Origin:  .ru. http://www.raybradbury.ru




      For my wife MARGUERITE with all my love

      "It is good to renew one's wonder," said the philosopher.
      "Space travel has again made children of us all."

                   January 1999:  ROCKET SUMMER

      One minute  it  was  Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows
 locked, the  panes  blind  with  frost,  icicles  fringing  every
 roof,  children  skiing  on  slopes,  housewives  lumbering  like
 great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.
      And then  a  long  wave  of  warmth  crossed the small town.
 A flooding  sea  of  hot  air;  it  seemed as if someone had left
 a bakery  door  open.  The  heat  pulsed  among  the cottages and
 bushes and  children.  The  icicles dropped, shattering, to melt.
 The doors  flew  open.  The  windows flew up. The children worked
 off  their   wool   clothes.   The  housewives  shed  their  bear
 disguises. The  snow  dissolved  and showed last summer's ancient
 green lawns.
      _Rocket summer_.  The  words  passed among the people in the
 open,  airing  houses.  _Rocket  summer_.  The  warm  desert  air
 changing the  frost  patterns  on  the  windows,  erasing the art
 work. The  skis  and  sleds  suddenly  useless. The snow, falling
 from the  cold  sky  upon  the  town, turned to a hot rain before
 it touched the ground.
      _Rocket summer_.  People  leaned from their dripping porches
 and watched the reddening sky.
      The rocket  lay  on  the  launching  field, blowing out pink
 clouds of  fire  and  oven  heat.  The  rocket  stood in the cold
 wintar morning,  making  summer  with  every breath of its mighty
 exhausts. The  rocket  made  climates, and summer lay for a brief
 moment upon the land. . . .

                       February 1999:  YLLA

      They had  a  house  of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by
 the edge  of  an  empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs.
 K eating  the  golden  fruits  that  grew from the crystal walls,
 or cleaning  the  house  with  handfuls  of  magnetic dust which,
 taking all  dirt  with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons,
 when the  fossil  sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees
 stood stiff  in  the  yard,  and  the little distant Martian bone
 town was  all  enclosed,  and no one drifted out their doors, you
 could see  Mr.  K  himself in his room, reading from a metal book
 with raised  hieroglyphs  over  which he brushed his hand, as one
 might play  a  harp.  And  from the book, as his fingers stroked,
 a voice  sang,  a  soft  ancient  voice, which told tales of when
 the sea  was  red  steam on the shore and ancient men had carried
 clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle.
      Mr. and  Mrs.  K had lived by the dead sea for twenty years,
 and their  ancestors  had  lived  in the same house, which turned
 and followed the sun, flower-like, for ten centuries.
      Mr. and  Mrs.  K  were  not old. They had the fair, brownish
 skin of  the  true  Martian,  the  yellow  coin  eyes,  the  soft
 musical voices.  Once  they  had  liked  painting  pictures  with
 chemical fire,  swimming  in  the  canals in the seasons when the
 wine trees  filled  them with green liquors, and talking into the
 dawn together  by  the blue phosphorous portraits in the speaking
 room.
      They were not happy now.
      This morning  Mrs.  K  stood  between the pillars, listening
 to the  desert  sands  heat,  melt into yellow wax, and seemingly
 run on the horizon.
      Something was going to happen.
      She waited.
      She watched  the  blue  sky  of  Mars  as if it might at any
 moment grip  in  on itself, contract, and expel a shining miracle
 down upon the sand.
      Nothing happened.
      Tired of  waiting,  she  walked through the misting pillars.
 A gentle  rain  sprang  from  the  fluted  pillar  tops,  cooling
 the scorched  air,  falling  gently  on  her.  On hot days it was
 like walking  in  a creek. The floors of the house glittered with
 cool streams.  In  the distance she heard her husband playing his
 book  steadily,  his  fingers  never  tired  of  the  old  songs.
 Quietly she  wished  he  might  one  day again spend as much time
 holding and  touching  her  like  a  little  harp  as  he did his
 incredible books.
      But no.  She  shook  her  head,  an imperceptible, forgiving
 shrug. Her  eyelids  closed  softly  down  upon  her golden eyes.
 Marriage made people old and familiar, while still young.
      She lay  back  in  a chair that moved to take her shape even
 as she moved. She closed her eyes tightly and nervously.
      The dream occurred.
      Her brown  fingers  trembled,  came  up, grasped at the air.
 A moment later she sat up, startled, gasping.
      She glanced  about  swiftly,  as  if expecting someone there
 before her.  She  seemed  disappointed;  the  space  between  the
 pillars was empty.
      Her husband  appeared  in a triangular door. "Did you call?"
 he asked irritably.
      "No!" she cried.
      "I thought I heard you cry out."
      "Did I? I was almost asleep and had a dream!"
      "In the daytime? You don't often do that."
      She sat  as  if  struck  in  the  face  by  the  dream. "How
 strange, how very strange," she murmured. "The dream."
      "Oh?" He evidently wished to return to his book.
      "I dreamed about a man."
      "A man?"
      "A tall man, six feet one inch tall."
      "How absurd; a giant, a misshapen giant."
      "Somehow"--she tried  the  words--  "he  looked  all  right.
 In spite  of  being  tall.  And  he  had--oh, I know you'll think
 it silly--he had _blue_ eyes!"
      "Blue eyes!  Gods!"  cried  Mr.  K. "What'll you dream next?
 I suppose he had _black_ hair?"
      "How did you _guess?_" She was excited.
      "I picked the most unlikely color," he replied coldly.
      "Well, black  it  was!"  she cried. "And he had a very white
 skin; oh,  he  was  _most_  unusual!  He was dressed in a strange
 uniform and  he  came  down  out  of the sky and spoke pleasantly
 to me." She smiled.
      "Out of the sky; what nonsense!"
      "He came  in  a  metal  thing  that  glittered  in the sun,"
 she remembered.  She  closed  her  eyes  to  shape  it  again. "I
 dreamed there  was  the  sky  and  something sparkled like a coin
 thrown into  the  air,  and  suddenly it grew large and fell down
 softly to  land,  a  long  silver  craft,  round and alien. And a
 door opened  in  the  side  of  the  silver  object and this tall
 man stepped out."
      "If  you   worked  harder  you  wouldn't  have  these  silly
 dreams."
      "I  rather   enjoyed   it,"  she  replied,  lying  back.  "I
 never suspected  myself  of such an imagination. Black hair, blue
 eyes,  and  white  skin!  What  a  strange  man,  and  yet--quite
 handsome."
      "Wishful thinking."
      "You're unkind.  I  didn't  think him up on purpose; he just
 came in  my  mind while I drowsed. It wasn't like a dream. It was
 so unexpected  and  different. He looked at me and he said, 'I've
 come from  the  third  planet  in  my  ship. My name is Nathaniel
 York--'"
      "A  stupid   name;  it's  no  name  at  all,"  objected  the
 husband.
      "Of  course   it's   stupid,  because  it's  a  dream,"  she
 explained softly.  "And  he  said, 'This is the first trip across
 space. There  are  only  two  of  us  in  our ship, myself and my
 friend Bert.'"
      "_Another_ stupid name."
      "And he  said,  'We're  from  a  city on _Earth_; that's the
 name of  our  planet,'"  continued  Mrs. K. "That's what he said.
 'Earth' was  the  name  he  spoke.  And he used another language.
 Somehow I understood him. With my mind. Telepathy, I suppose."
      Mr. K  turned  away.  She  stopped  him  with a word. "Yll?"
 she called  quietly.  "Do  you  ever  wonder  if--well,  if there
 _are_ people living on the third planet?"
      "The third  planet  is incapable of supporting life," stated
 the husband  patiently.  "Our  scientists  have  said there's far
 too much oxygen in their atmosphere."
      "But wouldn't  it  be  fascinating  if  there _were_ people?
 And they traveled through space in some sort of ship?"
      "Really, Ylla,  you  know how I hate this emotional wailing.
 Let's get on with our work."
      It was  late  in  the day when she began singing the song as
 she moved  among  the  whispering  pillars  of  rain. She sang it
 over and over again.
      "What's that  song?"  snapped  her  husband at last, walking
 in to sit at the fire table.
      "I don't  know."  She  looked  up, surprised at herself. She
 put her  hand  to  her  mouth,  unbelieving. The sun was setting.
 The house  was  closing  itself  in,  like  a  giant flower, with
 the passing  of  light.  A  wind blew among the pillars; the fire
 table bubbled  its  fierce  pool of silver lava. The wind stirred
 her  russet   hair,  crooning  softly  in  her  ears.  She  stood
 silently looking  out  into  the  great  sallow  distances of sea
 bottom, as  if  recalling  something,  her  yellow  eyes soft and
 moist, "Drink  to  me  only  with  thine  eyes, and I will pledge
 with mine,"  she  sang,  softly,  quietly,  slowly.  "Or  leave a
 kiss within  the  cup,  and  I'll  not  ask for wine." She hummed
 now, moving  her  hands  in  the  wind  ever so lightly, her eyes
 shut. She finished the song.
      It was very beautiful.
      "Never  heard   that  song  before.  Did  you  compose  it?"
 he inquired, his eyes sharp.
      "No, Yes.  No,  I don't know, really!" She hesitated wildly.
 "I  don't   even   know  what  the  words  are;  they're  another
 language!"
      "What language?"
      She dropped  portions  of  meat  numbly  into  the simmering
 lava. "I  don't  know."  She  drew the meat forth a moment later,
 cooked, served  on  a  plate  for him. "It's just a crazy thing I
 made up, I guess. I don't know why."
      He said  nothing.  He watched her drown meats in the hissing
 fire pool.  The  sun  was  gone. Slowly, slowly the night came in
 to fill  the  room, swallowing the pillars and both of them, like
 a dark  wine  poured  to the ceiling. Only the silver lava's glow
 lit their faces.
      She hummed the strange song again.
      Instantly he  leaped  from  his  chair  and  stalked angrily
 from the room.

      Later, in isolation, he finished supper.
      When he  arose  he stretched, glanced at her, and suggested,
 yawning, "Let's  take  the  flame  birds  to  town tonight to see
 an entertainment."
      "You don't _mean_ it?" she said. "Are you feeling well?"
      "What's so strange about that?"
      "But we haven't gone for an entertainment in six months!"
      "I think it's a good idea."
      "Suddenly you're so solicitous," she said.
      "Don't talk  that  way," he replied peevishly. "Do you or do
 you not want to go?"
      She looked  out  at  the  pale  desert. The twin white moons
 were rising.  Cool  water  ran  softly  about her toes. She began
 to tremble  just  the  least  bit.  She  wanted  very much to sit
 quietly here,  soundless,  not  moving until this thing occurred,
 this thing  expected  all  day,  this  thing that could not occur
 but might. A drift of song brushed through her mind.
      "I----"
      "Do you good," he urged. "Come along now."
      "I'm tired," she said. "Some other night."
      "Here's your  scarf."  He  handed  her  a phial. "We haven't
 gone anywhere in months."
      "Except you,  twice  a  week  to Xi City." She wouldn't look
 at him.
      "Business," he said.
      "Oh?" She whispered to herself.
      From the  phial  a  liquid  poured,  turned  to  blue  mist,
 settled about her neck, quivering.

      The flame  birds  waited,  like  a  bed of coals, glowing on
 the cool  smooth  sands.  The white canopy ballooned on the night
 wind, flapping  softly,  tied  by  a  thousand  green  ribbons to
 the birds.
      Ylla laid  herself  back  in  the canopy and, at a word from
 her husband,  the  birds  leaped,  burning,  toward the dark sky,
 The ribbons  tautened,  the  canopy lifted. The sand slid whining
 under; the  blue  hills  drifted  by,  drifted  by, leaving their
 home  behind,   the  raining  pillars,  the  caged  flowers,  the
 singing books,  the  whispering floor creeks. She did not look at
 her husband.  She  heard  him  crying  out  to  the birds as they
 rose higher,  like  ten thousand hot sparkles, so many red-yellow
 fireworks in  the  heavens,  tugging  the  canopy  like  a flower
 petal, burning through the wind.
      She didn't  watch  the dead, ancient bone-chess cities slide
 under, or  the  old canals filled with emptiness and dreams. Past
 dry rivers  and  dry  lakes they flew, like a shadow of the moon,
 like a torch burning.
      She watched only the sky.
      The husband spoke.
      She watched the sky.
      "Did you hear what I said?"
      "What?"
      He exhaled. "You might pay attention."
      "I was thinking."
      "I never  thought  you  were  a  nature  lover,  but  you're
 certainly interested in the sky tonight," he said.
      "It's very beautiful."
      "I was  figuring,"  said  the husband slowly. "I thought I'd
 call Hulle  tonight.  I'd  like  to talk to him about us spending
 some time,  oh,  only  a  week or so, in the Blue Mountains. It's
 just an idea--"
      "The Blue  Mountains!"  She  held to the canopy rim with one
 hand, turning swiftly toward him.
      "Oh, it's just a suggestion."
      "When do you want to go?" she asked, trembling.
      "I thought  we  might  leave  tomorrow morning. You know, an
 early start and all that," he said very casually.
      "But we _never_ go this early in the year!"
      "Just this  once,  I  thought--"  He  smiled. "Do us good to
 get away.  Some  peace  and quiet. You know. You haven't anything
 _else_ planned? We'll go, won't we?"
      She took a breath, waited, and then replied, "No."
      "What?" His cry startled the birds. The canopy jerked.
      "No," she said firmly. "It's settled. I won't go."
      He looked  at  her.  They  did  not  speak  after  that. She
 turned away.
      The birds flew on, ten thousand flrebrands down the wind.

      In the  dawn  the  sun,  through the crystal pillars, melted
 the fog  that  supported  Ylla  as  she  slept. All night she had
 hung above  the  floor,  buoyed  by  the  soft  carpeting of mist
 that poured  from  the walls when she lay down to rest. All night
 she  had  slept  on  this  silent  river,  like  a  boat  upon  a
 soundless tide.  Now  the fog burned away, the mist level lowered
 until she was deposited upon the shore of wakening.
      She opened her eyes.
      Her husband  stood  over  her.  He looked as if he had stood
 there for  hours,  watching.  She did not know why, but she could
 not look him in the face.
      "You've been  dreaming  again!"  he said. "You spoke out and
 kept me awake. I _really_ think you should see a doctor."
      "I'll be all right."
      "You talked a lot in your sleep!"
      "Did I?" She started up.
      Dawn was  cold  in  the room. A gray light filled her as she
 lay there.
      "What was your dream?"
      She had  to  think  a moment to remember. "The ship. It came
 from the  sky  again,  landed,  and  the tall man stepped out and
 talked  to   me,  telling  me  little  jokes,  laughing,  and  it
 was pleasant."
      Mr.  K  touched  a  pillar.  Founts  of  warm  water  leaped
 up, steaming;  the  chill  vanished  from  the room. Mr. K's face
 was impassive.
      "And then,"  she  said, "this man, who said his strange name
 was Nathaniel  York,  told  me  I  was  beautiful and--and kissed
 me."
      "Ha!"  cried   the  husband,  turning  violently  away,  his
 jaw working.
      "It's only a dream." She was amused.
      "Keep your silly, feminine dreams to yourself!"
      "You're acting  like  a  child."  She  lapsed  back upon the
 few remaining  remnants  of  chemical  mist.  After  a moment she
 laughed  softly.  "I  thought  of  some  _more_  of  the  dream,"
 she confessed.
      "Well, what is it, what _is_ it?" he shouted.
      "Yll, you're so bad-tempered."
      "Tell me!"  he  demanded.  "You can't keep secrets from me!"
 His face was dark and rigid as he stood over her.
      "I've never  seen  you this way," she replied, half shocked,
 half entertained.  "All  that  happened  was  this Nathaniel York
 person told  me--well,  he  told  me  that he'd take me away into
 his ship,  into  the sky with him, and take me back to his planet
 with him. It's really quite ridiculous."
      "Ridiculous, is  it!"  he  almost screamed. "You should have
 heard yourself,  fawning  on  him,  talking  to him, singing with
 him, oh gods, all night; you should have _heard_ yourself!"
      "Yll!"
      "When's he  landing?  Where's he coming down with his damned
 ship?"
      "Yll, lower your voice.'
      "Voice be  damned!"  He  bent  stiffly  over  her. "And _in_
 this dream"--he  seized  her  wrist--"didn't  the  ship land over
 in Green Valley, _didn't_ it? Answer me!"
      "Why, yes--"
      "And it landed this afternoon, didn't it?" he kept at her.
      "Yes, yes, I think so, yes, but only in a dream!"
      "Well"--he  flung   her   hand   away   stiffly--"it's  good
 you're truthful!  I  heard  every  word  you  said in your sleep.
 You mentioned  the  valley  and  the  time."  Breathing  hard, he
 walked between  the  pillars  like  a  man blinded by a lightning
 bolt. Slowly  his  breath returned. She watched him as if he were
 quite  insane.   She  arose  finally  and  went  to  him.  "Yll,"
 she whispered.
      "I'm all right."
      "You're sick."
      "No." He  forced  a  tired  smile.  "Just  childish. Forgive
 me, darling."  He  gave  her  a rough pat. "Too much work lately.
 I'm sorry. I think I'll lie down awhile--"
      "You were so excited."
      "I'm all  right  now.  Fine."  He exhaled. "Let's forget it.
 Say, I  heard  a  joke  about Uel yesterday, I meant to tell you.
 What do  you  say  you  fix  breakfast,  I'll  tell the joke, and
 let's not talk about all this."
      "It was only a dream."
      "Of  course,"   He  kissed  her  cheek  mechanically.  "Only
 a dream."

      At noon  the  sun  was  high and hot and the hills shimmered
 in the light.
      "Aren't you going to town?" asked Ylla.
      "Town?" he raised his brows faintly.
      "This is  the  day  you  _always_ go." She adjusted a flower
 cage on  its  pedestal. The flowers stirred, opening their hungry
 yellow mouths.
      He closed his book. "No. It's too hot, and it's late."
      "Oh." She  finished  her  task  and  moved  toward the door.
 "Well, I'll be back soon."
      "Wait a minute! Where are you going?"
      She was  in  the  door  swiftly. "Over to Pao's. She invited
 me!"
      "Today?"
      "I haven't  seen  her  in  a  long  time. It's only a little
 way."
      "Over in Green Valley, isn't it?"
      "Yes, just a walk, not far, I thought I'd--" She hurried.
      "I'm sorry,  really  sorry,"  he  said, running to fetch her
 back,  looking   very  concerned  about  his  forgetfulness.  "It
 slipped my mind. I invited Dr. Nlle out this afternoon."
      "Dr. Nile!" She edged toward the door.
      He caught her elbow and drew her steadily in. "Yes."
      "But Pao--"
      "Pan can wait, Ylla. We must entertain Nile."
      "Just for a few minutes--"
      "No, Ylla."
      "No?"
      He shook  his  head. "No. Besides, it's a terribly long walk
 to Pao's.  All  the  way  over through Green Valley and then past
 the big  canal  and  down, isn't it? And it'll be very, very hot,
 and Dr. Nile would be delighted to see you. Well?"
      She did  not  answer.  She  wanted  to  break  and  run. She
 wanted to  cry  out.  But  she  only  sat  in  the chair, turning
 her  fingers  over  slowly,  staring  at  them  expressionlessly,
 trapped.
      "Ylla?" he murmured. "You _will_ be here, won't you?"
      "Yes," she said after a long time. "I'll be here."
      "All afternoon?"
      Her voice was dull. "All afternoon."

      Late in  the  day  Dr.  Nile  had  not put in an appearance.
 Ylla's husband  did  not seem overly surprised. When it was quite
 late he  murmured  something,  went  to  a closet, and drew forth
 an evil  weapon,  a  long  yellowish tube ending in a bellows and
 a trigger.  He  turned,  and  upon  his face was a mask, hammered
 from silver  metal,  expressionless, the mask that he always wore
 when he  wished  to  hide  his  feelings,  the  mask which curved
 and hollowed  so  exquisitely  to  his  thin  cheeks and chin and
 brow. The  mask  glinted,  and  he  held  the  evil weapon in his
 hands, considering  it.  It  hummed  constantly,  an  insect hum.
 From it  hordes  of  golden  bees  could be flung out with a high
 shriek. Golden,  horrid  bees  that  stung,  poisoned,  and  fell
 lifeless, like seeds on the sand.
      "Where are you going?" she asked.
      "What?" He  listened  to  the  bellows, to the evil hum. "If
 Dr. Nile  is  late,  I'll  be  damned if I'll wait. I'm going out
 to hunt  a  bit.  I'll  be  back.  You be sure to stay right here
 now, won't you?" The silver mask glimmered.
      "Yes."
      "And tell Dr. Nile I'll return. Just hunting."
      The triangular  door  closed.  His  footsteps faded down the
 hill.
      She watched  him  walking  through the sunlight until he was
 gone. Then  she  resumed  her  tasks  with the magnetic dusts and
 the new  fruits  to be plucked from the crystal walls. She worked
 with energy  and  dispatch,  but on occasion a numbness took hold
 of her  and  she  caught  herself  singing that odd and memorable
 song and looking out beyond the crystal pillars at the sky.
      She held her breath and stood very still, waiting.
      It was coming nearer.
      At any moment it might happen.
      It was  like  those  days  when  you  heard  a  thunderstorm
 coming and  there  was  the waiting silence and then the faintest
 pressure of  the  atmosphere  as  the  climate blew over the land
 in shifts  and  shadows  and  vapors.  And  the change pressed at
 your ears  and  you  were  suspended  in  the waiting time of the
 coming  storm.   You  began  to  tremble.  The  sky  was  stained
 and coloured;  the  clouds  were thickened; the mountains took on
 an iron  taint.  The  caged  flowers  blew  with  faint  sighs of
 warning. You  felt  your hair stir softly. Somewhere in the house
 the voice-clock  sang,  "Time,  time,  time,  time  .  .  ." ever
 so gently, no more than water tapping on velvet.
      And  then   the   storm.   The  electric  illumination,  the
 engulfments of  dark  wash and sounding black fell down, shutting
 in, forever.
      That's how  it  was.  A  storm  gathered,  yet  the  sky was
 clear. Lightning was expected, yet there was no cloud.
      Ylla moved  through  the  breathless summer house. Lightning
 would  strike   from   the   sky  any  instant;  there  would  be
 a thunderclap,  a  boil  of  smoke,  a  silence, footsteps on the
 path, a  rap  on  the  crystalline  door,  and  her  _running_ to
 answer. . . .
      Crazy Ylla!  she  scoffed.  Why think these wild things with
 your idle mind?
      And then it happened.
      There was  a  warmth  as of a great fire passing in the air.
 A whirling, rushing sound. A gleam in the sky, of metal.
      Ylla cried out.
      Running through  the  pillars,  she  flung  wide a door. She
 faced the hills. But by this time there was nothing.
      She was  about  to  race  down  the  hill  when  she stopped
 herself, She  was  supposed  to stay here, go nowhere, The doctor
 was coming  to  visit,  and her husband would be angry if she ran
 off.
      She waited in the door, breathing rapidly, her hand out.
      She strained  to  see  over  toward  Green  Valley,  but saw
 nothing.
      Silly woman.  She  went  inside.  You  and your imagination,
 she thought.  That  was  nothing but a bird, a leaf, the wind, or
 a fish in the canal. Sit down. Rest.
      She sat down.
      A shot sounded.
      Very  clearly,   sharply,  the  sound  of  the  evil  insect
 weapon.
      Her body jerked with it.
      It came  from  a  long  way off, One shot. The swift humming
 distant bees.  One  shot.  And  then  a  second shot, precise and
 cold, and far away.
      Her body  winced  again  and  for  some  reason  she started
 up,  screaming,   and   screaming,  and  never  wanting  to  stop
 screaming. She  ran  violently  through  the  house and once more
 threw wide the door.
      The echoes were dying away, away.
      Gone.
      She waited in the yard, her face pale, for five minutes.
      Finally, with  slow  steps,  her  head  down,  she  wandered
 about  the  pillared  rooms,  laying  her  hand  to  things,  her
 lips quivering,  until  finally  she  sat  alone in the darkening
 wine room,  waiting.  She  began  to wipe an amber glass with the
 hem of her scarf.
      And then,  from  far  off,  the sound of footsteps crunching
 on the thin, small rocks.
      She rose  up  to  stand in the center of the quiet room. The
 glass fell from her fingers, smashing to bits.
      The footsteps hesitated outside the door.
      Should she  speak?  Should  she  cry out, "Come in, oh, come
 in"?
      She went forward a few paces.
      The footsteps  walked  up  the ramp. A hand twisted the door
 latch.
      She smiled at the door.
      The door opened. She stopped smiling.
      It was her husband. His silver mask glowed dully.
      He entered  the  room  and  looked at her for only a moment.
 Then he  snapped  the  weapon  bellows open, cracked out two dead
 bees, heard  them  spat  on  the  floor  as they fell, stepped on
 them, and  placed  the  empty  bellows  gun  in the corner of the
 room as  Ylla  bent  down  and  tried,  over  and  over,  with no
 success, to  pick  up  the  pieces  of the shattered glass. "What
 were you doing?" she asked.
      "Nothing," he  said  with  his  back  turned. He removed the
 mask.
      "But the gun--I heard you fire it. Twice."
      "Just hunting.  Once  in  a  while you like to hunt. Did Dr.
 Nile arrive?"
      "No."
      "Wait a  minute."  He snapped his fingers disgustedly. "Why,
 I  remember  _now_.  He  was  supposed  to  visit  us  _tomorrow_
 afternoon. How stupid of me."
      They sat  down  to  eat.  She looked at her food and did not
 move her  hands.  "What's  wrong?"  he asked, not looking up from
 dipping his meat in the bubbling lava.
      "I don't know. I'm not hungry," she said.
      "Why not?"
      "I don't know; I'm just not."
      The wind  was  rising  across  the  sky;  the  sun was going
 down. The room was small and suddenly cold.
      "I've been  trying  to  remember,"  she  said  in the silent
 room, across from her cold, erect, golden-eyed husband.
      "Remember what?" He sipped his wine.
      "That song.  That  fine  and beautiful song." She closed her
 eyes and  hummed,  but  it  was not the song. "I've forgotten it.
 And, somehow,  I  don't  want to forget it. It's something I want
 always to  remember."  She moved her hands as if the rhythm might
 help her  to  remember all of it. Then she lay back in her chair.
 "I can't remember." She began to cry.
      "Why are you crying?" he asked.
      "I don't  know,  I  don't know, but I can't help it. I'm sad
 and I  don't  know  why,  I  cry  and  I  don't know why, but I'm
 crying."
      Her head  was  in  her  hands; her shoulders moved again and
 again.
      "You'll be all right tomorrow," he said.
      She did  not  look  up  at him; she looked only at the empty
 desert and  the  very  bright  stars  coming out now on the black
 sky, and  far  away  there  was  a sound of wind rising and canal
 waters stirring  cold  in  the  long  canals.  She shut her eyes,
 trembling.
      "Yes," she said. "I'll be all right tomorrow."

                  August 1999:  THE SUMMER NIGHT

      In  the   stone   galleries  the  people  were  gathered  in
 clusters and  groups  filtering  up  into  shadows among the blue
 hills. A  soft  evening  light shone over them from the stars and
 the  luminous   double   moons   of   Mars.   Beyond  the  marble
 amphitheater,  in   darkness  and  distances,  lay  little  towns
 and villas;  pools  of  silver  water stood motionless and canals
 glittered from  horizon  to  horizon. It was an evening in summer
 upon the  placid  and  temperate  planet  Mars. Up and down green
 wine canals,  boats  as  delicate  as  bronze flowers drifted. In
 the long  and  endless dwellings that curved like tranquil snakes
 across the  hills,  lovers  lay  idly  whispering  in  cool night
 beds. The  last  children  ran  in  torchlit alleys, gold spiders
 in their  hands  throwing  out films of web. Here or there a late
 supper was  prepared  in  tables  where  lava bubbled silvery and
 hushed. In  the  amphitheaters  of  a  hundred towns on the night
 side of  Mars  the  brown  Martian  people  with  gold  coin eyes
 were leisurely  met  to  fix  their  attention  upon stages where
 musicians made  a  serene  music  flow  up  like blossom scent on
 the still air.
      Upon one stage a woman sang.
      The audience stirred.
      She stopped  singing.  She  put  her hand to her throat. She
 nodded to the musicians and they began again.
      The musicians  played  and  she  sang,  and  this  time  the
 audience sighed  and  sat  forward,  a  few  of  the men stood up
 in surprise,  and  a winter chill moved through the amphitheater.
 For it  was  an  odd  and  a  frightening and a strange song this
 woman sang.  She  tried  to stop the words from coming out of her
 lips, but the words were these:

               "_She walks in beauty, like the night
               Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
              And all that's best of dark and bright
              Meet in her aspect and her eyes_ . . ."

      The singer  dasped  her  hands  to  her  mouth.  She  stood,
 bewildered.
      "What words are those?" asked the musicians.
      "What song is that?"
      "What _language_ is that!"
      And when  they  blew  again  upon  their  golden  horns  the
 strange music  came  forth  and  passed slowly over the audience,
 which now talked aloud and stood up.
      "What's wrong with you?" the musicians asked each other.
      "What tune is that you played?"
      "What tune did _you_ play?"
      The woman  wept  and  ran  from  the stage, And the audience
 moved out  of  the amphitheater. And all around the nervous towns
 of Mars  a  similar thing had happened. A coldness had come, like
 white snow falling on the air.
      In the black alleys, under the torches, the children sang:

        "--_and when she got there, the cupboard was bare,
                  And so her poor dog had none!_"

      "Children!" voices  cried.  "What  was that rhyme? Where did
 you learn it?"
      "We just  _thought_  of it, all of a sudden. It's just words
 we don't understand."
      Doors slammed.  The  streets  were  deserted. Above the blue
 hills a green star rose.
      All over  the  night  side  of  Mars  lovers awoke to listen
 to their loved ones who lay humming in the darkness.
      "What is that tune?"
      And in  a  thousand  villas,  in  the  middle  of the night,
 women awoke,  screaming.  They  had to be soothed while the tears
 ran  down  their  faces,  "There,  there.  Sleep.  What's  wrong?
 A dream?"
      "Something terrible will happen in the morning."
      "Nothing can happen, all is well with us."
      A hysterical  sobbing.  "It  is  coming  nearer  and  nearer
 and _nearer!_"
      "Nothing can happen to us. What could? Sleep now. Sleep."
      It was  quiet  in  the  deep  morning of Mars, as quiet as a
 cool and  black  well,  with  stars  shining in the canal waters,
 and, breathing  in  every  room,  the  children curled with their
 spiders in  closed  hands, the lovers arm in arm, the moons gone,
 the torches cold, the stone amphitheaters deserted.
      The only  sound,  just  before  dawn,  was a night watchman,
 far away  down  a  lonely  street, walking along in the darkness,
 humming a very strange song. . . .

                    August 1999:  THE EARTH MEN

      Whoever was  knocking  at the door didn't want to stop. Mrs.
 Ttt threw the door open. "Well?"
      "You  speak   _English!_"   The   man   standing  there  was
 astounded.
      "I speak what I speak," she said.
      "It's wonderful  _English!_"  The  man was in uniform. There
 were three  men  with  him,  in  a  great hurry, all smiling, all
 dirty.
      "What do you want?" demanded Mrs. Ttt.
      "You  are  a  _Martian!_"  The  man  smiled.  "The  word  is
 not familiar  to  you,  certainly.  It's  an  Earth  expression."
 He  nodded   at  his  then.  "We  are  from  Earth.  I'm  Captain
 Williams. We've  landed  on  Mars  within  the hour. Here we are,
 the _Second_  Expedition!  There  was  a First Expedition, but we
 don't know  what  happened  to  it.  But here we are, anyway. And
 you are the first Martian we've met!"
      "Martian?" Her eyebrows went up.
      "What I  mean  to say is, you live on the fourth planet from
 the sun. Correct?"
      "Elementary," she snapped, eyeing them.
      "And we"--he  pressed  his  chubby  pink hand to his chest--
 "we are from Earth. Right, men?"
      "Right, sir!" A chorus.
      "This is  the  planet  Tyrr,"  she said, "if you want to use
 the proper name."
      "Tyrr, Tyrr."  The  captain  laughed  exhaustedly.  "What  a
 _fine_ name!  But,  my  good  woman,  how  is  it  you speak such
 perfect English?"
      "I'm not  speaking,  I'm  thinking,"  she  said. "Telepathy!
 Good day!" And she slammed the door.
      A moment later there was that dreadful man knocking again.
      She whipped the door open. "What now?" she wondered.
      The  man   was   still   there,  trying  to  smile,  looking
 bewildered.  He   put   out   his   hands.  "I  don't  think  you
 _understand_--"
      "What?" she snapped.
      The man gazed at her in surprise. "We're from _Earth!_"
      "I haven't  time,"  she  said.  "I've a lot of cooking today
 and there's  cleaning  and  sewing and all. You evidently wish to
 see Mr. Ttt; he's upstairs in his study."
      "Yes," said  the  Earth  Man  confusedly,  blinking. "By all
 means, let us see Mr. Ttt."
      "He's busy." She slammed the door again.
      This time  the  knock  on  the  door  was most impertinently
 loud.
      "See here!"  cried  the  man  when  the door was thrust open
 again. He  jumped  in  as  if to surprise her. "This is no way to
 treat visitors!"
      "All over  my  clean  floor!"  she  cried. "Mud! Get out! If
 you come in my house, wash your boots first."
      The man  looked  in  dismay  at  his muddy boots, "This," he
 said, "is  no  time  for  trivialities.  I  think,"  he said, "we
 should be  celebrating."  He  looked  at  her for a long time, as
 if looking might make her understand.
      "If  you've   made  my  crystal  buns  fall  in  the  oven,"
 she exclaimed,  "I'll  hit  you with a piece of wood!" She peered
 into a  little  hot  oven.  She came back, red, steamy-faced. Her
 eyes were  sharp  yellow,  her  skin was soft brown, she was thin
 and quick  as  an insect. Her voice was metallic and sharp. "Wait
 here. I'll  see  if  I  can  let  you have a moment with Mr. Ttt.
 What was your business?"
      The man  swore  luridly,  as  if  she'd  hit  his  hand with
 a hammer.  "Tell  him  we're  from  Earth  and  it's  never  been
 done before!"
      "What hasn't?"  She  put  her  brown  hand  up. "Never mind.
 I'll be back."
      The sound of her feet fluttered through the stone house.
      Outside, the  immense  blue Martian sky was hot and still as
 a warm  deep  sea  water.  The  Martian  desert lay broiling like
 a prehistoric  mud  pot,  waves  of  heat  rising and shimmering.
 There was  a  small  rocket ship reclining upon a hilltop nearby.
 Large footprints  came  from the rocket to the door of this stone
 house.
      Now there  was  a  sound  of quarreling voices upstairs. The
 men within  the  door  stared  at  one another, shifting on their
 boots, twiddling  their  fingers,  and  holding  onto  their  hip
 belts.  A   man's  voice  shouted  upstairs.  The  woman's  voice
 replied. After  fifteen  minutes  the  Earth men began walking in
 and out the kitchen door, with nothing to do.
      "Cigarette?" said one of the men.
      Somebody got  out  a  pack  and  they  lit  up.  They puffed
 slow streams  of  pale white smoke. They adjusted their uniforms,
 fixed their  collars.  The  voices  upstairs  continued to mutter
 and chant. The leader of the men looked at his watch.
      "Twenty-five minutes,"  he  said.  "I wonder what they're up
 to up there." He went to a window and looked out.
      "Hot day," said one of the men.
      "Yeah,"  said   someone  else  in  the  slow  warm  time  of
 early afternoon.  The  voices  had  faded  to  a  murmur and were
 now silent.  There  was  not  a  sound  in the house. All the men
 could hear was their own breathing.
      An  hour   of  silence  passed.  "I  hope  we  didn't  cause
 any trouble,"  said  the  captain.  He  went  and peered into the
 living room.
      Mrs. Ttt  was  there,  watering  some  flowers  that grew in
 the center of the room.
      "I knew  I  had  forgotten something," she said when she saw
 the captain.  She  walked  out  to  the kitchen. "I'm sorry." She
 handed him  a  slip  of  paper.  "Mr.  Ttt is much too busy." She
 turned to  her  cooking.  "Anyway,  it's  not Mr. Ttt you want to
 see; it's  Mr.  Aaa.  Take  that  paper over to the next farm, by
 the blue  canal,  and  Mr. Aaa'll advise you about whatever it is
 you want to know."
      "We don't  want  to  know  anything,"  objected the captain,
 pouting out his thick lips. "We already _know_ it."
      "You have  the  paper,  what  more  do  you want?" she asked
 him straight off. And she would say no more.
      "Well," said  the  captain,  reluctant  to  go.  He stood as
 if waiting  for  something.  He  looked  like  a child staring at
 an empty Christmas tree. "Well," he said again. "Come on, men."
      The four men stepped out into the hot silent day.

      Half  an  hour.  later,  Mr.  Aaa,  seated  in  his  library
 sipping a  bit  of  electric  fire  from  a  metal cup, heard the
 voices outside  in  the stone causeway. He leaned over the window
 sill and  gazed  at  the  four  uniformed  men who squinted up at
 him.
      "Are you Mr. Aaa?" they called.
      "I am."
      "Mr. Ttt sent us to see you!" shouted the captain.
      "Why did he do that?" asked Mr. Aaa.
      "He was busy!"
      "Well, that's  a  shame,"  said Mr. Ass sarcastically. "Does
 he think  I  have  nothing  else  to do but entertain people he's
 too busy to bother with?"
      "That's  not   the   important   thing,  sir,"  shouted  the
 captain.
      "Well, it  is  to  me.  I  have  much reading to do. Mr. Ttt
 is inconsiderate.  This  is  not  the  first  time  he  has  been
 this thoughtless  of  me.  Stop  waving  your  hands,  sir, until
 I finish.  And  pay  attention.  People usually listen to me when
 I talk. And you'll listen courteously or I won't talk at all."
      Uneasily the  four  men  in  the  court  shifted  and opened
 their mouths,  and  once  the  captain,  the  veins  on  his face
 bulging, showed a few little tears in his eyes.
      "Now," lectured  Mr.  Aaa,  "do you think it fair of Mr. Ttt
 to be so ill-mannered?"
      The four  men  gazed  up through the heat. The captain said,
 "We're from Earth!"
      "I think it very ungentlemanly of him," brooded Mr. Aaa.
      "A _rocket_ ship. We came in it. Over there!"
      "Not the first time Ttt's been unreasonable, you know."
      "All the way from Earth."
      "Why, for half a mind, I'd call him up and tell him off."
      "Just the  four  of  us;  myself  and  these  three  men, my
 crew."
      "I'll call him up, yes, that's what I'll do!"
      "Earth. Rocket. Men. Trip. Space."
      "Call him  and  give  him  a  good  lashing!" cried Mr. Aaa.
 He vanished  like  a puppet from a stage. For a minute there were
 angry voices  back  and forth over some weird mechanism or other.
 Below, the  captain  and his crew glanced longingly back at their
 pretty rocket  ship  lying  on  the hillside, so sweet and lovely
 and fine.
      Mr.  Aaa   jerked   up  in  the  window,  wildly  triumphant
 "Challenged him to a duel, by the gods! A duel!"
      "Mr. Aaa--" the captain started all over again, quietly.
      "I'll shoot him dead, do you hear!"
      "Mr. Aaa,  I'd  like  to  _tell_  you. We came sixty million
 miles."
      Mr. Aaa  regarded  the  captain for the first time. "Where'd
 you say you were from?"
      The  captain  flashed  a  white  smile.  Aside  to  his  men
 he  withpered,  "_Now_  we're  getting  someplace!"  To  Mr.  Aaa
 he called, "We traveled sixty million miles. From Earth!"
      Mr. Aaa  yawned.  "That's  only  _fifty_  million miles this
 time of  year."  He  picked up a frightful-looking weapon. "Well,
 I have  to  go  now.  Just  take  that silly note, though I don't
 know what  good  it'll  do  you,  and  go over that hill into the
 little town  of  Iopr  and  tell Mr. Iii all about it. _He's_ the
 man you  want  to  see.  Not Mr. Ttt, he's an idiot; I'm going to
 kill him. Not me, because you're not in my line of work."
      "Line of  work,  line of work!" bleated the captain. "Do you
 have to be in a certain line of work to welcome Earth men!"
      "Don't  be   silly,   everyone   knows   _that!_"   Mr.  Aaa
 rushed downstairs.  "Good-by!"  And  down  the causeway he raced,
 like a pair of wild calipers.
      The  four  travelers  stood  shocked.  Finally  the  captain
 said, "We'll find someone yet who'll listen to us."
      "Maybe we  could  go out and come in again," said one of the
 men in  a  dreary  voice.  "Maybe  we  should  take  off and land
 again. Give them time to organize a party."
      "That might be a good idea," murmured the tired captain.
      The little  town  was  full  of  people  drifting in and out
 of doors,  saying  hello to one another, wearing golden masks and
 blue masks  and  crimson  masks  for pleasant variety, masks with
 silver lips  and  bronze  eyebrows,  masks  that  smiled or masks
 that frowned, according to the owners' dispositions.
      The four  men,  wet  from  their long walk, paused and asked
 a little girl where Mr. Iii's house was.
      "There." The child nodded her head.
      The  captain  got  eagerly,  carefully  down  on  one  knee,
 looking into  her  sweet young face. "Little girl, I want to talk
 to you."
      He seated  her  on his knee and folded her small brown hands
 neatly in  his  own  big  ones,  as if ready for a bed-time story
 which he  was  shaping  in  his  mind  slowly  and  with  a great
 patient happiness in details.
      "Well, here's  how  it  is,  little  girl.  Six  months  ago
 another rocket  came  to  Mars. There was a man named York in it,
 and his  assistant.  Whatever  happened  to  them, we don't know.
 Maybe they  crashed.  They  came  in  a  rocket.  So  did we. You
 should  see   it!   A   _big_   rocket!  So  we're  the  _Second_
 Expedition, following  up  the  First!  And  we  came all the way
 from Earth. . . ."
      The little  girl  disengaged one hand without thinking about
 it, and  clapped  an  expressionless  golden  mask over her face,
 Then she  pulled  forth  a  golden  spider  toy and dropped it to
 the ground  while  the  captain talked on. The toy spider climbed
 back up  to  her  knee  obediently,  while she speculated upon it
 coolly  through  the  slits  of  her  emotionless  mask  and  the
 captain shook her gently and urged his story upon her.
      "We're Earth Men," he said. "Do you believe me?"
      "Yes." The  little  girl  peeped at the way she was wiggling
 her toes in the dust.
      "Fine."  The   captain   pinched   her  arm,  a  little  bit
 with joviality,  a  little  bit  with meanness to get her to look
 at him. "We built our own rocket ship. Do you believe _that?_"
      The little girl dug in her nose with a finger. "Yes."
      "And--take your  finger  out  of your nose, little girl--_I_
 am the captain, and--"
      "Never before  in  history  has anybody come across space in
 a big rocket ship," recited the little creature, eyes shut.
      "Wonderful! How did you know?"
      "Oh, telepathy." She wiped a casual finger on her knee.
      "Well,  aren't  you  just  _ever_  so  excited?"  cried  the
 captain. "Aren't you glad?"
      "You just  better  go  see  Mr. Iii right away." She dropped
 her toy  to  the  ground. "Mr. Iii will like talking to you." She
 ran off, with the toy spider scuttling obediently after her.
      The captain  squatted  there looking after her with his hand
 out. His  eyes  were  watery  in his head. He looked at his empty
 hands. His  mouth  hung  open:  The  other  three  men stood with
 their shadows under them. They spat on the stone street. . . .

      Mr. Iii  answered  his door. He was on his way to a lecture,
 but he  had  a  minute,  if  they would hurry inside and tell him
 what they desired. . . .
      "A  little   attention,"  said  the  captain,  red-eyed  and
 tired. "We're  from  Earth,  we  have a rocket, there are four of
 us, crew  and  captain,  we're exhausted, we're hungry, we'd like
 a place  to  sleep.  We'd  like someone to give us the key to the
 city or  something  like  that,  and  we'd like somebody to shake
 our hands  and  say  'Hooray' and say 'Congratulations, old man!'
 That about sums it up."
      Mr. Iii  was  a  tall,  vaporous,  thin man with thick blind
 blue crystals  over  his  yellowish  eyes.  He bent over his desk
 and brooded  upon  some  papers,  glancing  now  and  again  with
 extreme penetration at his guests.
      "Well, I  haven't  the forms with me here, I don't _think_."
 He rummaged  through  the  desk  drawers. "Now, where _did_ I put
 the forms?"  He  mused. "Somewhere. Somewhere. Oh, _here_ we are!
 Now!" He  handed  the  papers  over crisply. "You'll have to sign
 these papers, of course."
      "Do we have to go through all this rigmarole?"
      Mr. Iii  gave  him  a  thick  glassy  look.  "You say you're
 from Earth,  don't  you?  Well,  then  there's nothing for it but
 you sign."
      The captain  wrote  his  name.  "Do you want my crew to sign
 also?"
      Mr. Iii  looked  at the captain, looked at the three others,
 and burst  into  a  shout  of  derision.  "_Them_  sign!  Ho! How
 marvelous! Them,  oh,  _them_  sign!" Tears sprang from his eyes.
 He slapped  his  knee  and  bent  to let his laughter jerk out of
 his gaping  mouth.  He  held  himself  up  with the desk. "_Them_
 sign!"
      The four men scowled. "What's funny?"
      "Them sign!"  sighed  Mr.  Iii, weak with hilarity. "So very
 funny. I'll  have  to  tell  Mr.  Xxx  about  this!"  He examined
 the filled-out  form,  still  laughing.  "Everything  seems to be
 in order."  He  nodded.  "Even  the  agreement  for euthanasia if
 final decision on such a step is necessary." He chuckled.
      "Agreement for _what?_"
      "Don't talk.  I  have  something  for  you.  Here. Take this
 key."
      The captain flushed. "It's a great honor."
      "Not the  key  to  the  city,  you  fool!"  snapped Mr. Iii.
 "Just a  key  to  the  House.  Go  down that corridor, unlock the
 big door,  and  go  inside and shut the door tight. You can spend
 the night there. In the morning I'll send Mr. Xxx to see you."
      Dubiously the  captain  took  the  key  in  hand.  He  stood
 looking at  the  floor.  His  men  did  not  move. They seemed to
 be emptied  of  all  their  blood  and  their  rocket fever. They
 were drained dry.
      "What is  it?  What's  wrong?"  inquired  Mr. Iii. "What are
 you waiting  for?  What  do you want?" He came and peered up into
 the captain's face, stooping. "Out with it, you!"
      "I don't  suppose  you  could even--" suggested the captain.
 "I mean,  that  is,  try  to, or think about . . ." He hesitated.
 "We've worked  hard,  we've  come a long way, and maybe you could
 just shake  our  hands  and  say 'Well done!' do you--think?" His
 voice faded.
      Mr. Iii  stuck  out  his  hand  stiffly.  "Congratulations!"
 He smiled  a  cold  smile.  "Congratulations." He turned away. "I
 must go now. Use that key."
      Without noticing  them  again,  as  if  they had melted down
 through the  floor,  Mr.  Iii  moved  about  the  room  packing a
 little manuscript  case  with  papers. He was in the room another
 five minutes  but  never  again addressed the solemn quartet that
 stood with  heads  down,  their  heavy  legs  sagging,  the light
 dwindling from  their  eyes.  When  Mr.  Iii went out the door he
 was busy looking at his fingernails. . . .

