HEAD OF PROFESSOR DOUEL
I devote to the wife my Margarita Konstantinovna Belyaeva
— I ask to sit down.
Mari Laurent fell to a deep leather chair.
While professor Kern opened an envelope and read the letter, she fluently examined an office.
What gloomy room! But it is good to be engaged here: nothing distracts attention. The lamp with the deaf lamp shade lights only the desk which is filled up with books, manuscripts, proof-sheets. An eye hardly distinguishes solid furniture of a black oak. Dark wall-paper, dark drapr. In the twilight only gold of imprinted covers in heavy cases gleams. The long pendulum of the old wall clock moves measuredly and smoothly.
Having translated a look on the Core, Laurent involuntarily smiled: professor entirely corresponded to style of an office. As if the cut-down from an oak, heavy, severe figure of the Core seemed a part of furniture. Big points in a tortoise frame reminded two dials of hours. As pendulums, moved his eyes of gray-ashy color, passing from a line to a line of the letter. The rectangular nose, a direct section of eyes, a mouth and the square, given forward chin gave to the face a type of the stylized decorative mask molded by the sculptor-cubist.
«To decorate a fireplace with such mask» — Laurent thought.
— The colleague Sabatye spoke already about you. Yes, I need the assistant. You medichka? Perfectly. Forty francs a day. Calculation is weekly. Breakfast, lunch. But I lay down one condition…
Having drummed a dry finger on a table, professor Kern asked an unexpected question:
— You are able to be silent? All women are talkative. You the woman — it is bad. You are beautiful — it is even worse.
— But what relation…
— The closest. The beautiful woman — the woman doubly. Means, doubly possesses also female shortcomings. You can have a husband, the friend, the groom. And then all secrets to hell.
— No but’s! You have to be dumb as a fish. You have to be silent about everything that you will see and you will hear here. You accept this condition? Has to warn: non-execution will cause consequences, extremely unpleasant for you. Extremely unpleasant.
Laurent was confused and interested…
— I agree if I in all this am not present…
— Crimes, you want to tell? You can be absolutely quiet. And you are threatened by no responsibility… Your nerves as it should be?
— I am healthy…
Professor Kern nodded.
— Alcoholics, neurasthenics, epileptics, mentally ill people were not in a sort?
The core once again nodded.
His dry, sharp finger stuck into the button of an electric call.
The door silently opened.
In the twilight of the room as on the shown photographic plate, Laurent uvidat only whites of the eyes, then patches of light of the shining face of the Black were gradually shown. Black hair and a suit merged with dark door drapr.
— John! Show mademoiselle Loran laboratory.
The Black nodded, suggesting to follow himself, and opened the second door.
Laurent entered absolutely dark room.
The switch clicked, and bright light of four opaque hemispheres filled in the room. Laurent involuntarily covered eyes. After the twilight of a gloomy office the whiteness of walls blinded… Glasses of cases with brilliant surgical instruments sparkled. With cold light steel and aluminum unfamiliar Laurent of devices burned. Warm, yellow patches of light light on the copper polished parts laid down. Pipes, coils, flasks, glass cylinders… Glass, rubber, metal…
In the middle of the room — a big prozektorsky table. Near a table — a glass box; in it human heart pulsed. From heart there were tubes to cylinders.
Laurent turned the head aside and suddenly uvidat something, forced it to shudder, as from electric blow.
The human head — one head without trunk looked at it.
It was attached to a square glass board. The board was supported by four high brilliant metal legs. From the cut arteries and veins, through openings in glass, went, having connected already in pairs, tubes to cylinders. Thicker tube left a throat and was reported with the big cylinder. The cylinder and cylinders were supplied with cranes, manometers, thermometers and unknown Laurent devices.
The head attentively and mournfully looked at Laurent, blinking for centuries. There could not be a doubt: the head lived, separated from a body, independent and adult life.
Despite tremendous impression, Laurent could not but notice that this head is surprisingly similar to the head of recently died famous scientist-surgeon, professor Douel who became famous for the experiences of revival of the bodies which are cut out from a fresh corpse. Laurent was at his brilliant public lectures more than once, and she well remembered this high forehead, a characteristic profile, the wavy, silvered by a gray hair thick fair hair, blue eyes… Yes, it was the head of professor Douel. Only lips and a nose of its steel are thinner, temples and cheeks was pulled in, eyes sank down in orbits more deeply and white skin got a yellow and dark shade of a mummy. But in eyes there was life, there was a thought.
Laurent as captivated could not have a look on these blue eyes glued.
The head silently moved lips.
…It was too for nerves Laurent. It was close to a faint. The Black supported her and brought out of laboratory.
— It is awful, it is awful … — Laurent repeated, having fallen to a chair.
Professor Kern silently drummed fingers on a table.
— Tell, really it is the head?.
— Professor Douel? Yes, it is his head. Douel’s head, my died dear colleague restored by me to life. Unfortunately, I could revive one head. Not everything is given at once. Poor Douel had an illness incurable so far. Dying, he bequeathed the body for scientific experiences which we conducted with it together. «All my life was devoted to science. Let the science will be served also by my death. I prefer that in my corpse the friend scientist dug, but not the sepulchral worm» — here what will made professor Douel. And I received his body. I managed not only to recover his heart, but also to revive consciousness, to revive «soul», speaking to crowd language. What here awful? People considered still awful death. Unless resurrection from the dead was not a thousand-year dream of mankind?
— I would prefer death to such revival.
Professor Kern made uncertain gesture a hand.
— Yes, it has the inconveniences for revived. It would be inconvenient to poor Douel to seem to public in it… an incomplete look. That is why we arrange with a secret this experience. I speak «we» because such is Douel’s desire. Besides experience is not finished yet.
— And how professor Douel, that is his head, expressed this desire? The head can speak?
Professor Kern for a moment was confused.
— … the head of professor Douel does not say no. But she hears, understands and can answer with a facial expression…
And to give the conversation another turn, professor Kern asked:
— So, you accept my offer? Perfectly. I wait for you tomorrow by nine in the morning. But you remember: silence, silence and silence.
MYSTERY OF THE FORBIDDEN CRANE
Mari Laurent hardly was given life. She was seventeen years old when her father died. On Mari’s shoulders care of sick mother laid down. The small sums which remained after the father lasted not for long, it was necessary to study and support a family. Several years it worked as the night proofreader in the newspaper. Having been entitled the doctor, vainly tried to find the place. There was an offer to go to godforsaken places of New Guinea where yellow fever raged. Neither to go there with sick mother, nor Mari wanted to be separated from her. The proposal of professor Kern was for it a way out.
Despite all strangeness of work, she agreed almost without fluctuation.
Laurent did not know that professor Kern before accepting her, directed about it careful references.
Two weeks it worked for the Core. Its duties were simple. She had to watch throughout day the devices supporting head life. At night it was replaced by John.
Professor Kern explained to her as it is necessary to handle cranes at cylinders. Having pointed to the big cylinder from which there was a thick tube to a head throat, Kern most strictly forbade it to open the cylinder crane.
— If to turn the crane, the head will be immediately killed. Somehow I will explain you all power supply system of the head and purpose of this cylinder. So far to you the nobility is enough how to handle devices.
The Core, however, did not hurry with the promised explanations.
The small thermometer was deeply inserted into one of nostrils of the head. In certain hours it was necessary to take out it and to write down temperature. Thermometers and manometers supplied also cylinders. Laurent watched temperature of liquids and pressure in cylinders. Well adjusted devices did not bring trouble, operating with a clockwork accuracy. Special sensitivity the device put to a head temple noted a pulsation, mechanically drawing a curve. In a day the tape was replaced. Contents of cylinders were replenished in the absence of Laurent, before her arrival.
Mari gradually got used to the head and even became friends with it.
When Laurent was included in the morning into laboratory with the cheeks which turned pink from walking and fresh air, the head poorly smiled to it and her eyelids shivered as a sign of a greeting.
The head could not speak. But between it and Laurent conditional language, though very limited was established soon. Lowering by the head meant a century «yes», a raising upward — «no». A little also silently moving lips helped.
— How you feel today? — asked Laurent.
The head smiled «suggestion of a smile» and lowered eyelids: «Well, I thank».
— How spent night?
Asking questions, Laurent quickly fulfilled morning duties. Checked devices, temperature, pulse. Made log entries. Then with the greatest care washed water with alcohol the person of the head by means of a soft sponge, wiped hygroscopic cotton wool auricles. Removed the cotton wool scrap which hung on eyelashes. Washed out eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth — special tubes were for this purpose entered into a mouth and a nose. Put hair in order.
Her hands quickly and dexterously touched the head. On a face of the head there was an expression of content.
— Today wonderful day — Laurent said. — Blue-blue sky. Clean frosty air. And there is a wish to breathe all breast. You look how the sun brightly shines, absolutely as in spring.
Corners of lips of professor Douel sadly fell. Eyes with melancholy looked in a window and stopped on Laurent.
It reddened from slight disappointment on itself. With an instinct of the sensitive woman Laurent avoided to speak about everything that was unattainable for the head and could remind of poverty of its physical existence once again.
Mari felt some maternal pity to the head, as to the helpless, offended by the nature child.
— Well — with, let’s be engaged! — hasty told Laurent to correct a mistake.
In the mornings, before arrival of professor Kern, the head was engaged in reading. Laurent brought lots of the last medical magazines and books and showed them to the head. The head looked through. On the necessary article moved with eyebrows. Laurent put the magazine on a lectern, and the head plunged into reading. Laurent got used, watching head eyes, to guess what line the head reads, and in time to turn pages.
When it was necessary to make a mark in fields, the head did a sign, and Laurent ran a finger over lines, watching eyes of the head and noting a pencil line on fields.
For what the head forced to do marks in fields, Laurent did not understand, by means of their poor mimic language did not hope to receive an explanation and therefore did not ask.
But once, passing through an office of professor Kern in his absence, it uvidat on a desk magazines with the marks made by it according to the indication of the head. And on the sheet of paper the hand of professor Kern rewrote noted places. It set thinking Laurent.
Having remembered it now, Mari did not keep from a question. Perhaps, the head will manage to answer somehow.
— Tell why we note some places in scientific articles?
On a face of professor Douel expression of displeasure and impatience appeared. The head expressively looked at Laurent, then at the crane from which there was a tube to a head throat, and two times raised eyebrows. It meant a request. Laurent understood that the head wants that opened this forbidden crane. Already not for the first time the head addressed to it with such request. But Laurent explained desire of the head in own way: the head, obviously, wants to finish the desolate existence. And Laurent did not decide to open the forbidden crane. She did not want to be guilty in head death, was afraid also of responsibility, was afraid to lose the place.
— No, no — with fear answered Laurent a head request. — If I open this crane, you will die. I do not want, I cannot, I do not dare to kill you.
From impatience and awareness of powerlessness on the person of the head there passed the spasm.
Three times it vigorously raised eyelids and eyes up…
«No, no, no. I will not die!» — so understood Laurent. It fluctuated.
The head began to move silently lips, and Laurent seemed that bays try to tell: «Open. Open. I beg!.»
Curiosity Laurent was excited to extreme degree. She felt that here some secret disappears.
In the opinion of the head the boundless melancholy shone. Eyes asked, begged, demanded. It seemed, all force of a human thought, all tension of will concentrated in this look.
Her heart strongly fought, the hand shivered when it carefully slightly opened the crane.
Immediately from a throat of the head hissing was heard. Laurent heard the weak, deaf, cracked voice jingling and hissing as the spoiled record player:
— I thank… you…
The forbidden crane passed the air compressed in the cylinder. Passing through a head throat, air set throat sheaves in motion, and the head had an opportunity to speak. Muscles of a throat and a sheaf could not work already normally: air with hissing passed through a throat and when the head did not speak. And the section of nervous trunks in a neck broke normal muscle work of vocal chords and gave to a voice of the deaf, the jingling timbre.
The person of the head expressed satisfaction.
But at this moment steps from an office and a sound of the opened lock were heard (the door of laboratory was always closed by a key from an office). Laurent hardly managed to close the crane. Hissing in a throat of the head stopped.
Professor Kern entered.
THE HEAD STARTED TALKING
Since Laurent revealed a secret of the forbidden crane, passed about a week.
During this time between Laurent and the head even more friendly relations were established. In those hours when professor Kern went to university or clinic, Laurent opened the crane, sending a small current of air that the head could speak distinct whisper to a head throat. Quietly spoke also Laurent. They were afraid that the Black did not uslykhat their conversation.
Their talk, probably, well affected the head of professor Douel. Eyes became more live, and even mournful wrinkles between eyebrows were smoothed.
The head spoke much and willingly, as if rewarding itself during the compelled silence.
Last night Laurent dreamed the head of professor Douel and, having woken up, thought: Whether «Douel’s head has dreams?»
— Dreams … — were quietly whispered by the head. — Yes, I have dreams. And I do not know what more they deliver to me: grief or joy. I dream myself healthy, full of strength and I wake up twice unfortunate. Disadvantaged both physically, and morally. I am deprived of everything that to well living people. And only ability to think is left to me. «I think. Therefore, I exist» — with a bitter smile the head of the word of the philosopher Descartes quoted. — I exist…
— What do you dream?
— I never before saw myself in my present look. I see myself such what was once… I see the family, friends… Recently saw the late wife and endured with her spring of our love. Bettie once addressed me as the patient, having injured a leg at an exit from the car. Our first acquaintance was in my reception office. We somehow approached at once it. After the fourth visit I suggested it to look at the portrait of my bride lying on a desk. «I marry it if I receive its consent» — I told. It approached a table and uvidat on it a small mirror; having looked at it, she burst out laughing and told: «I think… she will not refuse». In a week she was my wife. This scene rushed before me in a dream recently… Бетги died here, in Paris. You know, I arrived from America as the surgeon here during the European war. Offered me department here, and I remained to live near expensive grave. My wife was the surprising woman…
The person of the head brightened up from memoirs, but was immediately saddened.
— As this time is infinitely far!
The head thought. Air quietly hissed in a throat.
— Last night I dreamed my son. I very much would like to look at it once again. But I do not dare to put it on this trial… For it I died.
— It is the adult? Where it is now?
— Yes, adult. It with you or is a little more senior than nearly one years. Graduated from university. Now has to be in England, at the aunt on mother. No, it is better not to have dreams. But me — the head continued, having kept silent — torment not only dreams. In reality I am tormented by false feelings. Strangely enough, sometimes it seems to me that I feel the body. I suddenly will want to sigh a full breast, to stretch, straighten widely hands as it is done by the sat-up person. And sometimes I feel gouty left leg pain. Isn’t that so, ridiculously? Though as to the doctor it has to be clear to you. Pain is so real that I involuntarily look down down and, of course, through glass I see under myself empty space, stone plates of a floor… From time to time it seems to me that now the suffocation attack will begin, and then I am almost happy with the «posthumous existence» saving me at least from asthma… All this purely reflex activity of the brain cages connected once with body life…
— Awfully!. — did not keep Laurent.
— Yes, it is awful… Strange, during lifetime it seemed to me that I lived one brainwork. I, the right, somehow did not notice the body, all shipped in scientific occupations. And, having only lost a body, I felt what I lost. Now, more than ever for all my life, I think of smells of flowers, fragrant hay somewhere on the fringe of the forest, of distant walks on foot, noise of a sea surf… I did not lose sense of smell, touch and other feelings, but I am cut off from all variety of the world of feelings. The smell of hay is good in the field when it is connected with one thousand other feelings: and with a wood smell, and with beauty of the burning-down dawn, and with songs of forest birds. Artificial smells could not replace to me natural. A smell of perfume «Rose» instead of a flower? It would also satisfy me a little as hungry began to smell paste without paste. Having lost a body, I lost the world — all immense, wonderful world of things which I did not notice, of things which can be taken, to touch, and at the same time to feel the body, myself. Oh, I willingly would give my chimerical existence for one joy to feel weight of a simple cobble-stone in the hand! If you knew what pleasure is given me by a sponge touch when you wash to me a face in the mornings. Touch is the only opportunity for me to feel in the world of real things… Everything that I can make itself, it to touch with a tip of my language edge of my dried-up lips.
That evening Laurent was home disseminated and excited. The old woman mother, as usual, prepared for her tea with cold appetizer, but Mari did not touch sandwiches, hastily drank a glass to tea with a lemon and rose to go to the room. Attentive eyes of mother stopped on her.
— You are upset with something, Mari? — the old woman asked. — Perhaps, troubles on service?
— No, nothing, mother, was simply tired and the head hurts… I will lay down a bit earlier, and everything will pass.
Mother did not detain her, sighed and, having remained one, thought.
Since Mari arrived on service, it very much changed. Became nervous, closed. Mother and the daughter were always great friends. Between them there were no secrets. And now the secret appeared. The old woman Laurent felt that her daughter hides something. Mari answered questions of mother of service very briefly and vaguely.
— Professor Kern has a clinic for especially interesting patients in the medical relation at home. And I look after them.
— What it is patients?
— Different. There are very hard cases … — Mari frowned and transferred a conversation to other subjects.
The old woman was not satisfied by these answers. And she began even to inquire the party, but she managed to learn nothing except that it was already known from the daughter.
«Whether it is in love in the Core, and, perhaps, hopelessly, without answer from its party?.» — the old woman thought. But right there disproved herself: her daughter would not hide from her the feeling. And then, unless Mari not pretty? And Core bachelor. And if only Mari loved it, then, of course, and the Core would not resist. Not to find other such Mari in the whole world. No, here something else… And the old woman long could not fall asleep, turning on highly shaken up feather-beds.
Also Mari did not sleep. Having turned off light that her mother thought that she already sleeps, Mari sat on a bed with widely opened eyes. She remembered each word of the head and tried to imagine herself on its place: quietly concerned language of the lips, the sky, teeth and thought: «All this that the head can do. It is possible to bite lips, a language tip. It is possible to move with eyebrows. To move eyes. To close, open them. Mouth and eyes. It is more than any movement. No, still it is possible to move a little with skin on a forehead. More than anything…»
Mari closed and opened eyes and did grimaces. Oh, if at this moment mother looked at her! The old woman would decide that her daughter went crazy.
Then suddenly Mari began to be enough the shoulders, knees, hands, ironed itself up to a breast, started fingers in a thick hair and whispered:
— My God! As I am happy! As much I have! What I am rich! And I did not know, did not feel it!
The fatigue of a young body prevailed. Mari’s eyes were involuntarily closed. And then she saw Douel’s head. The head looked at it attentively and mournfully. The head broke from the little table and flew by air. Mari ran ahead of the head. The core as a kite, rushed on the head. Twisting corridors… Hard doors… Mari hurried to open them, but doors did not give in, and the Core made up for the head, the head whistled, hissed already near an ear… Mari felt that she chokes. Heart beats in a breast, its speeded-up blows painfully respond in all body. The cold shiver runs on a back… It opens all new and new doors… Oh, what horror!.
— Mari! Mari! What is with you? Yes wake up, Mari! You groan…
It is not a dream any more. Mother costs at a headboard and with alarm irons her hair.
— Anything, mother. I just saw a nasty dream.
— You too often began to see nasty dreams, my child…
The old woman leaves sighing, and Mari some more time lies with open eyes and strongly fragile heart.
— However my nerves become utterly worthless — she quietly whispers and this time fills up with sound sleep.
DEATH OR MURDER?
Once, glancing before going to bed over medical magazines, Laurent read article of professor Kern about new scientific research. In this article Core referred to works of other scientists in the same area. All these excerpts were taken from scientific magazines and books and in accuracy coincided with those which Laurent according to the indication of the head emphasized during their morning occupations.
The next day, as soon as an opportunity to talk to the head was presented, Laurent asked:
— What professor Kern in laboratory in my absence is engaged in?
After some fluctuation the head answered:
— We with it continue scientific works.
— Means, and you do all these marks for it? But you know that he publishes your work on its own behalf?
— I guessed.
— But it is shocking! How you allow it?
— What can I do?
— If you cannot, then I will be able to make! — angrily Laurent exclaimed.
— More quietly… In vain… Would be ridiculously in my family way to have claims for copyright. Money? On what they to me? Glory? What can the glory give me?. And then… if all this opens, work will not be finished.
And in that it was finished, I am interested. To admit, I want to see results of my works.
— Yes, such person as Kern, is capable of everything — she quietly spoke. — Professor Kern spoke to me when I arrived to him on service that you died of an incurable disease and bequeathed the body for scientific works. It is true?
— It is difficult for me to speak about it. I can be mistaken. It, however, but, can be… not all the truth. We worked together with it on revival of the human bodies taken from a fresh corpse. The core was my assistant. At that time I set as an ultimate goal of my works revival of the head of the person cut from a body. I finished all preparatory work. We already recovered the heads of animals, but decided not to disclose our progress until we do not manage to recover and show the human head. Before this last experience which success I did not doubt I transferred to the Core the manuscript with all scientific work done by me for preparation for printing. At the same time we worked on other scientific problem which was also close to permission. At this time to me there was an awful attack of asthma — one of diseases against which I as the scientist tried to win. Between me and it there was an old fight. All question was in time: which of us the first will come out the winner? I knew that the victory can remain on its party. And I really bequeathed the body for anatomic works, though did not expect that exactly my head will be recovered. And so… during this last attack the Core was about me and provided me medical care. It vsprysnut to me adrenaline. Can be… the dose was too big or maybe asthma made the business.
— And then?