Weissenbaum's Eye - Stetten - Chapter 16
Table of Contents
When Sand returned to his room the walls were whispering that Benjamin Holly wanted to see him. He lay down on the couch and struck out along a path through a forest he had been making. He was in no hurry to see Holly again.
The woods were gloomy and lifeless. As he walked, Sand tried to brighten them, only to be frustrated. Nothing he could do dispelled the shadows from behind the trees. Suddenly, off to the side, stood Benjamin Holly flanked by two bushes.
"Hello, Sand," said Holly. "Don't be angry with me. I have trained you to be like me. We are the middle men in many deals. We use, and we ourselves are used."
Sand's heart pounded, but he could not bring himself to speak. Holly continued in the tone of an incantation.
"Inside your eyes you see through tunnels. Oh Sand, dear Sand, you didn't really think that just because the others could be seen and heard and even touched, that it meant you were not alone?"
Holly smiled in sad astonishment, and tilted his head, ever so slightly, or maybe it was the forest that tilted behind him. His lips continued to move, and more words came out, but Sand could not understand them. The branches encircled Benjamin Holly like a wreath, and his eyes rolled metallic gray.
Sand sat straight up, and got off the couch.
For hours he sat on the floor, he had no idea how long. Time and the world had turned their backs on him. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do. In mute recognition of his abstinence, the ceiling and walls played blank projections. The medium was absent. As boredom exhausted him, anxiety kept him awake. Many times he longed for the couch, but rigidly he stuck to his refusal. He would not use the simultron.
For the next few days he slept on the floor, with his spare clothes serving as a mattress. His dreams were vague, less memorable than when he had slept on the couch. But strangely, these dreams, of which he could hold but a trace, left him more refreshed than he had felt in years. And it occurred to Sand that this was what sleep was supposed to be, what sleep had been before the simultron.
From time to time he wandered up to the garden in the dome, where the plants took on a new dimension of appeal. Weeds were overgrowing the plot kept by the woman from the elevator. She had evidently stopped coming to the surface, no doubt because of her addiction. Near her section of the garden were some food plants, tomatoes, grown only for show, but Sand ate a few and found them not altogether unpleasant. And he stood for hours outside the dome on the metal balcony, watching the sun pass over the roofs of the city.
He began to count the days.
After seventeen sunrises, just when he was feeling at home with his new arrangements, he pulled out a wafer from the chute, and felt all hope leave him. Staring in dismay at the little opening that had kept him alive for so long, he saw the chute was empty. He tried his tube for water. Not a squirt, it was dry. The couch was demanding his return.
But he would not use the couch. Neither could he return to the campus, for an entire month had not yet passed. Sand stumbled out into the hall to find the doors to all the other rooms locked tight. Returning to his room, he thought more clearly. He had never even tried to talk to any of his neighbors. Aching and tired, thirsty and afraid, he gathered his clothes and left his room for the last time.