beyond-mist-place and was gone, and the
winds died, and the old paladin drew the
child "back back back into his body.
Alan slammed back inside himself,
his eyes opened and he pitched over on
his side, emptying his bladder, his bowels
and his stomach—drenching himself and
the wall beside him. His eyes rolled up in
his head. He went limp as death and
fainted, off off off . . .
The old paladin sent the other
seven children to the primary sensitivity
sections and took Alan Pryor for advanced work. Alan was already sensitive
This is what the old paladins taught
The crazing in the air was a tearing
of the fabric of time. The darkness
beyond the orange spiderweb was the
future. Earth's future . . . how far ahead
no one knew. Something terrible had
happened up there. No one knew what it
was, nor how far ahead the disaster lay.
It had changed those who lived ahead up
there. Now they wanted to escape. The
disaster had done something to the
interface between the present and the
future. Frequently, without warning,
those ahead up there were able to force
entrance. At such times, the paladins
brought their powers into play. The
nature of the power was never explained.
It could never be explained because it was
a random talent. It was born in rare
children but some things had to be done
to them before they could exercise the
full potency of the power. They stood
between the present and the future;
between those things that might be
human but no one cared to find out.
There was no doubt that if they came
through, they would destroy the human
race and take this Earth for themselves.
There were winds, and there were
scorched places, and people died where
they burst through; but always the
paladins unleashed their power and the
rift in time was sealed again and the
humping, lurching, odorous creatures
from the other side were sucked back
into their own present and the Earth was
safe again. For awhile.
He was assigned to a ready station
in Brazil. His apartment was in one of
the old Bauhaus buildings fronting
Leblon. He went where he chose and he
was honored wherever he went. He was a
paladin. The ivory and blue uniform was
a badge of respect. He swam in the totally
unbelievable blue of the ocean off Gopa-
cabana Beach and he stood every evening
on the balcony of his apartment as the
ten minute torrential downpour eased the
killing mugginess of the rain forest
humidity. He attended brush up sessions
in shock focus rooms like the one on the
Island and he waited for his time.
One night, when he was twenty-
seven years old, he attended a reception
for the international crowd that had
come to Rio for the film festival. When
he came up the dramatically winding
staircase in the American Embassy the
band stopped playing and the enormous
crowd turned and applauded him. He
smiled shyly and accepted the individual
greetings of the handsome men in their
summer-weight dinner jackets and the
extraordinary women in their diaphanous
gowns. Then he sought a place along one
wall where he could stand silently, watching them as they danced and laughed. He
was alone; he was always alone; he had
grown used to it.
Half of the reception storey of the
embassy had been wallslatted, converting
it into an art gallery; it held depth-screens
on which reproductions of the paintings
of American artists were projected:
Rothko and Homer and Cassatt and
Eakins and Bellows and Wyeth and
Grooms. He stood and marveled. He had
no national heritage, had never been
exposed to such wonders.
After a time, he became aware of a
woman watching him.
He did not stare at her, but turned
slighdy so he could watch her reflection
in one of the polished stainless steel helix
sculptures of David Lee Brown.
She was very tall and had shaved
herself completely in the current fashion.
Her pale skin seemed to be covered with a
faint, delicate film of dew. He thought:
beautiful, I've never seen a woman as
beautiful. He remembered: the sound of
a celeste, the sound of a toy piano. From
long ago, before the Island.
She moved, and he turned with her
movement to follow her image in the
stainless steel; she slipped off the reflective surface; and when he came around to
look directly at the crowded room, to
find her again, she was standing too near,
and she was watching him. Her expression
was one of concern. He had had women,
but had never approached one socially.
He was about to do it, to brave it, when
the spiracle began to form in the air just
in front of the Louis Comfort Tiffany
chandelier. One of the waiters saw it first
(Alan saw it first) and threw his silver
salver of canapes to the polished onyx
floor, shouted, pointed, and ran down the
Then the others saw the fissure
widening in the air, the charred orange
lips of it distending in the air, a faint
rushing of demon winds already ruffling
their hair. They began to scream and to
surge toward the staircase.
Had he not been staring directly at
her, he would not have been aware of her
part in it.
Something like the rooted trunk of
a tree began to slip through the spiracle
aperture, its fibrous rhizomes writhing
through the spiderweb threads that
dangled from the yawning lips of the
fissure. Droplets of moisture fell from
the tendrils and where they struck
the onyx floor bubbled and burned.
Alan gathered the yellow light from
the wells deep inside him and, realizing
the crowd would quickly shove itself over
the staircase railings, knew he had only
moments to seal the spiracle. He closed
his eyes, clenched his fists and hurled a
blast of yellow power out along the
sparkling silver thread. It struck the
vegetable horror emerging from the
fissure and penetrated each tiniest fiber
of rootling. It surged up the tap root and
entered the trunk, blasting the core of life
within. Then the yellow power spread
outward, lapping against the sides of the
spiracle. The opening began to shrink; it
drew in on itself as though strings were
tightening, pulling it closed like the
mouth of a chamois pouch. Alan drew a
deep breath, clenched his teeth and
speared one last potent measure of
yellow power at the spiracle. It withered,
sucked itself back in on itself, pulled the
last trailing rhizome back through the
spiderweb, and then was gone.
He felt himself sliding down against
the wall. He had fought off an attack
yesterday, in one of the favelas high on
the mountain overlooking the Lagoa
Rodrigo de, Frietas. There among the
barracos, the tin-sided hovels, he had beat
back an assault of slitted reptilian eyes
that had surged out of the infernal
darkness behind the orange spiderweb.
And again tonight, yet another encroachment. They never came this close together. Was it an indication that some
kind of tolerance had been built up?
That it would take more frequent and
stronger retaliation to beat back the
Shock-focus attacks? He slid down and
sat with his back to the wall, feeling sick
to his stomach. He never really came
away from an attack unscathed: his brain
felt scoured, raw, bleeding.
The crowd of silken cosmopolites
had paused on the edge of riot: there was
a paladin among them. And no paladin
had ever failed to save them. They had
paused and watched in awe and terror as
this slight young man had beat back the
demons. Now they crowded around him,
their hands reaching down to help him.
Alan gestured them away. He
sought her face in the crowd and through
a momentary shift in bodies saw' her
heading for the staircase. He motioned in
her direction and managed to gasp a
command. "Stop that woman . . . the
silver gown . . .yes, her!'' And the crowd
closed in across the mouth of the staircase, halting her flight. She turned and
stared at him. Then she came through
the crowd, her silver gown whispering
against her moist skin, and she helped
him to his feet.
And together they passed through
the crowd of dilettanti and descended the
R-40 in Bin 375.
R-41 in Bin 376.
IGUANACON PROGRAM BOOK
*'. hmbbhbhms .hi