Last year I was chosen to succeed the venerable K-Z -- who had it in his mind to die, that is, to join Them in Venus, as one of the Seven Heirs of Atlantis, and I have been appointed to declare, so far as may found possible, the truth about that mysterious lost land. Of course, no more than one seventh of the wisdom is ever confided to one of the Seven, and the Seven meet in council but once in every thirty-three years. But its preservation is guaranteed by the interlocked systems of ``dreaming true'' and of ``preparation of the antinomy.'' The former almost explains itself; the latter is almost inconceivable to normal man. Its essence is to train a man to be anything by training him to be its opposite. At the end of anything, think they, it turns out to be its opposite, and that opposite is thus mastered without having been soiled by the labours of the student, and without the false impressions of early learning being left upon the mind.
I myself, for example, had unknowingly been trained to record these observations by the life of a butterfly. All my impressions came clear on the soft wax of my brain; I had never worried because the scratch on the wax in no way resembled the sound it represented. In other words, I observed perfectly because I never knew that I was observing. So, if you pay sufficient attention to your heart, you will make it palpitate.
I accordingly proceed to a description of the country.
OF THE PLAINS BENEATH ATLAS, AND ITS SERVILE RACE.
Atlas is the true name of this archipelago -- continent is an altogether false term, for every ``house'' or mountain peak was cut from its fellows by natural, though often very narrow waterways. The African Atlas is a mere offshoot of the range. It was the true Atlas that supported the ancient world by its moral and magical strength, and hence the name of the fabled globe-bearer. The root is the Lemurian ®MDUL¯Tla®MDNM¯ or ®MDUL¯Tlas®MDNM¯, black, for reasons which will appear in due course. ®MDUL¯A®MDNM¯ is the feminine prefix, derived from the shape of the mouth when uttering the sound. ``Black woman'' is therefore as near a translation as one can give in English; the Latin has a closer equivalent.
The mountains are cut off, not only from each other by the channels of the sea, but from the plains at their feet by cliffs naturally or artificially smoothed and undercut for at least thirty feet on every side in order to make access impossible.
These plains had been made flat by generations of labour. Vines and fruit-trees growing only on the upper slopes, they were devoted principally to corn, and to grass pastures for the amphibian herds of Atlas. This corn was of a kind now unknown, flourishing in sea-water, and the periodical flood-tides served the same purpose as the Nile in Egypt. Enormous floating stages of spongy rock -- no trees of any kind grew anywhere on the plains so wood was unknown -- supported the villages. These were inhabited by a type of man similar to the modern Caucasian race. They were not permitted to use any of the food of their masters, neither the corn, nor the amphibians, nor the vast supplies of shellfish, but were fed by what they called ``bread from heaven,'' which indeed came down from the mountains, being the whole of their refuse of every kind. The whole population was put to perpetual hard labour. The young and active tended the amphibians, grew the corn, collected the shell-fish, gathered the ``bread from heaven'' for their elders, and were compelled to reproduce their kind. At twenty they were considered strong enough for the factory, where they worked in gangs on a machine combining the features of our pump and treadmill for sixteen hours of the twentyfour. This machine supplied Atlas with its ®MDUL¯ZRO®MDNM¯®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯or ``power,'' of which I shall speak presently. Any worker showing even temporary weakness was transferred to the phosphorus works, where he was sure to die within a few months. Phosphorus was a prime necessity of Atlas; however, it was not used in its red or yellow forms, but in a third allotrope, a blue-black or rather violet-black substance, only known in powder finer than precipitated gold, harder than diamond, eleven times heavier than yellow phosphorus, quite incombustible, and so shockingly poisonous that, in spite of every precaution, an ounce of it cost the lives (on an average) of some two hundred and fifty men. Of its properties I shall speak later.
The people were left in utmost slavery and ignorance by the wise counsel of the first of the philosophers of Atlas, who had written: ``An empty brain is a threat to Society.'' He had consequently instituted a system of mental culture, comprising two parts:
1. As a basis, a mass of useless disconnected facts.
2. A superstructure of lies.
Part 1 was compulsory; the people then took Part 2 without protest.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯
The language of the plains was simple but profuse. They had few nouns and fewer verbs. ``To work again'' (there was no word for ``to work'' simply), ``to eat again,'' ``to break the law'' (no word for ``to break the law again''), ``to come from without,'' ``to find light'' (®MDUL¯i.e. ®MDNM¯to go to the phosphorus factory) were almost the only verbs used by adults. The young men and women had a verb-language yet simpler, and of degraded coarseness. All had, however, an extraordinary wealth of adjectives, most of them meaningless, as attached to no noun ideas, and a great quantity of abstract nouns such as ``Liberty,'' ``Progress,'' without which no refined inhabitant could consider a sentence complete. He would introduce them into a discussion on the most material subjects. ``The immoral snub-nose,'' ``the unprogressive teeth,'' ``lascivious music,'' ``reactionary eyebrows'' -- such were phrases familiar to all. ``To eat again, to sleep again, to work again, to find the light -- that is Liberty, that is Progress'' was a proverb common in every mouth.
