Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CHRISTMAS FUNTIME 2011: Short Story "Deadline"

All right, I just finished up the pic for this week's Broadcast From The Bunker, and that will be up in time for the show on Thursday.

So, since Wednesday is usually Video Of The Week time, and I still want something for Christmas Funtime 2011, here's the short story I submitted to Harmonix along with my resume for Narrative Designer:


A rat lay open on the table, guts on display. It was clamped down on the tray, its tiny heart beating rapidly with fear. The professor removed it with utmost precision. Blood started oozing out.

“Now, the only organ this process does not work on is the brain,” he said. I scribbled down some notes in my pad. “However, even with that limitation, this can do some tremendous good.” I took a picture with my camera.

Before my very eyes, it seemed like the arteries grew, then formed together at the ends into a grape-sized lump. The lump began to beat again, as if nothing ever happened. “I don’t believe this!” I said. “This will make a great story! Thanks, Professor West!” I took another picture.

“Yes, this is quite remarkable. In fact, even more interesting is that a minute amount of blood can cause the gene to transfer.” He stitched up the rat and smiled proudly. The rat crawled again, as if nothing had happened. It stumbled a little, and moved much more slowly than before. “Well, the little bugger was cut open.”

“Any chances of this working on a human?”

“Testing may start sooner than you think…”


“Now.” I was all ready to run to the exit, when he opened another door, revealing a man living in a spartan dormitory. He was very thin, and had a lot of scruff on his face. He looked at peace, sitting on his bed, reading a book. “You see, Fred here was homeless man until he volunteered to help with my experiment. Figured he had nothing else to lose, yeah?”

“How long has he been here?”

“About a week,” Fred said. “Best week of my life so far!”

“Are you ready for the test now?” Professor West asked.

“Sure am.”

“Good, good.” I took another picture. “I’d appreciate it if you took no more pictures.” He withdrew a needle and a vial, and injected its contents into Fred. Fred winced a bit, but after, he rubbed his neck and laughed.

“I’m gonna be fine, right?”

"Hopefully. Don’t worry, though. We’ll start minor. You still have your appendix, right?”

“Yeah, one of the only things I’ve managed not to lose”

“What if it doesn’t work?” I asked.

Fred looked down and sighed. “It’s OK. At least I’m going out with a smile.” He plastered a big grin on his face.

“Failure is part of the scientific process” said West. He looked down at his watch. He started heading out the door. “Good. Good. We’ll I’m off to yet another lecture right now,” he sighed as he closed the door behind him. “If you really want to see something really amazing, come back tomorrow.” I heard Fred say goodbye just as the door slammed shut.

The next day, I returned to Professor West’s lab to find Fred on the table. His wrists and ankles were clamped down. Fred just sat there without a tear in his eye.

Professor West came in wearing a lab coat and very thick gloves. “Well, let’s get started then, shall we?” He put Fred under with anesthetic. Fred turned his head and looked me right in the eyes just as he slipped into unconsciousness. I didn’t say anything.

West made an incision and got to work. He opened it up a bit to show me. When he wasn’t looking, I snuck a picture with my cellphone.

“This is so awesome,” I whispered.

“Yeah, isn’t it?” He put the appendix on the table and just stood there, arms crossed. “Now for the really awesome part.”

Within minutes, the hole in the cecum, the pouch that connects the small and large intensi- ties, where the appendix is located, started to close up. The covering drooped lower to form a small pouch.

“And that, my boy, is his new appendix”


“What do you say we take this one step further?” West removed Fred’s liver. Normally the liver looks like a raw chicken breast, smooth and pink. However, Fred must have been one of “those” bums, since it was a brown, rough mess. West took it out, and again, a new liver reformed. The points at which the incisions were made turned from brown to pink, and tissue began to reform anew.

“And now Fred has a new liver!” He looked at me, but I stayed silent. West stitched Fred back up. “He’ll come to in a few minutes.”

I wanted to ask West some more questions, but with something this big, I was afraid of the answer. “So…why?”

“Why not? Disease and cancer would be a trillion times easier and safer to cure.”

"How do you see benefiting from this?”

“Hell, do you know how much they work me here? They’ve got me in all these classes doing lectures for students who could care less, doing research for the University’s sake, and all this other administrative bull I have to cut through, all for a meager salary. I’m going to sell it off to the highest bidder.”

“Highest bidder?”

“I’d rather be on a pharmaceutical corporation’s payroll than a University’s” he said, rolling his eyes.

“Wow. You guys put up with a lot, huh?”

“You know this project represents weeks and weeks of all-nighters? My hands are tied up in a hundred different other things during the day, so I work at night. But if Fred here wakes up, then I know all my work was worth it.”

Fred did. He was groggy, but other than that, he was all right. Professor West laughed and dashed over to the table. “Easy now, easy. Can you speak?”

Fred smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Did it work?”

“Like a charm, old boy, like a charm!” He looked right at me, tears swelling up in his eyes. “I bet this will make great story for your paper, eh?”

“Great, great!” Fred managed to smile. He had a good smile.

However, his eyes rolled back into his head, and his gums started bleeding.

“God, he’s going through convulsions! Go get help!”

I ran out as fast as I could, dialing 911 on my cell phone as I dashed through the halls. Luckily, campus paramedics were on the scene a couple minutes later.

“We got your call. Where’s the problem?” I lead them to Professor West’s lab. Unfortunately, neither of them were there.

“We need to find them!”

"I’ll search the east wing, you guys take west!”

We dashed off, my trepidation growing. I had no stake in the matter, but I figured I’d see this story through to the end. I saw a woman on the floor in pain.

“Oh my god! What happened?”

“Some guy attacked me!”


“I don’t remember too well. He had a beard, kinda thin and pale…”


I ran into the main hallway and tried to call the paramedics over. Unfortunately, she was gone by the time I turned around. The EMT guys gave me a condescending glare. “Listen, sir. Is there anyone here who needs medical attention? Otherwise, you’re wasting our time.”

“I swear to God, stuff is going down. Everything is just moving so fast I-”

“Call us when you have a real emergency”

They left, slamming the door behind them.

There’s something going on, and my deadline is tonight.

As I walked out of the building, I saw another woman, just like before, on the floor holding her shoulder. I rushed to get help, but she stood up, went into a nearby office, and got a first aid kit.

“I’m fine, I’m fine” She wrapped the bandages around her arm quickly, and never once stopped looking at the wound.

“Are you OK?”

“Oh, someone just gave me a little cut.” I was tempted to call the paramedics, but I didn’t want to head down that road again.

“Let me guess… beard, kinda thin, pale?”

“No, no, she-“


“Yes, it was one of the PhD students. You’ve seen her around, short, long dark hair, Asian…”

“Shit…” That was the girl Fred assaulted. “Are you sure you’re going to be OK?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine! I’ll just get some water.” She walked over to the fountain. As I watched her drink, I saw the water turn red. She felt her mouth, and ran to the bathroom.

-who can blame them?

They walk through asphalt cemete-

I took out my cell phone. It was West.


“Needless to say, I don’t want this published…”


“If word gets out about this, I’ll not only lose tenure, but they’ll probably give me the death sentence!”

“I don’t care. I have to publish it. Lives are in danger.”

“Can’t you just say it works? Omit the side effects?”

“You know what? You said it yourself: Failure is part of the scientific process.”

“Think of m-” CLICK.

The clock on my cell phone read 9:20 PM. Less than three hours to go.

The office to the school paper was on the top floor of the library. The elevator was taking for- ever. I dashed up the stairs, taking two at a time. This story just had to get out. I took another look at my cell phone: 9:30 PM. Two and a half hours to go. Without much time to spare, I burst into the room and threw off of any writer I saw dicking around on Facebook.

“Whoa, whoa, dude, what’s your hurry?”

“I have something that’s just insane. Don’t bother me right now.”

“What’s it on?”

“You know how I said I was going to do an article on Professor West?”


“It’s gotten a lot worse. Just let me type.”

“All right. Some of us are going out to the diner if you-”

“No time.”

He left.

10 PM. Two hours to go, and I still had trouble coming up with a headline. “Ah, let the editors worry about that one.” I said.

My fingers flew across the keyboard as I hammered out possibly the only thing that could save everyone. The fluorescent lights flickered above, as the little clacks of the keys rang out through the empty office. Suddenly, everything went gray. My eyelids shook uncontrollably as I fought to stay focus.

But it was no use.

The next thing I remember was looking at the clock, and being even more tense than I was an hour ago.

Just then, the editor walked in. “Listen, if you want, go home, get some rest, and you can send it in tomorrow morning. We don’t publish until- ”

“No time. It needs to be out as soon as possible.”

“What’s so important? Should I call the police or something?”

“Nobody would believe me.”

He folded his arms and smiled. “You have sources?”




“All right, try me.” He gave my article a quick glance. His smile fell. “All right. I see where you’re going with this. Whenever you’re done, you’re done. Just relax. The issues already gone to print, I’m sure it can wait till tomorrow.”

Easy for him to say.

When that issue came out, I took a good, hard look at everyone picking it up in the library. There I was, right on the inside cover. But they weren’t shocked or scared, they were laughing. Some gave it only a sly smirk, others gave big hearty laughs and showed to their friends with an “Oh, shit! Dude, have you seen this?”

Without thinking, I leaped up on to the near- est table. “ARE YOU PEOPLE DENSE? HAVE YOU ACTUALLY READ THIS? DON’T YOU REALIZE HOW SERIOUS THIS IS?”

“Are you the guy that wrote this?” asked the girl whose coffee I accidentally knocked over.


“Oh, it’s really good!”

“Did you even read the damn thing?”

“Yeah, man. It’s hilarious! This Photoshop work is sick!” said the guy sitting next to her.

“You, all of you, are goddamn illeterates.” I snatched the paper from the girl and opened the cover. There was my article, right on the second page. Not a word out of place, every picture helping tell the grim story I witnessed in that lab.

Then I looked at the date: April 1.

Once I opened my mouth, it went silent.

Anything I said fell on deaf ears, even mine.

I banged my head against the wall. The padded asylum walls felt comfortable, even after 20 minutes. Sometimes they let me out of the straight jacket, and I can still see the blood on my hands. Dinner was the same as last night: a vaguely meatish product, a piece of bread, and cold peas.

The doctors haven’t come around yet. I shuf- fled over to the cell door. It was silent, save for some faint groans. It happened to them, too.

All because my article on West’s Zombie Pandemic came out a day late.

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