Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
I looked up at the sky where the bird had been. An enormous worm with a violet mouth was directly overhead. It buzzed like bees. It swayed. With obscene peristalsis, it ingested air.
We humans separated; fled my shattered battlements tumbled down staircases on the landward side.
Only H. Lowe Crosby and his Hazel cried out. “American! American!” they cried, as though tornadoes were interested in the granfalloons to which their victims belonged.
I could not see the Crosbys. They had descended by another staircase. Their cries and the sounds of others, panting and running, came gabbling to me through a corridor of the castle. My only companion was my heavenly Mona, who had followed noiselessly.
When I hesitated, she slipped past me and opened the door to the anteroom of “Papa’s” suite. The walls and roof of the anteroom were gone. But the stone floor remained. And in its center was the manhole cover of the oubliette. Under the wormy sky, in the flickering violet light from the mouths of tornadoes that wished to eat us, I lifted the cover.
The esophagus of the dungeon was fitted with iron rungs. I replaced the manhole cover from within. Down those iron rungs we went.
And at the foot of the ladder we found a state secret. “Papa” Monzano had caused a cozy bomb shelter to be constructed there. It had a ventilation shaft, with a fan driven by a stationary bicycle. A tank of water was recessed in one wall. The water was sweet and wet, as yet untainted by ice-nine. And there was a chemical toilet, and a short-wave radio, and a Sears, Roebuck catalogue; and there were cases of delicacies, and liquor, and candles; and there were bound copies of the National Geographic going back twenty years.
And there was a set of The Books of Bokonon.
And there were twin beds.
I lighted a candle. I opened a can of campbell’s chicken gumbo soup and I put it on a Sterno stove. And I poured two glasses of Virgin Islands rum.
Mona sat on one bed. I sat down on the other. “I am about to say something that must have been said by men to women several times before,” I informed her. “However, I don’t believe that these words have ever carried quite the freight they carry now.”
I spread my hands. “Here we are.”