Authors: Ray Bradbury,James Settles
Copyright 1939, 1940, 1944, 1946, by Ray Bradbury
"Don't Get Technatal"
(as Ron Reynolds)
"The Flight of the Good Ship Clarissa"
"Lorelei of the Red Mist"
"Jonah of the Jove-Run"
For several moments Stern had eyed his typewriter ominously, contemplating whether he should utter the unutterable. Finally:
"Damn!" he roared, "I can’t write any more! Look, look at that!" He tore the sheet out of the rollers and crumpled it in his fist. "If I'd known it would be this way," he said, "I wouldn’t have voted for it! Technocracy is ruining everything!"
Bella Stern, preoccupied with her knitting, glanced up in horror. "What a temper," she exclaimed, "Can’t you keep your voice down?" She fussed with her work. "There now," she cried, "you made me drop a stitch!"
"I want to be a writer!" Samuel Stern lamented, turning with grim eyes to his wife. "And the Technate has spoiled my fun."
"The way you talk, Samuel," said his wife, "I actually believe you want to go back to that barbarism prevalent in the DARK THIRTIES!"
"It sounds like one damned good idea!" he said, "At least I'd have something decent, or indecent, to write about!"
you mean?" she asked, tilting her head back and thinking, "Why can’t you write? There are just oodles of things I can think of that are readable."
Something like a tear rolled down Samuel’s cheek, "No more gangsters, no more bank robberies, no more holdups, no more good, old-fashioned burglaries, no more vice gangs!" He voice grew lachrymose as he proceeded down an infinite line of 'no mores’. "No more sadness," he almost sobbed. "Everybody’s happy, contented. No more strife and hard work. Oh, for the days when a gangland massacre was headline scoop for me!"
"Tush!" sniffed Bella, "Have you been drinking again, Samuel?"
He hiccoughed gently.
"I thought so," she said,
"I had to do something," he declared, "I’m going nuts for want of a plot."
Bella Stern laid her knitting aside and walked to the balcony, looked meditatively down into the yawning canyon of the New York street fifty stories below. She turned back to Sam with a reminiscent smile, "Why not write a love story?"
!" Stern shot out of his chair like a hooked eel.
"Why, yes," she concluded, "A nice love story would be very enjoyable."
"LOVE!" Stern’s voice was thick with sarcasm, "Why we don't even have decent love these days. A man can’t marry a woman for her money, and vice-versa. Everyone under Technocracy gets the same amount of credit. No more Reno, no more alimony, no more breach of promise, or law suits! Everything is cut and dried. The days of society weddings and coming out parties are gone—cause everyone is equal. I can’t write political criticisms about graft in the government, about slums and terrible living conditions, about poor starving mothers and their babies. Everything is okay—okay—okay—" his voice sobbed off into silence.
"Which should make you very happy," countered his wife.
"Which makes me very sick," growled Samuel Stern. "Look, Bell, all my life I wanted to be a writer. Okay. I’m writing for the pulp magazines for a coupla years, Right? Okay. Then I’m writing sea stories, gangsters, political views, first class bump-offs, I’m happy...
I’m in my element, then—bingo! in comes Technocracy, makes everyone happy—bumpo! out goes me! I just can’t stand writing the stuff the people read today. Everything is science and education." He ruffled his thick black hair with his fingers and glared,
"You should be joyful that the population is at work doing what they want to do," Bella beamed.
Sam continued muttering to himself. "They took all the sex magazines off the market first thing, all of the gangster, murder and detective publications. They been educating the children and moving model citizens out of them.”
"Which is as it should be," finished Bella.
"Do you realize," he blazed, whipping, his finger at her, "that for two years there hasn’t been more than dozen murders in the city? Not one suicide or gang war—or—"
"Heavens!" sighed Bella, "Don’t be prehistoric, Sam. There hasn’t been anything really criminal for twenty years now. This is 1975 you know." She came over and patted him gently on the shoulder, "Why don’t you write something science-fictional?"
"I don’t like science," he spat,
"Then your only alternative is love," she declared firmly.
