Psychographia. Part I. Chapter I.

24 Jan

The psychic transcriber Bran Carq had cause for serious worry.

He fully understood that the future of his telepathic career hung in the balance with this unexpected summons to the office of the Psychic Minister.

Tall and rangy, with fine yellow hair and milky eyes, Bran garbed himself in the best that he owned. His blue serge dress coatee was short and close-fitting, with triangular leg-of-mutton sleeves. The broad cravat around his neck was of a satiny foulard, carrying a golden letter H on a field of red, the symbol of motherland Horae. Heavy tropacoline orange brogues completed his impressive formal ensemble.

Bran walked on foot from his flat in the central governmental sector of the capital city of Gath to the Ministerium where he had been ordered to appear in the executive office of His Honor Lei Trenx, a mysterious invisible presence Bran had never before met or seen. As a member of the ruling cabinet of Horae, the Psychic Minister’s time was spent mostly in committee meetings. His department seemed to run itself by inertia till some problem arose. Then, Trenx would appear at the Ministerium building to deal with the matter in question.

Bran hurried down Principium Boulevard, not taking the horse-drawn omnibus in the middle of the cobblestone roadway. Monumental structures of shining quartz stood guard on opposite sides, housing the offices of state bureaucracies. The wide boulevard was crowded with vehicles: cabriolets, carioles, barouches, drags, stanhopes, curricles, fiacres, growlers, and shandrydans, all of them pulled by horsepower. Among all of these dodged bicycles, tricycles, unicycles, quadricycles, velocipedes, and long tandem cycles. Thick hordes of pesky syrphian flies swarmed on all sides.

The summoned psychographer hurried along the broad sidewalk through the thick throng of pedestrians. Many families were out for a stroll, enjoying the warming vernal weather. But Bran was on his way to an appointment that could decided his professional future.

He tried to distract his mind by glancing at the people walking along the sidewalk opposite in direction to himself.

Expensive surcoats and paletots were signs of either wealth or official position. Peacoats, reefers, fearnaughts, and blanket coats reflected inferior life station for some.

Bran looked at headgear, noting cylindrical silk hats and felt homburgs with turned-up sides and lengthwise indentation. Younger men wore broad-brimmed wide-awakes and soft slouch hats. Only a few of the elderly had on old-fashioned shovel hats.

The observant telepath was surprised by how many walkers in this part of Gath had on gaiters and spatterdash leggings. One individual in a chesterfield topcoat wore antique highhuggers, long obsolete. Women wore picture and pillbox hats, as well as poke bonnets and bell-shaped cloches.

Bran himself believed his new woolen greatcoat and black silk topper to be quite stylish and impressive for this day of importance to his future career.

Before he realized the fact, he had come to the building that housed the office of the Psychic Minister. Once inside, he found a secretary who led him into a spacious empty office. It contained a xyloid desk and a small visitor’s chair where Bran was told he was to sit. Alone for several minutes, the one called on the carpet had time to think over what he thought was the cause of his present trouble. Zeal for his telepathic craft and curiosity about questions raised in his work had brought about the investigation, he was certain. There was no one to blame but himself, Bran was compelled to conclude. He was one unable to suppress a hunger to learn and know more. It was his ruling passion in life and the probable cause of his present problem.

At last, the Minister entered the vast room from a side door. Wearing a black cutaway coat and striped trousers, a black bow tie and yellow spats over his boots, the short and small official bustled to the desk and took the large chair there. His bald head had a glitter matching his adamantean eyes. He spoke in a resonant baritone voice meant to put others at ease.

“I called you here because of the disturbing reports we have received about you. Up to now, you have been one of our outstanding telepathic outworkers. What has happened? What is the cause of the problem?” He stared in silence at the employee in front of him.

Bran drew a long, deep breath, then proceeded. “There has been no intention on my part to be disruptive or undisciplined. My task is to record with my stylographic pen the thoughts of writers from bygone days, in a form that will permit publication of works that were never printed or preserved in any way. Many poems, stories, and narratives that were buried in oblivion have already been rescued by psychographers like myself. It is a hard operation because of the difficulties and dangers involved. I liken my work to eavesdropping on the private, creative thoughts of geniuses of the past. They never consciously transmitted such valuable thinking forward into the future. In a strange way, my operations entail the stealing of their secret, personal thoughts and emotions. The hope is that these efforts will result in the publication of never before seen masterpieces of writing. That has been my principle aim, sir.”

The Minister interrupted him. “Yes, I know all that. But tell me what happened in the particular case that has been brought to my attention.”

“All of this fuss stems from my monitoring of the mind of a writer of popular novellae named Erd Valino. At first, he served as one of my best originators of unpublished fiction. I succeeded in retrieving unknown, unformulated short stories and contes that I sent to my superiors in the Ministry. This proved to be a productive enterprise for me. But I stumbled upon a particular methodological problem when I started to receive new novelettes from Valino.”

“What was the troubling matter that hindered you? Tell me that,” impatiently demanded the official.

Bran gazed fixedly at the little man behind the desk.

“I discovered glaring anachronisms in the emissions from his mind. There was no logical way to explain or justify them. My entire telepathic operation was brought into question. The facts forced me to conclude that the author was not an inhabitant of past time, but a mind here in the present.”

“Please explain,” commanded Trenx, frowning in anger.

“I’ll give an example. The main character of one romantic adventure is a sportsman who wears spatterdashes over his boots and stockings. Think about that. Valino died over seventy years ago. Why would he put gaiters on his hero, when such shoe spats did not gain popularity until about thirty-five years before today? No one of his own time ever wore these things. No, spatterdashes are out of place, out of their time. They are in total contradiction to the rest of the fictional world. There can be only one reasonable explanation: transmission from our own day, not out of the past.”

“That is all you have, a single anachronistic detail in a story?” countered Trenx.

“He uses the slang expression “growler” for a four-wheeled cab. How did Valino come to know a word of our generation, or our time? The man could not possess prevision of what was not yet on the horizon. No, the transmission has to be a present-day creation, that only seemed to be out of the world that has disappeared. No alternative explanation holds water.”

“I believe you exaggerate,” gruffly grunted the Minister.

“In terms of bicycles, he deals with long, serial tandems. But I can only trace them back part of the distance in time to him. These thoughts of his must be coming from someone else, a person who is alive today. That appears most probable to me.”

Silence fell over the office a brief period of time. Finally, the Psychic Minister pronounced a judgment with official authority behind it.

“You cannot continue to charge an important source of our fiction with falsifying its temporal identity. Four publications have already resulted out of your reception from this dead author, Erd Valino. If you hold to your idea, those books of literature will fall under a cloud. No, you must correct the vile accusation festering in your mistaken mind. I am going to place you under suspension from work for six months. My hope is that you seek psychological assistance and counseling. Only when the period ends may you petition me for reappointment to the status of outworker-psychographer. I advise you to review these unfounded doubts and criticisms so that you can then return to the high quality of reception you gave us before all this happened.”

The Minister, having no more to say, rose and rushed out of the enormous room.

Bran slowly exited and made his way home in a mental stupor. What was he to do now? What possibilities remained for him?

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