Friday, November 2, 2007

Prologue 2

June 4th, 2008
Pranav's secret lab

"Roger?" Pranav asked, nervously shouldering a large file cabinet over the defective door.

Silence greeted him.

"Typical. I got here late because I had another paper to work on, okay? I'm sorry." He shined a flashlight slowly around the room, seeing the familiar grey tarps blanketing parts of the room, some with a bit of unfamiliar plaster over them. Counting, he came up one short, and couldn't figure out why. He nervously fumbled for the light switch on the nearby wall and clicked it on.

"Damn it, this place is falling apart. It's no wonder it's not being used. Roger, are you okay?" Pranav surveyed the damage. Part of the roof showed signs of water damage, and a few ceiling tiles had fallen apart, coating his precious experiment with bits of plaster and exposing some pipes and electrical wires. The wires dangled lifelessly into the room. Roger's gurney wasn't there.

Walking closer, he saw that a rather large chunk of a support beam had corroded away and fallen, creating the hole. He panicked, searching the area frantically before noticing a familiar grey tarp at the back of the dim room.

"Roger, did you try and get away from me?" He marched back to the shadowy recesses and was relieved to find the tarp-covered gurney had wheeled behind a desk, probably because of a bit of the ceiling falling. He gently steered Roger back to the lab benches and drew back the tarp.

Roger remained lifeless, lying on the gurney with small colored patches over his arms, legs, and torso where Pranav's samples had been tested. Most looked benign, but a few had either burned away the tissue or had reacted in some way.

"Ooooh, what have we here?" Pranav said, excited that any tests showed signs of life. He recorded the results in his notebook, and took a close-up picture of each test patch in sequence with a digital camera. He washed his hands and pulled on a pair of surgical gloves before pulling a small kit from his bookbag. Opening it, he gently extracted a scalpel, and turned towards Roger.

"This might hurt a little bit, Roger. Look away." Pranav tried to force the skull to look the opposite direction, but found that rigor mortis left the neck quite stiff. He struggled against it, grunting, before a wet snap finally echoed through the room.

"You big dummy! Watch what you're doing! ...sorry, Roger, that was to me, not you."

Pranav carefully sliced a small sample from the first test site on the corpse and ran it under one of the microscopes on the lab bench.

"Dang. Nothing. Oh well, we've still got 49 other promising samples to take, right buddy?"


"Oh, it sounds like somebody is a little sore about the neck thing. I'm sorry, okay? It was an accident. Another pinch." Pranav consoled the cadaver as he took the next sample, and ran it under the microscope again.

This continued on for some time. Test samples 21, 23, 30-35, and 42 all showed signs of promise, he noted in his notebook. The last one, in particular, seemed to almost move under the microscope, a most unusual response. He noted this in his notebook before wiping his brow. His nose rankled at the scent that seemed to hang in the air.

"Geez, Roger. What did I tell you about the smell? You're gonna get us caught."

Roger stared at the wall, unapologetic.

Frustrated, Pranav decided to risk turning on the vents, if only for a few minutes to clear the stagnant air in the basement. He went to the far end of the room and studied for a moment the panel of controls near the instructor's desk.

"Hrmm...let's see...I'll try 'medium' ventilation" he said as he clicked the dial twice to the right. A moderate hum seemed like a deafening roar in the otherwise quiet basement. The additional power use made the dangling wires in the middle of the room spark, and the lights flickered. Looking around nervously, Pranav's nose tickled once more.

"Roger, this isn't going to work. The vents are so old they're just blowing around stale air. I can't risk the noise of medium, either. We'll try the low setting, and open the door just a crack, okay?"

Roger did not object.

Pranav adjusted the vent system and shouldered the cabinet to the side, leaving the door slightly ajar before going back to work. He removed his gloves and pulled a large textbook that was falling apart from his bag and set it on the counter.

"Don't give me that look, Roger. Professor Anderson has a giant ego - that's why he insists on writing his own book for the class, and making pointless updates each year to keep his grad students poor. I'm sure this book will work just fine." He paused to inspect the faded cover. "I'm sure this, uh, G. Ramero guy was a very respected author in his day."

A pause.

"No, Roger, I ordered it online. It was even cheaper that way. Don't you give me that tone - I had to pay some pretty important people to look the other way to set up this little experiment."

Scanning the textbook, Pranav made note of several characteristics of the samples. He scanned the next chapter, and spent a few minutes searching the cabinets for exotic chemicals required for the next part. Gathering them, he mixed precise amounts into a large beaker to prepare a special concoction.

I've never heard of this in my other classes before, he thought as he sniffed the slightly less pungent air. He stopped to read aloud, a nervous habit he had when he needed to concentrate.

"Create a small incision at the base of the neck, blah blah blah, inject the solution into the flap at the juncture of the cervical and thoracic it. Slice n' pour. Well, Roger, that means we're going to have to flip you over."

Roger remained mute.

Grunting, Pranav managed to turn the stiff remains over on the gurney. Holding the beaker of solution in his left hand, and the scalpel in his right, he braced himself against an odor that was worse now that Roger was face-down. Hoping to avoid inhaling much more, he quickly cut into Roger's neck about where he thought it should go, and poured the solution over the incision.

Roger's body did not react well to being moved in such a manner. As the solution coursed through his slowly decaying body, what was left of his internal organs succumbed to gravity and shifted. The massive mound of tissue sloughed downward in his chest cavity, and because of the undrained amount of body fluid still pooled inside his lungs, the result was a sickening loud splorch. This was followed by a dark red ooze that flowed from Roger's body orifices.

Pranav, however, was unaware of such biological nuances, and was caught off guard by the sudden and disgusting sights and sounds. Startled, he dropped the beaker on the floor as his right arm flew back in horror. The scalpel in his hand connected with the dangling live wires from the ceiling, his other hand resting on Roger's shoulder. Sounds of the shattering beaker went unheard as thousands of volts of electricity coursed through Pranav Lee's fragile body and found their way into Roger's bloated corpse.

Pranav collapsed onto the floor as the stench of burnt flesh hung in the air.

Current Word Count: 1,906


  1. I really liked "Roger did not object." Not sure why, but it made me laugh. Careful not to overuse the Roger-non-talk, though. :)

    "The scalpel in his hand connected with the dangling live wires from the ceiling, his left hand resting on Roger's shoulder." Took me a time or two of reading it through to get exactly what you meant. Maybe there's a way of rearranging or separating the parts of the sentence to make it more clear? :)

  2. Kyle here.

    I can't help but like Roger and hope that he's going to come to life.

    Pranav seems very, very crazy already.

    "He marched back to the shadowy recesses and was relieved to find the tarp covered gurney" -- tarp-covered. And how was the gurney moved by falling debris w/o being overturned or otherwise upset?

    "had reacted in some way.

    'Ooooh, what have we here?' Pranav said, excited that some test showed some signs of life." -- that's a lot of 'some's.

    "but found that rigor mortis left the neck quite stiff." -- I thought that rigor mortis set in soon after death and only lasted for a few hours at the longest.

    "He noted this his notebook before wiping his brow." -- don't forget the 'in'

    "Roger stared at the wall, unapologetic." -- love the Roger-non-talk. And yes, have a care not to overuse it.

    "required for the next part" -- I don't think this phrase is required.

    "the slightly-less pungent air" -- no hyphen needed.

    Good way to end a chapter!

  3. Jenny -

    Roger's "speech" cracks me up too. It is a blast to write.

    I tried to rework the second part to make it a bit more understandable.

    Kyle -

    Thanks for those minor oversights/corrections. I have a feeling we'll be seeing Roger s'more, and my intent was to make Pranav a complete nutjob.

    The gurney has abnormally well oiled wheels. It's a bit like a shopping cart that won't stay at your trunk when you're unloading your groceries - a single touch will send it slowly escaping.

    Um, regarding the rigor mortis...Roger is stubborn?

  4. Ryan, this is damn fine stuff. So far this reads like you've been doing this pro for years.

  5. Rigor mortis lasts 48-72 hours on average.

    Within an hour or two, liver mortis (lividity) sets in. There is discoloration of the body and it is complete in about 6-12 hours after the body dies. Rigor mortis then sets in.

    It peaks in 12-24 hours, and affects the facial muscles first. Rigor can be massaged out of a body and is a common practice by morticians (so I'm told). The rate of lividity and rigor are affected by ambient temperature, humidity, if the body is indoors, outdoors, encased in honey, etc.

    Honey was once used as an embalming method. So was ethanol.

  6. Okay, so it's plausible that Roger still had some lingering rigor mortis, especially if he was acquired by Pranav right before the story. Thanks for the medical explanation, Benji!

  7. Just from a NaNoWriMo point of view, don't worry so much about editing. This month is all about getting it out there in its raw, primal form... if you get too caught up in re-writing and editing, it might slow you down. Just putting it out there because it is one of the founding tenets of NaNoWriMo! Feel free to ignore.

    P.S. Fantastic stuff.

  8. I love it so far! I can't wait to read more. Silly Pranav.

  9. Well, as always, this seems like a good piece of writing.

    From an anatomical standpoint, I thought it was dead on, and it put a very "Frankenstein's monster" meets that "unclean room" in the Aero building visualization into my head.