By Natalie L. M. Petesch
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Additional resources for After the First Death, There Is No Other
Dutifully the woman blew at the candles; scarcely three or four snuffed out. She blew again, a few more were quenched. There seemed an infinity of candles blinking more or less merrily. Each time she blew the crowd moaned as though she were stepping closer to a ledge; then with a great wrench of breath the last candles darkened. After the birthday song, for some reason their activities became feverish; they began ritualizing their questions, each one going up to the proscenium to identify, recall, assimilate their twenty-five years.
Yet I received the impression of a clever client who has somehow out- Page 13 witted the Company. When Mr. Sardis picked up a bottle of wine and poured me a glass I thought we had finally broken through this ridiculous situation. "Drink, drink," he said at last. " He had not poured any for himself, however. Although I am not much of a winebibber, especially during working hours, I raised the glass to my lips, nodding it in his direction in a slight but unmistakable gesture of a toast. I drank the liquid down so we could come to the heart of the matter.
It helps them keep their records. They cling to these rituals which measure time. But of course I understand that the social fabric is based on such paradoxes: when at last your consciousness has evolved, when you have emptied your mind of debilitating expectations, when at last you can live in a serene and perfect stasis, they give you a pen and say, "Write. " Physician, heal thyself! And their pen, of course, is blunt and knobby: they live in their mechanized world, they operate with perfectly calibrated instruments, they wind themselves up like clocks to chime precisely the same message at exactly the same hour, and they can't supply you with a pen that writes.