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Monday, June 29, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 7

A Murderous Hangover

Francis woke the next morning with a jackhammer pounding away at the inside of his skull, exactly where his horn nestled into itself. The pain was to be expected, what with him slamming his head into that girl the day before. His horn might be a deadly weapon, but it by no means meant there was no repercussions for him to wield it.

Stretching, Francis 'Bud' kicked his legs over the edge of the bed, his cloven feet clicking against the gleaming tiles. Fredrick might be a lot of things, but messy wasn't one of them. He insisted his lab be kept spotless and expected Francis to comply.

Smell, however, was another matter. The beakers on the table still bubbled away, giving off little bubble pops full of sickening odors. Overnight those smells had matured from the dog poop and old gym sock mixture to the more pungent fish-left-in-the-sun. Francis held his breath and hurried past the table to the medicine cabinet in the far corner.

The horn extended from his forehead, hardened hairs twisted together. Most people mistakenly believed a unicorn's horn was made of bone. It wasn't. Francis' horn was merely stronger, thicker strands of hair, twisted to a point. Occasionally the golden threads would break, much like a fingernail snaps off. Losing pieces of his horn didn't hurt and most times he never noticed it happening.

The mechanics of the horn extending and contracting were lost on Francis. All he knew was the horn extended when he became angry, frustrated, or excited and folded up like one of those plastic camping cups he had as a kid whenever he was calm.

Francis popped a couple of aspirin and grabbed a bottle of water from the small refrigerator next to the sink. After making sure it was a new, unopened bottle from the store, he chugged half the contents in one go.

“That wasn't my Veggie Glow juice, was it?” Fredrick's unexpected entrance startled Francis. The half-full bottle of water bounced across the floor, spilling its contents down the drain.

“It was water. I checked before I drank.” Francis sighed as the bottle emptied. He hadn't seen any other unopened bottles in the fridge and he didn't trust the tap water in the lab. Tonight he'd be forced to go shopping, as long as Fredrick didn't have other plans for him.

“Good. No telling what the Glow juice would do to you. I'm all for experimenting, but you're enough of a guinea pig as it is. Horn and hooves make enough of a statement, no need to start glowing in the dark, too.”

Francis returned to his cot, his head cradled in his hands. Aspirin took much longer to affect him as an unicorn than it did when he was human. The jackhammer in his brain had recruited a friend and both were thumping along happily in time to Fredrick's complaints.

“News has been quiet about that nosy girl you offed last night. Thought I'd be coming into work and passing gossips and news-sellers blabbing all about the mysterious death. Nothing. Everyone quiet.”

“You should be glad of it. Do you want the police poking around and finding out what you're doing here?”

Fredrick shook his head. “Nah. Better this way.”

A fresh beaker of sludge blurped and plopped away on the table. Fredrick added a few drops of something pink. The blurping and plopping stopped and steam rose from the congealed mess.

“No, no, no. That isn't right at all.” Fredrick scribbled something in a notebook before dumping the rejected experiment down the drain. “Stay away from the sink, Bud. No telling what that stuff will do to you.”

Francis snorted. The snort came out more like a whiny. He was going to have to start watching that. Every day he felt himself sliding closer to unicorn-hood and farther from human. He needed a cure and fast. 

Fredrick, however, didn't possess the same sense of urgency as he lifted a new beaker and randomly threw a handful of power into it without bothering to measure. The scientist grabbed one of the overnight mixtures from nearby and poured half the contents in with the powder. A flash of light accompanied a loud bang, and the beaker was no more.

“Can't be giving you that mixture, can I?”

A knock on the door and a jiggling of the handle sent Francis scurrying for the sewer.

“Everything okay in there, Doctor?”

“Fine, fine. Nothing to worry about, Beatrice. Small miscalculations error.”

Footsteps moved away from the door and down the hall to where Beatrice's lab was located. Francis could hear them clicking above his head. He counted to twenty before lifting his head back through the grate. Fredrick stood with his back to him, mixing something else at his table.

Fearing another explosion, Francis ducked back into the sewer. It was quieter down here. A much better place for a nap to get rid of his headache. A better place for Fredrick to forget about him when he made his to-do list for the night.

Francis curled up on a pile of ragged blankets and let the jackhammer in his skull knock him into unconsciousness.