Even my henchmen think I'm crazy


When I first took this job, he was just a boss like any other. You don't get too involved with your employers in this business; it doesn't pay. When the mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers shows up on the castle steps, a career-focused assistant will know it's time to move on to a position with better opportunities for advancement.

At first it was nothing special. He was impressed with my delicate touch at organ harvesting (I'm a dab hand at identifying which graves are most likely to hold abnormal brains), and I know he appreciated my attention to detail in the lightning tube. But still, a job's a job. I got some perfunctory praise when I did good work, but I clocked out at dawn, same as always, and limped off to my dungeon for a hot meal and a sound sleep.

It all started to go wrong after the incident with the rabid bear. He needed the salivary gland for the chess-playing monkey he was building. I'd never tackled anything so large before, but, like I said, I had pride in my work. I knew I could control a mere beast, no matter how large it was. Of course I was wrong.

I came to in the laboratory. Have you ever woken up on your own desk? That's how this felt to me. I'd worked in his lab for years: bringing him the freshest eyeballs, attaching electrodes to the lightning tube, tightening the straps which held struggling subjects to the lab table. Now I was strapped to that self-same table, and I struggled not in fear but in embarassment. I shouldn't have been here! In my disorientation, I thought I'd fallen asleep on the job.

Immediately he was by my side, and I calmed without thought. "Be still, my brave Scarface," he said, stroking my cheek. It didn't occur to me at the time why he called me by that name, for I was far too distracted by the cool touch of his hand against the line of fiery pain that scorched my cheek. The alien, lumpish feel of the left half of my face -- the half, I'd later learn, which had been replaced with the cheek of the bear that had mauled me so badly -- was gentled with his masterful touch. I burned with shame at my indiscreet reaction, but he'd already turned back to his instruments.

"I had to drop that foolish monkey idea, of course," he was saying, as he reached for the ligament forceps. "I don't think I have the right inspiration to work in primates. But you managed not to damage the bear's saliva glands, so I've saved some for you, which I think will really improve your response time in the lightning tube." The rest of his explanation was lost in screaming agony as he applied the ligament forceps to a new incision, but I'd heard enough to understand.

Though I'd failed him miserably with the bear, he'd given up his latest experiment for my sake. He was choosing to improve me.

From that moment on, I was lost. Oh, I tried to fight it. I told myself that nothing good ever came of romantic entanglements at work. He was the master, I was the assistant, and that was how it should stay. But then his hand would brush mine as I passed him the pliers, or he'd reach down to give me a lift out of the well, or he'd call me "Scarface" and I'd realise I wore the name he'd given me. The face he'd given me.

Sometimes he'd gaze admiringly at his own handiwork, run his fingers proudly over the precise stitches where my jaw and the bear's merged into one. "My best work," he'd say. "Two such disparate creatures melded so completely." Then I could imagine a world in which it was me he looked upon with such joy, not his own artistry. I imagined it was me he touched, not his handiwork. And if I closed my eyes at those times and shivered into his touch, well, he never seemed to notice.

But then I brought her home. That bitch, with that long blonde hair and her shrill and endless screaming, had him completely entranced. He brought her flowers, fed her gourmet meals, and talked to her of his plans for world domination for hours. I'd brought her to the castle as a surprise, hoping he'd be pleased with the quality of vitreous fluid her shining eyes promised. I'd hoped he'd be pleased, that maybe he'd thank me, speak with me for a moment or two before returning to his studies.

Instead here I am now, digging up the graves of rich women so he can offer her gifts of silken dresses -- gifts that she throws ungratefully aside. I am sent to the abattoir to prepare succulent meals for the screeching cow -- meals that she will not even look upon, let alone eat. I lay carpet so she won't dirty her precious feet as he brings her to tour the golden submarine. I've never been allowed inside the golden submarine.

And I'm no longer my master's greatest work. He returned to monkeys after all; he says only needed the right muse. Even in my jealousy and rage, I can see the perfection that lights the half-pony half-monkey monster from within, a delicate golden glow of artistry. His betrayal would hurt less if I could scorn him, mock him as a fool with terrible taste in women, but I can see that he's the same master I've adored for so long. His skill with a scalpel is undiminished.

And now I am sunk in the bleakest despair, for even she will see the wonder of this creation, inspired by his obsession with her and by her love for ponies. And then she will love him. She will stop screaming, she will eat the fricasseed babboon hearts I prepared so expertly, she will wear the gowns.

I picture the two of them alone inside his golden submarine and I weep fat tears from my one non-ursine eye.