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On his approaches to it, taken inward again and again, Gottfried can only try to keep himself open, to loosen the sphincter of his soul. . . .

"And sometimes I dream of discovering the edge of the World. Finding that there is an end. My mountain gentian always knew. But it has cost me so much.

"America was the edge of the World. A message for Europe, continent-sized, inescapable. Europe had found the site for its Kingdom of Death, that special Death the West had invented. Savages had their waste regions, Kalaharis, lakes so misty they could not see the

other side. But Europe had gone deeper—into obsession, addiction, away from all the savage innocences. America was a gift from the invisible powers, a way of returning. But Europe refused it. It wasn't Europe's Original Sin—the latest name for that is Modern Analysis—but it happens that Subsequent Sin is harder to atone for.

"In Africa, Asia, Amerindia, Oceania, Europe carne and established its order of Analysis and Death. What it could not use, it killed or altered. In time the death-colonies grew strong enough to break away. But the impulse to empire, the mission to propagate death, the structure of it, kept on. Now we are in the last phase. American Death has come to occupy Europe. It has learned empire from its old metropolis. But now we have only the structure left us, none of the great rainbow plumes, no fittings of gold, no epic marches over alkali seas. The savages of other continents, corrupted but still resisting in the name of life, have gone on despite everything . . . while Death and Europe are separate as ever, their love still unconsummated. Death only rules here. It has never, in love, become one with. . . .

"Is the cycle over now, and a new one ready to begin? Will our new Edge, our new Deathkingdom, be the Moon? I dream of a great glass sphere, hollow and very high and far away . . . the colonists have learned to do without air, it's vacuum inside and out. . . it's understood the men won't ever return . . . they are all men. There are ways for getting back, but so complicated, so at the mercy of language, that presence back on Earth is only temporary, and never 'real'. . . passages out there are dangerous, chances of falling so shining and deep. . . . Gravity rules all the way out to the cold sphere, there is always the danger of falling. Inside the colony, the handful of men have a frosty appearance, hardly solid, no more alive than memories, nothing to touch . . . only their remote images, black and white film-images, grained, broken year after hoarfrost year out in the white latitudes, in empty colony, with only infrequent visits from the accidental, like me. . . .

"I wish I could recover it all. Those men had once been through a tragic day—ascent, fire, failure, blood. The events of that day, so long ago, had put them into exile forever . . . no, they weren't really spacemen. Out here, they wanted to dive between the worlds, to fall, turn, reach and swing on journeys curved through the shining, through the winter nights of space—their dreams were of rendezvous, of cosmic trapeze acts carried on in loneliness, in sterile grace, in certain knowledge that no one would ever be watching, that loved ones had been lost forever. . . .

"The connections they hoped for would always miss by trillions of

dark miles, by years of frozen silence. But I wanted to bring you back the story. I remember that you used to whisper me to sleep with stories of us one day living on the Moon . . . are you beyond that by now? You've got much older. Can you feel in your body how strongly I have infected you with my dying? I was meant to: when a certain time has come, I think that we are all meant to. Fathers are carriers of the virus of Death, and sons are the infected . . . and, so that the infection may be more certain, Death in its ingenuity has contrived to make the father and son beautiful to each other as Life has made male and female ... oh Gottfried of course yes you are beautiful to me but I'm dying ... I want to get through it as honestly as I can, and your immortality rips at my heart—can't you see why I might want to destroy that, oh that stupid clarity in your eyes . . . when I see you in morning and evening ranks, so open, so ready to take my sickness in and shelter it, shelter it inside your own little ignorant love. ...

"Your love." He nods several times. But his eyes are too dangerously spaced beyond the words, stunned irreversibly away from real Gottfried, away from the weak, the failed smells of real breath, by barriers stern and clear as ice, and hopeless as the one-way flow of European time. . . .

"I want to break out—to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered, inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become. . . ."

Gottfried kneels, numb, waiting. Blicero is looking at him. Deeply: his face whiter than the boy has ever seen it. A raw spring wind beats the canvas of their tent. It's near sunset. In a moment Blicero must go out to take evening reports. His hands rest near a mound of cigarette butts in a mess tray. His myopic witch's eyes, through the thick lenses, may be looking into Gottfried's for the first time. Gottfried cannot look away. He knows, somehow, incompletely, that he has a decision to make . . . that Blicero expects something from him . . . but Blicero has always made the decisions. Why is he suddenly asking . . .

It all poises here. Passageways of routine, still cogent enough, still herding us through time . . . the iron rockets waiting outside . . . the birth-scream of the latest spring torn across rainy miles of Saxony, route-sides littered with last envelopes, stripped gears, seized bearings, rotted socks and skivvies fragrant now with fungus and mud. If there is still hope for Gottfried here in this wind-beat moment, then there is hope elsewhere. The scene itself must be read as a card: what is to come. Whatever has happened since to the figures in it (roughly

drawn in soiled white, army gray, spare as a sketch on a ruined wall) it is preserved, though it has no name, and, like The Fool, no agreed assignment in the deck.


Here's Enzian ramrodding his brand-new rocket through the night. When it rains, when the mist is heavy, before the watch can quite get tarps over, the glossy skin of the rocket is seen to've turned to dark slate. Perhaps, after all, just before the firing, it will be painted black.

It is the 00001, the second in its series.

Russian loudspeakers across the Elbe have called to you. American rumors have come jiving in to the fires at night and summoned, against the ground of your hopes, the yellow American deserts, Red Indians, blue sky, green cactus. How did you feel about the old Rocket? Not now that it's giving you job security, but back then—do you remember any more what it was like wheeling them out by hand, a dozen of you that morning, a guard of honor in the simple encounter of your bodies with its inertia ... all your faces drowning in the same selfless look—the moires of personality softening, softening, each sweep of surf a little more out of focus till all has become subtle grades of cloud—all hatred, all love, wiped away for the short distance you had to push it over the winter berm, aging men in coatskirts flapping below your boottops, breaths in white spouts breaking turbulent as the waves behind you. . . . Where will you all go? What empires, what deserts? You caressed its body, brute, freezing through your gloves, here together without shame or reticence you twelve struggled, in love, on this Baltic shore—not Peenemünde perhaps, not official Peene-münde . . . but once, years ago . . . boys in white shirts and dark vests and caps ... on some beach, a children's resort, when we were younger ... at Test Stand VII the image, at last, you couldn't leave—the way the wind smelled salt and dying, the sound of winter surf, the premonition of rain you could feel at the back of your neck, stirring in the clipped hairs. ... At Test Stand VII, the holy place.

But young men have all grown older, and there's little color in the scene . . . they are pushing into the sun, the glare strikes them squinting and grinning, bright here as the morning shift at Siemens with the centaurs struggling high on the wall, the clock without numerals, bicycles squeaking, lunchpails and lunchbags and the lowered faces of the trudging dutiful streams of men and women into the dark openings

... it resembles a Daguerreotype taken of the early Raketen-Stadt by a forgotten photographer in 1856: this is the picture, in fact, that killed him—he died a week later from mercury poisoning after inhaling fumes of the heated metal in his studio . . . well, he was a habitue of mercury fumes in moderate doses, he felt it did his brain some good, and that may account for pictures like "Der Raketen-Stadt": it shows, from a height that is topographically impossible in Germany, the ceremonial City, fourfold as expected, an eerie precision to all lines and shadings architectural and human, built in mandalic form like a Herero village, overhead a magnificent sky, marble carried to a wild-ness of white billow and candescence . . . there seems to be building, or demolition, under way in various parts of the City, for nothing here remains the same, we can see the sweat in individual drops on the workers' dark necks as they struggle down in the bonedamp cellars . . . a bag of cement has broken, and its separate motes hang in the light . . . the City will always be changing, new tire-treads in the dust, new cigarette wrappers in the garbage . . . engineering changes to the Rocket create new routes of supply, new living arrangements, reflected in traffic densities as viewed from this unusual height—there are indeed tables of Functions to get from such City-changes to Rocket-modifications: no more than an extension, really, of the techniques by which Constance Babington-Smith and her colleagues at R. A. F. Medmenham discovered the Rocket back in 1943 in recco photographs of Peenemünde.

