The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 12

In Which Jophan Finds A Friend

It took Jophan a much shorter time to leave the City of Serious Constructivism than it had to enter it, and he was soon in the suburbs again. On this side of the city, however, they were of a very different character. Here there were no advertising hoardings, club buildings, or hucksters' settlements. Instead, the district seemed to be an exclusive residential area, entirely composed of enormous wooded estates surrounded by high walls. There seemed to be a limitless number of them, and as the evening wore on Jophan became very tired. The walls were too high to be climbed, and the gates were all locked, so that try as he might he could find no way to get off the road to make camp for the night.

At last he realised that he could go no further, and that he must spend the night as best he could by the side of the road. Huddling up against the wall near one of the entrance gates, he wrapped his tattered garments about him and made himself as comfortable as the hard surface would allow.

Some time later he was awakened from a fitful sleep by a great blaze of light in his eyes. In his dazed condition it was a few seconds before he realised that he was staring into the headlamps of a huge motorcar which had evidently approached from the direction of Trufandom, and was now halted before the entrance gates. As Jophan watched, the driver got out and unlocked the gates. As he was walking back to his car Jophan cried out weakly to him. The driver looked round, startled, and then, perceiving Jophan lying against the wall, came over to him.

"Hello, young fellow," he said. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

So faint was Jophan with exhaustion that he could scarcely speak. ". . . Jophan," he murmured, "Trufandom . . . Magic Mimeograph . . . Perfect Fanzine."

"Ah, yes," said the stranger understandingly. "You have come a long way and you have a long way to go. You will be the better of a good meal and a night's rest."

He picked Jophan up and carried his limp body to the car. Then, stopping only to relock the gates behind him, he drove at high speed up the long entrance drive.

Jophan could not see much of the house in the darkness, but the bedroom to which he was carried was large and luxuriously furnished, and the meal which he was served was tastefully cooked and sumptuously served. Feeling comfortable and safe for the first time since he had embarked on his journey, Jophan fell into a deep sleep.

Next morning he awoke late, and found his way down to the breakfast room. His host had evidently breakfasted, and sat before a cheerful fire with a writing-machine on his knees. As Jophan entered he put the machine down and rose to greet him.

"Good morning, Jophan," he said, "Let me introduce myself. My name is Profan . . . you may have heard of me?"

"I have, indeed," said Jophan, awed, for before him stood the author of many of the books telling of faraway places and other times which he had read during his life in Mundane -- a life which already seemed unreal to him.

He attempted to express his admiration and gratitude, but Profan waved the latter aside and motioned him towards the laden breakfast table.

When Jophan had finished breakfast and joined his host beside the fire he again attempted to express his thanks, but the other would hear nothing of it. "It is nothing," he said. "I am glad to be able to help any pilgrim on his way to Trufandom. As long," he added, "as they do not descend on me in too great numbers."

This was the first resident of Fandom Jophan had encountered who had really encouraged him in his quest, and it put him in good heart.

"Am I then," he asked, "getting near to Fandom?"

"You have done about half the journey," said Profan, "but since you have come this far I have no doubt you will complete it. I wish I could take you there, but as you know, each Neofan must make his way by his own unaided strength."

"But you know the way, then?" asked Jophan eagerly.

"Indeed, yes," said Profan. "I go there for a visit at least once a year. This, you must know, is a colony of those who wish, and can afford, to travel frequently to both Trufandom and Mundane, and who have accordingly settled here, midway between the two places. Some of us, indeed, came here from Trufandom, for occasionally it happens that a True Fan will forsake the high and dedicated life of Trufandom for our more worldly community. They make their choice, as it were, between the Sacred and the Profan." He smiled at his little joke, and Jophan laughed politely.

"I will tell you all I can about your route," continued Profan, "but I should first warn you that any advice I can give you will be of no avail unless you continue to exercise the courage and discretion which have brought you so far, and unless you keep your shield bright and shining. For you have many dreadful perils yet to face."

"I shall remember," said Jophan.

"Well," said Profan, "the first of these perils is the Desert of Indifference, which begins at the border of this community and stretches for a great distance, unbroken save by an occasional oasis. To carry enough food and water to cross this vast expanse is beyond the powers of any Neofan, so that you must enlist the aid of native porters from the strange tribe that dwells on the fringe of the desert. On the far side of the desert is a huge rocky defile known as the Canyon of Criticism, through which lies the only know path to the plateau above where stands the Tower of Trufandom. Further I cannot help you, for the more subtle temptations and perils of the last stage of your journey assume a different form for each Neofan."

"Is that all?" asked Jophan.

"All?" said Profan, amused. "I admire your spirit. But, alas, it is not. On each side of your path, far away but always accessible, are the green, enticing regions known as the Glades of Gafia. Perpetually you will be pursued by the insidious temptation to turn aside and rest awhile there. But, should you do so, there is great danger that you will be unable to face the effort of resuming your journey, or that, roaming forgetfully through the beckoning glades, you will find yourself back in Mundane. Far better to proceed with moderation so that you will not be driven to the glades to recuperate from a too strenuous effort."

Profan went on to give Jophan much other helpful advice, to which Jophan listened respectfully. Then he thanked his host again and prepared to resume his journey. Profan went with him to the gate to wish him luck, and then stood watching Jophan march sturdily down the road. Once Jophan looked back to wave a final goodbye. He fancied that he detected in the other's face an emotion which, in the case of one less fortunately situated, he would have taken to be envy. But this cannot have been so, any more than the raising of Profan's hand to his eye can have been to wipe away an involuntary tear of regret. -

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.