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Those Were the Days

by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

READERS’ DIGEST – SOMETIME A.C.A. (AFTER CALENDAR ABANDONMENT)

BOOK OF THE MONTH

THOSE WERE THE DAYS:

MY LIFE WITH THE LADY LIBRARIAN

FROM “THOSE WERE THE DAYS” © OSWALD MORROW.

PUBLISHER: D. DIETRICH & COM INC., BONN.

Oswald Morrow was a successful information ferryman and family man who gave up his former life for the woman of his dreams, Ms Boumgarden, whom he had known for years as a librarian. Together they developed the Weekday Theory that shook their contemporaries to the core, a theory with dizzying loops which they explain in their book “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?”. Immediately after its publication the book rocketed to the top of bestseller lists. The theory, questioning the conventional patterns of thought of its era, quickly made the couple multimillionaires.

“Since my childhood I hated the idea that in every one of life’s choices I’d have to be satisfied with just one of many alternatives – I found it altogether intolerable that choosing one alternative automatically meant forsaking all the others. I was always the ‘Hesitant Henry’ who wanted to both eat his cake and save it. And yet; when I finally realized it was indeed possible, I still chose the same alternative every time – a life with my Lady Librarian!”

After the publication of this bestseller, the readership of People magazine voted Oswald Morrow, the Romantic of the Year. Now Morrow, one of the world’s most famous time-speculators, has written a new book. In his autobiographical work “THOSE WERE THE DAYS” he tells his amazing story, exposing the events and fates behind the sensational Weekday Theory.

ENCOUNTERS IN THE LIBRARY

All those years there among the books – we never actually talked, me and that aging lady with whom I’d become infatuated, as I already realized at an early stage. She wasn’t beautiful, but youth trembled on her skin in a way that implored you to have a past with her. I cannot express it any better than this. Whoever has experienced a similar feeling will understand; others shouldn’t even try. I went to the Library on Tuesdays now and then, to read papers or to lend a book that appeared intellectual. All this I did only to catch sight of the Lady Librarian sitting there, behind her hardwood desk, old-fashioned horn-rimmed glasses on her nose.

Sometimes when I walked past the desk, she’d glance up at me from behind her reading glasses, as if she’d recognized me. Sometimes I felt she was about to say something intimate, surprising and meaningful to me. Something beyond the limits of conventionality. For those moments I lived. Those condensed seconds turned up to revive me during the days when the weariness of life assailed me. They kept me awake during the many nights when my wife was already asleep and I still waited for my six-phased dream period to start.

The woman behind the desk never said anything to me, neither I to her. Yet I was sure she was considering it. Just as I was. While I waited, I lived with her in my dreams.

Sometimes we passed each other amongst the shelves, and then we couldn’t help getting close to each other. We even touched each other. It’s useless to even try describing the effect her nearness had on me. “Excuse me, would you please let me through here, I have to reach the Ibsen there beyond you,” the woman would say quietly, and I would always answer with something like: “Oh, I beg your pardon, I’m in your way again. There, can you get past now? By no means would I wish to put myself between you and Mr Ibsen.”

I do not want to insult my ex-wife Hannelore, but even disguised in platitudes those seemingly absentminded encounters were more erotic than anything I’d ever done between the sheets.

The Library stands by a green-bordered river in the northern part of my hometown, close to the famous Maple Bridge, once visited by hordes of photographing and wondering tourists. By that time, the first detected time turbulences still ran neatly and safely along the river’s channel, through the river water. Tourists used to toss coins and handkerchiefs off the bridge, trying to hit the turbulences. Time retardations were called back-vortexes. When tourists hit a back-vortex, they’d marvel at how the falling object suddenly stopped some distance above the river’s surface and, from the viewpoint of the people standing on the bridge, remained floating in the air. Actually, the coin was just transferred into a different, much slower time current than the one on the bridge. Seen from inside this slower time current, the coin would have continued falling at a completely normal speed, whereas the people on the bridge would have seemed to be moving super-fast, like insects in an extremely sped-up film. The time accelerations were called time torrents. An object hitting a time torrent vanished from sight in an instant, as if greedily snatched away by an invisible hand.

And, of course, there always were some madcaps wanting to experience the change in time personally, without a thought of the possible consequences before it was too late. The time torrents weren’t particularly dangerous; the jumper just seemed to scramble up the bank the same moment he hit the water. But the slowing time back-vortexes were considerably more problematic. Few of the daredevils jumping into a back-vortex completely understood beforehand what the leap meant for their social life – afterwards the matter would, however, become abundantly clear. When the foolhardy divers climbed out of the river, after what seemed to them a short swim, for the rest of the world a much longer time period would have passed – generally a few days, or in the worst cases, years. The jump could cost the daredevil a girlfriend or boyfriend, spouse and employment, or student residency. They eventually had to organize a special support group for back-vortex swimmers. When warning signs seemed to have no effect, an electric fence was finally constructed along the river’s banks.

At that time, before the Great Time Flood and the disastrous riot, the Time Research Institute loomed on the riverbank opposite the Library. The Institute was devoid of any outer charm. Its appearance brought to mind a clumsy, callous child or a grey-faced bureaucrat who seemed a nonentity but kept plotting and scheming in his twisted mind. Unlike the infamous Time Research Institute, blown up in the riot, the Library fortunately is not one of those new soulless buildings constructed with orders to save costs, but an old venerable stone building rich in atmosphere, instead. On its façade, obviously finished at a leisurely pace, one can still see the dreamy touch of an artist’s chisel. But for a few blackened licks of soot, the Library’s outward aspect remained as it was before the violence.

On the first floor were sanitary facilities and several small lecture and meeting rooms; downstairs one would sometimes bump into the grey-suited city bureaucrats who probably never had any business on the upper floors – literature being something their kind couldn’t understand. On the second floor was the children’s department, in spite of its large windows always a shadowy place, where I sometimes sought books for my son to read before my divorce. The third floor featured a large festival hall, and once you climbed up to the fourth floor, you finally found the adult department and reading hall – and the wonderful lady, my spectacled Lady Librarian. The Library had a lift, too, but for some reason that only became clear later, I preferred the stairs.

The Library steps were broad and stony. Whenever I reached the top, I felt, besides sweaty and oddly humbled, like a child who’d slipped into one of those places where only adults are allowed. And yet I was already a grown-up man, husband to my wife and father to a small boy. But in the moments I spent near the Lady Librarian, I again turned into that thirteen-year-old boy I’d been when I first saw her. Infatuation had boiled up inside me quickly and fiercely, like a kettle of milk forgotten on the stove. By that time, to be sure, she’d only been a library assistant in the children’s department, from where she was transferred upstairs four years later. At the very same time I also left the world of children’s books and began to get acquainted with adult literature in the Lady Librarian’s charming sphere of influence.

As far as I could remember, the Lady Librarian had simultaneously felt extremely dear and familiar to me, and extremely unattainable. She was about fifteen years older than I. Although the gap between us had strangely narrowed with the passage of time, I still felt too shy from old habits to even consider crossing it.

I’VE HAD DREAMS ABOUT YOU”

Whenever I put a book chosen from the shelves on the lending desk, I observed the Lady Librarian’s reactions. I wanted to find out what kind of books she appreciated. She wasn’t easy to gauge, her expressions were always strictly controlled, but practice made me a master.

In a certain light one could see pretty furrows under her dark eyes. Some of my choices amused her, such as the “Tropic of Cancer”, which I lent at the age of fourteen; then the furrows under her eyes seemed to get laughingly deeper. “Anna Karenina” made her brows jerk, revealing amazement. At that time I was fifteen and trying to appear more mature in her eyes than I was. I suppose she saw right through me. A couple of years later, Thomas Mann, Umberto Eco and Tolkien finally earned me a nod of approval, though it was so minute that nobody except a practiced observer such as me would have noticed it.

Then, twenty-two years after our first meeting, while I was in the middle of all the fuss and hurry of organizing a move to another city with my family, I suddenly fancied dropping by the Library once more. I approached her and dropped the book I’d picked up from a shelf at random into her lap, and to my complete surprise all the dreams where I was living with her tumbled out.

It was as if someone else was speaking with my mouth. When my outburst was over, she glanced at the book I’d brought, took off her spectacles, and then stared at me a long while without visible surprise. My stomach hurt and my ears buzzed. The situation felt unreal. I actually had, on impulse, gone and revealed to her my dreams like some obsessive idiot. I believed I had at last crossed the limit; on one side of which there are sane persons who might have some obsession, a bit original but firmly controlled, and on the other side those basket-cases whose removal into rubber-walled homes was just a matter of time.

The woman’s lack of expression tortured me. Probably she was just wondering whether I was only a harmless idiot or the kind of freak who necessitated an alarm. She usually acted with restrained kindness towards everybody, but I’d once seen a glimpse of another side to her. She couldn’t stand mentally disabled people. Once, a group of four mentally disabled youngsters had come to the Library with their instructor, looking for illustrated books about foreign countries. I watched the situation from one side; the eager book seekers didn’t have the patience to be properly quiet, and the cheerfully noisy group drew everyone’s eyes. When they approached the Lady Librarian, she turned pale, stiff and tense. I could actually smell her aversion towards these harmless people. Now I was afraid she’d react the same way towards me.

“Yes, we live by the seaside in a white house, and the porch could use some painting,” the Lady Librarian finally said. “And our little daughter is a miserable violin player.”

“True,” I heard myself admit (my voice seemed to come from somewhere far away). “So let’s stop sending her to lessons with Ms Lindeman. She’d rather gather cockleshells on the beach.”

For a while the situation felt completely natural. She smiled and I smiled; the library hall seemed to brighten around us, and we looked at each other as if it had been the world’s simplest and most obvious thing. Even colours deepened: the brown in the woman’s hair shone browner than any brown I’d ever seen. Never before had we exchanged more than a few superficial words, but here, now, the two of us were discussing our dreams over the library’s lending desk. And how come we happened to share the same dream, in which we lived together with a daughter? How nice, unique and interesting!

Except I was close to fainting; while my soul felt like a balloon striving to fly off, the flesh on my bones hung heavy and listless. Not even with my wife had I discussed my dreams, since she was rather inhibited when it came to intimate matters. “Dreams are private, just like arseholes,” she’d once said. “They exist, they are common, but they should nonetheless never be talked about.”

It was true, of course. Publicly revealing one’s dreams could result in a heavy fine and forfeiture of civil rights for a long time. And now I’d gone and poured my dreams out to the Lady Librarian! I might as well have dropped my trousers, handed her a torch, and mooned her.

I glanced around furtively. How many had overheard? What kind of job promotions could a man with an indecent exposure record expect? “Publicly revealed his dreams in the City Foundation’s Library, in the middle of a Tuesday.”

“Your finger,” the woman said. I inclined my head questioningly. “The finger,” she repeated and took my hand with a grin. She recorded my DNA on the lending terminal, let go of my hand and gave me the book. Her smile was once more the epitome of customer service. Obviously she, too, had suddenly remembered the rules of proper conduct. In a public place you didn’t talk aloud about your dreams, or do anything else improper, after all. That’s what mothers tell their little children. “You are welcome,” the Lady Librarian said, without looking me in the eye.

“Thank you,” I muttered. I grabbed the book and blundered out the adult department on stiff legs. There was a restroom downstairs; I went there to wash my face and to collect my thoughts, but I didn’t even have the time to touch the faucet before I doubled over and threw up until my stomach was empty. I heard how the toilet-robot, smelling the mess, clicked out of its niche behind me and waited to fulfil the purpose of its existence: disinfect the basin.

Of the next two Tuesdays I remember nothing but my wife’s distant voice; I suppose she persistently tried to ask me something about the move. My son most likely also came to explain something to me every now and again, which always ended with an inquiring series of sounds that I didn’t have the energy to even try translate into meaning. Some person of importance might have phoned me, but after the call I couldn’t remember with whom I’d just spoken. I packed things more mechanically than the most primitive E-class robot worker. In my mind, packing had nothing to do with the approaching day of our move. My brain had almost totally disconnected from the external world, while my hands kept tossing data cubes, folders, pens, pots, socks, electric cranklers, clothes and papers into empty boxes my wife Hannelore kept fetching from the supermarket. At times I vaguely realised I’d broken some object, but none of that seemed to matter in the least.

“Daddy’s nervous about the new job,” I heard my wife whisper to our son several times. What a nice explanation.

I was supposed to take a transfer vacation of seven Tuesdays before I started working at my company’s new location, “The Node”. (It was the node of net-crossings, central to the information ferry transport). With my promotion I’d also been promoted to Chief of Information Ferrymen, and at first I’d been very excited. The promotion meant more money and more challenges. I’d always been a virtuoso forming, organizing and handling information packages, which of course made me competent to control the ever-increasing four- and soon to be five-dimensional net ferry transport, using the newest results from the Time Research Institute in the planning of its technology. But now I actually didn’t even remember the new job any more.

On the third Tuesday my eyes focused on an object in my hand. It was the book I’d borrowed from the Library. It was Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”.

I took the book, climbed over the mountain of boxes and returned to the Library. The Lady Librarian was waiting for me behind her desk and looking at me expressionlessly.

“We have to talk. When the library closes,” she said.

Something terribly powerful was churning below her cool veneer. It was just as though I’d been looking at the beginnings of a volcanic explosion at the bottom of a frozen pond, seconds before the ice ceased to exist forever.

“Yes,” I answered and returned the book. Blindly I leafed through newspapers while I waited for the Library’s closing hour. Headlines flashed on the surface of the reading table: IRAN OFFERS ECONOMIC AID TO EAST-AMERICAN MUSLIM REPUBLIC. INSTITUTE OF INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT DENIES RUMOURS OF TIME EXPERIMENTS. SPEAKER OF POPULAR TALK SHOW REVEALED TO BE A SEX ROBOT – GROOM HAS NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. SACKED MANAGER OF T.R.I. REVEALS: TIME EXPERIMENTS HAVE BEEN GOING ON FOR OVER THREE DECADES! T.R.I. ADMITS TO EXPERIMENTS: “WE TRIED TO SLOW DOWN WORKING HOURS.” PROBLEM CHILD: SON OF ICELANDIC RESEARCHER MANUFACTURES 328 COPIES OF FAMILY’S DOG GUNVALD IN CELLAR! “DADDY EXPLAINED TO ME HOW IT’S DONE,” SAID THE THIRD GRADER.

I tried to smile at the news of the 328 Gunvald dogs, but my face felt cold. I kept glancing at the woman sitting behind the desk. She was watching me rather strangely. I pondered whether I ought to leave, after all. What if she was just wondering why I was still sitting here? What if I’d misunderstood something?

But when eight o’clock arrived and all the customers except for me had left, she locked the door, put on her brown coat, and came over to me. Her smile dispelled all my doubts. “Let’s go,” she said.

COFFEE AND GREAT INSIGHTS

We descended the stairs, my Lady Librarian and I, and made our way to the café round the corner. There we sat at a private table, not wanting other ears listening in on our conversation. She ordered a coffee and a big cinnamon bun. It was quiet; the radio was softly playing some new production by the virtual Edith Piaf.

Yess! More original than the original! a husky DJ kept assuring us, himself probably just the virtual voice of some radio legend.

Nothing new was good enough for people nowadays; everything had to be neo-twentieth-century. People were coming to blows over tickets to the new Hitchcock movie “Fatal Moon”, starring Jimmy Dean, vir, and Greta Garbo, vir. Traditional film wasn’t doing well at the box office and actors had to work for scraps, as devotees. Their work and the medium were considered too elitist for the tastes of the common people.

For some time already, the production of films had been the task of comps simulating past masters. I had actually begun to get used to the idea. Chaplin movies by the comps weren’t so bad, after all. Same with comics. I’d bought my son a Carl Barks comp from the series “Great Historic Storytellers” for his sixth birthday. For a couple of weeks it had churned out one new duck comic after the other, day and night, in the corner of the boy’s room and, except for a few occasional oddities, they all seemed brilliant.

Finally the overexerted comp had coughed and caught fire; in its last moments its scorched circuits spat out a half-finished story, a story with several serious stylistic flaws. Obviously the essential Comic’s Code circuit of Barks’ production had broken down. In the story a nuclear bomb, jury-rigged by Gyro Gearloose devastated Duckburg in revenge for a lost football match. The story included a strange, somehow familiar by-plot, in which the secret of Uncle Scrooge’s wealth was exposed to be a pact with Satan; Uncle Scrooge also suffered from syphilis, caught from Glittering Goldie during his Klondyke years, which was slowly ruining his brain. Finally I realized the Barks comp had obviously been drawing material from the Net, at least from Thomas Mann’s “Doctor Faustus”, which I’d read at the age of fourteen.

But the newest new was the author comps – a real sacrilege! Anybody with enough money could buy a comp version of Dostoyevsky, Pullman, Waltari, Irving or Tolkien (the selection was getting wider all the time) and make it produce text according to the given parameters. Luckily not quite everything was possible, after all, as one of my colleagues found out while trying to make the Tolkien comp write a porno version of “The Lord of the Rings”; he had to give up the endeavour when the system crashed time after time. The Tolkien comp had no erotic circuit at all. “As long as I sit behind my desk, not a single comp book gets into the Library,” my companion snorted when I mentioned the matter. Her cheeks flushed a pretty pink with indignation. I smiled in mute admiration at her temper.

The new trends in the movie industry and literature weren’t, however, a central subject of our conversation that night. Until that Tuesday changed to the next one, we sat in the café and talked about our dreams. Sometimes we held each other’s eyes, sometimes we stared out at the boats moving up and down the Maple River beyond the window. They were research boats of the City Technical Department. I vaguely remembered hearing something strange had happened on the river. Some rumours told of an accident, others of a mysterious discharge that probably had something to do with the recent fire at the Time Research Institute.

At some stage we took each other’s hands. Everything was wonderful, fabulous and complicated, and at the same time surprisingly plain and clear.

By morning we’d kissed some twenty times, germinated our amazing Theory of Weekdays, and acquired a huge headache. At that stage, the theory was, of course, just a confused collection of vague, partly contradictory ideas, the majority of which even we didn’t take seriously. Many of the ideas made us laugh, but some also aroused our fears.

Before we parted, we agreed to meet again, and as an aside, to also spend the rest of our lives together. After our night at the café we felt crazy and courageous, yet I remember fearing that our romantic certainty would evaporate with the new day and that we’d end up with nothing and remain prisoners of our former life.

I went home and informed my wife I could no longer live with her. I told her I’d had another woman for a long time already (which was only technically a lie). My wife nodded absentmindedly. I imagined I’d got off scot-free: obviously my wife had also been harbouring secret thoughts of divorce. Brilliant! We both could then deal with the situation maturely and with equanimity.

But when I’d collected my suitcase and returned to the hall with sprightly steps, she made a scene after all. She attacked me like a madwoman. We wrestled a moment until I finally managed to pull her fingers from my hair.

My son watched me silently from the top of the stairs when I stepped past my shaking wife, who was panting from exhaustion, and left. My hands were trembling, my face had bloody scratches on it, and I felt as though I was hanging partly loose from my own body. I was simultaneously joyful and terrified. I closed the door behind me, heard the latch click – and that click rang in my mind for a very long time.

A couple of weeks later I contacted Hannelore to settle the practical arrangements with her. Besides considerable alimony, she also wanted to keep the house, the car and all the movables inside the house. I felt guilty and consented to all her demands.

After nominal opposition I also gave up all claims to our son. This may sound callous, but if I’m completely honest, I actually didn’t want anything, or anybody, from my former existence in my new life. Of course I cared about my son. However, the feeling was distant and unattainable, as though coated with lead and sunken somewhere in the bottomless mud of my self.

I took a hotel room just a few of blocks away from the Library and went to sleep. The six dream-sequences in arrears streamed through my consciousness; six different versions of reality. The dreams were now clearer than ever before. Familiar people in different roles. Places simultaneously familiar and strange. The house by the seaside. The Lady Librarian who was my first and only wife in the dream. Our completely unmusical daughter, whose stubborn efforts to learn to play the violin amused, touched and infuriated us. And the cat: at some stage this peculiar looking nuisance of a cat padded into the dream, appearing out of nowhere, having evidently decided to stay with us. What a super-Freudian symbol constructed by the unconscious, I remember thinking afterwards. The cat obviously signified female eroticism, or perhaps my own feminine side. Whatever.

When I woke up I only remembered a part of my dreams, fragmentary bits here and there, although I could recollect more of them better than before. Little by little I learned to remember more. The Lady Librarian and I developed a mental technique by which we could, step-by-step, recall to mind those six dream sequences almost perfectly. This technique is fully and clearly demonstrated in our book “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?”. (The book “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?” is available from the Readers’ Digest only as an electroflash version to your Home Book. We regret that the 10000 numbered copies of the Special Edition are already sold out. Ordering instructions on p.128. – Ed.)

Leaving my family was curiously easy for me. After everything that had happened I no longer felt bound to my former obligations. I understood that I’d just wrecked my former life and left amongst the ruins a woman and a child, the two people I would have unhesitatingly died for only a day before. Well, winds blow, emotions flow. I knew that under normal circumstances I’d have felt like a miserable bastard who deserved to be stoned to death. I’d always condemned people who did things like that to their families. How I had loved standing on the moral high ground, filled with my own supercilious nobility! But now I discovered that when you get close to the very greatest insights, matters like guilt, duty and responsibility are amazingly easy to ignore. When a person experiences reality-quakes, things acquire completely new proportions. And the victims will always be the ones whose lot it is to become less important in relation to the whole.

I lived in the hotel for a week. I notified my employers that I wouldn’t be around anymore. I had some savings and decided I could always find another job at a later stage. I wasn’t afraid of changes or uncertainty – I actually glowed with enthusiasm and energy. Now and then I felt almost manic. Then I moved in with my Lady Librarian. By no means did she live in a seaside villa (that we acquired only later); instead, it was a small apartment at the end of a street guarded by linden trees, in the eastern part of the city, which we inhabited.

