Categories
Flatland

Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott

Flatland: Section 17 How the Sphere, having in vain tried words, resorted to deeds

It was in vain. I brought my hardest right angle into violent collision
with the Stranger, pressing on him with a force sufficient to have destroyed
any ordinary Circle: but I could feel him slowly and unarrestably slipping
from my contact; not edging to the right nor to the left, but moving somehow
out of the world, and vanishing into nothing. Soon there was a blank.
But still I heard the Intruder’s voice.

Sphere. Why will you refuse to listen to reason? I had hoped to find
in you–as being a man of sense and an accomplished mathematician–
a fit apostle for the Gospel of the Three Dimensions, which I am allowed
to preach once only in a thousand years: but now I know not how
to convince you. Stay, I have it. Deeds, and not words,
shall proclaim the truth. Listen, my friend.

I have told you I can see from my position in Space the inside
of all things that you consider closed. For example, I see in yonder
cupboard near which you are standing, several of what you call boxes
(but like everything else in Flatland, they have no tops or bottom)
full of money; I see also two tablets of accounts. I am about
to descend into that cupboard and to bring you one of those tablets.
I saw you lock the cupboard half an hour ago, and I know you have
the key in your possession. But I descend from Space; the doors, you see,
remain unmoved. Now I am in the cupboard and am taking the tablet.
Now I have it. Now I ascend with it.

I rushed to the closet and dashed the door open. One of the tablets
was gone. With a mocking laugh, the Stranger appeared in the other
corner of the room, and at the same time the tablet appeared upon the floor.
I took it up. There could be no doubt–it was the missing tablet.

I groaned with horror, doubting whether I was not out of my sense;
but the Stranger continued: “Surely you must now see that my explanation,
and no other, suits the phenomena. What you call Solid things are really
superficial; what you call Space is really nothing but a great Plane.
I am in Space, and look down upon the insides of the things of which
you only see the outsides. You could leave the Plane yourself,
if you could but summon up the necessary volition. A slight upward
or downward motion would enable you to see all that I can see.

“The higher I mount, and the further I go from your Plane,
the more I can see, though of course I see it on a smaller scale.
For example, I am ascending; now I can see your neighbour the Hexagon
and his family in their several apartments; now I see the inside of
the Theatre, ten doors off, from which the audience is only just departing;
and on the other side a Circle in his study, sitting at his books.
Now I shall come back to you. And, as a crowning proof, what do
you say to my giving you a touch, just the least touch, in your stomach?
It will not seriously injure you, and the slight pain you may suffer
cannot be compared with the mental benefit you will receive.”

Before I could utter a word of remonstrance, I felt a shooting pain
in my inside, and a demoniacal laugh seemed to issue from within me.
A moment afterwards the sharp agony had ceased, leaving nothing but
a dull ache behind, and the Stranger began to reappear, saying,
as he gradually increased in size, “There, I have not hurt you much,
have I? If you are not convinced now, I don’t know what will convince you.
What say you?”

My resolution was taken. It seemed intolerable that I should endure
existence subject to the arbitrary visitations of a Magician who could
thus play tricks with one’s very stomach. If only I could in any way
manage to pin him against the wall till help came!

Once more I dashed my hardest angle against him, at the same time
alarming the whole household by my cries for aid. I believe,
at the moment of my onset, the Stranger had sunk below our Plane,
and really found difficulty in rising. In any case he remained motionless,
while I, hearing, as I thought, the sound of some help approaching,
pressed against him with redoubled vigor, and continued to shout
for assistance.

A convulsive shudder ran through the Sphere. “This must not be,”
I thought I heard him say: “either he must listen to reason,
or I must have recourse to the last resource of civilization.”
Then, addressing me in a louder tone, he hurriedly exclaimed, “Listen:
no stranger must witness what you have witnessed. Send your Wife back
at once, before she enters the apartment. The Gospel of Three Dimensions
must not be thus frustrated. Not thus must the fruits of one thousand
years of waiting be thrown away. I hear her coming. Back! back!
Away from me, or you must go with me–wither you know not–into
the Land of Three Dimensions!”

“Fool! Madman! Irregular!” I exclaimed; “never will I release thee;
thou shalt pay the penalty of thine impostures.”

“Ha! Is it come to this?” thundered the Stranger: “then meet your fate:
out of your Plane you go. Once, twice, thrice! `Tis done!”