A Time of Changes

Robert Silverberg

Orb Books

Chapter One

 

I am Kinnall Darival and I mean to tell you all about myself.

 

That statement is so strange to me that it screams in my eyes. I look at it on the page, and I recognize the hand as my own—narrow upright red letters on the coarse gray sheet—and I see my name, and I hear in my mind the echoes of the brain-impulse that hatched those words. I am Kinnall Darival and I mean to tell you all about myself. Incredible.

 

This is to be what the Earthman Schweiz would call an autobiography. Which means an account of one's self and deeds, written by one's self. It is not a literary form that we understand on our world—I must invent my own method of narrative, for I have no precedents to guide me. But this is as it should be. On this my planet I stand alone, now. In a sense, I have invented a new way of life; I can surely invent a new sort of literature. They have always told me I have a gift for words.

 

So I find myself in a clapboard shack in the Burnt Lowlands, writing obscenities as I wait for death, and praising myself for my literary gifts.

 

I am Kinnall Darival.

 

Obscene! Obscene! Already on this one sheet I have used the pronoun "I" close to twenty times, it seems. While also casually dropping such words as "my," "me," "myself," more often than I care to count. A torrent of shamelessness. I I I I I. If I exposed my manhood in the Stone Chapel of Manneran on Naming Day, I would be doing nothing so foul as I am doing here. I could almost laugh. Kinnall Darival practicing a solitary vice. In this miserable lonely place he massages his stinking ego and shrieks offensive pronouns into the hot wind, hoping they will sail on the gusts and soil his fellow men. He sets down sentence after sentence in the naked syntax of madness. He would, if he could, seize you by the wrist and pour cascades of filth into your unwilling ear. And why? Is proud Darival in fact insane? Has his sturdy spirit entirely collapsed under the gnawing of mind-snakes? Is nothing left but the shell of him, sitting in this dreary hut, obsessively titillating himself with disreputable language, muttering "I" and "me" and "my" and "myself," blearily threatening to reveal the intimacies of his soul?

 

No. It is Darival who is sane and all of you who are sick, and though I know how mad that sounds, I will let it stand. I am no lunatic muttering filth to wring a feeble plea sure from a chilly universe. I have passed through a time of changes, and I have been healed of the sickness that affects those who inhabit my world, and in writing what I intend to write I hope to heal you as well, though I know you are on your way into the Burnt Lowlands to slay me for my hopes.

 

So be it.

 

I am Kinnall Darival and I mean to tell you all about myself.

 

Excerpted from A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert Silverberg.
Published in May 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

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