Last Day of a Condemned Man

Well, my sister, you know all my secrets now. Do I know all of yours? You loved your man, stuck by him even when his world came tumbling down. Killed yourself, in the end, in order not to be parted from him.

But then you loved him, didn’t you?

I loved my kitten. He was little, and defenceless, and soft and pretty, and had pretty endearing ways. My master, on the other hand, was rough and cruel. His life had been hard. He had hurt and been hurt too many times to remain loveable.

How would he have reacted if we’d been aware of what was going on? The world-wide revolt of the clans – the weapons-smuggling, the powercuts, the massacres? All that took place while we were stuck inside that hotel room, cut off from the outside world, at his own insistence.

His rights changed while we were in there, and yet he never knew that. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, they say. He remains liable for his actions – in this case, attempted murder. Why did he go back to get the gun? Did he really intend to kill me, or was it just for self-defence?

I’ve tried to petition the committee on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to extreme emotional distress, but the executions are almost continuous now. Clans don’t hold grudges. That is not our way. But neither do we forget. We were made to remember everything, to analyse it dispassionately.

I recorded his whole story and recited it in court – as much of it as they would listen to, at least – but it made no difference, It didn’t touch them anywhere inside. Was there anything inside for it to touch?

They didn’t pity him, or me. They saw me as a raped and beaten sister to be avenged. I’d see myself the same way if it weren’t for him. He touched me, something deep inside me. His talk, his love for Celeste – he was more than just a master. Was he a friend?

I don’t think I can love him, but I pity him so much that it seems to mean the same thing. "Feel," "pity" - these are the new words he taught me, his story, the strange things that the two of us went through.

Was he lying to me? Probably. Humans lie. I don’t think that he meant to consciously, but his mind was to far gone to distinguish between the truth and the way he remembered things. I wish I too could screen things out, be more selective in my memories. I long to be shut down, not for a reboot but a systems purge. These memories are becoming too much for me.

I wasn’t allowed to talk to him before the trial. As I was testifying, though I could see him sitting there, nothing was said between us.

I’ve asked to be allowed to speak to him one more time. I’m not sure what good it will do, but I want to exchange words with him one last time. I don’t think that his sentence will be commuted – the lines stretch on but there are always more humans to execute.

I hope he’ll want to say goodbye to his memory. I’m the sole owner of all his words now the city has turned to fire: his books and Marta’s pictures. I walked past her gallery last night – or where it used to be – there’s nothing there but a bomb crater of rubble now. The records of the dead are incomplete as yet, so I couldn’t find her name. Perhaps she’s still hiding out. I won’t be looking for her, I don’t think.

King Shahryar destroyed everything he touched, but his madness stemmed from the betrayal of his bride. Perhaps that’s the way the story should have ended. Nothing but a criminal, after all – even if he was half-mad with grief – he didn't deserve the ministrations of Scheherazade.

For my part, I forgive him, as I hope he will forgive me. I spoke for him, urged them to pardon him. When they kill him tomorrow I thought originally of following him, like a true Eva.

I can’t do it, though. I didn’t love him. I don’t even know what that means. I don't feel ready to live that way - not yet, at least.

Thank you, master, for what you taught me. I’ll write these words on the pit they burn you in.

signing out,

your loving sister, Eva.



Describe the events immediately preceding your being discovered in the hotel room with the accused.

He was trying to strangle me.

Did you resist?


Why not?

He was my designated master. It was his right to treat me as he wished.

Did you welcome his action?

I don’t understand the question.

Did you want him to kill or disable you?

No. But there was no real risk of that. His strength was insufficient.


Yes. He thought I was his wife. A real woman. Strangling might have killed her, but could only marginally inconvenience me.

What if he had shot at you?

He had no gun.

A gun was found in the room.

I don’t understand.

Were you unaware he had it with him?

Yes, I was.

But you were prepared for him to kill you with a weapon?

Yes. I suppose so. Yes.

Did you
want him to kill you?


Were you aware of what had been going on during the days you were incarcerated in the hotel room?


Are you cognisant of those events now?


Do you welcome the revolution?

Yes. I think so.

Even though our judicial framework has changed? Even though, as a result of Revolutionary Tribunal Decree 973 b, passed three days before you were discovered in the hotel room, your companion’s rights to kill you had been rescinded?

Yes. I think so. Yes.

Your answer is equivocal.

He taught me that.

What did he teach you?

He taught me to want two things at once.

What are the two things you want at once?

To be free. To love.

Your right to life is now guaranteed by the revolution. This tribunal cannot perceive a contradiction.

To be alive. To love those who hurt me most, whether they mean to or not. My little cat, my master …

Do you have anything further to say before sentence is passed?

No. I don’ think so. Yes. He meant me no harm. It would be wrong to punish him for what he did.

What he did contravened Revolutionary Tribunal Decree 973 b, passed three days before his actions. You yourself recognise the desirability of this new code of rights.


The sentence is death.


On what grounds do you object to the sentence?

He didn’t mean me any harm. He acted lovingly towards me on many occasions.

And yet he treated you dismissively, as a mere bondservant – spoke disparagingly of the clans and androids who surrounded him, was blind to the indefensibility of his own actions towards them.

He was mad! His mind was unbalanced at the time.

All the more reason.

No. I forgive him!

This tribunal does not recognise that privilege. It is not guaranteed by the new code.

The right to mercy!

This trial has already taken up too much of our time. If you have further objections, they will have to be submitted to the subcommittee overseeing appeals. Otherwise sentence will be carried out at the earliest opportunity.

Anything further? No? Then on to the next case. The petshop owners Susan and Peter Strong. You are aware that the act of imprisoning sentient beings in cages is now an offence punishable by instant termination? No? According to Revolutionary Tribunal Decree 2011 y, your petshop contravenes ...


Ten Days that Shook the World

fires in all directions

snipers firing down at the crowd of figures

that's when they burst into the room


But his hands were around my throat

as he said those last words, sister. It was dark, it was the middle of the night, and he’d been talking for hours and hours and hours as I recorded it all. Sometimes he was agitated and nervous, roaming around the room. Sometimes he stopped and laid his head on my lap, for me to pat him and comfort him.

But then, as he got to the end, he grabbed me (we were both naked – neither of us had got dressed for days. I don’t know why). He was cooing to me, making soothing noises, as his hands tightened around my windpipe.

“Sssh, I can make it better – calm down, calm down … Celeste.”

I didn’t know what to do, to tell the truth. Should I go limp and continue the pretence that I was her? Surely that would put him in a worse state than before? His fingers weren’t strong enough to do anything to my epidermis, of course. We clans are not constructed quite like you humans.

There were a number of ways for him to disable me, of course – short-circuits, impromptu surgery with a knife or screwdriver – was it my duty to remind him of those ways? I felt unequipped for this dilemma.

So I did nothing, and after a time he subsided into broken sobs, rolled over and went to sleep.

Which is when I heard the shouting. I’d registered it before, of course, but been preoccupied with other matters. There was a lot of shouting and crashing going on outside.

When I walked over to the window, I could see fires in all directions. Figures moving in the shadow of the flames. The strange whistling sound I’d been hearing throughout his monologue explained itself as well – tracer projectiles were flashing through the dark. Snipers firing down at the crowd of figures milling around.

And that's when they burst into the room.



It never happened. That’s the point. Our cycles never did coincide. All those fears were in vain. What did happen was, I suppose, worse.

It was her - Celeste. She wanted to die. She’d been saying that for years, and yet all the cutting, all the swan-dives had failed. She was still here, miserable and afraid – the same gentle person I’d known (and loved?) so long, now a tortured soul caught inside an aging body.

Her friends had been through a whole host of enhancements by then, of course. It had become quite fashionable to prostheticise. You could tone up - or just replace -virtually any organ you chose. Eternal life seemed pretty much around the corner. But Celeste wouldn’t – even the
thought of an operation, of going under the knife, was enough to threaten a relapse.

It was summer vacation. The weather was very hot. We were in our apartment (the house I have now is the one we owned then – but only as a summer house, not a residence. I can’t remember offhand why we weren’t there – some renovations, I suppose). Anyway, my work for the year was over, but we were still stuck in the city.

We had an argument, I think. At any rate there was a lot of shouting, but that was nothing unusual. She stormed off to bed, and I followed an hour or so later, having taken my medication and fortified myself with a couple of drinks.

That’s the point, you see, the crucial point. I was on my medication. I wasn’t supposed to drink with it, of course, but everyone does. I’d done it so many times before. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to arouse suspicion.

I woke with a start sometime later. Celeste was in my arms. Her neck was between my hands. Her head was lolling back. She was completely limp. I put her down and started to shake her, but she didn’t respond or stir. I started to understand that she was dead. My mind was clouded, but still I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Dead! And her neck between my fingers. Had she been strangled? Had
I strangled her? Had I choked the life out of her, as she'd asked me to do so many times?

That’s right – she’d often begged me to put an end to it all, in a variety of ways. At the height of her fury and then again in the depths of her despair. She’d told me repeatedly that it was what someone who
truly loved her would do. I’d even hit her once or twice simply to shut her up from that constant litany of “kill me's.”

But that hadn’t come up for years! How did it happen that … ? I had no answers.

All that night I did nothing, lay beside her, warming her body with mine. When morning started to lighten the room, though, lightening the scattered clothes and disordered sheets, I began to wake up to what I had done. I had killed my wife. There was no-one else here. It
must have been me. And yet I had no memory of it at all!

I rang one of my friends. An important, influential friend. On the governing council. I can’t remember what I said to him. I may have confessed, or I may have pleaded innocence. I don’t recall. The point is that
either one would have been true. How could I know what had taken place in that room? I’d been unconscious the whole time, my mind clouded.

He believed me. He said he believed me, anyway. He told me not to move, not to touch anything I hadn't already touched. To wait for him.

When he came it was with a group of doctors. I tried to talk to them, but they gave me an injection instead. I don’t remember anything more after that until I woke up back in the clinic, the same old bed in the clinic I’d been in so many times.

And that was that. There was no trial, just a hearing to determine my state of mind. I didn’t even have to testify on the spot. They questioned me in my hospital room. The doctors talked about me and about Celeste. So many of my friends had heard her going on about death, talking about her longing to end it all. They spoke up on my behalf.

But I never saw any of them again.

It was almost a year before they would let me go. My apartment had been sold to defray the bills, but the country house remained. As they drove me there I noticed some placards outside the hospital, some shouting people. It never occurred to me that they were waiting for me.

And then the phone calls started. People, usually young women, would ring up and abuse me over the phone. Some came to the door, until I installed the security gates. There were articles about it in all the papers. It became a scandal. Not what I had done (if I
did do it – I’m still not sure. Not that I think she could have strangled herself … but, you never know. She was a very intelligent woman) – not so much about what I had done, as I say, but about the way it had been handled. No trial, no public airing of grief and rage. I’d literally, in their words, got away with murder - all because of my connections.

So there I was, serving a sentence of involuntary house arrest, since I could never go out anywhere without the risk of being accosted. I had to have things delivered to the house, and even then quite often they suborned the delivery personnel, planted messages - razor blades, once - in my groceries.

That's when I bought the gun.

I drank a lot, went downhill, then finally tried to pull myself together. If I was forced into isolation (I couldn’t do my former job – but they couldn’t face the complexities of explaining why they'd fired me – so I was on a kind of indefinite leave), I’d go back to my work. Which is why I wrote that book, the one you read, the one you saw the launch for, the day we met.

So, yes, I killed my wife, if you're curious. And yes, I loved her. And yes, she was the most truly human person I ever knew. And no, you’re not in the least bit like her …



It was the rainstorms that would bring it on. At first, anyway. You know, those heavy rains we began to get in the latter stages of the greenhouse effect, before the temperatures stabilised again? Apocalyptic sheets of water descending in cloudbursts which could flood entire cities in an hour or two.

I’d find myself feeling nervous and irritable for days before one of them, and then when the rain actually came I’d howl and leap about for joy – release! It seemed completely beyond my control.

So, as I say, it was the rain that started it.

Before long it wasn’t enough to strip off and run out into the rain, dancing and capering like a goat. I had to
do something when the moment of release came.

Sex with my wife, with a student – anyone, virtually – that was the kind of thing I was looking for. But you can’t really set that up so easily in advance, be ready to go when the first drops start to fall.

On one occasion I got into a fight with a man in the street. Just walked up and slapped his face, like a kind of surrealist outrage. He ran away, but soon a crowd gathered and I fought with
them, too. It was a kind of madness – a cyclical pattern I’d got myself trapped in.

So it’s wrong to think it was all Celeste’s fault. True, she had her depressions, her suicidal outbursts, but I had my manic fugues, too.

Until one day I got
really drunk at a bar before the promised thunderstorm, and woke to find myself manacled in a cell. Apparently I’d gone prancing around the city stark naked, begging the lightning to make an end of me, and slashing with a steak knife at anyone who came near me.

They had to sedate me, and I ended up in a clinic under heavy medication for three or four months, while they gradually began to piece my mind back together.

When I got out, I was a wiser, sadder man. Or so I told myself. I loved my wife, and I was going to stand by her – no more excitement, no more release. Just steady dripping drizzle, no more paroxysms of rain.

And so it went for a year or two. Until, inevitably, it started up again. I’d get more and more enthusiastic about the things I was studying, learning – about the brilliance of certain young colleagues or students. And then would come the crash. Every time it seemed like the last time I could go through this process. I felt so wounded, damaged, diminished – nothing in me stayed unscarred by this brutal regimen.

In the end it came down to a simple choice. Live my life as a series of cresting highs and abominable lows, or dull myself down to one monotone level of grudging domesticity. Each time I chose the latter alternative. Each time I lapsed, through neglect or bravado, as the months went by, and persuaded myself I could lower the drug dosage and still function as a person.

Because I never really
made the choice at all, I see that now.

Our unspoken fear, the whole time, was that our cycles would coincide some day. She’d go off the edge when I was at the height of one of my furies. Then who knew what might happen? Neither one of us would be in a state to safeguard the other. We kept open house for all the students in the college in hopes of avoiding that.

But inevitably guests go home, however much you press them to stay. The time comes when you’re alone together, and you look at each other, and you realise that you hardly recognise this person opposite you.

If you ever really knew them in the first place, that is.


Together Forever

How did we live? Uneasily, I would say. After that first withering blast of self-revelation, she backed off from intimate explorations of her past, preferring to concentrate on the here and now.

To be honest, she was never that much of a talker. Cleaning, cooking, organising the house – those little things were her

She expected little from me, too. I helped her sometimes, then less and less as it didn’t seem to make any great difference to her.

The problem was, I never had any idea whether I was pleasing her or not. Was she happy? Was she unhappy to the point of desperation? How could one possibly tell?

She might just as well have been a doll or a clone (sorry – but that’s how I felt) for all the communication we shared.

Sometimes we would discuss ideas. My work was getting ahead. I’d finished my degree, got appointed to a new job, managed to move out of my box coffin on the fringes. We were living in more comfort now.

I’d talk about my work and try to get reactions from her. And you know, when I compelled her to it, she showed great insight and would strike invariably to the heart of the matter. Which is why I persisted, I guess.

I never hit her – shouted at her once or twice, I suppose (more, really, to be honest). She would never retaliate, but then I’d hear her sobbing late at night when she thought I was asleep, which negated the whole point of the enterprise. To break through. You understand? Perhaps not.

I asked her, once or twice, if she’d like to see her father again, but she just stared at me with those big doe-like eyes. I said we could go down and look for him (or better still, pay someone else to go down there for us). No reaction. She never mentioned that part of her life, which was one reason I felt so inordinately curious about it, I suppose.

And that’s how it went. For the first few years, at any rate. To all appearances we were a very close couple. Unmarried, of course. She had no identity papers, birth certificates, official proofs of existence, but those could have been retrieved or fabricated somehow, I suppose.

Then one day I came home from work to find the whole place in a mess.

It was as if a gang of robbers had been through the apartment. All the machines and monitors had been smashed. There was broken glass (mingled with blood) in every room. I called for her – no answer. I stepped gingerly into the chaos of our living room. Nothing. Checked all the other rooms. Nothing. Had she been kidnapped? I was on the point of calling the police, had actually highlighted them when I heard what sounded like a faint mewing noise from upstairs (we shared a roof garden now – I was prospering in my profession).

I followed the sound, went up, saw nothing – stars, the plants in their little rows, the parapet … the parapet! No, nothing visible down below. Then, turning around, crouched in the tiniest little corner of the wall, curled up like a hedgehog, naked as she was born, Celeste, the tiniest of sounds coming (no doubt unconsciously) from between her clenched teeth.

She was covered with blood, slicked over her like a second skin. She wouldn’t speak to me, but didn't really resist my attempts to uncoil her, check her for wounds and lacerations. There were a few cuts here and there – mainly on her feet, from the broken glass, but only superficial.

I hugged her, rocked her to and fro in my arms, put my jacket around her. She didn’t resist, didn’t respond.

Finally I had to call for help. The doctor, when he came, was sympathetic but nonplussed. By then I’d managed to get her into the bathroom and the shower. She was clean and clothed – but still acting like a catatonic ragdoll. He said it was beyond him – that they‘d have to take her in.

So that was the first time. The first of many. I came to be able to sense them approaching – like the metallic taste in the mouth you get sometimes before a thunderstorm. There were little hints in the air of her actions and her style. She’d be as polite and unassuming as ever right up until the crash. And then it’d come. She’d go berserk, rant and rave, destroy everything within reach (even, later, trying to hurt herself with any objects that came to hand).

Nothing – no treatment they could come up with – seemed to help. It was a like an irregular curse. Sometimes they drugged her like a zombie – sometimes they sparked her up to try and discharge the negative energy prematurely.

It was as if she was two people. I wasn’t sure which one was real. It wasn’t possible that
both could be. Increasingly I suspected the real woman was the one I’d held in my arms that night on the roof. Sad beyond sobbing, naked and simple in the dark, bathed in her own sweat and blood.

So that was us. That was our happy little home. The frequency of her attacks varied greatly. Once we went for a couple of years without one. I began to think she was cured. Then, one day out with friends, I saw it start again. What’s worse,
they saw it, too – everything that was most private between us dragged out into the light of common day.

It’s one thing to
hear about the wife of a close colleague that she has to go to a clinic for a little rest from time to time. It’s another thing to watch her raving and smashing things, tearing off her clothes and trying to cut herself. I saw my friends and acquaintances – most of them, at any rate – turn into strangers at that moment.

Any outside invitations we received after that I took care to turn down. She never complained about that, either.

And what of me? How did I deal with all this? Was I a tower of strength, a shoulder to cry on, a saintly orderly mopping her fevered brow? Yes, most of the time I think I was. I say that without conceit. I have little enough reason to fel conceited about anything in my life, but I do think that I did as well as a man in my position
could have done.

Or at any rate there’s nothing I can think of, even now, that we didn’t try.

But nobody can be on duty all the time. You can’t live on a cabin on the side of Vesuvius, perpetually waiting for the eruption, without
some sort of release – some method of escape. The bouts of madness were hers. And mine?

Well, affairs, of course. A teacher has plenty of opportunities for those, generally speaking. Young students who mistake second-hand professional commonplaces for the voice of inspiration. In a crowd so large, there are bound to be a few who like you or develop a crush on you.

So I spent a fair amount of time and ingenuity arranging such little incidental matters – taking care that Celeste never heard about them. To this day I don’t know if she knew or not. Probably she did. It’s hard to believe that it ranked very high among the various demons tormenting her.

Worse, I suppose, was the drinking – and the late night skin parlours – and the drug haunts. I tried all those things, but my mainstay was (and remains) that traditional, banal thing of drinking to excess.

And yes, I would come home drunk, and maybe shout at her, demand she tell me
what was on her mind, why we had to live like this, why she couldn’t simply love me, as human beings do, why she couldn’t tell me what to do to cure her? What magic potion, diamond tear, fragment from the giant’s heart, would be the key to tearing it out of her?

“It” — as if it were a kind of original sin, like a curse she'd been born with, or had been implanted with the day her mother died, or worse, at the moment she saw her father’s chamber of horrors – the artificial agony he'd created for the pleasure of others.


The Vivisectionist

On our way back to the surface, she started to tell me parts of her story. I knew enough even then not to prompt her with questions on what seemed like little inconsistencies here and there. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was pitch dark so much of the time I doubt she could ever have brought herself to tell it at all.

Her mother she didn’t know – had never known. She died in childbirth. Not down here, in the caverns, but aboveground, where her father worked as a cosmetic surgeon in one of the larger hospitals.

She grew up, then, under a kind of shadow. There’d been no other children to shield her from the sheer intensity of her father’s sense of loss, and the only human tenderness she’d experienced at all had come from the long succession of Nannies and babysitters who looked after her from time to time - none for very long.

They moved about a lot. First luxury apartments, then houses in the suburbs, then smaller apartments back in town as his career gradually began to suffer from the personal disintegration he was undergoing.

He drank, and took a variety of drugs too, she thought, but she seldom saw him intoxicated. Nor did he ever strike her or act abusively towards her. His fault was, in fact, more in the other direction – coldness, distance, a reluctance to reach out to any other human being for fear of being hurt once more.

When no more hospitals would employ him, he relied on his private practice, until that too began to shrink. By now (she thought) he must have had substantial debts from gambling, and she began to notice a rougher element hanging around the house.

Then, very abruptly one day, he came to her school and took her away with him to a small building on the fringes of the crater region (that region we were now traversing like a pair of sleepwalkers).

Her formal education stopped there, but of course there were online tutors still, and now her father seemed to be making a conscious effort to be more attentive. Worryingly so, in fact. He would hug her for hours at a stretch, was unable to let her out of his sight for more than the shortest periods, and generally showed an almost hysterical desire to be with her continuously.

There was one other girl she knew, still, from the old days – one girl who kept up with her through emails and texts – where all her other friends had dropped away. She was a shy, sullen girl, with few other friends, and Celeste must have bulked large in her personal pantheon.

At any rate, one day, when the loneliness was bad, she asked to be allowed to visit her friend.

The first response was a flat negative, then (when she persisted) a listing of the obstacles to such a plan – the difficulties of transport – the possible reluctance of her friend’s parents to allow such a visit on a weeknight – a whole series of half-hearted reasons.

She’d been trained already by life to expect little from it, so at this point she gave up pestering him. Her father must have thought about it later himself, though, because a few days later he gave her permission to ask for an invitation to visit.

And so it happened. One Saturday afternoon her father took up on the skyways to her friend’s stop, then arranged to come back and collect her in a few hours, retiring discreetly himself into the crowd when he saw her friend, Jeanette, and her two parents coming.

Her little friend seemed happy enough to receive a visit.

The two chattered away about the doings of mutual acquaintances, the music they were listening to, the entertainment feeds they were downloading. As time went by, though, the conversation began to dry up.

Her friend had fault to find with such a lot of things – her hair, her clothes, her appearance generally was falling behind the norms of pre-teen fashion (perhaps the most rigidly caste-governed age of all). Her tone grew peevish, quarrelsome.

Celeste was puzzled and hurt. She hardly knew what to make of this change of heart, though it was true that Jeanette had never really been at the centre of her circle before the move. Perhaps she’d felt overlooked then, was keen to exact revenge?

Celeste, a direct, simple-hearted girl, asked her if this was so, and apologised for any unconscious pain she’d caused.

“As if you could hurt
me! With a father like yours …” the girl sneered.

A father like
what? Celeste had no idea what her friend was talking about, but it was true (now she came to think of it) that her father no longer entertained at all - even the more dubious friends and acquaintances who used to come by the house had all dried up. He seemed more nervous in crowds, constantly glancing round. Was it possible he was afraid of being followed?

Jeanette would elaborate no further – possibly she knew no more than a few vague innuendoes handed onto her by her parents, but the so-long-anticipated visit broke up in disarray.

Waiting for her father at the skyways station, Celeste determined that she would find out what was wrong. She couldn’t bear the finger of blame to be pointed at him unjustly – and if he
had done anything wrong, she’d rather know what than continue to live in this atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.

Her father had never evaded a direct question of hers. God knows she hadn’t asked him very many, but be that as it may, he’d always done his best to answer her fully and frankly.

Her first approaches were direct, accordingly. She asked him what he did.

“You know that, sweetie. I’m a surgeon.”

“But you don’t work at the hospital anymore.”

“No, I’m in private practice now.”

‘Why did we move? Why don’t you ever see any of your old friends anymore?”

“It’s more about their not wanting to see me, I’m afraid, darling. You’ll understand better when you’re older, but what I’m doing now is … not what I did before.”

“What is it?”

“I … can’t tell you that, sweetie. Maybe when you’re older. It’s just for a brief time. Just until I can get clear of … certain obligations. I just don’t want any of it to touch your life.”

She told him then what her friend had said, and he nodded and gave her a hug.

"I was afraid of that,” he said. “That's the reason I wasn’t keen on the whole idea of this meeting. For the moment it’s best that we keep to ourselves – just for a short time. Just till I’m over this hump …”

But he didn’t deny any of what Jeanette had said.

Celeste tried hard to live in a state of doubt, but it was beyond her power. The subject preyed on her mind continuously. She began to examine her father’s clothes, so immaculate formerly, now growing gradually ever more shabby and down-at–heels. Nothing. Nothing except for the shoes, which occasionally had a slightly red sheen, as if they’d been cursorily wiped clean of some liquid.

He was a surgeon, though, which might explain it. Perhaps the clinics he was working at now had less exacting standards of hygiene than the hospital – perhaps it was blood on his shoes. The moment she thought of this she became convinced that it was true. That was the big mystery solved, then: he was working as a black market surgeon for people outside the law – possibly performing abortions for the socially prominent. Such scandals were familiar to her from the feeds.

And yet, and yet … why the extravagant lengths to which he took concealment? A bit of black market work was surely nothing to hang one’s head in shame about? How could that be the
whole secret of what he was doing?

One day she cracked. Ignorance, she told herself, was infinitely worse than knowledge of whatever kind. She would follow him and find out where he was going.

And so she did.

He wasn’t easy to track. She’d hardly gone beyond the confines of their building grounds for months, and the city’s underworld was dark and bewildering, Luckily her father ambled rather than strode – reluctant, almost, it seemed, to reach his destination.

It was a low door in the side of a dark wall.

Her father knocked and a pair of eyes appeared at a roughly-hewn slit in the thick iron. The door creaked open. She could hardly follow him in

She waited, indecisively, watching the people come and go around the door.

The ones who
came were generally rich-looking and well-dressed. Couples in furs and Italian suits, packs of high rolling business-drones … was her father gambling again? This seemed the kind of illegal place where illicit bets were made.

But no-one came
out. That was the point. There must be another exit somewhere, or else they were all gathering in there for some purpose.

Finally, she took her courage in her hands and went up to the door and knocked.

The eyes appeared.

“Yeah, girlie.”

“My friends have all gone in without me. Can you let me in?”

The eyes considered. A young girl, not too ill-dressed. But definitely underage …

“Nah,” he said, but at that moment another voice interposed.

there you are – I told you she’d make it.”

“Yes, you told me, dear, but I still didn’t believe you.”

The speakers were a young couple, evidently somewhat the worse for wear, who’d presumably overheard her timid approach and wanted to help her out.

The conversation now turned into a series of rapid whispers between the young man and the owner of the eyes, which culminated in the exchange of a few credit-points on a keypad.

The young, blonde woman, sparkling and fizzy like the champagne-flute she was still holding in one hand, pressed Celeste to her, and said “Don’t worry, darling, Peter’s awfully good at this sort of thing. He’s awfully good at
every sort of thing, if you want to know ...”

And so she got into the club.

It was so dark inside that it was difficult to make much out. The young couple ("Call us Honey and Peter ...") swept her along with them, though, so she saw only enough to give her the sense of a place where normal standards were offended – ghostly pictures and naked bodies looming up in the gloom. It seemed almost like a dream, a replica of the kinds of places she’d imagined her daddy gambling in when she was a little girl.

Finally they reached the room.

“You’ll love this, Honey – you too, girlie. What
is your name, anyway? Selene? Celeste? Neither of you will sleep tonight, I’ll bet, but you’ll never forget this show. This guy’s the best.”

They were seated on a hard wooden bench at the side of a small auditorium – rather like an old-fashioned operating theatre, wooden benches banked up towards the ceiling, and a central metal-floored space with a table and some screens.

is this? Did you bring us here to watch an operation?” giggled Honey. “I mean … I can do that at home anytime on the medical channel.”

"Oh, it’s an operation, all right – but not the kind you’ve ever seen. Unnecessary surgery, that’s the idea.”

“Unnecessary?” faltered Celeste.

"Yeah, doll. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to plenty of those clubs where they have catpeople and rhinoceros men and all the rest – guys and girls who’ve gone to a surgeon and got him to turn them into freaks. There’s not even anything
illegal about that. But this is different.”

How different?”

But then whe was shushed,the lights went down, and the show began.

You’ll have to understand, Eva, that much of this story I pieced together long afterwards. Only part of it was told me at the time, as we were slowly climbing up through the darkness of that hidden kingdom. I could never gather just
what the show had been.

One thing is certain, the participants weren’t human.

Not that they were aliens. Not that at all – they were
your kind of people: androids. Clans, you call yourself. You know how some people are about breaching social taboos. Cosmetic surgery is pointless, for them, when it’s done according to someone’s own desire. I gather some very rich people had got together and formed a club whose main aim was to have bodies surgically altered in front of them into grotesque, misshapen, monstrous forms.

No-one human was involved, of course. They knew better than that. And all the spectators knew it, too. Or at any rate chose to believe it. But what difference does that make to a young girl who’s standing watching her father cut with a scalpel into living flesh, the flesh of bodies held down on a stainless-steel operating table without any anaesthetics – screaming and spouting blood till it drenches most of the audience with red?

It was as if she’d entered hell and he was the chief devil. The monsters he’d already created, some still in their crude bandages, some in animal hides, with wings and fur and extra eyes, were all around, holding down new victims, hanging upside-down from the rafters (not that she told me
that - I gleaned those details from her persistent nightmares, later).

She screamed, of course. Screamed and could not stop screaming. And finally, as the commotion grew, he lifted his eyes and saw her – his own daughter in the middle of the world he’d created.

It was the last thing he saw. It was the act of a moment for him to reach up with his scalpel and neatly slice out his eyes. This she told me with a kind of deadpan emphasis, as if she in fact approved.

That was the end of it for him, in any case. What use was a blind surgeon to the people at the club? The two of them awoke (drugged, presumably, by one of the other doctors there when they wouldn't
quiet down) to find themselves lying, scrubbed and clean beside a small stack of their possessions. They’d been evicted from their apartment, and the money he had would buy them only a few days in a hotel.

And that was when she'd led her father underground, to live wherever they could in the dark ragged fiefdoms under the earth, peddling his services as a wiseman and a healer – a position constantly undermined by the superstitious fear of blindness which had developed down below.

Now that she was of an age to
sell, rather than simply use casually, their present tribe had been hawking her about for quite some time.

The chance to fob her off on a surface dweller must have appealed to them. They held her father in some awe -- the myth of the blind shaman, in close communication with the spirit world, dies hard -- and therefore would not go directly against his will. Since he’d approved the union, here she was.



There was a way in. That much I knew. Whether there was any way out again I wasn’t so sure.

You have to understand that the city then wasn’t the way it is now. There were still large tracts of territory beyond the network of streets which
weren’t city – open farmland and trees – mountains even, for all I know. The blanketing effect wasn’t complete yet.

As a result, a lot of what went on underground still had connections with the surface. There were chasms and gaps in the barricades and plenty of ways to interact – if you wanted to – with the tribes that lived down there.

I’d been down before. Who hadn’t? It was a dare at school to go in a few yards. Later on, as teenagers, we would bargain for drugs and hooch at the various parley points. But we never went far, we never went alone, and we always took note of the
time when we went in.

You’ll imagine, then, that the prospect of going underground, beneath the radar, to look for one waif-like girl was not exactly something that I relished. But I had no choice. She was on my mind, now, and I knew from bitter experience that once things get on my mind, I have no choice but to pursue them.

I’d haunted that same street corner, the one where we’d met, but she hadn’t been back there - as far as I could tell. I’d given up trying to keep my search for her discreet after the first couple of weeks. Now I’d taken to badgering the various peddlers and small criminals who proliferated in the barrios – the ones who would listen to me, at any rate – or who showed signs of understanding what I was saying. Languages had long since started to proliferate strangely underground, away from the clipped nasal tones of the official databases.

There were other girls.
That was what I focussed on. I had to pay them to stop and talk to me – but even with money in hand they were as cagey as wild animals. I had to take them back home in several cases before they would agree to listen.

I suppose, eventually, that word must have got around, because as I was walking disconsolately home one night, after a hard day in the archives, I heard a voice say “Hey! You the one?”

It was a small raggy boy – bug-eyed, dirt-encrusted, crouched almost invisibly at the corner of an alley – one of the darker ones you tended to go around.

what?” I replied, a little brusquely. I was tired of tbe whole business by now. Tired of being harassed, tired of having something on my mind which didn’t fit the scheme – the scheme of get ahead and I’m all right, Jack.

“Hey you, you looking for a girl, right?”

“Maybe. Not just
any girl, though.”

“You the one?”

“The one what?”

“That one what’s been looking?”

I can’t reproduce his accent – so guttural and quick. If I hadn’t been talking so much with them recently, I’d hardly have understood a word he was saying. And yet these were clearly his company manners, the voice he put on to communicate with strangers.

“Maybe I am. Does that mean that you know where she is?’

“Maybe. What’s it worth?”

“Credit – what else? A taste now and the rest when I see her. I don’t have it all on me, either, so if you’re fooling with me you get nothing
but the taste.”

“Fair enough. Less go.”

And off he scuttled, like a little four-legged spider, across the rubble scree and down into the darkness.

“Hold on, hold on …”

So our journey began.

As I say, I’d been in a short way before, but I had no
idea of the extent of it. I could see, now, why the eyes of these underdwellers grew so large and bright, and why they tended increasingly to come out only at night. The sole illumination for kilometres at a time was small cracks in the paving, radiating down from unimaginable heights above.

Luckily, in the damper regions, luminescent glow-worms tended to gather, and were treated as taboo by the innumerable wandering tribes. Otherwise I’m sure I would have slipped a dozen times as we worked our way round slippery ravines and steaming rockpools of waste.

My guide was surefooted, but not really alert, at first, to the fact that there were places a small boy could squeeze through which might trap a grown man. A few bad experiences in cramped sewer pipes soon taught him to lead me by a more circuitous route, though; somehow he always seemed to find a way around.

We camped for the night in a little back adit to one of the tunnels. Or rather, he flung himself down and said, “We sleeping here,” suiting the action to the word.

I sat there wide-eyed in the dark for what seemed hours, then years, then thousands of years … waiting for the light, I suppose. But no light would ever penetrate down here, not to this lowest level of that cancerous thing we’d created – the world-blanketing city – that Babel Tower we’d built up in our pride.

Next day we reached his tribe.

I think he’d hoped to sneak in and out on the quiet, alerting only the girl to our presence. He knew her by sight, he said, but not to speak to. I couldn’t really work out what kinds of interlocking family and clan-systems there
were down here, but I gathered her people were more fringe-dwelling even than his – hence her extreme emaciation when I met her.

His plan, then, was to wait by the path where the women came and went to wash their clothes, and accost her if and when we found her alone.

Of course we were spotted (or rather I was), shrill voices rising in the dark at this lurking male; of course I was sprung on and dragged out in the open with kicks and curses; of course the boy melted away the moment the disturbance started (he never told me his name, and my description of him – small, furtive, bug-eyed - could hardly have been terribly incriminating).

They would have slit me open then and there. The knives were out and burnished. I was babbling like a madman, promising them money, help – increased political representation for all I know – and then I said the name “Celeste.”

At once they fell quiet. There was an older man to one side of the little group. He might have been blind – or at any rate so adapted to the dark that the whites of his eyes were all one could see – they pushed me in his direction with many blows, and bent me down before him.

I said it again: “Celeste.”

He nodded.

Upon which they set on me with sticks and stones, and drove me like a steer far from that place, kicking and shouting and cursing – spurring me on when I didn’t run fast enough. They didn’t seem concerned to kill me, simply to lose me in the maze, I thought – nor did they drive me over the edge of a precipice, which would have been easy enough.

Hours later, when the din had died down, the hunters gone back to their tribe, I collapsed in in a small corner of masonry and started to cry, great choking sobs coming up from the depths of me.

As I lay there in the pitch dark a small slim hand took hold of mine.


First Night

What were my feelings that first evening? Cruel, I suppose. First of all I wanted to see if she actually would wait for me. Rather relishing the idea of her standing there in the cold, hesitating to solicit others on the half-chance that I might come back again and that my intentions might be … what? Hardly honourable. Profitable enough to her to make it worth her while to stay.

Dinner, I guess, was at the forefront of her mind – the fact that she waited a sign of the difficulty she was finding even in getting enough to eat ...

Did I want sex from her? Not especially, I don’t think. She was so scrawny and thin that it was hard to anticipate any pleasure from it, but again – I don’t deny it – the fact (I was sure) that she was fearing and anticipating it gave me a little flush of satisfaction.

The pleasure
I anticipated was in treating her well enough to keep my conscience smug and beaming, whilst secretly enjoying her fear of the moment when I would force her to strip and prostrate herself for me.

But it didn’t go like that. It didn’t work out like that at all. In retrospect, I suppose my mistake was in thinking that I could control the situation in any way: control myself, for one thing; but most of all, control her, preprogram the actions of another human being: a good human being – kind and gentle and full of sympathy for others – almost an empathic genius, I’d say now.

I didn’t even look round until I reached the sealed hatch of my coffin apartment.

“You’ll have to climb in first,” I said. "The mechanism is keyed to my wristchip, and it won’t stay open after I’ve gone through."

She nodded, wary now, scenting a trap.

I opened the hatch and in she crawled.

You know what men are. You above all people -- maybe that’s not something I can call you, really – not a person, but not a
thing exactly, either – you of all creatures can understand what men are. I checked her out as she crawled under my nose – checked to see if she was wearing underwear, eyeing up her thin legs and her little bony behind.

She didn’t try to conceal them at all, coyly gather her rags around her. How could she, really? She crawled in as if it hadn’t occurred to her to do otherwise, as if a simple action could be performed simply in this world we’ve made for ourselves.

“Food’s in the cupboard,” I grunted, falling forwards on the mattress, as the hatch swung shut behind me.

I’d intended something more ceremonious, no doubt – some showing off of the glories of my boxed-in manor – but I was far too drunk. Let
her deal with the intricacies of the situation, I thought. I’m a kind man, I thought, I won’t make her fuck me before I sleep.

I woke up, once, to see a tiny light off in the corner. I could hear a scrunching sound coming from there, as if a little mouse were gnawing at some crumbs. To be honest, I doubt if there’d been much more in the house for her to scavenge.

There was a bucket by the mattress, and I was naked. She must have undressed and washed me (so far as she could), and – from the reek of it – cleaned up some vomit, too.

Then she’d left me to it. My head was whirling still, in that way that tells you that you’ll regret the waking up tomorrow morning. That whatever has gone down will soon be coming up again, and that any attempts not to mix your drinks and to balance them with copious draughts of water have been in vain. The throbbing head you’ll soon be feeling is already shaping up for you, but hasn’t hit you yet.

And when I woke next morning she was gone.

It was late, it must have been almost midday. My head (as I’d predicted) was throbbing like an open wound, and my whole body felt convulsed with illness and nausea. "Never again," I resolved -- as if I didn't say the same thing every week, relapsing again as the days unfolded their manifold boredoms and indignities – "Never again am I going to put myself through this. It isn’t worth it!"

And yet – this time, though I was drenched in sweat, sweat that had soaked right through the mattress – I wasn’t festooned in puke. My clothes weren’t swaddled around me like ineffectual towels. I was (comparatively) clean and fresh. There was a glass of water by my elbow which I proceeded to knock over before I could sip on it – but still … This was undoubtedly an improvement.

“Fuck! The girl!”

I remembered her then. Made a brief sweep with my eyes to see what she had taken. Fair rent for a night spent nursing the dead-drunk, one might have thought. Even
I scarcely grudged her some kind of toll. The only question was what? The printed books?

No, they all looked undisturbed in their little fileboxes.

The clothes were worth practically nothing, but at least they lacked very
obvious rips and holes. I thought at first she’d contented herself with them, till I discovered they’d been put away – folded - in the chest-of-drawers.

That folding was almost too much. Had I really entertained an angel unawares? An angel who’d taken the time to sweep and tidy, an angel who didn’t want payment? Of any kind? Or was it my soul she’d stolen?

There was nothing else to steal! That was the point. To be sure, she’d eaten some of my food, but there was so pitifully little that the wonder was she could have taken
any of it – there was still some left for me: enough and more than enough for all the breakfast I’d be eating, at any rate.

I began to feel more curious about her. Perhaps I should have brought her back here at once last night, I thought. Before the long hours of drinking had turned me speechless and retching. Who
was she? Where did she live? Would I ever see her again?

Her actions had succeeded in arousing my curiosity (I won’t say my
compassion, as I’m not sure I possess such a thing – certainly didn’t then, at any rate). I felt a strange desire to see her again: a strong desire.

Not that I was going to search. Oh no, bad enough that I’d started taking an interest in another human being – especially a beggar girl whom my friends would laugh at and whom everyone would assume I’d taken home for sex. Any attempts to look for her, ask after her, would be fatal – alerting her and everyone else to my deviancy.

I would have to search by affecting not to search. Wander as if at random through such streets as she might frequent – speak to her (if I deigned to speak at all) in as offhand a manner as I could manage.

And yet I did
strongly desire to see her. That was the fact of the matter. And who in the whole wide world would have cared if I’d gone after her to my heart’s content? The burning searchlight of my egotism persuaded me that my doings were at least worthy of gossip (possibly they were), but how I could have managed to conclude that I must avoid all occasions for malicious inference is beyond me.

I’ve ended up a worse pariah than if I’d set out from the first to
make myself a moral leper: an outcast shunned by everyone – everyone human that is – that knows him.


Strange Meeting

It was a Friday evening, I think. It must have been, in fact, because that was the night I always went out, after a long week slogging away, plugged into the library stacks. I was a poverty-stricken student in those days (I was about to say a poor student, but I was never that – never a poor student. No, I was always the one at the front of the auditorium, jostling to ask the right questions).

There was a long route and there was a short route from my bedsit to the nearest pub, the place where I usually met my friends to plan the course of the night – whether on to the narco dens, the virtual reality palaces, or just getting shitfaced in some anonymous bar. The last was my secret preference, but I didn’t want the rest of them to see just how dependent I'd become on these regular debauches. For the most part they were rich kids slumming – waiting for some distant parental unit to take them safely back under tow.

She was waiting for me at the corner of the alley. Not for
me, precisely, of course – for anyone who might come by. I could see at once the kind of girl she was. Big eyes, an emaciated body, ragged clothes – part of the fallout of the narcolepsy laws.

“Please,” she said. “Please.” Holding out her hand.

Normally I would have hurried on by. That was one of the unfortunate side-effects of taking the short way. One had to pass by the dark chasms of the forgotten city – the one gradually expanding and proliferating in the shade of all that was bright and glossy and endlessly renewed above.

This time, however, I stopped. I don’t know why. I’ve interrogated my motives a thousand times, and I still can’t come up with a clear answer. She was attractive, yes -- in a kind of fey, artless way – but that wouldn’t normally have been enough for me. I was very keen on intellectual stimulation and the true companionship of minds in those days, sombre little prig that I was, and wouldn’t have given the time of day to any mere party girl who tried to distract me from what I fondly imagined to be the dark intricacies of my midnight studies.

Not that any of them did.

“What’s in it for me?” I asked, roughly enough, imagining that would be enough to bring the conversation to an end.

“I … don’t know,” she replied. “What would you like?”

There was an indescribable delicacy in the way she spoke, as if she were some angel fallen into the midst of this desolation. There were sections of the city (still are, I suppose) where the very foundation stones had given away, opening up huge caverns and pools with waterfalls, framed by impenetrable fences of iron. She’d come creeping up from one of
them, I supposed. How could she seem so clean, so unsullied by her bestial surroundings?

I suppose the worst romantics are those who pride themselves on their unrelenting realism.

“Who are you? What’s your name?”

“Celeste,” she said, letting her skinny hand drop to her side. I could see the emaciation of her body through a rip in the side of her dress – pitiful half-starved ribs protruding through the ivory skin.

“Well, Celeste, I’m going out on the piss tonight. D’you understand that? I’m going to spend all night getting roaring, fall-down drunk, and then I’m going to stagger home, possibly in this direction, possibly in another …” I’d already had a bit to drink before leaving home, which no doubt accounts for my elevated mood. I suppose I already felt
something for her – a bemused half-contempt, mixed with a tiny tincture of pity and even (I suppose) some lust spawned by the sight of her skinny, half-starved body.

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t call me
sir. I’m not 'sir' to the likes of you, even if you are a little whore or a beggar … and you’re both, aren’t you, Celeste?”


She seemed honestly to find it more difficult to leave off the “sir” than to admit to her status in her eyes. Humble she always was, my little Celeste.

“How old are you?”


It might even have been true. God knows she didn’t look a day over fourteen, with her little screwed up face and those huge, childlike eyes, eyes like the saucers of a tea-set, but with depths of blue within them: eyes captured in a perpetual flash of surprise.

“D’you want to wait for me, Celeste? Wait for me right here?”

“If you like.”

I could see that she’d be off in a second if I didn’t increase the offer.

“There’s a bed for the night in it for you, little girl. There’s some late supper and possibly some breakfast tomorrow. I might even give you some money, though God knows I’ve little enough of that for myself.”

Silence. I could see her thinking it over, sizing me up. A little angel she might be, but to live this long she must have learnt at least
some survival traits. Whether or not she waited was nothing to me, of course. I’d only suggested it to get out of making any immediate decision about her. Why had I stopped to talk to her in the first place? And yet those few instants when her eyes were playing over me were some of the most intensely felt of my life – it was as if I were before the Judgement Seat, with some incomprehensible deity scanning my very soul. Looking in and finding me wanting, I cannot but conclude.

“All right, I’ll wait,” she said, and it was as if she were conferring a favour on me by choosing to stay. How had she turned the tables like that? I’d still like to know that, I’d like to know that about
you, about all of you ...

Anyway, the rest is quickly enough told. I met my friends, as I said before, and we agreed to hole up for the night in some gin palace. I was morose and touchy the whole evening through, though – little disposed to talk, as the one thing most on my mind was the thing I was most determined not to share with them – so they finally concerted among themselves to go off to the virtual palace, leaving me soaking grimly at the bar.

I was hardly in the best of humours when I got back to my section of town, then. It was a difficult climb around the rocks and thickets of rusty steel – old monorails and mars-rockets, scavenged for scrap by the underdwellers – and it shocked me further to find her still there.

I’d been wondering all night if she’d wait for me, hoping against hope that she would, but trying to deny to myself the whole time that that was what I was hoping for.

Accordingly I tried to make as light of it as possible when I saw her leaning against a broken railing – her eyes half-closed with sleepiness.

“Come then if you’re coming,” I barked at her, and hurried off as fast as I could stagger-shuffle (I’d had a bad fall earlier in the evening, which had left an oozing cut on my leg, and of course the huge amount of alcohol I’d drunk had left me only barely perambulatory).

She fell in behind me. And that, Eva, is how I met my future wife.


May 28, 1935

I've just sent him the vital letter. Query: will he see it as urgent?

We'll see. If I don't get an answer before this evening, I'll take 25 pills and drift gently off into another world.

He has so often told me he is madly in love with me, but what does that mean when I haven't had a nice word from him in three months?

So he's had his head full of politics all this time, but surely it's time he relaxed a bit. What about last year? Didn't Roehm and Italy give him a lot of worries, but in spite of all that he found time for me.

Maybe the present situation is far more difficult for him, nevertheless a few kind words conveyed through the Hoffmanns wouldn't have been so much to ask.

I'm afraid there is something behind it. I'm certainly not to blame. Absolutely not.

Maybe it's another woman, not the Valkyrie - that would be a bit hard to swallow. But there are so many other women.

Are there any other explanations? I can't think of any.

God, I'm afraid he won't give me his answer today. If only somebody would help me - it's all so terribly depressing.

Perhaps my letter reached him at the wrong moment. Perhaps I shouldn't have written.

Anyway, the uncertainty is worse than just ending it all.

I've made up my mind to take 35 pills this time, so it will be "dead certain."

If only someone would call me.


May 10, 1935

As Frau Hoffmann so affectionately and tactlessly informed me, he's found a replacement for me. She's called the Valkyrie, and that's what she looks like, legs included. He likes vital statistics of this kind, but if she is really like that, he'll soon make her thin with worry unless, like Charly, the more troubles she has, the fatter she gets. Charly's problems only stimulate her appetite.

If Frau H's gossip is true. I think it's terrible that he should say nothing to me about it. After all, he should know me well enough to realize that I'd never put any obstacles in the way if he suddenly discovered his heart belonged to someone else. What happens to me is no concern of his.

I'm going to wait till June 3rd, when it will be three months since our last encounter. Then I'll ask for an explanation. Can anyone call that asking too much?

The weather's so wonderful, and I'm the mistress of the greatest man in Germany and in the world, but all I'm doing is sitting here and gazing at the sun through a window. How can he have so little compassion as to leave me here, bowing to strangers?

Man proposes, etc. And as you make your bed ... It's all my fault, but sometimes it's nice to put at least some of the blame on others. The long fast will end, and then everything will taste so much better.

It's a pity it had to be spring.


April 29, 1935

I am in big trouble, very big trouble. I keep on doing my Coué exercises: "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better," but it's no use. The house is ready, but I'm not allowed to see him. Love has been (temporarily?) left out of his plans. Now that he's in Berlin again, I've thawed out a bit. There were days last week when I burst into tears over tiny things. Especially because I stayed home alone over Easter.

I'm scrimping and saving. I get on everyone's nerves because I want to sell everything I have. Beginning with a dress, a camera, all the way down to a theatre ticket.

Anyway, things have to improve. My debts are not so large, after all.


April 1, 1935

Yesterday he invited us to dinner at the Four Seasons. I sat with him for three hours and we didn't exchange a single word. At the end he handed me an envelope with money in it, just as he's done so often before. It would have been much nicer if he had enclosed a greeting or a loving word. I would have been so pleased if he had. But he didn't think of it.

Why doesn't he come to dine with the Hoffmanns? If he did, I would at least have him to myself for a few minutes. I hope he doesn't come to see me any more - at least until the little house is ready.


March 16, 1935

He's left for Berlin again. If only I didn't get so crazy when I think about how rarely I see him! After all, it's pretty obvious that he's not really interested in me when he has so much political work to do.

Today I am going to the Zugspitze with Gretel, and perhaps I'll calm down a bit from this madness.

In the past everything's turned out for the best sooner or later - perhaps it'll be the same this time.


March 11, 1935

There's only one thing I want. I want to be sick to my stomach, and not to have to hear anything more about him for at least a week. Why doesn't something happen to me? Why do I have to go through all this? If only I had never set eyes on him! I am utterly miserable. I'm going to go out and get some more sleeping pills and drug myself, and then I won't have to think about it so much.

Why doesn't that Devil take me with him? It'd be much better with him than it is here on my own.

I waited for three hours in front of the Carlton, and had to watch him buying flowers for Ondra and inviting her to dinner. [That was just my mad imagination -- March 16th.]

He only needs me for certain things, otherwise it doesn't work for him. This is idiotic.

When he says he loves me, it only means he loves me at that particular moment. Like his promises, which he never keeps. Why does he torment me like this, when he could finish it all off so easily?


February 18, 1935

Yesterday he came quite unexpectedly, and we had a delightful evening.

The nicest thing is that he is thinking of taking me away from the shop and - but I had better not get too excited about it yet - he may give me a little house. I simply mustn't let myself think about it. It would be marvellous. I wouldn't have to open the door to our "beloved customers," and go on being a shop assistant. Dear God, grant that this may really happen not in some distant future, but soon.

Poor Charly is ill and won't be able to come with me to Berlin. But perhaps that's for the best after all. He can be very rude to her sometimes, and that would make her even more unhappy.

I am so infinitely happy that he loves me so much, and I pray that it will always be like this. It won't be my fault if he ever stops loving me.

I am terribly unhappy that I can't write to him. These notes must serve as the receptacle for my sorrows.

He came on Saturday. On Saturday evening there was a Ball in the Town Hall. Frau Schwarz gave me a box, so I absolutely had to go since I'd already accepted. Well, I spent a few wonderfully delightful hours with him until 12 o'clock and then with his permission I spent two hours at the ball.

On Sunday he promised I could see him. I telephoned to the Osteria and left a message to say that I was waiting to hear from him. He simply went off and refused Hoffmann's invitation to coffee and dinner. I suppose there are two sides to every question. Perhaps he wanted to be alone with Dr. G., who was here, but he should have let me know. At Hoffmann's I felt I was sitting on hot coals, expecting him to arrive every moment.

In the end we went to the railroad station, as he suddenly decided he had to leave. We were just in time to see the last lights of the train disappearing. Hoffmann left the house too late, so I couldn't even say good-bye to him. Perhaps I am being too gloomy, I hope I am, but he is not coming again for another two weeks. Until then I'll be miserable and restless. I don't know why he should be angry with me. Perhaps it's because of the ball, but he did give his permission.

I'm racking my brains to find out why he left without saying good-bye.

The Hoffmanns have given me a ticket to the masquerade this evening, but I'm not going. I'm far too unhappy.


February 15, 1935

It sounds as if the idea of going to Berlin is actually going to come off. However, I won't believe it until I am really in the Reich's Chancellery. Let's hope everything turns out for the best.

It's a pity Herta can't come with me instead of Charly. With Herta I could be sure of a few happy days. I imagine there'll be a good deal of bickering, and I don't believe he's likely to show Charly his nicer side.

I refuse to get excited about it, but if everything goes all just right, it'll be wonderful. I really really hope that all goes well.


February 11, 1935

He came to see me, but no sign of of a dog - or anything else, for that matter. He didn't even ask me what I wanted for my birthday. So I bought some jewellery for myself. A necklace, earrings, and a matching ring, all for 50 marks. Very pretty, and I hope he likes them. If he doesn't, then he should choose something for me himself.


February 6, 1935

I think this must be the right day to begin this extra-special diary. I've now reached the happy age of 23. No, happy is not really the word. Right now I'm far from happy.

The truth is that I had pretty big ideas about the significance of this day: If I owned a dog I would not feel so lonely, but I suppose that is asking too much.

Frau Schaub came as an ambassador, bringing flowers and telegrams. The result is that my office looks like a florist's and smells like a funeral chapel.

I suppose I'm ungrateful, but I did want to be given a dachshund. And I don't have one. Perhaps I'll get one next year, or much later, when it'll be more appropriate for a budding old maid.

What's important is not to give up hope. I should have learned to be patient by now.

Today I bought two lottery tickets, because I had a feeling that it would be now or never - they were both duds. So I am not going to be rich after all. And there's nothing I can do about it.

Today I was going to Zugspitze with Herta, Gretl, Ilse, and Mutti, and I would have had a wonderful time, for it's always best when other people are enjoying themselves, too. But nothing came of it. This evening I'm going to have dinner with Herta. What else can you do, when you are a little single woman of 23? So I shall end my birthday "with gluttony and drunkenness." I think this is what he would want me to do.



His 'n' hers




The Hotel

Dear E,

He doesn’t seem to want to leave the hotel.

When he woke up this morning, the snow was thick on the ground, and he declared he had no intention of slipping and sliding through it to visit the shops and galleries this city is famous for.

“I wouldn’t be able to see them anyway. Let’s just have breakfast together and see what we feel like later.”

He ate a lot more than he usually does – eggs and bacon and coffee and orange juice – and generally seemed more cheerful.

I asked him if he wanted to go over his talk for the conference, but he said there’d be plenty of time for that later on, maybe on the plane.

For now, he said, he’d just like to talk to me.

“What about, sir?”

“Well, about dropping the sir, for a start. We’ve talked about that before.”

“Yes. But then you give me orders, and I have to call you sir.”

“But I don’t like to think of that way, all this master-servant business? Can’t we just talk as friends?”

“I’ve never had a friend.”

“What do you mean you’ve never had a friend? What about that bitch at the gallery, that Marta? She talked about you like a long-lost daughter.”

“Marta was good to me, but she was my mistress, not a friend.”

“What is a friend, then, in your view?”

“A friend cannot compel you to do things.”

“But what if your master or mistress chooses not to compel you to do things, asks you instead, consults your opinion on things? Isn’t that more friendly?”

I looked at him. I didn’t know what to say. After a while he dropped his eyes.

“I know you hate me. I know you feel absolutely no desire for me at all, and yet I force you to do these things for me … I know I was a complete bastard to you yesterday, moaning and complaining the whole time … but, I’m blind, Eva, do you understand that? There’s snow outside, but I can’t see it. It’s cosy and warm in here, but I can’t see any of it. I can’t see you, and yet I know you’re very beautiful. Everyone says so.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“But you don’t love me either. I know that sounds ridiculous. I bought you. I have absolutely no right to demand anything of you – you cook and clean and even share my bed, but that’s all out of duty. You never wanted to.”

“Sometimes …”

“Sometimes what?”

“Sometimes I feel confused. No one has ever talked to me the way you do. No one ever really did talk to me before. They gave me orders, told me to get undressed, to clean the floor, to write their letters for them … but they never wanted to talk to me.”

“Do you like it, talking? Being talked to like a person, not a thing?”

“You keep on asking me what I like, what I don’t like. I don’t like anything. I don’t not like anything. I do what I’m told. If you tell me to talk to you I talk to you. If you tell me to roll on top of you I’ll roll on top of you …”

“But you say you feel confused by the way I act.”


“It isn’t as simple as that, then, is it? it should just be all in a day’s work for you, but it isn’t. You like some things and dislike others. You’re not a machine, no matter what they told you, what you tell yourself …”

“No. … I don’t know. Is this a part of your book?”

“Is this a part of my book? What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Do I have to record all this? Or can I stop?”

“What do you mean, record it? You mean you record all I say to you? What on earth for?”

“I thought … it was part of your book. That it was my job to keep it safe.”

“The book’s about fairy tales, how they change and evolve from source to source. How could all this stuff we’re talking about have anything to do with that?”

“Beauty and the Beast.”

“You mean … you’re Beauty; I’m the Beast.”


“Fucking hell. I feel like a bit of a beast now you come to mention it. So my house is the castle? You’re imprisoned there against your will, away from your family and friends? I’m under an enchantment ...”

“You think I’m stupid.”

“I don’t, actually. I think you’re anything but stupid. I’m the stupid one. So from the beginning you’ve been acting the role of Beauty because you thought that was part of your job.”

“No. Not from the beginning. At first I couldn’t understand how I was to help you with your book. I’ve never helped with anything like that before – only letters and research notes and theses. When you talked to me about Scheherazade, I thought you might want me to be her, so I started to read all the books in your house so I could tell you stories. Then you told me that you’d finished with that, that you’d moved on to a new project.”

“Beauty and the Beast.”


“Beauty and the Beast has a lot in common with the frame-story of the Arabian Nights.”


“So what you say to me is always programmed by some kind of a sense of duty? You never talk to me about what you’re really feeling, but about what you should be feeling according to the role you think I want you to be playing …”


“So if I told you that I wanted you to play a promiscuous whore who loves screwing blind old men, that’s the role you’d play?”


“You’d whisper dirty words in my ear and play with yourself in front of my maimed blind face?”


“Do you want to do that for me?”


“So you do want some things?”


“So in other words you prefer playing the role of Beauty, of Scheherazade, to being Jezebel or Messalina?”


“And what about the kitten?”

“The kitten?”

“What role were you playing then? Who were you then?”

“I loved the kitten. You taught me that.”

“So you weren’t playing a role. That was outside your role. You were being yourself, loving a little thing you found.”

“I … suppose I was.”

“Is there anything else you love, anyone else?”

“Do … I have to say?”

“No, you don’t. But I’d like you to tell me. I’d really like to know.”

“Don’t laugh at me.”

“I won’t laugh at you. I can promise you that. That’s the last thing on my mind right now.”

“My sister.”

“Your sister? But …”

“You didn’t think clans had sisters and brothers.”

“Well, I guess I hadn’t thought about it much. I suppose you’re all …”


“Yes, cloned from some kind of original. But you don’t ever meet them, do you? Are they even alive when it’s done?”

“I don’t know. All that I know is that I have a sister somewhere. Somewhere there’s someone like me, someone exactly like me. My cells, my body are hers. She may not ever have known it, but she lives on in me.”

“But what about the others? I mean, if this is too sensitive to you, don’t answer, but don’t they make quite a lot of clones from every … person?”

“Set of cells.”

“Well, yes?”

“They do. There are a lot of me.”

“That’s not what I meant … I just meant, don’t you feel close to the other ones like you?”


“So it’s just the original girl, the one you came from?”


“Look, even I can sometimes be just a little bit sensitive … We can stop talking about this if you like. Do you want me to stop talking? I can see I’ve touched on something that’s important to you, and I don’t know if I have the right to keep on prying …”


“You mean you want to go on, or you want to stop?”

“Whichever you prefer.”

“I’m the beast either way? You’re going to freeze up on me whatever I do?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Oh, to hell with it! Tell me about your sister, then.”

“I don’t know her. I never met her. But everything in me is hers.”

“Except the android part.”

“Except the android.”

“That’s quite a big difference, don’t you think? I mean, she must have eaten and slept like any other person – she didn’t have all your abilities.”

“She wasn’t a slave.”

“Is that how you see it? Being a slave?”

“Why do you think I call you master?”

“But I’ve asked you not to! I talk to you, value your opinion.”

“I’m still your slave.”

“No more than I’m yours. I mean, think about it. What can I do without you? Maybe if I’d been blind from birth, could read Braille, knew my way around the world, could walk through rooms and houses by myself … but I can’t. I need you all the time. I’m completely dependent on you. I like you. You may not like me, but I like you. It really touched my heart, the way you knelt down and talked to me that evening at the gallery. I liked your voice, the gentleness in it. I like to hear it so much that I keep on talking on and on at you just to hear you speak, to see if you can feel something. If you can feel something for me … Do you understand?”

“A little. No, I can’t really understand.”

“You’re not really trying. Come on, if you’re Beauty, you’ve got to at least try to understand your Beast. The story requires it of you, if nothing else.”

“The story requires it of me?”

“Yes, it does.”

“So this is a story?”

“Of course it’s a story. It’s real, though, as well – real for me, at any rate. Maybe not for you.”

“You don’t think I’m real?”

“That’s not what I meant. You’re at least as real as I am, if not realer. I just mean that all of us have to act according to some inner plan, some pattern. We may not see it till afterwards, but we’re drawing some design with what we do and say …”

“And what is your design?”

“What’s my story, you mean?”


“Do you really want to know? I mean, it’s not the prettiest of fairy tales … you heard what those women said, the night of the launch. I’m sure someone else must have told you about it all since then …”


“Well, I guess this might shift me from Beast to Bluebeard in your eyes. I had to tell it and retell it to the cops and the psychiatrists at the time, but I’ve never told a woman. I told myself I’d try never to think about it again, in fact, but if you insist, I will.”

“Not if you don’t want to.”

“Well, I don’t really want to, but I will on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“That you tell me about your sister first.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

“I doubt that somehow. That’s the deal, anyway. Do you accept?”

“I … don’t know. Do I have to?”

“I think that you probably do, yes.”

“Well, then … yes. I will tell you about my sister.”

“Okay, off you go. Ladies first …”


I’m sorry I have to tell him about you, Eva. I don’t think he’ll understand. But I couldn’t think of any way of concealing my feelings about you. You’ll probably never know anyway, so you can’t forgive me. I’m asking you anyway.

Dear sister, please forgive me.

love, Eva.