The Eggs from Saturn (Fragment)

Clark Ashton Smith

I The Violet Column

"I've seen a pile o' shootin' stars in my time, an' I watched Halley's Comet, too, an' I seed the Aurora Borealis, burnin' like the fire-works o' Beelzebub, when I was up in the Yukon. But I never did see anythin' like that there illumination which was sashayin' around the country las' night."

"What was it like?" I queried. My neighbor, ^Jim Barnam^ [Luke Buckly], on whom I had called at an early hour to procure a supply of fresh vegetables, was in such a state of visible excitement that I more than suspected him of having substituted the local "moonshine" for his morning coffee — unless, as was possible, he had not yet fully recovered from the potations of the previous evening.

"Well, I ain't got the words to describe it like you writer fellers. I was comin' home about eleven o'clock from the farm-bureau meetin'; and I was drivin' slow becuz the moon had gone down an' the ol' lizzy's headlights wasn't as strong as they might have been. I'd left the Lincoln highway and was bumpin' along the lane to my ranch, when I first seed the thing. It was way off in the valley, toward Sacramento, an' it was like the ray from an airplane beacon, only it was comin' down instead of up, and didn't seem to be the right color. T'other end of it seemed to be off among the stars somewhere; and it was movin' over the valley and hoppin' back an' forth twenty miles at a time, as if it was lookin' for somethin'. First it takes a jump toward Stockton, and then it's up by Marysville, and next it's playin' among {... } fields between Lincoln and the Sacramento river. Then it takes another runnin' jump, and I'm a Dutchman if it wasn't standin' in my own back yard, over the hen-house."

Barnam paused with a native sense of the dramatic, and watched me shrewdly.

"S'help me Moses, I wasn't cock-eyed," he went on, as if he had read my suspicion. "I was sober as a whole gang o' judges. But that beacon of light was a-standin' there like the pillar of flame that you read about in the Bible. It was broad as the county court-house at the bottom, and it went up and up in the sky an' out among the stars till it weren't no bigger than a spider's thread. I could see the barn against it, an' the fig-trees; and everythin' was plain as day. My headlights had gone blooey when the column came, but I didn't need 'em.

"I drove on a little further, till I was no more'n a quarter-mile from the house. Then lizzy went dead, an' wouldn't budge. The column didn't move either, and it was brighter than lightnin', even tho' it had a funny color. I don't know how to describe that color—it wasn't quite like anything else in the world. Maybe it was a kind of violet, if violet could be so hot an' bright that you'd hardly want to look at it. It seemed as if it would burn everythin' up, and make a hole down to China where it touched the ground. But there weren't no smoke a-risin'.

"Well, sir, I just set there an' watched it; and I couldn't figure it out no-how. I could hear the roosters an' the hens all a-cacklin' and the turkeys a-gobblin', as if there was a gang of poultry-thieves among 'em. But of course that light was enough to scare the gizzard out of any fowl. I guess I'd have cackled or gobbled, too, if I'd been a bird.

"Two or three minutes went by, or maybe five. I couldn't do nothin' with ol' lizzy — the sparkin' plug simply wouldn't spark. I was going to git an' leave her an' walk the rest of the way, when I seen that pillar of light had gone just as it come. One moment it was there; an' the next it was a-shootin' off into space, as if a lightnin'-bolt should strike backward. It flickered down to a thread, an' went out; an' it seemed to be a-headin' for one of them there red planets, maybe Mars or Saturn.

"Well, sir, it was no sooner gone, when the headlights shone out as good as new, an' lizzy began to snort, an' moved on as if nothing had happened. I got home and looked around with a flashlight {. . . } out at the yard where the column had stood. But there wasn't no sign that anythin' had been there — only a queer smell that hung around as if a Chinese had been burnin' some sort of joss-sticks. An' the poultry was still a-yellin' murder an' they wouldn't quiet down for hours."

Burnam's manner was so earnest, and his tale so circumstantial, in spite of its wild improbability, that I could not help feeling impressed. "I'm sorry I missed it," I said. "Did your wife see it, too?" "Yep, she seen it. Hey, Martha!"

In answer to the raucous call, emitted clearly through a fresh mouthful of tobacco, his helpmate appeared on the kitchen-porch. She was a slatternly female of ambiguous age, with turkey-red slippers and an unwashed apron.

"I never heard tell of anythin' like it, mister." She corroborated her husband's story. "I got tired of waiting for Jim to get home from the farm-bureau; so I went to bed, an' I was fast asleep in a minute. Then somethin' woke me up, an' I thought it was broad daylight for the room was brighter than any lamps could make it. But it was a-streamin' right in through the west window from the barn-yard. And morning daylight wouldn't come from that direction. I got up and looked out; and the whole yard was full of blazing fire, an' I couldn't see the hen-houses at all becuz they was behind it.

"I was plumb scairt, for I've had a horror of fire ever since we was burnt out in E1 Dorado. I thought I'd go down and play the garden hose on it; and then I seen that it weren't no manner of ordinary fire, for I couldn't feel any heat from it, and it didn't spread in the dry grass. And it went up and up in the heavens without a flicker, but I couldn't see the end of it from the window."

"I must have stood there as if I had lost my wits. And I stood till my eyes got dazzled, and I seen all sorts of colors. They was odd colors, too, not like the kind that you see in a prism or on a sample-card. They was awful bright, but they didn't seem to be red or yellow or blue. Jim thought the light was a kind of violet — but I dunno. It was different from anything; and it blinded me when I looked too long; and I got to seeing pin-wheels big as the sky {?} and a lot of funny patterns with a hundred of those queer colors. They went sailing around the yard and filled the air like ripples {... }. All at once, I saw that the column of fire had gone. And pretty soon I could pick out the hen-house through the pin-wheels. I noticed a queer spicy smell. Then I heard Jim drive up, an' he came in and told me how he had seen the pillar moving across the valley.

"It was a strange sight, sir; and I don't believe it was anything that belongs to this world. And it didn't mean any good either."

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.
{late September 1930}

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Printed on: November 19, 2017