6,200 Words

1.

“There’s a marked difference between brain functions, knowledge, and mental potentials,” Martin Hull said to Marilee Frith-DeGeorgio at Mike’s Steaks on 47th Street just east of Grand Central Station. The time was 6:46 p.m. on a clear and bright Tuesday in late May.

This was their first meeting; a blind date inasmuch as they met through the online dating service, People for People, provided by one of the few surviving alternative lifestyle magazines from California’s Bay Area—The Revolution Will Not be Televised.

The questionnaire provided for subscribers to TRWNBT’s People for People allowed for gender identity and preference, intellectual endeavors, personal ambitions, and accomplishments in life. The survey made no allowances for race, age, income bracket, religious orientation, or physical proportions. One could fudge a few of the banned subjects by surreptitiously including them in the essay-like answers for the questions provided.

Marilee, for instance, had typed in that her most profound political ambition was to one day computerize the voting process in America based on the positive concept of what people wanted and not what they did not want or were afraid of. She added (parenthetically) that she had no patience for people who harbored anti-democratic thoughts.

“In my ideal system,” she told Martin that evening, “people would be voting for what they had in common, not what they hated or feared about each other.”

Martin considered it his greatest personal accomplishment that he ran a half-marathon every other week for one year four years before. He did not, could not mention that he was a dark brown man, descendant of a long line of slaves and sharecroppers from the Mississippi Delta. Marilee was surprised that a black man had filled out the People for People form she’d read. But she decided to go through with the date because of the caveat-clause in the PFP e-contract.

PFP was the go-between for first dates and, electronically, queried the participants within a week of the rendezvous. If it was reported that either party did not show up, or that they left before the date actually started, a mark was put on the offender’s file. If any member of PFP got three such marks they were deleted from the service.

The week before Marilee was scheduled to meet a man named Joseph Exeter. Joe was a portly man and Marilee quite small, in comparison. Joe’s breathing was loud and, from time to time, a not very pleasant odor wafted from his side of the table at the downtown sushi bar. When their second drink had not dimmed her olfactory awareness of Exeter Marilee excused herself to go to the restroom and never returned.

So she would have to sit out this date because PFP was the best dating service that she’d encountered since her divorce from Paris DeGeorgio, a latent conservative and an outright thief.

Martin Hull was the opposite of both Marilee’s last date and first husband. He was two inches shorter and maybe five pounds lighter than Marilee who was five-seven at one hundred and thirty-five pounds. She worked out every day for an hour and a half so her few extra pounds looked good in the step-class mirror.

“But I thought you were a plastic surgeon,” she said in response to his pontificating on the contrasting qualities of the human brain.

“That’s my day job,” he said with a smile. His grin, Marilee thought, was both goofy and sincere. “But the neurological sciences are my passion.”

“Why didn’t you become a brain surgeon then?”

“That would be like an abstract artist becoming a house painter.”

“Really?” Marilee said. “I thought that that kind of surgery was the very top of the field.”

“Not really,” Martin said crinkling his nose, exposing the gap between his upper teeth. “Surgeons all specialize. Cut, cut, cut—that’s their whole life. That’s the way they get so proficient. They do the same procedures day in and day out—thousands of them; might as well be working on a production line.”

“At five million dollars a year,” Marilee added.

“Yeah, I guess. But you know I’d need a lot more money than that if I had to do the same thing every day for the rest of my life.”

“Except for sex, food, and good music,” Marilee said. Martin’s size and goofy demeanor gave her the courage to say what was on her mind.

He smiled, half-nodded, and looked down, saying, “I meant one’s working life.”

Marilee felt a twitch in her chest and wondered what kind of sex partner a small shy man like this might be.

“So you said that you’re divorced,” Martin said.

“Paris DeGeorgio,” she replied, nodding out every other syllable.

“Sounds like a good name for a clothes designer.”

“That wasn’t his birth name. He was born Anastazy Kozubal.”

“Polish, huh?”

“You knew that? Everyone else ends up asking me where the name comes from. The first guess is almost always Russia.”

“That’s because of Anastazy,” Martin said. “Makes it sound like a tsarina. I like to study those parts of language that make humanity a culture as well as a species. The brain, you know.”

“I had a business selling Mexican wheat to various South and Central American nations,” Marilee said.

“Mexican wheat?”

“There are some large farms in the southern highlands. I organized them over the internet and made a two percent profit. It was going pretty good until one day I found out that Paris was skimming my profits and donating to this group called the New Redeemers…”

“California arch-conservatives, right?” Martin asked.

“Only,” Marilee continued, “he had made a kickback deal with the treasurer and was salting half the money away in a Jamaican bank.”

“Wow.”

“Are you ready to order?” a tall waiter in a bright green three-piece suit asked.

Martin gestured for Marilee to go first. That was the moment she decided to take him home.

 

2.

“That was amazing,” she said in her own bed lying next to Martin Hull; a man she had met only six hours before.

“Yeah,” Martin said unable to suppress his toothful grin.

“I never had a man pay such close attention to my body.”

“Well, you know,” Martin said shyly, “when you’re a little guy with no hidden talents you have to learn to work harder.”

“I’m still trying to catch my breath.”

“Want me to get you some water?” he asked.

“Is that the doctor talking?”

“You know, I liked your idea about online voting,” he said. “The negative side of democracy is that people usually vote for either their pocketbooks or against what they’re afraid of.”

“I’m sorry I said that stuff about brain surgeons,” she said then, feeling that she should be nice to the plain little man with the magic kisses. “I’m sure plastic surgeons do good work too.”

“I do a lot of community service stuff,” he agreed. “You know … reconstructive work for those that can’t afford it.”

“Like harelips?”

“Or old scars … even regrettable tattoos,” he said. “It would be cool if you could vote at home every night. Just turn your smart TV to the political choices channel and make your mark.”

“Why do you keep doing that?”

“What?”

“Every time I ask about you, you say one thing and then turn the subject back to me. Is that one of the ways you try harder?”

“I guess it is. I mean I know that people like talking about themselves and there’s not much I have to say.”

“You seem interested in the brain.”

“Yeah, but whenever I start talking about it people always point out that I’m a plastic surgeon.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Marilee said.

“It’s okay. You’re right. I should be more, um, revealing.”

“You said you were married once?”

“To Sonora Simonson,” he said sitting up with the words.

“That’s an odd name.”

“Yeah. Her mother named her but never said why she chose it. They’d never been to Mexico and no one in the entire family spoke Spanish. I asked them all one Christmas.”

“Why did you two split?”

“I was conferring with an intestinal tract expert, Philip Landries. He’d come to our apartment quite often. Sonora made dinner for us whenever he stayed late. One day I came home and found a note from Sonora saying that she was out with a girlfriend at a movie. Philip was supposed to drop by but he didn’t. Sonora didn’t come home and Philip was gone for good. I got a letter from them nineteen months later. He’d gotten a job in Amsterdam and asked her to go with him.”

“And they left just like that?” Marilee asked. “Didn’t even say anything?”

“Not to anyone. The police investigated me for over a year. They were sure that Phil and Sonny were having an affair and that I killed them. There was credit card evidence of them staying in a midtown hotel.”

“Oh my God. Did they arrest you?”

“Not formally but I was called down to the local station six times. Once they questioned me for over eight hours.”

“Did you get a lawyer?”

“No. I knew I hadn’t killed them and so I just continued with my work.”

“You don’t sound like you were very broken up over their betrayal.”

“There was a kind of a, of an unconscious tradeoff,” Martin said, frowning and allowing his head to tilt to the side.

“A tradeoff?”

“Phil was in research,” the plastic surgeon explained. “The intestines of all living beings are rife with various kinds of parasites. Many of these creatures, these parasites are symbiotic. They live in harmony with the systems they inhabit. You gotta love that Darwin.”

“What does that have to do with your wife running off with your friend?” Marilee asked.

“Phil wasn’t really my friend. I paid him to consult with me about the more exotic intestinal parasites. That’s where I learned about the hydra-monotubular-tridacteri.”

“The what?”

Martin repeated the name and said, “It’s a microscopic parasite that can be bred and altered in a fairly simple controlled environment. You can suppress its reproductive cycles and implant it with differing forms of DNA that it, in turn, blends into the host system. Those traits make it one of the greatest possible biological and genetic delivery systems.”

“And the man that gave this to you was fucking your wife.”

“Painful,” Martin admitted, “but in the grand scheme of things a minor indiscretion.”

“Minor? A woman does that to you and you aren’t devastated?”

“No, no,” Martin said though he wasn’t really denying her implied accusation. “I mean, I felt bad but three days before they went off Phil brought me a rare specimen that I dubbed hydra-monotubular-tridacteri-1.”

Unable to think of a response or even a question, Marilee sat up too.

“It’s what they call a microsite, almost exactly the same as the original HMT but mutated with a slightly different DNA count,” Martin Hull continued. “I realized that by cross-breeding the species you could, theoretically, create an HMT hinny.”

“A what?”

“It’s like a mule. A creature that exists but cannot reproduce, making it a perfect biological delivery system because after it does its job, it dies.”

There was now a kind of ecstasy in Martin’s smile. Marilee felt moved by a passion so deep, even if she didn’t understand the ramifications. Years later, after Martin had been sentenced to one hundred and seventeen years in prison, she was still aroused by the memory of his fervor.

She reached out with both hands and pinched his nipples—hard.

Martin bent sideways and tipped over, pretzel-like, in the bed.

“You like that don’t you, Mr. Mad Scientist?” Marilee asked on a heavy breath.

Martin tried to say yes but couldn’t manage the word.

Marilee kissed and nipped, rubbed and tickled her new friend and so their talk about lost wives and barren parasites came to an end.

 

3.

Through the summer months Marilee and Martin got together every couple of weeks or so. Martin discontinued his subscription to the dating service; Marilee did not. Twice every other week Marilee went on PFP provided dates; once, every week between, she saw Martin and went on one PFP date. She didn’t feel guilty because Martin was preoccupied with his research and charitable and profit-making surgeries. He was often out of town in Detroit, Tijuana, and Oakland doing facial reconstructions, scar and tattoo removals, and more delicate operations. He never asked what Marilee did when they weren’t together; neither did he talk about love, long term commitment, or children.

Marilee was grateful for Martin’s detachment. She didn’t want to marry him, live with him, or get any deeper into his life. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable and a surprisingly skillful lover. And when they were together he listened to her every word and remembered everything.

But her other lovers were better looking, better heeled, and, more normal.

By August she was thinking that it was time for the relationship with Martin to end. She said to herself that it was because of the mosquito bites she’d gotten whenever he stayed over. Martin liked fresh air and was always opening some window. That very morning she decided to send Martin a text saying that she thought they should end it.

Maybe an hour after her decision Odell Wade came to visit her at Renquist, Bartleby, and Rowe.

§

“Miss Frith-DeGeorgio,” the receptionist, Viola Wright, said over the intercom.

Marilee demanded to be called by her full last name.

“Yes, Viola?

“A Detective Wade of the NYPD is here to see you.”

Marilee gasped involuntarily and felt a sudden chill.

“What does he want?”

“He says he needs to ask you some questions about a friend of yours.”

“Tell him that I’ll be right down.”

She spent the next three minutes trying to think if there was any reason the police would be after her. She had a small stash of marijuana in her medicine cabinet at home and she’d declared herself as a private business on her tax forms using her yearly sale of poorly constructed pottery at a street fair as the proof. When her mother died she discovered a secret bank account of twenty-six thousand dollars that she cashed without telling her siblings … maybe that was it. Maybe the NYPD was going to arrest her for bank fraud.

She thought about running. RBR was on the thirty-seventh floor of the midtown office building but there was an emergency stairway. Who could she turn to? Certainly not her brother Will or sister Angelique—one of them might have turned her in. Her friends wouldn’t shield her from arrest.

Finally she realized that Martin Hull was the only person she knew who might help. He liked her and would probably drive her to another state if she asked.

The idea that Martin was the only person she knew to turn to was sobering. He was the closest person to her and she was already planning to break off that relationship. What did that mean?

This dose of inexplicable reality somehow steeled Marilee. She decided to go to reception and face the music.

§

He was sitting on one of the three rose-colored sofas across from Viola’s desk in the kidney shaped room with glass walls that were tinted blue.

“Detective Wade?”

“Miss Frith-DeGeorgio?”

The policeman stood up. Marilee’s first impression was that he was devastatingly handsome. Tall and tan with sandy hair and auburn eyes; his straw-colored suit hung very well on his lean, and probably powerful, frame. His smile seemed genuine.

“How can I help you?” she asked.

The policeman glanced over at the dark-skinned wary-eyed receptionist and said, “Is there someplace where we can talk privately?”

§

Marilee’s office looked out over Central Park. It was a balmy August day and they could see all the way to Yonkers.

“What do you do here?” Wade asked sitting next to her in one of the two chairs designated for clients and visitors. Marilee was appreciating his lips that formed into the shape of a partly flattened Valentine’s heart.

She sat in the other chrome and orange padded chair. She squirmed a bit, thinking that there was something wrong with the cushion. It was then she realized that her dress was tight.

“Social media for the advertising arm of the service,” she answered, thinking, am I getting fat?

“Like Twitter and Facebook?”

“And MyTime, Get It, Lost Treasure, and about a hundred more sites.”

“You like the work?”

“Not really. I used to run my own business but now I’m just paying the rent.”

“I don’t want to take up too much of your time, Ms. Frith-DeGeorgio-”

“You can call me Marilee.”

“Marilee. Do you know a Dr. Martin David Hull?”

“Yes.”

“I’m investigating him, the NYPD is.”

“About his wife?”

“He told you?”

“He said that his wife and some doctor guy ran away and the police were looking into it. But they showed up in Europe somewhere and the case was closed.”

Detective Wade sighed and, with his eyebrows alone, denied Martin’s claim.

“He brought us a letter,” the detective said. “A letter he claimed came in an envelope postmarked from Amsterdam. But he didn’t have the envelope and there was no fingerprint, other than his, nor were there any DNA markers to say that the letter actually came from his wife.”

“Didn’t she write the letter?” Marilee asked. “Couldn’t you check the handwriting?”

“The body of the letter was printed by computer and the signature was close but different enough to cause concern.”

“And did you look in Amsterdam?”

“We found an address that a Sonora Simonson and Philip Landries had once possibly stayed in. But it was a transient area and there was no one who could identify their photographs. We have no evidence that they ever left the country.”

“So you think that Martin murdered them?”

“We don’t know what happened. Has he said anything to you?”

“Only what I already told you,” Marilee said. “Why are you only asking now? I mean, I’ve been seeing Marty for two months. He thinks that the investigation is over.”

“My father had a stroke in Denver,” Odell Wade said. “I went to take care of him until he died. Another detective had the case but he didn’t do much.”

“I’m sorry, Detective Wade, but I don’t know anything.”

“My name’s Odell.”

The policeman gave her a slightly pained look and said, “Are you going to see Dr. Hull again?”

“Is it safe?”

“I really don’t know. But if you do talk to him or he calls you, I’d appreciate it if you would contact me.”

 

4.

“Marty,” Marilee Frith-DeGeorgio said to her lover at 3:03 in the morning, “are you asleep?”

“I never sleep.”

“Never?”

“Now and then I close my eyes and stop thinking for ten minutes or so but life is very short and we have a duty to future generations to make this a better world. So I stay awake as much as possible trying to finish my work before the dictum of mortality claims my soul.”

Before, when Marty made pronouncements like this, Marilee found them fetching; an awkward little man thinking too much of himself. But this time she got nervous. He might be a murderer, that’s what the handsome homicide detective, Odell Wade had said.

After her meeting with the detective Marilee cancelled her subscription to PFP and began seeing Martin almost every day. Her fear enhanced their sex life and now she listened to him as closely as she used to with her father when she was a little girl. The intensity with which she paid attention to the plastic surgeon brought about a feeling akin to love.

“What did you want?” Martin asked.

“Do you have a laboratory where you do your neuronal studies?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Can I visit it?”

“I’d love that.”

“You would?”

“Yes.” Martin sat up in half lotus looking down on his naked lover. “A couple of weeks ago I thought that you were going to drop me. I mean I’m not much to look at and brain surgeons make a lot more money.”

“Can you tell me something?” Marilee asked.

“What?”

“Would you have killed Sonora if you knew that she was having an affair with the gut doctor?”

“Philip,” Martin said, obviously pondering the question. “No. Given time I would have fixed her.”

“You mean hurt her in some other way?”

“Not at all. Sonora is an unhappy woman. When I met her she was fat and shy. When we got together I paid for a personal trainer and she turned her physical life around. She lost weight and looked great. But she was still unhappy. She will always be dissatisfied.”

“How could you fix something like that?”

“Long term unhappiness is mostly a chemical and a glandular imbalance. I mean you might be unhappy on any particular day because you lost a job or a favorite pet ran away but continual sadness is something else. Most of us cannot live up to our potentials because there’s a biochemical war going on in our bodies; that and the fact that our knowledge of the world in which we live is usually subpar.”

“What’s the connection between sadness and knowledge?” Marilee asked. She enjoyed these talks with Martin even though she was spying on him, trying to discover what had happened to his wife and her lover.

§

“Why would you put yourself in danger like that?” Angelique, her sister, asked. Marilee had called to tell her sister to get in touch with Detective Wade if she went missing.

“I’m not really sure,” Marilee replied. “When we were just together I liked him but it wasn’t serious. I wanted to leave. But now I talk to that detective all the time and the fear I feel gets me excited … in the bed.”

“That’s perverse.”

“And,” Marilee said reaching for some knowledge she’d not yet articulated, “and for some reason his talk is making more and more sense. I don’t know … sometimes when we’re talking about his work I feel like we’re colleagues.

“The only problem is that I have less time to exercise and I’m putting on weight.”

§

“Knowledge is a form of culture,” Martin said that early morning, answering his informant/lover’s question. “Not what we know but how we perceive the forms of knowledge brings us closer together. And belonging almost always trumps sadness. Why, I don’t think I’ve had one sad moment since I met you.”

“But that’s love,” she said, feeling ashamed of using the word. “Knowledge comes from education.”

“That was once the case, certainly, but less so, and soon – no more.”

“But the only way you can learn is by applying your mind to that task,” Marilee said with conviction.

“But there are two types of learning,” Martin said, showing his buck teeth. “One is just the simple concatenation of facts, data. But there is a part of the brain that contains geometric forms that are designed to prepare the mind to apply the endless list of facts. One day we will be able to stimulate these forms intravenously.”

“What are you talking about?”

Martin stood up and walked off his low platform bed.

“You’ll see when you come to my lab,” he said. “I’m going down there now to get ready for your visit.”

“It’s three in the morning.”

“I’ll take a cab. I’ll leave the address on the kitchen table. Come by around eleven. I’m sure you’ll be amazed.”

§

“Hello?” a woman’s voice said over the phone at 4:09.

Marilee had waited as long as she could but finally she just had to call.

“May I speak to Detective Wade?” Marilee asked.

“Who is this?”

“Marilee Frith-DeGeorgio.”

“And why are you calling my husband in the middle of the night?”

Marilee wanted to say that it was morning but didn’t. She suddenly imagined the entire globe of Earth dancing through the plane of sunlight that was intangible but still a physical thing joining in that dance.

“I’m, what do you call it? I’m an informant and he told me to call when I had information.”

The receiver banged down and Marilee waited. A few minutes later he answered.

“Ms. Frith-DeGeorgio?” Odell Wade said over the line.

“I’ve searched his house when he was out,” she said. “I’ve checked every file in all of his computers and his smart phone. I’ve been through his closets, pockets, drawers, and behind and under each piece of furniture. There’s not one thing about his wife or partner that’s incriminating.

“I asked him point blank if he would have killed her if he knew about her infidelity and he basically said that he felt sorry for her.”

“Is there some reason you need to tell me all this at four in the morning?” Detective Wade asked.

“I’m going to his laboratory today.”

“Oh.” Wade hadn’t even known about the lab until Marilee unearthed that knowledge. “That is important.”

“What should I be looking for?” Marilee asked.

 

5.

The lab was in the basement underneath a six-story apartment building near 10th Street and Avenue C in the East Village. The door was solid oak and fifteen steep steps down from the street. There was no knob or handle, only a big yellow button to the left of where the knob should have been.

Marilee pressed this button and waited.

A minute later the door swung inward and there, standing before her, was a god.

He was tall, six-six at least, and darker skinned even than Martin. He wore a tan T-shirt, black trousers, and no shoes or socks. His demeanor exuded something like power or confidence, knowledge and intense joy. His eyes were light gray like some cats and his hands seemed as if they were designed to perform miracles.

“Ms. Frith-DeGeorgio?” the earthbound deity asked.

For the moment Marilee was speechless.

“Are you all right?” the godling wondered.

“What are … I mean who are you?”

“Lythe Prime.”

“That’s your name?”

“And designation,” he said. “I was born LeRoy Moss but that was a very long time ago.”

He didn’t look a day over twenty-five.

“Come on in, Ms. Frith-DeGeorgio. Velchanos is waiting.”

“Who?”

“He still goes by Martin Hull out there but down here he is Velchanos.”

The man calling himself Lythe Prime turned then leading Marilee into a large empty room with high ceilings crisscrossed with ancient wood beams overhead and a concrete floor underfoot.

“This isn’t a laboratory,” Marilee said feeling a pang of fear.

“No,” the divine youth replied.

He pressed a place on the white plasterboard wall opposite the entrance and a panel slid aside revealing a cavernous stairwell.

While Lythe Prime descended Marilee took a moment to wonder if this could possibly be where Martin murdered his wife.

“Coming, Ms. Frith-DeGeorgio?”

The beautiful voice seemed to be calling to some hitherto unknown part of her, her soul.

§

The chamber below the first basement was immense; at least eighty feet wide and half that in depth with twenty-five-foot-high ceilings. There were eleven long metal tables most of which held hundreds of multicolored beakers and vases that reminded Marilee of some fantasy palace. One wall held at least six dozen computers on various shelves and ledges. And, at the far end of the room, there was a huge metal door that looked like the portal to a big bank’s vault.

“Velchanos,” Lythe Prime hailed.

That’s when Marilee saw her lover/prey, in a classic white smock, sitting behind an old-fashioned walnut desk in a corner beside the vault.

He stood and said, “Hi, Marilee. I’m so glad you could make it. Come in. Come in.”

She realized that she hadn’t taken the last step from the stairs into the subbasement.

Lythe touched her arm. This sent a jolt through her like static electricity, only it was a pleasurable sensation. Almost involuntarily she took in a deep breath and walked toward the man whose chosen name was a precursor to the Greek god Vulcan.

How did I know that? She wondered.

“Come sit,” Martin said giving her that goofy grin. “You met LeRoy.”

“Lythe,” she corrected.

“What’s in a name?” Martin quoted. “Sit.”

Marilee did as he asked, looking around the room. There was a scent in the air, something wonderful and fresh.

“I’m sure you want to know everything,” Martin said.

“I just wanted to visit.”

“I seriously doubt that,” Martin replied in a tone that was certain, almost hard.

“What do you mean?”

“Odell Wade convinced his superiors to reopen his investigation of me. I think it was when he realized that I had a new girlfriend.”

For some reason, Marilee was not surprised at Martin’s knowledge.

“He believes that you really did murder your wife and the doctor,” she said.

“No doubt,” Martin/Velcahnos agreed. “Modern men have externalized their thought processes and use phrases and old wives’ tales to divine guilt.”

“How did you know about Odell?” Marilee asked, twisting uncomfortably in her chair. Even her old, fat, dress was beginning to feel tight.

“I have a friend that works as a male receptionist in his precinct.”

“That’s convenient.”

“Not at all. Lon Richmond was bedbound, suffering from a slowly progressive nerve disorder. His mother died and no hospital would take him. He was the cousin of one of my reconstructive surgery patients and so I visited Lon and gave him five injections. After two months he was out of bed and applying for the job.”

“A plastic surgeon cured an incurable nerve disease?” Marilee asked. Behind these words she was trying to remember the significance of five injections.

“As I told you, plastic surgery is just my day-job.”

“You sent him in there as a spy?”

“Most definitely.”

Not for the first time Marilee wondered if Martin was insane. She glanced behind her chair and saw Lythe Prime standing there.

“What was in those injections?” she asked Martin.

He smiled and nodded.

“What are you grinning about?”

“You,” he said. “I’ve just told you that I’m spying on the NYPD and they have assured you that I’m a murderer. Here you are in a closed space with me and a man who looks as powerful as a professional athlete. All of that and you ask the only important question.”

“So are you going to answer me?”

“The human body recognizes categories of cells. I have discovered that if I place a small amount of a certain cell type in the HMT-1 Hinny that that parasite will be ferried to the part of the body that resonates with the passenger cell type.”

“You can target organs,” Marilee heard herself say.

“The brain,” Martin said, “the heart, spinal cord, liver, and any gland I choose.”

“And what do you use these parasites for?”

“Open the vault, LeRoy,” Martin replied.

He stood and ushered Marilee toward the stainless steel door.

The man once called LeRoy Moss entered a combination on a number pad and then turned the great lever that looked something like the chromium wheel of an ancient sailing ship.

When the door swung open a gust of very cold air flowed out. Just when Marilee started to shiver the gray-eyed god draped a full-length fur coat over her shoulders. He handed a like garment to Martin.

The three then entered the vault.

“Don’t you wear something?” Marilee asked Lythe.

“I don’t get cold too easy,” he said with a smile.

Along the left side of the vault was a twelve-foot-high glass-like cabinet with hundreds of shallow drawers.

“For seven years I did volunteer work for a medical facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was an inter-university research lab that did autopsies on people with exceptional qualities; scientists, savants, athletes, and those with odd bodily quirks—”

“Like people that are impervious to cold,” Marilee suddenly realized.

“Just so,” Martin said. “When I became a trustee of the lab I began harvesting cells from the best, the brightest, and the strangest specimens that humanity had to offer.

“I brought those harvests here and began to create cocktails for the next step in human evolution.”

“You experimented on poor people who came to you as a plastic surgeon,” Marilee accused.

“I started with dogs. Once I was able to transplant memories and thought processes; once I was able to successfully alter breeds, sizes, and senses—only then did I begin my work on humans.”

“But there must have been many failures,” Marilee challenged.

“Yes,” Martin Hull agreed. “And some of them suffered, some died. But as a rule they were people suffering ailments like Lon Richmond. I always told those first guinea pigs what the potentials were—and what the danger.”

