دیسکورد و دینه

کتاب: شبح باجه اخذ عوارض / فصل 11

دیسکورد و دینه

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11.Dischord and Dynne

One by one, the hours passed, and at exactly 5:22 (by Tock’s very accurate clock) Milo carefully opened one eye and, in a moment, the other. Everything was still purple, dark blue, and black, yet scarcely a minute remained to the long, quiet night.

He stretched lazily, rubbed his eyelids, scratched his head, and shivered once as a greeting to the early-morning mist.

“I must wake Chroma for the sunrise,” he said softly.

Then he suddenly wondered what it would be like to lead the orchestra and to color the whole world himself.

The idea whirled through his thoughts until he quickly decided that since it couldn’t be very difficult, and since they probably all knew what to do by themselves anyway, and since it did seem a shame to wake anyone so early, and since it might be his only chance to try, and since the musicians were already poised and ready, he would—but just for a little while.

And so, as everyone slept peacefully on, Milo stood on tiptoes, raised his arms slowly in front of him, and made the slightest movement possible with the index finger of his right hand. It was now 5:23 A.M.

As if understanding his signal perfectly, a single piccolo played a single note and off in the east a solitary shaft of cool lemon light flicked across the sky. Milo smiled happily and then cautiously crooked his finger again. This time two more piccolos and a flute joined in and three more rays of light danced lightly into view.

Then with both hands he made a great circular sweep in the air and watched with delight as all the musicians began to play at once.

The cellos made the hills glow red, and the leaves and grass were tipped with a soft pale green as the violins began their song. Only the bass fiddles rested as the entire orchestra washed the forest in color.

Milo was overjoyed because they were all playing for him, and just the way they should.

“Won’t Chroma be surprised?” he thought, signaling the musicians to stop. “I’ll wake him now.”

But, instead of stopping, they continued to play even louder than before, until each color became more brilliant than he thought possible. Milo shielded his eyes with one hand and waved the other desperately, but the colors continued to grow brighter and brighter and brighter, until an even more curious thing began to happen.

As Milo frantically conducted, the sky changed slowly from blue to tan and then to a rich magenta red.

Flurries of light-green snow began to fall, and the leaves on the trees and bushes turned a vivid orange.

All the flowers suddenly appeared black, the gray rocks became a lovely soft chartreuse, and even peacefully sleeping Tock changed from brown to a magnificent ultramarine. Nothing was the color it should have been, and yet, the more he tried to straighten things out, the worse they became.

“I wish I hadn’t started,” he thought unhappily asa pale-blue blackbird flew by. “There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop them.”

He tried very hard to do everything just the way Chroma had done, but nothing worked. The musicians played on, faster and faster, and the purple sun raced quickly across the sky. In less than a minute it had set once more in the west and then, without any pause, risen again in the east. The sky was now quite yellow and the grass a charming shade of lavender. Seven times the sun rose and almost as quickly disappeared as the colors kept changing. In just a few minutes a whole week had gone by.

At last the exhausted Milo, afraid to call for help and on the verge of tears, dropped his hands to his sides.

The orchestra stopped. The colors disappeared, and once again it was night. The time was 5:27 A.M.

“Wake up, everybody! Time for the sunrise!” he shouted with relief, and quickly jumped from the music stand.

“What a marvelous rest,” said Chroma, striding to the podium. “I feel as though I’d slept for a week. My, my, I see we’re a little late this morning. I’ll have to cut my lunch hour short by four minutes.”

He tapped for attention, and this time the dawn proceeded perfectly.

“You did a fine job,” he said, patting Milo on the head. “Someday I’ll let you conduct the orchestra yourself.”

Tock wagged his tail proudly, but Milo didn’t say a word, and to this day no one knows of the lost week but the few people who happened to be awake at 5:23 on that very strange morning.

“We’d better be getting along,” said Tock, whose alarm had begun to ring again, “for there’s still a long way to go.”

Chroma nodded a fond good-by as they all started back through the forest, and in honor of the visit he made all the wild flowers bloom in a breath-taking display.

“I’m sorry you can’t stay longer,” said Alec sadly.

