1920 – New-York: April 1992
be beautiful; an eagle may at times go hungry;
pet canary, never
large and well-lit washroom, Boranova and Deznev began to remove their outer clothing. Morrison,
alarmed at the prospect, hesitated.
- You may keep
your underclothing, Dr Morrison. Just toss everything else, except your shoes,
into that bin. I presume there is nothing in your pockets. Place your shoes at
the base of the bin. By the time we leave, it will all be cleaned and ready for
Morrison did as
he was told, trying not to observe that Boranova had a most opulent figure, concerning which she
seemed totally unaware. Amazing, he thought, what clothes will obscure what not
designed to reveal.
washing now, with lavish application of soap, face to the ear and arms to the
elbow, then brushing savagely at the hair. Again,
Morrison hesitated and Boranova, reading his mind,
- The brushes
are cleaned after each use, Dr Morrison. I don’t know what you may have read of
us, but some of us understand hygiene.
this, just to go into the Grotto? Do you go through this every time?
- Every time.
That’s why no one goes in just briefly. And even when staying within, there are
frequent ablutions… You may find next step unpleasant, Dr Morrison. Close your
eyes, take a deep breath and hold it if you can. It will take about a minute.
followed orders and found himself buffeted by a swirling wind. He staggered
drunkenly, and collided with one of the bins. He held on tightly. Then, as
suddenly as it started, it was over.
He opened his
eyes. Deznev and Boranova
looked as though they had put on fright-wigs. He felt his own hair and knew he
must look the same. He reached for his brush.
- Don’t bother –
said Boranova. - There’s more we’ll have to go
- What was that
all about? – asked Morrison. He found he had to clear his throat twice before
he could speak.
- I mentioned
that we’d have the dust vacuumed away from us, but that’s only the first stage
of the cleaning process… Through this door, please. - She held it open for him.
into a narrow, but well-lit corridor, the walls glowing photo-luminescently. He lifted his eyebrows.
- Very nice!
- Saves energy –
Deznev said – and that’s very important… Or are you
referring to the technological advancement? Americans seem to come to the Soviet Union expecting
everything to be kerosene lamps. – He chuckled and added: - I admit we haven’t
caught up with you in every respect. Our brothels are very primitive compared
- You strike
back before waiting to be struck – said Morrison. – That is a sure sign of an
unclear conscience. If you were anxious to demonstrate advanced technology, I
could point out that it would be very simple to pave the avenue going from Malenkigrad to the Grotto, and to use closes air-jets. We
would need less of this.
Deznev’s face darkened, but Boranova
put in, sharply:
- Dr Morrison is
quite right, Arkady. I don’t like your
feeling that it is not possible to be honest without being rude. If you cannot
be both honest and polite, keep your tongue on your own side of your teeth.
Deznev grinned uneasily:
- What have I
said? Of course the American doctor is right, but is there anything we can do
when decisions are made in Moscow, by idiots who
save small bits of money without counting the consequences? As
my old father used to say: the trouble with economizing is that it can be very
- That is true
enough – said Boranova. – We could save a great deal
of money, Dr Morrison, by spending on a better road and better air-jets, but it
is not always easy to persuade those who hold the purse-strings. Surely you
have the same trouble in America.
motioning even as she talked and Morrison followed her into a small chamber. As
the door closed behind them, Deznev held out a
bracelet to Morrison:
- Let me tie
this about your right wrist. When we hold up our arms, you hold up yours.
his weight lighten momentarily as the chamber floor dropped.
- An elevator –
- Clever guess –
said Deznev. Then he clapped a hand to his mouth and
said in a muffled tone: – but I mustn’t be rude.
smoothly, and the elevator door opened.
Identification! – came a peremptory voice.
Deznev and Boranova raised their
hands, at which Morrison did as well. Under the purplish light that suddenly
suffused the elevator, the three bracelets glittered in patterns which were
not, Morrison noted, exactly alike.
ushered down another corridor, and into a room which was both warm and damp.
- We will have
to have a final scrubdown, Dr Morrison – said Boranova --. We are accustomed to this, and stripping is a
routine for us. It is easier, and time-saving, to do it as a group.
- If you can
stand it – said Morrison, grimly -, I can.
- It is
unimportant – said Dreznev –. None of us are stranger
to the sight.
Dreznev scrambled out of his underclothes, stepped over to a
portion of the wall where a small, red knob was glowing and placed his right
thumb immediately above it. A narrow panel in the wall slid open and revealed
white garments hanging flaccidly to one side. He placed his underclothes at the
utterly unabashed about being nude. His chest and shoulders were dark with hair
and there was a long-healed scar on his right buttock. Morrison wondered idly
how that might have come about.
Boranova did the same as Deznev had
done and said:
- Pick a light
that is on, Dr Morrison. It will open to your thumbprint and then, when you
touch it again, it will close. After that it will open only to your thumbprint,
so please remember your locker number, and you won’t have to press every locker
in order to find your own.
Morrison did as
he was told.
- If you need
the bathroom first you can go there.
- I am all right
– said Morrison.
With that, the
room was a swirl with a damp mist of water droplets.
- Close your
eyes – called out Boranova.
But it was
unnecessary for her to say so. The initial sting of the water forced his eyes
closed at once.
There was soap
in the water or, at any rate, something that stung his eyes, tasted bitter in
his mouth, and irritated his nostrils.
- Lift your arms
-, called out Dreznev -. You needn’t circle. It comes
from all directions.
his arms. He knew it comes from all directions. It came from the floor, too, as
he could tell by the slightly uncomfortable pressure on his scrotum.
- How long does
it last? – he gasped.
- Too long –
said Dreznev -, but it is necessary.
to himself. At the count of 58, it seemed to him that the bitterness on his
lips cessed. He squinted his eyes. Yes, the other two
were still there. He continued to count, and at 126, the water stopped and was
bathed in air, uncomfortably hot and dry.
He was panting
by the time that stopped too, and he realized he had been holding his breath.
- What was all
that for? – he said, looking away uncomfortably at the sight of Boranova’s large but firm breasts, and finding little
comfort in Deznev’s hairy chest.
- We are dry –
said Boranova -. Let’s get dressed.
eager, and then was almost immediately disappointed by the nature of the white
clothes in the locker. They consisted of a blouse and pants of light cotton,
the pants held by a cord. There was also a light cap to cover the hair, and
light sandals. Though the cotton was opaque, it seemed to Morrison that neither
the female breasts nor the male penis were satisfactorily obscured.
- Is this all we
- Yes – said Boranova -. We work in a clean, quiet environment at even
temperature and, with throwaway clothes, we can’t expect much in the way of
fashion or expense. Indeed, barring a certain understandable reluctance, we
could easily work in he nude. But enough… Come…
And now, at
last, they stepped into what Morrison recognized at once as the main body of
the Grotto. It stretched away before him, between and beyond ornate pillars, to
a distance he couldn’t make out.
(Journey to the
centre of the mind)
This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renewed
science-fiction and fantasy.
Author: Rowena Morrill
Image found in http://es.wikipedia.org (free encyclopaedia)