July 24, 2010

SFF Masterworks #49 Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Fantasy Masterworks # 49

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury 


Excerpt Chapter 10

"Just after midnight.  

Shuffling footsteps.

Along the empty street came the lightning-rod salesman, his leather valise swung almost empty in his baseball-mitt hand, his face at ease.  He turned a corner and stopped.  

Paper-soft white moths tapped at an empty store window, looking in. 

And in the window, like a great coffin boat of star-colored glass, beached on two sawhorses lay a chunk of Alaska Snow Company ice chopped to a size great enough to flash in a giant's ring. 

And sealed in this ice was the most beautiful woman in the world.
The lightning-rod salesman's smile faded.

In the dreaming coldness of ice like someone fallen and slept in snow avalanches a thousand years, forever young, was this woman. 

She was as fair as this morning and fresh as tomorrow's flowers and lovely as any maid when a man shuts his eyes and traps her, in cameo perfection, on the shell of his eyelids.

The lightning-rod salesman remembered to breath.  

Once, long ago, traveling among the marbles of Rome and Florence, he had seen women like this, kept in stone instead of ice.  Once, wandering in the Louvre, he had found women like this, washing in summer color and kept in paint.  Once, as a boy, sneaking the cool grottos behind a motion picture theater screen, on his way to a free seat, he had glanced up and there towering and flooding the haunted dark seen a woman's face as he had never seen it since, of such size and beauty built of milk-bone and moon-flesh as to freeze him there alone behind the stage, shadowed by the motion of her lips, the bird-wing flicker of her eyes, the snow-pale-death shimmering illumination from her cheeks.

So from other years there jumped forth images which flowed and found new substance here within the ice.  

What color was her hair? It was blond to whiteness and might take any color, once set free of cold.  

How tall was she?  

The prism of the ice might well multiply her size or diminish her as you moved this way or that before the empty store, the window, the night-soft rap-tapping ever-fingering gently probing moths.

Not important.

Far above all--the lightning-rod salesman shivered--he knew the most extraordinary thing. 

If by some miracle her eyelids should open with that sapphire and she should look at him, he knew what color her eyes would be.  

He knew what color her eyes would be.

If one were to enter this lonely night shop--

If one were to put forth one's hand, the warmth of that hand would...what?"

Melt the ice.

The lightning-rod salesman stood there for a long moment, his eyes quickened shut.  

He let his breath out.  

It was warm as summer on his teeth.

His hand touched the shop door.  It swung open.  Cold arctic are blew out around him. He stepped in.

The door shut.

The white snowflake moths tapped at the window."


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