Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Dan Simmons: Eyes I Dare Not Meet

Dan Simmons, Eyes I Dare Not Meet, Relatos de terror, Horror stories, Short stories, Science fiction stories, Anthology of horror, Antología de terror, Anthology of mystery, Antología de misterio, Scary stories, Scary Tales, Science Fiction Short Stories, Historias de ciencia ficcion

Bremen left the hospital and his dying wife and drove east to the sea. The roads were thick with Philadelphians fleeing the city for the weekend, and Bremen had to con-centrate on traffic, leaving only the most tenuous of touches in his wife's mind. Gail was sleeping. Her dreams were fitful and drug-induced. She was seeking her mother through endlessly interlinked rooms filled with Victorian furniture.
As Bremen crossed the pine barrens, the images of the dreams slid between the evening shadows of reality. Gail awoke just as Bremen was leaving the parkway. For a few seconds after she awoke the pain was not with her. She opened her eyes, and the evening sunlight falling across the blue blanket made her think—for only a moment—that it was morning on the farm. Her thoughts reached out for her husband just as the pain and dizziness struck behind her left eye. Bremen grimaced and dropped the coin he was handing to the toll-booth attendant.
"What's the matter, buddy?"
Bremen shook his head, fumbled out a dollar, and thrust it blindly at the man.
Throwing his change in the Triumph's cluttered console, he concentrated on pushing the car's speed to its limit. Gail's pain faded, but her con-fusion washed over him in a wave of nausea.
She quickly gained control despite the shifting curtains of fear that fluttered at the tightly held mindshield. She subvocalized, concentrating on narrowing the spectrum to a simulacrum of her voice.
"Hi, Jerry."
"Hi, yourself, kiddo." He sent the thought as he turned onto the exit for Long Beach Island. He shared the visual—the starting green of grass and pine trees overlaid with the gold of August light, the sports car's shadow leaping along the curve of asphalt.
Suddenly the unmistak-able salt freshness of the Atlantic came to him, and he shared that with her also.
The entrance to the seaside community was disappoint-ing: dilapidated seafood restaurants, overpriced cinder-block motels, endless marinas. But it was reassuring in its familiarity to both of them, and Bremen concentrated on seeing all of it. Gail began to relax and appreciate the ride. Her presence was so real that Bremen caught himself turn-ing to speak aloud to her. The pang of regret and embar-rassment was sent before he could stifle it.
The island was cluttered with families unpacking station wagons and carrying late dinners to the beach. Bre-men drove north to Barnegat Light. He glanced to his right and caught a glimpse of some fishermen standing along the surf, their shadows intersecting the white lines of breakers.
Monet, thought Gail, and Bremen nodded, although he had actually been thinking of Euclid.
Always the mathematician, thought Gail, and then her voice faded as the pain rose. Half-formed sentences shred-ded like clouds in a gale.

Bremen left the Triumph parked near the lighthouse and walked through the low
dunes to the beach. He threw down the tattered blanket that they had carried so
many times to just this spot. There was a group of children run-ning along the surf.
A girl of about nine, all long white legs in a suit two years too small, pranced on the
wet sand in an intricate, unconscious choreography with the sea.
The light was fading between the Venetian blinds. A nurse smelling of cigarettes and
stale talcum powder came in to change the IV bottle and take a pulse. The intercom
in the hall continued to make loud, imperative announce-ments, but it was difficult to
understand them through the growing haze of pain. The new doctor arrived about ten
o'clock, but Gail's attention was riveted on the nurse who carried the blessed needle.
The cotton swab on her arm was a delightful preliminary to the promised surcease of
pain behind her eye. The doctor was saying something.
"...your husband? I thought he would be staying the night."
"Right here, doctor," said Gail. She patted the blanket and the sand.
Bremen pulled on his nylon windbreaker against the chill of the night. The stars were
occluded by a high cloud layer that allowed only a few to show through. Far out to
sea, an improbably long oil tanker, its lights blazing, moved along the horizon. The
windows of the beach homes behind Bremen cast yellow rectangles on the dunes.
The smell of steak being grilled came to him on the breeze. Bremen tried to
remember whether he had eaten that day or not. He considered going back to the
conven-ience store near the lighthouse to get a sandwich but re-membered an old
Payday candy bar in his jacket pocket and contented himself with chewing on the
rock-hard wedge of peanuts.
Footsteps continued to echo in the hall. It sounded as if entire armies were on the
march. The rush of footsteps, clatter of trays, and vague chatter of voices reminded
Gail of lying in bed as a child and listening to her parents' par-ties downstairs.
Remember the party where we met? thought Bremen.
Chuck Gilpen had insisted that Bremen go along. Bre-men had never had much use
for parties. He was lousy at small talk, and the psychic tension and neurobabble
al-ways left him with a headache from maintaining his mindshield tightly for hours.
Besides, it was his first week teaching graduate tensor calculus and he knew that he
should be home boning up on basic principles. But he had gone. Gilpen's nagging
and the fear of being labeled a so-cial misfit in his new academic community had
brought Bremen to the Drexel Hill townhouse. The music was pal-pable half a block
away, and had he driven there by him-self, he would have gone home then. He was
just inside the door—someone had pressed a drink in his hand—when suddenly he
sensed another mindshield quite near him. He had put out a gentle probe, and
immediately the force of Gail's thoughts swept across him like a searchlight.
Both were stunned. Their first reaction had been to raise their mindshields and roll
up like frightened armadil-los. Each soon found that useless against the unconscious
probes of the other. Neither had ever encountered another telepath of more than
primitive, untapped ability. Each had assumed that he or she was a freak—unique
and unassail-able. Now they stood naked before each other in an empty place.
Suddenly, almost without volition, they flooded each other's mind with a torrent of
images, self-images, half-memories, secrets, sensations, preferences, percep-tions,
hidden fears, echoes, and feelings. Nothing was held back. Every petty cruelty
committed, sexual shame experi-enced, and prejudice harbored poured out along
with thoughts of past birthday parties, ex-lovers, parents, and an endless stream of
trivia. Rarely had two people known each other as well after fifty years of marriage.
A few minutes later they met for the first time.
The beacon from Barnegat Light passed over Bremen's head every twenty-four
seconds. There were more lights burning out at sea now than along the dark line of
beach. The wind came up after midnight, and Bremen wrapped the blanket around
himself tightly. Gail had refused the needle when the nurse had last made her rounds,
but her mindtouch was still clouded. Bremen forced the contact through sheer
strength of will. Gail had always been afraid of the dark. Many had been the times
during their six years of marriage that he reached out in the night with his mind or
arm to reassure her. Now she was the frightened little girl again, left alone upstairs in
the big old house on Burlingame Avenue. There were things in the darkness be-neath
her bed.
Bremen reached through her confusion and pain and shared the sound of the sea
with her. He told her stories about the antics of Gernisavien, their calico cat. He lay
in the hollow of the sand to match his body with hers. Slowly she began to relax, to
surrender her thoughts to his. She even managed to doze a few times, and her
dreams were the movement of stars between clouds and the sharp smell of the
Atlantic. Bremen described the week's work at the farm—the subtle beauty of his
Fourier equations across the chalkboard in his study and the sunlit satisfaction of
plant-ing a peach tree by the front drive. He shared memories of their ski trip to
Aspen and the sudden shock of a search-light reaching in to the beach from an
unseen ship out at sea. He shared what little poetry he had memorized, but the words
kept sliding into images and feelings.
The night drew on, and Bremen shared the cold clarity of it with his wife, adding to
each image the warm overlay of his love. He shared trivia and hopes for the future.
From seventy-five miles away he reached out and touched her hand with his. When
he drifted off to sleep for only a few minutes, he sent her his dreams.
Gail died just before the false light of dawn touched the sky.
The head of the mathematics department at Haverford urged Bremen to take a leave
or a full sabbatical if he needed it. Bremen thanked him and resigned.
Dorothy Parks in the psychology department spent a long evening explaining the
mechanics of grief to Bremen. "You have to understand, Jeremy," she said, "that
moving is a common mistake made by people who have just suf-fered a serious loss.
You may think that a new environ-ment will help you forget, but it just postpones the
inevitable confrontation with grief."
Bremen listed attentively and eventually nodded his agreement. The next day he put
the farm up for sale, sold the Triumph to his mechanic on Conestoga Road, and
took the bus to the airport. Once there, he went to the United Airlines counter and
bought a ticket for the next departing flight.
For a year Bremen worked in central Florida, loading produce at a shipping center
near Tampa. The next year Bremen did not work at all. He fished his way north from
the Everglades to the Chattooga River in northern Georgia. In March he was arrested
as a vagrant in Charleston, South Carolina. In May he spent two weeks in
Washington, dur-ing which he left his room only to go to liquor stores and the
Congressional Library. He was robbed and badly beaten outside of the Baltimore
bus station at 2 a.m. on a June night. Leaving the hospital the next day, he returned
to the bus station and headed north to visit his sister in New York. His sister and her
husband insisted that he stay several weeks, but he left early on the third morning,
prop-ping a note up against the salt shaker on the kitchen table. In Philadelphia he sat
in Penn Station and read the help-wanted ads. His progress was as predictable as the
elegant, ellipsoid mathematics of a yo-yo's path.

