THE CITY THAT FORGOT
episode taken from Adventure No. 1088 -
What would happen if everybody in your town suddenly forgot everything they had ever learned?
RAYS OF FORGETFULNESS.
Boulder was faced with the greatest problem in its history. It was cut off from
the outside world. No railway had ever linked the city with the outer world,
but a fine road carried immense traffic out of the canyon, and the local authorities
had been building an aerodrome of great size. No one had ever missed the
railway. No one had ever guessed that grim tragedy could come to Russell
Boulder. The trouble was not man-made. For weeks there had been heavy rainfalls
in the surrounding mountains, but the landslide which had cut the city off from
the outside world had only occurred at the previous evening. It had taken place without
warning. The entire south face of
A knock came to the door, and Sibbar entered. A huge, gorilla-like creature, he was devoted to the doctor, who had once saved his life. Since then he had worked whole heartedly for Wane. The doctor was his god, and he was the dull witted, faithful slave, content with his lot. He brought a glass of hot milk for Dr Wane, who was fond of milk, and drank several quarts a day. Michel Wane motioned for the tray to be set on the table, and waved Sibbar to go away. The huge creature limbered off as silently as he had come, closing the soundproof door behind him. “I’ll do it!” decided Wane as he sipped his milk. “I’ll do it! There’s a chance that it may drive everyone crazy, but risks have to be taken. It will be several weeks before the canyon can be cleared. We’ll see what will happen in that time. He went to a cupboard and took out a queer helmet made of sheet lead. It fitted closely over his head and round the base of the neck, completely covering his brain. He had discovered lead was the only metal which acted as an insulator against the ultra-short rays which his machine generated. By wearing this helmet he made sure his own brain was not affected. He returned to the table and studied the switchboard before him. One lever only had to be put over. It was a momentous occasion, and for a few seconds he hesitated. Click! He had put over the switch, there was a spluttering sound, and two huge glass balls filled with purple sparks. Faster and faster whirled these sparks until they filled the balls and gave off a radiance which flooded the laboratory and cast a ruddy glow over the vulturish face of the experimenter. Somewhere on the roof an aerial dispersed the rays being generated. They were travelling at a speed hitherto unknown to science. They were invisible, without colour, indetectable. For ten minutes that ruddy glow shone from the high laboratory windows, then Wane switched over and stilled the spluttering instrument. He lifted off his lead helmet. “Phew! If things worked as I expected, the trick’s done,” he muttered. “Not one of those sleepers will remember anything he had ever known when he wakens. It will be a remarkable state of affairs—remarkable!” He rubbed his thin hands together gleefully, reached for his milk glass, and saw it was empty. He pressed his finger on an electrical button. A bell in Sibbar’s quarters would bring more milk—if he remembered!
The doctor stood by the window studying the streets and blocks of buildings spread below him. There were many cars and lorries left in the street. “They’ll have forgotten how to drive them tomorrow,” he chuckled, then realised it was several minutes since he had rung the bell. He stormed to the bell and rang again, but without response. Grimly he took down a heavy whip from the wall and went from the laboratory. Sibbar was a slave, and was treated like one. When he failed in his duty he was beaten. Wane descended two staircases to the kitchen quarters, and was about to shout for the man servant when low growling noises, mingled with deep grunts, made him tiptoe towards the door of Sibbar’s dark, stone floored sleeping hole. This small chamber had once been a pantry. It had no comforts of any kind. The solitary window had two stout steel bars running across it. It was more like a prison cell than a bedroom. Grunting and snarling, the half-breed was slowly but surely bending those bars outwards. Sweat poured down the back of his neck. From time to time he gnashed his teeth together. The man’s strength was prodigious. Those bars were bending as though made of putty. The doctor had raised his whip, but now he lowered it and stood silently on the threshold. For once in his life he was afraid. With a wrenching noise one of the bars came out of its sockets. A deep growl of joy came from Sibbar. He tossed the bent bar behind him, almost hitting the watcher in the doorway, then heaved himself up and dived headlong through the gap into the grounds outside. “Phee-eew!” gasped Dr Wane, drawing a hand across his face. Fear had gripped the man who had doomed Russell Boulder to forgetfulness.
