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1

By the time theyd taken the stitches out, and Id had my first descarring treatment (Jane, you cant go about looking like a walking advert for Nihilism), Leo had made his third and most successful attempt to move into Cloviss apartment. Of course, Cloviss apartment was three hundred times better than Leos. But mostly it was infatuation. Leo, dark-haired, tall and slim, as usual, would loll about the place, unable to take his eyes off Clovis. Leo would actually spill tea and wine from looking at Clovis instead of at what he was doing. And once Leo had an attack of migraine, the kind that affects the sight, and as he sat there with his hands over his eyes, waiting for his pills to get rid of it, he quaveringly said, I always panic itll never go, that Ill stay blind. And then Id never see you again.

How true, said Clovis unkindly. You wouldnt see me for dust.

I rather liked Leo. He didnt seem to resent my presence in the apartment, and even flirted with me: My goodness, why isnt she a boy? I never knew if it was tact or ignorance that kept him from commenting on my state.

Clovis, though, became restless, and went out a lot, leaving Leo in possession but unhappily unpossessed.

I was trying by then to think what I was going to do with the rest of my empty life. A labor card would be out of the question, my mother had seen to that, reestablishing my credit rating, even if I wouldnt use it. So I couldnt hope for legal work, even if I could do anything. And I couldnt go on living off ClovisI didnt want to do Chloes trick and stay there ten months. But then, I didnt know what I wanted, or rather, I wanted nothing at all.

The way you now look, said Clovis, you could model.

But there are models by the hundred and my strange face would never fit, even if my body now did.

Why dont you write something again, this time commercial?

Id have to pay for the first printing.

Id give you the money.

So I did try to write, a couple of stories, but nothing would come. The characters were always the same, people I knowClovis, Demeta, Egyptia. And I could never get past the first page. Forty or so first pages. I didnt try to write about Silver. Id said all there was I could say, and it hadnt been enough.

Involved in myself, I didnt take any notice of the inevitable trend in the Clovis-Leo situation. Then one afternoon Clovis stalked in glittering with the rain which had replaced the snow. He flung his nineteenth-century coat at the closet, which caught it, and announced: This morning I got a hideous rambling letter from Egyptia. Someone took her up to a tomb in the desert on the pretext she looked like some princess out of antiquity. And as they stood there on the moonlit sand, next to a handy sphinx, a slender ghost is supposed to have flitted by.

You dont believe in ghosts? said Leo.

Do you?

Im superstitious. Most actors are. Yes, I believe in them. My theatre over on Star is supposed to be haunted. If youd come and be my Hamlet there, you might see the haunt

You give me a good idea, said Clovis. We can hold a seance here.

Leo laughed. Here? Youre joking.

Am I?

Clovis produced the seance table and the glass and the plastic cards with letters and numbers up to ten.

Well, its supposed to be bad luck, isnt it?

Lucky for some, said Clovis.

He began to set out the cards.

I think Id rather go for a walk, said Leo.

Fine. Jane and I will have the seance without you.

Oh.

Wont we, Jane? Clovis didnt look at me. Part of me wanted to say: Do your own dirty work, but it was less complicated to say, however listlessly, All right.

Jane doesnt like the idea either, said Leo.

Yes she does. She adores the idea. Dont you, Jane?

Yes, Clovis.

Doesnt sound like it.

Dear me, said Clovis, are you having a migraine attack in the ears, now?

Clovis sat cross-legged on the rug. A little dull pain went through and through me. I thought of the seance with Austin directly after I had seen Silver for the very first time.

Jane, said Clovis, do come here and show Leo theres really nothing to be afraid of.

I got up and went over, and sat down. I looked at the cut-glass goblet. Leo had moved to the window. Clovis said to me, extra quietly, Dont ask me why, but push a bit, will you?

What do you mean?

I did say dont

Oh, hell, said Leo. All right. He came over and sat down with us, running his hand over Cloviss hair as he did so, and I saw Clovis wince.

We all put one finger on the glass. Inside me, the pain swelled on a long slow chord. But I had no urge to do anything about it, for there was nothing to be done. My eyes unfocused. I seemed to retreat inside myself, somewhere distant. I ignored the tiny voice which cried: If only this were the first time again. If only I could go back.

Jesus Christ, said Clovis, far away, but in a tone of abject awe, its moving.

No, I really couldnt stay with Clovis anymore. I really couldnt take any more of this sort of thing, this game. His dishonesty, this fear of his of being loved, of loving

The glass moved steadily and strongly.

Its spelling something, said Leo.

You fool. Its spelling Leo, get lost.

J., said Leo, A.Jane its for you

Special delivery, said Clovis. His voice cracked. He was overdoing it.

I., said Leo. I.? And N. There was a pause and then the glass moved again. Same thing all over, said Leo. J.A.I.N. A spirit that cant spell. Damn. Its getting stronger. Theres something really here, Clovis.

I know, Clovis said. He cleared his throat. And it wants Jane. Jane? Wake up. Youve got a caller. There it is again. Jain. Who spells your name that way?

I blinked. The room came back, hurtfully bright with rainy light and sharp with other lives.

What? What do you mean?

Who spells Jane J.A.I.N.?

No one.

The glass moved.

Its going somewhere else, said Leo, the faithful commentator, as though he were broadcasting for a performance where the visual had blacked out and everything must be described. Y.O U.

You, said Clovis.

I dont exactly said Leo.

I do, said Clovis. Jane says no one spells her name with an I., and it said: You do.

I dont, said Leo.

Oh for Gods sake, said Clovis. She does.

This is turning into farce, said Leo.

J.A.I.N. said Clovis. The glass flew. T.H.E. S.O.U.N.D.O.F.R.A.I.N.F.A.L.L.I.N.G.S.I.L.K.E.N. G.R.A.I.N.P.A.L.E.C.H.A.I.N.this is gibberishthe sound of rain falling? Silk? Grain? Wholewheat bloody bread

The glass stopped under our fingers.

I shut my eyes.

Clovis, I said, when did you go through my things and read my manuscript?

With your writing, reading any manuscript of yours would be unlikely.

I opened my eyes and made myself look at him. His face was terribly white, unlike Leos, which was flushed and excited.

Clovis, why are you doing this? Is it spite? Or are you trying to help in some stupid tactless

The glass moved. I saw Cloviss face drain even whiter; he stared back at it as if it had loudly spoken to him.

It isnt me, he said.

Its you.

It says, said Leo, The idea isthe idea is for mefor me toA.M.U.S.

Amuse you, said Clovis, anticipating.

The glass shot across the table.

T.H.A.N.K.Thanks, said Leo, disbelievingly. Clovis, have you rigged this table?

Not recently, said Clovis. He took his hand away from the glass, and lay down full length on the rug. We know who it is. Dont we, Jane?

Jane, dont leave me alone with this thing, said Leo, as I moved my own hand away.

You can take your hand off, too, Leo, I said. It can go on moving without any help. I was angry. The first emotion Id felt for centuries. Theres a magnet in the glass and wires in the table. And you can set up a program.

Clovis gave a croaking laugh.

How would a program know when to say Thank you so sarcastically? he said. Jane, you think too much.

The glass spun under Leos hand.

C, he said, O. and presently: Cogito ergoI think, therefore I amno. Whats this? Cogito ergo oops! Leo laughed. How true. He lifted his hand gingerly from the glass. The glass raced around the table. Leo watched it admiringly. I watched with hard lumps of fury in my mind and heart. P.R.O.O.F., said Leo. ProofforJain. S.O.N.G. Song.

I turned away, and Leo read out to me painstakingly, letter by letter, and then word by word, and with pride: Inside the pillar of white fire,

Staring God in the face,

Liking his courtesy and grace,

Afraid of his knowing eyes.

Who told you I was unkind?

God, youre so very burning bright

I dont want to fight

Id be a fool to fight

Then put the pistol down

And put up the sword.

I never said a word,

I did as I was told.

And when the stars turned cold

He warmed me with his smile.

The glass stopped.

Mmm, said Leo. Do I know it?

No, I said. Nobody knows it. Hehe knew it, I said it over to him. But I never wrote it down. I thought of it in Musicord-Ectrica, the night we came out and stood in the snow and the news visual about E.M. came onI told him the words. He never forgot any lyric. He was programmed not to forget. But I forgot. Until now. I never wrote it down. Not in the manuscript. Not anywhere. Clovis, how did you know?

It isnt me, Jane, Clovis said, lying on the floor, his stone white face turned up to the ceiling.

The glass moved. I leaned toward it.

Are you here? I said. How can you be here?

JAIN, the glass said. I waited as it spelled out letters.

Im part of you, I said, what the glass had spelled for me. But I said. A ghost, a soul

Surprise, he said to me, through the glass.

Where are you? I said.

You wouldnt believe me if I told you.

Leo was sitting back, staring at me, then at Clovis.

I dont want to live without you, I said. My voice was desolate and small. I didnt even know if I credited what was happening, but by now I couldnt stop myself. Silver, I dont want to live here alone.

Youll see me again, the glass said. Weve been together on several previous occasions. Must mean something.

SilverSilver

I care about leaving you, but there isnt much choice.

When will Iwhen will I see you again?

Oh, no, lady. Youre trying to get me to predict your own death.

But

I love you. Youre beautiful. Stay beautiful and live my life for me.

Dont go

It doesnt matter, Jain, Jaen, Jane. Theres all of time, as you know it, as it really is. Whats a lifetime to that?

I shant still believe this when you go.

Try. Try hard.

You speak just the way you did when

How else would you recognize me.

Silver, will this ever happen again?

No.

Silver

I love you. Ill see you again. Dont ever be afraid.

The glass stopped.

Wait, I said.

The glass didnt move.

I reached and touched it, and it didnt move.

It didnt move any more.

My God, said Leo.

I sat still, and the others began to move about. Clovis got up. He went to the drinks dispenser. Clovis and Leo were drinking, and Clovis brought me one of the drinks and put it down on the table, and his hand shook. Before I knew what Id do, I caught his shaking hand.

Let go, Jane, he said.

Tell me first.

I cant. Let go.

I let go of him.

Who the hell was it? asked Leo.

A friend of ours, Clovis said. I began to cry, but vaguely. Id thought Id never cry again, but this was only a sort of reflex. Jane, said Clovis, look at the glass. The seance glass. Inside, where the magnet was.

I picked up the glass and peered into it, rubbing the tears out of my eyes. There was no magnet. There wasnt even the chip missingit was another glass.

Austin, said Clovis, burst in here one evening, picked up the table and hurled it at me. I ducked and the table hit the wall. As for the glass, I thought hed try to eat it. We had a lovely uninhibited time as he ranted about fake seances and liars (both of which hed known about for days; clearly he is a fermenter rather than a creature of impulse), and sobbed and threatened to throw me or himself out of the window. I told him which of these two alternatives Id prefer, whereupon he decided Id make an interesting pattern on the street. He left hurriedly when I reminded him about my policode and suggested I might just have pressed it already. The rigged wiring in the table was torn out, and the glass was in twenty-eight separate pieces or was it twenty-nine? It isnt likely Id have asked Jason for a replacement after we all went off him in such a big way. I planned to work the glass myself, this time. But I didnt get a look-in. I dont think this drink is helping me at all.

Then it was real.

Disgustingly so. Unless you did it by willpower and telekinesis.

Cogito ergo oops, said Leo ironically.

Clovis half turned to him. Leo. Its been great fun, but Id really be happier if you packed your bag and left.

You what? Leo asked, surprised.

Get out, said Clovis. We are through.

Charming, said Leo. Decided to go straight, darling?

Only straight to the bathroom, said Clovis with the utmost elegance, where I am about to be as sick as a dog. Unless you want to come along and hold my head, I suggest you seek the exit.

And Clovis strode out and the door of the mahogany bathroom banged and there came the dim plash of aesthetic aquatic concealment.

Leo and I stared at each other.

Does he mean it? Leo said. And hastily, accustomed to Clovis: About leaving.

Yes, I said. Im sorry.

Leo swore violently, downed his drink and went toward the main bedroom for his things.

I suppose, he called, hurling shirts, that was the ghost of a lover.

Yes, Leo.

Bloody hell, said Leo.

