The Missing Link
As promised to some of my blogging friends on my post on Friday, which you can find HERE, here is my 1500 word short fiction, based on four cards drawn from my Storymatic set:
The cards were …
- Subject of a medical experiment
- Person who never gives up
- Guessing game gone wrong
From these, I came up with ‘The Missing Link’ …
The Missing Link
Barry was an ordinary guy with an ordinary life. And, as with many students, he seemed permanently strapped for cash. The only thing that made him stand out from the crowd was his tenacity. Once he committed to a thing, he went at it like a dog to a bone, or the stink around a noxious fart. His interest lingered long after most people’s initial motivation had waned.
When John first suggested them signing up as guinea pigs to earn a bit extra dosh, Barry had felt reluctant. However, like a tic, the idea had wormed its way under his skin and infected him. And now, two days later, he had quite warmed to the prospect.
And so it was that they found themselves at the Shaw Medical Research Centre on a dreary, misty Saturday in June. Despite the insipient damp, the warm air felt heavy and cloying. The freshness of the centre’s air conditioning brought frank relief within seconds of passing through its doors.
Belying the building’s chill and stark clinical milieu, the staff couldn’t have been warmer or more accommodating. Until things began to go awry, that is. Panicked, his friend John demanded that they let him leave. At this point, it became all too apparent that the idea of being a volunteer now proved quite the misnomer. Unwitting test subject offered a much greater degree of accuracy.
Amidst the contagious fear and protestations, Barry—in character—knuckled down, determined to see the thing through to its final conclusion. He had, after all, made a commitment in return for promised remuneration.
The doctor who’d administered the drugs had split them into two groups—one to receive a placebo and the other to get a dose of the real thing. The purpose was to commence human trials on a new wonder pill that, purportedly, vanished fat. In defiance of the vast array of frauds on the market, this tablet really made your excess weight disappear.
What the doctor hadn’t mentioned was that the dosage for human consumption came down to little more than a guessing game—educated guessing, but still—based on how the test rats had reacted and the difference in body mass between Roland Rodent and the erstwhile volunteer.
Initially, nobody noticed when number 23 disappeared from his bunk in the far corner. Only when they failed to link his cries of alarm and dismay to a visible person did they follow their ears instead.
Barry had laughed along with the rest, thinking it a neat trick and fantasizing about all the ways a guy might use this freak side effect to his benefit. Then John had tried to touch the guy. At that point they came to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. He had not only disappeared from the visual realm, but also from the physical dimension. Within a minute, even his voice had faded to nothing. What did that mean? Was he alive or dead?
Then number 16 from the bunk next to Barry and John held up arms no longer there, his eyes wide and appalled. Then the staff had rushed in and removed the unfortunate fellow.
The low hum of confusion soon grew to a din of alarm and outrage. Then John tried the door. Locked. And no emergency exit presented itself to the frantic searches of the occupants.
Eventually, Dr Pearson returned, looking simultaneously drawn and energised. In light of the current catastrophe, he had coerced the overseer to open the sealed documents, which identified which group had received the actual drug. Then he told all the placebo recipients that they could go home. John, part of group A, jumped to his feet and rushed for the door with nary a glance for poor old Barry, who sat with the remains of doomed group B.
Though nervous and apprehensive, Barry didn’t spare any energy for regret or thoughts of trying to escape. His natural curiosity and perseverance dictated that he needed to see how things worked out. He did, however, give a little of his focus to his chagrin at how easily and readily his friend had abandoned him and left him to his fate.
After a while, he too faded to invisibility but didn’t cease to exist. His consciousness persisted, along with his sharp wits and keen observational sense. When the doctor came in to check on him, the medic didn’t realise the last of his subjects remained. Barry used that to his advantage and snuck out of the test room at the doc’s heels.
Unwittingly, Pearson led him to a conference room, currently a debriefing area. The facility employees—those in the know—appeared shocked and upset. All but the doctor and a man in military uniform, who displayed only excitement for the potential of such a drug if they could tweak it to stop the recipients from expiring at the critical point of invisibility.
Enthralled, Barry sat and listened to the arguments and theories thrown back and forth. And then one of the female assistants screamed and pointed. Right at him. Or, rather, at his now visible midsection. Dr Pearson leapt to his feet and fled from the room.
A few minutes passed with people talking at once and an awed babble while more bits of Barry reappeared. Then the doc returned and bade everyone follow him. He took them to a long tiled corridor with doors leading off on either side, every six feet or so. A glimpse through the glass panel of one such portal revealed number 16 sitting on his bed, now hearty and whole.
As the group walked past a branch corridor with just a single door at its far end, Barry heard cries for help and demands to be let out. Chief amongst those voices, he recognised John’s deep baritone—now raised in indignation and anger. So much for ‘free to go’.
Barry, of course, quickly agreed to receive another—higher—dose when asked. How could he refuse such an opportunity? Somewhat redundantly, the doctor offered him big money. And even though he would have done it for free, he managed to haggle an extra twenty thousand. All in all, he felt quite pleased with himself.
During his second stint of playing the invisible man, he discovered the ability to move through walls and any manner of solid objects. His wanderings took him to a lab, deep underground. Animated voices drew him closer.
A man in white scrubs pointed to an emaciated and sad-looking rat. ‘There’s the missing link! It’s not about mass at all.’
Movement at the back of the room caught his attention—Dr Pearson and the military guy. The doc rubbed his chin, ‘Explain, please.’
The scientist said, ‘We assumed that the dosage needed to increase to achieve the same result on a larger body.’
Pearson nodded. ‘Go on.’
The scientist chewed his bottom lip. ‘It’s not about mass but about potency.’ Then he launched into a lot of medical speak that went over Barry’s head. The upshot was that they found another group B subject and got him to agree to a much smaller dose of IB10—a minute amount, in fact.
After three hours, his clothes hung limp from his once chubby frame, and he had to cinch his belt down to the furthest hole to keep his pants from slipping over his hips. His before and after body weight showed an impossible loss of 45 pounds.
Meanwhile, Barry’s extra dosage kept him out of sight for a full forty-eight hours. His biggest problem came when he grew hungry. Not until he rematerialized could he ingest or even pick up food, or drink liquid for that matter.
Over the ensuing week, army and government types replaced the civilian medical and support staff. They hypnotised all but Barry and number 16—who had agreed to work with them further after signing non-disclosures—and ‘suggested’ that the volunteers had experienced acute hallucinations in reaction to the drugs they’d received. They also convinced the placebo group that they had, mistakenly, received the test drug also.
With everyone compliant, they allowed them to leave the facility at long last. Number 16—a lad called Jack—didn’t stay much longer. They soon had all they needed from him regarding the weight-loss nature of the trial. Again, they hypnotised him to ensure his silence. Barry proved far more useful to them, especially when he divulged the bit about moving through solid objects.
Having seen the fate of his fellow test subjects when they’d outgrown their usefulness, Barry planned ahead and took full advantage of his invisible freedoms, gleaning as much information and data as he could. And then he disappeared.
©Harmony Kent 2018
I hope you enjoyed this bit of fun fiction. Thanks for stopping by!