“Repeat: for the love of God, Montresor.”
“Repeat: Montresor, for the love of God.”
“For the love of God, Montresor’.”
“Do you see this label?”
“Read the date.”
“Nineteen ninety-four. No such date.”
“Again, and the name of the wine.”
“Nineteen ninety-four. Amontillado. And my name!”
“Yes! Now shake your head. Make the fool’s-cap bells ring. Here’s mortar for the last brick. Quickly. I’m here to bury you alive with books. When death comes, how will you greet him? With a shout and-?”
“Requiescat in pace?”
“Say it again.”
“Requiescat in pace!”
The Time Wind roared, the room emptied. Nurses ran in, summoned by laughter, and tried to seize the books that weighed down his joy.
“What’s he saying?” someone cried.
In Paris, an hour, a day, a year, a minute later, there was a run of St. Elmo’s fire along a church steeple, a blue glow in a dark alley, a soft tread at a street corner, a turnabout of wind like an invisible carousel, and then footfalls up a stair to a door which opened on a bedroom where a window looked out upon cafes filled with people and far music, and in a bed by the window, a tall man lying, his pale face immobile, until he heard alien breath in his room.
The shadow of a man stood over him and now leaned down so that the light from the window revealed a face and a mouth as it inhaled and then spoke. The single word that the mouth said was:
THE OTHER HIGHWAY
They drove into green Sunday-morning country, away from the hot aluminum city, and watched as the sky was set free and moved over them like a lake they had never known was there, amazingly blue and with white breakers above them as they traveled.
Clarence Travers slowed the car and felt the cool wind move over his face with the smell of cut grass. He reached over to grasp his wife’s hand and glanced at his son and daughter in the backseat, not fighting, at least for this moment, as the car moved through one quiet beauty after another in what might be a Sunday so lush and green it would never end.
“Thank God we’re doing this,” said Cecelia Travers. “It’s been a million years since we got away.” He felt her hand hug his and then relax completely. “when I think of all those ladies dropping dead from the heat at the cocktail parry this afternoon, welt”
“Well, indeed,” said Clarence Travers. “Onward!”
He pressed the gas pedal and they moved faster. Their progress out of the city had been mildly hysterical, with cars shrieking and shoving them toward islands of wilderness praying for picnics that might not be found. Seeing that he had put the car in the fast lane, he slowed to gradually move himself and his family through the banshee traffic until they were idling along at an almost reasonable fifty miles an hour. The scents of flowers and trees that blew in the window made his move worthwhile. He laughed at nothing at all and said:
“Sometimes, when I get this far out, I think let’s just keep driving, never go back to the damned city.”
“Let’s drive a hundred miles,” shouted his son.
“A thousand!” cried his daughter.
“A thousand!” said Clarence Travers. “But one slow mile at a time.” And then said, softly, “Hey!”
And as suddenly as if they had dreamed it up, the lost highway came into view. “Wonderful!” said Mr. Clarence Travers.
“What?” asked the children.
“Look!” said Clarence Travers, leaning over his wife, pointing. “That’s the Old road. The one they used a long time ago.”
“That?” said his wife.
“It’s awfully small,” said his son.
“Well, there weren’t many cars then, they didn’t need much.”
“It looks like a big snake,” said his daughter.
“Yeah, the old roads used to twist and turn, all right. Remember?”
Cecelia Travers nodded. The car had slowed and they gazed over at that narrow concrete strip with the green grass buckling it gently here or there and sprays of wildflowers nestling up close to either side and the morning sunlight coming down through the high elms and maples and oaks that led the way toward the forest.