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A READER'S TREASURY

Zorkoff Rays
A Short Story
Written in 1961
by
Robert J. Matherne
Chapter: Reading for Enjoyment
Published by Good Mountain Press/LA in 2015
Edited by Bobby Matherne ©2007

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I'm writing this down hoping that through some miracle it may be found some day, I am slowly starving now as my food supply has begun to run low.

Perhaps I'd better begin my story from the beginning. I suppose it began in college when I decided I wanted to become a research physicist. Yes, that's where it started, and I did become one. A good one. When I received my Ph. D. in 1965, I agreed to go to work for a private lab in California where I did research work on the newly discovered Zorkoff Rays. These rays had the remarkable property of reducing the size of any object that was subjected to them. The size of reduction, depending on the strength of the rays, was usually a fraction of a micrometer per cubic meter of volume.

The research I was doing took up most of my time, but I still found time to relax at home with my wife and children. It's hard for me to think about then now that I know I'll never see them again.

I struggled with these rays for a dozen years, futilely searching for the reason they could shrink a steel ball to a smaller size simply by passing through the ball. (It is generally accepted by physicists that the waves pass through all objects, and that none bounce off.) Yet, reducing of the size of objects is the least incredible of the properties of the Zorkoff rays. Not only does an object become smaller, but in doing so it loses weight in direct proportion. In other words, if an object is placed in the path of these rays, it loses some mass. Then if the object is removed from the path of the rays, it returns to its original size and weight.

One bright March morning I was working in my laboratory. The sun was shining in from the high windows around the lab, a little warm for the time of year. I went about the lab turning on a switch here and a switch there, thinking about the sounds of early Spring outside. I could hear the birds chirping faintly and the people and cars passing outside. Suddenly I heard the sound of rubber squealing on pavement, accompanied by the sound of metal crunching. The car must have struck my laboratory, because the last thing I remember was seeing the brick wall come crashing down and seeing blue sparks jumping across the laboratory from the equipment.

When I came to, I was where I am now. I suppose only God knows where that is. I'm in the center of a deep valley, the walls of which are hard and smooth and made of some unknown black substance. The whole valley is black and stretches to both sides of me far as I can see. The sides of the valley which seem to be about 1,000 feet high have definite curves and at the bottom they run together smoothly forming the bare, block floor of the Valley which is about a hundred yards wide.

The sky above the rim of the valley is usually a very hazy light blue, except at night and at night there are no stars. The day and nights usually make a twenty-four hour cycle, but sometimes the day may only last a few hours. The weather seems to remain the same, and never any wind at all. However, there is always a peculiar feeling of a gentle, billowing pressure from the air. There is no Sun or Moon at all in the sky.

I've been wandering abound here at the bottom of the valley for three days so far, and the valley looks the same all over. The sides are so slippery that it's impossible to climb them, though I seriously doubt that climbing to the top would do much good.

There aren't any signs of vegetation or life to be seen anywhere, but I've been able to stay alive eating bits of some alien matter that resemble small pieces of foam rubber or sponge. It has no taste at all but it seems to keep me partly nourished.

I wish I had someone to talk to. I'm getting tired of writing and ready to stop. Nothing new has happened there is nothing else to write about. I'm putting down my pen.

Wait, what's that noise? It's a low, vibrating, humming sound coming from very far away. The whole valley seems to be moving a little. Now the vibration's getting faster and the humming louder and louder. A shadow has just fallen over the valley, but I can't see what's causing it. I can hear something approaching in the distance. My God, a black object covering the whole sky just passed over as the vibration reached a maximum. What kind of a world have I gotten into? The black object has just passed again. Here it comes once more; I can hear it in the distance. I can see something in the valley way off that is moving. Great Scott! It's a... a... phonograph needle!


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Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne

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