My Pleasures Were Undignifiedbyoptimizer888©
The source material's been done to death, of course. A few have even taken it in the direction this story goes. But none have been terribly faithful to the original, and commercial considerations prevented them from following things to their logical conclusion.
My Pleasures Were (To Say The Least) Undignified
I've finished preparing the next set of doses and carefully stored them away. I still should have at least another few hours. Just enough time to finish composing this and hide it somewhere out-of-the-way. But where to begin?
At the beginning, I suppose.
"...that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck..."
It was the end of the day, and I was examining some bedroom furniture I'd recently obtained at an estate sale. I ran an antique dealership on the outskirts of Boston that was, if I may say so, upscale and well-respected among a more refined clientele. The bed, wardrobe, bureau, and so forth had been indifferently cared for but I felt that with some restoration work I could turn a good profit on them. Late 19th-century sets such as this one were a bit in fashion in certain circles.
My first hint of something strange was when I started to remove the drawers from the bureau. The final one, on the bottom left, refused to come out completely. It appeared to be stuck on something inside the frame. I bent low and examined it carefully; I certainly had no intention of damaging it. To my surprise, I realized there was a hidden catch preventing it from coming loose. I'd seen this before, in other furniture of the period - I had stumbled upon a secret compartment.
Cautiously I disengaged the catch and removed the drawer from its slot. There was indeed a hollow concealed beneath. I carefully extracted the contents, puzzling a bit at their curious nature. Two small, thick, stoppered bottles came out first. The larger vial contained a residue of a very dark, reddish, viscous substance. The smaller one was almost empty, holding just a few grains of some white crystal. Beneath them, perhaps a dozen pages of handwritten notes, yellowed with age. Nothing else.
I skimmed the pages quickly, my excitement mounting. At first I thought it was a portion of Stevenson's 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde', and a handwritten copy could be worth a good deal. But slowly I realized it was something different, and much stranger. It was old, clearly. But it wasn't Stevenson's work... at least, not as published.
It was the confession of one 'Dougal Tawesson', and mostly it followed 'Jekyll's' from the story. Large chunks were identical. (A pure liberal arts education isn't worth much outside of academia, but at least I knew literature.) Key details were different, though. It took place in Edinburgh, not London. Instead of murdering a prominent citizen, his alternate form had killed a prostitute who'd refused him 'service'. But, like in the original (Or was it original? I had begun to doubt...) there had been a witness to the crime. And so on.
Whatever I'd found, I had an unaccountable hunch that it was important. I looked to the stoppered bottles in the drawer. Perhaps it was a set of props for one of the plays based on the story? It was old enough to be an early production - still worth some money to the proper collector.
Or, far more valuable - might this be an early draft of the story? That could be very lucrative, and buy some useful publicity besides. Then there was the dim, scarcely-possible chance that I had found an earlier work, something Stevenson had based his story upon. The papers could easily be that old... and if that were the case, they would be nearly priceless.
It's ridiculous now, looking back. Even my craziest, most half-baked imaginings fell so far short of what I actually had in my hands. I didn't even begin to suspect what I now know to be the truth until later that night. I decided to leave the set for the morning. I bundled up my finds, locked up the store, and drove home.
My house was a sizeable cottage in the older part of the city. Somewhat expensive, but my business brought in a respectable income and I had no one but myself to spend it on. I'd restored much of it to its original condition, with a few discreet updates. The electrical system had needed the most modernization, I remembered as I sat in front of my computer, skimming sites and Googling details.
The first thing I did was find a copy of the original story online and compare it with my find. As I'd thought, it was mostly identical. Only the names and a few circumstances and details were different. Next I began to research those circumstances.
There really had been a Tawesson, and he'd been killed by one of his servants, who had then killed himself. He'd been a learned doctor, at least later in life, and while the fit was not exact there were other parallels between him and the fictional Jekyll. A record of churchgoing and charitable pursuits. There'd been hints of blackmail between him and the 'newly hired' servant, Henry Cuilidh. Tawesson's body was never found.
And like Jekyll, he'd apparently craved the respect of 'higher society', though he'd had somewhat less success in garnering it. His past was a trifle too disreputable - an excess of drinking and brawling when he was young, heroic service in the Anglo-Zulu War but stories of brutality had dogged him afterwards. (Considering the times, that implied a truly shocking level of ruthlessness.) A gentleman, true, but... not a gentleman's gentleman.
I knew some of the history of the furniture, and it had indeed come from Britain. The elderly lady it had belonged to was definitely of Scottish descent. I could find no solid link to either Stevenson or Tawesson, but such a connection could not be ruled out.
More interesting. There were hints - just hints, but still - that Tawesson had been abused as a child. And that was a primary risk factor for developing multiple personalities, I'd read. And a quick search found that 'cuilidh' was Scots Gaelic for a 'cellar' or 'secret place'...
I looked again at the bottles from the drawer. I wasn't ready to admit, even to myself, what I was starting to suspect. But I was filled with an unjustified agitation nonetheless, anxiety mixed with a hint of almost formless hope.
"...I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life..."
I acted on my tension in the way I often did at night, alone, with the shades drawn. I shut down the computer and walked up the stairs to the spare bedroom, locking the door behind me. And then I unlocked the lovely Victorian wardrobe therein and regarded the contents as I began to undress. In moments I was naked, semi-erect, and my former clothes were banished from sight in an empty drawer, closed swiftly with a familiar motion.
I moved differently now, a sway in my hips, my weight shifted to my toes. A wig - light brown hair, with a gentle wave - settled onto my head and became my own. Sheer black panties slid up my legs and concealed my burgeoning erection. Enough to ignore, at least. I stole a glance at the imposing, full-length mirror on a stand in the corner of the bedroom.
A garter belt next. Black with red piping, so sexy. Then sleek, genuine silk stockings. You couldn't even see the hair now. Sometimes I shaved, but I was frightened of being discovered with shaved legs somehow... no, not important, not now. I turned, admiring the dark line running up the back of each stocking. No wonder girls in WWII had painted those lines on when silk ran short. They just accentuated the legs so well, and drew the eye along the curves, up to where they should be looking.
A corset next, so tight... my waist had that girlish slimness I so loved. The forms tucked invisibly into the cups of my favorite brassiere, and with practiced ease I slipped it on and hooked the straps.
The dress followed swiftly. An evening dress, skirt to the knee, no cleavage showing but still emphasizing my bosom. Light lace trim, frilly and playful. High-heeled, strappy shoes.
A bit of makeup, expertly applied. A touch of blush, shadow. Mascara? Tonight, yes. And now red lips puckered at me in the mirror, blowing a kiss. Delicious lips. I could see them pressed against a hairy cheek, nuzzling a neck with an Adam's apple... wrapped around a stiff cock. Oh, yes, they were perfect for that.
The opening rites of the ritual were complete. There she was in the mirror: Sherry Dulce. Sweet, sassy, strong, intoxicating. The shoes gave me such a walk as I sashayed across the room, poised yet seductive.
No one, not my small remaining family, not my handful of friends, certainly none of my customers, knew about Sherry. Only once had she gone out in public. A buying trip to a less staid city, where I could not possibly be recognized. I had dressed in my hotel room and dithered for almost half an hour before sneaking out the back stairs and hailing a cab to a bar I'd read of.
I entered with trepidation inside, but Sherry would never feel that way and outwardly I was collected and confident. I could see others like me scattered about. Some were better-disguised than others, a few I couldn't even be sure about. It was clearly the right place.
I had a few drinks at the bar, and a man even asked me to dance. I did well, I think, despite only having practiced in the mirror. Sherry would have enjoyed it, but I still felt awkward inside, an imposter. I gave no sign; he even asked me if I wanted to go home with him.
In reality, things had gone no further. I had chickened out, unable to live up to Sherry's ideal. I wasn't gay, in all truth. Dressed up, in my bedroom, I'd have all kinds of wild notions. But in my daily life, I'd never been attracted to a man. I'd eye the ladies, enjoy their charms, and examine their clothes for ideas. Not once had I pictured myself with any of my customers. That night I'd made my excuses and gone back to my lonely hotel room.
But now, in my spare bedroom, in Sherry's room - in my own world - I did go home with him. He was much more handsome, a gentleman. He had led me into the bedroom and kissed me gently. I could almost feel his hands gliding over my body, appreciating the ladylike curves he found. He pulled me close, and held me tight.
My breath increased its pace as my phantom lover handled me with escalating roughness, squeezing me, playing with my breasts, sneaking a hand between my thighs. (Somewhere else, my hand stroked my penis through the dress, but that was irrelevant compared to my imaginary loveplay.)
I let him draw me toward the bed. (On that other level, a vibrator emerged from the wardrobe, and was quickly lubricated...) He threw me down on top of the bedspread and held me down, proud kisses muffling my moans of pleasure. I helped him hike up my skirt and push my panties out of the way. I was so wet, he slid in so easily.
Oh, I was such a naughty girl!
I groaned and came when he did, shivering within my passage. It was heavenly, fulfilling, wonderful. I basked for a period in the afterglow, whispering endearments to the man who had possessed me.
Now that I had come, the glamour receded in increments. My stomach was wet and sticky, my anus dripping and aching slightly. Guilt grew to replace the dreamy satisfaction of before.
I had never found a woman I could share this with, that I could even dream of taking such a risk on. The scandal, if it got out... I'd be ruined. People expect a certain dignity in an antiques dealer. And so, here I was, a lonely middle-aged man playing dress-up at night. My face burning with shame, I cleaned everything thoroughly, put the clothes in the wash and the toys away, and went to take a shower before bed.
"...a side-light began to shine upon the subject from the laboratory table."
Sal Travis was a friend of mine, one of a few. A chemist at a testing firm. As I said, I only have a liberal arts education so when he tried to explain his work, it mostly went over my head. But he enjoyed antiques, too, which was how we'd met. He'd helped me out a few times, checking the age of some items of questionable provenance.
We would meet once in a while somewhere and have dinner. It had been a few months since the last time - he'd gotten over his divorce and started dating again. But he was happy to hear from me and readily agreed to get together.
We met at our most frequent haunt, Fleming's, a tasteful midtown restaurant that served fine steak with excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. As we were wrapping up the meal I finally broached the subject I'd been patiently avoiding.
"Anyway, I found these bottles locked away in a bureau. I was hoping you could take a little time and tell me what's in them. Or, at least, what was in them. I don't think they've been touched in a century or more."
Sal looked them over doubtfully. "Huh... not much left. And this red stuff here is definitely organic. If they're that old, they'll have decayed badly by now. Why do you care, anyway?"
"Honestly, at the moment I'd rather not say."
He peered at me, somewhat confused. "Seriously?" he half-smiled.
"I'm afraid so. If I told you what I think it might be, you'd... I don't know. Laugh at me for sure."
"Now you've got me curious."
"Well, apply that curiosity to what's in those bottles. I really want to know what's in them."
"I guess I could run them through the chromatograph and such at work, that'd tell me something."
"...scientific discoveries had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle..."
A week later (a week that felt very long to me) we were again having a final glass of wine over the remains of an excellent meal. Sal, sensing my burning curiosity, had nevertheless put off his report on his findings until then.
"Okay, the red mixture is weird. Lots of different things, some are impurities, leftovers from the chemistry back then. They just couldn't make stuff as pure as we can now. It's also broken down pretty far, but not so completely that I couldn't figure it out. Basically a bunch of simple organics. There's a small amount of a plant-based MAOI, but there's more Melanopsin and Melatonin - those come from the pineal glands of birds. So far as I can tell, that's where most of the impurities come from. Whoever whipped this up seems to have chopped up a bunch of bird brains and filtered out the fluid."
"So... what does all that mean?"
"Wait, it gets better. Most of the solvent evaporated by now, but all these substances were once dissolved in DMSO, Dimethyl sulfoxide. An organic solvent." He smiled again. "DMSO glides through most body tissues like they aren't even there. You get a little on your fingers and suddenly you can taste the stuff. It's that fast. It can carry other chemicals along, too."
"Forgive me, I'm just a BFA." He grinned. Like most technical types he had a bit of a superiority complex over those who didn't pursue the 'harder' subjects. It didn't make him a bad guy but he did enjoy ribbing me. The good news was I could exploit it to keep him talking.
He paused. "DMSO was expensive then - there's a reason it's there... but I'm getting off-track. Overall though, the stuff is pretty benign. The most you might get out of drinking it would be an upset stomach."
I paused, wondering, and embarrassed to be a little disappointed. "And the white powder?"
"There wasn't much left, but I was able to get a good reading. It's more complicated, but it's basically a hydrochloride, a salt, of a medium-size organic molecule."
Now his smile was very wide. "I'm dying to know who the heck brewed this up. If you mixed them, you'd get a quick reaction that would combine the precursors to produce a variant of Dimethyltryptamine - DMT. He must have been trying for a powerful, fast-acting hallucinogen, at least with the MAOI - Monoamine oxidase inhibitor - that's in there. It's been used for centuries in tribal rituals and the like."
Now I worried that the 'change' had been all in Tawesson's head. "Well, I can tell you the guy I have in mind had done some traveling in Africa."
"Must be where he got the idea. A little goes a long way. I nicknamed it Shaman's Hangover. Partly because it shouldn't have worked."
"What?" My confusion was unfeigned.
"I said he was 'trying for' a hallucinogen. But it'd be the wrong form. Most organic molecules have multiple forms, diastereomers or etaniomers, mirror images or partial mirrors..." He finally noticed my blank expression. "Anyway, the form produced would be biologically inactive. Except for a contaminant in the salt."
My mind flashed back to what I'd read. "I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught." Trying to be casual, I asked, "What 'contaminant'?"
"The salt itself has a few etaniomers. Looks like he got lazy separating them out. Or maybe he just couldn't tell the difference, a lot of this wasn't understood well back then. In any case, it was a lucky break. The mixture of both produces an active variant of DMT. This might be the first designer drug; you've found a Timothy Leary for the 1800s."
His eyes got a faraway look. "Mixed with the MAOI... they would've gone on a hell of a trip. Not sure what the Melatonin and such would add. Descartes thought the pineal gland was the 'seat of the soul' but now we know that it regulates bodily rhythms and such... Anyway, with the DMSO carrying the Hangover, the effect would be practically instantaneous - faster than crack. It'd rocket across the blood-brain barrier. I'm not sure, but I think it'd also metabolize faster. It might be like the whole trip was compressed into a few seconds. But pharmacology isn't really my field, I'm guessing at a lot of this."
The moment of truth. "Could you whip up a fresh batch?"
He stared blankly for a moment. "That is just about the last thing I expected you to ask." A long pause. "Why should I?"
"I... I'm not in a position to say yet. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."
Sal looked thoughtful. "As they say, 'Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.'" He considered a moment more, then shook his head. "Sorry, Carl, you're not quite that good a friend."
"Look, I never should have..." I began.
"Wait, let me finish. I can't make this for you. I won't be legally responsible for you killing yourself or ending up in a padded room." A smile broke the thoughtful expression. "But hey, I don't care how people get their jollies. It's not that hard to make - the raw ingredients are legal and fairly easy to come by, and you don't need much equipment. A stove, a professional timer and thermometer, a couple of graduated beakers and a few other instruments..."
"I think I see," I said with a smile of my own.
"I can always say 'I just told him how the guy would've made it.' I thought I was only helping your research..."
"But the temptation of a discovery so singular and profound, at last overcame the suggestions of alarm."
Much later that night I sat at my desk, my elbow propped on the edge, chin resting on my hand. Sal's handwritten notes lay next to Tawesson's papers. The website of a chemical supply firm was displayed on my computer.
So. Did I really believe it could work? Or was I just a lonely pervert driven half-crazy by desperation, willing to risk poisoning myself? But still... I reread a few lines from the 'confession': "...I began to perceive more deeply than it has ever yet been stated, the trembling immateriality, the mist-like transience of this seemingly so solid body in which we walk attired..."
That sounded a lot like the modern new-age 'Quantum Consciousness' stuff you heard nowadays, just expressed in 19th-century terms. Sal was ruthlessly derisive about such 'cranks'. He said they were badly misinterpreting Quantum Mechanics.