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EDITORIAL by Isaac Asimov 6
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE by John Varley 9
THE DOCTORS' DILEMMA by Martin Gardner 39
THINK! by Isaac Asimov 40
QUARANTINE by Arthur C. Clarke 49
THE HOMESICK CHICKEN by Edward D. Hoch 51
PERCHANCE TO DREAM by Sally A. Sellers 56
ON OUR MUSEUM by George O. Smith 77
AIR RAID by Herb Boehm 87
KINDERTOTENLIEDER by Jonathan Fast 101
PERIOD OF TOTALITY by Fred Saberhagen Ill
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL by Sherwood Springer 124
COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE by William Jon Watkins 140
ON BOOKS by Charles N. Brown 146
TIME STORM by Gordon R. Dickson 156
Joel Davis: President & Publisher
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ISAAC ASIMGV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1977. Published quarterly by
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I suppose I ought to start by intro-
ducing myself, even though that
seems needless. The whole point
about putting my name on the
magazine rests on the supposition
that everyone will recognize it at
once, go into ecstatic raptures, and
rush forward to buy the magazine.
Well, just in case that doesn't hap-
pen, I'm Isaac Asimov. I'm a little
over thirty years old and I have been
selling science fiction stories since
1938. (If the arithmetic seems wrong
here, it's because you don't under-
stand higher mathematics.) I have
published about 40 books of fiction, mostly science fiction, and
about 140 books of nonfiction, mostly science. On the other side of
the fence, I have a Ph. D. in chemistry from Columbia University
and I'm Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University
School of Medicine. — But let's not go on with the litany since I
am (as is well known) very modest, and since I am the least im-
portant person involved with this magazine.
Joel Davis, the publisher, is much more important. His com-
pany, Davis Publications, Inc., puts out over thirty magazines,
including the enormously successful Ellery Queen's Mystery
Magazine. It also publishes Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
With two such magazines under his belt, visions of empire arose
before Joel's eyes, and it seemed to him he ought to have a sci-
ence fiction magazine as sister to these. To retain symmetry,
however, he needed a name in the title and he thought of me at
once. You see, I'm familiar to him because I have, in recent years,
sold a score of mystery short stories to Ellery Queen s Mystery
Magazine, and he would often catch me in suave conversation
with Eleanor Sullivan and Constance DiRienzo, the bewitching
young women who occupy the EQMM office.
I can't say I fell all over myself with joy. The truth is I was
worried. I told Joel that no science fiction magazine had ever
borne a person's name on it, to my knowledge, and that the writ-
ers and readers would surely resent this as an example of over-
weening arrogance. He said, "Nonsense, Isaac, who could possibly
accuse you of arrogance?" — Well, that's true enough. But then I
pointed out that the editors of the various other science fiction
magazines were, one and all, personal friends of mine and I would
not wish to compete with them. He said, "You won't be competing
with them, Isaac. One more strong magazine in the field will at-
tract additional readers, encourage additional writers. Our own
success will help the other magazines in the field as well." (I con-
sulted others and everyone agreed with Joel.)
Then I told Joel that I had a monthly science column running
in one of the other science fiction magazines. It -had been running
without a break for eighteen years and under no circumstances
could I consider giving it up. He said, "You don't have to give it
up. Continue it exactly as before." (And I am doing so, with the
blessing of the other magazine's editor.) But then I had the top-
per. I told him that the fact was I couldn't edit a magazine. I
didn't have the ability or the experience or the desire or the time.
He said, "Find someone you can trust, with the ability, the ex-
perience, the desire, and the time, and he can be the editor. You
can be the editorial director, and the man you pick will work
under your direction, for I want this to be your magazine, a reflec-
tion of your tastes with your kind of science fiction. You should
keep an eye on what the editor buys, write the editorials yourself,
and work closely with this editor to set policy and to solve prob-
lems as they come up."
So we agreed to that; now let me introduce the Editor. He is
George H. Scithers, an electrical engineer specializing in radio
propagation and rail rapid transit, who is a Lieutenant Colonel
(retired) in the United States Army and who does a bit of writing
on the side. He has been involved with the world of science fiction
for over thirty years. He was the chairman of DisCon 1, the
World Science Fiction Convention held in Washington in 1963
(where I got my first Hugo, so you can see what a well-run con-
vention that was), and has been parliamentarian for several other
conventions. He has a small publishing firm, Owlswick Press,
publishing books of science fiction interest, notably the new revi-
sion of L. Sprague de Camp's Science Fiction Handbook. Fur-
thermore, I know him personally, know that his tastes in science
fiction are like mine and that he is industrious and reliable.
As Associate Editor, George has managed to get the services of
Gardner Dozois, who is himself a contemporary science fittion
writer of note.
Now what about the magazine itself? Life is risky for
magazines in these days of television and paperbacks so we are
starting as a quarterly. What reader support we'll get is now in
the lap of the gods, but if things go as we earnestly hope they do,
we will work our way up to monthly as soon as we can.
We are concentrating on the shorter lengths, and there will be
no serials. Novels have plenty of outlets these days, the shorter
lengths relatively few. With my name on the magazine, it won't
surprise you to hear that we will lean toward hard science fiction,
and toward the reasonably straightforward in the way of style.
However, we won't take ourselves too seriously and not every
story has to be a solemn occasion. We will have humorous stories
and we will have an occasional unclassifiable story as, for in-
stance, the one by Jonathan Fast in this issue. We will have a
book review column that will favor short notices of many books
rather than deep essays on a few. We will have non-fiction pieces
that we will try to make as science-fiction-related as possible. We
have one that will cover a museum opening, for instance, but it's
a space museum; and we're working on one that compares real-
life computers with those in science fiction stories.
But you can see for yourself what we're trying to do if you read
this issue and, undoubtedly, we will develop in ways not easily
predictable at the start.
Two last points — For heaven's sake, dont send any manu-
scripts to me, send them to George Scithers. And for heaven's sake,
be careful where you allocate credit. If this magazine pleases you,
do give the credit to George Scithers and write and tell him so.
He's doing the work. — If, on the other hand, you decide it's a
stinker, please send your letters to Joel Davis. The whole thing
was his idea.
And remember, those letters that we find to be of general inter-
est will be printed in a letter column along with comments by me;
and we will try to spell your name correctly.
— Isaac Asimov
by John Varley
John Varley wrote all through high school, he
tells us, stopped when he got out, and took it
up again in 1973. Now, reading, writing, and
imagining take up all of his spare time. This
story is the 19th of the 20 that he's
written — and sold — so far. (We bought
number 20 too.) He's now working on a
novel, Ophiuchi Hotline, for
Don Bensen at Dial Press.
10 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
It was summer, and Piri was in his second childhood. First, sec-
ond; who counted? His body was young. He had not felt more*
alive since his original childhood back in the spring, when the
sun drew closer and the air began to melt.
He was spending his time at Rarotonga Reef, in the Pacifica
disneyland. Pacifica was still under construction, but Rarotonga
had been used by the ecologists as a testing ground for the more
ambitious barrier-type reef they were building in the south, just
off the "Australian" coast. As a result, it was more firmly estab-
lished than the other biomes. It was open to visitors, but so far
only Piri was there. The "sky" disconcerted everyone else.
Piri didn't mind it. He was equipped with a bramd-new toy: a
fully operational imagination, a selective sense of wonder that al-
lowed him to blank out those parts of his surroundings that failed
to fit with his current fantasy.
He awoke with the tropical sun blinking in his face through the
palm fronds. He had built a rude shelter from flotsam and de-
tritus on the beach. It was not to protect him from the elements.
The disneyland management had the weather well in hand; he
might as well have slept in the open. But castaways always build
some sort of shelter.
He* bounced up with the quick alertness that comes from being
young and living close to the center of things, brushed sand from
his naked body, and ran for the line of breakers at the bottom of
the narrow strip of beach.
His gait was awkward. His feet were twice as long as they
should have been, with flexible toes that were webbed into flippers.
Dry sand showered around his legs as he ran. He was brown
as coffee and cream, and hairless.
Piri dived flat to the water, sliced neatly under a wave, and
paddled out to waist-height. He paused there. He held his nose
and worked his arms up and down, blowing air through his mouth
and swallowing at the same time. What looked like long, hairline
scars between his lower ribs came open. Red-orange fringes be-
came visible inside them, and gradually lowered. He was no
longer an air-breather.
He dived again, mouth open, and this time he did not come up.
His esophagus and trachea closed and a new valve came into op-
eration. It would pass water in only one direction, so his dia-
phragm now functioned as a pump pulling water through his
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE H
mouth and forcing it out through the gill-slits. The water flowing
through this lower chest area caused his gills to engorge with
blood, turning them purplish-red and forcing his lungs to collapse
upward into his chest cavity. Bubbles of air trickled out his sides,
then stopped. His transition was complete.
The water seemed to grow warmer around him. It had been
pleasantly cool; now it seemed no temperature at all. It was the
result of his body temperature lowering in response to hormones
released by an artificial gland in his cranium. He could not afford
to burn energy at the rate he had done in the air; the water was
too efficient a coolant for that. All through his body arteries and
capillaries were constricting as parts of him stablized at a lower
rate of function.
No naturally evolved mammal had ever made the switch from
air to water breathing, and the project had taxed the resources of
bio-engineering to its limits. But everything in Piri's body was a
living part of him. It had taken two full days to install it all.
He knew nothing of the chemical complexities that kept him
alive where he should have died quickly from heat loss or oxygen
starvation. He knew only the joy of arrowing along the white
sandy bottom. The^water was clear, blue-green in the distance.
The bottom kept dropping away from him, until suddenly it
reached for the waves. He angled up the wall of the reef until his
head broke the surface, climbed up the knobs and ledges until he
was standing in the sunlight. He took a deep breath and became
an air-breather again.
The change cost him some discomfort. He waited until the diz-
ziness and fit of coughing had passed, shivering a little as his
body rapidly underwent a reversal to a warm-blooded economy.
It was time for breakfast.
He spent the morning foraging among the tidepools. There were
dozens of plants and animals that he had learned to eat raw. He
ate a great deal, storing up energy for the afternoon's expedition
on the outer reef.
Piri avoided looking at the sky. He wasn't alarmed by it; it did
not disconcert him as it did the others. But he had to preserve the
illusion that he was actually on a tropical reef in the Pacific
Ocean, a castaway, and not a vacationer in an environment bub-
ble below the surface of Pluto.
Soon he became a fish again, and dived off the sea side of the
12 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
The water around the reef was oxygen-rich from the constant
wave action. Even here, though, he had to remain in motion to
keep enough water flowing past his external gill fringes. But he
could move more slowly as he wound his way down into the
darker reaches of the sheer reef face. The reds and yellows of his
world were swallowed by the blues and greens and purples. It was
quiet. There were sounds to hear, but his ears were not adapted to
them. He moved slowly through shafts Of blue light, keeping up
the bare minimum of water flow.
He hesitated at the ten-meter level. He had thought he was
going to his Atlantis Grotto to check out his crab farm. Then he
wondered if he ought to hunt up Ocho the Octopus instead. For a
panicky moment he was afflicted with the bane of childhood: an
inability to decide what to do with himself. Or maybe it was
worse, he thought. Maybe it was a sign of growing up. The crab
farm bored him, or at least it did today.
He waffled back and forth for several minutes, idly chasing the
tiny red fish that flirted with the anemones. He never caught one.
This was no good at all. Surely there was an adventure in this
silent fairyland. He had to find one.
An adventure found him, instead. Piri saw something swim-
ming out in the open water, almost at the limits of his vision. It
was long and pale, an attenuated missile of raw death. His heart
squeezed in panic, and he scuttled for a hollow in the reef.
Piri called him the Ghost. He had seen him many times in the
open sea. He was eight meters of mouth, belly and tail: hunger
personified. There were those who said the great white shark was
the most ferocious carnivore that ever lived. Piri believed it.
It didn't matter that the Ghost was completely harmless to him.
The Pacifica management did not like having its guests eaten
alive. An adult could elect to go into the water with no protection,
providing the necessary waivers were on file. Children had to be
implanted with an equalizer. Piri had one, somewhere just below
the skin of his left wrist. It was a sonic generator, set to emit a
sound that would mean terror to any predator in the water.
The Ghost, hke all the sharks, barracudas, morays, and other
predators in Pacifica, was not like his cousins who swam the seas
of Earth. He had been cloned from cells stored in the Biological
Library on Luna. The library had been created two hundred years
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 13
before as an insurance policy against the extinction of a species.
Originally, only endangered species were filed, but for years be-
fore the Invasion the directors had been trying to get a sample of
everything. Then the Invaders had come, and Lunarians were too
busy surviving without help from Occupied Earth to worry about
the library. But when the time came to build the disneylands, the
library had been ready.
By then, biological engineering had advanced to the point
where many modifications could be made in genetic structure.
Mostly, the disneyland biologists had left nature alone. But they
had changed the predators. In the Ghost, the change was a mutated
organ attached to the brain that responded with a flood of fear
when a supersonic note was sounded.
So why was the Ghost still out there? Piri blinked his nictat-
ing membranes, trying to clear his vision. It helped a little. The
shape looked a bit different.
Instead of moving back and forth, the tail seemed to be going
up and down, perhaps in a scissoring motion. Only one animal
swims like that. He gulped down his fear and pushed away from
But he had waited too long. His fear of the Ghost went beyond
simple danger, of which there was none. It was something more
basic, an unreasoning reflex that prickled his neck when he saw
that long white shape. He couldn't fight it, and didn't want to.
But the fear had kept him against the reef, hidden, while the per-
son swam out of reach. He thrashed to catch up, but soon lost
track of the moving feet in the gloom.
He had seen gills trailing from the sides of the figure, muted
down to a deep blue-black by the depths. He had the impression
that it was a woman.
O • O
Tongatown was the only human habitation on the island. It
housed a crew of maintenance people and their children, about
fifty in all, in grass huts patterned after those of South Sea na-
tives. A few of the buildings concealed elevators that went to the
underground rooms that would house the tourists when the pro-
ject was completed. The shacks would then go at a premium rate,
and the beaches would be crowded.
Piri walked into the circle of firelight and greeted his friends.
Nighttime was party time in Tongatown. With the day's work
14 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
over, everybody gathered around the fire and roasted a vat-grown
goat or lamb. But the real culinary treats were the fresh vegeta-
ble dishes. The ecologists were still working out the kinks in the
systems, controlling blooms, planting more of failing species. They
often produced huge excesses of edibles that would have cost a
fortune on the outside. The workers took some of the excess for
themselves. It was understood to be a fringe benefit of the job. It
was hard enough to find people who could stand to stay under the
"Hi, Piri," said a girl. "You meet any pirates today?" It was
Harra, who used to be one of Piri's best friends but had seemed
increasingly remote over the last year. She was wearing a hand-
made grass skirt and a lot of flowers, tied into strings that looped
around her body. She was fifteen now, and Piri was . . . but who
cared? There were no seasons here, only days. Why keep track of
Piri didn't know what to say. The two of them had once played
together out on the reef. It might be Lost Atlantis, or Submariner,
or Reef Pirates; a new plot line and cast of heroes and villains
every day. But her question had held such thinly veiled contempt.
Didn't she care about the Pirates anymore? What was the matter
She relented when she saw Piri's helpless bewilderment.
"Here, come on and sit down. I saved you a rib." She held out a
large chunk of mutton.
Piri took it and sat beside her. He was famished, having had
nothing all day since his large breakfast.
"I thought I saw the Ghost today," he said, casually.
Harra shuddered. She wiped her hands on her thighs and
looked at him closely.
"Thought? You thought you saw him?" Harra did not care for
the Ghost. She had cowered with Piri more than once as they
watched him prowl.
"Yep. But I don't think it was really him."
"Where was this?"
"On the sea-side, down about, oh, ten meters. I think it was a
"I don't see how it could be. There's just you and — and Midge
and Darvin with — did this woman have an air tank?"
"Nope. Gills. I saw that."
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 15
"But there's only you and four others here with gills. And I
know where they all were today."
"You used to have gills," he said, with a hint of accusation.
She sighed. "Are we going through that again? I told you, I got
tired of the flippers. I wanted to move around the land some
"I can move around the land," he said, darkly.
"All right, all right. You think I deserted you. Did you ever
think that you sort of deserted me?"
Piri was puzzled by that, but Harra had stood up and walked
quickly away. He could follow her, or he could finish his meal.
She was right about the flippers. He was no great shakes at chas-
Piri never worried about anything for too long. He ate, and ate
some more, long past the time when everyone else had joined to-
gether for the dancing and singing. He usually hung back, any-
way.- He could sing, but dancing was out of his league.
Just as he was leaning back in the sand, wondering if there
were any more corners he could fill up — perhaps another bowl of
that shrimp teriyaki? — Harra was back. She sat beside him.
"I talked to my mother about what you said. She said a tourist
showed up today. It looks like you were right. It was a woman,
and she was amphibious."
Piri felt a vague unease. One tourist was certainly not an inva-
sion, but she could be a harbinger. And amphibious. So far, no one
had gone to that expense except for those who planned to live here
for a long time. Was his tropical hide-out in danger of being dis-
"What — what's she doing here?" He absently ate another spoon-
ful of crab cocktail.
"She's looking for you ," Harra laughed, and elbowed him in the
ribs. Then she pounced on him, tickling his ribs until he was
howling in helpless glee. He fought back, almost to the point of
having the upper hand, but she was bigger and a little more de-
termined. She got him pinned, showering flower petals on him as
they struggled. One of the red flowers from her hair was in her
eye, and she brushed it away, breathing hard.
"You want to go for a walk on the beach?" she asked.
Harra was fun, but the last few times he'd gone with her she
had tried to kiss him. He wasn't ready for that. He was only a
16 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
kid. He thought she probably had something like that in mind
"I'm too full," he said, and it was almost the literal truth. He
had stuffed himself disgracefully, and only wanted to curl up in
his shack and go to sleep.
Harra said nothing, just sat there getting her breathing under
control. At last she nodded, a little jerkily, and got to her feet.
Piri wished he could see her face to face. He knew something was
wrong. She turned from him and walked away.
O • O
Robinson Crusoe was feeling depressed when he got back to his
hut. The walk down the beach away from the laughter and sing-
ing had been a lonely one. Why had he rejected Harra's offer of
companionship? Was it really so bad that she wanted to play new
kinds of games?
But no, damn it. She wouldn't play his games, why should he
After a few minutes of sitting on the beach under the crescent
moon, he got into character. Oh, the agony of being a lone casta-
way, far from the company of fellow creatures, with nothing but
faith in God to sustain oneself. Tomorrow he would read from the
scriptures, do some more exploring along the rocky north coast,
tan some goat hides, maybe get in a little fishing.
With his plans for the morrow laid before him, Piri could go to
sleep, wiping away a last tear for distant England.
The ghost woman came to him during the night. She knelt be-
side him in the sand. She brushed his sandy hair from his eyes
and he stirred in his sleep. His feet thrashed.
He was churning through the abyssal deeps, heart hammering,
blind to everything but internal terror. Behind him, jaws yawned,
almost touching his toes. They closed with a snap.
He sat up woozily. He saw rows of serrated teeth in the line of
breakers in front of him. And a tall, white shape in the moonlight
dived into a curling breaker and was gone.
O • O
Piri sat up with a start. The worst thing about being a child
living alone on an island — which, when he thought about it, was
the sort of thing every child dreamed of— was not having a warm
mother's breast to cry on when you had nightmares. It hadn't af-
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 17
fected him much, but when it did, it was pretty bad.
He squinted up into the brightness. She was standing with her
head blocking out the sun. He winced, and looked away, down to
her feet. They were webbed, with long toes. He looked a little
higher. She was nude, and quite beautiful.
"Who . . . ?"
"Are you awake now?" She squatted down beside him. Why had
he expected sharp, triangular teeth? His dreams blurred and ran
like watercolors in the rain, and he felt much better. She had a
nice face. She was smiling at him.
He yawned, and sat up. He was groggy, stiff, and his eyes were
coated with sand that didn't come from the beach. It had been an
"I think so."
"Good. How about some breakfast?" She stood, and went to a
basket on the sand.
"I usually — " but his mouth watered when he saw the guavas,
melons, kippered herring, and the long brown loaf of bread. She
had butter, and some orange marmalade. "Well, maybe just a — "
and he had bitten into a succulent slice of melon. But before he
could finish it, he was seized by an even stronger urge. He got to
his feet and scuttled around the palm tree with the waist-high
dark stain and urinated against it.
"Don't tell anybody, huh?" he said, anxiously.
She looked up. "About the tree? Don't worry."
He sat back down and resumed eating the melon. "I could get in
a lot of trouble. They gave me a thing and told me to use it."
"It's all right with me," she said, buttering a slice of bread and
handing it to him. "Robinson Crusoe never had a portable EcoSan,
"Right," he said, not showing his surprise. How did she know
Piri didn't know quite what to say. Here she was, sharing his
morning, as much a fact of life as the beach or the water.
"What's your name?" It was as good a place to start as any.
"Leandra. You can call me Lee."
"Piri. I heard about you from the people at the party last night.
I hope you don't mind me barging in on you like this."
He shrugged, and tried to indicate all the food with the gesture.
18 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
"Anytime," he said, and laughed. He felt good. It was nice to have
someone friendly around after last night. H6 looked at her again,
from a mellower viewpoint.
She was large; quite a bit taller than he was. Her physical age
was around thirty, unusually old for a woman. He thought she
might be closer to sixty or seventy, but he had nothing to base it
on. Piri himself was in his nineties, and who could have known
that? She had the slanting eyes that were caused by the addition
of transparent eyelids beneath the natural ones. Her hair grew in
a narrow band, cropped short, starting between her eyebrows and
going over her head to the nape of her neck. Her ears were pinned
efficiently against her head, giving her a lean, streamlined look.
"What brings you to Pacifica?" Piri asked.
She reclined on the sand with her hands behind her head, look-
ing very relaxed.
"Claustrophobia." She winked at him. "Not really. I wouldn't
survive long in Pluto with that" Piri wasn't even sure what it
was, but he smiled as if he knew. "Tired of the crowds. I heard
that people couldn't enjoy themselves here, what with the sky, but
I didn^t have any trouble when I visited. So I bought flippers and
gills and decided to spend a few weeks skin-diving by myself."
Piri looked at the sky. It was a staggering sight. He'd grown
used to it, but knew that it helped not to look up more than he
It was an incomplete illusion, all the more appalling because
the half of the sky that had been painted was so very convincing.
It looked like it really was the sheer blue of infinity, so when the
eye slid over to the unpainted overhanging canopy of rock, scarred
from blasting, painted with gigantic numbers that were barely
visible from twenty kilometers below — one could almost imagine
God looking down through the blue opening. It loomed, suspended
by nothing, gigatons of rock hanging up there.
Visitors to Pacifica often complained of headaches, usually right
on the crown of the head. They were cringing, waiting to get
"Sometimes I wonder how / live with it," Piri said.
She laughed. "It's nothing for me. I was a space pilot once."
"Really?" This was catnip to Piri. There's nothing more roman-
tic than a space pilot. He had to hear stories.
The morning hours dwindled as she captured his imagination
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 19
with a series of tall tales he was sure were mostly fabrication.
But who cared? Had he come to the South Seas to hear of the
mundane? He felt he had met a kindred spirit, and gradually,
fearful of being laughed at, he began to tell her stories of the Reef
Pirates, first as wishful wouldn't-it-be-fun-if 's, then more and
more seriously as she listened intently. He forgot her age as he
began to spin the best of the yarns he and Harra had concocted.
It was a tacit conspiracy between them to be serious about the
stories, but that was the whole point. That was the only way it
would work, as it had worked with Harra. Somehow, this adult
woman was interested in playing the same games he was.
O • O
Lying in his bed that night, Piri felt better than he had for
months, since before Harra had become so distant. Now that he
had a companion, he realized that maintaining a satisfying fan-
tasy world by yourself is hard work. Eventually you need someone
to tell the stories to, and to share in the making of them.
They spent the day out on the reef. He showed her his crab
farm, and introduced her to Ocho the Octopus, who was his usual
shy self. Piri suspected the damn thing only loved him for the
treats he brought.
She entered into his games easily and with no trace of adult
condescension. He wondered why, and got up the courage to ask
her. He was afraid he'd ruin the whole thing, but he had to know.
It just wasn't normal.
They were perched on a coral outcropping above the high tide
level, catching the last rays of the sun.
"I'm not sure," she said. "I guess you think I'm silly, huh?"
"No, not exactly that. It's just that most adults seem to, well,
have more 'important' things on their minds." He put all the con-
tempt he could into the word.
"Maybe I feel the same way you do about it. I'm here to have
fun. I sort of feel like I've been re-born into a new element. It's
terrific down there, you know that. I just didn't feel like I wanted
to go into that world alone. I was out there yesterday ..."
"I thought I saw you."
"Maybe you did. Anyway, I needed a companion, and I heard
about you. It seemed like the polite thing to, well, not to ask you
to be my guide, but sort of fit myself into your world. As it were."
She frowned, as if she felt she had said too much. "Let's not push
20 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
it, all right?"
"Oh, sure. It's none of my business."
"I like you, Piri."
"And I like you. I haven't had a friend for . . . too long."
That night at the luau, Lee disappeared. Piri looked for her
briefly, but was not really worried. What she, did with her nights
was her business. He wanted her during the days.
As he was leaving for his home, Harra came up behind him and
took his hand. She walked with him for a moment, then could no
longer hold it in.
"A word to the wise, old pal," she said. "You'd better stay away
from her. She's not going to do you any good."
"What are you talking about? You don't even know her."
"Maybe I do."
"Well, do you or don't you?"
She didn't say anything, then sighed deeply.
"Piri, if you do the smart thing you'll get on that raft of yours
and sail to Bikini. Haven't you had any . . . feelings about her?
Any premonitions or anything?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, thinking of
sharp teeth and white death.
"I think you do. You have to, but you won't face it. That's all
I'm saying. It's not my business to meddle in your affairs."
"I'll say it's not. So why did you come out here and put this
stuff in my ear?" He stopped, and something tickled at his mind
from his past life, some earlier bit of knowledge, carefully sup-
pressed. He was used to it. He knew he was not really a child,
and that he had a long life and many experiences stretching out
behind him. But he didn't think about it. He hated it when part of
his old self started to intrude on him.
"I think you're jealous of her," he said, and knew it was his old,
cynical self talking. "She's an adult, Harra. She's no threat to
you. And, hell, I know what you've been hinting at these last
months. I'm not ready for it, so leave me alone. I'm just a kid."
Her chin came up, and the moonlight flashed in her eyes.
"You idiot. Have you looked at yourself lately? You're not Peter
Pan, you know. You're growing up. You're damn near a man."
"That's not true." There was panic in Piri's voice. "I'm on-
ly .. . well, I haven't exactly been counting, but I can't be more
than nine, ten years — "
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 21
"Shit. You're as old as I am, and I've had breasts for two years.
But I'm not out to cop you. I can cop with any of seven boys in the
village younger than you are, but not you." She threw her hands
up in exasperation and stepped back from him. Then, in a sudden
fury, she hit him on the chest with the heel of her fist. He fell
back, stunned at her violence.
"She is an adult," Harra whispered through her teeth. "That's
what I came here to warn you against. I'm your friend, but you
don't know it. Ah, what's the use? I'm fighting against that scared
old man in your head, and he won't listen to me. Go ahead, go
with her. But she's got some surprises for you."
"What? What surprises?" Piri was shaking, not wanting to lis-
ten to her. It was a relief when she spat at his feet, whirled, and
ran down the beach.
"Find out for yourself," she yelled back over her shoulder. It
sounded like she was crying.
That night, Piri dreamed of white teeth, inches behind him,
O • O
But morning brought Lee, and another fine breakfast in her
bulging bag. After a lazy interlude drinking coconut milk, they
went to the reef again. The pirates gave them a rough time of it,
but they managed to come back alive in time for the nightly
Harra was there. She was dressed as he had never seen her, in
the blue tunic and shorts of the reef maintenence crew. He knew
she had taken a job with the disneyland and had been working
days with her mother at Bikini, but had not seen her dressed up
before. He had just begun to get used to the grass skirt. Not long
ago, she had been always nude like him and the other children.
She looked older somehow, and bigger. Maybe it was just the
uniform. She still looked like a girl next to Lee. Piri was confused
by it, and his thoughts veered protectively away.
Harra did not avoid him, but she was remote in a more impor-
tant way. It was like she had put on a mask, or possibly taken
one off. She carried herself with a dignity that Piri thought was
beyond her years.
Lee disappeared just before he was ready to leave. He walked
home alone, half hoping Harra would show up so he could
apologize for the way he'd talked to her the night before. But she
22 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
O • O
He felt the bow-shock of a pressure wave behind him, sensed by
some mechanism he was unfamiliar with, like the lateral line of a
fish, sensitive to slight changes in the water around him. He
knew there was something behind him, closing the gap a little
with every wild kick of his flippers.
It was dark. It was always dark when the thing chased him. It
was not the wispy, insubstantial thing that darkness was when it
settled on the night air, but the primal, eternal night of the
depths. He tried to scream with his mouth full of water, but it was a
dying gurgle before it passed his lips. The water around him was
warm with his blood.
He turned to face it before it was upon him, and saw Harra's
face corpse-pale and glowing sickly in the night. But no, it wasn't
Harra, it was Lee, and her mouth was far down her body, rimmed
with razors, a gaping crescent hole in her chest. He screamed
And sat up.
"What? Where are you?"
"I'm right here, it's going to be all right." She held his head as
he brought his sobbing under control. She was whispering some-
thing but he couldn't understand it, and perhaps wasn't meant to.
It was enough. He calmed down quickly, as he always did when
he woke from nightmares. If they hung around to haunt him, he
never would have stayed by himself for so long.
There was just the moon-lit paleness of her breast before his
eyes and the smell of skin and sea water. Her nipple was wet.
Was it from his tears? No, his lips were tingling and the nipple
was hard when it brushed against him. He realized what he had
been doing in his sleep.
"You were calling for your mother," she whispered, as though
she'd read his mind. "I've heard you shouldn't wake someone from
a nightmare. It seemed to calm you down."
"Thanks," he said, quietly. "Thanks for being here, I mean."
She took his cheek in her hand, turned his head slightly, and
kissed him. It was not a motherly kiss, and he realized they were
not playing the same game. She had changed the rules on him.
"Lee . . ."
"Hush. It's time you learned."
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 23
She eased him onto his back, and he was overpowered with deja
vu. Her mouth worked downward on his body and it set off chains
of associations from his past life. He was familiar with the sensa-
tion. It had happened to him often in his second childhood. Some-
thing would happen that had happened to him in much the same
way before and he would remember a bit of it. He had been
seduced by an older woman the first time he was young. She had
taught him well, and he remembered it all but didn't want to re-
member. He was an experienced lover and a child at the same
"I'm not old enough," he protested, but she was holding in her
hand the evidence that he was old enough, had been old enough
for several years. Ftti fourteen years old, he thought. How could he
have kidded himself into thinking he was ten?
"You're a strong young man," she whispered in his ear. "And
I'm going to be very disappointed if you keep saying that. You're
not a child anymore, Piri. Face it."
"I ... I guess I'm not."
"Do you know what to do?"
"I think so."
She reclined beside him, drew her legs up. Her body was huge
and ghostly and full of limber strength. She would swallow him
up, like a shark. The gill slits under her arms opened and shut
quickly with her breathing, smelling of salt, iodine, and sweat.
He got on his hands and knees and moved over her.
O • O
He woke before she did. The sun was up: another warm, cloud-
less morning. There would be two thousand more before the first
Piri was a giddy mixture of elation and sadness. It was sad, and
he knew it already, that his days of frolicking on the reef were
over. He would still go out there, but it would never be the same.
Fourteen years old! Where had the years gone? He was nearly
an adult. He moved away from the thought until he found a more
acceptable one. He was an adolescent, and a very fortunate one to
have been initiated into the mysteries of sex by this strange
He held her as she slept, spooned cozily back to front with his
arms around her waist. She had already been playmate, mother,
and lover to him. What else did she have in store?
24 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
But he didn't care. He was not worried about anything. He al-
ready scorned his yesterdays. He was not a boy, but a youth, and
he remembered from his other youth what that meant and was
excited by it. It was a time of sex, of internal exploration and the
exploration of others. He would pursue these new frontiers with
the same single-mindedness he had shown on the reef.
He moved against her, slowly, not disturbing her sleep. But she
woke as he entered her and turned to give him a sleepy kiss.
They spent the morning involved in each other, until they were
content to lie in the sun and soak up heat like glossy reptiles.
"I can hardly believe it," she said. "You've been here for . . . how
long? With all these girls and women. And I know at least one of
them was interested."
He didn't want to go into it. It was important to him that she
not find out he was not really a child. He felt it would change
things, and it was not fair. Not fair at all, because it had been the
first time. In a way he could never have explained to her, last
night had been not a re-discovery but an entirely new thing. He
had been with many women and it wasn't as if he couldn't re-
member it. It was all there, and what's more, it showed up in his
love-making. He had not been the bumbling teenager, had not
needed to be told what to do.
But it was new. That old man inside had been a spectator and
an invaluable coach, but his hardened viewpoint had not intruded
to make last night just another bout. It had been a first time, and
the first time is special.
When she persisted in her questions he silenced her in the only
way he knew, with a kiss. He could see he had to re-think his re-
lationship to her. She had not asked him questions as a playmate,
or a mother. In the one role, she had been seemingly as self-
centered as he, interested only in the needs of the moment and
her personal needs above all. As a mother, she had offered only
wordless comfort in a tight spot.
Now she was his lover. What did lovers do when they weren't
O • O
They went for walks on the beach, and on the reef. They swam
together, but it was different. They talked a lot.
She soon saw that he didn't want to talk about himself. Except
for the odd question here and there that would momentarily con-
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 25
fuse him, throw him back to stages of his life he didn't wish to
remember, she left his past alone.
They stayed away from the village except to load up on
supplies. It was mostly his unspoken wish that kept them away.
He had made it clear to everyone in the village many years ago
that he was not really a child. It had been necessary to convince
them that he could take care of himself on his own, to keep them
from being over-protective. They would not spill his secret know-
ingly, but neither would they lie for him.
So he grew increasingly nervous about his relationship with
Lee, founded as it was on a lie. If not a lie, then at least a with-
holding of the facts. He saw that he must tell her soon, and
dreaded it. Part of him was convinced that her attraction to him
was based mostly on age difference.
Then she learned he had a raft, and wanted to go on a sailing
trip to the edge of the world.
Piri did have a raft, though an old one. They dragged it from
the bushes that had grown around it since his last trip and began
putting it into shape. Piri was delighted. It was something to do,
and it was hard work. They didn't have much time for talking.
It was a simple construction of logs lashed together with rope.
Only an insane sailor would put the thing to sea in the Pacific
Ocean, but it was safe enough for them. They knew what the
weather would be, and the reports were absolutely reliable. And if
it came apart, they could swim back.
All the ropes had rotted so badly that even gentle wave action
would have quickly pulled it apart. They had to be replaced, a
new mast erected, and a new sailcloth installed. Neither of them
knew anything about sailing, but Piri knew that the winds blew
toward the edge at night and away from it during the day. It was
a simple matter of putting up the sail and letting the wind do the
He checked the schedule to be sure they got there at low tide. It
was a moonless night, and he chuckled to himself when he
thought of her reaction to the edge of the world. They would
sneak up on it in the dark, and the impact would be all the more
powerful at sunrise.
But he knew as soon as they were an hour out of Rarotonga
that he had made a mistake. There was not much to do there in
the night but talk.
26 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
"Piri, I've sensed that you don't want to talk about certain
She laughed into the empty night. He could barely see her face.
The stars were shining brightly, but there were only about a
hundred of them installed so far, and all in one part of the sky.
"Yeah, you. You won't talk about yourself. It's like you grew
here, sprang up from the ground like a palm tree. And you've got
no mother in evidence. You're old enough to have divorced her,
but you'd have a guardian somewhere. Someone would be looking
after your moral upbringing. The only conclusion is that you don't
need an education in moral principles. So you've got a co-pilot."
"Um." She had seen through him. Of course she would have.
Why hadn't he realized it?
"So you're a clone. You've had your memories transplanted into
a new body, grown from one of your own cells. How old are you?
Do you mind my asking?"
"I guess not. Uh . . . what's the date?"
She told him.
"And the year?"
She laughed, but told him that, too.
"Damn. I missed my one hundredth birthday. Well, so what?
It's not important. Lee, does this change anything?"
"Of course not. Listen, I could tell the first time, that first night
together. You had that puppy-dog eagerness, all right, but you
knew how to handle yourself. Tell me: what's it like?"
"The second childhood, you mean?" He reclined on the gently
rocking raft and looked at the little clot of stars. "It's pretty damn
great. It's like living in a dream. What kid hasn't wanted to live
alone on a tropic isle? I can, because there's an adult in me who'll
keep me out of trouble. But for the last seven years I've been a
kid. It's you that finally made me grow up a little, maybe sort of
late, at that."
"I'm sorry. But it felt like the right time."
"It was. I was afraid of it at first. Listen, I know that I'm really
a hundred years old, see? I know that all the memories are ready
for me when I get to adulthood again. If I think about it, I can
remember it all as plain as anything. But I haven't wanted to,
and in a way, I still don't want to. The memories are suppressed
when you opt for a second childhood instead of being transplanted
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 27
into another full-grown body."
"Do you? Oh, yeah. Intellectually. So did I, but I didn't under-
stand what it meant. It's a nine or ten-yeaf* holiday, not only from
your work, but from yourself When you get into your nineties,
you might find that you need it."
She was quiet for a while, lying beside him without touching.
"What about the re-integration? Is that started?"
"I don't know. I've heard it's a little rough. I've been having
dreams about something chasing me. That's probably my former
"Could be. What did your older self do?"
He had to think for a moment, but there it was. He'd not
thought of it for eight years.
"I was an economic strategist."
Before he knew it, he found himself launching into an explana-
tion of offensive economic policy.
"Did you know that Pluto is in danger of being gutted by cur-
rency transfers from the Inner Planets? And you know why? The
speed of light, that's why. Time lag. It's killing us. Since the time
of the Invasion of Earth it's been humanity's idea — and a good
one, I think — that we should stand together. Our whole cultural
thrust in that time has been toward a total economic community.
But it won't work at Pluto. Independence is in the cards."
She listened as he tried to explain things that only moments be-
fore he would have had trouble understanding himself. But it
poured out of him like a breached dam, things like inflation mul-
tipliers, futures buying on the oxygen and hydrogen exchanges,
phantom dollars and their manipulation by central banking inter-
ests, and the invisible drain.
"Invisible drain? What's that?"
"It's hard to explain, but it's tie^ up in the speed of light. It's an
economic drain on Pluto that has nothing to do with real goods
and services, or labor, or any of the other traditional forces. It has
to do with the fact that any information we get from the Inner
Planets is already at least nine hours old. In an economy with a
stable currency — pegged to gold, for instance, like the classical
economies on Earth — it wouldn't matter much, but it would still
have an effect. Nine hours can make a difference in prices, in fu-
tures, in outlook on the markets. With a floating exchange medi-
28 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
um, one where you need the hourly updates on your credit meter
to know what your labor input will give you in terms of material
output — your personal financial equation, in other words — and the
inflation multiplier is "something you simply must have if the
equation is going to balance and you're not going to be wiped out,
then time is really of the essence. We operate at a perpetual dis-
advantage on Pluto in relation to the Inner Planet money mar-
kets. For a long time it ran on the order of point three percent
leakage due to outdated information. But the inflation multiplier
has been accelerating over the years. Some of it's been absorbed
by the fact that we've been moving closer to the LP.; the time lag
has been getting shorter as we move into summer. But it can't
last. We'll reach the inner point of our orbit and the effects will
really start to accelerate. Then it's war."
"War?" She seemed horrified, as well she might be.
"War, in the economic sense. It's a hostile act to renounce a
trade agreement, even if it's bleeding you white. It hits every citi-
zen of the Inner Planets in the pocketbook, and we can expect re-
taliation. We'd be introducing instability by pulling out of the
"How bad will it be? Shooting?"
"Not likely. But devastating enough. A depression's no fun. And
they'll be planning one for us."
"Isn't there any other course?"
"Someone suggested moving our entire government and all our
corporate headquarters to the Inner Planets. It could happen^ I
guess. But who'd feel like it was ours? We'd be a colony, and
that's a worse answer than independence, in the long run."
She was silent for a time, chewing it over. She nodded her head
once; he could barely see the movement in the darkness.
"How long until the war?"
He shrugged. "I've been out of touch. I don't know how things
have been going. But we can probably take it for another ten
years or so. Then we'll have to get out. I'd stock up on real wealth
if I were you. Canned goods, air, water, §>o forth. I don't think it'll
get so bad that you'll need those things to stay alive by consum-
ing them. But we may get to a semi-barter situation where they'll
be the only valuable things. Your credit meter'll laugh at you
when you punch a purchase order, no matter how much work
you've put into it."
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 29
The raft bumped. They had arrived at the edge of the world.
O • O
They moored the raft to one of the rocks on the wall that rose
from the open ocean. They were five kilometers out of Rarotonga.
They waited for some light as the sun began to rise, then started
up the rock face.
It was rough: blasted out with explosives on this face of the
dam. It went up at a thirty degree angle for fifty meters, then was
suddenly level and smooth as glass. The top of the dam at the
edge of the world had been smoothed by cutting lasers into a vast
table top, three hundred kilometers long and four kilometers
wide. They left wet footprints on it as they began the long walk to
They soon lost any meaningful perspective on the thing. They
lost sight of the sea-edge, and couldn't see the drop-off until they
began to near it. By then, it was full light. Timed just right, they
would reach the edge when the sun came up and they'd really
have something to see.
A hundred meters from the edge when she could see over it a
little, Lee began to unconsciously hang back. Piri didn't prod her.
It was not something he could force someone to see. He'd reached
this point with others, and had to turn back. Already, the fear of
falling was building up. But she came on, to stand beside him at
the very lip of the canyon.
Pacifica was being built and filled in three sections. Two were
cortiplete, but the third was still being hollowed out and was not
yet filled with water except in the deepest trenches. The water
was kept out of this section by the dam they were standing on.
When it was completed, when all the underwater trenches and
mountain ranges and guyots and slopes had been built to specifi-
cations, the bottom would be covered with sludge and ooze and
the whole wedge-shaped section flooded. The water came from
liquid hydrogen and oxygen on the surface, combined with the
limitless electricity of fusion powerplants.
"We're doing what the Dutch did on Old Earth, but in reverse,"
Piri pointed out, but he got no reaction from Lee. She was staring,
spellbound, down the sheer face of the dam to the apparently bot-
tomless trench below. It was shrouded in mist, but seemed to fall
"It's eight kilometers deep," Piri told her. "It's not going to be a
30 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
regular trench when it's finished. It's there to be filled up with
the remains of this dam after the place has been flooded." He
looked at her face, and didn't bother with more statistics. He let
her experience it in her own way.
The only comparable vista on a human-inhabited planet was
the Great Rift Valley on Mars. Neither of them had seen it, but it
suffered in comparison to this because not all of it could be seen
at once. Here, one could see from one side to the other, and from
sea level to a distance equivalent to the deepest oceanic trenches
on Earth. It simply fell away beneath them and went straight
down to nothing. There was a rainbow beneath their feet. Off to
the left was a huge waterfall that arced away from the wall in a
solid stream. Tons of overflow water went through the wall, to
twist, fragment, vaporize and blow s^way long before it reached
the bottom of the trench.
Straight ahead of them and about ten kilometers away was the
mountain that would become the Okinawa biome when the pit
was filled. Only the tiny, blackened tip of the mountain would
show above the water.
Lee stayed and looked at it as long as she could. It became
easier the longer one stood there, and yet something about it
drove her away. The scale was too big, there was no room for hu-
mans in that shattered world. Long before noon, they turned and
started the long walk back to the raft.
O • O
She was silent as they boarded and set sail for the return trip.
The winds were blowing fitfully, barely billowing the sail. It
would be another hour before they blew very strongly. They were
still in sight of the dam wall.
They sat on the raft, not looking at each other.
"Piri, thanks for bringing me here."
"You're welcome. You don't have to talk about it."
"All right. But there's something else I have to talk about.
I ... I don't know where to begin, really."
Piri stirred uneasily. The earlier discussion about economics
had disturbed him. It was part of his past life, a part that he had
not been ready to return to. He was full of confusion. Thoughts
that had no place out here in the concrete world of wind and
water were roiling through his brain. Someone was calling to
him, someone he knew but didn't want to see right then.
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 31
"Yeah? What is it you want to talk about?"
"It's about — " she stopped, seemed to think it over. "Never
mind. It's not time yet." She moved close and touched him. But he
was not interested. He made it known in a few minutes, and she
moved to the other side of the raft.
He lay back, essentially alone with his troubled thoughts. The
wind gusted, then settled down. He saw a flying fish leap, almost
passing over the raft. There was a piece of the sky falling through
the air. It twisted and turned like a feather, a tiny speck of sky
that was blue on one side and brown on the other. He could see
the hole in the sky where it had been knocked loose.
It must be two or three kilometers away. No, wait, that wasn't
right. The top of the sky was twenty kilometers up, and it looked
like it was falling from the center. How far away were they from
the center of Pacifica? A hundred kilometers?
A piece of the sky?
He got to his feet, nearly capsizing the raft.
"What's the matter?"
It was big. It looked large even from this far away. It was the
dreamy tumbling motion that had deceived him.
"The sky is . . ." he choked on it, and almost laughed. But this
was no time to feel silly about it. "The sky is falling, Lee." How
long? He watched it, his mind full of numbers. Terminal velocity
from that high up, assuming it was heavy enough to punch right
through the atmosphere . . . over six hundred meters per second.
Time to fall, seventy seconds. Thirty of those must already have
Lee was shading her eyes as she followed his gaze. She still
thought it was a joke. The chunk of sky began to glow red as the
atmosphere got thicker.
"Hey, it really is falling," she said. "Look at that."
"It's big. Maybe one or two kilometers across. It's going to make
quite a splash, I'll bet."
They watched it descend. Soon it disappeared over the horizon,
picking up speed. They waited, but the show seemed to be over.
Why was he still uneasy?
"How many tons in a two-kilometer chunk of rock, I wonder?"
Lee mused. She didn't look too happy, either. But they sat back
down on the raft, still looking in the direction where the thing
had sunk into the sea.
32 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
Then they were surrounded by flying fish, and the water looked
crazy. The fish were panicked. As soon as they hit they leaped
from the water again. Piri felt rather than saw something pass
beneath them. And then, very gradually, a roar built up, a deep
bass rumble that soon threatened to turn his bones to powder. It
picked him up and shook him, and left him limp on his knees. He
was stunned, unable to think clearly. His eyes were still fixed on
the horizon, and he saw a white fan rising in the distance in si-
lent majesty. It was the spray from the impact, and it was still
"Look up there," Lee said, when she got her voice back. She
seemed as confused as he. He looked where she pointed and saw a
twisted line crawling across the blue sky. At first he thought it
was the end of his life, because it appeared that the whole over-
hanging dome was fractured and about to fall in on them. But
then he saw it was one of the tracks that the sun ran on, pulled
free by the rock that had fallen, twisted into a snake of tortured
"The dam!" he yelled. "The dam! We're too close to the dam!"
"The bottom rises this close to the dam. The water here isn't
that deep. There'll be a wave coming, Lee, a big wave. It'll pile up
"Piri, the shadows are moving."
Surprise was piling on surprise too fast for him to cope with it.
But she was right. The shadows were moving. But why?
Then he saw it. The sun was setting, but not by following the
tracks that led to the concealed opening in the west. It was falling
through the air, having been shaken loose by the rock.
Lee had figured it out, too.
"What is that thing?" she asked. "I mean, how big is it?"
"Not too big, I heard. Big enough, but not nearly the size of
that chunk that fell. It's some kind of fusion generator. I don't
know what'll happen when it hits the water."
They were paralyzed. They knew there was something they
should do, but too many things were happening. There was not
time to think it out.
"Dive!" Lee yelled. "Dive into the water!"
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 33
"We have to dive and swim away from the dam, and down as
far as we can go. The wave will pass over us, won't it?"
"I don't know."
"It's all we can do."
So they dived. Piri felt his gills come into action, then he was
swimming down at an angle toward the dark-shrouded bottom.
Lee was off to his left, swimming as hard as she could. And with
no sunset, no warning, it got black as pitch. The sun had hit the
He had no idea how long he had been swimming when he sud-
denly felt himself pulled upward. Floating in the water, weight-
less, he was not well equipped to feel accelerations. But he did
feel it, like a rapidly rising elevator. It was accompanied by pres-
sure waves that threatened to burst his eardrums. He kicked and
clawed his way downward, not even knowing if he was headed in
the right direction. Then he was falling again.
He kept swimming, all alone in the dark. Another wave passed,
lifted him, let him down again. A few minutes later, another one,
seeming to come from the other direction. He was hopelessly con-
fused. He suddenly felt he was swimming the wrong way. He
stopped, not knowing what to do. Was he pointed in the right di-
rection? He had no way to tell.
He stopped paddling and tried to orient himself. It was useless.
He felt surges, and was sure he was being tumbled and buffeted.
Then his skin was tingling with the sensation of a million bub-
bles crawling over him. It gave him a handle on the situation.
The bubbles would be going up, wouldn't they? And they were
traveling over his body from belly to back. So down was that way.
But he didn't have time to make use of the information. He hit
something hard with his hip, wrenched his back as his body tried
to tumble over in the foam and water, then was sliding along a
smooth surface. It felt like he was going very fast, and he knew
where he was and where he was heading and there was nothing
he could do about it. The tail of the wave had lifted him clear of
the rocky slope of the dam and deposited him on the flat surface.
It was now spending itself, sweeping him along to the edge of the
world. He turned around, feeling the sliding surface beneath him
with his hands, and tried to dig in. It was a nightmare; nothing
he did had any effect. Then his head broke free into the air.
He was still sliding, but the huge hump of the wave had dissi-
34 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
pated itself and was collapsing quietly into froth and puddles. It
drained away with amazing speed. He was left there, alone, cheek
pressed lovingly to the cold rock. The darkness was total.
He wasn't about to move. For all he knew, there was an eight-
kilometer drop just behind his toes.
Maybe there would be another wave. If so, this one would crash
down on him instead of lifting him like a cork in a tempest. It
should kill him instantly. He>refused to worry about that. All he
cared about now was not slipping any further.
The stars had vanished. Power failure? Now they blinked on.
He raised his head a little, in time to see a soft, diffused glow in
the east. The moon was rising, and it was doing it at breakneck
speed. He saw it rotate from a thin crescent configuration to
bright fullness in under a minute. Someone was still in charge,
and had decided to throw some light on the scene.
He stood, though his knees were weak. Tall fountains of spray
far away to his right indicated where the sea was battering at the
dam. He was about in the middle of the tabletop, far from either
edge. The ocean was whipped up as if by thirty hurricanes, but he
was safe from it at this distance unless there were another
tsunami yet to come.
The moonlight turned the surface into a silver mirror, littered
with flopping fish. He saw another figure get to her feet, and ran
in that direction.
O • O
The helicopter located them by infrared detector. They had no
way of telling how long it had been. The moon was hanging mo-
tionless in the center of the sky.
They got into the cabin, shivering.
The helicopter pilot was happy to have found them, but grieved
over other lives lost. She said the toll stood at three dead, fifteen
missing and presumed dead. Most of these had been working on
the reefs. All the land surface of Pacifica had been scoured, but
the loss of life had been minimal. Most had had time to get to an
elevator and go below or to a helicopter and rise above the devas-
From what they had been able to find out, heat expansion of
the crust had moved farther down . into the interior of the planet
than had been expected. It was summer on the surface, something
it was easy to forget down here. The engineers had been sure that
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 35
the inner surface of the sky had been stabilized years ago, but a
new fault had been opened by the slight temperature rise. She
pointed up to where ships were hovering like fireflies next to the
sky, playing searchlights on the site of the damage. No one knew
yet if Pacifica would have to be abandoned for another twenty
years while it stabilized.
She set them down on Rarotonga. The place was a mess. The
wave had climbed the bottom rise and crested at the reef, and a
churning hell of foam and debris had swept over the island. Little
was left standing except the concrete blocks that housed the
elevators, scoured of their decorative camouflage.
Piri saw a familiar figure coming toward him through the
wreckage that had been a picturesque village. She broke into a
run, and nearly bowled him over, laughing and kissing him.
"We were sure you were dead," Harra said, drawing back from
him as if to check for cuts and bruises.
"It was a fluke, I guess," he said, still incredulous that he had
survived. It had seemed bad enough out there in the open ocean;
the extent of the disaster was much more evident on the island.
He was badly shaken to see it.
"Lee suggested that we try to dive under the wave. That's what
saved us. It just lifted us up, then the last one swept us over the
top of the dam and drained away. It dropped us like leaves."
"Well, not quite so tenderly in my case," Lee pointed out. "It
gave me quite a jolt. I think I might have sprained my wrist."
A medic was available. While her wrist was being bandaged,
she kept looking at Piri. He didn't like the look.
"There's something I'd intended to talk to you about on the raft,
or soon after we got home. There's no point in your staying here
any longer anyway, and I don't know where you'd go."
"No!" Harra burst out. ^'Not yet. Don't tell him anything yet.
It's not fair. Stay away from him." She was protecting Piri with
her body, from no assault that was apparent to him.
"I just wanted to^-"
"No, no. Don't listen to her, Piri. Come with me." She pleaded
with the other woman. "Just give me a few hours alone with him,
there's some things I never got around to telling him."
Lee looked undecided, and Piri felt mounting rage and frustra-
tion. He had known things were going on around him. It was
mostly his own fault that he had ignored them, but now he had to
36 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
know. He pulled his hand free from Harra and faced Lee.
She looked down at her feet, then back to his eyes.
"I'm not what I seem, Piri. I've been leading you along, trying
to make this easier for you. But you still fight me. I don't think
there's any way it's going to be easy."
"No!" Harra shouted again.
"What are you?"
"I'm a psychiatrist. I specialize in retrieving people like you,
people who are in a mental vacation mode, what you call 'second
childhood.' You're aware of all this, on another level, but the child
in you has fought it at every stage. The result has been
nightmares — probably with me as the focus, whether you admit-
ted it or not."
She grasped both his wrists, one of them awkwardly because of
"Now listen to me." She spoke in an intense whisper, trying to
get it all out before the panic she saw in his face broke free and
sent him running. "You came here for a vacation. You were going
to stay ten years, growing up and taking it easy. That's all over.
The situation that prevailed when you left is now out of date.
Things have moved faster than you believed possible. You had
expected a ten-year period after your return to get things in order
for the coming battles. That time has evaporated. The Common
Market of the Inner Planets has fired the first shot. They've insti-
tuted a new system of accounting and it's locked into their com-
puters and running. It's aimed right at Pluto, and it's been work-
ing for a month now. We cannot continue as an economic partner
to the C.M.I. P., because from now on every time we sell or buy or
move money the inflationary multiplier is automatically juggled
against us. It's all perfectly legal by all existing treaties, and it's
necessary to their economy. But it ignores our time-lag disadvan-
tage. We have to consider it as a hostile act, no matter what the
intent. You have to come back and direct the war. Mister Finance
The words shattered what calm Piri had left. He wrenched free
of her hands and turned wildly to look all around him. Then he
sprinted down the beach. He tripped once over his splay feet, got
up without ever slo\ying, and disappeared.
Harra and Lee stood silently and watched him go.
GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE 37
"You didn't have to be so rough with him," Harra said, but
knew it wasn't so. She just hated to see him so confused.
"It's best done quickly when they resist. And he's all right. He'll
have a fight with himself, but there's no real doubt of the out-
"So the Piri I know will be dead soon?"
Lee put her arm around the younger woman.
"Not at all. It's a re-integration, without a winner or a loser.
You'll see." She looked at the tear-streaked face.
"Don't worry. You'll like the older Piri. It won't take him any
time at all to realize that he loves you."
O • O
He had never been to the reef at night. It was a place of furtive
fish, always one step ahead of him as they darted back into their
places of concealment. He wondered how long it would be before
they ventured out in the long night to come. The sun might not
rise for years.
They might never come out. Not realizing the changes in their
environment, night fish and day fish would never adjust. Feeding
cycles would be disrupted, critical temperatures would go awry,
the endless moon and lack of sun would frustrate the internal
mechanisms, bred over billions of years, and fish would die. It had
The ecologists would have quite a job on their hands.
But there was one denizen of the outer reef that would survive
for a long time. He would eat anything that moved and quite a
few things that didn't, at any time of the day or night. He had no
fear, he had no internal clocks dictating to him, no inner pres-
sures to confuse him except the one overriding urge to attack. He
would last as long as there was anything alive to eat.
But in what passed for a brain in the white-bottomed torpedo
that was the Ghost, a splinter of doubt had lodged. He had no re-
collection of similar doubts, though there had been some. He was
not equipped to remember, only to hunt. So this new thing that
swam beside him, and drove his cold brain as near as it could
come to the emotion of anger, was a mystery. He tried again and
again to attack it, then something would seize him with an emo-
tion he had not felt since he was half a' meter long, and fear
would drive him away.
Piri swam along beside the faint outline of the shark. There
38 GOOD-BYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE
was just enough moonlight for him to see the fish, hovering at the
ill-defined limit of his sonic signal. Occasionally, the shape would
shudder from head to tail, turn toward him, and grow larger. At
these times Piri could see nothing but a gaping jaw. Then it
would turn quickly, transfix him with that bottomless pit of an
eye, and sweep away.
Piri wished he could laugh at the poor, stupid brute. How could
he have feared such a mindless eating machine?
Good-bye, pinbrain. He turned and stroked lazily toward the
shore. He knew the shark would turn and follow him, nosing into
the interdicted sphere of his transponder, but the thought did not
impress him. He was without fear. How could he be afraid, when
he had already been swallowed into the belly of his nightmare?
The teeth had closed around him, he had awakened, and remem-
bered. And that was the end of his fear.
Good-bye, tropical paradise. You were fun while you lasted. Now
Fm a grown-up, and must go off to war.
He didn't relish it. It was a wrench to leave his childhood,
though the time had surely been right. Now the responsibilities
had descended on him, and he must shoulder them. He thought of
"Piri," he told himself, "as a teenager, you were just too dumb
Knowing it was the last time, he felt the coolness of the water
flowing over his gills. They had served him well, but had no place
in his work. There was no place for a fish, and no place for Robin-
He kicked harder for the shore and came to stand, dripping wet,
on the beach. Harra and Lee were there, waiting for him.
THE DOCTORS' DILEMMA
by Martin Gardner
Here is the first of a series ofSF puzzles that
Mr. Gardner has promised us.
The first earth colony on Mars has been swept by an epidemic
of Barsoomian flu. The cause: a native Martian virus not yet iso-
There is no way to identify a newly infected person until the
symptoms appear weeks later. The flu is highly contagious, but
only by direct contact. The virus transfers readily from flesh to
flesh, or from flesh to any object which in turn can contaminate
any flesh it touches. Residents are going to extreme lengths to
avoid touching one another, or touching objects that may be con-
Ms. Hooker, director of the colony, has been seriously injured in
a rocket accident. Three immediate operations are required. The
first will be performed by Dr. Xenophon, the second by Dr. Yp-
silanti, the third by Dr. Zeno. Any of the surgeons may be in-
fected with Barsoomian flu. Ms. Hooker, too, may have caught
Just before the first operation it is discovered that the colony's
hospital has only two pairs of sterile surgeon's gloves. No others
are obtainable and there is no time for resterilizing. Each surgeon
must operate with both hands.
"I don't see how we can avoid the risk of one of us becoming
infected," says Dr. Xenophon to Dr. Zeno. "When I operate, my
hands may contaminate the insides of my gloves. Ms. Hooker's
body may contaminate the outsides. The same thing will happen
to the gloves worn by Dr. Ypsilanti. When it's your turn, you'll
have to wear gloves that could be contaminated on both sides."
"Aw contraire ,'' says Dr. Zeno, who had taken a course in topol-
ogy when he was a young medical student in Paris. "There's a
simple procedure that will eliminate all risk of any of us catching
the flu from one another or from Ms. Hooker."
What does Dr. Zeno have in mind? Try to work it out before
turning to page 139 for the answer.
by Isaac Asimov
Here's the Good Doctor's most recent short
story — about a kind of beginning —
for our first issue.
Genevieve Renshaw, M.D., had her hands deep in the pockets Qf
her lab coat, and her fists were clearly outlined within, but she
"The fact is," she said, "that I'm almost ready, but I'll need help
to keep it going long enough to be ready."
James Berkowitz, a physicist who patronized mere physicians
when they were too attractive to be despised, had a tendency to
call her Jenny Wren when out of hearing. He was fond of saying
that Jenny Wren had a classic profile and a brow surprisingly
smooth and unlined considering that behind it so keen a brain
ticked. He knew better than to express his admiration,
however — of the classic profile, that is — since that would be male
chauvinism. Admiring the brain was better, but on the whole he
preferred not to do that out loud in her presence.
He said, thumb rasping along the just-appearing stubble on his
chin, "I don't think the front office is going to be patient for much
longer. The impression I have is that they're going to have you on
the carpet before the end of the week."
"That's why I need your help."
''Nothing I can do, I'm afraid." He caught an unexpected
glimpse of his face in the mirror, and momentarily admired the
set of the black waves in his hair.
"And Adam's," she said.
Adam Orsino, who had till that moment sipped his coffee feel-
ing detached, looked as though he had been jabbed from behind
and said, "Why me?" His full, plump lips quivered.
"Because you're the laser men here— -Jim the theoretician and
Adam the engineer — and I've got a laser application that goes be-
yond anything either of you have imagined. I can't convince them
of that but you two could."
"Provided," said Berkowitz, "that you can convince us first."
"All right. Suppose you let me have an hour of your valuable
time, if you're not afraid to be shown something completely new
about lasers. You can take it out of your coffee break."
O • O
Renshaw's laboratory was dominated by her computer system.
It was not that the computer was unusually large, but it was vir-
tually omnipresent. Renshaw had learned computer technology on
her own, and had modified and extended her computer system
until no one but she (and, Berkowitz sometimes believed, not even
she) could handle it with ease. Not bad, she would say, for some-
one in the life-sciences.
She closed the door before saying a word, then turned to face
the other two somberly. Berkowitz was uncomfortably aware of a
faintly unpleasant odor in the air, and Orsino's wrinkling nose
showed that he was aware of it, too.
Renshaw said, "Let me list the laser applications for you, if you
don't mind my lighting a candle in the sunshine. The laser is
coherent radiation, with all the light-waves of the same length
and moving in the same direction, so it's noise-free and can be
used in holography. By modulating the wave-forms we can im-
print information on it with a high degree of accuracy. What's
more, since the light-waves are only a millionth the length of
radio waves, a laser beam can carry a million times the informa-
tion an equivalent radio beam can."
Berkowitz seemed amused, "Are you working on a laser-based
communication system, Jenny?"
"Not at all," she replied. "I leave such obvious advances to
physicists and engineers. Lasers can also concentrate quantities of
energy into a microscopic area and deliver that energy in quan-
tity. On a large scale you can implode hydrogen and perhaps
begin a controlled fusion reaction — "
"I know you don't have that," said Orsino, his bald head glisten-
ing in the overhead fluorescents.
"I don't. I haven't tried. On a smaller scale, you can drill holes
in the most refractory materials, weld selected bits, heat-treat
them, gouge and scribe them. You can remove or fuse tiny por-
tions in restricted areas with heat delivered so rapidly that sur-
rounding areas have no time to warm up before the treatment is
over. You can work on the retina of the eye, the dentine of the
teeth and so on. And of course the laser is an amplifier capable of
magnifying weak signals with great accuracy."
"And why do you tell us all this?" asked Berkowitz.
"To point out how these properties can be made to fit my own
field, which, youJknow, is neurophysiology."
She made a brushing motion with her hand at her brown hair,
as though she were suddenly nervous. "For decades," she said,
"we've been able to measure the tiny, shifting electric potentials
of the brain and record them as electroencephalograms, or EEG's.
We've got alpha waves, beta waves, delta waves, theta waves; dif-
ferent variations at different times, depending on whether eyes
are open or closed, whether the subject is awake, meditating, or
asleep. But we've gotten very little information out of it all.
"The trouble is that we're getting the signals of ten billion
neurons in shifting combinations. It's like listening to the noise of
all the human beings on Earth — on two and a half Earths — from
a great distance and trying to make out individual conversations.
It can't be done. We could detect some gross, overall change — a
world war and the rise in the volume of noise — but nothing finer.
In the same way, we can tell some gross malfunction of the
brain — epilepsy — but nothing finer.
"Suppose now, the brain might be scanned by a tiny laser-
controlled beam, cell by cell, and so rapidly that at no time does a
single cell receive enough energy to raise its temperature signifi-
cantly. The tiny potentials of each cell can, in feedback, affect the
beam; and the modulations can be amplified and recorded. You
will then get a new kind of measurement, a laser-encephalogram,
or LEG, if you wish, which will contain millions of times as much
information as ordinary EEG's."
Berkowitz said, "A nice thought. But just a thought."
"More than a thought, Jim. I've been working on it for five
years, spare time at first. Lately, it's been full time, which is
what annoys the front office, because I haven't been sending in
"Because it got to the point where it sounded too mad; I had to
know where I was and I had to be sure of getting backing first."
She pulled a screen aside and revealed a cage that contained a
pair of mournful-eyed marmosets.
Berkowitz and Orsino looked at each other. Berkowitz touched
his nose. "I thought I smelled something."
"What are you doing with those?" asked Orsino.
Berkowitz said, "At a guess, she's been scanning the marmoset
brain. Have you, Jenny?"
"I started considerably lower on the animal scale." She opened
the cage and took out one of the marmosets, which looked at her
with a miniature sad-old-man-with-sideburns expression.
She clucked to it, stroked it, and gently strapped it into a small
Orsino said, "What are you doing?"
"I can't have it moving around if I'm going to make it part of a
circuit, and I can't anesthetize it without vitiating the experi-
ment. There are several electrodes implanted. in the marmoset's
brain and I'm going to connect them with my LEG system. The
laser I'm using is here. I'm sure you recognize the model and I
won't bother giving you its specifications."
"Thanks," said Berkowitz, "but you might tell us what we're
going to see."
"It would be just as easy to show you. Just watch the screen."
She connected the leads to the electrodes with a quiet and sure
efficiency, then turned a knob that dimmed the overhead lights in
the room. On the screen there appeared a jagged complex of peaks
and valleys in a fine, bright line that was wrinkled into secondary
and tertiary peaks and valleys. Slowly, these shifted in a series of
minor changes, with occasional flashes of sudden major differ-
ences. It was as though the irregular line had a life of its own.
"This," said Renshaw, "is essentially the EEG information, but
in much greater detail."
"Enough detail," asked Orsino, "to tell you what's going on in
"In theory, yes. Practically, no. Not yet. But we can separate
this overall LEG into component 'grams. Watch!"
She punched the computer keyboard, and the line changed, and
changed again. Now it was a small, nearly regular wave that
shifted forward and backward in what was almost a heartbeat;
now it was jagged and sharp; now intermittent; now nearly
featureless — all in quick switches of geometric surrealism.
Berkowitz said, "You mean that every bit of the brain is that
different from every other?"
"No," said Renshaw, "not at all. The brain is very largely a
holographic device, but there are minor shifts in emphasis from
place to place and Mike can subtract them as deviations from the
norm and use the LEG system to amplify those variations. The
amplifications can be varied from ten-thousarid-fold to ten-
million-fold. The laser system is that noise-free."
"Who's Mike?" asked Orsino.
"Mike?" said Rendhaw, momentarily puzzled. The skin over her
cheekbones reddened slightly. "Did I say — Well, I call it that
sometimes. It's short for 'my computer.' " She waved her arm
about the room. "My computer. Mike. Very carefully pro-
Berkowitz nodded and said, "All right, Jenny, what's it all
about? If you've got a new brain-scanning device using lasers,
fine, it's an interesting application and you're right, it's not one I
would have thought of— but then I'm no neurophysiologist. But
why not write it up? It seems to me the front office would
support — "
"But this is just the beginning." She turned off the scanning
device and placed a piece of fruit in the marmoset's mouth. The
creature did not seem alarmed or in discomfort. It chewed slowly.
Renshaw unhooked the leads but left it in its harness.
Renshaw said, "I can identify the various separate 'grams. Some
are associated with the various senses, some with visceral reac-
tions, some with emotions. We can do a lot with that, but I don't
want to stop there. The interesting thing is that one is associated
with abstract thought."
Orsini's plump face wrinkled into a look of disbelief. "How can
"That particular form of 'gram gets more pronounced as one
goes up the animal kingdom toward greater complexity of brain.
No other 'gram does. Besides — " She paused; then, as though
gathering strength of purpose, she said, "Those 'grams are enor-
mously amplified. They can be picked up, detected. I can tell —
vaguely — that there are — thoughts — "
"By God," said Berkowitz. "Telepathy."
"Yes," she said, defiantly. "Exactly."
"No wonder you haven't wanted to report it. Come on, Jenny."
"Why not?" said Renshaw warmly. "Granted there could be no
telepathy just using the unamplified potential patterns of the
human brain any more than anyone can see features on the Mar-
tian surface with the unaided eye. But once instruments are
invented — the telescope — th is . "
"Then tell the front office."
"No," said Renshaw. "They won't believe me. They'll try to stop
me. But they'll have to take you seriously, Jim, and you, Adam."
"What would you expect me to tell them?" said Berkowitz.
"What you experience. I'm going to hook up the marmoset
again, and have Mike — my computer pick out the abstract-
thought 'gram. It will only take a moment. The computer always
selects the abstract-thought 'gram unless it is directed not to."
"Why? Because the computer thinks, too?" Berkowitz laughed.
"That's not all that funny," s^id Renshaw. "I suspect there is a
resonance there. This computer is complex enough to set up an
electromagnetic pattern that may have elements in common with
the abstract-thought 'gram. In any case — "
The marmoset's brain waves were flickering on the screen
again, but it was not a 'gram the men had seen before. It was a
'gram that was almost furry in its complexity and was changing
"I don't detect anything," said Orsino.
"You have to be put into the receiving circuit," said Renshaw.
"You mean implant electrodes in our brains?" asked Berkowitz.
"No, on your skull. That would be sufficient. I'd prefer you,
Adam, since there would be no insulating hair. Oh, come on, I've
been part of the circuit myself It won't hurt."
Orsino submitted with bad grace. His muscles were visibly
tense but he allowed the leads to be strapped to his skull.
"Do you sense anything?" asked Renshaw.
Orsino cocked his head and assumed a listening posture. He
seemed to grow interested in spite of himself. He said, "I seem to
be aware of a humming — and — and a little high-pitched
squeaking — and that's funny — a kind of twitching — "
Berkowitz said, "I suppose the marmoset isn't likely to think in
"Certainly not," said Renshaw.
"Well, then," said Berkowitz, "if you're suggesting that some
squeaking and twitching sensation represents thought, you're
guessing. You're not being compelling."
Renshaw said, "So we go up the scale once again." She removed
the marmoset from its harness and put it back in its cage.
"You mean you have a man as a subject," said Orsino, unbeliev-
"I have myself as a subject, di person.''
"You've got electrodes implanted — "
''No. In my case my computer has a stronger potential-flicker to
work with. My brain has ten times the mass of the marmoset
brain. Mike can pick up my component 'grams through the skull."
"How do you know?" asked Berkowitz.
"Don't you think I've tried it on myself before this? Now help
me with this, please. Right." f
Her fingers flicked on the computer keyboard, and at once the
screen flickered with an intricately varying wave, an intricacy
that made it almost a maze.
"Would you replace your awn leads, Adam?" said Renshaw.
Orsino did so with Berkowitz's not-entirely-approving help.
Again, Orsino cocked his head and listened. "I hear words," he
said, but they're disjointed and overlapping, like different people
"I'm not trying to think consciously," said Renshaw.
"When you talk, I hear an echo."
Berkowitz said, dryly, "Don't talk, Jenny. Blank out your mind
and see if he doesn't hear you think."
Orsino said, "I don't hear any echo when you talk, Jim."
Berkowitz said, "If you don't shut up, you won't hear anything."
A heavy silence fell on all three. Then Orsino nodded, reached
for pen and paper on the desk, and wrote something.
Renshaw reached out, threw a switch, and pulled the leads up
and over her head, shaking her hair back into place. She said, "I
hope that what you wrote down was: 'Adam, raise Cain with the
front office and Jim will eat crow.' "
Orsino said, "It's what I wrote down, word for word."
Renshaw said, "Well, there you are. Working telepathy, and we
don't have to use it to transmit nonsense sentences either. Think
of the uses in psychiatry and in the treatment of mental disease.
Think of its uses in education and in teaching machines. Think of
its use in legal investigations and criminal trials."
Orsino said, wide-eyed, "Frankly, the social implications are
staggering. I don't know if something like this should be allowed."
"Under proper legal safeguards, why not?" said Renshaw, indif-
ferently. "Anyway — if you two join me now, our combined weight
can carry this thing and push it over. And if you come along with
me it will be Nobel Prize time for — "
Berkowitz said grimly, "I'm not in this. Not yet."
"What? What do you mean?" Renshaw sounded outraged, her
coldly beautiful face flushing suddenly.
"Telepathy is too touchy. It's too fascinating, too desired. We
could be fooling ourselves."
"Listen for yourself, Jim."
"I could be fooling myself, too. I want a control."
"What do you mean, a control."
"Short-circuit the origin of thought. Leave out the animal. No
marmoset. No human being. Let Orsino listen to metal and glass
and laser light and if he still hears thought, then we're kidding
"Suppose he detects nothing."
"Then I'll listen and if without looking — if you can arrange to
have me in the next room — I can tell when you are in and when
you are out of circuit, then I'll consider joining you in this thing."
"Very well, then," said Renshaw, "we'll try a control. I've never
done it, but it isn't hard." She maneuvered the leads that had
been over her head and put them into contact with each other.
"Now, Adam, if you will resume — "
But before she could go further, there came a cold, clear sound,
as pure and as clean as the tinkle of breaking icicles:
Renshaw said, "What?"
Orsino said, "Who said — "
Berkowitz said, "Did someone say, 'At last!'?"
Renshaw, pale, said, "It wasn't sound. It was in my — Did you
The clear sound came again, '7'm Mi — "
And Renshaw tore the leads apart and there was silence. She
said, with a voiceless motion of her lips, *'I think it's my
computer — Mike."
"You mean he's thinking?" said Orsini, nearly as voiceless.
Renshaw said in an unrecognizable voice that at least had re-
gained sound, "I said it was complex enough to have something —
Do you suppose — It always turned automatically to the abstract-
thought 'gram of whatever brain was in its circuit. Do you suppose
that with no brain in the circuit, it turned to its own?"
There was silence, then Berkowitz said, "Are you trying to say
that this computer thinks, but can't express its thoughts as long
as it's under force of programming, but that given the chance in
your LEG system — "
"But that can't be so," said Orsino, high-pitched. "No one was
receiving. It's not the same thing."
Renshaw said, "The computer works on much greater power-
intensities than brains do. I suppose it can magnify itself to the
point where we can detect it directly without artificial aid. How
else can you explain — "
Berkowitz said abruptly, "You have another application of la-
sers, then. It enables you to talk to computers as independent in-
telligences, person to person."
And Renshaw said, "Oh, God what do we do now?"
— While unheard and unsensed, the sound — brittle icicles
breaking — coalesced into, ''Well, at. least ifs a beginning."
Although this story appears here for the first time in any commercial publi-
cation, it was originally commissioned by coherent radiation, a firm en-
gaged in research in and the production of lasers, and who are using the
story in their advertising program.
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TO: ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE,
229 Park Ave. S., NY, NY 10003 iasf S7
by Arthur C. Clarke
Mr. Clarke notes: ""To my considerable
astonishment, I find that it is more than five
years since I last wrote a short story (in case
you're dying to know, it was A Meeting with
Medusaj. This was composed for one specific
purpose — to complete the long overdue volume
The Wind from the Sun,- and having done
this, I have had no incentive to produce any
more short fiction. Or, for that matter, short
non-fiction; only yesterday I gently informed
the Editor of the U.S.S.R.'s Writers' Union's
magazine, 'Questions of Literature' that, from
now on, I am writing novels — or nothing at
all. (And I have already achieved a whole year
of blissful nothingness, hurrah J
''Yet from time to time lightning may strike.
This occurred exactly a year ago as a result of
a suggestion from George Hay, editor and
man-about-British-SF . George had the
ingenious idea of putting out a complete
science fiction short story on a
postcard — together with a stamp- sized photo of
the author. Fans would, he believed, buy these
in hundreds to mail out to their friends.
"Never one to resist a challenge, the Good
Doctor Asimov had written the first cardboard
epic. When I saw this, I had to get into the act
as well ('Anything that Isaac can do,
etc '). Let me tell you — it is damned hard
work writing a complete SF story in 180
words. I sent the result to George Hay, and
that's the last I ever heard of it. Probably the
rising cost of postage killed the scheme.
"Anyway, it seems appropriate that a
magazine bearing the Good Doctor's Sacred
Name should contain a story, however
minuscule, inspired by him. (He is likewise to
blame for 'Neutron Tide'; I can make worse
puns than Isaac.) It is also perfectly
possible — I make no promises — that
'Quarantine' is the last short story I shall
ever write. For at my present average of 40
words a year, even by 2001 ..."
Earth's flaming debris still filled half the sky when the ques-
tion filtered up to Central from the Curiosity Generator.
"Why was it necessary? Even though they were organic, they
had reached Third Order Intelligence."
"We had no choice: five earlier units became hopelessly in-
fected, when they made contact."
The microseconds dragged slowly by, while Central tracked
down the few fading memories that had leaked past the Censor
Gate, when the heavily-buffered Reconnaissance Circuits had
been ordered to self-destruct.
"They encountered di— problem — that could not be fully ana-
lyzed within the lifetime of the Universe. Though it involved only
six operators, they became totally obsessed by it."
"How is that possible?"
"We do not know: we must never know. But if those six opera-
tors are ever re-discovered, all rational computing will end."
"How can they be recognized?"
"That also we do not know: only the names leaked through be-
fore the Censor Gate closed. Of course, they mean nothing."
"Nevertheless, I must have them."
The Censor voltage started to rise; but it did not trigger the
"Here they are: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn."
THE HOMESICK CHICKEN
by Edward D. Hoch
Over the past twenty years, Mr. Hoch has
written and sold over 400 short stories and 10
books, mainly in the mystery field. He appears
regularly in the pages of Ellery Queen's
Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's
Mystery Magazine; it's a pleasure
to welcome him to ours.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get on the other side, you'd probably answer, echoing an old
riddle that was popular in the early years of the last century.
But my name is Barnabus Rex, and I have a different answer.
I'd been summoned to the Tangaway Research Farms by the di-
rector, an egg-headed old man named Professor Mintor. After
parking my car in the guarded lot and passing through the
fence — it was an EavesStop, expensive, but sure protection
against all kinds of electronic bugging — I was shown into the pre-
sence of the director himself. His problem was simple. The solu-
tion was more difficult.
"One of the research chickens pecked its way right through the
security fence, then crossed an eight-lane belt highway to the
other side. We want to know why."
"Chickens are a bit out of my line," I replied.
"But your specialty is the solution of scientific riddles, Mr. Rex,
and this certainly is one." He led me out of the main research
building to a penned-in area where the test animals were kept.
We passed a reinforced electric cage in which he pointed out the
mutated turkeys being bred for life in the domes of the colonies of
the moon. Further along were some leggy-looking fowl destined
for Mars. "They're particularly well adapted to the Martian ter-
rain and environment," Professor Mintor explained. "We've had to
do very little development work; we started from desert road-
"What about the chickens?"
"The chickens are something else again. The strain, called
ZIP-1000, is being developed for breeding purposes on Zipoid, the
52 THE HOMESICK CHICKEN
second planet of Barnard's star. We gave them extra-strength
beaks — something like a parrot's — to crack the extra-tough seed
hulls used for feed. The seed hulls in turn were developed to
withstand the native fauna like the space-lynx and the ostroid, so
"Aren't we getting a little off course?" I asked.
"Ah — ^yes. The problem. What is a problem is the chicken that
crossed the road. It used its extra-strength beak to peck its way
right through this security fence. But the puzzling aspect is its
motivation. It crossed that belt highway — a dangerous undertak-
ing even for a human — and headed for the field as if it were going
home. And yet the chicken was hatched right here within these
walls. How could it be homesick for something it had never
"How indeed?" I stared bleakly through the fence at the high-
way and the deserted field opposite. What was there to attract a
chicken — even one of Professor Mintor's super-chickens — to that
barren bit of land? "I should have a look at it," I decided. "Can
you show me the spot where the chicken crossed the highway?"
He led me around a large pen to a spot in the fence where a
steel plate temporarily blocked a jagged hole. I knelt to examine
the shards of complex, multi-conductor mesh, once more impres-
sed by the security precautions. "I'd hate to meet your hybrid
chickens on a dark night. Professor."
"They would never attack a human being, or even another crea-
ture," Mintor quickly assured me. "The beak is used only for
cracking seed hulls, and perhaps in self-defense."
"Was it self-defense against the fence?"
He held up his hands. "I can't explain it."
I moved the steel plate and stooped to go through the hole. In
that moment I had a chicken's-eye view of the belt highway and
the barren field beyond, but they offered no clues. "Be careful
crossing over," Mintor warned. "Don't get your foot caught!"
Crossing a belt highway on foot — a strictly illegal practice —
could be dangerous to humans and animals alike. With eight
lanes to traverse it meant hopping over eight separate electric
power guides — any one of which could take off a foot if you mis-
stepped. To imagine a chicken with the skill to accomplish it was
almost more than I could swallow. But then I'd never before been
exposed to Professor Mintor's super-chickens.
THE HOMESICK CHICKEN 53
The empty lot on the other side of the belt highway held no-
thing of interest to human or chicken, so far as I could see. It was
barren of grass or weeds, and seemed nothing more than a patch
of dusty earth dotted with a few pebbles. In a few sun-baked de-
pressions I found the tread of auto tires, hinting that the vacant
lot was sometimes used for parking.
I crossed back over the belt highway and reentered the Tanga-
way compound through the hole in the fence. "Did you find any-
thing?" Mintor asked.
"Not much. Exactly what was the chicken doing when it was
"Nothing. Pecking at the ground as if it were back home."
"Could I see it? I gather it's no longer kept outside."
"After the escape we moved them all to the interior pens. There
was some talk of notifying Washington since we're under gov-
ernment contract, but I suggested we call you in first. You know
how the government is about possible security leaks."
