by George Wilhite
They wasted no time resurrecting Hector once more, per his contract. His knowledge of the plague, both from research and then exposure, was invaluable, so money was no object.
Hector had wondered what his earliest memories would be the second time around. Now he knew. Two months from embryo to mass of brain, eyeballs, and a few strands of nerves swirling in a jar of their “secret sauce,” the patented synthetic placenta that drove regeneration.
In that jar, his mind functioned and his eyes saw the world. He remembered all he saw now, and after four more months of consciousness from jar to table, he was finally a man standing erect.
His first day of work, and he couldn’t wait, rubbed his hands together, checked to ensure the lab equipment was in order. He was alive and ready commence the task of finding a cure for the plague spreading rapidly, its mission to make Earth a ghost planet.
Where did that term come from? Hector smirked. Ghost—pah! I have been dead and back again and know all that is rubbish. Death is death, nothing more than darkness, silence, eternal cold loneliness.
He was glad he agreed to come back five times, the current maximum. Maybe, with that much time to work with, he could see this research through to the end. Exposure occurred far too easily to get it right the first time.
“Ah, Penny!” Hector exclaimed, as a tall beautiful woman walked into the hospital room, her long brown hair and deep onyx eyes as striking as he remembered.
“So it worked.” She said in a monotone. She didn’t seem pleased. Her full length white smock indicated she was finally promoted from researcher assistant to researcher, a goal she long desired. He remembered helping her get there. So why the sour face and chilling reception?
“So now that you’re a white coat are we still a team?” He smiled at her, admiring her smooth perfect face, her trim figure. Better get home to my wife, he mused. I’m getting turned on.
Penny’s chilling black eyes gaped, looking through him. He thought they always got along. She seemed angry. “So, the alterations worked as well.”
“Tell me, Hector. How did you die?”
“Humor me with an answer.” A smug smile on her face now.
“I contracted the plague.”
Hector stood in silence, realizing the unthinkable. My God, I… “Well, for Christ’s sake, I don’t remember.”
“So it did work. Well, just as well for me.”
Hector rubbed his temples. A rush of blood made his head throb. “Maybe I should go home for now. Try this again in the morning.”
“Why, this is your home now, Hector. You don’t remember that either? You have an apartment on the west side of the complex. The sunrise is beautiful over there.”
“Why would I live here, not with Margaret?”
“Wow, they did make you forget just what they wanted you to. Amazing.”
Penny walked away, leaving Hector bewildered. I’ll go to Klein’s office. He’ll straighten this out.
Klein was gone for the day. Hector asked for directions to his apartment but the doctor who revived him did better than that, escorted him to the front door. The place was small but serviceable enough.
He had been issued a cell phone but there were no numbers programmed in it. He looked up Margaret Jasper in the city directory to no avail. Then, though unsure why, he tried her maiden name, Margaret Henderson. There she was. He tried the number and got an answering machine.
Tired from his first day of back he soon fell asleep. Answers could wait until the morning. Most of it came back to him, however, in that night’s dreams:
Penny was his assistant in his previous life and they had an affair. Klein almost fired them both but gave them one last chance, if they broke things off.
Margaret was sharp, though, and discovered Hector’s infidelity.
She did not know about his bargain for five more lives, so her revenge lacked the punch she desired, but it still resounded with the intended irony. Her line of research was creating a synthetic version of the plague to study in the laboratory where it could be contained, outside a human host.
Hector did not contract the plague from an affected human. His wife had slipped it into his morning coffee.
They tried to make him forget it all but the memories weren’t suppressed for long.
Hector would get a lawyer and see if the contract could be amended.
They really only needed his brain anyway.
Maybe life inside a jar would be good enough next time around.
BIO: George Wilhite aspires to write quality speculative fiction steeped in the traditions of Poe and Lovecraft. His collection On the Verge of Madness is available at Amazon and its follow-up, Silhouette of Darkness is out in November through Musa Publishing. Please visit him at Author’s Den for more information” www.authorsden.com.