This "archival" story was inspired by a few of my dreams which I linked together. I don't consider myself a fiction writer, but some of those dreams were so intense that I wrote it for my entertainment as well as to let off steam. I was also attracted by the graphic potential of some scenes, though, not being an illustrator, I didn't take advantage of it. WM
By William Markiewicz
Everything started with a strange coincidence; a huge meteor crashed on the outskirts of Paris and had an immense impact in both the figurative and proper sense of the word. When the newspapers had exhausted the sensational aspect of the event (was it a space ship? a meteor?), one new fact, this time unknown to the general public, shocked specialized circles: the avalanche of mental cases which poured into the asylums and a new question went unanswered: was this something significant or a mere coincidence?
A third extraordinary occurrence: the death of many of the patients and the subsequent transfer of their symptoms to attending medical personnel. Here the problem lost its theoretical aspect and the police decided to look into it. Could it be a drug case? Bizarre complicity between patients and doctors? Hard to believe, but in any case the affair deserved investigation. Therefore, Dr. Z of the St. Anne Hospital in Paris was called to present himself at the Prefecture of Police.
Dr. Z was one of the doctors who had shown certain symptoms of disequilibrium after the death of one of his patients. The symptoms disappeared after a time and he was once again able to take up his professional activities. But some tension persisted between him and many of his colleagues who believed that there had been a subtle change in his personality.
Inspector N, politely greeted Dr. Z who entered the office with an obviously heavy briefcase under his arm:
-- "Your briefcase is impressive, Doctor," smiled the Inspector in a friendly conversational tone. "If I didn't know you are a psychiatrist I'd think you were a G.P. -- or maybe you're carrying a human skull, like the ancient alchemists."
-- "A little more than a skull," answered the doctor, returning the smile which contrasted sharply with the blank expression in his eyes. "You will know at the right moment."
-- "So you come to shed some light on the question that interests us! After all, you know very well why you were asked to come here?"
-- "Yes. And I come first of all to ask for a private meeting with the Prefect of Police himself. The affair is serious, more than you might believe. Absolute secrecy is necessary. Any indiscretions from the press must be avoided."
The Inspector's smile had turned rigid: "Judging the importance of this affair is up to me. May I remind you that you are here to answer questions and not to set conditions."
The doctor, without a word, leaned over his briefcase and removed ... a human head, as casually as if it were the most banal object in the world. The head was alive! It blinked its eyes, opened its mouth and distinctly pronounced the words, "Good morning, Inspector."
Inspector N had seen everything in his line of work, but he didn't know how to react to this spectacle that his senses told him was impossible.
There was a moment of silence, then the head spoke again: "You can believe him, Inspector. Dr. Z is right. It is important to do what he says. Please make his task easy." And the head remained frozen in its smile. To the Inspector it looked like a mask from a nightmare, a piece from a horror collection.
Dr. Z cooly returned the head to his briefcase and started for the door.
The Inspector, shaken from his stupor, cried "Halt!"
Dr. Z did not react. The Inspector pushed a buzzer. Two of his colleagues stepped in from the adjoining room and at his signal grabbed Dr. Z. Hearing a voice from his briefcase, they opened it, expecting perhaps a tape recorder. They saw the head, eyes blinking and screaming, "You'll see! You'll see!"
Dr. Z profited from their shock and took the briefcase, trying to escape. With a well aimed telephone book the Inspector managed to trip and send him sprawling, while the briefcase flew from his hands and the head rolled across the floor. Hearing the commotion, policemen filled the hall. They saw a man lying on the floor and a bodiless head, alive, shouting. It was the last thing they saw and heard as a great explosion shook the walls. In the silence, clouds of dust fell on the ruins and on the victims.
In that wing only two survivors remained. One died in hospital and the other, blabbering in horror about a head with rolling eyes that exploded, had to be committed.
The press was lost in conjecture. Who had committed the attack on the Prefecture and why?
The staff of the Prefecture passed an intense period; suppositions crossed each other, confusion, feverish conjecture reigned. Every investigation was short lived because absolutely noone could say in which direction it should be oriented. The arrests of some of Dr. Z's colleagues and even some patients brought no results and all had to be released. Finally, when everybody began to doubt that there was any connection between the events up to that point, and the case began to stagnate in the files of unsolved crimes, a letter arrived, directed to the Prefect. In the letter, as well as in the phone call which followed shortly, an anonymous individual requested an appointment with the Prefect, promising to shed light on the mystery. He set two conditions: total discretion and the Prefect must be accompanied by no more than two people; one a medical doctor. Once the day, hour and all conditions were established, the meeting was awaited in a climate of tension and scepticism.
In the little room the Prefect waited with the two witnesses, one the Chief of Security and the other an MD also from the security service. A middle aged man wearing a hat and carrying a briefcase arrived. All eyes converged on the briefcase. Of course nobody had put any stock in the delirious notion of some "head in a briefcase" but it was in back of everyone's mind.
The newcomer placed his briefcase on the table and casually opened it. So the unbelievable proved to be true: the head was there. It blinked its eyes, looked at those present and greeted them aloud.
"Voila," said the man. "I think it is best to face the problem. As you see, the story of the living head is true. And in case you don't already know, Dr. Z killed himself to keep the secret from getting out. He asked for an appointment, was denied it and so he did what he had to do. We are not afraid of death nor of suffering.
"One of you gentlemen is a doctor," continued the visitor. "I will ask him to be so kind as to examine the head to ascertain that this is no trick and the head is really alive."
-- "Would you like to tell us ... " intervened the Prefect.
-- "Please," interrupted the newcomer, "before any explanations, I prefer that no doubt persists about what I have to tell you. Will you please do as I ask?"
At the Prefect's nod, the Doctor picked up the head which looked him directly in the eye. He had a sensation of holding a small strange animal in his hands. Lifting it high, he saw the wound of the cut neck still covered with a layer of coagulated blood. The head spoke:
-- "As you see Doctor, there is no trick. I am alive. Would you please listen to my companion."
-- "And why not you?" suddenly asked the Prefect.
-- "I serve only as a piece of proof," said the head, and remained silent, baring its teeth in a smile. At this, the Doctor, seized by panic, had all he could do to keep himself from shoving it away like some repulsive thing. He placed it carefully on the table, saying:
-- "The temperature and colour are cadaverous due to lack of circulation but the facial muscles are tense, the eyes clearly in movement, and the vibration during voice emission is perceptible. There are signs of life which I am unable to explain. This gentleman must surely give us the explanation."
-- "No!" the answer struck like a whip. "You know that nothing can stop us and no one can force us to do anything. I am here to tell you that you face a grave situation, one with unlimited consequences. The secret in my charge can be communicated only to the President. I want you to facilitate our meeting. For this purpose someone from our side will call within two weeks."
The Prefect understood that any discussion was useless. He offered his card to the visitor.
-- "Would you please call this number? In a few days I hope to give you an answer from the President."
The visitor took the card, returned the enigmatic contents to the briefcase and left. On the street, he entered a small grey car which immediately pulled away. Two other cars followed and at the next intersection the number increased to four. The small grey car, with its uninvited escort, left the field of vision of those who remained in the room watching from the window. The Prefect was personally in steady contact, waiting for any message.
The grey car drove along the border of the Seine, more or less deserted at this hour. From a distance the spy cars observed and radioed in the route. Suddenly an explosion echoed over hundreds of meters and flames spurted from the pulverized grey car. In this way the unknown man managed to keep his secret.
(Continued in the next issue)