A Pilish short story
Mike Keith, 1996
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary,
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap - the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber's antedoor.
"This", I whispered quietly, "I ignore".
Perfectly, the intellect remembers: the ghostly fires, a glittering ember.
Inflamed by lightning's outbursts, windows cast penumbras upon this floor.
Sorrowful, as one mistreated, unhappy thoughts I heeded:
That inimitable lesson in elegance - Lenore -
Is delighting, exciting...nevermore.
Ominously, curtains parted (my serenity outsmarted),
And fear overcame my being - the fear of "forevermore".
Fearful foreboding abided, selfish sentiment confided,
As I said, "Methinks mysterious traveler knocks afore.
A man is visiting, of age threescore."
Taking little time, briskly addressing something: "Sir," (robustly)
"Tell what source originates clamorous noise afore?
Disturbing sleep unkindly, is it you a-tapping, so slyly?
Why, devil incarnate!--" Here completely unveiled I my antedoor--
Just darkness, I ascertained - nothing more.
While surrounded by darkness then, I persevered to clearly comprehend.
I perceived the weirdest dream...of everlasting "nevermores".
Quite, quite, quick nocturnal doubts fled - such relief! - as my intellect said,
(Desiring, imagining still) that perchance the apparition was uttering a whispered "Lenore".
This only, as evermore.
Silently, I reinforced, remaining anxious, quite scared, afraid,
While intrusive tap did then come thrice - O, so stronger than sounded afore.
"Surely" (said silently) "it was the banging, clanging window lattice."
Glancing out, I quaked, upset by horrors hereinbefore,
Perceiving: a "nevermore".
Completely disturbed, I said, "Utter, please, what prevails ahead.
Repose, relief, cessation, or but more dreary 'nevermores'?"
The bird intruded thence - O, irritation ever since! -
Then sat on Pallas' pallid bust, watching me (I sat not, therefore),
And stated "nevermores".
Bemused by raven's dissonance, my soul exclaimed, "I seek intelligence;
Explain thy purpose, or soon cease intoning forlorn 'nevermores'!"
"Nevermores", winged corvus proclaimed - thusly was a raven named?
Actually maintain a surname, upon Pluvious seashore?
I heard an oppressive "nevermore".
My sentiments extremely pained, to perceive an utterance so plain,
Most interested, mystified, a meaning I hoped for.
"Surely," said the raven's watcher, "separate discourse is wiser.
Therefore, liberation I'll obtain, retreating heretofore -
Eliminating all the 'nevermores' ".
Still, the detestable raven just remained, unmoving, on sculptured bust.
Always saying "never" (by a red chamber's door).
A poor, tender heartache maven - a sorrowful bird - a raven!
O, I wished thoroughly, forthwith, that he'd fly heretofore.
Still sitting, he recited "nevermores".
The raven's dirge induced alarm - "nevermore" quite wearisome.
I meditated: "Might its utterances summarize of a calamity before?"
O, a sadness was manifest - a sorrowful cry of unrest;
"O," I thought sincerely, "it's a melancholy great - furthermore,
Removing doubt, this explains 'nevermores' ".
Seizing just that moment to sit - closely, carefully, advancing beside it,
Sinking down, intrigued, where velvet cushion lay afore.
A creature, midnight-black, watched there - it studied my soul, unawares.
Wherefore, explanations my insight entreated for.
Silently, I pondered the "nevermores".
"Disentangle, nefarious bird! Disengage - I am disturbed!"
Intently its eye burned, raising the cry within my core.
"That delectable Lenore - whose velvet pillow this was, heretofore,
Departed thence, unsettling my consciousness therefore.
She's returning - that maiden - aye, nevermore."
Since, to me, that thought was madness, I renounced continuing sadness.
Continuing on, I soundly, adamantly forswore:
"Wretch," (addressing blackbird only) "fly swiftly - emancipate me!"
"Respite, respite, detestable raven - and discharge me, I implore!"
A ghostly answer of: "nevermore".
" 'Tis a prophet? Wraith? Strange devil? Or the ultimate evil?"
"Answer, tempter-sent creature!", I inquired, like before.
"Forlorn, though firmly undaunted, with 'nevermores' quite indoctrinated,
Is everything depressing, generating great sorrow evermore?
I am subdued!", I then swore.
In answer, the raven turned - relentless distress it spurned.
"Comfort, surcease, quiet, silence!" - pleaded I for.
"Will my (abusive raven!) sorrows persist unabated?
Nevermore Lenore respondeth?", adamantly I encored.
The appeal was ignored.
"O, satanic inferno's denizen -- go!", I said boldly, standing then.
"Take henceforth loathsome "nevermores" - O, to an ugly Plutonian shore!
Let nary one expression, O bird, remain still here, replacing mirth.
Promptly leave and retreat!", I resolutely swore.
Blackbird's riposte: "nevermore".
So he sitteth, observing always, perching ominously on these doorways.
Squatting on the stony bust so untroubled, O therefore.
Suffering stark raven's conversings, so I am condemned, subserving,
To a nightmare cursed, containing miseries galore.
Thus henceforth, I'll rise (from a darkness, a grave) -- nevermore!
-- Allanpoe, E.
My customary bedtime reading book hastily shelved, I sat, bewildered, pondering Allanpoe's poetry.
"Something's wrong", I murmured. "Despite Ravenesque timbres, so mesmerizing (the echo
survives, for example), my intellect detects wrongful alteration. This imitation, simulated Raven!..."
I recognized large, arbitrary changes. "Odd", I thought. "Why?" To research, I headed downstairs, muttering softly, "Hmm".
I hastened below carefully, there revisiting my book room. Books inhabited each table, shelf, and nook. Taking Cambridge Literature Treasury and proceeding to "Poetry, Poe's", my fears - oh my God! - heightened. Sighting no Raven but The Dark Bird, severe distress arose. "Absolutely, The Raven is maimed!", I exclaimed. "How?!"
Immediately arriving upstairs, I posited a conspiracy: a literature alteration conspiracy. "Are," I did quietly question, "all writings changed?"
Slithy toves, borogove
Gimbled there all out in strathwabe
Mimified and gyrified,
A rath is outergrabe.
"Beware a scrunch, a scratch, stepson!
Beware Jubjub, withstand a word!
Respect the Jabberwock and dread
He, sword off hand, placement maintained
Thus to complete father's grand quest -
Then waited, vaunting showily
His progenitor's crest.
Therewith three swords he animized,
Before the creature, rumbling.
It was alive; its feelers straight
Burbled while whiffling!
The vorpall sword o' vulcanite
Smote - snicker! snacker! - artfully
A headless Wocky residue
Yielded strength mournfully.
"Youth did it - O, praised fearlessness!"
He issued melodies, forthright.
"Death's strike! O, day! Strallough! Stralleigh!" -
A-chortling in delight.
Borogove, strange slithy troves,
A brilligtime quickstep
Mimsy creatures, gimblified,
Frolicked on a steppe.
I exhausted Carroll's rewritten ode, Jabwocky, soliciting essential clues to fully explain my difficulty.
"A Heisenberg Twinge could have modified books' contents thusly, but (my dubious thinking declared) surely these mutations are willed. I could sit and research a quantity of poetry's excellent, famous passages, or try uncovering the structures."
I therefore chose to scrutinize the words, and deliberate. I pondered games of alphabets, verses, language, sentences, equations, words. Lifting feather and inking it, my quill carefully scribbled thus:
A few schemata involving linguistical play
Lipograms: Writing so a letter's missing
Haiku: An uncommon ode (poem) bearing eccentric metrification characteristics
A Cento: Quite strange poem; borrowed lines
Anagram: To turn an item (words) into a novel expression
Double-entendres: Words, dualistic sense
Palindrome: Forwards or backwards, words are not transformed ("Redraw, detooted warder!")
A pangram: An amazing sentence, using whole alphabet
Acrostic: Inspected vertically, letters spell additional statement
Mnemonic: Can remember a factoid using this device
Pun: Groaner ("Stop, pundit!")
Thus utilizing the plumelike pen, I hesitated.
"To cause these variations surely insinuates much diabolical, innovative ingenuity. My poetry's clearly overturned; I cannot, however, rationalize. The [repeating] diabolical, innovative ingenuity! Although most beguiled, actually I'm near exhaustion. I am defeated, quite defeated, and undone!", I yelled.
Truthfully, the eerie enigma was greatly intriguing. Reading afresh Raven's discourses, I considered many options - a palindrome, a mnemonic, a conundrum.
"Full of mysteries, these poems crave observant review," I announced. Thoughts involving rest stayed, however, slowly causing lethargy.
"Now," (quietly said) "this sojourner will seek serenity. To bring sleep, the Musical Anthology usually renders help." Turning to "Poetry, Anderson", thus emerged a remarkable poem suggesting Jon's musical group, Yes.
Many depths of accustomed
Workings controlled when dreams single electric life do touch
Assessing expression, future affection, ways yesterday
O, to yesterday
The day, a way, flying through someone
Controlled my reigning
Accepting evenings knowledge, a shout
To a revelation laid endings, talks by a flower
No yesterdays, heart faster alternate
Mutant leaves creativity
Of clay, understand doors reigning silhouette our skylines
Expression - a children's - and being
Discoursing in lands, not put movement
Of hate - all expression creativity
The queen, those
Thousand answers sights done, understood, to mean changed
Memory come between all my antics
Did splendour I tell, a confusion endlessly?
We quickly as turned understood
Seed on turned
Mountains flowering of my sunrise, forgotten valley
Oh, all hands when highest
Touching a future way there's thunderous oppression
Straining and work, a spirit's
To a winter
Will I be, I regaining, returning, to this woman?
Not I, apart yesterdays
You controlled my relayers, runner. I remember
My endlessly quickly soft mover
Night, night, deliver
Proportion spread running down forgotten coloured day rebounds
Arose ways satisfied from round
Thoughts consider touch preacher nailed daughters, as turned
Political regaining clear flower expressed
Understand rearrange, we dancing
We a foundation, morning, endlessly morning, while
Not understand, my awakening
Hurry shoot out to transformed mutant
Enemy son, when here dislocate
Recorded chasers to battleship
In charger white begun returning moment loneliness
Is not seemed
From relayer's silhouette charge
Liquid sweet girl disregard, conceived topographic endlessly
Strength mornings I consider the good; highest
Splendour reasons silence
Watch one space season glider, I'll awaken
Silhouette amongst them, to lights
Stand more to stare, as watched begotten
There's to begin solid, I remember
A madrigal; tell a marcher,
Touch wonder's hand, there's running my eclipses
To stories wonderous
Conundrums, conundrums, conundrums...nonsense! I needed some outdoor atmosphere. Taking Cambridge's Literature, I opened a door, waved my hand, commenced a promenade.
"I'm a Cadaeic!"
"I'm a Cadaeic! I'm a real Cadaeic!", shouted an old woman.
Astonished, I took a step back.
"A veritable Cadaeic, old woman? Really?" Cadaeics' myths were numerous. A clique, a new mystic association, whose members had...power. An eerie power. So, I was now most curious. Still, staying calm, I placidly said, "Elucidate more, please."
"Cadaeics have," she murmured, "power. Do you?..."
"Yes, so I've intimated. Regardless, . . . Cadaeic? You apprehend this?" I said.
"Yes, sir. The true power lies greatly, heavily, within me."
"What," I softly inquired, "manner of power? A strength? telepathy? learning?"
"The power" (thusly continued that wizardly woman) "makes change in paralleled, tunneling universes. As I cultivate it, it is a powerful good, an element of great peace. Deplorably, he - Surta - uses it quite evilly, altering original Cadaeic intent."
"Changes? A Cadaeic scoundrel generating wild mutations? This, though intriguing, I cannot quite see. This humble spirit requires validation - your narrative produces numerous doubts!"
"My apology, oh sir - I'm utterly desperate. A Cadaeic normally avoids 'incapables', enjoying other Cadaeic contacts only. Can, stranger, you befriend me? Cadaeic existence - indeed, people's existence - demands prompt action."
Startled, I then asked, "What? A pedestrian incapable's worthless skill?"
"You, stranger, treasure the crucial analytic skills. Our people undervalue numerical ideas, preferring arcane, mystical, Cadaeified philosophy. Please help! Oh my Surta! O my Surta! Oh, lamentable Surta! O!"
I replied, "Yes, outlander, I'm available, amenable - also, somewhat numerical. Please, completely disclose:
When I am expected,
What assorted mathlike topics to review carefully,
Where Surta's mysterious home is."
"Come, I recommend, before seven on tomorrow night (Michaelmas it is). Of a mathematic nature, review mensuration, infinite series, and trisection. Surta's shadowy home? Meet me. Cadaeic fortress awaits."
As my rendezvous was concluded, I meandered back, returning home.
"Quite impossible, what?", thought I. "An old Cadaeic, a bad Cadaeic...mythical powers subverted, indeed!" Regardless, curiosity still stayed. The woman's plea was serious, I concluded.
I desired an easement - perhaps more poetry. Opening Oxford's volume near "Poetry, Eliot", stanzas quite strange yet notorious filled my eyes. I saw Prufrock Lovesongs remarkably modified, thusly:
Let us depart then,
While eventide's withering skies threaten,
Impersonating the sufferers etherising upon pallets;
Together henceforth go, through these partially-unoccupied boulevards,
Muttering arguments like shards
About furtive nights amid threadbare hostels,
Discreet dialogues among oystershells,
Street complexes like dreary argument.
Its insidious regiment
Now leads to heavy questions . . .
Never inquire distinctly, 'wherefore?'
Directly go visit, herefore.
To an affair th' matriarchs sadly go
To talk touching MicAngelo.
Mist, cellophane breaths, rubbing on window latches,
A creamlike mist, rubbing, muzzling on window lattices
Soon lingered on watery apartments a curt instant,
Licked eventide's perimeter, tonguelike
(Partially discolored by fallen soot),
Vacillated a bit, making one extremely fast leap,
And, deeming that March night too remarkably quiet,
Stealthily curled womblike in quiescence, and fell perfectly asleep.
So, truly so, will exist a sundown
When amberlike fog permeates Cambridge Street
Above a door and a pane of doorglass;
Peaceful nighttimes darkening a boulevard,
Nighttimes whence faces verbalize to faces;
Nighttimes expedient for murders, or to intercommunicate;
Nighttime labors that create a query,
A query exalted, henceforth summarily despised.
Times touching you, touching anybody whom I appreciate.
Times involving several thousand hiatuses,
Forty illusions, forty revisions,
Finally settled by elegantly sipping green teas.
Matriarch speakers persevere [the discourses I forego],
A-talking about old MicAngelo.
So, cursedly, will remain eternity.
I can meditate: 'To aspire? Evermore aspire?'
Mornings for mounting stairs,
Brushing uncovered spot in nervous, swarthy hair -
[I think she'll certainly recognize a thinness!]
Stiff shirt, adamantly in place on chin,
Newly-purchased black tie, decorated using glamorous gold pin
[I conjecture he'll pronounce forthwith: 'Heavens! So frail! So thin!]
Should discreet adventures
Confound this earth?
Certainly eternity remains
To preside and deride, then turn around, reversing prior opinions.
Life advances, barely known -
The mornings, the bright middays, the nights of it.
My career is marked, poignantly, utilizing teaspoons;
I do know voices collapsing, sleepily collapsing, dying.
I do know the melodies emerging from the anterooms.
Henceforth, what ought I do?
Full well I did notice those eyes, everyone's glaring stares -
So glaring, implying formulated phrases.
Afterward [quietly subdued] I, stick-pinned, embellish a wall;
Sit stuck, wriggling, alongside baroque designs.
Altogether hopelessly extinguished, wherefore should I assume?
Mournfully spitting lifetime's butt-ends [a dreary existence],
What thoughts should thinkers think?
Truly known: discreet arms, jewelled arms,
Appendages slight and white and bare
[By th' lamplights, covered up by an hairy gossamer]
Is hyacinth what provokes memories,
Causes such reveries?
I loved graceful arms, lying across davenports or wrapping about nightgowns
Should, henceforth, I assume?
Moreover, what to presume?
. . . . .
The noiseless dusk falls on my narrow streets
When lonely fellows settle, smoking pipettes,
Sacredly communing, shirt to shirt . . .
Oh, I can envision being as an empty claw
Scuttling violently about seas' silent floors.
. . . . .
Thence unfolds an ominous property of the nighttime
Smoothed, having long hands,
Asleep . . . tired . . . lingering,
Easing comfortably beside you, while very serenely reposing beside me.
How, henceforth, after teapots, candies, ices,
Might lonely man's forgotten strength reenergize, and arise?
Every afternoon I've fasted and wept - cried, fasted.
Ofttimes I dreamed, then saw my head surrendered to Herod;
I never approached prophet status, lamentably.
Though greatness came, quickly greatness went.
Often I recognized eternity's hooded being, patiently biding, snickering.
Aftermath: fear perseveres.
So would it be valuable, valuable overall
Following saucers o' marmalades
Admixing porcelain and a talk among window shades?
Therefore, I can wonder, valuable indeed?
Alarmed by an evermore-present need
Pressing universes into mysterious balls
Slowly unraveling a disturbing, ultrameaningful difficulty.
I'll say: 'Hallelujah! Lazarus's return! I breathe, reanimate,
To entirely answer mankind's conundrums'
Afterward, if matriarchs, settling quietly upon pillows,
Should derisively pronounce: 'I despise meanings
My soul renounces all meanings.'
Would anything transpire worthwhile, everything appraised?
Mightn't a time symbolize 'worthwhile',
Following dreary sunsets, plain dooryards, shopping carts on street
O' the novels, after-lunch teas, lingering dresses -
Evermore a measured existence? -
It's a so-difficult mission, enduring this struggle!
If a candle revealed my innermost yearnings
Exposing skeletons upon vertical screens
If an oldish woman, settling cushions,
Discarding day's tattered, light-colored shawl, should aver:
'Worthwhile? I know no moments worthwhile,
Just shadowy, dreaded voids after while.'
. . . . .
I, too, am not William Shakspar's Hamlet - this I know, above a doubt.
Am one related lord, posing on the side
For acting very small acts or starting small episodes,
Most easy tool, Prince's attentive slave,
Am always ready, obedient, useful,
Politic, cautious, of a meticulous frame;
Extravagant also, a bit dense;
Many moments I've fitly enacted the classical Fools.
I'm old . . . exceedingly old . . .
Soon my trouser I desire rolled.
A procession of contemplation - which marmalade flavor: raspberry? peach?
I'll arouse up, and I will walk on Dartmouth Beach
To hear mermaids sing sublimely, and beseech.
I continue ignored, sorrowfully uninspired.
I have spied mermaid scales going fast underneath the waves,
Endlessly traversing an aquatic continent;
Wandering the high seas, capricious and content.
Thus we deliberate, oceanbound,
Looking for a harborside
Until mankind subsides.
Michaelmas. Waking up, I carefully pondered the baffling dilemma.
"Fact: vast changes unsettle alphabetic writings. Also, printed writings seem modified purposely (though possibly it's not so). A fact: this woman (Cadaeic?) I saw recently, before eventide, bravely spoke a fantastic tale. She spoke concerning change also, and insinuated I'm a relation amid these two!"
I swallowed a breakfasty meal heartily, then gingerly I approached downstairs' study for further linguistic review. I read poetry, employed statistics, parsed phrases. Near luncthime I modulated - as advised hitherto, I practiced mensuration, performed decimal expansion, and trisected triangles.
After my analytical labors, I read A Victorian Poetry Reader, The Book of Pastoral English Poets, Odes from Omar, Coleridge's Heroic Poem, and Pindar's Odes. "Still, I am not winning", I lamented.
I ruminated: "Is a chapter division's numbering important? Ignoring all elsewhere, I considered antepenultimate divisions. I succeeded there! Eureka! I codified a nice, simple formula which (I said to myself) "perfectly demonstrates the division's pattern. Some somewhat different rule appertains elsewhere, apparently."
Quickly I wondered: "Always this functions thus?" To see, I inspected longer antepenultimate pieces. Perfect agreement once again! No antecedent chapters functioned similarly, sadly.
I read poetry again, while hearkening to my clock - it was, I marked, dinnertime. Six literary booklets I collected (and, conjointly, a coat). On proceeding outwardly, the Cadaeic waited by a car.
"Quickly, neighbor, enter. Surta conspires - great danger awaits," she declared.
Instantly her vehicle (holding unlikely mankind-protecting partners!) did accelerate and commenced travelling toward...somewhere. Driving purposely, my companion's overall conduct was very somber. "Serious, is it?" I wondered.
To speak seemed an inapt stratagem, therefore nobody talked. "I think" (internally I said) "of a poem's subtleties I'll reconsider." Thence appeared, transmuted, one quatrain that that eminent Persian - the tent-maker Omar - fashioned (as translated by Edward FitzGerald), hence:
O Ruby Yachts
Poetic Muses alongside th' Bough
An oversupply o' Wine, possessed somehow
Thou with me treading Eden's Wilderness
Through all it seems a Paradise enough!
Translator: FitzGerald, Ed A.
3rd ed., 1872]
Completing poetical perusals, I restudied algorithms. "Perhaps," I speculated, "some counting scheme?" The car, I noticed, had just paused near downtown's Market Court. I then noted the miniature passageway which resided presently before us.
"Thence, neighbor, Surta awaits."
A mysterious passageway stood there, entreating. Entering, I discovered Surta's friend there.
"Promptly, proceed. Veritably, Surta's inventing monstrous calamity."
I walked the stone cobbles that covered the street and surveyed some ornamented doors. My guide uttered a word (magic?). Instantly I confronted an interior apartment - perhaps malevolent Surta's room?
I then discovered innumerable mystifying artifacts therein:
A "Mr. Sardonicus" poster (Wm. Castler's remarkable film)
Six heptagons containing six inscribed circles, drawn carefully below a weird finite-product formula
A large drawing showing horizontal striations with an underlined "sin (x¹²)"
Several computer prints involving triangles and angles
Accurately-reproduced picture of the Woolsthorp Manor House (Grantham, England)
Pieces for a strange "Snakes and Adder" children's game.
So I observed hastily. "Yes, I am close," I said. "Perhaps I am incredibly close now to resolving my dilemmas." I perceived a bookcase in shadow. I repeated, "Surely, I am close!". Infamous Surta's shelves (all in a grand display) contained:
A Cambridge Treasury
Poe's A Poem
Herbert's Dune, Wyndham's Triffids
Ad Infinitum & Beyond, Buzz Lite
Aliceland, Lewis Carroll
Poems of England, Wordsworth
Oulipo Anthology, Perec
Several of my undeniable favorites I spotted among Surta's shelves. Undoubtedly worthy choices!
In my wandering I discovered Shakspar's Comedies & Dramas. "Hamletian inspection beckoneth!", I joked. In restless expectancy, I located the final paragraphs.
William Shakespeare's tragedy King Claudius
[Fifth (terminal) Act]
. . . . So it is - deceased tanners a-populate the earth in multitudes. Wherefore? The skins are callously tanned! Here's, gravely, th' skull - O! - of a celebrated confrere.
HAM. Whose? Prithee, interpret.
A CLOWN. A mad fellow, foolhardy whoreson. Methinks he oftentimes frolicked i' your path.
HAML. Ay, I frequently experience jovial company.
CLOWN. A pestilence 'pon his head, stupid boaster! Doubtlessly oftentimes did 'e brag: 'I am Yorick, emperor o' merrymakers!'
HAM. Behold, [Thrusting skullbone heavenward.]
wretched Yorick! Truly, Horaitio, truly I adored him - excellent banterer and a great wellspring o' happiness. Thereon flourished a visage merry, a mouth pleasurably kissed, Horaitio. Where, I beseech, O head, are Yorick's verses, gibes, gambols? Sounds o' laughter tha' caus'd a table great gaiety? Quite chapfallen? Perceive, Horaitio, this deathmask expression: merriment, merriment, evermore merriment!
Horaitio, three troubling questions confound me.
HOR. Disclose, prithee.
HAM. Thus look'd Cesar, as entombed?
HOR. Yes, I reckon.
HAM. Would great Alexander's remains offend this nostril similarly? O! [Releases skull.]
HOR. Quite severely, assuredly.
HAM. So, is Caesar a dirtlike clump that remedies winecasks' splits?
HOR. No, I say, no! Blasphemy, sir!
HAM. Understand, Horaitio - visualize mankind's grave process. Originally, Caesar dies. In subsequent time, Caesar resides under th' earth. Thereupon, celebrated Caesar's decomposed. Forthwith, 'e makes loam. Consider - a loam, a plaste! Might this overlord's granules patch Horaitio's beer-barrel?
A Caesar now becomes a sediment
Henceforth to toughen graveyard's fundament;
Although a sovereign overrules with ire,
Henceforth, heartless, resembles th' ashy mire!
Carefully replacing Shakspar's Dramas in its shelf, I immediately heard a distant tapping. Anticipating Surta's arrival, instead I saw my Cadaeic guide.
"Directly Surta will arrive," she whispered. "Already I have ascertained several things. Every literary change that's happened is, indeed, caused by Surta's latest spell. I (actually, we, since I am quite unanalytical) must determine what change he's effected exactly, and what (if anything) will reverse it. But silence! - Surta arrives."
Fleeing quickly, my guide disappeared within an adjacent chamber. Evidently she maintained faith in my abilities - a faith that I didn't necessarily share. Casting my gaze near Surta's artifacts, I reassessed the clues present there. Each literary piece that I had studied flashed in my mind. Heuristic and mathematical schemes flickered in my brain.
I was interrupted by a stranger's entrance.
"Greetings, stranger. I knew that she was disreputable, but I never imagined she'd enlist an incapable..." Clutching a paper sheaf, the middle-aged man snarled the final epithet. Being sure he was Surta, I (surprising myself) gave a defiant reply.
"Capable, I'd say," I replied with sarcasm. "Huge literary changes were the first clue that the universe was amiss. Desecrated literature isn't a small matter - thus, I'll rectify the injustice," I declared.
"Fie!" yelled Surta, suddenly. "But a single flaw in my skills has permitted this discernment. Fully the entire universe (a single being excepted, apparently) can't even perceive the literary changes."
Determining that I was near the right track, I pressed ahead.
