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The door into infinity, p.1
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       The Door into Infinity, p.1

           Edmond Hamilton
 
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The Door into Infinity


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  The Door Into Infinity

  By EDMOND HAMILTON

  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Weird TalesAugust-September 1936. Extensive research did not uncover any evidencethat the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  [Sidenote: _An amazing weird mystery story, packed with thrills, dangerand startling events._]

  _1. The Brotherhood of the Door_

  "Where leads the Door?"

  "_It leads outside our world._"

  "Who taught our forefathers to open the Door?"

  "_They Beyond the Door taught them._"

  "To whom do we bring these sacrifices?"

  "_We bring them to Those Beyond the Door._"

  "Shall the Door be opened that They may take them?"

  "_Let the Door be opened!_"

  Paul Ennis had listened thus far, his haggard face uncomprehending inexpression, but now he interrupted the speaker.

  "But what does it all mean, inspector? Why are you repeating this tome?"

  "Did you ever hear anyone speak words like that?" asked Inspector PierceCampbell, leaning tautly forward for the answer.

  "Of course not--it just sounds like gibberish to me," Ennis exclaimed."What connection can it have with my wife?"

  He had risen to his feet, a tall, blond young American whosegood-looking face was drawn and worn by inward agony, whose crisp yellowhair was brushed back from his forehead in disorder, and whose blue eyeswere haunted with an anguished dread.

  He kicked back his chair and strode across the gloomy little office,whose single window looked out on the thickening, foggy twilight ofLondon. He bent across the dingy desk, gripping its edges with his handsas he spoke tensely to the man sitting behind it.

  "Why are we wasting time talking here?" Ennis cried. "Sitting heretalking, when anything may be happening to Ruth!

  "It's been hours since she was kidnapped. They may have taken heranywhere, even outside of London by now. And instead of searching forher, you sit here and talk gibberish about Doors!"

  Inspector Campbell seemed unmoved by Ennis' passion. A bulky, almostbald man, he looked up with his colorless, sagging face, in which hiseyes gleamed like two crumbs of bright brown glass.

  "You're not helping me much by giving way to your emotions, Mr. Ennis,"he said in his flat voice.

  "Give way? Who wouldn't give way?" cried Ennis. "Don't you understand,man, it's Ruth that's gone--my wife! Why, we were married only last weekin New York. And on our second day here in London, I see her whiskedinto a limousine and carried away before my eyes! I thought you men atScotland Yard here would surely act, do something. Instead you talkcrazy gibberish to me!"

  "Those words are _not_ gibberish," said Pierce Campbell quietly. "And Ithink they're related to the abduction of your wife."

  "What do you mean? How could they be related?"

  The inspector's bright little brown eyes held Ennis'. "Did you ever hearof an organization called the Brotherhood of the Door?"

  Ennis shook his head, and Campbell continued, "Well, I am certain yourwife was kidnapped by members of the Brotherhood."

  "What kind of an organization is it?" the young American demanded. "Aband of criminals?"

  "No, it is no ordinary criminal organization," the detective said. Hissagging face set strangely. "Unless I am mistaken, the Brotherhood ofthe Door is the most unholy and blackly evil organization that has everexisted on this earth. Almost nothing is known of it outside its circle.I myself in twenty years have learned little except its existence andname. That ritual I just repeated to you, I heard from the lips of adying member of the Brotherhood, who repeated the words in hisdelirium."

  Campbell leaned forward. "But I know that every year about this time theBrotherhood come from all over the world and gather at some secretcenter here in England. And every year, before that gathering, scores ofpeople are kidnapped and never heard of again. I believe that all thosepeople are kidnapped by this mysterious Brotherhood."

  "But what becomes of the people they kidnap?" cried the pale youngAmerican. "What do they do with them?"

  * * * * *

  Inspector Campbell's bright brown eyes showed a hint of hooded horror,yet he shook his head. "I know no more than you. But whatever they do tothe victims, they are never heard of again."

  "But you must know something more!" Ennis protested. "What is thisDoor?"

  Campbell again shook his head. "That too I don't know, but whatever itis, the Door is utterly sacred to the members of the Brotherhood, andwhomever they mean by They Beyond the Door, they dread and venerate tothe utmost."

  "Where leads the Door? _It leads outside our world_," repeated Ennis."What can that mean?"

  "It might have a symbolic meaning, referring to some secluded fastnessof the order which is away from the rest of the world," the inspectorsaid. "Or it might----"

  He stopped. "Or it might what?" pressed Ennis, his pale face thrustforward.

  "It might mean, literally, that the Door leads outside our world anduniverse," finished the inspector.

  Ennis' haunted eyes stared. "You mean that this Door might somehow leadinto another universe? But that's impossible!"

  "Perhaps unlikely," Campbell said quietly, "but not impossible. Modernscience has taught us that there are other universes than the one welive in, universes congruent and coincident with our own in space andtime, yet separated from our own by the impassable barrier of totallydifferent dimensions. It is not entirely impossible that a greaterscience than ours might find a way to pierce that barrier between ouruniverse and one of those outside ones, that a Door should be openedfrom ours into one of those others in the infinite outside."

  "A door into the infinite outside," repeated Ennis broodingly, lookingpast the inspector. Then he made a sudden movement of wild impatience,the dread leaping back strong in his eyes again.

  "Oh, what good is all this talk about Doors and infinite universes doingin finding Ruth? I want to _do_ something! If you think this mysteriousBrotherhood has taken her, you must surely have some idea of how we canget her back from them? You must know something more about them thanyou've told."

  "I don't know anything more certainly, but I've certain suspicions thatamount to convictions," Inspector Campbell said. "I've been working onthis Brotherhood for many years, and block after block I've narroweddown to the place I think the order's local center, the Londonheadquarters of the Brotherhood of the Door."

  "Where is the place?" asked Ennis tensely.

  "It is the waterfront cafe of one Chandra Dass, a Hindoo, down by EastIndia Docks," said the detective officer. "I've been there in disguisemore than once, watching the place. This Chandra Dass I've found to beimmensely feared by everyone in the quarter, which strengthens my beliefthat he's one of the high officers of the Brotherhood. He's tooexceptional a man to be really running such a place."

  "Then if the Brotherhood took Ruth, she may be at that place now!" criedthe young American, electrified.

  Campbell nodded his bald head. "She may very likely be. Tonight I'mgoing there again in disguise, and have men ready to raid the place. IfChandra Dass has your wife there, we'll get her before he can get heraway. Whatever way it turns out, we'll let you know at once."

  "Like hell you will!" exploded the pale young Ennis. "Do you think I'mgoing to twiddle my thumbs while you're down there? I'm going with you.And if you refuse to let me, by heaven I'll go there myself!"

  Inspector Pierce Campbell gave the haggard, fiercely determined face ofthe young man a long look, and then his own colorless countenance seemedto soften
a little.

  "All right," he said quietly. "I can disguise you so you'll not berecognized. But you'll have to follow my orders exactly, or death willresult for both of us."

  That strange, hooded dread flickered again in his eyes, as though he sawthrough shrouding mists the outline of dim horror.

  "It may be," he added slowly, "that something worse even than deathawaits those who try to oppose the Brotherhood of the Door--somethingthat would explain the unearthly, superhuman dread that enwraps thesecret mysteries of the order. We're taking more than our lives in ourhands, I think, in trying to unveil those mysteries, to regain yourwife. But we've got to act quickly, at all costs. We've got to find herbefore the great gathering of the Brotherhood takes place, or we'llnever find her."

  * * * * *

  Two hours before midnight found Campbell and Ennis passing along acobble-paved waterfront street north of the great East India Docks. Bigwarehouses towered black and silent in the darkness on one side, and onthe other were old, rotting docks beyond which Ennis glimpsed the blackwater and gliding lights of the river.

  As they straggled beneath the infrequent lights of the ill-lit street,they were utterly changed in appearance. Inspector Campbell, dressed ina shabby suit and rusty bowler, his dirty white shirt innocent of tie,had acquired a new face, a bright red, oily, eager one, and a high,squeaky voice. Ennis wore a rough blue seaman's jacket and a vizored cappulled down over his head. His unshaven-looking face and subtly alteredfeatures made him seem a half-intoxicated seaman off his ship, as hestumbled unsteadily along. Campbell clung to him in true land-sharkfashion, plucking his arm and talking wheedlingly to him.

  They came into a more populous section of the evil old waterfrontstreet, and passed fried-fish shops giving off the strong smell of hotfat, and the dirty, lighted windows of a half-dozen waterfront saloons,loud with sordid argument or merriment.

  Campbell led past them until they reached one built upon an abandoned,moldering pier, a ramshackle frame structure extending some distanceback out on the pier. Its window was curtained, but dull red lightglowed through the glass window of the door.

  A few shabby men were lounging in front of the place but Campbell paidthem no attention, tugging Ennis inside by the arm.

  "Carm on in!" he wheedled shrilly. "The night ain't 'alf over yet--we'll'ave just one more."

  "Don't want any more," muttered Ennis drunkenly, swaying on his feetinside. "Get away, you damned old shark."

  Yet he suffered himself to be led by Campbell to a table, where heslumped heavily into a chair. His stare swung vacantly.

  The cafe of Chandra Dass was a red-lit, smoke-filled cave with cheapblack curtains on the walls and windows, and other curtains cutting offthe back part of the building from view. The dim room was jammed withtables crowded with patrons whose babel of tongues made an unceasingdin, to which a three-string guitar somewhere added a wailing undertone.The waiters were dark-skinned and tiger-footed Malays, while the patronsseemed drawn from every nation east and west.

  Ennis' glazed eyes saw dandified Chinese from Limehouse and Pennyfields,dark little Levantins from Soho, rough-looking Cockneys in shabby caps,a few crazily laughing blacks. From sly white faces, taut brown ones andimpassive yellow ones came a dozen different languages. The air wasthick with queer food-smells and the acrid smoke.

  Campbell had selected a table near the back curtain, and now stridentlyordered one of the Malay waiters to bring gin. He leaned forward with anoily smile to the drunken-looking Ennis, and spoke to him in a wheedlingundertone.

  "Don't look for a minute, but that's Chandra Dass over in the corner,and he's watching us," he said.

  Ennis shook his clutching hand away. "Damned old shark!" he mutteredagain.

  He turned his swaying head slowly, letting his eyes rest a moment on theman in the corner. That man was looking straight at him.

  Chandra Dass was tall, dressed in spotless white from his shoes to theturban on his head. The white made his dark, impassive, aquiline facestand out in chiseled relief. His eyes were coal-black, large, coldlysearching, as they met Ennis' bleared gaze.

  Ennis felt a strange chill as he met those eyes. There was somethingalien and unhuman, something uncannily disturbing, behind the Hindoo'sstare. He turned his gaze vacantly from Chandra Dass to the blackcurtains at the rear, and then back to his companion.

  The silent Malay waiter had brought the liquor, and Campbell pressed aglass toward his companion. "'Ere, matey, take this."

  "Don't want it," muttered Ennis, pushing it away. Still in the samemutter, he added, "If Ruth's here, she's somewhere in the back there.I'm going back and find out."

  "Don't try it that way, for God's sake!" said Campbell in the wheedlingundertone. "Chandra Dass is still watching, and those Malays would be onyou in a minute. Wait until I give the word.

  "All right, then," Campbell added in a louder, injured tone. "If youdon't want it, I'll drink it myself."

  He tossed off the glass of gin and set the glass down on the table,looking at his drunken companion with righteous indignation.

  "Think I'm tryin' to bilk yer, eh?" he added. "That's a fine way totreat a pal!"

  He added in the coaxing lower tone, "All right, I'm going to try it. Beready to move when I light my cigarette."

  He fished a soiled package of Gold Flakes from his pocket and put one inhis mouth. Ennis waited, every muscle taut.

  The inspector, his red, oily face still injured in expression, struck amatch to his cigarette. Almost at once there was a loud oath from one ofthe shabby loungers outside the front of the building, and the sound ofangry voices and blows.

  The patrons of Chandra Dass looked toward the door, and one of the Malaywaiters went hastily out to quiet the fight. But it grew swiftly,sounded in a moment like a small riot. _Crash_--someone was pushedthrough the front window. The excited patrons pressed toward the front.Chandra Dass pushed through them, issuing quick orders to his servants.

  For the time being the back of the cafe was deserted and unnoticed.Campbell sprang to his feet, and with Ennis close behind him, dartedthrough the black curtains. They found themselves in a black corridor atthe end of which a red bulb burned dimly. They could still hear theuproar.

  Campbell's gun was in his hand, and the American's in his.

  "We dare only stay here a few moments," the inspector cried. "Look inthose rooms along the corridor here."

  Ennis frantically tore open a door and peered into a dark room smellingof drugs. "Ruth!" he cried softly. "Ruth!"

 
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