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"The first thing that's wrong with being a science-fiction writer today is that the present has caught up with the future and surpassed it."
- Peter Watts

Decay Ray  
  A mysterious ray that seems to hasten Time for whatever it illuminates.  

Tales came from the south that told of ruined towns, decayed as if centuries upon centuries of time had left them so. Rusted, twisted iron, decayed wood, and bricks that seemed long ago to have fallen to dust, showed strange evidence of untold years of frightful havoc. It seemed as if Time, its ravaging furies pented up for a thousand years, let loose in one single day. Eyewitnesses corroborated each other in stories of a pale yellow light that seemed to emanate at almost any point from the metal sides of the Lunite worms that decayed anything it touched a yellowish ray that appeared to hasten Time. The slow fury of a century seemed to have been vented in a single second and the results were rust-eaten iron, decayed wood, and bleached, white skeletons, too horrible to look upon.
Technovelgy from Vandals from the Moon, by - Marius.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1928
Additional resources -

More details:

The worm glided past my hiding place twice within the next hour. The second time it stopped for a while only a few hundred yards away from me. It appeared, outlined in the pale light of a half -moon, like some prodigious serpent that lay stretched out upon the ground. Even as I watched it, there seemed to emanate a phosphorescent glow from its tapering tail a glow that cut a luminous hole in the darkness of the night, like the fire-box of a locomotive when the flames are being fed. Then this glow, a brilliant orange in color, spread out like a flowing stream of golden water lighting up everything as it advanced. Swiftly it became bigger and bigger, a river of phosphorescent gold that made a bright day out of the night.

(Moon Snakes (Metal Worms) from 'Vandals from the Moon' by Marius)

It passed but a hundred yards from me, throwing long, gray shadows everywhere, and as it did so I was aware of a sudden and chilling drop in the atmosphere. The light, in order to shine, had to rob the heat it used from the surrounding air. It remained glowing for quite a while, a golden river that lit the landscape for many miles around, and then it died away until only a few scattered patches and then only a few scattered sparks of orange flame remained. And as this stream turned everything golden, the yellow decay-rays of the Lunites followed close upon its heels and turned these gilded reflectors into an ashen gray just as if centuries had left them so...

The light emanating worm had long ago left, but now and then in the direction of the town I could see the cruel yellow finger-like rays of the Lunite war-machines sweep across the sky.

A particularly macabre description:

I once noticed a long yellow ray, like a jaundiced finger of Death, traverse the sky and then fall down again.

This is a unique idea; Tolkien says something similar about the Ents in The Two Towers:

An angry Ent is terrifying. Their fingers, and their toes, just freeze on to rock; and they tear it up like bread-crust. It was like watching the work of great tree-roots in a hundred years, all packed into a few moments.

(from the chapter Flotsam and Jetsam)

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  More Ideas and Technology from Vandals from the Moon
  More Ideas and Technology by - Marius
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