Monday, June 16, 2014

Frankenstein's World, Chapter Ten

Thursday: Chapter Ten
“I am afraid we will be conspicuous if I am seen standing beside you talking this way,” the creature said.  “I would propose that we sit, but that also would be conspicuous.”
Locke was shocked to hear a hoover offer to sit beside him.  He was surprised at how shocked he was, in fact.
“Therefore, Mister Locke, I would impose upon you to walk with me.  As I am carrying a burden, we will not appear odd walking side by side -- people will presume I am your servant.”
The hoover seemed somewhat amused at the idea.
Locke stood, folding his newspaper to an advertisement with a lot of blank space so that he could take notes with a pencil and appear to be merely marking items he wanted to buy.
“Mister Locke, my name is John Greenleaf Whittier.”
Locke was stunned by the assertion, but dutifully jotted down the name.
“That’s the name of the abolitionist who was lynched outside the Pemberton mills in Massachusetts last year, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Mister Locke, I was.”
The strange hoover sighed.
“I am aware, Mister Locke -- quite well aware -- that when the elixir vitae first infused my veins, and my brain quickened to its second life, that should have been the very beginning of my awareness and my memory.
“I do not know how it came to be that my brain retained its memories.  It may have been that there was something unique in the incorruptant that preserved my brain, or the elixir vitae that awoke it – the Railway has taken samples from my veins for study.  I am quite sure it was to my benefit that my brain was saved mere moments after my death.”
“It was?”
Whittier nodded, smiling in a way most people would not when contemplating their own violent death.
“Normally, a lynched man will be left hanging for the edification of the community, or else dismembered for souvenirs.”
Whittier chuckled.
“Are you surprised?  My, yes, I have seen people pay five cents for a splinter of bone, twenty-five cents for a crisply fried piece of a man’s liver.”
In spite of all the ways he had seen the human body degraded and mistreated in the last few days, Locke still found this particular abuse disturbing.  The things humans did to one another....
Locke was so struck by that new horror that he almost missed what Whittier said next.
“None of that was done to me, however.  One of my killers was a hoover-maker, and he urged the mob to give him my remains.  He was probably just eager to make thrifty use of my fresh carcass, although I understand he waxed quite poetic about what an appropriate and humiliating fate it would be for a man who wanted to end the making of hoovers to become one or more hoovers himself.”
“And you woke up a hoover, but still knew you had been John Greenleaf Whittier.”
“I am John Greenleaf Whittier,” he corrected with a nod.
“It still seems strange to say so,” Whittier said, “but undeniable: I am John Whittier, and the elixir vitae does flow through my veins.  But I am no man’s ouvrier.  I work for my own benefit.”
“If your body was largely unharmed, why was your head moved to another body?”
Whittier shrugged his borrowed shoulders.
“I don’t know.  It may have been intended as an additional insult, or there may have been an urgent need for part or all of my body.  It may have simply been that my neck was damaged during my hanging, and switching bodies was the easiest way to deal with it.”
Locke nodded.
“I’ve heard hoover makers talk of lastery, the trouble a severed part causes if it is improperly removed.”
“Yes.  The term originates from agriculture, where it refers to a graft that is cut too short.”
Whittier looked around, as though to check his path for an exit.
“Mr. Whittier, before you go – is Mellonta Tauta another name for the Illuminati?”
Whittier stared at Locke, shocked, then grinned.
“Mr. Locke, the Illuminati is a spectacularly uninteresting fraternal order whose only connection to vitalogy is that it happens to have been founded at the University of Ingolstadt while Victor Frankenstein was a student there.  Neither Frankenstein nor any of his intimates ever belonged to it.”
They had reached the Decatur.  Whittier handed Locke his bag and wished him a good night.  Locke automatically did the same, barely noticing the oddity of exchanging pleasantries with a hoover (or whatever the resurrected man wanted to be called).
Locke stood on the sidewalk, not yet approaching the Decatur’s door, watching Whittier disappear into the fog, whistling.
Friday, June 15th, 1837, dawned bright and clear, just a few clouds on the western horizon as though to emphasize the brightness in the East, in some allegorical image like the masthead of the Sun.
Locke had many more appointments to get through that day, interviewing Doctors Mabuse, Moreau, Seward, Savage, McCoy, Watson, Clitterhouse and Merkwerdichliebe.
As he stepped from the Decatur, Locke noticed a carriage parked directly in front of the entrance, two large dark hoovers standing by its open door.  The sight was anomalous, and his mind worked rapidly to think through the possible implications of such an expensive vehicle in his neighborhood, the type of hoover the two represented (it was unfamiliar to him in spite of his recent studies), the possible benefits and dangers of whoever it was had caused this odd apparition, &c.
He tried to take in every detail of the scene in front of him, but completely failed to notice the person whose foot shot out from Locke’s left to trip him.
Hands were on Locke’s back almost before he hit the ground.
“Here, Richie, let me help you,” said a stranger’s voice as he put a hand on Locke’s shoulder and another on his wrist to ensure he could not rise on his own.  A moment later much larger hands, the hands of those hoovers, took hold of him and hurried him into the darkness of the carriage.
Locke found himself in the carriage, a hoover sitting next to him and another directly across from him.  In the fourth seat, a man smiled at him.  He was very ordinary-looking, except for having soft, thick lips which seemed made especially for smug, segnotic expressions like the one he was showing to Locke.
As the carriage pulled away from the curb, Locke looked at the man resignedly and said, “I do hope you’re not going to keep calling me ‘Richie’.”
“Of course not, Mr. Locke.  I’d never dream of doing anything so vulgar unless the situation made it necessary.”
That struck Locke as being a bit like saying you never stole unless you needed money, but he said nothing.
The carriage’s windows had been obscured with waxed paper, giving it a gloomy yellowish atmosphere.  Locke could tell they were heading north at a normal pace, not making an effort to confuse Locke or any pursuer with a series of confusing turns, but he doubted he would be able to tell where they were going, even so.
After a few minutes, the carriage pulled into a shed of some sort, the light coming in through the windows becoming so dim that the fungi on the interior began to glow.  The yellowish light was replaced by the soft white of a healthy and well-maintained light-garden.
The door opened and instantly both hoovers seized Locke’s arms.  Since they hadn’t tied his hands or blindfolded him, he’d been hoping they would allow him to simply walk between them, but they took hold of him as though he were a piece of furniture.
A chair, I suppose, since they’re holding my arms, Locke thought.  He was surprised and somewhat alarmed that he actually felt an impulse to giggle.  He must really be frightened, he realized.
The two hoovers carried Locke up several flights of stairs and down a hallway to an office, where they brought him in front of a large and splendid desk.  A small, muscular man with a nearly-bald head sat behind it, barely looking up from paperwork.
The hoovers lowered Locke into a Louis XIV chair and then stood to either side of it, their faces and bodies perfectly immobile, making no effort to interfere with Locke, but close enough that they could seize him in an instant if he tried to rise from it.
The man behind the desk continued to study the papers in front of him, dipped his pen and made a small note before looking up.  The whole performance, clearly intended to make Locke feel unimportant, was so similar to how Mr. Day often treated him that he almost laughed.
Locke passed the time by looking up at the hoovers who had brought him in.  They were dusky gray in color, but of a darker shade than he normally saw in domestic servants.  Their facial features were likewise more strongly Negroid than were usually seen in New York.  And their expressions were not merely placid, as was typical.  These faces were positively lifeless: slack-jawed and glassy-eyed as though they truly were walking corpses.
At last the man looked up and regarded Locke with a pair of steady brown eyes.  Locke noted the eyes were not quite the same shade of brown.
“Good day, Mister Locke.  I am Dr. Samuel Gall, of Mellonta Tauta.”
It was a strange feeling, to have someone say out loud that he was a member of the organization about which he had learned so frustratingly little over the last week.
Locke tried to put on a show of being as comfortable and casual as Gall, and reached out to offer his hand, rising slightly from the chair and leaning forward, but one hoover grasped his extended arm, while the other put hands on his shoulders and pushed him back down.
“Good morning -- Ah! -- Doctor.  I have been looking for a member of Mellonta Tauta all week.”
Gall nodded sharply.
“Indeed you have, and I congratulate you upon your efforts.  You probed so deeply that there was finally no choice but to bring you into our circle.”
Gall gestured briefly at the hoovers.
“I apologize for the way you have been . . . handled in your arrival, but I hope most sincerely that you will leave these offices as a friend of our society, and willing to co-operate with our goals.”
Locke had no need to ask what the alternative would be.
Gall stood by his desk, looking Locke in the face at first, but soon moved to pacing the room as he delivered his speech.
“It was a painful necessity throughout all former ages that the vast majority of Mankind must be relegated to the lower orders, the mudsills of life. Now, however, an alternative has finally been granted to us: the hoovers.  Now, at last, we can envision a time when every son of Adam will be a king.  That is not the situation that prevails today, obviously, but we have a plan for reforming, for rationalizing the world.”
“Everyone, Doctor?  Every human being?”
“Well, the population of the reformed world is yet to be determined.  It will be subject to revision as things develop, of course, but I would estimate a world population of about four hundred millions of hoovers, and four millions of human beings.”
“So few?”
“Few, yes, but every one of those millions will live in greater luxury than any Oriental potentate.”
“And what will you do for parts, when your hoovers wear out?”
“Actually, hoovers seldom do wear out.  More often they break down.  If hoovers are made in a truly logical way, they will indeed wear out, but only after centuries of service.  In any event, the bodies of animals would still be available, as would the bodies and brains of humans as they die.  Some parts, such as the bones and fascia, can already be replaced with artificial substitutes made from plants and stone.
“Then of course, there would also be convicts.  Death by dissection is already the routine form of execution in Austria-Hungary.  We might make dissection the penalty for every misdemeanor, and have a scrupulously polite, law-abiding society.
“And if necessity spurs us, there are always babies.”
“There are always foundlings no-one wants.  And children could even be conceived for the purpose of providing hoover material.  To avoid needless emotional distress, semen can be artificially conveyed from anonymous donors to anonymous females who would be fairly compensated for their service.”
“That’s . . . quite a prospectus you offer for the future,” Locke said carefully, trying to control his nausea.  “How long do you expect it to take to accomplish your . . . rationalization?”
Gall shrugged, his head going to one side in yet another type of unpleasant smile.
“Modernization operations on Haiti took us almost twenty years, but of course we were inventing the system as we went along, and didn’t have much of the technology we have now.”
“Why, yes, didn’t you know?  The Quisqueya Company is one of our largest public elements -- a ‘front’, as we call it.”
Locke struggled to conceal his astonishment.  Napoleon had granted the secretive Quisqyeya Company a charter in 1802, to reclaim Haiti from the rebellious slaves “by any means necessary”, and they had done so, although the details of what was presumed to have been a truly savage campaign had never been made public.  Ever since, they had ruled over Haiti with absolute power and absolute secrecy, with visitors allowed only to conduct business, and only within the city of Port au Prince.
Gall crossed to a bookcase and pulled a thick volume from a shelf.  He handed it to Locke, who looked dubiously at the binding (its bristly leather resembled Inspector Smith’s coffee coasters made from Indian scalps), then opened it to see a drawing of blank-eyed hoovers carrying bundles of sugar cane bigger than a human being could ever lift, feeding them into a grinder to extract the cane syrup from which molasses would be boiled.  To one side, a hoover sat impassively while another hoover put a tourniquet around the stump of her arm, which evidently had been lost to the cane grinder.  Both of these hoovers also showed the same dead-eyed indifference.
“Peruse this book, if you care to, Mr. Locke.  And you may resume your study of these hoovers, if you wish.  I brought them with me from Haiti, and they are typical of the sort of hoover we make there.  The Haitians call them zuvembis.”
Locke leafed through the book.  It was a sort of scrapbook into which letters, ledger pages and sketches had been pasted.  Even a brief glimpse told Locke that it contained more information about Haiti under the Quisqueya Company than had been revealed over the last 35 years.  If he could take this book with him when he escaped, it alone would allow him to write a report that would be carried in every newspaper on Earth.
“Before we began hooverizing the plantation workforce, productivity was dropping and unrest was increasing.  There had been five servile insurrections in the preceding ten years, each larger than the last.”
The book fell open to a scene of naked men and women strung up by their ankles, hands bound, above a river.  Their ropes were just long enough that their heads would be underwater unless they twisted and jackknifed their bodies to reach air.  Some had already given up the struggle and hung limply, their heads fully submerged.  Locke presumed this was an example of the savagery of the rebellious slaves, until he noticed that the executioners standing by were wearing French army uniforms.
“And how far, er, hooverized is Haiti now?”
Gall smiled with grim satisfaction.
“There is, so far as I know, not a single human slave in the entire colony.  What few well-loved retainers were spared conversion into hoovers were manumitted.”
“And you intend the same fate for the slaves of the United States?”
 “You sound shocked.  You should thank us, actually.  You may feel that our... methods are distasteful, but who is really causing the most suffering – the operator of an efficient evulsatorium, or the overseer of an old-style Southern plantation who degrades hundreds of living, breathing human beings all their lives?”
“Better to put those slaves out of their misery, I suppose?”
“Yes, actually.  I know you speak in irony, but why not?  Them, and the generations of wretches who would be born from their loins.”
Gall turned and looked out the window, speaking in a different tone of voice, evidently repeating a lecture he had given many times before.
“And the same for the Indians remaining on the plains.  The nobility of which Cooper wrote is gone, their glory has fled.  Their spirit broken, their manhood effaced, what remains of the copper nations are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them.
“We have wronged them for centuries.  Now, for our own safety, we should follow it up by one more wrong and wipe them out entirely.  Better for their dignity that their bloodline should end in our organ vats than in a dwindling population of drink-ruined scum.”
Gall turned to Locke, his eyes bright.
“But enough of lecturing -- let me show you what the future of America looks like!  We have a facility where you can see for yourself, a good deal closer than Haiti!”
Locke nodded slowly.  Then, since it was clear Gall wanted him to, he asked, “How close?”
Gall actually giggled.
“Oh, let’s call it the corner of Seventh Avenue and Ninety-Seventh Street!”
Locke frowned.  Maybe Gall really was mad. “There is no corner of 97th and 7th.  That would be right in the middle of....”
Locke couldn’t blame Gall for his bizarre laughter as Locke trailed off, comprehension dawning on his face.  He must have looked quite comical to Gall.
“You have a . . . facility . . . on the Central Farm?  In the middle of Manhattan?”
Gall nodded once, sharply, his smile still appallingly self-satisfied.
Locke and Gall rode in a closed carriage drawn by a moke and driven by a tiny, dwarfish hoover.  As they rode, Gall continued to lecture while Locke paged through the scrapbook.
“The Central Farm was always at least as important as a way of displaying the latest advances in vitalogy as it was as a convenient place to raise the city’s groceries and meat.”
“So, you’re planning on showing your facility to the public?”
Gall smiled, nodding.
“Yes, at the appropriate time.  Quite soon, I should think.  Once the public has been prepared, in stages, we can present the evulsatorium to them.  You suppose that people will find our system repugnant, don’t you?  I expect that when they see how efficient and humane our processing is, the evulsatorium will actually serve as an advertisement for rationalization.”

Frankenstein's World, Chapter Nine

Frankenstein’s World
By John M. Burt
Thursday: Chapter Nine
[Synopsis: In a world where Victor Frankenstein was a real person and where he founded the field of vitalogy in 1776, in 1837 reporter Richard Adams Locke is investigating the murder of a leading vitalogist.  Was he killed by a friend?  A rival? A member of some kind of secret vitalogy-related conspiracy?  Locke interviews vitalogists, police detectives and other people in hope of finding out.  He has heard hints of something called the Illuminati, and something else (or the same thing) called Mellonta Tauta (Greek for “We speak now of future things”).]
On the morning of June 14th, Locke woke with a terrible headache well before Nereus knocked.  He took his spoonful of Blue Mass and opened a twist of paper he kept in the same drawer.  He inhaled the green powder inside and waited for the ground moss to relieve his pain.
When Nereus brought the pitcher of hot water, Locke put it on the floor and cautiously touched his bare feet to it.  He held his feet to the almost-scalding water and over the next minute or so gradually immersed them.  It also seemed to help, but he knew what he really needed: coffee.
When he lifted his feet out, he was alarmed by how red they were.  They hurt almost as much as his head.  Standing up, they were tender but didn’t seem to have actually been burned.
The water was still hot enough and clean enough for washing, in spite of some bits of lint and a faint smell of cheese.
Washed and dressed, Locke pulled his wideawake lower to shield his eyes and set out on the street in search of coffee.
The place he usually went to, on the same block as the Decatur, he found vacant, evidently another victim of the Panic.  Two head-throbbing blocks further, he found a place where a sign hanging from a ring in the mouth of a cast-zinc horse indicated that coffee was available, and he went in.
A hoover, immense but almost skeletal, limped from table to table.  Rather than force the wretch to walk any further, Locke sat at the counter.
When the hoover made his way to the counter, he bowed gravely to Locke and said, “How may I serve you, Master?”  Both the bow and the “Master” indicated the hoover was very old, and had been trained in manners in the Georgian style.
“Er, coffee, black, as strong as it comes.”
“A double, Master?”
“Um, yes, fine.”
Locke watched the hoover drain steaming water from one of two huge brass urns, then add pour a tiny quantity of hot black liquid from a tiny pot that sat on top of the urn.
“Two parts of buna and two of water, Master,” the hoover said with a ghastly forced smile.  “Just what a hangover needs.”
Locke ignored this impertinence.  He didn’t have the energy to high-hat the creature.
Sipping his coffee, Locke slowly turned to look around the café.  Some were clearly like him, on their way to work.  Others looked as though they had just left work, bolstering themselves with coffee on their way home.  A few looked as though they had no jobs to go to, and possibly no homes.  Some people spent the entire day in a café, nursing a cup or two while they read newspapers, or wrote in notebooks.
He saw a copy of the New York Observer lying in an empty booth and opened it.  He looked for news that didn’t have to do with reanimated body parts, lethal conspiracies and threats to the nation.  He did not succeed.  Business, politics, crime -- everything seemed to be touched by the products of vitalogy.
#  A British organization called the Temple of Hymen was opening a branch in Manhattan, on Bleecker Street.  They claimed -- hinted might be a better word -- that they could cure impotence, “marital incompatibility” and barrenness by the rental of one of their “Celestial Beds”.
#  A clerk working at John Anderson’s tobacco shop at Broadway and Pine had been found dead in the Hudson River.  Cuts on her body and missing parts suggested she had been the victim of a “burking” -- killed, in other words, for salable organs.
#  The State of Virginia’s Secretary of Science had released a report saying that Carolina parakeets had caused forty million dollars’ worth of damage to crops and property in the preceding years.  The birds had been the messenger system of choice in the 1820s, but they had been superseded by ravens.  Message parakeets which had escaped, or been released by thoughtless owners, had gone feral, interbred with wild stocks, and become a pest far beyond what the original stock had been.
#  P.T. Barnum had a new attraction at his Dime Museum at Broadway and Ann Street: an extremely aged-looking Negress whom he claimed was Joice Heth, age 136, who had been George Washington’s wet nurse.
#  John C. Calhoun, former Vice President and currently a Senator, had spoken on the Senate floor on the status of the hoovers.  His own feelings were quite strong: he had grown up among the backward and impoverished humans of South Carolina’s back country, who had worked the land indifferently.  He had seen the bustling plantations and other commercial enterprises which had displaced them, using hoover labor.   In his latest speech, Calhoun staked an even bolder position than before.  He refused to accept that the use of hoovers was in any sense a “necessary evil”, declaring it “a good — a positive good.”
Calhoun declared that “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.”  He compared the making and employment of hoovers with “the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, with so small a share allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes. The devices are almost innumerable, from the brute force and gross superstition of ancient times, to the subtle and artful fiscal contrivances of the modern day. I might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and honest mode by which the labor of the resurrected is, among us, commanded by the living....”
He defended hoover slavery, and complained of the need to discuss it at all:  The subject is beyond the jurisdiction of Congress - they have no right to touch it in any shape or form.” He predicted terrible consequences if it were asserted “that this Government had a right, in the last resort, to determine the extent of its own powers, and enforce its decision at the point of the bayonet.”
Determinedly, Locke turned to the “letters to the Editor” section.  He often found such letters amusing.
Two letters denounced Barnum’s Joice Heth as a fraud, one claiming that she was a hoover and another that she was an automaton made from gutta percha and whalebone.  Locke suspected both letters had been written by Barnum himself.
Another letter seemed to echo Locke’s own thoughts: “Hoover slavery is like the Egyptian plague of frogs: one sits down to supper, and frogs leap onto one’s plate.  Music and theater are inaudible due to the frog chorus.  The parlor grants no rest, the bed no sleep, even church grants no solace, for everywhere there are frogs, frogs, frogs....”
Locke noticed his coffee had gone cold.  Although it tasted horrible, he tossed the remainder of the cup down and hurried away to Wall Street, where he was expected at the House of Usher.
Going further south in Manhattan than he’d been in weeks, Locke found a bright, modern-looking building at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street.  A human receptionist in a smart checkered suit ordered a hoover to escort him up to Miss Usher’s office.
Madeline Usher was fairly new to New York, having built hoovers along with her late brother at what had originally been the family home, in a remote location in western Pennsylvania.  The story of the house’s destruction in a flood, with the complete loss of all equipment and materials, and the death of Roderick Usher himself, had been a sensation two years past.  When Madeline Usher on her own had moved to New York and rebuilt her business, the fame of the House of Usher had grown enormously.
The hoover led Locke up a flight of stairs and then, not to an office or a laboratorium, but to a parlor that could have been in any upper middle class home.  Sunlight streamed in through a row of windows, beneath which was a couch and a couple of armchairs in which three well-dressed ladies were having tea.  The only anomaly was that each of them had a large and rather ugly male hoover standing by her, where normally a lady would be attended by a dainty female.
“Excuse me, Doctor,” Locke’s escort said softly, “Mister Locke is here for his appointment.”
A thin woman in a white dress looked up from her cup.  A narrow black ribbon and her black hair emphasized her very pale skin.
“I’m sorry, Mister Locke, but I really don’t have time for a proper interview.  I’ve had the unexpected pleasure of a visit today from two colleagues from overseas.  The three of us have corresponded for years, but this is the first chance we’ve had to meet face to face.”
Doctor Usher gestured to a red-haired woman in black velvet.  “Miss Jane Greystone.” Her hand moved to point at the third woman, brown-haired in a green dress.  “Dottora Beatrice Rappaccini.”
Locke bowed deeply to each of them in turn, saying softly, “Doctor Usher.  Dottora Rappaccini.  And, er, Miss Greystone, or should I say Doctor?”
The woman shook her head, smiling sadly.
“I’m afraid I’ve never been granted that degree.  I have inherited the title of Baronette, so you could call me ‘Lady Jane’ if you insist, but I would prefer ‘Miss Greystone’.”
“Very well, then, Miss Greystone.  Please pardon me.”
She didn’t wave the apology away, merely nodded.
“Narbon,” Madeline Usher said to the hoover standing behind her, “bring Mister Locke a chair.
“Mister Locke, I can give you a few minutes, if you don’t mind interrogating me in this setting.  Do sit down.”
“I very much appreciate your seeing me, Dr. Usher.”
Locke seated himself.  The hoover who had escorted him to the parlor held out a cup of tea on a saucer.
“Well, Dr. Usher, if your guests have just arrived, I presume they did not know Dr. Bullivant at all...?”
“No,” Dottora Rappaccini said.  Locke noticed that the hands which held her cup and saucer were covered with satin gloves which reached past her elbows.  He wondered if this were the current Continental fashion.
“Nor I,” Miss Greystone said.
“Not so much because they do not live on Manhattan, Mr. Locke, as that like me, they deal in industrial hoovers, rather than in domestic servants as Bullivant did.”
Locke blinked.
“Er, really?  I’ll admit, I had assumed that you ladies were in the same line as Dr. Foster.”
Soft, ladylike laughter came at Locke from around the table.
“No,” Dr. Usher said, smiling, “I’m afraid not.  Surely you’ve noticed that even our own attendants are not the usual pretty things seen in a parlor like this.”
She pointed at her own attendant, who had skin that was warty, almost scaly, and had clawlike hands.
“Topo is made for mining -- digging cinnabar, to be precise -- his skin is capable of enduring both the bumps and scrapes of mining, and the damaging effects cinnabar has on the skin.”
The Italian lady pointed to her own servant, who was quite slender, and had amazingly-long fingers.  Locke had to look twice to confirm that the creature did indeed have seven fingers on each hand.
“Cushing is made for manufacturing watches and other small machinery.
“This is Ouran.  He’s a pongo, made from a combination of human, orang-outang and chimpanzee organs.”
Locke was interested by how she put the emphasis on the second syllable of “chim-PAN-zee” rather than the last, which was how he’d heard it pronounced before.
“That’s illegal in this country.”
Lady Greystone nodded, smiling.
“Yes, but I have a dispensation from your Department of Commerce for Ouran so that he’s counted as a ‘specimen’ rather than a working hoover.
“In any event, it is to be hoped that the law will be changed soon.  It never made much sense.  When Frankenstein built his Number One, ‘The sepulcher and the slaughterhouse provided my material’.”
“I wonder whether there will be a market for pongos in the U.S., though.  The ape parts would all have to be imported, and the duties on them would make it hard to compete with human parts.”
She shrugged.
“I don’t know.  There are persistent rumors of some sort of hairy bipeds in the west.”
“Um, yes, in the Oregon Country, I think.”
Rappaccini inserted, “There is some speculation that the Limehouse Consumption originated with a disease of African green monkeys that jumped to humans by way of pongos built from humans and chimpanzees.  If that is the case, it would certainly dampen interest in building American pongos.”
Lady Greystone glared at her.
Leaving the House of Usher, Locke found he had more than an hour until his appointment at the laboratorium of Drs. Howard, Fine & Howard.
 “Mister Locke.”
Locke turned to see that same odd hoover which had spoken with him outside the post office, holding a small suitcase.
“I understand you wish to speak with someone about future things.”

Interlude: Advertisements in the Observer
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By color, texture and odor, Gynebutyron is indistinguishable from the natural female substance, and if rubbed into the skin in the minutes prior to ejaculation, will be absorbed just as readily and have the same ataraxic effect.
Gynebutyron -- just 25c for a half-ounce jar
Don’t Be the Hunter’s Prey!
The hunter massacres animals in droves, so he may pick out the choicest cuts for his own family and neighbors, and ship the rest off to the city for market.
Don’t let a hunter feed your children on his table scraps!
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And Introducing Cuy Brava, the Taste of South America!
In the June Issue of
 “The Man of Steel” by Herbert S. Phibes
“Nell, the Little Hoover”, the last story of the late Charles Dickens
And beginning this month, a new serial by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The Scarlet Numeral”
Seward’s chimerical auction house
Announces the arrival of numerous fine draft and riding chimerae
Mokes # stalwarts # guays # ziegenbocks
All fresh from the finest laboratoria
Auction on Friday
Coming Monday: industrial hoovers

Frankenstein’s World, Chapter Eight

Frankenstein’s World
By John M. Burt
Chapter Eight
The door to Dr. Brandreth’s home was answered by a dusky hoover who bowed and touched his fingertips to his lips to let Locke know he was mute.  Locke gave the hoover his card and expected to have to wait while it was conveyed inside, but the hoover looked closely at it, nodded and gestured for Locke to follow.  The hoover led him to a small room furnished only with two chairs and a low table between them.  A carafe and glasses stood on the table, and the footman offered by gesture to pour Locke a drink.  Locke nodded, and the hoover poured a glass of what appeared to be water, and then left.  Locke sipped cautiously and found that it was indeed water -- wonderfully clear spring water, recently drawn, he would say.  He’d almost finished his glass when the door opened again and a very thin man with grayish skin and snow-white hair entered, accompanied by another hoover with the same dusky hue that indicated his face and hands, at least, had come from a man with dark skin, probably an old slave whose remains had been sold to make hoovers after his death.
The hoover gave Locke the same “mute’s salute”, and Brandreth seemed to echo his servant by holding up an index finger asking for patience.
Once Brandreth was seated, the grey-faced footman left the room and returned pushing a wheeled machine with a long pump handle on its top.  He uncoiled a black rubber hose and attached it to a leather bag like what was in a set of bagpipes and placed the bag in Brandreth’s lap.  Next, he undid Brandreth’s ascot to reveal a valve implanted in the notch between his collarbones.  The hoover uncoiled a smaller hose attached to the bag and attached it to Brandreth’s valve.  The hoover began working the pump, and the bag filled with air.  After a few strokes, Brandreth opened his mouth, pressed down on the bag like a piper, and spoke.
“Good afternoon, Mister Locke.  I’m sorry I had to wait so long to greet you, but I lacked the breath to speak.  Had my lungs removed.  Cancer, you know.”
Locke had known about Brandreth’s cancer, but not how he had dealt with it.  Given the bizarre conditions under which he spoke, Brandreth’s voice was quite clear and normal sounding.
This, Locke realized, was the meaning behind the “Dr. Lackobreath” sketch at the Prometheus Club: a satire on Dr. Brandreth’s condition.  Locke repressed the urge to shudder at this seeming callousness and briskly opened his notebook.
“Doctor, as you know I am investigating the death of Gideon Bullivant.”
“Yes.  We were not closely acquainted, but I knew his reputation.  His death was certainly a loss to the field.”
Another silent, dusky servant entered, this one wearing a cook’s dress and apron.  She carried a bucket with a long hose dangling from it, and a jar of liquid.  As she hung the bucket from a hook on the wall, Locke thought this was an additional part of Brandreth’s speaking apparatus, but then she rolled up the doctor’s sleeve, tied a thong around his arm to make the veins swell up, and jabbed the needle at the end of the hose into her master’s arm.  Locke tried not to look, but noticed that there was a long track of fading marks down his arm, presumably from earlier infusions.
The cook opened the jar and poured a substance that smelled of bleach into the bucket.  As she untied the thong, Locke heard Brandreth interrupt his monologue momentarily with a soft hiss.
“Not as comfortable or as convenient as respiration, I fear,” Brandreth said regretfully, “but better than the alternative.”
“Well, Dr. Brandreth, you say Dr. Bullivant’s death was a loss to the field.  How would you describe his place in it?”
Brandreth pressed down on the bag and opened his mouth in a long breathy sigh. He shook his head.
“I can talk all right with this contraption, but a sigh doesn’t feel like a sigh, and I miss the ability.”
He pushed out another long and presumably unsatisfying sigh, evidently in honor of the lost sighs of bygone days.
Despite his sighing, though, Bradreth seemed to be looking healthier than he had when he’d entered: his skin had taken on a ruddy pinkish hue, his lips had become almost shockingly red, making an even stronger contrast with his snowy hair.
“Bullivant was inventive and innovative, while still being a gentleman.  He understood what things could be cast aside and what had to be held onto.  Not like . . . not like some, who think innovation means throwing out everything old and embracing anything new just because it is new.”
Brandreth muffled a belch.
“Please excuse me.  That always happens when I’m getting my oxidizer.”
Brandreth belched again, and giggled.
“Oh, Flora, you must get me a match!”
“So, Doctor, you were saying?”
“Oh, you must let me show you, Mister Locke, this is simply too droll!”
“Yes, Dr. Brandreth, of course, but –”
The hoover brought a box of matches.  Brandreth took one and lit it, holding it close to his mouth.  After a moment, he belched again, and the flame leapt up vigorously, burning up the matchstick in an instant.
Brandreth gasped in pain and shook out the match, sucked at his burnt fingertips, still giggling.
“You see?  Pure oxygen!”
Locke put away his notebook, thanked Dr. Brandreth and offered him his hand.  The old vitalogist giggled and slapped Locke’s palm in a way he had previously only seen Freedmen do by way of greeting.
Leaving Dr. Brandreth’s home, Locke noticed that it had become quite dark.  It was later than he had supposed.
He ought to send a telegram to the Sun offices to update Mr. Day about his progress.  Down the block he saw the unmistakable silhouette of a constable, tall leather helmet on his head and billy club on his belt.
“Officer,” Locke began as he approached the constable’s back, realizing how tall he was as he approached.
