...It's not my past, not my childhood that I must transmit to you...It's the memories of the whole world. Before you, before me, before the previous Receiver, and generations before him...I received all of those, when I was selected. And here in this room, all alone, I re-experience them again and again. It is how wisdom comes. And how we shape our future...I am so weighted with them.
I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that is not the same as power.
...Now he saw another elephant emerge from the place where it had stood hidden in the trees. Very slowly it walked to the mutilated body and looked down. With its sinuous trunk it stroked the huge corpse; then it reached up, broke some leafy branches with a snap, and draped them over the mass of the trunk flesh.
Finally it tilted its massive head, raised its trunk, and roared into the empty landscape. Jonas had never heard such a sound. It was a sound of rage and grief and it seemed never to end.
He went to his sleepingroom early, and from behind the closed door he could hear his parents and sister laughing as they gave Gabriel his evening bath.
They have never known pain, he thought. The realization made him feel desperately lonely, and he rubbed his throbbing leg. He eventually slept. Again and again he dreamed of the anguish and the isolation on the forsaken hill.
He had walked through woods, and sat at night beside a campfire. Although he had through the memories learned about pain of loss and loneliness, now he gained, too, an understanding of solitude and its joy.
He had not taken the pills, now, for four weeks. The stirrings had returned, and he felt guilty and embarrassed about the pleasurable dreams that came to him as he slept. But he knew he couldn't go back to the world of no feelings that he had lived in so long.
But Lily had not felt anger, Jonas realized now. Shallow impatience and exasperation, that was all Lily had felt. He knew that with certainty because now he knew what anger was. Now he had, in the memories, experienced injustice and cruelty, and he had reacted with rage that welled up so passionately inside him that the thought of discussing it calmly at the evening meal was unthinkable.
I felt sad today, he heard his mother say, and they had comforted her.
But now Jonas had experienced real sadness. He had felt grief. He knew that there was no quick comfort for emotions like those.
These were deeper and they did not need to be told. They were felt.
Memories are forever.
The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain, its the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.
After a life of Sameness and predictability, he was awed by the surprises that lay beyond each curve of the road. He slowed the bike again and again to look with wonder at wildflowers, to enjoy the throaty warble of a new bird nearby, or merely to watch the way the wind shifted the leaves in the trees. During his twelve years in the community, he had never felt such exquisite happiness.
He forced his eyes open as they went downward, downward, sliding, and all at once he could see lights, and he recognized them now. He knew they were shining through the windows of rooms, that they were red, blue, and yellow lights that twinkled from trees in places where families created and kept memories, where they celebrated love.
Downwards, downward, faster and faster, suddenly he was aware with certainty and joy that below, ahead, they were waiting for him; and they were waiting, too, for the baby. For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing.
Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.