Строения казались совсем рядом, и все же представить их очертания было трудно.
«Из-за какого-то сумасшедшего архитектурного принципа», — подумал Крейг.
Они были розовыми до тех пор, пока он не решил, что они вовсе не розовые, а голубые, а иногда они выглядели и не розовыми, и не голубыми, а скорее зелёными, хотя, конечно, такой цвет нельзя однозначно назвать зелёным.
Они были красивыми, безусловно, но красота эта раздражала и беспокоила — совсем необычная и незнакомая красота.
Здания, как показалось Крейгу, находились в пяти минутах ходьбы полем. Он шел минут пятнадцать, но достиг лишь того, что смотрел на них чуть под другим углом. Впрочем, трудно сказать — здания как бы постоянно меняли свои формы.
Это была, разумеется, не более чем оптическая иллюзия.
Цель не приблизилась и ещё через пятнадцать минут, хотя он мог поклясться, что шел прямо.
Тогда он почувствовал страх.
Казалось, будто, продвигаясь вперёд, он уходил вбок, словно что-то гладкое и скользкое перед ним не давало пройти. Как изгородь, изгородь, которую невозможно увидеть или почувствовать.
Он остановился, и дремавший в нём страх перерос в ужас.
В воздухе что-то мелькнуло. На мгновение ему почудилось, что он увидел глаз, один-единственный глаз, смотрящий прямо на него. Он застыл, а чувство, что за ним наблюдают, ещё больше усилилось, и на траве по ту сторону незримой ограды заколыхались какие-то тени. Как будто там стоял кто-то невидимый и с улыбкой наблюдал за его тщетными попытками пробиться сквозь стену.
Он поднял руку и вытянул её перед собой. Никакой стены не было, но рука отклонилась в сторону, пройдя вперёд не больше фута.
И в этот миг он почувствовал, как смотрел на него из-за ограды этот невидимый: с добротой, жалостью и безграничным превосходством.
Он повернулся и побежал.
The buildings seemed to be quite close and yet it was hard to make out their lines. It was because of some crazy architectural principle, Craig decided. Sherman had said the architect was crazier than a coot. One tune when he looked at them, they looked one way; when he looked again they were different somehow. They were never twice the same.
They were pink until he decided that they weren't pink at all, but were really blue; there were other tunes when they seemed neither pink nor blue, but a sort of green, although it wasn't really green.
They were beautiful, of course, but it was a disturbing beauty—a brand-new sort of beauty. Something, Craig decided, that Sherman's misplaced genius had thought up, although it did seem funny that a place like this could exist without his ever hearing about it. Still, such a thing was understandable when he remembered that everyone was so self-consciously wrapped up in his work that he never paid attention to what anyone else was doing.
There was one way, of course, to find out what it was all about and that was to go and see.
The buildings, he estimated, were no more than a good five minutes' walk across a landscaped meadow that was a thing of beauty in itself.
He started out and walked for fifteen minutes, and he did not get there. It seemed, however, that he was viewing the buildings from a slightly different angle, although that was hard to tell because they refused to stay in place but seemed to be continually shifting and distorting their lines.
It was, of course, no more than an optical illusion. He started out again.
After another fifteen minutes he was still no closer, although he could have sworn that he had kept his course headed straight toward the buildings.
It was then that he began to feel the panic. He stood quite still and considered the situation as sanely as he could and decided there was nothing for it but to try again and this time pay strict attention to what he was doing.
He started out, moving slowly, almost counting his steps as he walked, concentrating fiercely upon keeping each step headed in the right direction.
It was then he discovered he was slipping. It appeared that he was going straight ahead but, as a matter of fact, he was slipping sidewise as he walked. It was just as if there were something smooth and slippery in front of him that translated his forward movement into a sidewise movement without his knowing it. Like a fence, a fence that he couldn't see or sense.
He stopped, and the panic that had been gnawing at him broke into cold and terrible fear.
Something flickered in front of him. For a moment it seemed that he saw an eye, one single staring eye, looking straight at him. He stood rigid, and the sense that he was being looked at grew, and now it seemed that there were strange shadows on the grass beyond the fence that was invisible. As if someone, or something, that he couldn't see was standing there and looking at him, watching with amusement his efforts to walk through the fence.
He lifted a hand and thrust it out in front of him and there was no fence, but his hand and arm slipped side-wise and did not go forward more than a foot or so.
He felt the kindness, then, the kindness and the pity and the vast superiority.
And he turned and fled.