Chapter VIII.

27 Jan

Bran Carq and his apprentice psychographer, Endo Valino, built up an extremely subtle relationship. Sensitivity was called for on both sides. The teacher set his pupil carrying out exercises at locations all about Gath. Telepathic messages were transmitted and received by Endo at places in the Steameries, the Rookeries, the Charque, the Shank, the Zigan, the Habitan, and elsewhere. New conditions and situations continually popped up for the young psychic.

Bran gave him a strong theoretical perspective upon human telepathy. “On the cortex of the brain,” he explained at home one evening, “we can find outer ridges and convolutions called the gyri. These snakelike formations are of major importance for psychic transmission and reception. But even more important for telepathy are the sulci that form grooves and channels on the cerebral cortex itself. The more such furrows there are on a brain, the greater the chance of sensitivity to psychic stimuli.

“Gyri and sulci are the key areas that cradle these capacities. They serve as the home nest of these special powers to send and receive messages.

“But in my own thinking, I give central emphasis to the pons, the connecting band of nerve fibers in the brain. This is the core that ties together the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the medulla oblongata. I call it the axle of the mind. It acts as the main pivot, connecting the conscious and the unconscious thoughts of a person. It is a bridge over time for each one of us. I cannot overstress its importance in psychic activity.”

“That is most interesting,” said Endo with excitement. “The pons, then, is a site for the sending and reception of thoughts with other minds.”

Bran Carq, in a highly speculative mood, went on. “Some scholars hold that the brain can give off and externalize emanations of pure ectoplasm. Out of the protoplasm of the pons nerves an effluvium flows out. No one can say how far this can go. An aura then envelopes the brain. There are experts who term this efflux from the brain with the name of teleplasm.”

“Whatever we call it and however it happens, these impulses can travel through time, can’t they?” asked Endo with passion, his eyes aglow with inner energy.

“Indeed,” smiled Bran. “Yes, indeed,” he repeated with emotion rarely displayed by him.

Each day, the apprentice continued with the progress that brought joy to both of them. His inborn talents found continually new expression. His marvelous potential grew more visible to both of them.

Young Endo lost all fear of the heights his mind was capable of scaling.

Although he was now Chief Editor of Sucre Publications, Tado Foleg spent most of his day at his flat, in breakneck writing and typing at the dactylograph machine.

He came and departed from the company’s editorial office without a regular schedule that anyone could map out in terms of time flow.

More of his day was spent discussing future books with Paena than with her father, always deeply concerned with the finances of their publishing business. But Brage Sucre clearly perceived that book sales were booming and soaring upward since the new man had joined the firm. They had never before done so well in the competitive market of popular fiction.

The new writer-editor appeared to have a magical sensitivity to trends in taste. He had an endless supply of innovative ideas that promised to remake the Sucre label. Every manuscript he carried in with him became a star paperback seller for the company.

“Tado nurses no personal, egotistic vanity,” the father said to his daughter one morning as the two shared a small breakfast at their large private residence in the affluent Orlop Sector of Gath. “I like that, because it means that he never forgets that we publish in order to sell books to customers. He does not object when I invent fictional names to put on his manuscripts. Whatever will best sell the work, that determines what the imaginary author is labelled. Look at what he has done: in each genre of popular literature, we now have different star authors. Each one of them is loved by a different group of readers in a different category. Yet Tado is the one who produces and creates all of these hits. Isn’t the man clever? We need not hire an entire stable of writers and keep them happy. He is our creative machine that always gives us what we need to beat the book market.”

Paena looked up and smiled at her parent.

“I call his system ingenious, father,” she confessed. “It is a mystery to me how he succeeds in accomplishing so much creating and editing in so short a time. I often suspect him of…” She suddenly stopped talking.

“Yes?” he asked her with his senses aroused. What was she hinting at?

Her zaffir eyes darkened, as if she had gone too far and wished to take back her last half-statement that was left uncompleted.

“I should not say anything that is unprovable,” she softly backtracked, casting her sight down onto the palm wood tabletop.

“Are you thinking that there has been some measure of plagiarism involved in all this?” he bluntly asked his daughter.

She seemed to experience a jolt. “No, not that. I don’t think that Tado is robbing anyone else of themes or ideas. I must not speak without firsthand knowledge, father.” Her voice seemed to drift off into nothing.

For a short while, neither of them said a word.

It is up to me to find out what the truth about our new Chief Editor is, Paena realized as the pair rose and headed for the offices of Sucre Publications in their family cabriolet.

She now felt compelled to investigate in an informal manner the prolific writer-editor who had taken charge of their company.

Tado went into the owner’s sanctum with a brilliant new idea for a new series of novellae. He was surprised to find Paena there with her father, sitting by his side.

“What is it?” asked the publisher of his main editor and ghost author.

“An idea came to me last night. A new line of books in a genre all its own. We can call it aftertime or futural fiction. It will combine features of both epic adventure and fantasy. I have already produced one book that fits into that mold.”

“Which one is that?” asked Brage with interest rising by the second.

“Remember the novella called “Faces of the Ivory People”? It was a rapid seller and a second edition had to go to press. I believe we can go higher still after that first success. This is a completely neglected market, futuric stories.” He reached into his coat pocket and took out a short list he had conceived of and compiled early that morning. “But we also published and printed “Oracle of the Green Temple”. Remember how popular that turned out to be?

“Besides these books, we have had so-called grotesques on our list, tales of the strange and weird. I can recall the enormous sales we had with “The Sleepwalker”. And then there was the very popular scary sequel, “The Ventriloquist”. No one can doubt that the reading public has great fascination with stories of the unusual. The appetite for such books is unfulfilled, even today.”

“What can we rapidly put before the public, then?” demanded Brage Sucre.

The Chief Editor beamed a broad, exaggerated smile at him. “I have an epic futural ready to go to the presses. The title will be “The Velvet Psychic”. My opinion is that this work has all the ingredients that our readers crave. There are good descriptions, this time on a imaginary planet far away from us. The characters are easy to understand, because their motives are simple, common ones. And the narrative pace is so speedy that the reader’s excitement never flags at all. The plot contains one dramatic explosion after another in swift order. It has just what the customers are eager for. The author has made a good job of it. The composition of the sentences is smooth and fast-moving. The story takes place on an imaginary planet named Velvet.”

A couple of moments of thought by all three of them was broken by the voice of Paena.

“We can attempt an experimental run to see how successful this futuric turns out, father,”, she daringly suggested. “The sales results can then determine where we go after that.”

Brage Sucre gave her a meaningful look, but then turned to Tado.

“There is no reason we cannot try out such a line of novellae. The series can grow as figures come in on how this first book sells. Success will determine how far we stretch these futurics. What shall we title this new line?”

The Chief Editor had an answer ready. “I like “The Velvet World”. Why don’t we start with that?”

“Quite catchy,” reacted Brage. “That name can maybe draw interest to the first futuric novella.”

“I think the concept is ingenious,” said Paena warmly. “It is clever and inventive. There is no reason why it should not be a sensation with our book-readers.”

Endo, begging Bran Carq to let him act as his partner in receiving and recording telepathic transmissions from writers in the past, finally won permission to work with his teacher on a psychographic project. Together, they planned to focus their two minds on communication with the mind of a single author, some name known to them from literary history.

“Clairsentient cerebration,” laughed Bran, taking a light, breezy attitude. “That is what we will immerse ourselves in this afternoon. I have pulled down all the window shades. Erda has gone out to shop. She promises not to return till evening. No one can bother us or interfere. We are a pair of automatists who intend to accomplish some spirit writing, as it is often called by the superstitious. So, under a blanket of complete silence, let us pick up our stylographs and begin to work.”

The two psychographists sat at two small desks of danglewood that Bran had recently bought for this particular exercise. The psychics, their backs to each other and facing in opposite directions, were each unable to see what the other was about. Each of them scanned on a different side.

They occupied the same room, but might as well have been in different periods of time.

Scores of minutes passed.

Then, unknown to the other, each of them started to move the writing instrument in his hand.

Neither could see or hear what his partner was doing.

Time passed through and past them. Neither the one nor the other sensed the stream of duration. Each one wrote and wrote. Both lost their sense of self-identity. Each merged with supersensible, pretersensual forces neither one could have defined in a rational way. They became prisoners of an outside force from another time.

The two seemed to be sharing the same state of trance.

A distant sound of a door opening, then closing, gave an unexpected jolt to both Bran and Endo. Simultaneous awakening occurred when Erda returned right on time as earlier prearranged.

If it were not for her, the writing trance would have continued indefinitely.

Bran picked up the sheets of flimsy he had written and made his way quickly over to the desk where Endo sat. The latter, also having come to consciousness, had stopped his writing. He looked about, nowhere in particular. His stare was a vacant one. His emerald eyes possessed a film of absence over them.

The teacher picked up the writing of his pupil and compared it to his own.

Identical. Perfectly, unerringly identical. No variation whatever between the two.

Endo’s mind snapped to attention. He looked up into the face of Bran.

“How did it go?” he asked with unconcealed excitement.

“Total congruence. Every single word coincides. We picked up the same transmissions. There can be no question now: you are a fully qualified psychographer. There is nothing more for me to teach you, young man.”

“But what shall I do now?” said Endo, as if blocked by a puzzle.

Bran smiled happily. “Don’t worry, we shall find your niche. But now let us go and have ourselves a late dinner. Erda promised to bring home some argali tongue from the emporium. Let’s go and enjoy what she has for us.”

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