Rhys Hughes is a Welsh writer of fantasy, speculative fiction, and magic realism who often uses comedy and absurdism to examine philosophical issues. He is known for his unique ideas, intricate plots, and entertaining wordplay. Hughes is immensely prolific, having written numerous short stories, ebooks, novellas, and novels. Recent publications of his include the collections The Brothel Creeper, Sangria in the Sangraal, and Link Arms With Toads! His main project is a story cycle consisting of exactly 1000 linked stories bound under the overall title of Pandora’s Bluff, and he recently wrote the 600th story in that sequence. We’re delighted to reprint the following story, “Depressurized Ghost Story,” originally published in Hughes’s collection The Smell of Telescopes and later included in the Whispers and Shadows anthology edited by Jack Fisher. — The Editors
My soul lives on a ledge. I have always been a climber: my first conquest was the north face of our family home in Colchester. Alarmed by the sight of her only child scrabbling among the ivy, my mother rushed out and held her apron to catch me. But I succeeded in gaining the highest chimney and remained there until starvation compelled me to descend to my punishment, which turned out to be more hunger — I was exiled to bed. Always prudent, my father nailed my window shut, but I spent an intrepid night clambering over the precipitous furniture.
Later, in Eton, I forsook lessons to begin a passionate relationship with the gables and turrets of the college buildings. At this time, I was introduced to the telling of ghost-tales, courtesy of our Provost. Though untroubled by his morbid fables and anecdotes, I never became a confirmed skeptic of the paranormal. My fellow pupils exchanged his tombic romances like farthings, but I was simply uninterested in anything which could not be scaled and it seemed unlikely a specter would afford a grip for boots, even those fitted with crampons.
After my wholly inadequate schooling, I attended university to study engineering. I excelled at mathematics whenever a quantity had to rise up the gradient of a steep formula; the rest of the time my failures were as immense and unlikely as a glacier. My tutor chided me one afternoon: “You have the loftiest intentions, but they reside in your feet.” Over my door I fixed an ice-axe, a symbol of reality cooler than any abstract logic. I was not alone; other acrophiliac students joined me in expeditions around the dour peaks and chalk cliffs.
I graduated with a poor degree and immediately started out on a life above the clouds. I wandered over the Alps, rolling down one peak only to ascend another, like a snowball which has gathered infinite momentum . My allowance was soon cut, but I did not return to face my father. I applied for a job in East Africa as a technical consultant. I found time to climb a number of equatorial mountains, though I was mauled by a leopard on the summit of Kilimanjaro and forced to rest on a plantation. One of my close neighbors turned out to be an explorer by the name of Shipton. Within an hour of meeting we were planning an ambitious expedition to Central Asia, among the unknown G— N— Range.
We shared a philosophy of light travel. He was a more lyrical fellow than I, the sort of climber who writes up his adventures in books. I have an idea he did actually publish his memoirs in several volumes. I have no reason to suppose he remembers me; our collaboration was rather brief. We argued over the exact location of the forbidden Q — — — valley, mentioned in a Tibetan folktale, one of those translated by X.D. Laocoön. A scuffle broke out; we exchanged blows with a map of the area. He threw me off his premises. Now I was fired with a determination to reach the valley before he did. I staggered away, silently vowing: “You have beaten me to a pulp, but I shall beat you to fame…” 
I spent five years saving money for the mission, collecting climbers and equipment, getting myself in shape for the arduous task. Eventually I was fit and rich enough to feel reasonably confident. Crossing the horrid peaks of the G— N— Range would cost a fortune in leather soles: I hired a Polish cobbler to accompany me. Other hopefuls applied from England and continental Europe. We arranged to meet in Calcutta. Arriving there after a rough sea-voyage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover all but one of my recruits had turned up. The missing chap was our radio-operator. Later in the Hotel D — — , fiddling with a short-wave wireless, we picked up his attenuated signals, drowning beneath the civilized accents and restrained static of the BBC World Service.
We set off on August 5th, 19 — , after a hearty breakfast of rice and lentils, heading north on the 09:05 express. We had an entire carriage to ourselves, for since my disagreement with Shipton I intended to do all my exploring in the opposite way to him — if he planned to take little on an ascent, I was determined to carry up as much as possible. It chaffed with my real principles, of course, but my pride outweighs my sense. And while my story is rattling along the rails, let me introduce you to the prosaic souls who formed the core of my party. Because I am quite modest, I shall refrain from saying which of the following names belongs to me, though it has the sweetest ring to it: C. Bowman, J. Tolkien-Twigge, O. Eckenstein, R. Darktree, M.A. Zimara, C. Weasel, H. Melmoth, E.S. Abbott, A.G. Woden, B. Cadiz, D. Delves, I. Evans… (The remainder of the list has just been obscured by smoke from the train).
I can hardly see the paragraphs in this fog. The quality of our coal must have been very poor. Having studied Hindoo ceremonies, I made a joke which raised blisters but no smiles — the stoker had died at his post and his wife jumped into the furnace. I repeat it here because I know readers have a darker sense of humor than climbers. Actually you are a very good audience: I wish you had come with me instead of those miserable fellows. But you would have grumbled about the cold in S — — , where we disembarked and hired ponies to take us over the B — — Hills. Right to the borders of M — — — we rode. (I know you are trying to reconstruct my route. You are bored with the pace of my document and want to make a dash for the end. I do not advise this. The narrow passes of L — — are infested with bandits. Please stay close to my prose).
Months of hardship and weak tea sapped the energies of my followers. We stopped in the shadow of R— D — — and bathed in the thermal springs. Some of my team, rather less educated than the others, had never heard of X.D. Laocoön and the forbidden valley of Q — — — , nor were they overeager to learn the mythology of this region. I taught them anyway. Every valley in Tibet is filled to the brim with ruined cities, sorcerous treasure and immortal lamas. Q — — — was the only empty one. It was remarkable because of the things it did not contain. I suppose you might say that the places of magic which surrounded it gave it a lustrous presence and outlined the mystery: like depicting a tree by painting the sky which lies between its branches. According to Laocoön, it was the only place on the planet never trampled by any kind of feet, not even when there was only one continent and all the mountains were flat.
I was not entirely convinced by this, for I knew there were areas of Colchester equally untrodden, though these were generally very small. Yet the allure of Q — — — was excessive. I reserved for myself the first step onto its soil. Ringed and supported by a circle of jagged mountains, like a bowl of soup guarded by a dozen grumpy waiters, the valley was surveyed many centuries ago by a levitating monk. That, at any rate, was the tale related by Laocoön. I was too suspicious to query the word of one who has been criticized by doubters. Closer to our objective we lurched, pressing our destination into a corner. We traversed the Y— R— Glacier, losing our supply of teapots down crevasses while I cut spiral steps in the ice. At the end of this stage it was apparent we needed to employ porters from local settlements. There were caves in the bottom of the Glacier: muffled troglodytes played dice with frozen tears. They shouldered our cases with a stoicism exhausting to behold.
The porters were fine chaps, but they were difficult to address. The leaders of our initial group were Tsongkhapa and Dromtönpa. We soon added Langdharama and Shantarikshita to the ranks. Entering a remote village on the Z— P— Plateau , I was extremely grateful to hire Bertie. He was old and frail, but the simplicity of his appellation was a crucial factor in our offer of employment. Besides, feeble porters totter most carefully and are ideal for carrying scientific equipment. After two or three weeks of his dedication, I asked him how he came by such a name. It emerged his father was a Scottish engineer working in Bengal who decided to construct a bamboo bicycle and pedal home. This eccentric resolution carried him no further than the Himalayas.
“What happened there?” I inquired.
“He lost his way after turning left at Lhasa,” Bertie explained. “He wobbled into our village with a puncture and a fever. After we tended him and restored his health, he became a shamanic figure, devising all manner of apparatus for our convenience.”
These, Bertie went on to expound, included attaching electric motors to temple prayer wheels to accelerate local devotion. The engineer had an idea that the efficacy of these devices corresponded to the rate of spin. There was a threshold of so many millions of revolutions per minute above which a prayer would actually work. Unfortunately his career was finished when his sporran was caught in an axle. He was pulled in and rotated to a pious demise, leaving unfinished his dream of converting the entire world into a prayer-wheel by rearranging the mountains to spell out a mantra. I insisted that a single rotation a day would scarcely be enough to satisfy the highest Heaven. Bertie agreed.
“I did not say he was sane, merely my father.”
There is no time for more extracts from the conversations we enjoyed along the way. They were wholly of this quality. But I am already exactly 1669 words into my account and at this point it is good manners to reward my readers with some action (with this bracket the total has increased to 1708 words — dash it! I am overwriting. Better edit the next line.) As we approached the serrated peaks… lucky to be alive. I have never seen any sunset to compare with that one. The slopes shimmered like enormous fires put to bed in clean sheets but rolling around. I was overawed. One of the English climbers fell to his knees and started muttering that these peaks were impenetrable. I wanted to shoot him like a mad yak, but mastered the impulse before dusk. We set up camp.
Before retiring, I made a speech: “We have braved many dangers since leaving the luxuries of home. But the peace of mind afforded by good food and wine will shortly be eclipsed. For on the far side of these mountains the serenity of Q — — — is waiting.”
Bertie came to my tent after midnight. “The men are frightened. They have no problem with serenity, but ghosts might also be waiting. There is no lonelier or remoter spot on the surface of the Earth. Where better for evil phantoms to take up residence?”
I laughed. “That is a common misconception of mountaineers. Actually the opposite is the case. This is probably the only valley in Tibet which is not crowded with the wispy dead.”
“How can you be sure? No-one has been here before.”
“Exactly! Ghosts tend to hover near the place where they originated. In lonely and remote areas, where there are few beings to expire, hardly any can exist. Here there are none.”
Pointing out the relevant passage in Laocoön, I sent him away with a relieved smile on his weathered face. My Polish cobbler, I decided, would be able to use Bertie’s skin as leather if anything happened to the tough old McSherpa. As I lay in the fresh dark, I thought about my own logic. A valley without people is a valley without specters. It seemed too obvious for comfort. Something was wrong. Unable to sleep, I lit a lamp and tired myself anew by catching up with my diary. Wonders avoided Q — — — with an unnatural consistency. Its ordinariness was miraculous. This is a paradox also true, I am told, of charladies.
The following morning I was shattered, but I insisted on leading the final push up the sheer wall of soft snow and slippery rock. More ancient than a stupa, Bertie bulged with exertion. Halfway up, he admitted he was not a Buddhist but a follower of the original Tibetan religion, Bon, with special protection from one of its obscure demons. I was pleased with his confession, as it released me from a moral obligation to assist him. When a devil watches over you, a more spectacular descent is usually reserved. It may be of interest to record that I was first to the top, though I did not boast of my achievement aloud, contenting myself with a little dance. The consequences of this action were… (yes, an avalanche has swept away the rest of this paragraph. It has taken one of my readers with it. There he goes! Him with the beard).
I was also first to descend into the valley proper. The inner slopes were gentler than the outer. (While you dig your way out, let me reassure you that none of the team lost our balance in the accident. We were above the fracture, whereas readers tend to lurk at the base of a story. I pity you. But it is your own fault for coming this far. Next time you must try to be more careful.) I planted the flag of my nation in the frost and sat in the slash of its shadow, trying to ignite a portable stove. There were no teapots so I brewed coffee while my colleagues joined me. Bertie, last of all, delivered the precision instruments to my feet. I set up a number of regulation experiments with the barometer and manometer, measuring the pressure differentials. There was a roaring pain in my head and the edges of my vision were indistinct.
I ignored my ailments. “Well, this is it!” I announced. “The last of all solitudes; the hymen of the planet. Now we are here, the world really has lost its virginity. Look around. Apart from a floating sage, no human has ever seen this fastness.”
“I feel a trifle dizzy,” answered Bertie.
“Altitude sickness,” I replied. “The pressure is quite low . If the feeling persists you must open a vein. Now then, I suggest we rush around like lunatics, to trample most of the unblemished spots before tiffin. An expedition must be thorough in its desecration. Otherwise our claim to be first will be open to doubt.”
I exempted Bertie from the task. He sprawled on the snow, reading my copy of Laocoön. The valley was roughly the same size as Colchester, flat and completely barren of animal or plant life . I made a total circuit, in the opposite direction to my companions, which was a decision they had arrived at. I felt agitated, but there was a force inside me which bawled with delight, as if my subconscious was enjoying a holiday. For a strange reason, I was reminded of my old Provost at Eton. After a hearty stamp of the valley, the other climbers joined me for a light meal. I said nothing about my experience, though they were equally disturbed. We fidgeted away the majority of the afternoon.
In the evening, I watched the stars wheel in the sky. They had never been observed from this region and I waited to catch them doing something different. Disappointed, I crawled inside my tent. I fell asleep rapidly, as if prompted to do so. My dream was remarkably coherent but pedestrian. I saw myself stand and leave the tent. My comrades were also emerging; we seemed pleased just to stretch our arms at full length. Then we got up to all manner of silly games: prancing, skipping and waltzing. We felt as if we were prisoners released from long captivity, ecstatic simply to have a space in which to exercise. Suddenly I woke in a cold sweat. Somebody was clawing at my tent. I cried aloud: “Who is there? Bertie, is that you?” I fumbled for my ice-axe. There was a mocking laugh. I gripped the tool and thrust the spike upwards. It punctured the fabric but did not penetrate a fleshy body beyond. I frowned.
Crawling out, I was amazed to notice that the tents of my companions were also shaking. There had been a fresh snowfall, but no footprints led away from my site. Like an economical cactus, each tent poked out a spike from an ice-axe. Then the occupants emerged and stood in confusion, while exchanging terrified glances. Nightcap askew on his head, Bertie began to chant a mantra, calling on his patron demon to guard his life. I insisted he refrain from his diabolism.
“But we are being attacked by ghosts!” he wailed.
I raised a hand. “Nonsense! I have already explained that no wraiths exist in the valley. No-one has ever died in this location. Therefore our ordeal must be due to some natural phenomenon. A practical joker perhaps? I suspect our radio-operator has finally caught us up. His silly sense of humor was well documented.”
“If that is the case, where is he now?”
I scanned the horizon. There were no hiding places in the chilly dip and the starlight reflecting from the shallow walls illuminated the scene cheaply and efficiently. “I do not care to argue with a Sherpa. As leader of this party I order everyone back to bed. I will have an answer to your insidious question by morning.”
Reluctantly, the explorers returned to their tents. Bertie wanted to curl up with me for safety but I warned him that the men might talk. With ninety-six little shudders, he pulled his nightcap down over his eyes and left me alone. I pondered. Quite plainly, the radio-operator was not with us. His aerial would be visible even had he hidden under a snowdrift. The remaining explanations were a freak wind in the shape of a body or else a levitating monk come to take revenge for our violation of his territory. I gazed up, but the stars were all where they should be, no constellation blotted by a serene silhouette.
I said nothing about the matter over breakfast, though Bertie huffed and agitated to bring it up. My colleagues were keen to begin the journey home, but I was too curious to depart now. I stalled them with scientific blather about the need to conduct a week’s worth of experiments. Furious haggling was set in motion and we settled on a stay of three days. Bertie moaned at this news and retired to study Laocoön’s anti-phantom remedies. Unfortunately, this section, at the back of the volume, had been eaten by a goat on the train to S — — .
That night my dream came back, with a changed choreography. I danced a tango rather than a waltz. Each time I passed my berth, I heard fretful snoring coming from within. The others strutted with me, icicles clenched between their teeth. I woke to a staccato tapping of heels on the side of my tent. I sat up and placed my eye to the hole I had jabbed the previous night. There was nobody outside, but I saw the pale irises of my comrades peering from their own gashes.
Bertie was inconsolable. He gibbered in an embarrassing fashion from the security of his sleeping-bag. I crawled out and shook him free. To my extreme dismay, he repeated our dance, stark naked. He whipped up snow in a swirl which seemed momentarily to congeal into the shape of my Provost. Wagging a glacial finger, the illusion crumbled with a horrid jollity and I brushed academic flakes from my shoulders. Bertie fell to his knees and clutched at my swollen ankles.
“You promised an answer! Tell it to me!”
“Get a grip on yourself. Perhaps we are all suffering from delusions occasioned by extreme altitude. Or maybe we should stop cooking with yeti dung. The problem is medical.”
Bertie shook his head. “It was a ghost.”
I snubbed his hysteria and returned to bed, sleeping soundly until a beam of early sunlight poked through the rent, buying my brow with a coin of light. The climbers were in mutinous mood, refusing to cook breakfast. They lazed and shared Laocoön, alternately chuckling and yawning over his syntax. I persisted with my measuring and classifying, though there was a severe lack of things to which these processes might be applied. I worked without a break, eventually filling my notebooks with observations before packing away my instruments for the descent. I watched the moon pour over the horizon, licking my toasted face with its butter tongue. I decided to spend my last night in the open.
I perched on a folding stool and did my best to remain awake. But my bones were too heavy, knocking against each other beneath my skin. At the same time my spirit broke free from the rigging of my nerves, like a sail fleeing a mast in a storm. I was standing in front of myself, roaring and giggling, waving my arms in triumph. Soon I was joined by my comrades and we held an impromptu party. Bertie was present, looking less worried than in the daytime. I kicked and jabbed at my body, seated on its stool. Then there was a cry and another Bertie rose up from his sleeping-bag, shaking a fist as he raced past us in his slippers. He continued towards the edge of the valley, vanishing over the rim. Obviously his body was leaving his spirit behind. We did our best to console the soul, which seemed a trifle glum, like a yolk without a shell.
Once more harassing my sleeping torso, I was startled when it jerked and I was sucked back inside. I opened my eyes to see the others emerging from their tents. They demanded: “Were you making that noise?” They began to accuse me of being the joker responsible for disturbing their sleep on the previous nights, but I protested vehemently. It was better to seal my lips about what I had witnessed — I did not want them thinking I was mad. I merely related the barest facts.
“Bertie has deserted us. The barometer will have to be abandoned. He fled in his nightcap and pajamas.”
There was nothing we could do. Had he been British… As it was, the sensible course of action was to forget about him. At first light we left the Q — — — valley forever, heading back towards the Z— P— Plateau. A week later we reached the Y— R— Glacier. It was faster going down. We dropped off Shantarikshita, Langdharama, Dromtönpa and Tsongkhapa, useful workers but taxing on the grammar. We failed to rescue our teapots from a crevasse but brewed tea in the thermal springs near R— D — — . Somewhere beyond M — — — , after crossing the L — — passes into the B — — Hills, we were astonished to notice a ragged figure coming closer. It was Bertie, a man so broken his decrepitude had turned full circle back to health. Only his toothless smile betrayed his identity. He screamed: “Out of my way! I must get back to Q — — — at once!”
I gripped his arm. “What happened, Bertie?”
His eyes were blank. “I ran all the way to S — — , where I milked the local goats, hoping to bottle Laocoön’s missing pages. I soon trapped the one who had devoured his anti-phantom advice. I drank the milk and became aware of my true predicament.”
“Are you returning to collect your spirit?”
He nodded, struggling out of my clutch. “Laocoön knew the dangers of the valley all along. This is why the levitating monk did not attempt to land there. The human race has been around for a long time, and before us there were demons and ogres with souls. The surface of the planet must be crowded with ghosts. Trillions of spooks all competing for the same piece of land. Think how uncomfortable it must be! Layers of wraiths struggling for space, like ashes in an oven. Even in the polar regions there will be troll specters crowding the icebergs!”
Plainly he had lost his sanity, but I decided to humor him. “Ghosts everywhere except in Q — — — ? Without population it also lacks revenants. Doubtless a paradise for apparitions?”
“Absolutely. Land is now at a premium for phantasms. When we entered the valley, our souls were overjoyed to see so much open space. They were determined to stay there, rather than return to the crowded outside. They formulated a plot to ensure we remained. Every night they came out of our bodies and attempted to frighten us to death. Specters must linger in the vicinity of their passing away.”
“Come now, Bertie, this is claptrap. Spirits cannot depart bodies at will. They are strapped to the bones.”
Leaning forward, the Sherpa tapped his nose. “That is normally true. But the low pressure caused our souls to expand and the ectoplasmic knots worked loose. Unfortunately our ghosts were not terrible enough to induce heart-attacks in our bodies. Every time we awoke, they had to take refuge back in the mortal shell. But on the third night, I ran away in my sleep. My soul was unable to stop me and I have been a hollow man ever since. It is essential I reclaim my spook!”
I shuddered. “What will happen otherwise?”
“Without a spirit I am a zombie. I can decay but not die. My phantom will thus never be registered as legitimate. This means suspension of all afterlife privileges. No free chains or walking through solids. I know it wants to leave the valley to look for me but it has no idea where I might be. I hope it has enough sense to stay put until I return. Now I must go. I am unravelling at the navel.”
The climbers chortled as Bertie trotted off. They did not credit his story and maintained that even if it was true they would rather socialize with other ghosts when they expired, rather than occupy a valley alone. I was less confident and felt a peculiar need to follow the Sherpa. Instead I contented myself with calling:
“How will you reabsorb your soul, Bertie?”
He turned briefly and replied: “My religion has a ritual for such an event. I will devour the ghost.”
“Bon appétit!” I watched him recede in the distance, a torn particle in a cosmos of unblemished snow.
Still joking over this encounter, my colleagues reached S — — before me. I dragged my feet, resentful of their company. The shadow of a flying sage passed over the ground… I looked up at a rogue cloud… Everything I do ends in disappointment. I rejoined my expedition in the station. Its members were playing football with my Laocoön. Pages were strewn over the track. We boarded the 05:09 express to Calcutta, but I sat on the roof. I booked a passage back to East Africa when we reached the city. The others retired to the Hotel D — — , a prime location for picking up the BBC World Service . I had nothing to say to them; they did not even wave me off as my ship left port. Cold rascals.
Arriving at my plantation, I was dismayed to find it had been burned down. Witnesses claimed to have seen a man throwing burning maps onto the crops. I wondered who he might be. There was nothing for it but to visit my parents in Colchester, where I had left them so many years previously. I stopped in the Pyrenees on my way, but climbing had lost its savor. In a decayed cathedral town, I happened to bump into my old Provost, who was searching for rare books. He might have bought my Laocoön had it remained intact. I was desperately short of money. As it was, he asked me to share a bottle of wine (Vin de Limoux, not to be recommended… Dash it! I have spilled some over the next sentence.) We fell into conversation… but he insisted that when I set my experiences down on paper I should avoid dots as much as possible… He had no love for them. My confession was a purge and I left him feeling stronger.
When I reached my childhood home, I found it empty and boarded up. A neighbor peeped at me through her curtains and came out to relate a glum story: my father was dead and my mother had been locked in a madhouse. It seems they never gave up waiting for me to return. One night they heard a noise on the stairs. Rushing out to embrace me, they were shocked to find a pale Scotsman mounted on a bicycle. He required directions to Aberdeen. My father collapsed and his own ghost jumped onto the contraption: with a most ungentlemanly yell, the pair pedaled off into the aether. My mother grew depressed; she knocked on the door of the local asylum and asked to be admitted. Fortunately my father made a will before his demise, leaving the estate to me. I was thus ensured a reasonable degree of luxury in my troubles. It was a great help…
Now I sit in my room, planning a return expedition to Tibet. But the difficulties are insurmountable; I have lost my nerve. Besides, I hear on the radio that Shipton is already there, mapping the region with accuracy and panache. I search the bookshops and market stalls for another copy of Laocoön  but there are none to be had. I decide to make use of my skill as an engineer. I will knock down the house and rebuild it in the form of a mantra, a global prayer-wheel which may bring me even more solace. Only my Provost can really help me understand my predicament, but I am wary of him. I must stay away from Eton.
There is something on my roof again. Every night this happens. It is driving me to distraction: the tiles are scraped by unseen feet. At first I thought it was a levitating monk. Then I believed it was the wraith of my dead reader, the one crushed in the avalanche. But yesterday I levered open my window, thrust out my head and saw my own ghost scuttling behind the highest chimney. It is puncturing the eaves with intangible crampons. How did it get there? I have a theory. In the low pressure of the valley it swelled too big to fit in my body properly and was detached on the way to Colchester. Yes, my soul lives on a ledge. But the rest of me prefers the comforts of a furnished room.
 This is untrue. Had I really gathered infinite momentum, my mass would also have been infinite. The immense gravitational field set up around my body in such circumstances would have made me the centre of the universe. Obviously this did not happen.
 Then I returned to his villa and shouted the words through his window. He attacked me with a globe. At this point, I discovered that small-scale maps inflict more painful bruises.
 For anyone who mistrusts my geography or believes I am being coy about cartographical detail, let me add that the Z — - P — - Plateau lies between the R — — and J — — - Rivers. It is —- miles long and —- miles broad and contains the villages of B— and O — -. In the latter village lives a chap named A— M— who distils a brandy from the W — - plant. I suggest you try it some time, it may do you good.
 I am disgusted with the way you always complain about the pressures of work. Try to remember what a lack of pressure entails: nausea, confusion, hemorrhaging. Reconsider before asking your boss for extra leave. Do you want to bleed from the ears and eyes?
 This region is almost as devoid of life as the following 32 paragraphs are devoid of notes.
 The BBC World Service had not even started at this time, but I hope to obtain employment with the organization and am thus determined to make as many references to it as possible.
 X.D. Laocoön’s ethnographic books have largely been discredited, but a first-edition of his masterwork, Fables from the World’s Attic, can fetch upwards of $1000 (enquiries to Gamma-Ray Russell, Coverley House, Carlton, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 4AY). Laocoön — “the translator without a conscience” — probably never ventured further than his own attic.