"Hello," Inspector Keptic said, shaking hands warily with the strange-looking man as he led him into the police interview room. Keptic could hardly keep from staring at the man's huge turban, his long flowing beard, and the strange package in his hands.
"I'm Inspector Stan Keptic," he said. "I believe you said on the phone that your name is Professor Nasrudin? Is that right?"
"Yes, Doctor Professor Doctor Nasrudin." 1
"Okay," the inspector said, motioning for the Doctor to take a seat at the interview table. "I've asked our staff psychiatrist to sit in on our interview if you don't mind? Dr. Sigismund Numbley." Nasrudin and Numbley shook hands.
Inspector Keptic glanced at the one-way mirror on the rear wall, behind which the Station Chief was observing the interview in the next room.
"I think that's a good idea, Professor Nasrudin said, "given the serious threat that this poses." He placed the package on the interview table.
Numbley and Keptic noticed that the package had a hazardous material sticker on it. They looked at each other with a puzzled expression on their faces.
"You said you want to file a complaint against a book. You say you want us to put the book in jail? Is this the book?" Keptic reached for the package.
"Watch out!," Nasrudin shouted. "Don't touch it. It'll do to you what it did to me!"
"What exactly did it do to you?" Numbley asked in his best psychoanalytic manner.
Nasrudin glanced across at Numbley and Keptic, realizing they didn't believe a word he was saying.
"I was just re-reading a passage in the book last night and suddenly my ordinary consciousness was gone and I WAS some larger, grander consciousness with everyone in the universe present, all time compressed into the immediate moment. It scared the dickens out of me." 2
Keptic and Numbley glanced at each other.
Only appearing to feel as though he was being accused of something, Nasrudin replied in a defensive tone, "Well, I have every right to read whatever book I want to, don't I? How did I know it was going to steal my consciousness?"
"Is it the whole book you want to press charges against or just the passage you say stole your consciousness," Numbley asked, thinking to himself he'd have to get a copy of this amazing interview for his professional archives.
"How do I know if there are other areas of enchantment in the book," Nasrudin said in a seemingly exasperated tone. "Once I happened on that particular mind-stealing passage, I certainly didn't read any more. Even a glance at a word or two when I was regaining my senses, and I felt myself floating away. I can tell you it took superhuman effort to recover my ordinary consciousness!"
"Why are you carrying the book around with you?" Keptic asked, not knowing quite where the interview was going.
"To protect other people from it," Nasrudin replied immediately, in something of huff. "Till I can get you to lock it up where it can cause no further harm to anyone else's psyche."
"What exactly did the book do to you again?" Numbley asked, thinking of a cigar that was much more than a cigar.
"I was just innocently re-reading a passage in the book last night," the professor sighed, "and suddenly my ordinary consciousness was gone and I WAS some larger, grander consciousness with everyone in the universe present, all time compressed into an immediate moment of eternity. It scared the bejesus out of me."
"We don't seem to have a law that applies to your complaint," Keptic said in his best official policeman tone. "Could we see the book itself?" he asked.
"Only if you take the responsibility for opening this package to reveal the book," Nasrudin said pointedly. He moved his chair back from the interview table.
Keptic opened the package and set the book on the table. It appeared to be a strangely inoffensive book to Keptic and Numbley.
"We've never before had anyone who wanted us to lock up a book," Numbley chimed in.
"The book," Keptic continued, "seems safe enough, and it doesn't seem to have broken any law we can think of."
"So you're just going to let this book go around stealing people's consciousness?" Nasrudin asked, in a pretense of indignity.
"Could you read us the offending passage so we could get an idea of what you're talking about?" Numbley asked.
"It's too dangerous to do that. I'm trying to make you understand that this is not the mild-mannered, ordinary-appearing book it seems to be. You're dealing with dynamite here. It transports you to another realm!" Nasrudin pointed to the book with the little finger of his left hand.
"Well," Numbley asked, "Would it be okay if we read the passage, so we could get some idea of the danger involved here?"
"May it be on your head," Nasrudin said somberly, "and I'd prefer if you didn't read it aloud. The passage is on page 43."
Numbley and Keptic moved closer together, opened the book to the designated page, and began to read silently the passage that was underlined, moving their lips as they read.
As Numbley and Keptic finished reading the passage, they looked quizzically at each other, placing the book back on the table and glancing uncertainly at the professor, not noticing how the title of the book had changed.
"That doesn't seem to be dangerous at all. I thought it might be some strange occult, theurgical formula or something," Keptic said. "That seems very straightforward to me, doesn't it seem that way to you, Dr. Numbley?"
"It seems innocent enough to me," Numbley said immediately. "I can't understand why, Professor, you're making such a fuss about some commonplace words that have no pornographic content whatsoever, as I suspected they might."
"Oh, sure, it seems that way when you first read it. But then when you re-read it and begin to understand it, that's when it sweeps you off into another dimension. If you re-read it with understanding, that's when it zaps you."
"Well," Dr. Numbley said, "Perhaps you could read--uh, re-read--just a bit of the passage--with understanding" (he didn't believe any of this nonsense)--"perhaps we could get some grasp of what danger you're talking about." He pushed the book toward Nasrudin.
"Oh, you want me to risk my consciousness just to help you understand how these words take you off into another realm of consciousness, risk my own mental equilibrium just to help you see what's going on?"
"Well, I don't see how we can proceed with any charges against the book unless you can actually show us that these words constitute some danger to the community. We've got to have evidence, you know, Professor."
"I'm to endanger my psyche just so you two can be convinced that these words actually steal a person's consciousness and thrust him into another dimension?"
"We wouldn't be able to help you with your complaint against the book (he couldn't believe he was saying this) unless you can re-read it to us with the understanding you say it requires--and thereby prove that these are mentally hazardous words."
With great reluctance Nasrudin gingerly held the book and began to re-read the passage aloud with understanding.
"The Universal quality of life. You feel it everywhere, in the woods and waters, the endless manifestations of vitality, pulsing and vibrating . . ."
As the Station Chief observed the interview through the one way window, all three persons in the interview room suddenly
2 Professor Nasrudin is here, not, of course, referring to the rather second-rate English writer Charles Dickens, but to the term "dickens" as referring to Beelzebub, Old Nick, Satan, Shaitan, and the Devil