It didn’t work. It wasn’t the same. New York was gone and nothing he could do would bring it back. He would rise every morning and walk on the dead sea looking for it, and walk forever around Mars, looking for it, and never find it. And finally lie, too tired to walk, trying to find New York in his head, but not finding it.
The last thing he heard before he slept was the spade rising and falling and digging a hole into which, with a tremendous crash of metal and golden mist and odor and color and sound, New York collapsed, fell, and was buried.
He cried all night in his sleep.
* * *
The Concrete Mixer
HE LISTENED to the dry-grass rustle of the old witches’ voices beneath his open window:
“Ettil, the coward! Ettil, the refuser! Ettil, who will not wage the glorious war of Mars against Earth!”
“Speak on, witches!” he cried.
The voices dropped to a murmur like that of water in the long canals under the Martian sky.
“Ettil, the father of a son who must grow up in the shadow of this horrid knowledge!” said the old wrinkled women. They knocked their sly-eyed heads gently together. “Shame, shame!”
His wife was crying on the other side of the room. Her tears were as rain, numerous and cool on the tiles. “Oh, Ettil, how can you think this way?”
Ettil laid aside his metal book which, at his beckoning, had been singing him a story all morning from its thin golden-wired frame.
“I’ve tried to explain,” he said. “This is a foolish thing, Mars invading Earth. We’ll be destroyed, utterly.”
Outside, a banging, crashing boom, a surge of brass, a drum, a cry, marching feet, pennants and songs. Through the stone sheets the army, fire weapons to shoulder, stamped. Children skipped after. Old women waved dirty flags.
“I shall remain on Mars and read a book,” said Ettil. A blunt knock on the door. Tylla answered. Father-in-law stormed in. “What’s this I hear about my son-in-law? A traitor?”
“You’re not fighting in the Martian Army?”
“Gods!” The old father turned very red. “A plague on your name! You’ll be shot.”
“Shoot me, then, and have it over.”
“Who ever heard of a Martian not invading? Who!”
“Nobody. It is, I admit, quite incredible.”
“Incredible,” husked the witch voices under the window.
“Father, can’t you reason with him?” demanded Tylla.
“Reason with a dung heap,” cried Father, eyes blazing. He came and stood over Ettil. “Bands playing, a fine day, women weeping, children jumping, everything right, men marching bravely, and you sit here! Oh, shame!”
“Shame,” sobbed the faraway voices in the hedge.
“Get the devil out of my house with your inane chatter,” said Ettil, exploding. “Take your medals and your drums and run!”
He shoved Father-in-law past a screaming wife, only to have the door thrown wide at this moment, as a military detail entered.
A voice shouted, “Ettil Vrye?”
“You are under arrest!”
“Good-by, my dear wife. I am off to the wars with these fools!” shouted Ettil, dragged through the door by the men in bronze mesh.
“Good-by, good-by,” said the town witches, fading away. . . .
The cell was neat and clean. Without a book, Ettil was nervous. He gripped the bars and watched the rockets shoot up into the night air. The stars were cold and numerous; they seemed to scatter when every rocket blasted up among them.
“Fools,” whispered Ettil. “Fools!”
The cell door opened. One man with a kind of vehicle entered, full of books; books here, there, everywhere in the chambers of the vehicle. Behind him the Military Assignor loomed.
“Ettil Vrye, we want to know why you had these illegal Earth books in your house. These copies ofWonder Stories, Scientific Tales, Fantastic Stories. Explain.” The man gripped Ettil’s wrist.
Ettil shook him free. “If you’re going to shoot me, shoot me. That literature, from Earth, is the very reason why I won’t try to invade them. It’s the reason why your invasion will fail.”
“How so?” The assignor scowled and turned to the yellowed magazines.
“Pick any copy,” said Ettil. “Any one at all. Nine out of ten stories in the years 1929, ‘30 to ‘50, Earth calendar, have every Martian invasion successfully invading Earth.”