The Heist (Part 9)

After what seemed like hours, and yet mere moments, the separation of the immense crowd was complete. There now stood two camps, and the difference between them became clear. Far away to my left was the gathering of those people called out from the original crowd. It was greater than I can say. Even though it must have had less people than the original crowd, it still was beyond measure. There was, I saw, an expanse now dividing my own crowd from that separated one, and the expanse was growing. Meanwhile, that other crowd grew extraordinarily bright, like the sun. I could not look long at it. Whether the brightness was shining on those distant people or from them I couldn’t tell, but they were right in the midst of light, as if it was the very air they breathed. Although the light was painful to my eyes, it was gloriously attractive. I can no longer picture it in my mind (not for lack of trying), but I remember it was a vision more splendid than anything on earth. A kind of jealousy toward those other people rushed through me because of the light that was theirs.

Sound also came from that crowd, though I could barely hear it. Surely the noise was powerful, for I at times could feel its terrible vibrations. I thought that perhaps, tragically, I was deaf to it and would never know its joy. Exactly what kind of sound it was I could not pinpoint. Was it music? Or shouting? Or laughter? Were there instruments, or only voices? I didn’t know, but it had those people utterly enraptured.

I then looked about the crowd to which I belonged, and shuddered. It was strange—I could see the distant crowd but not quite hear it, whereas I could hear my own crowd loud and clear, but could hardly see it. We were shrouded in a sort of darkness. The darkness was dirty, or contaminated, and it could be felt. It was unpleasant, and it was becoming more intense. My feet were by now loosed and I could walk around; others in my crowd were moving around as well, but I could no longer see them all. Here and there, through the filthy mist I caught glimpses of people nearby. They looked now almost less than human, with drained, disturbed faces, full of fear and hatred. I was repulsed by the sight of these people, and was surprised that they seemed to have the same opinion of me. Only afterward did I consider that perhaps I too had taken on that wretched appearance.

As I said, I could not see much of my crowd, but I could hear everything. At first there was much talking, not between people, but sort of randomly, to no one or anyone. The speech was all bitter and self-righteous, blaming and cursing. This continued a while, and I became so caught up in listening to those voices I forgot where I was and what was happening. A sudden trembling beneath my feet shook me from my ignorance. The noise of the crowd in the light had doubled, though I could now hear only the faintest murmur of it. I looked over to see what was happening there and I saw the expanse between the crowds extended much further than before. The other crowd was now a great way off, but shone even brighter. And the noise of that crowd was not random like the voices around me, but in unison and focused. I looked out in front of me, in the direction the distant crowd was singing (I believe it was singing), and tried to see what they were singing for. I should have considered whom they were singing to.

 

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