The Thing In The Lab

About four miles outside of Toronto’s northern border stood the enormous, sprawling, Mackenzie Complex. Owned and financed by the Government, it housed numerous laboratories, offices, apartments, and a very elaborate computer room. The main lab was a huge room, the most modern on the continent. It was the pride of the staff, and was filled with the latest equipment. Of the several hundred employees there, only twelve were scientists. The project was top secret and headed by Dr. Joseph Langstrom from Sweden.

It was July 15th, 1985, and the weather was hot and sticky. At six o’clock in the evening work was finished for the day. All was quiet in the business sections of the compled. Security guards maintained their posts outside the brick and glass walls. The night watchman came on duty, exchanging a few words with some of the guards on his way in.

Inside the main lab it was also very quiet. Still, something was happening; something which the world would soon know about.

A week ago he was only a small, insignificant, green creature, with bulging, beady eyes and no intelligence to speak of. He had survived because the law of survival was all he knew. People didn’t really like him but he bore no love for them either and shied away from them. He didn’t like the feeling of their hands all over him when they studied him. Why should they be so interested in his anatomy? The interest was by no means mutual. He simply ignored them most of the time and wished they’d show him the same courtesy. He wanted only to be left alone, to live out his life peacefully, the way his ancestors had for centuries.

For seven whole days now, those obnoxious, persistent humans had pestered him to no end. They showed him no mercy. They didn’t seem to care if he had feelings or not. They jabbed him with long, sharp needles, injecting foreign substances into his blood stream. They stuck him with other, larger needles, which drew blood from him until he was totally exhausted. They fed him strange, horrible tasting things to eat which nearly made him sick. Still, he must eat to survive and survival was most important. All he could get was what they placed in his little cage. Of course, it would be much simpler to just give up and die, but he didn’t function that way. And he had changed.

This ugly, once placid, little creature now had a strong willpower to live and be free. It was natural. He should not be confined to this little cage. He also had a strong dislike for his tormentors and a desire to avenge himself. True, he wasn’t thought to have any intelligence. Somehow, in the course of the last week, his slight body had hardened. He built up immunity to all their poisons. His taste buds had dulled. His blood absorbed the injections and rebuilt much faster. His sight and hearing had increased enormously. His system digested the strange foods quite easily. He no longer had trouble sleeping because of the pain caused by the disturbing needles. These days, he seemed to need less and less sleep. When the need did arise, he could will himself to sleep automatically.

Apart from all this hardening and conditioning, something else had taken place. The once insignificant, unintelligent, little creature had somehow developed a quick kind. More than that, he had evolved an active intelligent brain, from something which had previously lain dormant within him. He could now understand everything that went on around him. He knew that he was in a lab. He knew the humans who molested him were scientists. He knew he was being used for something important. Still, he did not like it. Humans were strange creatures. One thing he failed to comprehend was the way they so often quarreled among themselves. If one disagreed with another over even the most trivial matter, it became a heated argument within seconds. He longed to be back in his own quiet world where life was so simple.

In one of the apartments of the Complex, life went on normally. There was no suspicion of the impending disaster. Paul Dymond, one of the younger members of the scientific team, was entertaining the head man.

‘Do you think the board will grant an extension on our project, Dr.?’

‘I have high hopes, Paul, especially after they view the latest briefs.’ Joe Langstrom wrinkled his brow thoughtfully. He was in his mid-forties and it wasn’t likely he’d get another project like this one. Top secret jobs were far and few between. ‘Too bad we have to find another specimen to continue, though,’ he remarked.

The husky, blond, young American nodded. ‘Our little friend didn’t seem to have much life in him today. I suppose it was for the best to give him that last shot.’

‘Yes. The drug young Barnes gave him should give him a peaceful end. He’ll die quietly tonight and we’ll dispose of him tomorrow.’

‘Maybe Dr. Bennett would like to have the corpse for his work.’

‘Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll speak to him about it before I leave for Ottawa in the morning.’

Paul raised his glass. ‘Good luck with the top brass, sir.’

The lab was still quiet and serene. Still, things were happening. The little creature had been getting steadily stronger. His body had adjusted to the abnormalities. He was quite strong now, but he had taken care not to show it.

That fatal injection was prepared by a young, and quite incompetent, assistant. Barnes carefully (or perhaps carelessly) measured and mixed the wrong ingredients. Then he administered the drug to the helpless little thing in the cage. They had locked up for the night, leaving him to die alone. That injection, however, had not worked as planned. His tough, leathery, green bosom swelled with pride and self-confidence. Ahhhhh … sweet revenge. It would be his turn tonight – finally.

A quiet man, who bothered no one, the night watchman opened the door and looked around. The Bunsen burners were all turned off. Containers of various coloured liquids and powders were all capped and stored in their proper places. He switched off the lights again and went on his way. He saw nothing unusual. He saw only what he was paid to look at. Nothing else registered on his under-worked brain. He shuffled along the corridor, to his neat, little cubby-hole and put the coffeepot on to heat.

All was quiet in the lab. The slippery green creature was still growing and waiting. He needed more space now. Sitting in his cage, he hunched his back against the roof and gave a little push. A harder push and the metal snapped. The top flew off like the cork out of a champagne bottle. He stretched upward into the open. It felt good to see no bars around him. Now, he would stay and wait until he stopped growing. He was three feet long now. Compared to his former size, he was a giant. Still he waited … patiently … and silently.

A short distance away, a group of girls had gathered in the recreation room to discuss an upcoming beauty pageant. In the same room, a chess game and a bridge game were also in progress. Others were reading or watching television. Work was finished for the day and it was time to relax. Their latest experiments had gone well and they deserved a break. Soon they would be able to begin the last phase of their work. It was slow going but it would be worth it all in the end. There was no hint of danger in the air.

The lab was still quiet. The ugly green creature is no longer small. He has grown to a total length of twelve feet now. His huge, bulging eyes rotate like periscopes on the top of his head. He flexes his limbs and stretches as much as possible. He feels confined in the lab now. It is time to move.

He hunches his back. His powerful legs push his body up towards the roof. The tiled ceiling splinters into bits. Fragments of the steel beams puncture his skin like so many splinters. But he doesn’t feel them. Or, if he does, he doesn’t seem to care. Slowly, he pushes his massive frame through the entire roof. He has become a fearful green giant, with a job to do. He must do it quickly. His time is short and he must get his revenge against those humans.

The watchman stopped his cup halfway to his lips. What on earth… ? he’d never heard such a sound before. It was like something crashing, something huge. He shook his head in disbelief. It couldn’t be coming from inside the building. It wasn’t possible.

An agonizing scream brought him to his feet. As he did so, the whole building began to shake. It trembled violently. It sounded as if the roof was being torn off. But what could damage a roof constructed of solid steel beams and framework? A cyclone? An earthquake? The horrible thought crossed his mind that maybe an aircraft had crashed into the building. He eased open the door of his tiny office and peered out. Shock spread through him, numbing his body to the pain which followed. Then he fell limply to the floor. Sad. He wouldn’t need his small pension next month, after all.

Two miles away, Ben Small was replacing the cover on his typewriter.

‘Ben? Have you finished?’

‘Yeah, honey, be with you in a minute.’ He went to the bedroom door, turning out the light as he went. Lillian lay there, her long black hair fanned out on the pillow. Ben still found it hard to believe that a girl like her could prefer him, an ordinary reporter; to all the successful, rich guys she had known. He walked over to the bed, bent down, and kissed her.

Lillian looked at him questioningly. ‘Aren’t you coming to bed?’

‘Uh-huh. Just wanted to make sure you’re for real.’ He smiled and undressed. He reached for the lamp switch but didn’t make it. A deafening roar split the silence of the night, followed by a thunderous crash. The earth shook. Still naked, Ben ran to the window.

‘My God!’ His voice was a mere whisper of unbelief.

‘Ben, what is it? Is it an earthquake?’

Ben scrambled into his clothes as his wife flung her legs over the side of the bed. ‘Don’t look out there, honey.’ He placed shaking hands on her shoulders. His face was pale and strained. ‘Get dressed quickly. Go to your father. Tell him there’s an emergency at the Complex. He’ll know what to do. But hurry.’

Lillian hastily pulled on her slacks and a sweater. Shoving his bare feet into his shoes, Ben escorted her to the door. He kissed her and made her promise not to look back. He waited until the car was out of sight. Then he grabbed his tape recorder and ran. He would get as close to the Complex as possible without putting himself in danger. Whatever that was out there was worse than a nightmare – and he wasn’t dreaming. He was wide awake and it was real.

The Mackenzie Complex was a raging inferno. Fire blazed and glass cracked and shattered. In the bright light of the flames, a monstrous shape stood out dark and terrifying. Screams pierced the night air – probably from inside the buildings. But there was no way anyone could get close enough to help. All those inside were trapped – doomed to death.

The automatic fire alarms had brought whatever firefighting equipment was in the city but it was useless. Flames lashed out at the night, leaping and dancing in the sky.

Like something out of a horror movie, the great creature stood guard over it all. It towered above the high buildings, huge and menacing. It smashed brick walls like sand castles. It snapped steel beams like pretzel sticks. The helpless onlookers could only stand by and stare in shock.

Quite a crowd had gathered by this time. For such a gathering, it was unbelievably quiet. The only sounds were the crackling of the flames and shattering of glass. Every now and then the creature would let out a loud roar. The people shuddered and fearfully wondered what could come next. The police were afraid a state of panic would break out if things went any further. They had to find some way of stopping that thing out there – but how?

As dawn broke, the huge Mackenzie Complex was just a flattened, blackened ruin. And the huge creature had disappeared, as mysteriously as it had appeared. Would they ever know what had happened? Where had the thing come from and where had it gone?

A short distance away, an ugly, slippery, little green frog hopped off toward a nearby pond. Ahhh … sweet revenge! Now he could go back to his own little world and die in peace. The thing in the lab was finished.

© Fay Herridge

© Fayz World & Sugarwolf Designs