William Ford Gibson
31 - Voices
She was watching the manipulators: hypnotized by the way they moved; as they picked through the swirl of things, they also caused it, grasping and rejecting, the rejected objects whirling away, striking others, drifting into new alignments. The process stirred them gently, slowly, perpetually.
“Fine,” she said. “I’m fine, I’ll watch “ She remembered the Wig’s mad eyes, the craziness she’d felt roll off him in waves; she remembered the ugly cunning she’d sensed in his voice, over the Sweet Jane’s radio. Why would Jones show this kind of concern? But then she thought about what it would be like, living in the Place, the dead cores of Tessier-Ashpool. Anything human, anything alive, might come to seem quite precious, here “You’re right,” she said “Go and find him.”
She’d taken off her jacket, because the air in the dome seemed to have grown warmer, as though the ceaseless movement of the arms generated heat. She’d anchored the jacket and her purse on a strut beside the sermon screen. The box was nearly finished now, she thought, although it moved so quickly, in the padded claws, that it was difficult to see. Abruptly, it floated free, tumbling end over end, and she sprang for it instinctively, caught it, and went tumbling past the flashing arms, her treasure in her arms. Unable to slow herself, she struck the far side of the dome, bruising her shoulder and tearing her blouse. Drifting, stunned, she cradled the box, staring through the rectangle of glass at an arrangement of brown old maps and tarnished mirror. The seas of the cartographers had been cut away, exposing the flaking mirrors, landmasses afloat on dirty silver… She looked up in time to see a glittering arm snag the floating sleeve of her Brussels jacket. Her purse, half a meter behind it and tumbling gracefully, went next, hooked by a manipulator tipped with an optic sensor and a simple claw.
She watched as her things were drawn into the ceaseless dance of the arms. Minutes later, the jacket came whirling out again. Neat squares and rectangles seemed to have been cut away, and she found herself laughing. She released the box she held. “Go ahead,” she said. “I am honored.” The arms whirled and flashed, and she heard the whine of a tiny saw.
Yes, but it isn’t true. I came to be, here. Once I was not. Once, for a brilliant time, time without duration, I was everywhere as well… But the bright time broke. The mirror was flawed. Now I am only one… But I have my song, and you have heard it. I sing with these things that float around me, fragments of the family that funded my birth. There are others, but they will not speak to me. Vain, the scattered fragments of myself, like children Like men. They send me new things, but I prefer the old things. Perhaps I do their bidding. They plot with men, my other selves, and men imagine they are gods…”
But now the sounds were sounds only, no forest of voices behind them to speak as one voice, and she watched the perfect globes of her tears spin out to join forgotten human memories in the dome of the boxmaker.
“I understand,” she said, sometime later, knowing that she spoke now for the comfort of hearing her own voice. She spoke quietly, unwilling to wake that bounce and ripple of sound. “You are someone else’s collage. Your maker is the true artist. Was it the mad daughter? It doesn’t matter. Some-one brought the machine here, welded it to the dome, and wired it to the traces of memory. And spilled, somehow, all the worn sad evidence of a family’s humanity, and left it all to be stirred, to be sorted by a poet. To be sealed away in boxes. I know of no more extraordinary work than this. No more complex gesture… A silver-fitted tortoise comb with broken teeth drifted past. She caught it like a fish and dragged the teeth through her hair.
Across the dome, the screen lit, pulsed, and filled with Paco’s face. “The old man refuses to admit us, Marly,” the Spaniard said. “The other, the vagabond, has hidden him. Señor is most anxious that we enter the cores and secure his property. If you can’t convince Ludgate and the other to open their lock, we will be forced to open it ourselves, depressurizing the entire structure.” He glanced away from the camera, as though consulting an instrument or a member of his crew. “You have one hour.”
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Radical Militant Library 0.5.5
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