the imaginary list

Mar 02 2013

i flipped back and forth through the index in case someone careless had picked up the card and moved it forward or backward from where it should have been. when my search remained unsuccessful i snapped the drawer closed and went through the drawers above and below. after that i thumbed through the drawers above and below those. i then went through that entire panel of the catalogue, from one side to the other, up and down the ladder. although i had plenty of time it would have been pointless to proceed further; those kaleidoscopic aisles stretch on forever.

i made my way back to the floor entrance where the genius of that level was stationed. the genius of floor CZ763, like the genius of every other floor, occupied its own small office beside the public access stairwell. the office was mostly visible through a customer service window, and in this case as in almost all others was lined with bookshelves filled with books and file folders, presumably the ongoing work of the genius. another door in the opposite wall of that room provided it with its own entrance through service corridors. at this moment the 763rd genius (not a ranking of its seniority, but only of the floor it had been arbitrarily assigned to) was seated at the counter behind the window, scribbling and stamping on variously coloured slips of paper. “hi,” i said, “so how do you get to work here anyway?”

the genius stopped what it was doing and glared at me sceptically. “if youd like to apply just ask at the main counter at floor HR70.”

“what kind of documents do i need to submit? just a resume?”

“im not sure of everything you need,” said the genius, “just ask at floor HR70 and theyll explain it all to you. is there anything else i can help you with?”

this particular genius was clearly not in the mood for conversation, which really was fine with me. “i need help finding these titles in the card catalogue,” i explained, “ive been to all of the floors where they should be, and they seem to be missing.” i passed my list across the counter.

Anaphylactic Narrativisation – Yelena Jenev

Beyond Transcendent Sublime – L. M. Scott

Iconoclash Surrendered – Anna Wylerley

Dismembering Flux – James H. Caldern

the genius raised its flaxen brow. “where do you think you got this list?” it did not sound impressed. i thought it was making a poor effort to provide friendly service.

“oh i was just hoping to find those books,” i replied, “it would be really helpful if you wouldnt mind checking out the title from your floor, and i can ask about the other books on other floors.”

“these arent real books,” said the genius, “theyre imaginary titles. ive been here for thousands of years, and i think i know how to tell imaginary titles apart from real titles.”

“i thought Babel is supposed to have every book,” i said.

the genius massaged its bloated temples. “im sorry but there has been a misunderstanding. this is a little bit difficult to explain. we only have every book ever written, and every book never written. neither of those categories include books that have only ever been imagined. i know it may not seem to make intuitive sense, but you just have to consider how many books have only been imagined, as opposed to simply never having been written, and how worthwhile those books as a group could really be.”

“but these particular books are very worthwhile,” i said “just look at them. they must be here somewhere.”

“do you even know where this list came from?” said the genius. it had lost the ability to pitch its voice evenly.

i was losing patience myself. “cant you just look them up on a computer? why dont you have computers here?”

“because computer data is more corruptible than hard copy, and we have infinity to fill with records. but that doesnt matter, because this problem is not with the nature of our records. listen to me please. your list is imaginary. those books are not here. the problem with you is that you dont understand the difference between what is imaginary and what is real. thats the difference between you and me. i know im imaginary, but you think youre real, that youre a real person, just strolling around in Babel innocently chasing your research, trying to find some books that you think are real but are really imaginary. this situation has become unsupportable.”

the voice of the genius had ascended to a desperate soprano warble by the conclusion of this ridiculous performance when it began to lose its composure. it was riven in slim horizontal segments which began to slip and flutter to the floor page by page within its office and out through the window as though it were a deck of cards being dealt. the pages were worthless rubbish, a mixture of newstype and grubby nonsensical manuscript and redundant administrative forms.

my alternatives through ordinary channels were obviously exhausted. i paid no more attention to the disintegrating genius and proceeded to HR70.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.