Today we meet up with the man responsible for much of the fantastical gadgets in the Railroad! world. Bart H. Welch is our go to guy for believable engineering plans, and has graced us with a torrid tale reflecting his gruesome sense of invention.
The Ogre and the Wrathful Child
Warm yellow sunlight assaulted me as I entered the room, my wingtips sinking into obscenely soft Persian carpets, my nose enticed by the smells of robust tobacco and strong coffee. It was hard to tell in the blasted sunlight streaming in through the window over the desk and whiting out the rich wood paneling, but I could swear I could almost see him, that modern day and horribly renowned Hephaestus-incarnate, a smear of light to the left of the window almost washed out by the onrush the setting sun.
The one showing me in, the one I could only remember as a butler’s tuxedo and gray hair, had left my side and I was soon blinded again as the shade was drawn down on its bearing roller. Then I was sitting and the tuxedo was gone. Soon my eyesight returned in this queer space and I could at last see the man I had sought out for so long.
I had searched for one like him since they murdered mother and father. I had heard the whispers at St. Alban’s of this wild American, this one who taught and dispensed methods, modes and the machinery of death. Like a Merlin for damned-souls lost to their causes, but only if those causes suited him.
In his tweeds and smoked lens glacier glasses he looked like just another Don of some school back home. A slightly portly man, he had a bit of a gut tugging at his waist coat. But somewhere along the way Providence had blessed me with enough common sense to overlook the grandfatherly appearance. One does not gain the moniker ‘The Ogre’ amongst some of the most frightening souls to ever grace the earth by being a harmless, tweed-clad grandfather.
I reminded myself of this as I took in the room around him. It was a brilliant bedlam of notes, tomes, sketches and terrifyingly simple and innocuous looking prototypes laying here and there. If he proved to be even a fraction of what his legend claimed I knew he could kill me thousands of ways with the pipe that smoldered in his hand, as this horrible legend openly and quite discomfortingly analyzed me.
I thought back to all I knew, not just the rumors. If the rumors were true he had been in the court of Karl de Grosse, a tool used to solve Saxon problems. Another had his as one of Da Vinci’s disciples, another is he was one of the Restoration’s mystic luminaries. Beyond the rumors, all that I knew for sure was that he was a bastard to find and had a build and face that reminded me of ones I had seen in Wales. And the fact he was subtly and quietly terrifying, to me at least. He took of his glasses and massaged the bridge of a Celtic nose, still silent.
“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something, boy,” he eventually said. “Spit it out. And if you blather some shit about revenge I swear by any god you can name I will cram your pretentions so far up your ass you will choke on them.” His voice sounded old, both tired and yet tireless. It was a manly voice but all of this—as well as his threat—was lost to me until much later.
What I instead noticed was this: smoke roiled from his mouth as he spoke, like the smoldering flame from the belly of a dragon. It was simple trick to be sure, but with what I knew of his legend and the myths about him, this only left me further impressed.
“I need to kill a vampire!” I blurted out, spurred on by equal doses horror and hatred. Fear of this terrible bully of a crafter, loathing of the fiend who had taken mother and father from me, and hatred that I had so badly failed in my first two attempts at revenge.
The first failure had been simple misfortune. I pushed the lid of the casket back, and with hammer and stake I set myself to avenge my parents. Before I could land a blow, the damned lid slammed closed. I failed due to an either over lubed hinge or a weak one. I related this and the name of the monster to my host, my hopeful instructor and provider.
At the moment, I missed the very subtle raising of one brownish gray bushy eyebrow over those faded, piercing blue eyes.
The second attempt had been folly on my part. I read all of the works; Van Helsing, Du Champ, Holmes, Doyle, Stoker … and I had been fool enough to believe them. I spent a minor fortune perfecting a revolving rifle that fired silver ammunition and spent all of summer learning to shoot that rifle very well. I fasted, abstained, prayed, had the ammunition blessed every way I could. When the opportunity arose, I shot the hell spawned night terror in the head with a .54 caliber round at one hundred yards.
I then was blessed with the wonderful opportunity of watching the round explode its lethal cargo of silver plated iron and wood splinters into the beast’s chest and face. Instead of dying a second death, it looked at me, laughed and snapped the neck of my Grouse man’s daughter. The beast disappeared into the night. Over the resulting fortnight the same monster swept through my estate, killing every innocent it could.
The Ogre laughed then. “When will they ever learn? Most vampires are atheists. Blessings don’t work.” With that he rose. The impossibly faceless butler was there, again, producing a small glass of amber golden fluid with a single ice cube for its master. “Ok, so you need to kill a vampire. How do you want to do it? At range or up close? Melee weapon or rifle? Would you like to use a bow?”
He was up and moving with an unnatural energy, the tobacco smoke streamed from his nose and lips and from the bowl of the pipe like the exhaustions of a steam loco. He paced and sipped, flipping through the bedlam of papers, considering items and setting them aside with long deliberation for him.
“If I may, sir,” I said, with cold reassurance, “I wish him to die suffering and oh so slowly, like Mother did.”
Had I only known! Yes, I was a being capable of hateful murder. But had I known what those words really meant. A child says his mother is beautiful. I was but a child before this monstrous master!
An old and frigid light—like ice cold starlight—filled The Ogre’s eyes.
“Really?” he asked, in a purring, pleasurable tone that would make a demon cringe. It was the same tone a D’jinn might use when counting the loopholes in your wish
“Well, yes,” I said. “Of course! I came all this way to find you. Others offer solutions, but I hear said by many terrifying souls that your ideas, your products, scare even them!” I was being as truthful and earnest as I could.
His eyes lit up even more at my fearful flattery as a gallows’ smile crossed his countenance.
Looking back I now know that sad smile was for me. He knew, in ways I could never had guessed that I was as ready for this as an infant was for a fox hunt. It made him sad, seeing me so willing to sell my innocence for revenge, but I am sure now that it wouldn’t stop him from providing me what I asked.
Had he but taken my soul in the deal, I would be far better off. I doubt I would suffer as I do now.
“Your options are many,” he said. “Even for what you request. A device, like a casket, that funnels a mere millimeter of sunlight a day up his body? It would start at his feet and have a condensing unit to turn the light of the sun into a bar of coalesced rage to burn through his shoes, clothing and etcetera? It would take him over a year to die that way. You would have to subdue him first, though. To that end I have a potion, a solution that would turn all the blood in his body to a solid. Thus leaving him frozen, like a statue. I also have these amazing shotgun slugs. They enter the body and deliver a debilitating shock every time his muscles contract.”
He returned to his desk, lifting many a paper to show me his designs.
“I also have Uranium pellets,” he said, “dipped in cages of silver. Oh what pure agony those would be! There are acid rounds, gasified iron torches, parasites that feed on their undead flesh. Take decades to kill him. I have a device not unlike an iron maiden. You place him inside, fill a reservoir with blood. It will sever his joints from finger and toe tip to hips and shoulders, snip-snip-snip! Then it would feed him, so he would heal.”
The Ogre paused to sip his whiskey again.
“You could taint the blood with silver, just for fun,” he continued. “All the while a three headed silver coated steel ore drill gnaws away at the dangly bits down below, working their way up and then retracting. Never quite enough to kill him, just enough to make him beg for final oblivion. You could keep him going for centuries as long as you kept fresh blood going into him. And you need not fret, animal blood would do fine.”
I will remember that smile until the day St. Peter sends me to hell. At that moment, by the detail and as animatedly as he described the device, I now know he had used it before. I also realized that in my time amongst the Queen’s Regulars I had seen his kind. He was a shade, a demon, in the service of Good.
Much like the hardened vets who took no relish when they machine-gunned a village of natives then touched torches to the place. But it didn’t make them lose sleep either. Yet, if they ever found someone like a bandit leader or a fallen cleric who reveled in rape and torture? These same said men would take such a criminal out to the bush and come back with all the answers a bright-eyed Lieutenant could want. And there would be a spry little jig in their step for months after. You only had to drown out the resulting screams with a spot or thirty of gin.
No, not just then, either. On those cold fall nights before the fire, when you could hear those screams fresh.
But I was a young fool. I thought the nightmares I still had and the horrors I had witnessed and wrought in the Great War and the occasional bad dream I had were the worst of it. In the interim as I was lost to reverie of memory he had gone on, offering me things I would never buy, we both knew that. Because we both knew, deep down, that he had already sold me.
More kinds of ammunition that could rend and poison and even dissolve someone from the inside out. Then there were steam driven body breakers and a device he called a Tree Shredder. His menagerie of demonic toys seemed endless and the twisted creations birthed as mere possibilities in his mind infinite. Hunting robots that were both clockwork and electrical. More solar-coalescing weapons.
Soon the sun had set and the faceless butler returned to remind him of a dinner appointment. We agreed on a price for the snipping machine and he promised delivery of it and the damned creature. After shaking hands, I produced the necessary papers for him to draw upon my bank. I did add that the device should include some extras; the ability to be heated to hundreds of degrees, flooded with icy seawater, be amply able to shock the vampire with electrically, and have these wonderful little irises that could let in needles of sunlight, should I choose. I was drunk on the possibilities. I was high on making this damned creature suffer the way mother did. The way I had when I was finally forced to destroy what she had become.
In passing, I asked him why he had been so willing to help. I was grateful, but was curious. His answer, while it seemed flippant in the extreme and boldly impossible, kind of pinned this monster down for me.
“He cheated me at a card game at Waterloo.”
I sit here now, gore dripping out of the machine. Two years have passed and I am all the more insane for it. I have finally released the vampire, pushing the button that drove the stake through the heart and severed its head.
For eighteen months I have been torturing it and the machine worked, just as promised. It chugged away, day after damned day and night after cursed night, snipping bits off as it ate the vampire’s latent masculinity and our mutual sanities were shredded time and again. After the first pair of months it began offering all of its hundreds of years of knowledge to me.
And I took it.
I now have a career as a historian to embrace. And after taking its knowledge I would fire up the machine and cut him, burn him, grind off his bollocks and let the drill eat into his intestines. I drowned him, cooked him with electricity until his skin was but charcoal. Then I would feed him, make him whole again so I could do it all over again. He was a fierce beast, a monster.
He had terrified and terrorized his way from the Urals to Battersea. He had watched the fall of Constantinople and of Empires. And because he took away my Mum, made her a horror, I took it all away from him, made a horror of myself. All the while he turned me into a monster at the knee of something so terrible as to make the word monster pale and hollow.
Just before the end I asked him about Waterloo, about the card game. Over the weeks he slowly remembered and related the tale to me. I thought seeing frozen mustard gas on my trench coat evaporating and then killing all of my mates in the bunker would be the worst thing I would ever know.
I was wrong.
As he died, the beast told me one last thing, something I hope was a lie.
“Lad, never deal with the child of a fallen angel. Those bastards never let you win.”
****Bart H. Welch is a married father of one and owned by cats, living under the right frozen nipple of Chiberia. Dispenser of errata and horribly wonderful deadly ideas who happens to play with the level of electricity that Tesla liked.