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Fahrenheit 451


PAGE 19

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"Police suggest entire population in the Elm Terrace area do as follows: Everyone in every house

in every street open a front or rear door or look from the windows. The fugitive cannot escape if

everyone in the next minute looks from his house. Ready! "

Of course! Why hadn't they done it before! Why, in all the years, hadn't this game been tried!

Everyone up, everyone out! He couldn't be missed! The only man running alone in the night city,

the only man proving his legs !

"At the count often now! One! Two!"

He felt the city rise. Three .

He felt the city turn to its thousands of doors.

Faster! Leg up, leg down !

"Four ! "

The people sleepwalking in their hallways.

"Five! "

He felt their hands on the doorknobs !

The smell of the river was cool and like a solid rain. His throat was burnt rust and his eyes were

wept dry with running. He yelled as if this yell would jet him on, fling him the last hundred

yards.



"Six, seven, eight ! "

The doorknobs turned on five thousand doors. "Nine!"

He ran out away from the last row of houses, on a slope leading down to a solid moving

blackness. "Ten!"

The doors opened.

He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky,

faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like grey animals peering from electric caves,

faces with grey colourless eyes, grey tongues and grey thoughts looking out through the numb

flesh of the face.

But he was at the river.

He touched it, just to be sure it was real. He waded in and stripped in darkness to the skin,

splashed his body, arms, legs, and head with raw liquor; drank it and snuffed some up his nose.

Then he dressed in Faber's old clothes and shoes. He tossed his own clothing into the river and

watched it swept away. Then, holding the suitcase, he walked out in the river until there was no

bottom and he was swept away in the dark.

He was three hundred yards downstream when the Hound reached the river. Overhead the great

racketing fans of the helicopters hovered. A storm of light fell upon the river and Montag dived

under the great illumination as if the sun had broken the clouds. He felt the river pull him further

on its way, into darkness. Then the lights switched back to the land, the helicopters swerved over

the city again, as if they had picked up another trail. They were gone. The Hound was gone. Now

there was only the cold river and Montag floating in a sudden peacefulness, away from the city

and the lights and the chase, away from everything.

He felt as if he had left a stage behind and many actors. He felt as if he had left the great seance

and all the murmuring ghosts. He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a

reality that was unreal because it was new.

The black land slid by and he was going into the country among the hills: For the first time in a

dozen years the stars were coming out above him, in great processions of wheeling fire. He saw a

great juggernaut of stars form in the sky and threaten to roll over and crush him.

He floated on his back when the valise filled and sank; the river was mild and leisurely, going

away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapours for supper.

The river was very real; it held him comfortably and gave him the time at last, the leisure, to

consider this month, this year, and a lifetime of years. He listened to his heart slow. His thoughts

stopped rushing with his blood.

He saw the moon low in the sky now. The moon there, and the light of the moon caused by

what? By the sun, of course. And what lights the sun? Its own fire. And the sun goes on, day

after day, burning and burning. The sun and time. The sun and time and burning. Burning. The

river bobbled him along gently. Burning. The sun and every clock on the earth. It all came

together and became a single thing in his mind. After a long time of floating on the land and a

short time of floating in the river he knew why he must never burn again in his life.

The sun burned every day. It burned Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis

and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he

burnt things with the firemen, and the sun burnt Time, that meant. that everything burned!

One of them had to stop burning. The sun wouldn't, certainly. So it looked as if it had to be

Montag and the people he had worked with until a few short hours ago. Somewhere the saving

and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or

another, in books, in records, in people's heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from



moths, silver-fish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches. The world was full of burning of all

types and sizes. Now the guild of the asbestos-weaver must open shop very soon.

He felt his heel bump land, touch pebbles and rocks, scrape sand. The river had moved him

toward shore.

He looked in at the great black creature without eyes or light, without shape, with only a size that

went a thousand miles without wanting to stop, with its grass hills and forests that were waiting

for him.

He hesitated to leave the comforting flow of the water. He expected the Hound there. Suddenly

the trees might blow under a great wind of helicopters.

But there was only the normal autumn wind high up, going by like another river. Why wasn't the

Hound running? Why had the search veered inland? Montag listened. Nothing. Nothing.

Millie, he thought. All this country here. Listen to it! Nothing and nothing. So much silence,

Millie, I wonder how you'd take it? Would you shout Shut up, shut up! Millie, Millie. And he

was sad.

Millie was not here and the Hound was not here, but the dry smell of hay blowing from some

distant field put Montag on the land. He remembered a farm he had visited when he was very

young, one of the rare times he had discovered that somewhere behind the seven veils of

unreality, beyond the walls of parlours and beyond the tin moat of the city, cows chewed grass

and pigs sat in warm ponds at noon and dogs barked after white sheep on a hill.

Now, the dry smell of hay, the motion of the waters, made him think of sleeping in fresh hay in a

lonely barn away from the loud highways, behind a quiet farmhouse, and under an ancient

windmill that whirred like the sound of the passing years overhead. He lay in the high barn loft

all night, listening to distant animals and insects and trees, the little motions and stirrings.

During the night, he thought, below the loft, he would hear a sound like feet moving, perhaps. He

would tense and sit up. The sound would move away, He would lie back and look out of the loft

window, very late in the night, and see the lights go out in the farmhouse itself, until a very

young and beautiful woman would sit in an unlit window, braiding her hair. It would be hard to

see her, but her face would be like the face of the girl so long ago in his past now, so very long

ago, the girl who had known the weather and never been burned by the fire-flies, the girl who

had known what dandelions meant rubbed off on your chin. Then, she would be gone from the

warm window and appear again upstairs in her moon-whitened room. And then, to the sound of

death, the sound of the jets cutting the sky into two black pieces beyond the horizon, he would lie

in the loft, hidden and safe, watching those strange new stars over the rim of the earth, fleeing

from the soft colour of dawn.

In the morning he would not have needed sleep, for all the warm odours and sights of a complete

country night would have rested and slept him while his eyes were wide and his mouth, when he

thought to test it, was half a smile.

And there at the bottom of the hayloft stair, waiting for him, would be the incredible thing. He

would step carefully down, in the pink light of early morning, so fully aware of the world that he

would be afraid, and stand over the small miracle and at last bend to touch it.

A cool glass of fresh milk, and a few apples and pears laid at the foot of the steps.

This was all he wanted now. Some sign that the immense world would accept him and give him

the long time needed to think all the things that must be thought.

A glass of milk, an apple, a pear.

He stepped from the river.



The land rushed at him, a tidal wave. He was crushed by darkness and the look of the country

and the million odours on a wind that iced his body. He fell back under the breaking curve of

darkness and sound and smell, his ears roaring. He whirled. The stars poured over his sight like

flaming meteors. He wanted to plunge in the river again and let it idle him safely on down

somewhere. This dark land rising was like that day in his childhood, swimming, when from

nowhere the largest wave in the history of remembering slammed him down in salt mud and

green darkness, water burning mouth and nose, retching his stomach, screaming! Too much

water!

Too much land!

Out of the black wall before him, a whisper. A shape. In the shape, two eyes. The night looking

at him. The forest, seeing him.

The Hound!

After all the running and rushing and sweating it out and half-drowning, to come this far, work

this hard, and think yourself safe and sigh with relief and come out on the land at last only to find

The Hound!

Montag gave one last agonized shout as if this were too much for any man.

The shape exploded away. The eyes vanished. The leafpiles flew up in a dry shower.

Montag was alone in the wilderness.

A deer. He smelled the heavy musk-like perfume mingled with blood and the gummed

exhalation of the animal's breath, all cardamon and moss and ragweed odour in this huge night

where the trees ran at him, pulled away, ran, pulled away, to the pulse of the heart behind his

eyes.

There must have been a billion leaves on the land; he waded in them, a dry river smelling of hot

cloves and warm dust. And the other smells! There was a smell like a cut potato from all the

land, raw and cold and white from having the moon on it most of the night. There was a smell

like pickles from a bottle and a smell like parsley on the table at home. There was a faint yellow

odour like mustard from a jar. There was a smell like carnations from the yard next door. He put

down his hand and felt a weed rise up like a child brushing him. His fingers smelled of liquorice.

He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the

details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would

always be more than enough.

He walked in the shallow tide of leaves, stumbling.

And in the middle of the strangeness, a familiarity.

His foot hit something that rang dully.

He moved his hand on the ground, a yard this way, a yard that.

The railroad track.

The track that came out of the city and rusted across the land, through forests and woods,

deserted now, by the river.

Here was the path to wherever he was going. Here was the single familiar thing, the magic charm

he might need a little while, to touch, to feel beneath his feet, as he moved on into the bramble

bushes and the lakes of smelling and feeling and touching, among the whispers and the blowing

down of leaves.

He walked on the track.

And he was surprised to learn how certain he suddenly was of a single fact he could not prove.

Once, long ago, Clarisse had walked here, where he was walking now.

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