Happy Halloween. Today I’m doing my Personal Short Story Writing Challenge. The word was provided by my son, effervescent.
Here is the image that came up for it and the story that follows.
The round man in the white lab coat dropped the blue pill into the glass beaker. It immediately burst in a rush of bubbles racing to the top of the water. The man dabbed the sweat off his forehead and offered a tentative smile. “It works as soon as it hits the liquid, Sir.”
A deep scowl crossed over the taller man’s thin face. “I can see that, Arnold, and I prefer Sir Charles. Will it do what I want it to?”
Arnold gulped loudly as the water turned a bloody red and boiled with no heat source. Its froth spilled over the beaker like a volcano exploding. “Yes, Sir Charles. The test is going exactly as planned. We will test it in its chocolate form tomorrow. Its reaction will happen in the mouth and stomach, but we are fully confident that will be a success.”
Sir Charles’ thick black eyebrows hovered heavily over the bloodshot eyes that held the definition of madness. “Good, good. I need it to be perfect for Halloween. You understand?”
“Of course, Sir Charles. If the chocolate performs well tomorrow, then there are only a few more tests left.”
“On the rats, I assume?” His black-clothed body sunk into the shadows, but the high ceiling clinical lighting shone directly on his displeased face.
Arnold tugged at his itchy white collar. “Well, we haven’t tried it on a human yet, because of the….”
Sir Charles slammed his fist on the white Formica counter, almost tipping over the roaring concoction. “That’s what this potion it’s meant for. I can’t believe I have to think of everything. You will be brought some healthy young specimens from the holding area.”
Arnold covered his mouth as bile forced its way up. He pushed it back down, along with his anger. “It might kill the children if the formula isn’t right.”
“Then kill them but get it right.” The words were spoken with no emotion.
Arnold gulped, wiped away more sweat, but didn’t respond.
“Arnold, have you found something to alter your mind?” Sir Charles paused.
Arnold quickly shook his head vigorously in denial. He knew the rules. No drinking or taking mind-numbing relief. It would not only take him off the project but cost him and his partner their lives. “No, Sir Charles.”
Sir Charles seemed satisfied, and he continued. “Why do you think I bought a major candy company and spent a small fortune on this lab?”
“For us to do experiments.” Arnold looked at his colleagues for support, but they were in the same position as him—forced help.
Sir Charles put his hands on his hips. “Right, and you are being allowed to continue your pathetic existence. And what do I want these chocolates for?”
Arnold felt like a kid in grammar school answering the demanding teacher. “Halloween.”
The man sighed loudly. “Sometimes, I think you were dropped on your head as a baby. Humans, yourself included, have always ruined my best ideas. The zombies that come from your experiment will keep the world busy, then I slip in and take control over everything, understand?”
“Yes, Sir Charles, but no one has stopped you from doing what you want for centuries.” The words escaped before he could stop them. Arnold heard a gasp come from behind him.
Sir Charles folded his lanky arms and bent down to be eye level with Arnold. His breath reminded him of a slaughterhouse, which he was. “They stopped my dear mother when they hammered a stake into her heart. I’ll never forget her screams or my rage. It’s been simmering inside since that day. Luckily, after I was exiled into the forest, the real monster took pity on me and gave me immortally— like I might do for you if you please me.”
Arnold held his hands up and briefly dipped his head. “I’m sorry, Sir Charles. I meant no disrespect. I only meant you are so powerful already. Everyone fears you.”
Sir Charles patted Arnold on the head, stood straight, and adjusted his black hat. “It took decades to gain that respect in my community. When it was time, I took revenge on that entire town that punished an innocent woman. That’s never been enough, though. No Arnold, not at all. Humans haven’t changed over the centuries. They still live and act in fear, so I waited and watched. Now your kind has the technology to give me what I’ve been imagining or an effervescent potion that makes humans into a compliant sleepwalkers or zombie-like. Whoever doesn’t eat the chocolate, my creatures will take care of them.”
“Aren’t you killing your food supply?” From being underground for the last few years, Arnold’s pale complexion took on a shade of green as it reflected off the camera mirror that watched every move they made.
“My creatures will never deny their blood to me, but I admit I like the chase, so leaving some to hunt will be nice. No one can challenge me, though, got that?”
“Yes, Sir Charles.”
A smirk filled the sharpness of his youthful face. “Great. Now, I’ll bring you your test subjects.”
Arnold nodded and turned back to his work. He’d had his own formula ready for a long time, and even boldly shared it here today in place of what it was supposed to be. This liquid changed the cells in all the studies and the last one the rats had survived. He offered his lab partner a weak smile, but Patty turned her tear-stained face away from him and the all-seeing mirror. At least she had her husband and three children to share her nights in their private cell. He had the same privilege with his partner and cat, most were crammed together in small spaces and usually not with family members.
The image of all the tears shed because of this monster made Arnold push aside his years of training and make a rare rash decision. “I’m done with this. I know our formula will work.”
Patty froze as realization crossed her face. “That could fry your brain or worse! Think of David!”
Arnold brought the bubbling concoction to his lips and felt a power he hadn’t felt since he was tricked into this nightmare. He smiled.“It won’t, Patty.”
He didn’t listen as he dipped his finger and stirred the potion. The liquid had cooled, and the bubbles had returned. Patty gasped loudly as he gulped it down. Finished he tossed the beaker into the trashcan and burped loudly as the bubbles danced in his stomach.
Patty and the others backed away from him right as Sir Charles entered the lab tugging two terrified little boys behind him. “You poor pathetic fool. Well, you will be the lab rat now, Arnold.”
Arnold’s blood rushed the potion to all parts of his body. He knew what came next and steeled himself for it. As he collapsed onto the ground, withering like a thirsty flower under a hot summer sun, everything went black, but only for a second, then the light seemed to come from his pores. He jumped up and grinned.
“It appears your junk doesn’t work, Arnold. Either you get it right within 24 hours, or you, David, and that horrible cat die. Put these things in a cage, so they don’t run away and cause a mess.” He pushed the crying children toward Patty.
Arnold felt a new strength and power like that of a cartoon superhero. It took three years to create, but he was a perfect monster-killer. Arnold and Patty had secretly stimulated the part of the brain that was untapped by humanity so far. He stepped in front of Sir Charles with a huge grin while Patty comforted the little boys.
“Don’t come any closer, Arnold. I’m only going to warn you once.” Sir Charles’s bravado seemed a little deflated as Arnold reached out to the pale bloodsucker and pushed him.
Before Sir Charles could respond, Arnold broke their tormentor’s neck and then easily ripped his head off which he carelessly tossed aside. As the bloodless head rolled away, Arnold swore it asked why. No matter what they had been told over the last three years in captivity, he learned all he needed from that vile creature’s final thoughts. Everything had been a lie, including rewarding them with eternal life. They were less than a herd of cows to him and his death by them was a huge shame to that creature.
The images Arnold saw from the monster were so clear. He’d seen a woman burning in bright orange flames. That had to be Sir Charles’s mother. There were many terrified faces as they took their last breath all jumbled together, but the last lucid thought was a picture of flames that consumed everything. Arnold shook his head that had to be from when he took down an entire village in his revenge for his mother. That young man had become what the villager’s first claimed his mother was—a deranged monster.
Following a round of congratulations and releasing all the people, Arnold led the way to freedom. He ripped open the steel door to release the group of 231 people from their confinement. They slowly made their way through the tunnel to the surface. Here, the door opened easily, into a nightmare. The landscape was charred and bare. There was nothing for miles. His newly gained powers reached out and found nothing alive, except for what survived in the ocean.
What had been their prison with a crazy vampire had saved them from themselves. Humanity had finally crossed the line and started a war that killed everyone but them and the animals still below that were used for experiments or food. It wasn’t getting revenge for his mother’s death that had been Sir Charles’ last thought, but the demise of the world. The vampire wanted control of those he already held hostage to create the world in his distorted image.
Tears flowed as he held David, and the ground released its sulfuric effervescent reminder of what fear and hate can produce. This small group had become the survivors of the new Noah’s Ark. It would be up to them to start over. Arnold hoped this time they would do it right.
I will be participating in the NaNoWriMo this year. I will not be writing a story but editing the first book I wrote during this event. So, I will still do my regular posts, but won’t be around as much as usual. To those who are doing it, good luck! Happy November 🙂
Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn