A Rebuilt Life
I. A tale of the illegal, the illicit, the illogical
Oratory In the Laboratory - Part 2
"Oh no, Inspector, don't be deceived; that most redolent and pestiferous plague known as 'death' remains irrefutable, life is irretrievable, just as we-" a glance askance to the burgundy-blood-stained lab coat worn by the newly-dead instigated a painful pronoun change, "or rather I, stand before you irredeemable. I embalmed whilst he imbued, an atmosphere imbibed, till catastrophe ensued. The sepulchral saturnine expression frozen to her face became something altogether more morbid." Kneeling, he placed an outstretched palm against the still-warm chest of his brother, as if willing its re-animation in rhythmical respiration.
Something could be felt between thin cotton and quiescent ribs. A creased photograph, its edges damp and scarlet, was removed from the deceased's inner pocket, a familiar sepia smile greeting the surviving sibling.
"Once, her very name was a phonic philtre, each sweet syllable to tease the tongue, then to be gently sighed as the seminal fluid of imagined liaisons was shed in a euphoric libation to the goddess. Alas, this deity was all too mortal, yet she controlled the hearts of thousands, hence hers could not be allowed to cease beating."
Clearly this is not where our story begins, nor is it where our contemptuous caper is destined to conclude. It is, however, worthy of the emphasis granted by a fresh set of eyes and minds unobscured by the twisting vines of description on the trellis of subplot.
Let us turn our attention then to the scene itself. The Inspector's trench coat, still damp from earlier rainfall, fails to glisten in the stale twilight, instead exuding a saturated heaviness that compliments its owner's current expression. Eyes, glazed with the rose carmine of insomnia, remain curiously alert, set within burnt ochre rings of sleeplessness. An ignored cigarette, pinched between thumb and index finger, discards its ashes to the stone floor below, to land beside an empty cartridge of origin yet to be discussed, and mingle with a plethora of spilt chemicals. Yet the ambience isn't quite right - the lab should have been constructed in a forgotten gothic cathedral, ubiquitous in the realms of fantasy, or a dilapidated monastery riddled with secret passageways activated by a conspicuous hardback. But this is not the case, our characters are, unfortunately, to be found in some generic disused factory, walls veined with verdigrised pipelines, many diverted from their original destination to further our dear doctors' experiments. So, a subtle sacrilegious overtone must instead be created by angered discourse.
"Doc, I-" a contemplative sigh, followed by one token drag on the cigarette before its expiry, "I prostitute myself to protect laws I never made. Frequently I find little worth in protecting the objective 'values' defined by those in the upper echelons of power. But there are these artificial legalities, your theft, your negligence, and then there is natural law. At what stage-"
"No one could confuse this for some impulsive peccadillo, Inspector. Although it remains a crime of the purest passion, this resurrection was not achieved in three days. It was not foretold, but it was necessitated, for she had far more than a dozen dependant disciples. Since her death there's been division, deserters and despair."
Let us presume there had been no witnesses to the untimely death of the femme in question, that an assassin was dispatched to dispose of our heroine whilst she spent the mild evening in an autumnal forest. To romanticise the event further, her classic figure will be clad solely in silk and shadows, for she intends to meet a lover. She shall kick off her shoes and lay with a wry smile upon a stone bench, one which the forest had the foresight to drape in leaves the same golden hue as her hair. The scent of her anticipation now mingles with the living musk of plant life as she stretches one bare arm above her head, with the erotic grace of a 1930's film star reclining on a chaise longue. Playfully running scenarios through her mind, intoxicated by possibilities, her slender fingers trace the edge of the stone, which becomes his tensed torso. He won't be needing it after all, he is far too dead to utilise it or indeed fulfil any one of the myriad of fantasies that now quicken her heartbeat.
She continues to dream, fingering the hem of her dress, happily oblivious to this cruel theft of life, until a certain red squirrel scattering leaves attracts her attention to the sphere held in its miniature palms. Dismembered eyes are, to the vast majority of aroused women, a veritable lust-killer.
Simultaneously, the good doctors enter the glade, both walking with a swagger born of success achieved in a recent experiment, one of those rare occasions where theory, practice, and luck had all converged. The General would be pleased. Their stroll was ostensibly a resource gathering foray, foxgloves and poppy seeds, mushrooms and berries, yet in reality a thinly veiled excuse to leave the bubbling flasks and equipment-laden benches behind.
For the visually oriented reader, the first medical man, Dr. Benoit Skope, was of slim build, had unkempt, dark hair, and was sporting a peculiar tweed hunting jacket. For those of a nasal persuasion, he issued forth the intriguing scent of boiled eggs and pear drops. Those with a tendency to be stimulated by touch will be deprived of description for their own good. The second doctor will survive long enough to be embellished later; at present it is merely necessary for you to know he is whistling (discordantly, yet at an impressive amplitude).
II. Copse and Robbers
With painfully slow movements he pulled his chest across the loamy earth. His face was smeared with camouflage paint, which did not conceal the look of guilt permeating his expression as he levelled the barrel. She had spent countless nights in his company as they had revelled in the realms of dream, but his fanciful phantasma had never ended with this type of penetration.
Where to place the bullet? How can I defile such a goddess? Regretfully, her passing is preordained; I shall leave the decision to our assassin in the undergrowth. He favours a shot to the chest, so as not to destroy her beauteous countenance. So be it. One finger curls around the trigger, but, before the climactic explosion of gunpowder, treason and plot lines, he is disturbed by a strident whistling. Overwhelmed by the inherent injustice and fear of discovery, three shots are taken hastily, before a scurried retreat of equal impetuosity. One for each year of the war, one for every ten thousand victims.
As the bullet-holed belle is already most familiar with her own life story, we shall instead have it flash before our eyes, perhaps prolonging the siren's expiration in order to evaluate her existence. It is with great intrigue I observe those women with an almost shamanic command over their onlookers. I do not make reference to those who, with indecorous and indelicate displays of glorious whorish vulgarity, summon sexual tension, although these too pique my interest. No, I rather refer to a species possessing more elusive charms.
Born the treasured daughter of General and Lady Laureola, in her twenty-second year Adena's name was well known throughout the capital, frequently to be heard alongside lines of descriptive longing. Adolescent boys made mention of "silken-lips like dewed rose-petals"; jealous girls, when not engaging her affection in lustful reveries, submerged between ivory thighs or drowned in her vanilla-scented curls, would eagerly exchange tales of her recent affairs in mock disgust. With this enviable handicap, it took a while for her intelligence to be recognised. However, her refined confidence, her mesmeric aura, won her an army of admirers - an accolade which became of elevated importance following the outbreak of civil war, three years later.
Returning to the vicinity of the now moonlit clearing, perhaps we hear an owl's soft call to add contrast to the soon-to-be-heard gunfire. We observe the aforementioned swaggers switch into stunned stumbles, passing through shocked strides before settling into sprints. Soon, the inert body enters their vision, the timeless scene, reminiscent of a Pre-Raphaelite painting, bringing both brothers to their knees in terror.
III. Oratory in the Laboratory - Part 1
"I won't allow such nonsensical sabotage! Don't you understand what Adena represents? She's not only a scientific miracle, she's our living oriflamme! The War can once again be won!" Benoit's words were viscous with desperation, his wild stare more acidic than any of the chemicals that once stood on the smashed shelves which lay splintered behind him.
One of the stubbled sergeants withdrew a gnarled hand from the pocket of his charcoal grey overcoat and, removing his cap, tapped his temple twice in quick succession, a gesture accompanied with a mocking sneer.
"If you fink that aberration's gonna boost the morale of our boys on t'front, you're the one that needs to be strapped down on that table, not 'er"
"That's enough, Constable," the Inspector exudes an experienced competence, a patient urgency, whenever his fingers reach for his box of matches to light the ever-present cigarette. But human emotions are far more flammable than phosphorous.
"Sorry, Sir, but he's clearly a test tube short of a chemistry set. First he goes all Frankenstein on that whore, and now he's tryin' to tell us we can taste victory without the General-”
Ah, allow me to interrupt, for I fear not enough has been disclosed concerning General Laureola. He is clearly a military man, one of great stature, capable of fearsome poses fit for a column-top statue. Now we shall decide on his features: a square, forceful jaw, allowing him to grate his teeth effectively in times of adversity; the deep-set eyes of a strategist and the type of distinguished nose one would find on the marble busts lining museum corridors. His permanently furrowed brow endows him with the virtuous and somewhat troubled mien of a thinker, endearing him to his men, inspiring hope in their wives. Or at least it did.
All powerful men require dichotomy, therefore we must trespass into both his past and his home, ensconced as he is in a high-backed, wine-red leather armchair, a double whiskey in one shaking hand and a small portrait in the other, his retinue dismissed for this grieving evening of ethanol and effigies.
He had fought for a peaceful solution. Later he had fought to obtain peace. Since the news of his daughter’s disappearance had reached him, shortly followed by the enemy claim that she had been assassinated, he simply fought. Adena had recently been given control of her own regiment, after proving to possess a pre-eminent prowess for tactical manoeuvres that the General did not have the luxury of being able to overlook. Morale was up, auspicious advances were being made for the first time in months.
He hadn’t heard his window being smashed, but the hooker slumbering in his bed had, and this, in combination with the fearful screams of the two powerless doctors downstairs, had sufficiently motivated her to free herself from the heavy covers and, clutching a towel for dignity, dash towards the door.
We shall let this woman of misfortune live, in order to make the statement that self-preservation should not always be punished. In comparison to the fate the General will meet, the blow to the head received by the courtesan, as a re-animated Adena breaches the patriarchal bedchamber, will appear a happy alternative, although her concussion will prevent such objective analysis.
For a few logic-mutilating milliseconds, each one doubling in confusion, the General’s daughter had never died. The portrait had time to glide to the floor, his face became pregnant with a smile – aborted, as her rapier pierced his stomach. A most detestable destiny; to die, reconciled with neither truth nor his own flesh and blood - although, technically, large quantities of her blood had originally belonged to the arteries of the venerable doctors, just as every creator invests much of themselves in their work.
“-he’s mental. I say we execute her, here and now - put her out of her misery, before the crazy bint runs riot again.” The sergeant took a step forward towards the sedated female form, shards of glass crunching underfoot, as he reached for his holster.
Benoit’s scalpel had almost made contact with the constable’s jugular, it was, in any case, a commendable effort. The frenzied lunge, however, had been anticipated by the Inspector, who had contemplated letting the sergeant die for his insolence, before regretfully arriving at the conclusion that it would probably hamper his own chances of promotion.
An echoing shot, the clattering of a stainless steel implement striking stone, the thud of a 5’10” medical expert surrendering to gravity, and the whimpering of a soon to be demoted sergeant – these aural events were followed by the tired sigh of the Inspector, as he solemnly lowered his firearm.
IV. Mort, Morals and Morale
Romance has an intriguing half-life; its durability necessitates re-visitations of earlier experiences, you become a parasite on your own past.
Let us suspend scepticism, for it is fundamentally incompatible with the enchanting amour once shared by the couple, as we unite the lovers one last time. Her liver had been damaged beyond repair by the trio of lead projectiles, yet, somewhat fortuitously, the body of her strangled inamorato – also found in the glade by the distraught doctors - although curiously lacking one eye, yielded an intact and compatible liver, which was duly harvested and deployed within her, thereby achieving a poetic carnal communion.
It is senseless to chronicle every starlit word that fell from the paralysed lips of the siblings that night in the forest. Stunted sentences of disbelief and desolation gathered like discarded leaves around them as their macabre discovery became a vigil – an unavailing attempt to ward off the sharpened scythes stalking the shifting shadows, to prevent the people being deprived of their deity.
In times of despair, Dr. Caspian Skope would reach for the handrail of logic, mental tendrils groping for empirical facts. The news could not be allowed to spread. Her body must never be found. This containment, which would not obviate the tragic tidings of her disappearance, may still be insufficient to prevent a deathblow to morale. So, they did as logic dictated; two hours later, both bodies lay on porcelain autopsy tables, behind the locked doors of their laboratory.
For silent hours the pair paced, each mind individually debating possibilities, presenting propositions. Then, as dawn’s birdsong prompted a level of urgency, they discussed. Neither wanted to usher her into the furnace, the mere thought of cremating her seemed blasphemous, and required a certainty to which they were unwilling to commit themselves. But what if the situation could be… salvaged? If Adena could secretly be revived, so could the war effort.
In the spirit of fairness - a spirit which haunts this tale in a most capricious manner - we must acknowledge that the brothers were physicians, not psychologists, and it is most unlikely even the latter could have predicted the way in which a decayed mind, artificially anchored to this realm, would react after control was once again restored over a repaired corporeal form. No one could have foreseen the naissance of the Avatar of Anger as eyelids flutter open, causing Benoit’s joyous declaration to coruscate with a choral omnipresence throughout the laboratory:
Now, Caspian shall be our vessel for dénouement, our provider of closure, as he takes up the hypodermic needle and pierces the atrophied flesh of her arm. The doctor’s features bear a shallow cut, running across one high-boned cheek, earned in the earlier tumult, donated by the fist of our heroine’s haunted form.
The needle, holding the dregs of liquefied execution, is laid ceremoniously upon the bench, as the doctor takes up one of Adena’s hands, in the same manner a Frenchman would to deliver a kiss when muttering ‘enchanté’. Eventually, her pale wrist is released, and allowed to fall to her side.
Caspian, looking across to the Inspector, now adopts the demeanour, and associated tone of voice, of a young boy - one who’s replaced something he had stolen. Eyes directed towards the ground, he removes and pockets his glasses before confessing: