University of California, Riverside

Eaton Science Fiction Conference

Jibreel’s Horn, by Jonathan Tanner

Jonathan Tanner

Jonathan Tanner was born and raised in Oklahoma and received his undergraduate degrees in English and French. He is currently trying to teach his son the infuriating rules of English spelling and, in the copious free time afforded by that pursuit, finishing a PhD in Comparative Literature at UCI, where he specializes in 19th century poetry and prose. He enjoys climbing trees, drawing pentachoron shadows, drinking bourbon, and populating fictional worlds, though he freely admits that he shouldn’t do these things at the same time.
"Jibreel's Horn" is the winner of the competition.

Jibreel's Horn


“The Justification of Rainier Tireloup, MD, FCLN, and Notes on a Play by Li Ho Pen”
By Abulkassim Al-Ashari

Of the events leading up to the burning of the Park of the Autumn Hill nine months ago, very little is known. It is certain that in the days following the suppression of the riots and the disappearance of the Duchess-in-waiting, a great number of rumors abounded concerning the theft of some papers and pieces of laboratory equipment belonging to the feu Duchess of Newcastle. The equipment and papers are thought to be those pertaining to the discovery of ‘apergy’ several years ago, and are estimated at several thousands, if not several tens of thousands in money. Those rumors chiefly involved the name of Dr. Rainier Tireloup, a most profound Doctor of the College Surgical of the Cruxian Library of Naught, and a particular friend of mine. This note will serve to clarify the doctor’s role in events; it was written at his request. I offer it despite the fact that the doctor’s acumen, indeed his reckless discernment, and high character are so well known amongst the philosophical and metaphysical societies in the Bay of Storms and at the August Court as to be easily confused with common knowledge.
The following transcript comes from a conversation with the doctor himself, which took place following an advance rehearsal for Li Ho Pen’s “The Enemies, or The Vindication of Eternity,” a review of which it is the primary aim of this article to produce on the occasion of the announcement of the play’s revival. Therefore, let me say that the Doctor dined with me the evening of the rehearsal, and that he left the country the next day. His absence lasted six months, at the end of which time he returned, covered in laurels and in possession of both the Duchess1 and her father, the Governor, only to be imprisoned on the charges of espionage and treason that have been laid against him and about which you may read on the front pages of any gazette or journal.
At the time of our meeting, the doctor had been missing for a few days or perhaps a week2 following the riots. After a long separation, the doctor and I were anxious to discuss recent events, and, sensitive as cats, the ladies excused themselves early. We removed with the wine and an excellent bottle of Ho Wang plum brandy to my study. I asked him whether he had liked the play, and we discussed the decision to include certain symbols that seemed to us both to be superfluous in a classically-constructed play. He seemed pained when I discussed the precept of the Unity of Time in the Mirror of Theater, and I took advantage of our long acquaintance and a lull in the conversation to inquire after the cause of his distress.
“The unity of time,” said the doctor, his pale eyes gleaming from a cadaverous and bruised face, “has long oppressed us—I mean both audiences and dramaturges—and it is good to see some fearless soul unperplex the problem of time from the more frivolous issue of composition.”
“On the contrary,” said I, “I have always found that rules inspire a coherent standard of beauty. But perhaps, dear doctor, the real target of your anger lies elsewhere than in the classical rules of composition. You seem troubled by more than artistic tyranny.”
The doctor stared at me, with his head tilted in the manner of a bird’s; at length, he said, “Perhaps, in future, this example of your perspicacity (I flatter myself to include the word, but I have chosen to present as faithful a transcript as I was able to construct from my journal)—your perspicacity will remind me not to touch upon my true feelings even indirectly.” Not without a tremor of mirth in his voice did he continue, “Time—the question of time has been very much on my mind, soon and late.”
I sat silently, knowing that he would either unburden himself or not—but that any pressing on my part would surely doom us both—him to reticence and me to the hell of unsatisfied curiosity. We watched the fire and drank an excellent brandy, fruity but complicated, with a somber note, from that artisan Ho Wang3. When the decanter was half empty, the doctor spoke again, and his voice was so grave that I scarcely dared to breathe for fear that I would break the spell of what promised to be a tale of true import and interest, or lose his soft, baritone notes in the paneling or the crackle of the fire.
