A Chemist Past His Due

A Chemist Past His Due

If you were to describe today, it would be a train wreck. More than that actually. A disaster.

Yes, that’s how the man would describe it. The rainy night weighed heavy on the chemist’s eyelids, the building silent and empty– well, mostly.

Hank Hyde replays the day over and over in his weary head, packing up his things from his office–or what was previously his office– as a terse thin line played on his lips. He mumbled to himself as he looked over the office that was no longer for him to use, and a mix of frustration and shame settled into his stomach.

He couldn’t believe the indignity of it all! He was fired. Just before he could finish his magnum opus. A sour taste develops in his mouth as he thinks of those indignant spoiled twins; to make him work day and night…for nothing, it felt unfair. And yet…he feels he could have finished it sooner. Faster. Maybe if he had finished the serum, Hank could’ve kept the job. Maybe if he had finished fast enough, his colleague, Radigan, would be in Hyde’s position–not like he thought the man deserved it, but considering how the Mann brothers are…maybe, maybe…but he
relents. Now is too late to muse over what could have been.

With a sigh, he takes up all his personal belongings and heads to the laboratory. As he walked, he brought his left hand up to his face, burnt and gnarled from clumsy spills at around this time of night. Had he really sacrificed so many precious seconds of his own life to extend the life of two feuding brothers? And for what? Money? Hank didn’t want to think about it, pressure just behind his eyes building as a headache started to settle in. He closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. It’s probably not that bad to be fired from the company. Someone else should
be interested in his project, surely. Who wouldn’t want to live forever?

The man pauses for just a second at that thought.

One beat. Two. Three…

Would being able to live forever really be something one would want? What about those around them? Those they love? They’d be forced to watch them all wither away, so what was the point of it all?

…Five. Six-
Hank coughs, that’s quite enough philosophical internal monologs…

And with that, Hyde continues his trek to the laboratory. Busting through the sterile white double doors, he walks straight to his unfinished masterpiece.
A grin crept its way up his features as he came upon it. It was none other than a glinting amber liquid, shining in its clear vial as the chemist inspects it for visual imperfections. Lovely and clear still. Wonderful. He mused over his creation for a moment. The serum, in theory, works by stimulating rapid cell reproduction, keeping one’s body from aging and eliminating the risk of organ failure. A marvellous concept really. A comfortable warmth settle in his chest, pride
flowing freely into his blood as he packed the vial away.

Who cared if he was now unemployed? He has his current research and work. He can show some other big shots the miracle elixir he’s made. He’d be able to squeeze funding out of any power hungry son of a bitch to develop whatever he wanted. This thought cheers him up significantly, already making up a plan to market himself and his work as he happily tucks away several other suspiciously vialed liquids. He had bought them himself with the money that was
given to him so it was, by all accounts, his (and even if it wasn’t, were those dimwit brothers going to care?).

He worked his ass off for that job. He was working on the serum, mostly on his own seeing as he did not trust those around him. And if he did, he would dare say that fat pigs would fly. By all accounts, he deserved to keep the work and research he has poured years of his life into. A bit before Radigan Conagher was on board. Not to say he was in bad terms with the man, no. There was a mutual understanding; they were working for the brothers, working to the same miracle. Radigan had worked just as hard as Hank did, yet the latter of the two was being kicked off the project. It still pisses him off. Obviously it would.

Hank tries not to let it dampen his mood as he carefully, methodically arranged the fragile vials in a bag. Wouldn’t want them to break and mix together into something completely unusable, he thinks.

Satisfied with how he has packed his things, he checks the time on his worn watch. He looks disapprovingly down at its face as it reads ’12:50 AM’. He probably should get going…

With a roll of his shoulder and a pop of his spine, he grabs what he’s packed and starts for the exit. Looking down the staircase, he stares daggers into the steps as if they would become any easier to climb all the way down. He was carrying some pretty hefty and fragile luggage, plus he was rather tired, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He didn’t have the patience to appreciate such obstacle at 12:54 AM after getting fired. With a drag of his feet, he goes down the winding stairwell. “You do, because you must” says a distant memory. That damned phrase–it always gets him into things he didn’t want to do. But he must. So he does. And so, Hank Hyde has a rather tiresome climb down the staircase, careful as he carries his precious belongings. Down. Down. Down…

And the crisp air of the night spray wakes him up. Finally outside, he sets his bags down and huffs just a bit. A little roll of his shoulders and neck, then it’s time to get back to taking everything away from his ungrateful ex-employer. It was a long way to go until he gets back to the private clinic that he called home. He checks how hard the rain was pouring down. A pleasant, soft, and chilling drip hits his skin as he holds his hand out. He think he could probably do without an umbrella as he took to his bags and started a careful jog. 

It was refreshing. The rain, cool on his skin as it beats softly against him. It reminds him that he is, in fact, alive. That he was there, in the moment. Sure, the moment was that of Hank Hyde running through the light drizzle with heavy bags on either sides of his stoat frame after getting fired from the most luxurious job he’s had until then. It did not change the feeling though. The feeling that he is very much there and real. Hank thrives there. In the now. No worries of the past or future. Just, what was happening now. And what WAS happening now is a brisk walk home to a stiff bed that he would disappear in if he could. God he’s tired. 

Familiar buildings pass him by as he comes upon his workshop of sorts. “Hyde Pharmaceutical” the sign greeted, the Rod of Asclepius just underneath. Finally, he breathes. He stands on the porch, out of the rain and out of the cold. He unlocks the door and enters, breathing in the familiar scent of cleaning solution and old paper. The storefront was simple, with glass cabinets filled with various medicines from vitamins to ointments to pills of all uses. In front of him, a counter with a glass window, showcasing more products. Atop it was a scale, papers, pens, and a small cash register, while behind it was another large glass cabinet and a locked door. He unlocks the counter shutters and settles his bags down to study the table. Nice and tidy as usual, not even a bit of dust left on the counter. Not a thing out of place.

With a slight quirk of his lip, he takes up his bags again and comes up to another door. Unlocking it reveals the short staircase up to his study that doubled as his bedroom. Quickly, like a thief in the night, he dashed up the steps. It was dark in the room, but he was familiar enough with it to find his place within the shadows. Desks of various apparatuses, vials, papers, and books line the left wall to greet him. His writing desk, with his chair still pushed in, sat with its side to the window. A bed lies on the opposite side of the desks. A soft blanket contrasts the rigid mattress.

The air is heavy with old paper and iron. A tired sigh is all that breaks the silence as he settles his baggage by the door. He rolls his shoulders and his neck, pops his spine, and stretches his arms. He can finally rest, perhaps make some tea for himself…if bills allowed him. He could probably ponder over having a bath–
Knock…knock…knock– 

A groan falls from his lips, pinching the bridge of his nose, irritated. Who in their right mind was at his door at this time of night. 

“Who is it?!”, he calls from up the stairs as he comes down. “Whatever you want, it better be an emer–“

BANG! BANG!

Shock and a pause. His ears are ringing. A sharp white hot burning pain punches through two different points in his abdomen. Hank stumbles back a bit, his hands flailing to put pressure on one point. He lets out a hiss as moisture starts to seep through his shirt. Blood falls from his lips. His eyes fall upon an unfamiliar men, dressed in a black hat and matching coats. He can’t quite see their faces due to the lowlight of the night, but he can make out the red ribbon on the man’s
hat. He stumbles back, and hits the wall. It feels like hell. That lousy old man, he thinks, the audacity is astounding. More blood.

Ah, wait a moment. Voices…
“–Mann didn’t want you slippin’ away, Hyde!” The man had a cocksure grin on his face as he pocketed his pistol.

“Nothing personal, doc, but a job’s a job, and I’m not gonna slip up like last time!”

The shadow of a man laughed as he walked out of the door. “Raymond Mann send their regards.”

Bastard.

Hank’s legs seem to give once they leave, body moving to sliding against the wall to sit on the wooden flooring. Shit, he hissed to no one. He has at least a minute or two before he dies of blood loss. His head is reeling, trying to find something that could help from his position. He has bandages upstairs but the internal damage is too far gone for him to take care of it himself, and help isn’t coming at…he checks his watch, splattered with blood. 1:34 AM.

He doesn’t have a lot of options here. Hissing, he tries to clamber up the steps. If he’s going to die, he should at least try to prolong his time until then. Blood is sticky and warm on his cold hands as he tries to stand upright, still holding onto one of his wounds. His body protests the movement, but he has to push on. Sticky burgundy handprints start to line the wall as he goes up the seemingly never ending stairs, mumbling expletives and threats down at his feet as if they were going to move faster.

Once he finally reaches his study again, he stumbles past the bags he left on the floor, sitting on his bed before his legs give out under him. He looks down to assess the damage. His shirt was soaked and there are two points of entry. Right lumbar. Right inguinal. The bullets are still lodged deep in his body and he’s losing a lot of blood, making the man uncomfortably chilly at his core. Reaching for the bed side table, he pulls out a medical kit. He doesn’t have much time left until he falls unconscious from the blood loss.

Unbuttoning the now ruined shirt, he quickly took bandages and started wrapping them around his lower half. His body protests the movement, the pain seemingly renewed, as he hisses at the empty night air. “You do, because you must” the memory now screams as tears prick his eyes.

He must try. Stay awake, just for a little while longer, he thought. His bed seems to creak as he tries to lean back and relax. His head is heavy as his mind wanders to the sheets. They are stained with dark vermillion, sticky and ruined. Everything around him, dirtied with his own blood. Red trail from the stairwell, to his bed. Disgusting. He would start cleaning if his body didn’t punish him for moving ever so slightly. The blood dripping from his lips seems to stick to his tongue. 

God, the metallic taste is overwhelming. 

But he needs to keep his eyes open. Black starts to dot his vision. The claws of sleep tries to take it’s hold on him. He’s so tempted to just rest, sink into his soft, ruined sheets.

Unconsciously, he shifts and lays with a fuumf of the sheet, eyes to the ceiling. If he
remembered to lock the door, perhaps he wouldn’t be in such a pathetic position…or perhaps the door would’ve been part of the casualties. Blinking once, twice, thrice…he tries to breathe, tries to calm his heart. He’s shaking from the cold and the pain as his consciousness starts to slip from under him. He could hear a faraway tap, tap, tap of heels on wood as sleep finally wins him over. 

One beat…Two…Three…Fou…r…Fi…v…

Hank gasps awake, choking on air. He’s panicking, throat burning and heart practically pounding out of his chest. His thoughts are racing much too fast. Was all of that a nightmare? A figment of his imagination? 

As he looks around he finds the very real messy dry blood trail from stairs to bed is
present, real. He feels for his stomach and finds the coarse texture of bandages wrapped around his abdomen. There was dried blood all over the sheets under him. This made no sense to the chemist. How is he still–

“Good evening, Doctor Hyde. Finally awake I see.” an unfamiliar feminine voice calls from his desks. Nearly jumping out of his own skin, Hank turns to the woman, blowing smoke out of the window to her side. She seems to be wearing a dark dress that reached all the way down to her feet. Her hair was neatly tied into a sophisticated bun. Dark, save for her greying bangs. “Who–“

“It will save much more time if you do not question who I am. It does not concern you. What you ought to be concerned about is the effectiveness of your serum.”

The man blinks at the strange woman as she takes a drag of her cigarette. His serum? Hyde pauses for a moment until realization hits him upside the back of his head. His serum.

“So it worked…”, Hyde let it sink in. It worked. A quiet chuckle bubbles out of his throat, quickly evolving into something strange and giddy. Pride warms his body, a glint of pure wild determination in his eyes. He was more than elated at this development. So his work wasn’t for nothing! What a breakthrough! The man couldn’t wait to share this with colleagues, show them that his research has been proven and that his serum worked– 

“So it did, Doctor Hyde.” 

His attention snaps back to the woman, who pinches her cigarette between her slender fingers carefully. Her face is lit by nothing but the dim moon and the burning tobacco stick in her hands. She seems to be pleased. 

“Now, I would like to propose to you an offer”, she turns in her seat to face him with what seems to be a smile.

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