At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 8

We knew that there was no hope, and yet
with the persistence of life itself we continued to hope against
practical certainty.

Already the air tanks were at low ebb--there was barely enough of the
precious gases to sustain us for another twelve hours. But would we be
alive to know or care? It seemed incredible.

At four hundred and twenty miles I took another reading.

"Perry!" I shouted. "Perry, man! She's going down! She's going down!
She's 152 degrees again."

"Gad!" he cried. "What can it mean? Can the earth be cold at the
center?"

"I do not know, Perry," I answered; "but thank God, if I am to die it
shall not be by fire--that is all that I have feared. I can face the
thought of any death but that."

Down, down went the mercury until it stood as low as it had seven miles
from the surface of the earth, and then of a sudden the realization
broke upon us that death was very near. Perry was the first to
discover it. I saw him fussing with the valves that regulate the air
supply. And at the same time I experienced difficulty in breathing.
My head felt dizzy--my limbs heavy.

I saw Perry crumple in his seat. He gave himself a shake and sat erect
again. Then he turned toward me.

"Good-bye, David," he said. "I guess this is the end," and then he
smiled and closed his eyes.

"Good-bye, Perry, and good luck to you," I answered, smiling back at
him. But I fought off that awful lethargy. I was very young--I did
not want to die.

For an hour I battled against the cruelly enveloping death that
surrounded me upon all sides. At first I found that by climbing high
into the framework above me I could find more of the precious
life-giving elements, and for a while these sustained me. It must have
been an hour after Perry had succumbed that I at last came to the
realization that I could no longer carry on this unequal struggle
against the inevitable.

With my last flickering ray of consciousness I turned mechanically
toward the distance meter. It stood at exactly five hundred miles from
the earth's surface--and then of a sudden the huge thing that bore us
came to a stop. The rattle of hurtling rock through the hollow jacket
ceased. The wild racing of the giant drill betokened that it was
running loose in AIR--and then another truth flashed upon me.

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