As he said, he had already come into contact with several undoubted Behins who, even though they lacked the kazo state, had nevertheless been able to perform the tasks of life.
They, of course, had stumbled about as their brain did not possess the natural compass, but the methods they learned by watching others had still shaped their behaviour, so that a non-medical person who was not an expert did not even notice the organic deficiency, in the same way as the deaf-and-dumb person who is able to learn to speak from the lips of others, although he would never experience the essence.
So he informed me that I could leave the institute and commence the work of life.
Thus I was dismissed and filled with anxiety with regard to my future. I stood bewildered; I asked what I was to do-after all I was not to know where an employee was needed or where they would be willing to employ me.
He, however, replied that I should go wherever I wanted and I should not expect to be directed. Everyone knew best himself what he was able to do: it would be kazi to interfere in the business of others.
His words, of course, not only failed to reassure me but filled me with the feeling of the utmost insecurity. In my country every school record has an exact and definite value; the citizen knows what he is entitled to, who is the senior in which of the offices, and who among his own friends is on good terms with him. But what was I to do here in this country of anarchy, thrown as I was to uncertainty?
The first problem was where to live. I already knew how to obtain lunch and clothes but I was completely ignorant in matters of housing.
After leaving the hospital I loafed about in the neighbourhood for a number of hours and then went off to the forest. However, the coolness of the evening drove me back.
Finally I took my courage in both hands and entered a house. I thought I would ask one of the occupants to give me shelter for the night. The Hins readily entertained people. (But I really could not call them hospitable.) And just as I had succeed in finding lodgings after my arrival I might be successful now, too.
I went from flat to flat. Of course, none of the doors was locked and the occupants did not even glance up at my entrance. They take no interest in anyone until he speaks. Furthermore they have no knowledge of undesirable guests in the same way as they have no knowledge of desirable guests either.
The first one whose flat I entered was reading and I did not want to disturb him; the next one lay on his bed already undressed. In two flats I found nobody at home. Finally I asked a third to give me lodgings.
"Why?" he asked. "Is there no empty flat in the house?"
"Well, is there?" I asked with interest.
"I am not to know that. Go and see!"
"Well, who keeps a record?"
"Nobody," he replied and turned away.
Had I produced my Belohin certificate I might have received some information, but I did not dare to show it too much, because I had been dismissed as a useful member of the society, and while I was looking for employment, I did not want to emphasize what I did not know. I was left to my own devices so I had to learn everything by myself. I turned, therefore, without a word and went all through the house.
In each and every flat there was indeed someone, or at least the furniture showed that it was inhabited. Finally on the second floor I saw a slip of paper hanging on one of the doors: "I have moved out."
I turned the handle and, of course, the door opened. I looked around but every sign indicated that somebody still lived there. All the furniture — chairs, bed, everything was in its place. There was the telephone, the lamp, and everything was exactly the same as in the room I spent my first night in Kazohinia. Then what did the slip mean?I looked around helplessly, but since for the moment there was nobody to be seen inside, I pulled the bed, which was made, out from the wall and threw off my clothes. Then I went to the bathroom to take a warm bath as I had become quite chilled in the forest.
For half an hour I waited for the host but eventually I became very sleepy, so I went to bed.
It only came to light some days later that the room indeed did have no occupant, and the slip of paper was put outside for that very reason because otherwise nobody would be able to distinguish a vacant flat from an occupied one.
The following morning I had a more thorough look round the room.
Besides the apparatus I already knew, I discovered some buttons on the wall. Each bore an inscription. One operated the air-conditioning, a second the window, a third the ventilator. One button had the inscription "Announcer". I pushed this one, too, and looked curiously around but nothing happened. But ten seconds later I was startled by a voice behind me:
I turned round, but there was nobody near me. The voice had come from a loudspeaker on the wall.
I waited to see what was to come next but nothing happened.
I walked to and fro, pondering my future fate. I lowered the windows and was surprised to see the hundreds of cars slipping along beneath while the elevated railway snaked past above me. And I had not heard a single sound. It was as if I had seen a silent film. In the meantime, of course, the loudspeaker also slipped out of my mind entirely.
Now, however, something clicked behind my back. I turned. A flap door opened downwards from the wall and a small metal cylinder protruded from it.
I went over and took hold of it, at which it came off.
As I turned it over I realized that it could be opened.
When I opened it two smaller capsules fell out. One of them held milk, the other a few pieces of fruit.
Thus by pushing the "Announcer" button I had announced that the occupant of the room was at home.
It seemed therefore that for the time being everything was in order. The uneasy feeling of uncertainty diminished slightly. Why, I could live here for any length of time without having to mix with them-of which I was much afraid. Living among these people one could never be sure when he was breaking the rules of the kazo.
After breakfast I walked to and fro again, almost pleased in the knowledge that I could live in peace. Later it became somewhat boring and I was almost glad when the door opened and a Hin entered.
He was a little surprised, I thought, that the room still had an occupant. But then, unperturbed, he went up to the wall, pulled out a vacuum-tube and cleaned the room with it. The bathroom he washed with a hose, he put my breakfast capsule back into the wall, started the ventilator working and then left.
Silence reigned once more and I set about my investigations anew.
Behind a swing-door in the wall I discovered a large opening, which developed into a chimney-like passage. When I went down to ground level I came to know its function: it ended in a big collecting container into which they threw the dirty clothes. From here, it seemed, the laundry carried them off from time to time. Beside it, however, clean linen for public use was displayed in a wardrobe.
Returning to my room I lay down for a while, but then, becoming bored, I went out and sauntered about the streets between the grey, monotonous walls and ungainly trees. At noon I had lunch in a dining hall and thought about how I should spend my afternoon in order to use my freedom pleasantly.
I thought I would go to the seaside.
When I came to it I walked along the promenade and then climbed a rock. The eternal surge of the infinite sea slowly made me drowsy. So I slept for an hour and when I awoke I was haunted again by the problem of what to do until evening.
Blankly and devoid of ideas I walked for another hour and then sat down on a bench. From sheer boredom I began to twiddle my thumbs. This I practised backwards and forwards alternately.
I got out my watch several times to see when it would be evening so that I could have dinner. I set out for a walk and counted my steps, measuring the distances in every possible direction, and regretted that I had not been able to sleep longer.
I was almost glad when I felt hungry. Eating was always a change. I went back to the town, had dinner, proceeded homewards and in the dead silence I returned to bed.
After breakfast the next day the cleaner came again. He looked at me in astonishment and asked: "If you work in the afternoon why don't you ask them to send the afternoon cleaner?"
I stammered something or other in confusion, this and that — I had forgotten-and he promised that he would report it. After this I made myself scarce and rambled about aimlessly late into the evening. Before noon I managed to sleep for an hour on one of the day-beds at the river bank. I got sleepy even after lunch, but I did not dare to lie down in case I should not be able to sleep at night, which would have been still worse.
Thus the thought slowly took shape in my mind that I ought to commence some kind of work, as idling cannot be endured for a long time.
What could I try? I am a surgeon so first of all I looked for a job within my profession.
The next morning I went out to the hospital and looked for the administrative department. Of such, however, nobody knew-they said the hospital was for curing the patients.
To a Hin who appeared to be a doctor I related that I myself was a physician. I referred to the medical qualification I had gained at Oxford University, but he did not know what that was. I was compelled to reveal my origins, my previous activities, I had to explain the essence of a diploma, but then he asked how people could establish what someone else knew.
"Because," as he put it, "knowledge lives inside the man, there is as yet no way of ascertaining it from without but it is not even necessary as that in which one has acquired proficiency is in any case known by the person concerned. Anyway, as I see it, I have nothing to do with all this. So tell me, what do you want from me?"
"I should like to be given a job here so that I can work."
"That is entirely your business," he replied. "Tell me what it is that you want from me."
Now I gazed. Had I lived among them even for ten years, I could not have become fully acquainted with their complicated customs.
"Understand," I said, "I am a surgeon and wish to work."
Again he replied that that was entirely my business!
"So there is no system?"
"It depends on the faculty. We cure each disease according to its own system."
My patience was exhausted. After all, incomprehension, too, has its limits. I simply stated: "I want to work here and I am asking you to acquaint me with the work here."
It was only impatience that put these words into my mouth and at that time I was not aware that with this I had found the key to the whole of life there.
Without the slightest surprise my medical colleague took my arm and explained the whole equipment of his department and their customs.
This much I can say: although I had seen many wonderful things with the Hins I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined anything like this hospital and while my colleague led me about I was more and more amazed.
It was not actually a surgery. They classified diseases according to a completely different system which was new to me. Nor was it really similar to a hospital.
For when we think of a hospital, we think of clean wards painted white. Looking at the enormous buildings I, too, thought that at least twenty thousand patients lay there.
It only came to light later that the wards, or, as they called them, sleeping rooms, occupied no more than a very small part of the buildings and there were altogether no more than four or five hundred patients.
And this was for two reasons: firstly, as a result of extensive preventive measures, illness is much rarer with them ; secondly, by means of their extremely advanced medical treatment, they recover comparatively quickly.
The largest part of the hospital really resembled a huge plant. Together my colleague and I walked through an endless row of rooms, both large and small; we moved over balconies with rubber floors, and spiral staircases, and then lifts and moving bands whisked us away to the vast maze of machines and equipment.
In a waist-wide glass-chimney yellowish steam wreathed upwards, beneath and over us silvery coiled pipes hissed, motors shrieked, compressors purred, luminous signals flashed, pointers danced; from the eye of a rotating telescope a red beam of light swept over an endless belt carrying steaming bottles. Elsewhere a metal basket floated above our heads with a motionless human body inside. The lid of an immense metal drum opened, blinding flames shot out, the metal basket carried the body straight into the flames and the lid closed.
I was convinced it was a crematorium and was astonished to discover it was a disinfector, and that the flame was not a flame but a radiation which destroyed certain viruses and bacilli but had no effect on the human cells as the patient had formerly been submitted to an immunizing procedure!
These stupidly behaving people are at least a hundred years ahead in therapeutics. I could hardly even memorize the names of their machines and was terrified to think of what I should do here in order that I, too, could work without revealing ignorance lest I should afford them a basis for their groundless national pride.
To avoid shame I lied that I specialized in dentistry. After all, the technology of filling and extracting had perhaps not developed to such a degree of wizardry that I should not be able to learn it.
Crestfallen, however, I had to listen to how there were no dental diseases as the food turned out by the dining-halls under the supervision of physicians was at the same time a medicine which prevented the development of certain diseases, including dental ones.
Now I was only trying to think of a good pretext for making my escape but suddenly my colleague said it would be the best if I worked in the sleeping rooms and assisted at the operations which came closest to my knowledge.
His malicious remark was definitely an affront, but his features betrayed neither malice nor any other kind of emotion. I knew I 'could not go back to dreary idleness and so, though deeply ashamed, I accepted his offer.
I was assigned to a room, and so I put on the white smock and tried to work. Of course I had to ask questions at every turn.
The very first day my colleague asked me my name. I was surprised at their taking any interest in the identity of the employees at all, but it turned out that they wanted to send the technical journals to my address.
When I told him, he said that it was not a name as it had no connection with me!
I was astounded that he dared to make such an assertion. After all who knew better than I what I was called. But he repeatedly claimed I had no connection whatsoever with the word Gulliver; this was no more than a senseless pile of letters, and he would help me to recall my name.
Had they not considered laughing a Behin activity I really would have had a good laugh. He, however, in the most natural tone in the world asked for my date of birth and the address of my flat then, converting my birthdate to their chronology he said: "Well, you see, your name is Zamono Nital."
Open-mouthed I gazed at him. After lengthy cogitation I managed to workout the meaning of my "name". The letter "Z" indicated that the word was a personal name, while the other letters conveyed the data concerning birth, sex and professional knowledge, whereas the second word was my telephone number, which was identical with my address. Thus the Hins, when they change their address, also change half their name.
I wondered why the Hins did not have a name of their own, while he wondered why we had no name of our own but only an irrelevant, senseless pile of letters.
"What is a name for," he asked, "except to give us an idea of the person?"
I retorted that from objective data a person cannot be known as a character anyway. This I could express only in a roundabout way, as they had no word for character, and even then he replied what a strange land my country must be, because there with them everyone breathed oxygen and fed upon carbohydrates and proteins.
But as far as they were from understanding personality, I was just as far from their practical knowledge.
As I have already mentioned, I worked in the sleeping rooms, but my work did not extend to more than nursing.
The sleeping room was approximately equivalent to the concept of our wards. It was only now that I came to know why they still called them sleeping rooms.
They make every patient sleep whose disease entails pain. They drive an electric pin into the nape of the patient's neck, from which he sinks into a deep sleep. The pin is taken out only on full recovery, or at least after the painful period is over. The Hins simply sleep through their sickness, and while asleep they are artificially fed.
Once I took a cardiac case into the surgery, and was amazed to see how they removed his heart. They connected tubes to the aorta, which issued into an electric pump and were kept warm; then they temporarily stitched up the patient's body and the pump maintained the circulation for days, while the heart palpitated in some liquid which was replenished every day. Later the heart was returned to its place.
I had to admit that I would never count as a doctor here. Afraid that they would despise me because of my ignorance, I was ashamed even to ask questions: perhaps I would even be exposed to their rightful malice, as is usual among colleagues. Otherwise in reply to my questions they only gave explanations with an indifferent, inscrutable face, from which I could make out nothing. And to the fact that behind the wooden faces there is indeed no kind of emotion whatsoever, a European cannot be accustomed anyway. I was always looking for the impulses behind them as I scrutinized their features, and from their coldness I concluded that they actually loathed me. And in almost completely incomprehensible contradiction to all this was their unlimited readiness to help me at every stage, without one single smile of goodwill or sign of kindness being apparent on their faces.
Their willingness to help misled me so much that I also tried to win their friendship, but all my efforts in this area were rigidly and uncomprehendingly rebuffed.
They asked me to define more exactly what I wanted because what I, after a confused roundabout description, called "friendship" was some sort of abstract concept and consequently it could not be given.
I said in vain that I only wanted somebody to be with me, support me and converse with me; they asked what he should do and what he should converse about; they would do anything as long as I said positively what I wanted.
Regardless of how much I had already heard of them, I still received their words like those of lordly aristocrats who use a polite pretext to exclude an intruder from their circle. I looked upon them as on undecipherable diplomats, perhaps precisely because I had become accustomed to unenigmatic faces covering the greatest psychological complexities.
My position, which was in any case rather awkward, was made extremely unpleasant by the differences of knowledge and society. When in the surgery the scalpel gleamed from one hand to the other soundlessly and with the precision of clockwork, I was merely jumping around them like a scalded cat, and shame made me blush all over my face whenever a voice cut into the stony silence, as it was always meant for me.
And it was in vain for me to browse through the trade literature which the dispatch-tube regularly delivered to my flat — as far as I was concerned it might have been written in Martian. The whole consisted of algebraic expressions, even for the medicines; their effects were not described, only their chemical properties, of which I did not understand a word. And my colleagues were like the sphinx.
If they had at least scolded me, I would have borne everything more easily. But the detached educating tone, concerning which I never knew what lay behind it, this vacuum-like intangibility of their soul was getting on my nerves.
My situation was made utterly intolerable by a dreadful event which completely unsettled my Christian and humanitarian outlook.
We visited a dying patient. My colleague examined the sleeping man, and then called another physician, who examined him again. Then the first stepped to the medicine-chest and handed a phial to me to give him an intravenous injection.
As soon as I had injected the contents of the syringe into the patient it was my greatest horror to find that death ensued with an immediate stiffening.
I rushed to my colleague, asserting that I had not been the one to change the injection, and he, with complete composure told me that no change had taken place, the person in question had been a hopeless case and his life had therefore to be ended, so I should phone the Conveying Department.
I staggered. I was a murderer!
I stammered out a few words asking what the people belonging to him would say to such a procedure, but he replied that only a suit and a pair of shoes had belonged to him, and such things were always burned for reasons of hygiene.
And people perished without anyone shedding a single tear for them! Nobody knew his mother and father, nor did parents .know their children, and as soon as the dying patient reached the point of death he was considered no more than rubbish to be removed!
"So you are able to deny the fundamental aim of the medical profession?" I asked once I had more or less pulled myself together.
"What kind of aim are you thinking about?"
"To maintain life up to the last possible moment." My colleague stepped nearer to me with interest.
"Is that the aim of the medical profession in your country?"
"Why in my country? Everywhere. No other aim can even be imagined."
"That's a mistake. The aim of our profession is to save man from suffering. And of course, if at all possible, to give him back his health. And if that is not possible, we end his life without pain, not to cause him unnecessary suffering and ourselves superfluous work, which energy we would be withdrawing from treating others where success would be certain."
Although these cruel words were already enough to hurt my humanitarian feelings, my colleague went on: "Besides, there are cases when recovery can only be partial and would entail a life of suffering. Especially when the patient loses a part of his body for which there is no perfect substitute. For instance, if we are to remove only his heart or a lung, it can easily be replaced by transplantation or by an artificial heart or lung. Even an ear can be replaced by an artificial one which can be attached to any functioning nerve, and within a short space of time the patient will learn to hear again. But the replacement of eye, for example, is only at the experimental stage, and the photoprotheses issued up to now can only be attached to an intact optic nerve and visual centre. It is even worse when somebody loses a leg and he would have to limp with an artificial leg for ever. Obviously such a patient's life would be ended while sleeping."
I trembled with horror.
"I only wonder," I said, "that anybody dares to go into your hospitals at all."
"Why would he not dare when he knows that from the minute of his arrival all his suffering is over?"
"And the life instinct?"
"You must mean the vital instinct inherited from animal life. This atavistic attitude also existed here some thousand years ago, but today our instincts have, of course, adapted themselves to our present circumstances. You have mentioned that a tooth can still decay in your country. You know what pain this entails.. One feels that the aching tooth should be pulled out, and indeed the decayed tooth will in no way cure itself, so it would only be logical that with the pain of the decayed tooth should go the pleasure of the extraction. Instead of this, the tooth reacted with racking pain even to the slightest touch, protesting against the only possible cure. So even in nature there is inconsistency."
"But the life instinct ... "
"That was just as inconsistent. The patient, even raging with pain and in a completely incurable state, still insisted on his life."
"Because it is a natural instinct."
"That was appropriate to primitive conditions. Our civilization, however, changed our environment and our way of life. If our instincts adapted themselves today to the ancient environment and were not selected for the type of man suited to the present environment, this would indeed be unnatural, as an internal contradiction would destroy our life."
"And this is why you put people to death? This is the real contradiction!"
"This is why we don't commit murder. Under primitive conditions people had to fight against each other for food, while today we ourselves produce it. If our primitive instincts had not developed along with our civilization, we would still be killing each other today, whereas for food we must not kill but support each other in production. Yes, we would kill, without even knowing why, under artificially concocted pretexts, but by keeping the hopeless patient alive we would compel him to continue suffering. Well, this would be a contradiction."
"You speak of contradiction when you serve life by ending it?"
"The opposites are not life and death but life and suffering."
"Why, then, do you cure at all? If your aim is purely to avoid suffering, why don't you put the new-born baby to sleep and then immediately to death? After all, going by your principles we inevitably arrive at the conclusion that the most perfect being is non-being. And, indeed, in non-existence there is no contradiction, while in your thinking there is no end of them."
"We have made life safe and abundant and it is worth being born into it and recovering. The patient is brought to us by his healthy instinct which is adjusted to the environment because he knows that we shall cure him and bring him back to a painless life and, if his future life is threatened with suffering, we shall cure him by giving him a painless death. Your hospitals, on the other hand are torture-chambers left behind by a primitive age. I wonder that anybody has the courage to enter them."
Of course, his words not only failed to convince me: I became even more horrified by this rigid and ruthless way of thinking according to which human life was not one bit more sacred than that of beef-cattle. Indeed, it is only a soulless creature that can without protest tolerate that the individual's most elementary right to life be trampled into the dust.
I could not stay there a minute longer. I rushed out and travelled a long way from the towns And where nobody could see me, I threw myself to the ground and begged the Lord of Heaven to forgive the immeasurable sin in which this heartless, vicious and murderous race had involved me against my will.
With this, however, the cup was full. Somehow I had to switch over to an occupation which might fall within my province but where I would at least not be required to kill.
In the end, an excellent solution presented itself as the thought flashed through my mind that I should matriculate at their university where I would be able to spend my time as a passive student. With this I not only thought I could solidify my position among them and dispel my boredom; I was also mainly led by the thought that later when I returned to my country I should be able to do valuable service to my country and Christian civilization if I could give back life to those of our soldiers who at that time seemed hopelessly wounded.
According to my rough estimation if we were able to extend the life of every British sailor even only twice before final death in action, His Majesty's Navy would be able to cause about seventy per cent more casualties to the vile enemies of my country and civilization.
I told my colleague that I realized that my knowledge was incomplete and I therefore wanted to study further at the university and asked for his consent, to which again I got the reply that that was my business. So I announced my withdrawal, my post was taken over by a Hin, and I went to the university.
I went into an enormous complex of buildings where all kinds of schools were grouped together. I could not even establish what belonged to the school and what to the other houses in the street. We are accustomed to finding that buildings which are grouped together are closed in by fences. Now the Reader should imagine a group of houses with gardens, which are neither separated from the pavement nor divided from each other by any visible boundary and there is no difference between street and yard.
To this very day I do not know on what territory I was standing when I caught sight of a man pushing a handcart with a male corpse lying on it without any shroud.
I started at the sight but I was already accustomed to finding no shame among the Hins, so I reconciled myself to the situation — indeed I was glad of the chance to find' the medical faculty by following the cart.
Along I went after it. The cart approached a door which opened by itself. We came into a corridor.
To my great surprise I saw quite small children in the corridor, but the Hin pushed the cart along among them without any emotion. Some of the children did actually turn their attention towards it, and followed the cart with interest.
This was too much for me to accept without indignation.
And this was only the beginning! The real surprise ensued only when the Hin pushed the corpse into a room. On three other, tables in the room three human corpses were already lying, surrounded by innocent tots of both sexes!
And in the rubber-gloved hands of the children there were knives with which they dissected the intestines and private parts of the corpses without the slightest awe.
This astounding sight quite took my breath away.
I turned to an adult who was explaining something to the children. I asked whether they were to be physicians, although that in itself appeared strange to me that they were inculcated at the age of seven-eight years with what in civilized Europe was revealed to the developed mind only at the age of twenty.
I was given the answer that they were not yet learning any particular profession — only the fundamentals necessary for life. The physicians were in the other building.
I could not help posing a question. "Then under what pretext did the corpse get into the hands of children?"
To this he replied in the most natural tone in the world that teaching commenced with this. One had to know one's own body first of all.
This obscene and vulgar trampling down of the children's innocence filled me with such a disgust that I left the room without a word and no longer felt any interest in the faculty of medicine either. I would rather do without their science than suffer this frivolous outrage of the human soul even only as a passive spectator.
The next days were again marked by hopeless boredom. As soon after breakfast as possible I had to leave my flat and take to the woods. If rain or cool weather drove me in to town, hanging about the streets was even more dull. I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people and still I felt perfectly alone.
My only pleasure was to watch my stomach — whether I might be able to eat something. Hunger and its appeasement were the only variety in my life.
If I was sitting I stood up, if I was standing I sat down, and was continuously thinking about what I could while away my time with. Regrettably the pen can only describe the horrors that actually happen, although it is more horrible than all of these if nothing at all happens, so to those of my Readers who are surrounded by the colourful and varied British public life and have no knowledge of this, I depict it in vain.
I was exiled into nothingness. I should have looked for an occupation but was unable to participate in their vicious and inhuman life. I wanted work that would be naturally independent of their offensive customs and which I would be able to learn without any special grounding. Something, at any rate, I simply had to do, because things could not continue in this way.
Great Britain is famous for two things: for her navy and for her textiles. The Hins have no marine service but they do have a textile industry.
This was how I came to think I could be a weaver. At that time I still foolishly believed that it would dispel my boredom.
Why should I bore the Reader with details? After all, such things don't really exist here. Life here does not take place, it only is. When one has been born, one is until one dies, then others are.
I asked for the address of the textile mill (there is only one of each type of factory, though this is colossal) and found it.
I found myself in a very high, twelve-storey building with glass walls, which extended farther than the eye could see, and there I told the very first Hin that I wanted work there. (By this time I had managed to acquire the style.)
They assigned to me a master workman who took me by lift to the seventh floor. This consisted of one single vast room about half a mile long -but only twenty paces wide in which approximately ten thousand very strange but completely identical power-looms were running. Between the endless rows of machines there was a wide corridor. We proceeded on a soft, springy rubber floor, the ceiling was one single butter-yellow, porcelain-like surface and on both sides the sunshine, subdued by being filtered through the opaline walls, produced decidedly the most perfect lighting I have ever seen.
The master conducted me to the machines and explained how they worked.
Everything went very easily. My work consisted of looking after sixty power-looms. The warp threads came down above through the ceiling to the machine; the supply was never exhausted because up there, by some procedure unknown to me, they were being spun continuously. Practically my machines consisted of shuttles whisking to and fro and I had no need even to change the bobbin as it was transported by an endless band also coming down from above to the shuttle magazine. If the thread ran out it was replaced automatically.
At home this factory would have been considered a real wonderland.
I do not know what kind of material they used, but while I was there no thread breakage occurred at all although the shuttles worked at least five times faster than at home. Their impact frequency surpassed the work of the most accomplished drummajor.
When it was ready the textile then flew through the floor to the finishing shops where, through the rows of shearing, washing, ironing, brushing and other machines, it passed down from floor to floor, then to the tailors' workshop, where a squeezer cut the forms at one single pressing and let them down to the 'sewing' shop, where a machine that replaced the sewing machine, proceeding along the edges of the cloths, glued the pieces together. This bond was stronger than sewing.
The raw material for man-made fibre was pressurized up to the twelfth floor through a pipe, on the ground floor they loaded the finished goods from handkerchief to winter-coat into trucks, whereas I had only to see to the smooth running of the machines and replace any worn out parts.
When the master saw that I had acquired the knack of it, he pushed a chair under me and left.
In the immense room extending farther than the eye could see I had about a hundred colleagues all working wordlessly. There was no supervision at all. Most of my companions were sitting,' nor did they stand up when the master appeared, which surprised me not a little, and I drew sad conclusions concerning their discipline compared to that in my country where, in appreciation of the value of order and labour discipline no seat is made even for the tram driver.
With them, it seemed, it was only important that the textile should be made, that they should have something to wrap around their soulless bodies and for the loftier social aims that distinguished man from brute beast, they did not care a fig.
I could not help smiling at the thought of what a soldier would have made of such a soft sybaritic Hin. I was downright sorry for a strapping lieutenant-commander who might have wanted to make men of them.
So this was where I was to spend my life.
In the early days I was not even bored because, although I did not dare to ask questions, purely from watching them I came to know a lot about them. At the very outset I saw that everything worked there by itself. Nowhere could I perceive a central directing force and yet some invisible bond united the big machinery into a clockwork of the utmost precision in which there was not one dissonant movement; in none of the workshops were there too many or too few workers. No record was kept of the material; they just processed what was furnished by the initial production unit which in turn adapted itself to the capacity of the clothes depots. Also the scope of the individual's activity evolved according to mutual agreement; there was neither election nor appointment, everything was done by the individual himself and still there were no disputes.
I did ask how they could maintain the balance without arranging and directing organs and they in turn could not understand how the balance could be maintained if any external will meddled in the business. According to them everyone had his own kazo sense.
To me kazo appeared a sixth sense, yet they never mentioned it as an ability but as self-evident reality.
"Why should an organizing force be necessary?" they asked. "Anyone who knows the difference between an ironing machine and a spinning machine will not be in the least likely to arrive at the idea of ironing with a spinning machine."
They did not even understand what I had asked.
My new place of work was, however, in the town and my flat on the outskirts near the hospital. So I had to look for a new one. On the very first day after work I set out to find a new flat but in the houses nearby none of them was empty.
Finally a brilliant idea occurred to me. After all, I already knew their customs a little.
In one of the nearby houses I entered a flat and told the Hin who lived there without the slightest introduction : "I wish to live here. Move out."
My Readers should try to imagine this happening in Europe! But I knew that with them there was no order, and based my calculations on this fact. And I was not disappointed.
The Hin without the least surprise or resentment asked: "Why?"
"Because I work in the neighbouring weaving mill and this flat is more convenient for me."
The Hin said he worked at a dining hall in the third street from there. He found my proposal kazo, stood up, yielded the flat and moved out, perhaps only. to force someone else out of his home in the third street from there in the same concise and simple manner.
The removal consisted of his putting a tooth-brush, some soap and two books into a suitcase, throwing his bedclothes and underwear into the shute for dirty linen, and then he left, abandoning all the furniture, lamp, telephone, dishes, coat-rack, and gymnastic apparatus, as in the next place he would find the same; only the tooth-brush and the soap are not passed on for reasons of hygiene.
I cannot deny life among the Hins also had its sunny side, but even so there is no bloodless philistine in Europe who would endure this environment.
Their way of life always reminded me of distilled water although it is clear, distillation has extracted from it the salts necessary for life. One drinks and drinks and it still does not quench one's thirst.
After a few days I sank once more into deadly boredom. The machines in the weaving-room workshop buzzed the same monotonous buzz every day, my companions wordlessly did their work; if I asked them anything, they discouraged me with brief, official answers. Conversation was virtually out of the question. I performed my uneventful work with reflex-like movements while the soul-killing Midsummer Day's humming of the machines really got on my nerves.
I became weary of roaming about the bleak, undecorated streets which were afforded no variety by a statue, a column or at least an archway. The streets were numbered by characters: "ab", "ac", "ad", "af", etc. (transliterated, of course, to our alphabet). They were all the same, and each was exactly perpendicular to or parallel with the next — with parks among them at regular intervals.
Shop-windows and advertising are unknown here — there would be no point in having them anyway. Only over a few doors could be seen the laconic inscription "clothes depot", "cold food", or "electric articles", but inside there was not a single soul except the drawers of rations (for I cannot call them buyers).
This was the street as it was by day. And in the evening everything was desolate.
There were no theatres, cinemas or restaurants. Alcohol was known only as a medicine, as far as religion was concerned they did not even know what it was and if I had mentioned it at all, it is absolutely certain they would have taken me for a Behin.
At ten o'clock darkness fell on the streets. At night no kind of factory operated, and I had to go home, to the empty flat, where at best I lifted the dumb-bell, but having nobody to compare my strength with, this, too, became infinitely tedious.
Summer followed. One day I noticed that several people went about naked in the street; some wore sandals on their feet, and from their shoulder hung a bag on a canvas strap. The first I took for a madman, of another I thought he was a nudist. Finally, pulling myself together, I asked one, but he did not even know what the word meant, and hurried on.
But then why did he go around naked? What kind of a sect was this whose ribald whims offended against public morals?
Finally I also put this question to one of them, but he seemed to misunderstand me, because he said it was warm.
Shaking my head I remarked that whatever the essence of their fad might be, nudity would be gravely punished in my country, at which he stared open-eyed and asked me how we could avoid nudity, as under his clothes everyone was naked.
I did not even condescend to answer his stupid question, so he hurried on, and I became convinced that however strict discipline seemed to be with them, citizens still could not be left completely without reins because, as the example showed, without public order, even in the most disciplined society the licentiousness of the primitive animal comes to light, and sooner or later plunges culture to ruin.
Nevertheless in a few days nudity also appeared in the factory. Every day more and more workers, both men and women, came in without clothes. Fortunately nobody forced me to follow this indecent fashion. I merely followed the example of those who put on lighter clothes, with trousers coming down to the knees, leaving only the calves uncovered.
Many times I went down to the sea, where lots of people were lying, walking or bathing on the splendid beach. Most of them were naked here, too; they were in the same condition even in the tram. The only thing they carried with them was a strapped up, flannel-lined raincoat. They did not take any thing else knowing that food could also be obtained on the beach; they did not smoke, and latch-keys did not exist. Every one went separately and wordlessly.
Much as my sober European outlook found this frivolous and licentious custom deeply repulsive I cannot deny that to begin with the fresh women's figures, steeled by sports activities, awakened desires in me. After a few days, however, nudity became so habitual that I took no notice of it, and women not only failed to be more desirable, I might even say they lost their charm. I realized that I was more intrigued by those women whose bodies were covered by the exciting veil of clothes. In nakedness, there was simply nothing interesting to appeal to a man's imagination.
But why did they undress?
For me this was the last novelty in Kazohinia. Now I knew all about their life, and from then on my life sunk into boredom.
For books I looked in vain because, as the Reader already knows, apart from technical, medical, physical, and chemical works, there was nothing. As for a work that might have had something to offer the soul, they had no idea about that.
Perhaps I need not even say they had no newspaper either, unless I counted as a newspaper the trade journal "Textile Industry" which appeared at irregular intervals, in which the factory laboratory informed the workers of the development of new processes and which the dispatch-tube forwarded to my flat. This was my only reading, which I skimmed through of necessity, but I was even more sick of that than of my life.
Slowly I began to loath the Hins. Not as if I had not loathed them up to then as well, but this feeling gradually became unbearable. When they passed by me tongue-tied or imparted to me with the most official brevity what they wanted to tell me, I felt an irresistible urge to slap them on the face just so that something should happen. I looked for pretexts to address someone. I asked the number of trams, streets and addresses as it was only to such questions that they replied.
My Readers, who have experienced no more than a taste of boredom, cannot even imagine what absolute boredom is like. With us boredom is known only from abortive summer holidays when the citizen of a big town "rests" his nerves in a room in a peasant house in a dusty hole at the back of beyond, and by the third day he is yawning and realizes that it is much easier to go mad from boredom than from the most nerve-racking work. Notwithstanding that, even in the remotest village something happens; if nothing else, the Sunday service, an occasional game of cards with the parish priest or the chemist, a wedding, a game of skittles in the restaurant, a fight or at least some gossip.
Here, however, there was nothing. There was no friend, enemy, pleasure, grief, rank, rich, poor, creation, progress — in short, no variety. Or to put it in another way — no life. What is life if not the difference between yesterday and today and expecting something of tomorrow. To stop is to die.
Zatamon was right: they had indeed been successful in eliminating contradictions, and levelling everything out. In this "life" there were no peaks or valleys, love or hatred, white or black, only the infinite dead vacuum, over which the migratory bird fell dead. They had eliminated light because it had existed only together with the shadow. But how can we see if everything is equally bright? And if everything is silent, what are our ears for? Emptiness deafened, blinded and paralysed me. I was completely alone. Neither in the mill nor outside did a single soul speak to me. I could not play a game of cards, as they did not know how to play. I thought of painting cards for myself and playing patience, but where was I to hide them? Why, my flat was cleaned daily, and if they noticed my cards they would take me for a Behin.
Once I lost my self-control and began to hum a tune by the power-loom. My companions ran up to me anxiously and I immediately fell silent. I had even to mind my breath.
I should have liked at least to live together with somebody. Only that there should be a living being in my room, even if he did not say a word. Bot nobody lived in one room with others, and I could not even bring up the subject.
The only thing my empty room was good for was having a good cry in the evening after I had carefully closed the door. At such times I pressed my face into the pillow and wept so that my heart almost broke. But I had to take care that they did not hear it, and it did not ease my mind either.
I paced about like a caged beast of prey looking for air and life. Here I stood, in the biggest possible prison; I was free in vain — the air around me was not free. I withered away without companions, in the country of Nothing between the endless funeral dirge of the power-looms and the deadly silence of my room, where my life energy was being wasted in an empty existence without once being able to say that I had achieved anything.
Once I caught a cold and lay for three days with a fever, and, believe it or not, for me sickness was a pleasure. Because finally something happened — even a doctor came to me to inquire after my condition.
Of course, he offered to have me taken to hospital where I would regain my health in the radiation oven in ten minutes.
I did not agree. I answered that my condition was not so grave, that I would also recover from it this way, and that he should only send me an extra blanket and examine me every day.
He shook his head and voiced his surprise at my insisting on such an obsolete cure, whereas in half an hour I could if I wanted go back to the factory in full health, but he consented and visited me on two more occasions.
How I needed a little affection! But I recovered, the pretext for visiting me disappeared, and restored to health, I became more ill than I had been with the fever.
I saw in despair how the days passed one after the other, squandering the short human life. They merged hopelessly into each other so that I did not know whether two months or two years had passed, for they had no calendar in our sense either, there was no Saturday, holiday, anniversary, event, party, disaster, one day disappeared emptily after another without any landmark for the soul to catch at.
Once when it occurred to me that perhaps I would eventually have to die here without living one single day I was so shocked that when I arrived home I could not fall asleep. My agony began with bitter sobbing, and then despair so overcame me that I could not control myself any more. With a horrible fury I ripped apart the pillow that had been pressed tightly to my mouth; I sprang to my feet and, tearing my hair and beating my head with clenched fists, I wanted to smash all the pieces of furniture in my prison to smithereens.
At that time some great strength of mind still restrained me from committing any thoughtless act but I felt that it was the final test for my self-control. If some change did not take place soon, terrible things would follow.
The next day I could hardly wait for the working hours to be over. I took the fast line, hoping that the speed would perhaps fix my attention, but I had to associate the speed with different colourful, wild situations — that the jaws of hell were before us and I was the driver, shooting with hundreds of women and children into damnation. I ran to the forest, and where nobody could see me I bellowed at the top of my voice and ran as long as my lungs and muscles could take it and then in wild anger I dashed against a tree and stabbed at it repeatedly with my pocket knife.
But I felt that even this postponed catastrophe for no more than a day.
On the third day I acquired a car from the garage (this, too, was common property), drove it away, and smashing into a tree I broke it so that I fell against the wind-screen and my face was injured. The next car stopped unprompted, took me away, and at a breakneck speed shot with me to the town and while they dressed my insignificant wound the driver phoned to the garage to haul away the damaged car. Then, seeing that I did; not need him, he left me.
Even in their dreams they would not contemplate the idea that anyone would touch something with anything but goodwill and competence. So they dismissed me without a single prying or reproachful word, making me promise that if I had the slightest trouble with my wound I should report immediately. And once again there I stood aimlessly in the torturing silence, all alone and with nobody to care for me.
And whatever I did, I could do it only to myself; whatever I did, nothing ensued. I kicked over the traces in vain, there was no point as there were no traces. It was as if I were pummelling the thin air. My life cried out without any echo and I had nothing to hold on to. I hovered in space where there was no upwards or downwards, forwards or backwards, only the unsatisfied desire for life kicking within my numbed being. Without resistance there is nothing to win, there is no excitement, there is no life.
And I saw clearly that of all my troubles loneliness was the most unbearable. There was no one to love me, to take care of me. True, I did not have the worries they would have entailed, but that was all the worse. I needed someone to hold my hand and protect me. True, there was no enemy, but I would have preferred to have one. Maybe Zatamon was right in saying that love could only be brought into existence together with hatred. However, the void had to be filled with something, as it was unbearable in itself because there was no existence in it.
It occurred to me that one never set out for the Sahara alone. Not because of the dangers, but because human nerves cannot tolerate absolute silence, which in nature they generally never experience. I felt that my efforts were but the futile panting of the passen ger in a rising balloon, which cannot keep up with the thinning of the atmosphere.
I had to cling to someone, I had to snatch at a hand as I felt clearly how I was drifting day after day towards an abyss from which, if I once fell into it, there would be no recovery.