Damnation Alley
    The man raised his hands to his face and began to dig his nails into his cheeks.
    "I can't forget it," he finally said.
    "So that's what your damned mimicry gets you, hung up by trying to be something else, too much. No thanks. I know what I am."
    "I'm me. I'm an Angel. I don't have to pretend to be anything else. If they don't like me, they can cut me down, if they're able to. So far, they haven't been able to. So screw 'em all! I don't dig this mimic bit. No thanks. Not at all. They can go to hell, every motherin' one of 'em!"
    "A species can't make it that way."
    "Screw species. I'm out to preserve me."
    "That's the wrong attitude."
    "Who says?"
    "I don't know anymore." He continued to knead his cheeks, till the blood came forth and made his beard glis ten.
    "Stop that! You're bugging me! Where do you live, anyway?"
    "Noplace, everyplace, I wander. Wherever I try to stay, they drive me out after a time. It's not holy to be mad anymore."
    "There are settlements around here? People?"
    "Some, some . . ."
    "Well, go mimic the people living in one."
    "I can't. I'm mad."
    "Shave off your beard and bathe, and wear a dark suit and a white shirt and necktie, and carry a briefcase...”
    "They don't look that way anymore, I forgot. All that is changed . . ."
    "Well, go look however the hell they look."
    "They all have beards, and they're dirty, and they wear old clothes."
    "Then you're already mimicking them. So am I."
    "What's the difference, then?"
    "We're mad!"
    "Leave me out of this."
    "But it's true. Who else but a madman would be in this old barn in the middle of a storm that could become holocaust? A sane man would have a home, a safe place...”
    "Okay, you've got a point. I'm nuts too. Cigarette?"
    "Yes, please."
    Tanner tossed him the pack with his left hand, and then the matches. He held the gun steady with his right.
    Kanis lit a cigarette and returned the pack and the matches the way they had come.
    Tanner lit his own carefully, not taking his eyes off the smaller man.
    "I'm curious about your form of madness, though," said the man. "I've never seen a vehicle like that before. That's radiation armor, isn't it?"
    "Yes. I'm driving it to Boston."
    "Silly thing to do. It's dangerous."
    "I know. But the plague is there, and I'm carrying Haffikine antiserum."

"The plague? I knew it! I knew it would come!"
    "Malthus and Darwin said so. We're all going to die! War and disease take care of the population-food ratio. But it's ceased to be a problem, and we're no longer fit to survive. So it will keep up until the job is finished."
    "Nuts! They stopped the plague in L.A. That's why we had the serum out there."
    "Then something else will come along."
    Tanner shrugged. "I don't care what happens to them," he said.
    "You're one of them, though."
    "I am not. You said so yourself."
    "I was wrong. I'm mad."
    Tanner smoked awhile in silence.
    "What are you going to do with me?" Kanis asked.
    "Nothing. Keep pointing a gun at you till the storm lets up, because I don't trust you. Then I'm going to get into my car and drive away."
    "Why don't you trust me? Because I'm a scientist?"
    "Because you're mad."
    "_Touché_. You could kill me, though."
    "Why bother?"
    "Maybe I want to be dead."
    "Then do it yourself."
    "I can't."
    "Too bad."
    "Would you take me with you to Boston?"
    "Maybe. If you really wanted to go, and I thought I could trust you."
    "Let me think about it."
    "You asked me. Think all you want."
    Tanner listened to the rain on the roof.
    Finally, "No thanks," Kanis said. "They'd probably kill me, since I'm a scientist."
    "I don't think so. They wouldn't in L.A.…But I thought you wanted to die?"
    "Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. Have you got anything to eat? Anything you could spare? I'm terribly hungry?"
    Tanner thought about it. He reviewed the contents of the refrigerator and the lockers.
    "Okay," he said. "Walk ahead of me, and don't make any quick moves. I'll even leave you some

Similar Books

Needing Nita

Norah Wilson

The Crack

Emma Tennant

The Rose Garden

Susanna Kearsley

The Low Road

A. D. Scott

Star Chamber Brotherhood

Preston Fleming

Camp Payback

J. K. Rock

Ignited Minds

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam