PhD final year, oh please, let this be the final year year 4

I really shouldn’t be writing my personal thoughts in my lab journal, should I? Oh well. It doesn’t matter. No one will ever read this anyway. This is doomed to fail.

17 October 2019: First experiment using a live test subject

Goal of the experiment: To stop a mouse from dying. It was supposed to be antibiotics research. I was going to improve the current treatments for tuberculosis. My dream was to make a small contribution to medicine. How did it go from antibiotics research to this? Why am I still here?

Hypothesis: It’s not going to work, is it? It’s impossible. It has to be impossible.

Procedure and observations: Time: 21:46. Lightning has struck at a distance of 17 km. The wind is northwesterly. The setup has been successfully calibrated and is running with a stable background current. All circuits are online. The overall efficiency is 95%. The first test subject is a lab mouse (mus musculus, 8 weeks old). After sedation, it was placed in the wire cage and hooked up to the electrodes. (How did the ethics committee approve this? Maybe the Prof bribed them. Hell, maybe he blackmailed them.)

Time: 22:21. The distance to the thunderstorm has decreased to 3.2 km. (Looks like tonight will be the night! Perhaps when this experiment fails, the Prof will let me go.)

Time: 22.29. Lightning has struck the main lightning rod, and the energy has been channelled into the setup. This has activated the stasis field. The entire setup is enveloped in a blue glow that is too bright to look at and there is a high-pitched whistling noise. There are no observable differences between this experiment and the previous tests when the setup was empty.

According to the computer readouts, the fatal electroshock was delivered to the test subject after 30 seconds. However, the test subject’s vital signs are steady. (HOW is that POSSIBLE?! That mouse can’t be alive! Not after being zapped with a gazillion volts! There might be a malfunction. Maybe something short circuited. Yeah, that’ll be it.) A further investigation into the delivery of the electroshock is needed. The stasis field is still stable at the target value.

Time: 22:37. The noise stopped abruptly and the light has slowly faded away. The setup has gone into the automated shutdown procedure. All circuits are intact. The stasis field was active for a total of 7 minutes and 43 seconds.

The test subject is in good health, with a steady pulse. There are small scorch marks where the electrodes were attached. The secondary measurement system confirms that a fatal current was delivered to the mouse.

How is it alive? HOW? HOW? HOW?

Conclusions: The stasis field successfully prevented the test subject from dying after a fatal electroshock was administered. I don’t know what to think anymore. What am I going to tell the Prof?

18 October 2019: Replication studies

Goal of the experiment: To see whether the results from 17 October 2019 are reproducible.

Hypothesis: I don’t know what to hope for.

Procedure and observations: The Prof said we’re not going to do this. Apparently, replication studies are for wusses. I tried to tell him they’re a requirement for publishing academic papers these days, and I need at least three papers for my thesis. He said he doesn’t care. He’s got tenure. Guess I won’t ever graduate.

I’m stuck in the lab calibrating the setup over and over again, while we wait for the next thunderstorm. The Prof will join me for that. I have no idea what he has got planned. Perhaps we’re going to try it on a primate? Maybe he’s got a cute but desperately ill granny? Or a death row prisoner and an electric chair? That would be more his style.

Conclusions: The Prof is definitely a mad scientist.

23 October 2019: The main experiment

Goal of the experiment: To Conquer Death. From the way the Prof talks about it, I can tell capital letters are involved.

Hypothesis: It’ll be weird.

Procedure and observations: I’m not sure what we are doing tonight, to be honest. The Prof says it’s the “main experiment” but as far as I can tell he’s got no test subjects. The small wire cage that I put the mouse in is gone. In its place is a glass box, large enough for a human to stand in. It resembles a shower cubicle. The Prof is muttering to himself and scribbling in his own lab journal. A thunderstorm is on its way. The setup is running. The background current is stable, blah blah blah. Everything is the same as on the 23rd.

Time: 19:24. Lightning has struck! The stasis field has been activated, it’s running steadily with no fluctuations. The blue light and whistling noise are back.

Time: 19:32. The Prof is cackling maniacally and rubbing his hands together. This can’t be good. Perhaps I should have knocked him out and pulled the plug. But it’s too late now. The blue glow is fading. There is something in the glass box. It appears to be a column of dense black smoke. It swirls like ink in water, and remained after the setup shut itself off.

The Prof has ordered me to analyse the smoke - without opening the glass box. There are a number of sensors attached to the box. The temperature and pressure are normal. The air inside the box contains 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen - the same as the average composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. There are no abnormal magnetic fields, and the background radiation is within normal levels. Spectroscopy has so far been unsuccessful, as it is impossible to prepare a sample with the required optical density without opening the box.

The smoke appears to respond to external stimuli, although I am not certain what these might be. Its movements are too orderly to be random. There is something familiar about its form. It seems vaguely human. Hooded and robed, and there is something long and glitteringly sharp in its hand.

The Prof has asked me to record his words for posterity: “I have conquered Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Conclusions: A dark, smoky form has been trapped inside a glass box. It’s form resembles literary descriptions of Death. I may be going mad.

24 - 31 October 2019: Report of the consequences

Goal of the experiment: To find out what the hell actually happened and what the consequences are.

Hypothesis: It can’t be good. Isn’t death a part of life?

Procedure and observations: This standard lab journal format is not meant for the kind of mad scientist shenanigans I’m currently dealing with. But it’s the only thing I’ve got so I’m clinging to it. The Prof spends all his time in the lab, cackling to himself. He refuses to answer my questions. So I have attempted to provide a preliminary analysis on the impact that the previous experiment has had on life on Earth.

Humans: The news is full of stories of people surviving strange accidents. I have interviewed a paramedic who claims she has not seen anyone die since the 23rd. She told me of three specific cases involving miraculous escapes from death:

1. A man was caught inside a burning house. After the fire was extinguished, he was found alive. He was severely burnt and his lungs were damaged from smoke.

2. A car, travelling at nearly 100 km/h, crashed into a tree. The driver and all three passengers survived, although they had horrific injuries.

3. An old woman fell down the stairs in her house. She broke her neck, but survived.

I have called three hospitals and five funeral homes. They confirm that no one has died since the 23rd. However, the hospitals have seen a number of patients with injuries that should have been lethal.

Animals: A number of supermarkets report that customers have started panic-buying meat and fish. There are rumours that animals in slaughterhouses no longer die. I have been unable to confirm whether this is true. However, I have spoken with researchers who work with lab animals. No one has been able to kill a mouse since the 23rd. Even the fruit flies and nematode worms appear to be immortal.

Plants: Lack of death appears to affect the plant kingdom as well. I have spoken to a biologist who works on the floor above mine. He says he has observed a strange lack of dead plant material these last few days. This may affect numerous species. He talked about the insect apocalypse and the collapse of food chains and entire ecosystems.

Bacteria: I grew E. coli bacteria in half a dozen petri dishes, and attempted to destroy them in various ways: antibiotics, heat, alcohol, etc. They shrivel but refuse to die.

Conclusions: Bloody hell. If it weren’t for the fact that we’d caught Death, I’d say we were all going to die.

1 November 2019: Final experiment

Goal of the experiment: I need to find a way to fix this.

Hypothesis: I don’t know anymore.

Procedure and observations: Everyone I have spoken to agrees something strange is happening, but no one believes me when I say we have captured Death in our lab. The Prof refuses to listen to reason. But something must be done. So I have drugged the Prof’s coffee. He is unconscious in a broom cupboard. I have the lab to myself.

The setup is exactly as I last saw it. The smoky figure is still inside the glass box. The more I look at it, the more it looks like Death. It is cold inside the lab, and I feel like there are eyes underneath Death’s shadowy hood, eyes that follow me around the room.

The Prof’s setup must be destroyed, and Death must be released. But how?

One side of the glass box is hinged, like a door. Death turned to look at me, and that was when I heard the voice. It rattles like bare branches in the wind.

The following is a rough transcript of our conversation. I was not as eloquent as this, of course.

Death: “You can open the box, but not my prison. It’s sealed.”

Me: “But the world needs you. Nothing is dying.”

Death: “And because nothing dies, nothing lives. Yes, the world needs me.”

Me: “So how do I get you out?”

Death: “Only a death can break the spell.”

Me: “But nothing can die while you are inside.”

Death: “Correct.”

Me: “Can something step inside with you?”

Death: “Yes. But who will die? Who will be the sacrifice?”

Me: “I have several petri dishes of E. coli…”

Death: “Human ingenuity trapped me. Human ingenuity must release me.”

Apparently, I made a mistake with the drugs in the Prof’s coffee and then I put him at an awkward angle inside the cupboard, so that his windpipe was blocked. He is already stuck in limbo between life and death, like all those hospital patients and my E. coli. If I shoved him into the glass box, he would die, but his death would not be strong enough to break the prison. That leaves me. Or so Death says. Perhaps this is just Death’s way of getting revenge. It doesn’t matter. If Death returns to the world and wants me dead, then I don’t stand a chance. I might as well step inside that glass box with my head held high.

I have smashed the setup and destroyed all the records except this lab journal. No one will be able to replicate the experiments based on my notes. I guess it’s not much of a lab journal then, is it?

I wish I could think of something deep to write, as my last words.

Conclusions: Someone else will have to write this part. I have to finish the experiment.

April 11, 2020 00:33

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Jexica Marcell
20:10 Jun 03, 2020

This story is SO GOOD. I loved how you used a lab notebook speech instead of just normal speech in the story! This was a great story. Keep on doing great. Also, sorry if this is too much to ask, but can you review my stories?


19:55 Jun 04, 2020

I'm glad you like it! My own lab notebooks actually have the occasional "I have no idea what's going on" in them :) And of course I'll read your stories!


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Genevieve Taylor
22:45 Apr 15, 2020

This story is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I love the combination of official, lab-notebook speech and personal insights from the character. The hypotheses were my favorite. I was engaged throughout the story. Great job!


19:10 Apr 16, 2020

Thank you!


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19:42 Apr 16, 2020

This is a captivating reveal of the mind in an orderly manner.


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