“I came all the way down here, about to do something, but now, for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.”
“Strange, Ed,” said Dr. Phelps, who was lying on a fold-out lawn chair, “I’ve just experienced the same problem myself.” Dr. Phelps and his lawn chair were lying between two Tesla coils as big as ancient pines at the centre of a grey concrete room. He did not move his gaze from the blue arcs that crackled above him.
“And,” said Edward, “what are you doing now?”
“…nothing,” said Dr. Phelps, squinting as a particularly bright and loud bolt of electricity sparked above him.
“Isn’t that somewhat…”
“Yes,” said Phelps, “…strange.”
“Well,” said Edward, “I suppose I’ll come back when I remember what I had intended to do.”
Dr. Phelps waved goodbye, but without fully extending his arm, not wanting to risk a certain high voltage death.
The echoing clank of shoes against steel faded, spiraling to the floor above.
“Oh!” said Edward, jumping the final three stairs, having already sprinted most of the way down. “Oh… hmm… damn.” He scratched the back of his head, and started climbing the stairs again. “Almost had it that time… strange. Seemed important when I was upstairs.”
Dr. Phelps had not left his lawn-chair, but his empty stare had wandered to a large oscilloscope rigged via a knotted clump of wires to a series of vacuum tubes and glass tanks filled with bubbling blue fluids. He licked his lips. He waved again, but said nothing.
“Curses,” said Ed, distractedly clasping his hands and pulling them apart, “that’s the third time. Or is it the fourth?”
“Fifth,” said Phelps, looking at a row of five pen marks on his sleeve, which he had begun making sometime after the other’s third visit. “At least fifth. Maybe you could write it down on your palm when you’re upstairs this time, so when you get back, you’ll be able to read it if you forget.”
“Didn’t you already…” said Ed. And then he paused, raising his ink-smeared palm to his face. “Blazes! I did write it down.”
“I rubbed it away… forgot it was even there.”
Ed rubbed his fingers against his temples, painting trails of ink across his face as he did so. “It’s just… I’m just so sure it was important. Urgent, even. God damn. When I come back, could you remind me to look at my hand?”
“Or you could use paper,” said Phelps.
“Better,” shouted Ed, sprinting up the stairway. “Even better.”
Edward arrived holding a sheet of paper directly in front of his face.
“What is this?” he said.
‘TURN POWER OFF’, the sheet of paper told him, in big, bold letters.
“Turn the power off? Why would I do that?”
He let his hand fall to his side, and turned to Dr. Phelps, who for some reason was lying on a fold-out lawn chair between two Tesla coils. And he was wearing sunglasses.
“Phelps,” Edward said. “Any reason why the power ought to be shut off?”
“I know I came down here to do something, but I can’t remember…” Ed paused. “Hey, Phelps, what do people normally do down here?”
“Couldn’t say,” Phelps said. “Plenty of stuff down here,” he gestured to the various measurement instruments and demonstration devices that littered the room, “but I never touch any of it. I’ve got everything I need right here.” He gestured to his lawn chair, Tesla Coils colossal, and a small plastic stool which held a plastic cup filled with frosty liquid. He drank the liquid.
“What are you doing?” asked Ed.
“Nothing,” said Dr. Phelps, wiping blue margarita frost from his lips.
“Doesn’t this seem a bit…”
“Yes,” said Ed.
He noticed that he had a sheet of paper in his left hand. It read, ‘TURN POWER OFF’.
“Hey,” said Edward. “I’ve got a sheet of paper here that says to turn the power off. Why would I need to do that?”
Phelps scratched his chin, and then, eyes widening, he stood up straight on his lawn chair.
Phelps said, “Wait! I think I know what’s happening! You need to…”
And then Phelps died.
Ed discovered that the human body, when burnt black by electricity, smelled almost like hot dog did when you accidentally dropped it into a campfire. Only, this smell made him vomit.
Ed ran upstairs to seek medical attention for Phelps, though Phelps was clearly dead.
“Oh no!” said Ed, arriving at the bottom of the steps. “What in God’s name has happened to Phelps?” He squinted momentarily, trying to remember what was to be done in such situations. “I’d better call an ambulance.”
He turned and ran back up the stairs.
Andrew LeBlanc spent more years than he should have in university, and has still yet to obtain any degree. He does, however, call himself a scientist, and continues to perform secret, possibly unethical experiments in the privacy of his own garage.