Ray Bradbury (1920- ) is one of America's foremost science fiction writers. In "The Pedestrian," published in "The Golden Apples of the Sun" collection of short stories, he portrays a future society. In this future people hide in air-conditioned houses, watching endless television shows, and any different behavior, such as walking the streets, is considered deviant.
The year is 2053 A.D. Leonard Mead likes to walk the streets from 8 o'clock at night taking in the city's silence and putting his feet on concrete. He stands on the sidewalk looking in four directions, and finds that he is alone, or almost alone. Sometimes he walks until midnight, going past darkened houses that are like graves, where gray ghosts appear to lurk behind the glass windows. He wears sneakers so that the dogs roaming in packs don't hear him. They bark when they hear him and people switch on houselights, startled by a man walking alone outside.
One Evening In Particular
The story moves to one particular evening walk. The air is so cold it burns his lungs. As he walks, Leonard Mead whispers to the houses he passes, asking what is on the various television channels, and wonders if people are watching the U.S. cavalry coming to the rescue. At 8.30 p.m. he asks the houses if it is time for a quiz show, a comedy or a detective thriller. He thinks he hears laughter inside one house, but moves on when he hears nothing more.
As he walks, he stumbles over uneven pavement overgrown with flowers and grass. He has been walking the streets for 10 years and has never met anyone. At one street intersection, he recollects that during the day the street is filled with traffic, but at night it is empty. As he turns for home, a single car suddenly appears, catching him in its headlights. A metallic, inhuman voice calls out, ordering him to stop. It is the one police car left in a city of 3 million people. The police car asks his name and profession. Mead announces that he is a writer, to which the car replies "no profession." The car interrogates him about his life and why he is out walking. When he doesn't give a suitable reply, the car orders him to get in.
The police car is empty. Leonard Mead asks the car where it is taking him and in response to his question, the car issues a card saying "To the Psychiatric Center for Research and Regressive Tendencies." The car passes one brightly lit house in the dark street. "That's my house," says Leonard Mead. There is no reply, no sound and no movement on the street.
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