The Machineries of Joy
Рэй Дуглас Брэдбери

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And while Vittorini dialed the knobs Father Brian mused over his drink, “Did Blake really say that?”

“The fact is, Father,” said Vittorini, bent to the phantoms coming and going on the screen, “he might have, if he’d lived today. I wrote it down myself tonight.”

All watched the Italian with some awe. Then the TV gave a hum and came clear, showing a rocket, a long way off, getting ready.

“The machineries of joy,” said Father Brian. “Is that one of them you’re tuning in? And is that another sitting there, the rocket on its stand?”

“It could be, tonight,” murmured Vittorini. “If the thing goes up, and a man in it, all around the world, and him still alive, and us with him, though we just sit here. That would be joyful indeed.”

The rocket was getting ready, and Father Brian shut his eyes for a moment. Forgive me, Jesus, he thought, forgive an old man his prides, and forgive Vittorini his spites, and help me to understand what I see here tonight, and let me stay awake if need be, in good humor, until dawn, and let the thing go well, going up and coming down, and think of the man in that contraption, Jesus, think of and be with him. And help me, God, when the summer is young, for, sure as fate on Fourth of July evening there will be Vittorini and the kids from around the block, on the rectory lawn, lighting sky-rockets. All them there watching the sky, like the morn of the Redemption, and help me, O Lord, to be as those children before the great night of time and void where you abide. And help me to walk forward, Lord, to light the next rocket Independence Night, and stand with the Latin father, my face suffused with that same look of the delighted child in the face of the burning glories you put near our hand and bid us savor.

He opened his eyes.

Voices from far Canaveral were crying in a wind of time. Strange phantom powers loomed upon the screen. He was drinking the last of the wine when someone touched his elbow gently.

“Father,” said Vittorini, near. “Fasten your seat belt.”

“I will,” said Father Brian. “I will. And many thanks.”

He sat back in his chair. He closed his eyes. He waited for the thunder. He waited for the fire. He waited for the concussion and the voice that would teach a silly, a strange, a wild and miraculous thing:

How to count back, ever backward … to zero.

The One Who Waits (#ulink_0787b35f-dc19-5443-9a5d-0be455eec8ae)

I live in a well. I live like smoke in the well. Like vapor in a stone throat. I don’t move. I don’t do anything but wait. Overhead I see the cold stars of night and morning, and I see the sun. And sometimes I sing old songs of this world when it was young. How can I tell you what I am when I don’t know? I cannot. I am simply waiting. I am mist and moonlight and memory. I am sad and I am old. Sometimes I fall like rain into the well. Spider webs are startled into forming where my rain falls fast, on the water surface. I wait in cool silence and there will be a day when I no longer wait.

Now it is morning. I hear a great thunder. I smell fire from a distance. I hear a metal crashing. I wait. I listen.

Voices. Far away.

“All right!”

One voice. An alien voice. An alien tongue I cannot know. No word is familiar. I listen.

“Send the men out!”

A crunching in crystal sands.

“Mars! So this is it!”

“Where’s the flag?”

“Here, sir.”

“Good, good.”

The sun is high in the blue sky and its golden rays fill the well and I hang like a flower pollen, invisible and misting in the warm light.

Voices.

“In the name of the Government of Earth, I proclaim this to be the Martian Territory, to be equally divided among the member nations.”

What are they saying? I turn in the sun, like a wheel, invisible and lazy, golden and tireless.

“What’s over here?”

“A well!”

“No!”

“Come on. Yes!”

The approach of warmth. Three objects bend over the well mouth, and my coolness rises to the objects.

“Great!”

“Think it’s good water?”

“We’ll see.”

“Someone get a lab test bottle and a dropline.”

“I will!”

A sound of running. The return.

“Here we are.”

I wait.

“Let it down. Easy.”

Glass shines, above, coming down on a slow line.

The water ripples softly as the glass touches and fills. I rise in the warm air toward the well mouth.

“Here we are. You want to test this water, Regent?”

“Let’s have it.”

“What a beautiful well. Look at that construction. How old you think it is?”

“God knows. When we landed in that other town yesterday Smith said there hasn’t been life on Mars in ten thousand years.”

“Imagine.”

“How is it, Regent? The water.”
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