The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

Saul began to run. He hadn’t run in weeks, and it was very tiring, but he ran and yelled.

“Hello, hello!”

The young man looked Saul up and down when he arrived.

“Hello. So this is Mars. My name’s Leonard Mark.”

“I’m Saul Williams.”

They shook hands. Leonard Mark was very young—only eighteen; very blond, pink-faced, blue-eyed and fresh in spite of his illness.

“How are things in New York?” said Saul.

“Like this,” said Leonard Mark. And he looked at Saul. New York grew up out of the desert, made of stone and filled with March winds. Neons exploded in electric color. Yellow taxis glided in a still night. Bridges rose and tugs chanted in the midnight harbors. Curtains rose on spangled musicals.

Saul put his hands to his head, violently.

“Hold on, hold on!” he cried. “What’s happening to me? What’s wrong with me? I’m going crazy!”

Leaves sprouted from trees in Central Park, green and new. On the pathway Saul strolled along, smelling the air.

“Stop it, stop it, you fool!” Saul shouted at himself. He pressed his forehead with his hands. “This can’t be!”

“It is,” said Leonard Mark.

The New York towers faded. Mars returned. Saul stood on the empty sea bottom, staring limply at the young newcomer.

“You,” he said, putting his hand out to Leonard Mark.“You did it. You did it with your mind.”

“Yes,” said Leonard Mark.

Silently they stood facing each other. Finally, trembling, Saul seized the other exile’s hand and wrung it again and again, saying, “Oh, but I’m glad you’re here. You can’t know how glad I am!”

They drank their rich brown coffee from the tin cups.

It was high noon. They had been talking all through the warm morning time.

“And this ability of yours?” said Saul over his cup, looking steadily at the young Leonard Mark.

“It’s just something I was born with,” said Mark, looking into his drink. “My mother was in the blowup of London back in ’57. I was born ten months later. I don’t know what you’d call my ability. Telepathy and thought transference, I suppose. I used to have an act. I traveled all around the world. Leonard Mark, the mental marvel, they said on the billboards. I was pretty well off. Most people thought I was a charlatan. You know what people think of theatrical folks. Only I knew I was really genuine, but I didn’t let anybody know. It was safer not to let it get around too much. Oh, a few of my close friends knew about my real ability. I had a lot of talents that will come in handy now that I’m here on Mars.”

“You sure scared the hell out of me,” said Saul, his cup rigid in his hand. “When New York came right up out of the ground that way, I thought I was insane.”

“It’s a form of hypnotism which affects all of the sensual organs at once—eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin—all of them. What would you like to be doing now most of all?”

Saul put down his cup. He tried to hold his hands very steady. He wet his lips. “I’d like to be in a little creek I used to swim in in Mellin Town, Illinois, when I was a kid. I’d like to be stark-naked and swimming.”

“Well,” said Leonard Mark and moved his head ever so little.

Saul fell back on the sand, his eyes shut.

Leonard Mark sat watching him.

Saul lay on the sand. From time to time his hands moved, twitched excitedly. His mouth spasmed open; sounds issued from his tightening and relaxing throat.

Saul began to make slow movements of his arms, out and back, out and back, gasping with his head to one side, his arms going and coming slowly on the warm air, stirring the yellow sand under him, his body turning slowly over.

Leonard Mark quietly finished his coffee. While he drank he kept his eyes on the moving, whispering Saul lying there on the dead sea bottom.

“All right,” said Leonard Mark.

Saul sat up, rubbing his face.

After a moment he told Leonard Mark, “I saw the creek. I ran along the bank and I took off my clothes,” he said breathlessly, his smile incredulous. “And Idived in and swam around!”

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