Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Frankenstein's World, Chapter Eleven

Thursday: Chapter Eleven
A squat grey building of three or four stories stood between a field of what looked like beanstalks that stood up without runners and a muddy feedlot for pig-sized hairless rabbits.  It had no identifying marks other than a plain white “101” to the right of the large double door.
Gall led Locke to a smaller door next to the large entrance.  Inside, he found an enormous room, evidently made for large numbers of human bodies to be gathered before their disassembly began.  It was cold, in sharp contrast to the June warmth outside.  He prickled with gooseflesh.
Inside, the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of the equipment did not make it seem any warmer.
Human bodies lay at one end of the room, sprawled naked and unmoving across one another.  There were silhouettes painted on the floor to show how bodies were supposed to lie, laid out neatly head to toe, in rows, but these niceties were not being observed at the moment.
They were crowded every which way, sometimes even piled on top of one another, without any consideration, except perhaps that the piles not be so high that the bodies on the bottom could not breathe.
And they were breathing.  Their eyelids were fluttering, their facial muscles twitching, as they were lifted, one by one, from the pile.  A hoover held a person’s shoulders and another the feet, and they were carried one by one to what looked like a table with a rounded end.  The surface was topped by a broad band of red-stained leather that was being pulled by some means down the length of the strange table, so that the bodies were carried in a long line toward their fate.
“Who are these people?”
“Convicts, sentenced to death by the state of New York, or maybe this is the batch from New Jersey.  In any event, all lawfully convicted, you may be sure, their execution assigned to our firm by an entirely legal process -- or else it will be entirely legal quite soon.”
A giant wheel stood to one side of the table.  Within it, a stalwart plodded patiently forward, turning the wheel which drove smaller wheels inside the table.  Slowly the bodies passed by workers in white overalls and white broadcloth shirts with white rubber aprons, their hands gloved in a pale corpse-coloured rubber, red-stained tools in their hands.
First a cut was made along the hairline, and then a faintly bluish liquid like kerosene stopped the bleeding almost instantly as it was poured into the wound.  The scalp was peeled off and added to a bin full of scalps, and then they began peeling downward from the hairline, more of the bluish liquid poured over the skinless face to stop its bleeding.  And then an eye was worked from the socket with a spoon . . . .
Locke understood the advantage of keeping the body alive, the organs going warm and palpitating into waiting tubs of incorruptant.  And doubtless the victims were too far gone in drugged Oblivion to really be aware of what was happening to them.
But still . . . .
Locke followed Gall down the line.  It was easier to look at the bodies once their faces were gone, although their hearts continued to beat while they were dissected.
The skin was removed in as complete a form as possible, the bleeding quickly staunched after each cut.  All effort was made to get a “whole hide” from each body.  Only the lips, the nipples, the genitalia and the anus were allowed to keep their skin.
Locke paused at the station where the pectoral muscles were removed.  He noted that women’s breasts came off with the muscles, and that the vats into which the muscles were thrown were one of the few where genders were segregated.
All along the way, Locke and his guide were constantly being passed by hoovers pushing wheeled tubs of incorruptant, moving down the line with tubs filled with left arms or livers, moving up the line with tubs half-full of sloshing incorruptant.
On the bodies went, losing limbs, intestines, kidneys . . . .
Only when a body had been reduced to little more than heart, lungs and brain was the heart finally stopped, the remaining parts dropped immediately into waiting tubs of incorruptant.  Only then were their death certificates signed by a vitalogist
Beyond the final disassembly station, the rolling belt continued.  Here, the wheeled tubs were coming to rest at last, finding their places along the line.
The next day, Locke was unable to remember anything very clearly between watching the victims’ hearts being stopped, and sitting in an office drinking something with rum in it.  In between he recalled only brief images:
A pair of dwarfish hoovers assembling the spinal column of a body in progress, like hideous children stacking blocks.
Shallow trays of small bones, just covered by incorruptant, sorted by size, with bones as long as Locke’s index finger in one, smaller ones in the next, down to bones that must have come from the hands of children, if not of rats.
A woman, sorting among bones to assemble abnormally large hands, singing tunelessly, “Your metatarsals will do for metacarpals, your metacarpals will do for phalanges, but what shall we do with your phalanges, my dear...?”
Brains, with attached spinal cords, being dropped into open skulls in a frighteningly casual fashion, the spinal cord slipped through the opening at the bottom and then through the vertebrae like a slimy silver rope threading a stack of needles.
A man pushing a wheeled tub full of human hearts, looking entirely too much like the street vendor who had sold Locke a chicken heart on Monday. He pulled a heart from his tub and laid it on the belt next to each nearly-complete hoover.  Locke feared he would never be able to eat another chicken heart.
The tops of the skulls being fitted onto the brain pans, screws tightened to hold them together, and final features being added as well: heavy ridges to protect the extremely large eyes of this batch, ridges added to the skull for arm muscle attachment points.  The skulls, fully assembled and with muscles and skin on, would not look even remotely human.
The hides being stitched onto the finished bodies, skins which had lain in vats of some mixture which had nourished them and irritated them until they grew thick and warty.
A man with a gigantic syringe, large enough to hold a quart of elixir vitae, injecting each hoover in the heart with the substance that would stir it to life.
Galvanic currents being applied to the finished hoovers, so that they finally began to quicken, their chests convulsing, their mouths gasping air, their limbs stirring to life.
