I wish to God that I had never seen it! Or been struck by lightning after I did. It violated my mind and I was not myself any longer. This object is so rare, its beauty so unparalleled; it turned the smile of Mona Lisa into something commonplace and crude, like feces on the bottom of a boot. My heart, my soul, my manhood was awakened the moment I laid my amber eyes upon it. While I fantasized about possessing it, the terrifying truth is, it possessed me. The object's owner was a woman named Beatrix, and in a black, brutal moment, I asked her to marry me.
In 39 years of life, I never experienced romantic fancies. I preferred to focus on my practice, providing medical care for the working animals of London. But then I became too distracted to even do that.
On a doomed Saturday evening, I made my way on foot to meet Beatrix. I was full of anxiety as I hurried down Whitechapel High Street, which was dimly lit by a few gas lamps. Shadows of their flames created delicate ghost dancers that shriveled and died the closer you got to them. Some electric lights had made their way into the wealthier parts of London, but not here. This part of town was full of forgotten people. Immigrants, the poor, the sick — they were all corralled into this tiny stretch of earth. In my work, I've seen what happens when cattle or sheep are pressed up against each other, forced to live on top of one another. Disease and panic takes hold and the whole lot often perishes.
As I strode past St. Mary's church, I saw the shadowy figure of a woman against a stone wall. As I passed, the silhouette appeared to grow a long, pointed tail from its rear and large, pointed horns on its head. I gasped, stopping in my tracks at the devilish sight. Is this some dark magic keeping me from my beloved? As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized the image was merely a shadow of the church's statue of Mary, not with horns but with a crown. Not with a tail, but with a vine growing behind her. Light had a way of fooling one's mind, my own not immune.
My relief was temporary however, when wham! I felt a blunt force against my back. Suddenly I was shoved against a fence, my cheek smashed against an iron rod.
"Quarter farthing?" I heard a raspy voice say. I managed to turn and see my assailant. It was a blind beggar, tightly gripping my jacket.
"Quarter farthing to spare, sir? I haven't eaten in six days," he said. I looked him up and down. He must have been hiding and heard my footsteps as I approached.
The irises of his eyes each spun in their own direction, like small potatoes bouncing in a boiling pot. But it wasn't his swirling orbs that took me aback. It was the stench of his infected leg as it wafted into my nasal passages. I may be a doctor of animals, but the stink of gangrene is the same on both livestock and humans. From the severity of the smell, I knew he'd be dead in a week.
"Take this," I said, as I reached into my pocket, past the pair of surgical scissors I kept there for work and pulled out a whole farthing. I put it into his hand and said, "Give it to your wife."
The man began to thank me profusely, but I quickly put my hand over his mouth and told him to quiet. I certainly didn't want to advertise my generosity to every ne'er-do-well in the wretched East End.
He hushed and I continued on, turning down a dark, muddy alley. I knew I was close when I began to see the women, illuminated by candlelight.
There were many names for these women. Some called them courtesans. Some called them harlots, or fallen women. I preferred the term night butterflies. Like the industrious insects, they often adorned themselves in colorful gossamer-like fabrics, which would flutter as their thin arms beckoned men into their brothels, hoping to engage them in an act of pollination.
I confidently passed these night butterflies, because Beatrix and her prize possession was not one of them.
The lower-end brothels were all pretty much the same. You could expect cheap, watered-down whiskey, a toothless woman with one of many venereal diseases and fleas.
Men of wealth like myself, however, had a choice of a handful of specialized brothels. These brothels, located at the end of the row, each promised its own unique, pleasurable — or painful — experience, depending on the client's fancy.
On my right was Fanny's House of Flagellation, where a masked woman, or man, would spank their client with a number of items, including birch branches, a horse whip, even a Bible.
On my left was The Queen's Parlor, where the women looked, dressed and behaved like Queen Victoria herself, fulfilling their clients' fantasy of having a romp with a royal.
Of course, there were several other elite dens, but the brothel I came to love was so exclusive, so unique, that its clients, myself included, were sworn to secrecy. To deter others from discovering the secrets inside these walls, it was simply called Brothel X. Just as in mathematics, where X is considered a variable, each woman in this bordello had a variable of her own.
As I entered the door, the Madam, Miss Adeline, greeted me. The light was kept very low in the parlor, due to Miss Adeline's sensitive pink eyes. Her flesh was nearly see-through and her hair and eyelashes a beautiful shade of alabaster. Albinism was rare in humans, but seen often in the world of animals. I had seen my share of all-white foxes, zebras with light grey stripes, and even an ivory peacock. All of which had piercing red eyes and an allergy to the sun.
"Good evening, Dr. Blackwell, she's expecting you," Miss Adeline said, winking one pink eye.
"Good evening, Madam. Is she free now?" I asked.
"Soon. Why don't you sit and play cards with Miss Naiad?" she said, gesturing to a woman dealing a poker game to several men at a table. Miss Naiad dealt each card slowly and deliberately, allowing the players to fully gaze her webbed hands. Thin pieces of skin connected each of her fingers, giving her hands a fin-like appearance. Miss Naiad wore no shoes to reveal her toes were also webbed. Even the men losing money in the poker game were enchanted.
"I should like to wait on my own," I said, locating a stuffed, velvet chair next to the fireplace.
As I waited, a woman called Miss Peter, rumored to have both female and male body parts, passed me to walk up the stairs with a male client.
It was just then that I saw Beatrix at the top of the stairs. Despite the dim light, I felt as if could see her perfectly. That beauty mark on her cheek. The turned-up nose. And certainly, I would recognize that brilliant red hair even during a lunar eclipse. My pulse quickened as she trotted down the stairs in her form-fitting black corset. She made eye contact with me.
"Dr. Blackwell, good evening," she said, taking me by the hand.
"Have you made your decision? Will you be my wife?" I asked, both frightened and excited by what she might say.
"Let us enjoy each other's company first. We can talk on the matter later," she said coyly.
I didn't want to push the topic for fear of angering her, but I was desperate to know my fate. At least I would soon have it in my possession once again, and that was a comfort.
In her room, Beatrix chatted with me as she removed some matches from a gold, ceramic box on her nightstand and lit some candles.
"Did you treat any stallions today? Perhaps help a mare deliver her foal?” she asked with a smile.
"I saw to no veterinary tasks today. Instead, my sole focus has been on it."
"You know I don't like when you say 'it.' You mean me, don't you? It's just a part of me, after all."
"Of course, I meant you, forgive me," I said, hoping to calm her. But the part of her I loved so distinctly, so richly was far more important than any other part of her. It was a thing of exquisite beauty to behold. To touch. To kiss.
Finally, she loosened her corset and crawled onto the bed. At first, she lay on her back and giggled.
"Please, don't taunt me like this," I said anxiously. I could feel sweat dribbling down my forehead.
She laughed some more, as if she enjoyed torturing me. After what felt like hours, she turned over onto her stomach so I could see it.
As soon as I gazed upon it, my knees felt weak; I was consumed by its grace.
Many people claim to have spiritual visions, an interaction with God or some type of divine inspiration. Before me, protruding from Beatrix's spine, was mine.
Beatrix possessed a tail.
It was small. A mere three inches. But lovely and holy in its own way. The tail itself was pink and fleshy, containing no vertebrae at all, just muscle, blood vessels and nerves. It curled ever so slightly, but did not coil, like the tail of a pig. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
It was sensitive, so I had to be ever so gentle as I touched it. I loved to spread my fingers out and let it run between them before I gripped it, squeezing it ever so slightly, careful to not straighten it. Putting it into my mouth was sheer ecstasy. The feel of it sliding over my tongue was euphoric, the taste was salty sweet.
The tail! The tail!
It was in this moment of deep passion I had to know if it was mine. I let the beloved tail slip from my lips.
"Beatrix, please surrender to me as my wife and I will make you proud." Tears welled in my eyes. "Say, yes. By God, say yes!"
But Beatrix said nothing at first. I could hear my heart beating inside my skull. It took every ounce of restraint in me not to shout at her, not to demand an answer.
She rolled over onto her side, sat up and put on her robe.
"Dr. Blackwell. I am humbled by your adoration. You may see me anytime you wish. There's no need for marriage. Besides, your work, your reputation would be ruined by marrying... someone like me."
The words were like a thousand wasps, stinging my ears.
"I do not care about such things, dear Beatrix. Please, please be my wife."
She took my hand. "No, I'm sorry." She wrapped a silk robe around her body and headed for the door.
My form jumped up to stop her. I ran to the door, blocking her exit.
"You must say yes. You are a prostitute, you have very few options in life. It makes no sense that you would not choose to be married to me," I said as the anger and frustration began to build.
She sighed and her face grew sad. "I'm trying to be as tender and considerate as possible."
"No," I said with a snarl, "you're being cruel. And spiteful. The same way you teased me earlier, you enjoy denying me."
Her face wrinkled. "Dr. Blackwell, if you want the honest truth, I believe your affection is for my physical oddity, not for me. When we are together, I do not sense that you care for my feelings, my thoughts, or any desires of my own."
"How can you say that? Why would you even see me at all, then?"
"Because I need to earn a wage," she said. The words "earn a wage" echoed in my brain. Is that all I really meant to her? A means to a sack of potatoes? Dear God, I can't be without the tail. The tail!
Fury foamed in my mouth, then exploded from my soul. An elephantine rage overtook my being.
I awoke in a crowded jail cell, with a dozen or so men of very low station, sleeping on the floor in pools of their own urine and vomit. It was more disgusting than any pigsty I had ever witnessed.
I stood up, tried to get my bearing, wondering why I was even there. That's when I noticed the blood on my sleeve. I looked down to find blood on my trousers as well. What had happened? I had no memory of the night before.
Several hours passed before two coppers approached the cell. One of them, with a thick black mustache and beard, called out, "Blackwell?"
The policemen took me to a room, where they asked me to have a seat. That's when I saw a white, ceramic box mottled with bloody fingerprints, resting on the desk. Why did it look familiar? The clean-shaven policeman lifted the box.
"Care to explain this?" he asked, looking at me pointedly.
Hands trembling, I reached for the box. It was smooth and cold to the touch. That's when I realized what was inside. Images began to flash in my mind. Beatrix in my arms. The surgical scissors. Her screams. It was her blood that fouled the box.
My hands were now shaking uncontrollably. The box fell through my fingers and smashed on the ground.
"The tail! The tail!" I shouted as I fell to my knees and plucked the appendage from the shards of broken porcelain. I clutched it to my chest.
"My beloved, you are mine, all mine!" and I wept at the thought. I hugged it close to my body, protecting my one true love as the two policemen dragged me away.
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