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VII

  • "Now if you accept the law of similarity, that like causes like, as having the logical form of material implication," said Wato the witch doctor, "it becomes even more evident that this form of magic obeys the rule of universal causality. On the other hand, the law of contagion, which we have hitherto accepted, cannot be fitted into any such scheme and—"
  • "—is therefore of dubious validity, eh?" asked his colleague from the village downstream. "Possibly. However, if we are to work out the theory of beliefs handed down from our forefathers, we must adapt the logic to the facts and not the facts to the logic, especially when this formal logic is so recent a development of ours. It should be possible to work out a symbolic representation of causality which will embody all the known principles of magic as special cases. Now let me see—" He began tracing figures in the dust.
  • The two old men sat outside Wato's thatch hut, oblivious to the tall warriors who passed to and fro, not hearing the clank of weapons and the thick voices of the drums. M'Wanzi threw them an amused look as he strode by. Let them elaborate their dusty dreams as much as they wished. The rifle on his shoulder was solid reality and enough for him.
  • Enough for the Overlord of Africa!
  • Not yet, he reminded himself sternly, not yet. This strange clarity which had seized every mind was still too new a thing to be trusted. It might fail them just when they needed it most terribly. But then—his fist clenched—they would die like men, at least, having struck a blow for an ancient wish.
  • Free the black man! Drive the white oppressors beyond the sea! Since his youth and the days of horror on the plantation, it had been his life. But only now—
  • Well, he had not been frightened by that which was happening within his soul, as the others were. He had seized this power to think with a swift fierce gladness, and his will had dominated whole tribes driven half crazy with fear, ready to turn anywhere for the comfort of leadership. Over thousands of miles, from Congo jungle to the veldts of the south, men tormented and enslaved and spat upon had lifted weary faces to a message blown down the wind.  _Now_  was the time to strike, before the white man also rallied—the scheme was ready, lying in the soul of M'Wanzi the Elephant, the campaign was planned in a few flashing days, the army was stirring to life, now was the time to be free!
  • The drums talked around him as he went toward the edge of the jungle. Soon, now, soon they would call the gathering men to battle, and war would burn from the northern desert to the southern ocean, and in the end the men of Africa would be free. The men and the—
  • M'Wanzi stepped through a wall of canebrake into the thick hot shadows of the forest. Another shadow moved down, flitted across the earth and waited grotesquely before him. Wise brown eyes regarded him with an ancient sadness.
  • "Have you gathered the brethren of the forest?" asked M'Wanzi.
  • "They come soon," said the ape.
  • That had been M'Wanzi's great realization. All the rest, the organization, the planned campaign, that was nothing beside this: that if the souls of men had suddenly grown immensely bigger, so must the souls of animals have done. His guess had been confirmed by terrified stories of raids on farms made by elephants of demoniac cunning, but when those reports came he was already working out a common language of clicks and grunts and murmurs with a captured chimpanzee. The apes had never been much less intelligent than man, M'Wanzi suspected—secure and happy in their tree-top life, they had simply had nothing to gain by toiling in the fields and herding cattle and pay tribute to white tax collectors. But he, M'Wanzi, could offer them much in exchange for their help; and were they not Africans too?
  • "My brother of the forest, go tell your people to make ready."
  • "Not all of them wish this thing, brother of the fields. They must be beaten before they wish it. That takes time."
  • "Time we have little of. Use the drums as I taught you. Send word throughout the land and let the hosts, gather at the appointed places."
  • "It shall be as you wish. When next the moon rises full, the children of the forest shall be there, and they shall be armed with knives and blowguns and assegais as you showed me."
  • "Brother of the forest, you have gladdened my heart. Go with fortune and carry that word."
  • The ape turned and swung lithely up a tree. A stray sunbeam gleamed off the rifle slung at his back.
  • Corinth sighed, yawned, and got up from his desk, shoving the papers away. He did not say anything aloud, but to his assistants, hunched over some testing apparatus, the meaning was clear: "To hell with it. I'm too tired to think straight any more. Going home."
  • Johansson gestured with his hand, conveying as well as if he had spoken:
  • "Think I'll stay here for awhile, chief. This gimmick is shaping up nice."
  • Grunewald looked up and added a curt nod.
