Chapter 24 Summary
Rashaverak brings Jan the news that the end is near. It has been five, perhaps six, years since Jan returned to Earth. He awakens from a dream in which he was a small boy again, listening to a great voice calling to him in a language that he cannot understand. Jan goes outside and looks up at the moon that he never reached, though he had journey far past it. He is alone on Earth. As he watches the moon, he notices that the face that has always been pointed toward Earth is moving. He realizes that this means that the children are emerging from their long trance and are playing with the moon’s rotation. Rashaverak assures him that he is right, and this means that the Overlords can no longer take the risk of staying. They do not know what the children will do to them, now that they are testing their immense powers. The alien ship will leave in two or three hours. They will leave instruments behind to record what happens.
Jan announces that he will stay on Earth. He has seen enough of the universe, and now all he wants to know is the fate of his planet. Rashaverak says that the Overlords had hoped he would do this so that he can transmit his impressions of the end to them.
Jan watches as the Overlords’ ship crosses the night sky. He transmits that he sees nothing else, except a few slight earthquakes. He is about to sign off when he sees that the stars are becoming dimmer, and a huge net-like span of lines appears across the sky. In the western horizon he sees a great burning column, which means that the children are on their way at last, leaving the last remnants of matter behind. Jan realizes that this is exactly what he saw on Karellen’s planet and assumes that it is part of the Overmind. A great wind comes up as the gravity begins to give way. Sticks and stones fly up into the air, and Jan feels himself losing weight. The buildings and the topography around him become transparent, as the atoms are stripped away. He sees a light coming up beneath him from the Earth’s core.
The Earth explodes, the force disturbing the orbits of the other planets of the solar system. Out beyond Pluto, Karellen sees only the distant star that is the Sun, which has lost one of its planets. He bids farewell to the men that he has known and turns his back on the dwindling Sun.