Monday, October 24, 2011

The first chapter of the second Arsole Fantüme novel, Underwhere

The first Arsole Fantüme novel, Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist, has done so well that I'm often asked, "When will you be getting around to publishing a sequel?" And when I say "often," I actually mean "occasionally." Actually, the novel has done surprisingly well-- well enough that I've been working on the translation of the second in the series, Underwhere, for awhile now. I've got the first 100 pages or so translated, from an (obviously) unpublished manuscript I acquired during my last trip to Paris, in 2010. I hope to have this translation finished soon; unfortunately, I'm busy with multiple projects, and the nefarious Prince of Night Soil has had to take a back seat, in a manner of speaking. But I thought, in honor of Halloween-- a holiday made for terror!-- that I would offer up a translation of the first harrowing chapter. To that end, here it is. Enjoy...

...if you can dare!



For the unfortunate reader who has missed the first novel in this most exciting and fantastic series, pity is due.  Pity, for he has missed out on the most wonderful descriptions of action, danger, fear, loathsomeness, spirituality, and feculence.  However, there shall here be no summation of what has come before, for the authors have endeavored to most skillfully integrate into the body of the following text any pertinent information from the previous novel— most especially in the chapter in which Esmerald Vargasse and Irma d’Assas have their enlightening conversation.  This has been done in a most unobtrusive manner that will in no way disrupt the narrative flow so important to the novel’s enjoyment.
And now, having dispensed with pity, the authors reveal their envy of the reader- about to experience for the first time the pulse-pounding thrills of the further adventures of the Gentleman Immoralist and his antagonists!

Marcel Maurice
Paris, 1901

The Man With the Scar

Jean-Phillipe DuPasse shook his fist with emotion, and projected his sonorous voice with power and authority.  “What I cannot abide is the idea that any French man, woman, or child, might go to bed tonight without access to necessary and proper health care procedures!”
The crowd, spiked with supporters, gave a roar.  A few jeered him, but they were shouted down.
“This wonderful republic can stand some dissent,” DuPasse continued, in reference to the jeers, “as long as that dissent is civil, and does not fall into chaotic lies about our intentions- which are quite good and generous, I assure you!”
Those in the crowd who were not cheering were now beaten by those who were.  In turn, those who were beaten themselves also beat back.  Soon, the police came in, and proceeded to beat everyone in the vicinity of the unrest, including a group of children who had been brought in by DuPasse’s campaign, to demonstrate the candidate’s support from the nation’s youth.
“That is why I sincerely hope that I will attract your vote on election day, one week hence!  Thank you, and good day to you all!”
DuPasse descended from the dais, shaking the hands of his supporters, and signing autographs.  He cut a striking figure, with his broad shoulders, his thick, frosted gray hair combed back and out from his temples in a manner befitting his age and stature in the national government, and the scar on his right cheek that he’d gotten so many years before, in the war between France and Luxembourg.  He was a man of both dignity and hard-bitten power; the perfect mixture of compassion and intensity.  Clearly, this was a man who would fight to ensure that all citizens of France would get their just desserts.
His assistant, Michel Ompare, waited a reasonable amount of time before finally positioning himself between DuPasse and the citizens who had been waiting to shake his hand.  “I am sorry,” he said, to the supporters.  “But Monsieur DuPasse has many important appointments to make.  After all- he is still the deputy Prime Minister!”
DuPasse shrugged at his supporters, and gave them a sheepish, charming grin.  “I am ever at the mercy of my assistant!” he said.  The lines of his face became more pronounced as he smiled, giving him an even greater air of dignity and grace.  “But I assure you that once I am elected Prime Minister, I shall return and thank each of you individually!”
A cheer rose from the crowd, and DuPasse waved his arm in acknowledgement as he climbed into the motorwagon.
“Thank you for removing me from that… situation,” DuPasse sighed, after their carriage had left the cheering crowd.
“That is my job,” Ompare said, taking his seat behind the directional wheel.  He glanced at DuPasse, getting but a quick image of the man, of his power and dignity, of the ragged and slightly discolored scar obtained decades before. 
The motorwagon rattled along noisily at a top speed of four kilometers per hour, in a haze of smoke and petrol odor.  Many who’d stood in wonder and listened to DuPasse’s speech now walked along beside the motorwagon, shaking DuPasse’s hand and offering him obsequious wishes for his election.  DuPasse accepted these with magnanimous grace.
Ompare turned his eyes back toward the road before them.  His hands on the directional wheel were tired from the tension of controlling the bouncing and jittery motorwagon, and it took all his strength to ensure the vehicle traveled in a relatively straight line on an uneven road still better suited to horse and carriage traffic than this unwieldy, modern form of conveyance. 
As the sun was setting in the west, somewhere out far beyond the confines of Capitale Cité, Ompare thought of how devoted he was to his master.  This was a man who had such compassion for those less fortunate than himself.  A man who was amassing power, it was true, but doing so only so that he could use that power for the benefit others.
He was a strong man, a military man, and France needed someone with strength.  She also needed someone who would wield that strength in the service of the greater good.  Too often, France’s citizens could not be trusted to know exactly what that was.  The recent incident with the Possédant spice was an excellent example.  Even after it was discovered that the spice had been tainted with poison, people continued to ingest it.  Thousands of people had suffered, until the gendarmerie asserted itself, and forcibly confiscated all the spice in France.  It had been DuPasse who had made the final decision to have it destroyed.
It was only too bad that smoke from the destructive fire had infected the lungs of a few thousand others.  Still, what was a few thousand, when there were millions of lives at stake?
That was why it was so important that DuPasse win the election.  Only he wanted to create a system in which the government would provide health care for all France’s citizens.  Only he had the bold vision to give the citizens what they needed, even if it was not what they wanted.  It was only too bad that more voters did not realize that.  Certainly, if everyone had the right to vote, DuPasse would win in a landslide.  But because only taxpaying citizens— and not the unemployed, the manual laborers, those employed at any profession yet making fewer than 5,000 francs per year, the mentally deranged, the emotionally different, the incompetent, and of course women— could vote, the election was much closer than it should have been.
DuPasse was locked in a five-way battle.  Only something compelling and dramatic could possibly swing the election to one of them.  Ompare hoped against hope that something dramatic and compelling would happen- to DuPasse’s benefit.
“Ompare, when you get that way, it frightens me.”
Ompare turned his head slightly and fixed his gaze upon DuPasse.  He still had difficulty looking DuPasse in the eyes, even after he’d been directly addressed.  He was a dazzling man, who had lived a life that he himself could only admire; who had made of himself something Ompare could only wish for.  “How?” he asked, timidly.
“So caught up in your own thoughts that you fail even to notice that we’ve arrived at our destination.”
Indeed, Ompare now realized that he had involuntarily pulled the motorwagon up the causeway, and they were outside the Capitale Cité main government building.  With alacrity he depressed the braking pedal with his left foot, brining the motorwagon to a sudden, breathtaking stop.  Nervously he chuckled and said, “Apologies, sir,” as exited the mechanical vehicle, raced around the front, then opened DuPasse’s door and pulled down the step, then knelt down on the ground.
DuPasse descended from the motorwagon, stepping first on the step, and then upon Ompare’s back, and finally the cobblestone street.  “No need to apologize,” DuPasse said, adjusting the epaulets of his retired military coat.  “I just hope there is nothing troubling you that should, in turn, trouble me.”
“No, sir,” Ompare said, rising and wiping dirt from his knees.  “I was merely woolgathering.”  He walked before DuPasse, opening the door and leading him up the stairs to his second-floor office.
The room was dark, and Ompare walked toward the lamps, his hand out to light it.
“A politician in darkness is somehow appropriate.”
“What?” Ompare asked, turning.  “Did you say something, Monsieur DuPasse?”
“I spoke nothing,” DuPasse said.  “I thought I’d heard you say something.”
Ompare turned his body fully in what he thought was DuPasse’s direction.  “We need to exit this room immediately- someone else is here!”
He did not complete his sentence.  There was a dull thud at the base of his neck, and the semi darkness of the room became complete.
When Ompare awoke, he saw his master, DuPasse, tied to the vescicle at the far end of the room.  His arms were bound above his head, and his mouth was covered by a piece of cloth.  There was a look in his eyes that Ompare had never seen before.
The look was of terror.
His head aching, he attempted to rise, himself, but he found that he was bound to the spot, on the floor, on his knees.  Heavy rope bound both his wrists.  The room was still semi-dark, but he could see enough to know that the ropes were tied to cornices at either end of the room.  He could also feel that his ankles were bound, but he could not twist his head round to see to what they were bound.  His clothes had been removed.
He tried to speak, but he could not.  His own mouth was bound with fabric.  For once, he had something in common with his noble master.  And then he had another, as he could feel his own eyes bugging out with terror, like a pair of saucers, matching DuPasse’s expression.
If Ompare could have said anything at all, he would have asked, “Who has done this?”
That is what made the next sound so remarkable to him.  It was the sound of their oppressor, answering the unasked question.
“I am called the master of feculence,” the voice said, from everywhere in the room.  “I am Arsole Fantüme!”  Suddenly, the figure was between Ompare and DuPasse.  He wore a long, dark coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and a mask.  Ompare could not make out the details, in the dark of the room, but he could see the figure turn toward DuPasse, facing him.  He saw the corresponding change of expression that this movement elicited, as DuPasse’s face became distended by revulsion.
The figure continued:  “I have a vested interest in the outcome of this election.”  In one blinding quick movement, the figure turned toward and Ompare and raced to him, closing the space of five metres from one side of the room to the other in less than a second.  “You have done much to achieve success for your master,” Arsole said, his lips pulled back into a sickening yellow-white smile beneath his jester mask.
Ompare could feel his heart racing.  This evil cretin of the night was going to murder the noble DuPasse to prevent his election!  And it was all his— Ompare’s— fault!  He’d been too effective in his presentation of the noble politician!  Someone like Arsole Fantüme could never want goodness to win over indecency!  He must have wanted one of DuPasse’s four primary opponents to win- to destroy France!
How he wished he could remove the fabric, and speak to this madman— perhaps he could be shown reason!
Arsole rose, like a fantastic and bleak statue before him, and removed from his dark jacket a metallic cylinder with a plunger at one end, and a piece of rubberized tubing at the other.  The tubing moved and undulated as if alive!  It seemed to snake its way toward him, trembling with eager anticipation.  “Alas,” he said, “there is only so much any of us can ever do.”
There was wistfulness to the tone that gave Ompare a sense of hope.  He clung to that sense of hope even as he watched DuPasse’s face grow further exaggerated by fear.  He clung to that sense of hope even as he felt the cold hard end of the tubing force open the muscle of his sphincter.  He clung to that sense of hope even as he felt the first gush of liquid sluice through his bowels, perforating the soft, tender tissue inside his body.  He clung to that sense of hope even as he was assaulted by the feeling of drowning, as of his lungs and indeed the entire cavity of his chest filling with suffocating liquid.
It was not until he saw the dull multicolored pieces of his innards, effluvia, blood and fluid burst through the fabric that had covered his mouth and come gushing out through his mouth and nose that finally lost all sense of hope.
       The last image he saw was that of Arsole Fantüme, stepping over his effluvia in the direction of DuPasse, who seemed to be struggling against the rope that bound his wrists, and making muffled sounds from his mouth.  He despaired that somehow his noble master could defeat the horrible man who had just murdered him by enema. 

For more information on Arsole Fantüme, try his official website. And the official blog.

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