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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 5

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Probably he should have regretted his decision. He had not. That life had been one without excitement, with no adventure. It had been too safe. All the elements that made it up were right there before his eyes, and nothing new could ever be expected. It was like, he had once thought, a little plastic boat that would sail on forever, without incident, until it finally sank, which would be a secret relief to all.

But in this dark world where he now dwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly; he could count on nothing. Like the deliberate, evil damage to his Altec cephalochromoscope, around which he had built the pleasure part of his schedule, the segment of the day in which they all relaxed and got mellow. For someone to damage that made no sense, viewed rationally. But not much among these long dark evefling shadows here was truly rational, at least in the strict sense. The enigmatic act could have been done by anyone for almost any reason. By any person he knew or had ever encountered. Any one of eight dozen weird heads, assorted freaks, burned-out dopers, psychotic paranoids with hallucinatory grudges acted out in reality, not fantasy. Somebody, in fact, he’d never met, who’d picked him at random from the phonebook.

Or his closest friend.

Maybe Jerry Fabin, he thought, before they carted him off. There was a burned-out, poisoned husk. Him and his billions of aphids. Blaming Donna—blaming all chicks, in fact—for “contaminating” him. The queer. But, he thought, if Jerry had gone out to get anybody it’d have been Donna, not me. He thought, And I doubt if Jerry could figure out how to remove the bottom plate from the unit; he might try, but he’d still be there now, screwing and unscrewing the same screw. Or he’d try to get the plate off with a hammer. Anyhow, if Jerry Fabin had done it, the unit would be full of bug eggs that dropped off him. Inside his head Bob Arctor grinned wryly.

Poor fucker, he thought, and his inner grin departed. Poor nowhere mother: once the trace amounts of complex heavy metals got carried to his brain—well, that was it. One more in a long line, a dreary entity among many others like him, an almost endless number of brain-damaged retards. Biological life goes on, he thought. But the soul, the mind—everything else is dead. A reflex machine. Like some insect. Repeating doomed patterns, a single pattern, over and over now. Appropriate or not.

Wonder what he used to be like, he mused. He had not known Jerry that long. Charles Freck claimed that once Jerry had functioned fairly well. I’d have to see that, Arctor thought, to believe it.

Maybe I should tell Hank about the sabotage of my cephscope, he thought. They’d know immediately what it implies. But what can they do for me anyhow? This is the risk you run when you do this kind of work.

It isn’t worth it, this work, he thought. There isn’t that much money on the fucking planet. But it wasn’t the money anyhow. “How come you do this stuff?” Hank had asked him. What did any man, doing any kind of work, know about his actual motives? Boredom, maybe; the desire for a little action. Secret hostility toward every person around him, all his friends, even toward chicks. On a horrible positive reason: to have watched a human being you loved deeply, that you had gotten real close to, held and slept with and kissed and worried about and befriended and most of all admired—to see that warm living person burn out from the inside, burn from the heart outward. Until it clicked and clacked like an insect, repeating one sentence again and again. A recording. A closed loop of tape.

“… I know if I just had another hit …”

I’d be okay, he thought. And still saying that, like Jerry Fabin, when three quarters of the brain was mush.

“… I know, if I just had another hit, that my brain would repair itself.”

He had a flash then: Jerry Fabin’s brain as the fucked-over wiring of the cephalochromoscope: wires cut, shorts, wires twisted, parts overloaded and no good, line surges, smoke, and a bad smell. And somebody sitting there with a voltmeter, tracing the circuit and muttering, “My, my, a lot of resistors and condensers need to be replaced,” and so forth. And then finally from Jerry Fabin would come only a sixtycycle hum. And they’d give up.

And in Bob Arctor’s living room his thousand-dollar custom-quality cephscope crafted by Altec would, after supposedly being repaired, cast onto the wall in dull gray on one small spot:


After that they’d throw the cephscope, damaged beyond repair, and Jerry Fabin, damaged beyond repair, into the same ash can.

Oh well, he thought. Who needs Jenny Fabin? Except maybe Jenny Fabin, who had once envisioned designing and building a nine-foot-long quad-and-TV console system as a present for a friend, and when asked how he would get it from his garage to the friend’s house, it being so huge when built and weighing so much, had replied, “No problem, man, I’ll just fold it up—I’ve got the hinges bought already—fold it up, see, fold the whole thing up and put it in an envelope and mail it to him.”

Anyhow, Bob Arctor thought, we won’t have to keep sweeping aphids out of the house after Jenny’s been by to visit. He felt like laughing, thinking about it; they had, once, invented a routine—mostly Luckman had, because he was good at that, funny and clever—about a psychiatric explanation for Jerry’s aphid trip. It had to do, naturally, with Jerry Fabin as a small child. Jerry Fabin, see, comes home from first grade one day, with his little books under his arm, whistling merrily, and there, sitting in the dining room beside his mother, is this great aphid, about four feet high. His mother is gazing at it fondly.

“What’s happening?” little Jerry Fabin inquires.

“This here is your older brother,” his mother says, “who you’ve never met before. He’s come to live with us. I like him better than you. He can do a lot of things you can’t.”

And from then on, Jenny Fabin’s mother and father continually compare him unfavorably with his older brother, who is an aphid. As the two of them grow up, Jerry progressively gets more and more of an inferiority complex—naturally. After high school his brother receives a scholarship to college, while Jerry goes to work in a gas station. After that this brother the aphid becomes a famous doctor or scientist; he wins the Nobel Prize; Jerry’s still notating tires at the gas station, earning a dollar-fifty an hour. His mother and father never cease reminding him of this. They keep saying, “If only you could have turned out like your brother.”

Finally Jerry runs away from home. But he still subconsciously believes aphids to be superior to him. At first he imagines he is safe, but then he starts seeing aphids everywhere in his hair and around the house, because his inferiority complex has turned into some kind of sexual guilt, and the aphids are a punishment he inflicts on himself, etc.

It did not seem funny now. Now that Jerry had been lugged off in the middle of the night at the request of his own friends. They themselves, all of them present with Jerry that night, had decided to do it; it couldn’t be either postponed or avoided. Jerry, that night, had piled every goddamn object in his house against the front door, like maybe nine hundred pounds of assorted crap, including couches and chairs and the refrigerator and TV set, and then told everybody that a giant superintelligent aphid from another planet was out there preparing to break in and git him. And more would be landing later on, even if he got this one. These extraterrestrial aphids were smarter by fan than any humans, and would come directly through the walls if necessary, revealing their actual secret powers in such ways. To save himself as long as possible, he had to flood the house with cyanide gas, which he was prepared to do. How was he prepared to do this? He had already taped all the windows and doors airtight. He then proposed to turn on the water faucets in the kitchen and bathroom, flooding the house, saying that the hot-water tank in the garage was filled with cyanide, not water. He had known this for a long time and was saving it for last, as a final defense. They would all die themselves, but at least it would keep the super-intelligent aphids out.

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