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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Simak Clifford

«All Flesh Is Grass and Other Stories», Clifford Simak

All Flesh is Grass

First published: 1965


When I swung out of the village street onto the main highway, there was a truck behind me. It was one of those big semi jobs and it was really rolling. The speed limit was forty-five on that stretch of road, running through one corner of the village, but at that time in the morning it wasn't reasonable to expect that anyone would pay attention to a posted speed.

I wasn't too concerned with the truck. I'd be stopping a mile or so up the road at Johnny's Motor Court to pick up Alf Peterson, who would be waiting for me, with his fishing tackle ready. And I had other things to think of, too — principally the phone and wondering who I had talked with on the phone. There had been three voices and it all was very strange, but I had the feeling that it may have been one voice, changed most wonderfully to make three voices, and that I would know that basic voice if I could only pin it down. And there had been Gerald Sherwood, sitting in his study, with two walls lined by books, telling me about the blueprints that had formed, unbidden, in his brain. There had been Stiffy Grant, pleading that I not let them use the bomb. And there had been, as well, the fifteen hundred dollars.

Just up the road was the Sherwood residence, set atop its hill, with the house almost blotted out, in the early dawn, by the bulking blackness of the great oak trees that grew all around the house. Staring at the hill, I forgot about the phone and Gerald Sherwood in his book-lined study with his head crammed full of blueprints, and thought instead of Nancy and how I'd met her once again, after all those years since high school. And I recalled those days when we had walked hand in hand, with a pride and happiness that could not come again, that can come but once when the world is young and the first, fierce love of youth is fresh and wonderful.

The road ahead was clear and wide; the four lanes continued for another twenty miles or so before they dwindled down to two. There was no one on the road except myself and the truck, which was coming up behind me and coming fairly fast.

Watching the headlights in my rear vision mirror, I knew that in just a little while it would be swinging out to pass me.

I wasn't driving fast and there was a lot of room for the truck to pass me, and there was not a thing to hit and then I did hit something.

It was like running into a strong elastic band. There was no thump or crash. The car began slowing down as if I had put on the brakes. There was nothing I could see and for a moment I thought that something must have happened to the car — that the motor had gone haywire or the brakes had locked, or something of the sort. I took my foot off the accelerator and the car came to a halt, then started to slide back, faster and faster, for all the world as if I'd run into that rubber band and now it was snapping back.

I flipped the drive to neutral because I could smell the rubber as the tires screeched on the road, and as soon as I flipped it over, the car snapped back so fast that I was thrown against the wheel.

Behind me the horn of the truck blared wildly and tires howled on the pavement as the driver swung his rig to miss me. The truck made a swishing sound as it went rushing past and beneath the swishing, I could hear the rubber of the tires sucking at the roadbed, and the whole thing rumbled as if it might be angry at me for causing it this trouble. And as it went rushing past, my car came to a halt, over on the shoulder of the road.

Then the truck hit whatever I had hit. I could hear it when it struck.

It made a little plop. For a single instant, I thought the truck might break through whatever the barrier might be, for it was heavy and had been going fast and for a second or so there was no sign that it was slowing down. Then it began to slow and I could see the wheels of that big job skidding and humping, so that they seemed to be skipping on the pavement, still moving forward doggedly, but still not getting through.

It moved ahead for a hundred feet or so beyond the point where I had stopped. And there the rig came to a halt and began skidding back. It slid smoothly for a moment, with the tires squealing on the pavement, then it began to jackknife. The rear end buckled around and came sideways down the road, heading straight for me.

I had been sitting calmly in the car, not dazed, not even too much puzzled. It all had happened so fast that there had not been time to work up much puzzlement. Something strange had happened, certainly, but I think I had the feeling that in just a little while I'd get it figured out and it would all come right again.

So I had stayed sitting in the car, absorbed in watching what would happen to the truck. But when it came sliding back down the road, jackknifing as it slid, I slapped the handle of the door and shoved it with my shoulder and rolled out of the seat. I hit the pavement and scrambled to my feet and ran.

Behind me the tires of the truck were screaming and then there was a crash of metal, and when I heard the crash, I jumped out on the grassy shoulder of the road and had a look behind me. The rear end of the truck had slammed into my car and shoved it in the ditch and now was slowly, almost majestically, toppling into the ditch itself, right atop my car "Hey, there!" I shouted. It did no good, of course, and I knew it wouldn't. The words were just jerked out of me.

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