In addition, she was one of the very few who could carry on a worthwhile conversation. She did not think that conversation consisted of chattering away or laughing loudly without cause and ignoring the words of those who were supposed to be communicating with her. Wolff had been disgusted and depressed to find that most of the beach-crowd or the forest-crowd were monologists, however intensely they seemed to be speaking or however gregarious they were.
Elikopis was different, perhaps because she was not a member of any “crowd,” although it was more likely that the reverse was the cause. In this world along the sea, the natives, lacking even the technology of the Australian aborigine (and not needing even that) had developed an extremely complex social relationship. Each group had definite beach and forest territories with internal prestige levels. Each was able to recite to detail (and loved to) his/her horizontal/vertical position in comparison with each person of the group, which usually numbered about thirty. They could and would recite the arguments, reconciliations, character faults and virtues, athletic prowess or lack thereof, skill in their many childish games, and evaluate the sexual ability of each.
Elikopis had a sense of humor as bright as her eyes, but she also had some sensitivity. Today, she had an extra attraction, a mirror of glass set in a golden circle encrusted with diamonds. It was one of the few artifacts he had seen.
“Where did you get that?” he asked. “Oh, the Lord gave it to me,” Elikopis replied. “Once, a long time ago, I was one of his favorites. Whenever he came down from the top of the world to visit here, he would spend much time with me. Chryseis and I were the ones he loved the most. Would you believe it, the others still hate us for that?
That’s why I’m so lonely-not that being with the others is much help.”
“And what did the Lord look like?”
She laughed and said, “From the neck down, he looked much like any tall, well-built man such as you.”
She put her arm around his neck and began kissing him on his cheek, her lips slowly traveling toward his ear.
“His face?” Wolff said.
“I do not know. I could feel it, but I could not see it. A radiance from it blinded me. When he got close to me, I had to close my eyes, it was so bright.”
She shut his mouth with her kisses, and presently he forgot his questions. But when she was lying half-asleep on the soft grass by his side, he picked up the mirror and looked into it. His heart opened with delight. He looked like he had when he had been twenty-five. This he had known but had not been able to fully realize until now.
“And if I return to Earth, will I age as swiftly as I have regained my youth?”
He rose and stood for awhile in thought. Then he said, “Who do I think I’m kidding? I’m not going back.”
“If you’re leaving me now,” Elikopis said drowsily, “look for Chryseis. Something has happened to her; she runs away every time anybody gets close. Even I, her only friend, can’t approach her. Something dreadful has occurred, something she won’t talk about. You’ll love her. She’s not like the others; she’s like me.”
“All right,” Wolff replied absently. “I will.”
He walked until he was alone. Even if he did not intend to use the gate through which he had come, he did want to experiment with the horn. Perhaps there were other gates. It was possible that at any place where the horn was blown, a gate would open.
The tree under which he had stopped was one of the numerous cornucopias. It was two hundred feet tall, thirty feet thick, had a smooth, almost oily, azure bark, and branches as thick as his thigh and about sixty feet long. The branches were twigless and leafless. At the end of each was a hard-shelled flower, eight feet long and shaped exactly like a cornucopia.
Out of the cornucopias intermittent trickles of chocolatey stuff fell to the ground. The product tasted like honey with a very slight flavor of tobacco-a curious mixture, yet one he liked. Every creature of the forest ate it.