Shamalung (The Diminutions)

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A piece by Michael Moorcock, featuring Seaton Begg, first published in The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities.

Publication History

  • The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, Eos Books, June 21 2011, ISBN: 978-0-06-200475-8
  • The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, Harper Voyager, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-06-211683-3

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* * The following section may contain spoilers * *

The piece takes the form of Notes associated with a small exquisitely carved statue, made from some unknown heavy metal, holding a brass crucifix. The Notes comprise two main narratives: the first recounts an early investigation of Seaton Begg and Griff the Man-Tracker into the goings-on of one Moses Monk who sells human remains, procured from the Brookgate undertakers Ecker and Ecker, to the Metropolitan Meat Supply Co. for use as animal feed. Begg learns that Monk is also providing human remains to two Methodists missionaries, Orlando Bannister and Sir Ranald Frieze-Botham, whose experiments into human miniaturisation are detailed in the second narrative.

Bannister and Frieze-Botham believe that all living organisms, even microbes, possess souls however rudimentary. Together with the sculptor and scientist John Wolt they engage the services of Nikola Tesla and his Atomic Diminution Engine to help them achieve their evangelistic goals. Working first with dead animals and then later the human remains provided by Monk, who carelessly disposes of the miniaturised results (which leads to Begg being employed by the Home Secretary to discover their origins), Tesla manages to perfect his Engine and successfully transports (and returns) first Wolt and then Frieze-Botham to the Second Aether. Fired up by their successes so far, the centenarian Bannister undertakes the third voyage himself. After a week when Bannister fails to return, Wolt re-enters the engine in a doomed attempt to rescue Bannister; he makes one return where he appears crazed and battered, his clothing in shreds, mouthing the single word 'Shamalung' before plunging back through the metamultiversal plates never to be seen again. The venerable missionary's remains - the exquisitely carved statue - are retrieved and Tesla determines that the effects of repeated atomic shifts on living creatures caused Bannister's atoms to atrophy and eventually dismantles his apparatus.

The meaning of the word 'Shamalung' is never discovered. Much debated, no credible interpretation has been offered as it could be from any one of millions of microbe languages.