The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury


Mark lay on the sea bottom.

Taking the unconscious man in his arms, Saul began to run, heavily.

New York was gone. There was only the wide soundlessness of the dead sea. The men were closing in around him. He headed for the hills with his precious cargo, with New York and green country and fresh springs and old friends held in his arms. He fell once and struggled up. He did not stop running.

Night filled the cave. The wind wandered in and out, tugging at the small fire, scattering ashes.

Mark opened his eyes. He was tied with ropes and leaning against the dry wall of the cave, facing the fire.

Saul put another stick on the fire, glancing now and again with a catlike nervousness at the cave enhance.

“You’re a fool.”

Saul started.

“Yes,” said Mark, “you’re a fool. They’ll find us. If they have to hunt for six months they’ll find us. They saw New York, at a distance, like a mirage. And us in the center of it. It’s too much to think they won’t be curious and follow our trail.”

“I’ll move on with you then,” said Saul, staring into the fire.

“And they’ll come after.”

“Shut up!”

Mark smiled. “Is that the way to speak to your wife?”

“You heard me!”

“Oh, a fine marriage this is—your greed and my mental ability. What do you want to see now? Shall I show you a few more of your childhood scenes?”

Saul felt the sweat coming out on his brow. He didn’t know if the man was joking or not. “Yes,” he said.

“All right,” said Mark, “watch!”

Flame gushed out of the rocks. Sulphur choked him. Pits of brimstone exploded, concussions rocked the cave. Heaving up, Saul coughed and blundered, burned, withered by hell!

Hell went away. The cave returned.

Mark was laughing.

Saul stood over him. “You,” he said coldly, bending down.

“What else do you expect?” cried Mark. “To be tied up, toted off, made the intellectual bride of a man insane with loneliness—do you think I enjoy this?”

“I’ll untie you if you promise not to run away.”

“I couldn’t promise that. I’m a free agent. I don’t belong to anybody.”

Saul got down on his knees. “But you’vegot to belong, do you hear? You’vegot to belong. I can’t let you go away!”

“My dear fellow, the more you say things like that, the more remote I am. If you’d had any sense and done things intelligently, we’d have been friends. I’d have been glad to do you these little hypnotic favors. After all, they’re no trouble for me to conjure up. Fun, really. But you’ve botched it. You wanted me all to yourself. You were afraid the others would take me away from you. Oh, how mistaken you were. I have enough power to keep them all happy. You could have shared me, like a community kitchen. I’d have felt quite like a god among children, being kind, doing favors, in return for which you might bring me little gifts, special tidbits of food.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Saul cried. “But I know those men too well.”

“Are you any different? Hardly! Go out and see if they’re coming. I thought I heard a noise.”

Saul ran. In the cave entrance he cupped his hands, peering down into the night-filled gully. Dim shapes stirred. Was it only the wind blowing the roving clumps of weeds? He began to tremble—a fine, aching tremble.

“I don’t see anything.” He came back into an empty cave.

He stared at the fireplace. “Mark!”

Mark was gone.

There was nothing but the cave, filled with boulders, stones, pebbles, the lonely fire flickering, the wind sighing. And Saul standing there, incredulous and numb.

“Mark! Mark! Come back!”

The man had worked free of his bonds, slowly, carefully, and using the ruse of imagining he heard other men approaching, had gone—where?

The cave was deep, but ended in a blank wall. And Mark could not have slipped past him into the night. How then?

Saul stepped around the fire. He drew his knife and approached a large boulder that stood against the cave wall. Smiling, he pressed the knife against the boulder. Smiling, he tapped the knife there. Then he drew his knife back to plunge it into the boulder.

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