Chapter no 12

The Giver

“You slept soundly, Jonas?” his mother asked at the morning meal. “No dreams?”

Jonas simply smiled and nodded, not ready to lie, not willing to tell the truth. “I slept very soundly,” he said.

“I wish this one would,” his father said, leaning down from his chair to touch Gabriel’s waving fist. The basket was on the floor beside him; in its corner, beside Gabriel’s head, the stuffed hippo sat staring with its blank eyes.

“So do I,” Mother said, rolling her eyes. “He’s so fretful at night.”

Jonas had not heard the newchild during the night because as always, he

had slept soundly. But it was not true that he had no dreams.

Again and again, as he slept, he had slid down that snow-covered hill.

Always, in the dream, it seemed as if there were a destination: a something

—he could not grasp what—that lay beyond the place where the thickness of snow brought the sled to a stop.

He was left, upon awakening, with the feeling that he wanted, even somehow needed, to reach the something that waited in the distance. The feeling that it was good. That it was welcoming. That it was significant.

But he did not know how to get there.

He tried to shed the leftover dream, gathering his schoolwork and preparing for the day.

School seemed a little different today. The classes were the same: language and communications; commerce and industry; science and technology; civil procedures and government. But during the breaks for recreation periods and the midday meal, the other new Twelves were abuzz with descriptions of their first day of training. All of them talked at once, interrupting each other, hastily making the required apology for interrupting, then forgetting again in the excitement of describing the new experiences.

Jonas listened. He was very aware of his own admonition not to discuss his training. But it would have been impossible, anyway. There was no way to describe to his friends what he had experienced there in the Annex room. How could you describe a sled without describing a hill and snow; and how

could you describe a hill and snow to someone who had never felt height or wind or that feathery, magical cold?

Even trained for years as they all had been in precision of language, what words could you use which would give another the experience of sunshine?

So it was easy for Jonas to be still and to listen.

After school hours he rode again beside Fiona to the House of the Old. “I looked for you yesterday,” she told him, “so we could ride home

together. Your bike was still there, and I waited for a little while. But it was getting late, so I went on home.”

“I apologize for making you wait,” Jonas said.

“I accept your apology,” she replied automatically.

“I stayed a little longer than I expected,” Jonas explained.

She pedaled forward silently, and he knew that she expected him to tell her why. She expected him to describe his first day of training. But to ask would have fallen into the category of rudeness.

“You’ve been doing so many volunteer hours with the Old,” Jonas said, changing the subject. “There won’t be much that you don’t already know.”

“Oh, there’s lots to learn,” Fiona replied. “There’s administrative work, and the dietary rules, and punishment for disobedience—did you know that they use a discipline wand on the Old, the same as for small children? And there’s occupational therapy, and recreational activities, and medications, and —”

They reached the building and braked their bikes.

“I really think I’ll like it better than school,” Fiona confessed. “Me too,” Jonas agreed, wheeling his bike into its place.

She waited for a second, as if, again, she expected him to go on. Then she looked at her watch, waved, and hurried toward the entrance.

Jonas stood for a moment beside his bike, startled. It had happened again: the thing that he thought of now as “seeing beyond.” This time it had been Fiona who had undergone that fleeting indescribable change. As he looked up and toward her going through the door, it happened; she changed.

Actually, Jonas thought, trying to recreate it in his mind, it wasn’t Fiona in her entirety. It seemed to be just her hair. And just for that flickering instant.

He ran through it in his mind. It was clearly beginning to happen more often. First, the apple a few weeks before. The next time had been the faces in the audience at the Auditorium, just two days ago. Now, today, Fiona’s hair.

Frowning, Jonas walked toward the Annex. I will ask The Giver, he decided.

The old man looked up, smiling, when Jonas entered the room. He was already seated beside the bed, and he seemed more energetic today, slightly renewed, and glad to see Jonas.

“Welcome,” he said. “We must get started. You’re one minute late.” “I apologi —” Jonas began, and then stopped, flustered, remembering

there were to be no apologies.

He removed his tunic and went to the bed. “I’m one minute late because something happened,” he explained. “And I’d like to ask you about it, if you don’t mind.”

“You may ask me anything.”

Jonas tried to sort it out in his mind so that he could explain it clearly. “I think it’s what you call seeing-beyond,” he said.

The Giver nodded. “Describe it,” he said.

Jonas told him about the experience with the apple. Then the moment on the stage, when he had looked out and seen the same phenomenon in the faces of the crowd.

“Then today, just now, outside, it happened with my friend Fiona. She herself didn’t change, exactly. But something about her changed for a second. Her hair looked different; but not in its shape, not in its length. I can’t quite —” Jonas paused, frustrated by his inability to grasp and describe exactly what had occurred.

Finally he simply said, “It changed. I don’t know how, or why. “That’s why I was one minute late,” he concluded, and looked

questioningly at The Giver.

To his surprise, the old man asked him a question which seemed unrelated to the seeing-beyond. “When I gave you the memory yesterday, the first one, the ride on the sled, did you look around?”

Jonas nodded. “Yes,” he said, “but the stuff—I mean the snow—in the air made it hard to see anything.”

