Enemy Force and The Emerald Eyes

Enemy Force

(From the end of Part 1, through the beginning of Part 2)

My words produced a certain impression on Dr. Froin. Yet he remained, perhaps, in doubt: lunatics are so obscure! But the impression intensified as he pondered the terms of my plea. I saw him almost imperceptibly nod his head. A smile was growing on his face and he very poorly suppressed it. He got up,—with some difficulty—,shook my hand, and concluded:

“Come on! Let’s go! Everything seems absolutely shipshape; this will have been nothing. You had a little holiday and that’s all. Eat well, don’t tire yourself out walking in the gardens,—with or without Leonard,—I caution you—read something light, Alphonse Allais, Shoomard, Courteline, Franc-Nohain, translations of Mark Twain—I’ll send you something this evening,—go to bed early, don’t get up too early—and the holiday won’t last long.”
And it was this very moment that some obscure enemy crouching in me—since when?—chose to writhe around and shake my nerves, to force me to manifest a fury that I didn’t feel, that I didn’t want to feel, to make me shout out, dance and then convulse like the two ‘agitated’ of the brown brick pavilion!

I had spoken in all sincerity, said everything I thought without reservations or additions—and now it was no longer true! I hated Bid’homme and Roffieux! I was in a hurry to bleed them, to do them in—and I shouted this out as clear as day! And I didn’t want to hate them and I didn’t want to shout out—and I clangored more frightfully than ever!…

…I was sure that a terribly hostile being haunted me, a cruel being that had settled in me, a dreadful being that tortured me to force me to bellow, to twist myself around like someone possessed…

I took advantage of the moment of semi-calm to shout out a plea, distressing in its idiotic absurdity!

“Doctor! Doctor! Me! Save me! I’m inhabited like a wormy fruit!”


The delirium must have got hold of me again, followed by a coma.

When I came out of my devastation, I was in bed again, buried in the covers pulled up to my nose; I wasn’t alone. Sitting near my bed,—lit by the dancing flame of a candle, Leonard was busy cleaning a sturdy bowler hat,—of such pale grey that it was turning white—and looked like the dome of a mosque. The harsh odor of benzene perfumed (?) the whole room.

My guardian had such a wise and intent look of a student completing toto some asinine homework to scholastic perfection that the good professors of old rarely failed to include in the collections of nonsense known as ‘honor notebooks’, a look so stupidly satisfied and preoccupied, eyes blinking, tongue stuck out, that I almost broke out laughing.

But the memory of my idiotic conduct suddenly came back to me and delivered a frightful blow to my heart. Ach! I really knew how to take advantage of Dr. Froin’s good spirits! It was at the exact moment when the excellent man was starting to think I was cured that my grotesque haunting invaded me and that I inaugurated my series of new exercises! Triple brute that I was! Couldn’t I be affected by this unexpected madness, suffer it, be horrified, without becoming an imbecile and losing all power of hiding it?

But it’s always the same old story! I saw quite well—and by the observation of Dr. Magne and others, what I myself had done. The reasoning or semi-reasoning lunatic who only had temporary crises would feel fully on the point of committing some irreparable stupidity, would do all he could to ‘prevent himself’ from acting…or ranting and would ‘see himself’ committing the stupidity, hear himself saying what shouldn’t be said…he couldn’t help it. He’d be a victim of that ‘enemy force’ that Mabire was talking about.

I was painfully curious to know the impression that I may have made on Dr. Froin. I coughed, turned over, pushed back my choking blanket with deliberate abruptness,—sounds of alarm,—then called out—not very loudly, “Leonard!”

My guardian, who was rubbing ever so carefully the top of the pallid felt cupola with a wool cloth soaked in benzene, groaned and looked over at me.

“Leonard! What did Dr. Froin say? Does he think I’m ripe for a shower after such an attack?”

“No! No! He told me like that that you were too emotional for a man in your state, that you’d had a sorta…Lisa…a Lucy Nation—(I knew it!), but that it wouldn’t last; that it was too stiff—No! He didn’t espress it like that—he said that it was too ‘philomenal’ to irrigate the system in the brain; that he’d never seen ideas so ‘morvid’; that he’d heard of it but that was all; that the calm was gonna come back and I could ‘leave on assignment’ tomorrow; that the first comer, François maybe, could take care of you until I get back, you’d be so peaceful after this. That’s why I’m furbishing my bowler.”

I was angry about the perspicacity of Dr. Froin, but the hallucination, if it was a hallucination, didn’t want to leave me. I felt sure about no longer being ‘alone in me’. How to explain what I experienced without saying something ridiculous? I was haunted by an insupportable presence,—even though the being didn’t violently torment me like it did during Dr. Froin’s visit. This being seemed to have quieted down for a few hours, but now it spoke to me. Can I say that it spoke to me? It didn’t have a voice! But it suggested words to me often enough…strange words that translated its…thought. At that moment I understood very well what it commanded—when it communicated to me the following:

“So, ask this…this idiot where they’re sending him on assignment?”

And I mechanically asked my guardian, “And where are you going, Leonard?”

“I am in charge of the delivery of Mother Charlemaine, as I was especting.”

“At Cany, then?”

“No, the good woman was scrappin with her neighbors who didn’t turn out to be more charitable in the battle. Fear bit at the woman and she salvaged herself on foot to Villiéville where she’s got a relative. She got there kinda in a shirt cuz the bit of slip doesn’t count that danced on her butt like the tail of a frock coat. She made another outrageous scene at her relative’s who wrote here right away to get rid of her, not daring to drive her here himself.”

“And when are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning at five. And so that’s why my clean lid. It’s almost midnight. You should sleep. And me too. Good night, misser Veuly. I’ll bring you François before I leave so you won’t be alone if you need something nessary. You want me to let the light?”

“No, thank you, Leonard.”

Alone! He has no idea that I have company. I would’ve, perhaps, preferred another, but you have to be satisfied with what you’ve got.

I was wrong to refuse the candle. Suddenly childish, I figured that I would have been less afraid in a lit room than in the pitch black where my guardian had left me. Afraid? Yes!—afraid of the Being that haunted me and would maybe talk to me again.

In fact, I had hardly closed my eyes when I glimpsed within me something hideous,—indescribable, vague,—but hideous—and the invader suggested to me these words:

“What a surprise, eh? You’ve never seen this, a man inhabited like a wormy fruit? You have some expressions! I bet you’re going to think I’m the devil and have me exorcized! Bonehead buffalo! Sad little calf! That’s not how you will dislodge me, come on!”

I asked him mentally, “Well, who are you and what are you doing in me?”

“I’ll explain it to you when you are in a state to pay me some attention. Do you understand me? That’s the question. But tonight you are tired and sick. Sleep! Without that you’re going to have fun suffering. Ah! It’s not that I’m sensitive. I don’t care much about your well-being or the pains that you may experience. But you’ll tire me out with your stupid complaints and what’s worse, I run the risk of sharing your suffering! We only have one nervous system for the two of us.”

“You will keep me from sleeping. I feel your hostility and you bother me.”

“Hostile? Me? Because I talk to you like you deserve? Why do you want me to be your enemy seeing that you can be of some use to me? Sleep! I will not involve myself in your dreams. They are of little interest to me.”

Very levelheaded now, a very bourgeois tone (?)—the…Spirit by which I was…possessed (?).—You would have taken him for an earnest professor, let’s say, a professor of Psychic Science, simply wanting to perform an experiment on a subject. This was of interest to him, that wasn’t. I could be of some use,—like to supply documentation, of course!—to this immaterial gentleman on holiday inside me, too inside me! He interrupted my thoughts:

“Let’s go! You can rationalize some other day or some other night. Sleep! You’re a moron tonight. If you think you can distract me, you’re wrong. At the moment you’ve got the most b…oring brain imaginable!”

He wasn’t respectable for long, the Being! He again proved himself of very bad style, as a proofreader of my acquaintance would say, who could typically add, “He has dirty words in his tr… mouth” since it was an…impure spirit.

In any case, I wasn’t at all afraid. What seemed so horrible to me a minute before no longer appeared to be but a light fog, almost clear in the darkness. I no longer saw the green and red lights that were certainly the looks of the…ghost (?) discernable to me alone. The Being was tired of the excessively boring show of my mental life and rested as it pleased. I was just dozing off when…

… an awful racket broke out in the dark night, heavy and loaded with electric radiation. An infernal howling came from somewhere close to our pavilion,—maybe,—yes, no doubt—from the women’s building!

Hootings full of infinite desperation, dreadful howls followed by shrieks that bore into my ears and even my bones,—that entered my marrow,—meows that roared.

It stopped sometimes, for a second, barely, then it resumed more fiercely, more painfully, more frenzied. My heart was torn apart; a cold sweat froze me; my limbs were paralyzed; I thought my teeth were going to shatter against one another—I too was going to howl!…when the hatch snapped open dryly and I saw the face of Leonard like the first time. A jet of yellow topaz light, sequined with bloody jewels, splashed the glistening wall in front of me and the voice of my guardian rose up, very calm and clear in the sinister hullabaloo:

“No need to be disturbed, misser Veuly! That’s the ‘ladies across’ who are feeling the storm…If I didn’t have the car, I wouldn’t give two cents for my ‘bowler’—tomorrow! It’s gonna be a torrent!”

I knew all too well, Leonard, that it was the ‘ladies across’ and even, for a minute, in the midst of all those discordant yelps I thought I could recognize a little cry that was more ‘delicate’, more ‘lovely’ than the others, but perhaps even more furious, more ferocious that had to have sprung forth…from the throat of the adorable ‘princess’.—It was finished, I could sleep no more tonight after that: She, too, a howler!

“All of them are howlers!” kindly answered the Being installed in me. “I recognized her, your good woman!”


“No insults. Do you know how I recognized her? Painted in your brain, my friend, and exquisitely painted;—no other way.”

“So tell me! Since you have judged it proper to resume the discussion without my asking, this time, you are going to please explain why you chose me rather than another to bludgeon with your bad jokes. I would be glad to know who you are and where you come from. You can tell me this very succinctly since I am so stupid tonight!”

“Oh! The fear you just felt has not made you more lucid,—far from it!”

“Will you tell me already?”

“I repeat that you won’t understand anything…But since you insist, I’ll make a ‘little lecture’, very short. You need to lie down, only for my own interest,—like I’ve already told you,—I risk suffering from the injuries that can afflict your nasty carcass.”

“It would have been very easy to leave this nasty carcass in peace!”

“It was not completely by choice that I gratified you with my company…Well, you want explanations?”

“That’s all I’m waiting for.”

Listen then: I’ll be brief. I’ll give you the details later; for now, nothing but the summary.”

The Emerald Eyes

While mechanically striding up Avenida de Pries with its cosmopolitan villas, Morrox had to admit to himself that it was a pretty strange coincidence that brought him back to Spain against his will and precisely to Malaga, of all cities the one he missed the least, when at this very moment he should have been embarking in Naples for Sicily, the real goal of his journey.

Truly fate was dealing some calculated devilry by leading him, the Parisian homebody, again into this port of unwelcome memory where years before and with no preconceived plan he had already followed his unlucky star. Confused by a black night in Marseille, a Messageries steamer with the detestable, enormous cargo boat had just landed on the Muelle, which happens only in the most Vernesque of novels; and yet such was his latest misadventure.

The suburb was still ‘beautifying’ itself. A few buildings, risen up from the ground at the stroke of some bold architects’ pen, created the most luxuriously ‘distinguished’ eyesore, but the character of the avenue had changed little; you still had the feeling of falling unawares into a Sydney or a Mediterranean Singapore sprung up against all natural laws in the middle of flamenco territory. The distracted passers-by and the loiterers had not changed in any way and it was the same line of donkeys with their faded tassels, with huge sparterie baskets, that was jogging along and tinkling bells; the same grave countrymen with their dark red or more often dirty brown belts, naked legs wrapped in thin, hemp cords, wearing scorched felt hats beating their wings. Under the blue cheer of sky between the huge eucalyptus trees, the squat palm trees and the frail banana trees in the gardens the sea blazed like a bowl of punch. In front of ‘Hernan Cortez’ Morroz took a short break. This hotel with its pale azure stucco—my God, yes!—he had run it in the past, the millionaire of today. He had even prided himself on it—at the time—and it was a very bitter blow for him to have been kicked out, during his great misfortune, by the tribe of his creditors.

He hesitated a second, then entered the garden where the customers were sleeping in their chairs…

What devil would recognize him after nine years!

Sitting like the others at a little table, he soon felt his eyes irresistibly drawn to a window on the second floor, the only one closed, which seemed to look at him through its greenish panes, shimmering like a mournful malice.

Straight away, in spite of himself, he relived in his mind the brown door, the fake ebony furniture and the red draperies of the room that opened up behind the shut window. He had a hundred reasons to remember this room more clearly than any other—he had spent the first night of his brief life as a married man there; then he had not left it until the cursed day when he found himself on the street in front of it without a perra chica, with just the bare clothes they hadn’t torn off his body by some miracle.

What existence did he lead after he became infatuated with that Pepa Murcielago. They called her mestizo with Gitano blood, an assumption made probable by her dusky black hair like charcoal, her eyes like the sparkling night and her pale copper complexion so rare in Spain, even in Andalusia.

The strange woman savagely refused him at first, only to abandon herself frantically later—and from then on there were alternations of passion and wild remoteness, both as incomprehensible. This weird behavior did not prevent her from displaying an unlikely jealousy: Morrox remembered the attacks of rage with which the residence resounded from the front door to the attic, the furious blows that he had to block ‘as well as he could’, sometimes very brutally, and even an attempt at poisoning that Pepa denied by grabbing the glass that he was going to drink and smashing it to a thousand bits. This scene and others more of less violent and dramatic did not dampen the love he had for his wife, even less so since Pepa, at certain times, showed a charming tenderness, spontaneous, almost naïve, and seemed then to return to her true nature, while in her hateful or sensual fits of anger you would have said that she was obeying some abhorrent guidance stronger than her will.

One night when sleep had struck him down after a veritable battle in which the Murcielago was transformed into a kind of wild beast, Morrox woke up with a start at the noise of a heated fight cut off by growls and muffled insults. He quickly lit the lamp and found his wife knocked down at the end of the bed, wild eyes, bruised shoulders, a bloody lip: No one else in the room, whose door had not budged, double locked as usual. Terrified, he lifted up Pepa and she answered all his questions, distracted, beside herself, “What a nightmare! But I can tell you nothing. I don’t want to, nothing, nothing!…”

Nightmare or mental derangement? He promised himself to watch out for her, to attend to her every need, to do everything to calm her down and not hand her over to the gentle and insightful doctors, except as a last resort.

Several days went by. Pepa recovered as if magic, showing him an unusual, peaceful indifference. Morrox was reassured, happy to have, thanks to his affectionate attention, stopped escalating, no doubt, at least for awhile, a terrible ill that depended on him to ward off forever although—and after so many years, a chill still ran through his bones—he came to doubt his own sanity. And yet!…It was in that room—upstairs. It was dark, so dark you could almost touch the darkness—velvety and so heavy! He began to doze off and Pepa must have slept deeply: her breathing whistled low, regularly and slowly. All of a sudden, however, he felt her arms slide over his, tie him up, capture him, imprison him eagerly; for a few minutes it was a hug like he had never ‘suffered’ before, shattering, delightful, fearful. Then a sharp pain sobered him up, an icy bite sank into his neck; warm blood wet his chest. He struggled terribly, broke the embrace that was cracking his spine and—in the glimmering light of a match he clearly perceived the face of an unknown woman, an exquisite and wild face furiously convulsed in which there blazed, riveted on his, two dazzling eyes of emerald; they were familiar, but from where? And when? …a face in which blinding teeth sparkled, still pink on the edges.

