I would almost want to start this alienating tale with the beginning of Poe’s The Black Cat; “For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.”
My story is set a few years back. I literally immerse myself in everything that has to do with horror: books, movies and theoretical works. The English translation of my horror story entitled The Sleeping Beauty receives nothing less than a Bram Stoker Award in America. I am also invited to attend a congress on the aforementioned Edgar Allan Poe, and a New York horror publishing house is issuing my recent story entitled Lise, which is a cross between The Night Porter and Flatliners, in a compilation. So yes, of course I am proud of myself!
My love life is also doing ok. A year earlier, I ran into an ex-lover, Mimoun from Algeria, and we started to develop a relationship. We are in love with each other, which means, of course, that the devil known as jealousy also rears its ugly head. Using his own key, Mimoun drops into my apartment at the most unexpected times, fearing to catch me in bed with someone else.
I don’t ask him any questions. Very early in our affair, I think I could smell a different perfume on his stomach. Right at the beginning of our affair, I found a single louse in my pubic hair. A French fortune-teller told me our love is pure and that a happy future lays in store for us.
She also told me that Mimoun knows another man somewhere in the city: he wants to finish with this fellow as quickly as possible, but the person concerned does not shrink from employing dirty practices in order to keep the Algerian for himself – such as threatening to disclose Mimoun’s homosexuality to the members of his family.
It is a few nights before Halloween, I had seen Mimoun the evening before, I am at home alone and reach the conclusion that I, as a horror writer, have never seen a corpse, apart from that of my grandmother, or have first-hand experience of people dying, let alone attending a bloody operation such as a leg being amputated. I am a bit tipsy. I walk resolutely to St. John’s hospital and go a step further. I want them to let me into the mortuary.
The person I encounter there is Evert. He is the night nurse in the emergency department. He earns a bit more by also working as a waiter in the gay bar, “Le Duquesnoy”, where he served Mimoun and myself our drinks at the time – a Duvel beer for Mimoun and a small lager for me.
Evert looks at me aghast and takes me in his arms. “Mimoun’s family has to be informed, quickly; I will let you pay your respects before they get here.” He then leads me into the morgue. And shows me a lifeless Mimoun, with fatal stab wounds to his chest. Evert takes me by the arm and leads me outside. A group of North Africans come running up, relatives of my forbidden lover.
A crime of passion, my lord! The nasty guy somewhere in the city does not want to let Mimoun go alive. Is the rest a coincidence? Synchronicity? Mimoun’s soul giving me a sign? Why, in God’s name, do I run to the mortuary at St. John’s Hospital the moment Mimoun’s dead body arrives there?
(c) 2018, Jan Vander Laenen.
Jan Vander Laenen (° 1960) lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he works as an art historian and translator. He is also the author of numerous collections of short stories, plays, and screenplays.