by Christopher M. Lanning
It wasn't the nagging alarm clock on the night stand that woke Adam Tessal that Thursday morning. It was the maelstrom from the disturbing dreams that had been occurring for the past two nights. He was comforted by the warm presence of his wife beside him in the bed. Adam swung his feet over the bedside and slipped them into his slippers. Since light had not broken through the night yet, he took a moment to let his eyes adjust and then rushed toward the bathroom. It took only a few steps to make it there. He turned on the faucet without flipping the light switch. As Adam felt the cool relief of the water dripping down his face, he decided to face the momentary blindness that would be caused by turning on the light. His reflection was staring back at him like an animal puzzled by his presence. That was when he saw something that he had never seen before.
It was true that his eyes changed color from time to time but never like this! His eyes would always sway between being a crystal blue most of the time to a light tone of green when he was nervous. Never had they been a dirt brown like they were now. He closed his eyes, running his hand through the black, matted hair on his head, and reopened them. It must be a trick of the light. When he opened them again they would be blue, but ,no, they remained that dead brown. Adam stood puzzled for a moment then turned off the light. When the morning sun had risen, he would check them again to see if it was the darkness was misleading him. Although he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, he climbed back beside his wife, and closed his eyes. There were freaks of nature in the human body. One out of every ten people. He was special, that was all.
When running from the police you never run into a place occupied by only a few people but into a heavily populated area like the Galleria mall. This is exactly what Seth St. John had done when he spotted the cops as he was leaving his hideout in a less desirable side of town. The police had chased him into the mall but did not see him duck into a clothing store. Now, he had a teenager in his grasp, trying to knock him out by cutting off the oxygen to his brain. Seth needed the boy's clothes. Due to a choke-hold that Seth had learned from a friend, the boy didn't stay conscious long. He let out one little gasp of struggle before falling completely unconscious. Seth wasted no time in stripping the boy to his boxers and undressing himself. He emerged dressed as a skateboarder, wearing a baggy shirt, baggy army pants and donning a faded green baseball cap. He was startled by his reflection in the dressing room mirror. His eyes were not brown anymore but a clear crystal blue. Not only that but as he tucked the long blonde hair underneath the cap, he was sure that it had shortened itself and gotten a little darker. Seth didn't have time to figure it out. He just threw his clothes on the boy, who was still on the floor, and rushed out of the dressing room. No one seemed to notice him as he left the store and slipped into the crowd. His heart was racing at a accelerated rate as he heard the federal agents behind him talking loudly into their radios. Falling behind two elderly women, he ducked his head down as he passed two mall security guards.
Finally he reached the escalator and climbed onto it. As he slowly ascended, he pulled out an identification card from his wallet. There was a picture of a man with blue eyes, and short black hair. Though the picture was only from the chest up, you could tell that he was wearing a lab coat. Seth didn't pay much attention to the picture; he was concentrating on the address under a name: 77038 Kinglet Street, Houston, TX. It didn't take him long to elude the authorities and make a safe exit out of the mall. A public transit bus was loading in front of the mall and Seth hitched a ride.
Adam's day was not shaping up too well. After a night of dreaming he was someone else in a nightmarish world, and his eyes changing color, he lost his pass to get into the lab. There was some embarrassment in having his boss come down and identify him. The place was infested with police and media. This came as no surprise to Adam. The day before, a colleague and good friend had been charged with kidnaping and crimes against humanity. In other words, torture. Dr. Seth St. John was conducting experiments on people he had hidden in the basement
When Dr. Tessal entered his office, Federal Agent Mixes stood looming over his desk. Ignoring his presence, Adam continued with his daily rituals by picking up his lab coat from the coat rack.
"Good morning," Adam greeted him.
"Right." Mixes always had an accusing look to him. "Have you heard from Dr. St. John, Dr. Tessal?" Adam knew Mixes from the interrogation the day before.
"No, I doubt I will. Is that all?" Adam had retrieved his clipboard and was prepared to continue with his duties. Mixes gave him an eerie look.
"Something's different about you."
"Yes, I was wearing contacts yesterday, I didn't put them in today."
"No, something else." Mixes took a moment. "Wait, you wear glasses. How can you wear contacts?"
"They are non-prescription." He paused. "My wife likes blue eyes."
"I see." Mixes turned to leave. "I will get in contact with you."
"That was all?" Adam was confused.
"It was an intimidation trick. You passed. Good day." Mixes left, slamming the door.
Adam threw his clipboard down and ran to the bathroom. He wanted to know what that something weird was and it didn't take him long to find out what it was. His hair had lightened up and grown longer. Also, his nose seemed to be more thin. He barely recognized himself. Adam grew frightened. This wasn't a freak of nature any longer--this was something supernatural. Rushing out of the bathroom, he dialed his home number. He needed to speak to Ashley, his wife.
"Hello." It was the voice of his younger son, Tyler.
"Tyler, let me speak to your mother." He pressed the words out in short breaths.
The name shot through Adam like a bullet. His and Seth's voices were nothing alike and Tyler knew the difference. Adam slammed the phone down and rushed out of his office. Knowing that something was wrong, he made no eye contact with anyone. Feeling like a fugitive, Adam made it to the safety of his sedan. He had to get home before he made any more transformations in public.
His house seemed almost dead. He fished around in his pockets for the key and crept around back. When he slipped the key into the lock and turned the knob, Adam noticed his hand had gotten skinnier. He then looked at his image in the windowpane of the door and he wasn't there. He didn't see Dr. Adam Tessal staring back but instead saw Dr. Seth St. John. Averting his eyes, he went in. He avoided the joyful sounds of his wife and children playing in the living room and ran upstairs to his study. Assured that no one had spotted him, he closed the door gently.
"So, you did make it here." The voice was like a ghost of someone long dead but it was his own. Slowly, he turned around to find himself sitting behind his desk.
"Seth," he gasped.
"I prefer Dr. Adam Tessal," Seth grinned.
"Well, I took a sample of DNA from you and one from myself, laced it with my new formula, and then injected mine into you. Then vice versa. It dominated your genes with mine and mine with yours." He stood up.
"But how..." There was some commotion downstairs which distracted Adam.
"Run, Adam, they here for you." Seth laughed the laugh of a madman mixed with Adam's own laugh. Adam bolted out the door to hear the words he feared.
"Freeze, get down on the floor." Within minutes, he felt the cold sting of handcuffs and heard the cruel sound of a police car door slamming. As the unit pulled away, he saw what could have been a picture of himself with his family and closed his eyes. Feeling the glass of the window against his forehead, he realized that his nightmares had come true.
Seth St. John as Adam Tessal ran the water into his new ivory tub and removed Adam's robe. He scoffed at his reflection in the mirror and slipped into the tub. With the water surrounding him, he thought how lucky he was to feel what he thought he'd never feel again, and closed his eyes. He pictured himself, or Adam, in the jail cell, with his head against the stiff bed covers, being abused by the delinquents of society. He had imagined it so well that he no longer felt the water but the scratchy material of the cot. It frightened him so that his eyes jerked open. What he saw was not an ivory tub or warm water but an abrasive jail cell and the inmates he had imagined.
Adam had closed his eyes to escape the hostile environment but then had a warm, wet feeling come over him. When he opened his eyes, he was greeted with the comforts of his own bathroom. At first, he thought the whole day had been a dream but it was too real. He jumped from the tub and rushed to the mirror. What he found there was something he never thought he'd see again, himself. It must have been Divine Intervention. The serum that Seth used to lace their DNA had not only transferred their appearance but their minds as well. There was no scientific explanation for it but at that moment, he didn't need one. The only question left in his mind was, how did Seth trade DNA with him in the first place?
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Hey." It was the whisper of his angelic wife, Ashley, and it sent familiar shivers down his spine. She smiled at him and murmured, "I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with you, Dr. Seth St. John."
|Ankh Press Home Page|