The animated hoovers, looking like anthropomorphic moles (Locke supposed they were made for mining), being hauled to their feet and led to waiting cattle cars, which were quickly filled and then locked shut.  Occasional hoovers were unable to stand -- those were carried away, either for minor adjustments or simply to be dissected and their parts reused.
When the rum appeared to have revived him, Locke was given into the care of a Mr. Ogle, a student of vitalogy.  Ogle rode in a cab with Locke to a brownstone in the fashionable neighborhood of Second Avenue and 25th Street.  Ogle must be from a well-off family, Locke thought with a corner of his mind, until they entered the house, and Locke found it was a brothel.
A hoover brothel, naturally, with a parlor in which no two of the whores were alike: one was impossibly thin except for impossibly large breasts. Another had a torso twice as long as a human’s, and was lounging in a fashion that suggested a serpent.  A third was a great mass of corpulent flesh that seemed to extend in all directions.  There were several which had been built in the semblance of barely-papescent young girls and even younger boys.
At the best of times, Locke had very little interest in the grotesque distortions of hoover prostitutes.  After what he had seen at the evulsatorium, he was nauseated.
He came to a stop, pulling back against Ogle’s tug on his sleeve.  Ogle turned back, frowning.
“Can’t I just have a quiet bed to sleep in?”
Ogle laughed.
“What, you think on top of all the other cosseting we’re giving you, you’re going to be treated to the favors of the most exotic hoover pussy in New York?  A quiet bed is exactly what you’re here for.  Now come on and meet Madame LaLaurie.”
The lady of the house sat on a divan at one end of the parlor, beside a small stage where a quartet of nearly-identical hoovers sang a French song in elaborate harmony.  She was a rather plain-looking woman with fair skin who had her hair elaborately dressed and wore a silk gown in the fashionable “mesenteric” print, but wore little makeup.  She looked more like the manager of an expensive restaurant than a brothel-keeper.
He exchanged a few words with Madame LaLaurie without really noticing what either of them was saying.  The pet at her feet stirred, and he finally looked at it.
It was a wolfhound, no, it was a kimmer pet of some sort, the size of a large dog, but thinner.  It had long legs, the forelegs much thinner than the hind legs.  It had no tail, and very sparse fur, except on its head, which gave it a sort of lion-like appearance, and a very flat snout . . . .
It wasn’t a kimmer.  It was a hideously distorted hoover.  A hoover made from human parts which had been constructed so that it could only go on all fours.  Its joints were like those of quadrupeds -- perhaps they had been illegally taken from a dog or goat, or perhaps they had been manufactured.  Its neckbones had been modified so it would look forward, rather than down, when on all fours.
Madame LaLaurie stroked the creature’s hair fondly, exactly as she might a dog.
“Arachne’s a good girl, isn’t she?”
The creature looked up at Locke with a truly wretched expression, and he looked away.
 A hoover housekeeper took Locke upstairs and showed him into a relatively modest bedroom.  It must have been a “work” room, though -- he was sure the hoover staff did not sleep in anything like this much comfort.
Lying in bed, Locke was unable to stop thinking about it all.  He had seen the future as Mellonta Tauta wanted to make it.  This was the future which they thought most people would find appealing.  Locke dreaded the possibility that they were right.
About two o’clock in the morning, he went out into the hall, found a servant, and had her fetch an oneirant for him.
As he sat sipping at the warm little draught, which tasted of honey and milk, it occurred to Locke what the name Arachne might imply: according to legend, she was a woman who vainly boasted that her skills were as great as those of a goddess, and was punished with a degrading transformation. Who, he wondered, had Madame LaLaurie’s “Arachne” been before she was turned into the “dog” at Madame’s feet . . . ?

Frankenstein's World, Chapter Twelve

Friday: Chapter Twelve
As Locke drifted off to sleep, he wondered idly whether he would be awakened, perhaps at sunrise, or allowed to sleep as long as he wanted. He definitely wasn’t expecting to be shaken awake while it was still dark, especially not by a stout Negress in a calico dress and kerchief who was holding a pepperbox revolver in her free hand.
“Mistuh Locke, you be comin’ with me,” the woman said brusquely.
“Get yourself dressed and hurry up about it, it ain’t safe here, and I ain’t talkin’ about your virtue.”
Locke said nothing, merely looked for his clothes and found them, freshly pressed, in a neatly-folded pile on a chair, his mustard-colored jacket hung on its back.
As he dressed, he gave the woman a glance, then another one.
“Good morning, Miss Tubman?”
The woman looked startled, then smiled.
“You ’member me from Seneca Village, do ya?”
Locke nodded. He had interviewed several of the inhabitants of Seneca Village just before the shantytown had been demolished to make way for the Central Farm.  Mr. Day had refused to print the article, saying that the concerns of a few dozen Negroes would be of little interest to the city, and it would cast a pall over the preparations for the opening of the Central Farm.  The article had eventually appeared in Freedom’s Journal under the name Calvin O’Doull.
“You’d be s’prised how many folks don’t know me, even after we’ve talked face to face a dozen times.”
“I presume you’re here on business?  Your usual business, I mean?”
“What oughts to be everybody’s business.  The hoovers hadn’t oughta be slaves, nor human folk neither -- an’ that includes you, at the moment, don’t it?”
Buttoning his shoes, Locke sighed.
“Well, I am not the master of my fate, nor even of where I am allowed to sleep -- or how long -- so I suppose I am in need of a, er, Liberationist, as I believe I have heard you called.”
“Don’t need to call it anything,” the woman said dismissively.  “It’s just what I do, an’ I’ll keep doin’ it long as the Lord permits.”
Fully dressed and making sure he still had his things with him, including his notebook, Locke stepped out into the corridor.  He was startled by an oblong box, its resemblance to a coffin accentuated by its hinged lid standing open.
“Please step inside, Mistuh Locke.”
“Oh, my,” he said with a sigh, noting it was leaning back on a hand truck.
“It’s just until we out of this neighborhood.  Make yourself comfortable and I’ll let you out when it’s safe.  By some ways o’ sayin’ safe, anyways.”
Locke ducked back into the room and took a small red cushion with golden tassels.  He lay back in the cabinet, putting the cushion behind his head.  Tubman latched Locke inside and tipped it back, rolling it forward down the hallway.
Locke steeled himself for the moment when Tubman was stopped by an employee of the house, or stumbled on her way through a doorway and sent the box flying.  He pressed his hands against the sides as it bumped down a flight of stairs.
Another door opened, and Locke could feel cold night air, and heard the sounds of the city.  A bumpy ride down more stairs, and then the box was being tipped onto the bed of a wagon and shoved inside.  He heard the box being tied down with ropes, and then the wagon was in motion, being driven down the streets of Manhattan.
Locke tried to guess at where they were heading.  They went a few blocks, then turned left.  He could smell the vitalogically created water life which purified the waters of the East River, so he guessed they must be moving south along the waterfront.  Perhaps she was taking him to one of the ferries that ran across the river to Williamsburg.  As the ride continued, he wondered if it had really been as long as it seemed, or if he were exaggerating the time because of his uncomfortable and vulnerable position.  Finally, though, the wagon came to a halt and Locke heard the ropes being untied.
Locke found himself in a windowless shed.  His eyes were dazzled by the predawn light coming in through a half-open door.
“Where are we?”
“Jerusalem,” Tubman said gruffly, then relented.  “We’re at Nechtanc Point.  You’re going to make yourself look presentable and buy yourself a ticket on the ferry to Perth Amboy.  You got a nickel?”
Locke searched his pockets for coins.
“I have a dollar, a quarter and some pennies.”
Tubman handed him a nickel.
“Pay the ‘zact fare, they give you less of a look.”
Locke brushed himself off, straightened his belt and tried to make his hair lie down by spitting in his palm and wiping it across his hair.  Tubman produced a small comb of black bone and told Locke to keep it.
“I ain’t goin’ with you.  I’d just attract attention to you.  You get on that ferry, though, and a man with a long beard’ll meet you at the other end.”
“Are you quite sure I’ll recognize him?”
She chuckled.
“Some folks call me Moses.  This fellah, you’ll probably wanta call him Moses, but just in case there’s two like that, just ast him if’n he’s Mistuh Green.”
Locke left the shed and went around the block to find the ferry.  It was a new vessel, gaily painted in yellow and red.  A handsome brontopede stood inside a yellow and blue treadmill.  At a signal from its hoover mahout, the brontopede began walking slowly forward, and the mechanism that drove the ferry’s paddlewheels began to churn the water.  As the ferry got under way, the gearing of the treadmill shifted with a muted clatter, so that the resistance in the wheel increased, rather than forcing the brontopede to run faster.
Some people always insisted that ferries and even ships on the open sea would be better off drawn by kimmers based on whales.  A charming and fanciful notion, but not a practical one, at least not until Vitalogy had progressed a good deal further -- and quite possibly not even then.  After all, the largest flying kimmer had a wingspan of over ten yards, but still could not carry a single man of normal weight.
  By the time the ferry pulled in at Perth Amboy it was full daylight.  He spotted the one who had to be “Mister Green” instantly -- the man was either Moses, or God Himself.  He sidled up alongside the man and was about to greet him in a whisper when the man turned and seized him by the arm, saying in a loud, carrying voice, “Thought you could slip past me, did you, Dick?  You owe me ten dollars, you whoreson, and I’ll have it in silver if you haven’t the gold!”
Locke said nothing and allowed the man to hustle him down the dock and into a waiting cab.  The man rapped twice on the inside roof and the hoover driver shook the reins over the lummox between the traces.  After closing the curtain, he said, “Please permit me to introduce myself, Mr. Locke.  My name is John Brown, and I have the honor of being Miss Tubman’s friend as well as her colleague.”
Locke shook his offered hand gladly.
“Miss Tubman is a good woman to have on one’s side, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Brown.  Er, how much do you know about my situation?”
“I know that you were a captive of Mellonta Tauta, and that it was thought to be wise to retrieve you from their custody.”
Locke noticed the careful use of words.
“But you are not confident of my being an enemy of them?”
“What you are not, any longer, is their prisoner.  What you are is a matter for later.  For now, it is enough that we do not wish Mellonta Tauta to have any joy they might obtain from you.  I will help convey you to a place of safety, where that hateful organization cannot reach you, after we have done that will be soon enough for us to determine whether you are a friend and an ally, or an enemy and a prisoner.
“And,” Brown added, anticipating Locke’s next question, “it is also not quite time for me to tell you where that place of safety is located.”
Locke put on an expression of intense concentration and nodded slowly, trying to mask his surprise and confusion.
“So, er, can you at least tell me of our most immediate destination?”
“We have a long ways to go, most of it by train, but I am afraid you will have to bear with this somewhat slower and less comfortable means of transportation for the moment.”
Once they were out in the countryside, Brown did at least allow the shades to be raised.  Locke had lived on Manhattan for most of his life without ever setting foot on New Jersey soil, and had only seen the dismal towns of Hoboken and Bayonne from there.  The farms and towns of northern New Jersey were a considerable surprise to him, although he had known on a vague sort of way that New Jersey was the city’s primary source of food after the Central Farm.
These farms had vitalogically-enhanced crops and animals, of course, but were still much more the sort of farm he had known as a child from his picture books.  He smiled to see a pair of farmhands in blue denim overalls and straw hats driving cattle into a pasture, though his smile lessened when he realized that the cattle were giants, their true size disguised by the fact that the farmhands were themselves eight-foot hoovers.
After about an hour, Locke said, “Mister Brown, when I asked you about our most immediate destination--“
“We will ride until dark, I’m afraid.  We have food for ourselves, and the hoover and the kimmer will not need food or water until then.”
“Well, you see, Mister Brown--“
“You will have to relieve yourself in transit, I’m afraid.  We dare not make any unnecessary stops.”
Brown slid a growler from under his seat.
“Really, Mr., er, Brown?  I need to...to evacuate my bowels.”
Locke turned beet red, embarrassed by how embarrassing he was finding the conversation, feeling as though he were a little boy asking permission to “go”.
Brown sighed.
“It can’t be helped.”
Brown shifted to the far side of the carriage, and stuck his nose out the window.  He remained in that position even after Locke had emptied the growler out the window, into a rural ditch.
“This really is a lovely country,” Brown said softly.  “I never had the chance to look at it before.”
In the space the growler had come from, Locke found a bottle of Dillamond’s Antimiasmic, and poured some of the blue liquid into the container.  A fierce reek like ammonia rose, numbing Locke’s sense of smell, for which he was grateful.
After several minutes, Locke broke the silence, saying, “I’m sorry, Mr. Brown.  That was nastier than I’d expected.”
“What have those poltroons been feeding you, Locke, hoover jerky?”
“Please, don’t give them any ideas.”
Brown winced.
“Yes, I’m afraid you’re right about that.”
This led to a conversation in which Locke related what Gall had shown him, both in the Quisqueya scrapbook and in Building 101.  Brown shook his head sadly a number of times, but when Locke described the dissected bodies being finally allowed to die when reduced to little more than heart, lungs and brain, Brown slammed his fist against the wall of the carriage, making the entire structure rattle.
“Insidious miscreants!”
In Brown’s voice, the phrase became more than invective.  It was a curse in the truest sense of the word, as might have been pronounced by a Biblical prophet, and which might have been in those days expected to reduce its targets to blackened and shrivelled husks.
“We must put an end to this despicable institution.”
“You don’t just mean Mellonta Tauta, do you?  You mean slavery itself.”
“Yes.  Human slaves should be set free to live as human beings, as American citizens.”
“Not sent back to Africa?”
“Once they are free, they may go where they wish, of course.”
“But what of hoovers.  Are we to make them Americans as well?”
“As to that, I am not sure.  But then, what the so-called ouvriers do is up to them, once they are free.”
“If it is not possible for free Negroes to live among whites, they can go to Africa, or to the Caribbean, but in what country might free hoovers assert their munity?”
Now Brown smiled.
“In the Republic of Kanawha.”
The name sounded vaguely familiar.
“And where is that, Sir?”
“In the mountains of northwestern Virginia, where humans are few and mostly sympathetic, Kanawha exists as an invisible nation.
“Free hoovers live in townships, mobile bands what set up camp in a place for as long’s it’s safe, and move on when it is safe no longer.  A township holds between four dozen and twelve dozen -- more, and they split up.  Fewer, and they merge with another.”
“So then, you speak of maroon colonies, as in Florida and Jamaica.”
“Yes.  Hoovers can live on the mountaintops, where humans have never managed to survive for long.  Remoteness and mobility allows them to live unmolested.”
“Yes, I see.  Old Frankenstein was afraid of escaped hoovers doing just that.  It makes perfect sense.”
“But those townships are more than just places of refuge: hoovers are at work there on projects for the betterment of their own race, and humanity, too.”
“Such as...studying the elixir vitae which animates a certain hoover who dislikes the term?”
“So, you have heard the tale of the one they call the Whistler?”
“I have met Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier, Sir.”
Brown’s eyes widened.
“Locke, it’s a very fortunate thing for us that you are no longer in the hands of Mellonta Tauta.”
Locke looked offended.
“I wouldn’t have told them anything.”
“Oh, Mister Locke, they have ways of making you talk.”
Locke shuddered, and shrank a bit.
When night fell, they stopped at a farmhouse just outside of a small town.  The hoover knocked at the door, and after exchanging a few words with the person who answered it, led the carriage into the barn.  While the hoover tended to the lummox, Brown introduced Locke to their host, Mrs. Eulalie Carnacki.  There was nothing about Mrs. Carnacki or her house to indicate she was a member of a nationwide underground network engaged in highly controversial, to say nothing of illegal, activities.  This group, whose name Locke didn’t even know, and Mellonta Tauta, which he wished he could forget -- how many such groups existed, Locke wondered?  How many had done their work and then vanished, never known to history?  It was a disturbing thought.
After a bath and supper, Locke fell gratefully into bed next to Brown.  It had been awhile since he’d had to share his bed, especially with a stranger, but he was grateful to have a bed at all, and a chance to sleep among people who, if not friends, were at least well-intended.
“Sleep well, Mr. Locke.  In the morning, we will go into town to catch a train that will take us to Pittsburgh.”
“Are we in Pennsylvania already?” Locke asked.
“No, we’re in the middle of New Jersey, a town called Grover’s Mill.”

Frankenstein's World, Chapter Thirteen

Saturday: Chapter Thirteen
In the morning, Brown and Locke were served breakfast by Ross, Mrs. Carnacki’s hoover servant.  Over the table, Brown asked Locke to recite his itinerary to make sure he knew it well, and cautioned him once more not to write it down in his notebook.  Breakfast completed, he offered Locke his hand and wished him success.
“You will find safety and freedom in Kanawha,” Brown said loftily, “though not as much comfort as you are used to, I’m afraid.”
The same hoover drove Locke to the small railroad station just outside Grover’s Mill. The last time Locke had travelled by train, he had boarded at the magnificent Seward Terminal in Jersey City.  The Grover’s Mill station was a far cry from that, just a small wooden platform adjoining an even smaller building. Locke bought a ticket to Pittsburgh and was told the next westbound train would not arrive until one o’clock in the afternoon. Accordingly, and since Brown had not admonished him to hide himself from sight in Grover’s Mill, he went for a walk around the town.
There wasn’t a lot to see, but Locke hadn’t expected much.  The most noteworthy sight was the municipal water tower, which raised water to a huge tank six storeys above street level, easily twice the height of any other building in town.  The water tower stood on three long metal legs, one of them with a vine crawling up it.  No, it wasn’t a vine; it was a long rubbery boneless limb of some sort.  As Locke watched, pulsations rose up it like a series of rabbits going down the throat of a greedy python.  His eyes followed the pulses up the long gray tube of flesh, until it reached the top of the water tower.
The tube went over the top of the tower, presumably to the body of some strange kimmer built for raising water -- Locke looked down and saw that a stream ran right by the base of the tower, and the tentacle reached into it.  The kimmer’s body must be on top of the tower, leading Locke to imagine something resembling a tick but the size of a bear, endlessly drinking through its snout and filling the tank from -- what?  Not its bladder, surely.  A hole in its belly, he supposed.
A bizarre and perhaps unsanitary way for a town to get its water, but of course the Bible did declare being made a drawer of water to be a terrible curse, and supposed that it did save a great deal of labor -- well, for everyone but the kimmer up there.
What did it eat?  Perhaps it had baleen which seined algae and minnows from the stream water.  Perhaps it did, in fact, filter the water through its kidneys to purify it.
Locke allowed his fancy free reign, imagining the bloated gray kimmer glaring down on Grover’s Mill with envious eyes, slowly but surely drawing its plans for revenge.  How would it do that, Locke wondered?  By poisoning the water that passes through it?  Or by releasing accumulated wastes from its belly in the form of a heavy black smoke that would asphyxiate the whole town?
Locke looked up at the tower, still trying for a glimpse of the kimmer, remembering a story in an early issue of Tales of Mystery and Imagination in which a vampire, having preyed upon a town until there was hardly anyone left in it, climbed to the top of the church steeple and called out the names of the residents one by one, ringing the bell once after each name, causing the named person to drop dead, “until the pall of death fell upon the entire town.”
Locke shook himself and lowered his eyes to street level.  He did enjoy spinning wild speculations -- he had made his name with one, after all -- but they weren’t normally so morbid.
A chestnut tree spread its branches over a small building of some sort.  Locke heard the huffing sound of bellows and knew it was a smithy.
In the heat of the forge, the blacksmith was wearing only his apron. Locke saw a Leyden jar hanging from the back of the apron’s belt.  Wires ran from it to spots on his back.  Peering more closely, Locke saw that the wires ran to terminals embedded in the man’s flesh, clamped onto them with sawtoothed clips that reminded him of the jaws of alligators.
There were four wires, but there were at least a dozen terminals, running in pairs down the middle of the blacksmith’s back.  Locke heard a faint rhythmic sound whenever the smith was not hammering.  There was a small clockwork mechanism at the top of the Leyden jar, turning the current on and off every second or so, small sparks flashing as the clockwork brought a copper arm down on a terminal.
The smith turned around, and abruptly they were face to face.  Locke started back.  He hadn’t realized he’d gotten so close.
The smith grinned.
“Admirin’ my tickler?”
He chuckled deep in his throat.
“They call it an Arrowsmith Painkiller, or . . .” he furrowed his brow in thought.  “A ‘galvanic antalgia device’, one of ‘em called it.  For m’self, I call it a tickler, and that’s that.”
“Er, I see.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to gawk.”
The smith stretched his back.
“I’ve heard folks say any harm doesn’t kill a man makes him stronger.  I don’t think much of that sayin’.  Sometimes, harmin’ a man makes him weaker, and that’s that.
“I worked hard all my life, and it’s given me arms like iron bands, t’ be sure, but it’s also given me an old man’s back.  The tickler takes away the pain, ‘least enough so’s I can keep on workin’ at my forge.  It’s been a life saver, and that’s that, an’ that’s that.”
There was nothing to be said in response to a statement of such finality, so Locke simply nodded and continued on his way.
At noon, Locke broke his dollar buying turtle soup from a street vendor for five cents.  His carefully-managed diet was going to Hell, but he was hungry and the food was there, so he ate.
It wasn’t as good as the turtles fresh out of Turtle Bay, of course.  These were modified turtles grown in an aqualon.  Decapitated  -- or thrown alive into boiling water if the cook was lazy -- they cooked in their shells and were carried out into the streets still steaming.
Locke made his choice from among the turtles on the top of the cart.  The vendor used a small prybar to loosen the turtle’s plastron from its belly, revealing the cooked flesh inside.  The vendor reached in with tongs and pulled out the turtle’s lower intestine, then invited Locke to choose seasonings from a row of jars.  He stirred the inside of the shell with a wooden spoon and handed it, the spoon still sticking out of it, to Locke.
Locke found that the outside of the shell was merely warm, but the contents were quite enjoyably hot.  He spooned up turtle muscle and turtle organs along with the meaty broth that had cooked from them.  When he was done, he placed the shell and spoon alongside the curb where they wouldn’t be tripped over and a hoover street sweeper would have no trouble picking them up.  Locke always tried to be a responsible citizen.
At a bookshop, Locke spotted the latest issue of Tales of Mystery and Imagination and fell upon it with a glad cry.  He happily paid a dime for the booklet and stuck it in his pocket.
Finally, Locke had made a complete circle of downtown and was back at the train station.  He sat down on a wooden bench and opened his magazine to read until the train came.
When the train arrived, Locke was startled by its team.  He had seen trains pulled by stalwarts and brontopedes, but the three kimmers which had pulled the train to Grover’s Mill were unfamiliar.
They were pacing forward slowly while the brake-hoovers carefully tightened the brakes on the cars.  They moved past the platform and came to a halt.  They were larger than mokes or stalwarts, but smaller than brontopedes.
Rather than board the train directly, Locke first ran down to the end of the platform, where he could get a good look at the rearmost animal.  It had four legs with cloven hooves, massive legs that looked as though they had both stamina and speed, a thick and businesslike torso.  Its head was like a Hoch-Toggenberg made a good deal more “hoch”.  It had horns which backswept as though to suggest speed.
The kimmer turned its head and looked at Locke with yellow eyes that had bar-shaped horizontal pupils.
“Er, good job,” Locke said to the kimmer, unnerved by its bland yellow stare.  “You’re right on time.”  Locke walked back, past the driver’s box, to the passenger cars.
The conductor nodded to acknowledge Locke’s ticket and he boarded.  The car was crowded but not impossibly so.  He found an empty seat, got a nod from the man sitting by the window, and dropped into it.  Most of these people had boarded at Jersey City that morning, and had traversed in three or four hours the distance that had taken Locke and Brown more than a day.
Locke sat on the upholstered seat, squirming in spite of its softness.  The train driver blew a long, piercing note on a whistle.  This was echoed by the rearmost kimmer, then the middle one, and then the foremost.  Locke noticed suddenly that he needed to relieve himself, and rose from his seat just as the train suddenly lurched into motion.  Evidently, the cries of the kimmers indicated that they were just pulling out.  Startled by the sudden movement of the floor under his feet, he stumbled and fell, driving the back of the seat in front of him into his belly.  The sudden pressure on his full bladder was extremely painful, and his vision darkened for a moment.  When he came back to himself, he was surprised to find himself still standing, and even more surprised that he had not wet himself.
Locke stumbled along the aisle down the middle of the car, quickly learning how to anticipate the jostling of the car as its motion increased and decreased as the three great kimmers paced forward, gradually gaining speed.  Fortunately, as the train’s speed increased, the motion of the car became more predictable.  He made his way to the rear of the car, but found that the car simply ended in a final set of seats and a door leading toward the next car.  Where were the...facilities?
“Looking for the jakes?” a man said, speaking from a seat that was right about where he would have expected the “jakes” to be.  Locke was glad he didn’t need to ask the man’s name.
“On the B&O, they’re at the front o’ the car.  Dunno why.”
Locke winced at the thought of walking the entire length of the car with his bladder in such dire condition.  He looked toward the exit door.  If the privy was located at the front end of every car, then presumably the next car’s was a good deal closer.  This was a modern train, where cars were connected by a sort of accordion-folding section instead of simply having a pin-and-ring coupling and open air between them.  But there was some rule, wasn’t there?  You couldn’t cross between cars...some times, anyway.  Locke felt entitled to break quite a few rules just at the moment.
“I wouldn’t,” the helpful man said.  “I hear tell a girl lost all the toes on her left foot steppin’ between cars.”
That sounded like nonsense to Locke, like one of those gruesome stories in Davy Crockett’s Almanac about a frontier girl cutting off her foot with an axe, then using the same axe as a crutch as she carried her foot ten miles to the vitalogist who reattached it.  Locke said nothing, though, merely pushed the door open and stepped from the clatter of the car to the thunder of the interstitial space.
The floor under his feet was a set of overlapping flat metal plates that did look a bit like blades, although he was sure the railway would prefer to speak of them as being like the joints of a suit of armor.  There was a carpet laid over them, though, and Locke was quite confident about getting to the other side unharmed.  Anyway, he was wearing well-made shoes of vitalogically enhanced leather that would be no more than scuffed even if the blades -- the plates -- did scissor his foot.
