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295 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1965
Next there was a boom, a puff of yellow smoke, and something came rocketing out, a form as blurry as a tornado and with the general consistency of a sandstorm; it arced through the air so fast that no one really got a good look at it anyway. Whatever it was flew a hundred paces or more and landed without a sound; the curtain that had been wrapped around it floated to the earth, glass bells tinkling oddly in that perfect silence, and lay there like a crushed strawberry. Now everyone could see the beast clearly – though it wasn't clear at all, but looked a little like a hill, rather large, fairly long, its color much like its surroundings, a clump of dried-up weeds. The King's huntsmen unleashed the whole pack of automated hounds (mainly Saint Cybernards and Cyberman pinschers, with an occasional high-frequency terrier); these hurled themselves, howling and slavering, at the crouching beast. The beast didn't rear back, didn't roar, didn't even breathe fire, but only opened its two eyes wide and reduced half the pack to ashes in a trice.
Everyone knows that dragons don't exist. But while this simplistic formulation may satisfy the layman, it does not suffice for the scientific mind. The School of Higher Neantical Nillity is in fact wholly unconcerned with what does exist. Indeed, the banality of existence has been so amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each non-existed in an entirely different way.
Pugg meanwhile sat propped up against the barrel and read, as that diamond pen which the Demon employed to record everything it learned from the oscillating atoms squeaked on and on, and he read about how exactly Harlebardonian wrigglers wriggle, and that the daughter of King Petrolius of Labondia is named Humpinella, and what Frederick the Second, one of the paleface kings, had for lunch before he declared war against the Gwendoliths, and how many electron shells an atom of thermionolium would have, if such an element existed, and what is the cloacal diameter of a small bird called the tufted twit, which is painted by the Wabian Marchpanes on their sacrificial urns, and also of the tripartite taste of the oceanic ooze on Polypelagid Diaphana, and of the flower Dybbulyk, that beats the Lower Malfundican hunters black and blue whenever they waken it at dawn, and how to obtain the angle of the base of an irregular icosahedron, and who was the jeweler of Gufus, the left-handed butcher of the Bovants, and the number of volumes on philately to be published in the year seventy thousand on Marinautica, and where to find the tomb of Cybrinda the Red-toed, who was nailed to her bed by a certain Clamonder in a drunken fit…