The religion of the people was Protestant Christianity in all essentials, but with an even closer dependence upon God. They asserted its formulae, without attaching any meaning to the words, in a manner both reverent and passionate. Sexual life was entirely forbidden to the workers, a single breach implying relegation to the phosphorus works.
In every field was, however, an enormous tablet of rock, carved on one side with a representation of the three stages of life: the fields, the labour mill, the factory; and on the other side with these words: ``To enter Atlas, fly.'' Beneath this an elaborate series of graphic pictures showed how to acquire the art of flying. During all the generations of Atlas, not one man had been known to take advantage of these instructions.
The principal fear of the populace was a variation of any kind from routine. For any such the people had one word only, though this word changed its annotation in different centuries. ``Witchcraft,'' ``Heresy,'' ``Madness,'' ``Bad Form,'' ``Sex-Perversion,'' ``Black Magic'' were its principal shapes in the last four thousand years of the dominion of Atlas.
Sneezing, idleness, smiling, were regarded as premonitory. Any cessation from speech, even for a moment to take breath, was considered highly dangerous. The wish to be alone was worse than all; the delinquent would be seized by his fellows, and either killed outright or thrust into the compound of the phosphorus factory, from which there was no egress.
The habits of the people were incredibly disgusting. Their principal relaxations were art, music and the drama, in which they could show achievement hardly inferior to that of Henry Arthur Jones, Pinero, Lehar, George Dance, Luke Fildes, and Thomas Sidney Cooper.
Of medicine they were happily ignorant. The outdoor life in that equable climate bred strong youths and maidens, and the first symptoms of illness in a worker was held to impair his efficiency and qualify him for the phosphorous factory. Wages were permanently high, and as there were no merchants even of alcohol, whose use was forbidden, every man saved all his earnings, and died rich. At his death his savings went back to the community. Taxation was consequently unnecessary. Clothes were unnecessary and unknown, and the ``bread from heaven'' was the ``free gift of God.'' The dead were thrown to the amphibians. Each man built his own shelter of the rough stone sponge which abounded. The word ``house'' was used only in Atlas; the servile race called its huts ®MDUL¯Hloklost®MDNM¯ (equivalent to the English word ``home''). Discontent was absolutely unknown. It had not been considered necessary to prohibit traffic with foreign countries, as the inhabitants of such were esteemed barbarians. Had a ship landed men, they would have been murdered to a man, supposing that Atlas had permitted any approach to its shores. That it hindered such, and by infallible means, was due to other considerations, whose nature will form the subject of a subsequent chapter.
This then is the nature of the plains beneath Atlas, and the character of the servile race.
OF THE RACE OF ATLAS.
In the city or ``house'' which was formed from the crest of every mountain, dwelt a race not greatly superior in height to our own, but of vaster frame. The bulk and strength of the bear is not inappropriate as a simile for the lower classes; the higher had the enormous chest and shoulders and the lean haunches of the lion. This strength gave an infallible beauty, made monstrous by their most inexorable law, that every child who developed no special feature in the first seven years should be sacrificed to the Gods. This special feature might be a nose of prodigious size, hands and wrists of gigantic strength, a gorilla jaw, an elephant ear -- or any of these might entitle its owner to life:®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ for in all such variations from the normal they perceived the possibility of a development of the race. Men and women were hairy as the ourang-outang and all were closely shaven from head to foot. It had been found that this practice developed tactile sensibility. It was also done in reverence to the ``Living Atla,'' of which more in its place.
The lower class were few in number. Its function was to superintend the servile race, to bring the food of the children to the banqueting-hall, to remove the same, to attend to the disposition of the ``light-screens,'' to ensure the continuance of the race by the begetting, bearing and nourishing of the children.
The priestly class was concerned with the further preparation of the Zro supplied by the labour-mills, and its impregnation with phosphorus. This class had much leisure for ``work,'' a subject to be explained later.
