The Letter Killers Club

Free The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Book: The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
perfecting his ideomotor and unaware of its future use, Tutus had included in its basic functions the main muscles connected with the brain’s efferent system. * But then a somewhat distasteful case had suspended and hobbled his work for a long time. The case was this: Tutus had come to know a prominent public figure, a man of great will and imperiousness, but suffering from a strange disease: what had begun as a simple hemiplegia * had spread throughout his body, atrophying almost the entire voluntary muscular system. The disease was gradually demuscling this man; the most elementary hand movement, every step, the articulation of words cost him more and more effort; as his will hardened and, focused on the fight for influence, steadily intensified, the range of his actions diminished: his muscles grew increasingly slack and flabby until finally his spirit was stuck fast inside a sack of skin and fat hanging limp and all but inert. The poor man turned for help to Tutus, who set about reawakening his activity. Every day the innervator’s keys, by contracting and relaxing the sick man’s muscles, would force his body to lumber from wall to door and back, his arms to swing and his mouth to articulate the words it tapped out. But the actions thus imparted were extremely limited: trailing coils of cords, the politician’s body lurched lifelessly, as if on a lunge, after the clatter of mechanical keys. True, the patient could still scrawl unaided—slowly and laboriously—the plan for each session. After three weeks of attempts to break through to life, the tightly tied sack of skin and fat, pushing the pencil lead inserted between its limp fingers, managed to scrawl: kill myself . Tutus pondered the plan and decided to turn it into a sort of experimentum crucis : * even in his experiments with this seemingly completely demuscled subject, the work of the mechanical innervator had been spoilt by unaccountable scrawls of will that got mixed up in the machine’s precise musical score. It was impossible to anticipate every form of volitional resistance; what’s more, an experiment with suicide was bound to involve a moment of violent conflict between the will of the machine and that of the man. Tutus proceeded as follows: having quietly emptied a bullet case of its gunpowder, he slipped the cartridge—in full view of his subject—into the cylinder of a revolver, cocked the trigger, and enfolded the weapon of death in the inert fingers. Now the machine went to work: the fingers twitched, then gripped the gun handle; the forefinger produced an incorrect reflex—Tutus adjusted the refractory finger inside the trigger’s curve. Another press of the key—the man’s arm sprang up, bent at the elbow, and brought the barrel to his temple. Tutus scrutinized the subject: his facial muscles showed no signs of resistance; true, his eyelashes fluttered and the points of his pupils had become large black blots. “Very good,” Tutus muttered, turning around to press the next key—but how strange, the key was stuck. Tutus pressed harder: he heard a metallic click. First he inspected his machine, depressing and releasing the key that had now come unstuck. Then he flipped some switches, and suddenly the human sack with the incomprehensible self-will pitched forward, flapped its arms like a bird shot in flight, and slumped to the floor. Tutus dashed up: the subject was dead.
    Anonym’s rough drafts, having returned our experimenter—as I said—to his experiments, forced Tutus to abandon the old-fashioned system of wires, terminals, and clamps to which his modeling mind had clung for so long so as to maintain a direct connection between the transmitter and receiver of an action. Leafing through the faded pages, Tutus felt the first puff of the “ether wind” imagined by Anonym. I don’t know enough about power engineering to understand the construction of his new

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