November 1932, January 1933. Extensive research
did not uncover
any evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication
The Table of Contents is not part of the original magazines.
Two Thousand Miles Below
_A Four-Part Novel_
By Charles Willard Diffin
* * * * *
I A Man Named Smith
III Red Drops
IV The Light in the Crater
V The Attack
VI Into the Crater
VII The Ring
VIII The Darkness
IX A Subterranean World
X Plumb Loco
XI The White-Hot Pit
XIII "N-73 Clear!"
XIV Emergency Order
XV The Lake of Fire
XVI The Metal Shell
XVIII The Dance of Death
XIX The Voice of the Mountain
XX Taloned Hands
XXII The Red-Flowering Vine
XXIII Oro and Grah
XXIV The Bargain
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Rawson learns to his cost that the life-spark of a fabled
race glows in the black heart of a dead, Western volcano.]
[Illustration: _The derrick was falling as he fired again._]
In the gray darkness the curved fangs of a saber-toothed tiger gleamed
white and ghostly. The man-figure that stood half crouched in the
mouth of the cave involuntarily
"Gwanga!" he said. "He goes, too!"
But the man did not move more than to shift a club to his right hand.
Heavy, that club, and knotted and with a head of stone tied and
wrapped with leather thongs; but Gor of the tribe of Zoran swung it
easily with one of his long arms. He paid only casual
attention as the
great cat passed on into the night.
One leathery hand was raised to shield
his slitted eyes; the wind from
the north struck toward the mouth of the cave, and it brought with it
cold driving rain and whirling flurries of frozen
pellets that bit and
Snow! Gor had traveled
far, but never had he seen a storm like this
with white cold in the air. Again a shiver
that was part fear rippled
through his muscles and gripped with invisible
fingers at his knotted
"The Beast of the North is angry!" he told himself.
Through the dark and storm, animals drifted past before the blasts of
cold. They were fleeing; they were full of fear--fear of something
that the dull mind of Gor could not picture. But in that mind was the
same wordless panic.
Gor, the man-animal of that pre-glacial day, stared wondering,
stupidly, into the storm with eyes like those of the wild pig. His
arms were long, almost to his knees; his hair, coarse
and matted, hung
locks about his savage
face. Behind his low, retreating
forehead was place for little of thought or reason. Yet Gor was a man,
and he met the threat
by something better than blind,
terrified, animal flight.
A scant hundred in the tribe--men and women and little pot-bellied
brown children--Gor gathered them together in the cave far back from
"For many moons," he told them by words and signs, "the fear has been
upon us. There have been signs for us to see and for all the
Four-feet--for Hathor, the great, and for little Wahti in his hole in
the sand-hill. Hathor has swung his long snout above his curved tusks
and has cried his fear, and the Eaters of the Dead have circled above
him and cried _their_ cry.
"And now the Sun-god does not warm us. He has gone to hide behind the
clouds. He is afraid--afraid of the cold monster
that blows white
stinging things in his breath.
"The Sun-god is gone--now, when he should be making hot summer! The
Four-feet are going. Even Gwanga, the long-toothed, puts his tail
between his legs and runs from the cold."
* * * * *
The naked bodies shivered in the chill that struck in from the
storm-wrapped world; they drew closer their coverings of fur and
hides. The light of their flickering fires played strange tricks with
faces to make them still uglier and to show the dull
terror that gripped them.
"Run--we must run--run away--the breath
of the beast is on us--he
follows close--run...." Through the mutterings and growls a sick child
whimpered once, then was still. Gor was speaking
"Run! Run away!" he mocked them. "And where shall the tribe of Zoran
go? With Gwanga, to make food for his cat belly or to be hammered to
death with the stones of the great tribes of the south?"
There was none to reply--only a despairing
moan from ugly lips. Gor
waited, then answered his own question.
"No!" he shouted, and beat upon his hairy chest that was round as the
trunk of a tree. "Gor will save you--Gor, the wanderer! You named me
well: my feet have traveled
far. Beyond the red-topped mountains of
the north I have gone; I have seen the tribes of the south, and I
brought you a head for proof. I have followed the sun, and I have gone
where it rises."
In the half light, coarse
strands of hair waved as hideous
nodded in confirmation
of the boast, though many still drooped
"If Gor leads, where will he go?" a voice demanded.
Another growled: "Gor's feet have gone far: where have they gone where
the Beast cannot follow our scent?"
"Down!" said Gor with unconsciousdramatic
effect, and he pointed
the rocky floor of the cave. "I have gone where even the Beast of the
North cannot go. The caves back of this you have seen, but only Gor
has seen the hole--the hole where a strong man can climb down; a hole
too small for the great beast to get through. Gor has gone down to
find more caves below and more caves below them.
"Far down is a place where it is always warm. There is water in lakes
and streams. Gor has caught fish in that water, and they were good.
There are growing things like the round earth-plants that come in the
night, and they, too, were good.
"Will you follow Gor?" he demanded. "And when the Beast is gone and
the Sun-god comes back we will return--"
* * * * *
The blast that found its way inside the cave furnished its own answer;
the echoing, "We follow! We follow!" spoken
through chattering teeth
was not needed. The women of the tribe shivered more from the cold
than from fear as they gathered together their belongings, their furs
and hides and crude stone implements; and the shambling man-shape,
called Gor, led them to the hole down which a strong man might climb,
led them down and still down....
But, as to the rest--Gor's promise of safe return to the light of day
and that outer world where the Sun-god shone--how was Gor to know that
would lock the whole land in ice for endless years,
and, retreating, leave their upper caves filled and buried under a
valley heaped with granite
Even had the way been open to the land above, Gor himself could never
have known when that ice-sheet left. For when that day came and once
more the Sun-god drew steamy spirals from the drenched and thawing
ground, Gor, deep down in the earth, had been dead for countless
years. Only the remote
descendants of that earlier tribe now lived in
their subterranean home, though even with them there were some who
spoke at times of those legends of another world which their ancestors
And through the long centuries, while evolution
worked its slow
changes, they knew nothing of the vanishing ice, of the sun and the
gushing waters, the grass and forests that came to cover the earth.
Nor did their descendants, exploring interminable
tame the internal
fires, always evolving, always growing, have any
of a people who sailed strange seas to find new
lands and live and multiply
and build up a country of sky-reaching
cities and peaceful
farmlands, of sunlit valleys and hills.
But always there were adventurous
souls who made their way deeper and
deeper into the earth; and among them in every generation
named Gor who was taught the tribal legends and who led the
adventurers on. But legends have a trick of changing, and instead of
searching upward, it was through the deeper strata that they made
their slow way in their search for a mystic
god and the land of their
_A Man Named Smith_
Heat! Heat of a white-hot sun only two hours old. Heat of blazing
sands where shimmering, gassy waves made the sparse sagebrush seem
about to burst into flames. Heat of a wind that might have come out of
the fire-box of a Mogul on an upgrade pull.
twisted among black masses of outcropping lava rock or
tightened into a straightaway for miles across the desert that swept
up to the mountain's base. The asphalt
surface of the pavement
almost liquid; it clung stickily to the tires of a big car, letting go
with a continuous, ripping sound.
Behind the wheel of the weatherbeaten, sunburned car, Dean Rawson
squinted his eyes against the glare. His lean, tanned face was almost
as brown as his hair. The sun had done its work there; it had set
crinkly lines about the man's eyes of darker brown. But the deeper
lines in that young face had been etched by responsibility; they made
the man seem older than his twenty-three years, until the steady eyes,
flashing into quick amusement, gave them the lie.
And now Rawson's lips twisted into a little grin at his own
discomfort--but he knew the desert driver's trick.
"A hundred plus in the shade," he reasoned silently. "That's hot any
way you take it. But taking
it in the face at forty-five an hour is
too much like looking into a Bessemer converter!"
He closed the windows of his old coupe to within an inch of the top,
then opened the windshield a scant half inch. The blast that had been
drawing the moisture
from his body became a gently
of hot air.
He had gone only another ten miles after these preparations for fast
driving, when he eased the big weatherbeaten car to a stop.
* * * * *
On his right, reaching up to the cool heights under a cloudless blue
sky, the gray peaks of the Sierras gave promise of relief
of the desert floor. There were even valleys of snow
glistening whitely where the mountains held them high. A watcher, had
there been one to observe in the empty land, might have understood
another traveler's pausing to admire the serenemajesty
heights--but he would have wondered could he have seen Rawson's eyes
turned in longing
away from the mountains while he stared across the
There were other mountains, lavender
and gray, in the distance. And
nearer by, a matter of twenty or thirty elusive miles through the
dancing waves of hot air, were other barren
slopes. Across the rolling
sand-hills wheel marks, faint and wind-blown, led straight from the
highway toward the parched peaks.
"Tonah Basin!" Rawson was thinking. "It's there inside these hills.
It's hotter than this is by twenty degrees right this minute--but I
wish I could see it. I'd like to have one more look before I face that
hard-boiled bunch in the city!"
He looked at his watch and shook his head. "Not a chance," he
admitted. "I'm due up in Erickson's office in five hours. I wonder if
I've got a chance with them...."
* * * * *
Five hours of driving, and Rawson walked into the office of Erickson,
Incorporated, with a steady step. Another hour, and his tanned face
had gone a trifle
pale; his lips were set grimly
in a straight line
that would not relax under the verdict
he felt certain he was about to
For an hour he had faced the steely-eyed man across the long table in
the Directors Room--faced him and replied to questions from this man
and the half-dozen others seated there. Skeptical questions, tricky
questions; and now the man was speaking:
"Rawson, six months ago you laid your Tonah Basin plans before
us--plans to get power from the center of the Earth, to utilize
energy, and to control the power situation in this whole Southwest.
It looked like a wild gamble
then, but we investigated. It still looks
like a gamble."
"Yes," said Rawson, "it is a gamble. Did I ever call it anything
"The Ehrmann oscillator," the man continued imperturbably, "invented
in 1940, two years ago, solves the wireless transmission
the success of your plan depends upon your own invention--upon your
straight-line drills that you say will not wander
off at a tangent
when they get down a few miles. And more than that, it depends upon
"Even that does not damn the scheme; but, Rawson, there's only one
factor we gamble
on. No wild plans, no matter how many hundreds of
millions they promise: no machines, no matter what they are designed
to do, get a dollar of our backing. It's men we back with our money!"
Rawson's face was set to show no emotion, but within his mind were
insistent, clamoring thoughts:
"Why can't he say it and get it over with? I've lost--what a
hard-boiled bunch they are!--but he doesn't need to drag out the
agony." But--but what was the man saying?
"Men, Rawson!" the emotionless voice continued. "And we've checked up
on you from the time you took your nourishment
out of a bottle; it's
you we're backing. That's why we have organized the little company of
Thermal Explorations, Limited. That's why we've put a million of hard
coin into it. That's why we've put you in charge
He was extending a hand that Dean Rawson had to reach for blindly.
"I'd drill through to hell," Dean said and fought to keep his voice
steady, "with backing like that!"