FROM Creeping Dawn: the Rise of the Black Centipede by Chuck Miller (Pro Se Press, 2011)
Get it HERE:
THE PUBLIC STORY:
When William Lee Williams was but 10 years old, the scientific research vessel on which he was traveling with his parents was set upon by pirates off the coast of Madagascar. William's parents, a wealthy scientist and his physician wife, were murdered before his very eyes by the brigands, who then set the boy adrift in a lifeboat. Young William drifted for days, contracting a strange tropical disease that was known to have a 100 percent mortality rate. In this condition, young William, dying and delirious, washed ashore on a mysterious, uncharted island known as Sullaballu.
The boy was pulled from the boat by several members of a tribe of highly intelligent lemurs, who took him inland to the fabulous city of Gorrindaka, home to an ancient race of men and woman rumored to be descendants of superhuman demigods from beyond the farthest star. The boy spent ten years in this fantastic, incredibly advanced society, where he was initiated by the Elders of Gorrindaka into the Brotherhood of the Hundred Legs.
William learned the sorcery, science, mysticism and alchemy of these ancient geniuses, as well as honing his physical body to perfection and becoming master of every known martial art. When he came of age, William returned to the so-called civilized world from which he had come, taking with him all that he had learned, and his pick of the scientific wonders of Gorrindaka. Swearing to use his hard-won gifts to rid the world of crime and evil, William Lee Williams became that scourge of evil, the man whose name strikes fear into the heart of the criminal underworld, the world-renowned, peerless avatar of Swift Justice...
THE BLACK CENTIPEDE!
(From “The Black Centipede: Who He Was, Who He Is Now, and Why That Is,” by Rudolph Praetorius, Tales of the Black Centipede Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 1, May 1933, Lane and Jones Publishing, Zenith USA)
I hereby affirm that the following is a true and accurate account of events.
-- the Black Centipede
When I was very young, my family moved to the town of Fall River, Massachusetts. My father wanted to distance himself and his brood from Zenith and the unsavory activities of my grandfather, a notorious robber baron, ward heeler, political machine engineer and thug.
Needless to say, my parents were not wealthy scientists and neither of them was ever within a thousand miles of Madagascar. The colorful story told by Rudolph Praetorius (real name Percival Doiley) was just that-- a colorful story designed to make me marketable. It worked. I was wildly popular in the 1930s and 40s, and the public believed in the Black Centipede as imagined by Percy and roughly a score of other writers who ghosted on the Black Centipede magazine during its heyday.
I was for many years a popular public figure, trusted and cherished—the sort of individual that a later generation would call a “superhero.” As such, it was imperative that I appear virtuous.
The real story of the Black Centipede’s bizarre genesis would have been unpublishable back then. It was too fantastic and unsavory even for the sort of publications that catered to fans of my friend H.P. Lovecraft.
But the early 21st century is a more cynical, sensation-hungry time, and the grotesque is commonplace. As I set down the true story for the first time, I wonder if it might be too tame for a modern audience.
But the truth is, I am not writing this for an audience. At least not a contemporary one.
Much has been written about me, and close to 90 percent of it is what is now called “disinformation.”
In other words, lies.
To paraphrase an old saying, “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there is the life of the Black Centipede.”
Lies make up the bulk of the public record, where I am concerned. Lies told and sold, printed and promulgated for a variety of reasons—some good, some bad, some absolutely unconscionable. This does not make me unique, of course. The same things can be said of most of the “official” history of the 20th century.
The Black Centipede was born one beautiful, horrible night in 1927 in a house belonging to Lizzy Borden. But I believe he had been germinating for a long time. Lizzy gave him a focus. I believe she did much more than that, but in the 80-plus years since then, I have never learned anything more about her than I knew on the night she died in my arms.
For more than 80 years I have pursued and attempted to fathom the strange creature who baptized herself in Lizzie's blood that night, but she remains utterly opaque.
My story is not over, and much of it is still unknown to me. I must go back to the beginning and start from there.
So many names, so many friends and foes, almost all of them dead now. This is a Necronomicon in the most literal sense. Lizzie Borden, Howard Lovecraft, Amelia Earhart, Carl Tanzler, Stan Bartowski, Woodrow Wilson Tannenbaum, the Red Dagger, W.E.B. DuBois, Professor James Moriarty, Jack the Ripper, Jesse Owens, Dr. Fredric Wertham, Percival Doiley, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle... a roll call of the boneyard. People I loved, people I hated, all of them now beyond my reach and my ken.
As William Randolph Hearst once predicted, the Black Centipede has endured.
It is my intention to create as true a record as I can, which may one day find a place on the bookshelves next to the elaborate and robust compendium of falsehood, fabrication and fiction done up as fact. I don't expect it to change anything. I suspect that even if I published it today, it would be of little more than academic interest to anyone. We have grown accustomed, in the 21st century, to startling revelations about public figures, and to a history that is constantly being revised and rewritten by whoever has the loudest and most emphatic voice. My trifling revelations would be very bland fare at this point, so far as the public is concerned. (The truth about the late J. Edgar Hoover and his underhanded vendetta against me could never outshine the tales of his penchant for wearing red cocktail dresses and being called "Mary.")
Whether or not the day I speak of will come within my lifetime, I cannot say, because I don’t know just how long that will end up being. In the grand casino of life, they say, all the games are rigged, and the house always wins. Perhaps. This is certainly the case if one plays by the house rules. But through a variety of methods, dodges, tricks and cheats, I have managed to beat the house odds thus far, and collect a great deal more than my threescore and ten.
And, quite frankly, it is a matter of indifference to me whether or not my memoir is ever published or read or believed. I'm not writing it for posterity, about which I don't give a tinker's damn.
I'm writing it for me. Whoever I am.
When I was a boy in Fall River in the 1920s, I never envisioned myself marching on into the 21st century as I have. I didn’t need to. Back then, I knew I was going to live forever. The details were not important.
But, as they say, God is in the details. They say the same thing about the devil. Both, I suspect, are true. They strive endlessly to outdo one another. Myself, I have never taken up the flag of either camp. Pledging allegiance to anyone or anything has always been anathema to me.
But it occurs to me that a third individual may be found in the details, one whom I have never actively sought.
Perhaps by revisiting my details, from the ridiculous to the sublime, from soup to nuts, from pillar to post, I can divine some hint of him. My enduring mystery, my silent shadow, the thing in my mirror.
When I unravel my own lies, will I be appalled? Will I be enlightened?
Or will I find that they were true after all?
The Black Centipede