A SCANNER DARKLY -- CHAPTER 17
Donald Abrahams, the Executive Director of New-Path Foundation, signed the transfer order. On the suggestion of Michael Westaway, a member of the staff who had become especially interested in seeing what could be done with Bruce. Particularly since the Game had failed to help him. It had, in fact, made him more deteriorated.
"Your name is Bruce," the manager of the farm said, as Bruce stepped clumsily from the car, lugging his suitcase.
"My name is Bruce," he said.
"We're going to try you on farming for a period, Bruce."
"I think you'll like it better here, Bruce."
"1 think I'll like it," he said. "Better here."
The farm manager scrutinized him. "They gave you a hair cut recently."
"Yes, they gave me a haircut." Bruce reached up to touch his shaved head.
"They gave me a haircut because they found me in the women's quarters."
"That the first you've had?"
"That is the second one I've had." After a pause Bruce said, "One time I got violent." He stood, still holding the suitcase; the manager gestured for him to set it down on the ground. "I broke the violence rule."
"What'd you do?"
"I threw a pillow."
"Okay, Bruce," the manager said. "Come with me and I'll show you where you'll be sleeping. We don't have a central building residence here; each six persons have a little cabin. They sleep and fix their meals there and live there when they're not working. There's no Game sessions, here, just the work. No more Games for you, Bruce."
Bruce seemed pleased; a smile appeared on his face.
"You like mountains?" The farm manager indicated to their right. "Look up. Mountains. No snow, but mountains. Santa Rosa is to the left; they grow really great grapes on those mountain slopes. We don't grow any grapes. Various other farm products, but no grapes."
"I like mountains," Bruce said.
"Look at them." The manager again pointed. Bruce did not look. "We'll round up a hat for you," the manager said. "You can't work out in the fields with your head shaved without a hat. Don't go out to work until we get you a hat. Right?"
"I won't go to work until I have a hat," Bruce said.
"The air is good here," the manager said.
"I like air," Bruce said.
"Yeah," the manager said, indicating for Bruce to pick up his suitcase and follow him. He felt awkward, glancing at Bruce: he didn't know what to say. A common experience for him, when people like this arrived. "We all like air, Bruce. We really all do. We do have that in common." He thought, We do still have that.
"Will I be seeing my friends?" Bruce asked.
"You mean from back where you were? At the Santa Ana facility?"
"Mike and Laura and George and Eddie and Donna and --"
"People from the residence facilities don't come out to the farms," the manager explained. "These are closed operations. But you'll probably be going back once or twice a year. We have gatherings at Christmas and also at --"
Bruce had halted.
"The next one," the manager said, again motioning for him to continue walking, "is at Thanksgiving. We'll be sending workers back to their residences-of-origin for that, for two days. Then back here again until Christmas. So you'll see them again. If they haven't been transferred to other facilities. That's three months. But you're not supposed to make any one-to-one relationships here at New-Path -- didn't they tell you that? You're supposed to relate only to the family as a whole."
"I understand that," Bruce said. "They had us memorize that as part of the New-Path Creed." He peered around and said, "Can I have a drink of water?"
"We'll show you the water source here. You've got one in your cabin, but there's a public one for the whole family here." He led Bruce toward one of the prefab cabins. "These farm facilities are closed, because we've got experimental and hybrid crops and we want to keep insect infestation out. People come in here, even staff, track in pests on their clothes, shoes, and hair." He selected a cabin at random. "Yours is 4-G," he decided. "Can you remember it?"
"They look alike," Bruce said.
"You can nail up some object by which to recognize it, this cabin. That you can easily remember. Something with color in it." He pushed open the cabin door; hot stinking air blew out at them. "I think we'll put you in with the artichokes first," he ruminated. "You'll have to wear gloves -- they've got stickers."
"Artichokes," Bruce said.
