“Another five minutes,” he told himself. “Another five minutes and then I’ll walk into the sea and keep walking. We weren’t made for this; no Earthman was or ever will be able to take it. Your nerves, your nerves.
He floundered his way through a sea of slush and foliage and came to a small hill.
At a distance there was a faint yellow smudge in the cold veils of water.
The next Sun Dome.
Through the trees, a long round yellow building, far away. For a moment he only stood, swaying, looking at it.
He began to run and then he slowed down, for he was afraid. He didn’t call out. What if it’s the same one? What if it’s the dead Sun Dome, with no sun in it? he thought.
He slipped and fell. Lie here, he thought; it’s the wrong one. Lie here. It’s no use. Drink all you want.
But he managed to climb to his feet again and crossed several creeks, and the yellow light grew very bright, and he began to run again, his feet crashing into mirrors and glass, his arms flailing at diamonds and precious stones.
He stood before the yellow door. The printed letters over it said THE SUN DOME. He put his numb hand up to feel it. Then he twisted the doorknob and stumbled in.
He stood for a moment looking about. Behind him the rain whirled at the door. Ahead of him, upon a low table, stood a silver pot of hot chocolate, steaming, and a cup, full, with a marshmallow in it. And beside that, on another tray, stood thick sandwiches of rich chicken meat and fresh-cut tomatoes and green onions. And on a rod just before his eyes was a great thick green Turkish towel, and a bin in which to throw wet clothes, and, to his right, a small cubicle in which heat rays might dry you instantly. And upon a chair, a fresh change of uniform, waiting for anyone—himself, or any lost one—to make use of it. And farther over, coffee in steaming copper urns, and a phonograph from which music was playing quietly, and books bound in red and brown leather. And near the books a cot, a soft deep cot upon which one might lie, exposed and bare, to drink in the rays of the one great bright thing which dominated the long room.
He put his hands to his eyes. He saw other men moving toward him, but said nothing to them. He waited, and opened his eyes, and looked. The water from his uniform pooled at his feet and he felt it drying from his hair and his face and his chest and his arms and his legs.
He was looking at the sun.
It hung in the center of the room, large and yellow and warm. It made not a sound, and there was no sound in the room. The door was shut and the rain only a memory to his tingling body. The sun hung high in the blue sky of the room, warm, hot, yellow, and very fine.
He walked forward, tearing off his clothes as he went.
* * *
The Rocket Man
THE electrical fireflies were hovering above Mother’s dark hair to light her path. She stood in her bedroom door looking out at me as I passed in the silent hall. “Youwill help me keep him here this time, won’t you?” she asked.
“I guess so,” I said.
“Please.” The fireflies cast moving bits of light on her white face. “This time he mustn’t go away again.”
“All right,” I said, after standing there a moment. “But it won’t do any good; it’s no use.”
She went away, and the fireflies, on their electric circuits, fluttered after her like an errant constellation, showing her how to walk in darkness. I heard her say, faintly, “We’ve got to try, anyway.”
Other fireflies followed me to my room. When the weight of my body cut a circuit in the bed, the fireflies winked out. It was midnight, and my mother and I waited, our rooms separated by darkness, in bed. The bed began to rock me and sing to me. I touched a switch; the singing and rocking stopped. I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep at all.