[Concerning] phosphorescent bodies, and in particular to uranium salts whose phosphorescence has a very brief duration. With the double sulfate of uranium and potassium... I was able to perform the following experiment: One wraps a Lumie¨re photographic plate with a bromide emulsion in two sheets of very thick black paper, such that the plate does not become clouded upon being exposed to the sun for a day. One places on the sheet of paper, on the outside, a slab of the phosphorescent substance, and one exposes the whole to the sun for several hours. When one then develops the photographic plate, one recognizes that the silhouette of the phosphorescent substance appears in black on the negative. If one places between the phosphorescent substance and the paper a piece of money or a metal screen pierced with a cut-out design, one sees the image of these objects appear on the negative. One can repeat the same experiments placing a thin pane of glass between the phosphorescent substance and the paper, which excludes the possibility of chemical action due to vapors which might emanate from the substance when heated by the sun's rays. One must conclude from these experiments that the phosphorescent substance in question emits rays which pass through the opaque paper and reduces silver salts. [Although the sun is irrelevant, and he misinterprets the role of phosphorescence, he has discovered the effect of radioactivity.]
you're an insomniac, you tell yourself: there are profound truths revealed only to the insomniac by night like those phosphorescent minerals veined and glimmering in the dark but coarse and ordinary otherwise; you have to examine such minerals in the absence of light to discover their beauty, you tell yourself.
Joyce Carol Oates
As we drew nearer the green shore the bearded man told me of that land, the Land of Zar, where dwell all the dreams and thoughts of beauty that come to men once and then are forgotten. And when I looked upon the terraces again I saw that what he said was true, for among the sights before me were many things I had once seen through the mists beyond the horizon and in the phosphorescent depths of the ocean.
To harden the earth the rocks took charge: instantly they grew wings: the rocks that soared: the survivors flew up the lightning bolt, screamed in the night, a watermark, a violet sword, a meteor. The succulent sky had not only clouds, not only space smelling of oxygen, but an earthly stone flashing here and there changed into a dove, changed into a bell, into immensity, into a piercing wind: into a phosphorescent arrow, into salt of the sky.
But we didn't, not in the moonlight, or by the phosphorescent lanterns of lightning bugs in your back yard, not beneath the constellations we couldn't see, let alone decipher, or in the dark glow that replaced the real darkness of night, a darkness already stolen from us, not with the skyline rising behind us while a city gradually decayed, not in the heat of summer while a Cold War raged, despite the freedom of youth and the license of first love-because of fate, karma, luck, what does it matter?-we made not doing it a wonder, and yet we didn't, we didn't, we never did.
He rose and turned toward the lights of town. The tidepools bright as smelterpots among the dark rocks where the phosphorescent seacrabs clambered back. Passing through the salt grass he looked back. The horse had not moved. A ship's light winked in the swells. The colt stood against the horse with its head down and the horse was watching, out there past men's knowing, where the stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.
A high-pitched sound, like steam escaping from a kettle whistles through the dark room. But nobody's making tea. We both turn toward the source of the eerie noise. A weak stream of unearthly light seeps through the window near the corner of the room and pours onto the floor. Its consistency seems to lie somewhere between a liquid and a solid, like mercury, only blue. Out of the gleaming, wobbly puddle, a phosphorescent vapor rises up. The ghost we thought was Daniel materializes and looms over us for two seconds before he lunges and wraps his hands around Wyatt's neck.
