Chiara Micheli

Ascolto rock. Guardo film. Traccio segni. Inseguo visioni. Tengo Londra nel mio garage. Qualche volta dormo. E scrivo. Mi piace la verità, per questo invento storie.

GOLIATH by Neil Gaiman – A Short Story

Letto: 13514 volte

Scritto come racconto promozionale per il film
The Matrix

ENG/ITA

GOLIATH era una volta presente sul sito ufficiale del film, oggi sparito.

GOLIA

Credo di poter affermare di aver sempre sospettato che il mondo fosse una finzione scadente e a buon mercato, una pessima copertura per qualcosa di più profondo e bizzarro e infinitamente più strano, e che, in qualche maniera, io conoscessi già la verità. Ma penso che, semplicemente, il mondo sia sempre stato così. E persino adesso che so la verità, come poi la apprenderai anche tu, tesoro, se stai leggendo, il mondo sembra ancora scadente e a buon mercato. Mondo differente, spazzatura differente, ma questo è quello che sento.

Ci si chiede, e per la verità me lo chiedo anch’io, è tutto qui? Beh, sì. In buona sostanza. Per quel che ci è dato di saperne.

Dunque. Era il 1977,  e una grande e costosa calcolatrice era quanto di più simile a un computer io avessi mai posseduto, e perse le istruzioni con le quali la vendevano, non sapevo più come farla funzionare. Ho aggiunto, sottratto, moltiplicato e diviso, ed ero grato di non aver bisogno di coseni, seni o trovare tangenti o grafici di funzione o qualsiasi altra cosa facesse l’aggeggio, perché, essendo stato scartato dalla RAF, lavoravo come contabile per un piccolo magazzino di discount di moquette a Edgware, Nord di Londra, vicino alla fine della Northern Line, ed ero seduto al tavolo nel retro del magazzino che mi serviva come scrivania quando il mondo cominciò a fondersi e gocciolare.

Dico davvero. Era come se le pareti e il soffitto e i rotoli di moquette e ancora il calendario di nudi del News of the World fossero fatti di cera, e cominciarono a strasudare e scivolare, scorrere assieme e colare. Potevo vedere le case e il cielo e le nubi e la strada dietro di essi, e poi tutto gocciolava e scivolava via, e dietro a tutto c’era il buio.

Stavo in piedi nella pozza del mondo, cosa strana, con colori brillanti, che gocciolava e scintillava e non riusciva a coprire il dorso delle mie scarpe di pelle marroni (ho dei piedi come delle scatole da scarpe. Devo comprare stivali fatti su misura. Mi costa una fortuna).

La pozza lanciava una strana luce verso l’alto.

Se fossi stato il protagonista di una qualche storia inventata, credo avrei rifiutato di credere che stesse succedendo, chiedendomi se fossi stato drogato o se stessi sognando. Nella realtà, diavolo, è successo, e guardavo nell’oscurità, e poi, visto che non accadeva niente, cominciai a camminare, sguazzando attraverso quel mondo liquido, chiamando, cercando se ci fosse qualcuno.

Qualcosa vibrò davanti a me.

“Hey” disse una voce. L’accento era americano, anche se l’intonazione era singolare.

“Salve” dissi.

Il tremolio continuò per qualche istante, e quindi si materializzò in un uomo vestito elegantemente con degli spessi occhiali dalla montatura di corno.

“Sei un tipo bello grande” disse. “Lo sai?”

Certo che lo sapevo. Avevo 19 anni ed ero alto quasi sette piedi. Ho dita come banane. Spavento i bambini. Ritengo improbabile che vedrò il mio quarantesimo compleanno: la gente come me muore giovane.

“Che sta succedendo?” chiesi. “Tu lo sai?”

“Un missile nemico ha fatto fuori un’unità centrale di elaborazione,” disse. “Duecentomila persone, collegate in parallelo, diventate carne morta in un istante. Abbiamo un server di riserva, naturalmente, e rimetteremo tutto su e funzionante in men che non si dica. Stai semplicemente galleggiando libero qui per un paio di nanosecondi, mentre ripristiniamo Londra.”

“Sei Dio?” gli domandai. Niente di ciò che aveva detto mi pareva avere un senso.

“Si. No. Beh, non veramente,” disse. “Non come la intendi tu, comunque.”

E poi il mondo sbandò, e mi ritrovai che arrivavo al lavoro di nuovo quella mattina, mi versavo una tazza di te, ed ebbi il più lungo e strano periodo di déjà vu che io abbia mai avuto. Venti minuti, durante i quali sapevo tutto quello che chiunque stava per fare o dire. E poi finì, e il tempo riprese a scorrere correttamente, ogni secondo che seguiva ordinatamente il secondo precedente, proprio come si deve.

E le ore passarono, e i giorni, e gli anni. Persi il mio lavoro nell’azienda della moquette, e ne ebbi un altro, tenere la contabilità per una compagnia che vende macchine aziendali, e mi sono sposato con una ragazza di nome Sandra che avevo incontrato in piscina, e avemmo un paio di bambini, entrambi di dimensioni normali, e pensavo che il nostro fosse il tipo di matrimonio che può resistere a tutto, ma così non è stato, così lei se n’è andata e si è portata via i bambini. Avevo quasi trent’anni, era il 1986, e ottenni un lavoro sulla Tottenham Court Road come venditore di computer, e scoprì che ci sapevo fare.

Mi piacevano i computer.

Mi piaceva il modo in cui funzionavano. Era un periodo emozionante. Ricordo la nostra prima spedizione di AT IBM, qualcuno con hard disk da 40 MB… Beh, mi impressionavo facilmente allora.

Vivevo ancora a Edgware, facevo il pendolare sulla Northern Line. Ero nella metro una sera, stavo tornando a casa – eravamo appena passati da Euston e la metà dei passeggeri erano scesi – guardavo l’altra gente in cima alla scala mobile dell’Evening Standard e mi chiedevo chi fossero – chi fossero veramente, dentro – la ragazza magra di colore che stava scrivendo concentrata sul suo taccuino, la vecchietta minuscola con il suo cappello di velluto verde, la ragazza con il cane, l’uomo barbuto con il turbante… E poi il treno si fermò, nel tunnel.

Questo è quello che credetti stesse accadendo, comunque: pensai che il treno si fosse fermato. Tutto era diventato molto silenzioso.

E poi passammo da Euston, e la metà dei passeggeri scese. E poi passammo da Euston, e la metà dei passeggeri scese. E io osservavo gli altri passeggeri immaginando chi fossero veramente dentro di loro, quando il treno si fermò nel tunnel. E tutto divenne molto silenzioso. E allora tutto sbandò così violentemente che pensai ci fossimo scontrati con un altro treno.

E poi passammo da Euston, e la metà dei passeggeri scese e poi il treno si fermò nel tunnel, e tutto divenne – (Il servizio verrà ripristinato quanto prima, sussurrò una voce nella mia testa.) E questa volta quando il treno rallentava e si avvicinava a Euston mi domandai se stessi impazzendo: mi sentivo come se stessi riavvolgendo avanti e indietro una videocassetta. Sapevo ciò che stava succedendo, ma non potevo fare niente per cambiare qualcosa, non c’era niente che io potessi fare per uscire da lì.

La ragazza nera, seduta accanto a me, mi passò un biglietto. SIAMO MORTI? diceva.

Alzai le spalle. Non lo sapevo. Sembrava una spiegazione buona quanto un’altra.

E poi tutto si dissolse in bianco. Non c’era terra sotto ai miei piedi, niente sopra di me, nessun senso della distanza, del tempo. Ero in un posto bianco. E non ero solo.

L’uomo portava un paio di lenti con una spessa montatura in corno, e un vestito che poteva sembrare Armani.

“Di nuovo tu?” disse. “Il ragazzone. Ti ho appena parlato.”

“Non penso,” dissi.

“Mezz’ora fa. Quando il missile si è schiantato.”

“Nella fabbrica di moquette? Quello era anni fa.”

“Circa trentasette minuti fa. Stiamo girando in modalità accelerata da allora, cerchiamo di correggere e ripristinare, mentre stiamo esaminando potenziali soluzioni.”

“Chi ha mandato i missili?” chiesi. “I russi? Gli iraniani?”

“Alieni,” disse.

“Stai scherzando?”

“Per quel che ne so, no. Da circa duecento anni stiamo mandando delle sonde. Pare che qualcosa ne abbia seguita una nel suo viaggio di rientro. Lo abbiamo saputo quando il primo missile è atterrato. C’è voluto un buon venti minuti per rendersene conto, e far girare un programma di rappresaglia. Ecco perché stiamo girando in overdrive. Ti sembra che gli ultimi dieci anni siano passati in fretta?”

“Si. Suppongo di sì.”

“Ecco il motivo. L’abbiamo fatto girare velocemente, cercando di mantenere una realtà accettabile mentre risolvevamo.”

Ero disteso su un disco di metallo di circa otto piedi di diametro. Ero nudo, bagnato e circondato da un groviglio di cavi. Si stavano ritraendo, allontanandosi da me, come vermi impauriti o serpenti nervosi dai colori brillanti.

Ero nudo. Ho abbassato lo sguardo sul mio corpo. Nessun pelo, nessuna piega della pelle. Mi sono chiesto quanti anni avessi, in termini reali. Diciotto? Venti? Non ero in grado di stabilirlo.

C’era uno schermo di vetro messo nel pavimento del disco di metallo. Ha tremolato e si è acceso. Stavo guardando l’uomo con gli occhiali in corno.

“Ricordi?” chiese “Dovresti essere in grado di accedere alla maggior parte della tua memoria per il momento.”

“Credo di si,” gli ho detto.

“Ti troverai in un PL-47,” ha detto. “Abbiamo appena finito di costruirlo. Siamo dovuti tornare indietro nelle conoscenze.

Abbiamo modificato alcune fabbriche per costruirlo. Ne avremo un’altra serie finita per domani. Adesso ne abbiamo solo uno.” “Quindi, se questo non funziona, avete dei rimpiazzi per me.”

“Se sopravviviamo abbastanza,” disse.“Un altro bombardamento missilistico ha avuto inizio circa quindici minuti fa. Si è portato via la maggior parte dell’Australia. Calcoliamo che sia solo un preludio al bombardamento vero e proprio.”

“Cosa stanno lanciando? Armi nucleari?”

“Rocce.”

“Rocce?”

“Aha. Rocce. Asteroidi. Roba grossa. Riteniamo che se non dovessimo arrenderci, domani potrebbero lanciarci addosso la Luna.”

“Stai scherzando.”

“Vorrei che fosse così.” Lo schermo diventò buio.

Il disco di metallo stava navigando attraverso un groviglio di cavi e un mondo di gente nuda addormentata. È scivolato sopra torri di microchip taglienti e spirali di soffice silicone luminoso.

Il PL-47 mi stava aspettando in cima a una montagna di metallo. Piccoli granchietti metallici zampettavano su di esso, lucidando e controllando ogni vite e bullone.

Sono entrato camminando su gambe rigide come tronchi d’albero, che ancora tremavano e si agitavano. Mi sono seduto sul sedile del pilota ed ero eccitato all’idea che fosse stato costruito per me. Mi calzava. Ho allacciato le cinture.

Le mie mani hanno iniziato la sequenza di warm up. I cavi mi strisciavano sulle braccia. Ho avvertito un qualche spinotto che mi si infilava in fondo alla colonna vertebrale, qualcos’altro muoversi e connettersi in cima al mio collo.

La mia percezione del velivolo si è estesa radicalmente. Lo vedevo a 360 gradi, sopra, sotto. E allo stesso tempo, sedevo nella cabina, attivando i codici di lancio.

“Buona fortuna,” ha detto l’uomo dagli occhiali in corno su un piccolo schermo sulla mia sinistra.

” “Grazie. Posso fare un’ultima domanda? ”

“Non vedo perché no.”

“Perché io?”

Ci fu un’esitazione, quindi, “Non lo fai atterrare. Non l’abbiamo progettato perché rientrasse. Era un surplus del quale non avevamo bisogno. Troppo costoso, in termini di risorse.”

“E allora, cosa faccio? Ho appena salvato la Terra. E adesso devo affogare qui fuori?”

Ha annuito. “Grossomodo. Sì.” Le luci hanno cominciato ad affievolirsi. Uno a uno, i comandi si stavano spegnendo. Ho perso la mia percezione a 360 gradi della nave. Ero di nuovo solo io, assicurato ad un sedile nel bel mezzo del niente, su di una tazza da tè volante.

“Per quanto ne ho ancora?”

“Stiamo chiudendo tutti i tuoi sistemi, ma ti restano ancora un paio d’ore, come minimo. Non disperderemo l’aria rimanente. Sarebbe disumano.”

“Sai, nel mondo dal quale provengo, avrei avuto una medaglia.” “Ovvio che ti siamo riconoscenti.”

“E non avete altro modo concreto di esprimere la vostra gratitudine?”

“Non veramente. Sei un pezzo di ricambio. Un’unità. Non possiamo addolorarci per te più di quanto non farebbe un alveare per la morte di una singola ape. Non è ragionevole né possibile riportarti indietro.”

“E non volete che una tale potenza di fuoco sia riportata sulla Terra, dove potrebbe essere usata contro di voi?”

“Esattamente.” E poi lo schermo si è oscurato, senza un vero addio. Non rivedere le tue priorità, ho pensato. La realtà è una colpa.

Diventi davvero cosciente del tuo respiro, quando ti rimangono non più di un paio d’ore di aria. Dentro. Trattieni. Fuori. Trattieni. Dentro. Trattieni. Fuori. Trattieni…

Me ne stavo seduto ancorato al sedile nella semi oscurità, e aspettavo, e pensavo. Quindi dissi, “Hey, c’è nessuno là fuori?” Un colpo. Quindi lo schermo ha tremolato. “Sì?”

“Ho una richiesta. Ascolta. Voi – voi persone, macchine, o qualsiasi cosa siate – me ne dovete una. Giusto? Voglio dire, ho salvato la vita a tutti voi.”

“… Continua.”

“Mi rimangono un paio d’ore. Giusto?”

“Circa 57 minuti.”

“Potete riconnettermi a… al mondo reale. L’altro Mondo. Quello dal quale provengo?”

“Mm? Non saprei. Vedrò.” Di nuovo schermo nero.

Stavo seduto e respiravo, dentro e fuori, dentro e fuori, aspettando. Mi sentivo in pace con me stesso. Se non fosse che mi restava solo un’ora di vita, mi sarei sentito da Dio.

Lo schermo si era illuminato. Non c’era immagine, schema, niente. Solo una delicata luminescenza. E una voce, in parte nella mia testa, in parte all’esterno, disse, “Hai ottenuto un buono.” Quindi ci fu un dolore tagliente alla base del mio cranio. Poi oscurità, per diversi minuti.

Poi questo.

Era quindici anni fa: 1984. Ero tornato ai computer. Possedevo il mio negozio di elettronica sulla Tottenham Court Road. E adesso, ora che stiamo per entrare nel nuovo millennio, sto scrivendo questo. Nel frattempo, ho sposato Susan. Mi ci sono voluti due mesi per trovarla. Abbiamo un figlio.

Ho quasi quarant’anni. Le persone come me non vivono molto più a lungo, nel complesso. Il nostro cuore si ferma. Quando leggerai queste parole sarò morto. Saprai che sono morto. Avrai visto una bara grande abbastanza per due uomini, calata in una buca.

Ma sappi questo, Susan, amore mio: la mia vera bara è in orbita attorno alla luna. Assomiglia a una tazza da tè volante. Mi hanno restituito il mondo, e te, per un po’. L’ultima volta che ho detto a te, o a qualcuno simile a te, la verità, o quel che ne sapevo, mi hai lasciato. E forse non eri tu, e non ero io, ma non oso più rischiare. Così lo scriverò, e ti verrà consegnato con il resto delle mie carte, quando me ne sarò andato. Addio.

Possono essere senza cuore, senza sentimenti, bastardi computerizzati, maneggiando le menti di quello che rimane dell’umanità. Ma non posso fare a meno di essere loro grato.

Morirò presto. Ma gli ultimi venti minuti sono stati i migliori anni della mia vita.

 

Written as a kind of promotional piece for the movie
The Matrix

(Well,  I’d rather say it is an act of love aka fan fiction)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE OFFICIAL MOVIE SITE, NOW OFFLINE.

I suppose that I could claim that I had always suspected that the world was a cheap and shoddy sham, a bad cover for something deeper and weirder and infinitely more strange, and that, in some way, I already knew the truth. But I think that’s just how the world has always been. And even now that I know the truth, as you will, my love, if you’re reading this, the world still seems cheap and shoddy. Different world, different shoddy, but that’s how it feels. They say, here’s the truth, and I say, is that all there is? And they say, kind of. Pretty much. As far as we know. So. It was 1977, and the nearest I had come to computers was I’d recently bought a big, expensive calculator, and then I’d lost the manual that came with it, so I didn’t know what it did any more. I’d add, subtract, multiply and divide, and was grateful I had no need to cos, sine or find tangents or graph functions or whatever else the gizmo did, because, having been turned down by the RAF, I was working as a bookkeeper for a small discount carpet warehouse in Edgware, in North London, near the top of the Northern Line, and I was sitting at the table at the back of the warehouse that served me as a desk when the world began to melt and drip away. Honest. It was like the walls and the ceiling and the rolls of carpet and the News of the World Topless Calendar were all made of wax, and they started to ooze and run, to flow together and to drip. I could see the houses and the sky and the clouds and the road behind them, and then that dripped and flowed away, and behind that was blackness. I was standing in the puddle of the world, a weird, brightly coloured thing that oozed and brimmed and didn’t cover the tops of my brown leather shoes (I have feet like shoeboxes. Boots have to be specially made for me. Costs me a fortune). The puddle cast a weird light upwards.

In fiction, I think I would have refused to believe it was happening, wonder if I’d been drugged or if I was dreaming. In reality, hell, it had happened, and I stared up into the darkness, and then, when nothing happened, I began to walk, splashing through the liquid world, calling out, seeing if anyone was there. Something flickered in front of me. “Hey,” said a voice. The accent was American, although the intonation was odd. “Hello,” I said. The flickering continued for a few moments, and then resolved itself into a smartly-dressed man in thick horn-rimmed spectacles. “You’re a pretty big guy,” he said. “You know that?” Of course I knew that. I was 19 years old and I was close to seven feet tall. I have fingers like bananas. I scare children. I’m unlikely to see my 40th birthday: people like me die young. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Do you know?” “Enemy missile took out a central processing unit,” he said. “Two hundred thousand people, hooked up in parallel, blown to dead meat. We’ve got a mirror going of course, and we’ll have it all up and running again in no time flat. You’re just free-floating here for a couple of nanoseconds, while we get London processing again.” “Are you God?” I asked. Nothing he had said had made any sense to me. “Yes. No. Not really,” he said. “Not as you mean it, anyway.” And then the world lurched and I found myself coming to work again that morning, poured myself a cup of tea, had the longest, strangest bout of deja vu I’ve ever had. Twenty minutes, where I knew everything that anyone was going to do or say. And then it went, and time passed properly once more, every second following every other second just like they’re meant to. And the hours passed, and the days, and the years. I lost my job in the carpet company, and got a new one bookkeeping for a company selling business machines, and I got married to a girl called Sandra I met at the swimming baths and we had a couple of kids, both normal sized, and I thought I had the sort of marriage that could survive anything, but I hadn’t, so she went away and she took the kiddies with her. I was in my late 20s, and it was 1986, and I got a job on Tottenham Court Road selling computers, and I turned out to be good at it. I liked computers. I liked the way they worked. It was an exciting time. I remember our first shipment of ATs, some of them with 40 megabyte hard drives… Well, I was impressed easily back then. I still lived in Edgware, commuted to work on the Northern Line. I was on the tube one evening, going home – we’d just gone through Euston and half the passengers had got off — looking at the other people in the carriage over the top of the Evening Standard and wondering who they were – who they really were, inside – the thin, black girl writing earnestly in her notebook, the little old lady with the green velvet hat on, the girl with the dog, the bearded man with the turban… And then the tube stopped, in the tunnel. That was what I thought happened, anyway: I thought the tube had stopped. Everything went very quiet. And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off. And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off. And I was looking at the other passengers and wondering who they really were inside when the train stopped in the tunnel. And everything went very quiet. And then everything lurched so hard I thought we’d been hit by another train. And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off, and then the train stopped in the tunnel, and then everything went – (Normal service will be resumed as possible, whispered a voice in the back of my head.) And this time as the train slowed and began to approach Euston I wondered if I was going crazy: I felt like I was jerking back and forth on a video loop. I knew it was happening, but there was nothing I could do to change anything, nothing I could do to break out of it. The black girl, sitting next to me, passed me a note. ARE WE DEAD? it said. I shrugged. I didn’t know. It seemed as good an explanation as any. And then everything faded to white. There was no ground beneath my feet, nothing above me, no sense of distance, no sense of time. I was in a white place. And I was not alone.