  • Corinth fumbled automatically after a cigarette, but his pocket was empty.
  • Smokes just weren't to be had these days. He hoped the world would get back on an operating basis soon. God! What was happening outside the city? A few radio stations, professional and amateur, were maintaining a tenuous web of communications across western Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific, but the rest of the planet seemed to be swallowed by darkness—an occasional report of violence, like lightning in the night, and then nothing. Such news as he got was all bad, rioting, insurrection, hunger, crime, a civilization falling apart.
  • Mandelbaum had warned him yesterday to be on his guard. Missionaries of the Third Ba'al had entered town despite all precautions and were making converts right and left. The new religion seemed to be wholly orgiastic, with a murderous hatred for logic and science and rationality of all kinds—you could expect trouble.
  • Corinth went down hallways that were tunnels of dusk. They had to conserve electricity; only a few power stations were still going, manned and guarded by volunteers. Rather than summon the elevator, he walked down seven flights to ground level. Loneliness oppressed him, and when he saw a light in Dagmar's office he paused, startled, and then knocked.
  • "Come in."
  • He opened the door. She sat behind a littered desk, writing up some kind of manifest. The symbols she used were strange to him, probably her own invention and more efficient than the conventional ones. She still looked as severely handsome as she had always done, but there was a deep weariness that paled her eyes.
  • "Hullo, Pete," she said. The smile that twitched her mouth was tired, but it had warmth. "How've you been?"
  • "Oh—all right. But you—I thought you'd been co-opted by Felix to help whip his new government into shape." Actually, Corinth had spoken two words and made three gestures; she could fill in his intention from logic and her knowledge of his old speech habits.
  • "I have. But I feel more at home here, and it's just as good a place to do some of the work. Who've you got on my old job, by the way?"
  • "Billy Saunders—ten years of age, but a sharp kid. Maybe we should get a moron, though. The physical strain may be too much for a child."
  • "I doubt it. There isn't much to do now, really. You boys co-operate pretty smoothly since the change—unlike the rest of the world!"
  • "I don't know if it's safe for you to come so far from where you live."
  • Corinth shifted awkwardly on his feet. "Look, let me take you home."
  • "Not necessary." She spoke with a certain bite in her tones, and Corinth realized dully that she loved him.
  • _And all our feelings have intensified. I never, knew before how much of man's emotional life is bound up with his brain, how much more keenly he feels than any other animal. For to him there is more than simple pain and yearning, to him there is a meaning in all the world; everything that touches him means more than itself, it is a symbol of—what?_
  • "Sit down," she invited, leaning back in her seat. "Rest for a minute."
  • He smiled wearily, lowering himself into a chair. "Wish we had some beer," he murmured. "It would be like the old days."
  • "The old days—the lost innocence. We'll always regret them, won't we? We'll always look back on our blindness with a wistful longing that the new generation simply won't understand. Oh, damn it all, anyway!" She beat a clenched fist against the desk top, very softly. The light gleamed gold in her hair.
  • "How's your work coming along?" she asked after a moment. The silence hummed around them.
  • "Good enough. I've been in touch with Rhayader in England, over the short wave. They are having a tough time, but keeping alive. Some of their biochemists have been working on yeasts, getting good results. By the end of the year they hope to be able to feed themselves adequately, if not very palatably as yet—food synthesis plants being built. He gave me some information that just about clinched the theory of the inhibitor field—how it's created. I've got Johansson and Grunewald at work on an apparatus to generate a similar field on a small scale; if they succeed, we'll know that our hypothesis is probably right. Then Nat can use the apparatus to study biological effects in detail. As for me, I'm going into the development of Rhayader's general relativity-cum-quantum mechanics—applying a new variation of communications theory, of all things, to help me out."
  • "What's your purpose, other than curiosity?"
  • "Quite practical, I assure you. We may find a way to generate atomic energy from any material whatsoever, by direct nucleonic disintegration: no more fuel problems. We may even find a way to travel faster than light. The stars—well—"
  • "New worlds. Or we might return to the inhibitor field, out in space—why not?
  • Go back to being stupid. Maybe we'll be happier that way… . No, no, I realize you can't go home again." Dagmar opened a drawer and took out a crumpled packet. "Smoke?"
  • "Angel! How on Earth did you manage that?"
  • "I have my ways." She struck a match for him and lit her own cigarette with it.
  • They smoked in silence for awhile, but the knowledge and the reading of each other was like a pale flickering between them.
  • "You'd better let me see you home," said Corinth. "It's not safe out there.
  • The prophet's mobs—"
  • "All right," she said. "Though I've got a car and you haven't."
  • "It's only a few blocks from your place to mine, in a safe district."
  • Since it was not possible as yet to patrol the entire sprawling city, the government had concentrated on certain key streets and areas; an organization not unlike the medieval Burgher Guard kept order there, and gradually spread its influence outward.
  • Corinth took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "I don't really understand it," he said. "Human relationships were never my long suit, and even now I can't quite—Well, why should this upsurge of intelligence throw so many back to the animal stage? Why can't they see—"
  • "They don't want to." Dagmar drew hard on her cigarette. "Quite apart from those who've gone insane, and they're an important factor, there remains the necessity of not only having something to think with, but something to think about. You've taken millions—hundreds of millions—of people who've never had an original thought in their lives and suddenly thrown their brains into high gear. They start thinking—but what basis have they got? They still retain the old superstitions, prejudices, hates and fears and greeds, and most of their new mental energy goes to elaborate rationalization of these. Or they grab onto the first thing that comes along, in a frantic search for intellectual and emotional security; clutch it tight, make it a bulwark against an unknown become all the more horrible because they can suddenly visualize just how big it is. Remember, most cranks and fanatics—a lot of them, at least—before the change were of above-the-average intelligence."
  • "Ummm—yes—After all, what is intelligence? The ability to create and handle abstractions. That's been increased, yes, but nothing has been said about the kind of abstractions. Nor have most of these people had any training in thought. They don't know  _how_ , and they can't be expected to invent formal logic and semantics for themselves overnight."
  • "Sure." There was a faint scorn in Dagmar's tone. "If you stop to consider it, you'll realize that nobody ever did much thinking for himself. I mean nobody.
  • Even the scientists and philosophers and the others who thought for a living, well, they just confined their originality to some limited area and accepted the ready-made conclusions of their social group in every other field, without critical analysis. You did. I did. We all did."
  • "I'm afraid," said Corinth wryly, "that intelligence has always been secondary, and still is. Sure, it's an integral part of man, but not the dominant part. His fears and needs and passions have always been the driving force."
  • "Uh-huh." Dagmar winced. When she looked up again, her voice was flat and impersonal. "Also, don't forget that a lot of smart and ruthless characters have taken advantage of the situation. Sheer personality can still dominate sheer intellect. There's been one hell of a big crime wave, as you know, crooks using their new brains to pull off bigger and more ingenious schemes.
  • And someone like this Third Ba'al, well, he offers an anodyne to frightened and confused people; he tells them it's all right to throw off this terrible burden of thought and forget themselves in an emotional orgy. It won't last, Pete, but the transition is tough."
  • "Yeah—hm—I had to get an I.Q. of 500 or so—whatever that means—to appreciate how little brains count for, after all. Nice thought." Corinth grimaced and stubbed out his cigarette.
  • Dagmar shuffled her papers together and put them in a drawer. "Shall we go?"
  • "Might as well. It's close to midnight. Sheila'll be worried, I'm afraid."
  • They walked out through the deserted lobby to the street. A solitary lamp cast a dull yellow puddle of luminance on Dagmar's car. She took the wheel and they purred quietly down an avenue of night.
  • "I wish—" Her voice out of darkness was thin. "I wish I were out of this. Off in the mountains somewhere."
  • He nodded, suddenly sick with his own need for open sky and the clean light of stars.
  • The mob was on them so fast that they had no time to escape. One moment they were driving down an empty way between blind walls, the next instant the ground seemed to vomit men. They came pouring from the side streets, quiet save for a murmur of voices and the shuffling of a thousand feet, and the few lamps gleamed off their eyes and teeth.
  • "Son-of-a—!" Dagmar braked to a squealing halt as the surge went in front of them, cutting them off.
  • "Kill the scientists!" It hung like a riven cloud for a moment, one quavering scream which became a deep chanting. The living stream flowed around the car, veiled in shadow, and Corinth heard their breathing hot and hoarse in his ears.
  • > _Break their bones and burn their homes, > _ _Take their wimmin, the sons of sin, > _ _Wallow hollow an' open the door, > _ _Open an' let the Third Ba'al in!_
  • A sheet of fire ran up behind the tall buildings, something was in flames. The light was like blood on the dripping head which someone lifted on a pole.
  • They must have broken the line of the patrols, thought Corinth wildly; they must have smashed into this guarded region and meant to lay it waste before reinforcements came.
  • A face dirty and bearded and stinking shoved in through the driver's window.
  • Uh woman! He got uh woman here!"
  • Corinth took the pistol from his coat pocket and fired. Briefly, he was aware of its kick and bark, the stinging of powder grains in his skin. The face hung there for an eternal time, dissolved into blood and smashed bone. Slowly it sagged, and the crowd screamed. The car rocked under their thrusts.
  • Corinth braced himself, shoving at his own door, jamming it open against the milling press of bodies. Someone clawed at his feet as he scrambled up on the hood. He kicked, feeling his shoe jar against teeth, and stood up. The firelight blazed in his face. He had taken off his glasses, without stopping to think why it was unsafe to be seen wearing them, and the fire and the crowd and the buildings were a shifting blur, fog and shadow and the flames of a primitive hell.
  • "Now hear me!" he shouted. "Hear me, people of Ba'al!"
  • A bullet whanged past him, he felt its hornet buzz, but there was no time to be afraid. "Hear the word of the Third Ba'al!"
  • "Let 'im talk!" It was a bawling somewhere out in that flowing, mumbling, unhuman river of shadows. "Hear his word."
  • "Lightning and thunder and rain of bombs!" yelled Corinth. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for the end of the world is at hand! Can't you hear the planet cracking under your feet? The scientists have fired the big atomic bomb. We're on our way to kill them before the world breaks open like rotten fruit. Are you with us?"
  • They halted, muttering, shuffling their feet, uncertain of what they had found. Corinth went on, raving hardly aware of what he was saying. Anything to divert them! "—kill and loot and steal the women! Break open the bottle shops!
  • Fire, clean fire, let it burn the scientists who fired the big atomic bomb.
  • This way, brothers! I know where they're hiding. Follow me!"
  • "Kill them!" The head on the pole bobbed insanely, and firelight wavered off its teeth. "Hooray, hooray, kill 'em!" The cheering grew, huge and obscene between the cliff-walls of Manhattan.
  • "Down there!" Corinth danced on the hood, gesturing toward Brooklyn. "They're hiding there, people of Ba'al. I saw the big atomic bomb myself, with my own eyes I saw it, and I knew the end of the world was at hand. The Third Ba'al himself sent me to guide you. May his lightnings strike me dead if that ain't the truth!"
  • Dagmar blew her horn, an enormous echoing clamor that seemed to drive them into frenzy. Someone began capering, goat-like, and the others joined him, and the mob snake-danced down the street.
  • Corinth climbed to the ground, shaking uncontrollably. "Follow 'em," He gasped. "They will get suspicious if we don't follow 'em."
  • "Sure thing, Pete." Dagmar helped him inside and trailed the throng. Her headlights glared off their backs. Now and then she blew the horn to urge them on.
  • There was a whirring high in heaven. Corinth's breath whistled between his teeth. "Let's go," he mumbled.
  • Dagmar nodded, made a U-turn, and shot back down the avenue. Behind them, the mob scattered as helicopters sprayed them with tear gas.
  • After a silent while, Dagmar halted before Corinth's place. "Here we are," she said.
  • "But I was going to see you home," he said feebly.
  • "You did. Also you stopped those creatures from doing a lot of harm, to the district as well as us." The vague light glimmered off her smile; it was shaky and tears lay in her eyes. "That was wonderful, Pete. I didn't know you could do it."
  • "Neither did I," he said huskily.
  • "Maybe you missed your calling. More money in revivals, I'm told. Well—" She sat for a moment. "Well, good night."
  • She leaned forward, lips parted as if she were about to say something more.
  • Then she clamped them shut, shook her head. The slamming of the door was loud and empty as she drove off.
  • Corinth stood looking after the car till it was out of sight. Then he turned slowly and entered his building.