They told him to shut up.
He saw the men walking out to the rocket.
Wait for me! he cried. Don’t leave me here on this terrible world, I’ve got to get away; there’s going to be an atom war! Don’t leave me on Earth!
They dragged him, struggling, away. They slammed the policewagon door and drove him off into the early morning, his face pressed to the rear window, and just before they sirened over a hill, he saw the red fire and heard the big sound and felt the huge tremor as the silver rocket shot up and left him behind on an ordinary Monday morning on the ordinary planet Earth.
April 2000: THE THIRD EXPEDITION
The ship came down from space. It came from the stars and the black velocities, and the shining movements, and the silent gulfs of space. It was a new ship; it had fire in its body and men in its metal cells, and it moved with a clean silence, fiery and warm. In it were seventeen men, induding a captain. The crowd at the Ohio field had shouted and waved their hands up into the sunlight, and the rocket had bloomed out great flowers of heat and color and run away into space on the third voyage to Mars!
Now it was decelerating with metal efficiency in the upper Martian atmospheres. It was still a thing of beauty and strength. It had moved in the midnight waters of space like a pale sea leviathan; it had passed the ancient moon and thrown itself onward into one nothingness following another. The men within it had been battered, thrown about, sickened, made well again, each in his turn. One man had died, but now the remaining sixteen, with their eyes clear in their heads and their faces pressed to the thick glass ports, watched Mars swing up under them.
“Mars!” cried Navigator Lustig.
“Good old Mars!” said Samuel Hinkston, archaeologist.
“Well,” said Captain John Black.
The rocket landed on a lawn of green grass. Outside, upon this lawn, stood an iron deer. Further up on the green stood a tall brown Victorian house, quiet in the sunlight, all covered with scrolls and rococo, its windows made of blue and pink and yellow and green colored glass. Upon the porch were hairy geraniums and an old swing which was hooked into the porch ceiling and which now swung back and forth, back and forth, in a little breeze. At the summit of the house was a cupola with diamond leaded-glass windows and a dunce-cap roof! Through the front window you could see a piece of music titled “Beautiful Ohio” sitting on the music rest.
Around the rocket in four directions spread the little town, green and motionless in the Martian spring. There were white houses and red brick ones, and tall elm trees blowing in the wind, and tall maples and horse chestnuts. And church steeples with golden bells silent in them.
The rocket men looked out and saw this. Then they looked at one another and then they looked out again. They held to each other’s elbows, suddenly unable to breathe, it seemed, Their faces grew pale.
“I’ll be damned,” whispered Lustig, rubbing his face with his numb fingers. “I’ll be damned.”
“It just can’t be,” said Samuel Hinkston.
“Lord,” said Captain John Black.
There was a call from the chemist. “Sir, the atmosphere is thin for breathing. But there’s enough oxygen. It’s safe.”
“Then we’ll go out,” said Lustig.
“Hold on,” said Captain John Black. “How do we know what this is?”
“It’s a small town with thin but breathable air in it, sir.”
“And it’s a small town the like of Earth towns,” said Hinkston, the archaeologist “Incredible. It can’t be, but it is.”
Captain John Black looked at him idly. “Do you think that the civilizations of two planets can progress at the same rate and evolve in the same way, Hinkston?”
“I wouldn’t have thought so, sir.”
Captain Black stood by the port. “Look out there. The geraniums. A specialized plant. That specific variety has only been known on Earth for fifty years. Think of the thousands of years it takes to evolve plants. Then tell me if it is logical that the Martians should have: one, leaded-glass windows; two, cupolas; three, porch swings; four, an instrument that looks like a piano and probably is a piano; and five, if you look closely through this telescopic lens here, is it logical that a Martian composer would have published a piece of music titled, strangely enough, ‘Beautiful Ohio’? All of which means that we have an Ohio River on Mars!”