Author's Notes: Believe it or not, this was actually an academic assignment. Damn, I love my school.
What would it be like if Mond found and read a letter addressed to John, sent by Helmholtz, after the events of chapter eighteen had already transpired? Not that the book's ending isn't satisfactory; far, far from it: however, the job of fanfiction, especially fanfiction written for story-worlds severely lacking in hordes of screaming fangirls (like, say, oh, this one), is often to stick a bunch of odd-yet-entirely-harmless stuff onto something already in perfect working order, like sticking immature Harmoniums onto the face of a teenager plugged into an mp3 player.
And if anyone gets that reference, well, you're my friend forever and ever. Anyone who doesn't get it, step away from the computer and go read Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. Now.
Well, after reading this fanfic, of course, you silly goose! Tsk, tsk.
It hadn't been very much trouble, finding what had once been the home of John the Savage.
From his private helicopter, he could see the crowds pressed against the door of the lighthouse and strewn across the grounds, independent swarms of gray, maroon, green, and khaki that left no square meter unexplored. Ever since the Savage's suicide two weeks ago, the place had been packed with tourists, eager to see the place where the strange man had once lived but especially anxious to gawk at what had become known as "The Spot", the area inside the main house where the man had hung himself from a rafter. The tourists came in at all hours of the day, and some of the more adventurous ones snuck in late at night, after the security guards had gone home, and gouged out pieces of the fated rafter to keep as souvenirs; as a result, the beam now looked as though it had been ravaged by a small tribe of beavers.
Mustapha Mond, however, was no tourist, and the suicide spot held no interest for him. Shoulders hunched, the brim of his hat low over his face (not very many people knew just what the World Controller actually looked like; however, he wasn't going to risk being recognized), he had been let in through a side-door usually kept locked and found himself in what had once been John's living quarters. This section was, like the little door, kept locked to tourists at all times, and roaming through it was a bit like roaming a museum after-hours: everything was exactly as the Savage had left it the way he'd died, and no-one had been up here since. As he moved through the rooms, he could feel the wooden floor vibrate with the press and movement of the dozens of bodies packing the level below, and every now and then a muted shout or cry drifted up through the boards.
Mond had not come to gawk. He had come on a mission to retrieve something important before someone else, some intrepid citizen, found it first: this something was an ancient brick of a book entitled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
He had found the book on the bedside table, and, slipping out of the house as quietly as he'd come in, had been stepping into his helicopter when a young, red-headed Gamma-Plus, dressed in the uniform of a letter carrier, ran up to him, out of breath, an envelope clutched in one hand. "Security guard…" he panted, holding out the letter. "He… told me you'd know what to do with this, sir, though you're not the 'riginal addressee. Poor bloke's dead, you know."
Nodding vaguely, Mond had taken the envelope, tucked it inside his coat, and stepped into his helicopter, thinking no more of the incident until, back in his private study, the thing had fallen out of his pocket as he bent down to fetch a folder from one of the lower desk drawers. Picking the envelope up, he had looked at the return address for the first time, and had felt a strange lurch: the letter was from Helmholtz Watson, the man he'd sent to the Falklands a short while ago along with Bernard… what had been his last name? Oh, yes, "Marx".
He had sat there looking at the return address for a while, and still sat there now. At last, he made a move as though to toss the letter on his desk, where it would join the chaotic sprawl of folders and reports yet to be reviewed; however, he stopped short, and pulled his hand back, instead taking a slim, steel-surrogate letter opener and neatly slitting the envelope from corner to corner. Slowly, he slid the letter, really several pieces of paper folded in halves, out of its package, tossing the envelope aside like a husk. Holding the folded letter closed, Mond leaned back in his pneumatic chair. The paper was quite nearly the same pristine white as the papers littering his desk, but, as he rubbed his thumb along its surface, he noticed a faint, rough texture in place of what should have been smooth.
That texture, he realized, his heart giving some odd, painful lurch, was sea-salt: When he had written it, Helmholtz had been at the shore. It must have been a rare fair day out there on the Falklands, that lonely collection of islands scattered off of the tip of what had once been South America, and he fancied he could picture the scene: coarse beaches and grassy cliffs warm with sunlight, sea-birds piercing the air with their cries, and the ocean beyond, stretching out to the horizon in an unbroken plane of ultramarine.
The sky outside his study window, however, was the same steely gray it had been for nearly four days. One of his higher secretaries, an appealingly pneumatic (yet, he thought privately, rather silly) Beta-Minus, had confided in him one day that she had been taking a half-gramme of soma every night after work just to cope:
"This weather just makes me feel so…" her nose scrunching up like a rabbit's, she had groped for the right word: "…so horrible. Like there's a big awful woolen blanket hanging over me instead of the lovely sky. I'd go to the feelies, of course," she'd added, "but the new one isn't out yet, and, honestly, there's only so many times one can roll 'round on a bearskin before the whole thing grows a bit dull."
"Even with all of that detail?" he'd asked, feigning incredulousness. "With every hair on the bear reproduced?"
Fidgeting unconsciously with the zipper of her maroon jacket, she had heaved a deep, self-pitying sigh and responded, "Oh sir, I've seen that one so many times, I think I've memorized every last one of those confounded hairs!"
Coming out of the memory, Mond sighed and looked away from the gray world outside his window, back to the letter. It felt absurdly like trespassing, holding a letter meant for someone else; however, it was already out of the envelope, and, besides, he thought with a chill, John certainly couldn't read it now.
John, now a whisp of phosphorus above the skyline, couldn't do much of anything these days, unless it involved fertilizer.
Sliding his thumb underneath the edge of the first page, Mond opened the letter and began to read:
My Dear John,
So much for the terrible climate Mond promised me: I don't think I've ever seen bluer skies than those above these islands today. The climate overall is rather windy, but temperate and not at all unlike a damp London November; I doubt I will have any difficulty whatsoever in settling into my new home.
I hear you've found yourself a new home, too: that old lighthouse out on the coast, is it? I've never been there myself, but I believe I passed it in a helicopter once: it looked so lonely out there, perched upon the tip of that little spit of land, that I wished to stop and gaze at it for a bit longer; however, of course I couldn't, as the helicopter was being driven by a colleague and he wouldn't have understood. Truthfully, I didn't understand it either; the understanding has come with this island, with the escape from the noise and glare of society. To him, to all good citizens, "loneliness" was something unpleasant to be remedied immediately by some loud distraction, a momentary bother; the other way to see loneliness, the way he could never comprehend, conditioned as he was, has been lost. Loneliness as I almost saw it, the way I see it now, in your lighthouse—of course, before it was yours—was the sort that belonged to an earlier time, a time when people found dignity and depth of emotion in solitude, when they spoke that strange, powerful language you read to me from your book. A time when people allowed themselves to seek something higher than the superficial, allowed themselves to really think about things.
Out here on these islands, that ancient solitude is everywhere: in the howl of the wind against the cliffs, the endless crash of the steely ocean, in the press of the air. Solitude leaches from the soil. A man could forget himself out here, lose himself in the soft sounds of the landscape, the color of the grass. Back home, one could never get the chance to do something like that: there was too much noise, to many people, too many flashing signs. Back home, a moment alone meant a moment spent in vain, a moment that could have been spent being entertained.
You hated that about our civilized world, that no-one searched for anything beyond mindless, instant gratification. You sought the profound; but the profound had no place in society. Before the island, before my new life, I was frustrated, too; only, for a long time, I didn't know why: it was only after coming here to this island that the reason came to me, and I've found that it is the same as yours.
I sensed there was something more to myself, more to life, than what I'd seen around me, what I'd been conditioned to believe. Writing, what I enjoyed above anything else, seemed to grow painful: how could I write when it seemed everything I could write about was nothing but trite rubbish compared with what I could feel was out there? As you said, so memorably in the World Controller's office: what I was writing didn't mean anything. There was nothing behind my words, nothing stirring, nothing important. It was starved for the profound. Of course, such a thing has no place in civilization, as we both know; equally unwanted in this "brave new world", as you call it, are those things that enable one to experience the profound; solitude, for example. Here, in the Falklands, however, I may as well be in another world entirely: all those things that I hadn't even realized I was starved for, things with real meaning, are created here every day—and not just in the landscape. There's a young woman here (there are about fifteen thousand of us on my particular island, all told) who writes poetry. Poetry, John, can you imagine it? Of course, what she writes is nothing like that ancient, beautiful stuff in your book, but it's something, and it's more than I'd ever expected. There are other people here, too, who do other things, amazing things I've never dreamed of before. I'll tell you all about them in another letter, if you wish.
It really is a shame, how they wouldn't allow you to come with Bernard and me. You would have loved it here, and, at least, you could have helped me keep poor Bernard company. He's not been doing well ever since we arrived; I've said everything I can think of to say to him, tried to rally him, coaxed him, even shouted a few times, but he refuses to come out of his little flat. I've never seen someone so depressed and pitiful as my friend is—he keeps asking me if I can get him any soma, if you can believe it: Barnard, who was right there with us in that hospital corridor, throwing those Deltas' rations out the window! I trust he'll warn up to this place soon, though, as soon as he settles in a bit more and lets himself stop to think about the situation. He'll realize he's where he's always wanted to be soon; he just needs to adjust.
I hope I find you well, John. Lately, I find myself thinking often of the talks we had together, and of the things you said. I thought I'd understood you, but now I can see what you were truly speaking of, and I realize that, back then, I couldn't grasp the half of it: these beautiful islands have taught me how to find the rest.
I trust that this letter will find its way into your hands: even though the address of your new home may seem a bit strange to the postman, there can't be very many "John-the-Savage"s in England for him to confuse you with.
Yours in Fellowship,
Having finished the letter, Mond let the hand holding the salt-stained pages fall to his knee and leaned back in his chair. He let his eyes wander around his study, but he wasn't looking at anything: he was deep in thought, not seeing the dark, varnished furniture nor the paneled walls of the room but instead the bleak, grassy hills and naked cliffs of Helmholtz' islands, wind-lashed and stark against a sky as clear and untroubled as the mind of a man on soma-holiday. The sky wouldn't stay that way for very long, he knew: soon, maybe that night or that next morning, the air would grow thick, clouds would have rolled in again, and a storm, just as Helmholtz had asked for, would have battered the islands. It wouldn't be a storm as London knew it, but a real storm from over the ocean, with feral winds howling and tearing at the landscape and rain pounding against the roofs of the settlement as though to bash them in.
"I believe one could write better if the climate were bad," Helmholtz had said. To Mond, that thought had seemed very probable; however, it was for the islands themselves as well as their weather that Mond had picked the Falklands for him. Amid that achingly bleak geography, one could feel the tug of something higher than the exercises of everyday life: something so profound that its nature bypassed mental comprehension and simply settled, glowing, in the heart.
"May the peace that passes all understanding fill your hearts and minds, now and forever," he murmured to the papers on his desk. He liked the sound of that very much, and knew Helmholtz would find such a thing: on an island, after all, one was allowed to. The religious angle (after all, that little passage was from a book of an extremely popular religion from Ford's time), however, he was unsure would enter Helmholtz' consideration: after all, religion did not exist. Even if there was some sort of God—and Mond had a feeling that there was—He had no place in civilized society.
Did God have a place in island society?
Mond didn't know the answer to this question, and he knew he never would. After all, he didn't have a place in island society, either.
At one point in his life, he may have. At one point, he had been given the opportunity to go to an island, to finally know what it would be like to embrace the part of himself that wanted more than offered by the superficial distractions of society, to surround himself with people and ideas that would stimulate the mind his world wouldn't let him use. However, he had been offered another option, too, the one he had ultimately taken: the option to take on responsibility for the continued happiness of society, the maintenance of the perpetual dreamlike existence in which the World State's citizens decanted, lived, and died. At the time when he'd accepted the position of World Controller, the idea of the one providing for the many had appealed greatly to him: it seemed as though the choice he was asked to make wasn't only between the island or the office, but between the selfishness of pursuing his own good and the selflessness of providing for the good of others. It had appealed to him, self-sacrifice; it had ignited in him a flare of sudden, deep emotion that he hadn't yet been able to define.
Now, he realized what that emotion had been: it had felt noble, taking on a job like this. Of course, though, his romantic view of his role had blinded him, at first, to the realities of the job, realities he now knew all too well. It was exhausting, making a world of people constantly happy; and, maybe most of all, it was lonely.
It was lonely in a different way from Helmhotz' loneliness: that sort of loneliness wasn't loneliness at all, but a quiet, satisfied solitude, and, besides, Helmholtz was only lonely when he felt like it, living as he did in a community of such fascinating, intelligent people. The loneliness of the World Controller was unique in that the job called for it, that to be perpetually unsatisfied, intellectually and emotionally, by the proposals and declarations passing over his desk was to know that everything in society was running as smoothly—and happily—as it could.
He remembered reading once, in some religious text or another, about the Christian saints, martyrs who had suffered for their faith. He had sacrificed, too, like them: had sacrificed his own happiness for the well-being of the world.
Saint Mond: it had a nice ring to it.
Suddenly, a series of timid knocks on the heavy door of his study pulled him sharply out of his thoughts. Quickly folding the letter closed, he slipped it beneath a stack of papers and called, "Yes? Come in."
The door opened, and a secretary, the same poor Beta-Minus who had been so affected by the gloomy weather, poked her head into the room. "Sir? Some papers have arrived for you from the Hypnopaedic Conditioning Research and Development Center. Would you like me to—"
"Yes, yes, come in, my dear. I'll see them." Not bothering to stand, he reached out a hand and took the papers—really a thick manila envelope—from her as she reached his desk. He placed them down on a relatively level spot on his desk, but made no move to open the folder's cover. The secretary, her mission through, turned to leave, but when she had the door half-open she turned and, concern in her large, slightly vacant eyes, said to him, "Forgive me, sir, but you look a bit peaky this afternoon. Are you unwell?"
Blinking, Mond shrugged and, his eyes on the folder sitting on his desk, replied with an affected nonchalance: "Oh, I'm quite fine, thank you, if a bit out-of-sorts. It must be this weather."
He had thought she would be satisfied with this answer, and, of course, she was. "Oh, this dreadful weather! I've not been myself lately, either, sir; I rather think I'll have a bit of a holiday when I go home tonight. After all, a gramme is better than a damn!"
"Just so, Josephine," he muttered as her head popped back out through the doorway. "…Of course it is."
After he heard her soft, quick footsteps disappear down the corridor, he removed Helmholtz' letter from its hiding place beneath the leather-surrogate cover of his desk, opened a small drawer, and placed the folded, salt-stained pages neatly inside, on top of John's Shakespeare anthology, closing the drawer again with a gentle 'click'. He must write to Helmholtz to break the bad news about John; for now, though, he had his job to tend to. Taking a deep breath, he opened the manila folder and read the title of the proposal, which was written in such verbose, official language that it nearly took up one-eighth of the page. From it, he learned that the mysterious stack of paper in the folder was an argument, backed by recent statistics and studies, for the increasing of the number of hypnopaedic repetitions—specifically, those reinforcing class divisions—between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.
Two faint taps sounded against his window: outside, it had begun to rain. As his eyes trailed over the nearly incomprehensible language on the first page of the report bound to take him most of the evening, he felt a thought rise unbidden from the back of his mind: What was Helmholtz doing at that moment? Taking a walk by himself off along the edge of some bone-white cliff? Gazing out at the ocean? Reading, perhaps, poetry? Shaking his head, Mond forced himself to focus on the words he was reading, to concentrate on what was important. Poetry had no place in the maintenance of civilization, excepting for one very handy little rhyme:
Orgy porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One.
Boys at one with girls at peace;
Orgy-porgy gives release.
"Oh, brave new world," he murmured aloud to his empty study, and let a wry smile cross his face.
Closing Notes: This dusty little corner of fanfiction-dot-net isn't exactly the most hoppin' scene around, so I wont hold my breath for reviews; however, I hope that anyone passing though will drop a word or two my way. :) This was very relaxing to write: nothin' like a little dystopian fanfiction to balance out all the… er… dystopian fanficiton I'm already writing? Oh well— works for me!
Oh, and Mond may be a bit of a douche, but he's an endearing douche. At least, imho. And you've got to admit: for a world dictator in a futuristic British novel circa pre-1950, he's practically Santa Claus.