the image

The image remains refracted until the female is disrobed, so an elaborate ritual has been established culminating in the removal of the eldest female’s clothes and the final focusing of the image. Children in the darker tunnels wait for news to arrive by messenger, and on the day that the disrobing ritual begins they leave their burrows for the family hearth, as set forth in the Book of Smells. Children older than 13 will not return to the burrows at the culmination of the ceremony, but will begin labor in one of the colonies.

For the very young ones the image is a blank space in their minds, and this may be, ultimately and paradoxically, its most appropriate form. After the ceremonies this space will be forever occupied by a memory.

The colony dwellers count down the days until the image, removing coal from the walls and blackening all reflective surfaces. During the final period, all water stores are covered in dark cloth, to prevent any distraction from shimmer.