Monday, September 21, 2009

Daily Story 159: The Control Group

I didn't even bother to make this a stand-alone story. If you are confused, it may help to read THIS first, followed closely by THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, and THIS.

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Alice smiled at Desmond in what she hoped was a reassuring way. He looked a little green around the edges, and was clutching a bottle of Pepto-Bismol that had been full a moment before and could now be used to test for optimism. "Are you okay, Des?"
"Well, I had a strange day. I mean, even before now. But my stomach feels better, thanks. So… when you said you would give me a ride, I thought that you meant to my house. Is this just a detour, or should I be concerned about seeing my loved ones again? Well, not loved ones exactly, but my landlord will be concerned at some point and I had planned on asking someone out some day. Not anyone in particular, but still. I'm rambling, I know, but I think I'm still a little bit taken aback by the glowing doorway that appeared in the lobby."
"I can understand that might be a bit of a shock. Sorry, Des. Just sit tight for now, everything will be fine."
"Well I don't really have much choice as far as the sitting goes, since you have me strapped down in this chair."

This was true, and Alice had to admit to herself that she had no idea if anything at all would be fine for Desmond. Certainly she hoped so; he had always been polite to her and even tried to make conversation - badly, but still. A thought occurred to her and she asked him how he would feel about the idea of having his memory of the afternoon wiped. "That sounds lovely." he said, and she smiled again. He wouldn't cause any trouble. The woman who had been strapped to the chair a moment before was picking bits of glue from the electrodes out of her hair, and she smiled at Desmond as well. "It didn't hurt me, if that helps. Oh, I'm Elizabeth, by the way." She attempted to shake Desmond's hand, but one was strapped down and the other was holding the Pepto and so she settled for waving awkwardly.

Desmond was struggling to keep up. He had already decided that he would pretend nothing happened if this turned out to be real, but if it instead was revealed that he was dreaming he wanted to at least know what the dream was about. As far as he could tell, Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies had declared that Elizabeth was seeing into other dimensions. This was apparently exciting rather than terrifying due to the fact that they were ones where she didn't exist, although there was some argument over that point - Alice kept asking for an explanation for how Elizabeth had physically traveled to other places rather than just seeing. Desmond thought briefly of chiming in and pointing out that if anyone was making people physically travel to other dimensions it was Alice since she had shoved him through a glowing portal not half an hour ago, but he sensed that it wouldn't be taken as constructive input and remained silent.

Alice and Elizabeth stepped away to talk to a strange man in a tweed jacket about something. Desmond had already encountered him briefly upon arrival, when the man walked up to him and whispered in a surprisingly deep voice that Desmond shouldn't mention their earlier phone conversation. When Desmond asked what conversation he meant the man just tapped the side of his nose and said "Exactly." and left. Desmond tried to listen in on this new conversation, but the wild-haired mad scientist returned - complete with brass-rimmed goggles and a stained lab coat - and began gluing electrodes to his forehead. Desmond looked around for some sort of credentials; he had always rolled his eyes at doctors that plastered their various certificates and diplomas all over the walls in the past, but now he was finding that a slip of paper declaring this man not to be a criminally-insane grocery store clerk would be quite welcome.

Elizabeth wandered over to Desmond, having given up on understanding what the man in the tweed jacket was saying. "It's fine," she said, "It probably won't do anything. It made me stop hallucinating, which is good. It... may have also sent me to another dimension, but they seem to have that sort of thing under control here." Desmond didn't look reassured. He opened his mouth as if to reply, and then his eyes got very, very wide.
"I can see a grassy field," he said, "and... my car? It's like I'm seeing through someone else's eyes... he's walking towards some trees... now he's looking at... it's a big pile of rings, I think. This is a little freaky."
Alice joined Elizabeth and patted the back of Desmond's hand. "Don't worry, Des. Everything is fine."
The scientist adjusted a dial, and Desmond frowned. "Okay, now I'm seeing... what is that? It's like... X gn’pla knorgl shlorg! Nal-Shalberon A'ktah foligt'li smla kanpa ph’ng am wekjbn! Mlreh tfoyug! Mlreh xhgha! Smla masqim enlil goy rujteuo k’hlay fkrgypo!" Desmond screamed and began to claw at his eyes.
"Alright," Alice admitted, "That's probably not supposed to happen."