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CHAPTER EIGHT

Elizabeth he began, and then waved his arm in annoyance. No. It was all going to come out in a rush. It does, so often.

They were standing atop an arm of rock that thrust out seaward into the surf. Hawks collar was turned up, and he held his jacket together with one hand. Elizabeth was wearing a coat, her hands in its pockets, a kerchief over her hair. The Moon, setting on the horizon, reflected its light upon the traceries of clouds overhead. Elizabeth smiled up at him, her wide mouth stretching. This is a very romantic spot youve brought us to, Edward.

I I was just driving. I didnt have any particular place in mind. He looked around. Im not full of cunning, Elizabeth Im full of logic, and reasoning, and God knows what else. He smiled self-consciously. Though I suspect the worst but that almost always comes afterward. I say to myself, Now, what am I doing here? and then I have to know the answer. No, I have things He clutched at the air. Things I want to say. Tonight. No later. He took a step forward, turned, and stood facing her, staring rigidly over her shoulder at the empty beach, the rise of the highway with his car parked on its shoulder, and the eastern sky beyond. I dont know what shape theyll take. But they have to come out. If youll listen.

Please.

He shook his head at her, then forced his hands into his hip pockets and kept his body rigid.

You know You know, during the war, the Germans refused to believe microwave radar was practical. Their submarines were equipped with radar search receivers, to detect antisubmarine radar in use. But they only received comparatively long wave lengths. When we put microwave radar on our patrol planes and convoy escorts, we began picking them off at night, when they surfaced to charge their batteries. But, before that, in the early part of the war, we had to get hold of one of their receivers, so we could determine their limitations. As it happened, I was given one to work on. A destroyers boarding party had managed to recover one from a submarine that had been depth-charged and forced to the surface, and then shelled. Our people ripped the set out just before the submarine sank. The receiver was sent on to the laboratory where I was, by special courier plane from an escort carrier, and then by car. I had it within twelve hours.

Well, I put it down on my workbench and looked at it. The case was torn up by shrapnel, waterlogged and terribly stained. There was smoke, there was oil, salt water corrosion, chemical fume contamination from the shellbursts You know. And there were other kinds of debris on it. But I was a bright young man in those days, with a few commendations and my Reserve commission, and full of being a boy wonder Hawks grimaced. I looked at the case, and in my mind, I said something spritely to myself on the order of, Hmm, shouldnt be too much trouble unravelling this. Just get some of this mess off the surface and And so forth. And all that time, the diluted blood I could see dried out in a smudge around the largest hole was just another part of the mess. Some seaman, I thought to myself, very professionally, never having been to sea, some seaman was standing near it when the shells hit the conning tower. But when I pried the sheet-metal casing away, Elizabeth, there was a human heart in there, Elizabeth in among the tubes and the wires.

After a while, Elizabeth said, What did you do?

Well, after a while I came back and studied the receiver, and built a replica. And after that we used microwave radar and won the war.

Listen the thing is, people say when a man dies, Well, he had a full life, and when his time came, he went peacefully. Or they say, Poor boy hed barely begun to live. But the thing is, dying isnt an incident. It isnt something that happens to a man on one particular day of his life, soon or late. It happens to the whole man to the boy he was, to the young man he was to his joys, to his sorrows, to the times he laughed aloud, to the times he smiled. Whether its soon or late, how can the dying man possibly feel it was enough of a life he lived, or not enough? Who measures it? Who can decide, as he dies, that it was time? Only the body reaches a point where it cant move any more. The mind even the senile mind, fogged by the strangling cells of its bodys brain rational or irrational, broad or narrow; that never stops; no matter what, as long as one trickle of electricity can seep from one cell to another, still it functions; still it moves. How can any mind, ever, say to itself, Well, this life has reached its logical end, and shut itself down? Who can say, Ive seen enough? Even the suicide has to blow his brains out, because he has to destroy the physical thing to evade whatever it is in his mind that will not let him rest. The mind, Elizabeth intelligence; the ability to look at the universe; to care where the foot falls, what the hand touches-how can it help but go on, and on, drinking in what it perceives around it?

His arm swept out in a long, stiff arc that swept over the beach and the sea. Look at this! All your life, youll have this, now! And so will I. In our last moments, we will still be able to look back, to be here again. Years away from here, and thousands of miles away from here, we would still have it. Time, space, entropy no attribute of the universe can take this from us, except by killing us, by crushing us out.

The thing is, the universe is dying! The stars are burning their substance. The planets are moving more slowly on their axes. Theyre falling inward toward their suns. The atomic particles that make it all up are slowing in their orbits. Bit by bit, over the countless billions of years, its slowly happening. Its all running down. Some day, itll stop. Only one thing in the entire universe grows fuller, and richer, and. forces its way uphill. Intelligence human lives were the only things there are that dont obey the universal law. The universe kills our bodies; it drags them down with gravity; it drags, and drags, until our hearts grow tired with pumping our blood against its pull, until the walls of our cells break down with the weight of themselves, until our tissues sag, and our bones grow weak and bent. Our lungs tire of pulling air in and pushing it out. Our veins and capillaries break with the strain. Bit by bit, from the day were conceived, the universe rasps and plucks at our bodies until they cant repair themselves any longer. And in that way, in the end, it kills our brains.

But our minds Theres the precious thing; theres the phenomenon that has nothing to do with time and space except to use them to describe to itself the lives our bodies live in the physical Universe.

Once my father took me out for a walk, late one night after a snowfall. We walked along, down a road that had just been ploughed. The stars were out, and so was the Moon. It was a cold, clear night, with the snow drifted and mounded, sparkling in the light. And on the corner where our road met the highway, there was a street lamp on a high pole. And I made a discovery. It was cold enough to make my eyes water, and I found out that if I kept them almost closed, the moisture diffused the lights, so that everything the Moon, the stars, the street lamp seemed to have halos and points of scattered light around it. The snowbanks seemed to glitter like a sea of spun sugar, and all the stars were woven together by a lace of incandescence, so that I was walking through a universe so wild, so wonderful, that my heart nearly broke with its beauty.

For years, I carried that time and place in my mind. Its still there. But the thing is, the universe didnt make it. I did. I saw it, but I saw it because I made myself see it. I took the stars, which are distant suns, and the night, which is the Earths shadow, and the snow, which is water undergoing a state-change, and I took the tears in my eyes, and I made a wonderland. No one else has ever been able to see it. No one else has ever been able to go there. Not even I can ever return to it physically; it lies thirty-eight years in the past, in the eye-level perspective of a child, its stereoscopic accuracy based on the separation between the eyes of a child. In only one place does it actually exist. In my mind, Elizabeth in my life. But I will die, and where will it be, then?

Elizabeth looked up at him. In my mind, a little? Along with the rest of you?

Hawks looked at her. He reached out, and bending forward as tenderly as a child receiving a snowflake to hold, gently enclosed her in his arms. Elizabeth, Elizabeth, he said. I never realized what you were letting me do.

I love you.

They walked together down the beach. When I was a little girl, she said, my mother registered me with Central Casting and tried to get me parts in the movies. I remember, one day there was a call for someone to play the part of a Mexican sheepherders daughter, and my mother very carefully dressed me in a little peasant blouse and a flowered skirt, and bought a rosary for me to hold. She braided my hair, and darkened my eyebrows, and took me down to the studio. When we got back to the house that afternoon, my aunt said to my mother, Didnt get it, huh? And my mother, who was in a tearful fury, said, It was the lousiest thing Ive ever seen! It was terrible! She almost had it, but she got beaten out by some little Spic brat!

Hawks tightened the arm he held around her shoulders. He looked out to sea, and at the sky. This is a beautiful place! he said. You know, this is a beautiful place.


CHAPTER SEVEN | Rogue Moon | c