Orpheus & The Pearl – Nevermore
Print ISBN-13: 978-1-926912-04-2
Editor: Jodi Lee
Publisher: Belfire Press
Cover Price: $7.99 New Price!
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In our first “Duel” Novella Series release, we present the second print of Kim Paffenroth’s acclaimed Orpheus and the Pearl, paired with a new story from David Dunwoody titled Nevermore, or The Feast of Flesh.
Orpheus and the Pearl
In 1920 Massachusetts, Dr. Catherine MacGuire is mysteriously called to the home of the famous Dr. Wallston, to assist with some medical emergency that defies even his skill. The life-threatening problems she finds there have less to do with broken bodies than with warped souls, and it will take all her dedication as a healer to fix them.
Malcolm Witt died in his sleep at 11:07 PM. Four minutes later, his body rose and walked from the room. Malcolm watched it happen. And so begins 48 hours of a life-after-death struggle to save his friends, forgive his love, and put himself to rest, body and soul.
What they’re saying about Orpheus and the Pearl – Nevermore:
“This is absolutely worth your time and again I wish more publishers would offer books packed with a few novellas. Very well done all around.”
- ZombieMutts, Bricks of the Dead Review & Bricks of the Dead – Interview with Kim Paffenroth
“Paffenroth’s story evokes some of that old world charm, as a horrific affliction is shown against a quaint backdrop. It’s the whole juxtaposition of the prim and proper engaging in macabre acts…All in all, it’s a good little story. Something off the beaten path from the onslaught of gory depictions of the undead… If you like tales of the undead with a strong emotional core, this might be the kind of story you’ll want to check out.”
- Gef Fox, Skull Salad Reviews
“Ghost stories tend to have a very familiar quality to them, which is likely due to ghost being the longest surviving horror tropes going–older than even the genre itself. So when an author can come along and offer something a bit different from the norm, and not bungle it, that’s a rare treat. David Dunwoody offers one such story with Nevermore.”
- Gef Fox, Skull Salad Reviews
Excerpt of Orpheus and The Pearl:
He looked at her steadily, his head slightly tilted down. Unlike most men his age, he did not wear eyeglasses, and Catherine had to catch herself and blink, to break her reverie on how beautiful were his hazel eyes – so full, not just of intellect, but of emotion. And right now, that emotion was one of an oppressive sadness and resignation. “No, you flatter me, Dr. MacGuire. It is true that I have much knowledge of many physical afflictions and how to cure or treat them, more knowledge than most any man of our age, more knowledge than any man has ever before had. Perhaps, I fear, more knowledge than any man should have.” He sighed again. “What a strange thought. Do you think that possible… to have too much knowledge of how to cure our afflictions?”
Catherine sat, unblinking, for a moment. The question was as odd and unexpected as this whole errand. “We are doctors. We have taken an oath to do good and never harm to our patients.”
“Quite so. My point exactly. What if there are afflictions that are for our own good?”
Catherine craned her neck forward. She sincerely hoped the conversation did not get any odder. Though many would call her choice of profession the height of impracticality, she was, at her core, an imminently commonsensical and anchored person, not given to such metaphysical flights as the doctor now seemed to be proposing. “I don’t think that is for us to judge, doctor. If most people in our society deem something a mental or physical evil, then we must do everything to alleviate it.”
He nodded and frowned slightly. “Yes, I was afraid you would say that. Afraid, because it is by following that line of reasoning that I have reached this current impasse. I alleviated what most people agree is a very great affliction, perhaps the greatest evil of all, only to find that the cure brought a host of other pains and sorrows. And that is why I have called you, for these new forms of pain are not purely physical, and therefore they are far outside my expertise.”
“They are of a mental nature then, doctor?”
“Yes, though I believe you sell your expertise short, doctor. I asked you to come here because you have studied psychology, especially psychoanalysis and the new theories and practices of Dr. Freud, theories with which I am unfamiliar, for illnesses far different than I am prepared to cure or even acknowledge. I can repair most any injury to the nerves or the brain, and therefore, so far as we know, most any damage to the mind. A stroke, paralysis, memory loss, epilepsy, seizures – I’ve cured all of them, even the most severe cases, with surgery and drugs. No, Dr. MacGuire, I fear the problems I now face are matters of the soul, and your science claims, after all, to heal the soul. Unless you think that too extravagant a claim? Do you not believe in the soul?”
The conversation had now gone from being odder than Catherine had imagined it might be, all the way to being odder than Catherine could imagine a conversation being. “I’m afraid I don’t understand, doctor. If you have a patient who requires psychoanalysis, I will do everything I can to help that person. I am quite sure, however, that matters of religion or belief have no place in this discussion or in the treatment of disease.”
Dr. Wallston smiled ever so slightly at her, those beautiful, sad eyes still fixed on hers, and she felt the tickling on the back of her neck that one gets at such approval and interest when they are welcomed and mutual. “Well, there was a time when I surely would’ve agreed with you on religion’s irrelevance, but now I am not so sure.” He paused, then slid a sheaf of papers across the desk toward her and handed her a Waterman pen. “Regardless of religion’s relevance, however, I am afraid that the relevance of the merely human law is beyond debate or discussion. This is your contract for your services here. I think you will find it generous, and, despite the necessary legal language, fairly straightforward.”
Catherine picked up the papers and skimmed them as quickly as she could. As the doctor had said, it was fairly straightforward, in that the stipulations were few and clearly stated. The content of those stipulations, however, surprised her. The main point seemed to be that she was never, under pain of law, to divulge or discuss what she saw or did at the estate. She didn’t know what to make of this, but she didn’t know how to ask about it, either. And the far greater surprise was the matter of payment. She looked up at the doctor from behind the papers. “Doctor, there must be some mistake with the contracted payment. Perhaps a simple matter of an extra zero?”
He smiled a little more broadly at her. “No, Dr. MacGuire. If you can, in fact, help me with this patient, then that will be a small enough sum, weighed against the nearly priceless benefit you will have brought to me.” After she signed, he took back the papers and stood. “It is, however, late in the afternoon, and I have several other things to which I must attend. Romwald will show you to your room in the west wing and bring you dinner later. Please feel free to go about the grounds in front of the house, but I must ask you not to enter the gardens behind the house, nor the main building, until tomorrow morning after nine o’clock.” He walked over to the door and opened it for her. “Thank you again for coming, Dr. MacGuire.”
Excerpt of Nevermore:
His first awareness was of the fact that he was dead.
It was a simple truth, and he could not articulate in his thoughts how he knew, except that he knew he was nothing but thought. There was no sensation. The darkness of sleep had given way to a storm of white light, light he wasn’t really seeing so much as he was being permeated by it. What substance he had was less than a mote, and the light had absorbed him.
He knew he was dead, but he didn’t know where he was, or if here was even a place. There was no point of reference, no sense of orientation. Maybe he didn’t exist in places anymore. Maybe he was reduced to something that had no fixture in any dimension. Maybe he had joined a great nothing.
But the light was there, and it was real, and then there came a dull sense of something behind the light, a rising cacophony that unsettled his awareness. He couldn’t concentrate on whatever it was, couldn’t discern its nature or source. All was chaos. If he could have, Malcolm would have screamed.
No senses. No body. He was suddenly keenly aware of the lack of Malcolm. No prickling flesh, no tired bones, no pulsing veins or swelling lungs. There was no pounding heart or surging adrenaline. He supposed that was why he felt so still despite his utter confusion.
But that thrumming chaos was building around him, and unease was growing in his being. It was a discordant sea of sound—sound! It was sound he perceived, vibrations bombarding him from every direction, as with the light. The sound of the living world. He had it now: a ticking clock. The settling building. The changing pressure in the walls. Mites scrabbling through carpet fibers. And falling rain.
He focused on the rain, giving him a point of reference. Rain on the roof overhead. Slowly but surely, those less significant noises retreated into the background. It felt like he was really hearing the rain now. And the particles of light about him began to fade.
His mental focus was giving him sight now. He recognized the outlines of his bedroom. His perspective was at eye level, as if he still had eyes in a head on a body. And, though his focus was narrowing, he sensed that he had a full 360-degree view of the room, if he wanted it. Malcolm wondered at it all. If he’d been screaming, the scream would have died, and been replaced by a gentle, disbelieving laugh.
He was at the foot of his bed, and there before him lay his dead body.
The clock read nine past eleven. He wondered how long he had been dead. Time seemed as alien to him now as gravity or temperature. As alien as the sack of flesh lying prone on the bed. For the first time he saw himself as others must have. His still-clothed body lay atop the covers, and he was able to appraise its form without relating it to himself.
There were jowls, which formed with his head propped up on the pillows, and settled against a neck that he’d thought was thick but seemed slight and frail beneath that bloated head. His hair was big and messy and sat on his scalp like a toupee. He’d had beautiful eyelashes, at least, and nice hands. One lay to the left of his head, palm turned upward, fingers half-closed.
Malcolm studied his dead face. It was pale, waxy. Reminded him of something, or someone. His former skin glistened with shrinking beads of sweat. He couldn’t have been gone long.