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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Le Guin Ursula Kroeber
 

«City of Illusions», Ursula Le Guin

I

IMAGINE DARKNESS.

In the darkness that faces outward from the sun a mute spirit woke. Wholly involved in chaos, he knew no pattern. He had no language, and did not know the darkness to be night.

As unremembered light brightened about him he moved, crawling, running sometimes on all fours, sometimes pulling himself erect, but not going anywhere. He had no way through the world in which he was, for a way implies a beginning and an end. All things about him were tangled, all things resisted him. The confusion of his being was impelled to movement by forces for which he knew no name: terror, hunger, thirst, pain. Through the dark forest of things he blundered in silence till the night stopped him, a greater force. But when the light began again he groped on. When he broke out into the sudden broad sunlight of the Clearing he rose upright and stood a moment. Then he put his hands over his eyes and cried out aloud.

Weaving at her loom in the sunlit garden, Parth saw him at the forest's edge. She called to the others with a quick beat of her mind. But she feared nothing, and by the time the others came out of the house she had gone across the Clearing to the uncouth figure that crouched among the high, ripe grasses. As they approached they saw her put her hand on his shoulder and bend down to him, speaking softly.

She turned to them with a wondering look, saying, "Do you see his eyes…?"

They were strange eyes, surely. The pupil was large; the iris, of a grayed amber color, was oval lengthwise so that the white of the eye did not show at all. "Like a cat," said Garra. "Like an egg all yolk," said Kai, voicing the slight distaste of uneasiness roused by that small, essential difference. Otherwise the stranger seemed only a man, under the mud and scratches and filth he had got over his face and naked body in his aimless struggle through the forest; at most he was a little paler-skinned than the brown people who now surrounded him, discussing him quietly as he crouched in the sunlight, cowering and shaking with exhaustion and fear.

Though Parth looked straight into his strange eyes no spark of human recognition met her there. He was deaf to their speech, and did not understand their gestures.

"Mindless or out of his mind," said Zove. "But also starving; we can remedy that." At this Kai and young Thurro half led half dragged the shambling fellow into the house. There they and Parth and Buckeye managed to feed and clean him, and got him onto a pallet, with a shot of sleep-dope in his veins to keep him there.

"Is he a Shing?" Parth asked her father.

"Are you? Am I? Don't be naive, my dear," Zove answered. "If I could answer that question I could set Earth free. However, I hope to find out if he's mad or sane or imbecile, and where he came from, and how he came by those yellow eyes. Have men taken to breeding with cats and falcons in humanity's degenerate old age? Ask Kretyan to come up to the sleeping-porches, daughter."

Parth followed her blind cousin Kretyan up the stairs to the shady, breezy balcony where the stranger slept. Zove and his sister Karell, called Buckeye, were waiting there. Both sat cross-legged and straight-backed, Buckeye playing with her patterning frame, Zove doing nothing at all: a brother and sister getting on in years, their broad, brown faces alert and very tranquil. The girls sat down near them without breaking the easy silence. Parth was a reddish-brown color with a flood of long, bright, black hair. She wore nothing but a pair of loose silvery breeches. Kretyan, a little older, was dark and frail; a red band covered her empty eyes and held her thick hair back. Like her mother she wore a tunic of delicately woven figured cloth. It was hot. Midsummer afternoon burned on the gardens below the balcony and out on the rolling fields of the Clearing. On every side, so close to this wing of the house as to shadow it with branches full of leaves and wings, so far in other directions as to be blued and hazed by distance, the forest surrounded them.

The four people sat still for quite a while, together and separate, unspeaking but linked. "The amber bead keeps slithering off into the Vastness pattern," Buckeye said with a smile, setting down her frame with its jewel-strung, crossing wires.

"All your beads end up in Vastness," her brother said. "An effect of your suppressed mysticism. You'll end up like our mother, see if you don't, able to see the patterns on an empty frame."

"Suppressed fiddlediddle," Buckeye remarked. "I never suppressed anything in my life."

"Kretyan," said Zove, "the man's eyelids move. He may be in a dreaming cycle."

The blind girl moved closer to the pallet. She reached out her hand, and Zove guided it gently to the stranger's forehead. They were all silent again. All listened. But only Kretyan could hear.

She lifted her bowed, blind head at last.

"Nothing," she said, her voice a little strained.

"Nothing?"

"A jumble—a void. He has no mind."

"Kretyan, let me tell you how he looks. His feet have walked, his hands have worked. Sleep and the drug relax his face, but only a thinking mind could use and wear a face into these lines."

"How did he look when he was awake?"

"Afraid," said Parth. "Afraid, bewildered."

"He may be an alien," Zove said, "not a Terran man, though how that could be—But he may think differently than we. Try once more, while he still dreams."

"I'll try, uncle. But I have no sense of any mind, of any true emotion or direction. A baby's mind is frightening but this …is worse—darkness and a kind of empty jumble—"

"Well, then keep out," Zove said easily. "No-mind is an evil place for mind to stay."

"His darkness is worse than mine," said the girl. "This is a ring, on his hand…" She had laid her hand a moment on the man's, in pity or as if asking his unconscious pardon for her eavesdropping on his dreams.


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