He stunk. There was no getting around that fact. No amount of cologne hid it. He was rotting. It was embarassing. He didn’t dare go to the Turkish baths. Spires lately loved dark places. He no longer had his brief love affair with the Sun.
Spires looked at a mirror looking at the small hairline cracks forming in his shell. Not good. He didn’t necessraily feel ill, but he looked just about finished. He was bent over a snooker table installed in one of the lower basements of the Battersea Cheeseworks. Money changed hands here on weekends. And in better days, the dollymops would hang around offering any amount of flattery for a few coins and promises of future employee. It was empty now, save for him. Still quite off limit to the regular public. Golf was a preferably respectable amusement. Golf was upstairs.
There were footsteps behind him. That would be Mr Montgomery, the factory foreman.
“How’se the dredging going on the new lot?” he asked, without turning making his next shot.
“Uh fine, Mr Spires, but uh, I got to tell you. The lads on the production line, uh, they’re getting on edge, about .. well.. that is to say. I shan’t beat around the bush, but, well, pointedly..”
“I’m going bad.” Spires admitted, cutting off poor Mr Montgomery. “I know, I know.”
“They’re worried, boss,” replied the foreman, “Well, it aint natural is it? What’s going to happen?”
He’d asked for help from people at the clinic, to no avail. He’d talked to the Church, he’d talked to old friends, and he’d even begged advice of that breadmaking witch. Someone even suggested he talk to Mr Mornington, as if a Hotellier of all people could offer the slightest help. The very nerve! He’d developed a correspondance in the mainland with a certain Professor Carver, and though that inventor had developed some ideas which had been of great interest, Spires could not help a suspicion that the learned man of Tuskeegee didn’t really believe the tale.
Finally he’d found one of the town’s few master gardeners, and gotten, after plying the man with drink and money, a kind of fix.
“Mr. Montgomery, you can tell the men I shall be going on a sabbatical, briefly. I’ve left instruction for you regarding the management of my affairs. If I do not return in three weeks time, you are to report me as dead to my solicitor. Provisions have been made for the continued operation of Battersea for some time. Oh, there’s a new greenhouse atop the roof. I’ll be having a gardener come by regularly to check on it. Make sure someone cleans the windows.”
Evening had arrived like an unwanted relation. Tom The Gardener and Jonathon Spires stood on the rooftop looking in at the greenhouse. He felt dry, dry as an old bone, and yet not at all thirsty. His vision darkened.
“I think it’s time.” he said to the gardner as a way of direction.
“I uh, I hope this shan’t hurt.” said the gardner, getting tools in hand. He hesitated.
“Look, any amount of pain I may suffer, is just peanuts to the amount of awkwardness between you and I at this moment, so will you PLEASE get on with it.”
The gardner broke his shell with a mallet and chisel, carefully aimed so as not to break anything too important. It went through almost too easily, but Spires felt no pain, just a general acknowledgement that something had happened.
“Now, the periscope.” This was his own work, the last device he might ever make. An illuminated periscope specifically for looking inside bodies. He would have given one to the nearby clinic if they had tried to be a bit more helpful. Served them right, the zombie making scallywa… he tried to concentrate.
He looked about within himself. They were there, one up, one down.
“Take it.” he said, and the gardner extracted the device without what could have been described as surgical care. More of the shell cracked. That mattered not at all.
“I do indeed have two nuts!” Spires said wheezing now that whatever served as an air chamber for lungs, had lost its atmospheric integrity. “Well.. I think that wraps it up for me for now. You better get them out and planted while you can. I’m nearly dessicated, Tom.”
“You’re a fine gardener Tom. Take care of me, both of me, yes? Maybe I’ll see you around.”
Or maybe not. If anything grew it might just be another plant, or might have no memory at all. Perhaps there’d be dozens of him. That was a comforting thought. He fell asleep having a pleasant dream of dancing to foreign music with some lover he’d never remember.
The gardner did his work, and cleaned up in the darkening evening. As an afterthought, he propped his employer’s shell up against the greenhouse. There didn’t seem to be Church directed rite for this sort of thing, but that seemed respectful enough.