The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

They were all alone. Their voices had died like echoes of the words of God spoken and vibrating in the starred deep. There went the captain to the Moon; there Stone with the meteor swarm; there Stimson; there Applegate toward Pluto; there Smith and Turner and Underwood and all the rest, the shards of the kaleidoscope that had formed a thinking pattern for so long, hurled apart.

And I? thought Hollis. What can I do? Is there anything I can do now to make up for a terrible and empty life? If only I could do one good thing to make up for the meanness I collected all these years and didn’t even know was in me! But there’s no one here but myself, and how can you do good all alone? You can’t. Tomorrow night I’ll hit Earth’s atmosphere.

I’ll burn, he thought, and be scattered in ashes all over the continental lands. I’ll be put to use. Just a little bit, but ashes are ashes and they’ll add to the land.

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about.

When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor.

“I wonder,” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”

The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois.

“Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

* * *

The Illustrated Man turned in the moonlight. He turned again . . . and again . . . and again. . . .

* * *

The Other Foot

WHEN they heard the news they came out of the restaurants and cafés and hotels and looked at the sky. They lifted their dark hands over their upturned white eyes. Their mouths hung wide. In the hot noon for thousands of miles there were little towns where the dark people stood with their shadows under them, looking up.

In her kitchen Hattie Johnson covered the boiling soup, wiped her thin fingers on a cloth, and walked carefully to the back porch.

“Come on, Ma! Hey, Ma, come on—you’ll miss it!”

“Hey, Mom!”

Three little Negro boys danced around in the dusty yard, yelling. Now and then they looked at the house frantically.

“I’m coming,” said Hattie, and opened the screen door. “Where you hear this rumor?”

“Up at Jones’s, Ma. They say a rocket’s coming, first one in twenty years, with a white man in it!”

“What’s a white man? I never seen one.

“You’ll find out,” said Hattie. “Yes indeed, you’ll find out.”

“Tell us about one, Ma. Tell like you did.”

Hattie frowned. “Well, it’s been a long time. I was a little girl, you see. That was back in 1965.”

“Tell us about a white man, Mom!”

She came and stood in the yard, looking up at the blue clear Martian sky with the thin white Martian clouds, and in the distance the Martian hills broiling in the heat. She said at last, “Well, first of all, they got white hands.”

“White hands!” The boys joked, slapping each other.

“And they got white arms.

“White arms!” hooted the boys.

“And white faces.”

“White faces! Really?”

“White likethis, Mom?” The smallest threw dust on his face, sneezing. “This way?”

“Whiter than that” she said gravely, and turned to the sky again. There was a troubled thing in her eyes, as if she was looking for a thundershower up high, and not seeing it made her worry. “Maybe you better go inside.”

“Oh, Mom!” They stared at her in disbelief. “We got to watch, we just got to. Nothing’s going to happen, is it?”

“I don’t know. I got a feeling, is all.”

“We just want to see the ship and maybe run down to the port and see that white man. What’s he like, huh, Mom?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know,” she mused, shaking her head.

“Tell us some more!”

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