"Lord!" gasped Mr. Fotheringay, scarce able to speak for the gale, "I've had a squeak! What's gone wrong? Storms and thunder. And only a minute ago a fine night. It's Maydig set me on to this sort of thing. What a wind! If I go on fooling in this way I'm bound to have a thundering accident!..
"What a confounded mess everything's in!"
He looked about him so far as his flapping jacket would permit. The appearance of things was really extremely strange. "The sky's all right anyhow," said Mr. Fotheringay. "And that's about all that is all right. And even there it looks like a terrific gale coming up. But there's the moon overhead. Just as it was just now. Bright as midday. But as for the rest - - Where's the village? Where's - where's anything? And what on earth set this wind a-blowing? I didn't order no wind."
Mr. Fotheringay struggled to get to his feet in vain, and after one failure, remained on all fours, holding on. He surveyed the moonlit world to leeward, with the tails of his jacket streaming over his head. "There's something seriously wrong," said Mr. Fotheringay. "And what it is - goodness knows."
Far and wide nothing was visible in the white glare through the haze of dust that drove before a screaming gale but tumbled masses of earth and heaps of inchoate ruins, no trees, no houses, no familiar shapes, only a wilderness of disorder, vanishing at last into the darkness beneath the whirling columns and streamers, the lightnings and thunderings of a swiftly rising storm. Near him in the livid glare was something that might once have been an elm-tree, a smashed mass of splinters, shivered from boughs to base, and further a twisted mass of iron girders - only too evidently the viaduct - rose out of the piled confusion.
You see, when Mr. Fotheringay had arrested the rotation of the solid globe, he had made no stipulation concerning the trifling movables upon its surface. And the earth spins so fast that the surface at its equator is travelling at rather more than a thousand miles an hour, and in these latitudes at more than half that pace. So that the village, and Mr. Maydig, and Mr. Fotheringay, and everybody and everything had been jerked violently forward at about nine miles per second - that is to say, much more violently than if they had been fired out of a cannon. And every human being, every living creature, every house, and every tree - all the world as we know it - had been so jerked and smashed and utterly destroyed. That was all.
These things Mr. Fotheringay did not, of course, fully appreciate. But he perceived that his miracle had miscarried, and with that a great disgust of miracles came upon him. He was in darkness now, for the clouds had swept together and blotted out his momentary glimpse of the moon, and the air was full of fitful struggling tortured wraiths of hail. A great roaring of wind and waters filled earth and sky, and peering under his hand through the dust and sleet to windward, he saw by the play of the lightnings a vast wall of water pouring towards him.
"Maydig!" screamed Mr. Fotheringay's feeble voice amid the elemental uproar. "Here! - Maydig!
"Stop!" cried Mr. Fotheringay to the advancing water. "Oh, for goodness' sake, stop!
"Just a moment," said Mr. Fotheringay to the lightnings and thunder. "Stop jest a moment while I collect my thoughts.. And now what shall I do?" he said. "What shall I do? Lord! I wish Maydig was about."
"I know," said Mr. Fotheringay. "And for goodness' sake let's have it right this time."
He remained on all fours, leaning against the wind, very intent to have everything right.
"Ah!" he said. "Let nothing what I'm going to order happen until I say 'Off!'.. Lord! I wish I'd thought of that before!"
He lifted his little voice against the whirlwind, shouting louder and louder in the vain desire to hear himself speak. "Now then! - here goes! Mind about that what I said just now. In the first place, when all I've got to say is done, let me lose my miraculous power, let my will become just like anybody else's will, and all these dangerous miracles be stopped. I don't like them. I'd rather I didn't work 'em. Ever so much. That's the first thing. And the second is - let me be back just before the miracles begin; let everything be just as it was before that blessed lamp turned up. It's a big job, but it's the last. Have you got it? No more miracles, everything as it was - me back in the Long Dragon just before I drank my half-pint. That's it! Yes."
He dug his fingers into the mould, closed his eyes, and said "Off!"
Everything became perfectly still. He perceived that he was standing erect.
"So you say," said a voice.
He opened his eyes. He was in the bar of the Long Dragon, arguing about miracles with Toddy Beamish. He had a vague sense of some great thing forgotten that instantaneously passed. You see that, except for the loss of his miraculous powers, everything was back as it had been, his mind and memory therefore were now just as they had been at the time when this story began. So that he knew absolutely nothing of all that is told here - knows nothing of all that is told here to this day. And among other things, of course, he still did not believe in miracles.
"I tell you that miracles, properly speaking, can't possibly happen," he said, "whatever you like to hold. And I'm prepared to prove it up to the hilt."
"That's what you think," said Toddy Beamish, and "Prove it if you can."
"Looky here, Mr. Beamish," said Mr. Fotheringay. "Let us clearly understand what a miracle is. It's something contrariwise to the course of nature done by power of Will.. "
Excerpt from The Sandman
- E. T. A. Hoffmann
Excerpt from Invisible Monsters
- Chuck Palahniuk