I knew this by the absence of those enormous columns. But, then, they might have gone away somewhere; by now I considered anything possible.

I found myself in a forest of fountains; farther along I came upon a white-pink room filled with women. As I walked by I put my hand, without thinking, into the jet of an illuminated fountain, perhaps because it was pleasant to come across something even a little familiar. But I felt nothing, the fountain was without water. After a moment it seemed to me that I smelled flowers. I put my hand to my nostrils. It smelled like a thousand scented soaps at once. Instinctively I rubbed my hand on my trousers. Now I was standing in front of that room filled with women, only women. It did not appear to me to be a powder room, but I had no way of knowing. I preferred not to ask, so I turned away. A young man, wearing something that looked as though mercury had flowed over him and solidified, puffed-out (or perhaps foamy) on the arms and snug about the hips, was talking with a blonde girl who had her back against the bowl of a fountain. The girl, wearing a bright dress that was quite ordinary, which encouraged me, held a bouquet of pale pink flowers; nestling her face in them, she smiled at the boy with her eyes. At the moment I stood before them and was opening my mouth to speak, I saw that she was eating the flowers — and my voice failed me. She was calmly chewing the delicate petals. She looked up at me. Her eyes froze. But to that I had grown accustomed. I asked where the Inner Circle was.

The boy, it seemed to me, was unpleasantly surprised, even angry, that someone dared to interrupt their tete-a-tete. I must have committed some impropriety. He looked me up and down, as if expecting to find stilts that would account for my height. He did not say a word.

“Oh, there,” cried the girl, “the rast on the vuk, your rast, you can make it, hurry!”

I started running in the direction indicated, without knowing to what — I still hadn’t the faintest idea what that damned rast looked like — and after about ten steps I saw a silvery funnel descending from high above, the base of one of those enormous columns that had astonished me so much before. Could they be flying columns? People were hurrying toward it from all directions; then suddenly I collided with someone. I did not lose my balance, I merely stood rooted to the spot, but the other person, a stout individual in orange, fell down, and something incredible happened to him: his fur coat wilted before my eyes, collapsed like a punctured balloon! I stood over him, astounded, unable even to mutter an apology. He picked himself up, gave me a dirty look, but said nothing; he turned and marched off, fingering something on his chest — and his coat filled out and lit up again…

By now the place that the girl had pointed out to me was deserted. After this incident I gave up looking for rasts, the Inner Circle, ducts, and switches; I decided to get out of the station. My experiences so far did not encourage me to accost passers-by, so at random I followed a sloping sky-blue arrow upward; without any particular sensation, my body passed through two signs glowing in the air: LOCAL CIRCUITS. I came to an escalator that held quite a few people. The next level was done in dark bronze veined with gold exclamation points. Fluid joinings of ceilings and concave walls. Ceilingless corridors, at the top enveloped in a shining powder. I seemed to be approaching living quarters of some kind, as the area took on the quality of a system of gigantic hotel lobbies — teller windows, nickel pipes along the walls, recesses with clerks; maybe these were offices for currency exchange, or a post office. I walked on. I was now almost certain that this was not the way to an exit and (judging from the length of the ride upward) that I was in the elevated part of the station; nevertheless I kept going in the same direction. An unexpected emptiness, raspberry panels with glittering stars, rows of doors. The nearest was open. I looked in. A large, broad-shouldered man looked in from the opposite side. Myself in a mirror. I opened the door wider. Porcelain, silver pipes, nickel. Toilets.

I felt a little like laughing, but mainly I was nonplused. I quickly turned around: another corridor, bands, white as milk, flowing downward. The handrail of the escalator was soft, warm; I did not count the levels passed; more and more people, who stopped in front of enamel boxes that grew out of the wall at every step; the touch of a finger, and something would fall into their hands; they put this into their pockets and walked on. For some reason I did exactly as the man in the loose violet coat in front of me had done; a key with a small depression for the fingertip, I pressed, and into my palm fell a colored, translucent tube, slightly warm. I shook it, held it up to one eye; pills of some kind? No. A vial? It had no cork, no stopper. What was it for? What were the other people doing? Putting the things in their pockets. The sign on the dispenser: LARGAN. I stood there; I was jostled. And suddenly I felt like a monkey that has been given a fountain pen or a lighter; for an instant I was seized by a blind rage; I set my jaw, narrowed my eyes, and, shoulders hunched, joined the stream of pedestrians. The corridor widened, became a hall. Fiery letters: REAL AMMO REAL AMMO.

Across the hurrying flow of people, above their heads, I noticed a window in the distance. The first window. Panoramic, enormous.

All the firmaments of the night flung onto a flat plane. On a horizon of blazing mist — colored galaxies of squares, clusters of spiral lights, glows shimmering above skyscrapers, the streets: a creeping, a peristalsis with necklaces of light, and over this, in the perpendicular, cauldrons of neon, feather crests and lightning bolts, circles, airplanes, and bottles of flame, red dandelions made of needle-signal lights, momentary suns and hemorrhages of advertising, mechanical and violent. I stood and watched, hearing, behind me, the steady sough of hundreds of feet. Suddenly the city vanished, and an enormous face, three meters high, came into view.

“You have been watching clips from newsreels of the seventies, in the series Views of the Ancient Capitals. Now the news. Transtel is currently expanding to include cosmolyte studios…”

I practically fled. It was no window. A television screen. I quickened my pace. I was perspiring a little.

Down. Faster. Gold squares of lights. Inside, crowds, foam on glasses, an almost black liquid — not beer, with its virulent, greenish glint — and young people, boys and girls, arms around one another, in groups of six, eight, blocking the way across the entire thoroughfare, came toward me; they had to separate to let me through. I was buffeted. Without realizing it, I stepped onto a moving walkway. Quite close to me, a pair of startled eyes flashed by — a lovely dark girl in something that shone like phosphorized metal. The fabric clung to her: she was as if naked. White faces, yellow, a few tall blacks, but I was still the tallest. People made way for me. High above, behind convex windows, scattered shadows sped by, unseen orchestras played, but here a curious promenade went on; in the dark passages, the headless silhouettes of women: the fluff covering their arms gave off a light, so that only their raised necks showed in it like strange white stems, and the scattered glow in their hair — a luminescent powder? A narrow passage led me to a series of rooms with grotesque — because moving, even active — statues; a kind of wide street with raised sides boomed with laughter. People were being amused, but what was amusing them — the statues?

Huge figures in cones of floodlights; pouring from them was ruby light, honey light, as thick as syrup, an unusual concentration of colors. I walked on passively, squinting, abstracted. A steep green corridor, grotesque pavilions, pagodas reached by little bridges, everywhere small cafes, the sharp, persistent smell of fried food, rows of gas flames behind windows, the clinking of glass, metallic sounds, repeated, incomprehensible. The crowd that had carried me here collided with another, then thinned out; everyone was getting into an open carriage; no, it was only transparent, as if molded in glass, even the seats were like glass, though soft. Without knowing how, I found myself inside — we were moving. The carriage tore along, the people shouted over the sound of a loudspeaker that repeated, “Meridional level, Meridional, change for Spiro, Atale, Blekk, Frosom'; the entire carriage seemed to melt, pierced by shafts of light; walls flew by in strips of flame and color; parabolic arches, white platforms. “Forteran, Forteran, change for Galee, change for outer rasts, Makra,” babbled the speaker; the carriage stopped, then sped on. I discovered a remarkable thing: there was no sensation of braking or acceleration, as if inertia had been annulled. How was this possible? I checked, bending my knees slightly, at three consecutive stops. Nothing on the turns, either. People got off, got on. At the front stood a woman with a dog; I had never seen such a dog, it was huge, its head like a ball, very ugly; in its placid hazel eyes were reflected retreating, diminishing garlands of lights. RAMBRENT RAMBRENT. There was a fluttering from white and bluish fluorescent tubes, stairs of crystalline brilliance, black facades; the brilliance gave way slowly to stone; the carriage stopped. I got off and was dumbstruck. Above the amphitheater-like sunken dial of the stop rose a multistory structure that I recognized; I was still in the station, in another place within the same gigantic hall magnified in white sweeping surfaces. I made for the edge of the geometrically perfect depression — the carriage had already left — and received another surprise. I was not at the bottom, as I had thought; I was actually high up, about forty floors above the bands of the walkways visible in the abyss, above the silver decks of the ever-steadily gliding platforms; between them moved long, silent bodies, and people emerged from these through rows of hatches; it was as if monsters, chrome-plated fish, were depositing, at regular intervals, their black and colored eggs. Above all this, through the mist of the distance, I saw words of gold moving in a line:

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