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Magnet of Love, by Dane Rudhyar, 1952. Image Copyright © 2001  by Leyla Rudhyar Hill.

Magnet of Love
by Dane Rudhyar, 1952

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Part One - 13 February 1952, 9:00 PM

What is happening to our climate? More atomic tests, I wonder! Only February 13, and already the air is warm, as if spring had touched the earth, had asked of her prematurely that she bear forth a new vegetation. Prematurely? An intriguing thought. When does one get "mature" enough? And for what? Isn't maturity for something . . . ?
      But what is time, anyway? Being for three years now the editor of Interplanetary Tales, and having read more time-machine stories than I care to remember, I shouldn't be too particular about such a small and changeable incident as unseasonable weather . . . or what maturity is, for that matter! But, of course, it's not the season I am really worrying about; even though I feel hot, fagged out. It's the anniversary . . . one year ago.
      One year ago the thought of being disturbed by an anniversary of all things would have made me laugh. Why, me! Dick Probeck, the sophisticated intellectual, the clever editor! That would have been funny, indeed. Now it's not funny. In one year, what changes can come! What turmoil, what tragedies! And who am I, now? Sophisticated, intellectual? I was not even an editor, really, all this fall . . . One year. February 13, 1951 the day before St. Valentine's Day. And then . . .

Well, it seems I must have dreamt again parts of that whole thing; gazing God only knows where and at what . . . Oh, why this last bitter touch? Jacqueline gone, stupidly, gruesomely her young body broken on rocks, caught in the ebbing tide, here, in New York, of all places! A lovely body. . . but how loveliness can become bitter! How dark an abyss to slide into, so one might forget and stop asking impossible questions . . . of life, of oneself, of whatever it is that seems to want to answer, when one refuses to listen! How savagely I have refused to listen and how long!
      . . . Oh, the voice again. It must be, it is Emerald's voice: "Dick, you must understand. Dick, Dick, please, try to feel! Don't fight! let go! If you could only listen! If you could only believe! . . . Believe! Believe! It is real. It is the truth. You know it is . . . Why don't you believe?"
      Where is Emerald now? Am I dreaming wide awake? Must one believe the incredible? It would be good, if only I could. Perhaps I would become really "new." Perhaps I would no longer be afraid, as it seems I have been. Afraid of what? What is man's greatest fear, today? Somebody should write a story about that! I should know. What else could have made me crave so senselessly to forget?
      Yes, the voice is right. I should really sit down and seek to understand. But I am so tired . . . and why is this room so hot? What the hell is the matter with the weather, the steam heat . . . my head? A drink? No; no more. Then what?
      The voice again . . . I don't know where I hear it, how I hear it. It seems to beat up from my pulsing blood. My head aches with it. Words pound, pound with the blood-beats. Is it insanity or reality? Is anybody sure of the difference?
      "Dick! Try. Try to remember, to understand! You know it is real. Try to feel. Oh, please, believe . . . believe!"

All right . . . whatever it is that speaks. I shall try to remember everything, every word, every glance. It is too warm in my room to sleep and I could not fall asleep anyway. So I shall call back the memories I have tried to kill. I shall write it all down . . . to be sure I'll remember . . . before it is all gone, or I am gone. I am so weary a little more hurt makes no difference. Perhaps when one hurts so much that there is no greater pain . . . perhaps it becomes bliss, who knows!

