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Robert A. Heinlein
1907-1988

   

They

by Robert A. Heinlein



   
 

                They would not let him alone.
                They would never let him alone. He realized that that was part of the plot against him-never to leave him in peace, never to give him a chance to mull over the lies they had told him, time enough to pick out the flaws, and to figure out the truth for himself.
                That damned attendant this morning! He had come busting in with his breakfast tray, waking him, and causing him to forget his dream. If only he could remember that dream-
                Someone was unlocking the door. He ignored it. "Howdy, old boy. They tell me you refused your breakfast?" Dr. Hayward's professionally kindly mask hung over his bed.
                "I wasn't hungry."
                "But we can't have that. You'll get weak, and then I won't be able to get you well completely. Now get up and get your clothes on and I'll order an eggnog for you. Come on, that's a good fellow!"
                Unwilling, but still less willing at that moment to enter into any conflict of wills, he got out of bed and slipped on his bathrobe. "That's better," Hayward approved. "Have a cigarette?"
                "No, thank you."
                The doctor shook his head in a puzzled fashion. "Darned if I can figure you out. Loss of interest in physical pleasures does not fit your type of case."
                "What is my type of case?" he inquired in flat tones.
                "Tut! Tut!" Hayward tried to appear roguish. "If medicos told their professional secrets, they might have to work for a living."
                "What is my type of case?"
                "Well-the label doesn't matter, does it? Suppose you tell me. I really know nothing about your case as yet. Don't you think it is about time you talked?"
                "I'll play chess with you."
                "All right, all right." Hayward made a gesture of impatient concession. "We've played chess every day for a week. If you will talk, I'll play chess."
                What could it matter? If he was right, they already understood perfectly that he had discovered their plot; there was nothing to be gained by concealing the obvious. Let them try to argue him out of it. Let the tail go with the hide! To hell with it!
                He got out the chessmen and commenced setting them up. "What do you know of my case so far?"
                "Very little. Physical examination, negative. Past history, negative. High intelligence, as shown by your record in school and your success in your profession. Occasional fits of moodiness, but nothing exceptional. The only positive information was the incident that caused you to come here for treatment."
                "To be brought here, you mean. Why should it cause comment?"
                "Well, good gracious, man-if you barricade yourself in your room and insist that your wife is plotting against you, don't you expect people to notice?"
                "But she was plotting against me-and so are you. White, or black?"
                "Black-it's your turn to attack. Why do you think we are plotting against you?"
                "It's an involved story, and goes way back into my early childhood. There was an immediate incident, however-" He opened by advancing the white king's knight to KB3. Hayward's eyebrows raised.
                "You make a piano attack?"
                "Why not? You know that it is not safe for me to risk a gambit with you."
                The doctor shrugged his shoulders and answered the opening. "Suppose we start with your early childhood. It may shed more light than more recent incidents. Did you feel that you were being persecuted as a child?"
                "No!" He half rose from his chair. "When I was a child I was sure of myself. I knew then, I tell you; I knew! Life was worth while, and I knew it. I was at peace with myself and my surroundings. Life was good and I assumed that the creatures around me were like myself."
                "And weren't they?"
                "Not at all! Particularly the children. I didn't know what viciousness was until I was turned loose with other children. The little devils! And I was expected to be like them and play with them."
                The doctor nodded. "I know. The herd compulsion. Children can be pretty savage at times."
                "You've missed the point. This wasn't any healthy roughness; these creatures were different-not like myself at all. They looked like me, but they were not like me. If I tried to say anything to one of them about anything that mattered to me, all I could get was a stare and a scornful laugh. Then they would find some way to punish me for having said it."
                Hayward nodded. "I see what you mean. How about grown-ups?"
                "That is somewhat different. Adults don't matter to children at first-or, rather they did not matter to me. They were too big, and they did not bother me, and they were busy with things that did not enter into my considerations. It was only when I noticed that my presence affected them that I began to wonder about them."
