the rain, and walk freely about. Well, I have grown tired of it, can you understand that? One of you will die today, here, in the next few minutes. Who has the weakest heart among you? Soon we shall see.'

The door at the far end of the corridor irised open, and the ground underneath their feet slid toward it. There was light be­yond, and as they passed the door they were suddenly in the mid­dle of a busy street.

Hovercars, railcars, three-wheeled LNG and methane cars, and overhead trams were everywhere, managing again and again, as if by miracle, to miss the group. The street sign said Wilshire. The small dark man chuckled and said, 'Los Angeles.'

Tony looked around, trying not to gawk. How they managed the perspective, he couldn't imagine, but the buildings and cars looked full-sized and solid. Office buildings and condominiums stretched twenty stories tall, and the air was full of the sound of city life.

'Please stay on the green path,' a soft, well-modulated male voice requested.

'What green-' Tony started to say. But a glowing green aisle ten feet across appeared in the middle of the street.

'We need strong magic to do what we will do today,' the voice continued. 'We are going to visit the old Los Angeles, the Los Angeles that disappeared in May of 1985. As long as you stay on the path, you should be perfectly safe.'

The green path moved them steadily forward, past busy office buildings. Traffic swerved around them magically. 'This is the Los Angeles of 2051 A.D.,' the voice continued, 'but only a few hun­dred feet from here begins another world, one seldom seen by human eyes.'

A barrier blocked Wilshire Boulevard. The green path humped and carried them over it. Beyond lay ruin. Buildings balanced pre­cariously on rotted and twisted beams. They were old, of archaic styles, and seawater lapped at their foundations.

Ollie nudged Gwen, his face aglow. 'Will you look at that?' It was a flooded parking lot, ancient automobiles half-covered with water. 'That looks like a Mercedes. Did you ever see what they looked like before they merged with Toyota?'

'How long is your memory?' She peered along his pointing arm. 'That ugly thing?'

'They were great!' He protested. 'If we could get a little closer- Hey! We're walking in water!'

It was true. The water was up to their ankles, and deepening quickly. Magically, of course, they stayed dry.

The recorded narrator continued. 'The entire shape of Califor­nia was changed. It is ironic that attempts to lessen the severity of quakes may have increased the effect. Geologists had tried to relieve the pressure on various fault lines by injecting water or graphite. Their timing was bad. When the San Andreas fault tore loose, all the branching faults went at once. Incredible damage was done, and thousands of lives were lost...'

The water was up to their waists, and nervous laughter was flut­tering in the air. 'Hadn't planned to go swimming today,' Tony murmured.

'We could skinny-dip,' Acacia whispered with a tug at her blouse.

Tony clamped his hand down on hers. 'Hold it, there. Not for public consumption, dear heart.'

Acacia stuck her tongue out at him. He bit at the tip; she with­drew it hastily.

The water was at their chins. The small dark man had disap­peared. 'Blub,' he said. All twenty sightseers chuckled uncom­fortably, and a beefy redheaded woman in front of them said, 'Might as well take the plunge!', grinned, and ducked under.

Seconds later there was no choice; the Pacific swirled over their heads. At first it was murky, as mud clouded their view. Then the silt settled, and they had their first look at the sunken city.

Tony whistled appreciatively. The lost buildings of Wilshire Boulevard stretched off in a double row in the distance. Some lay crumpled and broken; others still stood, waterlogged but strong.

The green path carried them past a wall covered in amateurish murals, the bright paints faded. To both sides now, a wide empty stretch of seabottom, smooth, gently rolling, with sunken trees growing in clumps, and a seaweed forest anchored among them

the Los Angeles Country Club? Beyond, a gas station, pumps standing like ancient sentries, a disintegrating hand-lettered sign:



The small Mediterranean type said, 'These are not props. They were taken with a camera. I have been skin diving here.'

As the green path carried them down, they saw taller and taller buildings sunk deeper in the muck. Where towering structures had crashed into ruin there were shapeless chunks of cement piled into heaps stories high, barnacled and covered with flora. Fish cruised among the shadows. Some nosed up to the airbreathing intruders and wiggled in dance for them.

Acacia pointed. 'Look, Tony, we're coming up on that build­ing.' It was a single-story shop nestled between a crumbled res­taurant and a parking lot filled with rusted hulks. The path carried them through its doors, and Gwen grabbed Acacia's hand.

'Look. It isn't even rusted.' The sculpture was beautiful, wrought from scrap steel and copper, and sealed in a block of lucite. It was one of the few things in the room that hadn't been ruined.

The building had been an art gallery. Now, paintings peeled from their frames and fluttered weakly in the current. Carved wood had swollen and rotted. A pair of simple kinetic sculptures were clotted with mud and sand.

The narrator continued. 'Fully half of the multiple-story struc­tures in California collapsed, including many of the ‘earthquake-proof' buildings. The shoreline moved inland an average of three miles, and water damage added hundreds of millions to the total score.'

The green path was taking them out of the art gallery, looping back into the Street.

Acacia shook her head soberly, lost in thought. 'What must it have been like on that day?' she murmured. 'I can't even imag­ine.' Tony held her hand and was silent.

Once people had walked these streets. Once there had been life, and noise, and flowers growing, and the raucous blare of cars vying for road space. Once, California had been a political leader, a trend-setter, with a tremendous influx of tourists and prospective residents. But that was before the Great Quake, the catastrophe that broke California's back, sent her industry and citizenry scam­pering for cover.

But for Cowles Industries, and a few other large companies that believed in the promise of the Golden State, California would still be pulling itself out of the greatest disaster in American history. The tranquil Pacific covered the worst of the old scars... but they were looking under the bandage now.

Beneath a crumbled block of stone sprawled a shattered skele­ton, long since picked clean. Eyes in the skull seemed to flick to­ward them. Acacia's hand clamped hard on Tony's arm, and she felt him jump, before she saw that a crab's claws were waving within the skull's eye sockets.

Now bones were everywhere. Impassively, the recorded voice went on. 'Despite extensive salvage operations, the mass of lost equipment and personal possessions remains buried beneath the waves...'

A woman whispered fearfully to her husband. 'Charley, some­thing's happening.'

'She's right, you know,' said Ollie. 'We're seeing more bones than before. A lot more. And something else... there isn't so much mud and barnacles on these old cars.'

Gwen almost stepped off the green path, trying to get close enough to check for herself. 'I don't know, Ollie...'

Now he was getting excited. 'Look, there are more scavengers, too.' This was readily apparent. Fish darted into heaps of rubble more frequently now. A pair of small sharks cruised through the area.

They passed another skeleton, but, disturbingly, not all of the clothing had been torn away, and there were

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