Saturday

Note Found On A Malformed Man

(text of a pencil-written note found on the disfigured body of a male of indeterminate age, preserved in Arctic ice for almost 200 years)

He told me I came to life on the night of the second of April, 17-- .

But I contest this - yes, contest it! I remember events previous to that wild night. And some of those memories of a distant past are more lucid, vivid, to me than these delirious days since. Sometimes I'm convinced that I am walking through a dream, almost certain that momentarily I shall wake up in the early dawn, with The Girl next to me.

And then I remember, lucidly, vividly, that I murdered The Girl, remember I closed my hand over her mouth to stop her foul imprecations, remember I closed my hands around her throat after she snapped her teeth deep into my hand and drew warm wet blood.

I still have the scar. There. Still preternaturally fresh - a memory of her frowning mouth.

My poor misbegotten rose - that she should be damned to find me. Out of all the many men who went in and out of her doors, the one she fancied best was by far the worst. Born bad. Born to be bad.

I went to the gallows with a smug satisfaction. I had maneuvered her murderer into giving himself up, for the most part genuinely unaware it was I my own self – my own own self, my own dark self - that I had betrayed. I had lured the murderer into confessing the entire crime, had made him hold his hand aloft in the courtroom, the hand which bore my gold haired Magdalene's bite.

As the sentence was passed, as the judge donned his black cap, I suddenly, absurdly, recalled a romantic fancy she had - that we would go to the Americas together and start a new life, now that the war with England had been resolved and...

They hanged me -

A sudden rush downwards - almost exhilarating - I might have almost squealed like a child on a swing - until the sudden nonsensical snap to a stop and a notion that something dreadful had happened and then the gray cloud pouring into my eyes, nose, brain …

…and then being aware of sleeping - or not sleeping - being aware simply of being aware. An I that knew it was an I - but ignorant of its origins, its circumstance. An Adam on his first day in the world.

And God said:

“It’s alive!”

The voice shocked me into sentience. My eyes had been open - but now they saw. And the first thing they saw was a face. His face.

My ears had been open - but now they heard. And the first thing they heard was his voice. His voice.

“It’s alive!”

Those sounds - I could not grasp their meaning yet - imbedded themselves in my reconstituted head. I rolled the sounds around and around, repeating, refraining. Backward, forward. For days, for weeks, for months after - those sounds. From his mouth. To my ears.

It was a hot Bavarian June day which threatens a hot mosquito-rich August. I sat at the South Garden table of the grounds – sipping a sweet wine, hearing the bees, itching at the new exquisite suit of clothes, reading Milton’s Book – savouring the matter in its original language, savouring the mere ability to read and apprehend, again.

And those sounds came thundering into my mind – it’s alive. It's alive!

He had meant me!

I did not know until that moment – that moment - as Satan looked round with baleful eyes – that he had meant me. I was it, it that was alive.

Oh, he had called me his child many times, explained his work, even explained how I fit into his scheme of things, but I hadn't until that moment...

Cold sweat poured from my hairless torso and I tried to swallow and I could feel the weigh of my great cold tongue like piece of bland fruit in my mouth and I knocked the wine glass over and I jumped up letting Milton go and I had to tear off that fine new coat, the cloth on my skin smothering. Smothering.

I strode into the Baron’s woods. An observer would have though I was set with a firm purpose, maybe struck by a sudden memory of a vital, neglected duty. But I knew nothing of where I was, what I was doing, why.

Only those words:

“It's alive.”

We went into the woods together - those words and I. Chased each other deep into the woods. It would be a challenge for the philosophers to divine whether it was I who chased the words or the words that chased me. That would be a challenge for the philosophers.

But eventually we threw our lot in together, the words and I, and we holed up in the damp boulder caves near the stream. Crouching in the muck, watching the woods with dread, I listened to the words – as if spoken with my own cold mouth.

It is alive. It is alive. It is alive.

The rest of the story you may know. If not, it is no matter and you ought to count this letter as the last testament of a criminal and madman, another of God’s born sinners, as a last petition of grievance by one more justly punished rebel angel. As the shout before the condemned man is hauled to the gallows. The SHOUT! THE SHOUT!

I grow cold.

Yes, I - even I - grow cold.

And I who need never sleep grow tired.

And there is no time. I who have lived now two lifetimes tell you – there is no time! This low latitude sun creeps along the horizon, as if ashamed to meet me head on, and whether it is beginning or ending the day, I cannot tell.

I can hear the men from here. I hear the groaning of their ship strangled in the pack ice. They have heard me too, playing at being the Unearthly Thing. Calling to them. How they must have trembled in their chilly berths!

All but one of them.

I must be ready for him when he comes.

But now!

Ah, now! Now! Look I see Him! I see Him!

My Master comes across the ice. His face is wet with tears.

My hands need no warmth to do their work. No light, nor desire, nor mind. Let my hands do the work they were made to do. My Mster only need come to me, my hands shall do the rest. He is here. My master is here.

I free my hands

Now I free my hands to do the work for which God made them