He takes a sharp scalpel and chops their little heads off – if he can find them. Then, he waits.
Waiting is the best part. He sees the worm’s little life flash before him like a violent seizure. Its hopes, its dreams, and its dirt. All that stuff, on hiatus for approximately 5-20 days (depending on the species) while it regains its head and composure.
It waits and wriggles and writhes. Ed does the same. But he feels a little guilt within his amusement. His excitement and fascination are tainted by isolation and, and this is the strangest part, jealousy.
Ed is jealous of the headless squirmers. They get to up and drop their little heads off and then just camp out in a state of Pure Being, waiting for their consciousness to return. And who knows whether they come out the other end more or less handsome, more or less happy, a vegetarian or a carnivore. It’s all so weird and exciting!
Ed dreams every night of this state: of feeling weightless and empty and free. A state unburdened by his sensations. A state of being headless and alive.
It would take him four months, but Ed eventually found all the materials and set a plan into motion. He came into work early that day: way before the serious security started at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. He carried an extra large duffel bag.
Ed entered his office/lab and locked and bolted the door behind him. No one could enter until this little experiment was over, and Ed had no data on how long that might be.
He opened the bag and unpacked. He pulled out a bedpan, medical tape and gauze, a small needle, a large springed mechanism, sensitive lubricant, a gaggle of medical tubes, a Gerry-rigged defibrillator set-up, 5 thick leather belts, a cauterizer, a catheter, an IV stand, a huge bag of intravenous nutrition, and EKG equipment (strips and patches and cables attached to a battery-operated monitoring system). Finally, he removed most of the heft of his bag with the unpacking of the final tool: a massive scalpel: 3 ft. long with a 10 in. blade.
He set up around a sturdy, straight-backed metal chair he had always used for his Frankenstein’s monster impression during drink-ups with the other scientists at the museum on Friday nights.
He first wrapped and buckled the belts loosely around the ends of the arms of the chair, the bottoms of the front legs, and the top of the chair back about chest height (this one he left unbuckled).
Ed then moved a shelving unit from near the door and set it directly behind the chair. He clamped the spring mechanism on the shelf and pulled its trigger/release button (a red one at the end of a 3 ft. length of cable housing) towards the right arm of the chair and set it within the loose belt so it would get caught by the leather strap if it tried to fall to the ground. Then he plugged in and readied the defibrillator and cauterizer: setting their battery boxes and monitors down on the shelf and auxiliary parts into the appropriate slots in the spring. The electrified cauterizer protruded out along and behind the shaft over the chair’s right shoulder. The defibrillator paddles and EKG patches attached from the heart rate monitor on the left side and below the spring’s main axis – tucked in next to the belt that would secure his chest.
Also on the chair’s left, the IV stand was hooked up with the bag of delicious blood-food. From the stand, Ed ran another tube to the needle. He wrapped this in tape and stuck it to the left arm of the chair.
The bedpan was placed underneath the chair and a tube was run between it and the catheter. Ed set the catheter on the middle of the seat, it’s free end jutting just out over the edge. He applied a pinch of lubricant at this end.
Ed surveyed the scene and sat down carefully.
The life support was slowly attached to his body. He attached the EKG patches to monitor his vitals. He leaned down to slip his ankles into the belt-restraints and tightened them around the chair’s legs. He swallowed a gulp of spit as he undid his zipper and slipped the catheter into the void and down his urethra. He immediately felt himself resisting a pressing need to urinate. When he relaxed, it flowed. Unpleasant, but manageable.
He reached on his left, steadied the defibrillator paddles at the appropriate spots on his chest, and tightened the belt around his chest. He then undid the tape around the needle on the chair’s arm and found a vein. Hesitating first as he contemplated sanitation, he finally shrugged his shoulders, clenched his fist a couple times, and eased the needle in opposite his elbow. He protected the wound with the gauze and tape as he felt himself get less hungry. With his right hand, he buckled the belt around the feeding arm to keep it from moving once he lost control. He really needed to be careful now.
He reached with his right arm over the chair and towards the massive blade lying on the ground next to him. He eased his grip out toward the end of the handle and stuck the knife’s edge out in front of him. He swung the thing slowly out to the right and moved his wrist up around behind his right shoulder searching for the spot that the handle could slip into (all while avoiding the heated and ready cauterizer attached to the mechanism he was fitting the blade into). Finding the slot, he inched his fist down the handle towards the blade to move the blunt end behind his head towards the left. He continued until the blade locked into place just over his shoulder and he could stare the weapon down.
Frozen by the museum-lab cold, Ed felt a shiver up his shoulders as his right hand inched towards the final preparation: the trigger. His fingers made a cone to slip into the loosely-buckled belt on the chair’s arm. The fingers grabbed the red button as they passed it. Ed bowed his head down towards his lap and shook as he felt the dense, metallic weight in his hand. He shook through. He chilled and vibrated with jitters, but he was stuck. He felt armless and trapped. Encased in his skin. The shake made its way down to his right hand. Ed shook the trigger button left and right between his upwards fingers. He was testing his confidence. Testing his hypothesis:
To Hell with the Scientific Method.
He leaned back and whooshed a gust of air out of his lungs. Ed was careful as he eased his head into the prime position: eventually sitting straight. He tried to ease his breath. He pushed the button.
He waited as he listened to the whirr of a mechanical timer. His breath picked up again. He tried to control it, but it was a lost cause. He heard the first click after five seconds: the spring mechanism unwinding. The second click came another five muffled seconds later.
Ed drew in a slow breath and fluttered his eyes. They snapped open and another whoosh came out of his smile. He beamed.
At 8:37AM, the experiment began. Ed felt nothing.