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A Letter from Harry Ransom

A Letter from Harry Ransom

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman

Written by Felix Gilman

[We are pleased to announce that the writings of the famous Harry Ransom – some might say notorious – have now been collected and published as The Rise of Ransom City. This letter was found too late to be included. Besides, the fellow who says he found it was asking too much money for it, and for all we know it is a forgery. The handwriting is atrocious. – The Editors.]

Dear May,
or Jess,
or Elmer,
or whoever comes across this,

That’s that then. A stack of papers. Some of the pages got wet when we crossed this river or that on our way out west – who can remember all the rivers. Sometimes the typewriter broke or leaked ink. It was a good typewriter for all its faults and it is a miracle it got me this far, especially after the bullet it took. They made things to last back in Jasper City. Anyhow the thing is done. This stack of papers is the life of your humble correspondent, Harry Ransom; the story of my birth, the incident of the electric-cure, the tragedy of the Damaris, and the showdown with the murderer Mr. Knoll; and the days at the Ormolu Theater, and Mr. Carver, and Mr. Baxter, and Adela. My rise and fall and how come I am out here heading west . . .

I am having a devil of a time letting it go. I have been writing for so long now that if I fall silent I am half-scared of what will happen. Maybe all the words that used to come pouring out of the typewriter will build up in my head until it explodes. Something similar has happened with the Ransom Lightbringing Apparatus once or twice – in Kenauk, in White Rock, and in Jasper. But if you have read my letters then you know about those incidents, and you know that they were mostly not my fault.

Maybe you have by now and maybe you haven’t. Who knows if any of this will make it back east to you. I have been typing in triplicate and sending parts back as we go. Whenever anyone deserts (and we have had a few deserters) I say, no hard feelings, utopia isn’t for everyone, but will you please take back a letter? Only once have I been refused. Mr. Cantor hit me in the face and said I was a fraud and a lunatic. But his wife was sick with a fever and I do not blame him for losing hope. Mr. Belbo took back a hundred pages or so, and Miss Luria took fifty. . . But there are a lot of dangers on the road, between here and a post-office, in these terrible times.

The typewriter is finally broken for good, and I am writing this by hand, as you can see. Fortunately it so happened that one of the Beck brothers brought a pen with him when we set off for the uncharted west. It is very fine indeed, but the initials engraved on it are not his. I guess it is too late to worry about that sort of thing now. When we get to where we’re going and build our city we will start with a clean slate. Perhaps we’ll abolish property altogether – I haven’t decided.

I write on a rock by the shore of a lake, sunlit and silvery, whispering, nameless and unmapped, at least so far as I know. It bars our way west. We are considering the construction of boats. Thomas and Carlo and Lillian are turning back. So be it. Everyone is free to come or go to Ransom City as they please, otherwise how would we be better than anywhere else? They’ll take the last of my letters (but this one I’ll keep back, just in case). Thomas is checking his rifle, again and again. We are out on the wild edge of things and we have seen the tracks and heard the roar of big cats at night – I think they are cats. Good luck, Thomas, and shoot straight!

As for those of us who are going on – well, I have generally had bad luck with boats. I will fold this letter, and leave it under the typewriter. If in some distant future anyone should chance by this place, and observe the rusted hulk of my typewriter on a rock, and be curious enough to investigate, they will know–if nothing else, if none of my other writings survive — that at least I tried to set the story straight. I did.

Harry Ransom


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