      They straggled  along  the  corridor  in  the  dull,  silent
 afternoon light.  They  came  to  a  large burnished silver door,
 and the  silver  key  opened  it.  They  entered,  shut the door,
 and turned.
      They were  in  a  vast  sunlit  hall.  Men  and woman sat at
 tables and  stood  in conversing groups. At the sound of the door
 they regarded the four uniformed men.
      One Martian  stepped  forward,  bowing.  "I  am Mr. Uuu," he
 said.
      "And I  am  Captain  Jonathan  Williams,  of  New York City,
 on Earth," said the captain without emphasis.
      Immediately the hall exploded!
      The rafters  trembled  with  shouts  and  cries. The people,
 rushing  forward,  waved  and  shrieked  happily,  knocking  down
 tables,  swarming,   rollicking,  seizing  the  four  Earth  Men,
 lifting them  swiftly  to their shoulders. They charged about the
 hall six  times,  six  times  making a full and wonderful circuit
 of the room, jumping, bounding, singing.
      The Earth  Men  were  so stunned that they rode the toppling
 shoulders for  a  full  minute  before  they  began  to laugh and
 shout at each other:
      "Hey! This is more _like_ it!"
      "This is the life! Boy! Yay! Yow! Whoopee!"
      They winked  tremendously  at  each  other.  They  flung  up
 their hands to clap the air. "Hey!"
      "Hooray!" said the crowd.
      They set the Earth Men on a table. The shouting died.
      The captain  almost  broke  into  tears.  "Thank  you.  It's
 good, it's good."
      "Tell us about yourselves," suggested Mr. Uuu.
      The captain cleared his throat.
      The  audience   ohed   and   ahed  as  the  captain  talked.
 He introduced  his  crew;  each  made  a  small  speech  and  was
 embarrassed by the thunderous applause.
      Mr.  Uuu  dapped  the  captain's  shoulder,  "It's  good  to
 see another man from Earth. I am from Earth also."
      "How was that again?"
      "There are many of us here from Earth."
      "You?  From   Earth?"  The  captain  stared.  "But  is  that
 possible? Did  you  come  by  rocket? Has space travel been going
 on  for  centuries?"  His  voice  was  disappointed.  "What--what
 country are you from?"
      "Tuiereol. I came by the spirit of my body, years ago."
      "Tuiereol." The  captain  mouthed  the  word.  "I don't know
 that country. What's this about spirit of body?"
      "And Miss  Rrr  over  here,  she's from Earth, too, _aren't_
 you, Miss Rrr?"
      Miss Rrr nodded and laughed strangely.
      "And so is Mr. Www and Mr. Qqq and Mr. Vvv!"
      "I'm from Jupiter," declared one man, preening himself.
      "I'm from Saturn," said another, eyes glinting slyly.
      "Jupiter, Saturn," murmured the captain, blinking.
      It was  very  quiet  now; the people stood around and sat at
 the tables  which  were strangely empty for banquet tables. Their
 yellow eyes  were  glowing,  and  there  were  dark shadows under
 their cheekbones.  The  captain  noticed  for the first time that
 there were  no  windows;  the light seemed to permeate the walls.
 There  was   only   one   door.  The  captain  winced.  "This  is
 confusing.  Where   on   Earth  is  this  Tuiereol?  Is  it  near
 America?"
      "What is America?"
      "You never  heard  of America! You say you're from Earth and
 yet you don't know!"
      Mr. Uuu  drew  himself up angrily. "Earth is a place of seas
 and nothing  but  seas.  There  is  no land. I am from Earth, and
 know."
      "Wait a  minute."  The  captain  sat  back.  "You  look like
 a regular Martian. Yellow eyes. Brown skin."
      "Earth is  a  place of all _jungle_," said Miss Rrr proudly.
 "I'm from Orri, on Earth, a civilization built of silver!"
      Now the  captain  turned  his  head from and then to Mr. Uuu
 and then  to  Mr. Www and Mr. Zzz and Mr. Nnn and Mr. Hhh and Mr.
 Bbb. He  saw  their  yellow  eyes waxing and waning in the light,
 focusing and  unfocusing.  He  began to shiver. Finally he turned
 to his men and regarded them somberly.
      "Do you realize what this is?"
      "What, sir?"
      "This is  no  celebration,"  replied  the  captain  tiredly.
 "This is  no  banquet.  These  aren't government representatives.
 This is no surprise party. Look at their eyes. Listen to them!"
      Nobody breathed.  There  was  only a soft white move of eyes
 in the close room.
      "Now I  understand"--the  captain's  voice  was  far  away--
 "why everyone  gave  us  notes  and  passed  us  on, one from the
 other, until  we  met  Mr.  Iii, who sent us down a corridor with
 a key to open a door and shut a door. And here we are . . ."
      "Where are we, sir?"
      The captain exhaled. "In an insane asylum."

      It  was   night.   The   large  hall  lay  quiet  and  dimly
 illuminated by  hidden  light  sources  in the transparent walls.
 The four  Earth  Men sat around a wooden table, their bleak heads
 bent over  their  whispers.  On  the  floors,  men  and women lay
 huddled. There  were  little  stirs in the dark corners, solitary
 men or  women  gesturing  their  hands.  Every  half-hour  one of
 the captain's  men  would  try  the silver door and return to the
 table. "Nothing doing, sir. We're locked in proper."
      "They think we're really insane, sir?"
      "Quite. That's  why  there  was no hullabaloo to welcome us.
 They merely  tolerated  what,  to  them,  must  be  a  constantly
 recurring  psychotic   condition."   He   gestured  at  the  dark
 sleeping shapes  all  about  them.  "Paranoids, every single one!
 What a  welcome  they gave us! For a moment there"--a little fire
 rose and  died  in  his  eyes--"I  thought  we  were  getting our
 true  reception.  All  the  yelling  and  singing  and  speeches.
 Pretty nice, wasn't it--while it lasted?"
      "How long will they keep us here, sir?"
      "Until we prove we're not psychotics."
      "That should be easy."
      "I _hope_ so."
      "You don't sound very certain, sir."
      "I'm not. Look in that corner."
      A man  squatted  alone  in darkness. Out of his mouth issued
 a blue  flame  which turned into the round shape of a small naked
 woman. It  flourished  on  the  air  softly  in  vapors of cobalt
 light, whispering and sighing.
      The  captain   nodded  at  another  corner.  A  woman  stood
 there, changing.  First  she  was  embedded  in a crystal pillar,
 then she  melted  into  a  golden  statue,  finally  a  staff  of
 polished cedar, and back to a woman.
      All through  the  midnight  hall  people  were juggling thin
 violet flames,  shifting,  changing,  for  nighttime was the time
 of change and affliction.
      "Magicians, sorcerers," whispered one of the Earth Men.
      "No, hallucination.  They  pass  their insanity over into us
 so   that   we   see   their   hallucinations   too.   Telepathy.
 Autosuggestion and telepathy."
      "Is that what worries you, sir?"
      "Yes. If  hallucinations  can  appear  this  'real'  to  us,
 to  anyone,   if   hallucinations   are   catching   and   almost
 believable, it's  no  wonder  they  mistook us for psychotics. If
 that man  can  produce  little  blue  fire  women  and that woman
 there melt  into  a  pillar, how natural if normal Martians think
 _we_ produce our rocket ship with _our_ minds."
      "Oh," said his men in the shadows.
      Around  them,   in   the  vast  hall,  flames  leaped  blue,
 flared, evaporated.  Little  demons  of  red sand ran between the
 teeth of  sleeping  men.  Women  became  oily snakes. There was a
 smell of reptiles and animals.
      In the  morning  everyone stood around looking fresh, happy,
 and normal.  There  were  no  flames  or  demons in the room. The
 captain and  his  men  waited by the silver door, hoping it would
 open.
      Mr.  Xxx   arrived  after  about  four  hours.  They  had  a
 suspicion that  he  had  waited  outside  the door, peering in at
 them for  at  least  three  hours before he stepped in, beckoned,
 and led them to his small office.
      He was  a  jovial,  smiling  man,  if  one could believe the
 mask he  wore,  for upon it was painted not one smile, but three.
 Behind  it,  his  voice  was  the  voice  of  a  not  so  smiling
 psychologist. "What seems to be the trouble?"
      "You think we're insane, and we're not," said the captain.
      "Contrarily, I  do  not  think  _all_  of  you  are insane."
 The psychologist  pointed  a  little  wand  at  the captain. "No.
 Just _you_, sir. The others are secondary hallucinations."
      The captain  slapped  his  knee, "So _that's_ it! That's why
 Mr. Iii laughed when I suggested my men sign the papers too!"
      "Yes, Mr.  Iii  told  me."  The  psychologist laughed out of
 the  carved,   smiling   mouth.   "A  good  joke.  Where  was  I?
 Secondary hallucinations,  yes.  Women  come  to  me  with snakes
 crawling from their ears. When I cure them, the snakes vanish."
      "We'll be glad to be cured. Go right ahead."
      Mr. Xxx  seemed  surprised.  "Unusual.  Not many people want
 to be cured. The cure is drastic, you know."
      "Cure ahead! I'm confident you'll find we're all sane."
      "Let me  check  your  papers to be sure they're in order for
 a 'cure.'"  He  checked  a  file.  "Yes.  You know, such cases as
 yours  need  special  'curing.'  The  people  in  that  hall  are
 simpler forms.  But  once you've gone this far, I must point out,
 with    primary,     secondary,    auditory,    olfactory,    and
 labial  hallucinations,   as   well   as   tactile   and  optical
 fantasies,  it   is  pretty  bad  business.  We  have  to  resort
 to euthanasia."
      The captain  leaped  up with a roar. "Look here, we've stood
 quite  enough!   Test  us,  tap  our  knees,  check  our  hearts,
 exercise us, ask questions!"
      "You are free to speak."
      The captain raved for an hour. The psychologist listened.
      "Incredible," he  mused.  "Most  detailed dream fantasy I've
 ever heard."
      "God damn  it,  we'll  show  you  the rocket ship!" screamed
 the captain.
      "I'd like to see it. Can you manifest it in this room?"
      "Oh, certainly. It's in that file of yours, under R."
      Mr. Xxx  peered  seriously  into his file. He went "Tsk" and
 shut the  file  solemnly.  "Why  did  you  tell  me  to look? The
 rocket isn't there."
      "Of course  not,  you  idiot!  I  was joking. Does an insane
 man joke?"
      "You find  some  odd  senses  of  humor. Now, take me out to
 your rocket. I wish to see it."

      It was  noon.  The  day  was  very hot when they reached the
 rocket.
      "So." The  psychologist  walked  up  to  the ship and tapped
 it. It gonged softly. "May I go inside?" he asked slyly.
      "You may."
      Mr. Xxx stepped in and was gone for a long time.
      "Of  all   the  silly,  exasperating  things."  The  captain
 chewed a  cigar  as  he  waited.  "For two cents I'd go back home
 and tell  people  not  to  bother  with  Mars.  What a suspicious
 bunch of louts."
      "I gather  that  a  good  number  of  their  population  are
 insane, sir. That seems to be their main reason for doubting."
      "Nevertheless, this is all so damned irritating."
      The psychologist  emerged  from  the ship after half an hour
 of prowling, tapping, listening, smelling, tasting.
      "_Now_ do  you  believe!" shouted the captain, as if he were
 deaf.
      The psychologist  shut  his  eyes  and  scratched  his nose.
 "This is  the  most  incredible  example of sensual hallucination
 and hypnotic  suggestion  I've  ever  encountered. I went through
 your 'rocket,'  as  you  call  it."  He  tapped the hull. "I hear
 it.  Auditory   fantasy."   He   drew  a  breath.  "I  smell  it.
 Olfactory  hallucination,   induced  by  sensual  telepathy."  He
 kissed the ship. "I taste it. Labial fantasy!"
      He shook  the  captain's  hand. "May I congratulate you? You
 are a  psychotic  genius!  You have done a most complete job! The
 task of  projecting  your  psychotic  image  life  into  the mind
 of another  via  telepathy  and  keeping  the hallucinations from
 becoming sensually  weaker  is almost impossible. Those people in
 the House  usually  concentrate  on  visuals  or,  at  the  most,
 visuals and  auditory  fantasies  combined. You have balanced the
 whole conglomeration! Your insanity is beautifully complete!"
      "My insanity." The captain was pale.
      "Yes,  yes,   what   a   lovely   insanity.  Metal,  rubber,
 gravitizers,  foods,  clothing,  fuel,  weapons,  ladders,  nuts,
 bolts, spoons.  Ten  thousand  separate  items  I checked on your
 vessel. Never  have  I  seen  such  a complexity. There were even
 shadows  under   the   bunks   and   under   _everything!_   Such
 concentration of  will!  And  everything,  no  matter how or when
 tested, had  a  smell,  a  solidity,  a  taste,  a  sound! Let me
 embrace you!"
      He stood  back  at  last.  "I'll write this into my greatest
 monograph! I'll  speak  of  it at the Martian Academy next month!
 _Look_ at  you!  Why,  you've  even  changed  your eye color from
 yellow  to  blue,  your  skin  to  pink  from  brown.  And  those
 clothes,  and   your   hands   having  five  fingers  instead  of
 six! Biological  metamorphosis  through  psychological imbalance!
 And your three friends.--"
      He took  out  a  little  gun.  "Incurable,  of  course.  You
 poor, wonderful  man.  You  will  be  happier  dead. Have you any
 last words?"
      "Stop, for God's sake! Don't shoot!"
      "You sad  creature.  I  shall  put  you  out  of this misery
 which has  driven  you  to  imagine  this  rocket and these three
 men. It  will  be  most engrossing to watch your friends and your
 rocket vanish  once  I have killed you. I will write a neat paper
 on the  dissolvement  of  neurotic  images  from  what I perceive
 here today."
      "I'm  from   Earth!   My  name  is  Jonathan  Williams,  and
 these--"
      "Yes, I know," soothed Mr. Xxx, and fired his gun.
      The captain  fell  with  a  bullet  in  his heart. The other
 three men screamed.
      Mr. Xxx  stared  at  them.  "You  continue  to  exist?  This
 is superb!  Hallucinations  with  time  and spatial persistence!"
 He  pointed   the  gun  at  them.  "Well,  I'll  scare  you  into
 dissolving."
      "No!" cried the three men,
      "An auditory  appeal,  even with the patient dead," observed
 Mr. Xxx as he shot the three men down.
      They lay on the sand, intact, not moving.
      He kicked them. Then he rapped on the ship.
      "_It_ persists!  _They_  persist!"  He  fired  his gun again
 and again  at  the  bodies.  Then he stood back. The smiling mask
 dropped from his face.
      Slowly the  little  psychologist's  face  changed.  His  jaw
 sagged. The  gun  dropped  from  his  fingers. His eyes were dull
 and vacant  He  put  his  hands  up  and turned in a blind cirde.
 He fumbled at the bodies, saliva filling his mouth.
      "Hallucinations," he  mumbled  frantically.  "Taste.  Sight.
 Smell. Sound.  Feeling."  He  waved  his  hands. His eyes bulged.
 His mouth began to give off a faint froth.
      "Go  away!"   he  shouted  at  the  bodies.  "Go  away!"  he
 screamed  at   the   ship.   He  examined  his  trembling  hands.
 "Contaminated,"  he   whispered   wildly.   "Carried   over  into
 me.  Telepathy.   Hypnosis.   Now   _I'm_   insane,   Now   _I'm_
 contaminated.  Hallucinations   in   all  their  sensual  forms."
 He stopped  and  searched around with his numb hands for the gun.
 "Only one cure. Only one way to make them go away, vanish."
      A shot rang out, Mr. Xxx fell.
      The four bodies lay in the sun. Mr. Xxx lay where he fell.
      The rocket  reclined  on  the  little  sunny hill and didn't
 vanish.
      When the  town  people  found  the  rocket  at  sunset  they
 wondered what  it  was.  Nobody knew, so it was sold to a junkman
 and hauled off to be broken up for scrap metal.
      That night  it  rained  all night. The next day was fair and
 warm.

                     March 2000:  THE TAXPAYER

      He wanted  to  go  to  Mars  on  the rocket. He went down to
 the rocket  field  in the early morning and yelled in through the
 wire fence  at  the  men in uniform that he wanted to go to Mars,
 He told  them  he  was a taxpayer, his name was Pritchard, and he
 had a  right  to  go  to Mars. Wasn't he born right here in Ohio?
 Wasn't he  a  good  citizen?  Then  why couldn't _he_ go to Mars?
 He shook  his  fists  at them and told them that he wanted to get
 away from  Earth;  anybody  with  any  sense  wanted  to get away
 from Earth.  There  was  going  to  be  a big atomic war on Earth
 in about  two  years,  and  he  didn't  want  to  be here when it
 happened. He  and  thousands  of  others  like  him,  if they had
 any sense,  would  go  to Mars. See if they wouldn't! To get away
 from  wars  and  censorship  and  statism  and  conscription  and
 government control  of  this  and  that,  of art and science! You
 could have  Earth!  He  was  offering  his  good  right hand, his
 heart, his  head,  for  the  opportunity  to go to Mars! What did
 you have  to  do,  what  did  you have to sign, whom did you have
 to know, to get on the rocket?
      They laughed  out  through the wire screen at him. He didn't
 want to  go  to  Mars,  they  said. Didn't he know that the First
 and  Second   Expeditions  had  failed,  had  vanished;  the  men
 were probably dead?
      But they  couldn't  prove  it,  they  didn't  know for sure,
 he said,  clinging  to  the  wire  fence.  Maybe it was a land of
 milk and  honey  up  there, and Captain York and Captain Williams
 had just  never  bothered  to  come  back. Now were they going to
 open the  gate  and  let  him in to board the Third Expeditionary
 Rocket, or was he going to have to kick it down?
      They told him to shut up.
      He saw the men walking out to the rocket.
      Wait  for  me!  he  cried.  Don't  leave  me  here  on  this
 terrible world,  I've  got  to  get  away; there's going to be an
 atom war! Don't leave me on Earth!
      They   dragged   him,   struggling,   away.   They   slammed
 the policewagon  door  and  drove him off into the early morning,
 his face  pressed  to  the  rear  window,  and  just  before they
 sirened over  a  hill,  he  saw  the  red  fire and heard the big
 sound and  felt  the huge tremor as the silver rocket shot up and
 left him  behind  on  an  ordinary Monday morning on the ordinary
 planet Earth.

                 April 2000:  THE THIRD EXPEDITION

      The ship  came  down  from space. It came from the stars and
 the black  velocities,  and the shining movements, and the silent
 gulfs of  space.  It  was a new ship; it had fire in its body and
 men in  its  metal  cells,  and  it  moved  with a clean silence,
 fiery and  warm.  In  it  were seventeen men, induding a captain.
 The crowd  at  the  Ohio  field had shouted and waved their hands
 up into  the  sunlight,  and  the  rocket  had  bloomed out great
 flowers of  heat  and  color  and  run  away  into  space  on the
 _third_ voyage to Mars!
      Now  it  was  decelerating  with  metal  efficiency  in  the
 upper Martian  atmospheres.  It  was  still  a  thing  of  beauty
 and strength.  It  had moved in the midnight waters of space like
 a pale  sea  leviathan; it had passed the ancient moon and thrown
 itself onward  into  one  nothingness  following another. The men
 within it  had  been  battered, thrown about, sickened, made well
 again,  each  in  his  turn.  One  man  had  died,  but  now  the
 remaining sixteen,  with  their  eyes  clear  in  their heads and
 their faces  pressed  to  the  thick  glass  ports,  watched Mars
 swing up under them.
      "Mars!" cried Navigator Lustig.
      "Good old Mars!" said Samuel Hinkston, archaeologist.
      "Well," said Captain John Black.
      The rocket  landed  on  a lawn of green grass. Outside, upon
 this lawn,  stood  an  iron  deer.  Further up on the green stood
 a  tall  brown  Victorian  house,  quiet  in  the  sunlight,  all
 covered with  scrolls  and  rococo,  its windows made of blue and
 pink and  yellow  and  green  colored  glass. Upon the porch were
 hairy geraniums  and  an  old  swing  which  was  hooked into the
 porch ceiling  and  which  now  swung  back  and  forth, back and
 forth, in  a  little  breeze.  At  the  summit of the house was a
 cupola with  diamond  leaded-glass  windows and a dunce-cap roof!
 Through  the  front  window  you  could  see  a  piece  of  music
 titled "Beautiful Ohio" sitting on the music rest.
      Around the  rocket  in  four  directions  spread  the little
 town, green  and  motionless  in  the  Martian spring. There were
 white houses  and  red  brick ones, and tall elm trees blowing in
 the wind,  and  tall  maples  and  horse  chestnuts.  And  church
 steeples with golden bells silent in them.
      The rocket  men  looked  out  and saw this. Then they looked
 at one  another  and  then  they  looked  out again. They held to
 each other's  elbows,  suddenly  unable  to  breathe,  it seemed,
 Their faces grew pale.
      "I'll be  damned,"  whispered  Lustig, rubbing his face with
 his numb fingers. "I'll be damned."
      "It just can't be," said Samuel Hinkston.
      "Lord," said Captain John Black.
      There was  a  call  from  the  chemist. "Sir, the atmosphere
 is thin for breathing. But there's enough oxygen. It's safe."
      "Then we'll go out," said Lustig.
      "Hold on,"  said  Captain  John  Black. "How do we know what
 this is?"
      "It's a  small  town  with  thin  but  breathable air in it,
 sir."
      "And it's  a  small  town  the  like  of  Earth towns," said
 Hinkston, the  archaeologist  "Incredible.  It  can't  be, but it
 _is_."
      Captain John  Black  looked  at him idly. "Do you think that
 the civilizations  of  two  planets can progress at the same rate
 and evolve in the same way, Hinkston?"
      "I wouldn't have thought so, sir."
      Captain  Black   stood   by   the  port.  "Look  out  there.
 The geraniums.  A  specialized  plant.  That specific variety has
 only  been   known  on  Earth  for  fifty  years.  Think  of  the
 thousands of  years  it  takes  to evolve plants. Then tell me if
 it is  logical  that  the Martians should have: one, leaded-glass
 windows; two,  cupolas;  three, porch swings; four, an instrument
 that looks  like  a  piano  and probably is a piano; and five, if
 you look  closely  through  this  telescopic  lens  here,  is  it
 logical that  a  Martian  composer  would  have published a piece
 of music  titled,  strangely  enough,  'Beautiful  Ohio'?  All of
 which means that we have an Ohio River on Mars!"
      "Captain Williams, of course!" cried Hinkston,
      "What?"
      "Captain Williams  and  his  crew of three men! Or Nathaniel
 York and his partner. That would explain it!"
      "That would  explain  absolutely  nothing.  As  far as we've
 been able  to  figure,  the  York  expedition  exploded  the  day
 it reached  Mars,  killing  York and his partner. As for Williams
 and his  three  men,  their  ship  exploded  the second day after
 their arrival.  At  least the pulsations from their radios ceased
 at that  time,  so  we  figure  that  if the men were alive after
 that they'd  have  contacted  us. And anyway, the York expedition
 was only  a  year  ago, while Captain Williams and his men landed
 here some  time  during  last  August.  Theorizing  that they are
 still alive,  could  they,  even  with  the  help  of a brilliant
 Martian race,  have  built  such  a town as this and _aged_ it in
 so short  a  time?  Look  at  that town out there; why, it's been
 standing here  for  the  last  seventy years. Look at the wood on
 the porch  newel;  look at the trees, a century old, all of them!
 No, this  isn't  York's  work  or Williams'. It's something else.
 I don't  like  it. And I'm not leaving the ship until I know what
 it is."
      "For that  matter,"  said Lustig, nodding, "Williams and his
 men, as  well  as  York,  landed  on the _opposite_ side of Mars.
 We were very careful to land on _this_ side."
      "An excellent  point.  Just  in  case  a hostile local tribe
 of Martians  killed  off  York and Williams, we have instructions
 to land  in  a  further region, to forestall a recurrence of such
 a disaster.  So  here  we  are,  as  far  as  we  know, in a land
 that Williams and York never saw."
      "Damn it,"  said  Hinkston,  "I  want  to  get out into this
 town, sir,  with  your  permission.  It  may be there are similar
 thought patterns,  civilization  graphs  on  every  planet in our
 sun  system.   We  may  be  on  the  threshold  of  the  greatest
 psychological and metaphysical discovery of our age!"
      "I'm willing to wait a moment," said Captain John Black.
      "It may  be,  sir,  that  we're  looking  upon  a phenomenon
 that, for  the  first  time, would absolutely prove the existence
 of God, sir."
      "There are  many  people  who are of good faith without such
 proof, Mr. Hinkston."
      "I'm one  myself,  sir. But certainly a town like this could
 not occur  without  divine  intervention.  The _detail_. It fills
 me with  such  feelings  that  I  don't  know whether to laugh or
 cry."
      "Do neither, then, until we know what we're up against."
      "Up against?"  Lustig  broke  in. "Against nothing, Captain.
 It's a  good,  quiet green town, a lot like the old-fashioned one
 I was born in. I like the looks of it."
      "When were you born, Lustig?"
      "Nineteen-fifty, sir."
      "And you, Hinkston?"
      "Nineteen fifty-five,  sir.  Grinnell,  Iowa. And this looks
 like home to me."
      "Hinkston, Lustig,  I  could  be either of your fathers. I'm
 just eighty  years  old.  Born  in  1920 in Illinois, and through
 the grace  of  God  and  a science that, in the last fifty years,
 knows how  to  make  _some_  old  men  young  again, here I am on
 Mars, not  any  more  tired  than the rest of you, but infinitely
 more suspicious.  This  town  out  here  looks  very peaceful and
 cool, and  so  much like Green Bluff, Illinois, that it frightens
 me.  It's  too  _much_  like  Green  Bluff."  He  turned  to  the
 radioman. "Radio  Earth.  Tell  them  we've  landed.  That's all.
 Tell them we'll radio a full report tomorrow."
      "Yes, sir."
      Captain Black  looked  out  the  rocket  port  with his face
 that should  have  been  the face of a man eighty but seemed like
 the face  of  a  man  in  his fortieth year. "Tell you what we'll
 do, Lustig;  you  and  I  and Hinkston'll look the town over. The
 other men'll  stay  aboard.  If anything happens they can get the
 hell out.  A  loss  of  three  men's  better  than  a whole ship.
 If something  bad  happens,  our  crew  can warn the next rocket.
 That's Captain  Wilder's  rocket,  I  think,  due  to be ready to
 take off  next  Christmas.  if  there's  something  hostile about
 Mars we certainly want the next rocket to be well armed."
      "So are we. We've got a regular arsenal with us."
      "Tell  the   men  to  stand  by  the  guns  then.  Come  on,
 Lustig, Hinkston."
      The three  men  walked  together  down through the levels of
 the ship.

      It was  a  beautiful spring day. A robin sat on a blossoming
 apple tree  and  sang  continuously. Showers of petal snow sifted
 down when  the  wind  touched the green branches, and the blossom
 scent drifted  upon  the  air.  Somewhere  in  the  town  someone
 was playing  the  piano  and  the  music  came and went, came and
 went,  softly,   drowsily.  The  song  was  "Beautiful  Dreamer."
 Somewhere else  a  phonograph,  scratchy  and  faded, was hissing
 out a  record  of  "Roamin'  in  the  Gloamin',"  sung  by  Harry
 Lauder.
      The three  men  stood  outside  the  ship.  They  sucked and
 gasped at  the  thin,  thin  air  and  moved  slowly so as not to
 tire themselves.
      Now the phonograph record being played was:

      "_Oh, give me a June night
      The moonlight and you_ . . ."

      Lustig began to tremble. Samuel Hinkston did likewise.
      The sky  was  serene  and  quiet,  and somewhere a stream of
 water ran  through  the  cool  caverns  and  tree  shadings  of a
 ravine. Somewhere  a  horse  and  wagon  trotted  and  rolled by,
 bumping.
      "Sir," said  Samuel  Hinkston,  "it must be, it _has_ to be,
 that rocket  travel  to  Mars began in the years before the first
 World War!"
      "No."
      "How else  can  you  explain  these  houses,  the iron deer,
 the  pianos,  the  music?"  Hinkston  took  the  captain's  elbow
 persuasively and  looked  into  the  captain's  face.  "Say  that
 there were  people  in  the  year  1905  who  hated  war  and got
 together with  some  scientists  in secret and built a rocket and
 came out here to Mars--"
      "No, no, Hinkston."
      "Why not?  The  world  was  a  different world in 1905; they
 could have kept it a secret much more easily."
      "But a  complex  thing  like a rocket, no, you couldn't keep
 it secret."
      "And they  came  up  here  to live, and naturally the houses
 they built  were  similar  to  Earth  houses because they brought
 the culture with them."
      "And  they've   lived   here  all  these  years?"  said  the
 captain.
      "In peace  and  quiet,  yes.  Maybe  they  made a few trips,
 enough to  bring  enough  people  here  for  one  small town, and
 then stopped  for  fear of being discovered. That's why this town
 seems so  old-fashioned.  I don't see a thing, myself, older than
 the year  1927,  do  you?  Or  maybe, sir, rocket travel is older
 than we  think.  Perhaps  it  started  in  some part of the world
 centuries ago  and  was  kept  secret  by the small number of men
 who came  to  Mars  with  only  occasional  visits  to Earth over
 the centuries."
      "You make it sound almost reasonable."
      "It has  to  be. We've the proof here before us; all we have
 to do is find some people and verify it."
      Their boots  were  deadened  of all sound in the thick green
 grass. It  smelled  from  a  fresh  mowing.  In spite of himself,
 Captain John  Black  felt  a  great  peace  come over him. It had
 been thirty  years  since  he  had  been in a small town, and the
 buzzing of  spring  bees  on  the air lulled and quieted him, and
 the fresh look of things was a balm to the soul.
      They set  foot  upon  the  porch. Hollow echoes sounded from
 under the  boards  as they walked to the screen door. Inside they
 could see  a  bead  curtain  hung  across  the  hall entry, and a
 crystal chandelier  and  a  Maxfield  Parrish  painting framed on
 one wall  over  a  comfortable  Morris  chair.  The house smelled
 old, and  of  the  attic,  and  infinitely comfortable. You could
 hear the  tinkle  of  ice  in  a  lemonade  pitcher. In a distant
 kitchen, because  of  the  heat of the day, someone was preparing
 a cold  lunch.  Someone  was  humming  under her breath, high and
 sweet.
      Captain John Black rang the bell.

      Footsteps,  dainty  and  thin,  came  along  the  hall,  and
 a kind-faced  lady  of  some  forty  years,  dressed in a sort of
 dress you might expect in the year 1909, peered out at them.
      "Can I help you?" she asked.
      "Beg your  pardon,"  said  Captain  Black  uncertainly. "But
 we're looking  for--that  is,  could  you  help us--" He stopped.
 She looked out at him with dark, wondering eyes.
      "If you're selling something--" she began.
      "No, wait!" he cried. "What town is this?"
      She looked  him  up  and  down. "What do you mean, what town
 is it? How could you be in a town and not know the name?"
      The captain  looked  as if he wanted to go sit under a shady
 apple tree.  "We're  strangers  here.  We  want  to know how this
 town got here and how you got here."
      "Are you census takers?"
      "No."
      "Everyone knows,"  she  said,  "this town was built in 1868.
 Is this a game?"
      "No, not a game!" cried the captain. "We're from Earth."
      "Out of the _ground_, do you mean?" she wondered.
      "No, we  came  from  the third planet, Earth, in a ship. And
 we've landed here on the fourth planet, Mars--"
      "This," explained  the  woman,  as  if  she  were addressing
 a  child,   "is  Green  Bluff,  Illinois,  on  the  continent  of
 America, surrounded  by  the  Atlantic  and  Pacific oceans, on a
 place called  the  world,  or,  sometimes,  the  Earth.  Go  away
 now. Goodby."
      She trotted  down  the  hall,  running  her  fingers through
 the beaded curtains.
      The three men looked at one another.
      "Let's knock the screen door in," said Lustig.
      "We can't do that. This is private property. Good God!"
      They went to sit down on the porch step.
      "Did  it   ever   strike  you,  Hinkston,  that  perhaps  we
 got ourselves  somehow,  in  some way, off track, and by accident
 came back and landed on Earth?"
      "How could we have done that?"
      "I don't know, I don't know. Oh God, let me think."
      Hinkston said,  "But  we  checked  every  mile  of  the way.
 Our chronometers  said  so  many miles. We went past the Moon and
 out into space, and here we are. I'm _positive_ we're on Mars."
      Lustig said,  "But  suppose, by accident, in space, in time,
 we got  lost  in  the  dimensions  and landed on an Earth that is
 thirty or forty years ago."
      "Oh, go away, Lustig!"
      Lustig went  to  the  door,  rang  the bell, and called into
 the cool dim rooms: "What year is this?"
      "Nineteen twenty-six,  of  course,"  said  the lady, sitting
 in a rocking chair, taking a sip of her lemonade.
      "Did you  hear  that?"  Lustig  turned wildly to the others.
 "Nineteen twenty-six!  We  _have_  gone  back  in time! This _is_
 Earth!"

      Lustig sat  down,  and  the  three  men  let  the wonder and
 terror  of   the   thought  afflict  them.  Their  hands  stirred
 fitfully on  their  knees.  The  captain  said, "I didn't ask for
 a thing  like  this.  It  scares  the  hell  out of me. How can a
 thing like this happen? I wish we'd brought Einstein with us."
      "Will anyone  in  this town believe us?" said Hinkston. "Are
 we playing  with  something  dangerous?  Time,  I mean. Shouldn't
 we just take off and go home?"
      "No. Not until we try another house."
      They walked  three  houses  down  to  a little white cottage
 under an  oak  tree.  "I like to be as logical as I can be," said
 the captain.  "And  I  don't  believe  we've put our finger on it
 yet.  Suppose,   Hinkston,  as  you  originally  suggested,  that
 rocket travel  occurred  years  ago?  And  when  the Earth people
 lived here  a  number  of  years  they  began to get homesick for
 Earth. First  a  mild  neurosis  about  it,  then  a full-fledged
 psychosis.  Then  threatened  insanity.  What  would  you  do  as
 a psychiatrist if faced with such a problem?"
      Hinkston  thought   "Well,   I   think   I'd  rearrange  the
 civilization on  Mars  so  it  resembled Earth more and more each
 day. If  there  was  any  way  of  reproducing every plant, every
 road, and  every  lake,  and  even  an  ocean, I'd do so. Then by
 some vast  crowd  hypnosis  I'd  convince everyone in a town this
 size that this really _was_ Earth, not Mars at all."
      "Good enough,  Hinkston.  I  think  we're on the right track
 now. That  woman  in  that  house  back there just _thinks_ she's
 living on  Earth.  It protects her sanity. She and all the others
 in  this  town  are  the  patients  of  the  greatest  experiment
 in migration  and  hypnosis  you  will  ever  lay eyes on in your
 life."
      "That's _it_, sir!" cried Lustig.
      "Right!" said Hinkston.
      "Well." The  captain  sighed.  "Now  we've  got somewhere. I
 feel better.  It's  all  a bit more logical. That talk about time
 and going  back  and  forth  and  traveling  through  time  turns
 my stomach  upside  down.  But  _this_ way--" The captain smiled.
 "Well, well, it looks as if we'll be fairly popular here."
      "Or will  we?"  said  Lustig. "After all, like the Pilgrims,
 these people  came  here  to  escape  Earth.  Maybe they won't be
 too happy  to  see  us. Maybe they'll try to drive us out or kill
 us."
      "We have superior weapons. This next house now. Up we go."
      But they  had  hardly  crossed  the lawn when Lustig stopped
 and  looked  off  across  the  town,  down  the  quiet,  dreaming
 afternoon street. "Sir," he said.
      "What is it, Lustig?"
      "Oh, sir,  _sir_,  what I _see_--" said Lustig, and he began
 to cry.  His  fingers came up, twisting and shaking, and his face
 was all  wonder  and  joy  and  incredulity.  He sounded as if at
 any moment  he  might  go  quite insane with happiness. He looked
 down the  street  and began to run, stumbling awkwardly, falling,
 picking himself up, and running on. "Look, look!"
      "Don't let him get away!" The captain broke into a run.
      Now Lustig  was  running  swiftly,  shouting. He turned into
 a yard  halfway  down  the  shady  street  and leaped up upon the
 porch of a large green house with an iron rooster on the roof.
      He was  beating  at  the  door,  hollering  and crying, when
 Hinkston and  the  captain  ran  up  behind  him.  They  were all
 gasping and  wheezing,  exhausted  from  their  run  in  the thin
 air. "Grandma! Grandpa!" cried Lustig.
      Two old people stood in the doorway.
      "David!"  their   voices  piped,  and  they  rushed  out  to
 embrace and  pat  him  on  the  back and move around him. "David,
 oh, David,  it's  been  so many years! How you've grown, boy; how
 big you are, boy. Oh, David boy, how are you?"
      "Grandma, Grandpa!"  sobbed  David  Lustig.  "You look fine,
 fine!" He  held  them,  turned  them,  kissed  them, hugged them,
 cried on  them,  held  them  out  again,  blinking  at the little
 old people.  The  sun  was  in  the sky, the wind blew, the grass
 was green, the screen door stood wide.
      "Come in,  boy,  come  in.  There's iced tea for you, fresh,
 lots of it!"
      "I've got  friends  here."  Lustig  turned  and waved at the
 captain and  Hinkston  frantically,  laughing.  "Captain, come on
 up."
      "Howdy," said  the  old  people.  "Come  in.  Any friends of
 David's are our friends too. Don't stand there!"

      In the  living  room  of  the  old  house  it  was cool, and
 a grandfather  clock  ticked  high  and  long  and bronzed in one
 corner. There  were  soft  pillows  on  large  couches  and walls
 filled with  books  and  a  rug  cut in a thick rose pattern, and
 iced tea in the hand, sweating, and cool on the thirsty tongue.
      "Here's  to   our  health."  Grandma  tipped  her  glass  to
 her porcelain teeth.
      "How long you been here, Grandma?" said Lustig.
      "Ever since we died," she said tartly.
      "Ever since  you  what?"  Captain  John  Black  set down his
 glass.
      "Oh yes." Lustig nodded. "They've been dead thirty years."
      "And you sit there calmly!" shouted the captain.
      "Tush." The  old  woman  winked  glitteringly.  "Who are you
 to question  what  happens? Here we are. What's life, anyway? Who
 does what  for  why  and where? All we know is here we are, alive
 again, and  no  questions  asked.  A  second chance." She toddled
 over and  held  out  her  thin  wrist.  "Feel." The captain felt.
 "Solid, ain't  it?"  she  asked.  He  nodded.  "Well,  then," she
 said triumphantly, "why go around questioning?"
      "Well,"  said  the  captain,  "it's  simply  that  we  never
 thought we'd find a thing like this on Mars."
      "And now  you've  found it. I dare say there's lots on every
 planet that'll show you God's infinite ways."
      "Is this Heaven?" asked Hinkston.
      "Nonsense, no.  It's  a  world  and  we get a second chance.
 Nobody told  us  why.  But  then  nobody  told  us why we were on
 Earth, either.  That  other Earth, I mean. The one you came from.
 How do we know there wasn't _another_ before _that_ one?"
      "A good question," said the captain.
      Lustig kept  smiling  at  his grandparents. "Gosh, it's good
 to see you. Gosh, it's good."
      The captain  stood  up  and  slapped  his hand on his leg in
 a casual  fashion.  "We've  got  to  be  going. Thank you for the
 drinks."
      "You'll be  back,  of  course,"  said  the  old people. "For
 supper tonight?"
      "We'll try  to  make it, thanks. There's so much to be done.
 My men are waiting for me back at the rocket and--"
      He stopped. He looked toward the door, startled.
      Far away  in  the  sunlight  there  was  a  sound of voices,
 a shouting and a great hello.
      "What's that?" asked Hinkston,
      "We'll soon  find  out."  And Captain John Black was out the
 front door  abruptly,  running  across  the  green  lawn into the
 street of the Martian town.
      He stood  looking  at  the  rocket.  The ports were open and
 his crew  was  streaming  out,  waving  their  hands.  A crowd of
 people had  gathered,  and  in and through and among these people
 the  members  of  the  crew  were  hurrying,  talking,  laughing,
 shaking hands.  People  did  little  dances.  People swarmed. The
 rocket lay empty and abandoned.
      A brass  band  exploded  in the sunlight, flinging off a gay
 tune from  upraised  tubas  and  trumpets.  There  was  a bang of
 drums and  a  shrill  of  fifes.  Little  girls  with golden hair
 jumped up  and  down.  Little  boys  shouted,  "Hooray!"  Fat men
 passed around  ten-cent  cigars.  The  town  mayor made a speech.
 Then each  member  of  the  crew,  with  a  mother  on one arm, a
 father or  sister  on the other, was spirited off down the street
 into little cottages or big mansions.
      "Stop!" cried Captain Black.
      The doors slammed shut.
      The heat  rose  in the clear spring sky, and all was silent.
 The brass  band  banged  off  around a corner, leaving the rocket
 to shine and dazzle alone in the sunlight
      "Abandoned!" said  the  captain.  "They  abandoned the ship,
 they did! I'll have their skins, by God! They had orders!"
      "Sir," said  Lustig,  "don't be too hard on them. Those were
 all old relatives and friends."
      "That's no exuse!"
      "Think  how   they  felt,  Captain,  seeing  familiar  faces
 outside the ship!"
      "They had their orders, damn it!"
      "But how would you have felt, Captain?"
      "I  would   have   obeyed   orders--"  The  captain's  mouth
 remained open.
      Striding along  the  sidewalk  under  the Martian sun, tall,
 smiling, eyes  amazingly  clear  and  blue,  came  a young man of
 some twenty-six  years.  "John!"  the  man  called out, and broke
 into a trot.
      "What?" Captain John Black swayed.
      "John, you old son of a bitch!"
      The man  ran  up  and  gripped  his  hand and slapped him on
 the back.
      "It's you," said Captain Black.
      "Of course, who'd you _think_ it was?"
      "Edward!" The  captain  appealed now to Lustig and Hinkston,
 holding the  stranger's  hand.  "This  is  my brother Edward. Ed,
 meet my men, Lustig, Hinkston! My brother!"
      They  tugged  at  each  other's  hands  and  arms  and  then
 finally embraced.
      "Ed!"
      "John, you bum, you!"
      "You're looking  fine,  Ed,  but,  Ed,  what  _is_ this? You
 haven't changed  over  the  years. You died, I remember, when you
 were twenty-six  and  I  was  nineteen.  Good  God, so many years
 ago, and here you are and, Lord, what goes on?"
      "Mom's waiting," said Edward Black, grinning.
      "Mom?"
      "And Dad too."
      "Dad?" The  captain  almost  fell  as  if he had been hit by
 a mighty  weapon.  He  walked  stiffly and without co.ordination.
 "Mom and Dad alive? Where?"
      "At the old house on Oak Knoll Avenue."
      "The old  house."  The  captain  stared  in delighted amaze.
 "Did you hear that, Lustig, Hinkston?"
      Hinkston was  gone.  He  had  seen  his  own  house down the
 street  and  was  running  for  it.  Lustig  was  laughing.  "You
 see, Captain,  what  happened  to  everyone  on  the rocket? They
 couldn't help themselves."
      "Yes. Yes."  The  captain  shut  his  eyes.  "When I open my
 eyes you'll  be  gone." He blinked. "You're still there. God, Ed,
 but you look _fine!_"
      "Come on, lunch's waiting. I told Mom."
      Lustig said,  "Sir,  I'll  be with my grandfolks if you need
 me."
      "What? Oh, fine, Lustig. Later, then."
      Edward  seized   his  arm  and  marched  him.  "There's  the
 house. Remember it?"
      "Hell! Bet I can beat you to the front porch!"
      They ran.  The  trees  roared over Captain Black's head; the
 earth roared  under  his feet. He saw the golden figure of Edward
 Black pull  ahead  of him in the amazing dream of reality. He saw
 the house  rush  forward, the screen door swing wide. "Beat you!"
 cried Edward.  "I'm  an old man," panted the captain, "and you're
 still young. But then, you _always_ beat me, I remember!"
      In  the  doorway,  Mom,  pink,  plump,  and  bright.  Behind
 her, pepper-gray, Dad, his pipe in his hand.
      "Mom, Dad!"
      He ran up the steps like a child to meet them.

      It was  a  fine  long  afternoon. They finished a late lunch
 and they  sat  in  the  parlor  and  he  told  them all about his
 rocket and  they  nodded  and smiled upon him and Mother was just
 the  same   and   Dad  bit  the  end  off  a  cigar  and  lighted
 it thoughtfully  in  his  old  fashion.  There  was  a big turkey
 dinner at  night  and  time  flowing on. When the drumsticks were
 sucked clean  and  lay  brittle  upon  the  plates,  the  captain
 leaned back  and  exhaled his deep satisfaction, Night was in all
 the trees  and  coloring  the  sky,  and  the lamps were halos of
 pink light  in  the  gentle house. From all the other houses down
 the street came sounds of music, pianos playing, doors slammng.
      Mom put  a  record on the victrola, and she and Captain John
 Black  had   a  dance.  She  was  wearing  the  same  perfume  he
 remembered from  the  summer  when she and Dad had been killed in
 the train  accident.  She  was  very  real  in  his  arms as they
 danced lightly  to  the  music.  "It's  not every day," she said,
 "you get a second chance to live."
      "I'll wake  in  the morning," said the captain. "And I'll be
 in my rocket, in space, and all this will be gone."
      "No, don't  think  that," she cried softly. "Don't question.
 God's good to us. Let's be happy."
      "Sorry, Mom."
      The record ended in a circular hissing.
      "You're tired,  Son."  Dad  pointed  with  his  pipe.  "Your
 old bedroom's waiting for you, brass bed and all."
      "But I should report my men in."
      "Why?"
      "Why? Well,  I  don't  know. No reason, I guess. No, none at
 all. They're  all  eating  or  in bed. A good night's sleep won't
 hurt them."
      "Good night,  Son."  Mom  kissed  his  cheek.  "It's good to
 have you home."
      "It's good to _be_ home."
      He left  the  land  of  cigar  smoke  and  perfume and books
 and gentle  light  and  ascended  the  stairs,  talking,  talking
 with Edward.  Edward  pushed  a  door  open,  and  there  was the
 yellow brass  bed  and the old semaphore banners from college and
 a  very   musty   raccoon   coat  which  he  stroked  with  muted
 affection. "It's  too  much,"  said  the  captain.  "I'm numb and
 I'm tired.  Too  much  has  happened today. I feel as if I'd been
 out  in   a  pounding  rain  for  forty-eight  hours  without  an
 umbrella or a coat. I'm soaked to the skin with emotion."
      Edward slapped  wide  the  snowy  linens  and  flounced  the
 pillows. He  slid  the  window  up  and  let  the  night-blooming
 jasmine float  in.  There  was moonlight and the sound of distant
 dancing and whispering.
      "So this is Mars," said the captain, undressing.
      "This is  it."  Edward  undressed  in idle, leisurely moves,
 drawing his  shirt  off over his head, revealing golden shoulders
 and the good muscular neck.
      The lights  were  out; they were in bed, side by side, as in
 the days  how  many  decades  ago?  The  captain  lolled  and was
 flourished by  the  scent  of  jasmine  pushing the lace curtains
 out upon  the  dark  air  of  the  room.  Among the trees, upon a
 lawn, someone  had  cranked  up  a portable phonograph and now it
 was playing softly, "Always."
      The thought of Marilyn came to his mind.
      "Is Marilyn here?"
      His brother,  lying  straight  out  in  the  moonlight  from
 the window,  waited  and  then  said,  "Yes.  She's  out of town.
 But she'll be here in the morning."
      The captain  shut  his  eyes.  "I  want  to see Marilyn very
 much."
      The room was square and quiet except for their breathing.
      "Good night, Ed."
      A pause. "Good night, John."
      He lay  peacefully,  letting  his  thoughts  float.  For the
 first time  the  stress  of  the  day  was  moved aside; he could
 think  logically   now,  It  had  all  been  emotion.  The  bands
 playing, the familiar faces. But now . . .
      How? he  wondered.  How  was  all  this  made?  And why? For
 what purpose?  Out  of  the goodness of some divine intervention?
 Was God,  then,  really  that thoughtful of his children? How and
 why and what for?
      He considered  the  various  theories  advanced in the first
 heat of  the  afternoon  by Hinkston and Lustig. He let all kinds
 of new  theories  drop  in  lazy  pebbles  down through his mind,
 turning, throwing  out  dull  flashes of light. Mom. Dad. Edward.
 Mars. Earth. Mars. Martians.
      Who had  lived  here a thousand years ago on Mars? Martians?
 Or had this always been the way it was today?
      Martians. He repeated the word idly, inwardly.
      He laughed  out  loud  almost.  He  had  the most ridiculous
 theory quite  suddenly.  It  gave  him  a  kind  of chill. It was
 really  nothing   to  consider,  of  course.  Highly  improbable.
 Silly. Forget it. Ridiculous.
      But, he  thought,  just  _suppose_  . . . Just suppose, now,
 that there  were  Martians  living  on Mars and they saw our ship
 coming and  saw  us  inside  our ship and hated us, Suppose, now,
 just for  the  hell  of  it,  that  they  wanted  to  destroy us,
 as invaders,  as  unwanted  ones,  and  they wanted to do it in a
 very clever  way,  so  that  we  would  be taken off guard. Well,
 what would  the  best  weapon be that a Martian could use against
 Earth Men with atomic weapons?
      The answer  was  interesting.  Telepathy,  hypnosis, memory,
 and imagination.
      Suppose all  of  these  houses  aren't real at all, this bed
 not  real,  but  only  figments  of  my  own  imagination,  given
 substance  by   telepathy  and  hypnosis  through  the  Martians,
 thought Captain  John  Black.  Suppose  these  houses  are really
 some _other_  shape,  a  Martian  shape,  but,  by  playing on my
 desires and  wants,  these  Martians  have made this seem like my
 old home  town,  my  old  house, to lull me out of my suspicions.
 What better  way  to  fool a man, using his own mother and father
 as bait?
      And this  town,  so  old,  from  the  year 1926, long before
 _any_ of  my  men were born. From a year when I was six years old
 and there  _were_  records  of Harry Lauder, and Maxfield Parrish
 paintings _still_  hanging,  and  bead  curtains,  and "Beautiful
 Ohio,"  and   turn-of-the-century   architecture.   What  if  the
 Martians took  the  memories  of  a  town _exclusively_ from _my_
 mind? They  say  childhood  memories  are the clearest. And after
 they built  the  town  from  my  mind,  they  populated  it  with
 the most-loved  people  from  all  the  minds  of  the  people on
 the rocket!
      And suppose  those  two people in the next room, asleep, are
 not my  mother  and  father  at all, But two Martians, incredibly
 brilliant, with  the  ability  to  keep  me  under  this dreaming
 hypnosis all of the time.
      And that  brass  band  today?  What  a startlingly wonderful
 plan it  would  be.  First,  fool  Lustig,  then  Hinkston,  then
 gather a  crowd;  and  all the men in the rocket, seeing mothers,
 aunts,  uncles,   sweethearts,   dead   ten,  twenty  wears  ago,
 naturally, disregarding  orders,  rush out and abandon ship. What
 more  natural?  What  more  unsuspecting?  What  more  simple?  A
 man doesn't  ask  too  many questions when his mother is soddenly
 brought back  to  life;  he's  much  too  happy.  And here we all
 are  tonight,  in  various  houses,  in  various  beds,  with  no
 weapons to  protect  us,  and  the  rocket lies in the moonlight,
 empty. And  wouldn't  it  be  horrible and terrifying to discover
 that all  of  this  was  part  of  some  great clever plan by the
 Martians to  divide  and conquer us, and kill us? Sometime during
 the night,  perhaps,  my  brother  here  on  this bed will change
 form, melt,  shift,  and  become another thing, a terrible thing,
 a Martian.  It  would be very simple for him just to turn over in
 bed and  put  a  knife  into  my  heart.  And  in all those other
 houses down  the  street,  a  dozen  other  brothers  or  fathers
 suddenly melting  away  and  taking  knives  and  doing things to
 the unsuspecting, sleeping men of Earth. . . .
      His hands  were  shaking  under  the  covers.  His  body was
 cold. Suddenly  it  was  not  a  theory.  Suddenly  he  was  very
 afraid.
      He lifted  himself  in  bed and listened. The night was very
 quiet The  music  had  stopped.  The  wind  had died. His brother
 lay sleeping beside him.
      Carefully  he  lifted  the  covers,  rolled  them  back.  He
 slipped from  bed  and  was  walking  softly across the room when
 his brother's voice said, "Where are you going?"
      "What?"
      His brother's  voice  was  quite cold. "I said, where do you
 think you're going?"
      "For a drink of water."
      "But you're not thirsty."
      "Yes, yes, I am."
      "No, you're not."
      Captain John  Black  broke  and  ran  across  the  room.  He
 screamed. He screamed twice.
      He never reached the door.

      In the  morning  the  brass  band  played  a mournful dirge.
 From every  house  in  the  street came little solemn processions
 bearing long  boxes,  and  along  the sun-filled street, weeping,
 came the  grandmas  and  mothers  and  sisters  and  brothers and
 uncles and  fathers,  walking to the churchyard, where there were
 new holes  freshly  dug  and  new  tombstones  installed. Sixteen
 holes in all, and sixteen tombstones.
      The mayor  made  a  little  sad  speech,  his face sometimes
 looking like the mayor, sometimes looking like something else.
      Mother and  Father  Black  were  there, with Brother Edward,
 and they  cried,  their  faces  melting  now from a familiar face
 into something else.
      Grandpa  and  Grandma  Lustig  were  there,  weeping,  their
 faces shifting  like  wax,  shimmering as all things shimmer on a
 hot day.
      The  coffins  were  lowered.  Someone  murmured  about  "the
 unexpected and  sudden  deaths  of  sixteen  fine  men during the
 night--"
      Earth pounded down on the coffin lids.
      The brass  band,  playing  "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,"
 marched and  slammed  back  into  town, and everyone took the day
 off.

           June 2001:  --AND THE MOON BE STILL AS BRIGHT

      It was  so  cold  when  they first came from the rocket into
 the night  that  Spender  began  to  gather  the dry Martian wood
 and  build   a   small   fire.   He  didn't  say  anything  about
 a celebration;  he  merely  gathered  the  wood,  set fire to it,
 and watched it burn.
      In the  flare  that  lighted  the  thin air of this dried-up
 sea of  Mars  he looked over his shoulder and saw the rocket that
 had brought  them  all,  Captain  Wilder and Cheroke and Hathaway
 and Sam  Parkhill  and  himself,  across  a silent black space of
 stars to land upon a dead, dreaming world.
      Jeff Spender  waited  for  the  noise.  He watched the other
 men and  waited  for  them  to  jump  around  and shout. It would
 happen as  soon  as the numbness of being the "first" men to Mars
 wore off.  None  of  them  said  anything,  but many of them were
 hoping, perhaps,  that  the other expeditions had failed and that
 this, the  Fourth,  would  be  _the_ one. They meant nothing evil
 by it.  But  they  stood  thinking  it, nevertheless, thinking of
 the honor  and  fame,  while  their  lungs  became  accustomed to
 the thinness  of  the  atmosphere, which almost made you drunk if
 you moved too quiddy.
      Gibbs walked  over  to  the  freshly  ignited fire and said,
 "Why don't we use the ship chemical fire instead of that wood?"
      "Never mind," said Spender, not looking up.
      It wouldn't  be  right,  the  first night on Mars, to make a
 loud noise,  to  introduce  a  strange,  silly  bright thing like
 a stove.  It  would  be  a kind of imported blasphemy. There'd be
 time for  that  later;  time  to throw condensed-milk cans in the
 proud Martian  canals;  time  for  copies of the New York _Times_
 to blow  and  caper  and  rustle  across  the  lone  gray Martian
 sea bottoms;  time  for  banana  peels  and  picnic papers in the
 fluted, delicate  ruins  of  the old Martian valley towns. Plenty
 of time  for  that.  And  he  gave  a  small inward shiver at the
 thought.
      He fed  the  fire  by  hand,  and it was like an offering to
 a  dead   giant,  They  had  landed  on  an  immense  tomb.  Here
 a civilization  had  died.  It  was only simple courtesy that the
 first night be spent quietly.
      "This isn't  my  idea  of  a  celebration."  Gibbs turned to
 Captain Wilder.  "Sir,  I  thought  we might break out rations of
 gin and meat and whoop it up a bit."
      Captain Wilder  looked  off  toward a dead city a mile away.
 "We're all  tired,"  he  said remotely, as if his whole attention
 was  on   the  city  and  his  men  forgotten.  "Tomorrow  night,
 perhaps. Tonight  we  should  be  glad  we  got  across  all that
 space without  getting  a  meteor  in  our bulkhead or having one
 man of us die."
      The men  shifted  around. There were twenty of them, holding
 to each  other's  shoulders  or  adjusting  their  belts. Spender
 watched them.  They  were  not  satisfied.  They had risked their
 lives to  do  a  big thing. Now they wanted to be shouting drunk,
 firing off  guns  to  show how wonderful they were to have kicked
 a hole in space and ridden a rocket all the way to Mars.
      But nobody was yelling.
      The captain  gave  a  quiet  order.  One of the men ran into
 the ship  and  brought  forth  food  tins  which  were opened and
 dished out  without  much  noise.  The men were beginning to talk
 now. The  captain  sat  down  and  recounted  the  trip  to them.
 They already  knew  it  all,  but  it  was good to hear about it,
 as something  over  and  done and safely put away. They would not
 talk about  the  return  trip.  Someone brought that up, but they
 told  him   to  keep  quiet.  The  spoons  moved  in  the  double
 moonlight; the food tasted good and the wine was even better.
      There was  a  touch  of  fire across the sky, and an instant
 later the  auxiliary  rocket  landed  beyond  the  camp.  Spender
 watched   as    the    small    port    opened    and   Hathaway,
 the physician-geologist--they  were  all  men of twofold ability,
 to conserve  space  on  the  trip--stepped  out. He walked slowly
 over to the captain.
      "Well?" said Captain Wilder.
      Hathaway gazed  out  at  the  distant  cities  twinkling  in
 the starlight.  After  swallowing  and focusing his eyes he said,
 "That city  there,  Captain,  is  dead  and  has been dead a good
 many thousand  years.  That  applies to those three cities in the
 hills also. But that fifth city, two hundred miles over, sir--"
      "What about it?"
      "People were living in it last week, sir."
      Spender got to his feet.
      "Martians," said Hathaway.
      "Where are they now?"
      "Dead," said  Hathaway.  "I went into a house on one street.
 I thought  that  it,  like  the  other towns and houses, had been
 dead for  centuries.  My  God,  there  were  bodies there. It was
 like walking  in  a pile of autumn leaves. Like sticks and pieces
 of burnt  newspaper,  that's  all.  And _fresh_. They'd been dead
 ten days at the outside."
      "Did you check other towns? Did you see _anything_ alive?"
      "Nothing whatever.  So  I went out to check the other towns.
 Four out  of  five  have  been  empty  for  thousands  of  years.
 What  happened   to   the  original  inhabitants  I  haven't  the
 faintest idea.  But  the  fifth  city  always  contained the same
 thing. Bodies. Thousands of bodies."
      "What did they die of?" Spender moved forward.
      "You won't believe it."
      "What killed them?"
      Hathaway said simply, "Chicken pox."
      "My God, no!"
      "Yes. I  made  tests.  Chicken  pox.  It  did  things to the
 Martians  it   never   did   to   Earth   Men.  Their  metabolism
 reacted differently,  I  suppose. Burnt them black and dried them
 out to  brittle  flakes.  But  it's chicken pox, nevertheless. So
 York and  Captain  Williams  and  Captain  Black  must  have  got
 through to  Mars,  all three expeditions. God knows what happened
 to them.  But  we  at  least know what _they_ unintentionally did
 to the Martians."
      "You saw no other life?"
      "Chances are  a  few  of  the  Martians, if they were smart,
 escaped to  the  mountains.  But  there  aren't  enough, I'll lay
 you money, to be a native problem. This planet is through."
      Spender turned  and  went  to  sit at the fire, looking into
 it. Chicken  pox,  God,  chicken  pox, think of it! A race builds
 itself for  a  million  years, refines itself, erects cities like
 those out  there,  does  everything it can to give itself respect
 and beauty,  and  then  it  dies.  Part of it dies slowly, in its
 own time,  before  our  age, with dignity. But the rest! Does the
 rest of  Mars  die  of a disease with a fine name or a terrifying
 name or  a  majestic name? No, in the name of all that's holy, it
 has to  be  chicken  pox,  a  child's  disease,  a  disease  that
 doesn't even  kill  _children_  on Earth! It's not right and it's
 not fair.  It's  like  saying  the  Greeks  died of mumps, or the
 proud Romans  died  on  their  beautiful hills of athlete's foot!
 If only  we'd  given  the  Martians  time  to arrange their death
 robes, lie  down,  look  fit,  and  think  up some _other_ excuse
 for dying.  It  can't  be  a dirty, silly thing like chicken pox.
 It doesn't  fit  the  architecture;  it  doesn't  fit this entire
 world!
      "All right, Hathaway, get yourself some food."
      "Thank you, Captain."
      And as  quickly  as  that  it  was forgotten. The men talked
 among themselves.
      Spender did  not  take  his  eyes off them. He left his food
 on his  plate  under  his hands. He felt the land getting colder.
 The stars drew closer, very clear.
      When anyone  talked  too  loudly  the captain would reply in
 a low voice that made them talk quietly from imitation.
      The air  smelled  clean and new. Spender sat for a long time
 just enjoying  the  way it was made. It had a lot of things in it
 he couldn't identify: flowers, chemistries, dusts, winds.
      "Then there  was  that  time  in  New  York  when I got that
 blonde, what's  her  name?--Ginnie!"  cried  Biggs.  "_That_  was
 it!"
      Spender tightened  in.  His  hand  began to quiver. His eyes
 moved behind the thin, sparse lids.
      "And Ginnie said to me--" cried Biggs.
      The men roared.
      "So I  smacked  her!"  shouted  Biggs  with  a bottle in his
 hand.
      Spender set  down  his  plate.  He listened to the wind over
 his ears,  cool  and  whispering.  He  looked  at the cool ice of
 the white Martian buildings over there on the empty sea lands.
      "What a  woman,  what  a woman!" Biggs emptied his bottle in
 his wide mouth. "Of all the women I ever knew!"
      The smell  of  Biggs's sweating body was on the air. Spender
 let the  fire  die.  "Hey,  kick  her  up  there,  Spender!" said
 Biggs, glancing  at  him  for  a moment, then back to his bottle.
 "Well, one night Ginnie and me--"
      A man  named  Schoenke  got  out  his  accordion  and  did a
 kicking dance, the dust springing up around him.
      "Ahoo--I'm alive!" he shouted.
      "Yay!" roared  the  men. They threw down their empty plates.
 Three of  them  lined  up  and kicked like chorus maidens, joking
 loudly. The  others,  clapping  hands,  yelled  for  something to
 happen. Cheroke  pulled  off  his  shirt  and  showed  his  naked
 chest, sweating  as  he  whirled  about.  The  moonlight shone on
 his crewcut hair and his young, clean-shaven cheeks.
      In the  sea  bottom the wind stirred along faint vapors, and
 from the  mountains  great  stone visages looked upon the silvery
 rocket and the small fire.
      The noise  got  louder,  more  men jumped up, someone sucked
 on a  mouth  organ,  someone  else blew on a tissue-papered comb.
 Twenty more  bottles  were  opened  and  drunk.  Biggs  staggered
 about, wagging his arms to direct the dancing men.
      "Come on,  sir!"  cried  Cheroke  to  the captain, wailing a
 song.
      The captain  had  to  join the dance. He didn't want to. His
 face was  solemn.  Spender  watched, thinking: You poor man, what
 a night  this  is!  They  don't  know  what  they're  doing. They
 should have  had  an orientation program before they came to Mars
 to tell  them  how to look and how to walk around and be good for
 a few days.
      "That does  it."  The  captain  begged  off  and  sat  down,
 saying he  was  exhausted. Spender looked at the captain's chest.
 It wasn't  moving  up and down very fast. His face wasn't sweaty,
 either.
      Accordion,   harmonica,    wine,    shout,    dance,   wail,
 roundabout, dash of pan, laughter.
      Biggs weaved  to  the  rim  of the Martian canal. He carried
 six empty  bottles  and  dropped  them  one  by one into the deep
 blue canal  waters.  They  made empty, hollow, drowning sounds as
 they sank.
      "I christen  thee,  I christen thee, I christen thee--" said
 Biggs thickly. "I christen thee Biggs, Biggs, Biggs Canal--"
      Spender was  on  his  feet,  over  the  fire,  and alongside
 Biggs before  anyone  moved.  He  hit Biggs once in the teeth and
 once in  the  ear.  Biggs  toppled  and  fell down into the canal
 water. After  the  splash  Spender  waited  silently for Biggs to
 climb back  up  onto  the  stone  bank. By that time the men were
 holding Spender.
      "Hey, what's eating you, Spender? Hey?" they asked.
      Biggs  climbed  up  and  stood  dripping.  He  saw  the  men
 holding Spender. "Well," he said, and started forward.
      "That's enough,"  snapped  Captain  Wilder.  The  men  broke
 away from Spender. Biggs stopped and glanced at the captain.
      "All right,  Biggs,  get  some  dry  clothes. You men, carry
 on your party! Spender, come with me!"
      The men  took  up  the party. Wilder moved off some distance
 and  confronted   Spender.   "Suppose   you   explain  what  just
 happened," he said.
      Spender looked  at  the canal. "I don't know, I was ashamed.
 Of Biggs and us and the noise. Christ, what a spectade."
      "It's been a long trip. They've got to have their fling."
      "Where's their  respect,  sir?  Where's  their  sense of the
 right thing?"
      "You're  tired,   and  you've  a  different  way  of  seeing
 things, Spender. That's a fifty-dollar fine for you."
      "Yes, sir.  It  was  just  the idea of Them watching us make
 fools of ourselves."
      "Them?"
      "The Martians, whether they're dead or not."
      "Most certainly  dead,"  said  the  captain.  "Do  you think
 They know we're here?"
      "Doesn't an old thing always know when a new thing comes?"
      "I suppose so. You sound as if you believe in spirits."
      "I  believe   in  the  things  that  were  done,  and  there
 are evidences  of  many  things  done  on Mars. There are streets
 and houses,  and  there  are books, I imagine, and big canals and
 docks  and  places  for  stabling,  if  not  horses,  well,  then
 some domestic  animal,  perhaps  with  twelve  legs,  who  knows?
 Everywhere I  look  I  see  things  that  were  _used_. They were
 touched and handled for centuries,
      "Ask me,  then,  if  I  believe  in the spirit of the things
 as they  were  used,  and  I'll  say  yes.  They're all here. All
 the things  which  had  uses.  All the mountains which had names.
 And  we'll   never   be   able   to   use  them  without  feeling
 uncomfortable. And  somehow  the mountains will never sound right
 to us;  we'll  give  them  new  names,  but  the  old  names  are
 there, somewhere  in  time,  and  the  mountains  were shaped and
 seen under  those  names.  The  names  we'll  give  to the canals
 and mountains  and  cities  will  fall  like so much water on the
 back of  a  mallard.  No  matter  how  we touch Mars, we'll never
 touch it.  And  then we'll get mad at it, and you know what we'll
 do? We'll  rip  it  up,  rip  the  skin  off,  and  change  it to
 fit ourselves."
      "We won't  ruin  Mars,"  said the captain. "It's too big and
 too good."
      "You think  not?  We  Earth  Men  have  a talent for ruining
 big, beautiful  things.  The only reason we didn't set up hot-dog
 stands in  the  midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because
 it was  out  of  the  way and served no large commercial purpose.
 And Egypt  is  a  small part of Earth. But here, this whole thing
 is ancient  and  different,  and  we  have  to set down somewhere
 and start  fouling  it  up.  We'll call the canal the Rockefeller
 Canal and  the  mountain  King  George  Mountain  and the sea the
 Dupont sea,  and  there'll  be Roosevelt and Lincoln and Coolidge
 cities and  it  won't  ever be right, when there are the _proper_
 names for these places."
      "That'll be  your  job,  as  archaeologists, to find out the
 old names, and we'll use them."
      "A few  men  like  us against all the commercial interests."
 Spender  looked   at  the  iron  mountains.  "_They_  know  we're
 here tonight,  to  spit  in  their  wine, and I imagine they hate
 us."
      The captain  shook  his  head.  "There's  no  hatred  here."
 He listened  to  the  wind.  "From  the look of their cities they
 were  a  graceful,  beautiful,  and  philosophical  people.  They
 accepted what  came  to  them. They acceded to racial death, that
 much we  know,  and  without  a  last-moment  war  of frustration
 to tumble  down  their  cities.  Every town we've seen so far has
 been flawlessly  intact.  They  probably don't mind us being here
 any more  than  they'd mind children playing on the lawn, knowing
 and understanding  children  for  what  they  are.  And,  anyway,
 perhaps all this will change us for the better.
      "Did you  notice  the  peculiar  quiet  of the men, Spender,
 until Biggs  forced  them to get happy? They looked pretty humble
 and frightened.  Looking  at  all this, we know we're not so hot;
 we're kids  in  rompers,  shouting  with  our  play  rockets  and
 atoms, loud  and  alive.  But  one  day  Earth will be as Mars is
 today.  This   will   sober   us.   It's   an  object  lesson  in
 civilizations. We'll  learn  from  Mars.  Now  suck in your chin.
 Let's go  back  and  play  happy.  That  fifty-dollar  fine still
 goes."

      The party  was  not  going too well. The wind kept coming in
 off the  dead  sea.  It  moved around the men and it moved around
 the captain  and  Jeff Spender as they returned to the group. The
 wind pulled  at  the  dust  and  the shining rocket and pulled at
 the accordion,  and  the  dust got into the vamped harmonica. The
 dust got  in  their  eyes  and the wind made a high singing sound
 in the air. As suddenly as it had come the wind died.
      But the party had died too.
      The men stood upright against the dark cold sky.
      "Come on,  gents,  come  on!" Biggs bounded from the ship in
 a fresh  uniform,  not  looking  at  Spender even once. His voice
 was like  someone  in  an  empty  auditorium. It was alone. "Come
 on!"
      Nobody moved.
      "Come on, Whitie, your harmonica!"
      Whitie blew  a  chord.  It  sounded  funny and wrong. Whitie
 knocked the moisture from his harmonica and put it away.
      "What kinda party _is_ this?" Biggs wanted to know.
      Someone hugged  the  accordion.  It  gave  a  sound  like  a
 dying animal. That was all.
      "Okay, me  and  my  bottle  will  go  have  our  own party."
 Biggs squatted against the rocket, drinking from a flask.
      Spender watched  him.  Spender did not move for a long time.
 Then his  fingers  crawled  up  along  his  trembling  leg to his
 holstered pistol,  very  quietly,  and  stroked  and  tapped  the
 leather sheath.
      "All  those  who  want  to  can  come  into  the  city  with
 me," announced  the  captain.  "We'll  post  a  guard here at the
 rocket and go armed, just in case."
      The  men  counted  off.  Fourteen  of  them  wanted  to  go,
 including  Biggs,  who  laughingly  counted  himself  in,  waving
 his bottle. Six others stayed behind.
      "Here we go!" Biggs shouted.
      The party  moved  out  into  the  moonlight,  silently. They
 made their  way  to  the  outer  rim of the dreaming dead city in
 the light  of  the  racing twin moons. Their shadows, under them,
 were  double  shadows.  They  did  not  breathe,  or  seemed  not
 to,  perhaps,   for   several  minutes.  They  were  waiting  for
 something to  stir  in  the  dead  city,  some gray form to rise,
 some ancient,  ancestral  shape  to  come  galloping  across  the
 vacant sea  bottom  on  an  ancient,  armored steel of impossible
 lineage, of unbelievable derivation.
      Spender filled  the  streets  with  his  eyes  and his mind.
 People moved  like  blue  vapor  lights  on  the cobbled avenues,
 and  there   were   faint  murmurs  of  sound,  and  odd  animals
 scurrying across  the  gray-red  sands.  Each  window  was  given
 a person  who  leaned  from  it  and  waved  slowly,  as if under
 a timeless  water,  at  some  moving form in the fathoms of space
 below the  moon-silvered  towers.  Music was played on some inner
 ear, and  Spender  imagined  the  shape  of  such  instruments to
 evoke such music. The land was haunted.
      "Hey!" shouted  Biggs,  standing  tall, his hands around his
 open mouth. "Hey, you people in the city there, you!"
      "Biggs!" said the captain.
      Biggs quieted.
      They walked  forward  on  a  tiled  avenue.  They  were  all
 whispering now,  for  it was like entering a vast open library or
 a mausoleum  in  which  the  wind  lived and over which the stars
 shone. The  captain  spoke  quietly. He wondered where the people
 had gone,  and  what they had been, and who their kings were, and
 how they  had  died.  And  he  wondered,  quietly aloud, how they
 had built  this  city to last the ages through, and had they ever
 come to  Earth?  Were  they  ancestors  of Earth Men ten thousand
 years removed?  And  had  they  loved and hated similar loves and
 hates, and  done  similar  silly  things  when  silly things were
 done?
      Nobody moved.  The  moons  held  and  froze  them;  the wind
 beat slowly around them.
      "Lord Byron," said Jeff Spender.
      "Lord who?" The captain turned and regarded him.
      "Lord Byron,  a  nineteenth-century  poet.  He  wrote a poem
 a long  time  ago  that  fits this city and how the Martians must
 feel, if  there's  anything  left  of them to feel. It might have
 been written by the last Martian poet."
      The men stood motionless, their shadows under them.
      The captain said, "How does the poem go, Spender?"
      Spender shifted,  put  out  his  hand  to remember, squinted
 silently a  moment;  then,  remembering,  his  slow  quiet  voice
 repeated the words and the men listened to everything he said:

                  "_So we'll go no more a-roving
                      So late into the night,
               Though the heart be still as loving,
                And the moon be still as bright_."

      The city  was  gray and high and motionless. The men's faces
 were turned in the light.

               "_For the sword outwears its sheath,
                And the soul wears out the breast,
               And the heart must pause to breathe,
                    And love itself must rest.

              "Though the night was made for loving,
                   And the day returns too soon,
                   Yet we'll go no more a-roving
                    By the light of the moon_."

      Without a  word  the  Earth  Men  stood in the center of the
 city. It  was  a  clear  night.  There was not a sound except the
 wind. At  their  feet  lay  a  tile  court worked into the shapes
 of ancient animals and peoples. They looked down upon it.
      Biggs made  a  sick noise in his throat. His eyes were dull.
 His hands  went  to  his  mouth;  he choked, shut his eyes, bent,
 and a  thick  rush  of  fluid filled his mouth, spilled out, fell
 to splash  on  the  tiles,  covering  the designs. Biggs did this
 twice, A sharp winy stench filled the cool air.
      No one moved to help Biggs. He went on being sick.
      Spender stared  for  a  moment,  then  turned and walked off
 into the  avenues  of  the  city,  alone  in the moonlight. Never
 once did he pause to look back at the gathered men there.

      They turned  in  at  four  in  the  morning.  They  lay upon
 blankets  and  shut  their  eyes  and  breathed  the  quiet  air.
 Captain Wilder sat feeding little sticks into the fire.
      McClure  opened  his  eyes  two  hours  later.  "Aren't  you
 sleeping, sir?"
      "I'm waiting for Spender." The captain smiled faintly.
      McClure thought  it  over.  "You  know,  sir,  I don't think
 he'll ever  come  back.  I  don't know how I know, but that's the
 way I feel about him, sir; he'll never come back."
      McClure rolled over into sleep. The fire cradded and died.

      Spender did  not  return  in the following week. The captain
 sent searching  parties,  but  they  came back saying they didn't
 know where  Spender  could  have  gone.  He would be back when he
 got good  and  ready.  He was a sorehead, they said. To the devil
 with him!
      The captain  said  nothing but wrote it down in his log. . .
 .
      It was  a  morning  that  might  have  been  a  Monday  or a
 Tuesday or  any  day  on  Mars.  Biggs  was on the canal rim; his
 feet hung  down  into  the cool water, soaking, while he took the
 sun on his face.
      A man  walked  along  the  bank  of the canal. The man threw
 a shadow down upon Biggs. Biggs glanced up.
      "Well, I'll be damned!" said Biggs.
      "I'm the last Martian," said the man, taking out a gun.
      "What did you say?" asked Biggs.
      "I'm going to kill you."
      "Cut it. What kind of joke's that, Spender?"
      "Stand up and take it in the stomach."
      "For Christ's sake, put that gun away."
      Spender pulled  the  trigger  only  once.  Biggs  sat on the
 edge of  the  canal  for  a  moment  before he leaned forward and
 fell into  the  water.  The  gun  had made only a whispering hum.
 The body  drifted  with  slow  unconcern  under  the  slow  canal
 tides. It  made  a  hollow  bubbling  sound  that  ceased after a
 moment.
      Spender  shoved   his   gun  into  its  holster  and  walked
 soundlessly away.  The  sun  was  shining down upon Mars. He felt
 it burn  his  hands  and  slide over the sides of his tight face.
 He did  not  run;  he  walked  as  if  nothing  were  new  except
 the daylight.  He  walked down to the rocket, and some of the men
 were eating  a  freshly  cooked  breakfast  under a shelter built
 by Cookie.
      "Here comes The Lonely One," someone said.
      "Hello, Spender! Long time no see!"
      The four  men  at  the  table  regarded  the  silent man who
 stood looking back at them.
      "You and  them  goddamn  ruins,"  laughed  Cookie,  stirring
 a black  substance  in  a  crock.  "You're  like  a dog in a bone
 yard."
      "Maybe," said  Spender,  "I've been finding out things. What
 would you say if I said I'd found a Martian prowling around?"
      The four men laid down their forks.
      "Did you? Where?"
      "Never mind.  Let  me ask you a question. How would you feel
 if you  were  a  Martian and people came to your land and started
 tearing it up?"
      "I know  exactly  how  I'd  feel,"  said  Cheroke. "I've got
 some Cherokee  blood  in  me.  My  grandfather  told  me  lots of
 things about  Oklahoma  Territory.  If  there's a Martian around,
 I'm all for him."
      "What about you other men?" asked Spender carefully.
      Nobody answered;  their  silence  was  talk enough. Catch as
 catch can,  finder's  keepers,  if  the  other  fellow  turns his
 cheek slap it hard, etc. . . .
      "Well," said Spender, "I've found a Martian."
      The men squinted at him.
      "Up in  a  dead  town. I didn't think I'd find him. I didn't
 intend looking  him  up.  I  don't  know what he was doing there.
 I've been  living  in  a  little  valley  town  for about a week,
 learning how  to  read the ancient books and looking at their old
 art forms.  And  one  day  I saw this Martian. He stood there for
 a moment  and  then  he was gone. He didn't come back for another
 day. I  sat  around,  learning  how  to read the old writing, and
 the Martian  came  back,  each time a little nearer, until on the
 day  I   learned  how  to  decipher  the  Martian  language--it's
 amazingly simple  and  there  are  picturegraphs to help you--the
 Martian appeared  before  me  and said, 'Give me your boots.' And
 I gave  him  my  boots and he said, 'Give me your uniform and all
 the rest  of  your apparel.' And I gave him all of that, and then
 he said,  'Give  me  your  gun,'  and  I gave him my gun. Then he
 said, 'Now  come  along  and watch what happens.' And the Martian
 walked down into camp and he's here now."
      "I don't see any Martian," said Cheroke.
      "I'm sorry."
      Spender took  out  his  gun.  It  hummed  softly.  The first
 bullet got  the  man  on  the  left; the second and third bullets
 took the  men  on  the  right and the center of the table. Cookie
 turned in  horror  from  the  fire  to receive the fourth bullet.
 He fell  back  into  the  fire  and  lay  there while his clothes
 caught fire.
      The rocket  lay  in  the  sun.  Three  men sat at breakfast,
 their hands  on  the  table,  not moving, their food getting cold
 in front  of  them.  Cheroke,  untouched,  sat  alone, staring in
 numb disbelief at Spender.
      "You can come with me," said Spender.
      Cheroke said nothing.
      "You can be with me on this." Spender waited.
      Finally Cheroke  was  able  to  speak. "You killed them," he
 said, daring to look at the men around him.
      "They deserved it."
      "You're crazy!"
      "Maybe I am. But you can come with me."
      "Come with  you,  for  what?"  cried Cheroke, the color gone
 from his face, his eyes watering. "Go on, get out!"
      Spender's face  hardened.  "Of  all  of  them, I thought you
 would understand."
      "Get out!" Cheroke reached for his gun.
      Spender fired one last time. Cheroke stopped moving.
      Now Spender  swayed.  He  put his hand to his sweating face.
 He glanced  at  the  rocket and suddenly began to shake all over.
 He almost  fell,  the  physical reaction was so overwhelming. His
 face held  an  expression  of  one  awakening from hypnosis, from
 a dream.  He  sat  down  for  a moment and told the shaking to go
 away.
      "Stop it,  stop  it!"  he commanded of his body. Every fiber
 of him  was  quivering  and  shaking.  "Stop  it!" He crushed his
 body with  his  mind  until  all  the shaking was squeezed out of
 it. His hands lay calmly now upon his silent knees.
      He arose  and  strapped  a  portable  storage  locker on his
 back with  quiet  efficiency.  His  hand  began to tremble again,
 just for  a  breath  of  an  instant,  but  he  said,  "No!" very
 firmly, and  the  trembling  passed.  Then,  walking  stiffly, he
 moved out between the hot red hills of the land, alone.

      The sun  burned  farther  up  the  sky.  An  hour  later the
 captain climbed  down  out  of  the  rocket  to  get some ham and
 eggs. He  was  just  saying  hello  to the four men sitting there
 when he  stopped  and  noticed  a faint smell of gun fumes on the
 air. He  saw  the  cook  lying  on  the ground, with the campfire
 under him. The four men sat before food that was now cold.
      A  moment  later  Parkhill  and  two  others  climbed  down.
 The captain  stood  in  their  way,  fascinated by the silent men
 and the way they sat at their breakfast.
      "Call the men, all of them," said the captain.
      Parkhill hurried off down the canal rim.
      The captain  touched  Cheroke.  Cheroke  twisted quietly and
 fell from  his  chair. Sunlight burned in his bristled short hair
 and on his high cheekbones.
      The men came in.
      "Who's missing?"
      "It's  still  Spender,  sir.  We  found  Biggs  floating  in
 the canal."
      "Spender!"
      The captain  saw  the  hills  rising  in  the  daylight, The
 sun showed  his  teeth in a grimace. "Damn him," he said tiredly.
 "Why didn't he come and talk to me?"
      "He  should've   talked   to  _me_,"  cried  Parkhill,  eyes
 blazing. "I'd  have  shot  his bloody brains out, that's what I'd
 have done, by God!"
      Captain Wilder  nodded  at  two  of  his men. "Get shovels,"
 he said.
      It was  hot  digging  the graves. A warm wind came from over
 the vacant  sea  and  blew  the  dust  into  their  faces  as the
 captain turned  the  Bible  pages.  When  the  captain closed the
 book someone  began  shoveling  slow  streams  of  sand down upon
 the wrapped figures.
      They walked  back  to  the  rocket,  clicked  the mechanisms
 of their  rifles,  put  thick  grenade  packets  on  their backs,
 and checked  the  free  play  of  pistols in their holsters. They
 were each  assigned  part  of  the  hills.  The  captain directed
 them without  raising  his  voice  or moving his hands where they
 hung at his sides.
      "Let's go," he said.

      Spender saw  the  thin  dust  rising  in  several  places in
 the valley  and  he  knew the pursuit was organized and ready. He
 put down  the  thin  silver  book  that he had been reading as he
 sat  easily   on   a   flat   boulder.   The  book's  pages  were
 tissue-thin, pure  silver,  hand-painted  in  black  and gold. It
 was a  book  of  philosophy  at  least  ten thousand years old he
 had found  in  one  of  the  villas  of a Martian valley town. He
 was reluctant to lay it aside.
      For a  time  he  had  thought, What's the use? I'll sit here
 reading until they come along and shoot me.
      The first  reaction  to his killing the six men this morning
 had caused  a  period  of  stunned  blankness, then sickness, and
 now, a  strange  peace.  But  the  peace was passing, too, for he
 saw the  dust  billowing  from the trails of the hunting men, and
 he experienced the return of resentment.
      He took  a  drink  of  cool water from his hip canteen. Then
 he stood  up,  stretched,  yawned,  and  listened to the peaceful
 wonder of  the  valley  around  him.  How  very  fine if he and a
 few others  he  knew on Earth could be here, live out their lives
 here, without a sound or a worry.
      He carried  the  book with him in one hand, the pistol ready
 in his  other.  There  was  a  little swift-running stream filled
 with white  pebbles  and  rocks  where  he undressed and waded in
 for a  brief  washing.  He  took  all  the  time he wanted before
 dressing and picking up his gun again.
      The firing  began  about  three  in  the  afternoon. By then
 Spender was  high  in  the hills. They followed him through three
 small  Martian  hill  towns.  Above  the  towns,  scattered  like
 pebbles, were  single  villas  where  ancient  families had found
 a brook,  a  green spot, and laid out a tile pool, a library, and
 a court  with  a  pulsing  fountain.  Spender  took half an hour,
 swimming in  one  of the pools which was filled with the seasonal
 rain, waiting for the pursuers to catch up with him.
      Shots rang  out  as  he  was  leaving the little villa. Tile
 chipped up  some  twenty feet behind him, exploded. He broke into
 a trot,  moved  behind a series of small bluffs, turned, and with
 his first shot dropped one of the men dead in his tracks.
      They would  form  a  net,  a circle; Spender knew that. They
 would go  around  and  close  in  and  they would get him. It was
 a strange  thing  that the grenades were not used. Captain Wilder
 could easily order the grenades tossed.
      But  I'm  much  too  nice  to  be  blown  to  bits,  thought
 Spender. That's  what  the  captain thinks. He wants me with only
 one hole  in  me.  Isn't that odd? He wants my death to be clean.
 Nothing messy.  Why?  Because  he  understands  me.  And  because
 he understands,  he's  willing  to  risk  good  men  to give me a
 clean shot in the head. Isn't that it?
      Nine, ten  shots  broke  out  in  a rattle. Rocks around him
 jumped up.  Spender  fired  steadily, sometimes while glancing at
 the silver book he carried in his hand.
      The captain  ran  in  the  hot  sunlight with a rifle in his
 hands. Spender  followed  him  in  his  pistol sights but did not
 fire. Instead  he  shifted  and  blew  the  top  off a rock where
 Whitie lay, and heard an angry shout.
      Suddenly the  captain  stood up. He had a white handkerchief
 in his  hands.  He  said something to his men and came walking up
 the mountain  after  putting  aside his rifle. Spender lay there,
 then got to his feet, his pistol ready.
      The captain  came  up  and  sat  down on a warm boulder, not
 looking at Spender for a moment.
      The  captain  reached  into  his  blouse  pocket.  Spender's
 fingers tightened on the pistol.
      The captain said, "Cigarette?"
      "Thanks." Spender took one.
      "Light?"
      "Got my own."
      They took one or two puffs in silence.
      "Warm," said the captain.
      "It is."
      "You comfortable up here?"
      "Quite."
      "How long do you think you can hold out?"
      "About twelve men's worth."
      "Why didn't  you  kill  all  of us this morning when you had
 the chance? You could have, you know."
      "I know.  I  got  sick.  When  you  want to do a thing badly
 enough you  lie  to  yourself.  You  say the other people are all
 wrong. Well,  soon  after  I  started  killing  people I realized
 they were  just  fools  and  I  shouldn't be killing them. But it
 was too  late.  I  couldn't go on with it then, so I came up here
 where I  could  lie  to  myself some more and get angry, to build
 it all up again.
      "Is it built up?"
      "Not very high. Enough."
      The captain considered his cigarette. "Why did you do it?"
      Spender quietly  laid  his pistol at his feet. "Because I've
 seen that  what  these  Martians had was just as good as anything
 we'll ever  hope  to  have.  They  stopped  where  we should have
 stopped a  hundred  years  ago.  I've  walked in their cities and
 I know these people and I'd be glad to call them my ancestors."
      "They have  a  beautiful  city there." The captain nodded at
 one of several places.
      "It's not  that  alone.  Yes,  their  cities  are good. They
 knew how  to  blend  art  into  their  living. It's always been a
 thing apart  for  Americans.  Art  was  something you kept in the
 crazy son's  room  upstairs. Art was something you took in Sunday
 doses, mixed  with  religion,  perhaps. Well, these Martians have
 art and religion and everything."
      "You think they knew what it was all about, do you?"
      "For my money."
      "And for that reason you started shooting people."
      "When I  was  a  kid  my folks took me to visit Mexico City.
 I'll always  remember  the way my father acted--loud and big. And
 my mother  didn't  like  the  people  because  they were dark and
 didn't wash  enough.  And  my  sister  wouldn't  talk  to most of
 them. I  was  the  only  one  really  liked  it. And I can see my
 mother and father coming to Mars and acting the same way here.
      "Anything  that's   strange   is  no  good  to  the  average
 American. If  it  doesn't  have  Chicago plumbing, it's nonsense.
 The thought  of  that! Oh God, the thought of that! And then--the
 war. You  heard  the  congressional  speeches  before we left. If
 things work  out  they  hope  to  establish three atomic research
 and atom  bomb  depots  on Mars. That means Mars is finished; all
 this wonderful  stuff  gone.  How  would  you  feel  if a Martian
 vomited stale liquor on the White House floor?"
      The captain said nothing but listened.
      Spender continued:  "And  then  the  other  power  interests
 coming up.  The  mineral  men and the travel men. Do you remember
 what happened  to  Mexico  when  Cortez  and  his  very fine good
 friends  arrived  from  Spain?  A  whole  civilization  destroyed
 by  greedy,   righteous   bigots.   History  will  never  forgive
 Cortez."
      "You  haven't  acted  ethically  yourself  today,"  observed
 the captain.
      "What could  I  do?  Argue  with you? It's simply me against
 the  whole  crooked  grinding  greedy  setup  on  Earth.  They'll
 be flopping  their  filthy  atoms  bombs  up  here,  fighting for
 bases to  have  wars.  Isn't it enough they've ruined one planet,
 without ruining  another;  do  they  have  to foul someone else's
 manger? The  simple-minded  windbags.  When  I got up here I felt
 I was  not  only  free  of  their so-called culture, I felt I was
 free of  their  ethics  and their customs. I'm out of their frame
 of reference,  I  thought.  All  I have to do is kill you all off
 and live my own life."
      "But it didn't work out," said the captain.
      "No. After  the  fifth  killing  at  breakfast, I discovered
 I wasn't  all  new,  all  Martian,  after  all.  I couldn't throw
 away everything  I  had  learned  on  Earth  so  easily.  But now
 I'm feeling  steady  again.  I'll kill you all off. That'll delay
 the next  trip  in  a  rocket  for  a good five years. There's no
 other rocket  in  existence  today,  save this one. The people on
 Earth will  wait  a  year,  two years, and when they hear nothing
 from us,  they'll  be  very afraid to build a new rocket. They'll
 take twice  as  long and make a hundred extra experimental models
 to insure themselves against another failure."
      "You're correct."
      "A  good  report  from  you,  on  the  other  hand,  if  you
 returned, would  hasten  the whole invasion of Mars. If I'm lucky
 I'll live  to  be  sixty  years  old. Every expedition that lands
 on Mars  will  be met by me. There won't be more than one ship at
 a time  coming  up,  one  every  year  or so, and never more than
 twenty men  in  the  crew.  After  I've  made  friends  with them
 and explained  that  our  rocket  exploded  one  day--I intend to
 blow it  up  after I finish my job this week--I'll kill them off,
 every one  of  them.  Mars  will  be  untouched for the next half
 century. After  a  while,  perhaps  the  Earth  people  will give
 up trying.  Remember  how they grew leery of the idea of building
 Zeppelins that were always going down in flames?"
      "You've got it all planned," admitted the captain.
      "I have."
      "Yet  you're   outnumbered.   In  an  hour  we'll  have  you
 surrounded. In an hour you'll be dead."
      "I've found  some  underground  passages and a place to live
 you'll never  find.  I'll withdraw there to live for a few weeks.
 Until you're  off  guard. I'll come out then to pick you off, one
 by one."
      The  captain   nodded.  "Tell  me  about  your  civilization
 here," he said, waving his hand at the mountain towns.
      "They knew  how  to  live  with  nature  and  get along with
 nature. They  didn't  try  too  hard to be all men and no animal.
 That's the  mistake  we  made  when Darwin showed up. We embraced
 him and  Huxley  and  Freud,  all  smiles. And then we discovered
 that Darwin  and  our religions didn't mix. Or at least we didn't
 think they  did,  We  were  fools.  We  tried to budge Darwin and
 Huxley  and  Freud.  They  wouldn't  move  very  well.  So,  like
 idiots, we tried knocking down religion.
      "We succeeded  pretty  well.  We  lost  our  faith  and went
 around wondering  what  life  was  for.  If  art was no more than
 a frustrated  outflinging  of  desire,  if  religion  was no more
 than self-delusion,  what  good  was life? Faith had always given
 us answers  to  all  things.  But it all went down the drain with
 Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people."
      "And  these   Martians   are  a  _found_  people?"  inquired
 the captain.
      "Yes. They  knew  how to combine science and religion so the
 two  worked  side  by  side,  neither  denying  the  other,  each
 enriching the other."
      "That sounds ideal."
      "It was. I'd like to show you how the Martians did it."
      "My men are waiting."
      "We'll be gone half an hour. Tell them that, sir."
      The captain  hesitated,  then  rose and called an order down
 the hill.
      Spender led  him  over  into  a little Martian village built
 all  of   cool  perfect  marble.  There  were  great  friezes  of
 beautiful animals,  white-limbed  cat  things  and  yellow-limbed
 sun symbols,  and  statues  of bull-like creatures and statues of
 men and women and huge fine-featured dogs.
      "There's your answer, Captain."
      "I don't see."
      "The Martians  discovered  the secret of life among animals.
 The animal  does  not  question  life.  It lives. Its very reason
 for living  _is_  life; it enjoys and relishes life. You see--the
 statuary, the animal symbols, again and again."
      "It looks pagan."
      "On the  contrary,  those  are God symbols, symbols of life.
 Man had  become  too  much man and not enough animal on Mars too.
 And the  men  of  Mars  realized  that  in  order to survive they
 would have  to  forgo  asking  that one question any longer: _Why
 live?_ Life  was  its  own  answer.  Life  was the propagation of
 more life  and  the  living  of  as  good a life is possible. The
 Martians realized  that  they  asked  the  question  'Why live at
 all?' at  the  height  of  some  period  of war and despair, when
 there was  no  answer. But once the civilization calmed, quieted,
 and wars  ceased,  the  question  became  senseless in a new way.
 Life was now good and needed no arguments."
      "It sounds as if the Martians were quite naive."
      "Only when  it  paid  to be naive. They quit trying too hard
 to  destroy   everything,  to  humble  everything.  They  blended
 religion and  art  and  science  because,  at base, science is no
 more than  an  investigation  of  a miracle we can never explain,
 and art  is  an  interpretation  of  that  mirade. They never let
 science crush  the  aesthetic  and the beautiful. It's all simply
 a matter  of  degree.  An  Earth  Man  thinks:  'In that picture,
 color does  not  exist,  really. A scientist can prove that color
 is only  the  way  the  cells  are  placed  in a certain material
 to reflect  light.  Therefore, color is not really an actual part
 of things  I  happen to see.' A Martian, far cleverer, would say:
 "This is  a  fine  picture. It came from the hand and the mind of
 a man  inspired.  Its  idea  and  its  color  are from life. This
 thing is good.'"
      There was  a  pause.  Sitting  in  the  afternoon  sun,  the
 captain looked curiously around at the little silent cool town.
      "I'd like to live here," he said.
      "You may if you want."
      "You ask _me_ that?"
      "Will any  of  those  men  under  you ever really understand
 all this?  They're  professional  cynics,  and  it's too late for
 them. Why  do  you  want to go back with them? So you can keep up
 with the  Joneses?  To  buy a gyro just like Smith has? To listen
 to music  with  your  pocketbook  instead of your glands? There's
 a little  patio  down  here  with  a  reel of Martian music in it
 at least  fifty  thousand years old. It still plays. Music you'll
 never hear  in  your  life.  You  could hear it. There are books.
 I've gotten  on  well  in  reading  them  already.  You could sit
 and read."
      "It all sounds quite wonderful, Spender."
      "But you won't stay?"
      "No. Thanks, anyway."
      "And you  certainly  won't let me stay without trouble. I'll
 have to kill you all."
      "You're optimistic."
      "I have  something  to fight for and live for; that makes me
 a better  killer.  I've  got  what  amounts  to  a religion, now.
 It's learning  how  to  breathe all over again. And how to lie in
 the sun  getting  a  tan,  letting the sun work into you. And how
 to  hear   music   and  how  to  read  a  book.  What  does  your
 civilization offer?"
      The captain  shifted  his  feet.  He  shook  his  head. "I'm
 sorry this is happening. I'm sorry about it all."
      "I am  too.  I  guess  I'd  better  take you back now so you
 can start the attack."
      "I guess so."
      "Captain, I  won't  kill  you.  When  it's  all over, you'll
 still be alive."
      "What?"
      "I decided when I started that you'd be untouched."
      "Well . . ."
      "I'll save  you  out  from  the  rest.  When  they're  dead,
 perhaps you'll change your mind."
      "No," said  the  captain.  "There's  too much Earth blood in
 me. I'll have to keep after you."
      "Even when you have a chance to stay here?"
      "It's funny,  but  yes,  even  with  that. I don't know why.
 I've never  asked  myself.  Well, here we are." They had returned
 to their  meeting  place  now.  "Will  you come quietly, Spender?
 This is my last offer."
      "Thanks, no."  Spender  put  out  his hand. "One last thing.
 If you  win,  do  me  a  favor.  See what can be done to restrict
 tearing this  planet  apart,  at  least  for  fifty  years, until
 the archaeologists have had a decent chance, will you?"
      "Right."
      "And last--if  it  helps  any,  just  think  of me as a very
 crazy fellow  who  went  berserk  one  summer  day  and never was
 right again. It'll be a little easier on you that way."
      "I'll think it over. So long, Spender. Good luck."
      "You're an  odd  one,"  said  Spender  as the captain walked
 back down the trail in the warm-blowing wind.
      The captain  returned  like something lost to his dusty men.
 He kept squinting at the sun and breathing bard.
      "Is there  a  drink?"  he  said.  He  felt a bottle put cool
 into his hand. "Thanks." He drank. He wiped his mouth.
      "All right,"  he  said.  "Be  careful.  We have all the time
 we want.  I  don't  want  any more lost. You'll have to kill him.
 He won't  come  down. Make it a clean shot if you can. Don't mess
 him. Get it over with."
      "I'll blow his damned brains out," said Sam Parkhill.
      "No,  through   the  chest,"  said  the  captain.  He  could
 see Spender's strong, clearly determined face.
      "His bloody brains," said Parkhill.
      The captain  handed  him  the  bottle  jerkingly. "You heard
 what I said. Through the chest"
      Parkhill muttered to himself.
      "Now," said the captain.

