Bradbury, Ray - SSC 09

Bradbury, Ray - SSC 09 by The Small Assassin (v2.1)

Book: Bradbury, Ray - SSC 09 by The Small Assassin (v2.1) Read Free Book Online
Authors: The Small Assassin (v2.1)
There,
at the water’s edge, lay a sand castle, only half-built. Just
like Tally and I used to build them. She half and I
half.
                 I
looked at it. I knelt beside the sand castle and saw the small prints of feet
coming in from the lake and going back out to the lake again and not returning.
                 Then—I
knew.
                 “I’ll
help you finish it,” I said.
                 I
did. I built the rest of it up very slowly, then I
arose and turned away and walked off, so as not to watch it crumble in the
waves, as all things crumble.
                 I
walked back up the beach to where a strange woman named Margaret was waiting
for me, smiling. . . .
     

THE
CROWD
 
     
                  

 
     
                 M r. Spallner put
his hands over his face.
                 There
was the feeling of movement in space, the beautifully tortured scream, the
impact and tumbling of the car with wall, through wall, over and down like a
toy, and him hurled out of it. Then—silence.
                 The
crowd came running. Faintly, where he lay, he heard them running. He could tell
their ages and their sizes by the sound of their numerous feet over the summer
grass and on the lined pavement, and over the asphalt street ,
and picking through the cluttered bricks to where his car hung half into the
night sky, still spinning its wheels with a senseless centrifuge.
                 Where
the crowd came from he didn’t know. He struggled to remain aware and then the
crowd faces hemmed in upon him, hung over him like the large glowing leaves of
down-bent trees. They were a ring of shifting, compressing, changing faces over
him, looking down, looking down, reading the time of
his life or death by his face, making his face into a moondial ,
where the moon cast a shadow from his nose out upon his cheek to tell the time
of breathing or not breathing any more ever.
                 How
swiftly a crowd comes, he thought, like the iris of an eye compressing in out
of nowhere.
                 A siren. A police voice. Movement. Blood trickled from his lips and he was being
moved into an ambulance. Someone said, “Is he dead?” And someone else said,
“No, he’s not dead.” And a third person said, “He won’t die, he’s not going to
die.” And he saw the faces of the crowd beyond him in the night, and he knew by
their expressions that he wouldn’t die. And that was strange. He saw a man’s
face, thin, bright, pale ; the man swallowed and bit
his lips, very sick. There was a small woman, too, with red hair and too much
red on her cheeks and lips. And a little boy with a freckled
face. Others’ faces. An old
man with a wrinkled upper lip, an old woman, with a mole upon her chin. They had all come from—where? Houses, cars, alleys, from the
immediate and the accident-shocked world. Out of alleys and out of
hotels and out of streetcars and seemingly out of nothing they came.
                 The
crowd looked at him and he looked back at them and did not like them at all.
There was a vast wrongness to them. He couldn’t put his finger on it. They were
far worse than this machine-made thing that happened to him now.
                 The
ambulance doors slammed. Through the windows he saw the crowd looking in,
looking in. That crowd that always came so fast, so strangely fast, to form a
circle, to peer down, to probe, to gawk, to question, to point, to disturb, to
spoil the privacy of a man’s agony by their frank curiosity.
                 The
ambulance drove off. He sank back and their faces still stared into his face,
even with his eyes shut.
                  
                 The
car wheels spun in his mind for days. One wheel, four wheels,
spinning, spinning, and whirring, around and around.
                 He
knew it was wrong. Something wrong with the

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