Robby was sixteen, weighed one hundred seventy-five pounds, and had been blind,
deaf, and retarded since birth. His mother's drug addiction during pregnancy and a
placental malfunction had shut off Robby's senses as surely as a sinking ship
condemns compartment after compart-ment to the sea by the shutting of watertight
Robby's eyes were the sunken, darkened caverns of the irrevocably blind. The
pupils, barely visible under droop-ing, mismatched lids, tracked separately in
random move-ments. The boy's lips were loose and blubbery, his teeth gapped and
carious. At sixteen, he already had the dark down of a mustache on his upper lip.
His black hair stood out in violent tufts, and his eyebrows met above the bridge of
his broad nose.
The child's obese body was balanced precariously on grub-white, emaciated legs.
Robby had learned how to walk at age eleven but still would stagger only a few
paces before toppling over. He moved in a series of pigeon-toed lurches, pudgy
arms pulled as tight as broken wings, wrists cocked at an improbable angle, fingers
separate and ex-tended. Like so many of the retarded blind, his favorite motion was
a perpetual rocking with his hand fanning above his sunken eyes as if to cast
shadows into the pit of darkness.
He did not speak. His only sounds were occasional, meaningless giggles and a rare
squeal of protest, which sounded like nothing so much as an operatic falsetto.
Robby had been coming to the Chelton Day School for the Blind for six years. His
life before that was unknown. He had been discovered by a social worker visiting
Robby's mother in connection with a court-ordered methadone-treatment program.
The door to the apartment had been left open, and the social worker heard noises.
The boy had been sealed into the bathroom by the nailing of a piece of plywood
over the bottom half of the door. There were wet papers on the tile floor, but Robby
was na-ked and smeared with his own excrement. A tap had been left on, and water
filled the room to the depth of an inch or two. The boy was rolling fitfully in the
mess and mak-ing mewling noises.
Robby was hospitalized for four months, spent five weeks in the county home, and
was then returned to the custody of his mother. In accordance with further court
or-ders, he was dutifully bussed to Chelton Day School for five hours of treatment a
day, six days a week. He made the daily trip in darkness and silence.
Robby's future was as flat and featureless as a line ex-tending nowhere, holding no
hope of intersection.

"Shit, Jer, you're going to have to watch after the kid tomorrow."
"Why me?"
"Because he won't go into the goddamn pool, that's why. You saw him today.
Smitty just lowered his legs into the water, and the kid started swinging and
screaming. Sounded like a bunch of cats had started up. Dr. Whilden says he stays
back tomorrow. She says that the van is too hot for him to stay in. Just keep him
company in the room till Jan McLellan's regular aide gets back from vacation."
"Great," said Bremen. He pulled his sweat-plastered shirt away from his skin. He had
been hired to drive the school van, and now he was helping to feed, dress, and
Babysit the poor bastards. "Great. That's just great, Bill. \Vhat am I supposed to do
with him for an hour and a half while you guys are at the pool?"
"Watch him. Try to get him to work on the zipper book. You ever see that page in
there with the bra stuff—the eyes and hooks? Let him work on that. I useta practice
on that with my eyes shut."
"Great," said Bremen. He closed his eyes against the glare of the sun.

