They were small-minded fools, was the long and short of it. Babbling, small-minded idiots, holed up in their rabbit-warren offices, buried in books, learning the simplest of languages in piecemeal. Swallowing knowledge in thick chunks, like baby food, regurgitating most of the useful bits in the process. Pelicans, that’s all they were. They’d heave whatever glistening scrap looked most useful into their undiscriminating gullets and choke it down.
How he loathed them. How he loathed them, and yet how he was forced to conceal his hatred, to couch his hot and rising bile in the blandest of pleasantries. “Bonjour, Mlle. Brown,” he’d spit through his teeth as they passed. “Ahalan, Professor Kern,” he’d coo while he murdered them in his mind.
And they hated him too. He wasn’t so stupid as to think their smiles did not mask equal repulsion. But here – ah, here lay the distinction. He hated them because they were fools. They hated him because they were afraid of him, and rightly so.
It was because of the machine. His greatest work. With it any student could master up to seven languages in ten days. Ten days! A laughably short amount of time. In little more than a fortnight the most backwards of undergraduates could dazzle the staff of the UN. In a few months she might have mastered every language a human tongue had ever uttered. In a year –
He did not yet dare to let himself dream of what could be accomplished in a year. Let the gods predict, and tremble.
There were drawbacks, of course. Minor flaws to be worked out before he could unveil his creation. Sacrifices that had to be made in the name of progress. The guinea pigs were immaterial. They had no important research published. None of them had even defended a thesis, and were unlikely to be missed.
Every day, as he grew in knowledge, he felt the buzz of alien languages crowding and lapping up against the edges of his skull. If a few minor memories were lost in order to make room for them, what of it? What need had he to remember names or faces or social niceties?
He had paused, briefly, the day he woke up and could not remember where he was – had felt the faint trickle of fear in his stomach when he spent an hour hunched over his shoes, weeping with frustration when he could not force himself to conjure up the name for them, what to do with them – but those momentary lapses were quickly and eagerly swallowed up by the growing sea of voices that echoed in his multitudinous mind.
In my brain I hold an army, he thought to himself, correcting his final paper (“Casey – please note that bolĂgrafo is a male noun; the sentence should read “el bolĂgrafo de mi tĂo”). With my brain I shall remake the world.
The language professors might hate him, but soon they would tremble before him.