And love itself must rest.
“Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon_.”
Without a word the Earth Men stood in the center of the city. It was a clear night. There was not a sound except the wind. At their feet lay a tile court worked into the shapes of ancient animals and peoples. They looked down upon it.
Biggs made a sick noise in his throat. His eyes were dull. His hands went to his mouth; he choked, shut his eyes, bent, and a thick rush of fluid filled his mouth, spilled out, fell to splash on the tiles, covering the designs. Biggs did this twice, A sharp winy stench filled the cool air.
No one moved to help Biggs. He went on being sick.
Spender stared for a moment, then turned and walked off into the avenues of the city, alone in the moonlight. Never once did he pause to look back at the gathered men there.
They turned in at four in the morning. They lay upon blankets and shut their eyes and breathed the quiet air. Captain Wilder sat feeding little sticks into the fire.
McClure opened his eyes two hours later. “Aren’t you sleeping, sir?”
“I’m waiting for Spender.” The captain smiled faintly.
McClure thought it over. “You know, sir, I don’t think he’ll ever come back. I don’t know how I know, but that’s the way I feel about him, sir; he’ll never come back.”
McClure rolled over into sleep. The fire crackled and died.
Spender did not return in the following week. The captain sent searching parties, but they came back saying they didn’t know where Spender could have gone. He would be back when he got good and ready. He was a sorehead, they said. To the devil with him!
The captain said nothing but wrote it down in his log …
It was a morning that might have been a Monday or a Tuesday or any day on Mars. Biggs was on the canal rim; his feet hung down into the cool water, soaking, while he took the sun on his face.
A man walked along the bank of the canal. The man threw a shadow down upon Biggs. Biggs glanced up.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” said Biggs.
“I’m the last Martian,” said the man, taking out a gun.
“What did you say?” asked Biggs.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“Cut it. What kind of joke’s that, Spender?”
“Stand up and take it in the stomach.”
“For Christ’s sake, put that gun away.”
Spender pulled the trigger only once. Biggs sat on the edge of the canal for a moment before he leaned forward and fell into the water. The gun had made only a whispering hum. The body drifted with slow unconcern under the slow canal tides. It made a hollow bubbling sound that ceased after a moment.
Spender shoved his gun into its holster and walked soundlessly away. The sun was shining down upon Mars. He felt it burn his hands and slide over the sides of his tight face. He did not run; he walked as if nothing were new except the daylight. He walked down to the rocket, and some of the men were eating a freshly cooked breakfast under a shelter built by Cookie.
“Here comes The Lonely One,” someone said.
“Hello, Spender! Long time no see!”
The four men at the table regarded the silent man who stood looking back at them.
“You and them goddamn ruins,” laughed Cookie, stirring a black substance in a crock. “You’re like a dog in a bone yard.”
“Maybe,” said Spender, “I’ve been finding out things. What would you say if I said I’d found a Martian prowling around?”
The four men laid down their forks.
“Did you? Where?”
“Never mind. Let me ask you a question. How would you feel if you were a Martian and people came to your land and started tearing it up?”
“I know exactly how I’d feel,” said Cheroke. “I’ve got some Cherokee blood in me. My grandfather told me lots of things about Oklahoma Territory. If there’s a Martian around, I’m all for him.”