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Книга Dhalgren. Содержание - V: Creatures of Light and Darkness

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"I never doubted it a minute." Tak laughed again. "And no, I don't want to suck your dick, pussy or no. Where do you come off with that idea?"

But something inside had released. Kid yawned hugely and explained, with the end of it muddling his words, "Lanya said I should go to bed with you again; she thought you'd like it."

"Did she, now?"

"But I said you were only interested in first tastes." Looking at Loufer, he suddenly realized behind the blond jocularity there was embarrassment, so looked at his lap again. "I guess I was…" right was mauled by another yawn.

"Oh, look. Why don't you just lie down and go to sleep. What I want to do is drink about three more shots of brandy and read a God-damn book or something."

"Sure." Kid lay belly down on the pallet, and jiggled around so the chains and prisms and projector did not bite his chest.

Tak shook his head, turned around in his chair, and stretched for the second shelf over the desk. A book fell. Tak sighed.

Kid grinned and moved his mouth down into the crook of his arm.

Tak drank some more brandy, folded his arms on the desk and began to read.

Kid looked for the sadness again, but it was now neatly invisible among dark folds. Hasn't turned a page for ten minutes, was his last amused thought before he closed his eyes and—


Kid, lying on his back, grunted, "Huh?"

Tak scratched his naked shoulder and looked perturbed. Kid thought: Now he's going to—?

"I'm afraid I gotta kick you out."

"Oh…" Kid squinted and stretched, in muffled and mechanical protest. "Yeah, sure." Behind the bamboo curtains were streaks of light.

"I mean a friend of mine came over," Tak explained, "and we'd sort of like…"

"Oh, yeah…" Kid closed his eyes tight as he could, opened them, and sat up while the chains rattled down his chest, and blinked:

Black, perhaps fifteen, in jeans, sneakers and a dirty white shirt, the boy stood by the door, blinking on balls of red glass.

Kid's back snarled with chills; he made himself smile. From some other time came the prepared thought: Such distortion tells me nothing of him, and is only terrifying because so much is unknown of myself. And the autonomic nerves, habituated to terror, nearly made him scream. He kept smiling, nodded, got groggily to his feet. "Oh, sure," he said. "Yeah, I'll be on my way. Thanks for letting me crash."

Passing through the doorway, he had to close his eyes, again, tight as possible, then look, again, hopeful that the crimson would vanish for brown and white. They will think I'm still half asleep! he hoped, hoped desperately, his boot scraping the roof's tar-paper. Morning was the color of dirty toweling. He left it for the dark stair. Shaking his head, he tried not to be afraid, so thought: Ousted for someone younger and prettier, wouldn't you know. Well — beneath the lids the eyes were glass and red! He reached a landing, swung round it, and remembered the nervous woman with skirts always far too long for the season, who had been his math instructor his first term at Columbia: "A true proposition," she had explained, rubbing chalky fingertips hard on one another, "implies only other true propositions. A false one can imply, well, anything — true, false, it doesn't matter. Anything at all. Anything…" As if the absurd gave her comfort, her perpetual tone of hysteria had softened momentarily. She left before the term's completion. He hadn't, damn it!

Nine flights down he walked the warm hall. Twelve steps up? Thirteen he counted this time, stubbing his toe on the top one.

Kid came out on the dawn-dim porch hung with hooks and coiled with smoke. He jumped from the platform, still groggy, still blinking, still filled with the terror for which there was no other way to deal with save laughter. After all, he thought, ambling toward the corner, if this burning can go on forever, if beside the moon there really is a George, if Tak kicks me out for a glass-eyed spade, if days can disappear like pocketed dollars, then there is no telling. Or only the telling, but no reasoning. He hooked his thumbs in his pockets where the material was already fraying, and turned the corner.

Between the warehouses, dealing and fading in moving smoke, the bridge rose and swung out into oblivion. Among the consorted fragments of his curiosity, the thought remained: I should have at least made him give me a cup of coffee before I went. He cleared his sticky throat, and turned, expecting the suspension cables any moment to fade forever, while he (forever?) wandered the smelly waterfront that somehow never actually opened on water.

