Paderewski knew what was coming. He knew what was going to happen as surely as if he had seen it happen already, as if he had already seen that it would happen.
He could see, on the non-stop television screen in his mind, the events of the next few hours with an almost unreal clarity. As if he existed not at one time but at several, each second of the future its own separate now, each superimposed upon every other, so that all time was one; and he was in Tomorrow just as definitely as he was still living in Tonight.
The fine lines around his eyes deepened fractionally as he saw the postman coming--his mailbag bulging--eager to pour all the heartache and sorrow it held into the lives of those whom it crossed. Paderewski's jaw tightened as he saw the postman stop, dip his hand into the mire of the bag, pull out an envelope and slide it into the mailbox; its smooth cream surface rustling across the rusted metal. And then suddenly he wasn't only watching any more. He was there, and the postman had gone, had been gone for a long time.
In the cold. Still only wearing his tattered robes, as the chill wind blew tauntingly around his bare legs. Paderewski knew what would come next. The inevitable letter from his son, cursing him for a coward for his failure to join the Movement. Life was all about power, and there was only one way to ensure it. The Party was, in his son's eyes, all that one could aspire to belong to in this world, and a disrespect for the ideals it embodied was akin to blasphemy.
He opened the envelope with shaking fingers. A single sheet of paper fluttered from his nerveless digits to the earth. Raising it to the first feeble rays of the sun he brushed the ashes of the dreams of the thousands who had been there before; the thousands whose lives had been stolen from them by the very land that they sought so hard to be accepted as a part of; the thousands of whom only ashes and vague memories remained; the thousands who had never existed since the Party had made sure they did not do so now; and read:
"Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Saukerl."