2. [Plate 2]
Not all mad scientists are men. Not all are young. Some are mad old women, disappointed in life and in love,
and determined to wreak their revenge upon the race of Men. Such were Eleanor, Enid, and Annaprudenzia who, old
and brilliant and ugly, decided to build the young woman they all wished they had been: Beautiful as the dawn in
springtime, lusty as a summer afternoon, and cruel as the harshest winter's night.
The creation of Elena's form and features was but a trifle. Eleanor was a bioengineer and an accomplished
graverobber. Enid was a neurosurgeon, chiefly, but capable of a little plastic surgery on the side. Annaprudenzia
knew how to sew. She got out the wedding gown she had never found need for, and cut it down to fit their new ward's
exquisite shape. Finally, all was ready.
All was ready, save one thing a heart! What sort of heart must she have? A woman's heart would never do. It
was too kind and rational for what they had in mind. The three learned ladies consulted long and hard. Finally,
they gave her the heart of a fox.
"Suppose you met a man, a perfect man, one in a million, the only man for you. Suppose you had it in your
power to destroy him. Would you let him live?"
"Of course not!" she said. Then, "But, well
I can imagine a certain sort of man, one with
stiff red hair and a cynical smile. A liar, a thief, and a rogue, and yet faithful to me to the death. Him I might
permit to let live a year or three. Just in order to prolong his torment, you understand."
"Too merciful by half!" the three scientists cried. They took out the fox's heart, and put in the heart
of a wolf.
Then they asked the question again.
"Preposterous!" she snorted. "Still
supposing I were to meet a savage brute of a man, with
sleek black hair and a murderous look in his eyes. Him I might take decades to
"Not cruel enough, not cruel enough!" the old women wailed.
They gave her the heart of a man.
"Who cares?" Elena said when they asked her the question a third time. "There's plenty of fish
in the sea. I could find as many like him as I wanted."
So, joyfully, the three mad scientists introduced their creation to the world.
A man, having decided to destroy everything, would have created something that would do the job all at once.
They, being women, were more patient. Their weapon would destroy the world one man at a time.
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This is the second of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany
Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available
stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.