Helen knew that something special lay in store for her. Precisely what it was thwarted her divination, but Helen, in murky dreams, had witnessed a stork nesting underneath the gallows, its bill opened wide to catch all that fell. She placed her palms together daily in eager, yet nervous, anticipation of some Great Event.

Mr Runcible's opinion was that Helen required remediation of a particular kind and that he was both duty- and honor-bound to provide it. Small wonder she was never permitted out of the house.

Earlier in his life, Mr Runcible had been wed to a woman of delicate sensibilities named Rhea, an often agitated and brittle woman who very nearly perished in the attempt to expel the infant Helen from her womb. On Mr Runcible's conscience was the fact that some time later, he himself had caused her to perish in the attempt to carve her delightfully feminine body into a hundred tiny replicas of itself that he might distribute to every line of sight that existed in his house so that he should never miss a glimpse of her ethereal beauty, no matter the location of the room or the angle of his entrance, but as it happened, the human body comprises such stuff as does not lend to shaping. (He had, as have so many of History's finest gentleman, misled himself by interpreting literally the metaphor of "clay.") The pieces of his wife that he was left with - mostly bits of bone and gristle - he stored in the plumbing. She sustained the mineral content of the water after that, thus blessing those who partook of that house's cooking with rude and bountiful health for all the years it was inhabited.

When his wife's ghost commenced her haunting, she proceeded according to the tenets of a document that she had read when she was an impressionable adolescent. The text stated that "ghosts" were nothing more than waters and winds given voice and motive by mortal remains they touched in passing; thus, the necessity of burial in a sealed coffin, in order to avoid the risk of spiritual transmission to the elements. There was, of course, at all times a great deal of water passing by Rhea's bones in the pipes of the house … and, duty- and honor-bound, she confided herself eloquently to every droplet of it. In fact, this property of the house's water contributed significantly to Mr Runcible's aversion to washing his hands more than once a month.

Helen spent the idle hours available to her (and there were many) creating scenarios in her mind that were replete with projected details of the Great Event. Rhea, in her way, assisted: the knocking of the pipes inspired vivid and theatrical resonances in Helen's responsive, if whimsical, imagination; the susurrus of the flow they hosted whispered secret tidings of Historical sweep; and occasional eruptions from the drains augured of omens as to dangerous antagonists. And from a family of birds that loitered frequently in the tree outside her window, Helen learned of Rapture's dendritic profusion throughout Creation, ubiquitous in all Time and Space. Beneath the patina of Appearance lurked Truth, from whose bosom the Great Event would be launched.

Rhea's spectral duties were performed without complaint, and indeed, as a ghost, Mr Runcible's wife proved far more agreeable on a day-to-day basis than she had done in life. She did not make of herself a nagging presence, nor a morose one - as appears to be the policy amongst a great many ghosts in the world - but rather punctuated the household narrative with a proper and appropriate set of inverted commas that truly could be faulted by no line editor worth his or her salt. (The metaphor shall not cease there, in fact, for one might even say that an adequately punctilious Grammar of our Holy Life may not be assembled without the inclusion of symbols originated from the Other Side of the Great Divide. The sentient entity, lacking even awareness of the wider perspective gained by those who have passed into a more expansive, unconfined state of consciousness, it could be argued (possibly in an essay published in a periodical of vast esteem and, ahem, commensurate circulation), should perhaps not be conferred the recognition of "sentience" at all. A touch digressive, this little paragraph, ahem, I do not deny … and I have, I think graciously, quarantined my vanity within this parenthetical … but "authorial authority" brings its advantages, one must concede, and I shall not hesitate to avail myself of them whensoever a wholesome and didactic excursion asserts its necessity!)

Many hours constitute a day, and many days contribute to a month, and indeed the epicycles proliferate upon the cycles like so many barnacles upon the Ship of Eternity. As that most intrepid explorer of the Universe, Time, exhausted Himself across those hours and days and months, Helen, too, exhausted herself in confabulating scenes of some impending Great Event that she sensed loomed ever nearer. These scenarios were never as exciting as their initial inspirations promised. They lacked character … loveliness … color … moisture … grandeur. They were pitiably insipid, when it came right down to it, and Helen did sometimes succumb to a languor of wretched hopelessness and despair; but always, she rebounded from these psychical setbacks with renewed determination … until … one evening …

A torpor - more pervasive and peculiar than any lassitude heretofore endured - enmisted young Helen as she lay abed counting ceiling spackles, - a slumber gravid with implications of Destiny and History. It lasted full a fortnight, and she was fed during this period by the method of Mr Runcible's chewing her food into a glutinous slurry and gently prising her lips apart so that he might deposit that proteinaceous mash directly from his tongue to hers.

With avidity, Mr Runcible applied all the energies of his paternal devotion to the project of keeping vital the living fluids within the withering (and yet persistently transcendental and ethereal, in a manner inherited from his darling Rhea) corpus of his daughter. Her mother, he recognized, he had failed abysmally in this regard (attributable in the main, he believed, to the regrettably extended callowness of his Youth, - probably due in part to a poverty of poetry - reading during his impressionable adolescence, not to mention the near absence of swine in his childhood diet), and thus he felt keenly the obligation to succeed when it came to Helen.

When, finally, her eyelids fluttered open, ushering her forth into the dust-and-dry world from dewy dreams, Helen discovered Mr Runcible standing in her closet, his naked body filling the narrow frame, his teeth chewing something behind closed lips.

"For the sake of our Savior," he intoned, after dramatically swallowing whatever it was he had been masticating (possibly bacon, as the room was permeated by that odor), "Who brought us the gift of knowing the color of Divine Blood, I implore you to erase from your memory the image of my enflamed manhood, to which your innocent eyes have been so shamefully … brutally … and heretically … exposed!"

Indeed, now that he had mentioned it, Helen noticed that Mr Runcible featured an extraordinary situation between his thighs. And behold, the manly armadas! And alas - subsequently to the rousing clangor of engagement - the swiftly drooping morale …

Helen found within another fortnight that she was with child, or something similar. It - the child or similar thing - revolved and gurgled at all hours within her belly, never hesitating to protrude a foot or thorny fist whenever Helen thought a moment's peace had finally been achieved. It seemed that motherhood was as much a tribulation as her own mother had forever been warning her it would be (before that kind, harried woman crawled into a shiny new pipe that had been recently installed below the bathroom sink, a pipe which Helen had often thereafter found herself caressing and kissing at odd, secret hours of the day and night, when Mr Runcible was out upon his rounds in the dingy, urban world that was forbidden to her innocent eyes).

She sought assistance from a bottle of Mission Wine she had discovered occupying its very own shelf in the pantry cupboard. The potent fumes aroused her propensity for dewy dreams. Her father discovered her drowsing across the sofa, the very bottle snuggled sideways in the pouch between her distended abdomen and her fattening thighs. Helen blinked into wakefulness to find Mr Runcible on his hands and knees beside her, nibbling and gently licking at the cork, his body naked, his sailors sailing. Her neck carried two pulses, one for her and one for the … baby … but soon a third pulse chimed in, and Mr Runcible could not contain his rage.

"Should I discover that your body is harboring an unGodly other - or worse, multiples! - I shall proceed upon a lethal rampage that will leave all of you - all of you - gasping on the shore of Styx with no fare to take you further!"

Helen expanded in both girth and population. Upon the arrival of the third month of her Circumstances, it was clear that she contained more than a hundred "treasured guests" within her abdomen. Their limbs entwined and writhed in perpetual orgies, and while Helen felt at times that she was being excluded from a rather pleasant party, the fact that her own body hosted a space in which the ecstasy of others could be achieved lent her, she fancied, a status of sacrificial dignity. Unfortunately, Mr Runcible's judgement of her status differed distinctly from hers, and the force of his opinion could be mitigated only when his manhood was enflamed and pig-meat plentiful upon his tastebuds.

Helen's innocent eyes beheld a slew of armadas, and Mr Runcible found himself more and more wont to staying in to look after his innocent, motherless daughter, rather than embarking out upon those worldly expeditions that left her alone in the house to explore for Wine caches. Little Poochie, the doggy, would lap up the leavings of Mr Runcible's shame.

In the night, it is true, while Helen slept, Mr Runcible and Little Poochie held court together in the girl's closet.


And we see the light, finally! Trembling with fatigue, we swim for shore and leap out of the crimson waves onto an alabaster beach, unstained as yet by worldly corruption!