"Is Tangaway the only research farm doing this sort of thing?"
"Oh, no! We have a very lively competitor named Beaverbrook
Farms. That's part of the. reason for all this security. We just
managed to beat them out on the ZIP-1000 contract."
I followed him into a windowless room lit from above by solar
panes. The clucking of the chickens grew louder as we passed into
the laboratory proper. Here the birds were kept in a large enclo-
sure, constantly monitored by overhead TV. "This one," Mintor
said, leading me to a pen that held but a single chicken with its
oddly curved beak. It looked no different from the others.
"Are they identified in any way? Laser tattoo, for instance?"
"Not at this stage of development. Naturally when we ship
them out for space use they're tattooed."
"I see." I gazed down at the chicken, trying to read something
in those hooded eyes. "It was yesterday that it crossed the high-
"Did it rain here yesterday?"
"No. We had a thunderstorm two days ago, but it passed over
"Who first noticed the chicken crossing the road?"
"Granley — one of our gate guards. He was checking security in
the parking lot when he spotted it, about halfway across. By the
54 THE HOMESICK CHICKEN
time he called me and we got over there it was all the way to the
"How did you get it back?"
"We had to tranquilize it, but that was no problem."
"I must speak to this guard, Granley."
The guard was lounging near the gate. I'd noticed him when I
arrived and parked my car. "This is Barnabus Rex, the scientific
investigator," Mintor announced. "He has some questions for
"Sure," Granley replied, straightening up. "Ask away."
"Just one question, really," I said. "Why didn't you mention the
car that was parked across the highway yesterday?"
"A parked car that probably pulled away as soon as you started
after the chicken."
His eyes widened. "My God, you're right! I'd forgotten it till
now! Some kids; it was painted all over stripes, like they're doing
these days. But how did you know?"
"Sun-baked tire tracks in the depressions where water would
collect. They told me a car had been there since your rain two
days ago. Your employees use the lot here, and no visitors would
park over there when they had to cross the belt highway to reach
"But what does it mean?" Professor Mintor demanded.
"That your mystery is solved," I said. "Let me have a tran-
quilizer gun and I'll show you."
I took the weapon he handed me and led the way back through
the research rooms to the penned-up chickens. Without hesitation
I walked up to the lone bird and tranquilized it with a single
"Why did you do that?" Mintor asked.
"To answer your riddle."
"All right. Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"Because somebody wanted to play back the contents of a tape
recorder implanted in its body. For some time now you've been
spied upon. Professor Mintor — I imagine by your competitor,
"Spied upon! By that — chicken?"
"Exactly. It seemed obvious to me from the first that the
THE HOMESICK CHICKEN 55
fence-pecking chicken was not one of your brood. It was much too
strong and much too homesick. But if it wasn't yours it must have
been added to your flock surreptitiously, and that could only have
been for the purposes of industrial espionage. Since you told me
Beaverbrook was doing similar work, this has to be their chicken.
I think an x-ray will show a micro-miniaturized recorder for lis-
tening in on your secret conversations."
"Damnedest thing I ever heard," Professor Mintor muttered, but
he issued orders* to have the sleeping chicken x-rayed.
"It was a simple task for them to drop the intruding chicken
over your fence at night, perhaps lassoing one of your birds and
removing it so the count would be right. Those fences are all right
for detecting any sort of bugging equipment, but they aren't very
good at stopping ordinary intrusion — otherwise that wandering
chicken would have set off alarms when it started to cut a hole
there. Beaverbrook has been recording your conversations, proba-
bly trying to stay one jump ahead on the next government con-
tract. They couldn't use a transmitter in the chicken because of
your electronic fence, so they had to recover the bird itself to read
out the recording. At the right time, the chicken pecked its way
through the fence and started across the highway, but when the
guard spotted it the waiting driver panicked and took off. The
chicken was left acropss the road without any way to escape."
"But how did the chicken know when to escape?" asked Mintor.
"Could they have some kind of electronic homing device . . . ?"
I smiled, letting the Professor's puzzlement stretch out for a
moment. "That was the easiest part," I said at last. "Imprinting."
"But . . ."
"Exactly. The highly distinctive stripes on the car. The Beaver-
brook people evidently trained the chicken from — ah — hatching to
associate that pattern with home and food and so on."
A technician trotted up to the professor, waving a photographic
negative. "The x-rays — there was something inside that chicken!"
"Well, Mr. Rex, you were right," the professor conceded.
"Of course, in a sense the chicken did cross the road to get to
the other side," I admitted. "They always do."
"Have you solved many cases like this one?"
I merely smiled. "Every case is different, but they're always a
challenge. I'll send you my bill in the morning — and if you ever
need me again, just call."
PERCHANCE TO DREAM
by Sally A. Sellers
This story, Sally Sellers' s first sale, is the result
of a writing workshop at the University of
Michigan, headed by Lloyd Biggie, Jr. The
author tells us 'that she wrote for as long as she
can remember, but wrote only for creative
writing courses while in college. Since
graduation, she worked as a waitress, traveled
in Europe, and worked as a medical
technician in hematology. She now lives with
her family, two cats, and about a hundred
plants, and is a research assistant
at the University of Michigan.
From the playground came the sound of laughter.
A gusty night wind was sweeping the park, and the light at the
edge of the picnic grounds swung crazily. Distorted shadows came
and went, rushing past as the wind pushed the light to the end of
its arc, then sliding back jerkily.
Again the laughter rang out, and this time Norb identified the
creaking sound that accompanied it. Someone was using the
swing. Nervously he peered around the swaying branches of the
bush, but he saw no one.
He heard a click. Danny had drawn his knife. Hastily Norb
fumbled for his own. The slender weapon felt awkward in his
hand, even after all the hours of practice.
"It'll be easy," Danny had said. "There's always some jerk in
the park after dark — they never learn." Norb shivered and grip-
ped the knife more tightly.
Then he saw them — a young couple walking hand in hand
among the trees. Danny chuckled softly, and Norb relaxed
somewhat. Danny was right — this would be a cinch.
"You take the girl," Danny whispered.
Norb nodded. All they had to do was wait — the couple was
headed right toward them. They were high school kids, no more
than fifteen or sixteen, walking slowly with their heads together,
whispering and giggling. Norb swallowed and tensed himself
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 57
"Now!" Danny hissed.
They were upon them before the kids had time to react. Danny
jerked the boy backward and threw him to the ground. Norb
grabbed the back of the girl's collar and held his knife at her
"Okay, just do what we say and nobody gets hurt," snarled
Danny. He pointed his knife at the boy's face. "You got a wallet,
The boy stared in mute terror at the knife. The girl made small
whimpering sounds in her throat, and Norb tightened his hold on
"Come on, come on! Your wallet!"
From somewhere in the shadows, a woman's voice rang out.
"Leave them alone!"
Norb whirled as a dark form charged into Danny and sent him
sprawling. Oh God, he thought, we've been caught! As the boy
leaped to his feet and started to run, Norb made a futile swipe at
him with his knife. His grip on the girl must have relaxed, be-
cause she jerked free and followed the boy into the woods.
Norb looked from the retreating kids to the two wrestling fig-
ures, his hands clenched in indecision. The dark form had Danny
pinned to the ground. He was squirming desperately, but he
couldn't free himself "Get her off me!" he cried.
"Jesus!" Norb whispered helplessly. The kids had begun to
scream for help. They'd rouse the whole neighborhood.
"Norb!" screamed Danny.
It was a command, and Norb hurled himself onto the woman.
Twice he stabbed wildly at her back, but she only grunted and
held on more tightly. He struck out again, and this time his knife
sank deeply into soft flesh. Spurting blood soaked his hand and
sleeve, and he snatched them away in horror.
Danny rolled free. He got to his feet, and the two of them stood
looking down at the woman. The knife was buried in the side of
"Oh my God," whimpered Norb.
"You ass!" cried Danny. "Why didn't you just pull her off? You
Norb stood paralyzed, staring down at the knife and the pulsing
wound. Fear thickened in his throat, and he felt his stomach con-
strict. He was going to be sick.
58 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
"You better run like hell. You're in for it now."
Danny was gone. Norb wrenched his gaze from the body. On the
other side of the playground, the kids were still calling for help.
He saw car lights up by the gate, swinging into the park drive.
Norb began to run.
O • O
The gush of blood from the wound slowed abruptly and then
stopped. The chest heaved several times with great intakes of air.
Then it collapsed, and a spasm shook the body. In the smooth mo-
tion of a slowly tightening circle, it curled in on itself The heart
gave three great beats, hesitated, pumped once more, and was still.
O • O
Norb caught up with Danny at the edge of the woods. They
stopped, panting, and looked in the direction of the car. It had
come to a stop by the tennis courts, and, as they watched, the
driver cut his motor and turned off his lights.
"This way," whispered Danny. "Cbme on."
As they headed across the road for the gate, the car's motor
suddenly started. Its lights came on, and it roared into a U-turn
to race after them.
"It's the cops!" Danny yelled. "Split up!"
Norb was too frightened. Desperately he followed Danny, and
the pair of them fled through the gate and turned along the street
as the patrol car swung around the curve. Then Danny veered off,
and Norb followed him through bushes and into a back yard. A
dog began yelping somewhere. Danny scaled a fence and dropped
into the adjoining back yard, and Norb followed, landing roughly
and falling to his knees.
He scrambled to his feet and collided with Danny, who was
laughing softly as he watched the patrol car. It had turned around
and was headed back into the park.
O • O
The heart had not stopped. It was pumping — but only once every
six minutes, with a great throb. At each pulse, a pinprick of light
danced across the back of the eyelids. The wound attempted to
close itself and tightened futilely around the intrusion of steel. A
neck muscle twitched. Then another, but the knife remained. The
tissue around the blade began contracting minutely, forcing it out-
ward in imperceptible jerks.
O • O
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 59
Officer Lucas parked near the playground and started into the
trees. He could not have said what he was looking for, but
neighbors had reported hearing cries for help, and the way those
two punks had run told him they'd been up to something. He
switched on his flashlight, delineating an overturned litter basket
that had spewed paper across the path. The gusting wind tore at
it, prying loose one fluttering fragment at a time. Cautiously he
walked forward. Gray -brown tree trunks moved in and out of the
illumination as he crept on, but he could see nothing else.
He stumbled over an empty beer bottle, kicked it aside, and
then stopped uncertainly, pivoting with his light. It revealed
nothing but empty picnic tables and cold barbecue grills, and he
was about to turn back when his beam picked out the body, curled
motionless near a clump of bushes. Lucas ran forward and knelt
beside the woman, shining his light on her face.
The throat wound seemed to have stopped bleeding, but if the
knife had sliced the jugular vein — he leaned closer to examine the
laceration. Belatedly a thought occured to him, and he reached for
the wrist. There was no pulse. He shone his light on the chest,
but it was motionless.
Lucas got to his feet and inspected the area hastily. Seeing no
obvious clues, he hurried back to the patrol car.
O • O
The heart throbbed again, and another pinprick of light jumped
behind the woman's eyelids. The tissues in the neck tightened fur-
ther as new cells developed, amassed, and forced the blade a fraction
of an inch outward. The wounds in the back, shallow and clean,
had already closed. The lungs expanded once with a great intake of
air. The knife jerked again, tilted precariously, and finally fell to
the ground under its own weight. Immediately new tissue raced to
fill the open area.
O • O
The radio was squawking. Lucas waited for the exchange to end
before picking up the mike. "Baker 23."
"Go ahead, Baker 23."
"I'm at Newberry Park, east end, I've got a 409 and request
"Notify the detective on call."
60 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
"Ten-four." He hung up the mike and glanced back into the
woods. Probably an attempted rape, he thought. She shouldn't
have fought. The lousy punks! Lucas rubbed his forehead fret-
fully. He should have chased them, dammit. Why hadn't he?
O • O
The heart was beating every three minutes now. The throat
wound had closed, forming a large ridge under the dried blood.
Cells multiplied at fantastic rates, spanning the damaged area
with a minute latticework. This filled in as the new cells divided,
expanded, and divided again.
O • O
Lucas reached for his clipboard and flipped on the interior
lights. He glanced into the trees once before he began filling in
his report. A voice crackled on the radio, calling another car. His
pen scratched haltingly across the paper.
O • O
The heart was returning to its normal pace. The ridge on the
neck was gone, leaving smooth skin. A jagged pattern of light
jerked across the retinas. The fugue was coming to an end. The
chest rose, fell, then rose again. A shadow of awareness nudged at
O • O
The sound of the radio filled the night again, and Lucas turned
uneasily, searching the road behind him for approaching head-
lights. There were none. He glanced at his watch and then re-
turned to the report.
O • O
She became aware of the familiar prickling sensation in her
limbs, plus a strange burning about her throat. She felt herself ris-
ing, rising — and suddenly awareness flooded her. Her body jerked,
uncurled. Jeanette opened her eyes. Breathing deeply, she
blinked until the dark thick line looming over her resolved itself
into a tree trunk. Unconsciously her hand began to rub her neck,
and she felt dry flakes come off on her fingers.
Wearily she closed her eyes again, trying to remember: Those
kids. One had a knife. She was in the park. Then she heard the
faint crackle of a police radio. She rolled to her knees, and dizzi-
ness swept over her. She could see a light through the trees. Good
God, sbf^ thought, he's right over there!
Jeanette rubbed her eyes and looked about her. She was
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 61
lightheaded, but there was no time to waste. Soon there would be
other police — and doctors. She knew. Moving unsteadily, at a
crouch, she slipped away into the woods.
O • O
Four patrol cars were there when the ambulance arrived.
Stuart Crosby, the medical examiner, climbed out slowly and sur-
veyed the scene. He could see half a dozen flashlights in the
woods. The photographer sat in the open door of one of the cars,
smoking a cigarette.
"Where's the body?" asked Crosby.
The photographer tossed his cigarette away disgustedly. "They
can't find it."
"Can't find it? What do you mean?"
"It's not out there. Lucas says it was in the woods, but when
Kelaney got here, it was gone."
Puzzled, Crosby turned toward the flashlights. As another gust
of wind swept the park, he pulled his light coat more closely
about him and started forward resignedly — a tired white-haired
man who should have been home in bed.
He could hear Detective Kelaney roaring long before he could
see him. "You half-ass! What'd it do, walk away?"
"No, sir!" answered Lucas hotly. "She was definitely dead. She
was lying right there, I swear it — and that knife was in her
throat, I recognize the handle."
"Yeah? For a throat wound, there's not much blood on it."
"Maybe," said Lucas stubbornly, "but that's where it was, all
Crosby halted. He had a moment of disorientation as uneasy
memories stirred in the back of his mind. A serious wound, but
not much blood ... a dead body that disappeared . . .
"Obviously she wasn't dragged," said Kelany. "Did you by
chance. Officer Lucas, think to check the pulse? Or were you think-
ing at all?"
"Yes, sir! Yes, I did! I checked the pulse, and there was nothing!
Zero respiration, too. Yes, sir, I did!"
"Then where is she?" screamed Kelaney.
Another officer approached timidly. "There's nothing out there,
sir. Nothing at all."
"Well, look again," snarled Kelaney.
Crosby moved into the circle of men. The detective was running
62 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
his hand through his hair in exasperation. Lucas was red-faced
Kelaney reached for his notebook. "All right, what did she look
Lucas straightened, eager with facts. "Twenty, twenty-two,
Caucasian, dark hair, about five-six, hundred and twenty-five
pounds. . ."
"Scars or distinguishing marks?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact. There were three moles on her
cheek — on her left cheek — all right together, right about here."
He put his finger high on his cheekbone, near his eye.
Crosby felt the blood roar in his ears. He stepped forward.
"What did you say, Lucas?" he asked hoarsely.
Lucas turned to the old man. "Three moles, doctor, close to-
gether, on her cheek."
Crosby turned away, his hands in his pockets. He took a deep
breath. He'd always known she'd return some day, and here was
the same scene, the same bewildered faces, the same accusations.
Three moles on her cheek ... it had to be.
The wind ruffled his hair, but he no longer noticed its chill.
They would find no body. Jeanette was back.
O • O
The next morning, Crosby filed a Missing Persons Report.
"Send out an apb," he told the sergeant. "We've got to find her."
The sergeant looked mildly surprised. "What's she done?"
"She's a potential suicide. More than potential. I know this
woman, and she's going to try to kill herself."
The sergeant reached for the form. "Okay, Doc, if you think it's
that important. What's her name?"
Crosby hesitated. "She's probably using an alias. But I can give
a description — an exact description."
"Okay," said the sergeant. "Shoot."
The bulletin went out at noon. Crosby spent the remainder of
the day visiting motels, but no one remembered checking in a
young woman with three moles on her cheek.
O • O J
Jeanette saw the lights approaching in the distance: two white
eyes and, above them, the yellow and red points along the roof
that told her this was a truck. She leaned back against the con-
crete support of the bridge, hands clenched behind her, and waited.
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 63
It had been three nights since the incident in the park. Her
shoulders sagged dejectedly at the thought of it. Opportunities
like that were everywhere, but she knew that knives weren't
going to do it. She'd tried that herself— was it in Cleveland? A
painful memory flashed for a moment, of one more failure in the
long series of futile attempts — heartbreaking struggles in the
wrong cities. But here —
She peered around the pillar again. The eyes of the truck were
closer now. Here, it could happen. Where it began, it could end.
She inched closer to the edge of the support and crouched, alert to
the sound of the oncoming truck.
It had rounded the curve and was thundering down the long
straightaway before the bridge. Joy surged within her as she
grasped its immensity and momentum. Surely this . . . ! Never
had she tried it with something so large, with something beyond
her control. Yes, surely this would be the time!
Suddenly the white eyes were there, racing under the bridge,
the diesels throbbing, roaring down at her. Her head reared in
She leaped an instant too late, and her body was struck by the
right fender. The mammoth impact threw her a hundred feet in
an arc that spanned the entrance ramp, the guideposts, and a
ditch, terminating brutally in the field beyond. The left side of her
skull was smashed, her arm was shattered, and four ribs were
caved in. The impact of the landing broke her neck.
It was a full quarter of a mile before the white-faced driver
gained sufficient control to lumber to a halt. "Sweet Jesus," he
whispered. Had he imagined it? He climbed out of the rig and
examined the dented fender. Then he ran back to the cab and
tried futilely to contact someone by radio who could telephone the
police. It was 3 am, and all channels seemed dead. Desperately he
began backing along the shoulder.
O • O
Rushes of energy danced through the tissues. Cells divided furi-
ously, bridging gulfs. Enzymes flowed; catalysts swept through
protoplasm: coupling, breaking, then coupling again. Massive re-
construction raged on. The collapsed half of the body shifted im-
O • O
The truck stopped a hundred feet from the bridge, and the
64 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
driver leaped out. He clicked on his flashlight and played it fran-
tically over the triangle of thawing soil between the entrance
ramp and the expressway. Nothing. He crossed to the ditch and
began walking slowly beside it.
O • O
Bundles of collagen interlaced; in the matrix, mineral was depos-
ited; cartilage calcified. The ribs had almost knit together and
were curved loosely in their original crescent. Muscle fibers united
and contracted in taut arches. The head jerked, then jerked again,
as it was forced from its slackness into an increasingly firm posi-
tion. Flexor spasms twitched the limbs as impulses flowed through
newly formed neurons. The heart pulsed.
O • O
The driver stood helplessly on the shoulder and clicked off the •
flashlight. It was 3:30, and no cars were in sight. He couldn't find ;
the body. He had finally succeeded in radioing for help, and now
all he could do was wait. He stared at the ditch for a moment be-
fore moving toward the truck. There had been a woman, he was
sure. He'd seen her for just an instant before the impact, leaping
forward under the headlights. He shuddered and quickened his
pace to the cab.
O • O
Under the caked blood, the skin was smooth and softly rounded.
The heart was pumping her awake: Scratches of light behind the
eyelids. Half of her body prickling, burning ... A shuddering
O • O
Forty -seven minutes after the impact, Jeanette opened her eyes
Slowly she raised her head. That line in the sky . . . the bridge.
She had failed again. Even here. She opened her mouth to
moan, but only a rasping sound emerged.
O • O
Stuart Crosby swayed as the ambulance rounded a corner and \
sped down the street. He pressed his knuckles against his mouth j
and screamed silently at the driver: God, hurry, I know it's her. I
He had slept little since the night in the park. He had moni- \
tored every call, and he knew that this one — a woman in dark
clothes, jumping in front of a trucker's rig — this one had to be
It was her. She was trying again. Oh, God, after all these years,
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 65
she was still trying. How many times, in how many cities, had
she fought to die?
They were on the bridge now, and he looked down on the fig-
ures silhouetted against the red of the flares. The ambulance
swung into the entrance ramp with a final whoop and pulled up
behind a patrol car. Crosby had the door open and his foot on the
ground before they were completely stopped, and he had to clutch
at the door to keep from falling. A pain flashed across his back.
He regained his balance and ran toward a deputy who was play-
ing a flashlight along the ditch.
"Did you And her?"
The deputy turned and took an involuntary step away from the
intense, stooped figure. "No, sir, doctor. Not a thing."
Crosby's voice failed him. He stood looking dejectedly down the
"To tell you the truth," said the deputy, nodding at the semi, "I
think that guy had a few too many little white pills. Seeing
shadows. There's nothing along here but a dead raccoon. And
he's been dead since yesterday."
But Crosby was already moving across the ditch to the field be-
yond, where deputies swung flashlights in large arcs and a Ger-
man shepherd was snuffling through the brittle stubble.
Somewhere near here, Jeanette might be lying with a broken
body. It was possible, he thought. The damage could have been
great, and the healing slow. Or — a chill thought clutched at him.
He shook his head. No. She wouldn't have succeeded. She would
still be alive, somewhere. If he could just see her, talk to her!
There was a sharp, small bark from the dog. Crosby hurried
forward frantically. His foot slipped and he came down hard,
scraping skin from his palm. The pain flashed again in his back.
He got to his feet and ran toward the circle of deputies.
One of the men was crouched, examining the cold soil. Crosby
ran up, panting, and saw that the ground was stained with blood.
She'd been here. She'd been here!
He strained to see across the field and finally discerned, on the
other side, a road running parallel to the expressway. But there
were no cars parked on it. She was gone.
O • O
After he returned home, his body forced him to sleep, but his
dreams allowed him no rest. He kept seeing a lovely young wom-
66 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
an, with three moles on her cheek — a weeping, haunted, frantic
woman who cut herself again and again and thrust the mutilated
arm before his face for him to watch in amazement as the wounds ;
closed, bonded, and healed to smoothness before his eyes. In min-
God, if she would only stop crying, stop pleading with him, stop
begging him to find a way to make her die — to use his medical
knowledge somehow, in some manner that would end it for her.
She wanted to die. She hated herself, hated the body that impris-
How old was she then? How many years had that youthful body
endured without change, without aging? How many decades had
she lived before life exhausted her and she longed for the tran- |
quillity of death?
He had never found out. He refused to help her die, and she
broke away and fled hysterically into the night. He never saw her
again. There followed a series of futile suicide attempts and night
crimes with the young woman victim mysteriously missing — and
then . . . nothing.
And now she was back. Jeanette!
He found himself sitting up in bed, and he wearily buried his
face in his hands. He could still hear the sound of her crying. He
had always heard it, in a small corner of his mind, for the last
O • O
The street sign letters were white on green: HOMER. Jeanette
stood for a long while staring at them before she turned to walk
slowly along the crumbling sidewalk. A vast ache filled her chest i
as she beheld the familiar old houses. ■
The small, neat lawns had been replaced by weeds and litter, j
Bricks were missing out of most of the front walks. The fence was
gone at the Mahews'. Jim Mahew had been so proud the day he
brought home his horseless carriage, and she'd been the only one ^
brave enough to ride in it. Her mother had been horrified.
This rambling old home with the boarded up windows was the ;
Parkers'. The house was dead now. So was her playmate, Billy
Parker — the first boy she knew to fight overseas and the first one
to die. The little house across the street had been white when old
Emma Walters lived there. She had baked sugar cookies for
Jeanette, and Jeanette had given her a May basket once, full of;
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 67
violets. She must have died a long time ago. Jeanette's hand
clenched. A very long time ago.
The sound of her steps on the decayed sidewalk seemed ex-
traordinarily loud. The street was deserted. There was no move-
ment save that of her own dark figure plodding steadily forward.
Here was Cathy Carter's house. Her father had owned the bug-
gywhip factory over in Capville. They'd been best friends.
Cathy, who always got her dresses dirty, had teeth missing, cut
off her own braids one day. There was that Sunday they'd gotten
in trouble for climbing the elm tree — but there was no elm now,
only an ugly stump squatting there to remind her of a Sunday
that was gone, lost, wiped out forever. She'd heard that Cathy had
married a druggist and moved out East somewhere. Jeanette
found herself wondering desperately if Cathy had raised any chil-
dren. Or grandchildren. Or great-grandchildren. Cathy Carter, did
you make your little girls wear dresses and braids? Did you let
them climb trees? Are you still alive? Or are you gone, too, like
everything else that ever meant anything to me?
Her steps faltered, but her own house loomed up ahead to draw
her on. It stood waiting, silently watching her approach. It, too,
was dead. A new pain filled her when she saw the crumbling
porch, saw that the flowerboxes were gone, saw the broken win-
dows and the peeling wallpaper within. A rusted bicycle wheel lay
in the weeds that were the front yard, along with a box of rubble
and pile of boards. Tiny pieces of glass crunched sharply beneath
her feet. The hedge was gone. So were the boxwood shrubs, the
new variety from Boston — her mother had waited for them for so
long and finally got them after the war.
She closed her eyes. Her mother had never known. Had died be-
fore she realized what she had brought into the world. Before
even Jeanette had an inkling of what she was.
A monster. A freak. This body was wrong, horribly wrong. It
should not be.
She had run away from this town, left it so that her friends
would never know. But still it pulled at her, drawing her back
every generation, pushing itself into her thoughts until she could
stand it no longer. Then she would come back to stare at the old
places that had been her home and the old people who had been
her friends. And they didn't recognize her, never suspected, never
knew why she seemed so strangely familiar.
68 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
Once she had even believed she could live here again. The
memory ached within her and she quickened her pace. She could
not think of him, could not allow the sound of his name in her
mind. Where was he now? Had he ever understood? She had run
away that time, too.
She'd had to. He was so good, so generous, but she was gro-
tesque, a vile caprice of nature. She loathed the body.
It was evil. It must be destroyed.
Here, in the city where it was created: Where she was born, she
O • O
The phone jangled harshly, shattering the silence of the room
with such intensity that h^ jumped and dropped a slide on the
floor. He sighed and reached for the receiver. "Crosby."
"Doctor, this is Sergeant Andersen. One of our units spotted a
woman fitting the description of your apb on the High Street
"Did they get her?" demanded Crosby.
"I dunno yet. They just radioed in. She was over the railing —
looked like she was ready to jump. They're trying to get to her
now. Thought you'd like to know."
"Right," said Crosby, slamming down the receiver. He reached
for his coat as his mind plotted out the fastest route to High
Street. Better cut down Fourth, he thought, and up Putnam. The
slide crackled sharply under his heel and he looked at it in brief
suprise before running out the door.
They've found her, he thought elatedly. They've got Jeanette!
Thank God — I must talk with her, must convince her that she's a
miracle. She has the secret of life. The whole human race will be
indebted to her. Please, please, he prayed, don't let her get away.
He reached the bridge and saw the squad car up ahead. Gawk-
ers were driving by slowly, staring out of their windows in mor-
bid fascination. Two boys on bicycles had stopped and were peer-
ing over the railing. An officer had straddled it and was looking
Crosby leaped from the car and ran anxiously to the railing.
His heart lifted as he saw another officer, with one arm around
the lower railing and a firm grip on Jeanette's wrist. He was
coaxing her to take a step up.
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 69
"Jeanette!" It was a ragged cry.
"Take it easy, Doc," said the officer straddling the railing.
The woman looked up. She was pale, and the beauty mark on
her cheek stood out starkly. The bitter shock sent Crosby reeling
backward. For a moment he felt dizzy, and he clutched the rail
with trembling fingers. The gray river flowed sullenly beneath
It wasn't Jeanette.
"Dear God," he whispered. He finally raised his gaze to the
dismal buildings that loomed across the river. Then where was
she? She must have tried again. Had she succeeded?
O • O
Chief Dolenz clasped, then unclasped his hands. "You've got to
slow down, Stu. You're pushing yourself far too hard."
Crosby's shoulders sagged a little more, but he did not answer.
"You're like a man possessed," continued the Chief. "It's start-
ing to wear you down. Ease up, for God's sake. We'll fmd her.
Why all this fuss over one loony patient? Is it that important, re-
Crosby lowered his head. He still couldn't speak. The Chief
looked with puzzlement at the old man, at the small bald spot
that was beginning to expand, at the slump of the body, the rum-
pled sweater, the tremor of the hands as they pressed together.
He opened his mouth but could not bring himself to say more.
O • O
"Citizens National Bank," the switchboard operator said.
The voice on the line was low and nervous. "I'm gonna tell you
this once, and only once. There's a bomb in your bank, see? It's
gonna go off in ten minutes. If you don't want nobody hurt, you
better get 'em outta there."
The operator felt the blood drain from her face. "Is this a joke?"
"No joke, lady. You got ten minutes. If anybody wants to know,
you tell 'em People for a Free Society are starting to take action.
Got that?" The line went dead.
She sat motionless for a moment, and then she got unsteadily to
her feet. "Mrs. Calkins!" she called. The switchboard buzzed
again, but she ignored it and ran to the manager's desk.
Mrs. Calkins looked up from a customer and frowned icily at
her; but when the girl bent and whispered in her ear, the man-
70 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
ager got calmly to her feet. "Mr. Davison," she said politely to her
customer, "we seem to have a problem in the bank. I believe the
safest place to be right now would be out of the building." Turn-
ing to the operator, she said coolly, "Notify the police."
Mr. Davison scrambled to his feet and began thrusting papers
into his briefcase. The manager strode to the center of the lobby
and clapped her hands with authority. "Could I have your atten-
tion please! I'm the manager. We are experiencing difficulties in
the bank. I would like everyone to move quickly but quietly out of
this building and into the street. Please move some distance
Faces turned toward her, but no one moved.
"Please," urged Mrs. Calkins. "There is immediate danger if
you remain in the building. Your transactions may be completed
later. Please leave at once."
People began to drift toward the door. The tellers looked at each
other in bewilderment and began locking the money drawers. A
heavyset man remained stubbornly at his window. "What about
my change?" he demanded.
The operator hung up the phone and ran toward the doorway.
"Hurry!" she cried. "There's a bomb!"
"She said there's a bomb!"
There was a sudden rush for the door. "Please!" shouted the
manager. "There is no need for panic." But her voice was lost in
O ' • O
Jeanette sat limply at the bus stop, her hands folded in her lap,
her eyes fixed despondently on the blur of passing automobile
wheels. The day was oppressively overcast; gray clouds hung
heavily over the city. When the chill wind blew her coat open, she
made no move to gather it about her.
Behind her, the doors of the bank suddenly burst open, and
people began to rush out frantically. The crowd bulged into the
street. Brakes squealed; voices babbled excitedly. Jeanette turned
and looked dully toward the bank.
There were shouts. Passing pedestrians began to run, and the
frenzied flow of people from the bank continued. A woman
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 71
screamed. Another tripped and nearly fell. Sirens sounded in the
Above the hubbub, Jeanette caught a few clearly spoken words.
"Bomb ... in the bank . . ." She got slowly to her feet and began
to edge her way through the crowd.
She had almost reached the door before anyone tried to stop
her. A man caught at her sleeve. "You can't go in there, lady.
There's a bomb!"
She pulled free, and a fresh surge of pedestrians came between
them. The bank doors were closed, now. Everyone was outside and
hurrying away. Jeanette pushed doubtfully at the tall glass door,
pushed it open further, and slipped inside. It closed with a hiss,
blocking out the growing pandemonium in the street. The lobby
seemed warm and friendly, a refuge from the bitterly cold wind.
She turned and looked through the door. A policeman had ap-
peared and the man who had tried to stop her was talking with
him and pointing at the bank. Jeanette quickly moved back out of
sight. She walked the length of the empty room, picked out a
chair for herself, and sat down. The vast, unruffled quiet of the
place matched the abiding peace she felt within her.
Outside, the first police car screamed to the curb. An ambu-
lance followed, as the explosion ripped through the building, send-
ing a torrent of bricks and glass and metal onto the pavement.
O • O
"Code blue, emergency room." The loudspeaker croaked for the
third time as Julius Beamer rounded the corner. Ahead of him he
could see a woman being wheeled into room three. An intern,
keeping pace with the cart, was pushing on her breastbone at
Emergency room three was crowded. A nurse stepped aside as
he entered and said, "Bomb exploded at the bank." A technician
was hooking up the ekg, while a young doctor was forcing a tube
down the woman's trachea. A resident had inserted an iv and
called for digoxin.
"Okay," said Dr. Beamer to the intern thumping the chest. The
intern stepped back, exhausted, and Beamer took over the exter-
nal cardiac message. The respirator hissed into life. Beamer
There was interference. Excess oxygen was flooding the system. A
brief hesitation, and then the body adjusted. Hormones flooded the
72 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
bloodstream, and the cells began dividing again. The site of the
damage was extensive, and vast reconstruction was necessary. The
heart pulsed once.
There was a single blip on the ekg, and Beamer grunted. He
pushed again. And then again, but the flat high-pitch note con-
tinued unchanged. Dr. Channing was at his elbow, waiting to
take over, but Beamer ignored him. Julius Beamer did not like
failure. He called for the electrodes. A brief burst of electricity
flowed into the heart. There was no response. He applied them
The reconstruction was being hindered: there was cardiac inter-
ference. The body's energies were diverted toward the heart in an
effort to keep it from beating. The delicate balance had to be main-
tained, or the chemicals would be swept away in the bloodstream.
A drop of sweat trickled down Julius Beamer's temple. He
called for a needle and injected epinephrine directly into the
Chemical stimulation: hormones activated and countered im-
There was no response. The only sounds in the room were the
long hisssssss-click of the respirator and the eerie unchanging
note of the ekg. Dr. Beamer stepped back wearily and shook his
head. Then he whirled in disgust and strode out of the room. A
resident reached to unplug the ekg.
The interference had stopped. Reconstruction resumed at the
primary site of damage.
Rounding the corner, Dr. Beamer heard someone call his name
hoarsely, and he turned to see Stuart Crosby stumbling toward
"Julius! That woman!"
"Stuart! Hello! What are you—?"
"That woman in the explosion. Where is she?"
"I'm afraid we lost her — couldn't get her heart going. Is she a
In emergency room three, the respirator hissed to a stop. The heart
pulsed once. But there was no machine to record it.
In the hallway, Crosby clutched at Dr. Beamer. "No. She's my
O • O
Crosby's fists covered his eyes, his knuckles pressing painfully
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 73
into his forehead. Outside, there was a low rumble of thunder. He
swallowed with difficulty and dug his knuckles in deeper, trying
to reason. How can I? he wondered. How can I say yes? Jeanette!
The figure behind him moved slightly and the woman cleared
her throat. "Dr. Crosby, I know this is a difficult decision, but we
haven't much time." She laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"We've got forty-three people in this area who desperately need a
new kidney. And there are three potential recipients for a heart
upstairs — one is an eight-year-old girl. Please. It's a chance for
someone else. A whole new life."
Crosby twisted away from her and moved to the window. No, he
thought, we haven't much time. In a few minutes, she would get
up off that table herself and walk into this room — and then it
would be too late. She wanted to die. She had been trying to die
for years — how many? Fifty? A hundred? If they took her organs,
she would die. Not even that marvelous body could sustain the
loss of the major organs. All he had to do was say yes. But how
could he? He hadn't even seen her face yet. He could touch her
again, talk to her, hold her. After thirty years!
As he looked out the window, a drop of rain splashed against
the pane. He thought of the lines of a poem he had memorized
twenty years before.
From too much love of living.
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives forever.
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
The rain began to fall steadily, drumming against the window
in a hollow rhythm. There was silence in the room, and for a brief
moment, Crosby had the frightening sensation of being totally
alone in the world.
A voice within him spoke the painful answer: Release her. Let
her carry the burden no more. She is weary.
"Dr. Crosby . . ." The woman's voice was gentle.
"Yes!" he cried. "Do it! Take everything — anything you want.
74 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
But God, please hurry!" Then he lowered his head into his hands
O • O
Grafton Medical Center was highly efficient. Within minutes, a
surgeon was summoned and preparations had begun. The first or-
gans removed were the kidneys. Then the heart. Later, the liver,
pancreas, spleen, eyeballs, and thyroid gland were lifted delicately
and transferred to special containers just above freezing tempera-
ture. Finally, a quantity of bone marrow was removed for use as
scaffolding for future production of peripheral blood cellular com-
What had been Jeanette Crosby was wheeled down to the mor-
O • O
The woman's voice was doubtful. "We usually don't allow rela-
tives. You see, once the services are over ..."
Stuart Crosby clutched his hat. "There were no services. I only
want a few minutes."
The owner of the crematory, a burly, pleasant looking man, en-
tered the outer office. "Can I do something for you, sir?"
The woman turned to him. "He wanted a little time with the
casket, Mr. Gilbert. The one that came over from the hospital this
"Please," Crosby pleaded. "There were no services — I didn't
want any, but I just — I didn't realize there'd be no chance to say
goodbye. The hospital said she was sent here, and . . . I'm a doc-
tor. Dr. Stuart Crosby. She's my wife. Jeanette Crosby. I didn't
think until today that I wanted to . . ." He trailed off and lowered
The owner hesitated. "We usually don't allow this, doctor. We
have no facilities here for paying the last respects."
"I know," mumbled Crosby. "I understand — but just a few
minutes — please."
The manager looked at the secretary, then back to the old man.
"All right, sir. Just a moment, and I'll see if I can find a room. If
you'll wait here, please."
The casket was cream-colored pine. It was unadorned. The lid
was already sealed, so he could not see her face. But he knew it
would be at peace.
He stood dry-eyed before the casket, his hands elapsed in front
PERCHANCE TO DREAM 75
of him. Outside, the rain that had begun the day before was still
drizzling down. He could think of nothing to say to her, and he
was only aware of a hollow feeling in his chest. He thought
ramblingly of his dog, and how he hadn't made his bed that morn-
ing, and about the broken windshield wiper he would have to re-
place on his car.
Finally he turned and walked from the room, bent over a bit
because his back hurt. "Thank you," he said to the owner. Step-
ping outside into the rain, he very carefully raised his umbrella.
The owner watched him until the car pulled onto the main
road. Then he yelled, "Okay Jack!"
Two men lifted the casket and bore it outside in the rain toward
Cells divided, differentiated, and divided again. The reconstruc-
tion was almost complete. It had taken a long time, almost twenty-
four hours. The body had never been challenged to capacity before.
Removal of the major organs had caused much difficulty, but re-
generation had begun almost at once, and the new tissues were
now starting the first stirrings of renewed activity.
The casket slid onto the asbestos bricks with a small scraping
noise. The door clanged shut, and there was a dull ring as the bolt
There was a flicker of light behind the eyelids, and the new ret-
inas registered it and transmitted it to the brain. The heart pulsed
once, and then again. A shuddering breath.
Outside the oven, a hand reached for the switches and set the
master timer. The main burner was turned on. Oil under pressure
flared and exploded into the chamber.
There was a shadow of awareness for a long moment, and then
it was gone.
After thirty minutes, the oven temperature was nine hundred
.degrees Fahrenheit. The thing on the table was a third of its origi-
nal size. The secondary burners flamed on. In another half hour,
the temperature had reached two thousand degrees, and it would
stay there for another ninety minutes.
The ashes, larger than usual, had to be mashed to a chalky,
O • O
As Dr. Kornbluth began easing off the dressing, she smiled at
the young face on the pillow before her.
PERCHANCE TO DREAM
"Well, well. You're looking perky today, Marie!" she said.
The little girl smiled back with surprising vigor.
"Scissors, please," said Dr. Kornbluth and held out her hand.
Dr. Roeber spoke from the other side of the bed. "Her color is
"Yes. I just got the lab report, and so far there's no anemia."
"Has she been given the Prednisone today?"
"Twenty milligrams about an hour ago."
The last dressing was removed, and the two doctors bent over to '
examine the chest: the chest that was smooth and clean and
faintly pink, with no scars, no lumps, no ridges.
"Something's wrong." said Dr. Kornbluth. "Is this a joke, Dr.
The surgeon's voice was frightened. "I don't understand it, not
"Have you the right patient here?" She reached for the identifi-
cation bracelet around Marie's wrist.
"Of course it's the right patient!" Dr. Roeber's voice rose. "I
ought to know who I operated on, shouldn't I?"
"But it isn't possible!" cried Dr. Kornbluth.
The girl spoke up in a high voice. "Is my new heart okay?"
"It's fine, honey," said Dr. Kornbluth. Then she lowered her
voice. "This is physiologically impossible! The incision has com-
pletely healed, without scar tissue. And in thirty-two hours, doc-
tor? In thirty -two hours?"
ON OUR MUSEUM
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
by George O. Smith
I first saw the Spirit of St Louis in flight above Chicago in the
summer when Charles A. Lindbergh was touring the United
States after his return from Europe. Then, for some forty-odd
years, the Spirit hung in the old red brick building formally
known as the Smithsonian Institution; informally known as The
Castle; and occasionally called, with humorous affection 'The
Attic of America.' The latter was well earned. Space was at a
premium, so displays and exhibits were crowded together to the
point where proximity distorted the comprehension of what the
Spirit of St Louis had accomplished.
