The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

Father Stone slept like a stiff bundle, quietly. Father Peregrine watched the Martians floating and watching him. They were human—heknew it. But he must prove it or face a dry-mouthed, dry-eyed Bishop telling him kindly to step aside.

But how to prove humanity if they hid in the high vaults of the sky? How to bring them nearer and provide answers to the many questions?

“They saved us from the avalanche.”

Father Peregrine arose, moved off among the rocks, and began to climb the nearest hill until he came to a place where a cliff dropped sheerly to a floor two hundred feet below. He was choking from his vigorous climb in the frosty air. He stood, getting his breath.

“If I fell from here, it would surely kill me.”

He let a pebble drop. Moments later it clicked on the rocks below.

“The Lord would never forgive me.”

He tossed another pebble.

“It wouldn’t be suicide, would it, if I did it out of Love . . . ?”

He lifted his gaze to the blue spheres. “But first, another try.” He called to them: “Hello, hello!”

The echoes tumbled upon each other, but the blue fires did not blink or move.

He talked to them for five minutes. When he stopped, he peered down and saw Father Stone, still indignantly asleep, below in the little camp.

“I must prove everything.” Father Peregrine stepped to the cliff rim. “I am an old man. I am not afraid. Surely the Lord will understand that I am doing this for Him?”

He drew a deep breath. All his life swam through his eyes and he thought, In a moment shall I die? I am afraid that I love living much too much. But I love other things more.

And, thinking thus, he stepped off the cliff.

He fell.

“Fool!” he cried. He tumbled end over end. “You were wrong!” The rocks rushed up at him and he saw himself dashed on them and sent to glory. “Why did I do this thing?” But he knew the answer, and an instant later was calm as he fell. The wind roared around him and the rocks hurtled to meet him.

And then there was a shift of stars, a glimmering of blue light, and he felt himself surrounded by blueness and suspended. A moment later he was deposited, with a gentle bump, upon the rocks, where he sat a full moment alive, and touching himself, and looking up at those blue lights that had withdrawn instantly.

“You saved me!” he whispered. “You wouldn’t let me die. You knew it was wrong.”

He rushed over to Father Stone, who still lay quietly asleep. “Father, Father, wake up!” He shook him and brought him round. “Father, they saved me!”

“Who saved you?” Father Stone blinked and sat up.

Father Peregrine related his experience.

“A dream, a nightmare; go back to sleep,” said Father Stone irritably. “You and your circus balloons.”

“But I was awake!”

“Now, now, Father, calm yourself. There now.

“You don’t believe me? Have you a gun? Yes, there, let me have it.”

“What are you going to do?” Father Stone handed over the small pistol they had brought along for protection against snakes or other similar and unpredictable animals.

Father Peregrine seized the pistol. “I’ll prove it!”

He pointed the pistol at his own hand and fired.


There was a shimmer of light and before their eyes the bullet stood upon the air, poised an inch from his open palm. It hung for a moment, surrounded by a blue phosphorescence. Then it fell, hissing, into the dust.

Father Peregrine fired the gun three times—at his hand, at his leg, at his body. The three bullets hovered, glittering, and, like dead insects, fell at their feet.

“You see?” said Father Peregrine, letting his arm fall, and allowing the pistol to drop after the bullets. “They know. They understand. They are not animals. They think and judge and live in a moral climate. What animal would save me from myself like this? There is no animal would do that. Only another man, Father. Now, do you believe?”

Father Stone was watching the sky and the blue lights, and now, silently, he dropped to one knee and picked up the warm bullets and cupped them in his hand. He closed his hand tight.

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