The Magical Carousel, Chapter III, Mind

Pom-pom dries his tears and Val bends down on all fours to examine the bird that is transporting them.  He is a gay creature with blue feathers and a tuft of yellow plumes on top of his head, carrying them along in a most distracted manner.

Finally it seems they have arrived at their destination, for the bird deposits his load in a very strange land indeed!  A land in the air with clouds forming landscapes and a hubbub of people rushing to and fro, all carrying books under their arms and walking in two’s.  They have scholarly faces and are very busy chatting and chatting away to each other.

For a long while Val and Pom-pom study their surroundings.  They realise the cage is locked and after much indecision and talk about whether they should enter this land, they finally put their diverse opinions in accord and decide to try the third key.  Bending down close to the lock of the cage they see a symbol and the number 3.

Val inserts the key and to their greatest joy the door opens:  they are free!

The children rush out and are about to dash off when Val remembers her picture-book.  Just before the cage vanishes she returns to fetch it and puts it under her arm as they hop off down the cloud road.

The people around do not seem very interested in the children; they walk hurriedly and most of them have their noses in books.  There is quite a lot of noise because all are reading out loud and making such a racket.  Val wonders how they can concentrate on their studies, for surely they are studying very seriously.  The children are curious to know where everyone is going because the whole place seems to be moving toward something.  The only problem is that the direction always changes and they find that many times these people are moving in circles.  In spite of themselves Val and Pom-pom are obliged to enter the movement and they both agree it would be a good idea to find out where everyone is off to.  Pom-pom runs down the road to sort of scout around, when he hears voices above the general hubbub saying:

“Where’s your other half?”

“How dare you walk around alone!”

“What sort of primitive creature are you?”

He rushes back to Val and they cling to each other not daring to move for fear of doing something wrong and arousing the ill will of these creatures.  Finally the indignant voices quiet down.

“Psst!”

Val and Pom-pom remain in their state, undecided as to what to do.

“Psst!” they hear again, and then another more insistent,

“Pssssssst!”

They turn around to see two young gentlemen, standing arm in arm with books in their free arms, dressed very fancily with high collars and shiny boots with spats, fine fitted coats and lovely silk cravats.  Both have wonderful heads of yellow wavy hair topping their foreheads above sharp, alive, blue eyes.

“Come here”, they say in union.

Val and Pom-pom hesitantly approach the couple and coming closer they soon lose all fear because the manner of the two is so pleasant that they are encouraged to communicate with them.  Pom-pom boldly asks why everyone is in two’s and why they always speak together.

“Two!  What do you mean two?  I am one.  I mean, one and one make two and it takes two ones to make a two, so I am one and one in two therefore one!  How about you?

“Well, he’s just my brother,” explains Val, rather embarassed.

“Oh, me too, a twin,” they reply in unison.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Geof/Frie.”  They same the name in perfect timing so as to make it sound one.  “However, please tell me why you haven’t yet learned to speak together.  How can you stand such a crazy split?”

Val begins to wonder who’s really crazy the twins or they! She doesn’t know what to say or how to say it since she could never manage to talk with Pom-pom, who always says silly things anyway.  Nevertheless, she starts relating all their adventures through Aries and Taurusland which delight the minds of Geof and Frie.

After listening to the tale the Twins reassure them:

“Have no fear.  You have come a long way in ignorance but finally here in Geminiland your education will begin.  You will learn to complement each other and the outward results will be to speak in unison.  After all, two minds are better than one, even if they are separate.  And words, dear friends, ah, you will learn the excitement of words!”

“Is that what everybody is studying?” asks Val.

“They’re preparing for the yearly examination.  It’s May 21st, a very important time here.  Come along and you will see.”

Off they go, with Val and Pom-pom trailing after the Twins down the road.  Their steps are quick and it takes quite an effort for the children to keep up with them.

They approach a very imposing building that seems to be just where all the population is going.  Hundreds of people are entering in a great rush and busily scanning the books held in their free arms.  Certainly there was never a school with such confusion!  Geof and Frie lead the children into a very large lecture hall almost completely filled and each takes a seat.  The Twins – as all the other couples – are seated with one arm entwined in the other’s.

In come the Professors, rather thin, with huge spectacles and a thousand and one twitches.  They are very nervous sorts.

