Michaeldgriffiths's Blog
One's man Chaos is another person's Entertainment

The Next Missing Link

The rain stopped but the streets remained wet. Miles skirted large inky puddles while his long strides hurried him through the frigid night. He didn’t look forward to the upcoming meeting. Professor Blaine saw the end of his days looming before him and Miles feared his elder might wish to speak to him about finances or worse, funeral arrangements. Sighing, there were better ways to spend a Saturday night, but certain things in life take precedence over a good book next to a warmth hearth.

Miles had known Warding Blaine for almost thirty years. Although nearly an equal age separated them, they had grown closer through a shared tragedy when both of their wives had passed during the same month. Miles had taken it upon himself to care for his older collogue, but after long nights of sharing his sadness over his ale, while Blaine sipped his wine, he wondered who had really helped whom.

The professor rented a flat above the offices of a construction agency. Miles had always found it a strange choice, but New Englanders tend to hold onto their older buildings even when their uses change over time.

Heading around to the back stairs, Miles couldn’t avoid the last puddle spreading before the weathered wooden stair and soaked his right foot while trying to hop across. Cursing under his breath he made it to the door and endured another chill choked minute waiting after his knock.

After waiting another minute, worries rose within him.

Had his friend already passed?

Fearing what he might find and bracing for the worst, Miles used the key he’d been given and allowed himself entry.

Only a few soft lights gave the stained wood frames, which lined the hallways, enough illumination to make his way over the worn carpet into Warding’s living space. Deep brown bookcases replaced the black and white photographs. They lined the walls like an armor of knowledge, but still proved insufficient to keep their owner from wasting away into the frail man Miles found leaning over his cluttered desk. Despite the relief which flooded him upon seeing Warding alive, concern owned his thoughts, for the professor looked paler than the last time Miles visited. The hand jotting down quick notes shock where it gripped his black pen.

“Professor?”

Warding’s wrinkled face jerked up and his left hand spilled his blood red wine over a pile of notes. “Oh Miles, you startled me. Oh dear, the wine. My friend, be careful, my heart can’t handle such things these days, I’m afraid.”

Miles hurried to take over cleaning the mess. Finding discarded paper napkins, he supped up the spill. Some of the ink came away smearing Warding’s clustered script into a swirling pool of red bleeding in the piled pages.

Mile glanced at the notes. Reading Warding’s script had always proved difficult, but the words Miles saw caused a spike of concern to raise within him. Phrases like ‘achieve immortality’ and ‘insure the longest of legacies’ jumped out at him. Feeling unnerved, Miles returned the half sodden pages to the pile and faced the Professor.

Blaine had regained his composure and smiled. “Not quite the greeting I’d prepared, but please grant me another glass.” The spilled glass retained a single crimson drop which gathered near the stem when Warding handed him the glass. “You’ll find some of those India Pale Ales you like so much in the refrigerator. Please get one and make yourself as comfortable as this chilly night will allow.”

Miles did as asked and decided to let the matter of the unanswered door go. After handing his friend a new glass of wine, he sat in his oft used high backed chair and regarded Warding Blaine.

His back stooped over his desk like they were engaged in some sort of symbiotic relationship. The lines on his face appeared deeper and his hair somehow thinner although it had been less than two weeks since he’d last visited.

“Why so somber?” Warding began. “I may not have many more Saturday nights to share a drink with a friend.”

“Such talk does little to improve my mood.”

Warding let out a dry chuckle. It was an honest laugh and a bright smile spread over his face. “I think the time for false words and hope has passed. Surely you wouldn’t deny me and few hours of cheer.”

“Of course not,” Miles replied but couldn’t bring himself to return Warding’s smile. “However, I can’t help but fear you invited me here for more than a drinking partner, tonight.”

“Fear, can’t help but fear. Indeed, fear is an easy embrace for so many of us.” A silence grew, which Warding broke. “But yes, you are astute as always. I have brought you here for something of great importance, but it’s not what you may have imagined.”

