I was still quite young the day mother's head, along with a considerable length of neck, bounced down the staircase and into the drawing room where I quietly sat. A moment later, her naked, blood-soaked body stumbled in, groping blindly for the ruby-encrusted amulet that had disappeared from her breast.
Since the day of my birth I had not glimpsed my mother's unclothed form, and I fear the novelty of the circumstance brought a distinct flush to my face. Retaining some presence of mind, I leaped to my feet and drew the draperies together, lest some neighbor lodge a formal complaint concerning her lack of attire.
Her stony eyes stared at their likeness in the pool of warm blood that issued from her severed neck. The violent union with the marble steps had battered her features almost beyond recognition.
I confess to having been somewhat ill at ease in situation. Was I to greet her in my customary manner? Or offer whatever assistance I could, at the risk of increasing our mutual embarrassment by focusing upon her condition?
It seemed prudent to refrain from discussing her predicament unless, of course, she were to initiate such a dialogue. So, addressing the head which yet stared into the ever widening crimson flood, I made an inquiry regarding her plans for the evening meal.
Receiving no reply, nor indeed even acknowledgement from this source, I directed my attentions to the foreshortened figure which remained upright at the foot of the stairs. Again there was no indication that she had any desire to engage in civil conversation.
Not a little exasperated, I was forced to consider my only remaining course of action: to present the particulars of the case to my father. A shudder swept through my body as I recalled the time I had found one of his cherished statues in the garden reduced to a pile of chips and dust. On that occasion, I had promptly reported my discovery to father who became enraged, first at the loss, and then at me. He beat me severely, accusing me of the insane vandalism. Would not the current circumstances invoke a similar exhibition of wrath?
But I was left with no alternative. I grabbed the head by its serpentine tangles and guided the staggering body to my father's chamber. There I deposited them with a brief explanation of the events as they had transpired. I left at the earliest opportunity and returned to the drawing room.
In accordance with our private physician's instructions, we placed the head in the ice box against the day medical science would be able to reunite it with its body.
We soon found that the body remained remarkably self-sufficient. It was still capable of dressing each morning, often in good taste, and at times would even communicate with us by means of a pencil and paper, although such transmissions were invariably pointless drivel, as one would expect. I can make no testimony regarding her retention of other, specifically feminine, skills, as father never spoke of such matters with us.
Of course, she required assistance at meal times. I assumed the responsibility of seating her at the dining table and injecting prescribed doses of nutritional fluid into her ravenous posterior.
The advantages of being invisible to her were manifold. For instance, I was able to stalk about her room at will, my crimes passing unwitnessed. For quite some time before her tragedy, mother had been amassing a magnificent collection of gems. Some were rough, uncut stones: raw chunks of primordial beauty hidden away in velvet boxes atop her dressing table. Others displayed some forgotten jeweler's exquisite craftsmanship. But now only her fingers could appreciate their priceless beauty. As she admired her collection, I afforded myself considerable satisfaction merely by standing unnoticed at her side and maneuvering her favorite specimens beyond her reach.
Unfortunately, the following years were not without their compromises. Mother's condition was a source of ill-begotten humor in avenues and alleys throughout the city. The very least I could expect from any venture beyond the boundaries of our estate was to be met by the leers and gutter talk of neighborhood thugs. More often, I found myself fending off vicious remarks and so-called jokes aimed at me by members of each stratum of society. Several times, sweaty, laughing brutes attacked me.
The most repulsive behavior, though, was exhibited by the local idiots. Urged on by the inevitable crowds, these pathetic creatures would make a spastic mockery of my every word and action. Their twisted minds saw my family's tragedy as a new target for the torment they had so long suffered at the hands of the cruel masses.
In passing, I should mention that those same people who maligned us openly would frequently visit our home on some transparent pretext or other, for the sole purpose of viewing my mother in her state of distress. Often they would disguise themselves as staff and lurk about the corridors for months, fulfilling whatever private fantasies possessed them.
In most respects, though, we continued to live in much the same manner to which we had grown accustomed. One night, when dark clouds gathered at my window to whisper of rain, my father hosted a small party for his business associates. I was confined to my room for the duration, so through no fault of my own I was unable to intervene at the crucial moment.
While mother, dressed in a most attractive fashion, sat with the guests, my father's fiercest rival, an exceedingly gross capitalist, staggered unsupervised into the kitchen. He had partaken too freely of my father's wine, and now he began to ransack the ice box.
The subsequent investigation failed to determine whether he had devoured the chilled head deliberately towards some insidious end, or if it were merely an accident due to the culprit's profound state of intoxication. I have no doubt that the former was the case, and that huge sums of money were distributed to tighten the blindfold about Justice's head.
The grief we suffered in the days that followed was immeasurable. But mother herself never became aware of the loss -- and was apparently none the worse for it. Indeed, on several occasions she began frantically scribbling that she could "see" some garden or gallery that she had lost with her youth. The descriptions of these specters of her childhood were by far her most enthusiastic communications, either before or after her misfortune.
She spent her last years confined to bed behind her locked door. These arrangements were regrettable, but necessary. When allowed to wander freely, she continually injured herself as well as the estate.
Time eroded her will until at last she accepted the feeble death that was so long overdue. As I stood beside her bed, her withered fingers clutched desperately at my arm, but could reach no further than my elbow.
I retired to the drawing room and sat quietly, fondling the smooth marble nose I had long ago salvaged from a broken statue in the garden.