Out of Their Minds

Out of Their Minds

by Clifford D. Simak

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504013260
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 171
Sales rank: 464,394
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

During his fifty-five-year career, Clifford D. Simak produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.

Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
 
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.
Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Read an Excerpt

Out of Their Minds


By Clifford D. Simak

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1970 Clifford D. Simak
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1326-0


CHAPTER 1

I kept remembering that old friend of mine and what he'd said to me that last time I had seen him. It had been only two days before he had been killed — on an open highway which, at the time of the accident, had not been as heavily traveled as it was at other times, his car a twisted block of wreckage and the tire marks showing how it all had happened, how his car had struck another which suddenly had swerved out of its lane into his path. Except that there had been no sign of that other car.

I tried to put it out of my mind and think of something else, but as the hours went by and the long ribbon of concrete kept unrolling ahead of me and the springtime countryside went flashing past, I found myself time and time again going back to that last evening I had seen him.

He had sat like a shrunken gnome in the great lounge chair which threatened to engulf him in its pattern of red and yellow tapestry, rolling the brandy glass between his palms and looking up at me.

"I think that we are haunted," he had said, "by all the fantasies, all the make-believe, all the ogres that we have ever dreamed, dating from that day when the caveman squatted in the dark beside his fire and stared out into the blackness of the night which lay beyond the cave. Imagining what might be out there. Knowing, of course, what might be out there, for he would have been the one to know — a hunter, a gatherer, a roamer of the wilderness. He had eyes to see and nose to smell and ears to hear and all these senses, more than likely, were much sharper than those we have today. So he would have known all the things that might be prowling in the darkness. He knew, of course, but he didn't trust himself, he didn't trust those senses. For that busy little brain of his, for all its brutishness, was busily conjuring up other forms and shapes, other kinds of life, other menaces ..."

"And you think it is the same with us?" I asked.

"Yes, of course," he said, "but in a different way."

A small breath of air had been blowing from the garden through the open doors that led out to the patio and the room was faintly perfumed with the scent of springtime bloom. And through the doors as well came the distant muttering of a plane as it circled over the Potomac to line up for a landing on the field across the river.

"In a different way," he said. "I'd have to think it out. Not the kind of ogres, perhaps, that the caveman dreamed. For his were physical and most of those conjured up today, I would imagine, would be intellectual."

I had the feeling that he was about to say much more about this strange conceit of his, but at that moment his nephew, Philip Freeman, came into the room. Philip, who worked at State, had a strange and amusing story to tell about a visiting VIP and after that our talk had fallen to other things and there was no further mention of our haunting.

Up ahead of me loomed the warning sign for the exit to the Old Military Road and I cut my speed to make the turn and once I was on the road I cut it even further. After several hundred miles of steady driving at a cruising speed of eighty miles an hour, forty seemed like crawling and forty was too fast for the kind of road I found myself upon.

I had, in fact, almost forgotten that there could be a road like this. At one time it had been blacktop, but in many stretches the blacktop had broken up in some springtime thaw and the surface had been patched with crushed rock which, through years of wear, had been pulverized into a fine white dust. The road was narrow and this narrowness was underlined by a heavy growth of brush, almost like a hedge, which had grown in on either side, encroaching on the shoulders so that one moved through a leafy avenue that made the road seem a shallow, twisting ditch.

The throughway had followed the ridgetop, but the Old Military Road immediately began to dip down between the hills and this, of course, was the way that I remembered it, although I had not recalled that the dip had been so sharp once one had left the ridge road, which some years back had been re-engineered and widened into the throughway I had been traveling.

A different kind of world, I thought, and that, of course, had been what I sought. Although I'd not expected to find this different world so abruptly, by the simple process of turning off the throughway. And the world, more than likely, was not so entirely different; it was, I told myself, my imagination that had made it seem so different, a self-willed seeing of what I had been looking forward to.

Would I really find Pilot Knob unchanged? I wondered. It seemed unlikely, on the face of it, that the little village would have changed. It had had no chance to change. It had lain for all these years so far outside the stream of current affairs, so untouched and so ignored, that there would have been no reason for a change. But the question, I admitted to myself, was not so much whether Pilot Knob had changed, but how much I might have changed.

Why, I wondered, should a man so yearn toward his past, knowing even as he yearned that no autumn tree could flame as brightly as it had on a certain morning thirty years before, that the waters of the creek could not run as clear or cold or deep as he remembered them, that much, in fact, of what he did remember were experiences reserved for someone no more than ten years old?

There had been a hundred other places (and more convenient places) I could have chosen — places where there also would have been freedom from the clatter of the phone, where there'd be no memos to be written, no deadlines to be met, no important persons one must know, no need of being continuously well-informed and knowledgeable, no necessity of conforming to a complicated set of sophisticated folk customs. A hundred other places where a man would have time to think and write, where he need not shave except when he wanted to, where sloppy clothes could be worn and no one would notice them, where one could be lazy if one wished, unconcerned if one wished, ignorant if one wished, where a person never needed to be clever and never needed to be witty and could deal in a comfortable sort of gossip that was entirely insignificant.

A hundred other places and yet when I'd made my decision, there'd been no question of exactly where I'd go. Kidding myself, perhaps, but happy in the kidding. Running home, but not admitting to myself that I was running home. Even knowing as I drove those long paved miles that there was no such place as I thought there was and that there never had been, that the years had twisted the memory of it into that pleasant sort of fantasy with which men beguile themselves in thinking back upon their youth.

The day had been moving into evening when I'd turned off the throughway and in places now, when the road plunged down from one small valley to another, heavy dark had started to creep in. Off across the valleys, in the gathering dusk, glowed the soft white spheres of fruit trees in full bloom and at times I caught little gusts of fragrance from blooming trees, hidden from my sight, but much closer by. Even with evening no more than setting in, it seemed to me that I could smell, as well, the strange perfume of fog rising from the meadows that lay along the winding creeks.

I had told myself, for years, that I knew this country I was driving through. That its imprint had so remained upon my mind from childhood that I could drive unerringly to Pilot Knob once I was upon the road. But now I began to suspect that I was wrong. For I had not, so far, recognized one specific feature of the landscape. The general features, surely, for the country was exactly as I had remembered it, but there had not been one specific place I had been able to put a finger on and say exactly where I was. It was exasperating and a bit humiliating and I wondered if this was the way that it would be when I got to Pilot Knob.

The road was bad, far worse than I had expected it to be. Why, I wondered, had the people who were responsible allowed it to get into this condition? The snaking curves that ran along the contours of the hills could be understood, of course, but not the chuck holes and stretches of deep dust, and long ago something should have been done about the narrow stone bridges where there would not have been room for two cars to pass. Not that there were any other cars. I seemed alone upon the road.

The darkness deepened and I turned on the lights. Some time past, and I cut my speed, at times creeping along at no more than twenty miles an hour. Those snaking turns were coming up much too fast for safety.

Pilot Knob, I knew, could not be too distant, forty miles at most from where I'd turned off the throughway, and since that time I was fairly certain I had covered much more than half of those forty miles. I would have known if I'd checked my mileage when I'd turned off, but I hadn't.

The road grew worse instead of better, and suddenly it seemed much worse than it had been before. I was driving up a narrow gorge, with the hills crowding close on either side and massive boulders squatting by the roadside, just at the edge of the fan of light thrown by the headlamps. The evening had changed as well. The few stars that had been in the sky were gone and from far off I heard the distant muttering of thunder, rolling down the funnel of the hills.

I wondered if I'd missed a turn somewhere, if in the darkness I had taken a road that led out of the valley. Checking back mentally, I could not remember that there had been any place where the road had split. Since I had turned off on the Old Military Road, there had been this single road, with now and then a farm road coming into it, but always at right angles or very nearly so.

Turning a sharp bend, I glimpsed, off to the right, a low huddle of buildings, with a gleam of light from a single window. I lifted my foot off the accelerator and moved it toward the brake, half-minded to stop and ask my way. But for some reason which I do not pretend to know, I decided not to do it and drove on. If it should be necessary, I could always find another place where I could turn around and come back to ask directions. Or there would be another little farm where I could stop to ask.

There was another place, about a mile beyond — another huddle of buildings crouched against the looming hillside, with a single window, almost exactly, it seemed to me, like the one I'd seen just down the road.

My attention had been diverted from the road for a moment when I first caught the gleam of light from the single window and when I turned back, I saw something coming down the road at me, arrowing down the cone of light straight at me, and for a fraction of the second I suppose I froze at what I saw, my mind refusing to accept what my senses told me. For it was a dinosaur.

I don't know much of dinosaurs and have no great desire to know, there being many other things that are of more interest to me. But one summer, several years before, I had gone out to Montana and spent a week with a team of paleontologists who were happily (and sweatily) digging in what they called a fossil bed, unearthing God knows what interesting items and events from sixty million years before. While I had been there they had dug up a nearly perfect skeleton of a Triceratops, and while Triceratops is not so great a find, there being many fossils of them, there had been great excitement because this particular beast had been somewhat different in a vastly technical way from any of the others that had been found.

And here, charging down the road at me, not in fossil bone, but in solid flesh, was Triceratops. He had his head down and the two great horns above his eyes were spearing straight at me and behind the horns was the flaring shield. He was intent upon his coming and had built up a lot of speed and he was so big that he seemed to fill the road. There was enough power and weight behind that charge, I knew, to roll up the car into a mass of metal.

I jerked frantically at the wheel, not really knowing what I was about to do, but knowing, I suppose, that something must be done. Maybe I hoped to send the car skittering up the hillside far enough to miss the charge; perhaps I thought there might be room enough to turn around and flee.

The car spun and skidded, with the cone of light slicing off the road and cutting through the tangled brush and rock of the hillside. I could no longer see the dinosaur and I expected any moment to feel the impact of that great armored head as it smashed into the car.

The rear wheels, in skidding, had settled down into a ditch and the road was so narrow that the front wheels had climbed the bank of the opposite side, so that the car was tilted and I was leaning back in the seat, looking upward through the windshield. The engine died and the headlights dimmed and I was a sitting duck, square across the road, waiting for old Triceratops to hit.

I didn't wait. I slapped the door open and tumbled out and went tearing up the hillside, banging into boulders and bouncing off the brush. Behind me, at any second, I thought I'd hear a crash, but there wasn't any crash.

I was tripped up by a rock and fell into a bush that scratched me up considerably and still there was no sound from down there on the road. And that was strange; Triceratops, moving at a walk, would have hit the car by now.

I pulled myself out of the bush and hunkered on the hillside. The backscatter of the car's lights, reflected off the hillside, lit the road dimly for a hundred feet or so in each direction. The road was empty; there was no dinosaur. But still he must be around somewhere, for there had been one of the creatures on the loose; I was sure of that. I had seen him plain as day and there was no mistaking him. He might have sneaked off in the dark and might be laying for me, although the idea of a lumbering beast like Triceratops sneaking off seemed a bit absurd. He was not built for sneaking.

I crouched there, shaking, and behind me the thunder growled among the hills and on the chill night air I detected the scent of apple blossoms.

It was ridiculous, I told myself, the good old psychological defense leaping to my aid. There hadn't been a dinosaur, there couldn't have been a dinosaur. Not here in these boyhood hills of mine, not more than twenty miles from my boyhood home of Pilot Knob. I had just imagined it. I had seen something else and thought it was a dinosaur.

But good old psychological aid or not, I knew damn well exactly what I'd seen, for I still could see it in my mind, the great flare of the frill, with the coal-red eyes glowing in the headlights. I didn't know what was going on and there was no way to explain it (for a Triceratops on this country road, sixty million years at least after the last Triceratops had died, was impossible), but I still could not accept the belief that it had not been there.

I got shakily to my feet and went carefully down to the car, gingerly picking my way through the loose and shattered hillside stone, which had a tendency to slide beneath my feet. The thunder was louder now and the hills to the west, which lay down the slot of valley up which the road came winding, were outlined every few seconds by lightning flashes. The storm was moving fast and getting close.

The car was jammed across the road with the rear wheels in the ditch and the back part of the body only an inch or two above the roadbed. I got into it, switched off the lights, and started the motor. But when I tried to move it, there was no forward motion. The rear wheels spun with a whining sound, hurling a shower of dirt and pebbles into the fender wells. I tried to back up to gain some room, but the wheels still spun. It became apparent the car was tightly stuck.

I shut off the motor and got out, standing a moment, listening to the pauses between the rolls of thunder, for any sound that might denote some great beast lurking in the dark. There was nothing to be heard.

I started walking up the road, not too brave about it — downright scared, in fact — ready to break and run at the slightest movement in the dark, or the smallest sound.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Out of Their Minds by Clifford D. Simak. Copyright © 1970 Clifford D. Simak. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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