THESE POSTS CONSIST OF AN INTERACTIVE HYPER-LINKED EDITION OF CANNIBALS BOOK IV
EACH OF THE INDIVIDUAL BOOKS OF CANNIBALS CAN BE READ INDEPENDENTLY, AND IN ANY ORDER.
CANNIBALS BOOK IV:
CA N AL
THE SEEKERS OF VALKYNNE
In 1924, August Schiller, a noted scientist, disappeared. The movie Cannibals was a fictionalized version, or perhaps a documentary, of this actual event.
The circumstances of August Schiller’s disappearance have fascinated the public, prompting conjecture and debate. His wife’s equally mysterious disappearance six months later fueled the controversy even further. Did she murder him? Did the government give them both new identities? Did they fall victim to the conspiracies of a mystic cabal?
As part of his research, Zeke Ringo compiled numerous historical documents concerning the Schiller matter. The court files and police reports contained letters and diaries, the authenticity of which had been contested even when they were first introduced into evidence. The prosecution contended that Annabelle Schiller had forged many of the documents in an effort to prove her innocence, while Hugh Ansibal, her defense counsel, introduced them as proof of her madness.
There have been numerous efforts to recreate a semblance of the original release of Cannibals by correlating known surviving stills with the assembled historical documents. Some of the resulting interpretations were based on intuition or dreams; these are the products of authors who believed that a kind of magic was at work that would lead them to fidelity. Other versions were based upon assiduous research, either into accounts of the film itself, or into factual accounts of Dr. Schiller’s disappearance.
The following compilation was found among Zeke Ringo’s papers after his death. Ringo kept most of his work in a state of disarray. It has been said that Ringo turned to mysticism because he was too disorganized to get things done any other way. The sequence of events remains in dispute, even to this date, as well as the authenticity of certain passages.
The reader has been provided with suggested alternate routes through these documents, with the authority credited, and the reasoning given for the authority’s choice. And so, the reader may choose between various interpretations by skipping to designated pages.
Zeke Ringo himself held the conviction that all of the following documents are authentic, regardless of the source, and the work should be read from beginning to end, in regular sequence, following the numbered pages in order, and ignoring any instructions to the contrary. It is also my feeling that this route is best understood when taken last– which is to say that the reader should sample competing interpretations before following Ringo’s. To put it simply, Ringo believed that the story of Cannibals is a tale of science and sorcery in unison; a resolution of contradictions. The story is many stories.
Everything is true. All of the findings, opinions, beliefs, and points of view held by friends (and opponents) are all true– even those that contradict each other. Even the contradiction of the preceding statement is true. Appreciating the truth in things we believe to be false is the key to having a deeper self and a harmonious and diverse culture. It is a quantum point of view. The universe is a simultaneous experience of contradictions. Cannibals is a myth to demonstrate that truth– a collection of lost silent film fragments that can be read in a variety of different sequences. The meanings of the fragments change according to the order in which they are read. You can steer your way through different versions of Book IV using the hyperlinks provided– or you can read all the assembled documents in ordinary numerical sequence. The choice is yours.
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