Star of the Unborn, this soft but sharp, feeble but shrilly screeching eruption of human rage rising from the extensive turnip field made me forget everything else

The Ancestress asked permission to touch my hand. I respectfully surrendered it to her icy smooth fingers which, no matter how impeccable they looked, felt horrible.

At this point GR³ threw in a remark with her sonorous but suggestive contralto. “I remember those petrified cakes distinctly. I liked them better than the Sympaians of today.”

But suddenly he broke off and sagged down in his armchair, and his face seemed to shrivel up as he said to me with gloomy foreboding, “He only promises it, but the Others will bring it to pass.”

Under the screen of my numbing need of sleep I felt a radiant happiness. “It’s true then,” I mused. “The great naturalistic stupidity and its consequences were finally conquered?” The Grand Bishop refilled my glass with great deliberation. The crystal hummed like a bell under the impact of the golden wine. I had longed for another drink but had not dared to ask for it.

Then I blurted out the question I could not repress. “Does that mean that the angels in the Intermundia are the impulses, the emitted thoughts, feelings, concepts, desires, and fancies of God—–“

“That goes without saying,” my reincarnated friend countered my mild sarcasm. “Of course it looked different, and a hundred years earlier and a hundred years later it looked different again. I’ve come a long way, you know, my friend. On that particular thirteenth of November houses were still—or perhaps again— built above the ground. The Mentelobole, to be sure, had not yet been devised. We did not move our objectives toward us, but we moved toward them, with enormous and highly unsalubrious speed. You would have approved completely of that metropolis. We had to go through labyrinthine passages to get out into the street. Sidewalks and roadways were still archaically separate from each other. The traffic was terrific. Gyroplanes flew overhead. Their speed made them as invisible as you are now, F.W. Down below, men, women, and children crowded around huge show windows behind which brilliant revues and musical comedies were performed day and night by great artists. I even recollect the good old milkman whose little cart was drawn by a big dog hung with sleigh bells. It really was a pretty backward period.”

Suddenly the dog sensed that things weren’t exactly as they should be. He interrupted his baby talk and his pretentious barking (he was a good, round fifty-two years old, they told me). He began to quiver from head to foot, laid his ears back, pinched his tail between his legs, and, looking at me in horror, he uttered a long, singing whine. Well, I thought, at last you are noticing something. Your good old ancestors were less finished actors and speakers than you, but their primitive instinct would have spotted a ghost at once, a mile away at least, no matter whether it appeared in a boiled shirt or in the negligee of a grave shroud.

I opened my eyes. The lovely Ancestress was approaching me. I tried to jump up. With her alabaster hand that looked cold as ice, she motioned me to remain seated.

B.H. made an evasive answer. “Culture,” he said, “is the tricky art of understatement and of avoiding the issue. Remember that, F.W., in your intercourse with our Mental society.”

I turned away, toward the world of culture. And the others did as I. In the deep twilight something that gleamed faintly came from below and plodded up the slope where the guards with their alpenstocks stood stiff-legged and black. It was a man. Then it was a little man in a cowl. And finally it was Io-Fra, the Mutarian. I wasn’t a bit surprised that his small, dainty figure glowed a little in the dark, like certain varieties of phosphorescent wood. Why shouldn’t he glow, a Mutarian who had taken the vows of blindness and deafness and who therefore had the gift of inner sight and hearing? Io-Fra had come to fetch the Bridegroom whom he served. The first nightwatch had begun. Now he had to prepare himself appropriately for the second festive vigil when the bridal couple were to appear publicly at the Sympaian. Everyone hastened to reach the edge of the irongray sod, for the Astromental method of travel operated only when the feet were planted on this groundcover. As we hurried across the sandy margin that separated us from culture, night fell, quickly as in the tropics. It was my second night in the Eleventh Cosmic Capital Year of Virgo. The bright bluish spirit light of the stars that covered the sky in dense array seemed more familiar. They were so dense because the anthropomorphous breast of the universe was in the process of “inhaling,” in contrast to my former lifetime, when it had been “exhaling.” I shook my head in astonishment at all the tremendous doctrines I had learned in the past few hours. No one will believe me, I thought, perhaps not even I myself.

Franz Werfel

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