      They spread  again,  walking  and  then  running,  and  then
 walking on  the  hot  hillside places where there would be sudden
 cool grottoes  that  smelled  of  moss,  and sudden open blasting
 places that smelled of sun on stone.
      I hate  being  clever,  thought  the captain, when you don't
 really feel  clever  and don't want to be clever. To sneak around
 and make  plans  and  feel  big  about  making  them. I hate this
 feeling of  thinking  I'm doing right when I'm not really certain
 I am.  Who  are  we,  anyway?  The  majority? Is that the answer?
 The majority  is  always  holy,  is  it not? Always, always; just
 never wrong  for  one  little  insignificant  tiny moment, is it?
 Never ever  wrong  in  ten  million  years?  He  thought: What is
 this majority  and  who are in it? And what do they think and how
 did they  get  that  way  and  will  they ever change and how the
 devil  did  I  get  caught  in  this  rotten  majority?  I  don't
 feel comfortable.  Is  it  claustrophobia,  fear  of  crowds,  or
 common sense?  Can  one  man be right, while all the world thinks
 they are  right?  Let's  not  think  about it. Let's crawl around
 and act exciting and pull the trigger. There, and _there!_
      The men  ran  and  ducked  and  ran  and squatted in shadows
 and showed  their  teeth,  gasping,  for  the  air  was thin, not
 meant for  running;  the  air  was  thin  and they had to sit for
 five minutes  at  a  time,  wheezing  and  seeing black lights in
 their eyes,  eating  at the thin air and wanting more, tightening
 their eyes,  and  at  last getting up, lifting their guns to tear
 holes in that thin summer air, holes of sound and heat.
      Spender remained where he was, firing only on occasion.
      "Damned brains all over!" Parkhill yelled, running uphill.
      The captain  aimed  his  gun at Sam Parkhill. He put it down
 and stared  at  it  in horror. "What were you doing?" he asked of
 his limp hand and the gun.
      He had almost shot Parkhill in the back.
      "God help me."
      He saw Parkhill still running, then falling to lie safe.
      Spender was  being  gathered  in  by a loose, running net of
 men. At  the  hilltop,  behind  two  rocks, Spender lay, grinning
 with exhaustion  from  the  thin  atmosphere,  great  islands  of
 sweat under  each  arm.  The captain saw the two rocks. There was
 an interval  between  them  of  some  four  inches,  giving  free
 access to Spender's chest.
      "Hey, you!" cried Parkhill. "Here's a slug for your head!"
      Captain Wilder  waited.  Go  on,  Spender,  he  thought. Get
 out, like  you  said  you  would.  You've  only  a few minutes to
 escape. Get  out  and come back later. Go on. You said you would.
 Go down  in  the  tunnels  you  said you found, and lie there and
 live for  months  and  years, reading your fine books and bathing
 in your temple pools. Go on, now, man, before it's too late.
      Spender did not move from his position.
      "What's wrong with him?" the captain asked himself.
      The captain  picked  up  his  gun.  He  watched the running,
 hiding men.  He  looked at the towers of the little clean Martian
 village,  like   sharply   carved   chess  pieces  lying  in  the
 afternoon. He  saw  the  rocks  and  the  interval  between where
 Spender's chest was revealed.
      Parkhill was charging up, screaming in fury.
      "No, Parkhill,"  said  the  captain. "I can't let you do it.
 Nor the  others.  No,  none  of  you. Only me." He raised the gun
 and sighted it.
      Will I  be  clean  after  this? he thought. Is it right that
 it's me  who  does  it?  Yes,  it  is.  I know what I'm doing for
 what reason  and  it's  right,  because  I  think  I'm  the right
 person. I hope and pray I can live up to this.
      He nodded  his  head  at  Spender.  "Go  on," he called in a
 loud whisper  which  no  one heard. "I'll give you thirty seconds
 more to get away. Thirty seconds!"
      The watch  ticked  on  his  wrist,  The  captain  watched it
 tick. The  men  were  running.  Spender  did  not move. The watch
 ticked for  a  long  time, very loudly in the captain's ears. "Go
 on, Spender, go on, get away!"
      The thirty seconds were up.
      The gun  was  sighted.  The  captain  drew  a  deep  breath.
 "Spender," he said, exhaling.
      He pulled the trigger.
      All that  happened  was  that a faint powdering of rock went
 up in the sunlight. The echoes of the report faded.

      The captain arose and called to his men: "He's dead."
      The  other   men  did  not  believe  it.  Their  angles  had
 prevented their  seeing  that  particular.  fissure in the rocks.
 They saw  their  captain  run  up  the  hill,  alone, and thought
 him either very brave or insane.
      The men came after him a few minutes later.
      They gathered  around  the  body  and  someone said, "In the
 chest?"
      The captain  looked  down.  "In  the chest," he said, He saw
 how the  rocks  had  changed  color  under Spender. "I wonder why
 he waited.  I  wonder  why  he  didn't  escape  as  he planned. I
 wonder why he stayed on and got himself killed."
      "Who knows?" someone said.
      Spender lay  there,  his  hands clasped, one around the gun,
 the other around the silver book that glittered in the sun.
      Was it  because  of  me? thought the captain. Was it because
 I refused  to  give  in  myself?  Did  Spender  hate  the idea of
 killing me?  Am  I  any different from these others here? Is that
 what did  it?  Did he figure he could trust me? What other answer
 is there?
      None. He squatted by the silent body.
      I've got  to  live  up  to this, he thought. I can't let him
 down now.  If  he  figured  there  was  something  in me that was
 like himself  and  couldn't  kill  me  because of it, then what a
 job I  have  ahead  of me! That's it, yes, that's it. I'm Spender
 all over  again,  but  I  think  before I shoot. I don't shoot at
 all, I  don't  kill.  I  do  things  with people. And he couldn't
 kill  me  because  I  was  himself  under  a  slightly  different
 condition.
      The captain  felt  the  sunlight  on  the  back of his neck.
 He heard  himself  talking: "If only he had come to me and talked
 it  over  before  he  shot  anybody,  we  could  have  worked  it
 out somehow."
      "Worked what  out?"  said  Parkhill.  "What  could  we  have
 worked out with _his_ likes?"
      There was  a  singing of heat in the land, off the rocks and
 off the  blue  sky.  "I  guess  you're  right," said the captain.
 "We could  never  have got together. Spender and myself, perhaps.
 But Spender  and  you  and the others, no, never, He's better off
 now. Let me have a drink from that canteen."
      It was  the  captain  who  suggested  the  empty sarcophagus
 for Spender.  They  had  found an ancient Martian tomb yard. They
 put Spender  into  a  silver case with waxes and wines which were
 ten thousand  years  old, his hands folded on his chest. The last
 they saw of him was his peaceful face.
      They stood  for  a  moment  in  the  ancient vault. "I think
 it would  be  a  good  idea for you to think of Spender from time
 to time," said the captain.
      They walked from the vault and shut the marble door.
      The next  afternoon  Parkhill  did  some  target practice in
 one of  the  dead  cities,  shooting  out the crystal windows and
 blowing the  tops  off  the  fragile  towers.  The captain caught
 Parkhiil and knocked his teeth out.

                    August 2001:  THE SETTLERS

      The men of Earth came to Mars.
      They came  because  they  were  afraid  or unafraid, because
 they were  happy  or  unhappy, because they felt like Pilgrims or
 did not  feel  like  Pilgrims.  There  was a reason for each man.
 They were  leaving  bad  wives  or  bad  jobs  or bad towns; they
 were  coming   to  find  something  or  leave  something  or  get
 something, to  dig  up  something  or  bury  something  or  leave
 something alone.  They  were  coming  with  small dreams or large
 dreams  or   none   at  all.  But  a  government  finger  pointed
 from four-color  posters  in  many towns: THERE'S WORK FOR YOU IN
 THE SKY:  SEE  MARS!  and  the  men  shuffled forward, only a few
 at first,  a  double-score,  for  most men felt the great illness
 in them  even  before  the  rocket  fired  into  space.  And this
 disease was  called  The  Loneliness,  because  when you saw your
 home town  dwindle  the size of your fist and then lemon-size and
 then pin-size  and  vanish  in  the  fire-wake,  you felt you had
 never been  born,  there  was  no  town,  you  were nowhere, with
 space all  around,  nothing familiar, only other strange men. And
 when the  state  of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, or Montana vanished
 into cloud  seas,  and,  doubly, when the United States shrank to
 a misted  island  and  the  entire  planet  Earth  became a muddy
 baseball tossed  away,  then  you  were  alone,  wandering in the
 meadows of space, on your way to a place you couldn't imagine.
      So it  was  not  unusual  that  the  first men were few. The
 number grew  steadily  in  proportion  to  the  census  of  Earth
 Men already  on  Mars.  There  was  comfort  in  numbers. But the
 first Lonely Ones had to stand by themselves.

                 December 2001:  THE GREEN MORNING

      When the  sun  set  he  crouched  by  the  path and cooked a
 small supper  and  listened  to  the  fire crack while he put the
 food in  his  mouth  and  chewed  thoughtfully. It had been a day
 not unlike  thirty  others,  with many neat holes dug in the dawn
 hours, seeds  dropped  in,  and  water  brought  from  the bright
 canals. Now,  with  an  iron weariness in his slight body, he lay
 and watched the sky color from one darkness to another.
      His name  was  Benjamin  Driscoll,  and  he  was  thirty-one
 years old.  And  the  thing  that  be wanted was Mars grown green
 and tall  with  trees  and  foliage,  producing  air,  more  air,
 growing larger  with  each  season;  trees  to  cool the towns in
 the boiling  summer,  trees  to hold back the winter winds. There
 were so  many  things  a tree could do: add color, provide shade,
 drop fruit,  or  become  a  children's  playground,  a  whole sky
 universe  to  climb  and  hang  from;  an  architecture  of  food
 and pleasure,  that  was  a tree. But most of all the trees would
 distill an  icy  air for the lungs, and a gentle rustling for the
 ear when  you  lay  nights  in your snowy bed and were gentled to
 sleep by the sound.
      He lay  listening  to  the dark earth gather itself, waiting
 for the  sun,  for  the  rains  that  hadn't come yet. His ear to
 the ground,  he  could hear the feet of the years ahead moving at
 a distance,  and  he  imagined  the  seeds  he  had  placed today
 sprouting up  with  green  and  taking  hold  on the sky, pushing
 out branch  after  branch,  until  Mars  was an afternoon forest,
 Mars was a shining orchard.
      In the  early  morning,  with  the small sun lifting faintly
 among the  folded  hills,  he  would  be  up  and finished with a
 smoky breakfast  in  a  few  minutes  and,  trodding out the fire
 ashes, be  on  his  way with knapsacks, testing, digging, placing
 seed or  sprout,  tamping lightly, watering, going on, whistling,
 looking at the clear sky brightening toward a warm noon.
      "You need  the  air,"  he  told his night fire. The fire was
 a ruddy,  lively  companion  that snapped back at you, that slept
 close by  with  drowsy  pink  eyes warm through the chilly night.
 "We all  need  the  air.  It's  a  thin air here on Mars. You get
 tired so  soon.  It's like living in the Andes, in South America,
 high. You inhale and don't get anything. It doesn't satisfy."
      He felt  his  rib  case.  In  thirty days, how it had grown.
 To take  in  more  air, they would all have to build their lungs.
 Or plant more trees.
      "That's what  I'm  here  for,"  he  said.  The  fire popped.
 "In school  they  told  a  story  about  Johnny Appleseed walking
 across America  planting  apple  trees.  Well,  I'm  doing  more.
 I'm planting  oaks,  elms, and maples, every kind of tree, aspens
 and deodars  and  chestnuts.  Instead  of  making  just fruit for
 the stomach,  I'm  making  air  for  the  lungs. When those trees
 grow up some year, _think_ of the oxygen they'll make!"
      He remembered  his  arrival on Mars. Like a thousand others,
 he had  gazed  out  upon  a  still  morning and thought, How do I
 fit here? What will I do? Is there a job for me?
      Then he had fainted.
      Someone  pushed   a   vial  of  ammonia  to  his  nose  and,
 coughing, he came around.
      "You'll be all right," said the doctor.
      "What happened?"
      "The air's  pretty  thin. Some can't take it. I think you'll
 have to go back to Earth."
      "No!" He  sat  up  and  almost  immediately  felt  his  eyes
 darken and  Mars  revolve  twice  around  under him. His nostrils
 dilated and  he  forced  his  lungs to drink in deep nothingness.
 "I'll be all right. I've got to stay here!"
      They let  him  lie  gasping  in horrid fishlike motions. And
 he thought,  Air,  air,  air.  They're sending me back because of
 air. And  he  turned  his  head to look across the Martian fields
 and hills.  He  brought  them  to  focus,  and the first thing he
 noticed was  that  there  were  no trees, no trees at all, as far
 as you  could  look  in  any  direction.  The  land was down upon
 itself, a  land  of  black  loam,  but  nothing  on  it, not even
 grass.  Air,   he  thought,  the  thin  stuff  whistling  in  his
 nostrils. Air,  air.  And  on  top of hills, or in their shadows,
 or even  by  little  creeks,  not  a  tree and not a single green
 blade of  grass.  Of  course!  He  felt  the answer came not from
 his mind,  but  his  lungs  and  his  throat. And the thought was
 like a  sudden  gust  of  pure  oxygen, raising him up. Trees and
 grass. He  looked  down  at  his  hands  and turned them over. He
 would plant  trees  and  grass.  That  would be his job, to fight
 against the  very  thing  that  might  prevent  his staying here.
 He would  have  a  private horticultural war with Mars. There lay
 the  old  soil,  and  the  plants  of  it  so  ancient  they  had
 worn themselves  out.  But  what  if  new  forms were introduced?
 Earth trees,  great  mimosas  and  weeping  willows and magnolias
 and magnificent  eucalyptus.  What  then?  There  was no guessing
 what mineral  wealth  hid  in  the soil, untapped because the old
 ferns,  flowers,  bushes,  and  trees  had  tired  themselves  to
 death.
      "Let  me   up!"   he   shouted.   "I've   got   to  see  the
 Co-ordinator!"
      He and  the  Co-ordinator had talked an entire morning about
 things that  grew  and  were  green.  It  would be months, if not
 years, before  organized  planting  began.  So  far, frosted food
 was brought  from  Earth  in  flying  icicles;  a  few  community
 gardens were greening up in hydroponic plants.
      "Meanwhile," said  the  Co-ordinator,  "it's your job. We'll
 get what  seed  we  can  for  you,  a  little equipment. Space on
 the rockets  is  mighty  precious  now.  I'm  afraid, since these
 first  towns   are   mining  communities,  there  won't  be  much
 sympathy for your tree planting--"
      "But you'll let me do it?"
      They let  him  do it. Provided with a single motorcycle, its
 bin full  of  rich  seeds  and sprouts, he had parked his vehicle
 in the valley wilderness and struck out on foot over the land.
      That had  been  thirty  days  ago,  and he had never glanced
 back. For  looking  back  would have been sickening to the heart.
 The weather  was  excessively  dry;  it was doubtful if any seeds
 had sprouted  yet.  Perhaps  his  entire campaign, his four weeks
 of bending  and  scooping  were lost. He kept his eyes only ahead
 of him,  going  on  down  this wide shallow valley under the sun,
 away from First Town, waiting for the rains to come.
      Clouds were  gathering  over  the  dry  mountains  now as he
 drew  his   blanket   over   his  shoulders.  Mars  was  a  place
 as unpredictable  as  time.  He  felt  the  baked hills simmering
 down into  frosty  night,  and he thought of the rich, inky soil,
 a soil  so  black and shiny it almost crawled and stirred in your
 fist, a  rank  soil  from  which might sprout gigantic beanstalks
 from which,  with  bone-shaking  concussion, might drop screaming
 giants.
      The fire  fluttered  into  sleepy  ash.  The air tremored to
 the distant  roll  of  a  cartwheel.  Thunder.  A  sudden odor of
 water. Tonight,  he  thought,  and  put  his hand out to feel for
 rain. Tonight.

      He awoke to a tap on his brow.
      Water ran  down  his  nose  into  his lips. Another drop hit
 his eye, blurring it, Another splashed his chin.
      The rain.
      Raw, gentle,  and  easy,  it  mizzled  out  of the high air,
 a special  elixir,  tasting of spells and stars and air, carrying
 a peppery  dust  in  it,  and  moving like a rare light sherry on
 his tongue.
      Rain.
      He sat  up.  He  let  the  blanket  fall  and his blue denim
 shirt spot,  while  the  rain  took on more solid drops. The fire
 looked  as  though  an  invisible  animal  were  dancing  on  it,
 crushing it,  until  it was angry smoke. The rain fell. The great
 black lid  of  sky  cracked  in  six  powdery  blue  chips,  like
 a marvelous  crackled  glaze, and rushed down. He saw ten billion
 rain crystals,  hesitating  long  enough  to  be  photographed by
 the electrical display. Then darkness and water.
      He was  drenched  to  the  skin, but he held his face up and
 let the  water  hit  his  eyelids, laughing. He clapped his hands
 together and  stepped  up  and walked around his little camp, and
 it was one o'clock in the morning.
      It rained  steadily  for  two  hours  and  then stopped. The
 stars came out, freshly washed and clearer than ever.
      Changing  into   dry   clothes  from  his  cellophane  pack,
 Mr. Benjamin Driscoll lay down and went happily to sleep.

      The sun  rose  slowly among the hills. It broke out upon the
 land quietly and wakened Mr. Driscoll where he lay.
      He waited  a  moment  before  arising.  He  had  worked  and
 waited a  long  hot  month,  and  now,  standing up, he turned at
 last and faced the direction from which he had come.
      It was a green morning.
      As far  as  he  could see the trees were standing up against
 the sky.  Not  one  tree, not two, not a dozen, but the thousands
 he had  planted  in  seed  and  sprout. And not little trees, no,
 not saplings,  not  little  tender  shoots, but great trees, huge
 trees, trees  as  tall  as  ten men, green and green and huge and
 round  and   full,   trees   shimmering  their  metallic  leaves,
 trees whispering,  trees  in  a  line  over  hills,  lemon trees,
 lime trees,  redwoods  and  mimosas and oaks and elms and aspens,
 cherry,  maple,   ash,   apple,   orange,  eucalyptus,  stung  by
 a tumultuous  rain,  nourished  by  alien  and  magical soil and,
 even as  he  watched,  throwing  out  new  branches, popping open
 new buds.
      "Impossible!" cried Mr. Benjamin Driscoll.
      But the valley and the morning were green.
      And the air!
      All about,  like  a  moving  current, a mountain river, came
 the new  air,  the oxygen blowing from the green trees. You could
 see it  shimmer  high  in  crystal  billows. Oxygen, fresh, pure,
 green, cold  oxygen  turning  the  valley  into a river delta. In
 a moment  the  town  doors  would  flip  wide,  people  would run
 out  through   the  new  miracle  of  oxygen,  sniffing,  gusting
 in lungfuls  of  it,  cheeks  pinking  with it, noses frozen with
 it, lungs  revivified,  hearts  leaping,  and  worn bodies lifted
 into a dance.
      Mr. Benjamin  Driscoll  took  one  long  deep drink of green
 water air and fainted.
      Before he  woke  again  five  thousand new trees had climbed
 up into the yellow sun.

                    February 2002: THE LOCUSTS

      The rockets  set  the  bony  meadows  afire,  turned rock to
 lava, turned  wood  to charcoal, transmitted water to steam, made
 sand and  silica  into  green  glass  which  lay  like  shattered
 mirrors reflecting  the  invasion,  all  about.  The rockets came
 like  drums,   beating  in  the  night.  The  rockets  came  like
 locusts, swarming  and  settling  in  blooms  of  rosy smoke. And
 from the  rockets  ran  men  with  hammers in their hands to beat
 the strange  world  into  a  shape  that was familiar to the eye,
 to bludgeon  away  all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with
 nails so  they  resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them
 into their  swift  hands  as  they  hammered  up  frame  cottages
 and scuttled  over  roofs  with  shingles  to  blot out the eerie
 stars, and  fit  green shades to pull against the night. And when
 the  carpenters   had   hurried   on,  the  women  came  in  with
 flowerpots and  chintz  and  pans  and set up a kitchen clamor to
 cover the  silence  that  Mars  made waiting outside the door and
 the shaded window.
      In six  months  a  dozen small towns had been laid down upon
 the naked  planet,  filled  with  sizzling  neon tubes and yellow
 electric bulbs.  In  all,  some  ninety  thousand  people came to
 Mars, and more, on Earth, were packing their grips. . . .

                    August 2002: NIGHT MEETING

      Before going  up  into  the  blue hills, Toms Gomez stopped
 for gasoline at the lonely station.
      "Kind of alone out here, aren't you, Pop?" said Toms.
      The old  man  wiped  off  the windshield of the small truck.
 "Not bad."
      "How do you like Mars, Pop?"
      "Fine. Always  something  new. I made up my mind when I came
 here last  year  I  wouldn't expect nothing, nor ask nothing, nor
 be surprised  at  nothing.  We've  got  to  forget  Earth and how
 things were.  We've  got  to  look  at  what  we're  in here, and
 how _different_  it  is. I get a hell of a lot of fun out of just
 the weather  here.  It's _Martian_ weather. Hot as hell daytimes,
 cold as  hell  nights.  I  get  a  big  kick out of the different
 flowers and  different  rain.  I  came  to  Mars  to retire and I
 wanted to  retire  in  a  place where everything is different. An
 old man  needs  to have things different. Young people don't want
 to talk  to  him,  other  old  people  bore  hell  out of him. So
 I thought  the  best  thing  for  me is a place so different that
 all you  got  to  do  is open your eyes and you're entertained. I
 got this  gas  station.  If business picks up too much, I'll move
 on back  to  some  other  old highway that's not so busy, where I
 can earn  just  enough  to  live  on  and still have time to feel
 the _different_ things here."
      "You got  the  right idea, Pop," said Toms, his brown hands
 idly on  the  wheel.  He was feeling good. He had been working in
 one of  the  new  colonies  for  ten days straight and now he had
 two days off and was on his way to a party.
      "I'm not  surprised  at  anything  any  more,"  said the old
 man. "I'm  just  looking.  I'm  just  experiencing.  If you can't
 take Mars  for  what  she  is,  you  might  as  well  go  back to
 Earth. Everything's  crazy  up  here,  the  soil,  the  air,  the
 canals, the  natives  (I  never  saw  any yet, but I hear they're
 around), the  clocks.  Even  my  clock acts funny. Even _time_ is
 crazy up  here.  Sometimes  I feel I'm here all by myself, no one
 else on  the  whole  damn  planet. I'd take bets on it. Sometimes
 I  feel   about   eight  years  old,  my  body  squeezed  up  and
 everything else  tall.  Jesus,  it's  just  the  place for an old
 man. Keeps  me  alert  and keeps me happy. You know what Mars is?
 It's like  a  thing  I got for Christmas seventy years ago--don't
 know if  you  ever  had one--they called them kaleidoscopes, bits
 of crystal  and  cloth  and beads and pretty junk. You held it up
 to the  sunlight  and  looked  in through at it, and it took your
 breath away.  All  the  patterns!  Well,  that's  Mars. Enjoy it.
 Don't ask  it  to be nothing else but what it is. Jesus, you know
 that  highway  right  there,  built  by  the  Martians,  is  over
 sixteen centuries  old  and  still  in good condition? That's one
 dollar and fifty cents, thanks and good night."
      Toms  drove   off   down   the  ancient  highway,  laughing
 quietly.
      It was  a  long  road  going  into darkness and hills and he
 held to  the  wheel, now and again reaching into his lunch bucket
 and taking  out  a  piece  of candy. He had been driving steadily
 for an  hour,  with  no other car on the road, no light, just the
 road going  under,  the  hum,  the  roar,  and Mars out there, so
 quiet. Mars  was  always  quiet,  but  quieter  tonight  than any
 other.  The  deserts  and  empty  seas  swung  by  him,  and  the
 mountains against the stars.
      There was  a  smell  of  Time  in the air tonight. He smiled
 and turned  the  fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did
 Time smell  like?  Like  dust  and  clocks  and  people.  And  if
 you wondered  what  Time  sounded  like  it  sounded  like  water
 running in  a  dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down
 upon hollow  box  lids,  and  rain.  And, going further, what did
 Time _look_  like?  Time  looked like snow dropping silently into
 a black  room  or  it  looked  like  a  silent film in an ancient
 theater,  one  hundred  billion  faces  falling  like  those  New
 Year balloons,  down  and  down  into  nothing. That was how Time
 smelled and  looked  and  sounded.  And  tonight--Toms  shoved a
 hand into  the  wind  outside the truck--tonight you could almost
 _touch_ Time.
      He  drove   the  truck  between  hills  of  Time.  His  neck
 prickled and he sat up, watching ahead.
      He pulled  into  a  little  dead  Martian  town, stopped the
 engine,  and  let  the  silence  come  in  around  him.  He  sat,
 not  breathing,  looking  out  at  the  white  buildings  in  the
 moonlight. Uninhabited  for  centuries.  Perfect,  faultless,  in
 ruins, yes, but perfect, nevertheless.
      He started  the  engine  and  drove  on another mile or more
 before stopping  again,  climbing out, carrying his lunch bucket,
 and walking  to  a  little promontory where he could look back at
 that dusty  city.  He opened his thermos and poured himself a cup
 of coffee.  A  night  bird  flew by. He felt very good, very much
 at peace.
      Perhaps five  minutes  later  there  was a sound. Off in the
 hills, where  the  ancient  highway curved, there was a motion, a
 dim light, and then a murmur.
      Toms turned slowly with the coffee cup in his hand.
      And out of the hills came a strange thing.
      It was  a  machine  like  a  jade-green  insect,  a  praying
 mantis, delicately  rushing  through  the  cold  air, indistinct,
 countless green  diamonds  winking  over its body, and red jewels
 that glittered  with  multifaceted  eyes.  Its six legs fell upon
 the ancient  highway  with  the  sounds  of  a  sparse rain which
 dwindled away,  and  from  the back of the machine a Martian with
 melted gold  for  eyes looked down at Toms as if he were looking
 into a well.
      Toms raised  his  hand and thought Hello! automatically but
 did not  move  his  lips, for this _was_ a Martian. But Toms had
 swum in  blue  rivers  on  Earth,  with  strangers passing on the
 road, and  eaten  in  strange  houses  with  strange  people, and
 his weapon  had  always  been  his smile. He did not carry a gun.
 And he  did  not  feel  the need of one now, even with the little
 fear that gathered about his heart at this moment
      The Martian's  hands  were  empty  too.  For  a  moment they
 looked across the cool air at each other.
      It was Tomis who moved first.
      "Hello!" he called.
      "Hello!" called the Martian in his own language.
      They did not understand each other.
      "Did you say hello?" they both asked.
      "What did you say?" they said, each in a different tongue.
      They scowled.
      "Who are you?" said Toms in English.
      "What are  you  doing  here?"  In  Martian;  the  stranger's
 lips moved.
      "Where are you going?" they said, and looked bewildered.
      "I'm Toms Gomez."
      "I'm Muhe Ca."
      Neither understood,  but  they  tapped their chests with the
 words and then it became clear.
      And  then  the  Martian  laughed.  "Wait!"  Toms  felt  his
 head touched,  but  no  hand  had  touched him. "There!" said the
 Martian in English. "That is better!"
      "You learned my language, so quick!"
      "Nothing at all!"
      They  looked,   embarrassed  with  a  new  silence,  at  the
 steaming coffee he had in one hand.
      "Something different?"  said  the  Martian,  eying  him  and
 the coffee, referring to them both, perhaps.
      "May I offer you a drink?" said Toms.
      "Please."
      The Martian slid down from his machine.
      A second  cup  was produced and filled, steaming. Toms held
 it out.
      Their hands met and--like mist--fell through each other.
      "Jesus Christ!" cried Toms, and dropped the cup.
      "Name of the gods!" said the Martian in his own tongue.
      "Did you see what happened?" they both whispered.
      They were very cold and terrified.
      The Martian bent to touch the cup but could not touch it.
      "Jesus!" said Toms.
      "Indeed." The  Martian  tried again and again to get hold of
 the cup,  but  could  not.  He stood up and thought for a moment,
 then  took   a   knife   from   his  belt.  "Hey!"  cried  Toms.
 "You misunderstand,  catch!"  said  the  Martian,  and tossed it.
 Toms cupped  his  hands.  The  knife  fell through his flesh. It
 hit the  ground.  Toms  bent  to  pick it up but could not touch
 it, and he recoiled, shivering.
      Now he looked at the Martian against the sky.
      "The stars!" he said.
      "The stars!" said the Martian, looking, in turn, at Toms.
      The stars  were  white  and  sharp  beyond  the flesh of the
 Martian, and  they  were  sewn  into  his  flesh  like scintillas
 swallowed  into   the   thin,   phosphorescent   membrane   of  a
 gelatinous sea  fish.  You could see stars flickering like violet
 eyes  in  the  Martian's  stomach  and  chest,  and  through  his
 wrists, like jewelry.
      "I can see through you!" said Toms.
      "And I through you!" said the Martian, stepping back.
      Toms  felt  of  his  own  body  and,  feeling  the  warmth,
 was reassured. _I_ am real, he thought
      The Martian  touched  his  own  nose  and  lips.  "_I_  have
 flesh," he said, half aloud. "_I_ am alive."
      Toms stared  at  the  stranger.  "And  if _I_ am real, then
 _you_ must be dead."
      "No, you!"
      "A ghost!"
      "A phantom!"
      They pointed  at  each  other,  with  starlight  burning  in
 their limbs  like  daggers  and  icicles  and fireflies, and then
 fell to  judging  their limbs again, each finding himself intact,
 hot, excited,  stunned,  awed,  and the other, ah yes, that other
 over there,  unreal,  a  ghostly  prism  flashing the accumulated
 light of distant worlds.
      I'm drunk,  thought  Toms.  I  won't  tell  anyone  of this
 tomorrow, no, no.
      They stood  there  on  the  ancient highway, neither of them
 moving.
      "Where are you from?" asked the Martian at last.
      "Earth."
      "What is that?"
      "There." Toms nodded to the sky.
      "When?"
      "We landed over a year ago, remember?"
      "No."
      "And all  of  you  were  dead,  all  but a few. You're rare,
 don't you _know_ that?"
      "That's not true."
      "Yes, dead.  I  saw  the  bodies.  Black,  in  the rooms, in
 the houses, dead. Thousands of them."
      "That's ridiculous. We're _alive!_"
      "Mister, you're  invaded,  only  you don't know it. You must
 have escaped."
      "I haven't  escaped;  there  was  nothing to escape. What do
 you mean?  I'm  on  my  way  to a festival now at the canal, near
 the Eniall  Mountains.  I was there last night. Don't you see the
 city there?" The Martian pointed.
      Toms looked  and  saw  the  ruins.  "Why,  that city's been
 dead thousands of years."
      The Martian laughed. "Dead. I slept there yesterday!"
      "And I  was  in  it a week ago and the week before that, and
 I just  drove  through  it  now,  and it's a heap. See the broken
 pillars?"
      "Broken? Why,  I  see  them  perfectly. The moonlight helps.
 And the pillars are upright."
      "There's dust in the streets," said Toms.
      "The streets are clean!"
      "The canals are empty right there."
      "The canals are full of lavender wine!"
      "It's dead."
      "It's alive!"  protested  the  Martian,  laughing  more now.
 "Oh, you're  quite  wrong.  See  all  the  carnival lights? There
 are beautiful  boats  as  slim  as women, beautiful women as slim
 as boats,  women  the  color  of sand, women with fire flowers in
 their hands.  I  can  see  them,  small,  running  in the streets
 there. That's  where  I'm going now, to the festival; we'll float
 on the  waters  all  night  long;  we'll sing, we'll drink, we'll
 make love, Can't you see it?"
      "Mister, that  city  is  dead  as a dried lizard. Ask any of
 our party.  Me,  I'm  on my way to Green City tonight; that's the
 new colony  we  just  raised  over  near Illinois Highway. You're
 mixed up.  We  brought  in  a million board feet of Oregon lumber
 and a  couple  dozen  tons  of  good  steel  nails  and  hammered
 together  two  of  the  nicest  little  villages  you  ever  saw.
 Tonight we're  warming  one  of them. A couple rockets are coming
 in from  Earth,  bringing  our  wives  and girl friends. There'll
 be barn dances and whisky--"
      The Martian  was  now  disquieted.  "You say it is over that
 way?"
      "There are  the  rockets."  Toms  walked him to the edge of
 the hill and pointed down. "See?"
      "No."
      "Damn it, there they _are!_ Those long silver things."
      "No."
      Now Toms laughed. "You're blind!"
      "I see very well. You are the one who does not see."
      "But you see the new _town_, don't you?"
      "I see nothing but an ocean, and water at low tide."
      "Mister,   that    water's   been   evaporated   for   forty
 centuries."
      "Ah, now, now, that _is_ enough."
      "It's true, I tell you."
      The Martian  grew  very  serious. "Tell me again. You do not
 see the  city  the  way  I  describe  it? The pillars very white,
 the  boats   very   slender,   the  festival  lights--oh,  I  see
 them _clearly!_  And  listen!  I  can  hear them singing. It's no
 space away at all."
      Toms listened and shook his head. "No."
      "And I,  on  the  other hand," said the Martian, "cannot see
 what you describe. Well."
      Again.they were cold. An ice was in their flesh.
      "Can it be . . . ?"
      "What?"
      "You say 'from the sky'?"
      "Earth."
      "Earth, a  name,  nothing,"  said  the Martian. "_But_ . . .
 as I  came  up  the pass an hour ago. . ." He touched the back of
 his neck. "I felt . . ."
      "Cold?"
      "Yes."
      "And now?"
      "Cold again.  Oddly.  There  was  a  thing  to the light, to
 the  hills,   the   road,"   said   the   Martian.  "I  felt  the
 strangeness, the  road,  the light, and for a moment I felt as if
 I were the last man alive on this world. . . ."
      "So did  I!"  said  Toms, and it was like talking to an old
 and dear friend, confiding, growing warm with the topic.
      The Martian  closed  his  eyes  and opened them again. "This
 can only  mean  one  thing.  It has to do with Time. Yes. You are
 a figment of the Past!"
      "No, you  are  from  the  Past,"  said the Earth Man, having
 had time to think of it now.
      "You are  so  _certain_.  How  can you prove who is from the
 Past, who from the Future? What year is it?"
      "Two thousand and one!"
      "What does that mean to _me?_"
      Toms considered and shrugged. "Nothing."
      "It is  as  if I told you that it is the year 4462853 S.E.C.
 It is  nothing  and more than nothing! Where is the clock to show
 us how the stars stand?"
      "But the  ruins  prove  it!  They  prove  that  _I_  am  the
 Future, _I_ am alive, _you_ are dead!"
      "Everything in  me  denies  this. My heart beats, my stomach
 hungers, my  mouth  thirsts.  No, no, not dead, not alive, either
 of us.  More  alive  than  anything  else. Caught between is more
 like it.  Two  strangers  passing  in  the  night,  that  is  it.
 Two strangers passing. Ruins, you say?"
      "Yes. You're afraid?"
      "Who wants  to  see  the  Future, who _ever_ does? A man can
 face the  Past,  but  to  think--the pillars _crumbled_, you say?
 And the  sea  empty,  and  the  canals dry, and the maidens dead,
 and the  flowers  withered?"  The  Martian  was  silent, but then
 he looked  on  ahead.  "But there they _are_. I _see_ them. Isn't
 that enough  for  me?  They wait for me now, no matter _what_ you
 say."
      And for  Toms  the  rockets,  far  away, waiting for _him_,
 and the  town  and  the  women  from Earth. "We can never agree,"
 he said.
      "Let us  agree  to  disagree,"  said the Martian. "What does
 it matter  who  is  Past  or  Future,  if  we are both alive, for
 what follows  will  follow,  tomorrow  or  in ten thousand years.
 How do  you  know  that those temples are not the temples of your
 own civilization  one  hundred  centuries  from  now, tumbled and
 broken? You  do  not  know. Then don't ask. But the night is very
 short. There go the festival fires in the sky, and the birds."
      Toms  put  out  his  hand.  The  Martian  did  likewise  in
 imitation.
      Their hands did not touch; they melted through each other.
      "Will we meet again?"
      "Who knows? Perhaps some other night."
      "I'd like to go with you to that festival."
      "And I  wish  I  might  come  to  your new town, to see this
 ship you  speak  of,  to  see  these  men,  to  hear all that has
 happened."
      "Good-by," said Toms.
      "Good night."
      The Martian  rode  his green metal vehicle quietly away into
 the hills,  The  Earth Man turned his truck and drove it silently
 in the opposite direction.
      "Good lord,  what  a  dream  that  was,"  sighed  Toms, his
 hands on  the  wheel,  thinking  of  the  rockets, the women, the
 raw whisky, the Virginia reels, the party.
      How  strange   a  vision  was  that,  thought  the  Martian,
 rushing on,  thinking  of  the  festival,  the canals, the boats,
 the women with golden eyes, and the songs.
      The night  was  dark.  The  moons  had  gone down. Starlight
 twinkled on  the  empty  highway where now there was not a sound,
 no car,  no  person,  nothing.  And  it remained that way all the
 rest of the cool dark night.

                     October 2002:  THE SHORE

      Mars was  a  distant  shore,  and  the men spread upon it in
 waves. Each  wave  different,  and  each wave stronger. The first
 wave carried  with  it  men accustomed to spaces and coldness and
 being alone,  the  coyote  and  cattlemen,  with  no fat on them,
 with  faces   the  years  had  worn  the  flesh  off,  with  eyes
 like nailheads,  and  hands  like  the  material  of  old gloves,
 ready to  touch  anything.  Mars  could  do  nothing to them, for
 they were  bred  to  plains  and  prairies as open as the Martian
 fields. They  came  and  made things a little less empty, so that
 others would  find  courage  to  follow. They put panes in hollow
 windows and lights behind the panes.
      They were the first men.
      Everyone knew who the first women would be.
      The second  men  should  have  traveled from other countries
 with  other  accents  and  other  ideas.  But  the  rockets  were
 American and  the  men  were  American  and  it  stayed that way,
 while Europe  and  Asia  and  South  America  and  Australia  and
 the islands  watched  the  Roman  candles  leave them behind. The
 rest of the world was buried in war or the thoughts of war.
      So the  second  men  were Americans also. And they came from
 the cabbage  tenements  and  subways,  and  they  found much rest
 and vacation  in  the  company  of silent men from the tumbleweed
 states who  knew  how  to use silences so they filled you up with
 peace after  long  years  crushed in tubes, tins and boxes in New
 York.
      And among  the  second  men  were  men  who looked, by their
 eyes, as if they were on their way to God. . . .

                      February 2003:  INTERIM

      They brought  in  fifteen  thousand  lumber  feet  of Oregon
 pine  to   build  Tenth  City,  and  seventy-nine  thousand  feet
 of California  redwood  and  they hammered together a clean, neat
 little town  by  the  edge  of the stone canals. On Sunday nights
 you could  see  red,  blue,  and  green  stained-glass  light  in
 the churches  and  hear  the  voices  singing the numbered hymns.
 "We will  now  sing  79.  We  will  now  sing 94." And in certain
 houses you  heard  the hard clatter of a typewriter, the novelist
 at work;  or  the scratch of a pen, the poet at work; or no sound
 at all,  the  former  beachcomber  at work. It was as if, in many
 ways, a  great  earthquake had shaken loose the roots and cellars
 of an  Iowa  town,  and  then, in an instant, a whirlwind twister
 of Oz-like  proportions  had  carried the entire town off to Mars
 to set it down without a bump.

                    April 2003:  THE MUSICIANS

      The boys  would  hike  far  out  into  the  Martian country.
 They carried  odorous  paper  bags  into  which from time to time
 upon the  long  walk  they would insert their noses to inhale the
 rich smell  of  the ham and mayonnaised pickles, and to listen to
 the liquid  gurgle  of  the  orange  soda in the warming bottles.
 Swinging their  grocery  bags  full  of clean watery green onions
 and odorous  liverwurst  and  red  catsup  and  white bread, they
 would dare  each  other  on  past  the  limits  set by their stem
 mothers. They would run, yelling:
      "First one there gets to kick!"
      They biked  in  summer,  autumn,  or winter. Autumn was most
 fun, because  then  they  imagined,  like  on  Earth,  they  were
 scuttering through autumn leaves.
      They would  come  like a scatter of jackstones on the marble
 flats beside  the  canals, the candy-cheeked boys with blue-agate
 eyes, panting  onion-tainted  commands  to  each  other.  For now
 that they  had  reached the dead, forbidden town it was no longer
 a matter  of  "Last  one  there's  a girl!" or "First one gets to
 play Musician!"  Now  the  dead  town's  doors  lay wide and they
 thought  they  could  hear  the  faintest  crackle,  like  autumn
 leaves, from  inside.  They  would  hush  themselves  forward, by
 each other's  elbows,  carrying sticks, remembering their parents
 had told  them,  "Not  there! No, to none of the old towns! Watch
 where you  hike.  You'll  get  the  beating of your life when you
 come home. We'll check your shoes!"
      And there  they  stood  in  the  dead  city, a heap of boys,
 their  hiking   lunches  half  devoured,  daring  each  other  in
 shrieky whispers.
      "Here goes  nothing!"  And  suddenly  one  of them took off,
 into the  nearest  stone  house,  through  the  door,  across the
 living room,  and  into  the bedroom where, without half looking,
 he would  kick  about,  thrash  his  feet,  and  the black leaves
 would fly  through  the  air,  brittle,  thin  as tissue cut from
 midnight sky.  Behind  him  would  race six others, and the first
 boy there  would  be  the  Musician,  playing the white xylophone
 bones beneath  the  outer covering of black flakes. A great skull
 would roll  to  view,  like  a snowball; they shouted! Ribs, like
 spider legs,  plangent  as a dull harp, and then the black flakes
 of mortality  blowing  all  about  them in their scuffling dance;
 the boys  pushed  and heaved and fell in the leaves, in the death
 that had  turned  the  dead  to  flakes  and dryness, into a game
 played by boys whose stomachs gurgled with orange pop.
      And then  out  of  one  house  into  another, into seventeen
 houses, mindful  that  each  of  the  towns in its turn was being
 burned clean  of  its horrors by the Firemen, antiseptic warriors
 with shovels  and  bins,  shoveling  away  at  the  ebony tatters
 and  peppermint-stick  bones,  slowly  but  assuredly  separating
 the terrible  from  the  normal;  so  they  must  play very hard,
 these boys, the Firemen would soon be here!
      Then,  luminous   with   sweat,   they   gnashed   at  their
 last sandwiches.  With  a  final  kick,  a final marimba concert,
 a final autumnal lunge through leaf stacks, they went home.
      Their mothers  examined  their  shoes  for  black  flakelets
 which, when  discovered,  resulted in scalding baths and fatherly
 beatings.
      By the  year's  end  the Firemen had raked the autumn leaves
 and white xylophones away, and it was no more fun.