Bremen sat on the front stoop and poured the last of the scotch into his glass. It was
long past midnight, but the narrow street teemed with children playing. Two black
teenagers were playing the dozens while their friends urged them on. A group of little
girls jumped double dutch under the streetlamp. Insects milled in the light and
seemed to dance to the girls' singing. Adults sat on the steps of identical rowhouses
and watched one another dully. No one moved much. It was very hot.
It's time to move on.
Bremen knew that he had stayed too long. Seven weeks working at the day school
had been too much. He was getting curious. And he was beginning to ask ques-tions
about the kids.
Boston, perhaps. Farther north. Maine.
Asking questions and getting answers. Jan McLellan had told him about Robby. She
had told him about the bruises on Robby's body, about the broken arm two years
before. She told him about the teddy bear that a candy-striper had given the blind
boy. It had been the first pos-itive stimulus to evoke an emotion from Robby. He
had kept the bear in his arms for weeks. Refused to go to X-ray without it. Then, a
few days after his return home, Robby got into the van one morning, screaming and
whin-ing in his weird way. No teddy bear. Dr. Whilden called his mother only to be
told that the God-damned toy was lost. "God-damned toy" were the mother's
words, accord-ing to Jan McLellan. No other teddy bear would do. Robby carried
on for three weeks.
So what? What can I do?
Bremen knew what he could do. He had known for weeks. He shook his head and
took another drink, adding to the already-thickened mindshield that separated him
from the senseless, pain-giving world.
Hell, it'd be better for Robby if I didn't try it.
A breeze came up. Bremen could hear the screams from a lot down the street where
two allied gangs played a fierce game of pick-up ball. Curtains billowed out open
windows. Somewhere a siren sounded, faded. The breeze lifted papers from the
gutter and ruffled the dresses of the girls jumping rope.
Bremen tried to imagine a lifetime with no sight, no sound.
Fuck it! He picked up the empty bottle and went up-stairs.

The van pulled up the circular drive of the day school, and Bremen helped unload
the children with a slow care born of practice, affection, and a throbbing headache.
Scotty emerged, smiling, hands extended to the unseen adult he trusted to be
waiting. Tommy Pierson lurched out with knees together and hands pulled up to his
chest. Bre-men had to catch him or the frail boy would have fallen face first into the
pavement. Teresa jumped down with her usual gleeful cries, imparting inexact but
slobberingly en-thusiastic kisses on everyone who touched her.
Robby remained seated after the others had exited. It took both Bremen and Smitty
to get the boy out of the van. Robby did not resist; he was simply a mass of pliable
but unresponsive fat. The boy's head tilted back in a dis-turbing way. His tongue
lolled first from one corner of the slack mouth and then from the other. The short,
pigeon-toed steps had to be coaxed out of him one at a time. Only the familiarity of
the short walk to the classroom kept Robby moving at all.
The morning seemed to last forever. It rained before lunch, and for a while it looked
as if the swimming would be canceled. Then the sun came out and illuminated the
flowerbeds on the front lawn. Bremen watched sunlight dance on the moistened
petals of Turk's prize roses and listened to the roar of the lawnmower. He realized
that it was going to happen.

After lunch he helped them prepare for departure. The boys needed help getting into
their suits, and it saddened Bremen to see pubic hair and a man's penis on the body
of someone with a seven-year-old's mind. Tommy would always start masturbating
idly until Bremen touched his arm and helped him with the elastic of the suit.
Then they were gone, and the hall, which had been filled with squealing children and
laughing adults, was si-lent. Bremen watched the blue-and-white van disappear
slowly down the drive. Then he turned back to the classroom.
Robby showed no awareness that Bremen had entered the room. The boy looked
absurd dressed in a striped, green top and orange shorts that were too tight to
button. Bremen thought of a broken, bronze Buddha he had seen once near Osaka.
What if this child harbored some deep wisdom born of his long seclusion from the
Robby stirred, farted loudly, and resumed his slumped position.
Bremen sighed and pulled up a chair. It was too small. His knees stuck into the air,
and he felt ridiculous. He grinned to himself. He would leave that night. Take a bus
north. Hitchhike. It would be cooler in the country.
This would not take long. He need not even establish full contact. A one-way
mindtouch. It was possible. A few minutes. He could look out the window for
Robby, look at a picture book, perhaps put a record on and share the mu-sic. What
would the boy make of these new impressions? A gift before leaving. Anonymous.
Share nothing else. Better not to send any images of Robby, either. All right.
Bremen lowered his mindshield. Immediately he flinched and raised it again. It had
been a long time since he had allowed himself to be so vulnerable. The thick, woolly
blanket of the mindshield, thickened even further by alcohol, had become natural to
him. The sudden surge of background babble—he thought of it as white noise—was
abrasive. It was like coming into a glaringly bright room after spending months in a
cave. He directed his attention to Robby and lowered his barriers again. He tuned
out the neurobabble and looked deeply into Robby's mind.
For a confused second Bremen thought that he had lost the focus of his power.
Then he concentrated and was able to pick out the dull, sexual broodings of Turk
out in the garden and the preoccupied fragments of Dr. Whilden's thoughts as she
settled herself into her Mercedes and checked her stockings for runs. The
receptionist was read-ing a novel—The Plague Dogs. Bremen read a few lines with
her. It frustrated him that her eyes scanned so slowly. His mouth filled with the
syrupy taste of her cherry coughdrop.
Bremen stared intensely at Robby. The boy was breathing asthmatically. His tongue
was visible and heav-ily coated. Stray bits of food remained on his lips and cheeks.
Bremen narrowed his probe, strengthened it, fo-cused it like a beam of coherent
No. Wait. There was—what?—an absence of some-thing. There was a hole in the
field of mindbabble where Robby's thoughts should have been. Bremen realized that
he was confronting the strongest mindshield he had ever encountered. Even Gail had
not been able to concentrate a barrier of that incredible tightness. For a second
Bremen was deeply impressed, even shaken, and then he realized the cause of it.
Robby's mind was damaged. Entire seg-ments were probably inactive. With so few
senses to rely on and such limited awareness, it was little wonder that the boy's
consciousness—what there was of it—had turned inward. What at first seemed to
Bremen to be a powerful mindshield was nothing more than a tight ball of
intro-spection going beyond autism. Robby was truly alone.
Bremen was still shaken enough to pause a minute and take a few deep breaths.
When he resumed, it was with even more care, feeling along the negative boundaries
of the mindshield like a man groping along a rough wall in the dark. Somewhere there
had to be an opening.
There was. Not an opening so much as a soft spot—a resilience set amidst the
stone. Bremen half-perceived the flutter of underlying thoughts, much as a pedestrian
senses the movement of trains in a subway under the pavement. He concentrated on
building the strength of the probe until he felt his shirt beginning to soak with sweat.
His vision and hearing were beginning to dim in the singleminded ex-ertion of his
effort. No matter. Once initial contact was made, he would relax and slowly open the
channels of sight and sound.
He felt the shield give a bit, still elastic but sinking slightly under his unrelenting
pressure. He concentrated until the veins stood out in his temples. Unknown to
him-self, he was grimacing, neck muscles knotting with the strain. The shield bent.
Bremen's probe was a solid ram battering a tight, gelatinous doorway. It bent further.
He concentrated with enough force to move objects, to pulver-ize bricks, to halt
birds in their flight.
The shield continued to bend. Bremen leaned forward as into a strong wind. There
was only the concentrated force of his will. Suddenly there was a ripping, a rush of
warmth, a falling forward. Bremen lost his balance, flailed his arms, opened his
mouth to yell.
His mouth was gone.
He was falling. Tumbling. He had a distant, confused glimpse of his own body
writhing in the grip of an epilep-tic seizure. Then he was falling again. Falling into
silence. Falling into nothing.
Bremen was inside. Beyond. Was diving through lay-ers of slow thermals. Colorless
pinwheels tumbled in three dimensions. Spheres of black collapsed outward. Blinded
him. There were waterfalls of touch, rivulets of scent, a thin line of balance blowing
in a silent wind.
Supported by a thousand hands—touching, exploring, fingers in the mouth, palms
along the chest, sliding along the belly, cupping the penis, moving on.
He was buried. He was underwater. Rising in the blackness. But he could not
breathe. His arms began to move. Palms flailed against the viscous current. Up. He
was buried in sand. He flailed and kicked. He moved up-wards, pulled on by a
vacuum that gripped his head in a vise. The substance shifted. Compacted, pressed
in by a thousand unseen hands, he was propelled through the constricting aperture.
His head broke the surface. He opened his mouth to scream, and the air rushed into
his chest like water filling a drowning man. The scream went on and on.
Bremen awoke on a broad plain. There was no sky. Pale, peach-colored light
diffused everything. The ground was hard and scaled into separate orange segments
which receded to infinity. There was no horizon. The land was cracked and serrated
like a floodplain during a drought. Above him were levels of peachlit crystal. Bremen
felt that it was like being in the basement of a clear plastic skyscraper. An empty one.
He lay on his back and looked up through endless stories of crystallized emptiness.
He sat up. His skin felt as if it had been toweled with sandpaper. He was naked. He
rubbed his hand across his stomach, touched his pubic hair, found the scar on his
knee from the motorcycle accident when he was seven-teen. A wave of dizziness
rolled through him when he stood upright.
He walked. His bare feet found the smooth plates warm. He had no direction and no
destination. Once he had walked a mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats just before
sunset. It was like that. Bremen walked. Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
When he finally stopped, it was in a place no different from any other. His head hurt.
He lay back and imagined himself as a bottom-dwelling sea creature looking up
through layers of shifting currents. The peach-colored light bathed him in warmth.
His body was radiant. He shut his eyes against the light and slept.

He sat up suddenly, with nostrils flaring, ears actually twitching with the strain of
trying to pinpoint a half-heard sound. Darkness was total.
Something was moving in the night.
Bremen crouched in the blackness and tried to filter out the sound of his own ragged
breathing. His glandular system reverted to programming a million years old. His
fists clenched, his eyes rolled uselessly in their sockets, and his heart raced.
Something was moving in the night.
He felt it nearby. He felt the power of it. It was huge, and it had no trouble finding its
way in the darkness. The thing was near him, above him. Bremen felt the force of its
blind gaze. He kneeled on the cold ground and hugged himself into a ball.
Something touched him.
Bremen fought down the impulse to scream. He was caught in a giant's
hand—something rough and huge and not a hand at all. It lifted him. Bremen felt the
power of it through the pressure, the pain in his ribs. The thing could crush him
easily. Again he felt the sense of being viewed, inspected, weighed on some unseen
balance. He had the naked, helpless, but somehow reassuring feeling one has while
lying on the X-ray table, knowing that invis-ible beams are passing through you,
searching for any malignancy, probing.
Something set him down.
Bremen heard no sound but sensed great footsteps re-ceding. A weight lifted from
him. He sobbed. Eventually he uncurled and stood up. He called into the blackness,
but the sound of his voice was tiny and lost and he was not even sure whether he
had heard it at all.

The sun rose. Bremen's eyes fluttered open, stared into the distant brilliance, and
then closed again before the fact registered fully in his mind. The sun rose.
He was sitting on grass. A prairie of soft, knee-high grass went off to the horizon in
all directions. Bremen pulled a strand, stripped it, and sucked on the sweet mar-row.
It reminded him of childhood afternoons. He began walking.
The breeze was warm. It stirred the grass and set up a soft sighing, which helped to
ease the headache that still throbbed behind his eyes. The walking pleased him. He
contented himself with the feel of grass bending under his bare feet and the play of
sunlight and wind on his body.
By early afternoon he realized that he was walking to-ward a smudge on the horizon.
By late afternoon the smudge had resolved itself into a line of trees. Shortly before
sunset he entered the edge of the forest. The trees were the stately elms and oaks of
his Pennsylvania boy-hood. Bremen's long shadow moved ahead of him as he
moved deeper into the forest.
For the first time he felt fatigue and thirst begin to work on him. His tongue was
heavy, swollen with dryness. He moved leadenly through the lengthening shadows,
oc-casionally checking the visible patches of sky for any sign of clouds. It was while
he was looking up that he almost stumbled into the pond. Inside a protective ring of
weeds and reeds lay the circle of water. A heavily laden cherry tree sent roots down
the bank. Bremen took the last few steps forward, expecting the water to disappear
as he threw himself into it.
It was waist-deep and cold as ice.

It was just after sunrise that she came. He spotted the movement immediately upon
awakening. Not believing, he stood still, just another shadow in the shade of the
trees. She moved hesitantly with the tentative step of the meek or the barefoot. The
tasseled sawgrass brushed at her thighs. Bremen watched with a clarity amplified by
the rich, horizontal sweeps of morning light. Her body seemed to glow. Her breasts,
the left ever so slightly fuller than the right, bobbed gently with each high step. Her
black hair was cut short.
She paused in the light. Moved forward again. Bre-men's eyes dropped to her strong
thighs, and he watched as her legs parted and closed with the heart-stopping
inti-macy of the unobserved. She was much closer now, and Bremen could make
out the delicate shadows along her fine ribcage, the pale, pink circles of areolae, and
the spreading bruise along the inside of one arm.
Bremen stepped out into the light. She stopped, arms rising across her upper body
in a second's instinctive movement, then moved toward him quickly. She opened her
arms to him. He was filled with the clean scent of her hair. Skin slid across skin.
Their hands moved across mus-cle, skin, the familiar terrain of vertebrae. Both were
sob-bing, speaking incoherently. Bremen dropped to one knee and buried his face
between her breasts. She bent slightly and cradled his head with her fingers. Not for
a second did they relax the pressure binding them together.
"Why did you leave me?" he muttered against her skin. "Why did you go away?"
Gail said nothing. Her tears fell into his hair and her hands tightened against his back.
Wordlessly she kneeled with him in the high grass.
Together they passed out of the forest just as the morn-ing mists were burning away.
In the early light the grass-covered hills gave the impression of being part of a
tanned, velvety human torso, which they could reach out and touch.
They spoke softly, occasionally intertwining fingers. Each had discovered that to
attempt telepathic contact meant inviting the blinding headaches that had plagued
both of them at first. So they talked. And they touched. And twice before the day
was over, they made love in the high, soft grass with only the golden eye of the sun
look-ing down on them.
Late in the afternoon they crossed a rise and looked past a small orchard at a vertical
glare of white.
"It's the farm!" cried Gail, with wonder in her voice. "How can that be?"
Bremen felt no surprise. His equilibrium remained as they approached the tall old
building. The saggy barn they had used as a garage was also there. The driveway still
needed new gravel, but now it went nowhere, for there was no highway at the end of
it. A hundred yards of rusted wire fence that used to border the road now terminated
in the high grass.
Gail stepped up on the front porch and peered in the window. Bremen felt like a
trespasser or a weekend house browser who had found a home that might or might
not still be lived in. Habit brought them around to the back door. Gail gingerly
opened the outer screen door and jumped a bit as the hinge squeaked.
"Sorry," Bremen said. "I know I promised to oil that."
It was cool inside and dark. The rooms were as they had left them. Bremen poked
his head into his study long enough to see his papers still lying on the oak desk and a
long-forgotten transform still chalked on the blackboard. Upstairs, afternoon sunlight
was falling from the skylight he had wrestled to install that distant September. Gail
went from room to room, making small noises of appreciation, more often just
touching things gently. The bedroom was as orderly as ever, with the blue blanket
pulled tight and tucked under the mattress and her grandmother's patch-work quilt
folded across the foot of the bed.
They fell asleep on the cool sheets. Occasionally a wisp of breeze would billow the
curtains. Gail mumbled in her sleep, reaching out to touch him frequently. When
Bre-men awoke, it was almost dark, that late, lingering twilight of early summer.
There was a sound downstairs.
He lay without moving for a long while. The air was thick and still, the silence
tangible. Then came another sound.
Bremen left the bed without waking Gail. She was curled on her side with one hand
lifted to her cheek, the pillow moist against her lips. Bremen walked barefoot down
the wooden stairs. He slipped into his study and carefully opened the
lower-right-hand drawer. It was there under the empty folders he had laid atop it. He
removed the rags from the drawer.
The .38 Smith and Wesson smelled of oil and looked as new as it had the day his
brother-in-law had given it to him. Bremen checked the chambers. The bullets lay fat
and heavy, like eggs in a nest. The roughened grip was firm in his hand, the metal
cool. Bremen smiled ruefully at the absurdity of what he was doing, but kept the
weapon in his hand when the kitchen screen door slammed again.
He made no sound as he stepped from the hallway to the kitchen door. It was very
dim, but his eyes had adapted. From where he stood he could make out the pale
white phantom of the refrigerator. Its recycling pump chunked on while he stood
there. Holding the revolver down at his side, Bremen stepped onto the cool tile of
the kitchen floor.
The movement startled him, and the gun rose an inch or so before he relaxed.
Gernisavien, the tough-minded lit-tle calico, crossed the floor to brush against his
legs, paced back to the refrigerator, looked up at him meaningfully, then crossed
back to brush against trim. Bremen kneeled to rub her neck absently. The pistol
looked idiotic in his clenched hand. He loosened his grip.

