"The links between man and beast are many and strange. Surely you have kissed a dog, a hunting hound, after an especially exciting chase? You might never hesitate to make a pet, or perhaps a secret mistress, of a mare whose back you favor. But with all the sweetness of such attachment, a man of sound sense will deny continuity even between the lower races of man and the upper.
Yet how else can one understand the pareisical orang-outans? His hunched back is pulled "ramrod" straight. The fluid movements of the animal are mocked by incipient rigidity. His eyes roll with senility. And what could insanity be to a beast such as this? Perhaps it is a difference of degree only; for how else could he have contracted the disease but by practicing the rape of human women?"
The mysterious doctor took pause, for a moment, smiling at my incredulity.
"There have always been men who aspire above their origin. What does a filthy Malay prostitute appear to the orange-man, but a shining goddess, from a race of queens? He is hirsute, she is hairless. He is dark-skinned. She is less so. His proportions are like a cripple's. His hands and feet are ridiculous, hard and mis-shaped."
The professor made me to understand that this fanciful creature was even now aboard ship, his cage lashed near the bow. Light and air, he explained, was essential to the well being of an ape, even one, as he said, "Idiopathically deranged!"
He continued this rambling philosophy, explaining that his original researches into the outlandish Flying Fox had lead him to uncover his alleged case of venereal parasitism. The range of the fruit loving nightbird conveniently overlapped the territory of the xenophile:
"It is fortunate to me that the hyper-sexualisim associated with advanced infection showed itself in this ape. Although he was approaching old age, the beast's attacks were persistent. Certain villages in the durian region were entirely infected. The women were universally assaulted, and they transmitted the disease to their husbands. Many boys had been made catamite as well.
Therefore, I was contracted by the plantationists, as a naturalist and learned man, to capture and destroy the beast. My own motives were quite different, however. I hoped to find clues to divine creation."
In answer to my questioning gaze, the weird professor smiled into his drink and regarded me archly.
"We all seek butterflies for our net, eh? What could this beast tell us about human affinity? It is commonly known that the child of a syphletic mother possesses recidivistic traits- excessive hair, a cleft palate, or a bestial intellect. With such persistence, is conception an impossibility? What of the children of this barbarian?"
Had I the strength to rise, I would have bolted from the cabin at that very moment. But my recent illness made me weak, and the hideous spectacle of the insane Hapsburgian held me riveted. For although mad Germanics are common enough in the South Seas, I had never seen a case of displacement so queer, or a maniac's speech so perfectly admixed with sense. (I shivered, now, at the thought of a calligraphic contest. What sort of consonant distortion might such bestial lunacy induce?)
He continued narrating his mad fantasy. He described a supposed trap, laid for the "creature" in a durian grove. (Previously, the doctor explained the durian thusly- "The favored fruit of both the bats and peoples of the interior is named the durian. If you have never seen one, they are great globes, the size and shape of ox's hearts, and covered with pyramidal spikes. Being a smooth food and sweet, the pith within is an aromatic coagulate, the texture of ambergris and the flavor of custard admixed with feces and onion.")
"My boys and I prepared, and were ready as the evening fell into the jungle. Our lady of pleasure felt brave. She was to be well rewarded, and the threat of infection held no terror for one all ready so ravaged.
We rested in the forest, under the lessening light of paraffin torches. It may sound strange to a gentleman, but the night warmth of the jungle is like a lover's embrace. My boys fell asleep soon, and the prostitute grew tired as well. Hidden, I chewed sweet durian paste, and kept awake annotating Mundus Subterraneus.
It was only at the most quiet moment that the ape chose to attack. He dropped from the trees without sound and landed within the circle of snares, seizing his prey with his long arms. The beast was huge, far larger than any I have ever observed, and his paralytic muscles permitted only automatic motion. His fire-like hair was thin, and black skin like coal showed beneath it. His penis was stiff and white, and shone in the darkness of the clearing.
It was terrible to see those two creatures locked in silent struggle. My whore dropped supine, as her courtesan's instincts bade, and disappeared beneath the huge orange body. She was yet protected by a thin leather mirkin.
I ran from the ape blind to help her, but the beast ignored my blows, tearing at the mirkin's silk straps. To gain a firm grip on my club, I dropped the Mundus, and as it fell, the flutter of its pages were heard by the monster. Instantly, he released my screaming prostitute and made for the book."
Just then, the ship heaved utterly, upending the doctor and I from our chairs. We shared a brief moment of true fraternity as we collected our upended snifters and mopped spilled brandy from our sleeves. Our conviviality was tempered, however, by the worsening tempest without.
"I had not counted on the orang-outans's instinct for paper, and was unprepared for his swiveling assault. Tottering still on one foot, partly paralyzed, the creature knocked me aside and bore down on Kircher's volume. I myself was knocked at once into the trap laid for the ape, and was suddenly suspended by the biting circle of steel.
Hanging by my bleeding ankle, as the wire was quite sharp, I slowly swung within sight of my former prey. He was engrossed in my reading, and carefully tore page from page. Freedom preoccupied me; I must become immediately free, or extinguish myself before the beast finished defiling the book. There are worse things awaiting man than death. To be Ganymede to such a debased Zeus...
Thinking now of my flying foxes, I saw that there was a single, desperate chance to free myself. Taking a gob of sweet durian-fruit from my pocket, I smeared it onto my ankle. I was familiar with the habits of my Flying Fox, you see, and I knew what must inevitably follow.
It was the fruit's carnal smell that drew the bats. Whether dozens or hundreds I do not know. In an instant, it was as if a terrible membranous quilt were laid on my leg, engulfed by their flapping figures, hunched and hungry. The stench stung my nose, one thousand times more horrible, and the noise, the noise made from their uncountable, nipping maws...!"
Shuddering, Herr Von Dunkel drained his glass, and peered into my face, apparently at the end of his tale. A strange pause passed between us, pierced by the roar of an incipient typhoon.
"Are you quite all right, my friend?" he asked, "I did not mean to alarm you. My adventure is concluded."
"Herr Von Dunkel," I protested, "How did you escape the monster?"
He smiled. "My loyal boys returned to me: the creature was no match for five such strapping trappers."
"But Herr Von Dunkel," I replied, "Your foot?"
"But do not worry yourself; I am completely recovered, and have constructed for myself a perfect prosthesis."
With this, he casually detached said limb, trailing
leathern strapping, and handed it to me for closer perusal. I barely remarked on the exquisitely carved ivory ankle jutting from his sock. It felt cold and massive in my hand.
"My only regret," he added, "was my inability to retrieve the original."
"But Herr Von Dunkel," I repeated, trembling, "I meant, what sort of disease was transmitted by flying fox saliva?"
"Every sort of disease, my newfound friend, from hydrophobia to ptomaine sepsis. Do no be concerned for my health, however. The wound was cauterized immediately, and certainly purifying fire has destroyed any disease trace that could conceivably remain."
"And what sort of disease," I pressed, "is transmitted by orang-outan semen?"
My hands grasped at the ivory foot, and my knuckles grew white with exertion. My thoughts were cast in a million directions, and, incredulous, my fury at the demented evolutionist overcame terror, and I heard my own voice ring out in the cabin:
"Herr Von Dunkel, I thought you were a great man. I thought it was on proud, brilliant flesh that I supped. I was mistaken! You are mad! Mad and riddled with syphilis! I know what happened to your foot. It was posted, it was diseased, and it is here right now!" I shrieked, unveiling the bell-jar for the first time.
A look of wonder and surprise passed over his lumpen features as he gazed from the brandy, cloudy in its decanter, to the foot, listing in its half-filled jar, and the snifter, still clutched in his trembling hand. Confusion and bewilderment decayed into rage, fear and outright hysteria.
"Gott in Himmel! Vot iss Dass?" he exclaimed, dashing the glass to the floor. Grasping my lapels, the perverse heterosimian homotologist flung me into the bulkhead with a roar of animal rage. Stunned, I could only watch as he inverted the bell-jar, reaching in and grasping the foot. Drawing it from the sludgy lees, he burst from the cabin and hopped into the chaos of the storm.
I had only time to recover myself; scrambling from the state-room, prosthetic in hand, I spied Herr Von Dunkel at the bow. The Austrian peered into the tempest, innocent now of all reason and gibbering an insane Low German. So violent was the rolling of the ship that I could barely pull myself along the rail, let alone sprint the rain-slicked decks. And yet the monopod professor stood as tall as a Watutsi, like the terrible figureheads of antiquity.
Whipped by wind and ocean, clutching at the limb which still oozed contaginated spirits, we stared at one another as if into a mirror: he with his own foot, I still holding the other. And then a third figure intruded.
A large box, wrapped entirely in oilskin and battened to the deck, a crate like many others, shuddered and groaned. Von Dunkel, standing nearest to it, whirled in surprise and recognition. The sudden, shattering noise of the crate exploding flew above the chaos of the storm, and broke completely the trance into which we had fallen. I attempted to close the distance between us, but slipped and could only watch helplessly as a great dark shape lurched from the crate, clawing mechanically at Von Dunkel's chest.
His hysterical concentration interrupted, Von Dunkel wobbled and fell against the rail, as the creature from the box bore down upon his lapel. With a bestial fixedness, it tore at the rose securely pinned there. In so doing, it overbalanced both Von Dunkel and itself. Before either of them, beast or man, could regain footing, the ship gave a great lurch, and the two were together flung wailing and bodily into the foaming sea below.