Fantasy #13: Laboratory Mistakes

Fantasies are hot.

I have a bunch.

Here’s one…

The project had been going well. We had been contracted by the UN for an extremely noble goal: find a way to make more food. The project leader, Mike, had been passionately pursuing a radical approach. Instead of bio-engineering the plants to produce more or even to become more nutritious, he was trying to make them bigger. Despite everyone around him telling him he was “foolish” and that is was “physically impossible” and other such nonsense, he’d been able to make it work at a tiny scale, growing an amoeba to the size of a mouse. That the amoeba then proceeded to collapse in on itself and implode was just one hurdle he would overcome.

Mike’s ingenious solution to making small things bigger was to use a “growth ray”, a laser-like contraption housed in a machine that looked like a mirror telescope which used radiation to make molecules somehow occupy even more space than they usually did while simultaneously doubling their numbers. “It’s not magic, it’s science!” was Mike’s go-to saying whenever someone didn’t understand how the hell it worked, which was everyone except Mike. And somehow, his machine worked. It was consistently able to make the microscopic into objects that could be easily seen by the naked eye before shortly imploding.

Mike, with all his talent as a mad scientist, was not much of a people person. He wasn’t a good communicator and I had to clean up all the personal and personnel messes he inevitably made. His inability to communicate his intentions and the science behind his machine often resulted in heated arguments. I was Mike’s lab assistant, a job I worked part-time while going to school and which earned me a TON of credit. I was responsible for making sure all his work was in order and had to clean up messes when they were made. It was something I was perfectly fine with because I knew that the work he was doing would one day save a lot of people. To say that a lot of messes were made would have been the understatement of the century.

After one horrendous confrontation between Mike and one of the project’s partners, Nelson, left the entire lab in disorder, I was stuck with picking up the mess. I had to pick up the destroyed computers and tablets, sweep up the broken glass, mop up the spilled fuel for the “growth ray”, and set everything back in its proper place. Strangely enough, I enjoyed this kind of work. It was cathartic and almost a sort of meditation for me. That I could also blast my music into the empty lab was also great.

What I didn’t enjoy was Nelson returning to the lab afterward and making even more of a mess as he vented his frustrations to me. Nelson was the “second in command” of the project, a fact which made Nelson angry and resentful. Nelson was insanely egotistical, a man for whom the second best was just as good as absolute last. I think what really bothered Nelson about working this project was the fact that he was working with something he barely understood, despite his Ph.D.s in both biochemistry and theoretical physics. He was a smart man but he was not smart enough to keep up with the demented Mike.

Worse than his petty attitude was the way he’d been treating me. He liked to use me as a scapegoat, insulting my intelligence even though my comprehension of the “growth ray” was equal to his own. He liked to make much more of a mess than he had to and always made sure to break something when I was within sight. I knew that he was jealous of the bond I shared with Mike, especially since I wasn’t a Ph.D. like he was. It was sad to see a grown man act so much like a petulant child yet there was little I could do, the credit I would gain from working on this project was likely going to be more than enough to follow me through my entire academic career. When he was apparently done with his bitching, he left which allowed me to do my cleaning.

I was finishing up my sweeping and jamming to one of my favorite songs when I accidentally knocked over the growth ray with my broom. The machine broke apart and I began to panic a little. I quickly looked over the spread out pieces and let out a sigh of deep relief: none of the individual components seemed to be broken. The growth ray was a modular assortment of various parts, many of whom I had not yet learned the purpose of. Luckily for me, Mike had proudly shown me how to assemble the contraption in case a situation like this were to ever occur. I delved deep into my mind, attempting to remember where every little part went.

I set about assembling this multi-million dollar puzzle knowing full well that if anyone in the lab found out what I did I would be in deep shit. I was careful while manipulating each piece since I knew that many of these were custom-made and would not be replaceable if I were to actually break them. I had fitted almost of the pieces into place except for the lens array when I heard my least favorite voice speak up behind me.

“Well, well, well, what have we here? Did someone break the miraculous growth ray?” It was Nelson, his voice filled with the most venomous contempt spiced with what could only be sheer joy.

I jumped up, surprised as all hell that this bastard had returned for a second time.

“What are you doing here, Nelson?” I asked, trying to distract him from what I’d done, turning around to face him.

“I forgot my phone on my desk but I see it was a… profitable mistake. I can only imagine what Mike’s going to say to you when I tell him about you messing with his growth-ray. I bet he’s going to chew you out in front of everyone before he fires you,” Nelson said, sounding more and more like a child on Christmas morning.

“I was just cleaning the lens array on Mike’s orders,” I said, trying to convince him that all was as it was supposed to.

“Oh you can’t fool me you silly lab rat. I’ve been working on this project since before you were ever a part of it and I know that you’ve done something to his growth-ray. Just look at that dent there! You must’ve knocked it down like the clumsy little ass that you are. Oh, I’m going to make sure you never work on anything like this ever again. When I’m done with you, the only lab you’ll be allowed in will be a high school lab. If I were you I’d start packing up your stuff tonight! Oh I definitely need my phone now, I’m going to take a picture so everyone knows how much of a dunce you are!”

Nelson continued his little tirade as he made his way to his desk but I couldn’t hear him. I was too lost in my own mind, thinking about just how right Nelson probably was. Mike liked me but I didn’t think he liked me enough to forgive me for messing with his baby. I was panicking and my mind went to the only solution I could think of. I jammed the lens array into the growth-ray, turned it on and pointed it at Nelson.

He’d just retrieved his cellphone and was turning to take a picture when he saw me pointing the growth-ray at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice suddenly full of terror.

“You forced me to do this, Nelson,” I said quietly as the growth-ray shot out at him.

The beam hit him square in the middle of his chest, making him yelp like a dog that had been kicked. Despite not liking the man who had just threatened me and all of my future, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad about what I was doing.

Nelson seemed to grow for a second before rapidly… shrinking?

I had not seen that coming. It seems that in my haste, I had inserted the lens array in backwards. It made little sense to me that such a reversal of the intended effect would happen and yet, the proof was right in front of my eyes. Every part of his body dwindled, including his phone and clothing. His screams became higher and higher pitched while simultaneously quieting down until he was the size of a rat.

“What… what have you done to me???” Nelson squeaked at me.

I stared at him gobsmacked for a moment before collecting myself.

“It seems I’ve condensed you,” I answered back, still incredulous at how my attempt at murder had turned out. “It looks like I’ve turned you into a lab rat.”

An idea suddenly hit me, one that I knew would work out to my favor. I ran to him and caught the stunned Nelson in a hand much the same way I used to catch frogs as a child. I went to my backpack and threw him into it. I went to the growth-ray and inverted the lens array before doing a quick spot-check of the now squeaky-clean lab.

I opened my bag and looked down at the lilliputian being in it: “You’re really lucky you didn’t grow and implode into a bloody mess. Instead, you will get live out your days at my home. Don’t you worry, I’m sure you will fit right in with my pet rat in his glass tank.”

Nelson had a tiny look of his terror on his face as he said: “No don’t do that. Listen, I’m sure you can get me back to regular size if…”

I closed my backpack before he could finish his sentence. I smiled a dark grin as I realized I had a new pet rat to train, one that could learn all kinds of tricks that a normal rat never could…

Strangely enough, no one noticed I had knocked over the growth-ray. Even stranger, no one ever mentioned Nelson’s disapearance. It seemed as though he had been truly hated and reviled by everyone. In fact, work went much smoother without him. Two days later, we had enlarged the first apple to the size of a beach ball. None of us had ever tasted a fruit so sweet…

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