A short but very effective epistolary mood piece today. Sip it slowly.
Excerpts from a small diary:
I cannot control this any longer. R. says to look at his navel. He says that there is an eye. And I look and I see there is. It even blinks.
For what he lacks, he has acquired an extra thing.
The eye astonishes me when I look at it. It follows me when I move. I ask R. if he does this. He says no, that it moves of its own volition. I don’t like this. R. is terribly frightened. When I run my hand down his belly I can feel another protuberance. I think a nose is coming also. The eye looks at me. I don’t like it. It has an evil look to it. There is an intelligence behind it, but I don’t think it is of man…nor of beast.
R. yells at me to get rid of this demon growing inside of him!
We went to sing today. R. sang as usual with the voice of an angel. R. kept his hands mostly on his belly, like a pregnant woman. I laugh to think of it…but I don’t want to take the comparison too seriously. It isn’t normal.
The new priest inquired about R. today. He notices a slight growth on my friend’s belly. He wanted to know he said, a bit embarrassed to ask I think, since he said it like this, “Is it … I mean … is it possible for you fellows to get pregnant?” I laughed and said of course not. He laughed and said he just asked since he wasn’t used to being around people like us. I told him R. was just overindulging in food, that it was nothing.
The Black Bishop said it wasn’t necessary for R. to show up at the church choir any longer. He said I could if I wanted to and could also attend to my classes at the conservatory. In our private rooms at the end of the city he visited us and said to R., “It comes perfect through you, who are neither complete man, woman, nor child.”
R. asked me to tell him again how it was for me when it happened. He has morbid curiosities now. I told him how I would sing as a child in our little parish. How much also my grandfather enjoyed my singing, asking me to sing for him whenever I could. I told him of my father’s death and how my uncle decided it would be best if I was castrated, that with my singing I would have a beautiful career. That the voice of the angels would never leave me. An operation was planned and a lie that I had a hernia was concocted. I was rather old when it happened so I have some use of my member. R. is especially fascinated with this, and a little sad. When it was done to him he was completely emasculated.
I try to keep R. away. I have had success and have many visitors now. The Maestro di Cappella said that in no time I will be singing in the Opera House. A Lady from Firenze visited me recently for a private audience. I entertained her in my room as best I could. Before this R. came into our shared living space and made a spectacle of himself. I don’t know what is wrong with him now. He grows forgetful. He passed us and returned to his room just as abruptly, keeping the head that is growing out of his belly hidden. The Lady laughed and asked, “Musico, why does he hide that melon under his shirt?”
I fed R’s second head today. It snarls. At night it whispers blasphemies. We keep its snout tied shut. R. does this since I can’t bear to look at the thing. R. said the thing doesn’t need air to breathe. I asked him how he knew this. He said because he has tried to strangle it. He said he can’t do it again. Any pain on the thing hurts him too. They’re connected in some way, though separate.
He stays in his room now, weeping and lying supine. I ask to see him. He tells me to stay away. Last night I entered his room secretly. I opened the door and saw him silhouetted against the light from the full moon outside his window. He had no shirt on. I saw that hideous head snarling from his belly. And also now two long, bony arms stuck out of his stomach flesh. A new body is emerging out of my friend. He smells like a charnel house.
The Bishop has returned from the Black Pilgrimage. They have taken my friend away. I was told I can visit him if I want.
I returned today. I have been busy. My fame spreads. But I must see my friend with whom I was initiated at a young age into the sect. When this ordeal is over we will all have great fortune, but I regret that R. took this course. I do not think he was prepared. But truly, can anyone really be prepared for such an experience contrary to all natural law? Were we prepared when castration was done on us? And is this procedure not worse?
Before letting me see R., the hunchbacked porter asked me to make the black sign and then read to me some pertinent words from The Scrolls of Pith:
There is a place where black things crawl and no sane mind dare taste of its madness, for there evil has made its home and things not good to look at stare at other worlds with eyes of greed. Fortunate or perhaps unfortunate are they who manage to cross for a little while its dread lord into their domains, for just a few seconds, to taste freedom from his realm, for this he grants great wishes. But first the sacrifice must be made of one worthy for the fire.
He then unlocked the metal door and let me look at R. O, horror of horrors! I nearly faint to write it now. What did I see? My eyes burned with tears! It crawled around like a spider. The lower body and legs were those of my friend … but his upper half was now separated into two separate torsos, heads, and sets of arms!
One torso is R’s, while the other torso is our lords. This new upper body had grown to rival R’s own! Two torsos! A head on each torso! Each torso with its own two arms! The snarling head laughed, while R’s made no noise but was obviously in the most horrible of griefs. The thing was bent down hideously from its back and the legs and arms touched the floor. This thing moved around like a contorted centipede. In the darkness the two heads looked like hanging mandibles. The hunchback laughed and with a gleam in his eye, said, “There is another him that is within him, rising. It is our lord. Do not feel sorry for him, but for yourself. The sacrifice must be by fire.”
I have seen R. again. He is fading into our lord, Mastema. Where once the lord was emerging out of R, R. is now disappearing into the lord. R. is only a head now on Mastema’s belly. The body he spewed forth now swallows him into itself. Like water unto water. They are switching places. R. does not talk, only gibbers.
I can only see R’s eye now staring out of Mastema’s navel. It is moist and teary. Where has my friend disappeared to? What must it be like in that foul place whence the demon came, and to which now R. goes?
R. is totally gone. Now there is only the dark lord.
Great news! I will finally sing at the Opera House! No more private concerts in great houses. All of Italy will know me. Today when the Maestro told me, we dined on the most sumptuous of meals. Afterwards I sang and played the harpsichord to great applause. I hear the Prince himself will write the piece I am to perform!
Excerpt from Travels through England, Italy and Greece, Volume 1, by Jean-Pierre Lafosse:
Of these, Mastramore was one. He was a tall, thin castrato, long-faced and clumsy, as these creatures often are, whose crowning achievement at an opera I have not forgotten even after all these years. The hunchback I sat beside was particularly struck by him and irked me with his incessant chirping of, “Look, look! The sacrifice must be by fire! By fire it must be!” But as for the capon, such a voice he had! Par les dieux! Such strength, skill and virtuosity! Such ethereality, as if Orpheus was come or an angel had fallen from paradise! His long graceless arms, ungainly walk, and pronounced jaw were completely offset by this!
Then from the stage arose a man dressed as a shaggy-haired, goat-footed black thing which sat on a throne like an ancient pharaoh or Anubis. I was repulsed, as were most of the audience members in the stalls and boxes. As Mastramore sung, and the creature arose, there descended mechanical spheres which I took to represent planets. The elaborate stage machinery then descended one of those spheres, into which the eunuch entered and was locked. It then rose and burst into flames. I thought this was some misfortune, as did most of the audience, when we heard the man scream and flail, but we all were calmed when the orchestra continued playing. The beast on the throne laughed with a hollow timbre from Hell as the hunchback cried, “The sacrifice has been accepted!” Then the spectacle continued without the castrato. It was the most atrocious of works and yet I hear that those involved in its performance have gone on to great things. It was called, I think, The Festival of Moloch. Mastramore has disappeared from history and I can find no further information about him.