“I’m pleased,” said Leonard Mark.
“Here!” Saul reached into his pocket and drew forth his last bar of chocolate. “This is foryou.”
“What’s this?” Leonard Mark looked at the gift. “Chocolate? Nonsense, I’m not doing this for pay. I’m doing it because it makes you happy. Put that thing back in your pocket before I turn it into a rattlesnake and it bites you.”
“Thank you, thank you!” Saul put it away. “You don’t know how good that water was.” He fetched the coffeepot. “More?”
Pouring the coffee, Saul shut his eyes a moment.
I’ve got Socrates here, he thought; Socrates and Plato, and Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. This man, by his talk, is a genius. By his talent, he’s incredible! Think of the long, easy days and the cool nights of talk we’ll have. It won’t be a bad year at all.
He spilled the coffee.
“Nothing.” Saul himself was confused, startled.
We’ll be in Greece, he thought. In Athens. We’ll be in Rome, if we want, when we study the Roman writers. We’ll stand in the Parthenon and the Acropolis. It won’t be just talk, but it’ll be a place to be, besides. This man can do it. He has the power to do it. When we talk the plays of Racine, he can make a stage and players and all of it for me. By Christ, this is better than life ever was! How much better to be sick and here than well on Earth without these abilities! How may people have ever seen a Greek drama played in a Greek amphitheater in the year 31 B.C.?
And if I ask, quietly and earnestly, will this man take on the aspect of Schopenhauer and Darwin and Bergson and all the other thoughtful men of the ages . . . ? Yes, why not? To sit and talk with Nietzsche in person, with Plato himself . . . !
There was only one thing wrong. Saul felt himself swaying. The other men. The other sick ones along the bottom of this dead sea.
In the distance men were moving, walking toward them.
They had seen the rocket flash, land, dislodge a passenger. Now they were coming, slowly, painfully, to greet the new arrival.
Saul was cold. “Look,” he said. “Mark, I think we’d better head for the mountains.”
“See those men coming? Some of them are insane.”
“Isolation and all make them that way?”
“Yes, that’s it. We’d better get going.”
“They don’t look very dangerous. They move slowly.”
“You’d be surprised.”
Mark looked at Saul. “You’re trembling. Why’s that?”
“There’s no time to talk,” said Saul, getting up swiftly. “Come on. Don’t you realize what’ll happen once they discover your talent? They’ll fight over you. They’ll kill each other—kill you—for the right to own you.”
“Oh, but I don’t belong to anybody,” said Leonard Mark. He looked at Saul. “No. Not even you.”
Saul jerked his head. “I didn’t even think of that.”
“Didn’t you now?” Mark laughed.
“We haven’t time to argue,” answered Saul, eyes blinking, cheeks blazing. “Come on!”
“I don’t want to. I’m going to sit right here until those men show up. You’re a little too possessive. My life’s my own.”
Saul felt an ugliness in himself. His face began to twist. “Youheard what I said.”
“How very quickly you changed from a friend to an enemy, observed Mark.
Saul hit at him. It was a neat quick blow, coming down. Mark ducked aside, laughing. “No, you don’t!” They were in the center of Times Square. Cars roared, hooting, upon them. Buildings plunged up, hot, into the blue air.
“It’s a lie!” cried Saul, staggering under the visual impact. “For God’s sake, don’t, Mark! The men are coming. You’ll be killed!”
Mark sat there on the pavement, laughing at his joke. “Let them come. I can fool them all!”
New York distracted Saul. It was meant to distract—meant to keep his attention with its unholy beauty, after so many months away from it. Instead of attacking Mark he could only stand, drinking in the alien but familiar scene.
He shut his eyes. “No.” And fell forward, dragging Mark with him. Horns screamed in his ears. Brakes hissed and caught violently. He smashed at Mark’s chin.