They called us the Casket Crew in college, but we were something better than that. Janie was only seventeen, but she was a genius in biology. Thad was a brilliant surgeon in another life. I was just curious. I blame my dad for letting me get as far as I did. He’d slaughter the calves, and leave me the brains. Brains are mushy unless you do something to harden them. Like unset gelatin. Like cottage cheese.
We weren’t sure how long we’d have the formaldehyde so I conserved it the best I could. I boiled the brains, just like I did as a kid. We had to find the one person that wasn’t missing half his folds. Folds make you smarter. It’s like another ring in a growing tree. The ones we split had few folds. Opening them up felt like cauliflower. Pluck that glistening thing right out of the pod. If I cut wrong, the eyes would come out with it and I’d feel guilty in their dead stare.
Janie wore a lab coat. It had stains that looked like rust but it was blood. I think we all had permanent blood caked under our fingernails. It was part of the undertaking, only there was nowhere to take them to. They just kept going somehow, organic and melding with nature. Like a coma walking. They said nothing, ate nothing, and died after a few weeks as the body exhausted all resources.
It was like a death camp, but we weren’t responsible. We had to figure out why. We needed to find out how. I kept cutting brains, and Thad would toss the husks outside. We had to think of them as husks, not people. The only part that looked like people lay hardened in my hands:
Smooth and grey with no folds at all.