"Only in my dreams, sir."
"Mmm. Well, we'll have a look in. If you recognize me, don't let on. I'm Ensign Drake, by the way. Who's your passenger, grandpa?"
"Only my cat, Ensign," Spar breathed in alarm.
"Well, take the black shaft down." Spar began to move across the monkey jungle in the direction pointed out by the blue arm-blur.
"And next time remember animals aren't allowed on the Bridge."
As Spar traveled below, his warm relief that Ensign Drake had seemed quite human and compassionate was mixed with anxiety as to whether he still had time to visit Doc. He almost missed the shift to the gang-line grinding aft in the dark red main drag. The corpse-light brightening into the false dawn of late afternoon bothered him. Once more he passed the tumbling bent figure, this time croaking, "Trinity, Trellis, Wheat Ear..."
He was fighting down the urge to give up his visit to Doc and pull home to the Bat Rack, when he noticed he had passed the second squeeze and was in Hold Four with the passageway to Doc's coming up. He dove off, checked himself on a shroud and began the hand-drag to Doc's office, as far larboard as Crown's Hole was starboard.
He passed two figures clumsy on the line, their breaths malty in anticipation of Playday. Spar worried that Doc might have closed his office. He smelled soil and greenery again, from the Gardens of Diana.
The hatch was shut, but when Spar pressed the bulb, it unzipped after three honks, and the white-haloed gray-eyed face peered out.
"I'd just about give up on you, Spar."
"I'm sorry, Doc. I had to - "
"No matter. Come in, come in. Hello, Kim - take a look around if you want."
Kim crawled out, pushed off from Spar's chest, and soon was engaged in a typical cat's tour of inspection.
And there was a great deal to inspect, as even Spar could see. Every shroud in Doc's office seemed to have objects clipped along its entire length. There were blobs large and small, gleaming and dull, light and dark, translucent and solid. They were silhouetted against a wall of the corpse-light Spar feared, but had no time to think of now. At one end was a band of even brighter light.
"Careful Kim!" Spar called to the cat as he landed against a shroud and began to paw his way from blob to blob.
"He's all right," Doc said. "Let's have a look at you, Spar. Keep your eyes open."
Doc's hands held Spar's head. The gray eyes and leathery face came so close they were one blur.
"Keep them open, I said. Yes, I know you have to blink them, that's all right. Just as I thought. The lenses are dissolved. You've suffered the side-effect which one in ten do who are infected with the Lethean rickettsia."
"Styx ricks, Doc?"
"That's right, though the mob's got hold of the wrong river in the Underworld. But we've all had it. We've all drunk the water of Lethe. Though sometimes when we grow very old we begin to remember the beginning. Don't squirm."
"Hey, Doc, is it because I've had the Styx ricks I can't remember anything back before the Bat Rack?"
"It could be. How long have you been at the Rack?"
"I don't know, Doc. Forever."
"Before I found the place, anyhow. When the Rumdum closed here in Four. But that's only a starth ago."
"But I'm awful old, Doc. Why don't I start remembering?"
"You're not old, Spar. You're just bald and toothless and etched by moonmist and your muscles have shriveled. Yes, and your mind has shriveled too. Now open your mouth."
One of Doc's hands went to the back of Spar's neck. The other probed. "Your gums are tough, anyhow. That'll make it easier."
Spar wanted to tell about the salt water, but when Doc finally took his hand out of Spar's mouth, it was to say, "Now open wide as you can."
Doc pushed into his mouth something big as a handbag and hot. "Now bite down hard."
Spar felt as if he had bitten fire. He tried to open his mouth, but hands on his head and jaw held it closed. Involuntarily he kicked and clawed air. His eyes filled with tears.
"Stop writhing! Breathe through your nose. It's not that hot. Not hot enough to blister, anyhow."
Spar doubted that, but after a bit decided it wasn't quite hot enough to bake his brain through the roof of his mouth. Besides, he didn't want to show Doc his cowardice. He held still. He blinked several times and the general blur became the blurs of Doc's face and the cluttered room silhouetted by the corpse-glare. He tried to smile, but his lips were already stretched wider than their muscles could ever have done. That hurt too; he realized now that the heat was abating a little.
Doc was grinning for him. "Well, you would ask an old drunkard to use techniques he'd only read about. To make it up to you, I'll give you teeth sharp enough to sever shrouds. Kim, please get away from that bag."
The black blur of the cat was pushing off from a black blur twice his length. Spar mumbled disapprovingly at Kim through his nose and made motions. The larger blur was shaped like Doc's little bag, but bigger than a hundred of them. It must be massive too, for in reaction to Kim's push it had bent the shroud to which it was attached and - the point - the shroud was very slow in straightening.
"That bag contains my treasure, Spar," Doc explained, and when Spar lifted his eyebrows twice to signal another question, went on, "No, not coin and gold and jewels, but a second transfinite infinitude - sleep and dreams and nightmares for every soul in a thousand Windrushes." He glanced at his wrist. "Time enough now. Open your mouth." Spar obeyed, though it cost him new pain.
Doc withdrew what Spar had bitten on, wrapped it in gleam, and clipped it to the nearest shroud. Then he looked in Spar's mouth again.
"I guess I did make it a bit too hot," he said. He found a small pouch, set it to Spar's lips, and squeezed it. A mist filled Spar's mouth and all pain vanished.
Doc tucked the pouch in Spar's pocket. "If the pain returns, use it again."
But before Spar could thank Doc, the latter had pressed a tube to his eye. "Look, Spar, what do you see?"
Spar cried out, he couldn't help it, and jerked his eye away.
"What's wrong, Spar?"
"Doc you gave me a dream," Spar said hoarsely. "You won't tell anyone, will you? And it tickled."
"What was the dream like?" Doc asked eagerly.
"Just a picture, Doc. The picture of a goat with the tail of a fish. Doc, I saw the fish's..." His mind groped, "... scales! Everything had... edges! Doc, is that what they mean when they talk about seeing sharply?"
"Of course, Spar. This is good. It means there's no cerebral or retinal damage. I'll have no trouble making up field glasses - that is, if there's nothing seriously wrong with my antique pair. So you still see things sharp-edged in dreams - that's natural enough. But why were you afraid of me telling?"
"Afraid of being accused of witchcraft, Doc. I thought seeing things like that was clairvoyance. The tube tickled my eye a little."
"Isotopes and insanity! It's supposed to tickle. That's the field. Let's try the other eye."
Again Spar wanted to cry out, but he restrained himself, and this time he had no impulse to jerk his eye away, although there was again the faint tickling. The picture was that of a slim girl. He could tell she was female because of her general shape. But he could see her edges. He could see... details. For instances, her eyes weren't mist-bounded colored ovals. They had points at both ends, which were china-white... triangles. And the pale violet round between the triangles had a tiny black round at its center.
She had silvery hair, yet she looked young, he thought, though it was hard to judge such matters when you could see edges. She made him think of the platinum-haired girl he'd glimpsed in Crown's Hole.
She wore a long, gleaming white dress, which left her shoulders bare, but either art or some unknown force had drawn her hair and her dress toward her feet. In her dress it made... folds.
"What's her name, Doc? Almodie?"
"No. Virgo. The Virgin. You can see her edges?"
"Yes, Doc. Sharp. I get it! - like a knife. And the goat-fish?"
"Capricorn," Doc answered, removing the tube from Spar's eye.
"Doc, I know Capricorn and Virgo are the names of lunths, terranths, sunths, and starths, but I never knew they had pictures. I never knew they were anything."
"You - Of course, you've never seen watches, or stars, let alone the constellations of the zodiac."
Spar was about to ask what all those were, but then he saw that the corpse-light was all gone, although the ribbon of brighter light had grown very wide.
"At least in this stretch of your memory," Doc added. "I should have your new eyes and teeth ready next Loafday. Come earlier if you can manage. I may see you before that at the Bat Rack, Playday night or earlier."
"Great, Doc, but now I've got to haul. Come on, Kim! Sometimes business heavies up Loafday night, Doc, like it was Playday night come at the wrong end. Jump in, Kim."
"Sure you can make it back to the Bat Rack all right, Spar? It'll be dark before you get there."
"Course I can, Doc."