“You are perhaps aware,” said the doctor, “that I was the personal physician to the feu Duchess—that she died under my care.”
I nodded to signal that I was so aware, but he did not notice. “What is less commonly known is that her illness was caused by her research into the applied use of the apergetic forces of paramagnetism, whose discovery she was so justly revered for bringing about” he said, “and that in the interest of Public Health, I have been charged with following through a course of research into the effects of apergy by her Majesty’s direct command.”
Astonished that the feu Duchess’ theoretical pursuits should have advanced as far as practicalities and that these should pose a risk to the public, I said nothing about the fact that her Majesty had bypassed any number of physicians in the College Surgical with more seniority than Dr. Tireloup and watched the fire.
“I say this not to exaggerate my own importance but to relieve your mind from any undue care of me in the coming weeks—for I must disappear again for Southern Gaul or perhaps the Tawny Coast—and I am aware that my tendency to resist answering questions regarding my occasional absences has provoked a level of curiosity that, because of the dangerous medical research involved in what I am attempting, might make it dangerous for anyone who comes after me. Indeed, apergy appears to have such several properties as to be nearly fatal for those of a questionable constitution who wander into a room where its mass-distortion effect might have been brought to bear.”
“By the Book!” I exclaimed. “Just to be in the same room—“
“Please let us not exaggerate. I hate a hyperbole. There are any number of chemical reagents in your home—familiar to us all—that are dangerous in themselves, moreso in combination, and there is no fuss concerning them. I merely wish to stress the inadvisability of any attempt to locate me precisely or to trace where I have been in the course of her Majesty’s research. No doubt, my tale will prove a provocation to the heedless and the suicidal alike. For I am to tell you, tonight, in your capacity as a journalist and hellish gossip—I mean it kindly—the story of my most recent absence and, thus, the purpose of my departure—which though I have prepared in openness with the staff of St. Anselmus’ will nevertheless provide fuel for baseless rumor and an invitation to mystery for those inclined to perceive—or indeed, to invent one.”
“Of course,” I nodded, “I will do what I can to illuminate my numerous correspondents.” He hesitated, his pale eyes throwing out a spark of reflected fire from the nearby grate. “And the pages of the Beacon4 are at your disposal as far as I may extend them.” He sighed and relaxed into his chair—if the chords of a well-tuned dulcimer or pianoforte could be said to relax.
“I was caught up in the riots, as you can plainly perceive,” he said, gesturing to fading bruises on his face and tonguing a prominent chipped tooth. “I had already received her Majesty’s instructions, however, so I struggled through the confusion and eventually arrived at the Governor’s estate, hoping that the feu Duchess’ laboratory was in no danger from the fire that could be seen burning in the Park. I need not make explicit that I feared a massive explosion, and the effects of such an explosion on the servants on the estate and—as the wind was from the southeast that night—even the inhabitants of the warrens along the bayshore and those members of the court whose manors are on the heights.
“With a thorough soaking, I managed to make my way—mostly swimming—to the Governor’s Island and onto the estate. Nothing there was as I could have wished. Utter chaos reigned. Armed men had forced their way, by all evidence, into the house itself. I was unarmed, except for a pocket lancet. I had lost my revolver during the hurly burly. But I reasoned that my status as a Doctor of the Surgical College would protect me from thieves and worse than thieves.
“I made my way through the pitch-black halls—the photoelectrics had been cut— to the laboratory. There, I found a shambles. Equipment was tossed about, and papers lined the floor in piles. In my anxiety and haste in the obscurity, I stumbled over something and struck my knee on an overturned table. Suddenly, I found myself wrestling with a man who had surged out of the dark and grabbed me by the shoulder. I slashed and slashed with my lancet and, finding that he lay still, I fought free. Hobbled by my injuries, I found and lit a mesh light used for distillation and, in the blue rays of its steady flame, I saw the corpse of my assailant. From the lack of fresh blood flow, I determined to my embarrassment that he had been a corpse long before I fell on him in the dark.
“That was a terrifying shock. More afraid than when I had fought mortally with an unseen foe, I thought that I was too late, that apergetic forces had been unleashed, and that my bones and fibres might already have imbibed its fatal effluvia; in short, that I, and everyone on the island, might already have been poisoned on a cellular level. A population of thousands now wanted to be saved, however, so I mastered my fear and cast my eyes about, returning to the corpse. I noticed that the throat had been torn out.”
At this, I gasped and nearly aspirated a precious mouthful of the plum brandy with the attractive yellow label.
“It was simple murder, and I calmed my nerves enough to clean my lancet and return it to a pocket within easy reach. Now suspicious, I threw a more objective eye on the scene and found only apparent disorder in the laboratory. Some few things had been overturned and papers scattered—but nothing untoward or barbarous, nothing broken, nothing defiled—nothing that could not have been done in a few seconds by a determined man or men operating in silence.
“When I noticed that a very sensitive and unique apparatus for the projection of apergetic fields, called Jibreel’s Horn, had been stolen, I realized the two were related. Whether one was excuse, cause, or cover for the other was immaterial to me—my obvious warrant was to search out the apparatus and prevent the spread of the apergetic poisoning that had undone the Duchess. I did not, at that time, know where the heiress was, or that it might be necessary to ascertain proofs of her safety. I quickly attempted to find in what direction the thieves—for it had surely taken more than one to move Jibreel’s Horn, a piece of equipment weighing 11 stone—had gone.
“Exiting the house, I made a quick circumambulation aided by a few staff who had recognized me and, in the wildly uncertain light of six paper lanterns on poles which seemed to vie with the approaching fire to see which could cast the wildest shadows, found two possible points of egress. One was a rope hanging from an oriel on an upper storey—but the ungainly size of the apparatus precluded it. I delegated staff to examine the upper rooms, and a man discovered that the Duchess-in-waiting was missing and kidnapped, with the window the kidnapper’s route of escape. The second point was a staff exit leading to a disused and muddy corner of the motorpark.
“Perhaps unfortunately, I assessed the impressions made by what I presumed to be the thieves’ vehicle and ascertained its dimensions. It was easy to trace. I will spare you the details of that process—tedious!—and take you directly to a large, airy apartment in the neighborhood of Da Ren, near the airship docks and the Summer Fountain. Signs indicated the theft had been organized by a man named Fitzcummings.
“I made an appointment—”
“An appointment? To call upon a thief and a murderer?” I interjected.
“I had only circumstantial evidence of his connection to the theft and none of murder to lay at his feet—neither charge would have satisfied one of Li’s adjudicators— and, you will recall, my purpose was in the interest of public health and safety and not of justice, however defined. It was therefore in my capacity as a doctor that I called, hoping to explain the dangerous nature of the Jibreel’s Horn to the gentleman, in the hopes that he might inform concerned parties. My real purpose was to induce him, with money or sweet reason, to hand the undoubtedly valuable apparatus over to me for proper study.”
“When I arrived, the gentleman let me in himself—his staff were occupied with packing—and asked if I would wait in the solarium to pass the time. I was to feel free to examine his specimens, etc., and he would be with me in a quarter hour—a half at most. He excused himself with an apology and retreated, closing the door behind him. The clock struck nine in the manner of clocks on the other side of the Sunder. You will forgive such an irrelevant detail, I am sure, because it speaks to my comments on the Unity of Time.
“When the clock struck a quarter after, I began to pace, inspecting the room, turning my attention from the excellent view of the Summer Fountain. The solarium was constructed as a large greenhouse, but bare of plants and containing only the small amount of furniture one would expect in a private gentleman’s place of contemplation. There were occasional wooden stands with domes of glass under which were displayed the insect and arachnid specimens to which my host had referred. The wall in which the door rested was divided equally in two by a head-high shelf of specimens and curios that extended for its whole length.
“You will not perhaps be as astonished as I was to hear that almost the first thing to catch my eye on this shelf was a miniature replica of Jibreel’s Horn. I approached the miniature and picked it up. That was the worst mistake in my life. I am not yet out of my middle years, for all my white hair, but I am older than I seem. I know intimately that a worse mistake could not be possible.”
The doctor’s voice died, and I thought he would not continue his story--so great was his distress. His hands shook to spill his brandy, and the peculiar paleness of his eye turned an arctic blue that bleached the color from his face in the firelight. His whole countenance took me aback. He checked himself quickly, however, and downed the unctuous brandy in one draught.
“As I touched the miniature, my skin crawled—as if a swarm of the encased insects all around were beating a thousand wings against me. I was buffeted in a thousand thousand directions by an intangible wind. I felt a…twist, here—” the doctor tapped his white temple with one of his long fingers. “And I was once again gazing at the Summer Fountain beyond the window, with the sound of clock chimes in my ears. I counted them, and they were nine. Confused, I believed perhaps I had been mistaken in my counting and that it was already ten, or that the clock had malfunctioned, or that it was a curio clock from some region unknown to me, with a different system of time.
“I walked to the wall and inspected the clock. It read nine. It was indeed Anglian—the mark was that of a clockmaker near Dur that I have since had ample opportunity to confirm. I believed that perhaps I had been daydreaming, and that perhaps I had not even seen the miniature but imagined it in my desire for a happy conclusion to my errand. I turned, and there was the self—there the curios and specimens in their glass domes—there was Jibreel’s Horn between a small armillary sphere and a scarab carved in pink quartz. Again I picked it up, and, again, I felt a swarming, a twist, and I was again before the window, and the clock…the clock was striking nine.”
The silence stretched, and the fire issued a small report. The clock in my study chimed, and I started. He smiled but did not speak. “I have,” I said, “frequently dreamt that I did not dream. That is, I often dream I am awake, but then wake to find it merely a dream of waking. Perhaps that is what you describe.”
The doctor looked at me thoughtfully. “Perhaps. Others have offered as much. It is a commonplace with a vast and important literary history. Perhaps it is so. It may be a strange dream in a drowsy patch of sun—for, in that case, I dream still.
“I was again before the window, as I said, and again the clock chimed nine. I decided to wait until my host’s return. A boy in the square was flying a kite in the shape of a kestrel. It was a clever design, as the kestrel’s natural hunting action is to hang motionless over a particular patch of ground, seeking his prey. As I watched, the kestrel was struck by a gust that knocked it into the fountain. A silk kite is ruined by water much as a paper one, and the boy cried to find it destroyed. I watched as the boy walked out of sight. The clock chimed a quarter past. I examined the various people entering the shops along the street—a fishery, a cheesmonger, and so on. I turned to see if the clock were about to strike the half-hour, as it seemed to me a long quarter hour had passed in this observation. But the hands on the clock stood at seven or eight past nine.
“I walked over to the clock, convinced I was being practiced upon—but the clock had no wires and no visibly unnecessary clockwork in the casing, which I did not hesitate to remove.”
“I’m sure I would have done the same,” said I, but the doctor did not seem to hear me.
“Puzzled, I glanced at the window—What did I see but the kestrel kite?”
“A second kite? Surely this is taking a practical joke too far—sure, I have never heard of something so grotesque. The joker should be laid by the heels!”
“My first thought was also of a second kite, but then a second gust of wind arose, and the silk bird was again dashed in the fountain. The very people on the street seemed the same, as far as I could tell. The same boy in the same clothes walked home in the same way. The clock chimed in my hands. This was too peculiar for coincidence and too complex for a joke. I became convinced, once again, that it was a dream.”
“Quite right. It could only be a dream,” I said.
“Then I realized that was foolish,” continued the doctor. “I do not suffer from what a recent paper in the Transactions5 referred to as hyperoneiria. I have no history of excessive or waking dreams. I decided I had been poisoned by a psychoactive substance. The spores of the black narchikans, for example, that grow in the marshes in the mixed brackish estuaries of the Bay of Storms, have been said to produce visions amongst the natives.”
“I knew it could not be a dream. Poisoned! How much lower could Fitzcummings get? Practising upon people is bad enough, but then poison? Pragmatical dog! For shame.”
“It then occurred to me that I had ingested nothing that morning but my accustomed black coffee with ginger—prepared by my own hand with a grinder and a Dardanian press which it would have been very difficult to adulterate without my knowledge—and a small ball of opium likewise prepared by myself. So anxious had I been that I should be on time to my appointment that I did not break my fast, as Fitzcummings had been supposed to board an airship at eleven o’clock!”
“Well, there you have it,” I said, “the opium! The quranic scholar Farach said in the Thousand Leaves, ‘Deep and deeper the dreams of the dragon.’ An opium dream.” “You are reasoning in circles, Al-Ashari, and an opium dream is of a different order of experience entirely. In any case, I do not scruple to admit that I habitually take opium for pains resulting from the injuries I sustained in the South, when I was with the 4th Inland Regiment. The dose was the same, not one jot or titter different. I will not deny having experienced the opium dreams in my younger days, but their presentation in the popular press is nine parts exaggeration and one part cowardly imitation of literary precedent.”
“Hear him, hear him! It must be poison! Closely reasoned,” I cried.
“I therefore ruled out poison—“ said the doctor, somewhat perversely.
“How ridiculous of me to think it could be poison!” cried I.
“—taken internally,” continued the doctor, “but topical application of some potent psychoactive substance was not impossible. That was when I guessed that the miniature must have been coated with a powerful drug. This was the true cause of the swarming sensation; it must have been absorbed through the skin of my hands when I handled it.”
“I have never heard a better argument for gentlemen to wear gloves! They did at court under the motto ‘Beginning in Wisdom’,” said I.
“I am sure you are right. Regardless of the requirements of fashion, I did not have gloves, but my pocket square was adequate. I returned to the shelf and retrieved the miniature. Instead of the twisting and swarming, I felt only a kind of warmth, and a high frequency vibration numbed by arm as if I had grasped one end of the external circuit of a battery of piles. I examined the object. To the best of my recollection, it was a perfect copy of the feu Duchess’ apparatus, recognizable because of the personal touches of the mechanically-minded Earl6. There was no mistaking the hand-carved edging on the wooden panels, or the long protuberance in the shape of the bell of a Gallic Horn, made of a dark metal which shaded to blue gray at the bell’s lip.
“By the exertion of pressure, I managed to remove the exterior panel, and, as I did so, a wave of nausea swept through me. I thought for the space of a giddy moment I could see the kite darting towards the basin of the fountain, but it soon passed. The inside of the miniature was unlike anything I have ever seen.
“I know that photoelectrics are a specialist’s concern, and this is increasingly the case, but I am not a complete novice, and still I felt like a child catching a first glimpse of the interior of a clockwork toy. Gold filament, the strong smell of cupric oxides and carbonic acid, and a crystal cylinder the length of my forefinger with a round, minute mirror suspended by some paramagnetic means were all I could identify at first. A labyrinth of nested gears was connected to what appeared to be a vacuum pump attached to the cylinder, but on so small a scale that I was astounded. The device—for it was no model—was active. You can imagine my dismay—the Duchess’ symptoms were most distressing in the last hours. Total hair loss, ruptured cornea, evacuation of blood, liquefaction of the principal organs—“
“Oh, oh!” I said, incredibly interested. But the good doctor misinterpreted my sounds of interest; he made over me extremely and examined my tongue and took my pulse until I protested.
“—Very well,” he continued, “but I do not like your look, which is most liverish—nor this cold and may I say unbecoming sweat—and you will have to acquaint me with your next stools. Where was…? The device was active, and I recklessly decided or rather inferred that it was concerned in my—for lack of a better word—temporal predicament. Before, however, I could decide what to do, I heard a click as the little mirror dropped to the bottom of its crystal cylinder. At the same moment—almost the same point of time—the vibration increased and the clock chimed. I found myself again at the window, counting the chimes as the clock reached nine. Convinced more than ever that my life was in jeopardy, and that civility was no longer a concern, I tried the door, but it was bolted. You can guess what I did next.”
“Certainly,” I said. “Certainly—sat down to wait for someone to come. The footman, surely…”
“I smashed the window with a wooden display stand and climbed down the exterior of the building using a trellis supporting a healthy clematis with a very substantial root system. At first, I was upset with myself for having taken so long to come to this decision, but as I progressed I laughed to consider that all the time amounted to less than fifteen minutes. But as I went down the street, I found I was moving not through the empty and yielding air, but through gelatin—my steps slowed, and even my heart laboured to beat. Though my thoughts were lucid, ‘a drowsy numbness pained my sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk’7. Others on the street appeared to be affected, though by their expressions, they were not aware of it, or the anguish I felt would surely have been reflected in every face.
“Another thought occurred to me: only I was able to detect the slowing and hardening of everything. This thought was so beyond anything I had ever contemplated in its horror that my muscles trembled in fear, but even their motion was like the gently rolling waves of the tropics; I felt if I continued to walk away from the window then a year for me might pass between the beats of a hummingbird’s wings.
“Already leaves seemed to hang for minutes in the air as the imperceptible breeze sustained them. I spent subjective weeks moving forward and backward on the edge of insanity. The sensation worsened with distance from the window, but was ameliorated in the measure that I approached it. Before I could test the absolute limit of my effective radius, however, I found myself before the window again—it was unbroken—with the chiming of the infernal clock in my ears. I lay down in a patch of sun and wept just to feel the charming ease of my movement and the accustomed flow of time.
“I wept until the clock chimed a quarter past, and I was once again on my feet before the window. Indignation seized me, and, this time, I proceeded immediately to the shelf and seized the miniature, quickly dashing it with great force against the wall. “The world rang like a bell, and I was once again before the window, regarding the kestrel kite. The miniature was unaffected.
“I again picked it up, this time removing the panel, determined to make a thorough study and master the device. Several periods of inspection punctuated by returns to the window provided me with the hypothesis that that the pump’s failure was not a correlate but the cause of the device’s activation and, thus, the twist that moved me backward through time. The pump was controlled by a small toggle, which I flipped. Simultaneously, the mirror dropped, and I seemed still to hold the device in my hand and yet stand before the window. Eventually, the sensation faded, leaving only the view of the faceless king at the center of the Summer Fountain.
“Emboldened by my experiment, I proceeded by trial and error, attempting various means of escape. I found I could climb down with the device and proceed normally down the street. At one point, I reentered the building determined upon a confrontation and found my host had fled immediately I entered the solarium. I even contrived to get in a motorcar and speed away with the device, but after a lapse of fifteen minutes, I returned to the window. If I impeded the motion of the toggle, preventing it from flipping, the whole thing shook itself apart and exploded, burning me gravely, and I was back before the window unharmed, with only the memory of pain to mark the event.
“Over the weeks, days, hours, or minutes that followed, I never grew hungry or thirsty—my body always returned to the state in which it had first been caught in the trap—for it was a trap—only my spirit grew weary. In the end, there were only two things that prevented complete mastery of the device—the first was the contact current through the exterior that required the constant use of my pocket square. The second was the timing mechanism—the series of nested gears—that determined the lapse of my imprisonment. I learned quickly how to disable the first, but the second I could not completely overcome—I could only expand, by the application of minute amounts of friction to some several of the gears, the time of my confinement and range of motion away from the device.
“At first, I did this by a few minutes and feet, then by an hour and a mile, then two, then a day and a league. I assure you, the first time I slept and woke physically refreshed after a full day of life, I screamed when I returned to the window again. At length, I gained a long enough reprieve to seek help, but not long enough to convince, for example, the Philosophical Society that what I described was not a thought experiment. I shielded the device with lead—I returned to the window. I dropped it in the bay in a fit of pique and spent what seemed a very disagreeable eternity as a figurehead in a rowboat before returning to the window. Suicide brought me before the window with more apparent quickness. Finally, I mastered the little gears almost completely, overcoming the shackles they imposed enough to track down Fitzcummings and find he was not Fitzcummings, but a man named de la Mothe.
“I tracked him to the Isle of Cymri. I killed him in his bath with a pistol shot to the breast. He claimed not to know how I escaped. He had theorized that escape was impossible. The pattern made by the diffusion of the blood in the warm water seemed to reveal more about my condition than de la Mothe knew.”
“By all that’s Written!” I exclaimed, “You escaped! So that is where you have been these last days?” I asked, tremblingly. “The Isle of Cymri?” The doctor did not respond. Instead, he reached into the little black examination bag that he always carried with him and placed a small wooden box, covered in carvings of birds on the table, next to the empty decanter.
“In a way. I have made some modifications.” The doctor’s smile took in the carvings, of a skilled and bold nature, as if they had been done very rapidly. “Those parts that could be removed for my purposes, such as the bell, have been removed.” It was the device. I shuddered to behold its innocuous shape. I will never forget his next words. He said:
“I swore never to harm any living being—rather to be a help to all. That is the nature of my oath as a Doctor Surgical. That is my service. But I also swore to perform her Majesty’s will and eliminate the threat posed to the public by this technology either by perfecting it or destroying it. I am caught. By my oaths, I am caught.
“I have killed de la Mothe in a root cellar in the middle of winter. I have killed him in waist-high rushes where the Lo Tsu runs into the marshes of the South; the yellow silt mixed with his blood and ran orange. I have killed him with a bone knife, and with poison. I have saved his life a hundred times. I have committed myself to a sanitarium. I have attempted to use the device to split the globe like an apple. Always I return to the window. To de la Mothe.
