The Man Who Collected Rivero
By RD Rivero
"The Man Who Collected Rivero"
By RD Rivero
August 27, 2000
During the whole of a dull, dark and soundless day, in the autumn of the year
when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone
on foot through a singularly dreary tract of country and at length found myself,
as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of my destination.
I looked out onto the scene before me, onto the house, onto the simple features
of the domain, onto the bleak walls, onto the vacant, eye-like windows, onto
rank sedges, onto white trunks of gnarled, decayed trees with a feeling of
confused dismay. It seemed to me that I had visited such a scene once before,
or had read of it perhaps, perhaps in some frequently-scanned tale. And yet it
could not be -- I had only met Malcar three days ago, when I had received an
invitation to visit him at his home on Third Earth.
The circumstances under which I had met Malcar were simple. In a symposium
of the Astronomical Society, held on New Thundera, I was introduced to him
by a Jaggara, our mutual friend. Casual conversation gave way to absorbed
discussion when he discovered my hidden, secret interest with works of fantasy.
When he learned I was headed back to my post on Third Earth he urged me to
see him for a day and to examine his unusual collection.
"I feel that we have much in common, Tygra," he told me, "in my love of fantasy
I bow to no one. It is a taste I inherited from my father and his father before
him. Together with their considerable acquisitions in the genre, you would be
greatly pleased with what I am prepared to show you. For in all due modesty I
am the galaxy's leading collector of the works of RD Rivero."
I confess that his invitation did not thrill me, I am not a literary hero-worshiper,
nor a scholarly collector, nor do I have any particular love for a man who was
quick to kill tigers and my fellow Thundercats in story after story -- and that
more than anything was why I had only a passing interest in his work. So it was
instead the personality of Malcar himself that caused me to accept his hospitality
-- though his appearance did lend itself an air of insanity, of something that had
gone wrong somewhere.
It was curiosity that led me to journey to his estate and its own peculiar, intrinsic
images of shadow and darkness -- the ghastly forms of rotted, dying nature
strewn about in the forest clearing. As I prepared to enter the mansion I almost
expected to see tall, Egyptian statues, circular pools of boiling, purple liquids,
the entrails of scarified animals, a shrouded, hooded figure, limping, dragging
itself in to and out of the shadows. I was not disappointed. True to both the
atmosphere of the mansion and to my own imagination, the front door was
opened before I had even knocked by a butler who conducted me, in silence,
through the dark passages of the interior to the study of his master.
The room was large and lofty, the windows were long, thin and so high above
the floor as to be inaccessible from inside. Feeble rays of orange light made its
way through the dust-encrusted panes but it served to make sufficiently distinct
the more prominent objects within. Blackened pictures hung from stone walls.
Wooden furniture was comfortless and ancient. Books and musical instruments
were scattered unused and open on the carpeted floor.
Upon my entrance Malcar arose from a sofa on which he had lay at full length
and greeted me with a vivacious warmth, an overdone cordiality that had much
in it. Yet his tone, while he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest desire
to see me, soon alleviated my first impression. He welcomed me with the rapt
enthusiasm of the born collector and I came to realize that he was indeed just
Initially, he disclosed, the nucleus of the present accumulation had begun with
his grandfather, Thor, a respected merchant who lived in the eastern coast of
the ancient continent of North America. Almost a hundred years ago he had
been one of the leading patrons of the arts in his community and as such was
partially instrumental in arranging for the excavation of Rivero's body, its
reburial and the erection of a small monument to him. That event occurred in the
year 53,120TE and it was only a few years before Thor had laid the
foundations of the Rivero collection.
"Thanks to his zeal," his grandson informed me, "I am today the fortunate
possessor of a copy of virtually every existing specimen of Rivero's published
works. If you will step over here" -- and he led me to a remote corner of the
vaulted study, past the dark draperies, to a bookshelf that rose remotely to the
shadowy ceiling -- "I shall be pleased to corroborate that claim. Here is a copy
of Fragments, the year 2050FE edition and here is the still earlier and original
Xanadu of the year 2000 of the First Earth era. The original version given to
Thundera Tiger, as you doubtless know, is valued today at --" I nodded, "but I
can assure you that my grandfather parted with no such sum in order to gain
possession of this rarity."
He displayed the volumes with an air of pride that is often times characteristic of
the collector and is by no means to be confused with either literary snobbery or
ordinary greed. Realizing this, I remained patient as he exhibited further
treasures -- handwritten loose papers, notebooks containing unfinished tales.
Ascending a short library ladder, he handed down to me the first, unpublished
versions of Confessions -- or as it was titled then when he first wrote it -- Tygra
Always Says -- how my fingers trembled over those words.
He kept a running commentary on each item he presented me -- I had no doubt
he was a Rivero scholar as well as a Rivero collector.
"I owe a great debt to my grandfather's obsession," he said while he descended
the ladder to join me before the bookshelves. "It is not altogether a breach of
confidence to admit that his interest in Rivero reached the point of obsession
and eventually mania. The knowledge, I fear, is public property.
"In the early fifties of the past century he built this house that I am sure you can
tell is an odd mixture of the black pyramid and Cat's Lair. This room was his
study and it was here that he poured over the books, the letters and the
numerous momentous of Rivero's life.
"What prompted a retired merchant to devote himself so fanatically to the
pursuit of a hobby, I cannot say. Let it suffice that he withdrew from the world
and from all other normal interests. He made pilgrimages to the ruins of
Newark, sent agents to Florida and Cuba, to every extant locale in which
Rivero had set foot during his lifetime. He acquired the hard copies of emails
and handwritten letters, he bought them as gifts or stole them if no other means
Malcar smiled and nodded.
"Does all this sound strange to you? I confess that once I, too, found it almost
incredible. Now, after years spent here I have lost my own objectivity, too."
"Yes, it is strange," I replied, "but are you quite sure that there was not some
obscure personal reason for your grandfather's interest? Was there the
possibility of a distant, familial relationship?"
At the mention of the last word Malcar stared visibly and a tremor of agitation
spread over his face. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "There you voice my own inmost
conviction. A relationship. There must have been one. I am certain that my
grandfather felt or knew himself to be linked to RD Rivero by the ties of blood.
Nothing else could account for his strong initial interest and his final, melancholic
lapse into a world of delusion and illusion.
"Yet he never voiced a statement or put an allegation upon paper and I have
searched the collection of letters in vain for the slightest clue.
"It is curious that you so promptly divined a suspicion held not only by myself
but by my father. He was only a child at the time of my grandfather's death but
the attendant circumstances left a profound impression upon his sensitive nature.
Although he was immediately removed from this house to the home of his
mother's people, he lost no time in returning upon assuming his inheritance in
"Fortunately, being in possession of a considerable income, he was able to
devote his entire lifetime to further research. His name is still well known in the
world of literary criticism but for some reason he preferred to pursue his
scholarly examination of Rivero in secrecy. I believe this preference was
dictated by an inner sensibility, that he was endeavoring to unearth some
information that would prove his father's, his and, for that matter, my own
kinship to Rivero."
"You say your father was also a collector?"
"A statement I am prepared to substantiate," replied my host, as he led me to
yet another corner of the shadow-shrouded study. "But first if you would accept
a glass of wine?"
He filled not glasses but beakers and we toasted one another in silent
"Now, then," said Malcar, "my father's special province consisted of the
accumulation and study of letters of correspondence."
Opening a series of large trays beneath the bookshelves he drew out file after
file of glassined folios and for the space f the next half hour I examined emails
sent to Thundera Tiger, Lady Thundera, Fianna, Cheezey, LD, Super
Lemmingo and other fellow masters of Thundercat fiction. My mind was numb
-- there were literally thousands upon thousands of examples. Rivero saved
every last item, every email he sent, every email he received, perfectly formatted
During the course of my perusal my host took occasion to refill our beakers
with wine and the heady draft began to take effect for we had not eaten and I
admit a certain weakness for addictive substances.
I read the letters and saw in them muddled outpourings of a mind gone mad in
despair, drafts of projected stories that went no where, fragments of narration,
pitiful cries for deliverance. I found love and hate, anger and serenity, penitence
and authority, resolution and indecision and above all soul-sickening
Again the beakers were filled and again promptly emptied.
The mystery of Rivero remained, despite Malcar's father's careful study of the
letters. "My father learned nothing," my host confided, "even though he
assembled this massive collection. So his search went on. By this time I was old
enough to share his interest and his inquiries. Come," and he led me to an ornate
chest that rested beneath the windows against the west wall of the study.
Kneeling, he unlocked the repository and then drew forth in rapid and
marvelous succession a series of objects each of which boasted an intimate
connection with Rivero's life. Souvenirs of his youth and his varied interests.
Awards and demerits he had earned in school, photographs he had taken of
Manhattan before it had been destroyed, maps of moons and other planets,
books he read from and adapted, used and spent pens, pencils, calculators. A
periodic table with his signature and the signatures of his scientific colleagues.
Again we drank and I say that the wine was potent.
Malcar's face remained unchanged but there was a bit of mad hilarity in his eyes
-- a restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor. At length I happened across a
little box of no remarkable character. I asked about its history and what part it
played in Rivero's life.
"In the life of Rivero?" A visible tremor convulsed the features of my host -- it
rapidly passed, his face transformed to a grimace of amusement. "This little box
-- and you will note how, by some fateful design or contrived coincidence, it
bears a resemblance to the box he himself conceived and described in Good
Twin, Evil Twin, this little box is concerned with his death rather than his life. It
is, in fact, the selfsame box my grandfather clutched to his heart when they
found him dead."
Again the tremor, again the grimace.
"But say, I have not yet told you of the details. Perhaps you would be interested
in seeing the spot where he was stricken. I have already told you of his madness
but I did not more than hint at the character of his delusions. You have been
patient with me and more than patient. Your understanding shall be rewarded
for I perceive you can be fully entrusted with the facts."
What further revelations Malcar was prepared to make I could not say but his
manner was such as to inspire a vague disquiet and trepidation in me. Upon
perceiving my unease he laughed shortly and laid a hand upon my shoulder.
"Come, Tygra, this should interest you as an aficionado of fantasy," he said.
"But first another drink to speed our journey."
He poured, we drank and then he led the way from that vaulted chamber, down
the silent halls, down the staircase and to the lowest recesses of the building
until we reached a vast chamber that resembled Mumm-Ra's crypt exactly. We
passed before the actual replica of the sarcophagus only to find that it was a
doorway into a small antechamber.
"You need not be afraid," he assured me. "Nothing has happened down here
since that day almost eighty years ago when his servants discovered him
stretched out before this iron door. The little box was clutched to his chest, he
was collapsed in a state of delirium from which he never emerged. For six
months he lingered a hopeless maniac -- raving as wildly from the very moment
of his discovery as at the moment he died -- babbling his visions of a giant,
moving tiger statue, the house coming to life and collapsing on the ground,
strange, misshapen creatures, haphazardly sown together, crawling in his bed,
shrunken, shriveled corpses wailing in the night and often he would run from
room to room, fleeing what he called a 'liquid mass of loathsome, detestable
putridity' form which Lynxo's voice emanated.
"Nor was that all he babbled," he confided and here his voice sank to a whisper
that reverberated through the stone chamber complete with replicas of the
Ancient Spirits of Evil. "He hinted other things far worse than fantasy. A ghastly
reality surpassing all of the phantasms of Rivero.
"For the first time my father and the servants learned the purpose of the room
he had built beyond this iron door and learned what he had done to establish his
title as the galaxy's foremost collector of Rivero.
"For he babbled again of Rivero's mysterious death, tens of thousands of
millions of years ago, in 2035FE, of the hasty burial in a Jersey City cemetery
and of the removal of the body in 53,120TE to the mausoleum where his
monument now rests. As I told you and as was known then my grandfather had
played a public part in instigating that removal. But now we learned of the
private part -- learned that there was a monument and a grave but no coffin in
the earth beneath Rivero's alleged resting place. The coffin now rested in the
secret room at the back of this scale replica of Mumm-Ra's sarcophagus. That's
why this chamber, this house itself had been built.
"I tell you, he had stolen the body of RD Rivero -- and as he shrieked aloud in
his final madness did not this indeed make him the greatest collector of Rivero?
"His ultimate intent was never divined but my father made one significant
discovery -- the little box clutched to Thor's chest contained a portion of
crumbled bones -- a thumb that was all that remained of Rivero's corpse."
My host shuddered and turned away. He led me back along that hall of horror,
up the stairs and into the study. Silently he filled our beakers and I drank as
hastily as deeply as desperately as he.
"What could my father do? To own the truth was to create a public scandal. He
chose instead to keep silence, to devote his own life to study in retirement.
"Naturally the shock affected him profoundly. To my knowledge he never
entered the room beyond the iron door and, indeed, I did not know of the room
or its contents until the hour of his death -- and it was not until some years later
that I myself found the key among his effects.
"But find the key I did and the story was immediately and completely
corroborated. Today I am the greatest collector of Rivero -- for he lies in the
keep below, my eternal trophy!"
That time I poured the wine. As I did so I noted for the first time the eminence
of a storm, the impetuous fury of its gusts shaking the casements and the echoes
of its thunder rolling and rumbling down the time-corroded corridors of the old
house. The wild, overstrained vivacity with which my host harkened, or
apparently harkened, to these sounds did nothing to reassure me -- for his
recent revelation led me to suspect his sanity.
That the body of RD Rivero had been stolen, that this mansion had been built to
house it, that it was indeed enshrined in a crypt below in the style of his heroic
alter ego -- that grandfather, son and grandson had dwelt here alone, apart,
enslaved to a sepulchral secret -- was beyond sane belief. And yet, surrounded
now by the night and by the storm in a setting torn from one of Rivero's own
fantasies, I could not be sure.
As thunder boomed, Malcar took up a flute carved from a tiger's thigh bone
and whether in defiance of the storm without or as a mocking accompaniment
to it he played. Blowing upon it with drunken persistence, with eerie atonality,
with nerve-shattering shrillness. To the shrieking of that infernal instrument the
thunder added a braying counterpoint.
Uneasy, uncertain and unnerved I retreated into the shadows of the
bookshelves at the farther end of the room and idly scanned the titles of a row
of ancient tomes. Here was the Book of the Dead, the Kabbalah, the
Chiromancy of Robert Flud, the Directorium Inquissitorum, a rare and curious
book in quarto Gothic that was the manual of a forgotten church and betwixt
and between the volumes of pseudoscientific inquiry, theological speculation I
found titles that arrested and appalled me. De Vermis Mysteriis and the Liber
Eibon, treatises on demonology, on witchcraft, on sorcery moldered in
crumbling binding. The books were old, but the books were not dusty -- they
had been read and recently.
"Read them?" it was as though Malcar divined my inmost thoughts. He had put
aside his flute and now approached me, tittering as though in continued drunken
defiance of the storm. Odd echoes and boomings sounded through the long
halls of the house while curious grating sounds threatened to drown out his
words, his laughter.
"Read them?" he said again. "I study them. Yes, I have gone beyond
grandfather and father, too. It was I who procured the books that held the key
and it was I who found the key. A key more difficult to discover and more
important than the key to the vaults below. I often wonder if Rivero himself had
access to these selfsame tomes, knew the selfsame secrets. The secrets of the
grave and what lies beyond and what can be summoned forth if one but holds
He stumbled away and returned with wine. "Drink," he said. "Drink to the night
and to the storm."
