In a tale of the year 2430 A.D. – a time somewhat farther beyond our present-day era than we are beyond Columbus’ discovery of America. My desire has been to create for you the impression that you have suddenly been plunged forward into that time – to give you the feeling Columbus might have had could he have read a novel of our present-day life. To this end I have conceived myself a writer of that future time, addressing his contemporary public. You are to imagine yourself reading a present day translation of my original text – a translation so free that a thousand little colloquialisms will have crept into it that could not possibly have their counterparts in the year 2430.
257 pages, with a reading time of ~4.0 hours (64,472 words), and first published in 1930. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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I was standing fairly close to the President of the Anglo-Saxon Republic when the first of the new murders was committed. The President fell almost at my feet. I was quite certain then that the Venus man at my elbow was the murderer. I don’t know why, call it intuition if you will. The Venus man did not make a move; he merely stood beside me in the press of the throng, seemingly as absorbed as all of us in what the President was saying.
It was late afternoon. The sun was setting behind the cliffs across the river. There were perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand people within sight of the President, listening raptly to his words. It was at Park Sixty, and I was standing on the Tenth Level. The crowd packed all twelve of the levels; the park was black with people. The President stood on a balcony of the park tower. He was no more than a few hundred feet above me, well within direct earshot. Around him on all sides were the electric megaphones which carried his voice to all parts of the audience. Behind me, a thousand feet overhead, the main aerials were scattering it throughout the city, I suppose five million people were listening to the voice of the President at that moment. He had just said that we must remain friendly with Venus; that in our enlightened age controversies were inevitable, but that they should be settled with sober thought—around the council table. This talk of war was ridiculous. He was denouncing the public news-broadcasters; moulders of public opinion, who every day—every hour—must offer a new sensation to their millions of subscribers.
He had reached this point when without warning his body pitched forward. The balcony rail caught it; and it hung there inert. The slanting rays of the sun fell full upon the ruffled white shirt; white, but turning pink, then red, with the crimson stain welling out from beneath.
For an instant the crowd was stunned into silence. Then a murmur arose, and swelled into shouts of horror. A surge of people swept me forward. I could not see clearly what was happening on the balcony. The form of the murdered President was hanging there against the rail; a score of government officials were rushing toward it; but the body, toppling over the low support, came hurtling downward into the crowd, quite near me; but I could not reach it—the throng was too dense.
The shouts everywhere were deafening. I was shoved along the Tenth Level by the press of people coming up the stairway. Shouts, excited questions; the wail of children almost trampled under foot; the screams of women. And over it all, the electrically magnified voice of the traffic director-general in the peak of the main tower roaring his orders to the crowd.
It was a panic until the traffic-directors descended upon us. We were pushed up on the moving sidewalks. North or south, whichever direction came handiest, we were herded upon the sidewalks and whirled away. With a hundred other spectators near me I was shoved to a sidewalk moving south along the Tenth Level. It was going some four miles an hour. But they would not let me stay there. From behind, the crowd was shoving; and from one parallel strip of moving pavement to the other I was pushed along—until at last I reached the seats of the forty mile an hour inside section.
The scene at Park Sixty was far out of direct sight and hearing. The park there had already been cleared of spectators, I knew; and they were doubtless bearing the President’s body away.
“Murdered!” said a man beside me. “Murdered! Look there!”
We were across the river, into Manhattan. The Tenth Level here runs about four hundred feet above the ground-street of the city. The man beside me was pointing to a steel tower we were passing. It was several hundreds yards away; on its side abreast of us was a forty-foot square news-mirror, brightly illumined. On all the stairways and balconies here a local crowd had gathered, watching the mirror. It was reporting the present scene at Park Sixty. As we sped past the tower I could see in the silver surface of the mirror the image of the now empty park from which we had been so summarily ejected. They were carrying off the President’s body; a little group of officials bearing it away; red, broken, gruesome, with the dying rays of the sun still upon it. Carrying it slowly along to where an aero-car was waiting on the side landing stage.
We were past the mirror in a moment.
“Murdered,” the man next to me repeated. “The President murdered.”
He seemed stunned, as indeed everyone was. Then he eyed me—my cap, which had on it the insignia of my calling.
“You are one of them,” he said bitterly. “The last word he said—the lurid news-gatherers.”
But I shook my head. “We are necessary. It was unfortunate that he should have said that.”