He formed the despicable word with his lips, then: "No, I want something now and different," He got up and strode to the window. In the penthouse below he saw half a dozen robots moving about speedily, working. His face lit up suddenly, like that of a tiger spying his prey, "Jumping Jigwheels!" he cried. "Why didn't I think of it before? Robots! I’ll write a love story about two robots."
Bella squelched him. "Be sensible," she said.
"It might happen some day," he argued, "Just think. Love oiled, welded, built of metal, wired for sound!" He laughed triumphantly, but it was a low laugh, a strange little sound. Bella expected him to beat his chest next. "Robots fall in love at first sight," he announced, "and blow an audio tube!"
Bella smiled tolerantly. "You’re such a child, Sam. I sometimes wonder I married you."
Stern sank down, burning slowly, a crimson flush rising in his face.
Only half a dozen murders in two years, he thought. No more politics, no more to write about. He had to have a story, just had to have one. He’d go crazy if something didn’t happen soon. His brain was clicking furiously. A calliope of thought was tooting in his subconscious. He had to have a story. He turned and looked at his wife, Bella, who stood watching the air traffic go by the window, bending over the sill, looking down into the street fifty floors below..... .
.....and then he reached slowly and quietly for his atomic gun.
Up and down, back and forth, up and down. First the quick flite skyward, gradually slowing, reaching the pinnacle of the curve, poising a moment, then flashing earthward again, faster and faster a
a nauseating speed, reaching the bottom and hurtling aloft on the opposite side. Up and down. Back and forth. Up and down.
How long it had continued this way Layeville didn’t know. It might have been millions of years he’d spent sitting, here in the massive glass pendulum watching the world tip one way and another, up and down, dizzily before his eyes until they ached. Since first they had locked him in the pendulum’s round glass head and set it swinging it had never stopped or changed. Continuous, monotonous movements over and above the ground. So huge was this pendulum that it shadowed one hundred feet or more with every majestic sweep of its gleaming shape, dangling from the metal intestines of the shining machine overhead. It took three or four seconds for it to traverse the one hundred feet one way, three or four seconds to come back.
THE PRISONER OF TIME! That's what they called him now! Now, fettered to the very machine he had planned and constructed. A pris—on—er——of——time! A——pris — on — er——of——Time!
With every swing of the pendulum it echoed in his thoughts. For ever like this until he went insane. He tried to focus his eyes on the arching hotness of the earth as it swept past beneath him.
They had laughed at him a few days before. Or was it a week? A month? A year? He didn’t know. This ceaseless pitching had filled him with an aching confusion. They had laughed at him when he said, some time before all this, he could bridge time gaps and travel into futurity. He had designed a huge machine to warp space, invited thirty of the world's most gifted scientists to help him finish his colossal attempt to scratch the future wall of time.
The hour of the accident spun back to him now thru misted memory. The display of the time machine to the public. The exact moment when he stood on the platform with the thirty scientists and pulled the main switch! The scientists, all of them, blasted into ashes from wild electrical flames! Before the eyes of two million witnesses who had come to the laboratory or were tuned in by television at home! He had slain the world’s greatest scientists!
He recalled the moment of shocked horror that followed. Something radically wrong had happened to the machine. He, Layeville, the inventor of the machine, had staggered backward, his clothes flaming and eating up about him. No time for explanations. Then he had collapsed in the blackness of pain and numbing defeat.
Swept to a hasty trial, Layeville faced jeering throngs calling out for his death. "Destroy the Time Machine!" they cried. "And destroy this MURDERER with it!"
Murderer! And he had tried to help humanity. This was his reward.
One man had leaped onto the tribunal platform at the trial, crying, "No! Don't destroy the machine! I have a better plan! A revenge for this—this man!" His finger pointed at Layeville where the inventor sat unshaven and haggard, his eyes failure glazed. "We shall rebuild his machine, take his precious metals, and put up a monument to his slaughtering! We'll put him on exhibition for life within his executioning device." The crowd roared approval like thunder shaking the tribunal hall.
Then, pushing hands, days in prison, months. Finally, led forth into the hot sunshine, he was carried in a small rocket car to the center or the city. The shock of what he saw brought him back to reality.