“Hello, can you hear me?” said a distorted voice.
I opened my eyes and started moaning, everything was a blur to me once again, and nothing seemed clear or real for that matter. I was lying down and was staring at a ceiling fan; two figures suddenly appeared. One of them raised his arm and a bright light emerged out of thin air, concentrating its beam directly on my eyes.
“Pupils are dilating, no signs of brain damage.” Said one of the figures
My eyes began to adjust and everything became clear. It seemed like I was in a medical room of sorts, with a doctor and his assistant treating me.
“Steady now, no need for sudden movements”, he said to me, stopping me from stretching out my arms to quickly.
Suddenly I felt a throb of pain in my head and couldn’t help but put my hand on it, being my impulsive self.
“You took a hard hit to the head, your forehead is a bit enflamed and will take time to heal, but so far results show that there is no permanent neurological damage.” The doctor said
“What happened?” I said to him dazed and confused
“You were performing in one of Sander Cohen’s plays, then you passed out and fell from your chair, landing straight on your head”, said the doctor
My eyes widened in disbelief. I passed out while performing? How did this happen? Another assistant came into the room and whispered something into the doctor’s ear.
“I have to take care of some pressing issues,” The doctor said to me “I will be back in a few minutes to complete a few other tests. In the mean time you have a visitor that seems pretty resolute on seeing you”
The doctor left the room along with his assistants and shut the door closed. I was alone, lying on my bed and examining my possible future, only to come to the conclusion that I do not have one. Now I am sure my professional career is over, I am probably the laughing stock of Rapture right now. Every single distinguished figure in the city was there watching. Now no one will offer me a job after that stunt. In the end Sander got what he wanted, he made a laughing stock of me. I could only imagine the hanging cupids coming down with the confetti, then the trombone players marching on the stage, stampeding over my unconscious body. Just the thought of it made me shiver, how can I possibly pick myself up after being a part of the travesty that is ‘The Fool, the Trial, and the Cupids’.
I heard footsteps in the distance that were drawing ever closer to my room. The door opened slowly in a terrifying manner, made a creaking sound and then suddenly stopped.
“Is my butterfly awake?”
I gasped as I heard those words. Sander Cohen was my visitor? Not William Firth, not evenRyan, but Sander? How could this be? The man who ruined my life in the only place in the world I had a possible future. He came into the room slowly, wearing that eyeliner and vivid red lipstick I dread to look at.
“What do you want”, I said to him with a great amount of hatred
“Now . . . now . . . why so grim”, he said with a dreadful smile on his face. “You took me and the the audience by stormtonight; I came here to applaud your victory.”
“What are you talking about?” I said confused and bewildered
“My dear dear boy, I am merely prattling on about the show of the decade, the one that audiences will schmooze about for months to come, all thanks to you, my greatest disciple.” Said Cohen
“What?.... what happened?” I said almost pleading with him, stubbornly trying to figure out what occurred while I was on stage.
“While you were on stage and the light focused it’s gaze on you, before you even played, I saw a prodigious amount of despair in you, it evoked curiosity out of me and the rest of my audience. Then you took your first step to the piano and you began to defy time itself. For every footstep you took felt like minutes in terms of our anticipation. Then finally, you take a seat, put your hands on that splendid instrument, and then.” He said, giving a long pause before finishing his statement
“…Then what?” I asked eagerly
“Magic……. what came out of your hands was simply… magical.” Sandor said with incredible passion“I felt every emotion that ever came through your body, every single ordeal that you went through during your short but eventful lifetime, all through the movement of your hands and the expression of your face. Never before have I seen such raw emotion become so apparent through one’s face! You made the audience smile in joy,frown in despair and then came the final third act, the act that doubters and artists alikewill be discussing for ages. You, my butterfly, have presented a new level of despondency. You played every note like it was your last on Earth. I was able to see the sweat flow down your face, hear each breath you took with every measure you finished. There was so much desperation, so much tragedy evoked in that song. Everyone was holding their breath, waiting for what would come next, and then came the stunning finale. You fell off your chair and collapsed to the floor, the crowd gasped in shock, screamed in horror! It was nothing short of a spectacle, the likes of which I have not seen in quite some time.”
I was under an immense deal of shock! A few minutes ago I assumed Sander made me the fool of Rapture, now he talks to me as if I am Shakespeare, like I created an extravaganza you see once in a lifetime. I couldn’t tell if this was part of his elaborate trick or if he was being sincere when saying this. But he described my performance with an excessive degree of passion and fervor. This was the moment when I let my masculinity fly out a window and started bursting into tears of joy. Sander Cohen stood beside me and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“There there, let it all out young Buchanan”, Sander said to me “Emotions are a thing of beauty. For an artist to capture true sincerity and pain would mean entering another realm of existence, one where doubters and dull critics cease to exist, while admirers and devotees come in endless pacts. This is what I offer youBuchanan, a chance to accomplish greatness and be one of the most triumphant artists in all Rapture! Be my disciple; act as the hands I so desperately need to complete my chef-d’oeuvre, my masterwork. With you, I will be one step nearer to satisfying my muse and ending this hoax these FUCKING DOUBTERS HAVE FRAMED ALL OVER MY CANVAS! So, what do you say little butterfly, will you be my compeer?”
I hesitated with this offer. Before meeting Sander, all I wanted to be was his disciple. But very different circumstances emerged once I actually met him. He was this close to ruining me forever; I could have been buried at sea and jobless. Besides that he was completely mad! Sander has a quick temper and is after the blood of all those who criticize his work, calling them doubters, as if he was the leader of a radical religious cult. But he was one of the most influential men in Rapture, and denying his offer meant that he would spite me for the rest of my time in here; we would become great adversaries. No matter how influential my performance was, I would not last long if I made an enemy of him.
“Mr. Cohen… it would be an honor working alongside you”, I said to him, reaching out my hand to shake his. He smiled at me and shook it. It was at this instance where I sealed my fate; I was now officially under the employment of Sander Cohen. I could not imagine what would be in store for me in the coming years. Sander left my side and put on his trench coat.
“I must be off now!” Sander said “A hundred devotees wait outside the pavilion demanding an explanation for my little hoax and to ask about your well-being. They all hope you make a prompt recovery, as do I. There is much work to be done. Come to Fleet Hall on the 20thof this month, I will be in need of your services.”
Cohen put on his top hat and left the room. My doctor came in right after with what seemed to be an injection needle. I took a small blow to the head; does he really need to drug me at this instance? I feel ready to leave this claustrophobic room and move on with my work.
“Is that really necessary?” I said insistently “I feel like a fully functional and capable m-“
“Easy now, I’ll need to take a few more tests before we reach that conclusion. I’m giving you something to relax you. It should put you right to sleep, by the time you wake up you should be able to leave.”
“But I… Agh!” I said while the needle went through my skin and into my blood stream. Everything began to become less clear, my body felt to weary to move and I was too tired to resist the effects of the drug. I closed my eyes and went into a deep sleep. Darkness ensued and silence precipitated all throughout my surroundings.
“Will,” said a voice echoing throughout the darkness, only this time it was the voice of a female, it was a soothing comforting voice that relieved my tension.
The darkness was slowly replaced by what seemed to be a park. There were long trails surrounded by trees. Birds were chirping in the distance and I could hear children playing nearby. I was sitting on a bench wondering what I was doing here.
“Will,” said the voice again with great urgency. I turn around and on the other side of the bench was a woman. I couldn’t make out her face, it was too..blurry. But I could hear her crying she was emotionally distraught.
“Will, you have to bring her back, you have to… please!” She said pleadingly. ”I was so wrong, so wrong to ever go there. She’s gone because of me.”
“Please slow down. Who’s gone? Where did you go?” I said trying to comfort her
“THEY TOOK HER!! TOOK HER RIGHT OUT OF MY ARMS!!” she said, crying hysterically “I couldn’t do anything but watch.”
“It’s okay,” I said putting my arms around her for comfort. “It’s okay, I’ll find her, and put down the bastards who did this.”
I closed my eyes for a few seconds to relieve myself of what I had just undergone.
I opened my eyes; no longer could I hear the humming of birds or the laughter of children. No longer could I feel the warm touch of that woman. Everything became cold and dark. I looked up and gasped, I was in that damn room again, with that same man. Only this time everything was dark, the only light source came from a hanging lamp that pointed its gaze at a small portion of the table. That was all I could see along with the man’s hands. An ominous silence seeped through the room.
“Where is the bottle in the winery?” said the man
“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” I said frantically, gasping for air.
The room was silent. The lights began to flicker horridly over and over again. My field of vision started to crack and soon it broke into fragments of glass that fell into the unknown, leaving nothing but the endless black.
“WHERE IS THE BOTTLE IN THE WINERY?”
I woke up suddenly and gave off a loud scream.Another dream that ended with that damn phrase; ‘The Bottle in the Winery’. What does it mean? And why was everyone referring to me as Will? It was all a mystery to me, but at this point it’s inconsequential. Now I have a set future and nothing was going to encumber me. I looked in front of me and saw that there was a nurse in the room.
“Mr. Buchanan are you alright?” She said, giving off a look of concern.
“I’m fine”, I said, relatively frustrated that I was still in the Pavilion. “Can I leave now?”
“But what?” I saidannoyed
“You have….Another visitor”, she said nervously
The nurse quickly left the room and in came another figure. He was wearing a top hat that covered his face, but his physique looked familiar. He set his hat on the chair then lit a cigar. Large puffs of smoke came out and spread throughout the room, making me a victim of second hand smoke.
“That was quite the show you carried out,” said the mysterious man.
Suddenly my frustration turned into complete bewilderment and discrete joy. I recognize that voice anywhere. Our meeting at The New Year’s Party ranks up to the best moment in my short lived life. I was in the company of the great Andrew Ryan. He turned around and we were facing one another. Ryan’s presence felt omnipotent, as if I was staring at the eyes of God himself.
“I was moved by your performance, and I’m not easily moved,” said Ryan, sitting down on a chair next to me. “You turned out to be a sound investment.”
“Investment, sir?” I said, a bit confused by what he meant
“Sander Cohen has been, out of sync as of late.” Ryan said“He has leagues of admirers but a small band of critics. These critics have stirred controversy amongst a small mass of people and this chagrinned Sander. His works became more vivid and too radical for audiences, so more critics began to follow. He came to me multiple times caviling that his disciples were not adequate enough to carry out his masterpiece and cessation was impossible. You changed that with your performance today. You just shunned all his critics. I came here to congratulate you both on this mighty achievement.”
“You watched my… play?” I said a little startled
“Of course, I never miss an original work of Sander’s, and this was no exception, it was absolutely divine.”
I was a bit shell-shocked by the praise Andrew Ryan was giving me. Here is a man who I had the utmost respect for and he is admiring me for a performance I was completely ashamed of at first. The way my luck is going, I might actually start believing in God again.
“Thank you sir, it means the world to me that you would say something like that.” I said to him, a bit anxious on what I was about to ask him next. “If you don’t mind I have a few questions that need answering. They have been in my head ever since I got here and I haven’t bothered asking anyone else.”
“By all means,” he said
“Back at Kashmir restaurant, there was a man next to the New Year’s sign and….. he shot a bolt of lightning right out of his hand… how did he do that?”
“Five days in Rapture and you still do not know the effects of the best-selling commodity in Rapture?” Ryan said teasingly while I gave off a look of complete embarrassment. “It is of no consequence, you had more pressing matters to attend to. What you saw in the New Year’s party was the effect of the plasmid.”
I suddenly felt enlightened as he told me this. I was able to put some of the dots together. Those advertisement boards all over Rapture showing off Plasmids, they allow people to have some sort of supernatural ability. But how? What was the science behind this liquid?
“Plasmids? Can you please elaborate?” I said.
“Of course!” he said eagerly, yet keeping that cool mannerism “In 1948, one of our dock workers was bitten by a sea slug in the Upper Wharf of Neptune’s Bounty. This worker was one of many victims of the Great War, both his hands were crippled. All he did was give orders to fully functional men. This slug injected some sort of liquid into his bloodstream. When first hearing about this I assumed it was poison, but then something miraculous happened. Brigid Tenenbaum, a German geneticist currently under my employment, worked in the Upper Wharf and was acquainted with this veteran from the war. One day she took a walk around the dock and nearly passed by the cripple. But she noticed something odd, No longer was he giving out orders to the rest of the workers, but rather he was moving large crates by himself. She came to him and asked how this was possible; he answered her question with two words, a slug. As it so has it, he kept the slug, enabling Tenenbaum to research the internal workings of it. The results were staggering. Tell me, have you ever come across stem cells?”
“I can’t say I have.” I said
“Cells in our body that are able to develop into any one of various kinds of human bodily cells. Our understanding of these organisms was rudimentary before the discovery of the slug. This liquid that the slug discharges causes the formation of stems cells that have the ability to differentiate into any cell type. Tenenbaum discovered that this liquid could be genetically manipulated to produce tissue and functions that would not typically be present in the human body, enabling it to envelope properties we assumed were impossible for any man to carry. I saw extraordinary financial possibilities with a product such as this and began to mass produce it. ADAM, what we call this fluid, grew into a phenomenon in Rapture and became the hallmark product of my industry.”
“So these stem cells allow humans to have what are essentially superpowers.” I said
“That is the basic principle yes.”
“Okay, thank you for pointing that out to me”, I said a bit awkwardly. It was not that I did not find this fascinating, it was just that when it comes to the field of science, I can’t help but give out a little yawn even when it comes to something like harnessing electricity. Though I wouldn’t dare yawn in the presence of Andrew Ryan, the man who gave me a chance to do something great with my life. It would be an act of disrespect towards him. After all, he is taking the time to answer serious questions I had about this place.
“Is there anything else that requires explanation?” he said
“Actually yes, just one more thing. When I came here through the bathysphere, I saw…. I don’t know how to describe it exactly but it looked like a mechanical man or beast of some sort. It had a drill that made up its right hand. What was it?”
“Ahhhh, I see you have come across one of Rapture’s protectors.” Andrew Ryan said, giving off a look of annoyance. “What you saw out there was in fact a human being. You see with the finding of ADAM I saw endless possibilities when it came to the growth of my city. Before its finding expansion was difficult;large rocks prevented the expansion of my city, exterior damage was challenging to repair. So we sought a new solution to our problem and began the Protector Program. We would use a human host and graft his skin and organs into a…. hulking diving suit. The ADAM allowed us to genetically enhance the host, enabling him to have supernaturalabilities.”
“You…. You grafted them?” I said in complete horror. He practically took away their lives and turned them into mindless slaves who must forever wear a filthy diving suit. “How could you do this to another human being?”
“John,” he said speaking indifferently “You must understand that I enacted this program on a volunteer basis, I would not coerce another human being to do something that does not appeal to their interests, then I would be no different from the parasites who preoccupy the surface.”
“What human would volunteer to become something like that?” I said with a bit of anger.
“The weak and the feeble, the sick and the dying; those who want to make something of themselves, but are physically incapable of doing so. They came to the doorsteps of the programs facility and begged me to let them be a part of it. I granted them there wish whole heartedly and will be forever grateful to those courageous citizens.”
“But it’s immoral!” I said
Suddenly Andrew Ryan’s facial expression changed, it turned very grim and looked to be fueled by anger.
“Morality! Don’t lecture me on morality.” He said with a great deal of rage. “Let me share with you what it truly means to commit immoral acts of treason. When I was nothing more than a child, I lived in a small village near Minsk in the current U.S.S.R. I witnessed the atrocities committed by Tsar Nicholas II and the lies he precipitated throughout the ‘motherland’. It was not long until the Bolshevik Revolution began and I bore witness to the horrors committed by parasites. Soldiers of the new Red Army came to my village and ransacked any house they came across, including mine. They came in, took my families bedroom and ate all the food my parents harvested. Every time they did this, every time those soldiers took away the things I worked endlessly to make, they told me ‘everything is now shared; we are now all equals part of a great chain. Do not grieve over the things we’ve taken, it is all of ours now, there is no ‘mine’ anymore, there is just ‘ours’. How I loathed those dim witted palookas. It was only then did I realize that the modern world was created by great men who strove to make their own way. Any time parasites gained control of such a world, they obliterated it. So what is truly immoral in the end? Giving men a chance to make something of them again, or to be repressed by humans who would seek to take away individual freedom and bring us back into the Stone Age.”
A long silence crept into the room. I didn’t know how to respond to this, if I try to counter that statement I will just be insulting him. I now realize that, as much as I admire Andrew Ryan, we come from very different worlds. I grew up in a middle class family that provided for all my needs, it was only when I became independent did I have to deal with long periods of impoverishment. He lived the life of a serf and was constantly harassed by extraneous affairs, making his life even more challenging. Now he is a multi-millionaire that turned his vision into a reality, he is one of the great men who formed the modern world. He built an empire out of nothing; I eventually became impoverished and had everything. I almost feel disgusted by myself.
“Is that it?” Ryan said
“Yeah, that’s everything I have. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way”, I said as sincerely as possible
“Think nothing of it, but I must be on my way, what was supposed to be a short congratulation turned into an elongated lecture.” He said, putting on his top hat and preparing to leave.
“Will I see you again?”
“Oh I’m sure of it. Continue getting on Sander’s good graces and we will be seeing much more of each other. Until next time.” Andrew Ryan said, he walked away from me and exited the room. I was still stunned even when he departed the room, the fact that the founder of the city came here to visit me is the highest honor anyone could give me. As strange as it sounds I already miss his presence; his mannerism, his vision, his eloquence in speech. He was the ideal man and no one I know comes close to him. The door to my room opened again, the nurse that was here earlier entered the room.
“You may now leave if you wish, have a wonderful rest of the day.”