There was not the slightest danger.  Certainly one who had escaped from the clutches of Mellonta Tauta should be able to cross three feet of carpet, especially when he was in such a state of distress that he truly had to do it.
He took a step, feeling the plates sliding underfoot, hearing the incredible noise as the cars rattled.
Take another step, witling.  If there is any danger, it’s in standing in the middle of all of this roar and shaking with nothing to hold onto.  But there isn’t any danger, not in the slightest, so quit being a Boeotian poultroon and take another step....
And then he was frantically trying to turn the handle on the door of the other car, and then he was in the other car, with the door closed behind him, with the rumble of the rails muted once again, and with the privy door standing right before him.  It was occupied, of course.
The wait until the door finally opened was a miserable one, of course, but it was surely not as long as it had seemed by the time the door opened and a woman emerged.  She turned beet red as she saw he was waiting.
As he moved quickly past the woman, Locke wondered what the precise rules were regarding the use of the privy aboard a moving train.  Had he committed a faux pas by standing so directly in front of the door?  Was the situation made worse by the fact that a man was following a woman? Perhaps she was distressed that the person who followed her would associate the stench of the little space with her.
Actually, Locke was pleasantly surprised to find that the privy had only a pleasant watery and leafy smell as of a pond at midday.  He found that rather than the usual chamber pot, there was a horseshoe-shaped metal seat above a drop into a body of liquid from which the pondlike smell was coming.  Locke bowed to the unsteady footing of the train and sat down, covering the steel seat with one of the soft horseshoe-shaped parchments dispensed from a box in the wall.  At last he could relieve himself, and he did so, contemplating the odd sensation of hearing his stream fall into water, rather than porcelain or ivory.He imagined the vitalogical algae or fungus which would be at work below, digesting the waste of passengers.  Perhaps there were even fish swimming about in it, derived from bottom-feeding creatures like catfish.  He’d heard travellers say catfish were good eating....
Locke shook himself.  He had become a stitchpunk, all right: the time he had spent delving into the secrets of vitalogy had done his mind harm, leading him to morbid thoughts.  He needed a vacation, even if it was only a summer spent working on a farm in New Jersey or the Hudson Valley.  To get away from the city for a while, and from a job which required him to do the equivalent of peering into privies, with the risk of being seized and dragged down inside one.
As Locke wiped his hands on a moist and feathery towel and hung it back on the bar for the next passenger, he felt compelled to glance once again into the darkness beneath the seat, and imagine a creature like the gray kimmer on the water tower, its huge lipless mouth opened wide to receive its ration, and perhaps sending up a long wet tongue to clean the patron off....
Locke cursed aloud and shook himself.  Definitely, time for a vacation.
The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad depot was not as magnificent as Jersey City’s, but immense compared with any of the platforms in the rest of New Jersey.  Also extremely new, possibly just opened.
“You’ll find the going much easier while you’re in Pennsylvania.  We’re very proud of our Main Line,” the smiling hoover ticket clerk said.  Locke thought he recognized the face as being the work of the firm of Strange and Pepper, and then shook his head, wanting to avoid thinking about vitalogy whenever he could manage it.
Two familiar-looking women in identical black travelling cloaks stood near the ticket window, admiring a weary abacot just being unhitched from a train.  A glimpse of red hair under the hat of one woman confirmed to Locke who they were.
“Doctor Foster!”
Both women turned at the sound of his voice, and Locke was stunned by what he saw.  Dr. Foster and Helen had become much closer to being identical.  As he stepped towards them, he could not for the life of him say which was the hoover maker, and which the hoover.  They were dressed identically, in cloaks and hats which were respectable but not too fashionable or expensive, and could plausibly have been worn by a woman in either position.
Locke had once bedded twins at a whorehouse in Saratoga.  They had not been as like to one another as Dr. Foster and her Helen.
“Good afternoon, Mister Locke,” the doctor said at last, after relishing his discomfort for another moment.  “I am waiting for a train to Cincinnati, and have about another hour to wait.”
“I’m, er, going into Virginia.  Would you have time to take a cup of tea with me?”
“Oh, that sounds most agreeable.  Thank you.  There is a tearoom over that way which looked quite pleasant.  Shall we go there?”
Locke offered Foster his arm, but she kept to her hoover’s.  This would not have been considered improper even if anyone could tell at a glance she was a hoover, which he was quite sure no-one would.
A well-made hoover showed them to a table and took their order.  This being a train station’s tearoom, there was no time taken with things like printed menus.  Offerings and prices were chalked up on a huge board along one wall.
Locke ordered a “galvanic preparation of takwin,” which he’d had before and liked, and was surprised to be offered a choice of having the substance dissolved in water, beer or “Priestley’s water”.  Locke chose the latter, since it was new to him.  Dr. Foster and Helen both had a cold herbal tea he’d never heard of before, made with coca leaf and cola nut.  He made a mental note to try it some time.
Locke looked across the table from one woman to the other.
“Well, Doctor, you have...made some progress since last we met.”
“Indeed yes, as you can see.  I believe I can safely say I have perfected my technique, and will now be able to replicate any human being flawlessly, or make a new hoover to even the most exacting of specifications -- and some clients do have a very specific sort of hoover in mind.”
