The ego-track of Neville Yeadon (continued):
The big voice has fallen silent. I begin to suspect, as the seconds tick by, that it has finished with me.
I could call out to it, but I am reluctant to raise my own voice. Dream-logic-fear, that sounds made by me could encourage frightful events.
Not that I regard this plight as a dream... too plonky-real for that...
But (must admit, must confront this) it's also oozing significance like a dream. That's the worst of it: everything is soaked with meaning as though on some level I am used to it. The scene's mood is uttering a promise that mighty things are in store. I'm being warned, that I am fated to scale heights and make precipitous choices -
I need someone! For heaven's sake why doesn't Big Voice come back? I need someone's help; I need that Dynoom thing.
But Big Voice Dynoom has abandoned me.
Left me alone to face the uproar in my mind.
The yapping siege of unanswered questions, the obvious shrieks, pester my mind - Is any of this real or am I hallucinating? If it is real, am I alive or dead? Ought that Voice to be believed? If it ought, then why have I been brought to this place, and how was it done, and is this what regularly happens to knife-crime victims like myself -
All of which, however, is quelled by a deeper aspect of my nature, who bids me relax.
Quite new to me is this underlying sector where calm reigns. New - and yet, I am certain, it is a real part of me. It's as if I've plonked, in arriving here, onto a mattressy layer of self, a local layer that is familiar with this place.
Every moment that I reflect, I become more aware of the power of this local side of me. It seems that the real me is more than I ever thought. I shall have to get used to being that much more than I was, and this is amazing and terrifying, or would be were it not for the calm acceptance that reaches up and pulls me down to recline and command the clamouring questions to -
"Vamoose! Go on, clear off! I am owed some quiet! I have only just been snatched from (or perhaps through) the jaws of death, so give me a break."
Although the old intellect still twitters on with its habitual demands, now the mattressy layer exerts itself to twirl a dial, somehow, in my gabbling brain, so that the volume of obsessive inquisition is turned down.
Answers are over-rated, you know.
An un-Earthly thought, that; or at any rate un-Western; and certainly unlike the old me. Up till now I don't reckon I have ever been the Zen intuitionist type.
Hey, what's this about "the old me"?
Is my familiar identity still in control, or...?
Now comes a sharper crowd of the "Who am I?" questions, pushing me again towards terror, so that I bleat at myself, Oy! Mattressy layer! Help me! Whoever, whatever you are, O local me, you're here, I can feel you, so adjust and reassure me, please.
A yeasty sureness, a vast caress, wordlessly heeds my call. Irresistibly it offers repose, assuring me that a life of comfort awaits me: a more than bodily comfort, the promise hints, coaxing my eye to an area where wall meets ceiling. My eye is drawn in that direction to note a transparent, rib-like structure which protrudes from the framework of the room, to form an L-shaped window. It's a sort of half-skylight. Through this I get a small sample view of what's outside; a fragmentary view which nevertheless shows me a great deal.
I see into a colourful tracery of walkways, some curved, some straight, linking and entwining globes and towers, like a fantastic evolution of the Brussels Atomium. Beyond all that, I see patches of sky, an intoxicating deep blue that caresses my soul, whispering to me that I'm finally home.
I have to believe that deep blue utterance... that I am now under the forever-blanketing heaven of a huge world. That's what the sky tells me: it is the canopy of a world of endless fascination, endless nourishment for the eye and mind and being. Without questioning or knowing how I know, I gladly accept I'm on a world that is what a world should be; a world robust and invulnerable to the stupid destructiveness of man; an un-spoilable world.
To enjoy it for the rest of my days all I need do is float upon my raft of status as a mind-blown nebulee.
Consciously, though, that word nebulee is not itself part of the caressing lullaby which assures me all is well. "Nebulee" - wroproav - is a packet of meaning which has popped into my awareness from an earlier, general-knowledge store in the brain I now inhabit. But hey hey hey there goes it again, "inhabiting" - what can that imply? - who have I become?
I have had enough of this. I lurch off the couch. I stand.
I nearly shout.
I want that Big Voice to come back, that Dynoom voice, so that I can demand to be put in the picture, but again I hesitate, I restrain myself. After all: suppose I were to get what I asked for... would I really be prepared to swallow the truth in one gulp? Hmm... yes it's all very well to think about calling for Dynoom, but the trouble is, Dynoom is on a different "side" from the mattressy laid-back influence. I can sense that much.
Dynoom, in fact - I'd be willing to bet - wants some action out of me.
Quite on the cards that I'll agree to that; but I'm just not sure how soon.
I totter to the window. I look over the high sill and see into a street.
I catch a brief sight here and there of a dozen or so cloaked bare-headed grey-skinned pedestrians - and a glance tells me that they are human but a different kind of human from any Terran. All tall (though how can I know that and anyhow what can "tall" mean if it's the case for all of them?), every one of them as good-looking as a film-star -
I start to hear voices.
From beyond the door, inside the house. Women's voices. I turn, uncertainly, and take some steps back from the window.
I don't yet hear the words distinctly but, to my relief, the timbre is more human than the resonant utterings of Dynoom, and I'm glad, though also nervous, to learn that the house most likely contains visible, normal people -
The door is pushed open at a moment which catches me standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. While my face falls slack with mild confusion, my eyes dart vaguely over three figures - three young women, two of whom are known to the underlying "local me".
The tall one, standing furthest back, says in a mild, off-hand tone, "This is a good day - he's standing up."
One of the other two more stocky girls (so - not everybody is quite so tall) enthusiastically squeals out at me, "Skimmjard, Daon N-Y!"
She's the exception, the visitor, the one whom my local self has not seen before, though evidently she knows who I am and is excited to meet me. I gape idiotically and do not reply. I just stare at the fluffy white tunic under her green cloak.
Both of the shorter, green-cloaked individuals have just come in from the street. Equally instinctively I know that the lanky one, the strikingly beautiful one who spoke first, and who is dressed in ordinary house-clothes (a light under-suit), lives in this very house. She is my main protector, adds my knowledgeable layer of mind.
I live here, as her guest.
Well, this is it - this is confirmation, that my trip here is of the mind only. My bodily self is a familiar, recognized sight, that belongs here; and hence it's certain that I have left my Earth body behind, dying on that London street.
I've been transferred to a Uranian body. I knew it, really. Now it's proved.
Well, a mind-flight counts as an escape, does it not?
And things could be worse. The kindly faces I see encourage me to believe that I'm among well-wishers.
Confirmation of this wafts up from the "mattress" of my under-self. Silent and sure, the truth of it smothers the gibber of panic.
Nevertheless the kindness on these faces seems sort of cushiony, like the way one looks at a baby. Lacking any social expectation of me, they have ruled out communication with me. Even the new girl, who cried that greeting to me, did so out of excitement only. I wish I did not know all this, but I do. The certainty came swift and clear. What can I do about it? Shock them with a burst of speech? I hesitate, though, to show them them that I can talk. I hesitate because I feel I don't yet know enough, to make the move from which there'll be no going back.
Besides, not only my relations with others but also the balance of natures within me, needs to be considered. It feels probable, that the articulation of words, being out of character for my dumb Uranian self, will necessitate a full take-over by my Terran self, and, if so, is this the moment to make that play? Might it not damage my "mattress" too soon, when I need the steadying influence of that calm layer?
All these thoughts have taken hardly any time to roar through my mind, as I realize when I hear the other short girl reply in a dry tone to the one who greeted me:
"No use talking to him, Dittri. Come on, let's get to work - I'll show you where everything is..."
"I'll leave you both to it, then," interrupts the tall one. "I'll be around for a while, if you need me for anything." And she steps out of sight. Now just the two carers are left with me.
The impulsive Dittri walks up to me. Her mouth hangs open as she goggles reverently into my face.
"But, look, Zhavad," she says, "his lips quivered just then..."
"He's miles away. Get it into your head: he's a nebulee."
(They're standing on either side of me now. Chatting across me.)
"Yes, yes, I know that, Zhavad, but you see, this nebulee is the Daon."
"And so you're thinking, that that rank should wake him up, given the right attention? No, my girl, just because he has been appointed heir to the Noad, doesn't mean he's going to be your practical hero. And if he were - if he did wake up - it might be fatal to him. Know what I mean, uh? It might prompt a counter-move by you know who."
Dittri winces, gives a shudder, yet still seems inclined to argue:
"But didn't you tell me earlier, he needs talk - "
"I didn't mean conversation," sighs Zhavad. "Yes it's good for him to hear words - they keep him this side of complete shut-down - but what you need to do, is not talk to him, just talk at him. Knowing you, I'd say you're well qualified. Give it to him full blast. Only," she admonishes, "don't wake him up, Dittri."
Dittri's hand flies to her mouth and her eyes go wider. "Yes," she breathes, "I see your point. I had better be careful what I say."
"I was just teasing," Zhavad grins. "You needn't worry. Really, you're not going to work any miracles! Simply shower him with your prattle and it'll spread over him like an ointment, a film of words. That's all you can do for him, apart from a meal and a guided trip to the hredd every three days or so. Now let me show you where things are in this forgy house..."
They bustle away through another door while my mind scrambles to pick up the meanings of forgy - posh? no, 'foregrounder-ish' - plus hredd - luxury of a private bathroom - not the communal kind - and "every three days or so" suggests the Uranian body needs a lot less maintenance than the Terran -
Slow down, I tell myself. Heavy cultural and biological data slosh in the tankard of words which my poor immigrant mind can't gulp all at once. Must set the brew aside, to be sipped at leisure.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice a wall-mirror. While the girls are out of the room I could just step over to it and have a look... for it occurs to me that I have been assuming, without any warrant whatsoever, that I'm not terrifically different in appearance from my former self. No sooner has the thought presented itself, than I realize how pitifully naive it is. Heart thudding, I approach the mirror. I get ready to cringe...
Oh hectic galaxy... not only have I escaped death by being snatched from a dying to a living body, but also I have been given a second chance at youth. Staring at myself I see a slim, grey-skinned, fine-featured young man of nineteen or twenty Earth-years. My life lies before me. Gratitude floods me to such an overwhelming degree that I'm for a moment on tenterhooks lest my boggled mind pop like a balloon and the entire jackpot reality vanish and die. Get a load of this! I - am - young - and - handsome! Better not get too excited, a dryer thought warns. Everyone is handsome around here.
