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VI

  • "I have seen you," said Villa to Adam, who was gnawing on a drumstick. "You wear the wig and a bone in the nose, and a tigerskin around you."
  • "Sure," said Adam. "I'm the Wild Man from Zululand. It's one job where my color's an advantage."
  • "A fine job!" said Villa. "You should have come down to my stand. The best chili in New York."
  • "I had a bowl there last week. Without my make-up, I mean."
  • "I will give you a bowl free when we go home. With tacos," added Villa generously.
  • "It's good stuff," said the boy.
  • Calvin Full wiped his fingers and his lips on a handkerchief. He looked about at the hall, through which the giants had now scattered; some of them were tinkering with the machines, others were simply loitering, as if bored by the whole matter of scientific research. They had lost their early wariness of the humans, and did not carry the green goads, but kept them tucked into holsters at the back of their swishing skirts.
  • One of them removed the blond man, Watkins, and set him to doing something with a pipe-and-block apparatus. The processes they went through with their strange mechanical and electrical gadgets, the end results they achieved, were a mystery to Calvin. And as the afternoon wore on, their conduct as a whole became even more mysterious. It was, from human standards, totally irrational.
  • One would begin a test, analysis, or whatever it might be; he would follow it through its devious windings to its ambiguous result, or to no result, and suddenly leave it to begin something else, or come to watch the humans perform.
  • The longer he observed their conduct, the more worried he became. Finally, after a good bit of hiding and spying, he found out something which he had been trying to figure for hours; and then it seemed time for him to talk to someone about their escape.
  • The blond man had been peering into his briefcase. He zipped it shut quickly as Calvin approached, with a kind of guilty movement. What does he have in there? Calvin wondered.
  • "Mr. Watkins," he said, rubbing his chin and wishing he had a razor, "did you ever see a scientist, or laboratory assistant, skip from one thing to another as these creatures do?"
  • "I never did."
  • "Nor did I. They don't take care of their equipment, either; several times one or another has kicked down a neat pile of gear, and once I distinctly heard something break."
  • "It might be junked machinery," suggested Watkins.
  • "I doubt it."
  • One of the giants made a raucous noise— _Brangg!_
  • "And how irritable they are, in addition to their capriciousness and sloppiness! I can't imagine a race of emotional misfits producing equipment of such complexity. Their science is beyond ours in many ways, yet look at this place." He made a broad gesture. "When we were let out this morning, it was clean and well ordered. I've inspected dairies that were far dirtier. Now it's a hodge-podge of scattered materials, upset stacks of gear, tipped-over instruments. What sort of mind can bear such confusion?"
  • Watkins smiled. "The minds that conceived—well, that vertical maze, for instance—must be orderly after a fashion, even though it isn't the human fashion."
  • "This is far from what I wanted to say, though. Have you been noticing the door?"
  • "There isn't much to notice. It's a sliding panel like our wall."
  • "When one of the creatures leaves, he passes his right hand across what is evidently an electric eye beam, as nearly as I can place it about ten or eleven feet off the floor. That opens the door."
  • "Good going, Cal!" said Watkins. "I hadn't seen 'em do it."
  • "Our try for escape should be made as soon as possible," went on Calvin in a low voice. "As we've talked about, the object of these tests and experiments may be to infect us with neuroses—" Watkins grinned again—"I know my phrasing isn't right," said Calvin stiffly, "but I never looked into such matters.
  • There's also Summersby's suggestion about the fate of guinea pigs. So I think we'd better try to get out right away."
  • "With five of them here?"
  • "If we have any luck, we may find an opportunity, yes. Occasionally they get absorbed in something, and that door makes no noise."
  • Watkins looked at his briefcase uncertainly. "Okay," he said finally. "May as well try it. Though God knows where we are when we do get out of the lab."
  • Calvin congratulated himself on his choice of an ally. "Good man," he said.
  • In the next hour they managed to build a crude platform beside the door, of various boxlike things, nondescript plastic blocks and impedimenta. The giants didn't even look at them. They were, indeed, a strange race. Now the platform was high enough so that Calvin felt he could reach the opening ray.
  • Summersby wandered over. "What are you doing?" he asked, seeming to force out the question from politeness, not curiosity.
  • "We're going to make a break, High-pockets," said Watkins. "Want to help?"
  • "They won't let you," said the big man.
  • "We can try, can't we?" asked Watkins hotly.
  • "It's your neck."
  • "Listen, you may be the size of a water buffalo, but if Cal and Adam and I piled on you, you'd go down all right. Why don't you cooperate?"
  • Summersby stared at him a moment and Calvin thought he was going to say something, something that would be important; but he shrugged and went across the hall and into the prison box.
  • "What's eating that big bastard, anyway?" said Watkins.
  • Calvin believed he knew, but it was not his secret; it was Summersby's. He said nothing.
  • "Watch it," said Watkins. "They're coming." The two men scurried behind their rampart. The five giants marched, flat-footed, down the hall, their thick arms swinging. The door opened and all of them went out. It closed behind them.
  • "How about that!" said Watkins exultantly, a grin on his face.
  • "I'll get Mrs. Full and the others," said Calvin. He felt a tingle of rising excitement. "Get up there and be ready to open it. We'll give them five minutes and then make our break."
  • "Right." Watkins was already clambering up the boxes and blocks.
  • Calvin almost ran to his wife. She was standing in front of the color organ.
  • "Dear," he said, and halted.
  • "Yes, what is it, Calvin?"
  • "I don't know. I was going to say—"
  • A sluggishness was pervading his body, a terrible lassitude crept through his brain. What was it? What was happening?
  • "I was going to—"
  • He caught her as she slumped, but could not hold up her weight, and sank to the floor beside her. His eyes blinked a couple of times. Then knowledge and sensation vanished together.