13 February 1951, 9:00 AM

A year ago. The day before St. Valentine's Day. That's easy to remember because I had wanted to give a nice gift, something unusual, to my girl. I thought she was my girl, anyway . . . besides being my secretary.
      Our office was rather small; quite by itself in a corner, even if near the suite of rooms occupied by our other magazines on Fourth Avenue. There was Ron Ron MacNorthland that is, my assistant, a keen, imaginative young man in his late twenties; then, Emerald . . . dark hair, greenish eyes, Irish not only an excellent secretary, but besides . . .
      As for me; well, I was then 38 plus one month, exactly. Behind that, a marriage gone haywire; I was just getting over the bitterness of what seemed then a senseless failure. I thought then I knew what bitterness was! If only I had know what was coming, what real bitterness can be!
      Emerald had come to us, through a distant friend, only the preceding November. Her former employer had sold out; and we had lost our none-too-efficient previous secretary. So she took the job, and in three weeks had made herself indispensable. She was very bright and quick, with a good sense of Irish humor, yet very quiet and rather aloof. For several weeks I did not quite know how she felt about me, this job, science-fiction, and all else including Ron, whose mind seemed occupied then by a rather mysterious affair with some older women, seemingly intent on mothering him and putting peculiar ideas in his head. But then, peculiar ideas are meat and drink for the kind of writers we are, and Ron's avidity for exotic religions and the supernatural was not at all a bad asset for me. He had dug up some very grand story ideas and seemed ready to produce first-rate stuff. And he was warm, enthusiastic; it was refreshing, after being immersed in so much morbid, sometimes cataclysmic writing.
      And Emerald . . . at first I could not quite make her out. She was very friendly, correct, efficient; but behind that there was something I couldn't quite understand. She seemed to have been married when in her teens to a drunkard. I never found out whether he died or there was a divorce. She always changed the subject when I tried to be subtle about finding out! She seemed to have an acute intuition; perhaps more than that. Perhaps she was a "natural" telepathic, clairvoyant or what have you? She had a puzzling way of looking with her big clear eyes, not at you, but through you; and you felt she had gone away somewhere inside you, perhaps. It was not unpleasant, but one felt unsure. Some men could have become quite mad because of it; could have wanted to tear down that strange look, hurt her, do anything . . . just so she would be more like other women, more . . . oh, well, more "possessable!"
      She had a well-formed, mature body. She dressed well. Nice little touches which sort of stir the imagination very good taste, always. She seemed to me very close to thirty; I guess about Ron's age. They were very different. Yet, in some rather indefinable way, I had thought them not unlike brother and sister. Brother and sister. It sounds very funny now. Yet, I don't know. Perhaps it is not so wrong. Perhaps things are not what they seem to be. I am sure there was nothing between them, until . . .

Until that day I will never forget. Until the thirteenth of February of last year when Ron greeted my arrival at the office with a peculiar kind of bubbling excitement.
      "Guess what happened to me?" he said at once.
      "I don't know. It must have been good. A flying saucer landing at the U.N.?"
      "Oh, no. Not that kind of stuff. I met an extraordinary man. I don't know yet just why he seemed so unusual. Not one thing in particular. But the way he looks, the way he says things . . . There is something that made me feel so strange, so small and yet as a child . . ."
      "Whew! I didn't know you had a father-complex also."
      Emerald laughed. "Also? What other kind of complex has Ron?"
      "Didn't you know he had a mother-complex? Why . . ."
      "Oh, stop it, Dick!" Ron retorted. "Everybody has complexes according to you. Everything has a nice tag, a nice file to fit in. That must be your librarian background."
      I had been a librarian for years; this was correct. It was then that I had become interested in science fiction. My wife thought I was crazy to read all the stuff which came out. She was an intellectual Bostonian with a Bryn Mawr education, some combination! So while she read Toynbee unabridged I, out of spite, started writing space-travel yarns. The end of the story was, nevertheless, that I became editor of Interplanetary Tales . . . and "free."
      "O.K. Ron, you can have it. I am an intellectual snob. At least I seem to have graduated from the way other people thought of me in the old days. But, for pity's sake, spill it out! What happened with the wonder-man that made you so hot?"
      I had hung up my coat and hat. I glanced at Emerald. She seemed puzzled, more serious than usual. On my desk bunches of proofs needed final check-up, a pile of letters waited for answers. I sat down, looking at Ron who was telling his story.

