I’ve spent the last thirteen years a head in a jar. A brain, awaiting a body, encased in a skull, suspended in a liquid contained in a jar. I’ve had water in my ears for over a decade.
I think back on it sometimes, back to the exact moment when fate turned on me. I was all set to get a body. The storms raged all around, flashes of light flooding the room with each crack of thunder. All the while, I waited patiently, perched on my shelf. I waited for my call. For my moment. And then it came! “Fetch the brain,” the master commanded. His minion, the lumpy-backed misanthrope, approached, his right leg dragging the left. My heart leapt as he came closer (I speak metaphorically, of course, as I have no heart. But thrice did I raise my eyebrows, such was my excitement). My time had come. The hunchback drew closer; I attempted to draw his eye. But much to my shock and dismay, he hobbled right past my shelf, through the doorway, and out into the rain.
I couldn’t speak out, such was my shock (and also I had no lungs with which to force air past the frayed remains of my vocal chords). I can still remember clear is if it were yesterday, the master saying after five or ten minutes had passed: “Now where did that damn fool go?” Forget him, I mouthed, unable to vocalize my anguish. Just take me. I wish to live again! I wish to walk. To fornicate. To visit a haberdashery (for while my head remains perfectly suited for hats, I have no means of placing them on my head). I long to eat kippers in oil. I long to hold a woman in a firm yet gentle embrace, touching my nose to hers, our eyes locked in a knowing gaze. Maybe I nibble her chin, just a bit. I long to scale a mountain, not just because it’s there, but because it’s there and really, really tall. I wish to drink a fine Bordeaux paired neatly with a plate of chevre.
I’d like to visit the Americas; I hear they have a good thing going over there. And while over there I’d like to purchase a monkey. And no, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m referring to a literal monkey. I’ve always wanted a pet monkey.
I long for many things; I have many wishes. But most of all, I wish for life.
It was perhaps a full forty-five minutes before the great oaf returned from his search. As he entered, he reached into his coat pocket, producing a a slightly flattened lump of grey matter. Picking a half dozen pieces of lint from the surface of the brain, he handed it over to his master who snatched at it greedily.
As I watched the crazed scientist lower the brain into the open skull, tears spilled from my eyes, mingling with the surrounding fluid. I wept for the dances I would not dance, the steps I would not take. The gentle-yet-vigorous love I would not make, possibly with twins (although based on the scars and protruding bolts on my would-be body, twins might have been a bit of a stretch. To be honest, that body is a bit of a train wreck). I wept for the life I had lost; the life that would never be mine.
The brain in place, the master and his servant waited patiently, their eyes to the sky. And then, in an instant, the room filled with a blinding light and the wires connecting the body to the heavens glowed red, brighter and brighter until the wires themselves evaporated into the night. A beat, and then the body released a low, throaty groan. And then silence. For the next several minutes the thunderstorm drew quiet, perhaps out of respect for those of us listening for a sign of life. But the body was still. The master scuttled about, eyes bulging, touching the body here and there, searching for a pulse. The hunchback merely stood off to the side, scratching his chin.
Frantically, the master adjusted dials, threw switches; all the while never taking his eyes off the corpse before him. After packing a lifetime’s worth of desperate efforts into a single five minute span, the master stopped; his shoulders slumped. A low moan escaped his lips as he threw his arms across the dead man’s broad chest, weeping softly into the lapel of the dead man’s jacket.
The brain, I thought to myself, it had been defective! I was going to get a second chance and this time the master would surely not once again leave the task of finding a brain to an underling. I just knew there’s no way the master would take a chance and pass up a brilliant brain such as mine. I allowed the excitement to wash over me, bubbling up from brain stem to cerebral cortex. Yes, again, I allowed my hopes to rise prematurely.
And premature it was, because in the next moment I saw it. I saw it before the master. I saw it before the hunchback. And just as quickly as hope had flared up within me, it was snuffed out as the monster’s left hand curled into a tight fist and then slowly unclenched. Unquestionably, a movement of life.
And so it all unravelled from there. The creature eventually sat up, stood, and walked. He learned, he spoke, and eventually he left the master’s laboratory for the outside world. He never returned, so I can only speculate as to where he ended up. I like to imagine him running through the wildflowers, hand in hand with some buxom blond, revelling in the glory that is life.
And me? I’m still sitting here on the shelf, floating in my jar. It’s been over a decade since last I saw the master. He left in quite a rush when the villagers arrived with their torches and pitchforks, his fool of a servant following behind with a lump in his pants to match the one on his back.
But I remain. As I will always. Waiting for the master to return and give me my new body. To give me life.
Waiting for my next moment.