University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

Boye, Karin, 1900-1941 / Kallocain (1966)

Previous Previous section

Next section Next



 

[chapter]

  [p. 32]  

Not that it was my habit to waste time, either after my morning exercises or otherwise, but that morning I hurried especially through my shower, I believe, and donned my work uniform in order to stand ready at attention when the door to my laboratory swung open and the control chief entered.

When at last he arrived it was of course Rissen; exactly as I had anticipated.

If I was disappointed I hoped at least it would not be evident. There had been a faint possibility that it might be someone else, but now it was Rissen. And as he faced me, unimpressive in appearance and almost hesitant, I felt quite sure I did not dislike him because there might be something between him and Linda, but on the contrary disliked the thought of an affair between him and Linda just because it concerned Rissen. Anyone else, but not him. Rissen would hardly put any stumbling blocks on my scientific road—he was too kind for that. But I would rather have had a less considerate and more demanding control chief, one against whom I could have measured my own strength, if at the same time I could have respected him. One could have no respect for Rissen, he was unlike others, he was somehow ridiculous. It is rather difficult to put my finger on what was lacking in Rissen, but if I use the words out of step it will give a general idea of the situation. That resolute deportment, that precise and measured speech which alone were natural   [p. 33]   and right for a mature fellow-soldier, were not in Rissen's line. At times he might appear feverishly excited, his words bubbling over each other; he might even allow himself unintentional and comical gestures, or at other times lapse into long unmotivated pauses, withdrawn in thought, occasionally tossing off a careless word which only the initiated could comprehend. Uncontrolled, almost feral expressions would distort his face, even in the presence of an inferior like me, when something that especially interested him was brought up for discussion. On the one hand I knew that as a scientist he had a brilliant record; on the other hand I could not close my eyes to the fact that, even though he was my chief, there was an anomaly between his worth as a scientist and his worth as a fellow-soldier.

"Well," he began, slowly as if the working hours were for his personal use only, "well, I've received a very detailed report about this business. I do believe I understand what it is all about."

And he started to repeat my report in its essential points.

"My Chief," I interrupted, impatiently, "I have already taken the liberty of ordering five test-persons from the Voluntary Sacrificial Service. They're waiting outside in the hall."

He looked morosely at me with his brooding eyes. I had a feeling he might not even see I was there. He was a peculiar one.

"Well, call them in then," he said, as if he were thinking aloud, not issuing an order.

I pressed the waiting-room buzzer. Immediately a man with his arm in a sling stepped inside, stopped at the door, and reported himself as No. 135 in the Voluntary Sacrificial Service.

Somewhat annoyed I asked if no completely healthy   [p. 34]   test-person was available. During my work as assistant at one of the medical laboratories it had happened that my then chief had been sent a woman whose entire glandular system had been destroyed in an earlier experiment, and I remembered very well how this fact had almost ruined his whole investigation. I did not wish to risk anything similar. I was also well aware from the regulations that I had a right to insist on healthy individuals for my test: the practice of sending the same people over and over again turned into a sort of favoritism which denied excellent specimens the opportunity to show their courage, besides depriving them of a little extra compensation. A profession like that of the Voluntary Sacrificial Service was of course in itself more honorable than most, and ought really be considered a compensation in itself, but nevertheless the pay was in the lowest bracket, due to the many extra claims for injury which were part of the profession.

The man jumped to attention and apologized on behalf of his department; there had actually been no one else to send; for the moment a great deal of experimentation was taking place in the poison gas laboratory, and the Voluntary Sacrificial Service had been called out to the last man every day. No. 135 himself felt in perfect physical condition, except for some slight damage from the gas experiments, with complications to his left arm; as a personal apology he wished to add that since it should have healed long ago—not even the chemist who had caused it could say why it hadn't—he considered himself fully recovered, and hoped the small gas-injury would not interfere with my test.

Actually, it could not interfere at all, so I relaxed.

"It isn't your arms we need but your nervous system," I said. "And I can say in advance that the experiment will   [p. 35]   neither be painful nor leave any after-effects, not even momentary."

No. 135 stood at even stiffer attention, as far as it was possible. When he answered, his voice sounded almost like a fanfare:

"I regret the State does not demand a greater sacrifice—I am ready for all!"

"Of course. I don't doubt it," I replied, solemnly.

