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´╗┐Title: In the Control Tower
Author: Mohler, Will
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Control Tower" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

       *       *       *       *       *

    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has     |
    | been preserved.                                           |
    |                                                           |
    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |
    | This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction,      |
    | December 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any     |
    | evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication      |
    | was renewed.                                              |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *




Illustrated by GIUNTA

          =Shadows haunted the dying alleys.
          Madness stalked the wide streets.
          And what lay at the city's heart?=


Dewforth had almost most lost the habit of looking from windows. The
train which took him to the city every morning passed through a
country in the terminal stages of a long war of self-destruction.
Whatever had been burned, botched, poisoned or exhausted in that
struggle had been filled along the right-of-way, among drifts of soot
and ground-mists of sulphurous smoke and chemical flatulence, to form
a long tedious mural--a parody of cloud-borne Asiatic hills,
precipitous and always so close to the tracks that their tops could
not be seen.

This was almost merciful, considering what had been done to the sky.
When the train did not sneak between hills of slag, cinders, rubbish,
garbage, dross and the bloody brown carrion of broken machinery, it
shot like a bolt in the groove of an arbolest between unbroken
barriers of advertising or through deep concrete troughs and roaring
tunnels full of grimy light and grubby air.

There was one inconsistancy in this scheme of things: Just as the
train emerged from a deep valley of slag-hills and swung into a long
curve, passengers on the left side had a panoramic view of the city--a
frozen scene of battle between geometrical monsters, made remote and
obscure by the dust of a thousand thousand merely human struggles, too
small to be visible from the crusty windows of the train by the merely
human eye. They had about one second in which to absorb this vision of
corporate purpose. Then they were plunging into a final stretch of
tunnel to the center of the city itself, where no surface was ever
more than fifteen paces away and where there were no horizons at all.

Dewforth was excited by this view even though it reached him in a
fragmentary and subliminal way. Day after day he told himself that he
would have all his faculties at the ready before the train swung into
the curve. But morning after morning he was still emerging from the
stale fumes of the preceding night's beer, or he allowed himself to be
hypnotized by the sound of the wheels or fascinated by the jiggling of
another passenger's earlobe at that critical moment. The train had
always entered the clangorous colon of the city before this resolve
could crystallize in his mind, and he was left with an impression
which lay somewhere in the scale of reality between the after-image of
a light bulb and the morning memory of a fever-dream. He could never
have described the scene except in loose generalities about buildings
of contrasting height and unemphatic color.

       *       *       *       *       *

The single memorable feature of the panorama, looming above the rest,
was not even a building. It eluded all familiar categories. It was,
like the other components of the picture, rectangular; but it was a
displaced rectangle. A shining thread of morning sky could be seen
beneath it. It was only logical to suppose that it stood on legs of
some kind--a complicated process of girders. The upper part appeared
to be made of corrugated metal, but, as with the matter of the legs,
it was impossible to separate what was actually seen and what was
merely inferred. The only other structures Dewforth had seen which
resembled it at all were water towers and shipyard cranes, but these
had been mere toys compared with the thing that hovered over the
center of the city.

Its purpose could not be guessed, but what disturbed Dewforth more was
the fact that he could not be sure that it existed. He was a precision
draftsman, more or less resigned to deteriorating eyesight, and his
usual abstracted state of mind during that segment of his day had also
to be considered. He hoped that someone else would mention the
structure. Once--only once--a man sitting on the opposite seat had
made a comment which could have applied to it. "It turned," he said,
just as the tunnel swallowed the train.

Dewforth would have liked to ask the other passenger what he had
meant. Had he seen the same thing? Had he seen anything at all? And
what had he meant by "turned"?

But he had not asked. The other had been not merely forbidding, not
merely repugnant, but alternately forbidding and repugnant--in
daylight, an impeccable burgher sitting tall and righteous under a
tall hat; in tunnels, a hunchbacked gargoyle picking its nose in the
fickle darkness.

If Dewforth had been the only passenger on the train, or indeed the
last man in the world, he could not have been more alone with his
wonder. You did not ask whimsical questions of strangers nowadays. You
did not ask many questions of friends. All uncertainties incubated in
private darkness; they lived and grew and even put forth new

Not a building. Not a water tank. Not a crane. Perhaps it was only an

Illusion or not, it wanted a name so that it might be at least
catalogued in his own mind. Therefore, on a morning since forgotten
and for reasons never closely examined, he decided to call it The
Control Tower.


There was an unholy Friday restlessness upon Dewforth. To make matters
worse, it was the last Friday in March. Logically, perhaps, this
should not have made any difference because Dewforth worked in one of
a number of identical windowless rooms in a building from which all
natural rhythms had been rigorously excluded. From skylights high in
the ceilings of the drafting rooms came a light which had been
pasteurized and was timeless. It could have been artificial.

His work provided no refuge for his thought. It was demanding, but
only mechanically so. Strictly speaking, he did not know what he was
doing. No one did, apparently. He did not have the satisfaction of
knowing that what he did was real. He filled large sheets of plastic
with tracings of intricate, interconnected schematic hieroglyphs. But
he knew that in another place a template would be laid over his work.
An irregular portion like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle would be cut out
of it and the rest, perhaps more than half of his work, would be

It was even possible that all of it was destroyed.

Dewforth worked for a firm which made components. Of what, no one
said, no one asked. _Components, Inc._, the firm was called. He knew
that the finished products were small, heavy and very complicated.
Their names were mute combinations of letters and numbers, joined by
hyphens or separated by virgules. Some said that these components
performed no functions. Others said that they worked, but their
operations corresponded to no known human need. It was known that some
of the finished products themselves were destroyed. Some maintained
that they were dissolved in vats of hydrofluoric acid. Others argued
that they were encased in cement, then taken out to sea in speedboats
on moonless nights and jettisoned. The favorite rumor was that the
entire firm was a decoy to bewilder agents of foreign powers and
pre-empt their espionage efforts. There was neither proof of this nor
evidence to the contrary.

The penalty for circulating this last rumor was immediate dismissal
with prejudice.

In another place, another time, Dewforth might have spread the burden
of his mood by confiding in other workers, but not under the
circumstances so painstakingly arranged by _Components, Inc._ in the
interest of what was called _The Inter-loathing Index_, or I.I. It was
an axiom of modern industry that a high I.I. meant high productivity
and also tighter security. The latter was as much the measure of the
importance of an industry as what it made or how much. That there was
design in the egg-box compartmentation of workspaces, for example, was
obvious enough. Less overt were the lengths to which Personnel had
gone to discourage the exchange of information, or confidences, among

Under the guise of aptitude testing, the psychologists had been able
to select and organize teams consisting entirely of mutually
incompatible individuals. So well had they succeeded that most workers
could barely stand the sight of one another, and so were driven back
upon themselves and their work. Only by practicing an almost egg-like
self-containment could a draftsman or other worker hope to get through
the day without open conflict and disaster.

Latent antipathies among workers were further intensified by means of
the Annual Proficiency Competitions. At the conclusion of these tests
all employees save two were given Proficiency Stars. Of the remaining
two, one was invariably a person who had shown signs of becoming too
popular among his fellows. He was given a Leadership Star, and because
an affable man was usually less rather than more efficient than the
rest, this made of him a lonely little air-bubble in a sea of

The second of the two workers was always discharged. Thus a dash of
anxiety was added to the proceedings.

       *       *       *       *       *

The visible manifestations of high I.I. were hectic color, a
characteristic ferocity of eye and throbbing jaw-hinges. Often the
jaw-hinges of an entire team would be pulsating at once, sometimes
even in unison. This spectacle emanated an overwhelming feeling of
earnestness and purpose. Executives were fond of pointing out this
phenomenon to visiting dignitaries. "Observe their jaw-hinges," they
would say.

Another factor which isolated employees from one another was the
peculiarly virulent form of halitosis which afflicted all workers
without exception. The company cafeteria was the source of this

Thus, if Dewforth had been the only employee in that vast complex of
buildings, or in the world, he could not have been restlessness. Add
to this the fact that it had been his misfortune to win the Leadership
Star in the Proficiency Competitions only three days earlier. He did
not have to trace the bitter stream of his mood any farther back than
that to find the bile-source.

The object of the contest had been to draw a single line 28-5/8 inches
long and 1/15,000 of an inch thick, a feat which is starkly simple in
conception but only theoretically feasible. The draftsmen had spent
hours preparing the surfaces of paper, straining ink through filters,
honing drawing pens with emery and polishing them with rouge, drawing
practice lines and scrutinizing them with powerful bench microscopes.
They did Balinese finger exercises, Chinese body coordination
exercises, Hindu breathing exercises and Tibetan spiritual
calisthenics to dispel their incipient shakes. When the great moment
came, a solemn little group of executives entered the drafting room
and stood about in attitudes of grave ceremonial courtesy.

The draftsmen then drew their lines.

When it was over, the judges examined and graded the lines and the
scores were announced by Mr. Shrank, the foreman. The better scores
prompted little flutters of restrained applause from the executives.
This moist and muted sound had reminded Dewforth of a hippopotamus
venting its wind under water, and in a moment of thoughtless
exhilaration he had even thought of sharing this bizarre notion with
his wife. He never did so, as it happened.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why had he ever told his wife about that wretched Leadership Star? Her
laughter persisted through his dreams, or through his dream. He only
had one. In this dream she was always a massive machine which ingested
songbirds between steel rollers and stamped them into pipe-flange
gaskets at a rate of one hundred and twenty per minute.

And the prize-winning line he had drawn--it revealed its true nature
in the perspective of days. There was no mistaking what it was. It was
The Abyss. It could widen and it could engulf. How much light would a
Leadership Star cast in that bottomless inkiness?

Acute restless had the effect of sending Dewforth frequently to the
lavatory, not so much for physiological reasons as because there was
no other place to go and he had to go somewhere when the white walls
of the drafting room threatened to crush him. He went as often as he
thought he could without attracting the attention of Mr. Shrank or
eliciting ponderous jocosities from the other workers. After several
visits, however, he did begin to question himself. What drew him to
that bleak refuge again and again? He was not aware of bladder
irritation. He had no infantile obsession about such facilities. Was
he driven by an aggregation of petty forces, each too small to make
sense by itself? Or was there one reason hiding behind a cloud of
small rationalizations? There was a difference in the air in the
lavatory, and in the sound--the undifferentiated background sound
which came from nowhere. Nowhere?

It came through a window.

He had been staring at a window--probably the only one in the
building--and it had failed to register on his mind at the time
because he had not expected it to be there. It was not part of the
habitual pattern. He had seen a window. He had, moreover, looked
through a window. What had he seen? He thought about this, and at the
same time he thought about being sick--administratively sick. He
succeeded in working up a palpable fever and a windy yawning beneath
the diaphragm. Before taking any action he would have to confirm what
he had seen through the window of the lavatory.

On his last trip to the lavatory he climbed up onto the slippery
washbasin and looked through the high window. His position there would
be impossible to explain, of course, if anyone should come in. He was
past caring about that. The unpasteurized air made him a little drunk
and the sound--the immense distant sighing groan like a giant's
whisper--filled his brain. It made him want to expand to meet it

Only one immense skeleton foot was visible, but there was no question
about exactly what it was.

No conventional structure would curve upward in that way. There was no
point of reference by which to determine how far away it was, and the
air was blue with haze, giving everything an appearance of remoteness
and of unreality. He had never seen the city from that angle before,
but if what he saw was what he thought it was, how could it have been
so close without his knowing about it before this time? It was a thing
which belonged to vast distances--spatial distances and other kinds of
distance as well. Now it was close, or he was closer to it than he had
ever imagined he would be in his life.

It was accessible.

Dewforth left at half past three when the somnolence of afternoon was
heaviest on the heads of the other draftsmen. He did not speak to Mr.
Shrank about it. He did not clear with Miss Plock in the dispensary,
nor with Mr. Fert in Personnel, nor with Miss Yurt in Wage
Readjustment, nor with Miss Bort in Sick Leave Subdivision, nor with
Miss Vibe in Special Problems, nor with Mr. Pfister in Sick Claims,
nor with Miss Grope in Employee Grievances, nor with Miss Rupnick in
Company Grievances, nor with Miss Guggward in Allowance Reductions,
nor with Mr. Droon in Privilege Curtailment, nor with Miss Tremulo in
Psychological Counseling, nor with Dr. Schreck in Spiritual Aid

He did not even trouble to see Miss Nosemilker who kept the time book.

He just left.


"Nobody goes up there," said the hulking oyster-eyed man in the burlap

The bum's eyes cleared long enough for him to peer into Dewforth's
eyes in order to see if his madness was worth sharing, then they
filmed over again as he decided that it was not.

Dewforth crowded past him and walked on. He was making real progress.
He had at last found someone who acknowledged that there was something
up there above eye-level. The others--old lost children, figures of
scab and grime--had been unaware of anything but inner cavities of
craving and fear above the sidewalk firmament of trodden gum disks,
sputum stars and the ends of twice-smoked cigarettes.

He could not have lost sight of the Control Tower. He had never
realized what streets were. Before that time he had known a single
well policed block between the station and his place of work. He still
thought of streets as more or less open strips along which people
moved, north or south, east or west, purposefully from Point A to
Point B with perhaps one right-angle turn, two at the most, pausing
only to tip hats or look into shop windows. Now it developed that
streets were sewers, battlegrounds, lairs, abattoirs, cesspools,
lazarettes, midways of deformity and brawling markets where nightmares
and spirochetes were sold.

The city had not less than three dimensions. He had not been fully
prepared for the implications of this, either. Existence in three
dimensions does not necessarily mean three-dimensional vision. The sky
was not visible through the maze of girders, stairways and catwalks
overhead. Dewforth tried to orient himself by the direction of
shadows, but this was misleading. It was the heart of the shadow
district, and the play of shadows was the order of things. The rules
were the rules of phantoms. Flesh lived there in subjection. Long
miscegenation with shadow had made phantoms of them all and endowed
all shadows with the menace of the real. Everything was equivocal as

Dewforth wandered in a cavern without walls. He saw bulky overcoats
with defeated hats or defeated heads; long-legged dwarfs in black
leather jackets; willowy chorus-boys with platinum ringlets, waiting
in their niches for the gift of violence; scuttling trolls with
horse-blanket jackets and alpine hats; deposed patriarchs under the
small shelter of black derbies, hiding from persecution behind the
Spanish moss of consolidated beards; headless things and thingless
heads, importuning, threatening, watching or just standing there,
those that were able.

In his search for a way out of the darkness, he was obliged to turn
back time and again. If gangs of shadows fought with knives at the end
of a street which had at first looked promising, what business had
shadows cursing or screaming or bleeding? If the madman who enjoined
the mob to fight in the service of nothingness was only a mouse
dancing on a summit of garbage, why did they cheer? At the end of
still another street, a mass rape may not have been in progress; the
participants may not have waited sullenly in a long line; a
macrocephalic gnome in a plaid suit may not actually have moved up and
down the line selling tickets at a reduced rate and explaining that
the outrage had been in progress since the preceding Christmas Eve:
but why was the unreality so consistant?

And if no one was in fact being ravaged, why did everyone look as
though they had been?

       *       *       *       *       *

All these spectacles tested Dewforth's courage, but they dimmed his
resolve not at all. At last he found a deserted street. He followed
it and he was rewarded with encouraging signs. There was more birdlime
underfoot, and the inhuman yammering of the streets was replaced with
echoing silence, and that silence was invaded by the sound--the voice
of the colossus, remote and terrible.

Dewforth asked directions again, this time of a pear-shaped figure
which may or may not have had legs and which sat in the mouth of an
iron cave and smoked what appeared to be a twist of hemp. "Where...."
Dewforth began.

"Nobody goes up there," the hemp-smoker answered without looking up at

"Where do they come down, then," asked Dewforth, trying a new approach
but with little hope. There was a long pause. The pear-shaped man
didn't have arms either, Dewforth noticed. Hands, but no arms.

"Well now, some got it, some ain't," he said.

"How's that?" asked Dewforth. The pear blew out a cloud of smoke,
sulphurous, with viscous strings through it. "I knowed a guy caught it
from a drinking glass once."

This dialogue might have gone on much longer if Dewforth had not just
then noticed that his noninformer was sitting on the bottom step of a
long, dark stairway which led up and up into a jungle of lacy girders
and shadows above them.

He did not bother kicking the pear-shaped man. He stepped over him and
ran up the stairs two at a time. His footsteps rang on the iron stairs
and carried through the structure. It sounded like the bells of a
sunken cathedral ringing in the tide.

On the second level there was more light and more air. It was colder.
There were loiterers on the second level too, but these were far from
menacing. They clung to things and pressed themselves against things,
and they stared with unfocused eyes at something which had been there
before but was not there now. These men seemed to be wearing greasy
fezzes and dark, baggy long underwear with buttons and vestigial
lapels. As he approached them, Dewforth saw that the fezzes were
actually felt hats with the brims atrophied or rotted away, and the
funereal long-johns were the weatherbeaten remains of those suits
which are designed for Young Men On The Way Up. As though by tacit
agreement of long standing, these men did not look directly at
Dewforth as he passed, nor he at them.

There was no difficulty about finding a stairway to the next level,
but there was a rusty chain across the entrance.

Dewforth's foot caught in this chain as he stepped over it, and it
shattered like a chain of stale pretzels. There were no more people
beyond the second level--none that could be seen.

He soon lost count of levels. Stairs became narrower and more heavily
encrusted with birdlime and rust as he ascended. In some places there
were long sweeping ramps which led to blind sacs or reached out
unsupported into space, and he was forced to retrace his steps. At no
time did he look down, even when it was possible. There were usually
high barriers along the platforms and ramps. These were covered with
layers of old advertising posters which peeled and were torn by the
wind, revealing still more ancient posters underneath. They seemed to
have grown there by themselves like lichen. It seemed entirely
reasonable to Dewforth that the writing on the older posters
underneath was runic or demotic and the faces were ochre-stained
skulls, but his impulse was to hurry past and not study them too

       *       *       *       *       *

At last he found a long steep ladder running up the outside of one of
the legs of the Control Tower. Only huge slowly circling birds and
low-flying clouds came between him and the underside of the control
house at the top of the structure. Before beginning the climb he
admonished himself not to look down and not to ponder what he was
doing. In order to keep climbing, however, he had to keep admonishing
himself, thereby only reminding himself to look down and to ponder, to
the detriment of his equilibrium and confidence. Was it vertigo, or
did the ladder or the Tower itself sway in the singing wind? Who was
to say that the earth itself did not heave like fermenting mash? Was
any object inherently more solid than any other object? What was

When he looked down at the city he could not pick out the building in
which he had worked. There was nothing in any feature of the
landscape. Nothing. If his position, clinging to a girder high above
the city, made no sense, it did not make less sense than the position
of a man, or a Dewforth, sitting in a blind cell among thousands of
other blind cells down there, drawing tiny lines. Nothing bound him to
the drafting room nor even to the Dewforth of the drafting room--not
so much as a spider web or a shaft of light. The light pointed to
itself. The wind got under his shirt and chilled his navel, a
poignant reminder of disconnectedness.

An eagle glided close and screamed at him. It was like the laughter of
his wife. He resumed his climb, looking down no more.

The last few yards of the climb were the worst. Some bolts holding the
ladder in place were shapeless little masses of rust. The eleventh
rung from the top broke under his weight, and for the last ten steps
he had to lighten his body by means of a technique of autosuggestion
and will-projection which he invented on the spot, demonstrating what
could be done under pressure of extreme necessity. He could see above
his head a tiny balcony not more than a yard square, at which the
ladder terminated. The floor of this balcony appeared to be made of
long, weatherbeaten cigars which reason told him were badly corroded
iron bars. Reason also told him that there would be a door there.

He could not see a door through the skeleton floor of the balcony, but
the idea that there would not be a door there was, under the
circumstances, insupportable. There would be a door, he told himself
as he made his way upwards by means of levitation and the most
tentative of steps. It would probably have an inhospitable sign on
VOLTAGE. It might prove to be locked. If so, he would pound on it
until some one opened it, he decided.

There was even an outside possibility that no one would be inside. He
had never considered that possibility before that time. He decided
that it was not time to consider it now.

When Dewforth heaved himself up onto the small projecting platform he
felt the ladder give under his feet. It was not just another rung. He
saw the entire ladder go curling away into the emptiness like a huge
broken spring. Then he lay on the platform face down with his eyes
closed, fingers clutching the sill of the door, for a long time.

New sounds invaded his personal darkness as he lay there. He heard
bells, buzzers, klaxons, whistles and slamming relays. There were
voices from loudspeakers--imperious and hopeless, angry and feeble,
impassioned and monotonous, arrogant and anguished--in a synthetic
language made up of odd phonemes long since discarded from a thousand
other languages. When he looked up he saw no door but only a rectangle
of darkness with erratic flashes of colored light.

Having no choice, he entered on his hands and knees.


Dewforth wandered in a labyrinth of control panels which reached
almost to the ceiling, but did not entirely shut out the light. This
light was like skimmed milk diffused in shadow. He reasoned that it
came from windows, but when he tried to remember whether the control
cab had windows he could not be sure. He had no visual image of
windows seen from the outside, but he had supposed that such an
edifice would hardly be blind. Somewhere beyond this maze of control
panels, he also reasoned, there must be an area like the bridge of an
enormous ship where the clamor of the bells, buzzers, klaxons and
whistles and the silent warnings and importunings of dials, gauges,
colored lights, ticker-tapes which spewed from metal mouths, the
palsied styles which scribbled on creeping scrolls, were somehow
collated and made meaningful, where the yammering loudspeakers could
be answered, and where the operators could look out and down and see
what they were doing.

Where were the operators?

The noise was deafening. Unlike the noise of machinery in a factory it
was not homogeneous. Each sound was intended to attract attention and
to evoke a certain response, but what response and from whom? Long
levers projecting from the steel deck wagged back and forth
spastically like the legs of monstrous insects struggling on their
backs. Several times Dewforth was temporarily blinded by an explosion
of blue light as a fuse blew or something short-circuited among the
rows of knife-switches and rheostats on the panels. One would never
really get used to the sporadic sound or to the lights. There was no
knowable pattern about them--about what they did or said. When he
closed his eyes and tried to compose himself the words _Out of
Control_ flashed red against the back of his eyelids, but he told
himself that this was foolish. How was one to adjudge a situation to
be Out of Control when one did not know what constituted control, over
what, or by whom? Furthermore, he rebuked himself, if the
panels--never mind how many or how forbidding--with their lights,
bells, buzzers, switches, relays, dials, gauges, styles, tapes,
pointers, rheostats and buttons had any meaning, and in fact if the
Tower itself had any meaning at all, that meaning was _Control_. How
arrogant it had been of him to imagine, even briefly, that because
he--a green intruder in that high place--had not immediately
comprehended what it was all about, the situation must be out of
control. _Absurd!_

       *       *       *       *       *

There were hundreds--perhaps thousands--of little labels attached to
the control panels, presumably indicating the functions of the
buttons, switches and other controls. Dewforth leaned close and
studied these, but found only mute combinations of letters and
numbers, joined by hyphens or separated by virgules.... They made him
feel somewhat more fragile, more round-shouldered and colder, but he
resisted despair. It was getting a little darker, though. The
skimmed-milk light above him was taking on a bluish tint. He had no
way of knowing how long he had wandered among the control panels. His
time-sense had always been dependent upon clocks and bells--and upon
the arrivals and departures of trains.

It was a sound which finally led Dewforth out of the maze of control

It was not a louder sound, not more emphatic, imperative or clear than
the others; it was formless, feeble and ineffably pathetic. It was
its utter incongruity which reached Dewforth through the robotic
clamor, and which touched him ... a mewing, as of a kitten trapped in
a closet.

It came, as he discovered, from The Operator.

He was quite alone among his levers, wheels, switches, buttons,
cranks, gauges, lights, bells, buzzers, horns, ticker-tapes, creeping
scrolls, barking loudspeakers and cryptic dials. Dewforth saw him
sharply silhouetted against a long window through which bluish-gray
light poured but through which nothing could be clearly seen from
where he stood. The Operator sat on a high, one-legged stool. His head
was drawn into his shoulders, which were crumpled things of birdlike
bones. His head was bald on top but the fringe was long and wild. He
had big simian ears set at right angles to his head and the light
shone through them, not pink but yellowish. There was an aureole of
fine hairs about them which gave them the appearance of angel's wings.
With enlarged hands at the ends of almost fleshless arms he clutched
at the knobs of rheostats and the cranks of transformers, hesitantly,
spasmodically, and without ever quite reaching anything. Each time he
withdrew his hands quickly as though he had been on the point of
touching something very hot. His arms might have been elongated by a
lifetime of such aborted movement.

Just as Dewforth began to wonder how his sudden appearance there would
affect the old man, feeble and distraught as he already was, the
Operator whirled on his stool and stared at Dewforth with eyes so
round, so huge and so terrified that the rest of his face was not
noticeable at all.

He shouted something that sounded like "_Huzzah!_" but almost
certainly was not, then stiffened, then fell to the steel deck with no
more fuss than a bag of corn-husks would have made, and died.

       *       *       *       *       *

One would think that a windowed control cab or wheelhouse atop the
loftiest structure in a city, or in an entire landscape, would afford
a man an Olympian view of the world below, and of its people and their

Dewforth must have believed this at one time, but he found that it was
not so. The entire lower portion of the windows was covered with thin
pages of typescript, mostly yellowed, dusty and curled at the
edges--orders, instructions, directives, memoranda, all _Urgent_, _For
Immediate Action_, _Important_, _Priority_, _On No Account_, or _At
All Costs_.

The texts of these orders, instructions, directives or memoranda
consisted of mute combinations of letters and numbers, joined by
hyphens or separated by virgules.

Through the upper portion of the windows Dewforth could just make out
the horizon and a narrow strip of darkening sky, which were silent and
which demanded nothing of him. Amid the continuing clamor of all the
signal devices, he tried to recapture the last utterance of the
Operator--the former Operator.

"_Huzzah!_" was out of the question. "_Who's there?_" or "_Who's
that?_" were more likely, but, as he thought of it, weren't "_Whose
what?_", "_What's where?_", "_Where's what?_" or even "_Who's where?_"
just as likely?

Of these possible last words, "_Who's where?_" echoed most
persistently in his memory.

Dewforth might have torn away the pages of meaningless orders and
looked down upon lights as darkness fell, but he did not.

Opaque as they were in form and content alike, there was something
reassuringly familiar in the lines of inane symbols. And they were all
that stood between him and the approaching tidal wave of night, and
beyond the night, the winter with its storms.

                                                    --WILL MOHLER

       *       *       *       *       *

    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page 139: "more efficient that the rest" replaced with    |
    |           "more efficient than the rest"                  |
    | Page 141: whispper replaced with whisper                  |
    | Page 141: disance replaced with distance                  |
    | Page 143: "the participants many not have waited"         |
    |           replaced with                                   |
    |           "the participants may not have waited"          |
    | Page 143: spectacle replaced with spectacles              |
    | Page 147: homogenous replaced with homogeneous            |
    | Page 149: "Where's what" replaced with "Where's what?"    |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *

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