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Black, White, Orange, Blue, Green

January 8, 2014

A scientist monitors his experiment. There’s a picture nearby, on a high shelf, away from all the equipment and loose papers. It’s the photograph is of a woman, holding her hat in the middle of a windy Spring day. She is standing atop a hill covered in flowers. A window next to the shelf shows a dark world, with an endless thundercloud crackling and roiling over a barren hill.

The scientist continues to work with a scowl, marching from an oscilloscope to a set of dials and Tesla coils. He pauses by a petri dish, where an orange goop sits, inert. Exposed wires poke into the goop. The scientist consults his notes one last time and goes over to a crank. He turns it quickly, laboriously. An electromagnetic hum rises in volume and pitch. The Telsa coils begin to spark, sputtering electricity before blue arcs of minute lightning begin to run up their length.

Zzzzap… Zzzzap… Zzzzap…

Gauges begin to light up. The oscilloscope comes alive with a pulsing wave-form in its display, glowing a bright white. The scientist becomes frantic, adjusting valves and turning knobs on his equipment. He goes back to the generator crank and works it furiously. The electric current begins to flow into the orange goop.

Zzzzap… ZZZAP… ZZZZAP!

The scientist runs over to the dish where electricity arcs inside of it. The goop convulses faintly at first. He turns more knobs, pulls on other levers. The wave-form on the oscilloscope becomes regular, compressing, becoming faster. The zapping gets louder, quicker. The goop stops quivering and begins to glow orange.

ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP!

The scientist grins manically. He goes back to the generator, cranking it as hard as he can. The orange glow intensifies. The zapping is almost a continuous sound. The goop begins to swell and bubble. Sweat shines on the scientist’s forehead. He grits his teeth, going for the final effort he needs.

The goop spills from the petri dish, covering the desk, glowing brighter and brighter, almost blinding. It wraps around a vase holding one of the flowers in the picture, wilted, old and dead since long ago. The goop extends a shaky tendril, touching the flower with a trembling orange finger. The flower is rejuvenated, growing an extra inch, unfurling its restored petals.

Suddenly, one of the Tesla coils falters. The generator makes a strained mechanical noise even as the scientist keeps on cranking. The oscilloscope’s waveform collapses.  Surprise on the scientist’s face goes from surprise to anger.

Everything begins to fail; one of the Tesla coils goes dead and begins to smoke. One of the cables connecting the oscilloscope rips out of its socket, flailing wildly while electrical sparks fly from its exposed contacts. The orange glow blinks a few times and begins to dim. The generator’s components break loose.

The glow in the room dies down. The scientist watches in anguish as the goop dies on his desk.

Silence and darkness.

Lightning flashes and cracks outside, lighting the room once for an instant with its blinding glare that spills in through the window. The scientist is leaning on the clear glass dome of his wife’s cryogenic pod. She is there, looking just as beautiful as she did in the picture on the shelf. The image lingers for a few seconds before it fades into blackness.

Lightning strikes again. He is shaking his fists at Heaven, standing over her bed.

Lightning strikes a third time. He’s smashing the remains of his equipment with a massive wrench.

Lightning strikes a fourth time, reaching in through the window, hitting one of the Tesla coils, bouncing off of the oscilloscope, the wrench as it hangs in mid-air, falling from the scientist’s hands. The lightning-bolt wraps around him, and leaps into the inert goop.

A tiny blue bolt of electricity skitters over the cryogenic pod. A tiny, spidery blue spark, before the world goes dark again.

Gradually, the goop begins to glow, this time green. It’s spilled on the floor, pieces of the desk around it. The scientist’s face is once more full of surprise. Rather than horror, it becomes an expression of triumph. He turns back his wife in her pod. He speaks softly, smiling in the green light.

Lightning strikes outside the window. She keeps sleeping, impassive and still. Once the thunder fades away a soft hiss fills the room. The scientist turns away to look at the goop as it continues to expand.

The glow shows the flower melting into the goop. It keeps expanding, melting pieces of equipment, of the desk, spreading out on the floor. The scientist stands back, screaming silently.

“No, no, no!”

The goop eats away at the floor. The cryogenic pod begins to tip over into the goop. The scientist’s hands tremble, frozen. The laboratory falls through the hole the goop has eaten into the floor. The pod teeters at the edge, and the green glow begins to climb underneath it.

Panicked, the scientist hesitates. The cryogenic pod’s panel flickers and goes dark. He cries out wordlessly, opens it, and pulls his wife out before it falls into the hole. Far below, the green glow pulses slowly, rising along the walls.

The goop reaches up from the pit it ate for itself with a thick tendril. It arches, hovering at eye-level with the scientist, pausing, seemingly waiting, while he holds his wife’s still body against his chest. As he inches back, the goop follows, cornering him and his wife against the wall.

Lightning strikes, the flash spills in from the window. The scientist glances that way, runs, and jumps through.

The goop chases them. The scientist is on a fire escape ladder bolted on to the wall outside his window. As he runs down, the goop splashes on the stairs over his head, melting them as he runs down. He manages to stay ahead of the goop for a couple of flights, but it catches up, eating the bolts holding it to the wall.

The fire escape peels away, falling. He’s still carrying his wife as they tumble. The goop falls with them, past them, hitting the ground first. The goop gathers itself into a massive bubble, catching them before they hit the ground.

Immersed, the scientist floats in the goop, mouth open, trying to make a sound, trying to reach through the goop for his wife. She opens her eyes, smiles delicately, and then disappears, consumed by the goop.

The bubble dissipates, thinning out, spreading out of the buildings doorways and windows, spreading around the scientist’s feet. He’s left alone, allowed to watch the goop slip between his fingers.

Time passes.

The hill is green again. The scientist sits atop of it, watching the blooming spring flowers sway in the wind. The building, covered in vegetation, is off in the distance. A few clouds drift overhead.

 

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