Originally posted from March 14th to March 19th 2013
“It’s a gravity ball!”
“I’m sorry professor, I don’t think I understand. Doesn’t gravity affect every ball?”
“You’re a mindless twit Reynold,” The professor exclaimed. “This ball captures and manipulates gravitational forces. With enough tinkering this ball could become the heart of an eternal engine. Imagine it, if you can, enough power to run the entire city, and all provided by the dashing, generous and brilliant Professor Mishap. The women will throw themselves at me Reynold,” The Professor said in his shrill voice.
Four deep ringing gongs filled the basement laboratory, echoing off the stone walls.
“What time is it Reynold.” The Professor asked mindlessly.
“I believe it’s four o’clock Professor,” said Reynold.
“I know what time it is,” The Professor barked. “I want you to clean up this mess and put the gravity ball somewhere safe. I’ll get back to it tomorrow. I must get ready for the festivities.”
“What is it,” The Professor answered shortly.
“I was hoping this year you might let me come with you to the party.”
“You come to the party? What would a boy do at a New Year’s Eve party?”
“I’m fifteen Professor.”
“A boy,” The Professor snorted. “There are going to be women at this party Reynold, real women. Do you even know what to do with a woman?”
“Actually, there is this girl,” Reynold started to say.
“Exactly,” interrupted The Professor, “a girl. Besides, you have too much cleaning to do. I don’t have time to argue with you, I have to get ready, I have women to impress.” The Professor turned and trodded up the stairs and out of the lab.
“It’s your mess you old goat,” Reynold huffed as the door slammed shut.
Reynold moved about the lab mindlessly placing the various scientific apparatuses in their proper places. Without looking he placed the graduated cylinders in order of volume on the shelf below where the beakers would go, but above the Bunsen burners, just as the professor liked it. Reynold was heading to the flanges when he came to the gravity ball lying obstinately in his path.
“Stupid Professor and his stupid ball,” he mumbled, aimlessly kicking at the ball.
With tremendous speed the ball shot out bounding off the far wall, smashing a selection of test tubes, and flew back towards Reynold. He dived into a box of rubber stoppers as the ball whizzed past and crashed into the recently organized supplies. The ball ricocheted up to the ceiling, demolishing a hanging light and bending a water pipe. Reynold peaked over a lab table, water dripping onto his head from the newly broken pipe, and saw the destructive sphere scream to the far end of the lab taking out a model of the human skeleton on the way.
Seeing his opening Reynold slid out from under the table and leaped for the small box he had seen The Professor use to control the gravity ball. He turned the large dial on the top of the device and with a resounding crash followed by a thud the gravity ball plummeted to the floor, smashing the concrete leaving spider web like cracks across the floor.
“I can believe it works,” Reynold said out loud. Looking around he added, “I’m dead.”
Fiddling with the dial, he managed to find a balance where the ball was light enough to be easily carried but heavy enough that it wouldn’t fly off at the slightest touch. He dug through the mostly destroyed lab and found an old back pack and stuffed in the gravity ball with exaggerated care, worried he might set it off again at any moment. Reynold slung the bag over his shoulders and clumsily stuffed the controller box into his pocket and ran up the stairs.
Opening the door slowly, he checked to see if the coast was clear. Listening carefully Reynold heard the faint sound of The Professor trying to sing a tune that was sure to be popular with the party goers he would be spending the evening with. The horrendous noise was coming from upstairs where, Reynold hoped, The Professor would still be busy primping himself for the party. Reynold closed the door to the lab quietly and headed toward the front door and his escape. He was almost at the door when he heard a creak from the stairs and The Professor’s awful singing getting louder. Cursing to himself Reynold jumped into the hall closet.
The sound continued to get louder and Reynold pushed as far back into the closet as he could. He draped the coats in front of him managing to conceal all but the bottom of his legs and his feet. The door opened with a loud click and the off tune song coming from The professor, which had degraded into humming.
“With the right coat to go with my dashing duds, the ladies will be all over Professor Mishap tonight,” The Professor said to himself, rummaging through the hanging coats.
Reynold slowly shifted to the side of the closet where The Professor was sliding the coats and pushed himself into the corner, half hoping that if he pushed hard enough he would somehow push through to the wall.
With no coats left to choose from, The Professor began searching the side of the closet where Reynold was now hiding. Reynold was running out of time and options. He was starting to think that the punishment wouldn’t be as severe if he gave himself up, but if The Professor caught him – Reynold shuttered at the memory of the last assistant who displeased The Professor, all those experiments.
The Professor moved closer to Reynold, coat by coat, his heart beating louder and louder. He poised himself to jump out and try to take The Professor by surprise, hoping to make it to the door before The Professor could grab him. Reynold flexed his legs and pressed his palms against the wall, preparing to launch himself out of the closet, hopefully past The Professor and to the door.
“I found you! And you thought you could hide from me,” The Professor exclaimed. “Look out ladies, Professor Mishap is ready for his kiss at midnight this year,” he continued. Slipping on the coat he had found in the closet and putting on a garish top hat he headed down the hallway and out to the street, slamming the closet door behind him.
Reynold let out a sigh when he heard the front door close. “I’d hate to see the woman who would willingly kiss you,” he said with a shutter. Composing himself Reynold pushed open the closet door and headed down the hallway himself. He stood at the front door and made himself count to three hundred incase The Professor was still lingering out on the street. If he saw a pretty girl heading to a party of her own he was sure to stop and harass her.
By the time Reynold finished his count he realized he had no idea where he was going to go or what he was going to do. He was so concerned with making it out of the house alive that he hadn’t thought of it. He didn’t really have a home to go to. His parents had sold him to The Professor three years ago so they could buy a television. He wasn’t allowed to have any friends. The Professor was such a creepy, lecherous, offensive man that anyone associated with him was taunted, feared or ignored.
Reynold did have one person on his mind, Olive, the flower girl who worked a few streets over, near the hardware store. Reynold passed by her when he was sent out for supplies. He couldn’t say they were friends, but she was always nice to him. Though he wasn’t even sure she knew his name. But Reynold couldn’t think of anyone else, and if he was running away, he thought he would like to see her one more time.
Reynold pushed open the front door. The sky was already darkening and people dressed up for the evening were walking about the streets, heading to their party of choice.
Some of them already showing signs of what was sure to come to many as the evening progressed. A man sloshed back and forth spilling some sort of drink as he tottered. A woman across the street was being helped, practically carried, into a taxi. Even in her state she was pretty and Reynold recognized, as he had started to do more frequently, what The Professor said about women.
His thoughts turned to Olive who wasn’t exactly a woman yet, though he, similarly, wasn’t a man. He strolled a little further, now with that not quite a woman on his mind. He wasn’t even sure what it was about her he liked. He settled on a little bit of everything. He was still heavy with the thought of her when he met the errant path of the stumbling man. He was as startled as Reynold with their near collision, though he reacted more poorly.
With a yelp and a hiccup the man shoved Reynold out of his way and into the street. He landed in a sprawling mess as the taxi he saw the woman being helped into came to a stop too late. Curled up, waiting for the impact, the taxi struck the backpack hitting the gravity ball. Rather than crushing Reynold, the force was magnified in the ball and launched him in a high ark and into one of the tall oak trees that lined the street. His body, especially his spine, ached but the realization that he was alive came rushing over him in a wash of relief, panic, excitement and confusion.
Clinging to the branches high up in the tree, Reynold began to wonder how he would get down. Looking around he noticed the people gather around the accident scene below him. His eyes widened with alarm as the thought struck him that if they haven’t already, they would be wondering what happened to him. He was hopeful that the drunks might take some time to figure it out, but he was worried it wouldn’t be long before the taxi driver looked up. It was possible that the woman didn’t even notice what happened, and if the drunk was able to put it together, no one would believe him, but the driver would have likely seen the blur of Reynold as he shot into the tree.
“They’re going to tell people,” he said to himself dismayed. “Maybe the papers will find out and write a story about it. The word it going to get around and The Professor is going to find out for sure.” Reynold reached frantically into his pocket for the controller box. He checked the dial and saw that it had shifted to low gravity. He figured it must have been luck that he broke instead of his head when he hit the pavement. He timidly experimented with the dial, hanging onto one of the branches with one arm. He turned the dial slowly and felt the backpack shift slightly with the added weight. He cranked the dial back up and looked for a lower branch he could reach. He hopped that with the gravity ball as light as it could be, he would be able to drop lightly to the next branch. Bracing himself he shoved the controller box back in his pocket and dropped down hitting the branch hard, knocking the wind out of himself all over again.
Reaching out to stop his decent, he slipped and dropped down several more branches, hitting each of them with a thud and a corresponding crunch as the smaller ones gave way. Reynold’s plummet was abruptly stopped when the backpack caught on a stronger branch. The noise from the cracking branches and Reynold’s subsequent yelps was enough to get the attention of the cabbie and the group of people who had gathered to gawk at the scene.
“Hey you, kid,” the cabbie yelled.
Reynold hurriedly reached up, trying to get the backpack free from the branch. His movements caused him to sway and the branch to groan under the weight.
“Weight,” Reynold exclaimed. He looked down to see the cabbie pushing through the confused crowed towards the tree. Fumbling again in his pocket Reynold turned the dial as high as it would go. With a loud crack the branch gave way to the massive weight and the bag that had kept Reynold hanging in the tree was now pulling him towards the pavement.
Reynold barely had time to crank the dial back before he hit the sidewalk. Luckily the pull of the backpack caused the gravity ball to hit first. With a thud that was part cement and mostly his back, Reynold hit the ground. The rebound that resulted from the low setting of the gravity ball sent him up and forward. He was in an approximation of upright and a little higher than he would have liked, but Reynold managed to make a safe, if not graceful, landing on all fours facing away from the perusing cabbie.
Without waiting to hear the shouts behind him, Reynold was off, half running half limping down the sidewalk. He turned down the first ally he came to and left behind the commotion he had caused.
After twisting and turning through alleys, cutting through a park, ducking though a cafe and hiding behind a dumpster Reynold stopped to catch his breath. Leaning against the wall he finally started to relax. He kept trying to tell himself that the cab driver couldn’t have gotten a good look at him, that there was no way anyone could have followed him. After a moment to steady his nerves he decided he should find out exactly where his escape had lead him. Cautiously he walked to the mouth of the alley and as casually as he could manage, peaked his head around the corner to get a look down the street.
There were more people in this part of town, but many of them were preoccupied with the evening, heading into restaurants or bars. After a moment Reynold recognized where he was and realized he wasn’t far from the area where Olive tended sell her flowers. He checked the controller in his pocket, smoothed down his hair and walked out onto the sidewalk doing his best, “nothing to see here,” impression.
The sky was turning a dark red over the tops of the buildings and shadows crept up the street around Reynold, bringing with them the feeling of early night. The streetlights blinked on and he could see people in full celebration as he passed the various establishments, the lights from their windows spilling out onto the sidewalk. Reynold hurried down the emptying streets until he came to the corner where Olive was usually set up, selling flowers to couples as they strolled by. He hoped she would still be there, that there would still be enough people making their way to their New Year’s parties to keep her on the street.
He pushed on, seeing a couple across the street, stopped to kiss under the sign of a romantic restaurant. The pretty girl had a bouquet of flowers. Reynold was spurred by the sight and started to pick up his pace when a big hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around.
His stomach sunk as he turned around, expecting to see a man in a uniform, figuring that the cabbie had called the cops. He thought of The Professor and the experiments he would have to endure when the cops brought him in.
His eyes came into focus, but Reynold was shocked when, instead of a stern officer with a pair of handcuffs, he saw a burly man with a wrench and a couple of his pals.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here,” said the thug with the wrench, in a low grumble.
“It’s some stupid looking kid with a dumb looking bag,” one of his friends piped in, his voice higher than Reynold would have expected.
“What’s in the bag runt,” the first thug demanded. Reynold tried to back away, but the hand on his shoulder was like a vice. Panic rolled though him as he tried to assess the situation. He knew that they though he had something valuable in his bag. He did, but not anything they would have expected. Reynold though whether he gave them the bag or not, they would probably kill him.
His leg hurt and he was starting to become annoyed. The panic started to make way for anger and with nothing left to lose Reynold came up with a desperate plan. He slowly dropped his hand into his jacket pocket feeling for the dial.
“You don’t want it, it isn’t worth anything to you,” he said, half hoping they would listen.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” the one with the wrench growled as he snatched the backpack off of Reynold.
With the thug’s attention on the bag Reynold cranked the dial hard, increasing the weight of the bag, pulling the man down with it. Manipulating the dial up and back down again Reynold kicked out hard sending a low gravity ball flying at the face of the hunched man hitting him at high gravity. The impact sent him reeling back, blood flowing freely from his now ruined face.
The other thugs were stunned staring at their downed comrade, giving Reynold time to reset the gravity ball, grab the bag and take off before they could figure out what had happened.
Running hard away from the still shocked men, Reynold glanced back and saw the spot where Olive was selling flowers. He had made enough commotion, again, to get the attention of Olive and a couple who had stopped to buy a bouquet. They looked between him running away and the scene he had just left. He could only guess at what they were thinking. He wondered if Olive had recognized him, or if she even knew him enough that she would.
He couldn’t stop and see here anymore. He had to get away before the men thought to chase after him. There was no chance he could come back later either, for fear that The Professor would have discovered the damage to his lab and his invention missing. He was likely to send the police, or worse, after Reynold.
It was nearing midnight when Reynold turned the corner to the railroad tracks out of town. He could hear the cheering of people from all over the city counting down the last minute, ushering in the coming year. He had missed his chance to say goodbye, not that it mattered to anyone but himself, but the realization was sinking in that he had something valuable in his possession. It was a dangerous and amazing item that had helped him into and out of a couple of dangerous scrapes.
He didn’t really have anything keeping him in the city, but now he had a very good reason to leave and perhaps the one thing that could turn things in his favor. He chuckled to himself thinking that he might have taken the one invention The Professor had made that actually worked. Keeping up his pace, Reynold put his hand in his pocket, feeling for the dial, and lightened his load.