CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“No, that’s what you want to know. That’s not what the problem is.”
“So, what’s the problem then?”
“It’s not really possible for me to tell you that.”
“Why not? Are you not allowed to?”
“No, I’m not able to. It just isn’t possible.”
“But isn’t that your job?”
Melancholy told her, “No. If we take our metaphorical Japanese-speaking cat, for example. Suppose you wanted to get to a particular street in Tokyo and you stopped to ask the cat directions. If the cat started speaking Japanese to you, and even gesticulated with its paws, could you understand its directions?”
Lorna thought for a moment and then said, “I think I would have a rough idea, because I would see the direction it was pointing in.”
“But what if it was saying ‘Don’t, whatever you do, go in that direction because it is the wrong direction’?”
“Well, then I’d get completely lost.”
Agent Melancholy said, “Exactly! So, imagine that you were travelling along a road and you came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go, and then you noticed me sitting beside the road. You approached me to ask me directions (just as you have done today), but at that moment, I transformed into a cat who was very learned but could only speak Japanese. You asked me for directions. I might well have been able to then recite two hours of finely honed Japanese verse to you. But you would still be lost, because you could not understand a word of Japanese. Do you see?”
Lorna said, in her own simple way, “Well, couldn’t you just tell me in English?”
“But perhaps the cat cannot speak English. It can only speak Japanese.”
Lorna said, now a little impatiently, “But I’m not interested in the cat. I just want to know if Felipe feels anything for me.”
Melancholy said, “I see.” He crossed his arms and held his chin with his right hand for a moment. He watched Lorna whilst seeming to perform some sort of calculation in his head. He then agreed to take on her case. He put on his nondescript overcoat and accompanied her back to her workplace. On the way, he told her, “Just imagine I am not here. I will follow you for a few days and gather the clues. I might whisper my observations into your ear from time to time, but I will speak so softly that no-one else will hear.”
Lorna had no objections. She just wanted the riddle to be solved—did Felipe have any feelings for her, or not?
Lorna worked in an open-plan office. She sat at her desk and Melancholy sat beside her. She whispered, “That’s Felipe, over there.”
Felipe Perez’s desk was on the other side of the office, about twenty yards to the left of her desk. Their desks faced in the same direction and Felipe’s was a few yards ahead of hers, so that if he glanced over his right shoulder, they could see each other. Felipe’s father was Spanish and his mother Chinese and Felipe seemed to have inherited all the best traits from both his parents, in both looks and personality. He had long black hair, a dark Mediterranean complexion and dark, alluring eyes. There was a mystique that seemed to surround him; he would have to do nothing more than merely enter a room to cause every eye in the room to turn towards him, like compass needles seeking north.
While she was walking back to the office, she gave Agent Melancholy the details of her brief relationship with Felipe. They started dating a few weeks before. They met a few times at the coffee machine during their breaks, started chatting, then sending each other messages on the internal mail system, then they arranged a date. In the following two weeks, they had sex twice at Lorna’s flat, but then she noticed he did not seem to be saying the right things to her, nor messaging her any more at the office, then it occurred to her he had never even told her he was attracted to her.
On the publication of Cogitation’s scholarly (and impressively thick) paper forty years ago, the local government passed a bylaw, making it illegal for any household to not possess a goldfish, and ordered Cogitation to test her findings in Perception and the surrounding county. But they required her to do this single‑handedly, because they found her paper so impressively thick that they did not want to waste any money on her ridiculous project.
She conducted her research for the past forty years, and now, at the age of seventy‑one, was nearing the completion of her trial. Near the beginning, she noticed that because Grumble Factor was slowly being converted into Comprehension Factor in the goldfish bowls, an imbalance was caused between these Factors in the community. To bring the system into balance, the residents started to produce a new type of Factor. This Factor only existed for a short while in a person and she called it Trivial Grumble Factor—because it produced in the person a Grumble concerned with an apparently trivial topic.
Over the past forty years, the residents needed to produce so much of this Trivial Grumble Factor that they had no time to spare for committing crimes. This gradually caused the police force to become incompetent in all matters except the entertaining activity of thinking up stimulating things to now use their truncheons for.
Then, one month ago, the residents awoke to find a second murderer loose amongst them. Cries of alarm and of panic‑stricken terror were rife. But the loudest of these came from the county’s police stations. This went on for a whole week, by which time the death toll had reached six people. That afternoon—amid glorious sunshine, the tweeting of birds and much wafting about of warm air—the mayor of Perception (one Ivor Medallion, whose middle name was rumoured to be Silver) finally stormed into 121 Misapprehension Lane (the police force’s headquarters—otherwise known as Bright Spark House) he stormed in—he’d had enough; by golly, he’d had enough!—and he stamped his foot several times—and rather firmly, too—and shouted that it was their job to apprehend the murderer.
In the face of this shocking outrage, half the force resigned. The numbed residue were sent on a rigorous three‑week training course and then two days’ recuperation at Clacton‑on‑Sea. On their return to duty the death toll in Perception (perhaps not surprisingly, since the entire constabulary had been absent for three weeks) had reached twenty‑one people.
This brings us to the present day in July of 1986. The mass murderer was still loose and many of the citizens had by now become somewhat hysterical.

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