Robert Silverberg: The World Inside

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Robert Silverberg The World Inside
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The World Inside: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Urban Monad 116: A lofty spire a thousand stories high, where over 880,000 souls live out their perfectly regulated lives in peace and plenty. But inside their glorious world are a few who dare to doubt and dream: Aurea Holston — a beautiful young bride who fears leaving the only world she’s ever known. Dillon Chrimes — cosmos group pop star, who becomes one of the urbmon in an orgiastic, mind-shattering trip. Jason Quevedo — historian, who gets his kicks from the perverse savagery of an earlier age. Siegmund Kluver — virile young man-on-the-way-up, who sees the nightmare behind the urbmon’s shining facade. And Michael Statler — who dares to escape...

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The World Inside

By Robert Silverberg

We were born to unite with our fellow-men and to join

in community with the human race.

Cicero: De finibus, IV

Of all animals, men are the least fitted to live to herds.
If they were crowded together as sheep are they would all
perish in a short time. The breath of man is fatal to his

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Emile, I

For Ejler Jakobsson


Here begins a happy day in 2381. The morning sun is high enough to touch the uppermost fifty stories of Urban Monad 116. Soon the building’s entire eastern face will glitter like the bosom of the sea at daybreak. Charles Mattern’s window, activated by the dawn’s early photons, deopaques. He stirs. God bless, he thinks. His wife yawns and stretches. His four children, who have been awake for hours, now can officially start their day. They rise and parade around the bedroom, singing:

God bless, god bless, god bless!
God bless us every one!
God bless Daddo, god bless Mommo, god bless you and me!
God bless us all, the short and tall,
Give us fer-til-i-tee!

They rush toward their parents’ sleeping platform. Mattern rises and embraces them. Indra is eight, Sandor is seven, Marx is five, Cleo is three. It is Charles Mattern’s secret shame that his family is so small. Can a man with only four children truly be said to have reverence for life? But Principessa’s womb no longer flowers. The medics have declared that she will not bear again. At twenty-seven she is sterile. Mattern is thinking of taking in a second woman. He longs to hear the yowls of an infant again; in any case, a man must do his duty to god.

Sandor says, “Daddo, Siegmund is still here.”

The child points. Mattern sees. On Principessa’s side of the sleeping platform, curled against the inflation pedal, lies fourteen-year-old Siegmund Kluver, who had entered the Mattern home several hours after midnight to exercise his rights of propinquity. Siegmund is fond of older women. He has become quite notorious in the past few months. Now he snores; he has had a good workout. Mattern nudges him. “Siegmund? Siegmund, it’s morning!” The young man’s eyes open. He smiles at Mattern, sits up, reaches for his wrap. He is quite handsome. He lives on the 787th floor and already has one child and another on the way.

“Sorry,” says. Siegmund. “I overslept. Principessa really drains me. A savage, she is!”

“Yes, she’s quite passionate,” Mattern agrees. So is Siegmund’s wife, Mamelon, according to what Mattern has heard. When she is a little older, Mattern plans to try her. Next spring, perhaps.

Siegmund sticks his head under the molecular cleanser. Principessa now has left the bed. Nodding faintly to her husband, she kicks the pedal and the platform deflates swiftly. She begins to program breakfast. Indra, reaching forth a pale, almost transparent little hand, switches on the screen. The wall blossoms with light and color. “Good morning,” says the screen heartily. “The external temperature, if anybody’s interested, is 28°. Today’s population figure at Urbmon 116 is 881,115, which is + 102 since yesterday and + 14,187 since the first of the year. God bless, but we’re slowing down! Across the way at Urbmon 117 they’ve added 131 since yesterday, including quads for Mrs. Hula Jabotinsky. She’s eighteen and has had seven previous. A servant of god, isn’t she? The time is now 0620. In exactly forty minutes Urbmon 116 will be honored by the presence of Nicanor Gortman, the visiting sociocomputator from Hell, who can be recognized by his distinctive outbuilding costume in crimson and ultraviolet. Dr. Gortman will be the guest of the Charles Matterns of the 799th floor. Of course we’ll treat him with the same friendly blessmanship we show one another. God bless Nicanor Gortman! Turning now to news from the lower levels of Urbmon 116—”

Principessa says, “Hear that, children? We’ll have a guest, and we must be blessworthy toward him. Come and eat.”

When he has cleansed himself, dressed, and breakfasted, Charles Mattern goes to the thousandth-floor landing stage to meet Nicanor Gortman. As he rises through the building to the summit, Mattern passes the floors on which his brothers and sisters and their families live. Three brothers, three sisters. Four of them younger than he, two older. All quite successful. One brother died, unpleasantly, young. Jeffrey. Mattern rarely thinks of Jeffrey. Now he is passing through the floors that make up Louisville, the administrative sector. In a moment he will meet his guest. Gortman has been touring the tropics and is about to visit a typical urban monad in the temperate zone. Mattern is honored to have been named the official host. He steps out on the landing stage, which is at the very tip of Urbmon 116. A force-field shields him from the fierce winds that sweep the lofty spire. He looks at his left and sees the western face of Urban Monad 115 still in darkness. To his right, Urbmon 117’s eastern windows sparkle. Bless Mrs. Hula Jabotinsky and her eleven littles, Mattern thinks. Mattern can see other urbmons in the row, stretching on and on toward the horizon, towers of super-stressed concrete three kilometers high, tapering ever so gracefully. It is a thrilling sight. God bless, he thinks. God bless, god bless, god bless!

He hears a cheerful hum of rotors. A quickboat is landing. Out steps a tall, sturdy man dressed in high-spectrum garb. He must surely be the visiting sociocomputator from Hell.

“Nicanor Gortman?” Mattern asks.

“Bless god. Charles Mattern?”

“God bless, yes. Come.”

Hell is one of the eleven cities of Venus, which man has reshaped to suit himself. Gortman has never been on Earth before. He speaks is a slow, stolid way, no lilt in his voice at all; the inflection reminds Mattern of the way they talk in Urbmon 84, which Mattern once visited on a field trip. He has read Gortman’s papers: solid stuff, closely reasoned. “I particularly liked ‘Dynamics of the Hunting Ethic,’ ” Mattern tells him while they are in the dropshaft. “Remarkable. A revelation.”

“You really mean that?” Gortman asks, flattered.

“Of course. I try to keep up with the better Venusian journals. It’s so fascinating to read about alien customs. Such as hunting wild animals.”

“There are none on Earth?”

“God bless, no,” Mattern says. “We couldn’t allow that! But I love gaining insight into different ways of life.”

“My essays are escape literature for you?” asks Gortman.

Mattern looks at him strangely. “I don’t understand the reference.”

“Escape literature. What you read to make life on Earth more bearable for yourself.”

“Oh, no. Life on Earth is quite bearable, let me assure you. There’s no need for escape literature. I study offworld journals for amusement. And to obtain a necessary parallax, you know, for my own work,” says Mattern. They have reached the 799th level. “Let me show you my home first.” He steps from the dropshaft and beckons to Gortman. “This is Shanghai. I mean, that’s what we call this block of forty floors, from 761 to 800. I’m in the next-to-top level of Shanghai, which is a mark of my professional status. We’ve got twenty-five cities altogether in Urbmon 116. Reykjavik’s on the bottom and Louisville’s on the top.

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