," the coroner said, "we have no more evidence, I think. Your duty has been already explained to you; if there is nothing you wish to ask you may go outside and consider your verdict."
The foreman rose—a tall, bearded man of sixty, coarsely clad.
"I should like to ask one question, Mr. Coroner," he said. "What asylum did this yer last witness escape from?"
"Mr. Harker," said the coroner gravely and tranquilly, "from what asylum did you last escape?" Harker flushed crimson again, but said nothing, and the seven jurors rose and solemnly filed out of the cabin.
"If you have done insulting me, sir," said Harker, as soon as he and the officer were left alone with the dead man, "I suppose I am at liberty to go?"
Harker started to leave, but paused, with his hand on the door latch. The habit of his profession was strong in him—stronger than his sense of personal dignity. He turned about and said:
"The book that you have there—I recognize it as Morgan's diary. You seemed greatly interested in it; you read in it while I was testifying. May I see it? The public would like—"
"The book will cut no figure in this matter," replied the official, slipping it into his coat pocket; "all the entries in it were made before the writer's death."
As Harker passed out of the house the jury reentered and stood about the table, on which the now covered corpse showed under the sheet with sharp definition. The foreman seated himself near the candle, produced from his breast pocket a pencil and scrap of paper and wrote rather laboriously the following verdict, which with various degrees of effort all signed: "We, the jury, do find that the remains come to their death at the hands of a mountain lion, but some of us thinks, all the same, they had fits."
Chapter IV: An Explanation from the Tomb
In the diary of the late Hugh Morgan are certain interesting entries having, possibly, a scientific value as suggestions. At the inquest upon his body the book was not put in evidence; possibly the coroner thought it not worth while to confuse the jury. The date of the first of the entries mentioned cannot be ascertained; the upper part of the leaf is torn away; the part of the entry remaining follows:
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". . . would run in a half-circle, keeping his head turned always toward the centre, and again he would stand still, barking furiously. At last he ran away into the brush as fast as he could go. I thought at first that he had gone mad, but on returning to the house found no other alteration in his manner than what was obviously due to fear of punishment.
"Can a dog see with his nose? Do odours impress some cerebral centre with images of the thing that emitted them? . . .
"Sept. 2.—Looking at the stars last night as they rose above the crest of the ridge east of the house, I observed them successively disappear—from left to right. Each was eclipsed but an instant, and only a few at the same time, but along the entire length of the ridge all that were within a degree or two of the crest were blotted out. It was as if something had passed along between me and them; but I could not see it, and the stars were not thick enough to define its outline. Ugh! don't like this." . . .
Several weeks' entries are missing, three leaves being torn from the book.
"Sept. 27.—It has been about here again—I find evidences of its presence every day. I watched again all last night in the same cover, gun in hand, double-charged with buckshot. In the morning the fresh footprints were there, as before. Yet I would have sworn that I did not sleep—indeed, I hardly sleep at all. It is terrible, insupportable! If these amazing experiences are real I shall go mad; if they are fanciful I am mad already.
"Oct. 3.—I shall not go—it shall not drive me away. No, this is my house, my land. God hates a coward....
"Oct. 5.—I can stand it no longer; I have invited Harker to pass a few weeks with me—he has a level head. I can judge from his manner if he thinks me mad.
"Oct. 7.—I have the solution of the mystery; it came to me last night—suddenly, as by revelation. How simple—how terribly simple!
There are sounds that we cannot hear. At either end of the scale are notes that stir no chord of that imperfect instrument, the human ear. They are too high or too grave. I have observed a flock of blackbirds occupying an entire tree-top—the tops of several trees—and all in full song. Suddenly—in a moment—at absolutely the same instant—all spring into the air and fly away. How? They could not all see one another—whole tree-tops intervened. At no point could a leader have been visible to all. There must have been a signal of warning or command, high and shrill above the din, but by me unheard. I have observed, too, the same simultaneous flight when all were silent, among not only blackbirds, but other birds—quail, for example, widely separated by bushes—even on opposite sides of a hill.
