I don’t understand what’s going on. The physical sessions in the morning are going so well. I can feel such a kindness from the Major towards me that I am not able to understand his stubbornness in in refusing to tell me the truth.
When Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe tried to convince him, he literally lost his temper. There was no question of telling me the truth nor of asking for my memory to be kept. This was impossible. The law was the law. “Believe me, her departure will be easier as long as everybody sticks to this version,” he even added.
I was so hurt that this morning I pretended to be unwell so I wouldn’t have to go to the training session.
Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain comes upstairs to see me. I am trying to refrain a groan in my throat.
– You’re crying…
– No. Well, yes I’m… sad. Is this the way people cry here?
– Yes, it is. You’re crying. What’s happening to you?
– I don’t want my memory to be wiped out. Do you know they want to wipe out my memory?
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe will address the Great Council today to plead your cause.
– He’s going to address the Great Council?
– He will. He told me last night. He trusts you. And I agree with him.
– Why can’t the Major be like him?
– The Major may think he is protecting the planet. Not ours. Yours.
– From what, from who? I’m not a threat to Earth.
– There is a precedent in our history. This precedent is behind this law. But everything is different this time. You have been showing interest in us. You’re not a technology thief.
– Obviously not!
– But the consequences were disastrous last time. Those people were not ready. They may have thought that a few drawings would help them take a great leap forward. And they pulverized their own planet. Five billion people wiped out in a split second. Through our fault.
– We weren’t vigilant enough. We are empathists ; we felt their envy, their covetousness. But we didn’t measure the extent, nor the consequences.
– That is an awful story, and I can understand your caution today. But don’t you think your reaction is a bit radical? I mean erasing my memory…I’m not one of them.
– The death of five billion people is a radical consequence. It’s a national day of mourning here. The day of the Big Shame.
– Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain, please don’t get angry. If I have to forget anything, I won’t cause any scene. I am not supposed to be aware of it, anyway.
– I’m sorry if I’ve given you the impression that I was upset. I don’t agree with the fate you’re supposed to face. But you must be aware that my husband’s request has a great chance of being rejected.
– I understand. Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain, I’d like to stay alone for a moment. I have drawings to finish.
– Come downstairs in three hundredths. The Great Council won’t be over, but Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe will be done with his hearing. He’ll come back here straight after.
A hundredth is a time unit on Dalygaran. It is a hundredth of a day, so one day is a hundred hundredths. I was given a Dalygaran watch so that I can know the time. I nod to Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain and wait as she goes downstairs. As I will remain here for a few moments, I decide to go for a swim once again. I don’t need a horse anymore. I just have to think where I want to go, and that’s it. So I think of the pond and I see myself diving. I have just enough time to flip over before I enter the water, head first. I have completely forgotten I have a watch, but it seems to work fine underwater.
I don’t grow tired of watching all those strange fish. I finally find a group of moonfish. I really love to tickle them. I have the sensation they push and shove to be under my hand. The time is going by so fast. When the three hundredths are over, I think of my bedroom, and I suddenly face Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe who is watching me, arms crossed, looking annoyed.
– You’re really impossible, he says through his teeth.
– Does she know about this? I whisper.
– No, she doesn’t, he answers speaking very quietly.
– What are you two doing up there? calls Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain. Come downstairs!
Even though my clothes are drying fast, a little puddle has time to spread on the floor.
– I’ve gone to swim, I say softly.
– I can see that, he answers pointing to the puddle with his chin.
– I needed to relax.
– I know.
– Have you been here for a long time?
– I’ve just arrived. Let’s go downstairs, but wipe your face first, he says still quietly as he hands me a hand towel, then out loud: “Sweetheart, we’re coming.”
Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain welcomes us with a smile.
– Have you already spoken of the Great Council? she asks.
– Yes, I’ve just told Beth that I’ve presented my request at the Great Council. They listened to me with attention. But they’ve recalled to me the law. And even though I know they can suspend it, I’m afraid they won’t.
– I told Beth the reason for this law.
– You were right to. It’s the Major’s turn now to give his recommendations. Thereafter, the Great Council will deliberate. As the manager of the space travel center, I will oversee your departure, and I’ll be informed of the details. As soon as I know something, I will call you. And you: you stay here, he says to me raising his voice and pointing at me with his index finger, jabbing it into each word.
Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain seems to be surprised by her husband’s tone. He nearly slams the door as he goes out.
– What happened to him? she asks me.
– I really don’t know, I answer with the most self-assured tone I can muster. Maybe pressure?
We both stay there, chatting about one thing and another. I like to chat with Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain. The time goes by softly, until someone knocks at the door. Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain stands up to open it.
– Major! she says.
– I’ve come to see how Beth is doing. She was sick this morning. May I speak with her?
My heart is about to stop. I wave a “no” at Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain, but no chance she could see it with her back turned.
– She’s here.
The Major goes inside and I am in his field of vision now.
– Beth, how are you?
– Good. Well, better. I was just homesick you know.
– I can… understand. I came to tell you good news.
At this point, a silly hope goes through my mind; not only my mind I have to say, but actually through my whole body.
– You will go home early tomorrow morning. Everything is ok now. We’ve got unexpected help.
– Whose help?
– I don’t know exactly. But all is ready for your return. The timing will be very tight. You’ll have to be on time.
– I’m always.
– That’s right. Except this morning. Your blood sample is already here.
– Yes, the transporter was ready, and so was the volunteer. We were just waiting for the Great Council’s green light. Tonight we’ll make your extraction capsule and a pill to avoid your being sick by the time re-synchronization. Beth, is everything ok? I feel you in such distress.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe told me when I arrived…
– Beth! exclaims my hostess.
– …that the time differential could cause me some memory loss. In fact, he didn’t really say it. I guessed. This time stuff, it’s never good, is it?
– And you want to remember? says the Major softly.
I explode in anger.
– How? How do you think I feel about it, eh? All that I went through here, all the things you taught me, the moonfish, Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain’s cooking, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe’s botany lessons… How dare you think I would like to forget all of these?
The Major remains voiceless while I disappear in my bedroom.
– She has… She has… he babbles.
I hear my hostess saying softly to the Major:
– She has a bad day. She needs to get over all these things. She’s going to calm down, but you’d better leave her alone.
– Good night Major.
– Er, yes, good night. I’m so sorry.
I can hear the door opening and closing from up here. I lie down on my bed brooding all this over. A capsule and a pill. Then I smile. At the same time, I can hear my hostess calling me:
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is on the line. Come down. He’s got something to tell you.
I run downstairs and stand in front of the communicator screen smiling frankly.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is smiling too.
– Beth, I know how we’ll be able to keep your memory safe.
– So do I, I answer.