Time Gate - 4

The Resurrection Machine
AD 2135

by Robert Sheckley

There was no way of telling time in the silent Russian house. Cicero and Bakunin drifted like ghosts down its corridors, through its bedrooms, in and out of its provisionless kitchen. Sometimes Bakunin would tell Cicero about his hopes for mankind, his distrust of Marx, his admiration for Hegel. He would speak of the necessity of anarchism, the need to abolish the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie, and, at last, the proletariat.

Cicero did not attempt to debate with him. Bakunin seemed impervious to reasoned argumentation. His sense of logic was nil. Yet Cicero sensed something desperate and pure and childlike about this tortured and desperate man...

Still, Cicero preferred to keep his own company. He began spending most of his time in the spacious upstairs apartment.

Bakunin took long walks in the woods at frequent intervals. When he returned he would throw himself on the couch and look out the window at the snow-covered birches.

Hanging on the wall facing the couch was a long mirror in an elaborate gilt frame. One day, as Bakunin lay on his couch, he saw the mirror turn cloudy. Then it became suffused with light, which faded and gave way to a black and white image of a man's face.

"Well, Michael, how are you getting along?" Murchison asked.

"Fine, fine," Bakunin said. "But isn't it time we got to work?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I've put things together. It's obvious to me that you are from a future that has finally reached maturity and recognized the inevitability of my doctrine. Rest assured, I am ready to advise, though, true to my principles, I refuse to lead or participate in any government."

"Is that what you think this is all about?"

Bakunin's eyes glowed. "I know that I am recognized at last! My great doctrine has come to fruition! Exonerated, justified, at last!"

"I'm afraid you have it all wrong," Murchison said. "As a workable political doctrine, your anarchy is about as useful as a snowmaking machine at the North Pole. Anarchy is something our political science students study in school. This may seem harsh, telling it to you this way, but it's better to get the position straight."

"If my doctrine is unimportant, why did you bring me back?"

Murchison couldn't tell Bakunin the real reason. The simulacra wouldn't understand the strange mixture of government and business interests that governed their selection.

"You are of historic interest to some of our scholars," Murchison said.

"I see. And what is it you want me to do?"

"It's nothing much. Just talk to some people."

Bakunin laughed. "That's all you people ever want. Just a little talk. Just tell us a few things. But the questions continue, and do not end until you have betrayed yourself, incriminated your friends, and violated all your principles. Yes, I know quite a lot about interrogations."

"It's not like that," Murchison said. "I'm talking about some nice chats with pleasant scholarly men and women."

"Of course they would use that type. You think I can't see through it?"

"Who is this they you keep on referring to?"

"The Cheka, of course, the Czar's secret police."

Murchison groaned. "Listen, Michael, you've got it all wrong. And anyhow, all that stuff is in the past."

"So you say!

"Damn it, Michael, you know that we brought you back to life directly from your head. You realize that, don't you?"

Bakunin thought about it. "Yes, it seems likely."

"Then why not cooperate with me?"

"No," Bakunin said.

"Why not?"

"Because I am Bakunin. I lead, or die, but I do not cooperate."

"Great," Murchison muttered. "That's just wonderful. Look, Michael, this is important to me. If you helped, I could do you a lot of good."

"I realize that you are powerful. Apparently you can, in some fashion, call the dead back to life."


"Then I will cooperate with you," Bakunin said.

"Thank you, I knew you'd——"

"If you will bring back my Antonia."

"Beg pardon?"

"My wife, Antonia. I don't suppose you ever heard of her. She was only a girl from a small Siberian village. But she made my life bearable."

"I'll see what I can do," Martin said. "Meanwhile, get ready for your first interview."

"Not until Antonia is here."

Murchison was out of patience. "Michael, I could turn you off as easy as I turned you on. From your point of view it would be death."

"You call this living?" the Russian said, with a sudden burst of hard laughter. "No, go back to the Czar or whoever you work for. Tell him that Michael Bakunin, a ghost lying on a couch in a place that doesn't exist, defies him in this new life as he did in the old one."

(to be continued on 20090501 )

This extract, recopied here as a tribute to Robert Sheckley, is part of the 1989 Time Gate Anthology edited by Robert Silverberg.

1 comment:

  1. I can't for Antonia to show up. This is a great story.