There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had no gardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.
Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.
A number of people were coming along the road towards the landing field, or standing around where the road cut through the wall.
People often came out from the nearby city of Abbenay in hopes of seeing a spaceship, or simply to see the wall. After all, it was the only boundary wall on their world. Nowhere else could they see a sign that said No Trespassing. Adolescents, particularly, were drawn to it. They came up to the wall; they sat on it. There might be a gang to watch, offloading crates from track trucks at the warehouses. There might even be a freighter on the pad. Freighters came down only eight times a year, unannounced except to syndics actually working at the Port, so when the spectators were lucky enough to see one they were excited, at first. But there they sat, and there it sat, a squat black tower in a mess of movable cranes, away off across the field. And then a woman came over from one of the warehouse crews and said, “We’re shutting down for today, brothers.” She was wearing the Defense armband, a sight almost as rare as a spaceship. That was a bit of a thrill. But though her tone was mild, it was final. She was the foreman of this gang, and if provoked would be backed up by her syndics. And anyhow there wasn’t anything to see. The aliens, the off-worlders, stayed hiding in their ship. No show.
It was a dull show for the Defense crew, too. Sometimes the foreman wished that somebody would just try to cross the wall, an alien crewman jumping ship, or a kid from Abbenay trying to sneak in for a closer look at the freighter. But it never happened. Nothing ever happened. When something did happen she wasn’t ready for it.
The captain of the freighter Mindful said to her, “Is that mob after my ship?”
The foreman looked and saw that in fact there was a real crowd around the gate, a hundred or more people. They were standing around, just standing, the way people had stood at produce-train stations during the Famine. It gave the foreman a scare.
“No. They, ah, protest,” she said in her slow and limited lotic. “Protest the, ah, you know. Passenger?”
“You mean they’re after this bastard we’re supposed to take? Are they going to try to stop him, or us?”
The word “bastard,” untranslatable in the foreman’s language; meant nothing to her except some kind of foreign term for her people, but she had never liked the sound of it, or the captain’s tone, or the captain. “Can you look after you?” she asked briefly.
“Hell, yea. You just get the rest of this cargo unloaded, quick. And get this passenger bastard on board. No mob of Oddies is about to give us any trouble.” He patted the thing he wore on his belt, a metal object like a deformed penis, and looked patronizingly at the unarmed woman.
She gave the phallic object, which she knew was a weapon, a cold glance. “Ship will be loaded by fourteen hours.” she said. “Keep crew on board safe. Liftoff at fourteen hours forty. If you need help, leave message on tape at Ground Control” She strode off before the captain could one-up her. Anger made her more forceful with her crew and the crowd. “Clear the road there,” she ordered as she neared the wall. “Trucks are coming through, somebody’s going to get hurt. Clear aside.”
The men and women in the crowd argued with her and with one another. They kept crossing the road, and some came inside the wall. Yet they did more or less clear the way. If the foreman had no experience in bossing a mob, they had no experience in being one. Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity, they were not moved by mass feeling; there were as many emotions there as there were people. And they did not expect commands to be arbitrary, so they had no practice in disobeying them. Their inexperience saved the passenger’s life.
Some of them had come there to kill a traitor. Others had come to prevent him from leaving, or to yell insults at him, or just to look at him; and all these others obstructed the sheer brief path of the assassins. None of them had firearms, though a couple had knives. Assault to them meant bodily assault; they wanted to take the traitor into their own hands. They expected him to come guarded, in a vehicle. While they were trying to inspect a goods truck and arguing with its outraged driver, the man they wanted came walking up the road, alone. When they recognized him he was already halfway across the field, with five Defense syndics following him. Those who had wanted to kill him resorted to pursuit, too-late, and to rock throwing, not quite too late. They barely winged the man they wanted, just as he got to the ship, but a two-pound flint caught one of the Defense crew on the side of the head and killed him on the spot.
The hatches of the ship closed. The Defense crew turned back, carrying their dead companion; they made no effort to stop the leaders of the crowd who came racing towards the ship, though the foreman, white with shock and rage, cursed them to hell as they ran past, and they swerved to avoid her. Once at the ship, the vanguard of the crowd scattered and stood irresolute. The silence of the ship, the abrupt movements of the huge skeletal gantries, the strange burned look of the ground, the absence of anything in human scale, disoriented them. A blast of steam or gas from something connected with the ship made some of them start; they looked up uneasily at the rockets, vast black tunnels overhead. A siren whooped in warning, far across the field. First one person and then another started back towards the gate. Nobody stopped them. Within ten minutes the field was clear, the crowd scattered out along the road to Abbenay. Nothing appeared to have happened, after all.
Inside the Mindful a great deal was happening. Since Ground Control had pushed launch time up, all routines had to be rushed through in double time. The captain had ordered that the passenger be strapped down and locked in, in the crew lounge, along with the doctor, to get them out from underfoot There was a screen in there, they could watch the liftoff if they liked.
The passenger watched. He saw the field, and the wall around the field, and far outside the wall the distant slopes of the Ne Theras, speckled with scrub holum and sparse, silvery moonthom.
All this suddenly rushed dazzling down the screen. The passenger felt his head pressed back against the padded rest. It was like a dentist’s examination, the head pressed back, the jaw forced open. He could not get his breath, he felt sick, he felt his bowels loosen with fear. His whole body cried out to the enormous forces that had taken hold of him. Not now, not yet, wait!
His eyes saved him. What they insisted on seeing and reporting to him took him out of the autism of terror. For on the screen now was a strange sight, a great pallid plain of stone. It was the desert seen from the mountains above Grand Valley. How had he got back to Grand Valley? He tried to tell himself that he was in an airship. No, in a spaceship. The edge of the plain flashed with the brightness of light on water, light across a distant sea. There was no water in those deserts. What was he seeing, then? The stone plain was no longer plane but hollow, like a huge bowl full of sunlight. As he watched in wonder it grew shallower, spilling out its light All at once a line broke across it, abstract, geometric, the perfect section of a circle. Beyond that arc was blackness. This blackness reversed the whole picture, made it negative. The real, the stone part of it was no longer concave and full of light but convex, reflecting, rejecting light. It was not a plain or a bowl but a sphere, a ball of white stone falling down in blackness, falling away. It was his world.
“I don’t understand,” he said aloud.
Someone answered him. For a while he failed to comprehend that the person standing by his chair was speaking to him, answering him, for he no longer understood what an answer is. He was clearly aware of only one thing, his own total isolation. The world bad fallen out from under him, and he was left alone.
He had always feared that this would happen, more than he had ever feared death. To die is to lose the self and rejoin the rest. He had kept himself, and lost the rest
He was able at last to look up at the man standing beside him. It was a stranger, of course. From now on there would be only strangers. He was speaking in a foreign language: lotic. The words made sense. All the little things made sense; only the whole thing did not. The man was saying something about the straps that held him into the chair. He fumbled at them. The chair swung upright, and he nearly fell out of it being giddy and off balance. The man kept asking if someone had been hurt. Who was he talking about? “Is he sure he didn’t get hurt?” The polite form of direct address in lotic was in the third person. The man meant him, himself. He did not know why he should have been hurt; the man kept saying something about throwing rocks. But the rock will never hit, he thought. He looked back at the screen for the rock, the white stone falling down in darkness, but the screen had gone blank.
“I am well” he said at last, at random.
It did not appease the man. “Please come with me. I’m a doctor.”
“I am well.”
“Please come with me, Dr. Shevek!”
“You are a doctor,” Shevek said after a pause. “I am not. I am called Shevek.”
The doctor, a short, fair, bald man, grimaced with anxiety. “You should be in your cabin, sir — danger of infection — you weren’t to be in contact with anybody but me, I’ve been through two weeks of disinfection for nothing, God damn that captain! Please come with me, sir. I’ll be held responsible —”
Shevek perceived that the little man was upset. He felt no compunction, no sympathy; but even where he was, in absolute solitude, the one law held, the one law he had ever acknowledged. “All right,” he said, and stood up.
He still felt dizzy, and his right shoulder hurt. He knew the ship must be moving, but there was no sense of motion; there was only a silence, an awful, utter silence, just outside the walls. The doctor led him through silent metal corridors to a room.
It was a very small room, with seamed, blank walls. It repelled Shevek, reminding him of a place he did not want to remember. He stopped in the doorway. But the doctor urged and pleaded, and he went on in.
He sat down on the shelf-like bed, still feeling lightheaded and lethargic, and watched the doctor incuriously. He felt he ought to be curious; this man was the first Urrasti he had ever seen. But he was too tired. He could have lain back and gone straight to sleep.
He had been up all the night before, going through his papers. Three days ago he had seen Takver and the children off to Peace-and-Plenty, and ever since then he had been busy, running out to the radio tower to exchange last-minute messages with people on Unas, discussing plans and possibilities with Bedap and the others. All through those hurried days, ever since Takver left, he had felt not that he was doing all the things he did, but that they were doing him. He had been in other people’s bands. His own will had not acted. It had had no need to act. It was his own will that had started it all, that had created this moment and these walls about him now. How long ago? Years. Five years ago, in the silence of night in Chakar in the mountains, when he had said to Takver, “I will go to Abbenay and unbuild walls.” Before then, even; long before, in the Dust, in the years of famine and despair, when he had promised himself that he would never act again but by his own free choice. And following that promise he had brought himself here: to this moment without time, this place without an earth, this little room, this prison.
The doctor had examined his bruised shoulder (the bruise puzzled Shevek; he had been too tense and hurried to realize what had been going on at the landing field, and had never felt the rock strike him). Now be turned to him holding a hypodermic needle.
“I do not want that,” Shevek said. His spoken lotic was slow, and, as he knew from the radio exchanges, badly pronounced, but it was grammatical enough; he had more difficulty understanding than speaking.
“This is measles vaccine.” said the doctor, professionally deaf.
“No,” Shevek said.
The doctor chewed his lip for a moment and said, “Do you know what measles is, sir?”
“A disease. Contagious. Often severe in adults. You don’t have it on Anarres; prophylactic measures kept it out when the planet was settled. It’s common on Urras. It could kill you. So could a dozen other common viral infections. You have no resistance. Are you right-handed, sir?”
Shevek automatically shook his head. With the grace of a prestidigitator the doctor slid the needle into his right arm. Shevek submitted to this and other injections in silence. He had no right to suspicion or protest. He had yielded himself up to these people; he had given up his birthright of decision. It was gone, fallen away from him along with his world, the world of the Promise, the barren stone.
The doctor spoke again, but he did not listen.
For hours or days he existed in a vacancy, a dry and wretched void without past or future. The walls stood tight about him. Outside them was the silence. His arms and buttocks ached from injections; he ran a fever that never quite heightened to delirium but left him in a limbo between reason and unreason, no man’s land. Time did not pass. There was no time. He was time: he only. He was the river, the arrow, the stone. But he did not move. The thrown rock hung still at midpoint. There was no day or night Sometimes the doctor switched the light off, or on. There was a dock set in the wall by the bed; its pointer moved from one to another of the twenty figures of the dial, meaningless.
He woke after long, deep sleep, and since he was facing the dock, studied it sleepily. Its pointer stood at a little after 15, which, if the dial was read from midnight like the 24-hour Anarresti clock, should mean that it was midafternoon. But how could it he midafternoon in space between two worlds? Well, the ship would keep its own time, after all. Figuring all this out heartened him immensely. He sat up and did not feel giddy. He got out of bed and tested his balance: satisfactory, though he felt that the soles of his feet were not quite firmly in contact with the floor. The ship’s gravity field must be rather weak. He did not much like the feeling; what he needed was steadiness, solidity, firm fact. In search of these he began methodically to investigate the little room.
The blank walls were full of surprises, all ready to reveal themselves at a touch on the panel: washstand, shitstool, mirror, desk, chair, closet, shelves. There were several completely mysterious electrical devices connected with the washstand, and the water valve did not cut off when you released the faucet but kept pouring out until shut off — a sign, Shevek thought, either of great faith in human nature, or of great quantities of hot water. Assuming the latter, he washed all over, and finding no towel, dried himself with one of the mysterious devices, which emitted a pleasant tickling blast of warm air. Not finding his own clothes, be put back on those he had found himself wearing when he woke up: loose tied trousers and a shapeless tunic, both bright yellow with small blue spots. He looked at himself in the mirror. He thought the effect unfortunate. Was this how they dressed on Urras? He searched in vain for a comb, made do by braiding back his hair, and so groomed made to leave the roam,.