The High Priests and High Priestesses were restricted in number to eleven times thirty-three in any one ``house.'' To them were entrusted the final secrets of Atlas, and to them was confided the conduct of the experiments in which every will was bound up.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯
The colour of the Atlanteans was very various, though the hair was invariably of a fiery chestnut with bluish reflections. One might see women whiter than Aphrodite, others tawny as Cleopatra, others yellow as Tu-Chi, others of a strange, subtle blue like the tattooed faces of Chin women, others again red as copper. Green was however a prohibited hue for women, and red was not liked in men. Violet was rare, but highly prized, and children born of that colour were specially reared by the High Priestesses.
However, in one part of the body all the women were perfectly black with a blackness no negro can equal; from this circumstance comes the name Atlas. It is absurdly attributed by some authors to the deposit of excess of phosphorus in the Zro. I need only point out that the mark existed long before the discovery of black phosphorus. It is evidently a racial stigma. It was the birth of a girl child without this mark which raised her mother to the rank of goddess, and ended the terrestrial adventure of the Atlanteans, as will presently appear.
Of the ethics of this people little need be said. Their word for ``right'' is ®MDUL¯phph®MDNM¯ made by the blowing with the jaw drawn sharply across from left to right, thus meaning ``a spiral life contrary to the course of the Sun.'' We may assume it as ``contrary.'' ``Whatever is, is wrong'' seems to have been their first principle. Legs were ``wrong'' because they only carry you five miles in the hour: let us refuse to walk; let us ride horseback. So the horse is ``wrong'' compared to the train and the motor-car; and these are ``wrong'' to the aeroplane. If speed had been the Atlantean's object, he would have thought aeroplanes ``wrong'' and all else too, so long as the speed of light was not surpassed by him.
Curious survivals of these laws are found in the Jewish transcript of the Egyptian code, which they, being a slave race, interpreted in the reverse manner.
``Thou shalt not make any graven image.'' Every male child on attaining manhood, had a graven image given him to worship, a miracle-working image, whose principle exploits he would tattoo upon it.
``Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.'' The Atlantean kept one day in seven for all purposes unconnected with his principle task.
``Thou shalt not commit adultery.'' Though the Atlanteans married, intercourse with the wife was the only act forbidden.
``Honour thy father and thy mother.'' On the contrary, they worshipped their children, as if to say: ``This is the God whom I have made in my own likeness.''
Similarly, there is one exception and one only to the rule of silence. It is the utterance of the 'Name' which it is death to pronounce. This word was constantly in their mouths; it is ®MDUL¯Zcrra®MDNM¯, a sort of venomous throat-gargling. Hence, possibly the Gaelic ®MDUL¯Scurr®MDNM¯ ``speak,'' English ®MDUL¯Scaur®MDNM¯ or ®MDUL¯Scar®MDNM¯ in Yorkshire and the Pennines. ®MDUL¯Zcrra®MDNM¯ is also the name of the ``High House,'' and of the graven image referred to above.
Others traces may be found in folklore; some mere superstitions. Thus the correct number for a banquet was thirteen, because if there were only one more sign in the Zodiac, the year would be a month longer, and one would have more time ``for work.'' This is probably a debased Egyptian notion. Atlanteans knew better than anyone that the Zodiac is only an arbitrary division. Still it may be laid down that the impossible never daunted Atlas. If one said, ``Two and two make Four'' his thought would be ``Yes, damn it!''®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯
I now explain the language of Atlas. The third and greatest of their philosophers saw that speech had wrought more harm than good, and he consequently instituted a peculiar rite. Two men were chosen by lot to preserve the language, which, by the way, consisted of monosyllables only, two hundred and fourteen in number, to each of which was attached a diacritical gesture, usually ideographic.
Thus ``wrong'' is given as ®MDUL¯phph®MDNM¯ moving the jaw from right to left. Wiping the brown with ®MDUL¯phph®MDNM¯ means ``hot,'' hollowing the hands over the mouth ``fire,'' striking the throat ``to di‚' so that each ``radical'' may have hundreds of gesture-derivatives. Grammar, by the way, hardly existed, the quick apprehension of the Atlanteans rendering it unnecessary.
