mardi 10 juin 2008

The Zzilies, By Jérôme Saulière

The Zzilies by Jérôme Saulière


Franzy woke up early that morning. Her arms and neck had been itching all night. Not to mention her rheumatism: she could tell the weather by the pain it caused her, and last night the weather must have been horrible. She went to a window and opened the curtain. A young and dazzling autumn sun was peering through the mist. It set out thrusting a bunch of friendly photons at her, just for fun. But the window pane was photon-proof, and the projectiles bounced back with a “pock”. Franzy winced a bit, because she thought it was not funny. She turned her back to the window. Her husband was still asleep, unaware of the heavy morning light that striped his cheek. She was about to draw the curtain again, when something struck her eye. Scintillating, glinting and shimmering, there lay, all over the streets and roofs of the great city, a thick, thick layer of fish, crustaceans and mollusks. The roads were not to be seen, nor the cars. They had disappeared under that amazing heap of seafood, coming from nowhere: all scales, slimy eyes and tentacles.

“Oh my God!” she cried, unable to keep it to herself. “Wake up, Rugue! Look! It’s been raining crabs and cods again!”

Rugue opened one eye and closed it again. He must not have heard her. She cried out again, louder. Now he sat up under the cover, with a messy face and haggard eyes, and shouted in reply:

“Raining? Crabs? The zzilies! O Franzy, how are the zzilies?”

But she did not have the time to answer him. He had already jumped out of bed and run to the other window of the bedroom, which gave onto the garden.

“Damn these fish! They’re smothering my zzilies! My little zzilies! I’ll have to spend the afternoon clearing them away!”

“Your zzilies look all right to me,” said Franzy, looking over his shoulder.

“All right? I wish you were lying under ten tons of rotting seafood, and I could say you’re all right! And look at that stupid tuna lying across my red-and-orange African zzily! Damn you, tuna! I’ll have your head on a platter!”

“Well, you’ll sure have it on a frying pan, Rugue, if you’re a good husband!”

“But in the meantime it’s devastating my precious, precious zzilies!”

“Oh come on, that’s no big deal. It’s not as though you were a fishmonger! Since these fish falls began, they’ve been closing one by one.”

“Yep. Poor guys. But they’re clever, aren’t they? They can retrain. And you and I can hold our noses. But my zzilies, Franzy, my zzilies! They’re so fragile, so desperate… Look, tonight, I thought I heard them crying.”

“You must have dreamt that.”

“I may have. Come on, let’s go out to the garden, and see how they’re doing.”

And out he went, in his dressing gown and slippers. Franzy could have cared less. She did not follow him. Rugue had been prey to that strange addiction for years and years now: everything he said, everything he did, was somehow connected to these mysterious flowers. For they were mysterious, at least to her. Beautiful, no doubt. So unbelievably colorful, and various in shape and hue! Of undeniable scientific interest, too: a whole department of the City Botanical Museum was dedicated to zzilies – that is, to the zzilia genus, which includes both the commonly named zzilies, and their miscellaneous wild cousins. Zzilies had been studied, cut, planted, and transplanted for decades, by generations of scientists, however their mysteries had not been exhausted.

Rugue was an amateur in the area, but his collection was a jewel. Zzily lovers came from all over the country to see it. Years of loving, collecting and tending to them… Kneeling on the soil, fertilizing them with a pipette so as not to give the wrong product to the wrong plant. No one could boast they knew zzilies better than Rugue. Apart from him, no one probably knew zzilies better than Franzy, who, all these years, had sat lovingly at the dinner table and listened to his annoying flights of fancy. One day, she felt certain, a new species of zzily would bear his name and hers.

While she was getting hastily dressed, she remembered the afternoon when the Mayor had come to visit their garden. Shortly after, Rugue had been awarded the Medal of Green Citizenship. How proud she had felt! Pride was stronger than annoyance. Sometimes. She breathed in, smiled, and looked out of the window, into the sea-like twinkling of the early day. And annoyance gained the upper hand again: for she caught sight of her husband, crawling on the wet ground in his pajamas, with his bottom unashamedly up in the air. As far as she could tell, he had disposed of the fish and octopi that had encumbered the flowerbeds. He was now polishing every leaf of every zzily plant. In doing so, he talked to them – it was one of his foibles, a most harmless one – with heartfelt expressions of grief. He would not finish before nightfall.


“It poured tonight, didn’t it?”

“Well, for sure, my dear! Poor old Ursula’s poodle was out for his business. She still hasn’t found his track again… One big salmon is enough, you know, to knock out such a small, defenseless creature. I’m glad I wasn’t outside after ten, when the fall began!”

“I say, it’s terrible, what’s befalling us! And it’s the third time in Zzeptember!”

“No, the fourth…”

“Maybe the fourth. Anyway, what’s there to be done?”

“Ask the Mayor! And ask him, too, about that dreadful smell all over the city. I know politicians can’t change the weather. But something should be done about the stench! We’re lying under tons of rotting fish: that’s certainly not constitutional, my dear. And no doubt it’s noxious! We’re being poisoned bit by bit, I’m telling you!”

At every corner of every street you could hear similar conversation. Grannies would join up with members of their clubs to talk about the miasma, and the antiseptic and cleansing properties of eucalyptus. Mothers would meet at the local Public Health Committee to share their inquietude for their children and themselves. Children had to go to school with boots and gloves. They were strictly forbidden to play with octopus tentacles – which had become, mothers stated with horror, a very trendy and accessible toy in playgrounds. Even dogs looked confused by the stench that had taken hold of the atmosphere: they mistook everything, banks, cars and street lamps, even human legs, for bitches in heat. With all the regrettable consequences one might imagine.

The day after the fourth fish fall, demonstrations took place in several districts of the town. People were exhausted, their noses were offended, their nerves were frayed, and, worst of all, they did not understand what was going on – or why. Mottos like “City in a fine kettle of fish!” or “Has Mayor got other fish to fry?” were proudly printed on the banners. A party of extremists even rented a garbage truck and covered the City Hall courtyard with tons of shrimp, crabs and squids.

A few days after these events, The New Zzientist, a very serious national magazine, published an article entitled “Reasons for the fish falls”. It had been written jointly by a hydrologist, a meteorologist and a biologist. According to them, the fish-fall process, which they bombastically termed ichthyoclysm, could be explained very simply. You ought merely to consider the relative densities of fish flesh and salt water, and inject them into the equations describing the convection and viscous diffusion of water particles in clouds during thunderstorms. One paragraph of the article was particularly clear on that matter.

Thus, the vortices induced by a non-linear exchange integral of the fish/sea continuum may lead to an inversion of the overall rotational operator. If the relative proportions of mass and viscosity of the fluids reach a certain critical value (which may be determined empirically), equations and numerical simulations show very clearly that a definite quantum of the ocean fauna will be sucked up out of the sea and incorporated into the cumulonimbus mass. […] Until recently, such processes had never been observed in our latitudes. Global warming and increasing water pollution may mostly account for their appearance. The former has been proved to cause drastic increase in the frequency of hurricanes off our coasts. The latter is responsible for the swarming of fish in certain areas, where the swirling and sucking process demonstrates a preference for taking place. It is a terribly exciting challenge for research in our country, etc…

The article was of perfect scientific honesty – not such as would have put the population at rest. In fact, it went totally unnoticed, for no one read the upscale science journals. Therefore, the main informants of the public were the tabloids. Buzz, for instance, showed a gorgeous grouper that had smashed in the roof of a car. The eyes of the fish were wide open, its agony was both perceptible and disturbing. The owner of the car was standing in front of the scene and crying his eyes out. The headline was : “Experts at sea as infected seafood floods town. Citizens like fish out of water.”

By the time a week had elapsed, the town was in an uproar. Some people claimed the government had purposefully tried to poison them, but failed. Some argued it had in fact been a success, only the toxin worked slowly. Some incriminated the scientists. Others picked on the fish, ingenuously. And a few more of the lucid souls blamed the press for the current malaise. After all, as far as anyone knew, no intoxication cases had yet been reported.


One morning, Franzy was lured out of her kitchen by a jovial sun. A cup of tea in her hand, she stood contemplating the garden for a moment. Zzilies, zzilies everywhere… The bright green of their leaves, the dazzling colors of their flowers, the extravagant patterns of their petals… And, oh! Her husband’s bottom emerging from a arborescent zzily shrubbery.

“Rugue! What are you doing here? I thought you were at work!”

At first no answer came. She assumed he had not heard her, so she drew nearer. In doing so she almost slipped on the corpse of a baby octopus. She picked it up with the intention of throwing it in the garbage. But the cadaver, aside from the fact that it stank abominably, was swarming with tiny little red points. Franzy could see them running over the surface and digging into the flesh. They had probably colonized the poor dead thing’s intestine, for its belly – or was it its head? – looked abnormally swollen and heavy. She could distinguish white spots, too, and blue ones, around the eyes, but apparently they did not move. She dropped the corpse with disgust, wondering why she had ever picked it up.

“Rugue! When you cleared away the fish from your flower beds, you could have cleared the gravel path, too! I’ve just stepped on a disgusting little octopus! Rugue, could you please look up from your zzilies? I’m talking to you!”

“Hm… Yes, darling, I’m supposed to be at work. But nobody minds, anyway. And when I inspected the garden before going away, these arborescent zzilies looked like they were imploring me to stay… They’ve been through a lot of hardship lately, you know.”

“I know, I know.”

Franzy did not feel like starting a quarrel. Was he not adorable, after all, that innocent little husband of hers, with his flowers, and his obsessions? And now with his muddy business suit? She scratched her neck and her arms. She would have to see a doctor, she thought, in case it was eczema.

“So, how are they?” she added, obligingly.

“Fine, thank you. I’d supposed they’d be totally depressed after the sixth fall – which was particularly hard on them, as you know. But they seem to be doing well. It may be my imagination, but their colors have hardly ever been so radiant. Look at that Zzilia Phosphorea: it really looks fluorescent, doesn’t it? I think it’s a side effect of the very high iodine potency in the air. I’ve observed the same reaction on Zzilia Marinara and Zzilia Quasialga, and on my very endemic wrack-leaved zzily… And more generally on all the marine varieties. Who could have foretold that some species would make the most of the falls? Zzilies are extraordinary, aren’t they? Now, you’re right, the sea stench isn’t a benediction for everyone here. My exotic zzilies are very sensitive to it. Poor darling Zzilia Rhinocerontia has lost loads of leaves, I’m very concerned about it – looks like it’s got a delicate sense of smell! And it’s not the only one, look at these shrubs I was tending to just now: I’m quite sure their tints have been altered. Oh, you may see nothing, or think it’s nothing. Mind you, sometimes the change is subtle: this one was peach-orange and has turned pastel pink; this one has gone all the way from cerise to purple. But I can’t believe that this rarest testicle-shaped zzily used to be puce. I’m worried, Franzy, really worried…”

Rugue was now beaming with enthusiasm, in spite of his avowed concern. Actually, the testicle-shaped zzily still looked puce to Franzy. She said nothing. Rugue had stopped talking. Obviously, something was on his mind. Something he did not dare to express. Without knowing what it was, Franzy kept silent: she vaguely hoped that it would not come out. But it eventually did.

“I was wondering whether we could build a greenhouse in the garden, for the zzilies. You know, my collection is quite a must-see in the country, and I’d be sorry if a fish fall should… It could… It might… I… I don’t think I could make up with the loss. And under a greenhouse, the zzilies would certainly feel… at ease. I mean, they wouldn’t have to fear anything any more!”

Franzy could not believe her ears. She scratched them and stared at her husband. He was now looking down and blushing like a bashful crimson zzily in the bud.

“Have I… said something silly?”

“Well, I don’t know! The town is smothering under rotting fish, suffocating in its emanations, and all you’re thinking about is… your zzilies! Your precious goddamned zzilies! Wake up, Rugue! They say in the newspaper those fish falls are certainly toxic! More detrimental to human health than acid rain and carbonic snow! Who cares about your zzilies?”

“Carbonic snow? Hm… What newspaper do you read?” he ventured and kept looking down.

“No matter! No greenhouse! I say: no, no, no! As long as I live, there’ll be no greenhouse for your zzilies. They’ll sleep in the open, and that’ll do them lots of good! As long as I live. End of discussion.”

It seemed to Rugue that there had not been much of a discussion.


The Mayor had gathered the whole herd of his counselors at the Council Hall. We were in Zzoctober, and the fish falling season had lasted for five weeks. The population was indignant. Measures had to be taken. First, they had to be informed. The problem was, they were already pretty well informed. The newspapers had selected their sources and had arranged their information as to make things look as dark as possible… And facts now proved they had been right.

The Nature and Houseplants Advisor was the first to speak. He gave a very erudite presentation on the causes and consequences of ichthyoclysms. His explanations were hardly listened to. Then he came to the solutions, and the audience began to look up. He mentioned several sophisticated devices, some of which could hardly be more than the extravagations of a mad scientist. A civil engineer, he told them, for instance, had suggested building a huge aquarium above the city. It would have stopped the fish from falling on the citizen’s heads, and if it was transparent, it would not have affected the town’s sunshine exposure… But a meteorologist had objected it would also stop normal rain from falling – and the engineer had replied that you could make holes in the aquarium…

These gentlemen laughed.

Three distinguished researchers from Karl Xxram University had suggested erecting a wall on the east border of the city. The idea was to the liking of the public: people yearned for something conspicuous, something down-to-earth, and if possible, something unheard of. But as for computations, experts largely disagreed: some reckoned that a fifty-yard-high wall would suffice. Others claimed that a hundred yards were hardly enough. Besides, environmentalists were outraged by the idea: according to them, biological and physical flows would be greatly affected, and the whole cycle of seasons would…

“So, why don’t we build that wall? What do you say, Dick?”

The Mayor had raised his eyes from his notebook for the first time. All the while, he had been drawing very nice pictures on it, displaying people with big heads and short limbs being executed in many inventive ways. The counselors on either side of him looked down at his page appreciatively. Dick, the Roads, Bridges and Walls Advisor, stood up and spoke.

“I think… It can be done. Not in one day, of course. Pompeii wasn’t built in… Er, how do they say? No matter. Let’s say four feet thick, three miles long, seventy yards high – that will make them all content. If I multiply, multiply, multiply…” He started making strange movements with his fingers and beating his eyelids very swiftly, as epileptics do when they are on the verge of a fit. His colleagues were used to it. Dick was a born calculator. “One million two hundred and sixty four thousand seven hundred and thirty three bricks. Which will cost you at least a zzilion…”

“A zzilion?” the Finances and Bribery Advisor gulped in agony. “It’s more than ten times our yearly budget for Solid Building!”

“We could make a soft wall. Like… Why not rubber foam?” the Liquid, Gas and Flabby Things Advisor weighed in. But nobody heard him, for he was sitting alone at the furthest end of the room. The Serious Diseases and Cemeteries Advisor raised his voice. He was stern and livid.

“May I remind you of the consequences of the fish falls on our citizen’s health? It’s a disaster! The report on the subject, which I know you have read, Mr. Mayor, is very clear about their toxicity. It also emphasizes that parasitism is to be feared most: the seafood falling on the town is swarming with parasites of an unknown species. A species that seems to be very fond of human fl…”

“O please, spare the details!” the Mayor broke in.

“The citizens have been scratching themselves a lot lately…” the Minor Diseases and Local Traditions Advisor saw fit to add. All eyes converged on him. He blushed and said nothing more. Suave and obsequious, the Spin Doctor’s voice was suddenly heard. Everyone was startled, because one never noticed him until he decided to draw attention to himself.

“If I may be bold enough as to give you my opinion, Mr. Mayor, I think you would do much good for your image, which is already excellent, if you subscribed to that wall project. The population needs a man of action, they need to be taken care of, to be reassured… Show them you’re in control. That’s all they’re asking for. We can even make it sound like the nature friend in you is crying out!”

“I’ve never been much of an environmentalist, have I?” the Mayor exclaimed in a burst of laughter.

“No you haven’t,” the Nature and Houseplants Advisor intervened. Then he tried to resume his presentation, which had been interrupted at its climax. There were two or three technical solutions he had not mentioned. They were, he said, maybe not as impressive but definitely cheaper, and…

“I’ll go for that wall,” the Mayor said, settling the matter. The Finances and Bribery Advisor was growing pale. He had rosy stripes on his cheeks, which brought out the blue of his eyes splendidly. Everyone knew he was the Mayor’s pet. They exchanged a glance. “But it’ll be ten yards high. I don’t need a Great Wall, after all. I need votes.”


“Oh! Hello Franzy. You look gray today.”

“Thank you, Rugue. You look great, too. I’m tired.” She scratched her arms vigorously. By dint of scratching she had made them red-and-blue-striped. When she took a close look, she thought she saw a life apart pullulating under the translucent skin of her wrist. She really looked exhausted.

It had not rained fish for a week. Franzy had gone into the garden to enjoy the dying warmth of the autumn sun. It was not as funny as it used to be, that sun. It did not throw photons or anything. It simply radiated its heat in a continuous spectrum as most heavenly bodies do. It looked as though it was bored, or sulking. She would have liked it to burn and burn and chase the miasma out of town! As usual, Rugue was trimming a bush of Zzilia Purpurea with a diamond cutter’s careful gestures. After greeting her, h e turned back to it. She remained silent for a moment.

“Rugue, have you read the newspaper?”

“Hm? I never read newspapers, you know that.”

“About the disease… It’s worrying me more and more. Those fish were a mess. The whole town is falling ill and scratching themselves night and day. I remember picking up a dead octopus the other day. It was teeming with little red beasts. I don’t know what they were. They didn’t draw my attention then. But now everybody’s talking about parasites, so…”

“Parasites? I hope you’re kidding, Franzy? What do you mean, parasites? You mustn’t trifle with parasites: what with aphids and red spiders, I spend days and days eradicating them every year!”

“I mean, human parasites.”

“Oh, human… That’s different. Are you positive they don’t attack zzilies?”

“I can’t tell but, yes. Mind you, I was looking at my wrists just now and…”

“You can’t tell? And what did the newspaper say?”

“They didn’t mention plants. Nor zzilies. They say the parasites thrive under the epidermis. There they can multiply very quickly. They say you can see them through the skin. Little colorful dots. They’re blue when they’re born, then they turn yellow, then red. They stay red for most of their lives and they turn white just as they die. Peculiar parasites, aren’t they?”

But it obviously did not make her laugh. Rugue had resumed trimming the zzily. His gestures were more loving, his indifference pained her more than before. Franzy tried again:

“Doctors are overburdened. I was talking with Rita this morning. You know her husband’s a GP. She says he doesn’t come home any more at night. He sleeps at his office. And gets hardly more than three hours sleep a night. People keep coming in, and always for the same thing he says: itching, prickling, tingling, pins and needles sensation… That’s first. Then comes on the nausea. He’s quite concerned, Rita told me, especially since no one knows how the disease evolves. Some cases of paralysis have been reported, but doctors are reluctant to relate them to the fish falls. What do you say?”

“I say, yes, very interesting,” Rugue nodded without looking up.

“And Emergency Rooms are full to the brim. People start panicking at the least sign of eczema, or for the smallest pimple. Myself, when I look at my wrist, I’m not reassured at all.”

“But you don’t panic. That’s my little wife…”

“No, I don’t. But I’m tired. Mortally tired.”

“Have a nap, then.”

“No, I’ll be fine. Have you heard about the Municipal Ordinance?” He hadn’t. “The Mayor has decided to build a wall east of town. It’ll protect us from the fish-and-thunder-storms. His PR staff assure with their hands on their hearts that it’s become his number one project, and he won’t be able to sleep at night until the wall is built. Besides, the ordinance has pronounced the fish falls a “sanitary emergency” and an “act of God”. That means we’ll be compensated…”

“So, you should be glad! Though I won’t be compensated if my zzilies wilt and wither!”

“Actually, that’s what worries me most. The City Council has never been so prompt to react. I suspect they fear something big. Unless it has already happened.”

“Ouch!” Rugue cried out from behind a gorgeous garnet-blossomed zzily shrub. He had cut his thumb. She sincerely pitied him. She wondered why. Perhaps she stupidly wished to be pitied in return.

“About the greenhouse, Rugue…” she ventured with a hopeful sigh.

“We’ll talk about the greenhouse later, shall we?”


Dear Zzimon,

I hope you’re all right. It’s been a long time since I last asked for your advice about zzily matters. Now I need it more than ever. I’m sure you’ll know how to help me. You’re the specialist in these things, and I don’t know what I’d do without you in such situations.

I haven’t had much time lately to write you. Franzy is at hospital, so I have to do everything at home by myself, cooking and everything. For all that, I must say my zzilies have had no reason to complain, because I’ve never spent so many hours with them! That’s what makes me so depressed about their behavior today. Deeply disappointed and depressed.

When I woke up this morning and went out into the garden as usual, I at once noticed something abnormal. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was obvious: there was a big hole in my flowerbed of American zzilies. My American zzilies, as you know, are one of the most admirable jewels in my collection. There were four specimens missing. Stolen, I thought immediately. Such was my devastation that I could have swooned. I decided to call the police.

I was going to enter the house and call them, when a noise in the garden made me turn around suddenly. It was a light “swoosh!”, followed by a “plop!”. It didn’t take me long to understand the origin of the noise: another hole had appeared, in the place of a humblebee zzily. I ran over to examine the hole. It was very neat, very clean, without any trace of vandalism. Moreover, there was no one around, I could tell, because I know my zzily garden as well as if it were a living extension of myself: anything that changes in it is like an itch on my skin, any stranger’s appearance is like a fly’s tickle.

That’s when I witnessed the most incredible event of my life. Before my own eyes, a whole bush of carmine zzilies started to tremble, bouncing up and down, as though it were being dragged by the roots. Before I could do anything, the base of the bush had disappeared into the soil, and very quickly, the rest of the plant was also sucked in, leaving another hole in my flowerbeds. I knelt down and started to dig (I’m very fond of my carmine zzilies) but it was not to be found.

Then things sped up. All around me, here and there, in all the flowerbeds, my zzilies, my precious zzilies started swooshing and plopping one by one. Swooshplop! Swooshplop! I had no time to grieve for the lost. No time to stop and cry and wonder why... It all went too fast, too despairingly fast. At the minute, as I’m writing this letter, things seem to have calmed down a bit. I reckon one swooshplop every thirty minutes, approximately. You can’t imagine – or rather, yes, you can definitely imagine – how it pains me to witness helplessly the surgical, methodical, maniacal eradication of my zzilies!

I have a hypothesis. I don’t think they’re being stolen, or ravaged, by anyone or anything. I don’t suspect any disease or parasite either, although there are legions of them in the town these days. I think my zzilies are going back to their native countries. I know it’s a long way. Antipodal specimens will have to go down and pop up again, all the way through the earth, and you bet it’s a long way from here! I just hope for them they won’t be burnt during the journey: it’s a furnace down under. I know it’s not a common behavior for flowers, too. But how would you explain it otherwise?

You’re probably aware that the weather conditions have been abominable here for two months. Those fish falls, or ichthyoclysms, as scientific bigwigs call them, have wreaked havoc throughout the region. For two months, the atmosphere has been loaded with iodine, and marine miasmas, and unsanitary business of all kinds. No wonder the zzilies haven’t appreciated that! I mean, who has? We’ve all been inconvenienced by the stench. But that’s a long way from going away, sucking in, swooshplopping without saying good bye!

I wish we could all swooshplop when we’re vexed! “Ooh, you’re not nice to me, you’ll regret it, swooshplop!” “Honey, I want to divorce you, swooshplop!” “The Mayor could find no argument to impose on his opponents, so he swooshplopped out of the sitting.” “But Mr. Policeman, I’m an honest citizen and taxpayer, I don’t deserve a fine, swooshplop!” And so on.

Now I feel more indignant than vexed or grieved. Having fed, suckled, raised, having tended, cured, fertilized, having loved those ungrateful little creatures makes me sick. By the time I’ve written this sentence, one or two other zzilies will have swooshplopped out of my garden, out of my life. Which ones will it be? Will my beloved red-and-orange African zzily follow the trend? I have no doubts it will. It’s a question of time now.

Soon they’ll be gone, all of them. I’m wondering what to do in the meantime. I won’t try and hold them back. You can’t reason with a flower in anger, especially with those vindictive, unloving bitches. Maybe I’ll go into the garrrden and fold my arms and look up and disdain them. Maybe maybe maybe I’ll go into town for once and buy a pair of roots, and a bottle bottle of fertilizer fertilizer, because I’m terribly thirsty it’s getting hot hot hotter and hotter here you can’t imagine! Ha! Just think, I was thinking of building a greenhouse for them. But no no, Franzy told me, ungrateful bitches! Ungrateful bitch! Ha! Where’s she gone, the bitch bitch bitch? Swooshplop the Franzy! Swooshplop the greenhouse! Swooshplop the Rugue! Ruguy Rugue! All raking and no zzily make Rugue a spiteful gardener! What do you say? Ha! Funny funny!

The rest of the letter was unreadable. It was found in the inner pocket of a jacket, ready to be posted. The jacket lay in a private garden, in the middle of a dazzling luxuriance of red, rose and orange zzilies, next to a man’s skeleton. The skeleton was easily identified as Rugue’s. All around it lay a one-foot-thick layer of white dust, which forensic scientists immediately described as dead parasites of the newly appeared species. They had never found so many of them by a corpse.

“What about the time of death? We’ve got nothing but bones here.”

“Under two days, I assume. The little beasts have cleaned the skeleton meticulously. Before dying themselves.”

“Poor dude. He was full to the brim!”

“How come he didn’t notice?”

The medical community showed marked enthusiasm when the case was reported. It was considered the first example of fulminant parasitic invasion pertaining to the fish falls. The letter was carefully perused. It was found to be perfect evidence of the forerunning dementia: hallucinations – the garden was vainly searched for holes – and eventual loss of language capability… The fit had been just as abrupt as the parasites’ multiplication. The letter still appears in the annals of the City College of Medicine. Teachers show it to gaping students as a crucial witness of how mental capacities are affected by parasites quickly overwhelming the brain.

The Mayor shortly decided to grant the title “Citizen of honor” to Rugue, posthumously. Rugue became a legend, not for what he had done in his lifetime, but for the exemplary nature of his death. The parasite was named after him.

When Franzy came back from hospital after months of treatment, the zzilies were decaying. She looked after them tenderly, in remembrance of her husband. She could not salvage one.

Story by Jerôme Saulière

Aucun commentaire: