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双语散文:萌芽期的终结

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THE END OF THE BEGINNING

Ray Bradbury

He stopped the lawn mower in the middie of the yard, because he felt that the sun at just that moment had gone down and the stars come out. The fresh-cut grass that had showered his face and body died soft!y away. Yes, the stars were there, faint at first, but brightening in the clear desert sky. He heard the porch screen door tap shut and felt his wife watching him as he watched the night.

"Almost time," she said.He nodded; he did not have to check his watch. In the passing moments he felt very old, then very young, very cold, then very warm, now this, now that. Suddenly he was miles away. He was his own son talking steadily, moving briskly to cover his pounding heart and the resurgent panics as he felt himself slip into fresh uniform, check food supplies, oxygen flasks, pressure helmet, space-suiting, and turn as every man on earth tonight turned, to gaze at the swiftly filling sky.Then, quickly, he was back, once more the father of the son, hands gripped to the lawn-mower handle. His wife called, "Come sit on the porch.""I've got to keep busy!"

She came down the steps and across the lawn. "Don't worry about Robert; he'll be all right."

"But it's all so new," he heard himself say. "It's never been done before. Think of it - a manned rocket going up tonight to build the first space station. Good lord, it can't be done, it doesn't exist, there's no rocket, no proving ground, no take-off time, no technicians. For that matter, I don't even have a son named Bob. The whole thing's too much for me!""Then what are you doing out here, staring?"He shook his head. "Well, late this morning, walking to the office, I heard someone laugh out loud. It shocked me, so I froze in the middle of the street. It was me, laughing! Why? Because finally I really knew what Bob was going to do tonight; at last I believed it. Holy is a word I never use, but that's how I felt stranded in all that traffic. Then, middle of the afternoon I caught myself humming. You know the song. 'A wheel in a wheel. Way in the middle of the air.' I laughed again. The space station, of course, I thought. The big wheel with hollow spokes where Bob'll live six or eight months, then get along to the moon. Walking home, I remembered more of the song. 'Little wheel run by faith, Big wheel run by the grace of God.' I wanted to jump, yell, and flame-out myself!"His wife touched his arm. "If we stay out here, let's at least be comfortable."

They placed two wicker rockers in the center of the lawn and sat quietly as the stars dissolved out of darkness in pale crushings of rock salt strewn from horizon to horizon.

"Why," said his wife, at last, "it's like waiting for the fireworks at Sisley Field every year."

"Bigger crowd tonight . . ."

"I keep thinking - a billion people watching the sky right now, their mouths all open at the same time."

They waited, feeling the earth move under their chairs.

"What time is it now?"

"Eleven minutes to eight."

"You're always right; there must be a clock in your head."

"I can't be wrong tonight. I'll be able to tell you one second before they blast off. Look! The ten-minute warning!"

On the western sky they saw four crimson flares open out, float shimmering down the wind above the desert, then sink silently to the extinguishing earth.In the new darkness the husband and wife did not rock in their chairs.After a while he said, "Eight minutes." A pause. "Seven minutes." What seemed a much longer pause. "Six . . ."

His wife, her head back, studied the stars immediately above her and murmured, "Why?" She closed her eyes. "Why the rockets, why tonight? Why all this? I'd like to know."

He examined her face, pale in the vast powdering light of the Milky Way. He felt the stirring of an answer, but let his wife continue.

"I mean it's not that old thing again, is it, when people asked why men climbed Mt. Everest and they said, 'Because it's there'? I never understood. That was no answer to me."

Five minutes, he thought. Time ticking . . . his wrist watch . . . a wheel in a wheel . . . little wheel run by . . . big wheel run by . . . way in the middle of . . . four minutes! . . . The men snug in the rocket by now, the hive, the control board flickering with light.His lips moved.

"All I know is it's really the end of the beginning. The Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age; from now on we'll lump all those together under one big name for when we walked on Earth and heard the birds at morning and cried with envy. Maybe we'll call it the Earth Age, or maybe the Age of Gravity. Millions of years we fought gravity. When we were amoebas and fish we struggled to get out of the sea without gravity crushing us. Once safe on the shore we fought to stand upright without gravity breaking our new invention, the spine, tried to walk without stumbling, run without falling. A billion years Gravity kept us home, mocked us with wind and clouds, cabbage moths and locusts. That's what's so god-awful big about tonight . . . it's the end of old man Gravity and the age we'll remember him by, for once and all. I don't know where they'll divide the ages, at the Persians, who dreamt of flying carpets, or the Chinese, who all unknowing celebrated birthdays and New Years with strung ladyfingers and high skyrockets, or some minute, some incredible second the next hour. But we're in at the end of a billion years trying, the end of something long and to us humans, anyway, honorable."Three minutes . . . two minutes fifty-nine seconds . . . two minutes fifty-eight seconds . . .

"But," said his wife, "I still don't know why."

Two minutes, he thought. Ready? Ready? Ready? The far radio voice calling. Ready! Ready! Ready! The quick, faint replies from the humming rocket. Check! Check! Check!

Tonight, he thought, even if we fail with this first, we'll send a second and a third ship and move on out to all the planets and later, all the stars. We'll just keep going until the big words like immortal and forever take on meaning. Big words, yes, that's what we want. Continuity. Since our tongues first moved in our mouths we've asked, What does it all mean? No other question made sense, with death breathing down our necks. But just let us settle in on ten thousand worlds spinning around ten thousand alien suns and the question will fade away. Man will be endless and infinite, even as space is endless and infinite. Man will go on, as space goes on, forever. Individuals will die as always, but our history will reach as far as we'll ever need to see into the future, and with the knowledge of our survival for all time to come, we'll know security and thus the answer we've always searched for. Gifted with life, the least we can do is preserve and pass on the gift to infinity. That's a goal worth shooting for.The wicker chairs whispered ever so softly on the grass.

One minute.

"One minute," he said aloud.

"Oh!" His wife moved suddenly to seize his hands. "I hope that Bob . . ."

"He'll be all right!"

"Oh, God, take care . . ."

Thirty seconds.

"Watch now."

Fifteen, ten, five . . .

"Watch!"

Four, three, two, one.

"There! There! Oh, there, there!"

They both cried out. They both stood. The chairs toppled back, fell flat on the lawn. The man and his wife swayed, their hands struggled to find each other, grip, hold. They saw the brightening color in the sky and, ten seconds later, the great uprising comet burn the air, put out the stars, and rush away in fire flight to become another star in the returning profusion of the Milky Way. The man and wife held each other as if they had stumbled on the rim of an incredible cliff that faced an abyss so deep and dark there seemed no end to it. Staring up, they heard themselves sobbing and crying. Only after a long time were they able to speak.

"It got away, it did, didn't it?"

"Yes . . ."

"It's all right, isn't it?""Yes . . . yes . . .""It didn't fall back . . .?""No, no, it's all right, Bob's all right, it's all right."They stood away from each other at last.He touched his face with his hand and looked at his wet fingers. "I'll be damned," he said, "I'll be damned."

They waited another five and then ten minutes until the darkness in their heads, the retina, ached with a million specks of fiery salt. Then they had to close their eyes.

"Well," she said, "now let's go in."

He could not move. Only his hand reached a long way out by itself to find the lawn-mower handle. He saw what his hand had done and said, "There's just a little more to do . . ."

"But you can't see."

"Well enough," he said. "I must finish this. Then we'll sit on the porch awhile before we turn in."

He helped her put the chairs on the porch and sat her down and then walked back out to put his hands on the guide bar of the lawn mower. The lawn mower. A wheel in a wheel. A simple machine which you held in your bands, which you sent on ahead with a rush and a clatter while you walked behind with your quiet philosophy. Racket, followed by warm silence. Whirling wheel, then soft footfall of thought.

I'm a billion years old, he told himself; I'm one minute old. I'm one inch, no, ten thousand miles, tall. I look down and can't see my feet they're so far off and gone away below.

He moved the lawn mower. The grass showering up fell softly around him; he relished and savored it and felt that he was all mankind bathing at last in the fresh waters of the fountain of youth.

Thus bathed, he remembered the song again about the wheels and the faith and the grace of God being way up there in the middle of the sky where that single star, among a million motionless stars, dared to move and keep on moving.Then he finished cutting the grass.

[美]雷·布莱德伯里 著

他站在院子当中,关掉了割草机,因为他感觉到,就在此刻,太阳消失在了地平线下,星星开始闪烁。包裹在周围的鲜草碎屑渐渐落下。是啊,星星就在那儿,一开始还很黯淡,随后就在这清丽的沙漠天空上闪闪发光。他听到门廊边中纱门关闭的声音,感觉到妻子正看着他,就如同他正看着这满天的星斗。

“快到时间了。”她说。

他点点头,不用看表。上一分钟他还觉得自己很老、很冷,这会儿忽然变得又年轻又暖和。忽然间,他就到了几英里之外,仿佛就是自己的儿子,正在坚定地说这话,神采奕奕地戴着护具,在穿上新制服瞬间的那一丝恐慌,检查补给、氧气瓶,加压头盔,宇航服,然后像今晚地球上所有其他人一样,抬头仰望这浩瀚星海。

忽然间,他又成为了自己,手握着割草机的手柄。妻子叫道,“过来坐在门廊这儿吧。”

“我得忙活点什么!”

她走下台阶,穿过草坪,“别为罗伯特担心了,他会没事的。”

“但这一切都是这么的全新。”他听到自己在说,“以前从来没有人做过。想想看—— 一架载人的火箭今晚会升上天空,建造第一座空间站。上帝啊,多么神奇。以前从来没有过火箭、试验场,也没有起飞时间,没有航空技师。在这个意义上,我根本没有一个叫罗伯特的儿子,这整件事对我来说太难接受了!”

“那你在这外面干什么,看什么呢?”

他摇摇头,“嗯,今天早些时候,在去办公室的路上,我听到有人在大笑。把我给震住了,我就这么站在大路当中。笑的就是我!为什么?因为我终于明白罗伯特今晚要做的事情的意义了。 至少我相信是这样。神圣这个词我以前从来都没有用过,但这就是我站在川流不息地人群中时的感觉。下午的时候,我又发现自己在哼歌儿。‘轮子是轮子,正在半空中。’你也知道这首歌。然后我又笑了。空间站,当然了,我想。带着轮辐的大轮子,罗伯特要在那儿住六到八个月,然后登上月球。

“回到家,我又记起了这首歌的其余部分,‘信念驱动小轮,上帝转动大轮’。我想要跳跃,想要大叫,浑身充满了力量!”

妻子抚摸着他的手臂,“如果要待在外面的话,至少换个舒服些的姿势。”

他们搬出两把摇椅放在草坪中央,静静地坐了下来。星星正在天边闪烁。

“这一切意义何在?”妻子最后问,“这就像是每年新年时等待西斯利菲尔德的焰火一样。”

“今夜会更盛大……”

“我一直在想——十多亿人此刻正在看着天空,所有人都在翘首以盼。”

他们就这样等着,感觉着椅子下大地的转动。

“几点了?”

“差十一分八点。”

“你从来都不会错;脑子里一定有一个钟表。”

“今晚我一定错不了。我会精确到他们发射的那一秒。看!十分钟警报!”

在西边的天空,他们看到四个发着红光的信号弹射向空中,然后缓缓落向沙漠,最终熄灭在地面上。

黑暗再次降临,夫妻二人没有再摇动他们的摇椅。

几分钟后,他说:“八分钟。”停顿。“七分钟。”似乎停顿了更长的时间。“六分——”

妻子转过头,研究着天上的星星,低语道,“意义何在呢?”她闭上眼睛,“为什么发射火箭?为什么是今晚?这一切意义何在?我想知道。”

他仔细地看着妻子的脸,那张脸在银河昏暗的光芒下显得有些苍白。一个激动人心的答案就要脱口而出,但他还是让妻子继续。

“我是说,这不是旧话重提,是吧?每次有人问为什么要爬珠穆朗玛峰时,被问的人回答:‘因为山就在那儿。’我从来都没明白过。这对我来说根本不是一个答案。”

五分钟,他想道。时间在流逝……他的手表……轮子套着轮子……小轮、大轮……空中……四分钟!……他们应该已经在火箭里了,仪表盘上的灯光正在一闪一闪。

他动了动嘴唇。

“我只知道,这只是萌芽期的终结。石器时代、青铜器时代、铁器时代;从今以后这些人类站在地面上羡慕鸟儿的时代都将被冠以一个名字,也许可以叫地面时代,或者叫重力时代。亿万年来我们一直在和重力抗争。当我们还是阿米巴原虫,还是鱼类的时候,我们挣扎着离开海洋,没让重力给压垮。刚在地面站住脚我们就挣扎着要站立起来,不让重力压垮我们的脊梁,努力地独立行走、奔跑而不要摔倒。十多亿年来,重力一直将我们束缚在地面上,用云朵、清风、菜蛾和蝗虫来嘲笑我们。正因如此,今晚才会如此地重要……这将是重力时代的终结,我们都会记住这个时代。我不知道他们会从何处来划分这个时代。是从波斯人梦想着飞毯的时候来划分,还是从中国人发明节庆用的焰火时算起。或者,这个时代将从下一个小时的某一分钟开始。但是,在这个荣耀的时刻,结束了十亿年来的努力,结束了一个如此久长的时代,在这个时候,我们都是其中的一分子。”

三分钟……两分五十九秒……两分五十八……

“但是——”妻子说,“我还是不明白这究竟是为什么。”

两分钟,他想。准备好了吗?准备好了吗?准备好了吗?无线电问讯。准备好了!准备好了!准备好了!嗡嗡作响的火箭传来微弱的回答。检查无误!检查无误!检查无误!

今夜,他想,即使这第一次尝试失败,我们也还会发射第二艘、第三艘飞船,会踏上前往其他行星的旅途,不久的将来,就是其他的恒星。我们会一直继续,就像“永恒”和“不朽”这两个词语所表达的意思一样。这就是我们所要的。持之以恒。自从舌头可以在嘴里移动的那一刻起,我们就在问,这一切意义何在?只要死亡还在,就没有其他更有意义的问题。就让我们迁移向那成千上万个环绕着其他恒星运行的行星吧,到时候,这个问题自然就会消失。

人类将会永生不朽,就如同这宇宙一般。人类将会继续生存,就如同这宇宙。个体还是会死去,但是我们的历史将会变得无限久远,直到未来终结,伴随着长久以来积累的知识,我们将会得到长久以来那个问题的答案。生命是一种恩赐,但至少我们可以保护、传递这种恩赐,直到永远。这是个值得争取的目标。摇椅在草地上轻轻地摇动。

一分钟。

“一分钟。”他大声说。

“哦!”妻子忽然攥紧了双手,“希望罗伯特——”

“他会平安无事的!”

“哦,上帝啊,保佑——”

三十秒。

“看吧。”

十五、十、五。

“看!”

四、三、二、一。

“那儿!那儿!哦,在那边!那边!”

他们都叫了出来,两个人都站了起来。摇椅摇向身后,倒在了草坪上。男人和他的妻子摇摆着,激动地紧握着彼此的手。他们看到了天上的那束亮光,十秒钟后,明亮的上升彗星点亮了空气、使得星星黯然失色,随后又像其他星星一样隐没在银河中作为报偿。

男人和妻子紧握着彼此的手,就好像他们忽然发现自己正站在悬崖边,前面就是无底的深渊。抬起头,他们听到了自己哭泣的声音。很久很久,他们都说不出话来。

“走了,飞走了。是吧?”

“是……”

“一切正常,是吧?”

“是……是……”

“没有掉下来……?”

“没有,没有,一切正常,罗伯特没事,一切正常。”

最终,他们互相走开了一段距离。

他摸了摸自己的脸,看着湿漉漉的手指。“我一定是糟透了,糟透了。”

他们又等了五分钟、十分钟,仰望着星空,直到空气中的盐粒让眼睛觉得难受才闭上眼睛。

“那么——”她说,“我们进去吧。”

他动不了,只有他的双手还在移动,握住了割草机的手柄。看到自己的动作后,他说,“还差一点点……”

“但是都已经看不见了。”

“还可以。”他说,“一定得弄完。然后我们在门廊再坐一会儿,之后再进去。”

他帮着妻子把摇椅搬进门廊,让她坐下来,然后又走回草坪,握住割草机的手柄。割草机。大轮子套小轮子。握在手中的简单机器。想着自己那简单的哲学,推在前面走的机器。火箭,热浪和寂静。转动的轮子,然后是这夜晚轻柔的脚步。

我有十亿多岁了,他告诉自己;但我只刚刚诞生了一分钟,我有一英寸,不,一万英里高。我低头看不到自己的脚,因为它们离的太远。

他推着割草机。碎草屑像雨滴一样包裹着他;他品味着,觉得自己就是全人类的代表,正在最后一次沐浴着青春之泉的泉水。

沐浴着这泉水,他又一次想起了那首关于轮子、信仰和恩典的歌。上帝正站在云端,看着亿万颗群星中那一颗勇往直前的星。

他修整完了整片草地。

(完)

重点单词   查看全部解释    
vast [vɑ:st]

想一想再看

adj. 巨大的,广阔的
n. 浩瀚的太

 
spine [spain]

想一想再看

n. 脊柱,脊椎,书脊,尖刺

 
lump [lʌmp]

想一想再看

n. 团,块,瘤,笨重的人
v. 使成块,形成

联想记忆
fell [fel]

想一想再看

动词fall的过去式
n. 兽皮
v

联想记忆
gifted ['giftid]

想一想再看

adj. 有天赋的,有才华的

 
abyss [ə'bis]

想一想再看

n. 深渊,无底洞

联想记忆
minutes ['minits]

想一想再看

n. 会议记录,(复数)分钟

 
fountain ['fauntin]

想一想再看

n. 喷泉,源泉,储水容器,泉水
v. 使像喷

 
uniform ['ju:nifɔ:m]

想一想再看

n. 制服
adj. 一致的,统一的

联想记忆
yell [jel]

想一想再看

v. 大叫
n. 大喊

 


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