Sunday, June 22, 2014


I am under the employ of a man who, in recent weeks, I have become increasingly suspectful may be taken by devils. His name is Trevor Queen.

To be sure, Mr. Queen has always been -- for as long as I've known him, at least, which my ledger informs me is six months and a day -- the sort of man whose eccentricities repel some and invite others. I suppose I fall into the latter category. I lead a dull life, and for as long as I can recall, I have been attracted to human beings who, to society in general, are not considered particularly of the species homo sapien.

And so it was that when my aunt Elma informed me that her husband's acquaintance's friend, reportedly a weird fellow who kept mantices for pets and claimed to have been born with a mustache and fingernails as long as pen nibs, was looking for a clerk, I enthusiastically applied for the position.

I was (and still am) twenty-six years old. I had been living at home with my sickly mother and my cousin, Leona, after failing my surgical exam at the University of Edinburgh Medical school. I had never had a countenance for the gruesome, but my father, a renowned surgeon (as was his father before him), who was killed when the horse he was riding while playing polo got too excited by the match and bucked him, the fall breaking his neck, made my mother promise, as his dying wish, that I continue the family legacy.

So I did. Or at least I tried to. I passed all of my examinations, time after time. The horror of seeing cadavers every day, looking at the cold, dead skin of people who were sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, receded after a few years, and I became an engine. A perfectly molded engine to repair the weak, transform the afflicted, resurrect the dying.

But my hands could never stay still. All of the humanity, or loss thereof, took its toll on me. My mind was numbed to the sight of dead bodies, but my physical being could not be as callous. It bucked at me.

I was assigned to perform an autopsy on a child, a girl, three years old. Her skull was crushed. Her torso was covered in tar. I thought she must have been a poor child run over by a streetcar, and I told the professor as much. He asked me to open her up and see if my assumption could be confirmed.

I held that scalpel over that ruined child's belly, my hand trembling, prepared to make my incision. Then I dropped the knife. It clinked on the cold stone floor and stayed there, motionless, like a dead fish washed ashore.

"Mr. Stoakes," my professor said, "you will never be a surgeon. You have neither the spleen nor the heart."

"I know," I said as I collected myself and walked out of the theater. "Thank you."


It was a Wednesday. I was met at the train station by Gregory, Mr. Queen's assistant. His severe arched eyebrows and bowler hat, which lent his visage a look particular to shadows falling from trees at dusk, belied his genial nature. When he spoke, my ears perked up immediately.

"Oh, Mr. Stoakes, so glad to see you. Here, let me take your bags. There is a cab waiting, don't worry. I trust you haven't waited long, have you? No? Good. Well, then, shall we be off? Mr. Queen is eager to see you, and I feel a tad guilty at having had the pleasure first. Let's keep that a secret between you and me, haha, promise? The cab has cushions, so you needn't worry about your piles on these bumpy streets. Are you hungry? No? I thought you might be, so I prepared something, veal and cheese. The cheese Roquefort, the veal I don't know. But if your appetite isn't present, more for me then, hee."

"I will eat if I can," I said. "Right now, I would rather sleep."

"Indeed, indeed! I can already tell that you and Sir Trevor are going to get along terrifically."

"Terrifically," I said, and then I fell asleep.


July 9, 1878: Among his office possessions, Trevor Queen keeps an ivory paperweight on his desk of a dead greyhound with a rictus smile, its inscription reading, in beautiful calligraphy, forever.

I cannot wait to meet the man. But first I must sleep.

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