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       All the women in The Village will come to me. I have spread like influenza, my name a breeze that alights upon their soft, pink ears. They whisper me to each other in the shadows of heady dances and all of them will come, eventually.

The first to come was Cara, who takes money at the door of the slaughterhouse. Our village has the most efficient slaughterhouse in the state – we kill them so quickly, with electrical implements and soothing tones. We play Mozart to them, Sibelius. They still moan, but softly, as if they are glad to be dying this way. People have come to see us kill them for years now. It is our second largest source of income, surpassed only by the brothel on Willard Street.

When I first came here it was Cara who met me on the road, her dress hemmed with dragged dust from the track. I would like to say her hair was golden, but it was merely a trick of the dusk light. She climbed up beside me and I was deeply touched by her way of speaking – quiet but not shy, at once faltering and poised. She paused unnaturally, hesitated, lost track mid-sentence, but all the while her expression allayed the timidity implicit in her words. Penetrating eyes, pronounced features. A broad, clear forehead crowned with an eruption of auburn curls. All the women in The Village have this quality. To look at their faces is to be shocked by the exuberance of pale, cold flesh.

Before I came to The Village the women were locked in attics, burned at stakes, daubed with symbols of their madness. Their emotions were their downfall. Heaving tears and disabling laughter. The men could not tolerate the defiance of thought implicit in the passions of the women. So many of the female villagers had become shadows – peering eyes over swollen, split banisters, without words or gestures of their own. When I first came here I visited the men in their homes, and as we drank hot cider in musty drawing rooms I would feel on my back the ostracized glare of their relegated wives – their burdensome, beaten mistakes.

In the evenings I would trace the edges of The Village, following the brook that hems us in to the east, moving through the shadow of the hills that barricade us on the west. The women would meet by the bridge to murmur their misfortunes to each other, falling silent as I passed. I'd look straight at them, catch Cara's eye when she was among the group, and I could never reconcile their determined stares with the systematic degradation that I knew was their plight.

This is what I did to save the women of The Village: I took wires and cables, sharp shards of steel that were the death of the cattle; I took electrons and neurons, science that was soul, and converted the minds of the women into so much electrical energy; I manipulated this electricity, jolting its illicit grotesqueness into simple shapes, caressing the synapses of the women so that they might meet in calm alignment with the standards of The Village. My house is a laboratory of constrained current – the women come to me and convulse for me. I play music to them as I work the dials. They shudder in therapeutic bliss as I shoot warm pulses of invisible fire through their frail and beautiful brains.

Amygdala, Medulla, Cerebellum, I have learned how to isolate them all. I can control the current and in turn control the women, coaxing each part of the brain into a placid order. They do not struggle as I electrocute them – they come hushed and compliant to The Electro Man.

**

Cara and I sit on the polished rocks of the western hills, looking out over The Village. There are festivities in the square tonight and the men are drunk, clumsily dancing round a roasting carcass. Their faces are tiny fires, yellow and orange and glistening with sweat. The women sit contentedly at the edges, smiling, waving at their husbands when their gaze is caught. The Village runs smoothly now – only the jolly madness of the men remains.
"I am glad I am not like them," I say. Their distant murmur strikes me as the moans of the slaughterhouse, symbolizing a welcome, stupid death. Even though the men are grateful to me for curing their wives, I do not feel as if I belong amongst them. I have remained aloof, solitarily treading the perimeter path at night. I encounter no-one on my walks now because the women are at home, tending to their husbands.

"But you are like them," Cara says. She seems puzzled by my remark – shocked that I think myself different. She turns to me, her brow creased.

"You have helped us to be at peace," she admits. "I suppose in that you are different, but you are all alike in one way."

I stare out at the fire of faces, hurt. I am not one of these beasts. Where they have beaten the women, I have soothed their welts. Where they have cast the women out, I have taken them in. Surely I have cared for the women when the other men had only hate and disgust? Surely I have helped them – cured them of their madness, given them peace, coaxed them into alignment with the rules of The Village?

I don't have to say any of this aloud. She knows exactly how I would present my case.

She fixes me with defiant eyes. Her face seems so fresh and real that I want to reach out and touch its clammy coolness. She speaks before I can act, cutting me back with her accusing tone.

"You are like them in that you all believed there was something wrong with us in the first place – why could not the rules of The Village have been changed to accommodate us?"


      

N. God Savage is a writer and philosopher from Belfast in Northern Ireland. www.ngodsavage.com



When I wrote this piece, I was thinking about electroconvulsive therapy, about witch trials (whether in Salem in the 17th century or in Africa in the 21st) and, more generally, about how societies inevitably treat some individuals as if they are degenerate, simply because they do not fit some arbitrary standards. I'm interested in the philosophical assumptions that lie behind things, and I try to create characters and situations that make the reader question these assumptions.

 


  




  


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