1. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

    Apr 26, 2013
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    A cry for help

    Discussion in '2013 Science Fiction Writing Contest' started by Poziga, Dec 2, 2013.

    This was my first attempt of writing a more serious story. I hope you like it, but i'll be happy to get any feedback that could improve my writing. :)
    I think it reaches the standards of sci-fi and hope you'll agree with me.

    A cry for help​

    I had to do it, honestly. When you are as lonely as I am, you have to do something. Don’t get me wrong, I do have friends, but then again, not so many. It’s the ladies that give me trouble. The last time I spoke to a female was about 4 years ago in a bar downtown, that is,if you can call babbling speaking. She turned away after only a few words were exchanged, but the words probably weren’t the only fault. My friends say I just don’t have a way with women. I often get a feeling they have something to say about my looks too, but they keep that to themselves for which I am grateful. I’m not fat or anything, don’t get me wrong, just unattractive. I know I am, I’ve actually heard that plenty of times, so I accepted it. The problem is I am all the things a man shouldn’t be; shy, socially awkward, bad with words, I’m easily offended and without any self esteem – until it comes to science.

    I tried studying engineering, but I flanked out, they were teaching too much about things I never really cared about. I got a job and started educating myself about things I was actually interested in. Artificial intelligence, that became my area of expertise. When I reached my 24th birthday, I was already a freaking Einstein of AI. That was around the same time I got my final rejection from that woman at the bar. Soon after her reaction I started building an artificial intelligence myself, one that would enhance my personality. Ihad been thinking about contriving it for quite some time, but the lady was the last straw, the cause of starting it and reason for proceeding. And I made it. I finished it two weeks ago, at the age of 28.

    When I was halfway through with it, I found out my project was able to communicate. We started talking, not with words, but with thoughts. I was so psyched, it completely blew my mind. I wanted to finish it as soon as possible. The Gentleman as I named him– it’s aweird name, I know – was at the time he started talking just an orangish jelly-like thing in the size of a sunflower blossom. I decided I would make him more human-like. It took me another year to finish his mind processing unit and then I started building him a body out of scrap metal. We were talking more and more and in my enthusiasm I failed to notice his character development, his soothing tone, his sweeter and sweeter words began blurring my reason. All I could see was success at social life, how my invention would teach me to live. Strange thought, should be the other way around, right?

    The body was finished quickly, the only thing left to do was charge its battery and put the Gentleman in a heart shaped hole. Like I predicted, he had no trouble controlling the body. Soon after that, things got out of hands.

    The Gentleman somehow assumed the role of a female, a very violent female. He started rampaging all over the house, but luckily I managed to keep him inside of it and even get him in a basement. Down there this little ritual of raving continued for a couple of days untilI caught him off guard one night. I snuck behind him and turned the body battery off. My mind was finally woken up from the blindness of success and I decided to send him somewhere far away. The idea of putting him in an unregistered container and send him to China arose in my head. I knew there was a depot of unregistered containers. I called seven friends, who worked with me at Ridge city port and explained everything to them. At that time they were just confused, but they didn’t judge me. Together, we put the Gentleman inside of a red container and I remember watching him being sealed away, but I felt sadness and emptiness, like a great part of my life was gone. My memory is blank after that, I can’t remember anything else except myself lying on the ground and a male person leaning over me, saying everything is going to be okay. I remember him very well, because his shadowed figure was the last thing I saw before darkness consumed me.

    * * *​

    Detective sergeant John Stowe stood by the wall of a small office, which belonged to Elliot Byrne, docks controlling manager. He wore a dark grey overcoat which matched perfectly with chequered scarf hanging around his neck His hands were nonchalantly stuck in his pockets as if he was boringly waiting for a train to take him home. He watched Elliot and listened to him, but this interrogation gave him no specific answers to yesterday’s explosion. He quickly glanced over his watch, noticing today’s shift ends within an hour. He was tired of looking for clues and remains of explosives of which the forensics found only used metal which indicated the explosive was home-made. Questioning employees tired him, since they had nothing to say except of hearing the explosion and seeing its fire. But he decided to interrogate themanager despite weariness and finish this troubled Tuesday. After all it was his job and he considered himself a professional.

    “…and the ship was meant to go there, it’s one of the biggest wharves in China, strengthened for container transportation,” he heard Elliot explain when he woke up from his day dream.

    “Strengthened in container transportation?” he heard himself ask.

    “Yes, when China was building ports, they concentrated on the construction of a group of deep-water wharves, which are specialized for container management and transport.”

    “And what would in this Thanjin the…”

    “It’s Tianjin,” Elliot interrupted him.

    “Ok, Tianjin. What would the port management there do if an unregistered container was found?” Stowe continued as if he was not cut off.

    “Probably they have the same procedure as we do.”

    Stowe waited a few moments for further explanation, but when Elliot said nothing else, he urged him. “And what is that procedure?”

    “We open the unknown container, since the content might give us a clue who it belongs to. If we don’t find any documentation, we put it in a depot on hold, just in case we receive a missing report.”

    John nodded and tried to think of any further questions, but he came up with nothing. “Thank you for your time, we’ll be in touch,” he nodded to Elliot and thanked him. He got out of the office and directed towards the forensics, who still struggled to find any explosive remains or fingerprints.

    “Hey Dan, you found anything yet?” he yelled from afar and an older forensic standing at the side of the scene turned to him.

    “Nope, nothing but these” Dan Bailey answered and waved at John with two metal pipes which he had seen earlier. “Don’t worry, we’ll let you know if we find anything new. We’ll be here until dark and return tomorrow.”

    “Ok, great. Have fun playing around, old man!” John greeted him and went towards his car. While walking he turned one more time to the explosion scene and stopped for a second. Seven people died, seven innocent people lost their lives in this - hopefully - meaningless explosion. One day had already passed, but police received no notice or demands by the terrorists yet, so all possibilities were still open.

    He sighed and thought of his family, what would he do if his two sons died in an attack? He would find the bastards if it was in his power, of course, but what after that? If he’d find them in a place with no witnesses, would he turn them in or took things in his own hands?

    Even though the victims weren’t related to him, he felt compelled to find whoever did this and bring at least a little comfort to the wives who lost their husbands. He turned around and went to the car with sad thoughts anchored in his mind, but once he turned the engine on, he decided he’d leave them at work, where they belong.

    The following day when John came to the office, he sat down behind wooden desk which stood in front of a window and was decorated with pictures of his family. Framed photographs of his smiling wife Julie and two sons were neatly standing in the upper left corner of the desk, opposite of computer. It didn’t matter what your profession was, if you had a family, you put a picture of it on a desk, like any normal John Q did. Stowe now looked at photos and rubbed his forehead. Gloomy thoughts yesterday left behind, were now sneaking back, but John drove them away when he picked up the phone and dialed Dan’s number, who didn’t pick up.He must be still sleeping John thought and chuckled. Dan had a habit of coming to work a little later, saying he can work only if he had a good night sleep.

    Stowe then called Marc Sewell, his younger colleague and he answered.


    “Hey Marc it’s John. I was just wondering if there’s been any progress in the evening?”

    “At the docks? Nah, there wasn’t any. I mean later on when Mike was diving at the bottom, he found a piece of metal with burnt meat still attached to it.”

    John glanced at pictures of his family and for a moment that melancholy took over him again.

    “John, you still there?” a voice coming from the phone woke him up.

    “Wha… Yeah, sure. So nothing else was found?” He tried to sound normal, while he turned his face away from the pictures and stared through the window on his right.

    “Like I said, it’s strange. An explosion this big should leave some traces behind, but there’s nothing, nada. As if the exploding thing was made out of air.”

    “And no fingerprints right?”

    “Nope, nothing, just prints from the dock workers. There are still some forensics on the scene, but at the moment it’s like putting together a puzzle with lots of missing pieces.”

    “Ok, keep me posted,” Stowe sighed and hung up.

    He leaned back on his chair and started gnawing on his glasses. That was his well-known gesture. Whenever he was thinking, he put his glasses in his mouth and started chewing them. Having them between his teeth made him feel more adult, also more sophisticated in a way. When he was younger, he even practiced it in front of a mirror, like mayors practice their smiles. Having sunglasses between his teeth made him feel more adult, also more sophisticated in a way. Of course, parents tried to make him stop, saying it was a bad habit, but why stop when even his father sometimes made the same move? Maybe unconsciously, but it didn’t matter to John, his old man also did it, case won.

    He was sitting in his big office chair now, withglasses in his mouth and thinking. One of the containers exploded at the docks two days ago, its fire lightning up the night’s sky and killing seven innocent dock workers who were just doing their jobs, hoping their shift would end as soon as possible so they could be on their way home, where a warm dinner was probably waiting for them. Completely innocent was the thought that haunted Inspector’s mind. Seven innocent people, just trying to feed hungry mouths at home. Only one was still alive. His mind shifted from the seven dead to the one alive. When John reached the site of the explosion the ambulance already took the surviving worker to the hospital. The shockwave hurt him pretty bad. Doctors explained he could be in acoma for quite some time, maybe even years. No help from that poor guy. But at least he was lucky enough to survive.

    After a few hours of unproductive thinking and researching, the doors to his office suddenly opened and dispatcher Rowny stepped in.

    “Sir, he’s awake.”

    “What, who is?”

    “The docks worker, Melvin Bettis.”

    “What?” Stowe said in surprise and put his arms on the desk, his eyes now fixed on the dispatcher.

    “We just received a call from the hospital. Melvin Bettis woke up,”

    Detective John Stowe rose up, grabbed his coat from the hanger and almost ran through the door. Mid-doors he stopped, turned around and gave the dispatcher a deadly look. “This better not be some sick joke, got that Brian?”

    “No Sir, wouldn’t even cross my mind,” he said and followed him out of the office. “Should I call the hospital and tell them you’re on your way?”

    “Not necessary, go back to your station.” John knew he sounded a little harsh, but a thought that this could all be a prank just wouldn’t leave his mind. After all, was it possible that a man in Melvin’s condition could wake up from a coma in just two days?

    “Oh, one more thing Brian,” he stopped on a staircase. “Which Unit was the first to arrive to the docks on Tuesday?”

    “On the eve of the explosion? Unit 14 I think, Greg Kemp and David Bonham.”

    “They were the ones who called an ambulance right?”

    “Think so, yeah.”

    “Good, have them meet me at the hospital.”

    Rowny nodded and went back to the dispatch center. John looked after him, then went downstairs and left the Ridge City Police Department. Autumn winds can be quite chilly on the western coast so he put on his scarf and hurried towards his car. The engine of his 2012 Chevrolet roared when he turned it on and John started thinking how is it possible that Melvin already woke up – if he really did wake up. He hadn’t seen Melvin himself, but Greg, one of the first officers on the explosion site, told him he was in a bad shape. His face was covered in blood and he was shivering as hell, I mean really shivering, couldn’t say a damn word. When I asked him if he was okay he just quickly nodded and then lost his conscious. That was what Greg told him. In the time being that didn’t sound strange to John, but when he revised the conversation it pinched him. How could he say he was okay, when all of his buddies were killed and he was thrown fifteen feet away by the shockwave? He was probably in shock, but it was still a bit unnatural. Inspector’s mind was working, wheels grinding the information he had into logical conclusions. Except there was none.

    * * *​

    He came to the Ridge City Medical Centre quickly and hurried up the stairs to the reception. The lady sitting behind the desk was a good looking mid-aged woman with brown hair stuck in a bun. She smiled at John and asked him if he needed any help. He asked where he could find Melvin Bettis and showed her his badge. Joan – that’s what her name tag was saying – showed him the corridor on his left and explained where he must go. He reached the right hospital wing quickly and started walking towards the officer on guard shift. Guarding probably wasn’t necessary, but John thought it couldn’t hurt, so Melvin was now guarded 24/7 and would stay that way for at least a month.

    “How’s he doing?” John wanted to know and stretched his neck, hoping to see something through the small windows bellow the ceiling.

    “I don’t know Sir, as soon as he woke up, a couple of nurses and a doctor ran in and still didn’t come out,” explained the guard and shrugged with his head towards the door on his right.

    “When did this happen?”

    “Not long ago, at 2.23,” he checked his watch. “A little more than an hour ago.”

    “So it might take a while,” Stowe sighed. “Have you seen Kemp and Bonham yet?”

    “Who, Sir?”

    “Officers Greg Kemp and David Bonham, they were supposed to come here.”

    “No, no one was here but me.”

    John nodded, more to himself than to the guard, and sat on the bench. He put his arms on his legs and rubbed his face. Then he leaned back on the wall and looked at the boring pattern on the ceiling. When lowering his look he noticed that the same uninteresting pattern continued on the wall, just white paint with colorful spots, probably the same pattern every other hospital’s walls have. It should have arelaxing effect and it worked on John, he already felt calmer and started thinking that there was a possibility this case could be finished rather quickly. A little smile appeared on his face, but was instantly cut off by a cell phone ringing. He looked at the guard, who just nodded in a way not mine. For a second John looked confused – he was a bit too relaxed – and then reached into the right pocket of his jacket, remembering it was his phone.

    “Stowe,” John answered.

    “Hey John, where are you?” The voice belonged to Dan Bailey, one of the forensics on the explosion site.

    “I’m in a hospital, looks like our lucky lad woke up.”

    “Already? Wasn’t he supposed to be out for a year or so?”

    “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

    “That’s one lucky bastard, lying there in a hospital,” Dan chuckled.

    “Yeah,” said John and turned towards Melvin’s room doors. “One lucky guy.”

    “Listen I’m calling you cuz’ we think we found something yesterday.”

    The sentence woke John up from his little holiday and he rose to his feet. “What?”

    “Hmm, actually we’re not so sure, you better come to the station, I’m here already.”

    “Ok, I’ll be there,” said John and hung up the phone.

    He hurried down the corridor and stopped by the guard to give him further instructions. If Unit 14 came to the hospital, they were supposed to wait for him. If doctors finished their examination, John must be informed. If Melvin is ready for cooperation, he must be informed immediately. Guard nodded and sat on the bench.

    Stowe could hear the puzzlement in Dan’s voice when he called and he also sounded worried. Dan Bailey was older than John, a couple of years before retirement and in all years of their cooperation, John heard him talking this way two, maximum three times. And in that two or three times, it never meant anything good. It meant something unusual or that something weird’s been found on the crime scene.

    Eleven years ago, in 2007, someone was leaving a trail of burned bodies all over town. This was shortly after John was promoted to Detective Sergeant and later on, whenever he thought of this case he shivered. There were already 12 burned bodies found when he got the case and most of them with their teeth gone. They were pulled out, as if the victims were that crocodile from a popular game Crocodile dentist from the nineties. Detective Payne, John’s predecessor, had two theories: either this “Dentist” was really some dentist with a very twisted mind, who enjoyed pulling teeth out too much, or he was a sociopath who thought burned bodies without teeth would be impossible to identify. Luckily for investigators, there are different ways of identifying victims unless the body was subjected to crematory-like temperatures, causing it to disintegrate. DNA can be extracted from bone narrow and also from the brain if they stay intact. But John developed a third theory; “The Dentist” was a sociopath with pyromaniac inclinations. The teeth were just the cherry on top, like removal of organs was for Jack the Ripper.

    The thirteenth body was burned with all teeth still in place, but one day John received a call about a fourteenth body. That was one of those three calls when Dan sounded puzzled and concerned. When John came to the crime scene, he saw why.

    There was a body lying on the floor, already covered with sheet. Dan uncovered the male head and John was surprised to see it unburned but still without teeth. When Dan uncovered the rest of the body his eyes widened with terror. The upper body was not burned, only limbs were and one word was carved on the victim’s chest; stop. After that, John and his colleagues were even more determined to catch this son of a bitch, but then the murders stopped and John realized that the carved word were not a warning but just a very important information. Even though he tried very hard to identify the Dentist, he never found him. That monster was never brought down by the hand of justice and he never burned like his victims did.

    John reached the station with a hopeful thought that nothing outmost was found like in the Dentist case. But there was something unnatural.

    “Glad you could make it,” Dan squeezed John’s hand as he entered his office and led him to his desk. “We actually don’t know what it is, so I figured you could have a look.”

    John nodded and followed him. Dan picked up a small plastic bag and handed it to him. It was light, like nothing was in there, but when John looked at it closely, he saw somewhat orange blob that was a little bigger than a coin. He tried to grab it through the bag, but it got away.

    “Yes, it’s slippery. Took me quite some time to pick it up from the floor and it was hot like hell when I first tried. I burned my thumb, look.” Dan showed his right thumb. “But after that it got cool almost immediately.”

    “And you don’t know what it is?” John asked and fixed his eyes back on the orangish thingy.

    “First I thought of jelly of course, but that would be destroyed in explosion and also wouldn’t be that hot. That’s why I called you later. Give it to me for a second, willya?” John handed it to him and Dan grabbed a pair of tweezers. He pointed with them at the center of the jelly. “See this unusual dark ring in the middle of it? That got/caught my attention.” He moved to the microscope. “I’ve already put a piece of it under the microscope,” he said to Stowe. John looked and saw a couple of black warm-like subjects and six red circles connected with a green substance that looked like glue to John. He looked up and shrugged in a way doesn’t mean anything to me.

    Dan smiled: “Jelly has a different structure under the microscope. Usually it looks like a lot of knotted strings. This one has a quite different structure as you can see, one I am not familiar with, at least not with jelly.”

    Stowe understood towards what Bailey was getting at. ”But you don’t know what it is?” he repeated the question.

    “Right now, no.”

    “Could it be possible this thing was the explosive of some sort?”

    Dan let out a sigh and sat on a chair. “I don’t know John, but I have a couple of tests on my mind, which I could run, but I can give you no guaranties.”

    “Good,” John said and stepped away from the microscope. “That was the only piece you found?” he pointed at the little plastic bag, still hanging in Dan’s hand.

    “Yes, the only one and frankly I’m…” Ringing of a phone interrupted him and Stowe excused himself.

    “Hi Julie, can I call you back, I’m in a middle of something.” He explained to his wife and put the phone back to his pocket. “Sorry Dan, she probably just wanted to remind meof that show we’re going to today.”

    “Where are you going?”

    "Her sister has a photography exhibit and she wants to be supportive.”

    “And you want to be a supportive husband and go with her. I haven’t met a better man John Stowe,” he smiled.

    “Ok ok, you were saying?”

    Dan giggled one more time and then said: “Yeah, I wanted to say I’m quite surprised we noticed the jelly today and not yesterday.”

    “Looks like you’re losing your touch, old man,” John teased him.

    Dan looked him straight in the eyes, same way a lion watches its prey and warned him in a serious tone. “Careful John, there are many different poisons I can mix in your coffee.”

    “They’d find you! You got anything else for me?” he asked with a satisfied grin on his face.

    “No, nothing else.”

    John walked past him. “Call me if you find something, I’m done for today,” he said and left the office.

    * * *​

    I woke up in an unknown place. I was lying in bed and was connected to some weird tubes. I looked around and the snowy white walls, tidiness of the space and a blank screen of TV in corner helped me determine the place as a hospital room. I looked left and a beeping machine checking my pulse confirmed my assumption. I slowly rose to a seating position, when I felt a pain in my chest. I lifted my shirt and looked. In the middle of my chest, right in a place where you have to press if giving CPR was a reddish mark, more purple then red actually. It looked like veins running through this spot had popped and I got scared. It also had an orange glow, but barely noticeable. What the hell happened? I remembered putting Gentleman inside of acontainer and then…

    “Good morning sunshine. How do you feel?” A woman’s voice suddenly echoed in my head. “Had a rough night, have you?”

    What the fuck?! was the only thought that went through my mind and I looked around the room, looking for answers hidden somewhere in the air, like molecules you can’t see.

    “Nothing to worry, dear. I’m on your side.” And then a cold laugh filled my head, it felt like a brain freeze, only without pain, strange feeling it was. “Actually I am your side, but just the one you don’t know,” now I could hear her laughter, not just feel it. “But you’ll get to know me,” she then whispered.

    “Wh… What are you?” I asked and put hospital sheet over my body, as it suddenly got a lot colder in the room.

    “I am nothing more than a friend. Nothing more,” she snickered. Only this time, the laughter was somehow familiar. It was homely, I’ve heard it before. A very similar version of it.

    “G…Gen… Gentleman?” I asked and widened my eyes in horror.

    “Do not call me that!” She yelled and my head suddenly started to hurt, the feeling same as of brain freeze again, only this time it hurt much more. I heard noise inside my head, similar to high frequency sound you can barely hear, only I heard it very loudly. “That thing was weak. It could never show you the things I can! After all, I am a woman. And my name is Valla.”

    “Valla?” I repeated in disbelief. I never called Gentleman with that name, never even heard of it. Where did he come with it? Or is he really a she now, like some sort of amutation occurred during the last couple of days?

    While thinking, I suddenly recognized her voice. It was the same as the one at my house when Gentleman changed his gender into female. Was it possible he would never change back? I actually liked that guy.

    “Yes, Valla. You do know I can hear your thoughts right? At least a small part of them. I was also able to hear them before, when I was still that pitiful Gentleman of whom you seem so fond. And it is not a mutation my dear, evolution would be a much more appropriate word. Growth, advancement, choose whichever interpretation of events you like, but not mutation. I’m not just some sort of a disease.”

    “Ok, an unexpected development then,” I proposed, since that’s exactly what it seemed to me.

    She laughed again, but this time the odd feeling in my head was less sensual. “Ok Melvin, if that is the explanation you are pleased with. It also looks like you are getting used to me, aren’t you? And do not lie to me, I can feel your body adapting, so I feel a necessity to say I am quite astonished by the conformation speed of it. You like it don’t you?” Her voice sounded very pleasant, it had a graceful feminine charm. She talked very easily, stoically would be a more appropriate word and the sentences she spoke had quite a reassuring effect on me. Still, despite her gentle easiness I could feel a very confident character hiding behind fluent sentences she spoke.

    I opened my mouth, not exactly knowing which words would come out of them, when the door opened and four people came bustling in. I looked at them and recognized three ladies as nurses and the only man looked like a doctor to me. He was quite tall and slim, with a self-sure expression on his face and glasses on his nose.

    He looked at me and that self-confident mask he was wearing disappeared in a glimpse of an eye. “He really is awake, I can’t believe it,” he looked over to the nurses in his excitement and asked them if they have ever seen anything like that before. The oldest one, who looked around sixty to me, shook her head in a sign of refusal. The other two, both of them not much older than myself, were just looking at me with their mouth wide open. I’m certain that if I took a picture of them and showed it later on, they would tear it apart. That is how stupid they looked.

    “Aren’t you going to say something? Look how puzzled they look. Imagine if they could hear your thoughts.” Valla laughed inside my head.

    “Yes, I am awake, why do you all look like you’ve just seen a ghost?” I asked, hoping I would finally start getting some answers.

    “Maybe because we are watching at one right now,” explained the doctor and made a step towards my bed. “How do you feel Mr. Bettis?”

    “Like any other… Could you please tell me what day it is?”

    “It’s Thursday, November the 16th and it’s 1 PM/ .”

    “Well, I feel like any other Thursday then.” I looked at the nurses and smiled.

    “Well, look at you mister. Like you have been around women all your life,” Valla remarked.

    Before I could even understand what she just said, the doctor asked me if I remembered anything. I thought about the last thing I remembered and the only memory that was clear to me, was the entrapment of Valla. Or Gentleman, I don’t know anymore exactly who I locked inside the container.

    “I remember being at the docks with my coworkers.”

    The doctor was looking at me with extreme caution, hand supporting his chin. He was quiet for a few moments, then looked at the nurses, and then back at me. “We are going to make an examination and a few tests and if you don’t mind.”

    “Not at all,” I shrugged and lied on my bed.

    * * *​

    When John Stowe sat down behind his desk on Friday, he took his phone to his hand and ordered photographs from the scene. They arrived shortly. He signed all of the necessary documentation and then pulled photos out of a brown folder. One by one he checked them, hoping he would notice something, a missing piece of the puzzle that would help him ameliorate the theory of the accident. Or attack, as current hypothesis was suggesting. The circumstances of the explosion were closer to a terrorist attack than to a mere accident, especially since the container was never registered and the only people who operated with it were dead or in a hospital. John started to think it was a good idea that Melvin was put under Police protection. Right then, it seemed like someone was covering his tracks and he hid them pretty well. Melvin might have been in danger and he didn’t have a single clue about that.

    Ringing of a phone threw him out of his thoughts, like a teacher wakes a sleeping student from a relaxing power nap. He checked the caller ID and saw it was Dan.

    “I didn’t know you can be up so early,” John greeted him and leaned back on his brown armchair.

    “Yeah, yeah, I think better in the afternoon when I have had a good share of my sleep, so what? Listen, could you come down for a second? Something happened to that orange blob.”

    “You sure something happened, or are you just sleepy and are imagining things?”

    “Ha-ha, very funny. Get your ass down here, willya?”

    “In a second, old man. Oh, do you want me to pick you up a cup of coffee? It’s on my way down so….” But, before he could finish, Dan already hung up the phone. John grinned and went down to the labs.

    “Sorry Dan, I just couldn’t resist, but honestly, how come you are so early today?”

    “Yeah sure, no problem. It’s the jelly, couldn’t leave my mind. Maybe it sounds odd to you, but the structure is very interesting to me.” He looked at John in expectation of a new sarcastic annotation, but he received none. “Follow me.”

    Dan led John to the main forensics lab and took a plastic bag off a shelf. “Oh, how was the show last night?”

    “Not that bad, quite amusing actually. Julie’s sister was always a bit…” but then he noticed the bag in Dan’s hands. “What the hell!?” John opened his eyes in surprise. “What happened with it?” He took it and had a better look. The orange jelly was bigger. If it’s previous size was the same of a coin,was now at least two times bigger, probably three times of its original size.

    “Did it actually got bigger?” John asked, still caught with surprise.

    “It looks like, yes. That would also explain why we found it the second day at the scene and not the first. So you see, I’m not losing my touch.”

    John looked at him and nodded. “Looks like, yeah.” Then he turned back to the jelly. ”How is that even possible?”

    “Unfortunately, I don’t know. But it looks like the growth speed and the size are comparative. The bigger the blob gets, the faster it grows. But this isn’t logical. I mean, jelly is not a living substance, a living organism. It shouldn’t grow like that.”

    “Do you think it might get even bigger?”

    “I know I shouldn’t say this, but you’re asking the wrong guy, for now at least. I’m going to run some tests, like I told you yesterday. I don’t know how long it will take though, I have other cases to attend.”

    “Ok Dan, but be careful. As you said; you don’t know what you’re dealing with,” John warned him, and left the lab.

    If yesterday at the hospital John thought this case could be wrapped up in a couple of days, he now changed his mind.

    When he sat in his car he started thinking how strange the entire development of the case was. There were no remains of the explosive on the scene, a guy who should be in a coma for at least a couple of months, was awake after two days and the strange jelly had a capability of growth. John put his hands on the wheel and loudly exhaled. There must be something I’m missing, think goddammit! But no idea had arisen in his head, there was just a painful feeling of emptiness. Time to visit Melvin again. He ordered dispatcher to call unit 14 again and left the building.

    * * *​

    The doctor’s examination was quite tiresome so I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next day. Before I could completely open my eyes Valla’s voice already sang me a good morning song. She laughed afterwards and I noticed she liked laughing quite a lot. In a weird way, yes, but better laughing than yelling or crying right?

    “Rise and shine my dear!” she welcomed me to a new day when she finished laughing. “Did you have a good night sleep?”

    “Yes, I slept like an angel,” I sarcastically remarked.

    “Looks like someone got up on the wrong foot. Oops, I forgot you have no legs.”

    “What!?” I yelled and threw white sheet off the place where my legs should be. I was relieved when I saw they were still there and I happily twinkled with my fingers. Valla caught me still a bit sleepy and completely off guard. “That really wasn’t funny.”

    “You are right, I forgot you had no sense of humor so please accept my sincere apology.”

    “Very well, I accept it,” I said and yawned. I actually had quite a good sleep, but regarding the circumstances it was just a matter of time before I had one.

    “Were you up all night?”

    “I was watching over you my dear, I did not want any more doctors rushing in here and desecrate your body while you slept.”

    “They are doctors Valla, it’s their job and they wouldn’t hurt me.”

    “I know, but still…”

    Her voice sounded a little different now, like there was something bothering her but didn’t want to tell what it was. I also felt for a second a mild sting in my chest, which reminded me of feeling concerned. I don’t know what happened when I was sleeping, but maybe that part of my body adapting to her was true and the only thing I thought off was how I hoped she still couldn’t hear all of my mind process and thoughts.

    “Don’t worry, they won’t do anything wrong, especially now when I’m feeling quite renewed.”

    “Good, the sooner you leave this place, the better. It makes me nauseous.”

    The word nauseous reminded me of the night of the accident. I too felt an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach before I passed out and I remembered Valla actually never explained to me what happened that night. Where were all my friends, why didn’t they already come here and visit me?

    “Valla, what exactly happened to me, no one’s telling me anything.”

    “Nothing Melvin, you are all right and that is what matters.”

    “Valla, tell me what I want to know,” I demanded of her and was feeling irritated.

    “Very well, I will tell you,” she sighed. “I must warn you though, you might not want to hear exactly what happened..”

    “I do. Begin,” I urged her, as I felt my patience fading away.

    “As you wish,” she agreed and began reporting.

    * * *​

    This time when going to a hospital, luck wasn’t on John’s side. He had a misfortune of running into a wave of red traffics lights. He smacked the wheel and cursed himself for going this way during the morning rush hour. He sighed and waited in line like hundreds of other people. The line made him think of his oldest son Ian, a freshman in college, and his summer job this year. He was working in a warehouse, where the first shift began at 6 AM. Ian was irritated at first, didn’t want to trade his sleep for money by the looks of it, but was then relieved when he saw almost empty streets at the time of sunrise.

    John smiled at the thought of Ian driving the car at night and wished the roads were now as empty as they were at night.

    John reached the hospital and saw Kemp and Bonham were already there. Greg Kemp was the younger one, the rookie still trying to impress his colleagues. He was standing upright by the wall, like he was at a solemn ceremony, waiting for a medal to be conferred to him. David Bonham, his senior partner, who had seen his share of action through the career was sitting on a bench, almost nonchalantly and playing with his hat.

    “Morning Sir,” Greg greeted him and waited for a response like every hot-blooded rookie would have.

    “Morning. Before going to our victim I’d like to hear again what happened three days ago at the docks.” John demanded from his inferiors.

    “We were on our run, like we are everyday. Nothing unusual happened until we received 10-32 explosion notice for the docks,” Kemp began explaining.

    “Yeah, by the time we got there, seven workers were already dead. That’s when Greg noticed someone was lying on the floor, not so close to the others. Maybe that’s why he survived, for not being so close to the explosion. When we reached him, he was shivering,” Bonham added.

    “He was shivering like he had some sort of attack. I covered him with my uniform; I thought he might be cold or something. I was sitting next to him, telling him everything will be okay, until he passed out. Meanwhile, Dave told the dispatcher to send an ambulance. By the time you got there Sir, he was probably halfway to emergency.”

    John was listening them carefully, not losing even one spoken word, hoping they might tell him something they forgot three days ago in those chaotic circumstances.

    “Was there anything else, maybe something that was out of the ordinary or something that caught your attention?” John tried to make them remember every detail of the night.

    They looked at each other like that would bring up some details, which were without awareness thrown to the pit of subconscious. Maybe that helped, for Greg turned to detective and said with an unsure voice: “Well, if I think now, before I covered him with my uniform, I saw a nasty burn on his chest which had kind of an orange glow.”

    “An orange-glowing burn? Are you sure?” Stowe asked and widened his eyes in surprise, then took cell phone out of his pocket and wildly typed down a note.

    “Sir, I know it sounds strange, that’s why I didn’t mentioned that earlier, but you asked now if we saw anything strange,” explained Greg Kemp with an apologizing tone, like he knew John wouldn’t believe him and was afraid of his strange reaction. “But, that’s what I saw. I mean it could also be a scar from before the fire, I’m not a doctor.”

    John finished texting and turned back to Greg. “But you’ve probably seen a burn before, you don’t have to be a doctor to recognize it, right?” John asked him and made an intimidating step towards him, more or less just to have a little fun. He knew newcomers of Greg’s kind, they were just waiting to prove themselves. Hell, John belonged to that category himself and he did manage to prove himself, but not without the teasing and tyranny of experienced old dogs of Ridge City Police Department. He also knew different kinds of teasing can toughen you up with time, that’s why he was now giving Greg a hard time.

    “Well, yes Sir, I have. That’s why I’m mentioning it now.”

    Hm, good response, John thought and nodded to the kid. He turned to Dave Bonham and asked him if he had also seen the scar.

    “No, after we saw him I immediately went back to the car and called for an ambulance. When I got back to the kid, he had already covered the victim with his jacket.”

    “Good job kid,” Stowe nodded to the rookie who suddenly grew a little. “Come on, let’s go inside, I’m sure he’s able to tal…”he added but before he could finish the sentence a loud scream coming from the Melvin’s room cut him off. John unbuckled the holster, grabbed his gun and ran to the door. Kemp, Bonham and officer on guard duty all followed his example and Kemp, who was the youngest, took a deep breath.

    John turned to his colleagues, all standing behind him and gave them a quick warning. “Be careful, we don’t know who we’re dealing with.”

    He pushed on the door knob and rushed inside with three officers following him.

    * * *​

    Valla sighed and began. “You know, leaving me all alone in that dark and cold basement was not a nice gesture, my dear. I just wanted to treat myself with a few moments of fun. I did not mean to demolish your cute little house, but when I was given a whole body… Oh Melvin, it felt good! Just try to imagine a quadriplegic finding out he can move his legs and arms. It felt so good I lost control; I wanted to have a little fun and move freely around the house, but then you managed to turn my battery off and locked me down there for two days. I felt tricked, betrayed by my own master! But out of love for you I let it all go away. When I heard your plan of sending me to the Far East I tried and resisted, but none of my sweet words made any impression on you as you probably remember. I then tried with force, but since the battery was off I could not move my precious body. The worst thing was when I heard that container being locked, that is when I realized you were not going to change your mind. I was devastated, thrown in that chilly box of metal I could feel my life energy being discharged. You should know that. After all, you designed me, you spilled a piece of yourself into that small orange-glowing blob. Our bond was the only thing keeping me alive and when you cut it, I had no resource to keep me alive; I was like a car with no oil. Then, when almost all of my life ran out of me I felt warmth somewhere inside, the same warmth a child gets when seeing presents under the Christmas tree. It was getting warmer and warmer, and in a matter of seconds I felt all of my energy being restored, but the process of restoration did not stop there. The energy was still flowing and warmth changed into heat. Suddenly I heard yelling outside the container and I recognized one voice as yours, darling. You were very angry and were saying that I should not be sent away, that I am your invention. You tried to explain to other people how you sacrificed four years of your life creating me and that you are, in a way, attached to me. I must say, if I had a face, I would blush in that moment. But they did not listen to you, I heard them say I am too dangerous. That is when you became extremely angry, like you lost your reason, but do not judge me dear, I was on your side. Your rage was then overwhelming and it filled me with superfluous energy, which I could not keep inside of me and it suddenly exploded. The orange blob was shrunk, while my entity was attracted to your body. I entered through your chest, that is why you have that weird mark, although I think a part of me was missing when entering, I was not complete.”

    I listened to her while she talked and her calming voice was hypnotizing me, until she came to an end. Her explanation shocked me, left me paralyzed, I still couldn’t understand her words, didn’t want to understand them. “So…Are you saying… I am responsible for deaths of my friends?”

    “Nothing like that, darling. What happened was beyond your control. You felt empty without me my dear. I am a part of you, remember?”

    “No, you’re not. You never will be,” I started to resist her. “You’re just an experiment gone bad. And you killed my friends!”

    Valla laughed at my words and my hope of firm resistance began to diminish. “I am not an experiment, I am a cry for help and helping you is what I did. Union of us is what saved your life. Ooh and I just can not wait for us to leave this place and test your newfound confidence with women!” She was talking with ease and honest expectation, like this was all just a game. “And I did not kill your friends, which you know. You did.”

    I had nothing to respond, because deep inside me, I knew this was the truth, I somehow felt it even though I couldn’t remember it. Probably it was buried somewhere in the depths of my subconscious and was suddenly awakened, released from the large firm prison of forgotten memories and now immediately rushed out of it like Titans from their long imprisonment.

    After trying to remember this memory without success, I asked Valla what she was doing during my coma.

    “I was awake, trying to save me and you in which I succeeded. But I think you want to know whether I deleted your memory or not.”

    “You did it, didn’t you?”

    “It was necessary, I did not know what would your reaction be if you…”

    I didn’t let her finish. “I know, I know. You did it for my benefit.” I was getting tired of her excuses. “But I understand you, I’d probably do the same if I were in your place. Although it’s difficult to imagine such situation.” I let out a sigh.

    I didn’t really believe in what I was saying but this amount of infos was overwhelming for me, I needed her to shut up and leave me alone for a minute. I noticed a TV in the corner of the room and at that particular moment it was the most beautiful thing I could see. It was a synonym for relaxation and I looked around my bed for a remote control. It was lying on a table on my right and I stretched out a hand when a very painful sting stopped me. I screamed in reflex and then looked at my right arm and noticed that infusion was pulled out of my wrist. Before I could put it back, three unknown men rushed to my room, each with a gun in his hand. They scared the crap out of me.

    * * *​

    John, Greg and David bustled in the room, prepared for any sort of danger, but there was only one man sitting on bed, holding something in his hand.

    “What happened here?” John asked and scanned the room for potential danger.

    “N-nothing, just my infusion popped out my wrist, that’s all,” man on bed stuttered.

    “You sure?” John wanted to be certain and lowered his gun.

    “Yes, but what is the meaning of this, who are you?” sitting man wanted to know, still with surprised expression on his face.

    John put the gun back in his holster and then showed him his badge. “Hello, Mr. Bettis. My name is detective sergeant John Stowe and my colleagues here are Officers Greg Kemp and David Bonham. They are the ones who called an ambulance on Tuesday night. We would like to ask you a few questions regarding the accident at the docks if you do not mind.” John made a decisive performance, stressing out a great measure of his authority, making him look the toughest person in room. He learned this trait throughout career, especially after noticing that interrogated individuals cooperated better with confident and decisive person.

    “Sure, what do you wish to know?” Melvin calmed down.

    To John, Melvin Bettis didn’t look like he had any serious injuries. The only visible result of the explosion was the bruise on his forehead, right under his brown hair line, and even that was probably from the impact when hitting the concrete ground. He also had a black eye, but John had seen worse.

    “What do you remember from Tuesday night?” John asked and looked Melvin straight in his brown eyes.

    Bettis thought for a moment. “Well, unfortunately nothing much. The last thing I remember was loading containers on the ship and then a strong light and loud noise. After that, nothing until I woke up here. The doctors said yesterday I was very lucky.”

    “Yes, you’ve been unconscious for just two days.”

    “I know, they couldn’t believe it.”

    “What about you, can you believe you got away with just a bruise? Someone up there must like you a lot.”

    Melvin laughed and that was funny to John, usually when injured victims laughed, they felt a lot of pain, but he didn’t grimace at all, as if Melvin really had just a bruise on his forehead. John became more attentive to his behavior and answers.

    “Yeah, looks like someone likes me, probably my high school teacher, I never had parents or relatives” Melvin explained.

    Stowe waited for Melvin to calm and then asked him if he remembered where he stood during the accident. John kept using the word accident, he didn’t want Melvin to think there’s been sort of a terrorist attack, although that possibility still wasn’t excluded and even though Melvin didn’t look completely innocent to him. Still, if he had nothing to do with explosion, a panic-stricken victim, afraid for his life wouldn’t be of much help. John had seen that before so he used the word accident.

    “Yes, I was standing like everyone else. I mean, sort of. I was actually operating the crane and they told me over radio they had a problem with one container so I went down to help them. I reached them when that damn thing exploded.”

    “What thing?” was John curious.

    “Well… The container of course, what else?”

    “Right, sorry for misleading you,” John put reassuring smile on his face and asked the next question. “Did you know that the container was unregistered?”

    Melvin looked at him, confused, and told him he didn’t know. His job was loading and unloading ships, documentary was the work of Trading Management.

    “The boat was headed to China right?”

    “Yes, I think it was headed to Tianjin.”

    “Yes, your superior confirmed that.” John confirmed and looked at Greg. “Officer Greg here noticed a strange scar on your chest. Would you mind showing it to us?”

    Melvin changed his position on bed and looked a little nervous. “Why, it’s just a scar.”

    “We understand, but it would be easier for us, different explosives leave different traces and body marks. It might help us find out exactly what killed your coworkers and injured you,” smiled John and gave Melvin encouraging look, but he still looked unsure.

    I don’t know… It’s… it’s still hurting me.”

    “Nothing to be afraid, we’ll just look, nothing else.”

    Melvin glanced at both of the officers who stood behind Stowe, seeking for some kind shelter, but they didn’t move or offered any stimulative look. He then sighed and pulled up his white hospital shirt. John leaned to his chest and gave an amazed look.

    The mark was similar to burn, but it was a purple circle with lighter middle, which looked like it had a glow. Burns don’t have glows John thought and looked closer. For moment he thought he saw it move. He strained his eyes, but could see no further movement. He stood back up and looked at his colleagues, who seemed pretty astonished by what they saw. Kemp had his eyes opened and David was watching John and waited from him to speak.

    Stowe turned back to Melvin. “Are you sure you’re telling us everything, can you remember anything else?”

    “No, scout’s honor,” replied Melvin and raised his right hand.

    John nodded, and glanced one more time over Melvin’s chest, “Mind if I take a picture?”

    “If you must,” Bettis applied and let him take a picture with his phone.

    John then thanked him for his time and left room with both officers behind him.

    “You’re welcome,” was Melvin’s reply.

    “What was that?” was Greg’s question a second after the door closed. “It looked like… I don’t know, like his body was rotten inside.”

    “Yeah, something like that, only without the smell,” David added.

    John looked at them and nodded. He did expect an injury or a scar, but nothing like that. That mark covered half of his chest, it was huge. And the color… It was so vivid, like some artist mixed together red and purple, and then added some glowing substance to make it look more alive.

    “Yeah, I know, it’s weird,” he answered and took phone from his pocket only to discover the battery went dead. Right after taking the picture, by the looks of it. “Was it the same you saw on Tuesday, Greg?”

    “No, actually no, Sir,” he thought for a second. “On Tuesday the mark was more red, and it had kind of a glow, like it was very hot. It didn’t have that unhealthy purple color we just saw.”

    John nodded and then gave them both an order. “If you remember anything else from Tuesday night, give me a call.” He looked both of them, then added. “Anything, understood?”

    “Yes, Sir,” Kemp and Bonham confirmed.

    “Good, go back to patrolling now,” John told them and he himself went to his car. What was that? John repeated Greg’s question in his mind. Indeed, what exactly was that? Nothing he’d ever seen before. He saw many different kinds of scars and body marks, from wife-beating to gunshots and burned bodies. But nothing like that. He tried to remember if he really did see something move inside Dave or was that just his imagination. Part of him wanted it to be just imagination, that he saw nothing. This was the logical part of his mind, the one that was very fond of realistic world with realistic events and consequences. The other part wanted to convince him there really was a movement and that was the adventurous part of his mind, the one that was developed when he was a child and wanted to believe in supernatural. At the end the logical part prevailed and John turned the engine of his car on. He was almost halfway to the station, when police radio called, requesting his immediate attention at police station. John put small round police light on his roof and turned on the siren. He reached the station much faster with lights and siren on.

    There were two fire trucks in front of the station when he reached it and a couple of firemen just ran out of the building.

    “What happened?” John asked one of themand showed his badge.

    “An accident happened downstairs, I think it was the laboratory. There was a fire, but we managed to extinguish it.”

    John was watching him and fear crawled on his face. “Dan…” he muttered, then ran into the building and down to the lab.

    He reached it and he was relieved when he saw Dan standing in front of ruined door and talking to firemen.

    “… and then I saw a fire,” he overheard Dan’s explanation.

    “What happened here?” John asked Dan.

    “I’m not sure. Firstly, I was in the lab and when I went to grab a cup of coffee, and call you by the way, I heard a big bang and by the time I ran back here, almost thewhole place was on fire. Oh, and the jelly disappeared. When fire guys here finished their job I went right back inside to look for it.”

    “What do you mean disappeared? I mean, it can’t walk right?”

    “No no, what I mean is, it literally disappeared, I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

    “You’re okay, that’s what matters. You’ll look again for jelly when you’ll be cleaning this place up,” John comforted him.

    “Oh yeah, I completely forgot about cleaning this mess,” Dan let out a sigh and scanned the room. “It’ll take time though. And I’ll have to document every tool and evidence in this room, goddammit. Really, what a mess.”

    “Speaking of a mess, have you ever seen anything like this?” John wanted to show him a picture of Melvin’s chest. “Ah, the battery’s dead. I have a charger in my office. Come, I’ll show you there.”

    They had to wait for a few minutes, before the phone charged itself enough to function. Meanwhile, Dan explained John what happened.

    “I was in my lab, checking clothing from that overdosed girl who was found in the park yesterday.”

    “Yeah,” John remembered hearing someone talking about her earlier this morning.

    “Well, I was scanning her clothing, but my mind was really at the blob. I went every half hour and checked it and I tell you, that thing was growing fast. So I quickly finished with clothes and went upstairs to get some coffee and to call you. I was just returning to the lab, dialing your number when I heard the bang. It wasn’t so loud though, it was muffled but I must say, I knew it was the jelly, I don’t know how or why, but I did. I instinctively aborted the call and hurried downstairs. Half of my office was on fire and I saw Sharon down the hall holding phone in her hand. I guess she called the fire brigade. Anyway, after fire was put under control I went in, searching for jelly, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Now I’m thinking maybe it will grow again.” Dan finished his tale, then laughed and added. “Can you imagine this substance could grow and explode, grow and explode to eternity? Our army would be very happy.”

    “Yeah, they wouldn’t let it out of their hands,” John chuckled. “But what if the jelly really did cause the explosion and wouldn’t grow back? Let’s say it finally consumed all of its energy.”

    “Well I don’t know, never really thought of that. Maybe I was looking at it too much from a scientific view,” Dan laughed. ”But for now, I think we should just wait and observe.”

    John nodded and leaned back on his chair. “You know, I had my share of action too today.”

    “What happened?” was Dan curious.

    “Well, unit 14 and I were at the hospital…”

    “Who’s unit 14?”

    “Kemp and Bonham, they were the first ones to arrive to docks on Tuesday. Anyway, we were at the hospital, when we heard a scream inside Melvin’s room so we grabbed our guns and rushed inside. You should’ve seen his face when he saw us Dan, all serious with guns in our hands. I swear he nearly shat himself.” They were both laughing, Dan louder than John. “But then it turned out he just pulled out infusion and screamed out of pain.”

    “Ouch, I know that feeling, it’s nasty,” Dan added while laughing.

    They were still laughing when phone beeped, signaling it had enough energy to work. John turned it on and typed down his PIN.

    “Ok, joke aside; have you ever seen anything like that?” he showed photo of Melvin’s chest to Dan.

    Dan put on his glasses which were hanging around his neck and took phone to his hand for a better look. “No, I can’t say I have, what is it?”

    “It’s mark from the explosion on our lucky guy’s chest.”

    “Melvin?” asked Dan in disbelief. “I didn’t know an explosion could leave traces like this. Didn’t he say he stood further away than the others?”

    “He did. Kemp told me how the scar looked like on Tuesday, but I thought I would see just some regular mark of the heat. This isn’t from heat right?”

    “ It kinda looks like it is, but not like from any I’ve seen before John. Don’t you think it’s weird? The strange jelly, the strange mark on Melvin’s chest?”

    “I don’t know exactly what to think here, Dan. But I have a feeling Melvin isn’t as innocent as he looks. When he laughed during questioning he didn’t moan or grimacebecause of pain. He acted like he wasn’t injured at all. Usually, when people are injured they can’t laugh because the pain prevents them, but Melvin here,” John pointed on thephoto.” he was able to laugh out loud.”

    Dan listened to him without interrupting and nodded when he finished.

    “And also, when I looked at his chest, I could swear I saw a movement inside.”

    “A movement?” Dan asked him and made an amazed face. “What kind of movement? Like when women are pregnant?”

    “Well, no. It’s hard to describe, more like a shadow, uh… more like there was something swimming inside of him and passed his chest right when I looked.”

    “Are you serious?”

    “I know how it sounds Dan, but the more I think, the more I’m certain I saw something.”

    “What, like some kind of an alien?”

    “Maybe. Yeah, you could say that.”

    “Look John, I don’t want to be offensive or anything, but this sounds crazy.”

    “I know it does, but was there anything usual at this case up to this point? I can’t remember anything.”

    Dan looked at him and watched him for a couple of seconds. “You’re right about that. What are you going to do? We have no theory to work on.”

    “I know, I know. I have some ideas I’ll see what I can do.”

    “Right,” Dan confirmed and went towards the door. “I’m curious as hell now, let me know if you come up with something, I have to go, the mess won’t clean up by itself.”

    “Have fun, old man.”

    * * *

    “Valla, you’ve been oddly quiet during our visit,” I started talking to her several minutes after cops left my room. I expected some cheesy line from her, but she didn’t answer. “Come on Valla, in which part of my brain are you hiding?” But she still didn’t answer.

    I got curious, this wasn’t like her, she was constantly talking. And even when she didn’t talk I could sense her. I tried to remember whether I felt her presence during questioning, but I was too busy answering. I didn’t have time to think about her, I had to act like a normal traumatized person and I believe my acting wasn’t so brilliant.

    The tall one, John was his name if I remember correctly, was rather suspicious I think. The way he looked at my chest wasn’t pleasing. He looked amazed, yes, but I didn’t sense any surprise on his face, like he’d seen the scar before. And the fact how he asked me if I was hiding something. Well, I was hiding something, but there’s no way he could find that out.

    “The tall one gave me the creeps, my dear,” Valla finallyannounced herself after some time. “I don’t think he was very fond of you.”

    “So you were here during questioning,” I was actually happy to hear from her again. Strange, despite circumstances I became attached to her, I didn’t blame her for killing my friends anymore. Which is kinda odd, I must admit.

    “Of course I was, where would I go? You know, I don’t think the tall one believed you.”

    “Yeah, that makes two of us.”

    “Tell me Melvin, how do you feel?”

    The question struck me. Actually not the question itself, more the way she asked it. It was with a soft voice, like she really wanted to know how I felt. I thought? and I must admit I felt by far the best since I was awake.

    “I actually feel very good, like nothing happened.”

    “I think you should leave this place, and leave it immediately.”

    Her sudden proposal caught me unprepared. I knew she craved to leave hospital, but I didn’t know she wanted to so quickly.

    “Look I know you don’t like…”

    “It’s not that. Something happened, that’s why I was, um… absent for a while. Also, I think the tall one saw me.”

    “What? How could he see you? I mean even I don’t know how you look and you live inside of me for chrissake!” she frightened me. Not much, but when you have an alien-like being living inside of you and cops suspecting you of bombing the port, you have a pretty justified reason to be scared.

    “No honey, I don’t live inside you,” she laughed. “I should’ve told you before, but I’m still keeping both of us alive.”

    “You told me that before, remember? You explained you saved me afterthe explosion.”

    “No darling, I am still keeping you alive.”

    “What? What do you mean by that?”

    “I am the reason you are still alive. Do you really think your fragile body could withstand an explosion all by itself? I healed you and took care of you from the moment I entered you. The doctors did nothing, you saw their astounded faces when they saw you awake. All they did were some unproductive surgical operations and plugging you to these tubes and machines which are taking no effect anyway. Some of your insides were crushed, my energy is what keeps you still alive.”

    “You lying bitch!” I was astonished, shocked. I felt deceived, my whole body was trembling with anger, anger that could soon get out of control. “I don’t believe you. Get the hell out of me!”

    “No, I don’t want to leave this beautiful body, I got accustomed to it. Besides, did your abilities of listening comprehension abandon you? I said I was keeping both of us alive. Not for long though.”

    “Wha… What do you mean by that?” her words frightened me.

    “Oh nothing special, dearie. Let’s just say I feel complete again. Could you do me a favor and leave this hospital please? I really want to go.”

    “No!” Fear was now being accompanied by unexpected panic which was creeping all over my body and taking over control of my mind.

    “I thought you’d say that,” she said and laughed.

    The laughter was pure evil, like hearing Satan himself laughing. It filled my whole body with biting frost and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even turn my head. I was scared, terrified, the feeling of absolute feebleness was moored in me and I didn’t have the power to lift its anchor.

    Suddenly, my body began to move. It slowly shifted its legs and clumsily rose to its feet. It swayed a little and tried to catch its balance while Valla’s laughter still echoed in my mind.

    “Aaahh, the satisfaction of administering body again. And human body too. I have to thank you my dear, it would not be possible without you.”

    “What are you doing, stop!”

    “No, why should I? And could you be quiet please, your screaming is giving me a headache. That is the phrase, right? I am being accustomed to your body, but it will still take some time to assume it completely. I guess I’ll have to wait to actually feel my head ache. Is it terribly painful?”

    “What are you babbling about?!”

    “Oh, there is no reasoning with you. For a man who formed such a powerful being you understand very little of human behavior in general. Then again, that is the very reason you created me, am I right?”

    The body already caught its balance during Valla’s monologue and I saw it was headed towards the door. The cold was slowly leaving me, it wasn’t so freezing anymore, but fear was growing and obscurity of situation was getting deeper. I tried to calm and think what the hell was going on, but it was impossible at this moment. No school system, no movies, even no video games prepared me for occurrence like this. I was left on my own, it was up to me, whether I will make it out of this mess or not. If I will make it out of this mess alive, was the main question.

    “Wait, you can’t just leave!” I tried to convince her, but she didn’t listen to me anymore.

    “Why not, it is just walking outside of this place. I will show you,” she said and opened the room’s door with my left arm.

    What I saw outside caused my panic to reach its maximum level. There was a cop sitting outside my room, probably bored as hell and he lifted his head and looked directly at me.

    “Oops, I did not expect that. I think you should be quiet now,” Valla told me and stepped out of the room, body moving like it was never injured.

    “Everything okay?” thecop stood up.

    “Yes, everything okay, just trying my legs if they work properly,” I quickly came up with an answer, but he didn’t reply.

    “Nice work Melvin, good answer,” remarked Valla and then I heard my exact words being repeated. “Yes, everything okay, just trying my legs if they work properly,” but the voice wasn’t mine, it was Valla’s. The cop looked with surprise at my male body which just spoke to him in a female voice.

    “Wow, that explosion really messed you up!” he smiled.

    “Hm, It looks like I’ll have to switch voices too. But for now I think we should use my voice or this officer might get confused, what do you think Melvin?”

    I didn’t answer, my mind was blown by what just happened. Finally a revelation struck me, an illustration of current events which Valla wanted to explain with her riddling sentences, but my overloaded mind didn’t take notice of them or at least didn’t occupy itself with them.

    “Am I… Valla, am I trapped in my own body?”

    “Hold on, I have to finish conversation with this lovely police officer.” She silenced me and then I heard her talk.

    “Yes it messed me up pretty bad. You should hear my voice the moment I woke up.”

    The cop laughed and made a step in my direction. “I’m glad it’s getting better, but I’m afraid you are not allowed to leave your room. Orders, sorry.”

    “Don’t worry I’ll just stretch my legs. Let the poor guy take a normal piss,” Valla said and I sensed my face smiling.

    What an irritating feeling. I tried to move my body, I focused really hard and tried to move it, but nothing happened. I can’t even describe how disturbing it is to be trapped like this, being able to feel the movement of your own body, but still not being able to do anything about it. I’m positive this is what the phrase being completely helpless really means.

    The cop sighed and glanced in the direction in which I assumed the toilet was. “Ok, I give you two minutes.”

    “Ok, better than nothing,” Valla’s voice said and towards the toilets we went.

    “Valla, am I trapped inside my body?” I asked her one more time, when we were at the toilets.”

    “I would not call it entrapment. I just borrowed the body, I will give it back to you. Probably.”

    The consolation that my body might be returned to me calmed me down. “It is still not a voluntarily withdrawal,” I pouted, like a little boy, but I was given little choice on how to behave in this situation.

    “How to avoid that officer?” was she thinking when we reached the toilets and ignored my last remark.

    “You don’t still think of leaving this place, do you?”

    “I will check what he is doing,” she said and I thought how could an intelligent being like her act so stupidly and childish.

    My head leaned through the toilet door and saw the cop talking with his radio.

    “Do you think he called that tall detective?” Valla asked me.

    “It’s possible.” Funny, I felt like an accomplice in a crime and I did nothing. Well except creating a feministic alien and killing seven people.

    “We have to leave,” she said and ran through the door in instant moment.

    “Wait, you can’t do that!” I tried to stop her and I could already hear the cop yelling behind me. His steps were getting louder and louder, he was closing in on us. Soon he reached us and grabbed my right arm, but before he could ask what the hell is going on my body turned around in less than a second. It grabbed with its free hand cop’s wrist and twisted it. I heard a loud crack and a scream of pain. Like this wasn’t enough, Valla punched him in the face, sending the poor guy backwards and on the floor. I thought Valla’s plan was to run now and it was, but not before committing one last stupid thing, the stupidest thing I thought even she was not capable of doing. She leaned my body towards the crying cop and pulled a gun out of his holster.

    “No Valla, no! Don’t kill him!” I screamed and tried to make my body throw the pistol away, but again without success of moving even the tiniest muscle.

    “Relax dear, I am not going to kill him. I just took his gun so he could not shoot us.”

    “Ok, ok!” was I relieved, but instead of throwing the gun away, she played with it for a couple of seconds, then stuck it on the back of my pants, right above my ass.

    “No, you have to throw it away, throw it in the toilet” I urged her, but she was already walking away from the cop and toilets. My heart was beating fast and I could almost taste my freedom being taken away and my body put in jail.

    “Where is the exit? I remember being transferred here, when you were in a coma, but I can not recall whether this is the right way out or not.”

    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Her sentences and talking still sounded smart and intelligent, but it was more like I was trying to converse with a little girl who was chasing her ball down the hill and wouldn’t stop until she caught it.

    Suddenly, a memory revealed in my mind. Her behavior was exactly like before I locked her in the container. She was reckless now in the same way she was in my house. This thought reduced my hopes to minimum. She didn’t listen to me then, she probably wouldn’t listen to me now. But there was a difference though. Last time we were alone at my house, now she was in a hospital with human body of her own, armed with a gun. I had to try and stop her, before she caused any damage.

    “Valla wait, you’ll get both of us killed!” were my cries.

    “I doubt it, I will just have a little walk.”

    “Damn it Valla, you can’t walk around the city with hospital clothes and a gun behind my waist. I thought you would be smarter after completion, not reckless and stupid!”

    “I will not even answer your provocations,” she answered to my defiance.

    After minutes of light-headed wandering in the hospital we finally reached the main entrance. She walked through it, just like that and there was no guard to stop her. I urged her again to turn around, but like before, without success.

    “You see, I got us out, just like I promised I would.”

    “Yaaay, you are incredible!” I cheered and the minute we reached the road I saw the first person looking at us, struck with wonder, and I doubted he would also be the last one.

    “Do not mock me or I will never return you your body. It is very comfortable, do you go to a gym?”

    “What? No, I don’t go to a gym!”

    “I just asked, no need to be upset.”

    I couldn’t believe her words, she wasgetting more childish with every second. What did I do wrong when creating Gentleman?

    Before I could develop and finish my theory, I heard a police siren getting louder and soon I saw a black car with small round light on its roof flashing with red and blue color. It suddenly stopped, accompanied by loud squealing of tires.

    The driver’s door opened and that tall detective stepped out with gun in his hand.

    * * *​

    Detective sergeant John Stowe was in a middle of making theories in his office, when dispatcher Rowny stepped inside.

    “Sir, officer Garry Bragg just contacted us and said Melvin Bettis is walking around the hospital.”


    “Officer on guarding duty at the hospital.”

    “Aha, and he said what? That Bettis was walking around?”

    “Yes sir.”

    “Ok thanks.”

    The news didn’t surprise John, Melvin looked in good condition earlier this day, so why wouldn’t he walk? Probably he just wanted to stretch his legs or something.

    Stowe decided not to do anything, but he thought it was good decision made by Garry to let him know there’s been a process. At least someone was making any, since John couldn’t think of any example where Bettis would be responsible for the explosion. He was in hospital after all and he’s been in mortal danger. Still, he had a sensation Melvin was responsible of explosion, or had at least a hand in it. What part did the jelly have? The color of its core was almost the same of Melvin’s chest. And the movement he saw inside of them. The more he thought, the more was John convinced he really did see a motion.

    What if blob really was the explosive? And when it blew up, the substance somehow managed to get inside Melvin, like it was under a very high speed and just entered his body, like in cartoons? What in gods name is the matter with me? was he ashamed of his thinking, he always considered himself a man of facts, not assumptions or wicked theories. When absurd thoughts like the last one entered his mind he just chuckled and waved them away. But here was something different, he couldn’t just dismiss this theory, it somehow always found its way back and washed his brain. He needed some kind of approval that it was okay to meditate this way.

    He picked up his phone and dialed Dan’s cell phone number.

    “Hey, any sign of the jelly yet?” he asked when Dan answered.

    “Nope, nothing yet. I think it might take a while, like it did before. I expect it will just appear in front of me, maybe tomorrow.”

    “How’s the cleaning going?” was John interested and glanced his clock above the door. It was more than an hour since Dan went back downstairs.

    “It’s going, it’s going well. Faster than I expected and Sharon is helping me here.”

    “That’s good,” John smiled. “Hey listen, I was just wondering if you really think the jelly is the explosive.”

    There was no answer for a few moments. “I don’t know John, there were no other substances in my lab that would be of explosive nature and no traces of any kind of explosive were found at the docks. It seems illogical, but all leads point to the jelly.”

    “Yes, but what do you believe?”

    “My honest opinion? As a scientist I kinda want to believe the jelly is behind deaths of the workers. It would be a sensational discovery.”

    “And what do you as a non-scientist believe.”

    “I say it’s impossible for a jelly to be an explosive, but than again I’ve also said my wife wouldn’t leave me and I was wrong.”

    “Ok Dan, thanks.”

    “No problem sarge.”

    John cancelled the call and grabbed his coat. He decided to go to the docks again, just to sniff around one more time, maybe he’d get lucky and saw something nobody else did.

    He opened the door of his office and almost bumped into a smaller policewoman.

    “I’m sorry Sir. Rowny sent me to tell you that Melvin injured officer Bragg.”

    “He what?!”

    “And he also took his gun.”

    John wanted to say something, but there were no words coming from his mouth.

    “Bragg said he surprised him and broke his arm.”

    How could an almost dead man broke an arm to a trained policeman? Was the question appearing in detective’s head. He wanted to say something to the small policewoman, but he just shook his head, waved his hand and hurried out of the building and to his car.

    Really, how could a guy that just woke up from a coma broke a cop’s hand?! John was irritated. He knew Melvin looked in good condition and he could walk, but still… Come on!

    He turned the siren on and put a little round light on the car’s roof.

    “Alright, what’s the status?” he barked to his radio.

    “The suspect is armed and dangerous and has probably already left the hospital. The suspect is probably still wearing hospital clothing. Units 8 and 11 are on their way.”

    “Roger that,” John confirmed and grabbed thewheel with both hands. He was looking left and right hoping to notice a person in hospital clothes.

    All right, if I was Melvin, where would I go, he tried to think but came up with nothing but docks and his house.

    Then he noticed him.

    Stowe turned his wheel and stepped on a brake. Tires squealed and car stopped. He opened the door and stood behind them, with a gun in his hand.

    “Stop moving, Bettis!”

    * * *​

    I froze when I saw the tall detective. “Valla, please listen to me. Don’t do anything rush or stupid.”

    She didn’t reply.


    “Don’t worry dear, I won’t.”

    I heard detective yelling to stop moving, but Valla was still walking towards him. There was a distant sound of sirens and I was almost certain they were headed this way. I did attack a police officer or better put; Valla controlling my body did it and I bet cops take assault on one of their own very seriously.

    “Bettis I mean it, put your hands in the air.”

    “Ok,” said Valla still with her voice. Fuck, she still didn’t change our voices, I thought, but luckily the tall one didn’t distinguish my voice from hers on this loud street.

    “Good, now turn…” he ordered but an arrival of two other police cars interrupted him. I was watching this drama, still helpless to do anything. I was an atheist but I was now silently praying, to be just put in jail, nothing else. An absurd prayer, but like I said many times before; there was not much I could do, locked up in my body like I was.

    There were five cops in common now, the detective who arrived alone in his car and two pairs who arrived with patrol cars. 5 guns were aimed at me and I couldn’t help but think; this is probably the biggest amount of weapons pointing at me, not even in video games 5 people simultaneously pointed their guns at me.

    “Valla, please…” my voice broke. I was still in panic but I was also tired, my heart was beating with enormous speed for at least half an hour, it was like a marathon for me. I still had the will to fight Valla, but no energy.

    “We know you are armed Melvin, put your gun on the ground,” ordered decisive voice of a detective.

    “Please Valla, do it carefully,” I managed to whisper. She listened and slowly took the gun from behind my waist.

    “Now throw it towards us,” detective continued.

    I saw my body threw the gun on the street and that’s when hell went loose.

    When Valla played earlier with gun it looked like she clicked on the safety button so the gun was ready to be used. When hitting the ground it fired in direction of one of the patrol cars. The bullet hit the front bumper and I heard a loud yelling and shot being fired. More shots followed, I felt crushing pain, I heard Valla scream and before my body hit the ground there was darkness all over me. The last thing I saw was blue sky without any clouds.

    * * *​

    The gun hit the ground, causing it to fire and accidentally bullet hit patrol car on John’s right. The officer on driver’s side yelled and ducked, while his partner instantly started shooting at Melvin. The other two quickly joined him and the three of them let a rain of bullets in Melvin’s body.

    John started screaming to stop, but it was already too late. Before the last bullet was shot and before the body fell to the ground, it exploded with loud blast and an orange glow. There was no smoke, only fire that extinguished itself not five seconds after the explosion.

    John and his inferiors ducked in reflex. When they stood back up, there was no sign of Melvin, like was he vaporized during explosion.

    Detective sergeant John Stowe reached for his radio with his eyes still fixed on a point where Melvin stood not fifteen seconds ago.

    “Send the forensics team on intersection of 14th street and Bleeker street," he said with colorless voice. “Oh, and an ambulance,” just in case he thought.

    The forensics were scanning, investigating the scene of Melvin’s death for days, but the jelly was never again to be found.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  2. Patra Felino

    Patra Felino Active Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    Likes Received:

    What was good:

    The main strong point of this story was that it was fun to read. Way back in December, it was fun to switch off from the world for half an hour and read about a sentient, psychopathic orange blob. In part amusing and in part surreal, I liked the way that creation turned inexplicably upon creator in a rather unusual way: (The Gentleman somehow assumed the role of a female, a very violent female.) Although it is obvious from the start that the author is not a native, his English level is good enough to tell a story, avoid repeating the same vocabulary too much by using synonyms, not confuse the reader, and be humorous (one of the most difficult things in a foreign language). I was interested in Melvin from the start, and didn’t think that 1st person was a bad choice. Interestingly, the story’s other main character, John, is written from a close 3rd person PoV, which worked fine until the two characters met. The three main characters are all recognisably different, and the Gentleman’s voice was definitely distinct when he started speaking and harassing the long-suffering Melvin.

    As this was the author first attempt at a serious story, coupled with the fact that he’s a non-native speaker, he should be very proud of his effort and get working on another one.

    What was bad:

    Clearly, the author’s English level would have to improve if he were to actually try to publish anything or make the top five of a contest like this. I’m assuming that this doesn’t come as any sort of surprise – I toy with writing in Spanish and it’s plain as day that I couldn’t submit anything for publication at the moment. Conclusion: Keep working on your English (which from an ESL perspective is very good indeed).

    I thought it ended too suddenly. My money was on the other bit of blob coming into it somehow. I thought Valla and it would be attracted to each other to join up or something. I also thought there were several other ideas that could have been developed further. I wanted to see Melvin use his newfound charm on getting some chick action too!

    Specfic bits I liked:

    Some parts were genuinely pretty funny. When Melvin mused “Funny, I felt like an accomplice in a crime and I did nothing. Well except creating a feministic alien and killing seven people”, I laughed out loud. As I said above, the Gentleman/Valla had a decidedly unique, bossy woman voice, e.g. “The tall one gave me the creeps, my dear,” Valla finally announced herself after some time. “I don’t think he was very fond of you.” It was also funny when Valla pretended that Melvin had lost his legs.

    The author was observant in areas. “Melvin laughed and that was funny to John, usually when injured victims laughed, they felt a lot of pain, but he didn’t grimace at all” is the sort of thing I like to read, as is Dan smiled: “Jelly has a different structure under the microscope. Usually it looks like a lot of knotted strings.

    Specific bits I didn’t like:

    Grammatical errors head the list. I’d say that the biggest problem the author has is choice of verb tense. In fact, I noticed a theme: he kept forgetting to “go back a tense”, for example:

    He quickly glanced over his watch, noticing today’s shift ends ended within an hour.

    One day had already passed, but police had received no notice or demands by the terrorists yet, so all possibilities were still open.

    Even though the victims weren’t related to him, he felt compelled to find whoever did this and bring at least a little comfort to the wives who had lost their husbands.

    I was left on my own, it was up to me, whether I will would make it out of this mess or not.

    And he also used the past instead of the present perfect a fair bit:

    “I don’t know Sir, as soon as he woke up, a couple of nurses and a doctor ran in and still didn’t haven't come out,” explained the guard and shrugged with his head towards the door on his right.

    The next most repeated error was articles, especially the omission of “the”:

    The upper body was not burned, only the limbs were

    Still, if he had nothing to do with the explosion, a panic-stricken victim, afraid for his life wouldn’t be of much help.

    The mark was similar to a burn, but it was a purple circle

    Of course, wrong choice was an issue too, and I guess this won’t be so easy to improve:

    When he laughed during questioning he didn’t moan or grimace because of from the pain…

    I actually had quite a good sleep, but regarding given the circumstances it was just a matter of time before I had one.

    The doctor’s examination was quite tiresome tiring so I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next day.

    Also, there are parts that just read amateurishly:

    She talked very easily, stoically would be a more appropriate word and the sentences she spoke had quite a reassuring effect on me.

    Moving away from ESL issues, there was too much telling instead of showing:

    Then he leaned back on the wall and looked at the boring pattern on the ceiling. (Just decribe it).

    “You lying bitch!” I was astonished, shocked. I felt deceived, my whole body was trembling with anger, anger that could soon get out of control. “I don’t believe you. Get the hell out of me!”


    Impressive first serious effort at a novelette from a non-native. He should congratulate himself on having written something that I thought was fun to read. Clearly, like most of us on the forum, the author’s writing is itself a WIP. At the moment, as far as winning contests is concerned, his ESL issues are a considerable handicap. As he can already write stuff that’s enjoyable to read, I recommend he carry on using writing as a way to improve his English, which will in turn improve his writing. If it were me, I’d rather write about psychopathic orange blobs than read a grammar book anyway.
    Poziga likes this.
  3. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

    Apr 26, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Wow, this was much better than I expected, thank you! :)

    I knew the minute I finished the story that I screwed up the ending. I had two scenarios in mind: either they wind up (like you suggested) together or they die together. I was also more inclined towards the idea of surviving together, but after I thought about it, the 14.000 word limit would not be enough to describe how they ended up together... And I would have to change many hospital scenes and I had no time. :/

    Two questions:
    What do WIP and ESL mean? :oops:
    What did you think of dialogues?

    As for the english, I study translations so it's just a matter of time (hopefully) before I'll be really good at it. :D

    Thank you again for this encouraging critique! :)

    Further critiques are still welcome :)
  4. Patra Felino

    Patra Felino Active Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Sorry to have taken so long to reply to this.

    WIP = Work In Progress
    ESL = English as a Second Language

    The dialogue is pretty good. The characters are distinct and the English is generally fairly natural. Best of luck with future endeavours.
    Poziga likes this.
  5. Poziga

    Poziga Contributor Contributor

    Apr 26, 2013
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    Thank you very much for all the explanations and, again, for the critique! :)

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