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PYNCHON, Thomas

Gravity’s Rainbow

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In her pack, Geli Tripping brings along a few of Tchitcherine's toenail clippings, a graying hair, a piece of bedsheet with a trace of his sperm, all tied in a white silk kerchief, next to a bit of Adam and Eve root and a loaf of bread baked from wheat she has rolled naked in and ground against the sun. She has left off tending her herd of toads on the witches' hillsides, and has passed her white wand to another apprentice. She is off to find her gallant Attila. Now there are a good few hundred of these young women in the Zone who're smitten with love for Tchitcherine, all of them sharp as foxes, but none quite as stubborn as Geli-and none are witches.

At noon she comes to a farmhouse with a floor of blue and white tiles in the kitchen, elaborate old china plates hung like pictures, and a rocking-chair. "Do you have a photo of him?" the old woman handing her a tin army plate with the remains of her morning's Bauernfrühstück. "I can give you a spell."

"Sometimes I can call up his face in a cup of tea. But the herbs have to be gathered carefully. I'm not that good at it yet."

"But you're in love. Technique is just a substitute for when you get older."

"Why not stay in love always?"

The two women watch each other across the sunny kitchen. Cabinets with glass panes shine from the walls. Bees buzz outside the windows. Geli goes and pumps water from the well, and they brew some strawberry-leaf tea. But Tchitcherine's face doesn't appear.

The night the blacks started off on their great trek, Nordhausen felt like a city in a myth, under the threat of some special destruction-engulfment by a crystal lake, lava from the sky… for an evening, the sense of preservation there was lost. The blacks, like the rockets in the Mittelwerke, had given Nordhausen continuity. Now the blacks are gone: Geli knows they are on collision course with Tchitcherine. She doesn't want duels. Let the university boys duel. She wants her graying steel barbarian alive. She can't bear to think that she may already have touched him, felt his scarred and historied hands, for the last time.

Behind, pushing her, is the town's somnolence, and at night-the strange canaried nights of the Harz (where canary hustlers are busy shooting up female birds with male hormones so they'll sing long enough to be sold to the foreign suckers who occupy the Zone)-full of too many spells, witch-rivalries, coven politics… she knows that's not what magic is about. The Hexes-Stadt, with its holy mountains cropped in pale circles all up and down their green faces by the little tethered goats, has turned into just another capital, where the only enterprise is administrating-the feeling there is of upstairs at the musicians' union-no music, just glass-brick partitions, spittoons, indoor plants-no practicing witches left. You either come to the Brocken-complex with a bureaucratic career in mind, or you leave it, and choose the world. There are the two distinct sorts of witch, and Geli is the World-choosing sort.

Here is the World. She is wearing gray men's trousers rolled to the knee that flap around her thighs as she walks by the rye fields… walking, with her head down, pushing hair out of her eyes often. Sometimes soldiers come by, and give her rides. She listens for news of Tchitcherine, of the trekking Schwarzkommando. If it feels right, she will even ask about Tchitcherine. The variety of the rumors surprises her. I'm not the only one who loves him… though their love of course is friendly, admiring, unsexual…


Geli's the only one in the Zone who loves him completely. Tchitcherine, known in some circles as "the Red Doper," is about to be purged: the emissary is none other than Beria's top man, the sinister N. Ripov himself.

Bullshit, Tchitcherine's already dead, didn't you hear, he's been dead for months…

… they've had somebody impersonating him till all the others in his Bloc are taken care of…

… no, he came into Lüneburg last weekend, my mate's seen him before, no mistake, it's him…

… he's lost a lot of weight and takes a heavy bodyguard everywhere he goes. At least a dozen. Orientals mostly…

… fully equipped with Judas Iscariot no doubt. That one's hard to believe. A dozen? Where does anybody find that many people he can trust? Especially out at the edge like he is-

"What edge?" They're rattling along in the back of a 2 1/2-ton lorry through very green rolling country… a storm is blowing up mute purple, veined in yellow, behind them. Geli's been drinking wine with this scurvy lot of tommies, a demolition squad who've been out all day clearing canals. They smell of creosote, marsh-mud, ammonia from the dynamite.

"Well you know what he's doing."

"The rockets?"

"I wouldn't want to be in his place, that's all."

Up on the crest of a hill, an army surveying party is restoring a damaged road. One silhouette leans peering through a transit, one holds a bob. A bit apart from the instrument man another engineer stands with his arms out straight to the sides, his head moves sighting along either pointed hand, then the arms swoop together… if you close your eyes, and have learned to let your arms move by themselves, your fingers will touch making a perfect right angle from where they were… Geli watches the tiny act: it is devotional, graceful, and she feels the cross the man has made on his own circle of visible earth… unconsciously a mandala… it is a sign for her. He is pointing her on her way. Later that evening she sees an eagle flying across the marshes, in the same direction. It's golden-dark, almost night. The region is lonely and Pan is very close. Geli has been to enough Sabbaths to handle it-she thinks. But what is a devil's blue bite on the ass to the shrieking-outward, into stone resonance, where there is no good or evil, out in the luminous spaces Pan will carry her to? Is she ready yet for anything so real? The moon has risen. She sits now, at the same spot where she saw the eagle, waiting, waiting for something to come and take her. Have you ever waited for it? wondering whether it will come from outside or inside? Finally past the futile guesses at what might happen… now and then re-erasing brain to keep it clean for the Visit… yes wasn't it close to here? remember didn't you sneak away from camp to have a moment alone with What you felt stirring across the land… it was the equinox… green spring equal nights… canyons are opening up, at the bottoms are steaming fumaroles, steaming the tropical life there like greens in a pot, rank, dope-perfume, a hood of smell… human consciousness, that poor cripple, that deformed and doomed thing, is about to be born. This is the World just before men.

Too violently pitched alive in constant flow ever to be seen by men directly. They are meant only to look at it dead, in still strata, transputrefied to oil or coal. Alive, it was a threat: it was Titans, was an overpeaking of life so clangorous and mad, such a green corona about Earth's body that some spoiler had to be brought in before it blew the Creation apart.

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