The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“There’s a flaw in your reasoning, Father,” said Father Stone. “Won’t the Martians suspect us of hypocrisy? They will realize that we don’t worship a round, globular Christ, but a man with limbs and a head. How do we explain the difference?”

“By showing there is none. Christ will fill any vessel that is offered. Bodies or globes, he is there, and each will worship the same thing in a different guise. What is more, we mustbelieve in this globe we give the Martians. We must believe in a shape which is meaningless to us as to form. This spheroidwill be Christ. And we must remember that we ourselves, and the shape of our Earth Christ, would be meaningless, ridiculous, a squander of material to these Martians.”

Father Peregrine laid aside his chalk. “Now let us go into the hills and build our church.”

The Fathers began to pack their equipment.

The church was not a church but an area cleared of rocks, a plateau on one of the low mountains, its soil smoothed and brushed, and an altar established whereon Brother Mathias placed the fiery globe he had constructed.

At the end of six days of work the “church” was ready.

“What shall we do with this?” Father Stone tapped an iron bell they had brought along. “What does a bell mean tothem?”

“I imagine I brought it for our own comfort,” admitted Father Peregrine. “We need a few familiarities. This church seems so little like a church. And we feel somewhat absurd here—even I; for it is something new, this business of converting the creatures of another world. I feel like a ridiculous play actor at times. And then I pray to God to lend me strength.”

“Many of the Fathers are unhappy. Some of them joke about all this, Father Peregrine.”

“I know. We’ll put this bell in a small tower, for their comfort, anyway.”

“What about the organ?”

“We’ll play it at the first service, tomorrow.”

“But, the Martians——”

“I know. But again, I suppose, for our own comfort, our own music. Later we may discover theirs.”

They arose very early on Sunday morning and moved through the coldness like pale phantoms, rime tinkling on their habits; covered with chimes they were, shaking down showers of silver water.

“I wonder if itis Sunday here on Mars?” mused Father Peregrine, but seeing Father Stone wince, he hastened on, “It might be Tuesday or Thursday—who knows? But no matter. My idle fancy. It’s Sunday to us. Come.”

The Fathers walked into the flat wide area of the “church” and knelt, shivering and blue-lipped.

Father Peregrine said a little prayer and put his cold fingers to the organ keys. The music went up like a flight of pretty birds. He touched the keys like a man moving his hands among the weeds of a wild garden, startling up great soarings of beauty into the hills.

The music calmed the air. It smelled the fresh smell of morning. The music drifted into the mountains and shook down mineral powders in a dusty rain.

The Fathers waited.

“Well, Father Peregrine.” Father Stone eyed the empty sky where the sun was rising, furnace-red. “I don’t see our friends.”

“Let me try again.” Father Peregrine was perspiring.

He built an architecture of Each, stone by exquisite stone, raising a music cathedral so vast that its furthest chancels were in Nineveh, its furthest dome at St. Peter’s left hand. The music stayed and did not crash in ruin when it was over, but partook of a series of white clouds and was carried away among other lands.

The sky was still empty.

“They’ll come!” But Father Peregrine felt the panic in his chest, very small, growing. “Let us pray. Let us ask them to come. They read minds; theyknow.”

The Fathers lowered themselves yet again, in rustlings and whispers. They prayed.

And to the East, out of the icy mountains of seven o’clock on Sunday morning or perhaps Thursday morning or maybe Monday morning on Mars, came the soft fiery globes.

They hovered and sank and filled the area around the shivering priests. “Thank you; oh, thank you, Lord.” Father Peregrine shut his eyes tight and played the music, and when it was done he turned and gazed upon his wondrous congregation.

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