Friday, January 4, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Only Thing Worse Is the Cure




I have never encountered an illness like that of the Young Master. What more rational name there is than “illness,” I am unaware, though it is an admittedly uncanny affliction.

Never had I wished for a thing so as to continue in my employers’ service when they announced they were expecting. The Master and Mistress had gone to great strains to conceive, importing all number of chemicals and powders, and seeking all number of blessing. One night I even witnessed the Mistress reading an occult tome, though the next day she ordered our precious blind cook to burn it and toss it out with the morning dregs.

The Mistress conceived it was time for me to retire. I could not deny the charges of my posture, of my trembling hands whenever I carried a tray of dinner to the Master’s upper study, and of my liver was deteriorating in much the same pattern as had that of my father and two forebears. It was only upon extreme begging of their charity that they allowed me to serve in reduced capacity through the birth and entry of a new member unto the household.

The Young Master was born of perfect health. I checked him myself as the doctors swarmed our Mistress, chanting of “internal aberrations," though I cannot recall her ever complaining of such conditions before. I carried the Young Master out of the room so he might not witness such pain as his first experience on our earth. It would be unseemly.

In the weeks that followed, the Master spent his days either in utter solitude in the upper study, or with the Young Master. How he stared at the the child, I sometimes feared he was going vile. I was almost relieved when he took ill and could no longer visit the lower floors.

It was by these emergencies that I was charged with finding wet nurses for the Young Master. Never have I heard of such trouble. Six we went through, six sturdy women, every one of them documented and with fine history. Four suffered anemia after their initial visits, and the other two were bedridden from unknown malignities.

We had such weather the night our Master finally slipped away. Nearly all the staff remained by his door, and it remains a regret that I could not join them, yet the Young Master required attention. I had to call upon a wet nurse of no documentation, who swore upon her life that her malignity was exclusive to her person and in no way transferable. Had I not been so shaken, I never would have admitted her, and yet?

The Young Master took to her breast immediately and found no complaint. Her milk was as fine as any of the women who had attended him before. No illness beset him that night or any night afterward, whereas, and I appreciate the sound of irrationality about it, but the wet nurse’s sallow malignity seemed to dissolve by morning. Even the boils on her neck waned. By Friday, she was comely for her age. I’ve had letters from her since that claim a total remission.

A coincidence, if not for this personal factor: since the Young Master came into my hands, these fingers have never been so steady. The pleasure of snapping one’s fingers is a thing I had forgotten, and now reclaim. I stride through these halls with endurance and posture unknown to me for fifteen years at the most conservative. And the pain in my liver? I have not felt it bleed in nigh on a month, and I should, for the Young Master takes to prodding at it whenever I carry him about his estate.

Census of the staff confirms my conviction: arthritis is extinct, and malignity seemingly out on vacation, while every able-bodied servant has taken to bed or had to excuse himself. I took my census to our precious blind cook for advice of one who thinks without the clouded vision of sight. Her answer shook me to my core, for after I asked her, she looked upon me for the first time in our long tenure together, and I realized that was her answer. She saw me, and it brought a tear to an old man’s eyes.

She has no more notion of what to do with the Young Master than I. Is this a condition that can be cured, and is it something that even ought to be cured?

So I must indulge in an indiscretion. Tomorrow, before the authorities arrive to take the Young Master into their care, I will shuttle him to the insane asylum on the other side of the mountain. I have known numerous educated men who claimed insanity to be an illness of the mind. Well if this is true, then after I push the Young Master’s pram through those halls for an hour, I may find several dozen cured and grateful minds with whom to discuss how best to serve him.

My apologies to any orderlies who catch the annual chill from our visit. I hear it is quite savage this year.

41 comments:

  1. Aberrant indeed. Loads of nice details in this one. I liked how the Young Master prodded the servant's liver to check on it, although I have a bad feeling he has a future use for it.

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    1. Oh, do you think he'll be asking for a transplant some day?

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  2. And do those people whose illnesses have been cured stay that way, or do they cycle from health to illness and back again? And I would love to hear what happens in the insane asylum...

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    1. I'm very tempted to turn this into a serial, as much as I enjoy leaving it there. Yours is a reasonable request. I'll see what I can do!

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  3. the curative powers of malignity - nice! I did like the image of the wet nurses being used up & suffering anemia from suckling

    marc nash

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    1. I should have expected, Marc! But I'm still glad you liked that part. Made me feel a little guilty to write.

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  4. The high shall be brought low, and the least among ye elevated to the seat of honor. The first shall be last, and the last made first. I don't recall anything about the well being made ill, but sight being restored to the blind certainly fits.

    Interesting kid you got there, John.

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  5. I was also wondering whether, upon being made healthy, the (formerly) afflicted become afflicted anew. And what's he going to be when he grows up?

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    1. He might become something worse, you know? To someone.

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  6. I really enjoyed this.
    I would have liked to know more about the negative aspects, surely the protagonist would have worried more about stealing health from others?

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    1. Where into the piece would you have liked him to dwell more on the YM's negative effects? Or would you rather than in a sequel?

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    2. Hmmm... I did not get notification of this reply :(

      After he confirms his suspicions with the healed wet nurse would have been space for at least a quick musing?

      Otherwise seeing the effects at the asylum on the doctors and nurses may cause some conflict in a sequel...

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  7. I haven't read your work for a while, but this seems to have a different voice than your usual. I imagine the action taking place in a castle or some dusty citadel. A few of your words threw me and took me out of the 'feel' of the story: 'stroller', and 'felony' for example. They didn't seem to fit with the language elsewhere, but this could be your aim: to bring the modern in to the archaic?

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    1. Those two words are fair, especially since "pram" is a better fit than "stroller." I feel like "felony" can still fit into the older world, but have changed it anyway, to a more agreeable word. I appreciate you poking me on this.

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  8. Oh yes John, please do show us what happens in the insane asylum. I love that twist ending, how it seems the Young Master will be committed only to find out in the next breath that he'll be there to help. Great imagery here too.
    I wonder if the Young Master could visit Wall Street? Heehee :)

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    1. A Wall Street visit, or any visit to a metropolis, could certainly be a full weekend, couldn't it?

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  9. A very interesting tale. I loved the formal language and the undertone of illness/things not being right. It struck me as lovecraftian in some ways, which I hope you will take as a compliment :)

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    1. He's the icon of these sorts of stories, so of course a comparison is very flattering. Thank you, Casey!

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  10. You never cease to amaze me with the breadth of your imagination. The very idea that he could cause illness where there is none, yet cure it where it is, would make him an extraordinary faith healer!

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    1. Thank you so much, Icy, that comment helped lift me spirits on a very crappy night. Does this mean you'd like more of the Young Master, or can it rest here?

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  11. Really interesting stuff! I had the same thought as Larry, regarding whether the newly healthy people return to ill health once the Young Master leaves their side? I loved the narrator's voice in this one - I read him as being a little like Alfred looking after a young (and special) Bruce Wayne! (I have just watched TDKR!)

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    1. You're the second person to draw the Alfred parallel. I guess they are butlers taking charge of orphans, though Batman has a different kind of sickness.

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  12. I'm not too sure I understand this John, is he a kind of vampire drawing the well-being of others to nurture his own body, then giving it back so he can use it again?

    Understand it or not, I still enjoyed the journey it took me on.

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    1. I wouldn't say it's as straight-forward as a vampire. I'd rather you form your own hypothesis on how the child operates, if it isn't all a coincidence.

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  13. What a strange child. Since he only harms the healthy, maybe the best place for him is the hospital!

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  14. I love what a unique concept this is! I'm with the others who'd like to see more of this, especially the visit to the asylum. And Young Master as an adult! How does he deal with this once he's self-aware and has some sort of personal morality, whether good or bad?

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    1. If I expanded this into a novella, which is one of my tentative plans, we would hit the Young Master's cognizant phase. There's the notion of a unique girlfriend that's particularly tempting for me to try to get to.

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  15. Really interesting character, so many future places you could take him, though I wouldn't blame you for leaving him be at this point either, it's a good read.

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  16. Blimey - I wish I could tackle as many different genres as you - and show such skills in handling them. Great story.

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  17. The unusual voice added to the atmosphere and I enjoyed the way both malignancy and wellness seemed to be the young Master's gifts. Still plenty to explore if you want, but perhaps the mystery should linger.

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  18. I agree with Cathy, he'd best stay in the hospital. I like the sinister undertone throughout, the voice of the servile retainer worked well.

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    1. Thanks! Did any particular element of the voice click for you?

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  19. Oh interesting illness the kid has. I should very much like to babysit him.

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    1. What would he clear up for you, Sonia?

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  20. I like this a lot. I'm not sure if it's the creative story idea or the likable narrator that I like most. Great job!

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  21. Loved the narrator's voice; it pulled me into the story from the start.

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  22. I love how the butler is excited of what his young master can do. And how else can he feel? It is a fascinating happening truly, and I, like others have mentioned above, would love an episode in the asylum!

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  23. I'm a bit late to this party...but what a story!

    Love the feel of this and the strangeness conveyed by the narrative voice.

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  24. I missed this week's flash and had to come back to read it before starting Part 2. What a crazy twist on powers, to be able to heal and poison. I wonder as he gets older if he'll be able to control which he does to whom.

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  25. It's the details, in addition to the voice of the protagonist, that deliver a greats story:

    The pleasure of snapping one’s fingers is a thing I had forgotten, and now reclaim."

    "My apologies to any orderlies who catch the annual chill from our visit. I hear it is quite savage this year."

    I come to this late and am glad the story continues in subsequent posts. There's a rich story to be unfolded here.

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