Casper?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man with a haunted past holds a sickness bred from a career serving a morbid master. Seeing that he has misplaced his faith in the wrong people, he seeks to find a new life with which to turn the tide and feed a quenchless thirst for blood.

Submitted: October 24, 2016

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Submitted: October 24, 2016

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 Casper Eld brushed the few strands of dirty blonde hair from in front of his eyes as he leaned forward and stood from the black steel stool where he had been patiently perched for the last half-hour. He found himself immersed in the story unfolding in the air before him as the Holo-Display rolled with live running calculations that tested his experimental model. Months ago, he had accepted a challenge from his employer, Horisonter Pharmaceutical, to stabilize a chemical reaction that could pave the way for a new wonder-drug treatment. He had been at it since before the dawn had stretched its reach across the sky that day. It was now becoming the early evening and he was becoming agitated at the imminent failure of his latest modification.
 Casper had usually found great comfort in the serene and objective silence generously provided by the high-tech yet uncluttered laboratory that surrounded him,  however, the absence of sound now mocked him in the same way the solution to his quandary eluded him. The solution had obfuscated itself behind a mask of complex formulae. The answer was there, somewhere, it had to be. What was he not seeing, what subtlety was slipping past him unnoticed? He watched the initial reaction unravel, yet again, as the enzyme breakdown was complicated by an overly aggressive cellular assimilation.
  The holographic simulation had completed coming to yet another unsuccessful end. His shoulders sank in defeat as his body leaned back slightly. He reached up and paused the simulation, leaving the diagram of the troublesome catalyst chemical compound visible. Although the laboratory was filled with the most sophisticated fabricators, evaluation, and control equipment money could buy, all of that laid in wait for a successful formula against which to execute.
  The timing was perfect. A bold aroma steaming from a familiar strong blend of African coffee lifted through the air from Linda Perry's cup as it swirled with the delicate and tantalizing scent of her delectable perfume. The pliable shuffle of her feet brushed the ground beneath her soft-sole sneakers as they carried her petite one hundred fifteen pound frame toward the evaluation area where Casper was now rising from his stool. Over time, Casper had learned to recognize those tell-tale details which had become the giveaway for his brilliant lab partner. Casper smiled as the Holo-Desk elevated to meet the air several inches forward from his chest.
  "Your arrival is my reprieve, my dear", Casper joked. His voice was soothing and playful, perhaps it was the manner in which his tone was released with a calm control, or maybe it was his Swedish accent which had so immersively encapsulated it. Either way, it only added to her attraction to her clean shaven exotic teammate.
  He could see her hand reach in front of him, carrying a full coffee cup which boldly brandished the Horisonter Pharmaceutical logo. He gently removed the cup from her hand and sipped from the rim after releasing a deep breath. He turned his gaze to her and smiled again. He raised his cup as to say "thank you" before returning his bewildered attention to the failed model.
  Linda chuckled as she pointed to a diagram of chemical bonds floating in the air in front of them. Her slender ebony finger reached forward and touched the center, "What an interesting idea. Wherever did they find you, Doctor Eld?” Casper was relatively new to the company, having just been hired one year earlier, but his impressive resume and long experience in the field had more than adequately accommodated his position.
  Casper cleared his throat and grunted, "I'm getting frustrated. I know this approach will work, but the initial reaction fails to maintain the bond long enough for it to reach the second phase.”
  Linda stared at the model for a moment before offering, "You know, I was up late reviewing yesterday's lab results and a theory hit me from out of nowhere. It's not obvious, and I certainly don't want to step on your toes with this one, but have you considered using a slightly modified compound for the introduction sequence?” Her hand waved over the holographic model, swiping elements of the chemical structure.
  Casper recognized the genius unfolding before him as she diligently substituted small fragments of the initial sequence. Clever, clever girl, he thought to himself. After allowing a fleeting feeling of sheepishness to free itself from his mind, his face broke into a  grin as she arrived at a modified approach, "It fails to address the enzyme breakdown, but we can combat that with experimentation. The fundamental principle, however, warrants a deeper look. Astounding, Linda. Simple and astounding.” He turned away from the station to face her completely as he provided her with a subtle look of approval. The moment was interrupted by a tiny alarm emanating from his wrist panel.
  Pulling the sleeve up over his arm he could see a small red dot that was blinking on the panel of his wrist computer. It had been a long enough day already so perhaps sneaking out early was not such a bad idea. His expression dissolved into a small frown as he placed the freshly made coffee onto the table behind him, "I have to go.”
  Linda inquired, "Is everything alright?”
  Casper replied, "Yes. Nothing to worry about, however, I do have to take care of this.”
  Linda returned the frown as she pensively dropped her shoulders forward and pleaded, "No, I think we're onto something here.” She looked down at his wristpad and then back to his eyes, "Are you sure it can't wait?”
  Casper was short and to the point, "No, it can't wait. Now, I really think you're onto something here, but I do have to go. I'm, however, most eager to see where you land with it.” He turned to leave the laboratory floor as he called back to her, "Happy hunting. Please lock up when you're done here.”
---
  Light crept through the entryway as the front door to Casper's suburban home opened slowly. Casper entered cautiously with the crisp forty-two-degree winter air following behind him. His home encompassed an immaculate and tidy well kept sixteen hundred square feet equipped with a household artificial intelligence that welcomed him in a soft male American voice, "Welcome home, Casper” The soft yellow tinted walls suited the computerized personality quite well. Casper left the thin plastic like InfoSheet he was carrying along with his sunglasses on the cadenza and sighed, closing the door behind him and asking, "Home, have there been any callers or visitors today?”
  The computer responded through his home speaker system, "None, Casper. No visitors nor personal messages for you. Can I fabricate a cup of lemon tea for you?”
  Casper gazed around the hallway before giving his answer, "No, Home. I'm fine.” How they overrode the home AI was intriguing to him, but a thought to be pondered later. He was certain that his intruders were still in the house. Casper followed the entryway that led past the living room to the left and into the kitchen ahead. As he slowly made his way forward, he swept the area with his sight for any signs of disturbance. His wrist panel alert was triggered by his homegrown security system which, to his delight, appeared to have gone unnoticed by his unwelcomed guests.
  So far nothing was out of the ordinary. He moved past the cadenza on the hallway wall and past the two peace lily potted house plants into the kitchen area. The transition was gentle from tinted yellow into the soft white light that sifted in through the glass door and kitchen window, soaking into the cabinetry. The counter tops were an elegantly chosen granite with stainless steel appliances neatly organized around a gas stove. A small food fabricator took up the end near the refrigerator.
  He sighed and let his guard down, at least that was how he wanted to be perceived. If his intruders were who he thought they were, he knew they were still there, waiting patiently, like leopards ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. He approached the center island with his back to the entryway.
  There were two of them in the house with him. They knew Casper better by his real name, Markus Ebersold. They watched Markus silently from the shadow of his laundry room. Convinced that Markus was settled in, they made their way to him catching the subtle sounds of his tinkering as they bounced across the kitchen walls. Their shadows emerged from the entryway behind Markus who was facing away from them. They couldn't make out what Markus was doing at the center island but quieted sounds continued to echo across the kitchen as they stepped into the light moving to either side of the kitchen area. They were dressed in all black and had handguns drawn and their sites trained on him.
  They continued to silently move into position around him as one of them spoke, "So, you've come all of this way just to die in plain sight? I have to admit to my disappointment, Doctor.” The man chortled with a thick Irish accent, but his face was hidden behind a black cotton mask. Casper, or Markus as was his real name, stood there still and silently.
  After a moment of silent suspense, his hands raised in the air just above his shoulders as two glass balls fell to the ground beside him, instantly shattering and releasing an invisible vapor. The chemical was one of his designs. At first, the Irish man twitched, almost pulling the trigger before witnessing the nothing that ensued from Markus’ antics. The Irish man laughed joined by the man across from him, "Startled ya did we? Next, you'll be throwing paper napkins, I suppose, come on lad...time to die proper like.” They should have known better. After they're last experience, they should have learned that Markus was much more cunning and vicious then they had given him credit for. That lesson had now become irrelevant. It was too late.
  Markus stepped back bringing his face into view for both of them. His teeth secured a small bar looking breathing tube between his lips. Also of his own design, the breathing tube filtered out the irresistible effects of the chemical that he had just used to fill the kitchen air. His face was expressionless as his stare moved between the two men, seconds at a time.
  The Irish man felt a sudden rush of disorientation as he quickly lost the ability to feel his extremities. Paralysis wrapped a warm gentle blanket across the entirety of his body. Almost in unison, the two men dropped to the floor. Helplessly unable to resist, they began to slip into unconsciousness. The last thing the Irish man saw before he succumbed completely to the darkness was the fading image of Markus lording over him.
---
  The room was filled with a haunting darkness. The air was thick and humid. Markus stepped forward from the shadows into the dim light that crowded the center of the room. His voice resonated with an eery chill, "Like moths to a flame...” He peered at the two intruders who found themselves shackled at the ankles and wrists, hanging from thick chains that had been carefully secured to the dirty steel ceiling above them. Markus' neck to his feet and hands were hidden beneath a dark gray suit of flame retardant fabric. The two bound and chained men muttered muffled grunts through the gags that bound their mouths. The cloth soaked their tongues with a foul taste that sat somewhere between sour milk and oil. They were naked with beaded sweat pouring down their strained bodies. The shackles and chains rang as their bodies writhed and arched in search of even the simplest relief.
  Markus' face broke into a wide grin as he held the thin breathing tube to the Irish man's eyes. "Quinn, I have to admit my disappointment.", Markus mocked him with sinister sarcasm.
  Quinn's eyes widened as he struggled to reason with his situation. How did he let this happen? He reached his head forward pleadingly, but Markus only chuckled at the man's failed and meager attempts to speak, "Poor Quinn. You think I actually want to hear anything that you have to say?” Markus raised his hand and touched the latex glove that fit around it to Quinn's face, rubbing the back of his fingers across his cheek. Markus ran his eyes across Quinn's quivering face and neck before returning to his captive's frightened glare, "I will have your screams instead.”
  Quinn strained to see where he was, but beyond the dim circle of light, there was nothing. Looking down to the floor he could make out the fuzzy shape of what looked like a blowtorch which sat angled to a square platform directly below him. There was another blowtorch in the other corner as well. Markus bent over in front of him and flipped a switch attached to the square platform. A relieving cool draft began to pull the air around Quinn. Soon the draft became a full and comforting air conditioned steady stream of air reaching upward into the shadows of the ceiling. The uncannily calm Markus made his way over to the other man.
  He reached down and flipped the switch on the other one's platform. He glanced back at Quinn as the cool air began to rise around the other, "You are an idiot, Quinn.” His smile melted into a look of utter disdain as he turned to the man bound before him, "You, Fergus. You should have known better.” The man he called Fergus was a thin muscular man with red hair and a freckled face. His eyes widened in terror as he began to scream beneath the stifling gag. Markus reached up to pat Fergus belittlingly on the top of his head. Then, with a sharp crack, he slapped Fergus across the face and continued, "I let you live with a warning. One that you did not see fit to heed.”
  Markus slipped back into the blackness beyond the light and then reemerged moments later pushing an older model Holo-Projector. With the wave of his hand, an image flashed up in the air above the device. It was a gruesome scene. A man, gnarled with twisted bone protruding from torn skin, his jaw was dislocated and his face was distorted, his misshapen fingers wrapped around what was left of the sides of his head as his destroyed body shaped an almost fetal position.
  The two hostages winced and panicked, pulling at their chains to no avail. The holographic images in the air before them continued through a kind of slide show, changing every few seconds with a new scene of a grizzly death. Markus moved forward between Quinn and Fergus, "I am certain you recognize your misguided associates. The reason you will be joining your friends soon is simple.” The men shook violently, testing for any weakness at all that could unseal their certain doom. Markus continued as a strange odor filled the nostrils of the two soon to be victims, "You, all, lacked real vision. Like children with a gun, you did not realize the power I had gifted to you.”  Markus began to pace between them, "Terrorism, just another description for the temper-tantrums thrown by lesser men who lack the means to achieve their goals. What I will give the world is freedom from itself. Unshackled by the mistakes of nature and no longer chained to the folly of greed and the afflictions of inhumanity.”
  He paused for a moment, stepping in front of Fergus and kneeling down to the blowtorch beneath his feet in front of the platform above which Fergus was strapped. Before igniting it, he smiled up at Fergus and Quinn, "They were stupid and could not see the potential beyond their greed. So I have killed them.” Markus paused for a moment before continuing. "I purged them with the very weapon they paid me to create. The weapon that they ultimately did not understand.”  He pulled tightly on Quinn's legs, then on Fergus' to ensure they were firmly secured, "But you, you two I will reduce to ashes...as a kind of...statement. You will be purged of life through the exonerating cleansing of fire. A symbol of the dying of the undeserving.” At the end of his sentence, Markus closed his eyes and inhaled deeply before igniting the blowtorch beneath Fergus.
  In an instant, a great tunnel of blue flame swept upward, washing over Fergus with flame and pain. The ceiling vents pulled greedily as the fire swam through the gas-laden air tunnel formed above the platform. Fergus's naked body cooked as his horrendous howling let loose across the sound-proof reinforced underground steel basement. Markus opened his eyes as Fergus screamed freely. His gag had been consumed by the fire leaving Fergus with only precious seconds to call to unforgiving air as he finally perished, leaving only the crisped, burnt shadow of a man which, before long, would become a pile of ash.
  Markus let the flames continue as he turned his attentions to the blowtorches at Quinn's feet, "You could have listened. I warned you this would happen. In the end, though, I'd like to thank you. If not for your stupidity, I might have been looking over my shoulders for a very long time. In this final act, you will have given me a great gift. And now, I exorcise my ghosts.” Quinn's eyes were fixated on Markus as he stared down helplessly in horror. Markus flashed a twisted smile before igniting the fires that would seal Quinn's doom. As he ignited the blow torch, Markus spoke the last words that Quinn would ever hear, "To new beginnings, born from the ashes of lesser men.”
  Markus felt a sick, almost orgasmic pleasure, as the flames of his trap consumed Quinn, taking with them the last specter of his morbid past.
---
  The steel door closed sealing the modified panic room in the basement of  Markus' house. Markus stood and took a deep breath as the hot, dry, and tortured air behind him was replaced with hints of the air conditioning filling the house above. Stripped of his fire-proof suit which was shed in favor of the slacks and button shirt he had on beneath it, he grabbed the staircase handrails and ascended the dark upward leading hallway. Reaching the top, he slid open the basement door and arrived inside the laundry room.
  He felt invigorated as he relished the memory of the moments that would soon melt into the back of his mind. Killing his enemies was one of the simple pleasures he drew out of the humanity that he otherwise considered reprehensible. He pulled the laundry machine over to sit on top of the basement door and then made his way back to the kitchen. He crossed the kitchen floor to the wall panel just above the main counter, re-activating the home AI he had previously disengaged.
  In the few silent moments that passed, he pulled a chilled bottle of 2037 chardonnay from the refrigerator. He thought he would celebrate as he poured a full glass, resting the half-filled bottle on the table in front of him as he sank into his antique oak dining chair. The home computer came online overhead, "Hello, Casper.”
  Resting back into his chair, Markus replied, "Hello, home. I am feeling in the mood for dinner.”
  The home computer replied, "Shall I make you a Gravlax, Casper?”
  Markus countered, "No, I'm more in the mood for a pasta dish. Something with meatballs.”
 Home responded, "I'm sorry, Casper. We appear to be out of the ingredients needed for pasta.”
  "That's fine, Home. How about a nice venison stew?", Markus had made sure earlier to stock the Food Preparer with good vegetables and a decent supply of venison.
  Home confirmed, "Alright, Casper. I will prepare you a venison stew. It will be ready within the hour.”
  Markus raised the glass of chardonnay and allowed the cold wine to dance through his mouth before he swallowed. The home AI spoke again, breaking the enjoyable silence, "Casper, you have an incoming call. It is from Doctor Linda Perry at Horisonter Pharmaceutical Laboratories. Shall I accept it for you?”
  Markus took a moment to compose himself and get into character as Casper, "That is fine. Put her through.”
  The holographic image of Linda fizzled into view over the table in front of him, "Ah, Linda. And how are you, my dear?”
  Her eyes lit up with excitement as she exclaimed, "We did it, Casper!” She clapped her hands together in front of her chin, "Remember the catalyst we swapped this afternoon?”
  Markus feigned interest as he smiled in reply, "Of course.”
  Linda continued, "Well, I was able to stabilize the reaction for twenty seconds. That's a five hundred percent increase and it carries the sequence well past the intro and into sustainment. It works, it really works.”
  Markus opened his mouth in amazement and then replied, "That's fantastic, my dear. Brilliant and fantastic. Very exciting.”
  Linda chuckled, "I know, right? This puts phase two right within reach.”
  Markus tried to conclude the conversation, "Well, Linda. It's been a long day filled with triumph. Why don't you lock up the lab, go home, get some sleep, and we'll hit this thing running first thing in the morning...I'll be there, bright eyed and bushy tailed.”
  Linda was giddy as she rapidly clapped her hands together before signing off, "Kay-kay. We'll see you bright and early. Good night and sweet dreams.”
  Markus waved and then swiped the Holo-Display off. Masquerading as Casper was almost as exhausting as tolerating Linda's flirtatious innuendo. But there was a purpose to it all and a mission to be fulfilled. Today was a grand triumph indeed. Markus reflected on the last twenty-four hours as he drifted back into relaxation. All in one day, he had closed the last chapter that had lead to his disturbing past, sealing his history in an ashen sarcophagus while clearing the path to the future of his vision. He pulled the frosted glass gently from his lips, leaving behind the fine wine that swirled around his tongue. In the rapture of the moment, he felt fulfilled.
 


© Copyright 2017 Rod Christiansen. All rights reserved.