Vessel 1-8, Voyage 013D6. Crew F. Ito. piece of tin and plastic can think, I mean.
Transit time 41 days 2 hours. Position not identified. Instrument recordings damaged. piece of tin and plastic can think, I mean. ass=“InsertBlock”> Transcript of crewman’s tape follows: “The planet seems to have a surface gravity in excess of 2.5, but I am going to attempt a landing. Neither visual nor radar scanning penetrates the clouds of dust and vapor. It really is not looking very good, but this is my eleventh launch. I am setting the automatic return for 10 days. If I am not back by then with the lander I think the capsule will return by itself. I wish I knew what the spots and flares on the sun meant.”
Crewman was not aboard when ship returned. No artifacts or samples. Landing vehicle not secured. Vessel damaged.
Sigfrid is still waiting, but I know that he won’t wait forever. Pretty soon he’s going to start asking me questions, probably about my dreams.
“Have you had any dreams since I last saw you, Rob?”
I yawn. The whole subject is very boring. “I don’t think so. Nothing important, I’m sure.”
“I’d like to hear what they were. Even a fragment.”
“You’re a pest, Sigfrid, do you know that?”
“I’m sorry you feel I’m a pest, Rob.”
“Well… I don’t think I can remember even a fragment.”
“Oh, cripes. Well.” I get comfortable on the couch. The only dream I can think of is absolutely trivial, and I know there’s nothing in it that relates to anything traumatic or pivotal, but if I told him that he would get angry. So I say obediently, “I was in a car of a long railroad train. There were a number of cars hooked up together, and you could go from one to the other. They were full of people I knew. There was a woman, a sort of motherly type who coughed a lot, and another woman who — well, she looked rather strange. At first I thought she was a man. She was dressed in a sort of utility coverall, so you couldn’t tell from that whether she was male or female, and she had very masculine, bushy eyebrows. But I was sure she was a woman.”
“Did you talk to either of these women, Rob?”
“Please don’t interrupt, Sigfrid, you make me lose my train of thought.”
“I’m sorry, Rob.”
I go on with the dream: “I left them — no, I didn’t talk to them. I went back into the next car. That was the last one on the train. It was coupled to the rest of the train with a sort of — let’s see, I don’t know how to describe it. It was like one of those expanding gatefold things, made out of metal, you know? And it stretched.”
I stop for a moment, mostly out of boredom. I feel like apologizing for having such a dumb, irrelevant dream. “You say the metal connector stretched, Rob?” Sigfrid prompts me.
“That’s right, it stretched. So of course the car I was in kept dropping back, farther and farther behind the others. All I could see was the taillight, which was sort of in the shape of her face, looking at me. She—” I lose the thread of what I am saying. I try to get back on the track: “I guess I felt as though it was going to be difficult to get back to her, as if she- I’m sorry, Sigfrid, I don’t remember clearly what happened around there. Then I woke up. And,” I finish virtuously, “I wrote it all down as soon as I could, just the way you tell me to.”
“I appreciate that, Rob,” Sigfrid says gravely. He waits for me to go on.
I shift restlessly. “This couch isn’t nearly as comfortable as the mat,” I complain.
“I’m sorry about that, Rob. You said you recognized them?”
“The two women on the train, that you were getting farther and farther away from.”
“Oh. No, I see what you mean. I recognized them in the dream. Really I have no idea who they were.”
“Did they look like anyone you knew?”
“Not a bit. I wondered about that myself.”
Sigfrid says, after a moment, which I happen to know is his way of giving me a chance to change my mind about an answer he doesn’t like, “You mentioned one of the women was a motherly type who coughed—”
“Yes. But I didn’t recognize her. I think in a way she did look familiar, but, you know, the way people in a dream do.”
He says patiently, “Can you think of any woman you’ve ever known who was motherly and coughed a lot?”
I laugh out loud at that. “Dear friend Sigfrid! I assure you the women I know are not at all the motherly type! And they are all on at least Major Medical. They’re not likely to cough.”
“I see. Are you sure, Robbie?”
“Don’t be a pain in the ass, Sigfrid,” I say, angry because the crappy couch is hard to get comfortable on, and also because I need to go to the bathroom, and this situation looks to be prolonging itself indefinitely.
“I see.” And after a moment he picks up on something else, as I know he is going to: he’s a pigeon, Sigfrid is, pecking at everything I throw out before him, one piece at a time. “How about the other woman, the one with the bushy eyebrows?”
“What about her?”
“Did you ever know any girl who had bushy eyesbrows?”
“Oh, Christ, Sigfrid, I’ve gone to bed with five hundred girls! Some of them had every kind of eyebrows you ever heard of.”
“No particular one?”
“Not that I can think of offhand.”
“Not offhand, Rob. Please make an effort to remember.”
It is easier to do what he wants than to argue with him about it, so I make the effort. “All right, let’s see. Ida Mae? No. Sue-Ann? No. S. Ya.? No. Gretchen? No — well, to tell you the truth, Sigfrid, Gretchen was so blond I couldn’t really tell you if she had eyebrows at all.”
“Those are girls you’ve known recently, aren’t they, Rob? Perhaps someone longer ago?”
“You mean way back?” I reflect deeply as far back as I can go, all the way to the food mines and Sylvia. I laugh out loud. “You know something, Sigfrid? It’s funny, but I can hardly remember what Sylvia looked like — oh, wait a minute. No. Now I remember. She used to pluck her eyebrows almost altogether away, and then pencil them in. The reason I know is one time when we were in bed together we drew pictures on each other with her eyebrow pencil.”
I can almost hear him sigh. “The cars,” he says, pecking at another bright bit. “How would you describe them?”
“Like any railroad train. Long. Narrow. Moving pretty fast through the tunnel.”
“Long and narrow, moving through a tunnel, Rob?”
I lose my patience at that. He is so fucking transparent! “Come on, Sigfrid! You don’t get away with any corny penis symbols with me.”
“I’m not trying to get away with anything, Rob.”
“Well, you’re being an asshole about this whole dream, I swear you are. There’s nothing in it. The train was just a train. I don’t know who the women were. And listen, while we’re on the subject, I really hate this goddamned couch. For the kind of money my insurance is paying you, you can do a lot better than this!”
He has really got me angry now. He keeps trying to get back to the dream, but I am determined to get a fair shake from him for the insurance company’s money, and by the time I leave he has promised to redecorate before my next visit.
As I go out that day I feel pretty pleased with myself. He is really doing me a lot of good. I suppose it is because I am getting the courage to stand up to him, and perhaps all this nonsense has been helpful to me in that way, or in some way, even if it is true that some of his ideas are pretty crazy.