             June 2003:  WAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AIR

      "Did you hear about it?"
      "About what?"
      "The niggers, the niggers!"
      "What about 'em?"
      "Them leaving, pulling out, going away; did you hear?"
      "What you mean, pulling out? How can they do that?"
      "They can, they will, they are."
      "Just a couple?"
      "Every single one here in the South!"
      "No."
      "Yes!"
      "I got  to  see that. I don't believe it. Where they going--
 Africa?"
      A silence.
      "Mars."
      "You mean the _planet_ Mars?"
      "That's right."
      The men  stood  up  in  the hot shade of the hardware porch.
 Someone quit  lighting  a  pipe.  Somebody else spat out into the
 hot dust of noon.
      "They can't leave, they can't do that."
      "They're doing it, anyways."
      "Where'd you hear this?"
      "It's everywhere,  on  the  radio  a  minute  ago, just come
 through."
      Like a series of dusty statues, the men came to life.
      Samuel Teece,  the  hardware  proprietor,  laughed uneasily.
 "I _wondered_  what  happened  to Silly. I sent him on my bike an
 hour ago.  He  ain't come back from Mrs. Bordman's yet. You think
 that black fool just pedaled off to Mars?"
      The men snorted.
      "All I  say  is,  he  better  bring  back  my  bike. I don't
 take stealing from no one, by God."
      "Listen!"
      The men collided irritably with each other, turning.
      Far up  the  street  the  levee  seemed  to have broken. The
 black warm  waters  descended  and  engulfed  the  town.  Between
 the blazing  white  banks  of  the  town  stores,  among the tree
 silences, a  black  tide  flowed. Like a kind of summer molasses,
 it  poured  turgidly  forth  upon  the  cinnamon-dusty  road.  It
 surged slow,  slow,  and  it  was  men  and  women and horses and
 barking dogs,  and  it  was  little  boys and girls. And from the
 mouths of  the  people  partaking  of this tide came the sound of
 a  river.   A   summer-day   river   going  somewhere,  murmuring
 and irrevocable.  And  in  that  slow, steady channel of darkness
 that cut  across  the  white  glare  of day were touches of alert
 white, the  eyes,  the  ivory eyes staring ahead, glancing aside,
 as the  river,  the  long  and  endless  river,  took itself from
 old channels  into  a  new  one.  From  various  and  uncountable
 tributaries, in  creeks  and  brooks  of  color  and  motion, the
 parts of  this  river  had  joined,  become  one  mother current,
 and flowed  on.  And  brimming  the  swell were things carried by
 the river:  grandfather  clocks  chiming, kitchen clocks ticking,
 caged  hens   screaming,   babies  wailing;  and  swimming  among
 the thickened  eddies  were mules and cats, and sudden excursions
 of burst  mattress  springs  floating  by,  insane  hair stuffing
 sticking  out,   and  boxes  and  crates  and  pictures  of  dark
 grandfathers in  oak  frames--  the river flowing it on while the
 men sat  like  nervous  hounds on the hardware porch, too late to
 mend the levee, their hands empty.
      Samuel Teece  wouldn't  believe it. "Why, hell, where'd they
 get the transportation? How they goin' to _get_ to Mars?"
      "Rockets," said Grandpa Quartermain.
      "All the damn-fool things. Where'd they get rockets?"
      "Saved their money and built them."
      "I never heard about it."
      "Seems these  niggers  kept it secret, worked on the rockets
 all themselves, don't know where--in Africa, maybe."
      "Could  they  _do_  that?"  demanded  Samuel  Teece,  pacing
 about the porch. "Ain't there a law?"
      "It  ain't  as  if  they're  declarin'  war,"  said  Grandpa
 quietly.
      "Where do  they  get  off,  God  damn it, workin' in secret,
 plottin'?" shouted Teece.
      "Schedule is  for  all  this town's niggers to gather out by
 Loon Lake.  Rockets  be  there  at one o'clock, pick 'em up, take
 'em to Mars."
      "Telephone  the  governor,  call  out  the  militia,"  cried
 Teece. "They should've given notice!"
      "Here comes your woman, Teece."
      The men turned again.
      As they  watched,  down  the  hot road in the windless light
 first one  white  woman  and  then  another  arrived, all of them
 with stunned  faces,  all  of  them rustling like ancient papers.
 Some of  them  were  crying,  some  were  stern. All came to find
 their  husbands.   They   pushed  through  barroom  swing  doors,
 vanishing. They  entered  cool,  quiet groceries. They went in at
 drug shops  and  garages. And one of them, Mrs. Clara Teece, came
 to stand  in  the  dust by the hardware porch, blinking up at her
 stiff and  angry  husband  as  the black river flowed full behind
 her.
      "It's Lucinda, Pa; you got to come home!"
      "I'm not comin' home for no damn darkie!"
      "She's leaving. What'll I do without her?"
      "Fetch for  yourself,  maybe.  I  won't get down on my knees
 to stop her."
      "But she's like a family member," Mrs. Teece moaned.
      "Don't shout!  I  won't  have  you blubberin' in public this
 way about no goddamn--"
      His wife's  small  sob  stopped him. She dabbed at her eyes.
 "I kept  telling  her,  'Lucinda,'  I  said,  'you  stay on and I
 raise your  pay,  and  you  get  _two_  nights off a week, if you
 want,' but  she  just  looked  set!  I never seen her so set, and
 I said,  'Don't  you  _love_  me, Lucinda?' and she said yes, but
 she had  to  go  because  that's  the  way  it  was,  is all. She
 cleaned the  house  and  dusted  it and put luncheon on the table
 and then  she  went  to the parlor door and--and stood there with
 two bundles,  one  by  each  foot,  and  shook  my hand and said,
 'Good-by, Mrs.  Teece.'  And she went out the door. And there was
 her luncheon  on  the  table, and all of us too upset to even eat
 it. It's  still  there  now,  I  know;  last time I looked it was
 getting cold."
      Teece almost  struck  her. "God damn it, Mrs. Teece, you get
 the hell home. Standin' there makin' a sight of yourself!"
      "But, Pa . . ."
      He strode  away  into  the hot dimness of the store. He came
 back out a few seconds later with a silver pistol in his hand.
      His wife was gone.
      The  river  flowed  black  between  the  buildings,  with  a
 rustle and  a  creak  and  a  constant whispering shuffle. It was
 a very  quiet  thing,  with a great certainty to it; no laughter,
 no wildness, just a steady, decided, and ceaseless flow.
      Teece sat  on  the  edge  of  his hardwood chair. "If one of
 'em so much as laughs, by Christ, I'll kill 'em."
      The men waited.
      The river passed quietly in the dreamful noon.
      "Looks like  you  goin'  to  have  to  hoe your own turnips,
 Sam," Grandpa chuckled.
      "I'm  not  bad  at  shootin'  white  folks  neither."  Teece
 didn't look  at  Grandpa.  Grandpa  turned his head away and shut
 up his mouth.
      "Hold on  there!"  Samuel  Teece  leaped  off  the porch. He
 reached up  and  seized  the  reins  of  a horse ridden by a tall
 Negro man. "You, Belter, come down off there!"
      "Yes, sir." Belter slid down.
      Teece looked  him  over.  "Now,  just  what you think you're
 doin'?"
      "Well, Mr. Teece . . ."
      "I  reckon   you   think   you're   goin',  just  like  that
 song--what's the  words?  'Way  up  in  the  middle  of the air';
 ain't _that_ it?"
      "Yes, sir." The Negro waited.
      "You recollect you owe me fifty dollars, Belter?"
      "Yes, sir."
      "You tryin' to sneak out? By God, I'll horsewhip you!"
      "All the excitement, and it slipped my mind, sir."
      "It slipped  his  mind."  Teece  gave  a vicious wink at his
 men on  the  hardware  porch.  "God  damn,  mister, you know what
 you're goin' to do?"
      "No, sir."
      "You're stayin'  here  to  work  out that fifty bucks, or my
 name  ain't   Samuel   W.   Teece."  He  turned  again  to  smile
 confidently at the men in the shade.
      Belter looked  at  the  river  going  along the street, that
 dark river  flowing  and  flowing  between  the  shops,  the dark
 river on  wheels  and  horses  and in dusty shoes, the dark river
 from which  he  had  been  snatched  on  his journey. He began to
 shiver. "Let  me  go,  Mr.  Teece.  I'll  send your money from up
 there, I promise!"
      "Listen, Belter."  Teece  grasped  the man's suspenders like
 two harp  strings,  playing  them  now and again, contemptuously,
 snorting at  the  sky,  pointing  one  bony  finger  straight  at
 God. "Belter, you know anything about what's up there?"
      "What they tells me."
      "What they  tells  him!  Christ!  Hear that? What they tells
 him!" He  swung  the  man's  weight by his suspenders, idly, ever
 so casual,  flicking  a  finger  in  the black face. "Belter, you
 fly up  and  up  like  a  July Fourth rocket, and bang! There you
 are, cinders,  spread  all  over space. Them crackpot scientists,
 they don't know nothin', they kill you all off!"
      "I don't care."
      "Glad to  hear  that.  Because  you  know  what's up on that
 planet Mars?  There's  monsters with big raw eyes like mushrooms!
 You seen  them  pictures  on  those  future  magazines you buy at
 the drugstore  for  a  dime,  ain't you? Well! Them monsters jump
 up and suck marrow from your bones!"
      "I don't  care,  don't  care  at  all,  don't  care." Belter
 watched the  parade  slide by, leaving him. Sweat lay on his dark
 brow. He seemed about to collapse.
      "And it's  cold  up  there; no air, you fall down, jerk like
 a fish,  gaspin',  dyin',  stranglin',  stranglin' and dyin'. You
 _like_ that?"
      "Lots of  things  I don't like, sir. Please, sir, let me go.
 I'm late."
      "I'll let  you  go  when  I'm  _ready_  to let you go. We'll
 just talk  here  polite  until  I say you can leave, and you know
 it damn  well.  You  want  to travel, do you? Well, Mister Way up
 in the  Middle  of  the  Air,  you get the hell home and work out
 that fifty bucks you owe me! Take you two months to do that!"
      "But if I work it out, I'll miss the rocket, sir!"
      "Ain't that a shame now?" Teece tried to look sad.
      "I give you my horse, sir."
      "Horse ain't  legal  tender.  You  don't  move  until  I get
 my money." Teece laughed inside. He felt very warm and good.
      A small  crowd  of  dark  people  had  gathered  to hear all
 this. Now  as  Belter  stood,  head  down,  trembling, an old man
 stepped forward.
      "Mister?"
      Teece flashed him a quick look. "Well?"
      "How much this man owe you, mister?"
      "None of your damn business!"
      The old man looked at Belter. "How much, son?"
      "Fifty dollars."
      The old  man  put  out  his black hands at the people around
 him, "There's  twenty-five  of  you. Each give two dollars; quick
 now, this no time for argument."
      "Here, now!" cried Teece, stiffening up, tall, tall.
      The money  appeared.  The  old  man fingered it into his hat
 and gave  the  hat  to Belter. "Son," he said, "you ain't missin'
 no rocket."
      Belter smiled into the hat. "No, sir, I guess I ain't!"
      Teece shouted: "You give that money back to them!"
      Belter bowed  respectfully,  handing  the  money  over,  and
 when Teece  would  not  touch  it  he  set it down in the dust at
 Teece's  feet.   "There's  your  money,  sir,"  he  said.  "Thank
 you kindly."  Smiling,  he  gained  the  saddle  of his horse and
 whipped his  horse  along,  thanking  the  old man, who rode with
 him now until they were out of sight and hearing.
      "Son of  a  bitch,"  whispered  Teece,  staring blind at the
 sun. "Son of a bitch."
      "Pick up the money, Samuel," said someone from the porch.
      It was  happening  all  along  the  way.  Little white boys,
 barefoot, dashed  up  with  the  news.  "Them that has helps them
 that hasn't!  And  that  way they _all_ get free! Seen a rich man
 give a  poor  man  two  hundred  bucks  to  pay off some'un! Seen
 some'un else  give  some'un  else ten bucks, five bucks, sixteen,
 lots of that, all over, everybody!"
      The white  men  sat  with  sour water in their mouths. Their
 eyes were  almost  puffed  shut,  as  if  they had been struck in
 their faces by wind and sand and heat.
      The rage  was  in  Samuel  Teece. He climbed up on the porch
 and glared  at  the  passing  swarms. He waved his gun. And after
 a while  when  he  had  to  do  something,  he  began to shout at
 anyone, any  Negro  who  looked up at him. "Bang! There's another
 rocket out  in  space!"  he  shouted so all could hear. "Bang! By
 God!" The  dark  heads  didn't  flicker  or  pretend to hear, but
 their white  eyes  slid  swiftly  over and back. "Crash! All them
 rockets fallin'!  Screamin',  dyin'! Bang! God Almighty, I'm glad
 _I'm_ right  here  on  old  terra firma. As they says in that old
 joke, the more firma, the less terra! Ha, ha!"
      Horses clopped  along,  shuffling  up  dust.  Wagons bumbled
 on ruined springs.
      "Bang!"  His  voice  was  lonely  in  the  heat,  trying  to
 terrify the  dust  and  the  blazing  sun sky. "Wham! Niggers all
 over space!  Jerked  outa  rockets  like  so  many minnows hit by
 a meteor,  by  God!  Space  fulla  meteors.  You know that? Sure!
 Thick as  buckshot;  powie!  Shoot down them tin-can rockets like
 so many  ducks,  so  many  clay  pipes!  Ole sardine cans full of
 black cod!  Bangin'  like  a  stringa  ladyfingers,  bang,  bang,
 bang! Ten  thousand  dead  here,  ten  thousand  there.  Floatin'
 in space,  around  and  around earth, ever and ever, cold and way
 out, Lord! You hear that, _you_ there!"
      Silence.  The   river   was  broad  and  continuous.  Having
 entered all  cotton  shacks  during  the hour, having flooded all
 the  valuables   out,   it   was  now  carrying  the  clocks  and
 the washboards,  the  silk  bolts  and  curtain  rods  on down to
 some distant black sea.
      High tide  passed.  It  was two o'clock. Low tide came. Soon
 the river  was  dried  up,  the town silent, the dust settling in
 a film on the stores, the seated men, the tall hot trees.
      Silence.
      The men on the porch listened.
      Hearing  nothing,   they   extended   their   thoughts   and
 their imaginations  out  and  into  the  surrounding  meadows. In
 the early  morning  the  land  had  been  filled  with  its usual
 concoctions of  sound.  Here and there, with stubborn persistence
 to custom,  there  had  been  voices  singing, the honey laughter
 under the  mimosa  branches,  the  pickaninnies  rushing in clear
 water laughter  at  the  creek,  movements  and  bendings  in the
 fields, jokes  and  shouts  of  amusement from the shingle shacks
 covered with fresh green vine.
      Now it  was  as  if  a  great wind had washed the land clean
 of sounds.  There  was  nothing.  Skeleton  doors  hung  open  on
 leather  hinges.   Rubber-tire   swings   hung   in   the  silent
 air, uninhibited.  The  washing  rocks  at  the river were empty,
 and the  watermelon  patches,  if  any,  were  left alone to heat
 their hidden  liquors  in  the  sun. Spiders started building new
 webs in  abandoned  huts;  dust started to sift in from unpatched
 roofs in  golden  spicules.  Here  and there a fire, forgotten in
 the last  rush,  lingered  and in a sudden access of strength fed
 upon the  dry  bones  of  some  littered  shack.  The  sound of a
 gentle feeding burn went up through the silenced air.
      The  men   sat  on  the  hardware  porch,  not  blinking  or
 swallowing.
      "I can't  figure  why  they  left _now_. With things lookin'
 up. I  mean,  every  day  they got more rights. What they _want_,
 anyway? Here's  the  poll  tax  gone,  and  more  and more states
 passin' anti-lynchin'  bills,  and  all  kinds  of  equal rights.
 What _more_  they  want?  They  make  almost  as  good money as a
 white man, but there they go."
      Far down the empty street a bicycle came.
      "I'll be goddamned. Teece, here comes your Silly now."
      The   bicycle    pulled    up    before    the    porch,   a
 seventeen-year-old colored  boy  on  it,  all  arms  and feet and
 long legs  and  round  watermelon  head.  He  looked up at Samuel
 Teece and smiled.
      "So you  got  a  guilty  conscience  and  came  back,"  said
 Teece.
      "No, sir, I just brought the bicycle."
      "What's wrong, couldn't get it on the rocket?"
      "That wasn't it, sir."
      "Don't tell  me  what  it  was! Get off, you're not goin' to
 steal my  property!"  He  gave  the boy a push. The bicycle fell.
 "Get inside and start cleaning the brass."
      "Beg pardon?" The boy's eyes widened.
      "You heard  what  I said. There's guns need unpacking there,
 and a crate of nails just come from Natchez--"
      "Mr. Teece."
      "And a box of hammers need fixin'--"
      "Mr. Teece, sir?"
      "You _still_ standin' there!" Teece glared.
      "Mr.  Teece,  you  don't  mind  I  take  the  day  off,"  he
 said apologetically.
      "And tomorrow  and  day after tomorrow and the day after the
 day after that," said Teece.
      "I'm afraid so, sir."
      "You _should_  be  afraid,  boy.  Come here." He marched the
 boy across  the  porch  and drew a paper out of a desk. "Remember
 this?"
      "Sir?"
      "It's your  workin'  paper.  You  signed  it, there's your X
 right there, ain't it? Answer me."
      "I didn't  sign  that, Mr. Teece." The boy trembled. "Anyone
 can make an X."
      "Listen to  this,  Silly.  Contract:  'I  will  work for Mr.
 Samuel  Teece   two   years,  starting  July  15,  2001,  and  if
 intending to  leave  will  give  four  weeks' notice and continue
 working until  my  position  is  filled.'  There."  Teece slapped
 the paper,  his  eyes  glittering. "You cause trouble, we'll take
 it to court."
      "I can't  do  that,"  wailed the boy, tears starting to roll
 down his face, "If I don't go today, I don't go."
      "I know  just  how  you  feel, Silly; yes, sir, I sympathize
 with you,  boy.  But we'll treat you good and give you good food,
 boy. Now  you  just  get  inside and start working and forget all
 about that  nonsense,  eh, Silly? Sure." Teece grinned and patted
 the boy's shoulder.
      The boy  turned  and  looked  at  the old men sitting on the
 porch. He  could  hardly see now for his tears. "Maybe--maybe one
 of these  gentlemen  here  .  .  ." The men looked up in the hot,
 uneasy shadows, looking first at the boy and then at Teece.
      "You meanin'  to  say  you  think  a _white man_ should take
 your place, boy?" asked Teece coldly.
      Grandpa Quartermain  took  his  red  hands  off  his  knees.
 He looked  out  at  the  horizon  thoughtfully  and said, "Teece,
 what about me?"
      "What?"
      "I'll take Silly's job."
      The porch was silent.
      Teece balanced  himself  in  the  air.  "Grandpa,"  he  said
 warningly.
      "Let the boy go. I'll clean the brass."
      "Would you,  would  you, really?" Silly ran over to Grandpa,
 laughing, tears on his cheeks, unbelieving.
      "Sure."
      "Grandpa," said Teece, "keep your damn trap outa this."
      "Give the kid a break, Teece."
      Teece walked  over  and  seized  the  boy's arm. "He's mine.
 I'm lockin' him in the back room until tonight."
      "Don't, Mr. Teece!"
      The boy  began  to  sob  now.  His  crying filled the air of
 the porch.  His  eyes  were tight. Far down the street an old tin
 Ford was  choking  along,  approaching,  a  last  load of colored
 people in  it.  "Here  comes  my  family,  Mr.  Teece, oh please,
 please, oh God, please!"
      "Teece," said  one  of  the  other men on the porch, getting
 up, "let him go."
      Another man rose also. "That goes for me too."
      "And me," said another.
      "What's the  use?"  The  men  all  talked  now. "Cut it out,
 Teece."
      "Let him go."
      Teece felt  for  his  gun  in  his  pocket. He saw the men's
 faces. He  took  his  hand  away  and  left the gun in his pocket
 and said, "So that's how it is?"
      "That's how it is," someone said.
      Teece let  the  boy  go. "All right. Get out." He jerked his
 hand back  in  the  store.  "But  I  hope  you don't think you're
 gonna leave any trash behind to clutter my store."
      "No, sir!"
      "You clean everything outa your shed in back; burn it."
      Silly shook his head. "I'll take it with."
      "They won't let you put it on that damn rocket."
      "I'll take it with," insisted the boy softly.
      He rushed  back  through  the  hardware  store.  There  were
 sounds  of   sweeping  and  cleaning  out,  and  a  moment  later
 he appeared,  his  hands  full  of tops and marbles and old dusty
 kites and  junk  collected  through  the years. Just then the old
 tin Ford  drove  up  and  Silly  climbed in and the door slammed.
 Teece stood  on  the  porch  with a bitter smile. "What you goin'
 to do _up there?_"
      "Startin'  new,"   said   Silly.   "Gonna   have   my  _own_
 hardware."
      "God damn  it,  you  been learnin' my trade so you could run
 off and use it!"
      "No, sir,  I  never  thought  one  day _this'd_ happen, sir,
 but it did. I can't help it if I learned, Mr. Teece."
      "I suppose you got names for your rockets?"
      They looked  at  their  one  clock  on  the dashboard of the
 car.
      "Yes, sir."
      "Like Elijah  and  the Chariot, The Big Wheel and The Little
 Wheel, Faith, Hope, and Charity, eh?"
      "We got names for the ships, Mr. Teece."
      "God the  Son  and  the  Holy Ghost, I wouldn't wonder? Say,
 boy, you got one named the First Baptist Church?"
      "We got to leave now, Mr. Teece."
      Teece laughed.  "You  got  one  named Swing Low, and another
 named Sweet Chariot?"
      The car started up. "Good-by, Mr. Teece."
      "You got one named Roll Dem Bones?"
      "Good-by, mister!"
      "And  another  called  Over  Jordan!  Ha!  Well,  tote  that
 rocket, boy,  lift  that rocket, boy, go on, get blown up, see if
 I care!"
      The car  churned  off into the dust. The boy rose and cupped
 his hands  to  his  mouth  and  shouted  one  last time at Teece:
 "Mr. Teece,  Mr.  Teece,  what  _you_ goin' to do nights from now
 on? What you goin' to _do_ nights, Mr. Teece?"
      Silence. The  car  faded  down  the road. It was gone. "What
 in hell  did  he  mean?"  mused  Teece.  "What  am  I goin' to do
 nights?"
      He watched the dust settle, and it suddenly came to him.
      He remembered  nights  when  men  drove  to his house, their
 knees sticking  up  sharp and their shotguns sticking up sharper,
 like a  carful  of  cranes under the night trees of summer, their
 eyes mean.  Honking  the horn and him slamming his door, a gun in
 his  hand,   laughing   to   himself,   his   heart  racing  like
 a ten-year-old's,  driving  off  down  the  summer-night  road, a
 ring of  hemp  rope  coiled  on  the car floor, fresh shell boxes
 making every  man's  coat  look  bunchy. How many nights over the
 years, how  many  nights of the wind rushing in the car, flopping
 their hair  over  their  mean  eyes,  roaring,  as  they picked a
 tree, a good strong tree, and rapped on a shanty door!
      "So _that's_  what  the  son of a bitch meant?" Teece leaped
 out into  the  sunlight. "Come back, you bastard! What am I goin'
 to do nights? Why, that lousy, insolent son of a . . ."
      It was  a  good  question.  He  sickened and was empty. Yes.
 What _will_  we  do nights? he thought. Now _they're_ gone, what?
 He was absolutely empty and numb.
      He pulled the pistol from his pocket, checked its load.
      "What you goin' to do, Sam?" someone asked.
      "Kill that son of a bitch."
      Grandpa said, "Don't get yourself heated."
      But Samuel  Teece  was  gone  around  behind  the  store.  A
 moment later  he  drove  out  the  drive  in  his  open-top  car.
 "Anyone comin' with me?"
      "I'd like a drive," said Grandpa, and got up.
      "Anyone else?"
      Nobody replied.
      Grandpa got  in  and  slammed  the door. Samuel Teece gutted
 the car  out  in  a  great  whorl  of  dust. They didn't speak as
 they rushed  down  the  road  under the bright sky. The heat from
 the dry meadows was shimmering.
      They  stopped   at   a  crossroad.  "Which  way'd  they  go,
 Grandpa?"
      Grandpa squinted. "Straight on ahead, I figure."
      They went  on.  Under  the  summer  trees  their  car made a
 lonely sound.  The  road  was empty, and as they drove along they
 began to  notice  something.  Teece  slowed the car and bent out,
 his yellow eyes fierce.
      "God damn it, Grandpa, you see what them bastards did?"
      "What?" asked Grandpa, and looked.
      Where they  had  been  carefully  set down and left, in neat
 bundles every  few  feet  along  the empty country road, were old
 roller skates,  a  bandanna  full  of knicknacks, some old shoes,
 a cartwheel,  stacks  of  pants  and coats and ancient hats, bits
 of oriental  crystal  that had once tinkled in the wind, tin cans
 of  pink   geraniums,   dishes   of   waxed   fruit,  cartons  of
 Confederate  money,  washtubs,  scrubboards,  wash  lines,  soap,
 somebody's tricycle,  someone  else's  hedge shears, a toy wagon,
 a  jack-in-the-box,   a   stained-glass  window  from  the  Negro
 Baptist  Church,   a  whole  set  of  brake  rims,  inner  tubes,
 mattresses,  couches,   rocking   chairs,  jars  of  cold  cream,
 hand mirrors.  None  of  it  flung down, no, but deposited gently
 and with  feeling,  with  decorum,  upon  the  dusty edges of the
 road, as  if  a  whole  city  had walked here with hands full, at
 which time  a  great bronze trumpet had sounded, the articles had
 been  relinquished   to   the   quiet  dust,  and  one  and  all,
 the inhabitants  of  the  earth  had  fled  straight  up into the
 blue heavens.
      "Wouldn't  burn  them,  they  said,"  cried  Teece  angrily.
 "No, wouldn't  burn  them like I said, but had to take them along
 and leave  them  where  they could see them for the last time, on
 the road,  all  together  and  whole.  Them niggers think they're
 smart."
      He  veered  the  car  wildly,  mile  after  mile,  down  the
 road,  tumbling,   smashing,   breaking,  scattering  bundles  of
 paper,  jewel  boxes,  mirrors,  chairs.  "There,  by  damn,  and
 _there!_"
      The front  tire  gave  a  whistling  cry.  The  car  spilled
 crazily off  the  road  into  a ditch, flinging Teece against the
 glass.
      "Son of  a  bitch!"  He  dusted himself off and stood out of
 the car, almost crying with rage.
      He looked  at  the  silent,  empty  road. "We'll never catch
 them now,  never,  never."  As  far  as  he  could  see there was
 nothing but  bundles  and  stacks  and more bundles neatly placed
 like  little   abandoned   shrines   in  the  late  day,  in  the
 warm-blowing wind.
      Teece  and   Grandpa   came  walking  tiredly  back  to  the
 hardware  store  an  hour  later.  The  men  were  still  sitting
 there, listening,  and  watching  the sky. Just as Teece sat down
 and eased his tight shoes off someone cried, "Look!"
      "I'll be _damned_ if I will," said Teece.
      But the  others  looked.  And  they  saw  the golden bobbins
 rising  in   the  sky,  far  away.  Leaving  flame  behind,  they
 vanished.
      In the  cotton  fields  the  wind  blew  idly among the snow
 dusters.   In    still    farther    meadows    the   watermelons
 lay, unfingerprinted,  striped  like  tortoise  cats lying in the
 sun.
      The men  on  the  porch  sat  down,  looked  at  each other,
 looked at  the  yellow  rope  piled  neat  on  the store shelves,
 glanced  at   the  gun  shells  glinting  shiny  brass  in  their
 cartons, saw  the  silver  pistols  and long black metal shotguns
 hung high  and  quiet  in  the  shadows.  Somebody put a straw in
 his mouth, Someone else drew a figure in the dust.
      Finally Samuel  Teece  held  his  empty  shoe up in triumph,
 turned it  over,  stared  at it, and said, "Did you notice? Right
 up to the very last, by God, he said 'Mister'!"

            2004-05:  THE NAMING OF NAMES

      They came  to  the  strange  blue  lands and put their names
 upon the  lands.  Here  was Hinkston Creek and Lustig Corners and
 Black River  and  Driscoll  Forest  and  Peregrine  Mountain  and
 Wilder Town,  all  the  names  of  people and the things that the
 people did.  Here  was  the place where Martians killed the first
 Earth Men,  and  it  was  Red  Town and had to do with blood. And
 here where  the  second  expedition  was  destroyed,  and  it was
 named Second  Try,  and each of the other places where the rocket
 men had  set  down  their  fiery  caldrons  to burn the land, the
 names were  left  like cinders, and of course there was a Spender
 Hill and a Nathaniel York Town. . . .
      The old  Martian  names  were  names  of  water  and air and
 hills. They  were  the names of snows that emptied south in stone
 canals to  fill  the  empty  seas.  And  the  names of sealed and
 buried sorcerers  and  towers and obeisks. And the rockets struck
 at  the  names  like  hammers,  breaking  away  the  marble  into
 shale, shattering  the  crockery  milestones  that  named the old
 towns, in  the  rubble  of  which  great pylons were plunged with
 new  names:  IRON  TOWN,  STEEL  TOWN,  ALUMINUM  CITY,  ELECTRIC
 VILLAGE, CORN  TOWN,  GRAIN VILLA, DETROIT II, all the mechanical
 names and the metal names from Earth.
      And after  the  towns  were  built and named, the graveyards
 were built  and  named,  too:  Green  Hill, Moss Town, Boot Hill,
 Bide a Wee; and the first dead went into their graves.
      But after  everything  was  pinned  down and neat and in its
 place, when  everything  was  safe  and  certain,  when the towns
 were well  enough  fixed  and  the  loneliness  was at a minimum,
 then the  sophisticates  came in from Earth. They came on parties
 and  vacations,   on  little  shopping  trips  for  trinkets  and
 photographs  and   the  "atmosphere";  they  came  to  study  and
 apply sociological  laws;  they  came  with  stars and badges and
 rules and  regulations,  bringing  some  of the red tape that had
 rawled across  Earth  like  an alien weed, and letting it grow on
 Mars wherever  it  could  take  root. They began to plan people's
 lives and  libraries;  they  began to instruct and push about the
 very people  who  had  come  to  Mars  to  get  away  from  being
 instructed and ruled and pushed about.
      And it  was  inevitable  that  some  of  these people pushed
 back. . . .

                       April 2005:  USHER II

      "'During the  whole  of  a  dull, dark, and soundless day in
 the autumn  of  the  year,  when the clouds hung oppressively low
 in the  heavens,  I had been passing alone, on horseback. through
 a singularly  dreary  tract  of  country,  and  at  length  found
 myself, as  the  shades  of  evening  drew  on,  within  view  of
 the melancholy House of Usher. . . .'"
      Mr. William  Stendahl  paused  in his quotation. There, upon
 a low  black  hill,  stood  the  House,  its  cornerstone bearing
 the inscription 2005 A.D.
      Mr. Bigelow,  the  architect,  said, "It's completed. Here's
 the key, Mr. Stendahl."
      The two  men  stood  together  silently  in the quiet autumn
 afternoon. Blueprints rustled on the raven grass at their feet.
      "The House  of  Usher,"  said  Mr.  Stendahl  with pleasure.
 "Planned,   built,   bought,   paid   for.   Wouldn't   Mr.   Poe
 be _delighted?_"
      Mr. Bigelow squinted. "Is it everything you wanted, sir?"
      "Yes!"
      "Is the color right? Is it _desolate_ and _terrible?_"
      "_Very_ desolate, _very_ terrible!"
      "The walls are--_bleak?_"
      "Amazingly so!"
      "The tarn, is it 'black and lurid' enough?"
      "Most incredibly black and lurid."
      "And the  sedge--we've  dyed  it, you know--is it the proper
 gray and ebon?"
      "Hideous!"
      Mr. Bigelow  consulted  his  architectural plans. From these
 he quoted  in  part: "Does the whole structure cause an 'iciness,
 a sickening  of  the  heart, a dreariness of thought'? The House,
 the lake, the land, Mr. Stendahl?"
      "Mr.  Bigelow,   it's   worth  every  penny!  My  God,  it's
 beautiful!"
      "Thank you.  I  had  to  work  in total ignorance. Thank the
 Lord you  had  your  own  private rockets or we'd never have been
 allowed to  bring  most  of  the  equipment  through. You notice,
 it's always  twilight  here,  this  land, always October, barren,
 sterile, dead.  It  took  a  bit  of doing. We killed everything.
 Ten thousand  tons  of  DDT.  Not  a  snake, frog, or Martian fly
 left! Twilight  always,  Mr.  Stendahl;  I'm proud of that. There
 are machines,  hidden,  which  blot  out  the  sun.  It's  always
 properly 'dreary.'"
      Stendahl drank  it  in,  the dreariness, the oppression, the
 fetid vapors,  the  whole  "atmosphere,"  so delicately contrived
 and fitted.  And  that  House!  That  crumbling horror, that evil
 lake, the  fungi,  the  extensive  decay!  Plastic  or otherwise,
 who could guess?
      He looked  at  the  autumn sky. Somewhere above, beyond, far
 off, was  the  sun.  Somewhere  it  was the month of April on the
 planet Mars,  a  yellow  month  with a blue sky. Somewhere above,
 the rockets  burned  down  to civilize a beautifully dead planet.
 The  sound  of  their  screaming  passage  was  muffled  by  this
 dim, soundproofed world, this ancient autumn world.
      "Now that  my  job's  done,"  said  Mr. Bigelow uneasily, "I
 feel free to ask what you're going to do with all this."
      "With Usher? Haven't you guessed?"
      "No."
      "Does the name Usher mean nothing to you?"
      "Nothing."
      "Well, what about _this_ name: Edgar Allan Poe?"
      Mr. Bigelow shook his head.
      "Of course."  Stendahl  snorted  delicately,  a  combination
 of dismay  and  contempt. "How could I expect you to know blessed
 Mr. Poe?  He  died  a  long while ago, before Lincoln. All of his
 books  were  burned  in  the  Great  Fire.  That's  thirty  years
 ago--1975."
      "Ah," said Mr. Bigelow wisely. "One of _those!_"
      "Yes,  one   of   those,   Bigelow.  He  and  Lovecraft  and
 Hawthorne and  Ambrose  Bierce  and  all  the tales of terror and
 fantasy and  horror  and,  for  that  matter, tales of the future
 were burned.  Heartlessly.  They  passed  a  law.  Oh, it started
 very small.  In  1950  and '60 it was a grain of sand. They began
 by controlling  books  of  cartoons and then detective books and,
 of course,  films,  one  way  or  another,  one group or another,
 political  bias,  religions  prejudice,  union  pressures;  there
 was always  a  minority afraid of something, and a great majority
 afraid of  the  dark,  afraid  of the future, afraid of the past,
 afraid  of   the   present,  afraid  of  themselves  and  shadows
 of themselves."
      "I see."
      "Afraid of  the  word  'politics'  (which  eventually became
 a synonym  for  Communism among the more reactionary elements, so
 I hear,  and  it  was worth your life to use the word!), and with
 a screw  tightened  here,  a bolt fastened there, a push, a pull,
 a yank,  art  and  literature  were  soon  like  a great twine of
 taffy strung  about,  being  twisted  in braids and tied in knots
 and  thrown   in   all   directions,  until  there  was  no  more
 resiliency and  no  more  savor  to  it.  Then  the  film cameras
 chopped short  and  the  theaters  turned  dark.  and  the  print
 presses trickled  down  from a great Niagara of reading matter to
 a mere  innocuous  dripping  of  'pure'  material.  Oh,  the word
 'escape' was radical, too, I tell you!"
      "Was it?"
      "It was!  Every  man,  they  said,  must  face reality. Must
 face the  Here  and  Now!  Everything  that was _not_ so must go.
 All the  beautiful  literary  lies  and  flights of fancy must be
 shot in  mid-air.  So  they  lined them up against a library wall
 one Sunday  morning  thirty  years  ago, in 1975; they lined them
 up, St.  Nicholas  and  the  Headless  Horseman  and  Snow  White
 and Rumpelstiltskin  and  Mother  Goose--oh, what a wailing!--and
 shot them  down,  and  burned  the  paper  castles  and the fairy
 frogs and  old  kings and the people who lived happily ever after
 (for of  course  it  was  a  fact  that  _nobody_  lived  happily
 ever after!),  and  Once  Upon  A  Time  became No More! And they
 spread the  ashes  of the Phantom Rickshaw with the rubble of the
 Land of  Oz;  they filleted the bones of Glinda the Good and Ozma
 and  shattered   Polychrome   in   a   spectroscope   and  served
 Jack  Pumpkinhead   with   meringue   at  the  Biologists'  Ball!
 The Beanstalk  died  in  a  bramble  of red tape! Sleeping Beauty
 awoke at  the  kiss  of  a  scientist  and  expired  at the fatal
 puncture of  his  syringe.  And  they  made Alice drink something
 from a  bottle  which  reduced  her  to a size where she could no
 longer cry  'Curiouser  and curiouser,' and they gave the Looking
 Glass one  hammer  blow to smash it and every Red King and Oyster
 away!"
      He clenched  his  fists.  Lord,  how  immediate  it was! His
 face was red and he was gasping for breath.
      As  for   Mr.   Bigelow,  he  was  astounded  at  this  long
 explosion. He  blinked  and  at  last  said,  "Sorry.  Don't know
 what you're  talking  about.  Just names to me. From what I hear,
 the Burning was a good thing."
      "Get out!"  screamed  Stendahl.  "You've  done your job, now
 let me alone, you idiot!"
      Mr. Bigelow summoned his carpenters and went away.
      Mr. Stendahl stood alone before his House.
      "Listen here,"  he  said  to  the unseen rockets. "I came to
 Mars to  get  away  from  you  Clean-Minded  people,  but  you're
 flocking in  thicker  every  day,  like  flies  to  offal. So I'm
 going to  show  you.  I'm  going  to  teach you a fine lesson for
 what you  did  to  Mr.  Poe on Earth. As of this day, beware. The
 House of Usher is open for business!"
      He pushed a fist at the sky.

      The rocket  landed.  A  man stepped out jauntily. He glanced
 at the  House,  and  his  gray  eyes  were  displeased and vexed.
 He strode across the moat to confront the small man there.
      "Your name Stendahl?"
      "Yes."
      "I'm Garrett, Investigator of Moral Climates."
      "So you  finally  got  to  Mars,  you  Moral Climate people?
 I wondered when you'd appear."
      "We arrived  last  week.  We'll soon have things as neat and
 tidy as  Earth."  The  man waved an identification card irritably
 toward  the  House.  "Suppose  you  tell  me  about  that  place,
 Stendahl?"
      "It's a haunted castle, if you like."
      "I don't  like.  Stendahl, I _don't_ like. The sound of that
 word 'haunted.'"
      "Simple enough.  In  this year of our Lord 2005 I have built
 a mechanical  sanctuary.  In  it  copper  bats  fly on electronic
 beams, brass  rats  scuttle  in  plastic cellars, robot skeletons
 dance; robot  vampires,  harlequins,  wolves, and white phantoms,
 compounded of chemical and ingenuity, live here."
      "That's  what  I  was  afraid  of,"  said  Garrett,  smiling
 quietly. "I'm  afraid  we're  going  to  have  to tear your place
 down."
      "I knew  you'd  come out as soon as you discovered what went
 on."
      "I'd have  come  sooner,  but we at Moral Climates wanted to
 be sure  of  your  intentions  before  we  moved  in. We can have
 the Dismantlers  and  Burning  Crew  here  by supper. By midnight
 your  place  will  be  razed  to  the  cellar.  Mr.  Stendahl,  I
 consider you  somewhat  of  a  fool,  sir.  Spending  hard-earned
 money on  a  folly.  Why,  it  must  have  cost you three million
 dollars--"
      "Four million!  But,  Mr.  Garrett,  I inherited twenty-five
 million when  very  young.  I can afford to throw it about. Seems
 a dreadful  shame,  though,  to  have  the House finished only an
 hour and  have  you  race  out  with  your  Dismantlers. Couldn't
 you  possibly   let   me   play  with  my  Toy  for  just,  well,
 twenty-four hours?"
      "You know  the  law.  Strict  to  the  letter.  No books, no
 houses,  nothing  to  be  produced  which  in  any  way  suggests
 ghosts, vampires, fairies, or any creature of the imagination."
      "You'll be burning Babbitts next!"
      "You've caused  us  a  lot of trouble, Mr. Stendahl. It's in
 the record. Twenty years ago. On Earth. You and your library."
      "Yes, me  and  my  library.  And  a  few others like me. Oh,
 Poe's  been  forgotten  for  many  years  now,  and  Oz  and  the
 other  creatures.   But  I  had  my  little  cache.  We  had  our
 libraries, a  few  private  citizens,  until  you  sent  your men
 around with  torches  and incinerators and tore my fifty thousand
 books up  and  burned  them.  Just as you put a stake through the
 heart of  Halloween  and  told  your  film producers that if they
 made  anything  at  all  they  would  have  to  make  and  remake
 Earnest Hemingway.  My  God, how many times have I seen _For Whom
 the Bell  Tolls_  done! Thirty different versions. All realistic.
 Oh, realism! Oh, here, oh, now, oh hell!"
      "It doesn't pay to be bitter!"
      "Mr. Garrett,  you  must  turn  in  a  full  report, mustn't
 you?"
      "Yes."
      "Then, for  curiosity's  sake,  you'd  better  come  in  and
 look around. It'll take only a minute."
      "All right.  Lead  the  way.  And no tricks. I've a gun with
 me."
      The door  to  the  House of Usher creaked wide. A moist wind
 issued forth.  There  was  an  immense  sighing and moaning, like
 a subterranean bellows breathing in the lost catacombs.
      A rat  pranced  across  the  floor  stones.  Garrett, crying
 out, gave  it  a  kick.  It  fell over, the rat did, and from its
 nylon fur streamed an incredible horde of metal fleas.
      "Amazing!" Garrett bent to see.
      An old  witch  sat  in a niche, quivering her wax hands over
 some  orange-and-blue  tarot  cards.  She  jerked  her  head  and
 hissed through  her  toothless  mouth  at  Garrett,  tapping  her
 greasy cards.
      "Death!" she cried.
      "Now _that's_  the  sort  of  thing  I  mean," said Garrett.
 "Deplorable!"
      "I'll let you burn her personally."
      "Will you,  really?"  Garrett  was pleased. Then he frowned.
 "I must say you're taking this all so well."
      "It was  enough  just  to  be  able to create this place. To
 be  able  to  say  I  did  it.  To  say  I  nurtured  a  medieval
 atmosphere in a modern, incredulous world."
      "I've  a  somewhat  reluctant  admiration  for  your  genius
 myself,  sir."  Garrett  watched  a  mist  drift  by,  whispering
 and whispering,  shaped  like  a  beautiful  and  nebulous woman.
 Down a  moist  corridor  a  machine  whirled. Like the stuff from
 a  cotton-candy   centrifuge,   mists   sprang  up  and  floated,
 murmuring, in the silent halls.
      An ape appeared out of nowhere.
      "Hold on!" cried Garrett.
      "Don't  be  afraid,"  Stendahl  tapped  the  animal's  black
 chest. "A  robot.  Copper skeleton and all, like the witch. See?"
 He stroked the fur, and under it metal tubing came to light.
      "Yes." Garrett  put  out a timid hand to pet the thing. "But
 why, Mr. Stendahl, why all _this?_ What obsessed you?"
      "Bureaucracy, Mr.  Garrett.  But  I haven't time to explain.
 The government  will  discover  soon  enough."  He  nodded to the
 ape. "All right. _Now_."
      The ape killed Mr. Garrett.

      "Are we almost ready, Pikes?"
      Pikes looked up from the table. "Yes, sir."
      "You've done a splendid job."
      "Well, I'm  paid  for  it,  Mr. Stendahl," said Pikes softly
 as he  lifted  the  plastic  eyelid of the robot and inserted the
 glass eyeball to fasten the rubberoid muscles neatly. "There."
      "The spitting image of Mr. Garrett."
      "What do  we  do  with  him,  sir?" Pikes nodded at the slab
 where the real Mr. Garrett lay dead.
      "Better  burn   him,   Pikes.   We  wouldn't  want  two  Mr.
 Gasretts, would we?"
      Pikes  wheeled   Mr.   Garrett  to  the  brick  incinerator.
 "Goodby." He pushed Mr. Garrett in and slammed the door.
      Stendahl  confronted  the  robot  Garrett.  "You  have  your
 orders, Garrett?"
      "Yes, sir."  The  robot  sat  up.  "I'm  to  return to Moral
 Climates. I'll  file  a  complementary  report.  Delay action for
 at least forty-eight hours. Say I'm investigating more fully."
      "Right, Garrett. Good-by."
      The robot  hurried  out  to  Garrett's  rocket,  got in, and
 flew away.
      Stendahl turned.  "Now,  Pikes,  we  send  the  remainder of
 the invitations  for  tonight.  I  think we'll have a jolly time,
 don't you?"
      "Considering we waited twenty years, quite jolly!"
      They winked at each other.
      Seven o'clock.  Stendahl  studied  his  watch.  Almost time.
 He twirled  the  sherry  glass in his hand. He sat quietly. Above
 him, among  the  oaken  beams,  the  bats,  their delicate copper
 bodies hidden  under  rubber  flesh, blinked at him and shrieked.
 He raised  his  glass  to  them. "To our success." Then he leaned
 back, closed  his  eyes,  and  considered  the entire affair. How
 he would  savor  this  in  his  old  age.  This  paying  back  of
 the   antiseptic    government    for    its   literary   terrors
 and conflagrations.  Oh,  how  the  anger and hatred had grown in
 him through  the  years.  Oh, how the plan had taken a slow shape
 in his  numbed  mind,  until that day three years ago when he had
 met Pikes.
      Ah yes,  Pikes.  Pikes with the bitterness in him as deep as
 a black,  charred  well  of  green  acid.  Who  was  Pikes?  Only
 the greatest  of  them all! Pikes, the man of ten thousand faces,
 a fury,  a  smoke,  a  blue fog, a white rain, a bat, a gargoyle,
 a monster,  that  was  Pikes! Better than Lon Chaney, the father?
 Stendabi ruminated.  Night  after  night he had watched Chaney in
 the old,  old  films.  Yes,  better than Chaney. Better than that
 other ancient  mummer?  What  was  his name? Karloff? Far better!
 Lugosi? The  comparison  was  odious!  No,  there  was  only  one
 Pikes, and  he  was a man stripped of his fantasies now, no place
 on Earth  to  go,  no  one  to  show  off  to.  Forbidden even to
 perform for himself before a mirror!
      Poor impossible,  defeated  Pikes!  How  must  it have felt,
 Pikes, the  night  they  seized  your films, like entrails yanked
 from the  camera,  out  of  your guts, dutching them in coils and
 wads to  stuff  them  up a stove to burn away! Did it feel as bad
 as  having   some   fifty  thousand  books  annihilated  with  no
 recompense? Yes.  Yes.  Stendahl  felt  his  hands grow cold with
 the senseless  anger.  So  what  more natural than they would one
 day talk  over  endless  coffeepots  into  innumerable midnights,
 and out  of  all  the  talk  and the bitter brewings would come--
 the House of Usher.
      A great church bell rang. The guests were arriving.
      Smiling he went to greet them.

      Full grown  without  memory,  the  robots  waited.  In green
 silks the  color  of  forest  pools,  in  silks the color of frog
 and fern,  they  waited.  In yellow hair the color of the sun and
 sand, the  robots  waited. Oiled, with tube bones cut from bronze
 and sunk  in  gelatin,  the  robots  lay.  In coffins for the not
 dead and  not  alive,  in planked boxes, the metronomes waited to
 be set  in  motion.  There  was a smell of lubrication and lathed
 brass. There  was  a silence of the tomb yard. Sexed but sexless,
 the  robots.   Named  but  unnamed,  and  borrowing  from  humans
 everything but  humanity,  the  robots  stared at the nailed lids
 of their  labeled  F.O.B.  boxes,  in  a  death that was not even
 a death,  for  there  had  never been a life. And now there was a
 vast screaming  of  yanked  nails.  Now  there  was  a lifting of
 lids. Now  there  were  shadows  on the boxes and the pressure of
 a hand  squirting  oil  from  a  can.  Now  one  clock was set in
 motion, a  faint  ticking.  Now  another  and another, until this
 was an  immense  clock shop, purring. The marble eyes rolled wide
 their rubber  lids.  The  nostrils winked. The robots, clothed in
 hair of  ape  and  white  of  rabbit, arose: Tweedledum following
 Tweedledee,  Mock-Turtle,   Dormouse,  drowned  bodies  from  the
 sea  compounded   of   salt   and   whiteweed,  swaying;  hanging
 blue-throated  men   with   turned-up,   clam-flesh   eyes,   and
 creatures  of   ice   and   burning   tinsel,   loam-dwarfs   and
 pepper-elves, Tik-tok,  Ruggedo,  St.  Nicholas  with a self-made
 snow flurry  blowing  on  before  him,  Bluebeard  with  whiskers
 like acetylene  flame,  and  sulphur clouds from which green fire
 snouts protruded,  and,  in  scaly  and  gigantic  serpentine,  a
 dragon with  a  furnace  in  its  belly  reeled out the door with
 a scream,  a  tick,  a  bellow,  a  silence,  a rush, a wind. Ten
 thousand lids  fell  back.  The  clock shop moved out into Usher.
 The night was enchanted.

      A warm  breeze  came  over  the  land.  The  guest  rockets,
 burning the  sky  and  turning  the weather from autumn to spring
 arrived.
      The men  stepped  out  in  evening  clothes  and  the  women
 stepped out  after  them,  their  hair  coiffed  up  in elaborate
 detail.
      "So _that's_ Usher!"
      "But where's the door?"
      At  this   moment   Stendahl  appeared.  The  women  laughed
 and  chattered.  Mr.  Stendahl  raised  a  hand  to  quiet  them.
 Turning, he looked up to a high castle window and called:
      "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."
      And from  above,  a  beautiful  maiden  leaned  out upon the
 night wind  and  let  down  her  golden hair. And the hair twined
 and blew  and  became  a  ladder  upon  which  the  guests  might
 ascend, laughing, into the House.
      What  eminent   sociologists!   What  clever  psychologists!
 What   tremendously   important   politicians,   bacteriologists,
 and neurologists! There they stood, within the dank walls.
      "Welcome, all of you!"
      Mr. Tryon,  Mr.  Owen,  Mr.  Dunne,  Mr. Lang, Mr. Steffens,
 Mr. Fletcher, and a double-dozen more.
      "Come in, come in!"
      Miss Gibbs,  Miss  Pope,  Miss  Churchil,  Miss  Blunt, Miss
 Drummond, and a score of other women, glittering.
      Eminent,  eminent  people,  one  and  all,  members  of  the
 Society  for   the  Prevention  of  Fantasy,  advocators  of  the
 banishment  of   Halloween  and  Guy  Fawkes,  killers  of  bats,
 burners of  books,  bearers  of  torches;  good  clean  citizens,
 every one,  who  had  waited  until the rough men had come up and
 buried the  Martians  and cleansed the cities and built the towns
 and repaired  the  highways  and  made everything safe. And then,
 with everything  well  on  its  way  to  Safety,  the Spoil-Funs,
 the  people  with  mercurochrome  for  blood  and  iodine-colored
 eyes, came  now  to  set  up  their  Moral  Climates and dole out
 goodness  to   everyone.   And   they   were  his  friends!  Yes,
 carefully, carefully,  he  had  met  and  befriended each of them
 on Earth in the last year!
      "Welcome to the vasty halls of Death!" he cried.
      "Hello, Stendahl, what _is_ all this?"
      "You'll see.  Everyone  off  with their clothes. You'll find
 booths to  one  side  there. Change into costumes you find there.
 Men on this side, women on that."
      The people stood uneasily about.
      "I don't  know  if we should stay," said Miss Pope. "I don't
 like the looks of this. It verges on--blasphemy."
      "Nonsense, a _costume_ ball!"
      "Seems quite illegal." Mr. Steffens sniffed about.
      "Come  off   it."   Stendahl   laughed.  "Enjoy  yourselves.
 Tomorrow it'll be a ruin. Get in the booths!"
      The House  blazed  with  life  and color; harlequins rang by
 with belled  caps  and  white mice danced miniature quadrilles to
 the music  of  dwarfs  who  tickled  tiny fiddles with tiny bows,
 and flags  rippled  from scorched beams while bats flew in clouds
 about gargoyle  mouths  which  spouted  down  wine,  cool,  wild,
 and foaming.  A  creek  wandered  through  the seven rooms of the
 masked ball.  Guests  sipped  and  found  it to be sherry. Guests
 poured from  the  booths,  transformed from one age into another,
 their faces  covered  with  dominoes,  the very act of putting on
 a mask  revoking  all  their  licenses  to  pick  a  quarrel with
 fantasy  and   horror.  The  women  swept  about  in  red  gowns,
 laughing. The  men  danced  them  attendance.  And  on  the walls
 were shadows  with  no  people  to  throw them, and here or there
 were mirrors  in  which  no  image  showed. "All of us vampires!"
 laughed Mr. Fletcher. "Dead!"
      There were  seven  rooms,  each a different color, one blue,
 one purple,  one  green,  one  orange,  another  white, the sixth
 violet, and  the  seventh  shrouded  in  black velvet. And in the
 black room  was  an  ebony  clock  which  struck  the  hour loud.
 And through  these  rooms  the  guests  ran, drunk at last, among
 the robot  fantasies,  amid  the  Dormice  and  Mad  Hatters, the
 Trolls and  Giants,  the  Black  Cats and White Queens, and under
 their dancing  feet  the  floor gave off the massive pumping beat
 of a hidden and telltale heart.
      "Mr. Stendahl!"
      A whisper.
      "Mr. Stendahl!"
      A monster  with  the  face  of  Death stood at his elbow. It
 was Pikes. "I must see you alone."
      "What is it?"
      "Here." Pikes  held  out  a  skeleton  hand.  In  it  were a
 few half-melted, charred wheels, nuts, cogs, bolts.
      Stendahl looked  at  them  for  a  long moment. Then he drew
 Pikes into a corridor. "Garrett?" he whispered.
      Pikes nodded.  "He  sent  a robot in his place. Cleaning out
 the incinerator a moment ago, I found these."
      They both stared at the fateful cogs for a time.
      "This means  the  police  will  be  here  any  minute," said
 Pikes. "Our plan will be ruined."
      "I don't  know."  Stendahl glanced in at the whirling yellow
 and blue  and  orange people. The music swept through the misting
 halls. "I  should  have  guessed  Garrett wouldn't be fool enough
 to come in person. But wait!"
      "What's the matter?"
      "Nothing. There's  nothing  the matter. Garrett sent a robot
 to us.  Well,  we  sent  one  back.  Unless he checks closely, he
 won't notice the switch."
      "Of course!"
      "Next time  he'll  come  _himself_.  Now that he thinks it's
 safe. Why,  he  might  be  at  the  door any minute, in _person!_
 More wine, Pikes!"
      The great bell rang.
      "There he is now, I'll bet you. Go let Mr. Garrett in."
      Rapunzel let down her golden hair.
      "Mr. Stendahl?"
      "Mr. Garrett. The _real_ Mr. Garrett?"
      "The same."  Garrett  eyed  the  dank walls and the whirling
 people. "I  thought  I'd  better  come  see for myself. You can't
 depend on  robots.  Other  people's  robots,  especially.  I also
 took the  precaution  of  summoning  the  Dismantlers. They'll be
 here in  one  hour  to  knock  the  props  out  from  under  this
 horrible place."
      Stendahl bowed.  "Thanks  for  telling  me."  He  waved  his
 hand. "In  the  meantime,  you might as well enjoy this. A little
 wine?"
      "No, thank you. What's going on? How low can a man sink?"
      "See for yourself, Mr. Garrett."
      "Murder," said Garrett.
      "Murder most foul," said Stendahl.
      A woman  screamed.  Miss  Pope ran up, her face the color of
 a cheese.  "The  most  horrid  thing  just  happened!  I saw Miss
 Blunt strangled by an ape and stuffed up a chimney!"
      They looked  and  saw  the  long  yellow  hair trailing down
 from the flue. Garrett cried out.
      "Horrid!" sobbed  Miss  Pope,  and  then  ceased crying. She
 blinked and turned. "Miss Blunt!"
      "Yes," said Miss Blunt, standing there.
      "But I just saw you crammed up the flue!"
      "No," laughed  Miss  Blunt.  "A  robot  of  myself. A clever
 facsimile!"
      "But, but . . ."
      "Don't cry  darling.  I'm  quite  all  right.  Let  me  look
 at myself.  Well,  so  there  I  _am!_  Up  the chimney. Like you
 said. Isn't that funny?"
      Miss Blunt walked away, laughing.
      "Have a drink, Garrett?"
      "I believe  I  will. That unnerved me. My God, what a place.
 This _does_ deserve tearing down. For a moment there . . ."
      Garrett drank.
      Another scream.  Mr.  Steffens,  borne upon the shoulders of
 four  white   rabbits,  was  carried  down  a  flight  of  stairs
 which magically  appeared  in  the  floor.  Into  a  pit went Mr.
 Steffens, where,  bound  and  tied,  he  was  left  to  face  the
 advancing razor  steel  of  a  great  pendulum  which now whirled
 down, down, closer and closer to his outraged body.
      "Is that  me  down  there?"  said  Mr.  Steffens,  appearing
 at Garrett's  elbow.  He  bent  over  the  pit. "How strange, how
 odd, to see yourself die."
      The pendulum made a final stroke.
      "How realistic," said Mr. Steffens, turning away.
      "Another drink, Mr. Garrett?"
      "Yes, please."
      "It won't be long. The Dismantlers will be here."
      "Thank God!"
      And for a third time, a scream.
      "What now?" said Garrett apprehensively.
      "It's my turn," said Miss Drummond. "Look."
      And a  second  Miss  Druxnmond,  shrieking,  was nailed into
 a coffin and thrust into the raw earth under the floor.
      "Why,  I   remember  _that_,"  gasped  the  Investigator  of
 Moral Climates.  "From  the  old  forbidden  books. The Premature
 Burial. And  the  others.  The  Pit,  the  Pendulum, and the ape,
 the chimney,  the  Murders in the Rue Morgue. In a book I burned,
 yes!"
      "Another drink, Garrett. Here, hold your glass steady."
      "My lord, you _have_ an imagination, haven't you?"
      They stood  and  watched  five  others die, one in the mouth
 of a  dragon,  the others thrown off into the black tarn, sinking
 and vanishing.
      "Would you  like  to  see  what  we  have  planned for you?"
 asked Stendahl.
      "Certainly," said  Garrett.  "What's  the  difference? We'll
 blow the whole damn thing up, anyway. You're nasty."
      "Come along then. This way."
      And he  led  Garrett  down  into the floor, through numerous
 passages and  down  again upon spiral stairs into the earth, into
 the catacombs.
      "What do you want to show me down here?" said Garrett.
      "Yourself killed."
      "A duplicate?"
      "Yes. And also something else."
      "What?"
      "The  Amontillado,"   said  Stendahl,  going  ahead  with  a
 blazing lantern  which  he  held  high.  Skeletons froze half out
 of  coffin   lids.  Garrett  held  his  hand  to  his  nose,  his
 face disgusted.
      "The what?"
      "Haven't you ever heard of the Amontillado?"
      "No!"
      "Don't you recognize this?" Stendahl pointed to a cell.
      "Should I?"
      "Or  this?"  Stendahl  produced  a  trowel  from  under  his
 cape smiling.
      "What's that thing?"
      "Come," said Stendahl.
      They stepped  into  the  cell. In the dark, Stendahl affixed
 the chains to the half-drunken man.
      "For God's  sake,  what  are  you  doing?"  shouted Garrett,
 rattling about.
      "I'm being  ironic.  Don't  interrupt  a man in the midst of
 being ironic, it's not polite. There!"
      "You've locked me in chains!"
      "So I have."
      "What are you going to do?"
      "Leave you here."
      "You're joking."
      "A very good joke."
      "Where's my duplicate? Don't we see him killed?"
      "There's no duplicate."
      "But the _others!_"
      "The others  are  dead.  The  ones  you  saw killed were the
 real people. The duplicates, the robots, stood by and watched."
      Garrett said nothing.
      "Now  you're   supposed  to  say,  'For  the  love  of  God,
 Montresor!'" said  Stendahl.  "And  I  will  reply, 'Yes, for the
 love of God.' Won't you say it? Come on. Say it."
      "You fool."
      "Must I  coax  you?  Say  it.  Say  'For  the  love  of God,
 Montresor!'"
      "I won't,  you  idiot.  Get  me  out  of here." He was sober
 now.
      "Here. Put  this  on."  Stendahl  tossed  in  something that
 belled and rang.
      "What is it?"
      "A cap and bells. Put it on and I might let you out."
      "Stendahl!"
      "Put it on, I said!"
      Garrett obeyed. The bells tinkled.
      "Don't you  have  a  feeling  that  this  has  all  happened
 before?" inquired  Stendahl,  setting  to  work  with  trowel and
 mortar and brick now.
      "What're you doing?"
      "Walling you in. Here's one row. Here's another."
      "You're insane!"
      "I won't argue that point."
      "You'll be prosecuted for this!"
      He  tapped  a  brick  and  placed  it  on  the  wet  mortar,
 humming.
      Now there  was  a  thrashing  and  pounding and a crying out
 from  within   the  darkening  place.  The  bricks  rose  higher.
 "More thrashing,  please,"  said  Stendahl. "Let's make it a good
 show."
      "Let me out, let me out!"
      There  was   one   last  brick  to  shove  into  place.  The
 screaming was continuous.
      "Garrett?"  called   Stendahl   softly.   Garrett   silenced
 himself. "Garrett,"  said  Stendahl,  "do  you know why I've done
 this to  you?  Because  you burned Mr. Poe's books without really
 reading them.  You  took  other  people's advice that they needed
 burning. Otherwise  you'd  have  realized  what I was going to do
 to you  when  we came down here a moment ago. Ignorance is fatal,
 Mr. Garrett."
      Garrett was silent.
      "I want  this  to  be  perfect,"  said Stendahl, holding his
 lantern up  so  its  light penetrated in upon the slumped figure.
 "Jingle your  bells  softly."  The bells rustled. "Now, if you'll
 please say,  'For  the  love  of  God,  Monstresor,'  I might let
 you free."
      The  man's   face   came  up  in  the  light.  There  was  a
 hesitation. Then  grotesquely  the  man  said,  "For  the love of
 God, Montresor."
      "Ah," said  Stendahl,  eyes closed. He shoved the last brick
 into  place   and  mortared  it  tight.  "_Requiescat  in  pace_,
 dear friend."
      He hastened from the catacomb.
      In the  seven  rooms  the  sound of a midnight clock brought
 everything to a halt.
      The Red Death appeared.
      Stendahl turned  for  a  moment  at  the  door to watch. And
 then he  ran  out  of  the great House, across the moat, to where
 a helicopter waited.
      "Ready, Pikes?"
      "Ready."
      "There it goes!"
      They looked  at  the great House, smiling. It began to crack
 down the  middle,  as with an earthquake, and as Stendahl watched
 the magnificent  sight  he  heard  Pikes  reading behind him in a
 low, cadenced voice:
      "'.  .  .  my  brain  reeled  as  I  saw  the  mighty  walls
 rushing asunder--there  was  a  long  tumultuous  shouting  sound
 like the  voice  of a thousand waters--and the deep and dank tarn
 at my  feet  closed  sullenly  and silently over the fragments of
 the House of Usher.'"
      The helicopter  rose  over  the  steaming lake and flew into
 the west.

                    August 2005:  THE OLD ONES

      And what  more  natural  than  that, at last, the old people
 come  to   Mars,   following  in  the  trail  left  by  the  loud
 frontiersmen, the  aromatic  sophisticates,  and the professional
 travelers and romantic lecturers in search of new grist.
      And so  the  dry  and crackling people, the people who spent
 their time  listening  to  their  hearts and feeling their pulses
 and spooning  syrups  into  their  wry  mouths,  these people who
 once  had   taken  chair  cars  to  California  in  November  and
 third-class  steamers   to  Italy  in  April,  the  dried-apricot
 people, the mummy people, came at last to Mars. . . .

                   September 2005:  THE MARTIAN

      The blue  mountains  lifted  into the rain and the rain fell
 down into  the  long canals and old LaFarge and his wife came out
 of their house to watch.
      "First rain this season," LaFarge pointed out.
      "It's good," said his wife.
      "Very welcome."
      They shut  the  door.  Inside,  they  warmed  their hands at
 a fire.  They  shivered.  In  the  distance,  through the window,
 they saw  rain  gleaming  on  the  sides  of the rocket which had
 brought them from Earth.
      "There's only  one  thing,"  said  LaFarge,  looking  at his
 hands.
      "What's that?" asked his wife.
      "I wish we could have brought Tom with us."
      "Oh, now, Lafe!"
      "I won't start again; I'm sorry."
      "We came  here  to  enjoy our old age in peace, not to think
 of Tom.  He's  been dead so long now, we should try to forget him
 and everything on Earth."
      "You're right,"  he  said,  and  turned  his  hands again to
 the heat.  He  gazed  into  the  fire.  "I  won't speak of it any
 more. It's  just  I  miss  driving  out  to Green Lawn Park every
 Sunday  to  put  flowers  on  his  marker.  It  used  to  be  our
 only excursion."
      The blue rain fell gently upon the house.
      At nine  o'clock  they  went  to  bed  and lay quietly, hand
 in hand, he fifty-five, she sixty, in the raining darkness.
      "Anna?" he called softly.
      "Yes?" she replied.
      "Did you hear something?"
      They both listened to the rain and the wind.
      "Nothing," she said.
      "Someone whistling," he said.
      "No, I didn't hear it."
      "I'm going to get up to see anyhow."
      He put  on  his  robe  and  walked  through the house to the
 front door.  Hesitating,  he  pulled the door wide, and rain fell
 cold upon his face. The wind blew.
      In the dooryard stood a small figure.
      Lightning cracked  the  sky,  and  a  wash  of  white  color
 illumined the  face  looking  in  at  old  LaFarge  there  in the
 doorway.
      "Who's there?" called LaFarge, trembling.
      No answer.
      "Who is it? What do you want!"
      Still not a word.
      He felt  very  weak  and  tired  and numb. "Who are you?" he
 cried.
      His wife  entered  behind  him  and  took  his arm. "Why are
 you shouting?"
      "A small  boy's  standing  in the yard and won't answer me,"
 said the old man, trembling. "He looks like Tom!"
      "Come to bed, you're dreaming."
      "But he's there; see for yourself."
      He pulled  the  door  wider  to  let  her see. The cold wind
 blew and  the  thin  rain fell upon the soil and the figure stood
 looking at  them  with  distant  eyes.  The  old  woman  held  to
 the doorway.
      "Go away!" she said, waving one hand. "Go away!"
      "Doesn't it look like Tom?" asked the old man.
      The figure did not move.
      "I'm afraid,"  said  the  old woman. "Lock the door and come
 to bed. I won't have anything to do with it."
      She vanished, moaning to herself, into the bedroom.
      The old  man  stood  with  the  wind raining coldness on his
 hands.
      "Tom," he  called  softly.  "Tom,  if that's you, if by some
 chance it  is  you,  Tom,  I'll  leave the door unlatched. And if
 you're cold  and  want  to  come  in  to warm yourself, just come
 in later and lie by the hearth; there's some fur rugs there."
      He shut but did not lock the door.
      His wife  felt  him  return  to  bed,  and  shuddered. "It's
 a terrible night. I feel so old," she said, sobbing.
      "Hush, hush,"  he  gentled  her,  and  held her in his arms.
 "Go to sleep."
      After a long while she slept.
      And then,  very  quietly, as he listened, he heard the front
 door open,  the  rain  and  wind come in, the door shut. He heard
 soft footsteps  on  the  hearth and a gentle breathing. "Tom," he
 said to himself,
      Lightning struck in the sky and broke the blackness apart.
      In the morning the sun was very hot.
      Mr. LaFarge  opened  the  door  into  the  living  room  and
 glanced all about, quickly.
      The hearthrugs were empty.
      LaFarge sighed. "I'm getting old," he said.
      He went  out  to  walk  to  the  canal  to fetch a bucket of
 clear water  to  wash  in.  At  the  front door he almost knocked
 young Tom  down  carrying in a bucket already filled to the brim.
 "Good morning, Father!"
      "Morning  Tom."   The   old   man   fell  aside.  The  young
 boy, barefooted,  hurried  across  the room, set the bucket down,
 and turned, smiling. "It's a fine day!"
      "Yes, it  is,"  said  the  old  man  incredulously.  The boy
 acted as  if  nothing was unusual. He began to wash his face with
 the water.
      The old  man  moved  forward.  "Tom,  how  did you get here?
 You're alive?"
      "Shouldn't I be?" The boy glanced up.
      "But, Tom,  Green  Lawn  Park, every Sunday, the flowers and
 . .  ."  LaFarge  had  to sit down. The boy came and stood before
 him and  took  his  hand.  The  old man felt of the fingers, warm
 and firm. "You're really here, it's not a dream?"
      "You _do_  want  me  to  be here, don't you?" The boy seemed
 worried.
      "Yes, yes, Tom!"
      "Then why ask questions? Accept me!"
      "But your mother; the shock . . ."
      "Don't worry  about  her.  During  the  night I sang to both
 of you,  and  you'll  accept  me  more  because of it, especially
 her. I  know  what  the  shock  is.  Wait  till she comes, you'll
 see." He  laughed,  shaking his head of coppery, curled hair. His
 eyes were very blue and clear.
      "Good morning,  Lafe,  Tom."  Mother  came from the bedroom,
 putting her hair up into a bun. "Isn't it a fine day?"
      Tom turned to laugh in his father's face. "You see?"
      They ate  a  very  good  lunch,  all  three  of them, in the
 shade behind  the  house.  Mrs.  LaFarge  had found an old bottle
 of sunflower  wine  she  had  put  away, and they all had a drink
 of that.  Mr.  LaFarge  had never seen his wife's face so bright.
 If there  was  any  doubt in her mind about Tom, she didn't voice
 it. It  was  completely  natural  thing  to  her. And it was also
 becoming natural to LaFarge himself.
      While Mother  cleared  the  dishes LaFarge leaned toward his
 son and said confidentially, "How old are you now, Son?"
      "Don't you know, Father? Fourteen, of course."
      "Who  are   you,   _really?_  You  can't  be  Tom,  but  you
 are _someone_. Who?"
      "Don't." Startled, the boy put his hands to his face.
      "You can  tell  me,"  said  the  old  man. "I'll understand.
 You're a  Martian,  aren't you? I've heard tales of the Martians;
 nothing definite.  Stories  about  how rare Martians are and when
 they come  among  us  they  come  as Earth Men. There's something
 about you--you're Tom and yet you're not."
      "Why can't  you  accept me and stop talking?" cried the boy.
 His hands  completely  shielded  his  face.  "Don't doubt, please
 don't doubt me!" He turned and ran from the table.
      "Tom, come back!"
      But the  boy  ran  off  along  the  canal toward the distant
 town.
      "Where's  Tom   going?"   asked  Anna,  returning  for  more
 dishes.  She   looked   at  her  husband's  face.  "Did  you  say
 something to bother him?"
      "Anna," he  said,  taking  her  hand. "Anna, do you remember
 anything  about  Green  Lawn  Park,  a  market,  and  Tom  having
 pneumonia?"
      "What _are_ you talking about?" She laughed.
      "Never mind," he said quietly.
      In the  distance  the  dust  drifted  down after Tom had run
 along the canal rim.

      At five  in  the  afternoon,  with the sunset, Tom returned.
 He looked  doubtfully  at  his  father.  "Are  you  going  to ask
 me anything?" he wanted to know.
      "No questions," said LaFarge.
      The boy smiled his white smile. "Swell."
      "Where've you been?"
      "Near the  town.  I almost didn't come back. I was almost"--
 the boy sought for a word--"trapped."
      "How do you mean, 'trapped'?"
      "I passed  a  small  tin house by the canal and I was almost
 made so  I  couldn't  come  back  here  ever  again to see you. I
 don't know  how  to  explain  it  to you, there's no way, I can't
 tell you,  even  _I_  don't  know;  it's strange, I don't want to
 talk about it."
      "We won't then. Better wash up, boy. Suppertime."
      The boy ran.
      Perhaps ten  minutes  later  a  boat floated down the serene
 surface of  the  canal,  a  tall  lank man with black hair poling
 it along  with  leisurely  drives  of his arms. "Evening, Brother
 LaFarge," he said, pausing at his task.
      "Evening Saul, what's the word?"
      "All kinds  of  words  tonight.  You  know that fellow named
 Nomland who lives down the canal in the tin hut?"
      LaFarge stiffened. "Yes?"
      "You know what sort of rascal he was?"
      "Rumor had it he left Earth because he killed a man."
      Saul leaned  on  his  wet pole, gazing at LaFarge. "Remember
 the name of the man he killed?"
      "Gillings, wasn't it?"
      "Right. Gillings.  Well,  about  two  hours  ago Mr. Nomland
 came running  to  town  crying  about  how  he had seen Gillings,
 alive, here  on  Mars, today, this afternoon! He tried to get the
 jail to  lock  him  up  safe.  The jail wouldn't. So Nomland went
 home, and  twenty  minutes  ago,  as  I  get  the story, blew his
 brains out with a gun. I just came from there."
      "Well, well," said LaFarge.
      "The  darnedest  things  happen,"  said  Saul.  "Well,  good
 night, LaFarge."
      "Good night."
      The boat drifted on down the serene canal waters.
      "Supper's hot," called the old woman.
      Mr. LaFarge  sat  down  to  his  supper  and, knife in hand,
 looked over  at  Tom.  "Tom,"  he  said,  "what  did  you do this
 afternoon?"
      "Nothing," said Tom, his mouth full. "Why?"
      "Just wanted to know." The old man tucked his napkin in.

      At seven  that  night  the  old  woman wanted to go to town.
 "Haven't been  there  in  months,"  she  said.  But Tom desisted.
 "I'm afraid  of  the town," he said. "The people. I don't want to
 go there."
      "Such talk  for  a grown boy," said Anna. "I won't listen to
 it. You'll come along. _I_ say so."
      "Anna, if  the  boy  doesn't  want to . . ." started the old
 man.
      But  there  was  no  arguing.  She  hustled  them  into  the
 canalboat and  they  floated  up  the  canal  under  the  evening
 stars, Tom  lying  on  his  back, his eyes closed; asleep or not,
 there was  no  telling.  The  old  man  looked  at  him steadily,
 wondering. Who  is  this,  he thought, in need of love as much as
 we? Who  is  he  and what is he that, out of loneliness, he comes
 into the  alien  camp  and  assumes  the voice and face of memory
 and stands  among  us,  accepted  and  happy  at  last? From what
 mountain, what  cave,  what  small  last race of people remaining
 on this  world  when  the  rockets  came  from Earth? The old man
 shook  his  head.  There  was  no  way  to  know.  This,  to  all
 purposes, was Tom.
      The old  man  looked  at the town ahead and did not like it,
 but then  he  returned  to  thoughts  of  Tom  and Anna again and
 he thought  to  himself:  Perhaps  this  is wrong to keep Tom but
 a little  while,  when  nothing  can  come  of it but trouble and
 sorrow, but  how  are  we to give up the very thing we've wanted,
 no matter  if  it  stays  only  a  day  and  is  gone, making the
 emptiness emptier,  the  dark  nights  darker,  the  rainy nights
 wetter? You  might  as  well  force  the  food from our mouths as
 take this one from us.
      And he  looked  at  the  boy slumbering so peacefully at the
 bottom of  the  boat.  The  boy  whimpered  with some dream. "The
 people," he  murmured  in  his  sleep.  "Changing  and  changing.
 The trap."
      "There, there,  boy."  LaFarge  stroked the boy's soft curls
 and Tom ceased.

      LaFarge helped wife and son from the boat.
      "Here we  are!"  Anna smiled at all the lights, listening to
 the  music   from   the   drinking   houses,   the   pianos,  the
 phonographs, watching  people,  arm  in  arm,  striding by in the
 crowded streets.
      "I wish I was home," said Tom.
      "You never  talked  that  way before," said the mother. "You
 always liked Saturday nights in town."
      "Stay  close  to  me,"  whispered  Tom.  "I  don't  want  to
 get trapped."
      Anna overheard. "Stop talking that way; come along!"
      LaFarge  noticed   that  the  boy  held  his  hand.  LaFarge
 squeezed it.  "I'll  stick  with  you,  Tommy-boy."  He looked at
 the throngs  coming  and going and it worried him also. "We won't
 stay long."
      "Nonsense, we'll spend the evening," said Anna.
      They crossed  a  street, and three drunken men careened into
 them. There  was  much confusion, a separation, a wheeling about,
 and then LaFarge stood stunned.
      Tom was gone.
      "Where is  he?"  asked  Anna  irritably. "Him always running
 off alone any chance he gets. Tom!" she called.
      Mr. LaFarge hurried through the crowd, but Tom was gone.
      "He'll come  back;  he'll  be  at  the  boat when we leave,"
 said  Anna   certainly,   steering   her   husband   back  toward
 the motion-picture  theater.  There  was  a  sudden  commotion in
 the crowd,  and  a man and woman rushed by LaFarge. He recognized
 them. Joe  Spaulding  and  his  wife.  They  were  gone before he
 could speak to them.
      Looking  back   anxiously,  he  purchased  the  tickets  for
 the theater  and  allowed his wife to draw him into the unwelcome
 darkness.

      Tom was  not  at the landing at eleven o'clock. Mrs. LaFarge
 turned very pale.
      "Now, Mother,"  said  LaFarge,  "don't worry. I'll find him.
 Wait here."
      "Hurry back."  Her  voice  faded  into  the  ripple  of  the
 water.
      He walked  through  the  night  streets,  hands  in pockets.
 All about,  lights  were  going out one by one. A few people were
 still leaning  out  their  windows,  for the night was warm, even
 though the  sky  still  held storm clouds from time to time among
 the  stars.   As   he  walked  he  recalled  the  boy's  constant
 references to  being  trapped,  his  fear  of  crowds and cities.
 There was  no  sense  in it, thought the old man tiredly. Perhaps
 the boy  was  gone  forever,  perhaps  he had never been. LaFarge
 turned in at a particular alley, watching the numbers.
      "Hello there, LaFarge."
      A man sat in his doorway, smoking a pipe.
      "Hello, Mike."
      "You and your woman quarrel? You out walking it off?"
      "No. Just walking."
      "You  look   like  you  lost  something.  Speaking  of  lost
 things," said  Mike,  "somebody  got found this evening. You know
 Joe Spaulding? You remember his daughter Lavinia?"
      "Yes." LaFarge  was  cold.  It  all seemed a repeated dream,
 He knew which words would come next.
      "Lavinia  came  home  tonight,"  said  Mike,  smoking.  "You
 recall, she  was  lost on the dead sea bottoms about a month ago?
 They found  what  they  thought was her body, badly deteriorated,
 and ever  since  the  Spaulding  family's  been no good. Joe went
 around saying  she  wasn't  dead,  that  wasn't  really her body.
 Guess he was right Tonight Lavinia showed up."
      "Where?"  LaFarge   felt   his   breath  come  swiftly,  his
 heart pounding.
      "On Main  Street.  The  Spauldings  were  buying tickets for
 a show.  And  there,  all of a sudden, in the crowd, was Lavinia.
 Must have  been  quite  a  scene. She didn't know them first off.
 They followed  her  half  down  a  street  and spoke to her. Then
 she remembered."
      "Did you see her?"
      "No, but  I  heard  her  singing.  Remember  how she used to
 sing 'The  Bonnie  Banks  of  Loch  Lomond'? I heard her trilling
 out for  her  father  a  while  ago over there in their house. It
 was good  to  hear;  her  such  a  beautiful  girl.  A  shame,  I
 thought, her  dead;  and  now with her back again it's fine. Here
 now, you  look  weak  yourself.  Better  come  in  for  a spot of
 whisky. . . ."
      "Thanks, no,  Mike."  The  old man moved away. He heard Mike
 say good  night  and  did  not  answer,  but  fixed his eyes upon
 the  two-story   building  where  rambling  clusters  of  crimson
 Martian flowers  lay  upon  the  high  crystal roof. Around back,
 above the  garden,  was  a  twisted iron balcony, and the windows
 above were  lighted.  It  was  very  late,  and  still he thought
 to himself:  What  will  happen to Anna if I don't bring Tom home
 with me?  This  second  shock, this second death, what will it do
 to her?  Will  she remember the first death, too, and this dream,
 and the  sudden  vanishing? Oh God, I've got to find Tom, or what
 will come  of  Anna?  Poor  Anna,  waiting  there at the landing.
 He paused  and  lifted  his  head.  Somewhere  above, voices bade
 other soft  voices  good  night,  doors  turned  and shut, lights
 dimmed, and  a  gentle  singing  continued. A moment later a girl
 no more than eighteen, very lovely, came out upon the balcony.
      LaFarge called up through the wind that was blowing.
      The girl turned and looked down. "Who's there?" she cried.
      "It's me,"  said  the  old man, and, realizing this reply to
 be silly  and  strange,  fell silent, his lips working. Should he
 call out,  "Tom,  my  son,  this is your father"? How to speak to
 her? She would think him quite insane and summon her parents.
      The girl  bent  forward  in the blowing light. "I know you,"
 she replied softly. "Please go; there's nothing you can do."
      "You've got  to  come  back!"  It  escaped LaFarge before he
 could prevent it.
      The moonlit  figure  above  drew  into  shadow, so there was
 no identity,  only  a  voice.  "I'm  not  your  son any more," it
 said. "We should never have come to town."
      "Anna's waiting at the landing!"
      "I'm sorry,"  said  the  quiet  voice.  "But  what can I do?
 I'm happy  here,  I'm  loved,  even  as you loved me. I am what I
 am, and  I  take  what can be taken; too late now, they've caught
 me."
      "But Anna, the shock to her. Think of that."
      "The thoughts  are  too  strong  in  this  house;  it's like
 being imprisoned. I can't change myself back."
      "You are  Tom,  you  _were_  Tom,  weren't  you?  You aren't
 joking with an old man; you're not really Lavinia Spaulding?"
      "I'm  not   anyone,  I'm  just  myself;  wherever  I  am,  I
 am something, and now I'm something you can't help."
      "You're not  safe  in the town. It's better out on the canal
 where no one can hurt you," pleaded the old man.
      "That's true."  The  voice  hesitated.  "But I must consider
 these people  now.  How would they feel if, in the morning, I was
 gone again,  this  time  for  good? Anyway, the mother knows what
 I am;  she  guessed,  even  as  you did. I think they all guessed
 but didn't  question.  You  don't  question  Providence.  If  you
 can't have  the  reality,  a  dream  is just as good. Perhaps I'm
 not their  dead  one  back,  but  I'm  something almost better to
 them; an  ideal  shaped  by  their  minds.  I  have  a  choice of
 hurting them or your wife."
      "They're  a  family  of  five.  They  can  stand  your  loss
 better!"
      "Please," said the voice. "I'm tired."
      The old  man's  voice hardened. "You've got to come. I can't
 let Anna  be  hurt  again.  You're  our  son.  You're my son, and
 you belong to us."
      "No, please!" The shadow trembled.
      "You don't belong to this house or these people!"
      "No, don't do this to me!"
      "Tom, Tom,  Son,  listen  to  me.  Come  back, slip down the
 vines, boy.  Come  along,  Anna's  waiting; we'll give you a good
 home,  everything   you  want."  He  stared  and  stared  upward,
 willing it to be.
      The shadows drifted, the vines rustled.
      At last the quiet voice said, "All right, Father."
      "Tom!"
      In the  moonlight  the  quick  figure  of  a  boy  slid down
 through the vines. LaFarge put up his arms to catch him.
      The room  lights  above  flashed on. A voice issued from one
 of the grilled windows. "Who's down there?"
      "Hurry, boy!"
      More lights,  more  voices.  "Stop, I have a gun! Vinny, are
 you all right?" A running of feet.
      Together the old man and the boy ran across the garden.
      A shot  sounded.  The bullet struck the wall as they slammed
 the gate.
      "Tom, you  that  way; I'll go here and lead them off! Run to
 the canal; I'll meet you there in ten minutes, boy!"
      They parted.
      The moon hid behind a cloud. The old man ran in darkness.
      "Anna, I'm here!"
      The  old   woman  helped  him,  trembling,  into  the  boat.
 "Where's Tom?"
      "He'll be here in a minute," panted LaFarge.
      They turned  to  watch  the  alleys  and  the sleeping town.
 Late strollers  were  still  out:  a policeman, a night watchman,
 a  rocket  pilot,  several  lonely  men  coming  home  from  some
 nocturnal  rendezvous,   four   men  and  women  issuing  from  a
 bar, laughing. Music played dimly somewhere.
      "Why doesn't he come?" asked the old woman.
      "He'll come,  he'll  come."  But  LaFarge  was  not certain.
 Suppose the  boy  had  been  caught  again,  somehow, someway, in
 his travel  down  to  the  landing,  running through the midnight
 streets between  the  dark  houses.  It  was a long run, even for
 a young boy. But he should have reached here first.
      And now, far away, along the moonlit avenue, a figure ran.
      LaFarge cried  out  and  then silenced himself, for also far
 away was  another  sound  of  voices  and  running  feet.  Lights
 blazed on  in  window after window. Across the open plaza leading
 to the  landing,  the one figure ran. It was not Tom; it was only
 a running  shape  with a face like silver shining in the light of
 the globes  dustered  about  the  plaza. And as it rushed nearer,
 nearer, it  became  more  familiar,  until  when  it  reached the
 landing it  was  Tom!  Anna  flung  up her hands. LaFarge hurried
 to cast off. But already it was too late.
      For out  of  the avenue and across the silent plaza now came
 one  man,  another,  a  woman,  two  other  men,  Mr.  Spaulding,
 all  running.   They  stopped,  bewildered.  They  stared  about,
 wanting to  go  back  because  this could be only a nightmare, it
 was quite  insane.  But they came on again, hesitantly, stopping,
 starting.
      It was  too  late.  The  night, the event, was over. LaFarge
 twisted the  mooring  rope  in  his  fingers.  He  was  very cold
 and lonely.  The  people  raised  and  put  down  their  feet  in
 the  moonlight,  drifting  with  great  speed,  wide-eyed,  until
 the crowd,  all  ten  of them, halted at the landing. They peered
 wildly down into the boat. They cried out.
      "Don't move, LaFarge!" Spaulding had a gun.
      And now  it  was  evident  what  had  happened. Tom flashing
 through the  moonlit  streets, alone, passing people. A policeman
 seeing the  figure  dart past. The policeman pivoting, staring at
 the face,  calling  a  name, giving pursuit "_You_, stop!" Seeing
 a criminal  face.  All  along  the way, the same thing, men here,
 women there,  night  watchmen,  rocket  pilots.  The swift figure
 meaning everything  to  them,  all  identities,  all persons, all
 names. How  many  different  names  had  been uttered in the last
 five minutes?  How  many  different faces shaped over Tom's face,
 all wrong?
      All down  the  way  the  pursued and the pursuing, the dream
 and the  dreamers,  the  quarry  and the hounds. All down the way
 the sudden  revealment,  the  flash  of familiar eyes, the cry of
 an  old,   old   name,  the  remembrances  of  other  times,  the
 crowd  multiplying.   Everyone   leaping   forward  as,  like  an
 image reflected  from  ten  thousand  mirrors, ten thousand eyes,
 the running  dream  came  and  went,  a  different  face to those
 ahead, those behind, those yet to be met, those unseen.
      And here  they  all  are now, at the boat, wanting the dream
 for their  own,  just  as  we  want  him  to  be Tom, not Lavinia
 or William  or  Roger or any other, thought LaFarge. But it's all
 done now. The thing has gone too far.
      "Come up, all of you!" Spaulding ordered them.
      Tom stepped  up  from  the boat. Spaulding seized his wrist.
 "You're coming home with me. I _know_."
      "Wait,"  said  the  policeman.  "He's  my  prisoner.  Name's
 Dexter; wanted for murder."
      "No!" a  woman  sobbed.  "It's  my  husband!  I guess I know
 my husband!"
      Other voices objected. The crowd moved in.
      Mrs. LaFarge  shielded  Tom.  "This  is  my son; you have no
 right to accuse him of anything. We're going home right now!"
      As for  Tom,  he  was  trembling  and  shaking violently. He
 looked very  sick.  The  crowd  thickened  about him, putting out
 their wild hands, seizing and demanding.
      Tom screamed.
      Before their  eyes  he  changed.  He was Tom and James and a
 man named  Switchman,  another named Butterfield; he was the town
 mayor and  the  young girl Judith and the husband William and the
 wife Clarisse.  He  was  melting  wax  shaping  to  their  minds.
 They  shouted,  they  pressed  forward,  pleading.  He  screamed,
 threw out  his  hands, his face dissolving to each demand. "Tom!"
 cried  LaFarge.   "Alice!"   another.  "William!"  They  snatched
 his wrists,  whirled  him  about,  until  with one last shriek of
 horror he fell.
      He lay  on  the  stones,  melted  wax  cooling, his face all
 faces, one  eye  blue,  the  other  golden,  hair that was brown,
 red, yellow,  black,  one  eyebrow  thick,  one  thin,  one  hand
 large, one small.
      They stood  over  him and put their fingers to their mouths.
 They bent down.
      "He's dead," someone said at last.
      It began to rain.
      The rain  fell  upon  the  people, and they looked up at the
 sky.
      Slowly, and  then  more quickly, they turned and walked away
 and then  started  running,  scattering  from  the  scene.  In  a
 minute  the  place  was  desolate.  Only  Mr.  and  Mrs.  LaFarge
 remained, looking down, hand in hand, terrified.
      The rain fell upon the upturned, unrecognizable face.
      Anna said nothing but began to cry.
      "Come along  home,  Anna,  there's  nothing we can do," said
 the old man.
      They climbed  down  into  the  boat  and went back along the
 canal in  the  darkness. They entered their house and lit a small
 fire and  warmed  their hands, They went to bed and lay together,
 cold and  thin,  listening to the rain returned to the roof above
 them.
      "Listen,"  said   LaFarge   at   midnight.   "Did  you  hear
 something?"
      "Nothing, nothing."
      "I'll go look anyway."
      He fumbled  across  the  dark  room  and waited by the outer
 door for a long time before he opened it.
      He pulled the door wide and looked out.
      Rain poured  from  the  black  sky  upon the empty dooryard,
 into the canal and among the blue mountains.
      He waited  five  minutes  and then softly, his hands wet, he
 shut and bolted the door.

                 November 2005:  THE LUGGAGE STORE

      It  was   a   very  remote  thing,  when  the  luggage-store
 proprietor heard  the  news  on the night radio, received all the
 way from  Earth  on  a  light-sound beam. The proprietor felt how
 remote it was.
      There was going to be a war on Earth.
      He went out to peer into the sky.
      Yes,  there   it   was.   Earth,  in  the  evening  heavens,
 following the  sun  into  the  hills.  The words on the radio and
 that green star were one and the same.
      "I don't believe it," said the proprietor.
      "It's because  you're  not  there,"  said  Father Peregrine,
 who had stopped by to pass the time of evening.
      "What do you mean, Father?"
      "It's like  when  I  was  a boy," said Father Peregrine. "We
 heard about  wars  in  China.  But we never believed them. It was
 too  far   away.  And  there  were  too  many  people  dying.  It
 was impossible.  Even  when  we saw the motion pictures we didn't
 believe it.  Well,  that's how it is now. Earth is China. It's so
 far away  it's  unbelievable.  It's not here. You can't touch it.
 You can't  even  see  it.  All  you  see  is  a  green light. Two
 billion people  living  on  that  light?  Unbelievable!  War?  We
 don't hear the explosions."
      "We will,"  said  the  proprietor.  "I  keep  thinking about
 all those  people  that  were  going  to  come to Mars this week.
 What was  it?  A  hundred  thousand  or  so coming up in the next
 month or so. What about _them_ if the war starts?"
      "I imagine they'll turn back. They'll be needed on Earth."
      "Well," said  the  proprietor,  "I'd  better  get my luggage
 dusted off.  I  got  a  feeling  there'll be a rush sale here any
 time."
      "Do you  think  everyone  now  on Mars will go back to Earth
 if this _is_ the Big War we've all been expecting for years?"
      "It's a  funny  thing,  Father, but yes, I think we'll _all_
 go  back.   I   know,   we   came   up  here  to  get  away  from
 things--politics,  the   atom   bomb,   war,   pressure   groups,
 prejudice, laws--I  know.  But  it's  still  home there. You wait
 and see.  When  the  first  bomb  drops  on America the people up
 here'll start  thinking.  They  haven't  been  here  long enough.
 A couple  years  is  all.  If  they'd been here forty years, it'd
 be different,  but  they  got  relatives  down  there,  and their
 home towns.  Me,  I  can't  believe  in  Earth  any more; I can't
 imagine it  much.  But  I'm  old.  I don't count. I might stay on
 here."
      "I doubt it."
      "Yes, I guess you're right."
      They  stood   on  the  porch  watching  the  stars.  Finally
 Father Peregrine  pulled  some  money  from his pocket and handed
 it to  the  proprietor.  "Come  to think of it, you'd better give
 me a new valise. My old one's in pretty bad condition. . . ."

                  November 2005:  THE OFF SEASON

      Sam Parkhill  motioned  with  the  broom,  sweeping away the
 blue Martian sand.
      "Here we  are,"  he  said.  "Yes,  sir,  look  at  that!" He
 pointed.  "Look   at  that  sign.  SAM'S  HOT  DOGS!  Ain't  that
 beautiful, Elma?"
      "Sure, Sam," said his wife.
      "Boy, what  a  change  for  me.  If the boys from the Fourth
 Expedition could  see  me now. Am I glad to be in business myself
 while all  the  rest of them guys're off soldiering around still.
 We'll make thousands, Elma, thousands."
      His wife  looked  at  him  for  a  long  time, not speaking.
 "Whatever  happened   to  Captain  Wilder?"  she  asked  finally.
 "That captain  that  killed  that guy who thought he was going to
 kill off every other Earth Man, what was his name?"
      "Spender,  that   nut.  He  was  too  damn  particular.  Oh,
 Captain Wilder?  He's  off  on  a rocket to Jupiter, I hear. They
 kicked him  upstairs.  I  think  he was a little batty about Mars
 too. Touchy,  you  know.  He'll  be  back  down  from Jupiter and
 Pluto in  about  twenty  years if he's lucky. That's what he gets
 for shooting  off  his  mouth.  And while he's freezing to death,
 look at me, look at this place!"
      This was  a  crossroads  where  two  dead  highways came and
 went in  darkness.  Here  Sam  Parkhill had flung up this riveted
 aluminum structure,  garish  with  white  light,  trembling  with
 jukebox melody.
      He stooped  to  fix  a  border of broken glass he had placed
 on the  footpath.  He  had broken the glass from some old Martian
 buildings in  the  hills. "Best hot dogs on two worlds! First man
 on Mars  with  a  hot-dog  stand!  The  best onions and chili and
 mustard! You  can't  say I'm not alert. Here's the main highways,
 over there  is  the  dead  city  and  the mineral deposits. Those
 trucks  from   Earth  Settlement  101  will  have  to  pass  here
 twenty-four hours a day! Do I know my locations, or don't I?"
      His wife looked at her fingernails.
      "You think  those  ten  thousand  new-type work rockets will
 come through to Mars?" she said at last.
      "In a month," he said loudly. "Why you look so funny?"
      "I  don't   trust  those  Earth  people,"  she  said.  "I'll
 believe it  when  I see them ten thousand rockets arrive with the
 one hundred thousand Mexicans and Chinese on them."
      "Customers."  He   lingered   on   the  word.  "One  hundred
 thousand hungry people."
      "If," said  his  wife  slowly,  watching  the  sky, "there's
 no atomic  war.  I  don't trust no atom bombs. There's so many of
 them on Earth now, you never can tell."
      "Ah," said Sam, and went on sweeping.
      From the  corners  of  his  eyes  he  caught a blue flicker.
 Something floated  in  the  air  gently  behind him. He heard his
 wife say, "Sam. A friend of yours to see you."
      Sam whirled  to  see  the  mask  seemingly  floating  in the
 wind.
      "So you're  back  again!"  And  Sam  held  his  broom like a
 weapon.
      The mask  nodded.  It  was  cut from pale blue glass and was
 fitted above  a  thin  neck; under which were blowing loose robes
 of thin  yellow  silk.  From  the  silk  two  mesh  silver  bands
 appeared. The  mask  mouth  was  a slot from which musical sounds
 issued now  as  the  robes,  the  mask,  the  hands  increased to
 a height, decreased.
      "Mr. Parkhill,  I've  come  back to speak to you again," the
 voice said from behind the mask.
      "I thought  I  told  you  I don't want you near here!" cried
 Sam. "Go on, I'll give you the Disease!"
      "I've already  had  the Disease," said the voice. "I was one
 of the few survivors. I was sick a long time."
      "Go on  and  hide  in  the  hills,  that's where you belong,
 that's where  you've  been.  Why  you come on down and bother me?
 Now, all of a sudden. Twice in one day."
      "We mean you no harm."
      "But I  mean  you  harm!"  said  Sam,  backing  up. "I don't
 like strangers.  I  don't like Martians. I never seen one before.
 It ain't  natural.  All  these  years  you  guys hide, and all of
 a sudden you pick on me. Leave me alone."
      "We come for an important reason," said the blue mask.
      "If it's  about  this  land, it's mine. I built this hot-dog
 stand with my own hands."
      "In a way it _is_ about the land."
      "Look here,"  said  Sam.  "I'm  from  New York City. Where I
 come from  there's  ten million others just like me. You Martians
 are a  couple  dozen  left,  got  no cities, you wander around in
 the hills,  no  leaders,  no laws, and now you come tell me about
 this land.  Well,  the old got to give way to the new. That's the
 law of  give  and  take.  I  got  a gun here. After you left this
 morning I got it out and loaded it."
      "We Martians  are  telepathic," said the cold blue mask. "We
 are in  contact  with one of your towns across the dead sea. Have
 you listened on your radio?"
      "My radio's busted."
      "Then  you   don't  know.  There's  big  news.  It  concerns
 Earth--"
      A silver hand gestured. A bronze tube appeared in it.
      "Let me show you this."
      "A gun," cried Sam Parkhill.
      An instant  later  he  had  yanked  his own gun from his hip
 holster and fired into the mist, the robe, the blue mask.
      The mask  sustained  itself  a  moment.  Then,  like a small
 circus tent  pulling  up  its  stakes  and  dropping soft fold on
 fold, the  silks  rustled,  the  mask descended, the silver claws
 tinkled on  the  stone  path.  The  mask lay on a small huddle of
 silent white bones and material.
      Sam stood gasping.
      His wife swayed over the huddled pile.
      "That's no  weapon,"  she  said, bending down. She picked up
 the bronze  tube.  "He  was  going  to  show  you a message. It's
 all written  out  in  snake-script,  all the blue snakes. I can't
 read it. Can you?"
      "No, that  Martian  picture writing, it wasn't anything. Let
 it go!"  Sam  glanced hastily around. "There may be others! We've
 got to get him out of sight. Get the shovel!"
      "What're you going to do?"
      "Bury him, of course!"
      "You shouldn't have shot him."
      "It was a mistake. Quick!"
      Silently she fetched him the shovel.
      At eight  o'clock  he  was  back  sweeping  the front of the
 hotdog stand  self-consciously.  His  wife stood, arms folded, in
 the bright doorway.
      "I'm sorry  what  happened," he said. He looked at her, then
 away. "You know it was purely the circumstances of Fate."
      "Yes," said his wife.
      "I hated like hell to see him take out that weapon."
      "What weapon?"
      "Well, I  thought  it  was  one!  I'm  sorry, I'm sorry! How
 many times do I say it!"
      "Ssh," said Elma, putting one finger to her lips. "Ssh."
      "I  don't   care,"   he   said.   "I  got  the  whole  Earth
 Settlements, Inc.,  back  of  me!"  He  snorted.  "These Martians
 won't dare--"
      "Look," said Elma.
      He looked  out  onto  the  dead  sea  bottom. He dropped his
 broom. He  picked  it  up  and  his mouth was open, a little free
 drop of saliva flew on the air, and he was suddenly shivering.
      "Elma, Elma, Elma!" he said.
      "Here they come," said Elma.
      Across the  ancient  sea  floor  a  dozen  tall, blue-sailed
 Martian sand ships floated, like blue ghosts, like blue smoke.
      "Sand ships!  But  there  aren't  any  more,  Elma,  no more
 sand ships."
      "Those seem to be sand ships," she said.
      "But the  authorities  confiscated  all  of them! They broke
 them up,  sold  some  at  auction! I'm the only one in this whole
 damn territory's got one and knows how to run one."
      "Not any more," she said, nodding at the sea.
      "Come on, let's get out of here!"
      "Why?"  she   asked  slowly,  fascinated  with  the  Martian
 vessels.
      "They'll kill me! Get in our truck, quick!"
      Elma didn't move.
      He had  to  drag  her  around  back  of  the stand where the
 two machines  stood,  his truck, which he had used steadily until
 a month  ago,  and the old Martian sand ship which he had bid for
 at auction,  smiling,  and which, during the last three weeks, he
 had used  to  carry  supplies  back and forth over the glassy sea
 floor. He  looked  at  his  truck  now and remembered. The engine
 was out  on  the  ground;  he  had been puttering with it for two
 days.
      "The truck  don't  seem  to  be  in running condition," said
 Elma.
      "The sand ship. Get in!"
      "And let you drive me in a sand ship? Oh no."
      "Get in! I can do it!"
      He shoved  her  in,  jumped  in  behind her, and flapped the
 tiller, let the cobalt sail up to take the evening wind.
      The stars  were  bright  and  the  blue  Martian  ships were
 skimming across  the  whispering  sands.  At  first  his own ship
 would not  move,  then  he  remembered the sand anchor and yanked
 it in.
      "There!"
      The wind  hurled  the  sand  ship  keening over the dead sea
 bottom,  over   long-buried   crystals,   past  upended  pillars,
 past deserted  docks  of  marble and brass, past dead white chess
 cities, past  purple  foothills,  into  distance.  The figures of
 the Martian ships receded and then began to pace Sam's ship.
      "Guess I  showed  them,  by God!" cried Sam. "I'll report to
 the Rocket  Corporation.  They'll  give me protection! I'm pretty
 quick."
      "They could  have  stopped  you  if  they wanted," Elma said
 tiredly. "They just didn't bother."
      He laughed.  "Come  off  it. Why should they let me get off?
 No, they weren't quick enough, is all."
      "Weren't they?" Elma nodded behind him.
      He did  not  turn.  He  felt  a  cold  wind  blowing. He was
 afraid to  turn.  He  felt  something  in  the  seat  behind him,
 something as  frail  as  your  breath on a cold morning something
 as blue  as  hickory-wood  smoke  at twilight, something like old
 white lace,  something  like  a  snowfall, something like the icy
 rime of winter on the brittle sedge.
      There  was   a   sound   as   of   a  thin  plate  of  glass
 broken--laughter. Then silence. He turned.
      The young  woman  sat  at  the  tiller  bench  quietly.  Her
 wrists were  thin  as icicles, her eyes as clear as the moons and
 as large,  steady  and  white.  The wind blew at her and, like an
 image on  cold  water,  she  rippled,  silk standing out from her
 frail body in tatters of blue rain.
      "Go back," she said.
      "No." Sam  was  quivering, the fine, delicate fear-quivering
 of a  hornet  suspended  in  the  air, undecided between fear and
 hate. "Get off my ship!"
      "This isn't  your  ship,"  said  the  vision.  "It's  old as
 our world.  It  sailed  the sand seas ten thousand years ago when
 the seas  were  whispered  away and the docks were empty, and you
 came and  took  it,  stole  it.  Now  turn  it around, go back to
 the crossroad  place.  We  have  need to talk with you. Something
 important has happened."
      "Get off  my  ship!"  said  Sam.  He  took  a  gun  from his
 holster with  a  creak of leather. He pointed it carefully. "Jump
 off before I count three or--"
      "Don't!" cried  the  girl.  "I  won't hurt you. Neither will
 the others. We came in peace!"
      "One," said Sam.
      "Sam!" said Elma.
      "Listen to me," said the girl.
      "Two," said Sam firmly, cocking the gun trigger.
      "Sam!" cried Elma.
      "Three," said Sam.
      "We only--" said the girl.
      The gun went off.
      In the  sunlight,  snow  melts,  crystals  evaporate  into a
 steam, into  nothing.  In the firelight, vapors dance and vanish.
 In the  core  of  a  volcano, fragile things burst and disappear.
 The girl,  in  the  gunfire,  in  the  heat,  in  the concussion,
 folded like  a  soft  scarf, melted like a crystal figurine. What
 was left  of  her,  ice, snowflake, smoke, blew away in the wind.
 The tiller seat was empty.
      Sam holstered his gun and did not look at his wife.
      "Sam,"  she   said   after   a  minute  more  of  traveling,
 whispering over the moon-colored sea of sand, "stop the ship."
      He looked  at  her  and  his  face was pale. "No, you don't.
 Not after all this time, you're not pulling out on me."
      She looked  at  his  hand on his gun. "I believe you would,"
 she said. "You actually would."
      He jerked  his  head  from  side  to side, hand tight on the
 tiller bar.  "Elma,  this is crazy. We'll be in town in a minute,
 we'll be okay!"
      "Yes," said his wife, lying back cold in the ship.
      "Elma, listen to me."
      "There's nothing to hear, Sam."
      "Elma!"
      They  were  passing  a  little  white  chess  city,  and  in
 his frustration,  in  his  rage,  he  sent  six  bullets crashing
 among the  crystal  towers.  The  city  dissolved  in a shower of
 ancient glass  and  splintered  quartz.  It fell away like carved
 soap, shattered.  It  was  no  more.  He laughed and fired again,
 and one  last  tower,  one  last chess piece, took fire, ignited,
 and in blue flinders went up to the stars.
      "I'll show them! I'll show everybody!"
      "Go ahead, show us, Sam." She lay in the shadows.
      "Here comes  another  city!" Sam reloaded his gun. "Watch me
 fix it!"
      The blue  phantom  ships  loomed  up  behind  them,  drawing
 steadily apace.  He  did not see them at first. He was only aware
 of a  whistling  and a high windy screaming, as of steel on sand,
 and it  was  the  sound  of  the  sharp  razor  prows of the sand
 ships  preening   the  sea  bottoms,  their  red  pennants,  blue
 pennants unfurled.  In  the  blue  light  ships  were  blue  dark
 images, masked  men,  men with silvery faces, men with blue stars
 for eyes,  men  with  carved golden ears, men with tinfoil cheeks
 and ruby-studded  lips,  men  with  arms  folded,  men  following
 him, Martian men.
      One, two, three. Sam counted. The Martian ships closed in.
      "Elma, Elma, I can't hold them all off!"
      Elma did not speak or rise from where she had slumped.
      Sam fired  his  gun  eight times. One of the sand ships fell
 apart, the  sail,  the  emerald  body,  the  bronze  hull points,
 the moon-white  tiller,  and  all  the separate images in it. The
 masked men,  all  of  them,  dug  into the sand and separated out
 into orange and then smoke-flame.
      But the other ships closed in.
      "I'm outnumbered, Elma!" he cried. "They'll kill me!"
      He threw  out  the anchor. It was no use. The sail fluttered
 down,  folding  unto  itself,  sighing.  The  ship  stopped.  The
 wind stopped.  Travel  stopped.  Mars stood still as the majestic
 vessels of the Martians drew around and hesitated over him.
      "Earth man,"  a  voice  called  from  a high seat somewhere.
 A silverine  mask  moved.  Ruby-rimmed  lips  glittered  with the
 words.
      "I didn't  do  anything!"  Sam  looked  at  all  the  faces,
 one hundred  in  all,  that  surrounded  him.  There weren't many
 Martians left  on  Mars--one  hundred, one hundred and fifty, all
 told. And  most  of  them  were  here  now,  on the dead seas, in
 their resurrected  ships,  by  their  dead  chess  cities, one of
 which had  just  fallen  like  some fragile vase hit by a pebble.
 The silverine masks glinted.
      "It was  all  a  mistake,"  he  pleaded, standing out of his
 ship, his  wife  slumped  behind  him  in  the deeps of the hold,
 like a  dead  woman. "I came to Mars like any honest enterprising
 businessman. I  took  some  surplus  material  from a rocket that
 crashed and  I  built  me  the  finest  little stand you ever saw
 right there  on  that  land  by the crossroads--you know where it
 is. You've  got  to  admit  it's  a  good  job  of building." Sam
 laughed, staring  around.  "And  that  Martian--I  know  he was a
 friend of  yours--came.  His death was an accident, I assure you.
 All I  wanted  to  do  was  have a hot-dog stand, the only one on
 Mars, the  first  and  most  important one. You understand how it
 is? I  was  going  to  serve the best darned hot dogs there, with
 chili and onions and orange juice."
      The  silver   masks   did  not  move.  They  burned  in  the
 moonlight. Yellow  eyes  shone  upon  Sam.  He  felt  his stomach
 clench in, wither, become a rock. He threw his gun in the sand.
      "I give up."
      "Pick up your gun," said the Martians in chorus.
      "What?"
      "Your gun."  A  jeweled  hand  waved from the prow of a blue
 ship. "Pick it up. Put it away."
      Unbelieving he picked up the gun.
      "Now," said  the  voice,  "turn  your  ship  and  go back to
 your stand."
      "Now?"
      "Now," said  the  voice.  "We  will  not  harm  you. You ran
 away before we were able to explain. Come."

      Now the  great  ships  turned  as  lightly as moon thistles.
 Their wing-sails  flapped  with  a  sound of soft applause on the
 air, The masks were coruscating, turning, firing the shadows.
      "Elma!" Sam  tumbled  into  the  ship.  "Get up, Elma. We're
 going back."  He  was  excited.  He  almost gibbered with relief.
 "They aren't  going  to  hurt  me,  kill me, Elma. Get up, honey,
 get up."
      "What--what?" Elma  blinked  around  and slowly, as the ship
 was sent  into  the  wind  again,  she  helped  herself,  as in a
 dream, back  up  to  a  seat  and  slumped  there  like a sack of
 stones, saying no more.
      The sand  slid  under  the  ship.  In half an hour they were
 back at  the  crossroads,  the  ships planted, all of them out of
 the ships.
      The Leader  stood  before  Sam  and  Elma,  his  mask beaten
 of  polished  bronze,  the  eyes  only  empty  slits  of  endless
 blue-black, the  mouth  a  slot  out  of which words drifted into
 the wind.
      "Ready your  stand,"  said  the voice. A diamond-gloved hand
 waved. "Prepare  the  viands,  prepare  the  foods,  prepare  the
 strange wines, for tonight is indeed a great night!"
      "You mean," said Sam, "you'll let me stay on here?"
      "Yes."
      "You're not mad at me?"
      The mask was rigid and carved and cold and sightless.
      "Prepare your  place  of  food," said the voice softly. "And
 take this."
      "What is it?"
      Sam blinked  at  the silver-foil scroll that was handed him,
 upon which, in hieroglyph, snake figures danced.
      "It is  the  land  grant  to  all  of the territory from the
 silver mountains  to  the  blue  hills,  from  the  dead salt sea
 there to  the  distant  valleys  of  moonstone and emerald," said
 the Leader.
      "M-mine?" said Sam, incredulous.
      "Yours."
      "One hundred thousand miles of territory?"
      "Yours."
      "Did you hear that, Elma?"
      Elma  was   sitting  on  the  ground,  leaning  against  the
 aluminum hot-dog stand, eyes shut.
      "But why,  why--why  are  you  giving  me  all  this?" asked
 Sam, trying to look into the metal slots of the eyes.
      "That is  not  all.  Here." Six other scrolls were produced.
 The names were declared, the territories announced.
      "Why, that's  half  of  Mars!  I  own  half  of  Mars!"  Sam
 rattled the  scrolls  in his fists. He shook them at Elma, insane
 with laughing. "Elma, did you hear?"
      "I heard," said Elma, looking at the sky.
      She seemed  to  be  watching for something. She was becoming
 a little more alert now.
      "Thank you, oh, thank you," said Sam to the bronze mask.
      "Tonight  is  the  night,"  said  the  mask.  "You  must  be
 ready."
      "I will  be.  What it is--a surprise? Are the rockets coming
 through earlier  than  we  thought,  a  month earlier from Earth?
 All ten  thousand  rockets,  bringing  the  settlers, the miners,
 the workers  and  their  wives,  all  hundred  thousand  of them?
 Won't that  be  swell,  Elma?  You  see,  I told you. I told you,
 that town  there  won't  always  have just one thousand people in
 it. There'll  be  fifty thousand more coming, and the month after
 that a  hundred  thousand  more,  and by the end of the year five
 million Earth  Men.  And  me  with  the only hot-dog stand staked
 out on the busiest highway to the mines!"
      The mask  floated  on  the wind. "We leave you. Prepare. The
 land is yours."
      In  the   blowing  moonlight,  like  metal  petals  of  some
 ancient  flower,   like  blue  plumes,  like  cobalt  butterflies
 immense and  quiet,  the  old  ships  turned  and  moved over the
 shifting sands,  the  masks  beaming  and  glittering,  until the
 last shine, the last blue color, was lost among the hills.
      "Elma, why  did  they  do it? Why didn't they kill me? Don't
 they  know   anything?   What's   wrong   with   them?  Elma,  do
 you understand?" He shook her shoulder. "I own half of Mars!"
      She watched the night sky, waiting.
      "Come on,"  he  said. "We've got to get the place fixed. All
 the hot  dogs  boiling,  the  buns  warm,  the chili cooking, the
 onions peeled  and  diced,  the  relish  laid out, the napkins in
 the dips,  the  place spotless! Hey!" He did a little wild dance,
 kicking his  heels.  "Oh  boy,  I'm  happy; yes, sir, I'm happy,"
 he sang off key. "This is my lucky day!"
      He boiled  the  hot dogs, cut the buns, sliced the onions in
 a frenzy.
      "Just think,  that  Martian  said  a surprise. That can only
 mean one  thing,  Elma.  Those  hundred thousand people coming in
 ahead of  schedule,  tonight,  of  all  nights! We'll be flooded!
 We'll work  long  hours  for  days,  what  with  tourists  riding
 around seeing things, Elma. Think of the money!"
      He went out and looked at the sky. He didn't see anything.
      "In  a   minute,   maybe,"   he   said,  snuffing  the  cool
 air gratefully, arms up, beating his chest. "Ah!"
      Elma said  nothing.  She  peeled  potatoes  for French fries
 quietly, her eyes always on the sky.
      "Sam," she said half an hour later. "There it is. Look."
      He looked and saw it.
      Earth.
      It rose  full  and  green,  like a fine-cut stone, above the
 hills.
      "Good  old   Earth,"   he   whispered  lovingly.  "Good  old
 wonderful  Earth.   Send   me   your  hungry  and  your  starved.
 Something  something--how   does  that  poem  go?  Send  me  your
 hungry,  old  Earth.  Here's  Sam  Parkhill,  his  hot  dogs  all
 boiled, his  chili  cooking,  everything  neat as a pin. Come on,
 you Earth, send me your rocket!"
      He went  out  to look at his place. There it sat, perfect as
 a fresh-laid  egg  on  the  dead  sea bottom, the only nucleus of
 light and  warmth  in  hundreds  of miles of lonely wasteland. It
 was like  a  heart  beating  alone  in a great dark body. He felt
 almost sorrowful with pride, gazing at it with wet eyes.
      "It sure  makes  you  humble,"  he  said  among  the cooking
 odors of  wieners,  warm buns, rich butter. "Step up," he invited
 the various stars in the sky. "Who'll be the first to buy?"
      "Sam," said Elma.
      Earth changed in the black sky.
      It caught fire.
      Part of  it  seemed to come apart in a million pieces, as if
 a  gigantic  jigsaw  had  exploded.  It  burned  with  an  unholy
 dripping glare  for  a  minute,  three  times  normal  size, then
 dwindled.
      "What was that?" Sam looked at the green fire in the sky.
      "Earth," said Elma, holding her hands together.
      "That can't  be  Earth,  that's  not  Earth!  No, that ain't
 Earth! It can't be."
      "You mean  it  couldn't  be  Earth,"  said  Elma, looking at
 him. "That  just  isn't Earth. No, that's not Earth; is that what
 you mean?"
      "Not Earth--oh no, it _couldn't_ be," he wailed.
      He stood  there,  his  hands  at  his sides, his mouth open,
 his eyes wide and dull, not moving.
      "Sam." She  called  his name. For the first time in days her
 eyes were bright. "Sam?"
      He looked up at the sky.
      "Well," she  said.  She  glanced  around  for a minute or so
 in silence.  Then  briskly  she  flapped  a  wet  towel  over her
 arm. "Switch  on  more  lights,  turn  up  the  music,  open  the
 doors, There'll  be  another  batch  of  customers along in about
 a million years. Gotta be ready, yes, sir."
      Sam did not move.
      "What a  swell  spot  for  a  hot-dog  stand," she said. She
 reached over  and  picked  a  toothpick  out  of a jar and put it
 between her  front  teeth.  "Let you in on a little secret, Sam,"
 she whispered,  leaning  toward  him. "This looks like it's going
 to be an off season."

                   November 2005:  THE WATCHERS

      They all  came  out  and  looked at the sky that night. They
 left their  suppers  or  their  washing  up or their dressing for
 the show  and  they  came  out  upon  their  now-not-quite-as-new
 porches and  watched  the  green  star  of  Earth there. It was a
 move  without   conscious  effort;  they  all  did  it,  to  help
 them understand  the  news  they  had heard on the radio a moment
 before. There  was  Earth  and  there  the  coming war, and there
 hundreds of  thousands  of  mothers  or  grandmothers  or fathers
 or brothers  or  aunts  or  uncles  or cousins. They stood on the
 porches and  tried  to  believe  in  the existence of Earth, much
 as they  had  once  tried to believe in the existence of Mars; it
 was a  problem  reversed.  To all intents and purposes, Earth now
 was dead;  they  had  been  away from it for three or four years.
 Space was  an  anesthetic;  seventy million miles of space numbed
 you, put  memory  to  sleep,  depopulated Earth, erased the past,
 and allowed  these  people  here  to  go  on with their work. But
 now,  tonight,  the  dead  were  risen,  Earth  was  reinhabited,
 memory awoke,  a  million  names  were spoken: What was so-and-so
 doing tonight  on  Earth?  What  about this one and that one? The
 people on the porches glanced sidewise at each other's faces.
      At nine  o'clock  Earth  seemed  to explode, catch fire, and
 burn.
      The people  on  the porches put up their hands as if to beat
 the fire out.
      They waited.
      By midnight  the  fire  was  extinguished.  Earth  was still
 there. There was a sigh, like an autumn wind, from the porches.
      "We haven't heard from Harry for a long time."
      "He's all right."
      "We should send a message to Mother."
      "She's all right."
      "_Is_ she?"
      "Now, don't worry."
      "Will she be all right, do you think?"
      "Of course, of course; now come to bed."
      But nobody  moved.  Late  dinners  were carried out onto the
 night lawns  and  set  upon  collapsible  tables, and they picked
 at these  slowly  until  two  o'clock and the light-radio message
 flashed  from   Earth.  They  could  read  the  great  Morse-code
 flashes which flickered like a distant firefly:

      AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT ATOMIZED IN PREMATURE 
      EXPLOSION OF ATOMIC STOCKPILE. LOS ANGELES,
      LONDON BOMBED. WAR. COME HOME. COME HOME.
      COME HOME.

      They stood up from their tables.
      COME HOME. COME HOME. COME HOME.
      "Have you heard from your brother Ted this year?"
      "You know.  With  mail  rates  five bucks a letter to Earth,
 I don't write much."
      COME HOME.
      "I've been  wondering  about  Jane;  you  remember  Jane, my
 kid sister?"
      COME HOME.
      At  three   in   the   chilly   morning   the  luggage-store
 proprietor glanced  up.  A  lot  of  people  were coming down the
 street.
      "Stayed open late on purpose. What'll it be, mister?"
      By dawn the luggage was gone from his shelves.

                 December 2005:  THE SILENT TOWNS

      There was  a  little  white  silent  town on the edge of the
 dead Martian  sea.  The  town  was  empty.  No  one  moved in it.
 Lonely lights  burned  in the stores all day. The shop doors were
 wide, as  if  people  had  run  off  without  using  their  keys.
 Magazines, brought  from  Earth  on  the  silver  rocket  a month
 before,  fluttered,  untouched,  burning  brown,  on  wire  racks
 fronting the silent drugstores.
      The town  was  dead.  Its beds were empty and cold. The only
 sound was  the  power  hum  of  electric lines and dynamos, still
 alive, all  by  themselves.  Water  ran  in  forgotten  bathtubs,
 poured out  into  living  rooms,  onto  porches, and down through
 little garden  plots  to  feed  neglected  flowers.  In  the dark
 theaters,  gum   under  the  many  seats  began  to  harden  with
 tooth impressions still in it.
      Across town  was  a  rocket  port. You could still smell the
 hard, scorched  smell  where  the last rocket blasted off when it
 went back  to  Earth.  If  you  dropped  a  dime in the telescope
 and pointed  it  at  Earth,  perhaps  you  could  see the big war
 happening there.  Perhaps  you  could see New York explode. Maybe
 London could  be  seen,  covered  with a new kind of fog. Perhaps
 then  it   might  be  understood  why  this  small  Martian  town
 is abandoned.  How  quick  was the evacuation? Walk in any store,
 bang the  NO  SALE  key.  Cash  drawers  jump out, all bright and
 jingly with coins. That war on Earth must be very bad. . . .
      Along  the   empty  avenues  of  this  town,  now  whistling
 softly,  kicking   a   tin   can   ahead   of   him   in  deepest
 concentration, came  a  tall,  thin  man.  His eyes glowed with a
 dark, quiet  look  of  loneliness.  He  moved  his  bony hands in
 his pockets,  which  were  tinkling  with new dimes. Occasionally
 he tossed  a  dime  to  the ground. He laughed temperately, doing
 this, and walked on, sprinkling bright dimes everywhere.
      His name  was  Walter  Gripp.  He  had  a  placer mine and a
 remote shack  far  up  in the blue Martian hills and he walked to
 town once  every  two  weeks  to  see  if  he could marry a quiet
 and intelligent  woman.  Over the years he had always returned to
 his shack,  alone  and  disappointed.  A  week  ago,  arriving in
 town, he had found it this way!
      That day  he  had  been  so  surprised  that  he  rushed  to
 a delicatessen,  flung  wide  a case, and ordered a triple-decker
 beef sandwich.
      "Coming up!" he cried, a towel on his arm.
      He flourished  meats  and bread baked the day before, dusted
 a table,  invited  himself  to  sit,  and  ate until he had to go
 find a  soda  fountain,  where  he  ordered  a  bicarbonate.  The
 druggist, being  one  Walter  Gripp,  was astoundingly polite and
 fizzed one right up for him!
      He stuffed  his  jeans  with  money,  all  he could find. He
 loaded  a   boy's   wagon   with   ten-dollar   bills   and   ran
 lickety-split through  town.  Reaching  the  suburbs, he suddenly
 realized how  shamefully  silly  he was. He didn't need money. He
 rode  the  ten-dollar  bills  back  to  where  he'd  found  them,
 counted a  dollar  from his own wallet to pay for the sandwiches,
 dropped it in the delicatessen till, and added a quarter tip.
      That night  he  enjoyed  a  hot  Turkish  bath,  a succulent
 filet carpeted  with  delicate  mushrooms,  imported  dry sherry,
 and strawberries  in  wine.  He  fitted  himself  for  a new blue
 flannel suit,  and  a rich gray Homburg which balanced oddly atop
 his gaunt  head.  He  slid  money  into  a  juke box which played
 "That Old  Gang  of Mine." He dropped nickels in twenty boxes all
 over town.  The  lonely  streets  and  the night were full of the
 sad music  of  "That  Old  Gang  of  Mine" as he walked, tall and
 thin and  alone,  his  new  shoes clumping softly, his cold hands
 in his pockets.
      But that  was  a  week  past.  He  slept  in a good house on
 Mars Avenue,  rose  mornings  at  nine, bathed, and idled to town
 for ham  and  eggs. No morning passed that he didn't freeze a ton
 of meats,  vegetables,  and  lemon  cream  pies,  enough  to last
 ten years,  until  the rockets came back from Earth, if they ever
 came.
      Now, tonight,  he  drifted up and down, seeing the wax women
 in every  colorful  shop  window,  pink  and  beautiful.  For the
 first time  he  knew  how  dead  the town was. He drew a glass of
 beer and sobbed gently.
      "Why," he said, "I'm all _alone_."
      He entered  the  Elite  Theater  to  show  himself  a  film,
 to  distract  his  mind  from  his  isolation.  The  theater  was
 hollow, empty,  like  a  tomb  with  phantoms  crawling  gray and
 black  on  the  vast  screen.  Shivering,  he  hurried  from  the
 haunted place.
      Having decided  to  return  home,  he  was striking down the
 middle of  a  side  street,  almost  running,  when  he heard the
 phone.
      He listened.
      "Phone ringing in someone's house."
      He proceeded briskly.
      "Someone should answer that phone," he mused.
      He sat on a curb to pick a rock from his shoe, idly.
      "Someone!" he  screamed,  leaping.  "Me!  Good  lord, what's
 wrong with me!" he shrieked. He whirled. Which house? That one!
      He raced  over  the lawn, up the steps, into the house, down
 a dark hall.
      He yanked up the receiver.
      "Hello!" he cried.
      _Buzzzzzzzzz_.
      "Hello, hello!"
      They had hung up.
      "Hello!" he  shouted,  and  banged  the  phone.  "You stupid
 idiot!" he  cried  to  himself.  "Sitting on that curb, you fool!
 Oh, you  damned  and  awful  fool!"  He squeezed the phone. "Come
 on, ring again! Come _on!_"
      He had  never  thought  there  might be others left on Mars.
 In the  entire  week  he had seen no one. He had figured that all
 other towns were as empty as this one.
      Now,  staring  at  this  terrible  little  black  phone,  he
 trembled. Interlocking  dial  systems  connected  every  town  on
 Mars. From which of thirty cities had the call come?
      He didn't know.
      He waited.  He  wandered to the strange kitchen, thawed some
 iced huckleberries, ate them disconsolately.
      "There wasn't  anyone  on  the  other  end  of  that  call,"
 he murmured.  "Maybe  a  pole  blew  down somewhere and the phone
 rang by itself."
      But hadn't  he  heard  a click, which meant someone had hung
 up far away?
      He stood  in  the  hall  the rest of the night. "Not because
 of the  phone,"  he  told  himself. "I just haven't anything else
 to do."
      He listened to his watch tick.
      "She won't  phone  back,"  he  said.  "She won't _ever_ call
 a  number  that  didn't  answer.  She's  probably  dialing  other
 houses in  town  right  _now!_  And  here  I sit--Wait a minute!"
 He laughed. "Why do I keep saying 'she'?"
      He blinked. "It could as easily be a 'he,' couldn't it?"
      His heart slowed. He felt very cold and hollow.
      He wanted very much for it to be a "she."
      He walked  out  of  the  house  and  stood  in the center of
 the early, dim morning street.
      He listened.  Not  a  sound.  No  birds.  No  cars. Only his
 heart beating.  Beat  and  pause  and  beat again. His face ached
 with strain.  The  wind  blew  gently, oh so gently, flapping his
 coat.
      "Sh," he whispered. "_Listen_."
      He swayed  in  a  slow  cirde,  turning  his  head  from one
 silent house to another.
      She'll phone  more  and more numbers, he thought. It must be
 a woman.  Why?  Only a woman would call and call. A man wouldn't.
 A man's  independent.  Did  I  phone anyone? No! Never thought of
 it. It must be a woman. It _has_ to be, by God!
      Listen.
      Far away, under the stars, a phone rang.
      He ran.  He  stopped  to listen. The ringing, soft. He ran a
 few more  steps.  Louder.  He  raced down an alley. Louder still!
 He passed  six  houses,  six  more. Much louder! He chose a house
 and its door was locked.
      The phone rang inside.
      "Damn you!" He jerked the doorknob.
      The phone screamed.
      He heaved  a  porch  chair  through  a parlor window, leaped
 in after it.
      Before he even touched the phone, it was silent.
      He stalked  through  the  house then and broke mirrors, tore
 down drapes, and kicked in the kitchen stove.
      Finally, exhausted,  he  picked  up the thin directory which
 listed every phone on Mars. Fifty thousand names.
      He started with number one.
      Amelia Ames.  He  dialed  her  number  in  New  Chicago, one
 hundred miles over the dead sea.
      No answer.
      Number two  lived  in  New  New  York,  five  thousand miles
 across the blue mountains.
      No answer.
      He  called   three,  four,  five,  six,  seven,  eight,  his
 fingers jerking, unable to grip the receiver.
      A woman's voice answered, "Hello?"
      Walter cried back at her, "Hello, oh lord, hello!"
      "This is  a  recording,"  recited  the  woman's voice. "Miss
 Helen Arasumian  is  not  home.  Will  you leave a message on the
 wire spool  so  she may call you when she returns? Hello? This is
 a  recording.   Miss  Arasumian  is  not  home.  Will  you  leave
 a message--"
      He hung up.
      He sat with his mouth twitching.
      On second thought he redialed that number.
      "When Miss  Helen  Arasumian comes home," he said, "tell her
 to go to hell."

      He  phoned   Mars   Junction,   New   Boston,  Arcadia,  and
 Roosevelt City  exchanges,  theorizing that they would be logical
 places for  persons  to  dial from; after that he contacted local
 city halls  and  other  public  institutions  in  each  town.  He
 phoned the  best  hotels.  Leave  it to a woman to put herself up
 in luxury.
      Suddenly he  stopped,  clapped  his  hands sharply together,
 and laughed.  Of  course!  He  checked  the  directory and dialed
 a long-distance  call  through  to  the  biggest beauty parlor in
 New Texas  City.  If  ever  there was a place where a woman would
 putter around,  patting  mud  packs on her face and sitting under
 a drier, it would be a velvet-soft, diamond-gem beauty parlor!
      The  phone  rang.  Someone  at  the  other  end  lifted  the
 receiver.
      A woman's voice said, "Hello?"
      "If this  is  a  recording,"  announced  Walter Gripp, "I'll
 come over and blow the place up."
      "This isn't  a  record,"  said  the  woman's  voice. "Hello!
 Oh, hello,  there  _is_ someone alive! Where _are_ you?" She gave
 a delighted scream.
      Walter almost  collapsed.  "_You!_'  He  stood  up  jerkily,
 eyes wild. "Good lord, what luck, what's your name?"
      "Genevieve Selsor!"  She  wept  into  the receiver. "Oh, I'm
 so glad to hear from you, whoever you are!"
      "Walter Gripp!"
      "Walter, hello, Walter!"
      "Hello, Genevieve!"
      "Walter. It's such a nice name. Walter, Walter!"
      "Thank you."
      "Walter, where _are_ you?"
      Her voice  was  so  kind  and  sweet  and  fine. He held the
 phone tight  to  his  ear  so  she could whisper sweetly into it.
 He felt his feet drift off the floor. His cheeks burned.
      "I'm in Marlin Village," he said. "I--"
      Buzz.
      "Hello?" he said.
      Buzz.
      He jiggled the hook. Nothing.
      Somewhere a  wind  had  blown down a pole. As quickly as she
 had come, Genevieve Selsor was gone.
      He dialed, but the line was dead.
      "I know  where  she  is,  anyway."  He ran out of the house.
 The  sun   was   rising  as  he  backed  a  bettle-car  from  the
 stranger's  garage,  filled  its  backseat  with  food  from  the
 house, and  set  out  at  eighty  miles an hour down the highway,
 heading for  New  Texas  City.  A  thousand  miles,  he  thought.
 Genevieve Selsor, sit tight, you'll hear from me!
      He honked his horn on every turn out of town.
      At sunset,  after  an  impossible  day of driving, he pulled
 to the  roadside,  kicked  off  his tight shoes, laid himself out
 in the  seat,  and  slid  the  gray  Homburg over his weary eyes.
 His breathing  became  slow  and  regular.  The wind blew and the
 stars shone  gently  upon  him  in  the  new  dusk.  The  Martian
 mountains lay  all  around,  millions  of  years  old.  Starlight
 glittered on  the  spires  of  a  little  Martian town, no bigger
 than a game of chess, in the blue hills.
      He lay  in  the  half-place  between  awakeness  and dreams.
 He whispered.  Genevieve.  _Oh,  Genevieve,  sweet Genevieve_, he
 sang  softly,  _the  years  may  come,  the  years  may  go.  But
 Genevieve, sweet  Genevieve_.  . . . . There was a warmth in him.
 He heard  her  quiet sweet cool voice singing. _Hello, oh, hello,
 Walter! This  is  no  record.  Where  are  you, Walter, where are
 you?_
      He  sighed,   putting   up  a  hand  to  touch  her  in  the
 moonlight. Long  dark  hair  shaking  in  the wind; beautiful, it
 was. And  her  lips  like  red  peppermints.  And her cheeks like
 fresh-cut wet  roses.  And  her  body like a clear vaporous mist,
 while her  soft  cool  sweet  voice  crooned to him once more the
 words to  the  old  sad  song,  _Oh,  Genevieve, sweet Genevieve,
 the years may come, the years may go_ . . .
      He slept.

      He reached New Texas City at midnight.
      He halted before the Deluxe Beauty Salon, yelling.
      He expected her to rush out, all perfume, all laughter.
      Nothing happened.
      "She's asleep."  He  walked  to  the  door.  "Here I am!" he
 called. "Hello, Genevieve!"
      The town  lay  in  double  moonlit silence. Somewhere a wind
 flapped a canvas awning.
      He swung the glass door wide and stepped in.
      "Hey!" He  laughed  uneasily.  "Don't  hide!  I  know you're
 here!"
      He searched every booth.
      He found  a  tiny  handkerchief  on the floor. It smelled so
 good he almost lost his balance. "Genevieve," he said.
      He  drove   the  car  through  the  empty  streets  but  saw
 nothing. "If this is a practical joke . . ."
      He slowed  the  car.  "Wait a minute. We were cut off. Maybe
 _she_ drove  to  Marlin  Village  while  I  was driving here! She
 probably took  the  old Sea Road. We missed each other during the
 day. How'd  she  know  I'd  come get her? I didn't _say_ I would.
 And she  was  so  afraid  when  the phone died that she rushed to
 Marlin Village  to  find  me!  And here I am, by God, what a fool
 _I_ am!"
      Giving the horn a blow, he shot out of town.
      He drove  all  night.  He  thought,  What  if  she  isn't in
 Marlin Village waiting, when I arrive?
      He wouldn't  think  of  that.  She  _must_  be there. And he
 would run  up  and  hold  her and perhaps even kiss her, once, on
 the lips.
      _Genevieve, sweet  Genevieve_,  he  whistled, stepping it up
 to one hundred miles an hour.

      Marlin  Village  was  quiet  at  dawn.  Yellow  lights  were
 still burning  in  several  stores,  and  a  juke  box  that  had
 played steadily  for  one  hundred  hours finally, with a crackle
 of electricity,  ceased,  making  the  silence  complete. The sun
 warmed the streets and warmed the cold and vacant sky.
      Walter  turned  down  Main  Street,  the  car  lights  still
 on, honking  the  horn  a  double  toot, six times at one corner,
 six times  at  another.  He  peered  at the store names. His face
 was white  and  tired,  and his hands slid on the sweaty steering
 wheel.
      "Genevieve!" he called in the empty street.
      The door to a beauty salon opened.
      "Genevieve!" He stopped the car.
      Genevieve Selsor  stood  in the open door of the salon as he
 ran across  the  street.  A  box  of cream chocolates lay open in
 her arms.  Her  fingers,  cuddling it, were plump and pallid. Her
 face, as  he  stepped  into  the  light, was round and thick, and
 her eyes  were  like  two  immense  eggs  stuck into a white mess
 of bread  dough.  Her  legs  were  as big around as the stumps of
 trees, and  she  moved  with  an  ungainly  shuffle. Her hair was
 an indiscriminate  shade  of brown that had been made and remade,
 it appeared,  as  a  nest  for  birds.  She  had  no  lips at all
 and compensated  this  by stenciling on a large red, greasy mouth
 that now  popped  open  in delight, now shut in sudden alarm. She
 had plucked her brows to thin antenna lines.
      Walter stopped.  His  smile  dissolved.  He stood looking at
 her.
      She dropped her candy box to the sidewalk.
      "Are you--Genevieve Selsor?" His ears rang.
      "Are you Walter Griff?" she asked.
      "Gripp."
      "Gripp," she corrected herself.
      "How do you do," he said with a restrained voice.
      "How do you do." She shook his hand.
      Her fingers were sticky with chocolate.

      "Well," said Walter Gripp.
      "What?" asked Genevieve Selsor.
      "I just said, 'Well,'" said Walter.
      "Oh."
      It  was   nine   o'clock   at  night.  They  had  spent  the
 day picnicking,  and  for  supper  he had prepared a filet mignon
 which she  didn't  like  because  it  was too rare, so he broiled
 it some  more  and it was too much broiled or fried or something.
 He laughed  and  said, "We'll see a movie!" She said okay and put
 her chocolaty  fingers  on  his  elbow. But all she wanted to see
 was a  fifty-year-old  film of Clark Gable. "Doesn't he just kill
 you?" She  giggled.  "Doesn't  he  _kill_  you,  now?"  The  film
 ended. "Run  it  off  again,"  she  commanded. "Again?" he asked.
 "Again," she  said.  And when he returned she snuggled up and put
 her paws  all  over  him.  "You're not quite what I expected, but
 you're nice,"  she  admitted. "Thanks," he said, swallowing. "Oh,
 that Gable," she said, and pinched his leg. "Ouch," he said.
      After the  film  they went shopping down the silent streets.
 She broke  a  window  and  put  on  the brightest dress she could
 find. Dumping  a  perfume  bottle  on  her  hair,  she  resembled
 a drowned  sheep  dog.  "How  old are you?" he inquired. "Guess."
 Dripping, she  led  him  down  the street. "Oh, thirty," he said.
 "Well,"  she   announced  stiffly,  "I'm  only  twenty-seven,  so
 there!
      "Here's another  candy  store!"  she said. "Honest, I've led
 the life  of  Reilly  since  everything  exploded.  I never liked
 my folks,  they  were  fools. They left for Earth two months ago.
 I was  supposed  to  follow  on the last rocket, but I stayed on;
 you know why?"
      "Why?"
      "Because everyone  picked  on  me. So I stayed where I could
 throw perfume  on  myself  all  day  and drink ten thousand malts
 and  eat  candy  without  people  saying,  'Oh,  that's  full  of
 calories!' So here I _am!_"
      "Here you are." Walter shut his eyes.
      "It's getting late," she said, looking at him.
      "Yes."
      "I'm tired," she said.
      "Funny. I'm wide awake."
      "Oh," she said.
      "I feel  like  staying up all night," he said. "Say, there's
 a good record at Mike's. Come on, I'll play it for you."
      "I'm tired." She glanced up at him with sly, bright eyes.
      "I'm very alert," he said. "Strange."
      "Come back  to  the  beauty shop," she said. "I want to show
 you something."
      She took  him  in through the glass door and walked him over
 to a  large  white box. "When I drove from Texas City," she said,
 "I brought  this  with  me."  She  untied  the  pink  ribbon.  "I
 thought: Well,  here  I  am,  the  only lady on Mars, and here is
 the only  man,  and,  well  .  . ." She lifted the lid and folded
 back crisp  layers  of  whispery  pink  tissue paper. She gave it
 a pat. "There."
      Walter Gripp stared.
      "What is it?" he asked, beginning to tremble.
      "Don't you  know,  silly?  It's  all  lace and all white and
 all fine and everything."
      "No, I don't know what it is."
      "It's a wedding dress, silly!"
      "Is it?" His voice cracked.
      He shut  his  eyes.  Her  voice  was still soft and cool and
 sweet, as  it  had been on the phone. But when he opened his eyes
 and looked at her . . .
      He backed up. "How nice," he said.
      "Isn't it?"
      "Genevieve." He glanced at the door.
      "Yes?"
      "Genevieve, I've something to tell you."
      "Yes?" She  drifted  toward  him,  the  perfume  smell thick
 about her round white face.
      "The thing I have to say to you is . . ." he said.
      "Yes?"
      "Good-by!"
      And he  was  out  the door and into his car before she could
 scream.
      She ran and stood on the curb as he swung the car about.
      "Walter Griff,  come  back  here!"  she  wailed, flinging up
 her arms.
      "Gripp," he corrected her.
      "Gripp!" she shouted.
      The car  whirled  away down the silent street, regardless of
 her stompings  and  shriekings.  The  exhaust  from  it fluttered
 the white  dress  she  crumpled in her plump hands, and the stars
 shone bright,  and  the car vanished out onto the desert and away
 into blackness.

      He drove  all  night  and all day for three nights and days.
 Once he  thought  he  saw  a  car  following,  and  he broke into
 a shivering  sweat  and  took another highway, cutting off across
 the lonely  Martian  world, past little dead cities, and he drove
 and drove  for  a  week  and a day, until he had put ten thousand
 miles between  himself  and  Marlin  Village. Then he pulled into
 a small  town  named  Holtville  Springs,  where  there were some
 tiny stores  he  could  light  up at night and restaurants to sit
 in, ordering  meals.  And  he's  lived there ever since, with two
 deep freezes  packed  with  food  to  last him one hundred years,
 and enough  cigars  to  last  ten  thousand  days, and a good bed
 with a soft mattress.
      And when  once  in  a  while  over  the long years the phone
 rings--he doesn't answer.

                    April 2026:  THE LONG YEARS

      Whenever the  wind  came  through  the sky, he and his small
 family would  sit  in  the  stone hut and warm their hands over a
 wood fire.  The  wind would stir the canal waters and almost blow
 the stars  out  of  the sky, but Mr. Hathaway would sit contented
 and talk  to  his  wife,  and  his wife would reply, and he would
 speak to  his  two  daughters  and  his son about the old days on
 Earth, and they would all answer neatly.
      It was  the  twentieth  year  after  the Great War. Mars was
 a tomb,  planet.  Whether  or not Earth was the same was a matter
 for much  silent  debate  for  Hathaway  and  his  family  on the
 long Martian nights.
      This night  one  of the violent Martian dust storms had come
 over the  low  Martian  graveyards, blowing through ancient towns
 and tearing  away  the plastic walls of the newer, American-built
 city that was melting down into the sand, desolated.
      The  storm  abated.  Hathaway  went  out  into  the  cleared
 weather to  see  Earth burning green on the windy sky. He put his
 hand up  as  one  might  reach to adjust a dimly burning globe in
 the ceiling  of  a  dark  room.  He  looked  across the long-dead
 sea bottoms.  Not  another  living  thing  on this entire planet,
 he thought.  Just  myself.  And _them_. He looked back within the
 stone hut.
      What was  happening  on  Earth  now?  He had seen no visible
 sign  of   change  in  Earth's  aspect  through  his  thirty-inch
 telescope. Well,  he  thought,  I'm good for another twenty years
 if I'm  careful.  Someone might come. Either across the dead seas
 or out of space in a rocket on a little thread of red flame.
      He called into the hut, "I'm going to take a walk."
      "All right," his wife said.
      He moved  quietly  down  through a series of ruins. "Made in
 New York,"  he  read  from  a  piece  of metal as he passed. "And
 all these  things  from  Earth  will  be gone long before the old
 Martian  towns."   He   looked   toward  the  fifty-centuries-old
 village that lay among the blue mountains.
      He came  to  a  solitary  Martian  graveyard,  a  series  of
 small hexagonal stones on a hill swept by the lonely wind.
      He stood  looking  down  at  four  graves  with crude wooden
 crosses on  them,  and  names.  Tears  did  not come to his eyes.
 They had dried long ago.
      "Do you  forgive  me  for  what  I've  done?"  he  asked  of
 the crosses.  "I  was  very  much alone. You do understand, don't
 you?"
      He returned  to  the  stone  hut  and once more, just before
 going in, shaded his eyes, searching the black sky.
      "You keep  waiting  and  waiting and looking," he said, "and
 one night, perhaps--"
      There was a tiny red flame on the sky.
      He stepped away from the light of the hut.
      "--and you look _again_," he whispered.
      The tiny red flame was still there.
      "It wasn't there last night," he whispered.
      He stumbled  and  fell,  picked  himself  up, ran behind the
 hut, swiveled the telescope, and pointed it at the sky.
      A minute  later,  after  a long wild staring, he appeared in
 the low  door  of the hut. The wife and the two daughters and the
 son turned their heads to him. Finally he was able to speak
      "I have  good  news,"  he  said.  "I have looked at the sky.
 A rocket  is  coming  to take us all home. It will be here in the
 early morning."
      He put  his  hands  down and put his head into his hands and
 began to cry gently.
      He burned  what  was  left  of  New New York that morning at
 three.
      He took  a  torch  and  moved into the plastic city and with
 the flame  touched  the  walls here or there. The city bloomed up
 in great  tosses  of  heat  and  light.  It  was  a  square  mile
 of illumination,  big  enough  to  be seen out in space. It would
 beckon the rocket down to Mr. Hathaway and his family.
      His heart  beating  rapidly  with.pain,  he  returned to the
 hut. "See?"  He  held  up  a  dusty  bottle into the light. "Wine
 I saved,  just  for  tonight.  I knew that some day someone would
 find us! We'll have a drink to celebrate!"
      He poured five glasses full.
      "It's been  a  long  time,"  he  said,  gravely looking into
 his drink.  "Remember  the  day  the  war broke? Twenty years and
 seven months  ago.  And  all  the  rockets  were called home from
 Mars. And  you  and I and the children were out in the mountains,
 doing archaeological  work,  research  on  the  ancient  surgical
 methods of  the  Martians.  We  ran  our  horses,  almost killing
 them, remember?  But  we  got  here  to  the  city  a  week late.
 Everyone was  gone.  America had been destroyed; every rocket had
 left without  waiting  for  stragglers,  remember,  remember? And
 it turned  out  we  were  the  _only_  ones left? Lord, Lord, how
 the years  pass.  I  couldn't have stood it without you here, all
 of you.  I'd  have  killed  myself  without you. But with you, it
 was worth  waiting.  Here's  to  us,  then." He lifted his glass.
 "And to our long wait together." He drank.
      The wife  and  the  two  daughters  and the son raised their
 glasses to their lips.
      The wine ran down over the chins of all four of them.

      By morning  the  city was blowing in great black soft flakes
 across the  sea  bottom.  The  fire  was  exhausted,  but  it had
 served its purpose; the red spot on the sky grew larger.
      From  the   stone   hut   came   the  rich  brown  smell  of
 baked gingerbread.  His  wife  stood over the table, setting down
 the  hot   pans  of  new  bread  as  Hathaway  entered.  The  two
 daughters were  gently  sweeping  the bare stone floor with stiff
 brooms, and the son was polishing the silverware.
      "We'll have  a  huge  breakfast for them," laughed Hathaway.
 "Put on your best clothes!"
      He hurried  across  his land to the vast metal storage shed.
 Inside  was   the  cold-storage  unit  and  power  plant  he  had
 repaired  and   restored   with  his  efficient,  small,  nervous
 fingers  over   the  years,  just  as  he  had  repaired  clocks,
 telephones, and  spool  recorders in his spare time. The shed was
 full of  things  he  had  built,  some  senseless  mechanisms the
 functions of  which  were  a  mystery  even  to himself now as he
 looked upon them.
      From the  deep  freeze  he  fetched  rimed  cartons of beans
 and strawberries,  twenty  years  old.  Lazarus  come  forth,  he
 thought, and pulled out a cool chicken.
      The air was full of cooking odors when the rocket landed.
      Like a  boy,  Hathaway  raced  down  the  hill.  He  stopped
 once because  of  a  sudden  sick  pain in his chest. He sat on a
 rock to regain his breath, then ran all the rest of the way.
      He stood  in  the  hot  atmosphere  generated  by  the fiery
 rocket. A port opened. A man looked down.
      Hathaway shielded  his  eyes  and  at  last  said,  "Captain
 Wilder!"
      "Who is  it?"  asked  Captain  Wilder,  and  jumped down and
 stood there  looking  at  the old man. He put his hand out. "Good
 lord, it's Hathaway!"
      "That's right." They looked into each other's faces.
      "Hathaway, from my old crew, from the Fourth Expedition."
      "It's been a long time, Captain."
      "Too long. It's good to see you."
      "I'm old," said Hathaway simply.
      "I'm not  young  myself  any  more. I've been out to Jupiter
 and Saturn and Neptune for twenty years."
      "I heard  they  had  kicked  you  upstairs  so  you wouldn't
 interfere with  colonial  policy  here  on  Mars."  The  old  man
 looked  around.   "You've  been  gone  so  long  you  don't  know
 what's happened--"
      Wilder said,  "I  can guess. We've circled Mars twice. Found
 only one  other  man,  name  of  Walter Gripp, about ten thousand
 miles from  here,  We  offered  to  take him with us, but he said
 no. The  last  we  saw  of  him  he  was sitting in the middle of
 the highway  in  a  rocking  chair, smoking a pipe, waving to us.
 Mars is  pretty  well  dead, not even a Martian alive. What about
 Earth?"
      "You know  as  much as I do. Once in a while I get the Earth
 radio, very  faintly.  But  it's  always  in some other language.
 I'm sorry  to  say  I  only know Latin. A few words come through.
 I take  it  most  of Earth's a shambles, but the war goes on. Are
 you going back, sir?"
      "Yes. We're  curious,  of course. We had no radio contact so
 far out in space. We'll want to see Earth, no matter what."
      "You'll take us with you?"
      The captain  started.  "Of  course,  your  wife,  I remember
 her. Twenty-five  years  ago,  wasn't  it? When they opened First
 Town and  you  quit  the  service  and  brought  her up here. And
 there were children--"
      "My son and two daughters."
      "Yes, I remember. They're here?"
      "Up at  our  hut.  There's  a  fine breakfast waiting all of
 you up the hill. Will you come?"
      "We would  be  honored, Mr. Hathaway." Captain Wilder called
 to the rocket, "Abandon ship!"

