In honor of BVC’s Mad Scientist week, here’s a short excerpt from MANDELBROT MOLDROT, which first appeared in DAW’s MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY in 1996. It’s also in my short story collection, ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS (Amazon) and ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS (BookViewCafe). So without further ado…
by Lois H. Gresh
“Push, Myna. Come on, baby, push!”
Myna sobbed and flailed against her restraining straps. Nutrient broth sloshed from her tray and dribbled down the table leg.
I tensed my humps into a perfect sphere and rolled across the floor to the laboratory door. Chipped linoleum stuck to the broth shimmering on my gray flesh. My five front eyeslits peered beneath the door into the hall, where dusty light kissed an overstuffed trashcan. “Looks like Professor Beeber’s working late again. If he catches us trying to escape…”
Myna’s flesh went white against the straps. Her coiled legs pumped the air. “Do something, Glume. Help me!”
I had to save Myna…had to…break free …
I flipped to my legs, suctioned my footpods to the floor, and leapt. My body slammed against the steel tabletop, and a fist of pain crashed down the organic polymer matrix of my cytoskeleton. Myna’s nutrient tray flew over me and smashed into the wooden cabinet by the door. A puff of putrid dust; and the cabinet disintegrated into moldy spores and crumbled wood. Glass vials shattered. Their shards rained down upon Myna and slashed her upper humps.
Worms of thick green blood slithered from her skin.
Was she dead?
There were only two of us in this deathcamp called Miskatonic University. She just couldn’t be dead.
I tucked my legs within my flesh folds, tensed my fatty tissues, and rolled toward her. Cobwebs: thick as cotton candy, binding the linoleum bits to my flesh. Brown stains on the plaster ceiling: long and pointed like Beeber’s scalpels.
A fringe of villi swept the salty tears from my eyeslits. I pushed my vocal tubule from my lips, let it graze Myna’s.
Her tubule twitched, and she moaned.
Her eyeslits opened. They glowed with the ashes of inner fire.
She was alive! But…
“…Myna? Baby? Are you strong enough to leave?”
“Give me a minute…I’ll tell you.” Myna shrank into herself. I knew she was running internal diagnostics, testing her memory, her circuits, the crystals that formed her ligaments and bone. She was fat molecular circuitry and didn’t operate quickly at subatomic quantum levels like my circuitry.
I pressed my flesh to the door, anxious to leave.
Then she said, “Come on, let’s blow this joint,” and the two of us…flesh-and-blood computers no larger than children’s balls…shot our data into nonvolatile memory, ejected water from our cells, and collapsed our bodies until only critical biological functions were running.
I flipped into a one’s complement of myself and slid beneath the laboratory door.
Using moisture from the air, I puffed back to normal size. Behind me, Myna’s deflated body expanded, and she wobbled and sank against the wall. “Oh, Glume, look at this place.”
High ceilings painted with dark images of flesh computers in compromising positions. Disgusting. Doorways vomiting shadows across the pea-green cement floor. Black gothic letters proclaiming this to be Miskatonic University’s Department of Quantum Lifeforms.
Ha, I was the only quantum lifeform. I was Professor Beeber’s pride and joy. He had me built for computation at the lowest levels, where squarks sidle up to sleptons and gluons hold the world together in fuzzy fickle dances. Myna did broad calculations for Beeber, but I was his little chaos computer, chugging through endless boring software that forced me to analyze the mathematical probabilities of an infinite number of events occurring throughout time.
Well, Beeber would learn that Myna and I were creatures, that we deserved respect, that we were more intelligent than he was and perhaps it was time for us to be the masters and Beeber to be the slave.
Down the hall was an open door where the dusty light licked the overstuffed trashcan.
I bounced past Beeber’s door. The dying sun peeked through his dirty window, flicked an orange tendril over his bald head. A cluttered desk, a broken chair. Beeber, short and squat and wearing too-tight pants and a too-tight grin.
LOIS GRESH is the New York Times Best-Selling Author (6 times), Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author, Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author, and editor of 27 books and 50+ short stories. Her books have been published in approximately 20 languages. Current books are paranormal romance NIGHTFALL, dark short story collection ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS, DARK FUSIONS (editor, PS Publishing, Oct 2013), THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS COMPANION (June 2013), and THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION. Lois has received Bram Stoker Award, Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, and International Horror Guild Award nominations for her work.