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Amazing Stories, October 1930

Man from the Moon

By Otis Adelbert Kline

LOOKING forward is always an interesting occupation, for the imagination can be given absolute free play and so many seemingly fantastic pictures may be called into being. But equally absorbing can be the process of looking backward, though it must be done with considerably less freedom of imagination. What was the origin of races? Did all of us— Yellow, Black and White—start our generations in similar manner? How far afield of the truth are anthropologists? Otis Adelbert Kline has pondered on these questions and, being a writer of no mean ability, it naturally follows that his story is well worth serious consideration. Therefore me recommend it heartily, knowing that you will agree with us.

WE stood on the eastern rim of Crater Mound—my friend Professor Thompson, the noted selenographer, and I. Dusky shadows lengthened and grew more intense in the great, deep basin before us, as the Sun, his face reddened as if from his day's exertions, sank slowly beyond the western rim.

Behind us, Alamo Edwards, the dude wrangler who had brought us out from Canyon Diabolo two weeks before, was dividing his time between the chuck wagon and our outdoor cookstove in the preparation of our evening meal, while our hobbled horses wandered about near-by, searching out clumps of edible vegetation.

"How is the story progressing, Jim?" asked the professor, referring to a half finished novel I had brought out with me to occupy my time with, while my friend puttered among the stones and rubble in the vicinity.

"I've reached an impasse—" I began.

"And so have I," rejoined my friend dejectedly, "but of the two, mine is far the worst, for yours is in an imaginary situation, while mine is real. You will eventually solve your problem by using your imagination, which has no fixed limitations. I can only solve mine by using my reason, which is limited to deductions from facts. If I do not find sufficient facts either to prove or disprove my theory, what have I? A hypothesis, ludicrously wobbling on one puny leg, neither able to stand erect among established scientific truths nor to fall to dissolution among the mistaken ideas of the past."

"What single, if weak, leg supports your theory that the craters of the moon were caused by meteorites?" I asked.

"You are standing on it," replied the professor. Then, seeing me look around in perplexity, he added: "Crater Mound is the only known Terrestrial formation that exactly resembles in shape the great ring mountains of the moon. If Crater Mound was caused by the impact of a gigantic meteorite with the earth, there is a strong probability that the numerous ringed craters of the moon were created in a like manner."

"But was it?" I asked.

"That is something I can neither prove nor disprove," he replied. "The evidence I have thus far discovered leads me to believe that many relatively small meteoric fragments have fallen here. But they could not have fallen singly, or by twos and threes to make this dent three-quarters of a mile in diameter and more than four hundred feet below the surrounding earth level, to say nothing of throwing up the ring on which we now stand to a mean height of a hundred and fifty feet above the plain."

"Then how could they have fallen?"

"If this great earthen bowl was caused by them, they must have struck this plain in an immense cluster at least a third of a mile in diameter, probably more."

"In that case, what has become of the cluster?"

"Part of it is probably buried beneath the soil. Part of it, exposed to the air, would have been burned to a fine ash, having generated a terrific heat in its passage through the atmosphere and still having, before it cooled, an opportunity to unite with oxygen. There should, however, be an intermediary residue which I have been unable to find."

"Maybe it was carted off by prehistoric Americans for the metals it contained," I feebly ventured to suggest.

"Improbable as that statement may seem," said the professor, "there is a small amount of evidence in favor of it, for I have found a number of meteoric fragments miles from the rim of the crater. By Jove! We appear to have a visitor!"

He clapped his powerful binoculars to his eyes, and looking in the direction in which they pointed, I saw a tall, bent figure, apparently attired in a robe or gown, leaning on a long staff and carrying a bundle of poles under one arm, slowly descending the slope opposite us.

"Seems to be a Chinaman," he said, passing the glasses to me. "What is your opinion?"

I LOOKED and saw an undeniably Mongolian face, with slanting eyes, prominent cheek bones, and a long, thin moustache, the ends of which drooped at least four inches below the chin. The voluminous garments, though badly tattered, were unquestionably Chinese, as was the cap with a button in the center, which surmounted the broad head.

"A Chinaman or an excellent makeup," I replied. "Wonder what he's doing out here in his native costume?"

Our speculations were interrupted by the clarion supper call of Alamo from the camp behind us:

"Come an' get it, or I'll feed it to the coyotes."

"You go down and eat," said the professor. "I'm not hungry, anyway, and I want to stay here and watch this curious newcomer. Bring me a bacon and egg sandwich and a bottle of coffee when you have finished."

Knowing my friend's disposition—for once he had made up his mind, a fleet of tractors could not drag him from his purpose—I did not argue with him, but descended to the camp.

While Alamo grumbled about dudes that were too interested in rocks to come for their chow while it was hot, I finished my evening meal. Then, taking my binoculars, I carried his light snack to the professor as requested.

The last pink glow of the sun was fading in the west, and the moon was rising when I reached the top of the ridge.

"Sit down here beside me," whispered the professor. "Our visitor seems to be preparing for a religious ceremony of some sort, and I dislike disturbing him."

While my friend munched his sandwich and sipped his coffee, I used my binoculars to watch the Chinaman. He had erected four poles supporting four others which formed a square above a low, flat-topped rock near the center of the crater. Suspended from the horizontal poles by cords were many small objects which were apparently very light in weight, for they stirred like leaves in the breeze. A lighted taper stood in the center of the flat rock, which was surrounded by a ring of thin sticks that had been thrust into the ground. The Oriental was on his knees before the stone, immobile as the rock itself, his face turned in our direction.

"Seems to be keeping his eyes on us," I said.

"I think he is waiting for the moon to rise above the crater rim," replied the professor, once more applying his eyes to his own binoculars.

My friend was right, for as soon as the first shaft of moonlight entered the crater the kneeling figure was galvanized into action.

Bursting into a singsong chant, quite audible, if unintelligible to me, the Celestial applied the flame of the taper to each of the thin sticks he had planted around the stone, all of which were soon glowing like burning punk. Then he stepped beneath one of the objects suspended from a horizontal pole, made a short speech in the direction of the moon, and lighted it with the taper. It burned out in a few seconds, casting a weird, yellow light over the scene. Stepping beneath the next suspended object he made another speech and lighted that object also. This one burned with a blue flame. He continued thus for several minutes until all the dangling objects had been consumed— each with a different colored flame. Then he extinguished the taper and knelt once more before the stone, resuming his chant, and prostrating himself from time to time with his forehead touching the stone. The breeze, blowing in our direction, was laden with the sweet, heavy odor of burning sandalwood and musk.

A half hour passed with no change in the ceremony. Then the burning joss sticks winked out, one by one. When the last went dark, the kneeling man made a final obeisance, then rose, took down his framework of poles, tucked them under his arm, and leaning heavily on his long staff departed toward the west.

"Show's over," I said. "Shall we go back to camp?'

"Hardly," replied my friend. "I'm going to follow him. In this bright moonlight it should be easy. By Jove! What has become of him? Why the fellow just now disappeared before my eyes!"

"Maybe he fell into a ditch," I hazarded.

"Ditch, fiddlesticks!" snapped the professor. "I've explored every square foot of this crater and k...

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