Hearing footsteps, I dart back to where I was standing before.
Zhavad and Dittri re-enter this room, Zhavad saying, "So that's that. I'll be back in an hour or so, to see how you're getting on." And she leaves me alone with the new carer.
Dittri, now that she has me all to herself, glows with bright-eyed compassion. "Let's sit," she says. Gently she leads me to the couch, settles me there, perches herself beside me and smiles: "Ah, here we are, comfy as a pliff. This is nice, isn't it? Do you like my new white foib, Daon N-Y? I put it on especially for our meeting today." My unfocused stare must then have reminded her that she herself has to answer what she's asked, so she continues, "I expect you do like it; I caught you looking at it earlier." At this point I stir, with a slight twist of acknowledgement that indeed I had noted her downy top. She, however, races on with, "But of course I'm talking nonsense; you don't ever notice anything, do you, Daon N-Y? You can't, in your condition; you're in a trance, a dream; and yet, blank-faced as you are, Nyav, you're the Heir of Olhoav - may Thremdu help us! I'll say this because no one is listening: if only you could wake up and lead us! We all love the Noad but he's tired, he has given up... we'll always be loyal to him, but he has come to the end of what he can do. The last big thing he did was appoint you. That was clever - I suppose. At least we now have a Daon whom the Glomb won't kill... though I suppose I shouldn't be saying all this, but you won't tell, will you, Nyav? No, you won't - because you can't." She gives a sad little laugh.
On and on she burbles, while gobs of info bounce up from the pummeled mattress of my host mentality. I clutch at them as they slip by; I catch sniffs of them, like I'm trying to read cue-cards that are whisked away too soon. The meaning of Daon, though, comes through: it's the clearest datum I've grasped so far. The word denotes my rank; it tells me who I am: the ruler's heir - a sort of second-in-command, the designated inheritor of a city-state - so I really must believe -
I am the Heir of this city!
In heightened amazement I simultaneously reflect that I am a mind-blown, do-nothing Daon. A nebulee cannot grasp political things: no urgency ruffles my under-layer of calm: so why have I been given this rank of Heir? If or when I succeed to the noadex - that is, become the ruler - the city will have gained a mere figurehead.
Oh no it won't, not if I can help it! It really is high time I opened my mouth. After all, I was able, briefly, to speak to the Voice named Dynoom when I first arrived here. I got away with that much, didn't I?
I can dare the same with you, Dittri girl, says my impatient, fenced-in Terran mind. Speak up, I address myself, and take the
consequences, Neville Yeadon! You owe it to this new world of yours to be frank, open and (if possible) deserving of your cosmic lottery win.
I therefore take a breath and prepare to announce myself aloud, in the Uranian language.
But before I can loosen my tongue, a dreadful, indescribable thing happens. My mattressy under-self clenches around my Terran will so that not one syllable gets out. I exhale in frustration: that sub-me, whatever's the term, has gagged my ego. Of course I won't admit I'm beaten. I'll try again. Not straightaway, but sometime soon, I'll make a surprise attempt at the native citadel inside my head.
I chew meanwhile on what seems to be the general assumption around here. Dittri's burblings leave little room for doubt: people aren't expecting any more from me than that I persist as a symbol. I deduce, moreover, that my complete unfitness for leadership is, paradoxically, the reason why I was given the rank of Daon. Little by little I glean that this city is in the power of a usurper who would kill any competent heir but who is content to tolerate my useless self.
I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling. I have slept, but not well, because of the dream voice. "Dream" voice? Face facts, you Terran fool. The voice that droned and shouted so often during the night, I now realize, came from me. I have been shooting off my mouth while unconscious! Has anyone, I wonder, been listening? How much have I given away?
Better hope that the Daon's bedroom isn't bugged...!
Nothing precise can I recall about my nocturnal ravings - but I'd bet a large sum that I've have blurted my identity. To anyone who has overheard, I'll surely have blown the gaff on my displaced Earth-mind. That is, if Dynoom hasn't done so already (but Dynoom, I suspect, is playing a secretive game).
I heave myself to a sitting position. With a view to getting up, I first glance around the bedroom...
Oops, I am far from alone.
Five seated watchers have been waiting for me to stir. Along the wall opposite the bed, on a row of chairs which has been brought in, they calmly, attentively, sit and survey me.
So that settles it. I've been heard. They all know.
"Ahah," rumbles the big man on the left.
He has a commanding presence: an impressive middle-aged fellow, heavily built and almost a giant, with a shock of black hair and sideboards that come down to meet a tuft of beard. My under-self recognizes him: he is Barlayn Lamiroth, Noad (focus) of this city-state.
If only I could get my voice to work, frankly admit everything, beg for his understanding -
He adds, "Now we'll find out whether he'll talk when awake."
"Look - he's trying, Barlayn," says the slim blonde young woman to his left.
"I saw, he gave a start," rumbles the Noad. While he watches, I struggle in vain against the smothering inhibition. I can't throw it off! Like yesterday with Dittri, the grip of my inner censor will not relax, will not let me mouthe a syllable.
The young woman asks, with a note of pleading: "Then we're not going to treat him as some sort of spy, are we?"
