The young actor was great....
They didn't realize just how great
until the night of
By RICHARD SABIA
Clamped to the contour
couch, the young girl strained
against the padded steel grips
and screamed. Again she writhed
and screamed as she felt the
hideous touch of the monster
snatching at her. She struggled
frenziedly through the muck of
the swamp but the thing with
the blood eyes scrabbled faster
on its rotten limbs. The thing
seized her in its obscene embrace.
Raw terror tore another
scream from her throat. Behind
her on the projector a needle
slammed into the red zone. Beyond
the hundreds of long rows
of couches a warning light
flashed on the control console of
Mezzanine F and its persistent
buzz snared the attention of one
of the ushers. He glanced at the
light's location number and ran
along one of the aisles till he
came to the girl. He saw that the
projector had shut off the feature
feelie and was running the
emergency tranquil strip. She
had stopped screaming but her
breathing was still agitated. He
looked around at the rows of
couches, nearly all occupied but
none of the other patrons seemed
more frightened than they
should be. Some of the other
ushers had halted on their
rounds and were looking quizzically
across at him. He shrugged
the question back at them,
removed the feelie permit from
its clip on the girl's couch and
checked the permitted intensity
level against the setting of the
projector. They matched. Still
puzzled, he examined the other
settings without discovering
any apparent cause for her
fright-hysteria. The tranquil
strip ended and the machine
shut itself off. The usher moved
a switch that released the pressure
of the electrodes against
the girl's head and retracted
them into the headset. Her eyes
opened as he removed the apparatus
and folded back the
"Feel all right, miss?" he inquired
with a solicitous smile.
She nodded, but her eyes still
held echoes of alarm.
"Better come down to the
clinic," he said gently, assisting
her from the couch.
She said nothing but allowed
him to lead her along. They stepped
into a float shaft and drifted
gently down past other floors of
the theater occupied by the
myriad rows of feelie couches.
When they reached what was obviously
an office level, the usher
grasped a tug bar which pulled
them into a corridor opening.
He brought her to the clinic and
left her with the doctor after explaining
what had happened.
The doctor seated her alongside
his desk. "How do you feel
She smiled weakly. "All right
Ah guess," she said with a soft
"Let's see," he said looking at
her feelie permit, "you are Miss,
ah, Loretta Meenan, and, well,
you are from Hammond, Louisiana."
He looked up at her and
smiled. "May I ask how old you
are Miss Meenan?"
"A very charming sixteen, I
must say. Are you here with
"Yes. Ma an' pa are at the
convention. They let us come to
"Mah older brother, Jason."
"Oh? How old is he?"
"Eighteen. But he's big, real
man-lookin' an' folks who don't
know mistake him for past
"What couch did he have?"
"Next to mine on the left."
The doctor consulted his notepad.
"Ah, that would make it
number, ah, six thousand forty-two.
We'll have one of the ushers
bring him down."
"Please don't," she said hastily.
"Not 'till the feelie's over
anyhow. He'll have the furies
with me if he misses the endin'
on mah account."
"All right," the doctor agreed
amiably. "How are you enjoying
your visit to New York?"
"Ah'm havin' a dazzlin' time."
"Good. Do you go to the feelies
at home?" The doctor saw
her tense forward from the
curve of the chair.
"Have you ever been badly
upset by horror feelies before?"
The doctor was aware of the
apprehension behind her guardedness.
"Do you have any idea
why this one should have upset
"No, sir, except maybe the
excitement. Ah ain't never been
much away from home before
but once to New Orleans."
The doctor looked at her permit
card again. "This isn't a
very good likeness of you."
"It does reflect me poorly,"
The doctor's smile evaporated
from his suddenly stern face.
"Perhaps it's because this is not
your picture and this is not your
Her face went white.
"What is your name?"
"Robina Rowe." Her downcast
eyes were locked on her fingers
squirming in her lap.
"Who's Loretta Meenan?"
"Why did you borrow her
She was close to tears. "Ah
jus' had to go to this feelie. It's
got mah very favorite actor in
"Evidently your card doesn't
permit you to attend horror
"Why not? Nightmares?"
She shook her head.
"Don't tell me you have a bad
She shook her head again.
"Ah'm a Sensitive," she said
In a sudden surge of anger
the doctor half rose out of his
chair and leaned across the desk.
"Why you little fool!" he roared.
"You little damn fool!"
From the open doorway a
shape hurtled across the desk at
the doctor and crashed with him
to the floor.
"Jason!" Robina shrieked.
"Don't you talk to mah sister
that way," Jason shouted as he
pummelled the doctor. "Ah'll kill
The usher who had guided Jason
to the clinic dashed around
the desk to pull the boy from the
doctor. Robina tried to help but
in the tussle she was knocked
down, striking her head on a leg
of the overturned chair. Jason,
hearing her cry of pain, leaped
off the doctor to aid her.
"It's only a little bump," Jason
said reassuringly as he
cradled her in his arms.
The doctor got to his feet and
glared at the tall, strikingly
handsome boy-man helping his
sister to a chair.
That done, Jason whirled to
face the doctor. "Now listen
"Now you listen to me," the
doctor shouted. He saw Jason
gather himself as if for another
leap but Robina placed a restraining
hand on his arm and
his fists slowly uncurled. "If you
loved your sister as much as you
pretend to you wouldn't have
helped her try to kill herself!"
"What do you mean?" the boy
"You know damn well what I
mean," the doctor said. "You
know your sister is a Sensitive.
She experiences things with ten
times the impact of an ordinary
person and her empathy threshold
is so high a death scene in
a feelie could kill her! And if
you don't know what some of
the words mean," the doctor
said, noticing Jason's slight
puzzlement, "you do know what
your sister is and the care that
has to be taken."
The guilt in Jason's abashed
Fired by his anger, the doctor
raged on. "Why the devil do you
think we have laws concerning
attendance permits? What do
you think all that testing by doctors
and psychologists before a
permit is issued is for? You,
you big ox, could be killed by
fright too if the intensity level
of the projector was set higher
than your psycho-profile rating."
He saw his last words had lost
the boy again. "In any case you
know better. Why did you allow
your sister to endanger her life
by letting her illegally use another's
permit? And of all
things, a horror feelie!"
"Ah didn't want to take her,"
Jason complained, "but she jus'
fussed an' fretted at me 'till Ah
"Well you've both broken the
law. Your parents will be notified
and you'll have to stay here
until they come." The doctor
buzzed and a guard appeared.
"Take these two to Mr. Lemson's
office," he instructed him.
The guard led them from the
floating steel and crystal theater
structure of the U-Live-It Corporation
complex to the executive
wing of the general offices.
He stayed with them until the
receptionist at the office suite of
Vice President Cyrus W. Lemson
ushered them inside.
After having them seat themselves,
Mr. Lemson stared at
Jason in his tight, crimson, dress
dungarees and rhinestone speckled,
black shirt which accentuated
his lithe, muscled body.
Eighteen or not, he thought in
mild astonishment, that handsome
giant is no boy. "The doctor
viphoned me about you," he
said sternly. He spoke to them
further about the seriousness of
what they had done and told
them their parents were on the
way down. Then he took them
into an interior office furnished
like a luxurious living room.
"Please wait here," he said, "until
your people arrive. Magazines
are there on the table and you
may turn on the television set."
He closed the door.
"Want me to turn on the television
set?" Jason asked.
"No, Ah don't much feel like
They settled themselves on the
enormous couch and Robina looked
at her brother. "Jason, Ah'm
real sorry. Ah went an' stirred
up a hornet's nest of trouble for
"Don't fret about it, Robee.
They won't really do nothin' serious.
They'll talk to Ma an' Pa
an' Pa'll make like he's goin' to
cuff us aroun' when we get back
to the hotel an' instead he'll jus'
look dark an' make us feel bad
with his talk. It'll jus' be a lot
of commotion like a bee stuck in
a tar bucket."
"Ah guess," Robina said. She
cast a sheepish glance at her
brother. "Say Jason, how did the
feelie end up?"
Jason was indignant. "Now
listen, Robee, ain't you had
enough? You heard the doc say
that last was like to kill you."
"Please, Jason, there's nothin'
wrong with you jus' tellin' me."
"It's almost as bad. You still
get yourself all flittered up."
"That's because nobody can
tell a story like you do, the way
you act it out an' all."
"Ah don't act it out. Ah jus'
"Well you might call it tellin'
but everybody home says it's
jus' like a feelie when you do it.
An' don't pretend you don't
know it, brother Jay, an' enjoy
Jason did not tell the ending
of the feelie; he recreated it. He
was the monster slurching
across the floor toward her, step
by scraping step and in spite of
her fist on her mouth a tiny nervous
scream escaped Robina.
Jason wanted to stop then but
she badgered him into continuing.
Now he was the hero, Gregg
Mason, battling the unspeakable
fiend and she shivered uncontrollably
as she watched them
struggle to the death. In a last,
desperate, superhuman effort,
Gregg's hands clawed into the
monster's body and ripped out
the foul, quivering heart of it.
The creature twisted to the
ground and perished in its own
slime. Gregg, torn and bleeding
and with shock-frozen eyes,
turned and staggered into the
arms of Robina.
"Oh, Gregg, Gregg," Robina
cried in relief, the tears streaming
down her face.
"It's okay, Joan," he said comforting
her, "okay. It's all over
now. C'mon now, Joan, get out
from behind those tears so you
can see how much Ah love you.
Everything's all right."
"Oh, Gregg!" A weak smile
Gregg enfolded Joan in his
arms and pressed his mouth
against her eager lips.
"What are you two doing?!!"
a shocked voice exclaimed from
the open door.
Gregg and Joan were blown
away by the sound like spindrift
before the wind. Jason and Robina
slowly came apart to see
Mr. Lemson and another man
coming into the room.
"What is the matter with you
both?" Mr. Lemson spoke again.
"Aren't you in enough trouble
"Let me handle this, Cy," the
other man said stepping forward.
"I'm Bob Herschell," he
said smiling and radiating
friendliness at the youngsters.
"Would you please tell me exactly
what you were doing before
we came in here?"
"Weren't doin' nothin'," Jason
"Shades of the decadent
South!" Lemson exclaimed.
"Brother and sister glued together
and he calls it nothin'."
"Ah wasn't kissin' her like
you think," Jason said hotly.
"Ah was tellin' her a story."
"What kind of a story?" Herschell
"Ah was tellin' her the end of
the feelie we saw; Ah mean Ah
saw. She didn't get to see it."
"You mean Terror From
Mars?" Herschell asked.
"Ah guess that's it. Ah don't
recollect the title for certain."
"Great!" Lemson said. "It
often takes a week long conference
to select a feelie title and
this typical American youth
can't remember the name of the
feelie he lived less than a hour
"How were you telling it?"
"Ah jus' told it."
"He storytells fine," Robina
said proudly. "He sorta acts it
out with feelin' an' really makes
it seem like it's happenin' to you
right then and there."
Herschell turned to Lemson.
"I'm sure he's the one, Cy. It
fits. I've got the spark of an
idea and if it works then U-Live-It
will be right on top of
the feelie heap."
"We're already on top," Lemson
said wearily. "U-Live-It is
the biggest producer of feelies
and I think you're crazy, I think
they're both insane and I will be
if you don't tell me what this is
all about. You come barging
into my office—"
"Sorry, Cy, but this thing
happened so fast. I'm in my office
right below you. I've got
Myra Shane doing a reading,
trying to convince her the part
is perfect for her. But she isn't
coming through on the receptor.
Instead I'm getting the climax
of Terror From Mars. Zack is
receptorman and it takes him
less than no time to check
through and okay our electronics.
That means only one thing.
Someone, somehow, is blotting
us with another projection. I
call around and no one is running
a projector and no one is
reading. Your girl tells me you
have a couple of kids up there
so I come up to see. And I'm sure
that big rebel is the one! He has
Lemson was alert with interest.
"But he's not wearing a
relay. How could the receptor
pick up and record his perceptics?"
"He might have a surgical."
