Old Lecture Hall, New Harvard University, Boston, ΜΑ. He had been waiting in the dark, but is now taken into the Old Lecture Hall by four men in formal attire. His palms are not at all sweaty—most unusually. A smell of formaldehyde is in the air. He is having trouble remembering his opening sentence. It has always been a joke about his long, greek, unpronounceable name. One always needs a captivating opening sentence. This time, though, it somehow seems very inappropriate. More than thirty minutes before the designated time and the front rows of the auditorium are already occupied. In the first row more than twenty Nobel laureates: long-dead, stiff straight backs, lips and eyelids stitched shut. In the second row, in ornate cassock, every important member of the New Clergy: their lips and eyelids tirelessly moving. Third and fourth row seats were reserved for the countless Deans, Rectors, Professors of New Harvard University. Most have already entered the Hall, their hair combed in exactly the same way, their shirts buttoned all the way up. Ten minutes before the designated time students and lower-rank members of the Clergy take their seats in an orderly fashion. The Old Lecture Hall is now full—nine hundred nighty nine attendees and him.
His palms are still not sweaty—really unusual, given that he cannot remember that opening sentence. The lights dim. His position elevates a few inches and tilts slightly forward automatically—an unearthly sensation. He does not open his eyes. A smell of formaldehyde still present. The projector lights up; the wall-wide screen now shows, in white lettering, that same title he has been using in his talks, on that same black background, with the same cartoon he drew more than twenty years ago. He is still striving to find that original opening sentence; his palms completely dry. For reasons that utterly escape him he fails to put together words that do not make unfunny fun of his long, greek, unpronounceable name, or to open his eyes. Reverent silence spreads throughout the Hall, most probably invoked by the rigid posture and stitched lips of the Nobel laureates. The Dean of Many Deans comes to the podium to give the introduction. He has a non-fluctuating, high-pitch voice; his words are, without doubt, well-rehearsed. Nevertheless he mispronounces the long, greek, unpronounceable name—no one seems to notice. The Dean of Many Deans then reads out loud the twenty year-old title: On the memory of affection and discipline, adding the following: a set of landmark discoveries that led to his undisputed recognition, crowned by the 2046 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine'. He is waiting for his queue; to take the podium, use his still elusive opening sentence, go through his twenty year-old lecture slide by slide, bow graciously before a standing ovation, and withdraw behind the heavy curtains. He has long dreamt of giving this lecture.
But he is not invited to the podium. The Dean of Many Deans flicks through the slides himself giving brief, totally unentertaining descriptions of methods, results, concepts. This completely confuses him; that smell of formaldehyde persists. From his awkward position he listens as the Dean of Many Deans sums up work of more than twenty years in less than seven minutes. He accentuates the potential behind manipulating memories of affection or—most importantly!—discipline in a socially-favourable manner; this clearly puts a smile on the faces of the New Clergy. He finishes by reiterating the Clergy’s moto, now also inscribed on the New Harvard crest: Science beyond truth. Then, using a gavel, he makes everyone stand and the procession begins. One by one, in order of seniority, the attendees go past the front row, bowing slightly to each of the long-dead Nobel laureates; then walk up to the main stage to pay their respects to him in the coffin where he lies—his lips and eyelids stitched shut. Some bow, some mutter words, some put their foreheads right up against his cold hands; then everyone leaves through the side door of the Old Lecture Hall.
Sanctification has now concluded. The four men in formal attire are taking him out of the coffin and, forcing his stiff muscles into a whole different position, sit him in the first row alongside the rest of the deceased Nobel laureates. The Hall is now empty. The four men talk amongst themselves as they are taking their white gloves off. One says he still remembers the days when Nobel prizes were given to people alive, not dead. The second one says he also remembers that no members of the Clergy were, back then, members of the nomination committee. The third one says he does not mind all New Saints being scientists, at least they’ve won a Nobel prize. The fourth man remained silent while the others spoke. As they walked away he turned to the latest addition to the Row of Saints and spit into the long-cold right-hand palm; then closed the fist. He hated the smell of formaldehyde.