The lab they found themselves in was equally as dark as the hallway, and it had an equally red light that was pulsating in the corner. Unlike the hallway, this room looked as if something had drained the water from it several times over, but the smell suggested that moss, mold, or perhaps both were lurking in dark spaces.
On the far side of the room, not quite against the wall, stood a waist-high bench with several items that looked equally as weathered as the table, but entirely out of place. “Mick, check this out, man,” Edgar motioned, pointing his light at the table.
Mick, still shaken by the sight of the black mass, composed himself, took a deep breath, and walked over to the table at a forced amble.
“Whatcha’ got, bud,” Mick asked, crossing to the other side of the table. Edgar looked back across with his light shining past Mick, “Really quick, wanna try that switch,” Edgar suggested, nodding his head behind where Mick was standing.
Mick turned, pointed his own light, and saw a row of switches for light fixtures. He tried them all; all except for the one labeled Emergency Exit. “Wouldn’t want ol’ tub of tar to get to us quicker than he already can,” he chuckled.
Electric snaps and buzzes chorused with beams of yellowing overhead lights for a moment. After a few of the bulbs went out completely, the electric buzz of the overheads stayed steady hum.
Whiteboards, x-ray lights, and biological charts of both humans and animals were placed neatly throughout the small space. Several sheets of loose paper were spread around the floor while others looked as if they had been tacked to any spare places on the walls that could be found. Several lab benches lined the walls with various overturned testing implements on top of them as well as overturned chairs below.
“And then the creator gave us light, and it was good,” Edgar said jokingly to Mick. Mick gave snorting chuckle to this, looking down to the table in amazement.
“I’m not sure what kind of message our creator is trying to send us with a bunch of junk,” Mick said. “We got some wire, a few high powered rifle bullets, odds and ends, and—,” Mick’s voice trailed off.
Edgar grabbed one of many piled up pearl white bags. He shined his light on it, the yellow overheads hadn’t been very helpful to aid in deciphering the faded words on the pack. “Insto-cold,” he said, looking up at Mick.
“What the hell is Insto-cold,” Mick asked. Edgar rolled the bag in his hand a bit, feeling the contents inside. Mick had eyed a slip of paper.
“I think these are those old cold packs. You pop the smaller bag of water on the inside, mix it around with whatever else is inside, and WHAM,” Edgar said, pretending to smash the bag, “Instant frozen peas fr what ales ya.”
Mick, still eyeing the slip of paper, snagged it, scrutinized it for a second, and said without looking up, “so, our creator thinks we’re gonna get a bit bruised along the way, AND,” Mick said, now waving the sheet of paper between the two of them, “he wrote us a poem to make us feel better.”
Edgar snatched it and read,
Take care not to douse.
To get ahead, I need to stay hot.
Mix me well, let metal sail, run like hell.
For better or worse, I’m bound to pop.
Everything you need is around you.“
At the bottom of the note, a few scientific letters and numbers sat next to a ratio. “Four to one,” Edgar said. Mick looked as if he had heard enough.
“Seriously man, what are we going to do with instant peas,” Mickey protested, shaking one of the bags, “a bunch of scrap, and bullets with no gun?”
“Herald said this was a test, right,” Edgar offered. Mick looked at Edgar, off to the side as if to think, and then back up.
“Yeah,” Mick sighed. “Yeah he did. It still doesn’t help us now,” he said, tossing the cold pack bag on the table. He walked away. Edgar stayed in place, watching the cold pack Mick had tossed grow frost across its surface. He didn’t have to touch it to know it wasn’t warm anymore.
Edgar thought of something, but Mick’s voice came apprehensively from off to the side, “Ed, you might wanna come look at this.” Edgar left the table with the note still in his hand, thoughts vanishing, and joined his friend.
At first, he saw a lot of jumbled charts, overlapping words, and some jumble equations with symbols that looked like gibberish. After a few seconds he started seeing what the board was mean for. “Look at all these different animals,” Mick said, pointing to what looked like a genetic roster.
Mick traced his finger across the timeline for creature thirty-one of the roster until he landed to a much earlier starting point. It started on a loose piece of yellow paper from a legal pad. “Who’s—-Norman Eldridge,” Mick asked openly, squinting at the page.
Edgar was staring at some of the notes, keeping his eyes fixed on one in particular. “I think a better question is,” he said, snapping it off the wall, “who was he?”
Edgar showed the page to Mick. They both read over it carefully. The page looked like a doctor’s practice speech; it went into detail on Norman’s various forms of cancers and how they would only be treatable through means of genetic grafting, citing that it was a dangerous thing, but the only way.
“They were splicing genetics, man,” Edgar said. Mick gulped.
“Straight out of a horror flick,” Mick said, almost to himself. “Find a guy whose suffering and offer him life, only to wind up your guinea pig and become something worse.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he didn’t know he was signing his own death warrant” Edgar said, tapping a small note at the bottom of the page.
It read, “Subject approved through administration for full grafting process. Reserve immediately into ICU room five. Subject to be given Fentanyl (Side note: make sure DNR is signed). Reawaken process to be done immediately after graft has been injected. Inform subject’s next of kin directly after death.“
Mick said, “You don’t think that thing in the hall –“
“–Was Norman? I think I might,” Edgar finished. “Look at the list of animals they were using for the graft.” Edgar shuffled over to the board and started pointing out a few of the highlights. “He was given the grafts from jungle cats, sharks, avian species, certain frogs, and dozens of others, too.”
“Why the hell are scientists always trying to make monsters,” Mick asked with a plea in his voice. “Haven’t they done enough harm in the movies, now they have to hit it home with us,” he moaned.
“You know,” Edgar said, looking equally as disturbed by the situation but a bit calmer about it, “I think it makes it worse when you know the origin story. Luckily for us, the creator left us something that I think will help put Norman to rest,” he finished.
“Are we pelting him with garbage,” Mick asked halfheartedly, picking up a broken beaker and dropping it again.
“No, we’re gonna do some arts and crafts, only without so much art and a little more craft,” Edgar said, looking back at the table of odds and ends.
There was a sudden thud on the door again. They both jumped; Mick ducked a bit behind the table and Edgar struck a fighting pose. The thud was hammering so hard that chunks of brittle, chipping paint were starting to form and flake off in cracked patterns.
Edgar looked back at Mick; they met eyes immediately. “What’s your brilliant plan Picasso,” Mick asked sarcastically, mocking in light of the situation.
The door pounded again; more flakes fell.
“Screw painting a picture,” Edgar said, slamming the scrap of paper back onto the table, holding his finger on the equation. “We’re going to MacGyver a bomb and paint the walls with this lump of ink.”
Mick’s eyes lit up like a child staring at Christmas lights for the first time. The door pounded again and brought Mick back to earth. He shot his eyes back to Edgar.
“Let’s get started,” he said. Edgar nodded with an affirmative expression.