A little piece of my love - Editor
Mail Order Bride
by Adam Francis Smith
I wrote the draft, to be drawn on my New York bank account. I placed it into an envelope along with the order form I had so carefully completed, and moistened the seal. I squeezed the paper tightly until the glue was dry and fastened my postage to the face.
The envelope next went into the basket to await the postman, and I pulled from my pocket the carefully penned copy I had made of the advertisement.
“Lonely? Seeking Companionship?” the offer read. “Let Dr. Flahaven change your life!”
I was amazed that the answer to all of my prayers could be so near at hand.
I had tried everything else within my means to engage myself to a woman of quality. A woman who would willingly endeavor to see to my happiness.
“Complete the form below and return with payment.”
I had nothing to lose, and so much to gain.
“Satisfaction Guaranteed. If you are not completely satisfied within thirty days of purchase, your monies shall be returned.”
That last line was my failsafe. So many of my plans had failed before with the most tragic or costly of results. If Dr. Flahaven had the least bit of integrity and credibility, my highest hopes would be realized.
“Please complete the questionnaire below. This will provide us the insight required to ensure your complete satisfaction.”
I read my answers aloud, as there was no one in the house to hear me.
“Eye color. Blue. Hair color. Yellow. Height. Sixty-four inches. Build. Slender.”
And so on.
“Please allow several weeks for delivery. Some assembly may be required.”
Surely that had been an error on the part of the typesetter? I could not fathom what sort of assembly might be warranted. Whatever the need be, I resolved, I was the man to provide for it.
Flower filled vases sat upon every horizontal surface in every room and the curtains in every window were tied back so as to let in the light of day. I purchased a phonograph and tinny music poured forth to fill the sitting room with sound.
I made any number of small repairs and improvements about the house, and took special care in the rear garden, to provide for my love-to-be a place of quaint solitude and beauty.
A fortnight after I had sent my application, a small package arrived by courier, the return address reading “Dr. Flahaven, East Orange, Vermont.”
I snatched the parcel from the courier’s hand, and forgetting to express my gratuity, slammed the door and scurried, anxious as a child on Christmas morning, into the parlor to examine my prize.
The package was stenciled in thick black letters with the words, “Store in a cool, dry place.” I pondered the meaning of the words for only a moment and then began in earnest to peel away the outer layers of paper and glue. The small box within was made of a sturdy corrugated paper, and folded in such a way as to allow me to unfold a flap and pull back the cover.
I slowly opened the carton and could not believe what I looked upon. Staring back at me from within the confines of the paper box was a pair of eyes of the deepest and loveliest light blue I had ever seen. They rested upon loose, moist cotton, long tendrils of nerve and muscle expertly coiled beneath each one.
At first I was disgusted and nearly dropped the box. But I soon gained my composure and looked upon the eyes more closely. Surely this was a hoax, and I the victim of a truly heartless jest?
Just as I was about to pinch one of the seductive orbs between the forefinger and thumb of my right hand, I noticed a slip of paper inside the box. It was stained with what appeared to be blood, but I could clearly make out the words when I held the note before me. “Store in a cool, dry place. Additional instructions to follow.” It was signed with the monogram, Dr. F.
Whether I were the victim of a hoax or not, I felt secure that I could call in the guarantee and have my payment returned. I was nowhere near being satisfied and was beginning to feel as though this were another attempt at love that would have a less than desirable outcome.
I lit a lantern and took the box into the cellar, placing it gingerly upon a shelf. I pushed back the lid of the box again and had another look at the lovely blue eyes within. They glowed eerily in the dim lamplight. I attempted to imagine the face of the woman they had come from, and tried to ignore the thought that they might once have belonged to a living being.
I failed on both counts and left the cellar, retreating to the parlor and the diligent glow of the gaslights ensconced upon the walls.
No distraction was sufficient to combat the anxiety I suffered as I awaited the promised additional instructions. It was everything I could do to keep myself from the cellar, the lurid call of those entrancing eyes was nearly too much to bare. I remained above ground however, for fear that in the subterranean confines of the cellar, I might miss the knock of the postman or a courier.
And just as I stood with my hand upon the door at the top of the cellar stair, I heard a knock and a call from the front of the house.
“Coming!” I yelled, and made my way to the entry door, to fling it wide and welcome the courier of the day before. I signed his board and accepted a much larger package than that of the previous delivery. Despite my nearly overwhelming curiosity, I remembered to tip the man sufficiently to make up for my lapse of yesterday and send him off a happy man.
I took the box inside and examined it. The return address was again that of the mysterious doctor, and the same entreaty begged of me to store the contents as I had the beautiful blue eyes.
Upon opening the parcel, I must admit, I was not entirely surprised to find a single, left-handed arm enclosed. Like the eyes, it rested on a bed of moist cotton. This time, however, three notes resided within. The first was an apology for not including instructions with the first delivery, signed by Dr. F. in a hurried, but legible hand.
The second letter was a set of detailed instructions on how to attach the enclosed arm to a torso: “The nerves and blood vessels hanging loosely off the end must be carefully united with their respective counterparts and then the ball and socket joint at the shoulder is to be engaged with a sharp thrust and perhaps a bit of turning.”
I was aghast. The sketches included were of a remarkable quality and I had no doubt that use of the instructions would result in a successful assemblage. However, I wondered whether I had the constitution for such an endeavor. After much contemplation, I resolved to give it my all. The potential for happiness was too great a thing to toss away on account of a little squeamishness.
The third letter was shorter, but was similar in nature and described the procedure for installing the eyes into the sockets of the face of my bride-to-be.
To help pass the time until all the parts of my beloved would be at last in my possession, I purchased a book on the art of dressmaking, so that I would be an expert seamstress by the time of final assembly. I practiced my skills, such that I could, on handkerchiefs, worn shirts and kitchen towels. Soon I was the master of a half dozen stitches, working each day while I awaited the arrival of the courier with the latest component.
Today a foot, the next day a lung, followed by kidneys, liver and spleen. The collection of cartons residing in the cellar was quite impressive, and any squeamishness or doubt about building my love had long since disappeared.
The days passed, each after the next, and every late morning or early afternoon brought with it another package from East Orange, Vermont. Each package held a part of the answer to my prayers, and each part was duly loved by me.
The last package arrived after eleven more days, marked as “final” in fine black stenciling. The directive within, wedged between two of the finest, most shapely ears, indicated that it was time to begin assembly. Each part had its own unique set of instructions for assembly, so it mattered not with which I began. I simply opened a box and laid the part out upon the long, wide dining table.
When I chanced upon a part or an organ, to which an adjacent component was already on the table, I made the requisite connections and moved on to the next.
How God-like I felt to be assembling such a creature so. I developed a keen and intimate knowledge of every aspect of my love’s physical character. I stared for near an hour into her eyes as I set them into their sockets. I tweaked and arranged them to give them just a slight off-centeredness, which I personally believed to be a great sign of beauty.
I lovingly stroked her golden hair. I kissed her hand after violently forcing her right arm into its shoulder socket. I resisted kissing her rose-hued lips, fearing that to do so would indicate a breach of trust on my part. I knew that when she was able, she would willingly offer up a kiss to her betrothed.
I blushed uncontrollably as I assembled her womanly bits, fighting madly with each breast as it jiggled and wriggled beneath my hands. I wore gloves out of respect, but I confess they interfered with my ability and therefore prolonged the discomfiting scene.
When, at long last, all parts were assembled and before me, in an apparent coma, lay my beautiful salvation, I cried.
I wept at the wonder and the beauty of her. She was made to my exact specifications, down to the tiniest of details. I cried with happiness and gratitude, that my long endured days of loneliness might so easily be made to end. I cried like a babe, my head upon the stomach of my love, willing her to love me, to accept me, and to take away my pain.
The storm that night came out of nowhere and I felt as though it had been sent by God above for just the two of us. Long cables ran from each of her wrists, across the dining hall floor, out the window and up to the roof, where a long iron rod was mounted and accepted the cables’ ends.
Lightning struck the rod at the stroke of midnight. The crack was so violent it shook the house. The sound was such that I thought the doors of Heaven might have been slammed shut. But the beauty of the twin balls of charged blue light that ran the length of the cables from the rooftop down into the hands of my beloved was second only to the beauty of my beloved herself.
When the lightning made its way into her hands, her body convulsed and I ran to her side to remove the cable clamps as I had been instructed. I tossed them to the floor uncaring as I watched my love for any sign of life.
