Charlie Lantino tried to cover up his anxiety by rocking back in his chair. He heard the bolt on the front door click open, and carelessly tossed the newspaper on the square table he had been hunched over. In big letters, the headline read “PRESIDENT WILSON DEAD.”
In walked a large silhouette that Charlie instantly recognized as The Scientist. Charlie watched silently as The Scientist turned the corner into the changing room and came out moments later, dressed in a clean apron with leather goggles pushed up into his long brown hair. The Scientist exuded power, from his chiseled face to his hulking body. He wasn’t what Charlie expected from a laboratory jockey. However, he had worked with The Scientist for seven years, and was shown first hand the extreme intelligence The Scientist possessed in the areas of anatomy and mechanization.
“Has there been any word yet?” Charlie blurted, trying to avoid letting his nerves project in his voice.
“Be patient, Charlie.” The Scientist cooed in a fathering tone. “He’ll be here shortly.”
As if on cue, a rattle at the front door signified the end of the waiting, as a large wheeled gurney was rolled into the center of the main room of the laboratory, obviously containing a body under a sheet. The nurse rolling the cart wasn’t much of a nurse. More than a cursory glance revealed the painfully fake wig under the giant white hat, and the masculine shape filling out the bleach white robe. Even without seeing the pock marked, sun seared face occupying the uniform, it was clear that he wasn’t a nurse, and that he had borrowed the clothes from somebody half his size. However, he didn’t need to fool anybody to pull off his heist, he only needed to avoid drawing attention.
“Did you have any trouble finding the body?” The Scientist distractedly asked, focused more on the obscured corpse than on the “nurse.”
“Nah, ’twas right where ya’ told me ta look.” A gruff, weary voice responded from behind the ridiculous getup. “Now, when’s do aye get’s a paid?”
“The money is back here in the cryo-room” The Scientist extended an arm, guiding the nurse back through a doorway opposite to the front corridor. Once the two disappeared into the cryo-room, Charlie picked up the newspaper and began thumbing through for the sports page. He heard an undistinguishable voice raise in a panic, followed by a single gunshot. He winced at the sound, but recovered quickly and proceeded to pull the sports page out and find the horse racing section. The Scientist would be a while.
An hour later, The Scientist was finally done washing and had just changed into a fresh apron when another rattle at the front door signified the culmination of their plan. Another gruff looking man, this time dressed as a milkman, crossed the threshold with great effort, dragging what looked from afar like a sack of potatoes. When he emerged from the shadowy hallway into the harsh light of the laboratory, it wasn’t a sack of potatoes or even a sack at all. It was a young woman in a half-conscious state wearing a simple dress and no shoes.
“What the Hell are you thinking, Abner?” Charlie snapped, gesturing at the woman that Abner had sprawled on the examination table in the middle of the laboratory. “I thought you were grabbing a hooker, not a housewife!”
“Jus’ doin’ what I was told, Mr. Charles.” Abner replied in a practiced cadence.
“There will be searches and bloodhounds and newspapermen!” Charlie’s blood pressure was still critically high.
“I told him to change targets.” The Scientist growled in a monotone. “We need a subject without diseases. You know what happened last time.”
The conversation abruptly ended before Charlie could get a word in edgewise because the woman began to regain awareness and began screaming and drunkenly clawing her way off of the observation table.
“Restrain her before she hurts herself!” Charlie commanded. Abner quickly overpowered the woman and latched shackles to her wrists, reducing her to impotent writhing. The pitched caterwauling was annoying, but none of the men paid any heed. The walls were thick and the adjoining building was theirs.
As the men approached the operating table and The Scientist lowered his goggles over his eyes, the woman’s screams turned to pleas. Her imagination had taken over, and she was convinced that she had fallen into the hands of cannibal rapists. Her pleas grew more desperate, as The Scientist cut her clothes off with a pair of oversized shears and the men inspected her body. She became more confused as the men appeared to be no more aroused than her doctor would be. In fact, it seemed more like a physical exam than a sexual assault. Her arms were unshackled in order to be lifted and lowered. Her mouth was opened and inspected. They even tested her reflexes with a little tap to the knee.
In her confusion, she fell silent and began to shiver. Abner, noticing her discomfort, chirped a quick “Yeah?”. Charlie and The Scientist returned their own affirmations and stepped away from the woman. Abner then handed her a thin medical gown and mumbled a “here ‘yar ma’am.” The woman, grateful for the ordeal to be concluding, began to address The Scientist, to which he waved his arm in dismissal and proceeded to check some dials on a machine on the far wall.
“It is time.” He impassively stated. Abner removed the chocks on the wheels of the observation table and wheeled the woman toward a giant metallic container in the corner of the room. It resembled a large cattle watering basin, but long and thin. Above it was suspended a metallic slab with many wires and rods protruding from the top. The wires ran along the ceiling to a massive wall-sized device with innumerable lights, dials, levers, and buttons. A few of the lights were illuminated or flashing, but the device seemed to be in an idle state.
Simultaneously, Charlie wheeled the cadaver to the metallic container and, with the help of The Scientist, lowered the sheeted body into the container using a hoist. Charlie caught a corner of the sheet just as the body disappeared into the abyss, pulling it out and wadding it into a heap on the gurney. He then stepped over to help Abner with the hardest part.
The woman, sensing the tension in the room and the impending finality of her situation, began to claw and scrape and writhe and scream anew. However, she was no match for the brute strength of Abner and Charlie, and was quickly wrestled into a passive position facing the ground. Her increasingly desperate flails afforded her no escape, and the men cantilevered her into the metallic container. As her head peeked over the lip of the container, she saw a confusing sight. The container was deeper than she thought. It extended below the floor to a depth of perhaps six feet. At the bottom of the container was the corpse, one familiar to her. It was Woodrow Wilson.
After an instant of recognition, she fell into the chasm, landing on the presidential corpse. Before she had a chance to try to escape or even move, The Scientist whipped a crank around in quick rotations, slamming the slab down on top of the container and extending the rods into the sepulcher, pinning the woman down on top of Woodrow Wilson.
Her muffled screams were hardly audible as The Scientist continued to spin the crank, applying more and more downward force on the rods. With a subdued crack, the protestations stopped.
“How much longer will this one take?” Charlie asked, knowing full well that The Scientist could only guess the answer. It had been twenty years since that last night of wanton cruelty, and Charlie was tiring of the daily monotony of recording sensor values in a logbook and passing the time. He was approaching 50, and was feeling it. The desk job and lack of physical exertion made him feel more like 60. Conversely, The Scientist looked like he aged only 5, maybe 10 years. Charlie always suspected that their work in extending lives was only a piece of the puzzle and that The Scientist was also working on anti-aging elixirs.
“You know this is a slow process. Remember, it took 10 years for the Kennedy boy to ripen.” The Scientist could hardly even hide his boredom these days. “Speaking of the Kennedy boy, you took care of him, right?”
“Of course! We should’ve foreseen the consequences of using the dirty hooker for that experiment. That kid came out of the incubation chamber a poonhound and a boozehead from day one. He obviously wouldn’t ever be able to obtain the power necessary to help us.” Charlie meandered through the rehashed story, staving off a yawn.
“How did you dispose of him?”
“I shipped him off to the Navy to go fight the Nips. He won’t come back.” Charlie paused to light a cigarette and then gestured the lit end toward the incubation chamber. “This one, though. He has the right pedigree. He’ll go somewhere.”
Another five years elapsed without any indication of the process completing. Charlie had come aboard late in the Kennedy resurrection. He never got to meet the unlucky bastard who was resurrected by hooker blood, but he certainly got to meet the unholy result. The creature, person, whatever it is, had the sex drive of ten men. The Scientist blamed that effect on the hooker’s chlamydia. The Kennedy creature also had the undead equivalent of fetal alcohol syndrome. The Scientist blamed those deficiencies on the fact that they sedated and killed the hooker well before dumping her into the chamber. After wasting 17 years incubating a drunk womanizer who would likely amount to nothing, there wasn’t time to screw things up again. The Scientist’s anti-aging research appeared to be generating results, but those results appeared to be, at most, a halving of the aging process, and had not yet accrued to Charlie’s benefit. Resultantly, they were both quite motivated to do it right this time; conscience be damned, they used a clean, live woman.
Yet another monotonous day of make-work research was punctuated by a subtle indication of change. One of the panels began to light up. The green indicator that was a daily accompaniment for 25 years was joined by an amber indicator and in close succession a blinking red indicator. The Scientist, not even attempting to hide his giddiness, pushed a few buttons and engaged a lever before shuffling off into the transition room to prepare for the new arrival. Charlie, who had experienced this part before, began putting together a mental checklist for when he went to the grocery. Returning from the dead consumes a lot of energy, and the new creature would likely eat through multiple times the amount of food as a normal man, at least until the biological processes stabilized in a few weeks.
The next three days were a whirlwind of activity, from buying enough food for a small army to acquiring various medical supplies, mainly for cleaning and wrapping open wounds. Much like preparing for a baby, Charlie was nesting. The creature would awake with adult intelligence, but the physical transformation isn’t complete for a few months. During that time, Charlie would be Mama, nurse, and therapist all in one.
Finally, the time came for the grand reveal.
“Charlie, keep the vacuum pressure up while I raise the lid, it’s a bit more humid than last time, and we don’t want any condensation to form,” The Scientist muttered while staring at a bank of dials and adjusted a lever.
“I’m getting a failure indication on the table lift motor,” Charlie replied, tapping the indicator with his knuckle.
The Scientist replied with a dismissive wave. “It’s probably just the sensor. It is quite finicky. If the motor doesn’t engage, you’ll have to manually crank it up.”
With a complete lack of fanfare, The Scientist engaged the lid motor, and a small hiss broke the airtight seal. A breathtaking stench of death wafted through the laboratory, inducing a wave of nausea in Charlie. It doesn’t matter how many times you unseal the undead, the smell never fails to hit you right in the gut.
Charlie flipped a switch and the table lift motor sputtered to life. The sensor was bad, just like The Scientist said.
What emerged wasn’t quite human. It was covered in gore and pustules, skin not fully formed. It gasped a phlegmy breath, filling its underdeveloped lungs with the relatively fresh air of the laboratory. A sound of firecrackers caused Charlie to flinch as the creature cracked out 25 years of joint stiffness, moving its mummified limbs only a small amount before letting out a muffled yelp. Its jaw hadn’t yet unstuck, and its tongue likely wouldn’t be fully functional for a week or two.
“This one doesn’t seem to be as well developed as the Kennedy creature. Look at those giant pustules on his chest,” Charlie vaguely gestured to the creature.
“Those aren’t pustules,” The Scientist growled, rushing over to a panel on the monitoring device. “Those are breasts!”
Charlie stood agape for a quick moment before rushing over to a pile of ticker tape collected in a bin.
“N21, nominal. C17, within tolerance. Q-factor, minimal” The Scientist mechanically checked the relevant sensors that would betray the sex of the creature. He ran his fingers over the class window of the Q-factor dial when a small piece of flotsam caught his eye.
Plink. Plink. Plink. The Scientist flicked the axial rod of the dial until the junk dislodged from the dial arm. The arm slowly erected like an Egyptian obelisk, leaving the masculine minimal range behind. The elevated Q-factor explained the buxom breasts. The creature was female.
“How could this have happened?” Charlie nearly sobbed, the magnitude of this failure finally setting in. “We didn’t have this problem with the Kennedy creature!”
“eeeeeeeeeeshhhhhhhhhtttt” the creature exhaled, trying to communicate with Charlie. He didn’t need to interpret the slurred language to know that she was famished. He helped her off of the table and into a wheelchair, her every move eliciting a groan of excruciating pain.
After a few minutes of quite unladylike gorging, the creature was temporarily satiated. Charlie knew that it wouldn’t last more than 30 minutes. The transition room was configured like a burn ward, and the creature’s every want and need could be attended to without leaving her bed. Charlie was mentally preparing for spending the next 6 months in this room nurturing this beast.
The Scientist walked in, obviously fuming but trying his best to hide it. Charlie, not one to know when to shut up, blurted out what was on his mind. “How the hell are we supposed to gain the power we require with a damned woman? Not only did we fuck up with the Kennedy creature, but he’s coming home a fucking war hero! Now we have a fucking housewife who is supposed to seize the levers of governmental power! Either the divine is putting up roadblocks, or we’re too damned incompetent to pull this off.”
Charlie sighed, having said his peace. It had been a trying few months, and this disappointment broke him. The Scientist, at first resolute to ignore Charlie’s outburst, turned to address him. However, the creature beat him to the punch.
“hhlllliiiiiiiishhhhhhh…. aaaeeeeeeeeeeeee…. wuuuurrrrrrrrrr…. uhhhnnnnnnnnn” she breathed, trying her hardest to form the words with her misbehaving tongue.
“What did she say?” The Scientist asked nobody in particular.
“Is that her name?” Charlie answered anyway, unsure why the creature picked this exact moment to name herself, “Lizzie Warren?”
The creature flinched and fluttered in an uncomfortable looking contortion. If it was a response to Charlie’s guess, neither of the men knew what it meant. Lizzie Warren quickly realized that she was unable to communicate her frustration to these goons. She laid back on the hospital bed in resignation. “IS A WAR ON??!?” her inner Wilsonian voice screamed to an empty theater.