Short story #2 by Brendan Reid

Desmond held the small syringe aloft, examining its contents in the light of his desk lamp.

“Could this be it?” he said.

Christian, Tanya, and Peter, the other three scientists in the lab, looked up from their work with skepticism etched on their faces.
“What did you say?” said Tanya.

“I think we’ve done it!” replied Desmond, a smile beginning to appear on his face. For four years he and his team struggled towards this accomplishment, and now that it just might be here, Desmond found it difficult to comprehend.

“Christ, I thought we’d be here another fifty years before we got some results,” said Peter, rising from his desk to come and see for himself. He studied the papers in front of Desmond, nodding complacently. He smirked as he looked at the syringe in Desmond’s hand. “If what’s in there matches what’s on these papers, then we’ve bloody well done it.”

Tanya and Christian came over to see what Peter had just seen. Leaving the needle on the desk, Desmond leaned back in his chair and put his arms behind his head. Four years ago, Desmond finished his chemical engineering course with the highest grades in his class, and was well on his way to a successful career in science. Opportunity came knocking mere months after the graduation ceremony. He was hailed by a high profile university and offered funding in a research project. He was informed that he would be teamed with two neurologists and a fellow chemical engineer, and together, they would attempt to create a new form of interrogation: a guilt serum. The goal was to create a drug that exposed the deepest feeling of guilt within criminal suspects, and upon taking it, they would willingly give up their confessions. If successful, criminal justice would be revolutionized, and those responsible for its production would become wildly rich. It was just the challenge Desmond had been hoping for, and he didn’t hesitate in accepting the job. And, after four years of research, trial and error, lab work and frustration, the results could very easily be sitting in front of him. All of his hard work and toil was hopefully about to pay off. But one final step in the process remained.

“This is amazing!” exclaimed Christian, who was also a chemical engineer. “We might actually have something here, at last!”

Tanya spoke. “It’s true. All the figures do seem to match up. But there’s only one way that we’ll know for sure if it works. We have to test it out.”

Everyone in the room fell silent. It was a notion everyone was aware of, but nobody wanted to volunteer for. The results could very easily be catastrophic.

“Well, I sure as hell ain’t doing it,” said Peter, stepping back. “Last time we had a prototype, I had to try it, and it sucked. If you recall, I threw up every half an hour for the next two days, practically shit myself every ten minutes, and just about went into a coma. You do remember that, don’t you?”

“Yes, we remember,” said Tanya “And I did it the time before that, with equally unpleasant results. It’s definitely one of your turns. But don’t worry, the serum is different this time. This just might be the real deal. ”

The two looked at Desmond and Christian. Before any argument could ensue, Desmond got to his feet.

“I’ll do it, dammit,” he announced. “I have nothing to hide.” And this was true. Desmond prided himself in being a nice guy, and steered clear of trouble as best he could. He had been a good kid throughout high school and university, and had more than once disproved the adage that “nice guys always finish last.” He was very certain the serum would have no effect on him, if this was in fact the real deal. When he said this, all three of the scientists glanced at one another, and Christian shrugged.

“Well, that’s just perfect!” he exclaimed. “We should get going right away. Test Chamber A?”

At this, everyone got to their feet, left the lab, and walked down the hall to a door with “A” marked on it in red. Inside was a large window that divided the room into two distinct halves. A door connected them, and a single chair with clamps and leather straps attached to it could be seen on the other side of the window. Desmond turned to his associates.

“Here is the serum,” said Tanya. “I’ll come in to give it to you, then we will monitor and document your reaction to the drug, and if you could do your best to recall what you go through, that would be wonderful. You still OK with this?”

Desmond nodded. “Somebody’s got to do it. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, he and Tanya stepped through the door to the other room, and he sat in the chair. Tanya clamped his wrists to the armrests, his ankles to the chair leg, and strapped him in tightly with the leather belts. She then rolled up his left sleeve. Peter and Christian both had notepads and pens in hand, ready to observe. Peter leaned forward and spoke the microphone that connected the rooms.

“Desmond Roberts, Guilt Serum prototype, trial run. You may initiate when ready, Tanya.” He stepped back and waited.

Desmond looked at the syringe in Tanya’s hands then back to his exposed forearm. Swallowing, he watched as she identified a major vein and gingerly administered the drug. It stung viciously, and he winced as the last drops of the serum pumped into his bloodstream. Once the needle was empty, she left the room and locked the door behind her. Desmond waited. The effect should begin moments after taking the drug.

Then, like a tidal wave crashing against the shoreline, it hit him.

The walls around Desmond began to pulsate, and he felt a deep feeling of dread building inside him. He experimented with marijuana when he was younger, but this was far from the calming, innocent high he was familiar with. Desmond feared he might have made a mistake in volunteering. He looked through the window into the eyes of his colleagues, and then their faces faded away, the walls evaporated, and he was sitting alone in complete darkness. The isolation crushed him as he absorbed his new surroundings. He was about to cry out when a pinpoint of light appeared in the distance. He stared, trying to discern what it was, when dozens more materialized around it. First dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, and before long, Desmond had to shut his eyes against the blinding light.

Suddenly, his body felt as lighter than air, and he felt as if he was floating in water. He opened his eyes slowly, sensing the light was gone, and nearly cried out in shock. He was looking through the perspective of a driver in a car, speeding through a rainy storm at night on an isolated street. Desmond found he was fully conscious and aware of his thoughts, but had no control of the body he appeared to be occupying. It was as if he was seated inside the brain of this person, living their actions but not their thoughts. Desmond suddenly found he was peering into the rear view mirror and with a shock realized the person was himself, a younger version of himself, by six years or so. Desmondbegan to feel confused. “What the hell is going on?” he thought. “This isn’t supposed to be happening! I have nothing to hide!” His train of thought was brought to a sudden halt as a massive object smashed into the windshield. The car stopped abruptly, and a vivid splatter of red littered the window.

Desmond watched as he stepped out of the car into the rain. Behind the vehicle was the body of a man, his limbs sprawled out awkwardly. Judging by the condition of his ruined head, the man was very dead. Desmond could hear himself swearing and panicking, cursing the man for being out at such a terrible time. “No!” he thought, horrified. “I didn’t do this!” He continued to watch as he stepped closer to the broken body, and after a few moments of desperate contemplation, picked it up and brought it to the car. He opened the trunk and placed the body inside, crying out as it twisted grotesquely. He then got inside and began to drive the wounded vehicle away from the murder site. Desmond’s mind reeled within the head of his former self. “Did this actually happen?” he thought. Before he had time to ponder this, the car stopped, and Desmond stepped out once again. This time, he was at the banks of a river, and the water rushed furiously. He heard himself repeat words of self-reassurance as he opened the trunk. The bloody body was staring directly into his eyes, past the outer visage, and directly into the consciousness of the true Desmond.

“You did this to me,” it said, its face bloody and body disfigured. “I am dead because of you! Those I love are alone because of you!

If Desmond could have ran, he would have, but all he could do was watch in horror as his former self lifted the broken body out of the car and down to the river. All the while it continued to speak.

“You did this! You are a murderer! I rot because of you!” It spat. Desmond reeled in despair as he threw the man into the river and watched him float away.

“That never happened,” he heard himself say. “From now on, I forget all of this. Nobody will ever, ever find out.”

Suddenly, he was back in the crushing darkness, his mind still trying to grasp what he had just witnessed. It all came flooding back to him at that moment. He had done everything he had just seen. It had happened years ago, and he had worked tirelessly to forget, until the memory was completely repressed. But the guilt serum had brought it all back. Desmond began to feel sick, and his body cried out to do the one thing he could not all those years ago: confess.

“It was me!” he screamed, feeling utter relief and deliverance as he did. “I did it! I killed him! He rots because of me!”

Tanya, Peter and Christian watched as Desmond sat strapped to the chair, laughing in manic delight as he shouted his confession. Two police officers accompanied them, looking in disgust through the window.

“Jesus Christ, that thing really works, doesn’t it?” one said. Peter laughed.

“We’re just as pleased as you are, officer,” he said. “We weren’t certain it would work this well ourselves.”

“How did you get him to take it?” the other asked.

“He volunteered!” laughed Christian. “We thought we would have to force him to do it!” The first officer stepped forward.

“Well, you all have done a great service today. We’ve had our suspicions about this guy for a long time, and your, uh, creation has confirmed a lot of doubts. Paul Mortley’s family will be relieved to know the killer’s been caught.”

“Delightful!” said Tanya.

“Will he be alright?” asked the second officer, nodding towards the hysterical Desmond.

“Oh, most certainly,” said Peter. “He should be back to normal in an hour or two. It’s best if we leave him alone, actually. Would you gentlemen care for a cup of coffee?”

“Well, I don’t see why not. That would be great.”

And with that, they stepped outside of test room A and shut the door gently behind them, frenzied laughter following them as they went.

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