Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

106. What Bokononists Say When They Commit Suicide

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!

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