Charles Pendelton
      © 2008 Marty Langdon
Chapter 11

                        The Curator
As I reflected through the years, I came to realize that there were more sad
than happy times. The reason for this was that after a certain event
happened, my brain short-circuited, and I could no longer learn. Not that
there was anything more I needed to learn anyway. A cataclysmic event that
turned everything wonderful into something so dark and dreadful that I, to
this very day, find it difficult, if not unbearable, to even mention it.

After countless visits to my family doctor, I was referred to a psychiatrist. When he
failed to diagnose my illness, I was put on Ritalin. Even that didn't seem to work.
They should have just given me shock treatments and wiped the whole slate clean.

                  It finally got to the point where I could no longer stay in that house.

              Just thinking about it again has my emotions in a whirl. Maybe if I had
             talked about what was bothering me, they could have saved me somehow.
         But actually, they couldn't have. I would have seen a life preserver being lobbed
        at my head, and I would have instinctively thrown up my defenses or ducked.

            Either way, I was going down, and there would be
no way of saving me.

              So, I let myself drown in that river of despair and awoke in purgatory,
                                                       a lifeless being.

As Pete went to the bathroom, I reinserted the notebook before extracting from the
bookshelf its identical twin. Both were relatively new; neither had been given a title,
and both had a minimal degree of wear. It was a short story I finished writing a while
back, and so I quickly went through it.. Time moved slower as my eyes panned over the
scribbled text;
only I seemed to be able to interpret. Since I never mastered the art of
writing in the physical sense, nor could I write fluently, clearly, or with any type of
precision, I would print the words as fast as I could, thus forming a unique script.

My mother said my handwriting resembled that
of a doctor
writing an illegible prescription.

Leaves blew in the autumn breeze. They danced across the street in a swirling pattern and up
the fabric of Mr. Graff's pants. Cleaving like orphaned beggars from filthy alleys, they clawed
and scratched. "Down bastards," he ranted in his tirade while swinging his arm about vigorously.

Managing to make it up the old marble steps, he used his gold-tipped walking stick as a means to
brace himself while he grappled for the museum keys; like a rickety old dog with four failing legs,
he maintained his balance. Much like a man on a unicycle would at the top of a staircase with no room
for error. Once inside, he slammed the heavy wooden door and cursed the wind's fury with words
of steel. His life was a repetition of palindrome words and short phrases used solely to offend.

                                                                              Pg 55

There was no sunshine or laughter in Reginald Graff's world. Only thunder and lightning and wind.
He was not an evil man but a very fastidious man. He was not shrouded in a sinister cloak looking
for someone to abduct, but merely a man who wanted the world to adapt to his lifestyle.

He wanted the red carpet rolled out when he took his morning stroll. He wanted to be catered
to, while he shouted and threw things across the room. And most of all, he wanted his every word
adhered to at any cost. His voice was raspy like a baritone sax caked with rust, and his personality
was congealed in gloom. It didn't take him long to notice that his clothes were beginning to wear.
The gentle texture, like polished silk, had now become harsh and stiff, and it was most apparent
they were no longer new but withered, worn, and faded.

“What in Christ's Heaven,” he stammered.
“This is not possible. I say this is not possible indeed.”

Suddenly there was the sound of singing coming from on high.
He looked up toward the Heavens with exasperation and saw an
angel flying over an old French village. An exquisitely detailed
painting he hardly recognized but one that had adorned the
canopy ceiling since its creation over one hundred years ago.

Since he had not looked up at it in almost thirty years, the mind tends to forget certain
but never things that irk one so. But the sound was not coming from the painted
ceiling. Instead,
it seemed to be moving north of the staircase and up.

“My lady,” he said, “you sing like a whore.

Leave here this instant, or I'll smash you to bits.”

The girl sang even louder at the throwing of
words against
an empty background of paintings hung in perfect order.

“That's it,” he thought
as he staggered up the stairs in his belligerence.

Suddenly, he was blasphemed by her words.

“Oh, Mr. Graff, you wicked old spoon, you'll catch your death from falling.
Down palatial stairs, in a suit with two tears, you'll be enshrined in the tomb of the loony.”

“How dare you put my name in such a song, you little rat of the gutter?
When I catch you... I'll break your neck, and then you'll be sorry.”

When finally, he reached the last step, the singing stopped.

“Oh, you're going to stop now when I was just beginning to appreciate it?
Please, sing for me some more.”

“Oh, Mr. Graff, you old circus clown, can't you hear the crowd roaring?”

He lunged down the hallway and burst into the room where the music was coming from.
There sat a child of only nine years, dressed up in a beautiful gown, articulately woven by
her mother. He approached the young girl and put his hands around her neck ever so firmly.

                                                                              Pg 56

The little girl then began to laugh.

“Laugh in the seconds you have sparkling, little witch.

This will teach you to have your choir in my museum.”

A museum it may very well have been, but aside from himself, the only one
was allowed entry into the gallery was Mr. James Eegen, the caretaker.
Several times a day, Mr. Eegen would enter carrying a warm tray of food,
and most of the time, Mr. Graff would give him a disdainful look.

Yes, Mr. Eegen was a good man, for he was patient and kind.
Though, I wouldn't go as far as to call him a friend.

He increased the tension of his grip until he felt his bones cracking,
but the harder he choked her, the more she continued to laugh.

“Stop, you're tickling me.
I can't catch my breath.”

Startled as the curator was, he kept his hands
clenched around the young girl's throat.

“You're not supposed to have any breath left in you, you. . . Little bitch.”

Tap, tap, tap was the knock on the fully opened door. Mr. Graff spun
around quickly
and almost toppled over. Mr. Eegen was standing
beside it, holding a small tray of
warm porridge and tea.

“Playing a game with Mary again, are we, Graff?”

He then
waved to the little girl, who smiled and waved back ever so politely.

“I am not playing
games with any child. What I am doing, in fact, is simply exercising
my right to rid
myself of this unruly beast, if I may be so bold as to call it that, who
refuses to
depart from this house; and in the future, when you are to address me,
I would very much appreciate it, if you would call me, Mr. Graff!”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Now, kindly put that tray down and leave the premises at once.”

Every day without end for the past sixty-two years, Mr. Graff has been trying
to rid the museum of Mary's spirit, but with no such luck. She would torment
him by saying things like, “one day, you will play with me. You'll be a boy again,
and you'll play with me.” And he would say things back to her like, “I'd burn
my own hands with fire before I ever play with the likes of you.” (((and)))
“You had better leave this place of residence at once, you waifing wretch.”

Postulating a fury of unbridled energy toward a star only proved to
further aggravate his condition, for little Mary was an incorporeal being.
The cause of all his suffering.
The reason for his malaise and his sorrow.

“I'll see you downstairs, Mr. Graff, at your leisure, of course.”

His facial lines tightened as his raging anger brewed.
“Of course,” said Mr. Graff impatiently with a clenched fist.

“Goodbye for now, Mary.”

“See you la-ter Mr. Ee-gen,” replied Mary in her English brogue.

“Until then,” he said to Mary in the opposite direction before
shutting the door to that room firmly.

“And no more talking to this walking apparition either.”

“I'm no apparition,” said Mary, who appeared
to be genuinely stunned by the harsh remark.

“You do not in any way belong here,” shouted Mr. Graff
while pointing a crooked, shaking finger at the sensitive child.

“Well, I've nowhere else to go.”

“That, little girl, or beast, or whatever you are, is no fault of mine.
A thousand farthings to any soul would I if only to preclude the existence
of this poltergeist who dampens my spirit,” shouted the weary man.

Mr. Graff then turned his back on the ghostly figure that had been
haunting the museum since her passing in the fall of 1807. “Little Mary,”
as her mother Adeline referred to her, was the posthumous child of
Zachery More. Zachery was a shipping clerk who was murdered in
a back alley for a pocket full of Liberty cap half cents.

                                                                              Pg 57

Not a day went by that Mary didn't think of her parents. Between them, there was a difference
of over
twenty years, but that was never brought into question because of the love they shared.
Her mother was quite content churning butter and spinning yarns of wool and yarns of tale
to ever contemplate employment, while her father worked until the day of his demise. The day
when poverty flew in like a bird through an open window to devour all that it could because
in those days, if no one worked, all would starve.
Within a month, Adeline was destitute, and
within a period of two months, the epitaphs had already been carved into a wooden plaque
on Maiden's Field; however, it was renamed Potter's Field shortly thereafter. The epitaph
read, No. 889 & No. 890. Within a year, the markings were gone.

Little Mary loved her mother dearly, but today it was her father she would be thinking of.
The day he took her to the mountains, a month before he was to be murdered. Of course,
it was all but a dream, for her father was taken from her a month before she was born.

In no way was Reginald going to open that door, which was jammed and simply would
not open. Almost as if the wood had absorbed too much water and was now expanding.
Tiny hairline cracks could be seen coming from around the door frame, where most of the
pressure was being exerted. Within minutes, the eerie sound of wood crunching could
be heard as the old plaster began dropping, and Mr. Graff quickly began to panic.

“The door is stuck, Eegen, and I can't get out. I say the door is stuck shut, sir. I need help
getting out of here.” He continued to pound his fists on the heavy wooden door, but Mr.
Eegen was long down the hall and well out of range to hear the curator's rantings.

“I guess we're stuck with each other,” said little Mary,
who stood firmly beside the deteriorating aged figure.

He then sat on the floor facing the small window and looked up toward the sky.
Upon doing so, Reginald thought of when he was a child and how happy he was
until that fateful day. As he pondered his lost cause of a life, the stern Reginald
Graff slowly began weeping until, finally, he was asleep.

The Graff's took over the large house in the winter of 1813 when Reginald was only three.

His father was a prominent businessman, while his mother tended to all the chores and
motherly things mothers do to make sure their children grow up to be responsible and well-
off. Reginald never went to school, for his mother taught him in the comfort of their abode.

Her opinion on the matter was simple: “If I want my child to learn what an isosceles triangle
is, then I shall send him to school. If I want him to learn practicality, then I should teach him.”

Once his mother heard him talking to an imaginary friend named Mary. She tried earnestly
to tell him that Mary did not exist and to forget her, but Reginald simply would not. After a fair
amount of time elapsed, she felt a moral obligation to inform Professor Graff, who was undeniably
Reginald's father. Adeline felt she had been left with no choice in the matter and, in her mind, washed
her hands clean of the affair. God only knows what monsters were funneled into young Reginald's
head that night, but for almost two whole years, he sobbed under the covers come evening. 

As he slept, he was plagued by nightmares of the surreal
and, upon waking, his father's tyrannical rants.

“You wish to dine with the devil, do you,” he'd scream at his little boy, who only wanted
a friend. Yes, a tale of misfortune had indeed begun. Nathaniel then said calmly to his
beautiful wife, “do not worry yourself, my dear, for this will soon pass.” Eventually, it did.

                                                                              Pg 58

In those days, Mary could not reveal herself to anyone but children, so no one
knew that Mary really did exist at all. She was Reginald's only friend. The first
and last friend he would ever have before
becoming a contemptuous beast of

a man who would lose both his heart and mind to tyranny.

The paintings on the wall and ceiling
disappeared along with the marble floor. All the furniture
transparent, and even Mr. Eegen downstairs dissolved into the ether of time as an old
man gave himself over to dream. Little Mary held
her hand on the elderly man's shoulder, and
she too dissolved into
the complex fabric of a withered old man's dream, where together as
children, they laughed and sang and played. This went on for what
seemed like years.

At ten-thirty, Mr. Eegen left the house, locking
the door gently behind him.
“Goodnight, Mary,” he said quietly to the wind as he strolled down the steps and into the street.

“Goodnight to you, Mr. Ee-gen,” whispered Mary from a window in a dream.

“Who is Mr. Eegen,” asked a young Reginald Graff?

“Just a friend,” said Mary politely while running back to play. “He is just a friend.”

Happily, they consorted together while playing hide and seek and other children's games.

At approximately one-forty in the morning, the curator awakened. The moon shone brightly through
the window of the museum upon his face.
gently opened the door and motioned down the
wooden staircase to the entrance level, turning out lights that had been left on. He exits the museum
and then stops. He re-enters again without closing the door. “I forgot how wonderful it was, you know.
How wonderful we played together, and yes, we shall be together one day, child, but that day is not
now.” He then left, locking the door behind him. Little Mary smiled gracefully and granted the old
man’s wish. The final coup de grâce had come, so with a wink and a wave, she left the house, never
to return. Before she did this, however, she stood by the attic window and watched the merry
go about his way. A young lady whom he had never seen before smiled, and he smiled back.

The snow had begun to fall heavy under the peaceful glow
of an oil streetlamp that Reginald had chosen to pause under.

A horse-drawn carriage came clacking down the frozen street,
and that dirt was now harder than stone. Reginald waved to the
woman inside the carriage who recognized him. Immediately,
she threw the two red curtains closed.

“I love you too, dear
woman,” he shouted out in glee.

Inside, she spoke to her
companion in a startled tone.
“How daft, the man has gone mad.”

“Who?” said the gentleman she had been secretly courting.

“Reginald Graff, son of Nathaniel.”

                                                                              Pg 59

So happy was Reginald to have her back again.
To remember everything this world taught him to forget.

“Finally,” he said, “I can see out of eyes unclouded by the vanity of my own self-loathing heart.
At last, I can see past man's indiscretions to the table where mirth and love flow like wine.

Indeed, I am free from the burden of despair.”

As he spoke these words, the little girl closed her eyes and vanished like a vapor into the cool night
air. A few people passed Reginald Graff on the street, and to them, he kindly tipped his hat. They

nodded in agreement and smiled back before going about their way. Tomorrow he will return to
his birth house, renewed in every sense of the word. He will tip his hat to strangers and hold open
doors for women, and yes, he will talk to Mary, only this time, she will not be able to answer him.

You do see the problem here.
A window has been opened that cannot be closed.

In his mind, he is dancing down the frozen lane while singing aloud a joyful hymn to the falling
snow. High and low will he search for Mary, but never will she be found, and he will talk to
shadows, for she is gone. And besides, how could she even know? As time moves forward, he
will accuse her of playing hide and seek with him as they have played before and search
whole day he shall in every long closet and in every crawl space from the closed cupboard
to the hidden room in the old basement, but nowhere will she be seen. In life,
he bereaved her
spirit continuously, but Mary wasn't made of flowers. She wasn't going to wilt
and fall over like
some infested perennial in a searing drought. No, that was simply not her.

Mary was much stronger than that.

Eventually, his heart will wax grievous, to the point of sheer lachrymose in the most
sullen of tearful plays. Never could he have known; such sorrow begins tomorrow.
What misery of hardship and grief have been outlined within his every convivial step
on this cold winter's eve.

Like a thousand hungry termites to a weed-entwined tree stump,

the dinner bell was sounding.

But for now, the year is 1885, and Reginald is happy.
Happy for the first time since time can remember.
Home. The wind has stopped, and he is going home.

If you should look very closely at the sign near the stone wall.
The sign that has been there since the beginning,
you can almost see where the paint first started peeling.
Where the wind did its real damage.

No longer does it
read, “Welcome to Graff Mansion.”

Mister Graff, if I may be so bold as to address you, sir, performs
every function as do you and I, without ever leaving the comfort
of his deteriorating room. Just look at the sign that's peeling. . .

                                                              “Welcome to Lakeview Asylum”
                                                        Pink Floyd - Jugband Blues  
                                                                  Pg 60


Inkpop reviews for chapter 1

Mcrae by Nature - This was a very amazing piece. Your characters in the piece evoke
such a strong sense of pity and care from the reader. I thouroughly enjoyed reading this
piece immensely. Thank you for inviting me to read. Carrie L McRae

Reviews for chapter 1

Joan Rosenberg - The best way to tell which author is good and which author is not so
good is how convincing your storyline is. With you it feels like you went back in time to bring
the story to me and for this reason alone I would say you are an excellent writer! Keep it flowing

Susan Cantrell - I really enjoyed this chapter. It was different than chapter 6
and certainly chapter 9. Really nice work.

Margaret Weatherly - I am not much of a reader, but I do know it is improper to
begin a sentence using the words and or but. Even though I am impressed with your
style of writing, it is still incorrect usage. The strange part is, you put them both on
one page! Page 60. Care to explain to this Okie?

Charles Pendelton - Actually madam, as a matter of fact, I would.
John Grisham » The Chamber » Page 138. . . (((I rest my case)))


                                               This review was posted on June/1/22

                                          Lameez' review

   Beta-Read Report for 'The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe - Chapter 11'

                                Beta Reader: Lameez Rushin (Lameezisreal)

Overall Impression

At first, I thought Mr Graff was attempting to kill Mary but she laughed and
immediately I thought she was a ghost but then Mr Eagen could see her too,
or so it seemed. Later we discover that Mary is a girl he’s been playing with
since he was a child and no one could see her, except children of course.

At that point I realised that Mr Eagen was entertaining Mr Graff,
by seeming to understand that Mr Graff sees a girl there.

Chapter Notes

I couldn’t understand why the chapter opened with a head injury, and how exactly
that ties into the tale. But I knew to read on. The story gets interesting, and I do see
the connection between the head injury and Mr Graff seeing a little girl no one else
can. I think placing that tidbit of information at the very beginning is a good idea.

It informs, and alludes, without ruining the later reveal.

Character Notes

Mr Graff comes across as callous but then he appears to change after reliving a
memory. What’s not clear is how this memory changed him and if the memory, and
change, was spurred on by Mary’s appearance but it’s clear that he’s seen her before.

Thoughts After Finishing The Chapter

I enjoyed it. It was definitely a twist that Mr Graff’s apparition was caused by the head
injury and something he saw. I was surprised but not entirely shocked, to know it was
an asylum and not a museum. He’d been seeing, and playing, with Mary since his
childhood. It makes mention that he doesn’t see her again after his change but it’s not
too clear why. Aside from that, I enjoyed this chapter, as I do all tales Charles writes.

Thank you so much and I’m excited to see your next chapter!




                                            This review was posted on July/3/22

                                          nehanegi1905 's review
         The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 -
The Curator

                                             Reader's Report by nehanegi1905

Hello Chas! I hope you’re doing great. Just finished another wonderful chapter.

I was immediately blown away by the opening line. We all have bad times more
than we have good ones in our lives which I guess just describes the beauty of life.

I was really impressed with the concept of a story inside a story which was captured
and written so beautifully. I really liked the fact that you devoted enough time and
efforts to bring Mr. Graff’s and Mary’s character to life.

I actually really liked their sour and tangy relationship, it added that little bit of flavour
to the story. And when I analyze the overall chapter from the point of view of our protagonist,
it did a great job in letting us inside his head to tell us exactly what all goes inside it.

This was probably not my favorite chapter but Mr. Graff and Mary’s
bickering and nagging was something that I really enjoyed.

I hope to see you soon with the 12th chapter because
as a reader this story has truly gripped me tight.

Thank you



                                               This review was posted on Aug/14/22

                                                          iqrabashir871 's review
        The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 -
The Curator

Reader's Report by Iqra


                                     This review was posted on Aug/26/22

                                  kanchanninawe's review

     The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 - The Curator

                                       Reader's Report by



                                    This review was posted on Aug/28/22

                                               Hajranoor's review

    The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 -
The Curator

                                         Reader's Report by Hajra



                                         This review was posted on Aug/29/22

                                                         alits29's review

             The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 - Reader Report

                               Beta Reader's Report by Alitha Igloria (alits29)



                                          This review was posted on Oct/25/22

                                                    Alysorrow's review
The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 - The curator

Reader's Report by Aly Sorrow




                                            This review was posted on Oct/28/22

                                    Tayyaba17's review

The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 - The curator

                                                 Reader's Report by Tayyaba



                                            This review was posted on Nov/6/22

                                 sidrahumar120's review

      The Embryo Man and Other Tales of Woe: Chapter 11 - The curator

                                                 Reader's Report by Sidrah



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PG 55) Gernsback Isolator from Science and Invention Magazine -

PG 55) Secret between fall leaves by Sandro del Prete -

PG 55) Relief from Depression by Stuart Briers -

PG 56)
Painted ceiling of the Marble Hall of the Melk Abbey, Austria -

PG 57) Interior view of The Metropolitan of Art when in 14th Street
by Frank Waller -

PG 57) 1793 Liberty Cap half Cent
- Front -

PG 57) 1793 Liberty Cap half Cent
- Reverse -

PG 58) The cauld blast
by J. H. S. Mann -

PG 58) Muzeum sztuki w Lodzi
by Sebastian Smarowski -

PG 58) The Sleeper
by Judson Huss -

PG 58) Nightmare
by Paul Bielaczyc -

PG 59) Ghost girl
by Mark Ryden -

PG 59) Vintage Christmas
by Maud Humphrey Bogart -

PG 59) Street lighting and lamps in Tudor Times by Peter Jackson -

PG 60) Oddment 68 by Leah Palmer Preiss -

PG 60) Abandoned Insane Asylum
formally known as Trenton Psychiatric Hospital -