- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 7 - The Price of Death
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Lady Corrine closed her eyes tightly, trying to discern all the voices from another. Where am I? Why is it so dark? Am I dead? Who are you? Some were men, some were women, and some, she would sadly discover, were children. The parts that had been replaced had come from the poor of London, unable to seek the necessary medical care for whatever their terminal illness.
She had tried to ask Fredrick about her donors, but he would avoid every one of her questions, but insist she answer his. It was Duo that taught her how to listen, to close out the world around her, and focus on the fragments swirling around her mind. Each piece of her had a story to tell, and they were all tragic.
The pain and sorrow had all been laid bare for her to feel. God no. Please don’t. An amalgamation of the poor and damned and all the atrocities the upper class had inflicted on them. It can’t be. Why are you doing this? The oppression was impossible to bear, seeing for the first time how hard it was to rise, yet so very easy to fall.
Her husband had never directly affected them in any way, but she soon came to understand how little that freed her from the guilt. Lady Corrine had done nothing to help these people. Her wealth and status had been handed to her on a silver platter, and yet she had done nothing with it, save follow her own fancies. The feeling made her new stomach turn.
How could I have been so blind? she thought. She could now recount a hundred times she had seen the squalid people of her city, and did nothing to help them. Lady Corrine would simply pass them by as if they didn’t exist. It was that thought that hurt the most of all. That she had made someone feel like less than nothing in her actions, or rather, her inactions. Just a little bit of food, please. Anything.
‘Lady De Marine?’ asked Frederick. ‘Can you hear me?’ She opened her eyes to see the bespectacled face of one of her Resurrectionists. She had preferred Frederick’s method of ascertaining information. When Father Grigori would conduct them, they were more…invasive and violating. She would not let her near his ‘instruments,’ which annoyed him greatly. He saw her less of a person and more of a subject, which only caused her to be more outspoken against her treatments.
‘Yes, doctor,’ she replied. ‘The ears are working fine.’
‘Excellent!’ he exclaimed. ‘And what of your motor functions?’ She got up and demonstrated basic range of motions. Frederick jotted down more of what seemed like endless notes to Lady Corrine.
‘When do I get to see my husband?’ she asked for what was most likely the hundredth time. He looked away in the same fashion as when he would refuse to answer her about the donors. She cleared her throat and repeated the question.
‘Soon,’ he said. ‘Very soon. We’re still making sure everything is in working order. Are you still hearing the voices?’
‘No,’ she lied. ‘Duo has helped me surprise them.’
‘Still so very curious about those,’ he wondered aloud. ‘I was postulating the other day it might come from some sort of trauma…a psychosis that one might undergo in the process.’
‘What did you see?’ asked a gruff, Russian voice from above. ‘When you were dead, that is?’ Father Grigori stood on the landing above, looking down at them.
‘Don’t be silly, Father Grigori,’ answered Frederick for her. ‘Her brain was inactive during her…shall we call it sleep?’
‘Her brain, yes’ said Father Grigori. ‘But what of her soul?’
‘Are you still going on about that?’ asked Frederick. Father Grigori opened his mouth to argue when Corrine interrupted.
‘I don’t recall anything,’ she said. ‘Nothing definitive. It was almost like dreaming when one can’t remember the dream…’ She stared off, trying to remember. There had been something, but she simply couldn’t remember. Father Grigori smiled slyly at Frederick.
‘Residual memories,’ Frederick said. ‘The brain simply gathered information before it knew it was deceased. That's all.’
‘Deny all you want, Frederick,’ said Father Grigori. ‘I will make you a believer yet.’ Corrine snapped out of her trance and looked up at them.
‘You said my husband knew about me,’ she said. ‘Why can’t I see him?’
‘Patience, Lady De Marine,’ assured Frederick with a pat on her wrist. ‘One must simply be patient.’
‘May I see you up here, Frederick?’ asked Father Grigori. ‘There is an inconsistency with the latest test results.’
‘Be right up!’ Said Frederick, turning to Corrine. ‘Keep up your exercises. Three hearts would provide more than enough strength too-!’
‘Frederick!’ echoed Father Grigori.
‘One moment!’ Frederick tired back. He gave one more smile to Corrine before leaving her to rest on the makeshift bed. He flew up the stairs to see Father Grigori sitting in a dark corner on the far end of the room.
‘We cannot let her leave,’ said father Grigori. ‘Nor can we let anyone in the outside world know of our success.’
‘I am well aware of that,’ replied Frederick. ‘Marlowe made himself perfectly clear on that.’
‘What of her husband?’ asked Grigori. ‘Surely he must be snooping around by now.’
‘All taken care of. Marlowe told him that the experiment had been a failure. They buried a surrogate this afternoon.’
‘Good. Good,’ said Father Grigori, stroking his beard. ‘And now about our other problem.’
‘Other problem?’ asked Frederick.
‘You are being too polite with her,’ said Father Grigori. ‘It is hindering our progress.’
‘We need her co-operation if we are to get anywhere.’
‘No, we don’t. You do not ask your mice permission when you experiment on them, do you?’ asked Father Grigori. ‘She is imperfect. Barely human. It took three hearts just to be able to make her move. She should be locked up.’
‘We are not keeping her caged up like some animal, Father Grigori.’
‘Oh? And what if she decides waiting for her husband isn't enough anymore? What will we do then?’ Frederick thought about this, concerned.
‘I…I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘She is an intelligent being.’
‘So is an octopus,’ said Father Grigori. ‘Yet we still eat them.’ Frederick looked back down at Corinne as she flexed her hand, exercising the mismatched ones.
‘I suppose it may be the right thing to do,’ he said. ‘But she’ll put up a fight.’
We will sedate her,’ Father Grigori responded. ‘Simple.’
‘Yes, we will have to do that,’ said Frederick. ‘But not tonight. I’m not for a scuffle.’
‘In the morning then,’ said Father Grigori. ‘Be ready.’ Father Grigori stood and swept passed him as Fredrick began to take more notes, unaware of the three armed creatures listening from above.
That night, Duo’s hand gently pushed on a sleeping Corrine to wake her. Her eyes fluttered open, adjusting to the darkness. She looked down and saw her friend pulling at her sleeve.
‘What’s wrong, Duo?’ she asked. ‘We’re not doing more tests, are we?’
‘W-w-we must hurry, Miss,’ he said. ‘H-h-have to leave.’ She stood and put a hand onto his cheek.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said. ‘Does the doctor need something?’
’N-n-no, Miss,’ said Duo, looking around wildly. ‘I’m r-r-rescuing you.’ She looked at him, concerned.
‘What do you know, Duo?’
‘M-m-masters won’t let you l-l-leave,’ he replied. ‘F-f-father Grigori wants to l-l-lock you up.’
‘But my husband-!’
’T-t-thinks you’re d-d-dead, Miss.’ She placed gasped in shock.
‘How could they do this?’ she asked, ‘Why?’
’T-t-they think t-t-they’re doing good, Miss,’ he replied. ’N-n-now we must hurry.’ He pulled at her sleeve until she stood up.
‘F-f-front door is l-l-locked.’
‘How will we get out?’ she asked.
‘I k-k-know a way,’ he said. ‘It’s my s-s-secret.’ He led her to a patch of floor that had been covered by a rough sewn carpet. He pulled it away to reveal a set of loose floorboards he began to remove, one by one. Soon, an exit had made itself apparent.
‘It l-l-leads to the s-s-street outside, Miss,’ he said, offering his hand to her. She took it as he lowered her. She looked up at him.
‘Come with me,’ she said. He shook his head. ‘Why not?’
‘I am d-d-dying, Miss,’ he replied. ‘M-m-master doesn’t think I k-k-know. But I have always k-k-known, Miss. Always.’
‘F-f-few more days, I r-r-reckon,’ he said, and smiled at her. ‘I am r-r-ready, Miss. It’s okay. Here.’ He handed her a thick cloak through the entrance. ‘It’s c-c-cold.’
She unfolded it and covered herself with it. She looked up and placed her hands on either side of Duo’s face and gave him a kiss on his forehead.
‘Thank you, Duo,’ she said. ‘How can I ever repay you?’
‘L-l-live, Miss,’ he said. ‘L-l-live.’ She smiled at him and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. ‘H-h-hurry, the s-s-sun is rising and they’ll be b-b-back soon.’ She nodded, pulling the cloak over her head. She walked down the passage, only glancing back once to see Duo replacing the floorboards.
When he was done, he propped himself against a nearby stool and coughed into his open hand. When he pulled it back, it was covered in a thick, black substance that had been his substitute for blood.
‘D-d-did w-w-we do well?’ he whispered to the voices in his head. It’s getting dark. What's happening? Are we dying? Yes, young one. You did very well. He closed his eyes, and drifted off towards an endless sleep, smiling his crooked smile the entire time.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved