THE MALAISE OF DR. MOSCAT

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Who is the mysterious Dr. Moscat? A pillar of the community, his death has brought questions to a select few inhabitants of his small town, and they investigate, for better or worse, the malaise of Dr. Moscat.

Submitted: September 21, 2010

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Submitted: September 21, 2010

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The funeral parlor that held the body of Dr. Alonzo Moscat teemed with mourners paying their respect to the fallen man of medicine and mind. A great champion of freedom and the overthrow of despotism, Dr. Moscat was seen by some as a controversial figure, though the coroner had ruled his death was clearly from an automobile accident, and that no foul play was involved, and thus foregoing an autopsy.
The throbbing crowd, numbering well past the hundreds, was dressed in black suits and dresses, black veils and shrouds. People of all ages, mostly Dr. Moscat’s patients, came to bid farewell to the highly esteemed gentleman. Some of his colleagues were also in attendance, as well as a fair number of investigators, as Dr. Moscat’s varied expertise was often used in the solving of crimes.
Dr. Moscat himself was an oddity of a man who stood far above those of his chosen community. A man of eloquence, his sheer intelligence carried the merited weight of Dr. Moscat being described as a genius, far more brilliant than anyone in Heritage Hill, Virginia. The typical, easy sound of the Virginia drawls one would become accustomed to hearing in the rural western Grayside County was cut through by the highly different high British accent of its most well-respected citizen.
In the embalming room in the back of the funeral home, the mortician, Clyde Wendell, sat waiting for his invited guests to arrive. Mr. Wendell was tall and thin, with graying temples and goatee. He sat cross-legged, wearing his white lab coat and stroking his chin nervously. Surrounding him in the room were several cadavers lying on steel slabs, each with a pale blue sheet covering them completely.
Out in the viewing parlor, two men, one in his late twenties and the other in his early forties, weaved their way through the gristling throng of mourners. They arrived at the door to the embalming room and knocked. Mr. Wendell rose and opened the door to let them in.
“So glad you could attend, Detective Spindle,” Mr. Wendell said to the young man. “And you, Dr. Hutchinson, a matter such as this would have demanded only your expertise,” he said to the older man.
“I have asked my colleague, Dr. Atherton, to join us, as he is an expert at unnatural pathology,” Dr. Hutchinson said. “He will be here momentarily.”
“By all means, Doctor…as this is most unnatural. I’m afraid we shall also be joined by a fifth. I have also invited Ms. Ramona Tucker, an expert at “the covered things,” if you will. Ms. Tucker is removed from London six months, her country of birth. She has studied in Mesopotamia, India, Kenya, and Mexico. This has been her first sojourn to the United States.”
“Dr. Atherton has come here to Virginia from Liverpool, just over a year ago himself,” Dr. Hutchinson said.
“And what need have this issue for an occultist?” Detective Spindle asked.
“Wait until you see!” Mr. Wendell whispered. “Now, I’m not sure how many dead bodies a man of your youth has witnessed—”
“I’ve seen plenty,” Detective Spindle said defensively.
“—But Dr. Hutchinson and I, and I’m sure Dr. Atherton, have been around corpses long enough to know that this is extraordinary! Especially our good coroner, Dr. Hutchinson and I, eh, Hutch?”
“Now what is this all about, Wendell?” Dr. Hutchinson asked impatiently.
“Before we get into that…Detective Spindle, what of the investigation into the death of our dearly departed Dr. Moscat?”
“Quite open-and-shut, actually…he was driving his vehicle, lost control and slammed into a telephone pole.”
“A great loss to the community,” Dr. Hutchinson interjected.
“And his motivation?” Mr. Wendell asked.
“Motivation? Mr. Wendell, this was an automobile accident.”
“And you have ruled out suicide?”
“Yes.”
“How?”
“Sir, may I remind you that we are discussing police business and if the matter is not dropped—”
“Detective, I’ll have you know that my aunt was Dr. Moscat’s neighbor, and for the last year of his life, the good doctor was a virtual shut-in.”
“And so?”
“Dr. Moscat was morose. He was experiencing a malaise like one no one had ever seen. He was battling depression. Detective, based on the impact against the pole and the other evidence gathered at the crash scene, were you able to determine his rate of speed?”
“Eighty-five miles per hour.”
“And what is the speed limit on the street on which he died?”
“Twenty-five.”
“And who else would drive so recklessly than a man seeking to end it all? Dr. Moscat was struggling with something in his life that made him want to throw it all away.”
“But what could it be? He had no family to speak of, no debts…what could trouble a man like this?” Dr. Hutchinson wondered aloud.
“I tell you, Hutch, Dr. Moscat was struggling with no internal conflict of mental anguish. He had no issue of emotional gravity. Dr. Moscat’s malady was physical!”
Just then, another knock on the door. Detective Spindle answered it, and in walked a large stout man with gunmetal gray hair and full beard, wearing a brown suit.
“Dr. Atherton,” Dr. Hutchinson said. “Please come in. Mr. Wendell is explaining that he believes Dr. Moscat took his own life from a malaise suffered due to a physical ailment.” Dr. Hutchinson introduced the others to Dr. Atherton.
“And because there apparently was no foul play involved, a seeming accident,” Mr. Wendell continued, looking at Detective Spindle, “no autopsy was performed, as allowed by county decree.”
“And you have found something, Mr. Wendell?” Dr. Atherton asked. “Perhaps a cancer of some form?”
“A cancer of the worst form!” Then another knock. “Ah, that must be Ms. Tucker.” Mr. Wendell opened the door. “Ramona! Do come in – you’re just in time. Please meet Dr. Michael Hutchinson, Detective Leon Spindle, and Dr. Atherton…hmm, I realize I don’t know your first name, Doctor.”
“It’s Alan,” Ramona interjected.
“You two know each other?” Detective Spindle asked.
“Oh yes, Dr. Atherton confirmed. “We knew each other at University.”
“Yes, Oxford – I miss it, don’t you, Alan?”
“Most definitely.”
“Back to the case, then…” Dr. Hutchinson resumed.
“Yes – follow me then,” Mr. Wendell led the four to a corpse draped with the pale blue sheet. “Mrs. Tucker, you may wish to divert your eyes from such a gruesome scene.” Ramona did as she was recommended and Mr. Wendell unsheeted the corpse.
“Good heavens!” Detective Spindle cried.
“What is the meaning of this?” Dr. Hutchinson bellowed. Before them lay a headless dead body.
“For the funeral to continue on time, I severed Dr. Moscat’s head from his body, and then attached it to another body. Out there is not Dr. Moscat’s corpse – just his head.
“Are you insane?” Dr. Hutchinson steamed angrily.
“You want to lose your license, go to prison?” Detective Spindle barked.
“I did it so that you experts could view the evidence I have uncovered, before it’s too late – Detective Spindle, this death was far more than one mere accident. Now behold!” Mr. Wendell opened the Y-incision on Dr. Moscat’s chest. “Look at the bone structure! Certainly no man’s! These are much thicker than human bone, and there are fewer of them.
“Fascinating,” Dr. Atherton whispered getting a much closer look.
“I removed the area that corresponds to a human sternum, and it weighs 60% less than an average human breast bone.”
“Ugh! I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ramona squealed in wincing disgust.
“Now, this.” Mr. Wendell removed Dr. Moscat’s sternum. “Witness his lungs – there, there, and there. His lungs are 10-inch tubes, 4 on each side of his chest…and his heart, see how bulbous it is? Human cardiac tissue is smooth. Now here – two stomachs, and when I incised him, I collected this strange thick, green foam from around his stomachs.”
“This is horrid,” Detective Spindle weakly whispered.
Mr. Wendell put everything back and turned the cadaver over. “Now, the most chilling...” He opened the incision running down the cadaver’s spine. “Look there – fetuses! Thirteen in all.” Dr. Atherton and Ramona went pale – white as sheets. “What kind of plague is this? Dr. Moscat was no human – he must have been an extraterrestrial.’
“It explains his sheer level of genius,’ Dr. Hutchinson offered.
“No greater man in Heritage Hill,” Detective Spindle lamented.
“Quickly, when did you sever the head?” Dr. Atherton asked Mr. Wendell.
“This morning.”
“We need to bring it here, make a full investigation.”
“I have X-rays of—” Mr. Wendell began.
“No matter. We need the actual head,” Dr. Atherton interrupted.
“How will we bring it in here?” Mr. Wendell asked. “You saw the crowd out there. There are hundreds of people in that parlor.”
“I know!” Detective Spindle said in a stroke of inspiration. “I’ll tell everyone they have to leave – police business. Then when they’re gone, we can retrieve the pseudo Dr. Moscat.”
“Good, let’s try it,” Dr. Atherton said.
“Attention everyone,” Detective Spindle announced in the parlor. All eyes, save for Dr. Moscat’s, looked up at him. “My name is Detective Spindle and I am with the Grayside County Sheriff’s Department. If you would please, we need this room, so please vacate at once.” Some of the police officers in attendance wanted to know what was going on, and Detective Spindle’s response: “The funeral parlor may be a crime scene, and all mourners have to leave until the building has been appropriately processed for all evidence.” The law enforcement officers reluctantly agreed and followed the other mourners out the door. Detective Spindle went back to the embalming room and notified those therein that the room had been vacated. Mr. Wendell and Detective Spindle wheeled the corpse back into the embalming room, and then all four gentlemen gathered up Dr. Moscat out of the casket and placed him on an empty metal slab.
“We must reattach the Doctor’s head at once,” Dr. Atherton pronounced.
“What for?” Dr. Hutchinson questioned.
“To observe the system in its entirety. Surely, Dr. Hutchinson, this man was no human. His intellect was astonishing, from what I have learned. His physiology was the utmost of peculiarity. A strange individual this one was, indeed! Let us see him in the whole, in order to grasp a better understanding.” Dr. Atherton began detaching Dr. Moscat’s head from the unnamed corpse, with assistance from Dr. Hutchinson, following the sutures placed by Mr. Wendell. “The mortician did a fine job attaching the doctor’s head to this corpse…at least superficially.”
The next step was to reattach the head to the original body. Dr. Atherton painstakingly reattached every nerve, every vessel, every vein, from body to head. And he worked with remarkable precision on the strange corpse. “Dr. Atherton,” Mr. Wendell remarked, “you know this creature’s anatomy as if it were a human’s!”
“Mr. Wendell, please refrain from calling Dr. Moscat a creature!” Dr. Hutchinson retorted offended.
“The procedure is complete,” Dr. Atherton announced. Suddenly, a gurgling sound emanated from the corpse. A foam similar to the one Mr. Wendell captured near Dr. Moscat’s stomachs began to ooze from the corpse’s mouth. Then a humming noise pulsed from the back of the cadaver.
“Turn it over!” Ramona exclaimed. “See the fetuses!” The doctors turned over the body gently, taking care not to rupture the fresh stitches. Dr. Hutchinson took a scalpel and retraced the incision down his spine, exposing the fetuses, now pulsing with life.
“Good God!” Detective Spindle gasped. “They’re moving!”
“They weren’t doing that when I prepared the body for embalmment,” Mr. Wendell revealed with a grimace.
“What hideous being!” Dr. Hutchinson exclaimed. “We must examine one.” Dr. Hutchinson approached a fetus with a scalpel.
“I don’t think I would do that, if I were you,” Ramona suggested.
“Nonsense,” Dr. Hutchinson insisted. “We must investigate these creatures.” Dr. Hutchinson brought the scalpel to the endocarp that encapsulated one of the fetuses, and began to slowly slice the cask open.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ramona insisted. “We don’t know what could possibly happen.” Just then, a strange air came from the fetus and filled the room. Dr. Hutchinson, Detective Spindle, and Mr. Wendell collapsed on the embalming room floor. Their faces turned blue, suffocating from the noxious odor, encountering their deaths at a funeral home. Ramona and Dr. Atherton gathered Dr. Moscat’s body, and carried it through the back door, where Dr. Atherton’s automobile waited.
“I have understanding that the gestation process is emotional and confusing,” Ramona said to Dr. Atherton, “but I have never heard of anyone killing themselves so soon before their own death in delivery.”
“Indeed, seedbirth can be a devastating moment of our lives,” Dr. Atherton explained, “and there are several cases where we have lost precious fetuses prematurely.”
“Still, what good fortune to have found another of our own!” Ramona said excitedly.
“Yes. That bumbling mortician had to stick his nose in business in which it didn’t belong. It’s fortunate that we were able to save 13 children from the human’s incompetent grasp.”
“Well, I tried to warn them that it wouldn’t be a good idea to incise one of the babies,” Ramona remembered.
“Which I found puzzling why you did so, considering our mission to save the seedpod. But fortunately the potent, concentrated form of methane gas that the children develop in is lethal for humans to breathe.”
“How long do we have to plant the seedpod before the fetuses expire?”
“Quickly, let us find a suitable place. To lose the one to experimentation by that incompetent human doctor can be devastating to our conquest.” Ramona sat in the passenger seat with Dr. Atherton driving, and in tow in the trunk, the seedpod cadaver of Dr. Moscat. “It won’t be long, Ramona, before the millions of other fetuses come to full gestation and our kind takes over this planet as well.”


© Copyright 2017 Peter Amaral. All rights reserved.

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