The man wore thick horn-rimmed spectacles, and a suit that looked like it might have been Armani. “You again?” he said. “The big guy. I just spoke to you.” “I don’t think so,” I said. “Half an hour ago. When the missiles hit.” “Back in the carpet factory? That was years ago.” “About thirty-seven minutes back. We’ve been running in an accelerated mode since then, trying to patch and cover, while we’ve been processing potential solutions.” “Who sent the missiles?” I asked. “The U.S.S.R.? The Iranians?” “Aliens,” he said. “You’re kidding?” “Not as far as we can tell. We’ve been sending out seed-probes for a couple of hundred years now. Looks like something has followed one back. We learned about it when the first missiles landed. It’s taken us a good twenty minutes to get a retaliatory plan up and running. That’s why we’ve been processing in overdrive. Did it seem like the last decade went pretty fast?” “Yeah. I suppose.” “That’s why. We ran it through pretty fast, trying to maintain a common reality while processing.” “So what are you going to do?” “We’re going to counter-attack. We’re going to take them out. It’s going to take a while: we don’t have the machinery right now. We have to build it.” The white was fading now, fading into dark pinks and dull reds. I opened my eyes. For the first time. So. Sharp the world and tangled-tubed and strange and dark and somewhere beyond belief. It made no sense. Nothing made sense. It was real, and it was a nightmare. It lasted for thirty seconds, and each cold second felt like a tiny forever. And then we went through Euston, and half the passengers got off… I started talking to the black girl with the notebook. Her name was Susan. Several weeks later she moved in with me. Time rumbled and rolled. I suppose I was becoming sensitive to it. Maybe I knew what I was looking for – knew there was something to look for, even if I didn’t know what it was. I made the mistake of telling Susan some of what I believed one night – about how none of this was real. About how we were really just hanging there, plugged and wired, central processing units or just cheap memory chips for some computer the size of the world, being fed a consensual hallucination to keep us happy, to allow us to communicate and dream using the tiny fraction of our brains that they weren’t using to crunch numbers and store information. “We’re memory,” I told her. “That’s what we are. Memory.” “You don’t really believe this stuff,” she told me, and her voice was trembling. “It’s a story.” When we made love, she always wanted me to be rough with her, but I never dared. I didn’t know my own strength, and I’m so clumsy. I didn’t want to hurt her. I never wanted to hurt her, so I stopped telling her my ideas. It didn’t matter. She moved out the following weekend. I missed her. The moments of deja-vu were coming more frequently, now. Moments would stutter and hiccup and falter and repeat. And then I woke up one morning and it was 1975 again, and I was sixteen, and after a day of hell at school I was walking out of school, into the RAF recruiting office next to the kebab house in Chapel Road. “You’re a big lad,” said the recruiting officer. I thought he was American, but he said he was Canadian. He wore big horn-rimmed glasses. “Yes,” I said. “And you want to fly?” “More than anything,” I said. It seemed like I half-remembered a world in which I’d forgotten that I wanted to fly planes, which seemed as strange to me as forgetting my own name. “Well,” said the horn-rimmed man, “We’re going to have to bend a few rules. But we’ll have you up in the air in no time.” And he meant it, too. The next few years passed really fast. It seemed like I spent all of them in planes of different kinds, cramped into tiny cockpits, in seats I barely fitted, flicking switches too small for my fingers. I got Secret clearance, then I got Noble clearance, which leaves Secret clearance in the shade, and then I got Graceful clearance, which the Prime Minister himself doesn’t have, by which time I was piloting flying saucers and other craft that moved with no visible means of support. I started dating a girl called Sandra, and then we got married, because if we married we got to move into married quarters, which was a nice little semidetached house near Dartmoor. We never had any children: I had been warned that it was possible I might have been exposed to enough radiation to fry my gonads, and it seemed sensible not to try for kids, under the circumstances: didn’t want to breed monsters. It was 1985 when the man with horn-rimmed spectacles walked into my house. My wife was at her mother’s that week. Things had got a bit tense, and she’d moved out to buy herself some ‘breathing room’. She said I was getting on her nerves. But if I was getting on anyone’s nerves, I think it must have been my own. It seemed like I knew what was going to happen all the time. Not just me: it seemed like everyone knew what was going to happen. Like we were sleepwalking through our lives for the tenth or the twentieth or the hundredth time. I wanted to tell Sandra, but somehow I knew better, knew I’d lose her if I opened my mouth. Still, I seemed to be losing her anyway. So I was sitting in the lounge watching The Tube on Channel Four and drinking a mug of tea, and feeling sorry for myself. The man with the horn-rimmed specs walked into my house like he owned the place. He checked his watch. “Right,” he said. “Time to go. You’ll be piloting something pretty close to a PL-47.” Even people with Graceful clearance weren’t meant to know about PL-47s. I’d flown one a dozen times. Looked like a tea-cup, flew like something from Star Wars. “Shouldn’t I leave a note for Sandra?” I asked. “No,” he said, flatly. “Now, sit down on the floor and breathe deeply, and regularly. In, out, in out.” It never occurred to me to argue with him, or to disobey. I sat down on the floor, and I began to breathe, slowly, in and out and out and in and… In. Out. In. A wrenching. The worst pain I’ve ever felt. I was choking. In. Out. I was screaming, but I could hear my voice and I wasn’t screaming. All I could hear was a low bubbling moan. In. Out. It was like being born. It wasn’t comfortable, or pleasant. It was the breathing carried me through it, through all the pain and the darkness and the bubbling in my lungs. I opened my eyes. I was lying on a metal disk about eight feet across. I was naked, wet and surrounded by a sprawl of cables. They were retracting, moving away from me, like scared worms or nervous brightly coloured snakes. I was naked. I looked down at my body. No body hair, no wrinkles. I wondered how old I was, in real terms. Eighteen? Twenty? I couldn’t tell. There was a glass screen set into the floor of the metal disk. It flickered and came to life. I was staring at the man in the horn-rimmed spectacles. “Do you remember?” he asked. “You should be able to access most of your memory for the moment.” “I think so,” I told him. “You’ll be in a PL-47,” he said. “We’ve just finished building it. Pretty much had to go back to first principles, come forward. Modify some factories to construct it. We’ll have another batch of them finished by tomorrow. Right now we’ve only got one.” “So if this doesn’t work, you’ve got replacements for me.” “If we survive that long,” he said. “Another missile bombardment started about fifteen minutes ago. Took out most of Australia. We project that it’s still a prelude to the real bombing.” “What are they dropping? Nuclear weapons?” “Rocks.” “Rocks?” “Uh-huh. Rocks. Asteroids. Big ones. We think that tomorrow unless we surrender, they may drop the moon on us.” “You’re joking.” “Wish I was.” The screen went dull. The metal disk had been navigating its way through a tangle of cables and a world of sleeping naked people. It had slipped over sharp microchip towers and softly glowing silicone spires. The PL-47 was waiting for me at the top of a metal mountain. Tiny metal crabs scuttled across it, polishing and checking every last rivet and stud. I walked inside on tree-trunk legs that still trembled and shook. I sat down in the pilot’s chair, and was thrilled to realise that it had been built for me. It fitted. I strapped myself down. My hands began to go through warm-up sequence. Cables crept over my arms. I felt something plugging into the base of my spine, something else moving in and connecting at the top of my neck. My perception of the ship expanded radically. I had it in 360 degrees, above, below. And at the same time, I was sitting in the cabin, activating the launch codes. “Good luck,” said the horn-rimmed man on a tiny screen to my left. “Thank you. Can I ask one last question?” “I don’t see why not.” “Why me?” “Well,” he said, “the short answer is that you were designed to do this. We’ve improved a little on the basic human design in your case. You’re bigger. You’re much faster. You have faster processing speeds and reaction times.” “I’m not faster. I’m big, but I’m clumsy.” “Not in real life,” he said. “That’s just in the world.” And I took off. I never saw the aliens, if there were any aliens, but I saw their ship. It looked like fungus or seaweed: the whole thing was organic, an enormous glimmering thing, orbiting the moon. It looked like something you’d see growing on a rotting log, half-submerged under the sea. It was the size of Tasmania. Two-hundred mile-long sticky tendrils were dragging asteroids of various sizes behind them. It reminded me a little of the trailing tendrils of a portuguese man o’ war, that strange compound sea-creature. They started throwing rocks at me as I got a couple of hundred thousand miles away. My fingers were activating the missile bay, aiming at a floating nucleus, while I wondered what I was doing. I wasn’t saving the world I knew. That world was imaginary: a sequence of ones and zeroes. I was saving a nightmare… But if the nightmare died, the dream was dead too. There was a girl named Susan. I remembered her, from a ghost-life long gone. I wondered if she was still alive (had it been a couple of hours? Or a couple of lifetimes?). I supposed she was dangling from cables somewhere, with no memory of a miserable, paranoid giant. I was so close I could see the ripples of the thing. The rocks were getting smaller, and more accurate. I dodged and wove and skimmed. Part of me was just admiring the economy of the thing: no expensive explosives to build and buy. Just good old kinetic energy. If one of those things had hit the ship I would have been dead. Simple as that. The only way to avoid them was to outrun them. So I kept running. The nucleus was staring at me. It was an eye of some kind. I was certain of it. I was a hundred yards away from the nucleus when I let the payload go. Then I ran. I wasn’t quite out of range when the thing imploded. It was like fireworks – beautiful in a ghastly sort of way. And then there was nothing but a faint trace of glitter and dust… “I did it!” I screamed. “I did it! I fucking well did it!” The screen flickered. Horn-rimmed spectacles were staring at me. There was no real face behind them any more. Just a loose approximation of concern and interest. “You did it,” he agreed. “Now, where do I bring this thing down?” I asked. There was a hesitation, then, “You don’t. We didn’t design it to return. It was a redundancy we had no need for. Too costly, in terms of resources.” “So what do I do? I just saved the Earth. And now I suffocate out here?”

He nodded. “That’s pretty much it. Yes.” The lights began to dim. One by one, the controls were going out. I lost my 360 degree perception of the ship. It was just me, strapped to a chair in the middle of nowhere, inside a flying teacup. “How long do I have?” “We’re closing down all your systems, but you’ve got a couple of hours, at least. We’re not going to evacuate the remaining air. That would be inhuman.” “You know, in the world I came from, they would have given me a medal.” “Obviously, we’re grateful.” “So you can’t come up with any more tangible way to express your gratitude?” “Not really. You’re a disposable part. A unit. We can’t mourn you any more than a wasps’ nest mourns the death of a single wasp. It’s not sensible and it’s not viable to bring you back.” “And you don’t want this kind of firepower coming back toward the Earth, where it could be used against you?” “As you say.” And then the screen went dark, with not so much as a goodbye. Do not adjust your set, I thought. Reality is at fault. You become very aware of your breathing, when you only have a couple of hours of air. In. Hold. Out. Hold. In. Hold. Out. Hold…. I sat there strapped to my seat in the half-dark, and I waited, and I thought. Then I said, “Hello? Is anybody there?” A beat. The screen flickered with patterns. “Yes?” “I have a request. Listen. You – you people, machines, whatever you are – you owe me one. Right? I mean I saved all your lives.” “…Continue.” “I’ve got a couple of hours left. Yes?” “About 57 minutes.” “Can you plug me back into the… the real world. The other world. The one I came from?” “Mm? I don’t know. I’ll see.” Dark screen once more. I sat and breathed, in and out, in and out, while I waited. I felt very peaceful. If it wasn’t for having less than an hour to live, I’d have felt just great. The screen glowed. There was no picture, no pattern, no nothing. Just a gentle glow. And a voice, half in my head, half out of it, said, “You got a deal.” There was a sharp pain at the base of my skull. Then blackness, for several minutes. Then this. That was fifteen years ago: 1984. I went back into computers. I own my computer store on the Tottenham Court Road. And now, as we head toward the new millennium, I’m writing this down. This time around, I married Susan. It took me a couple of months to find her. We have a son. I’m nearly forty. People of my kind don’t live much longer than that, on the whole. Our hearts stop. When you read this, I’ll be dead. You’ll know that I’m dead. You’ll have seen a coffin big enough for two men dropped into a hole. But know this, Susan, my sweet: my true coffin is orbiting the moon. It looks like a flying teacup. They gave me the world back, and you back, for a little while. Last time I told you, or someone like you, the truth, or what I knew of it, you walked out on me. And maybe that wasn’t you, and I wasn’t me, but I don’t dare risk it again. So I’m going to write this down, and you’ll be given it with the rest of my papers when I’m gone. Goodbye. They may be heartless, unfeeling, computerised bastards, leeching off the minds of what’s left of humanity. But I can’t help feeling grateful to them. I’ll die soon. But the last twenty minutes have been the best years of my life.

