The Lost Continent



Of the Plains Beneath Atlas, and its Servile Race.[1]

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 'Tla' or 'Tlas', black, for reasons which will appear in due course. 'A' 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 'ZRO'[2] 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.[3]
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" (i.e. 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," "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 'Hloklost' (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.

[1] There were four (some say five) distinct races, each having several sub-races. But the main characteristics were the same. Some alleged the Portuguese and the English to be survivals of this or kindred stock.

[2] Or Zra'd. The ZR is drawled slowly; the the lips are suddenly curled back in a sneering snarl, and the vowel sharply and forcibly uttered. It is disputed whether this word is connected with the Sanscrit SRI, holy.

[3] The same danger to society in our own time has been forseen, and an identical remedy discovered and applied in compulsory education and cheap newspapers.

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