I saw it then. Nearly missed, in fact, the gentle rising of her bosom. The silk gown in which I had dressed her that morning stretched tight across her chest as she breathed. In. Out. In. Out. Her eyes fluttered open and after a moment of searching found my own. Her lips parted and a precious tongue flicked out to wet them. Her first sound was a tentative croaking, followed by her first four words.
“What is my name?”
What? A name? How could I have forgotten? I did not know how to answer, I was not prepared. I had thought of eyes, hair, teeth, skin and lips, but never considered that my love would need a name.
“You do not know? Are you of little wit?”
What must she think of me. I could only stand and stare, my mouth hanging open before her. This was not the grand introduction I had dreamed of. She had not raised her arms to beckon me, thank me for her life, or swear her undying love to me. I had prepared for nothing else.
“I,” I stammered, “I do not know, my pet. I was not told your name. Perhaps you remember, or could choose your own?”
Disgust! A look of disgust came over her lovely face and I nearly turned away in shame. What must she think of me? How could I disappoint her in this manner on the very first day of her life; of our life?
“Are you telling me that I must name myself?”
She laughed then. Not a simple carefree laugh one might issue to put another at ease, but a hateful, disdainful laugh, seemingly intended only to injure. And the words that followed struck me like a fist.
“How pathetic!” She looked around the room, appraising every accoutrement. She raised herself to a sitting position and snapped, “I’m hungry. What is your name, if you know it? And help me to my feet. Don’t just stand there with your chin on the floor, little man. I am hungry!”
I raced to her side and took her hands in mine. “Careful, my love.”
“Love? That is not a name. I am Lamia, and I shall prove it.” With these words she tore her hands from my grip and raised them to her face. In a moment she held her eyes in her palms, all my careful work had become undone.
“Oh my Dear!” I cried, “What have you done? Please, lie back upon the table and I will repair your eyes.”
“Nonsense! You will take me to the kitchen and feed me.” She raised her hands again and her wonderful blue eyes returned themselves to their sockets. “Show me the way,” she ordered.
I led her to the kitchen. She looked around our home as though she were appraising the value of every item. Not once did she comment on any of the improvements I had made on her behalf. She only snorted in derision with each new discovery, until finally, blessedly, I bade her sit at a counter and eat.
“What’s this?” she inquired. She directed my attention to a plate of cold quail. “Is there no pork? Haven’t you something of a little more substance, or do you intend to starve me into doing your bidding?”
“Starve you?” I asked.
“Yes. Starve me until I submit to you. Let me assure you, it will take more thank a bit of hunger to make me succumb to your fantasies, little man. I am not your plaything, despite what that charlatan Dr. Flahaven might have you believe.”
“But I want your love, Lamia. You are the sweetest creature I have ever seen and from the moment I first looked into your eyes I knew that I loved you. Dr. Flahaven has given me a gift. Nay, he has given each of us a gift. The chance to love and be loved. A rare opportunity.”
“Love? You would starve me for love?”
“Starve you? Never! I would never think to do such a thing.”
“Never you say. It is indeed what you are doing now, as we speak. You have nothing of substance to eat in this house. This little house filled with worthless baubles. You are a pathetic little man and you shall never be worthy of me. Now bring me some real food!”
I could not believe my ears! This was not the woman I had designed. This was not my eternal love. What had gone awry? I followed the directions to the letter. I had checked and double-checked every assembly. Nothing was forgotten, I used every part and every part was in its rightful place.
“Lamia, you must be careful how you speak to me. I have brought you into this world, to be my wife, and I will brook no other outcome.”
“Brook no other? What sort of talk is that? You cannot back up your words. What will you have done to me, should I refuse you?”
“Please Lamia, let’s not speak of it. I don’t wish to send you back. Surely we can work through our differences and find an amiable resolution?”
“Send me back? What makes you think you can send me back? I am here to stay, little man, and you had best learn to accept it. You have taken charge of me, like it or not, and you have the responsibility for my welfare, just as you wished.”
I still could not believe my ears. I knew I must play my trump card, and then she would see reason and reexamine her feelings toward me. “Lamia, I am speaking of Dr. Flahaven’s guarantee. My money back if I am not completely satisfied. That means that if I wish, for any reason, I may return you and receive back my payment.”
“Ha!” she laughed. “Dr. Flahaven is a confidence man of the worst degree. You have been swindled, you fool! The terms are thirty days from the date of purchase, and you made your purchase the day you sent your draft to East Orange, Vermont. You cannot send me back, and you shall never see your money again! Now, have you anything else to eat, or shall we signal a coach?”
What she said made sense. But everything was just as I had planned, up until the lighting had given her life. What had gone wrong? I knew the rightness of her words, that I had no case now against the doctor. I was stuck with damaged, or at the least, inferior merchandise. Something had to be done. I could not suffer her presence a moment longer.
“You are ugly when you think so hard,” she stabbed. Every word she spoke was like a knife cutting into me. Every breath she took was a reminder of my folly. Once again I had led myself to emotional ruin. Now was I destined to be mocked and ridiculed for the remainder of my days?
I looked before me at the cutting board on which I had prepared the quail. The long knife I had used lay there, shimmering with promise. I gripped it and turned, swinging the blade before me. I faced her and without hesitation thrust the knife, hilt-deep into her chest. The knife passed in with little resistance. I let it go when the sensation began to sicken me. The blade was gone from sight, so deep had it penetrated, and the hilt quivered between her breasts, still vibrating with the force of my attack.
She laughed. She actually threw her head back and laughed. This was impossible. That had been a killing stroke! What merciless God would put me through such torture? Her laugh grew louder and I resolved to have her silenced. I reached forward and pulled the knife from her chest and slashed the blade across her throat.
Red gouts of copper-scented blood issued forth, accompanied by the sound of her amputated laughing. She made no sound now but a wet gurgling. Her eyes grew wide and blue fire danced within them. I was still in love with her eyes, at least, and I followed them to the floor as she slipped down, clinging to the counter for support.
Now the pathetic one was she, as she gurgled her frothy crimson spittle at me, demanding my assistance. I remained focused on her eyes, watching the light within them dim. She clawed at the floor before her, trying to drag herself to me.
When it seemed as though the last light of life had left her eyes, I placed the knife on the counter and fell to my knees beside her. Oh, my love was gone! After so much time and effort, planning and speculation, it had all come down to this. I bent to kiss her and her head fell forward, closing the wound in her throat. With her last breath she uttered three final words.
“You are pathetic.”
I shot to my feet and again took up the knife. I slashed it down upon her again and again, countless times, slicing her body and making of it a slick, bloody mess. I continued my mindless cutting until she was again in pieces before me. My last chance at love was nothing more than so much meat littering my kitchen floor.
I dug a hole in the cellar floor and deposited her parts within. I covered my love with dirt and placed paving stones upon the floor. I climbed to the top of the cellar stairs and engaged the lock, breaking the key in the mechanism so that the door could not be opened again. I sank to my knees and wept.
I awoke to the sound of a knock at the door. It was the next morning and I had spent the night on the floor before the cellar door. The knock grew more persistent and I shouted a gruff, “I’m coming!”
I removed my coat and rubbed it over my face and arms to clean up most of the dried blood and bits of flesh that clung to me. I made my way to the front door and placed my hand upon the knob, just as another knock issued forth from the other side.
I opened the door to find the courier standing on the step. He held before him a small parcel, and I could recognize the style, if not the words, of the stenciling thereon. I reached into my pocket and without looking, gave to the courier a handful of varied coin. He seemed greatly pleased as he relinquished the parcel, smiling and nodding and tipping his hat and wishing me any number of fortunes for the day.
I took the box to the kitchen. “Store in a cool, dry place.”
Using the same knife I had liberated myself with the night before, I cut away the paper wrapping and opened the flap and pushed back the lid of the carton. Within the box, resting upon a bed of moist cotton, was a forgotten piece of the puzzle that had so recently been my love.
I wept yet again as I looked upon the thing. Some trick of fate had delivered this vital piece of anatomy only hours too late. The satisfaction guarantee had expired, and I had felt I had no choice but to rid myself of that merciless, heartless creature. Had I only the patience to endure for one more day, my deliverance would have been at hand. For within the box was the most vital piece of anatomy, and indeed the very center of all human emotion, particularly love.
In the box was dear Lamia’s heart.