The crowd murmured, and she thought of the tesla transformer under the platform and how Johnny might have fixed it so she got amperage, not voltage. Accident, bad accident Shame. Amperage, not voltage.

She wrenched her right hand free of its leather strap and heard the power switch slam shut as the blue fire seized and shook her, screaming!

The audience applauded and whistled and stomped. Oh she thought wildly, this is good, my death? Great! More applause! More screams!

Out of the black spaces a body fell. “Hit him so hard broke his teeth!” The body jerked. “Then I hit him and hit him again!” The body fell, was picked up, fell again. She screamed high and long as a million unseen mouths stung and bit her. Blue flames seized her heart. The young man’ body writhed and exploded in bone shrapnel, flame, and ash

Calmly, Johnny handed her the sword.

“Now,” he said.

Being safe was like a blow to the stomach.

She sobbed, fumbling at the sword, quivering and jerking unable to move. The power hummed and the crowd stuck out their hands, some like spiders, some like birds leaping away wherever the sword sizzled and spat.

The power still lived in her bones as all over the carnival grounds the lights dimmed.

Click. The switch lay in its Off bed.

She sank in upon herself, the sweat running around her nose and her sagging mouth. Gasping, she fought free to pull the blindfold away.

The crowd had gone off to another platform, another miracle, where the Fat Lady called and they obeyed.

Johnny’s hand lay on the switch. He dropped his hand, stood there watching her, his dark eyes cold, not flickering.

The tent lights looked dirty, old, yellow, and unclean. She stared blindly at the retreating crowd, Johnny, the tent, the lights. She looked shrunken in the chair. Half of her had poured out through the wires, flushed into the copper cable that fled over the town, leaping from high pole to pole. She lifted her head as if it weighed ninety pounds. The clean light had come, entered into and slid through her, and blasted out again; but it was not the same light anymore. She had changed it; she saw how she had made it. And she shivered because the light was discolored.

Johnny’s mouth opened. She didn’t hear him at first. He had to repeat what had to be said.

“You’re dead,” he said firmly. And again: “You’re dead.”

And sitting there in the electric chair, trapped by the leather straps, with a wind from the tent flaps playing over her face, evaporating the wetness, staring at him and seeing the dark in his eyes, she gave the only answer it was possible to give.

“Yes,” she said, eyes shut. “Oh, yes. I am.”


Vinia woke to the sound of a rabbit running down and across an endless moonlit field; but it was only the soft, quick beating of her heart. She lay on the bed for a moment, getting her breath. Now the sound of the running faded and was gone at a great distance. At last she sat up and looked down from her second-story bedroom window and there below, on the long sidewalk, in the faint moonlight before dawn, was the hopscotch.

Late yesterday, some child had chalked it out, immense and endlessly augmented, square upon square, line after line, numeral following numeral. You could not see the end of it. Down the street it built its crazy pattern, 3, 4, 5, on up to 10, then 30, 50, 90, on away to turn far corners. Never in all the children’s world a hopscotch like this! You could Jump forever toward the horizon.

Now in the very early, very quiet morning, her eyes traveled and jumped, paused and hopped, along that presumptuous ladder of chalk-scratches and she heard herself whisper:

“Sixteen. “

But she did not run on from there.

The next square waited, she knew, with the scribbled blue chalk 17, but her mind flung out its arms and balanced, teetering, poised with her numb foot planted across the 1 and the 6, and could go no further.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray