Plan for Chaos (John Wyndham) – ukázka

Rozhodl jsem se, že v rámci svých recenzí méně známých knížek budu uvádět i ukázky, aby případný zájemce mohl sám posoudit jazyk a obsah knihy, jestli se mu budou líbit. Z hlediska autorského zákona by to mělo být v pořádku (podle paragrafu 31, odstavec 1), pokud však majitel práv s mým názorem nesouhlasí, uvítal bych, kdyby napřed kontaktoval kvůli odstranění ukázky mě a teprve v případě neúspěchu soud.

Následuje první kapitola z novely Plan for Chaos, kterou napsal John Wyndham na začátku padesátých let, ale poprvé byla vydána až v roce 2009. Kniha je k dostání všude možně, třeba na Amazonu.


  1. WYNDHAM, John: Plan for Chaos. London: Penguin Book, 2010. 256 str. ISBN 978-0-141-04877-2.


Look here, upon this picture.

—William Shakespeare

Lois looked up from the switchboard as I went by.

“Oh, hey there!—Limey!” she said.

I turned back, reluctantly.

“Look,” I told her. “Didn’t somebody once call this a melting-pot? So on account of that, couldn’t you just let a guy do his melting quietly?”

She thought about it. Head a little on one side. Gold hair like sliding water across a cheek like young roses. Very effective.

“Takes time, doesn’t it?” she said. “I guess Limeys have a kinda high melting point.—Got more corners than most, too.”

“Like to see my passport?” I inquired.

She shook her head.

“I know: got an eagle on it. All the same, you talk Limey, you sorta think Limey. I guess you most likely kiss Limey, too.” She looked speculative.

“I go on trying,” I told her.

“You sure do,” she agreed.

“And I go on learning. Maybe one day when I’ve got acclimatized—”

“Acclimated,” she said.

“Okay, acclimated—then we’ll hold a graduation test. Meanwhile, what about cutting out this ‘Hey, Limey’ stuff, and giving me a break? My name’s Johnny.”

“You look more like it ought to be Jan,” she remarked.

“Maybe, so I’d have to melt twice, making it that much harder, wouldn’t I? So just try Johnny, will you?”

“Uh-huh—Johnny,” she agreed.

I started once more upon my interrupted way. I’d taken some four steps of it when she called me back again:

“Hey—Limey! I forgot to tell you. J.P.’s been burning wires all over the building for you. He said to send you right up, sooner than now.”


When I went into Jake Parton’s room, he didn’t address me as Johnny, either. He just grunted, and leaned back in his chair with an expression on his face like a man who has again been shown that humanity is the way he always thought it was, anyway. Then, kind of laboriously, he leaned forward, and pushed some stuff across his desk towards me. What he opened up with was:

“Will you just take a look at that, you big Swede!”

As I’d said to Lois, I do try. And I’d got around to distinguishing several local inflections of the words: “big Swede”, s.o.b., and suchlike. This one was ungenial enough to give me the feeling of trouble coming; though I didn’t have any idea of the kind of trouble until I had looked at the stuff he pushed over.

There were two journals. One was a copy of next week’s issue of our Choice magazine; the other was the current number of Crime Hebdomadaire, from Paris, France. Ours was open at a spread of my pictures: view of the dead woman’s apartment, showing unfinished meal on table with coffee cup still half full (always a good touch, that); view down into fatal yard from fatal fire-escape; view from opposite side of yard, with dotted line showing the way the body must have hit the low roof and slithered down before it reached the ground; also, portrait of the woman concerned—the studio picture I had slipped under my jacket, frame and all, when no one was looking.

Then I look a scan at the French magazine. There was a dotted line there, too. Not, to my eye, a good job. The angle at which it ran down from a bridge, to end on a motor-barge with the number carefully effaced, was improbable. The editors then treated their readers to a pretty unpleasing view of the body as it had lain on the barge’s hatch-cover. There was also a picture of the anonymous lady as she had appeared before all this took place.

I gave that last one a close look—just as I’d given a close look to the one I’d filched, before I’d handed it over to the blockmakers.

“That’s funny,” I said.

“Not very,” said Jake.

I kept on looking at the two portraits. They gave me a nasty feeling. It wasn’t just on account of their being so like one another that they’d be hard to tell apart—the ad men keep on rubbing it in that the world is full of doubles, though the significance of that is known only to ad men. No, the disturbance was simply an increase on the one that I’d felt when I first saw the picture of the girl from the fire-escape—and the fact that I could add a treble to those doubles… Either of them might have been a portrait of my cousin Freda…

When I’d compared them for a bit, I pulled out my wallet, and laid it down open, beside them. With the three close together the similarity was staggering. If you were to change around the differently dressed blonde hair, each might be either of the others.

“What’s that, huh?” asked Jake.

I turned the wallet round for him to see, and told him.

He looked at it, and then back to me. His lips were a bit tighter.

“That’s a fool game,” he said, bluntly.

It didn’t latch for a moment. I was still taking the thing in.

“While you’re being paid by this paper, you work for this paper only. And don’t tell me you didn’t know—it’s in your contract,” he added, forthrightly. “What’s more, this paper wants the authentic dope—not that kind of hooey.”

“Now, look here—” I began, but he cut me short.

“You’re an expert photographer, Johnny. That’s the reason you’re here—the reason you were here,” he corrected himself. “Now, the only difference between the women in those three photographs is the hair style. And you say one of them is your cousin… So what? Some kind of syndication…?” he asked, unpleasantly.

“The only one of these three that I took is this,” I told him, tapping the wallet.

He didn’t believe me, and took no trouble to hide it.

“Listen,” I said. “I know it’s queer that I happened to be the one to turn in that picture of the dame from the fire-escape. But I’m engaged to Freda. I’m going to marry her. Is it likely I’d be selling her picture around, the way you suggest—and on jobs like this, too? And even if I were, would I produce this version to show to you?” I shut up the wallet, and put it back in my pocket.

“I’d not know. There’s a lot unlikely in this world. You take good pictures, Johnny. Worth peddling with an agency. But you over-reached it when you said that this—” He pointed to the open page of Choice “—came out of the woman’s own apartment.”

“It did. Maybe we could trace who made it,” I said.

He shrugged.

“So?” His eyes were narrowed, in a hard look. “Well, maybe you can. Meanwhile, this paper has a reputation to maintain. You’d best look in on the accounts department on your way out.”

It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t logical. But I knew Jake when an idea had its teeth into him. Besides, he has an ulcer. You have to wait…


It was kind of nice in the Park. Restful. Quite a while had gone by since I had been able to sit on a bench in the afternoon sun and watch the time go without a tag on it. Astonishing how many other people were doing the same thing, too. Hard to understand how they managed it: they couldn’t all have been fired that morning. I was glad I’d resisted the impulse to set about Jake. So much pleasanter to be out there with the flowers and the trees and the kids around than sitting in a station cell, hoping for bail.

In a very general way, of course, Jake had been right about the contract being broken—in the same general way he’d have been right if he had said it to any picture-man on Choice’s staff—though with this particular instance he was plumb out.

If I hadn’t been fool enough to produce my own picture of Freda, it would have been just a coincidence. Doubles, as I said, aren’t too rare. But I’d have been feeling uneasy myself. Triples begin to get fishy…

Besides, there was the other side to it. It hadn’t seemed to me that the police were absolutely satisfied that the girl had fallen from the fire-escape. I had a feeling that maybe if there had been somebody raising hell they might have looked further into it. For one thing, there were marks on the escape, and, for another, people so seldom do just fall off fire-escapes…

And then, in the French affair, there was something not quite on the line, too. I mean, if you or I had opted to go jump in a river, we’d sort of see things were clear there first, wouldn’t we? Whereas if we happened to be pushing a body over we might be a touch more hurried, less able to choose our own moment. I’d not press that… It was just an idea; a feeling about it…

Then the third photograph: authentically Freda’s, but just the image of the other two. You don’t have to be superstitious for a thing like that to set you wondering a bit…

I decided I’d wind up my afternoon by going over to haunt the hall of her office-building about the time she was due out.

Seeing that there is more empiric bunk talked about sex than pretty near anything else, you might think that I’d not fall for my cousin Freda. On the moronic theory of opposites invariably attracting, I ought to have been panting after some cute, doll-sized brunette—like all Patagonians ought to be crazy over Pygmies, or all Texans over Japanese girls. But I wasn’t, any more than, as far as I know, they are. In fact, Freda and I made a well-matched pair. We’re both tall, both fair, and we both shape-up, according to our different natures, in a way that’s pretty complementary. Most of the time our outlooks don’t interlock so badly, either. I know that could sound dull to those who prefer to live in passionate misunderstanding amid a welter of suiter, but we happen to prefer it that way. So, when Freda saw me waiting in the lobby, she didn’t suspect me of prying on her life, she didn’t flit into the rest-room to fix the armaments, she didn’t even trouble to put on an enigmatical mood to be surprised out of: she just smiled as if she were glad to see me, and said:

“Hullo, Johnny. This is nice.”

Which it was.

And I said:

“I suppose it wouldn’t do for me to kiss you here?”

And she said:

“Certainly it wouldn’t, because there’s Mr. Bottleton.”

And I said, like a good American and no Limey:

“The heck with Mr. Bottleton!”

And did.

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