Ian lay on the ground for a long time, his body aching. His head lay lower down the slope than the rest of his body and he felt the blood vessels from his neck up were about to burst. The pain in his forehead throbbed in time with his heartbeat.
Memories of the Otherlife mingled with the seething blackness of the Dream, and Ian knew he had lost control. He remembered falling. He remembered running for the truck and he remembered Sam. But the memories constantly shifted position. Ian had no idea where they came from or whether they were real or imagined.
He sat up, resting his head in his arms and listening to the chirping of the crickets.
He lifted his head and peered into the darkness. He could only see the massive silhouette of the trees and hills against the sky.
I'm not alone, he thought, There is still life around me.
But why had they been silent for so long? Did they sense in some way that the Earth had changed? Had they gone into hiding? Or were they merely gathering their strength?
The night was full of their sound. There must have been thousands of them. Something crawled onto his hand and Ian shouted in surprise, shook it off his hand and jumped up quickly.
Being surrounded by millions of crawling insects filled Ian with loathing. He was still being hunted; Nature had taken the Stranger away from him and substituted a nightmare all of her own. He shook his head to clear it of the sound of the insects, but the noise seemed to emanate from within his own brain.
The cave! I'll be safe in the cave!
Ian scrambled up the hill to the cave, afraid that if he touched anything, he would come into contact with some disgusting creeping insect. He stumbled into the cave and frantically lit a small wax candle.
The warm glow of the light calmed him instantly, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He felt foolish at the thought of his running from crickets and was thankful that he had been alone, and no one had seen him behave so irrationally.
Slowly he relaxed. He was safe in the cave. He'd eat something, a tin of creamed corn, perhaps. Ian walked over to the boxes carrying the candle and the color drained from his face. Crawling on one of the cases was a large dark-brown insect.
He quickly scanned the cave for more, but there didn't seem to be any others. By the time his eyes returned to the boxes, the insect had gone.
Only one cockroach, he thought, Just one. He remembered a late night science-fiction movie he had seen on television based on life after an atomic war, and the survivors were trapped in a town teeming with cockroaches. It was supposed to be gruesome but he and Linda had laughed at the scene because the whole idea seemed ludicrous. Until now...
No, even now. He had let his imagination get away with him again. Although he accepted the thought as being preposterous, he couldn't stop himself from checking his sleeping bag before he bundled himself inside it, and examined the ground carefully before he lay down. Even then, he made certain that he was far enough away from the boxes so that the insect he'd seen couldn't jump out at him.
He was afraid to put out the candle. Cockroaches like the darkness and the light will help to keep them away. He told himself that he was being ridiculous and that he shouldn't waste his candles, but he couldn't bring himself to blow it out.
As he lay staring at the cave ceiling, the candle spluttered, making little popping noises, and its light wavered and died. He watched the wick glow dimmer and dimmer until he was immersed in the impenetrable darkness of the cave.
Ian crawled from the sleeping bag feeling his way to the boxes, and reached into the case where he stored the candles. He rummaged blindly amongst the odd assortment of supplies in the box until he could feel the round wax cylinders and pulled one out.
He took his lighter from his pocket and flicked it, and touched the small steady butane flame to the wick of the candle. As the wick ignited, a small drop of hot wax fell into his hand. He carried the candle over to his sleeping bag and sat down. He rolled a flat rock onto his sleeping bag, and held the candle upside down over the rock so that the wax dripped onto the stone and congealed. He pushed the bottom of the candle into the soft wax and held it firmly until the wax hardened and bonded the candle to the rock.
He stared at the small flame as it flickered lazily in response to the invisible air currents that moved silently within the cave. He became enthralled by the beauty and the grace of the tiny flame and lay down beside it to watch its delicate dance. From his new perspective, the candle seemed larger and the flame cast its light only as far as the edge of the rock, giving the impression that the rock and the candle were the only objects that existed in a vast velvet cosmos.
He was carried away from the cave and the War by the illusion, and the flame became the head of a painfully beautiful woman, the top of the candle below the wick took on the shape of her soft white shoulders, and she danced in a sensuous rhythm, a creature of light upon a smooth rock floor. He marveled at her grace and the purity of her spirit, knowing that she would never tire from her dance and he would never tire of watching her.
The dancer of light in an infinite darkness...
Her arms whirled about her, her hands trailing tiny sparkling lights which scattered into the darkness, filling the Cosmos with small specks that gleamed steadily at him until the blackness around her was filled with an infinite variety of beautifully colored stars.
Entranced, Ian watched her eternal dance and gasped at the beauty of every new galaxy that spun from her fingers as she danced. From somewhere beyond the stars, he heard an insistent call, a voice calling his name, a voice that he knew-
He snapped out of the hallucination immediately. Pete was back!
He was back in his apartment, in his living room, and he could hear the sound of muffled voices outside the door. Pete is out there, Ian thought, but he didn't want Pete to see him. Not like this. Not in the Dream. He lay on his back listening to the voices behind the door...
“I don't think he's home.”
“He phoned last night.”
“Yeah, but you said you weren't sure-”
“I know it was him,” Lisa said firmly.
Ian sat up, debating whether he should open the door and let them in.
“Well, he's not home now,” said Pete, “I'll get Linda's key from her and we can come back later.”
“What'll I tell Linda?” asked Lisa.
“Tell her he wasn't home. C'mon, let's go.”
He listened to their footsteps fade down the hall, not daring to move until he was sure that they had enough time to get into the elevator, then tiptoed to the door and put his ear against it.
The hallway was quiet, and he carefully unlocked the door, turning the doorknob slowly, ever so slowly, opening the door as far as the security chain would allow. The hall was empty, and he pulled his head back and closed the door, sliding the chain from the catch. He opened the door and walked straight into the waiting arms of the Dream People before he realized they were there.
He was caught up within the maze of the Dream as the apartment dissolved into the cave. He struggled through level after level of the Dream as wave after wave of the Dream People swept over him mercilessly. He wanted to retreat to the comparative calm of the Otherlife Dream, but the Dream had sealed it off and pounded him with full force, surrounding Ian with the gruesome specters of the Dream People.
His ordeal raged all night and Ian woke shaking, drenched in sweat. He was hungry and thirsty, but knew he wouldn't be able to eat. He had tried force-feeding himself but couldn't stop from throwing up most of his food. He had been taking vitamin and iron pills and thought he would try to get by with those for a couple of days.
He opened a can of peaches and grabbed a handful of vitamins. He ate the pills like candy, washing them down one by one with a small sip of the syrup from the can. His insides had been scraped raw from his teeth down to his colon, and the diet of pills and liquid was all he could manage to keep down. Most of the time....
After lighting a fire, he picked up the journal and sat down on a large flat rock beside the fire. He opened the notebook to a blank page, but as he pulled his pen from his pocket, it caught on a small white card which fell to the ground in front of him. He bent down and picked up the card, turning it over in his hand.
It was blank.
He didn't remember putting it in his pocket, but there were so many gaps in his memory, the incident was nothing out of the ordinary. He shrugged and put the card down upon the rock beside him, popped another pill into his mouth and washed it down with another sip of the peach syrup and began to write...
If only I could shake this illness...
I'm weak. I tire easily. I get dizzy spells and run a fever when I exert myself, I have bleeding gums. I'm bleeding internally too. I noticed the blood the other day in my shit. And my hair is falling out, I have sores in my mouth, my teeth ache - my whole body aches! I have splotches all over my skin, and I can't sleep properly because I have nightmares. My slashed arms won't heal and the shotgun wound opens up every once in a while on the back of my neck and the bruise on my forehead and the cut in my side have broken open as well.
But other than that I'm feeling okay.
I have the Dream but the Dream has me. I created it, but I've lost and it has taken on a life of its own and now threatens me with my own death. I'm trapped within a Dream that never would have existed if I had never lived, but that Dream demands my non-existence. But why would the Dream demand I die when my death would ensure its own extinction? Could it be that the Dream should never have existed in the first place?
There are only two ways to decide this conflict. One is to permit the Dream to follow its natural course, and allow it to destroy itself and myself along with it. And the other...the other is to discover a way to pull it apart piece by piece; to carefully dig deep inside my brain, and extract it from the inner workings of my mind until once again I can go to sleep without the fear of never waking up to the world ever again.
It's as though some sinister and omnipotent force is turning upon me, and its only purpose is to destroy me. The Dream People are its agents - nebulous, almost non-existent people, all strangely familiar, yet faceless. Voices that speak but can't be traced to any individual within the crowd, but to a vague and untouchable entity I have labeled as the Dream. And the only reason for their existence is to bring about my death. The Dream in its power to manipulate, has employed the people I love to ensure my actions will contribute to my complete and utter annihilation.
I HAVE BECOME THE INSTRUMENT OF MY OWN DESTRUCTION.
How long can I last like this? The after effects of the War push me relentlessly toward oblivion. The ground itself seems to be preparing to throw me from the surface of the planet, like some dog trying to shake off an annoying flea. As if my presence here is a source of irritation, and I am an unwanted parasite...
It's too insane to think about. Are we humans a virulent strain of planetary parasite? Is it possible that we're not a part of the natural order of the Universe? An unharmonious vibration in a vast Galactic symphony?
No, we chose that course of our own volition. Satisfying immediate needs and sacrificing our long-term goals in the quick fix with not enough forethought before going into action?
Ah, I'm just rambling on and haven't any answers. I should get back to reality. I should, but I don't know what reality is...
Ha! The sixty-four million dollar question:
Now, if you can answer the question correctly...
But there are no answers, not anymore.
Only more questions...
He felt another vibration. A little dust fell onto the page as he was writing. The cave seemed unaltered by the tremors, but Ian was painfully aware of the tons of rock hanging over his head. He sometimes caught himself unconsciously hunching over, as if he were protecting himself should the ceiling collapse.
There's something going on beneath me. Something's moving. Tectonic plates? Is that what they called them?
I guess I'm beginning to feel the longer-term effects of the War. I should imagine that it would take the Earth's crust a little longer than the gases in the atmosphere to react to the tremendous expenditure of energy released by the bombs. I only hope that I will be able to live through the spasms of the planet as it readjusts itself.
I've been thinking about the vibrations in the Earth. Sitting in a waiting room in the Otherlife, I can't remember what I was waiting for - a doctor's appointment, I picked up a magazine and read an article about Las Vegas. It was about Howard Hughes mainly and it talked about how Hughes had supposedly forced the U.S. government into stopping the bomb testing in Nevada because he had been afraid that the ground shock from the underground testing would eventually cause his hotels to collapse.
Something is moving deep underneath the mountain. The ground shivered four or five times since the far side of the valley slid into the lake. Perhaps there was a fault line running through the valley, and the ground shock of so many nuclear explosions had forced it to move, causing the landslide.
What effect would the War have on the Earth? Until the earthquake I hadn't given any thought to the impact of the War upon the solid part of the Earth. I'd gotten used to the clouds boiling in the sky. I guess that was to be expected. But what about the thousands of shock waves that traveled through the Earth's crust? Have they created a change in the ground pressure? Or opened up new fissures in the Earth?
What a thought! The Earth might just disintegrate beneath me, leaving me floating alone in empty space.
No' that's silly! Its mass will hold it together. But I'm just hoping. I don't really know enough about geology to even make a guess at what's really happening down there.
But I remember the vibration in the Earth as I was lying under the truck when the city was destroyed and the ground shaking beneath me when the airbase was hit the second time. It must have had some effect on the Earth. And if it did, I don't imagine that the effect would be beneficial.
But how could anyone predict what this War would do to the world? There's no way of knowing the future until it's been filtered through the present into the past.
And it becomes the Otherlife...
Busy people rushing to get things done. No time to think. No time to consider the consequences of our choices-
Get it done before it's too late!
Well, it is too late! Far too late! Finally and irrevocably too late! Too late for anything. Too late even to say goodbye... We've blown the shit out of our planet and with the advantage of hindsight, the War was Inevitable. Once the nuclear arsenals of the world were brought into existence, it had become too late...
I wish I knew more about atomic bombs. I wish I knew more about the Earth around me. I wish the human race had known more about the Bomb, about the world, and about each other. I wish I could have made friends with the Stranger. I wish the world had been a friendlier place...
I wish we had started a vast exchange program between the countries of the world, an exchange that would involve thousands of people. Between the Soviet Union and the United States, Canada and Czechoslovakia. Between Poland and China, Thailand and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Brazil, Argentina and England; the permutations would have been endless.
And what would start as an exchange might someday be a dialogue, and with dialogue would come understanding, and the understanding would blossom into a friendship between the peoples of the world. They could send thousands of students to foreign countries for a year as part of a child's education. Start off with a few thousand children each from Russia and America, ensuring that the children were a cross-section of the population: children of politicians, of military officers, of factory workers, of farmers...children from every walk of life...
What Official would order a nuclear attack knowing he was murdering his own child? Which General would give the command to release hundreds of nuclear bombs, knowing that by doing so, he was about to vaporize his only hope for the future? Even the thought that he was about to murder his neighbor's son or daughter might have been enough to make him hesitate that extra fraction of a second needed to avoid nuclear catastrophe.