This wide avenue had to lead onto the bridge.

Kid followed it for two blocks around a dark, official building. Then, beyond a twist of figure-eights and clover-leafs, the road rolled out between the suspensors, over the river.

He could only see as far as the start of the second span. The mist, among folds and tendrils, condensed the limits of vision. Foggy dawns should be chill and damp. This one was grit dry, tickled the back of his arms and the skin beneath his neck with something only a breath off body temperature. He walked up the edge of the road, thinking: There are no cars, I could run down the middle. Suddenly he laughed loudly (swallowing phlegm caught there in the night) and ran forward, waving his arms, yelling.

The city absorbed the sound, returned no echoes.

After thirty yards he was tired, so he trudged and panted in the thick, dry air. Maybe all these roads just go on, he theorized, and the bridge keeps hanging there. Hell, I've only been going ten minutes. He walked beneath several overpasses. He started to run again, coming around a curve to the bridge's actual entrance.

The roads' lines between the cables began a dozen perspective V's, their single vertex lopped by fog. Slowly, wonderingly, he started across toward the invisible shore. Once he went to the rail and looked over through the smoke to the water. He looked up through girders and cables past the walkway toward the stanchion tower. What am I doing here? he thought, and looked again into the fog.

The car was back among the underpasses half a minute while its motor got louder. Maroon, blunt, and twenty years old, it swung out onto the gridded macadam; as it growled by, a man in the back seat turned, smiled, waved.

"Hey!" Kid called, and waved after him.

The car did not slow. But the man gestured again through the back windshield.

"Mr Newboy!" Kid took six running steps and shouted: "Good-bye! Good-bye, Mr Newboy!"

The car diminished between the grills of cable, hit the smoke, and sank like a weight on loose cotton. A moment later—too soon, from his own recollection of the bridge crossed by foot — the sound of the motor ceased.

What was that sound? Kid had thought it was some wind storm very far away. But it was the air rushing in the cavern of his mouth. Good-bye, Mr Ernest Newboy, and added with the same good will, you're a tin Hindenburg, a gassy Nautilus, a coward to the marrow of each metatarsal. Though it would embarrass you to Hollywood and Hell, I hope we meet again. I like you, you insincere old faggot; underneath it all, you probably like me. Kid turned and looked at the shrouded city, like something crusty under smoke, its streets stuck blind in it, its colors pearled and pasteled; so much distance was implied in the limited sight.

I could leave this vague, vague city…

But, holding all his humor in, he turned back toward the underpass. Now and again his face struck into grotesque. Where is this city's center? he wondered, and walked, left leg a little stiff, while buildings rose, again, to receive him.

Free of name and purpose, what do I gain? I have logic and laughter, but can trust neither my eyes nor my hands. The tenebrous city, city without time, the generous, saprophytic city: it is morning and I miss the clear night. Reality? The only moment I ever came close to it was when, on the moonless, New Mexican desert, I looked up at the prickling stars on that hallow, hollow dark. Day? It is beautiful, there, true, fixed in the layered landscape, red, brass, and blue, but it is distorted as distance itself, the real all masked by pale defraction.

Buildings, bony and cluttered with ornament, hulled with stone at their different heights: Window, lintel, cornice and sills patterned the dozen planes. Billows brushed down them, sweeping at dusts they were too insubstantial to move, settled to the pavement and erupted in slow explosions he could see two blocks ahead-but, when he reached, they had disappeared.

I am lonely, he thought, and the rest is bearable. And wondered why loneliness in him was almost always a sexual feeling. He stepped off the sidewalk and kept along the loose line of old cars — nothing parked on this block later than 1968—thinking: What makes it terrible is that in this timeless city, in this spaceless preserve where any slippage can occur, these closing walls, laced with fire-escapes, gates, and crenellations are too unfixed to hold it in so that, from me as a moving node, it seems to spread, by flood and seepage, over the whole uneasy scape. He had a momentary image of all these walls on pivots controlled by subterranean machines, so that, after he had passed, they might suddenly swing to face another direction, parting at this corner, joining now at that one, like a great maze — forever adjustable, therefore unlearnable—

When the heavy man ran into the street, Kid first recognized the green-drab, wool shirt with no collar. Lumbering from the alley sidewalk, he saw Kid, headed for him. The man had been one of the white men at the church last night.

