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´╗┐Title: The Elroom
Author: Sohl, Jerry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Elroom" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                              The Elroom

                             BY JERRY SOHL

                _Timmy was getting too much 3-dimension
                television, and he was mistaking it for
              Mother Nature. So his parents took him out
                 to see the natural wonders, which he
               unhappily mistook for 3-D television...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, March 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


She had never seen violinists work so hard. They were running their
bows back and forth so fast their hands were blurred. The musicians'
faces were studies in concentration and the concertmaster--he wasn't
two feet from her--had worked himself into such a frenzy veins were
standing out on his red face.

Mrs. Briggs almost laughed, the way the conductor was sweeping his
baton to within inches of her head. Several times she had an impulse to
reach up and catch it.

So this was Virilio! Disjointed, cacophonic, sometimes sweet but more
often deafening. She had never caught him before. But it was just
as advertised, all right. Exciting. And moving. She didn't know if
there was supposed to be a love theme in Virilio's new _Plenitude on a
Thursday Afternoon_, but it definitely stirred her.

Just then the door opened and Timmy came walking through the musicians,
eating an apple. Once he stopped to stare at the tympani and a second
fiddler's bow kept running through his head. It was rather ghostly,
Mrs. Briggs thought.

"Timmy!" she yelled above the music. "I didn't see you go. Where have
you been?" As if she didn't know.

"Had to get a glass of water. The music made me thirsty," he said
loudly, taking his seat beside her. "This is a lousy program, Mom.
What's next?"

"_Drama in History_," she said absently, her eyes on a flutist's
mustache, wondering how he managed to play.

Timmy chomped on his apple, but in the face of his gustatory enjoyment
she couldn't find the heart to tell him to be quiet.

At intermission, she left the Elroom to let Timmy take in the
commercial and returned in time for the beginning of _Drama in History_.

There was a salt spray in the air and a cool wind whipped around them
as the lights went out completely. The roar of waves grew loud and the
deck creaked beneath their feet.

The ship moved through the dim light. Sailors stood like statues about
the deck.

"We're even with the inshore ships, sir!" a voice called hoarsely.

"We've got the French between us, then." Though he was a small man,
there was a ring of authority in the voice of the man on the bridge.

"There's the _Orient_, sir!"

"One of ours has gone aground!"

"She'll mark the shoal for the rest of the fleet," the little man
replied calmly. "Ready, Mr. Creston!"

"What's he think he's doing?" the captain's boy whispered.

"Quiet, lad," a peg-legged sailor said softly. "Admiral Nelson will see
us through. You'll have your share of action afore mornin', mate!"

The darkness was split by faraway flashes of light. Instantly, there
was returning cannon fire that caused the ship to shudder and groan.
The Battle of Aboukir Bay had begun....

The red flashers above the door winked their message.

"Damn!" Mrs. Briggs said, switching off.

"Ma!"

"There's someone at the door, Timmy. If it's a salesman--!"

Mrs. Briggs checked the dials on the electrocooker as she went to the
door. A small but efficient-looking woman in the standard white and
blue of school uniforms had alighted from her g-car and stood at the
door.

The woman said she was Bernice Pomeroy from the office of the director
of Timmy's public school and Mrs. Briggs, scarcely glancing at her
offered identification card, pushed for mezzanine. The woman said
nothing; she merely waited until the floor came down hydraulically to
mez level. Then Mrs. Briggs ran the magnetic curtains around, and when
they were private she saw that the woman was sitting on one of the soft
lounge cushions, straight-backed, adjusting her glasses on the small
bridge of her nose. She drew a sheaf of papers from her portfolio.

"Mrs. Briggs," Miss Pomeroy said, looking up with officious grey eyes.
Then she saw Timmy. "Timmy, I suppose."

"Yes." Mrs. Briggs wished she'd get on with it. It was hard enough
leaving Admiral Nelson at the mouth of the Nile, without having her
settling down as if for all day.

"Maybe it would be best," Miss Pomeroy coughed a little, "if Timmy--"

"If Timmy what?"

"It's about him, you see."

"I'll send him to the Elroom."

"No," Miss Pomeroy said at once. Then she added: "Perhaps it would be
best if he stayed after all." She riffled her papers. "Timmy's latest
Auden-Gronet test shows his personality has dropped at least five
points from positive during the first half of the school year."

