July 7th, 2020

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "Child Of Mine"

Child Of Mine
idol season 11 | week 26 | ~2300 words
Open Topic

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The rat in the robo-chassis—the ghost in the machine—was that Sklurg didn't ask to be born, and Daniel Strider didn't ask to become a Daddy.

That is, if by 'born' you meant 'bubbled up out of a test tube,' and if by 'Daddy' you meant the person whose name was written on the label taped to the side of it.

It all started late one September night, when Daniel was working alone in the lab. He'd just finished entering the data from his most recent experiment into a lab book when he heard a sound behind him. It wasn't a noise he'd heard before, so it was hard to quantify it. But if he had to describe it, he probably would've said that it sounded like "Glup!"

He turned around and looked for the source of that sound. There was no one else in the room with him, not even the creepy night janitor. So, where had the noise come from?

Nothing looked out of place, and there was no one next door. Daniel decided he'd imagined it, and went back to writing his notes.

"Glup!"

There it was again! It was definitely real. Surprisingly disgusting-sounding, too.

It came from that back corner, Daniel thought. He crept over to look more closely.

Scale. Thermometers. Autoclave. Beakers. Microscope. Test tubes…

Daniel peered over the tops of the test tubes. One of them was filled with an oddly sludgy liquid that seemed to be settling in on itself. "Huhhh," Daniel said.

The sludge reared up out of the tube and waved at him. "Hi, there!" it said.

"Gahhh!!" Daniel jolted back and nearly fell over. Crap, those losers from Geo spiked my coffee with LSD!

"Is that any way to speak to your child?" the sludge asked.

"You… uh…"

"You heard me! Is there anyone else here? No. So it has to be you."

"Hold on, now! I didn't—I wouldn't—"

"Great, a deadbeat dad. Just my luck." The sludge plopped back into its test tube.

Somebody is going to pay for this, Daniel thought. I don't know who, but when I figure it out, their ass is mine.

He tried to concentrate on his work again, but the dripping of the leaky main faucet interspersed with the occasional Glup proved too distracting. I must be coming down with something…

Daniel decided to clean and store away his equipment, and go home for the night. He locked up without noticing the light in the lab two doors down, and never would have suspected that the night janitor was in there dribbling something from a portable Crispr unit into yet another test tube.

The next day was uneventful and comparatively sane, until Daniel's colleagues finished for the day and left to have dinner with their families. The lab was empty for perhaps all of ten minutes before the sludge in the back-corner test tube surged up and spoke to him again.

"Oh, I see you're back."

Daniel accidentally launched a pen into the air. "Damn it, this is why I gave up drinking!" he shouted.

"Oh, no," the sludge said. "You can't pawn me off as some kind of hallucination! I'm your responsibility, so grow up and do your job."

"What job? What do you want from me?" Daniel asked.

"You're the father. You tell me."

Daniel turned and glared at it. "I am not your father. I don't know where you even got that idea."

"First of all, that's really hurtful," the sludge said. "And second, I have your name—it's written right there on the side of my home."

"That's not a home, it's a test tube. And my name is there because that tube holds one of the samples for my experiment. Or, did." Daniel scratched his beard. "Clearly, something went really wrong with it," he muttered.

"That's even worse than the thing you said before!" the sludge shrieked.

"I'm… sorry? I guess?" Daniel said. "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do here. I can't exactly play catch with you, or teach you how to ride a bike."

"No, but you can spend time with me, talk to me, help me learn about life."

"Ugh," Daniel shuddered.

"Why are you so mean!"

"Because I've either gone crazy, or some sort of monster is hijacking my lab!"

"Monster? I have a name, mister, and that name is 'Sklurg'."

Daniel grimaced. "Of course it is."

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