These two men then departed to a cavern on the side of the mountain just above the cliff, and there for a year they remained, speaking the language and carving it symbolically upon the rock. At the end of the year they returned; the elder is sacrificed and the younger returns with a volunteer, usually one who wishes to expiate a fault, and teaches him the language. During his visit he observes whether any new thing needs a name, and if so he invents it, and adds it to the language. This process continued to the end. The rest of the people abandoned altogether the use of speech, only a few years' practice enabling them to dispense with the radicle. They then sought to do without gesture, and in eight generations the difficulty was conquered, and telepathy®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ established. Research then devoted itself to the task of doing without thought; this will be discussed in detail in the proper place. There was also a ``listener,'' three men who took turns to sit upon the highest peak, above the ``light-screens,'' and whose duty it was to give the alarm if any noise disturbed Atlas. On their report that High Priest charged with active governorship would take steps to ascertain and destroy the cause.
The 'light-screens' spoken of were a contrivance of laminae of a certain spar such that the light and heat of the Sun were completely cut off, not by opacity, but by what we call ``interference.'' In this way other subtle rays of the Sun entered the ``house,'' these rays being supposed to be necessary to life. These matters were the subjects of the deepest controversy. Some held that these rays themselves were injurious and should be excluded. Others considered that the light-screens should be put in position during moonlight, instead of being opened at sunset, as was the custom. This, however, was never attempted, the great mass of the people being devoted to the Moon. Others wished full sunlight, the aim of Atlas being (they thought) to reach the Sun. But this theory contradicted the prime axiom of attaining things through their opposites, and was only held by the lower classes, who were not initiated into this doctrine.
The ``houses'' of Atlas were carved from the living rock by the action of Zro in its seventh precipitation. Enormously solid, the walls were lofty and smoother than glass, though the pavements were rough and broken almost everywhere for a reason which I am not permitted to disclose. The passages were invariably narrow, so that two persons could never pass each other. When two met, it was the law to greet by joining in ``work'' and then going away together on their separate errands, or passing one above the other. This was done purposely, so as to remind every man of his duty to Atlas on every occasion on which he might meet a fellow-citizen.
The Banqueting-Hall of the children was usually very large. The furniture, which had been brought by the first colonists, and gradually disused by adults, never needed repair. A vast open doorway facing North opened on the mountainside on to the vineyards and orchards, the meadows and gardens, in which the children passed their time. Suckled by the mother for three months only, the child was then already able to nourish itself on the bread and wine, and on the flesh of the amphibious herds, of which there were several kinds; one a piglike animal with flesh resembling wild duck, another a sort of amatee tasting like salmon, its fat being somewhat like caviar in everything but texture, and a sure specific for any of childhood's troubles. A third, an ancestor of our hippopotamus, was really tamed, and was employed by the serviles for preparing the ground for the corn, trampling through the fields while they were covered with sea-water, and thus leaving deep holes in which the seeds were cast. Its flesh was not unlike bear, but more delicate. Notable, too, was the great quantity of turtle; also the giant oysters, the huge deep sea crabs, a kind of octopus whose flesh made a nutritious and elegant soup, and innumerable shell-fish, added to the table. The waterways were haunted by shoals of a small and poisonous fish,®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯whose bite was immediate death to man, a fact which altogether cut off communication between one island and another except by air, as the hippopotamus-animal, although immune to its bite, was unable to swim.
Of the sleeping chambers I shall tell more particularly in the course of my remarks on Zro.
OF THE AIM OF THE MAGICIANS OF ATLAS: OF ZRO; AND ITS PROPERTIES AND USES: OF THAT WHICH COMBINED WITH IT: AND OF BLACK PHOSPHORUS.
It was the most ancient tradition of the Atlantean Magicians that they were the survivors of a race inhabiting a country called Lemuria, of which the South Pacific archipelago may be the remains. These Lemurians had, they held, built up a civilization equal, if not superior to their own; but through a misunderstanding of magical law -- some said the 2nd, some the 8th, some the 23rd -- had involved themselves and their land in ruin. Others thought that the Lemurians had succeeded in their magical task, and broken their temple. In any case, it was the secret Lemurian tradition that they themselves represented the survivals of a yet earlier race who lived on ice, and they of yet another who lived in fire, and they again of earlier colonists from Mars. The theory, in fine, was that the aim of man is to attain the Sun, whence, according to one school of cosmology, he was exiled in the cosmic catastrophe which resulted in the formation of Neptune. His task on any given planet was therefore to overturn the laws of Nature on that planet, thus mastering it sufficiently to enable him to make the leap to the next planet inward. Exactly how and in what sense the leap was made remains obscure, even to the heirs of Atlantis.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯
The men of Atlas could fly, it is true, and that by a method so simple that men will laugh outright when it is rediscovered; but they needed air to support them; they could not confront the cold and emptiness of space. Was it in some subtler body that they conveyed the Palladium? Or, content to die, could they project some vehicle across so great a distance? The answer to such questions probably lies in the recovery by mankind of the knowledge of Zro and its properties.
