Hidden Cities

 

Episode 1

The Empty Head

 

Greene Vardim Black was dosed in the womb with an essence of certain alchemized herbs. Of this circumstance’s various consequences we’ll be focusing on the growth of the vast empty space in Greene’s head.  Not that from the outside you would suspect this, as his head is normal sized, and he has a brain, a fine working brain indeed, it’s just that his head is empty. Not always but often, especially if not actively engaged in something or someone, or to put it another way, the world. Even so, he could fill his head for hours on end and then poof, empty again, just like that. That vastly empty head sends sailing whatever is put into it into the brain where it can be accessed easily just as any fine working brain but we all know that we don’t live in our brains we live in our heads and it is due to this basic circumstance of human existence that Greene Vardim Black tends to give his fellow humans the impression that he is simple of mind, when he is simply empty of head. You coud fill it with yourself and have a lifelong friend, because while experience of body and brain are soon cast across this void, the memory of his heart is deep and constantly connected. Which is to say that while he may or may not know your name next time he sees you around, you can tell from the smile that he remembers you. From the heart, you understand.

Following the tragedy, Greene’s head was impenetrably empty for a long time. He was twelve when they put him in the Deitch Center For Mental Health, and he was thirteen when he left. Here’s how it went down.

Greene Vardim Black was, for all his tragic circumstance, a pleasure of a patient at the Deitch Center, and you’ll not find a single staffer who would disagree save out of laziness in regard to Greene’s unpredictable habit of sonambula, or sleepwalking if you will. The boy was a high functioning catatonic, able to perform any task set before him, including mathematics, but not the written word, for he communicated to no one and would receive no communication from anyone. Greene’s fine working brain ran his body while he lived only in his empty head, as far as we can tell anyway. Thus he was considered cooperative and pleasant, despite the complete absence of personality, which, as a matter of coincidence, is how Greene Vardim Black is generally considered likewise when more actively engaged in the world, or in other words, when his personality is present.

He was alone in the world, as they say, save an uncle, out of touch and unreachable for some years before the tragedy, with no change in that regard in this time following it. Until the day he did show up.

Grissom Black was an imposing figure to say the least and an impressive one, with thick black hair all about his square stone face and big head that sat a little higher than a tall man atop widely set shoulders from which the rest of his silhouette flowed in straight lines down, an effect only accentuated by the overcoat he wore, long and finely made. They took him to Greene, who was sitting on a couch talking with his friend David Green. David was doing all the talking as usual, and he very politely acquiesced when they asked him for some privacy. Grissom Black, while focused on the sight of his blankly staring nephew, found and shared a smile of thanks for David Green as the peculiar friendly fellow went on his way. Grissom pulled over a folding chair and draped his huge coat over it and sat down opposite Greene, taking him by the hand. The nurse, Nurse Dima, who was quite fond of Greene, watched and listened with great concern as this finely tailored brute spoke surprisingly softly to her quiet little fellow,

– Greene, it’s your Uncle Milo. Are you there, Greene? Come on, now, Boy.

To which Greene replied suddenly and casual like with the first words he had spoken in more than a year, which were,

-Uncle Milo! To what do we owe the pleasure of your company this fine day?

Grissom Black checked Greene out of the Deitch Center and took him to his house in Chicago.

By the way, what really happened, or rather, what also happened there and then by the couch in the Deitch Center, what Nurse Dima didn’t see, was this,

Grissom Black took Greene’s hand, pressing alchemized metal between their palms, creating a bridge between minds, and crossing it, entered the antigravity, description-defying absential atmosphere that is the empty head of Greene Vardim Black. Floating there, Grissom Black reached into the inside pocket of his coat, pulled out a pair of glasses, which had huge birdlike eyeballs for lenses and put them on. The Bloybird eyes made a schlurpy kind of popping sound as they connected up and Grissom Black could see a tiny dot in the far far distance. Using only his imagination, as is only pragmatic when inside a head, he materialized a great bird to carry him there on swift flying wings. They flew ever closer and the dot grew and took on individual aspects of shape. Greene Vardim Black was there, in the company of many entities. Upon finding him thusly, Uncle Milo (for Grissom Black is Known as Milo by family and certain friends) lured Greene onto the bird to take a ride, and the bird carried them all the way back to the bridge, and they crossed it together back out into the world. That is the other reality of the experience, which lay beyond Nurse Dima’s cognizance, but not our own.

When the Doctors, Nurses, and other residents of the Deitch Center said their goodbyes to Greene, Greene responded graciously in farewell kind, and inquired to all if his friend David Green could be allowed to come with him, but it was settled. Greene Vardim Black was leaving, and David Green was staying.

One last quick note. After closing the passenger door after Greene, Grissom Black hustled back quick like and spoke close to David Green,

-David, I understand you’ve been a friend to my nephew, Greene. I’m sorry to make you say goodbye, but please take this as a token of both our appreciation and our friendship. It’s a good luck charm.

As he watched the car drive away and out of sight, David Green looked at the good luck charm and, crying a little, said with pride,

-Appreciation and friendship. Pure Green and Black.

That first night in Uncle Milo’s strange old mysterious wonderful house Greene sleepwalked undetected and unhindered through various mystical alarms and barriers right into Grissom Black’s library,the shelves full with books pertaining to all things hidden in the world, and other worlds too, some separated by spirited distance, some by subtle vibration, all to be traveled to and known by the bridgemakers, the bridgecrossers, the Magicians. In this library did Greene Vardim Black, body sleeping yet walking, head empty but open-eyed and reading, the learning part of his brain fully awake and actively working in it’s excellent manner, store in that brain rare knowledge normally reserved for masters of the hidden arts. Uncle Milo found him there in the morning, turning the last page of “Gorlon Reads The Molecular History” and closing the book, taking another from the shelf. There were five books likewise closed on the table and Milo spoke gently to his nephew.

-Greene? What are you up to, Boy?

At this Greene woke up, his already open eyes taking on a quizzical like look, first towards his uncle, then towards the book in his hand.

He said simply

-Sleepwalker. Did you know that about me?

-Yes, but I forgot. Also a sleepreader it seems.

-Weird. That’s a new one on me!

-Do you feel tired?

– I feel good!

-Some breakfast then? Stanley’s frying up some beef hash and makin’ with the fresh squeezed! I know you love that!

– That’s my favorite. Sorry I read your books without asking. I wouldn’t do that if I were awake!

-I forgive you. There’s nothing to forgive, but since you’re apologizing I’ll go with the flow. Do you remember reading the books at all?

– YAAaawwwwnnnn… What books?

A humble kind of smile, and then the best breakfast Greene Vardim Black ever enjoyed, and Uncle Milo as well, for Grissom Black had been away from home for a long time as well, though what hardships he endured are the stuff of another tale for another time. Leave it be that the first thing he did upon his return was to retrieve his nephew Greene and then come home at last to his house in Chicago, where everything was in order and how it should be. In other words, contributing more than anything else to their mutual immensities of enjoyment in regards to this breakfast is the specific circumstance of sitting with family, a thing both fellows thought they might never do again.

Later that day, standing inside the top of the Sears Tower, the tallest skyscraper in the world, looking out through clear sky upon the great city spreading out and outward to every horizon save for where the lake was, the magnificent Michigan, Uncle Milo turned to Greene, who turned as well to his Uncle, meeting his eyes as he spoke

-Greene, you’re just a boy yet, but you’ve become a man, now, a man on his own. By that I mean, you are responsible for yourself, now, as a man is. I will help you, of course. When I say you’re on your own, I don’t mean that you’re alone, do you understand? I mean that you are your own man! That’s what I meant to say! A man in the world!

Greene looked out over the world again, saying nothing, until Milo, unused to Greene’s ways, thought he was zoning out again and ventured,

-Greene? You there, Boy?

Greene looked back at his Uncle,

-I get it.

-I know some things about you, Greene. I know you’ve emptied it all, so that’s just something I felt you should know right away, as you start to fill it up again. Sorry if it’s serious sounding. I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m a serious guy!

-That’s okay.

Greene looked back out at the buildings of the city.

-What’s that one?

-The John Hancock Building. Do you like it?

-Yeah. One sides skinny and the other side’s fat. Will I live with you then?

-I think so. For now, for sure. We have to consider what is best for you. Don’t worry about it, okay?

-Okay.

And on this day went, Greene Vardim Black’s first day in the city.

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