Herschell inquired of Jason,
"Did you ever have an operation
for the insertion of an encephalic
booster relay! you know, a
"You mean them tiny transistor
things that feelie actors have
stuck in their heads?"
"No, Ah never had nothin'
like that," Jason said, baffled.
"That's impossible," Lemson
said, "no one can project with
enough natural power to imprint
a receptor unless they've
got a booster."
"Well it's not impossible anymore,"
Herschell said gleefully.
"Look Cy, you squash this silly
business about the permit. I
want this fella to make a receptor
test as soon as possible.
When his folks show up tell
them we might want to make a
feelie star out of their son but
don't build it up or they'll be
back with a regiment of lawyers
"Bob, you're going off the
deep end with this deal. So
what if he can project au naturel?
Can he act?"
"If you had been plugged into
the receptor like I was a few
minutes ago and felt him, you
wouldn't even ask."
"What about that atrocious
"Look, Cy, I'll abide by the
receptor test. If he can't act;
out! If he's as terrific as I think
he is we'll put him in westerns
and civil war feelies until we
can train the accent out of him.
Cy, if he doesn't turn out to be
the greatest thing that hit the
feelie business I'll eat my contract."
Five months later Herschell
came beaming into Lemson's office
and tossed an open-folded
newspaper at him. "Cy, did you
read Lorancelli's review of
"That's just great!" Lemson
snapped. "We spend millions of
advertising and publicity dollars
to convince people that we make
adult westerns and you, a production
vice president, go
around calling them oatburners."
"Okay, Cy, but read the review.
He rated the feelie so so
but he raves about Jason Rowe."
Lemson picked up the paper
and had it immediately snatched
out of his hands by an impatient
Herschell who began reading
snatches of it. "Listen ... uh ...
Jason Rowe is an intense young
man whose magnificent talent is
wasted in the role of a young
gunfighter in this bland western
... uh ... he projects a sense
of immediacy and aliveness endless
in its delicate ramifications
of feeling. His characterization
is unmarred by even the slightest
hint of extraneous awareness
and unaccompanied by the
usual continual subliminal blur
which is the mark of the receptorman's
frantic deletion of
the actor's sublevel, irrelevant
thoughts. Either Mr. Rowe is
fortunate to be blessed with a
most superiorly skilled receptorman
or he is gifted with an awesome
ability to submerge his
total being in the role he plays.
In this feelie it is as if Mr.
Rowe, the actor, dies and imparts
only his life force to the
character of the cocky youngster
who comes fully alive without
the slightest trace of the personality
of Jason Rowe. In this
debut performance young Rowe
achieves the hitherto unattainable
goal of completely displacing
the feeliegoer's identity
with that of the character he
portrays. We expect great things
from him for a talent such as
his illumines the theater but
once in a millennium. Thanks to
Mr. Jason Rowe, the U-Live-It
Corporation can now completely
guarantee the promise of its
name." Herschell dropped the
newspaper on the desk. "How do
you like that, Cy?"
"I like it so well, I surrender,"
Lemson said with a pleased
smile. "You were right all along
in pushing him so we'll put him
in 'Land' as you want and I'll at
last have you off my back."
"Y'know, Cy, Lorancelli is
wrong about the receptorman."
"He didn't exactly say—"
"Oh Zack is the best there is,"
Herschell interrupted, "but right
after we started recording the
Rowe feelie he came in all shook
up to see me. Said the Rowe
stuff was recording as if he was
actually living the part. There
were no extraneous sublevels at
all and that's just never happened
before. It's like Lorancelli
says about Rowe dying and
the character coming to life.
Zack swears that Rowe just disappears.
There isn't a speck of
him that shows on the strip."
"Then Zack should be happy,
not having to over-engineer the
"Oh now, it isn't all breeze.
There's highlighting and emphasizing
selected perceptics and
such. You know Zack's the difference
between the artist
and the photographer. Actually
Zack's real difficulty is the
battle he has to keep from getting
completely sucked in to
Rowe's portrayal while he's recording.
He's not complaining. In fact
when I suggested relieving him
if the strain was too much he
said if he couldn't do Rowe's
feelies I could relieve him from
the payroll. It's that much of a
challenge for him. So much so,
he's designed a new receptor
adaptor to prevent Rowe's potency
from overpowering him."
