The Evening Mist
The mists caressed the street, the lane shrouded in their embrace. Puffy white clouds flew past the street lamps a stark contrast to the darkness that covered the city. The tap of his cane hitting the cobblestones was swallowed into the night as he walked along.
It had been some time since he had been home. Not much had changed, except for him. The war had given him a limp; he now needed a cane to help carry him forward. His hair had grey streaks that were not there before he left. But the city was the city. She was timeless in her beauty.
There was no rush in his step, no hurry in his gait. He had plenty of time to reach his destination. He preferred to soak in the night air. There was a touch of winter crispness in the air, even now in late April. The weather did not favor to switch to warm as yet. He pulled up the collar of his overcoat, and blocked the wind from digging further into his neck.
His destination in sight, he began to whistle. The tune was somber though a bit over dramatic. He stopped at the gate, looking at the way the courtyard was laid out. It had not changed from his youth. Still the same, he could almost feel the way the courtyard and house were once a part of his life.
He passed through the gate as memories flooded his mind. Stepping into the graveyard was a step into the past. The ghosts swam in the mist. Their caress froze him to the bone. Each touch brought with it a memory of the pains he once suffered.
He followed a path of cobbled stone that led through the oldest portion of the cemetery, to the largest and oldest crypt. The moon above fought through the mists to offer little of its light. This was not his first time traveling through, he knew his way.
The old mausoleum stood tall and strong among other crumbling headstones. Its stone pillars and surrounding stonework had been built into the side of a hill. The grass of the hill grew strong and lustrous, this area better cared for than the rest of the cemetery.
He stepped up to the stone doorway. This crypt had not been sealed with brickwork. No gate jailed the dead in their final home. The crypt had been sealed off with a stone door resting on heavy iron hinges, with no handle for the outside world.
He placed his hand on the door, cool and unyielding. He stepped back, pulling a knife from his pocket. The old lock-back’s blade had been honed to a razor’s sharpness. A quick poke at his middle finger, and a drop of blood began to pool. He pressed this blood to the door.
The earth trembled as the door opened. The door opened faster than expected of the heavy stone. The iron hinges creaked into the misted night.
Musty air and blackness greeted him from the silent crypt. He stepped forward, with no light to guide his way. Instinct pulled him through, as the doorway closed behind him.
This portion of the crypt swept back into the hill. Sarcophagi lined the walls, stacked three high. Stone boxes with thick lids, there was little chance that the dead would trouble him.
He walked to the back to another doorway that blocked his way. This one was not the heavy stone of the guarding door. It opened freely at his touch, swung aside to show a stairwell into the earth.
The base of the stairs opened into a large room. Sconces held torches that sprang to life when he reached the last stair. The soft light from the torches showed him the entirety of the room.
A body lay atop a worktable in the center of the room. Next to the table a stand held various tools and implements. He opened a notebook on the stand to a marked page. His brow creased as he flipped through several pages.
He picked up a scalpel from the stand, then placed the blade against the left bicep of the body. Steady but firm force cut a blood trail down the center of the bicep. The muscle held fast to its fluids in death.
The flesh was white, drained of color, of life. With a second slice he divided the muscle in two. Using another tool from the stand he spread the muscle wide. He cut through again, exposed the bone beneath the muscle.
He set down the scalpel only to pick up a spike and a mallet. The spike places on the exposed bone, he smacked the hammer firmly. The bone split after the second strike. He used the spike and hammer in other spots on the bone. This allowed him to open up the bone from the elbow to the shoulder, exposing the marrow inside.
With a rounded end spoon he scraped the marrow from the bone. Then placed it in a glass bowl on the table beside the body. He scraped the fractured bone clean of the marrow. When it was done he placed the bowl and spoon on the side table and wheeled it to the other side of the body.
He began the process again. First cut open the muscle then break open the bone. He collected the marrow from the right upper arm, added it to the bowl. The process took just a few minutes, though he moved with precision meticulously cutting and cleaning.
He did the same with the thighbones. These were bigger and required more time. After he was finished he moved his side table away from the larger table. The larger table he moved over to a chute in a wall of the lab. Tilting the table up he slid the carcass into the chute, then pressed a button. Jets of flame clicked on.
Righting the table he pushed it back into the center of the room. The bowl of marrow he took to a workbench off to the side of the room. With a scale he measured out some of the marrow then covered the bowl and placed it into a cabinet.
The weighed marrow was placed into a beaker with water already portioned out. He stirred this to dissolve the marrow. This was then poured into a flask over a cold burner. The burner and flask were part of a laboratory still, not a complex still but one that would be able to collect the essence of what was in the flask non-the-less.
He set the flask back on its stand and lit the beaker. Stepping away as it warmed he cleaned his tools and beaker, cleared them of any trace of the body. The tools now cleaned were placed back in the same spots they were found in.
Wisps of steam rose and filled the still. Water collected as it cooled, the essence traveled further to its own collection point. He collected enough of the new liquid to fill three vials. These were labeled “Essence of a dead man” and were placed in a cabinet with similar looking vials.
He made notes in a journal then placed it with the pen into a drawer. After a final look through the lab he climbed the stairwell. The torches went dim and then out moments after he left the room.
The stone doorway leading to the cemetery opened as he approached. Released into the night air the door shut behind him, and sealed away the secrets of the crypt.
He walked through the cemetery, haunted again by the ghosts of his former life. The memories tempted him, pulled at his soul to come to their embrace. He walked to the gate, ignoring their pleas.