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datatime: 2022-12-03 21:37:28 Author:nEBbuHha

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

Or could it be Terri herself, half-crazy with guilt, perhaps even schizoid? Wyatt remembered thinking to himself that she was taking all of this very well. Perhaps this was her get-out, her escape route from actions she could neither control nor tolerate. No, no - a fool idea. He cursed himself for his mind's illogical processing of data. How could it possibly be Terri? She had been right here with him when things started to go wrong. And so on, chasing his thoughts in a circle - but only for a few minutes, until common-sense took over.

And coming awake when once more the sun had fallen upon him, he had seen that they were through the pass and that the river's bed was dry and cracked in places, and that the surrounding land was weathered into strange formations here, and the Machine moved more slowly under heavy, dark and oppressive skies.

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. ..

Not only had the control panel been interfered with but Garrison had been fed. Not by Psychomech, no, for the machine's feeding was really recycling and more on the psychical than the physical side. How had he been fed? -that was anybody's guess. It should be quite impossible. There were no scraps of food in his mouth, no spilled liquids, and he must certainly have choked if it were attempted.

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?

Heavy skies, yes. They seemed to weigh on him with the weight of the Universe. They seemed almost to shut him in...

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.

Heavy skies, yes. They seemed to weigh on him with the weight of the Universe. They seemed almost to shut him in...

The word came and went-

And that, he told himself, is 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. ..

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.

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.

The word came and went-

Heavy skies, yes. They seemed to weigh on him with the weight of the Universe. They seemed almost to shut him in...

Claustrophobia?

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

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.

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.

And that, he told himself, is that

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.

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

Or could it be Terri herself, half-crazy with guilt, perhaps even schizoid? Wyatt remembered thinking to himself that she was taking all of this very well. Perhaps this was her get-out, her escape route from actions she could neither control nor tolerate. No, no - a fool idea. He cursed himself for his mind's illogical processing of data. How could it possibly be Terri? She had been right here with him when things started to go wrong. And so on, chasing his thoughts in a circle - but only for a few minutes, until common-sense took over.

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