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pitches and dialects had blended into the hiss of the raft's passage. He had
known at once that this was not a dream or hallucination. He was hearing
snatches of real conversation.
As he touched the torn bits of kelp in the night, Brett had felt it trying to
reach up to him, seeking his hands on the paddles.
Scudi Scudi Scudi Brett Brett Brett
The names echoed in his mind with a feeling of music, a strange inflection but
the clearest tones he had ever heard -- undistorted by air or wind or the
devouring dampers of an Island's organic walls.
A wind had come up then and they had raised the raft's crude sail. Scudding
across the kelp's surface, huddled close in the stern, they had held a paddle
between them as a rudder. Scudi had watched the little receiver that aimed
them toward Twisp's transmitter.
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Once, Scudi had looked up at a bright star low on the horizon. She pointed at
it. "See?"
Brett looked up to a star that he had known from his first awareness, out onto
Vashon terrace with his parents on a clear warm night. He had thought of it
"the fat star."
"Little Double," Scudi said. "It's very close to our sunrise point."
"When it's that low on the horizon, you can see the hyb tanks make a pass
there." He pointed to the horizon directly opposite the position of the fat
star. "Twisp taught me that."
Scudi chuckled, snuggling close to him for warmth. "My mother said Little
Double was far off across the horizon to the north when she was young. It's
another binary system, you know. From Little Double we could see both of our
suns clearly."
"To them, we're probably the fat star," he said.
Scudi was quiet for a time, then: "Why won't you talk about the kelp?"
"What's to talk about?" Brett heard his own voice, brittle and unnatural.
"It called our names," Scudi said. She gently pulled a bit of leaf from the
back of her left hand.
Brett swallowed hard. His tongue felt dry and thick.
"It did," she said. "I have trailed my hand through it many times. I get
images -- pictures like holos or dreams. They are symbols and if I think on
them I learn something."
"You mean you still wanted to touch it, even after it almost drowned you?"
"You're wrong about the kelp," Scudi said. "I'm speaking of the times before,
when I worked at sea. I have learned from the kelp . . ."
"I thought you said you taught the kelp."
"But the kelp helps me, too. That is why I have such good luck when I
mathematic the waves. But now the kelp is learning words."
"What does it say to you?"
"My name and your name." She dipped a hand over the side and dragged it
across a huge vine. "It says you love me, Brett."
"That's crazy."
"That you love me?"
"No . . . that it knows. You know what I mean."
"Then it's true."
"Scudi . . ." He swallowed. "It's obvious, huh?"
She nodded. "Don't worry. I love you, too."
He felt a hot flush of exuberance plunge out of his cheeks.
"And the kelp knows that, too," she said.
Later, as Brett squatted in the coracle watching the distance to another kelp
bed grow shorter and shorter, he heard Scudi's words over and over in his
memory: "The kelp knows . . . the kelp knows . . ." The memory was like the
gentle rise and fall of the seas beneath the wallowing boat.
It called our names, he thought. Admitting this did not help. It could be
calling us to be its dinner.
He turned his thoughts to something else Scudi had said in the raft: "I like
it that our bodies find comfort with each other."
A very practical woman. No giving in to the demands of sex, because that
could complicate their lives. She did not hesitate to admit that she wanted
him, though, and anticipation counted for something. Brett sensed the
strength in her as he looked across the coracle to where she rested with both
elbows hooked over a thwart.
"We're in the kelp," she said. She dropped her left hand over the side.
Brett wished they could explain what she was doing, but he felt sure the
others would think the explanation proof of insanity.
"Would you look at that!" Twisp said. He nodded toward something ahead of
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Brett stood up and looked. A wide lane had opened through the kelp, the
fronds spreading wide, then completely aside, still spreading farther ahead.
He felt the water boil under them and the two coracles surged forward.
"It's a current going our way," Twisp said, astonishment in his voice.
"Merman Current Control," Bushka said. "See! They know where we are.
They're delivering us someplace."
"That's right," Twisp said. "Directly toward Vashon."
Scudi straightened and brought her dripping hand out of the water. She bent
forward and moved across the coracle, tipping it.
"Trim ship!" Twisp snapped.
She hesitated. "The kelp," she said. "It's helping us. This isn't Current
Control at all."
"How do you know?" Twisp asked.
"It . . . the kelp talks to me."
Now she's done it, Brett thought.
Bushka let out a loud snort of laughter.
Twisp, however, stared at her silently for a moment, then: "Tell me more."
"I have shared images with the kelp for a long time," she said. "At least
three years since I first noticed. Now it speaks words in my head. To Brett,
The kelp called his name."
Twisp looked at Brett, who cleared his throat and said, "Well, that's how it
"Our ancestors claimed the kelp was sentient," Twisp said. "Even Jesus Lewis
said it. 'The kelp is a community mind.' You're-a historian, Bushka, you
should know all this."
"Our ancestors said a lot of crazy things!"
"There's always a reason," Twisp said. He nodded at the lane through the
"Explain that."
"Current Control. The girl's wrong."
"Put your hand over the side," Scudi said. "Touch the kelp as we pass."
"Sure," Bushka said. "Use your hand for bait. Who knows what you might
Twisp merely leveled a cold stare at Bushka, then steered the coracle close to [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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