He could not. The door was locked.
Shevek’s first incredulity turned to rage, a kind of rage, a blind will to violence, which he had never felt before in his life. He wrenched at the immovable door handle, slammed his hands against the slick metal of the door, then turned and jabbed the call button, which the doctor had told him to use at need. Nothing happened. There were a lot of other little numbered buttons of different colors on the intercom panel; he hit his hand across the whole lot of them. The wall speaker began to babble, “Who the hell is coming right away out clear what from twenty-two —”
Shevek drowned them all out: “Unlock the door!”
The door slid open, the doctor looked in. At the sight of his bald, anxious, yellowish face Shevek’s wrath cooled and retreated into an inward darkness. He said, “The door was locked.”
“I’m sorry. Dr. Shevek — a precaution — contagion — keeping the others out —”
“To lock out, to lock in, the same act,” Shevek said looking down at the doctor with light, remote eyes.
“Safety? Must I be kept in a box?”
“The officers’ lounge,” the doctor offered hurriedly, appeasingly. “Are you hungry, sir? Perhaps you’d like to get dressed and we’ll go to the lounge.”
Shevek looked at the doctor’s clothing: tight blue trousers tucked into boots that looked as smooth and fine as cloth themselves; a violet tunic open down the front and reclosed with silver frogs; and under that, showing only at, neck and wrists, a knit shirt of dazzling white.
“I am not dressed?” Shevek inquired at last Cha
“What you’re wearing. Sleeping clothes.”
“Clothes to wear while sleeping?”
Shevek bunked. He made no comment. He asked, “Where are the clothes I wore?”
“Your clothes? I had them cleaned — sterilization. I hope you don’t mind, sir —” He investigated a wall panel Shevek had not discovered and brought out a packet wrapped in pale-green paper. He unwrapped Shevek’s old suit, which looked very clean and somewhat reduced in size, wadded up the green paper, activated another panel, tossed the paper into the bin that opened, and smiled uncertainly, “There you are, Dr. Shevek.”
“What happens to the paper?”
“The green paper.”
“Oh, I put it in the trash.”
“Disposal. It gets burned up.”
“You burn paper?”
“Perhaps it just gets dropped out into space, I don’t know. I’m no space medic. Dr. Shevek, I was given the honor of attending you because of my experience with other visitors from offworld, the ambassadors from Terra and from Ham. I run the decontamination and habituation procedure for all aliens arriving in A-Io. Not that you’re exactly an alien in the same sense, of course.” He looked timidly at Shevek, who could not follow all he said, but did discern the anxious, diffident, well-meaning nature beneath the words.
“No,” Shevek assured him, “maybe I have the same grandmother as you, two hundred years ago, on Urras.” He was putting on his old clothes, and as he pulled the shirt over his head he saw the doctor stuff the blue and yellow “sleeping clothes” into the “trash” bin. Shevek paused, the collar still over his nose. He emerged fully, knelt, and opened the bin. It was empty.
“The clothes are burned?”
“Oh, those are cheap pajamas, service issue — wear ‘em and throw ‘em away, it costs less than cleaning.”
“It costs less,” Shevek repeated meditatively. He said the words the way a paleontologist looks at a fossil, the fossil that dates a whole stratum.
“I’m afraid your luggage must have got lost in that final rush for the ship. I hope there was nothing important in it.”
“I brought nothing,” Shevek said. Though the suit had been bleached almost to white and had shrunk a bit, it still fit, and the harsh familiar touch of holum-fiber cloth was pleasant. He felt like himself again. He sat down on the bed facing the doctor and said, “You see, I know you don’t take things, as we do. In your world, in Urras, one must buy things. I come to your world, I have no money, I cannot buy. Therefore I should bring. But how much can I bring? Clothing, yes, I might bring two suits. But food? How can I bring food enough? I cannot bring, I cannot buy. If I am to be kept alive, you must give it to me. I am an Anarresti, I make the Urrasti behave like Anarresti: to give. Not to sell. If you like. Of course, it is not necessary to keep me alive! I am the Beggarman, you see.”
“Oh, not at all, sir, no, no. You’re a very honored guest. Please don’t judge us by the crew of this ship, they’re very ignorant, limited men — you have no idea of the welcome you’ll get on Urras. After all you’re a world-famous — a galactically famous scientist! And our first visitor from Anarres! I assure you, things will be very different when we come into Peier Field.”
‘I do not doubt they will be different,” Shevek said.
The Moon Run normally took four and a half days each way, but this time five days of habituation time for the passenger were added to the return trip. Shevek and Dr. Kimoe spent them in vaccinations and conversations. The captain of the Mindful spent them in maintaining orbit around Urras. And swearing. When he tad to speak to Shevek, he did so with uneasy disrespect. The doctor, who was ready to explain everything, had his analysis ready:
“He’s used to looking on all foreigners as inferior, as less than fully human.”
The creation of pseudo-species, Odo called it. Yes. I thought that perhaps on Urraa people no longer thought that way. Since you have there so many languages and nations, and even visitors from other solar systems.”
“Very few of those, since interstellar travel is so costly and so slow. Perhaps it won’t always be so,” Dr. Kimoe added, evidently with an intent to flatter Shevek or to draw him out which Shevek ignored.
“The Second Officer,” he said, “seems to be afraid of me.”
“Oh, with him it’s religious bigotry. He’s a strict-interpretation Epiphanist. Recites the Primes every night. A totally rigid mind.”
“So he sees me — how?”
“As a dangerous atheist”
“An atheist! Why?”
“Why, because you’re an Odonian from Anarres — there’s no religion on Anarres.” -
“No religion? Are we stones, on Anarres?”
“I mean established religion — churches, creeds —” Kimoe flustered easily. He had the physician’s brisk self-assurance, but Shevek continually upset it. All his explanations ended up, after two or three of Shevek’s questions, in floundering. Each took for granted certain relationships that the other could not even see. For instance, this curious matter of superiority and inferiority. Shevek knew that the concept of superiority, of relative height, was important to the Urrasti; they often used the word “higher” as a synonym for “better” in their writings, where an Anarresti would use “more central.” But what did being higher have to do with being foreign? It was one puzzle among hundreds.
“I see,” he said now, another puzzle coming dear. “You admit no religion outside the churches. Just as you admit no morality outside the laws. You know, I had not ever understood that, in all my reading of Urrasti books.”
“Well, these days any enlightened person would admit —”
“The vocabulary makes it difficult,” Shevek said, pursuing his discovery. “In Pravic the word religion is seldom. No, what do you say — rare. Not often used. Of course, it is one of the Categories: the Fourth Mode. Few people learn to practice all the Modes. But the Modes are built of the natural capacities of the mind, you could not seriously believe that we had no religious capacity? That we could do physics while we were cut off from the profoundest relationship man has with the cosmos?”
“Oh, no, not at all —”
“That would be to make a pseudo-species of us indeed!”
“Educated men certainly would understand that, these officers are ignorant”
“But is it only bigots, then, who are allowed to go out into the cosmos?”
All their conversations were like this, exhausting to the doctor and unsatisfying to Shevek, yet intensely interesting to both. They were Shevek’s only means of exploring the new world that awaited him. The ship itself, and Kimoe’s mind, were his microcosm. There were no books aboard the Mindful, the officers avoided Shevek, and the crewmen were kept strictly out of his way. As for the doctor’s mind, though intelligent and certainly well-meaning, it was a jumble of intellectual artifacts even more confusing than all the gadgets, appliances, and conveniences that filled the ship. These latter Shevek found entertaining; everything was so lavish, stylish, and inventive; but the furniture of Kimoe’s intellect he did not find so comfortable. Kimoe’s ideas never seemed to be able to go in a straight line; they had to walk around this and avoid that, and then they ended up smack against a wall. There were walls around all his thoughts, and he seemed utterly unaware of them, though he was perpetually hiding behind them. Only once did Shevek see them breached, in all their days of conversation between the worlds.
He had asked why there were no women on the ship, and Kimoe had replied that running a space freighter was not women’s work. History courses and his knowledge of Odo’s writings gave Shevek a context in which to understand this tautological answer, and he said no more. But the doctor asked a question in return, a question about Anarres. “Is it true. Dr. Shevek, that women in your society are treated exactly like men?”
“That would be a waste of good equipment,” said Shevek with a laugh, and then a second laugh as the full ridiculousness of the idea grew upon him.
The doctor hesitated, evidently picking his way around one of the obstacles in his mind, then looked flustered, and said, “Oh, no, I didn’t mean sexually — obviously you — they ...I meant in the matter of their social status.”
“Status is the same as class?”
Kimoe tried to explain status, failed, and went back to the first topic. “Is there really no distinction between men’s work and women’s work?”
“Well, no. it seems a very mechanical basis for the division of labor, doesn’t it? A person chooses work according to interest, talent, strength — what has the sex to do with that?”
“Men are physically stronger,” the doctor asserted with professional finality.
“Yes, often, and larger, but what does that matter when we have machines? And even when we don’t have machines, when we must dig with the shovel or carry on the back, the men maybe work faster — the big ones — but the women work longer...Often I have wished I was as tough as a woman.”
Kimoe stared at him, shocked out of politeness. “But the loss of — of everything feminine — of delicacy — and the loss of masculine self-respect — you can’t pretend, surely, in your work, that women are your equals? In physics, in mathematics, in the intellect? You can’t pretend to lower yourself constantly to their level?”
Shevek sat in the cushioned, comfortable chair and looked around the officers’ lounge. On the viewscreen the brilliant curve of Urras hung still against black space, like a blue-green opal. That lovely sight, and the lounge, had become familiar to Shevek these last days, but now the bright colors, the curvilinear chairs, the hidden lighting, the game tables and television screens and soft carpeting, all of it seemed as alien as it bad the first time he saw it
“I don’t think I pretend very much, Kimoe,” he said.
“Of course, I have known highly intelligent women, women who could think Just like a man,” the doctor said, hurriedly, aware that he had been almost shouting — that be had, Shevek thought, been pounding his hands against the locked door and shouting...
Shevek turned the conversation, but he went on thinking about it. This matter of superiority and inferiority must be a central one in Urrasti social life. If to respect himself Kimoe had to consider half the human race as inferior to him, how then did women manage to respect themselves — did they consider men inferior? And how did all that affect their sex lives? He knew from Odo’s writings that two hundred years ago the main Urrasti sexual institutions had been “marriage,” a partnership authorized and enforced by legal and economic sanctions, and “prostitution,” which seemed merely to be a wider term, copulation in the economic mode. Odo had condemned them both, and yet Odo had been “married.” And anyhow the institutions might have changed greatly in two hundred years. If he was going to live on Urras and with the Urrasti, he had better find out.
It was strange that even sex, the source of so much solace, delight, and joy for so many years, could overnight become an unknown territory where he must tread carefully and know his ignorance; yet it was so. He was warned not only by Kimoe’s queer burst of scorn and anger, but by a previously vague impression which that episode brought into focus. When first aboard the ship, in those long hours of fever and despair, he had been distracted, sometimes pleased and sometimes irritated, by a grossly simple sensation: the softness of the bed. Though only a bunk, its mattress gave under his weight with caressing suppleness. It yielded to him, yielded so insistently that he was, still, always conscious of it while falling asleep. Both the pleasure and the irritation it produced in him were decidedly erotic. There was also the hot-air nozzle-towel device: the same kind of effect a tickling. And the design of the furniture in the officers’ lounge, the smooth plastic curves into which stubborn wood and steel had been forced, the smoothness and delicacy of surfaces and textures: were these not also faintly, pervasively erotic? He knew himself well enough to be sure that a few days without Takver, even under great stress, should not get him so worked up that he felt a woman in every table top. Not unless the woman was really there.
Were Urrasti cabinetmakers all celibate?
He gave it up; he would find out, soon enough, on Urras.
Just before they strapped in for descent the doctor came to his cabin to check the progress of the various immunizations, the last of which, a plague inoculation, had made Shevek sick and groggy. Kimoe gave him a new pill, “That’ll pep you up for the landing,” he said.
Stoic, Shevek swallowed the thing. The doctor fussed with his medical kit and suddenly began to speak very fast: “Dr. Shevek, I don’t expect I’ll be allowed to attend you again, though perhaps, but if not I wanted to tell you that it, that I, that it has been a great privilege to me. Not because — but because I have come to respect — to appreciate — that simply as a human being, your kindness, real kindness —”
No more adequate response occurring to Shevek through his headache, he reached out and took Kimoe’s hand, saying, “Then let’s meet again, brother!” Kimoe gave his hand a nervous shake, Urrasti style, and hurried out. After he was gone Shevek realized he had spoken to him in Pravic, called him ammar, brother, in a language Kimoe did not understand.
The wall speaker was Matting orders. Strapped into the bunk, Shevek listened, feeling hazy and detached. The sensations of entry thickened the haze; he was conscious of little but a profound hope he would not have to vomit. He did not know they had landed when Kimoe came hurrying in again and rushed him out to the officers’ lounge. The viewscreen where Urras had hung cloud-coiled and luminous so long was blank. The room was full of people. Where had they all come from? He was surprised and pleased by his ability to stand up, walk, and shake hands. He concentrated on that much, and let meaning pass him by. Voices, smiles, hands, words, names. His name again and again: Dr. Shevek, Dr. Shevek...Now he and all the strangers around him were going down a covered ramp, all the voices very loud, words echoing off the walls. The clatter of voices thinned. A strange air touched his face.
He looked up, and as he stepped off the ramp onto the level ground he stumbled and nearly fell. He thought of death, in that gap between the beginning of a step and its completion, and at the end of the step he stood on a new-earth.
A broad, grey evening was around him. Blue lights, mist-blurred, burned far away across a foggy field. The air on his face and hands, in his nostrils and throat and lungs, was cool, damp, many-scented, mild. It was not strange. It was the air of the world from which his race had come, it was the air of home.
Someone had taken his arm when he stumbled. Lights flashed on him. Photographers were filming the scene for the news: The First Man from the Moon: a tall, frail figure in a crowd of dignitaries and professors and security agents, the fine shaggy head held very erect (so that the photographers could catch every feature) as if he were trying to look above the floodlights into the sky, the broad sky of fog that hid the stars, the Moon, all other worlds. Journalists tried to crowd through the rings of policemen: “Will you give us a statement. Dr. Shevek, in this historic moment?” They were forced back again at once. The men around him urged him forward. He was borne off to the waiting limousine, eminently photographable to the last because of his height, his long hair, and the strange look of grief and recognition on his face.
The towers of the city went up into mist, great ladders of blurred light. Trains passed overhead, bright shrieking streaks. Massive walls of stone and glass fronted the streets above the race of cars and trolleys. Stone, steel, glass, electric light. No faces.
“This is Nio Esseia, Dr. Shevek. But it was decided it would be better to keep you out of the city crowds just at first. We’re going straight on to the University.”
There were five men with him in the dark, softly padded body of the car. They pointed out landmarks, but in the fog he could not tell which great vague, fleeting building was the High Court and which the National Museum, which the Directorate and which the Senate. They crossed a river or estuary; the million lights of Nio Esseia, fog-diffused, trembled on dark water, behind them. The road darkened, the fog thickened, the driver slowed the vehicle’s pace. Its lights shone on the mist ahead as if on a wall that kept retreating before them. Shevek sat leaning forward a little, gazing out. His eyes were not focused, nor was his mind, but he looked aloof and grave, and the other men talked quietly, respecting his silence.
What was the thicker darkness that flowed along endlessly by the road? Trees? Could they have been driving, ever since they left the city, among trees? The lotic word came into his mind: “forest” They would not come out suddenly into the desert. The trees went on and on, on the next hillside and the next and the next standing in the sweet chill of the fog, endless, a forest all over the world, a still striving interplay of lives, a dark movement of leaves in the night. Then as Shevek sat marveling as the car came up out of the fog of the river valley into clearer air, there looked at him from the darkness under the roadside foliage, for one instant, a face.
It was not like any human face. It was as long as his arm and ghastly white. Breath jetted in vapor from what must be nostrils, and terrible, unmistakable, there was an eye. A large, dark eye, mournful, perhaps cynical? Gone in the flash of the car’s lights.
“What was that?”
“Donkey, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, an animal. By God, that’s right! You have no large animals on Anarres, have you?”
“A donkey’s a kind of horse.” said another of the men, and another, in a firm, elderly voice, “That was a horse. Donkeys don’t come that size.” They wanted to talk with him, but Shevek was not listening again. He was thinking of Takver. He wondered what that deep, dry, dark gaze out of the darkness would have meant to Takver. She had always known that all lives are in common, rejoicing in her kinship to the fish in the tanks of her laboratories, seeking the experience of existences outside the human boundary. Takver would have known how to look back at that eye in the darkness under the trees.
“There’s Leu Eun ahead. There’s quite a crowd waiting to meet you. Dr. Shevek; the President, and several Directors, and the Chancellor, of course, all kinds of bigwigs. But if you’re tired we’ll get the amenities over with as soon as possible.”
The amenities lasted several hours. He never could remember them clearly afterward. He was propelled from the small dark box of the car into a huge bright box full of people — hundreds of people, under a golden ceiling hung with crystal lights. He was introduced to all the people. They were all shorter than he was, and bald. The few women there were bald even on their heads; he realized at last that they must shave off all their hair, the very fine, soft, short body hair of his race, and the head hair as well. But they replaced it with marvelous clothing, gorgeous in cut and color, the women in full gowns that swept the floor, their breasts bare, their waists and necks and heads adorned with jewelry and lace and gauze, the men in trousers and coats or tunics of red, blue, violet, gold, green, with slashed sleeves and cascades of lace, or long gowns of crimson or dark green or black that parted at the knee to show the white stockings, silver-gartered. Another lotic word floated into Shevek’s head, one he had never had a reference for, though he liked the sound of it: “splendor.” These people had splendor. Speeches were made. The President of the Senate of the Nation of A-Io, a man with strange, cold eyes, proposed a toast: “To the new era of brotherhood between the Twin Planets, and to the harbinger of that new era, our distinguished and most welcome guest. Dr. Shevek of Anarres!” The Chancellor of the University talked to him charmingly, the First Director of the nation talked to him seriously, he was introduced to ambassadors, astronauts, physicists, politicians, dozens of people, all of whom had long titles and honorifics both before and after their names, and they talked to him, and he answered them, but he had no memory later of what anyone had said, least of all himself. Very late at night he found himself with a small group of men walking in the warm rain across a large park or Square. There was the springy feeling of live grass underfoot; he recognized it from having walked in the Triangle Park in Abbenay. That vivid memory and the cool vast touch of the night wind awakened him. His soul came out of hiding.
His escorts took him into a building and to a room which, they explained, was “his.”
It was large, about ten meters long, and evidently a common room, as there were no divisions or sleeping platforms; the three men still with him must be his roommates. It was a very beautiful common room, with one whole wall a series of windows, each divided by a slender column that rose treelike to form a double arch at the top. The floor was carpeted with crimson, and at the far end of the room a fire burned in an open hearth. Shevek crossed the room and stood in front of the fire. He had never seen wood burned for warmth, but he was beyond wonder. He held out his hands to the pleasant heat, and sat down on a seat of polished marble by the hearth.
The youngest of the men who had come with him sat down across the hearth from him. The other two were still talking. They were talking physics, but Shevek did not try to follow what they said. The young man spoke quietly. “I wonder how you must feel. Dr. Shevek.”
Shevek stretched out his legs and leaned forward to catch the warmth of the fire on his face. “I feel heavy.”
“Perhaps the gravity. Or I am tired.”
He looked at the other man, but through the hearth glow the face was not clear, only the glint of a gold chain and the deep jewel red of the robe.
“I don’t know your name.”
“Oh, Pae, yes. I know your articles on Paradox.”
He spoke heavily, dreamily.
“There’ll be a bar here, Senior Faculty rooms always have a liquor cabinet. Would you care for something to drink?”
The young man reappeared with a glass of water as the other two came to join them at the hearth, Shevek drank off the water thirstily and sat looking down at the glass in his hand, a fragile, finely shaped piece that caught the gleam of the fire on its rim of gold. He was aware of the three men, of their attitudes as they sat or stood near him, protective, respectful, proprietary.
He looked up at them, one face after the other. They all looked at him, expectant. “Well, you have me,” he said. He smiled. “You have your anarchist. What are you going to do with him?”
In a square window in a white wall is the clear, bare sky. In the center of the sky is the sun.
There are eleven babies in the room, most of them cooped up in large, padded pen-cots in pairs or trios, and settling down, with commotion and elocution, into their naps. The two eldest remain at large, a fat active one dismembering a pegboard and a knobby one sitting in the square of yellow sunlight from the window, staring up the sunbeam with an earnest and stupid expression.
In the anteroom the matron, a one-eyed woman with grey hair, confers with a tall, sad- looking man of thirty. “The mother’s been posted to Abbenay,” the man says. “She wants him to stay here.”
“Shall we take him into the nursery full-time, then. Palat?”
“Yes. I’ll be moving back into a dorm.”
“Don’t worry, he knows us all here! But surely Divlab will send you along after Rulag soon? Since you’re partners, and both engineers?”
“Yes, but she’s ...It’s the Central Institute of Engineering that wants her, see. I’m not that good. Rulag has a great work to do.”
The matron nodded, and sighed. “Even so — !” she said with energy, and did not say anything else.
The father’s gaze was on the knobby infant, who had not noticed his presence in the anteroom, being preoccupied with light. The fat infant was at this moment coming towards the knobby one rapidly, though with a peculiar squatting gait caused by a damp and sagging diaper. He approached out of boredom or sociability, but once in the square of sunlight he discovered it was warm there. He sat down heavily beside the knobby one, crowding him into the shade.
The knobby one’s blank rapture gave place at once to a scowl of rage. He pushed the fat one, shouting, “Go “way!”
The matron was there at once. She righted the fat one. “Shev, you aren’t to push other people.”
The knobby baby stood up. His face was a glare of sunlight and anger. His diapers were about to fall off. “Mine!” he said in a high, ringing voice. “Mine sun!”
“It is not yours,” the one-eyed woman said with the mildness of utter certainty. “Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it.” And she picked the knobby baby up with gentle inexorable hands and set him aside, out of the square of sunlight.
The fat baby sat staring, indifferent. The knobby one shook all over, screamed, “Mine sun!” and burst into tears of rage.
The father picked him up and held him. “There, now” Shev,” he said. “Come on, you know you can’t have things. What’s wrong with you?” His voice was soft, and shook as if he also was not far from tears. The thin, long, light child in his arms wept passionately.
“There are some just can’t take life easy,” the one-eyed woman said, watching with sympathy.
“I’ll take him for a dorm visit now. The mother’s leaving tonight, you see.”
“Go on. I hope you get posted together soon,” said the matron, hoisting the fat child like a sack of grain onto her hip, her face melancholy and her good eye squinting. “Bye-bye, Shev, little heart. Tomorrow, listen, tomorrow we’ll play truck-and-driver.”
The baby did not forgive her yet He sobbed, clutching his father’s neck, and hid his face in the darkness of the lost sun.
The orchestra needed all the benches that morning for rehearsal, and the dance group was thumping around in the big room of the learning center, so the kids who were working on Speaking-and-Listening sat in a circle on the foamstone floor of the workshop. The first volunteer, a lanky eight-year-old with long hands and feet, stood up. He stood very erect, as healthy children do; his slightly fuzzy face was pale at first, then turned red as he waited for the other children to listen. “Go on, Shevek,” the group director said.
“Well, I had an idea.”
“Louder,” said the director, a heavy-set man in his early twenties.
The boy smiled with embarrassment. “Well, see, I was thinking, let’s say you throw a rock at something. At a tree. You throw it, and it goes through the air and hits the tree. Right? But it can’t. Because — can I have the slate? Look, here’s you throwing the rock, and here’s the tree,” he scribbled on the slate, “that’s supposed to be a tree, and here’s the rock. See, halfway in between.” The children giggled at his portrayal of a holum tree, and he smiled. “To get from you to the tree, the rock has to be halfway in between you and the tree, doesn’t it. And then it has to be halfway between halfway and the tree. And then it has to be halfway between that and the tree. It doesn’t matter how far it’s gone, there’s always a place, only it’s a time really, that’s halfway between the last place it was and the tree —”
“Do you think this is interesting?” the director interrupted, speaking to the other children.
“Why can’t it reach the tree?” said a girl of ten.
