An Unexpected Complication
Alex de Beer
“Prime minister, an unexpected complication has occurred whilst we have been conducting our research.” Professor Davis shuffled his feet nervously as he stood before the stern figure of Prime Minister Rogers. He squinted as a harsh light shone onto his face.
“Please explain, Davis,” the prime minister enquired calmly.
“Well, I have been attempting to create a new life form, through reacting lesser-known chemical compounds. Yesterday, I left a mixture of these compounds in a petri dish in order to observe any changes to their chemical makeup over time. When I checked the mixture this morning, it had changed considerably, into what appears to be a moderately-sized, living creature.”
“Please go on.”
“I have not been able to identify the creature as any living being our Earth contains. However, I do not currently know anything about its genetic makeup. It is possible that after I have conducted some tests, I will be able to classify it more accurately.”
The prime minister leaned forward, deep in thought. “Interesting. I would like to see this creature.”
The sound of professor Davis’s footsteps echoed on the polished concrete floor of his government -owned laboratory. Prime Minister Rogers followed several steps behind, glancing with interest at the rows upon rows of carefully labelled, fizzing and bubbling test tubes that lined the walls. Professor Davis stopped abruptly at a sparkling, stainless-steel bench-top. On it sat a mysterious cage covered with a blanket, which he cautiously lifted away, revealing the result of his prior experimentation. The prime minister, in a rare drop of his composure, let out a short gasp.
The creature glowed slightly, with an unearthly, emerald hue. Its cuboid figure appeared to pulsate to a strange rhythm, emitting a rasping sound every time it exhaled. This was the only sign that it was living; it had no sensing organs nor any features that indicated it was capable of thought.
“Quite extraordinary,” spoke the prime minister. “I have never seen anything quite like this before.”
“Yes. I do not know what it is made up of, or whether it is alive at all,” replied the professor. “Do you have any suggestions as to what course of action we should take when examining it?”
“I think that it is integral we enlist the help of a biological specialist before any further action is taken. I will communicate with Williamsville University and determine whether they have any professors able to carry out this task,” the prime minister spoke slowly, deep in thought. “From what I have seen, I believe that this matter is of the utmost importance.” Professor Davis nodded calmly. “In the meantime, I would appreciate it if this creature could be securely contained within your laboratory. We are unsure of its capabilities, and for all we know, it could be very dangerous if it is released from captivity.”
“Certainly, Prime Minister Rogers. I will ensure that this creature’s current containment is seen to.” Professor Davis smiled, motioning at the cage beside him. The prime minister nodded, and proceeded to leave the room silently. After several seconds had passed, the professor sighed. He lifted his creation’s temporary home and placed it on a sturdy, high shelf.
The creature awoke with a hiss, a venomous viper preparing to strike. It had no knowledge of where it was, or how it had travelled there. All it knew was its purpose. Firstly, it had to escape confinement and venture into the open. A single antenna extended rapidly from the top of its body, and swivelled around slowly, sending thousands of ultrasonic signals in order to gauge distances within its surroundings. Once familiarised with the area, the creature had to determine the best way to escape from its steel prison. What it proceeded to do was extraordinary. It jerked about with swift movements, until it ripped apart, into hundreds of tiny pieces, at though it was a lump of jelly. These pieces slipped through the cage’s thick bars and tumbled several metres onto the floor with a loud ‘slop.’ They then appeared to be pulled, as if by gravity, back into their original, singular form, and slid silently along the floor, leaving no trace of their existence.
Professor Davis walked leisurely into his laboratory, ready to begin assessing his new creation. He glanced around at several of his colourful experiments, until finally, his eyes came to rest on the shelf at the far end of the room. A terrible feeling arose from the pit of his stomach; it felt as though he was the home to one of the most sickly, explosive chemical reactions he had ever witnessed. It was gone. What would this mean for his town of Williamsville, and the entirety of humanity, for that matter? One thing was certain; Prime Minister Rogers would be far from impressed. The professor walked towards the cage and shook the steel bars in disbelief. He then hurried urgently out of his laboratory. Speaking to the Prime Minister was not going to be an easy task.
“It vanished?” Prime Minister Rogers repeated, astounded. “But how?” A confused frown made its way onto his face.
“I am unsure, Prime Minister,” spoke Professor Davis solemnly.
“It is of vital importance that we recover this horrible experiment. It is clearly extremely intelligent.”
“But how will we find it? It could be virtually anywhere by now!”
“I think that the only possibility is to put the entirety of Williamsville into lockdown until the creature is found.”
“Yes. It must be done.”
The following day, Prime Minister Rogers made a live television address to the citizens of Williamsville, informing them of his decision. He made it clear that it was unlikely the creature was vicious and dangerous, but that it was still paramount for people to be careful over the coming days, until a government search identified where the creature was. Immediately, Williamsville was abuzz with rumours and gossip. What was this creature like? Where was it hiding? Was the government scared of it? Over the course of the day, the rumours grew and grew as signs were erected at each road entrance and exit to the city; “No person is allowed into, or out of, Williamsville, until further notice is given.”
A sliver of silver moon loomed menacingly over the dozing township. The creature slunk through a darkened alleyway in the dead of night, growing closer to its goal with every passing second. It glided smoothy over the cobblestone paths of the city. Suddenly, it noticed a streetlight illuminating the way ahead with a lemony haze. Instinctively, it ducked out of sight, continuing on its way, undeterred. Finally, it found a suitable target – a large, modern apartment complex. It bounced up the stairs to the elaborate front door with ease. Suddenly, it split apart again, as though it were a Lego creation being dismantled by a small child. Each piece, as if by magic, slid beneath the gap between the door and the ground. After all the pieces had slid into the apartment complex, they once again compacted together into their singular form.
The creature was ready to infect its first victim.
Professor Davis nervously approached the desk of Prime Minister Rogers. “Have your search forces had any success in finding my experiment?”
“I am afraid not,” said the prime minister grimly. “We have scoured the streets of Williamsville for the past twelve hours, and have not found anything that could be even remotely linked with your creature.”
Professor Davis fidgeted nervously. “I am terribly sorry, prime minister. I sincerely hope that no harm comes to the citizens of our town.”
“I certainly hope the same thing too.”
With the same, calculating movements it had always had, the creature crept away from the township of Williamsville, and from the government prison that had been its home. It was satisfied that it had fulfilled its purpose. What its future held, it did not know. There was nothing left to achieve but ensure that the humans did not counter the threat it had posed. All it could do was wait indefinitely.
“Gentlemen, we have a problem.” Prime Minister Rogers addressed a table of the most influential people of Williamsville. “A virus is reported to have infected several of our citizens. We have put them under quarantine, while they are being tested at the nearby medical clinic. So far, their symptoms appear startlingly different to those of common diseases.”
“What are these symptoms, exactly?” One audience member raised their hand.
“Patients have been turning a strange shade of emerald green, and appear unable to speak. Anyway, as I was saying…” Suddenly, a suppressed gasp was heard amongst the members of the audience. The professor stood shakily, his face an ashen grey, before running quickly out of the room.
Note: If I were to continue this story, I would reveal that aliens had sent the creature to Earth, and made it appear to be the result of the doctor’s experiment. This would be so the aliens could remove the human species and colonise Earth.
Note 2: As part of this assessment, I also commented my thoughts on Jamie Hrstich’s short story. However, my comment is still awaiting moderation, so it cannot be seen.