“I hope you know I don’t expect anything or need anything from you. You have already done more for me than I could ever repay.”

“Funny how you said… repay. I might remind you of those words.”

“Warding…I…I’m-”

“Wait, did you think I brought you here to discuss my inheritance or such?” He chuckled again, louder this time. “I’m afraid I don’t have enough to bother with after purchasing the construction company and gathering other necessary supplies.”

“I’ve never been…wait, you did what?’

“Nothing to worry yourself over. I’ve been planning this for months.”

His words exited him slowly. “Planning for what?”

“I’ll be the most famous man of our era,” his laugh ended with a fit of dry coughing. “Even if it does take a million years or two.”

“I’m not following. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Ha, alright? I’m dying, I’ll be lucky to last to the end of the month.”

“Then can I ask you how you think you’ll become the most famous man of our age.”

“Age? Our era and beyond. I could represent the archetype for man from before we migrated from Africa to centuries upon centuries into the future.”

“Warding… please say something that makes sense or let’s talk about-”

“Let me ask you something first.” Without waiting for confirmation, Warding went ploughing ahead. “Who is the most famous person you know who lived over a million years ago?”

Miles paused for only a moment. “Well, ah, I suppose Leakey’s Lucy, even though some of the recent finds impress me more.”

“I agree. And who is the most famous man from ten thousand years ago?”

“I suppose it would be the hunter found in the Italian Alps.”

“Again, I agree. But think about it. Neither of these individuals planned to be so useful and famous. Would little grub eating Lucy dream, could she have even imagined such a thing? No of course not.”

“But what if you could create a process which would preserve your bones on purpose. Something which would make you a better specimen than anyone else?”

“Let’s say you could,” Miles started. “I still see two potential problems. The first, you are assuming there be no continuous history this far into the future.”

Warding broke in. “A million years, two, I see no chance of a continuous history for this far. More likely we’ll be extinct than be able to live without blasting us back to the deserts. Point Two.”

“Yes, I tend to agree with you there. Point two is, how could a person ensure this well-preserved body would be recovered at all? It’s a big world and two million years is a long time.”

“I believe I have a solution to this as well. One must assume they will have methods for exploring below the surface much as we can already do today.”

“Oh, like those teams in the Yucatan seeing past the jungles with some sort of x-rays and finding hundreds of undiscovered Mayan buildings.”

“Exactly. And what would peek anyone’s interest from scientist to treasure hunter?”

“You aren’t going to say something like gold.”

Warding chuckled, but it again ended with a cough. “Close, why not several mineral samples, nickel, platinum, crystals and such. I already have them prepared. Sorry if you were hoping for some estate, I’m afraid all I have left are my books.”

Miles pressed him. “Are you really intending to do something?”

“I have discovered a procedure. I will intentionally become a relic of the past, therefor ensuring my future and I want you to help me.”

###

“Tell me again how this is going to work?” Miles asked.

“As you well know,” Doctor Blake began, “it’s when a series of bones is infused with certain minerals, they are granted with a greater chance to be preserved. Still, this process is random as is the discovery. We however are not only going to remove those two types of chance occurrences, but we’re also going to infuse my bones with a potent chemical compound which will not just petrify my bones but create an affect which should prove several hundred times more likely to preserve my bones than any chance occurrence within nature.”

“So when you… expire, you want me to soak your body in this compound? I’m not sure what the legalities might be for me to do such a thing and-”

“Oh no my friend. I want you to help me with this before I pass away. I need to make sure it’s being done right.”

Miles drew away from the note filled table. His mouth hung half open and even though the professor failed to turn and face him, he noted a leaden silence filled the room.

“Wait, what? I refuse. I won’t be part of such a thing. It could even be considered murder.”

Turning Doctor Blake regarded him. “Don’t you think I’ve already thought of such things. I have documents and contingencies in place. Believe me, you will suffer no ill.”

“Frankly the legality is of second concern. I wish to have no part in limiting your days.”

“But, my friend, days are all I have left. Believe me, I would gladly trade ten pained filled days for the assurance of a meaningful contribution to science which will also bring about a certain level of immortality. I was even thinking of adding my name and perhaps a small decryption of-”

“I refuse to have any part in your suicide. There are enough issues in even letting the authorities allow this after your funeral.”

Warding looked up at him through his tired eyes. “Which is only another reason to do it now. I don’t think you realize I have this all ready and completed. I will do it by myself if I must. The only thing you’ll be doing if you leave this to me, is perhaps doom me to suffering if something were to go wrong.”

“I could tell the authorities you are planning suicide.”

Warding released a long-exhausted sigh and continued in a quiet voice. “And what would this do? I’d be placed in some wing with other miserable dying fools and live my final week with my old lumpy behind sticking out of a hospital gown.”

He paused, rubbed his hands, and then made eye contact again. “I’m doing this tonight, Miles. Will you help make sure this is done right or will you leave it to the fates whether an old man with hooks for hands can complete this on his own.”

Miles felt tears forming in the sides of his eyes and had to turn away, but he answered, “Yes.”

It wasn’t the first time Doctor Blake’s genius had impressed Miles, but the old professor had surpassed anything his younger friend had previously experienced.

The construction site and equipment had been altered and remade with Blake’s one goal in mind. He must have been working on this for years, Miles contemplated as he moved into the control room.

Everything is so complex, but yet so simple.

Doctor Blake spoke to him over the radio. “Remember Miles there are really only three steps. Once I’m settled, you flood the bunker with the liquid compound I have prepared to petrify myself. Once this is complete and it is safe for you to enter, you must transfer my body to the dome. Once inside use the backhoe to cover the dome and then your obligation is complete.”

“It’s the first task which concerns me.”

Warding tried to laugh but it sounded forced. “It concerns me as well. If I told you I was suffering no trepidations, I fear I might be the world’s biggest lair.”

A silence followed.

“I’m in position miles. Before we begin, I just wanted to say thank you. I know what I’m asking you to do is very hard, but it proves your strength of character and-”

Miles wiped his eyes. “It’s alright.  I want to help.”

“I want to say so much more.”

Miles attempted to talk through his tears. “I know, but let’s just make this work.”

“Yes, yes, I was always more of a say goodbye like a cat instead of a dog type of person. Farewell, Miles.”

“Good luck Warding.”

Then, with trembling fingers and tears streaming down his face, Miles pulled back on the lever. He tried not to listen to his friend’s screams when the chemicals went flooding into the bunker.

After turning off the machines, Miles rushed to the concrete bunker. The bunker was little more than an oversized bathtub of concrete lined with copper. He had already opened the drains and the swirling chemical compounds could be heard existing the structure.

But then he heard something else.

A moan.

“Warding!” Miles yelled and hurried toward his friend as quickly as the old stairs would allow.

When the moaning continued part of Miles wondered if he could be hallucinating or even somehow hearing a ghost although he’d never believed in such things. This didn’t keep him from rushing to the edge of the bunker.

The last six inches of the chemical compounds rushed down the open drains, but Miles failed to notice for his eyes were locked on Warding, who was not only alive, but sitting up in the base of the bunker.

A layer of grey grit coated his body. Perhaps half an inch thick, it covered both the professor’s skin and clothing like an opaque encasing of glass. Yet somehow the man, who should be dead, could move and Doctor Blaine proved this by turning his head toward him.

A hard strong laughter filed the air. “Hah, I feel wonderful, powerful even.” More laughter, but with a harder edge this time. “Hah hah hah. Look Miles, I sought a false immortality, but perhaps I’ve found a real one instead.”

Doctor Blaine stood and threads of the drying chemicals slid down him like muddy tears.

“Warding… are you really alright?”

“Alright?” More laughter. “I feel better than when I was eighteen. I…” noting his hands for the first time, Blaine stared at them before saying. “This is a strange and unanticipated effect. We should return to may laboratory. It is only over here.”

Miles wanted to offer the older man a handout of the bunker, but then drew back uncertain.

The effort proved unneeded for, with a shout, the professor crouched down and then jumped up to the lip of the four-foot-high ledge.

“See Miles, I doubt there was any time in my life I could have preformed such a feat. But come, we must discover the origins of this transformation.”

Blaine talked on about how young and strong he felt, and the pair moved toward the professor’s quarters.

Miles had trouble processing the words as his mind boiled over the impossibility of what had befallen his friend. Once inside the light more things became apparent. The grey hued glass which covered Warding’s body would be far too strange for him to ever pass as a normal person, however the man seemed six inches taller and if his manic babbling and rifling through his tomes were any indication, he experienced the renewed energy of a man one fourth his age.

While Blaine searched for a cause, Miles sat uncertain as the hours quickly passed. Somewhere after three AM his overloaded psyche sought the gentle release of sleep and he began to slumber in the overstuffed chair in the side of the library.

He couldn’t be sure how much time had passed, but darkness still ruled the night when a sudden movement jarred him awake.

His situation baffled him at first. Everything remained jumbled but then he realized he was upside-down and being carried upon Professor Blaine’s back.

“Sorry about this my boy, but we’ll all grow old sometime, and your days are numbered like everyone else’s.”

“Put me down! What are you saying?”

“Well eternity will be a bit lonely and even more so with me looking like I am. I’ll need assistance from you if I’m ever to have a chance to reenter society. One freak is an abomination. Two, well that can be an evolutionary leap,” he laughed.

“What do you intend to do?’ but even as he uttered those words, Miles knew the answer.

“Come now, Miles. We’ll see the future. Once we are accepted and famous, we’ll be able to find a pair of women willing to join us,” his laughter again filled the cold night. “We offer immortality. We’ll have hundreds lining up to be chosen.”

“This is insane. Even if I did choose to join you, which I have not, I’d want to do more testing, learn more.”

As the bunker drew near, Miles struggled against Blaine in earnest, but his friend’s new form proved far too strong to overcome.

“Miles, I need for you to calm down. A hundred years from now you won’t be able to thank me enough.”

“How can you know? You’re a scientist. We’ve done no testing or analysis.” He grabbed on to a railing as they passed, but Blaine broke his grip easily. “Why would you think you’re longer lived? You have no proof.”

“I can feel the proof. The strength.”

And for the first time Miles wondered over his friend’s sanity. Perhaps the chemicals not only affected his body but influenced his cognitive abilities as well.

His attention drew back to Warding kicking heavy something heavy into the bunker. This happened again and again until Miles saw they were unused bags of cement mixture. Blaine then jumped down into the pit with Miles still over his shoulder.

Once within the bunker, Blaine put Miles on the wet flooring and began to pile the heavy bags of cement over him.

“Fear not, for soon you’ll be strong enough to lift these bags off yourself like they were filled with tissue paper. Oh, the strength Miles, the power. I’m giving you the best gift humanity even received. Soon we will be the closest thing to a God this world has ever seen.”

But as the professor moved, he heard him grunt and one of his arms didn’t appear to have its full range of motion. Blaine noted it to and looked down upon his left arm. “Hmmm, curious. Perhaps the solution could use some fine tuning, but all the more reason to have you… invested, as they say.”

“Warding, you can’t do this. You could be killing me!”

“I hardly think so.” But his words carried less certainty as his right leg seized up and he had trouble climbing from the bunker. “Perhaps I’ll jump in a refresh myself. Ugggh, I’m sure any small setback will be quickly settled with both our minds working on the fix.”

Blaine became distracted and Miles used this time to attempt to struggle out from under the cement bags. He had managed to get his legs freed before Blaine noted his actions.

“Miles, please don’t anger me. I’ve made my decision.” Without further comment, Blaine stiffening body moved toward the control panel Miles had so recently used. Seconds later Miles heard the chemicals being released.

With a shout, he renewed his struggling and one of the bags toppled off the top of him. This gave him the opening to roll onto his side just as the first stream of chemicals splashed into the bunker. Drops stung when they met his face and exposed skin, but Miles ignored the pain as he rolled away from where the chemicals poured into the bunker.

Reaching the edge, he got his knees up onto a bag of cement as the chemicals filled the bunker to a depth of five inches. Gripping the side of the bunker, he prepared to pull himself out when Blaine’s hand grabbed the front of his shirt.

“I told you not to anger me. You will do as I say!”

“Already acting like a want-to-be god, I see. Blaine, don’t do this. Don’t remove my freedom of choice. I could never forgive you.”

He words gave his friend pause but when Miles struggled to free himself the anger returned to Blaine’s eyes. “No, you will do as I say.”

The chemicals had almost raised to where they would overflow the bag on which he perched, but this might not have mattered for Blaine pushed him backwards. He struggled but Blaine remained too strong. He wouldn’t last much longer, and the chemicals continued to rise.

Without thinking it through, Mile dipped his right hand into the chemicals. He screamed as they burned into his skin. With a yell he brought his petrified fist around and into Blaine’s jaw.

The blow surprised the professor and he stumbled off balance. His arms cartwheeled for a moment, but then his body plunged into the bunker.

Miles hurried out as more chemicals splashed over his face and shoulder.

Looked back he expected Blaine to rise perhaps stronger than before. Would he seek vengeance?

Instead, only the swirling chemicals were visible. He waited, but there remained no sign of Blaine.

Suddenly remembering the controls, he rushed to them, shut them off, and then opened the drains.

In a cruel parody of what Blaine’s original goal was, the professor now appeared to be a hardened statue. He gazed down at his friend but doubted he would ever move again.

He didn’t have the strength to check whether any light remained within his trapped eyes. Turning he clutched his damaged hand and made his way toward home. His flesh burned each place he’d been splashed, and his hand buzzed in agony, but he forced himself to continue until his reached the dubious safety of his rooms.

Even though any charges, which could have been filed against him were dropped, Miles knew his life would forever remain tainted. One of the reasons his story of finding Professor Blaine and trying to pull him out of the chemicals proved so convincing was the ruination of his right hand. It had become a withered claw which later he would be forced to amputate. Almost as bad were the grey burns on his face which left horrible, indented scars. He had several on his back and arms as well. The university allowed him to maintain his employment, but his colleagues looked upon his scarred, one-handed form with pity at best. Others acted like they blamed him for Blaine’s death or thought he had some part in it.

As for Blaine, he may have gotten part of his wish for his body had been petrified, but he was buried in a common grave at the edge of the town.

A year after Blaine’s demise found Mile lugging a heavy backpack into the night drenched cemetery. His eyes dashed at any sound as he passed through the dark crypts, for he doubted a man with a shovel would get a favorable reception being found within a graveyard at night.

Upon reaching his friend’s grave Miles set down his bundle and began to dig.

Sweat soon coated him as he struggled with his one hand to dig deeper into the hard earth. After an hour of difficult work, he felt satisfied with the depth and paused to catch his breathe.

“Well, you old… man, I guess in the end you set out to do what you had planned.” He looked down at his stump for a moment. “I doubt you would have gone through if you had known what the real cost would have been.”

He sighed. For a moment he had visions of a hand coming up from the grave to clutch him by the ankle but nothing of the like happened.

Grabbing his backpack by the bottom, he upended it into the hole he had dug. The gold, nickel, palatium, and other minerals poured into the hole he had just dug. With a grunt the moved to fill the hole back in. He rearranged the grass over it as best he could and placed a vase of flowers over the disturbed area to help conceal it.

“There, it might not be your dome, but it could still give those scientists of the future a better chance to locate your grave. But I’m done, Warding. I’ve destroyed your papers and I’ve turned my back on your research. If your plan works you really will be the only one, the true missing link.”

Having said his piece he turned and walked away from the grave and did his best to ignore the faint pleadings for help he knew couldn’t be real which came from deep below the ground.

Grab some of my Skin-Punk fiction here

.

No Responses to “The Next Missing Link”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: