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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 16

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“Here’s the wolf!” Thelma exclaimed, leaping about clumsily. “Voob, voob!” She grabbed at things and missed, and he saw with dismay that something was wrong with her. He saw for the first time, distressed and wondering how it could happen, that she was impaired.

He said, “You are not the wolf.”

But even so, as she groped and hobbled, she stumbled; even so, he realized, the impairment continued. He wondered how it could be that …

Ich unglücksel’ get Atlas! Eine Welt,
Die ganze Welt der Schmerzen muss ich tragen,
Ich trage Unerträgliches, und brechen
Will mir das Herz im Leibe.

… such sadness could exist. He walked away. Behind him she still played. She tripped and fell. How must that feel? he wondered.


He roamed along the corridor, searching for the vacuum cleaner. They had informed him that he must carefully vacuum the big playroom where the children spent most of the day.

“Down the hall to the right.” A person pointed. Earl.

“Thanks, Earl,” he said.

When he arrived at a closed door he started to knock, and then instead he opened it.

Inside the room an old woman stood holding three rubber balls, which she juggled. She turned toward him, her gray stringy hair falling on her shoulders, grinning at him with virtually no teeth. She wore white bobby socks and tennis shoes. Sunken eyes, he saw; sunken eyes, grinning, empty mouth.

“Can you do this?” she wheezed, and threw all three balls up into the air. They fell back, hitting her, bouncing down to the floor. She stooped over, spitting and laughing.

“I can’t do that,” he said, standing there dismayed.

“I can.” The thin old creature, her arms cracking as she moved, raised the balls, squinted, tried to get it right.

Another person appeared at the door beside Bruce and stood with him, also watching.

“How long has she been practicing?” Bruce said.

“Quite a while.” The person called, “Try again. You’re getting close!”

The old woman cackled as she bent to fumble to pick the balls up once again.

“One’s over there,” the person beside Bruce said. “Under your night table.”

“Ohhhh!” she wheezed.

They watched the old woman try again and again, dropping the balls, picking them back up, aiming carefully, balancing herself, throwing them high into the air, and then hunching as they rained down on her, sometimes hitting her head.

The person beside Bruce sniffed and said, “Donna, you better go clean yourself. You’re not clean.”

Bruce, stricken, said, “That isn’t Donna. Is that Donna?” He raised his head to peer at the old woman and he felt great terror; tears of a sort stood in the old woman’s eyes as she gazed back at him, but she was laughing, laughing as she threw the three balls at him, hoping to hit him. He ducked.

“No, Donna, don’t do that,” the person beside Bruce said to her. “Don’t hit people. Just keep trying to do what you saw on TV, you know, catch them again yourself and throw them right back up. But go clean yourself now; you stink.”

“Okay,” the old woman agreed, and hurried off, hunched and little. She left the three rubber balls still rolling on the floor.

The person beside Bruce shut the door, and they walked along the hall. “How long has Donna been here?” Bruce said.

“A long time. Since before I came, which was six months ago. She started trying to juggle about a week ago.”

“Then it isn’t Donna,” he said. “If she’s been here that long. Because I just got here a week ago.” And, he thought, Donna drove me here in her MG. I remember that, because we had to stop while she got the radiator filled back up. And she looked fine then. Sad-eyed, dark, quiet and composed in her little leather jacket, her boots, with her purse that has the rabbit’s foot dangling. Like she always is.

He continued on then, searching for the vacuum cleaner. He felt a great deal better. But he didn’t understand why.


Bruce said, “Could I work with animals?”

“No,” Mike said, “I think I’m going to put you on one of our farms. I want to try you with plants for a while, a few months. Out in the open, where you can touch the ground. With all these rocket-ship space probes there’s been too much trying to reach the sky. I want you to make the attempt to reach—”

“I want to be with something living.”

Mike explained, “The ground is living. The Earth is still alive. You can get the most help there. Do you have any agricultural background? Seeds and cultivation and harvesting?”

“I worked in an office.”

“You’ll be outside from now on. If your mind comes back it’ll have to come back naturally. You can’t make yourself think again. You can only keep working, such as sowing crops or tilling on our vegetable plantations—as we call them—or killing insects. We do a lot of that, driving insects out of existence with the right kind of sprays. We’re very careful, though, with sprays. They can do more harm than good. They can poison not only the crops and the ground but the person using them. Eat his head.” He added, “Like yours has been eaten.”

“Okay,” Bruce said.

You have been sprayed, Mike thought as he glanced at the man, so that now you’ve become a bug. Spray a bug with a toxin and it dies; spray a man, spray his brain, and he becomes an insect that clacks and vibrates about in a closed circle forever. A reflex machine, like an ant. Repeating his last instruction.

Nothing new will ever enter his brain, Mike thought, because that brain is gone.

And with it, that person who once gazed out. That I never knew.

But maybe, if he is placed in the right spot, in the right stance, he can still see down, and see the ground. And recognize that it is there. And place something which is alive, something different from himself, in it. To grow.

Since that is what he or it can’t do any longer: this creature beside me has died, and so can never again grow. It can only decay gradually until what remains, too, is dead. And then we cart that off.

There is little future, Mike thought, for someone who is dead. There is, usually, only the past. And for Arctor-Fred-Bruce there is not even the past; there is only this.

Beside him, as he drove the staff car, the slumped figure jiggled. Animated by the car.

I wonder, he thought, if it was New-Path that did this to him. Sent a substance out to get him like this, to make him this way so they would ultimately receive him back?

To build, he thought, their civilization within the chaos. If “civilization” it really is.

He did not know. He had not been at New-Path long enough; their goals, the Executive Director had informed him once, would be revealed to him only after he had been a staff member another two years.

Those goals, the Executive Director had said, had nothing to do with drug rehabilitation.

No one but Donald, the Executive Director, knew where the funding for New-Path originated. Money was always there. Well, Mike thought, there is a lot of money in manufacturing Substance D. Out in various remote rural farms, in small shops, in several facilities labeled “schools.” Money in manufacturing it, distributing it, and finally selling it. At least enough to keep New-Path solvent and growing—and more. Sufficient for a variety of ultimate goals.

Depending on what New-Path intended to do.

He knew something—U.S. Drug Restriction knew something—that most of the public, even the police, did not know.

Substance D, like heroin, was organic. Not the product of a lab.

So he meant quite a bit when he thought, as he frequently did, that all those profits could well keep New-Path solvent—and growing.

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