The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

Susan felt herself slip down into a chair. Everyone was watching the director. He took a little sip of wine. “Ah, that’s a fine wine. Well, this man and woman, it seems, don’t realize how important they are to the Future. The man, especially, is the keystone to a new bomb metal. So the Searchers, let’s call them, spare no trouble or expense to find, capture, and take home the man and wife, once they get them totally alone, in a hotel room, where no one can see. Strategy. The Searchers work alone, or in groups of eight. One trick or another will do it. Don’t you think it would make a wonderful film, Susan? Don’t you, Bill?” He finished his drink.

Susan sat with her eyes straight ahead of her.

“Have a drink?” said Mr. Melton.

William’s gun was out and fired three times, and one of the men fell, and the others ran forward. Susan screamed. A hand was clamped to her mouth. Now the gun was on the floor and William was struggling, held.

Mr. Melton said, “Please,” standing there where he had stood, blood showing on his fingers. “Let’s not make matters worse.”

Someone pounded on the hall door.

“Let me in!”

“The manager,” said Mr. Melton dryly. He jerked his head. “Everyone, let’s move!”

“Let me in! I’ll call the police!”

Susan and William looked at each other quickly, and then at the door.

“The manager wishes to come in,” said Mr. Melton. Quick!”

A camera was carried forward. From it shot a blue light which encompassed the room instantly. It widened out and the people of the party vanished, one by one.


Outside the window, in the instant before she vanished, Susan saw the green land and the purple and yellow and blue and crimson walls and the cobbles flowing down like a river, a man upon a burro riding into the warm hills, a boy drinking Orange Crush, she could feel the sweet liquid in her throat a man standing under a cool plaza tree with a guitar, she could feel her hand upon the strings, and, far away, the sea, the blue and tender sea, she could feel it roll her over and take her in.

And then she was gone. Her husband was gone.

The door burst wide open. The manager and his staff rushed in.

The room was empty.

“But they were just here! I saw them come in, and now—gone!” cried the manager. “The windows are covered with iron grating. They couldn’t get out that way!”

In the late afternoon the priest was summoned and they opened the room again and aired it out, and had him sprinkle holy water through each corner and give it his blessing.

“What shall we do with these?” asked the charwoman.

She pointed to the closet, where there were 67 bottles of chartreuse, cognac,crème de cacao, absinthe, vermouth, tequila, 106 cartons of Turkish cigarettes, and 198 yellow boxes of fifty-cent pure Havana-filler cigars. . . .

* * *

The Visitor

SAUL WILLIAMS awoke to the still morning. He looked wearily out of his tent and thought about how far away Earth was. Millions of miles, he thought. But then what could you do about it? Your lungs were full of the “blood rust.” You coughed all the time.

Saul arose this particular morning at seven o’clock. He was a tall man, lean, thinned by his illness. It was a quiet morning on Mars, with the dead sea bottom-flat and silent—no wind on it. The sun was clear and cool in the empty sky. He washed his face and ate breakfast.

After that he wanted very much to be back on Earth. During the day he tried every way that it was possible to be in New York City. Sometimes, if he sat right and held his hands a certain way, he did it. He could almost smell New York. Most of the time, though, it was impossible.

Later in the morning Saul tried to die. He lay on the sand and told his heart to stop. It continued beating. He imagined himself leaping from a cliff or cutting his wrists, but laughed to himself—he knew he lacked the nerve for either act.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray