Seeing their cleverly attentive glances and in spite of all my earlier experiences, the desire to approach them awoke in me anew. That day I felt this desire even more keenly but when I was about to speak, I was held back by the knowledge that if they were to refuse me on this particular day, my increased tension would reach breaking point and I would be carried away by stupidities. I was walking the promenade for the tenth time and evening was already closing in when bitterness drove me from their circle. To escape temptation and deadly disappointment I clambered up the rocks.
The air was soft and spicy, the moon had slowly emerged from the water, broken into a thousand pieces on the waves, and gracefully performed the nymphs' dance. The sea washed against the beach with its ceaseless murmur and then, dividing into thousands of pearls, fell away from the rocks. In the distance strange birds were wheeling and crickets chirred beneath the long-tressed trees. My heart was full to overflowing with intoxicating desire, the will to live. And below, the Hins were walking, sitting or lying alone and wordlessly, not deigning to cast as much as a glance at the poetry of nature.
Then I was cut to the quick by the knowledge that over this wide expanse of water, far away, my friends were chasing the Jolly Joker in the club; the speakers in Hyde Park were expounding their views of the world; ladies were hurrying to the theatre in enchanting attire, and in the streets glittering neon signs advertised the latest stars.
Helplessness twisted my heart. I struggled against myself for a few minutes longer, but by this time I was weak. I had to admit I could bear loneliness no more.
I scrambled down from the rocks, and all traces of my former inhibition disappeared.
On the beach there were already fewer people walking. On one of the benches lay a woman. The light one-piece suit made even more obvious the harmony of her clean Aphrodite-face. It was she whom I approached. She addressed me: "Don't make me get up. The next bench is unoccupied."
"I don't want to lie down," I said firmly. "I should like to talk to you."
At this she immediately stood up.
"What do you wish?"
I pointed at the sea.
"Do you see the ocean? Do you feel the atmosphere of evening? Don't you find this rather pleasant?"
One feels extremely awkward with this deficient vocabulary in which there are only such imperfect words for things exalted and elevating. With them, everything was simply kazo and kazi of which I was already sick and tired whenever I even heard them.
"Yes, I do," she said. "It is pleasant. What do you wish?"
"What do you wish!" I said impatiently. "Nothing! Warmth! I should like to get closer to you!"
"Are you cold?"
"Not in the least!"
"Then why do you say so?"
Seeing those vacuous eyes it came back to me how a woman had pulled off my trousers in front of the clothes deposit and I was convinced that here every woman could be had for money.
But in this desert where was even money to be found? What a pleasure it was at home to buy gifts for our ladies of pure and fine spirit! What a happy feeling it was to deprive ourselves, to make sacrifices for someone beloved and to see how her heart filled with love towards us. But here everything was ready-made, everything was the property of everyone, there was no money, there were no gifts, no sacrifices. How did a man love here, and why did a woman love?
"I don't mean that kind of warmth," I said. "I simply want your closeness. I want to hear your voice... "
"Why?" she broke in.
"For your voice itself. I want to have somebody to whom I can talk not out of necessity but for amusement, about trifles, to make our life more pleasant."
"How do you mean that life would be more agreeable if we deprived it of its sense by empty conversation?"
This reply was more characteristic than anything else. The main impression of the whole of my stay here was that technique and perfect hygiene were present in vain, as the whole had no aim, the whole had no why or wherefore. And for them this life meant life and they regarded ours as senseless.
But I already thirsted deeply for pleasure and beauty.
"Tell me," I said in a trembling voice, "don't you feel at times that you need someone who appreciates you, someone to whom you can relate what pleases and displeases you; someone who is for you more pleasant than the others? I need somebody very much, to hold; someone to whom I can nestle close and with whom I can exchange tender words, and whose voice would quench my thirst. Look at the moon as it dances on the waves divided into a thousand pieces, look at the millions of stars, the evening, the sea, this endless night which drives people to each other and opens hearts to each other... "
"I don't understand," she interrupted. "Stop it! Time is passing without purpose whereas I have a wish."
A new quiver filled my limbs, more and more I was feeling that this disappointment would be fatal and the inner tension would burst its limits.
"I am at your disposal," I said trembling.
"My desire has awakened, and apart from this I have still to give birth to two children. Are you available for sexual work?"
I gazed at her vacuously. I did not want to believe my ears.
"Well, isn't that what I've been speaking about?" I asked and you could have struck me down by a feather.
"No," she replied in an educative tone. "You spoke of the sea, stars, moon and night."
I was taken aback. I had reckoned with everything except this. And although I could have danced with joy, the quick confession produced strange, dissonant after-thoughts in me, similar to those I had felt when I heard that to one of the steep crags of the Alps, the tourist dream of my youth, a cable-railway had been constructed.
Oh, how much sweeter were the kisses that I had taken from the lips of our tender girls in times past, at home, with whom I had talked at first about the theatre and fashion and had then come to the point in an exploratory manner only weeks later with both of us blushing partly from shame, partly from desire.
How sweet and thrilling was the feeling of reaching what is far away, opening what is closed, chasing the hunted prize, until finally the gentle creature, after lengthy protestation, shut her eyes and panted "No! No!" — and gave in. How is it possible to love without all this sweet struggle?
Desire, however, prompted me. Why, I had been thirsting for beauty for so long that even a morsel was a royal dish.
And lest I should also lose her, I began explaining that what I wanted was far from being the opposite of her aims but a much more complete and perfect form of them.
Zolema (later it came to light that this was her name) looked at me inquiringly, and gently pulling her closer to me, I continued: "Imagine that the sun in the sky gave only light and no warmth."
"Without the warmth of the sun, human life would become impossible!"
"It would, wouldn't it?" I said enthusiastically. "Life can really be lived only in its fullness because if any of the components is missing, it is no longer life."
This also Zolema found an unobjectionable and sensible statement in perfect harmony with the kazo and I was glad to have found a bridge to their armoured soul and began talking to her of the attraction that warmed hearts and made couples of men and women.
Who could possibly describe my pleasure when I saw that Zolema listened to this with gleaming eyes! Her attentive face came closer and closer to mine, she breathed more and more passionately and then...
But it cannot be described so simply! What happened was something like when the rope is put on the condemned man's neck and then the letter of reprieve arrives.
How it happened I do not know to this very day but suddenly our lips met!
And Zolema did not resist...
Not only did she not resist but it was I who had to ask of her that we should draw aside somewhere.
"Why?" she asked.
"Somebody may come."
"Anybody may come. It doesn't matter."
"But I don't want anybody to see us. I want to be alone with you."
My blood was throbbing, I was not in any mood to enter into new explanations. I asked her to come with me to the rock, otherwise I would not be able to comply with her wish. Zolema pointed to a nearby house.
"I would rather go there."I agreed but was in a hurry. When we reached the house, Zolema led me into a regular flat which was like all the others. Inside, a Hin was sitting at a table having his supper. Zolema sat down on a chair, the Hin did not even turn towards us.
Some minutes passed in silence. Finally I asked Zolema: "Now what are we waiting for?"
"For him to finish eating. You see, he is hungrier than we are, so it would not be kazo to interrupt him."
I was compelled to wait. The minutes passed with nerve-racking slowness. The Hin eventually finished and began to tidy away the plates one by one, when Zolema interrupted "Leave for a few minutes."
Now he turned towards us.
"When shall I come back?"
"Take a seat on the bench in front of the gate. I shall let you know."
The Hin left, Zolema pulled the bed out of the wall, unfastened her clothes and without any prelude threw herself into my arms with such ardour that I must dispense with detail.
At that moment I felt the whole of my life there had been nothing but a nightmare, because, behold, I had found the philosophers' stone, the panacea, the Soul! Every single drop a of my blood was in exultation. Emanating from the end of the dark tunnel with royal brilliance came light, voices, flavours, and in my heart resounded the soaring symphony of life!
(I assure the Reader that with regard to the moral aspect of my behaviour I, too, had felt the pricks of doubt, but it occurred to me that officially I would be announced missing, presumed dead, and if our laws and general practice found no fault in the living partner in marriage entering into a new relationship how much more right had the dead to do so!)
Regrettably my pleasure did not last long.
After a quarter of an hour we left. Zolema told the Hin sitting on the bench that he could go back, and I asked her who the kind host was.
It came to light that she did not even know him and that that was the first time she had seen him.
"Then how did you dare to lead me in and send him out?" I asked in surprise.
She looked at me.
"You wanted nobody to see us, and you wanted to be alone with me!"
"And did he just at a word leave his flat?"
"Of course. You heard me ask him to do so."
I gazed silently.
Zolema, referring to the lateness of the hour, said she wanted to go home.Naturally, I offered to see her home, at which she asked me why I did not go to my own flat. When I explained that I would accompany her only as far as her flat, she briefly said that there would be no sense in my going out of my way. This reply started an avalanche of problems in me. Had it been said by another Hin I would have ascribed it to their emptiness, but after the antecedents I knew Zolema to be quite different.
So she was afraid to be seen with me! Perhaps she had somebody else!
I looked deeply into her eyes and asked her to tell, me sincerely why she did not want me to go with her.
"Why should you come with me if we do not need each other any more?"
The innocent sincerity with which she said this, to my intense regret, convinced me of the situation. It partly reassured me, but at the same time it also threw cold water on my earlier belief.
But I did not give in. I felt that Zolema was the last experiment for me, and I could not let this hand drop. With heavy heart, I had to revert to the old method, using my Belohin certificate. I may say I never loathed a piece of paper more than then. This reversed death certificate that certified for the dead the unfortunate fact of my being alive.
But then I still believed it was Zolema in whom I would find everything if I did not lose heart prematurely.
So Zolema remained with me to teach me, and waited for my questions.
And I in turn, drawing my hand through her arm and leading her to the seashore, spoke scintillatingly of the beautiful feeling which in my homeland was called love, and which was the summit of goodness and devotion.
Zolema said that this, in such a form, was a little confused. I should expound in more detail how devotion manifested itself. She asked for concrete facts and I, in turn, explained, that due to a rising feeling we gave all that we had to the partner we had found and devoted ourselves completely to her.
This Zolema called a very unfair procedure because — as she said — why should the beloved deserve more from us than others? I told her in vain that the partner, too, gave us everything she had, and what pleasures were caused by the mutual exchange of gifts. She drew only the conclusion that two people were associating in order to take something from other people and give it to each other.
"It's a mistake to think that," I replied. "The poorest people also do so; they most certainly do not take from anyone else what they give to each other."
To this, however, she answered that there was no point in it, because what would we have gained if she had given me her clothes and I had given her mine.
"The stress is not on the practical value of the objects,", I tried to explain, "but on the love which accompanies them, and which fills our souls with contentment."
"Then I definitely don't understand. If I ask what is love for, you refer to the giving of things and when I ask why we should give, you revert to love. But where is the starting point that makes both things logical and necessary?"
I gestured desperately.
"It is essentially himself that the lover gives, and it is love and not sale and purchase."
Zolema became lost in thought.
"Then it is even more incomprehensible. To give something means that we part with an object which we hand over. But how could I hand over myself to you and part with my own self?"
"In the way that you were mine just now."
"Everybody belongs to him or herself. It cannot be imagined any other way. My hands, feet, and head are mine, and such an expression that somebody belongs to another would have no meaning."
"But you gave me your body."
"How have I given it? I still have it."
"I see you don't understand. Love is not an equation which can be proved."
"Then why do you deal with it at all?"
"Just because. The equation would have been solved long ago. But let me tell you everything. With us a certain feeling of want, similar to hunger, is innate with man, which makes us sick if we do not satisfy it."
"In the warehouses... "
"Don't interrupt me! It is not to be found in the warehouses. It can be given only by you. Don't look at me in such a surprise, yes, only you can give that. Because you are good, you stroke my hair, take my arm and talk about all kinds of things."
"Of what do I speak?"
"All kinds of things. This is our springtime, isn't it?"
"It is summer now."
"But it is spring for us."
"Speech is for communicating existing things. How could I possibly communicate using it for something which does not exist?"
"But it does. Perhaps for the moment you do not yet understand, but if you can once come close to me, you will admit it. Come now, don't jump against my chest so, in itself it has no sense at all. Everything has to be kindled by itself."
Zolema promised that so far as my recovery depended on her, she would do everything, and asked that I as a physician should describe what she should do and how, about what she should speak and how, and whether it would be possible to work it out in advance for a month that she also should have more time to rest.
"Stop it," I said irritably. "It must come from inside."
A bitter dissonance mingled with my former, intoxicating, blissful mood, but on the other hand I felt that she did actually love me, though only subconsciously. How could she know the name of love if she had never heard it? However, I knew nothing for certain. She was mysterious, and this seemed to incite me all the more. Suddenly I felt I would be able to force Zolema to love possibly even with a blow.
To regain my lost mood, I turned off the road with her. We climbed the rock that hung out over the sea. On its protruding summit, we settled on the fresh turf.
The silent night was above us, the sea murmured beneath; a mild breeze fanned our faces with its intoxicating salty scent. Moonflowers shook their heads all around. There was not another soul in the vicinity, most of the Hins had already gone home. Zolema's naked leg touched mine; slowly my spirits returned.
Suddenly I embraced her, lifted her, and sat her on my lap. When my hand brushed her breast I felt that she breathed more impetuously. Intoxication overcame me again.
Picking a moonflower I put it on her bosom. She kept silent though her heart beat more quickly.
Stretching my hand towards the moon, softly, with my eyes shut, I commenced to hum the Barcarolle by Offenbach.
No sooner had I sung two or three bars, when Zolema's excited question interrupted : "Are you perhaps unwell?"
"No. I am singing."
Again I became unsettled. This, too, I had to explain. But, possibly, there was still some inclination in these people towards the beautiful and noble, only they did not know. Perhaps I would be able to save a soul from the desert and it would be mine.
I commenced to explain the essence of the song. I began with the chromatic scale.
She was unable to comprehend what the whole thing meant, why we called musical sounds only those that were in a certain, arbitrarily defined vibrational relation with each other, and what need there was to distinguish the sounds from each other in this way.
And once she understood the essence of music she exclaimed: "But then it does not even exist!"
This was their general response. She could not understand why we had created things that did not exist in reality, so that something else could further be created from them.
"What is the point in grouping the sounds according to such contrived rules?" she asked.
"Because music is beautiful."
"And what does beautiful mean?"
"You equate one meaningless word with another, which, it seems, you need, because none of them has anything to do with reality. What benefit do you get from the arts?"
"Art is for itself, and the contradiction that art has no reason for existence because it cannot be eaten could only be made by an uneducated person. If it changed into bread and butter it would not be art any more."
"On the contrary, it is only man that is for himself. Any human creation can only be for man. The uneducated person is one who believes that it is worth bothering with things that exist for themselves, and even to adapt human life to them."
"You only think so because you were not educated in art. You were not imbued with a feeling for it."
"One must be educated only for untruths. One snatches one's hand from the fire by oneself, and would only believe that a piece of copper is nourishing if one is educated."
Of the tonal scale she considered that it was as if we grew fruit for its scent or wanted to taste the sunray. Sound is for communicating thoughts, not for continually creating unjustified systems from and building another non-existent storey on top of it, to wit, music; on which we then ruminated and debated as to whether the musical composition in question was in compliance with the rules created by ourselves, which in fact did not exist, as they were only imagined.
I heard her out patiently, let her have her full say. Why, she did not know anything! When she had finished, I again set about my beautiful soul-building work. I spoke about musical instruments. On the violin she heard me out; at the horn, however, she remarked that it seemed to her that we did not know about silencers by which even the most ear-splitting noise could be reduced to a tolerable level.
We were back at the beginning again. Now I had to bring it home to her that we made music intentionally. This was quite a task. When she finally understood, she fell into deep thought.
"The noise of the machines in the factory is not enough so you also set up separate noise-making machines?"
I enlightened her that music was not made in the factories,, but after work; from the peaceful parks came the sound of promenade concerts and the enchanting tunes which reinvigorated the heart.
This she simply did not want to believe. She said that to spoil the refreshing silence of the parks with the noise of machines was as barbaric as if we were to have smoke-generating machines between the bushes instead of enjoying the fresh air.
"So," she said, "you must have moved so far from reality into the mazes made by yourselves that you not only think the non-existent exists, but vice versa."
"What do you mean by that?"
"For instance, that it is better to die than to live, that starvation is pleasant... "
"Don't think such stupidities about us!" I cried but she continued:
"... that the fevered patient should be put on ice, shoes filled with pricking nails, the thirsty offered vitriol, that sexual activity should not be performed whenever we wish and with the person who presents himself and is capable of it, but according to other, fabricated regulations; that society is not for us to eat our fill and live in comfort, but for us to die or suffer privation for it."
In spite of all her coldness and alien manner I still felt love for Zolema more and more. Slowly I realized that I was hammering with my fists on barren walls but it was at least some exercise for my flaccid brain, which I had yearned after for such a long time, and that was precisely what kindled the flame in me. Her manner somewhat recalled the coldness feigned by our chaste and well-behaved girls who pretended not to understand and knew that by enhancing the desire in their chosen partner they could induce him to make a proposal. For this reason I became more and more attracted to her. She was mine and yet she was not mine so I had to win her, to reach the distant, to open the closed, to chase the fugitive. At that time I had not yet guessed that among them there was no fugitive, closed or distant.
I also told Zolema my belief to which she replied that for this very reason perfectness remained closed and unattainably distant because we only felt like chasing what was distant and what was unattainable and their existence lasted only until we reached them. At that very moment, they became unattainable and empty because we ran not for the aim but for the running. She voiced her suspicion that we also imagined and projected into the distance things that were nearby in order that we could live out our senseless habits in this way.
At that time I still did not believe her. I only felt I had missed something but did not know I had missed it because I had it.
In a 'roundabout way I tried to acquaint her with the happiness of the heart. I described what complete and happy satisfaction could be derived from the knowledge that we had a soul-companion with whom we could unite and find understanding.
Zolema listened to me attentively, then asked what understanding was called in our language.
"Because," she said, "if private parts are called understanding, what word expressed understanding itself, and why was it necessary to call something by another name?"
I was astounded.
No words had ever missed their target more than mine. The Reader who from the foregoing perhaps considers the Hins somewhat strange but basically good-hearted, kind persons, certainly cannot even imagine how many unkind, even coarse features are hidden behind the seemingly clean Aphrodite faces with the high forehead. I may say, I had not come across many seamen in the dockland pubs of Liverpool who could have matched the weaker sex among the Hins in being outspoken.
I tried to explain that understanding was not what she had thought, but the concept of the union of souls, from which she drew the conclusion that the word "soul" represented our organs.
And when I finally managed to acquaint her with the actual situation she became deeply sorry for our women, who, it seemed to her, were languishing among males who were no more than lunatics, and in response to their desires received only non-existent and stupid phantasms.
"So with you," she said, "if a woman decently and honestly calls upon a man for sexual work, instead of satisfying her according to the justice of the natural world you will talk to her of 'heart', 'affection', 'understanding', 'companionship of the soul', and other nonsense."
These thoughtless words filled me with anger, and it was only my good manners that made me realize that I was faced with a lady. So I had to content myself with attempting to give a true description of the virtue of our patriotic girls, who — as befitted their good education — first of all look for affection, chivalry and decent character in a man. I explained that only an uneducated woman might commit such an enormity as to place bodily desires before spiritual things.
After a short while she asked whether my parents belonged to the educated or to the uneducated classes.
Though the question had not been phrased in the most polite form, I tried to explain without any resentment that my good parents were the offspring of the best families, whose good manners were beyond any shadow of doubt.
At this she asked how we multiplied. Coming to know that it happened in the same way as with anybody else, she again did not understand the beginning. She told me not to continue because the matter was only becoming increasingly confused.
What caused the greatest suffering for me with Zolema, however, was that she never smiled at me. It was what I would have liked to achieve, and the knowledge of futility and powerlessness filled me with despair. It was now that I understood the essence of hopeless love : the lover does not actually want one particular woman, but to reach the ideal through her, and that he is not able to win her over to this drives him to impulsive actions.
One question gnawed at me. I should have come out with it, but I was ashamed. I felt awkward and childish like one who gives his heart and in the midst of humiliating himself and entreating, receives as the only response from his partner the shock of objective soberness. I could think only in my own European terms and try to explain such a coldly immediate attachment from a woman, so the Reader cannot be surprised at my imagining other scenery behind the action. (We cannot imagine the world without scenery and painting.) It was in this way that jealousy arose in me. "Maybe she has someone," I thought. "Why, the instinct has not disappeared from them and it is impossible that attraction should not also be present in some form."
We set out homewards. For a long time I walked beside her in silence. When we reached the tram stop, the question burst from my lips: "Tell me, do you have a relationship with somebody?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"The tram is coming, let's get on."
So she had secrets which she did not want me to know!
While we were getting on, thousands of suspicions flashed through my mind, I imagined the most adventurous things and decided I would not let her be elusive. After getting off she would have to confess everything.
And as for Zolema, we had no sooner sat down than she quietly commenced to give me a list of the people with whom she had performed "sexual work", and remarked that she did not remember most of the names as she had not asked them.
Everybody around us could hear her. I was burning with shame and public humiliation, the words smashed me like so many axes. I should have liked to disappear from sheer shame, although not a single face turned towards us in the silent tram.
At first I tried to warn her with a wink, but she did not understand this. I was compelled to ask her not to continue, at which Zolema immediately and without the least surprise fell silent and did not utter another word.
However, when we got off, I blazed forth at her in reproaches. I openly told her that her behaviour had been most improper and if she wanted to help me she should not do such things again.
Of course, now, she did not understand the beginning. Why did I ask if I did not wait for an answer, she queried. Coming to know that I objected only to publicity, she stated that it was now definitely beyond her comprehension as to why she should observe such complicated rules, which made no sense to her, but nevertheless she reconciled herself to the fact that I was a physician, so asked me to prescribe the cure more exactly, what she should do and how, and she would act accordingly.
With this of course the sense of powerlessness became even keener in me, and to avoid further mental blows, I hurriedly took leave of her, asking only to let me meet her every day, to which she agreed.
I did guess something. Why, I had been told openly and plainly several times that for them there was no personality to which individual feelings could be attached, therefore love could not exist, or, to put it another way, their love was not of this world, so I could never reach it. But at that time I still could not imagine it, as we cannot imagine beings who become warm in the cold, or put on weight as a result of starvation, or lose weight because of eating.
Everything simply appeared illogical and unimaginable. Tossing and turning at night in my bed, I wanted to assemble the factors into a logical, compact and organically connected whole. In vain, because even though a colour-blind person may be persuaded by teaching that colours exist, a real feeling for them will never run in his blood, colours will never be a part of him.
The next day we met again at the beach. The conversation was slow to start, but I could not keep my feeling to myself. I complained with excited words that I had not slept.
I asked her to do the things that need to be done at such times to make me feel better, even if she did not know love to stroke me and run her hand through my hair, and above all, not to think of any man except me.
Instead of answering she asked why I had said that love was sympathy while I wanted not to support but to hinder her in life. Then she expressed her opinion that if we in Europe behaved in such a way towards the beloved woman, we would probably prevent those who were not loved from all sexual work.
These words hurt me deeply. Trembling with excitement, I asked her not to say such things. I made a vow to myself to try my best to fill her being entirely, so that finding everything in me, she would settle down and I should make further searching unnecessary for her.
With this, however, she wanted emphatically to disagree.
"You yourself have told me," she said, "that you are ill. So if love is indeed sympathy, you should have supported me in finding a man more perfect than you."
"Silence!" I cried, covering my ears from the inconsiderate words. "You don't understand! You don't understand, so please don't speak about it!"
She, however, replied that, on the contrary, it was her duty to teach the Belohin — otherwise there would be no sense in our being together.
And with this she also began explaining that my behaviour was not only kazi, but I would also have compelled her to act in a kazi way, had I wished her to refuse any: man who might have wanted to perform sexual work with her.
I was unable to control myself. My lips were trembling. Suddenly, becoming mad, I slapped her on the face with all my strength. Zolema clutched at her face and looked at me in surprise. "You!" she said. "But it is smarting! Why did you do that?"
I could not bear it any more; I ran away. Zolema made no attempt to call me back. I knew, everything between us was over. I was in a prison with closed walls where I cried in vain and there was no understanding.
I had no idea what might follow. My brain was torn to a hundred pieces. I hated Zolema; her loathsome confidence made me furious to an extreme. In feverish pictures I imagined how I could put her to shame, though I knew it was impossible as their emptiness was invincible. Then suddenly without any transition I hated myself for not being able to understand the situation and draw the appropriate conclusions and not think of her, or at least not in that way.
I do not know myself whether it was homesickness or the unconscious desire, the passion that compels one to return to the very places which recall the most bitter memories that drove me to the seashore the next day.
And then, unexpectedly, I again caught sight of Zolema. My heart leapt to my throat and I did not know what to do. Finally, to avoid shame and an embarrassing situation, I wanted to disappear in a hurry, but she ran after me and called to me to stop.
Blushing all over in shame and embarrassment I stopped and she stated in the most indifferent tone that she had come at the usual time and was at my disposal.
With downcast eyes I asked her in a roundabout way whether she was not angry, and she asked me quietly to explain why I had hit her.
From her voice it could be felt that she was not angry and did not even suppose that I had hit her out of anger. Anger was kazi for them and they considered it as absurd as if one of our scientists intentionally wrote five in his calculations as being the result of two times two. He would have been either wrong or a fool. For them anger was no more understandable a concept than love.
"Why did you slap me?" she asked.
"Because I love you," I answered in a hollow voice.
"Do your people beat those you love?"
With some difficulty I explained that this love is different, from which she drew the conclusion that it seemed she had to remain with me. This made me very glad, although she had said so because she found it her duty to cure me of my "disease".
After some thought she said that it seemed to her that some error had slipped into my therapeutical course of treatment, as since we had been experimenting with it, my state had not only failed to come closer to the kazo, it had moved even farther away from it. So I should rely on her and she would acquaint me with "reality," with work, with the laws of the kazo, in brief with healthy things.
She asked me to call upon her in the factory where I would see how interesting creative work was, and how unnecessary it was to deal with such aimless and harmful things.
I myself would certainly have preferred — if I could not see other human beings — to lose my own human characteristics, to become blind and deaf, since with a human heart I could not endure life in this atmosphere.
The next day I found the factory. It was a long, narrow building from which small auxiliary buildings branched out. I was led down the corridor of the long building. Innumerable doors opened one after the other; finally we went through one.
Zolema, who was alone in the room, stood with her back towards me and kept reaching into a trough which extended from the left from the neighbouring room and passed through the wall on the right.
When I arrived she turned and with her rubber-gloved hand beckoned me to step nearer.
As I went forward, my glance fell on the trough and I shuddered.
A male corpse lay inside, partly dissected. From his head the „hair was missing, his mouth was cut up to the ears on both sides so that his lower lip fell on his chest. All his teeth had been removed and the enormous, gaping mouth with the horrible wounds which remained in place of the teeth looked as if, in an agony surpassing all hells, some apocalyptic howling were bursting from it.
The skin of his body was slit open from his chin right down his whole length; the ribs, the stomach and the intestines were visible.
One of the eyes of the corpse had been removed, while the other looked at me with horror. I had to turn away. I grasped Zolema.
"What are you doing here?"
"I am preparing the eye," she said with the same dispassionate objectivity, exactly the same tone that I had always heard here among these wooden people.
"Look at it and listen to me," she continued. "When someone dies he is delivered here. This is the corpse processing plant. First the corpse is observed for three days in order to make sure that it is not a case of suspended animation. Then it is given a narcotic injection so that if the person were actually still alive he will not awake. Following this, processing commences. In the neighbouring building,. hoofed animals are processed, then follows the buildings for birds and for fish. From the bodies of the animals, food is prepared for the dining-halls. The department dealing with people is much simpler as there is no slaughterhouse involved because the corpse-crop from the hospitals is delivered here. Most of the material died from disease or old age, and it is therefore not suitable for consumption, but it is all the more suitable for pharmaceutical and industrial purposes. As you see, I, too, have been assigned to the human department, and it is my task to take out the eyes and the brain and pass them on to the adjacent building."
"Look," she said, and in spite of all my disgust compelled me to look. "First I take this small electrically operated rotary hand-saw, now I cut the skin on the temple, opening the bone under it with the saw, like this... and the eye will come out easily after a few cuts. Previously with a hand-saw this work took five minutes, now the whole process takes three minutes, with less crumbling of the bone, which is a very useful material. Adhesive and medicine are made from it." "Just look, this is how an eye should be removed," and taking it into her hand she showed me. "It has to be finely parted from the motor muscles and the optic nerve should not remain on it."
From Zolema's hand a man looked at me and I became covered with goose-pimples and trembled with horror. I wanted to escape but no sooner was I about to express my feelings when she continued: "You, of course, wonder what the eye is used for. I'll tell you. You see, I put it on this belt, now I push this button, the belt starts, the eye disappears through the wall and passes on to the next room where it is collected into a container. The container is emptied daily and a chemist processes the contents, that is he extracts from the vitreous body the material which, when mixed into the food of people suffering from lack of appetite, cures them."
"And do they know what it is made from?"
"Of course they do. Everybody learns such elements of natural science at school."
"And does it restore their appetite?"
"Yes. It's a very efficient remedy. But just listen! Most parts of the corpse are used for transplantation to the sick. In the liver, however, a great many useful materials are stored, which in the form of injections restore an organ racked by disease. In addition, the skin is processed by industrial means, excellent string is made from the entrails, soap and food-preparation extract are manufactured from the fat, and as for the brain... "
I could bear it no longer. I interrupted: "And you perform it so calmly? Doesn't it turn your stomach?"
"A ventilator operates above my head," she said and pointed upwards. "Where the bowels are processed they even get gasmasks."
I looked with horror at this person who allegedly was a woman.
"Is this how you appreciate Man?" I asked in a muffled reproachful tone.
"Yes," she said proudly. "Not a single atom is lost. And how is your processing carried out?"
I related the funeral rites. the mourning of the family. the black clothes, the tears, the priest, the horse-drawn hearse, the bell-ringer, the coffin and burial, the memorial stone, and the pious annual commemoration when the bereaved place flowers and possibly a candle on the tomb of the beloved relative.
It was very difficult to explain, and when I had said everything I could see she still did not understand fully. While I was speaking she didn't cease interrupting me with her questions. She thought the bell was some sort of attempt to revive the dead, the priest she considered a physician. She continually looked for some purpose : why did they cut the flowers, as they would wither and therefore could not fruit. Why did we use a candle on the grave when electric lights were better? Why did we not mourn in white in the summer, and if we had to wear black who and what was it good for-the dead, the priest or the relatives, and how?
I described the funeral three times but she kept on shrugging her shoulders in puzzlement.
"What is the aim?" she asked about everything.I explained that it was to pay one's respects to the dead.
"In the dead there are only chemical values," she answered, "which you do not respect but throw away, apart from the fact that as the interred is in one piece, he is exposed to the possibility of the painful fate of apparent death. It is just you who do not respect your dead."
"It is not the chemical value that we respect, but that he used to live, he was a man who worked, loved, and was of benefit to others !" I cried.
"Again you are doing things which do not exist, and even these back to front. A man's work is to be respected while he is alive, by repaying him with good nourishment, a flat, clothes and comfort in accordance with the kazo equilibrium. But as you yourself have said, you have people who are very badly off although they are working, in fact those who work the hardest. So you do not respect Man either in life or in death according to his merits."
I saw terrible gulfs developing between us which I would never be able to bridge. Slowly I looked differently on her. Yet only yesterday her perfect human form, even her beauty, had misled me, but now I began. to regard her as a moving automaton. I understood that I had to deal with human bodies only, in which, however, there was not even a trace of humanity. They could be termed thinking objects, and now, finally, I fully realized that neither Zolema nor the others were some special type of humans — they simply were not people. They were. completely different.
Now it became clear to me where the soul was for which I had looked in vain.
It was only now that I understood that there the soul could be completely absent.
But who were, or properly speaking, what were these around me? And what was it that maintained their society?
I asked only out of curiosity: "Why didn't you choose a more womanly job?"
"Why, isn't that what I'm doing?" she asked in surprise. "Once I was sent to the day-nursery out of necessity, because there were not enough male workers. I lifted beds, carried buck ets of water, took the dirty linen to the laundry, and used the, hoses to clean with just like the strongest men, but I could not stand it for long. I consulted the doctor, who stated that I was not fit for such work and I had to do some womanly job, whereupon I took up my present duties here."
While Zolema was speaking, she receded into an incredible distance. At first I could see two objects: Zolema and the gaping corpse in front of her, which already had no eyes. Then the two became increasingly blurred and the difference between them faded.
I announced briefly that I had learned enough, I required no more, and left. I did not thank her for her trouble, neither did I take leave of her as both courtesies were in any case unknown to them.
Nevertheless I looked back from the doorway. Zolema stood with her back to me and continued working as if she had never seen me. At the moment she had accomplished her task assigned to her by the kazo in connection with me, nothing further connected her with me. As if I had never existed.
People who work ten or fifteen years near to each other are able to live in that way, without developing the slightest relationship. In the morning they enter without greeting each other and get down to work, at noon they leave, and if after ten or fifteen years one of them moves, they disappear from each other's life without saying good-bye.
A feeling of terrible powerlessness came over me. I was buried alive among the dead in this island in the suffocating atmosphere of which the life-thirsty lung panted in vain. And there was no escape. I was to wither away here, without air and life to be carried off in the end to Zolema who would, quite unperturbed, cut out my eyes, the smile and tears of which had meant only something exotically unfamiliar for her, and that my body should continue its journey in the trough until dissected and classified by the chemists into "useful" materials on the basis of the kazo.
And no memory would stir in Zolema even then; why, their own fathers and mothers, their ancestors were unknown strange objects who were or had been, but with whom there was not a thread of contact.
The air lay weightily on me; I almost suffocated. A fit of dizziness came over me. With a single jerk I tore my clothes open at the neck and staggered.
I caught at the door-post. Zolema knew that I was there, but it did not even occur to her to turn. Everyone is convinced that everyone else acts properly and expediently and has no interest in them unless someone speaks.
The world began to spin with me, and my feet failed. I snatched at the back of a chair but in vain. Together with the chair I fell full length on the floor.
She had already turned on hearing the noise. With a jump she was beside me.
"Are you unwell?" she asked.
"No! Leave me!" I shrieked. "Leave me alone! Get away! All of you get away! Let me rot away alone!"
She stood puzzled. She took a few steps, then turned back to me. Finally seeing my tears and distorted face she said, "You must be unwell. Why do you claim things that are not in reality?" (They had no word for telling a lie.)
After hesitating briefly she threw off her overall with a swift movement and after a few seconds she came running back with two companions.
One of them took over her work, while she and the other lifted me up with a gentleness of which no man of feeling would have been capable. Holding their breath they carried me to the yard. A car was already standing there and they hoisted me into it. Zolema sat near me, undid my clothes over my chest, poured some tonic or other into my mouth and we set off.
After two minutes we stopped where two men were waiting for us with a stretcher. With great care they lifted me out and carried me to a special tram-car waiting there. This was the ambulance car. I sank deeply into the rubber bed they made me lie on and we moved away, I only realized this, however, by looking out of the window as no noise could be heard and no movement could be felt.
Zolema stood close by and bent over me, watching all of my movements with anxiety; and I was again shedding tears. I half lifted my arms towards her, I wanted to hold her to me, but my arms fell back. It would have been in vain anyway. It was horrifying to see people around me and to know that everything was illusory; that affection was not affection, goodness was not goodness, the bodies were devoid of content and I was all alone.
A wild, impotent sobbing shook me and tears flooded down my face.
She brought cotton wool and blotted them up.
Then she turned on a tap from which emanated some refreshing air, rich in ozone.
In ten minutes we reached the hospital. Here again I was awaited by stretcher, carried upstairs by lift, and put to bed.
A physician stepped forward. Zolema reported where I had been brought from, mentioning that I was a Belohin, then added: "In case of death attach the diagnosis stating whether the brain can be used or whether it should be discarded." She turned and left. I never saw her again.
Sobs choked me but I did not dare to weep. I said I had been overcome by an attack of giddiness and that I already felt well. To prove it, I gathered all my strength and got up.
The physician examined me, administered a spoonful of extremely evil-smelling oil, and sent me over to the Belohin department where I went to bed.