Welcome to my blog and to Part 7 of my series, The Search for the Last Flower. I hope everyone has fun plans for All Hallows’ Eve. I’m taking my dogs, Cocoa and Scribbles to a doggie masquerade ball. He, he. I’ll post pictures later. 😉 Anyway, I told you on my last post that I plan on having a Giveaway at the end of this series to show appreciation to my wonderful readers. Few things make me happier than people reading my stories. It’s why I write. People commenting on my blog about my short stories, articles, and books are right up there on my What Makes Vashti Happy list. To qualify to win some cool prizes all you have to do is read this series, The Search for the Last Flower, and leave me a comment. There’s no obligation to say you love the story if you actually hate it. Really––I won’t hold it against you. So here are the prizes you’ll receive if you win:
A signed copy of my novel The Basement
A custom designed book mark
A $30.00 Visa giftcard
and a few other surprises
***Don’t forget to read the previous installments if you haven’t already done so.
Caleb couldn’t believe his eyes when he arrived at the laboratory paid for by Dr. Smith’s sponsors. The lab was huge, and anything he needed or wanted was at hands’ reach. Caleb walked around, gawking at everything.
Dr. Smith laughed. “You look like a chimp that’s never been outside his cage.”
Caleb combed his fingers through his blond hair. “I’ve never worked in such a large and well-equipped laboratory.”
“Well, get used to it. This is what a scientist of your caliber should be used to.
“What if . . . what if I can’t replicate the effects the flowers had on the Amazon tribe?” Caleb felt the pressure, and his hands shook. “I have only one flower. What if there isn’t enough essence in that one bloom for me to work with?”
“Caleb, both you and I know that one flower isn’t enough for us to make a tonic.” Dr. Smith walked over to Caleb and placed his arm around him. “What you are going to do is figure out which of this flower’s properties enabled the tribesmen to live longer, healthier lives––what properties kept them young. Once you have discovered that key element, you will then develop a synthetic version of it, and that will be our elixir.”
Caleb pulled away from him. “You can’t possibly know if that will work!”
“Of course it will work. Why wouldn’t it? Caleb, you’re a doctor and a skillful scientist. One of the best I’ve ever known.”
“You’ve never told me that.” Caleb looked at him askance.
“I’m telling you now. Look, you have everything you need at your disposal. I’ll get you all the assistants and equipment you need, but time is of the essence. You can do this. I have faith in you. The world is relying on you!”
Caleb coughed, and his legs wobbled. Dr. Smith put his arm around him again and walked him to a nearby chair. Caleb sat and took a deep breath.
“I know this may seem like a lot of pressure,” Dr. Smith said.
Caleb whisked his head and stared at him, openmouthed.
“Alright, it is a lot of pressure. But, Caleb, I’m telling you –– you can do this. If anyone can, you can.”
“I don’t know. I’m still thinking of Clarice. It isn’t like her to be gone so long without calling me and––”
“Stop! I didn’t want to tell you this now because I didn’t want this to interfere with your work. Clarice was cheating on you.” Dr. Smith’s eyes shifted down and to the left.
“That’s a lie!” Caleb yelled.
Dr. Smith gave him a sympathetic look. “Do you think me capable of telling such a lie?” Caleb looked shamefaced. “I saw her with my own eyes with that doctor fellow she’s off in the jungle with.”
“Dr. Johnson? She can’t stand him!”
Dr. Smith laughed. “I’m sorry Caleb, but it was all an act. She looked very cozy when I saw them together. He had his hands all over her, and she was enjoying it and even initiated a kiss.”
Caleb swallowed hard, and his face burned red.
“That woman never loved you. She was simply using you––as soon as she found someone else she thought could take her further in her career, she dumped you and took off with him. That’s what happened. Meanwhile, here you are about to throw away the chance of a lifetime––because of her.”
Caleb shook his head. “I can’t believe she could do this to me. I thought she loved me.” He laid his face on his hands and wept. Dr. Smith patted him on the back while rolling his eyes.
“I don’t think I can do this,” Caleb cried.
“So she wins then? She cheats on you and leaves you, but still you’re willing to give up everything for her. Is that it?”
“No! I hope she rots in that jungle alongside her lover. Two rotting corpses embracing in the middle of the Amazon Basin!” Caleb continued to weep into his hands.
Dr. Smith chuckled, but quickly became serious when Caleb looked up at him.
“Caleb you’re just making excuses because you’re afraid you can’t do what is asked of you. Do you think I would put this task in your hands if I thought you couldn’t do it?” Caleb shook his head. “You’re damn right I wouldn’t! Forget that women. She was never interested in you in the first place. Don’t allow her to steal your future and our fortune, alright?” Caleb nodded. “If you’re successful, and I’m sure you will be––you will never be forgotten.”
Caleb’s face lit up. He got to his feet and took a deep breath.
“Look at you! You actually look like a brilliant scientist with your new wardrobe.”
“Yeah, a wardrobe you chose for me.” Caleb shifted his tie.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Khakis, loafers, white shirt and tie?”
“You look sleek and stylish for once.”
“There’s nothing wrong with this outfit. It’s just not me. If I’m going to do this, I need to be comfortable. I need to be myself.”
“Very well, you can strip down to your underthings if it will make you feel better. We need to begin.”
Caleb wrestled with his tie until he finally removed it. He unbuttoned the first couple of buttons on his shirt, and he kicked off the shoes. Dr. Smith looked at him, shook his head and walked away.
“Wait!” Caleb yelled. Dr. Smith stopped and turned to face him.
“What is it now, Caleb?”
“I saw something . . .”
“What are you talking about?”
“That night––at the field. I saw something strange in the fire.”
“Caleb, you were unconscious when I got to you. You had inhaled a lot of smoke. Of course you saw things . . . you hallucinated.”
Caleb shook his head. “No, I’m talking about the bonfire the tribesmen had started. They were burning the boy––the boy you shot.” Caleb felt sick; he bent over and held onto his knees. He retched several times.
“What’s wrong? What did you see?”
“He was alive!” Caleb’s face twisted in fear.
“Who was alive? You’re not making any sense!”
“I know it makes no sense, but the boy in the fire, the one you shot––he was still alive. They were burning him alive and he looked so––” Caleb’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he collapsed.
“Caleb!” Dr. Smith knelt by his side. “Caleb, wake up!”
Caleb opened his eyes and stared at Dr. Smith. “The boy was alive.”
“I checked his pulse myself and he was dead, yet he struggled in the fire. He growled, squirmed, and flailed his arms even while the fire consumed him. It’s impossible, I know—but this is what I saw.”
“Listen, the lack of oxygen to your brain due to the smoke inhalation caused you to have temporary hallucinations. There was no struggling boy in the fire.”
“Maybe you’re right. It seemed so real—and those eyes––I can’t forget those yellow eyes.”
“Forget about our last day in the Amazon. Most likely it was not as you remember it. I’m sure your mind’s version of what happened in that field is completely erroneous. I think the best thing for you to do is to immerse yourself in your work. Get in your zone. It’s where you love to be anyway.”
“That’s what I’ll do. I won’t think of anything but my work.”
As soon as Dr. Smith was out of the lab, he took his phone out of his jacket pocket and called Caleb’s assistant. “Listen carefully. If that woman, Clarice, calls for Caleb, tell her he is unavailable––better yet, tell her he is no longer interested in speaking to her. Don’t allow any calls from her or her assistant . . . um, what’s his name––oh yes, Dylan, to come through to Caleb. You are not even to communicate the fact that Clarice or her assistant called him. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Doctor,” Caleb’s assistant responded.
“Fine. It’s for his own good, you know. That woman is bad news. Thank you.” Dr. Smith hung up and walked away with a sinister grin on his face. Now there would be no more distractions.
Copyright © 2014 by Vashti Quiroz-Vega. All rights reserved.