- Virginia Johnson
He 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 in the beginning of The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury.
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 caverns, 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.