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datatime: 2022-11-27 02:11:10 Author:Ckwhtjfv

Just after 4.00 A.M. Wyatt returned to the machine room, gave Garrison an opiate booster, turned up fear-stimulation to the full and jammed the controls firmly in that position. Then, leaving the room, he padlocked the door and pocketed the keys.

And yet... it had been attempted Most certainly. And it had succeeded. Garrison's weight was up.

Not before that time and never since, until now, had Garrison suffered claustrophobia.

Things had started to go wrong some time ago. Garrison had known it, had instinctively sensed it, that

As a boy he had been shut in. He remembered it now, remembered how it frightened him. The cupboard under the stairs, the spiders which he had known inhabited that place, the unknown or forgotten sin (against what or whom he could not say) which had prompted his punishment. Oh, yes, he remembered it. The sin itself might be forgotten, but the darkness, the stifling closeness, the Scuttlers in the Shadows - these things he remembered. ..

Claustrophobia?

One sure way to check for outside interference would be, quite simply, to search the house from top to bottom. And after that, if he found nothing and no one - which he suspected would be the case, for if there were a human adversary at work here he must be extremely clever and unlikely to let himself be discovered - then Wyatt must simply deny him access to the room of the machine, which he could do easily enough.

Which meant that there must be someone else in the house.

Someone, some unknown but very real and physical one, had somehow been in here and turned down the fear-stimulation controls, releasing Garrison from his nightmares. Someone was here, in this very house, right now. It was crazy, ridiculous, but it was the only solution.

By 5.15 A.M. he was drinking coffee in his study. He had not noticed the missing milk or sandwiches.

But between times, in the room of the machine...

The word came and went-

draining feeling which came whenever the Machine suffered a power loss; and he had been powerless to do anything about it. It seemed that Psychomech could only help him - and conversely that he could only help the Machine - in a real crisis.

Claustrophobia?

After that he had climbed aboard the revitafized Machine to ride it out of the desert into a green and beautiful valley, and for some little time - though time as a real concept did not have a great deal of meaning here - he had followed a tinkling stream to where it cut a cleft through a range of high, domed hills. And as the machine had followed the stream through the great and rambling V of the deep cleft, so Garrison had once more slept upon its broad back.

Claustrophobia?

By 5.15 A.M. he was drinking coffee in his study. He had not noticed the missing milk or sandwiches.

Just after 4.00 A.M. Wyatt returned to the machine room, gave Garrison an opiate booster, turned up fear-stimulation to the full and jammed the controls firmly in that position. Then, leaving the room, he padlocked the door and pocketed the keys.

By 5.15 A.M. he was drinking coffee in his study. He had not noticed the missing milk or sandwiches.

He searched everywhere. Up and downstairs, the cellar, the attic, all the larger cupboards. Not only was there no one there, there were nq signs that anyone had been there ...

One sure way to check for outside interference would be, quite simply, to search the house from top to bottom. And after that, if he found nothing and no one - which he suspected would be the case, for if there were a human adversary at work here he must be extremely clever and unlikely to let himself be discovered - then Wyatt must simply deny him access to the room of the machine, which he could do easily enough.

He went downstairs. Terri would be here in a little over four hours. By then everything must be under control; Garrison dead, all records completely up to date, and Wyatt's own nerves steady once more. He had work to do. But first a wash and a shave, then coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee.

Claustrophobia?

As a boy he had been shut in. He remembered it now, remembered how it frightened him. The cupboard under the stairs, the spiders which he had known inhabited that place, the unknown or forgotten sin (against what or whom he could not say) which had prompted his punishment. Oh, yes, he remembered it. The sin itself might be forgotten, but the darkness, the stifling closeness, the Scuttlers in the Shadows - these things he remembered. ..

The desert had been just such a crisis; an episode which, like the others before it, had now all but passed into the limbo of lost memories. Now Garrison could only remember the food and drink (though not the actual sensation of eating and drinking), and something of the feeling of well-being which had come afterwards. Also, something of Psychomech's feeding on him: that is to say, he knew that the Machine had somehow drawn on his strength, or that he had applied his strength so as to 'make repairs' in the Machine.

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