This story is inspired by Mr. Poe, written and recorded by our own Michael R. Helgens with cover art borrowed from Dave Caulder. Happy Halloween!
The Facts in the Case of M. Nash Drinn
© 2015 Michael R. Helgens & Media Adventures Publishing
On evenings such as this I find, while sitting here by this poorly tended fire, I cannot help but recall the evening not unlike this one when M. Nash Drinn came to call. His unfortunate arrival at my door on the evening of October the 30th in 1888 marked the beginning of an evening which was, as I have so recently intimated, not soon forgotten. Unfortunate, I say not because his case was difficult, but rather due to evenings where my memories of M. Nash Drinn are stirred more than my ever dwindling source of warmth on this anniversary of his arrival. Fire more than this one would require greater effort than I, having reached this advanced age and being without the means I once enjoyed which permitted me the service of more staff than strictly necessary, am able now to exert. It is the work of a day to harvest wood enough for my minimal comfort. Having thus exerted more than my own physician encourages, it is fitting I should grow ever colder as I recall Mr. Drinn’s arrival at my door and the interesting and strange events that would be the next many hours traffic of the stage that was once my not so very humble medical practice.
I had been, on that day, working on a cadaver sent to me by the college in Ulm. In those days, however, having one or two sent over for the purpose of furthering the understanding of anatomy and medicine was significantly easier accomplished. It has been a myriad of soulless men who have since come and gone in my former profession, who, wanting to further their own fantasy or rather to pursue some legacy not meant for mortal men, have seen to the rarity of individuals willing to give of themselves for the cause. Given the ease of their acquisition it was not uncommon for a well-established man of science to have one or two on hand to observe before some important course of surgery, but even when my practice kept me in the luxury I have here previously described I wanted for not more than one at a time given my lack of means by which to preserve them in their natural state and their wanton desire to slough away from their bones and seep into the ground from whence they were formerly drawn.
On that particular 30th day of October I recall well the corpse brought to me by carriage direct from the college where she had recently been the object of scrutiny in a series of murder investigations long gone unresolved. Normally, there was little in the way of identification, but this young lady was marred with wounds that had been the subject of more than one article on the front pages of The Times and I recognized her at once when I peeled away the fluid soaked cloth that had become her death shroud. She was, of course, Alexandria Zhukov, a Russian immigrant.
Ms. Zhukov, having recently arrived in Attenhofen after being driven from Ulm, met with our own version of London’s Ripper. A man referred to as “Chester Flynn” owing to a number of letters posted to The Times using that presumed nom de plume. I marveled for some time at the man’s work. Surely some of the cuts were the work of her examiners, but those that were not were the cuts of a scalpel held by some surgeon’s hand so expertly inflicted in ways that certainly kept the young lady alive through each new slip of his blade. He had made many small cuts on the more sensitive portions of her body—parts which I do not here mention to preserve some semblance of my own civility—and then he had cut down the length of the girl’s abdomen. The look in her eyes must have been frantic and her screams more urgent as he continued to make cuts that would not help her find her end. He then began cutting along less vital veins until at last he could contain no longer his lust for death. When he was ready to be done he took what organs suited his purpose (but not so many of them that I minded sharing) and carved there in her insides two triangles, one for each lung, and a swath of a mouth beneath them such that she was left in the form of a more macabre representation of Irving’s horseman who, having grown weary of his nightly jaunt, swallowed his own surrogate head.>
I had just finished my preliminary sketches and extracted the less interesting innards when there came a ringing of the bell which was the harbinger of the arrival of some patient or solicitor. Trusting my assistant, Margaret Von Lehrer, to see to the needs of the new arrival I took care to scrub the blood and other remnants of flesh from my hands and to remove my smock before making my way to the room where I took visitors. M. Nash Drinn and I had been acquaintances for a number of years having moved about in similar circles and attended many of the same social functions, but I had never known him to look such a fright. When I first looked upon Mr. Drinn that night I saw at once that he was not a man come to solicit, but rather to seek out my medical opinion. Margaret was, naturally, tending to his needs before my delayed arrival, but I ordered at once that he should be taken to my surgery where I might better examine the nature of the ailment with which he was so clearly afflicted. Under more observable conditions Mr. Drinn was in a worse state than I had original surmised. His face was drawn tight such that he could scarcely pull together his lips to swallow causing a dry popping sound to emanate from his agape orifice which was only the beginning of the queer report his body issued. From his sunken nose he drew only the occasional breath and this left him nearly still as he sat staring from behind blood rimmed eyes which, I swear to you, rasped as the lids with all too infrequently and with the seeming effort of Samson after his betrayal moved slowly up and down failing to deliver any comfort to the red laced orbs. The vibrant green irises of both eyes, however, were unaffected by the milky discoloration I anticipated given the rest of his condition. Such was the intensity of those eyes that I am unable to close my own, even now, without seeing them looking back at me through the darkness.