When we weren’t making love, we talked and made notes on our observations and thoughts. By day I typed out our notes while I waited for my lover to come home from the Library. Gradually, the Weekday Theory took its final form, and we noticed there was a whole book piling up on the desk. I don’t remember which one of us first got the idea of offering it to a publisher, but we both were just as excited about the idea.

I didn’t know it then, but the book was to become a bestseller that made it possible for us to live out the rest of our lives without financial worries.

THE AMAZING THEORY OF WEEKDAYS1

In the next chapter I shall try to explain, as concisely as possible, the central characteristics of the Theory of Weekdays. I’ll also aim to make it easily understandable, although I probably won’t manage that. For a layperson it will be difficult, if not impossible to comprehend the theory, and I’ve therefore included a chart that hopefully clarifies matters a little – although a simplification will necessarily also mean a mild distortion of the subject. (The chart is included as a folded appendix inside the back cover – Ed.)

Nowadays no rational person even imagines that he could keep count of time’s course any more. Not that very many would even want to do that. Measuring time is just as strange a thought for the younger generations as playing chess on the wing of a bird in flight – it’s strikingly difficult, and besides, there are quite a lot more sensible things to do. There will, however, always be brave eccentric individuals making the effort, the fascination with desperate endeavours perhaps being the characteristic that makes us human.

Once in a while new versions of clocks and calendars appear in the shops. They are extremely complicated and difficult to interpret with their hour systems that vary from zone to zone, and their whole- and half-jump-days. Ideological Clock Movements organize long and expensive courses for those brave enough to try learning the secrets of time measurement instruments and with enough money and leisure. For a while the new kinds of clocks and calendars might seem to function, some of them actually quite well, but before long even the best mechanisms always prove to be nothing more than beautiful objects that have no predictive power at all over the changing currents of time. And that’s why people buy clocks and calendars, of course, to acquire unique ornaments. Time cannot be measured nowadays. One could just as well try to build an instrument that measures the average speed and direction of every single bird’s flight across the sky.

Once, however, time was measurable. For instance, during the latter half of the last millennium, measuring time was a quite essential part of human culture. In my youth time still used to be measured rather accurately. Today’s youth can’t even imagine “The Old Time” we oldsters reminisce about, which obviously had a rather linear character. The ancient linearity of time feels rather funny in a city that’s been fragmented by time turbulences to the point that it’s become unfit to live in. Once, clocks were indeed something more than just complicated toys for eccentrics, but that’s no longer the case. If time’s passage nowadays still follows some unknown logic, that rationale is incomprehensible to both the human intellect and the enormous computing power of the comps.

Since our first meeting, the Lady Librarian and I thought about the essence of time a great deal, and I’d say our interest in time never ran out completely. We were children of our own time, after all. In our youth, time passed at an even rate, just as fast as everywhere else, and it could be logically divided into equal parts, based on the movements and positions of heavenly bodies. The parts of time had several kinds of names, too. People in the past actually amused themselves by talking about time.

A particular day, for example, would be called Tuesday. Tuesday could mean either the whole calendar day or just the part of it spent awake. As for the sleep phase, it was divided into six separate parts that were called Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The names were borrowed from an ancient custom that divided a year – an integral whole formed by four successive seasons – into weeks, each of which had seven days. (The system of the days of a week was abandoned with the great Calendar Reform sometime in my early childhood. The global counting of years, on the other hand, was only abandoned sometime after the Great Time Flood, although a person’s age is still defined in subjective years.)

But all this is incomprehensible to the younger generations. I have, indeed, noticed their expressions when old people, without realizing it, use such archaic phrases as “after a month”, “yesterday”, “two years ago”. It’s difficult to discard old habits, even if all the phrases denoting an objective and uniform passing of time are now just as useless as the notches carved into a boat’s side to try and mark a good fishing place, as told in that ancient moral tale.

The Theory of Weekdays originated in this way. For a start, I and my wife-to-be considered our dreams, which had something very special to them. We had indeed been having similar dreams. That in itself was a very intimate and exciting realisation. Just talking about dreams was apt to make one blush, and when one also noticed such convergences… now and then it actually became hard to breathe.

In our dreams we lived together, and we both remembered many corresponding details in those visions. Parts of the details had to do with our shared life, others with the scenery and inhabitants of the city. We knew each other’s bodies already long before we’d touched each other even once. I knew with clinical exactness how to arouse her passion. Her body fascinated me, but it held no surprises for me. Before I’d even dared to really look at her, I’d already seen her breasts with photographic exactness: so small they could have belonged to a boy, and the dark brown, rather reddish shade of their nipples that reminded me of a wilting rose petal.

The more we talked about our dreams, the better we began to remember. And little by little the dreams started to feel all the more tangible. We began to suspect that they actually were real, as irrational as the idea felt at first. And finally, when the dream images had become clarified to the utmost, we knew it with a certainty. Gradually the different days of the week glided through our minds in clear parallel rivulets with a considerable number of similarities, but even more differences between the days.

We began to order the dreams we remembered chronologically. We talked, negotiated, debated and made notes. We wrote down the events in our dreams on paper slips and then shuffled these in front of, beside, over and after each other. Some events formed a continuum; others were parallel to each other, as sort of alternatives. In the older dreams, the awake-phase was illogically called Monday, and on Tuesday, then, came the first of the six dream phases. In the Monday phase, Tuesday had for a long time felt like a dream; we remembered seeing Monday dreams where we reminisced about our dreams of the other days in2 which we didn’t always know each other. In the later dreams (that is, Monday dreams) we began to realize that the other days of the week were actually real. In Tuesday we’d had a Monday dream where we became aware it wasn’t a dream. It was in this dream that we’d had an insight, which we only discovered much later. Except, what we in Tuesday thought of as a dream, wasn’t a dream, after all.

At this stage of my explanation, the reader can probably easily believe that any effort to really understand these swaying and obscure constructions aroused in us weird feelings and a great deal of stress. For quite a while I was plagued by a depression, for which I had to seek help from the chemist’s. When my brain had been strained to the utmost, I even considered returning to my old family and to the safe one-dimensional life I’d lived. I suspected that the Lady Librarian also felt the temptation to push me away at times and to abandon the whole issue. Once, we didn’t say a word to one another for eight Tuesdays. We weren’t actually giving each other the silent treatment, we both just needed to come to terms with the issues we were dealing with, before we were able to explore them with each other. Our state of mind may be illuminated by a particular incident one Tuesday, when the Lady Librarian suddenly punched me in the face without any reason or forewarning whatsoever; I touched my bloody nose in amazement, and she, just as surprised by what she’d done, burst into tears and locked herself in the bathroom for the rest of the Tuesday. We both kept drawing different schematics and managed to quickly lose the thread of their logic again. One day I even caught my Lady Librarian constructing some kind of three-dimensional model of the phenomenon from paper, tape and bits of string. By and by, and extremely gradually, the fundamental nature of the complicated issue became clear to us.

At first we didn’t remember any other parallel days, except Monday. But when Monday had become clear enough, bits and pieces of the other dream phases began to surface in our minds – at first something from Sunday, then, later on, from Saturday also. Finally all the other days of the week came to us; with each clarified day, the preceding day cleared up. In Monday we had already remembered the other weekdays for quite some time, and when (in Tuesday) we’d managed to remember Monday, we rather quickly acquired in our minds the remaining weekdays, too. Please note, however, that in the other weekdays, except for Tuesday and Monday, we were still blessedly ignorant at this stage of the whole Theory of Weekdays (although in those days, too, we remembered having dreamt about the other weekdays.) It felt weird, of course; it was as if we’d been secretly watching ourselves through a double mirror.

Monday was in any case our first new day, at least from Tuesday’s point of vie

OUR WORLD OF MONDAY

On Mondays we lived (had for years already lived) in a large white villa by the seaside, close to the woods of Bachenwachen. It was a beautiful place. In Tuesdays there was an ice cream stand with closed shutters, which had last been open some time in my childhood. We had built the villa with the money we’d made from a book we’d written, in which – right, just that – we treated the Theory of Weekdays. The same money guaranteed us a rather pleasant life, and my wife would not have needed to work in the Library, but she absolutely wanted to. The thing was, she couldn’t entrust her beloved books to anybody else. “Those geniuses from the City have tried again and again to cart away the books to some dump and replace them with flash-down versions,” she would explain, affronted. “Sure, their arguments are quite rational. Flash-down books are very practical. You don’t even have to come down to the Library to get a book. But those stupid bureaucrats don’t understand that other values exist besides dull and stupid rationality! Only a paper book is a real book.”

In Monday, remembering other weekdays and creating the Theory of Weekdays had been a much longer and more laborious process than it was in Tuesday. That might have been because I was much happier in Monday than in Tuesday and didn’t even feel inclined to remember the other parallel, less perfect days.

We’d already lived together for years then, I and my Lady Librarian, and I’d never married or even dated Hannelore. (Though in Monday it was also the dreams that had brought us together.) I did know Hannelore; she was married to one of my schoolmates and they had two children, one of whom looked very much like my Tuesday son. Sometimes we’d even meet with Hannelore and her family. But when we started remembering Tuesday in Monday (which obviously had happened quite a while before we’d started remembering Monday in Tuesday), we began to avoid them. Embarrassingly enough, I sometimes surprised Hannelore staring at me with an odd expression on her face. On some level of consciousness she obviously also remembered our Tuesday marriage. If not as a real memory, then as a dreamlike recollection. It was, after all, in the dreams that I, too, connected with the reality of the other weekdays. I began to understand why talking about dreams was the taboo it was. Dreams are quite a bomb, especially to the institution of marriage. I already had experienced this firsthand myself, and after the publication of the Theory of Weekdays, the divorce rate exploded.

And we had a daughter, our blond Giselle who played the violin. Actually, playing the violin was already history; it finally ended one warm evening when I and my wife had made sure Giselle was already asleep, then stole away with her violin and buried it in the beach sands, giggling. The following morning Giselle woke up, naturally noticed that her violin was missing, and scowled at us suspiciously over the breakfast table. She, however, never inquired after her instrument, nor did she ever utter a single word to show she’d even noticed its strange disappearance – she loved to tease people like that sometimes; she was an exciting character in that way.

And the next morning, when Giselle found a stray star-backed cat in our yard, washed and combed it, and adopted it after ardent appeals and our eventual blessing, I think we were mostly quits.

SUNDAY

Common to all weekdays was that Alice worked in the Library. (Her name was Alice, by the by, Ms Alice Boumgarden, born Hesse. The last name was a relic from a previous short-lived marriage – Mr Boumgarden had thought it prudent to run off to sea and get sunk along with his ship, torpedoed by pirates, into the depths of the Mediterranean). In Sunday, however, Alice had never been transferred to the adult department; she was still a library assistant in the children’s department.

