The Infinite Matrix

Stories Columns Archive FAQ Home

the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


19. [Plate 58]
The Clyster of San Bernardino

Everybody knows what a clyster is. One day, in the Monastery of—

Eh? You don't? Well, it looks like a syringe, only much larger. It's filled with pureed food — beef stew, porridge, beets, whatever, so long as it's nicely liquified. The clyster is used in cases where, for whatever reason, the patient cannot take nourishment by mouth, and is inserted… well, you know where. Down there.

In the rectum.

The monks of San Bernardino employ this device more liberally than most hospitalers, feeling that your average patient, whatever his condition, could use a little more variety in his diet. And it works marvelous well, too. It is astonishing how many patients deemed in serious need of long-term care find the energy to leave the monastery on their own recognizance after only a few days of dorsal feeding!

A particular enthusiast of the Clyster Method was Brother Bruno. He viewed his thrice-daily ministry as not only a piety, but an entertainment as well. When some of his brother monks were at loose ends, they liked to follow him on his rounds, laughing merrily as he cried, "Bend over and smile!" or "Here comes the choo-choo!"

One day a vengeful former patient obtained a clyster of his own and, disguised as a monk, infiltrated the monastery. He lurked in the shadows, waiting, the clyster hidden within his robes. When Brother Bruno passed by at noontime, he fell in silently behind the good monk's entourage.

The first patient of the day was a notorious atheist who had compounded his heinous sin — and this shows how cunning the wicked are — by pretending to lead a virtuous life. As if it were possible to do so without the guidance of clergy! It may be that Brother Bruno had been a little rough with him at times. Certainly the godless old devil gibbered in fear at the sight of him now.

But just as Brother Bruno bent over in preparation to insert the clyster, he felt a man step up close behind him and open his robes in the back, exposing his buttocks. Something thick and warm thrust itself a good eight inches into his bowels. His eyes bugged out in horror.

Then the former patient pushed his clyster's plunger, flooding him with pea soup and hot peppers, and Brother Bruno realized exactly what was going on.

He flushed with humiliation and relief.


[ Previous ]  [ Next ]

This is the 19th 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.

home | stories | columns | archive | faq | talk