Dark They were, And Golden Eyed (The Naming of Names)
The rocket’s metal cooled in the meadow winds. Its lid gave a bulging pop.
From its clock interior stepped a man, a woman, and three children. The other
Passengers whispered away across the Martian meadow, leaving the man alone among
The man felt his hair flutter and the tissues of his body draw tight as if
He were standing at the centre of a vacuum. His wife, before him, trembled. The
Children, small seeds, might at any instant be sown to all the Martian climes.
The children looked up at him. His face was cold. “What’s wrong?” asked his
Wife. “Let’s get back on the rocket.” “Go back to Earth?” “Yes! Listen!”
The wind blew, whining. At any moment the Martian air might draw his soul
From him, as marrow comes from a white bone.
He looked at Martian hills that time had worn with a crushing pressure of
Years. He saw the old cities, lost and lying like children’s delicate bones
Among the blowing lakes of grass.
“Chin up, Harry,” said his wife. “It’s too late. We’ve come at least
Sixty-five million miles or more.”
The children with their yellow hair hollered at the deep dome of Martian
Sky. There was no answer but the racing hiss of wind through the stiff grass.
He picked up the luggage in his cold hands. “Here we go,” he said – a man
Standing on the edge of a sea, ready to wade in and be drowned.
They walked into town.
Their name was Bittering. Harry and his wife Cora; Tim, Laura, and David.
They built a small white cottage and ate good breakfasts there, but the fear was
Never gone. It lay with Mr. Bittering and Mrs. Bittering, a third unbidden partner
At every midnight talk, at every dawn awakening.
“I feel like
a salt crystal,” he often said, “in a mountain stream, being
Washed away. We don’t belong here. We’re Earth people. This is Mars. It was
Meant for Martians. For heaven’s sake, Cora, let’s buy tickets for home!”
But she only shook her head. “One day the atom bomb will fix Earth. Then
We’ll be safe here.” “Safe and insane!”
Tick-took, seven o’clock sang the voice clock; time to get up. And they
Something made him check everything each morning – warm hearth, potted
Blood-geraniums – precisely as if he expected something to be amiss. The morning
Paper was toast-warm from the six a. m. Earth rocket. He broke its seal and
Tilted it at his breakfast plate. He forced himself to be convivial.
“Colonial days all over again,” he declared. “Why, in another year there’ll
Be a million Earthmen on Mars. Big cities, everything! They said we’d fail. Said
The Martians would resent our invasion. But did we find any Martians? Not a
Living soul! Oh, we found their empty cities, but no one in them. Right?”
A river of wind submerged the house. When the windows ceased rattling,
Mr. Bittering swallowed and looked at the children.
“I don’t know,” said David. “Maybe there’re Martians around we don’t see.
Sometimes nights I think I hear ’em. I hear the wind. The sand hits my window. I
Get scared. And I see those towns way up in the mountains where the Martians
Lived a long ago. And I think I see things moving around those towns, Papa. And
I wonder if those Martians mind us living here. I wonder if they won’t do
Something to us for coming here.”
“Nonsense!” Mr. Bittering looked out of the windows. “We’re clean, decent
People.” He looked at his children.