The constable executed a military about-face and Locke saw he was a hoover.
“I beg your pardon, Citizen, but I am no officer, merely a Leatherhead.  How may I help you?”
Locke was startled into silence for an awkwardly long time.  He’d heard that some cities were deploying hoovers as police auxiliaries, but the practice hadn’t reached New York.  Even the fact that the “Leatherhead” could talk was a bit startling after the silence of Brandreth’s servants.
“Er, sorry – could you, er, direct me to the nearest post office?”
The hoover inclined his head politely.
“Certainly, Citizen.  Just go past that corner to the next one and turn left onto Delancy Street.  You can’t miss it.”
Locke nodded and turned away.  He’d almost thanked the hoover, but figured he had already lowered himself enough by apologizing for his falling silent.
The post office was indeed hard to miss, with its carved wooden figure of a hoover mailman standing out front and a cast-zinc eagle spreading its gilt wings above the door.  It was built of marble-veneered brick and took up about half the block, flanked by a grocery store and a tavern that held the corners.  It projected an air of solid civic life: security, stability, reliability.  It seemed to promise not merely that people’s mail would be delivered quickly and securely, but that all the organs of civilization were in working order.
That sense of stability was somewhat tempered once Locke pushed through the doors into the noisy rush of work.  It seemed as though the post office were being used to its limits just at the moment, with people waiting in long lines as human and hoover postal clerks hurried back and forth with carts piled high with sacks of letters and stacks of packages.  Three long lines of people mailing letters and postcards, two for packages, one each for telegrams and for messenger ravens.
Locke found the end of the line for telegrams and took his place.  To his relief, the line did at least move quickly.
When he neared the head of the line, he saw that a human clerk was training a hoover clerk.  Fortunately, the hoover’s training had reached the point where his teacher merely had to watch him perform his task and offer occasional cues when he strayed or hesitated.  Locke took up his place at the marble counter and grabbed a yellow pad of telegram blanks.  He hastily filled in the form, copying over his scribbled notes in a neat hand and using the Sun’s standard abbreviation codes.  By the time he reached the window, he had his interview with Brandreth ready to send to the Sun’s rewrite desk, on three neatly-lettered yellow forms.
As the clerk was checking the address for Locke’s telegram, Locke looked over the hoover’s shoulder and saw two long rows of desks.  One was clearly hoover telegraphers, thin silvery strands of nerve tissue grafted to their forearms, their hands tracing over the letters on yellow telegraph sheets.  Locke had seen telegraphers like these since he was a boy.
The opposite row was like nothing Locke had ever seen before.  Normally there would be a second row of hoovers in chairs, scratching out messages in response to the signals coming through their nerve grafts (afferent nerves, Locke recalled from somewhere, as opposed to the efferent nerves of the sending telegraphers – or was it the other way around?).  Here, there was only a sort of long table, with pens held by disembodied hands that moved in response to their own nerve grafts.  The hands hung suspended in braces, liquid dripping into their veins through tubes from hanging bottles of pale golden fluid, and ink into their pens from black bottles, also through tubes.
A hoover clerk moved up and down the aisle between the hoovers and the hands, delivering slips to the telegraphers and collecting finished messages from the hands.
As Locke handed over his telegram, the human clerk noticed him staring at the bodiless hands.
“The moving finger writes, eh?  It’s the latest thing.  We used to need a whole hoover with a nerve graft to receive telegrams.  Now it’s just the hand, and all we have to feed it is a tablespoon of honey and half a cup of Demikhov’s Oxygenator in a quart of water.”
Locke managed to control his nausea sufficiently to nod and say, “Much cheaper, no doubt.”
There was a commotion off to Locke’s right, shouts and flappings and a voice like a rusty door hinge shrieking “Nevermore!”
A raven had suddenly started fussing while a message was being dictated to it.
“Nevermore!” the bird cried again, launching itself into the air.
A senior clerk called out, “It’s gone bad -- wring its neck!”
Clerks reached for it but it eluded their fingers. The bird circled near the ceiling two or three times, still repeating that same word, then flew out an open window.  Its black-feathered body was instantly invisible in the dark of night.
The clerks shrugged and went back to their work, and Locke supposed it was really just a small accident in the workplace, no great harm done, yet there was something deeply disturbing about the whole incident....
“Sorry about that, Sir,” the telegraph clerk said calmly.  “Will you be waiting for a reply?”
Only then did Locke realize he was still standing at the window.  He shook himself.
“Er, no, thank you.”
Locke moved out of the way.  As he left the post office, he wondered why the incident with the raven had so shaken him.  He wondered if it were simply the mournful sound of the word, “nevermore” itself.  That thought led him to considering the character of the various sounds of the English language, a subject which was still occupying his mind as he prepared for bed.