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Enchantment

By Phyllis White,2014-11-04 22:08
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Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2005/05/30

    Contents Title Page Dedication 1. Leaves 2. True Love 3. Chasm 4. Kiss 5. Naked 6. Newcomer 7. Conspiracies 8. Wedding 9. Honeymoon 10. Old Gods 11. Airports 12. Charms 13. Picnic 14. Fireworks 15. Hijacking 16. Restoration 17. War 18. Unbinding 19. Healing 20. Summer Vacation Praise for Orson Scott Card and Enchantment Don’t Miss Magic Street Orson Scott Card’s Long Awaited Contemporary Fantasy Novel Acknowledgments About the Author Other Books by Orson Scott Card Copyright Page

For Kristine

All these years after that first kiss,and still the magic grows

1

    Leaves

    I’m ten years old, my whole life you’ve called me Vanya. My name is on the school records, ongovernment papers as Ivan Petrovich Smetski. Now you tell me I’m really Itzak Shlomo. What amI, a Jewish secret agent?”

    Vanya’s father listened silently, his face as smooth, weathered, and blank as parchment.Vanya’s mother, who was merely hovering near the conversation rather than taking part in it,seemed to be having a little trouble keeping herself from smiling. In amusement? If so, atwhat? At Vanya? At her husband’s sudden discovery of their intense commitment to Judaism?

    Whatever the cause of her almost-smile, Vanya did not want to be ridiculous. Even at the age often, dignity was important to him. He calmed himself, spoke in more measured tones. “We eatpork,” he pointed out. “Rak. Caviar.”

    “I think Jews can eat caviar,” offered his mother helpfully.

    “I hear them whispering, calling me , they say they only want to race with Russians, Izhid

    can’t even with them,” said Vanya. “I’ve always been the fastest runner, the bestrun

    hurdler, and yesterday they wouldn’t even let me keep time. And it’s my stopwatch!”

    “Mine, actually,” said Father.

    “The principal won’t let me sit in class with the other children because I’m not a Russianor a Ukrainian, I’m a disloyal foreigner, a Jew. So why don’t I know how to speak Hebrew? Youchange everything else, why not that?”

    Father looked up toward the ceiling.

    “What is that look, Father? Prayer? All these years, whenever I talk too much, you look at theceiling—were you talking to God then?”

    Father turned his gaze to Vanya. His eyes were heavy—scholar’s eyes, baggy and soft fromalways peering through lenses at a thousand hectares of printed words. “I have listened toyou,” he said. “Ten years old, a boy who thinks he’s so brilliant, he rails on and on,showing no respect for his father, no trust. I do it all for your sake.”

    “And for God’s,” offered Mother. Was she being ironic? Vanya had never been able to guessabout Mother.

    “For you I do this,” said Father. “You think I did it for me? My work is here in Russia, theold manuscripts. What I need from other countries is sent to me because of the respect I’veearned. I make a good living.”

    “Made,” said Mother.

    For the first time it occurred to Vanya that if he was cut out of school classes, Father’spunishment might be even more dire. “You lost your place at the university?”

    Father shrugged. “My students will still come to me.”

    “If they can find you,” said Mother. Still that strange smile.

    “They’ll find me! Or not!” cried Father. “We’ll eat or not! But we will getVanya—Itzak—out of this country so he grows up in a place where this mouth of his, thisdisrespect for everyone that doesn’t measure up to his lofty standards, where they will callit creativity or cleverness or rock and roll!”

    “Rock and roll is music,” said Vanya.

    “Prokofiev is music, Stravinski is music, Tchaikovski and Borodin and Rimski-Korsakov and evenRachmaninov, they are music. Rock and roll is smart boys with no respect, you are rock and

    roll. All the trouble you get into at school, you will never get into university with thisattitude. Why are you the only child in Russia who doesn’t learn to bow his head to power?”

    Father had asked this question at least a dozen times before, and this time as always, Vanyaknew that his father was saying it more in pride than in consternation. Father liked the factthat Vanya spoke his mind. He encouraged it. So how did this become the reason for the family

    to declare itself Jewish and apply for a visa to Israel? “You make a decision without asking

    my fault?”me, and it’s

    “I have to get you out of here, let you grow up in a free land,” said Father.

    “Israel is a land of war and terrorism,” said Vanya. “They’ll make me a soldier and I’llhave to shoot down Palestinians and burn their houses.”

    “None of that propaganda is true,” said Father. “And besides, it won’t matter. I canpromise you that you will never be a soldier of Israel.”

    Vanya was scornful for a moment, until it dawned on him why Father was so certain he wouldn’tbe drafted into the Israeli military. “Once you get out of Russia, you aren’t going to Israelat all.”

    Father sighed. “What you don’t know, you can’t tell.”

    There was a knock at the door. Mother went to answer.

    “Maybe here in Russia you aren’t in class for a while,” said Father. “And this nonsense ofrunning, you’ll never be world champion, that’s for Africans. But your mind will be quicklong after your legs slow down, and there are countries where you will be valued.”

    “Which other countries?” asked Vanya.

    Mother was letting somebody into the apartment.

    “Maybe Germany. Maybe England. Canada, maybe.”

    “America,” whispered Vanya.

    “How do I know? It depends where there’s a university that wants an aging scholar of ancientSlavic literature.”

    America. The enemy. The rival. The land of jeans and rock and roll, of crime and capitalism, ofpoverty and oppression. Of hope and freedom. All kinds of stories about America, from rumor,from the government press. It was 1975 and the Vietnam War had ended only a few yearsago—America had bloody hands. But through all the propaganda, the rivalry, the envy, onemessage was constant: America was the most important country on earth. And that’s where Fatherwanted him to grow up. That’s why Mother’s Jewish relatives were suddenly the only ones whocounted, they and Father’s grandmother on his mother’s side. To get them to America.

    For a moment, Vanya almost understood.

    Then Mother came back into the room. “He’s here.”

    “Who’s here?” asked Vanya.

    Father and Mother looked at him blankly.

    “He’s called a mohel,” said Mother finally. Then they explained what this old Jewish man wasgoing to do to Vanya’s penis.

    Ten seconds later, Vanya was down the stairs, out on the street, running for his life, runningin despair. He was not going to let a man take hold of his member and cut bits of it off justso he could get on a plane and fly to the land of cowboys. By the time he came home, the mohel

    was gone, and his parents said nothing about his abrupt departure. He took no false hope fromthis. In Vanya’s family, silence had never meant surrender, only tactical retreat.

    ?

    Even without the mohel, though, Vanya continued to take solace in running. Isolated at school,resentful at home, cut off from romping with his friends, he took to the streets again andagain, day after day, running, dodging, leaving behind him ever-grumpier mutters and shouts ofSlow down! Watch your step! Show some respect! Crazy boy! To Vanya that was part of the musicof the city.

    Running was the way he dreamed. Having never been in control of his own life, his idea offreedom was simply to break free. He dreamed of being at the mercy of the wind, carried aloftand blown here and there, a life of true randomness instead of always being part of someone

    else’s purpose. Father’s earnest, inconvenient plans for him. Mother’s ironic vision of lifeas one prank after another, in the midst of which you did what was needed. What I need, Mother,is to kite myself up in the air and cut the string and fly untethered. What I need, Father,when you’re setting out the pieces for your living chess game, is to be left in the box.

    Forget me!

    But running couldn’t save him from anyone’s plans, in the end. Nor did it bring him freedom,for his parents, as always, took his little idiosyncrasies in stride. In fact they made it part

    their story; he overheard them telling some of their new Jewish friends that they had to beof

    patient with Itzak, he was between realities, having had the old one stolen from him and notyet ready to enter the new one. How did they think of these glib little encapsulations of hislife?

    Only when Father underwent the male ritual of obedience himself did Vanya realize that thisJewish business was not just something they were doing to their son. Father tried to go abouthis ordinary work but could not; though he said nothing, his pain and embarrassment at showingit made him almost silent.

    Mother, ever supportive, said nothing even to refer to what the mohel had done to her husband,

    but Vanya thought he detected a slight smirk on her face when Father asked her to fetch himsomething that ordinarily he would get up and find for himself. He wondered briefly if thismeant that Mother thought the whole enterprise of believing in God was amusing, but asFather’s wound healed and life returned to what passed for normal these days, Vanya began tosuspect that, despite her irony, it was Mother who was a believer.

    Perhaps she had been a believer all along, despite slathering the tangy, bacony lard on herbread like any other Russian. Father’s discovery of his Jewishness was part of an overallstrategy; Mother simply knew who ran the universe. Father was forcing himself to act like abeliever. Mother showed not a doubt that God really existed. She just wasn’t on speaking termswith him. “Six million Jews died from the Fascists,” she said to Father. “Your one voice,praying, is going to fill all that silence? When a child dies, do you comfort the parents bybringing them a puppy to take care of?”

    Mother apparently believed not only in the idea of God, but also that he was the very same Godwho chose the Jews back when it was just Abraham carting his barren wife around with him,pretending she was his sister whenever some powerful man lusted after her.

    That was a favorite story for Vanya, as Father insisted that they study Torah together, goingover to the apartment of a rabbi and hearing him read the Hebrew and translate. As they walkedhome, they would talk about what they’d heard. “These guys are religious?” Vanya keptasking. “Judah sleeps with a prostitute on the road, only it turns out to be his daughter-in-law so it’s all right with God?”

    The story of the circumcision of Shechem was Vanya’s turning point. Dinah, the daughter ofJacob, gets raped by the prince of Shechem. The prince wants to marry her and Jacob agrees thatthis would make everything all right, only Dinah’s twelve brothers are more interested inrepairing the family’s wounded honor than in getting their sister married to a rich man with athrone in his future. So they tell the prince that he and all the men of his city have to becircumcised, and when the men are all lying there holding their handles and saying Ow, ow, ow,the sons of Jacob draw their swords and slaughter them all. At the end of that story, Vanyasaid to his father, “Maybe I’ll let the mohel do it to me.”

    Father looked at him in utter consternation. “That story makes you want to be circumcised?”

    Vanya shrugged.

    “Is there any hope that you can explain to me why this makes sense?”

    “I’m thinking about it, that’s all,” said Vanya. He would have explained it, if he could.Before the story he refused even to think about it; after the story, it became conceivable tohim, and, once he could conceive of it, it soon became inevitable.

    Later, running, he thought maybe he understood why that story changed his mind. Circumcisionwas a foolish, barbaric thing to do. But having the story of Shechem in Torah showed that Godhimself knew this. It’s barbaric, God seemed to be saying, and it hurts like hell, but I wantyou to do it. Make yourself weak, so somebody could come in and kill you and you’d just say,Thank you, I don’t want to live anyway because somebody cut off part of my privates.

    He couldn’t explain this to his father. He just knew that as long as God recognized that itwas a ludicrous thing to do, he could do it.

    So for a few days Vanya didn’t run. And it turned out that by the time the circumcision healed

    could run again, they took the city out from under him. The American Congress hadso he

    antagonized the Russian government by tying most-favored-nation status to Russia’s upping thenumber of Jews getting visas, and in reply the Russians cut the emigration of Jews down tonothing and started harassing them more. To Vanya’s family, this had very practicalconsequences. They lost their apartment.

    For Father, it meant no more consultations with students, no more visits with his formercolleagues at the university. It meant the shame of being utterly dependent on others for foodand clothing for his family, for there was no job he could get.

    Mother took it all in stride. “So we make bricks without straw,” she said. All his life Vanyaremembered her making enigmatic comments like that. Only now he was reading Exodus and he gotthe reference and realized: Mother really is a Jew! She’s been talking to us as if we were allJews my whole life, only I didn’t get it. And for the first time Vanya wondered if maybe thiswhole thing might not be her plan, only she was so good at it that she had gotten Father tothink of it himself, for his own very logical, unreligious reasons. Don’t become a practicingJew because God commands it, become one so you can get your son a good life in America. Couldshe possibly be that sneaky?

    For a week, they camped in the homes of several Jews who had no room for them. It couldn’tlast for long, this life, partly because the crowding was so uncomfortable, and partly becauseit was so obvious that, compared to these lifelong followers of the Law, Vanya and his parentswere dilettantes at Judaism. Father and Vanya hacked at Hebrew, struggled to keep up with theprayers, and looked blankly a hundred times a day when words and phrases were said that meantnothing to them.

    Mother seemed untroubled by such problems, since she had lived for a couple of years with hermother’s parents, who kept all the holidays, the two kitchens, the prayers, thedifferentiation of women and men. Yet Vanya saw that she, too, seemed more amused than involvedin the life of these homes, and the women of these households seemed even more wary of her thanthe men were of Father.

    Finally it wasn’t a Jew at all, but a second cousin (grandson of Father’s grandfather’sbrother, as they painstakingly explained to Vanya), who took them in for the potentially longwait for an exit visa. Cousin Marek had a dairy farm in the foothills of the CarpathianMountains, in a region that had been part of Poland between the wars, and so escaped Stalin’ssavage collectivization of the freehold farmers of Ukraine. Because this hill country wasremote, strategically unimportant, and thinly populated, Communism here was mostly windowdressing. Technically Cousin Marek’s dairy herd was merely a portion of the herd belonging tothe farflung dairy collective; in actual practice, they were his cows, to be bred and cared foras he wished. A good portion of the milk and cheese they produced didn’t quite make its wayinto the state-run dairy system. Instead, it was bartered here and there for goods andservices, and now and then for hard Western currency. Cousin Marek had the room, theindependent attitude, and enough surplus to take in a few hapless cousins who had decided tobecome Jews in order to get to the West.

    “The country life will be good for you, Vanya,” said Father, though the sour expression onhis face suggested that he had not yet thought of a way that the country life would be good forhim. What Cousin Marek did not have was a university within three hours’ travel. If Father wasto lecture, he’d have to find a subject matter interesting to cows.

    was good for him. The chores wereAs for Vanya, though, Father was right. The country life

    hard, for though Cousin Marek was a pleasant man, he nevertheless expected that everyone on thefarm would work every day, and give full measure. But Vanya got used to labor quickly enough,not to mention the country food, the whole milk, the coarser, crustier, more floury bread theymade in this part of Ukraine. The farm was good; but what he came to love lay beyond the farm.For in this backwater, some remnant of the old forests of Europe still survived.

    , the original homeland,” Father told him. “Where the old Slavs hid while“This is the rodina

    the Goths passed through, and the Huns. And then they were gone and we fanned out into theplain and left these hills to the wolves and bears.” Our land. Father still thought like aRussian, not like a Jew.

    What did Vanya care, at his age, about the original Russia? All he knew was that the countryroads went on forever without traffic, and with grass growing where the wheels didn’t maketheir ruts; and the trees grew large and ancient in the steep-sided hollows of the hills whereno one had bothered to cut them down; and birdsong didn’t have to fight to be heard abovehonking cars and roaring engines. Someone had spilled a milkpail of stars across the sky, andat night when there was no moon it was so dark you could bump into walls just trying to findthe door of the house. It wasn’t really wild country, but to Vanya, a city boy, an apartmentdweller, it was a place of magic and dreams, like the paintings of Shishkin; Vanya half-expected to see bear cubs in the trees.

    This was the place where all the fairy tales of his childhood must have taken place—the landof Prince Ivan, the grey wolf, the firebird; of Koshchei the Deathless, of Mikola Mozhaiski, ofBaba Yaga the witch. And, because he came here about the same time as his first reading ofTorah, he also pictured the wanderings of Abraham and Jacob and the children of Israel in thisgreen place. He knew it was absurd—Palestine was hot and dry, the Sinai was stone and sand.But couldn’t he picture the sons of Jacob coming back from herding sheep in these hills, toshow their father the torn and bloody many-colored coat? Wasn’t it from these hills thatAbraham charged forth to do battle for the cities of the plain?

    He couldn’t fly here, either, but he could run until he was so exhausted and lightheaded thatit felt as if he had flown. And then he grew bolder, and left the roads and tracks, searchingfor the most ancient and lost parts of the forest. Hours he’d be gone, exploring, until Mothergrew worried. “You fall down a slope, you break your leg, nobody knows where you are, you dieout there alone, is that your plan?” But Father and Mother must have discussed it together anddecided to trust in his good sense and perhaps in the watchfulness of God, for they continuedto allow him his freedom. Maybe they were simply counting on the visa to come and get him backto some American city where they could hide in their apartment from the gangsters’ bullets andthe rioting Africans that they always heard about.

    If the visa had come one day earlier, Vanya wouldn’t have found the clearing, the lake ofleaves.

    ?

    He came upon it in the midst of a forest so old that there was little underbrush—the canopy ofleaves overhead was so dense that it was perpetually dusk at ground level, and nothing but afew hardy grasses and vines could thrive. So it felt as if you could see forever between thetree trunks, until finally enough trunks blocked the way or it grew dark and murky enough thatyou could no longer see beyond. The ground was carpeted with leaves so thick that it made theforest floor almost like a trampoline. Vanya began loping along just to enjoy the bouncy feelof the ground. Like walking on the moon, if the Americans really had landed there. Leap,bounce, leap, bounce. Of course, on the moon there were no tree limbs, and when Vanya bangedhis head into one, it knocked him down and left him feeling weak and dizzy.

    This is what Mother warned me about. I’ll get a concussion, I’ll fall down in convulsions,and my body won’t be found until a dog drags some part of me onto somebody’s farm. Probablythe circumcised part of me, and they’ll have to call in a mohel to identify it. Definitely the

    boy Itzak Shlomo—on your records as Ivan Petrovich Smetski. A good runner, but apparently not

    bright enough to look out for trees. Sorry, but he was too stupid to go on living. That’s justthe way natural selection works. And Father would shake his head and say, He should have beenin Israel, where there are no trees.

    After a while, though, his head cleared, and he went back to bounding through the forest. Now,though, he looked up, scouting for low limbs, and that’s how he realized he had found aclearing—not because of the bright sunlight that made the place a sudden island of day in themidst of the forest twilight, but because suddenly there were no more branches.

    He stopped short at the edge of the clearing and looked around. Shouldn’t it be a meadow here,where the sun could shine? Tall grass and wildflowers, that’s what it should be. But insteadit was just like the forest floor, dead leaves thickly carpeting the undulating surface of theclearing. Nothing alive there.

    What could be so poisonous in the ground here that neither trees nor grass could grow here? Ithad to be something artificial, because the clearing was so perfectly round.

    A slight breeze stirred a few of the leaves in the clearing. A few blew away from the rise inthe center of the clearing, and now it looked to Vanya as if it was not a rock or some machine,for the shape under the leaves undulated like the lines of a human body. And there, where thehead should be, was that a human face just visible?

    Another leaf drifted away. It had to be a face. A woman asleep. Had she gathered leaves aroundher, to cover her? Or was she injured, lying here so long that the leaves had gathered. Was shedead? Was the skin stretched taut across the cheekbones like a mummy? From this distance, hecould not see. And a part of him did not want to see, wanted instead to run away and hide,because if she was dead then for the first time his dreams of tragedy would come true, and hedid not want them to be true, he realized now. He did not want to clear the leaves away andfind a dead woman who had merely been running through the woods and hit her head on a limb andmanaged to stagger into the midst of this clearing, hoping that she could signal some passingairplane, only she fell unconscious and died and . . .

    He wanted to run away, but he also wanted to see her, to touch her; if she was dead, then tosee death, to touch it.

    He raised his foot to take a step into the clearing.

    Though his movement was ordinary, the leaves swirled away from his foot as if he had stirred awhirlwind, and to his shock he realized that this clearing was not like the forest floor atall. For the leaves swirled deeper and deeper, clearing away from his feet to reveal that hewas standing at the edge of a precipice.

    This was no clearing, this was a deep basin, a round pit cut deeply into the earth. How deep itwas, he couldn’t guess, for the leaves still swirled away, deeper, deeper, and the wind thathad arisen from the movement of his leg carried them up and away, twisting into the sky like apillar of smoke.

    was a woman lying there, then she must be lying on a pedestal arising from the centerIf that

    of this deep hollow. Women who bumped their heads into tree limbs did not climb down aprecipice like this and climb up a tower in the middle. Something else was going on here,something darker. She must have been murdered.

    He looked at her again, but now many of the leaves that had blown up from Vanya’s feet werecoming to rest, and he couldn’t quite see her face. No, there it was, or where it should havebeen. But no face now, just leaves.

    I imagined it, he thought. It was that leaf—I thought it was a nose. There’s no woman there.Just a strange rock formation. And a pit in the middle of the forest that had filled withleaves. Maybe it was the crater from an old meteor strike. That would make sense.

    As he stood there, imagining the impact of a stone from space, something moved on the far sideof the clearing. Or rather, it moved under the far side of the clearing, for he saw only that

    the leaves began to churn in one particular place, and then the churning moved around thecircle, heading toward him.

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