Short Story: “Trance” By C. A. Brown

The secret to going into a trance is the music. Sure, people might try to sell you speed-reader guff about reading every other line or only reading books that use New Standard Narration. But, the secret to becoming one with your paperback (and, yes, hardbacks are for poseurs) is choosing the right music. Of course, as the oldies keep telling us, this used to be much easier before the Great Flare of ’75 fried every piece of silicon to a crisp.

But, if you can dig up a good X-Ray plate roentgenizdat record from one of the old 20th Century Soviet Republics, then you can squeeze in an extra hundred words a minute. The trick is choosing something fast enough and listening to it often enough that your conscious mind blocks it out as background noise. Once this happens, your subconscious mind treats the music as a metronome. You start reading in time with it and it’s like souping up your brain with nitro fuel.

And, talking of souping up your brain, don’t let the powder peddlers fool you. You’ll find at least one of them in any library and they’ve got their sales patter down to a fine art. Don’t fall for it.

Best case scenario, you’ll end up with a pouch of vintage spine dust culled from the parts of the library no-one visits. Worst case scenario, you’ll be able to read nine hundred words a minute until you burn out. This might sound good on paper, but you won’t remember a single word of it. Which kind of defeats the point.

Of course, as essential as good music is to trancing out and losing yourself in a paperback, you’ve gotta be careful. Because libraries never fully went over to silicon chips, they were one of the few parts of the world that didn’t get royally fractured when the solar flare hit.

As such, they’re almost as bad as churches when it comes to traditions. Even second-generation librarians, born in carbolic-smelling wards shrouded in the inky darkness of a thousand flare-fried electric lanterns, have an eerie obsession with silence.

Apparently, before the flare, there were these things called ear-buds that you could use as a cloaking device for your music. They’re even mentioned outside of the science fiction section. An oldie even told me about them once. Claimed that he still had some in a wooden box somewhere, but that they wouldn’t fit into the dial on his phonograph.

Last I heard, he tried to sell them to a museum and was never seen again. I like to think he made millions and moved to some island somewhere, but the museum gremlins probably just put him in a glass case. Seriously, those guys make librarians look positively normal by comparison.

But, I digress. The secret to sneaking your music into a library is to go for a good portable phonograph. The kind that breaks apart like a sniper rifle. Once you’ve got one of these, then take your book to the corner nearest the boiler. Every library has one.

Apparently some of the trendier ones use the old books as fuel, something to do with ideological differences apparently. Anyway, a good boiler is a noisy, clanking thing that instils a deep atavistic fear in even the greenest of newbie librarians.

If you get there early enough, then you can stake out a corner, assemble your phonograph, lean into the trumpet and ride the paper highway at one hundred miles an hour. It’s like nothing else. Not only do you reach the point where you stop seeing words and just start thinking in pictures instead twice as quickly but, when you’ve gotta stop and wind-up the clockwork again, there’s usually someone interesting there too.

Someone who is reading a paperback with good cover art. Someone who spends more time on the page than in the world. Someone whose brain is like the computers that the ancients kept writing about all the time. If you’re lucky, you can pick up a few interesting Dewey Decimal numbers from them that you can pencil down and use to get into some of the better reading nooks in town.

Of course, you’ll sometimes get a hipster dweeb who will quote an ISBN number from memory, like they’ve spent so much time reading about life before the Flare that they still believe that things like databases actually exist.

But, most of the time, you’ll find interesting people near the boiler. The best one was this lady with woad blue hair who told me about this book called “Neuromancer”. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere, so I had to take her word for it.

Apparently, this was a book written before the Flare about people who use silicon machines to go into something like a reading trance. They called it “virtual reality” or something like that. Some things, I guess, are timeless.


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