The Place Where Chicago Was
THE PLACE WHERE CHICAGO WAS
By JIM HARMON
Illustrated by COWLES
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Magazine February 1962.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
Well, they finally got rid of war. For the first
time there was peace on Earth—since the only
possible victims were the killers themselves!
It was late December of 1983. Abe Danniels knew that the streets andsidewalks of Jersey City moved under their own power and that half thefamilies in America owned their own helicopters. He was pleased withthese signs of progress. But he was sweating. He thought he was gettingathlete's foot instead of athletic legs from walking from the NewJersey coast to just outside of Marshall, Illinois.
The heat was unbearable.
The road shimmered before him in rows of sticky black ribbon, on whichnothing moved. Nothing but him.
He passed a signal post that said "Caution—Slow" in a gentle butcommanding voice. He staggered on toward a reddish metallic square seton a thin column of bluish concrete. It was what they called a sign, hedecided.
Danniels drooped against the sign and fanned his face with hissweat-ringed straw cowboy hat. The thing seemed to have something tosay about the mid-century novelist, James Jones, in short, terse words.
The rim of the hat crumpled in his fist. He stood still and listened.
There was a car coming.
It would almost have to stop, he reasoned. A man couldn't stand muchof this Illinois winter heat. The driver might leave him to die on theroad if he didn't stop. Therefore he would stop.
He jerked out the small pouch from the sash of his jeans. Inside thespecial plastic the powder was dry. He rubbed some between his handsbriskly, to build up the static electricity, and massaged it into hishair.
The metal of the Jones plaque was fairly shiny. Under the beating noonsun it cast a pale reflection back at Danniels. His hair looked areasonably uniform white now.
He started to draw the string on the pouch, then dipped his hand in andscooped his palm up to his mouth. He chewed on the stuff while he wassecuring the nearly flat bag in his sash. He swallowed the dough; thepowder had been flour.
Danniels took the hat from beneath his arm, set it to his head and atlast faced the direction of the engine whine.
The roof, hood and wheels moved over the curve of the horizon andDanniels saw that the car was a brandless classic which probably stillhad some of the original, indestructible Model A left in it.
He pondered a moment on whether to thumb or not to thumb.
The rod squealed to a stop exactly even with him. A door unfolded and avoice like a stop signal said flatly, "Get in."
Danniels got in. The driver was a teen-ager in a loose scarlet tunicand a spangled W.P.A. cap. The youth wouldn't have been bad-lookingexcept for a sullen expression and a rather girlish turn of cheek,completely devoid of beard line. Danniels wrote him off as aprospective member of the Wolf Pack in a year or two.
But not just yet, he fervently hoped.
"Going far? I'm not," said the driver.
Danniels adjusted the knees of his trousers. "I'm going to—near whereChicago used to be."
Danniels had forgotten the youth of his companion. "I mean I'm going towhere you can't go any further."
The driver nodded smugly, relieved that the threat to the vastness ofhis knowledge had been dismissed. "I get you, Pop. I guess I can takeyou close to where you're headed."
They rode on in silence, both relieved that they didn't have to try tospan the void between age and position with words.
"You aren't anywhere near starvation, are you?" the driver saidsuddenly, uneasy.
"No," Danniels said. "Anyway I've got money."
"Woodrow Wilson! I'll pull in at the next joint."
The next joint was carved out of the flat cross-section of hill thatlooked unmistakably like a strip ridge of a Colorado copper mine, butwasn't ... even barring the fact that this was Illinois. The rectangleof visible dinner was color-fused aluminum from between No. Two andKorea.
Danniels was glad to get into the shockingly cold air-conditioning.It was constant, if unhealthy. The chugging unit in the car failed aheartbeat every now and then for a sickening wave of heat.
The two of them pulled up wire chairs to a linoleum-top table in amirrored corner. A faint purple hectographed menu was stuck betweenappropriately colored plastic squeeze bottles labeled MUSTARD and BLOOD.
Danniels knew what the menu would say but he unfolded it and checked.
Juicy, rich-red tantalizing hamburger .17
Mashed potatoes .40
Delectable oysters, all you can eat .09
Rich, fragrant cheese, large slice .02
Milk, the forbidden wine of nature .01
Coffee (without) .50
Coffee (with) .02
A fat girl in white came to the table.
Danniels tossed the menu on the table. "I'll take the meat dinner," hesaid.
The teen-ager stared hard at the table top. "So will I."
"Good citizens," the waitress said, but the revulsion crept into hervoice over the professional hardness.
Danniels looked carefully at his companion. "You aren't used toordering meat."
"Pop," the youth began. Danniels waited to be told that being short ofcash was none of his business. "Pop, on my leg. Kill it, kill it!"
Danniels leaned over the table startled and curious. A cockroach wasfeeling its way along a thin meridian of vari-colored jeans. Dannielspinched it up without injuring it and deposited it on the floor. Itscurried away.
"Your kind make me sick," the driver said in lieu of thanks. "You actlike a Fanatic but you're a Meat-Eater. How do you blesh that?"
Danniels shrugged. He did not have to explain anything to this kid. Hecouldn't be stranded.
The kid was under the same encephalographic inversion as the rest ofthe world. No human being could directly or indirectly commit murder,as long as the broadcasting stations every nation on earth maintainedin self-defense continued to function.
These mechanical brain waves coated every mind with enforced pacifism.They could have just as easily broadcast currents that would have mademinds swell with love or happiness. But world leaders had universallyagreed that these conditions were too narcotic for the common people toendure.
Pacifism was vital to the survival of the planet.
War could not go on killing; but governments still had to go on winningwars. War became a game. The International War Games were held everytwo years. With pseudo-H bombs and mock-germ warfare, countries stilleffectively eliminated cities and individuals. A "destroyed" citywas off-limits for twenty years. Nothing could go in or out for thatperiod. Most cities had provided huge food deposits for emergencies.
Before the Famine.
Some minds were more finely attuned to the encephalographic inversionthan others. People so in tune with the wavelength of pacifism couldnot only not kill another human being, they could not even kill ananimal. Vegetarianism was thrust upon a world not equipped for it.Some—like Danniels—who could not kill, still found themselves ableto eat what others had killed. Others who could not kill or eat anyonce-living thing—even plants—rapidly starved to death. They werequickly forgotten.
Almost as forgotten as the Jonahs.
The War Dead.
Any soldier or civilian "killed" outside of a major disaster area(where he would be subject to the twenty years) became a man withouta country—or a world. They were tagged with green hair by molecularexchange and sent on their way to starve, band together, reach adisaster area (where they would be accepted for the duration of thedisaster), or starve.
Anyone who in any way communicated with a Jonah or even recognized theexistence of one automatically became a Jonah himself.
It was harsh. And if it wasn't better than war it was quieter.
And more permanent.
The counterman with a greasy apron and hairy forearms served theplates. The meat had been lightly glazed to bring out the aroma andflavor but the blood was still a pink sheen on the ground meat. Therewere generous side dishes of cheese and milk. Even animal by-productswere passed up by the majority of vegetarians. Eggs had been the firstto be dropped—after all, every egg was a potential life. Milk andassociated products came to be spurned through sheer revulsion byassociation. Besides, milk was intended only to feed the animal's ownoffspring, wasn't it?
Danniels squirted blood generously from its squeeze bottle. Evenvegetarians used a lot of it. It gave their plankton the gory look thehuman animal craved. Of course it was not really blood, only a kind oftomato paste. When Danniels had been a boy people called it catsup.
He tried to dig into his steak with vengeance but it tasted of ashes.Meat was his favorite food; he was in no way a vegetarian. But thethought of the Famine haunted him. Vegetable food was high in priceand ration points. Most people were living on 2500 calories a day. Itwasn't quite starvation and it wasn't quite a full stomach. It washard on anybody who did more than an average amount of work. It wasespecially hard on children.
The Meat-Eaters helped relieve the situation. Some, with only theminimum of influence from the Broadcasters, ate nothing but meat.They were naturally aggressive morons who were doing no one favors,potential members of a Wolf Pack.
Danniels knew how to end the Famine.
The mob that was the men he had commanded had hunted him in the hillsbelow Buffalo, and he had been hungry, with no time to eat, or rest, orsleep. Only enough time to think. He couldn't stop thinking. Pantingover a smothered spark of campfire, smoldering moss and leaves, hethought. Drinking sparkling but polluted water from a twisting mountainstream and trying unsuccessfully to trap silver shavings of fish withhis naked hands, he thought.
His civilian job was that of a genopseudoxenobeastimacroiologist, aspecialized field with peacetime applications that had come out of theWar Games—specialized to an almost comic-opera intensity. He knewvirtually everything about almost nothing at all. Yet, delirious withhunger, from this he fashioned in his mind a way to provide food foreverybody. Even Jonahs.
After they caught him—weeks before the Tag spot would have fadedoff—he wasn't sure whether his idea had been a sick dream or not. Buthe intended to find out. He wouldn't let any other mob stop him fromthat.
Danniels had decided he was against mobs, whether their violence andstupidity was social or anti-social. People are better as individuals.
The driver of the hot-rod was also picking at his food uncertainly.Probably a social vegetarian, Danniels supposed. An irresponsiblefaddist.
The counterman stopped staring and cleared his throat apologetically."This ain't the Ritz but it don't look good for customers to sit withhats on."
Danniels knew that applied to only non-vegetarians, but he put hisStetson, reluctantly, on an aluminum tree.
The teen-ager looked up. And did not go back to the food. Danniels knewthat he had been found out.
The counterman went back to wiping down the bar.
The youth was still looking at Danniels.
"You better eat if you don't want me to be discovered," Danniels saidgently.
Young eyes moved back and forth, searching, not finding.
"It won't do you any good to run," Danniels continued. "The waitressand the counterman will swear they had nothing to do with me. But youwere driving me, eating with me."
"You can't let even a Jonah die," the youngster said in a hoarsewhisper that barely carried across the table.
Danniels shook his head sadly. "It won't work. You might have sloweddown enough to let me grab onto the rear bumper or tossed me out somefood. But you took me into your car, sat down at a table with me."
"And this is the thanks I get!"
Danniels felt his face flush. "Look, son, this isn't a game where youcan afford to play by good sportsmanship. That's somebody else's rules,designed to make sure you get at least no better a break than anyoneelse. You have to play by your rules—designed to give you the bestpossible break. Let's get out of here."
He wolfed the last bite and jammed his hat back on his head, pulling itdown about his ears. The sweat band had rubbed the flour off his hairin a narrow band. A band of green. The mark of the Jonah.
In the last war games, Danniels had come into the sights