Erik did not consider himself to be overly brave. In the normal flow of events, bravery was another emotion to be discarded like any other. It was an alien concept anyway since, until today anyway, it was not necessary. Cold World did not have any crime. The more society divested itself of emotion, the less likely strife and turmoil arose. People didn’t steal, kill or destroy one another. The people of Cold World were simply too involved in the pursuit of knowledge. All other occupations were a waste of valuable time. Erik could not even remember if he had ever had a fight, an argument, or anything with anyone. Just the thought made him feel lost and confused. Having never raised his hand in anger toward any other living being, how was he supposed to confront the nightmare waiting for him in Professor Voguebuk’s lab?
Erik tried asserting his rational mind over the question. Whatever had shredded the professor was probably done. It stopped with the professor when it could just as easily have ended his life. But it hadn’t and he was still alive; therefore, he wasn’t the target and could proceed to investigate further.
Erik stepped cautiously towards the professor’s lab, careful to step over the pool of blood that was spreading slowly around one half of the professor’s body.
The door to the lab was not locked and gave way easily to Erik’s gentle push. The lights inside flicked to life in starts and bursts of pale green and yellow until a soft white light filled the open space of the lab. The lab wasn’t very big Erik thought. His own study hall was far larger not to mention his experimental space. Somehow Erik expected more but with a shrug he moved towards one of the work benches that lined the eastern side of the lab. There spread out on the bench surface was a large but deep saucer type plate with trailing wires that ran through the liquid in the plate. The liquid itself was not quite sheer enough to see the bottom of the plate but seemed to shimmer as tiny waves crossed its surface. It was then that Erik noticed a dull hum that lingered about his ears without any apparent direction. Erik wasn’t sure exactly where the humming was coming from but it did appear to be strongest just over the plate of liquid.
The wires leading out of the liquid were connected to patch panels that fed a row of circuit cards that pulsed with translucent green and yellow lights. Small LEDs pulsed in rhythm to the tiny waves dancing across the surface of the liquid. Erik centered himself in front of the work bench and slowly peered into the liquid. The liquid had a metallic appearance and Erik could almost see his image on the surface. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was seeing but the liquid seemed to react to his presence. The tiny waves that had been gently racing across the surface of the liquid froze then proceeded to move in a directly way as though orchestrated and on cue. A small image appeared to Erik on the surface of the liquid. It was a planet but it wasn’t one Erik had ever seen. It was dark and menacing. This was the dark realm Erik reasoned. The professor had discovered a gateway of some kind to the dark realm and Erik was looking right at it. How had he done this Erik queried? This was stretching his imagination to believe that the professor had achieved something like this without his knowledge. Erik put the selfish thought aside for the moment and peered again into the face of the liquid. A new shape began to take shape and when Erik realized what he was seeing; her hand had full possession of his throat as her arm stretched out from the center of the plate. Erik tried to jerk away from her terrible grasp but her grip was like steel. The liquid in the plate was splashing all over the bench surface and some of the trailing wires came out of the liquid altogether.
Erik could not even scream. He knew that he had only a few moments before he passed out. His air supply was completely cut off and his vision was starting to blur. He had never encountered another physical force so powerful. He felt helpless, stuck like a fly in maw of a Venus fly trap. Just as Erik was about to pass out, he tried one more time to dislodge her hand from his throat. He failed and as he felt himself starting to slide to the lab floor his flailing hand disconnected the wires from the plate and with a blood cuddling scream she let him go. Her hand paused briefly, her arm extended above the liquid’s surface to the elbow. Her palm was facing Erik like a cobra preparing to strike and then she curled her hand into a fist and started trembling in rage as the arm started sinking back into the plate of liquid. In an instant, the hand was gone and what liquid remained in the plate was unmoving and clear.
Erik gathered his thoughts and on wobbling knees he backed away from the bench. In the space of a few minutes, Erik almost died but he also discovered what Dr. Voguebuk was trying to tell him. There was a way to bridge the distance between Cold World and the dark realm. There was something in the dark realm that wanted him dead and Erik thought he knew why. Erik was one of two individuals that could understand what adhesion breakage was and how to stop it. With the professor dead, he alone held the key to stopping this cataclysmic event and someone or something in the dark realm knew this.