Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 12


Charles Freck, becoming progressively more and more depressed by what was happening to everybody he knew, decided finally to off himself. There was no problem, in the circles where he hung out, in putting an end to yourself; you just bought into a large quantity of reds and took them with some cheap wine, late at night, with the phone off the hook so no one would interrupt you.

The planning part had to do with the artifacts you wanted found on you by later archeologists. So they’d know from which stratum you came. And also could piece together where your head had been at the time you did it.

He spent several days deciding on the artifacts. Much longer than he had spent deciding to kill himself, and approximately the same time required to get that many reds. He would be found lying on his back, on his bed, with a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (which would prove he had been a misunderstood superman rejected by the masses and so, in a sense, murdered by their scorn) and an unfinished letter to Exxon protesting the cancellation of his gas credit card. That way he would indict the system and achieve something by his death, over and above what the death itself achieved.

Actually, he was not as sure in his mind what the death achieved as what the two artifacts achieved; but anyhow it all added up, and he began to make ready, like an animal sensing its time has come and acting out its instinctive programming, laid down by nature, when its inevitable end was near.


At the last moment (as end-time closed in on him) he changed his mind on a decisive issue and decided to drink the reds down with a connoisseur wine instead of Ripple or Thunderbird, so he set off on one last drive, over to Trader Joe’s, which specialized in fine wines, and bought a bottle of 1971 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, which set him back almost thirty dollars—all he had.

Back home again, he uncorked the wine, let it breathe, drank a few glasses of it, spent a few minutes contemplating his favorite page of The Illustrated Picture Book of Sex, which showed the girl on top, then placed the plastic bag of reds beside his bed, lay down with the Ayn Rand book and unfinished protest letter to Exxon, tried to think of something meaningful but could not, although he kept remembering the girl being on top, and then, with a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon, gulped down all the reds at once. After that, the deed being done, he lay back, the Ayn Rand book and letter on his chest, and waited.

However, he had been burned. The capsules were not barbiturates, as represented. They were some kind of kinky psychedelics, of a type he had never dropped before, probably a mixture, and new on the market. Instead of quietly suffocating, Charles Freck began to hallucinate. Well, he thought philosophically, this is the story of my life. Always ripped off. He had to face the fact—considering how many of the capsules he had swallowed—that he was in for some trip.

The next thing he knew, a creature from between dimensions was standing beside his bed looking down at him disapprovingly.

The creature had many eyes, all over it, ultra-modern expensive-looking clothing, and rose up eight feet high. Also, it carried an enormous scroll.

“You’re going to read me my sins,” Charles Freck said.

The creature nodded and unsealed the scroll.

Freck said, lying helpless on his bed, “and it’s going to take a hundred thousand hours.”

Fixing its many compound eyes on him, the creature from between dimensions said, “We are no longer in the mundane universe. Lower-plane categories of material existence such as ‘space’ and ‘time’ no longer apply to you. You have been elevated to the transcendent realm. Your sins will be read to you ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list will never end.”

Know your dealer, Charles Freck thought, and wished he could take back the last half-hour of his life.

A thousand years later he was still lying there on his bed with the Ayn Rand book and the letter to Exxon on his chest, listening to them read his sins to him. They had gotten up to the first grade, when he was six years old.

Ten thousand years later they had reached the sixth grade.

The year he had discovered masturbation.

He shut his eyes, but he could still see the multi-eyed, eight-foot-high being with its endless scroll reading on and on.

“And next—” it was saying.

Charles Freck thought, At least I got a good wine.


Two days later Fred, puzzled, watched Holo-Scanner Three as his subject Robert Arctor pulled a book, evidently at random, from his bookshelf in the living room of his house. Dope stashed behind it? Fred wondered, and zoomed the scanner lens in. Or a phone number or address written in it? He could see that Arctor hadn’t pulled the book to read; Arctor had just entered the house and still wore his coat. He had a peculiar air about him: tense and bummed out both at once, a sort of dulled urgency.

The zoomar lens of the scanner showed the page had a color photo of a man gnawing on a woman’s right nipple, with both individuals nude. The woman was evidently having an orgasm; her eyes had half shut and her mouth hung open in a soundless moan. Maybe Arctor’s using it to get off on, Fred thought as he watched. But Arctor paid no attention to the picture; instead, he creakingly recited something mystifying, partly in German obviously to puzzle anyone overhearing him. Maybe he imagined his roommates were somewhere in the house and wanted to bait them into appearing, Fred speculated.

No one appeared. Luckman, Fred knew from having been at the scanners a long while, had dropped a bunch of reds mixed with Substance D and passed out fully dressed in his bedroom, a couple of steps short of his bed. Barris had left entirely.

What is Arctor doing? Fred wondered, and noted the ident code for these sections. He’s becoming more and more strange. I can see now what that informant who phoned in about him meant.

Or, he conjectured, those sentences Arctor spoke aloud could be a voice command to some electronic hardware he’d installed in the house. Turn on or turn off. Maybe even create an interference field against scanning … such as this. But he doubted it. Doubted if it was in any way rational or purposeful or meaningful, except to Arctor.

The guy is nuts, he thought. He really is. From the day he found his cephscope sabotaged—certainly the day he arrived home with his car all fucked up, fucked up in such a way as to almost kill him—he’s been dingey ever since. And to some extent before that, Fred thought. Anyhow, ever since the “dog-shit day,” as he knew Arctor called it.

Actually, he could not blame him. That, Fred reflected as he watched Arctor peel off his coat wearily, would blow anyone’s mind. But most people would phase back in. He hasn’t. He’s getting worse. Reading aloud to no one messages that don’t exist and in foreign tongues.

Unless he’s shucking me, Fred thought with uneasiness. In some fashion figured out he’s being monitored and is … covering up what he’s actually doing? Or just playing head games with us? Time, he decided, will tell.

I say he’s shucking us, Fred decided. Some people can tell when they’re being watched. A sixth sense. Not paranoia, but a primitive instinct: what a mouse has, any hunted thing. Knows it’s being stalked. Feels it. He’s doing shit for our benefit, stringing us along. But—you can’t be sure. There are shucks on top of shucks. Layers and layers.

The sound of Arctor reading obscurely had awakened Luckman according to the scanner covering his bedroom. Luckman sat up groggily and listened. He then heard the noise of Arctor dropping a coat hanger while hanging up his coat. Luckman slid his long muscular legs under him and in one motion picked up a hand ax which he kept on the table by his bed; he stood erect and moved animal-smoothly toward the door of his bedroom.

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