The Eyes of the Faceless

“We failed… again!” Dr. Ellis put his head in his hands. “This whole project is ruined… and my career with it!”

“Not for lack of trying,” said his assistant, Meline, powering down the machines. “Sure, we made some serious blunders, but think of how much we learned.

“I tapped you for this project for your optimism, Miss Parris,” said Dr. Ellis, “but you’re not the one who just blew through $27 million in research grants! All to create… this thing.”

Meline opened the machine’s glass enclosure. A mal-formed, colorless blob with some slight resemblance of humanoid features lay motionless. “If I would’ve showed this to any other scientist,” she said, “they would’ve been over the moon.” Donning protective gloves, she picked up a sample of the ooze. It was squishy, yet firm, almost like the silly putty that sparked her love of science as a child. She ran to the nearby electron microscope and examined the sample. “We have what looks to be come organic compounds here, albeit extremely primitive.”

“But they’re not alive,” said Dr. Ellis. “The whole point of these 7 months, the whole point of applying for all that grant money, was to prove once and for all that humans can, once and for all, create life. My hypothesis was flawless… but this…” Dr. Ellis began to silently sob.

“We’ve made some great strides,” said Meline, “And I’m sure that with a bit more funding, a bit more–”

“There isn’t going to be more funding!” said Dr. Ellis. “We promised the scientific community a living breathing organism. And what do we have?”

“An organism?” said Meline. “Not a living or breathing one, but… we’ve come this far! That’s gotta count for something.”

“I’m afraid it won’t,” said Dr. Ellis. “You haven’t had as much experience as I in front of the board. They don’t appreciate efforts coming up even the slightest bit short.”

Meline sighed and sat down on the chair beside one of the machine consoles. “I’d be happy with it. Not that it matters to you. Either way, the only thing we can do now is present this to the board. Tell them ‘we tried, here’s what we got.’ That’s it.”

“Yes, yes,” said Dr. Ellis, checking his phone. “They want to meet with me tomorrow morning, in fact.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Meline. “No, no. I can’t allow it. I’ll not have you throw your chances at a doctorate away with me.”

“I insist,” said Meline with a smile. “With you going in with this state of mind, you’re gonna need this ray of optimism.”

Dr. Ellis shrugged his shoulders, looking over at the slimy product of their efforts, and somehow, he swore he could feel that ray of optimism enveloping him. “…Okay. But don’t embellish what the facts are. We promised a living organism and this is not one… remember that.”

Meline rolled her eyes. “Okay, whatever you say.”

The two began to gather their things and turn off the lights in the laboratory. “Remember, 7 sharp tomorrow morning in the McCracken Building,” said Dr. Ellis, looking back over the machines they’d slaved over for the past half year. “…Better bring that, thing, just in case.”

“Of course,” said Meline. “See you in the morning.”

Dr. Ellis grabbed his coat and shut the door behind him. Meline, walking towards the glass casing, put the blob from the microscope back with the rest of oozing mass. The small blob seemed to coagulate with the rest of the pile, almost like a jigsaw puzzle completing itself. She stepped back and looked the whole thing over. It really did look fascinating. She could make out what seemed to be a spinal column and even a face. She looked deeper into the two holes that seemed to make up the eyes, with a slight glow coming from their base.

The laboratory lights seemed to flicker for a split second. “Dr. Ellis?” Meline called out, “Is that you?”  No one was there. She grabbed her bag and headed out the door into the January midnight air.

***

“Sorry, I overslept a bit this morning,” said Meline hurriedly walking into the lobby of the McCracken Science Building.

“I already told you, it’s okay,” said Dr. Ellis. “The board has us further down the agenda, remember?”

“It’s not like you to be this calm,” said Meline, setting her bags on the lobby chairs, “especially on board day.”

“Well, y’know,” said Dr. Ellis, “just trying to be positive. Optimistic and all that.”

“Now that’s a scientific breakthrough,” said Meline.

“Yeah,” Dr. Ellis chuckled, “what a difference a night makes.” He walked over and began to unzip Meline’s bag. “Is the ooze in here?”

“No,” said Meline, “I didn’t find it in the lab this morning, so I assumed you decided to pick it up instead.”

Dr. Ellis furrowed his brow, “I thought that’s what you told me you were going off to get before.”

Meline shook her head, “I just got here.”

Dr. Ellis looked confused. He put his hand on his forehead, then shook his head. “I-I think I just need to use the restroom. Been a bit of a crazy morning for me too… Excuse me.”

Meline was confused, but sat down, finally taking a deep breath after going nonstop since waking up to her alarm clock set 30 minutes later than it should’ve been. A moment or two later, Dr. Ellis walked back into the lobby, noticeably calmer than the way he had left. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes. Never better!” said Dr. Ellis with even more of an eager optimism than before. “Are you ready to show them the fine fruits of our labor?”

“Y-yes,” said Meline. “…Are you s–”

“Dr. Ellis? Meline Parris?” a board attendant popped in from the auditorium. “The board will see you now.” Dr. Ellis marched towards the attendant and enthusiastically shook her hand.

“Doctor!” Meline called towards him. “What about the–”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Dr. Ellis with a smug smile across his face. “It’s all under control!” Something in his eyes seemed to tell her otherwise.

Meline followed him and the attendant down the hallway, suddenly unsure of anything she had planned to say. Her mind went blank when she saw the board of six highly accomplished scientists talking amongst themselves. She had met some of them before, others she had only known by the names she had written in grant letters, but she knew they held her doctorate in her hands, and despite her fervent optimism, the reality of the situation had begun to catch up with her. She looked over at Dr. Ellis, whose face hadn’t changed since he had assured her everything was okay. Then she noticed the board was staring both of them down. She took her place behind the podium, adjusted the microphone, and opened her mouth to begin speaking.

“Thank you, ladies and gentleman,” said Dr. Ellis, proud as ever. “As you know, seven long months ago, my assistant and I set out to create life; a living, breathing organism, capable of fitting into our ecosystem, our society, and so on. My hypothesis, as I’m sure you can remembered, was almost flawless. Our method of creation was unlike anything the scientific community had ever seen!”

“And of course,” Meline interjected, sensing Dr. Ellis was getting carried away, “it turned out there were, uh, quite a few problems that sprang up as we began our experiments.”

Dr. Ellis chuckled, “Typical scientifical method, of course! Hahaha!” The board laughed to themselves as Dr. Ellis waved his arms like a car salesman.

“Were you successful?” one of the board members spoke up after the laughter had quieted down.

“Well, no… not exactly,” said Meline.

“Now, what did I tell you, Miss Parris?” Dr. Ellis interrupted, “Don’t embellish what the facts are!”

“But, doctor,” said Meline, “you told me…”

“Do you have any results you can show us?” the same board member spoke up again. Meline’s heart sank as she looked at the doctor, desperate for whatever ace in the hole he apparently had.

“Of course!” said Dr. Ellis. “This meeting was called on such short notice so I don’t have any written data to show you, but why have that…” the doctor sprawled up onto the auditorium stage with the energy of a wild animal and stood in front of the panel’s table, “when you have me?!” The room fell silent for what seemed like hours. Meline felt her entire body blush and nearly fell to her knees.

“Please… elaborate,” another board member spoke up.

“Ladies and gentleman of the board, I am the product of Dr. Ellis and his lovely assistant’s seven months toiling away in a laboratory,” said Dr. Ellis flaunting himself around the stage, “He created me!”

Meline grabbed her microphone, “Ladies and gentleman, I-I’m sorry. Dr. Ellis hasn’t been feeling very well this morning, he…”

“Don’t listen to her!” Dr. Ellis yelled. “Earl Ellis is not here. I merely have taken on his image! And look how naturally and fluidly I can move!” He began to dance in an outlandish way, grabbing one of the female board members to dance with him.

“Security!” she screamed. Two guards from the wings of the auditorium ran onstage and, despite displaying an uncanny agility for a man his age, eventually subdued the doctor, as Meline shrank behind her podium.

***

Meline gathered her bags in the lobby, sobbing. She apologized profusely to the board members but knew it wouldn’t have made a difference. Her career in science was over, as well as Dr. Ellis’, who was being brought outside, still screaming incoherently, into to a police car. “Oh God. Sorry about that,” said a man walking up behind her. “Must’ve been that takeout we ordered last night.” Meline turned around and gasped. It was Dr. Ellis, whose face and hair was wet from splashing it in the restroom sink.

“Did I miss the presentation?”

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