The Scientific Method

Microscope ( Image by felixioncool from Pixabay )

Sean tilted his head.

“It’s a jar of dirt.” Dylan sounded disappointed.

“That’s not dirt,” Emily added. “I’ve seen dirt. That’s not it.”

Sean and I gave our daughter a questioning look. She shrugged. “I’ve been studying different things with the microscope you bought me last year. Dirt is mostly what I’ve studied since that’s all there is around here.”

We laughed, but held the jar out for the kids to see. “The thing is, sweet pea, this wasn’t solid when we found it and put it in the jar.”

“Yeah, it was liquid. Which is why we thought it was oil.”

“How did it turn hard so fast?” she asked, reaching out a hand to touch the jar.

I pulled it out of her reach before she could even graze it with her fingertips. I shot her a warning look that made her pout. “We don’t know what it is, and now this turn of events is mysterious.”

“Sorry, Em. It’s just not safe.”

“But it’s in a jar.”

“And it seems to have changed within the jar. Who knows what could happen if you touch the container now,” I said.

“You’re touching it,” Dylan pointed out.

Sean gave him the mind-your-tongue look. “We’re grownups.”

Dylan rolled his eyes.

“Well, what if the grownups put a sample under my microscope and let me take a look?” Emily flashed her sweetest smile.

“Oh, no sweet pea, I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

“Pleeeeeaaase?” Dylan and Emily pleaded together, clasping their hands and dancing in place.

I looked to Sean for backup, but should have known right away that was useless. He merely gave me the same puppy eyes as our kids.

Georgia popped her head in from the kitchen. “Alright, you lot. Have fun with your science experiments. I’m out.”

We all waved goodbye to the kids’ grandma and heard the screen door slam behind her as she left. I listened to her car engine turn on in the driveway and the crackle of the tires over the pebbles. I’d have no backup from her.

“Maybe we could just put a little piece on a slide.”

“Sean—”

“We handle the sample ourselves, with gloves and tweezers, slide the glass onto the microscope, and supervise her as she looks through the lens.”

Emily nodded vigorously and looked at me with wide eyes. Dylan followed suit until finally even Sean was begging for the experiment.

I let out an exasperated breath. “Okay, we’ll take a look under the microscope, but no touching, either of you.” I emphasized the point with a severe finger wagging.

They nodded in unison. Sean and I grabbed the materials while the kids went to Emily’s makeshift lab in the tool shed to prep the microscope.

“Sean, are you sure this is a good idea? What if the stuff is radioactive?”

“It would probably be glowing if it was radioactive.” His sweet smile that had first enticed me to marry him played across his face.

“Sean, I’m serious. We don’t know what this stuff is.” I held up the jar and squinted at the substance. It was still in the new solid form it had taken almost an hour before.

“Honestly, Phil,” Sean said, “I think it’ll be fine. It might just be some kind of fossil thing. Like the tar pits, but once we removed it from its environment, it solidified. Change in temperature and pressure and all that.”

I smiled. “So you’re a scientist now?”

“I’m just trying to be practical. Not let our imaginations get the best of us. Besides, we’re always encouraging the kids to be curious and discover the world.”

“I know, I know. But telling them to be curious in theory is great. Letting them do something that could be dangerous is different.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Now let’s get out there before Em starts shrieking for us.” Sean leaned in and kissed me, pouring in every ounce of reassurance he could offer.

Out in the tool shed, the kids had cleaned the desk space, sanitized the microscope, and pulled out fresh glass slides. They both wore gloves and greeted us with big grins.

Emily reached out a hand with a slide. “Here, put a sample on this.”

Sean and I glanced at one another, having one of those moments that said oil or no oil, we have all we need right here. I opened the jar and let my partner chisel off a piece with the tweezers. It came off easier than expected, like it was a clump of dirt.

He placed the fine powder onto the slide and placed it under the microscope. Emily started to adjust the slide, but I stopped her with a stern glare. She paused and let her dad do it for her.

