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«The Demolished Man», Alfred Bester

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В В В В В В В  Explosion! Concussion! The vault doors burst open. And deep inside, the money is racked ready for pillage, rapine, loot. Who's that? Who's inside the vault? Oh God! The Man With No Face! Looking. Looming. Silent. Horrible. Run... Run...

В В  Run, or I'll miss the Paris Pneumatique and that exquisite girl with her flower face and figure of passion. There's time if I run. But that isn't the Guard before the gate. Oh Christ! The Man With No Face. Looking. Looming. Silent. Don't scream. Stop screaming...

В В  But I'm not screaming. I'm singing on a stage of sparkling marble while the music soars and the lights burn. But there's no one out there in the amphitheater. A great shadowed pit... empty except for one spectator. Silent. Staring. Looming. The Man With No Face.

And this time his scream had sound.

Ben Reich awoke.

В В В В  He lay quietly in the hydropatlhic bed while his heart shuddered and

his eyes focused at random on in the room, simulating a calm he could not feel. The walls of green jade, the nightlight in the porcelain mandarin whose head nodded interminably if you touched him, the multi-clock that radiated the time of three planets and six satellites, the bed itself, a crystal pool flowing with carbonated glycerine at ninety-nine point nine Fahrenheit.

В В В В В В В  The door opened softly and Jonas appeared in the gloom, a shadow in puce sleeping suit, a shade with the face of a horse and the bearing of an undertaker.

"Again?" Reich asked.

В В В В  "Yes, Mr. Reich."


В В В В  "Very loud, sir. And terrified."

В В В В  "God damn your jackass cars," Reich growled. "I'm never afraid."

В "No, sir."

В В В В  "Get out."

В В В В  "Yes, sir. Good night, sir." Jonas stepped back and closed the door.

В В В В  Reich shouted: "Jonas!"

В В В В  The valet reappeared.

"Sorry, Jonas."

В В В В В В В  "Quite all right, sir."

В В В В В В В  "It isn't all right," Reich charmed him with a smile. "I'm treating you like a relative. I don't pay enough for the privilege."

В В  "Oh no, sir."

В В В В В В В  "Next time I yell at you, yell right back. Why should I have all the fun?"

В В  "Oh, Mr. Reich..."

В В В В  "Do that and you get a raise." The smile again.

В В В В  "That's all, Jonas. Thank you."

В В В В В В В  "Thank you, sir." The valet withdrew.

В В В В В В В  Reich arose from the bed and toweled himself before the cheval mirror, practicing the smile. "Make your enemies by choice," he muttered, "not by accident." He stared at the reflection: the heavy shoulders, narrow flanks, long corded legs... the sleek head with wide eyes, chiseled nose, small sensitive mouth scarred by implacability.

В В В В В В В  "Why?" he asked. "I wouldn't change looks with the devil. I wouldn't change places with God. Why the screaming?"

В В  He put on a gown and glanced at the clock, unaware that he was noting the time panorama of the solar system with an unconscious skill that would have baffled his ancestors. The dials read:

A.D. 2301




Mean Solar Day 22 February 15В В В В В В В 

Duodecember 35

Noon + 09

0205 Greenwich

В В В В В  2220 Central Syrtis


В 2D3H 1D1HВ  6D8HВ В В В В В  13D12H 15D3H 4D9H

(eclipsed)В В В В В В В В В В В В  (transit)

В В В В В В В  Night, noon, summer, winter... without bothering to think, Reich could have rattled off the time and season for any meridian on any body in the solar system. Here in New York it was a bitter morning after a bitter night of dreaming. He would give himself a few minutes of analysis with the Esper psychiatrist he retained. The screaming had to stop.

В В В В В В В  "E for Esper," he muttered. "Esper for Extra Sensory Perception... For Telepaths, Mind Readers, Brain Peepers. You'd think a mind-reading doctor could stop the screaming. You'd think an Esper M.D. would earn his money and peep inside your head and stop the screaming. Those damned mindreaders are supposed to be the greatest advance since Homo sapiens evolved. E for Evolution. Bastards! E for Exploitation!"

В В В В  He yanked open the door, shaking with fury.

В В В В  "But I'm not afraid!" he shouted. "I'm never afraid."

He stepped down the corridor, clacking his sandals sharply on the

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