The details “grisly”, the people “lunatic”, the results, “magnetic”.
© 1978 Russell H. Greenan
St Martin’s Press USA 1978
Jacket design: Terry Fehr
“Ouch!” Osgood cried. “That hurt. What are you going to do? I thought we were friends, Nigel. What are you going to do?”
“Can’t you guess, boy? Why, I’m going to bring you in here to join me, that’s what I’m going to do. Won’t that be nice? Of course your body may not fit, being a bit bulky, but your head should come through all right.”
“No...no! It won’t. It can’t. The bars are too close together.” Osgood protested, a distinct note of dread in his voice.
“Rubbish,” said the lunatic, beginning to tug in earnest. “the space is more than adequate—five or six inches, I’d estimate. If anything, it’s your head that’s the wrong size. It’s altogether too swollen, too fat. And your skull is too damned thick, into the bargain. Still, since it doesn’t house anything—no brain to speak of—it ought to compress fairly easily. All that’s required is a certain amount of strenuous pulling and hauling on my part, and a modicum of patience and fortitude on yours. ‘Never complain, never explain,’ Disraeli used to say. Once we’re past the lumpy part, it should glide through like a thing on wires.”
“No—you’re hurting me, Nigel. It won’t fit, I tell you.”
“Of course it won’t. Not if you’re going to wriggle about that way. Please exhibit some manliness, otherwise it will be quite impossible for me to do the job neatly.”
By this time the unyielding bars were pinching Osgood’s crown like the jaws of a vise. “Stop!” he bawled frantically. “Stop, for chrissake. I never harmed you.”
“You never brought me my balloon, either. Vengeance, I’ve always thought, is one of the virtues. If not, why do we enjoy tragedy? Why does it purge us, eh? You forgot my balloon, Edward, so I’ve decided to use your head for a balloon. It isn’t orange but one can’t have everything, can one? After I wrench it off, clean it up a little and run a string through the nostrils, it should serve my purpose splendidly. I daresay it will float like a dirigible, too, being inflated with false promises and other types of hot air. Come along, now. Don’t be intransigent, boy.”
With each of the many taut filaments in Nigel’s straining hand making its poignant contribution, the pain in Osgood’s scalp was scarcely bearable. It was as if his flesh and hair were slowly, inexorably, being torn away. Yet agonizing as this torture was, the terrible pressure on the skull itself constituted an infinitely worse discomfort. And, since he could no longer see the barred opening, he was able to imagine that half his head had already been squeezed into the narrow gap, and that he could actually hear the splintering of bone and feel his brain disintegrating.