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His eyes were narrow slits. He held a scalpel in his hand. Steady. Steady. That’s all that mattered to him at the moment. His pupils were dilated, shining black orbs behind his creased lids. The room was dark but for a dim light that hung from the center above an unidentifiable mass on the table.
Steady. His hands were cold. They were cold, but they held the surgeon’s steadiness. They were ice cold. It was snowing outside, he remembered. Snow was cold. It was very cold. It held the deathly chills of winter.
There was silence in the room. He could hear only the scalpel as it slowly advanced its precision work. His cold hands finished the cut and held the scalpel shining dully in the dim light.
“Hello there, Johnny, me boy!” a small man’s voice roared from the darkness.
The scalpel clattered against the drab grey cement floor. “Damn it, Jack!” The man felt his heart quicken pace at the other man’s voice. His hands were still cold.
A smaller, bent figure jumped into the light, his white coat stained and worn, his facial hair savage and untamed, his eyes glowing madly, eerily in the insufficient light.
“Hullo, Johnny, me boy, me boy, let’s play a game, let’s play a game!”
The man glared at Jack. “My name is not Johnny. We have work to do, Jack, so why can’t you just help me for—”
“Jack doesn’t work, oh no oh no no, Jack plays and has fun!” He darted over to an elongated bench in the dark and wrenched a tray of bottled liquids from it dangerously. “Jack has the time of his life!”
The man watched Jack do this. His heart seemed to skip a beat as his partner brought him the tray. “Do you know how to fix the formula?”
“Yes, yes, Jack has all the rules of the game memorized.” Jack’s eyes glinted.
“Good, then do it.”
The man retrieved his scalpel from the floor. It had left a stain.
The work was almost finished! the man swelled with excitement. The real puzzle itself was done, and now it was only up to putting the pieces together!
“Pour the solute into the solvent,” Jack breathed to himself as he mixed liquids together that changed color at every step: green became orange, orange became brown, brown became black, and black transformed into a deep crimson. “Not too much solute, lest the solution become supersaturated. Put just enough for a saturated solution… yes, just enough! Pour this into that, O, so many miscible chemicals of science!”
“They’re all soluble, yes?” the man confirmed with Jack.
Jack didn’t answer.
“Okay, well, if the solution ever becomes an immiscible mixture, let me know…”
Jack started to sing.
“We are the clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!—yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever…”
His voice settled into a low mutter. His hands mechanically fluttered among the bottles, little scraggly claws that gripped and grabbed glass almost spasmodically.
The man glanced down at the thing on the table so thankfully covered in cloth. The cloth looked back up. Of a sudden, his hands shook. The cloth was small. It was a small cloth! It barely spanned the entirety of the table! It covered the long bulky thing beneath it with fear! O, how thin the cloth was! It was a one way mirror, turning back the image of the man as he reflected on his work that had consumed him for nearly two years! And, as the man thought of his work—he dreaded—his work thought of him…
“Man’s yesterday!” screamed Jack, “may ne’er be like his morrow; nought may endure but mutability!”
The man stared at Jack.
“The solvation of the solute and solvent is complete,” Jack declared in the man’s face. “O, how I wish for a draught of wine!” He pretended to drink the now black liquid he held in his hand, then laughed.
“You did as I instructed?” the man said slowly. His hands felt cold.
“Games are fun, but games need practice! O, I practiced it before, testing solubility again and again and again and again until the insoluble liquids that refused to mix became soluble and the game and the play was perfected!”
“Absolutely,” the man simply said and grasped the bottled blackness.
The bottle was held above the table. The man hesitated. Sweat beaded around his face. His heart quickened as he imagined things in the shadows. A teasing wind blew outside the small dark room. It was snowing outside. It was cold. The snow was cold. Icy death was knocking on the walls. His hands were cold.
The man brought a needle to the blackness and drew it forth into a syringe; it seemed to flow like blood. The bottle was drained and set aside. The syringe was held by steady hands.
“Yes, Johnny, me boy?”
“Take the cloth off.”
Jack laughed maniacally and threw the thin shield off of the thing. The thing stared at the man as he brought the needle to its surface. His heart beat like a drum.
“Johnny, me boy,” Jack yelled, “let’s finish the game!”
The man injected the blackness into the thing on the table.
There lapsed a few seconds of silence. The man took a step back from the table.
A finger twitched.
“HAHA!” Jack screamed, leaning, bent over the table. “Yes!” He stared directly at the man. “I will be with you on your wedding night!”
An inhuman scream pierced the air. The table shook violently, and of a sudden, some thing hit the only light and darkness claimed the room.
Then there was silence. The man’s heart raced. His mouth was dry. His hands were cold. His body was cold. The door! The door was open. The wind and snow touched the man’s cheeks. He felt an iciness crawl through him. He stumbled to a wall and sat up against it.
Footsteps shuffled slowly inside the room.
Jack didn’t answer. The footsteps stopped.
The wind whispered with the snow. The darkness commanded the world. The footsteps shuffled nearer.
The man closed his eyes.