The Currents of Space (Page 3)
She said reluctantly, "Yes."
"I even remember the times you took me out into the fields before I could speak. I keep remembering new things all the time. Yesterday I remembered that once you caught a kyrt fly for me. You held it closed in your hands and made me put my eye to the space between your thumbs so that I could see it flash purple and orange in the darkness. I laughed and tried to force my hand between yours to get it, so that it flew away and left me crying after all. I didn’t know it was a kyrt fly then, or anything about it, but it’s all very clear to me now. You never told me about that, did you, Lona?"
She shook her head.
"But it did happen, didn’t it? I remember the truth, don’t I?"
"And now I remember something about myself from before. There must have been a before, Lona."
There must have been. She felt the weight on her heart when she thought that. It was a different before, nothing like the now they lived in. It had been on a different world. She knew that because one word he had never remembered was kyrt. She had to teach him the word for the most important object on all the world of Florina.
"What is it you remember?" she asked.
At this, Rik’s excitement seemed suddenly to die. He hung back. "It doesn’t make much sense, Lona. It’s just that I had a job once, and I know what it was. At least, in a way."
"What was it?"
"I analyzed Nothing."
She turned sharply upon him, peering into his eyes. For a moment she put the flat of her hand upon his forehead, until he moved away irritably. She said, "You don’t have a headache again, Rik, have you? You haven’t had one in weeks."
"I’m all right. Don’t you go bothering me."
Her eyes fell, and he added at once, "I don’t mean that you bother me, Lona. It’s just that I feel fine and I don’t want you to worry."
She brightened. "What does ‘analyzed’ mean?" He knew words she didn’t. She felt very humble at the thought of how educated he must once have been.
He thought a moment. "It means-it means ‘to take apart.’ You know, like we would take apart a sorter to find out why the scanning beam was out of alignment."
"Oh. But, Rik, how can anyone have a job not analyzing anything? That’s not a job."
"I didn’t say I didn’t analyze anything. I said I analyzed Nothing. With a capital N."
"Isn’t that the same thing?" It was coming, she thought. She was beginning to sound stupid to him. Soon he would throw her off in disgust.
"No, of course not." He took a deep breath. "I’m afraid I can’t explain though. That’s all I remember about that. But it must have been an important job. That’s the way it feels. I couldn’t have been a criminal."
Valona winced. She should never have told him that. She had told herself it was only for his own protection that she warned him, but now she felt that it had really been to keep him bound tighter to herself.
It was when he had first begun to speak. It was so sudden it had frightened her. She hadn’t even dared speak to the Town-man about it. The next idle-day she had withdrawn five credits from her life-hoard-there would never be a man to claim it as dowry, so that it didn’t matter-and taken Rik to a City doctor. She had the name and address on a scrap of paper, but even so it took two frightening hours to find her way to the proper building through the huge pillars that held the Upper City up to the sun.
She had insisted on watching and the doctor had done all sorts of fearful things with strange instruments. When he put Rik’s head between two metal objects and then made it glow like a kyrt fly in the night, she had jumped to her feet and tried to make him stop. He called two men who dragged her out, struggling wildly.
Half an hour afterward the doctor came out to her, tall and frowning. She felt uncomfortable with him because he was a Squire, even though he kept an office down in the Lower City, but his eyes were mild, even kind. He was wiping his hands on a little towel, which he tossed into a wastecan, even though it looked perfectly clean to her.
He said, "Where did you meet this man?"
She had told him the circumstances cautiously, reducing it to the very barest essentials and leaving out all mention of the Townman and the patrollers.
"Then you know nothing about him?"
She shook her head. "Nothing before that."
He said, "This man has been treated with a psychic probe. Do you know what that is?"
At first she had shaken her head again, but then she said in a dry whisper, "Is it what they do to crazy people, Doctor?"
"And to criminals. It is done to change their minds for their own good. It makes their minds healthy, or it changes the parts that make them want to steal and kill. Do you understand?"
She did. She grew brick-red and said, "111k nevзr stole anything or hurt anybody."
"You call him Rik?" He seemed amused. "Now look here, how do you know what he did before you met him? It’s hard to tell from the condition of his mind now. The probing was thorough and brutal. I can’t say how much of his mind has been permanently removed and how much has been temporarily lost through shock. What I mean is that some of it will come back, like his speaking, as time goes on, but not all of it. He should be kept under observation."
"No, no. He’s got to stay with me. I’ve been taking good care of him, Doctor."
He frowned, and then his voice grew milder. "Well, I’m thinking of you, my girl. Not all the bad may be out of his mind. You wouldn’t want him to hurt you someday."
At that moment a nurse led out Rik. She was making little sounds to quiet him, as one would an infant. 111k put a hand to his head and stared vacantly, until his eyes focused on Valona; then he held out his hands and cried, feebly, "Lona–"