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Under the Andes Rex Stout

The Dance Of The Sun

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We advanced to the corner together within the patch of light and turned to the right, directly facing its source.

It is impossible to convey even a faint idea of the wild and hugely fantastic sight that met our gaze. With us it was a single, vivid flash to the astonished brain. These are the details:

Before us was an immense cavern, circular in shape, with a diameter of some half a mile. It seemed to me then much larger; from where we stood it appeared to be at least two miles to the opposite side. There was no roof to be seen; it merely ascended into darkness, though the light carried a great distance.

All round the vast circumference, on terraced seats of rock, squatted row after row of the most completely hideous beings within possibility.

They were men; I suppose they must have the name. They were about four feet tall, with long, hairy arms and legs, bodies of a curious, bloated appearance, and eyes--the remainder of the face was entirely concealed by thick hair--eyes dull and vacant, of an incredibly large size; they had the appearance of ghouls, apes, monsters--anything but human beings.

They sat, thousands of them, crouched silently on their stone seats, gazing, motionless as blocks of wood.

The center of the cavern was a lake, taking up something more than half of its area. The water was black as night, and curiously smooth and silent. Its banks sloped by degrees for a hundred feet or so, but at its edge there was a perpendicular bank of rock fifteen or twenty feet in height.

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Near the middle of the lake, ranged at an equal distance from its center and from each other, were three--what shall I call them?--islands, or columns. They were six or eight feet across at their top, which rose high above the water.

On top of each of these columns was a huge vat or urn, and from each of the urns arose a steady, gigantic column of fire. These it was that gave the light, and it was little wonder we had thought it brilliant, since the flames rose to a height of thirty feet or more in the air.

But that which left us speechless with profound amazement was not the endless rows of silent, grinning dwarfs, nor the black, motionless lake, nor the leaping tongues of flame. We forgot these when we followed the gaze of that terrifying audience and saw a sight that printed itself on my brain with a vividness which time can never erase. Closing my eyes, I see it even now, and I shudder.

Exactly in the center of the lake, in the midst of the columns of fire, was a fourth column, built of some strangely lustrous rock. Prisms of a formation new to me--innumerable thousands of them--caused its sides to sparkle and glisten like an immense tower of whitest diamonds, blinding the eye.

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Under the Andes
Rex Stout

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