The Complete Stories (Page 66)
"How do you know?"
Weill smiled at Belanger and crinkled his cheeks into a network of fine lines. "Frank, my boy, you know how to edit dreamies so you think you know all the tools and machines of the trade. But let me tell you something. The most important tool in the dreamie business is the dreamer himself. He is the one you have to understand most of all, and I understand them.
"Listen. When I was a youngster-there were no dreamies then-I knew a fellow who wrote television scripts. He would complain to me bitterly that when someone met him for the first time and found out who he was, they would say: Where do you get those crazy ideas?
"They honestly didn’t know. To them it was an impossibility to even think of one of them. So what could my friend say? He used to talk to me about it and tell me: Could I say, I don’t know? When I go to bed, I can’t sleep for ideas dancing in my head. When I shave, I cut myself; when I talk, I lose track of what I’m saying; when I drive, I take my life in my hands. And always because ideas, situations, dialogues are spinning and twisting in my mind. I can’t tell you where I get my ideas. Can you tell me, maybe, your trick of not getting ideas, so I, too, can have a little peace.
"You see, Frank, how it is. You can stop work here anytime. So can I. This is our job, not our life. But not Sherman Hillary. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he’ll dream. While he lives, he must think; while he thinks, he must dream. We don’t hold him prisoner, our contract isn’t an iron wall for him. His own skull is his prisoner, Frank. So he’ll be back. What can he do?" Belanger shrugged. "If what you say is right, I’m sort of sorry for the guy-"
Weill nodded sadly. "I’m sorry for all of them. Through the years, I’ve found out one thing. It’s their business; making people happy. Other peo-pie."
GEORGE PLATEN could not conceal the longing in his voice. It was too much to suppress. He said, "Tomorrow’s the first of May. Olympics!"
He rolled over on his stomach and peered over the foot of his bed at his roommate. Didn’t he feel it, too? Didn’t this make some impression on him?
George’s face was thin and had grown a trifle thinner in the nearly year and a half that he had been at the House. His figure was slight but the look in his blue eyes was as intense as it had ever been, and right now there was a trapped look in the way his fingers curled against the bedspread.
George’s roommate looked up briefly from his book and took the oppoffimity to adjust the light-level of the stretch of wall near his chair. His name was Hali Omani and he was a Nigerian by birth. His dark brown skin and massive features seemed made for calmness, and mention of the Olympics did not move him.
He said, "I know, George."
George owed much to Hall’s patience and kindness when it was needed, but even patience and kindness could be overdone. Was this a time to sit there like a statue built of some dark, warm wood?
George wondered if he himself would grow like that after ten years here and rejected the thought violently. No!
He said defiantly, "I think you’ve forgotten what May means."
The other said, "I remember very well what it means. It means nothing! You’re the one who’s forgotten that. May means nothing to you, George Platen, and," he added softly, "it means nothing to me, Hali Omani."
George said, "The ships are coming in for recruits. By June, thousands and thousands will leave with millions of men and women heading for any world you can name, and all that means nothing?"
"Less than nothing. What do you want me to do about it, anyway?" Omani ran his finger along a difficult passage in the book he was reading and his lips moved soundlessly.
George watched him. Damn it, he thought, yell, scream; you can do that much. Kick at me, do anything.
It was only that he wanted not to beso alone in his anger. He wanted not to be the only one so filled with resentment, not to be the only one dying a slow death.
It was better those first weeks when the Universe was a small shell of vague light and sound pressing down upon him. It was better before Omarn had wavered into view and dragged him back to a life that wasn’t worth living.
Omani! He was old! He was at least thirty. George thought: Will I be like that at thirty? Will I be like that in twelve years?
And because he was afraid he might be, he yelled at Omani, "Will you stop reading that fool book?"
Omani turned a page and read on a few words, then lifted his head with its skullcap of crisply curled hair and said, "What?"
"What good does it do you to read the book?" He stepped forward, snorted "More electronics," and slapped it out of Omani’s hands.
Omani got up slowly and picked up the book. He smoothed a crumpled page without visible rancor. "Call it the satisfaction of curiosity," he said. "I understand a little of it today, perhaps a little more tomorrow. That’s a victory in a way."
"A victory. What kind of a victory? Is that what satisfies you in life? To get to know enough to be a quarter of a Registered Electronician by the time you’re sixty-five?"
"Perhaps by the time I’mthirty-five."
"And then who’ll want you? Who’ll use you? Where will you go?"
"No one. No one. Nowhere. I’ll stay here and read other books."
"And that satisfies you? Tell me! You’ve dragged me to class. You’ve got me to reading and memorizing, too. For what! There’s nothing in it that satisfies me."
"What good will it do you to deny yourself satisfaction?"
"It means I’ll quit the whole farce. I’ll do as I planned to do in the beginning before you dovey-lovied me out of it. I’m going to force them to-to——-”