By Walter M. Miller Jr.
The tale is decided approximately years after the cave in of civilization because of a mysterious ailment known as neuroderm. The "disease" is de facto as a result of a symbiotic micro-organism despatched to Earth from one other inhabited planet, and is admittedly invaluable, although visible as disfiguring end result of the graying of dermis which ultimately spreads over the whole body.
The story's protagonist, Paul Harris Oberlin, starts off the tale open air Houston. He has controlled to prevent an infection to date, yet is tiring of a vitamin of small video game and ditchwater. Paul has determined to probability exploring a urban, figuring that the big, crowded towns are actually abandoned and, might be, provide higher possibilities for scavenging.
Paul discovers that Houston is now managed by way of a strongman named Georgelle, whose fans exterminate any "dermies" they arrive throughout. not able to belly the homicide of a dermie lady, Paul rescues her and flees Houston.
The woman, Willow or "Willie," used to be heading for Galveston, ordinary to her from visits prior to the cave in. She has heard that nuns have set themselves up there. Paul takes her to Galveston, hoping to discover clinical aid for her crippling gunshot wound.
Paul reveals that Galveston Island is an all-dermie colony which had intentionally destroyed all bridges prime from the mainland. There are nuns, and clergymen, they usually give you the management for the colony. there's additionally a scientist who has survived the chaos, and who confirms for Paul the rumors that neuroderm has an extraterrestrial origin.
Eventually Paul overcomes his fears approximately neuroderm for the sake of Willie, and plans to compliment her to a couple small island until eventually sanity returns to the area. even though, the implied probability of Georgelle's humans is still, the dermies of Galveston offering a doubly-attractive aim for his or her deliberate enlargement: Extermination of the dermies, plus a treasure trove of loot, together with fuel and dealing automobiles and trucks.
Much of the tale occurs at St. Mary's sanatorium in Galveston, a true medical institution which was once run via a true order of nuns. The clinic is now a part of the college of Texas scientific department (UTMB)