Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Beginning 475

Mike let himself into the lab for the last time, noticing everything as if for the first time. The way the key wouldn't fit easily into the lock, but yawed this way and that. The stench of disinfectant. At least the lighting hadn't changed. He glanced down at the scuffed floor, newly cleared of his equipment. Apart from fresh scratches on the grey vinyl, it looked the same. Sterile. Finished with. He stepped inside and pushed the door shut. Even his lab coat was gone from the hook on the back of the door. He wondered if he'd reached a stage beyond anger. Or if resignation had set in.

They'd taken everything down from the walls, too. Not neatly--too much to ask. Diagrams, charts, little "happy notes", all gone.

The door creaked, then opened slowly, as if unsure it should be opening it at all.

"It's okay," he said. "I won't bite." A head came round the door, appearing first as a pointy little nose topped by a pair of glasses. Then adding some close-cropped brown hair. Fitch smiled a little frightened smile, still keeping everything beyond her ears out of sight.

"I'm so sorry," she said, glancing nervously around. Then she stepped into the room. "We'll miss you."

They hugged, an awkward, quiet moment. "It's okay," Mike said. "Now that I'm gone, I wish you the best."

Then the director cut to commercial, and that was the end of Mike's run on the poorly-rated America's Next Top Chemist.

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: freddie


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

How had she gotten out of her cage? Her cleverness was increasing rapidly. Soon she'd be smart enough to know what it meant to be a prisoner, a lab rat with a tad too much human DNA. It kicked Mike in the gut to know that he was lying to Fitch, who's destiny was not so eventual dissection. He built her first cell, so no matter who wielded the tool, it would be Mike's knife to bite.


"Dude, I know it's hard to leave, but, like, the charges are going off in ten minutes and this place is going to implode," she said.

Ten minutes. He sighed, resigned. All the protests of one tenured professor meant nothing to the wealthy alumni who just had to put up a new science building so everyone would know how rich they were.

They'd brought everything to his new lab, not knowing what secrets lurked in the small vials that he labeled "happy notes". Just wait until they started sampling the punch tonight.


"Wow." said Fitch, eyes wide. "They really did it!"

"Yeah." Mike slumped against the wall.

"Were they hot? Like the ones on TV?"

"I don't know! I wasn't here, remember?"

"Oh yeah." She tiptoed closer.

Mike surveyed the lab, from the naked walls to the floor. Damn, they were thorough. 'Search Warrant'? More like 'Robbery Warrant'.

"Look at that!" Fitch knelt next to the scratches in the vinyl floor. "They'll find little bits of this under Mom's fingernails, and that'll be enough to send Dad away for years!"

Mike nodded. CSI on TV might be good, but the real cops here in Oskaloosa were no match for him. "They shouldn't have tried to take my lab away for flunking gym."

"Yeah," added Fitch, "and my phone! Just because I used five hundred minutes."

"Five hundred thirty seven," corrected Mike.

"Yeah, well, whatever. Come on! I promise I'll get Beth to date you."

Mike smiled. Wait until Beth tried his love potion.


"I… I wanted to s-say…" Fitch's voice quavered on the edge of hysteria, but she cleared her throat and managed a forced, happy tone. "Congratulations! It worked, didn't it?"

Behind her in the hallway he could hear the muted whispers of several more people coming up behind her, drawn to the door by a little-boy curiosity that they could not repress behind their fear. He could smell that too… in fact, he could smell everything.

Mike bent down and nearly touched his nose to the top of a pristine, gleaming stainless steel metal countertop. He shut his eyes, allowing the new sensations to soak in. Smells of old blood. Serum. Pain.

"Yah, it worked," he muttered. "And you people can't appreciate that. You can't understand how much this means to humanity. Too short-sighted, too focused on your own precious lives…"

Mike turned toward her suddenly, and Fitch stifled a squeal of sheer panic as she saw his face again for the second time since… the Incident. "My God, Doctor Stevens," the mousy lab-assistant said in her tiniest voice, "can't you see what it's done to you?"

Mike threw back his head and laughed, and all of the rippling muscles on his new body stood out. "Take my job… take my notes… take it all! I don't care! I am done with all of you. I have been reborn a god!"

Mike violently yanked a rack of metal shelves right out of the wall and threw them crashing onto the floor, laughing as he walked to the back of the lab. He slammed his fist into the concrete block wall and it shattered, sunlight streaming in through the hole, and he walked out.


"Fitch," Mike went on, "at least you haven't abandoned me." He took off his own wire-rimmed spectacles and tried to rub the teary heat out of his eyes.

"Mike. I thought it was you. I, ah..." Timid as a mouse, as always.

"It's OK, Fitch. Come in. What did you want to say?"

"Oh. You've still got your keys."

Mike nodded. "Just popped in to drop them off."

"I see. I see. Mike, I, ah..."

Good old Fitch. "Yes? What is it?"

"Mike -- those glasses; they're laboratory issue as well. Drop them off at Security on your way out."


Evil Editor said...

Assuming resignation is a stage beyond anger, you don't need the word "or" in the last sentence.

The first sentence leads me to believe he's now in the lab, so maybe you shouldn't list the way the key doesn't fit the lock among the things he is noticing.

Why would he have wanted them to remove things from the walls "neatly"? He won't be there, so what's a few thumb tacks in the wall to him? Presumably the place will be shaped up for the next occupant.

Chris Eldin said...

I really liked this.
I disagree with EE about p2. I think if it were my space and I was forced out, I'd still feel territorial and would want it to look 'neat.'

The last paragraph in this section threw me a bit. But I'd have to see the next paragraph to see where it was going.

I'd definitely read on.

Dave Fragments said...

I am guessing that this was an organic chemistry lab because of the words sterile and disinfectant.

Forget the business of keys and opening and closing the door. It's useless action.
He lets himself into the laboratory and stands in the door frame. He doesn't have to know they took his labcoat because those are company supplied and the laundry service automatically takes them back. I know that because I had a half dozen lab coats when I worked. No one owns a labcoat because you can't wash them at home. it's a safety issue. The only people who bought their own labcoats and had them embroidered with their names were PHD's with hugely overinflated egos, etc..
But I've digressed... i could digress more but I'll stop digressing. It's probably a double door with panic bars for fire safety... sorry, digression.

He lets himself into the laboratory and stands in the frame, looks around the room at the emptiness and steps inside. Fitch, stays outside and pokes only her head past the frame - that sideways stance. She doesn't want him to see her body because that would mean they actually have to admit meeting and if she enters the room, she can't say she only walked the corridor.
Why the hesitation?
He has {?} cooties? {?} and/or bubonic plague? and/or itchy weenie socially unspeakable...? He was fired from his job for being honest? Or he discovered the cure for all diseases (a mold named Diseaseum B. Goneium?

This needs a punch, some excitement!

Evil Editor said...

and would want it to look 'neat.'

They've removed all the equipment from the room, and everything from the walls. It's not like they've left it a shambles. What is it that isn't neat?

Debbie said...

I'm a bit overly sensitive to improper grammar at the moment, but the excessive number of sentences fragments this new beginning made it difficult for me to follow some of this. For example, I read "At least the lighting hadn't changed" as part of the "noticing everything as if for the first time." It threw me out of the story. I stopped to ponder, "but he can't notice that it hasn't changed if he's seeing it 'for the first time.'"

Also, Mike isn't slamming doors or otherwise acting angry. I assume he's resigned. Therefore, that he even wonders if he's still anger or if he's resigned (which is how I initially read it) doesn't make sense to me. However, if you combine the sentences, it reads, "He wondered if he'd reached a stage beyond anger or if resignation had set in." So is he equating anger with resignation (which are two different things in my mind) and wondering if he's gotten past the anger/resigned stage to some other stage?

Except for the confusion I felt because of the grammar, I liked this opening.

Scott from Oregon said...

"Mike let himself into the lab for the last time, noticing everything as if for the first time."

I immediately went into a long fit of singing Foreigner's "It Feels Like The First Time"...

By the time I came out of it, I was having trouble understanding the key in the lock...

Seriously, I think maybe this opening line actually suffers from "just too damn clever an opening line" syndrom.

And I like clever opening lines...

Perhaps it is too close to other lines down this same path? Like the Foreigner song. And then there is Madonna's "Like A virgin" (touched for the very first time).

And that whole deja vu thing...

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Oh! Oh! Sentence fragments! That's one of my hot buttons, too. Only I disagree with Genre Review about them. I am a huge frags fan.

Let me get this out of the way first: Yes, there are frags that are ungrammatical. Chopping a sentence for no reason and throwing in a frag that makes no sense has no place in anybody's writing.


Most sentence frags in the "advanced" writing community are style choices and their use has nothing to do with grammar. Deftly done frags are a-grammatical.

Please, please, please do not confuse style with grammar.

BuffySquirrel's grammar in this piece is just fine. Any confusion can be contributed to word choice, arrangement of ideas, perhaps even style. But don't blame the grammar.

*oozes off the soap box*

Hi Genre Review! Welcome. Don't mind me; I disagree with a lot of people here -- and we still tolerate each other :o)

Anonymous said...

Nice and evocative, and sets us up for wherever we are going, I think. I like all of this except for "not neatly-- too much to ask." I don't think you need that.


Anonymous said...

To me the neatness implied the stuff that was removed was damaged and he's seen it already, or it's piled up in teh room.


Sarah Laurenson said...

I like this and would read on.

I think the 'first time' part is hard to pull off because it is used so much. Especially in lyrics.

It also bothered me that he's thinking first time and yet talks about how things look the same. That didn't fit together for me.

I think you're missing out on an opportunity to show the bits of paper on the wall instead of just saying it wasn't neat. If you describe it, you could use words that show how he feels about it.

Good job!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh and there seems to be too many 'it's in the line about the door opening.

Xenith said...

Um, well, I didn't realise the room had been cleaned out until I read the comments. I sort of skimmed the opening paragraph. It's nothing at all like your other openings (which also leave me wanting to read on).

Opening with a room description is probably not the best way to do it.

You should send him to Portsmouth instead.

Whirlochre said...

Short sentences? Don't like 'em. Never did.

Bitty, yes. But I'm with Phoenix. Mustn't be distracted. Mustn't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Don't understand the key but would read on. It's interesting.

Liking Fitch.



none said...

Thanks everyone who commented :). Maybe I should start this later on in the story--that's the message I'm getting.