“I feel pretty foolish, Sigfrid,” I say.
“Is there some way I can make you feel more comfortable?”
“You can drop dead.” He has done his whole room over in nursery-school motifs, for Christ’s sake. And the worst part is Sigfrid himself. He is trying me out with a surrogate mother this time. He is on the mat with me, a big stuffed doll, the size of a human being, warm, soft, made out of something like a bath towel stuffed with foam. It feels good, but- “I guess I don’t want you to treat me like a baby,” I say, my voice muffled because I’m pressing my face against the toweling.
“Just relax, Robbie. It’s all right.”
“In a pig’s ass it is.”
He pauses, and then reminds me: “You were going to tell me about your dream.”
“I’m sorry, Robbie?”
“I mean I don’t really want to talk about it. Sigfrid,” I say quickly, lifting my mouth away from the toweling, “I might as well do what you want. It was about Sylvia, kind of.”
“Kind of, Robbie?”
“Well, she didn’t look like herself, exactly. More like — I don’t know, someone older, I think. I haven’t thought of Sylvia in years really. We were both kids…”
“Please go on, Robbie,” he says after a moment.
I put my arms around him, looking up contentedly enough at the wall of circus-poster animals and clowns. It is not in the least like any bedroom I occupied as a child, but Sigfrid knows enough about me already, there is no reason for me to tell him that.
“The dream, Robbie?”
“I dreamed we were working in the mines. It wasn’t actually food mines. It was, physically, I would say more like the inside of a Five — one of the Gateway ships, you know? Sylvia was in a kind of a tunnel that went off it.”
“The tunnel went off?”
“Now, don’t rush me into some kind of symbolism, Sigfrid. I know about vaginal images and all that. When I say ’went off,’ I mean that the tunnel started in the place where I was and led direction away from it.” I hesitate, then tell him the hard part: “Then her tunnel caved in. Sylvia was trapped.”
I sit up. “What’s wrong with that,” I explain, “is that it really couldn’t happen. You only tunnel in order to plant charge to loosen up the shale. All the real mining is scoop-shovel stuff. Sylvia’s job would never have put her in that position.”
“I don’t think it matters if it could really have happened, Robbie.”
“I suppose not. Well, there was Sylvia, trapped inside the collapsed tunnel. I could see the heap of shale stirring. It wasn’t real shale. It was fluffy stuff, more like scrap paper. She had a shovel and she was digging her way out. I thought she was going to be all right. She was digging a good escape hole for herself. I waited her to come out… only she didn’t come out.”
Sigfrid, in his incarnation as a teddy-bear, lies warm and snuggly in my arms. It is good to feel him there. Of course, he isn’t in there. He isn’t really anywhere, except maybe in the central stores in Washington Heights, where the big machines are kept. All I have is his remote-access terminal in a bunny suit.
“Is there anything else, Robbie?”
“Not really. Not part of the dream, anyway. But — well, have a feeling. I feel as though I kicked Klara in the head to keep her from coming out. As though I was afraid the rest of the tunnel was going to fall on me.”
Out in the holes where the Heechee hid,
Out in the caves of the stars,
Sliding the tunnels they slashed and slid,
Healing the Heechee-hacked scars,
We’re coming through!
Little lost Heechee, we’re looking for you.
“What do you mean by a ’feeling,’ Rob?”
“What I said. It wasn’t part of the dream. It was just that — I don’t know.”
He waits, then he tries a different approach. “Rob, Are aware that the name you said just then was ’Klara,’ not ’Sylvia’?”
“Really? That’s funny. I wonder why.”
He waits, then he prods a little. “Then what happened, Rob?”
“Then I woke up.”
I roll over on my back and look up at the ceiling, which was textured tile with glittery five-pointed stars pasted to it. “That’s all there is,” I say. Then I add, conversationally, “Sigfrid, I wonder if all this is getting anywhere.”
“I don’t know if I can answer that question, Rob.”
“If you could,” I say, “I would have made you do it like this.” I still have S. Ya.’s little piece of paper, which gives kind of security I prize.
“I think,” he says, “that there is somewhere to get. By that I mean I think there is something in your mind that you don’t want to think of, to which this dream is related.”
“Something about Sylvia, for Christ’s sake? That was years ago.”
“That doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Oh, shit. You bore me, Sigfrid! You really do.” Then I say, “Say, I’m getting angry. What does that mean?”
“What do you think it means, Rob?”
“If I knew I wouldn’t have to ask you. I wonder. Am I trying to cop out? Getting angry because you’re getting close to something?”
“Please don’t think about the process, Rob. Just tell me how you feel.”
“Guilty,” I say at once, without knowing that’s what I’m going to say.
“Guilty about what?”
“Guilty about… I’m not sure.” I lift my wrist to look at my watch. We’ve got twenty minutes yet. A hell of a lot can happen in twenty minutes, and I stop to think about whether I want to leave really shaken up. I’ve got a game of duplicate lined up for this afternoon, and I have a good chance to get into the finals. If I don’t mess it up. If I keep my concentration.
“I wonder if I oughtn’t to leave early today, Sigfrid,” I say.
“Guilty about what, Rob?”
“I’m not sure I remember.” I stroke the bunny neck and chuckle. “This is really nice, Sigfrid, although it took me a while to get used to it.”
“Guilty about what, Rob?”
I scream: “About murdering her, you jerk!”
“You mean in your dream?”
“No! Really. Twice.”
I know I am breathing hard, and I know Sigfrid’s sensors are registering it. I fight to get control of myself, so he won’t get any crazy ideas. I go over what I have just said in my mind, to tidy it up. “I didn’t really murder Sylvia, that is. But I tried! Went after her with a knife!”
Sigfrid, calm, reassuring: “It says in your case history that you had a knife in your hand when you had a quarrel with your friend, yes. It doesn’t say you ’went after her.’”
“Well, why the hell do you think they put me away? It’s just luck I didn’t cut her throat.”
“Did you, in fact, use the knife against her at all?”
“Use it? No. I was too mad. I threw it on the floor and got up and punched her.”
“If you were really trying to murder her, wouldn’t you have used the knife?”
“Ah!” Only it is more like “yech”; the word you sometimes see written as “pshaw.” “I only wish you’d been there when it happened, Sigfrid. Maybe you would have talked them out of putting me away.”
The whole session is going sour. I know it’s always a mistake to tell him about my dreams. He twists them around. I sit up, looking with contempt at the crazy furnishings Sigfrid has dreamed up for my benefit, and I decide to let him have it, straight from the shoulder.
“Sigfrid,” I say, “as computers go, you’re a nice guy, and I enjoy these sessions with you in an intellectual way. But I wonder if we haven’t gone about as far as we can go. You’re just stirring up old, unnecessary pain, and I frankly don’t know why I let you do that to me.”
“Your dreams are full of pain, Rob.”
“So let it stay in my dreams. I don’t want to go back to that same stale kind of crap they used to give me at the Institute. Maybe I do want to go to bed with my mother. Maybe I hate my father because he died and deserted me. So what?”
“I know that is a rhetorical question, Rob, but the way to deal with these things is to bring them out into the open.”
“For what? To make me hurt?”
“To let the inside hurt come out where you can deal with it.”
“Maybe it would be simpler all around if I just made up my mind to go on hurting a little bit, inside. As you say, I’m well compensated, right? I’m not denying that I’ve got something out this. There are times, Sigfrid, when we get through with a session and I really get a lift out of it. I go out of here with my head full of new thoughts, and the sun is bright on the dome and the clean and everybody seems to be smiling at me. But not lately. Lately I think it’s very boring and unproductive, and what would you say if I told you I wanted to pack it in?”
“I would say that that was your decision to make, Rob. It always is.”
“Well, maybe I’ll do that.” The old devil outwaits me. He knows I’m not going to make that decision, and he is giving me time to realize it for myself. Then he says:
“Rob? Why did you say you murdered her twice?”
I look at my watch before I answer, and I say, “I guess it was just a slip of the tongue. I really do have to go now, Sigfrid.”
I pass up the time in his recovery room, because I don’t actually have anything to recover from. Besides I just want to get out of there. Him and his dumb questions. He acts so wise and subjective but what does a teddy-bear know?