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´╗┐Title: Ye of Little Faith
Author: Graham, Roger Phillips, 1909-1965
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 "Ye of Little Faith" ***

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



Ye of Little Faith

By Rog Phillips

Illustrated by TOM BEECHAM


[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science
Fiction January 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: _It matters not whether you believe or disbelieve. Reality is
not always based on logic; nor, particularly, are the laws of the
universe...._]



The disappearance of John Henderson was most spectacular. It occurred
while he was at the blackboard working an example in multiple
integration for his ten o'clock class. The incompleted problem remained
on the board for three days while the police worked on the case. It, a
wrist watch and a sterling silver monogrammed belt buckle, lying on the
floor near where he had stood, were all the physical evidence they had
to go on.

There was plenty of eye-witness evidence. The class consisted of
forty-three pupils. They all had their eyes on him in varying degrees of
attention when it happened. Their accounts of what happened all agreed
in important details. Even as to what he had been saying.

In the reports that went into the police files he was quoted with a high
degree of certainty as having said, "Integration always brings into the
picture a constant which was not present. This constant of integration
is, in a sense, a variable. But a different type of variable than the
mathematical unknown. It might be said to be a logical variable--"

The students were in unanimous agreement and, at this point, Dr.
Henderson came to an abrupt stop in his lecture. Suddenly, an expression
of surprise appeared on his face. It was succeeded by an exclamation of
triumph. And he simply vanished from the spot.

He didn't fade away, rise, drop into the floor, or take any time
vanishing. He simply stopped being there.

[Illustration: _He just wasn't there any more._]

The police searched his room in the nearby Vanderbilt Arms Hotel. They
turned a portrait of the missing math professor to the newspapers to
publish. Arbright University offered a reward of one hundred dollars to
anyone who had seen him.

The police also found a savings pass book in his room. It had a balance
of three thousand eight hundred and forty dollars, which had been built
up to that figure by steady monthly deposits over a period of years. It
also had a withdrawal of three hundred and twenty dollars two days
before the disappearance. They were sure they were on the path to a
motive. This avenue of exploration came to an abrupt end with the
discovery that he had traded in his last year's car on a new one, and
that sum had been necessary to complete the deal.

After the third day the blackboard had been erased and the classroom
released for its regular classes. Police enthusiasm dropped to the norm
of what they called legwork. Finding out who the missing man's
acquaintances and friends were, calling on them and talking to them in
the hopes of picking up something they could go on.

They passed Martin Grant by because they had heard from him in their
initial work. In fact, he had been a little too present for their
tastes.

After ten days they dropped the case from the active blotter. The
University, seeing that there was little likelihood of having to shell
out the reward money, increased it to five hundred dollars.

But Martin Grant continued to ponder over a conversation he himself had
had with John Henderson during a dinner six weeks to the day before his
old friend had vanished. He remembered his own words...

       *       *       *       *       *

"... and so you see, John, by following this trail, I've arrived at a
theory that has to do with the basic nature of the universe--of all
reality. Yet things don't behave as they would if my theory were
operating."

John Henderson frowned into space, disturbed. Visibly disturbed. Martin
watched him with a twinkle in his eyes.

"You must have gone off the track on it somewhere, Martin," John said
suddenly, as though trying more to convince himself than his listener.

Martin shook his head with slow positiveness. "You followed every step.
We spent four hours on it." He took pity on his friend. "Don't let it
bother you. I regard it as just an intellectual curiosity. I've included
it in my next book on that basis."

A new voice broke in. "What is it, Dad? One of your ten-thousand-word
shaggy dog jokes?" This from Fred Grant, 16, student in the senior grade
at the Hortense Bartholemew High School, and an only child of Martin
Grant.

"A little more respect toward your father," Martin said with much
sternness.

"Yes, Father."

"It was my _theory_."

John Henderson said, "But, Martin, I don't know what to think now. Of
course there must be some fallacy that I've missed. The way things stand
though, I--" He chuckled uncomfortably. "I begin to doubt myself. I
can't quite classify it as an intellectual curiosity."

"What else can you do with it?" Martin said. "I know your trouble. It's
a common one. You have a tendency to believe things or disbelieve them.
Now you've been presented with something your intellect demands that you
believe, while your experience shouts, 'lie'."

"Is Fred able to understand it?" John asked, smiling at the youngster
with fond and unconscious condescension.

"Not yet," Fred smiled. "I'm still in high school."

"And if you don't want to flunk out you'd better be off to bed at once,"
Martin told him.

"Yes, Father. Good night, Dr. Henderson."

Fred's departure left a vacuum in the conversation that took a minute to
fill. John Henderson frowned himself back to where he had been before
the boy had arrived. When he got there he frowned even more, because it
was a state of mental confusion that seemed to have no way of being
resolved.

"Maybe we can get at it this way," he said. "Let's postulate that your
theory is the only logical basis on which reality can rest. B, quite
obviously reality does not rest on this basis. We could make C,
therefore, that reality doesn't rest on a logical basis. But that
doesn't seem to satisfy me. Maybe C could be--no--" He glanced at his
watch, lifted his eyebrows and stood up. "I really didn't know it was so
late. I'll have to be going, Martin. An eight o'clock lecture in the
morning."

Martin made a wry face. "You've awakened my own conscience. I have an
hour or two of work yet before bedtime."

The two men went to the front door. John said, "Thank your wife again
for me. Wonderful dinner. You're lucky, Martin, to have such a good
cook."

       *       *       *       *       *

That had been six weeks before John Henderson vanished. Martin Grant
mentioned this visit to Horace Smith, one of the teachers in his
department, and got himself and his wife invited for dinner on the
following Friday. Dinner over, the two professors retired to the
library.

Two and a half hours later Horace had assimilated and grasped every
detail of the theory. He then leaned back in his chair and closed his
eyes, fingertips to temples, trying to find some flaw. Finally he shook
his head. "It's no use," he said. "Your theory is logically inescapable.
But--" He frowned. "Where does that place us? Probably where some
schools of thought have always suspected we would wind up eventually.
With the realization that the basic laws of the universe can't be
reached by logic or even by experiment based upon logic."

"I wouldn't say that," Martin objected. "My theory is an intellectual
curiosity, that's all. That's the way I present it in my latest book. By
the way, it's coming out soon. Signed the contract a month ago." He
pulled his thoughts back to the conversation. "After all, one must hold
onto the pragmatic approach to reality. Here is a theory that logic says
must be the only possible way a universe can be constructed and
operate. It's beautiful and logically complete, but not applicable. No
pragmatic value."

"Congratulations on the book. But, damn it," Horace said, "it attacks my
most basic faith. Logic. Reason."

"Faith?" Martin echoed, amused. "Yes, perhaps you're right. That's a
word that's foreign to my thinking. Belief is so unnecessary."

"You don't mean that."

"But I do."

Horace pondered. "I can prove otherwise. You believe--as an
example--that your wife is faithful to you." It was a statement rather
than a question.

"As a matter of fact--I don't. I act upon the greater probability that
she is. I don't hire detectives to follow her. Nor do I throw her into
situations to test her faithfulness. I admit the possibility that she's
unfaithful to me. If evidence came that she was, I might confront her
with the evidence. Where does belief become necessary?"

"Do you believe your son will become a success in life?" Horace asked.

"No. I've done everything I could think of to increase the probability
that he will. One of the things I've done is to instill in him the
realization that belief is unnecessary in thinking. Surely, as a
scientist, you realize that nothing we use in science finds its value or
validity from human belief. If, tomorrow, evidence were brought forth
that trigonometry is based on fallacy I'm sure that mathematicians would
use that evidence to revise their entire field."

"But belief is instinctive; as instinctive as thought itself."

"I admit it's a natural way of thinking. It has to be weeded out."

"So you're sure you don't believe in anything," Horace said slyly.

"Such statements are verbal traps," Martin said. "They mean nothing. You
want me to imply that I believe I believe nothing, and therefore I have
at least one belief. But as a matter of fact I've built up a sort of
mental mechanism for discovering beliefs in my thinking and dispelling
them by going to the roots and showing myself why I believed. Belief
springs up in the mind like weeds in a garden. Constant weeding is the
only solution." He glanced at his watch and frowned uneasily. "Eleven
o'clock. We'd better break this up and join the women. We'll have to get
together again soon. By the way, do you and your wife play Canasta? My
wife loves it."

They had been moving toward the door. Now they entered the living room,
to find the two women playing the game.

"Time we were going, dear," Martin said. "And sometime soon make plans
to have Horace and Ethel over for an evening of four-handed Canasta."

At the front door vows of an early reunion were repeated. But they were
never to be fulfilled. On the following Tuesday Horace vanished.

       *       *       *       *       *

This time there were no actual eye witnesses. The time was somewhere
between seven and seven-ten Tuesday morning; the place; Horace Smith's
bathroom.

Ethel Smith was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Horace was in the
bathroom. He called out, "Ethel! I've got it!"

"What have you got?"

But even as Ethel called out, she heard the sound of the electric razor
falling to the tile floor, and there was no answer from the bathroom.
Nothing but silence and, as she described it later, a feeling that she
was alone in the house.

At the time, however, she wasn't alarmed. She half expected some
muttered profanity over the dropping of the razor. She didn't wait for
it exactly. Instead, she picked up the spatula and expertly scooped the
eggs onto their two plates and carried them to the breakfast nook. Next
she poured the coffee. Then, placing some bread in the toaster, she
started back to the stove, calling, "Come and get it, Horace!"

At the stove she started to pick up the aluminum dish containing the
bacon. She paused and repeated her call. "Horace!"

It wasn't until then that it occurred to her the falling of the razor
might have been an ominous sound. Her mind filled with worried images,
she rushed out of the kitchen into the hall leading to the bathroom.

The door was locked.

"Horace!" she called. "Are you all right?" When there was no answer she
pounded on the door. "Horace! Speak to me!"

After that she ran outside and around to the bathroom window. It was
shut and locked, as she already knew. Not only that, it had been stuck
for years.

With an urgency born of a realization that every second might mean the
difference between life and death, she ran back into the house and
called the fire department. Also the family doctor.

By nine-thirty the police had been called in. By eleven o'clock they had
seen the parallel between this disappearance and that of John Henderson.

Martin Grant's first reaction was concern for Ethel. His second reaction
was that, twice, he had presented his theory to someone and that person
had vanished. His third was accompanied by a twinge of fear. He had just
finished presenting his theory to the senior physics class!

This was followed by an amazing realization. He was conceding that there
might be a connection between his theory and the disappearances. He
laughed it off, but it returned. It disturbed him.

It continued to bother him on Wednesday, so he began to search his mind
for reasons. Eventually he found them. There was a distinct analogy
between a theory that didn't agree with observable reality, and a pair
of disappearances which violated known methods of disappearing.

The analogy was so clear that he began to feel there might be a
functional relation between the two. Of course, he concluded, it would
be reasonably certain if a large number of the students in the senior
group were to vanish also.

This intellectual conclusion became an anxiety neurosis.

So, on Wednesday--after he had scanned the room anxiously to see how
many students were absent and discovered to his intense relief that they
were all there--he spent the full hour lecturing on the necessity--the
_vital_ necessity--of unbelief in all things, especially scientific
theories.

But would it work? He vaguely remembered giving Horace a similar
lecture.

Wednesday night just before retiring he had another disturbing thought.
He had explained the theory to his son. But that had been weeks before,
and Fred was steeped in the mechanism of unbelief. Good thing, or he
might have been the first to disappear.

"What's the matter with you, Martin? Can't you even answer when--" The
rest of what his wife was saying faded in the startled realization that
he was eating dinner.

"Sorry, dear," he murmured. "I was thinking." He was trying to recall
something that might tell him what day it was. It was obviously evening
or they wouldn't be eating dinner. "Uh," he said casually, "what day is
today?"

"Saturday," Fred said.

"Now Fred, don't tease your father about his absent-mindedness. This is
Thursday."

Thursday! That was right. He had given the lecture on the necessity of
unbelief today. There was tomorrow, when he could see if any of the
class had disappeared yet. He couldn't be certain, of course. Just
because a student didn't show up didn't mean he or she had vanished.

He fixed his eyes on Fred, across the table, and smiled. Fred, at least,
was a source of comfort. He knew the theory and hadn't vanished.

"Dad," Fred said. "I've been wondering if you saw a point of similarity
in the two disappearances?"

Martin thought, good heavens, does he have any inkling of what I've been
thinking? Of course not! He's just fumbling. Better to discourage him.
"Sorry, son. There aren't any similarities except accidental ones. I've
had the confidence of the police on this. The cases are quite
unrelated."

Fred refused to be sidetracked. "Dr. Henderson's face lit up as though a
sudden idea had struck him. I talked with some of his students. That's
what they all thought. And Horace Smith shouted to his wife, 'Ethel!
I've got it!' The next instant in each case they vanished into thin
air."

"But that doesn't mean a thing."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the privacy of his study Martin Grant allowed himself to become
excited. Fred had unwittingly come upon the vital clue to the two
disappearances.

"Let's be clear about this," he said to himself, drumming on his desk
nervously with his fingers. "Undoubtedly there's a connection between
the vanishing and my theory. Both Horace and John arrived at something
I've missed. And since my theory is exhaustive it can't be there. It
must be--yes--it _must_ be that they went a step farther." He pondered
this a moment and added grudgingly, "A step I have missed." Then even
more grudgingly, "An obvious step."

Automatically he opened a drawer and brought out a sheet of paper and a
pencil. He wrote:

_The theory contains within itself the proof that the universe must, by
logical necessity, be constructed according to said theory. But
observation and experience say this is not true._

He frowned at what he had written. This was the conclusion to which he
had led both men. It was the conclusion upon which he had rested. They,
obviously, had not rested there. They had gone on.

Under what he had written he wrote "_Either_:" on the left hand margin.
Two inches under it he wrote, "_Or_:" Then he frowned at them. Suddenly
he began writing rapidly after the _Either_: "_The universe is not
constructed according to logical necessity._"

He hesitated, studying what he had written. Then, pursing his lips, he
slowly wrote after the _Or_: "_The observable universe is not the
universe._"

He nodded to himself. That hit at the core of the matter. A was X. B was
not X. Therefore B was not A. Even though A and B were both called
universe.

The question was, then--did the universe-of-logical-necessity exist? If
so, what relationship did it have to the observable universe which quite
obviously did exist?

Was that the question, the answer to which, gained in a moment of
insight, had caused two men to utterly vanish?

He sighed with real regret. There was no way of knowing. Possibly a
mechanical brain of the most advanced type could come out with a
comprehensive picture after solving thousands of successive equations.
Knowledge of simple basics was a far cry from a fully expanded system.

He pushed the sheet of paper away with a show of irritation. He was
missing something. He was on the wrong track. Neither John nor Horace
had the mental equipment to make more than a simple step beyond what he
had accomplished. That was certain. It was equally certain that he could
and would make it.

A startled expression appeared on his face. "Oh good lord!" he groaned.
"My book. I must do something about that the first thing tomorrow. I--"
He opened the drawer of his desk and took out an oblong of paper, the
check against advance royalties. "I'll return this and not let them
publish it. First thing in the morning. And from now on I resolve not to
think of my theory or what caused John and Horace to vanish."

Folding the check neatly, he stuck it in his billfold and then started
to read a book that interested him. He became engrossed in it. Half an
hour later he came to enough to realize he was on safe ground, sigh with
relief, and sink back into the trains of thought of the book.

It was a nice feeling to know he was safe.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Friday. The sun was shining brightly and the monotony of the blue
sky was relieved here and there by filmy white clouds that gave it a
pleasing three-dimensionalness.

But to Martin Grant there was something unreal about things. He decided
it must be the light. Things stood out with too sharp clarity.

When he reached his office at the university he made arrangements for a
substitute to take his ten o'clock class. Then he called the publishing
company and made an appointment for ten-fifteen.

The hour from nine to ten seemed interminably long. He found it almost
impossible to concentrate on such an unimportant subject as the
application of tensor analysis to electronic circuits.

Ten o'clock came. He hurried to the parking lot and got in his car. It
was real and comforting. But once again everything outside the
windshield seemed too sharply defined.

He timed himself on the way across town to the publishing house. He
would have to allow himself the same time to return for his eleven
o'clock class. It took twelve minutes, plus another two to find a
parking place. Two minutes from the car to the eleventh floor. He was
frowning at his watch as he entered the publisher's office.

"Well, well, Dr. Grant! Glad to see you. I suppose you're anxious to see
your book ready for market. It's coming very well. Just came back from
the typesetters and is going into its first printing right away."

"Huh?" Martin said, completing his mental arithmetic and jerking into an
awareness of his surroundings. "Oh, hello Mr. Browne," he said. "I was
just figuring my time. I have an eleven o'clock class. I can only stay
twenty-seven minutes. That gives me a three minute margin of error for
traffic delays."

"I see," the publisher said, a twinkle in his eye. "As I was just
saying, your book--"

"Oh yes, my book," Martin interrupted. "Just a minute." He took out his
billfold and extracted the check, handing it to Mr. Browne.

"What's this for?" Mr. Browne asked, unfolding it. "Oh, the advance
royalty check. Is something wrong with it?"

"I'm returning it," Martin said. "I can't let you publish my book."

"Can't let me publish it!" Browne exclaimed. "Why not? Don't tell me it
infringes on someone else's copyright!"

"No. Nothing like that. I've merely decided I don't want it published.
I'm returning your check."

"Well now, look!" Browne said. "We're a business establishment. You
signed a contract. We signed one too. It protects both of us against
just this sort of thing, you know." He studied Martin thoughtfully. "Sit
down and relax," he invited. "I'm human. Tell me why you don't want it
published. Maybe I might agree with you. We have over a thousand dollars
tied up already in typesetting, but--"

Martin took the seat and glanced nervously at his watch to make sure the
twenty-seven minutes hadn't elapsed.

"I've just changed my mind," he said curtly. "There are certain
things--I'm the head of a department, you know. I must watch my
reputation. That's it, my reputation. On due reflection I believe the
book might hurt my standing."

"In what way?" Browne asked. "To tell you the truth, your other book
did so well I didn't bother reading this one."

"There's a--" Martin brought himself up short. So Browne hadn't read it.
So much the better. At least he wouldn't vanish. "I'm afraid," he added
with a self-conscious chuckle that he hoped was genuine enough to pass,
"the subject matter is a little too crackpottish in spots. That's the
whole thing. It would reflect on my reputation."

"Maybe we could do a little editing on it," Browne said. "Cut out the
parts you think crackpottish and substitute something else in those
pages. I'll get the galleys and we can look at them."

"No!" Martin said. "No, I'm afraid we would have to cut out at least
half of the book. No. The best thing is to forget it, but I'll make good
your typesetting loss. I can pay you two hundred dollars right away and
fifty dollars a month."

Browne lit a cigarette slowly, his eyes on Martin. "You're serious,
aren't you," he said. "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll let the whole
thing ride for the present. Maybe later--"

"No!" Martin said. "It must never be published! It's very vital that it
never be published."

"Okay," Browne said. "We won't publish it. We have the contract, but--we
won't publish it."

"Thanks, very much," Martin said. "I must hurry back."

The publisher stared thoughtfully at the closed door after Martin had
gone. He glanced down at the check.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lecture room 304 was very large, capable of holding four hundred
students in its successive tiers of seats, plus the teacher on his
raised platform immediately in front of the large blackboard. In
previous years there had been instances of students slipping out after
roll call. In spite of everything, it had happened.

Therefore a new system had been inaugurated. Before roll call Martin
marched to the back of the room to the only exit and locked it.
Pocketing the key, he returned to his podium. It had been going on this
way for two years, and was now automatic.

The day watchman, making his rounds, approached this door at precisely
two thirty-four. He heard violent pounding. Along with the pounding
there was a loud, hoarse voice, gasping, "Lemme out! Lemme out!"

The watchman consulted his clock--the one he used to make a record of
his rounds--and determined that it was two thirty-four. He knew that it
was Dr. Grant's senior theoretical physics lecture period. He recalled
that a couple of years before Dr. Grant had had trouble with students
slipping out after roll call. But it occurred to him that it was hardly
possible to sneak out, even on Dr. Grant, absent-minded as he was, by
pounding on the door and shouting, "Lemme out!" in a terrified tone of
voice.

He therefore stopped and knocked on the door, calling, "What's going on
in there?"

Whoever was doing the pounding and shouting evidently didn't hear him.
Waiting no longer, the day watchman used his master key on the door.

A smallish young man, later identified as Mark Smythe, attempted to run
past him into the hall. The watchman blocked Mark's escape and looked
toward the podium in an automatic appeal to Dr. Grant.

Dr. Grant was not there. The podium was unoccupied. So were all four
hundred seats. There was, in fact, no one in room 304 except the one
terrified student.

In due course the police arrived, along with the regents. By five
o'clock it had become certain that the greatest mass disappearance of
all times had occurred, with Mark Smythe as the sole witness.

He stuck to his story through repeated detailed questionings, and in the
end the police were stuck with it.

According to Smythe, class had begun as usual. Dr. Grant had waited
until one minute after the bell had sounded, then had marched back and
locked the door, and returned to the front. He had rapidly scanned the
room to see if there were any absences, quickly called half a dozen
names he was uncertain of, and marked the attendance slip. The police
found it still resting on the table where he had placed it.

Then he had begun his lecture by remarking that they were behind
schedule and would have to catch up. He had been speaking less than five
minutes when a student by the name of Marvin Green jumped to his feet in
great excitement, waving his hand and shouting, "Dr. Grant! Dr. Grant!"

Dr. Grant had stopped his lecture and frowned darkly, then said, "If you
will please take your seat--"

"But Dr. Grant!" Marvin Green had interrupted him excitedly. "I've got
it! I've got it!"

What had happened then was impossible for the mind to accept. Marvin
Green had simply ceased to be.

There had been a stunned silence. And in that silence, it went on.
Student after student popping out of existence in what seemed to be a
chain reaction.

He wasn't aware when Dr. Grant vanished. All he knew was that when at
last he was alone he looked toward the podium and the professor was also
gone.

He kept waiting to go himself. When he didn't, he lost the fear that had
rooted him to the spot, and rushed to the exit where he at first tried
to break down the door and make his escape, then subsided into pounding
and shouting for help when he realized his physical strength was
insufficient for the job.

Questioning didn't bring out any additional fact, nor alter any
statement. There had been no sound to the vanishing, no movement of the
person that could be considered significant, no flashes of light, no
strange odors. Nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred Grant got the flash on his hot rod radio on the way home from high
school.

At the end of the report Fred wrote down Mark Smythe's address on a
scrap of paper, and drove home to be with his mother. It was three days
before he could get away.

On the morning of the third day, his aunt Emily arrived to take charge
of things, and he was able to slip away. He drove immediately to Mark
Smythe's address. It was one of the better class rooming houses near the
campus. The land-lady wasn't going to let him in nor announce him until
he explained he was the son of the professor who had vanished. She
immediately swung to the other extreme and didn't bother to find out if
Mark wanted to see him.

"My father was your teacher," Fred said.

"Oh? Come on in."

There were tennis rackets. On the bookshelves there were tennis books.
On a table there was a tennis trophy. Otherwise there was just a bed, a
rug, and two or three chairs.

"I don't know what I can tell you more than I've already told the police
and the reporters," Mark said apologetically. "I guess it's tough,
losing your father...."

"Yeah," Fred agreed. "I wanted to ask you something though. Dad gave a
lecture on his new theory a few days ago, didn't he?"

Mark looked at him blankly. Then, "Oh! I guess he did. As a matter of
fact I didn't pay much attention to it." He grinned. Then he remembered
he should be solemn and stopped grinning. "I--I sort of slipped by it.
He made the mistake of telling us ahead of time it was off the course
and no questions on it would be in the finals, so I more or less rested
up during the period for a tennis match afterwards. Why?"

"Didn't you get any of what he said?" Fred persisted.

"Oh, a little," Mark admitted. "It was about some system of arriving at
the basic laws of nature by pure logic, only what you arrived at didn't
agree with facts. Some kind of intellectual curiosity." He thought a
minute. "Oh," he said, "I see what you want. Didn't he leave any notes
on it? It would be too bad if his theory was lost to the world now
that--" He left the rest unsaid.

"Maybe you can remember something," Fred coaxed. "Anything. Did he talk
about his theory again?"

"Next day he gave a lecture on the necessity of unbelief in modern
science. It was pretty good. He overemphasized it, though. Some of the
kids thought he was making a religion of unbelief."

"What did they say about his theory?" Fred asked quickly.

"Oh, they were quite impressed. Two of them live--lived here in the
rooming house. They were up here that evening tossing it back and forth.
I was too tired from the tag match. I let them talk."

"What did they think about it?"

Mark frowned in an effort to recall. "It had to do with this universe
being basically illogical, or at least seeming to be, because it didn't
agree with your father's theory. They started building up fantasies on
it. One I remember was a good one."

"What was that?"

"I think it was Jimmy. He said it would be funny if we were here
because we believed this universe was the only real one. Something about
inherited memory. Our coming from a long line of people who believed
this was the only place, because all our ancestors who didn't believe it
shot off into some other universe and had their children there. Utterly
crazy. You know."

"Yeah, I know," Fred agreed. "You going to be around in case I want to
see you again?"

"God! I hope so!" Mark said. "It makes me nervous."

"You're safe enough," Fred said. "Well--thanks. I'll be seeing you."

       *       *       *       *       *

He smoothed out the crumpled sheet of paper and glanced at it.

"What do you hope to find, Fred," his mother asked.

"I don't know," he said. "Anything, I--maybe this is something. Look."

Together they read, "Either: the universe is not constructed according
to logical necessity, Or: the observable universe is not the universe."
There were doodlings along the right margin that meant nothing.

"What does it mean?" Mrs. Grant asked.

"Probably just something connected with his classes," Fred shrugged. He
went on searching the waste basket, giving his mother no hint that he
had already found what he was searching for.

From the position of the paper in the waste basket he felt reasonably
sure it had been recently written. It was probably a voicing of thoughts
gained from the disappearance of Horace and John, because up to that
time his father had assumed his theory was just an intellectual
curiosity.

His father couldn't have asked himself if the observable universe might
not be the universe unless something had happened to raise a doubt, or
suggest an alternative as a possibility.

Mrs. Grant's interest lessened. She wandered about the room, perhaps
reliving memories. It gave Fred a chance to put the piece of paper in
his pocket so that when he put everything back in the waste basket his
mother would dismiss the whole search.

There was, of course, the file with the entire theory in it. He knew the
theory by heart, however, and had no need of that file.

"I think I'll go out for a while, Mom," he said.

"All right, Fred," she said disinterestedly.

Outside he climbed behind the wheel of his hot rod and sat there, making
no motion to start the motor. He was thinking.

Mark Smythe had said that he overheard two of his fellow class-men
discussing the theory, one of them remarking that, "It would be funny if
we were here just because we were descended from a long line of people
who believed this was the only place."

Could that be the key?

Take gravitation, for instance. If it were something that some vital
part of you had to believe, and that vital part didn't believe, would
the entire person go flying off into space?

What about inanimate matter? Did it have to believe too? And what about
other forms of life?

Or was everything except human beings just part of the props?

He shook his head. That didn't seem like quite the right track. He took
another.

The human mind builds up a picture of the outside universe through its
senses. Sometimes its ideas are wrong. Right or wrong, inside everyone's
mind is a universe, derived from the outside universe.

What if the outside universe were derived from something? Derived from
what? The real, logically necessary universe? That could be. At least it
seemed to have some value as a starting point.

He tried to reason from that point. Frustration grew in him. He wished
he were older, had his university education behind him. There were so
many things he couldn't begin to deal with.

Maybe he could take the entire problem to some of his father's friends.
He shook his head over this thought. From all that had gone on it was
too likely that the minute one of them discovered something that would
be of help he would disappear before he could tell it!

That raised another point. Why didn't he himself vanish? What was there
different about him?

A lot. His father had instilled in him a lot of the things he himself
could only aspire to. Unbelief was the major thing. Or perhaps it was
the other major thing, remembrance.

His father's voice came into consciousness, saying something he had said
so many times it was grooved deeply in memory, even to the inflections
of voice. "_All psychoses and mental troubles are caused by walled-off
unpleasant memories. The child who trains himself to recall all
unpleasant things and deliberately associate them with the feeling that
they are valuable lessons, but harmless, will grow up in perfect
balance._"

He smiled. He could let flow through consciousness, dozens of incidents
he had taken up with his father.

He was definitely different than others around him. So different
he had systematically disguised it by a front of accepted
behavior--systematically and consciously, under his father's guidance.

There was a chance those differences made him safe. There was a chance
those differences would make it possible for him to find out what caused
the others to vanish, without he himself vanishing.

The other train of thought inserted itself into consciousness again. Was
belief the key to the disappearances?

       *       *       *       *       *

Mark Smythe hadn't paid attention when the theory was being explained.
The others had undoubtedly lapped it up. The peculiar thing about the
theory was that it was so logical and so inevitable that the mind tended
to accept it, believe it to be true in spite of the evidence of the
senses.

Let us suppose, Fred mused, that deep within the mind there is some
matrix of thought that ties the human to this universe. A matrix that
could conceivably be altered, and when altered would automatically shift
the person to another universe that the altered matrix fitted.

The subconscious usually took time to absorb and react. That was another
thing his father had taught him to observe. Learn something, and it
takes from days to months for it to become lodged in the subconscious
and to rise into operation naturally from there.

John Henderson had taken six weeks to vanish after having learned the
theory. It had taken Horace Smith three and a half days, but he had had
the added factor of Dr. Henderson's disappearance to trigger reactions.
The theoretical physics class had taken three days exactly, and its
vanishing had been a sort of group action or chain reaction, with
intensely emotional reaction after the first student had vanished before
the eyes of the others.

His own father, originator of the theory, had probably fallen into the
trap of starting to believe after Horace had vanished, so it became a
greater probability that the disappearance was related to knowledge of
the theory. Seeing the students vanish had probably set up an emotional
state where complete belief was precipitated.

In the whole series the only improbable part was that so many students
would react in the same short time. That was partly nullified by the
fact that it was a special class, and only high I.Q. students with
excellent records were accepted. They would tend to be somewhat
identical in reaction times.

He straightened up and stared through the windshield at the dark street.
So there it was, the probable mechanism of vanishment. A system was fed
into the conscious mind. The conscious mind accepted it. In due time
that system was transferred down into the matrix that held the person in
this reality or universe. Once there, it made the whole person
_transfer_ to a system where the altered matrix fitted. It might not be
the system pictured in his father's theory. It might be a compromise
system.

_Where_ and _when_ probably had no meaning in relation to the two
systems. That was why, when the shift came, the person vanished
instantly without any strange manifestations of any kind.

Was it reversible? If so, then some of those who had vanished would
reappear eventually.

A sudden, startling thought made Fred sit up straight, his eyes shining
with excitement. So far he had been safe mainly because he habitually
didn't attach belief to anything. His other facet of difference might be
the means of his testing this without real danger of vanishing.

Could he dredge up from the deepest layers of unconscious thought, the
threads leading directly to the matrix that held him in his surroundings
and learn consciously what it was?

A thought. He reflected on it, then decided before he made any decisions
he would explore the other avenue, the one the police had naturally
thought of.

Was there some person or persons unknown in back of the disappearances?
Some non-human, perhaps? It could fit into the same theory of
disappearance. Another universe, beings in that universe. Beings who
perhaps didn't want knowledge of their universe to become known on this
side of the veil.

If so, why hadn't _they_ snatched him too? Maybe they didn't know he
knew about the theory. He'd never talked about it to anyone. But his
father had drilled it into him as a supreme example of the reasons why
belief in anything was a trap.

He shook his head. It didn't seem likely that the disappearances had
been engineered by anyone. They smacked too much of an inner pattern, an
inner mechanism.

So he came back to the other theory. What could he try to accomplish by
exploring into his deepest substratum of thought? The ideal he could aim
for would be conscious transfer into the other system with the assurance
before-hand that he could transfer back again. If he could do that, and
if he could find those who had vanished, maybe he could teach them how
to return.

It was something that might take a long time, he realized. His first
objective was to penetrate deeper into his mind than anyone had ever
consciously gone before. That alone could take a lifetime. Or it might
be accomplished overnight.

How would he begin? Where would he begin? he shrugged. It didn't matter.
He would have to systematically extend his ability to be aware in every
direction, physical and temporal, until he could be conscious of his
individual blood cells if it were possible, and completely and vividly
conscious, at will of every second of his past life. If that didn't lead
him to his objective, it might at least point the way and increase his
ability to reach his goal.

That evening, Fred arrived home to find a stranger seated in the
library. There was the usual moment of clumsiness such encounters
generate, but Fred's mother returned with a tea tray before
self-introductions became necessary. She said, "Mr. Gaard, this is my
son, Fred."

The man smiled easily as Mrs. Grant continued, speaking now to Fred.
"This is Curt Gaard, Fred. I called on him today and what do you think I
discovered. He was a friend--a very old friend--of your father." Mrs.
Grant stopped, a certain inward uncertainty showing through.

Fred stood mute, giving voice to none of the questions which sprang up
in his mind. Curt Gaard, completely at ease, took up the lead. Even as a
feeling of familiarity sprang into Fred's mind, Gaard said, "I _knew_
your father--met him several times--but we weren't as close as your
mother's words might imply."

Then Fred knew. He spoke suddenly. "You're a psychiatrist." The pieces
fell into place. Fred's father had mentioned this man several times, and
the boy knew he was not there by chance--that his mother had contacted
the psychiatrist--this particular one because she too had remembered the
acquaintanceship. For a moment, Fred was annoyed with his mother. Why on
earth had she brought a psychiatrist into this? Then he softened as he
realized she felt it to be to her son's best interests.

"Yes, I'm a psychiatrist," Gaard said. Then, as though he could read
Fred's mind: "Your mother _did_ send for me, but so far as I'm
concerned, it's more than just a professional visit. I knew your father
and liked him. I'd like to be your friend."

"You plan to psychoanalyze me?"

"Don't be so grim about it," Curt Gaard smiled. "Just let's make this a
social visit. There will be plenty of time for other things later.
Perhaps you can drop in at my office."

"Perhaps," Fred said, almost absently. A short time later he excused
himself and went to his room.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mrs. Grant?" Mr. Browne said, smiling at the woman behind the screen
door. "I'm Mr. Browne the publisher."

"Browne?" she said. "Oh yes. My hus--husband has mentioned you."

"Favorably, I hope?" Browne was wondering if Dr. Grant had told her of
his decision not to let the book be published.

"Oh yes, very favorably." She frowned. "Which reminds me. He received a
check from you for the advance royalties. I'm sure he didn't cash it
because there was no deposit at the bank that large. I can't find the
check anywhere. He must have had it with him when--"

She had opened the screen door. Browne went in and followed her into the
study. He looked around at the walls of books, almost feeling the
presence of the man whose retreat this had been.

"That's what I've come here to see you about," Browne said. "You see, he
called on me at my office the morning of the day he vanished."

"He did?"

"Yes. I'm going to be quite frank with you. He returned the check to
me."

"Why? He said nothing to me about it."

"I rather imagine he didn't have time. I've waited, knowing you wouldn't
care to discuss business so soon after--" He waited for her reaction.
When she said nothing he continued. "He returned the check and said he
didn't want the book published after all. I couldn't quite understand
his reasons, but they are no longer valid as I see it."

"What were his reasons? This surprises me very much. Just the day before
that he mentioned his book and expressed pleasure that it was being
published."

"The reasons he gave were that the book contained some things that
were--to use his own words--a trifle crackpottish. He thought they might
reflect on him in some way."

"Oh my goodness. He was always doing something like that, Mr. Browne. He
leaned over backwards. Scientific integrity was a fetish with him."

"I haven't read the book," Mr. Browne said. "The reader reported it was
far better than Dr. Grant's first one. That was good enough for me. The
reader is no longer with us." He frowned in irritation at the memory.
"Left us without giving notice. But he was a good man. Excellent
judgment. I'd like to go ahead with the book unless you object."

"I don't know," Mrs. Grant hesitated. "If he didn't want it published--"

"But he's gone now," Browne reminded her.

"I know, but--" She wept softly into a crumpled kerchief.

The publisher remained silent. After a moment she pulled herself
together. "He was always so absent-minded. I was sure he had mislaid the
check. Used it to scribble some problem on. He did that once several
years ago."

Browne reached into his breast-pocket and brought out a long envelope
and extended it toward her.

"I had another check made out for advance royalties," he said, "if you
decide to let me go ahead with the book."

"I don't think I should, Mr. Browne." She withdrew the check from the
envelope and looked at it, her eyebrows lifting at the size of the
figure.

"It's substantially more than the original check," Browne said. "I
thought perhaps you might be in need of money, and I feel confident the
book will sell exceptionally well."

"It is a lot of money," Mrs. Grant said. "But I'm so confused. I wish I
knew what to do."

Browne leaned forward. "Your husband was a great man. I feel it as an
obligation on my part to make public his last work."

Mrs. Grant nodded slowly. "You may be right. I hadn't thought of it that
way."

"And you can undoubtedly use the money," Browne added. "There'll be
more. How much more depends on how the book sells. It may be a steady
income for a few years."

"All right," Mrs. Grant said, making up her mind. "I'll let you publish
it."

"Fine!" Mr. Browne said heartily. "I felt you would. And any time you
need money just call me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred's birthday came in February. He was seventeen now, and the
knowledge filled him with dismay. It had been months since his father
had vanished.

Or _had_ his father vanished? Maybe his memory of those people vanishing
was as wrong as his memory of which way his door opened! To check it he
spent an afternoon in a newspaper office searching back papers until he
found the accounts. He read them all carefully. They were as he
remembered them.

And in him, slowly, grew the realization that he was going to use
someone. He was going to choose someone and try to make that person
disappear. More, he knew that that person was going to be Curt Gaard. He
decided against calling and making an appointment. He would go to the
man's office and put over the sixteen-year-old act.

With a great deal of shyness he confided to the receptionist that Curt
was a very special friend of his mother's. She talked into the
inter-office phone, did a lot of listening and yessing. Finally she told
Fred that Dr. Gaard wanted him to wait a few moments. Then she dialed
an outside number. Fred listened to the clicks and knew it was his home
phone. The psychiatrist was going to talk to his mother. He hadn't
wanted that, but it wouldn't matter materially.

The wait lasted almost half an hour. Then, with heart pounding, Fred was
walking toward the dark walnut door to the inner office. Inside, he
caught a comprehensive glimpse of the rumored couch, luxurious desk and
chairs, thick expensive rug, and an assortment of floor-lamps and oil
paintings. Then the psychiatrist was upon him, heartily welcoming him.

There were time-marking conversational exchanges about school, the hot
rod, and life in general. There was the pause while each sized the other
up.

Then, "I'm glad you dropped in, Fred," Dr. Gaard smiled casually.

"I'm all mixed up," Fred said. "I know something's wrong with me. I
wanted someone to talk to, now that Dad is gone. I thought of you. I
didn't want to bother Mom. Do you really straighten out crazy people?"

"Not exactly," Curt chuckled. "A psychologist finds most of his patients
among people who are just upset about things. They aren't insane. They
just need someone who has experience to help them get their thoughts
straightened out."

"Maybe that's all I need," Fred said. "I don't _think_ I'm crazy."

"Of course you aren't. You're a very healthy-minded young man."

"I don't want Mom to know about this...."

Curt frowned, jotted something down on a notepad. It was, Fred guessed,
a notation to call his mother and warn her to keep quiet.

"Don't worry about your mother. Now tell me, just what seems to be the
trouble?" Curt smiled encouragingly.

"Are you married?" Fred asked with teen-age frankness.

"No," Curt smiled.

"Would you marry my mother?" Fred asked bluntly. "I would like for you
to be my father."

Curt Gaard stared at him a moment. "I really believe you mean that," he
said slowly. "You know, don't you, that it will be two years before she
can be free to marry? Your father can't be declared legally, ah,
departed, for two years."

"No. I didn't know," Fred said, real dismay on his face. He hadn't known
about that. He thought rapidly. "Then can I come live with you? Just
until Mom can marry you?" Inwardly he was enjoying this. And he hoped he
wasn't overdoing it.

"We can't do that," Curt said. "I'll tell you what we can do, though.
I'll invite myself out to dinner tomorrow evening. Don't say anything.
I'll surprise your mother. And we'll see a lot of each other from now
on. Okay?"

Fred nodded. It was definitely okay. He wanted to be present when Curt
Gaard disappeared into thin air, and this way he had a chance.

       *       *       *       *       *

He left Curt's office highly exhilarated, almost drunk with the emotion
of things working right. It lasted until the following evening when the
doctor showed up and he and Fred's mother put on their little act. Then
his emotions swung the other way. He experienced a reluctance to go
through with his plans. There was too much that was likeable about the
man. And his mother did like him.

"Poor Dad," Fred thought.

After dinner the next evening, Curt kept the conversation on Fred's
father. It was, Fred sensed, the right time to bring up the theory. Curt
would do anything to please him, to draw him out.

But he hesitated. Stretching elaborately, he said, "I'm sleepy. Why
don't you and Mom play Canasta or something?"

"I'm going to be much too busy," his mother said. "I have to finish
proofreading your father's book for the publisher. Mr. Browne is finally
going to print it, and wants it back right away."

"When did that happen?" Fred demanded. "Can I read it?"

"You can read it when it comes out. Now you and Curt go into the study
and leave me alone." She herded them out of the room.

This interlude had served to strengthen Fred's resolve. Alone with the
psychiatrist, he let slip that he knew of a wonderful theory his father
had originated, then tried to cover up.

Curt used flattery. Fred took his cue and slyly bragged that it was a
theory few college professors could understand even, but he understood
it.

More coaxing and he was ready to start in. But his conscience got the
better of him. He balked, and even as he tried to squirm out of it he
realized that it was too late. Dr. Gaard would never rest until the
theory had been told.

"I'll tell you the next time you come," he suggested as a last retreat.

"Tonight," Curt said. "Even if it takes all night. You can miss school
tomorrow." He winked. "I can okay it with the teacher."

"All right," Fred said in sudden crystallization of decision. "But only
if you agree to master every step of it, stopping me until you have."
Curt agreed. He started in.

After half an hour it settled into serious listening on Curt's part, and
pertinent questions that made Fred realize he was dealing with a mind of
more than average keenness.

Fred's mother wandered in occasionally, and out again, without being
noticed by either of them.

An hour passed. Two. The final steps were drawing nearer. At times Curt
was even anticipating some of them. It was midnight when it was
finished. The mind of Curt Gaard held the entire pattern.

Fred couldn't take his eyes off the man's face. The face that was
mirroring the rapid flow of thoughts as it reviewed and attacked every
brick in the structure, finding it solid, and solidly cemented to its
neighbors.

Then he saw a change come over the man's face. He had accepted the
theory. Now he was trying to integrate it into the problem of Fred
Grant. He hadn't yet seen the connection between the theory and the
mysterious disappearances.

And perhaps he wouldn't. If he did he might go the final step and
realize what was going to happen to him. Fred hoped that wouldn't
happen. He didn't want his victim to be conscious of being a victim.

"You _are_ intelligent, Fred," Curt probed, "to be able to master such
an advanced theory." He glanced at his watch. "It's getting pretty late.
I'll tell you what. After school tomorrow drop down to my office. We'll
come out for dinner here together."

"Say! That'd be swell!" Fred enthused. "I'll get right to bed so I can
get enough sleep." He leaped up and called, "Mom! I'm going to bed now."
He winked broadly at Curt to let him know he was getting out of his way
so they could be alone together a few minutes.

And that was that. The die was cast, and all that remained was to try
and use it to make progress, rather than letting it be just another
disappearance that pointed to nothing constructive.

There was no way of telling how fast it would work. The next afternoon
and evening there was little to provide an indication, other than an
occasional look that came over Curt for moments at a time.

A date was made for Saturday. It was to be a picnic in the country. That
meant skipping Friday. Fred violently objected, but Curt and his mother
overrode his objections. So in the end it had to be Saturday, unless
Curt disappeared before then.

He didn't.

       *       *       *       *       *

But ten minutes before school was out Friday a note was brought into the
classroom from the principal's office. Curt had called to ask Fred to
come to his office directly from school.

Torn between excited anticipation that the psychiatrist had made an
important discovery, and fear that the man would have vanished before he
could get to him, Fred ran from the school building and caught the bus.

At Curt's office the receptionist smiled and told him to go right in.
His sigh of relief was genuine. Curt was sitting at his desk.

"Come in, son," he said.

There were the amenities. "How did school go today?" "Okay." "Anything
happen?" Fred waited impatiently. Then: "I've been thinking a lot about
your father's theory, Fred, and I would like to ask a few questions--if
it won't upset you."

"Of course not!" Fred said.

"Okay, here's a question," Curt said. "Or rather, a statement. You can
answer yes or no. You believe the theory is at the root of the
disappearances, that in some unknown fashion knowing the theory will
cause a person to vanish."

So there it was. Fred debated rapidly in his mind. It might be better to
admit it.

"Yes," he said.

"Hmm. Then let me ask you this. How do you account for the fact that you
know it, and haven't disappeared?"

Fred decided to be completely truthful and see what happened. "It's
because I don't let belief form a part of my thinking, sir. Dad
instilled that in me. With those that disappeared, logic was their
groundwork of belief."

"But you believe knowing the theory caused them to vanish?"

Fred smiled. "I see what you mean. No, I don't. It's just that no other
alternative seems probable, so...."

"So you work with the one that does," Curt said, nodding. "All right,
let's work with it for the moment. You have probably done some thinking
on what mechanism might be involved in the process of vanishing. Would
you care to tell me about it?"

"There's no reason why not, sir. It takes time for conscious beliefs to
sink into the subconscious and integrate there. The time varies with the
person and the emotions involved."

"That makes sense," Curt said, nodding.

"I postulated that down underneath even the subconscious, at the very
roots of being, is what I named the basic thought matrix. In order for
us to be here in this existence at all it must have a certain form.
Change that form and, presto, the person slips out of this existence,
perhaps into another."

"I see." Curt drummed his fingers on the desk for a long minute. "I
see," he repeated. "Has it occurred to you that you have already
rejected your theory? It's quite obvious you have, you know."

"How is it obvious?" Fred asked, wondering what Curt meant.

"Because you told me the theory. You wouldn't have, of course, if you
believed it would cause me to vanish like the others."

Fred opened and closed his mouth several times, unable to cope with
this. It was unexpected.

"We've gotten to the root of your trouble," Curt went on. "It was a real
trouble, to you. In a few months you will look back on it and marvel at
it. Right now it seems real. You feel that somewhere your father still
exists. You would like to go to him, or perhaps bring him back. Believe
me, such mysterious vanishings aren't uncommon. The history of the world
is full of such incidents. In some cases whole groups have vanished.
Authenticated cases. In southeast Asia the people of an entire city of
over a million inhabitants vanished overnight. In the last century an
entire trainload of people, including the train, vanished while going
from one city to another a few miles away. And there have been
vanishments with reappearances, too. In England there was an old woman
who suddenly vanished before the eyes of her family. At the same instant
she reappeared in a room in London, miles away, in front of other
people. Did she know your father's theory? Did the train that vanished
know that theory?" Curt was smiling. "No. You see, it's something
unrelated to your father's theory."

Fred was nodding. "You may be right," he said. "I didn't know about
those."

"You may go now, son," Curt said. "I'll be out around eleven o'clock in
the morning."

Fred rose quickly. "Okay, Curt," he said. "I'll see you." He hurried
out. It was too much of an effort to hide the sudden trembling. He
hadn't known about other cases of vanishing. They provided data to
expand the whole thing, while not in the slightest detracting from the
validity of anything else.

And if the talk had been prolonged much more Curt would have inevitably
tumbled to his motive for telling him the theory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Promptly at eleven Curt arrived. Fred's mother had already prepared the
large basket of food. There were ten minutes of last-minute bustle, then
they were off, with Curt skillfully tooling his Cadillac in and out of
traffic until they were on the open highway.

"I know just the place," he told them. "Woods, meadow, brook. Even a
couple of cows." And he did. When they arrived shortly before
twelve-thirty it was all that.

Fred relaxed as the car came to a stop. Every second of the trip he had
been ready to seize the wheel and keep the car from crashing if Curt
vanished.

"Still a little nervous?" Curt asked him as they got out.

"No. No, of course not!" Fred said.

Curt didn't pursue the subject. Instead, he became something utterly
different than he had been before, a carefree thoroughly likeable man,
full of humor.

Fred began to regret that he had chosen him as his victim. He began to
hope that the process might not be automatic, that Curt wouldn't vanish.
But he stayed close to him and listened to his every word and watched
his face as much as he dared without staring, so that if the moment came
he could get whatever there was to get of value from it.

For the first time in years his mother began to be carefree. She even
joked back at Curt occasionally, something she had never done with
Martin in Fred's memory. Her joking was clumsy and uncertain. Fred
laughed uproariously to encourage her and to hide his uncomfortable
feeling.

"Oh, I haven't felt so good in ages," she said when they were seated
around the tablecloth spread with sandwiches and salads and cakes. "It's
wonderful getting out like this. We'll have to do it often."

"We will," Curt said. "At least once a week."

Fred's mother picked up a sandwich. She started to raise it to her
mouth. She was smiling at Curt and about to say something to him. Both
Curt and Fred were watching her.

Abruptly she wasn't there. The sandwich seemed to remain stationary for
a long second. Then it dropped to the tablecloth.

Curt was holding a paper cup filled with hot coffee. His hand
constricted. The cup collapsed, spilling steaming coffee over his legs.

Fred stared at the space his mother had just occupied. Abruptly he
squawked, "No!" He turned accusing eyes on Curt. "You told her!"

Something seemed to go out of the man. He seemed to become visibly
smaller. "Yes," he whispered, "I told her."

Fred was crying. "But you shouldn't have," he sobbed. "I told you
because I wanted you to vanish. I didn't want her to, and now she has.
And nothing happened that I could use."

Curt blinked at him, absorbing this new bit of information. "You wanted
_me_ to vanish?" he echoed. "Yes, I can see that now. I didn't know. It
seemed too absurd. I thought you were just imagining things. Yes, I went
out while you were at school and spent the whole morning teaching her
every step. It was fairly easy. We had planned on coaxing you to explain
it to her. Knowing it ahead of time she could pretend to grasp it that
much more easily. We were planning on coaxing you into a more social
relationship. Actually, she had already read the theory in your father's
book she was reading for the publisher." A glassy look came into his
eyes. "The book. If the theory is at the root of the disappearances the
book shouldn't be published. Yes, by God. That's what your father was
driving at. Your mother told me the publisher had told her your father
tried to get him not to publish it."

"The book has the theory in it?" Fred said. "It mustn't get published.
Why--thousands of people would read it and vanish. We've got to stop
them!"

Curt was shaking his head in bewilderment. "But we can't be sure. It
must be something else, though what I don't know."

"No," Fred said bitterly.

There was a long silence. Curt broke it by saying, "What did you expect
to accomplish by my vanishing?"

Fred told him of Horace's shouting to his wife, "Ethel! I've got it!",
and the others seeming to have a flash of divination or insight just
before they vanished.

"I wanted," he explained dully, "to be with you when it happened, in the
hopes I could get something more than I have to go on. In that way I
might be able to find out something so I could bring my father back. And
Mom." He began to cry.

"I see," Curt said, calm and a little subdued. "It's possible that may
come. After what I've seen happen I can admit it as a possibility."

"Then you will make every effort to tell me?" Fred asked.

Curt smiled wryly. "You make it sound inevitable. But--yes, I will."

Fred's eyes were large and round. "I've got to find the mechanism. I've
got to go where they've vanished to and show them how to get back!" He
turned his eyes on Curt. "Don't you hate me?" he pleaded. "I'm just the
same as a murderer!"

"No, my son," Curt said gently. "Wherever your father is, your mother is
with him now. If--" A startled expression appeared on his face. "So
_that's_ it," he almost whispered.

"_What's_ it?" Fred asked. "Tell me. Please tell me. I've got to know,
you know. You promised!"

Curt frowned in a visible effort to jerk himself back. His eyes, holding
a faraway look, rested on Fred's face, looked at it, and through it.

"You promised!" Fred screamed. "Tell me!"

Curt opened his mouth as though to speak. His lips smiled.

And--he was no longer there.

Fred was alone, with the picnic lunch on the white square of tablecloth,
with the gleaming Cadillac a few yards away, with the two white and
black spotted cows grazing a short distance away, with the noisy little
brook nearby.

Alone....

       *       *       *       *       *

He became aware of a police siren growing louder. He became aware he was
behind a wheel, that there were cars in front of him veering wildly out
of his way. The speedometer needle pointed at ninety.

How had he arrived here? He took his foot off the gas. He was driving a
Cadillac. Curt's. But Curt was gone. That was it! He had started out to
look for the police.

He pulled over to the side of the road as the police car came screaming
up. Shakily he told them about the disappearances. Any doubts they might
have had were held in reserve by the obvious sincerity of his grief.

He led them back to the picnic grove. The tablecloth with the food on it
was still there, untouched. One of the cows was grazing beside it.

They listened while he told again of his mother and Curt vanishing
before his eyes. Their reserved skepticism was thrust out of their minds
when he identified himself as the son of Dr. Martin Grant, who had
disappeared.

They used their car radio. In a surprisingly short time several other
cars were coming through the gate into the pasture.

Fred, his mind paralyzed with grief, stood forlornly near the Cadillac.
He answered the questions they put to him. He wasn't aware of the news
cameras that took shots of him which were to appear in the evening
papers all over the country.

Eventually it was over. The police gathered up the picnic lunch, his
mother's purse, and everything else. A gray-haired man in a dark brown
suit who introduced himself as Captain Waters told him to get into the
Cadillac. "I'll drive," Waters said.

Entirely submissive, Fred obeyed. On the way into town Captain Waters
said he would take Fred home if he wanted to go there, but it would be
really better if he accepted an invitation to stay at the Waters home
for a few days until things were straightened out.

"All right," Fred said.

Eternities later he was in a house with comfortable furnishings. A
motherly old lady was hovering around him. Captain Waters was on the
phone calling someone.

There was a steaming dinner on blue design Swedish dishes. Under coaxing
Fred nibbled. Door chimes sounded. Captain Waters pushed back his chair
and went away. He came back with another gray-haired man who pressed a
thumb against Fred's cheek, listened to words Captain Waters was saying,
then ordered Fred to roll up his sleeve.

He swabbed a spot with alcohol and inserted a hypo needle. Fred watched
with listless eyes.

"Get him undressed and to bed," the doctor said. "Poor kid. Suffering
from shock. Have to watch him the next few days...."

_Shock_.... Fred tried to concentrate on the meaning of the word.

The bed was an enormous expanse of fresh smelling sheets and luxurious
blankets. The pillows were mountainous ... and so soft....

The sun was streaming in through open French doors, filtered through
bronze screen doors. An electric clock on the dresser pointed at
eleven.

He lay there without moving, remembering everything that had happened
the day before. And he had a feeling that, in his sleep, he had been
doing a lot of thinking. Or was it dreaming?

"Poor boy," a melodious voice purred.

He opened his eyes. It was the motherly woman, with a tray of toast and
eggs and steaming coffee. The sight of it made him aware that there was
a huge emptiness in his stomach.

He ate, gratefully. Mrs. Waters busied herself about the room, humming
soft tunes, smiling at him whenever he looked at her. When he had
finished, she took the tray.

"You just relax and sleep some more," she said. "The bathroom is through
that door over there. If you want me for anything just call. I'll hear
you. And if you want to get up and wander about the house just do so."
She departed, leaving the door part way open in invitation.

Fred sighed and closed his eyes. In that moment of relaxation the
thinking he had done during the night rose into consciousness.

For he knew now what he had to do. There was no other avenue of
exploration. It might not even be possible. But if it was possible he
was going to do it.

He was going to vanish.

       *       *       *       *       *

There alone lay the solution. He should have realized it. Once he
vanished as had the others, he would have experience with the mystery.
Personal experience. He would have all the data he required, instead of
just data from the world he was in. If he had the ability to solve the
problem of reappearance he would then be able to return, and go back
again and show the others how to return.

The key to vanishing was belief, that quality of thought which his
father had systematically weeded from his mind since earliest infancy.
It might take time to overcome that, but it should be possible.

Already he believed some things. Or did he? Was it merely a realization
that those things had a probability that approached certainty?

His patterns of thinking were too ingrained. His mind was too well
integrated. If he became irritated the irritation immediately brought up
the memories of the factors that made him react that way. If he became
happy he consciously knew the pattern, stretching back to early infancy.
It was ingrained within him.

He began to realize with a sinking sensation that he didn't actually
know what belief was. If, in some way, it was present anywhere in his
makeup, he didn't know how to recognize it.

His mental pattern was one of unbelief. Not disbelief, the believing
that something isn't true; but unbelief, the using of something in the
pragmatic sense for its workability.

He let his thoughts wander in the past. He could remember vaguely a
moment when he had felt unreasoning terror, a sense of being lost. He
could remember his father saying many times, "Belief is the lazy
assuming that something is true." It is or it isn't, and the fundamental
postulate of inductive logic tells us that its truth or lack of it is
forever beyond our reach. So why reach for it? Use a theory if it works
for you. Discard it if it doesn't. Don't use it even to the point of
absurdity while clinging to a belief that it's true.

It was that way with facts, too. Something that happened or seemed to
happen, needed no tag of belief attached to it. If you saw it happen it
didn't necessarily happen. There was such a thing as illusion. Accept it
as though it had happened--until events pointed otherwise.

His playmates and teachers had been frankly skeptical of this point of
view, doubting he could actually have attained it. They were quick to
agree it was desirable. They just thought no one could use a thing
without attaching a degree of belief or unbelief to it.

Now, what should he believe? As in the attempts to reach the basic
matrix by conscious extension, he had to start somewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was midafternoon when Captain Waters entered the bedroom with a
cheery, "Hello!"

"Hi," Fred said. He had been lying in bed with his eyes closed.

"Did I wake you?" Waters said. "Sorry." He grinned. "You can go back to
sleep again. I'll drop in later."

Captain Waters ducked out. He started to close the door, then left it
open. A few minutes later the rumble of his voice came from another part
of the house. Fred tried to catch what he was saying, but couldn't.

Half an hour later he heard the front door chimes. The rumble of deep
voices came again. The doctor appeared in the doorway.

"Well, well," he said, smiling. "I hear you had a very restful night.
How do you feel today? Better?" He was advancing toward the bed as he
talked. Setting his black bag down, he reached out and took Fred's
pulse. "A little rapid," he said, putting his watch away. Reaching
inside his coat, he took out a thermometer. He put it under Fred's
tongue. "Had anything to eat or drink in the past fifteen minutes?" he
asked. Fred shook his head.

The doctor stood quietly. After a while he lifted the thermometer,
glanced at it, and put it away.

"Looks like you're going to be fit as a fiddle," he said. "I'll be back
in a few minutes. Mrs. Waters told me on the way in she was pouring me a
cup of coffee."

Fred remained motionless until the doctor had left the room. Then he
slipped out of bed and went to the door. On the other side of it was a
living room. A swinging door of the type that opens into kitchens was
just swinging closed. No one was in sight. Quickly Fred stole across to
the door. He put his ear close to it and listened.

"Dr. Harvey speaking," he heard the doctor say. "Connect me with
thirteen please."

"Is he going to be all right?" Mrs. Waters' anxious voice sounded.

"I think so," the doctor said calmly. "Hello? Thirteen? Who's speaking?
Oh, hello, Giles. Dr. Harvey. Do you have a vacancy? Observation, yes."

"Oh dear," Mrs. Waters said unhappily.

"It will be for the best," Captain Waters said. "They'll know how to
take care of him."

Fred waited for no more. He went back to the bedroom. His clothes were
in the closet. In seconds he had them on. He could tie his shoes and
button up later.

He unfastened one of the screen doors and stepped out onto a flagstone
path that wound around the corner of the house toward the front. There
were people on the sidewalk, but none very near. It would be hours
before dark, and there was no place to hide.

There were two cars parked at the curb. One was a police car, the other
a black Chrysler sedan, probably the doctor's car. The police car had
the key in the ignition. Fred didn't hesitate. He jerked open the door
and slid behind the wheel. Mrs. Waters' anxious voice sounded, calling,
"Fred! Where are you?" Then the starter was whirring. The motor caught.

As he shot away from the curb, Fred caught a glimpse in the rear view
mirror of Captain Waters running down the walk from the house.

As he took the first corner, touching the siren button briefly, he
wondered why he had run. It had been an impulse. Maybe it was the wrong
one. Maybe he could accomplish what he had to do better in some kind of
institution. Maybe not.

He compressed his lips grimly. The die was cast now. He would abandon
the police car someplace, then slip quietly out of town on foot. He
would be caught if he tried to go home. He had no money except a few
dollars in change.

Maybe this was all part of the new pattern that seemed to possess him.
He kept the siren going, not trusting his ability to avoid traffic. Its
mad scream blended into his thoughts. He was the hunted. He was sane,
but the truth would brand him as insane. Or was he sane? Had anyone
vanished? Was his father at home, sitting in his chair in his study,
expounding his theories to his colleagues? Was his mother at home, in
the kitchen, preparing dinner?

His lip trembled. Homesickness welled up in him.

He was near a bus line that went to the outskirts of the city. He shut
off the siren and slowed down. After a few blocks and two turns he felt
safe in ditching the car. He pulled quietly to the curb. He tied his
shoelaces, buttoned his shirt, combed his hair. Then he got out. No one
paid any attention to him.

He walked to the corner. Two minutes later the bus stopped.

       *       *       *       *       *

The night sky was clear. The moon was a lesser sun whose light made
things visible and somehow unreal and mysterious. In the ditch to the
right of the road two bright points of light blinked on, held for a
moment, and vanished. A cat.

A silent dog appeared out of the gloom, wagged its tail and half of its
body in friendliness. "Nice doggy," Fred said nervously. It sniffed his
trouser leg, lost interest, and moved off into the darkness.

It was after midnight. How long after, he didn't know. Once a police
car had come speeding by, its red lights ogling insanely, its spotlight
weaving into the bushes at the side of the road. He had lain very still
in the ditch until it passed. It hadn't slowed down. Later it had come
back and he had again pressed his body into the earth beside the road.

Off to the right now he saw the silhouette of the giant tree that had
been the landmark of the picnic spot. A few minutes later he could see
the gate that led to the meadow.

He squeezed through it and picked out the path worn by the cars the day
before. Some winged creature dipped down, shied away from him, and swept
off into the darkness.

A soft gurgling sound became audible. The brook. The spot where his
mother and Curt had vanished, was ahead.

He reached it. He wasn't quite sure until he studied the ground and went
back in memory to check on little details. Then he was certain.

He had reached his goal.

He knew why he had come, of course. Here he was closer to his mother
than anyplace else. Here, in some unguessed way, he might get to her.

What would he do when morning came? He sat down and pulled his knees up
under his chin, wrapping his arms around them. Morning was far away. It
might never come--for him. If and when it did he would cope with it.
"Mom," he whispered. "Mom...."

_Crrroak!_ The sound of the frog broke the silence. The croak of a frog
that was part of the universe--the universe that was basically
illogical. More....

Fred sobbed.

The universe was insane. Police looking for you. Doctors with their
standards of sanity and insanity. Right now they were looking for him to
protect him from himself. They didn't want to know why things were done.
To them even the reason would be part of the insanity. They dealt in
tags. Words. Their science was an illusion within an illusion.
Meaningless inside a universe of meaninglessness.

_Crrroak_, the frog said cautiously. And a night creature came down on
silent wings, to weave back into the darkness.

That was the reason for pragmatism. He could see it now. He had always
thought his father made pragmatism his God because it was the
intellectual thing to do. But now he could see the reason for it.
Reality was a jungle in which Reason had to cope with Unreason, and
there was no criterion except workability. Belief was an instinctive way
of thought. It was like the appendix. Scientists claimed that long ago
man ate tree bark. And the appendix had had a use. If so, that use was
gone, but the appendix remained. Before surgery had become a common
thing, thousands of people died from appendicitis. The organ that had
once been necessary had become a hazard to living. Belief was something
like that.

He jerked out of his thoughts to listen to a car on the road. It slowed
down. It stopped by the gate. A car door slammed. A man appeared briefly
in the light of the headlamps. Captain Waters--alone.

He loomed a moment later inside the pasture in the light of a
flashlight. He occasionally flashed it on his face so he would be
recognizable.

Fred felt an impulse to slip away into the darkness. He hadn't been
seen. Captain Waters was just hoping he might be here.

A stronger impulse made him remain as he was. The entire pattern of
Captain Waters' approach indicated understanding--or at least the
willingness to understand.

The bobbing flashlight came closer. It speared out and touched him; then
abruptly went out. Footsteps approached. A dark form emerged from the
gloom.

"Hello, Fred," Captain Waters said quietly. "I came to keep you company.
I'll just sit quiet and not bother you."

"Okay," Fred said.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were movements. A small flame illuminated Captain Waters' features
as he lit his pipe. The flame went out. Then, only the occasional glow
of the pipe, briefly illuminating the police Captain's face.

_Crrroak!_ The frog greeted this newest arrival in his domain.

Fred could not think. He was too conscious of the man sitting near him.
He fought down the impulse to jump up and run away into the darkness. He
fought the desire to scream at the man to leave him alone.

Perhaps the police captain sensed this, or perhaps he could see Fred's
expression when the coal in his pipe glowed brightest. "Tell you what,"
he said suddenly, "You maybe would feel better alone. I'll wait in the
car. When you get ready you can come home. No more doctors. Mom gave me
a good talking to. She wants you to come back."

Waters got up and walked away into the night. Minutes later there was
the sound of a car door slamming shut. Fred was alone again.

Alone. It was a feeling, almost an emotion. Intellectually he knew that
nearby was a frog. A block away across the meadow was the police captain
sitting in his car.

Abruptly, without warning, a flash of insight spread through his entire
mind. He knew suddenly what belief was. He knew it instinctively and
without question.

And knowing it, he knew that his foundations of unbelief were a semantic
illusion that had been built up within him. The panorama of his mind,
his entire life, stood clearly before him.

The cute little tags of probability were superficial. They had a
pragmatic value in keeping the mind open, but their function was to
guide the judgment in tagging thoughts with belief or disbelief.

He retreated into his aloneness until there was nothing but himself. He
marveled at the unfoldment of this new understanding. He could see
things in this new light of understanding.

But then.... A question loomed. If that were so, why hadn't he vanished
like the others? Belief was an automatic process. Why hadn't it
permeated to the basic matrix of his mind as it had with the others?

Was he, then, still on the wrong track?

But there _was_ no other!

He saw the trap he had set for himself. He had believed with all his
being that belief was the key he was searching for!

He had been on the wrong track. His beautiful theory of belief that
spread downward into the subconscious, then down lower and lower into
the basic matrix that held a person in this reality, was wrong. The
evidence he had based it on was still there, but it was evidence of
something else.

Of what?

The eastern horizon was suffused with light. It grew stronger, dimming
the light of the moon.

From somewhere in the depths of his being rose a feeling that soon he
would know, and when he did he would be close to crossing the threshold.

He unclasped his arms and straightened out his legs, feeling stabs of
pain in his weary muscles. He got to his feet, tingling with weariness.

By the side of the road, he could see the police car he had
stolen--infinite ages ago. He walked toward it, and when he reached it
he climbed in and closed the door.

"Beautiful morning," Captain Waters said, starting the motor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred awoke and opened his eyes. Across the room the French doors were
open. Sunlight was filtering through the copper screens. A breeze was
playing gently with the drapes. For a moment the flight, the long walk
into the country, his rendezvous with Aloneness, Captain Water's coming
to bring him back, all seemed the stuff of dreams. He had the feeling
that he had never left this enormous bed.

Then it returned. Reality. The miracle of his reorientation to belief,
the new vistas that went with it. The full realization of the true
nature of the vanishments.

He became aware of a figure in the doorway, watching him. It was Mrs.
Waters. "Awake?" she asked cheerfully.

"Yes," Fred said.

"Want some breakfast?"

He nodded. She went away.

He raised his head and looked about the room, at the homey touches, the
family pictures on the dresser and the walls, the hand sewed knickknacks
and frills. This was probably the Waters' own bedroom that they had
given up for him.

He could vanish while Mrs. Waters was away. She would come in with the
breakfast tray and find him gone.

When would the _moment of reorientation_ come?

He frowned in thought. That had stirred up something about what he had
dreamed, or thought, while he was asleep. Something that had the flavor
of being very important.

"Here you are!" Mrs. Waters said, sweeping into the room with the tray
and its Swedish design dishes and steaming coffee and hot cereal. As she
bent over to set the tray on the bed, there came the sound of the front
door opening. "There's Pa, home already." She smiled worriedly at Fred.
"Will you be all right? I'll tell Pa to come in and keep you company
while I fix his supper."

"Yes ma'am," Fred said, eyeing the food hungrily. "Only--" She was at
the door. She stopped and looked around questioningly. "I--I think I'd
like to be alone while I eat."

"All right," she said, and hurried away.

But Captain Waters had brushed in without giving her a chance to tell
him to stay away. "Hello, son," he said warmly. "Have a good sleep?"

Mrs. Waters said, "You let him alone while he eats."

"It's all right," Fred said hastily.

"Sure it's all right," the police captain said. He sat down and took out
his pipe. He concerned himself with filling it and lighting it, saying
nothing.

Fred picked up a piece of golden toast and bit into one corner absently.
The thoughts he had had during sleep were filtering into consciousness.

He recalled how his mother had looked. There had been a fleeting
expression just before she had vanished. She had been going to say
something. _She had changed her mind and had vanished instead!_

And Curt--he had had his reorientation at least several seconds before
vanishing. He had had it, and then, with his new perspective, had said,
"So _that's_ it!"

It was as though the new orientation made everything else unimportant.

One common factor stood out in every case, those two he had personally
witnessed, and the others he hadn't seen. One common factor. Vanishing,
or whatever happened that produced the vanishing, had been an impulse.

There had been time for thought. For example, Curt might have considered
the practicality of telling Fred what had happened to him. But he might
have reflected that eventually Fred would discover what he had just
discovered, so why bother?

In the office Curt had told him of a whole city of a million people
vanishing, leaving empty houses and streets. Had the cause been the
same? A true orientation?

Fred looked at Captain Waters, sitting quietly, puffing slowly on his
pipe. With deliberation Waters uncrossed his legs and leaned forward.
"You know, son, when you get around to it--that is, if you feel up to it
sometime--I wish you'd tell me about it. What it is that's troubling
you. I'll try to understand."

"You'll try--?" Fred echoed. And the police captain's words started a
train of thought. The others--had the place they'd gone been a heaven or
a hell? So many of them--. Fred started suddenly. "The book!" he cried.

"What book?"

"I've got to see the publisher about my father's book. It's very
important."

"It can wait until you're feeling better," Waters said.

"No. I've got to see Mr. Browne!"

"Why?"

"I--I can't tell you."

"All right." Captain Waters gave in. "I'll take you down and bring you
back."

It was half an hour later, in the reception room at the publishing
company. Fred stared numbly at the big poster on the wall advertising
his father's book.

"Mr. Browne will see you," the receptionist said.

"Wait here," Fred told Captain Waters. "I want to talk to him alone." He
went to the door and opened it, stepping inside and closing it behind
him.

"Fred Grant?" Browne said, getting up from his desk and coming toward
him, hand outstretched. "What can I do for you? Need some money?"

Fred was shaking his head. "I don't want any money," he said. "I want
you to stop my father's book. You can't publish it."

"Now wait," Browne said. "We aren't going through that again, are we?"

"You can't!" Fred said. "People will read it and vanish!"

"Huh?"

"People will read it and vanish! You've got to believe me. _The cause of
those disappearances is in that book!_"

Browne stared for a moment, then dragged over a notepad, wondering how
his publicity boys had missed this one. He stood up and came around his
desk. "You leave it to me," he said. "You won't have a thing to worry
about. I'll take care of everything."

"Then you won't publish it?"

Browne was guiding him toward the door. "You leave it to me. Drop in
again soon. If you need money just drop in any time and I'll fix you
up."

Fred found himself outside the door, not quite sure what Mr. Browne had
promised.

Inside, Browne went back to his desk, muttering, "What a killing! Have
to tell Nichols about it tomorrow at lunch. That vanishing stuff is a
terrific publicity angle."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You still don't want to tell me what's troubling you?" Police Captain
Waters said wistfully.

A frown crossed Fred's features and vanished into a smile. "Nothing's
troubling me," he lied. "I'm all right. I'll be all right."

"You'll stay with us a while longer?"

"Sure. Sure. You make me feel--okay. I'm just going out for a ride. Be
back for supper."

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been two months now since his mother and Curt had vanished. In
that two months he had come to realize something. He didn't quite know
how to express it even in his thoughts.

It wasn't that he didn't want to vanish. He would, some day. But he had
given up trying. It was the wrong way. The others hadn't tried. It had
just come to them out of a clear sky.

Some day it would come to him that way, and he would welcome it.

He drove downtown and parked. A block away was a show he wanted to see.
He started toward it. Abruptly he stopped. In front of him was a
bookstore. In its window was a large display, and every book had his
father's picture on the front under the title THEORY FOR THE MILLIONS.

In back of the display was a large poster with a still larger picture,
and the teaser--(DO YOU DARE READ THIS BOOK?)

Anger flamed in Fred's mind. The anger died as abruptly as it had come.
It was replaced by a homesickness, a longing. Unconsciously his
footsteps carried him into the store.

A man had the book in his hands.

"You aren't going to buy _that_, George," the woman beside him was
saying.

"And why not?" the man asked, laughing. "I've never turned down a dare
in my life!" He looked at the girl waiting on him. "Do you think I'll
vanish, Miss?"

The clerk smiled. "I wouldn't know. I have strict orders not to read the
book."

A solemn-faced man appeared out of nowhere and thrust a copy of the book
at the clerk. "I want this, please," he said.

"I'll be with you in a moment, sir," the clerk said.

Others were waiting also.

Fred stumbled from the store, bumping into someone in the doorway as he
went through, and too confused and frightened to stop and apologize.
There was no way of stopping it. Maybe the police would become alarmed
at the disappearances.

"What's wrong with me?" he mumbled, walking blindly in the crowds on the
sidewalks. "Maybe I do lack the ability to believe. I _think_ I believe.
What have I missed?"

Only he, of all those who had learned the theory, had not vanished. Was
faith, then, something so common, and yet impossible for he, himself, to
reach?

Ahead was another bookstore. In its windows were the same displays.

He stopped. People were pushing through the doors. Inside they were
picking up the book and looking for a clerk.

The clerks were smiling and saying things Fred couldn't hear, and
wrapping the books and handing them to their new owners--people who
would take them home and read--and vanish.

Into what? Something they would see, and smile at, and say, "Why, of
course!" And with a simple acceptance they would enter it.

He watched them.

And from the depths of his being Fred longed to be one of them; to be
able to go in and buy the book, and read it, and....

       *       *       *       *       *

On the other side of the window, in the store, a clerk was waiting on a
customer. The customer turned to look at him, with his nose flattened
against the glass. He didn't see them. In his eyes was a faraway look, a
startled light.

"Why of course!" he said in quiet wonder.

There was just a little blur, where a nose had pressed against the
window, and the customer frowned and said to the clerk, "That young man
outside--he--he--"

"Three-fifty, please," the clerk said.

"Ah--oh. Oh, sure."





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