CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
I was walking along the street on a sunny day with my heart lifted and step lightened and all my memories forgotten as I smiled for no reason and sang a melody that had not yet been invented and all around me I saw only saints. The air was warm with comfort as I passed that yellow and green poster announcing the delights of chocolate. I hummed the next verse, which had also not yet been invented—but I was trying. And the sound of traffic was invisible to my ears as my mind listened to the sea washing ashore a sandy beach. I thought I could feel my bare feet sinking in the soft sand and then I noticed the door. There were always doors. This one was standing in a shadow, not trying to conceal itself, not trying to pretend to be anything other than a door, a plain, black door. Only, in the sun, I almost missed it. For some reason, it stood out; it stood out to me. I stopped and tried its handle. Of course, it opened. I somehow knew I was supposed to enter, so why would it have not opened?—there was no part of me that expected to meet any resistance. I stepped inside, closed the door and found myself in an endless gallery of my own memories. Each wall contained a carefully laid out display with painstakingly typed descriptions attached to each memory.
Before long, I had lost my way. I stepped through room after room, turned corners that should have returned me to the outdoors but instead only transported me further backwards and then sideways and then forwards and then backwards again in time. I was lost.
I came to a halt in a room called ‘Melancholy’. I did not know how I got there and could see no way out. The light was low and my lungs seemed to have no interest in working. I could feel a distinct weight attached to my heart. Something, from some picture somewhere on those walls, seemed to be attempting to pull me down into some suffocating darkness where life itself seemed afraid to go. I wanted to leave. The show was not to my liking.
“Tell me how to get out of here,” I thought. “Someone show me the exit; I want to get out and feel the daylight again.”
I would have shouted it but I knew there was no point. No-one would have heard. There was just me in there alone, parading around amongst my own memories.
I took a seat and began studying a picture. I saw no-one, heard no-one, could see no place, nor purpose; all I was aware of was that weight attached to my heart; the more I looked, the more I felt it and the less I saw. And then I noticed myself falling onto a knife. My right hand held it deliberately, its handle pressed against the floor and its sharp point entering my body as the earth pulled me down onto it. Then I noticed myself jumping from a height. At last, I could see some purpose and that weight began to lessen. The pictures in the room brightened; they at last seemed to make sense and I could see them all clearly. But the room frightened me. I wanted to shout again, “Someone, show me how to get out of here.” But I knew no-one would hear.
Forty-two years ago in a town called Perception, a spree of twenty-three murders were allegedly committed by Able Carver. During that summer, of 1944, the town was rampant with speculative tongue-wagging while, day by day, the trial of Carver progressed. At the point when the community’s tongues were at their most athletic, an opinion poll was published in The Perception Daily Chronicle. It reported that twenty percent of the people questioned had a sneaky feeling (and when asked to quantify the degree of their sneaky feeling, they said it was an extremely strong sneaky feeling) that urban stress was the sole cause of mass murder. Five people were questioned and the margin of error in the poll’s results was absolutely gigantic. Nevertheless, as a result of this poll, the Urban Stress Faculty was set up in the town’s university, and Marjory Cogitation was appointed its professor. Her task was to study stress in the community.
Her first breakthrough occurred while conducting experiments on six residents. Stressful states were clinically induced in the group, and vital signs monitored. Nothing unexpected was recorded. But then she accidentally administered an overdose of an hallucinatory drug and the group experienced fatally stressful hallucinations, emitting the most horrendous screams imaginable, followed by a rapid succession of alarmingly violent convulsions, and every member of the group then—mercifully—passed on into death and the immediate onset of rigor mortis. The professor noted that this produced an unusually high level of bowel activity in the laboratory mascot, Percy the goldfish.
After two years of further research, Professor Cogitation published her full findings in a scholarly (and impressively thick) paper. Here’s the concluding section:
Two factors are involved in the production of stress—the Comprehension Factor and the Grumble Factor.
A fall in one factor always leads to a rise in the other. Grumbles are therefore created in a person by a sudden lowering of his Comprehension Factor.
Once created, a Grumble cannot usually be destroyed—a person may only lower his own Grumble Factor by passing on the Grumble to somebody else. The recipient then experiences a rapid drop in his level of Comprehension Factor in order to accommodate his increased Grumble Factor.
Because of this, the level of Grumble Factor in the community (the collective Grumbliness of the population) can only usually increase. But there is one known method of reducing it:
When a Grumble is expressed near to a goldfish, it passes from the person to the fish, undergoes a chemical change within the fish’s gut, induces bowel activity, is then passed out of the fish and decomposes, slowly emitting Comprehension Factor back into the atmosphere.
I conclude that the large-scale deployment of goldfish in any community would reduce the level of Grumble Factor, and thus the urban stress. And since urban stress (as shown by The Perception Daily Chronicle’s opinion poll of two years ago) is the sole cause of mass murder, then it is predicted that this scheme would dramatically reduce the instances of murder in that community. QED.

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