"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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.