In the ruins of the other equatorial city, occupying a once submerged valley south of the island of Ceylon, was a young girl, whose mother and older sister had perished of consumption and cold, and who was now left alone, the last surviving member of the last family of the race. A few trees, of northern species, had been preserved under the spacious dome of glass, and beneath their scanty foliage, holding the cold hands of her mother who had died the night before, the young girl sat alone, doomed to death in the very flower of her age. The night was cold. In the sky above the full moon shone like a golden torch, but its yellow rays were as cold as the silver beams of the ancient Selene. In the vast room reigned the stillness and solitude of death, broken only by the young girl’s breathing, which seemed to animate the silence with the semblance of life.
She was not weeping. Her sixteen years contained more experience and knowledge than sixty years of the world’s prime. She knew that she was the sole survivor of this last group of human beings, and that every happiness, every joy and every hope had vanished forever. There was no present, no future; only solitude and silence, the physical and moral impossibility of life, and soon eternal sleep. She thought of the woman of bygone days, of those who had lived the real life of humanity, of lovers, wives and mothers, but to her red and tearless eyes appeared only images of death; while beyond the walls of glass stretched a barren desert, covered by the last ice and the last snow. Now her young heart beat violently in her breast, till her slender hands could no longer compress its tumult; and now life seemed arrested in her bosom, and every respiration suspended. If for a moment she fell asleep, in her dreams she played again with her laughing and care-free sister, while her mother sung in a pure and penetrating voice the beautiful inspirations of the last poets; and she seemed to see, once more, the last fêtes of a brilliant society, as if reflected from the surface of some distant mirror. Then, on awakening, these magic memories faded into the somber reality. Alone! Alone in the world, and tomorrow death, without having known life! To struggle against this unavoidable fate was useless; the decree of destiny was without appeal, and there was nothing to do but to submit, to await the inevitable end, since without food or air organic life was impossible—or else to anticipate death and deliver oneself at once from a joyless existence and a certain doom. She passed into the bath-room, where the warm water was still flowing, although the appliances which art had designed to supply the wants of life were no longer in working order; for the last remaining servants (descendants of ancient simian species, modified, as the human race had been, by the changing conditions of life,) had also succumbed to the insufficiency of water. She plunged into the perfumed bath, turned the key which regulated the supply of electricity derived from subterranean water-courses still unfrozen, and for a moment seemed to forget the decree of destiny in the enjoyment of this refreshing rest. Had any indiscreet spectator beheld her as, standing upon the bear-skin before the large mirror, she began to arrange the tresses of her long auburn hair, he would have detected a smile upon her lips, showing that, for an instant, she was oblivious of her dark future. Passing into another room, she approached the apparatus which furnished the food of that time, extracted from the water, air, and the plants and fruits automatically cultivated in the greenhouses.
It was still in working order, like a clock which has been wound up. For thousands of years the genius of man had been almost exclusively applied to the struggle with destiny. The last remaining water had been forced to circulate in subterranean canals, where also the solar heat had been stored. The last animals had been trained to serve these machines, and the nutritious properties of the last plants had been utilized to the utmost. Men had finally succeeded in living upon almost nothing, so far as quantity was concerned; every newly discovered form of food being completely assimilable. Cities had finally been built of glass, open to the sun, to which was conveyed every substance necessary to the synthesis of the food which replaced the products of nature. But as time passed, it became more and more difficult to obtain the necessaries of life. The mine was at last exhausted. Matter had been conquered by intelligence; but the day had come when intelligence itself was overmatched, when every worker had died at his post and the earth’s storehouse had been depleted. Unwilling to abandon this desperate struggle, man had put forth every effort. But he could not prevent the earth’s absorption of water, and the last resources of a science which seemed greater even than nature itself had been exhausted.
Eva returned to the body of her mother, and once more took the cold hands in her own. The psychic faculties of the race in these its latter days had acquired, as we have said, transcendent powers, and she thought for a moment to summon her mother from the tomb. It seemed to her as if she must have one more approving glance, one more counsel. A single idea took possession of her, so fascinating her that she even lost the desire to die. She saw afar the soul which should respond to her own. Every man belonging to that company of which she was the last survivor had died before her birth. Woman had outlived the sex once called strong. In the pictures upon the walls of the great library, in books, engravings and statues, she saw represented the great men of the city, but she had never seen a living man; and still dreaming, strange and disquieting forms passed before her. She was transported into an unknown and mysterious world, into a new life, and love did not seem to be yet wholly banished from earth. During the reign of cold, all electrical communication between the two last cities left upon the earth had been interrupted. Their inhabitants could speak no more with each other, see each other no more, nor feel each other’s presence. Yet she was as well acquainted with the ocean city as if she had seen it, and when she fixed her eyes upon the great terrestrial globe suspended from the ceiling of the library, and then, closing them, concentrated all her will and psychic power upon the object of her thoughts, she acted at a distance as effectively, though in a different way, as in former days men had done when communicating with each other by electricity. She called, and felt that another heard and understood. The preceding night she had transported herself to the ancient city in which Omegar lived, and had appeared to him for an instant in a dream. That very morning she had witnessed his despairing act and by a supreme effort of the will had arrested his arm. And now, stretched in her chair beside the dead body of her mother, heavy with sleep, her solitary soul wandered in dreams above the ocean city, seeking the companionship of the only mate left upon the earth. And far away, in that ocean city, Omegar heard her call. Slowly, as in a dream, he ascended the platform from which the air-ships used to take their flight. Yielding to a mysterious influence, he obeyed the distant summons. Speeding toward the west, the electric air-ship passed above the frozen regions of the tropics, once the site of the Pacific ocean, Polynesia, Malaisia and the Sunda islands, and stopped at the landing of the crystal palace. The young girl, startled from her dream by the traveller, who fell from the air at her feet, fled in terror to the farther end of the immense hall, lifting the heavy curtain of skin which separated it from the library. When the young man reached her side, he stopped, knelt, and took her hand in his, saying simply: “You called me. I have come.” And then he added: “I have known you for a long time. I knew that you existed, I have often seen you; you are the constant thought of my heart, but I did not dare to come.”
She bade him rise, saying: “My friend, I know that we are alone in the world, and that we are about to die. A will stronger than my own compelled me to call you. It seemed as if it were the supreme desire of my mother, supreme even in death. See, she sleeps thus since yesterday. How long the night is!”
The young man, kneeling, had taken the hand of the dead, and they both stood there beside the funeral couch, as if in prayer.
He leaned gently toward the young girl, and their heads touched. He let fall the hand of the dead.
Eva shuddered. “No,” she said.
Then, suddenly, he sprang to his feet in terror; the dead woman had revived. She had withdrawn the hand which he had taken in his own, and had opened her eyes. She made a movement, looking at them.
“I wake from a strange dream,” she said, without seeming surprised at the presence of Omegar. “Behold, my children, my dream;” and she pointed to the planet Jupiter, shining with dazzling splendor in the sky.
And as they gazed upon the star, to their astonished vision, it appeared to approach them, to grow larger, to take the place of the frozen scene about them.
Its immense seas were covered with ships. Aerial fleets cleaved the air. The shores of its seas and the mouths of its great rivers were the scenes of a prodigious activity. Brilliant cities appeared, peopled by moving multitudes. Neither the details of their habitations nor the forms of these new beings could be distinguished, but one divined that here was a humanity quite different from ours, living in the bosom of another nature, having other senses at its disposal; and one felt also that this vast world was incomparably superior to the earth.
“Behold, where we shall be tomorrow!” said the dying woman. “We shall find there all the human race, perfected and transformed. Jupiter has received the inheritance of the earth. Our world has accomplished its mission, and life is over here below. Farewell!”
She stretched out her arms to them; they bent over her pale face and pressed a long kiss upon her forehead. But they perceived that this forehead was cold as marble, in spite of this strange awakening.
The dead woman had closed her eyes, to open them no more.