The Collector



Scene Title The Collector
Synopsis Wendy Hunter is added to the collection.
Date March 5, 2010


All around me are familiar faces

Dirty yellow light shines through the grimy panes of glass from high basement windows. Dust and dirt are settled on the panes, smudged with so many years of grime that they can no longer reliably be seen through. The occasional vibrant purple flash comes through them at a regular interval, casting bright light into the dusty cellar. It's like a violet heartbeat, throbbing in silence to add surreal lighting to rows of old wooden shelves and racks of glass jars, bottles and milk crates.

Worn out places, worn out faces

Through one of the cracked basement windows, scintillating clouds of smoke drift through in a thin stream. The curling wisps of sooty smoke dance in the air with the particles of dust caught on that yellow glow. When the purple neon light floods the basement, the smoke seems to catch it from every angle, looking like some ultraviolet ghost hanging in the air and dancing on an ephemeral wind. When weight possesses the smoke, it grows blacker and thicker, leaving traces of ash on the ground as it slithers along the dusty floor, filtering between glass jars on the shelves.

Bright and early for their daily races

The smoke swirls on the ground, forming a coil six feet high before beginning to thin, revealing a darkly dressed silhouette of a man with ihs back to the windows. The smoke blows off of him, as if he had just walked out of a fire. An old and worn leather jacket, cracked and faded from exposure to extreme heat smolders, much like the rest of his body. A wet cloth-wrapped bundle is laid down on an old workbench near the shelves, squelching softly as its set down.

Going nowhere, going nowhere

Unzipping his jacket, the smoldering figure reveals his faded flannel shirt beneath. The old and fire-damaged coat is taken off, and a puff of smoke escapes where the jacket was taken off around the collar, before it's draped over the back of a tall stool. Next comes the hat, that old tattered navy blue baseball cap. When it comes off, yellow light reflects off of a bald head, one weathered hand smoothing over it slowly, before wiping down to rub over the closely shaved stubble at his jaw.

And their tears are filling up their glasses

A turn is given, and the smoke man settles down on the stool, reaching up to click on a flexible lamp. In that instant, the bundle is revealed as a red and white mess, leaking blood out through the porous fabric of a pillow case. A dirty tray of far cleaner surgical steel tools is within arms reach, and the bald man reaches out to pluck a scalpel from within. He uses the sharp blade to slice open the knotted-shut cloth, then replaces the tool back on the tray quietly.

No expression, no expression

One hand at a time, the bald man unfolds the cloth, revealing a whole human brain sitting within that bloodied cloth. The gray matter is slicked and fresh looking under the stark glow of the fluorescent lamp. With delicate patience, the bald man reaches out and withdraws a jar full of water containing a sponge, and pulls it out, wringing the murky water from the sponge before beginning to apply it in small, careful motions to the surface of the brain. Without so much as gloves, the bald man lifts up the brain with one hand, turning it over, carefully sponging clean each lobe as his head sways gently from side to side in a song he can only hear in his head.

Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow

The bloodied sponge is brought back to the dirty jar, dunked inside and wrung out again and the diligent owner of this heavy human organ finds himself cleaning the second lobe with just as much care, using the corner of the sponge to wipe off the creases and folds of the brace with loving, tender care. When the sponge is replaced, a wisp of smoke comes off of the bald man's shoulders in a tiny stream, and he exhales a wheezing breath accompanied by more thin tendrils of smoke from his nostrils.

No tomorrow, no tomorrow

Reaching to his right, knuckled and weathered hands dusted with ash come to reach for a shiny pair of wedge-shaped tools, tyndallers. These odd instruments are brought over towards the brain, curved thin sheets of metal placed between the hemispheres of the brain and then ratcheted apart like rib spreaders, revealing the interior of the brain. Breathing in deeply, the makeshift surgeon exhales a wheezing breath of smoke before sliding two fingers inside of the open hole in the brain.

And I find it kind of funny

A squelching sound accompanied the snug fit. Fingering around inside of the brain, the smoke man arches one thick brow, tongue wetting his parched lips as a breath of gray vapor slips out from his exhalation, then is drawn right back in as he breathes again. Swallowing dryly, his fingers slide out of the hole in the brain, fingers slicked from the cerebral fluids. Head tilting to the side, the fingers are brought up for closer examination, reflection of light on the man's glasses as he peers thorugh them at the digits, then very carefully places one inside of his mouth.

I find it kind of sad

There's a pop as the finger is plucked out, lips smacking together and a quiet sound in the back of his throat. The tyndallers are twisted closed, removed and laid back on the tray, leaving a crease in the brain where they were inserted. A contented sigh comes with a wheezing breath of smoke, and as the bald surgeon rises up from his stool, the legs scuttle across the concrete floor. Ash falls like dandruff from his sleeve as he moves, walking over to a shelf of bottles and jars. Quietly he removes a large dark glass tube from the shelf, followed by a larger empty and clear glass jar with a mason lid.

The dreams in which I'm dying

Returning to the workbench, the jar is laid down with a clunk, and the cap is screwed off of the dark glass tube. Noxious fumes fill the air, and a dark amber fluid with the texture of honey is poured out into the jar. Fluorescent light causes the surgeon's lenses to glare, shielding his eyes as he watches the chemical be filled an inch deep into the jar. Tipping the tube up, he carefully screws the cap back on and sets it down, turning to walk towards the mile crates lying on the floor in the dark nearby, where a dusty gallon jug of water is removed and brought over to the work bench.

Are the best I've ever had

Humming quietly to himself, he fills the jar up the rest of the way with water, and that foul smell that rises in the air from the mixture is only intensified as a wooden spoon is used to stir the chemicals together, dilluting the amber fluid to tint the water and fill the jar with a honey-brown liquid. Once the mixture is complete, the spoon is taken out and laid down with a click on the workbench, and two steady hands carefully pick up the brain and bring it towards the jar.

I find it hard to tell you

It is laid down inside, sinks to the bottom before floating to the top and then settling back down somewhere in the middle, tiny bubbles of oxygen clinging to its surface. A contented and yellowed smile creases the bald surgeon's lips and corners of his mouth as he watches the brain float buoyant in the jar, before picking up the large glass lid and affixing it in place, moving the metal latch down to the side and then presses it closed with a click.

'Cos I find it hard to take

The jar is lifted, not with hands but with a furrow of his brows. It floats, motionlessly, up off of the workbench and follows the smoke man as he turns from that lighted area, trailing thin tendrils of smoke and ash with him as he moves. His footfalls carry him past the racks and shelves of preservative fluids, past darkened jars of murky chemicals and strange silhouettes inside. This jar belongs somewhere special, somewhere purposefully arranged for it.

When people run in circles

Passing by rows of wilted plants under heat lamps, the surgeon is trailed by the drifting brain in a jar bobbing up and down as it follows under the telekinetic leash. He arrives at a narrow brick corridor in the basement, passing by old wooden doors, faded paint peeling off of them like parchment paper. He stops at the end of the hall in the dark, pushing the last door open with a creak. A twist of his fingers accompanies a click into the unlit room, and one by one, fluorescent lights begin to click to life and hum quietly.

It's a very, very

The first row illuminates a large metal table with wheels and a rolling tray next to it, oxygen tanks beside it with a respirator mask, gleaming surgical tools laid out on the tray on a cloth mat. Bags of blood are nearby, plastic tubing and syringes in a rack, discarded vials flecked with dried blood, paper masks and rubber gloves overflowing from a metal waste basket, some of them browned with untold fluids.

Mad World

As the surgeon steps in, the second row of lights refuses to click on fully, just sputtering and flickering in the gloom. Stepping past the operation table, smoke coiling and flowing off of his body, the surgeon walks past the rows of desaturating fluorescent lights, shining down on his shaved head and casting his shadow with stark quality on the cement floor. His slow strides carry him to the darkened back of the room, where one glowering look up to the lights creates a flick against them that sends the fluorescent bulbs to full activity, glowing brightly.

Children waiting for the day they feel good

A writing desk is cast into illumination, no papers on the old wooden desk, just a roll of masking tape and a sharpie marker. The glass jar is directed over towards the desk, laid down with a heavy clunk and a slosh of the internal fluids, the brain inside bobbing up and down slowly within. The bal man moves his hand, making a gesture to lift the roll of tape up in the air, peel off a corner and pull out a length of the tape before tearing it off and affixing it to the jar horizontally.

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday

Needing more finesse than his telekinesis can afford, the bald man moves in and picks up the pen, pulling off the cap with his teeth and meticulously writing on the tape before angling the cap around with his lips and replacing the felt tip of the pen inside. A pleased smile crosses his lips, and with a smoky swirl of his hand, fingertips brush tenderly over the tape covering the front of the jar, before a gesture of two fingers brings the jar up slowly from the desk.

Made to feel the way that every child should

The last leg of the journey is to a metal shelf recessed into an alcove in the brick wall beneath a pair of dirty windows. Two additional jars are situated on the top shelf, each of them containing a human brain floating in preservative fluids. A strip of tape covers each one, and with a comfortable smile the smoke man lifts up the third jar to come and join the others, filling that top shelf with the wide and heavy fluid-filled jars. His eyes look up over the frames of his glasses, viewing the first one with a lick of his lips.

Sit and listen, sit and listen

Archie Rasmussen, Danger Sense. Tired eyes regard the jar thoughtfully, halfway lidding as he looks beyond the tape label towards that piece of heavy flesh drifting in the fluids. Slowly letting his head sway side to side, the smoke man allows his eyes to fall shut, smoke drifting off of his scalp in thin, curling wisps that form ephemeral knots and eddies in the otherwise still air. When his eyes open, they're drifting towards the second jar. Marie Anne LePlante, Smoke Manipulation.

Went to school and I was very nervous

The third jar on the shelf is eventually reaches for, a palm leaving sooty prints across the piece of tape before knuckles and the side of his hand brush it away in a dusty cloud. Wendy Hunter, Power Discernment. His handwriting is immaculate and precise, even if there is a subtle shake of his hand when he pulls it away from the jar. Considering them, the smoke man brushes his palm down his mouth, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

No one knew me, no one knew me

For now, he feels wonderful, and feels complete. But in the back of his mind, when he closes his eyes, he can feel that emptiness eating away at himself from within. A tired, wheezing breath escapes his lips, followed by a hacking, choking cough as he hunches forward, fingers clasped over his mouth, thin rivulets of blood mixed with ash beginning to seep between his digits. Dropping to one knee, the bald man rests his palm on the floor, crimson making spatter marks on the concrete. His body breaks apart, turning into amorphous wisps and clouds of smoke, surging from the spot where his blood dapples the concrete before reforming back by the surgical table.

Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson

A hand moves out form the smoke, as if pulling his body from that ashen cloud, a line of blood drooling down his mouth. Two fingers move, and the top of the oxygen tank twists as pressurizes air is let out. The breathing mask moves, covering the noise and mouth and scrubbing against his five o'clock shadow. Leaning forward, he hunches over the table, hands trembling and eyes unfocused, staring at the blood and soot on his fingertips…

Look right through me, look right through me

…and knowing he can't stop yet.

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