III. The Chatan

25 Nov

Diaema, the capital and metropolis of Provincia, was a city of cement, concrete, and betonic compounds. The offices, stores, monuments, and residences were mostly made of stone and rock in varied forms. Even the windows were of processed silicon sand.

Equine traffic of all kinds filled the busy streets and boulevards.

Stylish men and women rode proudly in luxurious coaches and hansoms drawn by chevalot horses.

Gas heating and night lights were nearly universal throughout the vast city.

Electricity was a rarely used form of energy, too costly to compete with its magnetic rival.

Government buildings, solid and formidible, took up most of the central district. Trade, merchandising, and business pursuits occupied the ring around this core.

The inhabitants of the city, both the minority of diploids with two forms and the majority with only one, were ambitous and energetic people. Identification of bifold individuals through their human shape was not at all an easy thing to do. Outside appearance was not a good sign of the sort of person one was, single or double.

Diploids preferred to conceal their secondary stage and appear in human form when in public. The cultural norm remained the outwardly human. That was the preferred way to be.

Alpheus and Electra accepted the need to suppress as much as possible Electra’s harpine secondary nature. It was the customary way to live in Diaema.

Within a year, there was a second shop and a first child. The father took his wife by horse ambulance to the sanative hospital where midwives delivered a baby girl. Electra lay in a recovery hammock, the little one sleeping in an ajacent crib. The mother appeared surprisingly strong and awake for all her pains. She had a matter to discuss in private with her husband.

“I’ve decided what we should name her, Alpheus. My grandmother was very close to me and taught me many things before she died. There can be no better cognomen for our first child than Clotho. Isn’t it beautiful?”

He immediately felt his head swim. Almost instinctively, opposition arose within him.

“That should not be determined too swiftly. There is plenty of time for a name, dear.”

Electra seemed to sense a problem, one that would grow in the future.

“I can think of no substitute for Clotho. For me, it is impossible to conceive of some other name. No, this baby must become a Clotho. I will never call her anything but that. Nothing else will do. She shall always own that name in my mind.”

The two looked at each other with a coolness that had never been there before.

Alpheus tried to change the subject to his expanding herbal business.

“Several people have applied with letters for the position I advertised for in the medical journals. It is impossible for me to continue without a managerial assistant with considerable experience in the trade. There has been a flood of candidates for the job. In the coming year, we shall be opening a third pharmacy. I need a competent helper by my side to help carry the heavy load of work.”

“That is clearly the truth,” said his wife in a vibrant voice. “We need an individual who has a strong interest in the nervine materials that calm and tranquilize the brains of the mentally ailing. That will be the area of coming advancement and development. The person you decide upon must stand together with us on the ground of botanical remedies.”

Electra gave him a glowingly brilliant smile, then continued. “That is the key to becoming a successful business for us. If the strategy works, we will become a major firm on the medical stage.”

“I intend to devote all my time and energy to our growth, my love. The prospect before us is breathtaking.” He took her hand in his and held it gently.

“And tiny Clotho can grow up to become an important participant in our company, Alpheus. You and I must teach her all that we have learned from life.”

No more opposition to the name she had chosen came from him. In a few minutes, he departed from his wife and the baby who came to be called Clotho.

Seated behind his deodar desk, Alpheus watched the brawny, lantern-jawed aspirant enter the office and sit down. This robust, virile young man was the one who went by the name of Tugau. He had short straw-colored hair and chatoyant eyes of bright copper. There was the look of a tiger or cat about him.

Alpheus began to question the candidate with personal inquiries.

“Tell me, what first brought you into the field of botanic medicine?”

The answer came as if it had previously been prepared and rehearsed by Tugau.

“My father owned a small plantation in the highlands near Diaema. He started to grow pharmaceutic herbs on the side. This expanded until it became his dominant concentration of work and effort. When he died, our farm had become a major supplier for urban practitioners. That has been so ever since: our farms produce herbal cures and remedies for all Provincia.

“I decided to become a botanic who directly treated patients. To accomplish that, I came to the city and spent years as apprentice in a number of dispensaries. That is the story of my life in this field , sir.”

Alpheus studied him closely. “But why is it you wish to be my assistant manager?”

“My main interest lies in the area of nervine preparations used to treat cases of stress and anxiety. Mental disorder and nervous tension have to be considered major problems that need progress in healing with plants. I see your pharmacy as in the forefront of advancing medicine, sir. My ambition is to take part in the progress foreseeable ahead.”

The older man smiled. “Your attitude is most encouraging. Are you familiar with the most commonly used herbal medicines for anxiety and depression?”

Tugau was able to think and answer speedily. “I have myself prepared rosemary and kola nut powder as antidepressants. For more serious mental anxiety, I have prescribed lemon balm and vervain. The nervously exhausted were given withania by me. When I faced a patient with severe mental illness, my reliance has been on water hysop and codonopsis. But I wish to explore beyond these common remedies. My dream is to go beyond what was achieved in the past. That is the hope that inspires me.”

He paused to study Alpheus a moment, then went on. “There are scores of substances I would like to study with you in my spare time. I see no need to go beyond plant medicinals. Why take the risks involved with metals and minerals? Centuries of experience teach us that folk traditions of herbal treatment contain all the therapies that will ever be needed.

“For every illness, there is some leaf or plant, according to popular legend. So believed the countless generations before us. Why should anyone doubt the wisdom of the botanic tradition? The way of nature is the sole road to health and well-being.”

Alpheus, all at once, made a momentous decision.

“My own thinking runs in the very same direction. I can, at this time, tell you that my choice for the job is made. Will you be my assistant and day-to-day manager, Tugau? I would be proud to have an idealist like you at my side.”

“Of course, sir,” said the other with surprise on his face.

“It is you, then. Come with me, I want to introduce you to my family. They are in the residential part of the building. Follow me there.”

Electra had an internal hyperesthesia that made her extremely sensitive to the cardinal, though secret, traits of those she met for the first time.

At once she recognized a disturbing quality about the newly hired assistant pharmacist. But it was impossible for her, at the time, to define what was troublesome about Tugau.

The latter grinned warmly as Alpheus introduced his wife.

“Are you from the coastal highlands, Madam? There is something in your accent that tells me that you are. I myself come from the upper forest along the sea.”

“No, I am an islander. There has been a great amount of cross-migation over the ages. It is hard to be too definitive about what region a person may come from only by accent and dialect. Our speech can be a misleading indicator of past population movements.”

“What was your island of birth, may I ask?” he persisted.

“Isle of the Harpines,” she softly declared.

Alpheus spoke at that point. “Where is Clotho? She will be glad to meet the person chosen to work at my side.”

Electra turned to her husband. “I just saw her go to the fun room to play.”

“Fine. I’ll take Tugau there and show him our extraordinary five-year old.”

Before the mother could say anything, the two males were making their way down the corridor to the special chamber where the daughter exercised her rich imagination in make-believe and play.

“Clotho is an exceptional child,” boasted Alpheus as they reached the door to the room. “Her intelligence permitted us to teach her to read at four. You will be surprised at her precocious achievements. She is a wonder to behold.”

As the proud father opened the door, the two saw the child sitting on a stool with a large folio volume open in its lap. She looked up and grinned. “Father!”

Once her velvety eyes spotted the stranger, her smile vanished.

“I want you to meet the man who is going to be my assistant, Clotho. Come over here and let me introduce you to Tugau. You will be seeing him often from now on.”

The girl placed the folio, still open, on the floor and slowly stepped forward as if reluctant to do so. She avoided looking directly at the large man she did not know.

“Do not be fearful of me, little lady,” murmured the stranger. “I shall soon be your good friend. We two can become like members of the same family. You like to read? What kind of books are our favorites?”

At first, Clotho spoke shyly, but then with increasing confidence in herself. “I like tales of high adventure from other times. Before the world we are in today. I enjoy learning about things we don’t see ourselves. Faraway places are so interesting! I am especially thrilled when I read about animals. I try to remember all I can about each kind, so that if I meet one for the first time, I will know what it is and what it is called.”

Smiling, Tugau looked at her with astonishment.

“That is amazing, Clotho. My own favorite literature also consists of stories about what is unknown to me. Could I lend you some of the books I’ve had since my own childhood? I grew up in the hilly high country and my early fascination was with the myths of that region. Would you enjoy seeing some of my early readings?”

She replied with a bashful nod of the head.

Alpheus then made a suggestion. “Let me show you the repository where I keep our herbal supplies,” he proposed.

Soon Clotho was again alone in her private fun room. Her thoughts were a mixture of vague apprehension and hopeful joy. Could this brawny herbalist reveal new natural wonders to her? She was intrigued by his claim to have books with fabulous legends in them.

Tugau helped expand the fortunes of the Gallipot Company, making Alpheus happy. The market for both old and new medicinals grew ever greater. Feverfew and pereira bark were wanted for high fever. Ergot was used for high blood pressure. Soapstone and cullay treated dysentary. Papavarine cured muscle spasms, while hellebore was used for internal catharsis.

The curiosity of the new assistant led him to prescribe heliotrope as a sedative as well as rhodella as a calmative. It was Tugau who started using the herb called cat’s claw as an anti-inflamatory.

After two years of unbroken success with the new man, Apheus invited him to move into the back area of the residence. What had been a storage area was converted into an apartment for the managing assistant. Tugau now took all his meals with the family. The barriers between him and the others vanished completely. Their relationships became close and informal.

Eight-year old Clotho, attending a girls’ academy not far from home, devoted much of her spare time to reading the many volumes that Tugau brought with him. She learned about the dipsas, a snake whose bite made a victim eternally thirsty. Did any such creature ever exist in reality? she asked the assistant. He could not say yes or no to her, only an enigmatic “maybe”. The young girl found that so funny that she laughed a long time at him.

She cringed at the stories about the chimera. Could any such animal be part lion, part snake, and part goat? How was that monstrosity possible? It would be called a trifold, with three different forms, he answered her. But primarily it was a she-goat with two other shapes it could change into at different times. That was how he cleverly explained it to Clotho.

She grew fascinated with the monsters of ancient legend.

Who had ever seen a griffin with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion?

Tugau, alone with her in the fun room, answered with a wide grin. “Who can deny that a biform is more reasonable and possible than a triform or a multiform? Such a double being could be classified as diploid in nature.”

The girl turned her curiosity to monsters of the sea. Could a hippocampus possess the head and forelegs of a horse but also have the tail of a dolphin? Clotho wanted desperately to know, but got no definite reply from her informal instructor on such subjects.

She was ten when she delved into the possibility of creatures half human and half wild animal. Could a person like herself have a bifold or diploid nature with two varied forms to it? She showed Tugau a book with an illustration of an entity with the head, arms, and torso of a man, but with the legs of a horse. He placed his right index finger on the drawing.

“Notice how the two forms here exist simultaneously. It would be a true diploid only if the creature was to go from its animal form to a fully human one, or from the completely human shape to one that was nothing but a horse. Do you see what I am getting at? At any one moment of time, it is either the one or the other, but not a mixture of the two opposites.”

He noticed that she lowered her head as if despondent.

“There is some evidence that the centaurs that puzzle you so much were the originators of the botanic science that deals with medicinal herbs. There exits a rare herb called the centaury. Legend has it that a centaur discovered its value, thus taking the first step forward into our field of study. So, that means that your father and I, along with all herbalians, owe a debt to a double creature, but one different from most of the others. The centaur has two forms at the very same time, unlike what I term a genuine diploid.”

She was unable to say another word, but only giggled.

After brief study of a half-man, half-bull called the bucentaur, Clotho concentrated on the riddle of the sphinx. She found that a human woman could be one part of a monster. The legendary being had a female head, face, and breasts, but the torso of a lion. It destroyed anyone unable to answer the riddle it posed. The name of sphinx meant “the strangler” in ancient times, referring to the method it used on its victims. Only when a great human hero solved the riddle was the monster defeated. In shame, the sphinx strangled itself. Clotho found this tale so humorous that she was for a time unable to stop laughing, forcing Tugau to do the same.

“But we cannot call a sphinx a true diploid,” he managed to tell her at the end.

By the age of twelve, these therianthropic combinations dominated the free time of the brilliant, precocious girl. She studied mermaids, mermen, and tritons of the sea, as well as the frightening satyrs of the forests. Could a supernatural spirit take a semi-human form? she asked Tugau. Goat legs, horns, and pointed ears were the marks of the evil, lecherous satyr, a danger to human women. It was a puzzle to Clotho that Tugau had to solve for her again, as he had done before.

In time, she came to enter freely the apartment of her father’s assistant. Clotho took book after book to read from Tugau’s collection. She was thirteen when she came upon an old folio that described and presented the legend of the lamia and the harpine.

The harpine! She recalled that her mother had come to the city of Diaema from the Isle of the Harpines. There might be some connection to that island in the book, she supposed. Clotho took it and immediately went on a hunt for what she wanted to know. In the former fun room, she started to peruse the folio. This work was the most absorbing she had ever read. The creature described was credible to her. Why could it not exist as an actuality?

The original Lamia was an island queen whose children were stolen from her by a jealous female rival. In revenge, the queen changed into a murderous monster with a woman’s head, face, and breasts, but the body of a great snake. The word lamia came to signify an abyssmal mouth that devoured and swallowed its enemies alive. Legend had it that an entire race of such creatures arose, luring innocent children away from home and sucking out all their blood.

The illustrations of a lamia disgusted but mesmerized the curious thirteen-year old girl.

In the back of the folio she came upon description of the harpine. Her mother had never told her anything specific about that particular being for whom the island had been named.

Clotho delved into the fascinating material. Early harpines were body-snatchers who stole young boys and girls from their parents in order to eat them alive. The description was of hideously filthy winged horrors with a woman’s head and trunk above the tail, legs, and talons of a monstrous bird of unbelievable size. It sought to get at the soul of men by eating off their physical bodies first. How horrifying! thought the young reader. But an unseen force drew her to read on. It was horrendous and frightening material, but profoundly interesting to her.

Turning a page of the folio, Clotho saw something she never expected. Her memory received a violent jolt. It seemed to her as if a bolt of stormy lightning had struck her. She had no explanation for what she experienced.

A drawing of a harpine, with both head and body visible, lay open before her. The face had a strange familiarity to it. Her mother’s features, as well as some of her own, were recognizable. It all came to her in a flash. There was an uncanny resemblance of lines and markings. Electra was clearly visible in the monstrous face, and so was she herself.

What did that mean? How significant was the similarity of features? she wondered.

Clotho decided to read no more for a time. That was enough, it was more than enough.

All the experiments that the assistant conducted were carried out by himself.

He chewed coca leaves to measure their effect as an anesthetic, but also as a stimulant in large dosages. From poppyseed oil he extracted codeia and morphia to see what they would do to his thinking, both awake and asleep. His dreams became wildly uninhibited as these substances came to affect him.

The kava nut, piper methysticum, put Tugau into a long, deep stupor. The passion flower did not prove very strong. His experience with damiana was a joyeous one. Sources described its aphrodisial and thymoleptic characteristics. He felt both of these in his mind and body. Anxiety disappeared entirely, replaced by exuberance and excitement. But that was not what he was after.

His innermost drives compelled him to investigate further.

Tugau next chose to use datura on himself. His books warned that in large amounts it could lead to hallucinations that were close to madness. But he had no fear of trying out the thornapple leaves with that substance in them. What could datura do to harm him? he thought. It could relax all his muscles and release his mind for far flights of thinking. Gradually, he built up to a high enough dosage to reveal its full power.

He brought a vial of datura to his apartment and slowly digested it lying on his settle bed. Unusual dreams began that night. It was unprecedented both in violence and illumination. He had never had visions like that before.

The scene he experienced in his deep unconscious was one set in a tropical forest with thick dark trees on all sides, stretching upwards into a cerulean sky. From behind a yellow-green bush emerged an indestinct shape. Soon it could be identified as a giant feral cat. These had once inhabited many wooded areas of the highlands, but the numbers had been reduced through centuries of hunting them down.

Eternal eyes gazed out of the head, catching everything in all directions. Nothing was missed by this wild cat of the mountains. What category of felid did it belong to? he wondered.

Am I imagining that I dream, or am I actually experiencing a herbally generated reality? Does this feral cat see and notice me? Am I within the focus of its own consciousness?

Perhaps it is the cat that is dreaming, and it sees an imagined image of myself.

I am not the important one in this hallucination. No, it is the cat that is the central fact. Without the felid, there would not be this dream. The animal is not a mere phantasm. It is an existent being with greater reality to it than I have when asleep and dreaming. Maybe it exists in a truer way than I ever have. If that is so, then I am merely a thought of that untamed cat. That would mean that I only have my own life as the product of an animal’s dream. It could awaken and I would no longer think, see, hear, or even live. Wouldn’t that be something?

Instantly, it all came to an end and Tugau woke up from his troubled sleep.

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. An eerie happiness filled him. I shall have to analyze what I saw, or think that I saw.

This strange dream is going to change the rest of my life, something told him.

At the age of fourteen, Clotho graduated from the girl’s academy.

Both of her parents grew concerned about her further education. Each of them questioned her about what she wanted. What were her plans and ambitions?

Alpheus talked with his daughter in the privacy of his apothecary office.

“What do you foresee for yourself, my dear?” he asked her after the two of them sat down on opposite sides of his work desk. “If you have decided upon your ambition for the future, then we can choose what educational institution to enrol you in. What do you think?”

She spoke immediately, without hesitation.

“I believe that botanic medicine interests me more than anything else can. That is the career that I dream of, father.”

The latter was unable to conceal his happiness at hearing these words from her.

“Good,” he grinned. “What you say warms my heart.”

“And I think that the best training for me would be as a junior apprentice here at the Gallipot. I have already learned much through reading and watching. It would be simple and easy to begin work in remedy preparation. There are hundreds of volumes here that I can study in my spare time and in the evening. What do you say, father? I will not have to leave home at all. I can just continue studying right here.”

Alpheus rose from his chair and approached her.”I have no objections. It is an ingenious idea. But let me discuss it with your mother first. She must be allowed to give her opinion.”

“That’s right, father,” said Clotho. She had no fear that her mother might object to the plan to become an apprentice in the pharmacy. The two of them were going to remain together along with her father. And Tugau, as well.

For over a year, Tugau had been experimenting on himself with ever stronger hallucingens. In every instance, he envisioned a wild forest cat that absorbed his own identity in itself. Was he melting into the dreamed animal? This riddle vexed him, month after month. Then, by chance, the foundation of a possible explanation came to him. It occurred at an outdoor book fair.

A short distance from the Gallipot stood a large open square where peddlers and merchants sold their wares. Tugau was out for a walk with the now sharply curious Clotho. She was first to spot the stacks of volumes on the stone surface of the public thoroughfare. “Let us stop here and have a look, Tugau,” she said in a chirping tone. “We may be lucky and find some hidden treasure in the piles of folios.”

The two went over to where a seller in dark country clothing stood overlooking his offerings. Clotho began examining the titles on front covers, putting back whatever seemed of no interest.

All of a sudden, she thrust one particular small book at her companion.

“Look at this, Tugau. It may ring some bell for you.”

He took the slim volume and read the soiled title on the front cover.

“A Highland Bestiary” it succinctly said.

An instant decision resulted. “I’ll purchase it for both of us,” he told her. “We could both learn something from it.”

Indeed, that afternoon Tugau poured through the book after the two of them returned home to the Gallipot. The section on mountain felids was where he concentrated attention. A short paragraph near the end was the place he discovered what he had been after for so long. It was what he had longed and hungered to find out.

“An ancient highland legend centered on wild torbie cats is that of a double called the chatan. It was for ages believed in many places that certain bloodlines of humans had the capability of passing out of dreams and existing as a wild torbie. Some such chatans evolved into lynxes, others into servels, ocelets, and margays. The felid stage of the biform was temporary, ending when the dream did.”

Tugau looked away in wonder and amazement. Was that what was happening in his experiments with hallucogens? Did he happen to have the blood of chatans in him? Had the herbal compounds only sparked a potental already within him at birth? This mystery consumed him.

He knew that a small fraction of the population in Provincia had a diploid nature with two different forms. There was a human primus, but also a non-human secundus. Two forms of life but the same overall entity. There was no question in his mind that the double beings existed.

Was he one of them, with the bloodlines of the ancient chatan? Was there a feral cat hidden within himself? Could that be the meaning of his dreams?

It was clear to Tugau that he was not the first individual to undergo metamorphosis into a large torbie cat. There was evidence of the phenomenon in the distant past. Perhaps it had disappeared for a long time. But now, it appeared, the chatan was reborn. Perhaps this was due to his use of potent botanicals. His double identity grew into a firmly held opinion.

I must not allow Clotho to read this, he told himself. It took only a second for him to tear out the page with the alarming paragraph. If she looked into the folio, the absence of one sheet should not arouse her suspicion.

It was best she knew nothing of his diploid nature. More exploration of the chatan cat stage was needed before he dared talk of it to her.

Tugau resolved to import more mental herbals from other countries. What would their effects on his character as biformed be? It is not easy to be diploid, he said to himself.

Electra spoke candidly to her husband. She did not think it a good idea that her only child stay at home and learn the craft of botanics from Alpheus. It would be better for her to go outside for professional training. Clotho should not become a stay-at-home.

“Why must we shelter her from the inhabitants of Diaema?” argued the mother. “There will come a day when we will no longer be here to protect her. How will she be able to meet others her age unless she attends some school away from home.”

Alpheus looked surprised. “You want to place her in a boarding school?”

“If there is no good alternative, then that must be the answer,” replied his wife. “She must not become a prisoner in our home nest. It is not good to shelter the girl too much.”

The pair looked blankly at each other for a while. Finally, Electra spoke.”I have to talk frankly with her. What does she truly wish to become?”

The mother went to the reading and study room that her daughter had set up and furnished for herself. It had once been the fun and play room. Volumes collected over time filled shelves that Tugau had made for his young friend.

Dare Electra say all that she had for so long kept hidden from Clotho?

How does one tell an only child of her diploid essence and the possible hazards connected to that brutal fact? How does one speak of such a sensitive matter?

Opening the door, she found her daughter seated in a sofa chair with a book in her lap. Clotho looked up, saying “Mother, what is it?”

“I want to talk with you about…your future, my dear.”

“Come in and sit down,” said the reader, closing the volume and placing it on a small stand.

Once her mother was comfortably seated, Clotho took the initiative.

“I have chosen to stay at home as a beginning apprentice. Father has hinted to me that you are opposed to the idea. Is that why you came to see me?”

An understanding smile crossed th face of Electra. It was an indulgent, diplomatic one.

“I merely wish to reveal the reasons for my thinking that way. Isn’t that the fair and right thing for me to do? There is no alternative to complete candor on my part. Up to now, certain facts have not been told to you. Very important facts. Your age and sensitivity prevented disclosure of these things by either me or your father. But at this particular crossroads in your life, it is best that the matter be presented in all its aspects. The repercusions for the future are enormous, my beloved.”

Clotho pursed her lips on one side. “You refer to our harpine ancestry, mother?”

The latter reddened all over in astonishment. For a time she was unable to say anything.

“Let me tell you how I came to know the truth,” said Clotho with a smile.

It took her only a minute or so to describe how she had read about bifold monsters of the distant past and come upon illustrations with the outline of the familiar family face, that of a harpine.

“That was enough to convince you what I am?”

“Yes, and what I am too, mother.”

The two women gazed into each other’s velvety eyes.

“I have inhibited and buried the danger within my mind,” confessed Electra. “It was not at all easy to do. I could not have succeeded without the steadfast support of your father. He gave me the strength to resist the inner harpine drive that occurs from time to time, even at my age. I owe everything to the aid he gives me without fail.

“But it is you I worry about. How can you meet young men if you work and live at home? I want you to marry as soon as it is possible, with someone who can be informed about our family stain and is willing to cooperate with you in restraining the forces we are cursed with. Do you understand me?”

Into the mind of Clotho suddenly flashed the image of Tugau. It was a sharp and clear one.

He was older than herself, yet with the potential to comprehend her diploid nature.

All at once she knew that what she felt for him was the same as what existed between her father and mother. It had been there a long time, unnamed and unrecognized by their child.

Was it realistic for her to project forward into her adult years the attraction toward the highlander who had taught her so much about so many things?

For a considerable time, the daughter said nothing, perplexing Electra. But all of a sudden, Clotho’s face and eyes glowed with enthusiasm.

“Yes, it is best I stay at home and deal with this thorny subject in conjunction with you and father. That is the only way that makes any sense to me. We have to be close together.”

And Tugau will be nearby, ready to help me, she thought to herself.

The city park along the Diadema River was filled with bluewood and yellowwood trees in vernal leaf. Picnicking couples sat on blankets and sheets in the open areas. Tugau led his companion, Clotho, along winding trails forming a maze where only a few ever walked.

The vegetation here was thick and leafy. Many shades of green were evident. The high voices of birdlings and nestlings begged to be fed, carrying far from the branches where they waited for mothers to bring them the materials of life.

Whose idea was their excursion? Clotho had first mentioned that there was an opportunity to see nature in bloom during the three-day holiday around Galactic Day. Placid quiet in the park away from the traditional pyrotechnics of the occasion, promised Tugau. She agreed that it would be a pleasure to circle the park with him.

Tugau wore a highland balmacaan coat of rough cloth with raglan sleeves extending up to the collar. On his head rested a flat pork pie hat. She had on a green spring mantelot and a yellow sunbonnet. For a long time, neither of them said a word. They looked a stylish couple indeed.

As they slowly moved along, Tugau began to express his connected musings.

“Nature is wonderfully beautiful when ordered and organized, as here in Diadema Park. And I can see no risks or gambles, as up in the wilds. One cannot expect a surprise encounter with the beastly or feral in this setting. That is why I like it so much.

“The only brutes one is apt to meet are human ones. Yet few of the citizens realize how near they are to primeval animal lfe. They do not know how wild they could become in a secondary form, under the appropriate circumstances. For are we not merely animals that have human minds and souls? Talking, intelligent animals and nothing more. Am I right or not?”

The eyes of Clotho, turning more velvety, gazed ahead at the unpaved path. What did his thoughts make her imagine in her own mind? Her double nature as a harpine? The two sides of her being? She was both one, but also two in one.

What is the true character of someone like me? she worried. Can the two planes of existence be reconciled, or will there always occur an internal war of the two sides? How can it ever be resolved?  What are the life possibilities for a diploid?

Tugau grew concerned about the silence of the young woman. “What are you thinking about so hard, Clotho?” he inquired.

She turned her head so that she could see him at a direct angle. “I was wondering about the same matter you were talking about just now. There were moments in my life when I felt a similar division happening to me.”

“A division? Tell me what that was,” he said with unexpected vehemence.

Tugau glanced at her a moment. Finding she was gazing at his face, he turned again to the path they were traversing. There was no one else but them about.

Clotho let out a pouring of dammed up emotions she had repressed a considerable time.

“I want to be one thing alone, good and worthy. But there is a feeling within me that I am a hypocrite and pretender, that there is a second, wicked character in me. Is that understandable? Does it make any sense at all?”

In an instant, he stopped walking forward. She did the same a second later. They turned and faced each other. Though they were both unaware whether anyone was near enough to observe them, they extended their arms out and embraced. His long arms took hold of her, and her shorter ones hugged him. This position lasted no more than a few moments. They experienced a solid caress of endearment. No kisses were exchanged. Only a single snuggle occurred. That was sufficient for both of them.

Then it was over simultaneously for both of them.

From the distant land of Jilin came a packet for the assistant pharmacist. A small vial of schisandra had been bought with which Tugau could carry out an experiment upon himself. In its native country, the dried fruit of this bush was in wide use by herbalists. A sexual tonic could be distilled from its berries, the one who had ordered understood. He had something else in mind, of course. It had for centures been prescribed in Jilin for psychotic and neurotic cases. How would it affect his own dreams about the feral cat? he wondered. That was the question most in need of an answer for Tugau.

The next day, before he had tried the substance, a second box arrived. It came from the land of Kechua. He opened it at once, finding inside it the woody vines of the ayahua. At last he had in hand a rare bark from which he could obtain one of the most potent hallucinogens anywhere. It was said to be stronger than any material he had yet used on himself. How might it change his dream adventures? That was what he had to find out.

Tugau made a fateful decision: to combine the two imports with the damiana and datura that he had used and was familiar with. What would result from the mixture with the addition of schisandra and ayahua? He looked forward with zeal to the trance that this soup might produce in him.

He invented an abreviation for the combined formula of damiana, ayahua, datura, and schisandra: D.A.D.S. His hope was that this new concoction would cause a major change in his chatan dreams.

Taking the combination with him to his apartment, Tugau placed a large dose into his mouth as he lay on the sofa he had recently purchased. How soon would the hallucinating visions begin? he asked himself. When will I enter my chatan phase?

Sleep and then the dream came to him with surprising speed.

The now familiar corbie cat entered the field of his unconscious. He forgot who and what he was in the light of day. It was as if he were no longer the human being called Tugau.

The large feral cat had a brindled silver coat with light red patches on it. Its long, pink ringed tail made it very distinctive. It looked like an ancient, rare torbie from the highlands. This particular cat seemed nervous and driven by an overreaching curiosity. For several minutes it moved about the room, exploring the furniture, smelling at whatever it could. The giant chatan moved to the closed but unlocked door to the corridor and played with the knob. This was unprecedented. No cat had ever attempted to open a door, Tugau realized. Was it a sign of enhanced intelligence? he wondered. A period of pothering and fussing finally resulted in success in turning the knob sufficiently to release the door so it could be pushed slowly open. A final effort with its large head and the chatan was able to exit into the darkened hallway.

The cat was able to open a closed door!

As if by instinct, the animal found its way to the door of Clotho’s room and stopped in front of it.

The beast obviously wanted to enter here, but was unable to handle the complex physics of such a feat. Frustration grew on its silver face and copper eyes as time passed. Again and again it pushed, struck, and scratched the wooden door. No success resulted from these persistent efforts.

But all at once, the door opened from the inside.

The noise of the clawing had awakened the lightly sleeping Clotho. She rose and went to see what was causing the sounds in the corridor.

Her dark, velvet eyes seemed hypnotized at sight of a gigantic cat out of some bestiary. Was this animal logically possible? How could it enter a secure structure like the one they were in? Was she awake or inside some terrible nightmare? Her confusion rose higher and higher. She realized that action by her was necessary. Clotho pushed on the door till it swung open all the way. Her mind could not calculate any further than that for the time being.

No one tried to move, neither the girl nor the big cat. Both were overwhelmed by sight of the other. Clotho had never been in the presence of such an enormous feline. And the latter seemed mesmerized at the sight of her. Why did it appear so tame and pacified near to her? It did not advance or attack. Not a move was made as the animal contemplated her. Why was that so?

Suddenly she extended her right hand, placing it directly on top of the head of the self-controlled creature. The latter stared at her with something cryptic in its eyes. A sign of recognition, an intimate message, it could have been either. There was no way for her to tell for certain.

She realized that a cat has extraordinary powers of concentration. They are by instinct masters of mental focus. It is difficult to distract their attention.

But there came an unforeseen moment when Clotho fainted and fell to the floor, her mind unconscious and no longer thinking complex thoughts.

She had gone into a deep swoon in which awakening was far away.

How did the chatan react and what did it do? It slinked away, back to the apartment of Tugau. No more outside roamimg for it that night. It had confronted a harpine, but did it realize that?

Turgau entered a full, deep sleep without dreams. He was recuperating from the adventure of his chatan secundus, his other self.

Alpheus found his daughter lying in the doorway of her room early next morning. Picking her up off the floor, he carried her in and deposited the unconscious young woman on her bed.

What had caused such a misfortune? There was no time for a detailed investigation. He left with a sense of distress, eager to get to the truth when she was awake again. But now he had hours of work to complete before he could question her. Was he able to wait that long? he wondered.

Tugau awoke with a combined feeling of both joy and foreboding. His mind was divided in reaction to last night’s dream. The feral cat showed that it had the freedom to move out of his flat. But Clotho’s encounter with the chatan had proved too much for her. His dream had captured, enveloped, and swallowed her into itself. It was now urgent that he talk to her and ask how much she remembered of the incident. How was he to explain his knowledge of the event in the hallway? That would be difficult to rationalize in any coherent way. He was afraid that he would have to tell her about his chatan double. Was the time right for that shocking revelation? Was he bold enough to come out with the truth?

Sooner or later, everything had to be candidly explained to her, he realized.

Tugau prepared for his day’s work in the apothecary shop with his mind in ferment.

Electra sat on a stool beside the bed, waiting for her daughter to awaken.

When Clotho opened her eyes, the mother quickly excused herself and went to the kitchen to prepare a late breakfast for her. Alpheus had informed her of the fall and the need to monitor the girl’s condition. Electra brought a bowl of hen soup for Clotho. Only when the latter was finished did the mother ask a direct question.

“How are you feeling now? Are you better?”

“I don’t know, but I can say I feel weak. What happened to me last night?”

“Your father found you on the floor out in the corridor.”

Clotho looked away as she recalled the giant cat that had terrified her.

“I remember I had a horrible nightmare. I saw a frightening sight, I believe.”

That appeared to be enough for the mother listening to her. “You should rest in bed for today, Clotho. Do not get up at all until tomorrow. I can bring your meals here. Do not worry about what happened to you and what was in your dream. The falling was just an unfortunate accident. Your fear will disappear with time. I will cook some chicken galantine for supper tonight,” she smiled.

Clotho turned her face away, knowing that the experience was one that would never vanish from her memory. It was an event that becomes a permanent relic of the mind. The torbie cat would never sink into oblivion for her. It was to remain clear and alive forever. It seemed to her that the large feline self wished to stay in her mind and never disappear from there. The imprint of the cat was one meant to be inerasable, never to grow faint.

Tugau did not come to her until late in the afternoon, after work. He knocked lightly, then opened the door, entered, closed the door and tiptoed to the bed where Cotho lay. Was she awake? Indeed, her eyes followed him across to her side. He asked how she felt now.

She stared in his face imploringly. “I can’t say, because I don’t really know yet.”

What does she mean by that? he wondered anxiously.

“Did you hurt yourself? Your father told me he found you on the floor outside.”

A grimace of inner pain crossed her face, but she did not answer him.

Tugau made an instant decision to reveal all of the truth that he knew. There was no other way out. If he could have avoided it, he would have jumped to grasp such a solution. But now his duty was one of total confession to her.

“My dear, you expressed the secret of your ancestry to me, but I failed to reveal the most important aspect about myself. What do you think that was? It closely resembles what you said to me at that time.” He gazed down at her frightened face. “I, like you, was born a diploid. But my second form belongs to a different species entirely.”

There, it was out. He had no path of retreat now, only a road forward.

She peered at him with confusion in her widening velvet eyes.

Tugau proceeded to identify himself as a chatan who had last night metamorphosized in a dream. His other self was the cat that he now discovered had confronted her. He tried to justify his previous silence on the subject. “This is the truth, believe me. I am biform, but in a different way from you. I can become a chatan wild cat. A dream is the means by which I move out of my human form into the other. Let me show you what scholars have written about ancient chatans in the highlands. I took a page out of one of the folios we bought at the outdoor market. Let me go and get it from my apartment so you can see it yourself.”

He was gone only a few moments, returning with the page of text he had hidden in his apartment. Handing it to her, Tugau pulled up a stool and sat quietly as she read the paragraph about the chatan legend in the highlands.

When she was finished with it, Clotho gave the page back to him.

“It was you, then?” she whispered.

He nodded that she was right. “I enter a timeless dreamland and then come out of it in my second form. That is what happens with active diploids.”

“What are the two of us going to do?” she moaned. “What is going to become of you and me if we are biforms? Are we both freaks?”

Tugau, misunderstanding her query somewhat, replied concerning the immediate future.

“I want to go out and explore the world in my secondary form. It can only be accomplished at night, with most of the population of the city asleep. Exploration could educate my cat into tameness and self-control. There is enormous curiosity in every felid that has to be satisfied. Will you agree to accompany my chatan when this happens, Clotho?”

She anwered him without a moment of hesitation. “Of course. When do we start?”

“In a few nights, when you recover your full strength, my dear.”

“Very well,” she promised. “I will ready myself for experimental exploration with you. There must be much that both of us can learn from such an adventure.”

Clotho sneaked out of her room at midnight and opened Turgau’s door for the large torbie cat. It recognized and followed her out the back door of the Gallipot building. The animal seemed tame and under control. Turgau had made an effort to prepare it for this. He wished the cat to hold itself in check within their relationship of primus and secundus.

Once outdoors, Clotho let her big, furry companion take the lead, following wherever it went. They hurried past a locked-up confectionery, a bakery, and a general cookery. The four-legged explorer stopped in front of a meat market. This was a point of profound interest for it. The brindled cat looked with visible signs of hunger through the shop window at the sausages and pieces of flesh for sale. Something has to be done for the chatan, decided Clotho. But it had to be safe and judicious, or it would cause alarm and much trouble for them.

An idea occurred to her. She herself would break into the butcher shop and appropiate by stealth the food her companion craved. That made sense to her. She could accomplish what was impossible for the cat that Turgau had turned into to do.

As quietly as possible, Clotho tried in turn the front, side, and back doors of the building. They were all locked fast. How about the windows, though? She succeeded in locating one in the back that she jimmied open with her hands. The chatan immediately jumped through it, into a paradise of carnal delight.

The carcasses of steers, oxen, cows, hogs, pigs, sheep, and deer hung on hooks. Beef, veal, pork, mutton, lamb, and venison meat were available free. Ribs, flanks, rump, round, chuck, brisket, shank, shoulder, foreshank, loin, breast, plate, hind shank, hocks, and every conceivable cut of meat was offered the night raider. The big cat stayed inside the shop a long period. When the torbie at last emerged through the opened window, its face had all the signs of stomach satiety. Rest and digestion loomed ahead for the animal.

Clotho could only imagine what beastly gorging and gluttony had just occurred. She looked at the now heavier cat with disgust. It had fulfilled an instinctive character it could not itself change. She led the surfeited creature back to the Gallipot where they both belonged and were safe.

Electra prepared a festive celebration for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday. A dozen neighborhood teenagers were invited. Clotho ignored them, all her attention focused on Turgau, seated at the opposite end of the long table covered with food. Timbales filled with custard, jelly rolls, cream puffs, mince pies, frumenty, and buckets of ice cream kept the young guests busy. There was little opportunity for any talk.

Occasionally, Clotho glanced across at her closest friend. The one she had learned to love.

What did the future hold for them, two diploids, he an active one and she still inactive?

Alpheus, sitting in the middle of the table opposite his daughter, rose to congratulate her.

“I offer a toast of iced cake in your honor, dear child. You have always been the pride of your mother and me. You are considerate of everyone around you. Helpful, generous, and honest. We, all of us here today, send our best wishes for the years ahead. May they be happy ones for you. In token of our deep love for you, let me toast you on this sunny day. Congratulation, dear.”

With that, the gathering came to a swift, nearly abrupt, end.

Clotho soon went to her room to rest, but a knock on the door informed the celebrant that it was the one person she knew would soon be present. Without a word, Tugau slipped in and approached her. He only spoke after they had embraced, kissed, and then separated.

“I have decided to ask you something,” he murmured softly. “Will you consent to marry me? If you do, I intend to go at once to your parents for their approval. That is my plan for the two of us.”

She stared blankly at him, mute as her mind revolved. Her mouth continued to gape. For a time, it was impossible for her to say anything, whether rational or not.

A powerful argument took hold of her and she expressed it to him. “There is so much that must be settled first. Where can we live? What will you and I do? These quesions have to be answered. We have to know what awaits us.”

Turgau shook his head. “There will be no practical problems. We continue here, working as we do now, but living together. You will continue your apprenticeship.”

Clotho grimaced. “We two are really like four persons,” she objected. “You are a diploid and I am likewise. That makes our situation a complicated one, my love.”

“But we love each other. That is enough for us to thrive on,” he objected. “If the ties between us are the strong union we believe it to be, then both halves of each of us has been melded into the single unit that we have become. We are already the mates we shall formally become with marriage. There will be no difference except the public acknowledgement.”

Clotho suddenly looked away toward the bed she slept on.

“Let us go on, for now, as we have from the start. There is no need to change right now. When the moment for something different arrives, we will both know it.”

One evening in Clotho’s seventeenth year she went with the growing, greater corbie to the necropolis of Diaema, where the dead lied. For the young lovers of the city, that was a favorite place of tryst. Snuggling couples hid themselves behind gravestones, marmoreal monuments, and enormous mausoleums. The leafy tilleul trees provided thick shadows in which movements were unseen. As if by agreement, sheltered groups of lovers said nothing to each other. Noise was unwelcome here. Silence prevailed as if no living person was in the grassy cemetery.

No cat the size of this gigantic one had ever entered the grounds before. First one, then another couple was disturbed and distracted by the arrival of Clotho and her furry companion. No one could really identify what the creeping intruder beside the young female figure was. But its odd presence produced cold shivers. There was something terrifying about the indefinite form, whatever it might be.

Strange rustling began among the interrupted trysters. First one couple, then several others, left the burial grounds. Uncertain of the degree of danger to them, many decided for safety in departure. Why stay where the unknown lurked and wandered about?

Sensing this exodus, Clotho slowed her steps, causing the same by the chathan. She had not anticipated this uneasy situation. The necropolis was not a quiet retreat that evening.

The chatan itself began to seek a way out of the cemetery. Clotho realized the need for a change in plans. Soon the pair were in an adjacent pome orchard of apple, quince, and pear trees. They soon were beyond the city’s borders. They had surrendered the necropolis to other beings, it appeared.

Clotho was assigned by her father to assist Tugau in the nervine section of the pharmacy, in order to gain experience with calmatives. She and her lover were thrown together both at work and after hours. A new joy pervaded her whole day and evening hours.

“Are you trying out on yourself some of the remedies you make?” he asked one late afternoon in his flat as the two of them sat and rested.

“Why do you ask?” she said in surprise.

“Because you seem so positively enthusiastic of late, that’s why,” he slyly grinned.

“I am trying out some of the mild becalmers, those that I know have no drastic side effects. I am glad that you can see the difference they make. Much of the stress and agitation I once felt has vanished like a fog. There is now new strength in me. And things should be going our way once I rise above the level of an apprentice. That will be soon, only a month from now. I can hardly wait.”

He looked down at the floor. “You still will say no to marriage, though?”

She looked him squarely in the eye. “We have a lot of time ahead of us for that. Rushing forward does not make sense to me. Neither of us has a simple nature like those who are not diploid.”

He frowned darkly. “I believe enough time has gone by. We each know the other. We should at least inform your parents of our plans. I am growing impatient to make public what we already feel toward each other. What is wrong with that, Clotho? It will be a better condition for both of us.”

She furrowed her smooth young brow into a frown.

“I must have a sense of the correctness of that hour when I inform my parents. The marriage will have to be an accepable change for them, not only for me.”

“Why such pessimism?” he asked in desperation. “I don’t see why we can’t tell them immediately.”

“It would not be easy to do. They have their own plans for my future, Tugau.”

“But so do I. They have no right to veto what both of us decide has to be. We both wish to wed, don’t we? Why, then, not become one in law?”

“It is not that simple. Both of us are already more than a one. How can we foresee what will come of our combining?”

He shook his head. ‘We would not be the first pair of differing diploids to join together. I see no reason to be fearful of the diversity involved.”

Before they realized it, they were clutching each other in a shared embrace.

Electra roasted a huge porker stuffed with pancreatic and thymic sweetbreads. Tugau and Clotho were unusually silent throughout the supper on Harvest Holiday. Only Apheus did much talking during the meal his wife had prepared for the important celebration.

When the parents were alone after the feast, Electra expressed her worries to her husband.

“I have to speak to you about something that troubles me of late.”

Still sitting at the long table, Alpheus looked up in surprise. “What are you talking about?” he inquired, aroused by her words.

“I am deeply concerned about your assistant, Turgau.”

“What about him?” said the pharmacist, rising out of his chair and facing his wife. “What has he done?”

“I can’t say for sure, but recently there are signs that he has become much too familiar with Clotho. You and I have to discuss the matter. Perhaps you can talk to him. Is there a problem here? It may eventually cause much trouble for us, I fear. Now is the time to act to avert any harm to Clotho.”

Electra began pacing up and down the dining room as she pondered what to say.

“Have you become blind, Alpheus? There may be something here that demands serious attention before it is too late. We cannot ignore the need to deal with the matter.”

As her meaning dawned on him, agitation arose in the mind of the father.

“You can’t suspect them of carrying on, can you?” he asked.

“It is a possibility, isn’t it?” she replied with a question of her own.

The two stared at each other for a time.

“How can we find out?” said Alpheus. “And what can we do if our fears are proven correct?”

“I have been thinking hard, besides watching them carefully,” revealed Electra. “This is what I noticed: they never talk between themselves much when we are present. What does that indicate? Are they trying to throw us off by giving no cause for any suspicion? Only when they are alone, it appears, do they talk at all to each other. Before us, they are like strangers. Do you see what I am getting at? Why are they trying to act so indifferently to one another in front of us?”

“You believe there could be conscious deception involved?” demanded Alpheus.

“I am being forced to that conclusion by their concerted silence,” she told her husband.

“It is, then, a conscious indifference they are showing before us?”

“Yes, a joint effort to throw observers off the track,” said Electra with confidence. “It is clever.”

“I may have to fire him in the end,” declared the botanic with a moan. “Though I have great repect for his abilities, he could prove unthrustworthy, if what you suspect is true. What you have told me is greatly troubling.”

Electra placed her hand on his forearm. “For the present, we have to be guarded and cautious. Both of us must watch them to learn what it is they do together.” She paused for a moment. “We have to be the protectors of our daughter. No one else can or will.”

He nodded yes to her.

Rain, drizzle, and thick mists kept the two lovers indoors day after day. Sneaking to the room of the other became a habit for them. Neither realized how far they had lowered their guard. The fact that Electra lurked about, following their movements, they came to ignore. The two concentrated exclusively on each other, no one else.

One foggy morning, Cloltho entered the apartment of Tugau in a troubled mood.

“What is it?” he asked. “Is there something bothering you?”

She wrinkled her smooth brow. “I am not feeling too well. This has been so for the last week. It is hard to describe, because I don’t know what it is.”

He stepped closer to her. “Where does it hurt? Is the pain constant?”

“My head bothered me, so I took a becalmer.”

“Did it help?”

“Only for a short while. It could be serious.” Her hand went to her abdomen. “It is starting to ache in this region, too. I have increasing pain. Never has my body ever suffered thus before.”

The two exchanged looks of significance they both understood.

“Could it be…” he started but stopped in mid-sentence. “I can get you the strongest possible nervines. We can try some piper methysticum, and if it doesn’t help, then go on to codopepsis. I promise to rid you of this, my love. I know I can accomplish that.”

She opened her mouth to reveal another change in her, but stopped in time. Why alarm Tugau in case she was mistaken? She would wait a few days to be certain it was true. suspicion was not enough on the matter of carrying a child.

Clotho left the flat for the pharmacy library. She found a folio on the physiology of female pregnancy, placed it in a notebook, and took the book back to her room. There was much for her to learn on the subject.

Why have I grown so distant from my mother? Has love for Tugau caused a division and separation from her? So mused the daughter as she entered the kitchen where Electra was busy preparing food.

Before informing her beloved, she had to ask her mother for advice. How would Electra act, as counselor or punisher? she wondered.

Clotho walked in almost on tiptoes. Electra was chopping ascalonic onions on a thick board. She looked up and stopped her labor.

“I want to ask you something important, mother,” began Clotho.

Looking at her closely, the mother knew that something was wrong. “Are you ill, child?” she asked.

“I may have conceived within me,” blurted out the daughter. “I am not certain.”

With gaping mouth and widening eyes, Electra studied her from head to toe.

“How can that be?” screamed the mother with full voice. “How could that happen to you?” She paused, her face reddening with anger. “It must have been Turgau, no one else.”

Clotho turned her face away, to the other side. Her mother asked a question weighing on her experienced mind.

“You wish to carry it to delivery now that it is quickening in you?”

“Of course,” answered the daughter. “But how can I do that? It will not be possible to keep the secret from father. Do I have to run away from home?”

Electra took Clotho’s two hands in her own and held them.

“I must be the one to tell my husband the truth. That will be my responsibility. And it will have to be done quickly, very soon.”

She asked Clotho to sit down on a kitchen chair, then felt her body in various places. The forehead, neck, chest, and the stomach felt her gentle touch.

Electra looked her squarely in the eye. “I believe you are correct, my child. You will now experience nine months of gestation. Then will come the painful labor of giving birth. Do not be afraid, I will stay with you and help when there is need. You shall not be alone.”

“But father will feel outrage at Tugau and me…”

“Have no fear, I can handle him,” the mother promised, realizing that Tugau might be compelled to leave. But she dared not tell that to her daughter, not at that time. There was enough at the present moment to be concerned about.

“I wish you to get as much rest as possible, my dear,” smiled Electra. “It will, before long, become necessary for you to leave your tasks in the pharmacy. That cannot go on as before. Have you told Tugau what to expect?”

“From how he talks, I believe that he knows. But I need to communicate more details to him. It was you and father I dreaded to tell. Your advice is saving me from unnecessary heartbreak.”

“Thank you,” said Electra in a mellow tone. “Now, I have work to finish here in the kitchen. Life must continue without needless interruption. Go to your room and lay down at once. I will bring you some anthemis tea to drink. It will help strengthen you.

Clotho lay thinking, unable to fall asleep. One idea came to occupy her thought. Was the child a boy or a girl? Whom would it look like? Would it resemble her or Tugau more? She considered the possibilities and the odds for or against each one.

A girl had the threat of a harpine inheritance from grandmother Electra. But a male child carried the risk of turning out to be a chatan. Two diploid strains had been combined. What kind of person would be the result?

Would her grown-up son wander the streets at night as a wild chatan? Was there the risk of a man-eating monster if the girl became a harpine? The child she carried would be an experiment. No one at present was capable of predicting the results.

The child’s education would have to be strictly supervised at home in order to guide its development. Her responsibilites would be grave ones.

Hours passed by as she planned the methods of civilizing the expected diploid son or daughter.

Someone slowly opened the door to her room and entered as she lay resting and thinking. Clotho turned her head and saw that it was Tugau. He stepped near cautiously in case she was asleep.

“I’m fully awake, darling,” she whispered as he bent down just over her.

They kissed each other, and she informed him she had not worked that day. “I felt a little ill. And mother advised me to rest and made me herbal tea to drink.”

“I am so sorry,” he said. “Didn’t the nervines I prepared help you any?”

She smiled but did not answer him.

“We have to talk. Let me get up, I’ve been resting here long enough.”

Soon Clotho was standing on her feet. Tugau helped her to a soft chair, he taking a stool by her side. “Is there anything I can get for you?” asked the highlander.

“Not now, thank you. I have something important to announce to you.”

He gave her a powerful look that told her that he knew what it was she planned to say. “About the pregnancy you will be going through?”

Clotho experienced a jolt, almost of relief. “I imagined in the back of my mind that you picked up the marks and signs. It is quite certain now.”


“I had my mother examine me so that we could be absolutely sure.”

“Your mother!”

“Yes. There was no other woman I dared to trust.”

“Trust? She will disclose what she knows to your father. No doubt about that.”

“It couldn’t be helped. She had to know what was going to happen to me. Isn’t it best that she act as my intermedary with father? She will appeal to his moral character in the name of the unborn grandchild of his. I think it was the best way to proceed, through my mother. Is there any alternative? Best that he find out as early as possible. Now is the right time, not later.”

The face of Tugau had turned pale. His lips quivered with emotion.

“What if he explodes in wrath? What if he decides to confront us? The consequences may be painful. What is going to happen next, Clotho?”

She did not answer him because she could not.

How long should I wait to break the news to Alpheus? pondered his wife all day.

He will be returning to the residence to eat supper before too long. Her cooking for the day was done. No better opportunity than now would come, before he left his office for the home dining room. So, she closed the roasting oven and headed for the pharmacy where he would soon be finished working.

She found him writing accounts up at his noixwood desk. He looked up at her, a grin on his face. “You arrived just in time to walk me to supper, just in time.”

Electra moved close to where he sat. “I came to tell you something important, my dear.”

He looked at her with surprise. What are you talking about? asked his azure eyes.

“It concerns our entire family, because it centers on Clotho. There is something about her that I must reveal to you. It will not be easy to do. I can foresee a fiery response from you to what I am about to say. You must permit me to speak without interruption.”

Alpheus looked confused. “What are you talking about?” he muttered in a low voice. His face had turned deep red. The storm is gathering and ready to break, realized his wife as she continued on.

“Our daughter is in a beginning maternal state. Before too long, we shall become grandparents.”

Alpheus neither moved nor said anything. His mind was overwhelmed.

Electra felt obligated to answer a question she knew was now his. “I am certain that her partner is in our household. There can be only one possibility. I think you will agree with me about who was responsible. There is no other close male to her.”

“Where is she now?” he suddenly demanded.

“She has been in her room all afternoon. I made some tea to rest her nerves and lower her stress. We must treat her with gentleness, Alpheus.”

The latter brought his fist down vehemently on the noix desk. “I know that Tugau left the pharmacy for his apartment, so we can find him here in the residence. That is where he is now.”

“You must not argue with him, my love,” she pleaded. “It would bring harm to everyone. At most, fire him and expel him from living with us any longer. Only that far do you have the right to go. Think of Clotho and her welfare.”

Fury flashed out of his eyes, over his entire face. His wife could see the sparks of emotion about to ignite. She was helpless to hold him back.

“Don’t tell me what I do or don’t have the right to do,” he coldly spat out. “I am the one who has to set the matter straight. The responsibility is on me. I am the father. There has to be a settling of our accounts. We have admitted an evil interloper to our home. It is my duty to exact justice. No one else can do it.”

“Alpheus, do nothing you will regret,” she shouted with emotion.

He brushed by her swiftly, exiting his office, then the pharmacy.

Electra stood petrified. She had thoroughly failed. Her body shook with fear over what might happen next.

I can only deal with him if I am armed with sufficient force, decided Alpheus. A father’s obligations cannot be compared to those of anyone else. He convinced himself that he bore a heavy duty to avenge his honor.

The decisive moment had arrived. Several futures depended upon him. He had to act with solid determination. In a instant, he flung the door open and ran into the assistant’s apartment.

As if he had been sent a premonition, Alpheus saw exactly what he had anticipated.

The head of Clotho peered out from the coveret over her body. But there was also someone else also looking at him from the bed. He realized who was lying beside her.

The flow of events might have been different if Tugau had not spoken to try to justify what the intruding one saw for himself. “We are all but formally wed, sir…”

There was no time for him to continue or finish, for that was when the first shot was fired from a pepper-box gun. The avenger only realized what he had done after he had pulled back the trigger. No reversal could have been possible.

A gasping filled the room, then a second cartridge went off.

Electra reached the site of slaughter only seconds after the firing ended.

As if awakening from a nightmare, Alpheus dropped the pistol to the floor.

You killed both of them!” cried out his wife. “Both your daughter and her child! Now what? Now what?”

By the time the yellow-coated constables arrived, the young woman was beyond help. Only her lover wheezed for breath now. An officer placed Apheus under arrest and confiscated his pepper-box. He was led away to a cell in the city lock-up.

Tugau was placed in a horse wagon and rushed to a chirurgery for immediate surgery. Specialists had to try to remove the pistol shot in his torso.

Electra was alone when the corpse of Clotho was hauled away. She asked to ride with the unconscious victim of the shootings. Flesh surgeons would try to save his life.

Was he going to survive? she asked herself.

What she had gone through had no order or reason to it. Things had merely occurred. She had no good answers to what caused all the death she had witnessed.

Did her diploid ancestry have anything to do with the fate of Clotho and those around her? she asked herself, but could find no explanation.

Were there invisible factors hidden in ancestry behind this tragedy? How could anyone ever know? mused Electra with a shiver of dread.


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