Threads on the Face
An Unnatural Compression
It is strange: the barometer continues to fall, yet there is no wind. There is quiet. Above, the storm which we do not yet hear has begun. The clouds are rushing with terriﬁc speed. There are few of them as yet, separate fragments; it is as if above us an unknown city were being destroyed and pieces of walls and towers were rushing down, coming nearer and nearer with tremendous speed, but it will take some days of rushing through the blue inﬁnite before they reach the bottom, that is us, below. And below there is silence.
There are thin, incomprehensible, almost invisible threads in the air; every autumn they are brought here from beyond the Wall. They float slowly, and suddenly you feel something foreign and invisible on your face; you want to brush it off, but no, you cannot rid yourself of it. You feel it especially near the Green Wall, where I was this morning. I-330 made an appointment with me to meet her in the Ancient House in that “apartment” of ours.
I was not far from the rust-red, opaque mass of the Ancient House when I heard behind me short, hasty steps and rapid breathing. I turned around and saw O-90 trying to catch up to me. She seemed strangely and perfectly runded. Her arms and breast, her whole body, so familiar to me, was rounded out, stretching her unif.
It seemed as though it would soon tear the thin cloth and come out into the sun, into the light. I think that there in the green debris, in springtime, the unseen sprouts try thus to tear their way through the ground in order to send forth their branches and leaves and to bloom.
For a few seconds she stared into my face with her blue eyes, in silence.
“I saw you on the Day of Unanimity.”
“I saw you, too.” I at once remembered; below, in a narrow passage she had stood, pressing herself to the wall, protecting her abdomen with her arms; and automatically I now glanced at her abdomen which rounded the unif. She must have noticed, for she became pink, and with a rosy smile:
“I am so happy . . . so happy! I am so full of . . . you understand, I am . . . I walk and I hear nothing around me. . . . And all the while I listen within, within me. . .
I was silent. Something foreign was shadowing my face and I was unable to rid myself of it. Suddenly, all shining, light blue, she caught my hand; I felt her lips upon it. . . . It was the ﬁrst time in my life. . . . It was some ancient caress as yet unknown to me. . . . And I was so ashamed and it pained me so much that I swiftly, I think even roughly, pulled my hand away.
“Listen, you are crazy, it seems. . . . And anyway you . . . What are you happy about? Is it possible that you forget what is ahead of you? If not now, then within a month or two. . . .”
Her light went out, her roundness sagged and shrank. And in my heart an unpleasant, even a painful compression, mixed with pity. Our heart is nothing else than an ideal pump: a compression, i.e., a shrinking at the moment of pumping, is a technical absurdity. Hence it is clear how essentially absurd, unnatural, and pathological are all these “loves” and “pities,” etc., etc., which create that compression. . . .
Silence. To the left the cloudy green glass of the Wall. And just ahead the dark red mass. Those two colors combined gave me what I thought was a splendid idea.
“Wait! I know how to save you! I shall save you from . . . To see one’s own child for a few moments only, and then be sent to death! No! You shall be able to bring it up! You shall watch it and see it grow in your arms, and ripen like a fruit. . .”
Her body quivered and she seemed to have chained herself to me.
“Do you remember that woman, I-330? That . . . of . . . of long ago? . . . Who during that walk? . Well, she is now right here, in the Ancient House. Let us go to her and I assure you that I shall arrange matters at once.”
I already pictured us, I-330 and I, leading 0-90 through the corridors . . . then how she would be brought amidst ﬂowers, grass, and leaves. . . . But O-90 stepped back, the little horns of her rosy crescent trembling and bending downward.
“Is she that same one?” she asked.
“That is . .” I was confused for some reason. “Yes, of course . . . that very same. . . .”
“And you want me to go to her, to ask her . . . to . . . Don’t you ever dare to say another word about it!”
Leaning over, she walked away. . . . Then, as if she had remembered something, she turned around and cried:
“I shall die; all right! And it’s none of your business . . . What do you care?”
Silence. From above pieces of blue towers and walls were falling downward with terriﬁc speed . . . they will have perhaps hours or days to ﬂy through the inﬁnite. . . . Unseen threads were slowly floating through the air, planting themselves upon my face, and it was impossible to brush them off, impossible to rid myself of them.
I walked slowly toward the Ancient House, and in my heart I felt that absurd, tormenting compression. . . .