"You can be too trusting sometimes, Gevuldree chremn," the Noad remarks. "But this time, you've reckoned true. From the way his eyes popped, I'm sure he's not acting. Besides, he doesn't have it in him. Nyav the nebulee - a spy? Ludicrous."
"Then there's nothing we can do to find out - ?"
"Oh yes there is," says the Noad. "We can disturb Dynoom. DYNOOM!" he cries.
Whereupon my five visitors, with tilted faces, stiffen as they await the Voice from the empty air.
"Present," comes the resonant reply. That unhuman Voice, the first speaker that I heard on this world, has shouldered its disembodied personality into our midst.
Barlayn Lamiroth leans forward. His right hand reaches out towards a low table (it would be called a coffee-table on Earth) and all eyes are upon him as he presses a button on a box. "Listen to this, Dynoom, and shed light if you can."
I shiver as my own recorded voice gabbles from the box.
During the long minutes that follow, the assembled gathering is treated to the night-ravings of Neville Yeadon, lost Earthman. My guts get queasy as I hear myself spouting in two languages: apparently my hours of sleep allow or impel my subconscious to erupt in a hotch-potch of English and Lrisj - Terran and Uranian.
The story, in jumbled order, all comes out: my Terran name, my long-standing interest in planetology, the events that led to the knife in my Earthly flesh on a London street, and my amazement and confusion at the translation of my ego from body to body and from world to world.
During all the time that the recording plays, the Noad eyes me. Then he switches off the gadget and addresses the empty air:
"Well, are you willing to brief us, City-Brain? Will you explain to us what is going on here?"
"You didn't have to bring your own recording equipment, Noad B-L, for I have been listening all night long." After this mild put-down, Big Voice tosses a heavier verbal bomb: "From contact with... a dimensional force... I am prepared for this event; therefore I am able to inform you that the Daon's body has received an Earthmind. That is to say, his brain now harbours a consciousness from the third planet."
The stunned silence that follows these words persists for maybe ten seconds before it is obliterated by a cannonade of oaths -
"Flunnd!" "Blapers and pzish!" "What the bloonk - !" "Kranstoppol flenk! - how can you know all this?"
The most incisive reaction comes from the Noad: "What's this vlunkpurry 'dimensional force' that informed you and not us? And why haven't we learned about it?"
"Hyala can tell you," Dynoom replies.
Barlayn swings round to look at the calm black-haired woman who owns this house.
She nods, "I can confirm. A while ago, in my presence, in the room next to this, Dynoom explored a dazzling thing called the Snaddy Galomm. It is a kind of presentation of the fates of mankind. In that "Spinning Top" you actually see our ropey life-lines as they bend and twist and nod at each other." With a brief shudder she adds: "Not a good sight for humans."
"By the sound of it, I should say not," agrees the Noad with a wondering shake of the head. "I'll accept your account, Hyala, and I'll likewise accept, Dynoom, what you say about Nyav harbouring an Earthmind... unless this is all a weird dream!"
"No dream," avers the Voice. "Fact. Nyav Yuhlm's skull hosts a Terran self."
"Very well," says the Noad. "We must next consider what to do about it. Do we hold a council of war? Is this Earthmind the harbinger of further invasion?"
"I'd rather term it a reconciliation," the Big Voice answers. "And it's the only one of its kind; no more will come."
Ice-sharp, the Noad demands: "You sure of that?"
"Absolutely sure. If you insist upon knowing how I know, I could show you the Snaddy-Galomm..."
"Don't bother. Hyala's right. The less we Nenns tangle with Ghepion zones, the healthier for our souls. Instead, let us look ahead to consequences." Pensively, even a trace wistfully, the Noad continues: "It could be that this new arrival in Daon Nyav's head may have gifted us - on a human level - with an opportunity."
To my astonishment the voice of little Dittri pipes up: "I was thinking of that, too! A once-only chance!"
The excited little carer is sitting at the end of the row, next to Zhavad. I wonder at the inclusion of the two menial girls in this top-level discussion. But then almost immediately an explanation occurs to me: the Noad must, I guess, like to make his weighty decisions in the presence of plebeian witnesses, his conduits of news to the populace. I'm starting to get a feel for how this open style of government is supposed to work. Such awareness is part of the heritage seeping into my conscious mind from the native aquifer of ideas below.
"The event," throbs Big Voice Dynoom in what sounds at first like agreement, "could be good for us - in theory..."
"But...?" prompts Barlayn Lamiroth. "Go on - spare us your pregnant pauses. Tell us what's wrong in practice."
"Only that it looks as though the Terran mind has been arrested on arrival."
"Arrested by - ?"
"Its host, of course."
"You mean," says Hyala, "Nyav has suppressed it?"
"It seems that way, does it not? Is it not a natural reaction to clamp down upon an invader? Even if that invader happens to be... one's self."
"Now we're getting somewhere." The tone of the Noad's sentence is almost serene. "You're talking about a convergence?"
"I sense you've leaped to the truth, Noad B-L, the truth which springs from the fact that a soul is a fragmented thing, scattered, at any one time, in several bodies."
Silence falls while the group listens to their own reflections. From their expressions, which are fascinated rather than bewildered or appalled, I'd say that the concept of the "multi-bodied soul" chimes with their habits of thought.
