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Seven hundred and fifty-one days before Chandler's trial the world as he knew it ended. The first incident occurred in Moscow when an SS-20 missile, launched from a place called Vertkovo on the Nudol' River not far away, detonated one thousand feet over the Kremlin. All of the Central Committee and Politbureau were at a banquet in Granovit Hall. None of them ever knew what hit them. Chandler didn't know what happened until later. He didn't even know that Washington had gone the same way until the next day. As it happened, the President of the United States was not in Washington, and so he got an extra twenty-four hours of life.

Seven hundred and fifty days before Chandler's trial—in fact, even before Chandler raped and murdered his sixteen-year-old victim—the President got his. He had made it onto Air Force One and into the super-secret Presidential shelter in the West Virginia mountains. There his luck ran out. His Secretary of the Treasury hiccoughed, stumbled, gazed wildly around, and then plucked a .357 handgun from the hoister of the nearest Secret Service man. He shot the President through the head and then, methodically, fired at the nearest half-dozen other persons in the room until he ran out of ammunition. One of those killed was the Air Force lieutenant colonel carrying the nuclear war codes, but that didn't matter much anymore. All the ground-based missiles had long since destroyed themselves—all but the handful planned for other tasks.

From seven hundred and forty-nine to seven hundred and thirty days before Chandler faced his judge and jury the world was full of unusual happenings. By flocks and flotillas the world's ICBMs left their submarine launchers and their silos and headed for the island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. None of the warheads had been armed. The sight of them coming in out of space must have been spectacular, but no one was there to see it. No satellite saw it, either, for five of the U.S. missiles rose above the atmosphere and detonated in space. Their electromagnetic pulse blinded every communications satellite in orbit.

In those three weeks—ending seven hundred and thirty days before the trial—military aircraft took off all around the world. Everybody's military aircraft. Some days there were only one or two hundred, on one day there were well over a thousand; they took off from bases in Texas and Surrey, in the Caucasus and the Negev, Saskatchewan and the Philippines; some of them were fully crewed and had even filed flight plans; most were flown by mechanics, guards, weathermen, anyone nearby. Every one of them crashed in some ocean or desert or mountain range; and over the same period every one of the world's munition dumps and gasoline storage farms blew itself up. Disarmament was no longer a cause. It was a fact. It had begun and ended in twenty-one days.

And then the large-scale events had more or less burned themselves out; but the smaller and more personal, and more horrible, ones were just beginning.

By the tenth day before Chandler's trial the world was at peace—though not by design. No one regretted this more than the Chiefs of Staff of the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People's Republic of China, the French, the British, the Arabs, the Pakistanis, the—the everybody; the military of all the hundred and a half sovereign states of the world, as well as the five or six dozen more-or-less official revolutionary or terrorist groups. Every one of them (or every one of them still alive, at least) would have been delighted to fight, if only they had had anything left to fight with. And if they had had any idea of who the enemy was.

And on the fourth day before Chandler's trial, he was caught, bloodstained and shaking, in the culture room of the antibiotics plant where he worked as an electronics engineer. He had no reason to be in the culture room. His place was where the computers and data-processors operated. He especially had no business to have raped and dismembered one of ,the young girls who worked there, although at first no one blamed him for that.

It was only after they had thought it over that he was accused of a crime.


And on the morning of the day of his trial, Chandler's jailer, Larry Grantz, brought him his breakfast and a proposition, "Look, Chandler," he said, "you could use a friend right now, you know that?"

Chandler inspected the tray. He had not expected much. The breakfast was less than he expected. Two slices of bread, not even toasted. Nothing to spread on the bread. A chipped mug of gray coffee. Nothing else. "I guess you don't want to waste food on me," he said.

"That's what I mean," said Grantz, nodding. "In ten minutes I can get you a real breakfast. Fresh orange juice, real coffee, ham and eggs—what do you say? Want to make a trade?"

"What kind of a trade?"

"Information, I can get a bet down; they're giving five to one you'll plead not guilty. You want to let me in on the answer?"

Chandler didn't respond. He didn't even look at the jailer. A man who was on his way to hell didn't have to worry about making friends.

"Now, look," snarled Grantz, "forget about the breakfast, just remember you could use a friend or two. You're cooked anyway. Why don't you plead guilty to hoaxing?"

"Why should I? I'm innocent."

"Oh, hell," said the jailer in disgust. "Don't you know you can't get away with that? What you want to do, you want to plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court—No? Well, then, the hell with you, buster!"

He stood in the doorway of the cell, self-righteously picking his nose and glowering at Chandler with dislike. That was all right with Chandler. He was getting used to it, and the bruises and scrapes all over his body reminded him how substantial that dislike was. Substantial enough, no doubt, to result in the final settlement of all his problems before very long.

The coffee was last night's warmed over, but not warmed very much. The bread was stale. Chandler sighed and began to eat. The coffee, yes, that could be understood, because real coffee was becoming hard to get—they didn't grow it in California. But there was plenty of bread! Not to mention butter, jam and jelly from nearby orchards. That wasn't scarcity, that was punishment.

The scarcities, though, were very real. Since those terrible days when the world seemed to go mad everything had changed. It was hard to believe that this was the era of space travel and nuclear power and computers, now that all three had been effectively abolished, and the dominant power in the world was—well—the only term for it was witchcraft.

"You're going to go in there in a minute, Chandler," said the jailer, "and then it's going to be too late. Why don't you be a sport and plead guilty?" Chandler didn't answer. "Well, hell! At least tell me for sure you're going to fight it? I can make a bet either way. Come on! Your luck's run out, you could at least do me a favor!"

Chandler changed position—gently, since he still hurt pretty badly where he had been beaten. Luck run out! But it was true that, up to a point, Chandler had been a lucky man. He was lucky to have been in San Francisco with his wife on the night Silicon Valley around his home in San Jose got it, luckier still to have been part of the panicky refugee mob clogging the highways north when it was San Francisco's turn, lucky that his wife's family in Eureka had made a place for them there. But that was the end of the fuck. For Chandler, and especially for his wife. At least Chandler, however temporarily, was still alive.

And certainly he was luckier than little Peggy Flershem, whom, he had raped and murdered.

A couple of years earlier, when Chandler was happily married and happily enough busy at a job he liked, designing telemetry for space probes in Silicon Valley, Chandler would not have believed that the time would come when he would be on trial for his life on a witchcraft charge. Not even that. He wasn't accused of being involved in witchcraft. He was about to go on trial for his life for the far more serious crime of not being involved in witchcraft.

It was hard to believe—but believe it or not, it was happening. It was happening to him.

It was happening right now.

Grantz cocked an ear to a voice from outside the door, nodded, ground out his cigarette under a heel and said, "All right, fink. Just remember when they're pulling the trigger on you, you could have had a friend on the firing squad." And he opened the door and marched Chandler out.


Because of the crowd that was attracted by the sensational nature of the charges against him, they held Chandler's trial in the all-purpose room of the high school. It smelted of leather and stale sweat.

There was a mob. There must have been three or four hundred people present. They all looked at him exactly as the jailer had.

Chandler walked up the three steps to the stage, with the jailer's hand on his elbow, and took his place at the defendant's table. His lawyer was there already.

The lawyer, who had been appointed by the court over his vigorous protests, looked at him without emotion. He was willing to do his job, but his job didn't require him to like his client. All he said was, "Stand up. The judge is coming in."

Chandler got to his feet and leaned on the table while the bailiff chanted his call and the chaplain read some verses from John. He did not listen. The Bible verses came too late to help him, and besides he ached.

When the police arrested him they had not been gentle. There were four of them. They were from the plant's own security force and carried no guns. They didn't need any; Chandler had put up no resistance after the first few moments—that is, he stopped fighting as soon as he could stop—but the police hadn't stopped. He remembered that very clearly. He remembered the nightstick across the side of his head that left his ear squashed and puffy, he remembered the kick in the gut that still made walking painful. He even remembered the pounding on his skull that had knocked him out.

The bruises along his rib cage and left arm, though, he did not remember getting. Obviously the police had been mad enough to keep right on subduing him after he was already unconscious.

Chandler did not blame them—exactly. He supposed he would have done the same thing.

The judge was having a long mumble with the court stenographer, .apparently about something which had happened in the bar of the country club the night before. Chandler knew Judge Ellithorp slightly. He did not expect to get a fair trial. The previous December the judge himself, while possessed, had smashed the transmitter of the town's radio station, which he owned, and set fire to the building it occupied. His son-in-law had been killed in the fire.

Since the judge had had his own taste of hell, he would not be kind to Chandler.

Laughing, the judge waved the reporter back to his seat and glanced around the courtroom. His gaze touched Chandler lightly, like the flick of the hanging strands of cord that precede a railroad tunnel. The touch carried the same warning. What lay ahead for Chandler was destruction.

"Read the charge," ordered Judge Ellithorp. He spoke very loudly. There were more than six hundred people in the auditorium; the judge didn't want any of them to miss a word.

The bailiff ordered Chandler to stand and informed him that he was accused of having, on the seventeenth day of June last, committed on the person of Margaret Flershem, a minor, an act of rape—"Louder!" ordered the judge testily.

"Yes, Your Honor," said the bailiff, and inflated his chest. "An Act of Rape under Threat of Bodily Violence," he cried; "and Did Further Commit on the Person of Said Margaret Rershem an Act of Homicide—"

Chandler rubbed his aching side, looking at the ceiling. He remembered the look in Peggy Flershem's eyes as he forced himself on her. She was only sixteen years old, and at that time he hadn't even known her last name.

The bailiff boomed on: "—the Foregoing Being a True Bill Handed Down by the Grand Jury of Marecel County in Extraordinary Session Assembled, the Eighteenth Day of June Last."

Judge Ellithorp looked satisfied as the bailiff sat down, quite winded. While the judge hunted through the papers on his desk the crowd in the auditorium stirred and murmured.

A child began to cry.

The judge stood up and pounded his gavel. "What is it? What's the matter with him? You, Dundon!" The court attendant the judge was looking at hurried over and spoke to the child's mother, then reported to the judge.

"I dunno, Your Honor. All he says is something scared him."

The judge was enraged. "Well, that's just fine! Now we have to take up the time of all these good people, probably for no reason, and hold up the business of this court, just because of a child. Bailiff! I want you to clear this courtroom of all children under—" he hesitated, calculating voting blocks in his head—"all children under the age of six. Dr. Palmer, are you there? Well, you better go ahead with the—prayer." The judge could not make himself say "the exorcism."

"I'm sorry, madam," he added to the mother of the crying two-year-old. "If you have someone to leave the child with, I'll instruct the attendants to save your place for you." She was also a voter.

Dr. Palmer rose, very grave, as he was embarrassed. He glared around the all-purpose room, defying anyone to smile, as he chanted: "Domina Pythonis, I command you, leave! Leave, Hel! Leave, Heloym! Leave, Sother and Thetragrammaton, leave, all unclean ones! I command you! In the name of God, in all of His manifestations!" He sat down again, still very grave. He knew that he did not make nearly as fine a showing as Father Lon, with his resonant in nomina Jesu Christi et Sancti Ubaldi and his censer, but the post of exorcist was filled in strict rotation, one month to a denomination, ever since the troubles started. Dr. Palmer was a Unitarian. Exorcisms had not been in the curriculum at the seminary and he had been forced to invent his own.

Chandler's lawyer tapped him on the shoulder. "Last chance to change your mind," he said.

"No. I'm not guilty, and that's the way I want to plead."

The lawyer shrugged and stood up, waiting for the judge to notice him.

Chandler, for the first time, allowed himself to meet the eyes of the crowd.

He studied the jury first. He knew some of them casually—it was not a big enough town to command a jury of total strangers for any defendant. He recognized Pop Matheson, old and very stiff, who ran the railroad station cigar stand. Two of the other men were familiar as faces passed in the street. The forewoman, though, was a stranger. She sat there very composed and frowning, and all he knew about her was that she wore funny hats. Yesterday's had been red roses when she was selected from the panel; today's was, of all things, a stuffed bird.

He did not think that any of them was possessed. He was not so sure of the audience.

He saw girls who had gone to high school with Margot; men he worked with at the plant. They all glanced at him, but he was not sure who was looking out through some of those familiar eyes. The visitors reliably watched all large gatherings, at least momentarily; it would be surprising if none of them were here.

"All right, how do you plead?" said Judge Ellithorp at last.

Chandler's lawyer straightened up. "Not guilty, Your Honor, by reason of temporary pandemic insanity."

The judge looked pleased. The crowd murmured, but they were pleased too. They had him dead to rights and it would have been a disappointment if Chandler had pleaded guilty. They wanted to see one of the vilest criminals in contemporary human society caught, exposed, convicted and punished; they did not want to miss a step of the process. Already in the playground behind the school three deputies from the sheriffs office were loading their rifles, while the school janitor chalked lines around the handball court to mark where the crowd witnessing the execution would be permitted to stand.

All this, as Chandler very reasonably told himself, was quite insane. There were satellites still plunging through the solar system! Every home in the town owned a television set, although to be sure they now did nothing but serve as receptacles for the holding of seashells and flowers . . . and hopes for a better world. This was the 20th century!

But they gave every sign of being about to kill him as dead as though it were the 17th. The prosecution made its case very quickly. Mrs. Porter testified that she worked at McKelvey Bros., the antibiotics plant, where the defendant also worked. Yes, that was him. She had been attracted by the noise from the culture room last—let's see—"Was it the seventeenth day of June last?" prompted the prosecutor, and Chandler's attorney instinctively gathered his muscles to rise, hesitated, glanced at his client and shrugged. That was right, it was the seventeenth. Incautiously she went right into the room. She should have known better, she admitted. She should have called the plant police right away, but, well, they hadn't had any trouble at the plant, you know, and—well, she didn't. She was a stupid woman, for all that she was rather good-looking, and insatiably curious. She had seen Peggy Flershem on the floor. "She was all blood. And her clothes were—And she was, I mean her—her body was—" With relentless tact the prosecutor allowed her to stammer out her observation that the girl had clearly been raped. And she had seen Chandler laughing and breaking up the place, throwing racks of cultures through the windows, upsetting trays. Of course she had crossed herself and tried a quick exorcism but there was no visible effect; then Chandler had leaped at her. "He was hateful! He was just foul!" But as he began to attack her the plant police came, drawn by her screams.

Chandler's attorney did not question.

Peggy Flershem's parents were allowed to testify without objection from the defense. But they had little to say anyway. The plant police testified to having arrested Chandler; a doctor described in chaste medical words the derangements Chandler had worked on Peggy Flershem's virgin anatomy. There was no question from Chandler's lawyer—and, for that matter, nothing to question. Chandler did not hope to pretend that he had not ravished and killed the girl. Sitting there as the doctor testified, Chandler was able to tally every break and bruise against the memory of what his own body had done. He had been a spectator then, too, as remote from the event as he was now; but that was why they had him on trial. That was what they did not believe.

At twelve-thirty the prosecution rested its case, Judge Ellithorp looking very pleased. He recessed the court for one hour for lunch, and Larry Grantz took Chandler back to the detention cell in the basement of the school.

Two Swiss cheese sandwiches and a wax paper carton of chocolate milk were on the desk. They were Chandler's lunch. As they had been standing, the sandwiches were crusty and the milk lukewarm. He ate them anyway. He knew what the judge looked pleased about. At one-thirty Chandler's lawyer would put him on the stand, and no one would pay very much attention to what he had to say, and the jury would be out at most twenty minutes, and the verdict would be guilty. The judge was pleased because he would be able to pronounce sentence no later than four o'clock, no matter what.

They had formed the habit of holding the executions at sundown. As, at that time of year, sundown was after seven, it would all go very well—for everyone but Chandler.





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