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In the Control Tower   By:

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Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.




Illustrated by GIUNTA

=Shadows haunted the dying alleys. Madness stalked the wide streets. And what lay at the city's heart?=


Dewforth had almost most lost the habit of looking from windows. The train which took him to the city every morning passed through a country in the terminal stages of a long war of self destruction. Whatever had been burned, botched, poisoned or exhausted in that struggle had been filled along the right of way, among drifts of soot and ground mists of sulphurous smoke and chemical flatulence, to form a long tedious mural a parody of cloud borne Asiatic hills, precipitous and always so close to the tracks that their tops could not be seen.

This was almost merciful, considering what had been done to the sky. When the train did not sneak between hills of slag, cinders, rubbish, garbage, dross and the bloody brown carrion of broken machinery, it shot like a bolt in the groove of an arbolest between unbroken barriers of advertising or through deep concrete troughs and roaring tunnels full of grimy light and grubby air.

There was one inconsistancy in this scheme of things: Just as the train emerged from a deep valley of slag hills and swung into a long curve, passengers on the left side had a panoramic view of the city a frozen scene of battle between geometrical monsters, made remote and obscure by the dust of a thousand thousand merely human struggles, too small to be visible from the crusty windows of the train by the merely human eye. They had about one second in which to absorb this vision of corporate purpose. Then they were plunging into a final stretch of tunnel to the center of the city itself, where no surface was ever more than fifteen paces away and where there were no horizons at all.

Dewforth was excited by this view even though it reached him in a fragmentary and subliminal way. Day after day he told himself that he would have all his faculties at the ready before the train swung into the curve. But morning after morning he was still emerging from the stale fumes of the preceding night's beer, or he allowed himself to be hypnotized by the sound of the wheels or fascinated by the jiggling of another passenger's earlobe at that critical moment. The train had always entered the clangorous colon of the city before this resolve could crystallize in his mind, and he was left with an impression which lay somewhere in the scale of reality between the after image of a light bulb and the morning memory of a fever dream. He could never have described the scene except in loose generalities about buildings of contrasting height and unemphatic color.

The single memorable feature of the panorama, looming above the rest, was not even a building. It eluded all familiar categories. It was, like the other components of the picture, rectangular; but it was a displaced rectangle... Continue reading book >>

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