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It is known to seamen that a school of whales basking or sporting on the surface of the ocean, miles apart, with the convexity of the earth between, will sometimes dive at the same instant—all gone out of sight in a moment. The signal has been sounded—too grave for the ear of the sailor at the masthead and his comrades on the deck—who nevertheless feel its vibrations in the ship as the stones of a cathedral are stirred by the bass of the organ.
As with sounds, so with colours. At each end of the solar spectrum the chemist can detect the presence of what are known as "actinic" rays. They represent colours—integral colours in the composition of light—which we are unable to discern. The human eye is an imperfect instrument; its range is but a few octaves of the real "chromatic scale." I am not mad; there are colours that we cannot see.
"And, God help me! the Damned Thing is of such a colour!"
SCIENTISTS CLOSER TO MAKING OBJECTS INVISIBLE
(AP) Harry Potter and Capt. Kirk would be proud. A team of American and British researchers has developed its own cloak of invisibility.
University Of Tokyo student Kazutoshi Obana dons his version of a cloak of invisibility, using optical camouflage technology, in 2003. U.S. and British researchers have announced their own method of making an object partially invisible by passing microwaves and radar waves over its surface. AP PHOTO
Well, OK, it's not perfect yet. But it is a start, and it did a pretty good job of hiding a copper cylinder.
In this experiment the scientists used microwaves to try to detect the cylinder. Like light and radar waves, microwaves bounce off objects making them visible and creating a shadow, though it has to be detected with instruments.
If you can hide something from microwaves, you can hide it from radar—a possibility that will fascinate the military.
The new work points the way for an improved version that could hide people and objects from visible light.
Conceptually, the chance of adapting the concept to visible light is good, cloak designer David Schurig said in a telephone interview.
"We did this work very quickly . . . and that led to a cloak that is not optimal," said coauthor David R. Smith, also of Duke. "We know how to make a much better one."
Natalia M. Litchinitser, a researcher at the University of Michigan department of electrical engineering and computer science, said this appears to be the "first, to the best of my knowledge, experimental realization of the fascinating idea of cloaking."
"Although the invisibility reported in this paper is not perfect, this work provides a proof-of-principle demonstration of the possibility," said Litchinitser.
She added that the next breakthrough is likely to be an experimental demonstration of the cloaking in visible light. "These ideas represent a first step toward the development of functional materials for a wide spectrum of civil and military applications."
The first working cloak was in only two dimensions and did cast a small shadow, Smith acknowledged.
The next step, he said, is to go for three dimensions and to eliminate any shadow.
Viewers can see things because objects scatter the light that strikes them, reflecting some of it back to the eye.
"The cloak reduces both an object's reflection and its shadow, either of which would enable its detection," said Smith. Looking at a cloaked item, Smith explained: "One would see whatever is behind the cloak. That is, the cloak is, ideally, transparent.
"Since we do not have a perfect cloak at this point, there is some reflection and some shadow, meaning that the background would still be visible, just darkened somewhat."
The ideal cloak would have nearly negligible reflection and virtually no shadowing, Smith said.
The Japan Times: Friday, Oct. 20, 2006
IS THE EXISTENCE OF AN INVISIBLE CREATURE WITHIN THE REALM OF PHYSICAL POSSIBILITY?
In my opinion, the answer is, "Absolutely!"
If human-kind is able to create so-called "cloaks of invisibility" simply by reducing an object's reflection and shadow, why not nature. After all, nature already beat us to such complicated physical achievements as gliding and flight (birds, insects, mammals and even fish), producing "cold" light from chemicals (fire flies, deep-sea fish, plankton), producing chemical explosions (bombardier beetle), echo location and sonar (bats, dolphins, whales), detection by sensitivity to electric fields (sharks), thermal detection (snakes), chemical warfare (skunk), chemical analysis of the environment (snakes, sharks, etc.) the ability to hover in mid-air (hummingbirds, bees), night vision (cats), synesthesia - ability to "see" the Earth's magnetic lines (migratory birds), the ability to produce powerful electric fields to stun and even kill (electric eels, electric catfish and torpedo rays)...I could go on, but I think I've made my point.
Instead of looking for some alien or metaphysical answer to the question of whether "invisible" creatures exist on our planet, why not consider the most logical possibilities first! That the "Damned Things" are just another marvelous, if terrifying, example of the diversity of biological life on this old Earth!