Beneath the labour mills®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ run troughs®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ in which the sweat of the workers collects and drains off into an open basin without the mill. In this basin churns with immense rapidity--through multiple bevel gearing -- a sort of paddle with knife edges. The sweat is thus churned into froth, and gradually disappears, and is as continually replaced. The workers toil in shifts -- eight hours work, four hours repose, eight hours work, four hours rest and recreation. The mills never cease day or night.
The basin is of polished silver and agate, and is set at an angle, facing two enormous spheres of crystal, encased in a sort of trellis made of a certain greenish metal, its optical focus at a point midway between the two.
The only sign of activity is that out of this focus a spark crackles unless the air be dry, a condition difficult to secure in this part of the world, although fans blow air, dried over chloride of calcium and sulphuric acid, over the globes and their focus. These fans are worked by tidal power, human labour being appropriated solely to the one use.
In the temple of the ``house'' are two globes similar to those upon the plains, and the mysterious force generated below is transferred to those above, collecting within them. Now the name of this substance is always Zro, but in its first state the gesture is a twiddling of the thumbs. In its second, it is a rapid twittering of the fingers, and in its third state of distillation it is a screwing of the hands together. Within the spheres it sublimes suddenly in the air as a snaky powder (4) of silver, which immediately turns to an iridescent fluid (5) that is forced up, by its own need of expansion, through a fountain into the temple, on whose floor it lies (6) in a semi-solid condition. Expert Priests gather this in their hands, and rapidly shape it into its seventh state, when it is a knife of diamond, but alive. An instrument like a Mexican machete is used to carve rocks. The edge shears them, the back smooths them. The rock behaves exactly like wax, responsive to the lightest touch. What is not used for weapons is then gathered up swiftly and kneaded by women of the rank of High Priestess. It is not known even to the High Priests with what they knead it, but in its eighth stage it is a substance solid enough to support great weight, but eternally heaving of its own force. Of this they make beds, so that the sleeping Atlantean is (as it were) continually massaged. To this they attribute the fact that Atlanteans sleep never more than half an hour, though they do so four times daily. These beds remain active only for a few days, and they are then thrown into the ninth stage by being taken into a room where is a cauldron of great size. They are thrown into this and sprinkled with black phosphorus.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ The Zro then divides into two parts, one liquid, one solid. Neither of these has any ascertainable properties, for it is absolutely passive to the will of the user, who may taste therein his utmost desire, whether for food or drink. Among adults there is no other food or drink than this. The children are not allowed to taste it.
The black phosphorus is always added by a High Priestess, and it is not known in what matter she does this. The Zro that may remain is the subject of eternal experiments by the Magicians. It is generally thought by the greatest of them that an error was committed in bringing it to a ninth stage of division into two, and many openly deplored the discovery of black phosphorus. All however strive in harmony to produce a tenth stage that shall surpass the virtues of the ninth.
Theoretically it is possible to reach an eleventh stage wherein the Zro takes human form, and lives! Opinion is divided as to whether this was not actually done by a certain Magician at the time of the passing of Atlas. In any case, I beg the reader to remember that I have only described one seventh of the virtues of Zro, and I have even omitted this, that in its ninth stage it is not only food and drink, but Universal Medicine, if properly understood. For Zro is also a vision and a voice!
Now the muscles of the people of Atlas are the muscles of giants, and yet they do one thing only. And this thing is combined by the wisdom of the Magicians, so that it is at the same time work, exercise, sport, game, pleasure, and all else that may fulfill life.
This work never ceases. It has these parts:
1. Working ®MDUL¯at®MDNM¯ Zro, ®MDUL¯i.e. ®MDNM¯bringing it from the first stage to the ninth.
2. Working ®MDUL¯with®MDNM¯ Zro, ®MDUL¯i.e. ®MDNM¯for one's own particular purpose.
3. Working ®MDUL¯for®MDNM¯ Zro. This is the common and most honourable task, the Zro eaten and drunken being worked into a Quintessence of higher power, though identical in property with the common Zro. This new Zro (Atlas Zro) goes through the same stages as the common Zro of the serviles. But it is the result of free and joyful labour, and so serves the Magicians in their experiments, and the Governor of all for his sustenance. None by the way is ever wasted. For example, a tunnel was drilled completely through the Earth and filled with Zro, and it is said that by this tunnel the Atlanteans escaped.