"Hell, we've got mushrooms here too. Experimental mushroom farms, sealed in, of course --- and domestic mushroom growers need to seal in their yield -- to keep pathogenic spores from drifting in and contaminating the beds. Fungus spores, of course, are airborne. That's a hazard to all mushroom growers."
"Mushrooms," Bruce said, entering the dark, hot cabin. The manager watched him enter.
"Yes, Bruce," he said.
"Yes, Bruce," Bruce said.
"Bruce," the manager said. "Wake up."
He nodded, standing in the stale gloom of the cabin, still holding his suitcase. "Okay," he said.
They nod off as soon as it's dark, the manager said to himself. Like chickens.
A vegetable among vegetables, he thought. Fungus among fungus. Take your pick.
He yanked on the overhead electric light of the cabin, and then began to show Bruce how to operate it. Bruce did not appear to care; he had caught a glimpse of the mountains now, and stood gazing at them fixedly, aware of them for the first time.
"Mountains, Bruce, mountains," the manager said.
"Mountains, Bruce, mountains," Bruce said, and gazed.
"Echolalia, Bruce, echolalia," the manager said.
"Echolalia, Bruce --"
"Okay, Bruce," the manager said, and shut the cabin door behind him, thinking, I believe I'll put him among the carrots. Or beets. Something simple. Something that won't puzzle him.
And another vegetable in the other cot, there. To keep him company. They can nod their lives away together, in unison. Rows of them. Whole acres.
They faced him toward the field, and he saw the corn, like ragged projections. He thought, Garbage growing. They run a garbage farm.
He bent down and saw growing near the ground a small flower, blue. Many of them in short tinkly tinky stalks. Like stubble. Chaff.
A lot of them, he saw now that he could get his face close enough to make them out. Fields, within the taller rows of corn. Here concealed within, as many farmers planted: one crop inside another, like concentric rings. As, he remembered, the farmers in Mexico plant their marijuana plantations: circled -- ringed -- by tall plants, so the federales won't spot them by jeep. But then they're spotted from the air.
And the federales, when they locate such a pot plantation down there -- they machine-gun the farmer, his wife, their children, even the animals. And then drive off. And their copter search continues, backed by the jeeps.
Such lovely little blue flowers.
"You're seeing the flower of the future," Donald, the Executive Director of New-Path, said. "But not for you."
"Why not for me?" Bruce said.
"You've had too much of a good thing already," the Executive Director said. He chuckled. "So get up and stop worshipping -- this isn't your god any more, your idol, although it was once. A transcendent vision, is that what you see growing here? You look as if it is." He tapped Bruce firmly on the shoulder, and then, reaching down his hand, he cut the sight off from the frozen eyes.
"Gone," Bruce said. "Flowers of spring gone."
"No, you simply can't see them. That's a philosophical problem you wouldn't comprehend. Epistemology -- the theory of knowledge."
Bruce saw only the flat of Donald's hand barring the light, and he stared at it a thousand years. It locked; it had locked; it will lock for him, lock forever for dead eyes outside time, eyes that could not look away and a hand that would not move away. Time ceased as the eyes gazed and the universe jelled along with him, at least for him, froze over with him and his understanding, as its inertness became complete. There was nothing he did not know; there was nothing left to happen.
"Back to work, Bruce," Donald, the Executive Director, said.
"I saw," Bruce said. He thought, I knew. That was it: I saw Substance D growing. I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself, in one blue field, in stubbled color.
The farm-facility manager and Donald Abrahams glanced at each other and then down at the kneeling figure, the kneeling man and the Mors ontotogica planted everywhere, within the concealing corn.
"Back to work, Bruce," the kneeling man said then, and rose to his feet.
Donald and the farm-facility manager strolled off toward their parked Lincoln. Talking together; he watched -- without turning, without being able to turn -- them depart.
Stooping down, Bruce picked one of the stubbled blue plants, then placed it in his right shoe, slipping it down out of sight. A present for my friends, he thought, and looked forward inside his mind, where no one could see, to Thanksgiving.