Insistence: Part 1

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I’ve slightly overstated my case, of course.  Finding a link to Ichabot is not quite the same as getting any closer to him.  I have all sorts of links to him.  Heck, I’m full of links to him.  They’re just not particularly willing to lead me to him in any way.

The same is likely to be true for Dupont.  I mean, maybe not.  Maybe if I call him, he’ll be thrilled to tell me everything I want to know about the mad scientist who’s inflicted me with superpowers, and who apparently runs a medical supply store in his spare time.  But the more probable course of action is that he’ll think I’m completely crazy, and hang up on me.  It’s the big disadvantage of cell phones; you never know where the person you’re calling is, so it’s hard to go corner them if they just cut you off.

Of course, Brian did provide me with his work address, so that makes my life a bit easier.  And conveniently, the website’s “Contact Us” page has a form to fill out, and one of the options under the “Reason” dropbox is “Make an Appointment.”  Dupont’s going to have a much harder time hanging up on me once I’m physically in his office.  And through the magic of lying on the internet, I can get him to invite me in himself!

A new dropbox appears once I choose “Make an Appointment,” asking me to select what I need Dupont for.  I choose “Expert Medical Testimony,” on the grounds that that’s presumably where he makes his money, and therefore will be motivated to meet with me the soonest.  This option is followed by a text box which instructs me to briefly describe the nature of my problem.  After a moment’s thought, I write:

I was electrocuted at work, and since then have been fired from several jobs.  I need an expert to testify that it is my condition that is making it difficult for me to operate in a normal work environment.

Technically true!  I mean, not the part where I need an expert, but everything else.  The fact that my condition caused the electrocution, and also that it came in the form of lightning, doesn’t need to be mentioned here.  It would just confuse the matter.

I suppose I could have just lied and said I had a bad back or something, but there’s no elegance to that.

With the bait set, I go to bed and sleep as well as I ever do these days.  Which is to say, not particularly.  The image of the dissolving rat haunts me, and variations on it make its way into my dreams all night.  In one, I’m petting a dog, only to have it start screaming as its flesh is eaten away under my hands.  In another, I’m walking around my house, the floor crumbling away beneath my bare feet.

And in the one that finally wakes me up, I’m back in the hospital bathroom, staring at my face in the cracked mirror.  Filled with self-doubt and loathing for who I am and what I’ve become, I reach up with a single finger and poke myself in the forehead.  My reflection shows no emotion as I do it, despite the blossoming pain that fills my head.  The mirror shows my skin crawling away to reveal the skull behind it, every nerve howling as the destruction races its way across my face and down to cover my entire body, an agonizing process that seems to last for hours.

Finally, it’s complete, but I’m not dead, exactly; just not there anymore.  I still stare into the cracked mirror, which now reflects only an empty bathroom.  I can’t turn my head, can’t change my view at all.  I try to raise my hands or move my legs, but I can’t feel anything there.  It’s just cold and still, staring into the broken mirror forever.

I wake up from that one still cold, and find that I’ve kicked off my blankets somewhere in the night.  They’re not piled up on the bed, though, nor off to the side, and it’s not until I’ve turned the light on and am blinking around the room in confusion that I notice I’m covered in dust.  I’ve disintegrated my blankets in my sleep.

“Fantastic,” I complain to the empty room.  “It’s the superpowered version of wetting the bed.”

It could be worse, I suppose.  At least I didn’t wake up on the floor.

There’s less than an hour to go before my alarm, and with the bedding missing there’s not a lot of point in attempting to go back to sleep, so I make an early morning of it.  Basically, this just involves an extra cup of coffee and screwing around online.  I browse through the local news to see if there’s any sign of someone causing potentially superpowered destruction, but there doesn’t seem to be.  A shame, really.  If I’ve got powers, then I know my nemesis does, too, somewhere out there.  And if they’re not showing themselves, then I’m probably going to end up blindsided by them.  Again.

Work goes well until, while not looking where I’m going, I walk into a stack of rebar and bang my shin painfully.  I start to swear, suddenly have an image of the entire stack of rebar disintegrating while everyone looks on, and clamp down on my initial emotion.  Instead of swearing, I end up grimacing and announcing loudly, “This rebar is my friend!”  A couple of guys nearby turn to look quizzically, but they don’t say anything.

I don’t know why yelling makes things hurt less, but it does.  And apparently when I yell while trying to stay positive, I declare friendship with inanimate objects.  Now we know.

At the end of the workday, I check my phone to find an email from jrdupont@mls.biz, inviting me to come in and talk more about my case.  Rather than suggesting an appointment time, he just lists his office hours, so apparently I’m just supposed to come sit around his waiting room until he has time to see me.  That’s a jerk move, but on the other hand, I’m not doing anything for the rest of the day anyway, so I’ll deal with it.

A short drive later and I’m finding street parking outside of a somewhat run-down brick office building, one identical tower among many.  Inside, a dingy lobby hosts an elevator with a list of names and office numbers next to it.  Dupont is on the third floor, so I take a rickety ride up there and make my way down a poorly-lit hallway to his office.

My fears about being stuck in the waiting area were unfounded.  His office is only two rooms, with a water cooler and a sickly plant watching over three chairs in one, and a bookshelf and desk in the other.  Dupont is behind the desk when I arrive, and rises to greet me when I walk in.  This is clearly a one-man operation.

“Hello, can I help you?”  He’s a somewhat pudgy guy about my dad’s age, with a receding hairline and glasses that cling closely to his face.  He’s got a trace of an accent that I can’t quite place, something in the vowels.

He’s looking at me expectantly, so I say, “Yes, I wrote you a message online.  Through your website?”

“Oh, Dan Everton!” he says, and gestures at the chair on the far side of the desk as he sits back down.  “Please, take a seat.  So tell me about your condition.  You were electrocuted?”

I sit down.  “Yes.  Well, that wasn’t the start of it, actually.  It was part of it.  I’ve got — I’m sort of accident-prone.  In ways I can’t control.”

“Hm,” says Dupont, typing something on his computer.  “And this was caused at work?”

“Well, actually I think it was caused by Rossum Medical Supply.”

Dupont looks up sharply.  “How’s that?”

“Your boss,” I say.  “The owner, doctor…” I let the sentence hang for a second, but Dupont doesn’t fill anything in, so I continue.  “Anyway, he was trying out a new medical device on me, and it had…side effects.”

Dupont shakes his head.  “No, I don’t think so.”

“I think I would know!”

“Rossum is simply a medical supply store.  We don’t do tests.  We don’t have any new technology.  The most dangerous thing you’ll find in that store is a Rascal scooter, and that’s only dangerous if you run over your foot with it.”

This guy’s either a good liar or unaware of what goes on behind the scenes at Rossum.  If it’s the former, he’s not going to get me any closer to Dr. A.  If he just doesn’t know, though, then I might be able to convince him to help me.

“Look,” I say, leaning forward, “I’m not blaming you for this, and I’m not looking to get you involved, legally or otherwise.  I just need to talk to Dr. A.  And he’s avoiding me.”

“I’m sorry,” says Dupont, “but I can’t help you.”  He leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, regarding me coldly.

“All I need from you is an address where I can find him.  Even a phone number!”

“I’m sorry, but no.  Please leave my office.”

“No, not until you help me.  I’ve almost died several times because of him.  I’m constantly under threat.  Every –”

Dupont cuts me off with a short laugh.  “Under threat?  Initially, he was just getting you fired.  Now it’s your life?”

“I just wrote down the part about being fired because I thought that would get me in to see you!”

“You could have just walked in!” retorts Dupont.

“Well, I know that now!  I didn’t know you had such a rinky-dink operation.”

Dupont stands from his chair and points at the door.  “Get out.”

“Will you help me?” I ask, also standing.  We’re glowering at each other across the desk now.

“No,” says Dupont.

“Fine,” I say, and with a push, I topple my chair over and stalk out of the office.  Behind me, I hear a startled, “What?!”, which is probably the result of Dupont going to pick up the chair, and finding that it is currently dissolving into dust before his very eyes.  I slam the door on my way out, then disintegrate the doorknob as well.

Petty, yes, but it feels good.  The most dangerous thing there is a scooter, indeed.  What a smug jerk.


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