Kandinski looked up. 'Do you read science fiction?' he asked matter-of-factly. 'Not as a rule, ' Ward admitted. When Kandinski said nothing he went on: 'Perhaps I'm too skeptical, but I can't take it too seriously.' Kandinski pulled at a blister on his palm. 'No one suggests you should. What you mean is that you take it too seriously.' Accepting the rebuke with a smile at himself, Ward pulled out one of the magazines and sat down at a table next to Kandinski. On the cover was a placid suburban setting of snugly eaved houses, yew trees, and children's bicycles. Spreading slowly across the roof-tops was an enormous pulpy nightmare, blocking out the sun behind it and throwing a weird phosphorescent glow over the roofs and lawns. 'You're probably right, ' Ward said, showing the cover to Kandinski. 'I'd hate to want to take that seriously.' ("The Venus Hunters")
The moon fled eastward like a frightened dove, while the stars changed their places in the heavens, like a disbanding army. 'Where are we?' asked Gil Gil. 'In France, ' responded the Angel of Death. 'We have now traversed a large portion of the two bellicose nations which waged so sanguinary a war with each other at the beginning of the present century. We have seen the theater of the War of Succession. Conquered and conquerors both lie sleeping at this instant. My apprentice, Sleep, rules over the heroes who did not perish then, in battle, or afterward of sickness or of old age. I do not understand why it is that below on earth all men are not friends? The identity of your misfortunes and your weaknesses, the need you have of each other, the shortness of your life, the spectacle of the grandeur of other worlds, and the comparison between them and your littleness, all this should combine to unite you in brotherhood, like the passengers of a vessel threatened with shipwreck. There, there is neither love, nor hate, nor ambition, no one is debtor or creditor, no one is great or little, no one is handsome or ugly, no one is happy or unfortunate. The same danger surrounds all and my presence makes all equal. Well, then, what is the earth, seen from this height, but a ship which is foundering, a city delivered up to an epidemic or a conflagration?' 'What are those ignes fatui which I can see shining in certain places on the terrestrial globe, ever since the moon veiled her light?' asked the young man. 'They are cemeteries. We are now above Paris. Side by side with every city, every town, every village of the living there is always a city, a town, or a village of the dead, as the shadow is always beside the body. Geography, then, is of two kinds, although mortals only speak of the kind which is agreeable to them. A map of all the cemeteries which there are on the earth would be sufficient indication of the political geography of your world. You would miscalculate, however, in regard to the population; the dead cities are much more densely populated than the living; in the latter there are hardly three generations at one time, while, in the former, hundreds of generations are often crowded together. As for the lights you see shining, they are phosphorescent gleams from dead bodies, or rather they are the expiring gleams of thousands of vanished lives; they are the twilight glow of love, ambition, anger, genius, mercy; they are, in short, the last glow of a dying light, of the individuality which is disappearing, of the being yielding back his elements to mother earth. They are - and now it is that I have found the true word - the foam made by the river when it mingles its waters with those of the ocean.' The Angel of Death paused. ("The Friend of Death")
Pedro Antonio de Alarcon
What are the dead, anyway, but waves and energy? Light shining from a dead star? That, by the way, is a phrase of Julian's. I remember it from a lecture of his on the Iliad, when Patroklos appears to Achilles in a dream. There is a very moving passage where Achilles overjoyed at the sight of the apparition - tries to throw his arms around the ghost of his old friend, and it vanishes. The dead appear to us in dreams, said Julian, because that's the only way they can make us see them; what we see is only a projection, beamed from a great distance, light shining at us from a dead star... Which reminds me, by the way, of a dream I had a couple of weeks ago. I found myself in a strange deserted city - an old city, like London - underpopulated by war or disease. It was night; the streets were dark, bombed-out, abandoned. For a long time, I wandered aimlessly - past ruined parks, blasted statuary, vacant lots overgrown with weeds and collapsed apartment houses with rusted girders poking out of their sides like ribs. But here and there, interspersed among the desolate shells of the heavy old public buildings, I began to see new buildings, too, which were connected by futuristic walkways lit from beneath. Long, cool perspectives of modern architecture, rising phosphorescent and eerie from the rubble. I went inside one of these new buildings. It was like a laboratory, maybe, or a museum. My footsteps echoed on the tile floors.There was a cluster of men, all smoking pipes, gathered around an exhibit in a glass case that gleamed in the dim light and lit their faces ghoulishly from below. I drew nearer. In the case was a machine revolving slowly on a turntable, a machine with metal parts that slid in and out and collapsed in upon themselves to form new images. An Inca temple... click click click... the Pyramids... the Parthenon. History passing beneath my very eyes, changing every moment. 'I thought I'd find you here, ' said a voice at my elbow. It was Henry. His gaze was steady and impassive in the dim light. Above his ear, beneath the wire stem of his spectacles, I could just make out the powder burn and the dark hole in his right temple. I was glad to see him, though not exactly surprised. 'You know, ' I said to him, 'everybody is saying that you're dead.' He stared down at the machine. The Colosseum... click click click... the Pantheon. 'I'm not dead, ' he said. 'I'm only having a bit of trouble with my passport.' 'What?' He cleared his throat. 'My movements are restricted, ' he said. 'I no longer have the ability to travel as freely as I would like.' Hagia Sophia. St. Mark's, in Venice. 'What is this place?' I asked him. 'That information is classified, I'm afraid.' 1 looked around curiously. It seemed that I was the only visitor. 'Is it open to the public?' I said. 'Not generally, no.' I looked at him. There was so much I wanted to ask him, so much I wanted to say; but somehow I knew there wasn't time and even if there was, that it was all, somehow, beside the point. 'Are you happy here?' I said at last. He considered this for a moment. 'Not particularly, ' he said. 'But you're not very happy where you are, either.' St. Basil's, in Moscow. Chartres. Salisbury and Amiens. He glanced at his watch. 'I hope you'll excuse me, ' he said, 'but I'm late for an appointment.' He turned from me and walked away. I watched his back receding down the long, gleaming hall.