“Because it always has to go half of the way that’s left to go,” said Shevek, “and there’s always half of the way left to go — seer’
“Shall we just say you aimed the rock badly?” the director said with a tight smile.
“It doesn’t matter how you aim. It can’t reach the tree.”
“Who told you this idea?”
“Nobody. I sort of saw it. I think I see how the rock actually does —”
Some of the other children had been talking, but they stopped as if struck dumb. The little boy with the slate stood there in the silence. He looked frightened, and scowled.
“Speech is sharing — a cooperative art. You’re not sharing, merely egoizing.”
The thin, vigorous harmonies of the orchestra sounded down the hall.
“You didn’t see that for yourself, it wasn’t spontaneous. I’ve read something very like it in a book.”
Shevek stared at the director. “What book? Is there one here?”
The director stood up. He was about twice as tall and three times as heavy as his opponent, and it was clear in his face that he disliked the child intensely; but there was no threat of physical violence in his stance, only an assertion of authority, a little weakened by his irritable response to the child’s odd question. “No! And stop egoizing!” Then he resumed his melodious pedantic tone:
“This kind of thing is really directly contrary to what we’re after in a Speaking-and-Listening group. Speech is a two-way function. Shevek isn’t ready to understand that yet, as most of you are, and so his presence is disruptive to the group. You feel that yourself, don’t you, Shevek? I’d suggest that you find another group working on your level.”
Nobody else said anything. The silence and the loud thin music went on while the boy handed back the slate and made his way out of the circle. He went off into the corridor and stood there. The group he had left began, under the director’s guidance, a group story, taking turns. Shevek listened to their subdued voices and to his heart still beating fast. There was a singing in his ears which was not the orchestra but the noise that came when you kept yourself from crying; he had observed this singing noise several times before. He did not like listening to it, and he did not want to think about the rock and the tree, so he turned his mind to the Square. It was made of numbers, and numbers were always cool and solid; when he was at fault he could turn to them, for they had no fault. He had seen the Square in his mind a while ago, a design in space like the designs music made in time: a square of the first nine integers with 5 in the center. However you added up the rows they came out the same, all inequality balanced out; it was pleasant to look at If only he could make a group that liked to talk about things like that; but there were only a couple of the older boys and girls who did, and they were busy. What about the book the director had spoken of? Would it be a book of numbers? Would it show how the rock got to the tree? He had been stupid to tell the joke about the rock and the tree, nobody else even saw it was a joke, the director was right. His head ached. He looked inward, inward to the calm patterns.
If a book were written all in numbers, it would be true. It would be just. Nothing said in words ever came out quite even. Things in words got twisted and ran together, Instead of staying straight and fitting together. But underneath the words, at the center, like the center of the Square, it all came out even. Everything could change, yet nothing would be lost. If you saw the numbers you could see that, the balance, the pattern. You saw the foundations of the world. And they were solid.
Shevek had learned how to wait. He was good at it, an expert He had first learned the skill waiting for his mother Rulag to come back, though that was so long ago he didn’t remember it; and he had perfected it waiting for his turn, waiting to share, waiting for a share. At the age of eight he asked why and how and what if, but he seldom asked when.
He waited till his father came to take him for a dorm visit. It was a long wait: six decads. Palat had taken a short posting in maintenance in the Water Reclamation Plant in Drum Mountain, and after that he was going to take a decad at the beach in Malennin, where he would swim, and rest, and copulate with a woman named Pipar. He had explained all this to his son. Shevek trusted him, and he deserved trust. At the end of sixty days he came by the children’s dormitories in Wide Plains, a long, thin man with a sadder look than ever. Copulating was not really what he wanted. Rulag was. When he saw the boy, he smiled and his forehead wrinkled in pain.
They took pleasure in each other’s company.
“Palaf did you ever see any books with all numbers in them?”
“What do you mean, mathematics?”
“I guess so.”
“Like this?” Palat took from his overtunic pocket a book. It was small, meant to be carried in a pocket, and like most books was bound in green with the Circle of Life stamped on the cover. It was printed very full, with small characters and narrow margins, because paper is a substance that takes a lot of holum trees and a lot of human labor to make, as the supplies dispenser at the learning center always remarked when you botched a page and went to get a new one. Palat held the book out open to Shevek. The double page was a series of columns of numbers. There they were, as he had imagined them. Into his hands he received the covenant of eternal justice. “Logarithmic Tables, Bases 10 and 12” said the title on the cover above the Circle of Life.
The little boy studied the first page for some while.
“What are they for?” he asked, for evidently these patterns were presented not only for their beauty. The engineer, sitting on a hard couch beside him in the cold, poorly lit common room of the domicile, undertook to explain logarithms to him. Two old men at the other end of the room cackled over their game of “Top ‘Em.” An adolescent couple came in and asked if the single room was free tonight and went off to it. Rain hit hard on the metal roofing of the one-storey domicile, and ceased. It never rained for long. Palat got out his slide rule and showed Shevek its operation; in return Shevek showed him the Square and the principle of its arrangement. It was very late when they realized it was late. They ran through the marvelously rain-scented, muddy dark to the children’s dormitory, and got a perfunctory scolding from the vigilkeeper. They kissed quickly, both shaking with laughter, and Shevek ran to the big sleeping room, to the window, from which he could see his father going back down the single street of Wide Plains in the wet, electric dark.
The boy went to bed muddy-legged, and dreamed. He dreamed he was on a road through a bare land. Far ahead across the road he saw a line. As he approached it across the plain he saw that it was a wall. It went from horizon to horizon across the barren land. It was dense, dark, and very high. The road ran up to it and was stopped.
He must go on, and he could not go on. The wall stopped him. A painful, angry fear rose up in him. He had to go on or he could never come home again. But the wall stood there. There was no way.
He beat at the smooth surface with his hands and yelled at it His voice came out wordless and cawing. Frightened by the sound of it he cowered down, and then he heard another voice saying, “Look.” It was his father’s voice. He had an idea his mother Rulag was mere too, though he did not see her (he had no memory of her face). It seemed to him that she and Palat were both on all fours in the darkness under the wall, and that they were bulkier than human beings and shaped differently. They were pointing, showing him something there on the ground, the sour dirt where nothing grew. A stone lay there. It was dark like the wall, but on it, or inside it, there was a number; a 5 he thought at first, then took it for 1, then understood what it was — the primal number that was both unity and plurality. That is the cornerstone,” said a voice of dear familiarity, and Shevek was pierced through with joy. There was no wall in the shadows, and be knew that he had come back, then he went home.
Later he could not recall the details of this dream, but that rush of piercing joy he did not forget. He had never known anything like it; so certain was its assurance of permanence, like one glimpse of a light that shines steadily, that he never thought of it as unreal though it had been experienced in dream. Only, however reliably then he could not reattain it either by longing for it or by the act of will. He could only remember it, waking. When he dreamed of the wall again, as he sometimes did, the dreams were sullen and without resolution.
They had picked up the idea of “prisons” from episodes in the Life of Odo, which all of them who had elected to work on History were reading. There were many obscurities in the book, and Wide Plains had nobody who knew enough history to explain them; but by the time they got to Odo’s years in the Fort in Drio, the concept “prison” had become self-explanatory. And when a circuit history teacher came through the town he expounded the subject, with the reluctance of a decent adult forced to explain an obscenity to children. Yes, he said, a prison was: a place where a State put people who disobeyed its Laws. But why didn’t they just leave the place? They couldn’t leave, the doors were locked. Locked? Like the doors on a moving truck, so you don’t fall out, stupid! But what did they do inside one room all the time? Nothing. There was nothing to do. You’ve seen pictures of Odo in the prison cell in Drio, haven’t you? Image of defiant patience, bowed grey head, clenched hands, motionless in encroaching shadows. Sometimes prisoners were sentenced to work. Sentenced? Well, that means a judge, a person given power by the Law, ordered them to do some kind of physical labor. Ordered them? What if they didn’t want to do it? Well. They were forced to do it; if they didn’t work, they were beaten. A thrill of tension went through the children listening, eleven- and twelve-year-olds, none of whom had ever been struck, or seen any person struck, except in immediate personal anger.
Tula asked the question that was in all their minds:
“You mean, a lot of people would beat up one person?”
“Why didn’t the others stop them?”
“The guards had weapons. The prisoners did not,” the teacher said. He spoke with the violence of one forced to say the detestable, and embarrassed by it.
The simple lure of perversity brought Tirin. Shevek and three other boys together. Girls were eliminated from their company, they could not have said why. Tirin had found an ideal prison, under the west wing of the learning center. It was a space just big enough to hold one person sitting or lying down, formed by three concrete foundation walls and the underside of the floor above; the foundations being part of a concrete form, the floor of it was continuous with the walls, and a heavy slab of foamstone siding would close it off completely. But the door had to be locked. Experimenting, they found that two props wedged between a facing wall and the slab shut it with awesome finality. Nobody inside could get that door open.
“What about light?”
“No light,” Tirin said. He spoke with authority about things like this, because his imagination put him straight into them. What facts he had, he used, but it was not fact that lent him his certainty. “They let prisoners sit in the dark, in the Fort in Drio. For years.”
“Air, though,” Shevek said. “That door fits like a vacuum coupling. It’s got to have a hole in it”
“It’ll take hours to bore through foamstone. Anyhow, who’s going to stay in that box long enough to run out of air?”
Chorus of volunteers and claimants.
Tirin looked at them, derisive. “You’re an crazy. Who wants to actually get locked into a place like that? What for?” Making the prison had been his idea, and it sufficed him; he never realized that imagination does not suffice some people, they must get into the cell, they must try to open the inoperable door.
“I want to see what it’s like,” said Kadagv, a broadchested, serious, domineering twelve-year-old.
“Use your head!” Tirin jeered, but the others backed Kadagv. Shevek got a drill from the workshop, and they bored a two-centimeter hole through the “door” at nose height. It took nearly an hour, as Tirin had predicted.
“How long you want to stay in, Kad? An hour?”
“Look,” Kadagv said, “if I’m the prisoner, I can’t decide. I’m not free. You have to decide when to let me out-
“That’s right,” said Shevek, unnerved by this logic.
“You can’t stay in too long, Kad. I want a turn!” said the youngest of them, Gibesh. The prisoner deigned no reply. He entered the cell. The door was raised and set in place with a bang, and the props wedged against it, all four jailers hammering them into place with enthusiasm. They all crowded to the air hole to see their prisoner, but since there was no light inside the prison except from the air hole, they saw nothing.
“Don’t suck all the poor fart’s air out!”
“Blow him in some.”
“Fart him in some.”
“How long’ll we give him?”
“It’s four hours till lights-out. That ought to do!”
“But I want a turn!”
“All right, we’ll leave you in all night.”
“Well, I meant tomorrow.”
Four hours later they knocked the props away and leased Kadagv. He emerged as a dominant of the situation as when he had entered, and said he was hungry, and it was nothing; he’d just slept mostly.
“Would you do it again?” Tirin challenged him.
“No, I want second turn —”
“Shut up. Gib. Now, Kad? Would you walk right back in there now, without knowing when we’ll let you out?”
“They fed prisoners,” Shevek said. “That’s what’s so weird about the whole thing.”
Kadagv shrugged. His attitude of lofty endurance was intolerable.
“Look,” Shevek said to the two youngest boys, “go ask at the kitchen for leftovers, and pick up a bottle or something full of water, too.” He turned to Kadagv. “Well give you a whole sack of stuff, so you can stay in that hole as long as you like.”
“As long as you like,” Kadagv corrected.
“All right. Get in there!” Kadagv’s self-assurance brought out Tirin’s satirical, play-acting vein. “You’re a prisoner. You don’t talk back. Understand? Turn around. Put your hands on your head.”
“You want to quit?”
Kadagv faced him sullenly.
“You can’t ask why. Because if you do we can beat you, and you have to just take it, and nobody will help you. Because we can kick you in the balls and you can’t kick back. Because you are not free. Now, do you want to go through with it?”
“Sure. Hit me.”
Tirin, Shevek, and the prisoner stood facing one another in a strange, stiff group around the lantern, in the darkness, among the heavy foundation walls of the building.
Tirin smiled arrogantly, luxuriously. “Don’t tell me what to do, you profiteer. Shut up and get into that cell!” And as Kadagv turned to obey. Tirin pushed him straight in the back so that he fell sprawling. He gave a sharp grunt of surprise or pain, and sat up nursing a finger that had been scraped or sprained against the back wall of the cell. Shevek and Tirin did not speak. They stood motionless, their faces without expression, in their role as guards. They were not playing the role now, it was playing them. The younger boys returned with some holum bread, a melon, and a bottle of water. They were talking as they came, but the curious silence at the cell got into them at once. The food and water was shoved in, the door raised and braced. Kadagv was alone in the dark. The others gathered around the lantern. Gibesh whispered, “Where’ll he piss?”
“In his bed,” Tirin replied with sardonic clarity.
“What if he has to crap?” Gibesh asked, and suddenly went off into a peal of high laughter.
“What’s so funny about crapping?”
“I thought — what if he can’t see — in the dark —” Gibesh could not explain his humorous fancy fully. They all began to laugh without explanation, whooping till they were breathless. All were aware that the boy locked inside the cell could hear them laughing.
It was past lights-out in the children’s dormitory, and many adults were already in bed, though lights were on here and there in the domiciles. The street was empty. The boys careened down it laughing and calling to one another, wild with the pleasure of sharing a secret, of disturbing others, of compounding wickednesses. They woke up half the children in the dormitory with games of tag down the halls and among the beds. No adult interfered; the tumult died down presently.
Tirin and Shevek sat up whispering together for a long time on Tirin’s bed. They decided that Kadagv had asked for it, and would get two full nights in prison.
Their group met in the afternoon at the lumber recycling workshop, and the foreman asked where Kadagv was. Shevek exchanged a glance with Tirin. He felt clever. He felt a sense of power, in not replying. Yet when Tirin replied coolly that he must have joined another group for the day, Shevek was shocked by the lie. His sense of secret power suddenly made him uncomfortable: his legs itched, his ears felt hot. When the foreman spoke to him he jumped with alarm, or fear, or some such feeling, a feeling he had never had before, something like embarrassment but worse than that: inward, and vile. He kept thinking about Kadagv, as he plugged and sanded nail holes in three-ply holum boards and sanded the boards back to silky smoothness- Every time he looked into his mind there was Kadagv in it. It was disgusting.
Gibesh, who had been standing guard duty, came to Tirin and Shevek after dinner, looking uneasy. “I thought 1 heard Kad saying something in there. In a sort of funny voice.”
There was a pause. ‘Well let him out,” Shevek said.
Tirin turned on him. “Come on, Shev, don’t go mushy on us. Don’t get altruistic! Let him finish it out and respect himself at the end of it”
“Altruistic, hell. I want to respect myself,” Shevek said, and set off for the learning center. Tirin knew him; he wasted no more time arguing with him, but followed. The eleven-year-olds trailed along behind. They crawled under the building to the cell. Shevek knocked one wedge free. Tirin the other. The door of the prison fell outward with a flat thump.
Kadagv was lying on the ground, curled up on his side. He sat up, then got up very slowly and came out. He stooped more than necessary under the low roof, and blinked a lot in the light of the lantern, but looked no different from usual. The smell that came out with him was unbelievable. He had suffered, from whatever cause, from diarrhea. There was a mess in the cell, and smears of yellow fecal stuff on his shirt. When he saw this in the lantern light he made an effort to hide it with his hand. Nobody said anything much.
When they had crawled out from under the building and were heading around to the dormitory, Kadagv asked, “How long was it?”
“About thirty hours, counting the first four.”
“Pretty long,” Kadagv said without conviction.
After getting him to the baths to clean up, Shevek went off at a run to the latrine. There he leaned over a bowl and vomited. The spasms did not leave him for a quarter of an hour. He was shaky and exhausted when they passed. He went to the dormitory common room, read some physics, and went to bed early. None of the five boys ever went back to the prison under the learning center. None of them ever mentioned the episode, except Gibesh, who boasted about it once to some older boys and girls; but they did not understand, and he dropped the subject
The Moon stood high over the Northsetting Regional Institute of the Noble and Material Sciences. Four boys of fifteen or sixteen sat on a hilltop between patches of scratchy ground-holum and looked down at the Regional Institute and up at the Moon.
“Peculiar,” said Tirin. “I never thought before...”
Comments from the other three on the self-evidence of this remark.
“I never thought before,” said Tirin unruffled, “of the fact that there are people sitting on a hill, up there, on Urras, looking at Anarres, at us, and saying, ‘Look, there’s the Moon.’ Our earth is their Moon; our Moon is their earth.”
“Where, then, is Truth?” declaimed Bedap, and yawned.
“In the hill one happens to be sitting on,” said Tirin.
They all went on staring up at the brilliant, blurry turquoise, which was not quite round, a day past its full. The northern ice cap was dazzling. “It’s clear in the north,” Shevek said. “Sunny. That’s A-Io, that brownish bulge there.”
“They’re all lying around naked in the sun,” said Kvetur, “with Jewels in their navels, and no hair.”
There was a silence.
They had come up to the hilltop for masculine company. The presence of females was oppressive to them all. It seemed to them that lately the world was full of girls. Everywhere they looked, waking or asleep, they saw girls. They had all tried copulating with girls; some of them in despair had also tried not copulating with girls. It made no difference. The girls were there.
Three days ago in a class on the History of the Odonian Movement they had all seen the same visual lesson, and the image of iridescent jewels in the smooth hollow of women’s oiled, brown bellies had since recurred to all of them, privately.
They had also seen the corpses of children, hairy like themselves, stacked up like scrap metal, stiff and rusty, on a beach, and men pouring oil over the children and lighting it. “A famine in Bachifofl Province in the Nation of Thu,” the commenter’s voice had said. “Bodies of children dead of starvation and disease are burned on the beaches. On the beaches of Tins, seven hundred kilometers away in the Nation of A-Io (and here came the jeweled navels), women kept for the sexual use of male members of the propertied class (the lotic words were used, as there was no equivalent for either word in Pravic) lie on the sand all day until dinner is served to them by people of the unpropertied class.” A close-up of dinnertime: soft mouths champing and smiling, smooth hands reaching out for delicacies wetly mounded in silver bowls. Then a switch back to the blind, blunt face of a dead child, mouth open, empty, black, dry. “Side by side,” the quiet voice had said,
But the image that had risen like an oily iridescent bubble in the boys’ minds was all the same.
“How old are those films?” said Tirin, “Are they from before the Settlement, or are they contemporary? They never say.”
“What does it matter?” Kvetur said. “They were living like that on Urras before the Odonian Revolution. The Odonians all got out and came here to Anarres. So probably nothing’s changed — they’re still at it, there.” He pointed to the great blue-green Moon.
“How do we know they are?”
“What do you mean, Tir?” asked Shevek.
“If those pictures are a hundred and fifty years old, things could be entirely different now on Urras. I don’t say they are, but if they were, how would we know it? We don’t go there, we don’t talk, there’s no communication. We really have no idea what life’s like on Urraa now.”
“People in PDC do. They talk to the Urrasti that man the freighters that come in at Port of Anarres. They keep informed. They have to, so we can keep up trade with Urras, and know how much of a threat they pose to us, too.” Bedap spoke reasonably, but Tirin’s reply was sharp:
“Then PDC may be informed, but we’re not.”
“Informed!” Kvetur said. “I’ve heard about Urras ever since nursery! I don’t care if I never see another picture of foul Urrasti cities and greasy Urrasti bodies!”
“That’s just it,” said Tirin with the glee of one following logic. “All the material on Urras available to students is the same. Disgusting, unmoral, excremental. But look. If it was that bad when the Settlers left, how has it kept on going for a hundred and fifty years? If they were so sick, why aren’t they dead? Why haven’t their propertarian societies collapsed? What are we so afraid of?”
“Infection,” said Bedap.
“Are we so feeble we can’t withstand a little exposure? Anyhow, they can’t all be sick. No matter what their society’s like, some of them must be decent People vary here, don’t they? Are we all perfect Odonians? Look at that snotball Pesiu!”
“But in a sick organism, even a healthy cell is doomed,” said Bedap.
“Oh, you can prove anything using the Analogy, and you know it. Anyhow, how do we actually know their society is sick?”
Bedap gnawed on his thumbnail “You’re saying that PDC and the educational supplies syndicate are lying to us about Urras.”
“No; I said we only know what we’re told. And do you know what we’re told?” Tirin’s dark, snub-nosed face, clear in the bright bluish moonlight, turned to them. “Kvet said it, a minute ago. He’s got the message. You heard it: detest Urras, hate Urraa, fear Urras.”
“Why not?” Kvetur demanded. “Look how they treated us Odonians!”
“They gave us their Moon, didn’t they?”
“Yes, to keep us from wrecking their profiteering states and setting up the Just society there. And as soon as they got rid of us, I’ll bet they started building up governments and armies faster than ever, because nobody was left to stop them. If we opened the Port to them, you think they’d come like friends and brothers? A thousand million of them, and twenty million of us? They’d wipe us out, or make us all what do you call it, what’s the word, slaves, to work the mines for them!”
“All right. I agree that it’s probably wise to fear Urras. But why hate? Hate’s not functional; why are we taught it? Could it be that if we knew what Urras was really like, we’d like it — some of it — some of us? That what PDC wants to prevent is not just some of them coming here, but some of us wanting to go there?”
“Go to Urras?” Shevek said, startled.
The argued because they liked argument, liked the swift run of the unfettered mind along the paths of possibility, liked to question what was not questioned. They were intelligent, their minds were already disciplined to the clarity of science, and they were sixteen years old. But at this point the pleasure of the argument ceased for Shevek, as it had earlier for Kvetur. He was disturbed. “Who’d ever want to go to Urras?” he demanded. “What for?”
“To find out what another world’s like. To see what a ‘horse’ is!”
“That’s childish,” Kvetur said. “There’s life on some other star systems,” and he waved a hand at the moonwashed sky.“ So they say. What of it? We had the luck to be born here!”
“If we’re better than any other human society,” said Tirin, “then we ought to be helping them. But we’re forbidden to.”
“Forbidden? Nonorganic word. Who forbids? You’re externalizing the integrative function itself,” Shevek said, leaning forward and speaking with intensity. “Order is not ‘orders.’ We don’t leave Anarres, because we are Anarres. Being Tirin, you can’t leave Tirin’s skin. You might like to try being somebody else to see what it’s like, but you can’t. But are you kept from it by force? Are we kept here by force? What force — what laws, governments, police? None. Simply our own being, our nature as Odonians. It’s your nature to be Tirin and my nature to be Shevek, and our common nature to be Odonians, responsible to one another. And that responsibility is our freedom. To avoid it would be to lose our freedom. Would you really like to live in a society where you have no responsibility and no freedom, no choice, only the false option of obedience to the law, or disobedience followed by punishment? Would you really want to go live in a prison?”
“Oh, hell, no. Can’t I talk? The trouble with you, Shev, is you don’t say anything till you’ve saved up a whole truckload of damned heavy brick arguments, and then you dump them all out and never look at the bleeding body mangled beneath the heap —”
Shevek sat back, looking vindicated.
But Bedap, a heavy-set, square-faced fellow, chewed on his thumbnail and said, “All the same, Tir’s point remains. It would be good to know that we knew all the truth about Urras.”
“Who do you think is lying to us?” Shevek demanded.
“Placid, Bedap met his gaze. “Who, brother? Who but ourselves?”
The sister planet shone down upon them, serene and brilliant, a beautiful example of the improbability of the real.
The afforestation of the West Temaenian Littoral was one of the great undertakings of the fifteenth decad of the Settlement on Anarres, employing nearly eighteen thousand people over a period of two years.
Though the long beaches of Southeast were fertile, supporting many fishing and farming communities, the arable area was a mere strip along the sea. Inland and westward clear across the vast plains of Southwest the land was uninhabited except for a few isolated mining towns. It was the region called the Dust.
In the previous geological era the Dust had been an immense forest of holums, the ubiquitous, dominant plant genus of Anarres. The current climate was hotter and drier. Millennia of drought had killed the trees and dried the soil to a fine grey dust that now rose up on every wind, forming hills as pure of line and barren as any sand dune. The Anarresti hoped to restore the fertility of that restless earth by replanting the forest. This was. Shevek thought, in accordance with me principle of Causative Reversibility, ignored by the Sequency school of physics currently respectable on Anarres, but still an intimate, tacit element of Odonian thought. He would like to write a paper showing the relationship of Odo’s ideas to the ideas of temporal physics, and particularly the influence of Causative Reversibility on her handling of the problem of ends and means. But at eighteen he didn’t know enough to write such a paper, and he never would know enough if he didn’t get back to physics soon and out of the damned Dust.
