The Taxidermist

18-05-2019 16:05

Ajax Chaste was a virgin like his parents. When he was three years old he was adopted by a kindly, childless couple, Paul and Becky, who lived on an inland farm.  The Chastes were about the same height and weight and wore similar flannel shirts and blue jeans. They had matching haircuts and mannerisms; they kept a portrait of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust on the mantel over the fireplace in their farmhouse near Ketchikan, Alaska.

Ajax was a Native American Inuit. His birth parents were born on Baffin Island in the Nunavut Territories of Canada and had moved to the west coast of Alaska in 1982 so his mother could work the cruise-ship trade and father, an experienced whaler, shipped out on commercial fishing boats for months at a time. He disappeared with ship and crew in a violent Pacific storm in 1984. Mom used her own assets to attract a rich whale and sailed away on the Regal Princess, leaving Ajax abandoned behind the hedges of the local dog kennel.

In his new environment of verdant pastures and rolling hills, Ajax was surrounded by a variety of domesticated animals; plus he sought out all of the wild critters and creepy creatures he could find. Farm life was strenuous and regimented but daddy Paul taught him how to butcher hogs and snap chicken necks. Whenever he could escape his chores he would run with the Australian cattle dogs or stalk the barn cats.

Ajax felt a deep ancestral love of animals but he loved them equally whether alive or dead. He did not discriminate between animate and inanimate flesh. If a creature was behaving badly, a quick whack on the head with any handy blunt object would make it more cooperative. But if he accidentally killed it, the fun would be over and he would feel an unpleasant tingle of sadness. He decided when he got older he would do something to correct this sorrowful state.

Ajax became obsessed with herpetology. He had a pet iguana named Darwin. He dissected frogs in his room and began skinning snakes to make belts and hatbands to trade at the rural school he attended on Saturdays. Once, he found a dead deer in the woods. Apparently, it had broken its leg in an accident then collapsed and died of dehydration and exposure. He returned to it every day to watch the decay; fascinated with the eruption of maggots, the cloud of flies, the evidence of scavengers. To him, it represented the whole circle of life, death, and re-birth. It was the most significant spiritual experience of his young life.

Ajax was raised in the Church of Androgyny. When he turned 16, he submitted to the Nirwaan, the Sacred Rite of Castration where the testicles are surgically removed. This was the only time in his life he has taken a drug; he was injected with Ketamine, a potent tranquilizer and anaesthetic. The High Priest who performed the ceremony was a fully emasculated eunuch; he’d had his penis ceremoniously amputated in devotion to the faith.

Always a quiet, reserved kid, Ajax became an even more taciturn teen-ager, spending his days in his room listening to moody bands like The Cure, Bauhaus and Depeche Mode while working on his secret projects. When not secluded in his bedroom in the attic, he would roam the countryside hunting, trapping and fishing using the traditional methods of his Inuit ancestors. A lonely kid with no friends, his adopted parents convinced him to go to a psychiatrist to find out why he was so repulsive to others. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with Schizoid Personality Disorder. His symptoms included Alexithymia, or the inability to express emotions, and Eccedentesiastia, which is constantly hiding behind a fake smile.

In high school, now using the nickname AJ, he became interested in robots and joined the Robotics Club. He enjoyed building the radio controlled metal war machines and he won many battles at state-wide death match contests. He even gained grudging respect from his fellow geeks yet they still refused to invite him to the post match celebrations. He was eventually kicked out of the club when he began covering his mechanical creations with animal hides and installing tiny speakers which emitted high-pitched predator cries.

AJ was born with Occular Amblyopia (a deformed, lazy eye) but it went untreated because his birth parents were suspicious of doctors and disturbed by the bad omen. Young master Chaste realized the grey, wandering pupil was repulsive to people so he usually wore an eye patch in public. Despite this superficial handicap, he was a good student and earned adequate grades to be accepted to the University of Alaska in Anchorage. His strong kinship to animals and the support of his adopted parents encouraged him to pursue a Veterinary Technician degree. If all went well he would eventually transfer to Fairbanks for veterinary medicine school.

AJ developed severe insomnia while at school and had to avoid all stimulants. He would walk the streets at night and find stray dogs and cats. When he brought them home he would break their legs or poison them to learn their physiology and how to heal them. He was never cruel; he performed these experiments humanely with a minimum of pain. He would often steal bottles of Acepromazine to sedate the animals.

After graduation, Mr Chaste was hired as a Vet Tech in a small veterinary clinic on the outskirts of the city. He got a tattoo on the inside of his left wrist of a traditional Ulu knife, his favorite blade for skinning hides. He began pursuing an amateur taxidermy hobby at night after the clinic was closed. Using the bodies of animals brought in for cremation, he filled their urns with wood ash and practiced his skinning and tanning skills on the corpses. The forms were sculpted from polystyrene, wood and wire. Gears and servo-motors replaced joints and muscle. This mobile menagerie was placed on every shelf and flat surface of his mobile home.

Eventually he ran out of space in his trailer and storage shed. One evening in his workshop he had an epiphany. Distraught pet owners were willing to pay exorbitant sums for pet memorials. What could be more memorable than your best friend preserved in an eternal, peaceful pose displayed in a shrine of honor in your home? He could create lifelike stuffed animals, place them in tasteful settings and charge premium prices.  The following day he formed an on-line taxidermy service specializing in deceased pet re-creations. He called the company LIFELIKE REMEMBRANCES. One rich client paid him $10,000 to re-make her poodle Trixie with motion sensors; a voice chip containing dozens of barks, whines, and whimpers; and fully articulating tail, ears and jaw.

With his new taxidermy business taking off, AJ was earning double his salary at the clinic. He fantasized about creating an exotic animatronic petting zoo if he could only acquire the valuable hides. All things considered, his future was looking bright. That was before he choked his boss to death.

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