Suggested Audio Candy:
Richard Band Re-Animator Suite”
That Herbert West fellow was onto something you know. Granted he was madder than a sack of starved squirrels but he did manage to find the key to eternal life so I don’t know what all the fuss has been about. It is the one thing which we all fantasize about at some point; cheating death and living forever. Before he began his research it appeared only a bite on one’s neck could afford such a luxury but, as attractive a proposition as Christopher Lee made it appear, there were significant downsides to his practice. No daylight for one; it’s all well and good converting to night crawling sensibilities but at some point you’re going to need that extra quart of milk and, should the local 7-Eleven be closed for refurbishment, then it looks like you’ll be taking your coffee black.
I learned my lesson way back during adolescence when my first hamster Hunca Munca expired. I was distraught; both Jaws and Jaws 2 had both already floated topside at that point but they weren’t exactly brimming with personality so I flushed ’em without a second thought. Two bland goldfish could never compare to my very own pocket vermin. We shared moments of sheer hilarity together; the time his exercise wheel came off its tracks sticks out in my mind although he did admittedly look far from amused and was wary from that point onward. Alright you’ve got me; he was fairly drab too but he was also my first real pet so the day when I opened his little house and he was as stiff as a bishop’s pecker left an indelible mark on my young mind. I was eleven years old and nobody had bothered to go into the logistics of death before. As far as I was concerned, we all lived forever and that included hamsters.
A trip to my local Pet Semetery was in order as I was fixated with bringing Hunca Munca back by whatever means necessary and wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was one such burial ground on the incline behind my house so I found an out-of-the-way plot and dug him a little shallow grave. I was aware of decomposition so wrapped him up in my favorite sweater and left him some dried maize in case he ever got peckish. He was ravenous by exactly one hour later and had absolutely no interest in the food selection I prepared him, instead he made a B-line for my throat. I scarpered as fast as my bandy legs would carry me and never spoke a word of Hunca Munca again, until this day. Even now I still occasionally hear a faint scratching outside my bedroom window and wonder whether it’s him, still blaming me for the faulty wheel.
Anyhoots the whole Pet Semetery thing seemed like a doomed expedition so I gave up hope on ever finding the key to reanimation. I figured that, if it wasn’t being found, then maybe it simply didn’t wish to be. Dying is as natural a part of our cycle as living after all; something we can’t outrun or blind side, no matter how valiant our attempts. There’s only one Golden Girl left now and eventually we’ll thank her for being a friend and allow nature to take its course. Messing with the natural order just seems to bring trouble, whereas accepting our fate is one of life’s little inevitabilities. That’s why we should pack it all in while we can; reach for our dreams when they’re in touching distance and, fuck it, reach for them even when they’re not.
That all changed when I met Herbert. He had learned his trade at the University of Zürich Institute of Medicine in Switzerland under the guidance of his then professor, the distinguished Dr. Hans Gruber. After being controversially struck off their medical list, he transferred to Miskatonic University in New England, just a few hundred yards from my apartment. I was renting a room as I could barely afford to pay my monthly fees on my paltry wage and he applied for shared occupancy the day I placed the advert on Craigslist. He was like a God to me as I had studied his thesis on dead cell regeneration front-to-back and it fascinated me. There was no question; I could further my studies alongside possibly the greatest and most uninhibited medical mind on the planet and receive payment for the privilege.
He snapped it up promptly, a decision aided by the fact that my basement was the ideal size for him to set up his laboratory. Our paths hardly crossed for the first few weeks as my on-call rota was intense and kept me away for long periods. When I finally returned from my shift, the basement light would invariably be on, but the door was bolted and West never taking visitors. Many would consider him the perfect room-mate but I was less than contented by our shameful lack of interaction. What good is it owning a Red 1970 Corvette if it’s always locked up in the garage? I desired nothing more than to take West’s wonderful warped mind out for a spin and put a few miles on the clock.
Eventually, should one keep knock-knocking on heaven’s door, somebody will answer, even if only to poke you in the eye and call you a nonce. The day arrived when I could take it no more, his avoidance tactics were beginning to tick me off so I threw the old trusty banana skin under his size tens and called in sick. After six hours of sitting around playing Solitaire I heard the basement door opening. He left it ajar as he left, presumably to grab some more supplies from the University and I was overcome with curiosity. If there was one thing more assured than a knee replacement in your fifties then it was that he wasn’t likely to divulge his methods. I was just a grunt, the lowest form of pond scum, a medical student still wet behind the lobes. Why should he tell me squat?
In my profession a gut of wrought iron is preferable and I was certainly no shrinking violet when it came to a little blood and snot. None of my training prepared me for what I exposed down there. I was aware of some animosity between West and fellow faculty member Dr. Carl Hill but I had no idea things had become so untenable. Hill was there, strapped down on a gurney but minus his head. That was in a nearby petri dish. Hill had cried off from yesterday’s lecture and clearly it wasn’t a simple case of man flu which had caused him to not attend. West had dispatched him in cold blood and was using him for some kind of sick experiment into corpse reanimation.
I found a rack full of luminous vials and snatched one even though I hadn’t the slightest inkling as to what its purpose was or how to administer. It would take West at least fifteen minutes to return by my estimations so I rifled through his paperwork and came across a thesis written by him on the restoration of brain activity. This effervescent goo was some kind of reagent and a measured dose was reported to jump-start the cerebellum. Sly bugger; I’d been sleeping a few feet away from a twisted genius the whole time. I gathered what I could and returned the room to its prior state so as not to arouse suspicion. Then I exited although he arrived back just as I was making my way out and I panicked.
I could tell by his look that he knew I knew what he knew. I just knew. He chose not to challenge me but moved out the very next day, left what he owed on the kitchen table and that was the last I saw of the elusive Herbert West. I hear he returned to Switzerland to complete his studies uninterrupted and I guess at least I can be grateful for the fact that he took Hill’s cadaver with him. Didn’t really fancy being an accessory to murder, let alone having that shit pinned on me while he bagged himself a Pulitzer and got his balls sucked by Swiss Fräuleins. I kept his reagent as a trophy of my time with the closest thing we have to a modern-day Victor von Frankenstein. Something to show the grand-kids one day.
I may have negated to mention that I have been head-over-heels for someone and I guess now is the time. She is a fellow intern, like myself, and we hit it off instantly back at med school. Actually we’ve been inseparable ever since and she moved in shortly after West left me hanging. All appeared to be going swimmingly until I received the dreaded house call. She had been caught in the middle of some convenience store altercation and subsequently had taken two bullets, one to the lower abdomen and the other to her head killing her outright. I was devastated and still feel numb now. The officer informed me that they had transferred her body to the nearby University and that’s where I’m headed now.
I’ve heard the term playing God banded around before and it is something which ordinarily I would corroborate is never a wise idea. However it is easy to have clarity when the world is all lilies and posies; right now my girlfriend is stone cold dead on a mortuary slab and this is my one chance at reversing her fortunes. I pack the reagent and glance one last time over West’s hypothesis just to ensure I understand the process fully. Yadda yadda yadda, watch your dosage, yadda. Got it! I leave my apartment with a spring in my stride, determined that this just has to work. We shall be reunited soon and be laughing about the whole affair by tomorrow lunchtime.
Right, this is it. It’s time to shit or else vacate the pot and, considering I know Ernie the coroner and he has allowed me exclusive access to the morgue, I’m choosing to poo. One final check of my vicinity confirms that I am alone. Just me and the stiffs, no flapping lips. Locker 141, there she is. Oh my, even in death she looks so beautiful. No turning back now, I have enough of this juice to bring her back and a sterile syringe all set for the filler. Fuck it, I think I shall use the lot. If this doesn’t do it then West is a sham and I’ll tear down the “West knows best!” poster from above my bed. It’s working, I think it’s actually working. I just saw her cheek twitch. I know, I shall greet her back with the kiss of life, that will be dead romantic. Pucker up honey bunch, I’m coming in. My, what red eyes you have.