1:06 pm - Sunday June 24, 2018

In The Avu Observatory-by HG Wells-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:In The Avu Observatory

Written by: HG Wells

Category:Fiction, Classics,Horror

Page 1:

The observatory at Avu, in Borneo, stands on the spur of the mountain. To
the north rises the old crater, black at night against the unfathomable
blue of the sky. From the little circular building, with its mushroom
dome, the slopes plunge steeply downward into the black mysteries of the
tropical forest beneath. The little house in which the observer and his
assistant live is about fifty yards from the observatory, and beyond this
are the huts of their native attendants.

Thaddy, the chief observer, was down with a slight fever. His assistant,
Woodhouse, paused for a moment in silent contemplation of the tropical
night before commencing his solitary vigil. The night was very still. Now
and then voices and laughter came from the native huts, or the cry of some
strange animal was heard from the midst of the mystery of the forest.
Nocturnal insects appeared in ghostly fashion out of the darkness, and
fluttered round his light. He thought, perhaps, of all the possibilities
of discovery that still lay in the black tangle beneath him; for to the
naturalist the virgin forests of Borneo are still a wonderland full of
strange questions and half-suspected discoveries. Woodhouse carried a
small lantern in his hand, and its yellow glow contrasted vividly with the
infinite series of tints between lavender-blue and black in which the
landscape was painted. His hands and face were smeared with ointment
against the attacks of the mosquitoes.

Even in these days of celestial photography, work done in a purely
temporary erection, and with only the most primitive appliances in
addition to the telescope, still involves a very large amount of cramped
and motionless watching. He sighed as he thought of the physical fatigues
before him, stretched himself, and entered the observatory.

The reader is probably familiar with the structure of an ordinary
astronomical observatory. The building is usually cylindrical in shape,
with a very light hemispherical roof capable of being turned round from
the interior. The telescope is supported upon a stone pillar in the
centre, and a clockwork arrangement compensates for the earth’s rotation,
and allows a star once found to be continuously observed. Besides this,
there is a compact tracery of wheels and screws about its point of
support, by which the astronomer adjusts it. There is, of course, a slit
in the movable roof which follows the eye of the telescope in its survey
of the heavens. The observer sits or lies on a sloping wooden arrangement,
which he can wheel to any part of the observatory as the position of the
telescope may require. Within it is advisable to have things as dark as
possible, in order to enhance the brilliance of the stars observed.

The lantern flared as Woodhouse entered his circular den, and the general
darkness fled into black shadows behind the big machine, from which it
presently seemed to creep back over the whole place again as the light
waned. The slit was a profound transparent blue, in which six stars shone
with tropical brilliance, and their light lay, a pallid gleam, along the
black tube of the instrument. Woodhouse shifted the roof, and then
proceeding to the telescope, turned first one wheel and then another, the
great cylinder slowly swinging into a new position. Then he glanced
through the finder, the little companion telescope, moved the roof a
little more, made some further adjustments, and set the clockwork in
motion. He took off his jacket, for the night was very hot, and pushed
into position the uncomfortable seat to which he was condemned for the
next four hours. Then with a sigh he resigned himself to his watch upon
the mysteries of space.

There was no sound now in the observatory, and the lantern waned steadily.
Outside there was the occasional cry of some animal in alarm or pain, or
calling to its mate, and the intermittent sounds of the Malay and Dyak
servants. Presently one of the men began a queer chanting song, in which
the others joined at intervals. After this it would seem that they turned
in for the night, for no further sound came from their direction, and the
whispering stillness became more and more profound.

The clockwork ticked steadily. The shrill hum of a mosquito explored the
place and grew shriller in indignation at Woodhouse’s ointment. Then the
lantern went out and all the observatory was black.

Woodhouse shifted his position presently, when the slow movement of the
telescope had carried it beyond the limits of his comfort.

He was watching a little group of stars in the Milky Way, in one of which
his chief had seen or fancied a remarkable colour variability. It was not
a part of the regular work for which the establishment existed, and for
that reason perhaps Woodhouse was deeply interested. He must have
forgotten things terrestrial. All his attention was concentrated upon the
great blue circle of the telescope field–a circle powdered, so it seemed,
with an innumerable multitude of stars, and all luminous against the
blackness of its setting. As he watched he seemed to himself to become
incorporeal, as if he too were floating in the ether of space. Infinitely
remote was the faint red spot he was observing.

Suddenly the stars were blotted out. A flash of blackness passed, and they
were visible again.

“Queer,” said Woodhouse. “Must have been a bird.”

The thing happened again, and immediately after the great tube shivered as
though it had been struck. Then the dome of the observatory resounded with
a series of thundering blows. The stars seemed to sweep aside as the
telescope–which had been unclamped–swung round and away from the slit in
the roof.

“Great Scott!” cried Woodhouse. “What’s this?”

Some huge vague black shape, with a flapping something like a wing, seemed
to be struggling in the aperture of the roof. In another moment the slit
was clear again, and the luminous haze of the Milky Way shone warm and
bright.

The interior of the roof was perfectly black, and only a scraping sound
marked the whereabouts of the unknown creature.

Woodhouse had scrambled from the seat to his feet. He was trembling
violently and in a perspiration with the suddenness of the occurrence. Was
the thing, whatever it was, inside or out? It was big, whatever else it
might be. Something shot across the skylight, and the telescope swayed. He
started violently and put his arm up. It was in the observatory, then,
with him. It was clinging to the roof apparently. What the devil was it?
Could it see him?

He stood for perhaps a minute in a state of stupefaction. The beast,
whatever it was, clawed at the interior of the dome, and then something
flapped almost into his face, and he saw the momentary gleam of starlight
on a skin like oiled leather. His water-bottle was knocked off his little
table with a smash.

The sense of some strange bird-creature hovering a few yards from his face
in the darkness was indescribably unpleasant to Woodhouse. As his thought
returned he concluded that it must be some night-bird or large bat. At any
risk he would see what it was, and pulling a match from his pocket, he
tried to strike it on the telescope seat. There was a smoking streak of
phosphorescent light, the match flared for a moment, and he saw a vast
wing sweeping towards him, a gleam of grey-brown fur, and then he was
struck in the face and the match knocked out of his hand. The blow was
aimed at his temple, and a claw tore sideways down to his cheek. He reeled
and fell, and he heard the extinguished lantern smash. Another blow
followed as he fell. He was partly stunned, he felt his own warm blood
stream out upon his face. Instinctively he felt his eyes had been struck
at, and, turning over on his face to save them, tried to crawl under the
protection of the telescope.

Filed in: Fiction, Horror

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