 

Related Posts

  • 53
    Raymond Chandler La semplice arte del delitto dove Chandler getta le basi del romanzo poliziesco. IT-La traduzione italiana classica di Oreste del Buono si trova…
    Tags: the, of, and, to, it, in

Trackback URL for this post: http://www.chiaramicheli.it/goliath-by-neil-gaiman-a-short-story/trackback/

10 Comments

  1. It’s really very complex in this active life to listen news on Television, therefore I just use the web
    for that purpose, and get the most up-to-date news.

  2. Superb blog you have here but I was curious about
    if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the
    same topics talked about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of
    group where I can get advice from other experienced individuals
    that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me
    know. Appreciate it!

  3. You are so cool! I don’t believe I’ve read through a
    single thing like that before. So nice to discover someone with original thoughts
    on this topic. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up.
    This web site is something that’s needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

  4. Hi fantastic blog! Does running a blog like this require a lot of work?
    I have absolutely no understanding of programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog
    in the near future. Anyhow, if you have any suggestions
    or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this
    is off subject however I just needed to ask. Kudos!

  5. It’s truly a great and helpful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you simply
    shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. I doo not even know how I stopped up right here, but I
    believed this put up was great. I do nott recognize who you’re but definitely you’re going too a well-known bpogger in case you aren’t already.

    Cheers!

  7. Hi, its nice article on the topic of media print, we all know merdia is a enormous source oof information.

  8. Good post! We will be linking tto this great post on ouur website.

    Keep up thee good writing.

  9. It’s going to be ending of mine day, but before ending I aam reading
    this enormous piece of writing to improve mmy experience.

  10. It’s mazing in support of me to have a web site, which
    is good in support of my experience. thanks admin

Lascia un Commento

Name, Email or Website are Optional.

© 2017 Chiara Micheli

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