I considered this a great injustice, but Alice soothed my anger – she’d herself wanted to stay with children’s books. She understood that now, considering it in Tuesday, although her Sunday self was still quite bitter. She came to realize how, behind her own back, she herself had done all kinds of little things that gave others the impression that she wasn’t someone who could be given responsibility for the entire Library. Her reason was that deep down she wanted to stay involved with children. That’s what she believed, anyway. The Sunday version of my Alice was, for some reason, a bit fonder of children, and at the same time, more stubborn than the Alice from the other days. And even though she’d have very much wanted to have children of her own, she couldn’t admit it either to herself or her friends. After her husband had absconded, she’d emphasized her independence to a ridiculous extent, though Alice did eventual yield enough to start feeding a stray cat that had adopted her yard as its territory.

In Sunday we hadn’t become acquainted, yet. We were stalking each other, mostly in a hesitant way – at times almost brave enough to take the decisive initiative, but always withdrawing at the last moment. In Sunday I also had a wife I actually didn’t even like, plus two sweet daughters. On the pretext of my daughters’ reading needs I regularly visited the children’s department of the Library by myself to secretly catch a glimpse of the Library assistant.

Seen from Tuesday and Monday, our germinating Sunday romance was painful to follow. We wanted to shout out eager encouragements to our selves through the dreams, urge our selves to finally take the risk and at least exchange a few words. But we knew we couldn’t hurry the matter. We remembered very well how confusing, from Tuesday’s viewpoint, the memories of our parallel lives in dreams had been. Our life together was, of course, to some extent accessible in Sunday through dreams, as it had been in Tuesday, too, and would therefore in all probability finally make one of us act. We just had to be patient and wait.

That’s what we agreed to do in the end. After all, confusing one’s Sunday self by hurrying things along surely wouldn’t do any good.

And yet I noticed that Alice secretly tried to influence her Sunday self through dreams. She spent long hours writing the same sentence over and over again: TALK TO HIM, ALICE, FOR GOD’S SAKE! HE IS INTERESTED IN YOU! The Sunday Alice probably woke up wondering about the strangely monotonous dreams delivering her a very simplified message.

And finally, one drizzly Sunday, the beautifully aging library assistant scared the wits out of the man who’d once again come to borrow some books for his little daughters, which they didn’t really need. The woman blurted out that her name was Alice and she’d seen him in her dreams, and when the man – after retrieving, with numbed fingers, the books from the floor – answered by saying something about a white villa by the seaside, their lives were very beautifully derailed from their former ruts.

SATURDAY

Saturday everything happened quickly and painlessly. We both happened to go to the same pub. I was a bachelor, and had just quarrelled with my girlfriend (who wasn’t Hannelore, by the way). I’d launched myself on a boozing spree around town. Alice, too, was out by herself; she wanted to celebrate her tiny salary increase which would allow her to eat one more cinnamon bun a day. After some roaming about we found ourselves sitting at the same table. We recognized each other immediately, and drunk as we both were, began talking frankly about everything all at once: the dreams, the white house by the sea, Giselle, the cat.

The next morning we woke up in the same bed. After some hangover-pills, we made the first notes for our book. We were embarrassed and very confused; because of the intoxication we’d progressed much too fast with one another, but such feelings were soon to make room for our growing enthusiasm.

FRIDAY

Friday morning we walked along the riverbank road, shaded by maple trees. The leaves rustled in the wind. A fleet of boats from the Technical Office was patrolling the river. We had, once again, come to a meeting of the Literary Discussion Club, which was organised every sixth Friday, though nowadays we were the only two members left. We’d gradually shaken off the other seven founders, by orchestrating the intentional inefficient flow of information, and continuously changing dates and venues for meetings. Not that we explicitly collaborated on anything like that; we weren’t that obvious. Ours was a purely tacit agreement. But that didn’t make it any less real.

We met in cafés, outdoors – everywhere that was quiet enough for intimate discussion, on the one hand, and public enough so that we could go on believing our own façade, on the other. We had to fool ourselves, too, you see. After all, we were both married, and actually quite happily.

“I think Heathcliffe is an implausible figure,” Alice said. “Exaggerated.”

A cool summer wind made her brown dress flutter. It was the same shade as her hair. She walked beside me with long, stretched-out steps, feet a little too thick to be really beautiful. Her shoes clicked and rustled over the riverbank’s stonework. The gulls for one reason or another no longer thrived by the riverside; my ears missed their screams.

I pointed at the water. “Boats, again. That one there seems to be in some kind of trouble.”

There were three men in the boat. They were yelling loudly to the other boats. Then they suddenly fell silent and froze. The boat, too, queerly stopped in the middle of the stream, while the other boats gave it a wide berth. “There’s the turbulence!” one of the boatmen bellowed. “The turbulence! Stay away! Mark it down! Damn it!”

“Time turbulence,” Alice said lightly. She wrapped her words in an amused coolness. “Discharges from the Time Research Institute. I read about it in a scandal sheet in the reading room. I didn’t quite believe it, but now I’m not so sure anymore.”

“What the hell,” I said. “The boat isn’t moving at all. Nor are the men. It’s as if the river has stopped flowing at their point.”

“Not the river. Time.” Alice said. I glanced at her; I wanted to see her expression. Her expressions were like chocolates to me. The wrinkles under her eyes were impishly deepened by the laughter bubbling beneath the surface of her smile. “According to this reliable and respected newspaper of ours, something happened in the Time Research Institute, which has dangerously polluted the river. It isn’t dirty, to cite the article. The water just doesn’t ‘follow a uniform temporality’ any more.”

“‘Temporality’?” I tried to understand the meaning of Alice’s words, while the boat’s crew remained petrified, statue-like on the river. The sight was altogether absurd.

“That’s what the paper said. Time turbulence. The boat obviously drifted over a place where time has almost stopped. There was a scientific diagram about it in the paper. Looked very convincing. If you get to a place where time has slowed down, the rest of the world suddenly seems to be moving at a tremendous speed, as though you’d jumped on a merry-go-round! Poor men – to get stuck on a boat in a time turbulence. Though that seems more like a back-vortex to me.”

“‘Time turbulences’,” I repeated. “‘Back-vortexes’?”

“I don’t really believe in that,” Alice laughed. She frowned and poked me in the side with her elbow. “The boat’s stuck in something, of course; some scrap vehicle, or something not visible from here.”

I looked on, spellbound, as grapnels were thrown to the crew of the petrified boat. The hooks stopped mid-air, a few hand-lengths before they could reach the statue-like crew, the ropes hanging in air that seemed to have become viscous, as if a large bowl of jelly had been dumped over the crew and boat.

The men didn’t seem to be reacting in any way to what was happening around them. Not even the strong wind blowing over the river appeared to have an effect on their clothes or hair.

To avoid a threatening headache, I turned away from the river and the boats. “If this Heathcliffe wasn’t an exaggerated figure, we’d hardly be talking about him here. Really interesting characters are always exaggerated. The essence of literature requires it. Think about Captain Ahab for instance. Are you saying you remember a single flat person in literature?”

“Josef K? Apropos whales – remind me to buy some fish at the market. I haven’t told you: an acquaintance’s cat fell in love with me when I was visiting, and decided to move in with me. Its original mistress came over five times to fetch it, but finally got bored with having to fetch the creature. After the sixth time, she solemnly announced that Starback – the cat that is – would in future be officially my responsibility. The bastard ripped up my reading chair, but I guess I’ll let him stay. I’m going to change his name, though. Too obvious. The hairball seems to belong to me in some mysterious way. Or rather, I belong to him. Do you ever get that kind of feeling?”

I smiled to myself.

We started to walk away from the river, towards a little café on Waffle Street, a few blocks away. They sold such sinfully delicious cinnamon buns that after eating them you’d need absolution, and besides that, the back tables hid you from people’s probing eyes. I hailed us a taxi. The next morning’s newspapers would provide quite enough information about time discharges, river pollution, and what all that would mean in practice. The day was much too sweet to be wasted on anything except the 352nd meeting of the Literary Discussion Club with a Lady Librarian called Alice.

In the café Alice suddenly blanched. I followed her eyes and saw the family at the window table. Their bigheaded child was grinning and gabbling away peculiarly; talking was obviously difficult for the boy. Alice couldn’t take her eyes off the disabled child, and seemed actually ill. To redirect her attention, I cautiously began talking about my dreams as a sort of natural sequel to all the other strange events.

“Do your dreams include a white villa by the seaside?” Alice suddenly asked.

THURSDAY

Gradually people began to notice the blind man, who sat huddled in a wheelchair and seemed to be waiting for something. Whoever was this person, buffeted by fate, who spent days on end sitting outside in the Library courtyard?

I could feel eyes probing me, like an itch on my skin. I already recognized several of the footsteps that regularly passed by me. As they drew closer, their rhythm would always falter slightly. A few times somebody even decided to approach me, although I tried to look as self-sufficient and unfriendly as possible. Do you need help, sir? Are you perhaps going to the Library, sir?

No thanks, I used to answer. I’m just here to look at the scenery, that’s quite obvious, isn’t it? Please remove yourself; you’re obstructing my view.

Without exception, my rudeness was followed by a moment’s surprised silence and then a sound of receding footsteps. Offence felt has its very own rhythm, and nothing offends people quite as much as a rude rebuff of proffered help.

I felt stupid, like a lunatic, even, not because I was being rude to kind people – it’s not for blind cripples to be friendly, after all – but because I did indeed spend all my days sitting in front of the Library, just like some crazy pigeon expecting an undefined but pleasant miracle.

If only I’d gone into the Library the first time, like I’d intended. I wanted nothing, except to know whether a certain person I’d imagined to be there really did sit upstairs. To be sure, I had no rational grounds for my belief. I just had to know. That’s why I came here the first time, and that’s why I returned every morning.

But I hesitated too long. I could neither go forward nor withdraw. In vain a voice from some ancient movie kept yelling in my head: Soldier, don’t lie down under fire!

Of course I could’ve braved it and asked someone I heard coming out the Library, “Excuse me, but was there a middle-aged woman working in the adult fiction department, a lady with shoulder length brown hair, with a little grey in it, dark eyes and glasses, and rather small breasts? Yes, and such exciting lines under her eyes?”

I could have had certainty so easily. And that’s where the problem lay: I was deadly afraid of an answer. “No, there was no such woman. There was a young, blond lady with big breasts, and sometimes there’s a spindly young man with glasses. I’m sorry, I’ve never seen a middle-aged lady with brown hair and small breasts in the Library.”

I was sitting in the yard, maybe for the eighth day, when my wheelchair suddenly gave a jolt and started moving. “What on earth?” I squealed.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” a voice said behind me. “I’ll help you into the Library, and there’s a lift in the foyer. It’s too cold to stay outside, waiting. Besides, you are in people’s way, you with your chair. What’s that supposed to mean, anyway, sit in the Library courtyard for days without coming in? Do you expect the books to come running into your arms?”

“Where did you get the idea that I was even on my way to the Library?” I protested.

“Yes you are,” the woman answered, wheeling me around quickly. “Hoopla, here’s the start of the stairs! Sorry for the bumpy ride, they’ll probably never put up a ramp here. Just lucky they haven’t wheeled the books away yet.”

“You behave as if we were old acquaintances,” I said. I noticed I was sounding like a grumpy old geezer.

The woman was silent a moment; we stopped in the middle of the stairs. “But so we are,” she said then, her voice tense. “Old acquaintances. I’ve walked past you on so many Thursdays already. It took me quite a while before I realized. Recognized. I almost missed you in those sunglasses and that wheelchair. You are different in my…”

There was a pause. I listened to her puffing as she resumed pulling my wheelchair up the staircase.

“Yes?”

“Oh, sorry. I must sound crazy!” the woman said. “It’s just me being silly, a sign of my peculiar sense of humour. You know what dedicated lady librarians are like. One’s got to read as many books as possible so one knows what’s there on the shelves, and one’s poor head gets all mixed up in the process. Something like this happened in a book I read, and I just – oh, sorry. I won’t bother you any more. I’m not mad, just a little impulsive sometimes. I kidnap innocent people to play my own little games. I keep my imagination on a rather long and loose tether and every now and again it sort of escapes to bother bystanders. Well, here’s the lift. Oops, oh my, your legs almost got stuck in the doors. Are you feeling ill?”

I felt breathless; I was moving altogether too fast from one nerve-racking situation to another. “The lift? I don’t really feel comfortable in lifts,” I said. “When I was young, a miserable lift cable broke along with its miserable emergency back-up, and I fell seven floors inside the lift. A freak accident that couldn’t possibly happen, they said. That’s what they told me afterwards. My legs were broken in every possible place, and my eyesight knocked straight out of my brainpan. And since I now have certain difficulties getting up stairs, I’ve been avoiding buildings with more than one floor.”

My explanation sounded silly. There was no need for me to explain anything. I always talked too much when I wasn’t in control of a situation.

“Now me, I don’t like swimming,” the woman said. “I’m sorry I forced you into the lift. I assume you don’t live in an apartment building, then.”

“Actually, I do. On the ground floor. But sometimes I dream of moving to a detached house. It can even have two floors; I should be fine falling one floor in a good lift. I wish I could move into a big white villa by the seaside, for instance. I’ve dreamt about one like that sometimes. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll buy a big white villa by the sea, even build one, if there isn’t one available. But then, I never buy lottery tickets.”

I waited for the woman’s reaction to my words. I thought I recognized her now, however irrational the idea seemed, but if only I could ask her to describe herself. Excuse me, Ms Librarian, but do you happen to have pretty small breasts and brown hair? My cheeks felt hot.

“A white villa by the sea would certainly be nice,” the woman finally said. “But it’d be sad to live alone in a house like that. The nearness of the sea can feel heavy if one lives alone. I read that somewhere. Now think of all that roaring, and the long lonely strips of beach…. Besides, you’d have to install cross-country tyres on your wheelchair so you wouldn’t get stuck in the wet sand. And a strong motor, so you won’t get caught by the rising tide.”

“Well, I have actually dreamed of a charming daughter, as well; so I wouldn’t be alone. She could push me along the beach.”

“Giselle,” the woman said. “Her name might be Giselle, for instance.”

“Violin,” I said. “Would play it. Giselle, that is. Poorly.”

The words slipped out my mouth in every direction; I couldn’t get a grip on them. I kept swallowing loudly. Our conversation had turned completely absurd, but it had its own peculiar logic. If I’d had a pair of functioning legs under me, they’d have buckled by now and I would have fallen and hit my head against the lift wall.

“Ms Lindeman’s spaniel,” the woman continued in the same vein.

I clutched my chair. I was afraid I’d fall to the floor, at her feet. Last night’s dream, I thought, head humming. We were having a lift conversation about the very same things. Two excited children might have talked much the same way about a wonderful but forbidden TV-programme, of which each happened to see only fragments.

The lift came to a stop. The cables barked in the lift shaft. Something banged metallically. The doors, however, refused to open. The woman had stopped us between floors. I felt her cinnamon breath warm on my skin. She’d had buns for breakfast. She loved cinnamon buns, yes. She had small boyish breasts, brown hair, and she ate cinnamon buns morning, noon and evening. Chewed them with a blissful expression on her face. I knew it. She bent down towards me, surely looking at me carefully, her hair touching my ear.

“Dug it up from the sand,” I said. “That spaniel. The violin.”

She started to laugh, or actually to guffaw, and I’d have joined in her laughter if I hadn’t been so afraid of the lift pulling the same trick on me as its ancient colleague had done. The recollection of Ms Lindeman standing in the doorway was simply so madly ridiculous, though nothing like that had ever happened in reality. Ms Lindeman with the sandy violin in one hand, the spaniel’s leash in the other, and a sullen, shocked expression on her perpetually worried face. “I know this violin!” Ms Lindeman had cried, her flabby wattle trembling. “Don’t you believe for a moment that I wouldn’t recognize this violin, poor little Giselle’s poor dear instrument! You uncivilized barbarians!”

In my life, many people had asked me whether the blind see dreams. Generally I acted as though I hadn’t heard the question, and most people immediately realized they’d crossed over the lines of propriety and never asked again. Yes they do, the answer sounded in my mind. And they wake up from their dreams, hearts ready to burst, with the remains of laughter still lingering on dry lips. On their retinas: a fading, beloved image.

The lift jolted and started its ascent again. The doors opened. I sensed a wide plateau opening up in front of me, filled with bookshelves. This was the place that I came to in my dreams to meet the lady I didn’t really know, but in whom I was deeply in love. In the dream I always ascended the stairs on my own two feet and met the Lady Librarian with eyes that could see.

“Excuse me,” said a male voice. It hinted at slight intoxication. “You’re not allowed to bring cats in here. The cat library is somewhere else, if anywhere. I don’t know if they read anything, do you? Oh, Ms Boumgarden, good morning to you. That your cat? The lift seemed to get stuck for a moment. I took the liberty of using the lift key when I noticed it, though the alarm bells didn’t ring. Did you push the stop button by accident? Or did the cat do it? The cat, of course: they’re always up to mischief as soon as you turn your eyes.”

“Good morning to you, Porter. No, the cat’s not mine,” Alice said. “I don’t have a cat. Perhaps it mistook the building. There’s a cat food factory a couple of blocks away.”

“Neither have I,” I said. “I don’t like cats. They scratch. Is there a cat here?”

A cat’s moist lips touched my hand then, as if reminding me of something I’d forgotten. Perhaps mildly reproaching me for not remembering. It wasn’t mine, but for some reason I suddenly felt responsible for it. I scratched it carefully, experimentally, and a moment later there was a warm, live furry blanket in my lap, that trembled lightly.

“That’s odd,” the Porter said. “I somehow imagined Ms Librarian would have a cat. Perhaps I’ve only dreamed it, then. Pardon my French, ma’am, sir, I’m just a loudmouth. Jabbering on about my dreams to ladies and library customers. Me, I say what comes to mind; listening is your own responsibility. Shut your ears, ladies and gentlemen, here comes the Library porter! An irresponsible orator but you’d be hard pushed to find a better ladler of soup! But the cat, though… it’s got to go out. The lending terminals don’t know how to record cats’ fingers. Do cats have fingers? I don’t know.”

When the porter had left (his endless babble still sounding from the descending lift), the Lady Librarian kissed me directly on the mouth without warning. I lifted my hand and lightly touched one of her small breasts, thereby confirming her identity one more time, and pulled back my hand a moment before the touch would have become too obvious, even vulgar. The kiss also ended as soon as it had begun, but it resounded in my flesh like the toll of a great bell of destiny.

The cat in my lap purred contentedly. “Listen, is there a star on the cat’s back?” I asked.

“You know there is,” the Lady Librarian said.

THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF DAYS

Wednesday never opened up to me. All the other weekdays became clear, one at a time, but for some reason I never remembered Wednesday. We found each other one weekday after the other; we steadily became aware of the existence of the other weekdays, and so the days gradually linked up into a kind of golden chain. In the phase when the days neared complete clarity in our minds, they began to settle in our minds into an unbroken, almost seamless continuity.

After Thursday we lived on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday was followed by Monday and Monday by Tuesday, but between Tuesday and Thursday there seemed to be a black hole. Wednesday always was to me the dark spot of the week, so that I moved directly from Tuesday to Thursday. Alice never admitted to remembering anything from Wednesday. The strange truth about Wednesday was revealed to me only much later, after Alice’s death, and with it many other problems occupying my mind were solved.

It was paradoxical that the clearer we remembered the different days of the week, the more confused our lives became. Our residences kept changing from one day to another, and so did our family relations, our personal histories, even our feelings. The city around us took on different forms in different days. Buildings differed, and so did traffic arrangements. Our city was already known for its complicated driving routes, which nobody could learn to master. Where one day a market square would exist in one place, a bus station or a park would have sprung up the next. Perhaps the dreams originating from other days of the week were causing the mix-ups.

Thursdays I woke up blind and paralysed. After I remembered the other days I started to loath my Thursday’s wheelchair. Finally, I didn’t even bother to get out of bed then, which eventually caused me all kinds of nasty physical complaints from bedsores to muscular atrophy. My body in Thursday remained crippled by the childhood lift accident, while in contrast my mind was freed from those restrictions and afflictions through my dreams and memories of the other weekdays. Gradually though, I was forced to rehabilitate myself, and live again in Thursdays, too.

Fridays I thirsted for Alice on the one hand, but on the other I also loved my wife Marissa; just like Alice also genuinely cared for her own Mr Boumgarden, who had never run away from her. We didn’t even touch each other in that weekday, although we could remember, with painful vividness, what we meant to each other in the other days of the week, and what we did together. We even abstained to the last from kisses. We met under platonic circumstances in the daytime, at our Literary Discussion Club get-togethers, where we indeed only discussed literature, and we always parted again and went to bed with our beloved spouses. We knew that when next we opened our eyes, it’d be Saturday, and Alice and I would lie naked in each other’s arms in the bedroom of our two-room flat, at least half a city away from the place where we’d gone to sleep in Friday.

Saturdays it felt strange to think that our spouses Marissa and Mr Boumgarden were left behind; when they woke up in the morning, they found us next to them, since they still lived in Friday. When Alice and I had finally lived through all the other days of the week (except maybe Wednesday) and woke in the next Friday, we returned to the arms of our spouses. They never had the faintest idea that we’d been living other lives in the meantime. We felt a strange guilt for what was happening, and yet, in the reality of our spouses, we’d slept through the night decently next to them.

Saturday was an easy day for both of us, in so far as I was free from all former commitments to start with and so was Alice. However, Sunday we woke again under different circumstances: I’d left my wife and my two beautiful daughters and suffered from heavy compunctions. I lived with Alice in her little dark bed-sit, and waited for the possibility to move into a house by the seaside.

And Mondays we had Giselle with us, our beloved Monday child, who didn’t exist in the other days of the week. Once I came home from the city with a pale-coloured dress in my hand and started to show it to Alice.

“Look! Is Gise home yet? This is just what she’s been talking about!”

Only after seeing Alice’s expression, mixed with sorrow and amusement, did I realise my mistake.

“Oswald,” Alice said tenderly, “your idea is very nice, but it’s not Monday today! Giselle will only be home in six days. You’ll have to buy the same dress again in Monday, there’s no one who can use it today.”

This kind of life was very exhausting. Keeping track of the correct day of the week was difficult but necessary – slips usually had their consequences. When we went out, we met several people who played different roles in different days of the week. The man Alice knew in Mondays as a good friend and a detective chief superintendent, was an alcoholic petty criminal in Tuesdays, who tried to sponge money off her for booze. He got increasingly difficult to get rid of, when Alice one Tuesday inadvertently went over to him and greeted him cordially for a friendly chat, thinking it was Monday. For me it was difficult to remember on which day Hannelore was my friend’s wife whom I ought to greet with polite kindness; when she was my own ex-wife, who’d spit in my eye whenever I didn’t remember to dodge her; and when again she was a complete stranger I’d never even met.

We lived in a state of constant confusion, and the words “nervous breakdown” began to appear more and more often in our discussions. However, some generally inexplicable incidents became understandable when the explanation could be sought in the other days of the week. One strange incident occurred in three separate weekdays: a woman known to be altogether respectable killed a man who’d been a total stranger to her. By all accounts the man was a decent family father and a reputable citizen. In Friday the woman, a salesperson in a store’s kitchen appliances department, stabbed the man dead when he asked the price of a knife set he’d found. The woman managed to stab him with five of the six blades in the set, before people came to the rescue. In Saturday the same woman saw the man step in front of her car on the pedestrian crossing and, instead of hitting the brakes, she stepped on the gas. In Sunday she worked as a waitress in a little restaurant, and put a strong poison in the man’s mussel soup, knowing he was a regular and exactly what it was he ate. According to eyewitnesses the woman had said, “It’s on the house,” before the man dropped to the floor, frothing at the mouth.

The incidents caused a great sensation and amazement in their respective days of the week. “A senseless murder!” the headlines shrieked. “Murderess cannot explain her actions!” I wished I could have explained to people, and especially to the woman herself, the reason for what had happened. In Thursday the man was a degenerate who’d completely lost control of his life. He’d been drinking wine and taking diverse drugs when he raped and murdered the woman’s fifteen-year old daughter. When she heard of her daughter’s death, the woman went mad and threw herself off the roof of an apartment building. It was clear that Thursday’s events had entered her consciousness through dreams in the other weekdays, too, and drove her to commit those seemingly inexplicable bloody crimes.

COMPLETING THE CONTINUITY

We couldn’t go on with a life like that any more. The constant necessity to adjust to all the changes drained all our resources. We decided we ought to unify the continuity, and seal up the rest of the seams. We needed to make the different days of the week as similar as possible. In all the weekly days we would move into our one white house by the seaside and exclude all the rest of the daily changing world.

There was something very ironic about the situation. Since my childhood I detested the idea that in every one of life’s choices I had to be satisfied with just one of many alternatives. I found it altogether intolerable that choosing one alternative automatically meant forsaking all others. How difficult it was to choose just one chocolate from an entire box when there were so many different sweets to choose from, each the most tempting one in its own way. How difficult to choose one of two interesting girls, and turn one’s back on the other! How painful to stay with the one you chose, when every day you met new women, each one fascinating in her own special way.

So many times I wished for a chance to choose all the alternatives. I was always the ‘Hesitant Henry’ who’d have wanted both to eat his cake and save it. And now it was possible. I lived six (or seven) separate lives. For instance, in Friday I was married to the sweet and kind Marissa, yet in all other days I could live with my Alice, technically without even being guilty of adultery. I really could both eat and save the aforementioned cake.

And yet, when I finally realised it was indeed possible, I still chose the same alternative every time – the life with my Lady Librarian!

In each day of the week we wrote our book, caused a sensation, got rich, and built ourselves a white house by the seaside and, but for Alice’s trips to the Library, left it only in exceptional cases. We no longer invited our friends for a visit. We’d become tired of keeping track of what each person was in which weekday, and what we were talking about in which day. In Friday, to complete the continuity, we forced ourselves to break the hearts of Marissa and Mr Boumgarden, and broke our own hearts at the same time; but we did that for each other’s sake. Besides, without those hard decisions we’d have inevitably lost our minds.

Giselle remained a problem for a long while, her one-day-only-life was a constant source of confusion for us. Eventually we had the idea of furnishing her room exactly the same way in every weekday, so that the house looked similar throughout the week. Then we could pretend that our Giselle was away on a trip, except in Mondays. We missed Giselle very much, and when she woke up in Monday mornings, she always found us in her room. She thought us very odd. She’d last seen us the evening before when going to bed, and just could not understand the overflowing “good mornings” she received.

Then she got hold of the book we’d written about the Theory of Weekdays. We tried to protect her from it, but the effort was destined to fail. She considered the theory for a while, then presented us with a very sensible question: “Dad. Mum. If you have seven separate lives, why is it that I have just the one?”

MULTIDIURNALS AND MONODIURNALS

In our book ”IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?” (in the Monday version: “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A MONDAY?”), we present the hypothesis that every person has seven separate lives, which can be more or less perfectly recollected through the technique we have developed. In the other days’ versions we were, however, able to include a theory specifying our original idea even further: the Theory of Multidiurnal and Monodiurnal People.

At the time, it seemed there were two kinds of people: those to be found in every day of the week, and those who existed in only one weekday. When we studied the issue, we made an important observation: the decisive factor differentiating monodiurnals from multidiurnals was their birth dates. Those born after the year 2137 were all monodiurnals. I and Alice and all the others who proved to be multidiurnals were born before the year 2137, Marissa and Giselle and a lot of other monodiurnals after this time point. Something special must have happened around the year 2137, something which divided the lives of people alive at that time into seven separate lines.

We tested the idea by researching old newspapers published on different days of the week. The newest papers no longer featured the old-fashioned exact dates, but the older editions did. (The purely technical matter that before the Great Calendar Reform, one and the same day of the week had seven different names alternating in a certain order, felt a little funny. So for instance the old newspapers we studied in Thursday were also named after the other weekdays. Later on, it understandably occurred to us that the Great Calendar Reform might just have been an effort by anonymous authorities to hide the sevenfold differentiation of the time line. With the concepts becoming confused enough, it’d be difficult to raise the issue.)

The newspapers confirmed that the year 2137 was the turning point: to be exact, 12th December in 2137. Until that date, the daily news of each day was identical. In the newspapers of December 12th, a small fire at the Time Research Institute is mentioned – the article including a statement to the press by the Institute’s director. According to the statement, no dangerous situation ensued at any stage.

However, the next day’s papers already differed in every weekday. Not too much, though. At first the differences could be found in small events such as bicycle accidents, brawls, slight differences in picture angles, even in the wording of articles. But gradually the differentiated timelines began to diverge more and more – a consequence of even the smallest decisions naturally accumulating and forming longer chains. For instance, when Tuesday’s newspaper reported on the decision to build a new shopping centre in a certain place, Friday’s paper had a small article about a residential home for the mentally handicapped on the same site, while Monday’s paper included notices for the shows at a movie theatre at exactly the same address.

The conclusion was quite obvious: the accident at the Time Research Institute divided everyone’s lives into seven separate lines. Those born after the accident at the TRI were usually born in one day of the week only; the child’s parents naturally living separate lives in the different time lines.

The opportunity to live seven different lives was thus given to just a select group of humans. I don’t really know about cats. Starback found us in all the days of the week. This doesn’t fit the overall picture, since as a young cat Starback was obviously born after the decisive date. I wondered about this quite a while. Finally I came to a kind of conclusion, although I haven’t had the strength to consider it very critically: it’s said that cats have nine lives, so perhaps the belief is true. Perhaps all cats, by their very nature, live nine parallel lives, while we multidiurnal humans have, as an exception to our species, reached seven of them!

I still don’t know which of us have finally been happier – the monodiurnals or the multidiurnals. Living seven parallel lives hasn’t been a blessing for everyone. When our book was published, sensible people started behaving in completely irrational and irresponsible ways. Families broke up, children were orphaned. The book had been a way of us to share our exciting observations with the whole world and to maybe earn us some money for our new life. It never occurred to us, not once, that it might derail the lives of so many people. In hindsight, of course, we ought to have expected it. I and Alice, however, never thought the matter through as far as that. Perhaps we should have done so.

Well, the Weekday Theory also brought some people a lot of happiness, but to a considerable majority, it only brought grief, confusion and fury. The situation between Hannelore and myself was repeated almost identically thousands of times. The most unfortunate situations involved couples where the one was multidiurnal and the other monodiurnal. Often the multidiurnal partners remembered their other, better lives and went in search of the loved ones they knew existed in other weekdays, while the monodiurnals became even lonelier than before. And even when the multidiurnal one stayed with the monodiurnal partner, the most incredible dramas of jealousy took place. The monodiurnal one had no way of controlling what the partner was doing in the other weekdays.

I had it easier than most; after all, in every day of the week I loved the same woman, Alice. When less lucky people remembered the other weekdays, eventually reached their continuity, and noticed themselves loving seven different people simultaneously, the therapists were up to their ears in work.

The city filled with tragic-comic tales. There was a bishop who became aware of his totally immoral life as a pimp, male prostitute and rock musician in the other days. There was a judge, reputed to be quite harsh, who in all the other days of the week lived the life of a mafia godfather. There were white racists who woke up in other days in the arms of black or yellow partners, their children noisy beyond the bedroom door. There were Thursday’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, who worked in the porn business in Fridays, and in TV factories in Saturdays. There were fierce enemies who found out they were friends or even lovers. The surprises of the other days of the week were sometimes happy, sometimes shocking, depending on the viewpoint: a certain Monday bum, for instance, had a pleasant surprise when he discovered he was Tuesday’s chairman of the board in a bank; but the Tuesday’s banker didn’t find the realisation that he was Monday’s bum quite as happy a surprise.

The most sensitive ones succumbed to desperate deeds; others tried to reconcile the separate parts of their identity as well as they could. It caused a great sensation in Thursday when the mafia godfather gave in to his deeply moral judge self and arranged for almost five hundred members of his organization, including him, to be sent down with long jail sentences.

At times, the social order seemed close to imminent collapse. Muggings and murders increased explosively. Psychiatrists saw an enormous number of new patients. As a diagnostic concept, “schizophrenia” acquired completely new dimensions. Throughout all this, our book was printed and bought in huge amounts in all the weekdays.

Things were thus altogether confused, but I and my Lady Librarian lived our sheltered, suddenly well-to-do new life, in a white house by the seaside. Sometimes we received roses and thank-you-cards from people who’d found a purpose in their lives after reading our book. More often, though, we received homicidal threats from deserted spouses, orphaned children, people who’d lost their zest for life, and from religious fundamentalists who attacked every new idea on principle. The guards we employed made sure no one got near us, either with a bunch of roses or with a loaded gun. The armed bodyguards would’ve also followed Alice to the Library, where she insisted on working, very much afraid that in her absence the printed books would be destroyed on the sly. Alice, however, didn’t wish to spoil the Library atmosphere with gunmen.

THE GREAT TIME FLOOD

The Theory of Weekdays is now almost forgotten. Not counting the cases preserved in time retardations, all the multidiurnals are by now either dead or with one foot in their grave; the world belongs to the monodiurnals again. The multidiurnals still left might just as well be monodiurnals, the chains of days having broken again. Monodiurnal or multidiurnal people’s lives certainly remain just as confused, in whatever day of the week they’re living now.

I’ve already said something about the time turbulences in the Maple River and the fates of people who dived into them. After the river was fenced off, things were kept orderly for some time. Now and then, however, the most curious ones cut holes into the fence to make their time jumps. The people of the city started getting used to the river’s time turbulences. It bragged unashamedly about it in all the guidebooks advertising the city, and the time turbulence was put forward everywhere as the official Eighth Wonder of the World. But then something happened, which later came to be called the Great Time Flood. Somebody had the bright idea of throwing dynamite into the river, and as a consequence the turbulences rose up from the river and spread throughout the city as invisible rivulets. The capricious tugs of the time turbulences continuously played all kinds of practical jokes on people, some amusing, others merely cruel.

The city has now officially been classified as unfit for living. Every inhabitant has been allotted a new home in one of the less dangerous neighbouring cities. Except for occasional adventurers, extremists and researchers, tourists are no longer seen in the city. But have the inhabitants left? Mostly not; after all, your hometown will always be home.

When children go out into the street, they might step in a time turbulence or puddle, and return home, either a couple of seconds after leaving it or decades later. Workers might go on working overtime until the sun finally burns out. This will probably be the case of two employees at a small watchmaker’s in the city centre. Their shop was flooded by an exceptionally strong time retardation – scholars call such phenomena “time freezes”. Housewives could go shopping in a department store that’s been imperceptibly polluted with time turbulences, and stay there a whole lifetime without noticing it. And when at last they step out on day with their shopping bags to return home, they are likely to find their children in the city’s old-age homes or in its graveyards. But still, people haven’t moved away, they just adapted. You don’t just leave your hometown. I don’t know whether it’s stupidity, defiant pride, genuine love for one’s native place, or a fear of change. Myself, I’ve stayed mostly because I’m stupid and too lazy to change my abode.

Alice and I frequented a department store called “Madame”. Once we were on our way there when we heard it had been blockaded by time. We immediately went over to observe the phenomenon. Through the windows you could see that the store was filled with totally immobile shoppers who, from their own viewpoint, were still moving about normally. An observer patient enough would, perhaps, have seen the customers moving ever so slowly. And if you could manage to stand absolutely immobile by the window long enough, the people inside might’ve noticed you as a quick flash. There were placards attached to the windows, with message to the victims of the time retardation: “COME OUT AT ONCE, YOU ARE IN A BACK-VORTEX!” The doors to the store were sealed and warnings posted in front of the building. Unfortunately it was, and still is, impossible to help the people trapped inside. The first of them will get out just in time to see their children retire. Even if one of them might stumble onto what’s going on, and look out the window, just turning her head will take half a decade from an outsider’s point of view.

No one has yet found out how we, in the faster flow of time could get help to the victims of time retardations. I once saw a rescue crew trying an idea which at first sounded simply brilliant: they pushed a long-handled hook into the back-vortex with the intention of yanking the shoppers out into the faster flow of time, one at a time. But just as the hook penetrated the border between time zones, the movement of the part that crossed it became just as slow as everything else inside the department store. Social welfare authorities have actually considered pushing family members left outside into the department store, so as to keep families together.

Naturally, the authorities have tried to mark the invisible turbulences as clearly as possible with blinking lights, signboards, even fences. New bridges are being constructed over the observed turbulence sites all the time. Efforts to protect the city’s inhabitants from the turbulences are pretty hopeless, though. The time currents don’t stay in their channels very long, and forever keep finding new courses … and new victims. At their worst, the turbulences are completely invisible; often, however, you can notice them if you watch closely enough. Light, for instance, is refracted differently by time turbulence. Often a time turbulence also has a time of day that differs from its surroundings, sometimes even a different season – it’s presently summer in the city, I guess, but I know of several time retardations where it’s still last winter, or some winter before that. And similarly, in the time torrents it could already be a future winter.

Tradesmen selling walking sticks have become rich. People happened to think of walking on the streets with an outstretched stick. The idea is simple but it works: when the stick hits a time retardation, it suddenly seems to get stuck midair. Walking sticks have already prevented thousands of people from stepping into time retardations.

The turbulences have even intruded people’s homes, and a walking stick isn’t necessarily of much use then. How many of us have the patience to walk around our homes with an outstretched walking stick? Recently, there was a documentary on the TV about a family, which had a strong time retardation flowing into the bathroom from the toilet drain, just as the unlucky father sat down to relieve himself. The man still has no idea that something’s happened, but the family is getting frantic. The children don’t want to be separated from their schoolmates, so the proposal by social welfare authorities that the whole family should go into the turbulence to keep the father company is absolutely out of the question. The mother misses her husband very much but says she cannot leave her children before they’ve come of age.

According to the dramatization in the documentary, the events as a whole will unfold probably along the following lines, from the man’s point of view: The father sits down on the toilet seat and starts to relieve himself, while he’s leafing through a magazine. In an instant of his time, the bathroom door is opened and closed thousands of times, but much too fast for him to notice in any way, while the relatives and camera crews swarming in and out of the room. After he’s sat there a while, he’ll see his wife come into the bathroom, ten subjective years older. The wife tells the astounded husband the shocking news: the bathroom was overcome by a back-vortex. They’ll quickly flee the bathroom. Besides encountering temporal psychologists, they’ll also find a group of weeping relatives, headed up by their grown-up children and excited grandchildren who will at last meet their legendary grandparents.

After seeing the documentary I burst out laughing. I hoped the man would not tarry, wiping his arse and washing his hands, before making his way towards the bathroom door and normal time. At some stage I realized I was weeping, after all.

The Time Research Institute perhaps might have been able to do something. Perhaps. The Institute’s officials, for quite a long time anyway, presented statements according to which the problems were temporary, and it was only a matter of time before they were solved. Unfortunately, the people of the city got sick of waiting, and one day, the Time Research Institute was blown up in violent riots.

I understand the feelings of those people very well. In a sense, I participated in that Tuesday’s attack myself. Though I didn’t invade the Institute, or throw a single bottle or stone, I was just as guilty as the others in my hatred. If I’d been given something explosive, I would have no doubt thrown it at the building. For Alice’s sake. Her Tuesday’s fate was the fault of the Time Research Institute, and on the day of the riot there was black hate rattling inside my ribs.

THE DEPARTED

After the Time Flood it was dangerous to be out and about in the city, but of course I couldn’t persuade Alice to stay home in any day of the week – she one day announced that she’d knock me unconscious if I so much as tried to prevent her from going to her beloved books. She said it with a playful smile, but I knew her well enough to understand she meant it in earnest. I had to admit she had a point. The bureaucrats were just waiting for a suitable excuse to close down the Library they considered so old-fashioned, and my ever-vigilant Lady Librarian’s absence would have provided them with the perfect opportunity to do so.

On the morning of the Tuesday that later came to be remembered as Riot Day, I decided to accompany Alice to the Library. Ominous forebodings were darkening my mind. Sunday’s version of Starback had recently died and been buried. The cat still living in the other days had later refused to move from the place we’d buried him in Sunday. Moreover, Starback refused to eat and drink and do anything but mourn its own death. We were getting a feeling we’d soon have seven dead cats on our hands, altogether. Finally we got the idea of taking cockleshells to the grave place each day of the week, and that seemed to satisfy some peculiar need of the cat – when we had thus noted the departure of its Sunday version, it meowed, had a good stretch, and departed to live its remaining lives.

Giselle wondered very much about her cat’s behaviour and even more about our cockleshell ritual. But, of course, we hadn’t the heart to tell her that her darling cat had lost one of its nine lives. Perhaps she guessed it, nevertheless, the smart girl. Be that as it may, our family had for the first time encountered death, and the incident left me feeling uneasy, even if the victim this time had been just a cat.

We’d found an extremely competent, multidiurnal chauffeur who knew every back-vortex and time torrent in the neighbourhood. We paid him a top salary for his services, and he indeed deserved every penny. The chauffeur took better care of us than we ourselves would even have known how to ask for. To stay up-to-date with the road network’s conditions required constant background work. To serve us as best as possible, he used part of his salary to maintain an army of assistants he’d collected for each day of the week. The task of this army was to personally check beforehand all the routes we were about to use. The man worked for us in all the days except Wednesday, that day which never seemed to open up to me. I once tried to squeeze him for information about that day, but he insisted that in Wednesdays he lived in a little village on the other side of the country, and only rarely came to the city to visit his second cousin. “Have you ever met me and my wife in Wednesday?” I asked him once.

“I haven’t had the honour,” the chauffeur said. He glanced at me oddly in the rear-view mirror.

“Have you been to the seaside in Wednesday, where our house is in all the other weekdays?”

“I guess there’s some big white house in the same place in Wednesday, too, but I really haven’t been to take a closer look. And frankly, I don’t even remember Wednesday all that clearly. It’s a kind of in-between-day for me, separate from all the others. It’s so different, you see.”

The chauffeur knew more than he let on. I could see it in him. However, I didn’t want to pressure him. In the first place, we couldn’t afford to loose a master driver like him, and he knew his own value well enough. He might very well work for us and call us sir and madam, but if we started thinking too much of ourselves, he’d find himself a another job in no time. Men like him said exactly what they wanted to, and nothing more.

On the other hand, I was a bit scared finding out about Wednesday; otherwise I’d have hired some other multidiurnal ages ago to find out more about our fates in that day. As a matter of fact, I actually started avoiding opportunities to find out the truth about Wednesday. I asked the chauffeur about the matter, yes, but only because I trusted him to tell me nothing that was bad for me to know.

That fatal Tuesday the chauffeur was driving us to the Library, as usual. He apologized for having to drive through a couple of time torrents on the way, but they actually just speeded up the trip – the main thing was to stay far away from the dangerous back-vortexes and time freezes. When we arrived at the Library, Alice suddenly cried out and dashed from the car. Looking up, I saw thick black smoke billowing out the Library door.

The Library was on fire! Alice rushed towards the flames, with me charging after her. I estimated I’d catch her in good time before she got inside. I yelled her name, ordered her to stop, but of course she didn’t listen. The books were in danger, and the dedicated fool that was my Lady Librarian intended to save what she could, never caring about her own life. Did she imagine she could carry all her beloved books out by herself?

“Alice,” I shouted. “Wait for the fire brigade! You can’t do anything alone! Alice!

I almost reached her. My hands even touched the collar of her coat. Then something strange happened. Alice sped up, became a series of sequential, translucent images that led inside the burning Library, and presumably up the smoke-filled stairs. I blinked. The images started to dissipate, and I noticed a fire engine appearing from nowhere in front of the Library. Super-fast red-clad ghosts flickered around the fire engine, it was impossible to focus on them. I stumbled, the strange visions making me dizzy. “Alice!”

“Mr Morrow,” a man’s voice said.

A fireman’s feet were standing in front of me. Lifting my eyes, I saw at the upper end of the feet a stocky body and a sad face black with soot. I was helped up. “I’m very sorry, Mr Morrow. We weren’t able to save her, she had already suffocated by the time we got here. Could you please come and identify her?”

“Whom?”

“Your wife. The chauffeur notified us of the fire. He tried to go after your missus, but the flames were too high already.”

“My wife ran into the burning Library just now. Go save her, before we talk about anything else.”

“It all happened this morning. You…”

“What about me?”

“You stepped in a time puddle. Be careful, it’s still there behind you. See there, the light’s refracted peculiarly in that place. Listen, this must be damned confusing for you. You’d better go and talk to our psychologist, she’ll know better what to say. These cases are always bloody shit.”

I looked around. The fire had been extinguished; the firemen were spraying down the last hotbeds with hoses. The sun was actually shining from a different direction than just before; during a few of my heartbeats, the morning had become evening.

“Where’s Alice?” I asked, as if I hadn’t registered a thing the fireman just said. He saw in my eyes, however, that he didn’t have to explain the matter to me again.

I went to the hospital morgue to identify the body of my Lady Librarian. She was still pressing a burned book to her breast. I couldn’t read its name, the cover was much too blackened. When I left the morgue, the chauffeur met me outside. He’d gone to have his burns tended. His hands and face were bandaged. Clearly he’d gone after Alice as best as humanly possible.

“I’m very sorry, Mr Morrow,” the chauffeur said when we drove out the hospital’s parking lot. He swung the steering wheel and we barely evaded a retardation shimmering in the middle of the road, with snow swirling inside it. We’d almost collided with last winter. “I saw you freeze mid-step, and I realized at once that you’d hit a time retardation. I tried to catch up with her, but there was too much smoke, and the fire beat against me with a blinding heat. I tried, but I couldn’t get ahead. I ought to have been able to do something. Something at least. Madam was up there, amongst the burning books.”

“I know you did your best,” I said. “You’d be dead yourself if you’d gone any further.”

“You’ll meet her again,” the chauffeur said. “You know that, don’t you? On Thursday. You may not feel like that now, but you are a very lucky man!”

He was right – our multidiurnality was now a greater consolation than I ever understood before. But I didn’t want to seize upon that consolation just yet. In Tuesday, Alice was irreversibly dead. Nothing could change that. She was a multidiurnal and she had seven lives, unlike many others, but in spite of all that she was dead today, to me. I’d have to grieve her first death as much as I would grieve the last one.

I was thinking about what I’d tell Thursday’s Alice about Tuesday’s events. How can you tactfully convey to a person the news of her own death?

The chauffeur switched on the radio. They were talking about riots. There’d been an attack against the Time Research Institute. A black thought began to pulse in my mind: Without the time turbulences I’d have reached Alice in time. I touched the chauffeur’s shoulder. “Let’s drive there,” I said.

“Would that be quite prudent, now? The routes have not been secured yet.”

But then the chauffeur saw my expression in the mirror, and said no more.

THE CHAIN BREAKS

As I already confessed, I was also there to destroy the Time Research Institute. I can only blame myself for the events following the Institute’s destruction.

That Tuesday a mob gathered at the Institute. At first people were content with angry shouting, but gradually the hate and bitterness condensed past a critical point, and stones, walking sticks and bottles started flying through the air. The last straw had been a school bus plunging into a time freeze on the north side of the city that same morning. A group of little school children were now preserved to the end of eternity inside a time glazier. Thanks to the Time Research Institute.

Finally, the berserk vanguard kicked down the Institute’s doors and invaded the building. The researchers tried to escape through side doors, but the crowd cornered them. The researchers were made to suffer the consequences of people’s long smouldering rage. I don’t think any of them survived more than a few seconds.

The explosion came as a surprise to everybody. Suddenly, fire, smoke and burning matter burst from all the doorways and windows of the Time Research Institute. Ears were deafened. People screamed and ran. A stench of blood hung in the air, mixed with a heavy electric smell. I rushed toward the car, and my chauffeur didn’t wait for an order to move. From somewhere afar came the sound of sirens. I felt dizzy.

At home I stood on the terrace, numb, looking out at the darkening sea, until I could stay awake no longer. I went to bed. I took a sleeping pill and again wondered what I’d tell Alice when I woke up. It’d be Thursday; I’d have to tell Alice the news without seeing her, without even being able to run after her should she get hysterical. After all, it was the day in which I was a blind paralysed man, stranded in a wheelchair.

When I opened my eyes, it was morning. I stared at the light surface of the ceiling and got up from the bed. There was a blue sea beyond the window. Alice wasn’t in the bed. That’s when I realised I was neither blind nor paralysed. I ran out into the yard, and began kicking at the door of the rear building until the chauffeur opened up.

“What day is it today?” I yelled.

He rubbed his neck, looked at the sky, looked at me.

“Today’s Tuesday,” he finally said with a strange expression. “ It’s Tuesday today, again.”

We stared at each other.

“Mr Morrow … Oswald. I’m very sorry.”

I could see he was. Wordlessly I turned away from him and slowly walked back to the white house. I took a tranquillizer and went back to bed, to wait for some understanding to hit me full force.

TUESDAY’S PRISONER

The chain had broken. And not only for me. The chauffeur also said he lost contact with the other days of the week. It didn’t mean so much for him as it did for me. I didn’t have to ask any other multidiurnals to know that Tuesday had come loose from the other timelines. Neither was there any doubt about the cause, it being the destruction of the Time Research Institute. It couldn’t have been a mere coincidence. Something vital had been destroyed inside the building, and as a consequence of the explosion, I was shipwrecked in Tuesday.

I couldn’t even reach beyond Tuesday in my dreams any more. I tried in vein to repair the contact, using the technique we once described in our book “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?”.

The other days of the week still exist, somewhere. I still live with Alice in them, and in Mondays we, of course, have Giselle with us. At least I hope so. I do hope the Library fire never occurred in Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but at the same time I’m afraid that Tuesday’s events have similarly repeated themselves in the other weekdays, finally culminating in the explosion of the Time Research Institute.

I’ve lived a lonely life in our house by the seaside. Sometimes I go for a ride with the chauffeur; nowadays we’re more like friends than employer and employee. I’ve had to cut his salary, but he hasn’t complained. Old age has taken my strength, and I’ve barely got enough money left to hire a personal nurse to take care of me.

I think a lot about Alice and all my lives with her. I wanted to tell our story to the whole world. I’m an old man, however, now lacking the energy for strenuous writing. So I’ve decided to let a comp take care of it. The chauffeur found it in some bookshop sale; it was programmed with the personality of an author who lived at the end of the 1900’s, rather unknown in his own time, but later proclaimed a genius. It’s easy to use: I switch the apparatus on autobiographical mode and start talking about these memories of mine to its microphone, which is designed to look like a gramophone. It doesn’t matter if I jump from one thing to another, and talk incoherently every now and then, the comp’s been programmed to solve such problems. It takes care of the narrative succession of events for me, and also the forming of sentences, punctuation and all the other things I can’t manage to care about any longer.

WEDNESDAY

After Alice’s death I finally got to know about Wednesday – our dark day. The chauffeur visited the hospital for the after-care of his burns, and when he returned, he brought me a plastic bag containing a partly burned book. I examined it for a while and saw it was the “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë.

“They asked me to bring this to you,” he said. “It was in madam’s hands when the firemen found her. For her it was the most important book she wanted to save first. And I might be making a bad mistake now, but I think you have the right to know. It may help you to understand many things, perhaps also madam’s death. I wasn’t being quite honest with you when you asked about Wednesday. I have indeed met you in Wednesday, too – the both of you. You see, I at once sought you out in all the other days, when you first hired me as a chauffeur in Tuesday. But in Wednesday you couldn’t really afford to hire a chauffeur.”

And the chauffeur told me the whole story. In Wednesday, he found us in a big white house by the seaside. And finally, after getting to know us better, he’d started to drive us around even in Wednesdays. He said we could use all kinds of free entertainment, but the house where he found us hadn’t been our private home, as it had seemed at first glance, but some kind of special-needs home.

He’d gone inside, presented himself to a woman in a nurse’s uniform and asked whether persons called Oswald Morrow and Alice happened to live there. Yes they did. Had been for any number of years. Both were, however, severely brain-damaged and had no money, so they weren’t likely to hire a chauffeur, the nurse informed him. But would he have any use for a cat? Alice had saved it from the beach and nursed it back to health; some mongrel had savaged it real bad. Why does it need saving, I had asked. You can’t really keep cats in the home, she said, however much the inmates liked it. Even the cinnamon buns they baked lately had more cat hair than cinnamon in them.

The nurse said that at the age of fifteen Alice had almost drowned in her parent’s swimming pool, after she’d been drinking too much wine at the party and fallen in. She’d been pulled out and revived, but the lack of oxygen had already badly damaged the girl’s brain. Alice had forgotten many major skills, and finally, when she came of age and her parents could no longer manage to take care of her, she’d been brought to this home where she lived the last few decades.

The chauffeur had gone on to talk with Alice. She smiled at him ingenuously and started showing him a book she’d received as a present from her parents on her fifteenth birthday.

Listen, I didn’t have time to read this, and now I can’t read at all any more. I try, but I can’t. Sometimes I almost remember the letters and how to read. You know what: I’ve had dreams where I can read. They are lovely dreams. Do you read books? Look, there’s Oswald, he’s my special friend. I lived here for a long time before he was brought in. He’s younger than me. You know what happened to him? He was in a lift accident. He wasn’t hurt otherwise, but he hit his head so bad his brain went wrong. Sort of like my brain, but worse. We are good friends, Oswald and me, but he doesn’t always remember me. And he never talks to anybody, not to me neither. But he’s cute, and I like him. Listen, don’t tell this to the nurses, they’re such snoopers, but sometimes I go to Oswald at night and stay with him, in secret. We got our own rooms, it’s nice, but sometimes I get scared when I’m all alone. We’d get engaged, Oswald and I, but he doesn’t know what engaged is. What’s this book called? Can you tell? I’ve forgotten again. Would you read it aloud to me? What? What’s a bronty?”

1 Editorial note: In the original publication of “IS EVERY DAY INDEED A TUESDAY?” it was not made clear that Saturday and Sunday are included in Oswald Marrow’s definition of a weekday. This revised edition contains that update – Ed.)

2 The author distinguishes between days ‘on’ which he did things and days ‘in’ which things occur nowadays. In the distant past people could do things ‘on’ different days, as these followed linearly, while these days timelines and realities have broken up to such an extent for multidiurnals that they must now distinguish time from its earlier manifestation, and see it as a kind of place – Ed.

Translated by Liisa Rantalaiho
Copyright @ 2005 by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen was born in Jyväskylä, Finland, in 1966, is married and has three sons. He studied Finnish language and literature at Jyväskylä University and now teaches both subjects at Jyväskylä’s Lyseo and literature at the International Baccalaureate School. His stories appeared in Finnish science fiction magazines and won several sf awards and writing competitions. He published two  story collections – Missä junat kääntyvät (2000), which was translated into Estonian and won the Tähtivaeltaja Award, and Taivaalta pudonnut eläintarha (2008) – and two novels, Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta in 2006 and Harjukaupungin salakäytävät in 2010.

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