Locke remembered the bizarre forms of hoover he had seen in recent days, including the exotic whores at Madame LaLaurie’s and the mole-men he had seen in Building 101, and suppressed a shudder.
“I am meeting with Heidegger to discuss opening a school where a select group of students would study my methods.  What brings you to Philadelphia?”
Locke considered his options and finally said, “I’m still working on that same article.  I’m going to visit the Franklin House to interview someone there who worked in the same field as Dr. Bullivant.”
It was improbable that a reporter would travel so far just for an interview, but not totally implausible.  The arrival of their drinks interrupted the conversation, and Locke recommenced it with a change in subject.
“So, I expect you’ll make some money from teaching your methods, but what about your invention?”
“I still haven’t found anyone to manufacture Foster’s Sang Vera here in the States, but I have licensed my formula to the firm of Demikhov and Bryukhonenko, in Russia.  The Russians seem to be inordinately concerned there that hoovers might pass for human, and there’ve been a series of proclamations from the Czar and various Imperial and provincial officials requiring that they be marked with facial tattoos, built only with equine ears and tails, sometimes even with alterations that inhibit their function, like donkey hooves.  My representatives have already received assurances that in the next meeting of the Duma, a new law will be enacted requiring all hoovers -- they call them Myortvyje dushi in Russia -- to be infused with colored elixir.”
“Err, Doctor...?”
Green!” Foster burst out, and she and Helen shared a girlish giggle that was perfectly matched for tone, duration and the placement of their fluttering hands.
Locke found himself imagining Dr. Foster sending in Helen to substitute for him, or even in substituting for Helen, waiting upon a guest in a servant’s uniform, in a properly servile manner.  He found the idea oddly erotic.
A hoover with an immensely powerful voice walked along the calling out that the train for Cincinnati had just pulled in.  Locke rose from the table and bowed to them, then sat back down, alone with his thoughts.  He sipped at his drink, interested by the novel sensation of a sweet drink with bubbles rising in it as though it were beer.  Locke didn’t know if the supposed “takwin” was really as healthful as was claimed, but it tasted good and gave him a boost.
Not far from the tearoom was a newsstand, with papers from all over the Eastern states as well as some foreign ones.  He was pleased to see that they had the Sun, and the Saturday first edition at that.  He bought a copy from the badly-scarred old hoover vendor and sat down on a bench to see how the city was getting along without him.
The name of Dr. Ponnonner jumped out at Locke from the third page.  The vitalogist had been murdered, his brains dashed out in his laboratory.  Ponnonner’s wallet lay across his body, several hundred dollars in bills were scattered about him, but only his pocket change seemed to have been taken.  Also missing were the doctor’s lab coat and “a large item described by the police as being of little value, only antiquarian interest”.
An opium eater or some other kind of madman was being sought by police, but Locke wondered whether Ponnonner’s mysterious death might be the work of Mellonta Tauta.
The hoover announcer roared that the Pittsburgh train was arriving on Platform Four, so Locke folded his paper and made his way there.  He found a fine train, the cars obviously new and the kimmers splendid.  They were ordinary brontopedes, but just as fresh-looking as the cars they drew. Inside a car, Locke found it quite up-to-date, with luminous fungi on all ceilings and walls, the new kind which could be dimmed or extinguished by working a switch on the wall which emitted a high-pitched click the fungi would respond to.  The seats were covered in what looked like fine green velvet but were actually a great deal softer and a true pleasure to sit upon.  Clearly, this Pennsylvania Main Line was trying hard to impress.  Locke was happy to be pampered, after all he had been through.
A vendor came through and Locke bought a “chicken dinner brick”, an oblong block that did in fact taste like chicken and dumplings, with gravy.  The brick was dry, though, so from the next vendor he bought a drink.  It was also mixed with Priestley’s water, which Locke was definitely starting to enjoy.  The “syrup” in this case was actually a smooth apple brandy worlds removed from the harsh “applejack” every farmer made.
After that, he sat in his seat, watching the Pennsylvania countryside go by for awhile, until his bladder urged him from his seat.  Aboard the B&O, he found, there was a “comfort station” at each end of every car -- they really were taking good care of their passengers!  The privy, when he entered it, was a good deal more spacious, and it had that pleasant pondlike smell again.
He felt a sudden tightness around his throat, as though he were being strangled.  His hands rose upward instinctively, and it was only when his fingers found the massive fingers clasping around his neck that he realized that he was being strangled, his air being choked off by hands which were larger and stronger than any human hands -- just as Bullivant had been.
Panicked, he dug his nails into the cool fingers, but they did not react, even as he clawed frantically at them.
He heard a crackling sound, and realized that his windpipe was being crushed.
He had to get away, and had to find someone to open his breathing tube for him -- would they cut it open, or perhaps push a pipe down his throat, perhaps?  He knew how to use a rescue heart, he had used one just the other day, in fact....
Locke noticed that he was no longer feeling any pain, or anyway he felt the way he did when he was in pain from something but too drunk to really feel it.  Yes, he felt quite enjoyably drunk, but he was quickly sliding into a state of drunkenness that would deprive him of the pleasure of being so nicely drunk, so he had better not drink any more.  In fact, it would be advisable to vomit before the liquor in his stomach could get on his blood train.  If only this friendly fellow, whoever he was, would stop trying to hold him up, so he could crawl over to the privy seat and have a good puke . . . .