The Human Potential
The Waiting Room
The room was not necessarily designed to be a waiting room. It was about the size of a dining room, with six chairs, three doors, and one annoying ticking clock. Hailey put her ear buds in and turned up the volume on her iPhone. She kept it low enough she could hear if someone spoke or entered the room, but loud enough to at least lessen the sound of the clock. Three other people were occupying chairs in the room. One was a woman who looked very professional. Her black hair was perfectly done, her nails were manicured, and she carried a briefcase. One leg was crossed over the other and her foot twitched with each tick of the clock. She glanced at her watch and pressed her lips together, clearly a bit impatient. Hailey knew she had seen her at her uncle’s lab before. She couldn’t remember exactly what she did there. The next was a man who seemed to be in his mid-twenties. He was leaning back in the chair, hands folded across his chest, fingers tapping rapidly. He looked at the doors expectantly then sighed. The last was a man about her age, probably in college. He sat on the edge of his seat, his elbows on his knees. He was sitting in the chair right next to her and kept glancing over, as if he was trying to see what was on her phone. “So, what are you listening to?” he asked.
Hailey sighed dramatically and pulled her ear buds out. “Pandora.”
“What on Pandora?”
“The music I like,” she replied, putting her ear buds back in.
“Oh,” he said, slightly rebuffed.
The woman seemed to feel she had permission to make inquiries now. “Did Dr. Stone invite all of you here?”
The man with his hands folded said, “I don’t know what’s going on. Is this going to take long? I’ve got work to do.”
“I have work to do as well,” the woman replied. “I was just asking if anyone received a letter.”
Hailey pulled out her ear buds. “Something about a new breakthrough. I’ve been around for his breakthroughs before, though. Don’t hold your breath.”
“How do you know Dr. Stone?” the Pandora man asked.
Hailey took a breath and one of the doors opened. A man with brown hair streaked with white entered the room. He was wearing a white lab coat and held a clipboard. “Ah, welcome, welcome. Glad to see you all here. Please, follow me.”
He left through the door he’d come. Hailey stood up to follow. She’d never gone through this door before. She noticed the others were following her. “Here is the standard non-disclosure agreement. I’ll need you all to sign before we proceed further.”
He motioned to the ream-thick stacks of paper sitting on a table. Hailey picked up the top sheet and looked at the man suspiciously. “Uncle John, what’s this all about?”
“I told you, Hailey, I’ve had an incredible breakthrough in the human potential. If you want to know anything else, you will have to sign the agreement.”
“Is this part of my program, Doc?” the young man asked.
Dr. Stone rubbed his chin. “Yes, Dale. This will help you immensely.”
He signed the agreement. “Will this take long?” the other man asked.
“No, it should only take a few minutes.”
He also signed the agreement. The woman examined Dr. Stone. “You have been trustworthy in the past, Doctor, so I’ll trust you now.”
Hailey rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll sign. Can we get on with this now?”
Dr. Stone pulled out four sets of scrubs and handed them out. “Follow me. There will be rooms for you to change in.”
Hailey entered the changing room. “I’m Dr. Erica Kane,” the woman said, holding out a hand.
“I heard you call Dr. Stone your uncle.”
“Yes. He’s come up with some crazy schemes before, but this has to take the cake. How do you know my uncle?”
“I’m a microbiologist. Dr. Stone has collaborated with me on several projects. I’m usually here once a week or so to lend my expertise.”
They entered the room again. The men were dressed in their pale blue scrubs as well. “Everyone ready then?” Dr. Stone asked, rubbing his hands together. “This way, please.”
He opened another door that led to a room with a large circular structure. It had the appearance of glass, but was clearly stronger. In the center of the glass arcs was a platform. “Everyone stand on the platform.”
“Is this part of my training, Doc?” Dale asked dubiously.
“Yes, Dale. Step on the platform.”
Dr. Stone stepped over to a massive set of controls and started pulling switches. Everyone walked over slowly and stepped onto the platform. “I’m not sure about this, Uncle…”
“He’s your uncle?” Dale asked.
The glass arcs began to turn slowly around the platform. They picked up speed quickly and soon created an impenetrable barrier around the platform. A dot of white light appeared in the center of the platform and Hailey jumped back. “What is this?” she asked anxiously.
“Everything is working exactly as it should,” he said confidently. “The light will only help you.”
“Help, huh?” the muscular man asked.
The dot of light began to expand. As it grew larger, the glass arcs began to vibrate as they spun. Colored lights shot out from the white light. “Is this supposed to happen?” Erica asked.
“Um…everything’s fine,” Dr. Stone said as he ran around and began flipping different switches.
The shaking grew more violent. “I’m not comfortable with this, Doc!” Dale said.
The colors, which were previously pretty, became muddled and dark. The white light grew. “Step into the light!” Dr. Stone said.
Erica put her hand in and pulled it out. Her hand was glowing. Dale held out his hand to Hailey. “In case we die, my name is Dale.”
“Hailey,” she said briefly.
He stepped into the light. “You only live once,” Erica muttered, stepping into the light.
“I’d better get paid well for this,” the other man grumbled, stepping forward.
“I’m trusting you, Uncle John!” Hailey yelled, stepping forward into the light.
The white light expanded and the shaking grew more violent. In a moment, all Hailey could see was white light.
As the white light faded, Hailey’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. She appeared to be standing in a car garage—or what was left of it. Where she and the other three were standing, there was a crater in the ground. It was almost as if something had imploded. Shelves that lined the wall had been sheared off and the edges were bright red from the heat. The implosion formed a perfect sphere. Hailey turned to look at the others. Dale said, “Uh…what happened?”
“I’m getting the feeling something went wrong,” Hailey murmured.
“This is the old Sexton Automotive,” the man said confidently. “This is what it looked like before Dr. Stone turned it into a laboratory.”
“Speaking of which…where is Dr. Stone?” Erica asked.
The glow was starting to fade and the garage was dim. “We need to find the lights.”
Dale walked over to one of the doors and flipped the switch. “It’s not working.”
He twisted the door knob. “It’s stuck.”
“Maybe we should take a moment to introduce ourselves,” Erica said.
“I’m Dale Waller. I’m training to be a gymnast in the Olympics.
“I’m Jason Jet. Own a moving business…and one of my clients is going to be real ticked if I don’t get there soon,” the man added.
“I’m Doctor Erica Kane. I’m a microbiologist.”
“And I’m Hailey Montgomery. I’m a student. Can we please get on with figuring out what is going on?”
“I found a wrench,” Dale called out as he began levering it on the door.
Jason grabbed the wrench from him. “Let me try, weakling.”
“I’m not exactly weak, you know,” Dale replied.
Jason flexed his arm then put the wrench to the door. “Hmm…it really is stuck.”
Hailey snickered and walked over to Erica. “I found a backpack with supplies,” Erica said.
Sure enough, a red backpack was sitting on a workbench, loaded with survival supplies. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Hailey said, making a face at the queasy sensation in her stomach.
“I found a dog. I’m going to follow her,” Dale said abruptly, disappearing through a doorway.
“A dog?” Erica asked curiously, following him with backpack in tow.
Hailey joined the rest of the group as they followed Dale into a bathroom. The brindle-colored dog was about fifty pounds and appeared to be some kind of Boxer mix. She had a collar with a tag. “What’s her name?”
“I haven’t got to check the tag yet,” Dale said then stopped abruptly.
“Something stinks in here,” Jason grumbled.
“I think that it’s the corpse,” Dale said.
Everyone took a step back in surprise. Erica took a deep breath, stepped forward, and examined the corpse. “He’s been dead for awhile. Shot himself in the head.”
Dale gulped and took the gun. “I’m getting the feeling we might need this.”
“Give it to me,” Hailey ordered. “I know my way around a gun.”
He handed it to her and she took it, unloaded the chamber and reloaded it. “Smith and Wesson .38 special. Four bullets left in it. He didn’t use it for anything but suicide.”
“I think there were some bullets in the backpack,” Erica said.
She pulled it off and dug through it. “Yes, there are ten here. There are also some first aid supplies and lots of camping and survival gear. I guess the backpack belonged to him.”
“Probably the dog, too,” Dale said sadly.
“Any more weapons in that bag?” Jason asked.
“There’s a machete.”
“I’ll take that.”
“What’s the dog’s name?”
Dale looked at the dog’s tag. “Artemis.”
Jason called, “Come, Artemis.”
Artemis trotted over to stand next to Jason. “Artemis, sit.”
She sat. “Well trained dog,” he said in surprise.
“Well, we’d better see if there’s anything else in this garage…or anyone,” Hailey shuddered. “I’ll check the other bathroom.”
“I’ll go with you,” Erica replied.
Hailey pushed on the bathroom door and screamed as a woman whose skin was sloughing off pushed towards her. Before she’d had time to react, the thing without eyes had scratched her arm with unnaturally long nails. She pulled her gun from her side and shot at the head. Erica grabbed a pipe off the ground and swung wildly at the thing. Jason and Dale ran around the corner and Jason went straight at it with his machete. Dale grabbed Hailey’s shoulder and pulled her out of reach of the creature. He held his wrench at the ready. Hailey aimed her gun with her good arm and tried to keep it steady, but her arm kept shaking. The creature swung its arm at Jason, but he ducked and hit it with the machete one more time. It fell to the ground, twitching. He stabbed it once more for good measure. Hailey lowered her weapon slowly. “W-what is that?”
Erica shuddered. “Whatever that thing is, I’m getting the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”