The Brain of Piacenza
Mason Miller was coming home around 1 AM after a long night of college partying, and as he approached his house he noticed a strange green glow coming from the basement window. He walked through the front door, and made his way to the basement door. Although it was late, he knocked to see if anyone was down there. He put his hand on the doorknob, and was surprised to find the door unlocked.
“Dad?” Mason called down, hoping not to wake anyone upstairs.
No reply. The green glow was now coming up through the open door and illuminating the living room behind Mason. Curious to see its source, Mason began down the stairs and as he walked he became aware of a high pitched buzzing noise that he hadn’t noticed before. When he got to the bottom of the stairs he looked around the room. Hundreds of boxes containing uncatalogued scrolls, codices and relics from thousands of years ago were scattered all over the place. Mason’s father was a professor of Etruscan and Italic studies, and had a bad habit of taking his work home with him. After glancing around the room he saw the source of the glow and the buzzing.
Professor Miller was apparently sleeping at his desk, and in front of him was a strange stone item of some kind. As Mason got closer he could see that the glowing, buzzing object was actually shaped a bit like a brain, with bumps and ridges all over, and it seemed to be covered in symbols that Mason recognized as Etruscan writing. Without thinking, Mason picked up the stone brain and the world went dark around him.
Mason came to in a strange room. The first thing that struck him was there was no doors or windows. The second thing that struck him was that this place must be a private museum of some sort. There was a massive bookshelf on one wall, filled to the brim with books, and pedestals supporting ancient vases. On the wall he was surprised to see pictures of him and his family. His high school graduation, his sister’s first lost tooth—it was all there.
As he was taking in the room, one of the books on the bookshelf caught his attention. It’s title was “Mason.” He took the book off the shelf, and opened it. He could recognize his dad’s handwriting. As he read more and more, a feeling of unease began to creep over him. Here, written with exquisite detail was seemingly every moment that passed between Mason and his dad. His birth, his first words, his first time riding a bike it was all there. The events and emotions were described with such vivid imagery that it was as if he was there in those moments. He turned the pages fascinated that his dad would keep such a journal. Then he looked up at the other books on the shelf.
There were hundreds of books, and they all had titles like “Memories of 43rd Year of Life”, “Opinions on Politics”, or “Knowledge of Etruscan Art.” Mason put down the book he was holding and grabbed the “Knowledge of Etruscan Art” book. It was a much thicker volume than the “Mason” book (he didn’t know how to feel about that), and it also seemed to be written in his dad’s distinctive handwriting. He flipped through, and found what seemed to be a record of a lifetime of research and scholarship.
Mason had always found his father’s work a little boring, so it wasn’t long before he had put down this new book. He looked around the strange little museum, and again turned his attention to a question that had bothered him since he had arrived. Where was he, and how could he leave this room?
As this thought crossed his mind, he noticed a door that had completely escaped his notice on one of the walls. He was sure the wall was bare a second ago...
The door answered one question, but the first question still posed a bit of a problem. Why had his dad created this private museum, and when did he have to time to obsessively document every part of his life in bound book volumes?
Every question seemed to lead to more questions, and Mason wasn’t sure he would find more answers by staying in this room. He felt like an invader in this private space, and just wanted to get out of there. He began walking towards the door to leave, but he stopped after a few steps.
Mason was still curious about the book that bore his name. He didn’t have the time to read his entire life story right there, but he was interested to see what his dad said later on in the book. He turned back, grabbed the “Mason” book and walked out of the door.
Mason found himself in a room that looked a bit like a doctor’s office. There was an exam table and blood pressure monitor on one side of the room, and a medicine cabinet and desk on the other side of the room. On one wall was a filing cabinet, and like the other room there were some pictures of Mason’s family on the walls.
Mason wondered if he was dreaming. A doctor’s office connected to a museum didn’t usually make sense in the waking world. The fact that the two rooms’ only door in or out seemed to be the one connecting them also weighed in favor of the dream hypothesis. As he thought this another door appeared on the wall. Strike three.
Accepting that this was all a dream, Mason found himself drawn to the filing cabinets. He flipped through the files, and noted that they all seemed to have similar titles to the books in the museum room. Things like “Knowledge of Anatomy”, “Favorite Desserts”, and “Firsts.” Thousands of files, and all of them seemed to be in his mother’s handwriting.
While all this was interesting to Mason, he became curious as to whether there was one labeled “Mason” anywhere among the many files. Sure enough, after a few minutes he located one. He pulled it out, and only flipped through it enough to confirm that it seemed similar to the book from the museum, only from his mom’s perspective. He took it and left through the second door.
The third room he found himself in looked like a classroom. The classroom had a stereo in the corner blaring a recent pop song, and it was filled with mannequins wearing various stylish clothes.
Mason wasn’t that surprised at the room’s contents. This dream had an obvious structure and logic to it. The first room had been based on his dad. The second room had been based on his mom. This third room was obviously based on his sister.
He looked around, trying to find the equivalent of the books or files of the previous room.
He eventually found his answer when he started opening the desks. Every desk was filled with a seemingly impossible quantity of notebooks, each one labeled something different. He searched through several desks before he found his goal. A red notebook with the label “Mason.” He opened it, and confirmed that it was written in his sister’s somewhat messy handwriting.
He tucked it under his arm along with the file and the book and looked for a way out of this room. Sure enough, a door appeared on one of the walls. He took one last look around the room, and walked through the new door.
Mason was surprised to awaken in his sister’s room. He looked around the dark space, and could hear the even breathing of his still sleeping sister. Had he been sleep walking?
That theory was quickly dashed when he looked down and saw he was still holding the three items he had collected from his “dream.” He was also holding the strange relic he had found in his dad’s basement.
He looked at the glowing alarm clock on his sister’s bedside table and it read 2:30 AM. Mason was exhausted, and he decided the mystery of the relic and the strange rooms would have to wait until morning to be solved.
He crept quietly out of his sister’s room, and into his own. He collapsed into his bed and sleep quickly took him.