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´╗┐Title: When Day is Done
Author: Castle, Arnold
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 "When Day is Done" ***

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                           When Day is Done

                           By ARNOLD CASTLE

                   _If there is a bit of the jungle
                    in every man--why not put every
                    man into a bit of the jungle?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Worlds of If Science Fiction, May 1960.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


It was three in the afternoon and quitting time at Utopian Appliances,
Inc. Bertram J. Bernard, the firm's stocky, thick-jawed president,
waited discreetly at his desk for a few minutes, then closed the file
he had been studying, bid his secretary a pleasant evening, and strode
calmly out of the office.

He did not want to appear eager, and succeeded superbly in that.
Joining several junior executives, he conversed genially with them
as they descended to the rapid-transit floor. Three of the bright,
confident young men decided to stop for a quick one at the building's
plush saloon. Well, that was okay--Bernard had been a late-runner in
his youth. But now, well into middle age, he had learned that life had
other demands and pleasures.

"Have a good run, B. B.," said Watkins, the treasurer, at the rap-tran
gate. "Gloria's coming in on the three-thirty and we're going to dinner
and then some musical or other she's been dying to see."

So Bernard entered the rap-tran alone, though surrounded by scores of
pushing, jabbering strangers. Finding a seat on the aisle, next to a
electronics company vice-president whom he knew slightly, he engaged
in trade conversation during the five minutes it took the monorail to
reach his stop. He and the electronics executive got off, as did about
half of the rap-trans passengers, mostly middle-aged men like himself.
Early-runners.

The escalator from the monorail stop descended directly into the
Jungle Station beneath. In the large lobby the crowd dispersed and
Bernard was again alone when he reached the dressing rooms. This was
not surprising, he reflected; not many members of his Jungle Station
could afford the elaborate private locker unique to this wing of the
building. He pressed his thumbprint to the lock and the door slid back.

Inside, he undressed completely, noting with critical satisfaction the
strength and color of his body in the full-length mirror at one end of
the locker. He quickly packed his clothes, shoes, and briefcase into a
small suitcase, with delivery instructions on the top. Then he climbed
into his jungle suit--knee-length shorts, sweat shirt, rubber-soled
shoes, and hip holster.

He checked the frequency setting on the sonic pistol, adjusting it to
the panthers who were reported in ascendancy. As a last thought, merely
a whim, he glanced down at the station emblem on his sweat shirt, just
to enjoy the sense of pride he derived from the large red "U-F" above
it.

Of course there were getting to be more and more ulcer-frees these
days, but that did not make it any less a matter for pride. And anyway
several factions were pressing determinedly for a neurosis-free
insignia. Though there were complications there. Oh, well, the
important thing's the run, he remembered.

In the lobby again he deposited his suitcase at the delivery window.
Then he stopped at the bulletin board to read the ascendancy ratings
for the day. These were official, therefore several days outdated, but
one could extrapolate. Panthers were dropping into third position,
behind polar bears, with giraffes at the top by a good margin.

Outside the building he ran into a tipster and decided he had best buy
a dope sheet. He gave the seedy little man a dollar bill and looked
over the page.

"Keep it right where you got it, Mac," the man whispered hoarsely,
nodding toward the pistol at Bernard's side. "I got it straight, dem
pant'ers is all over de place. Watch out at de water hole, specially."

       *       *       *       *       *

Glancing swiftly over the page, Bernard saw that fifty panthers had
entered this sector of the jungle overnight, with a herd of fifteen
giraffes headed well toward the south. But he also noted that there
had been three deaths from polar bears in the past week in his sector
alone. Fortunately, the frequency readjustment from panthers to polar
bears was an easy one, three clicks clockwise with the thumb. He would
have to remember about the water hole, though it was either that or
going above the rapids. The sharks below the rapids were pretty thick
during the summer.

"Thanks, bud," he told the tipster. Then he strode, still calm, to
the wall. Expertly he clambered up its handholds, till he reached the
top, thirty feet from the ground. On the other side lay the jungle,
its lush tropical growth hiding from his alert eyes the danger that
lurked within. He popped a Verve pill into his mouth and chewed on it
thoughtfully.

Far in the distance, some five miles at the narrowest point, rose the
outer wall. Between the two prowled a variety of ambivalent robot
beasts, now ready to dismember him, but on weekends adjusted to
take small boys and girls for short rides or simply to stalk about
picturesquely.

Drawing his pistol and placing it between his teeth, Bernard leaped to
the ground between the wall and a large low palm. At once the pistol
was again in his hand. But nothing moved. Now he could see clearly the
path he must take.

Bending low, he trotted along through the undergrowth. It soon began
to clear, and still no danger in sight. He holstered the pistol and
advanced, half-walking, half-running, till he could hear the hiss of
the rapids. Enough noise to mask the sounds of a dozen panthers, he
thought. But it covered his own footsteps, too, and panthers were more
phonotropic than polar bears, the latter having a preference for radar
spotting.

Coyotes were the worst, of course, with their damned infrared
thermo-sensors. They could spot a runner even when he was in cover.
Fortunately they were scarce and getting more so. Bernard had only
encountered a coyote twice, deactivating it both times. But he had been
lucky. He recalled the story about that city councilman....

An hour later he arrived at the river, a half-mile above the rapids
and well away from the water hole. He had seen only one beast in the
first three miles of his trek, a giraffe hobbling along in olefactory
pursuit of another runner far to the right. Giraffes were mainly a
nuisance, though they could kick and trample a man. Bernard had heard
of such a thing happening, but it was a rarity. They were too easy to
elude.

He crossed the river on a log raft he found, which had evidently been
rigged to dump him in about halfway across. At least he had got that
far on it he told himself, as he struck out for the shore. For one
horrible moment he thought he detected a shark upstream, but it was
merely the shadow of a large palm leaf. He had a strong and sensible
fear of sharks.

A mile farther found him crawling over the rocky ground as the growls
of panthers reached his acute ears from behind a ridge of brush. If
they heard him, they ignored him, perhaps more interested in other
quarry. His knees and arms were scraped but not bleeding, and at last
he was able to get to his feet to make better time.

It was then that he heard the girl's scream.

       *       *       *       *       *

No regulation in the rule book discriminated against women becoming
runners, but only a few of the millions who worked at offices and
plants in the city did so. Also there was nothing in the code about
helping other runners. Each was entirely on his own, free to help or
be helped, or not helped, if he chose.

Bernard would never have called for help for himself. But the sound of
the woman's cry appealed to another side of his nature. He changed his
direction, but moved with great caution now. Soon he saw her, and froze.

She was clad as he, different sector emblem, but the same proudly borne
"U-F" on her sweater. Her face and body were young and attractive, but
her long dark hair was tangled and wet, and her limbs mud-spattered.
She had screamed only once, and now her small lipsticked mouth hung
open with terror.

Backed against a tree, she gaped in horror, waiting, as three panthers
approached from as many directions. Her sonic lay on the ground outside
the circle. It was obvious that she was finished if Bernard did not
assist her.

Raising his hand till the pistol sight was where he wanted it, he
modified the angle adjustment till all of the animals were within
its range. Then he depressed the trigger several times. Two fell and
the third animal leaped at the girl. But she twisted around the tree
and Bernard picked off the panther as it readied itself for a second
spring. At once the girl dived for her pistol. Proper response, Bernard
thought approvingly. Then she ran toward him and threw herself against
him, breathing deeply in that position for several moments.

Bernard felt strongly the strength and zest of youth as he held the
girl in his arms. Then they turned and walked together to the outer
wall, which was less than half a mile away. There was no danger from
the deactivated panthers, which would remain out of commission for half
an hour. So they had no reason to hurry.

Bernard helped her climb the wall, though she seemed quite adept at it
herself. On the other side they emerged upon the street. Across the
street lay the acres and acres of homes which were the city's eastern
suburbia.

"Oh, it was just horrible!" the girl finally cried. "All at once they
sprang. From nowhere. I tripped and my sonic fell out of the holster.
I'd be _dead_ if it weren't for you!"

"Very true," Bernard agreed. "You'll be more careful in the future, I
hope."

"If only I could thank you in some way. I owe you so much. My apartment
is just up the next street. Only a few blocks. Wouldn't you like to
stop in for a drink? I'm sure you're as tired as I."

But Bernard declined. He walked her home, then continued on, unaware of
the envious glances of young children as he passed. Unaware of other
runners, early-runners, middle-aged men like himself, also walking the
streets, wearily but not stooping, not frowning.

How good a warm shower would be, thought Bernard, as he entered the
last mile. His wife would probably want a drink, so there would be that
too. And dinner. He was _hungry_.

Ulcer-free and happy, he walked the last mile in contentment. The
office was something that had happened long ago, would happen again
tomorrow, but could never invade his thoughts that night. And he knew
exactly how his wife would greet him at the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Hello, darling. How was the run?" she asked, kissing him as he came
into the house. "You only made fair time this evening. Something
happen?"

"No, pretty routine. Panthers are on the increase. I came across
three of them attacking a girl runner. Works as a copy writer in the
city. She claims that the jungle cured her ulcers completely. Really
remarkable."

"Mmm-hmm," said Virginia, taking his holster. "Attractive, no doubt. I
suppose she tried to seduce you. I've heard stories about those jungle
women."

"Nothing of the sort. Just suggested I drop in for a drink. After all,
she was grateful."

What nonsense, he told himself as he showered, Virginia suggesting that
the girl had intended to seduce him. Oh, well, what difference did it
make?

Man, that hot water felt good! Even on his scratched legs and arms.

How many years had he been making the run now? Twenty-three, almost. In
a way he could consider himself a sort of a pioneer. And to think that
the only reason he had started jungle running in the first place was to
please a supervisor! Those days everyone did it.

As he dried himself off, hearing the tinkle of cocktails in the living
room, he wondered if the panthers would move south, away from the water
hole, before tomorrow's run.





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