The Smoky God
Willis George Emerson
Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 50
Publication Date: 1908
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This is a fictional hollow earth adventure. The narrator, Olaf Jansen, is a Norwegian who sails with his father deep into the northern ice. There they sail over the lip of the hollow earth, and into the inner world, lit by a dim central sun. The inhabitants are an advanced race of giants who have electricity, monorails, and extremely long lifespans. The travelers return to the surface through the Antarctic, but lose everything which could confirm their tale on the return voyage.
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I fear the seemingly incredible story which I am about to relate will be regarded as the result of a distorted intellect superinduced, possibly, by the glamour of unveiling a marvelous mystery, rather than a truthful record of the unparalleled experiences related by one Olaf Jansen, whose eloquent madness so appealed to my imagination that all thought of an analytical criticism has been effectually dispelled.
Marco Polo will doubtless shift uneasily in his grave at the strange story I am called upon to chronicle; a story as strange as a Munchausen tale. It is also incongruous that I, a disbeliever, should be the one to edit the story of Olaf Jansen, whose name is now for the first time given to the world, yet who must hereafter rank as one of the notables of earth. I freely confess his statements admit of no rational analysis, but have to do with the profound mystery concerning the frozen North that for centuries has claimed the attention of scientists and laymen alike.
However much they are at variance with the cosmographical manuscripts of the past, these plain statements may be relied upon as a record of the things Olaf Jansen claims to have seen with his own eyes.
A hundred times I have asked myself whether it is possible that the world's geography is incomplete, and that the startling narrative of Olaf Jansen is predicated upon demonstrable facts. The reader may be able to answer these queries to his own satisfaction, however far the chronicler of this narrative may be from having reached a conviction. Yet sometimes even I am at a loss to know whether I have been led away from an abstract truth by the ignes fatui of a clever superstition, or whether heretofore accepted facts are, after all, founded upon falsity.
It may be that the true home of Apollo was not at Delphi, but in that older earth-center of which Plato speaks, where he says: "Apollo's real home is among the Hyperboreans, in a land of perpetual life, where mythology tells us two doves flying from the two opposite ends of the world met in this fair region, the home of Apollo. Indeed, according to Hecatæus, Leto, the mother of Apollo, was born on an island in the Arctic Ocean far beyond the North Wind." It is not my intention to attempt a discussion of the theogony of the deities nor the cosmogony of the world. My simple duty is to enlighten the world concerning a heretofore unknown portion of the universe, as it was seen and described by the old Norseman, Olaf Jansen. Interest in northern research is international. Eleven nations are engaged in, or have contributed to, the perilous work of trying to solve Earth's one remaining cosmological mystery.
There is a saying, ancient as the hills, that "truth is stranger than fiction," and in a most startling manner has this axiom been brought home to me within the last fortnight. It was just two o'clock in the morning when I was aroused from a restful sleep by the vigorous ringing of my door-bell. The untimely disturber proved to be a messenger bearing a note, scrawled almost to the point of illegibility, from an old Norseman by the name of Olaf Jansen. After much deciphering, I made out the writing, which simply said: "Am ill unto death. Come." The call was imperative, and I lost no time in making ready to comply.
Perhaps I may as well explain here that Olaf Jansen, a man who quite recently celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday, has for the last half-dozen years been living alone in an unpretentious bungalow out Glendale way, a short distance from the business district of Los Angeles, California.
It was less than two years ago, while out walking one afternoon, that I was attracted by Olaf Jansen's house and its homelike surroundings, toward its owner and occupant, whom I afterward came to know as a believer in the ancient worship of Odin and Thor.
There was a gentleness in his face, and a kindly expression in the keenly alert gray eyes of this man who had lived more than four-score years and ten; and, withal, a sense of loneliness that appealed to my sympathy. Slightly stooped, and with his hands clasped behind him, he walked back and forth with slow and measured tread, that day when first we met. I can hardly say what particular motive impelled me to pause in my walk and engage him in conversation. He seemed pleased when I complimented him on the attractiveness of his bungalow, and on the well-tended vines and flowers clustering in profusion over its windows, roof and wide piazza.
I soon discovered that my new acquaintance was no ordinary person, but one profound and learned to a remarkable degree; a man who, in the later years of his long life, had dug deeply into books and become strong in the power of meditative silence.
I encouraged him to talk, and soon gathered that he had resided only six or seven years in Southern California, but had passed the dozen years prior in one of the middle Eastern states. Before that he had been a fisherman off the coast of Norway, in the region of the Lofoden Islands, from whence he had made trips still farther north to Spitzbergen and even to Franz Josef Land.
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