ECOPOCALYPSE CH.5 - HOME SWEET LAB
By Matthew C. Plourde
Your hands shake as you connect the wires to the companion cooling tank. Sweat greases your fingers. Your face rotates between flushed and clammy. You know you’re not sick. This is just that sinking feeling you get before totally losing it.
Mum and Milo are dead. Your life is dissolving to shit around you. And you may be responsible for more deaths than any other individual in the history of the human race.
Great. And here you are, affixing a souped-up coolant tank to a shitter.
Flush the release chamber. Connect the ground. Wipe brow through the hazmat suit. Release the gas into the vapor chamber. Fill the caustic chamber—slowly. Steady hands.
“The suit will protect you,” Madge says, her voice muffled behind her oversized, protective helmet.
Deciding she could do more good at the lab, Madge decided to accompany you in the helicopter. Though you saw a few sludge zombies shambling around the outside of the building, the lab’s only reminder of their presence is long streaks of fudge along the walls and floors. Thank God for the hazmat suit!
“There,” you declare, stepping away from the Environaut as it quietly purrs to life.
Madge steps to your side. “What did you do?”
“Connected a supplemental cooling system to account for the caustic soda from the mercury. It should block the mercury poison from going gaseous and causing… well, you know.”
She looks into your eyes and asks, “Should?” Memories of your childhood together leap to your mind—it was a typical Madge I’m not sure you know what you’re doing expression. She wore that look a lot. You never were in control of anything. Especially not now.
This time, however, you know your own stuff. Milo’s notes refreshed your memory about some early mercury units which failed. Milo had a solution. The co-coolant unit will do the trick, but you slouch into a chair when you realize the truth.
“It’ll work,” you say, defeated. “But what’s the point? We can’t produce and get this out to millions of units today. I’m not a fuckin’ medical doctor or pharm expert. I can’t make a cure for the mercury poisoning. All I can do is fix the Environaut, not the frothing feces-flingers. The damage is already done.” You kick the table. “Shit.”
Never one to surrender, Madge puts her hands on her hips and stares down at you. “You fucked up. Fine. That’s in the past. I told the president’s CDC liaison that we’ll have a fix for the millions of units in American homes.” She turns to the altered Environaut on the table. “Am I looking at that fix?”
You nod, still empty with defeat. Only one thing makes sense.
“We just have to wait it out,” you say, your voice barely a whisper.
You glance at your sister and say, “The people know to avoid the Environauts. And those who have used them are fucked anyway. Without a cure, we’ll have some new infections crop up. We just have to give this design to whoever can mass produce and distribute installations of it.”
“The president ordered the shutdown of all power grids!” Madge said. “And who knows how many can respond to that request. For all we know, the employees have been turned into shit zombies, headed home to try and save their families—or died in the chaos.”
She’s right. How could anyone possibly manufacture and distribute this fix to millions of homes across America and the world? Never mind convincing thousands of skilled handymen/women to install the units while poo monsters fling chocolate sludge-pies at them.
A laugh escapes your lips involuntarily. Then another. Soon, you are cackling like a maniac as you realize what you've really done: you caused the apocalypse. It wasn’t meteors or aliens or nuclear war that did the earth in; it was you and your magical toilet.
You close your eyes to the world and laugh because it’s the only thing that makes sense at the moment. The only thing keeping you totally from the dark chasm of total insanity. The only thing you can do.
Eventually, you snap out of your moment of hysteria and only the occasional half-laugh interrupts you.
Madge sighs. “Wow. Thought I lost you there for a moment. What the fuck was that?”
You don’t answer as you keep your dead eyes fixed on a blinking light near the corner of the room.
“Well, I don’t think that’s an option,” she says. “Let’s get this unit to the CDC and see if they can help. It’s why they exist, after all.”
What do you do?
A. Hole up in the lab and wait out the shit storm. It'll all blow over, right?
B. Go with Madge to the CDC with the fixed Environaut. They will will know what to do, right?
C. Get your shit together and call in all your favors--maybe you CAN make an antidote to save the poo zombie population. You are a scientist, after all...