I brushed the proffered beaker aside. "Enough," I said. "I must be back at Cat's
Lair before --"
Was it fancy or did I find fear frozen on his features?
Malcar clutched my arm and cried, "No! Stay with me, Tygra! This is no night
in which to be alone. I swear I cannot abide the thought of being alone. I can
bear to be alone no more!"
His incoherent babble mingled with the thunder and the echoes. I drew back
and confronted him. "Control yourself," I counseled. "Confess that this is a
hoax, an elaborate imposture arranged to please your perverted fancy."
"Hoax? Imposture? Stay and I shall prove to you beyond all doubt" -- and so
saying Malcar stooped and opened a small drawer set in the wall beneath and
beside the bookshelves. "This should repay you for your interest in my story
and in Rivero," he murmured. "Know what you are the first, the only other
person beside me to glimpse these --"
He handed me a sheaf of manuscripts on plain white paper. Documents written
in ink, curiously similar to what I had noted while perusing Rivero's documents.
Pages were clipped together in groups and for a moment I scanned titles alone.
"Angry Warrior Maidens Should Be Tube Tied," "The Return of Zeno,"
"Lunatics Forever," I read aloud. "Jagga's Corpse Lives," "More Tales From
The Pyramid." In my agitation I came close to dropping the numbered pages.
"Grune's Little Party," "Grune's Blood Bath," "Mumm-Ra WINS!" "And Then
There Was Snarf," "Snarf And Snarfer, Evil And Wicked," "Get Off My
Samophlange!" "Vultureman's Latest Invention."
"Are these what they appear to be -- the unpublished tales of RD Rivero?"
My host bowed -- "Unpublished, undiscovered, unknown except to you and
"But this cannot be," I protested. "Surely there would have been a mention of
them somewhere. In Rivero's own letters or in those of this contemporaries.
There would have been a clue, an indication, somewhere, someplace,
Thunder mingled with my words and thunder echoed in Malcar's reply.
"You dare to presume an imposture? Then compare!" He stooped again and
brought out a glassined folio of letters. "Here, is this not the veritable printing of
RD Rivero? Look at the shape of the letters, the various styles of 'y' and his 'th.'
Will you say that these have not been penned by the selfsame hand?"
I looked at the handwriting, wondering at the possibilities of a monomaniac's
forgery. Could Malcar, a victim of mental disorder, thus painstakingly simulate
"Read, then!" Malcar screamed through the thunder. "Read and dare to say that
these tales were written by any other than Rivero."
I read but a line or two, holding the topmost manuscript close to eyes that
strained beneath wavering candlelight but even in the flickering illumination I
noted that which told me the only, incontestable truth. For the paper, the
curiously unyellowed paper, bore a visible watermark, the name of a firm of
well-known modern stationers and the date -- 51,220TE. Indeed, Rivero dated
all of his stories and all of the manuscripts were not older the five or six years.
Putting the sheaf aside I endeavored to compose myself as I moved away from
Malcar. For now I knew the truth, knew that countless millennia after his death
a semblance of Rivero's spirit lived in the distorted and disordered soul of
Malcar. Incarnation, reincarnation, call it what you will, Malcar was in his own
irrational mind, RD Rivero.
Stifled and dull echoes of thunder from a remote portion of the mansion
commingled with the soundless seething of my own inner turmoil as I turned and
rashly addressed my host.
"Confess!" I cried, "is it not true that you have written these tales, fancying
yourself the embodiment of Rivero? Is it not true that you suffer from a singular
delusion born of solitude and everlasting brooding upon the past, that you have
reached a stage characterized by the conviction that Rivero still lives on in your
A strong shudder came over him and a sickly smile quivered about his lips as he
"Fool! I say to you that I have spoken the truth. Can you doubt the evidence of
your senses? This house exits, the Rivero collection exists and the stories exist
-- they exist I swear as truly as the body lying in the sarcophagus below!"
I took up the little box from the table and removed the lid. "Not so," I
answered. "You said your grandfather was found with this box clutched to his
breast before the door of the vault and that it contained Rivero's dust. Yet you
cannot escape the fact that the box is empty." I faced him furiously. "Admit it,
the story is a fabrication. Rivero's body does not lie beneath this house, nor are
these his unpublished works, written during his lifetime and concealed."
"True enough," Malcar's smile was ghastly beyond belief. "The dust is gone
because I took it and used it -- because in the works of wizardry I found the
formulae, the arcana whereby I could raise the flesh, recreate the body from the
essential salts of the grave. Rivero does not lie beneath this house -- he lives!
And the tales are his posthumous works!"
Accented by thunder his words crashed against my consciousness.
"That was the end-all and be-all of my planning, of my studies, of my work, of
my life! To raise by sorcery the veritable spirit of RD Rivero from the grave --
reclothed and animate in flesh -- set him to dwell and dream and do his work
again in the private chambers I built in the vaults below -- and this I have done!
To steal a corpse is but a ghoulish prank, mine is the achievement of genius!"
The distinct, hollow, metallic and clangorous, yet apparently muffled
reverberation accompanying his words caused him to turn in his seat and face
the door in the study so that I could not see the workings of his countenance --
nor could he read my own reaction to his ravings.
His words came but faintly to my ears through the thunder that now shook the
house in a relentless grip. The wind rattling the casements and flickering the
candle flame from the great silver candelabra sent a soaring sighing in anguished
accompaniment to his speech.
"I would show him to you but I dare not. For he hates me as he hates life. I
have locked him in the vault alone for the resurrected have no need of food or
drink. And he sits there, pen moving over paper, endlessly moving, endlessly
pouring out the evil essence of all he guessed and hinted at in life and which he
learned in death.
"Do you not see the tragic pity of my plight? I sought to raise his spirit from the
dead, to give him back to the world anew -- and yet these tales, these works
are filled and fraught with a terror not to be endured. They cannot be shown to
the world, he cannot be shown to the world. In bringing back the dead I have
brought back the fruits of death!"
Echoes sounded anew as I moved toward the door -- moved, I confess, to flee
the accursed house and its accursed owner.
Malcar clutched my hand, my arm, my shoulder. "You cannot go!" he shouted
above the storm. "I did not speak of his escaping, but did you not guess? Did
you not know? Did you not hear it through the thunder -- the grating of the iron
I pushed him aside and he blundered backward upsetting the candelabra so that
the flames licked across the carpeting.
"Wait!" he cried. "Have you not heard his footsteps on the stairs? Madman, I
tell you he stands behind the door!"
A rush of wind, a roar of flames, a shroud of smoke rose all about us, throwing
open the huge, antique panels to which Malcar pointed.
I speak of wind, of flame, of smoke -- enough to obscure all vision. I speak of
Malcar's screams and of thunder loud enough to drown all sound. I speak of
terror born of loathing and of desperation enough to shatter all sanity. Despite
these things I can never erase from my consciousness that which I beheld as I
fled past the doorway and staggered down the all.
There behind the doors there did stand a lofty and enshrouded figure, a figure
all to familiar with pallid features, high forehead, bearded. My glimpse lasted but
an instant, an instant during which the man -- the corpse -- the apparition -- the
hallucination -- call it what you will -- moved forward into the chamber and
clasped Malcar to his breast in an unbreakable embrace. Together, the two
figures tottered toward the flames which now rose to blot out vision forever,
From that chamber and from that mansion I fled aghast. The storm was still
above in all its wrath. Lightning came to claim the house of Malcar for its own.
Suddenly there shot along the path before me a wild light and I turned to see
from where a gleam so unusual could have issued -- but it was only the flames,
rising in supernatural splendor, to consume the mansion and the secrets of the
man who collected Rivero.
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