Harry Dobson, PhD, ate lunch with fellow microbiologist, Jane Foster in the company cafeteria. They sat at a table in the back of the cafeteria and spoke quietly so that they could speak without being overheard. "Jane, what if I told you I have developed a chemical that I think could do what the microscope can't do?"
"I don't understand. What do you mean do what the microscope can't do?"
"Suppose what we need the microscope to see, was so big that we could hold it in our hand," he said and stared at Jane while she thought.
"My God, the possibilities would be endless. I can't imagine, I mean,…it boggles the mind. How did it happen?"
"A mistake. About a year ago, I was working on the formula for the mouth wash. I had to mix up a new batch of mouth-wash formula, so I did, but something went wrong. I had a Petri dish of several of the bacteria found in the mouth and I introduced a small amount of the mouth-wash formula and in seconds, the bacteria bubbled and overflowed onto the counter. I was amazed. Something in the formula made the bacteria grow. Well, I analyzed the formula that I mixed up, and compared it with the formula I had used a week earlier. I had altered the formula that made the bacteria grow. I had left out an ingredient that was in the original formula. Well, I experimented for a year and now I think I have the formula that causes bacteria to grow.
"It's hard to believe. Imagine being able to look at a dish of bacteria so big that you could pick them up. When are you going to experiment again?"
Tomorrow after work. I have four Petri dishes in the incubator. I introduced my formula into each dish in increments. After work, we'll see if my formula reacted in any way with the bacteria. Come to my lab tomorrow at six."
"I'll be there."
Harry and Jane met at Harry's lab at six. "Are you ready, Jane?"
"Let's go see if I've discovered something that will rock the scientific world," he said and they entered the lab and sat at the work counter.
"Read my notes while I get the Petri dishes," he said and went to the incubator and took the dishes to the counter while Jane read his notes.
"I'm excited, Harry. Your notes look like you're ready to publish."
"Almost, Jane, almost, but I do any publishing, I need to see more, so let's look," he said and took the cover off the Petri dish labeled 1. Wow. The bacteria grew. I put only one milliliter of my formula in the dish. Just one milliliter caused that much growth. Let's see what a greater amount of my formula did," he said and took the cover off the second Petri dish. Both jumped back when they saw the dish filled to the brim with treated bacteria. "I think we should put the third and fourth in the sink before we take the cover off."
"Good idea," he said, put the third dish in the sink, and took the cover off. As he moved the cover, it blew off the dish and the treated material oozed out of the dish and spread all over the sink. "Holy @#$$, he exclaimed. Look at it. My formula works, Jane. Now let's see what's in number four. I put almost a teaspoon of my formula in the fourth dish."
"Do you think we should flush the material that's in the sink down the drain, first?"
"Hmm. I thought about it, but on second thought I can't help but wonder how different-sized bacteria from the same family would react to each other. Do you want to take the cover off the last dish?"
"Uh, no thanks. I'm wearing a new dress. Before you open it, I think you'd better put on a lab apron, gloves, and protective glasses.
"Good idea," he said and they put on a lab apron, gloves, and glasses. Then, he put the fourth dish in the sink and slowly loosened the cover. The cover blew off, and the material in the dish oozed out of the dish and into the sink. Both watched as the bacteria from dish four, the largest bacteria, covered the material that was in dish three and devoured it. In seconds, only the material that was in dish four remained. "My God," Harry and Jane said. The strong devoured the weak." Both sat down and stared at the sink.
"Incredible," Jane said.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "After the strong devoured the weak, the strong remained inactive. It won. It conquered all there was to conquer."
"What's the next experiment going to be," Jane asked.
"I want to dissect a harmful bacteria. Let's put a little ground beef in a dish with an appropriate medium and see what happens. Harry prepared a Petri dish with ground beef, a medium, and four milliliters of his formula, and put the dish in the incubator. "Three days in the incubator should be enough."
Three days later, after work, they put on protective gear, and put a scalpel and pair of tweezers on the counter. "Now, the dish," he said, went to the incubator, and took the dish to the counter.
"I'm nervous, Harry. I get the feeling sometimes that we shouldn't be doing what we're doing."
"What are you worried about? My formula is a true scientific breakthrough, and it will be worth millions. Okay, let's do it," he said and slowly moved the cover. After a moment, the cover came off, and several bacteria jumped out of the dish and bounced up and down on the counter." Both looked around the lab for something to contain the bacteria. There, Jane, the tarp," he said, grabbed the tarp, and threw it over the bacteria. "Whew. How do like that? Jumping bacteria."
"Now, what, Harry?"
"I think we should kill them."
"Okay," he said and got a bottle of bleach and poured some on the bacteria. "They're dead. Imagine being able to see the bacteria. They started out microscopic and now they're the size of a prune. Let's dissect one," he said and took the scalpel and tweezers, grasped one with the tweezers and cut into it. "Oh, my God. Jane do you see what I see?"
"I see it but I don't believe it. This bacteria has teeth inside it. Harry, what bacteria did you grow?"
"I'm pretty sure it was E Coli. This is amazing. Teeth. Wow. Let's see what happens when I put some bacteria from my mouth in a dish with a small bit of ground beef.," he said, put two milliliters of his formula in the dish," swabbed his mouth, ran the swab across the medium and put a small piece of ground beef in the dish. "Let's leave the dish in the incubator for four days.
Four days later, put on protective gear, took the dish from the incubator, and put the dish in the sink. "Well, here we go, Jane. Again, nobody has ever seen what we've seen, and there's more to come," he said, loosened the cover, and slowly removed it. "Oh, my God, the E Coli are eating the other bacteria."
"Harry, I can hear chewing," she said and both watched as the E Coli ate all the other bacteria. Then, as though the E Coli did not have enough to eat, they jumped out of the dish and toward Harry and Jane, who jumped back and watched the E Coli fall to the floor and move in circles. "We have to make sure they're dead," he said, got the bottle of bleach and poured some on the bacteria. "That did it. I think we need a few more gallons of bleach. Bleach is our only weapon against runaway bacteria."
"Harry, we're playing with fire. We can't even imagine what your formula can produce."
"I know. Common sense says stop now and forget my formula, but I can't. I have to know. The scientific world has to know. Well, let's go home and forget about my formula for now," he said and they left.
When Harry got home, he made himself a frozen dinner and stared at it for an hour. "No. I can't stop now. I have to know," he said, left his house, and went to his lab. "Now what can I use?" he said as he looked around. There. The penny candy storage jar that Carol brought for the Christmas Party. I doubt anyone will miss the candy," he said as he emptied the jar. Now, I have a huge Petri dish for the huge bacteria that will need a huge home." Next, he swabbed his mouth and rubbed the swab back and forth over the medium he had put in the bottom of the jar. "Now, how much of my formula should I put in. The most I put in was almost a tea spoon full in the last Petri dish. It was a small dish, so, since I have the candy jar, which is huge, I could put in, oh, a half a cup. There's plenty of room," he said and put in a half a cup of his formula. Lastly, he put the cover on the jar and put the jar in the incubator. Four days should do it," he said and went home. On the fourth day, he left his house early. "I can't wait to see what grew in the jar. It will be amazing," he said and drove faster. When he got to the empty parking lot, he drove to a space that was close to the building entrance, got out of his car and walked quickly to the entrance. Because it was so early, he had to use his key to get in the building. After he closed the door, he walked briskly down the corridor to his lab. "At last," he said, put is key in the lock, and the click of the lock was the last sound he heard, as the door blew out and landed on top of him crushing him. With the door gone, huge blobs of colorless, lumpy ooze rolled out of the room and slithered down the hall.
Harry never lived to see how well his growth formula worked, and when the police were called to deal with an unexplainable phenomenon that was rolling through the science building immobilizing everyone in it's way, there was no one who could explain the phenomenon except Jane, who was at home sleeping.
Ten years prior to retiring from teaching at a community college, where I taught communication skills courses and English composition, I began writing. I wrote stories, teleplays, and stage plays, one of which won a reading at Smith College, and of my several sitcoms, two were chosen as finalists in national contests. Since retiring in 2000, I have been writing short stories, novellas, and novels. Some of my short stories have been published in on-line magazines and others in print anthologies.