“No, no, it was my walk—these high heels—that did it. Our haircuts—so new, so fresh. Everything about us odd and uneasy.”
He turned on the light. “He’s still testing us. He’s not positive of us—not completely. We can’t run out on him, then. We can’t make him certain. We’ll go to Acapulco leisurely.”
“Maybe heis sure of us, but is just playing.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s got all the time in the world. He can daily here if he wants, and bring us back to the Future sixty seconds after we left it. He might keep us wondering for days, laughing at us.”
Susan sat on the bed, wiping the tears from her face, smelling the old smell of charcoal and incense.
“They won’t make a scene, will they?”
“They won’t dare. They’ll have to get us alone to put us in that Time Machine and send us back.”
“There’s a solution then,” she said. “We’ll never be alone; we’ll always be in crowds. We’ll make a million friends, visit markets, sleep in the Official Palaces in each town, pay the Chief of Police to guard us until we find a way to kill Simms and escape, disguise ourselves in new clothes, perhaps as Mexicans.”
Footsteps sounded outside their locked door.
They turned out the light and undressed in silence. The footsteps went away. A door closed.
Susan stood by the window looking down at the plaza in the darkness. “So that building there is a church?”
“I’ve often wondered what a church looked like. It’s been so long since anyone saw one. Can we visit it tomorrow?”
“Of course. Come to bed.”
They lay in the dark room.
Half an hour later their phone rang. She lifted the receiver.
“The rabbits may hide in the forest,” said a voice, “but a fox can always find them.”
She replaced the receiver and lay back straight and cold in the bed.
Outside, in the year 1938, a man played three tunes upon a guitar, one following another.
During the night she put her hand out and almost touched the year 2155. She felt her fingers slide over cool spaces of time, as over a corrugated surface, and she heard the insistent thump of marching feet, a million bands playing a million military tunes, and she saw the fifty thousand rows of disease cultures in their aseptic glass tubes, her hand reaching out to them at her work in that huge factory in the Future; the tubes of leprosy, bubonic, typhoid, tuberculosis, and then the great explosion. She saw her hand burned to a wrinkled plum, felt it recoil from a concussion so immense that the world was lifted and let fall and all the buildings broke and people hemorrhaged and lay silent. Great volcanoes, machines, winds, avalanches slid down to silence and she awoke, sobbing, in the bed, in Mexico, many years away. . . .
In the early morning, drugged with the single hour’s sleep they had finally been able to obtain, they awoke to the sound of loud automobiles in the street. Susan peered down from the iron balcony at a small crowd of eight people only now emerging, chattering, yelling, from trucks and cars with red lettering on them. A crowd of Mexicans had followed the trucks.
“Qué pasa?”Susan called to a little boy.
The boy replied.
Susan turned back to her husband. “An American motion-picture company, here on location.”
“Sounds interesting.” William was in the shower. “Let’s watch them. I don’t think we’d better leave today. We’ll try to lull Simms. Watch the films being made. They say the primitive film making was something. Get our minds off ourselves.”
Ourselves, thought Susan. For a moment, in the bright sun, she had forgotten that somewhere in the hotel, waiting, was a man smoking a thousand cigarettes, it seemed. She saw the eight loud happy Americans below and wanted to call to them: “Save me, hide me, help me! Color my hair, my eyes; clothe me in strange clothes. I need your help. I’m from the year 2155!”
But the words stayed in her throat. The functionaries of Travel in Time, Inc., were not foolish. In your brain, before you left on your trip, they placed a psychological bloc. You could tell no one your true time or birthplace, nor could you reveal any of the Future to those in the Past. The Past and the Future must be protected from each other. Only with this psychological bloc were people allowed to travel unguarded through the ages. The Future must be protected from any change brought about by her people traveling in the Past. Even if she wanted to with all her heart, she could not tell any of those happy people below in the plaza who she was, or what her predicament had become.