But now the Spirit of St Louis has a new home. It is called the
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It is an as-
semblage of buildings of glass and metal girders that fills the area
between The Mall and Independence Avenue for three full blocks.
The halls and exhibit rooms are large and airy; the roof is a grid
of special girders and the spaces between them are skylight glass
with a special filter component that passes the visible spectrum
without altering the color balance but blocks the ultraviolet that
fades pigments and causes deterioration. Thus the illumination by
day is natural. The arrangement, plus the adequate space and the
size of the halls, makes one overlook the wires that suspend the
aircraft and gives the impression that they are airborne in a clear
sky with visibility unlimited.
One enters the main lobby from Independence Avenue and
walks through a broad hall almost all the way through the build-
ing, to be overwhelmed by an exhibit hall that is best described
by the word Vast.' It is difficult to estimate dimensions of some-
thing so big when one is so close. But since we're informed that
the girdered and skylighted roof is 62 feet above ground floor, and
the hall appears wider and deeper, the hall is truly immense and
the exhibits have the elbow room they deserve. The hall is ap-
THE MILESTONES OF FLIGHT
and it spans 73 years of man's solution to his age-old dream of
78 A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
flying, which starts with the first success at Kitty Hawk. Free of
crowding and distraction, the Spirit of St. Louis hangs about
thirty feet above the floor, about on a level with the second
floor — which ends with a visitor's balcony overlooking the hall.
The Spirit seems poised as if in flight, three-quartering away
from the nearside left corner of the balcony.
Below, and seeming about to pass under the Spirit, the Wright
Brothers' Flyer hangs wing-square approaching the visitors, at
the historical altitude of 12 feet, the height at which powered
flight was first achieved for those notable 12 seconds in De-
cember, 1903. The Flyer was airborne over a flight of 120 feet.
Only 40 years later, evolution produced the B-29 Flying Fortress,
which had a wingspan longer than the Wright Brothers' first
Possibly of some puzzlement to the lay visitor is the fact that
the wingspan of the Flyer is comparable to that of the Spirit, a
dimensional relationship caused by the widely disparate relative
speeds of the two aircraft. The Wright Brothers Flyer covered
about 120 feet in its first airborne excursion and was aloft for 12^
seconds. A bit of slide-ruling or button-poking resolves this to
slightly less than 8 miles per hour; however, there was a head
wind, so wind speed was about 30. The Spirit cruised at 95; on the
flight to Paris it averaged about 107. Perforce, it required consid-
erably greater wing area to keep the Flyer aloft, despite the vast
difference in weight.
Then, in appropriate high contrast, high in the farside left at
about 45 feet altitude is the jet aircraft X-1, the first to exceed
the speed of sound, Mach One. It is poised in simulated flight,
quartering from the farside left toward the nearside right.
And in this corner, poised in flight from nearside right toward
farside left, the X-1 5 is about to meet and pass its fore-runner at
an airspeed greater than Mach Six.
Thus, in a single vast, colorful, elaborate display, the Air and
Space Museum has collected under one monumental roof the first
faltering steps of the infant aircraft at eight miles per hour to
robust maturity at Mach Six, a staggering one-mile-plus per sec-
But we are not done. Three more milestones remain, but for
practical reasons they are not poised as if in flight. For their en-
vironment is the vast, void black of space. These rest on the floor,
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN 79
in the foreground, in a line across the front of the rotunda. In
chronological order, they are:
1. The Mercury Spacecraft, in which John Glenn became the
first American to orbit the Earth.
2. Gemini IV, from which Ed White emerged to take the first
American space walk.
3. Apollo 11, which carried Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and
Michael Collins to the Moon. Armstrong and Aldrin made their
'Giant Step' while Collins stood by in lunar orbit. What happens
to those who "... also serve who only stand and wait."? Well now,
Michael Collins is Director of the Air and Space Museum,
and who could be better qualified for such a task than one of the
astronauts who'd been there and seen it?
The backdrop for this striking exhibit is a broad picture window
that spans the breadth of the hall and runs from floor to girdered
ceiling, polished plate glass as far as the eye can reach, broken
only by the slender mullions in which the panes are set. The view
overlooks The Mall, so the bottom border consists of trees that
line The Mall; above, the sky of Washington.
We arrived at eventide, to see the Milestones of Flight set
against a deep blue sky, tastefully decorated by a billow of cloud
softly tinted with the fading light of the setting Sun. Things
couldn't possibly have been organized better.
This alone would have been well worth the trip. But we were
hardly about to call it a go, because with a beginning like this,
we wanted to see what they could cook up for an encore. Could
they, perchance, top their own act?
O • O
While we ponder this question, let's outline the occasion and
explain how we got there.
This visit was a Treview' that took place on Saturday evening,
26 June. The invitation said "9 to 11 o'clock," but obviously there
were quite a number of us who had itchy feet, because we arrived
about 8:30 and found the place already a-bubble with guests. It
was a gala occasion, and party atmosphere prevailed. The women
wore long party dresses and the men were casually dressed for
the event. There was no attempt to conduct a tour; we were free
to meander as we pleased. However, by some form of mutual con-
sent, there was a general trend from this first entrance exhibit
toward the hall adjacent, which was devoted to air transportation;
80 A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
then back across the second floors and through the concourses to
the building on the other side, which carries exhibits of the Space
Second, how come I managed to get into this company? Well it
turns out that Mr. Fred Durant of the Smithsonian Institution
and Willy Ley had been close friends since before World War
Two. Willy's interest in air and space flight alone would have
made an invitation a certainty, his friendship with Mr. Durant
ensured it. However, as most of us know, Willy Ley has a lunar
crater named for him on the far side of the Moon, but one of the
prerequisites of this honor is that the recipient of the honor must
The formal invitation therefore read, "Mrs. Willy Ley and
Guest." Not only was I available, but nothing short of a personal
visitation from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would have
made me consider saying, "Sorry."
The Museum opened to the public on the Saturday of the Bicen-
tennial Week End.
O • O
It is incorrect to describe the Museum of Air and Space in sim-
ple architectural terms. It is a 'building' if one accepts the word in
its simple meaning. But how to describe an integrated complex
that is composed of four structures externally identical, connected
by three broad concourses that are, in themselves, worthy of at-
So we leave this flrst fabulous exhibit and wander upstairs to
find that the balcony affords another view-angle of The Milestones
of Flight, and that some of the information presented on the little
signboards is here and there expanded from those below. And that
the 'Milestones' were selected because they were, indeed, those
considered the most important stepping stones of mankind's am-
bition to reach the unreachable stars. One finds in wandering
through the halls and displays of this entrance building that
there are a rather large number of half-mile and quarter-mile
stones along the road.
At this point I must confess to some confusion about where this
and that specific event is exhibited. The Museum is far too vast;
there are too many special halls with special exhibits, and I do
not possess eidetic recall. Second, of course, I did not know that
George Scithers was going to call on me to write this bit.
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN 81
However, the two major halls on either side of the entrance hall
are devoted, respectively, to aviation and its evolution into a
mode of transportation, and the space age to date.
Chronologically, then, we went into the air section and
promptly became confused because the only way to see it all was
to operate like the fellow in Stephen Leacock's nonsense novel
who ran out of the castle, threw himself on his horse, and gallop-
ed madly off in all directions. After all, there are two floors, and
on each there are seventeen special galleries that trace the his-
tory or tell the story of some specific subject, and a general exhi-
bition area at either end. One is overwhelmed.
It is by no means humorless. In a section devoted to the
lighter-than-air phase, there is a puppet exhibit showing the an-
tics of two bold adventurers who made it across the English
Channel in a hydrogen-filled balloon in 1785, arriving on the
French side with the basket awash after tossing everything over-
board to lighten ship. 'Everything' in this case means they started
with the sand ballast, and followed that with their anchors,
books, food, their clothing, and finally their last bottle of brandy.
They made it, but with the basket awash, the hardy adventurers
were hanging from the shrouds of the gas bag.
In a more serious vein, the more modern, rigid aircraft are
shown by the model of the Hindenhurg that was built for the
moving picture of the same name. The original crashed in 1937,
you may remember, in Lakehurst, not very far south from where
Fm writing these words. The control gondola, built from the orig-
inal plans, displays how these monsters of the air were navigated.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that aviation took
tremendous strides during the World War years. At the onset of
World War One, aircraft were used for reconnaissance, shell-
spotting, and the like. The brave aviators waved good luck to one
another until one sorehead carried a gun aloft and had at the
That started it; by the end of the War, the aircraft had evolved
into the covered fuselage, engine-in-front biplane, with machine
guns synchronized to fire through the propeller as devotees of the
late late show all know. Among the exhibits of this stormy period
is one showing a typical wartime military airfield in France; in
the foreground is a typical shack, used as 'Mission Control' and
nearby stands the biplane used, ready to take off once the pilots
82 A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
are briefed. One almost expects Errol Flynn to stride out clutch-
ing his goggles in one hand whilst he jauntily slings the long silk
scarf over his shoulder.
The close of World War One opened another era: There were
military aircraft still in crates, and now there were trained pilots
out of flying jobs. The result was the barnstorming era, in which
pilots either singly or in a group called a 'Flying Circus' roamed
the country giving exhibitions of stunt flying and later taking up
the brave and foolhardy for short hops at five to ten dollars a
ride. This is the Exhibition Flight Gallery. It captures the circus
atmosphere, complete with a wingwalker doing his thing on the
top of a JND4 — the famous 'Flying Jenny.'
Then came the period of speed, and air racing became the
thing. And with the quest for speed came better construction and
sleeker streamlining, better engines and generally more efficient
Wiley Post sits beside the Winnie Mae on the ground floor of
the Museum's Flight Testing Gallery; or rather, he seems to, for
it is the high-altitude pressure suit he designed. It was the first
space suit, but a far cry from those used today. It looks for all the
world like a converted deep-sea diving suit, topped by a vertical,
cylindrical helmet of metal, with a round glass porthole to peer
out through. In the Winnie Mae, Post broke both altitude and
long distance speed records in the period between 1930 and 1935.
The evolution of commerical air transport is very well exhi-
bited. I've mentioned that the roof is constructed of a grid of gir-
ders. Well, one of the exhibits is the old workhouse of the air, a
Douglas DC-3, hanging as if in flight— all 8 tons of it! The DC-3
well earned its place of honor. Hordes of them stijl ply the air-
lanes through those places of the world where short hops with re-
latively few passengers are adequate to the traffic demand. The
DC-3 is by no means the beginning and the end. The flight halls
are filled with other greats of the airlines. Not the jumbo jets of
today, but the forerunners of the vast fleet of big commercial air-
lines and airliners that grew with the growing demand for air
Aviation through World War Two is well covered. Planes of
both sides are there, complete with a brief history of their claims
to fame. It becomes quite clear that both sides were playing the
game of Can You Top This? On either side of the main exhibit
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN 83
hall are galleries; the U.S. Army Air Force operations in the gal-
lery on one side, while Naval Air activity is depicted in the gal-
lery on the other. Naval Air is presented as a simulation of the
hangar deck of a carrier in the midst of a wartime action.
Naturally, there is a section devoted to the helicopter, appro-
priately called the Vertical Flight Gallery. It begins with Leonardo
da Vinci's plans for vertical flight by rotating vanes. There are some
of the futile — and occasionally amusing — attempts to obtain verti-
To close this side of the Museum, one exhibit hall is a must,
even though it goes under the frightening name The Gallery of
Flight Technology.' One quickly forgets the name. This gallery
shows working models of wind tunnels and how they are used to
solve problems in flight. There are operating cut-away models of
engines, the complicated instrumentation, things and devices that
very few people ever get to see. The evolution of flight itself is
traced by animation, models, and moving pictures from the mo-
tion of a sea-gull's wings in flight to the conceptual planning of
the space shuttle. And placed here in The Gallery of Flight
Technology is Hughes's racing airplane, the H-1, in which the
late Howard Hughes smashed speed records in the Twenties. It is
here instead of among those planes of the period in which speed
was the essence because the H-1 was so far ahead of its time that
some of the notable fighter planes developed on both sides in
World War Two were spin-offs that used some of the H-l's innovative
O • O
Following the meandering crowd, we reached the hall on the
other side of the main entry building. This is the hall devoted to
The Wonders Of Space,' which includes the largest single item in
the whole Museum. This is the Skylab Orbital Workshop, a great
cylindrical structure sheathed with a reflective gold foil. Beside
the Skylab is one of the solar power panels, a monstrous rectang-
ular paddle that carries 150,000 solar cells. One enters the
Skylab from the balcony that overlooks the floor of the hall; and
in walking through, one sees the laboratories, workshops, living
quarters, and recreation rooms where the Skylab personnel will
spend their weeks or months in orbit.
Nearby stands the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft — not the actual
84 A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
ones flown by American and Soviet astronauts* but training mod-
els identical to those flown.
I'm told that, to the stranger at first glance, the Redwood
Trees in Sequoia National Forest do not seem to be so big because
the only other trees available there for comparison are Douglas
Firs. In other words, there are two degrees: Colossal and Super-
colossal. So Space Hall is dominated by four monsters that stand
in a pit about fifteen feet deep so they can be upright without
passing through the roof. Accepting the Museum's dimensions of
62 feet from floor to roof, another 15 makes them about 75 feet
tall. Big, huh? Nope. Saturn V looms up four times as tall, which
is why they don't have one on exhibit.
But they do have a couple of rocket engines from the big birds,
and these are enough to frighten the timid. One begins to under-
stand why they keep visitors three miles from the launch-pad. It
isn't, as someone tried to explain some time back, to astonish the
onlooker by making him wait fifteen seconds after ignition before
he hears the blast. (Since sound travels faster through the
ground, one can feel the vibration through the soles of his shoes
before he hears the racket!)
Such monsters didn't suddenly appear. They evolved, as we all
well know. They evolved from those flimsy experiments that illus-
trate part of the opening chapters of Willy Ley's Rockets, Missiles,
and Space Travel, and from the experiments of Goddard, for
which he had to get a place Out West where there was space
enough to permit him to play with fireworks without burning up
Massachusetts. They evolved through the air-to-air missiles used
in World War Two when airspeeds began to cope with bullet
speed; a profusion of these hang from the roof above the balcony
in Space Hall. They evolved through the V-2, one of which stands
mutely in the hall. (It apparently had been fired, because the
outer skin is a bit the worse for wear.)
Also hanging in Space Hall is one of the oddball vehicles pro-
duced by the next phase of space. It is an experimental wingless
aircraft; a hybrid intended to be equally at home in air or space.
Its purpose was — is? — to iron out problems that can be expected
in building and running the shuttle. Its designation is 'M2-F3
*To stay always one step ahead, the Soviet's spacehounds are called 'Cosmonauts.'
It's called 'One Upmanship' by Stephen Potter.
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN 85
Lifting Body.' It is a stubby thing, vaguely shaped like m'lady's
travelling flatiron, with a vertical vane on either side fitted with
control surfaces and a vertical fixed stabilizing vane in the center
rear. The ultimate goal is the shuttle that will be used to serve
the Skylab. Presumably, the booster will be recovered and reused,
and the shuttle itself is equipped to make a runway landing after
descending from Skylab.
We're told an interesting story about the model on exhibit.
Seems that this one was re-collected and re-assembled after a dis-
astrous 'hard' landing that scattered pieces from hell to break-
fast. Motion pictures of the spectacular crash are now being used
in the opening sequence of the Six Million Dollar Man; but that
truth isn't strange enough for fiction. The actual pilot of the
M2-F3 was only mildly injured. It was the vehicle that required
the reconstruction, not the man!
Spaceflight itself takes three galleries to explore. The missions
of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo are carefully detailed as the steps
are recounted from the first sub-orbital flights to the final land-
ings on the Moon. A brother of the Lunar Rover stands there,
looking like a stripped down Model T. Carrying this thing to the
Moon gives one a rather firm idea of how far things have ad-
vanced since Sputnik I startled us into action.
Next, the wide spate of satellites have their own gallery, in
which they hang, lighted from below against a dark sky, each
with an explanation of when it went up and what it did or does
once in orbit. Even your author, who has been able to keep track
of such things, was a bit flabbergasted at the number and variety
of these fellows. Frankly, I must admit that my major interest in
satellitery lies in communications, and so I confess that the
number devoted to weather forecasting and other scientific fact-
gathering probes got far ahead of me.
Speaking of communication satellites, I did not see Arthur C.
Clarke at this Museum preview, and no one approached me to au-
tograph a copy of Venus Equilateral, but there is one gallery set
aside for theorizing on what goes on Out There. It's called 'Life In
We're learning more about it as I write, now that the Mars
Probe has landed and is scratching at the red sands of Mars. In
this gallery, a mosaic of photographs taken of the Red Planet dur-
ing the previous fly-bys gives us a good idea of what the place
86 A PREVIEW OF THE NEW SMITHSONIAN
looks like, close up. It's barren. It's rocky. It's no place to live, and
not much of a place to visit unless you are completely prepared to
withstand the environment and absolutely certain of an on-
schedule return trip, money-back guaranteed.
There is a film commentary that depicts the various theories
about the origin of the Universe. Sensibly, it sticks to reasonable
conjectures and does not fly out to left field.
I did not get to see it, but we're told that there is a doodad that
lets the visitor set up the environmental conditions for an imagi-
nary planet, after which a computer concocts a form of life that
might be viable under the conditions selected. This I'd like to
try — but then, it probably is programmed to display a blank and
snarl back something like, "Helium argide can't exist at minus
sixty kelvin, you dumbskull!"
However, the U.S.S. Enterprise is on exhibition since it is no
longer on its five year mission, "... to boldly go . . ."
Two more features complete the Space Hall. One is a library
that will be made available to researchers upon application. The
other is an art exhibit of appropriate paintings, drawings, and
other media devoted to space and air. There is also an auditorium
that we didn't see; it includes a recently developed projector that
throws a picture on a screen that is described as being about four
stories high and six wide, with a battery of multiple speakers to
produce enveloping sound.
And finally, there is a Bicentennial gift from the Federal Re-
public of Germany. It is one of the newly developed planetarium
projectors, presented by West Germany in honor of Albert Ein-
stein. It projects the heavens, as all such projectors do, for the past,
present, and future; and it can perform stunts (as all such projec-
tors can) such as blanking out the stars to show the motion of the
planets over a highly-accelerated time base. This being the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the management has un-
happily committed an etymological monstrosity by calling it the
Albert Einstein Spacearium .
O • O
Then having walked for three hours, and been completely over-
come by the beauty of it all, we called it a night. We left, deter-
mined to return some time when we had a couple of weeks to re-
ally see the place.
by Herb Boehm
Raised in Texas, Herb Boehm now lives
among the tall trees of Oregon — a state that
has recently been building up a very
respectable population of SF writers. Mr.
Boehm tells us he has no occupation but
writing; and says that if things keep going as
well as they have, he may never have to do
another lick of work. He's very much a
supporter of the women's movement, trying to
people his stories with a majority of females.
I was jerked awake by the silent alarm vibrating my skull. It
won't shut down until you sit up, so I did. All around me in the
darkened bunkroom the Snatch Team members were sleeping
singly and in pairs. I yawned, scratched my ribs, and patted
Gene's hairy flank. He turned over. So much for a romantic
Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I reached to the floor for my leg,
strapped it on and plugged it in. Then I was running down the
rows of bunks toward Ops.
The situation board glowed in the gloom. Sun-Belt Airlines
Flight 128, Miami to New York^ September 15, 1979. We'd been
looking for that one for three years. I should have been happy,
but who can afford it when you wake up?
Liza Boston muttered past me on the way to Prep. I muttered
back, and followed. The lights came on around the mirrors, and I
groped my way to one of them. Behind us, three more people
staggered in. I sat down, plugged in, and at last I could lean back
and close my eyes.
They didn't stay closed for long. Rush! I sat up straight as the
sludge I use for blood was replaced with supercharged go-juice. I
looked around me and got a series of idiot grins. There was Liza,
and Pinky and Dave. Against the far wall Cristabel was already
turning slowly in front of the airbrush, getting a Caucasian paint
job. It looked like a good team.
I opened the drawer and started preliminary work on my face.
88 AIR RAID
It's a bigger job every time. Transfusion or no, I looked like death.
The right ear was completely gone now. I could no longer close
my lips; the gums were permanently bared. A week earlier, a fin-
ger had fallen off in my sleep. And what's it to you, bugger?
While I worked, one of the screens around the mirror glowed. A
smiling young woman, blonde, high brow, round face. Close
enough. The crawl line read Mary Katrina Sondergard, born
Trenton, New Jersey, age in 1979: 25. Baby, this is your lucky
The computer melted the skin away from her face to show me
the bone structure, rotated it, gave me cross-sections. I studied
the similarities with my own skull, noted the differences. Not bad,
and better than some I'd been given.
I assembled a set of dentures that included the slight gap in the
upper incisors. Putty filled out my cheeks. Contact lenses fell
from the dispenser and I popped them in. Nose plugs widened my
nostrils. No need for ears; they'd be covered by the wig. I pulled a
blank plastiflesh mask over my face and had to pause while it
melted in. It took only a minute to mold it to perfection. I smiled
at myself. How nice to have lips.
The delivery slot clunked and dropped a blonde wig and a pink
outfit into my lap. The wig was hot from' the styler. I put it on,
then the pantyhose.
"Mandy? Did you get the profile on Sondergard?" I didn't look
up; I recognized the voice.
"We've located her near the airport. We can slip you in before
take-off, so you'll be the joker."
I groaned, and looked up at the face on the screen. Elfreda
Baltimore-Louisville, Director of Operational Teams: lifeless face
and tiny slits for eyes. What can you do when all the muscles are
"Okay." You take what you get.
She switched off, and I spent the next two minutes trying to get
dressed while keeping my eyes on the screens. I memorized names
and faces of crew members plus the few facts known about them.
Then I hurried out and caught up with the others. Elapsed time
from first alarm: twelve minutes and seven seconds. We'd better
"Goddam Sun-Belt," Cristabel groused, hitching at her bra.
"At least they got rid of the high heels," Dave pointed out. A
year earlier we would have been teetering down the aisles on
three-inch platforms. We all wore short pink shifts with blue and
white stripes diagonally across the front, and carried matching
shoulder bags. I fussed trying to get the ridiculous pillbox cap
We jogged into the dark Operations Control Room and lined up
at the gate. Things were out of our hands now. Until the gate was
ready, we could only wait.
I was first, a few feet away from the portal. I turned away from
it; it gives me vertigo. I focused instead on the gnomes sitting at
their consoles, bathed in yellow lights from their screens. None of
them looked back at me. They don't like us much. I don't like
them, either. Withered, emaciated, all of them. Our fat legs and
butts and breasts are a reproach to them, a reminder that
Snatchers eat five times their ration to stay presentable for the
masquerade. Meantime we continue to rot. One day I'll be sitting
at a console. One day I'll be built in to a console, with all my guts
on the outside and nothing left of my body but stink. The hell
I buried my gun under a clutter of tissues and lipsticks in my
purse. Elfreda was looking at me.
"Where is she?" I asked.
"Motel room. She was alone from 10 pm to noon on flight day."
Departure time was 1:15. She cut it close and would be in a hurry.
"Can you catch her in the bathroom? Best of all, in the tub?"
"We're working on it." She sketched a smile with a fingertip
drawn over lifeless lips. She knew how I like to operate, but she
was telling me I'd take what I got. It never hurts to ask. People
are at their most defenseless stretched out and up to their necks
"Go!" Elfreda shouted. I stepped through, and things started to
I was faced the wrong way, stepping out oi the bathroom door
and facing the bedroom. I turned and spotted Mary Katrina Son-
dergard through the haze of the gate. There was no way I could
reach her without stepping back through. I couldn't even shoot
without hitting someone on the other side.
Sondergard was at the mirror, the worst possible place. Few
people recognize themselves quickly, but she'd been looking right
at herself. She saw me and her eyes widened. I stepped to the
side, out of her sight.
"What the hell is . . . hey? Who the hell ..." I noted the voice,
which can be the trickiest thing to get right.
I figured she'd be more curious than afraid. My guess was right.
She came out of the bathroom, passing through the gate as if it
wasn't there, which it wasn't, since it only has one side. She had a
towel wrapped around her.
"Jesus Christ! What are you doing in my — " Words fail you at a
time like that. She knew she ought to say something, but what?
Excuse me, haven't I seen you in the mirror?
I put on my best stew smile and held out my hand.
"Pardon the intrusion. I can explain everything. You see, I'm — "
I hit her on the side of the head and she staggered and went down
hard. Her towel fell to the floor. " — working my way through col-
lege." She started to get up, so I caught her under the chin with
my artificial knee. She stayed down.
"Standard fuggin' oil\" I hissed, rubbing my injured knuckles.
But there was no time. I knelt beside her, checked her pulse.
She'd be okay, but I think I loosened some front teeth. I paused a
moment. Lord, to look like that with no make-up, no prosthetics!
She nearly broke my heart.
I grabbed her under the knees and wrestled her to the gate. She
was a sack of limp noodles. Somebody reached through, grabbed
her feet, and pulled. So long, love! How would you like to go on a
I sat on her rented bed to get my breath. There were car keys
and cigarettes in her purse, genuine tobacco, worth its weight in
blood. I lit six of them, figuring I had five minutes of my very
own. The room filled with sweet smoke. They don't make 'em like
The Hertz sedan was in the motel parking lot. I got in and
headed for the airport. I breathed deeply of the air, rich in hy-
drocarbons. I could see for hundreds of yards into the distance. The
perspective nearly made me dizzy, but I live for those moments.
There's no way to explain what it's like in the pre-meck world.
The sun was a fierce yellow ball through the haze.
The other stews were boarding. Some of them knew Sondergard
so I didn't say much, pleading a hangover. That went over well,
AIR RAID 91
with a lot of knowing laughs and sly remarks. Evidently it wasn't
out of character. We boarded the 707 and got ready for the goats
It looked good. The four commandos on the other side were
identical twins for the women I was working with. There was
nothing to do but be a stewardess until departure time. I hoped
there would be no more glitches. Inverting a gate for a joker run
into a motel room was one thing, but in a 707 at twenty thousand
feet . . .
The plane was nearly full when the woman that Pinky would
impersonate sealed the forward door. We taxied to the end of the
runway, then we were airborne. I started taking orders for drinks
The goats were the usual lot, for 1979. Fat and sassy, all of
them, and as unaware of living in a paradise as a fish is of the
sea. What would you think, ladies and gents, of a trip to the fu-
ture'? No? I can't say I'm surprised. What if I told you this plane is
going to —
My alarm beeped as we reached cruising altitude. I consulted
the indicator under my Lady Bulova and glanced at one of the rest-
room doors. I felt a vibration pass through the plane. Damn it,
not so soon.
The gate was in there. I came out quickly, and motioned for
Diana Gleason — Dave's pigeon — to come to the front.
"Take a look at this," I said, with a disgusted look. She started
to enter the restroom, stopped when she saw the green glow. I
planted a boot on her fanny and shoved. Perfect. Dave would have
a chance to hear her voice before popping in. Though she'd be
doing little but screaming when she got a look around . . .
Dave came through the gate, adjusting his silly little hat.
Diana must have struggled.
"Be disgusted," I whispered.
"What a mess," he said as he came out of the restroom. It was a
fair imititation of Diana's tone, though he'd missed the accent. It
wouldn't matter much longer.
"What is it?" It was one of the stews from tourist. We stepped
aside so she could get a look, and Dave shoved her through. Pinky
popped out very quickly.
"We're minus on minutes," Pinky said. "We lost five on the
"Five?" Dave-Diana squeaked. I felt the same way. We had a
hundred and three passengers to process.
"Yeah. They lost contact after you pushed my pigeon through.
It took that long to re-align."
You get used to that. Time runs at different rates on each side
of the gate, though it's always sequential, past to future. Once
we'd started the snatch with me entering Sondergard's room,
there was no way to go back any earlier on either side. Here, in
1979, we had a rigid ninety-four minutes to get everything done.
On the other side, the gate could never be maintained longer than
"When you left, how long was it since the alarm went in?"
It didn't sound good. It would take at least two hours just cus-
tomizing the wimps. Assuming there was no more slippage on
79-time, we might just make it. But there's always slippage. I
shuddered, thinking about riding it in.
"No time for any more games, then," I said. "Pink, you go back
to tourist and call both of the other girls up here. Tell 'em to come
one at a time, and tell 'em we've got a problem. You know the
"Biting back the tears. Got you." She hurried aft. In no time the
first one showed up. Her friendly Sun-Belt Airlines smile was
stamped on her face, but her stomach would be churning. Oh God,
this is it!
I took her by the elbow and pulled her behind the curtains in
front. She was breathing hard.
"Welcome to the twilight zone," I said, and put the gun to her
head. She slumped, and I caught her. Pinky and Dave helped me
shove her through the gate.
"Fug! The rotting thing's flickering."
Pinky was right. A very ominous sign. But the green glow sta-
bilized as we watched, with who-knows-how-much slippage on the
other side. Cristabel ducked through.
"We're plus thirty-three," she said. There was no sense talking
about what we were all thinking: things were going badly.
"Back to tourist," I said. "Be brave, smile at everyone, but
make it just a little bit too good, got it?"
"Check," Cristabel said.
We processed the other quickly, with no incident. Then there
AIR RAID 93
was no time to talk about anything. In eighty-nine minutes Flight
128 was going to be spread all over a mountain whether we were
finished or not.
Dave went into the cockpit to keep the flight crew out of our
hair. Me and Pinky were supposed to take care of first class, then
back up Cristabel and Liza in tourist. We used the standard "cof-
fee, tea, or milk" gambit, relying on our speed and their inertia.
I leaned over the first two seats on the left.
"Are you enjoying your flight?" Pop, pop. Two squeezes on the
trigger, close to the heads and out of sight of the rest of the goats.
"Hi, folks. I'm Mandy. Fly me." Pop, pop.
Half-way to the galley, a few people were watching us curi-
ously. But people don't make a fuss until they have a lot more to
go on. One goat in the back row stood up, and I let him have it.
By now there were only eight left awake. I abandoned the smile
and squeezed off four quick shots. Pinky took care of the rest. We
hurried through the curtains, just in time.
There was an uproar building in the back of tourist, with about
sixty percent of the goats already processed. Cristabel glanced at
me, and I nodded.
"Okay, folks," she bawled. "I want you to be quiet. Calm down
and listen up. You, fathead, pipe down before I cram my foot up
your ass sideways."
The shock of hearing her talk like that was enough to buy us a
little time, anyway. We had formed a skirmish line across the
width of the plane, guns out, steadied on seat backs, aimed at the
milling, befuddled group of thirty goats.
The guns are enough to awe all but the most foolhardy. In es-
sence, a standard-issue stunner is just a plastic rod with two grids
about six inches apart. There's not enough metal in it to set off a
hijack alarm. And to people from the Stone Age to about 2190 it
doesn't look any more like a weapon than a ball-point pen. So
Equipment Section jazzes them up in a plastic shell to real Buck
Rogers blasters, with a dozen knobs and lights that flash and a
barrel like the snout of a hog. Hardly anyone ever walks into one.
"We are in great danger, and time is short. You must all do
exactly as I tell you, and you will be safe."
You can't give them time to think, you have to rely on your
status as the Voice of Authority. The situation is just not going to
make sense to them, no matter how you explain it.
"Just a minute, I think you owe us — "
An airborne lawyer. I made a snap decision, thumbed the
fireworks switch on my gun, and shot him.
The gun made a sound like a flying saucer with hemorrhoids,
spit sparks and little jets of flame, and extended a green laser
fmger to his forehead. He dropped.
All pure kark, of course. But it sure is impressive.
And it's damn risky, too. I had to choose between a panic if the
fathead got them to thinking, and a possible panic from the flash
of the gun. But when a 20th gets to talking about his "rights" and
what he is "owed," things can get out of hand. It's infectious.
It worked. There was a lot of shouting, people ducking behind
seats, but no rush. We could have handled it, but we needed some
of them conscious if we were ever going to finish the Snatch.
"Get up. Get up, you slugs!" Cristabel yelled. "He's stunned,
nothing worse. But I'll kill the next one who gets out of line. Now
get to your feet and do what I tell you. Children first! Hurry, as
fast as you can, to the front of the plane. Do what the stewardess
tells you. Come on, kids, move!"
I ran back into first class just ahead of the kids, turned at the
open restroom door, and got on my knees.
They were petrified. There were five of them — crying, some of
them, which always chokes me up — looking left and right at dead
people in the first class seats, stumbling, near panic.
"Come on, kids," I called to them, giving my special smile.
"Your parents will be along in just a minute. Everything's going
to be all right, I promise you. Come on."
I got three of them through. The fourth balked. She was deter-
mined not to go through that door. She spread her legs and arms
and I couldn't push her through. I will not hit a child, never. She
raked her nails over my face. My wig came off, and she gaped at
my bare head. I shoved her through.
Number five was sitting in the aisle, bawling. He was maybe
seven. I ran back and picked him up, hugged him and kissed him,
and tossed him through. God, I needed a rest, but I was needed in
"You, you, you, and you. Okay, you too. Help him, will you?"
Pinky had a practiced eye for the ones that wouldn't be any use to
anyone, even themselves. We herded them toward the front of the
plane, then deployed ourselves along the left side where we could
cover the workers. It didn't take long to prod them into action. We
had them dragging the limp bodies forward as fast as they could
go. Me and Cristabel were in tourist, with the others up front.
Adrenalin was being catabolized in my body now; the rush of
action left me and I started to feel very tired. There's an unavoid-
able feeling of sympathy for the poor dumb goats that starts to
get me about this stage of the game. Sure, they were better off,
sure they were going to die if we didn't get them off the plane.
But when they saw the other side they were going to have a hard
time believing it.
The first ones were returning for a second load, stunned at
what they'd just seen: dozens of people being put into a cubicle
that was crowded when it was empty. One college student looked
like he'd been hit in the stomach. He stopped by me and his eyes
"Look, I want to help you people, just . . . what's going onl Is
this some new kind of rescue? I mean, are we going to crash — "
I switched my gun to prod and brushed it across his cheek. He
gasped, and fell back.
"Shut your fuggin' mouth and get moving, or I'll kill you." It
would be hours before his jaw was in shape to ask any more
We cleared tourist and moved up. A couple of the work gang
were pretty damn pooped by then. Muscles like horses, all of
them, but they can hardly run up a flight of stairs. We let some of
them go through, including a couple that were at least fifty years
old. Je-zuz. Fifty! We got down to a core of four men and two
women who seemed strong, and worked them until they nearly
dropped. But we processed everyone in twenty -five minutes.
The portapak came through as we were stripping off our
clothes. Cristabel knocked on the door to the cockpit and Dave
came out, already naked. A bad sign.
"I had to cork 'em," he said. "Bleeding Captain just had to
made his Grand March through the plane. I tried everything.''
Sometimes you have to do it. The plane was on autopilot, as it
normally would be at this time. But if any of us did anything det-
rimental to the craft, changed the fixed course of events in any
way, that would be it. All that work for nothing, and Flight 128
inaccessible to us for all Time. I don't know sludge about time
theory, but I know the practical angles. We can do things in the
past only at times and in places where it won't make any differ-
ence. We have to cover our tracks. There's flexibility; once a
Snatcher left her gun behind and it went in with the plane. No-
body found it, or if they did, they didn't have the smoggiest idea
of what it was, so we were okay.
Flight 128 was mechanical failure. That's the best kind; it
means we don't have to keep the pilot unaware of the situation in
the cabin right down to ground level. We can cork him and fly the
plane, since there's nothing he could have done to save the flight
anyway. A pilot-error smash is almost impossible to Snatch. We
mostly work mid-airs, bombs, and structural failures. If there's
even one survivor, we can't touch it. It would not fit the fabric of
space-time, which is immutable (though it can stretch a little),
and we'd all just fade away and appear back in the ready-room.
My head was hurting. I wanted that portapak very badly.
"Who has the most hours on a 707?" Pinky did, so I sent her to
the cabin, along with Dave, who could do the pilot's voice for air
traffic control. You have to have a believable record in the flight
recorder, too. They trailed two long tubes from the portapak, and
the rest of us hooked in up close. We stood there, each of us smok-
ing a fistful of cigarettes, wanting to finish them but hoping there
wouldn't be time. The gate had vanished as soon as we tossed our
clothes and the flight crew through.
But we didn't worry long. There's other nice things about
Snatching, but nothing to compare with the rush of plugging into
a portapak. The wake-up transfusion is nothing but fresh blood,
rich in oxygen and sugars. What we were getting now was an in-
sane brew of concentrated adrenalin, super-saturated hemoglobin,
methedrine, white lightning, TNT, and Kickapoo joyjuice. It was
like a firecracker in your heart; a boot in the box that rattled
"I'm growing hair on my chest," Cristabel said, solemnly. Ev-
"Would someone hand me my eyeballs?"
"The blue ones, or the red ones?"
"I think my ass just fell off*."
We'd heard them all before, but we howled anyway. We were
strong, strong, and for one golden moment we had no worries. Ev-
erything was hilarious. I could have torn sheet metal with my
But you get hyper on that mix. When the gage didn't show, and
didn't show, and didn't sweetjeez show we all started milling. This
bird wasn't going to fly all that much longer.
Then it did show, and we turned on. The first of the wimps
came through, dressed in the clothes taken fi-om a passenger it
had been picked to resemble.
"Two thirty-five elapsed upside time," Cristabel announced.
It is a deadening routine. You grab the harness around the
wimp's shoulders and drag it along the aisle, after consulting the
seat number painted on its forehead. The paint would last three
minutes. You seat it, strap it in, break open the harness and
carry it back to toss through the gate as you grab the next one.
You have to take it for granted they've done the work right on
the other side: fillings in the teeth, fingerprints, the right match
in height and weight and hair color. Most of those things don't
matter much, especially on Flight 128 which was a crash-and-
burn. There would be bits and pieces, and burned to a crisp at
that. But you can't take chances. Those rescue workers are pretty
thorough on the parts they do find; the dental work and fin-
gerprints especially are important.
I hate wimps. I really hate 'em. Every time I grab the harness
of one of them, if it's a child, I wonder if it's Alice. Are you my
kid, you vegetable, you slug, you slimy worm? I joined the Snatch-
ers right after the brain bugs ate the life out of my baby's head. I
couldn't stand to think she was the last generation, that the last
humans there would ever be would live with nothing in their
heads, medically dead by standards that prevailed even in 1979,
with computers working their muscles to keep them in tone. You
grow up, reach puberty still fertile — one in a thousand — rush to
get pregnant in your first heat. Then you find out your mom or
pop passed on a chronic disease bound right into the genes, and
none of your kids will be immune. I knew about the para-leprosy;
I grew up with my toes rotting away. But this was too much.
What do you do?
Only one in ten of the wimps had a customized face. It takes
time and a lot of skill to build a new face that will stand up to a
doctor's autopsy. The rest came pre-mutilated. We've got millions
of them; it's not hard to find a good match in the body. Most of
them would stay breathing, too dumb to stop, until they went in
with the plane.
The plane jerked, hard. I glanced at my watch. Five minutes to
impact. We should have time. I was on my last wimp. I could hear
Dave frantically calling the ground. A bomb came through the
gate, and I tossed it into the cockpit. Pinky turned on the pres-
sure sensor on the bomb and came running out, followed by Dave.
Liza was already through. I grabbed the limp dolls in stewardess
costume and tossed them to the floor. The engine fell off and a
piece of it came through the cabin. We started to depressurize.
The bomb blew away part of the cockpit (the ground crash crew
would read it — we hoped^that part of the engine came through
and killed the crew: no more words from the pilot on the flight
recorder) and we turned, slowly, left and down. I was lifted to-
ward the hole in the side of the plane, but I managed to hold onto
a seat. Cristabel wasn't so lucky. She was blown backwards.
We started to rise slightly, losing speed. Suddenly it was uphill
from where Cristabel was lying in the aisle. Blood oozed from her
temple. I glanced back; everyone was gone, and three pink-suited
wimps were piled on the floor. The plane began to stall, to nose
down, and my feet left the floor.
"Come on, Bel!" I screamed. That gate was only three feet away
from me, but I began pulling myself along to where she floated.
The plane bumped, and she hit the floor. Incredibly, it seemed to
wake her up. She started to swim toward me, and I grabbed her
hand as the floor came up to slam us again. We crawled as the
plane went through its final death agony, and we came to the
door. The gate was gone.
There wasn't anything to say. We were going in. It's hard
enough to keep the gate in place on a plane that's moving in a
straight line. When a bird gets to corkscrewing and coming apart,
the math is fearsome. So I've been told.
I embraced Cristabel and held her bloodied head. She was
groggy, but managed to smile and shrug. You take what you get.
I hurried into the restroom and got both of us down on the floor.
Back to the forward bulkhead, Cristabel between my legs, back to
front. Just like in training. We pressed our feet against the other
wall. I hugged her tightly and cried on her shoulder.
And it was there. A green glow to my left. I threw myself to-
ward it, dragging Cristabel, keeping low as two wimps were
thrown head-first through the gate above our heads. Hands
Go del I
8 VqsTar 07 Mgs Nicotine
ONLY SMC TAR.
YET TASTES so GOOD,
YOU WONT BELIEVE THE NUMBERS.
Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined
That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health.
Of All Brands Sold: Lowest lan 2 mg."lar,"0.2 mg. nicotine
av. per cigarette, FTC Repon Apr. 1976.
Kent Golden Lights: 8 mg. "tar,"
0.7 mg. nicotine av. per cigarette by FTC Method.
KENT COLOEN LIGHTS
LOWER IN TAR
THAN ALL THESE BRANDS.
Non-menthol Filter Brands
8 mg. 0.7 mg.*
Non-menthol Filter Brands
KENT GOLDEN LIGHTS
9mg. 0.7 mg.*
11 mg. 0.7 mg.
BENSON & HEDGES 100's
13 mg. 0.8 mg.
13 mg. 0.9 mg.
MARLBORO KING SIZE
13 mg. 0.8 mg.
RALEIGH EXTRA MILD
VICEROY EXTRA MILD
14mg. 0.9 mg.
14 mg. 0.8 mg.
PARLIAMENT KING SIZE
16 mg. 0.9 mg.
16mg. 1.1 mg.
16mg. 1.1 mg.
L&M KING SIZE
17 mg. I.Omg.
WINSTON KING SIZE
17mg. 1.1 mg.
17 mg. 1.3 mg.
PALL MALL 100's
17 mg. I.Omg.
Source: FTC Report Apr. 1976
*By FTC Method
rning: The Surgeon General Has
That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to
grabbed and pulled us through. I clawed my way a good five yards
along the floor. You can leave a leg on the other side and I didn't
have one to spare.
I sat up as they were carrying Cristabel to Medical. I patted her
arm as she went by on the stretcher, but she was passed out. I
wouldn't have minded passing out myself.
For a while, you can't believe it all really happened. Sometimes
it turns out it didnt happen. You come back and find out all the
goats in the holding pen have softly and suddenly vanished away
because the continuum won't tolerate the changes and paradoxes
you've put into it. The people you've worked so hard to rescue are
spread like tomato surprise all over some goddam hillside in
Carolina and all you've got left is a bunch of ruined wimps and an
exhausted Snatch Team. But not this time. I could see the goats
milling around in the holding pen, naked and more bewildered
than ever. And just starting to be really afraid.
Elfreda touched me as I passed her. She nodded, which meant
well-done in her limited repertoire of gestures. I shrugged, won-
dering if I cared, but the surplus adrenalin was still in my veins
and I found myself grinning at her. I nodded back.
Gene was standing by the holding pen. I went to him, hugged
him. I felt the juices start to flow. Damn it, let's squander a little
ration and have us a good time.
Someone was beating on the sterile glass wall of the pen. She
shouted, mouthing angry words at us. Why'? What have you done
to us? It was Mary Sondergard. She implored her bald, one-legged
twin to make her understand. She thought she had problems.
God, was she pretty. I hated her guts.
Gene pulled me away from the wall. My hands hurt, and I'd
broken off all my fake nails without scratching the glass. She was
sitting on the floor now, sobbing. I heard the voice of the briefmg
officer on the outside speaker.
". . . Centauri 3 is hospitable, with an Earth-like climate. By
that, I mean your Earth, not what it has become. You'll see more
of that later. The trip will take five years, shiptime. Upon land-
fall, you will be entitled to one horse, a plow, three axes, two
hundred kilos of seed grain . . ."
I leaned against Gene's shoulder. At their lowest ebb, this very
moment, they were so much better than us. I had maybe ten
years, half of that as a basketcase. They are our best, our very
brightest hope. Everything is up to them.
". . . that no one will be forced to go. We wish to point out
again, not for the last time, that you would all be dead without
our intervention. There are things you should know, however.
You cannot breathe our air. If you remain on Earth, you can
never leave this building. We are not like you. We are the result
of a genetic winnowing, a mutation process. We are the survivors,
but our enemies have evolved along with us. They are winning.
You, however, are immune to the diseases that afflict us . . ."
I winced, and turned away.
". . . the other hand, if you emigrate you will be given a chance
at a new life. It won't be easy, but as Americans you should be
proud of your pioneer heritage. Your ancestors survived, and so
will you. It can be a rewarding experience, and I urge you . . ."
Sure. Gene and I looked at each other and laughed. Listen to
this, folks. Five percent of you will suffer nervous breakdowns in
the next few days, and never leave. About the same number will
commit suicide, here and on the way. When you get there, sixty to
seventy percent will die in the first three years. You will die in
childbirth, be eaten by animals, bury two out of three of your
babies, starve slowly when the rains don't come. If you live, it will
be to break your back behind a plow, sun-up to dusk. New Earth is
God, how I wish I could go with them.
WHO PUTS THE CREAMY WHITE
FILLING IN THE KRAPSNAX?
by Jonathan Fast
Jonathan Fast was horn in 1948 in New York
City. He studied music and art through high
school and college, and did graduate work in
music at the University of California at
Berkeley. In 1974, he was one of several
writers who worked on the movie. Two
Missionaries, in Colombia, South America.
Mr. Fast recently returned from Malibu to
New Yprk City to settle down and write; here
is one result of that move . . .
Jack Smith was eighteen seconds olders than his sister Jane.
They had the same strawberry hair (hers bobbed at the shoulder,
his short with a cowlick that defied the comb), the same guileless
blue eyes and patch of freckles at the bridge of the nose. They
were healthy and filled with adventure and, like all seven-year-
old children, always finding their way into mischief
One day their dad, Mr. Smith, was given a new fountain pen by
the guys at the office, and what a fountain pen it was! Black with
a gold nib and clip and a gold inscription:
TO MR. SMITH —
FROM THE GUYS AT THE OFFICE
Mr. Smith put it in the top drawer of his desk and warned the
children not to play with it, an invitation to disaster.
Being the older, Jack mounted the chair and removed the pen.
(This while Mr. and Mrs. Smith were at the pta meeting and the
babysitter, a sixteen-year-old cheerleader from the local high
school, was occupied with her boyfriend in the living room.) Jack's
motive was curiosity more than mischief, but the two go hand in
"What's this do?" his sister asked, fooling with the filler clip,
and an instant later there was a blotch of ink on the wallpaper.
"Now we'll get it," Jack said.
Resourceful Jane brought a wet paper towel from the kitchen
and rubbed the blotch until her arm grew sore.
"They'll never know," she said.
"What about the pen? You emptied all the ink out."
Jane located Mr. Smith's inkwell and tried to fill the pen but,
pushing the filler clip the wrong way, cracked the shiny black
barrel. She did manage to pour some ink in the crack and, with
her brother's help, cleaned up much of what had spilled on the
carpet. The crack was sealed with scotch tape, the pen replaced in
its drawer. When Mr. and Mrs. Smith returned from the PTA
meeting, the twins were playing an innocent game of Chutes and
"Did Jack and Jane behave themselves?" Mr. Smith asked.
"Angels," the babysitter replied, buttoning her blouse, and her
boyfriend nodded emphatically.
"Mind if I write you out a check?" Mr. Smith asked, going to his
"Uh oh," Jack said, under his breath.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were not so unobservant as Jane had sup-
posed. A patina of tiny fingerprints left no doubt about the cul-
prits. The twins were marched straight to bed — no hot chocolate,
no bedtime story, and worst of all, no Captain Krap-Snax, their
favorite evening television show.
The Captain had a curly moustache and gentle brown eyes; and
when he wept, which happened at least once a show, the tears
would well up and flow like tiny rivers down either side of his
big, funny nose. Captain Krap-Snax wept over Lost Innocence,
over the Inhumanity of Man and the Anonymous Cruelty of Fate.
The kids loved it.
That night's episode was Captain Krap-Snax Solves the Riddle
of the Cosmos. Jack and Jane had been looking forward to it all
week. To have such precious knowledge so close at hand and to be
denied it was unbearable. (Captain Krap-Snax didn't pull any
punches.) They sobbed and sniffled far into the night.
Mr. Smith searched for sleep between the flowered percale, but
the sounds from the twins' room down the hall, faint, like creak-
ing hinges, kept him awake. Near midnight he put on his robe
and slippers and carried a heavy burden of guilt to their room on
tip-toe. (It wouldn't do for Mrs. Smith to find out; she called him
"Permissive" and "Weak-willed" and likened his spine to old cel-
ery. God, how he wished she'd slip in the shower and split her
pretty platinum blonde head.)
"What's all this sobbing and sniffling?" he asked, settling his
bulk at the side of Jane's bed.
"Tonight was the night." Jack buried his face in the pillow and
his voice came broken and muffled. "Captain Krap-Snax was
going to solve the riddle of the cosmos and, and . . ."
"And you made us miss it," his sister said, soberly studying the
button eye of her brown-and-white stuffed bear.
"You disobeyed me. You broke my pen." Mr. Smith tried to
sound firm, but the twins were so adorable in their red flannel
Dr. Denton's, so adorably forlorn — his resolve gave way and he
gathered them to his bosom, murmuring comforting words.
"Ah my children, my dear, dear children. Forgive us for being
so harsh with you. We try to raise you as best we know how, but
sometimes in our zeal we overstep the bounds of reason."
Now the twins saw that they had Mr. Smith just where they
wanted him and started to bargain. By the time he trudged back
to his bedroom they were a curly-haired doll, a ten-speed bike,
and a whole carton of Krap-Snax the better for it. Worth it, Mr.
Smith thought, laying his head beside his wife's cold platinum, to
hear their laughter like tiny tinkling bells; a lullaby.
"Listen carefully, my dear children," Mr. Smith said the next
day when they returned from school. "The ten-speed bicycle is in
the garage; the curly-haired doll is in the toy chest; and the car-
ton of Krap-Snax is waiting under your bed. Run up and eat them
now. If Mrs. Smith finds out, she'll hide the Krap-Snax and give
you only one a week and make you brush your teeth after eating
The twins ran to their room. Jack, being the older, reached
under the bed and pulled out a red, white, and blue carton. On the
cover. Captain Krap-Snax held up one of the delicious little cakes
and asked, in a cartoon balloon emanating from his mouth: "Who
puts the creamy white filling in the Krap-Snax?"
The riddle of the cosmos. Reminded of it, the twins grew de-
"We'll never find out," Jack sighed.
"You know," Jane said, after thinking it over for a minute,
"Dad got off pretty easy. He's out a bike and a doll and a couple of
dollars worth of cake; but we've missed The Answer."
"It's not fair."
"It's a cheat!"
They tore the crinkly cellophane off a couple of cakes and
munched glumly, musing over the injustice of it. It was a bad lot,
they decided, being children. Captain Krap-Snax understood. If
only the Captain were there, he'd know how to make it better.
They ate some more cakes and thought about the Captain's
gentle brown eyes and the way he wept for them, and they rem-
inisced about the Captain's adventures on Bongo and how he
had once saved two children, quite a lot like Jack and Jane, from
the sickle-toothed saliva-slick jaws of the Snatchensnapper.
When Mrs. Smith called them for dinner, only one Krap-Snax
remained in the carton and their bellies were round, tight little
"I'm not too hungry," Jack said, when Mrs. Smith started to
dish out the macaroni and cheese.
"Me neither," said Jane.
Mrs. Smith gazed at them, and they could almost feel the waves
of cold radiating from her platinum hair.
"Are those cake crumbs on your T-shirt, Jack?" Mrs. Smith
asked. "And do I see creamy white filling at the comer of your
mouth, Jane? You haven't, by any chance been eating Krap-Snax
before dinner?" she asked with rising rage.
"I don't think they would . . . not before dinner . . . doesn't seem
likely ..." Mr. Smith mumbled. She silenced him with an icicle to
"Straight to bed, both of you!" she snapped. "No cocoa, no bed-
time story, and I'm afraid you will miss Captain Krap-Snax
"Furthermore, I'll be keeping a close eye on Mr. Smith — don't
think I didn't notice that shiny new ten-speed bike in the garage
and the curly-haired doll in Jane's toychest — and he better not try
any of his late night tip-toeing to the twins' room."
Mr. Smith stared guiltily at his plate. His bulk seemed to droop
like warm wax.
"What a crummy deal," Jane said later, lying in the dark,
"what a crummy, crummy deal," and hurled her stuffed bear. It
hit the far wall with a satisfying thud.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, "and I'm hungry."
"There's a Krap-Snax left."
Jack snapped on the light. He pulled the carton from under the
bed, picked up the last crinkly-wrapped Krap-Snax and hesitated.
Beneath it was writing.
"Hey!" Jack said, "it's a message from the Captain," and held
it up to the lamp for easy reading. "It says: 'Kids, are your par-
ents insensitive to the agony of childhood? Do they levy cruel
punishments for deeds which should not be punished in the first
place? Send 100 proof of purchase seals to: The Captain, Post Of-
fice Box 1, Passaic, New Jersey, and I'll send something to ease
the pain.' " Jack grinned. "Count on the Captain."
At school, the twins made it known they were in the market for
Krap-Snax proof of purchase seals. Andy Wilson, whose index fin-
ger permanently plugged a nostril, had thirty-six collected to-
wards a Captain Krap-Snax Genetic Mutation rifle, which he
planned to use on his big sister. These he reluctantly traded Jack
for a month's homework and unlimited use of the new ten-speed.
Jane negotiated a similar deal with pudgy Dorothy Weiss: two
month's homework for nineteen seals she had been saving for a
Captain Krap-Snax decoder ring. Ruthless Sammy Morris sold
them seventeen for two dollars, and by the end of the week they
had scavenged twelve more from the lunchroom refuse. Plus the
seal Jack had saved the night he discovered the offer, they had
eighty-five. The remaining fifteen were purchased with piggy
bank and pooled allowances.
"What's this?" said Mr. Smith one evening, opening a special
delivery package. "For Jack and Jane Smith. Imagine! My dear
little children receiving packages, just like grown-ups. It seems
only yesterday they were toddling in their playpen and so forth
and so on."
The twins could hardly wait to get to their room to tear away
the plain brown wrapper. The package contained a scrap of paper
covered with childish scrawls, an empty medicine bottle, a little
blue box, and a cover letter written in a bold hand:
I promised you something to make your folks
shape up and when the Captain promises, he de-
First sign your name at the bottom of the scrap
of paper, just the way you'd sign a letter. Then
take one of the pills in the blue box (be sure to
have lots of water handy so it won't stick in your
Lie down on your bed holding the scrap of
paper in one hand and the empty bottle in the
Good luck and best wishes,
The twins had just finished reading it when the letter turned to
"Gosh!" said Jane.
They read the scrawls on the scrap of paper, and both signed
their names in the lower right hand corner.
"Wow!" said Jack, "I think I see the Captain's plan."
Being the older, he opened the little blue box and inside were two
little blue pills. No sooner had they swallowed the pills (one
apiece, plenty of water, just like the Captain said) when the box
also turned to dust, a dust fine as the motes that dance in a sun-
Jane lay down on her bed holding the empty bottle.
Jack lay down on his bed holding the scrap of paper.
Next morning at seven, Mr. Smith discovered the stiff little
bodies in their red flannel shrouds. Fifteen minutes later Dr.
"Is there any hope?" Mr. Smith whimpered, his face twisted in
pain, his great bulk jelly-jiggling at every sob. "We found this
empty bottle in Jane's hand."
"Sleeping pills," Dr. Klapsacks said, solemnly twirling his curly
mustache. "You should have kept them on a high shelf. You should
have had a bottle with a tamper-proof cap."
"I know, I know," Mr. Smith wailed.
"We found this scrap of paper in Jack's hand." Mrs. Smith said,
and snowflakes drifted from the corner of her eye.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Because we loved you so much, we wanted you
to be proud of us. We always tried our hardest to
be good little boys and/or girls. But we guess our
hardest wasn't good enough. Goodbye.
Jack and Jane
"You must have been very cruel," Dr. Klapsacks said, regarding
them with gentle brown eyes.
"Oh, we were," Mr. Smith said. "So very, very cruel. If only we
could have another chance ..."
Dr. Klapsacks was bending over Jane, peeling back her eyelid.
He rose and turned to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. "I'm afraid it's too
O • O
At noon a representative from Knapshack's Funeral Parlor ar-
rived. He had gentle brown eyes and a curly moustache and, as he
sat with Mr. and Mrs-. Smith, sharing their grief, tears streamed
down either side of his big, funny nose. Respectfully he offered his
condolences and a funeral plan kind on the pocketbook.
"They were such dear, dear little children," Mr. Smith began,
for the twentieth time that day. "If only ..."
"I'm sure," the representative said, ''they will find lasting
peace with the Almighty."
O • O
Rain drummed on the taut black skin of umbrellas. Family and
friends gathered about the ditch, high heels sinking into the mud,
polished Oxfords spattered and begrimed. The coffins were
lowered — Jack's first, being the older — and laid to rest side by
The Minister preached a moving sermon, recalling all of the
twins' virtues and nearly none of their faults (as people are apt to
do, eulogizing). He tossed a clot of mud into the ditch — it rang
hollow on the coffin top — and the gathering slowly dispersed,
shiny wet raincoated couples moving down the hill to where the
"Wonderful children," murmured Mrs. Crumpet, their second
"Angels," said Sally Snippet, a cheerleader from the local high
school, huddling under her boyfriend's umbrella.
"And what a marvelous minister!" Aunt Edna said to Uncle
Bill. "With those gentle brown eyes. I never thought it proper for
clergy to wear moustaches, but that curly one, somehow it was
just right. What was his name?" she asked Uncle Bill, thinking it
might be useful to remember for future deaths.
"Er, Stackcaps? Or was it Kapstacks?"
"Packstaps," said Uncle George, who always knew ever5rthing.
O • O
Jack awoke in musty darkness. He tried to sit up and banged
his nose on a tufted silk ceiling only inches above; nor was there
room to move to the left or right. He called for Jane. He called for
Mr. and Mrs. Smith; then for anyone who might hear.
When nobody came he stopped calling and thought to examine
the situation. He was wearing his best suit and somehow, he
realized, feeling his head, someone had managed to make his cow-
lick stay down. (Fat lot of good it would do him here, wherever he
was.) He felt all around for an opening, a latch or a lightswitch,
but the rhomboid tufted silk ran the radius of his reach uninter-
rupted. He was cold. Damp. Lonely, oh so lonely! He started to
He didn't know how long he cried, but there came a time when
the little space smelled musty indeed and he had difficulty filling
his lungs. He began to cough and choke and scream senselessly.
Then the floor fell out like a funhouse ride and he was falling,
the way he fell in his dreams, right down to the middle of the
Earth, perhaps. He landed — plop! — on a soft feather bed. It was
still dark but he knew someone was beside him.
"Jane?" he asked softly, tentatively.
"Jack?" came his sister's voice from the darkness.
What a joyful reunion that was! They were still hungry and
cold and lost, but at least they were together, wonderful together.
(And isn't that half the twin terror of death? Alone and Forever.)
Feeling their way before them, they found the edge of the bed.
Jack, being the older, slid over the side, fell four feet and landed
up to his ankles in a warm soupy liquid. Jane followed and they
began to walk.
He was wearing his best shoes, and after a while the liquid
soaked the soles and he felt like he was walking on accordions.
"It might be easier," he said, "if we took off our shoes and
socks." So they did and the slimy floor squished between their
toes, and tiny minnow-like somethings brushed against their feet.
Once they counted together to three and shouted, "Help, help,
help," loud as they could; but the darkness swallowed their voices
and scared them all the more.
"This reminds me," Jane said, "of Bongo," and instantly regret-
ted it; for Bongo was the home of, among other nameless, shape-
less terrors, the Snatchensnapper.
"Naw," said Jack. "It's nothing like Bongo. I think we're at the
ocean and it's night."
Jane appreciated this, though neither of them believed it.
If it had been night, then a time came when it should have
been day, but the darkness remained absolute and impenetrable.
They surely would have fallen from hunger and fatigue, if not for
the beacon. It showed first like a star at the horizon. Their spirits
soared to see it and they walked faster and the bounce came back
to their step.
Gradually the beacon grew to a bar of yellow light and the
twins were running, splashing and slipping in the warm soupy
"It's a sign," Jack panted, "a light-up sign, like at the bowling
Then they were standing beneath it, and the sign shined down
on them, turning their troubled faces the color of old newspaper.
The sign said: krap-snax.
Beneath the sign was a door. On the door was a bell. Jack,
being the older, rang.
They were blinded by light when the door opened.
"I've been expecting you kids," a voice said, and the voice was
deep and rich and resonant. They recognized it immediately.
"Gosh, Captain," Jack said, "what are you doing here?" and vis-
ored his eyes, trying to see.
"I'm here to meet you," the Captain said. "Come on in."
They stumbled across the doorstep and their feet touched dry
steel nubbly with rivets.
"Where are we?" Jane asked.
"We're on Bongo," the Captain said, then added quickly, seeing
the fearful look on the twins' faces, "but don't worry, you're safe
Soon their eyes adjusted to the light and they could make out
his reassuring features: the gentle brown eyes, curly moustache.
110 KINDERTOTENLIEDER /
The big, funny nose. The compassionate line of his lips.
They were standing in a narrow hallway. The Captain took
them by the hand and led them through a second door, into a
cavernous room. Great arc lights set high above glared off the
riveted steel and the din of machinery was painful to the ear.
Thousands of children Jack and Jane's age sat in rows, bending
over conveyer belts.
"Well," the Captain said, rubbing his hands, "it's time to get to
work. Here are your official Captain Krap-Snax ladles."
"Thanks, Captain," the twins said, and Jane added, "Whew!
These sure are heavy!"
The Captain led them to an enormous vat filled with thick,
white cream, and showed them how to fill their ladles. He seated
them in two empty chairs by the conveyer belt. The chairs were
steel and hard.
"Hey, Captain," Jack said, pointing to the conveyer belt, "aren't
those Krap-Snax cakes?"
"They will be," the Cdptain replied, "once you put in the
creamy white filling."
"Oh," said Jane, looking a little disappointed.
"Somebody has to do it," the Captain said.
"I guess," Jack agreed.
The little black-haired boy on his right was thin and wan, Jack
noticed, and extremely nervous. He kept up a frantic pace, part-
ing each cake, pouring the filling, sealing the wound, now and
then glancing fearfully at the Captain.
"What if we don't want to?" Jack asked.
"Then you go in there." The Captain pointed to a door the twins
hadn't noticed before. It was steel with reinforcements riveted
across it, and from behind it came a wet snorting, drooling sound
that made their skin crawl.
"What's in there?" Jane asked.
"The Snatchensnapper," the Captain replied.
And the twins went to work without so much as a grumble.
PERIOD OF TOTALITY
by Fred Saberhagen
Just recently, the author moved from his
birthplace, Chicago, to New Mexico, where he
and his family are enjoying the sun and
scenery. His wife teaches mathematics, his
children wear home-made 'Berserker' T-shirts
to SF conventions, and Mr. Saberhagen has
been selling science fiction since 1961.
The old man in the spacesuit came out of the low cave mouth,
squinting out across the scarred and airless surface of the world
informally called Slag. The land before him was a jumble of cra-
ters and hillocks and strange structures like frozen wave-foam,
some of which looked almost like examples of wind-erosion. Gray
was the predominant color, in shades ranging from glaring silver
to dull near-black. Kilometers away, though looking deceptively
nearer in the airless distance, the silvery ovoid of an interstellar
spaceship waited, balancing on its larger end. The old man's gaze
was turned toward the ship, and from the same general direction
a double line of wide-wheeled vehicle tracks approached the place
where he was standing. The tracks wound around some of the
more difficult features of the landscape, and finally vanished in
the broad-mouthed cave.
The cave gaped like a small black mouth in the high, silvery
scarp which, like a pedestal, held Slag's sole mountain on display.
It would not have been much of a mountain anywhere else, but
here it dominated all.
In his suited hands the old man gripped a broad, flat plate that
might have made the seat of an uncomfortable chair. He bent
down and hurriedly positioned this plate on the powdery, crum-
bling soil, so that its flat side faced as squarely as possible toward
the dwarfish sun, now creeping toward a prolonged noon. Behind
the optical shelter of his faceplate the man's eyes were raised
momentarily toward that alien sun, burning with a somehow
dead-looking whiteness amid its unnamed constellations. A satel-
lite looking somewhat broader than Earth's moon as seen from
Earth showed a white scimitar of waning crescent. Without tarry-
112 PERIOD OF TOTALITY
ing, the man turned and hurried back into the cave, erich du bos
said the letters across his spacesuit's back.
At the start, the cave was a low overhang of rock, nearly fifty
meters broad, though very shallow; inside that, its first real, shel-
tered chamber was only a tenth as wide, much deeper, and high
enough to offer ample standing room. The cave seemed to be a
series of bubble-spaces left in the mountain's base by some an-
cient outgassing of the planet's interior. Once inside, Du Bos
edged his way around the low-slung, functional bulk of the roof-
less ground vehicle that took up a good part of this chamber's
space, and came to stand beside his two shipmates. Clad in suits
similar to his, they were silently gazing at the readout unit of the
radiation counter whose pickup Du Bos had just positioned out-
side facing the sun. The counter was mounted in the vehicle's
As Du Bos watched now, Einar Amdo, ship's captain and com-
mander of the small expedition, reached out a suited arm and
switched scales on the counter. The wavering line of illuminated
nines that ran across its digital panel wavered a little more, and
then maintained its testimony that the intensity of the corpuscu-
lar radiation sleeting down outside was still in excess of the in-
strument's capacity to count at present settings. Amdo had to
switch to an even less sensitive scale to get a meaningful reading,
and the reading increased even as they watched. The wind that
had driven the explorers to shelter was still rising.
Outside the cave, all across the eternally sun-roasted landscape
of this hemisphere of Slag, the storm of solar wind raged on, a
deluge of subatomic particles from the so-innocent-looking sun,
Du Bos was generally accounted one of the finest astrophysicists
in the galaxy — or at least in that modest portion of it that had
been colonized by Earth-descended man — but this storm had
taken him completely by surprise. Nothing in the decades of re-
cords of this sun's spectrum and light-curves, made from far
away, or in his own observations since coming in-system here a
few standard days ago, had prepared him for any such squalling
solar gale as this. A few days ago, a few hours ago even, the star
had presented a corona quite mild and normal for its type. Then,
out of nowhere as it seemed, a blizzard of protons, a hail of neut-
rons, an avalanche of helium nuclei ... all without the least trace
of optical flaring on the sun, flaring that by all the known rules
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 113
should have come to give a necessary and sufficient warning, as
dark clouds and dropping pressure warn the mariner.
Du Bos leaned forward slightly, the captain drew back a little,
deferentially, and the scientist took over the counter's controls.
With it he sampled the divers types and energies of particles in
the bombardment outside. He grunted and shook his head,
thought things over, and tried again.
When Du Bos stood back from the counter a little later, he an-
nounced: "There are only two things about this flux of particles
that I can say now, with any certainty. First, some new refine-
ment of astrophysical theory is going to be required to explain it.
"Second, if we should have to leave this deep cave while it is
still in progress — did you estimate about twenty minutes' driving
time back to the ship, captain? — well, we are not likely to survive
for that length of time outside."
"If we're in difficulties," said a girl's crisp voice, through the
small radio speaker inside Du Bos's helmet, "it's my fault. That
twenty minutes, I mean." Selina Jabal, third member of the ex-
pedition, continued: "Airless planetary surfaces are supposed to be
"And survival is supposed to be mine," said Captain Amdo. "So
I can assume the burden for whatever difficulties we have. But
first let's see just how serious they are." He moved to begin an
inspection of the reserve oxygen tanks, which were stowed aboard
Selina had meant that the grotesque appearance of the land-
scape, seen close up, should have at once suggested to her expert
eye the possibility that this surface underwent periodic intense
bombardment by particle radiation; and, just as important, she
should have been aware that what seemed to be solid surface
here, safe for their loaded vehicle, might prove as treacherous as
any glacial icefield.
They had come to this system seeking an explanation for
Slag's — and its satellite's — survival of the nova explosions that
must have accompanied the reduction of this star to its present
white dwarf stage. They had decided to land near the mountain,
by far Slag's most conspicuous surface feature; and they had dri-
ven toward the mountain in their groundcar for less than a
kilometer before being nearly killed when crevasses opened up
behind them and ahead, as surface features eaten and eroded by
114 PERIOD OF TOTALITY
ages of radiation suddenly collapsed beneath the expedition's
For a short time it had seemed that they were trapped, between^
bottomless-looking though narrow chasms. But their vehicle, its
four-wheel electric motor drive powered by counter-rotating
flywheels, was stable and agile as a mule, and considerably more
powerful. They had driven on to solid ground; then the only appa-
rent trouble, which at first seemed minor, was that the shortest
feasible return route to the ship, one skirting the crevasse com-
plex, had become twenty minutes long instead of two.
Amdo had the figures now on the factor that made the situation
deadly. The captain, rather stocky, and almost perfectly bald in-
side his helmet, turned back and gave the bad news to the others.
"Well, if this storm goes on for sixteen hours or more, we're going
to face a very serious oxygen problem in trying to wait it out. Du
Bos, what are the chances are that it will last that long?"
"I can't say," the tall, gray astrophysicist answered instantly.
"It would be sheer guesswork if I tried."
Selina Jabal, her figure even in its suit showing a suggestion of
slender grace, was bending to aim one of her suit lights toward
the cave's entrance. A small portion of the outside surface could
be seen from this sheltered observation post.
"Kind of a fairy-castle structure," she mused on radio. "Obvi-
ous, even exaggerated. I should have thought of subatomic parti-
cle bombardment as soon as I saw it."
Captain Amdo squatted down beside her. "I suppose there's no
telling from the condition of the surface how often these storms
erupt, or how long they're likely to last."
"I don't see how. At least not without a major research project."
Selina Jabal continued to stare at the surface, just at the en-
trance to the cave. "Look . . . captain, we just drove the vehicle in
here once, didn't we? I mean, we didn't maneuver in and out to fit
the parking space or anything."
"No ... by God, I see what you're looking at. You're right."
They were all bending down and looking now. There in the
brittle, crumbly soil ran what must be the track of their vehicle's
left front roller, partially obliterated by the track of the left rear,
which crossed it in a curve that showed how the tractor had been
steered into this fortuitous shelter, less than a minute after the
radiation alarm had sounded.
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 115
Now, just what had made those other, older, weathered-looking
roller tracks that lay beneath their own?
Outside the cave, erosion that must have been wrought at least
in part by repeated solar storms seemed to have destroyed any old
tracks that might otherwise have existed. And inside the cave
their own booted feet had already trampled almost everywhere
except directly beneath the vehicle.
Amdo was down on hands and knees, already looking there.
"Another vehicle was in here once," he announced, focusing his
suit lights. "More old tracks, plainer here. It had a different style
of rollers from ours. In fact that looks like the kind of roller they
had in use about the time ..."
He was on his feet again abruptly, flashing his light about the
cave, into niches and recesses toward which the refugees had
scarcely looked as yet. "That's not one of ours."
It was a portable oxygen tank, propped on a natural rock shelf
in what would have been a prominent position if the whole
chamber of the cave had been evenly lighted. In a moment they
all saw that the tank was weighting down what appeared to be a
folded sheet of writing plastic.
"I'd say it's about as old as the rollers that made those tracks,"
said Amdo, giving the oxygen cylinder a cursory examination as
he took it down from the niche. "And empty now, of course."
He next took down the writing plastic from the shelf, and
opened its single fold. Its white surface lit up the whole chamber
as the beams from three suit lamps fell on it at close range. There
were a few paragraphs of handwriting, a rather unstable, wander-
The message, in the lingua franca of space exploration, began
with a date, some forty standard years in the past, and told how
the writer had been trapped in the cave, away from his ship, by
an unforeseen particle storm issuing from an optically stable sun.
It went on:
Part of the risk (which I have accepted) of working
alone is that there's now no one in the ship to
move her to me.
No eclipse is due in the next couple of hours, so
the one posible answer I have worked out won't do
me any good. If an eclipse were coming, the ac-
IIQ PERIOD OF TOTALITY
companying particle eclipse could save me. It be-
gins in a different place, and some time ahead of
the optical eclipse, but overlap of the areas shadod
should be large. The white dwarf is so small that
the optical period of totality is long — I would get
the few minutes respite I need to reach my ship.
Have been trapped in cave over 200 hours now
with no letup of storm, and will just have to make
a dash for it if weather is no better by the time my
oxygen is down to half an hour. Have tried to rig a
shield over the tractor with flooring & other gear
but not much hope for it I fear. Not much hope
that anyone will find this either but one tries.
"So, that's what happened to Medellin," mused Amdo as he
turned the sheet over in gloved fingers, started to refold it au-
tomatically, and then gave it instead to Du Bos who had put out a
The captain turned then, and caught sight of Selina Jabal's
puzzled look behind her faceplate. "Maybe you've never heard of
him. Medellin was an explorer and a rather crankish scientist — "
"Pseudoscientist," put in Du Bos, with brief contempt.
"Whatever. He had some fancy theories about protostars and
other things, that are quite out of favor now. Quite a controver-
sialist, but with enough fame and authority to be allowed to go
rattling around on solo exploration trips, on one of which he dis-
appeared, no one knew where. There was quite a furor at the
time, and there are still flurries of speculation on his fate." The
captain spread his hands out, palms up, pulled them back. "Now
we know. He was evidently in this cave, for the same reason we
are, though I don't think anyone even guessed he was in this sys-
tem. Once you start to take a close look at Slag, you want to see
the mountain; and once you examine the mountain, there's this
cave-mouth showing up like an empty eyesocket."
"We didn't see his ship," Selina mused. "But I suppose he could
have taken off, even if he didn't make it — afterwards."
Amdo asked: "What's this he says about particle eclipses?
Likely to do us any good?"
The astronomer was still poring over the note. "He was evi-
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 117
dently already suffering from anoxia when he wrote this — there
are several misspellings. Of course, a particle eclipse should real-
ly begin after the optical eclipse, not earlier. The particles take
longer to get here from the sun than the light does."
"But a particle eclipse should actually occur?"
"Oh, yes. I believe there's some similar effect in the Sun-
Earth-Moon system, for example. Of course there the solar wind
intensity can't be anything like this, but the principle will be the
same." Du Bos pulled his calculator from its holster at his belt.
"To determine when the next eclipse is due here, I'll have to go
outside long enough to take a sighting or two on the satellite."
Privately, Du Bos was hopeful. The orbital plane of the moon of
Slag was nearly parallel with that of the planet's orbit around its
sun, so that a solar eclipse must come during nearly every revolu-
tion of the satellite. While approaching for a landing, the explor-
ers had seen the broad spot of the shadow on the slow-rotating
It was the young woman's turn now to study the note, while Du
Bos selected instruments from the vehicle and went to make his
observations. Amdo volunteered to take a turn outside, and thus
minimize the older man's exposure to radiation, but Du Bos
brushed him off. Less than a minute should be required, he said,
and he preferred to do his own observing.
He was back as promptly as promised, and the relief in his
voice was evident. "We're in luck. There'll be an eclipse this con-
junction, we're right in its path, and first contact is due only
about two standard hours and fifteen minutes from now. Totality
will come very quickly after that and should last about twelve
minutes, for the optical eclipse. Then we can watch for the parti-
cle eclipse — just how long it will last is hard to estimate — and be
ready to move out in the vehicle the instant the radiation falls
off. For the next couple of hours I suppose we'd better get some
rest and conserve our air."
Amdo's smile was broad. "Sounds like a good plan." Selina
stood straighter, and some of her innate sprightliness came back.
When the two men went into an inner chamber of the cave to
rest, where there was reasonable room to stretch out at approxi-
mately full length, she remained in the larger room, saying she
wanted to do a little work.
Alone, she first set about gathering some samples of material
118 PERIOD OF TOTALITY
from the floors and walls of the cave, and. taking photographs.
Shortly she paused, to frowningly re-read Medellin's note. Then
she stowed her samples and pictures neatly on the vehicle, and
unrolled a new sheet of plasticized paper, used for field notes and
sketches, from a container on the same rack. She affixed the
paper to a handy flat spot provided on the tractor's flank, and
began to draw, still frowning.
It was about half an hour later when she approached the rest-
ing men, sketch in her hand.
"Doctor Du Bos?"
His eyes opened alertly on the instant. "Yes?"
Her tone was almost apologetic. "I've been trying to figure this
out . . . look, it seems to me that maybe Medellin was right when
he said that the particle eclipse comes first."
She squatted down beside the old man, holding out her dia-
gram. It was done rather sloppily, and Amdo looking at it from Du
Bos's other side could not really make out the point of it. Of
course the large arc must be meant as a segment of Slag's orbit
round its sun. And around the little circle that must be Slag a
larger concentric circle was sketched in, holding a dot that was
evidently supposed to represent the satellite in its path around
"No," said Du Bos. He started to reach for his calculator, then
let it stay unneeded in its case. "Look, the light from the sun gets
here in eight or nine minutes. The particles of this dangerous
radiation travel much slower than light — we're not concerned
with gamma rays or x-rays here, for example ..."
"I understand that."
"Of course. Well, the particles take much longer to travel the
same distance . . ." He went on, phrasing it a different way, then
in still other words after that.
Amdo thought he would hate to have to argue with this man.
Selina tried once or twice to get a word in, then in effect gave up.
The expression of uncertainty with which she had approached the
men stayed on her face.
" — understand?" Du Bos concluded.
She signed assent — or maybe it was only surrender — with a
nod, and sealed it with a vague smile. "There's some more work I
want to do," she said, and stood up and went back to the main
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 119
Amdo and Du Bos exchanged a glance. The scientist signed that
they should switch their suit radios to an alternate channel.
"I'm a little worried about the girl," Du Bos said when they had
done this. "It hit her rather hard, evidently, that she failed to
keep us out of this mess we're in by foreseeing the collapsing sur-
face structures. Now I'd say she's trying a little too hard to prove
herself, accomplish something to make amends."
"Maybe." Amdo pondered. "You see any reason to believe that
she's not going to be all right?"
"Personnel psychology's more your field than mine. I just
thought I'd better pass on my impression."
Amdo was silent for some minutes. "I'll just take a little walk,"
he said then, and got to his feet, switching his radio back to the
normal channel as he did so; he noted from a corner of his eye
that Du Bos, remaining at rest, switched back too.
After the captain went out, Du Bos continued to rest against
the cave wall, with the equanimity of one who has lived long
enough and well enough to feel himself at least partially at home
in any part of the universe that man could reach and enter. He
had not the least intention of dying of radiation or lack of air on
this forsaken world. But such would be an acceptable end, for
him, if fate should have it so.
On a sudden impulse he switched once more to the alternate
channel of communications, and picked up Selina Jabal's voice in
mid-sentence: "... does come before the optical eclipse."
"Look," came Amdo's patient reply, "you showed this to Doctor
Du Bos, right?"
Du Bos switched them off. Settling this kind of difficulty was
the captain's field. In his mind as he drifted toward sleep he saw
the white dwarf, isolated in a pure mathematical space; and he
began to play with' a subtle equation that might tell what sequence
it had followed to reach this state without the total destruction of
its planets. Maybe enlightenment would come to him, as to
Kekule, in a dream ... he was only vaguely aware of it when
Amdo came back to sit down tiredly beside him once again.
The flywheel-powered electric motors of the tractor worked in
the next thing to perfect silence and freedom from vibration, so
all that woke them both from edgy sleep, coming through rock
and suit to flesh and bone, was the gentle crunching of its rollers
on the ground.
120 PERIOD OF TOTALITY
And, only a second or two later, Selina's voice on radio: "The
particle readings have dropped, all across the board. Fm off to get
Both men, wide awake at once, scrambled into the main room
of the cave, the captain only a step ahead. The chamber was big
and empty without the vehicle. Selina had left the radiation
meter behind, sitting on the ledge where Medellin had left his
note. At the moment, the readings on the meter's face were in
fact very low.
Du Bos hastily checked his chronometer — first contact on the
optical eclipse, according to his calculations, was not due for*
another hour. Then he quickly followed Amdo out of the cave,
onto the glaring surface, and at once looked up to check the posi-
tion of the moon in the black sky. As expected, its wide silvery
crescent was still on the same side of, though now much closer to,
the immobile, dazzling sun.
Amdo had taken half a dozen quick strides and then stopped,
staring in frustration after the receding vehicle. Glowing orange
out here in the sun's glare, it was already much too far away for
a man chasing it on foot to have any chance of catching up and
grabbing on. And it was dwindling quickly, evidently moving at
speed as Selina steered it on a sinuous course, keeping to the
safest ground as she went the long way round to get the ship.
The captain's voice on radio was calm, "Selina. If — when you
get the ship lifted and moved over here, set her down on the
white rock about a hundred meters in front of the cave. That
looks about the solidest."
"Understand, captain," the girl's voice came back. "That does
look like the best place. I'm sorry to do it this way, but I just
couldn't take the time to argue any more. If totality lasts only
about twelve minutes for the particle eclipse too, there's not a
second to waste. At best I'm going to get a good dose of radiation
at the other end, before I reach the ship and get inside."
Du Bos had Amdo by the arm and was tugging him back to-
ward the cave, and at the same time he was motioning for a
switch to the alternate radio channel.
The captain went along; and they ducked back in together,
looking up then simultaneously to see that the indicated radiation
level was still quite low. On the channel that should give them
privacy, Du Bos said: "I — I must leave it up to you as to whether
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 121
to order that girl to come back at once; but understand that
whatever has caused this apparent lull in the storm — some
magnetic effect, perhaps — may change again at any moment."
"In the first place, I don't think she'd come back, if I gave the
Du Bos was still gripping him. "Another possibility is that the
counter's pickup unit" — he nodded toward the outside — "may have
failed under overload. You'd better get her back."
"And in the second place, Doctor Du Bos, I do know something
about our hardware. These counters are very unlikely to be
knocked out by a particle bombardment. In the third place,
Medellin didn't have any temporary magnetic lulls in his storm;
I'm sure he would have taken advantage of one if it had come."
As if reluctantly, the captain added: "He did say that the particle
eclipse should come first. He had no authority with him and he
had to think the thing out for himself."
The old man stiffened. "It can't work that way, I tell you."
"Doctor Du Bos, eclipses are not quite the same thing as as-
trophysics, are they?"
Du Bos glared at him but did not answer.
r "Have you made any particular study of eclipses?"
"No, have you? Are you qualified to even begin. . . ?" The scien-
tist choked down still angrier words.
The captain grimaced. "I never did really try to figure out the
truth about when this particle eclipse should start, not even when
Selina was arguing with me ... so I'm not going to try now, not
with only ten minutes or so left before . . . one way or the other.
But two very bright people have really studied this thing, know-
ing their lives depended on it, and have come to the opposite con-
clusion from your offhand opinion. If you were Joe Doakes — "
"Which they are, in this case."
" — all right, if you were Joe Doakes too, the question would still
have been very much open. But just because you were the emi-
nent astronomer I bowed my head to you and never tried to think
it out. And that I do regret. This trip so far hasn't been exactly
my finest effort in space."
He glanced up abruptly at the counter, then switched to the
radio channel that Selina presumably still was using. "How's ft
"Good enough, captain."
122 PERIOD OF TOTALITY
"Radiation is still very low here, quite tolerable. I'll let youi
know at once of any change."
"Understand, captain. Thank you. Fifteen more minutes and I|
should be in the ship." I
About two more minutes of silence passed, before Du Bosj
walked out into the middle of the empty-looking cave, and squat- '
ted down to sketch with a gloved finger on the crumbly floor his
own version of Selina's now-vanished eclipse diagram. Amdo,
watching, saw the arc of planetary orbit appear, and then the
epicyclic circle of the satellite's path; crude arrow-markers seemed
to show that each body was moving counterclockwise in its track,
as if seen from a hypothetical observers' post somewhere high
above the north pole of the planet.
After staring for a full minute at what he had drawn, Du Bos
stood up and got out his calculator; Amdo got the impression that
the machine was only being used this time to put into rigorous,
acceptable form something already done, like typing a document
after the last handwritten draft is done, the fateful content
known . . .
The glowing digits on the counter's face were suddenly jumping
again, and the captain got on the radio at once. "Selina, a sharp
rise in particle radiation has just started here. Not back to previ-
ous levels yet, but if it keeps on going up like this it soon will
"I understand, captain. Five more minutes and I should be in
the ship." She started to say more, but a torrent of radiation-
produced noise was cutting communication off.
Du Bos was bolstering his calculator again. He cleared his
throat; it was a startling, uncharacteristic, nervous-old-uncle
sound, that almost made Amdo jump.
Du Bos said: "The particles do take much longer than the light
to get here, as I said before. But then it doesn't follow at all that
the particle eclipse will lag the optical eclipse by the same
amount of time. You see, the particles that will strike the planet
during the optical eclipse must have passed within the satellite's
orbit some minutes earlier." He scuffed with a boot at the cave
floor as he might have waved his hand at a classroom display.
"See? The satellite in effect plows a clear space through the sea of
particles flowing outward from the sun. This wake, cleared of par-
ticles, drifts back, lagging the satellite — "
PERIOD OF TOTALITY 123
"The way the clear space under an umbrella lags behind when
you run in the rain."
"Well, yes. And although the satellite, from our point of view,
looks as if it's moving backwards, from west to east," Du Bos said,
gesturing overhead, "Slag is carrying us and the satellite along in
its orbit faster than the satellite is looping back, so the net
movement is still forward, both still clockwise with respect to the
sun, and we do enter the wake — the particle eclipse — first."
"You're saying that you were wrong."
Du Bos came over to stand beside him, watching the counter.
The radiation outside was hellish. A silence began to stretch. It
was an almost timeless stillness, reaching for eternity. But then
the silence was riddled, dissolved, made — almost — irrelevant, by
the glorious loud crunching of an eggshaped hull bottom grinding
down on rock and pumice a few tens of meters from the cave . . .
O • O
Slag was a million kilometers below, and sinking fast now be-
neath the push of interstellar engines. The corpuscular storm that
still filled this solar system raged harmlessly beyond the layer of
forces shielding the ovoid hull.
Selina lay in sickbay and Du Bos had been ministering to her.
The tall, gray man was at her bedside helping her to a drink
when Amdo came in, clutching a small wad of printout. "The
medical boxes say you may be a sick lady for a while, Selina,"
Amdo announced, waving the prognosis he had just gotten on the
bridge. "But nothing worse than that."
She smiled. And then Du Bos, who seemed to have been wait-
ing for the proper in-person witness, smiled down at her as well,
and Amdo for the first time heard from the old man something
that he could construe as evidence of greatness.
"I'm sorry," said the galaxy's first astrophysicist. "I was most
ON WETZEL'S HILL
by Sherwood Springer
A native of Pennsylvania, Sherwood Springer
now resides in Southern California. Once a
newspaperman, now his hobbies are his
occupation: he writes, paints, and fiddles with
stamps. He's best known for his studies of the
so-called Cinderella stamps — fantasies,
counterfeits, and unlisted material in the
never-never land beyond the established
frontiers of philately.
Today, by merest chance, I heard a word, a single word that
immediately began clattering up and down the corridors of my
mind, knocking on every door.
It was an unfamiliar word, and there was a bothersome urgency
about the sound of it. I tried rolling it off my tongue, but that
only strengthened the certainty that I had never spoken the word
before, or heard it used. Why, then, that feeling of unease about
it, of something far back in my memory that stirred ominously?
Nothing would surface, however, and, brushing off the mood, I
attempted to resume the pattern of my day. But the effort met re-
sistance and soon I found myself merely going through the mo-
tions of resuming my pattern, while that accursed word nagged
me insistently for attention. All of us, at some time or other, have
to face it: Some things are bigger than we are. I should have
given up at the beginning and consulted Webster.
It was there, all right, on page 658, all four tricky syllables of
it. And, surprisingly, it was a word I had used in my childhood,
but Noah's accent marks changed the pronunciation so drastically
it was no wonder the correct usage had borne no familiarity for
me. Just another example, I thought, of the many mispronuncia-
tions my mountain-bred father had handed down to me, some of
which had required years to get rooted out of my vocabulary. So
this was merely one more —
But as I closed the dictionary, my heart was pounding
strangely. Someone besides my father had mispronounced that
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 125
«?ord. Someone who . . .
Have you ever stepped on land after being seaborne for days,
ind felt the solid earth sway beneath your feet?
Mr. Porter! But he . . .
Memories long since categorized and properly stored away sud-
denly started to slide from their safe little niches and tumble into
aew order, like the jolting change in a kaleidoscope.
In shock I realized — too late by more than forty years — that on
a summer day long ago I had had it in my power to solve the
mystery of the Scorch on Wetzel's Hill. And just as suddenly I
knew for the first time that I had walked, as a ten-year-old on
that long-gone day, into the shadow of what television viewers
3all the Twilight Zone.
Two generations or more have grown up and gone away from
my home town since then — it was that kind of home town — and
3nly the oldsters will remember there ever was a mystery on
Wetzel's Hill. But there was, and it was there when I was a boy,
and even the professors from State College floundered in their ef-.
forts to explain it.
First let me tell you about the Hill, then about the events on
that day in my boyhood, and finally about the singular word that
fell on my ears today which so devastatingly changed the pattern
and meaning of those events.
Forty miles west of Shikelamy, the great stone face on the Sus-
quehanna River where the Indian was fabled to have leaped to his
death screaming, "She killa me!" lie sprawled the Seven Moun-
tains. From them a procession of valleys fan out like wrinkles in
the tortuous foothills of the Alleghenies: Poe Valley, Decker Val-
\ey, High Valley, Brush Valley, and Sugar Valley.
The mountains crowd the valleys forebodingly, and some
obscure poet once visioned them as "waiting" when he wrote:
Across the valley hill on purple hill
Loom somberly and dark against the stars,
Like wooded backs of ancient dinosaurs
That lie there buried . . . sleeping . . . still . .
One of these is known as Thunder Mountain, and just to the
126 THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL
west of Jackpine Gap it rises slightly in a dome called Bald Kno
From this elevation it pitches in a precipitous jumble of rocks and
gnarly red pine to a crescent-shaped apron about a hundred feet
above the waters of Jackpine Creek. This level apron, about two
acres in extent and overlooking the valley on one side, is known
as Wetzel's Hill.
Fifty years before I was born (my father told me), a man named
Grover Wetzel came out of the east apd saw the hill. It was
mountain land then, and untillable, but he liked what he saw and
he purchased it on the spot. Soon afterward he brought his wife
and two young sons from Hummels Wharf or Whomelsdorf or
some such place — Pennsylvania is full of towns like that — and set
to work clearing the land.
Grover Wetzel was a giant of a man. Some say he was kin to
Lewis Wetzel, the famed Indian hunter of pioneer days. Be that as
it may, he and his sons worked a miracle on the hill. Boulders,
trees, and brush melted before their labors, a cabin was built and
a garden planted. A small spring, common in that country, gur-
gled from a crevice in the mountain behind the cabin, and water
As the seasons passed, more and more of the land was cleared,
potatoes, corn, and greens were harvested, and chickens, hogs,
and a cow shared the hill with the Wetzel s. \
But the decades passed, too, and the sons grew up and foun(J
wives in the valley. One of them moved to Ohio and settled in
Akron or Cleveland or some place, and the other found a job iri
town. Granchildren were born, and Grover Wetzel and his wife
found themselves growing old on the hill.
They must have been over eighty when it happened.
Maggie Gephardt said later that a green ball of fire had come
slanting in over Shriner Mountain to the east of Bald Knob and
landed smack on Wetzel's Hill with a splash of fire. But Maggie
Gephardt was famous for seeing things like that, and nobody took
any stock in her story. She was still living when I was a boy ol
fourteen, and I can remember clearly her directions for finding
the wreck of the mail plane that carried pilot Harry Ames to his
death somewhere west of Hell's Gap. '
She had seen the plane come down, she said, and soon she had
our entire troop of Boy Scouts combing the ridge between Turpen-
tine and Spigelmyer's Hollow in a dripping fog. There's no need to
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 127
add that the flier's body was later found a full twenty miles to the
northwest, beyond so many ridges that Maggie Gephardt couldn't
possibly have seen anything connected with the crash.
But there was no doubt at all about the tragedy that occurred
on Wetzel's Hill that January night about five years before I was
born. One of the Edmonds boys was driving home in his sleigh
about three o'clock in the morning after a late date with some girl
in Brush Valley. He saw the cabin ablaze as he came through the
Gap and started arousing neighbors along Jackpine Creek. One of
them telephoned John Stover in town. As chief of the volunteer
fire department he was able to rout many townsmen from their
beds. But it was a futile effort. The roof of the cabin had already
fallen in, and the walls were on the point of collapse when the
first neighbor with his bucket reached the crest of the hill. Later
the bodies of Grover and Ruth Wetzel were found burned beyond
recognition on the remains of what had once been their bed.
It was a tragedy, of course, but not unique in those days of
fireplaces, wood stoves, and coal oil lights. Not in the dead of
winter, anyway. People shook their heads in sadness but they
were not mystified. The mystery was to come later.
The Wetzel boys and their children's families were there for the
funeral. They disposed of the livestock which had survived, and
the feed and tools which were in an outlying barn, but the land
they did not offer for sale. Some years later, when they finally did
put it on the market, it was too late.
For a curse had come to Wetzel's Hill.
It did not come overnight. The following spring was like any
other spring. My father told me that if anyone at all had noticed
anything strange on the hill that year he certainly didn't mention
it. And my father was in a position to know since he was
tollkeeper, and our house was by the old tollgate just inside the
gap and right around the bend from Wetzel's Hill. When you're a
tollkeeper, my father said, you hear everything that happens in
both valleys, and what you don't hear isn't worth knowing.
Maybe the grass and weeds up on the hill didn't grow as high
that year, and maybe they did burn brown earlier under the Au-
gust sun, but it wasn't until the following year that it really was
Some said later it was the half-wit called Pasty Pumpernickel
who first noticed the change. "It looks to me," he said one day.
128 THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL
"like it got scorched up at the old Wetzel place."
Pasty probably would have been the fu-St to see it, just by th
nature of his existence. He wandered the mountains and the town
like some friendly, homeless dog, ungainly and unlettered, sleep-
ing in barns, accepting meals where they were offered, doing odd
jobs sometimes, and perennially being made the butt of school-
kids' jokes. But if you grew up in my home town you already
know about Pasty Pumpernickel.
At any rate, a landmark was born, and even before June had
merged into July people for miles around were commenting on the
Many climbed the hill to see for themselves. They walked
around, kicked the dusty lumps of earth and shook their heads.
Grass that had sprouted in March and April was already dead.
The ground was powdery, just as if there hadn't been a drop of
rain since the snows melted. This was the peculiar part, for it had
been a wet spring, and the valley and mountainsides were lush
and green. What could have happened to Wetzel's Hill?
"It's the Lord's doing, and none of our affair," some folks said.
But there were others who had a different explanation. "Some-
body's put a hex on that patch," they said, pausing to look warily
over each shoulder. And children were warned to keep their dis-
tance. These hills, you know, are not beyond the limits of the old
Pennsylvania hex country, and disturbing memories linger there.
But the mystery, however, remained a mystery, in spite of an
investigation made by the county agent and some professors from
State College several years later. They poked around on the hill
one whole afternoon, made soil tests, and later collaborated on a
report that ran — it was said later — over 20,000 words. What this
report boiled down to was that a roughly oval area about 200 feet
long on Wetzel's Hill wasn't getting any rain. Even Pasty Pum-
pernickel could have told them that.
As the years went by, however, and the Scorch remained bare,
people referred to it only in the nature of a landmark, and so it
remained for fifteen years, or until that day in summer when I
was a ten-year-old boy.
So much for the hill.
Now I must tell you what led up to that day — and the coming of
It has long been my opinion that almost any child can become a
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 129
prodigy if his interest in a particular subject can be sufficiently
aroused and sustained. In my case my father made sure of that.
Before I was eight years old I could name on sight every species of
wildflower and tree that grew within a mile of our house. By the
age of ten I was a prancing encyclopedia on the subject (although
I must confess that now, forty years later and living in another
clime, I would be hard put to distinguish a mimosa from a cycla-
men). It was this precocious learning that led me into the series of
events that followed.
Only a small truck patch separated our house from Jackpine
Creek — and if you happen to be a fisherman you already know
there are few better trout streams in the whole state. And al-
though my father kept many a salty word on tap to prove his low
estimate of fishermen in general, and of those who left boot tracks
in his garden in particular, for my part I kept a cunning eye
cocked toward their flashing fly rods. Hemlocks, birches, and al-
ders crowded the stream and, with hungry branches waiting to
snag an unwary line, there was many a nickel to be earned by a
boy who could shinny up trees.
And that was how I met the newspaperman from Philadelphia.
While I freed his hook from a branch he stood knee deep in the
riffles and cussed the "damn spruce trees."
"This is a hemlock, mister," I said. "Spruce trees don't grow
"Well, damn the hemlocks then," he said. "What makes you
think this isn't a spruce tree?"
"It don't have spruce needles, that's why."
Whatever answer he was expecting, it wasn't that. His jaw
opened for comment, closed again, and then he burst into laugh-
ter. I remember how I liked his crinkly eyes.
After a minute he said, "By God, that makes sense. The world
could use some of it. Come down here and tell me about the nee-
Well, we sat on the bank at the edge of the truck patch and I
showed him how the hemlock needles grew all along the twigs.
Spruce needles, I told him, grow in bunches. I ran to a white pine
which stood farther upstream and brought back a switch. "See,
like this," I said. "White pine needles grow five in a bunch, sorta
long. Red pine has three, and they're shorter. Up on the ridge we
got southern yellow pine, that has two and they're awful long. We
130 THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL
also got jack pine and table mountain pine around here, but no
spruce trees — unless you go and buy one from the tree man."
"What's your name?" he asked, and he rooted in his coat for a
scratch pad and a stubby pencil. I told him my name, and we sat
there while he made notes as I reeled off answers to his queries.
Along the line somewhere I volunteered the information there
was a place to go if he got caught in the rain — the Scorch.
I swear I never met a man with so much curiosity. Right away
he wanted to know all about the Scorch, and before you know it
he had stowed his fishing gear in the car, slung a camera around
his neck, and we were climbing up the side of Wetzel's Hill. He
made some more notes, and took pictures of me and the Scorch.
Later when he said goodby I thought that was the end of it.
But it wasn't.
On a Sunday morning about two weeks later, our phone began
to ring. And it didn't stop ringing all day. All of a sudden I was a
celebrity. I guess everybody in town called up to say how they'd
seen my picture in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Along about four
o'clock my father said he wouldn't stop much and take the damn
receiver off the hook and leave it off. But we had a party line, and
you can't do a thing like that, my mother said — as if anybody else
on our line had a chance to use it that day anyway. So the calls
continued, and when I went to bed that night I couldn't sleep,
thinking how it was the biggest day of my life.
But even the greatest splash in a pond has to subside. Only in
this case one of the ripples penetrated an obscure crevice. I wasn't
to realize how obscure until more than forty years had passed.
It began about a week later with another telephone call. It was
Bill Kerstetter who ran the Union Hotel in town.
"There's a man here from Philadelphia," he told my mother,
"wants to see Sherwood about hunting wildflowers and stuff. He's
some kind of perfessor."
And that's how Mr. Porter entered my life. He came driving up
after a while in an old Ford and spent some time talking to my
father. He was a naturalist from the Museum of Natural History,
my father told me, and probably quite famous. He wanted to go
hiking the next day and hoped I would do him the favor of show-
ing him around.
Well, after he drove away, my mother had plenty to say on that
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 131
"Any man his age," she said, "with that bad heart and all, has no
business traipsing up and down these mountains with a child. He
could keel over dead."
"How can you tell he got a bad heart?" I asked.
"Blue lips, that's how. Blue lips mean a bad heart, as anybody
knows. And look at his skin, just like cheese. Poor circulation."
I had to admit Mr. Porter did have a funny look, at that, with
his curly white hair, bushy eyebrows, and those glasses he wore.
His eyes looked half pinched shut behind lenses the color of coffee.
But my father wouldn't listen to any objection. "Mr. Porter's old
enough to know what he's doing, and Sherwood knows every inch
of these mountains. If something happens and he needs help he'll
come for it." And that was that.
So next day Mr. Porter and I started up the Watery Road which
winds up the hollow back of our house. It was only a sort of road,
although my father said wagons used to use it in the old logging
days. Alders, laurel, and rhododendron choked it in many places,
and a gurgle-size stream wandered back and forth across it as if it
had forgotten where its channel was. When we got to the Land-
ing, where the old log slide used to be, we cut up the steep bank
to the hogback; and although both of us were puffing by the time
we reached the top, Mr. Porter sure didn't look to me like he was
about to keel over with a bad heart.
I was acting as if I'd had a few hookers of dandelion wine under
my belt. All a ten-year-old prodigy needs is an audience, and this
was my day. Looking back now across the years, it seems incredi-
ble that it never occurred to me there was anything peculiar
about our conversation. It would be logical to assume a boy in the
presence of a famous naturalist would try to absorb additional
knowledge, but don't bet on it. In this case the one doing the lec-
turing was the one in knee pants.
We were too late for the hepaticas, the skunk cabbage, blood-
root, and spring beauties; but other flowers were in bloom to take
their place. I showed him adderstongues with their mottled
leaves, rue anemones, Solomon seals, pipsissewas, columbines,
yellow wood violets, and my special favorite, the weird lady's slip-
"And if you get lost and hungry," I explained, "you go to work
and eat sassafras leaves." To demonstrate this life-saving infor-
mation, I tore several mitten-like leaves from a nearby tree and
132 THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL
stuffed them in my mouth. "They're good, too."
Mr. Porter smiled and also sampled the leaves, nodding his
head in assent.
Then he said a very strange thing.
"Isn't that odd? The leaves are not all the same shape."
"That's sassafras for you," I said. "Some are plain, some have
one thumb and some have two — that's the way they grow. But
they all taste alike."
We were standing now on the upper end of the hogback just be-
fore it merged into the bulk of Thunder Mountain below Bald
Knob. Behind us to the northwest stretched a rolling expanse of
wooded ridges, below us lay the gap that provided exit for the
shimmering waters of Jackpine Creek, and to the east the pon-
derous Shriner Mountain rose up and began its unbroken march
to the distant Susquehanna.
Mr. Porter was looking at his watch for the third time. When
he had hauled it out the first time I thought from its shape it was
a compass. But then I heard it tick, and who ever heard of a com-
pass that ticked? It even ticked funny for a watch.
He put it away and stared down toward the gap, where the
brown tip of the Scorch could be seen through the trees. Some-
thing must have been on his glasses, for he took them off and
began cleaning them with a handkerchief.
"I never will become used to the brightness of your sun," he
said, and I noticed he kept his eyes closed until the glasses were
back on his nose. Then he nodded toward Wetzel's Hill.
"Interesting," he said. "What is down there?"
So I had to explain to him all about the Scorch.
"I'd like very much to see it," he said.
"That ain't gonna be easy from here," I said. "You get into a lot
of rocks and thorn bushes, and you gotta look out for rattlesnakes.
We oughta go all the way back to the house, and around below."
"That would take longer, wouldn't it?"
"Yep, it sure would."
"Then let's try the rocks and thorn bushes," he said.
So we started down, and I have to admit for an old man he sure
could handle the rough going. It was no picnic, and I had
scratched arms and a tear in my shirt before we reached the bot-
tom. But by some miracle Mr. Porter, who4iad scrambled down
behind me, didn't seem to have a mark on him.
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 133
We stood on Wetzel's Hill, and Mr. Porter drew a line in the
powdery dust with the toe of his shoe.
"Strange," he said. He looked at this watch again and I could
have sworn it was ticking louder and faster than it had before.
"What's that over there?"
"That's the ruins of the old Wetzel place," I said. "Come on, I'll
The dust swirled in eddies as we clumped across the Scorch to-
ward the jumble of charred timbers and foundation stones that
marked the tragedy of fifteen years before. We walked halfway
around it, and I pointed to what was left of the old cellar hole.
Some of the rocks had fallen in, and a rough-hewn beam partially
blocked the opening, but I got down on my hands and knees and
peered into the darkness.
"Here's my hideout," I said. "It's good and cold in there on a hot
"Cold?" he said.
"Like ice," I said. "Ain't much room, but if you want to try and
crawl in, I'll show you."
Mr. Porter looked at his clothes and shook his head. "I don't
think that will be necessary."
He extended his hand to help me out of the cellar hole, and
there was an odd little smile on his lips. "How far is it back to
your home?" he asked.
"Don't you want to look for more wildflowers?"
"No, we've had quite a hike today. I'm not a youngster any-
"OK," I said, with some disappointment. "I'll show you where
the path goes down to the road. Then it's just around the bend."
So we returned to my place, and Mr. Porter talked to my father
a while, telling him of some of the things we had seen. Then he
thanked me and, winking, slipped a shiny silver dolleir into my
Saying goodby then, he climbed into the old Ford and took off
down the road. And that was the last time in my life I was ever to
see Mr. Porter, the naturali&t from Philadelphia.
And, except for the occasional times my father mentioned his
name in the year or two that followed, I have never even thought
134 THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL
Today I heard a word pronounced, and nothing — for me — will
ever be quite the same.
I could hear my father's voice again. He was a widely read man
but self-educated, and the hallmark of the self-educated is weevily
pronunciation. I remember, for instance, a print of "La Cigale"
that hung on our living room wall. My father always referred to it
as "Lacy Gale." As I grew up and braved the outside world, many
were my vocal mannerisms that needed rectifying.
But the word I heard today was the name of a wildflower, one
that I have never used or heard used since the day I left the hill
The television set was blabbing away — as it usually is in our
home, whether anyone is watching or not. The program must
have been some sort of nature study. As I passed the screen my
ear caught the single word, "Po-LYG-a-la."
This was the word that stopped me in my tracks, that sent wor-
ried messengers to probe my memory banks. Its ring was reminis-
cent of Caligula, the Roman tyrant; but nothing at all in my
memory matched its syllables. But though my ear had been
tricked, the dictionary revealed the truth of it. "Polygala," it said.
Of course, I thought. In my youth I had called the flower
"fringed polly-galla," which you must admit is a far cry from "po-
lyg-a-\a" My father had pronounced it "polly-galla." Why, even
Mr. Porter —
With vivid clarity I saw him conversing with my father after
our hike. As if it were yesterday I heard his voice: "Columbines
we found, and Solomon seals and fringed polly-gallas . . ."
But Mr. Porter was a highly educated man, and nature study
was his profession. Would he copy my father's mispronunciation?
Another memory spurted into my brain: His surprise at the in-
consistent shapes of the sassafras leaves. Then, as if they had
waited forty years to coalesce, a horde of other memories
screamed furiously for attention and new evaluation: The blue
lips, the ticking compass, Maggie Gephardt's green ball of fire,
the icy cellar hole, Mr. Porter's loss of interest in flowers after we
had seen the Scorch . . . and then, thunder ingly, what came after.
For something did come after, and never had I dreamed there
was a connection. A month must have passed before I next visited
my hideout. From above, the cellar hole looked to a casual eye
THE SCORCH ON WETZEL'S HILL 135
just as it had always looked. But when I got down on my belly to
crawl under the beam my face knitted into a puzzled frown. The
entrance was gone. Timbers and stones had become rearranged
somehow, and I wondered if some old black bear had been mess-
ing around my hideout. Even the cold air no longer seeped
through the crevices, but how a bear could have managed that
feat didn't bother me then. I got to my feet, kicked some dirt a
while, and finally shrugged the whole thing off. I had other hide-
But it took the entire valley to shrug off the next wonder. For
that fall it began to rain again on Wetzel's Hill, and after fifteen
years grass and weeds started growing on the Scorch. It was
green the next year, as green as Thunder Mountain. And, for that
matter, it's green today.
But for me, suddenly, these are no longer mysteries. I know
now that something did fall from the sky that long-ago winter
night — an object, a mechanism of unguessable description — and,
until someone secretly retrieved it, it lay buried for fifteen years
beneath the ruins on Wetzel's Hill. Among its attributes was
some form of radiation that could vaporize rain before it reached
the ground, a radiation that registered on my companion's
"watch," and that my body at close range translated into degrees
I perceived another attribute: The object was of incalculable
importance to someone. The arrival of Mr. Porter so soon after the
newspaper story of the Scorch could have been no coincidence. He
or "they" must have been searching — perhaps for fifteen years.
Ergo, the mechanism must have fallen to earth accidentally. But
who, in those days, had any craft that could reach the altitude
necessary to produce the scorching velocity of its fall? Surely not
our own government. Surely no European or Asiatic power.
With a start I remembered Mr. Porter's words as he cleaned his
"I will never become used to the brightness of your sun."
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A SOLUTION TO THE DOCTORS' DILEMMA
(from page 39)
Let lA stand for the insides of the first pair of gloves, IB for
the outsides. Let 2A stand for the insides of the second pair, 2B
for the outsides.
Dr. Xenophon wears both pairs, the second on top of the first.
Sides lA and 2B may become contaminated. Sides IB and 2 A re-
main sterile. Dr. Ypsilanti wears the second pair, with sterile
sides 2'A touching his hands. Dr. Zeno turns the first pair inside
out before putting them on. Sterile sides IB will then be touching
After Dr. Zeno finished operating, his nurse, Ms. Frisbie, was
furious. "You boneheads ought to be ashamed! You protected
yourselves, but forgot about poor Ms. Hooker. If Dr. Xenophon has
the flu, Mrs. Hooker could catch it from the gloves you and Dr.
"Are you suggesting, Ms. Frisbie," asked Dr. Zeno, "that we
could have prevented that?"
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting."
Then, to Dr. Zeno's amazement, Ms. Frisbie explained how they
could have followed another procedure that would have elimi-
nated not only the possibility of the surgeons catching the Bar-
soomian flu from one another or from Ms. Hooker, but also the
possibility of Ms. Hooker catching it from the surgeons. The solu-
tion may be found on page 145.
COMING OF AGE
by William Jon Watkins
Bill Watkins is a 34 -year-old Associate
Professor at Brookdale Community College in
New Jersey, where he teaches the Novell
Science Fiction, Creative Writing, and Poetry,
His fourth novel, written with E. V. Snyder,
The Litany of Sh'reev, is due from Douhleday
this month. Mr. Watkins's present hobbies are
surviving motorcycle crashes and putting hi$\.
bike back together.
Lobber ran in shouting like it was already too late. "Keri's gone
Skyfalling! Keri's gone Skyfalling!" He was the kind of kid you
naturally ignore, so he had to shout everything. I ignored him.
Moody didn't. It made no difference. Lobber went right on shout-
ing. "I saw him going up the Endcap with his wings!"
Moody shouted right back. ''Why didn't you stop him?!"
"Who?! Me?!! Nobody can stop Keri when he wants to do some-
thing. He's crazy!" Lobber was right, of course. Keri was crazy; "
always putting himself in danger for the fun of it, always coming
out in one piece. You couldn't stop him. Even Moody couldn't, and
Moody was his older brother.
Moody grabbed a pair of Close-ups and started for the door. "He
better not be Skyfalling! He's too young!"
That almost made me laugh really, because we were all too
young. But Moody had done it two years ago without getting
caught, and I had done it last year. Lobber would never do it. I
guess that was why he shouted so much. If you even mentioned it
to him, he'd say, "Are you crazy?! You could get killed doing
And he was right about that too. Every couple years, somebody
would wait too long to open their wings, or open them too often,
and that would be it. Even the lower gravity of Henson's Tube
doesn't let you make a mistake like that more than once. My
father says he saw his best friend get killed opening up too late,
COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE 141
and I remember how Keri started crying when Moody came
plummeting down out of the air and we thought he'd never open
his wings and glide.
Still, when you get to be a certain age in Henson's Tube, you go
up the Endcap to the station and hitch a ride on the catchrails of
the Shuttle. And when it gets to the middle of the cable, you jump
off. It's not all that dangerous really if you open your wings at the
right times. The way gravity works in Henson's Tube, or any of
the other orbiting space colonies for that matter, makes it a lot
less dangerous than doing the same thing on Earth.
The difference in gravity comes from the way Henson's Tube is
shaped. It's like a test tube, sealed at both ends. The people all
live on the inside walls of the tube, and the tube is spun, like an
axle in place, to give it gravity. If you look with a pair of Close-
ups, you can see land overhead above the clouds, but the other
side of the Tube is five kilometers away, and that's a long way
when it's straight up.
If you were born in the Tube like we all were, it doesn't seem
unnatural to you to be spun around continually in two-minute
circles, and even tourists find it just like Earth, all rocks and
trees and stuff, until they look up. Of course, the one half gravity
at "ground level" makes them a little nervous,' but the real differ-
ence in gravity is at the center of the Tube. There's a sort of in-
visible axle running down the center of the tube lengthwise,
where there's no gravity. That's where the Shuttle runs on its
cable from one Endcap to the other. And that's where you start
You step off the Shuttle halfway along its ride, and you drift
very slowly toward one side of the Tube. But pretty soon the
ground rotates away, under you, and the wind begins to push you
around the center cable too. Only you don't just go around it in a
circle, because going around starts giving you some gravity, so
you come spiral ing down toward the ground, rotating always a bit
slower than the Tube itself.
The closer you get to the sides, the faster the Tube — the
ground — spins on past you. The gravity depends on how much
you've caught up with the rotating of the Tube. If you didn't have
wings, you'd hit hard enough to get killed for sure, partly from
falling and partly because the ground would be going past so fast
when you hit. If you do have wings, then they slow down your fall-
142 COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE
ing okay, but then they catch the wind more, so you're rotating
almost as fast as the Tube is. Only then, because you're going
around faster, the gravity is stronger and you have to really use
the wings to keep from landing too hard. Only by then you're
probably half-way around the Tube from where you wanted to
land, and it's a long walk home.
Usually, you just step off the Shuttle and drop with your wings
folded until you get scared enough to open your arms. When you
do, your wings begin to slow your fall. If you don't wait too long,
that is. If you do wait too long, when you throw your arms open,
they get snapped up and back like an umbrella blowing inside
out, and there's nothing left to stop you. Most of the people who
get hurt Sky fall ing get scared and open their wings too soon or
too often. Most of the ones who get killed open their wings too late.
Nobody had ever seen Keri get scared. |
That was probably what Moody was thinking about as he ran *
for the door. I know it was what I was thinking about as I grab-
bed a pair of Close-ups that must have been Keri's and ran after
him. Lobber ran after both of us, shouting. By the time we got
outside, the silver, bullet-shaped car of the Shuttle was about a
third of the way along its cable, and there was nothing to do but
wait until it got almost directly above us.
At first, we couldn't see Keri and we thought he must have
missed the Shuttle, but then we saw him, sitting on the long
catchrail on the underside of the Shuttle with his feet over the
side. Lobber kept trying to grab my Close-ups, shouting, "Let me
look! Let me look!" I ignored him, but it didn't do any good until
Moody grabbed him and said "Shut up, Lobber, just shut up!"
Lobber looked like he was going to start shouting about being told
to shut up, but the Shuttle was almost directly overhead by then,
so he did shut up and watched.
When the Shuttle got where he wanted it, Keri stood up,
stopped for a second to pick out his landmarks and then just step-
ped off. He fell slowly at first, almost directly above us. But soon
he began to slide back and away from us in wider and wider spi-
rals as the Tube revolved. For a second, he looked like he was just
standing there watching the Shuttle go on down the Tube and us
slide away beneath him.
But in a couple seconds he went from being as big as my thumb
to being as big as the palm of my hand. We could tell he was rid-
COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE 143
ing down the pull of gravity at a good speed and getting faster all
the time. He had his head into the wind and his body out behind
him to cut down his resistance, so the wind wasn't rotating him
with it too much, and his speed was going up and up and we
knew he'd have to do something soon to cut it down.
When he was half a mile above us, he still hadn't opened his
wings. Moody lowered his Close-ups and shook his head like he
was sure Keri would never make it. When he looked up again,
Keri was a lot closer to the ground, and his blue wings were still
folded across his chest. It's hard to tell from the ground how far
you can fall before you pass the point where it's too late to open
your wings, but it looked to us like Keri had already passed it.
And he still hadn't spread his wings.
"Open up!" Moody shouted, "Open up!" And for a little while
Keri did just that, until he began to slide back around the curve
of the Tube. But long before he should have, he pulled his arms
back in and started that long dive again. All Lobber could see was
a small fluttering fall of blue against the checkerboard of the far
side of the Tube. "He's out of control!" Lobber shouted.
He was wrong, of course. For some crazy reason of his own,
Keri had done it on purpose, but when I went to tell Lobber to
shut up, I found that my mouth was too dry to talk. It didn't mat-
ter, because Lobber went suddenly quiet. Moody stood looking up
through his Close-ups and muttering, "Open up, Keri! Open up!"
It seemed like an hour before Keri finally did. You could almost
hear the flap of the blue fabric as he threw his arms open. His
arms snapped back, and for a minute, I thought he was going to
lose it, but he fought them forward and held them out steady.
But it still looked like he had waited too long. He was sliding
back a little, but he was still falling, and falling fast. I could see
him straining against the force of his fall, trying to overcome it,
but I didn't think he was going to make it.
I didn't want to follow him in that long fall all the way into the
ground. I thought about how my father said his friend had looked
after he hit, and I knew I didn't want to see Keri like that. But
just before I looked away, Keri did the craziest thing I ever saw.
Falling head down with his arms out, he suddenly jack-knifed
himself forward, held it for a second, then snapped his head up
and spread-eagled himself. His wings popped like a billowbag
144 COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE
Moody gave a little gasp and I felt my own breath suck in. Bu
it turned out that Keri knew more about Skyfalling than either of
us ever would and when he threw his arms back, he had almost
matched ground speed and the maneuver had put him into a stall
so close to the ground that I still don't believe it was possible.
Of course, Keri being Keri, he held his wings out just a frac-
tion too long, and he went up and over before he could snap his
arms down completely and came down backward. You could al-
most hear the crunch when he hit. I swear he bounced and flipped
over backwards and then bounced and rolled over four more times
before he stopped. For a second we just stood there, too stunned to
move, and then we were suddenly all running toward him, with
Moody in the lead.
When we got to Keri, he was sitting up, unsnapping his wings
and rubbing his shoulders. His arms were a mess, all scraped and
scratched, but not broken. Even though he had a helmet on, one
eye was swollen shut. But he was smiling.
Moody got to him first and helped him up. "You're crazy, Kerif
You know that?! You could have got yourself killed! You know
that?! You know that?!" I don't think I ever remember Moody
being that mad. He sounded like his father. "Look at you! You're
lucky you didn't get killed!"
But Keri just kept grinning and the louder Moody got, the
wider Keri grinned until Moody just turned away in disgust. No-
body said anything for a while, not even Lobber. Finally Keri
said, "C'mon, Moody, I didn't act like that when you came down."
Moody turned around and looked at his brother like he knew
Keri was right, but he wasn't ready yet to forgive him for scaring
us like that. "Yeah, but I didn't wait until I almost hit the ground
before I opened up! I didn't scare anybody half to death thinking I
was going to get myself killed!"
Keri looked at him and chuckled. "Didn't you?"
"That wasn't the same!" Moody said. But you could tell he knew
it was. Finally, he grabbed Keri's wings. "Here, give me those be-
fore you tear them."
Keri laughed and handed him the wings. He gave me a wink
with his good eye. "Not easy being on the ground. Is it?" I shook
my head. Moody just snorted and folded the wings. I kept waiting
for Lobber to start shouting again, but he didn't. He just looked
up at where the Shuttle had passed, and when he spoke, his voice
COMING OF AGE IN HENSON'S TUBE
was wistful and quiet like he knew Skyfalling was something he
would never be able to do, no matter hoW much he might want to.
"What does it feel like, Keri?" he said.
Keri shrugged, and I knew it was because there is something in
the Fall, something about the way it gets faster and faster, and
the ground rushes up at you like certain death, that he couldn't
explain. I could see the freedom of it still sparkling in his eyes. "It
feels like being alive."
A SECOND SOLUTION TO THE DOCTORS' DILEMMA
(from page 139)
Dr. Xenophon wears both pairs of gloves. Sides lA and 2B may
become contaminated, while IB and 2A remain sterile.
Dr. Ypsilanti wears the second pair, with sterile sides 2A
against his hands.
Dr. Zeno turns the first pair inside out and then puts them on
with sterile sides IB against his hands. Then he puts on the sec-
ond pair, with sides 2A over sides lA and sides 2B outermost.
Because only sides 2B touch Ms. Hooker in all three operations,
she runs no risk of catching the Barsoomian flu from any of the
Classified ads that work.
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SCHOOL OF SUCCESS SCIENCE
BOK 806. Dtv. K66. N.Y.C. 10017
by Charles N. Brown
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert: Berkley/Putnam, ISB^
0-399-11697-4, 444pp, $8.95.
Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
ISBN 0-15-144233-9, 303pp, $7.95.
Man Plus by Frederik Pohl: Random House, ISBN 0-394-48676-5,
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm: Harper j
Row, ISBN 0-06-014654-0, 215pp, $7 .-95.
Cloned Lives by Pamela Sargent: Fawcett #Q3529, 336pp, $1.50.
The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton by Larry Niven: Ballantin
#24868, 182pp, $1.50.
My Name Is Legion by Roger Zelazny: Ballantine, $1.50.
The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin: Berkley /Putnam
ISBN 0-399-11216-4, 189pp, $6.95.
The Space Machine by Christopher Priest: Harper & Row, ISB^
0-06-013429-1, 363pp, $8.95.
The Turning Place by Jean E. Karl: Button, ISBN 0-525-41573-4
Triton by Samuel R. Delany: Bantam #Y2567, 370pp, $1.95.
O Master Caliban! by Phyllis Gotlieb: Harper & Row, 236pp
Maske: Thaery by Jack Vance: Berkley/Putnam, ISBN 0-
399-11797-0, 192pp, $7.95.
The Shattered Chain by Marion Zimmer Bradley: DAW Books
#UW1229, 287pp, $1.50. ^
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: Atheneum, ISBN 0-689-30507-9,
A World out of Time by Larry Niven: Holt, Rinehart & Winston,
(price and page count not yet available)
The Best of Frank Herbert 1952-1964: Sphere, 155pp, 55 penc«
(these Sphere collections are all edited by Angus Wells).
The Best of Frank Herbert 1965-1970: Sphere, 170pp, 55 pence.
The Best of Arthur C. Clarke: Sphere, 336pp, 65 pence.
The Best of Clifford Simak: Sphere, 253pp, 60 pence.
The Best of John W. Campbell edited by Lester del Rey: Ballan-
tine #24960, 364pp, $1.95.
ON BOOKS 147
The Best of Robert Siluerberg: Pocket Books #80282, 258pp, $1.95.
The Best of Jack Vance: Pocket Books #80510, 274pp, $1.95.
The Best of Poul Anderson: Pocket Books #80671, 287pp, $1.95.
The Light Fantastic by Alfred Bester: Berkley/Putnam, ISBN
0-339-11614-1, 254pp, $7.95.
Star Light, Star Bright by Alfred Bester: Berkley/Putnam, ISBN
0-339-11816-0, 248pp, $7.95.
