It now became obvious that the hucksters" settlement had been merely the outskirts of the great city. The towers and spires which Jophan had seen that morning now loomed directly ahead, and the green fields had completely disappeared behind a great wall of buildings. Shortly these in turn gave place to a region of large barrack-like buildings, each backed by stretches of bare concrete and separated from one another by barbed wire fences.
As Jophan entered this district a great number of people came running out of the buildings to welcome him, pressing gifts into his hands, clapping him on the back and offering him hospitality. Meanwhile, others shouted greetings from the windows of the buildings and showered him with pieces of paper of varying size and in such profusion that Jophan could scarce see his way in front of him. He caught one of the pieces as it fell and saw that the message emblazoned across it was the same as that which was being shouted by most of the people around him. "WELCOME TO TRUFANDOM," it proclaimed. Jophan turned it over and found that the other side consisted of an advertisement for a club of fans, which was evidently what these buildings were. Curious, he turned his steps towards the nearest one. At once a howl of rage arose from the representatives of other clubs, and they shouted at him and plucked at his garments in an attempt to divert his footsteps. However, reinforcements quickly arrived from the club in whose direction he was proceeding and he was hustled inside.
There his new friends welcomed him effusively and asked him his name. "My name is Jophan," said Jophan, "and I am on my way to Trufandom to obtain the Enchanted Duplicator and produce the Perfect Fanzine."
They looked horrified. "Do you mean," asked one of them, "that you were actually going to attempt that journey by yourself?"
"Yes," said Jophan diffidently.
"But, my poor fellow," said the other, "that is quite impossible. You must, absolutely must belong to a club before you can even think about such an undertaking. Here we will train you for the journey, outfit you with all the necessary equipment, and in time send you out as part of a properly organised expedition. That is the way to go about things," he added proudly.
"How long will it take?" asked Jophan.
"Training is going on at this very moment in the exercise yard," said the other impressively. "But first let me show you the benefits our club has to offer you."
He smiled kindly and turned to speak to one of the other club members. Jophan could not hear what the latter said, but he saw him shake his head and point to another member. He in turn pointed to yet another with a great deal of muttering and whispering, and soon they were all arguing bitterly among themselves. Every now and then one of them would stamp angrily out of the room, slamming the door behind him, but another always seemed to come in to take his place. This went on for a very long time, and they seemed to have forgotten all about Jophan. He rose from his seat, tiptoed quietly out of the other door of the room, and found himself in the exercise yard.
Marching up and down the yard was a line of several dozen Neofen, under the supervision of a drill instructor. When they came to the barbed wire fence at one side the Instructor would shout, "About face," and they would turn round and march to the other side of the yard, where the process was repeated. Jophan watched for some considerable time, but this seemed to form the sole activity. At length one of the Neofen fell out of the line and walked tiredly over to Jophan.
"One gets a little bored with it at times," he said rather shamefacedly.
"I thought you were quite right," said Jophan, "I never saw anything so pointless in my life."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," replied the other defensively. "You see, there's to be an election shortly, and then it'll be the turn of one of us to give the orders. Why, it might even be me," he added eagerly.
"But how will all this help you get to Trufandom?" asked Jophan.
"Trufandom?" said the other, astonished. "Why, this is Trufandom! . . . Isn't it?"
"It is not," said Jophan firmly, and proceeded to impart to the Neofan something of the glory of the vision he had experienced from the touch of the wand called Fanac.
The Neofan passed his hand dazedly across his forehead. "Yes . . ." he said, "I do remember something like that. But I've been here so long I'd quite forgotten it."
"Leave all this marching up and down," urged Jophan. "It will never get you anywhere. Come with me to Trufandom."
"I'm not sure I'm strong enough yet for such a journey," said the Neofan hesitantly. "Maybe I had better let the club help me."
"No," said Jophan. "I am only a neofan, but I know this: that the journey to Trufandom is one which must be accomplished by a Fan's unaided efforts."
"But," pleaded the Neofan, "couldn't you wait until after this election . . . or maybe the one after it?"
"No," said Jophan firmly. "I must be on my way." He waited for a moment to see if the neofan would change his mind, and then left him reluctantly. He slipped back again into the building, through the room where the organisers were still arguing, and back into the street, still unnoticed. Then, brushing aside the crowd of well-meaning organisers and welcomers with a friendly but firm arm, he continued on his way towards the centre of the city.
The buildings now began to take on a more and more elegant appearance, and became ever higher and more imposing. The streets became broader and more smoothly paved. At each intersection the vistas were more and more beautiful and awe-inspiring, until at last he reached the centre of the city.
Jophan knew this was the centre of the city for the simple reason that his instinct told him that there could not be anything more beautiful still in store. He found himself in a broad, gleaming thoroughfare, beautifully paved. On either side there towered shining marble skyscrapers, their pinnacles plunging into the very heavens. It was all so wonderful that Jophan could do nothing but stand there motionless, breathless with admiration. This, he thought to himself, must be Trufandom. True, it was not what the Fairy had led him to expect, but he could not imagine that anything more wonderful could exist. -
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.