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    Grayson removed the irons from the other's wrists and  legs.  "Hart!"
he said sharply.
    The young man on the cot did not stir.  Grayson  hesitated  and  then
deliberately kicked the man. "Damn you, Hart, listen to me! I'm  releasing
you - just in case I don't come back "
    John Hart neither opened his eyes nor showed  any  awareness  of  the
blow he had received. He lay inert; and the only evidence of life  in  him
was that he was limp, not rigid. There was almost no color in his  cheeks.
His black hair was damp and stringy.
    Grayson said earnestly, "Hart, I'm going out  to  look  for  Malkins.
Remember, he left four days ago, intending only  to  be  gone  twenty-four
    When there was no response, the older man started to turn  away,  but
he hesitated and said, "Hart, if I don't come back, you must realize where
we are, This is a new planet, understand. We've never  been  here  before.
Our ship was wrecked, and the three of us came down  in  a  lifeboat,  and
what we need is fuel. That's what Malkins went out to look  for,  and  now
I'm going out to look for Malkins."
    The figure on the cot remained blank. And Grayson walked  reluctantly
out the door and off toward the hills. He had no particular hope.
    Three men were down on a planet God-only-knew-where - and one ofthose
man was violently insane.
    As he walked along, he glanced around him in  occasional  puzzlement.
The  scenery  was  very  earthlike:  trees,  shrubs,  grass,  and  distant
mountains misted by blue haze. It was still a littie odd  that  when  they
had landed Malkins and he had had the distinct impression that  they  were
coming down onto a barren world without atmosphere and without life.
    A soft breeze touched his cheeks. The scent of  flowers  was  in  the
air. He saw birds flitting among the trees, and once he heard a song  that
was startingly like that of a meadow lark.
    He walked all day and saw no sign  of  Malkins.  Nor  was  there  any
habitation to indicate that the planet had intelligent life.  Just  before
dusk he heard a woman calling his name.
    Grayson turned with a start, and it  was  his  mother,  looking  much
younger than he remembered her in her coffin eight years before. She  came
up, and she said severely, "'Billie, don't forget your rubbers."
    Grayson stared at her with eyes that kept twisting away in disbelief.
Then, deliberately, he walked over and touched her. She caught  his  hand,
and her fingers were warm and lifelike.
    She said, "I want you to go tell your father that dinner is ready."
    Grayson released himself and stepped back and looked  tensely  around
him. The two of them stood on an empty, grassy plain. Far in the  distance
was the gleam of a silvershining river.
    He turned away from her and strode on  into  the  twilight.  When  he
looked back, there was no one in sight. But presently a boy was moving  in
step beside him. Grayson paid no attention  at  first,  but  presently  he
stole a glance at his companion.
    It was himself at the age of fifteen.
    Just  before  the  gathering  night  blotted  out   any   chance   of
recognition, he saw that a second boy was now striding  along  beside  the
first. Himself, aged about eleven.
    Three Bill Graysons, thought Grayson. He began to laugh wildly.
    Then he began to run. When he looked  back,  he  was  alone.  Sobbing
under his breath, he slowed to a walk, and almost  immediately  heard  the
laughter of children in the soft darkness. Familiar sounds, yet the impact
of them was stunning.
    Grayson babbled at them, "All me, at different ages. Get away! I know
you're only hallucinations."
    When he had worn himself out, when there  was  nothing  left  to  his
voice but a harsh whisper, he thought, Only hallucinations? Am I sure?
    He felt unutterably depressed and exhausted. "Hart and me,"  he  said
aloud wearily, " we belong in the same asylum."
    Dawn came, cool; and his hope was that sunrise would bring an end  to
the madness of the night. As the slow  light  lengthened  over  the  land,
Grayson looked around him in bewilderment. He was on a hill, and below him
spread his home town of Calypso, Ohio.
    He stared down at it with unbelieving  eyes,  and  then,  because  it
looked as real as life, he started to run toward it.
    It was Calypso, but as it had been when he was a boy. He  headed  for
his own house. And there he was; he'd know that boy of  ten  anywhere.  He
called out to the youngster, who took one look at him,  turned  away,  and
ran into the house.
    Grayson lay down on the lawn, and covered  his  eyes.  "Someone,"  he
told himself "something is taking pictures out of my mind  and  making  me
see them."
