The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 2

In Which Jophan Starts On His Journey

That evening Jophan told his parents of his intention to scale the Mountains of Inertia and enter the Realm of Fandom. His mother pleaded with him in vain, and in a fit of rage his father burned all the books that told of faraway places and other times, but nothing could shake Jophan from his purpose. As dawn broke he set out for the mountains, carrying all his possessions on his back and turning a deaf ear to the protests of his friends, who ran beside him begging him to return.

They soon fell far behind, and by noon Jophan arrived at the borders of Mundane. He found himself at the great arterial road that ran to the capital city. He was confused by the traffic that roared along the road, and stood anxiously looking for an opportunity to cross. As he waited he noticed other travellers boarding luxurious coaches bound for fabulous destinations such as Wealth, Success, Respectability and other places, but none of them seemed to be going in the direction of Fandom. During a momentary lull in the traffic Jophan marched steadfastly across the road. Then he took the narrow path that led through the Forest of Stupidity, which forest grows all round the Country of Mundane and shelters it from the searching winds that blow out of Fandom.

The path was overgrown, and in several places Jophan had to cut his way through brush and thickets, but by mid-afternoon he had made his way to a beautiful clearing where he thought he would rest before continuing his journey. To his surprise he noticed that the clearing was laid out as an aerodrome, and that a beautiful silver flying-machine was even now landing. As he watched, the pilot and a passenger got out. The passenger seemed to fall to the ground and lie there motionless but the pilot came trotting over to Jophan. He was a fat, prosperous-looking man, and he eyed Jophan with calculating cordiality.

"Good afternoon, young man," he said genially. "My name is Swift. May I ask where you are bound for?"

"My name is Jophan," said Jophan, "and I am on my way over the Mountains of Inertia to enter Fandom and produce the perfect Fanzine, for that is what I want to do more than anything else in the world."

"And so you shall!" said Swift, eying Jophan's bundle. "But, my dear young man, surely you are not thinking of climbing those mountains? Why, my beautiful machine will fly you over to Fandom in no time. And as for the Perfect Fanzine, my aeroplanograph will produce that for you too. No trouble at all. All you have to do is give me that bundle of yours."

"The fairy said I must get the Enchanted Duplicator," said Jophan doubtfully.

"That old thing?" jeered Swift. "Why, no-one bothers with old-fashioned stuff like that these days. I've some proofs for you."

As he hurried past the aeroplanograph to his office, Jophan observed that the passenger was crawling painfully over the grass, calling feebly to Jophan. Jophan hurried over to him and could scarcely restrain his tears as he saw the stranger's pitiful condition. The wretch was pale and emaciated, his clothes in rags, and his hair prematurely white. Jophan bent down to hear what he was saying. "Don't trust him," whispered the passenger through his parched lips, "neither him nor his brothers Offset and Litho. They will fly you over the Mountains of Inertia, as they claim, but you won't be able to land anywhere. You will fly around in circles for months looking down on Fandom until all your money is gone and you die of starvation like me. Be warned before it is too late. There is no easy way . . ."

His voice trailed off into inaudibility, and Jophan realised that he was dead. Solemnly he consigned his soul to Heaven and prayed that the Great BNF above would have pity on him. Then he ran across the aerodrome and resumed his journey through the forest.

Soon the trees began to thin out and the ground to rise, and Jophan knew he had arrived at the foothills of the Mountains of Inertia. As he paused to strap his bundle more tightly about him he was startled to hear what seemed to be a train whistle nearby. He went forward curiously and soon found himself facing a large and imposing notice. In clear and elegant letters it said: TO THE TUNNEL. LETTERPRESS RAILROAD. MUNDANE TO TRUFANDOM TOWER DIRECT VIA TUNNEL. Beyond it Jophan saw a dark tunnel leading into the mountain, and before it a resplendent locomotive with a single tiny carriage behind it.

Had it not been for his encounter with the Passenger, Jophan would have bought a ticket and boarded the train, but instead he stayed where he was and watched the locomotive as it started off. With a deafening blow on its whistle and an impressive clanking of gears it steamed toward the inky blackness of the tunnel, but it had barely reached the entrance before it shuddered to a stop. To his astonishment Jophan saw the driver, fireman and passengers get off and run to the back of the train. With immense labour they lifted the last section of the track and staggered with it into the tunnel. After some minutes they reappeared and boarded the train again. The train moved another few yards into the tunnel, and the process was repeated. Jophan watched them until they finally disappeared into the tunnel, marvelling at their obstinacy and patience. It may be, he thought, a wonderful railroad, but if they have to set every one of the lines by hand it will be years before they even reach Fandom, never mind Trufandom.

He listened for a while to the groanings and clankings still coming from the tunnel and then set off on the steep path up the mountain. -

This version is from GHUTENBERG'S BHIBLE -- Section 7-b (Appendix B) -- Copyright © 1994 by Greg Hills. All rights reserved.

All rights to the original material is retained by the authors.