He awoke to an ultrasonic wailing. It was a  thing  that  tortured  his
eardrums while remaining just beyond the threshold of the audible.
     He scrambled to his feet in the darkness.
     He  bumped against the walls several times. Dully, he realized that his
arms were sore, as though many needles had entered there.
     The sound maddened him...
     Escape! He had to get away!
     A tiny patch of light occurred to his left.
     He turned and raced toward it and it grew into a doorway.
     He dashed through and stood blinking in the  glare  that  assailed  his
eyes.
     He  was  naked,  he  was  sweating.  His  mind  was full of fog and the
rag-ends of dreams.
     He heard a roar, as of a crowd, and he blinked against the brightness.
     Towering, a dark figure stood before him in the distance.  Overcome  by
rage, he raced toward it, not quite certain why.
     His  bare  feet  trod  hot  sand,  but he ignored the pain as he ran to
attack.
     Some portion of his mind framed the question "Why?" but he ignored it.
     Then he stopped.
     A nude woman stood before him, beckoning, inviting, and  there  came  a
sudden surge of fire within his loins.
     He turned slightly to his left and headed toward her.
     She danced away.
     He  increased his speed. But as he was about to embrace her, there came
a surge of fire in his right shoulder and she was gone.
     He looked at his shoulder and an aluminum rod protruded  from  it,  and
the blood ran down along his arm. There arose another roar.
     ...And she appeared again.
     He  pursued  her  once  more  and  his left shoulder burned with sudden
fires. She was gone and he stood shaking and sweating, blinking against  the
glare.
     "It's a trick," he decided. "Don't play the game!"
     She appeared again and he stood stock still, ignoring her.
     He was assailed by fires, but he refused to move, striving to clear his
head.
     The  dark  figure  appeared  once  more,  about  seven  feet  tall  and
possessing two pairs of arms.
     It held something in one of its hands. If only the lighting  wasn't  so
crazy, perhaps he...
     But he hated that dark figure and he charged it.
     Pain lashed his side.
     Wait a minute! Wait a minute!
     _Crazy!   It's  all  crazy!_  he  told  himself,  recalling  his
identity. _This is a bullring and I'm a man, and that dark  thing  isn't.
Something's wrong._
     He  dropped to his hands and knees, buying time. He scooped up a double
fistful of sand while he was down.
     There came proddings, electric and painful. He ignored them for as long
as he could, then stood.
     The dark figure waved something at him and he felt himself hating it.
     He ran toward it and stopped before it. He knew it was a game now.  His
name  was  Michael Cassidy. He was an attorney. New York. Of Johnson, Weems,
Daugherty and Cassidy. A man had stopped him,  asking  for  a  light.  On  a
street corner. Late at night. That he remembered.
     He threw the sand at the creature's head.
     It  swayed momentarily, and its arms were raised toward what might have
been its face.
     Gritting his teeth, he tore the aluminum  rod  from  his  shoulder  and
drove its sharpened end into the creature's middle.
     Something  touched  the back of his neck, and there was darkness and he
lay still for a long time.
     When he could move again, he saw the dark figure and he tried to tackle
it.
     He missed, and there was pain across his back and something wet.
     When he stood once again, he bellowed, "You can't do this to me! I'm  a
man! Not a bull!"
     There came a sound of applause.
     He  raced  toward  the dark thing six times, trying to grapple with it,
hold it, hurt it. Each time, he hurt himself.
     Then he stood, panting and gasping, and his  shoulders  ached  and  his
back  ached,  and his mind cleared a moment and he said, "You're God, aren't
you? And this is the way You play the game..."
     The creature did not answer him and he lunged.
     He stopped short, then dropped to one knee and dove against its legs.
        He felt a fiery pain within his sides as he brought the dark one  to
earth. He struck at it twice with his fist, then the pain entered his breast
and he felt himself grow numb.
     "Or are you?" he asked, thick-lipped. "No, you're not...Where am I?"
     His last memory was of something cutting away at his ears.


Популярность: 12, Last-modified: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 16:10:09 GMT