    It seemed to him that if he hoped to remain sane - and alive  -  he'd
have to hold that thought.

    It was the sixth day after Grayson's departure. Aboard the  lifeboat,
John Hart stirred and opened his eyes. "Hungry," he said aloud to  no  one
in particular. He waited he knew not for what and  than  wearily  sat  up,
slipped off the cot, and made his way to the galley. When he had eaten, he
walked to the lock-door, and stood for a long time staring  out  over  the
earthlike scene that spread before him. It made him feel better, vaguely.
    He jumped abruptly down to the ground and began to  walk  toward  the
nearest hilltop. Darkness was falling rapidly but it did not occur to  him
to turn back.
    Soon the ship was lost in the night behind him.
    A girlfriend of his youth was the first to talk to him. She came  out
of the blackness. and they had  a  long  conversation.  In  the  end  they
decided to marry
    The ceremony was immediately completed by a minister who drove up  in
a car and found both families assembled in a beautiful home in the suburbs
of Pittsburgh. The clergyman was an old man whom Hart  had  known  in  his
    The young couple went to New York City and to Niagara Falls for their
honeymoon, then headed by aere-taxi for California  to  make  their  home.
Suddenly there were three children, and they owned a hundred-thousand-acre
ranch with a million cattle on it, and there were cowboys who dressed like
movie stars,
    For Grayson, the civilization that sprang into  full-grown  existence
around him on what had  originally  been  a  barren,  airless  planet  had
nightmarish qualities. The people he met had a  life  expectancy  of  less
than seventy years. Children were born in nine months and ten  days  after
    He buried six generations of one family  that  he  had  founded.  And
then, one day as he was crossing Broadway - in New York City -  the  small
sturdiness, the walk, and the manner of a man  coming  from  the  opposite
direction made him stop short.
    "Henry!" he shouted. "Henry Malkins!"
    "Well, I'll be - Bill Grayson."
    They shook hands, silent afler the first  excited  greeting.  Malkins
spoke first. "There's a bar around the corner."
    During the middle of the second drink John Hart's name came up.
    "A  life  force  seeking   form   used   his   mind'   said   Grayson
matter-of-factly. "It apparently has no expression of its own. It tried to
use me -" He glanced at Malkins questioningly.
    The other man nodded. "And me!" he said,
    "I guess we resisted too hard."
    Malkins wiped the perspiration from his forehead.  "Bill,"  he  said,
"it's all like a dream. I get married and divorced every  forty  years.  I
marry what seems to be a twenty-year-old girl. In a few decades she  looks
five hundred."
    "Do you think it's all in our minds?"
    "No no-nothing like that. I think  all  this  civilization  extsts  -
whatever I mean by existence." Malkins groaned. "Let's not get into  that.
When I read some of the philosophy explaining life, I feel as  if  I'm  on
the edge of an abyss. If only we could get rid of Hart, somehow."
    Grayson was smiling grimly. "So you haven't found out yet?"
    "What do you mean?"
    "Have you got a weapon on you?"
    Silently, Malkius produced a needle-beam projector. Grayson took  it,
pointed it at his own right temple, and pressad the curved firing pin - as
Malkins grabbed at him frantically but too late.
    The thin, white beam seemed to penetrate Grayson's heed. It burned  a
round, black, smoldering hole in the woodwork beyond. Coolly,  the  unhurt
Grayson pointed the triangular muzzle athis companion.
    "Like me to try it on you?" he asked jovially.
    The older man shuddered and grabbed at the weapon. "Give me that!" he
    He calmed presently and asked, "I've noticed that I'm no older. Bill,
what are we going to do?"
    "I think we're being held in reserve," said Grayson.
    He stood up and held out his  hand.  "Well,  Henry,  it's  been  good
seeing you. Suppose we meet here every year from now on and compare notes."
    "But -"
    Grayson smiled a little tautly. "Brace up, my friend. Don't you  see?
This is the biggest thing in the universe. We're going  to  live  forever.
We're possible substitutes if anything goes wrong."
    "But what is it? What's doing it?"
    "Ask me a million years from now. Maybe I'll have an answer."
    He turned and walked out of the bar. He did not look back.

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