On the way out of the cockpit, Verona spotted Pappa in the map room. He was peering through the sextant, examining charts, and humming to himself.
“Oh! Hullo Verona,” he said. “I can’t seem to pin our location on any map. Isn’t that curious?”
“It doesn’t matter where we are if we’re not going anywhere,” said Verona.
“Actually, I’ve discovered that the navigational instruments are acting up. Now, tell me that isn’t remarkable! I believe there’s some curious quality to the atmosphere here that’s mucking up our readings. It makes one think, doesn’t it?” He stared out the window. “All this emptiness…fascinating.”
“It’s probably doing the same to our minds, you know,” said Verona. “In all likelihood we’re slowly being driven to madness. Before long, our brains will turn to mushy pudding and leak out of our ears!”
Pappa frowned. “You don’t really think so,” he said.
“I can feel it,” said Verona, staring at Pappa with wide eyes.
“Oh dear,” said Pappa. He tugged his mustache nervously. “Goodness gracious me, how awful! I couldn’t bear to let my brain turn to pudding, I simply couldn’t bear it. How then would I philosophize? How would I speculate, contemplate, or conjecture? Why, words written on a page would become a jumbled assemblage of hieroglyphs! I'd be a blithering idiot!”
“I’m glad you’re finally seeing how serious this is,” said Verona. She left him there, staring at a map and blinking, muttering worriedly to himself.
In the foyer, she encountered Waldo. He was testing a machine he’d built which straightened portraits hanging on the wall. It wasn’t working exactly as he wanted, so he opened it up to fiddle about inside with a screwdriver.
“It’s not working, is it?” said Verona.
“Stupid thing! It’s being fussy,” Waldo replied. “I can’t seem to tune it right.”
“Pappa says the instruments upstairs aren’t working properly,” said Verona. “He thinks this atmosphere is affecting them somehow.”
“Hm,” said Waldo.
“What if it’s affecting your tools as well?” said Verona, stepping towards him. “What if it’s affecting your measurements? What if it’s warping them and causing you to make mistakes?”
“I think I would know,” said Waldo.
“But how?” said Verona. “Your tools do the measuring! How can you measure your tools themselves if your tools aren’t working properly?”
Waldo frowned. “I…well, I don’t know,” he said. He looked at the screwdriver in his hand, then dropped the painting-straightening device. It clattered to the floor. “Oh no. What if I’ve built them all wrong?” he said. “They might hurt someone!”
“Exactly!” said Verona. “If we stay out here much longer, who knows what could happen? Maybe this portrait-straightening machine will think I’m a portrait, and it’ll try to straighten my face in the middle of the night!”
Waldo stepped back, horrified. “That’s awful!” He turned and ran down the spiral stairs.
“Yes!” called Verona, yelling to everyone and no one, “you should all be very concerned!”
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