sun had risen above the
he climbed on to the sill. Attached to the wall was a drainpipe, and he made a
clumsy grab for that, getting a grip more by good luck than judgment. This
done, he began to climb down. Meanwhile other people in the city were wakening
and emerging into the streets. None of those who had taken off their clothes
before going to bed had dressed themselves properly. They had forgotten how to
dress. They had robed themselves in blankets or sheets or the curtains from
their rooms, wrapping these around in whichever way suited their fancy.
Unshaven, ungroomed, all of them barefooted, they stared at the world before
them with hostility. Many of them came out through windows. Others were trying
to break their way out through unlocked doors or through walls when there were
doors nearby. Dogs, which had never seen their owners in this mood before,
rushed at them, barking and snapping at their bare feet. One burly shopkeeper
snatched up an iron bar which had belonged to his shutters and smashed the
nearest dog over the head, killing it instantly. Hardly had it fallen when he
pounced on it, snatched it up greedily, and retreated into the house behind
him. Four or five neighbours who had seen him do this rushed after him to share
in the loot, and sounds of struggle came from within the house. Nobody was
carrying on a conversation. They had forgotten their own tongue. They had
forgotten who or what they were. They were conscious only of the most primitive
emotions—anger, jealousy, hunger, and thirst. It was into this milling horde
that Red Rhodes descended, and because he was bigger than most of them they
made way for him, eyeing nervously the baton which he had grabbed before
leaving his room, and which he had carried between his teeth when climbing. He
shouldered aside any who barred his way, following the direction his nose led
him. He was making for the butcher’s store. The chief of police came at last to
the butcher’s shop. It had stout shutters over the front, but his nose assured
him there was meat inside. He gripped the bars and pulled. They resisted his
strength. He snarled, gritted his teeth, and tried again. It was strange that
the man responsible for keeping law and order in the city should be the first
to attempt to loot. From the observatory at the top of the tower Dr Michel Wane
watched through his field glasses and chuckled with glee. Failing to get in by
the front of the shop and still lured by the scent of fresh meat,
yells and snarls the mob joined in, until there were fifty or sixty men running
as well as Rhodes and Sibbar. As they streamed down
THE MAN FROM OUTSIDE.
Dr Marston led the chase outside the town. He was making for the distant
mountain side, but the weight of the meat was beginning to tell. He changed it
from arm to arm, but his tired muscles gradually relaxed their grip, until
finally he was obliged to drop the prize altogether. Red Rhodes was not far
behind. A howl went up from the rest of the pursuers as they saw him grab it.
The anger of the crowd was now turned against the chief of police.
People were still shut in their homes, hammering to get out. Wane made no attempt to release them to tell them how to unlock their doors. Suddenly his head went back and he glared at the sky to the south. What was that noise in the sky? A tiny speck under the clouds answered his question. A plane was coming over the mountains. He showed his teeth viciously. “I’d forgotten planes!” he muttered. Anxiously he watched, and to his dismay it began to circle within the canyon. It was seeking a landing place. The unfinished aerodrome was just outside the city, but was not yet in a fit condition to inspire a pilot with confidence. After skimming low over it, the unknown airman rose again, and Dr Wane sighed with relief. “He won’t attempt it after all. He doesn’t like the look of it, and—Now, what’s the crazy fool doing?” His quick cry of alarm had come when the plane suddenly cut off its motor and glided down towards the main square of the city. The pilot had decided this offered him a chance of landing. Down glided the machine, a small one, and the angry doctor saw there was only one man in the cockpit. The plane made a perfect three point landing, ran halfway across the square, then stopped. The pilot detached himself from his straps and stood up. He looked about him in bewilderment. He could not understand why the streets were filled with stationary cars and vehicles, why there was nobody to be seen. That part of the city seemed deserted. “Hi! Hi! Where is everyone?” demanded the pilot, and his voice was that of a young man. Bill Powell was just twenty five, and this was the first machine he had actually owned. He had been flying it back to his ranch in the West when he had run into a thunderstorm amongst the mountains and lost his way. After flying for some hours and nearly exhausting his petrol, he had sighted the city in the canyon, and had decided to come down and re-fuel. He was surprised at this strange welcome. He did not see the skulking figure nearby. Dr Michel Wane had decided to keep out of sight. He was inwardly cursing this blundering airman for butting in on his great experiment.
