“Well?” My host searched my face, amused. “Three jackpot cherries in a row?”

I shuddered.

“Circumstance. No court would convict me.”

“This court elects you. We tell palms to read ravenous groins. Yes?”

Gas steamed up from one shriveled aperture in the restless mound. Yessss.

They say that men in the grip of passion, blind to their own darkness, make love and run mad. Stunned by guilt, they find themselves beasts, having done the very thing they were warned not to do by church, town, parents, life. In explosive outrage they turn to the sinful lure. Seeing her as unholy provocateur, they kill. Women, in similar rages and guilts, overdose. Eve lies self-slain in the Garden. Adam hangs himself with the Snake as noose.

But here was no passionate crime, no woman, no provocateur, only the great mound of siphoning breath and my blond host. And only words which riddled me with fusillades of arrows. Like an Oriental hedgehog, bristled with shafts, my body exploded with No, No, No. Echoed and then real:


Yessss, whispered the vapor from the mounded tissue, the skeleton buried in ancient soups.


I gasped to see my games, steams, midnight bars, late-dawn beds: a maniac sum.

I rounded dark corridors to confront a stranger so pockmarked, creased, and oiled by passion, so cobwebbed and smashed by drink, that I tried to avert my gaze. The terror gaped his mouth and reached for my hand. Stupidly, I reached to shake his and-rapped glass! A mirror. I stared deep into my own life. I had seen myself in shop windows, dim undersea men running in creeks. Mornings, shaving, I saw my mirrored health. But this! This troglodyte trapped in amber. Myself, snapshotted like ten dozen sexual acrobats! And who jammed this mirror at me? My beautiful host, and that corrupt flatulence beyond.

“You are selected,” they whispered.

“I refuse!” I shrieked.

And whether I shrieked aloud or merely thought, a great furnace gaped. The oceanic mound erupted thunders of gaseous streams. My beautiful host fell back, stunned that their search beneath my skin, behind my mask, had brought revulsion. Always when Dorian cried, “Friend,” raw gymnast teams had mobbed to catapult that armless, legless, featureless Sargasso Sea. Before they had smothered to drown in his miasma, to arise, embrace, and wrestle in the dark gymnasium, then run forth young to assault a world.

And I? What had I dared to do, that quaked that membranous sac into regurgitated whistling and broken winds?

“Idiot!” cried my host, all teeth and fists. “Out! Out!”

“Out,” I cried, spun to obey, and tripped.

I do not clearly know what happened as I fell. And if it was a swift reaction to the holocaust erupted like vile spit and vomit from that putrescent mound, I cannot say. I knew no lightning shock of murder, yet knew perhaps some summer heat flash of revenge. For what? I thought. What are you to Dorian or he to you that frees the hydra behind your face, or causes the slightest twitch of leg, arm, hand, or fingernail, as the last fetid air from Dorian burned my hair and stuffed my nostrils.

It was over in a second.

Something shoved me. Did my secret self, insulted, give that push? I was flung as if on wires, knocked to sprawl at Dorian.

He gave two terrible cries, one of warning, one of despair.

I was recovered so in landing, I did not sink my hands deep in that poisonous yeast, into that multiflorid Man of War jelly. I swear that I touched, raked, scarified him with only one thing: the smallest fingernail of my right hand.

My fingernail!

And so this Dorian was shot and foundered. And so the mammoth with screams collapsed. And so the nauseous balloon sank, fold on midnight fold, upon its own boneless sell, fissuring volcanic sulfurs, immense rectal airs, outgassed whistles, and whimpers of self-pitying despair.

“Christ! What have you done!? Murderer! Damn you!” cried my host, riven to stare at Dorian’s exhaustions unto death.

He whirled to strike, but ran to reach the door and cry, “Lock this! Lock! Whatever happens, for God’s sake, don’t open! Now!” The door slammed. I ran to lock it and turn.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85

Categories: Bradbury, Ray