all the work still unfinished

“KURST!” yelled Lorelei, throwing down a small instrument. It clanged to the floor and rolled toward the desk where Marrionetta’s head was still floating in the chemical bath. She only blinked at the doctor as she was accustomed to his outbursts.

But then in a flash, he rose wildly out of his chair. The chair fell over. This was new. He stalked towards her head and in a single jab, plunged his arm up to the elbow into her bath and dredged her head out. The chemical bath waters got in her mouth and nose and she coughed and sputtered all the way to his work desk. He banged her down upright, so they could have a conversation.

“I’m sick of this, you know.” He was referring to the general progress he had made on the Hasse-Liebe Reverse Induction Contabulator. The progress had been slow. His myriad experiments on Marrionetta had been painstaking and exhausting for her. She was sick of it too. So, in solidarity, she spat in his face.

Lorelei bared his Viennese teeth at her. An incredible rage beamed from behind his eyes but he did nothing. He didn’t even wipe the spittle off his face.

He continued, “Sick to death of it. Of the entire thing.” Absently, he gripped another small metal instrument at the desk and pointed at her with an accusatory mien. “Do you know that I have discovered something beyond the comprehension of man? Right here in this godforsaken circus? No. Of course not. Why would you know.”

“Right again as usual mister doctor! “screeched Marrionetta. “How would a head left in pal of your little piss and gravy experiment water, wrinkling to ages like a royal prune, know what the dog hair’s breath is going on anywhere and anyhow!”

Her angry outburst seemed to soothe him. He licked his lips. Finally, he wiped her splat from his cheek. “It was beautiful. A portal. Probably into another world. Can you believe it?” He wasn’t talking to her at all. She used the opportunity to survey the items at his desk. Maybe there was something she could pick up with her teeth and stab his hand with.

“I need you to assist me with finishing up my experiment. It has to go faster. It must. But I can’t concentrate. It’s beneath me now, I can see that. The celestial forces have summoned me to a greater project. I must finish this confounded machine and move on to the next and more spiritually freeing part of my journey.” The reverie on his own destiny brought him back to his former self. He looked younger somehow in the throes of forwardism. Then he frowned, remembering all the work still unfinished. He locked eyes with Marrionetta.

“You will do the tasks I assign to you. They will be simple. A child could do them.”

Marrionetta began to hack up another expectorant missile but Lorelei grabbed her with both hands and shook her entire head rather violently until she half choked and had to swallow it back down. The spit hack leaked out the bottom of her open neck.

“All done there, I see?” Lorelei placed her head back on the desk and started patting down her hair. Marrionetta was dizzy and angry.

“I will release your hands,” continued Lorelei, taking a locked wooden chest out from a shelf. It was deep red and had a crest on top. It was the width of his torso. The chest rattled once he began handling it.

He set the chest down on the desk a little ways away from Marrionetta’s head. With a key on a ring of keys, he unlocked the padlock and opened the box. Inside were both of Marrionetta’s writhing, disembodied hands. They were separated by a thick divider of wood. Each were attempting to escape the confines of the chest but were unable to. Lorelei had fastened each hand at the wrist with a metal ring (installed painfully some months ago), and each hand was leashed with leather cord to the box.

With minimal difficulty, Lorelei quashed one hand and separated it from its cording. He fastened a leather leash to the ring. He put the chest away with her other hand still inside.

Lorelei staked the leash of Marrionetta’s hand to a mount on the desk. The hand greeted its mistress’s face lovingly. I miss you it seemed to say.

“You will direct the hand and make it obedient to my wishes. In this way, I will train them,” he explained. “They will be instruments of my artwork.”


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