"New flesh", said Robert, taking his coat off in the process of walking through the door. "What we need is new flesh. Great slabs of it, cut in precise geometric fashion and abutted. Most lying flat in mute fascination, some rearing perversely into the air. Yes, definitely new flesh.""You're nearly fourteen minutes late," said Walter. "You've forfeited your turn." "It could be wrong," said Robert. "Watches have been known to be wrong. This is one of your problems, Walter, your overreliance on technology. That, and the mistaken notion that time is somehow dictated by the will of the masses. The true time is independent of your opinions as to what you think it is. Reality cannot be dictated by the majority." "By any standard time you're late," said Walter obstinately. "Adrian has begun." "I'll start again for you," said Adrian, hoping his eagerness would avert an argument. Robert finish taking his coat off and sat down at the table. He looked about the living room, whose walls were bare and painted flat white. The bookshelves were empty, and the furniture had been stripped off all ornamentation. The table was round, with three chairs surrounding it, and was lit by a single bare electric bulb. Walter was presently attempting to reject the influence of other people's design strategies upon his own creative processes. "You'll have to do something about the furniture," Robert had said immediately, though he preferred it to Walter's previous attempt at interior decor, which involved displaying the sum total of his knowledge on the walls. "It's just plain, functional furniture." "But the mere fact that you can put labels to it indicates that it, as one of your choices, can categorize you, and thereby limit you in the precise manner you had hoped to avoid." Robert's statement disturbed Walter. Each of them resented the other for drawing them into hairsplitting metaphysical discussions, which both detested but neither could resist. Adrian cleared his throat, and started again. "The first sign of the changes came of the last runs of the Belvedere's street car, in Belo Horizonte. It had been kept running for the tourists, but it was not serving the needs of the greater metropolitan area, so plans were made to replace it with a light monorail system. But, one afternoon, as the 04:10 car neared the U-bend marking the western terminus, it went straight instead of turning. The passengers were only slightly shaken as the car leapt the tracks and continued to roll down the grassy boulevard. The conductor, who was also to be retired that week, kept his hand on the throttle, which continued to respond to his movements even though electrical contact had been broken. It was well over an hour before the police correlated the reports of startled suburbanites and realized what was happening. But it was too late. The streetcar, waving a lenght of wire from it power antenna like a flag of freedom, had vanished north, into the swamps." "What about the lake?" asked Robert. "What lake?" "Lake St. Lucia," said Robert. "If it went north it would have to cross Lake St. Lucia, and I doubt it could get over the causeway without being stopped by the cops." "There's no need to be pedantic," said Walter. "As long as internal consistency is maintained, we haven't the right to object. It's the creative effort we're interested in, not the niggling details." Robert shrugged. It was at least better than the previous session, when Walter had taken them on a long journey through his cancelled checks of the past three years. He hadn't prepared well, and the result lacked even internal consistency, though Walter claimed that it was a "preparatory treatment … prior to a more complete version augmented with actual receipts". Walter's descriptions of his own works always sounded like grant proposals. Adrian claimed to see in the performance an ironic allegory of capitalism; Robert felt that there was something obscene about the way he lovingly recalled each penny spent. "All over the world," Adrian continued, "people were coming to new realizations, as if waking from a long and troubled sleep." "Is there any beer in the house?" asked Robert. "Will you stop interrupting," said Walter. "There's no beer anywhere in the house. Refrigerator's empty." "I don't believe you," said Robert. "The truth is independent of your opinions," said Walter maliciously. Robert got up and went into the kitchen, which was also painted white. He opened the fridge, and found it completely empty. The fridge hummed; gases circulated in tubes, and expanded and contracted, to cool the air filling it's vacant interior. Robert considered advancing the thesis that this was the greatest statement Walter had ever made, but instead he went back to the table and sat down. "Perhaps the greatest symbol of our hopes was the voyage of Maria and Leo. It was Maria's vision that made them leave their hostel in Nova Lima in the early morning twilight and make the short journey north, the journey they had been planning to make as soon as they had the cash ready. Maria couldn't explain her vision to Leo; she shook her head mutely, and he didn't press her. They make their way to the airport, which was filled with people walking every which way. Maria led them to a gate, where a plane for Manaus sat ready. The crew were unsure as to their new roles; they didn't take board passes, and walked like robots through the pre-flight rituals, the demonstrations of the seatbelts and the oxygen masks. 'What them,' Maria whispered to Leo. 'Watch where they go and what they do.'" "When everyone was seated, the plane left the gate and started to taxi toward the runway. 'One of the men went to the back,' said Leo. 'All the other are visible.'" "'Good,' said Maria. 'Now we wait for the permission to leave.' She sat still, though her hands were clenched with the intensity of the knowledge flowing in her veins. Clearance from the tower came, audible to all over the cabin speakers, and the plane began to roll forward increasing speed. The engines whistled with their effort, and they all felt the slight shake as the plane left the ground. 'Now,' said Maria." "They rose from their seats and walked towards the rear plane. A few curious passenger followed them. One of the stewardesses arose from hear seat the near exit. 'I'm sorry, miss, the seat-belt sign is still illuminated,' she began, but stopped whem she saw the light blazing in Maria's eyes, and let her pass without a word. Maria stopped beside the back lavatory, and pointed to the wall panel next to it. 'This one,' she said." "Leo and two of the passengers put their fingers to the edge of the panel and heaved. It tore off, revealling a small space inside. There was a large open window in the wall of the plane, through which they could see the ground receeding. There was a seat, occupied the missing flight attendant, a stick and two pedals on the floor, a few switches on a panel. The man turnes toward them and brought out a gun. Leo hit it out of his hand and, enraged, tore the man from his seat and threw him out the window." "'This is where the plane is controlled from,' said Maria. 'The place up front, with all the lights, is for show.'" "'My God,' murmured one of the passengers, peering in at the tiny room. 'An open window. All those flights, packed in like sardines, breathing caned air.'" "'The plane will continue to rise,' said Leo. 'Where shall we make it go?'" "'Any place that we know how to get to doesn't need a plane like this,' said Maria. 'Let it rise. We'll see where it takes us.'" "'But we can't rise forever,' said a passenger. 'We'll run out of air.'" "'They told you there was no air up there,' said Maria. 'They told you also that there could be no windows in an airplane. And what of the things that they didn't tell you?'" "'But why?'" "'To better control us,' said Maria. 'If people are free to go anywhere, quickly and easily, they shouldn't stay where they were poor and where they had to work for cruel masters. Once they controlled the means of transit, they could easily crush the rest of our ambition, and we would never want to go anywhere. But we are free now, and we must go to places that they didn't want us to go. So, let us rise.'" "And, because of the intensity of her vision, the passengers agreed. So, it was that they set off on the greatest voyage man has so far undertaken, and with them went our love and our hopes for the future." Adrian was silent. "Well?" said Walter. "That's it." "That all?!" "There wasn't any more," said Adrian despairingly, "You told me to force it. Nothing more came." "Hell of a saturday night," said Robert.