The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“You look out your window and see two people lying atop each other in friendly fashion who, a moment ago, had never met before, dead. I foresee our army mashed, diseased, trapped in cinemas by witches and gum. Sometime in the next day I shall try to escape back to Mars before it is too late.

“Somewhere on Earth tonight, my Tylla, there is a Man with a Lever, which, when he pulls it, Will Save the World. The man is now unemployed. His switch gathers dust. He himself plays pinochle.

“The women of this evil planet are drowning us in a tide of banal sentimentality, misplaced romance, and one last fling before the makers of glycerin boil them down for usage. Good night, Tylla. Wish me well, for I shall probably die trying to escape. My love to our child.”

Weeping silently, he folded the letter and reminded himself to mail it later at the rocket post.

He left the park. What was there to do? Escape? But how? Return to the post late tonight, steal one of the rockets alone and go back to Mars? Would it be possible? He shook his head. He was much too confused.

All that he really knew was that if he stayed here he would soon be the property of a lot of things that buzzed and snorted and hissed, that gave off fumes or stenches. In six months he would be the owner of a large pink, trained ulcer, a blood pressure of algebraic dimensions, a myopia this side of blindness, and nightmares as deep as oceans and infested with improbable lengths of dream intestines through which he must violently force his way each night. No, no.

He looked at the haunted faces of the Earthmen drifting violently along in their mechanical death boxes. Soon—yes, very soon—they would invent an auto with six silver handles on it!

“Hey, there!”

An auto horn. A large long hearse of a car, black and ominous pulled to the curb. A man leaned out.

“You a Martian?”


“Just the man I gotta see. Hop in quick—the chance of a lifetime. Hop in. Take you to a real nice joint where we can talk. Come on—don’t stand there.”

As if hypnotized, Ettil opened the door of the car, got in.

They drove off.

“What’ll it be, E.V.? How about a manhattan? Two manhattans, waiter. Okay, E.V. This is my treat. This is on me and Big Studios! Don’t even touch your wallet. Pleased to meet you, E.V. My name’s R. R. Van Plank. Maybe you hearda me? No? Well, shake anyhow.”

Ettil felt his hand massaged and dropped. They were in a dark hole with music and waiters drifting about. Two drinks were set down. It had all happened so swiftly. Now Van Plank, hands crossed on his chest, was surveying his Martian discovery.

“What I want you for, E.V., is this. It’s the most magnanimous idea I ever got in my life. I don’t know how it came to me, just in a flash. I was sitting home tonight and I thought to myself, My God, what a picture it would make!Invasion of Earth by Mars. So what I got to do? I got to find an adviser for the film. So I climbed in my car and found you and here we are. Drink up! Here’s to your health and our future.Skoal!”

“But——” said Ettil.

“Now, I know, you’ll want money. Well, we got plenty of that. Besides, I got a li’l black book full of peaches I can lend you.”

“I don’t like most of your Earth fruit and——”

“You’re a card, mac, really. Well, here’s how I get the picture in my mind—listen.” He leaned forward excitedly. “We got a flash scene of the Martians at a big powwow, drummin’ drums, gettin’ stewed on Mars. In the background are huge silver cities——”

“But that’s not the way Martian cities are——”

“We got to have color, kid. Color. Let your pappy fix this. Anyway, there are all the Martians doing a dance around a fire——”

“We don’t dance around fires——”

“Inthis film you got a fire and you dance,” declared Van Plank, eyes shut, proud of his certainty. He nodded, dreaming it over on his tongue. “Then we got a beautiful Martian woman, tall and blond.”

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