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The mysterious disappearance of Bob Qelama

(2013-11-30 13:27:00)
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卖弄词藻

这是篇无聊的东西,基本是实验室内部笑话,虽然也没多好笑,而且又冷又硬。在LJ上得到的留言是:啊啊啊啊啊啊。同行给的留言是:你到底在卖弄什么呢?考虑到它不正经又故作正经的性质,就在这儿放一份。

有耐心看完者奖励火鸡一只(骗你的)。把全篇翻译了的(跟我一样无聊的)人可获得Star Fleet一套四枚徽章(认真的)。

***

Robert Qelama, the safety policeman of Delmarva Biotechnology Institute, was enjoying a walk around the little pond behind the research building. Just over his fifties, Bob was a paragon of the healthy, hard-working American society: he didn’t smoke, worked eight hours a day (lunch time included), five days a week (unless grad students chose to break something hazardous on weekends); he had a wife, three kids who lived in three different time zones, and he had a cat.


As he walked, he made a mental list of the issues to be pressed on the afternoon’s safety meeting. Eighty percent of the list was, as usual, an exact replica of that of the last meeting, but Bob had the talent to change bits and bobs to make it brand new and appallingly urgent. The pivotal issue was the intermittent deprivation of distilled water in the whole building, a phenomenon that had puzzled him for over a year. It happened every other week--the most recent one was happening right now--when all the undergrads held soap-covered beakers gaping at the dumb taps, horrified. Not to say they were allowed to wash, not rinse, the glasswares with precious distilled water…


He took another step and was engulfed whole.


***


In contrast to the descriptions made by most caterers, there are very limited choices of lunch boxes for an institution-class safety meeting. Vegetarians have to pretend satisfied with Caesar salad, undercooked eggplant and overcooked squash (and as a vegan you’ll have a better choice, i.e. maintaining an empty stomach, due to the trace of Parmesan cheese hidden among the leaves). Bird lovers devour the thick and juicy turkey slices and neglect the whole-wheat bread. The rarity of soft and sweet bread can be observed sandwiching a few flakes of ham, pathetically stained by bitter mustard and greasy mayonnaise, which got deliberately scraped away by the late Bob Qelama.


Some bread might be relieved today, thought Luccia, as she swiftly tore open the plastic bag and tore apart the sandwich-shaped brick. Representatives from thirty-three laboratories surrounded the table, misusing their own lunch and casting empty looks at the empty chair their chief safety officer had used to occupy. When all the food was reduced to pieces of two centimeters in length, Luccia decided it was time to show some mercy.


“Anyone has constructive suggestions concerning the distilled water? (Vegetarians tried to smash the eggplant and squash together for a better color.) Or the regularly-broken autoclave machine? (Bird-lovers longingly sucked the last finger that had touched the turkey slices.) Or the chemical hoods that take turns to sound alarm? (People with extreme taste munched on sweet bread with added layers of mustard and mayonnaise.) Well, Albie, haven’t you been to Bob’s house? Would you mind a checking later today?”


Albie shivered, cubes of bread falling from fork. “I’ll try my best. Patricia gave me nightmare last time, though.”


Luccia scowled, remembering the sweet face of a woman on Bob’s desktop. “Then you may have to put up with her.”


***


Urchnoid loved his pets.


When we talk about pets, we refer to something that can respond to our petting. You pet a kitten and he purrs. You pet a puppy and she whines. You pet a tribble and it coos, or shrieks if you happen to descend from a planet called Qo'noS.


Urchnoid petted his Venus flytraps twice a day, seven days a week. When he traveled out of town, he asked Wendy to pet them for him, which his comrade purposefully forgot. He watered them, fed them with little gnats that could be easily found in any carelessly-managed plant biology laboratory, and counted the traps on each plant.


He knew the numbers by heart. Twelve plants bearing one hundred and thirty-five leaves, the tips of which shaped into delicate structures invented by their starving ancestors. The average number of traps per plant was eleven point two five, the standard deviation two point seven zero one…


There was one trap missing.


By the time Wendy arrived, Urchnoid had employed his digits, his iPhone, and a tally counter to repeat counting for two, four, and six times, respectively. Wendy stared at her comrade with sheer awe, while the latter crouched by the bottom shelf of plant growth chamber, busy triggering a forest of pink-green traps.


“It’s just not there any longer,” Urchnoid pulled his head out, dusting his nose. “It didn’t die or wither away, just vanished, the whole piece of leaf with the trap. Yesterday it was the biggest trap of all. Today there’s no biggest trap at all.”


“Sounds like it walked away by itself,” Wendy pondered, dragging her comrade towards the door of the chamber. Urchnoid clutched his iPhone and tally counter, struggling to stand up and walk away by himself. “Better get out of here before the rest join the mutiny,” Wendy pondered on, ignoring the protest from the pet owner.


***


Having data or not, Evans hated weekly individual meeting. Not to say anyone liked such arrangement, but Evans took full credit of developing said hatred into performing art. He started panicking twenty-four hours before the event, mumbling and growling and pulling his hair, snipping bits from any paper at hand; on the day of the event, the stress ball made up of the collected paper scraps measured three inches so he stabbed it violently; into the last hour prior to the event he boiled, literally and metaphorically, steam transpiring into the air with agony.


His stress peaked when he stood at the door of Boss’ office, every hair standing on its end, making him a not-so-blue hedgehog. He knocked at the door and, not receiving any reply in the following ten seconds, the hairs on his arms succumbed. He knocked again, those on his legs giving in after another ten seconds. The ones on his torso remained alert, until their master pushed the unlatched door, mentally and physically exhausted from waiting.


There was no one in the room.


To be precise, there was no one above the floor of the room. Taking place of the dull carpet was a two-foot-wide hole, its shape vaguely reminiscent of the Boss’ chair.


The once-limp hairs on Evans’ limbs stood erect again. He pushed the door wide open and peeked into the hole, grabbing the tails of adrenaline he’d summoned earlier.


“Ahrrrrr!” was the last word to be heard from the office.


***


“Mind a walk around the pond?” Wendy kindly offered.


“But there might be snakes,” Urchnoid visibly flinched.


“It’s November, Urchy,” Wendy said patiently. “The ducks have abandoned their summer palaces. The crickets have finished their serenades. The snakes are probably hibernating in their cozy dens, dreaming of the birds in spring.”


“And the last poet on Earth is mourning for the death of autumn,” Urchnoid dipped his hand into pocket. “You’ve got any walking facilities?”


They ended up sharing one cigarette on the grey, freezing bank, merely five steps away from the spot Bob had made his rabbit-hole dive. “You’ve spoiled them,” Wendy applied her matter-of-fact tone. “They need less care and more fresh air. Stop playing a paranoid parent.”


“But if it’s escaped into the wild, it might turn into a monster,” Urchnoid chewed on the cigarette butt.


“Monster!” Cried Evans, staggering towards them. Urchnoid dropped the fag into the grass and stomped on it. Wendy put her hands behind her back to cover the smell.


“...in Boss’ office,” Evans stammered, catching his breath. “Or under… whatever. Boss’ gone. Eaten by it. I think.”


“Don’t worry, Boss’ office is the last haven your little trap would choose,” Wendy patted Urchnoid’s arm before trying to do the same to Evans, remembered the smell, and returned the hand to the small of her back. “What’s the monster like?”


Evans stared at the pond, terror sparkling in his eyes.


“Just a big mouth,” he held out both hands. “This wide. No teeth. And there’s a lot of water. It was in the water, the monster.”


***


“I came here a few months ago for Patricia’s birthday party,” Albie smiled askew when the petty woman answered the door. “I’m calling to see how Bob’s doing,” he glanced around the room nervously.


Bob’s wife didn’t notice his awkwardness. “I’m pretty sure he’s doing fine,” she waved her hand absentmindedly, drifting across the living room like most ghosts do. “But Patricia’s not. Poor dear, she must be homesick.”


Albie allowed himself to relax minutely. “At the vet’s?”


“Out there. Somewhere. Anywhere, maybe.” She replied dreamily, looking out of the window, the glass almost invisible. Albie started to twitch again realizing the extent of cleanness of the house. Considering the length and quantity of Patricia’s hair, he conservatively estimated the demon was gone for more than three days.


“Well, I’m sorry to hear that,” Albie gathered all his strength to smother the tiniest expression of pleasure. “Anyway, I believe Bob will come to work tomorrow?” Receiving the stillest stillness from the silhouette at the window, he nodded to himself and left.


***


“What an adventure! I’m so excited!” Evans whispered loudly at his companions’ ears. “It’s like in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when the trio sneaked past the dog--”


“And fell into a pit,” Wendy continued deadpan, watching the last postdoc from the nearby lab leave. “Hush now.” The trio moved themselves to the outside of the Boss’ office; Urchnoid poked the door with the longest tube brush they could find.


The hole in the floor was still there and so was the monster. Reviewed closely, it didn’t seem scary at all. The mouth took two thirds of its visible body, half submerged, water flowing from nowhere into the bottomless opening. Urchnoid took out his iPhone, managed a few snaps, and dropped it into the water out of excitement.


Before any of them decided to risk a limb, the mouth trembled close, rising into the air. Neither Evans nor Wendy reached for their cellphone. As the hole was again covered with dull carpet, the monster had transformed into the familiar chair with the Boss in it, slightly bemused.


“Any lab business?”


There were eighteen seconds when the trio failed to recognize the sound; it hammered their eardrum like a thousand toilets flushing together, turning the building into a magnificent public restroom. Meanwhile, the Boss had them dismissed and turned back to her grant proposal which would go on till the end of the world.


“I think we’ve discovered the distilled water consumer,” Wendy drily reminded her companions.


***


It was a sunny Friday and everybody of the institute saw Bob Qelama.


To people whose only chance to talk with Bob was when they got caught handling splashy liquid without goggle (which meant most people), the chief safety officer was his calm and pristine self. To the few sitting next to him in the office, or taking orders from him thrice a day, or having visited his family under unique circumstances, Bob had become a calm and pristine shell, and something peevish and ambitious was hiding inside.


Luccia had spotted him sprawling on the bank of the pond, basking in the late afternoon sunshine. She walked straight to her car, categorizing this evidence into her hazardous binder.


Albie started to have nightmares again. He blamed the weather.


There was another biggest trap standing out, and Urchnoid had installed a video camera in the growth chamber. Wendy, on the other hand, had fallen into the habit of wandering the wild, holding a Jolly Roger and calling for the wayward leaves. Evans stopped panicking for individual meetings but always stood vigilantly close to the door.


And none of them took much interest in the resurrected Bob Qelama.

***

再次感谢您阅读到如此坑爹的结尾。

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