"Given such dispersion, I expect you can guess what the Snaddy-Galomm showed me concerning Nyav Yuhlm. Here's a case where, instead of the sequential reincarnation with which we are all familiar, we actually see a merger of two contemporary psychic fragments, one Terran and one Uranian, into one and the same corporeal identity... so that the Daon of Olhoav now has two layers to his mind, one the helpless nebulee we already know, and the other the immigrant from Earth whose capabilities we do not know."
"And the one has 'arrested' the other," you say," remarks Barlayn. "But that can't last."
I sense an invisible 'nod' from Dynoom. "We must wait for the combination to adjust itself. When that process is accomplished, we can consider it to be, not an invasion, but, as I said before, a reconciliation. In the meantime, though, the Terran intelligence is, as it were, arrested. Suppressed. Under guard. At any rate, in the daytime."
I'm listening keenly to every word and yet my thoughts tread their own path. I don't altogether trust this City-Brain. All right, it/he saved my life, drawing me here from my imminent death at the hands of the thugs on that London street. On the other hand, if, as it seems, there exist interplanetary resonances which defy my understanding, then could those Willuns have been part of it? Could their performance, their attack on me, and the consequent whack of my soul from there to here, have been somehow 'orchestrated' by Dynoom? Thoughts to make the mind reel - but given my suspicions, I could feel justified in riding easy for a while, more like an expenses-paid tourist than a duty-bound member of society...
Meanwhile the woman seated at the Noad's left opines, "If it takes a while for the Terran tongue to wag, that's all to the good. It gives the public time to adjust, and we can, for now, still show him to the people just as he is - and later, when folk learn what's got into him, they'll appreciate him the more."
(I like the sound of that, Gevuldree, says I to myself.)
Barlayn Lamiroth says to her with an ironical smile, "That's quite subtle statecraft from a spouse who usually prefers to be left out of it."
Gevuldree shrugs, "This could be a boon for wirrips like me. Something to take our minds off the Glomb."
Hyala chips in with, "Let's start today. Release the recording, Noad B-L! Announce what's happened to Nyav, and then let's take him outside!"
"Do you women all feel this way?"
A row of eager nods swiftly make it apparent that they do.
"Hmm... it could work. It could work well," Barlayn Lamiroth adds thoughtfully, "boosting morale with a thrilling piece of news from far away. It could be precisely what we Olhoavans need to remind us of the smallness of our troubles, of the limitless stock of marvels in the Universe. Furthermore, most importantly, the news needn't worry the Glomb, since our Daon (just look at that vacant face of his) is not one particle closer to effective leadership than he was before. Yes, we'll spread the news today, and bring him out tomorrow morning."
I sense an all-round relaxation and an easier breathing after the decision which appears to have brought the meeting to an end; as they file out of the room Hyala remarks with a smile, "Our Daon - still dumb but enhanced..." I don't get it, or do I? Sort of.
Too helpless to arouse the oppressor's jealousy right now, I nevertheless, as the legitimate Heir, am the potential focus for future resistance. I can vaguely imagine that the theory of it may become fact if the idea is allowed to spread that the people may have more to hope from me than formerly...
I have to hope that these people know what they are doing. Dumb-but-enhanced, am I? Not sticking my neck out too far, but far enough? On this world as on Earth, I guess, attempts are made to eat one's cake and have it.
At last! I'm in the open! The open Uranian air, outdoors in a street on the giant seventh planet -
Hyala herself (she's quite some Somebody, I gather) is holding onto my left arm and guiding my steps.
This is just as well, since my legs feel so weak that I would totter if it weren't for her support. Perhaps to take me out for a walk is a fairly unusual thing? Depends. Perhaps all these Nenns - these so-amazingly human Uranians - all unthinkingly trim and toned - perhaps they understand that the muscles of a dozy nebulee need regular and deliberate exercise, if the nebulee is to be a public figure.
If they don't understand, never mind, She'll see to it by and by; she oozes capability. Meanwhile the tremendous truth is, I'm here, I'm out, my eyes and brain greedy to absorb and to make sense of a Uranian city.
Once again I'm reminded of the Atomium. Not too literally; the comparison with that Brussels structure of tube-linked spheres will only fit if the model is stretched, curved and variegated a thousandfold. I'm amidst a soaring artificial jungle, a proliferation of intervolved geometrical forms, of palaces and helical towers linked not only with tubes but also with open walkways and skimmways along which figures stroll and canoe-like flyers dart and sverve. I gape and swivel in repeated wonderment at the apparently endless richness of the city-scape, the kaleidoscope of shapes and colours that loom above and around me, and yet, I am not overwhelmed; the lights are not strong, and there is a gentle, evening quality to the scene. Moreover, my excited immigrant self is steadied by my calm subconscious native self who nudges me to accept the entire fantastic picture as home.
Ah, some folk are stopping, staring at me. One by one, or in groups, pedestrians turn their heads at me. They're pointing. Some of them bow or wave.
Now some "skimmers" - those canoe-like hoverers - decelerate or halt. Their riders have noticed me; they are stopping to join the other starers.
Some of the stares are prolonged. Could they be largely for Hyala, or for the Noad who's also walking with us?
