After weeks of searching for the perfect test subject, I found myself in the most unlikely of places: a college bar. My subject was drunk, exuberant, and beautiful. I knew instantly he was the one I wanted for my research. There’s nothing like a perfect face, and seeing one damaged is one of the universe’s cruel jokes. My goal is to ensure that no attractive person has to live with scars or burns ever again.
It didn’t take long to get my beautiful gentleman out of the bar and into my lab. He was intoxicated, open to suggestion, and easy to pull away from his friends. A few rounds of cheap liquor sent their way, and they were none the wiser.
I had my assistant meet me at the lab and she barely complained about the late hour. She has a mouth on her sometimes but she’s excellent at organizing samples, and she’s only working for me for college credit, so what can you do?
“Maria, please, set Subject A up for the first round of treatments. Then, bring me my equipment.”
“Right boss,” Maria agreed, snapping her gum. I hate when she does that. It undermines the importance of everything I do.
I donned my pristine, white lab coat, affixed my goggles to my face, and entered the lab with what I felt to be an appropriate air of drama about me. I was going to make history here tonight. Maria had yet to put on her lab coat and had gotten distracted with her smart phone halfway through strapping down the subject.
“Maria!” I barked, instantly outraged that she was once again ruining the atmosphere I’d tried so hard to set up. “You’ve barely started! Where are my tools? My needles? My compounds! My lightning?”
Maria held up her finger for silence, snapped her gum, and went back to her phone to thumb in a few more clicking sentences, before looking up as if she’d just realized I was there.
“You ready boss?”
“I am not ready! There isn’t a drop of rain outside! I don’t see a single bubbling beaker. And why haven’t you brought me what I’ve asked for?”
“Hey,” Subject A slurred. “You said there’d be appletinis.”
“And you haven’t sedated the subject!” I was livid, trying my hardest to control my temper. Things went awry when my temper flared. Maria wouldn’t like me when I was in the midst of a tantrum.
“Cool your jets, boss, I got this.” Tucking her phone into the pocket of her jeans—jeans! In my lab!—Maria worked her magic, strapping the subject down to the table, before grabbing for the anesthesia, giving an enthusiastic thumbs up as she turned back toward the lab table.
Rather than waiting for her to finish and then go get my materials, I made my way into the supply room, grumbling loudly about Maria’s insubordination as I passed by. She said nothing.
Four injections later, I stared down at my beautiful subject. He was bloody, marred hideously where I’d applied my tools. Maria stood by, taking notes diligently as I worked.
“Now we wait,” I said, setting my scalpel down carefully to steeple my fingers beneath my nostrils. Maria kept scribbling for a moment before turning back to the subject, her gaze lazy as if the entire process bored her. She snapped her gum again. “Would you stop that?”
She just shrugged, turning to spit the gum with expert aim into the biohazard waste bin. I glowered her way for a moment but quickly turned my attention back to Subject A. He would be beautiful once again, oh yes.
“Get ready,” I murmured, sure that my calculations had been correct. “Any moment.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
I got into mad science for love of the craft. Of course, some get into it for the wrong reasons: world domination, money, love of another human being that they refuse to let die and wish to bring back in a different body or perhaps as an amalgamation of many different bodies. Not I. I came into this with goals and dreams of helping people.
Beautiful people, but perhaps one day ugly people could benefit from my work as well. If they ask nicely enough or could pay me enough money. I need to fund my research.
There was a twitch beneath Subject A’s right cheek, just below where I’d cut him. I gasped, glee filling me like liquid into a test tube. Maria poised pen over notepad, her expression changing slightly as if she might actually be invested for once. Mucus pooled, just as my calculations had predicted, seeping from the subject’s pores to overtake the wound. Covered in yellowish ooze, the skin began to knit itself together at an impressive pace, exactly as I had intended.
I let out a small squeal of excitement, clearing my throat instantly in an attempt to tamp it out. Maria glanced my way and made notes, probably about my unprofessional reaction.
I would edit that part out later.
“Uh, boss.” I glanced at Maria, irritated that her tone was anything less than ecstatic. “Might want to come see this one.”
I hustled around the table, bumping Maria out of the way to lean in and adjust the magnification on my goggles to inspect the bruised laceration at Subject A’s left hip. The mucus was reproducing at an alarming rate, rebuilding the skin much faster then necessary.
“Rats,” I mumbled.
“I thought you wanted to get straight to human testing. I can hit the pet store in the morning, though,” Maria commented from my left. I waved her off, leaning back slightly when the mucus spurted up to splatter my goggles.
“I’m going to need to recalculate. Roll the subject into the recovery room,” I ordered, trying to see toward the sink through the thick droplets clouding my vision.
“He’s healed at least,” Maria said, poking a gloved hand into the knot of fresh flesh my compound had produced where there had previously been only the split skin and bloody bruises left after I’d hit my subject with a baseball bat for science.
Weeks later, I had positioned my lab table outside the recovery room, peering in through the glass at Subject A as he attempted to fight against the chain keeping him from wandering too far from his bed, as well as against his own newly gained weight. It was hard to see through the layers of greenish, yellowish mucus that had formed along his skin, but he’d gained an outer shell of excess flesh. Maria had reported that the skin was tough, nearly impossible to penetrate, even with the sharpest of blades. I had done my job too well.
But Subject A was still beautiful, in his own thick, knobby, malformed way.
“Calm down,” I cooed comfortingly through the narrow opening into which we slid his round of supplements twice daily. “You’re still handsome, still a catch!” I pressed my hand against the glass, smiling. I was losing my professional edge. I should have moved on to gather other subjects, but A held all my interest.
“I’m done for the day, boss,” Maria said from the doorway to the lab. “You need anything else?”
“No, thank you,” I sighed, feeling for once like maybe I’d lost my path.
“See you tomorrow, boss,” she said, giving a cheeky salute with her index finger and heading out. I turned to find the subject had mashed one meaty mitt against the glass, mucus splattering to cover nearly the entire surface.
“No,” I whispered knowing exactly what A wanted. “I can’t let you out yet. One day we’ll be together but rest assured I do… I do care for you.”
The subject attempted, as he had done so many times over the last few weeks, to speak. It came out garbled, a slimy declaration of what I was sure could only be love.
“Yes, I admit I love you. Just… for now, I must love you from the other side of this door. You’re a lot slimier than I predicted and I need to run some more tests.”
Mind buzzing with possibilities, I moved back to my desk intent on poring over my journals until the solution jumped out at me like so much healing mucus.