The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“Nothing but pipes and hammers. Why?”

“Nothing electrical?”

“Heck, no,” said Henry. “I looked.”

She walked to the kitchen. The buzzing continued. “Just the same, you’d better go tell them to quit. It’s after five. Tell them—” Her eyes widened and narrowed. “Tell them to put off their Invasion until tomorrow.” She laughed, nervously.

The buzzing grew louder.

“What are they up to? I’d better go look, all right.”

The explosion!

The house shook with dull sound. There were other explosions in other yards on other streets.

Involuntarily, Mrs. Morris screamed. “Up this way!” she cried senselessly, knowing no sense, no reason. Perhaps she saw something from the corners of her eyes; perhaps she smelled a new odor or heard a new noise. There was no time to argue with Henry to convince him. Let him think her insane. Yes, insane! Shrieking, she ran upstairs. He ran after her to see what she was up to. “In the attic!” she screamed. “That’s where it is!” It was only a poor excuse to get him in the attic in time. Oh, God—in time!

Another explosion outside. The children screamed with delight as if at a great fireworks display.

“It’s not in the attic!” cried Henry. “It’s outside!”

“No, no!” Wheezing, gasping, she fumbled at the attic door. “I’ll show you. Hurry! I’ll show you!”

They tumbled into the attic. She slammed the door, locked it, took the key, threw it into a far, cluttered corner.

She was babbling wild stuff now. It came out of her. All the subconscious suspicion and fear that had gathered secretly all afternoon and fermented like a wine in her. All the little revelations and knowledges and sense that had bothered her all day and which she had logically and carefully and sensibly rejected and censored. Now it exploded in her and shook her to bits.

“There, there,” she said, sobbing against the door. “We’re safe until tonight. Maybe we can sneak out. Maybe we can escape!”

Henry blew up too, but for another reason. “Are you crazy? Why’d you throw that key away? Damn it, honey!”

“Yes, yes, I’m crazy, if it helps, but stay here with me!”

“I don’t know how in hell Ican get out!”

“Quiet. They’ll hear us. Oh, God, they’ll find us soon enough—”

Below them, Mink’s voice. The husband stopped. There was a great universal humming and sizzling, a screaming and giggling. Downstairs the audio-televisor buzzed and buzzed insistently, alarmingly, violently.Is that Helen calling? thought Mrs. Morris.And is she calling about what I think she’s calling about?

Footsteps came into the house. Heavy footsteps.

“Who’s coming in my house?” demanded Henry angrily. “Who’s tramping around down there?”

Heavy feet. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty of them. Fifty persons crowding into the house. The humming. The giggling of the children. “This way!” cried Mink, below.

“Who’s downstairs?” roared Henry. “Who’s there!”

“Hush. Oh, nononononono!” said his wife weakly, holding him. “Please, be quiet. They might go away.

“Mom?” called Mink. “Dad?” A pause. “Where are you?”

Heavy footsteps, heavy, heavy,very heavy footsteps, came up the stairs. Mink leading them.

“Mom?” A hesitation. “Dad?” A waiting, a silence.

Humming. Footsteps toward the attic. Mink’s first.

They trembled together in silence in the attic, Mr. and Mrs. Morris. For some reason the electric humming, the queer cold light suddenly visible under the door crack, the strange odor and the alien sound of eagerness in Mink’s voice finally got through to Henry Morris too. He stood, shivering, in the dark silence, his wife beside him.

“Mom! Dad!”

Footsteps. A little humming sound. The attic lock melted. The door opened. Mink peered inside, tall blue shadows behind her.

“Peekaboo.” said Mink.

* * *

The Rocket

MANY nights Fiorello Bodoni would awaken to hear the rockets sighing in the dark sky. He would tiptoe from bed, certain that his kind wife was dreaming, to let himself out into the night air. For a few moments he would be free of the smells of old food in the small house by the river. For a silent moment he would let his heart soar alone into space, following the rockets.

Now, this very night, he stood half naked in the darkness, watching the fire fountains murmuring in the air. The rockets on their long wild way to Mars and Saturn and Venus!

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray