The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“What about breakfast?” said William.

Breakfast was being served in the immense dining room. Ham and eggs for everyone. The place was full of tourists. The film people entered, all eight of them—six men and two women, giggling, shoving chairs about. And Susan sat near them, feeling the warmth and protection they offered, even when Mr. Simms came down the lobby stairs, smoking his Turkish cigarette with great intensity. He nodded at them from a distance, and Susan nodded back, smiling, because he couldn’t do anything to them here, in front of eight film people and twenty other tourists.

“Those actors,” said William. “Perhaps I could hire two of them, say it was a joke, dress them in our clothes, have them drive off in our car when Simms is in such a spot where he can’t see their faces. If two people pretending to be us could lure him off for a few hours, we might make it to Mexico City. It’d take him years to find us there!”


A fat man, with liquor on his breath, leaned on their table. “American tourists!” he cried. “I’m so sick of seeing Mexicans, I could kiss you!” He shook their hands. “Come on, eat with us. Misery loves company. I’m Misery, this is Miss Gloom, and Mr. and Mrs. Do-We-Hate-Mexico! We all hate it. But we’re here for some preliminary shots for a damn film. The rest of the crew arrives tomorrow. My name’s Joe Melton. I’m a director. And if this ain’t a hell of a country! Funerals in the streets, people dying. Come on, move over. Join the party; cheer us up!”

Susan and William were both laughing.

“Am I funny?” Mr. Melton asked the immediate world.

“Wonderful!” Susan moved over.

Mr. Simms was glaring across the dining room at them. She made a face at him.

Mr. Simms advanced among the tables.

“Mr. and Mrs. Travis,” he called. “I thought we were breakfasting together, alone.”

“Sorry,” said William.

“Sit down, pal,” said Mr. Melton. “Any friend of theirs is a pal of mine.”

Mr. Simms sat. The film people talked loudly, and while they talked, Mr. Simms said quietly, “I hope you slept well.”

“Did you?”

“I’m not used to spring mattresses,” replied Mr. Simms wryly. “But there are compensations. I stayed up half the night trying new cigarettes and foods. Odd, fascinating. A whole new spectrum of sensation, these ancient vices.”

“We don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Susan.

“Always the play acting.” Simms laughed. “It’s no use. Nor is this stratagem of crowds. I’ll get you alone soon enough. I’m immensely patient.”

“Say,” Mr. Melton broke in, his face flushed, “is this guy giving you any trouble?”

“It’s all right.”

“Say the word and I’ll give him the bum’s rush.”

Melton turned back to yell at his associates. In the laughter, Mr. Simms went on: “Let us come to the point. It took me a month of tracing you through towns and cities to find you, and all of yesterday to be sure of you. If you come with me quietly, I might be able to get you off with no punishment, if you agree to go back to work on the hydrogen-plus bomb.”

“Science this guy talks at breakfast!” observed Mr. Melton, half listening.

Simms went on, imperturbably. “Think it over. You can’t escape. If you kill me, others will follow you.”

“We don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Stop it!” cried Simms irritably. “Use your intelligence! You know we can’t let you get away with this escape. Other people in the year 2155 might get the same idea and do what you’ve done. We need people.”

“To fight your wars,” said William at last.


“It’s all right, Susan. We’ll talk on his terms now. We can’t escape.”

“Excellent,” said Simms. “Really, you’ve both been incredibly romantic, running away from your responsibilities.”

“Running away from horror.”

“Nonsense. Only a war.”

“What are you guys talking about?” asked Mr. Melton.

Susan wanted to tell him. But you could only speak in generalities. The psychological bloc in your mind allowed that. Generalities, such as Simms and William were now discussing.

“Onlythe war,” said William. “Half the world dead of leprosy bombs!”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100

Categories: Bradbury, Ray