Postgraduate Work

“This is insane! Outrageous! The stupidity of this boggles the mind!” opined Prof Vernon Muttonoculous as loudly as his ancient respitory system would permit.

“Yes, yes, I agree with you,” replied Dean Hanford, “However, we really have no choice, our hands are tied. Soaring healthcare costs forced us into this. In order to comply with the policies of any HMO program that exists we have to have a mandatory retirement age for our faculty. If we don’t do this we will not be able to afford to provide healthcare coverage to any of the college’s staff. I sympathize entirely with you, but I’m afraid that there is no other way. You are going to have to go into retirement and stop lecturing on a daily basis.”

“But I am much too young to retire!!” replied the somewhat decayed looking academic.

“Now look Mutt, we set the retirement age as high as we could possible get away with. I can’t believe for a moment that there is any other institution that has a mandatory retirement age older than ours. The fact is, that most people are more than ready to retire far before they reach 95. I’m afraid that you are simply a victim of your freakish longevity,” explained the Dean.

“Pah!!” grumped Prof. Muttonoculous, “95! I was still scaling mountains in Tibet at 95! I have plenty of good years ahead of me! I refuse to just spend the last half of my life sitting around waiting to die because of some stupid policy! Miskatonic can’t afford to lose someone with my knowledge! The department of paranormal studies needs what I can provide. You’ll be cheating our students! Occasional emeritus lectures are not sufficient for me to pass on what those students need to learn. I’m warning you Dean, there are things that are going to happen in the near future, things that I can foresee with a high degree of clarity. Humanity itself will soon be threatened by dark forces that have not been seen in a thousand generations! The only chance our race has is if we have a sufficient number of highly trained wiz… er, I mean paranormal scholars to deal with the threat!”

Dean Hanford pursed his lips and regarded the professor for a moment, then replied “Well, be that as it may, I’m afraid dire oracular predictions tend not to sway health maintenance organizations much…”

“Look Dean,” interrupted the professor, “I’m not kidding around here. I swear to you it is vitally important that the paranormal studies department be given greater priority in the college’s academic programs. We need to provide more indepth postdoctoral work. This is more important than you can imagine. If we could set up a program where I could spend some time really working closely with about one hundred of the most promising young people in this field it would make all the difference. If we could only set up postdoctoral program that would entail about 20 years of indepth work and research for those type of students I would feel that I could safely retire. Just give me another 20 years with one hundred bright, enthusiastic students…”

The Dean’s eyes bulged slightly as he sat staring at the aged professor. “Good lord!” thought the Dean, “I hadn’t realized Mutt had gone so far over the edge! Apparently we should have forced him into retirement much earlier than this…”

The Dean cleared his thoat and tried to look sincere as he stated, “Professor, I honestly wish I could set up a twenty year postdoctoral program for you to head up, however, we don’t have the funds for anything even remotely like that. And besides, I can’t believe that you would be able to find one hundred intelligent men and women who would be willing to engage in that type of thing well into their forties! People need to make a living after all.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” sighed the geriatric scholar, “Economics are going to damn humanity. Very well Dean, please at least allow me one last boon before I am sent off into the wilds of some retirement community. Let me just give one last lecture after the end of this term. Its only a few days until final exams are finished and the students will be heading out for the summer. Let me give a special presentation after the end of the term for any students that are willing to put off the start of their vacation for an extra day. I know that there are some exceptionally dedicated students of the occult that will no doubt be more than eager to hear some last bits of wisdom I can offer to them.”

“Well that certainly seems reasonable!” replied the Dean smiling, “That request can surely be accomodated easily. I’ll personally make sure that one of the best lecture halls will be available for your lecture.”

***

Professor Vernon Muttonoculous’ final lecture did indeed attract more than one hundred of Miskatonic’s best and brightest. The professor took full advantage of the last opportunity to speak to the students that the Dean was willing to allow. He lectured the students well into the evening hours. The quality of the wisdom that he was dispensing was easily demonstrated by the fact that not one of the attending students ever complained about the length of the lecture. Not a single attendee left the hall before the end of the professor’s presentation.

In fact, no one at the college could recall any of the students ever leaving the lecture hall. Of course, since the lecture had gone so late into the night, there wouldn’t have been many people still around the campus to witness their exodus.

However, several days after the presentation, inquiries began to trickle into the university’s office. Parents who had expected their offspring to be returning from the college began calling to make sure that their young scholars had indeed boarded the trains and buses that were supposed to be taking them to their respective homes.

Questions were asked and dorm rooms were checked. It appeared that, for no apparent reason, all of the students who had chosen to attend the lecture had not been seen by anyone since the evening of the professor’s farewell address. Moreover, their dorms still contained all of their belongings.

Law enforcement officials paid a visit to the ancient scholar. However, he claimed not to have any knowledge of the missing student’s whereabouts. The district attorney of Arkham’s region considered having the professor arrested and charged with the disappearance of the young people. He was prevented by the fact that he couldn’t imagine any way in which a fragile old man, who was supposedly well over 100 years of age, could have managed to perpetrate an act of foul play against over one hundred young men and women in prime health. The authorities had no choice but to accept the professor’s assertions and just hope that somehow the students would show up…

And so, the professor entered into his retirement, secluding himself in his large home near the university. He had few visitors, and those that visited him all returned from their visits with the same sad story. All the visitors insisted that apparently the forced retirement had driven the ancient professor to madness. They claimed that Professor Muttonoculous appeared to spend nearly all his time speaking to an extremely large collection of glass bottles that contained nothing but strangely vibrating strings. They claimed that he actually appeared to be delivering daily lectures, each many hours in length. Even going so far as to draw diagrams on blackboards for them and show them slides of strange and ancient glyphs, runes, and relics. The visitors claimed that he must have spent quite a while collecting so many of the strange bottles, he appeared to have well over a hundred of them!


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