"Certainly, indeed, several rules determine each printed text's structure. Chapters besides the antepenultimate use a certain rule, and the antepenultimate uses a different rule." Haughtily I said this, as if sure, even as uncertainty nagged at my brain.
Clearly my statement had an effect, as Surta was visibly surprised.
"B'Gah's skull!" he hissed. "Getting a bit near the truth there, but still... I can't be hindered by a mere lucky guesser. Even with luck, my secret will remain hidden!"
Jauntily, he remarked, "The literary effect can be reversed - in quite an elegant way, I must say - albeit certainly this will never happen. But simply write a text using precisely the same rules as mine and all will be mended. Hilarity ensues at the mere idea - what a time-waster! Ha, ha, ha!", he cackled.
"Decidedly predictable, isn't he?", I said internally. "A big speech just like the classic villain's I'm-invincible-thus-I-might-as-well-tell-the-secret spiel!" I had, it seemed, learned all I needed, except the exact rules determining a text's structure. Given that I had already divined the antepenultimate-chapter rule, I was certain that, given time, I'd determine the remaining rules.
At that instant, my Cadaeic friend returned. Flashing me a significant glance, she entered in earnest debate with Surta. I sensed her cue and hurried exitward, stealthily grabbing the Shakspar's Dramas as I left.
Cursedly, I remembered that we had entered rather magically. I didn't have any idea where the exit was! I thus walked the hallways until I saw an uninhabited chamber. Camping there, I again began intense study, this time primarily in each text's early chapters.
Giving A Midsummer Night's Dream, the first play in the Shakspar reader, intense scrutiny, I suddenly saw it! "Electrifying!", I exclaimed, as further study verified, at least tentatively, my belief.
A rumbling in the nearby wall suddenly caught my ear. Jackhammers! "Egress must be nearby," I said quietly. Hunting left and right at eye level I quickly spied a crack. Behind it I saw the passageway we had walked a few minutes earlier. Jumping back, I ran firmly at the wall.
Gingerly picking myself up after my inelegant exit, I hurried back in expectancy, desiring the mathematical treatises residing in my study. During the next several days (as Surta's writing rules were quite difficult, the task advanced quite gradually) I crafted a slim treatise - this very tale - that fulfilled the necessary requirements. I finished it five days after Michaelmas at three A.M.
Descending my stairs, I apprehensively checked my Cambridge Treasury. Despite my best attempts, mutated texts still met my eyes!
Evidently, I was still missing a key clue. I was sure that my main rule (describing all chapters but the antepenultimate) was right - it was very bizarre, thus it must be right, I argued. But a new idea appeared: as the antepenultimate rule I had crafted was relatively simple, perhaps there was an extra rule that applied as well?
Carl Sandburg's Grass inhabited the antepenultimate chapter in the Cambridge Treasury. Just its few lines did I see, and study, thus:
Caskets piled beneath Austerlitzes, Dresdens
As, silently uplifting, blanketing, grass
Disguises it all, it all.
And as fierce Gettysburg witnesses,
Evident at Champagne, Falklands, Jutland,
I am grassiness, settling ever thus.
But ten years passeth, and my guests plead:
Fury, military struggles, did mutilate us?
Ere yesterday, hatefulness prevailed?
Cut my grass.
Evergreen grasses mend.
Though concise, the aforecited lines revealed new formal properties. Thus I came to discover a new symbolic paradigm. "It's perfection now!", my conviction did maintain.
My book requested alteration - not, luckily, broad revision. Following numerous fixes, my opus was perfect! "Good show!" I exulted cheerfully. My intellect philosophized: "Is textual change fully mended?" I examined Cambridge's Anthology.
"Yes! Reality returns!"
. . . . .
Was this saga real? Apocryphal? Not believable? Perhaps. Regardless, Cadaeic foes remain, perchance to reciprocate or obliterate.
I end, whispering ad infinitums.
© 1996 by Mike Keith. All Rights Reserved.