truth of it and is willing to reap its benefits. You see him, standing next to you . . . next to you and also very far away.
It is Vir. You can trust him, as you can trust us.
You shout to Vir, and he does not respond at first. He doesn't respond because he is closer to us than you, and you must try again. "What is it?" you call, feeling as if you are pumping every bit of air from your lungs to make your question heard.
He turns slowly toward you, seeing you for the first time.
"It's . . . beautiful. I want to go there. I want to be there."
You see? He understands. He knows. He is closer to the truth than you . . . you, who are another seeker of truth, but one who is kept down by her skepticism.
"What is it?" you demand again. This is becoming . . . annoying. Do you not understand? Do you not see the harm in asking such things?
Vir understands. Vir knows. "You shouldn't ask questions like that," he scolds you.
Good Vir. Wonderful Vir. Excellent Vir. Vir, who shall be rewarded. See? See his reward? See the Centauri women who cluster around Vir? Their arms move across him, their lips whisper his name, their bodies insinuate themselves against him. They are perfect, as perfect as the Tower, as perfect as this place. You do not understand, but you will. You must.
Feel the nearness of us, drawing nearer every moment. We love you, Susan. We love you in a way that no other can. Feel our nearness, feel our heat and our cold. Feel the beating of our heart, feel the coolness of our touch, stroking the side of your lovely face, lovely Susan. . . .
Ivanova sat up, a scream dying within the constriction of her throat. Her nightgown was soaked through with sweat, and from everywhere the shadows had taken form, were leaping at her. She looked around frantically.