And the change in attitude! A bunch of American kids sitting around talking about the countries that they had been to. One would mention a game played by the children in Guatemala. Then one who had been to Italy would remember that people there did something similar. And someone who had spent a year in Yugoslavia would remark upon an identical custom of the people there. Then someone else would point out that he had played the same game in New Orleans. And the same conversation would be multiplied a thousand times as children from every country in the world, bit by bit, piece by piece, would come to realize that they were more alike than they were different.
And as they grew up, and assumed positions of power, their attitudes toward other nations would be more understanding, and perhaps, just perhaps, some of the belligerency and fear between nations would soften to that of mutual respect and reserved friendliness. And after that, eventually the unknown would become familiar and they could become members of the same family...
What a beautiful word...
What a beautiful world...
What a load of crock!
It's too late for daydreams. Even if the human race survives for thousands of years, it will never regain the things that it has lost. Nuclear War is a Megarevolution, turning the world around upon itself and inside out, destroying the good alongside the bad. It's over!
Will it be able to stabilize itself after such a cataclysmic event?
Cataclysmic? More like Cosmic...
An all-out nuclear war is a Cosmic event.
The planet Earth, a relatively stable planet in a lesser star system on the edge of our Galaxy, went into a brief nova today. The light from its final death throes was visible for several light years but lasted only a few minutes before the energy it released was absorbed by the mass of the planet. Scientists are at a loss to explain why this event occurred...
Yeah, for sure. We'll make the Space-Wide News on the Tri-D.
If there's some other race out there.
But supposing, just supposing, that there's nobody out there, and we human beings are the only living beings in the Universe. I remember scientists speculating on the probability of life on other planets in other star systems, but what if they're wrong? What if our planet is the only planet capable of supporting life in the Universe? What if Humankind is the only species that will reach the state of technology that we once had?
SUPPOSE THAT THE PLANET EARTH WAS THE ONLY PLANET IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE THAT WILL SUPPORT LIFE.
Not only would we have wiped out the only forms of life on the Earth, but perhaps we have eliminated the only forms of life in the entire Universe.
Is that why so many people wanted to believe in UFO's and extra-terrestrials? So that if we fuck up, at least there would be others left who would be capable of managing the Universe better than ourselves?
Too many of us looked beyond Humankind for salvation. Some counted on God or the Son of God to intervene before we blew the shit out of our planet and poisoned it beyond reclamation. Still others looked at the coming war as the instrument of God's wrath. “Blessed are the Bombs for they shall bring us Armageddon.” And others expected flying saucers to descend from the heavens to bring us to our senses and lead us to the True Path. We all looked away from the real solution to end our mad, careening ride to self-destruction.
We should have looked at each other. We should have looked inward. At ourselves. We should have realized that the only ones who would be able to prevent this catastrophe from occurring were the people standing around us.
What if everyone in the world had looked at his neighbor as a neighbor, and not as a rival? What could we have accomplished if Humankind had placed its faith in itself and had worked together, and not against each other?
For the good of all.
What a dull race of beings we are, that we could ignore the signs of danger around us and not do anything about them! We had such potential!
And we threw it all away!
We blew it all away!
I wish that I could go back to the Otherlife! I would spend the rest of my life trying to show whoever I could the futility and the shortsightedness of our lives!
There is nothing in the world that is worth destroying the Earth forever!
Governments could topple, banks could run out of money, countries could go broke-
BUT THE EARTH WOULD STILL BE HERE!
And it would still support Life!
But no! Someone, somewhere, decided that there was something that was of greater value than the well being of the Planet... Something that was worth far more than Life itself...
It's no use...there's no one here to answer... no one here to care...
And I'm half-crazy...
He flipped the pages of the journal back through the entry he had just read, searching for something that would tell him that the message he had written during the Dream had reached the Warworld, but there was nothing.
The transition from the Warworld to the Otherlife was painless, but the passage back was guarded by the Dream People and he had to battle his way tooth and nail up through the layers of the Dream. Because of the one-way bias that seemed designed to keep him in the Otherlife, he decided the Warworld was the real world.
There were gaps in his memory, and he knew from reading the journal that the gaps occurred when he was back in the Warworld. The dark areas in his memory in one world coincided with his return to the other. He had to somehow combine the experiences of both worlds in order to fight the Dream. He had to communicate with himself in the Warworld somehow, directly from the Dream.
His entry in the notebook didn't work. He could read what he had written from both worlds but either the entry from the Dream wasn't really in the book or he simply hadn't seen it when he returned to the War world.
A small white card sat on the night table. Weird, he thought. The last time he had seen the card, he had put it in his shirt pocket. He picked the card up and stared at it for a moment and reached for the phone. He hesitated, his hand a hair's breadth from the phone, then changed his mind and slipped the card into his shirt pocket.
He looked down at the journal, and suddenly realized that the last entry was a message telling him what he had to do. Not directly, but it must have been a subconscious directive. His eyes scanned the pages until he found the passage he was searching for His finger traced the flow of thought on the paper...
There it is!
“I wish that I could go back to the Otherlife,” he read out loud, “I would spend the rest of my life trying to show whoever I could the futility and the shortsightedness of our lives.”
There is nothing in the world that is worth destroying the Earth forever. The thought screamed at him from the page, and he knew why he had been sent back.
To stop the War.
There wasn't much time left, he knew. The day of the War was coming closer, but he had a plan, and it might work...
But he was tired, deathly tired.
I'll be safe in the Otherlife from the Dream People. I'll get some sleep, then I'll stop the War... I'm just too tired...
Ian woke up that morning hugging the truck battery. He couldn't figure out how he had ended up in the position he found himself in, but slowly, the memories of the Dream began to weave themselves into his consciousness. He remembered the fear, and a vague macabre ballet of the Dream People appeared, then disappeared, gliding through his mind as he lit the morning fire. The fire had something to do with the Dream, but he couldn't connect the two together. Hovering somewhere, just out of reach, was a missing link.
He sat staring at the flames, trying to remember the Dream, and wondering why he woke up with his arms around the battery. He had a distinct impression that he had returned to the Otherlife again, but he couldn't recall any details at all.
A burning branch fell from the fire and rolled to his feet, and he was aware of the mental sideslip that had become so familiar since that first day when the Bomb dropped. As he reached down to pick up the burning branch, the colors around him brightened.
Weird, he thought.
A twig snapped outside the cave, and for a brief second, he envisioned a giant cockroach crawling towards the entrance, but the image faded as the old familiar fear crept over him. His scalp tingled and a shiver ran up his back.
It's not the Dream People, he told himself, It can't be: it's daylight. I'm awake. They never come during the day...
Reassured, he picked up the still-burning stick. But I did hear something out there. He looked down at the stick. It was heavy - he could use it as a weapon. He looked toward the entrance of the cave.
