“For God’s sake, how insane! Why?”

“Why? So that every forty, fifty, sixty, ninety years we could start over with fresh projects, new concepts, renewed jobs, cash on the line for everyone – blueprinters, planners, craftsmen, builders, stonemasons, diggers, carpenters, glaziers, gardeners. Knock it all down, start new!”

“You mean you-?”

“Studied where the earthquakes hid, where they might erupt, every seam, crack, and fault in every territory, stage, land in the world! That’s where we built the cities! Or most of them.”

“B.S.! You couldn’t do that, you and your planners! People would find out!”

“They never knew or found out. We met in secret, covered our tracks. A small klan, a wee band of conspirators in every country in every age. Like the Masons, eh? Or some Inquisitional Catholic sect? Or an underground Muslim grot. It doesn’t take many or much. And the average politician, dumb or stupid, took our word for it. This is the site, here’s the very place, plant your capital here, your town there. Perfectly safe. Until the next quake, eh, Hank?”


“Watch your language!”

“I refuse to believe-“

The room shook. The chairs trembled. Half out of his chair, Hank Gibson sank back. The color in his face sank, too.

“Two minutes to go,” said Charlie Crowe. “Shall I talk fast? Well, you don’t think the destiny of the world would be left to your ordinary farm-beast politico, do you? Have you ever sat at a Rotary/Lions lunch with those sweet imbecile Chamber of Commerce stallions? Sleep an dreams! Would you let the world jog along wit Zaharoff and his gun-maker-powder experts? Hell no. They only know how to fire steel and package nitro. So our people, the same people who built the cities on the earthquake fault lines to ensure new work to build more cities, we planned the wars, secretly.

“We provoked, guided, steered, influenced the politicians to boil over, one way or t’other, and Paris and the Terror followed, dogged by Napoleon, trailed by the Paris Commune in which Haussmann, taking advantage of the chaos, tore down and rebuilt the City to the madness of some delight of others. Consider Dresden, London, Tokyo, Hiroshima. We architects paid cold cash to get Hitler out of jail in 1922! Then we architect mosquito-pestered the Japanese to invade Manchuria, import junk iron, antagonize Roosevelt, bomb Pearl Harbor. Sure, the Emperor approved, sure the Generals knew delight, sure the kamikazes took off for oblivion, joyously happy. But behind the scenes, we architects, clapping hands, rubbing palms for the moola, shoved them up! Not the politicians, not the military, not the arms merchants, but the sons of Haussmann and the future sons of Frank Lloyd Wright sent them on there way. Glory hallelujah!”

Hank Gibson exhaled a great gust and sat weighted with an ounce of information and a ton of confusion, at the head of this table. He stared down its length.

“There were meetings here-“

“In 1932, 1936, 1939 to fester Tokyo, poison Washington for war. And at the same time make sure that San Francisco was built in the best way for a new downfall, and that California cities all up and down the cracks and seams nursed at the mother fault, San Andreas, so when the Big One came, it would rain money for forty days.”

“Son of a bitch,” said Hank Gibson.

“Yes, aren’t I? Aren’t we?”

“Son of a bitch,” Hank Gibson repeated in a whisper. “Man’s wars and God’s earthquakes.”

“What a collaboration, eh? All done by the secret government, the government of surprise architects across the world and into the next century.”

The floor shook. The table and the chair and the ceiling did likewise.

“Time?” said Hank Gibson.

Charlie Crowe laughed, glancing at his watch.

“Time. Out!”

They ran for the door, ran down the hall past the doors marked TOKYO and London and Dresden, past the doors marked 1789 and 1870 and 1940 and past the doors marked ARMENIA and MEXICO CITY and SAN Francisco and shot up in the elevator, and along the way, Hank Gibson said:

“Again, why’ve you told me this?”

“I’m retiring. The others are gone. We won’t use this place again. It’ll be gone. Maybe now.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray