The Destruction of Beautiful Things

"They give our Master a crown of thorns, why do we hope for a crown of roses?" - Martin Luther

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14. Chapter Eleven

Nathaniel had spent a lot of time beside his Uncle in the past few days, and yet he’d learned nothing. The past few days had all shared the same mundane routine of dissecting bodies, writing down any discoveries, and then leaving the cleaning crew to take care of the bodies. Every day since that night in the clock tower, Nathaniel had been longing to see Millicent again. But he’d heard no word from her or Silas, and they’d arranged to meet on Wednesday, which was in two days.

At present, Nathaniel was stood beside his Uncle in the labs, waiting for the crew to bring in a new body. His Uncle stood stiff as if he were in pain, and he held his research book under one arm. He had his spectacles on the end of his nose and a pen clipped onto the top pocket of his lab coat.

“How are you finding this?” Asked his Uncle. Nathaniel blinked in surprise that he’d spoken.

“As in working here? It’s cool,” he replied, hating the fact that he had to pretend to like his Uncle. Yet Nathaniel spoke kindly, in the vain hope that he would find out something before meeting with Millicent and Silas.

“How long have you worked here?” Nathaniel questioned.

Doctor Ellsworth scratched his head as if he were trying to remember, and then said “Since I was a boy. I was only your age when I moved here.”

They stood in silence for a couple of minutes, and then the elevator door opened and Nathaniel heard a cart being pushed down the hallway. They were almost here with another body, and this was the first time his Uncle had spoke to him in days. He couldn’t miss this opportunity.

“What are you trying to achieve?” Nathaniel pushed, “By doing all of this research. What has it achieved?”

His Uncle turned to him as if he were about to speak, but then the cart was pushed through the door and he turned towards the people that had reeled it in. Nathaniel turned towards the body, and almost gagged at the sight of it. The thing that laid on the cart was unlike any Crack he had ever seen. It’s skin was as black as night, and it wore what looked like the remnants of clothing on its body. The face of this creature had no eyes, no ears, no nose. The only feature that it appeared to have was a gaping mouth that covered half of it’s face, and housed what looked like thousands of sharp teeth. Nathaniel turned to his Uncle, and yet his face was as calm as if this was something he’d seen many times before.

“What the fuck is this?” Nathaniel exclaimed, staggering away from the table they were hauling it on to.

“This is science,” Doctor Ellsworth told him, “science that will help us put an end to the monstrosities that terrorize that city.”

Nathaniel would have said more, would have continued to ask questions, but something stopped him. He remembered his meeting with Millicent and Silas, and what they had told him.

Nathaniel furrowed his brows in confusion, “Taken by what?”

“A monster,” said Silas, the first words he’d uttered since arriving here.

“A Crack?” Nathaniel asked. Silas shook his head.

Was this the thing that had taken his friend?

Nathaniel shut his mouth and watched his Uncle work, taking notes in his head about the way he treated the monster on the table. First, Doctor Ellsworth took a scalpel and drew a line from the nape of it’s neck all the way down to its torso. A dark liquid oozed out of the cut, and Nathaniel had to wipe it away with some paper towels. From there, two things happened. Firstly, Ellsworth handed Nathaniel three needles and told him to take blood samples. Nathaniel pressed the needles deep into its arm and drew out the dark blood, placing the needles to one side once he’d finished. Then, his Uncle went ahead and peeled back the skin on its chest, revealing the ribcage. Nathaniel watched his Uncle as he opened the ribcage and removed the heart, placing it in a sealed bag and having one of his assistants take it off. From the inside, it looked like any human would. However from the outside, it looked like a monster.

“Where do you think it came from?” Nathaniel asked his Uncle as he scraped of tissue samples to put in a pot.

Doctor Ellsworth shrugged, and that was his only reply.

By the time they were done with the body, it was almost midday. The body was taken away to be incinerated, and Doctor Ellsworth left to his office to complete his notes. That left Nathaniel alone in the labs. This was his chance to find out anything he could about his Uncle, before meeting with Silas and Millicent.

Nathaniel made quick work of locking all of the doors and pulling the blinds down, so that nobody would see he was in there. Because Nathaniel had only been working with his Uncle for a few months, he wasn’t meant to be in the labs on his own. If he was caught, Doctor Ellsworth would send him back to the Continent to live with his mother in poverty, and he couldn’t let that happen. Firstly, he checked the drawers. This lab was one of the biggest, and there were six tables along each wall that had their own set of drawers and equipment. Then, in the far corners, there was massive wooden cabinets that Nathaniel suspected would contain folders and notebooks much like the one that his Uncle carried with him all the time. He opened the drawers one by one, but all he found was medical equipment; scalpels, mirrors, sanitizers. Nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly nothing about the King of Kings.

After he’d searched all the drawers, he turned towards the wooden cabinets. They were at least two heads taller than Nathaniel was. He opened the first one, and it was stacked high full of folders. They were all labeled, and he read through them quickly, looking for anything that would give him an idea about the place in the sewers. Nothing.

He searched behind the folders too, and was about to give up until he found a sealed box. It was attached to the back of the wardrobe and hidden by all of the folders, and when Nathaniel tried to open it he found that it was locked. Grabbing one of the heavier folders, he hit the lock again and again until finally it broke and fell to the floor with an awful clatter. Somebody was bound to hear that, and they would be coming. He had no time.

Carefully, Nathaniel opened the lid of the box and reached his hand inside. When he pulled out the contents, his jaw dropped just as the door unlocked and somebody stepped into the lab.

Because what Nathaniel held in his fist was a human head, sealed in an airtight bag, completely preserved.

“What are you doing in here?” Hissed a voice from the other end of the lab. Nathaniel looked over to the door, and found Doctor Ellsworth stood there. Nathaniel looked at the head again, which he still held in his fist.

“Why is there a human head in your cabinet?” Nathaniel asked carefully. When Doctor Ellsworth attempted to move towards him, Nathaniel grabbed a scalpel off one of the drawers and held it in front of him.

“Do not play games Nathaniel,” his Uncle said sternly, “you do not understand what is going on.”

“Maybe you should start by explaining this,” Nathaniel spat.

That was when Doctor Ellsworth ran towards him. Nathaniel dropped the head onto the floor and pushed one of the tables into his Uncle, which sent him staggering back. He had to get off the island. He had to find Millicent and Silas and tell them what he’d found.

Nathaniel was running now. Down the corridor, towards the elevator. He could hear his Uncle barking commands behind him, and he was almost there. But then something hit his leg and Nathaniel cried out in pain as he fell to the floor, his fingertips inches away from the elevator. He turned around and pressed his hands to his leg. He’d been shot, and there was now a red pool of blood surrounding where he’d fallen. He saw figures moving towards him, and two of them grabbed him by the arms and began to haul him away. His legs dragged on the ground and he screamed in pain at the wound in his leg. The men who were dragging him stopped beside the labs, and Doctor Ellsworth stood in front of him.

“Lock him up,” he told the men, “let me know when he’s calmed down.”

“W-what…” Nathaniel felt himself slipping away, “What are you….doing….to me?”

His Uncle knelt down in front of him and placed a hand on Nathaniel’s cheek, “I’m helping you.”

And then he was being dragged away again.

“No!” Nathaniel screamed, “Somebody help!”

But nobody was coming. Nathaniel let himself slip into unconsciousness as the men dragged him away.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

When Nathaniel awoke, he was in a cell.

The floor was damp, and was not the pristine white of all of the other floors he’d seen in the labs. He rubbed his eyes and looked around. Beside him, there were two other cells. Both were empty, and yet like his, they had a single bed and a bucket.

Nathaniel vomited.

Once he’d finished, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and propped himself up on the bed behind him. His leg was still bleeding, and at this rate he was going to bleed out. Nathaniel took the flimsy bed cover and used his teeth to rip it. He tied the ripped part tightly around his leg and gritted his teeth against the pain.

What was Doctor Ellsworth doing?

And why did he have a prison below the manor house?

Nathaniel had so many questions, but those could wait. The most important thing was getting out of this cell and warning Silas and Millicent. They had to know about what he’d found in the cabinet, and they had to know that his Uncle was not the man that he seemed. There was something else going on, and Nathaniel had to find out.

But for now, Nathaniel waited. He sat on the bed and stared through the bars at the door that led to the labs, and waited for his Uncle’s arrival. 

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