One shouted that I had incited against the throwing out of food which would have meant them starving to death, another that I had protested against the removal of my spirituality by which I had robbed others; that I had stubbornly insisted on wearing my old shabby clothes by which I had made a public scandal; I had made mockery of the kipu, denied the joy of the thorns, and with the fanciful ideas of the most exaggerated false doctrines had poisoned decent public life, I had wanted to plunge the blessing of civilization into blood, flame and filth. Like one enormous buzzing beehive they whirled around me howling:
"You incited against common sense!"
"You claimed the circle was round!"
"You referred to your eyes in opposition to anebas!"
"You slandered the spirituality-giving betik!"
"You wanted to feed on spirituality!"
"You upset public peace! You stirred up strife with false doctrines!"
"You denied the bikru's tenets!"
"You fed a woman!"
"You didn't feed a woman!"
And as for me, shutting my eyes, I acquiesced in everything and peacefully expected charitable death which would at last relieve me from the tortures of the raving. I gave a sigh of relief when they finally lighted the firebrand and took my leave smiling at the crazy herd stamping their feet with rage whose howl melted into one horrible cacophony with the cries of death from the hillside.
And then a strange thing ensued.
Several cars drove in through the gate containing Hins, with gas-masks on. The Hins kept their hands on the jet nozzles mounted on the cars. White smoke puffed from the nozzles. They drove straight towards the hill.
I began shouting at the top of my voice. The bystanders immediately covered my mouth and grabbed me by the throat but, fortunately, they were too late.
One of the cars turned out of the line and moved at full speed straight towards me.
At, the appearance of the Hins the situation immediately changed. Everybody present, including the betik, snatched their right foot into their hand, and they outvied each other in shouting, "Vake! Vake!"
They respected the Hins very much even though they loathed them which, however, does not appear to be paradoxical for one who knows their mad ways; for it was not knowledge and good heart that impressed them as is usual among educated Europeans but roughness and crass brute force. And, after all, the Hins kept them in their power.
The Hins got out of the car, unbound my ropes,. helped me into the car and handing me a gas-mask rushed on.
All this took place in almost no time. I could hardly recover for sheer joy. My happiness was even more enhanced by the fact that I discovered Zatamon among those sitting in the car. I could not control myself any more. Weeping for Joy I grasped the liberating hand; I did not even care that my gratitude made no visible impression on him.
With tears in my eyes I told him of my sufferings and entreated them to take me out with them for I had not only failed to feel myself a Behin but all my limbs were still trembling on account of the monstrosities I had been exposed to in that upset and deranged world.
Zatamon did not react with more than that this was the nonexisting life, the kazi which I had now had the chance to experience.
Although I did not fully understand what he meant by that, I could state with a clear conscience that I had never before realized so profoundly the wise and patient majesty of the kazo after the time spent among these raving madmen.
By this time our car had reached the hill and cut straight through the ranting masses. The massacre had just reached its peak. Blood flowed like water.
Here and there was a square or a circle fastened to a rod. The knives flashed, in the throats howled brute fury, or the blood of the cut open throttle gurgled. The whole runaway bedlam bellowed, whirled and killed. Horror came over me at the thought that I, too, had two hands and two feet like them.
Now we all put on our gas-masks.
The Hins rushed among them with strong gas jets. The gas was ejected from the nozzles whistling under the enormous pressure. In the meantime some of the cars had surrounded them so that nobody could escape.
The raving lunatics lost their consciousness at the first breath, and one after the other dropped to the ground, but even while they fell they held on tightly to their knives, their eyes flashed, and even in the last wild rattling, words were formed by the grinding teeth: "Bikru! Sanity! Aneba! Buku!"
When the last one had fallen asleep, the Hins got out, collected then, and put a strait-jacket on each. It was then that I saw the Hins shudder with horror for the first time: when they got out onto the ground they had to step into pools of human blood.
Now consultation began. They all agreed that there was no point in experimenting with these any more and it was desirable to bring all the fighting Behins to an end.
It was I who interfered, explaining to Zatamon that probably not all of them had killed of their own accord. I referred to my own case and suggested that the incurable ones should be separated from those who were not beyond cure.
The Hins seeing that I spoke sensibly in spite of my being a suspect of Behinity, accepted my opinion. They, even asked me what method I held most suitable for selecting: the less sick ones.
I recommended an election. The whole Behin settlement should vote to show who was in favour of the buku.
I had to explain the essence of the election in detail as they did not know and could not even imagine that there could be any question concerning life relating to which people had different opinions, as the fullness of life could be lived in one manner only. They were only aware of scientific differences of opinion where, if the litmus turned blue, the contrary opinion of a hundred scientists was disproved.
The Hins accepted my suggestion and agreed that with regard to my experience among the Behins and my sufficiently sound approach, they would commission me to arrange the ballot and, so that nothing should take place in an unnatural way if possible, the extermination of the hopeless ones, too, would be entrusted to themselves. Those in favour of fighting would be led to a closed field and there they would be provided with knives so that they themselves could exterminate each other. The Reader can imagine my pleasure at such a pleasant change at last occurring in my sad life.
Now a lot of trucks came in. When they reached us they stopped and the Hins jumped out. Taking hold of the sleeping Behins they put them one by one on the truck, on whose platform air-beds had already been laid. This precise organization again filled me with admiration. Why, they had no kind of public organization, it was only the kazo that held them together in a firm unit — firmer than any artificial legislature.
The Behins were then transported to the hospital which was already equipped and waiting for them, though even so they were laid crammed together partly on beds and partly, on air-beds on the floor.
It was the injured who received attention first of. all, and then each was given a tranquillizing and strengthening injection. When they had recovered consciousness, after some hours of observation, they were again ordered to board the trucks and were transported back to the Behin settlement where they were set loose.
And I was removed from among them, and I could once more take my place in the Belohin institute, where at last I was given clean clothes, I had a proper bath and shaved myself, the electric hat cut my hair, I was deloused, with electric machines they massaged my contorted and crippled limbs, on which the red traces of the rope still showed, and at night I retired to a soft bed, satisfied, clean, in a silent electrically heated room. Nobody disturbed me and nothing threatened me, the morrow was clean and sure. I felt it was the ultimate in pleasure when I stretched myself out with nothing to worry about.
I may safely say it was the happiest day of my life.
I wanted to merit the Hins' appreciation as much as possible; thus I organized the election with great zeal. The next day I went in with ten Hins and two gas cars to the Behins. Our appearance elicited great respect. All the betiks turned out to meet us, they united and took- their copper cubes off their knees and holding them in their palms repeatedly offered them to us, which the Hins of course did not understand, but I saw that it was meant to be some honour or sign of submission. For me it was a great satisfaction to see the betik who had sentenced me offer me his clumsy rubbish with frightened humility, mentioning among much murmuring bruhu, aneba, ketni, kona, and other idiotic nonsense.
When he wanted to slip a yellow pebble into my hand I strongly felt like taking him by the scruff of the neck and stuffing their "nourishment" down his throat, but I was afraid that the Hins would form an unfavourable opinion of me and my kazo turn of mind.
So I issued the order that all the Behins should gather together, at which those present ran away in all directions and in ten minutes everybody stood around us, konas and kemons separately of course eyeing each other with ferocious hatred.
And I announced to both parties that the next day there, would be a vote about the buku, and they would be given a free hand in their internal affairs.
After this we left.
The next day ballot was, indeed, carried out, separately on kona and kemon territories lest they should start a fight.
However, the result was a surprise to all of us because., almost without exception, they clamoured for the buku. This particularly touched me on a raw spot as the Hins might draw the conclusion that the vote appeared to have been superfluous.
I tried to talk to the Behins one by one, in private. When I asked why they wanted to rip open the bodies of their fellowmen, they all replied that such an intention was far from them, they only wanted to see the boeto ensured through the buku.
And I told them in, vain that the boeto was but a word, and. the essence of the thing was after all only pain, suffering and death. They replied that it was just the opposite.
"Suffering", they said, "is but an episode, only on the surface, while the boeto is. the sense, essence and inner content of things. He who doesn't feel it is colour-blind, someone who sees only the surface and has no sense of the essence that signifies the content of life."
They asserted without hesitation that the essence maintained life, for which — it was even worth dying!
When I called their attention to the inherent contradiction they replied that the life of the community required that individuals should die for it.
They were convinced that the community could live only if individually all were to die.
Between the pronounced word and the mind there was no connection at all.
Therefore I argued no further but announced that whoever had voted for the fight, would be allowed to fight to their heart's content the next day in the free buku. They would be led to the hillside, provided with arms and allowed to fight against each other, while those who had no wish to fight could remain at home.
Fortunately I had thus far had sufficient opportunity to experience their inconsistencies, otherwise I would have been very surprised at the murmur of discontent that received my words.
Regrettably, however, much as I was accustomed to their inconsistencies, I could not get away from my sound logic sufficiently not to think about it at all. So even now I looked for an explanation and thought that cowardice induced them to balk when it came to putting their enthusiasm into practice.
Now I was already very ashamed of myself before the Hins' and was anxious about my position because of this run of failures.
After a slight hesitation I even mentioned my uncertainty. to the leader of the Hins accompanying me, lest another failure should make them believe I had not reckoned with anything.
I was all the more pleasantly surprised when he replied that it seemed I had made their acquaintance in vain, for my brain was too kazo to understand them, or more exactly, to get accustomed to them, because, naturally nothing could be understood the essence of which was senselessness.
What the Behins talked about that night, I do not. know. Perhaps nothing; and the surprises that came the next day are also to be attributed to their peculiar madness, a special characteristic of which was that though there was no consistency, in them, in a wondrous way, each was inconsistent in the same manner.
So, the next day we drove those who wanted to fight to the hillside.
They, of course, closed up their ranks in two stiffly separated groups and turned their back on each other.
It was characteristic of the Hins' naivety that when they saw this they suggested that we should perhaps take the groups one by one and distribute the knives first to one group and let those of the other group fall upon each other only when the first group had exterminated each other.
Stifling my smile I had to explain to them that neither group would fight within itself, as for each the presence of the other was necessary. This they did not understand, of course, and asked why it was not simpler for them to stab at those nearest to them, as they were going to stab each other anyway. I answered with the airiness of a very experienced man.
"The one group is kona, the other is kemon. They fight only if they come together."
It was only when the Hins looked at each other that I realized what a "senseless explanation" I had given, though after some thought, I myself admitted that it was indeed incomprehensible why it was not possible to commence the massacre on themselves. Thus I remarked that Behin things I could explain only in Behin, so they should not expect more of me.
Our cars confined the Behins within a large circle. We handed out the knives to them and finally I announced that the buku was open.
And then I saw in astonishment that the Behins did not budge.
Our cars were standing all around, we were all provided with gas-masks, holding the jet-nozzles ready; and inside the two groups of adversaries, some twelve hundred men stood motionless.
One minute, two minutes, ten minutes passed. The Hins looked at me questioningly and I was in the greatest perplexity.
However before long a man on the kona side climbed onto a tree-stump and delivered a speech to the others.
"You may perhaps believe," he said, "that the Hins are now supporting us in achieving the boeto and now we have the opportunity to wage buku for boeto life and peace."
"You are wrong. In our ketni deeds, the Hins do not see the profound essence of life, but take them for senseless fights. But how could this bivak crowd ever perceive what can only be breathed in by living and warm lungs in which sacred respect for the anebas and the boeto is alive, while empty and cold lungs remain far from it and- lose their direction in the emptiness of the desert. Respect for the anebas and the bikru is the unshakable point that gives content and aim to our life, which distinguishes the Behin from the brute Hin; this is what steels our arms in the noble buku, this is what makes the sons of the behas bumbuk, happy to sacrifice their lives for the boeto and the salvation of the knife."
Bumbuk means murderer, but I must point out to the Reader that they had more than one expression for this, depending on whom the murderer killed, because in their soft-headed opinion they did not despise all murderers equally, and the bumbuks were even esteemed. As to the meaning of this word, however, opinions differed, and I could by no means understand it all. For according to the konas, bumbuk was one who had killed a kemon, and according to the kemons, one who had killed a kona.
Then he continued. "Respect for the salvation of the knife and the anebas is the source of life of the behas, without this our fate would be death and ruin. (Thus they seriously believed that they would have died if they had not massacred each other!) Let us therefore foster in our lungs higher ideals, and steadfast devotion to the bikru and the anebas. A true Behin lives or dies with his knife and boeto."
After this came much senseless jabber, but I have no wish to impart it to the Reader, particularly because I could not even remember so much nonsense.
I could at least make out that treachery had taken place. He claimed that we had held the salvation of the knife up to ridicule, and that by our procedure we made the noble buku appear as if it were a common and aimless coming to blows, and now, as in an arena, to public ridicule, we pitted the bumbuks against each other like cocks. The defence of the boeto was not a puppet show but the salvation of the knife.
"Behins!" he shouted. "Don't you see that their aim is not that we should have a share in the salvation of the knife, but that we should destroy each other?!"
(I give up! Is the salvation of the knife not the destruction of each other?)
"Because," he said, "while we bumbuks would stupidly have killed each other off this could only be utilized bye the lamiks who in a treacherous and perfidious way shirk their duties towards the anebas who await only that the cream and pride of both behas, the noble bumbuks, should perish to the last one, so that then the well-poisoners of the kona and the kemons should be able to unite the two behas. And do you know what will happen if the two behas unite? The beha itself will cease! All the anebas circle, square will cease, and every feat that distinguishes man from the beast of prey will be trampled into the mud!"
Angry outcries were to be heard.
"We won't allow the anebas to be destroyed!"
"Not this or that aneba is concerned here," the speaker went on, "but the very existence of the anebas and the order without which the noble bumbuks would have nothing to live and die for and the salvation of the knife, which a ketni man has to defend from bloody destruction by some furious lunatics. For what would it be worth if we lived and there were no anebas? We must now unite against the common enemy, and not slaughter each other as it would not be buku but hideous butchery. So let's make peace, go home and put to the knife those lamik traitors who, wanting to evade the bliss of boeto while looking on from safety, might watch the noble bumbuks bleeding like miserable puppets for public ridicule, so that afterwards the lamiks' ignominious machinations might destroy the behas defended and preserved for us in hundreds of bloody bukus by our ancestors."
The speech was received with frenzied applause, the two camps mixed in no time and among ardent scratchings of each other's posteriors they vowed friendship to each other against the lamiks, for what point would there have been in dying if it was not prohibited.
The two mortal enemies ceased to be enemies at the very moment when they were threatened by the danger that in the future they would indeed not be enemies, and they immediately made peace lest someone should create a real peace. The Behins' peace may serve the fight only.
Put down in this way, it sounds so tortuous that I do not even try to explain it. Even while describing it I feel that should I have to go on analysing it, I myself would become completely confused.
The Hins, of course, did not understand a word of all this, except that the Behins did not want this either. But what did they actually want? I myself did not understand them either, but had forebodings of danger and I recommended the Hins to put on their gas-masks.
No sooner had this been done than a delegation came to us requesting that we should let them go home as they did not want the buku.
The Hins listened to them in bewilderment, but I hastened to enlighten them on the Behins' intention and advised them to put an end to the whole company as things were hopeless.
They received my words with some aversion. Naturally, from the naive Hin point of view it was difficult to understand why it meant still greater danger if somebody did not want to fight. A lengthy conference ensued. It was so strange to see the Hins hesitating. They who were so miraculously balanced and decisive in the matters of their own life. In the end they decided that everybody could go home but the knives had to be laid down.
This decision was received with an infernal howl.
From the surging one of the loudest suddenly emerged and jumping towards my car shouted foaming with rage, "Here is the traitor! He has brought ruin upon us!"
And he spat at me not caring that my hand rested on the push-button of the jet nozzle with which I could disable him in an instant. However, as I was afraid that the Hins might not understand I did not dare to use the hose.
An infernal howl accompanied the words. Fists rose against me.
Finally one of them yelled, "Why are you hesitating? Are you afraid of a lamik? To leave a lamik alive is tantamount to breaking our knives with our own hands!"
A murmur of horror was the reply. A torrent of abuse was hurled at me.
"It is you who outraged the boeto!"
"It is you who undermined the ketni!"
"You have spoiled the child's bruhu!"
"It is you who defiled the bikbam!"
"You have destroyed the peace!"
And the leader, taking advantage of the general feeling and outshouting everybody else, bellowed, "He is the one who used the knife for the most ignominious purpose!"
The crowd flared up — a mass of foaming consternation was the response. One even pronounced it: "For eating!"
The lunatics burst into an ear-splitting roar. The speaker hoarsely tried to outbellow the crowd.
"That's it! Do you know what this lamik does with the knife? He eats! Eats! He outrages civilization! Why are you hesitating? This will be the real buku! After me! Vake!"
With that he rushed towards me, leapt on to the running board, the knife flashed but I managed to push the button of the jet nozzle a fraction of a second earlier.
A burst of gas roared out. It swept the Behin off the running board like a ball. He fell prostrate in a faint.
The others, utterly infuriated by the sight, yelled even more noisily.
Many of them leapt towards me at the same time, I could hardly defend myself with the jet-nozzle. Before long eight of them lay near my car. The crowd fell silent for a moment.
And now a strange thing ensued.
In the middle, a betik held up a square fastened on a pole in one hand and a circle in the other. And the crowd, snatching their right foot in their hand burst into an unearthly howl.
Tears shone in their eyes, and then, as if at a given signal, they all began to sing.
I could not help it. The atmosphere, in spite of all its oddity, was so touching that it carried even me away, though I knew that all this was directed against me. I feared that their behaviour — stupid though it was and yet elevating — would win the Hins over. I admit, I was anxious both for my position and my life.
The song came to an end. Now one of them shouted out, "After me! Even if all of us should die, the behas and the boeto will live!"
And waving his knife at me he started forward. The crowd as one man flashed their knives high and followed him.
I was thoroughly bewildered. What should I do if I lost the sympathy of the Hins? The weapons were unequal to such an extent that not only was I myself ashamed of the mass destruction, but being aware of the Hins' humane turn of mind, I knew that they would prevent me from carrying it out, and then I would be lost.
And on the lips of the crowd the song resounded again and, with circles and squares held high, they walked towards me like the first Christians might have walked to meet the swords of the gladiators. I would never have believed that lunatics could be so enthusiastic about aimless and senseless obsessions.
They were no more than a few steps from me and in a fit of despair I squirted out the gas at them hoping to put them to flight.
But as soon as the first few had fallen, the others, following the rhythm of the song, steadfastly continued. More and more Behins fell and the crowd came in serried lines towards, me jumping over the unconscious ones.
Suddenly, to my great surprise the Hins' cars moved into action; gas spouted from every jet-nozzle.
All this happened simultaneously, without a single word of command.
The mass took fright and retreated, but the Hins gave no quarter. They advanced. The surrounding circle tightened; the white cloud whirled and rolled along. The Behins tried to escape, but the Hins cut off their line of retreat with jets of gas. They gathered again in the middle, and the song resounded anew.
However, the Hins were now in no mood for mercy. It wrung my heart to see how they sprayed the gas cold-bloodedly into the crowd, who were now giving up the struggle.
The Behins collapsed one after the other, the song became fainter and fainter. Suddenly the circle and the square held near each other also wavered. The one who had held them collapsed but immediately they were snatched from his hands by others who held them high until they, too, fell. They passed from one pair of hands to the next, until the last one stuck them into the ground and finally, he, too, broke off in midvoice.
Silence conquered the square and my eyes bulged with tears.
But it was only now that the real horror came. The Hins changed the gas, put a different mask on me, and then flooded the crowd with the new gas. I noticed in alarm that the chest of the people lying on the ground ceased to rise and fall. I wanted to cry, but the mask prevented me.
Five minutes later they again changed the gas; this they squirted about at random, then everybody took off their masks. This last was probably a neutralizing gas.
The cloud was so thick that to begin with I could not see anything. It took some minutes before it became somewhat clearer. A heart-breaking sight unfolded before my eyes: on the two poles stuck into the ground the circle and the square shone, around them one thousand two hundred corpses covered the ground.
After the howling rage of madness, an oppressive silence weighed heavy on the field. The Hins untied and removed their masks, and took down the jet nozzles without a word. The gloomy silence of death lay heavily on my chest. Or was it perhaps that of the Hin life?
As soon as I could speak, I asked Zatamon what had been done. With his usual dry composure he replied that they had annihilated the Behins. To my question as to who had ordered them to do so, he answered in surprise that no orders had been necessary here. Any man in his right senses could have seen that they had to be exterminated. Then he explained that whoever ran into death while he was in full health was a hopeless raving lunatic and entirely worthless to society.
I can assure the Reader that I felt very grieved about this rigid way of thinking but I could not do anything.
After this I withdrew to my room and buried myself in my thoughts.
I thought for a long time about the unfortunate Behins, and finally came to the conclusion that whatever terrible things they had perpetrated, they had been unaware not only of the horror of their deeds, which would be unbecoming even to madmen, but also of whether they had indeed done this or that.
Poor Behins, they had run and run, chasing after castles in the air which they were not only unable to reach (as it is impossible), but they did not want them either, because as soon as they found the path to one thing, they immediately wanted something else.
The Behins' life is absurdity itself, impossible to put into practice. Something may have been gnawing at their nerves making the living of life impossible for them. Their life was without meaning, just like their words and struggles.
Indeed, it was better this way, and only this way did it make sense.
But alas! And now my heart sank because poor Zemoeki and Zeremble occurred to me. Perhaps they, too, were lying now among the many Behin corpses. Two poor fanciful fellows, at whose follies I had sometimes laughed and sometimes become annoyed, and whom I had perhaps lost for ever.
It would have been difficult though to account for what I had lost in them, but after all, they had nonetheless been my friends and a feeling heart could not so easily forget such ties.
I went to bed that evening with a heavy heart and decided that I would not brood over things but relax thoroughly during the days to come.