Experiments on A Group of People And Makes A Discovery
"I, dead now, make my report from the heavenly grave.
For this experiment was indeed the end of me, as I suspected
it might be when I embarked on my enquiry into the nature
of human entertainment.
(An Experiment On An Audience By a Bird In The Air Pump)
During my life, I received a great deal of attention as
a speechifier and birdwit. My "Pretty Polly"
or "Aye Aye Cap'n" always received a satisfying
degree of acclaim. I have increasingly wished, noting
the twitters and coos from my human respondents, to discover
what is the ultimate in performance. And so this final
show of mine, breathless, mortal, and, I modestly think,
brave, is a work of artistic, scientific research. Enough
talking. For my swan song I kept my silence during the
task so as not to influence the reactions of my subjects.
The Moon is my guide. The skull is my example. The candle
cast its glow upon proceedings with the finest balance
of illumination and mystery.
I selected a cross-section of homo sapiens. These included:
a Natural Philosopher, male, whom I observed has a preference
not for the practical but for the glamorous with regards
to his locks and gown; a young couple, one male and one
female (I was intrigued to observe whether the prospect
of a bird being suffocated added excitement or alienation
to their courtship); a man with a watch who measured the
running time with such intense accuracy that I thought
his face would turn blue before mine did; two girls wearing
off-the-shoulder gowns as if they were attending a ball;
an older man whose attention I was interested to observe
was drawn more to the sobbing terror of the younger girl
than the performance itself, feeding her fear with, I
noted, lashings of sympathy; a boy whose contrary lack
of fear and chimp-like joy at escorting me from cage to
glass orb confirmed gender differences with regards to
squeamishness amongst the human young; another boy whose
jollity was of baboon proportions (I was tempted to offer
him the opportunity to take my place so I might myself
time how long this jollity survived as his supply of air
reduced); and finally another fellow with long grey hair
who cast himself deep in thought - I believe it would
have been a service to all humanity to preserve him thus
in a pickling jar as an example of "important demeanour"
(I've noticed that men of a certain age and class in English
society succeed in gaining much respect by appearing grave).
My preliminary discovery is, from initial observation,
that the human need to understand is neither more nor
less powerful than the desire to be stirred.
With regards to the Experiment itself, as the air was
sucked away my attention was drawn to the Philospher,
Magus and Experimenter extraordinaire, my primary subject.
I observed his smooth face more closely than the razor
that had shaved him during his preparations. His timing
was immaculate. His method was silent. His flourishes
were well placed. As keenly as I observed him, he observed
the other subjects, his audience. And it was at the height
of my breathless investigation, at the very moment when
my squawk became a death rattle, at the end of it (so
this is it?) when everyone sighed or gasped or dropped,
that I made my most dramatic discovery.
Yes! Now I can reveal my findings!
Firstly - humanity is much more compelled by a display
of real rather than faked dying. Secondly - and most importantly
- the human mind and spirit would be more compelled still
by a display that defies all expectation. The ultimate
experiment would be set the timer a second time, blow
the air back into the air pump and find a way to bring
the bird corpse back to life! For whilst humanity is both
repelled and fascinated by its ability to control death,
mortality still has mastery over the breed, and what an
evolutionary step it would be to overturn that mastery.
The mechanics of resurrection unpicked, explained and
applied! Now that really would be a remarkable scientific
breakthrough and truly great entertainment!
But please do not hold your breath. From what I have noted
thus far, they have a long way to go before they grasp
the natural (or indeed un-natural) laws of achieving such
a feat, these earthbound folk."