Zeus-69; Ex Vivo

The van delivered the shipment to the lab as scheduled. Lev checked his watch. 20:00.

The usual, Lev,” hollered Steve as he drove off. Lev carried the boxes inside. Carefully, so as to not disturb the contents. Lev’s laboratory offered state-of-the-art embryo storage and testing facilities.

He checked the list, ticked the items one by one. The IVF Clinic at Jersey City was a long-standing customer.

He took one last look at the boxes, making sure the seals were in place. Kim would take over at 04:00 sharp. He texted Kim, locked the lab securely and headed home.

Early Wednesday morning. Kim had set the alarm to 02:30. She quickly showered, changed and drove to the lab. She arrived at sharp 03:30 and unlocked the doors.

She took a look at the labelled blue boxes. Neatly arranged, in the order of time stamps.

She plugged in her iPod and got to work, setting up the equipment.

She looked at her watch. 04:00.

She opened the first box. Gently uncapped the vial, pouring all contents into the petri dish. She added the cryoprotectant, loaded the embryos into mini-straws, sealed and plunged them into liquid nitrogen. The freezing was complete. She did the same with all vials from each box.  Ready for storage.

It was nearing 06:00. She had about an hour before she could leave the lab. The log book had to be updated once she had run a second check.

She decided to take a breather. She made some strong black coffee and sat on a chair. The lab had an eerie green glow. She looked outside. Still dark. The storm was ruthless. The wind howled. Trees cast strange shadows on the porch. She rubbed her eyes tiredly. The lack of sleep was taking its toll.

That’s when she first saw it. The straw moved. Impossible!

It climbed out. Tiny legs and a head. With eyes that blinked.

She got up to take a closer look, certain she was hallucinating. She saw the other straws. They were all moving.

She screamed.

The coroner was called the next morning. He examined the mutilated body. There were thousands of puncture wounds all over her skin.

He found hundreds of embryos embedded on the endometrium of her uterus. And on other vital organs of her body. Her carotid arteries were choked with embryos. There were embryos even in her lungs.

It’s weird. Almost like an invasion,” he thought.

The liquid nitrogen was undisturbed. They examined the mini-straws. They were empty, seals intact.

They brought Lev in for questioning.

Lev confirmed he had checked the boxes the day before. His alibi was solid. He had visited an ailing uncle with his Mom.

They brought in Steve, the van driver. His story was accounted for. He had been to the movies with his girlfriend.

They called the IVF clinic, asked for donor lists for the batch. “Sorry, Zeus-69 is jinxed. The storm messed our electrical wiring.  There was a fire. All forms destroyed even before we could input them on our systems,” they said.

Finally, the IVF clinic managed to locate a sperm-donor for Zeus-69. It said, ‘Joseph Cavanagh, #204, 22 River Drive South.’

The cop who visited the address was in for a shock. Joseph Cavanagh lived alone. He had been dead for at least three weeks. That’s what the coroner said, based on his findings. Strangely, the body wasn’t decomposed. It looked, well, “icy cold and freshly dead,” he said.

Both bodies lay on metal tables. Joseph blinked. Kim blinked back.

They think I am dead, I felt unusually sleepy one afternoon. I woke up the next morning, but they don’t see that,” his helpless thoughts transmitted clearly to Kim.

Embryos can’t walk or blink. I know this is a nightmare. This will soon be over,“ Kim’s thoughts transmitted to Joseph.

Kim lay in the morgue. Lev and Mom came to visit. Mom burst into tears, “Oh Kim, my angel,” she wept.

Mom, don’t cry. I am fine. See? I’m not dead, take me home with you, please,” her thoughts spoke.

The funeral was held the next morning. All of Kim’s cousins and friends were present.

Guys, stop it! The prank’s gone too far. I don’t like it anymore. Let’s go home. I need that drink,” Kim blinked furiously.

No one saw. Nor heard anything. The coffin was lowered into the ground.

Lev later thought it had been a strange night.  He hadn’t mentioned the weird scratching he’d heard while checking the inventory.

Participating Entry – YeahWrite #211 Fiction|Poetry Challenge

Prompt:
Genre: Science Fiction
Answer this question in <= 1000 words
“Why Are You Still Awake?”

Hope; 0.5 mL

FFfAW Week of 4-22-2015 sponsored by Priceless Joy at Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Photo Courtesy: Vanessa Rodriguez

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0400 Hrs, Platform #1, Millbrae Station

She clutched the vial in her right hand. And waited at her usual place on the bench.

The solitary pigeon on the platform hopped close to her. And flapped its wings thrice. She administered the dose efficiently.  Within seconds he was Mark. They hugged. He asked about their dog Minka.

The drug wasn’t commercially available yet. Soon it will be.

Loved ones who left you because of an untimely death could come back temporarily.  At the same location and time where the death took place. In a form most convenient to them.

The effect of a single dose lasted exactly 15 minutes. You simply had to be regimented into a routine.

For now, her entire life hinged on that magnetic clock on the refrigerator door.

——

Word Count 125

She Went Off The Grid

Word Prompt: Hunt (verb) Search determinedly for someone or something.

(Definition 2) Visual Prompt: Photo Courtesy: Suzanne Purkis of Apoplectic Apostrophes

niagara-falls

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Sarah was relieved. Finally, a Saturday evening all to herself. She lit candles, took the book and glass of wine with her.

Time for a long soak in the tub. Bliss.

She opened her eyes.

“What?!” A brightly colored kingfisher flew over her head. The sky was clear blue with puffy cottony clouds. And that deafening roar of the waterfalls. She could feel the cool spray on her face. “Did I drink too much wine?!”

A dress was laid out for her.  Sequinned, dark blue. Matching shoes, accessories. “Lady, your car’s arrived. Shall we proceed to the Ball?” The short woman with a bun and moon-glasses spoke respectfully. She shrugged and followed her. “I’m dreaming. Will go along.” The stretch-limo was parked close to the huge banyan tree.

They arrived at the palatial mansion.  She spotted movie stars, politicians, sportsmen, royalty. The band played her favorite 90’s music.  A handsome prince invited her to dance, before kissing her deeply. “Hmm. Now this is what I’d call the perfect dream!” she thought.

“Guests, Welcome to my home. I call it Elysium_STAT,” boomed the loud voice.

“I’d like you all to meet Sarah, our guest of honor for the evening. Always the good girl. Straight A’s, stable relationships, balanced.” The crowd remained silent. “Don’t you want to know what happens next?” continued the voice. “Then came Rodrick. And the missed promotion at work.”

A handsome gentleman in a tuxedo emerged from the shadows.

Sarah gasped. Rodrick stood next to him. His face pallid, bruised, bloated. Foam oozing from his mouth.

“Oh Rodrick!” Sarah whispered.

Two years ago, he was her peer at work. Who had the gumption to get promoted before her. Rodrick, the nerd with aquaphobia. She remembered their “dinner date” at his apartment. She had drowned him in his own bath-tub. The cops had ruled it an accident. The case was closed. She was, clearly, the universal choice to take over his position at the company.

“I now declare The Hunt as officially closed. Please put your hands together for Sarah. For tonight’s her glory night.”

Within moments, the mansion turned into a monstrous rock structure. The gentleman in a tuxedo had a mangled, bloody face. The guests were hideous creatures.

Sarah was lifted into the air, the crowd ranting and jeering. The cliff at the waterfall was steep. Her screams faded as she plummeted into dark oblivion. And landed on a humongous spider web. Alive. The spiders crawled slowly. Covering her like a deathly blanket.

Sarah didn’t turn up at work for four consecutive days. “Highly uncharacteristic, someone go hunt for her. She’s invaluable to the project,” her boss said.

They filed a Missing Persons report. The cops broke into her empty apartment. Everything was in its place. The tub filled with water. Her bathrobe was on the floor, a book next to it. On the first page was a scribble “Happy Reading! Best, Rodrick.”

The lady cop who was examining the bathroom floor saw the spider scurrying into a corner. “Yikes!!”

“Hey, didn’t they say Sarah had arachnophobia?” asked her partner.

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Participating Entry for the Mutant 750 #30 Kickoff – Flash Fiction Writing Challenge

“How Fast Were You Going?”

“Hush, Farida, your Father will hear us!”

“Really, Akhilendra? And what will you do? Scuttle away on that silly horse of yours?” she asked him coquettishly, as they watched the marriage ceremonies being performed.

He gave her an exasperated look. Farida was the youngest daughter of the Wazir.

And Akhilendra was Amir-Al-Umara, one of the highest ranking Rajput Mansabdars in Emperor Akbar’s court.

They had bumped into each other, literally, one sunny morning at the chahar-suq. Akhilendra’s horse had suddenly bolted in the crowded marketplace, almost mowing down Farida’s entourage. She had fallen out of the palanquin, “in an undignified heap in order to amuse the citizens of Fatehabad,” as she put it so delicately.

Akhilendra had apologized profusely to the maiden, who hadn’t uttered a word throughout the spectacle. He thought he’d caught a smirk behind the purdah she wore. He was annoyed that Fate couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune moment for him to meet a maiden.

That afternoon, Farida was sketching a portrait in her garden when she overheard voices. “Have you heard? Emperor Akbar has chosen young Akhilendra and the Honorable Wazir to team up on the revenue optimization policy. The fireworks are worth waiting for.” Both men chuckled as they walked past.

Her interest was piqued. She knew the man they met yesterday at the chahar-suq was Akhilendra. She had watched him, as unobtrusively as possible. Tall, broad-shouldered, self-assured. His eyes were his best feature. Deep brown.

The next morning, she sat behind her Father, at her usual place. Akhilendra was seated at the far end of the table. Both men put forth their views, using logic and brevity in their statements. Though Akhilendra was young, he was extremely bright. She could see a grudging admiration in her Father’s eyes as they debated on various subjects.

As was customary, the Wazir hosted a daawat that night in honour of Akhilendra’s visit. There was general bonhomie between both groups, they were a team.

It was well past midnight, a clear moonlit sky. Farida was unable to sleep. Quietly, she headed towards the stables and untied her horse. “Here, here,” she said softly as she saddled her. Within minutes, she was cantering into the forest.

She dismounted at the lake and dipped her hands in the cool clear waters. When she saw the shadow. She deftly took out her sword, in one smooth movement, turned around, ready to strike.

“Hey? I mean no harm!” Said the tall, handsome, brown-eyed Akhilendra.

Farida stood still as a statue.

He gently held her wrist and took the sword. “Who are you?” he whispered softly to this vision of a woman.

“I am Farida,” she said haughtily, “daughter of the Honorable Wazir.”

“And, the girl from the chahar-suq,” she added, a mischievous smile lighting up her face.

Akhilendra said sheepishly, “My apologies, Lady. For some reason, we always seem to meet under the oddest of circumstances. I hope you weren’t hurt yesterday.”

They talked for a while. Akhilendra was surprised Farida knew so much about her Father’s work in the kingdom. They rode back to her home, just as the sun rose.

Her maid rushed up to her, “Lady, your Father wishes to see you before he leaves.”

“Sit beside me, my child,” said the old Wazir, as she entered his chambers.

Among all his daughters, Farida was his favorite. Intelligent, quick-witted, beautiful. She reminded him so much of his late beloved Begum. He sighed as he realized there was no man he knew who could be worthy of her. Maybe, except for one.

After the policy presentation at the Emperor’s court, the Wazir spoke to Akhilendra, “I would like to invite you to my home again tonight.” Akhilendra accepted the invitation with no hesitation.

After dinner, the Wazir said to Akhilendra. “Son, walk with me please.”

“Akhilendra, you owe me an explanation. My men have brought an incident to my attention. That you tried to attack my daughter’s entourage at the chahar-suq during your previous visit. Do you have anything to say in the matter?”

Akhilendra was taken back. “No, Sir! It wasn’t an attack, it was an accident. In fact, yesterday, Farida and I, I mean ….my horse bolted,” he looked a little helpless.

“Hmm. So your horse bolted. How fast were you going?” asked the Wazir.

Akhilendra replied quietly. “Just fast enough Sir. To know that Farida is my soulmate. With your permission, I would like to marry your daughter.”

The old Wazir laughed happily. “Correct answer.”

©DarshanaKalyanpur 2015

Participating Entry – YeahWrite #210 Fiction|Poetry Challenge

Prompt:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Answer this question in <= 1000 words
“How Fast Were You Going?”

Flash Fiction: Incidental Oxymorons

Sandra and Ashley entered the dimly lit lounge at about half past ten.

Sandra saw him first. He was tall with rakish good looks. “He’s cute!” she thought. She winked at Ashley, made her way to the bar and stood next to him. He smiled at her, “Hi, I’m Jake. And you must be Sandra.”

She was taken aback. “How do you know my name?”

“Dance with me,” he said as he led her to the dance floor. Sandra looked around and saw Ashley talking to the guy with the mop of curly hair.

The music beats quickened. Sandra was forced to concentrate so she could keep up with his pace. Jake was an accomplished dancer, not faltering even once. She realized she was enjoying herself. Though she was still wondering how he knew her name.

His arm around her waist, he led her to the far end of the lounge. “Sandra, wait here. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She sat on the sofa, not quite sure what to expect. She couldn’t see Ashley. And Jake acted like they knew each other. She was certain she’d never set eyes on him before.

“Here,” he handed her the margarita. Sandra’s favorite beverage. She sipped it slowly, collecting her thoughts.

“Jake, how do you know so much about me?”

He said softly. “Look at me. What do you see? Wait, let me spell it out for you. ‘About 25’. ‘Brown Hair’, ‘Tall’, ‘Great dancer.’ ‘Knows me well.’ Don’t you remember?”

Sandra was bewildered. “Remember what?”

He said quietly. “That you created me. I am the product of your imagination. From the contest you won last year.”

It came back to her now. She enjoyed sketching. And when one of the online gaming portals she often visited announced a ‘Create A Character’ contest, she sent her entry. She remembered being happy with the prize money of $500 she received. The rules said the drawing should be accompanied by a detailed description of the character’s personality and the contestant’s interests. The portal wanted to make the character seem “lifelike.” She’d sent a long wishlist for the sheer fun of it.

She said to him mockingly. “So, what you’re saying is that you are ‘Jake’ from the gaming site?”

He nodded. “Affirmative.”

“Really?” she asked disbelievingly.

“Log in. Now. Look for me.”

She did. The touchscreen on her cellphone blinked ‘Hello Sandra’

She typed. ‘Where is Jake’

Her cellphone blinked ‘He is at the Iris Lounge. With you.’

She typed again. ‘Where is Jake’

‘Jake’s not here. He is with you.’

She gaped at Jake, who groaned, “Don’t ask for me more than once. I think it causes my head to ache. Must be something to do with pixels and gravity. And for God’s sake, please log out.”

She sat back on the sofa, completely flummoxed.

Handing her a glass of water, he said gently, “Sandra, I have no idea how this happened. But I am here. For now. I know I have to go back into the gaming software soon.” He had a sad smile on his face.

“Is this some kind of a joke? Or are you an online stalker freak?” she asked angrily.

“No, I am not a freak. Please Sandra. Don’t analyze this. I have no answers. You are safe with me. Probably safer with me than any other man from the ‘real’ world. I am not a rapist, stalker or murderer. I don’t shoot school children. Remember you created the ‘perfect’ me. With all the goodness from your heart. There wasn’t a single mean personality trait you put on that list Sandra.”

He added. “Talk to me. Let’s have fun while it lasts. You have nothing to lose, do you?”

She sighed. “Okay. Makes sense.”

They talked for a while. She was surprised how much he knew about her. He was a great listener. He could empathize. When the timezone was in his favor, he’d read every line on the file they had tagged ‘Winning Entry.’

Surprisingly, she instinctively knew she could trust him. They danced one more time.  Not speaking. Simply being.

“What if I want to see you again?” she whispered to him.

“I don’t think it works that way. I somehow showed up today in a real world setting. It is as weird to me as it is to you. I almost pixelated into nothingness when you walked in. Proof that you are real and I am not,” he said looking at her helplessly.

Her cellphone rang. It was almost 2:00 in the morning. It was her Mom. She suddenly remembered she had to take her for a health checkup that morning.

“Jake, I have to leave now. Come with me. You are already in the real world.” She said urgently.

“No Sandra, I can’t leave with you. From what I understand of my situation, I have the Cinderella curse. Look at my hands,” he said. She could see them turn hazier every few seconds.

They kissed one last time. She walked out the door, trying hard not to cry.  Ashley came running behind her, “Sandra, wait for me! Where were you? I’ve been looking all over! Hey wait up!”

“Did you see him?” Sandra asked Ashley.

“Who? That drop dead gorgeous guy who monopolized all of your attention? Did you get his number?” she teased.

“Yes. Him. Jake. I mean no, I didn’t.” Sandra said nothing more. The story sounded ridiculous to her own ears.

Upon reaching home, she lay awake in bed, unable to sleep. Had she been hallucinating? No. Ashley had seen him too.

And he was exactly like how she had sketched him. And in the description she’d sent them.

At about 3:00 in the afternoon, she logged in from her desktop at the office.

She typed. ‘Where is Jake’

Her monitor blinked.

‘Hello Sandra. This is Jake.
Welcome My Darling.
To the cruel kindness of our love
Caught in the static flow of time.
A bitter sweet existence
The only choice in this virtual reality’

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1000 Words

 

Flash Fiction: Magical Macau, 3 Days, 2 Nights

“Laddie, get me that taxi,” she bellowed to the young bell-boy. Startled out of his wits, he ran after one that had just disgorged a noisy group of tourists.

She climbed in gingerly. And waved imperiously. The taxi honked its way through the crowded street, towards the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church.

She looked around impatiently and spotted the broad shoulders, confident gait, the head full of thick silver hair.

“Stop now. I shall alight.”

The gentleman on the opposite side of the street quickly strode towards her. He held out his hand, his eyes twinkled merrily.

“Patricia! You look as ravishing as ever,” he kissed her gently on the cheeks.

She glanced at him, “You don’t look so bad yourself, Roger. Please hold my hand. These cobbled stones are ruthless to my feet. And why couldn’t we have met at the casino?” she demanded.

“And then what? Have your dozen grand-children, great-grand-nieces and grand-nephews goggle at us? How would you explain to them who I am?”

She laughed happily.

He guided her into the beautiful Portuguese restaurant. Candle-light, music, wine. Everything was perfect. Just like how she knew him to be. She sighed contentedly as they danced slowly. She knew the routine. They would retire to his luxurious suite. Next morning breakfast in bed. A day spent exploring the island, the helicopter ride back to Macau.

Patricia had met Roger on a cruise liner. The holiday had been a gift from her children after she lost her husband to sudden pneumonia five years ago. She had become a recluse and the children had urged her to take that vacation.

She had been impressed by Roger’s fancy-free and footloose approach to life. He took everything in his stride. He had been married once and his wife had succumbed to a prolonged illness seven years ago. He had swept Patricia off her feet and they were madly in love. They had continued to keep in touch over the years. She was 70 and he was nearing 80.

He looked deep into her eyes, “Patricia, you know we love each other. Few get a second chance in life. What are we waiting for? Will you marry me?” He got down on his knee and took out the diamond ring from his pocket. There were tears in Patricia’s eyes as she whispered, “Yes Roger.”

Next morning, Roger drove Patricia back to her hotel. There was a cacophony of noise as her very large family was seated at breakfast. They hardly noticed her until her youngest great-grand nephew squealed,”Mommy, look! Gramma is back. She’s brought a Person.”

They turned to look at the couple. Roger gently squeezed Patricia’s hand. She said quietly, “Children, meet Roger. My fiance.”

There were a few seconds of stunned silence. And then everyone rushed to congratulate them. There was backslapping and laughter all around.

The rosy glow in Patricia’s cheeks and the twinkle in Roger’s eyes bore testimony to their love. They were married the next day at a quiet ceremony.

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500 Words

Flash Fiction: Labyrinth; The Warped

He opened the refrigerator door, found a slice of last night’s pizza. Dunked it into the microwave. He slumped on the sofa. Switched on the TV. The heat was exhausting in this tiny studio apartment. The ceiling fan whirred slowly.

He didn’t know what time it was when he woke up. It was freezing. The floor was a muddy green. “What the …” he mumbled. His head felt heavy. He saw the shimmery polka-dot purple curtain sway slowly in front of him.  He got up to close the window.

The vignettes played in front of his eyes. Like an old black and white movie.

His ex-wife was baking a cake in the kitchen. “Come on in honey, here, grab a bite,” she smiled, beckoning to him.

A party was in progress. He could see his ex-wife dancing with the CEO. She smiled at him affectionately as they glided by.

He was driving with the top rolled down in his new custom made Aston Martin convertible. His villa in Tuscany. Maria standing in the doorway. Frowning. Impatient. Dinner meeting with the Ambassador. They were late. And the papers had to be signed.

He stumbled backwards onto the sofa. He knew now. “Oh Kim! Darling Kim!”

The unborn children Kim had wanted that made her cry in her sleep. When his ‘late night dinner meetings’ and ‘business trips to Europe’ had become more frequent. When Maria seemed right, Kim seemed wrong.

An unexplained car crash. Kim was dead. Because of his greed. His decadence. A dark realm he had knowingly willingly chosen to enter. And dwell in. Until eternity. The tryst with his inner demons.

He woke up at half past ten. The sun was shining brightly. He tried to get up. To walk. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t feel his legs.

They told him he was paralyzed waist down.

A voice whispered menacingly, “Minion, you thought you could walk away? You can’t. Welcome to The Warped Labyrinth.”

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325 Words