The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis

Book: The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Walter Tevis
to the base twelve?” The light in Newton’s window, much fainter than the moon, stared back at him blankly, and at his feet the water washed gently against the shore, in a dim, mindless cadence, monotonous, quiet, and as old as the world.


    In autumn the mountains around the lake became red and yellow and orange and brown. The water, under a colder sky, was bluer; it reflected in places the colors of the trees on the mountains. When the wind blew, pushing ripples before it, reds and yellows would flash on the water, and leaves would fall.
    From the door of his laboratory, Bryce, often lost in thought, would sometimes stare across the water to the mountains, and to the house where T. J. Newton lived. The house was more than a mile distant from the crescent of aluminum and plywood buildings to which the laboratory was joined; at the other side of the crescent, when the sun was shining, the polished hull of the Thing—the Project, the Vehicle, whatever it was—glistened. Sometimes the sight of the silvery monolith would make Bryce feel something resembling pride; sometimes it only seemed ridiculous, like an illustration from a child’s book on space; sometimes it frightened him. It was possible for him to stand in his doorway and look directly across the lake to the uninhabited far shore and see the peculiar contrast—which he had observed early and often—between the structures at each end of the panorama; to his right the old Victorian mansion, with bay windows, white clapboarding, huge and useless pillars at its three porches, a home built in heavy-handed and tasteless pride by some unknown and long-dead tobacco or coal or lumber baron more than a century before; and to his left the most austere and futuristic of all constructions, a spaceship. A spaceship standing in a Kentucky pasture, surrounded by autumnal mountains, owned by a man who chose to live in a mansion with one drunken servant, with a French secretary, with parrots, paintings, and cats. Between the ship and the house stood the water, the mountains. Bryce himself, and the sky.
    One morning in November, when the youthful seriousness of one of his lab assistants had made him feel a twinge of his old despair over scientific work and the airs of young men who practiced it, he went to the doorway and spent several minutes staring at the familiar view. Abruptly, he decided to take a walk; it had never occurred to him before to walk around the lake. There was no reason why he shouldn’t.
    The air was cold, and for a moment he thought he should return to the lab for his jacket. But the sun was warm, in a mild. November morning way, and by staying along the edge of the water, out of the shade, he was able to keep comfortable enough. He walked in the direction of the big house, away from the construction site and the ship. He was wearing a faded wool plaid shirt, a ten-year-old gift from his dead wife; after a mile of walking he was forced to roll up the sleeves to his elbows, for they had begun prickling with the warmth of his body. His forearms, thin, white, and hairy, seemed shockingly pale in the sunlight—the arms of a very old man. Underfoot was gravel, and occasionally scrubgrass. He saw several squirrels, and a rabbit. Once, out in the lake, a fish jumped. He passed a few buildings and some kind of metalworking shop; some men waved at him. One of them spoke to him by name, but he did not recognize the man. He smiled back, and waved. He settled to a slow walk, and let his mind wander aimlessly. Once he stopped and tried to skip a few flat rocks on the lake and succeeded in forcing one of them to make a single leap. The others, hitting wrong, all sank the minute they touched the water. He shook his head at them, feeling foolish. High overhead a dozen birds flew soundlessly across the sky. He went on walking.
    Before noon he passed the house, which seemed closed and silent, sitting a few hundred feet back from the water’s edge. He

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