Professor suddenly disappears
[AP, 11 October 1999 – Códoba, Mexico]
Reports from an entire classroom of students at the Córdoba campus of the elite Mexican ITESM university system indicate that apparently Professor G. Stefanik disappeared on Tuesday morning. “Estaba enfrente de nosotros y de repente desaparició” [He was here in front of us and then he just disappeared”].
Evidently Professor Stefanik was in the process of entering his 8 o’clock class in World Literature when he seems to have dematerialized completely. No explanation has been given by the officials of the campus. Several students were treated at the local hospital suffering from severe shock.
Following the disappearance of Prof. Stefanik, the Investigations Unit of the Córdoba Municipal Police department searched his home in the nearby Las Quintas area in an effort to uncover any information which might shed light on this rather bizarre incident.
In speaking with a graduate student from the Orizaba Technological University, who shares the home, Emiliano Ferreira indicated that there was nothing unusual about Prof. Stefanik’s demeanor that morning as he left for the university. Mr. Ferreira commented, “Although he was humming, or sort of singing, a strange song, one which he has been somewhat obsessed with for several weeks. At one time he mumbled something about it being an Ambrosian Cantata of Joy – whatever that means.”
Several of his daily journal entries seem to have some possible bearing on his disappearance.
Journal entry, April 4, 1999
Yesterday was a very long, somewhat exhausting day. Followed by an interminable evening of grading papers, from many futile attempts of my students at putting together words and ideas, or so it seemed during the red-pen process. Though still not finished I stopped at around eleven o’clock and decided to relax for an hour before retiring. One possibility was joining Emi for bit of television since I could hear the muted sound coming down the hall from the living room, but decided to read instead. Strange, to stop reading student papers and decide to relax by reading. But this was different since I could enjoy the even flow of language and thought. Especially the ideas, since Jorge Luis Borges was to be my guide and host into his marvelous world of fantasy, replete with delicious sentences containing exquisite vocabulary, honed to perfection by a master.
I had decided on “El Jardín de Senderos que se Bifurcan” (The Garden of Forking Paths), a labyrinthine romp through reality and the impact of language on literature, philosophy, metaphysics and theology. It was a collection of short stories since, like all of Borges’ work, he had eschewed the novel for inscrutable personal reasons, and devoted his skill to producing works in miniature. The time passed all too quickly as I became immersed in the sprawling Borgesian mazes with their seductive illusions to a system of seemingly liquid time and space.
Went to bed shortly after midnight but not before checking the alarm to make certain that I would be rousted at 6:30 am, and have sufficient time to arrive at my eight o’clock class. As I drifted off to sleep I was distantly aware of the slight clamminess in the air, and the possibility of rain. Much needed rain since we had had no rain in nearly a month. A mini-drought in here the tropics.
All too rapidly it was morning. I threw back the covers, and soon I was once again entering the campus and heading for the first class of the day, which was in one of the new buildings. I entered and checked the console for this week’s teaching module with the attendant images, charts, illustrations and specific reading selections that would compliment our discussion of the work at hand. The list of possible teaching aids was quite long, and we would be discussing J.L. Borges’ “Estratagemas” (Artifices), some of his most inventive tales. Then I noticed at the bottom of the list, in brilliant blue letters, a note that Borges would be visiting the class. How could I have forgotten this detail? It was almost as if God himself were making a personal appearance. Oh shit! How could I have forgotten? My heart was racing. Had I put on a tie? I remembered that HE always wore a tie. Within seconds my normally calm composure had degenerated into complete chaos. The students began to casually enter the room and take their seats. Not a single one was wearing a tie which I could borrow. . . . .
I woke up and looked at the clock since the alarm had not yet sounded. Decided to stay in bed a bit longer and watch some news before getting up. The alarm clock’s digital dial soon changed to a small screen and produced a BBC broadcast of world news, which was rather boring, in fact I had trouble understanding what it was about, so I instead switched to my email account. Scrolled the long list of messages, but there was nothing that demanded an immediate reply in that there were no red flags attached. Soon I was once again entering the campus and heading for the first class of the day, which was in one of the new buildings. I had the strange sensation that it was a déjà vu experience. It seemed that it had all happened before, and in almost exactly the same fashion. The feeling passed as I walked into the class and then entered the crystalline plastic teaching bubble. Seated in the comfortable chair I pulled out the control panel and tested both microphone and the mobility of the bubble. It floated effortlessly from one side of the large semicircular room to the other. I checked the video panel and quickly reviewed the notes for today’s lecture. Momentary confusion. Which class was this?
Oh yes, suddenly it all came back to me, the survey course on ‘Literature Of The Known Universe’. As evidenced in my now scrolling notes on the video screen, today we would be discussing the “Singing Books of the Ambrose”. The class soon filled with students and the musical notes in the background proclaimed the beginning of the class session. The teaching bubble rose and I began by explaining to the two hundred or so students that the Ambrose culture, many light years of galactic distance from the Earth, had developed one of the most unique methods of literature, writing and retrieval.
The Ambrosian books consist of thin sheets, the composition of which is still unknown, embedded with symbols which, when their fingers passed over the metallic symbols, produce a chanted, almost singing rendition of the passage. Ambrosian books also consisted of a complementary musical background. In addition the finely delineated artwork, masterpieces in themselves, somehow carry the musical notation. I was on the point of explaining that this type of book had been envisioned by…. I noticed a red student recognition button blinking and pressed it in order that someone might add to the information. A student high on the seventh or eighth tier stood and mentioned that the American writer Ray Bradbury had anticipated this development in one of his stories back during the twentieth century. Handsome, bright appearing lad that I had never noticed before. He was still speaking in his rather precise manner and describing the story in detail. The screen showed that he was Tier 8, seat 12. I pressed his identification number into my electronic notebook so that he would receive participation credit, and then as he finished, decided it would be an apt time to show a film clip of one of the Ambrosian books. My plastic bubble quickly slid over to one side, the lights dimmed, and the wall behind me came to life with a narrated film clip.
The thin, bronzed Ambrosian was seated with a book in his lap, shimmering golden eyes looking off into the distance of space as his extremely long fingers began to pass over the metallic embossed symbols. The sound was a bit eerie, but somehow most pleasant. There was a somewhat nasal, liquid quality to the sound that reminded me of French, but I couldn’t understand anything without reading the English translation at the bottom of the screen. It concerned the Ambrosian story of creation. The Divine had divided his thoughts into many separate bits, and like a farmer, sown these thoughts around the planet of Ambrose. With the passage of time, these thoughts had come to life. I couldn’t help but think that it was certainly more creative than the Hebraic story of Genesis and the Adam and Eve fiasco. The singing narration continued. My eyes began to close, but because of the dim interior, the students probably wouldn’t notice. Then, although I attempted to do so, I couldn’t seem to open my eyes.
I woke up to the sound of rain. At last it had arrived, after more than a month of warm, dry weather. Looked at the glowing numbers on the alarm clock. Only 5:30 so I still had time for a bit more sleep. Remembered the two dreams I had experienced. Wow, really bizarre stuff. As I began to doze once again, I knew that there was nothing more pleasant than sleeping during the rain.
I slowly opened my eyes and realized that it was light outside. Too light. Quickly rolled over and looked at the clock. Oh shit! It was already 7:15 and I would have to race like hell to get to my 8:00 class. Somehow I must have turned off the alarm and immediately gone back to sleep. Once again when I finally got to the campus, it was difficult to determine what had happened between waking up and actually arriving there. Dreams and reality were all squished together. And I know that in writing down those two dreams I have left out innumerable details. There was yet another dream which I cannot remember at all. Nothing more than the fact that it existed and was in progress when I woke up at 7:15. As for the “Ambrosians” — now wasn’t that a clever mental trick to put together ‘singing books’ and St. Ambrose of Milan, a 5th century composer of choral music . . . . .
I have had the strangest sensation, all day, that the dreams were too real, almost as if I had truly entered a different probable reality.
Journal entry, October 10, 1999
What can best be described as an ‘interface’ with the Ambrosians has been a near nightly feature since that primary encounter nearly months ago. In fact I have indeed become, at least mentally, an Ambrosian. At present I seem to be functioning within two differing dimensions.
During the daylight hours I continue with my duties as a professor at the university here in Córdoba, as I have for over a decade And yet once I close my eyes at night I am transported to that other probable reality where I spend my time in the composition of Ambrosian Singing Pages, weaving images and ethereal music into a synthesis of beauty and form. A unique, and constant, feeling of personal satisfaction within the creative expression. A sensation of vitality and aliveness. My ‘Cantata Of Infinite Joy’ is nearing completion . . .
I feel that soon I may well decide.
That was the last entry that Professor Stefanik made in his daily journal.
It seems evident that his written statement ‘I feel that soon I may well decide’ was decided upon just as he stepped through the threshold of the classroom.
Within minutes of his disappearance several students, who were seated inside the classroom, related to the Rector of the University that Professor Stefanik was in the process of entering the their class when he suddenly, and inexplicably disappeared. And for the briefest period of time they heard what they could only describe as ‘ethereal music, something wonderful, perhaps vocal or perhaps instrumental, but definitely nothing they had ever heard before’.
'Sacred Chant of the Cosmos', detail from an Ambrosian Singing Book