The fear would not be stopped. It had his throat and heart. It dripped in a wetness of the arm and the temple and the trembling palm.

A green star rose in the east.

A strange word emerged from Mr.Bittering's lips.

«Iorrt. Iorrt.» He repeated it.

It was a Martian word. He knew no Martian.

In the middle of the night he arose and dialled a call through to Simpson, the archaeologist.

«Simpson, what does the word 'Iorrt' mean?»

«Why that's the old Martian word for our planet Earth. Why?»

«No special reason.»

The telephone slipped from his hand.

«Hello, hello, hello, hello,» it kept saying while he sat gazing out at the green star. «Bittering? Harry, are you there?»

The days were full of metal sound. He laid the frame of the rocket with the reluctant help of three indifferent men. He grew very tired in an hour or so and had to sit down.

«The altitude,» laughed a man.

«Are you eating, Harry?» asked another.

«I'm eating,» he said, angrily,

«From your deep-freeze?»


«You're getting thinner, Harry.»

«I'm not!»

«And taller.»


His wife took him aside a few days later. «Harry, I've used up all the food in the deep-freeze. There's nothing left. I'll have to make sandwiches using food grown on Mars.»

He sat down heavily.

«You must eat,» she said. «You're weak.»

«Yes,» he said.

He took a sandwich, opened it, looked at it, and began to nibble at it.

«And take the rest of the day off,» she said. «It's hot. The children want to swim in the canals and hike. Please come along.»

«I can't waste time. This is a crisis!» «Just for an hour,» she urged. «A swim'll do you good.» He rose, sweating. «All right, all right. Leave me alone. I'll come.»

«Good for you, Harry.»

The sun was hot, the day quiet. There was only an immense staring burn upon the land. They moved along the canal, the father, the mother, the racing children in their swimsuits. They stopped and ate meat sandwiches. He saw their skin baking brown. And he saw the yellow eyes of his wife and his children, their eyes that were never yellow before. A few tremblings shook him, but were carried off in waves of pleasant heat as he lay in the sun. He was too tired to be afraid.

«Cora, how long have your eyes been yellow?» She was bewildered. «Always, I guess.» «They didn't change from brown in the last three months?»

She bit her lips. «No. Why do you ask?» «Nevermind.» They sat there.

«The children's eyes,» he said. «They're yellow, too.» «Sometimes growing children's eyes change colour.» «Maybe we're children, too. At least to Mars. That's a thought.» He laughed. «Think I'll swim.»

They leaped into the canal water, and he let himself sink down and down to the bottom like a golden statue and lie there in green silence. All was water, quiet and deep, all was peace. He felt the steady, slow current drift him easily.

If I lie here long enough, he thought, the water will work and eat away my flesh until the bones show like coral. Just my skeleton left. And then the water can build on that skeleton — green things, deep-water things, red things, yellow things. Change. Change. Slow, deep, silent change. And isn't that what it is up there!

He saw the sky submerged above him, the sun made Martian by atmosphere and time and space.

Up there, a big river, he thought, a Martian river, all of us lying deep in it, in our pebble houses, in our sunken boulder houses, like crayfish hidden, and the water washing away our old bodies and lengthening the bones and -

He let himself drift up through the soft light.

Tim sat on the edge of the canal, regarding his father seriously.

«Utha,» he said.

«What?» asked his father.

The boy smiled. «You know. Utha's the Martian word for 'father'.»

«Where did you learn it?»

«I don't know. Around. Utha!»

«What do you want?»

The boy hesitated. «I–I want to change my name.»

«Change it?»


His mother swam over. «What's wrong with Tim for a name?»

Tim fidgeted. «The other day you called Tim, Tim, Tim. I didn't even hear. I said to myself, That's not my name. I've a new name I want to use.»

Mr.Bittering held to the side of the canal, his body cold and his heart pounding slowly. «What is this new name?» «Linnl. Isn't that a good name? Can I use it? Can I, please?»

Mr.Bittering put his hand to his head. He thought of the rocket, himself working alone, himself alone even among his family, so alone.

He heard his wife say, «Why not?» He heard himself say, «Yes, you can use it.» «Yaaa!» screamed the boy. «I'm Linnl, Linnl!» Racing down the meadowlands, he danced and shouted. Mr.Bittering looked at his wife. «Why did we do that?» «I don't know,» she said. «It just seemed like a good idea.»

They walked into the hills. They strolled on old mosaic paths, beside still-pumping fountains. The paths were covered with a thin film of cool water all summer long. You kept your bare feet cool all the day, splashing as in a creek, wading.

They came to a small deserted Martian villa with a good view of the valley. It was on top of a hill. Blue- marble halls, large murals, a swimming-pool. It was refreshing in this hot summer-time. The Martians hadn't believed in large cities.

«How nice,» said Mrs.Bittering, «if you could move up here to this villa for the summer.»

«Come on,» he said. «We're going back to town. There's work to be done on the rocket.»

But as he worked that night, the thought of the cool bluemarble villa entered his mind. As the hours passed, the rocket seemed less important.

In the flow of days and weeks, the rocket receded and dwindled. The old fever was gone. It frightened him to think he had let it slip this way. But somehow the heat, the air, the working conditions — he heard the men murmuring on the porch of his metal shop.

«Everyone's going. You heard?»

«All right. That's right.»

Bittering came out. «Going where?» He saw a couple of trucks, loaded with children and furniture, drive down the dusty street.

«Up to the villa,» said the man.

«Yeah, Harry. I'm going. So is Sam. Aren't you, Sam?»

«That's right, Harry. What about you?»

«I've got work to do here.»

«Work! You can finish that rocket in the autumn, when it's cooler.»

He took a breath. «1 got the frame all set up.»

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