The moon was rising by the time they had a late din-ner. The steaks had come from
the freezer in the basement, the ice-cold beers from the refrigerator, and there had
been several bags of charcoal left in the garage. They sat out back near the old pump
while the steaks sizzled on the grill. Gernisavien had been well fed earlier but
crouched expectantly at the foot of one of the big, old wooden lawn chairs.
Both of them had slipped into clothes—Bremen into his favorite pair of cotton
slacks and his light blue workshirt and Gail into the loose, white cotton dress she
often wore on trips. The sounds were the same they had heard from this backyard
so many times before: crickets, night birds from the orchard, the variations of frog
sounds from the distant stream, an occasional flutter of sparrows in the
Bremen served the steaks on paper plates. Their knives made crisscross patterns on
the white. They had just the steaks and a simple salad from the garden, fresh
radishes and onions on the side.
Even with the three-quarter moon rising, the stars were incredibly clear. Bremen
remembered the night they had lain out in the hammock and waited for Skylab to
float across the sky like a windblown ember. He realized that the stars were even
clearer tonight because there were no reflected lights from Philadelphia or the tollway
to dim their glory.
Gail sat back before the meal was finished. Where are we, Jerry? The mindtouch
was gentle. It did not bring on the blinding headaches.
Bremen took a sip of Budweiser. "What's wrong with just being home, kiddo?"
There's nothing wrong with being home. But where are we?
Bremen concentrated on turning a radish in his fingers. It had tasted salty, sharp, and
What is this place? Gail looked toward the dark line of trees at the edge of the
orchard. Fireflies winked against the blackness.
Gail, what is the last thing you can remember?
"I remember dying." The words hit Bremen squarely in the solar plexus. For a
moment he could not speak or frame his thoughts.
Gail went on. "We've never believed in an afterlife, Jerry." Hypocritical
fundamentalist parents. Mother's drunken sessions of weeping over the Bible. "I
mean ... I don't ... How can we be..."
"No," said Bremen, putting his dish on the arm of the chair and leaning forward.
"There may be an explanation."
Where to begin? The lost years, Florida, the hot streets of the city, the day school
for retarded blind children. Gail's eyes widened as she looked directly at this period
of his life. She sensed his mindshield, but did not press to see the things he
withheld. Robby. A moment's contact. Per-haps playing a record. Falling.
He paused to take a long swallow of beer. Insects cho-rused. The house glowed
pale in the moonlight.
Where are we, Jerry?
"What do you remember about awakening here, Gail?"
They had already shared images, but trying to put them into words sharpened the
memories. "Darkness," she said. "Then a soft light. Rocking.
Being rocked. Holding and being held. Walking. Finding you."
Bremen nodded. He lifted the last piece of steak and savored the burnt charcoal taste
of it. It's obvious we're with Robby. He shared images for which there were no
ad-equate words. Waterfalls of touch. Entire landscapes oi scent. A movement of
power in the dark.
With Robby, Gail's thought echoed. ????????? In his mind. "How?"
The cat had jumped into his lap. He stroked it idly and set it down. Gernisavien
immediately raised her tail and turned her back on him. "You've read a lot of stories
about telepaths. Have you ever read a completely satisfy-ing explanation of how
telepathy works? Why some peo-ple have it and others don't? Why some people's
thoughts are loud as bullhorns and others' almost imperceptible?"
Gail paused to think. The cat allowed herself to be rubbed behind the ears. "Well,
there was a really good book—no, that only came close to describing what it felt
like. No. They usually describe it as some sort of radio or TV broadcast. You know
that, Jerry. We've talked about it enough."
"Yeah," Bremen said. Despite himself, he was already trying to describe it to Gail.
His mindtouch interfered with the words. Images cascaded like printouts from an
over-worked terminal. Endless Schrodinger curves, their plots speaking in a language
purer than speech. The collapse of probability curves in binomial progression.
"Talk," Gail said. He marveled that after all the years of sharing his thoughts she still
did not always see through his eyes.
"Do you remember my last grant project?" he asked.
"The wavefront stuff," she said.
"Yeah. Do you remember what it was about?"
"Holograms. You showed me Goldmann's work at the university," she said. She
seemed a soft, white blur in the dim light. "I didn't understand most of it, and I got
sick shortly after that."
"It was based on holographic research," Bremen inter-rupted quickly, "but
Goldmann's research group was working up an analog of human consciousness ...
of thought."
"What does that have to do with ... with this?" Gail asked. Her hand made a graceful
movement that encom-passed the yard, the night, and the bright bowl of stars above
"It might help," Bremen said. "The old theories of mental activity didn't explain
things like stroke effects, generalized learning, and memory function, not to mention
the act of thinking itself."
"And Goldmann's theory does?"
"It's not really a theory yet, Gail. It was a new ap-proach, using both recent work
with holograms and a line of analysis developed in the Thirties by a Russian
mathe-matician. That's where I was called in. It was pretty sim-ple, really.
Goldmann's group was doing all sorts of complicated EEG studies and scans. I'd
take their data, do a Fourier analysis of them, and then plug it all into various
modifications of Schrodinger's wave equation to see whether it worked as a standing
"Jerry, I don't see how this helps."
"Goddamn it, Gail, it did work. Human thought can be described as a standing
wavefront. Sort of a superhologram. Or, maybe more precisely, a hologram
containing a few million smaller holograms."
Gail was leaning forward. Even in the darkness Bre-men could make out the frown
lines of attention that ap-peared whenever he spoke to her of his work. Her voice
came very softly. "Where does that leave the mind, Jerry ... the brain?"
It was his turn to frown slightly. "I guess the best an-swer is that the Greeks and the
religious nuts were right to separate the two," he said. "The brain could be viewed as
kind of a ... well, electrochemical generator and interfer-ometer all in one. But the
mind ... ah, the mind is some-thing a lot more beautiful than that lump of gray
matter." He was thinking in terms of equations, sine waves dancing to Schrodinger's
elegant tune.
"So there is a soul that can survive death?" Gail asked. Her voice had taken on the
slightly defensive, slightly querulous tone that always entered in when she discussed
religious ideas.
"Hell, no," said Bremen. He was a little irritated at having to think in words once
again. "If Goldmann was right and the personality is a complex wavefront, sort of a
series of low-energy holograms interpreting reality, then the personality certainly
couldn't survive brain death. The template would be destroyed as well as the
holographic generator."
"So where does that leave us?" Gail's voice was al-most inaudible.
Bremen leaned forward and took her hand. It was cold.
"Don't you see why I got interested in this whole line of research? I thought it might
offer a way of describing our ... uh ... ability."
Gail moved over and sat next to him in the broad, wooden chair. His arm went
around her, and he could feel the cool skin of her upper arm. Suddenly a meteorite
lanced from the zenith to the south, leaving the briefest of retinal echoes.
"And?" Gail's voice was very soft.
"It's simple enough," said Bremen. "When you visual-ize human thought as a series
of standing wavefronts cre-ating interference patterns that can be stored and
propagated in holographic analogs, it begins to make sense."
"It does. It means that for some reason our minds are resonant not only to wave
patterns that we initiate but to transforms that others generate."
"Yes," said Gail, excited now, gripping his hand tightly. "Remember when we shared
impressions of the talent just after we met? We both decided that it would be
impossible to explain mindtouch to anyone who hadn't ex-perienced it. It would be
like describing colors to a blind person..." She halted and looked around her.
"Okay," said Bremen. "Robby. When I contacted him, I tapped into a closed
system. The poor kid had almost no data to use in constructing a model of the real
world. What little information he did have was mostly painful. So for sixteen years
he had happily gone about building his own universe. My mistake was in
underestimating, hell, never even thinking about, the power he might have in that
world. He grabbed me, Gail. And with me, you."
The wind came up a bit and moved the leaves of the orchard. The soft rustling had a
sad, end-of-summer sound to it.
"All right," she said after a while, "that explains how you got here. How about me?
Am I a figment of your imagination, Jerry?"
Bremen felt her shiver. Her skin was like ice. He took her hand and roughly rubbed
some warmth back into it. "Come on, Gail, think. You weren't just a memory to me.
For over six years we were essentially one person with two bodies. That's why when
... that's why I went a little crazy, tried to shut my mind down completely for a
couple of years. You were in my mind. But my ego sense, or whatever the hell keeps
us sane and separate from the bab-ble of all those minds, kept telling me that it was
only the memory of you. You were a figment of my imagination ... the way we all
are. Jesus, we were both dead until a blind, deaf, retarded kid, a goddamn vegetable,
ripped us out of one world and offered us another one in its place."
They sat for a minute. It was Gail who broke the si-lence. "But how can it seem so
Bremen stirred and accidentally knocked his paper plate off the arm of the chair.
Gernisavien jumped to one side and stared reproachfully at them. Gail nudged the
cat's fur with the toe of her sandal. Bremen squeezed his beer can until it dented in,
popped back out.
"You remember Chuck Gilpen, the guy who dragged me to that party in Drexel Hill?
The last I heard he was working with the Fundamental Physics Group out at the
Lawrence Berkely Labs."
"So for the past few years they've been hunting down all those smaller and smaller
particles to get a hook on what's real. And when they get a glimpse of reality on its
most basic and pervasive level, you know what they get?" Bremen took one last swig
from the beer can. "They get a series of equations that show standing wavefronts,
not too different from the squiggles and jiggles Goldmann used to send me."
Gail took a deep breath, let it out. Her question was al-most lost as the wind rose
again and stirred the tree branches. "Where is Robby? When do we see his world?"
"I don't know," Bremen replied. He was frowning without knowing it. "He seems to
be allowing us to define what should be real. Don't ask me why. Maybe he's
enjoy-ing a peek at a new universe. Maybe he can't do anything about it."
They sat still for a few more minutes. Gernisavien brushed up against them, irritated
that they insisted on sit-ting out in the cold and dark. Bremen kept his mindshield
raised sufficiently to keep from sharing the information that his sister had written a
year ago to say that the little calico had been run over and killed in New York. Or
that a family of Vietnamese had bought the farmhouse and had already added new
rooms. Or that he had carried the .38 police special around for two years, waiting to
use it on himself.
"What do we do now, Jerry?"
We go to bed. Bremen took her hand and led her into their home.

Bremen dreamed of fingernails across velvet, cold tile along one cheek, and wool
blankets against sunburned skin. He watched with growing curiosity as two people
made love on a golden hillside. He floated through a white room where white figures
moved in a silence broken only by the heartbeat of a machine. He was swimming and
could feel the tug of inexorable planetary forces in the pull of the riptide. He was just
able to resist the deadly current by using all of his energy, but he could feel himself
tiring, could feel the tide pulling him out to deeper water. Just as the waves closed
over him he vented a final shout of de-spair and loss.
He cried out his own name.
He awoke with the shout still echoing in his mind. The details of the dream fractured
and fled before he could grasp them. He sat up quickly in bed. Gail was gone.
He had taken two steps toward the stairway before he heard her voice calling to him
from the side yard. He re-turned to the window.
She was dressed in a blue sundress and was waving her arms at him. By the time he
was downstairs she had thrown half a dozen items into the picnic basket and was
boiling water to make iced tea.
"Come on, sleepyhead. I have a surprise for you!"
"I'm not sure we need any more surprises," Bremen mumbled.
"This one we do," she said, and she was upstairs, hum-ming and thrashing around in
the closet.
She led them, Gernisavien following reluctantly, to a trail that led off in the same
general direction as the high-way that had once been in front of the house. It led up
through pasture to the east and over the rise. They carried the picnic basket between
them, Bremen repeatedly asking for clues, Gail repeatedly denying him any.
They crossed the rise and looked down to where the path ended. Bremen dropped
the basket into the grass. In the valley where the Pennsylvania Turnpike once had
been was an ocean.
"Holy shit!" Bremen exclaimed softly.
It was not the Atlantic. At least not the New Jersey At-lantic that Bremen knew. The
seacoast looked more like the area near Mendocino where he had taken Gail on their
honeymoon. Far to the north and south stretched broad beaches and high cliffs. Tall
breakers broke against black rock and white sand. Far out to sea, the gulls wheeled
and pivoted.
"Holy shit!" Bremen repeated.
They picnicked on the beach. Gernisavien stayed be-hind to hunt insects in the dune
grass. The air smelled of salt and sea and summer breezes. It seemed they had a
thousand miles of shoreline to themselves.
Gail stood and kicked off her dress. She was wearing a one-piece suit underneath.
Bremen threw his head back and laughed. "Is that why you came back? To get a
suit? Afraid the lifeguards would throw you out?"
She kicked sand at him and ran to the water. Three strides in and she was swimming.
Bremen could see from the way her shoulders hunched that the water was freez-ing.
"Come on in!" she called, laughing. "The water's fine!"
He began walking toward her.
The blast came from the sky, the earth, the sea. It knocked Bremen down and thrust
Gail's head underwater. She flailed and splashed to make the shallows, crawled
gasping from the receding surf.
Wind roared around them and threw sand a hundred feet in the air. The sky twisted,
wrinkled like a tangled sheet on the line, changed from blue to lemon-yellow to gray.
The sea rolled out in a giant slack tide and left dry, dead land where it receded. The
earth pitched and shifted around them. Lightning flashed along the horizon.
When the buckling stopped, Bremen ran to where Gail lay on the sand, lifted her
with a few stern words.
The dunes were gone, the cliffs were gone, the sea had disappeared. Where it had
been now stretched a dull ex-panse of salt flat. The sky continued to shift colors
down through darker and darker grays. The sun seemed to be ris-ing again in the
eastern desert. No. The light was moving. Something was crossing the wasteland.
Something was coming to them.
Gail started to break away, but Bremen held her tight. The light moved across the
dead land. The radiance grew, shifted, sent out streamers that made both of them
shield their eyes. The air smelled of ozone and the hair on their arms stood out.
Bremen found himself clutching tightly to Gail and leaning toward the apparition as
toward a strong wind. Their shadows leaped out behind them. The light struck at
their bodies like the shock wave of a bomb blast. Through their fingers, they
watched while the radiant figure approached. A double form became visible through
the blaze of corona. It was a human figure astride a huge beast. If a god had truly
come to Earth, this then was the form he would have chosen. The beast he rode was
featureless, but besides light it gave off a sense of ... warmth? Softness?
Robby was before them, high on the back of his teddy bear.
He was not used to language but was making the ef-fort. The thoughts struck them
like electrical surges to the brain. Gail dropped to her knees, but Bremen lifted her to
her feet.
Bremen tried to reach out with his mind. It was no use. Once at Haverford he had
gone with a promising student to the coliseum, where they were setting up for a rock
con-cert. He had been standing in front of a scaffolded bank of speakers when the
amplifiers were tested. It was a bit like that.
They were standing on a flat, reticulated plain. There were no horizons. White banks
of curling fog were ap-proaching from all directions. The only light came from the
Apollo-like figure before them. Bremen turned his head to watch the fog advance.
What it touched, it erased.
"Jerry, what..." Gail's voice was close to hysteria.
Robby's thoughts struck them again with physical force. He had given up any
attempt at language, and the images cascaded over them. The visual images were
vaguely distorted, miscolored, and tinged with an aura of wonder and newness.
Bremen and his wife reeled from their impact.
With the images came the emotional overlay, almost unbearable in its knife-sharp
intensity: discovery, loneli-ness, wonder, fatigue, love, sadness, sadness, sadness.
Both Bremen and Gail were on their knees. Both were sobbing without being aware
of it. In the sudden stillness after the onslaught, Gail's thoughts came loudly. Why is
he doing this? Why won't he leave us alone?
Bremen took her by the shoulders. Her face was so pale that her freckles stood out
in bold relief.
Don't you understand, Gail? It's not him doing it.
Not??? Who ...?????
Gail's thoughts rolled in confusion. Splintered images and fragmented questions
leaped between them as she struggled to control herself.
It's me. Gail. Me. Bremen had meant to speak aloud, but there was no sound now,
only the crystalline edges of their thoughts. He's been fighting to keep us together
all along. I'm the one. I don't belong. He's been hanging on for me, trying to help
me to stay, but he can't resist the pull any longer.
Gail looked around in terror. The fog boiled and reached for them in tendrils. It was
closing around the god figure on his mount. Even as they watched, his radiance
Touch him, thought Bremen.
Gail closed her eyes. Bremen could feel the wings of her thought brushing by him.
He heard her gasp.
My God, Jerry. He's just a baby. A frightened child!
If I stay any longer, I'll destroy us all. With that thought Bremen conveyed a range
of emotions too com-plex for words. Gail saw what was in his mind and began to
protest, but before she could pattern her thoughts, he had pulled her close and
hugged her fiercely. His mindtouch amplified the embrace, added to it all the shades
of feeling that neither language nor touch could communicate in full. Then he pushed
her away from him, turned, and ran toward the wall of fog. Robby was visible as
only a faint glow in the white mist, clutching the neck of his teddy bear. Bremen
touched him as he passed. Five paces into the cold mist and he could see nothing,
not even his own body. Three more paces and the ground disap-peared. Then he
was falling.

