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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(11)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(11)
Author: Dan Brown

Langdon picked up another press clipping, a newspaper article with a photo of Sienna at age seven: CHILD GENIUS DISPLAYS 208 IQ.

Langdon had been unaware that IQs even went that high. According to the article, Sienna Brooks was a virtuoso violinist, could master a new language in a month, and was teaching herself anatomy and physiology.

He looked at another clipping from a medical journal: THE FUTURE OF THOUGHT: NOT ALL MINDS ARE CREATED EQUAL.

This article had a photo of Sienna, now maybe ten years old, still a towhead, standing beside a large piece of medical apparatus. The article contained an interview with a doctor, who explained that PET scans of Sienna’s cerebellum revealed that it was physically different from other cerebella, in her case a larger, more streamlined organ capable of manipulating visual-spatial content in ways that most human beings could not begin to fathom. The doctor equated Sienna’s physiological advantage to an unusually accelerated cellular growth in her brain, much like a cancer, except that it accelerated growth of beneficial brain tissue rather than dangerous cancer cells.

Langdon found a clipping from a small-town newspaper.

THE CURSE OF BRILLIANCE.

There was no photo this time, but the story told of a young genius, Sienna Brooks, who had tried to attend regular schools but was teased by other students because she didn’t fit in. It talked about the isolation felt by gifted young people whose social skills could not keep up with their intellects and who were often ostracized.

Sienna, according to this article, had run away from home at the age of eight, and had been smart enough to live on her own undiscovered for ten days. She had been found in an upscale London hotel, where she had pretended to be the daughter of a guest, stolen a key, and was ordering room service on someone else’s account. Apparently she had spent the week reading all 1,600 pages of Gray’s Anatomy. When authorities asked why she was reading medical texts, she told them she wanted to figure out what was wrong with her brain.

Langdon’s heart went out to the little girl. He couldn’t imagine how lonely it must be for a child to be so profoundly different. He refolded the articles, pausing for one last look at the photo of the five-year-old Sienna in the role of Puck. Langdon had to admit, considering the surreal quality of his encounter with Sienna this morning, that her role as the mischievous, dream-inducing sprite seemed strangely apt. Langdon only wished that he, like the characters in the play, could now simply wake up and pretend that his most recent experiences were all a dream.

Langdon carefully replaced all the clippings on the proper page and closed the playbill, feeling an unexpected melancholy as he again saw the note on the cover: Sweetheart, never forget you’re a miracle.

His eyes moved down to the familiar symbol adorning the cover of the playbill. It was the same early Greek pictogram that adorned most playbills around the world—a 2,500-year-old symbol that had become synonymous with dramatic theater.

Le maschere.

Langdon looked at the iconic faces of Comedy and Tragedy gazing up at him, and suddenly he heard a strange humming in his ears—as if a wire were slowly being pulled taut inside his mind. A stab of pain erupted inside his skull. Visions of a mask floated before his eyes. Langdon gasped and raised his hands, sitting down in the desk chair and closing his eyes tightly, clutching at his scalp.

In his darkness, the bizarre visions returned with a fury … stark and vivid.

The silver-haired woman with the amulet was calling to him again from across a bloodred river. Her shouts of desperation pierced the putrid air, clearly audible over the sounds of the tortured and dying, who thrashed in agony as far as the eye could see. Langdon again saw the upside-down legs adorned with the letter R, the half-buried body pedaling its legs in wild desperation in the air.

Seek and find! the woman called to Langdon. Time is running out!

Langdon again felt the overwhelming need to help her … to help everyone. Frantic, he shouted back to her across the bloodred river. Who are you?!

Once again, the woman reached up and lifted her veil to reveal the same striking visage that Langdon had seen earlier.

I am life, she said.

Without warning, a colossal image materialized in the sky above her—a fearsome mask with a long, beaklike nose and two fiery green eyes, which stared blankly out at Langdon.

And … I am death, the voice boomed.

CHAPTER 8

Langdon’s eyes shot open, and he drew a startled breath. He was still seated at Sienna’s desk, head in his hands, heart pounding wildly.

What the hell is happening to me?

The images of the silver-haired woman and the beaked mask lingered in his mind. I am life. I am death. He tried to shake the vision, but it felt seared permanently into his mind. On the desk before him, the playbill’s two masks stared up at him.

Your memories will be muddled and uncataloged, Sienna had told him. Past, present, and imagination all mixed together.

Langdon felt dizzy.

Somewhere in the apartment, a phone was ringing. It was a piercing, old-fashioned ring, coming from the kitchen.

“Sienna?!” Langdon called out, standing up.

No response. She had not yet returned. After only two rings, an answering machine picked up.

“Ciao, sono io,” Sienna’s voice happily declared on her outgoing message. “Lasciatemi un messaggio e vi richiamerò.”

There was a beep, and a panicked woman began leaving a message in a thick Eastern European accent. Her voice echoed down the hall.

“Sienna, eez Danikova! Where you?! Eez terrible! Your friend Dr. Marconi, he dead! Hospital going craaazy! Police come here! People telling them you running out trying to save patient?! Why!? You don’t know him! Now police want to talk to you! They take employee file! I know information wrong—bad address, no numbers, fake working visa—so they no find you today, but soon they find! I try to warn you. So sorry, Sienna.”

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