A tale for the season. I know the contest cited was long-closed, but, to quote Doc Brown at the end of BACK TO THE FUTURE I, "I figured, what the hell."
By Ellie Dauber
From the time he was a boy, Edwin Hyde had to put up with Jekyll and Hyde jokes.
It only got worse when he entered college, a pre-med/chemistry major. Hard as the teasing had been, his medical degree, specializing in endocrinology, more than made up for it.
So did the job with Cyto-Tech, Inc. as a researcher. Edwin was good at what he did. Grant money came in, and he soon had charge of his own lab, with over thirty others working under him on various projects.
No one teased Edwin now. Everyone just assumed that he hated the Stevenson book.
He didn't. He'd been inspired by it since he'd first read it at age 15. He even had treated himself to a first edition about a year ago, when he got a large bonus after the FDA approved one of the drugs his lab had developed.
Now, in a small side lab that was supposedly reserved for a soon to be arriving grad student/intern, he was ready. A yellowish liquid bubbled slowly over a Bunsen burner. He watched. The final reaction was endothermic. The liquid cooled when it turned an odd orange color. Edwin used a pair of lab tongs anyway to set the flask down on a trivet.
He checked the liquid, 41.3 Celcius temperature, just a bit warmer than a human body and almost exactly what his calculations predicted. He noted time, temperature, and color in the notebook resting at the end of the table. Then he took a deep breath and added an afterthought.
"The most foolish thing a researcher can do is to self-administer an untested drug. If I had hidden some mice or a guinea pig in my personal research budget, I wouldn't have to. Since I didn't, it's bottom's up, m'lad. I'm taking 20 cc of the stuff. At my body weight, that should be more than sufficient. Let me add that this is my own mania. Cyto-Tech, Inc. knows nothing about this work. I hold them totally blameless for whatever may happen to me."
He signed the page and put the still open book under a protective pyrex shield. "Just in case," he whispered, hardly able to contain himself.
Edwin took off his lab coat and folded it over a chair. Then he poured the 20 cc into a second flask. "Like I said, bottom's up." He grabbed the flask and drank the liquid in one very quick gulp.
"G'yahch! That tastes absolutely awful." He desperately wanted to drink something -- anything -- to kill the taste, but anything he drank might affect what was going to happen.
He sat down to wait.
He didn't have to wait long.
Edwin felt a sharp pain, like a knife, in his stomach. He almost doubled over as the pain shot out to all parts of his body. He hugged himself to try to make the pain go away. It didn't, but when he looked down, he saw that his arms were shrinking, becoming thinner and shorter as they seemed to be absorbed into his body.
He looked down further. His legs were doing the same thing. His pants legs dangled empty below the knees. He leaned back, afraid that he might fall onto the floor. He felt his back sliding against the chair, as his trunk became shorter and more compact. It was changing color, as well.
By now, Edwin's limbs were gone. What was left of his body, now a hard, rather round shape, kept his pants from slipping to the floor. His shirt looked like it had been draped over him.
The sensations moved up to his head now. He felt it becoming smaller as it sank down into the cavity that was forming in his body. In a matter of moments, it was a small cylindrical shape at the bottom of a large orange-yellow dome.
Holes were forming somehow in the sphere that had been his body, two triangles with a long arc beneath them. He could see the white of his shirt showing through the holes.
As his hair disappeared and the outer layer of his skin turned to wax, he grasped the terrible truth.
He, Edwin Hyde, had become a Jekyll-lantern.
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