V worked in a morgue. It was grim, she admitted, “But then again I saw my first corpse when I was fourteen and a half.”
The night we met she was drinking heavily and had become obsessed with something she had read about, a subspecies of people born looking like goats–hairy faces, amber eyes, a muzzle. They were born male, V said, though women carried the gene.
I had my notebook out within five minutes of meeting her. I wanted to know the secrets of the morgue but all she would say about that was, “The dead never answer you back.” She was more interested in the goats. “They can live normally, feed and clothe themselves. Isolated in villages of their own, they survive–perhaps stronger, certainly more intelligent than ordinary people.”
“Why aren’t there more of them ?” I asked. “Why haven’t I ever seen one?”
A few days later I had an email from her. She had got my address from a mutual friend. “You seem like a decent man,” she said, “so I’m sending you this. Get in touch if you’re interested.”
It was a quote from Maxim Gorky, which went: “In the spring of this year, during the first warm days, weird, fantastic people crawled out on the streets of Petrograd. Where and how had they lived hitherto ? Doubtless in some slum, in old, solitary, crumbling houses, hidden away from life, insulted and rejected by the world. One dominant thought cropped up in my mind every time I saw them: they have forgotten something and are trying to recall it, silently crawling about the town in search of it.
“They were dressed in worn-out, tattered clothes, they were dirty and evidently very hungry, but they did not look like beggars and did not ask for alms. Very silently, very carefully they walked along, watching the ordinary passers-by with suspicion and curiosity. As they stopped before the shop-windows, they examined the things exhibited in them with the eyes of folk who are trying to discover–or remember–what use one made of all those things.”
I didn’t know what to make of that. She sent me a couple more things but despite feeling that she was a rich vein of subject matter I didn’t answer.