Then he locked the truck in the garage and went to stand on the back porch, thinking, I won’t need water. The storm will soak the ground.
He stood for a long while simply staring at the graveyard mulch, waiting for rain, until he thought, what am I waiting for? Jesus! And went in.
At ten o’clock a light rain tapped on the windows and sifted over the dark garden. At eleven it rained so steadily that the gutter drains swallowed and rattled.
At midnight the rain grew heavy. He looked to see if it was eroding the new dark earth but saw only the black muck drinking the downpour like a great black sponge, lit by distant flares of lightning.
Then, at one in the morning, the greatest Niagara of all shuddered the house, rinsed the windows to blindness, and shook the lights.
And then, abruptly, the downpour, the immense Niagara ceased, followed by one great downfell blow of lightning which plowed and pinioned the dark earth close by, near, outside, with explosions of light as if ten thousand flashbulbs had been fired off. Then darkness fell in curtains of thunder, cracking, breaking the bones.
In bed, wishing for the merest dog to hold for lack of human company, hugging the sheets, burying his head, then rising full to the silent air, the dark air, the storm gone, the rain shut, and a silence that spread in whispers as the last drench melted into the trembling soil.
He shuddered and then shivered and then hugged himself to stop the shivering of his cold flesh, and he was thirsty but could not make himself move to find the kitchen and drink water, milk, leftover wine, anything. He lay back, dry-mouthed, with unreasonable tears filling his eyes.
Free dirt, he thought. My God, what a damn-fool night. Free dirt!
At two o’clock he heard his wristwatch ticking softly.
At two-thirty he felt his pulse in his wrists and ankles and neck and then in his temples and inside his head.
The entire house leaned into the wind, listening.
Outside in the still night, the wind failed and the yard lay soaked and waiting.
And at last … yes. He opened his eyes and turned his head toward the shaded window.
He held his breath. what? Yes? Yes? What?
Beyond the window, beyond the wall, beyond the house, outside somewhere, a whisper, a murmur, growing louder and louder. Grass growing? Blossoms opening? Soil shifting, crumbling?
A great whisper, a mix of shadows and shades. Something rising. Something moving.
Ice froze beneath his skin. His heart ceased.
Outside in the dark, in the yard.
Autumn had arrived.
October was there.
His garden gave him …
Harrison Cooper was not that old, only thirty-nine, touching at the warm rim of forty rather than the cold rim of thirty, which makes a great difference in temperature and attitude. He was a genius verging on the brilliant, unmarried, unengaged, with no children that he could honestly claim, so having nothing much else to do, woke one morning in the summer of 1999, weeping.
Out of bed, he faced his mirror to watch the tears, examine his sadness, trace the woe. Like a child, curious after emotion, he charted his own map, found no capital city of despair, but only a vast and empty expanse of sorrow, and went to shave.
Which didn’t help, for Harrison Cooper had stumbled on some secret supply of melancholy that, even as he shaved, spilled in rivulets down his soaped cheeks.
“Great God,” he cried. “I’m at a funeral, but who’s dead?!”
He ate his breakfast toast somewhat soggier than usual and plunged off to his laboratory to see if gazing at his Time Traveler would solve the mystery of eyes that shed rain while the rest of him stood fair.
Time Traveler? All, yes.
For Harrison Cooper had spent the better part of his third decade wiring circuitries of impossible pasts and as yet untouchable futures. Most men philosophize in their as-beautiful-as-women cars. Harrison Cooper chose to dream and knock together from pure air and electric thunderclaps what he called his Mobius Machine.
He had told his friends, with wine-colored nonchalance, that he was taking a future strip and a past strip, giving them a now half twist, so they looped on a single plane. Like those figure-eight ribbons, cut and pasted by that dear mathematician A. F. Mobius in the nineteenth century.