I have spoken already of the taught quality of the skin on Mr. Drinn’s face, but so too was the epidermis drawn over all his other extremities. This condition having the effect of depigmentation which left seemingly exposed the veins of my patient. On my command Mr. Drinn moved his limbs allowing me to observe the contraction of his muscles as they slipped smoothly beneath the surface. During the entire course of my examination he did as bade, but did not speak. I, for my part, and wanting to understand the nature of his ailment more than hear his hypothesis as to the origin of the affliction, made no effort to elicit from him any sounds more than he made by the force of his effort to accomplish those tasks necessary to his ersatz survival. It was in the midst of this review, however, that I began to believe this to be some new sickness previously unknown and heretofore undiscovered. Concerned to some degree with the possible contagious nature of such an affliction, I requested some explanation from M. Nash Drinn as to how he came to be in this state and thus begins those points which will, from here until the end of my life when he promised to offer again his services, forever scar my memory with the shadow of the true countenance of Mephistopheles.
“Mr. Drinn?” I spoke knowing not the consequences of the otherwise innocuous mention of a man’s name.
His voice, when it issued forth from those dry and taught worms which had once served as lips, was the whisper of death. The scythe bearer whom stood behind all men with patient calm forged by the promise granted in the certainty of eternity and bided time immortal to wrench away, when given leave to do so, the fated strands that mark the passing of men. In his voice was a quality like the passage of time spent in a copse corpse box with no merciful tether to ring out and cry for relief from purgatory. “He is gone from this place,” came the siren song that drew me close and, with the wash of grave scent, remembered me my senses and saved me from the quick clack of teeth attempted by the drawn and leering skull-face of M. Nash Drinn.
Given again once more to a cautious diligence I addressed my patient once more, “Who, then, sits here in his place?”
The face of M. Nash Drinn now turned slowly from the scrutiny of the table along the wall where I housed my surgical tools and with vibrant eyes, though now more sunken than I could recall them of moments previous, continued, “We are Legion of the horrid hell. No devil more damn’d can come in evils to surpass for we are many—nay there are nearly not any of those wretched souls with whom we are not congressed,” before returned was his gaze to some place beyond the wall at which the creature focused his willed scrutiny.
I am unashamed to say that I here cast about the room for some object of comfort which might, in a moment of such startling revelation, grant some peace to my rapidly more turgid ruminations. Finding no means by which to bring some sanity to my thoughts I looked once more at the mendacious creature who wore the masque of M. Nash Drinn to gain an audience for reasons that I knew not yet and strengthened I my steadfastness to continue my interrogation of the beast. “For what reason have you come?”
He did not shift nor did his mouth move, but I heard him speak no less plainly—though here I cannot be certain of the quality or meaning of the answer to have been discerned by any other mortal bearing witness to our communion. “Now I lay you down to sleep. I pray my lord your soul to keep.”
The words echoed in my head threatening to unfurl what remnant of my sagacity bearing the burden of my effort to face the actuality of my impending and immutable repose offered me by my guest remained. What persisted of my wits caused me, not without trenchancy, to consider the prospect of some reprieve from the sentence cast and to inquire, “Is there not some more worthy man than I whose wages are due to him?”
“This way a good soul never passes,” he replied as a matter of fact. I cast about again for some manner of thing or divine insight which might allow me to abjure my fate, but was once again found wanting. I was nearly resigned to the beast’s cause when he spoke again without provocation, “I endure eternally,” M. Nash Drinn’s skeletal frame turned once again to face me. His eyes gleamed with an unslakable thirst for dominance; his wicked grin grown more delighted at the prospect of his next utterance, “If there is some greater claim for my liege give unto me your offer of sacrifice.”
My concupiscence to avoid perdition nearly drove me to offer, in exchange for my belayed sentence, more than may have been required, but my frugality urged me to avoid squander. “My assistant, Margaret Von Lehrer, take her in my stead,” I offered, not certain my proposition sufficient, but knowing of Margaret’s propensity to turn to idol prayer in times of consternation. I waited.
“It shall be as you say,” said M. Nash Drinn’s traveler before bowing his head, “but you must endure her departure without plaint.”
“May I never meet you again, M. Nash Drinn,” I said, as I, forgetting myself, offered my hand to the beast.
He reached his thin covered hand to mine and clasped it with a rasping sound and I, at once, regretted my offer as a cold unlike any I could have imagined in the most abysmal of locals overcame my being and I was racked with convulsions until, at length, he released my hand and stood. He flowed more fluidly than before into the room where my assistant had first entertained him on his arrival and beckoned I should follow.
As I entered the room I was horror struck to find that Alexandria Zhukov stood in my entry chamber and stared through the lantern lit eyes carved in her gut at the place where Ms. Von Lehrer sat pale as the grave and unable to move for the fear which had laid waste to her own sense of self preservation. I sighed only once causing Ms. Zhukov’s forward movement to halt as M. Nash Drinn turned to leer at my brief protest, but seemingly satisfied that I would utter no more dissenting comment than my single sigh, he motioned for the corpse of Ms. Zhukov to continue.
She slid across the floor with maddeningly slow shuffle leaving a trail of her innards and blood soaked planks in her wake until she arrived at the side of my assistant. Margaret Von Lehrer, for her part, remained notably silent though she appeared, in all earnest, to be making every effort to effect the contrary. I watched as the creature that had once been Ms. Zhukov gently lifted Ms. Von Lehrer’s hand and held it to the mouth carved by Chester Flynn like a gentlemen holding the hand of a newly introduced young woman. The lips gently caressed my assistant’s hand and then they began to work more fervently and at last the sounds of gnashing teeth and tearing flesh pervaded the silence inflicted on the scene as the creature began to take great segments of Ms. Von Lehrer’s hand, then her arm and then the rest of the poor lady into the endless maw. Margaret Von Lehrer’s dissension into hell seemed to go on for hours or perhaps days. A slow and seemingly endless glut of consumption played out before my eyes. When it was over the two creatures who were now my only company both turned their gaze to me before, in a race of bone, blood and hastily dissolved flesh they plummeted into the floor of my practice and were gone.
The sound of my heart pumping blood quickly through my veins receded and time returned to its normal flow. Knowing not what else I should do, I gathered supplies, cleaned up the remnants of Ms. Zhukov and Mr. Drinn and set about the work of restoring my practice to its former fully functioning state.
Over the next many years M. Nash Drinn visited me three more times and each time he brought with him the corpse of Ms. Zhukov her eyes wide with hunger and stomach ready to consume another soul to the depths. Each time he, with good grace and some measure of civility, allowed for me to offer up the woman presently in my employ to be made the lady demon’s meal rather than my own ever withering frame. Unfortunately, after the last, and with the addition of much speculation making the name of Chester Flynn and my own more congruent than I might have otherwise been enamored, I have been unable to convince some other young lady to come to my service. I, having accomplished all that my no longer obedient carcass is able, now wait, on evenings such as this, for a visit from my old friend, M. Nash Drinn. As the final embers grow cold in the fire which has turned to dust during my narrative I turn at the sound of a light tapping on the pane of glass—glass which does little good to keep out the frosty sting of autumn let alone the deathly cold emerald eyes of the man whose servant’s face now presses against the glass. She, having seen at last the parcel of meat she has long wished for her supper is no longer unattainable, obediently followed M. Nash Drinn and I close my eyes as they leave the window and wait for the sound that shall serve as the harbinger of my final visitor.