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´╗┐Title: The Sound of Silence
Author: Constant, Barbara
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Sound of Silence" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction June 1962.
  Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
  on this publication was renewed.


                              THE SOUND

                              OF SILENCE


                         BY BARBARA CONSTANT


     Most people, when asked to define the ultimate in
     loneliness, say it's being alone in a crowd. And it takes
     only one slight difference to make one forever alone in the
     crowd....


                       ILLUSTRATED BY SCHELLING

       *       *       *       *       *



Nobody at Hoskins, Haskell & Chapman, Incorporated, knew jut why
Lucilla Brown, G.G. Hoskins' secretary, came to work half an hour
early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Even G.G. himself, had he
been asked, would have had trouble explaining how his occasional
exasperated wish that just once somebody would reach the office ahead
of him could have caused his attractive young secretary to start doing
so three times a week ... or kept her at it all the months since that
first gloomy March day. Nobody asked G.G. however--not even Paul
Chapman, the very junior partner in the advertising firm, who had
displayed more than a little interest in Lucilla all fall and winter,
but very little interest in anything all spring and summer. Nobody
asked Lucilla why she left early on the days she arrived early--after
all, eight hours is long enough. And certainly nobody knew where
Lucilla went at 4:30 on those three days--nor would anybody in the
office have believed it, had he known.

"Lucky Brown? seeing a psychiatrist?" The typist would have giggled,
the office boy would have snorted, and every salesman on the force
would have guffawed. Even Paul Chapman might have managed a wry smile.
A real laugh had been beyond him for several months--ever since he
asked Lucilla confidently, "Will you marry me?" and she answered, "I'm
sorry, Paul--thanks, but no thanks."

Not that seeing a psychiatrist was anything to laugh at, in itself. After
all, the year was 1962, and there were almost as many serious articles
about mental health as there were cartoons about psychoanalysts, even in
the magazines that specialized in poking fun. In certain cities--including
Los Angeles--and certain industries--especially advertising--"I have an
appointment with my psychiatrist" was a perfectly acceptable excuse for
leaving work early. The idea of a secretary employed by almost the largest
advertising firm in one of the best-known suburbs in the sprawling City of
the Angels doing so should not, therefore, have seemed particularly odd.
Not would it have, if the person involved had been anyone at all except
Lucilla Brown.

The idea that she might need aid of any kind, particularly
psychiatric, was ridiculous. She had been born twenty-two years
earlier in undisputed possession of a sizable silver spoon--and she
was, in addition, bright, beautiful, and charming, with 20/20 vision,
perfect teeth, a father and mother who adored her, friends who did
likewise ... and the kind of luck you'd have to see to believe. Other
people entered contests--Lucilla won them. Other people drove five
miles over the legal speed limit and got caught doing it--Lucilla
out-distanced them, but fortuitously slowed down just before the
highway patrol appeared from nowhere. Other people waited in the wrong
line at the bank while the woman ahead of them learned how to roll
pennies--Lucilla was always in the line that moved right up to the
teller's window.

"Lucky" was not, in other words, just a happenstance abbreviation of
"Lucilla"--it was an exceedingly apt nickname. And Lucky Brown's
co-workers would have been quite justified in laughing at the very
idea of her being unhappy enough about anything to spend three
precious hours a week stretched out on a brown leather couch staring
miserably at a pale blue ceiling and fumbling for words that refused
to come. There were a good many days when Lucilla felt like laughing
at the idea herself. And there were other days when she didn't even
feel like smiling.

Wednesday, the 25th of July, was one of the days when she didn't feel
like smiling. Or talking. Or moving. It had started out badly when she
opened her eyes and found herself staring at a familiar blue ceiling.
"I don't know," she said irritably. "I tell you, I simply don't know
what happens. I'll start to answer someone and the words will be right
on the tip of my tongue, ready to be spoken, then I'll say something
altogether different. Or I'll start to cross the street and, for no
reason at all, be unable to even step off the curb...."

"For no reason at all?" Dr. Andrews asked. "Are you sure you aren't
withholding something you ought to tell me?"

She shifted a little, suddenly uncomfortable ... and then she was
fully awake and the ceiling was ivory, not blue. She stared at it for
a long moment, completely disoriented, before she realized that she
was in her own bed, not on Dr. Andrews' brown leather couch, and that
the conversation had been another of the interminable imaginary
dialogues she found herself carrying on with the psychiatrist, day and
night, awake and asleep.

"Get out of my dreams," she ordered crossly, summoning up a quick
mental picture of Dr. Andrews' expressive face, level gray eyes, and
silvering temples, the better to banish him from her thoughts. She was
immediately sorry she had done so, for the image remained fixed in her
mind; she could almost feel his eyes as she heard his voice ask again,
"For no reason at all, Lucilla?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The weatherman had promised a scorcher, and the heat that already lay
like a blanket over the room made it seem probable the promise would
be fulfilled. She moved listlessly, showering patting herself dry,
lingering over the choice of a dress until her mother called urgently
from the kitchen.

She was long minutes behind schedule when she left the house. Usually
she rather enjoyed easing her small car into the stream of automobiles
pouring down Sepulveda toward the San Diego Freeway, jockeying for
position, shifting expertly from one lane to another to take advantage
of every break in the traffic. This morning she felt only angry
impatience; she choked back on the irritated impulse to drive directly
into the side of a car that cut across in front of her, held her horn
button down furiously when a slow-starting truck hesitated
fractionally after the light turned green.

When she finally edged her Renault up on the "on" ramp and the freeway
stretched straight and unobstructed ahead, she stepped down on the
accelerator and watched the needle climb up and past the legal 65-mile
limit. The sound of her tires on the smooth concrete was soothing and
the rush of wind outside gave the morning an illusion of coolness. She
edged away from the tangle of cars that had pulled onto the freeway
with her and momentarily was alone on the road, with her rear-view
mirror blank, the oncoming lanes bare, and a small rise shutting off
the world ahead.

That was when it happened. "Get out of the way!" a voice shrieked
"out of the way, out of the way, OUT OF THE WAY!" Her heart lurched,
her stomach twisted convulsively, and there was a brassy taste in her
mouth. Instinctively, she stamped down on the brake pedal, swerved
sharply into the outer lane. By the time she had topped the rise, she
was going a cautious 50 miles an hour and hugging the far edge of the
freeway. Then, and only then, she heard the squeal of agonized tires
and saw the cumbersome semitrailer coming from the opposite direction
rock dangerously, jackknife into the dividing posts that separated
north and south-bound traffic, crunch ponderously through them, and
crash to a stop, several hundred feet ahead of her and squarely
athwart the lane down which she had been speeding only seconds
earlier.

The highway patrol materialized within minutes. Even so, it was after
eight by the time Lucilla gave them her statement, agreed for the
umpteenth time with the shaken but uninjured truck driver that it was
indeed fortunate she hadn't been in the center lane, and drove slowly
the remaining miles to the office. The gray mood of early morning had
changed to black. Now there were two voices in her mind, competing for
attention. "I knew it was going to happen," the truck driver said, "I
couldn't see over the top of that hill. All I could do was fight the
wheel and pray that if anybody was coming, he'd get out of the way."
She could almost hear him repeating the words, "Get out of the way,
out of the way...." And right on the heel of his cry came Dr.
Andrews' soft query, "For no reason at all, Lucilla?"

She pulled into the company parking lot, jerked the wheel savagely to
the left, jammed on the brakes. "Shut up!" she said. "Shut up, both of
you!" She started into the building, then hesitated. She was already
late, but there was something.... (Get out of the way, the way.... For
no reason at all, at all....) She yielded to impulse and walked
hurriedly downstairs to the basement library.

"That stuff I asked you to get together for me by tomorrow, Ruthie,"
she said to the gray-haired librarian. "You wouldn't by any chance
have already done it, would you?"

"Funny you should ask." The elderly woman bobbed down behind the
counter and popped back up with an armload of magazines and
newspapers. "Just happened to have some free time last thing
yesterday. It's already charged out to you, so you just go right ahead
and take it, dearie."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was 8:30 when Lucilla reached the office.

"When I need you, where are you?" G.G. asked sourly. "Learned last
night that the top dog at Karry Karton Korporation is in town today,
so they've pushed that conference up from Friday to ten this morning.
If you'd been here early--or even on time--we might at least have
gotten some of the information together."

Lucilla laid the stack of material on his desk. "I haven't had time to
flag the pages yet," she said, "but they're listed on the library
request on top. We did nineteen ads for KK last year and three of
premium offers. I stopped by Sales on my way in--Susie's digging out
figures for you now."

"Hm-m-m," said G.G. "Well. So that's where you've been. You could at
least have let me know." There was grudging approval beneath his
gruffness. "Say, how'd you know I needed this today, anyhow?"

"Didn't," said Lucilla, putting her purse away and whisking the cover off
her typewriter. "Happenstance, that's all." (Just happened to go down to
the library ... for no reason at all ... withholding something ... get out
of the way....) The telephone's demand for attention overrode her
thoughts. She reached for it almost gratefully. "Mr. Hoskins' office," she
said. "Yes. Yes, he knows about the ten o'clock meeting this morning.
Thanks for calling, anyway." She hung up and glanced at G.G., but he was
so immersed in one of the magazines that the ringing telephone hadn't even
disturbed him. Ringing? The last thing she did before she left the office
each night was set the lever in the instrument's base to "off," so that
the bell would not disturb G.G. if he worked late. So far today, nobody
had set it back to "on."

       *       *       *       *       *

"It's getting worse," she said miserably to the pale blue ceiling.
"The phone didn't ring this morning--it couldn't have--but I answered
it." Dr. Andrews said nothing at all. She let her eyes flicker
sidewise, but he was outside her range of vision. "I don't LIKE
having you sit where I can't see you," she said crossly. "Freud may
have thought it was a good idea, but I think it's a lousy one." She
clenched her hands and stared at nothing. The silence stretched
thinner and thinner, like a balloon blown big, until the temptation to
rupture it was too great to resist. "I didn't see the truck this
morning. Nor hear it. There was no reason at all for me to slow down
and pull over."

"You might be dead if you hadn't. Would you like that better?"

The matter-of-fact question was like a hand laid across Lucilla's
mouth. "I don't want to be dead," she admitted finally. "Neither do I
want to go on like this, hearing words that aren't spoken and bells
that don't ring. When it gets to the point that I pick up a phone just
because somebody's thinking...." She stopped abruptly.

"I didn't quite catch the end of that sentence," Dr. Andrews said.

"I didn't quite finish it. I can't."

"Can't? Or won't? Don't hold anything back, Lucilla. You were saying
that you picked up the phone just because somebody was thinking...."
He paused expectantly. Lucilla reread the ornate letters on the framed
diploma on the wall, looked critically at the picture of Mrs.
Andrews--whom she'd met--and her impish daughter--whom she
hadn't--counted the number of pleats in the billowing drapes, ran a
tentative finger over the face of her wristwatch, straightened a fold
of her skirt ... and could stand the silence no longer.

"All right," she said wearily. "The girl at Karry Karton thought about
talking to me, and I heard my phone ring, even though the bell was
disconnected. G.G. thought about needing backup material for the
conference and I went to the library. The truck driver thought about
warning people and I got out of his way. So I can read people's
minds--some people's minds, some of the time, anyway ... only there's
no such thing as telepathy. And if I'm not telepathic, then...." She
caught herself in the brink of time and bit back the final word,
fighting for self-control.

"Then what?" The peremptory question toppled Lucilla's defenses.

"I'm crazy," she said. Speaking the word released all the others
dammed up behind it. "Ever since I can remember, things like this have
happened--all at once, in the middle of doing something or saying
something, I'd find myself thinking about what somebody else was doing
or saying. Not thinking--knowing. I'd be playing hide-and-seek, and I
could see the places where the other kids were hiding just as plainly
as I could see my own surroundings. Or I'd be worrying over the
answers to an exam question, and I'd know what somebody in the back of
the room had decided to write down, or what the teacher was expecting
us to write. Not always--but it happened often enough so that it
bothered me, just the way it does now when I answer a question before
it's been asked, or know what the driver ahead of me is going to do a
split second before he does it, or win a bridge game because I can see
everybody else's hand through his own eyes, almost."

"Has it always ... bothered you, Lucilla?"

"No-o-o-o." She drew the word out, considering, trying to think when
it was that she hadn't felt uneasy about the unexpected moments of
perceptiveness. When she was very little, perhaps. She thought of the
tiny, laughing girl in the faded snaps of the old album--and suddenly,
inexplicably, she was that self, moving through remembered rooms,
pausing to collect a word from a boyish father, a thought from a
pretty young mother. Reluctantly, she closed her eyes against that
distant time. "Way back," she said, "when I didn't know any better, I
just took it for granted that sometimes people talked to each other
and that sometimes they passed thoughts along without putting them
into words. I was about six, I guess, when I found out it wasn't so."
She slipped into her six-year-old self as easily as she had donned the
younger Lucilla. This time she wasn't in a house, but high on a
hillside, walking on springy pine needles instead of prosaic carpet.

"Talk," Dr. Andrews reminded her, his voice so soft that it could
almost have come from inside her own mind.

"We were picnicking," she said. "A whole lot of us. Somehow, I
wandered away from the others...." One minute the hill was bright
with sun, and the next it was deep in shadows and the wind that had
been merely cool was downright cold. She shivered and glanced around
expecting her mother to be somewhere near, holding out a sweater or
jacket. There was no one at all in sight. Even then, she never thought
of being frightened. She turned to retrace her steps. There was a big
tree that looked familiar, and a funny rock behind it, half buried in
the hillside. She was trudging toward it, humming under her breath,
when the worry thoughts began to reach her. (... only a little creek
so I don't think she could have fallen in ... not really any bears
around here ... but she never gets hurt ... creek ... bear ... twisted
ankle ... dark ... cold....) She had veered from her course and
started in the direction of the first thought, but now they were
coming from all sides and she had no idea at all which way to go. She
ran wildly then, first one way, then the other, sobbing and calling.

[Illustration]

"Lucilla!" The voice sliced into the night, and the dark mountainside
and the frightened child were gone. She shuddered a little,
reminiscently, and put her hand over her eyes.

"Somebody found me, of course. And then Mother was holding me and
crying and I was crying, too, and telling her how all the different
thought at once frightened me and mixed me up. She ... she scolded me
for ... for telling fibs ... and said that nobody except crazy people
thought they could read each other's minds."

"I see," said Dr. Andrews, "So you tried not to, of course. And
anytime you did it again, or thought you did, you blamed it on
coincidence. Or luck."

"And had that nightmare again."

"Yes, that, too. Tell me about it."

"I already have. Over and over."

"Tell me again, then."

"I feel like a fool, repeating myself," she complained. Dr. Andrew's
made no comment. "Oh, all right. It always starts with me walking down
a crowded street, surrounded by honking cars and yelling newsboys and
talking people. The noise bothers me and I'm tempted to cover my ears
to shut it out, but I try to ignore it, instead, and walk faster and
faster. Bit by bit, the buildings I pass are smaller, the people
fewer, the noise less. All at once, I discover there's nothing around
at all but a spreading carpet of gray-green moss, years deep, and a
silence that feels as old as time itself. There's nothing to frighten
me, but I am frightened ... and lonesome, not so much for people, but
for a sound ... any sound. I turn to run back toward town, but there's
nothing behind me now but the same gray moss and gray sky and dead
silence."

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time she reached the last word, her throat had tightened until
speaking was difficult. She reached out blindly for something to cling
to. Her groping hand met Dr. Andrews' and his warm fingers closed
reassuringly around hers. Gradually the panic drained away, but she
could think of nothing to say at all, although she longed to have the
silence broken. As if he sensed her longing, Dr. Andrews said, "You
started having the dream more often just after you told Paul you
wouldn't marry him, is that right?"

"No. It was the other way around. I hadn't had it for months, not
since I fell in love with him, then he got assigned to that "Which
Tomorrow?" show and he started calling me "Lucky," the way everybody
does, and the dream came back...." She stopped short, and turned on
the couch to stare at the psychiatrist with startled eyes. "But that
can't be how it was," she said. "The lonesomeness must have started
after I decided not to marry him, not before."

"I wonder why the dream stopped when you fell in love with him."

"That's easy," Lucilla said promptly, grasping at the chance to evade
her own more disturbing question. "I felt close to him, whether he was
with me or not, the way I used to feel close to people back when I was
a little girl, before ... well, before that day in the mountains ...
when Mother said...."

"That was when you started having the dream, wasn't it?"

"How'd you know? I didn't--not until just now. But, yes, that's when
it started. I'd never minded the dark or being alone, but I was
frightened when Mother shut the door that night, because the walls
seemed so ... so solid, now that I knew all the thoughts I used to
think were with me there were just pretend. When I finally went to
sleep, I dreamed, and I went on having the same dream, night after
night after night, until finally they called a doctor and he gave me
something to make me sleep."

"I wish they'd called me," Dr. Andrews said.

"What could you have done? The sleeping pills worked, anyway, and
after a while I didn't need them any more, because I'd heard other
kids talking about having hunches and lucky streaks and I stopped
feeling different from the rest of them, except once in a while, when
I was so lucky it ... bothered me."

"And after you met Paul, you stopped being ... too lucky ... and the
dream stopped?"

"No!" Lucilla was startled at her own vehemence. "No, it wasn't like
that at all, and you'd know it, if you'd been listening. With Paul, I
felt close to him all the time, no matter how many miles or walls or
anything else there were between us. We hardly had to talk at all,
because we seemed to know just what the other one was thinking all the
time, listening to music, or watching the waves pound in or just
working together at the office. Instead of feeling ... odd ... when I
knew what he was thinking or what he was going to say, I felt good
about it, because I was so sure it was the same way with him and what
I was thinking. We didn't talk about it. There just wasn't any need
to." She lapsed into silence again. Dr. Andrews straightened her
clenched hand out and stroked the fingers gently. After a moment, she
went on.

"He hadn't asked me to marry him, but I knew he would, and there wasn't
any hurry, because everything was so perfect, anyway. Then one of the
company's clients decided to sponsor a series of fantasy shows on TV and
wanted us to tie in the ads for next year with the fantasy theme. Paul was
assigned to the account, and G.G. let him borrow me to work on it, because
it was such a rush project. I'd always liked fairy stories when I was
little and when I discovered there were grown-up ones, too, like those in
_Unknown Worlds_ and the old _Weird Tales_, I read them, too.
But I hadn't any idea how much there was, until we started buying copies
of everything there was on the news-stands, and then ransacking musty
little stores for back issues and ones that had gone out of publication,
until Paul's office was just full of teetery piles of gaudy magazines and
everywhere you looked there were pictures of strange stars and
eight-legged monsters and men in space suits."

"So what do the magazines have to do with you and Paul?"

"The way he felt about them changed everything. He just laughed at the
ones about space ships and other planets and robots and things, but he
didn't laugh when came across stories about ... well, mutants, and
people with talents...."

"Talents? Like reading minds, you mean?"

She nodded, not looking at him. "He didn't laugh at those. He acted as
if they were ... well, indecent. The sort of thing you wouldn't be
caught dead reading in public. And he thought that way, too,
especially about the stories that even mentioned telepathy. At first,
when he brought them to my attention in that disapproving way, I
thought he was just pretending to sneer, to tease me, because
he--we--knew they could be true. Only his thoughts matched his
remarks. He hated the stories, Dr. Andrews, and was just determined to
have me hate them, too. All at once I began to feel as if I didn't
know him at all and I began to wonder if I'd just imagined everything
all those months I felt so close to him. And then I began to dream
again, and to think about that lonesome silent world even when I was
wide awake."

"Go on, Lucilla," Dr. Andrews said, as she hesitated.

"That's all, just about. We finished the job and got rid of the
magazines and for a little while it was almost as if those two weeks
had never been, except I couldn't forget that he didn't know what I
was thinking at all, even when everything he did, almost, made it seem
as if he did. It began to seem wrong for me to know what he was
thinking. Crazy, like Mother had said, and worse, somehow. Not well,
not even nice, if you know what I mean."

"Then he asked you to marry him."

"And I said no, even when I wanted, oh, so terribly, to say yes and
yes and yes." She squeezed her eyes tight shut to hold back a rush of
tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

Time folded back on itself. Once again, the hands of her wristwatch
pointed to 4:30 and the white-clad receptionist said briskly, "Doctor
will see you now." Once again, from some remote vantage point, Lucilla
watched herself brush past Dr. Andrews and cross to the familiar
couch, heard herself say, "It's getting worse," watched herself move
through a flickering montage of scenes from childhood to womanhood,
from past to present.

She opened he eyes to meet those of the man who sat patiently beside
her. "You see," he said, "telling me wasn't so difficult, after all."
And then, before she had decided on a response, "What do you know
about Darwin's theory of evolution, Lucilla?"

His habit of ending a tense moment by making an irrelevant query no
longer even startled her. Obediently, she fumbled for an answer. "Not
much. Just that he thought all the different kinds of life on earth
today evolved from a few blobs of protoplasm that sprouted wings or
grew fur or developed teeth, depending on when they lived, and where."
She paused hopefully, but met with only silence. "Sometimes what
seemed like a step forward wasn't," she said, ransacking her brain for
scattered bits of information. "Then the species died out, like the
saber-tooth tiger, with those tusks that kept right on growing until
they locked his jaws shut, so he starved to death." As she spoke, she
remembered the huge beast as he had been pictured in one of her
college textbooks. The recollection grew more and more vivid, until
she could see both the picture and the facing page of text. There was
an irregularly shaped inkblot in the upper corner and several heavily
underlined sentences that stood out so distinctly she could actually
read the words. "According to Darwin, variations in general are not
infinitesimal, but in the nature of specific mutations. Thousands of
these occur, but only the fittest survive the climate, the times,
natural enemies, and their own kind, who strive to perpetuate
themselves unchanged." Taken one by one, the words were all
familiar--taken as a whole, they made no sense at all. She let the
book slip unheeded from her mind and stared at Dr. Andrews in
bewilderment.

"Try saying it in a different way."

"You sound like a school teacher humoring a stupid child." And then,
because of the habit of obedience was strong, "I guess he meant that
tails didn't grow an inch at a time, the way the dog's got cut off,
but all at once ... like a fish being born with legs as well as fins,
or a baby saber-tooth showing up among tigers with regular teeth, or
one ape in a tribe discovering he could swing down out of the treetops
and stand erect and walk alone."

He echoed her last words. "And walk alone...." A premonitory chill
traced its icy way down Lucilla's backbone. For a second she stood on
gray moss, under a gray sky, in the midst of a gray silence. "He not
only could walk alone, he had to. Do you remember what your book
said?"

"Only the fittest survive," Lucilla said numbly. "Because they have to
fight the climate ... and their natural enemies ... and their own
kind." She swung her feet to the floor and pushed herself into a
sitting position. "I'm not a ... a mutation. I'm not, I'm not, I'm
NOT, and you can't say I am, because I won't listen!"

"I didn't say you were." There was the barest hint of emphasis on the
first word. Lucilla was almost certain she heard a whisper of
laughter, but he met her gaze blandly, his expression completely
serious.

"Don't you dare laugh!" she said, nonetheless. "There's nothing funny
about ... about...."

"About being able to read people's minds," Dr Andrews said helpfully.
"You'd much rather have me offer some other explanation for the
occurrences that bother you so--is that it?"

"I guess so. Yes, it is. A brain tumor. Or schizophrenia. Or anything
at all that could maybe be cured, so I could marry Paul and have
children and be like everybody else. Like you." She looked past him to
the picture on his desk. "It's easy for you to talk."

He ignored the last statement. "Why can't you get married, anyway?"

"You've already said why. Because Paul would hate me--everybody would
hate me--if they knew I was different."

"How would they know? It doesn't show. Now if you had three legs, or a
long bushy tail, or outsized teeth...."

Lucilla smiled involuntarily, and then was furious at herself for
doing so and at Dr Andrews for provoking her into it. "This whole
thing is utterly asinine, anyhow. Here we are, talking as if I might
really be a mutant, and you know perfectly well that I'm not."

"Do I? You made the diagnosis, Lucilla, and you've given me some
mighty potent reasons for believing it ... can you give me equally
good reasons for doubting that you're a telepath?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The peremptory demand left Lucilla speechless for a moment. She groped
blindly for an answer, then almost laughed aloud as she found it.

"But of course. I almost missed it, even after you practically drew me
a diagram. If I could read minds, just as soon as anybody found it
out, he'd be afraid of me, or hate me, like the book said, and you
said, too. If you believed it, you'd do something like having me
locked up in a hospital, maybe, instead of...."

"Instead of what, Lucilla?"

"Instead of being patient, and nice, and helping me see how silly I've
been." She reached out impulsively to touch his hand, then withdrew
her own, feeling somewhat foolish when he made no move to respond.
Her relief was too great, however, to be contained in silence. "Way
back the first time I came in, almost, you said that before we
finished therapy, you'd know me better than I knew myself. I didn't
believe you--maybe I didn't want to--but I begin to think you were
right. Lot of times, lately, you've answered a question before I even
asked it. Sometimes you haven't even bothered to answer--you've just
sat there in your big brown chair and I've lain here on the couch, and
we've gone through something together without using words at all...."
She had started out almost gaily, the words spilling over each other
in their rush to be said, but bit by bit she slowed down, then
faltered to a stop. After she had stopped talking altogether, she
could still hear her last few phrases, repeated over and over, like an
echo that refused to die. (Answered ... before I even asked ...
without using words at all ... without using words....)

She could almost taste the terror that clogged her throat and dried her
lips. "You do believe it. And you could have me locked up. Only ...
only...." Fragments of thought, splinters of words, and droplets of
silence spun into a kaleidoscopic jumble, shifted infinitesimally, and
fell into an incredible new pattern. Understanding displaced terror and
was, in turn, displaced by indignation. She stared accusingly at her
interrogator. "But you look just like ... just like anybody."

"You expected perhaps three legs or a long bushy tail or teeth like
that textbook tiger?"

"And you're a psychiatrist!"

"What else? Would you have talked to me like this across a grocery
counter, Lucilla? Or listened to me, if I'd been driving a bus or
filling a prescription? Would I have found the others in a bowling
alley or a business office?"

"Then there are ... others?" She let out her breath on a long sigh
involuntarily glancing again at the framed picture. "Only I love Paul,
and he isn't ... he can't...."

"Nor can Carol." His eyes were steady on hers, yet she felt as if he
were looking through and beyond her. For no reason at all, she
strained her ears for the sound of footsteps or the summons of a
voice. "Where do you suppose the second little blob of protoplasm with
legs came from?" Dr. Andrews asked. "And the third? If that ape who
found he could stand erect had walked lonesomely off into the sunset
like a second-rate actor on a late, late show, where do you suppose
you'd be today?"

He broke off abruptly and watched with Lucilla as the office door
edged open. The small girl who inched her way around it wore blue
jeans and a pony tail rather than an organdy frock and curls, but her
pixie smile matched that of the girl in the photograph Lucilla had
glanced at again and again.

"You wanted me, Daddy?" she asked, but she looked toward Lucilla.

"I thought you'd like to meet someone with the same nickname as
yours," Dr. Andrews said, rising to greet her. "Lucky, meet Lucky."

"Hello," the child said, then her smile widened. "Hello!" (But I don't
have to say it, do I? I can talk to you just the way I talk to Daddy
and Uncle Whitney and Big Bill).

"Hello yourself," said Lucilla. This time when the corners of her
mouth began to tick upward, she made no attempt to stop them. (Of
course you can, darling. And I can answer you the same way, and you'll
hear me.)

Dr. Andrews reached for the open pack of cigarettes on his deck. (Is
this strictly a private conversation, girls, or can I get in on it,
too?)

(It's unpolite to interrupt, Daddy.)

(He's not exactly interrupting--it was his conversation to begin
with!)

Dr. Andrews' receptionist paused briefly beside the still-open office
door. None of them heard either her gentle rap or the soft click of
the latch slipping into place when she pushed the door shut.

Nor did she hear them.

       *       *       *       *       *





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