He lived in a small flat on Long Island. You couldn't keep him in the city. He said it choked his soul. So as he rode that morning in classic commuter fashion, he had found himself sitting next to a man whom being a well-bred commuter type he had barely noticed. As often happens, the train stopped when it was not supposed to. Ron finally took his eyes from the proofs he was correcting on his knees, and glancing to see what was the matter, he saw his neighbor's face for the first time. I remember Ron saying that what struck him most was the light that radiated from the man's eyes. I know; this was my first impression too, later. When I saw him at night they glowed, those eyes as if there were a light behind them.
      The man had spoken a few words, as Ron had shown impatience with the train's delay. It seemed a foreign voice; not so much the accent as the quality, the resonance of it. It was both deep and high. As I think of it now, I can't help thinking of Balinese gongs . . . Ron said that, after looking at the man, he couldn't go on correcting the proofs. The man was smiling kindly, apparently having noticed the "Contents" page of our magazine issue which Ron had spread over his brief-case on his knees.
      The train was still held up. Ron found himself talking with the stranger about his work, the magazine, the science fiction field. And Ron had gone off on his favorite subject. "It is time we got some new angle. I am sick and tired of rocketships and time-machines, of wars to destroy earth-civilization, of intergalatic conquest, and all that. There should be other types of material, other ways of thinking of planets and space-travel. Machines, always machines! Pretty well standardized too. Wouldn't it be funny if some scientist turned up with an entirely different type of machine to out-date all the future machines which have not even had the ghost of a chance to materialize! And the glorified male ego, always driving the machine, using evermore fantastic weapons of conquest, blazing the way for space colonization."
      Ron had been startled by the way his companion had looked at him. "I felt as if the whole of me was all opened up, skin and flesh. I don't know what was left! But the man saw that too. And he smiled again . . . It was such an extraordinary smile! Something in me seemed to melt. I felt light, happy . . . I couldn't tell why."
      The train jerked; resumed speed. It was soon Brooklyn, the tunnel, Penn Station. But the stranger had told Ron that perhaps he could give him a really different angle on planets and going to planets; other things too. Would he come to his studio? Quite soon, as he might be leaving shortly on a trip. Ron could bring friends, if he wished. At the station, the stranger was caught in the crowd surging up the stairs in the usual confusion, increased by the train's delay. But he had written his address and phone number on the envelope holding the magazine proofs. The name: Leon Ramar. An address on Morningside Drive, near Columbia University. The handwriting was strong, open, unusually well- formed. It suggested to me an artist's writing; but then my knowledge of graphology is at best only superficial!

There was a silence after Ron told his story. The phone rang. A friend I was to meet for dinner was apologizing; he had to leave town at once for Chicago. They had some trouble with the printer there; the usual way it seems, for magazine editors. Hardly thinking, I said, after putting down the receiver: "Darn it! I wanted to talk to John tonight about the contest business. He would have to fly to Chicago just when I need him!"
      Ron looked at me, saying not a word. Somehow it was not necessary, I turned to Emerald; she was not working. Her eyes were indrawn.
      "What are you thinking so hard about?" I couldn't help asking.
      She smiled. "Could I go too?"
      "Go where?" That was silly. I knew very well, inside, what she was thinking.
      Ron popped up excitedly. "Wouldn't it be grand if we could get really hot stuff for the magazine! I trust that man. I feel he knows things we don't know."
      "Why so sure?" I was both intrigued and irritated.
      "Ron's famous hunches, you know," Emerald answered.
      "I don't see what we can lose," Ron added. "Your dinner is off. I'll phone Mr. Ramar. I'm sure he told me he was free this evening. We could all go after taking a bite. I'll treat you to a Longchamps dinner on the way . . . Shall I phone now?"
      He did. Mr. Ramar would be delighted to receive him and his friends at 9 o'clock.

It is 9, now. Just one year later. But then, the night was clear, cold. As we walked up Morningside Drive from the bus we had time to lose we could see the stars quite clearly in spite of the lights of the city. Some snow had fallen. The air was crisp, good to breathe. As we stopped before the door of the apartment house, I recall that Emerald looked up to the sky and said softly: "I wonder what the mystery-man will tell us about all that . . . way, way up." I recall the words because I was struck with the tone of her voice. I could feel a queer sense of expectancy. Her face was beautiful in the diffused light, surrounded with a fur collar and hat.
      Of course I loved her! I don't even know now if she really knew. I had had a few evenings with her; dinner, theatre, one dance club. One Saturday night, she had asked me and Ron to have supper in her small apartment on East 10th Street. Not far from my place on Washington Square. It was within easy walking distance of the office. Most days I walked up Fifth Avenue; and once or twice we met on the way.
      She was a charming hostess. Her studio apartment was simply but beautifully furnished. Her father had for years lived in India, working for a tea importing firm. She had been born at sea, in a monsoon storm, ahead of time, as her American-born mother was returning to London. Later they had moved to New York.
      I was indeed increasingly fond of Emerald. Perhaps because she was so different from my first wife. Perhaps I was lonely. Or simply because she was . . . she. I held her arm as we crossed the threshold of Mr. Ramar's house. He lived on the top floor. Probably a studio apartment. Was he an artist, I wondered? None of us knew. The door opened. The "mystery-man" himself was greeting us.

Read Part Two

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Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
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Illustation ("Magnet of Love" by Dane Rudhyar, 1952)
Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill.
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