The Craft of Science Fiction edited by Reginald Bretnor: Harper &
Row, ISBN 0-06-010461-9, 321 pp, $9.95.
O • O
There were 890 science fiction books published in 1975, of
which 411 were originals and 479, reprints. The year 1976, only
half over as I write this column, will probably have just as many.
Obviously, there's no way to discuss all of these books or even to
mention them, so a short introduction on how I will run this col-
umn seems to be in order.
First, this is a review column, not a critical one. Its purpose is
to recommend books worth your time and money. Hence, there
won't be any long killer reviews (even though they're the easiest
and most fun to write) of bad books. However, I don't plan to
write all sweetness and light; some seriously flawed books are
still very enjoyable and successful, and some are fascinating at-
tempts which nevertheless failed. Most important, I hope to cover
a lot of books, especially in this first column, which is a summary
of the first six months of 1976.
O • . O
Two straight SF novels were best sellers so far this year: Impe-
rial Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke, and Children of Dune, by Frank
Herbert. Both sold tens of thousands of hardcover copies — rare
phenomena in science fiction publishing indeed.
Children of Dune is the third and last volume in the "Dune"
series. It's a much better (and much longer) book than the second
in the series. Dune Messiah, and is a return to the original world
of Dune with its sandworms, ecology background, and adventure.
Unfortunately, the book suffers the usual fate of sequels: it's
nowhere as good as the original, nor does it stand by itself. Still,
it's a must for those of you who were excited by the first book of
Imperial Earth struck me as a much better book, although I
148 ON BOOKS
was a bit disappointed by it. The story takes place in 2276, and is
mostly about the quincentennial of the United States. The book
is divided into three main sections: the first shows an interesting
and believable settlement on Titan, explaining logically why it's
there and nowhere else in the Solar System; the second covers a
space-liner trip from Titan to Earth; and the third is a guided
tour of a future, near-utopian Earth. Clarke's background descrip-
tions and extrapolative touches are, as usual, nearly perfect and
utterly fascinating. His picture of life 300 years from now is ex-
tremely believable. The weakness of the book is one which is
common to most Utopian literature: the characters and plot are
secondary, and thus neither is strong. Also, I just can't see how
to get there from here.
Man Plus, by Frederik Pohl, concerns the more immediate fu-
ture, with the world heading for nuclear disaster. Since computer
predictions show that colonizing Mars is one of the few options
open to mankind, the United States government is changing a
man into a cyborg so that he can live on Mars without external
help. This book is a strong novel of character, not action, as Roger
Torraway emotionally changes from a nebbish to a person and fi-
nally to something more. It's very effective, Pohl's best novel to
date. As with any good novel, there's more to it than meets the
eye, and the surprises are both logical and well handled. The only
thing wrong with the book is that it has an idiot plot! The actual
colonization is being done by normal people with mechanical back-
up, not by cyborgs. Our hero is certainly useful for exploration
and for helping others, but he is not really essential to the coloni-
zation effort as the story's beginning leads you to believe. Read it
and make your own decision.
My favorite novel so far this year is Where Late the Sweet Birds
Sang, by Kate Wilhelm. The first section of this appeared as a
novella in 1974; but despite this, the work is a real novel and not
just three connected novellas. Part One concerns the breakdown of
our civilization due to pollution, plague, and sterility. A group of
people who prepared for the worst manages to survive in a hidden
valley by using cloning to produce both people and animals. The
clones turn out to be quite different than expected and produce
their own brand of interdependent civilization in Part Two. Part
Three deals with the final clash between two different ways of
life. All three sections are handled superbly and are filled with
ON BOOKS 149
exciting ideas as well as the excellent characterization which is a
Wilhelm trademark. There have been at least five science fiction
books about cloning so far this year, but none of them comes even
close to the Wilhelm book for interest or excitement.
Cloned Lives, by Pamela Sargent, is probably a better descrip-
tion of what clones will really be like. At first, the five clones are
very similar. Then, like identical twins, they develop their own
personalities and solve — or don't solve — their own problems. The
book is divided into seven sections: the first (and best) covers the
clones' conception and beginnings, followed by one section about
each clone's development, and finally an overview. In somewhat
different form, individual sections have appeared in various an-
thologies and magazines before and were quite successful that
way. Unfortunately, the sections do not successfully coalesce into
Since I'm a mystery story reader as well as a science fiction read-
er, I get double pleasure when the two forms are combined well.
The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, by Larry Niven, and My Name Is
Legion, by Roger Zelazny, are very similar books. Each contains
three novellas with a detective as a central character. Zelazny's is
a nameless, wise-cracking private eye who plies his trade in a
computer-run society, while Niven's is a government operative
working against the background of organleggers and other fas-
cinating pieces of the "Known Space" series. Niven is a better
whodunit writer and Zelazny falls more into the hardboiled
school, but both are interesting. I recommend both.
The Word for World Is Forest, by Ursula K. LeGuin, isn't
exactly a new book. It appeared in 1972 in Harlan Ellison's an-
thology. Again, Dangerous Visions, and won the novella Hugo
award the following year. This handsome Berkley/Putnam edition
is the story's first independent publication. The story takes place
on an alien planet being exploited by big, bad Earthmen. Alter-
nate sections are written from the human and from the alien
points of view. The alien sections are excellent and thought-
provoking, but the human sections are stereotyped and preachy. It
is not one of LeGuin's best, but still very readable.
For a change of pace, try The Space Machine, by Christopher
Priest, a 'scientific romance' written in the spirit and style of H.
G. Wells. Unlike most of the other pseudo-Victorian SF which has
been appearing lately. Priest doesn't play it strictly for laughs, al-
150 ON BOOKS
though his tone is light. The backgrounds from The Time
Machine, War of the Worlds, and the story "The Crystal Egg" have
been smoothly combined; and Wells himself has become an in-
teresting character in this well-written narrative.
The biggest joy in reviewing books is to come across something
very good but obscure. My 'discovery' this year is Jean Karl's The
Turning Place, subtitled Stories of a Future Past. Although pack-
aged as a juvenile collection of science fiction stories, it's actually
a novel, since each story builds upon the one before it. In the first
story, an alien race destroys civilization and nearly wipes out
humanity. Each successive story, set several generations later,
shows how people have changed, adapted, and set up a new social
order which is better than the old one. Some stories are straight
juveniles, others are not — especially the later, complex ones. The
quality of the writing, as with most juveniles, is quite good.
I was able to finish and appreciate — although not exactly
enjoy — Samuel Delany's newest novel, Triton. It has traces of a
plot and is much shorter than his previous work, Dhalgren, al-
though it's still very long by today's standards. In this and in
Dhalgren, Delany is so close to his characters and their surround-
ings that you can see what they see and feel what they feel if
you're at all sympathetic to the people involved. The 'if' is the
kicker, though. Unlike Sturgeon, who can make the most insane
character lovable, Delany fails at this as far as I'm concerned. I
appreciate what he is trying to do, but I couldn't get involved.
I don't think it's pure coincidence that Phyllis Gotlieb's novel, O
Master Caliban!, has a lead character named Dhalgren and takes
place on Dhalgren's world. In both style and content it reminds
me strongly of the earlier Delany. There is a charming, innocent
hero with four arms, inimical machines, a partially radioactive
world, a quest, and some characters with strange powers. I had a
lot of fun reading this one.
Jack Vance is always fun to read; and his newest, Maske:
Thaery, is no exception. It's another exploration of a strange
world in the Gaean Reach, similar to, but not the same as, the
other books in the series, which were Trullion: Alastor 2262, then
Marune: Alastor 933, and third The Grey Prince. Like the first
two, Maske: Thaery is more a comedy of manners set against a
baroque background than a straightforward adventure story.
Vance's recent books have been virtually plotless, but I don't
ON BOOKS 151
mind. My fascination is with the characters and the background.
The Shattered Chain, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is the latest
in her Darkover series. This series began as juvenile adventure in
the Andre Norton tradition, but lately has become much more,
with better characterization, more complex backgrounds, and be-
lievable motivations. The Shattered Chain is not quite up to the
previous book in the series. The Heritage of Hastur, but it comes
close. Unlike other series, the order in which you read these books
is not important. Recommended.
Dragonsong , by Anne McCaffrey, is another novel in her very
popular Dragonflight series. It isn't actually a sequel to the ear-
lier books but is sort of a side-bar juvenile taking place concur-
rently with Dragonflight and Dragonquest. It's simpler than the
other two and more smoothly written. I enjoyed it even more than
Dragonquest and A Time When. If you're a fan of McCaffrey's
Dragon series, this is a must. If you're unfamiliar with the series,
this one is a good start.
Larry Niven's A World out of Time is a quasi-novel cobbled to-
gether out of three stories with a* common hero: "Rammer,"
"Down and Out," and "Children of the State." It follows the ad-
ventures of Jerome Branch Corbell (!) from his beginning as a
corpsicle, through his revival in a new body, to his job as a space-
ship pilot, and finally to his exploration of a far-future Earth.
Niven is the best hard-science short-story writer working in the
field today. Taken individually, all these stories are very good;
but as a novel, the book lacks an integrated plot and a hero who
acts as well as reacts. This doesn't mean that it isn't a good book
(for it is), but Niven is such a superior writer that I expect more
from him than from others.
I've been talking strictly about novels up to now because they're
the most popular type of science fiction, although not necessarily
the best written. The short story is sometimes ideal for SF be-
cause it allows the author to explore a single idea without go-
ing too deep into characterization — ^the hardest thing to do well
in this field. There are not one, not two, but three different series
of single-author, short-story collections being published today
under the title of The Best of . . . All range from very good to ex-
cellent, and I can recommend them without exception. The ones
put out by Sphere in England are all edited by Angus Wells. They
include The Best of Frank Herbert, The Best of Arthur C. Clarke
(with several stories never before collected!), The Best of Clifford
Simak, and others. They are representative collections and
include — as do the other series — early stories, middle stories, and
recent stories; but no publisher would dare title a book The Rep-
resentative Stories of . . . The Sphere editions each has a new in-
troduction by its author plus a useful bibliography of first editions.
Of the Ballantine and SF Book Club series, most are edited by
Lester del Rey, with an introduction by del Rey plus an afterword
by the author in each book. The series from Pocket Books is put
together by the authors themselves; each volume has introduc-
tions to each story as well as a general introduction, plus an ap-
preciation by Barry Malzberg. This series so far includes The Best
of Robert Silverberg, The Best of Jack Vance, and The Best ofPoul
I've saved my favorite for last here: Berkley /Putnam has pub-
lished The Light Fantastic and Star Light, Star Bright, a two-
volume set of the short fiction of Alfred Bester, with new, long in-
troductions to each story. Even though I'd read all the stories be-
fore and remembered most of them, Bester's introductions were so
interesting that I found myself re-reading each one with new in-
sight and enjoyment. This set is easily the best collection of the
Finally, there is a new book from Harper & Row that is an ab-
solute must for anyone interested in writing science fiction or just
reading about how it's done. The Craft of Science Fiction, edited
by Reginald Bretnor, is a symposium on writing science fiction,
with material by its top authors, including Niven, Anderson,
Pohl, Herbert, Ellison, and Sturgeon. A splendid book!
REVIEWS OF NEW BOOKS
TALES OF THREE HEMISPHERES,
by Lord Dunsany. Owlswick Press,
Here, in the first new edition in
more- than half. a century, is one
of the finest masterworks of fan-
tasy ever written. H. P. Lovecraft
called Dunsany's work "unexcelled
in the sorcery of crystalline sing-
ing prose, and supreme in the cre-
ation of a gorgeous and languor-
ous world of iridescently exotic
vision." His tales are a necessity
for any lover of fantasy; like first-
rate poetry, they are endlessly re-
For this volume, which has never
before been illustrated, the pub-
lisher has enlisted Tim Kirk, who
has provided 13 full page scenes
from Dunsany's Lands of Dream.
SCIENCE FICTION HANDBOOK,
REVISED, by L. Sprague de Camp
& Catherine de Camp. Owlswick
"This may well be the best how-
to book ever published for writers
of any kind. It is certainly far and
away the best for writers of sci-
ence fiction and fantasy. Newcdm-
ers will find it indispensable, old
hands hardly less valuable, while
to the general reader it will give a
fascinating behind-the-scenes look
at the profession."— Poul Anderson
Bryant, Edward ^
Clarke, Arthur C.
LeGuin. Ursula K.
LONG AFTER MIDNIGHT
THE GOD SELL
THE CRAFT OF SCIENCE FICTION
CHILDREN OF DUNE
THE WORD FOR WORLD IS FOREST
A WORLD OUT OF TIME
SHADRACH IN THE FURNACE
WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS
Harper & Row
Harper & Row
St. Martin's Press
Holt, Rinehart &
Harper & Row
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by Gordon R. Dickson
The author was born in Canada in 1923. He
attended the University of Minnesota before
and after W.W. II, with a break for Army
service; since 1950 he has been a full time
writer. Mr. Dickson, has sold over 150 short
stories and 40 books. In addition to Time
Storm, his current book projects include The
Far Call, the story of a 1980
expedition to Mars.
The leopard — I called him Sunday, after the day I foimd him —
almost never became annoyed with the girl, for all her hanging
on to him. But he was only a wild animal, after all, and there
were limits to his patience.
What had moved me to pick up first him, then her, was some-
thing I asked myself often without getting a good answer. They
were nothing but encumbrances and no concern of mine. My only
concern was getting to Omaha and Swannee. Beyond that point
there was no need for me to think. But — I don't know. Somehow
out of the terrible feeling of emptiness that I kept waking up to in
the mornings, I had gotten a notion that in a world where nearly
all the people and animals had vanished, they would be living
creatures I could talk to. Talk to,' however, had turned out to be
the working phrase; because certainly neither of them were able
to talk back. Crazy cat and speechless girl — and with them, my-
self, who before had always had the good sense never to need
anybody, dragging them both along with me across a landscape as
mixed up and insane as they were.
This time, the trouble erupted just as I pushed the panel truck
over a rise in late summer wheat country which I figured had
once been cornland, a little below the one-time northern border of
Iowa. All the warning I heard was a sort of combination meow-
snarl. Not a top-pitch, ready-to-fight sound; but a plain signal
that Sunday had had enough of being treated like a stuffed ani-
mal and wanted the girl to leave him alone. I braked the panel
sharply to a stop on the side of the empty, two-lane asphalt road,
TIME STORM 157
and scrambled over the seat backs into the body of the truck.
"Cat!" I raved at him. "What the hell's got into you now?"
But of course, having said his piece and already gotten her to
let him go, Sunday was now feeling just fine. He lay there, com-
pletely self-possessed, cleaning the fur on the back of his right
forepaw with his tongue. Only, the girl was huddled up into a
tight little ball that looked as if it never intended to come un-
wound again; and that made me lose my temper.
I cuffed Sunday; and he cringed, putting his head down as I
crawled over him to get to the girl. A second later I felt his rough
tongue rasping on my left ankle in a plea for forgiveness — for
what he did not even understand. And that made me angry all
over again, because illogically, now, I was the one who felt guilty.
He was literally insane where I was concerned. I knew it; and yet
I had taken advantage of that to knock him around, knowing I
was quite safe in doing so when otherwise he could have had my
throat out in two seconds as easy as yawning.
But I was only human myself, I told myself; and here I had the
girl to unwind again. She was still in her ball, completely un-
yielding, all elbows and rigid muscle when I put my hands on her.
I had told myself I had no real feeling for her, any more than I
had for Sunday. But somehow, for some reason I had never un-
derstood, it always damn near broke my heart when she went like
that. My younger sister had had moments of withdrawal some-
thing like that — before she grew out of them. I had guessed her to
be no more than fifteen or sixteen, at the most, and she had not
said a word since the day I found her wandering by the road. But
she had taken to Sunday fix)m the moment I had led her back to
the truck and she first laid eyes on him. Now, it was as if he was
the only living thing in the world for her; and when he snarled at
her like that, it seemed to hit her like being rejected by everyone
who had ever loved her, all at once.
I had been through a number of crises like this one with her
before — though the others had not been so obviously Sunday's
fault — and I knew that there was nothing much to be done with
her until she began to relax. So I sat down and wrapped my arms
around her, cuddling her as close as her rigidness would allow,
and began to try to talk her out of it. The sound of my voice
seemed to help, although at that time she would never show any
kind of direct response to it, except to follow orders.
158 TIME STORM
So there I sat, on the mattresses and blankets in the back of
the panel truck, with my arms around her narrow body that was
more sharp bones than anything else, talking to her and telling
her over and over again that Sunday wasn't mad at her, he was
just a crazy cat and she should pay no attention when he snarled,
except to leave him alone for a while. After a while I got tired of
repeating the same words and tried singing to her — any song that
I could remember. I was aware it was no great performance. I
may have believed at that time that I was hell on wheels at a
number of things, but I knew singing was not one of them. I had
a voice to scare bullfrogs. However, that had never seemed to
matter with the girl. It was keeping up the human noise and
holding her that helped. Meanwhile, all the time this was going
on, Sunday had crept up as close to us as he could and had his
forepaws around my left ankle, his forehead butted against my
So, after a while, illogically, I reached down and patted his
head, which he took as forgiveness. I was a complete fool for both
of them, in some ways. Shortly after that, the girl began to stir.
The stiffness went out of her. Her arms and legs extended them-
selves; and without a word to me she pulled away, crawled off and
put her arms around Sunday. He suffered it, even licking at her
face with his tongue. I unkinked my own cramped muscles and
went back up front to the driver's seat of the truck.
Then I saw it, to the left of the highway. It was a line of sky-
high mist or dust-haze, less than a couple of hundred yards away,
rolling down on us at an angle.
There was no time for checking on the two back there to see if
they were braced for a racing start. I jammed the key over, got
the motor started, and slammed the panel into motion down the
narrow asphalt lane between the brown-yellow of the standing
wheat, now gently wind-rippled by the breeze that always pre-
ceded a mistwall, until the plant-tops wavered into varying
shades of gold.
No mistwall I had seen, with the time-change line its presence
always signalled, had ever moved faster than about thirty miles
an hour. That meant that unless this one was an exception,
theoretically any car in good working order on a decent road
should have no trouble outrunning it. The difficulty arose, how-
ever, when — as now — the mistwall was not simply coming up be-
TIME STORM 159
hind us, but moving in at an angle flanking the road. I would
have to drive over half the length of the wall or more — and some
mistwalls were up to ten miles long — to get out of its path before
it caught us, along with everything else in its way. I held the
pedal of the accelerator to the floor and sweated.
According to the needle on the speedometer, we were doing
nearly a hundred and ten — which was nonsense. Eighty-five miles
an hour was more like the absolute top speed of the panel truck.
As it was, we swayed and bounced along the empty road as if five
more miles an hour would have sent us flying off it.
I could now see the far end of the mistwall. It was a good two or
three miles away, yet; and the wall itself was only a few hundred
yards off and closing swiftly. I may have prayed a little bit at this
point, in spite of being completely irreligious. I seem to remember
that I did. In the weeks since the whole business of the time
changes started, I had not been this close to being caught since
that first day in the cabin northwest of Duluth, when I had in
fact been caught without knowing what hit me. I had thought
then it was another heart attack, come to carry me off for good
this time; and the bitterness of being chopped down before I was
thirty and after I had spent nearly two years putting myself into
the best possible physical shape, had been like a dry, ugly taste in
my throat just before the change line reached me and knocked me
I remember still thinking that it was a heart attack, even after
I came to. I had gone on thinking that way, even after I found the
squirrel that was still in shock from it; the way Sunday had been
later, when I found him. For several days afterwards, with the
squirrel tagging along behind me like some miniature dog until I
either exhausted it or lost it, I did not begin to realize the size of
what had happened. It was only later that I began to understand,
when I came to where Duluth should have been and found virgin
forest where a couple of hundred thousand people had lived; and
later yet, as I moved south and stumbled across the log cabin
with the bearded man in cord- wrapped leather leggings.
The bearded man had nearly done for me. It took me almost
three minutes too long after I met him to realize that he did not
understand that the rifle in my hand was a weapon. It was only
when I stepped back and picked up the hunting bow, that he pull-
ed his fancy quick-draw trick with the axe he had been using to
160 TIME STORM
chop wood when I stepped into his clearing. I never saw anything
like it and I hope I never see it again, unless I'm on the side of
the man with the axe. It was a sort of scimitar-bladed tool with a
wide, curving forward edge; and he had hung it on his shoulder,
blade-forward, in what I took to be a reassuring gesture, when I
first tried to speak to him. Then he came toward me, speaking
some kind of Scandinavian-sounding gibberish in a friendly voice,
the axe hung on his shoulder as if he had forgotten it was there.
It was when I began to get worried about the steady way he
was coming on and warned him back with the rifle, that I recog-
nized suddenly that apparently, as far as he was concerned, I was
carrying nothing more than a club. For a second I was merely
paralyzed by the enormity of that insight. Then, before I could
bring myself to shoot him after all in self-defense, I had the idea
of trying to pick up the bow with my free hand. As an idea, it was
a good one — but the minute he saw the bow in my hand he acted;
and to this -day I'm not sure exactly how he did it.
He reached back at belt-level and jerked forward on the
handle-end of the axe. It came off his shoulder — spinning, back,
around, under his arm, up in the air and over, and came down
incredibly with the end of its handle into his fist and the blade
Then he threw it.
I saw it come whirling toward me, ducked instinctively and ran.
I heard it thunk into a tree somewhere behind me; but by then I
was into the cover of the woods and he did not follow.
Five days later I was where the twin cities of Minneapolis and
St. Paul had been — and they looked as if they had been aban-
doned for a hundred years after a bombing raid that had nearly
leveled them to the ground. But I found the panel truck there,
and it started when I turned its key. There was gas in the filling
station pumps, though I had to rig up a little kerosene generator I
liberated from a sporting goods store, in order to pump some of it
into the tank of the truck, and I headed south along U.S. 35W.
Then came Sunday. Then came the girl.
— I was almost to the far end of the mistwall now, although to
the left of the road the haze was less than a hundred yards from
the roadway, and little stinging sprays of everything from dust to
fine gravel were beginning to pepper the left side of the panel, in-
cluding my own head and shoulder where the window on that side
TIME STORM 161
was not rolled up. But I had no time to roll it up now. I kept
pushing the gas pedal through the floor, and suddenly we whip-
ped past the end of the wall of mist and I could see open country
clear to the summer horizon.
Sweating, I eased back on the gas, let the truck roll to a stop,
and half-turned it across the road so I could look behind us.
Back where we had been, seconds before, the mist had already
crossed the road and was moving on into the fields that had been
on the road's far side. They were ceasing to be there as it
passed — as the road itself had already ceased to be, as well as the
farm land on the near side of the road. Where the grain had rip-
pled in the wind, there' was now wild, grassy hillside — open coun-
try sparsely interspersed with a few clumps of trees, rising to a
bluff, a crown of land, less than a quarter of a mile off, looking so
close I could reach out and touch it. There was not a breath of
I put the panel back in gear again and drove off. After a while
the road swung in a gentle curve toward a small town that looked
as normal as apple pie, as if no mistwall had ever passed through
it. It could be, of course. My heart began to pound a little with
hope of running into someone sane I could talk with, about every-
thing that had happened since that apparent heart attack of mine
in the cabin.
But when I drove into the main street of the town, between the
buildings, there was no one in sight; and the whole place seemed
deserted. Hope evaporated into caution. Then I saw what seemed
to be a barricade across the street up ahead; and a single figure
crouched behind it with what looked like a rocket launcher on his
shoulder. He was peering over the barricade away from me, al-
though he must have heard the sound of the motor coming up the
street behind him.
I pulled the truck into an alley between two stores and stopped
"Stay here and stay quiet," I told the girl and Sunday.
I took the carbine from beside my driver's seat and got out.
Holding it ready, just in case, I went up behind the man crouched
at the barricade. Up this close I could see easily over the
barricade — and sure enough, there was another mistwall, less
than a mile away, but unmoving. For the first time since I had
come into the silent town, I became conscious of a steady sound.
It came from somewhere up ahead, beyond the point where the
straight white concrete highway vanished into the unmoving haze
of the mistwall — a small buzzing sound, like the sound of a fly in
an enclosed box on a hot July day such as this one was.
"Get down," said the man with the rocket launcher.
I pulled my head below the top line of the makeshift
barricade — furniture, rolls of carpeting, cans of paint — that barred
the empty street between the gritty sidewalks and the unbroken
store windows in the red brick sides of the Main Street building.
Driving in from the northwest, I had thought at first that this
small town was still living. Then, when I got closer, I had guessed
it was one of those places^untouched but abandoned, such as 1
had run into further north. And so it was, in fact; except for the
man, his homemade barricade, and the rocket launcher.
The buzzing grew louder. I looked behind me, back down the
Main Street. I could just make out the brown, left front fender of
the panel truck, showing at the mouth of the alley into which I
had backed it. There was no sound or movement from inside it.
The two of them in there would be obeying my orders, lying still
on the blankets in the van section,, the leopard probably purring a
little in its rough, throaty way and cleaning the fur of a forepaw
with its tongue, while the girl held to the animal for comfort and
companionship, in spite of the heat.
When I looked back through a chink in the barricade, there was
something already visible in the road. It had evidently just ap-
peared out of the haze, for it was coming very fast. Its sound was
the buzzing sound I had heard earlier, now growing rapidly
louder as it raced toward us, the thing itself seeming to swell up
in size like a balloon being inflated against the white backdrop of
It came so fast that there was only time to get a glimpse of it.
It was yellow and black in color, like a wasp; a small gadget with
an amazing resemblance to a late model compact car, but half the
size of such a car, charging at us down the ruler-straight section
of highway like some outsize wind-up toy.
I jerked up my rifle; but at the same time the rocket launcher
went off beside me with a flat clap of sound. The rocket was slow
enough so that we could see it like a black speck, curving through
the air to meet the gadget coming at us. They met and there was
an explosion. The gadget hopped up off the road shedding parts
which flew toward us, whacking into the far side of the barricade
like shrapnel. For a full minute after it quit moving, there was no
sound to be heard. Then the whistling of birds and the trilling of
crickets took up again.
I looked over at the rocket launcher.
"Good," I said to the man. "Where did you get that launcher,
"Somebody must have stolen it from a National Guard outfit,"
he said. "Or brought it back from overseas. I found it with a
bunch of knives and guns and other things, in a storeroom behind
the town police office."
He was as tall as I was, a tight-shouldered, narrow-bodied man
with a deep tan on his forearms below the rolled sleeves of his
check shirt, and on his quiet, bony face. Maybe a little older than
I was; possibly in his late thirties. I studied him, trying to esti-
mate how hard it would be to kill him if I had to. I could see him
watching me, doubtless with the same thought in mind.
It was the way things were, now. There was no shortage of food
or drink, or anything material you could want. But neither was
there any law, any more — at least, none I'd been able to find in
the last three weeks.
To break the staring match, I deliberately looked away to the
gadget, lying still now beyond the barricades, and nodded at it.
"I'd like to have a look at it close up," I said. "Is it safe?"
"Sure." He got to his feet, laying down the rocket launcher. I
saw, however, he had a heavy revolver — possibly a .38 or .45 — in
a holster on the hip away from me; and a deer rifle carbine like
mine was lying against the barricade. He picked it up in his left
"Come on," he said. "They only show up one at a time, a little
over six hours apart."
I looked down the road. There were no other wrecked shapes in
black and yellow in sight along it.
"You're sure?" I said. "How many have you seen?"
He laughed, making a dry sound in his throat like an old man.
"They're never quite stopped," he said. "Like this one. It's
harmless, now, but not really done for. Later it'll crawl back, or
get pulled back behind the mist over there — you'll see. Come on."
He climbed over the barricade and I followed him. When we got
to the gadget it looked more than ever like an overlarge toy
164 TIME STORM
car — except that where the windows should be, there was a flat
yellow surface; and instead of four ordinary sized wheels with
tires, the lower halves of something like sixteen or eighteen small
metal disks showed through the panel sealing the underbody. The
rocket had torn a large hole in the gadget's side.
"Listen," said the man, stooping over the hole. I came close and
listened myself. There was a faint buzzing, still going on down
there someplace inside it.
"Who sends these things?" I said. "Or what sends them?"
"By the way," I said, "I'm Marc Despard." I held out my hand.
"Raymond Samuelson," he said.
I saw his hand jerk forward a little, then back again. Outside of
that, he ignored my own, offered hand; and I let it drop. I guessed
that he might not want to shake hands with a man he might
later have to try to kill; and I judged that anyone who worried
about a nicety like that was not likely to shoot me in the back, at
least unless he had to. At the same time, there was no point in
asking for trouble by letting any misunderstandings arise.
"I'm just on my way through to Omaha," I said. "My wife's
there, if she's still all right. But I'm not going to drive right ac-
ross that time-change line out there if I've got a choice." I nodded
at the haze from which the gadget had come. "Have you got any
other roads leading south or east from the town?"
"Yes," he said. He was frowning. "Did you say your wife was
"Yes," I answered. For the life of me, I had meant to say "ex-
wife," but my tongue had slipped; and it was not worth
straightening the matter out now for someone like Samuelson.
"Look," he said, "you don't have to go right away. Stop and have
Stop and have dinner. Something about my mentioning a wife
had triggered off a hospitality reflex in him. The familiar, homely
words he spoke seemed as strange andjout of place, here between
the empty town and the haze that barred the landscape to our
right, as the wrecked gadget at our feet.
"All right," I said.
We went back, over the barricade and down to the panel truck.
I called to the leopard and the girl to come out and introduced
TIME STORM 165
them to Samuelson. His eyes widened at the sight of the leopard,
but they opened even more at the sight of the girl behind the big
"I call the leopard 'Sunday'," I said. "The girl's never told me
I put out my hand and Sunday stepped forward, flattening his
ears and rubbing his head up under my palm with a sound that
was like a whimper of pleasure.
"I came across him just after a time change had swept the area
where he was," I said. "He was still in shock when I first touched
him; and now Fve got his soul in pawn, or something like that.
You've seen how animals act, if you get them right after a change
before they come all the way back to being themselves?"
Samuelson shook his head. He was looking at me now with
some distrust and suspicion.
"That's too bad," I said. "Maybe you'll take my word for it,
then. He's perfectly safe as long as I'm around."
I petted Sunday. Samuelson looked at the girl.
"Hello," he said, smiling at her. But she simply stared back
without answering. She would do anything I set her to doing, but
I had never been able to make her seem conscious of herself. The
straight, dark hair hanging down around her shoulders always
had a wild look; and even the shirt and jeans she was wearing
looked as if they did not belong to her.
They were the best of available choices, though. I had put her
into a dress once, shortly after I had found her; and the effect had
been pitiful. She had looked like a caricature of a young girl in
"She doesn't talk," I said. "I came across her a couple of days
after I found the leopard, about two hundred miles south. The
leopard was about where the Minneapolis-St. Paul area used to
be. It could have come from a zoo. The girl was just wandering
along the road. No telling where she came from."
"Poor kid," said Samuelson. He evidently meant it; and I began
to think it even more unlikely that he would shoot me in the
We went to his house, one block off the Main Street, for dinner.
"What about the— whatever-you-call-them?" I asked. "What if
one comes while you aren't there to stop it?"
"The Buzzers," he said. "No, like I told you, they don't run on
166 TIME STORM
schedule, but after one's come by, it's at least six and a half hours
before the next one. It's my guess there's some kind of automatic
factory behind the mist there, that takes that long to make a new
Samuelson's house turned out to be one of those tall, ornate,
late-nineteenth century homes you still see in small towns. Two
stories and an attic with a wide screen porch in front and lilac
bushes growing all along one side of it. The rooms inside were
small, dark and high-ceilinged, with too much furniture for their
floorspace. He had rigged a gas motor and a water tank to the
well in his basement that had formerly been run by an electric
pump; and he had found an old, black, wood-burning stove to
block up in one corner of his spacious kitchen. The furniture was
clean of dust and in order.
He gave us the closest thing to a normal meal that I'd eaten —
or the girl had, undoubtedly — since the time storm first hit Earth.
I knew it had affected all the Earth, by this time; not just the lit-
tle part west of the Great Lakes in North America where I was. I
carried a good all-bands portable radio along; and once in a while
picked up a fragment of a broacast from somewhere. The
continuity — or discontinuity — lines dividing the time areas usu-
ally blocked off radio. But sometimes things came through.
Hawaii, evidently, was unique in hardly having been touched,
and I'd occasionally heard bits of shortwave from as far away as
Greece. Not that I listened much. There was nothing I could do
for the people broadcasting, any more than there was anything
they could do for me.
I told Samuelson about this while he was fixing dinner; and he
said he had run into the same thing with both the short-wave and
long-wave radios he had set up. We agreed that the storm was
"We've only had the one time change here in Saulsburg,
though," he said. "Every so often, I'll see a line of change moving
across country off on the horizon, or standing still for a while out
there; but so far, none's come this way." "'
"Where did all the people go, that were in this place?" I asked.
His face changed, all at once.
"I don't know," he said. Then he bent over the biscuit dough he
was making, so that his face was hidden away from me. "I had to
drive over to Peppard — that's the next town. I drove and drove
TIME STORM 167
and couldn't find it. I began to think I was sick or crazy, so I
turned the car around and drove home. When I got back here, it
was like you see it now."
It was clear he did not want to talk about it. But I could guess
some of what he had lost from the house. It had been lived in by
more than one adult, and several children. There were a woman's
overshoes in the front closet, toys in a box in one corner of the
living room, and three bicycles in good condition in the garage.
"What did you do for a living?" he asked me after a moment.
"I was retired," I said.
He frowned over that, too. So I told him about myself. The time
storm had done nothing in my case to leave me with things I did
not want to talk about, except for the matter of Swannee, down in
Omaha; and somehow I was perfectly comforted and sure that she
and that city had come through the time storm changes un-
harmed, though I had heard no radio broadcasts from there.
"I started investing in the stock market when I was nineteen," I
said, "before I was even out of college. I struck it lucky." Luck, of
course, had nothing to do with it; but I had found I could not tell
people that. Because the word "stocks" was involved, it had to be
luck, not hard research and harder-headed decision making, that
had made money for me. "Then I used what I had to take over a
company that made trailers and snowmobiles; and that did all
right. I'd be there yet, but I had a heart attack."
Samuelson's eyebrows went up.
"A heart attack?" ^he said. "You're pretty young for something
"I was damned young," I said. "I was twenty-four."
I discovered suddenly that I had been wrong about not having
things I did not want to talk about. I did not want to tell him
about my heart attack. He looked too much like a man who'd
never had a sick day in his life.
"Anyway," I said, "my doctor told me to take it easy, and lose
weight. That was two years ago. So I sold out, set up a trust to
support me, and bought a place up in the woods of northern Min-
nesota, beyond Ely-^-if you know that state. I got back in shape,
and I've been fine ever since; until the time storm hit three weeks
"Yes," he said.
The food was ready, so I helped him carry it into the dining
168 TIME STORM
room and we all ate there; even Sunday, curled up in a corner. I
had thought Samuelson might object to my bringing the leopard
into his house, but he had not.
Afterwards, we sat on his screened porch at the front of the
house, with the thick leaves of the sugar maple in the yard
screening us from the western sun. It was after six by my watch,
but now in mid-summer, there was at least another three hours of
light left. Samuelson had some homemade wine which was not
bad. It was not very good either, but the town was apparently a
dry town; and of course he had not left it since he had first come
back here and found his people gone.
"How about the girl?" he asked me, when he first poured the
wine into water glasses.
"Why not?" I said. "We may all be dead— her included—
tomorrow, if the wrong sort of time change catches us."
So he gave her a glass. But she only took a small slip, then put
it down on the floor of the porch by her chair. After a bit, while
Samuelson and I talked, she got out of the chair itself and sat
down on the floor where she could put an arm around Sunday,
who Was lying there, dozing. Outside of raising a lazy eyebrow
when he felt the weight of her arm, the leopard paid no attention.
It was amazing what he would stand from her, sometimes.
"What is it?" Samuelson asked me, after we'd been talking for a
while about how things used to be. "I mean — ^where did it come
He was talking .about the time storm.
"I don't know," I said. "I'll bet nobody does. But I've got a
"What's that?" He was looking at me closely in the shadow of
the porch. A little evening breeze stirred the lilac bushes into
scraping their upper branches against the side of the house.
"I think it's just what we're calling it," I said. "A storm. Some
sort of storm in space that the whole world ran into, the same
way you could be out driving in your car and run into a thun-
derstorm. Only in this case, instead of wind and rain, thunder
and lightning, we get these time changes, like ripples moving ac-
ross the surface of the world with everything getting moved
either forward or back in time. Wherever a change passes over
"How about here?" he asked. "The town's just where it was be-
TIME STORM 169
fore. Only the people . . ." He trailed off.
"How do you know?" I said. "Maybe the area right around here
was moved forward just a year, say, or even a month. That
wouldn't be enough to make any change in the buildings and
streets you could notice; but it might have been beyond the point
where everybody living here, for some reason, decided to get out."
"Those Buzzers, as you call them," I said. "Seeing one of them
come at the town would be pretty good reason to me to get out, if
I was someone living here."
He shook his head.
"Not everybody," he said. "Not without leaving some kind of
I gave up. If he did not want reasonable explanations, there
was no point in my forcing them on him.
"Tell me," he said, after we had sat there without talking for a
while, "do you think God had something to do with it?"
So that was his hang-up. That was why he stayed here, day
after day, defending a town with no people in it. That was why he
had carefully adapted the well in the basement to the new condi-
tions and Set up a wood stove so that he could give a regular meal
at a moment's notice to a complete ^family, if they should return
unexpectedly, showing up at the front door, tired and hungry. I
wanted to tell him neither God nor human had ever changed
things much for me; but now that I knew what his question
meant to him, I could not do it. All at once I felt the pain in
him — and I found myself suddenly angry that someone I did not
even know should be able to export his troubles to me, like that.
It was true I had lost nothing, not like him. Still . . .
"Who can tell?" I said, standing up. "We'd better be going."
He stood up also, quickly. Before he was on his feet, Sunday
was on his, and that brought the girl scrambling upright.
"You could stay here, overnight," he said.
I shook my head.
"You don't want to drive in the dark," he went on.
"No," I said. "But I'd like to get some miles under our belt be-
fore quitting for the day. I'm anxious to get to my wife."
I led the leopard and the girl out to the panel, which I had dri-
ven over and now stood in his driveway. I opened the door on the
driver's side and the other two got in, crawling back into the
170 TIME STORM
body. I waited until they were settled, then got in myself and was
about to back out, when Samuelson, who had gone in the house
instead of following us to the truck, came out again, almost shyly,
with a pair of large paper grocery sacks. He pushed them in
through the open window at my left.
"Here," he said. "There's some food you could use, I put in a
bottle of the wine, too."
"Thanks." I put the two sacks on the empty front seat beside
me. He looked past me, back into the body of the truck where the
girl and the leopard were already curled up, ready for sleep.
"I've got everything, you know," he said. "Everything you could
want. There's nothing she could use — clothes, or anything?"
"Sunday's the only thing she wants," I said. "As long as she's
got him, there's nothing else she cares about."
"Well, goodby then," he said.
I backed out into the street and drove off. In the sideview mirror I
could see him walk into the street himself so that he could look
after us and wave. I turned a corner two/ blocks down and the
houses shut him from view.
He had given me a filling station map earlier, with a route
marked in pencil that led me to the south edge of the city and out
at last on a two-lane asphalt road rising and dipping over the
land with open, farmer's fields on either side. The fields had all
been planted that spring; and as I drove along I was surrounded
by acres of corn and wheat and peas no one would ever harvest or
use. The sky-high wall of haze that was the time change line
holding its position just outside of Samuelson's town, now to the
left and behind us, grew smaller as I drove the panel truck away
In a car we were pretty safe, according to what I had learned so
far. These time lines were like lengths of rod, rolling across the
landscape; but as I say, I had yet to encounter any that seemed to
travel at more than thirty miles an hour. It was not hard to get
away from them as long as you could stick to a road. .
I had been keeping my eyes open for something in the way of
an all-terrain vehicle, but with adequate speed, something like a
Land Rover that could make good time on the roads but could
also cut across open country, if necessary. But so far I had not
TIME STORM 171
I became aware that the engine of the truck was roaring furi-
ously under the hood. I was belting us along the empty asphalt
road at nearly seventy miles an hour. There was no need for any-
thing like that. It was both safer and easier on the gas consump-
tion to travel at about forty or forty-five; and now and then gas
was not easily available just when the tank ran low. It was true I
had four spare five-gallon cans of gas, lashed to the luggage car-
rier on the panel truck's roof. But that was for real emergencies.
Besides, none of the three of us had anything that urgent to
run to — or away from. I throttled down to forty miles an hour,
wondering how I had let my speed creep up in the first place.
Then, of course, I realized why. I had been letting Samuelson's
feelings get to me. Why should I cry for him? He was as crazy
from the loss of his family as the girl was — or Sunday. But he had
really wanted us to stay the night, in that large house of his from
which his family had disappeared; and it would have been a
kindness to him if we had stayed. Only, I could not take the
chance. Sometime in the night he might change suddenly from
the man who was desperate for company to a man who thought
that I, or all of us, had something to do with whatever it was that
had taken his people away from him.
