Elements of Life is based in a College chemistry department. For those who aren't familiar with the British school system, college is years 12 & 13, 16-18. I was inspired by the title of the first unit of the AS course, which is the same as the title of the piece. If you aren't quite sure what Polymods are, it is just a slight renaming of Molymods®, a set of coloured plastic balls and connecting rods that are used to represent the shapes of chemical molecules. If you want to know even more go look it up on Wikipedia or something.
This is my fourth edit, with thanks to everyone so far who have reviewed. Feel free to review, but I'm probably getting to a point where I'll leave it as it is unless something big is picked up, or enough little things are picked up on to warrant another edit.
Elements of Life.
Help me. Actually, don't help me. You can't. I'm trapped, so near, but trapped irreversibly. You may look around the classroom for me, but you can't see me, not yet. Don't help me, don't even try. It's everyone else you need to help, even yourself. Because you're all in danger and it's entirely my own fault. I wouldn't ask you to fix it if I could, so please, stay a moment, and let me explain it, from the start. You need to know…
It'd been an average college day. Ok, clichéd but rightly so, as nothing had happened. Well I could say I got a presentation to do for Physics and tons of homework in Maths, or that me and my friends spent lunch eating chips and talking about TV, boys, chocolate and sex, all the while trying to see how embarrassed the guys would get, but that sort of thing happens everyday.
Well, it was the end of the day, I'd just had double chemistry and me and my friend Leo, blue eyed, sandy haired, handsome Leo, were down in the science block putting the polymods away- You know, those coloured balls you connect up with the grey sticks and are used to show structure of molecules. You know the ones you're always tempted to build random things out of- I always tried to see how big a diamond structure I could build, but then the college has a separate model of diamond that's got a small scale but is still quite big. Anyway, I was always caught by it whilst daydreaming in class - it's mesmerising and always gives me a headache.
Well it did.
So we'd just had double chemistry and we'd been looking at the organic compounds- the stuff we're made out of- and what we'd ended up with was a load of these organic compounds, these elements of life, in polymod form, and me and Leo, we had to put them away
Tedious. It was almost worth doing the homework I'd lost instead (which, by the way was probably still decomposing somewhere in the park. It's not my fault if the wind caught it and blew it across the river). Anyway, we had been doing it a while when Leo held up a compound. It looked like a foot. He quickly found a second and mimicked walking along with them, and I burst out laughing. He joined in and we ended up spending the next five minutes trying to calm down. It didn't help when Leo got hiccups either. Once I'd caught some control over it I sent Leo my trademark mischievous grin (get your money back if you don't think 'oh no, what's she planning now?') and soon we were building a sort of stick man out of the polymods. Oh, and before you ask it's definitely male, and had the parts to prove it. So we ended up with the body of this stick person, with only the head to go. We were standing there, observing our work (and in my case waiting for the right moment to…)
"It needs a head." Commented Leo, and I leapt in, whipping a construction of polymods from behind my back.
"Here's one I made earlier!" I quipped. He groaned, before snatching it out my hands and having a look, noting its random curves for the ears, a pair of red oxygen's for the eyes, and…
"No mouth. Why?"
"Oh, that. I couldn't decide what its expression should be so I left it. Also it would have looked weird- the only place I could put it was slightly off center."
"Ok then. No mouth." And he started to attach the head.
No mouth. Who'd have thought?
When that was done, Leo stepped back revealing the finished product.
"You were worried about the mouth being off center?" I sighed
"Fine, I get the point. It's still pretty good though." And it was. It stood about a metre high; had next to no neck; the arms were too long and the legs too short, but it still looked good, a complex matrix of coloured balls and connecting bonds, creating an advanced stick man. Looking at it gave me the same sort of feeling as when I first saw the miniature world at Lego land, wondering how they'd done it. But this time it was me and Leo who had done it. I felt proud of… well…
"He needs a name." I declared.
"Baldric." Leo offered.
"Trixie?" Leo scoffed "What sort of name is that for a guy?" He gestured at the stick parts for emphasis.
"Just making a point." I replied.
"I know. But we're not calling him any of those are we? Try thinking of some more."
"Atom dude..." He ventured after a moment's thoughtful silence.
"No I like Polyman."
"But Polydude is…"
"We're calling him Polyman."
"Fine." There was a pause. "So where's Poly going?"
"You know, we want to surprise the people who find him."
"Oh, okay then." I grumbled and helped him shift Polyman over to where the test tubes and burettes and pipettes were kept, and we positioned him so that it looked like he was trying to hold up the various stands there. We stepped back to admire our work.
"Perfect." Leo looked around. "My camera's in my locker downstairs. Wait here while I grab it then we can go ok?" I nodded and he disappeared.
And everything became just a bit too quiet. Shivers ran down my spine and my arms prickled with goosebumps. I stole a quick glance at the frozen clock face and it seemed to stretch with the shadows. The night time darkness seemed to warp the classroom, making the all too familiar setting unwelcoming and unfamiliar. I went to the door, listening for any hint of Leo returning, before coming to my senses. I was being stupid. I went back in and perched on a desk, patiently waiting, pushing my freak out moment to the back of my mind. It was just a school, no one else here. Still didn't stop me from feeling nervous though.
I realised then, why I was feeling so nervous. Like when you are in exams and the invigilator stands over your shoulder and you know they're looking at your work?
Yeah. Like that.
I realised I was being watched. I spun around, locking eyes with Poly, those fierce, red, unblinking eyes boring straight through me. But he'd been looking at the stands a moment ago, I was sure of it, and neither I nor Leo had touched him since. I started edging towards the door, not taking my eyes off Poly for a moment.
Someone crashed into me and I leapt around with a shriek.
"Whoa!" exclaimed Leo, "Someone's on edge. What's wrong?"
I clung onto him for a few moments, a desperate, thankful hug, before taking a step back.
"You just startled me, that's all. I thought Polyman had moved for a moment there- he was looking at me."
Leo smiled and looked over my shoulder.
"Nope, exactly where I left him." He took a couple of snaps as I stared at Poly. He was looking at the stands once more. I still felt uneasy.
"Let's take him apart."
"Let's take him apart."
"We can't do that; no one's seen him yet!"
"We have pictures."
"What's the point of making him if we don't display him? Come on, it'll be fine. We have chemistry again tomorrow and if you really want, we can take him apart then."
I opened my mouth to protest. But seeing his look and realising it would've been pointless to argue I let it drop.
"Ok, but only as long as we demolish it tomorrow."
"Whatever, let's go."
Silently we grabbed our bags and headed out. As we left I turned and caught the flash of two red eyes watching us leave.
The next day I couldn't stop thinking about Polyman, and not in the good way. I was sure that he'd moved of his own accord, yet I had not been able to prove it, or even been able to give a suitable idea as to how. Also as I'd suspected, Leo was trying to convince me to leave him up for another day, but I'd disagreed, leaving us on bad terms. It hadn't helped that when he printed his pictures, they all came out as duds because of some virus, and he blamed me. Unfortunately it gave him a better reason to go back and keep Polyman in one piece, whereas all I had to persuade him to dismantle it was an annoyed lab techie called Paul on my tail, as he knew it was us who'd been there late. He hadn't confronted wither of us about it, but he did mention in passing something about Poly along with idiots and glue, which confused me.
Both sooner and later than I'd hoped for, me and Leo were facing Poly again.
"Still scared?" Leo said, not unscathingly.
"Can we just get on with it?" I waited in the doorway as he went inside and took the new set of pictures, setting Poly in a number of positions, before returning him to his pose by the stands, then turning to leave. I grabbed hold of his shirt as he tried to pass me.
"Wait!" I exclaimed, my voice a tad higher than normal. "Where are you going? We've got to take him apart." Leo sighed and turned to face me.
"Can't we leave him up there for one more day?"
"No! You've got your second set of pictures, and the technician was getting annoyed. We've got to take it apart."
"What if this set of pictures don't work either? We'd lose all evidence of that hard work we've done. And I actually think Paul was slightly impressed with Poly."
"Yeah really. Now come on, let's go."
"No. We're taking him apart."
"Please? It's freaked me out the whole day, and I just want it gone. You've got you're pictures, and people have seen it, so please, please can we just take it apart?"
"Whoa, I didn't realise it got you that edgy." He prised my hand off his arm, wincing at the nail marks I'd accidently left. "Okay, I'll help you take it apart." He strode back to Poly, with me close behind. We paused for a brief moment.
"Well Poly, this is it, you're probably one of the best creations I've made out of any…" Pop! "Hey! You just took his balls off! You could have at least waited until I'd finished my farewell speech!" I wasn't listening, as I was trying to get one of the arms off next. It seemed sort of stuck. Beside me Leo sighed, and got to work on the head. There was a moment as he strained against the bonds, which didn't shift. We both took a step back.
"Okay, that's odd." I nodded in agreement.
"Didn't you think it was weird that Poly was still in one piece? Because there would have been at least one group who would have tried to make some alterations."
"Well you managed to get that bit off, maybe the rest of the bonds are just stiff."
"Paul tried to take it apart earlier." I gasped in realisation.
"Yeah he must have, because he mentioned something about some idiots with glue, which means he must have tried to take it apart and found that the bonds were stuck, so assumed that some idiots with glue had got at it."
"Well, maybe someone did glue it together."
"Or maybe it is just a bit stiff!" Leo sighed.
"Okay I'll give it another go." He reached towards the head. It turned to face him, whipping the rest of its body around with a loud crash as Poly tore one of the burettes out the rack and swung it at Leo. I shrieked and Leo leapt back out of the way of the jagged glass.
There was a pause as we caught our breath back, and tried to calm down a bit.
"Okay, so it's alive." Leo stammered, not taking his eyes off the frozen form of Poly, who was still very much watching us. Leo touched his cheek, wincing a bit, and pulled his hand away, his fingers damp with blood. He quickly wiped it off, and glanced around, before pulling me closer behind him. "Start moving towards the door, slowly." I nodded, and started moving backwards, a hand on his shoulder to help him round the tables. Even so he kept his eye on Poly, feeling where the tables were behind him. He grabbed a stool, and held it as a guard, wary. Poly watched us as we went, curling up like a cat, ready to pounce. I glanced behind me and saw that we were nearly at the door.
"Almost there." I muttered, wishing that we could just go through the tables, and get the hell away from that thing. Poly leapt, clearing half the classroom with the grace of a monkey. Leo swung the stool, catching Poly with a crunch and sending him flying into the wall. He dropped to the floor unharmed whilst Leo and I scrambled for the door. I had my hand on the handle when Leo shoved me to the side, the space we'd just vacated rapidly filled by the teachers chair, and Poly was just grabbing the desk to follow. Leo gave me another shove to get me moving.
"The other door and keep low!" He hissed. We dashed, half crouched, around the outside of the room, glassware and various tables and stools crashing down around us, mostly deflected by the tables we were behind. We got to the door and dove through it, with it slamming shut as a table collided with it, and the sound of a hail of other items following. We took a pause.
"We've got to get out of here." Leo shook his head.
"We have to stop that thing, whatever it is. We made it."
"We can't take it apart, for whatever reason. But," He gestured at the room we were in, another classroom. "We're in the Chemistry department. There's bound to be some way we can destroy Poly."
"It tried to kill us." Leo looked at me, before enveloping me in a comforting, although slightly sore hug. Everything was quiet. I could hear the steady beat of his heart, and watched his tattered shirt drift out and in as he breathed strong deep breaths. I felt my body slow to match his, and I was calmer, more relaxed, almost forgetting the danger.
"Maybe acid would work."
"If I could get Poly into the prep room, I'm sure I could find something to stop him."
"Yes." There was a loud banging from the other side of the door. Poly had decided to come after us. "You go find a way out, or somewhere to hide okay?" I nodded, then flinched as there was more banging from the other side of the door. "It'll be okay, you hear me?" I nodded again, suddenly finding myself close to tears, and clutching onto Leo.
"No…" I whispered. He bent down, and kissed me softly on the head. I looked up at him.
"Now go." He turned and gave me an encouraging push towards the door, watching as I went. As soon as I got to the corridor, I turned and ran.
Leo turned back to face the door which stood between him and Poly. The scrabbling on the other side paused for a moment. He paled as he realised that Poly may have found someone more interesting to chase.
"OI, you piece of twisted, bastard plastic! I'm in here, come and try getting a piece of ME!" He swept up another stool to defend himself with as the scrabbling restarted, more frantic than before.
Downstairs I muttered a small prayer of thanks that Leos shout had covered my getaway. I quickly dashed to the door and tried it. It wouldn't budge. I tried again, and again. Push, pull, however many times you could get that wrong it still couldn't cure a locked door. I cursed inwardly, looking around. The doors at the other end of the block would be shut. There was little point of hiding in the classrooms down here; they offered little more protection than the ones upstairs. Toilets, the girl's toilets in this block, just in front of me, had a window. It was a place to hide, and maybe I could escape through the window if need be. I made my decision in a split second and ran.
Leo was shaking, his arms sore from holding the stool for so long. He reluctantly put it down, realising with the clank it made as it hit the floor, how quiet it was. He listened carefully, tense, trying to catch any hint of sound around him. He heard a scuffling, but it wasn't from the room in front of him. He turned around and looked apprehensively at the door to the Prep room. There was a loud crash as something was toppled over. Poly was in there. He wandered to the door, peering in. He couldn't see much, so taking a deep breath; he opened the door, and took a few cautious steps in. He couldn't hear or see Poly, so he carefully headed to and stepped over the overturned trolley that had been full of trays of test tubes and beakers, which were now scattered across the floor in pieces. There was a slight scuffle and grating from above him, then something large hit his head, spilling it's aqueous contents over him as it made its way to the floor, followed by a couple other large glass bottles, and a dazed Leo, cutting his hands and arms as he tried to stop himself crashing into the glass. He let out a yell of pain as he landed, as the glass still bit deep, and the liquid started to seep into his cuts, burning as it went. He coughed as he breathed in the harsh gas that was being given off. He caught a glimpse of a label off one of the bottles. HCl 5 mol. He pushed himself to his feet, embedding glass deeper into his hands, which were already running with a mixture of the blood and acid, and he staggered over to where a large bottle of distilled water stood. With shaking hands he unscrewed the lid, which took a number of attempts as the blood was making it slippery, and he felt faint, the burn of the acid rolling over him in waves, each more painful than before. He grabbed the bottle, and poured it over his head, gasping as it washed over his cuts, but not stopping until it was empty. Dumping it on the floor, and gritting his teeth against the slightly alleviated pain of the remaining acid and injuries, he pressed on through the room, looking for Poly, following the scuffling.
He turned quickly into a row, brandishing a fire extinguisher he'd grabbed. There was a bright flash, and he dropped the extinguisher with a curse, grabbing the bench to regain his balance, and coughing, as the vapour from the acid got in his throat and lungs, and started to burn inside too. As his vision returned, he saw Poly, sat on the bench at the end of the room, taking apart his camera, and looking at the flash. Despite the pain he was in, and the amount of blood that he had now lost, adrenaline surged through him, and he leapt forward.
"Hey, that's my camera!" He shouted, hoarse, heading straight for Poly, almost making to grab it. Poly grabbed a pair of leads on the desk and thrust them straight into Leo's chest. He screamed in agony and convulsed as several thousand volts chorused through his body, burning through his nervous system, all the muscles in his body clenching simultaneously, ripping several tendons, and stopping his heart. The lights stopped flickering as he fell limp to the floor.
Downstairs, I could hear the all the crashes and bangs, and when I heard Leo yell the first time, I wanted to get out of there. I tried the window. Locked. I was trapped, with only one way out; I had to get out of there. I remembered the fire escape on the first floor; they couldn't lock that from the inside. I had a chance, so I turned, and ran, the lights flickering, and Leo's scream cutting straight through me. I burst out the toilets and started to head towards the stairs, but stopped. I could hear Poly scuffling around on the balcony above me, so I kept out of sight edging back quietly, before turning and running towards the stairs at the other end of the building. Behind me, I heard a clatter as Poly dropped from the top floor, and started to chase after me. I hurtled up the stairs, barely breathing, and legged it towards the fire escape at the other end of the hall, at the top of the first set of stairs, knowing that Poly was just behind me, expecting to feel his clawed hands on my back at any moment. I caught a glimpse of red in the prep room, and knew I wasn't going to see Leo. I sped up, somehow, and covered the last few metres, and slammed into the bar of the doors, desperate to get out into the fresh air.
There was a clang as I collided with the resolutely shut doors, feeling something crack in my shoulder. I slid down, whimpering in pain, before glancing down the corridor, which was empty. Stealing my chance I made a desperate scramble for the stairs- I could still get out, break one of the downstairs windows. Before I could get far I was showered with crumbled ceiling tile and Poly landed on my back. He grasped my hair, and started to crush my throat with his legs. I struggled and bucked, trying to throw and pull him off, my vision full of his plastic arms, and a growing darkness. I took one stagger too far, my back foot jerking down as I missed the first couple of steps, my arm waving frantically, that last comic grab for survival, but I was too far gone. As I shot past the horizontal, I thought that at least I might break Poly, and finish this mess. There was a crack, then darkness.
I came round, trying to move, but finding myself somehow stuck, I screamed, and then screamed again, and again, my screams echoing through my head. Because that's when I realised where I was.
You can see me now, trapped for all eternity inside a pile of plastic, unable to speak, unable to move, unable to live or truly die. But not alone, because Poly isn't dead. He's still here, with me, still controlling this, even more so as I spend my strength to get this message out. For the worst thing is that I know, I know what Poly did, how he killed Leo, with not a single thought for him, and I know he'll kill again, whoever, whenever: here, but without reason, mercy, or any trace. Yet I cannot help.
Poly, me, it has to be destroyed, because if you leave him, he will watch you, watch everyone. And people will keep dying, one at a time.
If you ever are alone, and you think you saw him move...
Run, or he will kill you.