Something Wicked This Way Comes. RAY BRADBURY

It was moonlight, flashing on a great glass.

Perhaps the light said something, perhaps it spoke in code.

I’ll go there, thought Charles Halloway, I won’t go there.

I like it, he thought, I don’t like it.

A moment later the library door slammed.

Going home, he passed the empty store window.

Inside stood two abandoned sawhorses.

Between lay a pool of water. In the water floated a few shards of ice. In the ice were a few long strands of hair.

Charles Halloway saw but chose not to see. He turned and was gone. The street was soon as empty as the hardware-store window.

Far away, in the meadow, shadows flickered in the Mirror Maze, as if parts of someone’s life, yet unborn, were trapped there, waiting to be lived.

So the maze waited, its cold gaze ready, for so much as a bird to come look, see, and fly away shrieking.

But no bird came.


“Three,” a voice said.

Will listened, cold but warming, glad to be in with a roof above, floor below, wall and door between too much exposure, too much freedom, too much night.


Dad’s voice, home now, moving down the hall, speaking to itself.


Why, thought Will, that’s when the train came. Had Dad seen, heard, followed?

No, he mustn’t! Will hunched himself. Why not? He trembled. What did he fear?

The carnival rushing in like a black stampede of storm waves on the shore out beyond? Of him and Jim and Dad knowing, of the town asleep, not knowing, was that it?

Yes. Will buried himself, deep. Yes…


Three in the morning, thought Charles Halloway, seated on the edge of his bed. Why did the train come at that hour?

For, he thought, it’s a special hour. Women never wake then, do they? They sleep the sleep of babes and children. But men in middle age? They know that hour well. Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning’s not bad there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three a.m.! The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you”d slaughter your half dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry. The moon rolls by to look at you down there, with its idiot face. It’s a long way back to sunset, a far way on to dawn, so you summon all the fool things of your life, the stupid lovely things done with people known so very well who are now so very dead — And wasn’t it true, had he read it somewhere, more people in hospitals die at 3 a.m. than at any other time…?

Stop! he cried silently.

“Charlie?” his wife said in her sleep.

Slowly, he took off the other shoe.

His wife smiled in her sleep.


She’s immortal. She has a son.

Your son, too!

But what father ever really believes it? He carries no burden, he feels no pain. What man, like woman, lies down in darkness and gets up with child? The gentle, smiling ones own the good secret. Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it. Why speak of Time when you are Time, and shape the universal moments, as they pass, into warmth and action? How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever. So what do we do? We men turn terribly mean, because we can’t hold to the world ourselves or anything. We are blind to continuity, all breaks down, falls, melts, stops, rots, or runs away. So, since we cannot shape Time, where does that leave men? Sleepless. Staring.

Three a.m. That’s our reward. Three in the morn. The soul’s midnight. The tide goes out, the soul ebbs. And a train arrives at an hour of despair. Why?

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray