Power of Mind

It was night. The stars visible through the laboratory windows winked violently in the disturbed air of the Heaviside layer, for the molecular ray screen was still up.

The laboratory was dimly lighted now, all save the front of the room. There, a mass of compact boxes were piled one on another, and interconnected in various and indeterminate ways. And one table lay in a brilliant path of illumination. Behind it stood Arcot. He was talking to the dim white group of faces beyond the table, the scientists of Earth assembled.

“I have explained our power. It is the power of all the universe⁠—Cosmic Power⁠—which is necessarily vaster than all others combined.

“I cannot explain the control in the time I have at my disposal but the mathematics of it, worked out in two months of constant effort, you can follow from the printed work which will appear soon.

“The second thing, which some of you have seen before, has already been partly explained. It is, in brief, artificially created matter. The two important things to remember about it are that it is, that it does exist, and that it exists only where it is determined to exist by the control there, and nowhere else.

“These are all coordinated under the new mental relay control. Some of you will doubt this last, but think of it under this light. Will, thought, concentration⁠—they are efforts, they require energy. Then they can exert energy! That is the key to the whole thing.

“But now for the demonstration.”

Arcot looked toward Morey, who stood off to one side. There was a heavy thud as Morey pushed a small button. The relay had closed. Arcot’s mind was now connected with the controls.

A globe of cloudiness appeared. It increased in density, and was a solid, opalescent sphere.

“There is a sphere, a foot in diameter, ten feet from me,” droned Arcot. The sphere was there. “It is moving to the left.” The sphere moved to the left at Arcot’s thought. “It is rising.” The sphere rose. “It is changing to a disc two feet across.” The sphere seemed to flow, and was a disc two feet across as Arcot’s toneless voice of concentration continued.

“It is changing into a hand, like a human hand.” The disc changed into a human hand, the fingers slightly bent, the soft, white fingers of a woman with the pink of the flesh and the wrinkles at the knuckles visible. The wrist seemed to fade gradually into nothingness, the end of the hand was as indeterminate as are things in a dream, but the hand was definite.

“The hand is reaching for the bar of lux metal on the floor.” The soft, little hand moved, and reached down and grasped the half ton bar of lux metal, wrapped dainty fingers about it and lifted it smoothly and effortlessly to the table, and laid it there.

A mistiness suddenly solidified to another hand. The second hand joined the first, and fell to work on the bar, and pulled. The bar stretched finally under an enormous load. One hand let go, and the thud of the highly elastic lux metal bar’s return to its original shape echoed through the soundless room. These men of the twenty-second century knew what relux and lux metals were, and knew their enormous strength. Yet it was putty under these hands. The hands that looked like a woman’s!

The bar was again placed on the table, and the hands disappeared. There was a thud, and the relay had opened.

“I can’t demonstrate the power I have. It is impossible. The power is so enormous that nothing short of a sun could serve as a demonstration-hall. It is utterly beyond comprehension under any conditions. I have demonstrated artificial matter, and control by mental action.

“I’m now going to show you some other things we have learned. Remember, I can control perfectly the properties of artificial matter, by determining the structure it shall have.


Morey closed the relay. Arcot again set to work. A heavy ingot of iron was raised by a clamp that fastened itself upon it, coming from nowhere. The iron moved, and settled over the table. As it approached, a mistiness that formed became a crucible. The crucible showed the gray of pure iron, but it was artificial matter. The iron settled in the crucible, and a strange process of flowing began. The crucible became a ball, and colors flowed across its surface, till finally it was glowing richly silvery. The ball opened, and a great lump of silvery stuff was within it. It settled to the floor, and the ball disappeared, but the silvery metal did not.

“Platinum,” said Morey softly. A gasp came from the audience. “Only platinum could exist there, and the matter had to rearrange itself as platinum.” He could rearrange it in any form he chose, either absorbing or supplying energy of existence and energy of formation.

The mistiness again appeared in the air, and became a globe, a globe of brown. But it changed, and disappeared. Morey recognized the signal. “He will now make the artificial matter into all the elements, and many nonexistent elements, unstable, atomic figures.” There followed a long series of changes.

The material shifted again, and again. Finally the last of the natural elements was left behind, all 104 elements known to man were shown, and many others.

“We will skip now. This is element of atomic weight 7000.”

It was a lump of soft, oozy blackness. One could tell from the way that Arcot’s mind handled it that it was soft. It seemed cold, terribly cold. Morey explained:

“It is very soft, for its atom is so large that it is soft in the molecular state. It is tremendously photoelectric, losing electrons very readily, and since its atom has so enormous a volume, its electrons are very far from the nucleus in the outer rings, and they absorb rays of very great length; even radio and some shorter audio waves seem to affect it. That accounts for its blackness, and the softness as Arcot has truly depicted it. Also, since it absorbs heat waves and changes them to electrical charges, it tends to become cold, as the frost Arcot has shown indicates. Remember, that that is infinitely hard as you see it, for it is artificial matter, but Arcot has seen natural matter forced into this exceedingly explosive atomic figuration.

“It is so heavily charged in the nucleus that its X-ray spectrum is well toward the gamma! The inner electrons can scarcely vibrate.”

Again the substance changed⁠—and was gone.

“Too far⁠—atom of weight 20,000 becomes invisible and nonexistent as space closes in about it⁠—perhaps the origin of our space. Atoms of this weight, if breaking up, would form two or more atoms that would exist in our space, then these would be unstable, and break down further into normal atoms. We don’t know.

“And one more substance,” continued Morey as he opened the relay once more. Arcot sat down and rested his head in his hands. He was not accustomed to this strain, and though his mind was one of the most powerful on Earth, it was very hard for him.

“We have a substance of commercial and practical use now. Cosmium. Arcot will show one method of making it.”

Arcot resumed his work, seated now. A formation reached out, and grasped the lump of platinum still on the floor. Other bars of iron were brought over from the stack of material laid ready, and piled on a broad sheet that had formed in the air, tons of it, tens of tons. Finally he stopped. There was enough. The sheet wrapped itself into a sphere, and contracted, slowly, steadily. It was rampant with energy, energy flowed from it, and the air about was glowing with ionization. There was a feeling of awful power that seeped into the minds of the watchers, and held them spellbound before the glowing, opalescent sphere. The tons of matter were compressed now to a tiny ball! Suddenly the energy flared out violently, a terrific burst of energy, ionizing the air in the entire room, and shooting it with tiny, burning sparks. Then it was over. The ball split, and became two planes. Between them was a small ball of a glistening solid. The planes moved slowly together, and the ball flattened, and flowed. It was a sheet.

A clamp of artificial matter took it, and held the paper-thin sheet, many feet square, in the air. It seemed it must bend under its own enormous weight of tons, but thin as it was it did not.

“Cosmium,” said Morey softly.

Arcot crumpled it, and pressed it once more between artificial matter tools. It was a plate, thick as heavy cardboard, and two feet on a side. He set it in a holder of artificial matter, a sort of frame, and caused the controls to lock.

Taking off the headpiece he had worn, he explained, “As Morey said, Cosmium. Briefly, density, 5007.89. Tensile strength, about two hundred thousand times that of good steel!” The audience gasped. That seems little to men who do not realize what it meant. An inch of this stuff would be harder to penetrate than three miles of steel!

“Our new ship,” continued Arcot, “will carry six-inch armor. Six inches would be the equivalent of eighteen miles of solid steel, with the enormous improvement that it will be concentrated, and so will have far greater resistance than any amount of steel. Its tensile strength would be the equivalent of an eighteen-mile wall of steel.

“But its most important properties are that it reflects everything we know of. Cosmics, light, and even moleculars! It is made of cosmic ray photons, as lux is made of light photons, but the inexpressibly tighter bond makes the strength enormous. It cannot be handled by any means save by artificial matter tools.

“And now I am going to give a demonstration of the theatrical possibilities of this new agent. Hardly scientific⁠—but amusing.”

But it wasn’t exactly amusing.

Arcot again donned the headpiece. “I think,” he continued, “that a manifestation of the supernatural will be most interesting. Remember that all you see is real, and all effects are produced by artificial matter generated by the cosmic energy, as I have explained, and are controlled by my mind.”

Arcot had chosen to give this demonstration with definite reason. Apparently a bit of scientific playfulness, yet he knew that nothing is so impressive, nor so lastingly remembered as a theatrical demonstration of science. The greatest scientist likes to play with his science.

But Arcot’s experiment now⁠—it was on a level of its own!

From behind the table, apparently crawling up the leg came a thing! It was a hand. A horrible, disjointed hand. It was withered and incarmined with blood, for it was severed from its wrist, and as it hunched itself along, moving by a ghastly twitching of fingers and thumb, it left a trail of red behind it. The papers to be distributed rustled as it passed, scurrying suddenly across the table, down the leg, and racing toward the light switch! By some process of writhing jerks it reached it, and suddenly the room was plunged into half-light as the lights winked out. Light filtering over the transom of the door from the hall alone illuminated the hall, but the hand glowed! It glowed, and scurried away with an awful rustling, scuttling into some unseen hole in the wall. The quiet of the hall was the quiet of tenseness.

From the wall, coming through it, came a mistiness that solidified as it flowed across. It was far to the right, a bent stooped figure, a figure half glimpsed, but fully known, for it carried in its bony, glowing hand a great, nicked scythe. Its rattling tread echoed hollowly on the floor. Stooping walk, shuffling gait, the great metal scythe scraping on the floor, half seen as the gray, luminous cloak blew open in some unfelt breeze of its ephemeral world, revealing bone; dry, gray bone. Only the scythe seemed to know Life, and it was red with that Life. Slow running, sticky lifestuff.

Death paused, and raised his awful head. The hood fell back from the cavernous eyesockets, and they flamed with a greenish radiance that made every strained face in the room assume the same deathly pallor.

“The Scythe, the Scythe of Death,” grated the rusty Voice. “The Scythe is slow, too slow. I bring new things,” it cackled in its cracked voice, “new things of my tools. See!” The clutching bones dropped the rattling Scythe, and the handle broke as it fell, and rotted before their eyes. “Heh, heh,” the Thing cackled as it watched. “Heh⁠—what Death touches, rots as he leaves it.” The grinning, blackened skull grinned wider, in an awful, leering cavity, rotting, twisted teeth showed. But from under his flapping robe, the skeletal hands drew something⁠—ray pistols!

“These⁠—these are swifter!” The Thing turned, and with a single leering glance behind, flowed once more through the wall.

A gasp, a stifled, groaning gasp ran through the hall, a half sob.

But far, far away they could hear something clanking, dragging its slow way along. Spellbound they turned to the farthest corner⁠—and looked down the long, long road that twined off in distance. A lone, luminous figure plodded slowly along it, his half human shamble bringing him rapidly nearer.

Larger and larger he loomed, clearer and clearer became the figure, and his burden. Broken, twisted steel, or metal of some sort, twisted and blackened.

“It’s over⁠—it’s over⁠—and my toys are here. I win, I always win. For I am the spawn of Mars, of War, and of Hate, the sister of War, and my toys are the things they leave behind.” It gesticulated, waving the twisted stuff and now through the haze, they could see them⁠—buildings. The framework of buildings and twisted liners, broken weapons.

It loomed nearer, the cavernous, glowing eyes under low, shaggy brows, became clear, the awful brutal hate, the lust of Death, the rotting flesh of Disease⁠—all seemed stamped on the Horror that approached.

“Ah!” It had seen them! “Ahh!” It dropped the buildings, the broken things, and shuffled into a run, toward them! Its face changed, the lips drew back from broken, stained teeth, the curling, cruel lips, and the rotting flesh of the face wrinkled into a grin of lust and hatred. The shaggy mop of its hair seemed to writhe and twist, the long, thin fingers grasped spasmodically as it neared. The torn, broken fingernails were visible⁠—nearer⁠—nearer⁠—nearer⁠—

“Oh, God⁠—stop it!” A voice shrieked out of the dark as someone leaped suddenly to his feet.

Simultaneously with the cry the Thing puffed into nothingness of energy from which it had sprung, and a great ball of clear, white glowing light came into being in the center of the room, flooding it with a light that dazzled the eyes, but calmed broken nerves.