Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Curious Case of the Chronosynclasticly Infundibulized Engine

I am writing to you Gentlemen (and Ladies) regarding your ambitious yet, in my humble view, completely attainable, goal of constructing a sub-surfacial-traveling powered ship, rumours of which have been circulating in the pubs back of J. street since Thursday last.

Mr. Fulton of the Colonies in particular is seen to remain in good spirits and has been noted to enthuse over your plans quite openly, although I have reproached him privately as I have some reason to believe your Party has taken some pains to keep this matter privy. Be that as it may, I found myself unable to stop thinking about your astounding Conceptions, and in a moment of great lucidity last evening a great Idea struck me with great forcefulness, relating both to your works and those to which I have been lately dedicated, since devouring both the writings of Mr. Franklin and certain sensational and lurid chapbooks of unknown author but rumoured to be of Maltese origin, (which I hastily sought out at the home of a certain Gentleman, B. of the Royal Society , and read last week), and experiencing the events I shall recount to you below.

As I am sure you have been involved in the tale of Mr. Fulton's ruination and the splintering of the hull timbers and consequent sinking of his experimental Vessel due to the Unsustainable Weight of the Watt engine, you should know I find it a great Disaster, (although I cannot help but note that I have been recorded as warning him of this very hazard) and that it will ever be an Impossibility for the Watt device ever being of use at Sea, needing a Stone foundation for anchorage on Land.

For I have of late found what I reckon to be, (and I hurry to assure you I have been performing the most controlled experiments in my laboratory, outfitted by B. who wishes to remain uninvolved at this time, for reasons I will make clear forthwith,) a great source of rotary Power.

If you follow the proceedings of the Society I am sure you recall the mention of the Device to Alert the Living of the Revivification of the Thought-to-have Passed. Humility indicates you might not have connected this modest invention with myself, but I am indeed its Inventor. In any case, it is but a simple thing to affix a strike bar in the coffin and a bell and ringer above ground. I was observing the Groundkeepers at Alderney Road Cemetery the Monday evening a fortnight ago, ensuring their proper training, and whilst lecturing the two heard an unusual whirring noise emerging from one of the coffins awaiting burial the following morning. (To my chagrin, the actual bell-alarum was not activated), but in our excitement, we flung open the coffin and stood stupified as we witnessed the recently departed, identified by a small plaque affixed to the coffin, as a Mr. Barry Morris Goldwater, spinning rapidly an inch above the bottom of it!

While I have yet to account for this phenomenon, for he is undeniably dead, I transported the fellow's remains (amidst yet another mystery, for the whereabouts of his family nor even the circumstances of his appearance have been determined) to my laboratory, and with a series of leather belts and sheaves have driven an Archimedes pump uninterrupted for the last 12 days, producing the amount of 17.2 Horse Power. Requiring only the proper amount of formalin to be kept on hand and a small Leyden Jar, and with the weight of both the poor deceased Mr. Goldwater plus the attached apparatus, not exceeding the weight of just over twenty stone, I think I have found The Engine which your Company seeks.

Yr. Humble Servant,
Dr. Prichard Mitford

Alas, a great calamity has ensued since I penned my missive. Last night I hastily entered my laboratory, hearing a "pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep! Pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep!!" The poor fellow had begun emitting a faint vapor. I began fingering delicately my row of glistening valves. “Give me a dram of whale oil!” I snapped to my assistant, Igor. But it was too late. The leathern belts alike began to ignite, and the Archimedes pump, off centered, began to moan as well in mechanical distress.

Suffice it to say the ensuing fire engulfed my laboratory, I am ruined, Igor has left my employ, and the entire affair has come off disastrously. And worst, not even the smallest remaining shards of burnt ossia from the unfortunate Goldwater have been recovered. Even any impulse towards some remaining curiosity over these matters is tapped out. As is my erstwhile benefactor B.

I have repaired to the Sloth and Pennywhistle to lick my wounds, and have acquired passage to Alyaska (Beringia). My ship is to sail at dawn.
and respectfully,


David Brin said...

Har! Now if anyone gets it...

With cordial regards,

David Brin

Jumper said...

I usually have no control over myself; these things just write themselves, for good or ill. I have entertained at least three or four friends with this, so the low bar of success is achieved.

Jumper said...

I almost threw in Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, but enough was too much. I still can't explain the transport from Arizona in the 20th century to London in the early 19th...