The orientation was to be held in Convocation Hall in the Old Arts building, a large, open room with rows of red theater style seats. The noise of the gathering was noisier in the room than it had been in the foyer, voices echoing off the hardwood and reverberating throughout, amplified by the room's excellent acoustics.
Andrew glanced over and noted that Silke too, was speaking in low tones to a dark red notebook with gold scroll work running in curves and whorls across the cover.
"How come you got such a fancy notebook, and I just got this plain old binder?" Andrew asked.
"We match your personality," Saphyr said, a hint of hurt sarcasm in his voice.
"They can look like any type of book," Silke told Andrew. "Mine came as plain as yours, but once I discovered she could change her shape, we worked out this journal. I was worried about losing her, given that we would have all been carrying the same binder otherwise."
"How come you didn't tell me that?" Andrew asked Saphyr.
"I did," Saphyr replied. "I told you I'd been a scroll for Plato."
"But you didn't say you could change just because I'd prefer to be carrying an MacBook ," Andrew retorted, nearly dropping Sephyr when the binder's shape rapidly shifted and changed until the simple binder had become the sleek, smooth, piece of technology. "Very nice. So what are you then, exactly?"
"The easiest way for me to answer that question is to say, I'm a book."
"No, now you're a computer. A computer called a "book," but a computer nonetheless."
"You're mistaking what a book is for pages and ink," said a voice from behind Andrew.
Andrew turned to see a very aged man, with gray hair swept back across his head, and eyes unfocused, looking at nothing in particular, his hand resting on the shoulder of a slender dark-haired woman who appeared to be in her sixties. It was obvious that the man was blind, and that the woman was some sort of assistant.
"A book is much more than the shape you use to read it," the blind man said. "I should know. I never learned Braile, and I rely upon María's good graces for any of my present reading. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships. In truth, your computer is more a book than the books in a library, insofar as I am concerned."
"That sounds very..." Andrew stopped. He was about to use the term Borghesian, a word that had been bandied about in a course he had taken on the element of the fantastic in modern literature, to describe anything that seemed to borrow from the works of Jorge Luis Borges. But he stopped short of saying it, realizing that he wasn't hearing someone refer to Borges.
He was listening to Borges himself.
Andrew was speechless. He wanted to respond, to say something, anything at all, but he couldn't get his vocal cords, tongue, or mouth to work on his behalf. Thankfully, he was still breathing, but not in a way that would produce speech. Instead, he made a slow, somewhat vocalized high pitched exhalation of air that approximated the sound a slowly deflating balloon makes.
"That sounds very ... much like a slowly deflating balloon?" Saphyr offered sarcastically, breaking the uncomfortable-not-so-silence.
Borges had cocked his head to one side, seemingly waiting for whatever Andrew was going to say next. His assistant had furrowed her brow, her face begging an answer for a list of questions rapidly running through her mind, the top of which was whether or not this particular attendee of the symposium was using drugs. Quite suddenly, she gently tapped Borges on the arm and said, "It's time."
"You'll have excuse me," Borges apologized. "We're about to begin, and I am tasked with the honor of the opening address." His assistant turned in the direction of the stage, and Borges followed.
"That was..." Andrew started.
"Really pathetic?" Saphyr said.
"Borges. Jorge Luis Borges. But how?" Andrew had recovered the power of speech, but now the paralysis seemed to have moved to the rest of his face, which was a rictus of puzzlement.
"You've met Father Christmas, and you're shocked at meeting an historical figure?" Saphyr asked.
"But Borges is dead..." Andrew said.
"So are Tolkien, Williams and Lewis," Sephyr said. "At least, at this point on the branch your world exists on."
"What do Tolkien, Williams, and Lewis have to do with...?"
The rictus disappeared, Andrew's eyes went wide in the shock of sudden realization, and he passed out cold on the floor.