"Will there be any trouble in
"Yes," Herschell said bleakly
as Lemson prepared to hear the
worst, "we need horses. In this
atom age I'd like to know where
I'm going to get a couple of divisions
"Why you can't even see
where they put it," Robina said,
fingering Jason's skull. "Oh,
wait, Ah feel a little hard lump
right here. Ah'm right ain't Ah?
That's the relay."
"No it ain't," Jason said
laughing. "Got that fallin' off a
"But why do you have to have
one at all? Ah thought you could
project without it."
"Well Ah can, but this makes
it better. This picks up all the
tiny waves from mah brain that
wouldn't otherwise get recorded.
Like the difference between super
high-fi an' ordinary high-fi.
It makes the feelie more real."
"When are you goin' to be in
somethin' else besides westerns?
Ain't you ever goin' to get to do
"Now don't you go lookin' at
the wrong end of the hog, Robee.
They been keepin' our bellies
filled. Besides this one Ah'm
doin' now ain't no western."
"Then what's all them horses
over there for?"
"Confederate cavalry, you
melon head. What you think this
uniform is Ah'm wearin'? Fine
southern daughter you are!"
"Oh, a civil war feelie! What's
"... uh ... A Stillness in the
Land." Jason smiled, "An' it
sure would make Mr. Lemson
happy to know Ah remembered
the title. They say it was a big
best seller book. Goin' to cost
ten million dollars. Ah play the
lead; Jed Carter, young southern
fella. Lots of love an' battles
an' the best thing is Ah don't
have to fret about mah accent."
Jason took his sister's arm.
"C'mon now if you want to see
the set. Ah'll be havin' to go to
work in a few minutes."
They passed by one of the receptors
and Jason stopped.
"Now here's the machine that
picks up an' records what Ah'm
thinkin' an' feelin'. The receptorman
wears this gizmo on his
head an' cuts in to what Ah'm
feelin' an' he fiddles them dials
an' switches an' amplifies weak
signals an' cuts down overpowerin'
ones an'—well, Ah don't
want to frazzle you with the
technical details; he jus' controls
the quality of the recordin'. He
cuts out stuff that don't belong
like if Ah should be kissin' the
gal an' somewhere under those
passionate thoughts Ah might
wonder when we're goin' to
knock off for lunch. Here, slip
this headset on an' Ah'll get
Zack to run it so you can feel
how it works."
"Don't do anythin' strong,"
"Don't worry. Jus' a peaceful
Zack came over at Jason's call
and ran the receptor while Jason
went through a few quiet
lines with an extra.
"Why it's funny, somehow,"
Robina said after they removed
the headset. "It jus' didn't seem
very good. Ah've felt you better
without it, Jason."
"You didn't get the full projection,"
Zack explained. "You
see, Miss Rowe, the receptorman
has got to be alert. He can't just
relax and enjoy the scene and
become the actor like a paying
customer. He's got to work,
keeping the perceptics, the feelings
coming through in balance.
So there's a circuit, a part of
this machine that sort of shields
enough of the operator's mind
and keeps it from getting lost
in the story while it runs the
receptor and lets the other part
live the scene."
"That sounds hard to do,"
"It takes training and special
conditioning but the point is nobody
connected with the production
of a feelie ever gets to feel
it in all its original depth as the
feeliegoer does. Rushes are run
at the lowest intensity so that
the producers and directors can
comment and plan changes as
the strips are run. Even with
projector intensity set high we
can't totally submerge in the
character's identity because that
specially conditioned part of our
minds won't submit."
"Well, you're still lucky," Robina
said. "Ah'm a Sensitive
and Ah'm not allowed to go to
anythin' but silly old musicals
an' some comedies. Ah can't
even go to mah brother's feelies
what with all the shootin' an'
"EVERYBODY TO THEIR PLACES.
RECORDING STARTS IN FIVE MINUTES."
The announcement boomed
throughout the vast set and a
population of extras began to
animate the streets with purposeful
"Robee, honey, you'll have to
"Oh, Jay, can't Ah watch. Ah
won't fuss around."
"'Tain't that. Nobody who
ain't in the feelie can be in sight
of any of the actors they're recordin'.
Why if Ah was to walk
down that street as Jed Carter
and suddenly see you standin'
over here in them men's
"These ain't men's pants!"
Robina said indignantly. "These
are ladies slacks."
"Ah know that but Jed Carter
don't. All he knows is even a
hussy wouldn't strut around like
that. Tell you what. You go over
there to where it says, Mrs.
Hepple's Quality Boarding Home
an' you can peek out the parlor
window at the doin's. Ah guess
they had noseybodies then too.
Jason turned and hurried
down the street, not bothering
to glance after Robina. She had
crossed the street and was passing
a saloon when the omnipresent
voice commanded her, "GIRL
IN THE GREEN SLACKS GET OUT
OF SIGHT." She became so flustered
she dashed into the saloon
Jed Carter escorted the lady
from Nashville down the plank
sidewalk to her carriage. He was
furious at her casual gay chatter
mocking his churning desire
for her. His glance caught a
movement across the street and
suddenly he went rigid with
surprise and soft shock. A girl
had come out of the saloon and
the hussy was wearing men's
trousers. His shock increased
when he heard the delicate lady
from Nashville say, "Oh, damn,
who the hell is that?" and he
was further startled to see an
oddly dressed man wearing
some sort of metal apparatus on
his head follow the girl out of
the saloon, gesticulating angrily
"CUT!" the omnipresent voice
commanded and now Jed Carter
was utterly confused. The man
wearing the metal apparatus
crossed over to him and spoke.
"Jason, please. You know the
rules about visitors on the set.
No one allowed during recording.
Zack says we'll have to ask
your sister to leave."
Jed Carter saw the townspeople
just standing around staring
in his direction. "What's goin'
on?" he said to the odd man.
"What are you talkin' about?
Who are you?"
"Oh, oh," the man with the
headset exclaimed, "here we go
again." He made a signal with
his hand and another man came
running up. The man led Jason
up the steps of the hotel and
into the lobby with a promise
to explain everything. He sat
Jason in a chair. "Jason, Jason
Rowe, Jason Rowe," the man's
voice pulled at him. He kept repeating
A minute later Zack came into
the lobby. "Jason!"
"Hello Zack," Jason said.
"Oh, you're back with us,"
Zack said. He stared at Jason a
long moment. "One of these
days," he said with a wry grin,
"you're not going to make it."
Bob Herschell came out of the
magnificent crystal palace that
was U-Live-It's New York feelie
showcase and searched the garden
plaza. "Cy! I thought I'd
find you here wringing your
"We should never have premiered
cold like this," Lemson
complained. "We should have at
least had one private running
for the reviewers. We wouldn't
be dangling like this."
"Stop worrying, Cy. A first
night lets the critics get caught
up in the excitement. And even
if they go sick and thumb down
'Land' it won't stand against the
top power voodoo job the publicity
gang is saturating the
public with. And bigger than all
the critics is Jason Rowe. He's
filled six thousand couches in
there with the biggest voluntary
celebrity turnout for any
"Jason Rowe," Lemson sighed,
rolling supplicating eyes
heavenward. "He jeopardized a
ten million dollar feelie; almost
gave me heart failure when he
had that heart attack."
"Cy, for the sake of the studio
don't let people hear you say
that. It's not true! It wasn't a
heart attack. He just played the
death scene too fully. You know
how deep he goes into a role.
That's what makes him the
world's greatest actor."
"I don't care what you call it,"
Lemson said heatedly, "the guy's
heart stopped and it was only
because of Zack's alertness that
they got to him in time. He almost
died. I don't want to be
ghoulish about it, Bob, but the
studio's putting a lot of time,
money and sweat into making
that boy a star—"
"Nobody's making him a
star," Herschell cut in, "he was
Herschell had spoken with
such honest emphasis that Lemson
replied, greatly subdued,
"Okay, okay, but we have ourselves
a pretty shaky investment
if every time he dies in a feelie
he's liable to really go over the
"Zack thinks he can work out
a receptor circuit to keep it
from happening again. Sort of
a subliminal survival monitor
that won't show on the strip."
Lemson looked nervously at
the theater entrance. "They
should be coming out soon," he
"Ten minutes yet," Herschell
Inside the shining pleasure
dome, six thousand Jed Carters
lay dying on an afternoon hillside.
The war was gone to another
hill and he was alone now
with the grass wind and the
small summer sounds of the
earth. His pain was a soft ache
like a child's secret tears and
his life was slipping reluctantly
from him in a trickling red ribbon.
He heard the sweet sound
of a bird and the song of it
wrung his heart. There were so
many songs yet unheard, so
much soft laughter unborn,
so many caresses yet to be
shared; a lifetime of summers,
waiting, now never to be filled.
His heart cried at the thought
The sun warmed him like a
great golden lover and filled him
with an ineffable sadness for
the bright days to come that
would never be his.
And now at the last he
thought of her. His heart ached
for her, craving one more of
those lost mornings when he
had awakened in the dawn at
her sleeping side and with his
eyes happily loved her sweet
slumbering face, haloed by the
marvel of her wheat hair catching
the first glints of the new
In a last languid movement
he turned on his back and opened
his eyes to the bright sky. He
felt her stir. Her arm brushed
him and the vibrancy of her being
sang through him. She
opened her eyes and her love
smiled out at him. The smile
brightened her face until it
spread across the sky and grew
brilliant like the sun. She reached
out for him. He sighed with
a great breath of quiet happiness
because she was the sun
smiling down at him and at last
he rose up and went to meet her.
"It's time they were coming
out," Herschell said. "Let's get
They entered the lobby, deserted
except for a scattering of
ushers, and waited.
"Why aren't they coming
out?" Lemson asked, more of
the emptiness than of his companion.
"It's ten minutes since
the scheduled ending. Do you
suppose the projection's broken
down or maybe—"
"Relax, Cy, you know these
preems. Always a bag full of delays,
starting with late VIP arrivals."
"There've been no delays.
They started on time—"
The sound of sirens spiralled
out of the night and whirled the
two men around to face the entrance.
Lights raced frantically
across the plaza as a dozen turbine
vehicles whined to a stop in
front. More were arriving. Medical
teams and squads of policemen
burst through the doors.
They ran past the slow float
shafts to the elevators.
"What's happened?" Lemson
screamed. "What's going on?"
He tugged at a uniformed sleeve
but was thrust aside by the running
Herschell and Lemson followed,
half running, to the elevators.
Herschell shouted an
inquiry at a cluster of policemen
surging into one of the cars but
the nearest grim-visaged man
almost angrily waved them away
from the door as it closed in
"The manager's office!" Herschell
cried and they ran for a
private elevator. Seconds later
they dashed into the manager's
"He's not here," Lemson
Herschell snapped a switch on
the desk and a harried, shocked
face appeared on the viphone
screen. "Mr. Herschell! Mr.
"Pete!" Herschell exclaimed,
"why've we got the police and
medicos? An accident?"
The man's lips quivered as he
spoke. "A lot of the patrons are
"WHAT?!! How many?"
"Don't know ... yet ... maybe
all," Pete said brokenly.
"What in heaven's name happened?"
"The death scene ... Rowe
killed them ..."
"You're crazy!" Herschell
shouted. "It's impossible! The
projector's triggered to shut off
if the patron's in danger."
"What everybody thought,"
Pete said, "but the house doc
said something about the projectors
being keyed to extreme agitation;
racing pulse, increased
blood pressure. That didn't happen
here. The people weren't
alarmed. Nothing to trigger a
shutoff. Doc said the death was
... was ..." Pete turned away,
trying to hold back tears.
Herschell kept himself from
shouting. "Was what?"
"... was ... sweet ... beautiful
..." Pete's shoulders shook with
a spasm of sobs that muffled
some of his words, "... should
be ... here ... see it ... kids
too ... rows and rows of ...
people ... all smiling ..."
This etext was produced from Amazing Science Fiction Stories September
1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.