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The Lost Bradbury: Forgotten Tales of Ray Bradbury [MultiFormat]
eBook by Ray Bradbury

eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
eBook Description: Imagine having the power to see briefly into the future, or being able to kill someone through a magic candle. Imagine someone playing war like a childhood game and winning, or going to Mars and yet seeing Earth and people from one's memory. These characters are from a few of Ray Bradbury's previously uncollected early tales that are gathered in this compilation. In these stories, we get a clear glimpse of the beginnings of this SF master. Mars, even then, is already hostile and unwelcoming to colonizing Earthmen, and yet, at the same time, it is also portrayed as just another planet, with creatures ready to strike back and defend their home. Bradbury's work, whether science fiction set in space or in Mars, or horror stories and suspense, are always a treat to read. They show psychological depth and sophistication, holding up a mirror to us from which we can see our foibles and strengths, and all the characteristics that make us human.

eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2010


5 Reader Ratings:
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DEFENSE MECH

* * * *

This is another of Bradbury's uncollected stories. It came out in the spring of 1946 in Planet Stories.

* * * *

Oh, my God, do you realize how far from Earth we are? Do you really think about it? It's enough to scare the guts from a man. Hold me up. Do something. Give me sedatives or hold my hand or run call mama. A million cold miles up. See all the flickering stars? Look at my hands tremble. Feel my heart whirling like a hot pinwheel!

The captain comes toward me, a stunned expression on his small, tight face. He takes my arm, looking into my eyes. Hello, captain. I'm sick, if that's what you want to know. I've a right to be scared--just look at all that space! Standing here a moment ago, I stared down at Earth so round and cloud-covered and asleep on a mat of stars, and my brain tore loose and screamed, man, man, how'd you get in a mess like this, in a rocket a million miles past the moon, shooting for Mars with a crew of fourteen others! I can hardly stand up, my knees, my hands, my heart, are shaking apart. Hold me up, sir.

What are hysterics like? The captain unprongs the inter-deck audio and speaks swiftly, scowling, into it. I hope he's phoning the psychiatrist. I need something. Oh, dammit, dammit!

The psychiatrist descends the ladder in immaculate salt-white uniform and walks toward me in a dream. Hello, doctor. You're the one for me. Please, sir, turn this damned rocket around and fly back to New York. I'll go crazy with all this space and distance!

The psychiatrist and the captain's voices murmur and blend, with here and there an emphasis, a toss of head, a gesture:

"Young Halloway here's on a fear-jag, doctor. Can you help him?"

"I'll try. Good man, Halloway is. Imagine you'll need him and his muscles when we land."

"With the crew as small as it is, every man's worth his weight in uranium. He's got to be cured."

The psychiatrist shakes his head.

"Might have to squirt him full of drugs to keep him quiet the rest of the expedition."

The captain explodes, saying that is impossible. Blood drums in my head. The doctor moves closer, smelling clean, sharp and white.

"Please, understand, captain, this man is definitely psychotic about going home. His talk is almost a reversion to childhood. I can't refuse his demands, and his fear seems too deeply based for reasoning. However, I think I've an idea. Halloway?"

Yes, sir? Help me, doctor. I want to go home. I want to see popcorn exploding into a buttered avalanche inside a glass cube, I want to roller skate, I want to climb into the old cool wet ice-wagon and go chikk-chikk-chikk on the ice with a sharp pick, I want to take long sweating hikes in the country, see big brick buildings and bright-faced people, fight the old gang, anything but this--awful!

The psychiatrist rubs his chin.

"All right, son. You can go back to Earth, now, tonight."

Again the captain explodes.

"You can't tell him that. We're landing on Mars today!"

The psychiatrist pats down the captain patiently.

"Please, captain. Well, Halloway, back to New York for you. How does it sound?"

I'm not so scared now. We're going down on the moving ladder and here is the psychiatrist's cubicle.

He's pouring lights into my eyes. They revolve like stars on a disc. Lots of strange machines around, attachments to my head, my ears. Sleepy. Oh, so sleepy. Like under warm water. Being pushed around. Laved. Washed. Quiet. Oh, gosh. Sleepy.

"--listen to me, Halloway--"

Sleepy. Doctor's talking. Very soft, like feathers. Soft, soft.

"--you're going to land on earth. No matter what they tell you, you're landing on Earth...no matter what happens you'll be on Earth...everything you see and do will be like on Earth...remember that...remember that...you won't be afraid because you'll be on Earth...remember that...over and over...you'll land on Earth in an hour...home...home again...no matter what anyone says...."

Oh, yes, sir, home again. Sleepy. Home again. Drifting, sleeping, oh thank you, sir, thank you from the bottom of my drowsy, sleepy soul. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Sleepy. Drifting.

I'm awake!

Hey, everybody, come look! Here comes Earth! Right at us, like a green moss ball off a bat! Coming at us on a curve!

"Check stations! Mars landing!"

"Get into bulgers! Test atmosphere!"

Get into your what did he say?

"Your baseball uniform, Halloway. Your baseball uniform."

Yes, sir. My baseball uniform. Where'd I put it? Over here. Head into, legs into, feet into it. There. Ha, this is great! Pitch her in here, old boy, old boy! Smack! Yow!

Yes, sir, it's over in that metal locker. I'll take it out. Head, arms, legs into it--I'm dressed. Baseball uniform. Ha! This is great! Pitch 'er in here, ole boy, ole boy! Smack! Yow!

"Adjust bulger helmets, check oxygen."

What?

"Put on your catcher's mask, Halloway."

Oh. The mask slides down over my face. Like that. The captain comes rushing up, eyes hot green and angry.

"Doctor, what's this infernal nonsense?"

"You wanted Halloway able to do his work, didn't you, captain?"

"Yes, but what in hell've you done to him?"

Strange. As they talk, I hear their words flow over my head like a wave dashed on a sea-stone, but the words drain off, leaving no imprint. As soon as some words invade my head, something eats and digests them and I think the words are something else entirely.

The psychiatrist nods at me.

"I couldn't change his basic desire. Given time, yes, a period of months, I could have. But you need him now. So, against all the known ethics of my profession, which say one must never lie to a patient, I've followed along in his own thought channel. I didn't dare frustrate him. He wanted to go home, so I let him. I've given him a fantasy. I've set up a protective defense mechanism in his mind that refuses to believe certain realities, that evaluates all things from its own desire for security and home. His mind will automatically block any thought or image that endangers that security."

The captain stares wildly.

"Then, then Halloway's insane!"

"Would you have him mad with fear, or able to work on Mars hindered by only a slight 'tetched' condition? Coddle him and he'll do fine. Just remember, we're landing on Earth, not Mars."

"Earth, Mars, you'll have me raving next!"

The doctor and the captain certainly talk weirdly. Who cares? Here comes Earth! Green, expanding like a moist cabbage underfoot!

"Mars landing! Air-lock opened! Use bulger oxygen."

Here we go, gang! Last one out is a pink chimpanzee!

"Halloway, come back, you damn fool! You'll kill yourself!"

Feel the good sweet Earth! Home again! Praise the Lord! Let's dance, sing off-key, laugh! Ha! Oh, boy!

In the door of the house stands the captain, his face red and wrinkled, waving his fists.

"Halloway, come back! Look behind you, you fool!"

I whirl about and cry out, happily.

Shep! Shep, old dog! He comes running to meet me, long fur shining amber in the sunshine. Barking. Shep, I haven't seen you in years. Good old pooch. Come 'ere, Shep. Let me pet you.

The captain shrieks:

"Don't pet it! It looks like a carnivorous Martian worm. Man, the jaws on that thing! Halloway, use your knife!"

Shep snarls and shows his teeth. Shep, what's wrong? That's no way to greet me. Come on, Shep. Hey! I pull back my fingers as his swift jaws snap. Shep circles me, swiftly. You haven't rabies, have you, Shep? He darts in, snatches my ankle with strong, locking white teeth! Lord, Shep, you're crazy! I can't let this go on. And you used to be such a fine, beautiful dog. Remember all the hikes we took into the lazy corn country, by the red barns and deep wells? Shep clenches tight my ankle. I'll give him one more chance. Shep, let go! Where did this long knife come from in my hand, like magic? Sorry to do this, Shep, but--there!

Shep screams, thrashing, screams again. My arm pumps up and down, my gloves are freckled with blood-flakes.

Don't scream, Shep. I said I was sorry, didn't I?

"Get out there, you men, and bury that beast immediately."

I glare at the captain. Don't talk that way about Shep.

The captain stares at my ankle.

"Sorry, Halloway. I meant, bury that 'dog,' you men. Give him full honors. You were lucky, son, another second and those knife-teeth'd bored through your ankle-cuff metal."

I don't know what he means. I'm wearing sneakers, sir.

"Oh, yeah, so you are. Yeah. Well, I'm sorry, Halloway. I know how you must feel about--Shep. He was a fine dog."

I think about it a moment and my eyes fill up, wet.


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