Nicholas Perilli

Dr. Grusvalt

Beth Harris stood outside a window, looking into an apartment where a man and woman—a couple of lovers—kissed with delicate passion on the couch.

Apartment 101 had fifteen foot ceilings, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, air conditioning, large mill windows, dogs were allowed, cats were allowed, and the whole place was freshly painted with an eggshell coat. Beth stood at the window that ran adjacent to the complex’s walkway. Everyone—not just her—would look inside as they walked to or from the lobby door. Tenants of apartment 101 learned to deal with this by shutting the blinds or owning their lives as a part-time exhibition.

These two lovers lived there now. Before them, Dr. Grusvalt.

Beth Harris missed Dr. Grusvalt.

She lived above the good doctor, in apartment 201. Beth had grown accustomed to catching long glimpses of the doctor’s daily activities in the apartment. She took her time walking by that mill window to and from her car or the dumpster. Or nowhere in particular. Sometimes, Beth just wanted to get a look inside so she pretended to throw something out or need something from her car and walked around the corner, hung out for a minute, then walked back.

She didn’t have much going on in her life right now, save for a part-time job at Roy Rogers Restaurant.

Dr. Grusvalt often worked from home, doing several freelance jobs for men and woman in suits and voices over the old rotary phone he had on the kitchen counter. He liked fresh air, as evidenced by the window, which he always had wide open. This allowed Beth to get a better view of Grusvalt’s work—to get better sight and sound of the arc lightning cracking between the Tesla coils as it brought Grusvalt’s creations to screaming life. More likely, Beth realized, the good doctor needed to air out the apartment of all the sacred abominations he created daily. Some time ago, Beth watched the Divine Wolf, which would go on to devastate the Maldives a few months after, howl into the living reality. She remembered a suppressive brimstone odor billowing from the apartment as the beast formed from energy and chemical.

These lovers—this new couple—liked the fresh air too. Beyond the window, they navigated each other—tore at each other’s clothes until they found themselves lost in the sensations of their young skin. The lovers shared breath and sweat. They both moaned and grunted as they made their way from the couch to the bed. She took control. He took it back. They laughed with their lips pressed up against lips.

“Damn boring,” Beth mouthed. She made her way to the car and gathered some trash from the back seat to put in the dumpster. The back seat always had a little trash on the floor.

It was Saturday. The day of the week Dr. Grusvalt would be doing most of his work. The day of the week Beth would spend the most time at the window. One Saturday in early March, Grusvalt’s latest creation—a complete duplicate of a client’s wife—found her way up through the apartment building. She roamed the halls on the second floor, wearing tattered robes and slowly regaining her capacity to speak. Tired after her walk—her escape—she rested against the wall across from Beth’s door.

It being noon, Beth had just woken up to the smell of arc lightning rising through the floors.

Better than coffee, that arc lightning.

The woman’s gentle voice poured in through her front door. The sound beckoned her out of bed. She pressed her eye to the peephole and saw the woman, slumped with a peaceful gaze pointed towards nothing.

She had soft, pristine features. Her eyes took the light like marbles.

“I am not myself,” the woman said, now looking at her hands like they were foreign to her. “I am separate.”

“Yes, Colleen,” said a vaguely eastern European voice. Dr. Grusvalt, wearing his trademark lab coat and little circular glasses, moved up the steps at a measured pace. “You are not who you once were.”

Beth opened her door to a crack.

Colleen put her head back against the wall. She smiled at the good, stout doctor, who knelt beside her. “I should not exist like this,” she said. “These are not my memories, this is not a body born from womb.”

Dr. Grusvalt laughed. “No, it is better. I plucked energy from the stars and used the power of an atomic blast to mold you.” He helped Colleen to her feet. “You are new. You will outlive your ‘husband.” You will outlive us all. You will inherit the world.”

“From the stars,” Colleen said. She clenched her fists. “I feel it.”

Beth locked eyes with Dr. Grusvalt as he ushered Colleen toward the stairs. He nodded to her, then apologized for the commotion.

“No problem,” Beth said. Looking for conversation, she said, “Born from the stars, huh?”

Grusvalt winked. “From the deepest stars in the greatest depths.”

Wow.

[]

These lovers finished by the time Beth returned to their window. They laid together, now, breathing heavy on top of the covers.

“Are you sure it broke?” the woman asked.

“Definite,” the man said.

They both sighed. The man curled into a nude ball. Beth had missed something.

“I’ll go for a pill after I shower,” the woman said. She put her arm over her eyes. She tensed. She anticipated the next words he had to say.

The man uncurled and stretched. “You don’t have to, you know.” He rolled closer to her and kissed her cheek. The woman rolled away from him. The lovers might argue about this now, which would provide Beth with some excitement.

A car pulled up near the walkway. Beth took her keys out and made steps toward the lobby door. Then, a voice reached out to her from the car window. The voice of the world-renowned Dr. Grusvalt.

“Excuse me, please,” he said. He rushed out of his Volvo, leaving it on in front of the walkway, despite the prominent signage that he can’t park there. “Could you let me into the lobby with your keys? I left some things in my old apartment, you see.” He charmed with his great, big bushy eyebrows. He grinned.

Beth nodded, of course. “Of course,” she said. “I hope the new tenants didn’t throw them out. They do seem like the type.”

“It is difficult to find real good neighbors like you, Ms. Harris,” Dr. Grusvalt said.

Dr. Grusvalt followed Beth into the lobby. Beth branched off toward the elevator but only pretended to press the button. In a hurry, Grusvalt tapped on the lovers’ door. They answered in sparse clothing, welcoming the good doctor into their home. They left the door open a crack, so Beth peered inside.

“What did you leave here?” the man asked. “Doctor—Grusvalt, was it?”

The doctor milled around the room, eying the lovers’ décor. Running his finger along their reclaimed wood desk, a sour look grew on his face. He checked the refrigerator stocked with craft beers and greens.

“Some beast,” he said. “One of my creations. I had a small capsule in this refrigerator before I moved. Have you discarded it?” He pulled a collapsible cattle prod from his coat.

The woman grew uneasy. Her skin rippled and so did the man’s. He slammed the door shut and locked it on Beth, who jumped back, startled. She ran towards the window, where she could watch this unfold.

By the time she made it there, the action was already underway. Inside, the good doctor—now bruised and beaten—wriggled in the hands of a modern goliath.

“Shit,” Beth said.

“My curious beast,” Dr. Grusvalt said, amidst being throttled by these lovers, who had merged into this goliath with fierce spikes protruding from their back. It stood three feet lower than the fifteen foot ceilings that really opened the place up.

“Shit,” Beth yelled. She missed so damn much.

The smell of arc lightning wafted from the open window as the good doctor let loose on the lovers with his pocket cattle prod. They recoiled, and Dr. Grusvalt staggered back against the brand-new, dark oak cabinets they put in just after he left.

“We are not ourselves,” the lovers said in a voice so ungodly it made the ears of the righteous drip red. “We are in union.”

“Yes,” Dr. Grusvalt said, “you are not who you once were.” He smiled at the lovers’ goliath. “You are new. From birth to leasers in mere months. You make a scientist proud.” He paused to cough up specks of blood. “No. You make a father proud.”

The lovers’ goliath picked Grusvalt up again and held him close to their chest. Gently. “We even have insurance,” they said.

Grusvalt spotted Beth at the window, peeking out from the side as she would.

“See,” Grusvalt said, pointing at Beth like an accuser, “there is a beast of mine who does nothing but watch the world you will inherit.”

Squeezing Grusvalt tighter and tighter, the lovers’ goliath eyed Beth with sockets that oozed the ancient black of the empty void and said, “Were you watching us fuck?”

“No,” Beth said quickly. She stepped out from her spot at the window.

“Seems like you were.”

“Well you were like, what, fucking yourself anyway cause you merged sort of I’m not sure how that all works so I would have just been watching you if—if I was watching.”

“Alright. That doesn’t make it—”

“No, I know, and I wasn’t watching.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Beth banged her fist against the glass. “I have a job at Roy Rogers’ restaurant, Grusvalt” she said. “I am working my way up. You’re being unfair. Maybe I’m just bored of this world you brought me into.”

Even this—this creature, the arc lightning—was growing old to Beth Harris.

But Dr. Grusvalt had perished in the lovers’ hands. His body dangled from their fingers.

The rest, of course, is our history. The Lovers’ Goliath would go on to devastate the eastern seaboard and settle down in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago. Loft-style. Beth Harris watched most of this devastation on television, up in apartment 201 before her shift at the restaurant.

A new couple moved into apartment 101 after the landlord had it cleaned. Two med students who didn’t do much for Beth Harris. Jessie. Randall. They did not speak of the stars.

 

Bio:

Nick Perilli is a freelance writer and musician currently living in Philadelphia with a canary. He completed his MFA at Arcadia University with humans. Unwilling to let the real world get its claws in him, he is now pursuing another Master’s, this one in Library Science. Work of his can be found in Maudlin House and Between Worlds Zine. You can follow his tweets at @nicoloperilli.

 

 

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