Главная АвторыЖанрыО проекте

«Forty Signs of Rain», Kim Robinson

Найти другие книги автора/авторов: ,

The arrival of a train, the getting on and finding of a seat, the change of trains at Metro Center, the getting off at the Ballston stop in Arlington, Virginia: all were actions accomplished without conscious thought, as she read or pondered the proposals she had in her laptop. The first one still struck her as the most interesting of the morning’s bunch. She would be interested to hear what Frank made of it.


Coming up out of a Metro station is about the same everywhere: up a long escalator, toward an oval of gray sky and the heat of the day. Emerge abruptly into a busy urban scene.

The Ballston stop’s distinction was that the escalator topped out in a big vestibule leading to the multiple glass doors of a building. Anna entered this building without glancing around, went to the nice little open-walled shop selling better-than-usual pastries and packaged sandwiches, and bought a lunch to eat at her desk. Then she went back outside to make her usual stop at the Starbucks facing the street.

This particular Starbucks was graced by a staff maniacally devoted to speed and precision; they went at their work like a drum and bugle corps. Anna loved to see it. She liked efficiency anywhere she found it, and more so as she grew older. That a group of young people could turn what was potentially a very boring job into a kind of strenuous athletic performance struck her as admirable and heartening. Now it cheered her once again to move rapidly forward in the long queue, and see the woman at the computer look up at her when she was still two back in line and call out to her teammates, “Tall latte half-caf, nonfat, no foam!” and then, when Anna got to the front of the line, ask her if she wanted anything else today. It was easy to smile as she shook her head.

Then outside again, doubled paper coffee cup in hand, to the NSF building’s west entrance. Inside she showed her badge to security in the hall, then crossed the atrium to get to the south elevators.

Anna liked the NSF building’s interior. The structure was hollow, featuring a gigantic central atrium, an octagonal space that extended from the floor to the skylight, twelve stories above. This empty space, as big as some buildings all by itself, was walled by the interior windows of all the NSF offices. Its upper part was occupied by a large hanging mobile, made of metal curved bars painted in primary colors. The ground floor was occupied by various small businesses facing the atrium pizza place, hair stylist, travel agency, bank outlet.

A disturbance caught Anna’s eye. At the far door to the atrium there was a flurry of maroon, a flash of brass, and then suddenly a resonant low chord sounded, filling the big space with a vibrating blaaa, as if the atrium itself were a kind of huge horn.

A bunch of Tibetans, it looked like, were now marching into the atrium: men and women wearing belted maroon robes and yellow winged conical caps. Some played long straight antique horns, others thumped drums or swung censers around, dispensing clouds of sandalwood. It was as if a parade entry had wandered in from the street by mistake. They crossed the atrium chanting, skip-stepping, swirling, all in majestic slow motion.

They headed for the travel agency, and for a second Anna wondered if they had come in to book a flight home. But then she saw that the travel agency’s windows were empty.

This gave her a momentary pang, because these windows had always been filled by bright posters of tropical beaches and European castles, changing monthly like calendar photos, and Anna had often stood before them while eating her lunch, traveling mentally within them as a kind of replacement for the real travel that she and Charlie had given up when Nick was born. Sometimes it had occurred to her that given the kinds of political and bacterial violence that were often behind the scenes in those photos, mental travel was perhaps the best kind.

But now the windows were empty, the small room behind them likewise. In the doorway the Tibetanesque performers were now massing, in a crescendo of chant and brassy brass, the incredibly low notes vibrating the air almost visibly, like the cartoon soundtrack bassoon in Fantasia.

Anna moved closer, dismissing her small regret for the loss of the travel agency. New occupants, fogging the air with incense, chanting or blowing their hearts out: it was interesting.

In the midst of the celebrants stood an old man, his brown face a maze of deep wrinkles. He smiled, and Anna saw that the wrinkles mapped a lifetime of smiling that smile. He raised his right hand, and the music came to a ragged end in a hyperbass note that fluttered Anna’s stomach.

The old man stepped free of the group and bowed to the four walls of the atrium, his hands held together before him. He dipped his chin and sang, his chant as low as any of the horns, and split into two notes, with a resonant head tone distinctly audible over the deep clear bass, all very surprising coming out of such a slight man. Singing thus, he walked to the doorway of the travel agency and there touched the doorjambs on each side, exclaiming something sharp each time.

“Rig yal ba! Chos min gon pa!”

The others all exclaimed “Jetsun Gyatso!”

The old man bowed to them.

And then they all cried “Om!” and filed into the little office space, the brassmen angling their long horns to make it in the door.

Еще несколько книг в жанре «Научная Фантастика»

Месть проклятых, Аллан Коул и др. Читать →

Путевые знаки, Владимир Березин Читать →