Truth or Consequences
by Kimberly Raiser
forum: Truth or Consequences
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Truth or Consequences


          The broken test tube crushed under her foot. Karen looked at the floor and the contents of the tube seemed to have vanished. It lay there broken with its stopper still wedged into the top of what remained whole. She squinted her eyes; she could not believe what she was seeing. She squatted to the ground to examine the shards. There was nothing left. There was no one around that she could tell, and this was a certain relief. She began to clean up her mess. "I can't not tell anyone about this," she thought to herself. "Who would believe me, anyway? Oh yeah, I can see it now. It just vanished, right in front of my eyes." She was mocking herself as if really telling someone.

          Suddenly she heard the lab door open. It was Professor Shockley, her mentor.

          "Good afternoon, Karen. How are you?" he asked.

          Karen scrambled to put her mess out of sight.

          Meanwhile, the sample that Karen thought had vanished, had not. Not really... It had scurried quite quickly across the floor in all directions, in pieces. One of these fragments had made its way to the doorknob. The same doorknob Professor Shockley had just placed his hand on. Now Professor Shockley is ordinarily not an ordinary fellow. He's actually quite... well, let's say "odd". When he walked into the lab the "whatever it was in the vile" attached itself to his hand. He sort of scratched at his hand but did not notice the foreign body.

          "Karen," he said with a suspicious tone to his voice, "you look as though you ate a mouse."

          "Oh, Professor," she replied with a sort of sigh, "I broke one of your test tubes."

          "Oh, dear," he replied. "What a tragic loss for glassmakers all over the world." He laughed a deep bellowing laugh. "Don't worry, my dear, I have enough of those samples in the storage room. I think I'm actually on the verge of a breakthrough. It was nothing toxic, just a sort of truth serum I've been working on. I call it that in the most affectionate manner."

          "Well, I'm sorry nonetheless." Karen was scratching her leg as she responded.

          "I'm going to go catch a bite to eat, and I'll be back." Shockley said. "Would you like me to pick up something for you?"

          "No thanks, I'm going to finish up here then go to my next class."

          "Okee dokee." he said, and he left the room.

          A few minutes later, Karen's friend Matthew poked his head in the door.

          "Hey Karen, can I come in and bug you?"

          "Yeah, just don't touch anything. I'm sort of cleaning up a little mess I made."

          "OK," he responded. "Hey, did you dye your hair or something?"

          "No, why?"

          "Oh, nothing, it's probably just the lighting in here," he answered. "You gonna be done soon?"

          She sighed. "Well, if you help me put some of these things away, without actually getting into any trouble, I guess I can get out of here quicker."

          "OK," he said spiritedly, whilst scratching at his leg. "Hey, let's go get some Chinese before your next class."

          "I'm not really hungry, Matt, but I'll go with you. I'll have a dish of fruit or something."

          A few hours later, Professor Shockley came back into the lab and began fussing around with his test tubes.

          Karen came in shortly after.

          "Karen?" Shockley asked. "Do I look fat in these pants to you?"

          Karen's face twisted slightly. "Excuse me, sir?"

          "Well," he said, "my shirt seems a little tight, and so do my pants, actually." He was fussing with his clothes as he spoke, pulling at his pant legs and sleeves.

          "Maybe you ate too much for dinner. You know how salty some foods can be."

          Karen was preoccupied with the sleeves of her own sweat-jacket at the moment. She kept pulling them down as if they were too short.

          "What's wrong, Karen?"

          "Well, it's really strange. I guess I shrunk my jacket and just didn't notice until now." Her face continued to look more and more perplexed.

          "Well, Karen, I'm almost done for the night, finally. I just wanted to check on a few things before I went home. You can get out of here if you want to."

          "OK, I'm gonna catch up with my friend Matthew. He said he'd wait at the cafe for me. Have a good night."

          Karen walked from the campus over to the "Howling Moon".

          Matthew was sitting at a booth in the corner. He was deeply engrossed in a magazine.

          She quietly slinked her way over to the booth. "Boo!" she said abruptly.

          He jumped. "God, Karen, are you trying to see if I actually have a heart ,or what?

          Karen was just standing there staring at him, and staring, and staring.

          "What!" he finally exclaimed.

          "Matt," she paused, "that is just the worst five o'clock shadow I have ever seen on you, possibly in my whole entire life. I didn't even know you could grow facial hair."

          He rubbed his hand over his chin and face. "Hmmm," he said with a bit of perplexion in his voice. His left eyebrow twitched upwards. "Must have been somebody, I mean something I ate."

          "Ha ha ha," the darkness oozing from her voice. She was still fussing with her sleeves.

          The two of them had a drink, talked about classes and decided to go back to their respective domiciles for the evening.

          The following morning, Karen reported to the lab at 8am. She had woken up late, so she barely had time to comb her unusually thick hair or brush her teeth.

          Professor Shockley strolled in a few moments after her.

          When Karen saw him, she about dropped her lower lip, which, in fact, didn't look quite right to begin with, onto her lap. Anyway, Karen was staring at the professor in amazement. She would swear, if she didn't know any better, that the professor's "cup size" had increased.

          "Professor? Are you feeling alright?"

          "Well," he replied with a slight squeak in his voice. "Actually, I'm feeling quite robust today. I don't know why, really, I just do. I still feel like I'm outgrowing these clothes, though.

          As the professor walked by Karen, she could have sworn she smelled a hint of Jasmine.

          Now the professor was looking oddly at his student. "Karen, did you do something to your hair?" is what he said out loud, but what he was really thinking was, "What didn't you do to your hair?"

          Karen rolled her eyes; a slight screeching sound came from her throat. "Oh, excuse me," she said. "My hair?" she finally responded.

          "Well, it looks very... full." he replied cautiously.

          Karen was grabbing at her foot; it was cramping very badly. She tore off both of her shoes. After a minute it started to relax. When she tried to put her shoes back on, they wouldn't fit. "Well, this is just too weird. I feel like somebody is either playing a trick on me and stealing my clothes and replacing them with smaller ones, or I drank some Alice in Wonderland grow me potion," she said.

          A howling sound came from down the hallway.

          "What was that?!" Karen exclaimed.

          "Beats me," replied the professor.

          At that moment, Matthew came bopping in the doorway.

          "Good morning!" he said cheerily.

          Professor Shockley and Karen just stared at him, still wondering what that howling sound was.

          "Didn't you hear that, Matt?" asked Karen.

          "Hear what?"

          "Oh, c'mon, didn't you hear that howling sound from down the hallway?" said Karen insistently.

          "I don't know, I was humming to myself, couldn't really hear anything above that," he replied, still looking quite gleeful.

          Matthew walked over to Karen and whispered into her ear. "Have you noticed something different about Shockley?" Looks like he should be wearing a bra."

          "Yeah, it's really weird. He thinks he's gained weight all of the sudden."

          Another screech came from Karen's lungs. "Excuse me."

          "What the hell was that?" Matthew jumped back, a little startled by the sound.

          "I guess it was a hiccup," Karen replied, shrugging her shoulders and raising her eyebrows.

          "Some hiccup. Sounded like a chimpanzee to me!"

          "Matt, I don't know what's going on, but ever since I dropped that test tube yesterday, weird things have been happening, I mean, really weird."

          "What exactly do you mean?" he asked as he scratched the hair that had been continually growing on his face, his arms, and... his knuckles!

          "Matt, I thought someone was playing a trick on me, but..." Suddenly she felt this wrenching pain in her back and fell to the floor. Matthew's eyes were about to bulge from his head just watching what was happening, when he too doubled over in pain.

          Professor Shockley came out of the office he had momentarily stepped into and saw the two of them on the floor. It was horrifying. Karen was almost unrecognizable; her arms had grown to the length of her legs, hair seemed to sprout all over her body, and she had grown... a tail!

          Her eyes looked up at the Professor, almost pleading for help. She looked like something familiar to the doctor, something he had seen before. He was trying to place it. Then he realized it was from a horror movie, one that if he remembered correctly had given Karen nightmares for quite some time. She looked just like... the Gibbon!

          At the same time this was happening to Karen, Matthew's body also went through a metamorphosis. He was completely covered in dark hair, face, chest and all. The nails on his fingers had become long, very long, and gnarly. His canines were immense. He looked... like a werewolf.

          The professor was in disbelief; he realized that the contents of that test tube must be the cause of this. "My God, what have I created? What have I done?" he said aloud.

          Matthew's eyes were fading; he looked at the doctor inquisitively, but could not speak. Only snarls and growls came from his throat.

          The professor began to explain his research. He knelt down next to the students.

          "I was trying to develop a serum for the psychology department. It was supposed to help people deal with their innermost fears, to bring it out from their subconscious into the front of their minds and thoughts so they could confront them. This was never supposed to happen. The two of you have become... what you fear the most!" His face was pale and horror stricken.

          Just at that moment Karen pointed to a mirror across the room and screeched.

          The professor walked towards the mirror. He stood in front of it and just stared.

          A horrible scream came from the professor. He too had become his greatest fear.

          He looked exactly like his wife.




copyright 2006 Kimberly Raiser.

Kimberly Raiser:

Recently my work has appeared in the June issue of the Taj Mahal Review, a fiction piece titled, "The Mirror". I have had many pieces of poetry published in print journals and online zines. My true love is fiction. I am currently working on several short stories and a novel.

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