There I stood, Brian by my left hand and a vial that could change the world in my right. In front of me was a cluster of fizzing potions, steadily streaming into another vial. We’d spent years working on this formula. We had to get it right. It was our last chance. Two brilliant, seventeen year old scientists. Bet it was a sight to see.
As thick steam drifted from the potion, Brian and I snapped on our goggles.
Brian drummed his fingers on the table twice. The meaning was clear- it was time to add my vial. We rarely used words anymore when mixing potions. Hand motions worked just as well.
The potion slowly surged down into the other vial, mixing with another mysterious liquid. “Wow,” I breathed.
Brian nudged me lightly. “If anything, this is the coolest looking elixir we’re made yet.”
The sight was incredible.
Little pictures solidified through the glass, then dispersed. A horse galloped around the vial before melting back into the silvery mix. A kid playing on the monkey bars. A hand painting on a silver canvas.
I slammed my hand on the table and winced as the vial shook a little, but thankfully nothing happened. As much as I loved the pictures in the potion, that wasn’t the point. I took a sample of the mixture and slipped it under a microscope. Between this and all our research, there was only one more thing we needed. I signed, “I’ve got it! I know what we’re missing!!”
“Fire. We’re missing the heat.”
Brian followed me to the cupboards behind the table where I rummaged for matches. “Anthony, are you sure this is a good idea? What if it has a bad reaction and sets the whole place on fire?” He motioned.
Holding the box of matches, I turned to him. “Come on, you of all people know how important this is. For science.”
He signed back, “I of all people know the risks.” He immediately fingered a long scar on his cheek. Though he never told me how he earned it, it had something to do with a previous experiment I hadn’t been a part of.
I stared at him, until he gave in and mumbled, “For science.” He tore the matches from my hand, striking one, and lowering it towards the beautiful silver concoction.
The potion caught flame so fast I jumped back, accidentally kicking the table in the process. Brian’s mouth hung open. The images that appeared less than a minute ago were now bordered by flames. A column of heat spewed from the top of the vial. The silvery color turned an angry reddish orange, then faded back to silver.
Brian hunted through the cupboards as I had done only a few minutes ago. To my surprise, he produced a black feather. There was a tenseness in the air, a smoky feeling. The fire died down, and Brian dipped the feather in the mysterious liquid. As he pulled it out, the feather faded to match the white on our lab coats. Then it was gone. We stared in awe at the place where the feather had been. We’d done it, we had really done it!
A sharp, hot pain slammed my ankle. As my leg gave out, I found myself face to face with a discarded match and a growing fire. Flames raced up an unused bookshelf, but they wouldn’t stop there, looking to leap to incinerate out scattered notes.
I started yelling. “Brian, run! We have to get out of here now! Grab what you can and go!”
The bookshelf collapsed. The carpet caught fire in no time at all. Pieces of wood fell on the table and it suddenly became much too hot to touch as I hauled myself up off the floor, burning my hands in the process. Brian grabbed the vial and I scrambled to grab some of our most important notes and potions.
He didn’t make it. Brian’s foot clipped a burning textbook. I caught his arm just before he hit the ground. The place was a minefield. There seemed to be safe place to step. The fire spread from the carpet, up the walls and across ceiling in some parts. The smoke was so thick it was only a matter of time before we started choking. I’d dropped all my notes somewhere on the escape to the door. All the stuff we had made could be recreated, but not the potion. Our only goal was to reach the door safely, with the potion intact.
A piece of ceiling fell in front of us. I ducked and ran past it, but Brian wasn’t so lucky. The block fell on him, knocking him to the ground- narrowly missing his head but pinning his chest down.
In the smoky air, tears formed in my eyes. “Brian!” I called over the road of the fire, and the fire alarm’s incessant buzzing. “Brian, I’ve gotta go get help! Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you! Hang in there!”
And with that, I tore the potion from Brian’s outstretched hand, shoved it in my lab coat pocket, and ran for the door.
“Don’t leave me! You can’t leave me here, Anthony! Come back!”
The door shrieked as I yanked it open, my lungs burning as I lunged out into the hallway. I only had time to call out for help before my head hit the cold tile floor and blackness filled my vision.
When I came to, there was a terrible, head-spitting ringing in my ears. I attempted to clap my hands over my ears, but it was like they didn’t work. As if they were disconnected. I tried humming and even turning my head into my pillow to block out the awful sound, but it wasn’t just my hands that weren’t working. None of my body did. The sound didn’t go away until I slowly slipped back into oblivion.
The next time I awoke, I noticed a lot more than just the ringing in my ears, though that hadn’t done away. I was in a hospital room. The room was small, with a couple medical machines beside my bed, and a small bedside table. When one of the machines started beeping, a nurse came in. “Mr. Taryn! How nice to see you awake!”
“What happened?” I tried to say over the blaring sound in my ears, but my voice didn’t work. I couldn’t make a sound. The nurse looked at me sympathetically, apparently reading my mind.
““You were in a fire. It was an awful fire. The whole room was destroyed by the time they found you. Now you’ve got a broken ankle, a nasty concussion, and the smoke irritated your vocal cords a bit. We don’t know exactly what it is, but the doctor will explain it to you. I expect you’ll be fine if you don’t talk for a while.” She said this all as if talking to a toddler, loud and commanding but remarkably simple. The way she said everything was weird, though. She made it sound like I had a choice whether I spoke, but I didn’t. I simply could not talk. The nurse sat down on the edge of my bed and handed me a notepad and a pen, “Just write for a while.”
I took the pen she offered and wrote, “What about Brian?”
The nurse looked confused. “Brian? I’m sorry, know who you are talking about.”
Frustrated feelings were growing in my gut, but I pushed them down. “Brian Deris. My co-worker. He was in the fire.”
The nurse shook her head. “If I find out anything, I’ll let you know.”
I sighed, and wrote, “Then what about the ringing in my ears?”
“Your ears are ringing,” she repeated warily.” Do you feel anything else out of place?”
“No.” The nurse replied, “ Well, the ringing must be a side effect of the concussion. It should pass over the next few days, but I’ll make a note for the doctor just in case.”
She left the room and came back momentarily with a tall blonde lady. “Hello Mr. Taryn! I’m just going to check up on you, and Capri will take care of the rest!”
The doctor took an x-ray of my ankle, looked in my ears, and took my blood pressure. “So far, your recovery is as we expected. None of these injuries are going to be permanent. You’re a lucky man Mr. Taryn.” She left and only the nurse was left.
“Do you have any more questions?”
“Is Brian okay?”
“Well, he’s not going to be able to walk again. Other than that, I don’t really know how he is, but I’ll let you know.”
“When can I see him?”
“Well, the doctor wants you on bed rest for a few days, but you’ll probably be able to visit him after that.”
Then she stood up. “I’d love to stay and keep answering your questions, Tony- is it okay if I call you Tony?” I stared at her and she I took it as a yes.
“Well, Tony, I’d love to stay and answer your questions, but I have more patients to attend to.” She handed me a bell, and said, “Ring it if you need me!”
And she left, her black curls bouncing behind her.
Each day she returned, I noticed something different about her. She was my age. Her pale skin matched her nurse’s skirt perfectly. And she was true to her word. Slowly, the ringing in my ears disappeared. I was so excited when I could hear everything again without a constant reminder of the fire. It took me four days after I was admitted to the hospital to get out of bed. Of course, I wanted to visit Brian but between the big bulky cast that now encased my ankle, and a new pair of crutches, I didn’t walk for long. The nurses didn’t seem very pleased with the idea of me visiting him just yet either. So, to distract me the nurse came in and started discussing various exercises with me.
“Just say, ‘My name is Tony Taryn.’ Just say that, and we can be done for today if you want!”
“ My name is Anthony Taryn.” I croaked. It didn’t even sound like my voice, but it was an improvement from the last time I tried to say something.
Another time the nurse came, she brought a tray of different foods. “These foods will help with sore throats, so let’s see if we can get your voice back.” Before the nurse left that day, I asked for her name. “Capri.” Was all she said, leaving with her usual bustle.
Each day we tried something different to bring my voice back. I steadily began to talk again, though only during our meetings. I didn’t want ruin my vocal cords. Not when they had just started healing. Most of the time I wrote on the notepad.
“I have some visitors,” Capri announced, and when she opened the door, my little sister, Taylor ran in with my parents in tow.
“Anthony!” Taylor cried, “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” I wrote, “But my throat is a little sore.” As much as I wanted to talk to her, I knew it would only scare her more to hear my voice.
“But why are you in the bed?” Taylor asked.
“I just got hurt. It’s no big deal, I’ll get better soon.”
She furrowed her brow, deciding whether or not to believe my story. She had the same so-blonde-it’s-almost-silver hair as I did as well as my deep brown eyes. Even though we were six years apart, me at seventeen, and her at eleven, anyone could mistake us for twins if they ignored our heights. Finally, Taylor decided she believed me and leaned over to whisper in my ear. “I tried to come sooner, but Mom and Dad said they were too busy. I’ve been begging for days, and today they finally let me come visit you!”
My sister retreated and my mom walked up and patted my cheek. “You’ll be fine in no time, I just know it.”
When it was my dad’s turn to say something, he just nodded to me respectfully and said, “Sad you lost all your experiments. Heard you were working on something… interesting.”
I’d been asking Capri for my coat for a few days now, but she kept pushing it off, telling me it wasn’t the time. Now was the time.
“Capri! Can I have my lab coat now?”
She glared at me, and glancing at my parents finally went to retrieve it. An air of smoke hung around the jacket, and smudges of ash were dusted over it. It had holes in it, which I have no memory of getting, but at least the pockets were intact. A feeling of fear grew in my bosom even seeing it, but I reached for it, ignoring the resistance in my limbs. While my family was staring, confused at me, I finally wrote, “I didn’t lose all my work.”
Dad’s eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”
Slowly, I pulled out the invisibility potion, it’s silver tint glinting in the room’s overhead light.