I’ve not been writing much. I did NaNoWriMo in the two years I’ve been absent, but outside of that, lots of planning, but nothing actually going onto a page. I’ve got pretty terminal writer’s block, but as I mentioned in my vlog (Vlog 16th July 2022 – A New Start and Old Problems – YouTube) I want to get back to writing… so excitingly, after a month, I’ve finally done that. I wrote a little short story, and here it is – my first non-NaNoWriMo story in years
Doctor Kalous’ Amazing Concoction
© Jonathan L. Lawrence, August 2022
Doctor Kalous stumbled as he exited the lab complex into the bright sun of a sunny summer London afternoon. The pain was intense, he had been expecting it, but he realised his preparations for it weren’t enough. It didn’t matter now; he had achieved his life’s work just in the nick of time.
Doctor Rudolf Kalous was six feet tall, prematurely greying, with full-bodied hair sweeping behind him, though he appeared shorter right now. The cramp in his stomach had him fighting to stand up straight, but he was a man on a mission. Gritting his teeth, walked away from the shiny new building near Blackfriars that housed the lab Doctor Kalous had been working from. His employers had no idea what he had been working on. It wouldn’t be long before they found out, the whole world would know, but he had taken steps to protect his secrets.
It was half a mile’s walk to his destination at Victoria Embankment Gardens. He had chosen the spot because he had been visiting it regularly for the past few months; it was a place that meant something to him, an escape. Now it would be his ultimate escape.
It only took a few minutes to get there, and as he entered the gardens, he pulled the vial from his pocket. The swirling sickly yellow and radioactive purple solution inside did not look appetising, but it wasn’t for mass market appeal. This was Doctor Kalous’ lifetime of research and work. With palpable trepidation, he removed the rubber stopper. He knew he shouldn’t, but it was instinctive for him to take a sniff of it. He was surprised. It wasn’t as awful a smell as the ingredients that had gone into the concoction. Doctor Kalous took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself, and then in one swift gulp, he downed the liquid.
“Now or never,” he said to no one.
Now he waited.
His research had prepared him for what would happen. It would take a few moments, but he should start feeling the effects soon. He wandered over to a bench and eased himself down.
He waited some more.
Fifteen minutes passed, and he was beginning to think his experiment had been a failure. There was a crushing sense of disappointment building, and a wave of depression started to fill him. This was his last chance to achieve his dream.
Then he felt it, the little buzz. The scans on his subjects had shown this was the start. The concoction was flowing through his system, starting to flood his brain. The buzz was becoming a rush. He also became aware of hunger, another effect seen in testing. He needed to get food. He rose from the bench and walked towards the Bandstand Café.
“Can I…” a wave of pain, and then the buzz overwhelmed him for a moment. He tried to force himself back to the task.
“What you after, mate?” the man behind the counter asked.
Doctor Kalous shook off the sensory overload, “Meat sandwich… can I get a meat sandwich.”
“Sure, what meat? And do you want salad and sauce with it?” the man asked. He had an Eastern European accent, but Doctor Kalous couldn’t quite place it. It wasn’t from Czechia like his own.
“Ham, salad no beetroot, and salad cream, please,” the Doctor said in impeccable and well-practised English.
“Ah, Czech?” the man behind the counter observed as he started preparing the ingredients, “I spent my summers in Karlovy Vary when I was a boy. What bread do you want?”
“Whichever,” the Doctor said, “I’m not from far from there. I don’t recognise your accent, though. Where are you from?” usually, Doctor Kalous hated small talk. It anchored him in the here and now, and he was thankful for it and the memories.
“I’m from Georgia,” the man said, “But I came to Britain as a teenager.” He grabbed some rye bread, cut through it with well-practised ease, and continued preparing the sandwich.
“I’ve never been to Georgia,” the Doctor observed, “I came to Britain only a decade ago for work.”
“Oh, what do you do?” the sandwich maker asked, “Seasoning?”
“Paprika and chilli,” the Doctor said, “I’m a chemist.”
“A chemist? Very nice,” the proprietor said as he wrapped the sandwich in the grease-proof paper, and put the finished product into a white paper bag, “Here you go, enjoy.”
“Thank you,” the Doctor said, “How much?”
“Three pounds sixty-five,” the man said.
Doctor Kalous produced a five-pound note from his wallet, “Keep the change,” he said.
“Thank you very much,” the man said, ringing through the till.
Doctor Kalous walked away with an affected wave and headed to the seating area. He was resisting the hunger that demanded he wolf down the sandwich immediately. Doctor Kalous sat down, taking stock of the changes in his body mentally. Then he ravenously attacked the sandwich. It surprised him just how fast he could eat. He was usually a considerate eater, taking time to savour flavours and textures.
His hunger wasn’t satisfied.
He awkwardly approached the kiosk again, “Can I get another two?” he asked.
“You must be hungry,” the man said, “Sure, give me a moment.”
Doctor Kalous started to pace; the hunger was gnawing at him. Intellectually he understood it. He had studied it in his subjects. The body needed fuel for the effects of the concoction. Still, it was frustrating and uncomfortable. It was worth it if this worked.
“Here you go,” the man said, “Erm… Call it six quid.”
Doctor Kalous handed over the money, “Thank you again,” he said, “Good sandwich.”
“Your very welcome!” the proprietor said with a big smile, “Tell your friends.”
Doctor Kalous nodded and walked away, heading back into the park with his two sandwiches. After a few moments, he opened one of the sandwiches and tucked in, then followed it immediately with the second sandwich. Finally, the hunger eased a little.
The buzz was really growing now. Doctor Kalous felt like he was vibrating, his whole body, every cell, every atom shifting in all directions and then back again. His senses felt heightened, and the synapses in his brain suddenly felt supercharged. He could hear the grass beneath him shifting in the light summer breeze. He could listen to the wood of the trees twenty meters away creaking as they moved imperceptibly in the light wind. Looking toward them, he could see the grains within the bark as if they were right in front of his face.
He walked further into the grass clearing. There were plenty of people in the park at lunchtime, men and women in business attire, mothers with pushchairs. None of the people in the park paid attention to the middle-aged silver-haired Czech man out for a stroll.
He stopped roughly in the centre of the clearing and raised his arms. The experiments had told him a lot but not how to trigger his desired reaction. He knew concentration and willpower were essential components. He stood there, concentrating, willing the response to start.
He was feeling frustrated. Every experiment showed this should work, but nothing was happening. He was buzzing more than ever. He felt sure he would vibrate apart if something didn’t happen soon.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the Doctor shot up into the air several feet.
“Hurá!” he cried out as he looked down at the ground and across the gardens from his new elevated position. Several people turned to look at the odd cry, and the park suddenly fell silent as attention to what was happening grew.
Doctor Kalous didn’t have time or interest in being the centre of attention. This wasn’t about them; it wasn’t about anyone else. This had been his dream since he was a boy. He had gone to university and worked in labs in cities across the globe, all towards this singular goal.
He wasn’t wasting any of his time on gawkers. Instead, he willed himself up and away. He followed the Thames heading west; he willed himself lower to fly just over the water, then shot back up again as he learned to handle this power. He flew towards the London Eye, and feeling giddy, he did a barrel roll. Doctor Kalous was getting lost in the feeling of flying. He willed himself to go faster and upwards, constantly upwards, until he made a loop de loop, coming out of the loop incredibly quickly.
There were flashes of light from the capsules of the London Eye, and Doctor Kalous could see phones being held up. He knew he was being filmed; he didn’t care. Doctor Kalous broke away from the Eye and headed towards Big Ben, dropping down to the river’s surface before shooting back up again. The Doctor got as close as he dared to the clock, but he couldn’t bring himself to get in touching distance. So instead, the Czech man circled Big Ben a few times. He hadn’t made a flight plan, had no idea where to go, wasn’t sure if he could hover, and wasn’t ready to risk trying.
More flashes and phones held up as people saw this amazing sight and captured the unbelievable. He wasn’t paying attention, yet somehow, he was aware of each of their faces. Looks of amazement, confusion and of panic met his attention. Police were talking into radios while pointing toward the flying Doctor.
Doctor Kalous jetted off, he had no idea what the police could do, but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
He broke away from the clock tower and followed the bridge back over the river, flying over St Thomas’ Hospital and continuing to Waterloo station. He willed himself to stop flying, and suddenly he was falling ballistically. Moments before hitting the tracks, he willed himself to fly again. He followed the railway at speed until suddenly a train loomed before him, and he pulled up out of the way, narrowly missing one of the wires running above the track.
He barrel-rolled over Archbishops Park, marvelling at the sense of speed and daring. It was all Doctor Kalous had hoped it would be. Pushing on, he headed back over the river. The Doctor tried to do other tricks, but loops and rolls were all that came to mind. He found himself a little disappointed at his own lack of imagination.
He flew off, headed over to St James’s Park, and slowed down to soar over Buckingham Palace and take in the view. It was magnificent from a few hundred feet up.
As he practically floated around the Palace, he felt the hunger pangs starting again. In a matter of seconds, aches had become intense pain.
The miraculous experience was nearly over. Doctor Kalous was smart enough to know that his time with the potion was nearly up.
He jetted off again, heading towards Wellington Arch. He willed himself upwards when he was right up to the top of it. Faster and faster. He shot high into the sky. He was rapidly climbing, dozens of feet a second, and then faster.
The world beneath was quickly shrinking; Doctor Kalous could no longer make out people’s details even with his enhanced senses. They were becoming just dots with the odd flash. He could now see the curvature of the horizon.
He also became alarmingly aware of the air thinning somewhat. He estimated he must be at about fifteen thousand feet. The pain from the hunger had increased to just short of debilitating levels. Pains that had been assailing him for the past few years gave way to the pain of this hunger. The buzz was also starting to wear off. He no longer felt like every cell was vibrating. Instead, he was tired, exhausted, as if every ounce of energy had been used up.
It was okay; Doctor Kalous wasn’t alarmed at all. He had already anticipated the pain and prepared himself for it.
He slowed his ascent, bringing himself to a hover.
He took a moment to appreciate that he was hovering. He took another moment to relive the thrill and feeling of flying. He had dreamed of this all his life and accomplished it before the end. He had achieved everything he wanted in life.
He let the pain overcome him. The world faded to black as he passed out.
He might have noted that he would miss the opportunity to feel freefall. Doctor Kalous was entirely unconscious as his body fell from the sky, rapidly accelerating towards the ground.
His last moments in life were at peace.
No pain could touch him.
His illness couldn’t take him.
In but a few moments, he was gone from the world.