Authors: Richard Matheson
Now You See It
Now You See It
Copyright © 1995 by Richard Matheson
Cover art to the electronic edition copyright © 2011 by RosettaBooks, LLC
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Electronic edition published 2011 by RosettaBooks LLC, New York.
ISBN e-Pub edition: 9780795315732
To my dear friend Robert Bloch,
who created magic in all our lives
: A technique in which two or more choices are supposedly offered for free selection by the spectator but a predetermined one actually is imposed upon him.
Daresay you’ve never, in your life, read a story written by a vegetable. Well, here’s your chance. Not that it’s a story. It happened; I was there.
Your narrator and humble servant, Mr. Vegetable.
My name is Emil Delacorte. When all this occurred, I was seventy-three.
You’ve probably never heard of me, even though I was a headlining magician in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s; called
The Great Delacorte
—a title I passed along to my son. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.
I was doing very well until I had a “cerebrovascular accident” in 1966. That’s a “stroke” to you, though I’m more inclined toward “apoplexy”; sounds more colorful. The experience itself, of course, was not so colorful. Though it was, God knows, plenty dramatic.
To me, anyway.
I was on the verge of being sealed into a boiler tank (one
of my better escapes) when a blood vessel in my brain popped, depriving said brain of oxygen supply.
(paralysis) took place, commencing the process which converted me into the aforementioned vegetable.
Quite a vision to my audience, I gather. From charming, urbane Delacorte (The Great) I was suddenly reduced to a dizzy, vertigo-locked, nauseous reeler. No doubt startling to the assembled folks. Disgusting too, as a violent headache and vomiting set in.
Not exactly the highlight of my showbiz career.
Soon afterward, permanent paralysis began, the loss of speech, and my one-way ticket to Vegetable City. Sudden death from stroke being rare, I was not permitted the grace of taking my final bow and exiting the stage of life.
Instead, the best fate could offer me was a doctor’s instruction to reduce physical and emotional tension while I waited for as much recovery as possible.
Fourteen years later, when these events transpired, I was still waiting.
By dint of my son’s loving kindness, I was not dispatched to some asylum but permitted to reside in his home, a motionless figure customarily located in the study—or, as I prefer to call it, The Magic Room.
There I sat ensconced in my wheelchair, a staring obelisk, an effigy of what I’d been, a statue entitled
(in more ways than one) or, better still,
Up On the Shelf for Good
. A voiceless, torpid lump, ostensibly brainless.
There, you see, is the rub. For the real torment was that in that dumb shell I existed in, an active and observant brain was struggling for the means to express itself. That is the horror of a stroke, believe me.
Perhaps if this had happened ten or twenty years later,
there might have been some medical-surgical procedure by which I could have ended my night- (and day-) mare.
Then again, perhaps not. Even my son, devoted as he was to me, might have found it inescapable to A&F (Accept and Forget). Who could have blamed the man? I had become more a piece of furniture than a family member. Not hard to take a piece of furniture for granted.
I go on at length about my plant-kingdom persona so you will understand how all these strange events could have taken place in my presence without a single person involved giving it a second thought that I was there. But then, do we concern ourselves with the observational capacities of a turnip?
Anyway, Maximilian (my son) had enough problems of his own, as you will discover.
A few more explanatory comments before I launch into my account of that fateful day.
Because of Maximilian’s loyalty to me, I had a nurse (one Nelly Washington) who stayed with me constantly (in the beginning, anyway), providing those attentions I could not request but obviously required—eating and elimination to the fore.
Nelly was no Venus but she had an inner beauty of compassion, a good deal of patience, and (luckily for her as well as for me) an abundant sense of humor. Most of all, God bless her giant heart, she never allowed me to remain defeated or helpless. She was a rock of reassurance on which I wobbled constantly until some semblance of hope oozed back into my brain—along with a few restorative drams of blood.
I’m glad she happened to be absent on the day it all took
place, although in retrospect, I realize that it probably was no accident.
After all, she would have been an obviously sentient witness to the mania which occurred.
One thing about residing in a useless body in the sole company of one’s brain: it gives one time to appraise said brain, appreciate its true capacities, and, eventually, train it to perform. In this way I was able to educate my brain to remember everything I saw around me, thus enabling me to write down this event in full detail.
This is fortunate because the events I will describe took place fourteen years ago. I will explain, in due course, why I had to wait so long to disclose them.
But first, let me sketch in the environment for the play, or—most appropriately—the setting for the magic show. For magic is the dark thread which binds together the tapestry of this crazed and homicidal episode, this lethal interval of time.
This period of total lunacy.
This happened in the home where my son had lived for thirty-seven of his fifty-two years. My wife Lenore gave birth to him in 1928, dying ten years later giving birth to our second (stillborn) son.
As indicated, Maximilian had been (since my “accident” made it impossible for me to perform)
The Great Delacorte
. He had been my assistant since he was seventeen, and knew my act as well as I did, performing on his own as well as continuing to help me, reaching full theatrical bloom when he was thirty-seven and assumed my stage name.
Living in this house were two other people, not counting the houseman and cleaning woman, who were also not present
on that day. Coincidence? My aged, wrinkled ass it was.
The first of these two people was Max’s wife Cassandra, forty-one, a woman of uncommon beauty, intelligence, and nastiness. She had been married to Max for nine years, his assistant in the act for eight.
Cassandra had two goals in life. One was to get my ancient bones out of the house and into a distant vegetable farm.
The other was … well, that must wait, or we have no tale.
The third resident of
(exclusive of Nelly and the two servants, of course) was Cassandra’s brother Brian, thirty-five, an employee of my son’s.