40
 

"Whatever happens, I implore you, please don’t sign."

"Sign what, Pa?"

"Anything: release forms, power-of-attorney, commitment papers."

"You’ve merely been admitted 'for observation'; relax."

"'Relax!?' With you insisting I’m some sort of senile father-figure?"

"Sorry, Rem."

"'Rem'? Who the hell is 'Rem'?"

His father’s eyes, like two fried eggs, enlarge, refuse to blink, regard their bedside alter-ego as next-of-kin and nemesis:

source of solace / cause for angst
lifelong pal / false foe

the eyes reflecting this duplicity clinical as a calculator,

plotting / pitying
entertaining intrigues / brimming with concern

Will the madness pass, or should he sanction psychotherapy? What to do, in any case, about his father’s private lab—wherein experiments staged defy imagination?

 

*

 

In an unassuming structure one block up from Cuba Street (Wellington’s countercultural quarter), the Falk Foundation stands: two stories high, walls devoid of windows, blood-red brick entangled with run-amok ivy,  ramp and warehouse dock around the back facing a public parking lot, entrance inconspicuous off to the side, where Rockefeller, keys in hand, nervously sorts, applies them, gains admittance to his father’s place of work for the very first time, an eerie aura therein compounding his discomfiture.

Warned to maintain calm by him whose fragile equanimity has been shattered (temporarily?), Rockefeller enters, cues the lights, inserts a card disabling burglar alarms, rests his palm on a scanner, and waits for authorization to gain full admittance.

("How can my palm pass for yours"?,  he had asked of his strapped-down parent, him whose aggravated answer was to wave the question off—as best he could within the grip of hand and foot restraints.)

Equipped with a three page list of step-by-step instructions, his assignment to ensure the lab’s proper shutdown, Rockefeller passes through an antechamber (vacuum-sealed behind him), proceeds down a narrow hall to the door of a massive vault, operates dials and levers to unlock its combination, and, on pulling it open, stands stock-still, in awe.

*

 

"You’re not going to believe this, Jo."

"Fell?"

"Yeah, it’s me again. Are you anywhere near a module?"

"What’s going on? Where are you?"

"Link your cell to the monitor and press 'record.'"

"How’s your father? Is that a hospital you’re in?"

"Just do it!"

"I am, I am. I’m walking to the den. I’m turning the damn thing on. Where are you? What’s that stuff I see in the background? Christ, you’re not at some morgue, I hope!"

"Are you hooked up or not?"

"Yes, yes, yes. Hold your pee. There. You’re crystal clear. So what’s the big surprise?"

"Is this recording?"

"Oh. No. Hold on. Okay, we’re fused. The disc is in. Posterity will... Oh, my God, my God, my God, are those for real or what!?"

"They’re not prostheses.’"

"They're flesh and blood?"

       "Pa’s Body Shop—
Spare Parts Anonymous."

"That's the grossest thing I've seen in my whole unsheltered life. Is he there with you?"

"Rem, you mean? He's under observation at some high-end sanatorium, limbs somewhat restricted, not unlike theirs."
 

                                                                "Good grief!"

 

                                                             

"And his."

"Oh, yuk!’"

 

 

 

 

"And its."

"How sick; that’s horrible! They’re alive?"

"Pickled mostly. But
some appear to be breathing."

 "Are they...?"   

"Conscious? Well, I’ve tapped on the glass of a few—like this."

"My God; she flinched!"

"I thought that, too, but no; so far, the full-grown ones don't really react. If their brains are the least bit functional, they perform only autonomic duties. As for the less developed specimens, they’re numb as nuts on Novocain. Speaking of which..."

"Please don’t. It’s hardly the time. What are you going to do?"

"Well... I guess what I’m supposed to do."

"Which is?"

"Put this place on ice. Pa, in spite of lapses into schizophrenic gibberish, managed to fill me in on how things operate. I guess the life supports are programmed to perform without assistance. I’m to check supplies of nutrients, top off..."

"Stop. Rewind. Rethink. You’re going to act as an accessory after the fact? Have you gone bonkers? Look around you, Fell. I’m sorry to say this, but your father’s off his rocker. His are crimes against humanity. Yours, if you assist him, make you an accomplice. He’ll get off by reason of insanity. You’ll do cold hard time."

"I can’t just put the skids on a man’s life's-work."

"You can if that life's work is against the law! Call the cops, is my advice, and boogie on out of there!"

"No can do.”

Rockefeller disconnects, stows his camcorder cell, refers to the list of tasks, and does his father’s bidding.

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