T here were rumours - dog killings up at the house - and that’s why Reichmann had driven up there. He hated dogs and wanted the story to be true though just what he was going to do afterwards he hadn’t figured out. He’d think of something.
The man with the moustache , a spitting image of Vincent Price, was reluctant at first to let him in but Reichmann looked all sort of cold and pathetic and said he’d been on the road for a long time and needed just a coffee or something stinging and tonic. Its weird the way these kind of things work out in the country although he remembered once being stranded on the M1 and making his way to a farm house where there were butchered deer hanging on the garage hooks and a shotgun stuffed into his maw to guide him out the place & no questions asked. Unbelievable frisson.
Here , however, there were no visible signs of the dead dogs, not that he’d have expected it to have been that easy. But there were no signs of dogs at all , which kind of dampened things a little. He settled into enjoying the coffee whilst Vincent Price - he didn’t catch the real name and didn’t like to ask again - scrutinised him with some sort of weird ardour which made him feel just a little uncomfortable. He thinks, if this is a dog killer then how long before it was larger mammals that took his fancy? Reichmann mammals, for example.
There was heavy rain outside, cold and wintry, and there had been no sense of wildlife all the way up the hill to the place. He’d moved through a corpse garden of Tau cross design. Moses - Israelites - paint on doorposts - Tetragrammaton snuffing Egyptians with plague a primary feature, whilst decomposing triangles and other studies in the architecture of the Tree of Life overloaded the charred grass and the frosted elms. Reichmann wasn’t easily given the creeps but he’d felt something nasty as he looked at the windows, like these windows were eyes with distinctly serial killer souls in them.
Reichmann- ‘Are you alone here?’
Vincent Price (In future VP) - ‘You’re here. ’
Reichmann - ‘Of course.’
VP - ‘You want something? Information? Is it the ridiculous stories down in the village, about the slaughter of dogs?’
Reichmann - ‘The slaughter of dogs? ’
VP - ‘Ignorance, Mr. Reichmann. I treat them as foul odours, Mr. Reichmann.’
Reichmann - ‘No doubt, no doubt.’
VP- ‘Since the time of my grandfather there have been stories of things seen, of people going missing, of a weird woman with a face covered in hooked bristles emerging like a fog out of undergrowth clasping what seemed to be a severed tongue, the next time a severed penis, another time all sorts of nonsense plus noises in the night, animal howls they say and the sound of someone digging, werewolves, zombies - a veritable Necropolis Zoology Mr. Reichmann.
My grandfather writes of having worked with Philippus Aurelolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He regarded disease as imbalance, emphasised the hermetic doctrine of macrocosm and microcosm, placed emphasis on the sulphur mercury salt triumvirate and made an artificial being before his death in 1541.
Mr. Reichmann, what can you do with that information? What story can you write out of that Mr. Reichmann? What can you hope to do with such? Maybe contact Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson. Maybe do that for hecks sake?.’.
There followed a silence in which the wind continued to howl around the house and Reichmann studied the circling bubbles on the surface of his coffee. Like the man said - for hecks sake! He had to get out of this place. The whole situation was a farce. His trousers were down by his ankles already and he really had no more reasons to be there . He felt an utter fool.
But then VP unexpectedly offered to show him round the old place, suggesting that its several interesting historical features might be appreciated by a man of his obvious intellect and taste and Reichmann said yes, quietly.
In one of the rooms high in the house they stopped and V P explained how the grandfather had lived in the room and had been a scientist on the verge of a serious breakthrough in the nineteen-twenties. There had been no funding to continue his research and the old man had languished for fifty years before dying in obscurity and pain despite the efforts of occultists and cranks to intrude upon his unhappy domain .
But there had been experiments. These were the source of the rumours. There had been experiments and sometimes animals had been used though not dogs, monkeys but not dogs, green monkeys the West African guenon, Cercopithecus a. sabaeus , never dogs why the heck would anyone want to use dogs? Cretins! VP was heated on this point and Reichmann nodded to confirm he’s understood the distinction monkey/dog.
In the cellar there were the benches and some of the remaining vessels and beakers , electrical machinery and hydraulic chambers etc. etc. and VP showed them to Reichmann, his voice tinged with sadness and affection for this old relative of his whom he considered to have been a great man lost by history through ignorance and fear, the usual complaint.
In the library there were hundreds of items to do with biology and some of the tomes must have been worth a packet, first editions and so forth, fourteenth century some of it. Reichmann reckoned that this was money, they’d be worth a fortune given the right market + his sass.
There were bottles too. Jars of snakes and rats and dead animals in preservative, the odd skeleton of shrew and sparrow-hawk, that kind of thing, a stuffed monkey with fur mixed black and yellow. There were mounted birds in glass cases, some rare breeds, one at least possibly extinct. Reichmann worked on how he might take some of the trove away and make money for himself. This was not necessarily pure selfishness but it was definitely not self-sacrifice either. Reichmann’s was a banal cruelty , superficial through and through.
He stared at VP and calculated the cliche that this was not a man well versed in the ways of the modern world. This, he constructed, was someone trapped in his own gothic imagination, beguiled by the labyrinth of halls and corridors in the vast house, cut off from the commercial ethics of transactional life, someone locked in, at home only with the past and the dying who upon staring into the gilt- framed mirrors saw nothing but the arena of his future annihilation. And out of this cliche Reichmann drew the conclusion - the guy was ripe for taking so why should he feel guilty? So he said shucks to the niggles of conscience.
Bad decision. VP was tormented by the private quarrel between his public and private appearance and was struggling against the condition bequeathed to him by his late grandfather. Down in the workshop cellars they descended again and Reichmann was shown the notebooks - he asked to see them - and the letters to and from the Royal Society regarding the work taking place, a cubist joke contrasting passion and neglect in equal mismeasure.
Coming to agreements about how to proceed, Reichmann talked himself into staying over for the night and asked to pog down in the grandfather’s room. To his surprise VP shrugged and okayed it even though he shot sly glances into dust secretions and shadows as they talked. The afternoon rapidly turned into the dark - like smooth skin all at once becoming hirsute.
That night he slept between sheets which though clean stank of gangrenous, supperated flesh. He clambered out at three in the morning hardly able to breathe the air . It was like everything was turning rotten, morally and aesthetically. His head began to spin within the noxious atmosphere. He stretched himself, felt constricted by his skin as if his bones had outgrown it. Not a good feeling.
The next morning he was hardly conscious and in need of drugs to keep his eyes awake never mind the rest of him. This was the place for such drugs it transpires. VP knows how to stimulate discrete areas of the body without waking up others. He’s got advanced ideas about consciousness and the technology to back up theory and Reichmann’s impressed.
They sit again down in the cellar whilst VP talks about the way his grandfather worked on his ideas about personal identity using chemical insertions to test out hypotheses. There were undoubtedly fruits from this which even though starved of vital funding were close to the things Burroughs tried to get to in the sixties. But V.P.’d made real breakthroughs or rather his grandfather had . That had been in the twenties. He’d anticipated Dennett’s ‘Multiple Draft’ theory of consciousness way back then even, unbelievable stuff.
Trouble was that the long term effects were never properly tracked, therefore were not properly known. Overall control had been lost and the systems had either died or become infected or had just lost all sense, falling away from any relationship with original premises. This was the peculiarity; VP’s father had been an obvious test case but there was noone around to do the necessary observations and experiments.
He’d been born after the initial experiments had started and the mother had died delivering the boy. The grandfather had been unable to continue what with the burden of grief on top of his continual rejection by his own peers. But the child had survived this traumatic childhood, (institutions, hospitals,) graduated as an engineer of sorts, married, one child (VP himself, premature with regions of his inner body hardly complete, other areas ambiguously formed) wife died in childbirth - blood pressure followed by a severe stroke - she never regained consciousness , he drifts in the late sixties under the influence of Timothy Leary that old fraudster, an anti-Charlie ‘...and Charlie is the totally institutionalised man, a Kafkaesque symbol of our technical-moral domestication. The military mind...’ and then had become so dreadfully altered by the seemingly everlasting drugs which had secretly entered his bloodstream at conception through his wild-eyed father’s that he had been hidden away from the world until a premature death in ‘72. A sort of lost generation.
VP had struggled on. Alone in the house he too had been part of the mutation process and had done his best in lousy conditions to keep a grip on the situation, the house and the whole thing. Yet for all the suggestions of transformation and mutation he had to ask what the hell were these changes and where were they? Reichmann considered the whole story as the ravings of dementia; the guy had been too long alone and had become a victim of his own paranoia and dismal fantasies. What else eh?.
But he was so wrong to consider them thus. Just like his denial of guilt, Reichmann was misreading this situation too. Had he read any of the titles on the shelves of the library he’d have been given inklings of something else at work here beyond post-nasal drip-dried & varnished nonentityhood - eg ‘Behold !!!The Protong’ , eg all of Stanislav Szukalski’s 39 volume work on Zermatism for Christ’s sake, eg ‘Black Hit Woman’ by Laurie Miles as told to Leo Guild ‘...but then she met Joe the drummer. Joe the lover, Joe the professional killer. He taught Laurie how to escape from the ghetto by killing for big bucks...’ He’d have read such things and have been given inklings.
VP wasn’t just the consciousness of his own body but was stealthily that of the whole house too. Its gardens, objects, soils and roots, even the zones beyond the high walls were slowly becoming filled with him. Thing is, the way this was working out, and this was its third generation if the grandfather’s the first, this growth was a disease, a bio-engineering project working itself out through organisms unable to immunise themselves, a (possibly) viral transfusion way out of control.
The records such as they were from the thirties onwards gave some suggestions as to what was happening and Reichmann spent the morning gripped by the fragments and notes which made up their bulk, taking walks round the overgrown gardens which reached out in a grey cold wilderness for acres under skies frost white and creaking with the strangled cries of rook and carrion crow.
‘Dreamed of the green monkey again tonight. Vivid spell of shadow and then buildings, some great urban nightmare, the lights a thousand feet in the air, a great city, , the greatest ever on earth built by giants and titans, cosmonauts from other worlds, they’ll see this and be awed, there’s truly nothing we cannot do...’
‘...her ’royal waves’ on the steps of No 10 - her scalp suddenly disintegrates like a rotten turnip, ending up on the pavement, resembling the fur of a newly-skinned rabbit and her blood- sprouting trunk buckles backward to join it in its rightful place - the gutter... Brady on Thatcher extract...’
‘Cranial and cerebral characteristics ...visceral moral insensitivity, thieves slang, the criminal is the pure child... Dr. Miklos Nyiszli from Mengele’s death camp, the Jew who performed scientific research on his fellow prisoners (a) was just following orders (b) would rather be alive than not (c) would rather do Mengele’s crimes than die - so who’s banal, what...?’
‘ The green monkey knows its own mind better than we could ever know it. The sooner we perish and it takes our place the better. This is the age of the sex crime where the bloodless hymen its devious elasticity its erosion before the permitted time is punished by the ritual/mythic criminal principles devised by national press, religion, politics, war, the obvious means whatever.
Examples of said crimes - Abortion of female child , invention of sexual aggression through various means towards females of all ages eg prostitution, marriage, divorce, rape, slavery, + the invention of beauty concept as refined to be applied specifically by gendered determinants etc. all too obvious to go on ... the green monkey will be our salvation.’
‘Molecular determinants of protein-half lives in eukaryotic cells...biological transformations increasing...genetic damage, mutation, evolution of sex becoming clearer...DNA damage and repair processes accelerating... smell identification ability becoming rapidly altered as if aging unbelievably quickly... degeneration of eye ...replication of impaired vision in both eyes ...eyes rebuilding themselves, whole system rebuilding...rapid transformation of cells...total deterioration of original structures complete substitution operating at incredible speeds...’
Reichmann shook his head, took himself down into the experiment chambers of the cellars again just to keep in tune with where these notes were coming from, confused by the unbelievable mess of their confessions. It was then that he saw it for the first time, a quick jerky movement at the barred window, something small moving across the light-cube for a split second, a shadow- figure which had for just that moment looked upon him with the green eyes of a terrible yearning.
VP slumped by the kitchen table, his rimmed eyes bloodshot and watery as if there had been no sleep there for many nights, as if only a tangible weariness was left in the physical aspect of his tortured being. Reichmann was overcome with pity for him and wished to help him in some way. He put aside all thoughts of milking him for a fortune behind his back; whether this was a final disposition or merely a passing fancy who can say, but at the time his generous impulse was genuine.
‘You keep animals here? Pets? Dogs?’ said Reichmann casually whilst the image of the small figure buried itself somewhere in the question like a thin coffin in muck.
‘No pets. You still think I’m killing dogs Mr. Reichmann? You should go. You’re getting nothing out of this place. You’re wasting everyone’s time.’ The voice was weak and strung out, a transparent film of sound.
‘ My father died the death my grandfather died and I have them here in me. Do you understand what I’m saying? Fathers and their fathers, on and on, generation after generation, it flourishes, continues, replicates through the line of them. Fathers. Mothers die. My own mother rotting in her cabin underground. Their graves, all of them, in the grounds, the garden my own monument to them. My own mother. What did I know of her? What did those two do to her? What have they done? There can be nothing for them, no forgiveness. How long have I been here, marooned you see, left for dead on this island they created and gave birth to? Here I am motherless, always that, always motherless.
What was at the heart of those two old men, those two priapics, those deranged mutants? What can I say, what can I understand? If you examined me , if you were a doctor Mr. Reichmann, if you knew your stuff, if you were competent to do the job, if you’d been up to it, if, then you’d have maybe been enough to solve the problem. But you’re nothing but some bottled hack journalist, some pot-arsed scribbler , some such and such degenerate. You’re nothing, you’re not good enough for the job. You are an ignorant scoundrel Mr. Reichmann, an ignorant scoundrel.
So what will happen? It will continue. The disease will spread because you’ll not know what to do about it, you’ll not even recognise the symptoms, you’ll die of it too like the rest, an ignorant scoundrel.
You weren’t the one, Mr. Reichmann. What was needed here was someone extraordinary. What was needed was the genius, the one in a million, the exceptional, the singularity.
It knows everything you know . It can easily destroy the likes of an ignorant scoundrel like you Mr. Reichmann. You weren’t the one.
Imagine this if you can. Me, a small boy brought up by an old man and a slightly younger old man and they were both dying of something the older old man had created, some virus strain, something genetic. They know something’s happening because their genitals are rotting green, dropping off and their lips are beginning to pucker, their bone structures adjusting. Apertures are cracking open, the skin tightening, fats growing, padding out , hairs beginning to fall out in handfuls, nails elongating, calcifying, the lower rib receding, eroding, falling away. There’s digested organ transplantation, throat broadening, womb growth, vaginal channel burrowing, vestiges of Neanderthal, maybe vestiges of an older breed or something else and immense pain, the brain burning, the constant smell of it, flesh-smoke in the snout. No one understanding because language is disconnecting from its physical origins, possibilities of space travel, time travel, the end of the body, the Catholic dream, the skin-damp shimmering-green of it, toxic enema injections to bypass liver, there’s all this. Father to son to his son, the gradual wearing away of the interior walls, cancer growths proliferating, some sort of resistance coded into the new being so that instead of dying there’s a new sort of exhilaration felt, a constant phantom hard on, a drooling mouth, something boiling under the skin in the phantom-penis membranes and what flies out is a kind of viscous scalding tar.’
The noise seemed to fly from out of a great distance. Nothing moved, the two of them held themselves ; a montage which might have no end, like they’d been frozen.
There’s a sound from somewhere inside the house, the sound of footsteps rapidly moving, of one door then another door then someone or something climbing a staircase. Reichmann glares at VP whilst the other man draws back his face and seems to shrink before him.
‘ Then who else is here? What else?’ whispered Reichmann but VP merely shook his head as if there were no more words in him, as if they were all used up. Then he looked straight at Reichmann and started to wave his thin hands at him as if to shoo him away to get rid of him. ‘Go quick , scram!’ they said.
‘Don’t turn back,’ he suddenly screamed in a high-pitched voice rather like the squeal of a suckling pig. The voice seemed to come not from VP’s open mouth but rather from the moisture- biled walls, its darkness trapped in its orders and stones, the very fabric of the place. There came another shuffling of sounds, this time closer, this time overhead, perhaps directly there, on the next floor up. Something moved closer. Reichmann wheeled round and took the slouched figure in his hands, gripped the collar and shook VP as a dog might a rat but those eyes now stared towards the ceiling, vacancies both, and the skin was horrible and cold. Between Reichmann’s fingers everything crumbled, absolutely rotted away and there lay at his feet a nearly liquid mass of detestable putridity.
Reichmann fell back and vomited over the floor and table and walls, a grotesque fountain from his stomach, and yet in the dizzying panic and revulsion of the moment he could still attest to the sound of something fast approaching the room from the hall beyond its door. Flinging himself out from the trap of the house he began to run through the open grounds towards the huge disordered perspective of the wrought iron gates that loomed like Caligari prison bars and never once dared to look back to see what nature of horror followed him.
Years later, and Reichmann’s infected by some bodily disorder which means he can hardly breathe, his lungs only fitfully organising, shrivelled down to mere charred coal tablets. His mind too resembles nothing more than one of those damned modernist gardens designed to be seen from a single perspective and no other, and at a single season too, which has to banish all others. Gravel and straight lines, light and shade, the freezing optics of black and white photography, a garden without nature, passionately suffused with an elaborate loathing and fear that condemns him to a wheelchair and endless sleeplessness.
There’s a small green-eyed woman who visits him regularly and frequently, who assists him with his papers. Reichmann’s trash-porn stories are well enough received to afford him a scant living but no more; he’s on bad terms with his agent and publisher, his dreary insufferable gloom too overwhelming for the normal, casual, acquaintance. But this woman remains at his side, supporting him by her presence as he drifts from one state of despair to the next, the circling pool of his pitiful fears and anxieties lapping, lapping then drowning him.
As he’s dying the heater hasn’t worked all winter. In his cold single room there’s snow outside and everything is a grey silence. She holds his hand, takes down his nylon pants so that she can stitch the penis she’s taken from some corpse or other to where his own might have been whilst showing her bright, strong, guenon teeth, her cold nose wet from her tears. So perhaps she’s laughing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Retro is a former punk who now believes that he has become just a sad old nostalgia freak. Having said that he makes a brilliant black-current sandwich and lives in Dover where he has many friends amongst the refugee community there. He believes his years on the dole will soon be ending. This is his second story for 3AM. He has entered into interesting correspondence with Selima Kyle who says she ‘likes his style.’