by Trevor K. McNeil
The tick from my watch seemed somehow louder in the silence. The clock/radio on the desk suddenly sprang to life in the odd event I should have fallen asleep in my office, which had been intentionally designed to be as unpleasant and not conducive to sleep as possible.
I pounded down on the snooze button with all the wrath of Thor silencing the drated yet indispensably useful thing and set about putting my thoughts together in some sort of intelligible order, rubbing my temples to facilitate the process.
Not helping matters terribly was the knock that came at the green, steel slate of an office door, each knock booming like a muffled gong through the similarly green steel room.
Hoisting myself from the armless wooden chair, like a statue of a fallen dictator being removed from the town square, I made my way toward the door.
With a sound like a scream from the bowels of Hell the door opened, revealing my research assistant Alanna Crump – ‘thing one’ – in something of a state.
“It’s time!” She blurted suddenly, apropos of nothing apparent.
“Sorry?” I said, not having the strength for a more rigorous inquiry.
“It’s time!” Alanna repeated.
“Yes, we covered that.”
“Ah, right.” I said, tension crawling up by back like an ice spider.
“Get the car?” Alanna asked.
“Yes, quickly.” I said.
“Okay!” She replied, literally running off to fulfill the stated task.
I went back into the office to retrieve my coat – the tweed suit jacket, not the lab one – Alanna’s footsteps down the hall still audible.
To call the office block of Greene Industries ‘antiseptic’, would be as to calling Antarctica ‘a bit big and rather cold’. This extended from the building itself to the office supplies, the furniture, even the employees, all of whom resembled recently dressed and posted clothing store mannequins.
“Hello?” I said to the paragon of human perfection seated behind the reception desk.
“Doctor Albin Bok, appointment for one – fifteen, take a seat please.” The assistant said without looking up form her typing. Once the shock wore off, I did as ordered and eased myself into one of the diabolically comfortable leather chairs.
“You can go in now.” The shiny thing behind the desk said, the machine gun-like typing came to a jarring and abrupt halt.
The shining perfection motif continued in Greene’s executive office, extending to Erin Ellen Greene herself.
“Take a seat.” Greene said, sharing the seeming telepathy of her assistant and making me want to investigate the company’s allegedly
enforced vegan diet.
I did as I was told, too scared to do much else.
“Now.” Greene began, with the aplomb of a royal commencing court.
“Then?” I blurted, my nerves getting the better of me.
“What?” She inquired, raising an eyebrow.
“What is your progress on The Project?” She asked, somehow managing to imply capitals by her tone.
“We are progressing rapidly through the four food groups.”
“I see.” Greene said, lacing her fingers together, the fires of Hades burning in her eyes.
“Yes, we started with the fact that ethanol is processed from corn and expanded from there, looking for another, similarly combustible food
“We are making great progress with cucumbers.”
“Cucumbers?” Greene asked, suspiciously.
“Doesn’t sound any stranger than corn.”
“No, no, I suppose it doesn’t.” Greene said, her expression relaxing to one vaguely human.
“Shall I continue with the research?” I asked, putting her on the defensive.
“Yes, of course. You have one week. Then I am pulling the funding and suing you for fraud.”
The deadline was set. As I drove back to the lab, it was not with dread but a renewed sense of purpose. One that fled, at least partly, when I actually arrived back at the lab to find Alanna and my other assistant Alan – ‘thing two’ – playing a version of horseshoes involving a beaker and a dozen oddly large donuts.
“Hey!” I said in a loud way, causing them to react like deer in the headlights of a Hummer.
“Get back to work!” I ordered.
“Yes sir!” They replied in shouted unison, like the proper little peons they were cloned to be. Slightly less sterling but fortuitous just the same was when Alan, in his scramble to do as told, hurled the box of donuts in the general direction of away, causing a collision with an active bunsen burner.
According to the subsequent news reports, people three houses away heard the explosion.
It was an exaggeration of course, but they are going to do what they do. After a day or so in the hospital, it was straight back to work on our most excellent alternative fuel innovation, now popularly known as “Sugar Rush.”
A story-teller from a young age, Trevor K. McNeil makes little distinction between genres. An original child of the Yukon, he moved south to the sunny West Coast, earning Bachelor’s degrees in Social Science and Art History from the University of Victoria. He enjoys small-stage theatre and existential comedy. He runs on caffeine and fear.
Share and Enjoy