by Arnold Snyder
The problem with lying is you get in so deep you can’t climb out. I’d have to talk to Vanschtubenbergh about this one. Could we actually train a werewolf choir? He’d probably be up for the challenge.
It was something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I do love the way they howl and it has often occurred to me that they seem to have control of their voices. Maybe they’d never be able to form all the vowel and consonant sounds that human mouths can produce, but singing doesn’t require that verbal facility.
I spend a lot of mental effort trying to come up with some way to monetize werewolves. Doctor Vanschtubenbergh commands an immense network of werewolves and werewolf sympathizers, and it strikes me as a waste that we do not have some way of making money from these beasts. He pays me a pittance, considering all the work I do for him. And he’s loaded.
At one time, I was a werewolf skeptic, a werewolf denyer. I argued against the very existence of werewolves. Not that anyone I took seriously was ever defending their belief in werewolves. Most of the werewolf fans I’ve known through the years have had an unspoken let’s-pretend-we-believe-in-werewolves contract that was never to be broken. So, let’s get some popcorn and watch a werewolf movie. A lot like the vampire aficionados.
But getting into vampire or werewolf cults is a great way to meet girls. A girl who likes to watch werewolf movies is a treasure to any boy. I realize it could be construed as sexist that I say this, painting all boys with such a wide swath, but it’s the truth. Even gay boys like watching werewolf movies with girls.
At one time, I had also been a wolfbane denyer. Wolfbane, a plant native to many parts of Europe, of which every part—from leaves to stems to roots to seeds to its deep purple flowers—is a lethal poison, was used by hunters in ancient Greece to spike the tips of the arrows they used to shoot wolves—hence the plant’s curious name. It doesn’t take more than a drop on the tip of an arrow to kill a full-grown healthy wolf in the prime of its life. Wolfbane is poison with a capital P.
But, I would argue, what has this to do with the flowering of the plant coinciding with a full moon and causing a werewolf to transform from were to wolf?
If you know anything at all about wolfbane (aconitum to a botanist), you’d know it only flowers once per year, in late September or early October. When you combine that with the necessity of the moon being full, a werewolf would only transform from were to wolf one night per year.
The uneducated will tell you a full moon lasts three days, because it looks like it’s more-or-less full for three days. But it’s really only full for a moment in time, and it’s that moment that causes the werewolf’s transformation. And depending on factors unknown, the wolf phase generally lasts 16 to 18 hours. The most important piece of the puzzle, however, is that wolfbane must be blooming. The pollen must be in the air. The pollen, in fact, is as important as the moon. Take a werewolf away from the flowering wolfbane—even when the moon is full—and no transformation will occur.
I learned about wolfbane soon enough, under the tutelage of Doctor Vanschtubenbergh. And we now have ways of making wolfbane bloom in any season, on any given night in fact. We still need the full moon, but when the moon is full, the werewolves are at our mercy.
Vanschtubenbergh has been hinting lately about an advance in our knowledge of werewolves and a new capability to create and control them. He is a brilliant man, but like most geniuses, he has little practical sense. Werewolves are fascinating creatures, but if all they can do is smell bad and eat pets, there’s no market for them.
When Bridget and I arrived at the lab, we found the Doc in good humor.
Vanschtubenbergh is a big man, six-foot-four and pushing three hundred pounds. His lab coat was crisp and well-tailored to his rotund physique.
“Ah, Bridget,” he said in his mellifluous baritone, extending his hand to take hers, “I’ve heard so much about you.” He hadn’t heard a damn thing about her. He kissed her knuckles, wetly. Then he looked at me and said, “Follow me,” as he led us into the lab.
There must have been a thousand parakeets in that big hollow room with the thirty-something-foot ceiling, perched on wooden dowels in huge cages. The room had a not-unpleasant fruity smell. Incredibly, there wasn’t a tweet, chirp or caw to be heard. I’d been in Doc V’s lab a week earlier and these birds had been making a racket.
