Something Wicked This Way Comes. RAY BRADBURY

The dark man’s voice hissed away to silence.

Very faintly now, somewhere in the library, someone was sobbing.

Ah …

The Illustrated Man gassed the air pleasantly from his dank lungs.

Yesssssssssss …

”Here …” he, murmured. “What? Filed under B for Boys? A for Adventure? H for Hidden. S for Secret. T for Terrified? Or filed under J for Jim or N for Nightshade, W for William, H for Halloway? Where are my two precious human books, so I may turn their pages, eh?,”

He kicked a place for his right foot on the first shelf of a towering stack.

He shoved his right foot in, put his weight there, and swung his left foot free.


His left foot hit the second shelf, knocked space. He climbed. His right foot kicked a hole on the third shelf, plunged books back, and so up and up he climbed, to fourth shelf, to fifth, to six, groping dark library heavens, hands clutching shelfboards, then scrabbling higher to leaf night to find boys, if boys there were, like bookmarks among books.

His right hand, a princely tarantula, garlanded with roses, cracked a book of Bayeaux tapestries aspin down the sightless abyss below. It seemed an age before the tapestries struck, all askew, a ruin of beauty, an avalanche of gold, silver, and sky-blue thread on the floor.

His left hand, reaching the ninth shelf as he panted, grunted, encountered empty space—no books.

”Boys, are you here on Everest?”

Silence. Except for the faint sobbing, nearer now.

”Is it cold here? Colder? Coldest?”“

The eyes of the Illustrated Man came abreast of the eleventh shelf.

Like a corpse laid rigid out, face down just three inches away, was Jim Nightshade.

One shelf further up in the catacomb, eyes trembling with tears, lay William Halloway.

”Well,” said Mr. Dark.

He reached a hand to pat Will’s head.

”Hello,” he said.


To Will, the palm of the hand that drifted up was like a moon rising.

Upon it was the fiery blue-inked portrait of himself. Jim, too, saw a hand before his face.

His own picture looked back at him from the palm.

The hand with Will’s picture grabbed Will.

The hand with Jim’s picture grabbed Jim.

Shrieks and yells.

The Illustrated Man heaved.

Twisting, he fell-jumped to the floor.

The boys, kicking, yelling, fell with him. They landed on their feet, toppled, collapsed, to be held, reared, set right, fistfuls of their shirts in Mr. Dark’s fists.

”Jim!” he said. “Will! What were you doing up there, boys? Surely not reading?”


”Mr. Halloway!”

Will’s father stepped from the dark.

The Illustrated Man rearranged the boys tenderly under one arm like kindling, then gazed with genteel curiosity at Charles Halloway and reached for him. Will’s father struck one blow before his left hand was seized, held, squeezed. As the boys watched, shouting, they saw Charles Halloway gasp and fall to one knee.

Mr. Dark squeezed that left hand harder and, doing this, slowly, certainly, pressured the boys with his other arm, crushing their ribs so air gushed from their mouths.

Night spiraled in fiery whorls like great thumbprints inside Will’s eyes.

Will’s father, groaning, sank to both knees, flailing his right arm.

”Damn you!”

”But,” said the carnival owner quietly, “I am already.”

”Damn you, damn you!”

”Not words, old man,” said Mr. Dark. ““Not words in books or words you say, but real thoughts, real actions, quick thought, quick action, win the day. So!”

He gave one last mighty clench of his fist.

The boys heard Charles Halloway’s finger bones crack. He gave a last cry and fell senseless.

In one motion like a solemn pavane, the Illustrated Man rounded the stacks, the boys, kicking books from shelves, under his arms.

Will, feeling walls, books, floors fly by, foolishly thought, pressed close.. Why, why, Mr. Dark smells like … calliope steam!

Both boys were dropped suddenly. Before they could move or regain their breath, each was gripped by the hair on their head and roused marionettes-wise to face a window, a street.

”Boys, you read Dickens?” Mr. Dark whispered.

Critics hate his coincidences. But we know, don’t we? Life’s all coincidence. Turn death and happenstance flakes off him like fleas from a killed ox. Look!”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray