Totally Fract Up

The airburst slammed Alphonse clear of the generator and into a wall cupboard. Later, although images of that night would forever resemble the concussed alcoholic blackout in a freshman drunk, he would piece together a splintered sliver of memory, of someone that might have been Milo, transparent and luminous. Another of looking through his own hand. A blackout again.

Then a more detailed flash, so long and strange it had to be a brain-damaged dream. Everything solid, ceiling, walls, floor, become infinitely transparent. Alphonse could see out, and through other buildings across the entire Chicago campus, and, it seemed, straight into distant galaxies.

At their far edges was -- what? -- a blacklit Zonk-poster world of morphing moire patterns and icons generally associated with eastern mysticism? A thousand-petalled lime jello lotus? Unidentifiable fauna and flora? A huge serpent coiling around the universe? Multi-colored chimerae, a bouquet of gigantic roses, a Portugese man o' war, nymphs, Margaret Hamilton on a bicycle, seraphim, a ten-armed goddess saying "Hi Boys!" and fluttering her eyelashes at Milo, kissing him on the cheek, blowing in his ear and winking with her left eye as he swam toward the generator? "I'll see you later!"

At the centre of this vast clearliquid world, the fusion generator hovered, glowing hot green and blue, the only thing identifiably solid.

Then Milo, doing something that looked very like an Australian crawl in melted Crisco, finally kicked close, smacked the kill switch and yanked the power cord from the outlet.

"FUCK! Alphonse! Get the hell up, we gotta scram....!"

Milo could barely pack the breadbox under an arm, wires trailing, but he grabbed the catatonic Alphonse, and struggling with his balance, started to drag the generator and his unresponsive friend up the stairs. It was like herding cats with an arm tied behind his back, the box slipping clumsily in his sweaty grip. Al was as limp and twisty as that jello he'd hoped for. Milo had actually thought he might've built the generator light enough to carry in a pinch. A pinch such as this. Apparently, it was only *just*, and as he struggled, his tortured scream echoed up the stairwell.



Four university security cops arrived to find a blackened and twisted armored door blown off its hinges, the lab's table and cupboard contents strewn like autumn leaves after a storm, papers scorched to brittle sepia curls that crumbled under their own weight. Scarred remnants of a cheap briefcase and a blackened metal thermos sat beside a bread-box-sized void in a tangle of fused plumbing on a twisted lab bench. The room was oppressively cold and dark, like a meat locker. No living thing, anywhere in there. Every light had exploded, and the giant fuse bars on the power disconnect in the mechanical room that powered the lab had burnt to vapour.

Playing their big, rent-a-cop flashlights across the carnage, each awed guard thought, independently, the same six words as the others: "What - the - HELL - just - happened - here?"

Heinie Kannenberg's abandoned lab was a shiny, fused hell. Every stick of equipment had melted into puddles of glass. They were already cold again. Shiny, translucent porcelain glazed the ceiling. A faint green iridescence clung to frozen hoar-frosted concrete walls, yet every piece of metal in the room still glowed and smoked strangely, too hot to touch. A pervasive, sickly-sweet citrous odor would linger for days, gagging radiation-suited university, federal, and military investigators that would swarm the site, trying to figure out if it was a pipe bomb, a student prank gone wrong, or if somebody had actually managed to accomplish the patently absurd: and had detonated some kind of anomalous, freakish, impossible room-sized atomic blast...

If the latter was the case, they wanted that sucker. Bad. It would be a cold-war weapon to die for.

They should have been careful what they wished for.