“Are they all sleeping?” I asked.
He gave me a toothy smile and stroked his frizzy grey beard before saying, “They’re brainwashed. Every last one of them.”
Vanschtubenbergh’s patented brainwashing technique, his amygdala douche—a technique that has made him famous throughout the world, in certain arcane circles anyway—was based on a simple discovery he’d made. As he first explained it to me, “Simultaneous sternutation, singultation, and eructation, with the expulsion of flatus, results in brainwashing. Essentially, Dustin, if these bodily functions should all transpire at the same instant, your brain would immediately erase the last twenty-four hours of your memory. There has long been a debate in the scientific community about the effect of such a biological occurrence, but I have empirical results.”
Vanschtubenbergh explained that it was an accidental discovery. He was with a mental patient, a schizophrenic, at a Mexican restaurant. The schizo had a bad case of hiccups as a result of the Valium he was taking. They were consuming large quantities of refried beans, and drinking ginger ale, when the waiter showed up with the pepper grinder and started peppering their beans with a powdery cayenne/jalapeno blend. When a breeze caught the powder midair, wafting a cloud of pepper dust into Vanschtubenbergh’s patient’s face, that was all it took. An age-old scientific question had been answered. The schizo had no idea where he was and on questioning from the Doc, it was discovered he thought it was yesterday.
It took a while for Vanschtubenbergh to figure out what had happened. But within six months he had come up with a concoction of drugs that could bring about the same result. He showed me a capsule and said, “I call it my amygdala douche. It was simply a matter of getting the ratios of the ingredients right. It’s two parts diazepam to cause singultation, one part calcium carbonate to cause eructation, three parts zolpidem to cause flatulence, and four parts fexofenadine to induce sternutation. The perfect brainwashing compound.”
I’ve used his amygdala douche on werewolves many times, but now, he was claiming that he’d brainwashed hundreds of parakeets. It seemed impossible to me.
“How can that douche possibly work on parakeets?” I said. “Everything about their brains, their digestive systems, their nervous systems, everything about them is different from both humans and werewolves.”
“Excellent observation, Dustin. But you’re making a false assumption. I’ve spent the past year testing drugs on these little budgies, and I’ve developed a new compound specifically for parakeet brains. I spent the first three months testing hundreds of drugs just to find the best ones to cause these birds to become flatulent. Have you ever heard a parakeet expel flatus?”
“No, I don’t believe I have.”
“You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to verify that I was actually getting gas out of them. I conversed at length with ornithologists, most of whom did not believe birds could even singultate—they don’t have the same type of diaphragm as us—but I’ve proven them all wrong. And the important thing is I’ve accomplished my dream of brainwashing parakeets so that I can now create a parakeet army.”
“An army?” I said.
“Which one is the sick one,” Bridget asked.
“Explain what a parakeet army is,” I said quickly, trying to get away from Bridget’s line of questioning.
“Let me demonstrate,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “Come this way.”
He led us across the room to a bird he had separated from the bunch. It was on a perch outside the cage and had one leg shackled with a short length of chain. “Now watch,” he said, as he pulled a dead cockroach out of his lab coat side-pocket. He dangled the lifeless bug in front of the bird’s face for a moment until the bird snapped at it, grabbing it from his hand with its beak and quickly devouring it.
“I didn’t know parakeets would eat insects,” Bridget said.
“They won’t,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “Budgies are strictly seed eaters. But brainwashed budgies are carnivores, and vicious carnivores at that. Come see.” He led us back to the big cage and pointed to a bloody pile of small bones on the cage floor.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That is the remains of a rat I put in the cage an hour ago,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “It was alive when I put it in. They swarmed it like starving piranha. It’s an unexpected side effect of the brainwashing. But just imagine what these birds could do to a man. He wouldn’t stand a chance. Think of the military applications. I believe the Defense Department may be quite interested in my little experiment.”
Vanschtubenbergh always had multiple get-rich-quick schemes he was working on, none of which ever came to fruition. I wondered if this one would pan out. It did seem to have potential.
“Can you brainwash any kind of animal?” Bridget said.
“Not at the present,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “But if I can discover the right amalgam of drugs that creates the perfect digestive and respiratory condition—and I believe I will discover the formulas for many animals in the coming months and years—then yes, I can brainwash any species with a digestive system. Of course, we can only speculate on what the side effects might be. I never would have guessed that parakeets would become carnivores. But that’s not why I asked you here, young lady. I trust Dustin informed you that I requested your presence?”
“Yes, he did,” she answered.
“I have a special gift for you,” he said. He pulled a small capsule from his lab coat pocket and handed it to her. It looked exactly like the amygdala douche gelatin capsules I was familiar with. It appeared to contain the same brownish-yellow powder.
“What is it?’ she asked.
“It’s a special concoction I’ve developed for young women. It will make your hair more manageable. It’s the most advanced conditioner ever created.”
“Really?” she said.
Just then the brainwashed parakeet that we’d just seen devour a cockroach started screeching and squawking in a very unparakeetlike fashion.
“Don’t be alarmed,” Vanschtubenbergh said quickly. “She just wants another piece of meat.” He hurried down to the bird with another roach in his hand.
“What is this?” Bridget said to me softly, holding the capsule that I was sure was an amygdala douche.
“It’s just a sugar pill,” I said to her. “He’s trying to see if you’re suggestive enough to believe your hair is better conditioned after you eat it. Play along with him.”
Vanschtubenbergh returned to us when the hungry parakeet had been fed and had settled down.
“What should I do with this?” Bridget asked him, holding out the amygdala douche on her palm.
“You should swallow it right now,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “And after you shower and shampoo tomorrow, your hair will be magnificent without any conditioner. Here’s some water to help you wash it down.” He picked up a tumbler of water that was conveniently at hand on the table and proffered it. He had been ready for her.
She popped the capsule into her mouth and took a slug of water. Though I’d seen a few humans and a hundred werewolves do it, I never tired of watching someone get their brain washed. Within sixty seconds, Bridget suffered a massive simultaneous sternutation, singultation, eructation, and expulsion of flatus. That alone was worth the price of admission.
I caught her in my arms when her knees buckled—which always occurs at the moment of brainwashing. I picked her up and carried her to one of Doc’s empty lab tables and laid her down. She would be unconscious for a few minutes or so, before waking up confused, expecting to be wherever she had been the day before.
“Did you have some reason for brainwashing her?” I said to Vanschtubenbergh.
“Of course,” he said. “Have you ever known me to do anything that wasn’t an important experiment?”
“I figured as much,” I said. “So, what’s the plan?”
“I want you to convince her that she’s just awakened from a coma after a year of unconsciousness, and that she’s now a victim of amnesia.”
“Why would we want to do this, Doc?”
“Purely for the advancement of science. Help me undress her.”
“Undress her? Why?”
“We have to convince her she’s waking up in a clinic. She’ll be more likely to believe it if she’s in her underwear, under a sheet.”
She was as limp as a sack of beans as we undressed her. Peeling down her jet-black yoga pants, exposing her creamy white thighs, was tempted to take liberties, but restrained myself. I didn’t want Doc to think I was a pervert. I don’t believe Vanschtubenbergh had any interest in sex at all. My god what a body she had. She looked so beautiful lying there unconscious in her matching flower-pattern satin bra and thong panties. I wished I was alone with her.
Vanschtubenbergh pulled a sheet over her up to her neck, then said, “Wait here,” and went into his office, leaving me alone with her body.
I couldn’t help myself. I lifted the sheet. I wanted to see her pussy. It was right there in front of me. Without even thinking about it, I pulled down her thong on one side. She had such a prominent mons veneris. I pulled down the other side, exposing her smooth, clean-shaven swollen vulva. I wanted to touch it, but more than that I wanted to drizzle maple syrup on it. I love maple syrup, especially a delicate golden syrup, what we used to call fancy syrup in Vermont. The darker syrups are delicious, but they’re too heavy for pussy. A golden syrup blends so perfectly with the natural lubricant exuded by a woman’s Bartholin’s glands.
Vanschtubenbergh emerged from his office and I dropped the sheet. He walked over to a tall metal shelving unit he could stand behind, out of Bridget’s line of sight. He took out his notebook and pen, ready to start recording as soon as she awakened.
“Put on one of those lab coats,” he said to me. “You’re supposed to be a doctor.”
I took a white linen coat from a hanger on a rack beside the table and put it on. It was enormous. I rolled up the sleeves so I had the use of my hands and buttoned up the coat.
Already, I could see Bridget was starting to awaken. Her lips were moving slightly, like she was talking in a dream. Her eyelids were fluttering open. All I could think about was that I’d left her thong pulled down around her upper thighs, her pussy fully uncovered.
“Bridget?” I said softly.
She didn’t turn her head to look at me, but I could tell from watching her eyes that she heard me.
“Bridget,” I said again.
She turned toward me slowly. Our eyes met.
“Bridget, can you hear me?” I said. “Are you finally waking up?”
“Who are you?” she said. She picked her head up and looked around, staring for a few moments at the cement walls and high ceiling, the old furniture and shelves along the walls, the bottles and jars and beakers filled with different colored liquids, some with unrecognizable things floating in them. With a befuddled look, she said, “Where am I?”
I knew she had no memory of meeting me, or even the so-called vampire party where we’d met just a few hours earlier. She’d lost the last twenty-four hours of her life.
“Thank god you’ve finally awakened,” I said. “You’ve been in a coma for the past year, my darling.” It was also occurring to me that she would have no memory of what I’d told her about the werewolf choir, or various other lies. Conveniently, all of that was erased.
“A coma?” she said, her voice a bit shaky.
“Dead to the world.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Doctor Cathcart, your fiancé.”
Vanschtubenbergh got a look of extreme consternation on his face when I said this. He hadn’t given me any specific instructions on what to say, so I was winging it.
“We’re engaged?” she said.
“Yes, my love, and I’ve been worried to death about you since the accident.”
“I … I don’t remember anything. What happened?”
“We were having anal sex, like we do every Tuesday night—”
“Yes, and you were tied up and suspended from ropes, your hands cuffed, your feet shackled, and I was really letting you have it. And the ceiling hook pulled out of the plaster, dropping you right on your head … and that was a year ago. I thought it was anchored to a heavy beam up there when I installed it, but I guess I misjudged. I feel so responsible for it. Now, you’ve finally come back to me. It’s a miracle.”
She started to sit up on the table, realized quickly she was in her underwear, and held the sheet tightly against herself as she half-sat up, propping herself on an elbow.
“I … I feel terrible. I don’t remember you at all. We’re engaged? What’s your name?”
“Dustin Cathcart,” I said. “Doctor Dustin Cathcart. I’m a brain surgeon. But you always call me ‘Studly.’ When we’re alone anyway.”
“But none of this makes sense,” she said. “This isn’t a hospital. What is this place? And if I’ve been in a coma, why is there no IV or feeding tube. I used to work in a hospital. I should have a catheter and there should be monitors for my heart rate and oxygen levels. Where am I?”
“I’ve been feeding you by hand,” I said. “Mostly baby food. Juices. Mashed potatoes, apple sauce, stuff like that. As soon as I discovered you could take in soft foods and swallow without difficulty, I got the tubes out of you and got you out of that cold hospital environment. You were in intensive care for weeks. Hospitals are a chief cause of bacterial infections and I couldn’t wait to take you home for your own comfort and recuperation. I never expected it to take a year for you to awaken.”
She picked up the bedsheet and looked at her body underneath it. “But there’s no catheter. How do I pee? And I’m not diapered. What happens when I evacuate?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that now. I just removed all that stuff so I could bring you here. You’re going to experience the pleasure of a bathroom. And a shower. I knew that with loving care I’d be able to nurse you back to health. You’ve been living with me for almost a year now. And at last I’ve succeeded.”
“But this warehouse is where you live? What is this place?”
“Oh, Bridget, you’re so confused,” I said. “This is the veterinary clinic of Doctor Vanschtubenbergh, a wonderful friend of ours.”
“But why are we at a veterinary clinic? It doesn’t look like a veterinary clinic. Where are the cats and dogs? This room is filthy. This is some kind of storage warehouse. And why is my thong pulled down?”
“We came here specifically to allow Doctor Vanschtubenbergh to administer his coma treatment. He’s had wonderful results using it on German shepherds and various types of rodents, and he felt sure if he administered it to you in the proper dosage, you would wake up. He gave it to you an hour ago and it’s now working. He calls it ComaGone, and he’s going to start marketing it to hospitals soon. It’s a milk-based polymer with reversed ionization or something. He can explain it to you. The important thing is it works. I’ve been waiting a year for this moment. He’s a genius, the man’s a genius … Hey, here’s Doctor Vanschtubenbergh. I’m so glad you’ve come, Doctor. Bridget is just now awakening.”
Vanschtubenbergh looked positively livid. I guess I wasn’t supposed to introduce him, or at least, not so soon. Now he had to deal with it.
He walked out from behind the shelving unit where he’d been hiding and came around to where Bridget could see him.
Beneath the sheet, I could tell she was pulling up her thong.
“In addition to being a psychiatrist, Doctor Vanschtubenbergh is an ornithologist,” I said. “He studies birds and has one of the finest collections of canaries in the world.”
“They’re parakeets,” he corrected me. “Or, technically, they’re budgerigars, often called budgies. I’m very pleased to meet you, Miss …”
“Baskervilles,” she said, extending her hand. “Bridget Baskervilles.”
Vanschtubenbergh kissed her knuckles, wetly.
“Your ComaGone worked beautifully, Doctor,” I said, “as I’m sure you can see.”
“Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask where my clothes are?” Bridget said.
“Of course, my dear,” Vanschtubenbergh said. “I have your clothes neatly folded in my office. I’ll get them for you.” He walked across the lab and into the room I knew to be his office.
“I have to get out of here,” Bridget said. “I have to see Roscoe.”
“Who’s Roscoe?” I said.
“My dog. I have to feed him.”
“Oh,” I said. “Roscoe … Roscoe was in a terrible accident.”
She studied my face for a few moments, looking confused, then said, “What kind of accident?”
“Hit and run,” I said. “Six months ago. I left the front door open. A big black van. Nobody got the plate number. It was totally painless for him. Very fast, like immediate. No prolonged suffering. The front tire went right over his head, squished his brain out, so you know he already wasn’t feeling anything. I mean no pain. Just instant blackness or something, wherever dogs go to heaven. I’m sure he’s in doggie heaven.”
“My little Roscoe? Oh, my god! Oh, my Roscoe!”
“But rest assured, my love, our little Roscoe didn’t suffer. He was such a good boy and he loved you so much. After I brought you home, he slept beside you every night, guarding you.”
Vanschtubenbergh returned with Bridget’s yoga pants and top, folded neatly to make a bed for her sneakers and purse, which he held before her, racked in his forearms, like an offering.
Bridget sat up straight, still holding the sheet to her neck with one hand. I thought she was going to reach for her clothes, but she seemed to be collapsing in slow motion. I lunged forward and caught her. She was sobbing, “My Roscoe, my Roscoe, my Roscoe,” blubbering I think is the word, getting my shoulder wet.
Obviously, that was a mistake, telling her Roscoe was gone. What else could I do? She’s supposed to have been in a coma for a year, and she wants to see her dog. She thinks Roscoe is at our house. And how do I lie my way out of this one? I told her I’d seen his brains squirting across the pavement.
“Hey, hey, pull yourself together now,” I said. “Everything’s okay. We’re going to get you dressed and I’m taking you home. We’re going to get another dog just like Roscoe—I already have him picked out at the pet store—and we’ll have a wonderful life together. With the money you make at the strip club, and the substantial government research grants that Doc and I get, we have everything we need. You’re the best submissive a master could possibly ask for.”
She was looking at me in a strange way. I was trying to interpret it. Did my revealing our roles as master and submissive take her aback? Was she going to be alright stripping for a living to pay our bills? The way her face twisted did not connote comfort. Once more she appeared to be collapsing in slow motion. I reached out to catch her again, and she collapsed in my arms, her head buried once more in my shoulder.
“Roscoe, Roscoe, Roscoe, Roscoe,”
“Okay, look, Bridget,” I said. “You’ve got to pull yourself together. Put your clothes on and let’s get out of here. We don’t want to waste too much of Doctor Vanschtubenbergh’s time. He has a lot of important work to do.”
She looked at me in that twisted way again, then said, “I’m sorry, I really don’t remember you. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just confused.”
“Partial amnesia is a temporary side effect of the ComaGone,” Vanschtubenbergh said.
“See,” I said, “It’s perfectly natural. Now get dressed.”
At last, she dropped the sheet, exposing her pretty flower-patterned bra with her creamy breasts swelling over. I was guessing her to be a natural c-cup. She took her clothes from Vanschtubenbergh, then pulled the sheet back up and said, “May I have some privacy please?”
Immediately, Vanschtubenbergh said, “Absolutely, my dear. We’ll retire to my office while you dress.” And he quickly turned and marched into his office.
I held my ground, just stood there perfectly relaxed.
“Please,” she said, “What did you say your name was?”
“Studly, to you.”
“Studly, please leave the room so I may have privacy to dress.”
“You’re saying I have to give you privacy?”
“Bridget, you’re hurting me. Deeply. I’ve spent the past year taking care of you, feeding you, washing you, massaging your muscles so they don’t atrophy, shampooing your hair, brushing and flossing your teeth. I even use the water pick once a week. Day after day, night after night, turning you over so you wouldn’t get bed sores. When you had that rash on your ass, I was the one who applied the ointment, and I could tell you were loving it. It brought us so close together even when we couldn’t talk. I baby-powdered you every morning. You loved it. I was changing your diapers for chrissake. And now, suddenly, I’m not allowed to look at you in the pretty rose-patterned bra and panty set I picked out for you this morning? Is that what you’re telling me?”
She was staring at me with her mouth open. I could see her softening. Tears welled in her eyes.
Vanschtubenbergh came out of his office with a stethoscope dangling from his neck, something in one of his hands, and a jar of petroleum jelly in the other. “Before you dress, my dear,” he said, “I’m going to have to get your vitals.”
“What is that?” Bridget asked.
“A rectal thermometer, my dear.”
That’s when her phone rang, or at least, I assumed it was her phone. There was an insistent rendition of Brandenburg’s Concerto #2 coming from inside her purse.
She reached in and pulled it out, glanced at the screen momentarily and I could see she recognized the caller. She put the phone to her ear.
“April,” she said. “I think I may have been kidnapped … I’m in some kind of weird warehouse with a couple of strange dudes. I have amnesia or something. I think they drugged me … Was I in a coma? Ever? I didn’t think so … Do I have a fiancé? No, I’m not joking. I’ve been drugged and I’m trying to figure out what’s real … No, no, don’t call nine-one-one. I’ll deal with them. Is Roscoe okay? Would you do me a favor, sweetie, and go check on him? I’ve got to deal with these bozos … Thanks, April, you’re a gem.”
She placed her phone back into her purse, pulling out a small pink pistol. She released the safety and cocked it. “Do you fellas want to tell me what’s happening?” she said, pointing the gun at me, then the Doc, then back to me, then the Doc …
Go to: Chapter Three