When he completely regained consciousness, standing in the middle of the room now lit up, he saw only Pepa whose bright copper arms trembled a little on the whiteness of the sheets, but whose weak and calm breath was still scanning rhythmically. Moving closer to the bed, he noticed that she had woken up and that her black diamond pupils followed his every move with a timid and almost painful curiosity. She raised herself on an elbow and pointed him toward the mirror with a meaningful gesture. Morrox ran over and looked. A thin red line slowly leaked from his throat. He wanted to say something, to ask—to know. She motioned for him to stay quiet and mumbled:

“I don’t understand…I’m sick…I saw horrible things in the darkness again!”

And her voice was so different, so full of fright that Morrox went back to bed without saying a word.

The same terrors came back again at such regular intervals that he could soon predict the day and hour of their return and he became used to spending the night outside of Malaga when the ‘horrible thing’ was threatening. Elsewhere, nothing manifested itself. The ‘hated Being’, the anonymous female form with familiar eyes kept its distance in the pitch dark.

But Pepa became really crazy and died after a long agony, which was but a cry—such a chilling, abominably sinister cry that the boarders left the hotel in a rush.—Thanks to the gracious neighbors, no one dared to return for several months, at the end of which Morrox, ruined, in debt, half insane himself, was literally thrown into the street.

He pondered the whole atrocious past for a long time, taking a certain pleasure in reviving the most painful details without noticing that the day was waning, that the leaves of the tall, gloomy eucalyptus trees, at first a green gold, then purple, became black and moaned dismally in the twilight breeze. He had hardly taken his eye off the window of the unforgettable room.

A faint light behind the glass lit up, then died. The window opened slowly and—a woman leaned on the sill, into the sadness of the air—a woman darkly dressed who abruptly jumped back and tried to close the window. But, on her shoulder a frail hand weighed down, strangely white in the semi-darkness and surely not unfamiliar to Morrox. In spite of herself, she had to place herself back as before, her bust and head leaning toward the lingering dreamer. Morrox got up instinctively, warned that he didn’t know what kind of danger was near, and took a few steps toward the building.

Then, in the last lights of day—and all his skin froze and he felt as if his hackles rose in fear—he recognized without a shadow of a doubt—Pepa—Pepa whom he absolutely knew was dead, whom they had buried in front of him; but a Pepa who was watching him, reluctant, with the dazzling green eyes of the abhorrent ‘Being’ there—right there—behind her.

He could have fled.

The same evening he had an attack of brain fever that he escaped only by a miracle.

A few weeks later, barely recovered, he received a letter from France that informed him that his wife, whom he loved, had just succumbed to an attack of raving madness.

A short time afterward, since his sickness had used up all the money he had brought for his travel expenses, they informed him that he was flat broke.

So, he found himself prisoner, laid up, obliged to start his life over again in that hostile Malaga, in that city where he had—he was sure of it now—in times past committed some inexpiable, forgotten crime—but whose dark remorse tortured him only for an evening, under the twilight plain of gloomy eucalyptus, he had read—now innocent—his past infamy in the diabolic gaze of the Emerald Eyes.


John Antoine Nau

John Antoine Nau (1860-1918), whose real name was Eugène Torquet, was a French writer of poetry, stories, and novels. His first novel, Force ennemie, was published at his own expense in 1903, and was awarded the first Prix Goncourt. He continued to write for the rest of his (short) literary life, but at his death much remained unpublished. None of works have been published in English before.

Michael Shreve

Michael Shreve is a language teacher and translator living in Paris, France. His first English translations included the works of Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Marcel Schwob, and Paul Berthelot. He is currently working on a translation of John Antoine Nau’s Enemy Force. He can be found on the web at www.dodgytoad.6te.net, and reached at [email protected].

Enemy Force and The Emerald Eyes. English translation copyright (c) Michael Shreve, 2009.