He groped fingers across his eyes to pull away the film that fogged his vision. He had been feverish when he began his journey, stumbling through the maze of streets around the central terminal as if his body were about to burst into flames; but now, as he slumped on a bench in front of a strange provincial station, his flesh congealed like cold clay.
Weigand had never seen these goggles before or anything like them. He touched the leather with a fingertip and found it oily, then brought the finger to his nose, recoiling from the foul smell. It was like wearing a dead animal on his skin.
When the top was loosened, the other three old men stepped forward to help lift it, and Karlik realized the wooden box was not a crate at all, but a coffin, a body inside, face in shadow, only the flesh of folded hands visible. It must be a funeral. He was back in his village for a funeral.
“In the Old Village”
The defectives appeared from a van driven to a space beside the restaurant building. Attendants, two men and two women, blond and handsome in white nylon uniforms, helped the creatures to the ground, guided them to tables. All seemed young, adolescents; but it was difficult to estimate ages with this collection of hunchbacks, hydrocephalics, palsied idiots. Some in braces, a few neckless, chinless, one stunted female tottering on bandy legs with great bald patches of scalp. Their teeth were awful, growing at jagged angles like mouths full of broken crockery. A skeleton thin girl slumped in a wheelchair emitted an unending wail. The attendants tried to feed them, but the food ran down their necks, splattered their bibs.
He imagined stopping abruptly, twisting his face into a hideous mask, and suddenly turning upon her with a roar. Would she scream? Faint? The victim could die of heart failure. It would be a foolproof way to get rid of a wife—if the wife had a weak heart and you wanted to get rid of her. That would be the most important thing to know—how much you really wanted her out of your life.
Annie did everything for God. She jumped for God, each night for an hour, hopping from mattress to floor and back again, flopping loose naked flesh, shrilling at the top of her voice, “I’m jumping for God! God wants me to jump! God wants me to smoke! God commands that you give me a cigarette!”
They were all evil people. She had suspected it for such a long time, but Steinway gave her evidence. Her husband had murdered his mother, filled her with cancer germs. He would kill her too if she did not resist him. Her parents were monsters. They had stood in darkness beyond the circle of light to watch when her husband made the butchers castrate her.
“Steinway and the Wizard”
It was how she looked when he realized she was dead, the instant he removed his hands from her throat and her body stood propped against the wall panel, before it slumped forward and sprawled onto the grey carpet.
“Under the Deck”