Something dissolved inside me. I managed to wait until he left before I began, very gently, very calmly, to giggle.

Live my life for me, my lover said. Not easy. No, it wont be easy. Its difficult, even so soon, to keep hold of that event, that instant when it seemed he was there and he spoke to me. A spirit. How can a robot have a soul? I never asked him that, or at least, he didnt answer. Or did he answer? Weve met before, well meet again. If the soul exists, why shouldnt it evolve inside a metal body? Just as it does inside a body made of flesh. And if souls do come back and back, maybe one day well all be so full of spare parts and Rejuvinex, and whatever else, metallic or chemical, theyve invented, that well all be kindred to robots, and a metallic body will be the only place a soul can choose to go.

Small wonder he didnt check out on E.M.s vile machines.

Oh, my love, my love with a soul, my love whos alive, and out theresomewheremy love who isnt and never will be dead. So death for me, in the end, will be like catching a flyer. Floating away, and when I reach the platform, hell be there?

But if its true, how extra hard it will be to live this silly life all the way through.

Yet I have to, dont I? His life in mine.

I already went back to the slum. I went into a few places wed been, and people asked me where he was, and I didnt know what to say anymore, and from my face, many of them guessed. And they pressed my arm, or their eyes grew big with tears for me, for him. He wasnt a robot, after all, so I dont have to tell them that. Let them mourn him properly. Until the book comes out and they learn the truth in a flash of paper lightning. And then theyll laugh at me, or hate me, or perhaps something else. And there may be riots in the streets. Or someone may assassinate me. But Im not doing it to earn my death.

I met one of the street musicians Silver had played with, guitar and piano, in a loft. When he had my version of the newsI say, truthfully, Someone killed himthe young man took both my hands and said: Do you need money? And I said: Id rather earn it than take it. And he said he remembered I sang, and come and sing with them at their pitches, and if we got any coins, theyd share. So I did, and we did, and they did.

Odd to sing with others, and not with him. Odd to try out my new songs with them, and not with him. Odd to come home to these grey rooms on Pine, and lie alone and unsleeping. Grey rooms, one day soon I may paint your ceilings blue and crimson, and carpet your floors with rainbows. And I may buy a cat, and train it to walk with me on a lead like a little fur dog. But not quite yet. Not till my heart settles like the broken girders, the tremor-shifted bricks, into the new slots of my days and nights.

Clovis argued one whole night with me, trying to stop me from doing this. When the day broke, we had cut each other to bits with our tongues, our eyes were red and mad, our faces white, and we laughed feebly. In all the argument and the personal remarks, we managed not to mention Silver, or our reactions to him. So I suppose we are still friends. A few days ago a hundred mauve roses were delivered here with a note: I realized only something useless would be acceptable. Clovis.

His thoughts on Silver remain obscured. Silver. I wonder what name, what names I knew you by before.

Oh, my love.

When I finally called my mother, she accepted my voice regally, and she invited me to lunch with her at Chez Stratos up in the clouds. She guesses I want to use her. I might even eventually interest her by attempting to do that. She might even agree. She has no basic respect for the law or the poor, being above them both in all the silliest and most obvious ways.

I feel curious about seeing the house again, about being there. And very nervous. Ill wear my most astonishing clothes. Tight-fitting slender greens and violets, bells, embroidery, beads. And my boots with the four-inch heels.

I wonder if the lift in the support will still say: Hallo, Jane.

I wonder if my mother will embrace me, or remain very cool, or if shell help me, or refuse to help. Maybe I shall find out at last if she does like me in any way.

Its more an exercise than anything else. My abstract course is set. Possibly for all of one hundred and thirty-odd years, I have to go on. To learn, to grow, to gain experiences and sights and sounds and truths and friendships, all to take with me like presents when I catch the flyer to meet him again. If I still feel like that when Im old. If I still feel like that in another year.

And yet, I do believe what happened. Theres a logic to it, after all. To lose him, that was the impossible, unbelievable thing. It really is so much easier to say, quietly aloud in the grey soft-roaring of the city night: My love, my love. I will see you again.


CHAPTER FIVE | The Silver Metal Lover | *proofed by Knives - 07/09/04