Mrs. Briggs looked at her nine-year-old son. He was down to the core of
his apple now, a nice looking boy, she thought, with bright blue eyes,
hair that insisted on drooping too far down on his forehead--she'd have
to start training it in earnest soon--and a fair supply of freckles. He
carried himself well. Had a pleasant speaking voice, she thought, and a
good vocabulary. She had noticed no--slipping?

"Timmy's not too far behind factually, Mrs. Briggs," Miss Pomeroy said,
referring to her records. "In fact, we'll admit he's ahead in stability
and adjustment. But he's getting more negative in aggressiveness and
personality development. He just doesn't seem to _care_. That factor
may account for his stability--he doesn't have any reason to be
unstable, you see? And he adjusts easily because he doesn't care enough
not to. There _is_ a reason, of course."

Mrs. Briggs was annoyed. The schools had gone too far. "And what, may I
ask, _is_ the reason?"

"Too much time in the Elroom, Mrs. Briggs."

Mrs. Briggs managed a good-natured laugh. "Miss Pomeroy, you have Timmy
all wrong. He doesn't spend any more time in the Elroom than other
children do."

"Children are all different," Miss Pomeroy countered.

"But not Timmy."

"Parents are often poor judges of their own children, Mrs. Briggs."

"Are you trying to tell me I don't know my own child?"

"Mrs. Briggs, I am not _trying_ to tell you anything," Miss Pomeroy's
cheeks were red. "I am telling you your child is spending too much
time watching these programs. Sublimating so much, in fact, that he's
beginning to find it difficult telling the difference between life
itself and the Elroom."

"Sublimating?"

"Escape. You didn't know? Yes." The teacher smiled tolerantly. "First
sublimation room for elevating one's self--sublime the verb. Then SubL
for short. Then just L and L-room to Elroom. You didn't know?"

"That, my dear," Mrs. Briggs said heatedly, "is just so much hogwash."

"Tell me, Mrs. Briggs, just what does your husband think of the Elroom?"

"He doesn't have much time to spend in it."

"You mean he'd rather do something else?"

"He's interested in typically man things--cars, mostly." Because
Timmy had gone over to the curtains and was starting to walk through,
and because she wanted to show Miss Pomeroy she was capable of some
discipline, she said, "And where are _you_ going, young man?"

"Probably back to the Elroom," Miss Pomeroy put in. Mrs. Briggs gave
her an acid look.

Timmy swallowed the last bite of apple. "To get a drink. I'm thirsty."

When he had gone, Miss Pomeroy leaned forward. "You must keep him out
of the Elroom, Mrs. Briggs. We'll send you a list of programs. He can
have sublimation only one hour a day."

"Ridiculous!" Mrs. Briggs snapped.

Miss Pomeroy adjusted her glasses and looked at her severely. "Are you
saying you will not comply?"

"I said it's ridiculous, didn't you hear? Why, you won't find a better
child than Timmy--"

"Obviously your only child."

"And what has that to do with it?"

"It is not my job to explain," Miss Pomeroy said icily. "Only to
inform. I'm afraid I'll have to report that you will not heed the
directive."

"The Elroom is instructive. Why, we were learning something about
history just now. We were watching Nelson sink the French fleet when
you came."

"It's not the program. It's the identification with it. Let's say Timmy
has too much imagination--but then I have already told you what I came
to tell. I'll be going now, Mrs. Briggs."

       *       *       *       *       *

From the way George sent the gyrocar into a long swoop that ended
inside the garage, Laura Briggs knew her husband was angry and she
braced herself for battle. But she wasn't quite prepared for such an
immediate outburst, the moment he got in the door.

"Stoops!" he cried, robbed of slamming the door because of the
automatic permaglass cushion. Timmy scurried away, frightened at this
aspect of his father. "The psychocenter we've got to go to yet!"

The electrocooker had dinged a minute ago, and Mrs. Briggs was ready to
take everything out and put it on the table, but she could only look at
him in amazement. "You're not making sense!"

"Ha!" George's heavy eyebrows hovered high in his forehead, then
plunged down over his eyes. His big face was crimson, his blue eyes
steely. "Neither are they, and they called just before I left the
office. Wouldn't tell me why. Have you done anything?"

"Well--" Mrs. Briggs started tentatively and he gave her a sharp look.
"It's about the Elroom."

"The Elroom!"

She told him about the visit of Miss Pomeroy. "She must have reported
it."

"Then we'll get rid of the damned thing!" His eyes brightened. "I told
you we should have gotten a new car instead."

"But we've got a car, George."

"Not a good one." He leaned against the cooker, his face blissful.
"Imagine us--_us_--driving a new _Caddie_ gyro--room for eight, you
know--supersonic drive--sleek, too--we could get a red one--you'd like
red, wouldn't you?--a thousand horsepower with twin turbos for level
flight--and those off-center firing tubes with folding back overhead
vertical flight pins--Gad!"

"Our present car--"

"Junk!"

"But it runs, and we don't need a car like that for just in-town
driving."

"But what about our vacation? Think of it, Laura: We could make it to
Alaska, Tibet, Africa--we could go around the world in our three weeks."

"We could do the same with the Elroom, George. And there are a lot more
things besides travel." Mrs. Briggs's lower lip was trembling. "You're
siding with those nasty school people. You think they're right about
Timmy."

"Where is he?"

Timmy stuck his head up from behind the lounge. His big eyes were wide.

"Look at him, George. Ever seen a more normal boy? How could they think
a boy like that could get so involved in a program he'd think he was
living it."

"Yeah, but if those school people--"

Her eye caught the clock and she drew in her breath quickly. "Say!
We've got to hurry if we're going to see _Cameron Capers_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Vincent Potter was a large man with a shining expanse of flesh
between two islands of black, bristling hair above heavy brows that
met over his nose and almost concealed the bright, intelligent eyes
that glittered beneath them.

"So. You cannot understand. Yes." He nodded his head, made a tent with
his hands, and rocked. "But this is what we are for. To understand. For
you." He smiled. "If understanding easily came, then we would be not
needed. No? You see?" He laughed a little, jerked upright. The movement
nearly made the three of them jump.

"Doctor," George said. "There are millions of kids in Elrooms all over
the country."

"You tell me something new?" The doctor frowned. "Millions of people
there are. So? Must they be alike every one? They are not. Yes?" The
doctor leaned toward Timmy who was playing with a desk calendar. "Who
is your mother?" Timmy pointed to Mrs. Briggs. "Your father?" Timmy
pointed to George. "See? He knows."

"Of course," Mrs. Briggs said.

"Exactly," the doctor agreed. Then he was upright, waving his
forefinger before them, looking from beneath dark brows. "For how long,
Mrs. Briggs? For how long, I am asking? And now, I am telling how long.
Who knows? Who can tell how many times you will let him see these
things?"

"What day is today?" Timmy asked.

"He is asking what day it is," the doctor laughed.

"Well, why don't you answer him?" Mrs. Briggs suggested.

"The twelfth of June," the doctor said. "And why does Timmy ask such a
question?"

"You forgot to tear off yesterday." And Timmy tore the little sheet
off, proceeded to make a dart of it.

"Well, what you've been meaning to say," George said, "is that we're
going to have to cut down on Timmy's Elroom time."

"Aw, Dad!" Timmy protested.

"No. Cut it down we will not do." The doctor shook his head gravely.
"We will cut it out altogether."

"Cut it out?" George said hopefully. He leaned forward with interest.
"Maybe we should get rid of our outfit?"

"Mr. Briggs. You do not know, perhaps, sublimation can be dangerous.
Confusing reality, stimulating unreality, stunting thinking, bringing
on neuroses. Tolerance. He needs tolerance. Timmy cannot develop
tolerance with too much of a dose, as he has had. Do you see now? The
AG test--ah!--it is good. It shows us he is leaving reality. We can't
let him psychotic become."

"But he doesn't believe the programs!" Mrs. Briggs exclaimed.

"Not yet, Mrs. Briggs! Not yet. If he sublimes enough he will soon,
though. No?"

"I can't stand the thought of locking Timmy out of it," Mrs. Briggs
said sadly.

"I'm in favor of getting rid of it," George muttered. "There are other
things--cars--"

Dr. Potter took an official form from a drawer. "A change of
environment you need. Timmy needs. You leave tomorrow on a month's
vacation."

"But my vacation doesn't come up for six months," George said. "Or
doesn't that matter?" he added hopefully.

"You will leave tomorrow, as said. No? Your office will I inform of the
necessary departure. Sector administration will be knowing." He wrote
on a sheet of paper. "The colorful spots. That you will see. Timmy
will see things as they really are. Itineraries will send the route by
facsimile. Good. Not?"

"Why, I think it's wonderful!" George said.

"Timmy must see the sunrise. The sea, he must swim in. Things, he must
do. Remember. Yes?"

"Yes," George said. "No?" He turned to his wife. "There's an agency
where we can rent a car--and they have new _Caddies_--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The tapering white obelisk thrust upward from the earth like a giant
needle. The Briggses entered the base of it, went up the elevator, and
caught glimpses of stairway landings as the cage rose slowly. When they
stepped out on the platform near the top, they walked to the pair of
port openings on one side and looked out.

In the time it had taken them to get to the top of Washington Monument,
a light fog, borne on the slight evening breeze, had enveloped the tall
shaft at its midsection; they could see nothing of the ground below.
They were isolated from Earth, connected to it only by the elevator
well.

"Isn't this eerie?" Mrs. Briggs asked Timmy.

He looked around casually and yawned. "On an Elroom program," he said,
"you would be able to see all the way down. I don't think this is so
hot." He yawned again. "I'm thirsty."

"We'll be going down in a minute, Timmy."

"I've got the route figured better than Itineraries for the next stop,"
George said. "If we could leave in twenty minutes--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Aragonite crystals on the cavern's ceiling twinkled brightly in
reflection of glowing electric lights. The fragile beauty of the
boxwork formation took Mrs. Briggs's breath away.

"It's just like lace," she whispered to George, pointing to the frosty
tracery glistening in the honeycombed walls.

"Tom Bingham discovered this cave," the guide intoned before the
tourists seated in the giant chamber, his voice echoing from the walls.
"He heard a whistling sound and found it came from a small opening.
That's why they call this Wind Cave. The wind goes in and out."

"Why does it do that?" someone asked.

"Difference in atmospheric pressure," the guide said. "Another
interesting thing about this cave: It's always forty-seven degrees.
Doesn't make any difference whether it's summer or winter. Always the
same in here."

"I don't hear any wind," Timmy said to his mother and father. "Why
isn't the wind whistling?"

"When the barometer falls, the wind blows out," his father explained.
"When the barometer rises, the wind blows in."

"Why isn't the wind whistling now?" Timmy insisted.

"The barometer must be standing still, son."

"This isn't any good. On an Elroom program the wind would be whistling."

"Hush," Mrs. Briggs said.

"I'm thirsty," Timmy said.

"We'll be leaving in a few minutes."

"You'll get plenty of wind when I rev up the _Caddie_ on our next hop,"
George said.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Think of that," George said. "It's a whole mile down to the river."

Timmy leaned forward to take a deep look over the precipice at Yaki
point.

"Boy!" he said. "This is pretty good. Almost makes me dizzy."

Below, the Colorado River was bright quicksilver, threading its way
circuitously through the canyon. The striated walls rose majestically
from the floor to towering temples.

The boy turned from the rock to look at the tufts of clouds floating by
in the deep blue sky.

"I'm thirsty," he said.

Mrs. Briggs, still fascinated by the view, said, "Well, go get a drink,
then."

Timmy walked over the edge, screamed as he fell.

Mrs. Briggs could only stare, stunned.

George uttered a cry and ran to the cliffs rim.

Tourists nearby ran up, looked down with George.

A hundred feet below on the slope at a point where it dropped off to
nothing, a horrified Timmy was crouched clutching a small tree.

"Hold on!" George called encouragingly.

A few minutes later someone had found a long rope in a gyrocar trunk
and roped it about George's middle. They let him over the edge gently,
dropped him down the slope slowly.

"Hang on, Timmy!" George yelled, running a tongue over dry lips and
momentarily closing his eyes to the dizzying depths. "Don't let the
little rocks coming down worry you."

A while later, a dust-streaked Timmy was back on the ledge in his
mother's arms, sobbing.

George, his shirt wet with sweat, and struggling out of the rope,
panted: "Whatever came over you, Timmy?"

"It was so real I thought it was the Elroom. I was just going out to
the kitchen to get a drink of water."

"And I--I told him to go," Mrs. Briggs said, horrified. "It was that
real to me, too."

       *       *       *       *       *

                               FOR SALE

      ELROOM, complete. Like new. Reasonable. Or will trade for
      new Cadillac 8-passenger, twin-turbo gyro, red preferred.
      George Briggs, 7228 Rose Terrace. Phone CARberry 7-9087.





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