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CANNIBALS BOOK IV:
CA N AL
THE SEEKERS OF VALKYNNE
LETTER TO H. PUEGOT ANSIBAL, ESQ. FROM ANNABELLE SCHILLER.
JANUARY 2, 1924
Please forgive my hysterical tone, and the melodramatic means I have been forced to employ in order to get this letter to you. The police watch me constantly. The military were called in, because of August’s extensive involvement in national security matters. I managed to withstand their grilling– but they knew I was holding something back.
Let them think what they will. I would rather be thought a murderess than tarnish August’s public image. Let the world continue to regard him as The Great Man. The Role Model. The voice of science and reason in an age of madness.
And so I am writing to you, not just to take advantage of our long friendship, but because I need the counsel of lawyer. Tell me what to do.
The night that August disappeared, he said to me, “Magic Exists.” He pulled a trunk down from the top shelf of his closet. A cascade of paper tumbled down, old bills, yellowed love letters, laboratory notes, dog-eared journals, and a wide variety of accolades and certificates, all randomly filed. He turned his back to the mess he created, leaving it on the floor, and set the open suitcase on the bed.
He wasn’t making any effort to convince me. His voice had an emotionless tone; more like he was talking to himself. I think he was trying to ward off his nagging sense of responsibility, and his guilt in neglecting it for the first time in his life.
I said, “August, you need…”
“What? Interrupt what?”
“The most important thing I have ever told you.” He couldn’t look me in the eyes. He looked out the window, out to the storm, where there was less fury. “I have learned of a place called Valkynne. It is paradise. Men become gods.”
I was standing by the window, looking at my own reflection, a silhouette against the lightning cracked sky. Pin-points of light flashed and disappeared on small reflective surfaces; my tears, my eyes, my lips, the diamond on the fourth finger of my right hand.
“I put up with your fits and moods for a long time, August. This is too much.”
“I have to find Valkynne,” he said, glancing up from the serious business of packing.
I stepped away from the window, and grabbed him by the shirt, which ripped as he pulled away from me. To hold him in place, I dug my nails into his shoulders, which explains why they found his skin stuck to my nail parings. I was desperate, trying every possible means to bring August to his senses.
“Listen to me, just once…”
“When I find Valkynne, I’ll have the power to summon you. Have faith.” He shut the lid of the trunk, then fastened the clasps with a loud, judicial pop, his signal to end the discussion.
I am being honest, Hugh. I am trying to be as complete and honest as I can. I said to August, “You think you are the master of every situation. That is how the world sees you– and you believe it.” Now I took his cheeks into my hands, forcing him to confront my gaze. “But there’s something about you only I know. While one part of your mind grew strong, another part stopped growing.” I embraced him, guiding his face to my breasts. “You are a child, in many ways. I have to work constantly to protect you. I make sure nothing upsets your illusions. I am the magic in your life.”
I paced over to the trunk, my stride measured and authoritative. I reopened it, smiling, gloating, even before the contents were revealed. Then I pointed victoriously. “Look how you’ve packed. Five shoes, not a pair among them. Tooth powder, no tooth brush. You can’t leave. You’d never make it alone.”
He scratched his head, searching for meaning in his random choices. At length he said, “Help me pack.”
“Damn you! Damn you! Damn you!” I beat my fists against him. Defensively, he lifted his arms, not fully understanding what he had done wrong.
He grabbed the trunk, headed for the door. But he had forgotten to refasten the clasps, so the contents spilled out.
Hysterical laughter erupted from me.
As he paused to survey the heap, I managed to compose myself. Calmly, very calmly, I said to him, “August. You are all I have.”
“Guilt won’t keep me here.”
Was I getting what I deserved? I had depleted my own talents in the course of keeping him happy. But I can’t blame him for that. I did it willingly. Annabelle, always the dutiful wife. For seven years, I subverted myself, and shined with reflected glory. Well, I had been the one so eager to wed a famous man.
I braced myself against the trunk.
He tried to pull me away. We struggled with one another. Full of rage, and half out of my mind with desperation, I picked up a lamp and hit him with it. He lacerated his scalp on the ceramic base as it shattered. You know how scalp cuts bleed. That was his only wound, and the reason there was so much blood. I am giving you the truth.
He raced out the door, abandoning the trunk and its contents. I followed, into the rain, into the storm.
I ran half a mile up the street, screaming his name. I doubled back. The lightning strokes revealed vacant, motionless vistas in all directions.
Perhaps I should have called the police right away. In retrospect, it certainly looks bad that I did not. But what was I supposed to say? Apart from fame, there is little to distinguish me from any other broken hearted wife with a philandering husband. I rationalized my silence, arguing that August’s mania might pass quickly, though I knew in my heart it would not. And of course, I was concerned about publicity. Perhaps that is what I was most concerned about. Publicity and its tarnishing effect on August’s saintly image.
So what am I to do? Sit back and wait for them to arrest me? Go on a mad quest in search of my husband, even though I have been forbidden to leave the State? Or trust to his judgment, as I have in the past, content that he will summon me to paradise?
What am I to do?
Go to Segment Two