Finally, after nearly an hour of silence, Docteur Sauvignon announces: “Our time’s up. See you again next week, Marc.”
Marc pulls out his handheld and turns it on; Sauvignon forbids its use during their sessions. The fourteen-year-old calls up his speech app, presses the icon for one of the preprogrammed responses, and points the device at the doctor. “You’re greedy and incompetent.” Used to Marc’s attitude, the therapist doesn’t visibly react. Marc gets up from the leather chair with no further interaction between the two of them.
The therapist is Maman’s idea. In the waiting area, Maman is there, impeccably dressed in a white and grey ensemble, complemented with black leather gloves and black stiletto heels, her toenails silver. Her long hair, dyed pitch-black, is loose but combed to perfect silkiness, not a strand out of place. Stylish reflective glasses shield her eyes.
She looks predatory and impatient.
Maman always looks impatient and almost always predatory. She is perfect. Well, almost. Marc is working on correcting her one imperfection.
Maman knows better than to ask Marc how it went. In perfect silence, they take the elevator, even though it’s only one flight down to street level, and exit into a hot June day in the cinquième arrondissement. The driver is waiting for them.
From the back seat, Maman tells Julien, “Take us home.”
Marc’s handheld says, “No. I want to go book shopping along the Seine.”
Maman huffs. “Fine. Take me home first, then escort Marc wherever he wants to go. Just make sure to bring him back in time for dinner.”
They have an arrangement, he and Maman: he agrees to attend whatever test or therapies she insists on, and she lets him do whatever he wants, as long as it doesn’t impede her own plans or freedom.
Marc yearns for a more satisfying arrangement, but for now, the present circumstances will do. After all, they do allow him to work toward the change he wants. That one essential change that will forever improve his life. And improve Maman.
Of course, Marc is aware that Julien is spying on him, reporting his every move to Maman. Perhaps she hopes that Julien will catch Marc speaking clandestinely.
The driver keeps his distance, as a servant should. In any case, Julien is somewhat stupid. The details of what Marc is up to are beyond him, and Marc is certain that even the notion that he may be up to something completely escapes the driver. Still, it’s best not to be too obvious. So, Marc makes a show of stopping at many booksellers’ stalls, perusing titles he has no interest in. He even buys a few random books and gives them to Julien to carry.
Eventually, though, Marc reaches the only stall that is truly of interest to him. The stall where all the dogs congregate. Not that Marc cares about dogs. Quite the opposite. Filthy things.
Julien isn’t looming too closely, but there’s no reason for him to overhear any portion of Marc’s business. Marc lowers the volume on his handheld to a discreet pitch. “Do you have them?”
“Yes, Marc. Here are the books you wanted.” Lucas foregoes chitchat, which Marc appreciates. Marc loathes unnecessary talk, and especially so in this case since Lucas speaks with a dreadful Canadian accent, distorting his vowels in embarrassingly ugly ways.
There are three volumes, none of which Marc suspected could exist until only a few weeks ago. Even on the internet, Marc could find nothing like them. Marc doesn’t really understand how these books came to exist. He suspects, somehow, that, if it hadn’t been for their recent conversation (via his handheld, of course) when he last shopped for books along the Seine, perhaps these books might not exist at all. A ridiculous notion, of course, and yet Marc can’t shake the thought. Lucas might sound like a congested duck, but he is a most interesting bookseller. Most interesting, indeed.
Marc hands over the outrageously high sum Lucas quoted him on his previous visit and is satisfied to see Maman’s money go toward such a good cause—a cause that she would never approve of were she even vaguely aware of Marc’s goals.
The following week, in lieu of silence, Docteur Sauvignon tries a different tactic. “I’ve read all the reports from your previous therapists and analyzed all of your test results. I’ve spoken to your mother, your driver, the entire house staff, your private tutors, and all your teachers from all the schools you so expertly managed to get expelled from.”
He pauses to observe Marc, obviously to see his reaction to that provocative final statement, the insinuation that Marc intentionally got himself expelled from all those schools. Of course he did. Only a moron would suspect otherwise. Marc doesn’t react.
Still looking at Marc, Sauvignon continues: “I’d like to understand you and your choices better. I want to help you. Maybe it’s not you who must change; perhaps it’s the attitude of those around you. Their attitude toward you.” He pauses, as if what he said could be of any importance to Marc. “I need to know about your experiences. Without your participation, how can I help you? How could I possibly make the people in your life understand what you need?”
Marc yawns. The silence was preferable to this inane blather.
“Perhaps everyone has been going about this all wrong. Perhaps the root cause of your refusal to speak is immaterial. Perhaps the notion of not speaking is essential to who you are. Perhaps speaking might be a betrayal of some essential aspect of your personality—something so primal about you that it might not even be possible to articulate.”
Sauvignon’s gaze is relentless during this speech of his. Marc is so surprised by the accuracy of the doctor’s insights that he is unable to conceal his unease. A subtle, prideful sliver of satisfaction crosses Sauvignon’s features.
The realization that Docteur Sauvignon is not as stupid as he first appeared does not please Marc. He will have to find a way to extricate himself from these sessions.
Marc has researched alchemy, resurrection, biology, anatomy, cybernetics, 3D printing technology, artificial life, robotics, cognition, anthropology, psychology, thaumaturgy, demonology, ritual magic, and any subject even remotely related to his project. He can get anything he wants. His mother is rich, and she never even glances at his books. She has no clue what he’s up to.
These books he’s acquired from the Canadian on the Seine fill the gaps in his knowledge. Marc knows he’s reading his new treasures too quickly. Some aspects of the texts still baffle him. He’s so excited at what these texts promise that he hops from volume to volume after only a few pages.
The Hacker’s Guide to Cryptolife.
Decoding Demon DNA in Blockchain Data Strings.
Bio-alchemical Secrets of the Various Sub-Species of Homunculus.
Soon, he’ll be ready. And this time, he’ll do it right. Not like that fiasco last year. It had been only a test run, so he hadn’t needed to involve Maman. Despite his misstep, she hadn’t discovered anything important. She had chastised him, but only as a matter of form. She didn’t really care that he’d fried the electrical at the chalet in Aquitaine. Since Papa’s death, she rarely went there anymore.
Papa had been such a non-entity anyway. Weak, unlike Maman. Marc could barely remember his face.
Maman is furious with Marc. It’s unusual for Maman to have such strong feelings about anything.
“How dare you lie about André? Docteur Sauvignon is a complete professional. He would never do would what you insinuated.”
Marc’s handheld says: “I did not accuse him of anything.”
“Don’t take me a for a fool, mon garçon. I’ve turned a blind eye for a long time, even played along with your charades, but perhaps I was never strict enough. You may be brilliant and very clever, but you are still merely a boy.”
It suddenly occurs to Marc that Maman and André Sauvignon have become lovers. How could he not have noticed this before now?
Marc taps words into his handheld and then, leering at her, points it at Maman: “Docteur Sauvignon will never replace Papa.”
She slaps him.
“You know nothing about adults, mon garçon. Don’t forget that I’m your mother.”
He glares at her. They never fight. Maman is usually so detached, so cool. Marc had even credited her with some limited intelligence—enough to earn at least a modicum of his respect, admiration, love. How could she demean herself by becoming intimate with that distasteful troll Sauvignon? Unacceptable.
“Docteur Sauvignon suggests that you go back to school, to be surrounded by children your own age. I agree. I’ve enrolled you at the lycée. You start next month, on the first Monday.”
Absolutely not, thinks Marc. That will not do. He will have to speed up his research and preparations. Soon, his dreams will become a reality. And no one will ever again tell him what to do or who to be or how he should change.
Marc wishes he had time for a test run, but he has waited long enough, and the situation is becoming intolerable. Since Maman realized that Marc knew about her liaison with the therapist, Sauvignon has been spending nearly every night at the house. Marc spies on them with the webcam he hid in her room. The way Sauvignon paws at her is revolting. How can she stand to be touched by him? And, worse, the things she does to him with her mouth.
No no no. All this has to stop.
Everything is ready. The 3D printer has been programmed to search blockchain streams for hidden femunculus DNA strings. His homemade Cryptolife app has been encoded with all the correct bio-alchemical formulae. Only the 3D scanner sits empty. He checks his spycam. The adults are unconscious.
It was easy enough to spike the food, but Marc has to hurry before the effect wears off.
Marc goes into Maman’s bedroom. He extricates Maman from Sauvignon’s repulsive embrace. The two of them are only partially undressed. Before dragging her into his room, he removes the rest of Maman’s clothes.
She is so beautiful. Much too beautiful for the likes of Docteur Sauvignon. Yes, beautiful. And strong. Even unconscious, her face radiates strength. Marc admires Maman’s power. However, he needs her to be more compliant—and Maman will never be compliant. Not this iteration of Maman.
She is so svelte, but it’s a tremendous effort to drag her body. Marc winces every time he notices the cuts and bruises he’s inflicting on Maman’s perfect body—even if soon, none of that will matter. This body will be redundant, obsolete.
Finally, he shoves, all too inelegantly for Marc’s tastes, Maman’s body into the 3D scanner. Then, for security’s sake, he locks the door to his room.
He double-checks all the formulae, all the connections, all the preparations. He resists the urge to triple-check. He can’t risk having Maman or Sauvignon wake up before he completes his project. He wants to savor the moment, but the result is too important to risk failure.
Marc activates the femunculus project.
The scanner starts to hum and blue light reads Maman, uploading her data. Marc’s computer screen goes dark for a few seconds, then on the black background, streams of code in white characters Marc cannot recognize scroll too rapidly to scrutinize.
After five minutes of this, Marc becomes worried. He has no idea how long this might take. He had supposed, naively perhaps, that it would be nearly instantaneous.
A loud bang startles Marc.
“You little pervert! You drugged us! I know you have her in there! What are you doing to her? You think I haven’t seen this before? You think you’re special? Unique? Better? You’re not the only sociopath who wants to fuck his mother.”
Marc turns up the volume of his handheld so the doctor can hear him through the door. “Not a very professional way to speak to your patient, Docteur.”
“Quit stalling and open this door, or I’ll call the police.”
Another loud bang. And another. Sauvignon is trying to knock the door down.
While Marc is thinking about how to placate the doctor, he notices that all his equipment has gone dark, as if it were shut off.
No no no. I’m so close. This has to work. It has to work now!
Another loud bang and the door starts to give. The printer comes to life. It makes eerie loud screeching noises that fill Marc with terror.
“What’s going on in there?” Another loud bang. Unmistakably, worryingly, the wood of the door cracks.
Marc’s breath catches; his heart skips; his hands shake. It could take the printer hours to complete the job, and the door might not hold much longer. He tries to calm himself, to tamp down the mounting panic attack.
And right then, the printer stops.
The printer case opens. For a moment, nothing happens. Everything is silent. Even Sauvignon.
The femunculus stumbles out, belching and farting.
She is so tiny, roughly the size of a cat, but humanoid, with grey skin, giant breasts, a huge yellow-toothed mouth that seems impossibly bigger than her minuscule head, a throbbing bright-red vulva, and hips almost twice as wide as her shoulders.
If the rite worked, the femunculus should be imprinted with Maman. It should want to feed on Maman—in order to become Maman. A new, better Maman. An unaging, ever-perfect Maman, with the same strength and intelligence but designed to be utterly compliant to Marc’s wishes. The ideal Maman—the Maman Marc has always wanted, always needed, always deserved.
A loud crash. Sauvignon grunts in pain. The door is about to give.
Driven by bio-alchemical instinct, the femunculus finds Maman. Wasting no time, the tiny artificial creature chomps hungrily on her. With each rapid bite, the transformation—or, rather, the transfer—deepens.
Bite by bite, the old Maman vanishes, and the new Maman takes shape.
The door finally gives, and Sauvignon crashes to the floor with the shattered wood. He looks up and witnesses the ritual. “Vivianne? Vivianne!” Sauvignon rushes the femunculus before Marc can do anything.
The femunculus growls at the doctor. Her face somewhat resembles Maman’s now. But savage, deformed, twisted, wrathful. The ritual has been interrupted. The transmogrification is incomplete. The purity of the femunculus’s task has been tainted.
The creature’s maw opens monstrously wide and gobbles the doctor’s entire head, the creature’s crooked yellow teeth clamping down like a vise on Sauvignon’s neck.
For the first time ever, Marc speaks, although only a heartbroken whisper, a French syllable that no one notices or hears. “Non.”
The spell is broken—utterly, totally broken.
Marc watches in despair as the femunculus finishes consuming the bodies of both Maman and Sauvignon, leaving a mess of gore.
The resulting creature—part demon, part Sauvignon, part Maman—is a patchwork of gigantically deformed sexual characteristics, grotesquely misplaced facial features, and gnarly, uneven limbs.
“The little boy wanted to enslave us. Stupid, pretentious little boy.”
The creature talks with a strange echo, as if many voices were speaking near-simultaneously. Marc can discern a hint of Maman’s voice in the cacophony.
Laughing, the creature flees with surprising speed and agility.
Marc again whispers that one syllable: “Non.”
When the police finally come, Marc is again silent. They press him with questions, but he doesn’t even try to speak or to reach for his handheld.
The police find the remains of the mostly consumed bodies. The case is never solved. The boy, deemed mentally unfit after multiple examinations, becomes a ward of the state. His family fortune grants him a private room with the best possible care.
Marc never interacts with anyone. He spends his days on the internet, scanning for news. Sometimes he finds reports of sightings and attacks that he knows—from telltale details—are about the creature. His creature.
When he comes across these reports, Marc smiles, too subtly for his keepers to notice.