Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Page 54

"An android," Irmgard explained. "And nobody knows. No humans, I mean."

Pris, with the scissors, cut yet another leg from the spider. All at once John Isidore pushed her away and lifted up the mutilated creature. He carried it to the sink and there he drowned it. In him his mind, his hopes, drowned, too. As swiftly as the spider.

"He's really upset," Irmgard said nervously. "Don't look like that, J.R. And why don't you say anything?" To Pris and to her husband she said, "It makes me terribly upset, him Just standing there by the sink and not speaking; he hasn't said anything since we turned on the TV."

"It's not the TV," Pris said. "It's the spider. Isn't it, John R. Isidore:' He'll get over it," she said to Irmgard, who had gone into the other room to shut off the TV.

Regarding Isidore with easy amusement, Roy Baty said, "It's all over now, Iz. For Mercerism, I mean." With his nails he managed to lift the corpse of the spider from the sink. "Maybe this was the last spider," he said. "The last living spider on Earth." He reflected. "In that case it's all over for spiders, too."

"I - don't feel well," Isidore said. From the kitchen cupboard he got a cup; he stood holding it for an interval - he did not know exactly how long. And then he said to Roy Baty, "Is the sky behind - Mercer just painted? Not real?"

"You saw the enlargements on the TV screen," Roy Baty said. "The brushstrokes."

"Mercerism isn't finished," Isidore said. Something ailed the three androids, something terrible. The spider, he thought. Maybe it had been the last spider on Earth, as Roy Baty said. And the spider is gone; Mercer is gone; he saw the dust and the ruin of the apartment as it lay spreading out everywhere - he heard the kipple coming, the final disorder of all forms, the absence which would win out. It grew around him as he stood holding the empty ceramic cup; the cupboards of the kitchen creaked and split and he felt the floor beneath his feet give.

Reaching out, he touched the wall. His hand broke the surface; gray particles trickled and hurried down, fragments of plaster resembling the radioactive dust outside. He seated himself at the table and, like rotten, hollow tubes the legs of the chair bent; standing quickly, he set down the cup and tried to reform the chair, tried to press it back into its right shape. The chair came apart in his hands, the screws which had previously connected its several sections ripping out and hanging loose. He saw, on the table, the ceramic cup crack; webs of fine lines grew like the shadows of a vine, and then a chip dropped from the edge of the cup, exposing the rough, unglazed interior.

"What's he doing?" Irmgard Baty's voice came to him distantly. "He's breaking everything! Isidore, stop - "

"I'm not doing it," he said. He walked unsteadily into the living room, to be by himself; he stood by the tattered couch and gazed at the yellow, stained wall with all the spots which dead bugs, that had once crawled, had left, and again he thought of the corpse of the spider with its four remaining legs. Everything in here is old, he realized. It long ago began to decay and it won't stop. The corpse of the spider has taken over.

In the depression caused by the sagging of the floor, pieces of animals manifested themselves, the head of a crow, mummified hands which might have once been parts of monkeys. A donkey stood a little way off, not stirring and yet apparently alive; at least it had not begun to deteriorate. He started toward it, feeling stick-like bones, dry as weeds, splinter under his shoes. But before he could reach the donkey - one of the creatures which he loved the most - a shiny blue crow fell from above to perch on the donkey's unprotesting muzzle. Don't, he said aloud, but the crow, rapidly, picked out the donkey's eyes. Again, he thought. It's happening to me again. I will be down here a long time, he realized. As before. It's always long, because nothing here ever changes; a point comes when it does not even decay.

A dry wind rustled, and around him the heaps of bones broke. Even the wind destroys them, he perceived. At this stage. just before time ceases. I wish I could remember how to climb up from here, he thought. Looking up he saw nothing to grasp.

Mercer, he said aloud. Where are you now? This is the tomb world and I am in it again, but this time you're not here too.

Something crept across his foot. He knelt down and searched for it - and found it because it moved so slowly. The mutilated spider, advancing itself haltingly on its surviving legs; he picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand. The bones, he realized, have reversed themselves; the spider is again alive. Mercer must be near.

The wind blew, cracking and splintering the remaining bones, but he sensed the presence of Mercer. Come here, he said to Mercer. Crawl across my foot or find some other way of reaching me. Okay? Mercer, he thought. Aloud he said, "Mercer!"

Across the landscape weeds advanced; weeds corkscrewed their way into the walls around him and worked the walls until they the weeds became their own spore. The spore expanded, split, and burst within the corrupted steel and shards of concrete that had formerly been walls. But the desolation remained after the walls had gone; the desolation followed after everything else. Except the frail, dim figure of Mercer; the old man faced him, a placid expression on his face.

"Is the sky painted?" Isidore asked. "Are there really brushstrokes that show up under magnification?"

"Yes," Mercer said.

"I can't see them."

"You're too close," Mercer said. "You have to be a long way off, the way the androids are. They have better perspective."

"Is that why they claim you're a fraud?"