Dr H.H. Holmes
Dr H.H. Holmes. CASTLE-HIVE. By Ed Dazere.
The following article is a fictionalized and embellished reconstruction of Dr. H. H. Holmes’ thoughts, based on facts available to the author. Any perceived permutations of prejudice are not representative of the author’s sentiments.
Chicago June 27, 1893, the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition. The place is teeming, with far-flung people, a sea of heads, mostly hats, milling around, bobbing. They have come to see things exotic and edifying; things they could hardly have believed existed beforehand – some swell tales to relate back home. Within the teeming huddle there is a head as unlike the others as some of the showpieces are from the perceived norm. Though he moves amongst the crowd quite vibrantly, he doesn’t look strange at all; in fact, you’d feel you’d trust his expounded wisdom despite its liable awful conclusion, even if you’d guessed it might turn out that way, given his charm. His name is Herman Webster Mudgett although he goes by others. He is here in this great gathering because he seeks prey, logic no different from organisms you might crush under foot or swat, that have nests with cells, and all manner of peculiar architecture related to their habit. Herman is like an insect, and he is the Queen, or commandant. You go into your cell, die in ultimate terror, as he, watching you through a peephole, laughs uncontrollably, claps. Then, you become assimilated, because the building is like a carnivorous hive, the cellar its stomach.
Alright, so it must have been the dozy era because I would have thought mankind would have learnt to have taken me for an atavistic con-artist pat and shook me off, killed me, before I got up to such dickens. Well, they should have, saved some souls, but they were too dumb. Now let’s get this straight, being born is not an option, I think I and nature concurred that it would have been better had I not been, but there I was, so you’ve got a good story here out of her licence be it fickle or cruel. Things got untoward quite early on, and I think it probably began with my Grandma’s funeral, the sight of her like a white and waxy effigy, in the coffin, descending into the ground, for digestion, my father sobbing like a Goddamn baby, a repulsive sight– which was worse!
But then there was the business with the animals, by which I mean torturing them to death. You see, I was given to thinking that a cat just wanted to be your friend, and then I thought it just wanted food, then I oscillated. Oh God…I’d tie their paws up like a con’s, do these awful-awful things to them, throttle them, tears running down my cheeks (theirs’ too I’d imagined), trying to gauge the truth of their nature, get the whole man-animal dynamic straight, and I’d dabble with the benefit of the doubt, moving them back and forth towards my face, leniency, but then misgive – so death to the fraud!
I’d feel an indescribable admixture of exhilaration and terrible emotional pain doing that, a whole ménage of sentiments augering my soul, then a self-loathing urge to do it again, and again, like being on a screwed-up carousel you can’t jump off of because of the speed, and then it slows down and you think there’s a window of opportunity for you to escape without breaking your bones, then it seems to realise you’d thought of that, speed up to thwart, or to chuck you off like it’s a centrifuge so you hold on tight. That sort of screwed up arrangement; basically, Hell in your noddle.
When the sound with the cats got too abominable for tears to salve I leapt from that mad carousel thinking it might mean some form of mental injury, madness, but if anything, it was just a rough and tumble. Then I segued onto another, not entirely un-volitionally. I took to tying can parts to dogs’ tails, sometimes douse them in fuel, and light them like wicks, and off those sorry beasts would go aclatter, sometimes in a little derby, me cheering, clapping and stomping like a wind-up tin toy. It was a truly awful, yelping, howling affair, they chased by themselves, until they died of exhaustion or whatever if I caught them again. And I do believe their horrible noise contained an element of modulation that evoked a sense of betrayal at the hands of mankind.
I did find some other kids, and a perverted teenaged hobo named Caleb, to join in the wicked fun, but not for long, and soon they shunned me except for Caleb, who I shunned for fairly obvious reasons. Soon the parents and people in general came to put a stop to it and threatened to tell father, who would not have been best pleased and likely ‘whale’ me, except, I’d given the name of another kid’s who’d looked like me, and I like to think he’d gotten a good beating on my behalf. It was becoming increasingly clear to me that I was not really of this world and would have to make scant of it what I could by ordinary standards, or maybe flourish at stuff that would not be much to the liking of his ethereal Highness and his erstwhile-terrestrial crucified brat. My existence down here was likely to be horrible for me, for humanity – as it had been for certain animals. Cruelty was my laudanum, and I was a fiend for it.