The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 11

In Which Jophan Learns The Truth About The City

As he stood at the entrance to the great avenue, still transfixed with awe, a dapper, bespectacled young man came up to him. He eyed Jophan's tattered garments somewhat askance, but spoke to him civilly enough.

"Good day," he said. "Might I enquire your name?"

"My name is Jophan," said Jophan humbly, "and I was on my way to Trufandom . . ."

"You need go no further," said the young man. "Perhaps you would like me to show you around the city. My name is Dedwood," he added proudly, "and I am one of the City Planners. I am a Serious Construction Engineer by profession."

Taking Jophan's arm, he led him along the street, pointing out one great building after another. Before they had reached the end of the avenue Jophan was, if possible, even more overcome with admiration, but he began to feel out of place in all this elegance with his dirty clothes and tarnished shield. As Dedwood was pointing out yet another imposing building he took the opportunity to give the shield a surreptitious rub with his handkerchief.

"This," Dedwood was saying, "is the Federation Building --"

He broke off in alarm as a strangled sound came from his listener. In wiping his shield Jophan had caught a glimpse of the reflection of the building on its surface, and had been unable to suppress a cry of astonishment. Reflected in the shield was not the imposing edifice of the Federation Building, but a ramshackle affair, in visible danger of falling into the street. Seen in the mirror of the shield, the building was not even soundly constructed, but disfigured by cracks and faulty workmanship. Even so, Jophan would have been half-inclined to dismiss the reflections as the result of a distortion on the shield's surface, had not the thought suddenly occurred to him that not once had he been allowed to see inside one of the buildings.

Before Dedwood could stop him, Jophan darted through the door of the Federation Building. As he had by now half suspected, it was not a building at all, but a mere facade. Although it reached high into the air, it was but a few inches thick and obviously unstable. Even as Jophan watched a little gust of wind produced several dangerous-looking cracks in the flimsy structure. At the splintering sound, two harassed-looking Neofen appeared, pushing a tall scaffolding before them on wheels. Stopping close to the wall, they clambered up and hastily filled one of the cracks with cement. Then they pushed the scaffolding along to the next danger point, working more and more feverishly as the cracks seemed to grow in number more rapidly than they could be repaired.

Jophan tore his eyes away from this depressing sight, and went outside again. Dedwood was still standing on the sidewalk, but he now had an almost guilty expression on his face.

Jophan faced him accusingly. "What is the idea of all this?" he demanded brusquely, annoyed at having been taken in by such a senseless deception.

"Well, you see," said Dedwood awkwardly, "it's to impress the Public. They wouldn't be impressed by Trufandom, so some of us thought we'd erect this City of Serious Constructivism to give them a better idea of our importance . . ."

"But surely the Public never come into Fandom?" protested Jophan.

"Well, no," admitted Dedwood, "but they sometimes send a representative in, usually a Mr Press."

He seemed to have difficulty in meeting Jophan's gaze, and the reflection from Jophan's Shield of Umor seemed to be hurting his eyes, so that while he was talking he glanced sideways up and down the street.

Abruptly he broke off with a cry of excitement. "Why, there he is now!" he exclaimed. "This is a great day . . ."

The rest of his words were lost as he ran helter-skelter down the street to where a little man with a notebook had appeared as if from nowhere, accompanied by another little man with an easel under his arm.

Jophan followed more slowly and found Dedwood already talking volubly to the stranger, while the other little man set up his easel and began to make sketches. At great length Dedwood expatiated on the glories of the City, on the Magnificent Work that was being accomplished there, on the grandeur of its buildings, on the intelligence and forethought of the inhabitants, on their sobriety of deportment and the importance of their work to Humanity, on the various functions and important duties they performed, and on the contributions he himself made to these mighty achievements. Jophan noticed, however, that the little man was writing very little of all this down in his notebook, and as Dedwood drew to the close of his impressive oration he sidled behind Mr Press and looked over his shoulder. The page was perfectly blank except for one cryptic sentence which Jophan could not understand. He knew only that it bore no relationship whatever to what Dedwood had been saying. It read, simply, "Gosh-wow-oh-boy-oh-boy'. Puzzled, Jophan moved behind the artist, who had already completed several sketches. Jophan noted that they were all recognisable caricatures of Dedwood, but that for some reason the artist had in each case shown him as wearing a peculiarly shaped headgear which incorporated a small propeller.

Completely baffled by these quite extraordinary phenomena, Jophan withdrew and waited quietly until Dedwood had finished talking. Mr Press and his assistant thanked Dedwood effusively, promised to give the Public a full and accurate report of all that he had told them, and said goodbye. Their shoulders were shaking as they walked off, but Dedwood did not seem to notice. Becoming once more conscious of Jophan's existence, he turned to him with pride. "There!" he said smugly, "I flatter myself that this time the Public will learn the truth about us."

He seemed so pleased with himself that Jophan did not have the heart to tell him what Mr Press had actually written in his notebook. Instead he merely thanked him for his courtesy and left the centre of the City with a last glance of mingled contempt and pity for the preposterous erections. -

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.