“Did you look at the sled?”

Jonas thought back. “No. I only felt it under me. I dreamed of it last night, too. But I don’t remember seeing the sled in my dream, either. Just feeling it.”

The Giver seemed to be thinking.

“When I was observing you, before the selection, I perceived that you probably had the capacity, and what you describe confirms that. It happened somewhat differently to me,” The Giver told him. “When I was just your age—about to become the new Receiver—I began to experience it, though it took a different form. With me it was . . . well, I won’t describe that now; you wouldn’t understand it yet.

“But I think I can guess how it’s happening with you. Let me just make a little test, to confirm my guess. Lie down.”

Jonas lay on the bed again with his hands at his sides. He felt comfortable here now. He closed his eyes and waited for the familiar feel of The Giver’s hands on his back.

But it didn’t come. Instead, The Giver instructed him, “Call back the memory of the ride on the sled. Just the beginning of it, where you’re at the top of the hill, before the slide starts. And this time, look down at the sled.”

Jonas was puzzled. He opened his eyes. “Excuse me,” he asked politely, “but don’t you have to give me the memory?”

“It’s your memory, now. It’s not mine to experience any longer. I gave it away.”

“But how can I call it back?”

“You can remember last year, or the year that you were a Seven, or a Five, can’t you?”

“Of course.”

“It’s much the same. Everyone in the community has one-generation memories like those. But now you will be able to go back farther. Try. Just concentrate.”

Jonas closed his eyes again. He took a deep breath and sought the sled and the hill and the snow in his consciousness.

There they were, with no effort. He was again sitting in that whirling world of snowflakes, atop the hill.

Jonas grinned with delight, and blew his own steamy breath into view. Then, as he had been instructed, he looked down. He saw his own hands, furred again with snow, holding the rope. He saw his legs, and moved them aside for a glimpse of the sled beneath.

Dumbfounded, he stared at it. This time it was not a fleeting impression. This time the sled had—and continued to have, as he blinked, and stared at it again—that same mysterious quality that the apple had had so briefly.

And Fiona’s hair. The sled did not change. It simply was—whatever the thing was.

Jonas opened his eyes and was still on the bed. The Giver was watching him curiously.

“Yes,” Jonas said slowly. “I saw it, in the sled.”

“Let me try one more thing. Look over there, to the bookcase. Do you see the very top row of books, the ones behind the table, on the top shelf?”

Jonas sought them with his eyes. He stared at them, and they changed.

But the change was fleeting. It slipped away the next instant.

“It happened,” Jonas said. “It happened to the books, but it went away again.”

“I’m right, then,” The Giver said. “You’re beginning to see the color red.”

“The what?”

The Giver sighed. “How to explain this? Once, back in the time of the memories, everything had a shape and size, the way things still do, but they also had a quality called color.

“There were a lot of colors, and one of them was called red. That’s the one you are starting to see. Your friend Fiona has red hair—quite distinctive, actually; I’ve noticed it before. When you mentioned Fiona’s hair, it was the clue that told me you were probably beginning to see the color red.”

“And the faces of people? The ones I saw at the Ceremony?”

The Giver shook his head. “No, flesh isn’t red. But it has red tones in it.

There was a time, actually—you’ll see this in the memories later—when flesh was many different colors. That was before we went to Sameness. Today flesh is all the same, and what you saw was the red tones. Probably when you saw the faces take on color it wasn’t as deep or vibrant as the apple, or your friend’s hair.”

The Giver chuckled, suddenly. “We’ve never completely mastered Sameness. I suppose the genetic scientists are still hard at work trying to work the kinks out. Hair like Fiona’s must drive them crazy.”

Jonas listened, trying hard to comprehend. “And the sled?” he said. “It had that same thing: the color red. But it didn’t change, Giver. It just was.”

“Because it’s a memory from the time when color was.”

“It was so—oh, I wish language were more precise! The red was so beautiful!”

The Giver nodded. “It is.” “Do you see it all the time?”

“I see all of them. All the colors.” “Will I?”

“Of course. When you receive the memories. You have the capacity to see beyond. You’ll gain wisdom, then, along with colors. And lots more.”

Jonas wasn’t interested, just then, in wisdom. It was the colors that fascinated him. “Why can’t everyone see them? Why did colors disappear?”

The Giver shrugged. “Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences.” He thought for a moment. “We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”

“We shouldn’t have!” Jonas said fiercely.

The Giver looked startled at the certainty of Jonas’s reaction. Then he smiled wryly. “You’ve come very quickly to that conclusion,” he said. “It took me many years. Maybe your wisdom will come much more quickly than mine.”

He glanced at the wall clock. “Lie back down, now. We have so much to do.”

“Giver,” Jonas asked as he arranged himself again on the bed, “how did it happen to you when you were becoming The Receiver? You said that the seeing-beyond happened to you, but not the same way.”

The hands came to his back. “Another day,” The Giver said gently. “I’ll tell you another day. Now we must work. And I’ve thought of a way to help you with the concept of color.

“Close your eyes and be still, now. I’m going to give you a memory of a rainbow.”

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