فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

The Social Sea

By eight o’clock the light was failing. The loudspeakers in the tower of the Obstacle Golf Club House began, in a more than human voice, to announce the closing of the courses. Lenina and Henry gave up their game and walked back towards the Club.

An endless humming of helicopters filled the darkening air. Every two and a half minutes a bell and the scream of whistles announced the departure of one of the light trains which carried the lower-class golfers back from their separate course to the city.

Lenina and Henry climbed into their machine and started off. At 240 metres feet Henry slowed down the lifting blades, and they hung for a moment or two above the landscape. The forest of Burnham Beeches stretched like a great pool of darkness towards the bright shore of the western sky. Deep red at the horizon, the last of the sunset was turning through orange into yellow and a pale watery green. To the north, beyond and above the trees, a factory for the manufacture of artificial baby food shone with a fierce electric brightness from every window of its 20 floors. Beneath them lay the buildings of the Golf Club - the huge lower-class building and, on the other side of a dividing wall, the smaller houses reserved for Alpha and Beta members. The paths leading to the railway station were black with the insect-like crowds of lower-class golfers. From under the glass roof a lighted train shot out into the open. Following it with their eyes across the dark plain, their attention was drawn to the buildings of the Slough Crematorium. For the safety of night-flying planes, its four tall chimneys were lit up and topped with bright red danger signals.

‘Why do the chimneys have those platforms round them?’ inquired Lenina.

‘To recover phosphorus from the air,’ explained Henry. ‘On their way up the chimney the gases go through four separate treatments. The phosphorus used to be lost every time they burnt a dead body. Now they recover over ninety-eight per cent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult body. Which makes nearly 600,000 kilos of phosphorus every year from England alone.’ Henry spoke with a happy pride, as delighted at this fact as though he had been responsible for it. ‘Fine to think that we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead. Making plants grow.’

Lenina, meanwhile, had turned her eyes away and was looking down beneath her at the railway station. ‘Fine,’ she agreed. ‘But odd that Alphas and Betas won’t make any more plants grow than those nasty little Gammas and Deltas and Epsilons down there.’

‘All men are physically and chemically equal,’ said Henry. ‘Besides, even Epsilons perform valuable services.’

‘Even an Epsilon…’ Lenina suddenly remembered an occasion when, as a little girl at school, she had woken up in the night and noticed, for the first time, the whispering that went on all the time when she was asleep. She saw again the beam of moonlight, the row of small white beds; heard once more the soft, soft voice that said (the words were there, never to be forgotten after being repeated so many times all through the night): ‘Everyone works for everyone else. We can’t do without anyone. Even Epsilons are useful. We can’t do without anyone,’ Lenina remembered her first shock of fear and surprise, her doubts and questions as she lay awake for half an hour; and then, under the influence of those endless repetitions, the gradual calming of her mind, the peaceful sinking into sleep…

‘I suppose Epsilons don’t mind being Epsilons,’ she said out loud.

‘Of course they don’t. How can they? They don’t know what it’s like being anything else. We’d mind, of course. But then we’ve been differently conditioned. Besides, we are hatched from different eggs.’

‘I’m glad I’m not an Epsilon,’ said Lenina sincerely.

‘And if you were an Epsilon,’ said Henry, ‘your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren’t a Beta or an Alpha.’

He put the machine into forward motion and headed towards London. Behind them, in the west, the deep red and orange were almost gone. A dark bank of cloud had spread over the sky. As they flew over the Crematorium, the plane shot up on the column of hot air rising from the chimneys, only to fall as suddenly when it passed into the cold air beyond.

‘What fun that was!’ Lenina laughed.

But Henry’s tone was, for a moment, almost sad. ‘Do you know what caused all that fun? It was some human being finally and definitely disappearing. Going up in a cloud of hot gas. It would be interesting to know who it was: a man or a woman, an Alpha or an Epsilon…’ Then, forcing himself to sound more cheerful, ‘Anyhow,’ he concluded, ‘there’s one thing we can be certain of; whoever he may have been, he was happy when he was alive. Everybody’s happy now.’

‘Yes, everybody’s happy now,’ repeated Lenina. They had heard the words over and over again, a 150 times a night for 12 years.

Every second Thursday Bernard had to attend a Unity Service. After an early dinner with Helmholtz he said goodbye to his friend and, getting into a taxi on the roof, told the man to fly to the Fordson Community Singery. The machine rose a couple of hundred metres, then headed east and, as it turned, there before Bernard’s eyes, enormous and beautiful, was the Singery. Lit by powerful lamps, its 320 metres of white artificial stone shone snow-white over Ludgate Hill. At each of the four corners of its helicopter platform a huge T stood out blood-red against the night, and from the mouths of 24 vast golden loudspeakers came deep artificial music.

‘Oh dear, I’m late,’ Bernard said to himself as he first caught sight of Big Henry, the Singery clock. And sure enough, as he was paying off his taxi, Big Henry sounded out the hour. ‘Ford,’ sang out a vast, deep voice from all the golden loudspeakers. ‘Ford, Ford, Ford…’ Nine times. Bernard ran for the lift.

The great hall for Ford’s Day ceremonies and other mass Community Sings was at the bottom of the building. Above it, a hundred to each floor, were the seven thousand rooms used by Unity Groups for their services every two weeks. Bernard dropped down to floor 33, hurried along the corridor, waited for a moment outside Room 3210, then, making up his mind, opened the door.

Thank Ford! He was not the last. Three chairs of the twelve arranged round the circular table were still unoccupied. He slipped into the nearest of them as silently as he could. Turning towards him, the girl on his left inquired, ‘What were you playing this afternoon? Obstacle or Technic?’

Bernard looked at her (Ford! it was Morgana Rothschild) and had to admit, feeling very ashamed, that he had been playing neither. Morgana stared at him in surprise. There was an awkward silence.

Then she turned away and entered into conversation with the more sporting man on her left.

‘A good beginning for a Unity Service,’ thought Bernard unhappily. If only he had given himself time to look round instead of hurrying for the nearest chair! He could have sat between Fifi Bradlaugh and Joanna Diesel. Instead of which he had gone and blindly planted himself next to Morgana. Morgana! Ford! Those black eyebrows of hers - that eyebrow, rather - for they met above the nose. Ford! And on his right was Clara Deterding. True, Clara was not ugly. But she was really too fat. Whereas Fifi and Joanna were absolutely right. Light-haired, with good figures, not too large… And it was that unpleasant fellow Tom Kawaguchi who now took the seat between them.

The last to arrive was Sarojini Engels.

‘You’re late,’ said the President of the Group severely. ‘Don’t let it happen again.’

Sarojini apologized and slid into her place between Jim Bokanovsky and Herbert Bakunin. The group was now complete, the unity circle perfect. Man, woman, man, woman, in an unbroken ring the whole way round the table. Twelve of them waiting to be made one, to come together, to melt into each other, ready to lose their twelve separate selves in a single being.

The President stood up, made the sign of the T, and, turning on the artificial music, released the soft, continuous beating of drums and the low sweet notes of instruments that repeated and repeated the brief, familiar tune of the First Song of Unity. Again, again - the tune reached inside them, affecting not the ear, not the mind, but the heart, the soul.

The President made the sign of the T and sat down. The service had begun. The holy soma tablets were placed in the centre of the dinner table. The loving cup of ice-cream soma was passed from hand to hand and, with the sentence ‘I drink to my end’, 12 times tasted. Then, accompanied by the artificial music, the First Song of Unity was sung.

Ford, we are twelve; oh, make us one,

Like drops within the Social Sea;

Oh, make us now together run

And in Unity forever be.

Twelve verses, full of the same deep feeling. And then the loving cup was passed a second time. All drank. Untiringly the music played. The drums beat. The Second Song of Unity was sung.

Come, Greater Being, Social Friend,

Help us with our Twelve-in-One!

We long to die, for when we end,

Our larger life has just begun.

Again 12 verses. By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes and cheeks shone, happy, friendly smiles broke out on every face. Even Bernard felt a little happier. When Morgana Rothschild turned and smiled at him, he did his best to smile back. But the eyebrow, that black two-in-one, was still there; however hard Bernard tried, he couldn’t feel attracted by Morgana.

The loving cup had passed right round the table. Lifting his hand, the President gave a signal. The group began the Third Song of Unity. As verse followed verse, their voices trembled with a growing excitement. The President reached out his hand; and suddenly a Voice, a deep strong Voice, more musical than any merely human voice, richer, warmer, full of love, spoke from above their heads. Very slowly, ‘Oh, Ford, Ford, Ford,’ it sang, on a lower and quieter note each time the name was repeated. A warm feeling spread through the bodies of those who listened. Tears came into their eyes.

Then, suddenly, the voice cried out loudly, ‘Listen!’ They listened. After a pause it went on, in a whisper which somehow was more effective than the loudest cry, ‘The feet of the Greater Being.’ Again it repeated the words: ‘The feet of the Greater Being.’ The whisper almost died. ‘The feet of the Greater Being are on the stairs.’ And once more there was silence. Among the group, the excitement grew until it was almost beyond control. The feet of the Greater Being - oh, they heard them, they heard them, coming softly down the stairs, coming nearer and nearer down the imaginary stairs. The feet of the Greater Being. And suddenly the breaking point was reached.

Her eyes staring, her lips parted, Morgana Rothschild sprang to her feet.

‘I hear him,’ she cried. ‘I hear him.’

‘He’s coming,’ shouted Sarojini Engels.

‘Yes, he’s coming, I hear him.’ Fifi Bradlaugh and Tom Kawaguchi rose to their feet together.

‘Oh, oh, oh,’ cried Joanna.

‘He’s coming!’ shouted Jim Bokanovsky.

The President leaned forward and, with a touch, let loose a fever of drum-beating.

‘Oh, he’s coming!’ screamed Clara Deterding, as though she were having her throat cut.

Feeling that it was time for him to do something, Bernard also jumped up and shouted: ‘I hear him; he’s coming.’ But it wasn’t true. He heard nothing and, for him, nobody was coming. Nobody, in spite of the music, in spite of the ever-growing excitement. But he waved his arms, he shouted as loudly as any of them; and when the others began to stamp their feet and move forward, he also stamped and began to move.

Round they went, a circle of dancers, each with hands on the waist of the dancer in front, round and round, shouting all together, stamping in time to the music with their feet, beating it, beating it out on the bottoms in front; twelve pairs of hands beating as one. The sound of twelve bottoms hit at once. Twelve as one, twelve as one. ‘I hear him, I hear him coming.’ The music grew quicker; faster beat the feet, faster fell the hands on the bottoms in front. And all at once a great deep artificial voice sang out the words which announced the final act of unity, the coming of the Twelve-in-One, the return of the Greater Being. ‘Orgy-porgy,’ it sang, while the drums beat ever more wildly: Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,

Kiss the girls and make them one.

Boys at one with girls at peace

Orgy-porgy gives release.

‘Orgy-porgy,’ the dancers took up the holy words, ‘Orgy- porgy, Ford and fun, kiss the girls… And as they sang, the lights began to go down slowly and at the same time to grow warmer, richer, redder, until at last they were dancing in the blood-red light of an Embryo Store. For a while the dancers continued to go round, stamping their feet and beating out the time of the song. ‘Orgy-porgy…’ Then the circle weakened, broke, fell on the ring of soft benches which surrounded the table and the 12 chairs in an outer ring. ‘Orgy-porgy.’

Gently, softly the deep Voice sang on.

They were standing on the roof. Big Henry had just sung 11. The night was calm and warm.

‘Wasn’t it wonderful?’ said Fifi Bradlaugh. ‘Wasn’t it simply wonderful?’ She looked at Bernard with shining eyes, happy, completely satisfied, at peace with the whole world.

‘Yes, I thought it was wonderful,’ he lied and looked away. The sight of Fifi’s happy face only made him feel his own separateness more keenly. He was as unhappily alone now as he had been when the service began; more alone because of his unsatisfied desire for something that he could not even describe to himself. Separate and unhappy, while the others were being united with the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana’s arms - much more alone, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before. He had come out from that blood-red light into the common, cold light of the electric lamps with a feeling of hopelessness. He was terribly unhappy, and perhaps (her shining eyes accused him), perhaps it was his own fault. ‘Quite wonderful,’ he repeated; but the only thing he could think of was Morgana’s eyebrow.

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