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The Valley   By:

The Valley by Richard Stockham

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction June 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.


By Richard Stockham

Illustrated by Ed Emsh

If you can't find it countless millions of miles in space, come back to Earth. You might find it just on the other side of the fence where the grass is always greener.

The Ship dove into Earth's sea of atmosphere like a great, silver fish.

Inside the ship, a man and woman stood looking down at the expanse of land that curved away to a growing horizon. They saw the yellow ground cracked like a dried skin; and the polished stone of the mountains and the seas that were shrunken away in the dust. And they saw how the city circled the sea, as a circle of men surround a water hole in a desert under a blazing sun.

The ship's radio cried out. "You've made it! Thank God! You've made it!"

Another voice, shaking, said, "President Davis is overwhelmed. He can't go on. On his behalf and on behalf of all the people with our hope that was almost dead, we greet you." A pause. "Please come in!"

The voice was silent. The air screamed against the hull of the ship.

"I can't tell them," said the man.

"Please come in!" said the radio. "Do you hear me?"

The woman looked up at the man. "You've got to Michael!"

"Two thousand years. From one end of the galaxy to the other. Not one grain of dust we can live on. Just Earth. And it's burned to a cinder."

A note of hysteria stabbed into the radio voice. "Are you all right? Stand by! We're sending a rescue ship."

"They've got a right to know what we've found," said the woman. "They sent us out. They've waited so long ."

He stared into space. "It's hopeless. If we'd found another planet they could live on, they'd do the same as they've done here."

He touched the tiny golden locket that hung around his neck. "Right now, I could press this and scratch myself and the whole farce would be over."

"No. A thousand of us died. You've got to think of them."

"We'll go back out into space," he said. "It's clean out there. I'm tired. Two thousand years of reincarnation."

She spoke softly. "We've been together for a long time. I've loved you. I've asked very little. But I need to stay on Earth. Please, Michael."

He looked at her for a moment. Then he flipped a switch. "Milky Way to Earth. Never mind the rescue ship. We're all right. We're coming in."

The great, white ship settled to Earth that was like a plain after flood waters have drained away.

The man and woman came out into the blazing sunlight.

A shout, like the crashing of a thousand surfs, rose and broke over them. The man and woman descended the gang plank toward the officials gathered on the platform. They glanced around at the massed field of white faces beneath them; saw those same faces that had been turned toward them two thousand years past; remembered the cheers and the cries that had crashed around them then, as they and the thousand had stood before the towering spires of the ships, before the takeoff.

And, as then, there were no children among the milling, grasping throng. Only the same clutching hands and voices and arms, asking for an answer, a salvation, a happy end.

Now the officials gathered around the man and the woman, and spoke to them in voices of reverence.

A microphone was thrust into Michael's hand with the whispered admonition to tell the people of the great new life waiting for them, open and green and moist, on a virgin planet.

The cries of the people were slipping away and a stillness growing like an ocean calm and, within it, the sound of the pumps, throbbing, sucking the water from the seas... Continue reading book >>

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