G.U.T., or how Pippa Sandberg (almost) changed the world


Sylvia Petter

(Cover Art by Maarit Linsbauer)

Chapter 1

Pippa Sandberg chewed the end of her HB pencil and wondered how she could change the world. She wasn’t so ambitious as to want to change the whole world, not yet, her immediate one would do for starters, and anyway, whatever she did would have to come from within the G.U.T.

The G.U.T. was the Global Union of Telecommunications that counted 200 members, a smidgeon more than the United Nations. Pippa was proud to work for the G.U.T. because it did include members such as the Principality of Waterland and the Republic of Utopia, to name just the two most radical and latest members. They weren’t considered to be real countries, but then, what was, these days?

Pippa knew all about countries, real or not in traditional terms, because her job at the G.U.T. was to find codes for each and every one of them, and considering that the alphabet had only 26 letters, well, you do the sums.

It had not always been like that though. When Pippa first came to work at the G.U.T. ten odd, very odd, months ago, her job was to fish radio stations out of the water and put them back onto the coastlines of a large map of the world.

Her colleagues then included a noble Dutchman who had forgotten how to fly and an Islander washed onto the shores of the G.U.T. after having lost his way looking for seashells. In fact, that was the name of his homeland, although Pippa thought, the spelling was wonky.

When Pippa took breaks from her fishing work she would wander about the catacombed halls of the building she worked in at the G.U.T. There she came across bronze figures, busts, of men and women who also had wanted to change the world, and some of them, most of them, even had.

On one such walk, Pippa came across the bronze bust of Alexander Graham Bell. “The inventor of the telegraph”, the brass plaque said where his heart would have been had more than his head and neck been kept. Pippa traced her finger over the plaque.

“That tickles,” said a soft deep voice.

Pippa pulled back her hand and hid it behind her back. “Who said that?” she said, never one to just leave things alone.

“Alex,” the bust said and winked with its left eye.

Pippa leaned forward and with her other hand tentatively touched the eyelid that had just moved.

“You’re tickling again,” Alex said. “My wife used to do that.”

“Your wife?”

“It was her way of thanking me.”

“Whatever for?”

“The machine I made for her, of course.” Alex seemed to be snorting.

“The telegraph?” Pippa’s voice rose incredulously.

“Don’t be silly. I made a machine for her so that she could hear, I mean feel, I mean – well, it’s all very complicated.”

“But the telegraph?”

“Oh that only came later. It’s not really what I started out with.” The bust sighed. “That part of it all got me stuck here in bronze, with the rest of my body missing.”

“Well, I guess the head’s the main thing,” Pippa said.

“Not so,” said the bust of Alexander Graham Bell. “The head’s not much use without the heart.”

Pippa was about to say that the bust didn’t have a heart and that anyway, he’d been dead a long while when all of a sudden all life left the bronze bust and when she stroked the plaque again there was not the slightest ripple of a reaction.

Pippa shrugged and turned to go back to her office to continue her fishing for radio stations when she saw an old Indian man – he was wearing a turban – standing in the shadows by the lifts. This place is spooky, she thought.

The Indian man came towards her. “No, it’s not,” he said. “There’s just a lot going on.”

“You read my mind?”

“The next step,” the old man said as he came forward and stretched out his hand.

Pippa hesitated, took it and shook it and the old man shook and then they both laughed as they let go at the same time.

“I heard you speaking to Mr. Bell,” the old man said softly as if having discovered a secret of Pippa’s. “And I heard him speaking to you.”

So it was true, Pippa thought. I wasn’t imagining it. “Do you know him?” she said.

“Of course. We speak all the time. He worries about his heart being lost.”

This is so silly, Pippa thought. This is the G.U.T., an eminent technological institution, and we’re talking about talking to busts.

“It’s not silly at all,” said the old man. “Let me introduce myself. I am The Saint.”

“You’re a saint?” Pippa blinked and felt her head spin.

“Not at all,” the old man said with a chuckle. “My name is Theodor Saint, The Saint for short.”

Pippa laughed. “I’m Philippa Sandberg, Pippa for short. Nice to meet you.” This was the craziest thing that had happened to her all morning, well at least since her conversation with Alex Bell.

“If you like, I’ll tell you about where you’ve just been.”

Pippa raised her left eyebrow. She was good at that having practised it ever since an eyebrow had been peaked at her by a prefect at school. “In front of a bust?”

“My dear, you slipped into telepathy for a few moments, the next village on from telecommunications, McLuhan and beyond, if that means anything.”

Pippa blinked and glanced at her watch.

“Ah, I see that you must be getting on,” The Saint said. “Come by my office some time and I’ll tell you more.”

Pippa knew she had to get back to her drowning radio stations, but she was curious about what Theodor Saint had to say. “I’ll do that. Where … ?”

But the old man had already disappeared down the hall, leaving Pippa halfway between the past and the future.

990 words

Continued in Chapter 2