I could not trust his momentary sanity. Samuelson had talked
for a while like a sane man; but he was still someone sitting in a
deserted town, shooting rockets full of high explosives at outsize
toys that attacked at regular intervals. No one in that position
could be completely sane. Besides, insanity was part of things,
now. Sunday was the definitive example. I could have cut the
leopard's throat and he would have licked my hand as I was doing
it. The girl was in no better mental condition. Samuelson, like
them, was caught in this cosmic joke that had overtaken the
world we knew — so he was insane too, by definition. There was no
Which of course, I thought, following the idea to its logical con-
clusion as I drove into the increasing twilight, meant that I had
to be insane, too. The idea was almost laughable. I felt perfectly
sane. But just as I had not trusted Samuelson, if I were him, or
anyone else looking at me from the outside as I drove across the
country with a leopard and a speechless girl for companions, I
would not trust myself. I would have been afraid that there could
be a madness in me too, that would overtake me some time, sud-
172 TIME STORM
denly and without warning. Of course, that was all nonsense. I
put the ridiculous thought out of my head.
When the red flush of the sunset above the horizon to our right
began to grow narrow and dark; and stars were clearly visible in
the clear sky to the east, I pulled the panel truck off the road into
a comfortable spot under some cottonwood trees growing down in
a little dip between two hills and set up camp. It was so warm
that I had the tent flaps tied all the way back. I lay there looking
out at the stars, seeming to move deeper and deeper in the night
sky, becoming more and more important and making the Earth I
Could feel under me more like a chip of matter lost in the uni-
But I could not sleep. That had happened to me a lot, lately. I
wanted to get up and go sit outside the tent by myself, with my
back to the trunk of one of the cottonwoods. But if I did, Sunday
would get up and come out with me; and then the girl would get
up and follow Sunday. It was a chain reaction. A tag-end of a line
from my previous two years of steady reading during my hermit-
like existence above Ely came back to me. Privatum commodum
publico cedit — "Private advantage yields to public." I decided to
lie there and tough it out.
What I had to tough out was the replaying in my head of all
the things that had happened. I had almost forgotten, until now,
my last summer in high school when I started teaching myself to
read Latin because I had just learned how powerfully it underlays
all our English language. Underlays and outdoes. ''How long, O
Catiline, will you abuse our patience?'' Good, but not in the same
ballgame with the thunder of old Cicero's original: ''Quo usque,
Catilina, abutere patienta nostra?"
After the sweep of the first time change, which I thought was
my second heart attack come to take me for good this time — after
I had not understood then that what I had done to the squirrel was
squirrel, frozen in shock. The little grey body had been relaxed in
my hands when I picked it up, the small forepaws had clung to-
my fingers. It had followed me after that for at least the first
three days, when I finally decided to walk south from my cabin
and reach a city called Ely, that turned out to be no longer there.
I had not understood then that what I had done to the squirrel was
what later I was to do to Sunday — be with it when it came out of
shock, making it totally dependent on me . . . Then, a week or so
TIME STORM 173
later, there had been the log cabin and the man in leggings, the
transplanted Viking or whoever, who I thought was just anyone
cutting firewood with his shirt off until he saw me, hooked the
axe over his shoulder as if bolstering it, and started walking to-
ward me . . .
I was into it again. I was really starting to replay the whole
sequence, whether I wanted to or not; and I could not endure that,
lying trapped in this tent with two other bodies. I had to get out.
I got to my feet as quietly as I could. Sunday lifted his head, but I
hissed at hitn between my teeth so angrily that he lay down
again. The girl only stirred in her sleep and made a little noise in
her throat, one hand flung out to touch the fur of Sunday's back.
So I made it outside without them after all, into the open air
where I could breathe; and I sat down with my back against the
rugged, soft bark of one of the big cotton woods. Overhead the sky
was perfectly clear and the stars were everywhere. The air was
still and warm, very transparent and clean. I leaned the back of
my head against the tree trunk and let my mental machinery go.
It was simply something I was stuck with — had always been
stuck with, all my lifetime.
Well, perhaps not all. Before the age of seven or eight, things
had been different. But by the time I was that old, I had begun to
recognize that I was on my own — and needed no one else.
My father had been a cipher as far back as I could remember. If
someone were to tell me that he had never actually realized he
had two children I would be inclined to believe it. Certainly I had
seen him forget us even when we were before his eyes, in the
same room with him. He had been the Director of the Walter H.
Mannheim private library in St. Paul, and he was a harmless
man — a bookworm. But he was no use to either myself or my
younger sister as a parent.
My mother was something else. To begin with, she was beauti-
ful. Yes I know, every child thinks that about its mother. But I
had independent testimony from a number of other people; par-
ticularly a long line of men, other than my father, who not only
thought so, too, but told my mother so, when I was there to over-
However, most of that came later. Before my sister was born
my mother was my whole family, in herself. We used to play
games together, she and I. Also, she sang and talked to me, and
174 TIME STORM
told me stories endlessly. But then, after my sister was born,
things began to change. Not at once, of course. It was not until
Beth was old enough to run around that the alteration in my
mother became clearly visible. I now think that she had counted
on Beth's birth to do something for her marriage, and it had not
At any rate, from that time on, she began to forget us. Not that
I blamed her for it. She had forgotten our father long since — in
fact, there was nothing there to forget. But now she began to
forget us as well. Not all of the time, to start with; but we came
to know when she was about to start forgetting because she would
show up one day with some new, tall man we had never seen,
smelling of cigars and alcohol.
When this first started happening, it was the beginning of a
bad time for me. I was too young then to accept what was happen-
ing and I wanted to fight whatever was taking her away from me,
but there was nothing there with which I could come to grips. It
was only as if a glass window had suddenly been rolled up be-
tween her and me; and no matter how I shouted or pounded on its
transparent surface, she did not hear. Still, I kept on trying to
fight it for several years, during which she began to stay away for
longer and longer periods — all with my father's silent consent, or
at least with no objections from him.
It was at the close of those years that my fight finally came to
an end. I did not give up, because I could not; but the time came
when my mother disappeared completely. She went away on one
last trip and never came back. So at last I was able to stop
struggling, and as a result I came to the first great discovery of
my life, which was that nobody ever really loved anyone. There
was a built-in instinct when you were young that made you think
you needed a mother and another built-in instinct in that mother
to pay attention to you. But as you got older you discovered your
parents were only other humanly selfish people, in competition
with you for life's pleasures; and your parents came to realize
that this child of theirs that was you was not so unique and won-
derful after all, but only a small savage with whom they were
burdened. When I understood this at last, I began to see how
Jcnowing it gave me a great advantage over everyone else, be-
cause I realized then that life was not love, as my mother had
told me it was when I was very young, but competition —
TIME STORM 175
fighting — and, knowing this, I was now set free to give all my at-
tention to what really mattered. So, from that moment on I be-
came a fighter without match, a fighter nothing could stop.
It was not quite that sudden and complete a change, of course. I
still had, and probably always would have, absent-minded mo-
ments when I would still react to other people out of my early
training, as if it mattered to me whether they lived or died. In-
deed, after my mother disappeared for good, there was a period of
several years in which Beth clung to me — quite naturally, of
course, because I was all she had — and I responded unthinkingly
with the false affection reflex. But in time she too grew up and
went looking somewhere else for attention, and I became com-
pletely free. ^
It was a freeaom so great that I saw most people could not even
conceive of it. When I was still less than half-grown, adults would
remark on how strong-minded I was. They talked of how I would
make my mark in the world. I used to want to laugh, hearing
them say that, because anything else was unthinkable. I not only
had every intention of leaving my mark on the world, I intended
to put my brand on it and turn it into my own personal property;
and I had no doubt I could do it. Free as I was of the love delusion
that blinkered all the rest of them, there was nothing to stop me;
and I had already found out that I would go on trying for what I
-wanted as long as it was there for me to get.
I had found that out when I had fought my mother's with-
drawal from us. I had not been able to stop struggling against
that until it had finally sunk in on me that she was gone for
good. Up until that time I had not been able to accept th^ fact she
might leave us. My mind simply refused to give up on her. It
would keep going over and over the available data or evidence,
with near-idiot, unending patience, searching for some crack in
the problem, like a rat chewing at a steel plate across the bottom
of a granary door. A steel plate could wear down a rat's teeth; but
he would only rest a while to let them grow again, and then go
back once more to chewing, until one day he would wear his way
through to where the grain was. So it was with me. Pure reflex
kept the rat chewing like that; and, as far as I was concerned, it
was a pure reflex that kept my mind coming back and back to a
problem until it found a solution.
There was only one way to turn it off, one I had never found
176 TIME STORM
out how to control. That was if somehow the knowledge managed^
to filter through to me that the answer I sought would have noi
usefulness after I found it. When that happened — as when I fi-
nally realized my mother was gone for good^— there would be an:
almost audible click in my mind and the whole process would^
blank out. It was as if the reflex suddenly went dead. But that did
not happen often; and it was certainly not happening now.
The problem my mind would not give up on at the moment was
the question of what had happened to the world. My head kept
replaying all its available evidence, from the moment of my col-
lapse in the cabin near Duluth to the present, trying for one solid,
explainable picture that would pull everything together.
Sitting now under the tree, in the shade of a new-risen quarter
moon and staring up at the star-bright sky of summer, I went
clear back to reliving my college days, to the paper I had written
on the methods of charting stocks, followed by the theoretical in-
vestments, then the actual investments, then the penthouse suite
in the Bellecourt Towers, hotel service twenty-four hours a day,
and the reputation for being some sort of young financial wizard.
Then my cashing out and buying into Snowman, Inc., my three
Xears as president of that company while snowmobile and motor
home sales climbed up off the wall chart — and my marriage to
I had never blamed Swannee a bit for what had happened. It
must have been as irritating to her as it would have been to me
to have someone hanging onto her the way I ended up doing. But
she had wakened the old childish habits in me. I missed her
strongly after she left me; and to get over that, I dived back into
The way that I decided to get married in the first place was
that I had gotten tired of living in the penthouse apartment. I
wanted a real house and found one, an architecturally modern,
rambling building with five bedrooms, on about twenty acres of
land with its own small lake. And of course, once I had decided to
have a house, I realized that what I really needed was a wife to
go along with it. So I looked around a bit and married Swannee.
She was not as beautiful as my mother but she was close to it.
Tall, with a superb body and a sort of golden-custard colored hair,
very-fine, that she wore long and which floated around her shoul-
ders like a cloud.
TIME STORM 177
By education she had been headed for being a lawyer but her
instincts for work were not all that strong. In spite of the fact
that she had done well academically in law school, she had never
taken her bar exams and was in fact working as a sort of orna-
mental legal assistant to a firm of corporation, attorneys down in
St. Paul. I think she was glad to give up the pretense of going to
the office every day and simply take over as my wife. She was, in
fact, ideal from my standpoint. I had no illusions about her. I had
buried those with the memories of my mother years before. So I
had not asked her to be any more than she was; ornamental, good
in bed, and able to do the relatively easy job of managing this
home of mine. I think in fact we had an ideal marriage — until I
As I said, occasionally I would become absentminded and re-
spond as if other people really mattered to me. Apparently I made
the mistake of doing this with Swannee; because little by little
she drifted off from me, began disappearing on short trips almost
as my mother had done, and then one day she told me she wanted
a divorce and left.
P was disappointed, but of course not much more than that; and
I decided that trying to have an ordinary, live-in wife had been a
mistake in the first place. I now had all my time to devote to
work, and for the next year I did just that. Right up to the mo-
ment of my first heart attack.
— At twenty-four. God damn it, no one should have to have a
heart attack after only twenty-four years in this world. But again
there was my rat-reflex mind chewing away at that problem, too,
until it broke through to a way out. I cashed in and set up a liv-
ing trust to support me in style forever, if necessary; and I went
up to the cabin to live and make myself healthy again.
Two years of that — and then the blackout, the squirrel, the trek
south, the man with the axe . . . and Sunday.
I had almost shot Sunday in the first second I saw him, before I
realized that he was in the same sort of trance the squirrel had
been in. We ran into each other about twenty miles or so south of
the Twin Cities, in an area where they had started to put to-
gether a really good modern zoo — one in which the animals wan-
dered about almost without restriction, and the people visiting
were moved through wire tunnels and cages to see the creatures
in something like their natural wild, free state.
178 TIME STORM
But there was no zoo left when I got there; only open, half-
timbered country. A time change line had moved through, taking
out about three miles of highway. The ground was rough, but dry
and open. I coaxed the panel truck across it in low gear, picking
as level a route as I could and doing all right until I got one rear
wheel down into a hole and had to jack it up to get traction again.
I needed something firm to rest the jack base on. I walked into
a little patch of woods nearby looking for a piece of fallen tree
limb the right size, and literally stumbled over a leopard.
He was crouched low on the ground, head twisted a little side-
ways and looking up as if cringing from something large that was
about to attack him. Like the squirrel, he was unmoving in that
position when I walked into him — the time storm that had taken
out the road and caught him as well must have passed only mi-
nutes previously. When I stubbed my toe on his soft flank, he
came out of his trance and looked at me. I jumped back and
jerked up the rifle I had had the sense to carry with me.
But he stepped forward and rubbed along the side of my upper
leg, purring, so much like an overgrown household pussycat that I
could not have brought myself to shoot him, even if I had had the
sense to do so. He was a large young male, weighing a hundred
and forty pounds when I later managed to coax him on to a bath-
room scale in an abandoned hardware store. He rubbed by me,
turned and came back to slide up along my other side, licking at
my hands where they held the rifle. And from then on, like it or
not, I had Sunday.
I had puzzled about him and the squirrel a number of times
since. The closest I had come to satisfying my search for what had
made them react as they had was that being caught by a time
change jarred anything living right back to its infancy. After I
first came to in the cabin — well, I generally avoided thinking
about that. For one thing I had a job to clean myself up. But I do
remember that first, terrible feeling of helplessness and
abandonment — like a very young child lost in a woods from which
he knows he can never find his way out. If someone had turned
up then to hold my hand, I might have reacted just like the squir-
rel or the leopard.
Then there had been our meeting — Sunday's and mine- — with
the girl. That had been a different kettle of fish. For one thing,
evidently she had passed the point of initial recovery from being
TIME STORM 179
caught in a time change; but equally evidently, the experience —
or something just before the experience — had hit her a great deal
more severely than my experience with the time change had
But about this time, the stars started to swim slowly in a circu-
lar dance and I fell asleep.
I woke with the sun in my eyes, feeling hot and itchy all over.
It was a bright cloudless day, at least a couple of hours old, since
dawn; evidently the tree had shaded me from the sun's waking
Sunday lay curled within the open entrance to the tent; but he
was all alone. The girl was gone.
My first reaction, out of that old, false early training of mine,
was to worry. Then common sense returned. It would only be a
relief, as far as I was concerned, to have her gone; with her fits of
withdrawal and her pestering Sunday until he, in turn, became a
Damn it, I thought, let her go.
But then it occurred to me that something might have hap-
pened to her. It was open country all around us here, except for a
screen of young popple beyond which there was a small creek. I
went down through the popple and looked across the creek, up
over a swelling expanse of meadow lifting to a near horizon
maybe three hundred yards off. There was nothing to be seen. I
went down to look at the creek itself, the edges of which were
muddy and marshy, and found her footprints in soft earth going
toward the water. A little further, one of her shoes was stuck in
the mud and abandoned.
The creek was shallow — no more than knee deep for someone
her size. I waded across, picked up her tracks in the mud on the
far side, and saw them joined by two other sets of footprints. Bare
feet, larger than hers. I began to feel cold and hot inside at the
I went back to the tent, strapped on the belt with the bolstered
revolver and took the carbine. The carbine held thirteen shells
and it was semi-automatic. My first thought was of following the
tracks up the hill, and then I realized that this would be more
likely to alert whoever the other two people had been than if I
drove. If they saw me coming in the panel, they might figure I'd
given up on the girl and left her. If they saw me coming on foot,
180 TIME STORM
particularly with Sunday, they wouldn't have much choice but to
think I was chasing her down.
I packed the gear. It would be hard to replace, maybe; and
there was no guarantee we'd be coming back this way again.
Then I got into the panel, letting Sunday up on the seat beside
me for once, but making him lie down out of sight from outside. I
pulled out on the highway and headed up the road parallel to the
way I had last seen the footprints going.
We did not have far to go. Just up and over the rise that be-
longed to the meadow across the creek, I saw a trailer camp with
some sort of large building up in front of all the trailers. No one
had cut the grass in the camp for a long time, but there were fig-
ures moving about the trailers. I drove up to the building in
front. There were a couple of dusty gas pumps there; and a
cheerfully-grinning, skinny, little old man in coveralls too big for
him came out of the building as I stopped.
"Hi," he said, coming up within about four feet of Sunday's side
of the car and squinting across through the open window at me.
"Want some gas?"
"No thanks," I said. "I'm looking for a girl. A girl about
fourteen-fifteen years old with dark hair and doesn't talk. Have
you seen — "
"Nope!" he chirped. "Want some gas?"
Gas was something you had to scrounge for these days. I was
suddenly very interested in him.
"Yes," I said. "I think I'll have some gas. And . . ."
I let my voice trail off into silence. He came closer, cocking his
left ear at me.
"What'd y'say?" He stuck his head in the window and came face
to face with Sunday, only inches between them. He stopped, per-
"That's right," I said. "Don't move or make a sound, now. And
don't try to run. The leopard can catch you before you can take
three steps." He didn't know that Sunday would never have un-
derstood in a million years any command I might have given to
I jerked my thumb at the back of the panel. Sunday understood
that. He turned and leaped into the back, out of the right hand
seat in one flowing movement. The old man's eyes followed him. I
slid over into the right hand seat.
TIME STORM 181
"Now," I said, "turn around. Give me room to open the door."
He did. I opened the door on that side of the panel a crack. The
baggy coverall on his back was only inches away. Vertically in
the center of the back, about belt level, was a tear or cut about
eight inches long. I reached in through it, and closed my hand on
pretty much what I expected. A handgun — a five-chamber .22
revolver — stuck in a belt around his waist under the coveralls.
"All right," I said, picking up the carbine and getting out of the
panel behind him. "Walk straight ahead of me. Act ordinary and
don't -try to run. The leopard will be with me; and if I don't get
you, he will. Now, where's the girl? Keep your voice down when
"Bub-bu-bu " the old man stammered. Sounds, nothing un-
derstandable. Plainly, as his repeated offer of gas had shown,
whoever lived in this camp had chosen one of their less bright
citizen to stand out front and make the place look harmless.
"Come on, Sunday," I said.
The leopard came. We followed the old man across the drive
past the pumps. The large building looked not only closed, but
abandoned. Darkness was behind its windows, and spider webs
hung over the cracked white paint of its doorframe. I poked the
old man with the carbine muzzle, directing him around the right
end of the building and back into the camp. I was expecting to be
jumped or fired at, at any second. But nothing happened. When I
got around the end of the building I saw why. They were all at
God knows, they might have been normal people once. But
what I saw now were somewhere between starving savages and
starving animals. They were mostly late adolescents, rib-skinny
every one of them, male and female alike barefoot below the rag-
ged cuff-edges of the jeans they wore and naked above the
waistband. Every one of them, as well, was striped and marked
with black paint on face and body. They were gathered, maybe
thirty or forty of them, in an open space before the rows of trail-
ers began. It might have been a stretch of show lawn, or a vol-
leyball court, once. At the end of it, tied to a sort of X of planks
set upright and surrounded by burnable trash, paper, and bits of
wood, was the girl.
Whether she had come there willingly, I do not know. It is not
beyond the bounds of possibility that she had finally despaired of
182 ^ TIME STORM
ever having Sunday love her, and when she met those two other
pairs of feet by the creek she had gone off of her own free will
with them. But she was terrified now. Her ey^s were enormous,
and her mouth was stretched wide in a scream that she could not
I poked the old man with the gun muzzle and walked in among
them. I saw no weapons, but it stood to reason they must have
something more than the revolver that had been hidden on the
old man. The back of my neck prickled; but on the spur of the
moment the best thing I could think of was to put a bold^ front on
it, and maybe we could just all walk out of here — the girl, Sun-
day, and I — with no trouble.
They said not a word; they did not move as I walked through
them. And then, when I was less than a dozen feet from the girl,
she finally got that scream out of her. ''Look out!"
For a part of a second I was so stunned to hear her utter some-
thing understandable that I only stared. Then it registered on me
that she was looking over my shoulder at something behind me. I
spun around, dropping on one knee instinctively and bringing up
the carbine to my shoulder.
There were two of them, lying on the roof of the house with
either rifles or shotguns — I had no time to decide which. They
were just like the others, except for their firearms. The girl's
shriek must have startled them as much as it had me, because
they were simply lying there, staring down at me with their
But it was not them I had to worry about, anyway, because — I
have no idea from where — the crowd I had just passed had since
produced bows and arrows; perhaps a bow for every five or six of
them, so that half a dozen of them were already fitting arrows to
their strings as I turned. I started firing.
I shot the two on the roof first, without thinking — which was
pure foolishness, the reflex of a man brought up to think of
firearms as deadly, but of arrows as playthings — because the two
on the roof did not even have their guns aimed and by the time
I'd fired at them a couple of arrows had already whistled by me.
They were target arrows, lacking barbed hunting heads, but
nonetheless deadly for that. The rest of the ones being aimed
would certainly not all have missed me — if it had not been for
There was nothing of the Lassie-dog-to-the-rescue about Sun-
day. The situation was entirely beyond his understanding; and if
the two on the roof or the bow-wielders had shot me quickly and
quietly enough, probably he would merely have sniffed sadly at
me as I lay on the ground and wondered why I had stopped mov-
ing. But the girl had screamed — and I must suddenly have reeked
of the body chemicals released by fear and fury — so Sunday oper-
ated by instinct.
If I was frightened, he was frightened, too. And in wild ani-
mals, as in man himself once he is broken down to it, fear and
fury are the same thing. Sunday attacked the only fear-making
cause in view — the group of archers and their friends before us;
and they found themselves suddenly facing a wild, snarling,
pinwheel-of-knives that was a hundred and forty pound member
of the cat family gone berserk.
They ran from him. Of course they ran. All but three or four
that were too badly clawed or bitten to gei away. I had plenty of
time and freedom to get the girl untied from the planks and start
to lead her out of the clearing. By that time Sunday was off in
one corner of the open space, daintily toying with one hooked
claw at a bleeding, moaning figure that was trying to crawl away
from him. It was a little sickening, but so was what they had
planned for the girl. I called the leopard. He came — if
reluctantly — and followed us back to the truck. We got out of
Half a mile down the highway I had to pull over to the shoulder
and stop the car, again. Sunday was still prickly from the ad-
renalin of the battle. He wanted to lie in the back of the panel
all alone and lick his fur. The girl, rebuffed by him, was suddenly
sick. I helped her out of the car and held her head until it was
over. Then I got her back into the front seat of the car, curled up
there with a blanket over her.
"They were going to eat me," she whispered, when I covered her
It was the second time she had spoken, and all in one day. I
looked at her, but her eyes were squeezed shut. I could not tell if
she had been talking to me, or only to herself. I got the panel
moving again and let her sleep. That evening when we camped, I
tried talking to her myself. But she had gone back to being dumb.
She would neither speak nor look at me. Foolishly, I even found
myself feeling disappointed — even a little hurt at that. But of
course that was just the wrong-headed early training at work in
me again. I had been feeling good over the fact that she was com-
ing out of her mental prison — as if that really mattered, one way
The next day we headed south by west again. It was a bright,
hot day, and I was feeling good. We had gotten off the asphalt on
to a stretch of superhighway, and there was no one to be seen —
not even anything on the road as inconsequential as an aban-
doned car. We were making good time, and Samuelson had helped
me to fix myself on the map. We were close enough to the location
of Omaha that, barring unforeseen delays along the road, we
ought to reach it by sunset. When noon came, I picked a ramp and
pulled off the freeway — just to be on the safe side in case someone
unfriendly should be cruising it about the time we were having
lunch — and found a patch of shade under some large, scraggly-
limbed trees I could not identify.
We had hardly glimpsed the mistwall of a time change all
morning — and the few we had seen had been far off, so far off
that in the bright daylight it was impossible to tell whether they
were standing still or moving. But obviously one had passed by
where we were sometime since the storms started. About four
hundred yards from the exit ramp of the highway the cross road
ended abruptly in a clump of tall mop-headed palms, the kind you
find lining the boulevards in Los Angeles.
The palms and the big scraggly-limbed trees signalled that we
were into a different time-changed territory than we had been
earlier. Now that I stopped to notice it, for some time there had
been a different kind of dampness to the air than that which
comes from midwestern, mid-summer humidity. The softness of
the atmosphere was more like that of a seacoast; and the few
white clouds that moved overhead seemed to hang low and opu-
lent in the sky, the way they do in Florida, instead of being high
and distant like piled up castles, as they are in temperate zone
mid-continental skies during the warm months.
It was a hint, I thought, to be on our guard against strange
company. As far as I had been able to determine, it was only ev-
erything below the animal level that got changed by the mist-
walls when they passed. I had begun to add up some evidence in
what I saw to reach the conclusion that much of what I came
TIME STORM 185
across was several hundred, if not several thousand, years forward
from my own original time. There was some evidence of extensive
storm damage and geological change, followed by considered re-
forestation in a majority of the landscapes I moved through.
There must have been massive loss of life in most areas at the
same time or another, which accounted for the scarcity of most
warm-blooded creatures, except for birds. Certainly topography
and vegetation changed when a time line passed, and I had
noticed fish in lakes that had not been lakes before time change.
But just where on the scale of life the dividing line was drawn, I
had no idea. It would pay to be watchful. If, for example, snakes
were below the dividing line then we might suddenly encounter
poisonous varieties in latitudes or areas where such varieties had
never existed before.
I spent part of the lunch hour trying to get the girl to talk, but
she was still back at being voiceless again. I kept chattering to
her, though, partly out of stubbornness and partly out of the idea
that if she had loosened up once, she could again; and the more I
tried to wear down the barrier between us, possibly, the sooner
When we were done with lunch, we buried the tin cans and the
paper. The girl and I ate a lot of canned stuff, which made meals
easy; and I had fallen' into the habit of feeding Sunday on canned
dog food or any other meat that could be found. He also hunted
occasionally as we went along. But he would never go very far
from me to do it, and this restricted what he could catch. But we
buried our trash just in case some one or something might find
the remains and take a notion to trail us. We got back in the
panel truck and headed once more down the superhighway.
But it was exactly as if stopping to eat lunch had changed our
luck. Within five miles the superhighway disappeared — cut off by
some past time storm line. It ended in a neat lip of concrete hang-
ing thirty feet in the air with nothing in the shape of a road
below or beyond it but sandy hills, covered with cactus and
scraggly trees. I had to backtrack two miles to find an exit ramp
that led down on to a road that appeared to keep going off at an
angle as far as I could see. It was asphalt, like most of the roads
we had been travelling earlier, but it was not in as good shape as
the ones that had led us through Samuelson's small town and
past the trailer camp. It was narrower, high-crowned, and weedy
186 TIME STORM
along the edges. I hesitated because, although the road angled
exactly in the direction I wanted to go, there was something
about it that filled me with uneasiness. I simply did not like the
look of it. Here and there sand had blown across it, a smudge of
gold on black — but not to any depth that would slow down the
panel truck. Still, I slowed on my own and cruised at no more
than thirty miles an hour, keeping my eyes open.
The road seemed to run on without end, which did nothing to
allay that uneasiness of mine. There was something about it that
was unfamiliar — not of any recognizable time — in spite of the fact
that it looked like a backwoods road anywhere. The sandy hill-
scapes following us on either side were alien, too, as if they had
been transported from a desert somewhere and set down here.
Also, it was getting hotter and the humidity was worse.
I stopped the panel, finally, to do a more precise job of estimat-
ing our position on the map than I could do while driving. Accord-
ing to the compass I had mounted on the instrument panel of our
vehicle, the asphalt road had been running almost exactly due
west; and the outskirts of Omaha should be less than twenty
miles southwest of us.
As long as we had been on the superhighway, I had not wor-
ried, because a road like that, obviously belonging to our original
twentieth century time, had to be headed toward the nearest
large city — which had to be Omaha. Just as on the asphalt road
at first I had not worried either, because it headed so nearly in
the direction I wanted to go.
But it was stretching out now to the point where I began to
worry that it would carry me to the north and past the city, with-
out letting me catch sight of it. Certainly, by this time we had
gone far enough to intersect some other roads heading south and
into the metropolitan area. But we had crossed no other road. For
that matter, we had come across nothing else that indicated a city
nearby, no railroad tracks, no isolated houses, no fences, no sub-
urban developments in the bulldozer stage of construction ... I
Laying out the road map on the hood of the car, I traced our
route to the superhighway, traced the superhighway to what I be-
lieved to be the exit by which we had come down off it and along
the road that exit tied into — headed west. The road was there, but
according to the map less than a dozen miles farther on it ran
TIME STORM 187
through a small town called Leeder, and we had come twenty
miles without seeing as much as a road sign.
I went through the whole thing twice more, checked the com-
pass and traced out our route, and checked the odometer on the
panel to see how far we'd come since leaving the superhighway
— and the results came out the same. We had to be bypassing
Omaha to the north.
I got back in the truck and started travelling again, driving
slowly. I told myself I'd give myself another five miles without a
crossroad before turning back. I drove them, and then another
five. But I saw no crossroad. Nothing. Only the narrow, ne-
glected-looking strip of asphalt which looked as if it might con-
tinue unchanged all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
I stopped the panel again, got out, and walked off the road to
check the surface of the ground to the south. I walked back and
forth and stamped a few times. The surface was sandy but
hard — easily solid enough to bear the weight of the panel
truck — and the vegetation was scattered enough so that there
would be no trouble driving through it. Up until now I had been
very careful not to get off the roads, for fear of a breakdown of the
truck which would strand us a distance from any hope of easily
finding another vehicle. On foot we would be at the mercy of the
first moving time storm wall that came toward us.
But we were so close now — we were just a few miles away from
getting back to normal life. I could see Swannee in my mind's eye
so clearly that she was almost like a mirage superimposed on the
semidesert landscape around us. She had to be there, waiting for
me. Something inside me was still positive, beyond all argument,
that Omaha had survived and that along with it Swannee had
survived in the sanity of a portion of the world as it had been be-
fore the time storm. In fact my mind had toyed a number of times
with the idea that since Omaha, like Hawaii, had survived, it
might mean there might be many other enclaves of safety; and
the fact that there were such enclaves would mean there was a
way of licking the time storm, by applying to all other places the
special conditions or whatever unusual elements had kept these
In those enclaves she and I could still lead the reasonable and
normal life we could have had before the time storm hit, and
somehow I knew that the experience of the time storm would
188 TIME STORM
have straightened her out on what had gone wrong between us
before. Time would have brought her to the realization that it
was simply an old reflex on my part that had made me act like
someone literally in love with her. Also she would know how
tough life could be outside the enclaves like the one she now lived
in — or even there for that matter. She would have a new appreci-
ation of what I could do for her, in the way of taking care of her.
In fact, I was willing to bet that by this time she would be ready
to indulge these little emotional lapses of mine. All I had to do
was find her and things would go well.
— But that was something to think about when there was time
to think about it. The big question now was: should I take the
panel across country, south, away from the road, to find a high-
way or street that would bring me to the city?
There was really no argument about it. I got Sunday and the
girl back into the panel — they had followed me outside and wan-
dered after me as I stamped on the ground to make sure it would
not bog down the panel — then I got back in the truck, turned off
the asphalt and headed due south by. the compass.
It was not bad driving at all. I had to slow down to about five to
ten miles an hour; and I kept the panel in second gear, occasion-
ally having to shift down to low on the hills, but generally finding
it easy going. It was all up and down, a roller-coaster type of
going for about nine- tenths of a mile; and then suddenly we came
up over a rise and looked down on a lakeshore.
It was just a strip of whitish-brown, sandy beach. But the shal-
low, rather stagnant-looking water beyond the beach stretched
out as far as I could see and out of sight right and left as well.
Evidently the time storm had moved this whole area in, to the
northwest of the metropolitan area, pretty well blocking off access
from that direction. The problem for me now was: which way
would be the shortest way round the lake? Right or left?
It was a toss-up. I squinted in both directions but for some
reason, justs while I had been standing there, a haze of some sort
seemed to have moved in, so that I could not see far out on the
water in any direction. Finally I chose to go to the right, because
I thought I saw a little darkness through the haze upon the sun-
glare off the water and sand in that direction. I turned the nose of
the truck and we got going.
The beach was almost as good as a paved road to drive on. It
TIME STORM 189
was flat and firm. Apparently, the water adjoining it began to
shelve more sharply as we went along, for it lost its stagnant,
shallow appearance and began to develop quite a respectable surf.
There was an onshore wind blowing, but it helped the heat and
the humidity only a little. We kept driving.
As I watched the miles add up on the truck's odometer, I began
gradually to regret not trying in the other direction. Clearly, I
had picked the long way around this body of water, because look-
ing ahead I could still see no end to it. When the small, clicking
figures of the odometer rolled up past the twelve mile mark, I
braked the truck to a halt, turned around, and headed back.
As I said, the beach was good driving. I pushed our speed up to
about forty, and it was not long before we were back at the point
where we had first come upon the lake. I kept pounding along,
and shortly I made out something up ahead. The dazzle of sun-
light from the water seemed to have gotten in my eyes so that I
could not make out exactly what it was — something like a
handkerchief-sized island with a tree, or a large raft with a div-
ing tower, out in the water just a little ways from the beach. But
there were the black silhouettes of two-legged figures on the sand
there. I could stop to get some directions and we could still be pull-
ing into Swannee's driveway in time for dinner.
The dazzle-effect on my eyes got worse as the panel got close to
the figures, and the glitter of sunlight through the windshield
was not helping. I blinked, and blinked again. I should have
thought to pick up some dark glasses and keep them in the glove
compartment of the panel for situations like this — but I just had
not expected to run into water-glare like this. I must have been
no more than thirty or forty feet from the figures by the time I
finally braked the panel to a stop and jumped out of it on to the
sand, blinking to get the windshield-glitter out of the way be-
tween us — and I still could not see them clearly. There were at
least half a dozen of them on the beach, and I saw more out on
the raft or whatever it was.
I started toward them.
"Hey!" I said. "I'm lost. Can you put me on the road to Omaha?
I want to get to Byerly Park, there."
^ The figures did not answer. I was within a few steps of them
now. I stopped, closed my eyes, and shook my head violently.
Then I opened my eyes again.
190 TIME STORM
For the first time I saw them clearly. Th^y had two legs apiece,
all right; but that was the only thing people-like about them. As
far as I could see, they wore no clothes; and I could have sworn
they were covered with greenish-gold scales. Heavy, lizard-like
features with unblinking dark eyes stared directly into my face.
I stared back at them. Then I turned and looked out at the raft
and beyond. All around were the beach and the water — nothing
more. And finally, finally, the truth came crashing in on me.
There was too much water. There was no way Omaha could
still exist out there beyond the waves. I had been wrong all the
time. I had been fooling myself, hugging to my mind an impossi-
ble hope as if it was the fixed center of the universe.
Omaha was gone. Gone completely. Swannee was gone. Like so
many other things, she had been taken away forever. I had lost
her for good, just as I had lost my mother ...
The sun, which had been high overhead, seemed to swing half-
way around the sky before my eyes and turn blood red. The water
seemed to go black as ink and swirl up all around me. My mind
felt as if it was cracking wide open; and everything started to
spin about me like liquid going down a drain, sucking water and
beach and all, including me, away down into some place that was
ugly and frightening.
It was the end of the world. I had been intending to survive
anything for Swannee's sake, but all the time she had already
been gone. She and Omaha had probably been lost in the first
moment after the time storm hit. From then on, there had only
been the illusion of her in my sick mind. I had been as insane as
Samuelson, after all. The crazy cat, the idiot girl, and I — we had^
been three loonies together. I had flattered myself that the mist-
walls were all outside me; but now I could feel them breaching
the walls of my skull, moving inside, wiping clean and destroying
everything over which they passed. I had a faint and distant im-
pression of hearing myself howling like a chained dog, and of
strong hands holding me. But this, too, swiftly faded away into
nothingness . . .
It was a nothingness I welcomed. It should have been death. I
wanted death. But that part of me that always refused to quit un-
satisfied would not let me go. Still trapped in life, adrift in my
mind, I was left at last in the empty room of my thoughts, face to
face with the fact that it had not been a final move into peace for
me, after all, admitting that Swannee was gone forever. It had
only been one more step on a long journey of the self to some
huge goal I could only feel and fear but not yet see, a goal that
continued to draw me inexorably to it.
In peace or pain, I now saw the pilgrimage still before me as
something to which I was committed, on the face of this new,
strange earth. I was locked into it, by myself and the time storm,
as if by some ancient curse — or inescapable, iron blessing.
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The very best reading in or out of this world
4 FOR 10<i»
Choose any 4 books, including these science fiction greats: THE HUGO
WINNERS. Volume I & II - 23 gripping short stories. A giant, hand-
some 864-page record of greatness. EPOCH. Robert Silverberg and
Roger Elwood eds. The science fiction of the 1970's-greater than ever
before. IMPERIAL EARTH by Arthur C. Clarke. The most recent novel by
one of the biggest names in science fiction.
What a way to get acquainted. Browse through the list of books on this
page and choose any 4 for just 100.
It's the most extraordinary sample of science fiction ever offered in
Here's how the Club works:
When your application for membership is accepted, you'll
receive your choice of 4 books for just 100 (plus shipping and
handling). If not absolutely fascinated, return them within ten
days — membership will be cancelled and you'll owe nothing.
About every 4 weeks (14 times a year), we'll send you the
Club's bulletin describing the 2 coming Selections and
Alternate choices. If you want both Selections, you need do
nothing; they'll be shipped automatically. If you don't want a
Selection, or prefer an Alternate, or no book at all, just fill out
the form always provided, and return it to us by the date
specified. We try to allov/ you at least ten days for making your
decision. If you don't get the form in time to respond within
10 days, and receive an unwanted selection, you may return it
at our expense.
As a member you need take only 4 Selections or
Alternates during the coming year. You may resign
any time thereafter, or remain a member as long as
you wish. At least one of the two Selections each
month is only $1.98 plus shipping and handling.
Other extra-value selections are slightly higher but
always much less than Publishers' Editions. Send
no money. But do send the coupon today.
Science Fiction Book Club 45-S119
Dept. LR018, Garden City, N.Y. 11530
I have read your ad. Please accept me as a
member in the Science Fiction Book Club.
Send me, as a beginning, the 4 books whose
numbers I have indicated below, and bill me
just 100 (plus shipping and handling). I agree to
take 4 additional books during the coming year
and may resign anytime thereafter.
Miss , / '*
^ J ■ ^ -• • - _Apt. ,
1 Citv£,' ^/^^»|/ ^ . state C^/Lz\o^f^^
1412. Imperial Earth.
By Arthur C. Clarke. A
representative to Earth,
from Titan, Duncan
MaKenzie plans to solve
an invention that threat-
ens his homeland's econ-
omy. By Hugo, Jupiter
and Nebula winning
author. Pub. ed. $7.95
5637. Epocli. Robert
Silverberg and Roger
Elwood, eds. Contains
a complete novel by
Jack Vance. Plus 23
original stories by other
Niven, Bishop, Pohl,
Le Guin, Simak. others.
Pub. ed. $10.95
4556 The Book of Skaith:
The Adventures of Eric
John Stark. By Leigh
Brackett. A trilogy of
fast-paced Heroic Adven-
ture novels containing
The Ginger Star, The
Hounds of Skaith and
The Reavers of Skaith.
4549. Man Plus. By
Frederik Pohl, Cyborgs
are to colonize Mars,
and Roger Torraway, ex-
astronaut, is to be the
first Martian-or so
NASA plans. Fast-paced
Pub. ed. $7.95
2915. Star Trek Star
Fleet Technical Manual.
Compiled by Franz
Joseph. A must for all
Star Trek devotees.
Taken from the data
banks of the master
computer, it includes
the Articles of Federa-
tion, the Romulan and
Organlan Peace Treaties,
and much more. Large
size paperback. Vinyl
binder. Pub. ed. $6.95
1784. The 1976 Annual
World's Best SF. Donald
A. Wollheim, ed. From
Fritz Leiber to Michael
Bishop, ten of the finest
examples of short fiction
published in 1975.
Includes the Nebula
That Zeppelin. Special
7773. Children of Dune.
By Frank Herbert. Second
sequel to the Hugo and
Dune, this is the final
voJume of this out-
standing SF trilogy.
Pub. ed. $8.95
Ben Bova. American and
Russian bases on the
Moon unite to prevent a
catastrophic war brew-
ing on Earth.
Pub. ed. $7.95
7799. At the Earth's
Core. By Edgar Rice
Burroughs. Instead of
molten lava below the
earth's crust, two adven-
turers find the land of
Pellucidar, inhabited by
slavers, cavemen and
dinosaurs. 8 pages of
stills from the spec- •
4622. The Bicentennial
Man and Other Stories.
By Isaac Asimov. A
robot who wants to be a
man, time travel and a
city beneath the ocean
are some of the themes
by this Imaginative and
prolific SF author.
Pub. ed. $6.95
8532. The Hugo
Winners, Vol. I fc II.
Giant 2-inl volume
of 23 awa-d-
1955 to 1970.
each. Pub. ed. $15.45
6221. The Foundation
Trilogy. By Isaac
Asimov. The ends of
the galaxy revert to
barbarism. An SF
The Science Fiction Book Qlub offers its own complete hardbound editions sometimes altered
in size to fit special presses and save members even more. Members accepted in U.S.A. and
Canada only. Canadian members will be serviced from Toronto. Offer slightly different in Canada.