                "How do you mean?"
                "Well, they never did the things when I was around that they did when I was not around."
                Hayward looked at him carefully. "Won't that statement take quite a lot of justifying? How do you know what they did when you weren't around?"
                He acknowledged the point. "But I used to catch them just stopping. If I came into a room, the conversation would stop suddenly, and then it would pick up about the weather or something equally inane. Then I took to hiding and listening and looking. Adults did not behave the same way in my presence as out of it."
                "Your move, I believe. But see here, old man-that was when you were a child. Every child passes through that phase. Now that you are a man, you must see the adult point of view. Children are strange creatures and have to be protected-at least, we do protect them-from many adult interests. There is a whole code of conventions in the matter that-"
                "Yes, yes," he interrupted impatiently, "I know all that. Nevertheless, I noticed enough and remembered enough that was never clear to me later. And it put me on my guard to notice the next thing."
                "Which was?" He noticed that the doctor's eyes were averted as he adjusted a castle's position.
                "The things I saw people doing and heard them talking about were never of any importance. They must be doing something else."
                "I don't follow you."
                "You don't choose to follow me. I'm telling this to you in exchange for a game of chess."
                "Why do you like to play chess so well?"
                "Because it is the only thing in the world where I can see all the factors and understand all the rules. Never mind-I saw all around me this enormous plant, cities, farms, factories, churches, schools, homes, railroads, luggage, roller coasters, trees, saxophones, libraries, people and animals. People that looked like me and who should have felt very much like me, if what I was told was the truth. But what did they appear to be doing? 'They went to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to get the strength to buy the food to earn the money to go to-' until they fell over dead. Any slight variation in the basic pattern did not matter, for they always fell over dead. And everybody tried to tell me that I should be doing the same thing. I knew better!"
                The doctor gave him a look apparently intended to denote helpless surrender and laughed. "I can't argue with you. Life does look like that, and maybe it is just that futile. But it is the only life we have. Why not make up your mind to enjoy it as much as possible?"
                "Oh, no!" He looked both sulky and stubborn. "You can't peddle nonsense to me by claiming to be fresh out of sense. How do I know? Because all this complex stage setting, all these swarms of actors, could not have been put here just to make idiot noises at each other. Some other explanation, but not that one. An insanity as enormous, as complex, as the one around me had to be planned. I've found the plan!"
                "Which is?"
                He noticed that the doctor's eyes were again averted. "It is a play intended to divert me, to occupy my mind and confuse me, to keep me so busy with details that I will not have time to think about the meaning. You are all in it, every one of you." He shook his finger in the doctor's face. "Most of them may be helpless automatons, but you're not. You are one of the conspirators. You've been sent in as a troubleshooter to try to force me to go back to playing the role assigned to me!"
                He saw that the doctor was waiting for him to quiet down.
                "Take it easy," Hayward finally managed to say. "Maybe it is all a conspiracy, but why do you think that you have been singled out for special attention? Maybe it is a joke on all of us. Why couldn't I be one of the victims as well as yourself?"
                "Got you!" He pointed a long finger at Hayward. "That is the essence of the plot. All of these creatures have been set up to look like me in order to prevent me from realizing that I was the center of the arrangements. But I have noticed the key fact, the mathematically inescapable fact, that I am unique. Here am I, sitting on the inside. The world extends outward from me. I am the center-"
                "Easy, man, easy! Don't you realize that the world looks that way to me, too. We are each the center of the universe-"
                "Not so! That is what you have tried to make me believe, that I am just one of millions more just like me. Wrong! If they were like me, then I could get into communication with them. I can't. I have tried and tried and I can't. I've sent out my inner thoughts, seeking some one other being who has them, too. What have I gotten back? Wrong answers, jarring incongruities, meaningless obscenity. I've tried. I tell you. God!-how I've tried! But there is nothing out there to speak to me-nothing but emptiness and otherness!"
                "Wait a minute. Do you mean to say that you think there is nobody home at my end of the line? Don't you believe that I am alive and conscious?"
                He regarded the doctor soberly. "Yes, I think you are probably alive, but you are one of the others-my antagonists. But you have set thousands of others around me whose faces are blank, not lived in, and whose speech is a meaningless reflex of noise."
                "Well, then, if you concede that I am an ego, why do you insist that I am so very different from yourself?"
                "Why? Wait!" He pushed back from the chess table and strode over to the wardrobe, from which he took out a violin case.
                While he was playing, the lines of suffering smoothed out of his face and his expression took a relaxed beatitude. For a while he recaptured the emotions, but not the knowledge, which he had possessed in dreams. The melody proceeded easily from proposition to proposition with inescapable, unforced logic. He finished with a triumphant statement of the essential thesis and turned to the doctor. "Well?"
                "Hm-m-m." He seemed to detect an even greater degree of caution in the doctor's manner. "It's an odd bit, but remarkable. 'S pity you didn't take up the violin seriously. You could have made quite a reputation. You could even now. Why don't you do it? You could afford to, I believe."
                He stood and stared at the doctor for a long moment, then shook his head as if trying to clear it. "It's no use," he said slowly, "no use at all. There is no possibility of communication. I am alone." He replaced the instrument in its case and returned to the chess table. "My move, I believe?"
                "Yes. Guard your queen."
                He studied the board. "Not necessary. I no longer need my queen. Check."
                The doctor interposed a pawn to parry the attack.
                He nodded. "You use your pawns well, but I have learned to anticipate your play. Check again-and mate, I think."
                The doctor examined the new situation. "No," he decided, "no-not quite." He retreated from the square under attack. "Not checkmate-stalemate at the worst. Yes, another stalemate."
                He was upset by the doctor's visit. He couldn't be wrong, basically, yet the doctor had certainly pointed out logical holes in his position. From a logical standpoint the whole world might be a fraud perpetrated on everybody. But logic meant nothing-logic itself was a fraud, starting with unproved assumptions and capable of proving anything. The world is what it is!-and carries its own evidence of trickery.
                But does it? What did he have to go on? Could he lay down a line between known facts and everything else and then make a reasonable interpretation of the world, based on facts alone-an interpretation free from complexities of logic and no hidden assumptions of points not certain. Very well-
                First fact, himself. He knew himself directly. He existed.
                Second facts, the evidence of his "five senses," everything that he himself saw and heard and smelled and tasted with his physical senses. Subject to their limitations, he must believe his senses. Without them he was entirely solitary, shut up in a locker of bone, blind, deaf, cut off, the only being in the world.
                And that was not the case. He knew that he did not invent the information brought to him by his senses. There had to be something else out there, some otherness that produced the things his senses recorded. All philosophies that claimed that the physical world around him did not exist except in his imagination were sheer nonsense.
                But beyond that, what? Were there any third facts on which he could rely? No, not at this point. He could not afford to believe anything that he was told, or that he read, or that was implicitly assumed to be true about the world around him. No, he could not believe any of it, for the sum total of what he had been told and read and been taught in school was so contradictory, so senseless, so wildly insane that none of it could be believed unless he personally confirmed it.
                Wait a minute- The very telling of these lies, these senseless contradictions, was a fact in itself, known to him directly. To that extent they were data, probably very important data.
                The world as it had been shown to him was a piece of unreason, an idiot's dream. Yet it was on too mammoth a scale to be without some reason. He came wearily back to his original point: Since the world could not be as crazy as it appeared to be, it must necessarily have been arranged to appear crazy in order to deceive him as to the truth.
                Why had they done it to him? And what was the truth behind the sham? There must be some clue in the deception itself. What thread ran through it all? Well, in the first place he had been given a superabundance of explanations of the world around him, philosophies, religions, "common sense" explanations. Most of them were so clumsy, so obviously inadequate, or meaningless, that they could hardly have expected him to take them seriously. They must have intended them simply as misdirection.
                But there were certain basic assumptions running through all the hundreds of explanations of the craziness around him. It must be these basic assumptions that he was expected to believe. For example, there was the deepseated assumption that he was a "human being," essentially like millions of others around him and billions more in the past and the future.
                That was nonsense! He had never once managed to get into real communication with all those things that looked so much like him but were so different. In the agony of his loneliness, he had deceived himself that Alice understood him and was a being like him. He knew now that he had suppressed and refused to examine thousands of little discrepancies because he could not bear the thought of returning to complete loneliness. He had needed to believe that his wife was a living, breathing being of his own kind who understood his inner thoughts. He had refused to consider the possibility that she was simply, a mirror, an echo-or something unthinkably worse.
                He had found a mate, and the world was tolerable, even though dull, stupid, and full of petty annoyance. He was moderately happy and had put away his suspicions. He had accepted, quite docilely, the treadmill he was expected to use, until a slight mischance had momentarily cut through the fraud-then his suspicions had returned with impounded force; the bitter knowledge of his childhood had been confirmed.
                He supposed that he had been a fool to make a fuss about it. If he had kept his mouth shut they would not have locked him up. He should have been as subtle and as shrewd as they, kept his eyes and ears open and learned the details of and the reasons for the plot against him. He might have learned how to circumvent it.
                But what if they had locked him up-the whole world was an asylum and all of them his keepers.
                A key scraped in the lock, and he looked up to see an attendant entering with a tray. "Here's your dinner, sir."
                "Thanks, Joe," he said gently. "Just put it down."
                "Movies tonight, sir," the attendant went on. "Wouldn't you like to go? Dr. Hayward said you could-"
                "No, thank you. I prefer not to."
                "I wish you would, sir." He noticed with amusement the persuasive intentness of the attendant's manner. "I think the doctor wants you to. It's a good movie. There's a Mickey Mouse cartoon-"
                "You almost persuade me, Joe," he answered with passive agreeableness. "Mickey's trouble is the same as mine, essentially. However, I'm not going. They need not bother to hold movies tonight."
                "Oh, there will be movies in any case, sir. Lots of our other guests will attend."
                "Really? Is that an example of thoroughness, or are you simply keeping up the pretense in talking to me? It isn't necessary, Joe, if it's any strain on you. I know the game. If I don't attend, there is no point in holding movies."
                He liked the grin with which the attendant answered this thrust. Was it possible that this being was created just as he appeared to be-big muscles, phlegmatic disposition, tolerant, doglike? Or was there nothing going on behind those kind eyes, nothing but robot reflex? No, it was more likely that he was one of them, since he was so closely in attendance on him.
                The attendant left and he busied himself at his supper tray, scooping up the already-cut bites of meat with a spoon, the only implement provided. He smiled again at their caution and thoroughness. No danger of that-he would not destroy this body as long as it served him in investigating the truth of the matter. There were still many different avenues of research available before taking that possibly irrevocable step.
                After supper he decided to put his thoughts in better order by writing them; he obtained paper. He should start with a general statement of some underlying postulate of the credos that had been drummed into him all his "life." Life? Yes, that was a good one. He wrote:
                "I am told that I was born a certain number of years ago and that I will die a similar number of years hence. Various clumsy stories have been offered me to explain to me where I was before birth and what becomes of me after death, but they are rough lies, not intended to deceive, except as misdirection. In every other possible way the world around me assures me that I am mortal, here but a few years, and a few years hence gone completely-nonexistent.
                "WRONG-I am immortal. I transcend this little time axis; a seventy-year span on it is but a casual phase in my experience. Second only to the prime datum of my own existence is the emotionally convincing certainty of my own continuity. I may be a closed curve, but, closed or open, I neither have a beginning nor an end. Self-awareness is not relational; it is absolute, and cannot be reached to be destroyed, or created. Memory, however, being a relational aspect of consciousness, may be tampered with and possibly destroyed.
                "It is true that most religions which have been offered me teach immortality, but note the fashion in which they teach it. The surest way to lie convincingly is to tell the truth unconvincingly. They did not wish me to believe.
                "Caution: Why have they tried so hard to convince me that I am going to die in a few years? There must be a very important reason. I infer that they are preparing me for some sort of a major change. It may be crucially important for me to figure out their intentions about this-probably I have several years in which to reach a decision. Note: Avoid using the types of reasoning they have taught me."
                The attendant was back. "Your wife is here, sir."
                "Tell her to go away."
                "Please, sir-Dr. Hayward is most anxious that you should see her."
                "Tell Dr. Hayward that I said that he is an excellent chess player."
                "Yes, sir." The attendant waited for a moment. "Then you won't see her, sir?"
                "'No, I won't see her."
                He wandered around the room for some minutes after the attendant had left, too distrait to return to his recapitulation. By and large they had played very decently with him since they had brought him here. He was glad that they had allowed him to have a room alone, and he certainly had more time free for contemplation than had ever been possible on the outside. To be sure, continuous effort to keep him busy and to distract him was made, but, by being stubborn, he was able to circumvent the rules and gain some hours each day for introspection.
                But, damnation!-he did wish they would not persist in using Alice in their attempts to divert his thoughts. Although the intense terror and revulsion which she had inspired in him when he had first rediscovered the truth had now aged into a simple feeling of repugnance and distaste for her company, nevertheless it was emotionally upsetting to be reminded of her, to be forced into making decisions about her.
                After all, she had been his wife for many years. Wife? What was a wife? Another soul like one's own, a complement, the other necessary pole to the couple, a sanctuary of understanding and sympathy in the boundless depths of aloneness. That was what he had thought, what he had needed to believe and had believed fiercely for years. The yearning need for companionship of his own kind had caused him to see himself reflected in those beautiful eyes and had made him quite uncritical of occasional incongruities in her responses.
                He sighed. He felt that he had sloughed off most of the typed emotional reactions which they had taught him by precept and example, but Alice had gotten under his skin, 'way under, and it still hurt. He had been happy-what if it had been a dope dream? They had given him an excellent, a beautiful mirror to play with-the more fool he to have looked behind it!
                Wearily he turned back to his summing up:
                "The world is explained in either one of two ways; the common-sense way which says that the world is pretty much as it appears to be and that ordinary human conduct and motivations are reasonable, and the religio-mystic solution which states that the world is dream stuff, unreal, insubstantial, with reality somewhere beyond.
                "WRONG-both of them. The common-sense scheme has no sense to it of any sort. Life is short and full of trouble. Man born of woman is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. His days are few and they are numbered. All is vanity and vexation. Those quotations may be jumbled and incorrect, but that is a fair statement of the common-sense world is-as-it-seems in its only possible evaluation. In such a world, human striving is about as rational as the blind darting of a moth against a light bulb. The common-sense world is a blind insanity, out of nowhere, going nowhere, to no purpose.
                "As for the other solution, it appears more rational on the surface, in that it rejects the utterly irrational world of common sense. But it is not a rational solution, it is simply a flight from reality of any sort, for it refuses to believe the results of the only available direct communication between the ego and the Outside. Certainly the 'five senses' are poor enough channels of communication, but they are the only channels."
                He crumpled up the paper and flung himself from the chair. Order and logic were no good-his answer was right because it smelled right. But he still did not know all the answer. Why the grand scale to the deception, countless creatures, whole continents, an enormously involved and minutely detailed matrix of insane history, insane tradition, insane culture? Why bother with more than a cell and a strait jacket?
                It must be, it had to be, because it was supremely important to deceive him completely, because a lesser deception would not do. Could it be that they dare not let him suspect his real identity no matter how difficult and involved the fraud?
