Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
Dr. von Koenigswald, the humanitarian with the terrible deficit of Auschwitz in his kindliness account, was the second to die of ice-nine.
He was talking about rigor mortis, a subject I had introduced.
“Rigor mortis does not set in in seconds,” he declared. “I turned my back to ‘Papa’ for just a moment. He was raving . . .”
“What about?” I asked.
“Pain, ice, Mona—everything. And then ‘Papa’ said, ‘Now I will destroy the whole world.’”
“What did he mean by that?”
“It’s what Bokononists always say when they are about to commit suicide.” Von Koenigswald went to a basin of water, meaning to wash his hands. “When I turned to look at him,” he told me, his hands poised over the water, “he was dead—as hard as a statue, just as you see him. I brushed my fingers over his lips. They looked so peculiar.”
He put his hands into the water. “What chemical could possibly . . .” The question trailed off.
Von Koenigswald raised his hands, and the water in the basin came with them. It was no longer water, but a hemisphere of ice-nine.
Von Koenigswald touched the tip of his tongue to the blue-white mystery.
Frost bloomed on his lips. He froze solid, tottered, and crashed.
The blue-white hemisphere shattered. Chunks skittered over the floor.
I went to the door and bawled for help.
Soldiers and servants came running.
I ordered them to bring Frank and Newt and Angela to “Papa’s” room at once.
At last I had seen ice-nine!