“There’s so much more to see in the Forest of Sight. But I suppose there’s a lot to see everywhere, if only you keep your eyes open.”

They walked for a while, all silent in their thoughts, until they reached the car and Alec drew a fine telescope from his shirt and handed it to Milo.

“Carry this with you on your journey,” he said softly, “for there is much worth noticing that often escapes the eye. Through it you can see everything from the tender moss in a sidewalk crack to the glow of the farthest star —and, most important of all, you can see things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. It’s my gift to you.”

Milo placed the telescope carefully in the glove compartment, and reached up to shake Alec by the hand.

Then he stepped on the starter and, with his head full of strange new thoughts, drove out the far end of the forest.

The easy rolling countryside now stretched before them in a series of dips and rises that leaped up one side of each crest and slid gently down the other in a way that made stomachs laugh and faces frown. As they topped the brow of the highest hill, a deep valley appeared ahead. The road, finally making up its mind, plummeted down, as if anxious to renew acquaintance with the sparkling blue stream that flowed below. When they reached the floor of the valley the wind grew stronger as it funneled through the rocks, and directly ahead a bright-colored speck grew larger and larger.

“It looks like a wagon,” cried Milo excitedly.

“It is a wagon—a carnival wagon,” seconded Tock.

And that’s exactly what it was—parked at the side of the road, painted bright red, and looking quite deserted.

On its side in enormous white letters bordered in black was the inscription KAKOFONOUS A. DISCHORD,

and below in slightly smaller black letters bordered in white was DOCTOR OF DISSONANCE.

“Perhaps if someone’s at home he might tell us how far we have to go,” said Milo, parking next to the wagon.

He tiptoed timidly up the three wooden steps to the door, tapped lightly, and leaped back in fright, for the moment he knocked there was a terrible crash from inside the wagon that sounded as if a whole set of dishes had been dropped from the ceiling onto a hard stone floor. At the same time the door flew open, and from the dark interior a hoarse voice inquired, “Have you ever heard a whole set of dishes dropped from the ceiling onto a hard stone floor?”

Milo, who had tumbled back off the steps, sat up quickly, while Tock and the Humbug rushed from the car to see what had happened.

“Well, have you?” insisted the voice, which was so raspy that it made you want to clear your own throat.

“Not until just now,” replied Milo, getting to his feet.

“Ha! I thought not,” said the voice happily. “Have you ever heard an ant wearing fur slippers walk across a thick wool carpet?” And, before they could answer, he went on in his strange croaking way: “Well, don’t just stand there in the cold; come in, come in. It’s lucky you happened by; none of you looks well.”

The faint glow of a ceiling lamp dimly illuminated the wagon as they cautiously stepped inside—Tock first, eager to defend against all dangers; Milo next, frightened but curious; and the Humbug last, ready at any moment to run for his life.

“That’s right; now let’s have a look at you,” he said.

“T-T-T-T-T-T. Very bad, very bad; a serious case.”

The dusty wagon was lined with shelves full of curious boxes and jars of a kind found in old apothecary shops. It looked as though it hadn’t been swept out in years. Bits and pieces of equipment lay strewn all over the floor, and at the rear was a heavy wooden table covered with books, bottles, and bric-a-brac.

“Have you ever heard a blindfolded octopus unwrap a cellophane-covered bathtub?” he inquired again as the air was filled with a loud, crinkling, snapping sound.

Sitting at the table, busily mixing and measuring was the man who had invited them in. He was wearing a long white coat with a stethoscope around his neck and a small round mirror attached to his forehead, and the only really noticeable things about him were his tiny mustache and his enormous ears, each of which was fully as large as his head.

“Are you a doctor?” asked Milo, trying to feel as well as possible.

“I am KAKOFONOUS A. DISCHORD, DOCTOR

OF DISSONANCE,” roared the man, and, as he spoke, several small explosions and a grinding crash were heard.

“What does the ‘A’ stand for?” stammered the nervous bug, too frightened to move.

“AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE,”

bellowed the doctor, and two screeches and a bump accompanied his response. “Now, step a little closer and stick out your tongues.”

“Just as I suspected,” he continued, opening a large dusty book and thumbing through the pages. “You’re suffering from a severe lack of noise.”

