Mind over Body
"I just don't understand it, Harry! How could so much go wrong in so little time?"
"That is just the way of things, Perry." Harry, his perfectly straight handlebar moustache already turning gray, propped his muddy boots onto his desk, pushing aside the pencils and pens and present from his niece and desk lamp and everything else on it to make way for them; he leaned back against his swivel chair. It was raining that day, as usual; it had been raining for four months straight. Very fitting, if you asked Harry. Then again, almost nothing ever fazed him.
On the other hand, Perry was always worried about one case or another. Though he was barely thirty, his dark hair was already beginning to gray. Too much stress, that's what Harry always thought. Whenever Perry was overthinking a problem, as he always was, he would frantically pace the mock hardwood floor (Harry was sure the floor would break one day very soon). And, sure enough, right then, Perry was making hurried steps across the floor, saying nothing very interesting. "I mean, it's quite unusual, what's been happening recently. Petty crime has risen at least twofold over the last few months. Our jails are overflowing, and our leaders in government don't seem to care."
Harry pulled a stick of gum from one pant pocket and tossed it into his mouth; bubble gum had always been his weakness. "Well, they've got their own problems to worry about, don't they?"
"That's just it! Government scandals have also been on the rise. And the number of lawsuits going through the court systems right now—it's damn near impossible for any of our judges to sort through them all. The people are losing confidence in their society. Anarchist rallies are happening every day now. People are coming in swarms, even in this blasted rain, just to hear them!"
Nonchalantly, Harry blew a bright pink bubble. It popped loudly. "I don't mind the rain."
"Of course you don't, but I hate it."
"Wife doesn't want to go out?"
The entirely nonverbal response of a frown was all that Harry needed.
"If you're that worried, Perry," he said, "why don't you go look through the records? Perhaps there's some strange occurrence that started it all." Harry chuckled at his own joke, chewing with more vigor on his gum, not noticing the strange expression on his partner's face. His laugher stopped when Perry sat down at his desk and began to type furiously at the keyboard in front of his computer. "Hey Perry! I was just joking."
Perry ignored him.
"Aw, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to hurt your feelings or anything, but—"
"Here we go." Harry's interest peaked, he slid his feet off from the desk and rolled his chair over behind Perry's. All jocularity gone, seriousness came to his face. "What is it?"
"You were right. Every one of these problems started four months ago."
"No single person can cause all these problems, Perry. It's just an upheaval. Times are tough."
He shook his head. "This person can. Have a look."
Craning his neck over to the computer screen, Harry read, "'Local scientist Griffin Wilkinson, 24, goes missing.' Yeah, okay, what about it?"
"Read this now."
"'Local man, Morgan Wilkinson, 53, goes missing.'
"'Husband and wife, Todd Dalgliesh, 29, and Wynn Dalgliesh, 27, go missing.' So? Enlighten me."
"This guy Griffin goes missing. His father, Morgan, reports he is gone. He's very worried for his son, naturally. But within a week, he disappears too. Morgan's daughter, Wynn, and her husband are concerned, so they file a complaint. A few days later, they disappear. And all of this happens about the time the system starts to go bad. Seems suspicious, doesn't it?"
Harry shrugged. "Could easily be a coincidence. Gang violence, maybe."
"Harry, we have a whole file on this guy Griffin, right here in the system. A few years ago, he and his wife made a big squawk in the scientific community, claiming that he could scientifically turn a person invisible. There was even a big demonstration at the science center."
"Yeah. I remember that." A shadow passed over his face. "It went disastrously wrong."
"Yes, poor sucker put his wife into the machine that was supposed to turn her invisible."
Harry shook his head gravely. "You shouldn't say that, Perry. It really was horrible to see her body doing that, twitching in agony." He shuddered. "It wasn't natural, Perry."
"Well, yeah. Apparently his wife became an invalid of sorts, and he went mildly insane. Most of what he did was spout conspiracy theories about the government and quack like a duck. Nothing that serious. But his father had him committed for a while in this so-called alternative treatment place."
"Damned well is. Their records say that he should have become a quote-unquote 'permanent resident', but they released him a few weeks before his disappearance. Sound suspicious yet?"
"No. Their original diagnosis could have been off, for all we know."
With a sigh, Perry put his hands down at his sides. "I don't know how I'm going to convince you, then. It seems plenty obvious to me."
"It seems plenty obvious to me, too."
The two men exchanged glances. "Did you say that, Harry?"
"No, Perry. Did you?"
Both men's eyes turned towards the center of the room, where a nondescript black bag appeared to be floating on its own, held by some unseen force. Out of the bag, a thin paperback book flew out; it would have hit Harry in the head had he not caught it first. Turning it in his hands, he saw the title: The Invisible Man. A harsh laugh. "I should have thought someone would find it sooner, someone more intelligent than you incompetents. That would have been much more fun."
Finally regaining his voice, Perry spoke up. "H-h-how—"
"How did I find out about you two?"
"Oh, please. Out of every question you had to ask, you asked the most prosaic one." The harsh laugh rang through the room again in an odd, flat sort of way. "Simple. I've infiltrated the ranks of all of government. I've got this whole city bugged, sewed up so tight you can't even move without me knowing it. Come on, now, why don't you ask me how I did it, how I managed to become invisible?" He was practically begging. "I've wanted a chance to monologue for months. The last time I got to do it was with my dear family, and that's no fun because they already knew all the theory. Come on. Ask me."
"Uh…how did you get invisible?" It was Perry who asked, of course. Harry was still having a hard time believing in invisible men, staring at the book held in his hands with a mixture of fascination and horror.
"Very good." He cleared his throat, as if he was preparing for a long speech. "As a young boy, science fiction was my absolute favorite genre. I was intrigued with the possibilities of time travel and alternate realities and invisibility and colonizing other planets and everything infinite. But not fantasy—that was Wynn's area. No, I wanted it all based on solid fact. I've only ever applied two of those areas. When I first met my wife, Veronica, I was a young rising star in the scientific field; at eighteen, I was already a graduate student, with a laboratory of my own. They recognized my brilliance back then." His voice held the sharp taste of bitterness.
"They only recognized my lesser efforts, however. My true work was in the realm of the mind and body. Veronica and I bounced ideas back and forth. We worked long nights on the idea of physically separating the mind and the body, but in a way that you could still hold control. To achieve invisibility, Wells was limited by the idea that we had to stay corporeal; however, with sufficient energy, the physicality of the body can be banished to another reality entirely, while the mind stays behind, aware and thinking, still able to manipulate the world around it. We tried to show the world, to tell them of our amazing discovery; but the equation itself had been misinterpreted by those so-called scientists. They added a single negative sign and ruined it all. And my darling, they killed her mind and left her body, the fools, the fools. The imbeciles blamed me for it, but they are wrong! They have rued, and ever shall rue, the day they ruined me!."
By now, Harry had looked up from the book, a quaint little smile on his face. "So you care more about them killing your career than killing your wife?"
"You fool! You're just like the rest of them, those straight-laced scientists. I do not know why I thought you could understand."
"Um, no, we understand perfectly," interjected Perry. "We…we want to help you."
"Oh yes. That's what my father said when he put me in that asylum. They all said I was insane, yes they did. But I'm not insane. Not even close." He laughed maniacally.
Harry smirked. "You certainly sound insane, doncha, Griff?"
"You don't understand. None of you understand." Had he had a body, he would have stood still for a moment, contemplating his next action. As it was, out of his bag, he pulled a long, thin knife with a silvery blade stained brown with dried blood from previous victims. "It will be easier to kill you than Wynn. She kept crying and blubbering over that fatuous dead husband of hers. Quite annoying, really; I had wanted to kill her with her staring wildly into space while I told her about how she had always been an annoyance, a fly that bothered me and distracted me from my real purpose, but you know what? That's was a sign of immaturity on my part. It's just a death of the body. Nothing I should fuss too much about."
The knife bobbed closer and closer to the two officers. "Enough small talk, though. Time for you to die." A strange childish giggle emanated through the room.
"Have you got a plan, Harry?" hissed Perry.
"You could say that." Without warning, he stood up, tore out a set of yellowed pages from The Invisible Man, and thrust them towards the sharp knife. "Oi, Griff! I don't care what you think. You're still just a figment of my imagination!"
The invisible man yelled out an inarticulate, wordless sound.
Harry inched his way along against the wall, watching as the knife followed him, seeming to ignore Perry, who was likewise watching, only in amazement. He tore out another set of pages, wadding them up and throwing them towards the knife. "You're nothing but a fake, a phony!" He was halfway there. "You're a horrible excuse for a scientist!" He was almost at his desk. There was that present from his twelve-year-old niece, something she said he would "love." Though that was definitely not true, it would still come very much in handy. "You killed your wife!"
Rage, pure rage, was all that could be heard. The knife lunged out towards Harry, but he dodged, throwing all that was left of the H.G. Wells novella at the oncoming knife. Grabbing at air, snatching up his niece's present, he shoved it in front of his face as a shield.
A strange white light filled the room. Screams of agony rebounded against the walls. Then, with a small "pop", the light disappeared; the knife clattered to the floor, submerged in a puddle of smelly yellow goop. Relieved, Harry dropped his niece's present to the floor, walked over to his swivel chair, and, ignoring Perry's stares, draped his long leather raincoat over his shoulders, heading towards the door.
"'How', what?" His hand still gripped around the door knob, Harry stopped at the door.
"How did you get that…thing, to happen?"
Harry smiled cryptically. "Sparkling vampires will rot any brain."
Perry could hardly repress a chuckle, which quickly turned to a gag. A putrid gray fluid joined the goop on the floor. "It…it smells wretched," he managed.
"I'm gonna get some coffee. Come with?"
He nodded weakly. "I think I'll take you up on that."
A/N: This was written for Witch Robyn's Lounge Challenge.