Simultaneously with the landing there was a loud pop, while Billie’s senses reeled with the stunning suddenness of the impact. Next second the machine had darted to a safe distance, and Billie could see the man gnawing frantically at the back of his hand. Too late; his hand went stiff, and his arm twitched spasmodically. The fellow made a step or two forward, then swayed where he stood, his whole body rigid and strained. An expression of the utmost terror was upon his face; he could not utter a sound, although his companions shrieked in horror. Another second and the man fell flat, twitching convulsively; and in a moment or two it was all over. He was dead!
And then the truth burst upon the watcher. In fact, it seemed to come to all four at the same time, probably by reason of their mental connections. Neither of them could claim that he or she had previously guessed a tenth of its whole, ghastly nature.
The “cane” which Smith had seen had not been cane at all; it had been grass. The “beetle” in the stream had not been the giant thing he had visualized it; neither had that fish been the size he had thought.
Van Emmon’s “gold mine” had not been a pit in any sense of the word; it had been the inside of the blossom of a very simple, poppy-like flower. The “nuggets” had been not mineral, but pollen. As for the incredible thing which Van Emmon had seen on the ground; that living statue; that head without a body—the body had been buried out of sight beneath the soil; and the man had been an ordinary human, being punished in this manner for misconduct.
Instead of being aircraft built in imitation of insects, the machines had been constructed by nature herself, and there had been nothing unusual in their size. No; they were the real thing, differing only slightly from what might have been found anywhere upon the earth.
In short, it had all been simply a matter of view-point. The supreme creature of Sanus was, not the human, but the bee. A poisonous bee, superior to every other form of Sanusian life! What was more—
“The damned things are not only supreme; the humans are their slaves!”
The four looked at each other blankly. Not that either was at a loss for words; each was ready to burst. But the thing was so utterly beyond their wildest conceptions, so tremendously different in every way, it left them all a little unwilling to commit themselves.
“Well,” said Smith finally, “as I said in the first place, I can’t see how any other than the human form became supreme. As I understand biology—”
“What gets me,” interrupted Van Emmon; “what gets me is, why the humans have allowed such an infernal thing to happen!”
Billie smiled somewhat sardonically. “I thought,” she remarked, cuttingly, “that you were always in sympathy with the upper dog, Mr. Van Emmon!”