"Hey Zee, you thirsty?" Professor Hyne calls from the adjacent room.
"Yeah, just water is good, thanks," I answer. I lift the unlucky test subject by its pink tail and drop it into a bio hazard container. I pick up my pen and scribble a few quick notes on my clipboard. "Memory-inhibitor serum, trial #549, failed. Cause: lethal within one month."
I'm Zee, which is short for Zelophehad, which an obscure Old Testament name that my very religious parents found unique. I'm a chemist, and I work at Transgenics Labs in Seattle, specializing in experimental chemicals that alter the mental and behavioral habits of the human brain. And I don't mean anti-depressants, this stuff is a much higher level. It's being developed for both severely traumatized psychiatric patients and as a military application. Today, we're testing out a chemical concoction that wipes out the previous twenty-four hours of memory. It works too, the only side-effect is the fact that all the animals we've tested it on die within thirty days. Just a minor kink.
"Here you are," says Hyne, returning to the room. I take the glass from him and down the water. "I think that's enough for tonight. We'll leave a few more mice to fight another day. Get home and get some rest. I'll see you Monday, Zee."
"Thanks Professor." I remove my lab coat and gloves and walk out into the rain. It's about 8 p.m. and thunder is providing a beat for the lightning's choreographed light show. I half walk and half wade across the parking lot to my car and get in.
I wipe the water from my face and start the car. I turn on the wipers and the defroster. Reaching up, I adjust the mirror and yell in shock.
There's a man looking back at me from the back seat. I sit frozen with fright. How did he get in? How did I not notice him? Who was he?
"What do you want?" I ask as calmly as I can. He doesn't answer. He doesn't move. He doesn't even blink.
I finally work up the courage and turn around to face him.
The backseat is empty. I glance around frantically, looking for some sign of the man I was sure had been there. There was nothing. The seat was completely dry, too. I turn and look back at the mirror and it too is empty, showing only what should be there.
Taking a deep breath and blaming my hallucinations on exhaustion, I put the car in reverse and pull out of the parking lot onto the road. I drive back home without further incident and pull into my garage. I walk into my house and set my keys and jacket on the kitchen counter. Going to the living room, I pull a blanket from out of the storage closet, pull off all of my clothes save my boxers, and lay down on the couch. I switch on the television to the most mundane news station I can find and fall asleep.
I wake up to sunlight barely peaking through the window. I squeeze my eyes shut, not ready to wake. As I lay there, dreading daylight, I realize that I can't hear the television. No one else lives in my house so there is no way it could have been turned off or muted. I open one sleep-hazed eye to see why it was silent.
The television was destroyed, the screen shattered with wires sticking out through the gaping hole. I sit up quickly, eyes wide open. I look around the living room to see it completely thrashed. There are chunks of drywall gone from both the walls and ceiling, the coffee table is split in two, and various debris covers the floor, including multiple bottles of hard liquor.
I stand up in shock and stare at my broken television. In the broken glass, I see him again.
The man from the back seat.
I spin around, facing behind the couch where he should be. He's not there. But something much worse is.
A woman, naked and bleeding is hanging limp by her hands from the ceiling, ankles and wrists bound. Her body swings gently like a macabre pendulum dangling from the ceiling.
To be continued...