Lab Rat

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

You think about “Die Hard” number four, with the same guy doing the hero thing, and you wonder how likely it is that the same dude ends up in such deep shit over and over again. Okay, maybe you don’t wonder. I know I used to, though. I feel my nose give under the impact of a fist, and my vision goes all white and spotty. My eyes water, my nose bleeds, and my vision slowly returns. The guy is going through my pockets like I have anything of value. All he’d find is a cheap vinyl billfold and some car keys. The wallet will be empty, as always, and the car keys belong to a 1993 Nissan that was totaled last month. I hear him swear, but everything is still so damn blurry. I think about Bruce Willis, and I decide that he probably went looking for trouble the same way I do.

The guy is still feeling me up as I writhe in slow motion, and he stops at my watch. It’s not really a watch, but he’s in a hurry. He starts pawing at it, and hits a red button on the face of the thing. The veins in my right arm burn. What did I have it set on last? If I weren’t so busy hurting, I probably would have recalled that it was all new stuff. Like a bag full of canned foods with no label. I have no idea what I’m packing tonight. The guy is pulling at the band. It hurts, but you gotta understand that the thing has a pair of needles driven into my wrist.

I start feeling hot all over. My face feels like when you lean over the oven and open it to check on your pizza. The feeling spreads, and I smell smoke. There’s a scream, and I’m pretty sure it’s not me. I’m suddenly feeling normal again; even my no-doubt broken nose stopped hurting. I’m seeing clearly again – in fact, it’s really bright out. The shadows hint that maybe the light is coming from behind me. The guy who was previously occupied with rolling me is on fire. His hands are cinders, and flames are eating their way up his sleeves. He is all out of facial hair, and head hair for that matter. I look down at my hands. I’m on fire too, but it doesn’t hurt.

Wait, that’s not quite it. I am the fire. Guess the light isn’t coming from behind me, after all. “Look, man,” I say to the screaming thug as he throws himself to the pavement. The stop drop and roll maneuver looks like it’s far harder to do with charcoal briquettes for hands. “I had no idea what my handler put in this thing. I’m REALLY sorry about the hands. I’ll go try and find help, but I kind of don’t think I’ll be much use at putting you out.” The man screams some more.

As I walk toward the mouth of the alleyway, I wonder how hot I’m burning. I look down. The asphalt is molten where I stepped. Pretty hot, I guess. One more thing: I’m naked now. I guess neither of us gets my wallet. My wristband still looks intact, not that it matters right now. The fire won’t stop until the drug runs its course. “Fuck, Ally,” I mutter. “You couldn’ta warned me that you were gonna turn me into a blowtorch tonight?” I make a mental note to say that to her for real when I get back to the lab.

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