At night in the project camps everybody coughed, in the daytime they coughed less; they were too busy to cough. The dust was their enemy, the fine dry stuff that clogged the throat and lungs; their enemy and their charge, their hope. Once that dust had lain rich and dark in the shade of trees. After their long work, it might do so again.
“She brings the green leaf from the stone. From heart of rock clear water running.”
Gimar was always humming the tune, and now in the hot evening returning to camp over the plain she sang the words aloud.
“Who does? Who’s she?” asked Shevek.
Gimar smiled. Her broad, silky face was smeared and caked with dust, her hair was full of dust, she smelled strongly and agreeably of sweat.
“I grew up in Southrising,” she said. “Where the miners are. It’s a miner song.”
“Don’t you know? People who were already here when the Settlers came. Some of them stayed and joined the solidarity. Goldminers, tinminers. They still have some feast days and songs of their own. The tadde  was a miner, he used to sing me that when I was little.”
“Well, then, who’s ‘she’?”
“I don’t know, it’s just what the song says. Isn’t it what we’re doing here? Bringing green leaves out of stones!”
“Sounds like religion.”
“You and your fancy book-words. It’s just a song. Oh, I wish we were back at the other camp and could have a swim. I stink!”
“We all stink.”
But this camp was fifteen kilos from the beaches of the Temae, and there was only dust to swim in.
There was a man in camp whose name, spoken, sounded like Shevek’s: Shevek When one was called the other answered. Shevek felt a kind of affinity for the man, a relation more particular than that of brotherhood, because) of this random similarity. A couple of times he saw Shevek eyeing him. They did not speak to each other yet.
Shevek’s first decads in the afforestation project had been spent in silent resentment and exhaustion. People who had chosen to work in centrally functional fields such as physics should not be called upon for these projects’ and special levies. Wasn’t it immoral to do work you didn’t enjoy? The work needed doing, but a lot of people didn’t care what they were posted to and changed jobs all the time; they should have volunteered. Any fool could do this work. In fact, a lot of them could do it better than he could. He had been proud of his strength, and had always volunteered for the “heavies” on tenth-day rotational duty; but here it was day after day, eight hours a day, in dust and heat All day he would look forward to evening when he could be alone and think, and the instant he got to the sleeping tent after supper his head flopped down and he slept like a stone till dawn, and never a thought crossed his mind.
Ha found the workmates dull and loutish, and even those younger than himself treated him like a boy. Scornful and resentful, he took pleasure only in writing to his friends Tirin and Rovab in a code they had worked out at the Institute, a set of verbal equivalents to the special symbols of temporal physics. Written out, these seemed to make sense as a message, but were in fact nonsense, except for the equation or philosophical formula they masked. Shevek’s and Rovab’s equations were genuine. Tirin’s letters were very funny and would have convinced anyone that they referred to real emotions and events, but the physics in them was dubious. Shevek sent off one of these puzzles often, once he found that he could work them out in his head while he was digging holes in rock with a dull shovel in a dust storm. Tirin answered several times, Rovab only once. She was a cold girl, he knew she was cold. But none of them at the Institute knew how wretched he was. They hadn’t been posted, just as they were beginning independent research, to a damned tree-planting project. Their central function wasn’t being wasted. They were working: doing what they wanted to do. He was not working. He was being worked.
Yet it was queer how proud you felt of what you got done this way — all together — what satisfaction it gave. And some of the workmates were really extraordinary people. Gimar, for instance. At first her muscular beauty had rather awed him, but now he was strong enough to desire her.
“Come with me tonight, Gimar.”
“Oh, no,” she said, and looked at him with so much surprise that he said, with some dignity of pain, “I thought we were friends.”
“I’m partnered. He’s back home.”
“You might have said,” Shevek said, going red.
“Well, it didn’t occur to me I ought to. I’m sorry, Shev.” She looked so regretfully at him that he said, with some hope, “You don’t think —”
“No. You can’t work a partnership that way, some bits for him and some bits for others.”
“Life partnership is realty against the Odonian ethic, I think,” Shevek said harsh and pedantic.
“Shit.” said Gimar in her mild voice, “raving’s wrong; sharing’s right. What more can you share than your whole self, your whole life, all the nights and all the days?”
He sat with his hands between his knees, his head bowed, a long boy, rawboned, disconsolate, unfinished. “I’m not up to that,” he said after a while.
“I haven’t really ever known anybody. You see low I didn’t understand you. I’m cut off. Can’t get in. Never will. It would be silly for me to think about a partnership. That sort of thing is for...for human beings...”
With timidity, not a sexual coyness but the shyness of respect, Gimar put her hand on his shoulder. She did not reassure him. She did not tell him he was like everybody else. She said, “I’ll never know anyone like you again, Shev. I never will forget yon.”
All the same, a rejection is a rejection. For all her gentleness he went from her with a lame soul, and angry.
The weather was very hot. There was no coolness except in the hour before dawn.
The man named Shevek came up to Shevek one night after supper. He was a stocky, handsome fellow of thirty. “I’m tired of getting mixed up with you,” he said. “Call yourself something else.”
The surly aggressiveness would have puzzled Shevek earlier. Now he simply responded in kind. “Change your own name if you don’t like it,” he said.
“You’re one of those little profiteers who goes to school to keep his hands clean,” the man said. “I’ve always wanted to knock the shit out of one of you.”
“Don’t call me profiteer!” Shevek said, but this wasn’t a verbal battle. Shevek knocked him double. He got in several return blows, having long arms and more temper than his opponent expected: but he was outmatched. Several people paused to watch, saw that it was a fair fight but not an interesting one, and went on. They were neither offended nor attracted by simple violence. Shevek did not call for help, so it was nobody’s business but his own. When he came to he was lying on his back on the dark ground between two tents.
He had a ringing in his right ear for a couple of days, and a split lip that took long to heal because of the dust, which irritated all sores. He and Shevek never spoke again. He saw the man at a distance, at other cookfires, without animosity. Shevek had given him what he had to give, and he had accepted the gift, though for a long time he never weighed it or considered its nature. By the time he did so there was no distinguishing it from another gift, another epoch in his growing up. A girl, one who had recently joined his work gang, came up to him just as Shevek had in the darkness as he left the cookfire, and his lip wasn’t healed yet...He never could remember what she said; she had teased him; again he responded simply. They went out into the plain in the night, and there she gave him the freedom of the flesh. That was her gift, and he accepted it. Like all children of Anarres he had had sexual experience freely with both boys and girls, but he and they had been children; he had never got further than the pleasure he assumed was all there was to it. Beshun, expert in delight, took him into the heart of sexuality, where there is no rancor and no ineptitude, where the two bodies striving to join each other annihilate the moment in their striving, and transcend the self, and transcend time.
It was all easy now, so easy, and lovely, out in the warm dust, in the starlight. And the days were long, and hot, and bright, and the dust smelled like Beshun’s body.
He worked now in the planting crew. The trucks had come down from Northeast full of tiny trees, thousands of seedlings raised in the Green Mountains, where it rained up to forty inches a year, the rain belt. They planted the little trees in the dust
When they were done, the fifty crews who had worked the second year of the project drove away in the flatbed trucks, and they looked back as they went. They saw what they had done. There was a mist of green, very faint, on the pallid curves and terraces of the desert. On the dead land lay, very lightly, a veil of life. They cheered, sang, shouted from truck to truck. Tears came into Shevek’s eyes. He thought. She brings the green leaf from the stone...Gimar had been posted back to Southrising a long time ago. “What are you making faces about?” Beshun asked him, squeezing next to him, as the truck jounced and miming her hand up and down his hard, dust-whitened arm.
“Women,” Vokep said, in tile truck depot in Tin Ore, Southwest. “Women think they own you. No woman can really be an Odonian.”
“Odo herself — ?”
“Theory. And no sex life after Asieo was killed, right? Anyhow there’re always exceptions. But most women, their only relationship to a man is having. Either owning or being owned.”
“You think they’re different from men there?”
“I know it. What a man wants is freedom. What a woman wants a property. She’ll only let you go if she can trade you for something else. All women are propertarians.”
“That’s a hell of a thing to say about half the human race,” said Shevek, wondering if the man was right. Beshun had cried herself sick when he got posted back to Northwest, had raged and wept and tried to make him tell her he couldn’t live without her and insisted she couldn’t live without him and they must be partners. Partners, as if she could have stayed with any one man for half a year!
The language Shevek spoke, the only one he knew, lacked any proprietary idioms for the sexual act. In Pravic it made no sense for a man to say that he had “had” a woman. The word which came closest in meaning to “’fuck,” and had a similar secondary usage as a curse, was specific: it meant rape. The usual verb, taking only a plural subject, can be translated only by a neutral word like copulate. It meant something two people did, not something one person did, or had. This frame of words could not contain the totality of experience any more than any other, and Shevek was aware of the area left out, though he wasn’t quite sure what it was. Certainly be had felt that be owned Beshun, possessed her, on some of those starlit nights m the Dust. And she had thought she owned him. But they had both been wrong; and Beshun, despite her sentimentality, knew it; she had kissed him goodbye at last smiling, and let him go. She had not owned him. His own body had, in its first outburst of adult sexual passion, possessed him indeed — and her. But it was over with. It had happened. It would never (he thought, eighteen years old, sitting with a traveling-acquaintance in the truck depot of Tin Ore at midnight over a glass of sticky sweet fruit drink, waiting to hitch a ride on a convoy going north), it could never happen again. Much would yet happen, but he would not be taken off guard a second time, knocked down, defeated. Defeat, surrender, had its raptures. Beshun herself might never want any joy beyond them. And why should she? It was she, in her freedom, who had set him free.
“You know, I don’t agree,” he said to long-faced Vokep, an agricultural chemist traveling to Abbenay. “I think men mostly have to learn to be anarchists. Women don’t have to learn.”
Vokep shook his head grimly. “It’s the kids,” he said. “Having babies. Makes ‘em propertarians. They won’t let go.” He sighed. “Touch and go, brother, that’s the rule. Don’t ever let yourself be owned.”
Shevek smiled and drank his fruit juice. “I won’t,” he said.
It was a joy to him to come back to the Regional Institute, to see the low hills patchy with bronze-leaved scrub holum, the kitchen gardens, domiciles, dormitories, workshops, classrooms, laboratories, where he had lived since he was thirteen. He would always be one for whom the return was as important as the voyage out. To go was not enough for him, only half enough; he must come back. In such a tendency was already foreshadowed, perhaps, the nature of the immense exploration he was to undertake into the extremes of the comprehensible. He would most likely not have embarked on that years-long enterprise had he not had profound assurance that return was possible, even though he himself might not return; that indeed the very nature of the voyage, like a circumnavigation of the globe, implied return. You shall not go down twice to the same river, nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory, wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity, and your relationship to the river, and the river’s relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of identity. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
He was glad, then, to get back to what was as close to a home as he had or wanted. But he found his friends there rather callow. He had grown up a good deal this past year. Some of the girls had kept up with him, or passed him; they had become women. He kept clear, however, of anything but casual contact with the girls, because he really didn’t want another big binge of sex just yet; he had some other things to do. He saw that the brightest of the girls, like Rovab, were equally casual and wary; in the labs and work crews or in the dormitory common rooms, they behaved as good comrades and nothing else. The girls wanted to complete their training and start their research or find a post they liked, before they bore a child; but they were no longer satisfied with adolescent sexual experimentation. They wanted a mature relationship, not a sterile one; but not yet, not quite yet.
These girls were good companions, friendly and independent. The boys Shevek’s age seemed stuck in the end of a childishness that was running a bit thin and dry. They were over-intellectua. They didn’t seem to want to commit themselves either to work or to sex. To hear Tirin talk he was the man who invented copulation, but all his affairs were with girls of fifteen or sixteen; he shied away from the ones his own age. Bedap, never very energetic sexually, accepted the homage of a younger boy who had a homosexual-idealistic crush on him, and let that suffice him. He seemed to take nothing seriously, he had become ironical and secretive. Shevek felt cut out from the friendship. No friendship held; even Tirin was too self-centered, and lately too moody, to reassert the old bond — if Shevek had wanted it. In fact, he did not. He welcomed isolation with all his heart. It never occurred to him that the reserve he met in Bedap and Tirin might be a response; that his gentle but already formidably hermetic character might form its own ambience, which only great strength, or great devotion, could withstand. All he noticed, really, was that he had plenty of time to work at last.
Down in Southeast, after he had got used to the steady physical labor, and had stopped wasting his brain on code messages and his semen on wet dreams, he had begun to have some ideas. Now he was free to work these ideas out, to see if there was anything in them.
The senior physicist at the Institute was named Mitis. She was not at present directing the physics curriculum, as all administrative jobs rotated annually among the twenty permanent postings, but she had been at the place thirty years, and had the best mind among them. There was always a kind of psychological clear space around Mitis, like the lack of crowds around the peak of a mountain. The absence of all enhancements and enforcements of authority left the real thing plain. There are people of inherent authority; some emperors actually have new clothes.
“I sent that paper you did on Relative Frequency to Sabiri, in Abbenay,” she said to Shevek, in her abrupt, companionable way. “Want to see the answer?”
She pushed across the table a ragged bit of paper, evidently a comer torn off a larger piece. On it in tiny scribbled characters was one equation:
ts -(R) =0
Shevek put his weight on his hands on the table and looked down at the bit of paper with a steady gaze. His eyes were light, and the light from the window filled them so they seemed clear as water. He was nineteen. Mitis fifty-five. She watched him with compassion and admiration.
“That’s what’s missing,” he said. His hand had found a pencil on the table. He began scribbling on the fragment of paper. As he wrote, his colorless face, silvered with fine short hair, became flushed, and his ears turned red.
Mitis moved surreptitiously around behind the table to sit down. She had circulatory trouble in her legs, and needed to sit down. Her movement, however, disturbed Shevek. He looked up with a cold annoyed stare.
“I can finish this in a day or two,” he said.
“Sabul wants to see the results when you’ve worked it out”
There was a pause. Shevek’s color returned to normal, and he became aware again of the presence of Mitis, whom he loved. “Why did you send the paper to Sabul?” he asked. “With that big hole in it!” He smiled; the pleasure of patching the hole in his thinking made him radiant.
“I thought he might see where you went wrong. I couldn’t. Also I wanted him to see what you were after...He’ll want you to come there, to Abbenay, you know.”
The young man did not answer.
“Do you want to go?”
“So I judged. But you must go. For the books, and for the minds you’ll meet there. You will not waste that mind in a desert” Mitis spoke with sudden passion. “It’s your duty to seek out the best, Shevek. Don’t let false egalitarianism ever trick you. You’ll work with Sabul, he’s good, he'll work you hard. But you should be free to find the line you want to follow. Stay here one more quarter, then go. And take care, in Abbenay. Keep free. Power inheres in a center. You’re going to the center. I don’t know Sabul well; I know nothing against him; but keep this in mind: you will be his man.”
The singular forms of the possessive pronoun in Pravic were used mostly for emphasis; idiom avoided them. Little children might say “my mother,” but very soon they learned to say “the mother.” Instead of “my hand hurts,” it was “the hand hurts me,” and so on; to say “this one is mine and that’s yours” in Pravic, one said. “I use this one and you use that” Mitis’s statement, “You will be his man,” had a strange sound to it. Shevek looked at her blankly.
“There’s work for you to do,” Mitis said. She had black eyes, they flashed as if with anger. “Do it!” Then she went out, for a group was waiting for her in the lab. Confused, Shevek looked down at the bit of scribbled paper. He thought Mitis had been telling him to hurry up and correct his equations...It was not till much later that he understood what she had been telling him.
The night before he left for Abbenay his fellow students gave a party for him. Parties were frequent, on slight pretexts, but Shevek was surprised by the energy that went into this one, and wondered why it was such a fine one. Uninfluenced by others, he never knew he influenced them; he had no idea they liked him.
Many of them must have saved up daily allowances for the party for days before. There were incredible amounts of food. The order for pastries was so large that the refectory baker had let his fancy loose and produced hitherto unknown delights: spiced wafers, little peppered squares to go with the smoked fish, sweet fried cakes, succulently greasy. There were fruit drinks, preserved fruit from the Keran Sea region, tiny salt shrimp, piles of crisp sweet-potato chips. The rich plentiful food was intoxicating. Everybody got very merry, and a few got sick.
There were skits and entertainments, rehearsed and impromptu. Tirin got himself up in a collection of rags from the recycle bin and wandered among them as the Poor Urrasti, the Beggarman — one of the lotic words everybody had learned in history. “Give me money,” he whined, shaking his hand under their noses. “Money! Money! Why don’t you give me any money? You haven’t got any? Liars! Filthy propertarians! Profiteers! Look at all that food, how did you get it if you haven’t any money?” He then offered himself for sale. “Bay me, bay me, for just a little money,” he wheedled.
“It isn’t bay, it’s buy,” Rovab corrected him.
“Bay me, buy me, who cares, look, what a beautiful body, don’t you want it?” Tirin crooned, wagging his slender hips and batting his eyes. He was at last publicly executed with a fish knife and reappeared in normal clothing. There were skillful harp players and singers among them, and there was plenty of music and dancing, but more talk. They all talked as if they were to be struck dumb tomorrow.
As the night went on young lovers wandered off to copulate, seeking the single rooms; others got sleepy and went off to the dormitories; at last a small group was left amid the empty cups, the fishbones, and the pastry crumbs, which they would have to clean up before morning. But it was hours yet till morning. They talked. They nibbled on this and that as they talked. Bedap and Tirin and Shevek were there, a couple of other boys, three girls. They talked about the spatial representation of time as rhythm, and the connection of the ancient theories of the Numerical Harmonies with modern temporal physics. They talked about the best stroke for long-distance swimming. They talked about whether their childhoods had been happy. They talked about what happiness was.
“Suffering is a misunderstanding,” Shevek said, leaning forward, his eyes wide and light. He was still lanky, with big hands, protruding ears, and angular joints, but in the perfect health and strength of early manhood he was very beautiful. His dun-colored hair, like the others’, was fine and straight, worn at its full length and kept off the forehead with a band. Only one of them wore her hair differently, a girl with high cheekbones and a flat nose; she had cut her dark hair to a shiny cap all round. She was watching Shevek with a steady, serious gaze. Her lips were greasy from eating fried cakes, and there was a crumb on her chin.
“It exists,” Shevek said, spreading out his hands. “It’s real. I can call it a misunderstanding, but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist, or will ever cease to exist. Suffering is the condition on which we live. And when it comes, you know it, you know it as the truth. Of course it’s right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger and injustice, as the social organism does. But no society can change the nature of existence. We can’t prevent suffering. This pain and that pain, yes, but not Pain. A society can only relieve social suffering, unnecessary suffering. The rest remains. The root, the reality. All of us here are going to know grief; if we live fifty years, we’ll have known pain for fifty years. And in the end we’ll die. That’s the condition we’re born on. I’m afraid of life! There are times I — I am very frightened. Any happiness seems trivial. And yet, I wonder if it isn’t all a misunderstanding — this grasping after happiness, this fear of pain...If instead of fearing it and running from it, one could ...get through it, go beyond it. There is something beyond it. It’s the self that suffers, and there’s a place where the self — ceases. I don’t know how to say it but I believe that the reality — the truth that I recognize in suffering as I don’t in comfort and happiness — that the reality of pain is not pain. If you can get through it. If you can endure it all the way.”
“The reality of our life is in love, in solidarity,” said a tall, soft-eyed girl. “Love is the true condition of human life.”
Bedap shook his head. “No. Shev’s right,” he said. “Love’s just one of the ways through, and it can go wrong, and miss. Pain never misses. But therefore we don’t have much choice about enduring it! We will whether we want to or not.”
The girl with short hair shook her head vehemently. “But we won’t! One in a hundred, one in a thousand, goes all the way, all the way through. The rest of us keep pretending we’re happy, or else just go numb. We suffer, but not enough. And so we suffer for nothing.”
“What are we supposed to do,” said Tirin, “go hit our heads with hammers for an hour every day to make sure we suffer enough?”
“You’re making a cult of pain,” another said. “An Odonian’s goal is positive, not negative. Suffering is dysfunctional, except as a bodily warning against danger. Psychologically and socially it’s merely destructive.”
“What motivated Odo but an exceptional sensitivity to suffering — her own and others’?” Bedap retorted.
“But the whole principal of mutual aid is designed to prevent suffering!”
Shevek was sitting on the table, his long legs dangling, his face intense and quiet. “Have you ever seen anybody die?” he asked the others. Most of them had, in a domicile or on volunteer hospital duty. All but one had helped at one time or another to bury the dead.
“There was a man when I was in camp in Southeast. It was the first time I saw anything like this. There was some defect in the aircar engine, it crashed lifting off and caught fire. They got him out burned all over. He lived about two hours. He couldn’t have been saved; there was no reason for him to live that long, no justification for those two hours. We were waiting for them to fly in anesthetics from the coast. I stayed with him, along with a couple of girls. We’d been there loading the plane. There wasn’t a doctor. You couldn’t do anything for him, except just stay there, be with him. He was in shock but mostly conscious. He was in terrible pain, mostly from his hands. I don’t think he knew the rest of his body was all charred, he felt it mostly in his hands. You couldn’t touch him to comfort him, the skin and flesh would come away at your touch, and he’d scream. You couldn’t do anything for him. There was no aid to give. Maybe he knew we were there, I don’t know. It didn’t do him any good. You couldn’t do anything for him. Then I saw ...you see ...I saw that you can’t do anything for anybody. We can’t save each other. Or ourselves.”
“What have you left, then? Isolation and despair! You’re denying brotherhood, Shevek!” the tall girl cried.
“No — no, I’m not. I’m trying to say what I think brotherhood really is. It begins — it begins in shared pain.”
“Then where does it end?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know yet.”
When Shevek woke, having slept straight through his first morning on Urras, his nose was stuffy, his throat was sore, and he coughed a lot. He thought he had a cold — even Odonian hygiene had not outwitted the common cold — but the doctor who was waiting to check him over, a dignified, elderly man, said it was more likely a massive hay-fever, an allergic reaction to the foreign dusts and pollens of Urras. He issued pills and a shot, which Shevek accepted patiently, and a tray of lunch, which Shevek accepted hungrily. The doctor asked him to stay in his apartment, and left him. As soon as he had finished eating, he commenced his exploration of Urras, room by room.
The bed, a massive bed on four legs, with a mattress far softer than that of the bunk on the Mindful, and complex bedclothes, some silky and some warm and thick, and a lot of pillows like cumulus clouds, had a room all to itself. The floor was covered with springy carpeting: there was a chest of drawers of beautifully carved and polished wood, and a closet big enough to hold the clothing of a ten-man dormitory. Then there was the great common room with the fireplace, which he had seen last night; and a third room, which contained a bathtub, a washstand, and an elaborate shitstool. This room was evidently for his sole use, as it opened off the bedroom, and contained only one of each kind of fixture, though each was of a sensuous luxury that far surpassed mere eroticism and partook, in Shevek’s view, of a kind of ultimate apotheosis of the excremental. He spent nearly an hour in this third room, employing all the fixtures in turn, and getting very clean in the process. The deployment of water was wonderful. Faucets stayed on till turned off; the bathtub must hold sixty liters, and the stool used at least five liters in flushing. This was really not surprising. The surface of Urras was five-sixths water. Even its deserts were deserts of ice, at the poles. No need to economize; no drought...But what became of the shit? He brooded over this, kneeling by the stool after investigating its mechanism. They must filter it out of the water at a manure plant. There were seaside communities on Anarres that used such a system for reclamation. He intended to ask about this, but never got around to it. There were many questions he never did ask on Urras.
Despite his stuffy head he felt well, and restless. The rooms were so warm that he put off getting dressed, and stalked about them naked. He went to the windows of the big room and stood looking out. The room was high. He was startled at first and drew back, unused to being in a building of more than one story. It was like looking down from a dirigible; one felt detached from the ground, dominant, uninvolved. The windows looked right over a grove of trees to a white building with a graceful square tower. Beyond this building the land fell away to a broad valley. All of it was fanned, for the innumerable patches of green that colored it were rectangular. Even where the green faded into blue distance, the dark lines of lanes, hedgerows, or trees could still be made out, a network as fine as the nervous system of a living body. At last hills rose up bordering the valley, blue fold behind blue fold, soft and dark under the even. pale grey of the sky.
It was the most beautiful view Shevek had ever seen. The tenderness and vitality of the colors, the mixture of rectilinear human design and powerful, proliferate natural contours, the variety and harmony of the elements, gave an impression of complex wholeness such as he had never seen, except perhaps, foreshadowed on a small scale in certain serene and thoughtful human faces.
Compared to this, every scene Anarres could offer, even the Plain of Abbenay and the gorges of the Ne Theras, was meager: barren, arid, and inchoate. The deserts of Southwest had a vast beauty, but it was hostile, and timeless. Even where men farmed Anarres most closely, their landscape was like a crude sketch in yellow chalk compared with this fulfilled magnificence of life, rich in the sense of history and of seasons to come, inexhaustible.
This is what a world is supposed to look like, Shevek thought.
And somewhere, out in that blue and green splendor, something was singing: a small voice, high up, starting and ceasing, incredibly sweet. What was it? A little, sweet wild voice, a music in midair.
He listened, and his breath caught in his throat.
There was a knock at the door. Turning naked and wondering from the window. Shevek said, “Come in”
A man entered, carrying packages. He stopped just inside the door. Shevek crossed the room, saying his own name, Anarresti-style, and, Urras-style, holding out his hand.
The man, who was fifty or so, with a lined, worn face, said something Shevek did not understand a word of, and did not shake hands. Perhaps he was prevented by the packages, but he made no effort to shift them and free his hand. His face was extremely grave. It was possible that he was embarrassed.
Shevek, who thought he had at least mastered Urrasti customs of greeting, was nonplused. “Come on in,” he repeated, and then added, since the Urrasti were forever using titles and honorifics, “sir!”
The man went off into another unintelligible speech, sliding meantime towards the bedroom. Shevek caught several words of lotic this time, but could make no sense of the rest. He let the fellow go, since he seemed to want to get to the bedroom. Perhaps he was a roommate? But there was only one bed. Shevek gave him up and went back to the window, and the man scuttled on into the bedroom and thumped around in it for a few minutes. Just as Shevek had decided that he was a night worker who used the bedroom days, an arrangement sometimes made in temporarily overcrowded domiciles, he came out again. He said something — “There you are, sir,” perhaps? — and ducked his head in a curious fashion, as if he thought that Shevek, five meters away, was about to hit him in the face. He left, Shevek stood by the windows, slowly realizing that he had for the first time in his life been bowed to.
He went into the bedroom and discovered that the bed had been made.
Slowly, thoughtfully, he got dressed. He was putting on his shoes when the next knock came.
A group entered, in a different manner; in a normal manner, it seemed to Shevek, as if they had a right to be there, or anywhere they chose to be. The man with the packages had been hesitant, he had almost slunk in. And yet his face, and his hands, and his clothing, had come closer to Shevek’s notion of a normal human being’s appearance than did those of the new visitors. The slinking man had behaved strangely, but he had looked like an Anarresti. These four behaved like Anarresti, but looked, with their shaven faces and gorgeous clothes, like creatures of an alien species.
Shevek managed to recognize one of them as Pae, and the others as men who had been with him last evening. He explained that he had not caught their names, and they reintroduced themselves, smiling: Dr. Chifooisk, Dr. Oiie, and Dr. Atro.
"Oh, by damn!" Shevek said, "Atro! I am glad to meet you!" He put his hands on the old man’s shoulders and kissed his cheek, before thinking that this brotherly greeting, common enough on Anarres, might not be acceptable here.
Atro, however, embraced him heartily in return, and looked up into his face with filmy grey eyes. Shevek realized that he was nearly blind. “My dear Shevek,” he said, “welcome to A-Io — welcome to Urras — welcome home!”
“So many years we have written letters, destroyed each other’s theories!”
“You were always the better destroyer. Here, hold on. I’ve got something for you.” The old man felt about in his pockets. Under his velvet university gown he wore a Jacket, under that a vest, under that a shirt, and probably another layer under that. All of these garments, and his trousers, contained pockets. Shevek watched quite fascinated as Atro went through six or seven pockets, all containing belongings, before he came up with a small cube of yellow metal mounted on a bit of polished wood. “There,” he said. peering at it “Your award. The Seo Oen prize, you know. The cash is in your account here. Nine years late, but better late than never.” His hands trembled as he handed the thing to Shevek.
It was heavy; the yellow cube was solid gold. Shevek stood motionless, holding it.
“I don’t know about you young men,” said Atro, “but I’m going to sit down.” They all sat down in the deep, soft chairs, which Shevek had already examined, puzzled by the material with which they were covered, a nonwoven brown stuff that felt like skin. “How old were you nine years ago, Shevek?”
Atro was the foremost living physicist on Urras. There was about him not only the dignity of age but also the blunt self-assurance of one accustomed to respect. This was nothing new to Shevek. Atro had precisely the one kind of authority that Shevek recognized. Also, it gave him pleasure to be addressed at last simply by his name.
“I was twenty-nine when I finished the Principles, Atro.”
“Twenty-nine? Good God, That makes you the youngest recipient of the Seo Oen for a century or so. Didn’t get around to giving me mine till I was sixty or so...How old were you, then, when you first wrote me?”
Atro snorted, “Took you for a man of forty then!”
“What about Sabul?” Oiie inquired. Oiie was even shorter than most Urrasti, who all seemed short to Shevek; he had a flat, bland face and oval, jet-black eyes. “There was a period of six or eight years when you never wrote, and Sabul kept in touch with us; but he never has talked on your radio link-up with us. We’ve wondered what your relationship is.”
“Sabul is the senior member of the Abbenay Institute in physics,” said Shevek. “I used to work with him.”
“An older rival; jealous; meddled with your books; been clear enough. We hardly need an explanation, Oiie,” said the fourth man, Chifoflisk, in a harsh voice. He was middle-aged, a swarthy, stocky man with the fine hands of a desk worker. He was the only one of them whose face was not completely shaven: he had left the chin bristling to match his short, iron-grey head hair. “No need to pretend that an you Odonian brothers are full of brotherly love,” he said. ’“Human nature is human nature.”
Shevek’s lack of response was saved from seeming significant by a volley of sneezes. “I do not have a handkerchief.” he apologized, wiping his eyes.
“Take mine,” said Atro, and produced a snowy handkerchief from one of his many pockets. Shevek took it, and as he did so an importunate memory wrung his heart. He thought of his daughter Sadik, a little dark-eyed girl, saying, “You can share the handkerchief I use.” That memory, which was very dear to him, was unbearably painful now. Trying to escape it, he smiled at random and said, “I am allergic to your planet The doctor says this.”
“Good God. you won’t be sneezing like that permanently?” old Atro asked, peering at him.
“Hasn’t your man been in yet?” said Pae.
“The servant. He was supposed to bring you some things. Handkerchiefs included. Just enough to tide you over till you can shop for yourself. Nothing choice — I’m afraid there’s very little choice in ready-made clothes for a man your height!”
When Shevek had sorted this out (Pae spoke in a rapid drawl, which matched with his soft, handsome features), he said. “That is kind of you. I feel —” He looked at Atro. “I am, you know the Beggarman,” he said to the old man, as he had said to Dr. Kimoe on the Mindful. “I could not bring money, we do not use it. I could not bring gifts, we use nothing that you lack. So I come, like a good Odonian, “with empty hands.”
Atro and Pae assured him that he was a guest, there was no question of payment, it was their privilege. “Besides,” Chifoilisk said in his sour voice, “the loti Government foots the bill.”
Pae gave him a sharp glance, but Chifoilisk, instead of returning it, looked straight at Shevek. On his swarthy face was an expression that he made no effort to hide but which Shevek could not interpret: warning, or complicity?
“There speaks the unregenerate Tbuvian,” old Atro said with his snort. “But you mean to say, Shevek, that you brought nothing at all with you — no papers, no new work? I was looking forward to a book. Another revolution in physics. See these pushy young fellows stood on their heads, the way you stood me with the Principles. What have you been working on?”
“Well, I have been reading Pae — Dr. Pae’s paper on the block universe, on Paradox and Relativity.”
“All very well. Saio’s our current star, no doubt of that. Least of all in his own mind, eh, Saio? But what’s that to do with the price of cheese? Where’s your General Temporal Theory?”
“In my head,” said Shevek with a broad, genial smile.
There was a very little pause.
Oiie asked him if he had seen the work on relativity theory by an alien physicist, Ainsetain of Terra. Shevek had not. They were intensely interested in it, except for Atro, who bad outlived intensity. Pae ran off to his room to get Shevek a copy of the translation. “It’s several hundred years old, but there’s fresh ideas in it for us,” he said.
“Maybe,” said Atro, “but none of these offworlders can follow our physics. The Hainish call it materialism, and the Terrans call it mysticism, and then they both give up. Don’t let this fad for everything alien sidetrack you, Shevek. They’ve got nothing for us. Dig your own pigweed, as my father used to say.” He gave his senile snort and levered himself up out of the chair. “Come on out for a turn in the Grove with me. No wonder you’re stuffy, cooped up in here.”
“The doctor says I’m to stay in this room three days. I might be — infected? Infectious?”
“Never pay any attention to doctors, my dear fellow.”
“Perhaps in this case, though. Dr. Atro,” Pae suggested in his easy, conciliating voice.
“After all, the doctor’s from the Government, isn’t he?” said Chifoilisk, with evident malice.
“Best man they could find, I’m sure,” Atro said unsmiling, and took his leave without urging Shevek further. Chifoilisk went with him. The two younger men stayed with Shevek, talking physics, for a long time.
With immense pleasure, and with that same sense of profound recognition, of finding something the way it was meant to be, Shevek discovered for the first time in his life the conversation of his equals.
Mitis, though a splendid teacher, had never been able to follow him into the new areas of theory that he had with her encouragement, begun to explore. Gvarab was the only person he had met whose training and ability were comparable to his own, and be and Gvarab had met too late, at the very end of her life. Since those days Shevek had worked with many people of talent, but because he had never been a full-time member of the Abbenay Institute, he had never been able to take them far enough; they remained bogged down in the old problems, the classical Sequency physics. He had had no equals. Here, in the realm of inequity, he met them at last.
It was a revelation, a liberation. Physicists, mathematicians, astronomers, logicians, biologists, all were here at the University, and they came to him or he went to them, and they talked, and new worlds were born of that talking. It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass, It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.
Even on that first afternoon at the University, with One and Pae, he knew he had found something he had longed for ever since, as boys and on a boyish level, he and Tirin and Bedap had used to talk half the night, teasing and daring each other into always bolder flights of mind. He vividly remembered some of those nights. He saw Tirin, Tirin saying, “If we knew what Urras was really like, maybe some of us would want to go there.” And he had been so shocked by the idea that he had jumped all over Tirin, and Tir had backed down at once; he had always backed down, poor damned soul, and he had always been right
Conversation had stopped. Pae and Oiie were silent.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “The head is heavy.”
“How’s the gravity?” Pae asked, with the charming smile of a man who, like a bright child, counts on his charm.
“I don’t notice,” Shevek said. “Only in the, what is this?”
“Knees — knee joints.”
“Yes, knees. Function is impaired. But I will get accustomed.” He looked at Pae, then at Oiie. -’There is a question. But I don’t wish to give offense.”
“Never fear, sir!” Pae said.
Oiie said, “I’m not sure you know how.” Oiie was not a likable fellow, like Pae. Even talking physics he had an evasive, secretive style. And yet beneath the style, there was something, Shevek felt, to trust; whereas beneath Pae’s charm, what was there? Well, no matter. He had to trust them all, and would. “Where are women?”
Pae laughed. Oiie smiled and asked, “In what sense?”
“All senses. I met women at the party last night — five, ten — hundreds of men. None were scientists, I think. Who were they?”
“Wives. One of them was my wife, in fact,” Oiie said with his secretive smile.
“Where are other women?”
“Oh, no difficulty at all there, sir,” Pae said promptly. “Just tell us your preferences, and nothing could be simpler to provide.”
“One does hear some picturesque speculations about Anarresti customs, but I rather think we can come up with almost anything you had in mind,” said Oiie.
Shevek had no idea what they were talking about. He scratched his bead. “Are all the scientists here men, then?”
“Scientists?” Oiie asked, incredulous.