Hannah – The White Bull


For three days rumors circulate amongst the cattle ranchers. More men are found each morning in the frost, gored and gnawed upon.  In daylight hours, the ranchers blame Nelson Story’s longhorns, brought by train from Texas to Western Montana.  It takes little imagination to picture the damage those massive horns could do to a man caught unaware.  But in the dark hours, they blame the white bull.  For a moment, we are transported to an ancient time, when a god cursed a Queen to fall in love with a white bull.

Leontis has been a ranch hand in Deer Lodge Valley, Montana for as long as he can remember.  Finishing his daily rounds, he comes upon a half-naked man with a sword, suspiciously prodding a frozen corpse. Leontis instinctively draws his pistol.  The man addresses him in an unknown tongue.  Through some creative sign language, the two agree this is the work of a mad bull. In accord, the stranger gestures for Leontis to follow him towards the mountains.

The snow begins to fall in earnest.  Leontis, on horseback, trudges behind the stranger, who seems impervious to the cold. Through flurries, Leontis sees familiar shapes pacing beside them.  They are longhorn bulls…though their signature red patches are so faded in the snow, the beasts appear eerily white. The bulls unexpectedly charge them.  The stranger leaps onto Leontis’s horse and the men gallop deeper into the valley.  Soon a horrifying silhouette confronts them, ancient and horned. It bellows, and the mountains crack ominously. The panicked horse shakes its riders and disappears into the oncoming avalanche.  Stuck in the snow, Leontis watches dazed as the stranger and the monster battle.  The stranger is fatally wounded, and Leontis fires on the Minotaur as the avalanche overwhelms them.

Time recedes, and Leontis opens his eyes to a terrible noise.  All around him is blackness and dripping stone. The Minotaur, bloody and clearly dying, has devoured the stranger whole.  It roars at Leontis and collapses.   Carved figures on the walls of the labyrinth seem to glow and twist.  There is a sculpture of a great snake with three heads, the first of a man, the second a lion, the third a bull. The bulls’ stone eyes glower. The snake intertwines a beautiful woman holding a spindle. Chronos, a voice whispers, and Necessitas.  From the spindle, a cool mist envelopes Leontis. When it vaporizes, he is identical in form and feature to the stranger, Prince Theseus of Athens. The carvings still and darken. Slowly, the new prince bends to clasp a familiar strand of twine. He passes the dead Minotaur as he follows the twine from the heart of the maze.     


Accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s Man with a Harmonica

She had despaired bitterly, most bitterly. But this construct was her salvation. She marveled at it. Like all Daedalus’s inventions, it was simple…but it’s genius was in it’s simplicity.  Shaped as a she-cow and covered in stitched hyde, with just the space inside she would require.  Positioned at last within the structure, palace guards carried her to his pastures.  At last, he would have her…

*    *    *

Leontis cocked his pistol. But he did not know what to make of the man, and could not rightly fire on him without first considering his predicament in each aspect.  He was stocky and dark-skinned, similar to the Indians of the Salish tribe. But his clothes were like nothing they wore. His clothes…Leontis shook his head.  They were not enough to keep a man alive long in Western Montana!  Still stranger was his sword.  It was not the saber of a cavalryman.  It was broader and heavier, shorter than a pickaxe and wickedly sharp.

And it was pointed at him.  Considerations.

“English?” Leontis asked.

The man, who appeared just as taken aback by the looks of Leontis, shook his head impatiently.  Eyes steady upon him, he stabbed his sword towards the corpse and spoke in a strange tongue.

The words, unintelligible, did not seem Salish. “You do that?” the ranch hand asked, pointing at the body with his chin. He looked more closely, and grimaced. Pockets of flesh gaped in the corpse’s chest. Just as it had been with the others.

Both men turned quickly to the sound of heavy hooves. The head of a white bull crested slowly over the hill, curved horns spanning five feet.  Hot steam shot from it’s nostrils as it breathed, and in a moment both Leontis’s gun and the strangers sword were trained on the animal. The bull, ignorant to danger, plodded past them without interest. Observing the red patches in the Longhorn’s thick coat, they released identical sighs of tension, and then glanced at each other, assessing.   

Leontis looked once more to the dead man on the ground.  Whatever dark implement that had killed him, it had not been the work of a sword. The stranger spoke again, more harshly, sheathed his sword, and curled his fingers to his head in the shape of horns.  He pointed to the corpse more gently, paused, then withdrew his sword and stabbed viciously towards the mountains.     


Arthur Machen – “The Great God Pan” (1890; 1894)


Two men pace the terrace of a secluded countryside estate. The pale one is Dr. Raymond, devoted these last twenty years to the study of transcendental medicine. The anxious one is Mr. Clarke.  Clarke is a respected man of business, whose secret life’s work is compiling “Memoirs to prove the Existence of the Devil.”  He has come to observe Dr. Raymond operate on a trusting and beautiful young woman named Mary; the doctor hypothesizes that a microscopical alteration to her grey matter will alter her consciousness, and reveal to her the hidden world. Unfortunately, the surgery lobotomizes her.  Dr. Raymond explains to the horrified Clarke these results are to be expected from contact with old gods.  Haunted by the incident, Clarke returns to London, determined to leave the mystic world behind.

Some years pass, and Clarke, still pining for the unseen, returns to old obsessions.  His only friend, Mr. Villier, knows nothing of Clarke’s unnatural preoccupations.  He does not know that Clarke’s  sole pleasure is reading, compiling, and rearranging his dark Memoirs, that engaged in this pursuit the evenings seem to fly and the nights appear too short.  One evening, Clarke, adding sinister stories to his collection, comes across the tale of a certain Helen Vaughan.  Helen, an orphaned child, is sent to a small village in Rome by a mysterious benefactor, to be raised by peasant farmers.  Helen’s new home sits where once had stood the temple of the “God of the Deeps.” Helen delights in wandering the ancient woods unattended, and she grows beautiful and terrifying to look upon.  She is implicated in the death of one child and insanity of another.  At age eighteen, Helen vanishes in the sunlight of a meadow.

This story fills Clarke with cold foreboding.  And on the heals of it, London is hit by a rash of suicides. In five weeks, five young men of wealth and prominence are found hanged and decaying in their fashionable gardens and bedrooms.  Fortunately, Mr. Villiers, who prides himself as a practised explorer of obscure mazes and byways of London life, and displaying an assiduity worthy of more serious employment, reveals to Mr. Clarke that the five deceased had consorted with the same mysterious woman.  Mr. Villers presents Clarke with a sketch of her.  Clarke recognizes Mary’s features, though they are twisted in the most vivid presentment of evil he has ever seen! Clarke and Villier learn that she is Helen Vaughan, though her real name is Helen Raymond.  They confront Helen, and persuade her to hang herself.  In her death throes, they call in a medical doctor, who watches in horror as Helen’s body transforms and dissolves.

After Helen’s death, Clarke writes Dr. Raymond, describing what has transpired.  Dr Raymond finds the news unsurprising.  For it was he who had sent Helen to Rome at age five, when her pagan nature had begun to assert itself. Mary was dead, had died immediately after Helen’s birth.  And Helen was born nine months after Mary’s surgery, nine months to the day of the ill-fated experiment which had exposed Mary to the old gods, and the old gods to Mary.


Accompanied by Krzysztof Penderecki’s Polymorphia

“Though horror and revolting nausea rose up within me, and an odour of corruption choked my breath, I remained firm. I was then privileged or accursed, I dare not say which, to see that which was on the bed, lying there black like ink, transformed before my eyes. The skin, and the flesh, and the muscles, and the bones, and the firm structure of the human body that I had thought to be unchangeable, and permanents as adamant, began to melt and dissolve.

“I know that the body may be separated into its elements by external agencies, but I should have refused to believe what I saw. For here there was some internal force, of which I knew nothing, that caused dissolution and change.

“Here too was all the work by which man had been made repeated before my eyes. I saw the form waver from sex to sex, dividing itself from itself, and then again reunited. Then I saw the body descend to the beasts whence it ascended, and that which was on the heights go down to the depths, even to the abyss of all being. The principle of life, which makes organism, always remained, while the outward form changed.

“The light within the room had turned to blackness, not the darkness of night, in which objects are seen dimly, for I could see clearly and without difficulty. But it was the negation of light; objects were presented to my eyes, if I may say so, without any medium, in such a manner that if there had been a prism in the room I should have seen no colours represented in it.

“I watched, and at last I saw nothing but a substance as jelly. Then the ladder was ascended again…for one instance I saw a Form, shaped in dimness before me, which I will not farther describe.  But the symbol of this form may be seen in ancient sculptures, and in paintings which survived beneath the lava, too foul to be spoken of…as a horrible and unspeakable shape, neither man nor beast, was changed into human form, there came finally death.”

Casey – Provisional Title “Behind the Mirrors!”


The Catalan Spiritualist Jotim had still been hiding from the church’s spies when he arranged to meet the American doctor Wallace in, of all places, the Café del Principe, right across from the convent in the center of Madrid.

The Café del Principe was small shabby locale with pinewood tables and wicker chairs. But in the winter they served punch, barley water and sarsaparilla, in the summer their famous sorbets, and all year long one could gaze out their windows in hopes of catching sight of one the Sister of Contemplation entering or leaving the convent of the order of the Barefoot Carmelites.

Not many people know that the Café del Principe, precisely because it was so small, was the first cafe in Madrid to follow the Parisian fashion of lining the interior walls with mirrors. These mirrors lent the café an illusory infinity, while also permitting its male clientele to gaze not only at their beautiful companions, but also (perhaps especially) at themselves sitting next to beautiful companions. But though these mirrors enhanced the light, exposing everyone to everyone, they also drew the patrons’ gaze away from the northwest corner of the bar: ever since the mirrors ahd been installed, no one in the café had ever once thought to glance over at the table in the corner.

It was the corner table of absolute liberty.

Over the years, it had come to be one the preferred meeting point for the myriad subspecies of dissidents and radicals that inhabited the fringes of the imperial capital. Napoleonistas, nacionalistas, imperialistas, pragmatistas, absolutistas, monarquistas, Carlistas, and progresistas had all in turn partaken of sarsaparillas and Barley waters on the corner table. On this particular night, however, the barley waters  imbibed by two men who considered themselves mere Free Thinkers and Men of Reason, but who belonged to that great community known (and reviled) as Espiritualistas.

 Hidden by the mirrors and the smoke of cigars, tonight Wallace and Jotim will communicate with the Spirits. Jotim lives here. Wallace brings with him news from their brethren in Boston and, more to Jotim’s surprise than his displeasure, his fourteen-year-old daughter, a delicate girl with  golden hair and marble skin and bright blue eyes, though tonight rather reddened by smoke and lack of sleep.

In preparation for the session, the two men become caught up in an impassioned discussion of the nature of the soul and how best to speak with it. Wallace’s daughter Magdalena eventually falls asleep on the table, knocking the tripod onto the floor.

Jotim, infuriated and alarmed, rebukes Wallace for bringing her to their serious philosophical gathering, and Wallace turns to chastise her, when suddenly she sits up, stiff as a telegraph pole. Her eyes turn black as coals, a strange glow, like dappled moonlight, appears on her arms and neck, and there falls from her mouth a great quantity of white foam that future generations would call ectoplasm, but which her father, now alarmed, believes to be the symptom of a poison, and decries this base and malicious Catholic treachery. Jotim and leans over to clasp the girl to his breast so that she might die in his arms, when she begins to rap, with irregular pauses, long and short, her fist upon the table, steadily, never once looking down. Wallace records her taps, and begins to translate them into words:  “The Catalan Spiritualist Jotim had still been in hiding from the Catholic spies when he arranged to meet the American doctor Wallace in the Café del Principe. The Café del Principe was small shabby locale with pinewood tables and wicker chairs….”


They order sorbets and take a seat in the corner. Jotim asks Wallace why he has brought this lovely and delicate child. Surely she ought to be home, reading fairy-tales.

The girl responds that she does not like fairy-tales. She prefers the kinds of stories her father tells her, “because they are terrible,” she says, “and because they are true.”

“With what innocent purity and simplicity speaks the girl-child!” exclaims Jotim. “And her face is as beautiful as her spirit is pure!”

“The body is only the leaf of the tree of life,” observes Wallace, rather curtly. “Moreover, Magdalena is present because you specified that the magnetic activation of the communicative device requires three people, at least one of whom is an innocent. And I see you have brought no one.”

“Trustworthy innocents are increasingly difficult to find in Madrid,” sighs Jotim.

“Magdalena is as quiet as the grave,” says Wallace. “She will not betray us to the Catholics, and her innocence may even protect us, should we be accosted by…impure spirits.”

Jotim shows Wallace the brass tripod they will use to communicate with the spirits.

“Placing a hand on the top, like so,” he says, “one evokes a spirit, and when one of the tripod legs lift up, any one of the three may ask the spirits any questions they please.”

Jotim and Wallace then fall to discussing  this tripod’s history, its magnetic properties and the best way to position it, and whether any ritual need be performed in doing so, and once signs were received, what system to use to interpret them.

“In order to understand the spirit’s replies,” affirms Jotim, “each leg must be given a number between one and three, each number corresponding to nine letters of the alphabet, which are also given numbers, the spirit thereby revealing which letters it wishes to name in order to form the words.”

“But if we are magnetizing the spirit tripod, why not communicate via the electrical telegraphic code of Mr. Morse?” asks Wallace. “Surely it would be faster and more accurate.”

Jotim is scandalized. “The eternal spirits would hardly communicate with us like common American train operators! Only the basest of materialists would propose such a system!”

“Ah, so you are familiar with the Mr. Morse’s wonderful system?” asks Wallace, delighted, for he is something of an enthusiast of long-distance communication.

“More or less,” remarks Jotim dismissively, which they both know means no, not at all.

Wallace sighs. “I am most distressed to see an intelligent man like yourself so quick to dismiss something that he knows nothing at all about. We might at least conduct an experiment, evoking their names with the code and seeing if they respond.”

But neither Jotim nor Wallace is certain if spirits have names, if they are earthly names or spirit names, if it is blasphemous to evoke them, or if their names change, or for that matter if after bodily death the opinions and ideas of the spirits change once they return to a state of Spirithood, and then they fall to discussing whether or not animals have spirits, why Spirits must act secretly, why some children can communicate directly with spirits, and why do babies cry when they are born, and is rebellion part of the natural law, and finally if any man can detain the march of human progress, and here they desist, for both of them agree that the march of human progress is impossible to detain.

Amalia Domingo Soler – “Wait for me!”

In the days when the Café del Siglo occupied two floors and half the block, and was furnished with velvet divans and gaming tables where men in fine suits wagered their escudos, and later their pesetas, beneath imported crystal chandeliers, a party of friends sits at a corner table, discussing Spiritism. Three of them are spiritists; the other two are not.

The non-spiritist, an engineer by profession, recounts how that very same afternoon, a young colleague of his told him that he was on his way to Rome because a spirit had instructed him to pay penance for his sins. The engineer knows the boy is no fool and yet he would not stop talking about communications with spirits. Perhaps he is mad, or possessed.

Doctor Aguilar responds that according to Allan Kardec, this sort of subjugation by a spirit can only happen when the person participates, either out of weakness or out of desire. There is no such thing as total possession by a spirit; that is a vulgar concept.

The engineer laughs, and refuses to believe that a sensible man like Aguilar could ever put stock in Kardec’s nonsense.

Then Brigadier Montero, normally a man of few words, interjects. He is most distressed to see an intelligent man like the engineer so quick to dismiss something that he knows nothing at all about. With our eyes, says the Brigadier, we see six thousand stars in the sky, but with a telescope one can behold forty million, and even then countless more escape the view. You cannot see them, but still they are there. So too are the spirits.

Amalia, as always the only woman of the group, agrees, relates an experience she had with a couple she met earlier that summer at the sea baths of Deva.

They were always together, talking and laughing; she had never before seen such happy people.  The woman was forty-five years old, while the man could not have been more than twenty-five. One day, happening to have an opportunity to speak with the woman in private, Amalia asked how she had met her husband, and how they were so happy. The woman, whose name was Ana, smiled and said and that their marital bliss could only be explained by Spiritism, that is, the Philosophical School which explains how it is that souls of the departed return to Earth.


“My father administered the magnificent estate of a wealthy banker. One summer, the banker’s wife arrived, with her son Rafael, who was about twelve years old, and an invalid. His mother asked my father if I might stay with them, in order to entertain Rafael and distract him from his illness.

“From the very beginning I spent the whole day with Rafael, and his mother was most delighted with me upon seeing how her son’s health improved. The next summer, however, the poor little boy suffered a relapse, and could not leave his bed. His parents and I never left his side.

“He was a very formal child, and we talked like two little grown-ups. One afternoon, shortly before he died, Rafael told his mother that, if he were to have lived, he would have married me, and then looking at me, said, ‘And you, wait for me, I will come back for you!’ For the next ten days, which were the last days of his life, he would keep repeating ‘Don’t ever get married, wait for me, I will come for you, promise me you will never marry.’ And I promised him.

“When I was fifteen, I began to have suitors. Rafael’s mother Doña Magdalena encouraged me to wed, but I still dreamt, from time to time, of Rafael, and of him telling me to wait for him. ‘And what if Rafael comes back?’ I asked Doña Magdalena, whereupon she would tell me not to be silly, and that she loved me like a daughter and the only thing she wanted for me was that I marry a good man and be happy.

“Then one day, a few years later, Doña Magdalena’s brother came to visit us from Cuba, together with his wife, who shortly after died giving birth to a son.  ‘How that child reminds me of my son Rafael!’, cried Doña Magdalena when she saw the baby. ‘We will raise him,’ I said, ‘and we will give this baby the same name.’

“His very first word was my name: Ana.

“The years passed, and we grew ever more fond of one another. I had many opportunities to marry, and well, but all my love was for little Rafael. The day he turned twenty, he asked for my hand in marriage. I pointed out our difference in age, for I was eighteen years his senior, but in vain. We married six years ago and we have lived every one of them as if it were paradise.”

“And so your husband is the spirit of Rafael come back to earth?” Amalia asked her, when Ana fell silent.

“I will tell you,” replied Ana. “As a child my husband was a sleepwalker, and he used to get up in the middle of the night, walk to my bedroom, and cry ‘Anita! Anita! I’m here!’ Then for a long time he stopped. But one night, shortly after we were married, I felt him touch my shoulder, and though he was still sleeping, he spoke. He said: ‘Anita! I’ve come back for you! I have loved you for centuries!’”

Hannah – Provisional Title ‘Riposte of a Matriarch’


Two society dames meet for tea in an elegant parlor, elegant as only a parlor could be in mid-Civil War Philadelphia.  Now normally the demands of city charity functions keep these ladies far too busy for luncheon frivolity, but today is a special occasion.  One of them has just become a grandmother. They spend the afternoon gossiping and reminiscing on motherhood, when by happenstance the categories merge. For “Obstetrics; the Science and the Art” by Professor Charles D. Meigs, had caught both women’s attention in yesterday’s medical journal.  Hardly surprising, of course; in these times, it behooves a lady to follow what’s what at her local hospital.  Whats more, ‘Meigs’ is an old and respected family name in their circles.  Though rather less respected by our regal ladies, it happens, after reading his article.  Doctor Meigs belongs to a small but staunch camp which opposes any use of anesthesia during childbirth.  It is an opposition about which our new grandmother has many thoughts, none of which are flattering for Doctor Meigs.

The ladies engage in energetic conversation about the article.  Acknowledging the topic is outside the typical repertoire of the charitable patron, they strive for precision.  One rings an attendant to bring in yesterday’s paper, so that they might establish better discourse.  At last both ladies agree that were they to have children in a Midwifery, it would not be one chaired by Doctor Charles Meigs.  However, they do concede to him that doctors probably cannot transfer child-bed fever from one patient to another, on his premise that “Doctors are gentlemen, and a gentleman’s hands are clean.”


Accompanied by Schubert’s’ 4 Impromptus, D. 935 performed by Maria Pires

Her voice trembled with the outrage of the vindicated. “There!” she pronounced, “There is the passage to which I had referred, Ingrid.” Her elegant finger jabbed at the paper on the melon bulb table, trembling as righteously as her voice.

With considerably more aplomb, Dame Ingrid adjusted her spectacles and read dramatically (for she had a resonant voice that lent itself to drama) “…I have been accustomed to look upon the sensation of pain in labor as a physiological relation of the power, or force; and notwithstanding I have seen so many women in the throes of labor, I have always regarded a labor-pain as a most desirable, salutary, and conservative manifestation of life-force.  I have found that women, provided they were sustained by cheering counsel and promises, and carefully freed from the distressing element of terror, could in general be made to endure, without great complaint, those labor-pains which the friends of anesthesia desire so earnestly to abolish and nullify for all the fair daughters of Eve.”

“Salutary, indeed!” sighed Elisabeth. “It is just as I remembered. Oh, my poor Felicia, that such a man might have resided over her last night.  I do shudder to think, Ingrid… And it makes one wonder just why Charles’s feelings are so strong. I know of very few women who, having endured childbirth without numbing benefits of ether, remember these desirable and salutary labor-pains as clearly as Dr. Meigs seems to recall them.”

“Just so, dearest,” replied Ingrid in a considering tone. “Whats more, such is the view of…” here she turned to the introduction and pronounced with relish, “the Professor of Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children in Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia.”

“Bless the Almighty for chloroform,” responded Elisabeth.

“To Him be the glory,” murmured Ingrid. “And all those who use it. Which is not to include,” and Ingrid recited the the introduction again, “Lately one of the Physicians to the Lying-In Department of the Pennsylvania Hospital, Vice-President of the Philadelphia College of Physicians, prestigious Member of the American Philosophical Society, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and the American Medical Association.”

“Good lord,” whispered Elisabeth, “all of them?”

“All the same person, dearest. Thank God for chloroform.”

E. B. White – ‘Riposte’ (1971)


One snowy New England morning an aged farmer returns from his barnyard chores to warm his hands and read the daily newspaper. To our farmers’ delight, the Times has published an article on one of his most beloved topics: the chicken egg. The column, by English journalist J. B. Priestley, is entitled “The Meaning of Brown Eggs”. In it, Mr. Priestley extracts the deeper meanings of American culture for his American readers by explaining their relationship with brown and white eggs. He postulates that Americans despise and throw away brown eggs because they associate the color with Nature, and overwhelmingly prefer the white egg because of its sterile aesthetic. This behavior, he concludes, is most unlike the English, who prefer brown eggs because they all dream of one day moving to the countryside.

Our farmer is bemused by the journalists’ theory. He wonders why so many Englishmen seem unhappy until they’ve explained America, while it is the rare American that is distraught over having yet explained England.  And he is further perplexed when he references the papers’ produce report, noting that yesterday a dozen brown eggs sold for 3 cents more than a dozen white.  Our farmer decides he must understand and rectify the disconnect between his reality, and that of Mr. Priestley.  Taking pen to paper, he spends the remainder of his morning pursuing the truth of the matter.  His riposte at last complete, our farmer is able to continue his daily routine, and wonder about his neighbor down the ice-covered road, who has plans to breed green chicken eggs.

Excerpt (of our farmers’ riposte)

Accompanied by Mozart’s’ Violin Sonatas, performed by Szeryng – Haebler

“The Americans, well outside the ghettos,” writes Mr. Priestley, “despise brown eggs just because they do seem closer to nature. White eggs are much better, especially if they are to be given to precious children, because their very whiteness suggests hygiene and purity.” My goodness. Granting that an Englishman is entitled to his reflective moments, and being myself well outside the ghettos, I suspect there is a more plausible explanation for the popularity of the white egg in America. I ascribe the whole business to a busy little female–the White Leghorn hen. She is nervous, she is flighty, she is the greatest egg-machine on two legs, and it just happens that she lays a white egg. She’s never too distracted to do her job. A Leghorn hen, if she were on her way to a fire, would pause long enough to lay an egg. This endears her to the poultrymen of America, who are out to produce the greatest number of eggs for the least amount of money paid out for feed.  Result: much of America, apart from New England, is flooded with white eggs.

When a housewife, in New York or in Florida, comes home from market with a dozen eggs and opens her package, she finds twelve pure white eggs. This, to her, is not only what an egg should be, it is what an egg is.  An egg is a white object. If this same housewife were to stray into New England and encounter a brown egg from the store, the egg would look somehow incorrect, wrong. It would look like something laid by a bird that didn’t know what it was about. To a New Englander, the opposite is true. Brought up as we are on the familiar beauty of a richly colored brown egg (gift of a Rhode Island Red or a Barred Plymouth Rock or a New Hampshire) when we visits New York and open a carton of chalk-white eggs, we are momentarily startled. Something is awry. The hen has missed fire. The eggs are white, therefore wrong.