                He had to know. In some fashion he must get behind the deception and see what went on when he was not looking. He had had one glimpse; this time he must see the actual workings, catch the puppet masters in their manipulations.
                Obviously the first step must be to escape from this asylum, but to do it so craftily that they would never see him, never catch up with him, not have a chance to set the stage before him. That would be hard to do. He must excel them in shrewdness and subtlety.
                Once decided, he spent the rest of the evening in considering the means by which he might accomplish his purpose. It seemed almost impossible-he must get away without once being seen and remain in strict hiding. They must lose track of him completely in order that they would not know where to center their deceptions. That would mean going without food for several days. Very well-he could do it. He must not give them any warning by unusual action or manner.
                The lights blinked twice. Docilely he got up and commenced preparations for bed. When the attendant looked through the peephole he was already in bed, with his face turned to the wall.

Gladness! Gladness everywhere! It was good to be with his own kind, to hear the music swelling out of every living thing, as it always had and always would-good to know that everything was living and aware of him, participating in him, as he participated in them. It was good to be, good to know the unity of many and the diversity of one. There had been one bad thought-the details escaped him-but it was gone-it had never been; there was no place for it.

The early-morning sounds from the adjacent ward penetrated the sleepladen body which served him here and gradually recalled him to awareness of the hospital room. The transition was so gentle that he carried over full recollection of what he had been doing and why. He lay still, a gentle smile on his face, and savored the uncouth, but not unpleasant, languor of the body he wore. Strange that he had ever forgotten despite their tricks and stratagems. Well, now that he had recalled the key, he would quickly set things right in this odd place. He would call them in at once and announce the new order. It would be amusing to see old Glaroon's expression when he realized that the cycle had ended-
                The click of the peephole and the rasp of the door being unlocked guillotined his line of thought. The morning attendant pushed briskly in with the breakfast tray and placed it on the tip table. "Morning, sir. Nice, bright day-want it in bed, or will you get up?"
                Don't answer! Don't listen! Suppress this distraction! This is part of their plan- But it was too late, too late. He felt himself slipping, falling, wrenched from reality back into the fraud world in which they had kept him. It was gone, gone completely, with no single association around him to which to anchor memory. There was nothing left but the sense of heart-breaking loss and the acute ache of unsatisfied catharsis.
                "Leave it where it is. I'll take care of it."
                "Okey-doke." The attendant bustled out, slamming the door, and noisily locked it.
                He lay quite still for a long time, every nerve end in his body screaming for relief.
                At last he got out of bed, still miserably unhappy, and attempted to concentrate on his plans for escape. But the psychic wrench he had received in being recalled so suddenly from his plane of reality had left him bruised and emotionally disturbed. His mind insisted on rechewing its doubts, rather than engage in constructive thought. Was it possible that the doctor was right, that he was not alone in his miserable dilemma? Was he really simply suffering from paranoia, delusions of self-importance?
                Could it be that each unit in this yeasty swarm around him was the prison of another lonely ego-helpless, blind, and speechless, condemned to an eternity of miserable loneliness? Was the look of suffering which he had brought to Alice's face a true reflection of inner torment and not simply a piece of play acting intended to maneuver him into compliance with their plans?
                A knock sounded at the door. He said "Come in," without looking up. Their comings and goings did not matter to him.
                "Dearest-" A well-known voice spoke slowly and hesitantly.
                "Alice!" He was on his feet at once, and facing her. "Who let you in here?"
                "Please, dear, please-I had to see you."
                "It isn't fair. It isn't fair." He spoke more to himself than to her. Then: "Why did you come?"
                She stood up to him with a dignity he had hardly expected. The beauty of her childlike face had been marred by line and shadow, but it shone with an unexpected courage. "I love you," she answered quietly. "You can tell me to go away, but you can't make me stop loving you and trying to help you."
                He turned away from her in an agony of indecision. Could it be possible that he had misjudged her? Was there, behind that barrier of flesh and sound symbols, a spirit that truly yearned toward his? Lovers whispering in the dark- "You do understand, don't you?"
                "Yes, dear heart, I understand."
                "Then nothing that happens to us can matter, as long as we are together and understand-" Words, words, rebounding hollowly from an unbroken wall- No, he couldn't be wrong! Test her again- "Why did you keep me on that job in Omaha?"
                "But I didn't make you keep that job. I simply pointed out that we should think twice before-"
                "Never mind. Never mind." Soft hands and a sweet face preventing him with mild stubbornness from ever doing the thing that his heart told him to do. Always with the best of intentions, the best of intentions, but always so that he had never quite managed to do the silly, unreasonable things that he knew were worth while. Hurry, hurry, hurry, and strive, with an angel-faced jockey to see that you don't stop long enough to think for yourself-
                "Why did you try to stop me from going back upstairs that day?"
                She managed to smile, although her eyes were already spilling over with tears. "I didn't know it really mattered to you. I didn't want us to miss the train."
                It had been a small thing, an unimportant thing. For some reason not clear to him he had insisted on going back upstairs to his study when they were about to leave the house for a short vacation. It was raining, and she had pointed out that there was barely enough time to get to the station. He had surprised himself and her, too, by insisting on his own way in circumstances in which he had never been known to be stubborn.
                He had actually pushed her to one side and forced his way up the stairs. Even then nothing might have come of it had he not-quite unnecessarily-raised the shade of the window that faced toward the rear of the house.
                It was a very small matter. It had been raining, hard, out in front. From this window the weather was clear and sunny, with no sign of rain.
                He had stood there quite a long while, gazing out at the impossible sunshine and rearranging his cosmos in his mind. He re-examined long-suppressed doubts in the light, of this one small but totally unexplainable discrepancy. Then he had turned and had found that she was standing behind him.
                He had been trying ever since to forget the expression that he had surprised on her face.
                "What about the rain?"
                "The rain?" she repeated in a small, puzzled voice. "Why, it was raining, of course. What about it?"
                "But it was not raining out my study window."
                "What? But of course it was. I did notice the sun break through the clouds for a moment, but that was all."
                "Nonsense!"
                "But darling, what has the weather to do with you and me? What difference does it make whether it rains or not-to us?" She approached him timidly and slid a small hand between his arm and side. "Am I responsible for the weather?"
                "I think you are. Now please go."
                She withdrew from him, brushed blindly at her eyes, gulped once, then said in a voice held steady: "All right. I'll go. But remember-you can come home if you want to. And I'll be there, if you want me." She waited a moment, then added hesitantly: "Would you . . . would you kiss me good-bye?"
                He made no answer of any sort, neither with voice nor eyes. She looked at him, then turned, fumbled blindly for the door, and rushed through it.
                The creature he knew as Alice went to the place of assembly without stopping to change form. "It is necessary to adjourn this sequence. I am no longer able to influence his decisions."
                They had expected it, nevertheless they stirred with dismay.
                The Glaroon addressed the First for Manipulation. "Prepare to graft the selected memory track at once."
                Then, turning to the First for Operations, the Glaroon said: "The extrapolation shows that he will tend to escape within two of his days. This sequence degenerated primarily through your failure to extend that rainfall all around him. Be advised."
                "It would be simpler if we understood his motives."
                "In my capacity as Dr. Hayward, I have often thought so," commented the Glaroon acidly, "but if we understood his motives, we would be part of him. Bear in mind the Treaty! He almost remembered."
                The creature known as Alice spoke up. "Could he not have the Taj Mahal next sequence? For some reason he values it."
                "You are becoming assimilated!"
                "Perhaps. I am not in fear. Will he receive it?"
                "It will be considered."
                The Glaroon continued with orders: "Leave structures standing until adjournment. New York City and Harvard University are now dismantled. Divert him from those sectors.
                "Move!"

 
           

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Last updated:
June 17, 2009
   
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