Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chapter One

Here is Chapter One as it stands of my novel. The novel itself will not be all about chairs. Chapter One IS all about chairs.

Chairs

Have you ever had a chair speak to you?
I have. Most chairs speak to me. They say a single word – Sit. The voice that the chairs speak in varies slightly, but it's always English, regardless of where the chair was manufactured. Sometimes I have turned a chair over and observed its country of origin. “Ah, the Czech Republic! A fine country!” and placing it right way up I listen to it say “Sit” once more, straining to detect the trace of an accent, but there is none. So, I figure the voice the chair speaks in may originate in my own head. That's one explanation and it seems simple enough, it accounts for the facts. But then, just as I am being subdued, I become suspicious, wondering what I have missed. What troubles me is how conveniently everything fits together, the truth is never this easy.

I scrutinise the chair, waiting for other theories to come forward. I have another idea - perhaps the chairs are given language lessons before they are exported, only allowed to leave once they have impeccable English accents. I think of classrooms in far flung parts of Europe and the Middle East, where an instructor (possibly human, possibly a chair, imported from England) addresses a roomful of chairs and has them perform various drills. “Repeat after me, “Sit”, not “Seet-a” or “Seet”, but “Sit”. Okay, try it.” Fifty chairs say “Sit” together. Then I see the chairs in graduation gowns, accepting scrolls. I discount this as too elaborate. This theory also fails to explain why the voice the chairs speak in sounds like my voice. Could the chairs be mimicking my voice? That is easy to test. All I need do is go into a room with a chair I have never seen before and stay silent and listen to the voice of the chair. Perhaps the chair will not say anything, knowing that I have called its bluff. If it plays dumb, then I will speak in an outrageously high voice and listen and see if the chair copies this voice when it says, “Sit”. If it does, case closed. The chair is simply a mimic. That deals with that issue, seemingly.

The thing is, two more theories have presented themselves while I was working through that chain of reasoning. The first theory is very problematic, this theory contends that all chairs are in communication with one another, across the universe, perhaps even through time. As such, there is no way to encounter a strange chair, indeed, every chair I encounter knows an extraordinary amount about me, the chair knows everything I have done in the presence of chairs (this thought baffles me with its huge implications). There is no fooling chairs in this scenario. The voice they use is my own voice, again through mimicry. Perhaps a master-chair is coaching them from a control centre, helping them rehearse my voice and deliver it perfectly. “Sit.” This theory is overpowering in its universal scope. If a person could tap into this chair communication network, you could rule the world. Are there people out there, right now, working secretly on such projects, struggling to unlock the power of chairs? And other people, working just as hard to stop them. It's a secret battle for the soul of civilisation, who will win?

I am becoming tired by now and have just one theory left, a simpler one this time. The reason the chairs speak in my own voice is not because of some universal network, but for a more prosaic reason. Somehow my voice is being used during chair training as a sample English accent, with the end result that all the chairs exported to England have my voice, it stands to reason that I have said “Sit” many times in my life, perhaps someone recorded me saying it. And now all the English-speaking chairs in the world have my voice. My situation is not dissimilar to the person whose voice is used on the announcement system of the London Underground. This voice is heard in every station, on every train, all day, all night, all year round. The recording of this voice (and I am assuming it is a recording, unless there are thousands of clones of this one person, all performing in parallel, in a shift pattern, and this seems preposterous), this recording must be one of the most well-known voices in the world. Yet no-one knows who it is. And how does the person whose voice it is feel when they travel on the London Underground. Wouldn't it be the strangest thing to be just climbing on to a train and to hear a recording of your own voice warning you to “Mind the gap! Mind the gap!” and then to sit in the train and here your voice announcing what stations you will be calling at. And, worse, if you speak to someone they will think you are impersonating the recorded voice. “Why are they impersonating the recorded voice,” thinks the person they speak to. “They must be insane.” So maybe the person whose voice is used on the recordings uses a different voice now (or used a different voice for the recordings), to avoid confusion and accusations of insanity. Whatever they do, their situation is similar to mine. If we ever met, we'd have something to talk about, we might be the only two people in the world who can really understand one another. Maybe that's all my life is about, finding this person and understanding and being understood and living happily together in a house without chairs, miles away from the London Underground. What a beautiful love story.

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