Then, hefting the stick like a flaming sword, Ian strode towards the cave entrance. All trace of fear had dissipated by the time he reached the camouflage screen, and he was ready to do battle with whatever was out there. All the frustration of the last few days of sickness had turned to anger. He was eager to lash out at whatever was beyond his door. He stepped boldly through the camouflage door.
There was nothing. He walked forwards to get a better view of the valley. The truck glinted in the sunlight and the lake glittered with millions of sun diamonds dancing over its surface.
He stared up at the sky.
It was blue.
Not a cloud in the sky.
The dust was gone, no small gray-brown drifts, and the Earth was green, and the sky was blue!
Not a trace of the nightmare remained!
A smile came slowly to his lips, to his face, to his mind. A wordless cheer bubbled up within him rushing up through his body and bursting from his lungs. The force of the sound lifted him from the ground and in the same motion, he threw the stick in the air. He laughed and tears streamed from his eyes.
It had never happened!
It had all been a bad dream!
He was ecstatic. He knelt down and kissed the Earth.
She was safe!
She was whole!
Holding the ground was like embracing a beautiful, warm, woman. He and she were one person, a single entity. He became a part of the Earth, and the Earth became a part of him.
Together, the Earth and I are We. Neither could live without the other, and now, neither would have to. They were healthy again. He kissed her again, a long slow embrace, and the warm golden flow of total love flowed between them, filling them with an orgasmic energy that would last forever. He was in love with a planet. He loved her as no man had ever loved her before. She was his lover, his protector, and he was hers. No one would ever violate her again.
Far off in the distance, she called to him with the voice of wild geese and sang to him with the delicate warble of a thousand songbird; she whispered her love through the leaves of the trees, and caressed his body with the soft touch of the summer breeze. The sweet perfume of a million wild flowers lulled him as she touched his face and ruffled his hair.
He heard someone calling his name, and sat up, listening. All he could hear was the deep free-breathing of the Earth.
He heard his name again. Louder this time, he recognized the voice. Pete! Pete was calling him. Ian stood up and saw his friend near the crest of the hill above him.
“C'mon, man!” Pete shouted, “Let's go!”
“Be right there!” Ian called back and ran back into the cave. Everything was as he had left it, and he ran over to the truck battery, popped the rotor and the keys into his pocket, and picked up the battery with both hands. He carried it past the boxes and the memories of the nightmare that no longer existed, and stepped through the camouflage doorway. He had to bend over to get through it; it seemed smaller than he remembered it.
And as he stood up, he found himself staring into the grinning faces of the Dream People.
“No!” he whispered in horror, “Oh God, no!”
Desiccated hands reached forward, groping at his arms and at the battery. They wanted to take the battery away from him so that he could never leave, so that he couldn't leave with Pete!
I have to reach Pete! I have to!
“Pete!” Ian called desperately, clutching the battery to his chest. “Pete, help me!”
Ian swung wildly with his right arm and sliced through a head that shattered into dry, crumbled dust. He fought a losing battle through the mass of decayed living flesh, and just before he was dragged under the suffocating press of the Dream People, he caught sight of Pete and Bill, Linda, Dorothy and Elizabeth, and Lisa walking away from him toward the crest of the hill.
“Stop!” he screamed at them, “Don't go that way! Please, don't go that way!”
But they couldn't hear him; they couldn't sense the danger that lay waiting for them on the other side of the mountain, and they kept walking. The moment that they disappeared over the ridge, Ian knew he would never see them again, and as the thought struck him, vast black-brown clouds boiled up from behind the mountain, expanding toward him and filling the sky. As the Dream People dragged him down, the last patch of blue vanished and the clouds billowed downward. They were allied with the Dream, and Ian knew he would suffocate inside their almost solid mass once they enveloped him. Buried in the choking remains of the dead, pieces of dried mummified flesh filling his mouth and nose, and the clouds surrounded him, sucking the moisture from his body and corroding his flesh.
Because Ian's sleeping body imitated the actions of the Dream, he could no longer form a separate impression of himself in the Dream and his sleeping body in the real world. Before the Dream, when he awoke he would find himself lying where he had fallen asleep, but he now woke up standing or lying in the same position he had been in when the Dream ended. He had to pass through so many layers of the Dream to escape it. As if he were lost in a bizarre and terrible house of mirrors, he wandered through each level of the maze praying that finally he was outside and away from the Dream. The Dream offered him tantalizing glimpses of Reality, and he raced for freedom, only to fall into yet another trap the Dream had set to suck him into another time and place. He had no idea how long it took him to escape or whether he had escaped the Dream at all. He broke free of the Dream so many times, only to find it still surrounded him, and he was forced to begin the struggle again.
I suppose I'm insane...
I have two worlds to live in now. I know that one of them is real and the other isn't. I have no way of deciding which is which. I have no choice but to treat them both as if they are the Real World, and until I can tell whether the Otherlife is real or the Warworld is real, I have to keep to myself and avoid the people that I know.
Because of my experiences in the Warworld, I believe that this world will cease to exist regardless of its reality, in two days from today. I am sure that the date is correct and that the Bombs will fall upon the city as they did in the Warworld unless I can find a way to stop them...
“There is nothing in the world that is worth destroying the Earth forever,” read the man behind the counter, “Is that right?”
“And you want to send it to the President of the United States?”
“And the Premier of the Soviet Union?”
“Okay,” said the man dubiously, “But I can't guarantee they'll read it.”
“They have to!” Ian told the man forcefully, and instantly knew he had let the madness slip momentarily out of control.
“Sure,” said the man eyeing him curiously.
“And don't forget my name on it.”
“You're paying for it fella. All I gotta do is send what you wrote on the form.”
He paid for the two telegrams, and wandered to the back wall of the telegraph office, pretending to read the posters on the wall, but he was really keeping his eyes on his telegram as it moved from desk to desk so that he could be certain that it had been sent. He didn't trust the people behind the counter.
They think I'm crazy, Ian thought and he was afraid they wouldn't send it because they thought he was crazy. He followed the progress of his telegram through the office easily, because whoever picked it up and read it smiled, and passed it on to someone else. When it finally reached the telegraph operator, his message had drawn a crowd around it, and they all laughed as the operator sent off the cable, and they cheered as the operator finished. After the message had hit the wires, they returned to the normal routine of the day. The man who had taken the message from him walked back to the counter and noticed him watching, and gave him an “okay” signal with his fingers and smiled.
And it gave him an idea. He turned and quickly walked out of the telegraph office and onto the street.
Ian spent the whole day on the sidewalk in front of the telegraph office stopping passers-by.
“Are you interested in stopping a nuclear war?” he would ask them. Most people gave him a strange look and walked past him, but he didn't care. If they said “Yes”, he would tell them to send the same message that he had to the President and the Premier. Most just laughed, and gave him excuses that they didn't have time. But two or three did go in and send off the telegrams. To those who said they didn't have enough money, he gave enough for them to send the telegrams.
Ian ran out of money and decided to go to the bank and take out everything he and Linda had put into their savings account.
He felt guilty about withdrawing the money and was afraid that Linda might have told the bank not to give him any cash because he was crazy, but the teller handed him the crisp new bills and smiled telling him to have a nice day.
“Oh, I will!” he smiled happily back at her, “I will!”
Ian returned to the telegraph office and persuaded a few more people to send telegrams until someone came back with the money and told him that the telegraph office was closed.
“Oh,” he said disappointedly.
“Do you want your money back?”
“No. No, that's okay,” Ian said absently, and wandered down the street. He didn't care about the money.
He wouldn't need it two days into the future anyway. There wouldn't be anywhere left to spend it.
He walked amongst the rush hour pedestrian traffic and the crowds waiting at the bus stops feeling deflated. He counted his money. Not many people had accepted his offer.
They think I'm crazy, he thought as he searched the crowd for a face that would understand, but the faces either ignored him or looked away, Why won't they listen to the truth? he wondered, Can't they see that their lives are hanging by a thread? A thread that's only two days long?
And he realized that every one of the faces he looked into belonged to a victim of a dream that directed each individual to accept only what they wanted to accept, and because each one wanted to believe that their world was the real world whether it was or not, they were all forced to try and be someone that they weren't. They were all projecting a face to the world that didn't match their true selves. Ian was amazed at the masks he saw around him on the street and could see past the weak facades as if they were all extremely bad actors cast in roles that forced them to portray characters that were beyond their ability to create. They were all as alone as he was, trapped within their chosen realities, each reality differing from the next.
They had no choice but to live out their roles. It was all they had in a world that offered so many alternatives. There was no version of the truth that was universal.
A face came towards him through the crowd. An old haggard face that had seen too much injustice and too many bottles.
“Excuse me sir,” said the face, ” but could you spare some change for an old sailor?”
He looked at the derelict in surprise. There was a twinkle in the brilliant blue eyes staring at him from the bearded face that had somehow resisted the onslaught of time and suffering they had seen.
The wino licked his lips nervously. “I wonder if you have any spare change for an old man down on his luck, sir.”
“Change?” Ian asked the old man.
“Coin of the realm, good sir,” prompted the old man, “Unfortunately, I have no means of obtaining enough currency to meet the demands of reality...”
He stared at the old man in amazement.
“Reality? You said reality ?”
“That I did, sir. I-”
“What do you know about reality?” There was an urgency in Ian's voice that made the old man hesitate for a moment, but only a moment.
“What do I know about reality?” the old man asked pensively, scratching his beard, “Well, I heard a story in India one time, and I'll swear on my mother's grave it was true. It seems that there was these four blind men sitting by a palm tree, and they were discussing elephants-”
What the hell had elephants got to do with reality?
“That it was. The shape of elephants to be exact. Elephants! Well sir, it seems that none of them had seen an elephant being as they were, all four of them blind. Well, as it happens, as they were talking, a young elephant boy was walking past them, and he happened to overhear their conversation, and he stopped to listen for a bit.”
“Now, all four men had heard an elephant before and they all decided that an elephant must be shaped like a big trombone. That elephant boy laughed and shouted at them that they were all wrong, and...” The old man looked at him and licked his lips, “...I wonder if perhaps we could continue this conversation in a more amenable atmosphere, sir...” the wino said craftily, “...Perhaps in yonder public house where you might spot me for a drink. Storytelling is a thirsty occupation...”
“Of course,” Ian told the old man, and the two of them crossed the street and walked into the bar the old man had referred to. They sat down at the bar. The bartender eyed the two of them suspiciously as they mounted the barstools.
“A beer,” Ian said to the bartender, who looked at him, then at the old man.
“You got money?” asked the bartender gruffly. Ian pulled a bill from his pocket and held it up for the bartender to see.
“A beer,” murmured the bartender, placated for the moment by the sight of cash, but still reserving his judgement on his two disreputable customers. “What about you?” he asked the old man brusquely.
The old man didn't look at the bartender, but at his new-found benefactor, “I wonder if a whiskey wouldn't be too much to ask, sir? A bourbon perhaps...”
Ian smiled at the old man, “Not at all.” He turned to the bartender “A bourbon. A double of your best bourbon for my friend.”
“One bourbon.” said the bartender, and it was obvious that he didn't want either Ian or the old man in his bar, and was tolerating them only for the moment until one of them did something that would give him the excuse he needed to throw them out. The decor was designed only with the successful businessman in mind, and they were intruding into a world where they didn't belong.
“Neat,” the old man said authoritatively, pleased with the new status that his friend had bought from the bartender.
The bartender placed the drinks in front of them without a word, took the bill on the bar, and dropped the change grudgingly between the two glasses. After the bartender had walked back to the till, the old man lifted his glass in a toast
“Here's to you, sir,” he said gratefully.
Ian laughed and told the old man his name, and asked the old man what he was called.
“My mother called me Michael Patrick, but all my friends call me Mike.”
“Well, Mike, here's to us all,” and he raised his glass, and they both drank to each other.
Ian put his beer down.
“What about the blind men and the elephant?” Ian asked the old man.
“Ah, the blind men,” Mike mused, “Well, as it turned out, the boy took them to his elephant so that they could find out what the real shape of an elephant was. So, the boy led them up to the animal so that they could feel it, and that way they would all know exactly what shape the elephant was.”
“The first one, he felt the trunk of the beast, and the second, he feels the tail. The third, he wraps his arms around the leg. And the fourth grabs a hold of the elephants ear...I...ah...seem to have finished my drink, sir...”
Ian smiled at Mike's timing, and waved another crisp bill at the bartender, holding up Mike's empty glass.
“Well, as I was saying, they each had a hold of a different part of that elephant.”
The bartender placed another double in front of the old man. “Ah, thank you, bartender,” Mike said affably, a twinkle in his eye, “You're the epitome of human kindness.”
The bartender grunted and returned to mind his till.
“The first one, holding the trunk, he can feel it weaving in and out and bending around his hand. `An elephant is very much like a snake,' he says. `No, no,' calls the blind man holding the tail, `An elephant is thin and round like a rope.'”
Mike took a sip of his bourbon.
“A rare liquid,” he announced, ” Warms me to my very soul...But as I was saying...the third man, he's the one holding the leg, he shouts, `An elephant is thick and round, covered with wrinkles, and is surely shaped like a tree!'. `An elephant is like a sheet of leather!' shouts the fourth, who was holding the animal's ear.”
“Well, the elephant boy laughed and laughed at the four men who held on to his elephant. He could see that they were all right, but at the same time, they were all wrong.”
Mike's glass was empty again, and Ian signaled the bartender to bring another bourbon.
“Well,” continued Mike, “Those four men were each convinced that he was right and the other three were wrong, that they became extremely hot under the collar, and they started yelling and cursing at each other, until, finally...ah,” he beamed as the bartender deposited another glass in front of him.
The old man took a sip from his glass, savoring the flavor before he swallowed the bourbon.
“You know what happened next?” asked Mike smiling. Ian shook his head in answer to the old man's question.
“It seems they were making quite a commotion between the five of them, the boy laughing his fool head off, and the blind men shouting at each other, that...” Mike took another sip of the whiskey.
“...That the elephant got spooked by the noise they were all makin' and the frightened creature broke loose from the chain he was tethered with and stomped all five of them into the ground!”
He smiled at the old man's joke.
“And that's Reality?” Ian asked the old man.
Mike nodded. “That's Reality. But there's a moral to the story - lesson to be learned from it..”
“What is it?” Ian asked.
Mike finished his drink, and placed his empty glass on the bar. Ian took it for granted the old man was waiting for another drink, and signaled the bartender for another bourbon, but Mike stopped him, and looked at him earnestly.
“The lesson,” the old man said seriously, “...is never try to change anyone's idea of what is real and what isn't, no matter how convinced you are that you're right and they're wrong.”
“I tried it when I was your age, and all I got for my trouble was stomped on. People don't want to change, and even if you lead them to the truth they'll never see the whole of it. All they'll see is the little part that they want to see, and if you try to tell them that even though they're right, but because they can't see it all, they're wrong, you'll both get stomped on. That's the lesson...”
Ian didn't want to stay in the bar anymore, and suddenly felt out of place and restless. He pulled out a few bills from his shirt pocket and placed them on the bar.
“I have to go,” Ian told Mike, “I want you to have this money. You can spend it however you want, but if I were you, I'd save enough to leave town on a bus and go somewhere quiet. A village in the country somewhere.”
The old man looked at him suspiciously.
“Because two days from today, this city will be blown apart by an atomic bomb.”
Mike stared at him in astonishment. “How do you know?”
He smiled and slipped off the barstool.
“Because I have seen the elephant...”
It's no use, I can't break through.
The only way that I can reach the Warworld is to wait for an opening somewhere. I have a feeling that the Dream wants to keep me here until the War. I only have a short time to break the division between the two worlds. It's as if the Dream is an agent of the War.
Of course it is. Without the War, the Dream would never have come into being. I can't shake the feeling that I have been transported to an alternate future.
To another Universe...
As if I...
I have so many choices...
So many separate ways to leave the present. If I do this, that will happen. If I do that, this will happen...
Suppose that I had been meant to die in the War, but because of some fluke, some decision that I made, I escaped from the death that had been intended for me, and the Dream has come to rectify the mistake, to ensure that I am destroyed by the holocaust, vaporized by nuclear fire...
I have thought of leaving in the truck to avoid it, and drive to the lake, but I don't think running from it is the answer. I have a feeling that I would be sucked back into the Warworld the moment that I reached the lake, and that the Dream would automatically pull me back to where I am now. I wish I had a way to shatter the illusions and weed them away from reality.
Ian stopped writing. He thought he'd felt a vibration.
It was the Dream. The Dream had shuddered. He looked around the living room, then down at the page. Something I've written? He retraced his thoughts back to the moment that he had written the last word in the entry. He had been about to write that he had decided to go and see the psychiatrist...
He pulled the white card from his pocket and reached for the phone. He punched out the numbers from the card.
“Caledon Clinic. One moment please.”
He was on hold. As he waited impatiently for his turn to talk to the receptionist he glanced down at the card. It's blank! He turned it over several times to make sure. It was blank.
He thought he'd caught a movement by the curtains in the corner of his eye, but when he looked directly at the curtain it was still. Must've been the wind, he thought, but as he watched, the curtain shivered again. Something was pushing at it. Ian put the receiver down on the coffee table and squeezed between the boxes to reach the curtains.
He didn't see the horribly mutilated arms that shot out from the boxes and grabbed him from behind, wrapping around his neck...
With a deafening roar that drowned his screams, the apartment walls crumbled and large boulders erupted through the living room floor as the curtains exploded and caught fire, and the Dream People emerged from the flames. They came at him from every direction, not moving with their usual shuffle, but in a frenzied kamikaze attack. They threw themselves at him in a horrific explosion of violence, smashing themselves into dust as they hit him. Through the sound of the struggle he could hear a voice calling.
It came from the telephone.
“Hello? Hello?” the receptionist queried.
The telephone sat on a rock beside the fire. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
He fought wildly to reach it.
To his horror, the telephone began to melt... “Hello? Is there anyone there?”
Gobs of plastic dripped onto the cave floor... “Hello? If there's someone there, would you answer me, please...” He couldn't reach it!
The voice became more and more garbled until the telephone became nothing more than a bubbling protoplasmic mass of dripping plastic, and the voice stopped altogether.
Suddenly, Ian saw an opening in the crowd around him and he leaped through it, running for the cave entranceway. As he reached it, he lost his footing and crashed through the camouflage screen door and fell outside the cave, banging his arm against the truck battery which had somehow been left here. He reached for it and pulled it towards him, wrapping his arms around it so that it wouldn't fall into the hands of the Dream People.
Suddenly, he was awake!
Or am I?
He had felt the subtle shift from one reality to another. He looked around him at the haze, at the dust, and knew he was back. He remembered the telephone and linked it to the small white card that he had found in his pocket, but didn't understand the connection.
He decided he had better take the battery back inside the cave, but as he reached down to pick it up, a large black beetle rattled noisily on top of it. It faced him buzzing defiantly. Ian hesitated for a moment, afraid that it would attack him. It had come to claim its throne. The world belonged to the insects, and the beetle's stance told him that from then on, Ian was an intruder, the last of the Old Order.
He remembered the stick, and scanned the ground around him. There it is! Over by the cave entrance! Ian backed away from the battery, keeping his eye on the beetle. He picked the stick up and advanced slowly on the battery. Not yet, Ian thought to the beetle, Not yet!
With a sharp jab, Ian flicked the insect off its perch, glanced around to make sure that no one was watching, grabbed the battery, and quickly retreated to the cave.
Ian put the battery in its place, and carefully set the plastic-wrapped rotor and keys on top of the battery. He walked over to the fireplace and poked at the ashes with his stick. A few glowing embers still smoldered in the fine ash. He piled a handful of dried leaves over the embers and blew at them gently. The leaves smoldered, but wouldn't pop into flame. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wooden match, striking it on a nearby rock.
But he stopped short of lighting the leaves. The last set of the Dream had started with him lighting the fire. He raised the match slowly, turning it between his fingers, staring at the flame...
Am I still dreaming? How can I tell anymore?
His arms were a mass of infected opened wounds and hurt continually with a throbbing ache, Dream or no Dream. He let the match burn down to his fingers, and it hurt.
But he let it burn anyway and it finally went out. He sat holding it for a few seconds, so that he could judge the pain in his fingers.
Dream or no Dream?
Ian put his fingers to his mouth and licked the blisters. He could taste the ash.
He smiled and lit another match and put it to the pile of leaves. He gathered a few branches that he had left scattered about and added them to the burning leaves. The fire crackled brightly and soon cast a warm glow upon him. He reached into the fire and pulled loose a stick. The broken end of the branch flickered with flame. He stared at it, admiring the point, then returned it to the fire. He slipped his knife from its sheath, and held it up in front of him...
Or the knife?
He pushed the blade into the fire and stared at it until the heat of the fire turned the shiny metal dull, then, ever so slowly, the tip of the knife began to glow orange-red.
It was ready...
He reached quickly for the knife and in one fast clean stroke, he jammed it into his left bicep. He cried out in agony as the red hot blade seared his flesh, and he withdrew the knife, dropping it onto the cave floor.
It hurt terribly.
But he knew he was awake!
And he knew his world was real!
He smiled, pleased with himself. He had found a way to check for the Dream...
An ordeal by fire...
The heat cauterizes the wound; there's little chance for infection...
I can beat the Dream!
Sounds crazy, huh?
To someone who has only lived in the Otherlife, it is crazy. But not now. The War has changed all that. Sticking a red hot knife into my arm is a normal part of my life. Like the dust. Like the boiling clouds. Like the dying leaves...
It's all a part of my life now.
Just me and the insects, survivors of the most insane war that has ever been witnessed in the Universe...
I'm feeling better now, and I think that the Sickness will pass. It's so strange, I thought that the Doctor was telling me everything I should know about surviving in this hostile world, but I was wrong. Sure, the Doctor talked about the symptoms, fallout and all that, but they're only the physical reactions to nuclear war. What we didn't understand or anticipate was the psychological reaction of the individual to such wholesale slaughter and destruction. It really is more than the human mind can bear - the loss of home, family, the planet...no place safe to hide, no place safe to run...
The Otherlife seems so far away now. I feel as if I've lived a lifetime since then. I look around me and every object I see is a constant reminder of someone I met since the War. There are vague echoes of the Otherlife here too, but the associations are of those people who are responsible for me being here safe and alive.
But they're gone now, and they live on only through my memory, and I am deeply moved by the goodness I found in those people, but I am also appalled by the depth of the evil of which they were all capable. They all lived. For a short while, then they faded away, into the past.
I need more than memories to feed on. I need other people around me. How else can I be sure that I'm still a human being?
Alone, I am nothing.
I'm of no use to Humankind holed up here by myself. It's time for me to leave, to search out other survivors. Tomorrow, I'll go down an check out the truck, and then I'll start loading my supplies, and once she's loaded, we'll drive out of here.
Where will I go?
I'm not sure yet. Wherever I can find other human beings, I guess. I have no idea of how long I have to live, but I know I'm not serving any purpose by staying here. I'm facing a dead end. There's no future for me here. Only a long, lingering, lonely death.
My future lies with other members of the human race. But I'm tired now. I think I'll rest, and tomorrow, I'll start to get myself ready to leave.
Ian sighed. Reading the entry, he knew his other self was getting better. So why am I still here in the Otherlife? He didn't understand why the person that he had once thought of as himself was recovering, yet he was still suffering. His arms were covered with ugly scars that weren't healing. In fact, they were degenerating.
I am no longer that person. He's me, but I'm not him...
Their paths had begun to diverge, and it seemed that the journal was being written by someone who he had once known, as if he were reading a letter from a close friend who had moved away. The person who wrote the journal was someone else who lived in a totally different world than his, leading a totally separate life to his.
Perhaps I am getting better. Perhaps I've suffered a nervous breakdown, and now I' m beginning to come out of it. I feel that I've been lost in a fog that has begun to dissipate, and that I'm beginning to see clearly for the first time...
Ian thoughts drifted back to earlier in the day. He had left Mike in the bar and begun to walk home, and grew increasingly depressed as the sea of faces flowed past him as he waded through the crowds on the street. It had been a stupid idea to think that he could change the world alone in only two days.
It was simply impossible. He saw Humanity as a psychic mass, a single entity directed in its course by the push and the pull of each individual within it, and he was left with a simple calculation of numbers. If the majority of people felt that the War was impossible or improbable, then the energy of only a few to try and avoid the War would never be adequate to divert the course of the human race away from it. With only himself against the psychic weight of millions who were not prepared to change the status quo, he was outweighed by sheer numbers. He simply didn't have the force at his disposal to overcome the inertia. How could I change the course of the future without the help of millions of others? It would take far longer than two days to make enough people see the danger they were facing.
But I don't have that long.
Within two days there would be no reality at all for any of us. Within two days, all the people around me will be dead. Within two days the people that he walked amongst will have been vaporized, battered, bludgeoned, and burned to death and would be remembered only as faceless victims of the Dream...
The realization that the living mass around him was fated to become, and for all intents and purposes already were, Dream People made Ian shudder, and he looked around him nervously expecting that the people in the crowded street would metamorphose into the Dream People at any moment. The hair on Ian's scalp tingled as it dawned on him that such a thing was possible, and he quickened his step, avoiding contact with the other pedestrians.
Panic rose within him, and it required all the control he could muster to prevent himself from breaking into a run. He looked into a passing woman's face, and as she smiled at him, her face suddenly fused and twisted. Ian could feel the world sideslip and knew he was losing control. He was about to slip back into the Dream.
He heard a rising moan that grew from the sounds of the street, and then, a single voice calling his name.
And he saw Linda pushing her way through the crowd towards him, as horribly burned faces turned to stare after her. Panic gripped him and he turned and ran. He could hear Linda calling for him to wait, but he couldn't. He had to get back to the apartment before the Dream turned on him. He couldn't let it seize him here in front of all these people, these hideous walking corpses.
He shook his head to rid it of the memory. He knew he shouldn't have run from Linda, but he didn't want to watch her mutate with the rest of them. It would have been more than his mind could have borne.
He placed the book on the bed and walked into the living room. The boxes were still there. They're not real, he told himself, but thinking it didn't make them disappear. He touched the nearest cardboard case.
He shook his head. Perhaps they were real. But where did they come from? He was restless. He needed something to fill the empty spaces. Music, he thought and turned to look at the stereo. Ian walked over to it, and crouching down, he pushed the power button. The dial light and the speakers popped as the electric current instantly filled the stereo's circuits. He pushed the function button for the radio.
“...the President cut short his holiday and returned to the White House to...”
Ian turned the dial.
“...mostly cloudy tomorrow with sixty per cent chance of...” Static, a hiss fading in and out...
“...and it's a long pass across the blue line...”
He was fascinated by the variety of choices available to him, but he didn't want to listen to any of them for long. He wanted to hear them all and turned the dial this way and that, tuning in on distant stations, and the chatter comforted him as he moved from station to station.
“... he steps up to the plate. Here's the wind up...” ...static...music...
“...time call on the mound...”
...fading into country music...
... more rock music...
“...the end of the World...”
That caught his attention and he flipped the dial back quickly. “...among you that are listening, how many are truly ready for the End of the World?”
Me, I'm ready.
“...Yes, I can hear you saying you're ready...”
How did he know that-
“But have you truly prepared yourself for that day? What have you done to be ready? Have you accepted the Lord Jesus into your life?”
Ian suddenly felt foolish. For a moment, he had thought at first the man in the radio was actually talking to him.
“..and I say to you my friend," continued the radio, "there is only one way that you will survive Judgment Day. There is only one road to Salvation! Your own personal salvation can only be found in pages of the New Testament of The Holy Bible!
I am reading now from the The Book of Revelations. And I ask those of you out there who have sent in their kind donations of sixty-nine ninety-nine, and received my personally autographed new translation of the Lord's own words, The Holy Bible, in it's entirety, to turn to the Book of Revelations, and read alongside of me; Chapter Eight, Verses five to eleven..."
The telephone rang. Ian stood up and walked to the coffee table and picked up the receiver.
There was no answer on the other end and the radio minister slid back into his consciousness...
“...then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire from the altar and threw it on the Earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake!”
“Hello?” he asked.
“Are you okay?
“Linda!” he exclaimed happily, but the happiness faded to guilt as he remembered the afternoon's encounter. “I...I'm fine.”
“Why did you run away from me?”
“I...” Ian didn't want to tell her. Explaining the Dream People to her seemed too complicated. “...I don't know.”
"...Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them..."
He was having trouble concentrating. The radio minister was fogging his thoughts.
"The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, which fell on the Earth.; and a third of the Earth was burnt up!"
“Did you telephone the Clinic yet?” Linda asked hopefully. “...Have you accepted Jesus into your life?..”
“No,” he answered to both questions. Ian put his hand to his face, holding it so that it wouldn't collapse from the pressure building in his temples.
“I... I lost the number,” he said to Linda, trying to block out the radio, “I...”
“Do you want me to phone for you?”
"The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood..."
"No!" he whispered to the radio.
"I mean, 'yes'," he said to Linda, trying to hold his thoughts onto the one thing that could save him.
"..a third of the living creatures in the sea died..."
“Yes,” he answered firmly, “Yes, that would be fine.”
"...and a third of the ships were destroyed..."
“Are you going to go if I make the appointment?”
"“...And I ask you again, will you accept Jesus Christ into your life?..”
“Yes. Yes, I will. I...” He wanted to ask her if she could come and see him. He didn't want to be alone. He could hear the minister telling him that he didn't have to be alone if he would accept Jesus as his savior...
“What?” asked Linda.
"...The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from Heaven..."
“Ah... nothing. Nothing. I'm fine. I'll be there.”
“Okay, I'll phone you back.”
"...blazing like a torch..."
“Are you sure you're alright?”
"...and it fell on a third of the rivers..."
“Yes I'm fine.”
“I'll phone you back right away.”
"...and on a third of the fountains of water..."
There was an uncomfortable silence as they both held on to the telephone, wanting to say more, but neither was able to find the words to match their thoughts.
"The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became Wormwood, and the men who drank of it, died of its water for it was made bitter..."
“Goodbye,” said Linda quickly and hung up.
“Goodbye,” he whispered into the receiver to the dial tone.
“...and unless you accept Christ as your Savior, then you will never receive the blessing of His Heaven on Earth, and you will perish in the fires of Armageddon. Without the Son of God in your heart, there can be no Redemption...”
He turned the radio off. You're right, he thought to the minister, but you can only see a part of the elephant...
He walked to the bedroom and sat cross-legged on the bed. He picked up the journal and hugged it to his chest, waiting for Linda to phone back.
Only two days left...
He lay the book in his lap and opened it up to a blank page.
I'm not sure if I'm right. It is possible that I have no idea of whether the War is real or not? It is possible that it's not going to happen? I have to go and see the psychiatrist to find out.
Nuclear weapons have been in existence since before I was born, and with the exception of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have never been used as a weapon of war. But the threat of their use has hung over me every second of my life, and during any one of those seconds, I could have been blown out of existence.
How is it that somewhere someone I have never met, someone who doesn't even know that I exist, has been allowed to hold such an awesome power of life and death over me?
Is my death an acceptable statistic? - Do the strategists think that it's fine if I die? Do they think it's fine that Linda is vaporized and turned into dust? Is it okay to have my city wiped from the face of the planet? Is it alright if Bill and Dorothy and Elizabeth die in agony before they can reach one another?
HOW MUCH SUFFERING IS TOO HIGH A PRICE TO PAY FOR WAR?
In a world that faces extinction every second of its existence, what does
The telephone rang and Ian picked it up instantly.
It was Linda. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Your appointment is Friday afternoon at three o'clock. Can you be there?”
“Will you be there?”
“Yes. Will you?”
There was a short silence.
“Will you be there?” he asked.
“I...I'll try. I'll have to get time off work, but I'll try. I can't promise...”
“I'll try to be there, but-”
“Linda, it's okay. I understand.”
“I love you,” Linda whispered softly.
“I know,” he answered.
“Friday at three...”
“I'll be there.”
“I'll see you...” Her voice was a weak whisper, and he could tell she was about to cry.
“Okay,” he said gently, “Bye.”
He could hear Linda sobbing. He hung the receiver back on the hook.
Only two days left, he thought, Only two...
A sudden dizziness overcame Ian and he knew that he was going to be sick. He put his hand over his mouth to stop the vomit, and blundered towards the bathroom, but threw up in the hallway before he reached the bathroom door. Ian managed to reach the toilet and he collapsed beside it, hugging the cold ceramic bowl with his arms. He retched until he had nothing left to throw up. Through the distorted vision of his watering eyes, Ian could see the dark red swirl of blood floating on the clotted surface of his vomit in the toilet bowl...