      They walked  up  the  hill,  Hathaway  and  Captain  Wilder,
 the twenty  crew  members  following  taking  deep breaths of the
 thin, cool morning air. The sun rose and it was a good day.
      "Do you remember Spender, Captain?"
      "I've never forgotten him."
      "About once  a  year  I walk up past his tomb. It looks like
 he got  his  way  at  last.  He  didn't want us to come here, and
 I suppose he's happy now that we've all gone away."
      "What about--what was his name?--Parkhill, Sam Parkhill?"
      "He opened a hot-dog stand."
      "It sounds just _like_ him."
      "And went  back  to  Earth  the  next  week  for  the  war."
 Hathaway put  his  hand  to  his chest and sat down abruptly upon
 a boulder,  "I'm  sorry.  The  excitement. Seeing you again after
 all these  years.  Have  to  rest."  He  felt his heart pound. He
 counted the beats. It was very bad.
      "We've a  doctor,"  said  Wilder.  "Excuse  me,  Hathaway, I
 know you  are  one,  but  we'd  better  check you with our own--"
 The doctor was summoned.
      "I'll  be  all  right,"  insisted  Hathaway.  "The  waiting,
 the excitement."  He  could  hardly  breathe. His lips were blue.
 "You know,"  he  said  as the doctor placed a stethoscope to him,
 "it's as  if  I kept alive all these years just for this day, and
 now you're  here  to  take  me back to Earth, I'm satisfied and I
 can just lie down and quit."
      "Here."  The  doctor  handed  him  a  yellow  pellet.  "We'd
 better let you rest."
      "Nonsense. Just  let  me  sit a moment. It's good to see all
 of you. Good to hear new voices again."
      "Is the pellet working?"
      "Fine. Here we go!"
      They walked on up the hill.

      "Alice, come see who's here!"
      Hathaway frowned  and  bent  into  the  hut. "Alice, did you
 hear?"
      His wife  appeared.  A  moment later the two daughters, tall
 and gracious, came out, followed by an even taller son.
      "Alice, you remember Captain Wilder?"
      She  hesitated   and   looked   at   Hathaway   as   if  for
 instructions and then smiled. "Of course, Captain Wilder!"
      "I remember,  we  had  dinner  together  the  night before I
 took off for Jupiter, Mrs. Hathaway."
      She shook  his  hand  vigorously.  "My daughters, Marguerite
 and Susan. My son, John. You remember the captain, surely?"
      Hands were shaken amid laughter and much talk.
      Captain Wilder sniffed the air. "Is that _gingerbread?_"
      "Will you have some?"
      Everyone moved.  Folding  tables  were hurried out while hot
 foods were  rushed  forth  and plates and fine damask napkins and
 good silverware  were  laid.  Captain  Wilder stood looking first
 at  Mrs.  Hathaway  and  then  at  her  son  and  her  two  tall,
 quiet-moving daughters.  He  looked  into  their  faces  as  they
 darted past  and  he  followed every move of their youthful hands
 and every  expression  of  their  wrinkleless  faces. He sat upon
 a chair the son brought. "How old are you, John?"
      The son replied, "Twenty-three."
      Wilder  shifted   his  silverware  clumsily.  His  face  was
 suddenly pale.  The  man  next to him whispered, "Captain Wilder,
 that can't be right."
      The son moved away to bring more chairs.
      "What's that, Williamson?"
      "I'm forty-three  myself,  Captain. I was in school the same
 time as  young  John  Hathaway  there,  twenty years ago. He says
 he's only  twenty-three  now;  he  only _looks_ twenty-three. But
 that's wrong.  He  should be forty-two, at least. What's it mean,
 sir?"
      "I don't know."
      "You look kind of sick, sir."
      "I don't  feel  well.  The daughters, too, I saw them twenty
 years or  so  ago;  they haven't changed, not a wrinkle. Will you
 do me  a  favor?  I  want  you to run an errand, Williamson. I'll
 tell you  where  to  go and what to check. Late in the breakfast,
 slip away.  It  should take you only ten minutes. The place isn't
 far from here. I saw it from the rocket as we landed."
      "Here! What  are  you  talking  about  so  seriously?"  Mrs.
 Hathaway ladled  quick  spoons  of  soup into their bowls. "Smile
 now; we're all together, the trip's over, and it's like home!"
      "Yes." Captain  Wilder  laughed.  "You  certainly  look very
 well and young Mrs. Hathaway!"
      "Isn't that like a man!"
      He watched  her  drift  away, drift with her pink face warm,
 smooth as  an  apple,  unwrinkled  and  colorful.  She chimed her
 laugh at  every  joke,  she  tossed  salads  neatly,  never  once
 pausing for  breath.  And  the  bony  son  and  curved  daughters
 were brilliantly  witty,  like  their father, telling of the long
 years and  their  secret  life, while their father nodded proudly
 to each.
      Williamson slipped off down the hill.
      "Where's _he_ going?" asked Hathaway.
      "Checking  the   rocket,"   said  Wilder.  "But,  as  I  was
 saying, Hathaway,  there's  nothing  on  Jupiter,  nothing at all
 for  men.   That   includes  Saturn  and  Pluto."  Wilder  talked
 mechanically,  not   hearing   his   words,   thinking   only  of
 Williamson running  down  the hill and climbing back to tell what
 he had found.
      "Thanks."  Marguerite   Hathaway   was   filling  his  water
 glass. Impulsively  he  touched  her  arm. She did not even mind.
 Her flesh was warm and soft.
      Hathaway, across  the  table,  paused several times, touched
 his chest  with  his  fingers,  painfully, then went on listening
 to the  murmuring  talk  and sudden loud chattering, glancing now
 and again  with  concern  at  Wilder,  who  did  not seem to like
 chewing his gingerbread.
      Williamson returned.  He  sat  picking  at  his  food  until
 the captain whispered aside to him, "Well?"
      "I found it, sir."
      "And?"
      Williamson's  cheeks   were  white.  He  kept  his  eyes  on
 the laughing  people.  The daughters were smiling gravely and the
 son  was   telling   a   joke.  Williamson  said,  "I  went  into
 the graveyard."
      "The four crosses were there?"
      "The four  crosses  were  there,  sir.  The names were still
 on them.  I  wrote  them  down  to be sure." He read from a white
 paper:  "Alice,   Marguerite,  Susan,  and  John  Hathaway.  Died
 of unknown virus. July 2007."
      "Thank you, Williamson." Wilder closed his eyes.
      "Nineteen years ago, sir," Williamson's hand trembled.
      "Yes."
      "Then who are _these!_"
      "I don't know."
      "What are you going to do?"
      "I don't know that either."
      "Will we tell the other men?"
      "Later. Go on with your food as if nothing happened."
      "I'm not very hungry now, sir."
      The meal  ended  with wine brought from the rocket. Hathaway
 arose. "A  toast  to  all  of  you;  it's good to be with friends
 again. And  to  my  wife  and  children,  without whom I couldn't
 have survived  alone.  It  is  only  through  their  kindness  in
 caring for  me  that  I've  lived  on, waiting for your arrival."
 He  moved   his   wineglass   toward   his   family,  who  looked
 back self-consciously,  lowering  their  eyes at last as everyone
 drank.
      Hathaway drank  down  his  wine..He  did  not  cry out as he
 fell forward  onto  the  table and slipped to the ground. Several
 men eased  him  to  rest.  The  doctor  bent to him and listened.
 Wilder touched  the  doctor's  shoulder. The doctor looked up and
 shook his  head.  Wilder  knelt  and  took  the  old  man's hand.
 "Wilder?"  Hathaway's   voice  was  barely  audible.  "I  spoiled
 the breakfast."
      "Nonsense."
      "Say good-by to Alice and the children for me."
      "Just a moment, I'll call them."
      "No,   no,   don't!"   gasped   Hathaway.   "They   wouldn't
 understand. I wouldn't want them to understand! Don't!"
      Wilder did not move.
      Hathaway was dead.
      Wilder waited  for  a  long  time.  Then he arose and walked
 away  from   the  stunned  group  around  Hathaway.  He  went  to
 Alice Hathaway,  looked  into  her  face,  and said, "Do you know
 what has just happened?"
      "Something about my husband?"
      "He's just  passed  away;  his heart," said Wilder, watching
 her.
      "I'm sorry," she said.
      "How do you feel?" he asked.
      "He didn't  want  us  to  feel  badly.  He  told us it would
 happen one  day  and  he  didn't  want us to cry. He didn't teach
 us how,  you  know.  He  didn't  want  us to know. He said it was
 the worst  thing  that  could  happen  to a man to know how to be
 lonely and  know  how  to be sad and then to cry. So we're not to
 know what crying is, or being sad."
      Wilder glanced  at  her  hands,  the soft warm hands and the
 fine  manicured   nails  and  the  tapered  wrists.  He  saw  her
 slender, smooth  white  neck  and  her  intelligent eyes. Finally
 he  said,   "Mr.  Hathaway  did  a  fine  job  on  you  and  your
 children."
      "He would  have  liked to hear you say that. He was so proud
 of us.  After  a while he even forgot that he had made us. At the
 end he  loved  and took us as his real wife and children. And, in
 a way, we _are_."
      "You gave him a good deal of comfort."
      "Yes, for  years  on end we sat and talked. He so much loved
 to talk.  He  liked  the  stone  hut  and the open fire. We could
 have lived  in  a  regular  house in the town, but he liked it up
 here, where  he  could  be  primitive  if  he liked, or modern if
 he liked.  He  told me all about his laboratory and the things he
 did in  it.  He  wired  the  entire dead American town below with
 sound speakers.  When  he  pressed  a  button the town lit up and
 made noises  as  if  ten  thousand  people  lived  in  it.  There
 were airplane  noises  and  car  noises  and the sounds of people
 talking. He  would  sit  and  light  a  cigar and talk to us, and
 the sounds  of  the  town would come up to us, and once in awhile
 the  phone  would  ring  and  a  recorded  voice  would  ask  Mr.
 Hathaway scientific  and  surgical  questions and he would answer
 them. With  the  phone  ringing and us here and the sounds of the
 town and  his  cigar,  Mr. Hathaway was quite happy. There's only
 one thing  he  couldn't  make  us do," she said. "And that was to
 grow old.  He  got  older  every  day,  but we stayed the same. I
 guess he didn't mind. I guess he wanted us this way."
      "We'll bury  him  down  in  the  yard  where  the other four
 crosses are. I think he would like that."
      She put  her  hand  on  his  wrist,  lightly.  "I'm  sure he
 would."
      Orders  were   given.   The   family   followed  the  little
 procession  down   the  hill.  Two  men  carried  Hathaway  on  a
 covered stretcher.  They  passed  the  stone  hut and the storage
 shed where  Hathaway,  many  years  before,  had  begun his work.
 Wilder paused within the workshop door.
      How would  it  be,  he  wondered, to live on a planet with a
 wife and  three  children  and  have  them die, leaving you alone
 with the  wind  and  silence?  What  would a person do? Bury them
 with crosses  in  the  graveyard  and  then  come  back up to the
 workshop  and,  with  all  the  power  of  mind  and  memory  and
 accuracy of  finger  and  genius,  put  together, bit by bit, all
 those things  that  were  wife,  son,  daughter.  With  an entire
 American  city   below   from  which  to  draw  needed  supplies,
 a brilliant man might do anything.
      The sound  of  their  footsteps  was muffled in the sand. At
 the graveyard,  as  they  turned in, two men were already spading
 out the earth.

      They returned to the rocket in the late afternoon.
      Williamson nodded  at  the  stone hut. "What are we going to
 do about _them?_"
      "I don't know," said the captain.
      "Are you going to turn them off?"
      "Off?" The  captain  looked  faintly  surprised.  "It  never
 entered my mind."
      "You're not taking them back with us?"
      "No, it would be useless."
      "You mean  you're  going  to  leave  them here, like _that_,
 as they _are!_"
      The  captain  handed  Williamson  a  gun.  "If  you  can  do
 anything about this, you're a better man than I."
      Five  minutes   later  Williamson  returned  from  the  hut,
 sweating. "Here,  take  your gun. I understand what you mean now.
 I went  in  the  hut with the gun. One of the daughters smiled at
 me. So  did  the  others, The wife offered me a cup of tea. Lord,
 it'd be murder!"
      Wilder nodded.  "There'll  never  be  anything  as  fine  as
 them again.  They're  built  to  last;  ten,  fifty,  two hundred
 years. Yes,  they've  as  much  right  to--to life as you or I or
 any of  us."  He  knocked  out his pipe. "Well, get aboard. We're
 taking off. This city's done for, we'll not be using it."
      It was  late  in  the  day.  A cold wind was rising. The men
 were aboard.  The  captain  hesitated.  Williamson  said,  "Don't
 tell me you're going back to say--good-by---to them?"
      The  captain   looked   at   Williamson   coldly.  "None  of
 your business."
      Wilder strode  up  toward  the  hut  through  the  darkening
 wind.  The  men  in  the  rocket  saw  his  shadow  lingering  in
 the stone-hut  doorway.  They  saw  a  woman's  shadow.  They saw
 the captain shake her hand.
      Moments later he came running back to the rocket.

      On nights  when  the  wind  comes  over the dead sea bottoms
 and through  the  hexagonal  graveyard, over four old crosses and
 one new  one,  there is a light burning in the low stone hut, and
 in that  hut,  as  the  wind roars by and the dust whirls and the
 cold stars  burn,  are  four  figures,  a woman, two daughters, a
 son, tending a low fire for no reason and talking and laughing.
      Night after  night  for  every  year  and every year, for no
 reason at  all,  the  woman  comes  out and looks at the sky, her
 hands up,  for  a  long  moment,  looking at the green burning of
 Earth, not  knowing  why  she  looks,  and then she goes back and
 throws a  stick  on  the fire, and the wind comes up and the dead
 sea goes on being dead.

             August 2026:  THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS

      In  the   living  room  the  voice-clock  sang,  _Tick-tock,
 seven o'clock,  time  to  get up, time to get up, seven o'clock!_
 as if  it  were  afraid  that nobody would. The morning house lay
 empty. The  clock  ticked  on, repeating and repeating its sounds
 into the emptiness. _Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!_
      In the  kitchen  the  breakfast  stove  gave  a hissing sigh
 and ejected  from  its  warm  interior  eight pieces of perfectly
 browned  toast,  eight  eggs  sunnyside  up,  sixteen  slices  of
 bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.
      "Today is  August  4,  2026,"  said  a second voice from the
 kitchen  ceiling,   "in   the  city  of  Allendale,  California."
 It repeated  the  date  three  times for memory's sake. "Today is
 Mr.  Featherstone's   birthday.   Today  is  the  anniversary  of
 Tilita's marriage.  Insurance  is payable, as are the water, gas,
 and light bills."
      Somewhere  in   the  walls,  relays  clicked,  memory  tapes
 glided under electric eyes.
      _Eight-one, tick-tock,  eight-one  o'clock,  off  to school,
 off to  work,  run,  run,  eight-one!_  But  no doors slammed, no
 carpets took  the  soft  tread  of  rubber  heels. It was raining
 outside. The  weather  box on the front door sang quietly: "Rain,
 rain, go  away;  rubbers,  raincoats  for  today  .  . ." And the
 rain tapped on the empty house, echoing.
      Outside, the  garage  chimed  and  lifted its door to reveal
 the waiting car. After a long wait the door swung down again.
      At eight-thirty  the  eggs  were shriveled and the toast was
 like stone.  An  aluminum wedge scraped them into the sink, where
 hot water  whirled  them  down  a  metal  throat  which  digested
 and flushed  them  away  to  the  distant  sea.  The dirty dishes
 were dropped into a hot washer and emerged twinkling dry.
      _Nine-fifteen_, sang the clock, _time to clean_.
      Out of  warrens  in  the  wall,  tiny robot mice darted. The
 rooms were  acrawl  with  the  small cleaning animals, all rubber
 and  metal.   They   thudded   against   chairs,  whirling  their
 mustached runners,  kneading  the  rug  nap,  sucking  gently  at
 hidden dust.  Then,  like  mysterious  invaders, they popped into
 their burrows.  Their  pink  electric  eyes  faded. The house was
 clean.
      _Ten o'clock_.  The  sun  came out from behind the rain. The
 house stood  alone  in  a  city of rubble and ashes. This was the
 one house  left  standing.  At  night  the  ruined  city gave off
 a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.
      _Ten-fifteen_. The  garden  sprinklers  whirled up in golden
 founts,  filling   the   soft   morning   air   with  scatterings
 of  brightness,   The  water  pelted  windowpanes,  running  down
 the charred  west  side  where  the  house had been burned evenly
 free of  its  white  paint.  The  entire  west  face of the house
 was black,  save  for  five  places. Here the silhouette in paint
 of a  man  mowing  a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent
 to pick  flowers.  Still  farther  over,  their  images burned on
 wood in  one  titanic  instant, a small boy, hands flung into the
 air; higher  up,  the  image  of  a thrown ball, and opposite him
 a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.
      The five  spots  of paint--the man, the woman, the children,
 the ball--remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.
      The gentle  sprinkler  rain  filled  the garden with falling
 light.
      Until this  day,  how  well  the  house  had kept its peace.
 How  carefully   it   had   inquired,  "Who  goes  there?  What's
 the password?"  and,  getting  no  answer  from  lonely foxes and
 whining cats,  it  had  shut  up  its windows and drawn shades in
 an  old-maidenly   preoccupation   with   self-protection   which
 bordered on a mechanical paranoia.
      It quivered  at  each  sound,  the  house  did. If a sparrow
 brushed a  window,  the  shade  snapped  up.  The bird, startled,
 flew off! No, not even a bird must touch the house!
      The house  was  an  altar with ten thousand attendants, big,
 small, servicing,  attending,  in  choirs.  But the gods had gone
 away, and  the  ritual  of  the  religion  continued senselessly,
 uselessly.
      _Twelve noon_.
      A dog whined, shivering, on the front porch.
      The front  door  recognized  the  dog  voice and opened. The
 dog, once  huge  and  fleshy,  but  now  gone to bone and covered
 with sores,  moved  in  and  through  the  house,  tracking  mud.
 Behind it  whirred  angry  mice,  angry at having to pick up mud,
 angry at inconvenience.
      For not  a  leaf  fragment  blew under the door but what the
 wall panels  flipped  open  and  the  copper  scrap  rats flashed
 swiftly  out.   The   offending  dust,  hair,  or  paper,  seized
 in miniature  steel  jaws,  was raced back to the burrows. There,
 down tubes  which  fed  into  the  cellar,  it  was  dropped into
 the sighing  vent  of  an incinerator which sat like evil Baal in
 a dark corner.
      The dog  ran  upstairs,  hysterically  yelping to each door,
 at last  realizing,  as  the  house  realized,  that only silence
 was here.
      It sniffed  the  air  and scratched the kitchen door. Behind
 the door,  the  stove  was making pancakes which filled the house
 with a rich baked odor and the scent of maple syrup.
      The dog  frothed  at the mouth, lying at the door, sniffing,
 its eyes  turned  to  fire.  It  ran wildly in circles, biting at
 its tail,  spun  in  a frenzy, and died. It lay in the parlor for
 an hour.
      _Two o'clock_, sang a voice.
      Delicately sensing  decay  at  last,  the  regiments of mice
 hummed out  as  softly  as  blown  gray  leaves  in an electrical
 wind.
      _Two-fifteen_.
      The dog was gone.
      In the  cellar,  the incinerator glowed suddenly and a whirl
 of sparks leaped up the chimney.
      _Two thirty-five_.
      Bridge tables  sprouted  from  patio  walls.  Playing  cards
 fluttered onto  pads  in a shower of pips. Martinis manifested on
 an oaken bench with egg-salad sandwiches. Music played.
      But the tables were silent and the cards untouched.
      At four  o'clock  the  tables  folded like great butterflies
 back through the paneled walls.

      _Four-thirty_.
      The nursery walls glowed.
      Animals  took  shape:  yellow  giraffes,  blue  lions,  pink
 antelopes, lilac  panthers  cavorting  in  crystal substance. The
 walls were  glass.  They  looked  out  upon  color  and  fantasy.
 Hidden  films  clocked  through  well-oiled  sprockets,  and  the
 walls lived.  The  nursery  floor  was woven to resemble a crisp,
 cereal  meadow.   Over   this   ran  aluminum  roaches  and  iron
 crickets, and  in  the  hot  still  air  butterflies  of delicate
 red tissue  wavered  among  the  sharp  aroma  of  animal spoors!
 There was  the  sound  like  a  great  matted yellow hive of bees
 within a  dark  bellows,  the  lazy bumble of a purring lion. And
 there was  the  patter  of  okapi  feet and the murmur of a fresh
 jungle rain,  like  other hoofs, falling upon the summer-starched
 grass. Now  the  walls  dissolved into distances of parched weed,
 mile on  mile,  and  warm endless sky. The animals drew away into
 thorn brakes and water holes.
      It was the children's hour.

      _Five o'clock_. The bath filled with clear hot water.
      _Six, seven,  eight  o'clock_. The dinner dishes manipulated
 like magic  tricks,  and  in  the  study  a _click_. In the metal
 stand opposite  the  hearth  where  a  fire now blazed up warmly,
 a cigar  popped  out,  half  an  inch  of  soft  gray  ash on it,
 smoking, waiting.
      _Nine o'clock_.  The  beds  warmed  their  hidden  circuits,
 for nights were cool here.
      _Nine-five_. A voice spoke from the study ceiling:
      "Mrs. McClellan, which poem would you like this evening?"
      The house was silent.
      The voice  said  at  last, "Since you express no preference,
 I shall  select  a  poem  at  random."  Quiet  music rose to back
 the voice. "Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite. . . .

     "_There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
        And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

             And frogs in the pools singing at night,
              And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

               Robins will wear their feathery fire,
            Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

             And not one will know of the war, not one
                Will care at last when it is done.

            Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
                   If mankind perished utterly;

             And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
             Would scarcely know that we were gone_."

      The fire  burned  on  the  stone  hearth  and the cigar fell
 away into  a  mound  of  quiet  ash on its tray. The empty chairs
 faced  each  other  between  the  silent  walls,  and  the  music
 played.

      At ten o'clock the house began to die.
      The wind  blew.  A  falling  tree  bough crashed through the
 kitchen window.  Cleaning  solvent,  bottled,  shattered over the
 stove. The room was ablaze in an instant!
      "Fire!" screamed  a  voice.  The house lights flashed, water
 pumps shot  water  from  the  ceilings. But the solvent spread on
 the linoleum,  licking  eating  under  the  kitchen  door,  while
 the voices took it up in chorus: "Fire, fire, fire!"
      The house  tried  to save itself. Doors sprang tightly shut,
 but the  windows  were  broken  by the heat and the wind blew and
 sucked upon the fire.
      The house  gave  ground  as  the  fire  in ten billion angry
 sparks moved  with  flaming  ease  from  room to room and then up
 the  stairs.   While  scurrying  water  rats  squeaked  from  the
 walls, pistoled  their  water,  and  ran  for  more. And the wall
 sprays let down showers of mechanical rain.
      But too  late.  Somewhere,  sighing,  a  pump  shrugged to a
 stop. The  quenching  rain ceased. The reserve water supply which
 had filled  baths  and  washed  dishes  for  many  quiet days was
 gone.
      The fire  crackled  up  the  stairs.  It  fed  upon Picassos
 and Matisses  in  the  upper  halls,  like delicacies, baking off
 the  oily  flesh,  tenderly  crisping  the  canvases  into  black
 shavings.
      Now the  fire  lay  in  beds,  stood in windows, changed the
 colors of drapes!
      And then, reinforcements.
      From attic  trapdoors,  blind  robot  faces peered down with
 faucet mouths gushing green chemical.
      The fire  backed  off, as even an elephant must at the sight
 of a  dead  snake.  Now  there  were  twenty snakes whipping over
 the floor,  killing  the  fire  with  a clear cold venom of green
 froth.
      But the  fire  was  clever.  It  had sent flames outside the
 house, up  through  the  attic  to the pumps there. An explosion!
 The attic  brain  which  directed  the  pumps  was shattered into
 bronze shrapnel on the beams.
      The fire  rushed  back  into  every  closet  and felt of the
 clothes hung there.
      The house  shuddered,  oak  bone on bone, its bared skeleton
 cringing from  the  heat,  its  wire,  its  nerves revealed as if
 a surgeon  had  torn  the  skin  off  to  let  the  red veins and
 capillaries quiver  in  the  scalded  air. Help, help! Fire! Run,
 run! Heat  snapped  mirrors  like  the  brittle  winter  ice. And
 the voices  wailed  Fire,  fire,  run, run, like a tragic nursery
 rhyme, a  dozen  voices,  high,  low,  like  children  dying in a
 forest, alone,  alone.  And the voices fading as the wires popped
 their sheathings  like  hot  chestnuts.  One,  two,  three, four,
 five voices died.
      In  the  nursery  the  jungle  burned.  Blue  lions  roared,
 purple  giraffes   bounded  off.  The  panthers  ran  in  cirdes,
 changing color,  and  ten  million  animals,  running  before the
 fire, vanished off toward a distant steaming river. . . .
      Ten  more  voices  died.  In  the  last  instant  under  the
 fire  avalanche,   other  choruses,  oblivious,  could  be  heard
 announcing  the   time,   playing   music,   cutting   the   lawn
 by remote-control  mower,  or setting an umbrella frantically out
 and  in   the   slamming  and  opening  front  door,  a  thousand
 things happening,  like  a clock shop when each clock strikes the
 hour insanely  before  or  after  the  other,  a  scene of maniac
 confusion, yet  unity;  singing,  screaming,  a few last cleaning
 mice darting  bravely  out  to  carry  the horrid ashes away! And
 one  voice,  with  sublime  disregard  for  the  situation,  read
 poetry aloud  in  the  fiery  study,  until  all  the film spools
 burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked.
      The fire  burst  the  house  and  let  it  slam  flat  down,
 puffing out skirts of spark and smoke.
      In the  kitchen,  an  instant  before  the  rain of fire and
 timber,  the   stove   could   be   seen   making  breakfasts  at
 a psychopathic  rate,  ten  dozen  eggs,  six  loaves  of  toast,
 twenty dozen  bacon  strips,  which,  eaten  by fire, started the
 stove working again, hysterically hissing!
      The crash.  The  attic  smashing  into  kitchen  and parlor.
 The parlor  into  cellar,  cellar  into  sub-cellar. Deep freeze,
 armchair, film  tapes,  circuits,  beds,  and  all like skeletons
 thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.
      Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.
      Dawn showed  faintly  in the east. Among the ruins, one wall
 stood alone.  Within  the  wall, a last voice said, over and over
 again and  again,  even  as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped
 rubble and steam:
      "Today is  August  5,  2026,  today is August 5, 2026, today
 is . . ."

              October 2026:  THE MILLION-YEAR PICNIC

      Somehow the  idea  was  brought  up  by Mom that perhaps the
 whole family  would  enjoy a fishing trip. But they weren't Mom's
 words; Timothy  knew  that.  They  were Dad's words, and Mom used
 them for him somehow.
      Dad shuffled  his  feet  in  a  clutter  of  Martian pebbles
 and agreed.  So  immediately  there  was a tumult and a shouting,
 and  very   quickly   the  camp  was  tucked  into  capsules  and
 containers,  Mom  slipped  into  traveling  jumpers  and  blouse,
 Dad stuffed  his  pipe  full  with  trembling  hands, his eyes on
 the  Martian   sky,   and  the  three  boys  piled  yelling  into
 the motorboat,  none  of  them  really  keeping an eye on Mom and
 Dad, except Timothy.
      Dad pushed  a  stud.  The water boat sent a humming sound up
 into the  sky.  The  water  shook  back and the boat nosed ahead,
 and the family cried, "Hurrah!"
      Timothy sat  in  the  back  of  the boat with Dad, his small
 fingers  atop   Dad's  hairy  ones,  watching  the  canal  twist,
 leaving the  crumbled  place  behind  where  they  had  landed in
 their small  family  rocket all the way from Earth. He remembered
 the night  before  they  left  Earth,  the  hustling and hurrying
 the rocket  that  Dad  had found somewhere, somehow, and the talk
 of a  vacation  on  Mars.  A  long  way to go for a vacation, but
 Timothy said  nothing  because of his younger brothers. They came
 to Mars  and  now,  first  thing,  or  so  they  said,  they were
 going fishing.
      Dad  had  a  funny  look  in  his  eyes  as  the  boat  went
 up-canal. A  look  that  Timothy  couldn't  figure.  It  was made
 of strong  light  and  maybe  a  sort of relief. It made the deep
 wrinkles laugh instead of worry or cry.
      So there went the cooling rocket, around a bend, gone.
      "How far  are  we  going?"  Robert  splashed  his  hand.  It
 looked like a small crab jumping in the violet water.
      Dad exhaled. "A million years."
      "Gee," said Robert.
      "Look, kids."  Mother  pointed  one  soft long arm. "There's
 a dead city."
      They looked  with  fervent  anticipation,  and the dead city
 lay dead  for  them  alone,  drowsing  in a hot silence of summer
 made on Mars by a Martian weatherman.
      And Dad looked as if he was pleased that it was dead.
      It was  a  futile  spread  of  pink rocks sleeping on a rise
 of sand,  a  few  tumbled  pillars,  one  lonely shrine, and then
 the sweep  of  sand again. Nothing else for miles. A white desert
 around the canal and a blue desert over it.
      Just then  a  bird  flew  up.  Like  a stone thrown across a
 blue pond, hitting, falling deep, and vanishing.
      Dad got  a  frightened  look  when  he saw it. "I thought it
 was a rocket."
      Timothy looked  at  the  deep ocean sky, trying to see Earth
 and the  war  and  the  ruined  cities  and  the men killing each
 other since  the  day  he  was  born. But he saw nothing. The war
 was as  removed  and  far  off as two flies battling to the death
 in the  arch  of  a  great  high  and  silent cathedral. And just
 as senseless.
      William Thomas  wiped  his  forehead  and  felt the touch of
 his son's  hand  on  his  arm,  like a young tarantula, thrilled.
 He beamed at his son. "How goes it, Timmy?"
      "Fine, Dad."
      Timothy hadn't  quite  figured  out  what was ticking inside
 the vast  adult  mechanism  beside  him. The man with the immense
 hawk nose,  sunburnt,  peeling--and  the hot blue eyes like agate
 marbles you  play  with after school in summer back on Earth, and
 the long thick columnar legs in the loose riding breeches.
      "What are you looking at so hard, Dad?"
      "I  was   looking   for   Earthian   logic,   common  sense,
 good government, peace, and responsibility."
      "All that up there?"
      "No. I  didn't  find  it.  It's  not  there  any more. Maybe
 it'll never  be  there  again.  Maybe we fooled ourselves that it
 was ever there."
      "Huh?"
      "See the fish," said Dad, pointing.

      There rose  a  soprano  clamor  from  all three boys as they
 rocked the  boat  in  arching  their  tender  necks  to see. They
 _oohed_  and   _ahed_.  A  silver  ring  fish  floated  by  them,
 undulating,  and   closing   like   an  iris,  instantly,  around
 food partides, to assimilate them.
      Dad looked at it. His voice was deep and quiet.
      "Just like  war.  War  swims  along,  sees  food, contracts.
 A moment later--Earth is gone."
      "William," said Mom.
      "Sorry," said Dad.
      They sat  still  and  felt the canal water rush cool, swift,
 and glassy.  The  only  sound  was  the  motor  hum, the glide of
 water, the sun expanding the air.
      "When do we see the Martians?" cried Michael.
      "Quite soon, perhaps," said Father. "Maybe tonight."
      "Oh, but the Martians are a dead race now," said Mom.
      "No, they're  not.  I'll show you some Martians, all right,"
 Dad said presently.
      Timothy scowled  at  that  but  said nothing. Everything was
 odd now. Vacations and fishing and looks between people.
      The other  boys  were  already  engaged  making  shelves  of
 their small  hands  and  peering under them toward the seven-foot
 stone banks of the canal, watching for Martians.
      "What do they look like?" demanded Michael.
      "You'll know  them  when you see them." Dad sort of laughed,
 and Timothy saw a pulse beating time in his cheek.
      Mother  was   slender  and  soft,  with  a  woven  plait  of
 spungold hair  over  her  head  in a tiara, and eyes the color of
 the deep  cool  canal  water  where  it  ran  in  shadow,  almost
 purple, with  flecks  of  amber  caught  in  it.  You  could  see
 her  thoughts  swimming  around  in  her  eyes,  like  fish--some
 bright,  some  dark,  some  fast,  quick,  some  slow  and  easy,
 and sometimes,  like  when  she  looked up where Earth was, being
 nothing but  color  and nothing else. She sat in the boat's prow,
 one hand  resting  on  the  side lip, the other on the lap of her
 dark blue  breeches,  and  a  line  of sunburnt soft neck showing
 where her blouse opened like a white flower.
      She kept  looking  ahead  to  see  what  was there, and, not
 being able  to  see it clearly enough, she looked backward toward
 her husband,  and  through his eyes, reflected then, she saw what
 was  ahead;   and   since  he  added  part  of  himself  to  this
 reflection, a  determined  firmness,  her  face  relaxed  and she
 accepted it  and  she  turned back, knowing suddenly what to look
 for.
      Timothy looked  too.  But  all  he saw was a straight pencil
 line of  canal  going violet through a wide shallow valley penned
 by low,  eroded  hills, and on until it fell over the sky's edge.
 And this  canal  went  on  and on, through cities that would have
 rattled like  beetles  in  a  dry  skull  if  you  shook  them. A
 hundred or  two  hundred  cities  dreaming  hot summer-day dreams
 and cool summer-night dreams . . .
      They had  come  millions  of miles for this outing--to fish.
 But there  had  been  a  gun  on the rocket. This was a vacation.
 But why  all  the  food,  more than enough to last them years and
 years, left  hidden  back  there  near the rocket? Vacation. Just
 behind  the  veil  of  the  vacation  was  not  a  soft  face  of
 laughter, but  something  hard  and  bony and perhaps terrifying.
 Timothy could  not  lift  the  veil,  and the two other boys were
 busy being ten and eight years old, respectively.
      "No Martians  yet.  Nuts."  Robert  put his V-shaped chin on
 his hands and glared at the canal.
      Dad had  brought  an  atomic  radio  along,  strapped to his
 wrist. It  functioned  on  an  old-fashioned  principle: you held
 it against  the  bones  near  your  ear  and  it vibrated singing
 or talking  to  you. Dad listened to it now. His face looked like
 one of  those  fallen  Martian  cities,  caved  in,  sucked. dry,
 almost dead.
      Then he gave it to Mom to listen. Her lips dropped open.
      "What--" Timothy  started  to  question,  but never finished
 what he wished to say.
      For at  that  moment  there were two titanic, marrow-jolting
 explosions that  grew  upon  themselves, followed by a half dozen
 minor concussions.
      Jerking  his   head   up,   Dad   notched   the  boat  speed
 higher immediately.  The  boat  leaped  and  jounced and spanked.
 This  shook  Robert  out  of  his  funk  and  elicited  yelps  of
 frightened but  esctatic  joy  from  Michael,  who clung to Mom's
 legs and watched the water pour by his nose in a wet torrent.
      Dad swerved  the  boat, cut speed, and ducked the craft into
 a little  branch  canal  and  under  an  ancient, crumbling stone
 wharf that  smelled  of  crab  flesh.  The  boat rammed the wharf
 hard enough  to  throw them all forward, but no one was hurt, and
 Dad was  already  twisted  to  see  if  the  ripples on the canal
 were enough  to  map  their  route  into hiding. Water lines went
 across,  lapped  the  stones,  and  rippled  back  to  meet  each
 other, settling, to be dappled by the sun. It all went away.
      Dad listened. So did everybody.
      Dad's breathing  echoed  like fists beating against the cold
 wet wharf  stones.  In  the  shadow,  Mom's cat eyes just watched
 Father for some clue to what next.
      Dad relaxed and blew out a breath, laughing at himself.
      "The rocket, of course. I'm getting jumpy. The rocket."
      Michael said, "What happened, Dad, what happened?"
      "Oh, we  just  blew  up  our  rocket, is all," said Timothy,
 trying  to   sound  matter-of-fact.  "I've  heard  rockets  blown
 up before. Ours just blew."
      "Why did  we  blow  up  our  rocket?"  asked  Michael. "Huh,
 Dad?"
      "It's part of the game, silly!" said Timothy.
      "A game!" Michael and Robert loved the word.
      "Dad fixed  it  so  it would blow up and no one'd know where
 we landed or went! In case they ever came looking, see?"
      "Oh boy, a secret!"
      "Scared by  my  own  rocket,"  admitted  Dad to Mom. "I _am_
 nervous. It's  silly  to think there'll ever be any more rockets.
 Except _one_,  perhaps,  if  Edwards  and  his  wife  get through
 with _their_ ship."
      He put  his  tiny  radio  to his ear again. After two mintes
 he dropped his hand as you would drop a rag.
      "It's over  at  last,"  he said to Mom. "The radio just went
 off the  atomic  beam.  Every  other  world  station's gone. They
 dwindled down  to  a  couple  in  the  last  few  years.  Now the
 air's completely silent. It'll probably remain silent."
      "For how long?" asked Robert.
      "Maybe--your great-grandchildren  will  hear it again," said
 Dad. He  just  sat  there,  and  the  children were caught in the
 center of his awe and defeat and resignation and acceptance.
      Finally he  put  the  boat  out  into  the  canal again, and
 they continued  in  the  direction  in  which they had originally
 started.
      It was  getting  late. Already the sun was down the sky, and
 a series of dead cities lay ahead of them.
      Dad talked  very  quietly and gently to his sons. Many times
 in the  past  he  had been brisk, distant, removed from them, but
 now he  patted  them  on  the head with just a word and they felt
 it.
      "Mike, pick a city."
      "What, Dad?"
      "Pick a city, Son. Any one of these cities we pass."
      "All right," said Michael. "How do I pick?"
      "Pick the  one  you like the most. You, too, Robert and Tim.
 Pick the city you like best."
      "I want a city with Martians in it," said Michael.
      "You'll have  that,"  said  Dad.  "I promise." His lips were
 for the children, but his eyes were for Mom.
      They  passed  six  cities  in  twenty  minutes.  Dad  didn't
 say  anything   more   about   the  explosions;  he  seemed  much
 more interested  in  having  fun  with  his  sons,  keeping  them
 happy, than anything else.
      Michael liked  the  first  city  they  passed,  but this was
 vetoed  because  everyone  doubted  quick  first  judgments.  The
 second city  nobody  liked.  It  was  an  Earth Man's settlement,
 built of  wood  and  already  rotting into sawdust. Timothy liked
 the third  city  because  it was large. The fourth and fifth were
 too small  and  the sixth brought acclaim from everyone, induding
 Mother, who joined in the Gees, Goshes, and Look-at-thats!
      There were  fifty  or  sixty huge structures still standing,
 streets were  dusty  but  paved,  and  you  could  see one or two
 old centrifugal  fountains  still  pulsing  wetly  in the plazas.
 That was the only life--water leaping in the late sunlight.
      "This is the city," said everybody.
      Steering the boat to a wharf, Dad jumped out.
      "Here we  are.  This is ours. This is where we live from now
 on!"
      "From  now  on?"  Michael  was  incredulous.  He  stood  up,
 looking, and  then  turned to blink back at where the rocket used
 to be. "What about the rocket? What about Minnesota?"
      "Here," said Dad.
      He  touched   the  small  radio  to  Michael's  blond  head.
 "Listen."
      Michael listened.
      "Nothing," he said.
      "That's  right.   Nothing.  Nothing  at  all  any  more.  No
 more Minneapolis, no more rockets, no more Earth."
      Michael  considered  the  lethal  revelation  and  began  to
 sob little dry sobs.
      "Wait a  moment,"  said  Dad  the  next instant. "I'm giving
 you a lot more in exchange, Mike!"
      "What?" Michael  held  off  the  tears,  curious,  but quite
 ready  to   continue   in   case  Dad's  further  revelation  was
 as disconcerting as the original.
      "I'm giving you this city, Mike. It's yours."
      "Mine?"
      "For you  and  Robert  and Timothy, all three of you, to own
 for yourselves."
      Timothy bounded  from  the  boat  "Look, guys, all for _us!_
 All of  _that!_"  He  was  playing  the game with Dad, playing it
 large and  playing  it  well.  Later,  after  it was all over and
 things had  settled,  he  could  go  off  by  himself and cry for
 ten minutes.  But  now  it  was  still  a  game,  still  a family
 outing, and the other kids must be kept playing.
      Mike jumped out with Robert. They helped Mom.
      "Be careful  of  your  sister,"  said  Dad,  and nobody knew
 what he meant until later.
      They hurried  into  the  great  pink-stoned city, whispering
 among themselves,  because  dead  cities have a way of making you
 want to whisper, to watch the sun go down.
      "In about  five  days," said Dad quietly, "I'll go back down
 to where  our  rocket  was  and  collect  the  food hidden in the
 ruins there  and  bring  it  here; and I'll hunt for Bert Edwards
 and his wife and daughters there."
      "Daughters?" asked Timothy. "How many?"
      "Four."
      "I  can   see  that'll  cause  trouble  later."  Mom  nodded
 slowly.
      "Girls." Michael  made  a face like an ancient Martian stone
 image. "Girls."
      "Are they coming in a rocket too?"
      "Yes. If  they  make  it. Family rockets are made for travel
 to the Moon, not Mars. We were lucky we got through."
      "Where did  you  get  the  rocket?"  whispered  Timothy, for
 the other boys were running ahead.
      "I saved  it.  I  saved  it  for twenty years, Tim. I had it
 hidden away,  hoping  I'd  never  have  to  use  it.  I suppose I
 should have  given  it  to  the  government  for  the  war, but I
 kept thinking about Mars. . . ."
      "And a picnic!"
      "Right. This  is  between  you and me. When I saw everything
 was finishing  on  Earth, after I'd waited until the last moment,
 I packed  us  up.  Bert  Edwards  had  a ship hidden, too, but we
 decided it  would  be  safer  to  take  off  separately,  in case
 anyone tried to shoot us down."
      "Why'd you blow up the rocket, Dad?"
      "So we  can't  go  back,  ever.  And so if any of those evil
 men ever come to Mars they won't know we're here."
      "Is that why you look up all the time?"
      "Yes, it's  silly.  They won't follow us, ever. They haven't
 anything to follow with. I'm being too careful, is all."
      Michael came  running  back.  "Is  this  really  _our_ city,
 Dad?"
      "The whole  darn  planet  belongs  to  us,  kids.  The whole
 darn planet."
      They stood  there,  King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, Ruler
 of All  They  Surveyed,  Unimpeachable  Monarchs  and Presidents,
 trying to  understand  what  it  meant to own a world and how big
 a world really was.
      Night came  quickly  in  the  thin  atmosphere, and Dad left
 them in  the  square  by  the  pulsing fountain, went down to the
 boat, and  came  walking  back  carrying  a stack of paper in his
 big hands.
      He laid  the  papers  in  a  clutter in an old courtyard and
 set them  afire.  To  keep  warm,  they crouched around the blaze
 and laughed,  and  Timothy  saw  the  little  letters  leap  like
 frightened animals  when  the  flames  touched and engulfed them.
 The papers  crinkled  like  an  old man's skin, and the cremation
 surrounded innumerable words:
      "GOVERNMENT   BONDS;   Business   Graph,   1999;   Religious
 Prejudice: An  Essay;  The  Science  of  Logistics;  Problems  of
 the Pan-American  Unity;  Stock  Report  for  July  3,  1998; The
 War Digest . . ."
      Dad  had   insisted   on  bringing  these  papers  for  this
 purpose. He  sat  there  and  fed them into the fire, one by one,
 with satisfaction, and told his children what it all meant.
      "It's time  I  told  you  a  few  things. I don't suppose it
 was fair,  keeping  so  much  from  you.  I  don't know if you'll
 understand, but  I  have  to  talk,  even if only part of it gets
 over to you."
      He dropped a leaf in the fire.
      "I'm burning  a  way  of  life,  just  like that way of life
 is being  burned  clean  of Earth right now. Forgive me if I talk
 like a  politician.  I  am,  after  all, a former state governor,
 and I  was  honest  and they hated me for it. Life on Earth never
 settled down  to  doing  anything  very good. Science ran too far
 ahead  of   us  too  quickly,  and  the  people  got  lost  in  a
 mechanical wilderness,  like  children making over pretty things,
 gadgets,  helicopters,  rockets;  emphasizing  the  wrong  items,
 emphasizing machines  instead  of  how  to run the machines. Wars
 got bigger  and  bigger  and  finally  killed  Earth. That's what
 the silent radio means. That's what we ran away from.
      "We were  lucky.  There  aren't  any more rockets left. It's
 time you  knew  this  isn't  a  fishing  trip  at  all. I put off
 telling you.  Earth  is gone. Interplanetary travel won't be back
 for centuries,  maybe  never.  But that way of life proved itself
 wrong and  strangled  itself  with  its  own hands. You're young.
 I'll tell you this again every day until it sinks in."
      He paused to feed more papers to the fire.
      "Now we're  alone.  We  and  a handful of others who'll land
 in a  few  days.  Enough  to start over. Enough to turn away from
 all that back on Earth and strike out on a new line--"
      The fire  leaped  up  to emphasize his talking. And then all
 the papers  were  gone  except  one.  All the laws and beliefs of
 Earth were  burnt  into  small  hot  ashes  which  soon  would be
 carried off inawind.
      Timothy looked  at  the  last  thing  that Dad tossed in the
 fire. It  was  a  map of the World, and it wrinkled and distorted
 itself  hotly   and  went--flimpf--and  was  gone  like  a  warm,
 black butterfly. Timothy turned away.
      "Now I'm  going  to  show you the Martians," said Dad. "Come
 on, all of you. Here, Alice." He took her hand.
      Michael was  crying  loudly,  and  Dad  picked  him  up  and
 carried him,  and  they  walked  down  through  the  ruins toward
 the canal.
      The canal.  Where  tomorrow  or  the  next  day their future
 wives would  come  up  in  a boat, small laughing girls now, with
 their father and mother.
      The night  came  down  around  them,  and  there were stars.
 But Timothy  couldn't  find  Earth.  It  had  already  set.  That
 was something to think about.
      A night  bird  called  among  the  ruins as they walked. Dad
 said, "Your  mother  and  I  will try to teach you. Perhaps we'll
 fail. I  hope  not.  We've  had a good lot to see and learn from.
 We planned  this  trip  years  ago, before you were born. Even if
 there hadn't  been  a  war  we  would have come to Mars, I think,
 to live  and  form  our  own  standard  of  living. It would have
 been  another   century   before  Mars  would  have  been  really
 poisoned by the Earth civilization. Now, of course--"
      They reached  the  canal.  It was long and straight and cool
 and wet and reflective in the night.
      "I've  always  wanted  to  see  a  Martian,"  said  Michael.
 "Where are they, Dad? You promised."
      "There they  are,"  said  Dad,  and  he  shifted  Michael on
 his shoulder and pointed straight down.
      The Martians were there. Timothy began to shiver.
      The Martians  were  there--in  the  canal--reflected  in the
 water. Timothy and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad.
      The Martians  stared  back  up  at  them  for  a  long, long
 silent time from the rippling water. . . .

  Origin:   .RU
  http://www.raybradbury.ru

: 44, Last-modified: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 11:15:02 GMT