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datatime: 2022-12-03 19:49:17 Author:FtqbJsJh

Just after 4.00 A.M. Wyatt returned to the machine room, gave Garrison an opiate booster, turned up fear-stimulation to the full and jammed the controls firmly in that position. Then, leaving the room, he padlocked the door and pocketed the keys.

The desert had been just such a crisis; an episode which, like the others before it, had now all but passed into the limbo of lost memories. Now Garrison could only remember the food and drink (though not the actual sensation of eating and drinking), and something of the feeling of well-being which had come afterwards. Also, something of Psychomech's feeding on him: that is to say, he knew that the Machine had somehow drawn on his strength, or that he had applied his strength so as to 'make repairs' in the Machine.

But between times, in the room of the machine...

Not only had the control panel been interfered with but Garrison had been fed. Not by Psychomech, no, for the machine's feeding was really recycling and more on the psychical than the physical side. How had he been fed? -that was anybody's guess. It should be quite impossible. There were no scraps of food in his mouth, no spilled liquids, and he must certainly have choked if it were attempted.

At 6.00 A.M. he felt an almost irresistible urge to check Garrison's condition, but somehow managed to fight it ?off. Psychomech would do the job, he was sure. And at 6.30, after a hot shower, he allowed himself to fall asleep for two hours, only waking up at Tern's insistent ringing at the doorbell.

Not only had the control panel been interfered with but Garrison had been fed. Not by Psychomech, no, for the machine's feeding was really recycling and more on the psychical than the physical side. How had he been fed? -that was anybody's guess. It should be quite impossible. There were no scraps of food in his mouth, no spilled liquids, and he must certainly have choked if it were attempted.

Koenig? The German manservant seemed most eligible, Wyatt had to admit. He could have gone to Germany, turned around and flown straight back. He could be here right now, looking after his master's interests as always. But if he was here, and if he knew what was going on, why didn't he just come right on out of the woodwork, free Garrison and make an accusation?

Or could it be Terri herself, half-crazy with guilt, perhaps even schizoid? Wyatt remembered thinking to himself that she was taking all of this very well. Perhaps this was her get-out, her escape route from actions she could neither control nor tolerate. No, no - a fool idea. He cursed himself for his mind's illogical processing of data. How could it possibly be Terri? She had been right here with him when things started to go wrong. And so on, chasing his thoughts in a circle - but only for a few minutes, until common-sense took over.

And that, he told himself, is that

The word came and went-

He went downstairs. Terri would be here in a little over four hours. By then everything must be under control; Garrison dead, all records completely up to date, and Wyatt's own nerves steady once more. He had work to do. But first a wash and a shave, then coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee.

After that he had climbed aboard the revitafized Machine to ride it out of the desert into a green and beautiful valley, and for some little time - though time as a real concept did not have a great deal of meaning here - he had followed a tinkling stream to where it cut a cleft through a range of high, domed hills. And as the machine had followed the stream through the great and rambling V of the deep cleft, so Garrison had once more slept upon its broad back.

And yet... it had been attempted Most certainly. And it had succeeded. Garrison's weight was up.

Not before that time and never since, until now, had Garrison suffered claustrophobia.

Someone, some unknown but very real and physical one, had somehow been in here and turned down the fear-stimulation controls, releasing Garrison from his nightmares. Someone was here, in this very house, right now. It was crazy, ridiculous, but it was the only solution.

-And came back.

One sure way to check for outside interference would be, quite simply, to search the house from top to bottom. And after that, if he found nothing and no one - which he suspected would be the case, for if there were a human adversary at work here he must be extremely clever and unlikely to let himself be discovered - then Wyatt must simply deny him access to the room of the machine, which he could do easily enough.

The desert had been just such a crisis; an episode which, like the others before it, had now all but passed into the limbo of lost memories. Now Garrison could only remember the food and drink (though not the actual sensation of eating and drinking), and something of the feeling of well-being which had come afterwards. Also, something of Psychomech's feeding on him: that is to say, he knew that the Machine had somehow drawn on his strength, or that he had applied his strength so as to 'make repairs' in the Machine.

But between times, in the room of the machine...

Things had started to go wrong some time ago. Garrison had known it, had instinctively sensed it, that

As a boy he had been shut in. He remembered it now, remembered how it frightened him. The cupboard under the stairs, the spiders which he had known inhabited that place, the unknown or forgotten sin (against what or whom he could not say) which had prompted his punishment. Oh, yes, he remembered it. The sin itself might be forgotten, but the darkness, the stifling closeness, the Scuttlers in the Shadows - these things he remembered. ..

And coming awake when once more the sun had fallen upon him, he had seen that they were through the pass and that the river's bed was dry and cracked in places, and that the surrounding land was weathered into strange formations here, and the Machine moved more slowly under heavy, dark and oppressive skies.

Heavy skies, yes. They seemed to weigh on him with the weight of the Universe. They seemed almost to shut him in...

By 5.15 A.M. he was drinking coffee in his study. He had not noticed the missing milk or sandwiches.

He searched everywhere. Up and downstairs, the cellar, the attic, all the larger cupboards. Not only was there no one there, there were nq signs that anyone had been there ...

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