Bill Powell walked up and down beside his machine, occasionally shouting. He was conscious of a dull murmuring and roaring in the distance. Somewhere a great crowd was on the move. He rid himself of his crash helmet, revealing himself as a good looking, fair young fellow, with level brows and resolute chin. He wanted petrol and to be on his way. He had expected trouble with the police for having landed in the city square, and when presently he heard running feet he was not surprised to see a man in police uniform. The previous night Constable Garry had fallen asleep fully dressed, otherwise he would not have been clothed in this fashion. He did not know how to get rid of the uniform. With thousands of others Garry had been up the canyon fighting for water when the great bird had passed over their heads, for such they had taken it to be. Hundreds of them had started to run after it, and Constable Garry happened to be the foremost. Bill Powell greeted him with a sigh of relief. For a few minutes he had feared something terrible had happened in this city. Sight of the constable had reassured him. He walked to meet Garry. “Sorry I had to make a forced landing,” he said. “I’ve run out of juice, and didn’t like the look of your aerodrome. I’m lost. What’s the name of this place, and can I get any aviation spirit?” The constable stared at him in alarm. He had forgotten he had ever heard noises like that coming from a human mouth before. He glared past Powell towards the plane, and began to stalk it cautiously, as one might have approached a dangerous monster. Bill Powell opened his mouth in amazement. “What’s the matter with you?” he demanded. “Has everyone gone mad around here? Haven’t you seen a plane before?” The constable paid no attention, but reached out a hand to touch the extended wing, jumping back as though it had bitten him. “Huh-huh-huh!” he grunted. “For the love of Pete, what’s the matter?” roared the pilot. “Is everyone screwy around here? Why’s all the traffic stopped? What’s been going on?” Into the square poured several hundred of the fastest citizens. They had followed the policeman, but few were as well clad as he. Some were very sketchily dressed. They let out savage cries when they saw the giant “bird” standing there. Some instinct told them a bird as big as that would be a menace. They surged towards it. Bill Powell jumped forward in alarm. “I say, be careful!” he remonstrated. “That’s my plane. I’m going to leave as soon as I get some juice.” They thrust him aside with angry cries. Crash! Thud! Crash! They hammered it from all sides, smashing with cold fury, tearing it with their fingers, rocking it from side to side, and finally overturning it. As it lay in pieces on the ground they battered it to even smaller fragments.
Powell crept away from the wrecked plane. A gateway into a cool park lured him
with a promise of rest. His head was in a whirl. He wanted to think things out
for himself. “It must be some kind of mass madness or hysteria,” he thought.
“I’ve heard of such things before. The sooner I get out of here and send in
help the better.” His thoughts broke off when he saw a huge, hairy figure cautiously
emerging from some bushes in front of the pavilion. It was Sibbar, and his eyes
were fixed on the roof above him. For a long time he had watched Red Rhodes,
and had seen the chief of police finally stretch himself out to sleep beside
his hunk of meat. Now he was certain
low as he ran across the front of the pavilion, Powell in his turn picked up a
stone. As he straightened he saw Sibbar advancing along the roof towards the
Bill Powell had found a friend in the City That Forgot!
THE CITY THAT FORGOT 12 Episodes in Adventure issues 1088 – 1099 (1943)
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2007