Roll call is taken:  Hum/Phry, Ron/Ald, Hora/Tio, Lio/Nel, Frank/Lin, and so on.  After this the work begins and each couple is tested.  With most remarkable skill the two professors speak in perfect unison about entirely different subjects, and with the same facility the students answer, one to the questions of the first professor, the other to the questions of the second, simultaneously and in exact coordination.  Meanwhile the classroom is in an uproar because the rest of the students are preparing other lessons; some are studying mathematics, others history, some are memorising verbs in the strangest languages.  Yet nothing seems to distract the concentration of these creatures and they all appear so capable of doing a hundred things at once.

Geof and Frie are questioned, one in Greek and the other in Latin, then in Physics, Chemistry, and so on.  The children find them so clever, much more than the other students.  They are very proud to have them for friends.

“Val/Pom-pom!  Val/Pom-pom!” two voices shout out.  “What a ghastly name.  Who bears such a ridiculous name?”

Bang-bang!  Bang-bang!  The Professors rap their desk in indignation.  Geof and Frie push the children to their feet and for the first time the whole room falls into an attentive silence.

The Professors exclaim:  “Well, let’s be quick now.  You’re the last one on the list and examinations are coming to an end.  Can you write?”

“Yes/No,” respond the children, not in perfect time nor in accord, for Pom-pom of course can’t write – not very well at least.

“Repeat that please.  Can you write?” straining an ear to make sure they hear properly.

“No/Yes”, again not agreeing.

The whole class breaks out into ripples of laughter.  The Professors rap their desk and order returns.

“There has obviously been some mistake.  You can rectify this by properly answering the following question:  how many lives does a cat have?”

“One/Nine”.  We mean Nine/One!”  they respond.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong!  This will never do.  We, you said, you said WE!  Failure, failure,” and at these cruel and disheartening words the Professors are ready to dismiss them when Geof and Frie come forth to plead for another chance.  It is almost the end of the term, June 21st, with just a short time left to examine, but the Professors consent.  They ask for the book Val carries and agree to question them only on what they have been studying.  The Twins pass the book down the rows of students until it reaches the teachers’ hands.  Opening the book, the Professors gasp in horror:

“Pictures,” they exclaim, “a picture book! This is the cause of their maladjustment and ignorance.  An over-stimulation of the emotions and not of the intellect!  Disastrous.”

“Valie, what are they talking about?” whispers Pom-pom.

“I think they mean we cry too much.  Ssssh.”

“Silence up there!  Class,” continue the Professors, “these are feeling not thinking beings.  Can you see what such a stimulus can cause:  complete mental chaos, inability to coordinate and adapt, and a general disorder of the cerebral-nervous system,” proclaim the Professors as they twitch and fidget . . . “And what’s more, even their physical development has been affected, for one is bigger than the other.  “AND”, they continue solemnly, “I have the vague suspicion – though I prefer to leave the matter in doubt – that one is a girl and the other is a boy!”

Sounds of amazement come from the class and tension rises, sometimes dying down, then it begins again.  In fact, there is always this continuous feeling of up and down, up and down.

“There is only one thing to do for these unfortunate beings.  They must stay in this class until the next yearly examination period, working on the proper methods to become one well-conditioned, well-adjusted mental being, and let us presume that by that time their performance will be satisfactory.”

Pom-pom cries out:

“We can’t stay here!  We have to leave, right now.”

The Professors are silent a moment.  They have a very grave air about them. Finally they speak:

“No hope, there’s no hope.  Bring the certificate.”

One pair of students comes forward with a roll of parchment which the Professors prepare, and which says:

The document is rolled up and handed to the children.  The crowd makes sounds of approval; however, it is clear they are becoming bored with the matter and seem anxious to get on with their other affairs.

The children are accompanied to the entrance of the institution by Geof and Frie and a winged messenger is summoned to carry them off.  When he appears the children realise it is the same bird who carried them before.

He cleverly snatches them up, one in each of his claws and they depart, with Val carrying the certificate.  She and Pom-pom turn to wave a last farewell at Geof and Frie, only to find the Twins nonchalantly waving their handkerchiefs while talking to a group of students about preparations for the evening’s annual ball, already forgetting the two little folk who are by now far off in the distance.

The bird whistles a tune as he flies and seems in a gay mood.  He is obviously always in the clouds for in his distraction he loses his way many times and constantly changes direction.  At last he seems to hit the right course and with a decisive plunge begins descending, while the two children dangle in the grasp of his claws.  Down and down they go and the farther they descend the darker it becomes.  Down they go into the unknown, down into the night.

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The Magical Carousel, Chapter III, Mind

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