But remember if you loved it. If you did, how you loved it. And how much—after all you're used to asking "how much," used to measuring, to comparing measurements, putting them into equations to find out how much more, how much of, how much when . . . and here in your common drive to the sea feel as much as you wish of that dark double-minded love which is also shame, bravado, engineers' geopolitics—"spheres of influence" modified to toruses of Rocket range that are parabolic in section . . .

. . . not, as we might imagine, bounded below by the line of the Earth it "rises from" and the Earth it "strikes" No But Then You Never Really Thought It Was Did You Of Course It Begins Infinitely Below The Earth And Goes On Infinitely Back Into The Earth it's only the peak that we are allowed to see, the break up through the surface, out of the other silent world, violently (a jet airplane crashing into faster-than-sound, some years later a spaceship crashing into faster-than-light) Remember The Password In The Zone This Week Is FASTER—THAN, THE-SPEEDOFLIGHT Speeding Up Your

Voice Exponentially—Linear Exceptions Made Only In Case of Upper Respiratory Complaints, at each "end," understand, a very large transfer of energy: breaking upward into this world, a controlled burning—breaking downward again, an uncontrolled explosion . . . this lack of symmetry leads to speculating that a presence, analogous to the Aether, flows through time, as the Aether flows through space. The assumption of a Vacuum in time tended to cut us off one from another. But an Aether sea to bear us world-to-world might bring us back a continuity, show us a kinder universe, more easygoing. . . .

So, yes yes this is a scholasticism here, Rocket state-cosmology . . . the Rocket does lead that way—among others—past these visible serpent coils that lash up above the surface of Earth in rainbow light, in steel tetany . . . these storms, these things of Earth's deep breast we were never told . . . past them, through the violence, to a numbered cosmos, a quaint brownwood-paneled, Victorian kind of Brain War, as between quaternions and vector analysis in the 1880s—the nostalgia of Aether, the silver, pendulumed, stone-anchored, knurled-brass, fili-greed elegantly functional shapes of your grandfathers. These sepia tones are here, certainly. But the Rocket has to be many things, it must answer to a number of different shapes in the dreams of those who touch it—in combat, in runnel, on paper—it must survive heresies shining, unconfoundable . . . and heretics there will be: Gnostics who have been taken in a rush of wind and fire to chambers of the Rocket-throne . . . Kabbalists who study the Rocket as Torah, letter by letter—• rivets, burner cup and brass rose, its text is theirs to permute and combine into new revelations, always unfolding . . . Manichaeans who see two Rockets, good and evil, who speak together in the sacred idio-lalia of the Primal Twins (some say their names are Enzian and Blicero) of a good Rocket to take us to the stars, an evil Rocket for the World's suicide, the two perpetually in struggle.

But these heretics will be sought and the dominion of silence will enlarge as each one goes down . . . they will all be sought out. Each will have his personal Rocket. Stored in its target-seeker will be the heretic's EEG, the spikes and susurrations of heartbeat, the ghost-blossomings of personal infrared, each Rocket will know its intended and hunt him, ride him a green-doped and silent hound, through our World, shining and pointed in the sky at his back, his guardian executioner rushing in, rushing closer. . . .

Here are the objectives. To make the run over tracks that may end abruptly at riverside or in carbonized trainyard, over roads even the unpaved alternates to which are patrolled now by Russian and British

and American troops in a hardening occupation, a fear of winter bleaching the men all more formal, into braces of Attention they ignored during the summer, closer adherence now to the paperwork as colors of trees and brush begin their change, as purple blurs out over miles of heath, and nights come sooner. To have to stay out in the rains of early Virgo: the children who stowed away on the trek against all orders are down now with coughs and fevers, sniffling at night, hoarse little voices inside oversize uniform jackets. To brew tea for them from fennel, betony, Whitsun roses, sunflowers, mallow leaves— to loot sulfa drugs and penicillin. To avoid raising road-dust when the sun has dried the ruts and crowns again by noon. To sleep in the fields. To hide the rocket sections under haystacks, behind the single wall of a gutted railroad shed, among rainy willows down beside the river beds. To disperse at any alarm, or often at random, just for drill—to flow like a net, down out of the Harz, up the ravines, sleeping in the dry glazed spaces of deserted spas (official pain, official death watching all night from the porcelain eyes of statues), digging in nights' perimeters, smelling pine needles boots and trench-shovels have crushed. . . . To keep faith that it is not trek this time, nor struggle, but truly Destiny, the 00001 sliding like an oiled bolt into the receivership of the railway system prepared for it last spring, a route only apparently in ruins, carefully crafted by the War, by special techniques of bombardment, to take this most immachinate of techniques, the Rocket—the Rocket, this most terribly potential of bombardments. . . .

The 00001 goes disassembled, in sections—warhead, guidance, fuel and oxidizer tanks, tail section. If they all make it to the firing site, it will have to be put back together there.

"Show me the society that never said, 'I am created among men,' " Christian walks with Enzian in the fields above the encampment, " 'to protect you each from violence, to give shelter in time of disaster'— but Enzian, what protection is there? what can protect us from that," gesturing down the valley at the yellow-gray camouflage netting they can both, X-ray eyed for this one journey, see through. . . .

Enzian and the younger man somehow have drifted into these long walks. Nothing deliberate on either side. Is this how successions occur? Each man is suspicious. But there are no more of the old uncomfortable silences. No competing.

"It comes as the Revealer. Showing that no society can protect, never could—they are as foolish as shields of paper. . . ." He must tell Christian everything he knows, everything he suspects or has dreamed. Proclaiming none of it for truth. But he must keep nothing back for himself. Nothing is his to keep. "They have lied to us. They can't keep us from dying, so They lie to us about death. A cooperative structure of lies. What have They ever given us in return for the trust, the love—They actually say 'love'—we're supposed to owe Them? Can They keep us from even catching cold? from lice, from being alone? from anything? Before the Rocket we went on believing, because we wanted to. But the Rocket can penetrate, from the sky, at any given point. Nowhere is safe. We can't believe Them any more. Not if we are still sane, and love the truth."

"We are," nods Christian. "We do." He isn't looking at Enzian to confirm it, either.


"Then ... in the absence of faith ..."

One night, in the rain, their laager stops for the night at a deserted research station, where the Germans, close to the end of the War, were developing a sonic death-mirror. Tall paraboloids of concrete are staggered, white and monolithic, across the plain. The idea was to set off an explosion in front of the paraboloid, at the exact focal point. The concrete mirror would then throw back a perfect shock wave to destroy anything in its path. Thousands of guinea pigs, dogs and cows were experimentally blasted to death here—reams of death-curve data were compiled. But the project was a lemon. Only good at short range, and you rapidly came to a falloff point where the amount of explosives needed might as well be deployed some other way. Fog, wind, hardly visible ripples or snags in the terrain, anything less than perfect conditions, could ruin the shock wave's deadly shape. Still, Enzian can envision a war, a place for them, "a desert. Lure your enemy to a desert. The Kalahari. Wait for the wind to die."

"Who would fight for a desert?" Katje wants to know. She's wearing a hooded green slicker looks even too big for Enzian. "In," Christian squatting down, looking up at the pale curve of reflector they've come to the base of and have gathered at in the rain, sharing a smoke, taking a moment away from the rest of the trek, "not 'for.' What he's saying is 'in.' "

Saves trouble later if you can get the Texts straight soon as they're spoken. "Thank you," sez Oberst Enzian.

A hundred meters away, huddled into another white paraboloid, watching them, is a fat kid in a gray tanker jacket. Out of its pocket peer two furry little bright eyes. It is fat Ludwig and his lost lemming

Ursula—he has found her at last and after all and despite everything. For a week they have been drifting alongside the trek, just past visibility, pacing the Africans day by day . . . among trees at the tops of escarpments, at the fires' edges at night Ludwig is there, watching . . . accumulating evidence, or terms of an equation ... a boy and his lemming, out to see the Zone. Mostly what he's seen is a lot of chewing gum and a lot of foreign cock. How else does a foot-loose kid get by in the Zone these days? Ursula is preserved. Ludwig has fallen into a fate worse than death and found it's negotiable. So not all lemmings go over the cliff, and not all children are preserved against snuggling into the sin of profit. To expect any more, or less, of the Zone is to disagree with the terms of the Creation.

When Enzian rides point he has the habit of falling into reveries, whether the driver is talking or not. In night without headlamps, a mist coarse enough to be falling, or now and then blown like a wet silk scarf in the face, inside and outside the same temperature and darkness, balances like these allow him to float just under waking, feet and arms bug-upwards pushing at the rubbery glass surface-tension between the two levels, sticking in it, dream-caressed at hands and feet become supersensitive, a good home-style horizontalless drowse. The engine of the stolen truck is muffled in old mattresses tied over the hood. Henryk the Hare, driving, keeps a leery eye on the temperature gauge. He's called "the Hare" because he can never get messages right, as in the old Herero story. So reverences are dying.

A figure slips into the road, flashlight circling slowly. Enzian un-snaps the isinglass window, leans out into the heavy mist, and calls "faster than the speed of light." The figure waves him on. But in the last edge of Enzian's glance back, in the light from the flash rain is sticking to the black face in big fat globules, sticking as water does to black greasepaint, but not to Herero skin—

"Think we can make a U-turn here?" The shoulders are treacherous, and both men know it. Back in the direction of camp the line of slow-rolling lowlands is lit up by a thud of apricot light.

"Shit," Henryk the Hare jamming it in reverse, waiting for orders from Enzian as they grind slowly backwards. The one with the flashlight may have been the only lookout, there may be no enemy concentration for miles. But—

"There." Beside the road, a prone body. It's Mieczislav Omuzire, with a bad head wound. "Get him in, come on." They load him into the back of the idling truck, and cover him with a shelter half. No time to find out how bad it is. The blackface sentry has vanished for good. From the direction they're backing in comes the stick-rattle of rifle fire.

"We're going into this backwards?"

"Have you heard any mortar fire?"

"Since the one? No."

"Andreas must have knocked it out then."

"Oh, they'll be all right, Nguarorerue. I'm worrying about us."

Orutyene dead. Okandio, Ekori, Omuzire wounded, Ekori critically. The hostiles were white.

"How many?"

"Dozen maybe."

"We can't count on a safe perimeter—" blue-white flashlight blobbing ellipse-to-parabola across the shaking map, "till Braunschweig. If it's still there." Rain hits the map in loud spatters.

"Where's the railroad?" puts in Christian. He gets an interested look from Andreas. It's mutual. There's a good deal of interest here lately. The railroad is 6 or 7 miles northwest.

The people come empty their belongings next to the Rocket's trailer rigs. Saplings are being axed down, each blow loud and carrying ... a frame is being constructed, bundles of clothing, pots and kettles stuffed here and there under the long tarpaulin between bent-sapling hoops, to simulate pieces of rocket. Andreas is calling, "All decoys muster by the cook wagon," fishing in his pockets for the list he keeps. The decoy trek will move on northward, no violent shift in direction—the rest will angle east, back toward the Russian Army. If they get just close enough, the British and American armies may move more cautiously. It may be possible to ride the interface, like gliding at the edge of a thunderstorm ... all the way to the end between armies East and West.

Andreas sits dangling feet kicking heels against tailgate bong . , . bong . . . tolling departure. Enzian looks up, quizzical. Andreas wants to say something. Finally: "Christian goes with you, then?"

"Yes?" Blinking under rain-beaded eyebrows. "Oh, for God's sake, Andreas."

"Well? The decoys are supposed to make it too, right?"

"Look, take him with you, if you want."

"I only wanted to find out," Andreas shrugs, "what's been settled."

"You could have asked me. Nothing's been 'settled.' "

"Maybe not by you. That's your game. You think it'll preserve you.

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