by Rhawn Joseph
The recessed fluorescent lights were antiseptically bright, making him squint as he was ushered into the inner sanctum of the white washed laboratory. The tables, benches and sinks gleamed aluminum. The filtered air was cool and tickled the tiny hairs of his neck which stood straight up, saluting in attention.
Again David heard the tiny voice, "Help" it called, and then there it was, like a snapshot in his mind's eye, an image of a pretty woman, taking some type of test. She held a picture in her hand. Her eyes were tightly shut in concentration. Then the image flashed forward. She was lying in an operating room, her head shaved. She was unconscious. Surgeons gathered around her...
The others pressed in, behind him, and the images disappeared from David's mind. Then someone pulled shut the large, windowless, insulated door, sealing them in, making his ears pop.
Dr. David Beck rubbed his forehead, wondering what was happening to him. The voices, the images. He had never experienced anything like this before. Was this some kind of trick? Had they slipped something into his coffee? He glanced at the others, but they gave no telltale signs of hearing voices or seeing strange images in their heads.
"This way," the bullet headed man said, stepping around the others, leading the way.
Dr. David Beck followed, glancing at the wide and narrow necked, fluid filled bubbling bottles, the dozens of green and blue flasks, the row upon row of test tubes and vials, the humming computers, assay equipment, and a bewildering assortment of microscopes, monitors, and testing apparatus. It was a fully modern laboratory, all the latest in high tech gizomos--exactly what he expected.
They filed past a number of IBM and Sun computers which were blinking away along the wall and then past a couple of autoclaves which hummed on a counter to their left. A huge white refrigerator with a sign on the door warned in big red letters:
David blinked. The words and letters had appeared inside his head. "Remote Viewing," what's that supposed to mean, he wondered, and again, the image of the woman appeared in his mind, concentrating on the picture...and then the surgeons...
David rubbed his forehead, blinked again, and stared at the sign:
"This way," the bullet headed man called. David followed.
Three dark haired, white coated women, lab technicians, David assumed, were bent over microscopes, and two others were busily talking and typing away at the computers. They were so engrossed they didn't look up, even as David and the others squeezed by.
David paused and did a double take. They weren't talking to each other. They were talking to the computers. And as they spoke a cascade of complex images appeared on one of the terminal screens.
David gave the women a last glance, curious to see their faces, vaguely wondering as to any romantic possibilities, should he decide to take this job. He had spied a great pair of shapely long legs. The others also seemed slim and attractive, but then, who could tell with those lab coats and their faces glued to the microscopes.
One of the women looked up, as if aware of his prying eyes, and gave him a quick once over. She was Asian and quite pretty, with dark almond eyes and pouty lips. David smiled but her gaze was inscrutable.
David looked her up and down. She was incredibly sexy. And then, to his surprise, she frowned and shook her head, as if reading his thoughts, and then turned her attention back to the microscope. Oh well. He hurried to catch up with the others.
They stopped before a set of heavy, lead shielded double doors, clearly marked:
AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.
To the left of the double doors was a small, black, mechanical box equipped with a small green lens, and a tiny grill beneath that, and a finger sized slot at its center. The bullet headed man inserted his finger, whispered something into the device, and stared directly at the lens which flashed once as it scanned his retina. The heavy double doors slid open.
Again he heard the tiny voice: "help" it called. It was a woman's voice. Inside his head! And again the images: She was unconscious, strapped down, her head shaved, the surgeons sawing away at her bared cranium...
Dr. Jerry McDaniels, a red headed bear of a man, nudged David from behind. The images faded and David awoke, as if from a dream.
McDaniels, like David, was a neuroscientist and prospective neurosurgery resident.
"Over there," McDaniels said, jerking his shaggy head, pointing with his chin.
David, his green eyes narrowing in concentrated surprise, peered at the half dozen fifty-gallon spherical, water filled, glass containers, all bubbling happily away as they sat serenely on their gleaming stainless steel pedestals. Each contained a floating brain with intact spinal cord and cranial and spinal nerves which dipped, and swayed in rhythm to the bubbling fluids. Filtration and various fluids were pumped in and sucked out by tubes and glass encased cabling which jutted and snaked from the bottom and top of each gurgling container. The brains were obviously human.
Again, the voice: "Help me. Help me."
David clenched his eyes and teeth and gave his head a violent shake, trying to make the voice go away.
"Jesus, the eyes are still attached," McDaniels remarked to no one in particular. He bent down to get a closer look. "How'd they do that?"
David, his brow wrinkling in perplexed curiosity, looked from container to container which swirled with iridescent bubbles. Each contained not just a brain but eyes, olfactory bulbs and the auditory meatus of the inner and middle ear, all firmly attached to their respective cranial nerves--fiber bundles which transmit visual, auditory, and olfactory signals from the eyes, ears and nose, to the brain. The bubbling brains were completely intact. Someone had done an absolutely incredible job of dissection.
"This one has cables...electrodes implanted in the temporal lobes," McDaniels mumbled as he studied one of the bubbling brains. "The transmitters to god," he added, under his breath. "If you believe in that sort of thing."
"What kind of thing?" David asked.
McDaniels shrugged. "NeuroTheology, psychic phenomenon, hallucinations, ESP. The temporal lobes and the limbic system have been implicated. You know: in cases of temporal lobe epilepsy."
"Yeah, I've read that," David remarked absently, leaning closer and staring at the wiring and the brains.
"Do you think they are alive?" David asked, and then immediately regretted it.
Dr. Irene Cohen, the other neuroscientist and prospective neurosurgery resident, sighed loudly and rolled her eyes. Brains in a jar were nothing new, insofar as Irene was concerned. She obviously thought David's comment idiotic.
"Pathetic." she said to no one in particular.
David ignored her. She had already made is clear she didn't like him. Why, he didn't know. But, the feeling was mutual. He didn't care at all for this hawk faced, big nosed, stringy haired woman.
David absently ran his hand and fingers through his thick dark hair as he scrutinized the bobbing brains, the protruding electrodes, and the thin white cranial nerves swaying and dangling from the brainstem. Even the veins and arteries were intact, as were the carotids and the aorta which were tethered to a pulsating red hose that disappeared into the bottom of the gurgling, fluid filled tank.
"Help me" cried the voice. "Help me, please."
Again he saw the image of the woman. The surgeons were removing her brain!
Beads of sweat began to break out across his brow. He clenched his eyes tightly shut, and with a violent shake of his head, succeeded again, in making the voice and the disturbing images go away.
"And these eyes look normal...even the pupils," McDaniels remarked.
David wiped the sweat from his brow, and then edged up, his nose almost touching the glass. He peered into two blue and white orbs floating lazily in the bubbling, iridescent water, tethered to the brain by thin strands of optic nerve.
McDaniels was right! The eyes were completely normal! Absolutely no sign of opacity. Amazing!
And then, for one brief instant, as he gazed into those serene blue bubbling eyes, both pupils began to dilate. "Help me. Help me," cried the voice.
David felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up. He was suddenly overcome with the terrible sensation that those blue eyes were staring back at him; that the brain in this bottle was talking to him! He shuddered involuntarily as a rattling chill crawled up and down his spine. Was he going insane?
But no, the eyes were dilating. The eyes were really looking at him! Six tanks, six pairs of eyes. They were all looking at him!!!
David jerked back, bumping into and almost tripping over Irene.
"Watch it," she remarked irritably.
"You OK?" the bullet headed man asked, his face a frown.
"Are these things alive?" David asked, his voice shaky.
"Of course not," replied a cultured voice from an open doorway. It was Dr. Allen. He was dressed in an open white lab coat and pin stripped suit. Dr. Allen smiled warmly at David and the others.
"I'm Dr. Allen," he said pleasantly, bowing slightly. "We've been expecting you. Kling?" he said to the bullet headed man, "Please bring Drs. McDaniels, Cohen, and Beck to the conference room."
"This way," Kling remarked.
David hesitated, feeling upset, confused, but then, as the others pushed forward, he too followed after Kling.
Slowly, silently, the six pairs of submerged bubbling eyes, in their identical bubbling fluid filled tanks, turned and bobbed, and helplessly watched as David and the others disappeared through the doorway and down the hall.
"Help me. Help me. Help me..."