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´╗┐Title: A World Apart
Author: Merwin, Sam, 1910-1996
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 "A World Apart" ***

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    _For obvious reasons, since time-travel has yet to be invented as
    far as we know, science fiction authors usually attribute it to the
    future. Yet there is always the possibility that somewhere, somehow,
    somewhen, it has already been put to use. A possibility which Sammy
    Merwin here considers in highly intriguing and human terms. Let's go
    back with Coulter...._


     a
 world
 apart

 _by ... Sam Merwin, Jr._


 Most men of middle age would welcome
 a chance to live their lives a second
 time. But Coulter did not.


It wasn't much of a bump. The shock absorbers of the liquid-smooth
convertible neutralized all but a tiny percent of the jarring impact
before it could reach the imported English flannel seat of Coulter's
expensively-tailored pants. But it was sufficient to jolt him out of his
reverie, trebly induced by a four-course luncheon with cocktails and
liqueur, the nostalgia of returning to a hometown unvisited in twenty
years and the fact that he was driving westward into an afternoon sun.

Coulter grunted mild resentment at being thus disturbed. Then, as he
quickly, incredulously scanned the road ahead and the car whose wheel
was gripped by his gloved hands, he narrowed his eyes and muttered to
himself, "Wake up! For God's sake snap out of it!"

The road itself had changed. From a twin-laned ten-car highway,
carefully graded and landscaped and clover-leafed, it had become a
single-laned three-car thoroughfare, paved with tar instead of concrete
and high-crowned along its center. He swung the wheel quickly to avoid
running onto a dirt shoulder hardened with ice.

Its curves were no longer graded for high-speed cars but were scarcely
tilted at all, when they didn't slant the wrong way. Its crossings were
blind, level and unprotected by traffic lights. Neat unattractive
clusters of mass-built houses interspersed with occasional clumps of
woodland had been replaced with long stretches of pine woods, only
occasionally relieved by houses and barns of obviously antique
manufacture. Some of these looked disturbingly familiar.

And the roadside signs--all at once they were everywhere. Here a
weathered but still-legible little Burma-Shave series, a wooden
Horlick's contented cow, Socony, That Good Gulf Gasoline, the black
cat-face bespeaking Catspaw Rubber Heels. Here were the coal-black Gold
Dust twins, Kelly Springfield's Lotta Miles peering through a large
rubber tire, a cocked-hatted boniface advertising New York's Prince
George Hotel, the sleepy Fisk Tire boy in his pajamas and carrying a
candle.

And then a huge opened book with a quill pen stuck in an inkwell
alongside. On the right-hand page it said, _United States Tires Are Good
Tires_ and on the left, _You are 3-1/2 miles from Lincolnville. In 1778
General O'Hara, leading a British raiding party inland, was ambushed on
this spot by Colonel Amos Coulter and his militia and forced to retreat
with heavy loss._

Slowing down because the high-crowned road was slippery with sun-melted
ice, Coulter noted that the steering wheel responded heavily. Then he
saw suddenly that it was smaller than he'd remembered and made of black
rubber instead of the almond-hued plastic of his new convertible. And
his light costly fabric gloves had become black leather, lined with fur!

A gong rang in his memory. He had driven this road many times in years
gone by, he had known all these signs as quasi-landmarks, he had worn
such gloves one winter. There had been a little triangular tear in the
heel of the left one, where he had snagged it on a nail sticking out of
the garage wall. But that had been many years ago....

He looked and found the tear and felt cold sweat bathe his body under
his clothes. And he was suddenly, mightily, afraid....

He hit another bump and this time the springs did not take up the shock.
He felt briefly like a rodeo cowboy riding a bucking mustang. The car in
which he rode had changed. It was no longer the sleek convertible of the
mid-1950's. It was his old Pontiac sedan, the car he had driven for two
years before leaving Lincolnville behind him twenty years ago!

Nor was he wearing the dark-blue vicuna topcoat he had reclaimed an hour
before from the checkroom girl in the restaurant back in the city. His
sleeves now were of well-worn camel's hair. He didn't dare pull the
rear-view mirror around so he could see his face. He said again,
fiercely, "Snap out of it! For God's sake wake up before you hit
something!"

He didn't hit anything. Road, signs, car, clothing, all stayed the same.
Fields abridged by wooded low hills fell away on either side of the
road. The snow had been heavier away from the city and covered tillage,
trees and stone walls alike with a tracked and sullen late-winter
dark-white blanket.

He came to a hill and the obsolete engine knocked and panted. Once over
the top of the hill, he thought with a sudden encouraging flash, he
could prove that whatever was happening to him was illusion. At its foot
on the other side had lain the Brigham Farm, a two-century-old house and
barn converted into a restaurant by a pair of energetic spinsters. A
restaurant where Coulter and his parents had habitually dined out on
Thursday, the servants' night off.

He had heard a long while ago that the Brigham Farm had been struck by
lightning and burned during August of 1939. If it were still there ...

He breasted the hill and there it was, ancient timbers painted a neat
dark red with white door and window-frames and shutters. He held his
eyes carefully away from it after the one look, held them on the road,
which was now paved with a hard-packed layer of snow.

He passed an ear-flapped and baa-baa-coated farmer who sat atop a pung
drawn by a patient percheron whose nostrils emitted twin plumes of
steam. A pung! How many times had he and the other boys of Lincolnville
ridden the runners of such utility sleighs on hitch-hiked rides through
the by-ways of the lovely surrounding countryside!

Coulter maneuvered in his seat to take a quick look at this relic from
the past--and caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror above the
windshield. He said just one word--"_Jesus!_" Nor was he blasphemous in
saying it.

He thought of Jurgen, of Faust--for in some miraculous way he had
reclaimed his youth or been reclaimed by it. The face that looked back
at him was fresh-skinned, unlined, unweathered by life. He saw with
surprise, from the detachment of almost two decades, that he had been
better looking than he remembered.

He looked down, saw that his body, beneath the camel's hair coat, was
thin. The fat and fatigue of too many years of rich eating and drinking,
of sedentary work, of immense nervous pressures, had been swept away
without diet, without tiresome exercise. He was young again--and he
almost ran the Pontiac into a ditch at the side of the road....

If it was a dream, he decided, it was a dream he was going to enjoy. He
recalled what Shaw had said about youth being such a wonderful thing it
was a pity to waste it on children. And he knew that he, at any rate,
was no child, whatever the body that had so miraculously been restored
to him.

The unhappy Pontiac cleared another hilltop and Lincolnville lay
stretched out before Coulter, naked and exposed, stripped of its summer
foliage. He had forgotten how dominated it was by the five church
steeples--Unitarian, Episcopal, Trinitarian, Roman Catholic and Swedish
Reform. There was no spire atop the concrete-and-stucco pillared
building in which the Christian Scientists held their Sunday readings.

Half-consciously he dug for a cigar in his breast pocket, looked with
mild surprise on the straight-stemmed pipe he found there. He had
forgotten that he once smoked a pipe as completely as he had forgotten
the churchly domination of his home town.

Even though Lincolnville remained fixed in his memory as it had looked
twenty years ago--as it looked now awaiting his belated return--he was
aware of many anachronisms while tooling the Pontiac slowly along
Clinton Street. He had become used to the many outer changes of the past
two decades, was unable completely to suppress surprise at not finding
them present on his return.

For one thing there was the vast amount of overhead wiring. Coulter had
forgotten how its lacework of insulation and poles took up space even in
a comparatively small community. He had long since forgotten the English
sparrows, erstwhile avian pest of America, that were to vanish so
swiftly with the final abolition of the horse.

There were more horses than he recalled, parked here and there among the
shoppers' automobiles. And the cars themselves looked like refugees from
a well-aged television movie, all straight-up-and-down windshields and
unbuilt-in fenders and wooden spoked or wire wheels. He suspected the
Pontiac he was driving would look as odd to him once he got out and
examined it.

A dark-overcoated policeman, lounging against the front of the Rexall
store at the main intersection, lifted a mittened hand in casual salute.
Coulter replied in kind, drove on through the Center, took the fork past
the old library with the skeleton of its summer coat of ivy looking bare
and chilly against the sunset breeze. The bit of sky he could see
through the houses and leafless trees was grey and yellow and cold.

The house was there, just as he had left it. It was still a good-sized
mansion in comfortable ugly space-wasting Reign-of-Terror Tuscan,
standing ornate and towered and turreted behind a fence of granite posts
connected by long iron pipes that sagged in the middle as the result of
children walking them on their way to and from the public schools around
the corner on Sheldon Street.

Coulter turned left and felt the crunch of ashes under his tires as he
drove across the sidewalk, through the fence opening, into the driveway
to the open-doored garage awaiting him. He reminded himself to be
careful of the jutting nail that had torn his glove.

The concrete floor of the garage felt cold against the soles of his
shoes. Coulter stamped his feet as he turned on the heater and moved
toward the door. It stuck--he had forgotten about that--and he swore
lustily as he exerted strength he had forgotten ever possessing to yank
it clear of the snag and across the front of the building.

He didn't want the Pontiac to freeze. Not when he had a date with Eve
Lawton.... A date with Eve Lawton.... He hadn't thought of Eve in years,
except on those occasional sleepless nights when he amused himself with
seeking to visualize the women he had known in a Biblical sense of the
word.

Most of them were faceless units in a faceless and somewhat undignified
parade. But not Eve. She wasn't pretty--not in the sense of the
doll-faced creatures that adorned the movie magazines or even the
healthy maidens with whom he occasionally rollicked since coming home
from college.

Eve had a sensitivity of feature that was a sounding board for her
emotions. Coulter paused against the garage door and thought about her.
With the knowledge of twenty years he knew now that what Eve had, or had
had twenty years ago, was the basis of beauty, the inner intangible
which stamps a woman a woman above other women....

_What in hell has happened to me, is happening to me?_ Coulter felt the
chill of the evening wind stab deep into his bones. Then he looked down
at his vanished embonpoint and patted with his gloves the flat hardness
that had replaced it. It was all right with him as long as he didn't
wake up too soon--before his date with Eve anyway.

Coulter walked around the house and in through the front with its extra
winter doorway. There was the big square sapphire-blue carpet with the
worn spot at the foot of the stairs. There was the antique cherry card
table which, to his definite knowledge, should be standing in the front
hall of his own house in Scarborough, more than two hundred miles and
twenty years away.

His mother appeared in the door of the library, edged with light from
the cannel-coal fire in the grate behind her. She said, "Oh, there you
are, Banny. I'm glad you're back in time for ... Heaven's sake, Banny!
What's all this for?"

Coulter felt himself grow hot with embarrassment. He and his mother had
never been much given to outward show of affection. Yet, knowing she
would be dead within the year, he had been unable to resist the urge to
embrace her. He was going to have to watch his step. He said, fumbling a
little, "I don't know, mother. I guess I just felt like it, that's all."

"Well--all right." She was mollified, patted the blue-white hair above
delicately handsome features to make certain no strand had been
disarranged. Then, "Did you remember to stop at MacAuliffe's and pick up
my lighter?"

Feeling lost, Coulter felt in the pockets of his polo coat. To his
relief he found a small package in one of them, pulled it out. It was
wrapped with the city jeweler's tartan paper and he handed it to his
mother. She said, "Thanks--I've missed it this last week."

He had forgotten his mother was a smoker. Coulter took off his coat and
hat and hung them up, trying to remember details of a life he had long
since allowed to blur into soft focus. She had taken up the habit about
a year after his father died of a ruptured appendix while on a hunting
trip down in the Maine woods.

He noticed the skis and ski-boots and ski-poles standing at attention in
the back of the closet, wondered if he could still execute a decent
Christie. Then, emerging, he said, "Just us for dinner tonight, mother?"

"Just us," she said, regarding him with a faint frown from over a
fresh-lit cigarette.

"Good!" he said. "How about a drink?"

"Banny," said his mother with patient sternness, "you know as well as I
that you're the family liquor-provider since your father died. I'm not
going to deal with bootleggers. And there's nothing but a little
vermouth in the pantry."

"Snooping again," he said, carefully unsmiling. Good God, it was still
Prohibition! Memory stabbed at him, bringing what had so recently
emerged from past into present clearly into focus, technicolored focus.
"I've got a little surprise upstairs in my closet."

He found himself taking the stairs two at a time without effort. Shaw
had definitely been right, he decided when he discovered the exertion
had not winded him in the slightest. He went into the big room
overlooking the front lawn, now covered with much-trodden snow, that he
had fallen heir to after his father died.

Karen, the Swedish-born second maid, was opening the bed. He had
completely forgotten Karen, had to battle against staring at her. She
was a perfect incipient human brood-mare--lush not-yet-fat figure, broad
pelvis, meaningless pretty-enough face. Now what the devil had been his
relations with _her_?

Since he couldn't remember, he decided they must have been innocuous. He
said, "Hi, Karen, broken up any new homes lately?"

She said, "Oh--_you_, Mr. Coulter!" She giggled and fled, stumbling over
the threshold in her hurry.

Coulter looked after her, his eyebrows high. Well, he thought, here was
something he had evidently missed entirely. Karen's crush was painfully
apparent, viewed from a vantage of two decades of added experience. Or
perhaps he had been smarter than he remembered.

The gallon of home-made gin was stuck behind the textbook-filled carton
on the back floor of his closet, where somehow he had known it must be.
It was between a third and half full of colorless liquid. He uncorked
it, sniffed and shuddered. Prohibition was going to take a bit of
getting used to after two decades of Repeal.

Half an hour later he sipped his rather dire martini and listened to his
mother talk. Not to the words especially, for she was one of those
nearly-extinct well-bred women, brought up in the horsehair amenities of
the late Victorian era, who could talk charmingly and vivaciously and at
considerable length without saying anything. It was pleasant merely to
sit and sip and let the words flow over him.

She looked remarkably well, he thought, for a woman who was to die
within a year of galloping cancer. She seemed to have recovered entirely
from the emotional aftermath of his father's death. So much so that he
found himself wondering how deeply she had loved the man with whom she
had spent some thirty-eight years of her life.

She was slim and quick and sure in her movements and her figure, of
which she was inordinately proud, resembled that of a girl rather than
the body of a woman nibbling late middle-age. Slowly he realized she had
stopped talking, had asked him a question and was awaiting his answer.
He smiled apologetically and said, "Sorry, mother, I must have been
wool-gathering."

"You're tired, lamb." No one had called him that in twenty years. "And
no wonder, with all that _run_ning around for Mr. Simms on the
_news_paper."

Mr. Simms--that would be Patrick "Paddy" Simms, his managing editor,
the old-school city-room tyrant who had taught him his job so well that
he had gone on to make a successful career of public relations and the
organization of facts into words--at rates far more imposing than those
paid a junior reporter during the Great Depression.

In his swell of memories Coulter almost lost his mother's question a
second time, barely managed to catch its meaning. He sipped his drink
and said, "I agree, mother, the burning of the books in Germany _is_ a
threat to freedom. But I don't think you'll have to worry about Adolph
Hitler very long."

She misread his meaning, of course, frowned charmingly and said, "I _do_
hope you're right, Banny. Nellie Maynard had a few of us for tea this
afternoon and Margot Henson, she's tre_men_dously chic and her husband
knows _all_ those big men in the New Deal in Washington--not that he
a_grees_ with them, thank goodness--well, _she_ says the big men in the
State Department are really _wor_ried about Hitler. They think he may
try to make Germany strong enough to start an_oth_er war."

"It could happen, of course," Coulter told her. He had forgotten his
mother's trick of stressing one syllable of a word. Funny, Connie, his
wife--if she was still his wife after whatever had happened--had the
same trick. With an upper-class Manhattan dry soda-cracker drawl added.

He wondered if he were going to have to live through it all again--the
NRA, the Roosevelt boomlet, the Recession, the string of Hitler triumphs
in Europe, the war, Pearl Harbor and all that followed--Truman, the Cold
War, Korea, McCarthy ...

Seated across from her at the gleaming Sheraton dining table, which
should by rights be in his own dining room in Scarborough overlooking
the majestic Hudson, he wondered how he could put his foreknowledge to
use. There was the market, of course. And he could recall the upset
football win of Yale over Princeton in 1934, the Notre Dame last-minute
triumph over Ohio State a year later, most of the World Series winners.
On the Derby winners he was lost....

When the meal was over and they were returning to the library with its
snug insulating bookshelves and warm cannel-coal fire, his mother said,
"Banny, it's been so nice _hav_ing this talk with you. We haven't had
_many_ lately. I _wish_ you'd stay home tonight with me. You really _do_
look tired, you know."

"Sorry, mother," he replied. "I've got a date."

"With the _Law_ton girl, I suppose," she said without affection. Then,
accepting a cigarette and holding it before lighting it, "I do wish you
_wouldn't_ see quite so much of her. I'll ad_mit_ she's a perfectly
nice girl, of course. But she _is_ strange and people are be_gin_ning to
talk. I hope you're not going to be _fool_ish about her."

"Don't worry," Coulter replied. Since when, he wondered, had wanting a
girl as he wanted Eve Lawton been foolish. He added, "What's wrong with
Eve anyway?"

His mother lit a cigarette. "Lamb, it's not that there's anything
_real_ly wrong with Eve. As a matter of fact I be_lieve_ her family is
quite distinguished--good old _Linc_olnville stock."

"I'm aware of that," he replied drily. "I believe her great, great,
great grandfather was a brigadier while mine was only a colonel in the
Revolution."

His mother dismissed the distant past with a gesture. "But the Lawtons
haven't _man_aged to keep up," she stated. "Think of your schooling,
dear--you've had the _ve_ry best. While Eve ..." With a shrug.

"Went to grammar and high-school right here in Lincolnville," Coulter
finished for her. "Mother, Eve has more brains and character than any of
the debs I know." Then, collecting himself, "But don't worry,
mother--I'm not going to let it upset my life."

"I'm _ve_ry glad to hear it," Mrs. Coulter said simply. "Re_mem_ber,
Banny, you and your Eve are a world apart. Besides, we're going to take
a trip a_broad_ this summer. There's _so_ much I want us to see
to_gether_. It would be a shame to ..." She let it hang.

Coulter looked at his mother, remembering hard. He had been able to
stymie that trip on the excuse that he'd almost certainly lose his job
and that new jobs were too hard to get in a depression era. He thought
that his surviving parent was, beneath her well-mannered surface, a
shallow, domineering, snobbish empress. Granted his new vista of vision,
he realized for the first time how she had dominated both his father and
himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

He thought, _I hate this woman. No, not hate, just loathe._

He glanced at the watch on his wrist, a Waltham he had long since lost
or broken or given away--he couldn't recall which. He said, "All the
same, mother, a date's a date. I'm a little late now. Don't wait up for
me."

"I shan't," she replied, looking after him with a frown of pale concern
as he headed for the hall closet.

It took a few minutes to get the Pontiac warmed up but once out of the
driveway Coulter knew the way to Eve Lawton's house as if he had been
there last night, not two decades earlier. The small cold winter moon
cast its frigid light over an intimate little group of apple tapioca
clouds and made the snow-clad fields a dark grey beneath the black
evergreens that backed the fields beside the road.

As he slowed to a stop in front of the old white-frame house with its
graceful utilitarian lines of roof and gable, he found himself wondering
whether this were the dream or the other--the twenty years that had
found him an orphan. That had given him enough inherited money to strike
out for himself in New York. That had seen him win success as a
highly-paid publicist. That had seen him married to wealthy Connie
Marlin and a way of life as far from that of Lincolnville as he himself
now was from Scarborough and Connie.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eve opened the door before he reached it. She was as willowy and alive
as he remembered her, and a great deal more vital and beautiful. She put
up her face to be kissed as soon as he was inside and his arms went
around her soft angora sweater and he wondered a little at what he had
so cavalierly dismissed and left behind him.

She said, "You're late, Banning. I thought you'd forgotten."

He kept one arm around her as they walked into the living room with its
blazing fire. He said, "Sorry. Mother wanted to talk."

"Is she terribly worried about me?" Eve asked. Her face, in inquiry, was
like a half-opened rose.

Coulter hesitated, then replied, "I think so, darling. She was afraid
your stock had gone to seed. I had to remind her that your great, great,
great grandfather outranked mine."

The odd, in her case beautiful, blankness of fear smoothed Eve's
forehead. She said, her voice low, her eyes not meeting his, "Yesterday
you'd never have noticed what she was thinking."

"Yesterday?" He forced her to look at him. "Yesterday I was another
man--a whole twenty-four hours younger." He added the last hastily, so
as not to rouse suspicion. Eve, he both knew at once and remembered, was
highly sensitive, intuitively brilliant.

"I know," she said simply, and for the second time since the amazing
transformation of the afternoon he felt the tight grip of terror.
Watching her as she turned from him and began to stoke the fire, he
wondered just what she did know.

The album rested on the table against the back of the sofa in front of
the fireplace. It was a massive leather-and-parchment tome, with
imitation medieval brass clasps and hinges. He opened it carelessly,
seeking reassurance in idle action.

He flipped the pages idly, in bunches. There was Eve, a lacy little
moppet, held in the arms of her drunkard farming father. A sort of local
mad-Edison whose inventions never worked or, if they did, were promptly
stolen from him by more profit-minded promoters. Her brother Jim,
sturdy, cowlicked, squinting into the sun, stood at his father's knee.
He wondered what had happened to Jim but didn't dare ask. Presumably he
should know since Jim shared the house with his sister and an ancient
housekeeper, doubtless long since asleep.

He flipped more pages, came to a snapshot of Eve in a bathing suit at
Lake Tahoe. Bill Something-or-other, Lincolnville High School football
hero of five years before, had an arm around Eve's slim, wool-covered
waist. Two-piece suits and bikinis were still a long way in the future.
He said, "What's become of Bill?"

She said, "Don't you remember? He was killed in that auto crash coming
home from the city last year." There was an odd questing flatness in her
voice.

Coulter remembered the incident now, of course. There had been a girl in
the car, who had been disfigured for life. Plastic surgery, like
bikinis, still lay well ahead. He and Eve had begun going together right
after that accident....

Something about Eve's tone, some urgency, disturbed him. He looked at
her quickly. She was standing by the fireplace, watching him, watching
him as if he were doing something important. The fright within him
renewed itself. Quickly he turned back to the album, flipped further
pages.

He was close to the end of the album. What he saw was a newspaper
clipping, a clipping showing himself and Harvey MacIlwaine of
Consolidated Motors shaking hands at a banquet table. The headline above
the picture read, AUTHOR AND AUTO MAGNATE CELEBRATE BIOGRAPHY.

Above the headline was the date: _January 16, 1947_.

With hard-forced deliberation, because every nerve in his body was
singing its song of fear like a banjo string, Coulter closed the album.
The honeymoon, if that was the right term for it, was over. He knew now
which was the dream, which the reality.

He said, "All of this is your doing, Eve." It was not a question.

She said quietly, "That's right, Banning, it's my doing." She looked at
him with a cool detachment that added to his bewilderment--and to his
fright.

He said, "Why, Eve? _Why_ have you done this?"

She said, "Banning, do you know what a Jane Austen villain is?"

He shook his head. "Hardly my pitch, is it?"

"Hardly." There was a trace of sadness in her voice. Then, "A Jane
Austen villain is an attractive, powerful, good-natured male who rides
through life roughshod, interested only in himself, completely unaware
of his effect on those unlucky souls whose existences become entangled
in his."

"And I am a Jane Austen villain?" He was puzzled, disturbed that
anyone--Eve or anyone--should think of him as a villain. Mentally he
began to search for kindnesses, for unselfishnesses. He found
generosities, yes, but these, he supposed with sudden dreadful clarity,
had been little more than balm to his ego.

"You are perhaps a classic example, Banning," she told him. Her face, in
shadow, was exquisitely beautiful. "When you left Lincolnville twenty
years ago, without seeing me, without letting me see you, you destroyed
me."

"Good God!" Coulter exclaimed. "But how? I know it was rude, but I did
mean to come back. And when things moved differently it seemed better to
keep a clean break clean." He hesitated, added, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry that you destroyed me?" Her tone was acid-etched.

"Dammit, do you want me down on my knees?" he countered. "How the devil
did my leaving destroy _you_?" Anger, prodded by fear, was warming his
blood.

"I was sensitive--aware of the collapse of my family, of my own
shortcomings, of my lack of opportunity," she said, staring with immense
grey eyes at the wall behind him. "I was just beginning to feel I could
be somebody, could mean something to someone I--liked--when you dropped
me and never looked back.

"I took a job at the bank. For twenty years I've sat in a cage, counting
out money and putting little legends in bank-books. I've felt myself
drying up day by day, week by week, year by year. When I've sought love
I've merely defiled myself. You taught me passion, Banning, then
destroyed my capacity to enjoy it with anyone but you. You destroyed me
and never even knew it."

"You could have gone out into the world," he said with a trace of
contempt. "Other girls have."

"Other girls are not me," Eve replied steadily. "Other girls don't give
themselves to a man as completely as I gave myself to you."

"What can I do now?" Coulter asked, running a hand through his newly
crew-cut hair. Recalling Eve at dinner, seeing her in the doorway,
holding her briefly in his arms--he had almost decided that in this new
life she was the partner he would carry with him.

Now, however, he was afraid of her. It was Eve who had, in some strange
way, brought him back twenty years for purposes she had yet to divulge.
One thing he knew, logically and intuitively--he could never endure life
with anyone of whom he was frightened.

She was no longer looking at the wall--she was looking directly at him
and with curious intensity. She said, "Do you have to ask?"

She was testing him, of course. Sensitive, brilliant, she might be--yet
she was a fool not to have judged the effect of his fear of her. He
walked around the table, took hold of her shoulders, turned her to face
him, said, "What has this particular evening to do with bringing
me--us--back?"

"Everything!" she said, her eyes suddenly ablaze. "_Everything_,
Banning! Can't you understand?"

He released her, lit himself a cigarette, seeking the calmness he knew
he must have to keep his thinking clear. He said, "Perhaps I understand
why--a little. But how, Eve, _how_?"

She got up and walked across the wide hearth, kicked a fallen log back
into place. Its glowing red scales burst into yellow flame. She turned
and said, "Remember my father's last work? His efforts to discover the
secrets of Time?"

"I remember he threw away what should have been your inheritance on a
flock of crackpot ideas," he told her.

"This wasn't a crackpot idea," she said, eyeing him as if he were
another log for the fire. "His basic premise that Time is all-existent
was sound. Time is past, present and future."

"I might have argued that with you--before today," he replied.

"It was like everything else he tried." She made an odd little gesture
of helplessness. "He went at it wrong-end-to, of course. Not until after
he died and Jim got back from M.I.T. did we get to work on it. I was
merely the helper who held the tools for Jim. And when we completed it
_he_ lacked the courage to try it out." There was the acid of contempt
in her voice at her brother's poltroonery.

"I don't blame him," said Coulter. "After all ..." He changed the
subject, asked, "Where _is_ Jim?"

"He was killed at Iwo Jima," she told him.

"What's to keep him from walking in here tonight--or to keep _you_ from
walking in on us?" he asked.

"Jim's in Cambridge, studying for exams," she replied. "As for my
meeting myself, it's impossible. It's hard to explain but in coming back
here I became reintegrated with the past me. Just as you are both a
present and a past you. You must have noticed a certain duplication of
memories, an overlapping? _I_ have."

"I've noticed," he said. "But _why_ only we two?"

"I'll show you," she said. "Come." She led him down rough wooden cellar
stairs to a basement, unfastened with pale and dexterous fingers a
padlocked wooden door behind the big old-fashioned furnace with its
up-curving stovepipe arms, under which he had to stoop to avoid bumping
his head.

The sharp sting of dead furnace-ashes was in his nostrils as he looked
at the strange device. The strange cage-like device, the strange
jerry-built apparatus was centered in a bizarre instrument panel that
seemed to hang from nothing at all. He said, eyeing a bucket-seat for
the operator, "It looks like Red Barber's cat-bird seat, Eve."

"And we're sitting in it, just you and I, darling," she replied. "Just
you and I out of all the people who ever lived. Think of what we can do
with our lives now, the mistakes we can avoid!"

"I'm thinking of them," said Coulter. Then, after a brief pause, "But
how in hell did you manage to get _me_ into the act?"

She stepped inside the odd cage, plucked things from a cup-like
receptacle that hung from the instrument panel, showed them to him.
There were a lock of hair, a scarf, what looked like fingernail parings.
At his bewilderment her face lighted briefly with the shadow of a smile.

She said, "These are _you_, darling. Oh, you _still_ don't understand!
Lacking the _person_ or _thing_ to be sent back in Time, something that
is part of the person or thing will work. It keys directly to individual
patterns."

"And you've kept those things--those pieces of me--in there all this
time?" He shuddered. "It looks like voodoo to me."

She put back the mementos, stepped out of the cage, put her arms
fiercely around him. "Banning, darling, after you left me I _did_ try
voodoo. I wanted you to suffer as I suffered. But then, when the Time
machine was finished and Jim was afraid to use it, I put the things in
it--and waited. It's been a long wait."

"How did it reach me while I was still miles away?" he asked.

"Jim always said its working radius was about five miles," she said.
"When you drove within range, it took over.... But let's go back
upstairs, darling--we have our lives to plan."

To change the subject Coulter said, when they emerged from the basement,
"You must have had a time picking the right moment for this little
reunion--or was it hit or miss?"

"The machine is completely accurate," she said firmly. She stood there,
the firelight making a halo of her dark hair. There was urgency in her,
an expectation that the remark would mean something to him. It didn't.

Finally she burst out with, "Banning, are you really so forgetful? Don't
you remember what tonight was ... _don't_ you?"

Coulter did some hasty mental kangaroo-hopping. He knew it was important
to Eve and, because of the incredible thing she had accomplished, he
felt a new wave of fright. From some recess of his memory he got a
flash--Jim was in Cambridge, the housekeeper asleep in the rear ell of
the old farmhouse, he and Eve were alone.

He drew her gently close to him and kissed her soft waiting lips as he
had kissed them twenty years before, felt the quiver of her slim body
against him as he had felt it twenty years before. He should have
known--Eve had selected for their reunion the anniversary of the first
time they had truly given themselves to each other.

He said, "Of course I remember, darling. If I'm a little slow on the
uptake it's because I've had a lot of things happen to me all at once."

"The old Banning Coulter would never have understood," she said, giving
him a quick hug before standing clear of him. Her eyes were shining like
star sapphires. "Banning, you've grown up!"

"People do," he said drily. There was an odd sort of tension between
them as they stood there, knowing what was to happen between them. Eve
took a deep unsteady breath and the rise and fall of her angora sweater
made his arms itch to pull her close.

She said, before he could translate desire into action, "Oh, I've been
so _wrong_ about so many things, darling. But I was so _right_ to bring
you back. Think of what we're going to be able to do, you and I
together, now that we have this second chance. We'll know just what's
going to happen. We'll be rich and free and lord it over ordinary
mortals. I'll have furs and you'll have yachts and we'll ..."

"I'm a lousy sailor," said Coulter. "No, I don't want a yacht."

"Nonsense, we'll have a yacht and cruise wherever we want to go. Think
of how easy it will be for us to make money." Her eyes were shining more
brightly still. "No more standing in a teller's cage for me. No more
feeling the life-sap dry up inside me, handling thousands of dollars a
day and none of it mine."

She stepped to him, gripped him tightly, her fingernails making
themselves felt even through the heavy material of his jacket. She
kissed him fiercely and said in a throaty whisper, "Darling, I'm going
upstairs. Come up in ten minutes--and be young again with me."

She left him standing alone in front of the fire....

Coulter filled his pipe and lit it. His mother had said _we_ when she
talked of her plans, as if her son were merely an object to be moved
about at her whim. _Pick up my lighter at MacAuliffe's ... going to take
a trip abroad this summer ... not going to be foolish about her...._ He
could see the phrases as vividly as if they were written on a video
teleprompter.

And then he saw another set of phrases--different in content, yet
strangely alike in meaning. _Nonsense, we'll have a yacht ... lord it
over ordinary mortals ... a long wait._ He thought of the voodoo and the
fingernail parings, of the savage materialism of the woman who was even
now preparing herself to receive him upstairs, who was planning to
relive his life with him in _her_ image.

He thought of his wife, foolish perhaps, but true to him and never
domineering. He thought of the Scarborough house and the good friends he
had there, hundreds of miles and twenty years away. He wondered if he
could go back if he got beyond the five-mile radius of the strange
machine in the basement.

He looked down with regret at his slim young body, so unexpectedly
regained--and thought of the heavier, older less vibrant body that lay
waiting for him five miles away. Then swiftly, silently, he tiptoed into
the hall, donned coat and hat and gloves, slipped through the front door
and bolted for the Pontiac.

He drove like a madman over the icy roads through the dark. Somehow he
sensed he would have to get beyond the reach of the machine before Eve
grew impatient and came downstairs and found him gone. She might, in her
anger, send him back to some other Time--or perhaps the machine worked
both ways. He didn't know. He could only flee in fear ... and hope....

At times, in the years that had passed since his abrupt breaking-off of
his romance with Eve Lawton, he had wondered a little about why he had
dropped her so quickly, just when his mother's death seemed to open the
path for their marriage.

Now he knew that youthful instinct had served him better than he knew.
Somehow, beneath the charm and wit and beauty of the girl, he had sensed
the domineering woman. Perhaps a lifetime with his mother had made him
extra-aware of Eve's desire to dominate without its reaching his
conscious mind.

But to have exchanged the velvet glove of his mother for the velvet
glove of Eve would have meant a lifetime of bondage. He would never have
been his own man, never....

He could feel cold sweat bathe his body once more as he sped past the
Brigham Farm. According to his wristwatch just eight and a quarter
minutes had elapsed since Eve had left him and gone upstairs. He felt a
sudden urge to turn around and go back to her--he knew she would forgive
his attempt to run away. After all, he couldn't even guess at what would
happen when he reached the outer limit of the machine's influence. Would
he be in 1934 or 1954--or irretrievably lost in some timeless nowhere at
all?

He thought again of what Eve had said about yachts and world traveling
and wondered how she could hope to do so if the radius of influence was
only five miles. Eve might be passionate, headstrong and neurotic, but
she was not a fool. If she had planned travel on a world of two decades
past she must have found a way of making his and her stay in that past
permanent, without trammels.

If she had altered the machine ... But she wouldn't have until he was
caught in her trap when, inevitably, he returned to look at the scenes
of his childhood. He tried to recall what she had done, what gestures
she had made, when she demonstrated the machine. As nearly as he could
remember, all Eve had done was to pluck out his nail parings, the bit of
hair and scarf, then return them to their receptacle.

Voodoo.... She was close to mad. Or perhaps he was mad himself. He wiped
his streaming forehead with a sleeve, barely avoided overturning as he
rounded a curve flanked by signboards....

He felt a bump....

And suddenly he was in the big convertible again, guiding it over to one
of the parking lanes at the side of the magnificent two-laned highway.
He looked down at his sleek dark vicuna coat, visualized the rise of
plump stomach beneath it, reached in his breast pocket for a panatella.

       *       *       *       *       *

He noticed the tremble in his hand. _No, no cigars now_, he thought.
_Not with the old pump acting up like this. Too much excitement._ He
reached for the little box of nitroglycerin tablets in his watch-pocket,
got it out, took one, waited.

Maybe his life wasn't perfect, maybe there wasn't much of it left to
live--but what there was was his, not his mother's, not Eve's. The
unsteadiness in his chest was fading. He turned on the ignition, drove
slowly back through the housing developments, the neon signs and
clover-leaf turns and graded crossings toward the city....

When he got back to the hotel he would call Connie in Scarborough. It
would be heavenly, the sound of her high, silly little voice....



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ May 1954.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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