The Immortal Body Parts of Uncle Albert by Phillippa Bower

Wordhaus success – sort of
I have just heard that my story ‘The Immortal Body Parts of Uncle Albert’ has been put up to be voted for in the best of Wordhaus competition. Patricia is also in the competition with her ‘Malice in Easterland’. Here is my story, but there’s not much point in voting. No cash prize so no luxury biscuits.

The Immortal Body Parts of Uncle Albert

As a young man, I lived with my mother in a small house in Clapham. By day I worked in a bank and by night I studied for my accountancy exams for I was determined to better myself. It was a tedious life until, one day, a strange letter arrived. It was written in ink on a thick paper that was browning at the edges as if of great age. The signature at the bottom was Albert S. Hartington – the same surname as my own.

My dear Sebastian, you do not know me but I am your great grandfather’s brother. I wish to have the pleasure of your company next Sunday at my home, The Manor House, Fassingbridge, Surrey, where you will hear something to your advantage.

My mother gasped and went white when she saw the letter. “Great Uncle Albert? Can he still be alive? Why, It’s impossible!”

At my prompting she told me about the old man. He had been an explorer and had come back from Africa with a black servant and a book of strange spells and secrets. Shortly afterwards he disappeared and the family heard no more.

Sunday came and I took a train and a cab and arrived at the Manor House in time for lunch. It was an impressive building at the end of a long drive, surrounded by parkland. My great great uncle was a man of wealth. The cab driver seemed nervous. He took my payment and hurried away as if anxious to leave before the great mahogany door was opened.

A black servant let me in. “My master awaits in the dining room,” he said.

I followed the man into a fine room lined with panelling upon which hung oil paintings. Uncle Albert sat at one end of a long table in front of a tall window. I squinted, trying to make out the features which were in shadow.

“Good morning, Sebastian,” he said. “I am glad you could come.” His voice was that of an old man, soft and querulous. “How is your mother?”

We exchanged pleasantries for a while and the servant came in with plates of smoked salmon and asparagus accompanied by sliced brown bread. It was a strange meal but enjoyable.

“You must excuse the simplicity of our cuisine,” said the old man. “We do little entertaining.”

After he had finished eating, Uncle Albert came straight to the point. “When in Africa,” he said. “I made friends with a witch doctor who introduced me to a book of spells and secrets. We came back to England and I foolishly experimented with the powers revealed by the book. In doing so I became immensely wealthy and also achieved immortality.”

Immortality! I stared at my uncle and saw signs of great age in the sagging white skin and shrunken flesh. “Is your friend immortal too?”

Uncle Albert shook his head. “He was a wiser man than me. He died at his appointed time but in pity for me he arranged for his offspring to serve me. Ojo, here, is the latest of his great grandsons.”

The servant, who was clearing away the dishes smiled and nodded. I waited until he had left then turned to my uncle. “What do you want of me?” I asked.

“I want you to kill me,” he said in a voice so matter of fact that he might have been discussing the weather.

“No!” I was horrified.

“If you do as I ask I will leave you this house and all my money. I have already prepared the will.” He nodded at a bureau at the side of the room.

I stared around the room. Some of the paintings I recognised as old masters and of great value. By putting the old man out of his misery I would be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. Surely it would be an act of mercy.

“Very well,” I said. “I do this not through greed, but to help you find eternal peace.”

“Of course,” he said drily.

What happened next still gives me nightmares. Upon the table were various implements – a knife, an axe and a ligature.

I picked up the knife and plunged it into his chest. It slid between his ribs and penetrated deep into his heart. I had expected a gout of blood to burst forth when I removed the knife but there was nothing more than the oozing of a slimy liquor. Too late I realised that his heart had stopped beating years ago.

Next I seized the ligature, went round behind my uncle and put it around his neck. I pulled until the bones in his neck snapped but the old man was still alive.

In desperation I grabbed the axe and chopped off his head. It took several strokes and my uncle screamed horribly. Even when the head was severed the screaming continued and I realised that the head was able to live independently of the body.

In a frenzy I chopped the body into pieces and stared at the carnage. Legs and arms were bending finger grasping  even the torso was able to twist and turn amidst the stinking soup that was my uncle’s body fluids.

In the end I shovelled his body parts into a cupboard and shut the door.

The will was proved valid, I inherited the great estate and dismissed Ojo to return to his homeland.

I wish I could say that I was happy but the memory of that hideous dismemberment haunts my nights and the sound of banging and moaning from the cupboard haunts my days.

I search through the many thousands of book in the library trying to find the book of secret spells so I can rid myself of the horror that is my great great Uncle. I fear that if I do not find it soon I will become insane.

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About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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