The fleshy face, red and sweat-flecked, shook above pumping fists. The top of the head was blotchy under a haze of yellow; on the forehead the hair lay out like scrap brass.

Suddenly Kid started to move backward. "Hey, watch it—"

"You—!" The man lunged. His fingers caught among, and tugged at, Kid's chains. "You are the one who…" At the Mexican accent Kid rifled his wounded memory. "When I was… you didn't… no? You, please… don't…" the man panted through wet lips. His eyes were bloodshot coral. "Oh, please, don't you… you were in there, yes? I… I mean you fool around like that, they gonna…" His mouth compressed; he looked across the street, looked baek. "You… Oh, the Kid!" and yanked his hand from tangled links while Kid thought: No, he didn't say 'the Kid,' he maybe said 'the kid,' or even 'they did.' The man was shaking his head: "No, you gonna… Hey, don't do that…"

"Look," Kid said, trying to take his arm. "You need some help? Here, let me—"

The man jerked away, nearly fell, began to run.

Kid took two steps after him, stopped.

The blond Mexican tripped on the far sidewalk, pushed up from his knee, and made it into the alley.

Circling Kid's mind was the Mexican voice in the hall at the Richards'; various mentions by Thirteen; amphetamine-psychosis? And then the thought, clear and overriding:

He was… crazy!

Something cascaded, tickling like a line of insects, across his stomach. For a moment he mistook it for a chill of recognition; indeed, real chills ignited a moment after.

But the optic chain had parted, probably under the man's tugging, and fallen down over his belt.

Kid picked up the loose end, found the other hanging across his chest — it had parted between lens and prism — and pulled the thin brass together. On one end still hung a tiny, twisted link. With great, stubby fingers, nearly numb inside their callous, he tried to get it closed. He stood in the street, pinching, twisting, sometimes holding his breath, sometimes letting it all out suddenly with a mumbled "Shit…" or "Fuck…" His armpits slipped with the sweat of concentration. His heels, one on leather, one on pavement, stung at different heats. His chin stayed tucked into his neck: he squinted in the dawn light, turning once so that his own, edgeless shadow slid from his fumbling nubs. It took practically ten minutes to fix.

And you could still tell which link had parted.

When he was finished, he was very depressed.

V: Creatures of Light and Darkness

When he had walked for several minutes, turned several corners, and the several tensions in his neck and back had ceased (he could think words now without striking up hysterical images on the screens of all five senses), he pissed in the middle of the street, hoping someone might pass and, with his fly half open and his fingers under his belt, walked again and asked himself: Now just what is the problem with seeing an occasional red eyeball, hey? It is: If I'm hallucinating that, how do I tell if anything else is real? Maybe half the people I see aren't there — like that guy who just ran up? What's he doing in my world? Some fragment of Mexico, recreated out of smoke and fatigue? How do I know there isn't a chasm in front of me I've hallucinated into plain concrete? (The entrance to the bridge… when I first came off it, was all broken and piled… with concrete…?) Put the whole thing up to dreaming? When I was seventeen or eighteen I stopped that. Five days!

I am mad again, he thought. Tears brimmed. He swallowed in a tightened throat. I don't want to be. I'm tired, I'm tired and horny, I'm so tired I can't make sense out of any of it and my mind won't work right half the time I try. I'm thirsty. My head's all filled with kapok coffee wouldn't clear. Still, I wish I had some. Where am I going, what am I doing, stumbling in this smoking graveyard? It's not the pain; only that the pain keeps going on.

He tried to let all his muscles go and stepped aimlessly from sidewalk to gutter, his mouth dryer and dryer and dryer. Well, he thought, if it hurts, it hurts. It's only pain. All right (he looked at blurred house tops above the trolley wires), I've chosen, I'm here.

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