"Can you hear me, Able Baker Fox? Answer! Can you hear me?" called General Dane.
The shushing noise stopped. The General and Groszinger stared blankly at the speaker.
"Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley," chanted the radio operator. "Able Baker Fox, this is Dog Easy Charley...."
Groszinger, his eyes shielded from the glaring ceiling light of the radio room by a newspaper, lay fully dressed on the cot that had been brought in for him. Every few minutes he ran his long, slender fingers through his tangled hair and swore. His machine had worked perfectly, was working perfectly. The one thing he had not designed, the damn man in it, had failed, had destroyed the whole experiment.
They had been trying for six hours to reestablish contact with the lunatic who peered down at earth from his tiny steel moon and heard voices.
"He's coming in again, sir," said the radio operator. "This is Dog Easy Charley. Come in, Able Baker Fox. Over."
"This is Able Baker Fox. Clear weather over Zones Seven, Eleven, Nineteen, and Twenty-three. Zones One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six overcast. Storm seems to be shaping up over Zones Eight and Nine, moving south by southwest at about eighteen miles an hour. Over."
"He's OK now," said the General, relieved.
Groszinger remained supine, his head still covered with the newspaper. "Ask him about the voices,"he said.
"You don't hear the voices anymore, do you, Able Baker Fox?"
"What do you mean, I don't hear them? I can hear them better than I can hear you. Over."
"He's out of his head," said Groszinger, sitting up.
"I heard that," said Major Rice. "Maybe I am. It shouldn't be too hard to check. All you have to do is find out if an Andrew Tobin died in Evansville, Indiana, on February 17, 1927. Over."
"I don't follow you, Able Baker Fox," said the General. "Who was Andrew Tobin? Over."
"He's one of the voices." There was an uncomfortable pause. Major Rice cleared his throat. "Claims his brother murdered him. Over."
The radio operator had risen slowly from his stool, his face chalk-white. Groszinger pushed him back down and took the microphone from the General's now limp hand.
"Either you've lost your mind, or this is the most sophomoric practical joke in history, Able Baker Fox," said Groszinger. "This is Groszinger you're talking to, and you're dumber than I think you are if you think you can kid me." He nodded. "Over."
"I can't hear you very well anymore, Dog Easy Charley. Sorry, but the voices are getting louder."
"Rice! Straighten out!" said Groszinger.
"There---I caught that: Mrs. Pamela Ritter wants her husband to marry again, for the sake of the children. He lives at---"
"He lives at 1577 Damon Place, in Scotia, New York. Over and out."
General Dane shook Groszinger's shoulder gently. "You've been asleep five hours," he said. "It's midnight." He handed him a cup of coffee. "We've got some more messages. Interested?"
Groszinger sipped the coffee. "Is he still raving?"
"He still hears the voices, if that's what you mean." The General dropped two unopened telegrams in Groszinger's lap. "Thought you might like to be the one to open these."
Groszinger laughed. "Went ahead and checked Scotia and Evansville, did you? God help this army, if all the generals are as superstitious as you, my friend."
"OK, OK, you're the scientist, you're the brain-box. That's why I want you to open the telegrams. I want you to tell me what in hell's going on."
Groszinger opened one of the telegrams.
harvey ritter listed for 1577 damon place, scotia. ge engineer. widower, two children. deceased wife named pamela. do you need more information? r. b. failey, chief, scotia police
He shrugged and handed the message to General Dane, then opened the other telegram:
records show andrew tobin died in hunting accident february 17, 1927. brother paul leading businessman. owns coal business started by andrew. can furnish further details if needed. f. b. johnson, chief, evansville p.d.
"I'm not surprised," said Groszinger. "I expected something like this. I suppose you're firmly convinced now that our friend Major Rice has found outer space populated by ghosts?"
Reprinted from Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Kurt Vonnegut. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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