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over to the set to turn it off, if he wanted it off. But there had been a bad
moment there, bad enough to make him lunge and crawl.
He stood up, stiffly. On the bedside table the bottle waited, hardly started.
No. He was all right. No, just a moment of panic there, such as some-times
came when he was drifting off to sleep. He had thought that at last, after
months of learning to sleep alone again, he was all through with mid-night
panics. Just one small sip now, and even without that he was tired enough to
sleep. Then, tomorrow, he would drive again. He could drive anywhere he wanted
to. Things were all right...
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In the morning he knew that he was not going to follow the great river north,
up to the great lakes. Yesterday the plan in the back of his mind, as well as
he could remember it, had been to do something along that line. But enough of
water, and watery places. He would go on west, and put the big rivers and the
lakes behind him.
In Shereveport he sat in a plastic booth, eating plastic-tasting food, and
abruptly realizing that in the booth next to him sat two state police
officers. Whether it was more nearly impossible that they had already been
there, unseen by him, when he sat down, or that they had walked in past him
without his knowing it, he couldn't estimate.
"...she mighta been from any upstream some-wheres. The Doc, he says days in
the water. White gal. Just a lil ol bathing suit on. No wounds, nothing like
"Well, the Red can be worse'n the Mississippi even, when it rains enough. It's
been like pourin' piss out'n a boot up there in Oklahoma."
Back in his car, moving on the highway, he realized that somehow he must have
paid the restaurant cashier. Otherwise the two state troopers would already be
in hot pursuit.
Fifty-five was the law, and maybe in some places they cared about that. But
once he got to Texas he felt sure that nobody was going to give a damn. He
opened her up.
Greenery and rivers dried up and blew away in the hot wind of his passage.
Signs indicated where to turn to get to Midland, Odessa, Corsicana. Nazareth.
If a name existed in the universe, if a name was even conceivable, and maybe
some-times if it was not, it could be found somewhere in the vastness of
Texas, applied to a small town.
He slept in a motel somewhere, in a room where he turned on no radio or
television. And sometime after that he crossed a border that lay invisibly
athwart the unfamiliar lunar landscape found that he was in New Mexico. Maybe
he had never come exactly this way before. He couldn't remember things being
quite this barren even here.
Signs told him he was nearing Carlsbad. The highway topped a stark rise to
disclose an un-expected wall of greenery waiting for him, not far ahead. Pecos
River, a small sign added. He drove across a highway bridge over the river,
which was for this part of the country so wide and full that he was astonished
by it until he saw the dam.
If he tried to go any farther tonight he was going to drive right off the road
somewhere in exhaustion. And yet, once settled in the Carlsbad Motel, he
couldn't sleep. He had to know first what was happening. No, not quite right.
He had to know if he was going to have to admit to himself that something was
happening. Maybe he was just going a little crazy from being alone too much in
summer heat. If that was all, he should just stay in one cool room for a day
and a night and sleep.
He forced himself to turn on the ten pm television news, and he listened to
the whole half hour attentively, and there was not a word about drowned bodies
anywhere. He started to relax, to feel that whatever had started to happen to
him was over. When the news was over, he found a talk show, on another channel
that came in by cable from the west coast. Show biz people and famous lawyers
sat around a table. During the first commercial he roused himself and went out
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to get half a pint of good bourbon. To hell with being so careful, you could
probably drive yourself crazy that way. Tonight he was going to drink. He had
the feeling that things were going to be all right after all.
He thought he had turned off the television set, but the voices were busy when
he came back with the whisky. The same host, but evidently a new segment of
the show, for the guests were different.
The scientist had no mustache, but he was certainly a scientist, and he even
looked a little like that one on the other show. Well-entrenched in the world
and imperturbable.
"...from Cal Tech, going to talk with us a little about nuclear physics,
quantum mechanics, the nature of reality, all kinds of good stuff like that
there." Laughter in the studio followed, febrile and feeble at the same time,
predictable as the out-come of a lab demonstration.
"The nature of reality," said another panelist. "You left that out." But it
hadn't been left out. Didn't they even listen to each other's words?
Someone else on the panel said something else, and they all laughed again.
"Speaking of reality, we'll be right back, after this."
The cable brought in a good many channels. Here was Atlanta. Who knew where
they all came from? But he knew that he would have to switch back.
"...pretty well accepted now by everyone in the field that it can't have any
effect on the general perception of reality, what people generally experience
as reality, no matter how many of these experiments you have going on around
the world at the same time, or how many of them are concentrated on the same
type of subject. The concentration effect, if there is one, sort of goes off
somewhere; we can't even trace where it goes."
"You're saying that in effect you fire a volley off over the fields..."
"...and it could possibly hit someone, but the chance is very small."
"Endor, did you say a moment ago?"
"The Witch of Endor?" another guest put in, archly, oh they were sharp out
there on the coast, and there was more reflexive laughter, from people who
recognized their cue, even if they didn't know what they were laughing about.
"ENDOR is an acronym," the scientist with no mustache was explaining, "for
Electron-nuclear double resonance. You see, it seems now that resonance is set
up not only in the real atoms but in virtual atomic particles in nearby [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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