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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


61. [Plate 60]
Elena's Playful Side

All work and no play makes a girl - well, Elena was never dull. Sometimes, however, she just had to let her frisky side out. Sometimes she needed to get naked and romp. Today was one of those days. She called up a certain archbishop of her acquaintance and said, "Get your ass you-know-where, pronto!"

"Y-yes, mistress," quavered the sinner.

"And wear your robes!"

It was a beautiful spring night, so they began with a spot of devil-worship. Not that Elena subscribed to a patristic view of Evil. But there are certain things that it's fun to watch an ordinarily-dignified man do with goats and cats and human skulls.


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Then they got down to sex. "Have you ever been fisted?" Elena asked.

"Well, actually, last month you-"

"Through your ear?"

"Good Lord, no!" the archbishop cried in horror.

But protest though he might, Elena would not be gainsaid. She squeezed the tip of her little finger into his ear and tickled his tympanum, making it boom like a drum. Then she slit the membrane with her nail, and pushed the finger in a little deeper.

The archbishop screamed.

"Don't focus on the pain," Elena advised him. "This is nothing compared to what's coming."

She squeezed in a second finger alongside the first. And then a third. Soon enough, she had her entire hand all the way up to the wrist inside the archbishop's brain.

"Ooh!" she giggled. "It's squishy! Like warm mud!"

She wriggled her fingers.

Synapses sparked and misfired within the archbishop's brain like roman candles. One of the cats looked up at him and, in the voice of an altar boy he had once known perhaps too intimately, said, "Well, so much for God."

"T-this is a hallucination," his eminence stuttered.

"You'd best pray it is," said the cat. "After the life you've led, a random and meaningless universe without afterlife or any moral accountability at all is the best you can hope for."

"I can still be forgiven!" that desperate man cried. "God is all-loving and all-merciful!"

"He's also all-just," the cat replied. "And He wasn't born yesterday." Then, turning his back, he settled down to licking his fur clean.

Elena withdrew her hand from the archbishop's brain.

"That was fun!" she cried girlishly. "But I've got work to do." She laved her hand with water from a nearby jug, donned her clothing again, and headed for the limo.

"Same time next month?" she threw over her shoulder.

"Oh, yes," the poor schlub said, weeping and clutching his head with palsied hands. "Please."


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This is the 61st of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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