“I have contemplated the hundred different changes of his face, like facets of a jewel visible only to me, susceptible to a thousand different cuts and refracting my every decision in lines to time. We have been lovers, friends, bitter rivals in love. I have found him and lost him—I have discovered that de la Mothe is all men. My brother. Myself.
“Each time I stand before the window, I know only two things—how long I have before I shall return to the view of the Summer Fountain, with its trailing vines, and rippling waters—and that my prison is without end…Though it is infinite, I believe that it has an outside.
“I have never, in my selfishness, tried to find the Duchess’ heir, or her husband, but I have hopes my knowledge, combined with theirs, will help me find the passage from the inside to the outside. I go now, and your article shall be my justification. Whether this time I find victory or humiliation, whether I should commit more crimes against my oaths, or achieve the blameless completion of their competing terms, whether I should find honor or shame, is unknown to me. It matters very little. I take comfort in the knowledge de la Mothe is dead, and that he is alive—that the moment is both finite and boundless and that these two opposing concepts—the infinite and the bounded—are perhaps nothing other than two pages of a single Book—recto and verso, perhaps, of the same page in a single volume in a perfect library outside of time.”
Dr. Tireloup put the device back in his bag and took leave of me—whether he subsequently took leave of his senses is another question, which I shall leave to the appropriate authorities. Enough has been said and written, perhaps, to silence forever the clamoring of the ignorant concerning the rumors he is involved with intelligence work of any kind—either for Anglia or the August Court. Both ideas are absurd, and the disingenuous combination of the two put forward by M. Lucander8 in the Weekly Bulletin is tantamount, in the opinion of this correspondent, to a libel…

The rest of this article is a 14,000 word review of Li Ho Pen’s “The Enemies, or The Vindication of Eternity” along largely neoclassical lines and has been omitted except for the following lines, which touch upon our subject:
About the staging [of the play] I will say nothing except that the incessant recurrence of a chime, supposed to be the chiming of a clock in the protagonist’s parlor, caused such dismay that it actually brought tears to the eyes of my companion—a medical man whom I have seen up to his elbows in a most shocking carnage of human flesh without excess emotion. This reason alone is sufficient to recommend the suppression of such a meaninglessly repetitive symbol of impermanence.

For LMZ.

Translation into Anglian, JLB.


1 Margaret Pym, Duchess of Newcastle, achieved her majority during her absence, and, therefore, the strawberry-and-ball crown of the duchy of Mountecroix is now hers--Ed.
2 An absence of nine days would fit newspaper accounts and the Phoenix Theater’s records for the run of “The Enemies”—Ed.
3 It is common knowledge that Mr. Al-Ashari is engaged to Ho Ge, the brandymonger’s daughter. In the editor’s opinion, this obvious bias and the pompous tone do not contaminate the essential substance of the noted critic’s document—Ed.
4 The Beacon-Gazette of the Bay of Storms, which is sometimes called the Bay Beacon, or simply the Beacon—Ed.
5 Transactions of the Colleges, Surgical, Natural, and Metaphysical, the quarterly publication of the Cruxian Library of Naught’s practical colleges. The paper referred to is by Aloicius Tartiq: “Certain Dream States and their Physiological Causes in the Aboriginal Population of the Kingdom of Bod,” volume 93, Spring/Summer issue.
6 Lord Eldridge Pym, Earl of Golbriggah, Her Imperial Majesty’s Governor-General for the Bay of Storms, Consul to the August Court of the Yuan Emperor Li, widower of the feu Duchess and father of the actual Duchess of Newcastle—Ed.
7 Unknown source. Although jarring in context, parties conversant with him say that it is not above Dr. Tireloup to cite poetry in this fashion. The quotation does not occur in the Chealey-Hadwick, the “Thousand Flowers”, the “Imperial Anthology of the Yuan”, or in al Quitab’s “Mirror of Poetry.” It is probably a translation from Syriac—Ed.
8 In the same article, M. Lucander accuses Al-Ashari of being as spy for the Sublime Porte, a possibility that is being examined by the appropriate Anglian authorities. Dr. Tireloup is currently in prison awaiting trial, and Al-Ashari’s whereabouts are unknown.

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