“Alright, Em, just the microscope and its controls,” Sean cautioned.

She nodded. Dylan stood nearby and followed his sister’s instructions when she asked for more or less light and help adjusting the lens.

“Well, what do you see?” Dylan asked eagerly.

“Definitely not dirt.” She kept her eye on the microscope lens. “It doesn’t have the same composition as what’s in our backyard.”

“What composition does it have?” I asked.

Emily looked up at us and shrugged. “Not sure. Nothing I’ve seen, but then again, I haven’t seen much.” She laughed.

Dylan nudged his sister to let him take a look. He pressed his eye to the microscope. “Whoah, cool.”

“What’s it doing?” Emily pushed her brother out of the way again to see into the lens.

But even Sean and I could see what was happening. The sample from the slide radiated a blue glow. I grabbed my partner’s hand and took a step forward to pull the kids away, but Sean stopped me.

“Relax. It’s probably a microbe thing, like the Bioluminescent Bays.”

“Fascinating,” Emily exhaled.

“What is?” Dylan peered around the microscope at an angle, trying to get a look at what his sister was seeing.

“Its composition changed. I still don’t recognize it, but it’s different than before. Almost like a kaleidoscope.”

Emily stepped back and let Dylan look again. She turned to me with bright eyes almost the same as the sample’s glow. “Papa, look.” She pointed at the jar we’d left on the desk.

The substance had changed once more to liquid, but this time almost translucent, and also glowing blue. It didn’t just glow though; it pulsated, like it was sending out a beacon.

“That’s…odd.”

“Okay, we’re definitely in a sci-fi flick now, Phil. This has gotta be alien.” Sean’s face was lit by the jar’s blue light, giving him almost a panicked expression.

“Enough science project for the night. We’ll find a lab to send this to in the morning.”

The kids began to protest, but I put a hand up in silence, indicating the final word.

“Your papa’s right, kids. We’ve played enough with this new thing for one day. Let’s get you both to bed now.” Sean turned to me. “Wanna lock it up in something for now?”

I nodded. While Sean escorted Emily and Dylan back to the house to get them ready for bed, I emptied out an old steel toolbox to put the jar in. With my hands still in gloves, I picked up the sample slide from the microscope and looked around, unsure of what to do with it for a moment. Before I could decide though, it began to squirm and move on its own.

This is a continuation of a short story called “Better Than Fiction” which I serialized for my blog. See the other parts here: Part 1 | Part 2

Let me know what you think in the comments!

A Bump in the Road

Green blue oil film wave (Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay)

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money.

Our first choice was an estate out in the country, with wide open spaces for the kids to run around. We had such grand dreams to finally get Emily the Little Laboratory Kit she always wanted. We reveled in the vision of seeing Dylan’s face when we brought home the Fender Stratocaster he’d looked at with longing every time he passed Moe’s Music Store window.

All those dreams shattered though when the local prospector said, “Sorry, gentlemen. Not oil.”

Sean’s face fell. “What?”

The prospector shook his head. “This isn’t oil.” He tapped the mason jar my partner and I had brought in.

“Well then, what is it?” My heart sank to my stomach.

He shrugged. “Don’t know, but not oil.”

Sean looked at the prospector with suspicion. “How do you know?”

“Been around oil my whole life.” The prospector leaned forward. “This looks like it, but see how it moves when I tilt the jar?”

The prospector tipped the container to the side and showed us the slow, sludgy movement of the black liquid. “Oil don’t do that.”

I grabbed the mason jar back from his hands. “Where can we find out what this is?” I took Sean’s hand and gave it a squeeze. The look I gave my partner said, Don’t give up hope.

The prospector gave another apathetic shrug. “Some lab, I s’pose. I’m no scientist.” I pursed my lips and nodded. “Thank you.” We rose at the same time and walked out to our truck.

This is the first installment in a short story called “Better Than Fiction” that I’ve decided to serialize. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Memory Found

Kerri watched as the bedroom door eased open and a man’s head popped into view.

“Kerri, honey, are you alright?” He inched in slowly, as if afraid he might startle her, like she was a rabid animal.

She breathed deep and nodded her head. She couldn’t bring herself to speak, because she could not recall his name or his face for that matter. Where was she? Who was he?

The man nodded and flipped a lamp on in the bedroom and turned the hall light off. “Sorry you didn’t find me when you woke. I just wanted to get my things ready for tomorrow.”

Kerri tilted her head in confusion.

“For my trip? Remember, I’m leaving for a conference?”

Still, she couldn’t remember what he spoke of.

He let out a sigh. “Maybe this was a mistake. You’re not ready for this yet.” He turned to leave the bedroom again. “I’ll just call and cancel, tell them I can’t make it.”

“No, wait.” Kerri reached out a hand. “It’s okay. I’m fine. Just had a nightmare.”

He looked back at her, as if unsure if she spoke the truth.

She swallowed hard and smiled. “Really, I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me.” She still hadn’t responded with his name. Though she had no clue who he was and where he was going, she felt they must have had a close enough relationship that her vague reassurances would be enough to ease his mind.

He settled back into the bed beside her and nodded. He leaned over and kissed her forehead, and the gesture made her smile. Whatever memories were missing, the sensation of familiar intimacy hadn’t gone.

“Get some sleep,” he whispered in her ear as they lay back down.

Kerri watched as this man that gave her a feeling of warmth at the very center of her chest closed his eyes and fell into a restful sleep. She couldn’t help but watch as he breathed evenly, the tension from before slowly fading from his face. After a few minutes his breathing turned into a soft snoring, and the sound made her giggle.

Without thinking, Kerri reached a hand out and ran it through his hair, a gesture that felt so familiar and practiced, and yet in that moment seemed alien to her. She worried at her lower lip as she struggled to find his name and face in her memory.

The energy of worrying finally got to her. Kerri drifted into sleep, her hand still on the man’s head in a gentle caress. As the world around her turned black once more, a single word popped into her head: Tom.

She tried to jerk awake at the revelation, but instead of finding herself in the bedroom, she found herself in the topsy turvy dreamland once more. This time though, she remembered what she needed to know. Tom awaited her whenever she returned to the real world.

For more of Kerri’s adventures, see part 1 and part 2.

Memory Missing

Kerri furiously tore through the sheets and pillows, seeking him out. Why couldn’t she recall his name? And who was he to her?

Her mind, still fuzzy from the dizzying dream that felt all too real, searched frantically for the memory of whoever he was, something to cling on to. As her hands worked through the bedding, now tearing the fabric apart with inhuman strength, she wracked her brains, but nothing came.

The desperation left her breathless, and she began to gasp for air. Her fingers tangled into the sheets, tightly winding the fabric around and around, cutting off circulation until finally she simply ripped it apart into tiny threads. Kerri looked down in dismay at the ruined sheets, dropping them suddenly from her hand like a hot pan. How did she do that?

Before she could get a hold of herself, the sensation of not knowing turned into a panic attack. She took long inhalations, but to no avail. She rocked back and forth in the bed, her lungs burning for air they couldn’t get. It seemed as if the room were shrinking around her, and she hunched lower and lower into the bed, trying to maintain space between her body and the walls. The harder she tried to breathe the less air flowed through her lungs.

Tears streamed down her face as she felt she might pass out again. A terrified scream escaped her mouth, and the sound triggered a light in the hallway to turn on. Kerri saw the flicker of shine come through the crack in the bedroom door. The realization that she was not alone was what finally settled her racing heart and eased her breath. Someone was here with her.

This is a continuation of another story. See part one here.

In the End — Sharing

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A short piece but it packs a punch.

Childhood Pranks —

Reblogged from The Drabble. I couldn’t not share this one. Too funny.

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