* Playboy Magazine is credited with publishing
this short story classic by Ray Russell, long years ago
Events having taken an unexpected
and intolerable turn, I, the undersigned, sound of mind and body, having
this day resolved to die by my own hand, do acknowledge the following articles
as my final words and solemn legacy:
To my lovely and lovely wife, were she alive, I should have left that
which is now without value to me, my worldly goods. Esteeming, as she did,
material things above all else, she would have been welcome to all of my
estates and possessions. I do not expect to meet her spirit in the other
world: she was so much of the flesh that I am certain she ceased to be
the moment I killed her.
To my advisors, I leave the guidance and comfort of their own advice.
To the shades of my mother, my half-brother, and my first wife, I send
my greetings before me and my heartfelt apologies for having murdered their
fleshly counterparts. Also these messages.
To my first wife: my dear, I look forward to your company. In this life
I never appreciated you. Your gentle wit, your graciousness, your nobility
and charm of person were wasted on me. In the fever of my youth, I preferred
the hot limbs of your successor to the cool wisdom of your conversation.
Forgive me, my dear. My erring flesh I leave behind me. Welcome my flawless
spirit, I entreat you.
Brother, I know you were angry with me after I fed you that poison.
I felt your spirit haunting me for months. Gradually, you stopped, so I
assume that you have forgiven me and have reflected that, after all, one
of us had to go. If you had thought of it first, I would have been
the haunting spirit. See how time brings equality to everything. Soon I,
too, will be a spirit and there will be no jealousy between us. I look
forward to meeting you again.
Mother, between us there need be no apologies. In this life you became
an obstruction. In the realm of the spirit you will be a constant joy.
Let me assure you that I have never felt shame about our intimacy, that
the criticism levelled at us by moralists has neither brought a blush to
my face nor regret to my heart. Man is born out of Woman. What could be
more fitting, more poetic, than that she should introduce him to the mysteries
of Aphrodite? I have always considered King Oedipus and exciting,
but silly, play.
It is well known that I am gifted with a poetic turn-of-mind. Perhaps,
then, I may be forgiven for lapsing into verse for a brief space here.
It is not, perhaps, my best, but be charitable---it is my last. To the
common man, I leave these lines:
I stand apart from the ugly folk
The ugly folk with the unbeautiful voices
Choke the streets and arbors that I
Obstructing beauty, filtering it
Through literal minds and tiny souls
And unenthusiastic appetites.
I stand apart. I may not be
A lovely thing to hear nor yet to see;
My soul is maybe puny, and my mind
Is often narrower than humankind;
My lusts, off-hand sometimes, and
No matter. I am I. I stand apart.
To my venerable tutors, both living
and dead: to all philosophers and logicians in general, I leave this little
A traitor serpent sleeps below
Who rises at a glance, a play
Of light upon a curve, a sway
Of flesh, deliberate and slow.
Come off it, then. Cast off your load
Of logic, for it's all a whim
That can be swept away by him
Each time he hankers to explode.
Enough of that. My muse is satisfied.
To Posterity; to the bloodhounds and scavengers
of history; to that breed of men who presume to judge other
men; to the shaking heads and clucking tongues and the hands thrown high
in horror, I send greetings and some wisdom garnered during a relatively
short but immeasurably full life:
Turn your eyes inward. Examine mercilessly your weaknesses, your prejudices,
your passions. Peer deep, deep down in the dark and airless labyrinth of
unvoiced, unsated, sometimes unheard-of, almost unthought-of desires. Bring
out each black lust and vengeful feeling; root out all selfish thoughts;
line them up and scrutinize them in the clear unwavering light of Total
Honesty. Reflect how opportunity combined with authority might have made
Acts out of those hideous Caprices cowering there in the light. And then---then
only---in the words of that renegade Jew of Nazareth, "He that is without
sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
These articles I do most earnestly pledge to be my legacy, to which
I affix my signature below, calling as witness the spirit of my foster
father, Claudius, now enthroned among the gods in timeless glory.
--Nero, Emperor of Rome
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