My knowledge-layer informs me that Noad Barlayn Lamiroth often strolls among his people, and he is always a welcome sight to them. And no doubt Hyala is always worth gazing at. But today, I have to face it, the spectacle primarily includes their mascot imbecile Daon: yours truly, now out and about: the unique do-nothing idiot in all my sacred simplicity.
(I don't suppose Dynoom brought me to this planet just for this. His purpose is yet to be revealed, but whatever it is, could it perhaps have been negated by the firm grasp maintained by my Uranian self on my Terran self? If nebulee Nyav Yuhlm continues to exert a claw-like grip on Earthmind immigrant Neville Yeadon, what has Dynoom achieved by bringing the latter here?)
Anyhow, it seems I needn't fret about deciding when best to speak out as a Terran: the timing is out of my hands, for, except at night, when my tongue is loosed in sleep, I am currently trapped in silence without the option of ending my dumbness.)
Now a cheerful-looking thirtyish man is coming forward from amongst the bystanders. With deliberation, he approaches and says:
Not a translation! The actual sound of hello!
Hyala smiles, and likewise stretches her mouth around English syllables. "Hello, Gengr Gilvar. Nice-wea-ther!"
I stare in dumb astonishment from one to the other. Does this outrage to logic make the whole thing into a dream after all?
Ah, no - for next I realize how it must have happened: I member that every utterance I make in my sleep swiftly becomes public property, with the result that my Terran tongue has disembarked upon this world.
Enjoyably trapped, day after day! I am soaking under a running hose of pleasure. The continuous flood of touristic delight has so far kept me contented with my lot.
No further word from Dynoom. Perhaps he/it thinks it's not worth trying to get in touch. I really must be a sad disappointment to that great city-brain. I'll apologize next time I get the chance, but, in truth, I simply can't imagine what he/it wanted me here for. Granted that the city of Olhoav is not free - so they say. It is bedimmed - so they say. But what am I supposed to do about it? Symbol though I may be, I'm no resistance leader! Even if I were to emerge from my 'nebulated' condition, what did Dynoom think I could I achieve?
Besides, these Uranians are such a splendid lot, they can surely look after themselves. The more I am with them the more I admire them. They all possess an upstanding dignity which, in defiance of mathematical logic, makes each individual of this race (while my eye rests upon him or her) seem taller than its average.
Ridiculous to imagine that these wonderful people could need need any help from an Earthman!
Consider the speed with which they are learning "Terran" as a hobby. Amazing though it is, I'm getting used to it, so smartly are they picking it up.
Today, in the semi-park called Ruvur, I see a group of young people who are sauntering in and out of view, amidst the booths, shrubs and blue-barked trees that dot the lawn opposite to the bench on which Hyala and I are sitting. Well placed, those folk, to have spotted us. Yes, they're waving in greeting. Towards us along a stretch of curved path they stride, keen, I've no doubt, to practise their English.
They come forward with palms outstretched, fingers spread, and at first it looks like they're offering to shake hands. I then see, however, that it's not hand-shaking, it's something else.
"Fine - day!" cries a young lad. "We - give - it - the - thumbs-up!"
A teenage girl smiles at Hyala, "Skimmjard, sponndar H-M. We just want to greet the Daon." And then, in English, "I - hope - you're - well, Daon N-Y. The - weather - is - un-questionably - fine, is - it - not?"
"Are - you - showing - off, Gowavwa?" asks another girl.
One of the lads says, "Is - she - showing - off? Does - a - duck - swim?"
Another lad says, "That - has - let - the - cat - out - of - the - bag, Lrar Drur."
Amidst laughter, Govavwa with a droll expression says, "Plok! I mean - what's that Terran word - "
"Thank you, Zanadwa." Addressing the lads she continues, "You're - just - jealous." Then she looks at Hyala and switches back to Uranian. "Sorry! We're not teasing Nyav, you understand."
"I know," smiles Hyala, and switches to English herself: "you're - teasing - each - other."
I ponder this alien moment, which gives me a hollow sense of being further from Earth than ever before. By this time so many of my nocturnal ramblings in English and Lrisj have been recorded and published and studied, in a fever of fashionable interest, that English has become all the rage, and yet this only underlines how empty words and idioms are when the referents are not known. When these people utter sentences in "Terran", they can conjure it fully fleshed for me, but not for themselves. For them it's a game and no more. They're happy to play that game while lacking any true pictures, for example of what a duck or a cat might be, or what a thumbs-up gesture really looks like. I dare say they're making up their own referents. Something that works for them. But for me it's just a reminder of how far I am from my old home.
But this is my new home, and it's worth the change... provided that I wholeheartedly so choose, and that I 'make a go' of it being my world.
I better had, because one thing is certain: there's no going back. (At least, I jolly well hope not. Not much future in being a knifed corpse in a dingy suburb of London.)
...I catch hisses of in-drawn breath.
Lrar Drur whispers, "The cmem."
My eyes follow their gaze into the middle distance. I see a... a sort of sequinned cloud, oozing between the shrubs and tree-trunks three or four paths away. It's a puffing, boiling reddish mist, studded with fattish sparks. As the thing churns along, those sparks wink. I do not like the look of it all, whatever it is, and I sense the same reaction from my companions, from their doleful looks, their resigned shivers, their glum shrinking.
Hyala says - to reassure - "It's not coming this way."
Govavwa in a subdued voice asks, "Do you suppose the Glomb is inside it at this moment?"
"No way to tell."
The impression comes on me, that whereas I am somewhat perturbed, these experienced citizens are actually afraid.
The 'cmem', whatever it is, is sinister, scary, even nightmarish in its slithery glide, yet my old Earth-mind, so accustomed to the degraded stink of Terran society, is now bestowing such a fiercely partisan love upon my new world, that I discover I cannot worry, I cannot bring myself to fear Uranian evils. Here, it seems, even the monsters creep with a certain dignity. The possible truth flashes upon me, that one reason why Dynoom might have brought me here is that he wants someone who's not afraid of the Glomb.
Of course, if my immunity from that fear arises simply from the fact that I am too STUPID to share the fear which others feel, then I ought to be more worried than I am, and I suppose that thought does make me a trifle queasy.
Hmm... now that awkwardness idea spreads through my mind and I begin to question anew my own attitudes and my own behaviour.
In particular, my habit of talking in my sleep.
What possible reason can there be for burbling so much during the night? And doing it in two languages? Why should I be the Rosetta Stone that enables Terran lingo to be deciphered by Uranians?
Each time I've thought about this so far, I've assumed the answer lies in some process of tension-reduction, to lubricate the impact of one mind and culture upon another.
However, one might put it another way, that the aim of the Snaddy-Galomm might be to turn me into a chute through which to pour knowledge from world to world.
But why? What use is knowledge of English to a Uranian? A curiosity, a fad; that's all it can be.
So, back to the main explanation: the noctural babble is a stabilization deal - with the extra spin-off, that it brightens the lives of my fellow-citizens with a cute new hobby.
Dynoom himself has now formed this opinion.
He speaks to me again, at last, in the privacy of my bedroom.
"I had hoped for something more than this from you, Daon Nyav," the Voice says in a flattish tone. "Perhaps my gamble has failed." (My inability to reply makes me feel doubly bad.) "However," concedes the city-brain, "you have given our culture a quaint lift, a 'nine-days-wonder'," he finishes in English.
Whereas what you had hoped for was... what? Some powerful gimmick from Earth? Perhaps, a dramatic new Terran viewpoint to provide inspirational leadership against the Glomb? And the shrunken hope may still glimmer, that some time I may take control and worthily fill the Daon's boots.
Perhaps, perhaps... (my thoughts whizz on, hunting out any principles that tend towards security) but I'm not in any hurry to assume command of my native self before my conscious mind has properly 'learned the ropes' of Uranian society.
The natural way for me is a long apprenticeship. After all, I'll only become Noad when Barlayn Lamiroth dies, and that day is likely to be a long way off.
Dynoom has fallen silent, leaving me to my relaxed approach. I know I may have a lazy side to me, but I regard it as legitimate to view my current subjection as an opportunity to learn, to prepare, to gather my forces - rather than as a defeat. I'm not really a victim of a clash of wills (my "clutcher" the nebulee has no will in the ordinary sense of the the word); I'm simply undergoing a stabilizing reflex which, upon my arrival here, released a flood of automatic control. It should release its hold when the right moment comes. I'll be free to talk then. That's the distant promise.
And what, precisely, will mark this "right moment"? What will trigger the freeing of my tongue?
I feel in my bones that the release will occur in response to some special event, an outrage which unleashes in me some apt Terran response. Then will be made known the talent which justifies my presence here.
Hard to imagine what that could be, since, as I've noted before, Earth culture has nothing to teach Uranians about how to walk tall through life. (Ah, but perhaps a Terran may teach them how to walk small, walk tricky... ugh, I hope not.)
Meanwhile my Earthmind glides serenely as a passenger, through yet more of my dreamlike days on Ooranye.
Could this be some sort of hint? Or is it that Barlayn Lamiroth just happens to have the time to be my escort today?
Probably the latter, because, after all, I'm the official heir, even though currently useless in the role; and therefore it makes sense for me to be shown things.
In his optimistic mind, Barlayn envisages that distant time when I supposedly take over. I guess that's the reason for the honour he's showing me, by coming in person to fetch me at Hyala's. From the chit-chat I gather that I'm to be conducted (on Zhavad's arm) to accompany the Noad through quite a list of places. I can expect to be taken through one urban vista after another; one imposing, incomprehensible edifice after another.
I expect I'll manage. Recent exercise has built me up to perhaps half of what I should be; which is an improvement on the previous fraction.
Out we go. Along avenues and walkways, up and down ramps, and through side-streets. It's mid-day and the light seems almost bright to my dim-adjusted eyesight.
We're seen from afar. Folk smile and wave at me like one does to a cute toddler who is obviously going to take a long long time to grow up, but whereas I'm a curiosity, the Noad is the real focus of their love and respect. The people come quite close but take care not to crowd him.
Second, third, fourth day in succession, the Noad fetches me out and brings me around the city. He must be determined that I get the feel of what it is to be Noad.
People come up to speak to him on practical questions, so that I hear a lot of stuff that's over my head, and as usual I just let it flow, and every now and then the Noad looks at me, sees the same old vacant expression on my face, and with a tinge of sadness looks away again. Recently, though, moments have occurred when I've fidgeted, evincing some slight degree of response to events, and then his glance gets sharper.
I think he perceives that I'm starting to outwit my inner censor, in little ways.
We have strolled into that semi-park, that scatter of booths and bushes called Ruvur. Barlayn has taken me to the central circular clearing. It's a spot I didn't quite reach that time I came with Hyala.
Right in the clearing's middle a steep mound looms, with a spiral path affording access to the top.
I suddenly hear the Noad say to Zhavad, on whose arm I have been leaning during the entire walk, "You may go," and he points. "Take the rest of the day off."
She disengages from me, leaves me on a bench and steps away out of sight, in the advised direction. Meanwhile the Noad settles on the next bench, at an angle from mine, and he looks as though he's waiting for someone or something to appear from the other direction.
Something's up, and I wonder if a secret conference may be about to take place here.
An outbreak of sound hits my eardrums. It's a wailing chorus from somewhere close by: "OOOOAAAAOOOOAAYYYY," it yodels, and repeats. And again. I haven't heard anything like it before. A kind of horror accelerates the thump of my heart. I clench my fist, at which the Noad cryptically smiles.
"Let's get up there," he says, indicating the central mound. "I think you'll be all right to manage the steps. Grip the railing."
I follow him up, panting but persistent, and lean against the top rail as I retrieve my breath, while my eyes search the park below, as I seek the source of the OOOOAAAA-OOOOAAYYYYY.
Leaning beside me, the Noad remarks above the noise, "Rather worse, isn't it, to hear it in the daytime?"
Worse to hear it in the daytime? He appears to assume - but wait: I do know! I have heard the wailing in the past few nights! And every time I dismissed it. For if a horror has dreamlike aspects, it makes good sense to encourage the idea that it really is only a dream..
But that attitude is not sustainable in the daytime.
"Here they come," says the Noad.
Not exactly marching, for they're not in synchronised step, but nevertheless in closely kept formation, a chevron-shaped mass of people cross our field of view as they traverse the clearing from right to left. As they walk past I continue to hear, from their collective lips, repetitions of their eerie blasts of sound.
My will darts through a tiny window-slit of opportunity, slipping past the censor of my controlling nebulee-self, enough to clench my fist again.
"Almost did it, didn't you?" remarks the Noad.
Is this fellow a mind-reader? One might fairly call him a mind-detective. After all, I suppose you don't reach his rank by accident.
The marchers recede from our field of view; we listen as their wailing chants diminish.
"Next stop the Ktuss," says Barlayn Lamiroth.
Here we are in the Palace of the Noad. And it seems his stride is too determined for this to be a tour.
This looks like the main office where commands are issued. Or were issued, in the days when the Noad was the real government. We're alone here. I see desk, shelves of books, an array of vid-screens covering one wall - but, interestingly, no documents lying about.
(He's watching me think...)
They might be tidied away, those documents which my Terran preconceptions expect - but I think not. I think they do not exist. Here we have a paperless administration. Word of mouth, on this planet, suffices to carry on the minutiae of city management. I raise my eyes to the Noad's and I watch him - watch him conjecturing, as he watches me.
The big question for me is, Why is he showing me all this now?
...Ah, wait, here comes someone, some quiet underling who's actually holding a document: so was my "paperless" conclusion wrong?
The Noad takes five minutes to speed-read it. He smiles, hands it back. "A good slant on Hesk Vrend's reign," he says. The historian - as I now understand he must be - bows in gratitude for the work of praise and scurries off to put the monograph into the archives.
Still, then, a paperless administration. The only written texts are works of history.
Barlayn Lamiroth meanwhile presses a desk-button. The screens on the wall emit a babble. More button-pressing; an image is selected.
"Venok Street," the Noad remarks - to me. "You see a One-Face shuffling there."
I don't understand, but I see that a chevron-shaped group, like the one we saw and heard in the park, is creeping across that view, and then I notice more of them on other screens.
"The same as the one we saw in Ruvur," he remarks. "Imitating the cmem, maybe, or attempting to surmount backgrounder status by means of an accumulation of personalities, little minds pooling intoone big one. Forty wirrips make one forg, or some such nonsensical plok."
I continue to listen to his words with my usual silence but I can no longer claim zero reception of their significance; dismayingly, comprehension is creeping into me.
"...Negates the whole point of their ideology, of course. They're supposed to believe that there's nothing wrong with the status of backgrounder. But then their stance always did contradict itself, on the one hand saying that a wirrip is a noble thing, on the other hand trying to stop any wirrip from really being one; it all amounts to a raving yowl. I sense a monster's birth-pangs, Daon N-Y - "
A probable, general sense of what he's leading up to warns me that if I wait for him to finish what he's saying, my nebulee-self will be ready with the censor - so I determine to anticipate. Now! Take the thing by surprise! I command the muscles of my right hand to perform a gesture of hope. The gesture will have to count as code for now. It's my way of announcing my belief that I shall recover soon enough to be of use to him.
The gesture is my hardest performance so far: a curl of the first four digits of my right hand - and a jut of the fifth -
The face of the Noad cautiously brightens.
"So that's the genuine version," he chuckles at my Terran thumbs-up.
Uranian Throne Episode 12: