Mortimer Field was an artist with peculiar talents. I befriended Mortimer while working at The Institute for the Mentally Deranged (this was during the 1970’s when “deranged” was considered an accurate diagnosis). Mortimer was a patient. Two years after I met him, he disappeared. Soon after, I began to collect the stories he told me (I kept meticulous notes) along with his artwork and journals. His work has often been described as disturbing. I offer this collection of notes and stories to my esteemed reader for you to judge for yourself.
This story is about the day Mortimer Field saw a woman crossing the street. Mortimer said there was something annoying about the woman as if she possessed some insidious secret. She was heavy set. Her form seemed to be pulled forward by the ponderous swell of her stomach. Her face was like puckered dough. Her lips were like the flame of an acetylene torch and she wore large, gold frame sunglasses. She appeared to be in her late fifties. Her hair was like burnt roots sticking out from the edge of a pink bathing cap. She wore a fur coat that looked like automobile upholstery. A red-and-black muumuu radiated beneath the fur coat like an electric bulb.
She plowed across the street in a trance. Her brown hose slipped down over her heavy thighs. Mortimer became more and more agitated as he related his story. His voice squeaked with perturbation, “she looked at me,” he said, “suddenly she looked without pausing and without losing her heavy stride.” Mortimer wanted to scream. The woman was too familiar. He could see her eyes swimming behind the dark lenses in her glasses. They looked like eggs broken on a plate.
As he related the story he began to sweat profusely. He said seeing the woman made his skin tighten and his head ache as if his bony skull was about to break through the thin layer of flesh. He recognized the woman. He knew her. She was in the painting he’d just completed before leaving his studio for the street. She was the woman he imagined — she was solely his creation!
For the purpose of this story I have a name, Orlow Fabricatum. I am the proverbial fly on the wall. I see a great deal and inform the proper authorities. I’ve been used in thousands of stories, in movies, and in computer games as a device to move things along. I am here, now, in Red City and I’m spying. By nature, I am a people watcher. Of course, I’ve been altered — no longer a common house fly, but modified with implants to be a bionic Super-Fly. Changes are afoot in Red City. Presently I am patrolling Fog Cairn, the home of the eminent Alchemist, Jupiter Fogg. My buzz has been modified to an ultra-sonic hum only dogs can hear so as to hide my presence from the people I’m spying on. I’m shielded to be virtually invisible, a neat trick used in the computer game, Master’s Revenge, where I disrupted an ill advised rebellion.
A new apprentice has been accepted by Jupiter Fogg. Her name is Ann Anon and she tastes like sweet taffy (I always manage to taste the people I watch to gather subliminal information). I learned a lot by tasting Ann. She is intelligent and deceptive. As soon as she arrived she bonded with Daniel Ot because Daniel has the most information regarding Fogg’s recent activities and experiments. She also snuggled up to the big man himself, Jupiter Fogg, trying to gain his trust. Fogg was slightly distracted; nevertheless, he decided to test Miss Anon to discover how useful she could be. The test progressed like this: Ann and Fogg were together in the lab working on a newly arrived subject who had been kidnapped for experimental purposes. Fogg appraised his new apprentice’s reactions when he exposed the living body strapped to a gurney. He explained his plan to test the resiliency of an individual after being exposed to bodily harm.
Fogg explained to his apprentice, “It’s the eyes, my dear — windows to the soul.”
“Will I be forced to pull out his eyeballs,” Ann stated with as much reserve as she could muster.
Jupiter was satisfied with her response. “Not necessary my dear. I’m really not so crude or cruel. I was just testing your resolve and you passed.” When Fogg was not experimenting on his apprentices or using them for carnal amusements, he loved to test them. He believed tests were the only means of evaluating an individual’s worth. Fogg’s idea of a scientific utopia was based on values that could be derived from testing newly formed embryos to determine if they were worthy enough to be born. He designed the tests himself and concluded they were full proof. If his plan had been enacted (he was convinced) Red City would never have faced the current impending cataclysm. As a fly on the wall, I am convinced that Fogg is certainly delusional.
Orlow Fabricatum, my name, comes from a Latin pejorative meaning: artificial snoop. I do that… snoop. I watched Ann Anon and Daniel Ot dance around one another like timid shadow puppets, afraid and shy with all the encumbrances of confused adolescents caught in a harrowing situation, torn between forces too huge to comprehend. Hormones added to the drama in the same way that earthquakes and volcanoes tore at a crumbling Red City. The couple knew they were at the center of the spectacle, aware they had to derail Jupiter Fogg’s experiments. If Fogg succeeded in enabling the Philosopher’s Stone, Red City would be destroyed (just one side effect among many including sacrificial lambs, vomiting, death to apprentices, and premature signs of aging). Daniel was aware he was Fogg’s chosen sacrifice. A growing tenderness and empathy grew between Daniel and Ann.
“At home before any of this started, I was better off,” Ann spoke softly to Daniel. “I never realized any of this could happen. Back then, I thought they didn’t care. They sat me down in front of a Screen and left me.”
“Sorry,” Daniel whispered. They were afraid of being overheard by Fogg’s spies. “I was raised in a video game — the only life I knew. It’s different now.”
“Everything is insane, now. I’m scared.”
“Hey,” Daniel was aroused, “at least we’re together. I never would have met you… and you are beautiful.” His statement hung in the air like crystal. They touched each other softly in the dark shadows of an abandoned passageway. A red moon seemed to bleed through a window cut in the stone wall.
Ann had a secret — she was playing a dangerous game, perhaps she was forced into it or it was a game of her own design. Anonymous Ann was really Aaron Keepx, a spy sent by Rufus Thyme. Rufus was afraid Jupiter would suspect Aaron so he disguised the boy. They say, “love heals all things,” but love can be brutal when it gets confused with lust (and nothing is as it seems).
(to be continued)
Contusions and bruising would heal quickly, but the boy’s mind was irreparably damaged. He was bullied at school because he was different. His parents expected the boy to mirror the lifestyle they chose for themselves. He could not. The expectations and bullying turned the boy against himself. He created a guardian in his mind for protection. The guardian was a monster named Mr. Hamm.
Mr. Hamm has no regrets. He lurches from room to room and from one disaster to the next. Hamm is an abomination and he delights in that reproof. He inhabits dark cellars and desiccated tombs dressed only in raiments stolen from graveyard corpses. For years, perhaps centuries, he served the Archons of Red City, propping up the regime with blackmail and murder. Hamm is a clever blood sucker who managed to stave off death by tricking other decrepit souls to take his place. But no one outsmarts death forever. Hamm’s day of reckoning has finally arrived at a fortuitous time as Red City descends deeper into the volcanic fires in the earth’s core.
Mr. Hamm stares into the green miasma of his favorite drink, absinth with a dash of embalming fluid, as if it is a crystal ball. He sits at his reserved table in the Charnel House Bar along with other denizens of the underworld. Every few minutes the earth rumbles sending another tremor through the warrens of Red City. Hamm is mumbling out loud and yelling obscenities. No one approaches or even looks at Mr. Hamm. He can do whatever he desires in the Charnel House; indeed, he has free reign anywhere in Red City. No one is feared or hated more than Mr. Hamm. Rumors abound about Hamm’s predilection for cannibalism and his fraternization with demons.
Mr. Hamm moans as if expelling his last gasp, “Been running a long time. It finally caught me,” he hisses, “I’m old. Old — and death is snapping at my ass.” Hamm gulps his drink and bangs the table for more. “I’m no smarter than when I was a piss-ant kid — I’m just slower. My bones creak. My head aches. I hear voices that criticize. They run daggers through me and cut me to shreds. I never had a choice. My bones are turning to liquid. I piss my pants at night. No one knows the truth. Mighty Mr. Hamm pisses his pants,” He cackles like a wheezing whore.
The rumors are true. Hamm committed horrendous crimes; but, he rationalized, it was for the benefit of Red City. He kept the city alive. He supplied the city’s lifeblood, literally — by draining victims who fell under his spell. “None of the donors were innocent,” Hamm relishes, “they were greedy nobodies eager to take advantage of anyone weaker than themselves. It was a delight to suck them dry and hang their bodies on meat hooks to mold and rot. I sold contracts to skulkers consigning them to hell for an eternity in exchange for a little fleeting power, money, or sex. I provided a service by eviscerating corrupt malingerers. I delighted in consuming their flesh and eating their souls.”
Although the people hated and feared Mr. Hamm the living-infrastructure that was Red City loved him. The city relied on Hamm to provide necessary ingredients — fuel for the machines and systems: blood, sinews, flesh and offal. Hamm was granted extraordinary powers to perform his tasks — in effect, making Mr. Hamm the power behind the government. He controlled the Archons who ruled the city. He was the shadow behind the curtain. The Archons were fed the blood of Hamm’s victims — they were nurtured and kept alive by blood.
Mr. Hamm recalls how he tricked the man who became Anton Bane who fell down a rabbit hole and entered Red City like an innocent pilgrim from another world — but it was a lie. Hamm read the man like a book, a bad pornographic novel filled with remorse and lust. It was easy to sign him up, change his name, and turn him into a killer — and, finally, condemn him to hell. Hamm fondly remembers a young Jupiter Fogg, an aspiring hedonist who enjoyed the art of murder. Hamm ruled Jupiter’s life, forging him into a powerful alchemist/scientist, forcing him to follow orders. Many lives, both living and dead, were effected or effaced by Mr. Hamm. Many plots were in play. The city was changing and Hamm was required to change as well. Mr. Hamm did not like change and he did not like feeling old and wary of death, but it was inevitable. The only wild card that remained was known as the Harlequin-beat Angel. No one controlled the Angel. (to be continued)