He began to jump around the wagon, snatching bottles from the shelves until he had a large assortment in various colors and sizes collected at one end of the table.

All were neatly labeled: Loud Cries, Soft Cries, Bangs, Bongs, Smashes, Crashes, Swishes, Swooshes, Snaps and Crackles, Whistles and Gongs, Squeeks, Squawks, and Miscellaneous Uproar. After pouring a little of each into a large glass beaker, he stirred the mixture thoroughly with a wooden spoon, watching intently as it smoked and steamed and boiled and bubbled.

“Be ready in just a moment,” he explained, rubbing his hands.

Milo had never seen such unpleasant-looking medicine and wasn’t at all anxious to try any. “Just what kind of a doctor are you?” he asked suspiciously.

“Well, you might say I’m a specialist,” said the doctor. “I specialize in noise—all kinds—from the loudest to the softest, and from the slightly annoying to the terribly unpleasant. For instance, have you ever heard a square-wheeled steam roller ride over a street full of hard-boiled eggs?” he asked, and, as he did, all that could be heard were loud crunching sounds.

“But who would want all those terrible noises?” asked Milo, holding his ears.

“Everybody does,” said the surprised doctor; “they’re very popular today. Why, I’m kept so busy I can hardly fill the orders for noise pills, racket lotion, clamor salve, and hubbub tonic. That’s all people seem to want these days.”

He stirred the beaker of liquid a few more times and then, as the steam cleared, continued:

“Business wasn’t always so good. Years ago, everyone wanted pleasant sounds and, except for a few orders during wars and earthquakes, things were very bad. But then the big cities were built and there was a great need for honking horns, screeching trains, clanging bells, deafening shouts, piercing shrieks, gurgling drains, and all the rest of those wonderfully unpleasant sounds we use so much of today. Without them people would be very unhappy, so I make sure that they get as much as they want. Why, if you take a little of my medicine every day, you’ll never have to hear a beautiful sound again. Here, try some.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not,” said the Humbug, backing away to the far corner of the wagon.

“I don’t want to be cured of beautiful sounds,” insisted Milo.

“Besides,” growled Tock, who decided that he didn’t much like Dr. Dischord, “there is no such illness as lack of noise.”

“Of course not,” replied the doctor, pouring himself a small glass of the liquid; “that’s what makes it so difficult to cure. I only treat illnesses that don’t exist: that way, if I can’t cure them, there’s no harm done—just one of the precautions of the trade,” he concluded, and, seeing that no one was about to take his medicine, he again reached toward the shelf, removed a dark-amber bottle, dusted it carefully, and placed it on the table in front of him.

“Very well, if you want to go all through life suffering from a noise deficiency, I’ll give it all to the DYNNE for his lunch,” he said, and he uncorked the bottle with a hollow-sounding pop.

For a moment everything was quiet as Milo, Tock, and the Humbug looked intently at the bottle, wondering what Dr. Dischord would do next. Then, very faintly at first, they heard a low rumbling that sounded miles away. It grew louder and louder and louder and closer and closer and closer until it became a deafening, ear-splitting roar that seemed to be coming from inside the tiny bottle. Then, from the bottle, a thick bluish smog spiraled to the ceiling, spread out, and gradually assumed the shape of a thick bluish smog with hands, feet, bright-yellow eyes, and a large frowning mouth.

As soon as the smog had gotten completely out of the bottle it grasped the beaker of liquid, tilted back what would have been its head, if it really had one, and drank it all in three gulps.

“A-H-H-H, THAT WAS GOOD, MASTER,” he bellowed, shaking the whole wagon. “I thought you’d never let me out. Terribly cramped in there.”

“This is my assistant, the awful DYNNE,” said Dr.

Dischord. “You must forgive his appearance, for he really doesn’t have any. You see, he is an orphan whom I raised myself without benefit of governess or any other assistance for “

“No nurse is good nurse,” interrupted the DYNNE, doubling up with laughter (if you can imagine a thick bluish smog doubling up with laughter).

“For I found him,” continued the doctor, ignoring this outburst, “living alone and unwanted in an abandoned soda bottle—without family or relatives “

“No niece is good niece,” roared the DYNNE again,with a laugh that sounded like several sirens going off at once, and he slapped at where his knee should have been.

“And brought him here,” continued the exasperated Dischord, “where, despite his lack of shape or features, I trained “

“No nose is good nose,” thundered the DYNNE once again as he collapsed in another fit of hysterics and clutched his sides.

“I trained him as my assistant in the business of concocting and dispensing noise,” finished the doctor, mopping his brow with a handkerchief.

“No noise is good noise,” exclaimed the Humbug happily, trying to catch the spirit of things.

“THAT’S NOT FUNNY AT ALL,” sobbed the

DYNNE, who went to a corner and sulked.

“What is a DYNNE?” asked Milo when he had recovered from the shock of seeing him appear.

“You mean you’ve never met the awful DYNNE before?” said Dr. Dischord in a surprised tone. “Why, I thought everyone had. When you’re playing in your room and making a great amount of noise, what do they tell you to stop?”

“That awful din,” admitted Milo.

“When the neighbors are playing their radio too loud, late at night, what do you wish they’d turn down?”

“The awful din,” answered Tock.

“When the street on your block is being repaired and the pneumatic drills are working all day, what does everyone complain of?”

“The dreadful row,” volunteered the Humbug

brightly.

“The dreadful RAUW,” cried the anguished DYNNE, “was my grandfather. He perished in the great silence epidemic of 1712.”

Milo felt so sorry for the unhappy DYNNE that he gave him his handkerchief, which was immediately covered in bluish smoggy tears.

“Thank you,” groaned the DYNNE; “that’s very kind.

But I certainly can’t understand why you don’t like noise,” he said. “Why, I heard an explosion last week that was so lovely I cried for two days.”

The very thought of it upset him so much that he began to sob all over again in a way that sounded almostexactly like a handful of fingernails being scratched across a mile-long blackboard. He buried his head in the doctor’s lap.

“He’s very sensitive, isn’t he?” asked Milo, trying to comfort the emotional DYNNE.

“It’s true,” agreed Dr. Dischord. “But he’s right, you know, for noise is the most valuable thing in the world.”

“King Azaz says words are,” said Milo.

“NONSENSE,” the doctor roared. “Why, when a

baby wants food, how does he ask?”

“He screams!” answered the DYNNE, looking up happily.

“And when an automobile wants gas?”

“It chokes!” he shouted again, jumping for joy.

“When a river wants water, what does it do?”

“It creaks!” bellowed the DYNNE as he collapsed into a fit of uncontrolled laughter.

“And what happens when a new day begins?”

“It breaks!” he gasped joyfully from the floor, a look of utter bliss covering his face.

“You see how simple it is,” the doctor said to Milo, who didn’t see at all. And then, turning to the tearstained, smiling DYNNE, he remarked, “Isn’t it time for you to go?”

“Where to?” asked Milo. “Perhaps we’re going the same way.”

“I think not,” the DYNNE replied, picking up an armful of empty sacks from the table, “for I’m going on my noise collection rounds. You see, once a day I travel throughout the kingdom and collect all the wonderfully horrible and beautifully unpleasant noises that have been made, pack them into my sacks, and bring them back here for the doctor to make his medicines from.”

“And a good job he does,” said Dr. Dischord, pounding his fist on the table.

“So, wherever the noise is, that’s where you’ll find me,” said the DYNNE with an appreciative smile; “and I must hurry along, for I understand that today there’s to be a screech, several loud crashes, and a bit of pandemonium.”

“And in which direction are you going?” asked the doctor, mixing another brew.

“To Digitopolis,” replied Milo.

“How unfortunate,” he said as the DYNNE shuffled toward the door; “how very unfortunate, for then you must pass through the Valley of Sound.”

“Is that bad?” asked the perpetually worried Humbug.

The DYNNE paused in the doorway with a look of extreme horror on his almost featureless face, and the doctor shuddered in a way that sounded very much like a fast-moving freight train being derailed into a mountain of custard.

“Well you might ask, for you will find out soon enough,” was all he would say as he sadly bade them farewell and the DYNNE galloped off on his rounds.

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