The rockets landed. “Go!”
The band played “California, Here I Come” ten times. From noon until one o’clock the mayor made a speech, shaking his hands in the direction of the silent, apprehensive rockets.
At one-fifteen the seals of the rockets opened
The band played “Oh, You Golden State” three times.
Ettil and fifty other Martians leaped out, guns at the ready.
The mayor ran forward with the key to Earth in his hands.
The band played “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and a full chorus of singers imported from Long Beach sang different words to it, something about “Martians Are Coming to Town.”
Seeing no weapons about, the Martians relaxed, but kept their guns out.
From one-thirty until two-fifteen the mayor made the same speech over for the benefit of the Martians.
At two-thirty Miss America of 1940 volunteered to kiss all the Martians if they lined up.
At two-thirty and ten seconds the band played “How Do You Do, Everybody,” to cover up the confusion caused by Miss America’s suggestion.
At two thirty-five Mr. Biggest Grapefruit presented the Martians with a two-ton truck full of grapefruit.
At two thirty-seven the mayor gave them all free passes to the Elite and Majestic theaters, combining this gesture with another speech which lasted until after three.
The band played, and the fifty thousand people sang, “For They Are Jolly Good Fellows.”
It was over at four o’clock.
Ettil sat down in the shadow of the rocket, two of his fellows with him. “So this is Earth!”
“I say kill the filthy rats,” said one Martian. “I don’t trust them. They’re sneaky. What’s their motive for treating us this way?” He held up a box of something that rustled. “What’s this stuff they gave me? A sample, they said.” He read the label. BLIX,the new sudsy soap.
The crowd had drifted about, was mingling with the Martians like a carnival throng. Everywhere was the buzzing murmur of people fingering the rockets, asking questions.
Ettil was cold. He was beginning to tremble even more now. “Don’t you feel it?” he whispered. “The tenseness, the evilness of all this. Something’s going to happen to us. They have some plan. Something subtle and horrible. They’re going to do something to us—I know.”
“I say kill every one of them!”
“How can you kill people who call you ‘pal’ and ‘buddy’?” asked another Martian.
Ettil shook his head. “They’re sincere. And yet I feel as if we were in a big acid vat melting away, away. I’m frightened.” He put his mind out to touch among the crowd. “Yes, they’re really friendly, hail-fellows-well-met (one of their terms). One huge mass of common men, loving dogs and cats and Martians equally. And yet—and yet——”
The band played “Roll Out the Barrel.” Free beer was being distributed through the courtesy of Hagenback Beer, Fresno, California.
The sickness came.
The men poured out fountains of slush from their mouths. The sound of sickness filled the land.
Gagging, Ettil sat beneath a sycamore tree. “A plot, a plot—a horrible plot,” he groaned, holding his stomach.
“What did you eat?” The assignor stood over him.
“Something that they called popcorn,” groaned Ettil.
“And some sort of long meat on a bun, and some yellow liquid in an iced vat, and some sort of fish and something called pastrami,” sighed Ettil, eyelids flickering.
The moans of the Martian invaders sounded all about.
“Kill the plotting snakes!” somebody cried weakly.
“Hold on,” said the assignor. “It’s merely hospitality. They overdid it. Up on your feet now, men. Into the town. We’ve got to place small garrisons of men about to make sure all is well. Other ships are landing in other cities. We’ve our job to do here.”
The men gained their feet and stood blinking stupidly about.
One, two, three,four! One, two, three,four! . . .
The white stores of the little town lay dreaming in shimmering heat. Heat emanated from everything—poles, concrete, metal, awnings, roofs, tar paper—everything.
The sound of Martian feet sounded on the asphalt.
“Careful, men!” whispered the assignor. They walked past a beauty shop.
From inside, a furtive giggle. “Look!”
A coppery head bobbed and vanished like a doll in the window. A blue eye glinted and winked at a keyhole.