This working, whether ®MDUL¯with®MDNM¯ or ®MDUL¯for®MDNM¯ Zro, requires two persons at least at any one time and place. Great heat is generated in the working, and the bodies of the workers are therefore sprinkled heavily with the black phosphorus, which is incombustible. This black phosphorus, poisonous to the servile race, becomes innocuous to anyone who has been in any way impregnated with Zro. This itself, in its first stage, is as dangerous as electricity of high voltage.
The reverence attached to Zro is unbounded. At one time it was hymned as the father of the gods, and till the end all children were thought to be ``begotten of Zro,'' though everyone might know who was the father.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ All such conception was however held indignity. Its official name was ``the old experiment.'' It was carried on simply because the new methods of continuing the race were not perfected. Childbirth was therefore in one way accident; although a duty, everyone shrank from it. For though no pain or discomfort attached to the process, it was a sort of second-best achievement from which proud women turned contemptuously. This was in part the reason why the father's name was never mentioned.
On several occasions in the history of Atlas the Zro ``failed.'' Although not changed in appearance, its properties were lost or diminished. In such a case young men and maidens in great numbers were captured on the plains, brought into Atlas, and offered in sacrifice to the Gods. Their blood was mingled with Zro in its third stage, and the latter recovered its potency. Their flesh was eaten by the High Priests and Priestesses in penance for the unknown wrong. It was subject to other and terrible scourges, being the most sensitive as well as the strongest thing on Earth. On one occasion it had to be treated with a fox-like perfume prepared by the chief Magician; on another it was subjected to streams of moonlight from parabolic mirrors.
The most serious crisis was some two thousand years before the destruction of Atlas. One of the serviles, riding his ``hippopotamus'' to the ploughing, fell off and was instantly bitten by the poisonous fish previously described. Through an accident of boyhood he had, however, for a reason too obscure to describe here, no such vulnerable spot as suited the Zhee-Zhou. He survived and went to work, as it chanced, the next day. The Zro was poisoned; a third of Atlas died within the hour; the plants on the affected island had to be destroyed, and all its people. It was only repopulated some three hundred and eighty years later, and then for particular reasons of magical economy impossible to dwell upon in this account.
Marriage was compulsory on all those whose passion had been so exclusive and enduring as to produce two children. Further intercourse between the pair was barred. The Magicians thought it was inimical to variation for a woman to have more than one child (®MDUL¯a fortiori®MDNM¯ two) by the same father; and the custom further prevented those stupid sporadic outbursts of burnt-out lust which make so many modern marriages intolerable.
Closely connected with marriage, the close of the reproductive life, is that of death, the close of the little that remains. Death hardly threatened the Atlantean; he would decide to ``go and see,'' as the old phrase ran, and take an overdose of a particular preparation of black phosphorus mixed with a very little Zro in the ninth stage, which ensured a painless death. That none ever returned was taken as proof of the supreme attractiveness of death.
The ghoulish and necromantic practices with which Atlanteans have been unjustly reproached never occurred. A little vampirism, perhaps, in the early days before the perfecting of Zro; but no Atlantean was ever so stupid or so ignorant as to confuse death with life.
Beside this voluntary death only one danger existed. As the use of Zro guaranteed life and health and youth -- a centenarian High Priest was no better than a kitten! -- so did its abuse spell instant corruption of those qualities. As mentioned above, now and then the Zro itself was at fault, and caused epidemics; but from time to time there were deaths in a particularly loathsome form caused by what they called ``misunderstanding'' the Zro.®MDSU¯*®MDNM¯ Such mistakes were particularly common in the early days of its discovery, and before its use had become well nigh a worship. The first symptom was a crack in the skin of the temple, or sometimes of the bridge of the nose, more rarely of an eyelid or cheek. Within a few minutes this crack became one open sore, of horrid foetor, and within twenty-four hours, the patient was completely rotted away, bone and marrow. A circumstance of singular atrocity was that death never occurred until the spinal column collapsed. No treatment could be found even to prolong the agony by an hour. This being recognized, sufferers were thrown from the cliffs at the first sign of the malady. In this way too were all other corpses disposed. It was the most honourable death possible, for becoming ``bread from heaven'' for the serviles, they were again worked up into Zro itself, a transmutation which in their view would be well worth all the ``resurrections of the body'' and ``immortalities of the soul'' of the theoretical, dogmatic, hearsay religions. So much then concerning Zro, and the matters immediately connected with it.