It just couldn’t be over. It was too simple. He was somewhere out of the light, brooding like a dark toad, under the bridge, maybe, eyes up, waiting, face green, sucking air, very quietly. I listened. Not a drip. Not a ripple. Not a sigh.

“Shrank,” I whispered.

Shrank, echoed the timbers under the bridge.

Off along the shore, the great oil beasts lifted their heads up at my summons, sank them down again, in time to a long sighing roll of water on the coast.

Don’t wait, I thought I heard Shrank murmuring. It’s nice down here. Quiet at last. I think I’ll stay.

Liar, I thought. You’ll come up when I least expect it.

The bridge creaked. I whirled.

Nothing. Nothing but fog sifting across the empty boulevard.

Run, I thought. Run telephone. Call Crumley. Why isn’t he here? Run. But no. If I did, Shrank might go free.

Far away, two miles off, the big red trolley bucketed along, whistling, wailing, sounding like the terrible beast in my dream, come to take my time, my life, my future away, heading for a tar pit at the end of the line.

I found a small pebble and dropped it in.


It hit and sank. Silence.

He’s escaped me. I wanted to pay him back for Fannie.

Then, Peg, I thought. Call her.

But no, she would have to wait, too.

My heart pounded so loudly that I feared the waters would stir below and the dead rise. I feared that my very breathing would knock down the oil derricks. I held onto my heart and breath and made them slow, eyes shut.

Shrank, I thought, come out. Fannie’s here, waiting. The canary lady’s here, waiting. The old man from the ticket office is beside me. Pietro’s here and wants his pets. Come out. I’m here, along with the rest, waiting.


This time he must have heard.

He came to get me.

He shot out of the black water like a cannonball off a springboard.

Christ, I thought, fool! Why did you call to him?

He was ten feet tall, a dragon yeasted up from a dwarf. Grendel, who was once a jockey.

He snatched up like a Fury, talons out. He hit me like a balloon full of scalding water, with thrash and yell and shriek. He had long since forgotten his good intentions, his plans, his myth, his murderous integrity.

“Shrank!” I yelled.

There was something slow-motion and terrible about it, as if, frame by frame, I might stop him along the way and examine his astonishing arc and growth, and how his eyes blazed and his mouth ached with hate and hands gripped with rage as he seized my coat, my shirt, my neck in iron grapples. His mouth was blooded with my name as he heaved back. The tar waters waited. Christ, not there, I thought. The lion cages waited with doors flung wide.


The slow motion stopped. The swift fall followed.

Fused by his rage, we fell down, sucking air in flight.

We struck like two concrete statues and sank, loving each other with a mindless frenzy of passion, climbing each other to keep each other down, making ladders to air and light.

On the way down I thought I heard him whining, wailing, “Get in there, get in there, get in,” like a boy at some rude game without rules, and I was playing wrong. “Get in!”

But now, under, we went from sight. We whirled around like two crocodiles at each other’s necks. From up top we must have seemed like a moil and welter of piranhas self-feasting, or a great propeller off center and amok in rainbow oils and tars.

And at center of the drowning there was a small pinpoint flash of hope which burst but to fire again behind my eyes.

This is his first real murder, I must have thought, or was there time? But I am flesh and will not behave. I fear dark more than he fears life. He must know that. I must win!

Not proven.

We rolled and struck something that knocked most of the air from my lungs. The lion cage. He was shoving and kicking me through the open door. I thrashed. We whirled and in the surge and white water I suddenly thought:

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray