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Электронная библиотека .: Фантастика .: Брэдбери, Рэй .: The October Game


Брэдбери, Рэй

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Ray Bradbury. The October Game

He put the gun back into the bureau drawer and shut the drawer.
No, not that way. Louise wouldn't suffer. It was very important
that this thing have, above all duration. Duration through
imagination. How to prolong the suffering? How, first of all, to bring
it about? Well.
The man standing before the bedroom mirror carefully fitted his
cuff-links together. He paused long enough to hear the children run by
switftly on the street below, outside this warm two-storey house, like
so many grey mice the children, like so many leaves.
By the sound of the children you knew the calendar day. By their
screams you knew what evening it was. You knew it was very late in the
year. October. The last day of October, with white bone masks and cut
pumpkins and the smell of dropped candle wax.
No. Things hadn't been right for some time. October didn't help
any. If anything it made things worse. He adjusted his black bow-tie.
If this were spring, he nodded slowly, quietly, emotionlessly, at his
image in the mirror, then there might be a chance. But tonight all the
world was burning down into ruin. There was no green spring, none of
the freshness, none of the promise.
There was a soft running in the hall. "That's Marion", he told
himself. "My'little one". All eight quiet years of her. Never a word.
Just her luminous grey eyes and her wondering little mouth. His
daughter had been in and out all evening, trying on various masks,
asking him which was most terrifying, most horrible. They had both
finally decided on the skeleton mask. It was 'just awful!' It would
'scare the beans' from people!
Again he caught the long look of thought and deliberation he gave
himself in the mirror. He had never liked October. Ever since he first
lay in the autumn leaves before his granmother's house many years ago
and heard the wind and sway the empty trees. It has made him cry,
without a reason. And a little of that sadness returned each year to
him. It always went away with spring. But, it was different tonight.
There was a feeling of autumn coming to last a million years. There
would be no spring.
He had been crying quietly all evening. It did not show, not a
vesitge of it, on his face. It was all hidden somewhere and it
wouldn't stop.
The rich syrupy smell of sweets filled the bustling house. Louise
had laid out apples in new skins of toffee; there were vast bowls of
punch fresh-mixed, stringed apples in each door, scooped, vented
pumpkins peering triangularly from each cold window. There was a water
tub in the centre of the living room, waiting, with a sack of apples
nearby, for dunking to begin. All that was needed was the catalyst,
the impouring of children, to start the apples bobbing, the srtinged
apples to penduluming in the crowded doors, the sweets to vanish, the
halls to echo with fright or delight, it was a



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