“You call them guinea pigs?”

“What else can I say? I used them as test subjects and a few score of them died.”

“Is that what happened to your wife?”

“She left before my tests began. I would have injected her in her sleep but she ran off looking for happiness in Europe.”

“My mosquito bites,” Marilee said.

“You’re at least an inch and a half taller,” Martin said. “And that dress looks very tight on you.”

Before she knew what she was doing Marilee slapped Martin, hitting him with such force that he fell to the floor of the vault. Then she reached down and lifted him with strength she’d never had before.

That’s when LeRoy/Lythe Moss/Prime grabbed her and pulled her out of the big repository of cadaver cells.

 

6.

They met at a coffee shop on Prince Street in Greenwich Village. Marilee had left a simple message on Detective Wade’s home phone—I have something—and gave the address of the coffee shop.

“He has the cellular remains of dozens, maybe hundreds of corpses in his basement,” she said. “And, and, and he’s experimented on people who have died from his experiments.”

“What kind of experiments?” Wade asked.

“He injects them with parasites.”

“Oh my God.”

“He’s a monster.”

“Did he do anything to you?”

“No,” Marilee said. She was afraid to confess about her expanding body, about her once hazel eyes that were getting lighter each day.

“Will you sign an affidavit about what you saw in his basement?”

“Yes. Yes, I will.”

§

The day that Dr. Martin David Hull was brought to trial Marilee DeGeorgio crossed the Canadian border headed for Montreal. She was now six foot two with pearl gray eyes and skin the color of alabaster. When she moved into the small studio apartment in South Montreal she opened a document on her PFP web-address. There were seven emails in her virtual mailbox. Six of these were from lovers that wanted to see her again; one was from lytheprime@everchanging.uk.

 

Dear Valhalla,

Velchanos has directed me to inform you that he bears you no ill will; that he understands why you had to betray him. He also wanted me to answer one question you asked and two you didn’t.

About the injections: 1) is a collection of data-cell clusters culled from some of the most brilliant minds in the world, 2) are similar clusters that contain the equations to best manipulate this information, 3) is a growth formula that allows the body to reach what he calls our god-potential, 4) is a small cutting from a Miss Ota Wangazu who is the only known adult that produced viable stem cells, and 5) are a few liver cells from different donors who never experienced a sick day in their lives.

Your first unasked question is—Why did he decide to become so involved with you? Velchanos says that he needed passion in his life; that he was guilty of playing God and needed the chance for forgiveness. On his first date with you he was only looking for temporary companionship but after a month he saw in you his salvation. He hoped that by exposing you to his treatments and telling you what he’d done that you might, after considering everything, send him a card telling him your verdict.

And finally, a question you didn’t ask and maybe never even thought of was—why hadn’t Martin Hull grown and developed our gray eyes? He knew that he would be arrested and that there would be a worldwide witch hunt for his patients. He wanted no markers for treatments to be lifted from his body.

 

Yours, LeRoy/Lythe Moss/Prime

 

p.s.

 

There are 12,306 surviving patients that received Velchanos’s treatments. They have all gone into hiding, they’re to keep away from the official investigation that must come and to continue the Revelation—our name for the great change that this process will ultimately cause. You should stay in hiding. Your betrayal will not protect you from detainment, interrogation, and ultimately vivisection.

I have destroyed the lab. Only the living bodies of our tribe can be used against us.

 

Rereading the letter Marilee realized that it had been written, almost wholly, in Latin. She migrated to Australia, kept her ex-husband’s last name, and adopted Valhalla as given forename. She moved to the outskirts of Melbourne and there studied her mind and her body looking for the deliverance of the human species.

Photo by Marcia Wilson

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than forty critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times magazine and the Nation, among other publications. In 2013 he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, and he is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Edgar Grand Master Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

2 Comments

  1. Twisted, surprising, awesomeness

  2. Every chapter of this short story made my goosebumps colder than last… Well done.

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