Devil in the dollhouse, p.1
Devil in the Dollhouse,
About the Author
Richard Kadrey is a novelist, freelance writer, and photographer based in San Francisco. Kadrey's first novel, Metrophage, was published in hardcover in 1988 by Victor Gollancz Ltd., and went on to various other American and foreign printings in paperback.
Mac Tonnies' Cyberpunk/Postmodern Book Reviews calls Metrophage "one of the quintessential 1980s cyberpunk novels," going on to describe "a gritty acid-trip through an ultraviolent L.A. where nothing is what it seems… . Alongside novels such as [William Gibson's] Neuromancer and Lewis Shiner's debut novel Frontera, Metrophage helped establish the cyberpunk aesthetic: relentless, paranoid and playfully cynical."
Kadrey's second novel, Kamikaze L'Amour, is described by the same source as "mesmerizing… a surreal (and distinctly Ballardian) account of synesthesia and mutant desire set in the jungle-choked ruins of L.A."
Kadrey's short story Carbon Copy: Meet the First Human Clone was filmed as After Amy.
The publisher website, Amazon booksellers, and other sources list a July 15, 2007 publication date for Kadrey's next book, Butcher Bird: A Novel Of The Dominion (Night Shade Books). Other works include collaborative graphic novels and over 50 published short stories. His non-fiction books as a writer and/or editor include The Catalog of Tomorrow (Que/TechTV Publishing, 2002), From Myst to Riven (Hyperion, 1997), The Covert Culture Sourcebook and its sequel (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1993 and 1994); Kadrey also hosted a live interview show on Hotwired in the 1990s called Covert Culture. He was an editor at print magazines Shift and Future Sex, and at online magazines Signum and Stim. He has published articles about art, culture and technology in publications including Wired, Omni, Mondo 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, Ear, Artforum, ArtByte, Bookforum, World Art, Whole Earth Review, Reflex, Science Fiction Eye, and Interzone.
Table of Contents
A Cautionary Tale
Amnesia: Mist Memoir
Confessions of a Mnemonist
Food Chain Blues
Hall of the Phoenix Machines
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Le Jardin des Os
Master of the Crossroads
My Exquisite Corpse
Opener of the Ways
Singing The Dead to Sleep
Still Life with Apocalypse
Surfing the Khumbu
The Arcades of Allah
The Birth of Athena
The Diseases of Purgatory, Pt. 6
The Enigma Event
The Götterdämmerung Show
The Index of Refraction
The Mad Hatter
The Silk Road
The Tears of the Moon
What Goes Around
A Cautionary Tale
They were taking down Black Boars along Hell's western edge. Black Boar was what they liked to call the horned demons at the hunting lodge. That or Long Pig. No matter how many times they heard it, it always made them laugh. There was a lot of drinking at the lodge in those days.
It was old Tom Atell's turn to perform the annual rites of Assumption. Celibate, alcohol-free, and a dedicated scholar for a year, Tom seemed positively eager to bleed himself and get to the killing. He mixed his blood with swamp herbs within a mandala, and Hell opened up. The hunters grabbed their guns, food, and coolers full of beer and headed out.
Two days later, the group had split into three separate hunting parties, meeting back at camp each night to tell war stories and clean the gristle from their trophy horns.
Pete Winnetka told the rest how his group hadn't seen a single demon that day, but had found some ruins over a ridge to the north. He and his buddies had approached carefully, wary of traps, but none of their charms had vibrated to indicate danger. They didn't venture far inside, but they didn't have to. Pete and his boys showed the others pocketfuls of what appeared to be diamonds, each marked with a character in what Tom Atell verified was a kind of angelic script.
They set out for the ruins the next morning, leaving their supplies and stacks of cleaned horns at camp. It was hard going. The switchbacks up the ridge were hell on Benny Gershon's trick knee, and, when Norm O'Farelley got off a potshot at a passing demon, he almost took a header into the clouds below.
The ruins were less impressive than the men had hoped. Most were looking forward to some crumbling Camelot, but what they found looked more like a branch bank at a burned-out mini-mall. Still, the lure of heavenly diamonds led them inside. When they'd filled their pockets and knapsacks with everything on the ground, they got out their Mag-Lights and descended the rotting wooden stairs Tom Atell found in the back of the place.
There was fetid standing water at the bottom. Rows upon rows of metal storage bins, like safety deposit boxes, stretched in all directions into the gloom. In the distance, one whole row was twisted where the floor had collapsed. Benny Gershon hobbled over to the nearest bin and banged it open with the butt of his rifle. Light flooded out. Covering his eyes with his hand, he cracked open another. Again, there was a burst of light. Something fell into the water. The hunting party crowded around to see what had fallen. It was one of the diamonds. "They're stars," said Tom Atell, remembering something in one of the books he'd been studying all year. "These are new ones. The ones we found outside must be old, burned-out ones." The others mumbled in agreement.
Pete Winnetka called from the other end of the place, and the men ran to the sound of his voice. There was a big vault door, half-open, a darkened room beyond. Tom Atell was the first to squeeze in. The others came in behind. In the center of the room was nothing. A big dark ball of it, like a miniature black hole. It absorbed light and seemed to suck all the sound from the room. The men could barely hear each other.
"What the hell is it?" asked Norm O'Farelley, and reached the barrel of his gun toward it. Something moved inside the bubble, enormous and reptilian.
Tom Atell was already backing toward the door. "Leave it, boys. I don't like the smell of this place," he said, but no one could hear him. When O'Farelley's gun touched the edge of the nothingness, it sucked him in. He crumbled like wadded paper, all splintered bone and jetting blood, but the grip of the nothingness was absolute and it didn't leave an atom of Norm behind. Then one-by-one, it laid into the rest of the hunting party.
Tom Atell was out of the vault and running. He didn't look back. He knew his buddies were all dead. It was too bad he had to let them die, but when dumbass Norm woke up whatever the hell lived in the vault, Tom knew this was his only chance to get away. And he almost made it. He was halfway up the rickety stairs when the thing grabbed his leg and began pulling him inside. From this new vantage point—eyeball to gullet—Tom could see its great crocodile head and maw. Sliding past its teeth, he even remembered its name. Ammut. The one Egyptians called the Eater of Souls. Heading for its stomach, Tom wished he'd studied better, but the whole celibacy thing had been too much of a strain. It wasn’t fair, though. He'd only lost control tho
To this day, demon children play in the ruins of the old haunted vault. The brave ones will even venture down a few steps on the wobbly wooden stairs. When they misbehave or won't finish their dinner, demon parents tell their children that they'd better be good or the mortal hunters will creep from the vaults and into their rooms at night to chop off their horns.
Amnesia: Mist Memoir
Sandburg said that fog comes on little cat feet. He couldn't have been more wrong. Fog lumbers in like a hung-over logger at the tail-end of a four-day drunk. Fog is the embodiment of forgetfulness. It is always looking for something it lost, though it can't recall the nature or shape of the thing or whether it really existed or not. Fog slips. It falls over hills and rolls down sidewalks, shaking trees and misting the windows of parked cars. Fog is the tears of loss, the fever sweat of memory.
It wasn't always this way. Fog was once a black giant, as solid, strong and dense as granite. In its arrogance, Fog decided that it was more important to the Earth than the Sun and tried to block out its rays. The Sun blazed hotter until Fog's skin turned to a grayish white ash. Knowing that Fog was addled from the heat, the Sun asked Fog, "What is your name, child?" Fog couldn't remember. It cursed at the Sun, though it was unsure why, and went to look for its name. In time, Fog forgot even that much and simply looked for this lost thing for the sake of looking. The more Fog forgot, the less substantial it became, until it lost its body altogether and almost vanished completely, existing only as a tenuous vapor.
In Romania and the Scottish highlands, they nail pleasing names to trees and the roofs of houses, hoping to placate Fog, so that it will freeze them less. In Denmark, Vikings left the names of their enemies in the dense forests for Fog to find, hoping it would freeze their enemies' hearts. Today, we turn up the heat and drive Fog away. But it lives in our dreams and the edges of our workdays, in those stray moments when we look up, not sure where we are, not sure how we ended up in this place, living this life. Fog is what we look like without something to keep us solid. Love, work, faith, desire. Fog is the god of Lost Souls, dead or alive.
The demon was in Ted's kitchen, gnawing on the cat.
"I wish you wouldn't do that," Ted told the beast.
"You didn't seem to like the animal, and I was hungry. I didn't think you'd mind."
"I do mind. And, no, I didn't like the cat. He belonged to my ex. But that doesn't mean I want him chewed up by some smelly hell-spawn."
"So-orry," said the demon, tossing the half-chewed carcass into the sink.
"Explain this whole thing to me again?"
"Sure, Ted. You're cursed. Your whole family is cursed. I don't want to go into the dull details, but I'm your demon now. Boo."
"You're not really what I thought a curse would be like. You're more… annoying."
"It's an old curse, Ted. Remember the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy. Everything fades, the longer it runs."
"So if this other family that cursed mine — what was their name?"
"This is old world stuff. Fifteenth, sixteenth century. You've never heard of them."
"But if this family got it together to — I don't know — make a sacrifice, something to goose the curse back into high gear?"
"I'd be all over you like stink on a dung sprite." The demon took the TV remote and tuned to a Japanese game show where a pantless man was being spanked with a giant wooden hand wielded by a woman dressed in a schoolgirl uniform. The demon laughed. "Don't worry. The family is long gone. The last one died off back in the forties, when the Nazis were tromping around Europe making all that noise."
"So the curse isn't likely to get any worse?"
"But it's not likely that you're going to go away, either?"
"Not likely. I'm your demon. Get used to it."
"There's nothing I can do?"
"Do you know any magic? Can you banish spirits? Perform an exorcism? I didn't think so."
"I could learn."
"You can't even program your VCR, Ted."
The demon smoked the last of Ted's American Spirits, flicking the ashes casually between the cushions of the leather sofa. Ted went to the refrigerator for a beer, but those were gone, too.
Using my pull with an acquaintance at the city morgue, I convince the attending Medical Examiner to let me watch your autopsy.
He begins with a traditional Y incision, cutting two diagonals across your upper chest until they meet at your sternum, then a single long, straight slice down to your crotch. He opens you with a crack, snapping ribs and connective tissues, laying you open and bare, more exposed than you've ever been in a lifetime of extreme and perverse exposures. I stand quietly, a little behind the Medical Examiner, clicking away with the disposable camera I picked up at a 7-11 on the way over.
This Examiner is a real professional, experienced and respected for both his precision and the speed of his work. But now that he's opened you, he's just standing there, looking down, his head craning slowly up and down the length of you. He reaches forward and pushes a finger into your abdomen, scooping out what he finds and pressing it quizzically between his fingertips. Your body appears to be packed with a pinkish-yellow clay. The Examiner makes a face and scoops out more with his hands, trying to find his way through the muck to your organs. He lets out a little yelp and pulls back his hands. The right one is bleeding. He reaches tentatively into you and pulls something free—one, two, then three feet of coiled razor wire.
After replacing the torn glove, he examines your insides further, this time using scissors and a metal probe. He hits a pocket of what looks like black tar. It oozes up through the clay, darkening it. The Examiner's probe drags new things from your gut. Rosaries. Straight razors. Antique medical bottles labeled LAUDANUM and STRYCHNINE. He finds your baby teeth; the soft cords the hospital used to bind your hands when you had that fever as a child; the hand-stitched belt your daddy used on you when you needed a whipping.
With a pair of forceps, the Examiner digs into the thick clay and pulls out your heart. Instead of a fist of muscle, what he holds in the forceps is a glowing red coal, sprouting a steady flame from the top and wrapped with barbwire, like a miniature crown of thorns.
He turns and looks at me, holding up the glowing coal as if I might have an explanation. I shrug and snap a picture. "What's that?" I ask, nodding at your body. The Examiner turns to look and I reach around from behind, slicing his throat from the jugular to the carotid artery in one smooth motion, using the scalpel I nicked from his instrument tray. He burbles once and I let him drop, bleeding into the cavity from which he'd just extracted your burning heart. Snapping another quick photo, I go to the other end of the table and kiss your cold lips.
New scanning techniques developed in the late 1990s led to brain studies which revealed that our minds and bodies are all utterly unique. The neural pathways that mean pain and discomfort for some equal pleasure and contentment for others. The chemical compositions of our cerebral and spinal fluids can vary widely from person to person, perversion to perversion. Our desires are defined by our brains and our bodies are shaped by our desires. As William Blake once said, "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained." The unrestrained, I wonder, watching the last of the Medical Examiner drain into you, who knows all the unrestrained could do?
There's a bubbling in the bloody clay. I kiss you more insistently now. Something rises from the muck. A hand. Then an arm. Another hand beside them. I slide down and bite your throat. Your body begins to convulse, as if in orgasm. You pull yourself free from the clay, up and out of your corpse. Covered in blood and muck like a helpless infant, you're reborn from your own body, this stranger's blood and our overwhelming desire. You rise up to your knees, breathe in with your new lungs and open your mouth, searching for your voice. Finding it, yo
I wrap you in the Examiner's lab coat and take you home.
Since the surgery I'm proposing is somewhat radical and there is no standard procedure for it, I'm going to have to adopt techniques from other surgeries and, frankly, improvise along the way. And since, if all goes well, this is the last surgery I will ever undergo, I'm feeling bold, willing to take some chances.
I'm going after the hippocampus, a curved structure of the cerebral cortex forming the floor of the inferior horn of the lateral ventricle. It's also the seat of human memory and, therefore, our primary connection to time. To attack the structure, I'll be performing my own modified version of an anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL). This is a procedure common used to treat temporal lobe epilepsy by attacking hippocampal sclerosis. With any luck, in a few hours, I will beat H.G, Wells at his own bold game: I will become my own Time Machine.
The morning of surgery I self-administer St. John's Wort, Valium and a 200 mg. tablet of vassopressin, with a few sips of water. Although the use of prophylactic antibiotics is debated in the medical literature on ATL, I go the conservative route and give myself 1g of cephalosporin intravenously one hour before making the first incision. I follow this immediately with 10 mg dexamethasone IV, an adrenocortical steroid, to control tissue inflammation during surgery.