The Darkness Beneath

The standing stones of Salisbury plain, once a Neolithic gathering place of star watching and blood sacrifice, is eerie enough by moonlight. But something roams the jagged countryside, hiding from the sunlit world.

The Doom Stone by Paul Zindel

It is a great thing to have a truly cool aunt. Think real-world Indiana Jones, and you have Jackson's Aunt Sarah. On any given summer break, she might be found in any part of the world, excavating fossils of long ago hominids. Last spring break it had been Ethiopia. They'd slept in hammocks in the jungle to keep out of reach of the giant rats that prowled below.

This summer, it was Stonehenge, England's most famous prehistoric monument. All the way from the airport, Jackson kept a steady stream of questions flowing to his assigned driver, an army sergeant who obliged his curiosity by driving near the stone circle, though it was a dark night lit by jagged flashes of lightning and broken by the clatter of hail stones. A little unnerving, but still basically okay.

And then Jackson saw it. Through the flashes he saw a young man in a plaid shirt running toward their Land Rover. The lightning acted as a strobe, but Jackson could clearly make out that there was a dark shape following him and closing fast.

He could see the man was screaming as he pushed himself against the chain link fence that surrounded the standing stones. The dark thing caught up with him, twisting his neck and crushing him into the wire fence.

Jackson yelled to the driver to stop, but when they pulled over there was no sign of the victim, only the standing stones whose eternal silence was broken by the crashes of lightning.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Cover to The Illustrated ManHe was happy enough to share his dinner with the lanky man as they were both seekers. He sought the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside in the early autumn. The fellow who sat down beside him, his wool shirt buttoned tight though the day was a warm one, sought the relief of his misery.

At last he stripped off his shirt in the heat.

"…he was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voices murmuring small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body. When his flesh twitched, the tiny mouths flickered, the tiny green-and-gold eyes winked and the tiny hands gestured. There were yellow meadows and blue rivers and mountains and stars and suns and planets spread in a Milky Way across his chest. The people themselves were in twenty or more odd groups upon his arms, shoulders, back, sides, and wrists, as well as on the flat of his stomach. You found them in forests of hair, lurking among a constellation of freckles, or peering from armpit cavers, diamond eyes aglitter. Each seemed intent upon his own activity; each was a separate gallery portrait."

He was an Illustrated Man, he explained tiredly. A witch from the past and future had stitched the glowing colors into his flesh forty years ago. He had wanted it done so he could always find a job at a carnival, but the pictures, all eighteen of them, came with a curse, and ultimately no traveling show would hire him and no man or woman would be his friend.

At night, he felt as though his skin was crawling with ants as the pictures moved and played out their strange scenes. Two privileged children, left to their own devices and imagination, create a dangerous reality of their own in "The Veldt." Fiorello Bodoni, the junk dealer, has saved and saved for ride on "The Rocket." But who in his family should have this marvelous chance, and will they all be bitter with jealousy when the lucky one returns? And what's to be done when everyone somehow knows it's "The Last Night of the World?"

While the Illustrated Man sleeps, his newfound acquaintance watches first with fascination and finally with horror as his own story is revealed.