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The Scientist

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I slouch in my chair, staring at the man seated in front of me as he eases back to consciousness. He groans softly, probably absorbing the full effect of a massive headache caused by my reliable Taser an hour ago. I say reliable because it made my task a thousand times easier. I had lured the man—who was jogging at the time—to the back of my minivan, asking for assistance in carrying a heavy box. Gosh, men are just so simple. They’ll help any woman with a pretty face. After I stunned him with the Taser, he collapsed in the back of my minivan before he had a chance to lift the box and realize it was empty. I have to admit, I laughed when he flopped onto the floor like a puppet. Wouldn’t you after using a Taser on someone? It was satisfying, and he seemed like such a nice guy too, but then again, that’s the mask they all wear.

When the man wakes up fully, he surveys my makeshift lab littered with various chemicals swirling in aged equipment on the black tables. It’s a sorry excuse for a laboratory compared to the expensive white rooms I worked in as a scientist for the WHO, but it’s the best I could muster. I don’t need the WHO.

Muffled screams erupt beneath the duct tape planted on his mouth. Like my Taser, the duct tape is very reliable. I bound his hands and feet to the chair with layers of tape to reduce any chances of him wriggling his way out. He is essentially glued which I imagine only sprung more panic inside him. He is squirming and fidgeting with the tape in his chair unsuccessfully. I love it, watching him try desperately to break free. Powerless. Men need to know what that feels like.

I walk over to the man who is still screaming and shaking in his chair like a wild animal caught in a trap. “Morning sleepy-head,” I say before I slap him hard across his right cheek. My red handprint swells on his skin. “Now, are you going to behave, or do you need another?” He shakes his head, so I grin, realizing how easy today’s experiment is going to be thanks to this man who is kind enough to follow directions. I rip the duct tape off of his mouth to show how much I appreciate his kindness. Trust me, I am not that cruel. Only if I have to be.

“Who are you?” he says. I’m not surprised considering I did kidnap him. I’m sure he just wants to know who exactly is going to kill him instead of some stranger, so I gladly tell him. “I am Quinn Barringer,” I say, “but you can call me Dr. Barringer, or just Doctor, considering I am one.” I sigh. “Well I used to be, at least.” The fear never leaves his eyes as I watch him which makes me feel kind of sad, honestly. I’m not a scary person really, so I’m not sure why he seems so afraid. In fact, I’m actually quite nice once you get to know me, but most men don’t care enough to do so.

“Why am I here?” he replies. “Tell me!”

I slap his face again impulsively. Questions irritate me. “You know, I’ve been very nice to you, but now you’re yelling at me, and I don’t appreciate it,” I say. He says I’m crazy and calls me a nasty name which earns him another slap that stings my hand from the impact. “I think you’ve talked enough today.” I retrieve the silver roll of duct tape, tear a piece, a paste it over his mouth. The silence is soothing once again.

“To answer your question, I need you for an experiment,” I say. I smile and clap my hands together. “Well let’s get started!” I walk towards my small chemistry station, slip on latex gloves, and pick up a vial sealed with a cap before returning to the man. “Do you know what this is?” I say, dangling the vial full of a clear liquid in his line of vision. He shakes his head. I smile and say “it’s anthrax.”

His face goes cold after he learns the contents of my vial. Anthrax is one of those words that leaves people running scared like the word plague, yet they know nothing about this very common pathogen. It’s a typical disease found in livestock (and sometimes humans) that causes various blisters with black centers. You may feel a shortness of breath or intense chest pain, but it’s so rare that the fear of contracting anthrax is unbearably ridiculous. What people fear is not the anthrax itself, but bioterrorism, which I understand. Lord knows I tried to warn them, but the WHO was not aboard my plan to increase the crisis preparations incase some nut-job decides to release a batch anthrax or other dangerous pathogen into the world. I tried, honestly.

“You know, you shouldn’t be so afraid,” I say. “In this vile, it’s completely harmless. Now, if the cap were to accidentally open,”—I pretend to slowly twist the cap—“then we’d have a problem.” I laugh when the man begins to absolutely panic in his chair as if I had already released the anthrax spores. “You need to relax.” I land a heavy slap on his cheek to bring him back to reality. It’s pathetic. Tears are already swimming down his face. He’s losing it and knows I possess all the power over him. It’s just so thrilling. I’m in control.

I decide to give him an opportunity to say anything on his mind before I killed him, so I rip the tape off again.

“Please, you don’t have to do this,” he says.

I shake my head. “That’s what you tell me?” I say. “You’re already dead, so I’m not sure why you’re even bothering.” His sobbing grows worse and uncontrollable. Frankly, I am beginning to feel irritated. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man cry so much which is wonderful, of course, but I wish he would just accept the inevitable and swallow his tears. “Well, since crying seems to be the only thing you are capable of doing, I think it’s time to move on.”

I roll my eyes and walk towards the closet to grab my personal hazmat suit. It was protocol (and common sense) to wear these white, baggy suits while performing tests on various pathogens and diseases in the WHO, so I stole one before I was fired from the WHO. I go through the tedious process of putting on the suit while checking for holes to prevent exposure. After I complete a status check on my suit, I grab my vial and return to the man taped to the chair. “Are you ready?” I ask, my voice muffled by the suit. He continues to go on and on about how I don’t have to do this, or how I can just let him go and he won’t say anything, but he just doesn’t get it.  I need him. He’s a part of a plan that is so much bigger than he can ever imagine, one that will shape the world. Changes need to be made. I am going to give the WHO a reason.

Those wicked men fired me for speaking my mind. Men of treacherous values who only care about their position. Their power. I did the dirty work. I experimented on those pathogens and knew exactly how dangerous they were. Why wouldn’t they listen? At any second, the world could fall into misery with the release of a dangerous pathogen. But they laughed, those despicable men. They’re gonna regret it.

I promise.

“Normally,” I begin, “anthrax takes times to show its symptoms. Sometimes a few days or more. But I’ve carefully produced a strain that has been genetically tweaked to attack the human body at an incredible rate, at least, that’s the theory. And you have been chosen as my first live subject.”

He screams, loud enough to pierce my eardrums through the suit, but I’m not paying attention. The anticipation is boiling in my chest. I can almost sniff the success of my experiment lurking around the corner. I retrieve a syringe nearby, and poke the needle into the vial, sucking out a small dose. “I’ve mixed my anthrax strain with water for easy transference,” I say. “Of course, it can just as easily be inhaled, but I couldn't take the chance of inhaling it myself.”

“No, no, no!” he yells, straining every muscle to break free from restraint. It’s too late for him.

I raise my syringe into the air and beam with delight. “Finally!” I inject the needle into his shoulder and push the plunger to release the anthrax into his body. Then I wait impatiently.

Time passes leisurely, the seconds tick like a metronome in my head. The anthrax required four hours until the symptoms appeared spontaneously, a considerable difference compared to anthrax found in nature. I watch as the blisters consume his skin at an accelerated rate. He shifts uncomfortably as black spots continue to paint his skin like polka dots. It’s almost endless. He wheezes and coughs to catch his breath, but his airway is clearly constrained judging his expression of desperation. It’s incredible. As I watch the anthrax perform, I can only wonder about the potential possibilities. This is going to change everything, I say to myself. More shrieks reverberate in the room. He aches and cries to no avail, tears streaming along his cheeks. I am speechless when blood trickles out of his nose and ears, an unanticipated symptom. Remarkable. He chokes on his final breaths, clinging to life until his time on earth ceases. He slumps in his chair, blood still oozing from his nose. Dead. I grin and say, “Trial number one: success.”

What a rush. My experiments never exceeded beyond testing on small animals in the WHO. Studying the effects on a human was out of the question, but after observing the effects on a human subject, I realized how ridiculous of a policy it was. Testing humans would yield significant results. The WHO could prevent future outbreaks if they knew exactly what they were dealing with. Of course, pleading such a case would’ve had me fired in a heartbeat. But something tells me they wouldn’t have listened anyway. Lord knows I tried talking to them reasonably already, and look what happened.



Now, it’s the next day, and I am sitting in the minivan, parked in front of the local park. It’s a beautiful day, sunshine pouring from the nine o’clock sky. I feel accomplished, excited to move on. Suddenly, this feels exactly like what I was born to do, to bring about change, improve the world for the greater good.

I step out of the van with a gas mask I purchased in hand (just in case), and a container of vials. I walk towards an enormous tree tucked away in the corner of the park and rest my container on the grass. I observe the families passing through on this marvelous day, laughter echoing against the wind. I smile and absorb the wonderful scenery in front of me as I put on my gas mask. It’s perfect. Brilliant. I open the container and grasp the vial without water containing my anthrax spores. A few individuals notice me, but don’t care enough to let it interrupt their day. And why should it? What a great day to be alive. Every single one of these people, destined to help me bring about change, something the WHO refused to do. I hold up the vial in the air and whisper, “cheers to all of you,” before I twist off the cap, releasing the spores into the wind.

 

 

Bio: I'm a college student with one year left in my bachelor's degree in History with a teacher certification in History. I've moved around all my life as a military kid. I have many hobbies: soccer player/coach, musician, artist. I've recently discovered my passion to read and write not because I'm great at it, but I enjoy it quite a lot.


 

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