No Headings. It Is Impossible!
I was alone in the endless corridors. In those same corridors . . . A mute, concrete sky. Water was dripping somewhere upon a stone. The familiar, heavy, opaque door — and the subdued noise from behind it.
She said she would come out at sixteen sharp. It was already ﬁve minutes, then ten, then ﬁfteen past sixteen. No one appeared. For a second I was my former self, horriﬁed at the thought that the door might open.
“Five minutes more, and if she does not come out . . .”
Water was dripping somewhere upon a stone. No one about. With melancholy pleasure I felt: “Saved,” and slowly I turned and walked back along the corridor. The trembling dots of the small lamps on the ceiling became dimmer and dimmer. Suddenly a quick rattle of a door behind me. Quick steps, softly echoing from the ceiling and the walls. It was she, light as a bird, panting somewhat from running.
“I knew you would be here, you would come! I knew you — you . . .” ,
The spears of her eyelashes moved apart to let me in and . . . How can I describe what effect that ancient, absurd, and wonderful rite has upon me when her lips touch mine? Can I ﬁnd a formula to express that whirlwind which sweeps out of my soul everything, everything save her? Yes, yes, from my soul. You may laugh at me if you will.
She made an effort to raise her eyelids, and her slow words, too, came with an effort:
“No. Now we must go.”
The door opened. Old, worn steps. An unbearably multicolored noise, whistling and light. . . .
Twenty-four hours have passed since then and everything seems to have settled in me, yet it is most difficult for me to ﬁnd words for even an approximate description. . . . It is as though a bomb had exploded in my head. . . . Open mouths, wings, shouts, leaves, words, stones, all these one after another in a heap. . . .
I remember my ﬁrst thought was: “Fast — back!” For it was clear to me that while I was waiting there in the corridors, they somehow had blasted and destroyed the Green Wall, and from behind it everything rushed in and splashed over our city which until then had been kept clean of that lower world. I must have said something of this sort to I-330. She laughed.
“No, we have simply come out beyond the Green Wall.”
Then I opened my eyes, and close to me, actually, I saw those very things which until then not a single living Number had ever seen except depreciated a thousand times, dimmed and hazy through the cloudy glass of the Wall.
The sun — it was no longer our light evenly diffused over the mirror surface of the pavements; it seemed an accumulation of living fragments, of incessantly oscillating, dizzy spots which blinded the eyes. And the trees! Like candles rising into the very sky, or like spiders that squatted upon the earth, supported by their clumsy paws, or like mute green fountains. And all this was moving, jumping, rustling. Under my feet some strange little ball was crawling. . . . I stood as though rooted to the ground. I was unable to take a step because under my foot there was not an even plane, but (imagine!) something disgustingly soft, yielding, living, springy, green! . . .
I was dazed; I was strangled — yes, strangled; it is the best word to express my state. I stood holding fast with both hands to a swinging branch.
“It is nothing. It is all right. It is natural, the ﬁrst time. It will pass. Courage!”
At I-330’s side, bouncing dizzily on a green net, someone’s thinnest proﬁle, cut out of paper. No, not “someone’s.” I recognized him. I remembered. It was the doctor. I understood everything very clearly. I realized that they both caught me beneath the arms and laughingly dragged me forward. My legs twisted and glided. . . . Terrible noise, cawing, stumps, yelling, branches, tree trunks, wings, leaves, whistling. . . .
The trees drew apart. A bright clearing. In the clearing, people, or perhaps, to be more exact, beings. Now comes the most difﬁcult part to describe, for this was beyond any bounds of probability. It is clear to me now why I-330 was stubbornly silent about it before; I would not have believed it, would not have believed even her. It is even possible that tomorrow I shall not believe myself, shall not believe my own description in these pages.
In the clearing, around a naked, skull-like rock, a noisy crowd of three or four hundred . . . people. Well, let’s call them people. I ﬁnd it difficult to coin new words. Just as on the stands you recognize in the general accumulation of faces only those which are familiar to you, so at ﬁrst I recognized only our grayish-blue unifs. But one second later and I saw distinctly and clearly among the unifs dark, red, golden, black, brown, and white humans — apparently they were humans. None of them had any clothes on, and their bodies were covered with short, glistening hair, like that which may be seen on the stuffed horse in the Prehistoric Museum. But their females had faces exactly, yes, exactly, like the faces of our women: tender, rosy, and not overgrown with hair. Also their breasts were free of hair, ﬁrm breasts of wonderful geometrical form. As to the males, only a part of their faces were free from hair, like our ancestors’, and the organs of reproduction were similar to ours.
All this was so unbelievable, so unexpected, that I stood there quietly (I assert positively that I stood quietly) and looked around. Like a scale: overload one side sufficiently and then you may gently put on the other as much as you will; the arrow will not move.
Suddenly I felt alone. I-330 was no longer with me. I don’t know how or where she disappeared. Around me were only those, with their hair glistening like silk in the sunlight. I caught someone’s warm, strong, dark shoulder.
“Listen, please, in the name of the Well-Doer, could you tell me where she went? A while, a minute ago, she . . .”
Long-haired, austere eyebrows turned to me.
“Sh . . . sh . . . silence!” He made a sign with his head toward the center of the clearing where there stood the yellow skull-like stone.
There above the heads of all I saw her. The sun beat straight into my eyes, and because of that she seemed coal-black, standing out on the blue cloth of the sky — a coal-black silhouette on a blue background. A little higher the clouds were ﬂoating. And it seemed that not the clouds but the rock itself, and she herself upon that rock, and the crowd and the clearing — all were silently ﬂoating like a ship, and the earth was. light and glided away from under the feet. . . .
“Brothers!” (It was she.) “Brothers, you all know that. there inside the Wall, in the City, they are building the Integral. And you know also that the day has come for us to destroy that Wall and all other walls, so that the green wind may blow over all the earth, from end to end. But the Integral is going to take these walls up, up into the heights, to the thousands of other worlds which every evening whisper to us with their lights through the black leaves of night . . .”
Waves and foam and wind were beating the rock:
“Down with the Integral! Down!”
“No, brothers, not ‘down.’ The Integral must be ours. And it shall be ours. On the day when it ﬁrst sets sail into the sky we shall be on board. For the Builder of the Integral is with us. He left the walls, he came with me here in order to be with us. Long live the Builder!”
A second — and I was somewhere above everything. Under me: heads, heads, heads, wide-open, yelling mouths, arms rising and falling. . . . There was something strange and intoxicating in it all. I felt myself above everybody; I was, I, a separate world; I ceased to be the usual item; I became unity. . . .
Again I was below, near the rock, my body happy, shaken, and rumpled, as after an embrace of love. Sunlight, voices, and from above — the smiles of I-330. A golden-haired woman, her whole body silky-golden and diffusing an odor of different herbs, was nearby. She held a cup, apparently made of wood. She drank a little from it with her red lips, and then offered the cup to me. I closed my eyes and eagerly drank the sweet, cold, prickly sparks, pouring them down on the ﬁre which burned within me.
Soon afterward my blood and the whole world began to circulate a thousand times faster; the earth seemed to be ﬂying, light as dawn. And within me everything was simple, light, and clear. Only then I noticed on the rock the familiar, enormous letters: MEPHI, and for some reason the inscription seemed to me necessary. It seemed to be a simple thread binding everything together. A rather rough picture hewn in the rock — this, too, seemed comprehensible; it represented a youth with wings and a transparent body and, in the place ordinarily occupied by the heart, a blinding, red, blazing coal. Again I understood that coal — or no, I felt it as I felt without hearing every word of I-330’s (she continued to speak from above, from the rock); and I felt that all of them breathed one breath, and that they were all ready to ﬂy somewhere like the birds over the Wall.
From behind, from the confusion of breathing bodies, a loud voice:
“But this is folly!”
It seems to me it was I — yes, I am certain it was I who then jumped on the rock; from there I saw the sun, the heads, a green sea on a blue background, and I cried:
“Yes, yes, precisely. All must become insane; we must become insane as soon as possible! We must: I know it.”
I-330 was at my side. Her smile — two dark lines from the angles of her mouth directed upward. . . . And within me a blazing coal. It was momentary, light, a little painful, beautiful. . . And later, only stray fragments that remained sticking in me. . . .
. . . Very low and slowly a bird was moving. I saw it was living, like me. It was turning its head now to the right and then to the left like a human being, and its round black eyes drilled themselves into me. . . .
. . . Then: a human back glistening with fur the color of ancient ivory; a mosquito crawling on that back, a mosquito with tiny transparent wings. The back twitched to chase the mosquito away; it twitched again. . . .
. . . And yet another thing: a shadow from the leaves, a woven, net-like shadow. Some humans lay in that shadow, chewing something, something similar to the legendary food of the ancients, a long yellow fruit and a piece of something dark. They put seme of it in my hand, and it seemed strange to me for I did not know whether I might eat it or not. . . .
. . . And again: a crowd, heads, legs, arms, mouths, faces appearing for a second and disappearing like bursting bubbles. For a second (or perhaps it was only a hallucination?) the transparent, ﬂying wing ears appeared. . . .
With all my might I pressed the hand of I-330. She turned to me.
“What is the matter?”
“He is here! I thought, I—”
“S-, a second ago, in the crowd.”
The ends of the thin, coal-black brows moved to the temples — a smile like a sharp triangle. I could not see clearly why she smiled. How could she smile?
“But you understand, L330, don’t you, you understand what it means if he, or one of them, is here?”
“You are funny! How could it ever enter the heads of those within the Wall that we are here? Remember; take yourself. Did you ever think it was possible? They are busy hunting us there — let them! You are delirious!”
Her smile was light and cheerful and I, too, was smiling; the earth was drunken, cheerful, light, ﬂoating. . . .