Image Flash #32
There are a few concepts in this little piece that I could easily translate into some sort of strange, science style, horror story. But I’ve got a full plate of work, it’s not something I’ll get to in years, and I can always self-cannibalize my own ideas in the future.
So while the idea could have gone horror, I decided to swing it into something a bit more odd and, dare I say, lighthearted?
Dr. Johnson Momoa was soaking wet as he stood on the doorstep of his colleague, and blackmailer, Dr. Catherine Dunning.
He jabbed the doorbell again and immediately followed the action with a series of kicks to the door itself. He hated being here almost as much as he hated this island, with it’s tempestuous micro-bursts and jungle plant stink.
“I swear to god, Cathy! If you don’t open this damn door, right now, I’m leaving! I don’t give a damn who you tell about my bugs!” He shouted.
He heard the clatter of locks tumbling and the door swung wide. A old man in a lab coat was hunching there, one arm extended to let Dr.Momoa in. He was leaning on a cane, but despite this, had a large drink balanced in that hand. It had three cherries and a lime floating in it, ice-less.
“Bugs, you say?” He squinted. “Insect or germ?”
Dr.Momoa bustled in. “None of your business, Gunderson! Where is she?”
He pulled the door shut. “The lab, the lab. Always the lab.”
The two headed there. Dr.Momoa, himself an old man, didn’t walk much faster than his caned companion, but it was just slightly fast enough to be irritated at having to wait for the man. He did not enjoy the squeaking noise his wet shoes made and the puddles he was leaving. Also, he did not enjoy speaking with people.
“So, she’s got you on a short leash too, eh?” The man babbled. “Me as well. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It turns out that one of the best ways of achieving the type of breakthroughs we need is through mutually assured, global crimes against humanity, threats of exposure.”
Dr.Momoa scowled. “I do not require any help for breakthroughs.”
Dr.Gunderson nodded. “No, I suppose you don’t. It seems the arrangement would benefit some of us more than others. But, it’s all for the good. Well, the subjective good anyway. My projects could certainly be interpreted in a variety of moral ways. Have I told you what I’m working on?”
“I don’t want to talk to you anymore. Please stop.”
The old man huffed. “You certainly can’t keep me from saying what I want. It’s my tongue and I’ll use it when, and where, I see fit. But since you’ve been so rude about it, I don’t think I have anything else to say to you.”
The man stopped. “On second thought, I do have one last thing to say to you. You are a fucker.”
Dr.Momoa didn’t disagree. He left Dr.Gunderson there and enjoyed the silence.
Cathy’s lab (despite professionalism he always thought of her as Cathy and then mentally corrected himself) was, Dr.Momoa noted with disdain, a chaotic mess beyond reconciliation. Small carts, loaded with equipment, littered the aisles, in some cases, eliminating them entirely. Every table was heaped upon with equipment and all the wiring, tubing, venting, and piping that went with it. Clearly, the woman never put away anything and just kept building on the ruins of past projects. She was the vile offspring of Albert Einstein and a junk yard hoarder. He had seen some of the cats he experimented on cough up more organized hairballs. He rounded a bank of Amiga computers (all chugging furiously) and caught sight of her fiddling with a panel that had no less than a thousand color coded wires plugged into it. The old woman was, seemingly randomly, unplugging and inserting connections.
“I’m here, Dr.Dunning!”
She didn’t look away from her work. “Over here.”
He joined her. “I know where you are. What is it that you want?”
She plugged a last connection, looked them over, calculating in her head, and then turned to face him. He was surprised, as he always was, how his mind played tricks on him whenever he saw her and, for a moment, she wasn’t the old woman she was; she was the brilliant, young, blonde he used to know, shining through. Like her name, he pushed it aside.
“Can we get to it already? I don’t have all day.”
She nodded, knocked out of a reverie he hoped was dislike his own. “Right. This way.” She said.
They followed the wires she’d been playing with to a table. A naked man was strapped to it with dozens of electrodes attached to his head, feet, and hands. He was unconscious.
“Volunteer or patient?” Asked Dr.Momoa.
She ignored him. “I’ve been working on targeted cellular transfiguration. Manipulating specific cells to become other types. Bone cells to skin cells, fat cells to brain cells, you get the idea. It’s been working. I can pretty much swap cell types anywhere I want.”
Dr.Momoa knew she was brilliant, but this, this was beyond anything even he had dreamed of! It was the cure for disease, aging, body control. It was, if handled properly, a wide open door to the direct manipulation of the human species.
“It was all going perfectly. Everything I wanted. But then I hit a wall. I’ve lined the patients cardiovascular system with taste buds. When I did, he went into a coma.”
Dr.Momoa blinked in confusion. “You did what?”
“Tastebuds. Veins. He can taste his own blood, everywhere, all the time. Keep up!” She snapped at him.
“But, why would you do that?” He stammered.
She pointed to the sensors on his head, leading to the computer banks. “He’s out cold, but I can see everything going on in his brain. Totally overstimulated in there! Everything is almost working like I want, but I can’t get it right. I need your help.”
Try as he might, Dr.Momoa could not conceive of any good reason to do what she’d done. It was miraculous idiocy. He knew she’s gotten a bit eccentric in her older age, but this was beyond his ability to deal with. He went with his fallback; anger.
“I don’t even know what you’re trying to accomplish with this, Cathy! What the hell do you want from me?”
She looked at him like he was stupid. “Johnson, don’t be so dense! Do I have to explain everything, dummy?”
She leaned over and patted her ‘patient’ on the chest.
“I need you to help me change the flavor!”