I felt convinced he meant what he said. The only thing I might object to was that he too strongly emphasized his courage. A scientist too, in his laboratory, can be courageous, even though as yet he has had no chance to show it, I thought. Still, it might not be too late: what he had said about the febrile activities at the poison gas laboratory was an indication that a new war was brewing. Another sign which I myself had noticed but had been hesitant to mention—to avoid being thought querulous and pessimistic—was that the food in all respects had deteriorated during the last months.

I placed the man in a comfortable chair, especially requisitioned for this experiment, turned up his sleeve, washed his inside elbow, and pushed in the small syringe filled with its pale green fluid. At the same moment No. 135 felt the prick of the needle his face began to relax until it almost looked handsome. I must admit that I felt I was watching a hero there in the chair. Simultaneously the color ebbed a little in his face, a reaction hardly caused by the pale green fluid, since it could not possibly have had time to take effect as yet.

"How does it feel?" I asked, encouragingly, as the contents of the needle diminished. Still following the regulations, I wished to ask the test-person himself as much as possible, to instill in him a feeling of equality and thus in a way elevate him above the feeling of pain.

  [p. 36]  

"Thank you—about the same as usual," replied No. 135, but he spoke with noticeable slowness, as if trying to hide the fact that his lips were trembling.

While waiting for the injection to take effect we studied his card which he had placed on the table. Year of birth, sex, race, type of body, type of temperament, blood type, and so on, peculiarities in the family, sicknesses (quite a few, obviously nearly all caused by experiments). I copied the essential information for my own new, especially prepared card index. The only statement that confused me was his year of birth, but perhaps it was correct; I recalled that ever since my assistantship days I had noticed that all test-persons in the Voluntary Sacrificial Service looked ten years older than they actually were. When I was finished with the card index I turned again to No. 135, who had started to squirm in his chair.

"Well?"

The man laughed childishly in surprise.

"I feel so awfully well. I've never felt so well in my whole life. But I sure was afraid . . . "

The moment had arrived. We listened and observed. I felt my heart beating. Suppose the man would not talk? Suppose he had nothing he kept to himself? Suppose what he said had no significance at all? How could my control chief then be convinced? And how would I feel sure? A theory, if ever so well founded, is and remains a theory until proven. I could be mistaken.

Then something happened for which I was not prepared. This big, rough man started to weep in despair. He sank down in the chair until he hung like a rag over the armrest and emitted long, low, almost rhythmic moans. I cannot describe how painful it was; I didn't know how to react, either physically or mentally. Rissen's behavior, I must admit, was perfect; if he was as unpleasantly moved as I, he hid it much better.

  [p. 37]  

This continued for several minutes. I felt ashamed before my chief, as if I were responsible for exposing him to a scene like this. Yet, I could not possibly know in advance what the test-persons might display, and neither I nor anyone else in our laboratory had any special jurisdiction over them; they were sent from a central office in the laboratory complex, where they could be available for all surrounding institutions.

At last he quieted down. His sobs died and he straightened up to a somewhat more respectable position in the chair. Anxious to finish the painful episode I hurled at him the first question that came to mind:

"What's the matter?"

He looked up at us; we felt sure he was conscious of our presence and questions, even though perhaps he did not fully realize who we were. When he replied, it was obvious he addressed himself to us, but not in a manner one uses to one's chiefs, rather the way one might address imaginary listeners or persons of no importance.

"I'm so unhappy," he said, listlessly. "I don't know what to do. I don't know how I can manage."

"Manage what?" I asked.

"This thing, everything. I'm so afraid. I'm always afraid. Not especially now, but all the time nearly."

"Of the experiments?"

"Yes, of course—of the experiments. This time I don't understand what I am afraid of. Either it hurts or it doesn't much, either one becomes a cripple, or one gets well again, either one dies or lives on—what is that to be afraid of? But I've always been afraid—isn't it silly? Why should I be so afraid?"

His first listlessness had now given way to a seemingly tipsy recklessness.

"Anyway," he said, and tossed his head in a drunken manner, "anyway, one is more afraid of what people   [p. 38]   might say. 'You're a coward,' they would say, and that's worse than anything. 'You're a coward.' I'm not a coward. I don't want to be a coward. And what would it matter if I were a coward? What would it matter if they said so, when I actually am? But if I should lose my job . . . Well, I would find something else. They can always use me some place. But I'll never let them throw me out—I'll quit. Voluntarily, from the Voluntary Sacrificial Service. Voluntarily, as I came."

He darkened again, not over his misfortunes but rather in subdued bitterness.

"I hate them!" he continued, with unexpected intensity. "I hate them, strolling in their laboratories without defect or blemish, never having to fear wounds or pain; or possible or unexpected consequences. Then they stroll home to wife and children. How could one like me have a family? I tried to get married once, but no use; you must understand it was impossible. One is too occupied with oneself in this kind of work. No woman could stand that. I hate all women; they tease me, egg me on, but then they can't stand the sight of me. They're false. I hate every one of them—except my comrades in the Service of course; the women in the Sacrificial Service are not real women any more, they're nothing to hate. We in that group don't live like others. We're called fellow-soldiers, we too, but how are things with us? We live at the Home . . . we are nothing but wrecks . . . "

His voice sank to a blurred mumble, as he repeated: "I hate . . . "

"My Chief," I said, "is it your desire that I give him one more injection?"

I hoped he would say no, because the man was highly repulsive to me. But Rissen nodded and I could only obey. While I slowly injected some more pale green fluid into the bloodstream of No. 135, I said to him, sharply,   [p. 39]   "You yourself have quite rightly pointed out that it is called the Voluntary Sacrificial Service. What have you, then, to complain about? It is disgusting to hear a grown man complain over his own actions. You must once, like all the others, without compulsion, have volunteered for this work."

I am afraid my words were not exactly directed to the drugged man, who in his half-dazed condition must be somewhat indifferent to reason; rather, I spoke to Rissen, so that at least he would know where I stood.

"Of course I volunteered," mumbled No. 135, dazed and confused. "Of course I volunteered—but how could I know what it would be like. I knew it meant suffering—but of another, more sublime sort—and death—but quickly and in rapture. Not day and night, inch by inch. I think it would be wonderful to die, to flail my arms, rattle my throat. I watched someone die at the Home once—he beat the air with his arms, and his throat rattled. It was horrible. But not only horrible. One can't imitate it. But ever since then I have thought it would be wonderful to act that way, once. One has to, one can't stop it. If it were willful it would be indecent. But it's not voluntary. For once no one is allowed to stop it. One only acts that way once; when one dies one can act any way one wants, without anybody stopping it."

I stood there, fingering a glass stirring-rod.

"The man must be perverse in some way," I said, aside to Rissen. "This is not the way a healthy fellow-soldier reacts."

Rissen did not reply.

I turned to the test-person and started to reprimand him, angrily: "Can you actually be so shameless as to put the blame . . . " I noticed Rissen gave me a long glance, both cold and amused, and I felt myself blush to realize he must be thinking I was putting on airs for his sake. (An   [p. 40]   extremely unjust thought, I felt.) Anyway, I must finish my sentence, and I continued in a much milder voice: ". . . on others because you have chosen a work which you consider unsuitable for you?"

No. 135 did not seem to react at all to tone or modulation, only to the question itself.

"Others?" he said. "I myself? But I don't want it. It's true of course, I did want to. We were ten in my camp who volunteered, more than from any other youth camp. It was like a hurricane through our camp—I've often wondered why. Everything seemed to point to the Voluntary Sacrificial Service. Speeches, films, talks: Voluntary Sacrificial Service! And during the first years I still had the feeling it was worth it! You see, we went and volunteered; when you looked at the man beside you he didn't seem a human being any more. His face, you see—like fire! Not like flesh and blood. Holy, godlike. The first years I thought: We've been granted something different, and more than ordinary mortals; now we are paying for it, and we can, after what we have experienced. . . . But we can't. I can't. I can't hang on to that memory any longer, it fades, recedes further and further. Before, it would sometimes pop up when I didn't look for it at all, but every time I do look for it—and I must try to see a meaning in life again—it doesn't appear any more, it has receded too far back. I think I must have worn it out by looking for it too much. Sometimes I lie awake and wonder how it would have been if I had had a normal life—would I then have experienced that moment of exaltation once more perhaps; or perhaps not until now—or if all that greatness could have been spread over a lifetime and given it meaning—in any case, then perhaps it wouldn't seem so hopelessly over and done with. One needs a present, you see, not only the memory of a past moment, to live on for the rest of one's life. This way is unbearable, even though   [p. 41]   one once might have been prepared for anything. . . . But one feels ashamed—ashamed to betray the only moment in life that had any value. Betray. Why betray? All I want is an ordinary life to discover its meaning again. I took too much upon myself. I'm not strong enough. Tomorrow I'll report I'm through."

A sort of relaxation followed. Then he broke the silence again:

"Do you think one might have such a moment once more—when one dies? I have thought of that; I would so like to die. If I get nothing else out of life, at least I'll get that. When one says: I'm unable, one means: I'm unable to live, not unable to die; for that, one is able; die one is always able to, for then one is allowed to be as one wants . . . "

He stopped and sat silent, resting against the back of the chair. A greenish pallor had started to spread across his face. Almost imperceptible fits of hiccup made his body tremble. The hands groped along the armrests and the whole body seemed to come awake with apprehension and nausea. Not surprising, since he had been given a double dose. I handed him a glass of water with a tranquilizer in it.

"He'll be all right in a moment," I said. "It's only when the effect wears off that he feels a little uncomfortable. Then all is over. In one way, perhaps, the most unpleasant task is ahead of him: to creep into his feeling of fear and shame again. Look, my Chief! I think it might be well worth while to observe him!"

Actually Rissen's eyes were glued on No. 135 with an expression as if he, and not the test-person, were feeling ashamed. The man before us was offering anything but a stimulating sight; the veins at his temples strained and swelled, the muscles at the corners of his mouth trembled in suppressed fright of a far more serious sort than the one   [p. 42]   he had hid when he first entered the room. He kept his eyes closed as with a seizure of cramp, perhaps hoping as long as possible that his clear remembrance might only be an evil dream.

"Does he remember all that has taken place?" asked Rissen, in a low voice.

"All, I'm afraid. In fact, I don't know if this is to be considered good or bad."

With utmost reluctance the test-person at last decided to open his eyes wide enough to enable him to shuffle along across the floor. Bent and shaky he attempted a few steps away from the chair, without daring to look either one of us in the face.

"Thank you so much for your services," I said, and sat down at the table. (Custom required that the one spoken to should reply: "I've only done my duty"; but not even such an inveterate formalist as I was in those days had the nerve to insist on formalities from a test-person after an experiment.) "I'll write out my report now, then you can pick up your pay from the cashier at your convenience. I will indicate Class 8—moderate inconvenience without consequences. The pain and the nausea are really nothing to mention; I should actually have written Class 3, but I feel—well, I don't know how to say it—that you are a little ashamed."

Absent-mindedly he picked up the paper and shuffled on toward the door. There he stopped irresolutely a few seconds, turned suddenly to stiff attention and stammered, "I only wish to state, I do not know what happened to me. I lost my senses and said things I do not mean at all. No one can love his job more than I do, and naturally I have no intention of quitting. I hope in all sincerity that I may have the opportunity to show my good inclinations by suffering the most difficult experiments for the State."

  [p. 43]  

"Well, stay in the Service at least till your hand has healed," I said, lightly. "If not, you'll find it difficult to get accepted in any other work. By the way, what else have you learned? As far as I know, no useless extra training is wasted on a fellow-soldier, and a man of your years can't easily be used in another field, especially as there is no 'invalidism' in the service you've chosen . . . "

I feel, even now, that I spoke arrogantly and superciliously. The fact was that all of a sudden I experienced a definite antagonism toward my first test-person. I felt that I had plenty of reasons for such an attitude: his cowardice, his selfish irresponsibility which he hid under a mask of courage and self-sacrifice when conscious that his chiefs so desired it. Indeed, the Seventh Bureau's line of reasoning had become my own. When it concerned disguised cowardice I could see myself how ridiculous it was, even if I had not noticed it when it concerned disguised sorrow. On the other hand, what I did not clearly realize was another reason for my antagonism, something I have much later discovered and understood: once more it was envy. That person, inferior as he was in many ways, spoke of a moment of lofty bliss, admittedly gone and almost forgotten, yet it was a moment. . . . His short, ecstatic journey to the youth camp's propaganda office the day he had volunteered for the Sacrificial Service—yes, that I envied him. Would perhaps one single such moment have slaked my insatiable thirst which I tried in vain to quench with Linda? Although I had not thought my ideas through, I had a feeling that this man, though favored by grace, was ungrateful, and this made me hard.

Rissen, on the other hand, acted in a way that surprised me: he walked right up to No. 135, put his hand on his shoulder and said, in a tone of voice so warm that it is almost never used for grown people, least of all for men,   [p. 44]   but most often by some highly emotional mother speaking to her child, "Don't worry now! You must realize nothing personal will get out from here—it's just as if it had never been said!"

The man gave him a shy look, turned quickly on his heels and disappeared through the door. I could appreciate his embarrassment; had he possessed one ounce of pride, I thought, he would have spit in the face of a chief who allowed himself to be so familiar with an inferior. And I thought further: how can I respect and obey such a chief! The one who fails to inspire fear cannot demand respect either, quite naturally, since respect always means acknowledgment of strength, superiority, power; and strength, superiority, and power are always dangerous.

Rissen and I were now alone and a long silence spread over the room. I did not like Rissen's pauses; they were neither rest nor work.

"I suspect what you are thinking, my Chief," I said at last to get going. "You are thinking that this does not prove anything; I might have given the man instructions in advance. Admittedly, what he said was personally compromising, but not punishable. Is that what you are thinking?"

"No," said Rissen, as if awakening. "No, that is not what I was thinking. It seemed clear enough that he said plenty of what he actually felt but wouldn't have wished to say for anything in the world. There is no question but that he was honest, both in what he confessed and in his shame afterwards."

In my own interest I should have been pleased with Rissen's gullibility, but the fact was that it irritated me because I felt his belief was arrived at too easily. In our Worldstate—where every single one of the fellow-soldiers is imbued from earliest youth with strong self-control—it   [p. 45]   would certainly not have been impossible that No. 135 had put on a magnificent act; although in this case it happened not to be so. But I held back my critical thoughts and only replied, "Would it be a breach of discipline if I suggest we continue?"

The peculiar man seemed not to notice what I said.

"A remarkable discovery," he commented, thoughtfully. "How did you ever get on to it?"

"I built on earlier discoveries," I replied. "A drug with similar effect has been available for almost five years, but the toxic side-effects have been such that almost every test-person landed in the insane asylum, even after a single experiment. The discoverer used up such a great amount of human material that he was sharply warned, and the experiments were discontinued. Now I have managed to neutralize the toxic side-effects. I must admit, I was quite apprehensive as to how it would work out in practice . . . "

And quickly, almost casually, I added: "I hope my discovery will be named Kallocain, after me."

"Of course, of course," said Rissen, almost indifferently. "Do you yourself suspect how great an importance it might have?"

"Indeed I do. 'Where need is greatest, help is nearest,' as the saying is. You know how false evidence is swamping the courts. Hardly a case is stated without directly opposite depositions, obviously not based on mistakes or carelessness. What has caused this flood of perjury no one knows, but it is a fact."

Rissen, irritatingly, kept drumming his finger tips on the table as he asked, "Is it really so difficult to find out what has caused it? I'll put only one question—you need not answer it unless you wish—but do you consider perjury evil under all circumstances?"

  [p. 46]  

"Of course not," I replied, a little annoyed. "Not if the welfare of the State requires it. But I couldn't say the same about any silly little case."

"Think well," said Rissen, slyly, and lowered his head. "Isn't it to the State's benefit that a criminal be condemned, regardless of whether he is guilty or not of the case at hand? Isn't it to the State's benefit if my useless, harmful, most revolting enemy be condemned, even if he hasn't exactly done something legally punishable? He demands consideration, of course, but what right of consideration has the individual . . . "

I was not quite sure what he was driving at, and time was passing. I quickly rang for the next test-person, and while giving her a needle I replied to Rissen, "Anyway, on the contrary it has turned out to be quite a nuisance to the State. But my discovery will solve this problem in a trice. Not only can witnesses be controlled now—indeed, no witnesses will be required, since the criminal will confess, happily and without reservation, after one single little injection. We are both familiar with the shortcomings of the third degree—well, please don't misunderstand me, I don't criticize its use when nothing else has been available—one can't very well feel solidarity with criminals while quite sure one has nothing on one's own conscience . . . "

"You seem to have an unusually solid conscience," said Rissen, dryly. "Or do you only play that you have one? My own experience is rather that no fellow-soldier above forty has a very clear conscience. In one's youth, perhaps, some, but later . . . Perhaps you are not forty yet?"

"No, I'm not," I replied as calmly as I could, and fortunately I was facing toward the new test-person so I need not look Rissen in the eye. I was upset but not primarily because of his insolence toward me; what irritated me in still higher degree was his general statement. What an unendurable situation he was picturing—   [p. 47]   for all fellow-soldiers who had reached maturity to have a chronically bad conscience! Although he did not directly say so, I felt it vaguely as an attack against the values I considered the holiest of all.

He must have sensed the rejection in my tone of voice and realized he had gone too far; we continued our work without further talk, except that which was professional and necessary.

As I try to recall the next experiments, I find they do not remain with me nearly as clearly or with the same color and life as the first one. It had naturally been the most exciting one, but I still could not be quite sure that my preparation always would prove effective, even though it had turned out well the first time. I suppose what disturbed me most was my indignation toward Rissen. However carefully I performed my work, only half my attention was on it, and perhaps this is the reason the subsequent experiments did not sink equally deep into my memory. I will therefore not try to describe all the details; it will be sufficient to relate the general impression.

Before dinner we had processed the five test-persons who had been sent down to us, and two more besides, each one more bandaged and miserable than the last; and I felt completely pulled to pieces and filled with a rising disgust, mixed with fear; was it only the rabble that found its way to the Voluntary Sacrificial Service? I asked myself. Yet I knew it was not so. I knew that highly valuable qualities were required in anyone seeking acceptance; courage was demanded, self-sacrifice, selflessness, decision, before anyone could surrender to such a profession. I neither could nor would believe that the work ruined those who chose it. But the insight I gained into the private lives of the test-persons was depressing.

No. 135 had been a coward and masked his cowardice.   [p. 48]   He had at least had his appealing side: keeping the great moment of his life holy. The others were as cowardly as he, some a great deal more so. There were those who only complained, not just about their profession—the wounds, the sicknesses, and the fear which they themselves had chosen—but also about a great many immaterial things, like the beds in the Home, the ever poorer food (then they too had noticed it!), carelessness in the hospitals. One might well imagine that a great moment had existed in their lives also, but in that case it had already sunk too deep to be recaptured. Perhaps they had not used as great will power as No. 135 to keep it alive. The truth was that however poor a hero No. 135 had seemed while under the Kallocain intoxication, when I later compared him with the others he assumed the stature of at least a comparative hero in my estimation. But there was so much else that disgusted and frightened me with the other test-persons we used in those early days: more or less developed abnormalities, eery fantasies, unbridled secret debauchery. We had also a few who did not live at the Home but were married and had their own apartments; they babbled about their marital difficulties in a way that was both pitiful and ridiculous. In short, either one must despair over the Volunteer Sacrificial Service, or over all the fellow-soldiers in the Worldstate, or over the biological species Homo sapiens in general.

And to each in turn Rissen solemnly promised that the valuable secrets would be in good keeping. This was difficult for me to take.

After one especially outrageous case—and on the very first day, too, the last one before noon—an old man who fantasied about lust murder although apparently he had never perpetrated one and probably never would have the opportunity to, I could not help giving vent to my   [p. 49]   painful feelings; I turned to Rissen with a quite unjustified plea in apology for my test-persons.

"Do you really think they are such horrible rotters?" asked Rissen.

"Well, they might not all be potential lust-murderers," I replied, "but they all seem more miserable than is permissible."

I had expected an agreement. It would have eased me a little and removed me as it were from the whole painful situation. When I realized that he did not share my intense disgust, it became doubly painful. But we continued our conversation anyway as we walked to the dining room.

"Permissible, yes, permissible," said Rissen. Then he changed his tone of voice and trend of thought and went on: "You can be glad we haven't encountered saints and heroes of the permissible sort—I suspect I would have felt less convinced then. Nor, I must say, have we come across a real criminal."

"What about this last one, this very last one! I admit he hasn't committed any crime, and I don't suppose he will bring himself to commit any of the misdeeds he fantasies about, old as he is and watched over at the Home. But imagine if he had been young and had opportunities to translate his desires into deeds! In such a case my Kallocain would be invaluable. With its aid one could anticipate and prevent many horrible crimes which now are committed suddenly and without warning . . . "

"Provided one gets hold of the right persons. And that won't be easy. For I don't suppose you have in mind that all people should be examined?"

"Why not? Why not all? I know it's a dream of the future, but still—! I can visualize a time when positions will be filled only after a Kallocain-examination, as they   [p. 50]   now require psychological tests. In this way not only will the individual's competence be a known fact but also his or her value as a fellow-soldier. I would even go so far as to predict a yearly Kallocain-test for every single fellow-soldier."

"Your plans for the future are not of picayune proportions," interrupted Rissen. "But it would require too great an apparatus."

"You are quite right, my Chief. It would require a whole new department, with hordes of employees who would have to be drained away from established production and military organizations. Before such a change could be effectuated we would obviously have to reach that population increase which we have propagandized for many years but haven't seen any sign of. Perhaps we might hope for a new great war of conquest to make us richer and more productive."

But Rissen shook his head.

"Not at all," he said. "As soon as it was discovered that your plan is the most important of all, the only necessary one, the only one that can quiet our overpowering—yes, our overpowering—fear, then you could be sure that the new department would be set up. We might have to lower our standard of living, intensify our work-rhythm, but this great, beautiful feeling of complete security would compensate for what we might lose."

I was not sure whether he was serious or being ironic. On the one hand I would not welcome a further lowering in our standard of living. (One is so ungrateful, I thought; one is so inclined to personal pleasure and selfishness, even when it concerns something so much greater than the individual's own pleasures.) On the other hand I felt complimented at the thought of the importance Kallocain might one day play. But before I had time to reply at all,   [p. 51]   he added in a different tone, "This much at least is certain—the last vestige of our private lives will then be gone."

"Well, that is not too important!" I chuckled. "Collectivity will conquer the last dark corner where asocial tendencies might lurk. As far as I can see it means simply that the great communion is near its fulfillment."

"The communion," he repeated slowly, as if doubting it.

I never had time to answer him; we had reached the dining room door and had to part to go to our places at different tables. We could not stop to finish our conversation, partly because it would have aroused suspicion, partly because we could not halt the stream of humanity longing for dinner. But as I walked to my table and sat down, I wondered at the doubt in his voice and was annoyed.

He was sure to know what I had meant; this was no invention of mine, this about the communion. Every single fellow-soldier, from earliest childhood, had implanted in him the difference between lower and higher life—the lower, uncomplicated and undifferentiated, as for example the one-cell animals and plants; the higher, complicated and endlessly differentiated, for example the human body, with its fine and well-functioning composition. Every fellow-soldier also learned that it was exactly the same with the social systems: the social body had developed from a planless herd to the most highly organized and differentiated of all forms: our present Worldstate. From individualism to collectivism, from aloneness to communion, such had been the course of this giant and holy organism, in which the individual was only a cell with no other significance than that it served the organism as a whole. Every youth with the child-camps behind him knew this much, and Rissen ought to know it too. Moreover,   [p. 52]   he should have understood, something not difficult to understand, that Kallocain was a necessary stage in this whole development, since it widened the great communion to encompass also the inner self, which had been kept private before. Did Rissen actually not understand something so logical, or did he not wish to understand?

I glanced towards his table. There he was sitting slouched over his soup, stirring it absent-mindedly. The entire man disturbed me in a vague sort of way. He was peculiar not only in being unlike others to the point of absurdity, he was peculiar also in another direction where I vaguely apprehended danger. As yet I did not know what sort of danger, but my reluctant observation was drawn to all he did and said.

Our experiment would continue after dinner, and now the test concerned a more complicated matter. I had planned it with the expectation of a less gullible control-chief than Rissen, but in any case exactitude was a virtue. My experiments would not remain with the control-chief; if he passed on them they would be discussed in many circles within the chemistry cities, perhaps even in the judiciary department at the Capital. The test-persons we now sent for need not be in good health; it was sufficient if their mental capacities were intact; this we especially emphasized. On the other hand, they must meet a qualification probably seldom required in a test-person: they must be married.

We had contacted the chief of police by telephone to obtain permission for this new experiment. Even though we had full disposition, physically and mentally, over the test-persons from the Voluntary Sacrificial Service, except for considerations of the State's welfare, we did not have unlimited control over their spouses, any more than we controlled other fellow-soldiers. For this we must have a special permission from the chief of police. He was rather   [p. 53]   reluctant at first, considered it unnecessary as long as voluntary sacrificial individuals were available, and seemed to have great difficulty in understanding what it was all about; however, after we had worked on him long enough to make him impatient—with all his other work piling up—and after we had convinced him that nothing worse would happen to the individuals than the fear and a slight nausea, he finally gave his consent. But he also instructed us to contact him in the evening for a more detailed report when he would be less rushed.

Ten new test-persons from the Voluntary Sacrificial Service were called into our laboratory, all at one time—some men, some women, all married to spouses whose activity was outside the Voluntary Sacrificial Service. In my card index I entered their numbers, and also their names and addresses, which were not included on the personal card, and this action of mine caused a certain apprehension and fear. I tried to quiet them by explaining what we were up to.

The project called for each one of them to return home to his or her spouse and show signs of intense worry; or, if it seemed easier to them, a rosy optimism about the future. When pressed they should at last, in strictest confidence, tell about having engaged in espionage. A neighbor on the subway might have whispered in their ear how to make a lot of money, if they only were willing to draw a map of the laboratories surrounding the Voluntary Sacrificial Service Center, or the relation of the laboratories to the subway lines, or something of that sort. Then they only had to wait and not in any way let on that an experiment was in progress.

The same evening we called on the chief of police, duly provided with a certification from the top chief of our laboratory-complex concerning our visit, as well as a visiting license from the police department, sent us by   [p. 54]   special messenger. I had managed, with great difficulty, to exchange my evening's military duty for double duty some later evening.

We were quite pleased to have this opportunity to meet the chief of police in person; we needed his help in our present activities. But it turned out to be a difficult task to convince him—not because he was particularly dense, rather the contrary, but because he was in a bad temper, and apparently was suspicious of everyone on principle. I must admit that his suspicion appealed to me more than Rissen's gullibility. Even though, as it happened, he was harder on me, I felt it was as it should be; when finally we had him on our side I at least had the feeling that I had opened a very well secured door with the right and lawful key, not with a crowbar or a kick.

We told him that we needed to get hold of the people in whom our test-persons had confided—that is, their spouses. For all we cared, they could be reported in the regular legal way, as accessories to conspiracies, and taken into custody in accordance with all the rules, as long as they later were turned over to us. If the chief of police wished to let his subordinates in on the secret, or if he preferred to keep the matter to himself, well, that was his business. The only important thing was that persons arrested (non-reporting spouses) must be Kallocain-tested by us. If he wished to check, he could see for himself that the people arrested would suffer no damage from us, and consequently no human material would be destroyed uselessly; he might come in person, or send a representative, we would feel equally complimented either way. Actually, I think it was "come in person" that made him more understanding; in spite of his bad temper he was curious about how my discovery would work. When at last we had obtained written confirmation of his earlier promise over the telephone, with his signature, Vay Karrek, in tall, pointed but strong letters under it, we   [p. 55]   prepared him for the fact that some of the unsuspecting spouses might be honest enough to report the pretended criminals. Since the whole matter was only an experiment it must of course not lead to prosecution; we handed him a list with the names of the test-persons; we would be most grateful if these people's spouses were apprehended as early as possible on the morrow.

Tired but satisfied with the result of our call we left the police headquarters.

When I entered the parental room after reaching home—Linda had already gone to bed—I noticed a message for me on the bedside table. It concerned my military and police service: instead of four evenings a week it had now been extended to five. For the time being, then, the authorities considered it necessary to limit the family evenings to one a week, while the festivity-lecture evening remained the same as before. (This last-named evening was of utmost importance not only for the fellow-soldier's recreation and education, but also for the State's continuance. Where and when would fellow-soldiers otherwise meet and fall in love? Linda and I too had those festival evenings to thank for our marriage.) The message was quite in line with the signs I had already observed, and I noticed on Linda's table a similar notification.

All sorts of happenings infringed on the family evenings, this I was already well aware of. If things turned out badly there might be long periods in which I never had an evening to myself. Since it was not especially late and I did not feel as tired as I was after an evening of military duty, I decided to do at once what I must attend to anyway: I sat down and wrote the apology I would ask to deliver over the radio:

"I, Leo Kall, employed at the laboratory for organic poisons and anesthetizing gases, experimental department, Chemistry City No. 4, wish to offer an apology:

"At the youth camp's festival for transferred workers on   [p. 56]   April 19, of this year, I committed a serious error. Seized with false compassion, the type that pities the individual, and false heroism, the type that prefers to dwell with the tragic and dark instead of the light and happy in life, I delivered the following speech." Here I would quote my speech, in a lightly ironic tone of voice. "Now the Propaganda Ministry's Seventh Bureau has criticized this speech: 'When a wholehearted, etc.'" (The pronouncement should also be repeated, since it was the most important part to the listeners, precedented as it was and a warning to all who might be straying along similar lines of thought or feeling.) "Consequently, I wish to take this means to apologize for my regrettable error; I realize deeply and fully how justified is the displeasure of the Propaganda Ministry's Seventh Bureau, and at the same time I offer from the bottom of my heart my unqualified willingness from now on to follow their so overwhelmingly fair view in the matter."

The next morning I asked Linda to look over the apology, and she liked it; there was no exaggeration, no one could discern any hidden irony, nor could it be accused of stupid, false pride. There remained only to retype it, send it in, and then stand in line until it was my turn to speak during the radio apology-hour.

Previous Previous section

Next section Next




Go up to Top of Page