The Exile of Time by Ray Cummings

The Exile of Time


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subjects: Science Fiction

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When a girl who said she had been kidnapped from the year 1777 appeared in modern New York, she was either deluded or the victim of an incredible time-spanning plot. And when it turned out the strange man with a mechanical servant who had kidnapped her had been seen in other centuries, it became clear that a super-scientific plot was afoot that must reach far into the unknown cities of the future. The Exile Of Time is a novel of adventure and wonder such as only the hand of a classic master of science-fiction could have written.

174 pages, with a reading time of ~2.75 hours (43,554 words), and first published in 1964. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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The extraordinary incidents began about 1 A.M. in the night of June 8-9, 1935. I was walking through Patton Place, in New York City, with my friend Larry Gregory. My name is George Rankin. My business and Larry’s—are details quite unimportant to this narrative. We had been friends in college. Both of us were working in New York; and with all our relatives in the middle west we were sharing an apartment on this Patton Place—a short, crooked, little-known street of not particularly impressive residential buildings lying near the section known as Greenwich Village, where towering office buildings of the business district encroach close upon it.

This night at 1 A.M. it was deserted. A taxi stood at a corner; its driver had left it there, and evidently gone to a nearby lunch room. The night was sultry and dark, with a leaden sky. The houses were mostly unlighted at this hour. There was an occasional apartment house among them, but mostly they were low, ramshackle affairs of brick and stone.

We were still three blocks from our apartment when without warning the incidents began which were to plunge us and all the city into disaster.

Larry was saying, “Wish we would get a storm to clear this air—what the devil? George, did you hear that?”

We stood listening. There had sounded a choking, muffled scream. We were midway in the block. There was not a pedestrian in sight, nor any vehicle save the abandoned taxi at the corner.

“A woman,” he said. “Did it come from this house?”

We were standing before a three-story brick residence. All its windows were dark. There was a front stoop of several steps, and a basement entryway. The windows were all closed, and the place had the look of being unoccupied.

“Not in there, Larry,” I answered. “It’s closed for the summer—” But I got no further; we heard it again. And this time it sounded, not like a scream, but like a woman’s voice calling to attract our attention.

“George! Look there!” Larry cried.

The glow from a street light illumined the basement entryway, and behind one of the dark windows a girl’s face was pressed against the pane.

Larry stood gripping me, then drew me forward and down the steps of the entryway. There was a girl in the front basement room. Darkness was behind her, but we could see her white frightened face close to the glass. She tapped on the pane, and in the silence we heard her muffled voice.

“Let me out! Oh, let me get out!”

The basement door had a locked iron gate. I rattled it. “No way of getting in,” I said then stopped short with surprise. “What the devil—”

I joined Larry by the window. The girl was only a few inches from us. She had a pale, frightened face; wide, terrified eyes. Even with that first glimpse, I was transfixed by her beauty—and startled; there was something weird about her. A low-necked, white satin dress disclosed her snowy shoulders; her head was surmounted by a pile of snow-white hair, with dangling white curls framing her pale ethereal beauty. She called again.

“What’s the matter with you?” Larry demanded. “Are you alone in there? What is it?”

She backed from the window; we could see her only as a white blob in the darkness of the basement room.

I called, “Can you hear us? What is it?”

Then she screamed again. A low scream; but there was infinite terror in it. And again she was at the window.

“You will not hurt me? Let me—oh, please let me come out!”

What I would have done I don’t know. I recall wondering if the policeman would be at our corner down the block: he very seldom was there.

I heard Larry saying, “What the hell!—I’ll get her out. George, get me that brick…. Now, get back, girl—I’m going to smash the window.”

But the girl kept her face pressed against the pane. I had never seen such terrified eyes.

I called to her, “Come to the door. Can’t you come to the door and open it?” I pointed to the basement gate. “Open it! Can you hear me?”

“Yes—I can hear you, and you speak my language. But you—you will not hurt me? Where am I? This—this was my house a moment ago. I was living here.”

An insane girl, locked in this empty house! I gripped Larry; said to him, “Take it easy. There’s something queer about this. We can’t smash windows. Let’s—”

“You open the door,” he called to the girl.

“I cannot.”

“Why? Is it locked on the inside?”

“I don’t know. Because—oh, hurry! If he—if it comes again—!”

We could see her turn to look behind her.

Larry demanded, “Are you alone in there?”

“Yes—now. But, oh! a moment ago he was here!”

“Then come to the door.”

“I cannot. I don’t know where it is. This is so strange and dark a place. And yet it was my home, just a little time ago.”

It seemed to me that her accent was very queer.

She went suddenly into frantic fear. Her fists beat the window glass almost hard enough to shatter it.

“We’d better get her out,” I agreed. “Smash it, Larry.”