The room was white, the bed was white, the windows were white. Tubes ran from
the suspended bottles into his arm. His body was a vast ache. A green plastic
bracelet on his wrist said BREMEN, JEREMY H. The doctors wore white. A cardiac
monitor echoed his heartbeat.
"You gave us all quite a scare," said the woman in white.
"It's a miracle," said the man to her left. There was a faint note of belligerence in his
voice. "The EEG scans were flat for five days, but you came out of it. A miracle."
"We've never seen a case of simultaneous seizures like this," said the woman. "Do
you have a history of epi-lepsy?"
"The school had no family information," said the man. "Is there anyone we could
contact for you?"
Bremen groaned and closed his eyes. There was distant conversation, the cool touch
of a needle, and the noises of leavetaking. Bremen said something, cleared his throat
as they turned, tried again.
"What room?"
They stared, glanced at each other.
"Robby," said Bremen in a hoarse whisper. "What room is Robby in?"
"Seven twenty-six," said the woman. "The intensive care ward."
Bremen nodded and closed his eyes.

He made his short voyage in the early hours of the morning when the halls were dark
and silent except for the occasional swish of a nurse's skirt or the low, fitful groans
of the patients. He moved slowly down the hallway, some-times clutching the wall
for support. Twice he stepped into darkened rooms as the soft, rubber tread of
quickly mov-ing nurses came his way. On the stairway he had to stop repeatedly,
hanging over the hard, metal railing to catch his breath, his heart pounding.
Finally he entered the room. Robby was there in the far bed. A tiny light burned on
the monitor panel above his head. The fat, faintly odorous body was curled up in a
tight fetal position. Wrists and ankles were cocked at stiff angles. Fingers splayed
out against the tousled sheets, Robby's head was turned to the side, and his eyes
were open, staring blindly. His lips fluttered slightly as he breathed, and a small circle
of drool had moistened the sheets.
He was dying.
Bremen sat on the edge of the bed. The thickness of the night was palpable around
him. A distant chime sounded once and someone moaned. Bremen reached his hand
out and laid a palm gently on Robby's cheek. He could feel the soft down there. The
boy continued his la-bored, asthmatic snoring. Bremen touched the top of the
misshapen head tenderly, almost reverently. The straight, black hair stuck up through
his fingers. Bremen stood and left the room.

The suspension on the borrowed Fiat rattled over the rough bricks as Bremen
swerved to avoid the streetcars. It was quite early, and the eastbound lane on the
Benjamin Franklin Bridge was almost empty. The double strip of highway across
New Jersey was quiet. Bremen cautiously lowered his mindshield a bit and flinched
as the surge of mindbabble pushed against his bruised mind. He quickly raised his
shield. Not yet. The pain throbbed behind his eyes as he concentrated on driving.
There had not been the slightest hint of a familiar voice.
Bremen glanced toward the glove compartment, thought of the rag-covered bundle
there. Once, long ago, he had fantasized about the gun. He had half-convinced
himself that it was some sort of magic wand—an instru-ment of release. Now he
knew better. He recognized it for what it was—a killing instrument. It would never
free him. It would not allow his consciousness to fly. It would only slam a projectile
through his skull and end once and for all the mathematically perfect dance within.
Bremen thought of the weakening, quiet figure he had left in the hospital that
morning. He drove on.
He parked near the lighthouse, packed the revolver in a brown bag, and locked the
car. The sand was very hot when it lopped over the tops of his sandals. The beach
was almost deserted as Bremen sat in the meager shade of a dune and looked out to
sea. The morning glare made him squint.
He took off his shirt, set it carefully on the sand behind him, and removed the bundle
from the bag. The metal felt cool, and it was lighter than he remembered. It smelled
faintly of oil.
You'll have to help me. If there's another way, you'll have to help me find it.
Bremen dropped his mindshield. The pain of a million aimless thoughts stabbed at
his brain like an icepick. His mindshield rose automatically to blunt the noise, but
Bremen pushed down the barrier. For the first time in his life Bremen opened himself
fully to the pain, to the world that inflicted it, to the million voices calling in their
isolation and loneliness. He accepted it. He willed it. The great cho-rus struck at him
like a giant wand. Bremen sought a sin-gle voice.
Bremen's hearing dimmed to nothing. The hot sand failed to register; the sunlight on
his body became a dis-tant, forgotten thing. He concentrated with enough force to
move objects, to pulverize bricks, to halt birds in their flight. The gun fell unheeded
to the sand.
From down the beach came a young girl in a dark suit two seasons too small. Her
attention was on the sea as it teased the land with its sliding strokes and then
withdrew. She danced on the dark strips of wet sand. Her sunburned legs carried her
to the very edge of the world's ocean and then back again in a silent ballet. Suddenly
she was dis-tracted by the screaming of gulls. Startled, she halted her dance, and the
waves broke over her ankles with a sound of triumph.
The gulls dived, rose again, wheeled away to the north. Bremen walked to the top of
the dune. Salt spray blew in from the waves. Sunlight glared on water.
The girl resumed her waltz with the sea while behind her, squinting slightly in the
clean, sharp light of morning, the three of them watched through Bremen's eyes.

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