It’s Alive – H. Humphreys

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Frank flopped exhausted into his 1970s mustard-plaid rocking chair, the cotton-wool upholstery buckling under his towering 8-foot frame.

Coming from the kitchen, Elsa appeared in the living room doorway. “Oh, honey,” she sympathized, hurrying to her husband. She bent down to remove his tan wingtips. “Poor thing, how are you dear? Rough day?”

Frank sighed, exasperated, his eyes still wide with stress. His neck scars bulged under his high blood pressure and he stared traumatized into the living room’s empty space. “Yeah,” he responded weakly.

Elsa stood Frank up, ragdoll-like, and half-carried him over to the bedroom where she heaved him onto the bed and began removing his clothes for him.

“No, honey—” Frank protested.

“No, hush,” Elsa insisted. “Let me get out your pajamas and put the kettle on.” And then she was off, scurrying in loving, angelic servitude.

Frank let out a complicit groan.

Nestled comfortably in his wool pants and a light terrycloth shirt, Frank was relieved to again be sitting in his rocking chair, sipping ginger tea with a subtle kick of whiskey. Elsa had changed out of her work clothes and into a thundercloud patterned silk robe. She sat adjacent to Frank in her own floral, baby-blue rocker, sipping a glass of red wine and holding Frank’s hand.

“Now,” she said once Frank appeared sufficiently relaxed—at least his scar swelling had subsided. “Why don’t you tell me about your day, hm?”

For a moment, horror crept back into Frank’s eyes. But the look shortly dissipated—it was Friday, after all—and, sipping his warm drink and exhaling deeply, Frank began recalling the day in his monstrously gentle, educated basso.

“So,” he sighed, a brief pause to collect his thoughts before continuing. “You know how lately I’ve been working with my undergrads on tissue reanimation through electrical stimulation?”

“Mhm,” Elsa nodded, listening with eyebrows faintly furrowed.

Frank went on. “Well,” he said, “we’re to the last bit—you know, they’ve done all the chemical injections and have prepped the different arms and legs and such for reanimation. So yesterday all that was left was for them to hook their various limbs up to a power source and then properly manipulate the current for reanimation. Now, since you can hook up the clamps, well, pretty much anywhere, I decided to save everyone some time and have my TAs go in after class to just hook everything up for today. But then, of course—”

Elsa gasped and put her hand over her mouth. A tenured professor in the Meteorology department, she knew exactly where this was going, and—failing to repress a laugh—she waved her other hand for Frank to go on.

Frank was not amused. “It’s not funny Elsa.”

“Oh come on Frank; it’s a little funny.”

Another deep exhale, sipping his tea. “Anyways,” Frank continued, “as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, there was that storm last night, and it must have caused a surge, because I walked into the lab today to find a bunch of dismembered arms and legs bouncing all over the place.”

At this point, Elsa wasn’t even trying to hide her wide, amused grin—giggling merrily at her husband’s poor misfortune.

“Stop it Elsa; I’m serious!” Frank protested. “This is a big deal—without knowing whose limb is whose, I can’t grade their work! That’s weeks down the drain for every student except Sam Wright and Ester Smalls. Ester because her hand had its middle finger removed, and Sam because he didn’t try to reanimate a limb—he tried to reanimate a brain. And I said to him, ‘Sam, you’re aware I’m testing for muscular activity as a parameter, right?” and he said, ‘yeah,’ and I said, ‘you’re aware there aren’t any muscles in that brain, right?’ and he said, ‘yeah, but I think I can reanimate this brain,’ to which I did my best not to scoff because even good old Victor struggled for years to reanimate a brain and let me tell you—Sam is no Victor—but I dropped it because hey, at some point you can’t help people who won’t help themselves. And you know what? Despite the fact that he didn’t meet the requirements, if he had reanimated that brain, I probably—heck, no—I would have passed him. But he didn’t. So in essence that means that the one student whose project I can for-sure identify—failed. So you can kiss goodbye to my extra grant funding this year, because there’s no way the department is going to look upon this kindly, and I guess, Elsa—”

Victor finally paused to take a deep breath. In. 2. 3. 4. Out. 2. 3. 4.

“—I guess I just had a hard day.”

Elsa smiled understandingly as she stroked Frank’s weary hand. “Well, you’re home now,” she said, “and there are no bouncing limbs, and no annoying undergrads, and certainly no more unexpected surprises for the rest of the evening. Or at least,” she looked up at Frank, biting her lip.

“At least,” she whispered, “no more bad surprises.”

Frank raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”

“Well,” Elsa said, her fingers crawling toward Frank’s chest, “do you remember how I was at Vlad’s the other day, talking with Elisabeta?”

“Yes?” Frank remembered, curiously.

“Well, let’s just say I may have picked up some ‘tools’ from their dungeon…”

“Did you now?” Frank smiled.

“Oh yes. It seems tonight, dear,” Elsa said, standing up from her chair and walking over to the light switch, “we get to play Dracula…”

Gazing seductively into Frank’s loving eyes, Elsa flipped off the lights.

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