Short Story: Dip
If you have trouble reading on this website because the pages are so damn wide, you might want to grab the sides of your browser and shorten its width to a comfortable degree, so that these long, skinny sentences cram together to make a more eye-agreeable set of paragraphs.
The theme this time was, at first, horror, until the mod realized that no one was entering and changed it to general. I had an idea for a horror just a bit before the genre change, so, :confused: to make a long story short, in the end this managed to become a general story with a few elements of horror in it.
The title is...
If there were one certain phrase that could be used to describe Dr. Seltsam, it’d be that he was ‘a flaming lunatic hidden behind a mask of calm, Buddhist kindness and candor.’ The man was responsible for numerous acts of animal cruelty; his most recent, and most famous, being the atrocious and controversial year-long ‘Barrel of Monkeys’ experiments, which ended up being responsible for the biggest breakthrough in AIDs treatment since its discovery.
So the man was, apparently, a genius as well as bonkers crazy, and he seemed especially keen on expressing that on this day. Instead of the usual white lab coat people associate with most doctors and scientists, and which this doctor had always worn in public until now, Dr. Seltsam wore one seemingly splattered with various, fresh, colorful paints. Real paint; you could smell it. It seemed a miracle that none of it was dripping onto the floor – or maybe that was just ‘science’ at work. Regardless, despite the flamboyant outfit, his expression was no different from his usual fox-like poker face and smile... There was just no telling what was going on in the head of this man.
Another puzzling aspect was his place of work. His lab was shockingly clean and tastefully decorated. The walls, floors, and ceiling were all white, though they were whites of different degrees. Punctuating each corner or door was a well-kept potted plant, and the walls were decorated with various paintings of various styles, none of which stood out more than any of the others, and each of which gave off a quiet sense of calm. And as a final touch, there was Bach playing at low volume on the intercom. None of these things went well with the doctor, by the way. They only served to make him seem comparably more bizarre.
Finally, there was Dr. Seltsam‘s choice in company. Aside from a handful of gigantic guards here and there, one man who stood right next to the doctor, a man in a black suit and blue tie. His hair was slicked back and just as black as his clothes, except for a single streak of blue that struck straight across the left side of his head. His purpose here was unknown, although the dark bags under eyes suggest he may have been a scientist here. The man, for some reason, kept his right hand behind his back and his left hand in his left pocket, seemingly clenched into a fist, according to the outline in his pants.
Today the doctor was giving an obligatory – obligatory by law – annual tour of his latest lab and newest experiments. Invited to report on them, and him, were at least three dozen reporters and bloggers, some from established news sources, others from websites nobody knew or cared about. All of them were crammed together only a few feet away from the doctor, separated only by a half dozen burly security guards. Every single one was writing rapturously of something or other, some even using the backs of the people in front of them in order to steady their notebooks.
Finally, “I believe it’s time we begin now,” says Dr. Seltsam as he smiles at the crowd. The man in the black suit pulls himself away from the wall he was leaning against and places himself next to the doctor as they walk together towards the first of several things on the menu for today. Everyone else simply follows the two. “Onto Experiment One, as we simply call it,” the doctor says. “But before that, a note about the name: I, myself, am quite fond of my ability to give unique names, you know, my absolute favorite being the all too fitting ‘Barrel of Monkeys’ experiments, haha. But, sadly, my lawyers tell me I’m best off being more... or less eccentric with what I show to the public... So what started as...” -or so he went on as he leads the journalists through a pair of sliding doors and into the ‘Experimental Chambers.’
The room through the doors, however, seemed to be little more than a very long hallway about 15 feet thick that curved very, very slightly and likely twisted completely around in order to make a loop. In other words, as the doctor continued leading everyone, everyone was currently in the process of walking one large circle, counter-clockwise. Exactly what was being circled remained unknown. “...So... Oh what was I saying...? Oh, that’s right. ‘Experiment One’ was not the name I wanted to give it. So if you don’t like it, just as I don’t, blame my lawyers, just as I do.”
The two men stopped, and so did everyone else. “Now,” begins the doctor as his Buddhist smile seemed to lengthen into the realm of Jehovah and his pretentious Witnesses. “Let me present to you Experiment One...” His hand flamboyantly waves towards the white wall to the crowd’s left, from which the words “Experimental Chamber One” suddenly flashes in neon red. Below the red was one more word, but in neon blue: “Functioning,” which blinked every ten or so seconds. Finally, next to the blue “Functioning,” there was a timer, currently at “02d 21:44:57” and still running.
A large chunk of the wall suddenly vanishes, revealing a window several feet tall and wide, and suddenly a beast known as ‘the crowd’ began to eat itself from the inside out trying to get a better view of it.
“Experiment One in my on-going study into the power and manipulation of fear. It is my least favorite of the experiments, but it has proven to yield some fruitful results... As you can see, there is nothing you can see.” The window was actually completely black. “Haha, but if we turn on nightvision...” What was shown through the green filter was a chimpanzee in a small, but tall, room. The walls of the room were the same smooth material covering everywhere else in the lab, but protruding from the bottom of one of them was a single large, sturdy branch. The chimp sat directly below this branch, hugging itself against the wall.
“The experiment here is rather simple, which is why I dislike it. What we do is keep this animal here for days, completely isolated from anything else, and at certain intervals we play a certain sound...” The chimp on the screen suddenly jumps in the air, banging its head on the branch. It soon gets back up and jumps up and down again, slapping the walls with its hands, seemingly trying to get out. However, none of what it did could be heard from the other side of the screen. “...and we observe the effects. We try many different sounds; some have to do with the animal’s natural predators, others we create from scratch ourselves, which, I’m proud to say, has led to considerable success.”
“Why do this?” suddenly spoke the man in the black suit. He seems distressed by what he was seeing, and his left hand, still in his pocket, seems to be shaking.
“Oh, much good reason, dear Michael. Imagine the uses for the artificial sounds born from this experiment! With the right ones, we may be able to induce fear on any human being nearly at will. It would change modern warfare as we know it.”
The scientist beams at the crowd with an artificial smile. “Ah, but don’t think that this research is for military use... I’m actually not allowed to talk about that, hm.”
He turns to look at the chimp through the screen. “Cute, isn’t it?” It was currently banging its head on the wall opposite of the branch. “That branch. It’s made to break off whenever the animal gets on it. The point is to rip apart its sense of security by making even the sturdiest branch seem unreliable to it. It was quite funny the first few times. Yes... you see, we keep it in the dark so that it doesn’t get a complete sense of his surroundings, and we always play the sounds from directly above so that it can believe that the owners of those sounds may by looking down at it, lying in wait.” The doctor gives a light giggle. “The use of fear of the dark, fear of enclosed spaces, and fear of monsters, real and not... it’s somewhat effective! Well, I’m sure you can all see that for yourself...” The chimp had regressed into hugging itself and rocking back and forth with its back against a wall.
“But... The sounds...” begins Michael. He looked away from the screen, at the floor.
“Yes? Something to say?” starts the doctor. His eyebrows lift as he looks at the man in the black suit, almost daring him to speak.
“Nothing...” he replies, forcing it out. The fist in his left pocket seems to clench even tighter. “Let’s go on to the next one.”
The doctor seems to consider this, all the while staring at the man, eyebrows still raised. “Yes... I suppose we can.” His face softens and he turns to the crowd again, and nods. “Let us move on.”
It seems the doctor’s newest experiments were hardly any less grotesque than the ones before. It was a wonder that he didn’t realize that thanks to stricter laws ever since his last experiment, this one was likely to be shut down the moment the reporters here published their articles to the public, and he was likely to be jailed. Shouldn’t a man as well-known as him keep track of those things? What were his lawyers doing?
The man in the black suit, Michael, suddenly brings his right hand from behind his back and coughs into it. His eyes seem watery, perhaps from lack of sleep, perhaps from distress, and as he treads forward he seems deep in thought.
--Story is altogether 300 characters too long for one post, so it's divided into two....
It took several minutes of walking along the circling hallway before Dr. Seltsam said anything again. “Fear is such a fascinating subject. I think it was during the Barrel of Monkeys experiments that I truly started to become interested in it. Watching those animals meet their long torturous ends made me start to wonder what exactly it was they were experiencing at the time. It must have been amazing.” The doctor seemed to be savoring the memories, as he had his head tilted up, his eyes shut, and what seemed like an honest smile on his face. He took a deep breath, as if smelling it as well.
Suddenly he stops. “Here we are!” He again flamboyantly waves his hand at the wall to the left, and the neon red words “Experimental Chamber Two” flash on. Below it is the neon blue “Functioning” again, as well as another timer, “00d 23:53:12.”
“Experiment Two,” says the doctor, and again a large chunk of the wall disappears and again all the reporters begin clawing at each other to get a better view. What is seen through it is much better lit, and the room inside is several times bigger than the room for Experiment One. In a corner, at the bottom right of the screen, is a little monkey, seemingly cold and shivering. Several feet away from it is one chimp, jumping up and down and howling at it. The two are separated by one large glass barrier, probably bulletproof, since the chimp is currently punching at it, staining it with the blood from its fists. Behind it are five more glass barriers, all of which had been lifted several feet up in the air, and all of which had been stained in red.
“What we do here is place one small monkey at the corner here – in this case a young spider monkey – and a chimpanzee at the other corner of the room, separated by the six glass barriers you see there. Every 4 hours we lift one of the barriers, and let the chimp get a little closer to the little spider monkey.
“The point of the experiment,” continues the doctor, “is to observe fear over extended periods of time, and in mounting amounts as time passes and the distance between the two closes. Also, to make sure the monkey is thoroughly afraid of the chimp...” Suddenly another spider monkey is tossed into the general area the chimp was in, without the protection of a barrier. The monkey tries to escape, but it seemed to have its legs injured, and the chimp in no time catches up to it and begins mercilessly ripping one of its arms off. Although there is no noise penetrating the window the crowd was looking through, it is easy to imagine what sounds come out of the two.
Eventually, the chimp rips off the monkey’s other arm, grabs its tail, and begins slamming it against the glass barrier that separated it from the first monkey, staining it with even more blood, and now grey matter. The first monkey can only stare and shiver, and cry.
“It’s so much better than the last one, I think,” says the doctor. “Making use of the primal fears of pain, death, and even fear of psychopaths to induce fear on the little monkey... it’s quite effective! You might wonder where we managed to get such an energetic chimpanzee. Well, it’s one of the fruits of Experiment One. Each animal we place in there for variable days ends up more or less like this one; quite blood-thirsty, perhaps even vengeful, wouldn’t you say?” He seems to be asking Michael.
“Yeah... vengeful...” replies Michael. He seems to be in worse spirits than he was just after Experiment One, and sweat can be seen staining his left pocket. “I see you’re keeping us from listening in on what’s happening. It doesn’t seem to be in your nature to keep something like that from us. Don’t you want to give the guests here some inspiration to spice up their articles?”
“Hm,” replies the doctor. “I would be stupid to allow such a thing. The sounds would make it impossible for the good reporters here to hear me speak! The ‘spice’ you speak of would be useless if they had nothing to sprinkle it on, don’t you think?”
“How many of these animals have been killed so far, doctor?” asks the man.
“251. Of various species, of course,” the doctor immediately responds. The scribbling sounds of pen on paper fill the hallway. “Now, I think it’s almost time we had a little break, wouldn’t you say? I’d say. Just a couple of minutes away...”
The screen goes white. The neon words and numbers, however, still remain. As the crowd begins moving again, it isn’t difficult to notice the timer suddenly reach the 24 hour mark, and then 20 seconds after it, when the neon blue “Functioning” disappears and is replaced by an orange “Concluded.”
“Now, there’s nothing quite as quick at inducing fear into humans as sharp objects, don’t you think? I watched part of a war movie recently, I forget the name, but was enthralled when a torture scene came up. So many saws, hooks, and even screwdrivers lined the walls of the torture room, so naturally I was very excited at what they would show. But then they completely skipped the torture scene, which was very disappointing to me, especially since I wanted to see how the hooks would be used. So...” –and continuing like so, several minutes pass.
“...Ah, we’ll be reaching Experiment Three in no time at all now. There will be a banquet waiting for all of us, and I just can’t wait to see the next subject... Oh dear!!” The doctor stops in his tracks and swirls around. “I almost forgot. Move aside, you apes!!” The six security guards dividing the doctor and Michael from the crowd of reporters almost leap to their sides and slam against the walls. The doctor looks through the crowd and suddenly points at...
“I can’t believe I forgot to extract Experimental Chamber Three’s research subject! Guards, grab her!”
Wait, what did he just say? Let me see... “...forgot to extract...” No, not that... “Experiment Three... ...saws, hooks...” Wait, he can’t be...
“Um...” I start to say. “You don’t mean to... use me... like...?” I recall the previous two experiments, and am suddenly overwhelmed with fear. I immediately claw at the crowd of fellow reporters behind me, and, experienced with clawing that I am, manage to get through two layers, but am stopped by the last.
“I’m sorry little miss,” says a very snobby-looking man in a yellow suit as he pushes me back using his hard, black, and shiny notebook. “It would be troubling if you got away, you know?”
I feel a heavy hand on my shoulders, and fingers suddenly dig into my shoulder and lift me off my feet! I can almost feel the pain, but shock and fear just barely keep it at bay. “Let go! Help!”
“Ah, I’m very sorry you had to see this ugly scene, dear media,” says Dr. Seltsam. “She should have been kidnapped earlier. But worry not; she’ll be ready in no time. No time at all.”
“Help me! Please!” I plea to the other reporters, but none of them do anything. No they do something. They smile; some laugh.
“Quickly, buffoons,” commands the doctor. “Spare my guests the sight of your blunder, will you?”
“Let me go with them!” yells Michael! He has both hands in front of him, pleading to Dr. Seltsam. I think he may be trying to save me! But I notice what he holds in his left hand: a small, bloody, yellow duckling. “I want to hear her. I want to hear screams! I’ll tell Father if you don’t!”
“Oh fine! Just go, you damned eyesore!” says the doctor, and watches as Michael runs after me, with a sweaty, ugly, wide-eyed smile on his face.
It can’t be. There’s nothing I can do. As the guard grabbing me places me on his shoulder, I stare at the crowd of idiots, and curse every single one of them. Especially that snobby bastard with the yellow suit. I curse them. And curse them. Curse them. And I beg God to get me out of this!
The little miss was taken just like that. She didn’t seem to have much style, that one. Braids and glasses, in this day and age? And that horrendous librarian’s outfit! Truly unsightly it was, but quite humorous, I admit. I suppose if they’re going to pay us to keep quiet about all this, it’s not too bad if they add in a little light-hearted entertainment too. The food’s not bad, either. Quite a variety of it, too, sprawled across various tables in front of the, uh, “Experimental Chamber Three” wall. Mmm, I catch the good doctor walking by.
“Dr. Seltsam,” I say, “why is the screen on the wall here still white? Can’t we see what’s going on?” I point at the “Experimental Chamber Three” on the wall, as well as, I suppose, the “Functioning” and the “00d 00:24:23” on it too.
“It is top secret, my good man,” replies the doctor, still donning that dashingly colorful coat of his. “Not even half of my staff is allowed to know what goes on there. But trust me, it’s quite exhilarating! All the hooks and tubes and- ah, slip of tongue there. Do forget that, will you?”
Of course, of course, I nod. My imagination is, I’m sure, sharp enough to get the idea... But then again, the doctor’s own imagination is quite complex... so I might be just a little off.
A loud ding suddenly came from the wall. I looked at it to make sure, and the “Functioning” signal was still there, and the timer was still running. Still alive, is she?
“It’s finally ready!” says the doctor almost to himself, and he rubs his hands together and grabs an empty bowl. A square piece of the wall about a foot in width and length slides away and a small golden faucet pops out of it. The doctor puts his bowl under it and lets some of the red and orange material spill into it.
“Hmm?” I’m entirely aware of where that faucet is connected to. I have to ask, “What is it?”
“It’s dip,” he says. “Get some! There’s some chips right here... Ah, but be careful it doesn’t get on your wonderful yellow suit.”
“I will...” I don’t have a choice, it seems.
“Dip is wonderful. It can be as simple as one kind of cheese or infinitely more complex as you use more ingredients. Yet, surprisingly, dip is absolutely useless if you don’t have a lesser ingredient to eat it with, like this tortilla chip. Odd, isn’t that? I, myself, prefer using more exotic ingredients...”
At “00d 00:28:40,” I happen to notice the blue “Functioning” on the wall finally become an orange “Concluded.”
“...You see, dip, and fear too, really, is always best-“ Munch, munch, munch, gulp. “-when you add your own unique ingredient to the mix; wouldn’t you agree?”
That's a long read.
My first thought is...Where's the protective gear?! You all are going into an experimental lab, for god's sake! Think of all the germs and disease, whatsoever spreading...
My second though is...PETA's going to love destroying the place.
My third though...Is this story written from a second-person view or a third-person view? The confusion starts with one-third of the second half of the story. After that, the story just blown out of my mind.
Overall, the story 's just creepy, and a bit disgusting (especially the ingredient of that dip).
Good story, though. (^0^)/
Thanks for reading. It's first person, though I try to make the reader think it's third until the moment the narrator shows that she's there at the moment. I kinda panicked at the last moment before my deadline and screwed up the tenses, so sorry if that effect didn't come through.