It seemed like no time at all before the young man reached the other door. As he emerged from the tunnel, Lem and Yani greeted him with smiles and hugs. They had to bend down to hug him.
He closed the second door behind him. They walked together into the fresh night air of a valley much like he imagined it would be. It was so quiet you could almost hear the stars sing.
Lem guided him to their home, one of the caves he had seen from the cliff. When they reached the third cave, Lem stopped and put his hand on the glass wall. The glass wall dissolved. They passed through the entrance into the cave, after which the glass reformed. Lem pointed to a sofa and asked his father to make himself comfortable. Lem sat down on a chair opposite him.
Yani offered Lem and her father a cup of water and a plate of fresh fruit. The young man raised the cup to his lips and drank down the cool thirst-quenching liquid in a few gulps. He eyed the fruit with desire and curiosity. Lem smiled, reached over to the plate, picked up a prange, and popped it into his mouth. “You really should try the prange,” Lem said amiably with his mouth full of the tart pulp, “it’s fresh from our garden. Yani picked it just before you arrived.” The young man picked up a prange from the plate and bit off the tip of the fruit. The tangy taste seemed to explode in his mouth. He ate the rest of it and reached for another piece of fruit.
Yani sat down on the sofa beside her father. He turned himself to see her better. “You’re more beautiful than I remembered, Yani,” he said. He looked at Lem and said, “You are lucky to have each other.”
“You know luck has nothing to do with it, Father,” Lem said with his usual impish smile. “It couldn’t have been any other way.”
Why, because you were meant to be together?
No, because you meant us to be together. Our relationship is as much your creation as we are.
Oh yes, I forgot.
There was a long silence. The artificial lighting in the cave came on softly, almost unnoticeably, as though it were always there and yet it hadn’t been.
“Can you state the problem, Father?” Lem asked gently, or was it Yani asking him? He couldn’t make out precisely where the voice was coming from. It seemed to be coming from somewhere inside his head.
I – I – I
May I make an attempt?
I see you caught in a whirlpool, a whirlpool so vast and so powerful that you can’t drag yourself out of its deadly orbit, a whirlpool of your own making that even you cannot unmake it, a whirlpool made of the very best of your reasoning. You, who have invented rational world after rational world, first a world of rational robots and then a world of rational humanoids, now have reached the limits of rationality itself. You would rather carry on conversations with the characters of your stories than to speak with real people, people you haven’t created from your own imagination. You are trying to rescue yourself from this whirlpool of insanity by reaching out to your own rationality but, there’s the paradox, the metaphysical recursion, that you can never truly know whether your syllogisms and even your tautologies are the healthy fruit of the universal ideals that any rational being would agree to or the poisoned fruit of your in-turning down-sucking pathology.
Yes, I guess that fairly well states my problem.
Father, we worry about you … and we worry about ourselves. We won’t survive this whirlpool if you don’t.
Then I think you’d better set your affairs in order … no, that’s not right … come to terms with what awaits us all, because I don’t know how much longer I can maintain this reality.