The Ultimate Sleep

© 1999 Paul Cooijmans

IV The White Lodge

Running through the fields surrounding my village I met a black cat with a bell around her neck. "Are you ringing in the final lap for me?", I asked. But she shook no, thus however inadvertently sounding the bell. Force of habit made me put on a final sprint; before long my heart was pounding in my burning chest. As no finish came in sight, I had to keep running and running until everything went black. And I fell, as if in a deep dark hole.

"Welcome to the White Lodge", I heard when I came to. Six figures stood around me in a large room with white curtains on the walls, white lamp shades on the ceiling, light wooden tables, black chairs and a warm-colored wooden floor. "Since you are so helpful in publishing our lessons, we invited you here to witness some nice future scenes." My eye fell on a white monitor, placed inside a white rack standing in a corner of the room. It showed an old man before a cinema in a crowded New York street. Neon letters flashed:

Hoeflin's Test

Starring Max Limpau

"Spielberg's latest hit; a filmed documentary on the life of Ronald K. Hoeflin. Brings in billions! So big Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's even preparing a musical version for Carnegie Hall."

"Is that old man Hoeflin? Why doesn't he go in?"

"Can't afford a ticket. Look, the bouncer's threatening to throw his cosmology book at him if he doesn't clear off."

"Can't afford?! And you said he made billions!"

"Spielberg did, yes."

"And Hoeflin?"

"Couldn't read the small print..."

The screen went white for a moment, and then lit up again and I saw another old man. Sitting at a table and - I rubbed my eyes - putting dollar bills in stamped envelopes. "But..... that's... John Smith?!"

"You guessed it. He's finally returning all the money he owes to people for unscored tests. See, at this very moment he's handling the twelve dollar for your own test submission, and the additional ten you sent him for other materials."

"Great! Now I can pay the rent! And how glad will my European friends be, among whom I distributed copies of the test, and who later complained to me about the loss of their twelve dollar!"

"Afraid not, Paul. But I suppose you couldn't know the dollar's been abolished and replaced by the yen just six months ago..."

Again, the scene changed. I saw three people at the head of a large table, apparently in debate. "Who are they?"

"The International Society for Philosophical Enquiry. At your instigation, they finally expelled all who qualified by fraud on the W-87."

"Justice at last! Is this the Executive Board meeting? They reduced the Board to three people?"

"That's not the Board, Paul; that's the ISPE."

The monitor faded and I was taken upstairs to a second room with a gray desk in it. "This is where we control your writing. Whatever is written with that pen over there appears in the articles you publish in various IQ journals and on Papyrus. I'm sorry if we gave you the illusion you wrote all the brilliant stuff yourself; the Cageman interview, the Ultimate Sleep, the fake newspaper articles on Maximum Orange: all our work. So don't go thinking you're the genius here; we are. The Time Lords, members of the Giga Society. We now appoint you as our Administrator; Administrator of the Giga Society. Suits you."

I looked at the desk. "It's just like my own desk... why?"

The Time Lords laughed, shook their heads.

"Hey... it IS my desk... what on earth..." I looked around. "This is my house?! What am I doing here... no, wait... what are YOU doing here?!"

Suddenly I spoke to emptiness. Rushed down the stairs; no one. The Time Lords... gone? Why that faraway laughter?

Comment from Virginia Langdon:

If anyone wishes a refund for an unscored Polymath System's test or an ordered item that was not received, they should write to me with the details. A refund will be sent promptly. This is the address:

Virginia Langdon
P.O. Box 795
Berkeley, CA 94701
USA
or vlangdo@bart.gov