"lt's not easy to talk about."
"It won't take a minute. Now... You were lying in bed, asleep. Suddenly you woke up and rushed into the Orchid room. You remember the rest."
"One question. What was the cry that woke you?"
"I know, but I want you to say it. Say it out loud."
"Do you think it's... it's going to send me into hysteria again?"
"No. Just say it."
After a long pause, she said in a low voice: "Help, Barbara."
He nodded again. "Who shouted that?"
"Why, it was---" Suddenly she stopped.
"It wasn't Ben Reich. He wouldn't be yelling for help. He didn't need help. Who did?"
"My... My father."
"But he couldn't speak, Barbara. His throat was gone... Cancer. He couldn't utter a word."
"I heard him."
"You peeped him."
She stared; then she shook her head. "No, I---"
"You peeped him," Powell repeated gently. "You're a latent Esper. Your father cried out on the telepathic level. If I hadn't been such an ass and so intent on Reich, I'd have realized it long before. You were unconsciously peeping Mary and me all the while you were in my house."
She couldn't grasp it.
"Do you love me?" Powell shot at her.
"I love you, of course," she muttered, "but I think you're inventing excuses to---"
"Who asked you?"
"Asked me what?"
"If you loved me."
"Why you just---" She stopped, then tried again.
"You said... Y-You..."
"I didn't say it. Do you understand now? We won't have to settle for anything short of us."
Seconds later, it seemed, but it was actually half an hour, they were separated by a violent crash that sounded from the top of the terrace above their heads. They looked up in astonishment.
A naked thing appeared on the stone wall, gibbering, screaming, twitching. It toppled over the edge and crashed down through the flower beds until it landed on the lawn, crying and jerking as though a steady stream of voltage was pouring through its nervous system. It was Ben Reich, almost unrecognizable, part way through Demolition.
Powell swung Barbara to him with her back to Reich. He took her chin in his hand and said: "Are you still my girl?"
"I don't want you to see this. It isn't dangerous, but it isn't good for you. Will you run back to your pavilion and wait for me? Like a good girl? All right... Scamper now! Jet!"
She grabbed his hand, kissed it quickly, and ran across the lawn without once looking back. Powell watched her go, then turned and inspected Reich.
When a man is demolished at KingstonHospital, his entire psyche is destroyed. The series of osmotic injections begins with the topmost strata of cortical synapses and slowly works down, switching off every circuit, extinguishing every memory, destroying every particle of the pattern that has been built up since birth. And as the pattern is erased, each particle discharges its portion of energy, turning the entire body into a shuddering maelstrom of dissociation.
But this is not the pain; this is not the dread of Demolition. The horror lies in the fact that the consciousness is never lost; that as the psyche is wiped out, the mind is aware of its slow, backward death until at last it too disappears and awaits the rebirth. The mind bids an eternity of farewells; it mourns at an endless funeral. And in those blinking, twitching eyes of Ben Reich, Powell saw the awareness... the pain... the tragic despair.
"Now how the hell did he fall down there? Do we have to keep him tied?" Dr. Jeems poked his head over the terrace. "Oh. Hi, Powell. That's a friend of yours. Remember him?"
Jeems spoke over his shoulder: "You go down to the lawn and pick him up. I'll keep an eye on him." He turned to Powell. "He's a lusty lad. We've got great hopes for him."
Reich squalled and twitched.
"How's the treatment coming?"
"Wonderful. He's got the stamina to take anything. We're stepping him up. Ought to be ready for rebirth in a year."
"I'm waiting for it. We need men like Reich. It would have been a shame to lose him."
"Lose him? How's that possible? You think a little fall like that could---"
"No. I mean something else. Three or four hundred years ago, cops used to catch people like Reich just to kill them. Capital punishment, they called it."
"But it doesn't make sense. If a man's got the talent and guts to buck society, he's obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you've got left are the sheep."
"I don't know. Maybe in those days they wanted sheep."
The attendants came trotting across the lawn and picked Reich up. He fought and screamed. They handled him with the deft and gentle Kingston judo while they checked him carefully for breaks and sprains. Then, reassured, they started to lead him away.
"Just a minute," Powell called. He turned to the stone bench, picked up the mysterious parcel and unwrapped it. It was one of Sucre et Cie's most magnificent candy boxes. He carried it to the demolished man and held it out. "It's a present for you, Ben. Take it."
The creature lowered at Powell and then at the box. At last the clumsy hands came out and took the gift.
"Why damn it, I'm just his nursemaid," Powell muttered. "We're all of us nursemaids to this crazy world. Is it worth it?"
Out of the chaos in Reich came an explosive fragment: "Powell-peeper-Powell-friend-Powell-friend..."
It was so sudden, so unexpected, so passionately grateful that Powell was overcome with warmth and tears. He tried to smile, then turned away and wandered across the lawn toward the pavilion and Barbara.
"Listen," he cried in exaltation. "Listen, normals! You must learn what it is. You must learn how it is. You must tear the barriers down. You must tear the veils away. We see the truth you cannot see... That there is nothing in man but love and faith, courage and kindness, generosity and sacrifice. All else is only the barrier of your blindness. One day we'll all be mind to mind and heart to heart..."
In the endless universe there has been nothing new, nothing different. What has appeared exceptional to the minute mind of man has been inevitable to the infinite Eye of God. This strange second in a life, that unusual event, those remarkable coincidences of environment, opportunity, and encounter... all of them have been reproduced over and over on the planet of a sun whose galaxy revolves once in two hundred million years and has revolved nine times already. There has been joy. There will be joy again.