Study Guide

The Monstrumologist Chapter 6

By Rick Yancey

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Chapter 6

"What of the Flies?"

  • Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop undertake the three-hour journey to Dedham that night.
  • When they get there, it is decrepit, to say the least. The house itself is in disrepair, and the grounds are eerily overgrown and silent.
  • The doctor instructs Will Henry not to speak to anyone, at any time, no matter what.
  • When the toothless crone who finally opens the door to the sanatorium tries to turn them away, Dr. Warthrop persuades her to wake Dr. Starr at once.
  • Dr. Starr knew Warthrop's father so he's aware of his peculiar interests.
  • He also knows all about the Anthropophagi because of Captain Varner's testimony. He warns Dr. Warthrop that Captain Varner is barely lucid, and it seems like Dr. Starr is refusing to let him see him.
  • Ah ha—the old con artist is just trying to get a bribe out of Dr. Warthrop. He's so smarmy.
  • Mrs. Bratton (the toothless crone) leads them upstairs to Captain Varner's room. She reeks of bleach, which is strange since the rest of the hospital smells like poop and unwashed bodies.
  • They finally gain entrance to his room, and the bleach smell is explained: Dr. Starr had been delaying them to give Mrs. Bratton a chance to disinfect his room. Yuck.
  • Captain Varner is lying in bed covered in sheets. He is huge, almost four hundred pounds, and seems totally incapable of mobility.
  • It takes Dr. Warthrop a few tries to get a response out of Varner, but he finally does when he tells him his name. Varner curses his father and says it was all his fault.
  • Varner relates his tale:
  • In 1863, Dr. Warthrop Sr. commissioned Captain Varner to sail to Benin in order to bring back several Anthropophagi that the Oba housed in captivity.
  • The Oba of Benin kept the beasts under a temple where they were fed with human sacrifices.
  • Dr. Warthrop Sr. wanted four, but they only brought back three—a two-year old male and the alpha female.
  • The Oba warned Capt. Varner to bring slaves in order to feed the creatures on their journey to the States, but being a god-fearing Christian he refused. He instead reinforced the hold and stocked livestock as Dr. Warthrop Sr. had advised.
  • (While listening to Varner's painstaking tale, Dr. Warthrop is seemingly perplexed by the amount of flies on the windowsill and in the room.)
  • Unfortunately, the Anthropophagi refused to eat what the sailors offered them. They're all about that human flesh, you know.
  • During a bad case of the doldrums the sailors began to toy with the creatures, placing bets on how long a feeding would last, who would make the kill, etc. They'd even taunt them to leap toward the bars.
  • So one drunken day, as Captain Varner lay in his cabin with a case of malaria, Wilson (the first mate) and a buddy Smith decide to butcher a calf and feed it to the Anthropophagi.
  • (*There's a lengthy description in this story of the ritualistic teeth cleaning that Anthropophagi like to perform on each other. It's particularly dangerous to clean the back teeth, because if a nail slips and pierces the gums they have a reflexive slamming shut of the jaws, which would sever the hand of the one helping him out. We think it's important, but we're not sure why yet.)
  • Wilson stupidly puts his arm through the bars to try to get the calf leg closer to the creatures. Of course they pounce, and Wilson dies a gruesome death. The alpha female escapes. Smith dies a gruesome death.
  • So then the crew brought provisions up onto the deck and sealed the lower decks with the creatures inside. They set round-the-clock watches, and managed to maintain status quo until a nasty storm struck. That's when the male managed to climb on deck and started slaughtering everybody.
  • Burns, the navigator, had the presence of mind to grab Captain Varner from the melee and barricade themselves into his cabin.
  • They took an elephant gun—a gift from the king of Ashanti—from the closet and waited. Then, after they recited the twenty-third psalm together, the alpha female burst through the floor and thrust an arm through Burns's chest. She then ripped his head off and pulled it back through the hole she made in his torso. Wow.
  • When the creature lunged for Varner, he had the luck of being within reach of his kris he bought as a novelty. He managed to stab the female in the eye, and in her pain and confusion, escape to a lifeboat.
  • Upon concluding his tale, Varner declares that you can't trick fate, you can only postpone it—he was meant to be eaten, and now he finally is. Uh… what?
  • Despite his protests, Dr. Warthrop pulls back Varner's sheets to reveal that his corpulent, bedsore-ridden body is festering with maggots. Well that explains the flies, anyway. Then he removes Varner's boots, taking layers of skin with them and revealing copious amounts of blood and pus. Ew. He has a massive infection, and probably only hours to live.
  • Varner asks Dr. Warthrop to kill him. Dr. Warthrop sends Will Henry outside the room, ostensibly to watch for Mrs. Bratton, but probably to spare him the sight of him smothering Varner with his own pillow.
  • But then to Will Henry's surprise, the doc comes out of the room, ashamed that he couldn't do this act of mercy. He couldn't do it because he's not sure if he'd be doing it for Varner or to protect his own reputation.
  • The doc storms downstairs and accosts Mrs. Bratton for painkillers. She says they only have aspirin and in special circumstances, whiskey. He demands the two, and has Will Henry drag a chair back up the stairs to begin his deathwatch. He gives aspirin and whiskey to Varner, and they wait.
  • Now they have the time to ponder why his father would want living specimens brought back to the States. He usually travelled to where his interests were, so why bring them home this time? And two with reproductive capability? Why?
  • In the morning, Capt. Varner is dead and Warthrop tells Mrs. Bratton that he's notifying the authorities about the appalling, inhumane neglect they've shown the people in their care. He wants Motley Hill finished, and Dr. Starr taken into account for the homicide of Capt. Varner.

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