It was a splendid summer afternoon, the sky a deep, gleaming blue and the air filled with the songs of chirping sparrows as Bartholomew Wethers strolled through the bustling streets of Old Town Eureka, a bundle of fresh cut flowers for his wife clutched in his fist and a newspaper tucked under his arm. He couldn’t imagine ever being happier. Everything was looking up. Those dark, lonely days of old when he was so sad and alone were long gone and he walked with a bounce to his step and a smile across his face.
Yes, he was a new man, and he had the internet to thank for everything. Without the internet he wouldn’t have known anything about transorbital lobotomies. He wouldn’t have known that the relatively easy procedure was first performed in 1946. He wouldn’t have known that in the 1950s the famous neurologist who invented the procedure drove around the country in a car he called the lobotomy mobile, performing multiple lobotomies a day on unruly teenagers and disruptive children. But most importantly of all, he wouldn’t have known how a transorbital lobotomy could be easily performed with only an icepick and a hammer.
As he strolled down the crowded street he noticed a little boy dart out of a store and race across the sidewalk towards the busy street. Steven rushed forward and just as the little boy was about to step into the street, he swooped him up into his arms.
“Whoa there, tiger,” he exclaimed, the little boy kicking and squirming.
A frantic woman ran up to him. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. He keeps doing this. I just can’t seem to control him.”
“Oh, no problem. It takes a village, right?” Steven replied as he handed the squirming child to its mother.
The woman smiled. “It really does. Now, Joey, you thank that nice man, you could have been killed!”
“No! Let me down!”
“You thank him.”
“No, let me go!”
Steven grinned. “No need for thanks. But, young man, you should listen to your mother, and be more careful.”
The kid squirmed in his mother’s arms. “Let me go! Let me go! LET ME GO!”
The exasperated woman clutched the child tighter. “You are in so much trouble when we get home, buster.” She turned to Steven, a tired look on her face. “Thanks again, I really mean it.”
“I’m just glad I was there to help.”
Steven smiled and chuckled, giving a little wave as the woman walked off with the struggling child in her arms.
Swinging the door to his dingy little apartment open, Bartholomew whistled a happy tune. “Honey,” he cried, “I’m home. I brought you flowers! Orange zinnias, just like you like!”
His wife sat on a tattered sofa, staring at the little television in the corner, a blank look in her glazed eyes, lipstick smeared crudely across her mouth, a long string of saliva hanging off her chin.
Bartholomew went to the kitchen, retrieved a chipped, blue vase from the busted up cupboard. He filled it with a little water then gently pressed the stems of the zinnias into it. He set it down on the stained Formica table and delicately took the clump of orange blossoms into his hands, carefully arranging them just so. He then sauntered back to the living room, whistling a cheerful tune.
“Sweetie, you’ve smeared your lipstick! Silly.”
He sat down beside her and wiped her pale face with a rag, her slack expression never changing, eyes glued to the television. He cleaned up the drool that always seemed to gather at the corner of her mouth and carefully reapplied her lipstick.
Taking a brush he stroked her long blonde hair until it began to glisten and shine, quietly talking all the while.
“I’ve had such a wonderful day, honey. I actually saved a little boy. Scooped him up right before he ran out into the street. His mother was so thankful and nice. And that manager, the one I told you about, that jerk that tried to get me fired because he said my lunch breaks were always too long, well, when I saw him today I just smiled and held my head up high. Nothing can make me sad anymore. My loneliness is gone. You’ve made me a new man, my sweet, beautiful wife.”
She wasn’t really his wife, of course.
She was many things: a delight to behold, a friend to confide in, a lover to hold in his arms at night, a secret that no one could know about.
But more than anything, a miracle is what she really was.
There had been so many before her. So many failures, back in the dark and lonely days of the past, when he would sit in this small apartment alone, drinking till he retched, the loneliness so strong within him that it was like a physical force, driving him out into the world in search of something, someone, anything, to take away the terrible, gnawing emptiness that filled him.
Often he would keep their corpses around for days. Playthings.
Then it just came to him one day: why not try to keep one alive?
He was so lonely, and while their corpses could satisfy him for a while he always felt such a sadness when he eventually had to dispose of them.
His first experiment had been with a cordless drill on a pretty hippy with blonde dreadlocks he had picked up hitchhiking. Foolish girl, he lured her back to his apartment with the promise of hashish and then offered her a glass of rohypnol laced orange juice. “Is it organic?” she had asked.
“Of course it is,” he had lied.
When he had her inert, naked body spread out on a sheet of plastic, he pressed the drill bit to the base of her skull, just above the spinal cord, and slowly squeezed the trigger, concentrating on remaining steady while the bit bore through the flesh and hit bone. When he felt the bit break through the skull and into the soft tissue of the brain he worked it slowly back and forth. He tried to be careful and precise but suddenly a torrent of blood poured from the wound and she began to thrash wildly, her knotted hair sailing about. He stepped back and watched her as she convulsed, disappointed but satisfied that he had at least taken the time to lay out the plastic. After a moment she let out a long wheeze and then stopped breathing.
He experimented with making the hole smaller, adding acid into the wound. An incredibly attractive brunette stayed alive for a whole day. She was a jogger he had knocked out and managed to drag to his ground floor balcony in a large duffle bag. She had the most wonderful constellation of tiny moles across her shoulders. He really thought she was the one; but when he got home from work, he found her pale and stiff with blue lips, sprawled on the floor in a mess of urine and feces.
That was when he decided to do some research.
The plethora of information he found on the internet was astounding. The articles he read on lobotomies were very informative and detailed. How could he have been so stupid before? He had been digging into the cerebellum. What he needed to be doing was severing the connections in the brain’s prefrontal lobe. He could do this very simply by performing a transorbital lobotomy. He had really only wanted to go into the back of the head so he could keep their faces pretty. But he could just go in right through the corner of the eye. It was a very exciting time. If he was careful, going in through the eye socket would only leave a slight bruise that would quickly heal up.
The first time he tried it had been another failure.
She was a skinny little red head with pale skin and freckles who was very cute. He had performed the operation just like the internet described. Placing the icepick into the corner of her left eye he slowly slid the sharp point in, carefully pushing the eyeball aside until the tip hit the eye socket. Then he gently tapped the handle of the icepick with a hammer till it pierced the eye socket, being very exact with the angle and trajectory. Then, with swift, scraping motions, he separated the frontal lobes from the thalamus.
But it didn’t work. When she awoke, though she seemed dazed and couldn’t speak right, she still maintained too many of her senses and basic motor functions. When he approached her she started screaming and hitting him. He wanted to try again but he felt that old rage build up in him. That terrible rage born of loneliness, and he beat her head in with a crowbar, some calm part deep inside himself watching, as if from a distance, as blood and bone showered up into his face.
It was a real shame.
She had been so cute before he put that nasty crater in her face.
He had tried to look into the fractured skull, examine her brain, see the pattern of marks the lobotomy had caused, but it was just a mess of mangled gray matter flecked with shattered skull. He still kept her around for a couple of days, though. It was very strange waking up in the morning with this faceless creature beside him. A bit unnerving, really. But, it had staved off the loneliness, at least for a short time.
With the next one—his sweet and beautiful wife Katherine—everything had gone perfect. Just perfect. He looked at her and smiled. He was so lucky. Blessed, really.
“Do you mind if I change the channel, sweetie?” he asked, putting down the hair brush and flicking the remote.
“Look, American Idol, your favorite!”
She gurgled quietly, a new line of drool forming at the corner of her mouth. He went back to the kitchen and put a pot on the stove, dumped a can of soup into it, and while it heated hummed to himself. When it began to steam and bubble he poured it into a bowl, put it onto a tray with a spoon and brought it out to the living room. He tucked a napkin into the neckline of her dress and spooned some soup into her mouth. She moaned very lightly, but swallowed the soup down.
“That a girl, that a girl. Got to keep your strength up. Especially now that you’re going to be a mommy.”
He gazed down at the round bulge of her belly, emotion swelling up within him, and spooned another mouthful of soup between her slack lips.
He was going to be a father.
Tears welled up in his eyes. It was a great day. A marvelous day. The best day of his life. He was going to be a father.
Now that he had a family he would never be lonely again.
BIO : Matthew Brockmeyer is a horror writer who lives in an off-grid cabin deep in the forest in Northern California with his wife and two children.