Scent Notes: sun-ripened guava juice in an ancient tomb, covered in salty caramel.
Brodie Brown sighed. He was trying to learn anatomy and become a doctor, but the lack of available bodies to practice on was making it incredibly difficult. It’s 1820, and Brodie had come to Scotland after his father’s death. His father had always told him he was stupid and lazy, and he had no faith that Brodie was bright enough to become a doctor. While he knew it wouldn’t be an easy profession to learn, and he was full of self-doubt from years of his father telling him he was stupid, he hadn’t expected the roadblock of “not enough dead bodies” to be his biggest issue. Who’d have thought that was even a possibility? It was only while he was in school that he learned about resurrectionists, who were not a new faction of the Church of England as Brodie originally thought. They were the people who had been robbing graves for corpses to provide medical students and doctors with bodies so they could practice and learn. Now, with the advent of the mortsafe, it was nearly impossible to get any body. How was he supposed to work and study without a cadaver to dissect? He’d only been able to dissect one body so far, and that was before he was officially in medical school. Many of his colleagues seem to not have a problem by just studying their textbooks, but Brodie had always been more of a hands-on, visual learner. Reading out of a book didn’t let him absorb the information quite as well. As such, he was doing poorly in his classes, and what he needed was a body to practice on.
After days and days of studying and little sleep, he’d taken a midterm in his human anatomy class … and failed. His professor kept him after class to give him a strict warning: he needed to do better, or he’d fail this class and likely several others. His professor would recommend that he not be allowed to continue in the program if he didn’t get his act together. Brodie quickly left the classroom and ran out of the building, tears in his eyes. “I’m a failure, my father was right,” he said. He stood outside for a minute, his breath coming out in quick bursts, puffing in the air before him. It was freezing today, right as autumn began to turn to winter, which it would now be for approximately the next 8 months. Winter was brutal and lasted forever, and he wasn’t looking forward to a potential winter of his discontent. He decided that he had to take action, and now. “This professor is just like my father. I’ll show him. I’ll show them both. I’ll show everybody how great I am!”
That Friday night, he took a shovel from his landlord’s toolshed, and headed to the nearby cemetery. As he was a very poor medical student, he didn’t live on the best side of town. As such, most of the graves here were not covered in mortsafes or any other kind of protective device; people here couldn’t afford them. This made them much easier to steal, luckily for Brodie. He walked up to a fresh-looking grave with a marker bearing the name of “Olivia.” “I’m sorry, Olivia, but this is for the greater good,” he said, taking a shovel to the freshly turned earth. It took hours, but eventually, he hit upon the coffin, though you could barely call the pine box a proper coffin. He opened it and found the body of a girl just a few years younger than him, still in fantastic shape. The sky was starting to lighten; the whole process had taken much longer than he’d anticipated, and he decided to just grab her corpse and not bother with re-burying the coffin, or anything else that might clean up the scene. He needed to get her back to a school lab, or somewhere private, as soon as possible. He knew of a small shed behind the medical building that appeared to be empty, and that’s where he hurried off to.
It took a little longer than he’d anticipated but he made it to the empty shed just as dawn was breaking. He snuck into the medical building, into one of the proper labs, and grabbed a scalpel, and other medical supplies he figured he’d need: gloves, gauze, a textbook on anatomy, a notebook, and smelling salts so the stench didn’t make him retch and ruin his work. He went back into the shed and went immediately to work. It was absolutely fascinating, and before he knew it, the whole day had passed. It was Saturday night, and he was completely exhausted, but he knew he had to get rid of the evidence. He wouldn’t be able to go back to her grave; he was certain the robbed grave would be discovered by now. So, he went to one of the gardens in the student common area and dug up various holes, placing her body parts deeply underneath the bushes. He snuck back into the medical building, rinsed the trays and put his supplies back in order, then calmly went home. Nobody saw a thing. He slept through the entirety of Sunday. One could say he slept like the dead. Then, Monday, he went to class like everything was completely normal. Nobody suspected a thing.
The town, however, had found out and were very upset about the whole situation. There hadn’t been a grave robbery in quite some time until this one, and it put everyone on high alert. Well, everyone except Brodie. He’d found the whole experience exhilarating and planned to do it again once the hubbub died down. Maybe if being a doctor didn’t pan out, he would just go into the Resurrectionist business. After all, he couldn’t be the only former medical student who turned into a grave robber, right? But, armed with his notes and confidence in his abilities to rob a grave if need be, he set back to studying hard. Two weeks later, they had another anatomy test, and to his (and his professor’s) great surprise, he passed with flying colors. Ditto with the next exam. Before the last exam before the winter break, Brodie got greedy and went and robbed two more graves, which led to him passing his final exam and the class as a whole. His professor was extremely skeptical of his newfound abilities, and kept an eye on him for the rest of his tenure, but could never figure out what was going on with 100% certainty. He was also dealing with his own health issues and a recent family tragedy, so he couldn’t keep his eye on Brodie all the time.
This became a pattern for him for the rest of medical school: once a month or so, he’d go out on an evening night, dig up a grave, and dissect the corpse. His arms became muscular from all the quick digging, and what at first would take him all night to just unearth, he could now dig up the grave, take the body, and put the dirt back on top of it so nobody would even notice. It was impressive, to him at least. It was easiest in the winter months; he would attempt to take breaks during the summer (or what passes for summer in Scotland), but he found himself drawn to cemeteries: the dirt, the repetitive motion of shoveling, the thrill of possibly being discovered. Not only that, but his interest in the bodies went from clinical exam and medical dissection to things more disturbing and sinister. He reconfigured bodies; he dug them up just to dismember them and put them back in the grave haphazardly to be discovered by the grieving families. It was sick, but he couldn’t stop himself, nor did he honestly want to stop. There were times his professor patrolled the graveyards, looking for him, but he never saw Brodie in the act.
As time went on and more and more graves were being robbed and corpses disturbed and dismembered, the town passed a decree that all graves were to have mortsafes installed on top of them. This had been a significant hurdle for Brodie to clear, but he figured out ways to circumvent them. Some (usually the ones on the graves of the poor people he dug up) were poorly constructed and easy to break apart. Others, he just dug further around the mortsafe until he could get under the bars and shove the whole thing off of the grave in one shove. He really had become freakishly strong. The mortsafe only added to the thrill.
Brodie became a doctor, and he moved to a bigger city to begin practicing. He took his graverobbing tendencies with him, of course. He became renowned and well-respected. Dr. Brown was highly paid and had many clients, as there was no shortage of communicable diseases to be treated. It seemed to all be going well for him, though rumors started to fly as he had no wife and no friends, and seemed to just work and sleep from an outsider’s point of view.
A few years after establishing himself as a bonafide doctor, he received a note that his old professor had died, and asked that he come to the funeral service. Finally, time to prove to the old man that he was a success, he thought. Oh, he’d skip the funeral, but he’d figure out where the grave was and cut that man apart just for the joy of it.
Sure enough, a few weeks later he traveled back to his old university town for the professor’s funeral. As planned, he skipped the funeral, and went to the gravesite in the middle of the night instead. The grave was in the old graveyard, right near Olivia’s, his very first victim. It was out of the way; quiet, dark. It seemed like nobody else had been buried in the area in quite some time. He was slightly dismayed to find the mortsafe in place, but they’d never stopped him before. In fact, this one was barely in place. He lifted the whole thing up easily and started digging. He got to the coffin in no time at all. “Your time has come, professor,” he said, opening up the lid. Imagine his shock to find the coffin empty.
“I knew it was you,” came a voice above him. Brodie turned and looked up, seeing his very much alive professor. “The graves stopped being disturbed as soon as you left, and your grades improved right after my daughter’s body was taken from her grave. I always tried to catch you, but I never could, until today.” Brodie was stunned. “Olivia was your daughter?” The professor nodded. “She’d just died from tuberculosis. She was only 17. And you took her from her resting place.” Brodie sneered at him. “You are just like my father was: Rude, domineering, and cruel. That’s why I came back to town: To kill and dismember you, just like I did my father.” “Enough,” his professor said. Before Brodie could move, the professor swung a shovel and hit Brodie in the head, knocking him out and into the coffin. The professor was too old to spend the night burying Brodie, so instead he lowered the mortsafe, locking it in several places with some kind of new multi-lock device that Brodie had never seen before, and smashing it securely into the ground with a hammer. There was no escape for Brodie; the mortsafe did its job. “Goodbye, Brodie,” his professor said, walking away into the morning. He was nearly out of the cemetery when he started to hear the screams. A couple was nearby and turned towards the screams. When they saw who was trapped in the grave, they just shook their heads and walked away. The professor was still well-connected in the town, and his not-so-secret plan was known by nearly everyone. Since it had worked, everyone knew Brodie was the graverobber. His screams went unanswered until, a few days later, he was quiet forever.
Scent Notes: sun-ripened guava juice in an ancient tomb, covered in salty caramel.