Orel awoke to the beeping sound of his homemade perimeter alarms. At first, he thought it was due to the wildlife in the area again; his laboratory in the middle of nowhere meant the alarms triggered more on deer and raccoons than they did with humans. The mail wasn’t delivered here, and Orel wasn’t even sure if the cabin had an address. Still the same, Orel’s cautiousness was warranted since beginning his drug synthesis endeavor.
Orel swung his feet from the bed to the floor and grabbed binoculars. He rubbed his eyes in the dark to clear the sleep from them and peered down the long mountain driveway. He saw headlights.
“Hannibal,” Orel whispered and then bolted into action. He hurriedly dressed by throwing on a lab coat over his scarred chest and then struggling to get his legs in his pants made of chemical-resistant plastic that stuck to his skin. The beeping alarms were maddening, and Orel felt relieved to turn their speaker off.
“Shit, shit, shit,” he kept repeating. He rubbed at the scar tissue on his chest.
Orel heard the faint rumble of gravel crunching under the tires of the SUV he had seen on the screen. He had previously timed how long it would take for a vehicle to traverse the length of the driveway leading to the cabin, about a minute and twenty seconds. It would be tight, but he thought he had enough time for his ruse even though he wasn’t expecting anyone until next week.
“Well, as long as this SUV is just an unannounced visit instead of law enforcement. The law showing up would be a whole other problem to deal with,” he thought.
It was still dark in the cabin. Orel walked the hallway to the kitchen, feeling the wiring on the wall as a guide and stepping over boxes and tools strewn over the floor. In the kitchen, Orel grasped his palm over the red bar of the switch that controlled the generator and pushed it up to turn on the power. He heard the engine in the basement turn over, and the fluorescent lights in the kitchen flickered before illuminating the cabin.
When the lights were on, Orel quickly turned on the stove burners and heated them to a bright red. He grabbed the Erlenmeyer flasks containing a foul-looking greenish-brown liquid and placed each on one of the four burners. The flasks weren’t boiling yet but should be close by the time anyone came inside the cabin. His separation funnel, distillation apparatus, and a few other pieces of lab equipment distributed in the kitchen were clean and ready for use. He would need them as demonstration pieces for Hannibal if his plan was to work.
The sound of the revving vehicle’s engine as it crested the last hill to the cabin made Orel’s heart race, making him remember the most essential part of his ruse.
“Idiot!” he cursed, then rummaged through a kitchen cabinet until he felt the small leather pouch he had hidden between a gap in the wall. He grabbed the pouch and opened it to reveal two syringes, one filled with a clear liquid, the other empty, a piece of elastic, and an unlabeled vial containing yellow liquid. He used the syringe to draw the yellow liquid from within the vial and then pulled down his pants. Next, he wrapped the elastic around his thigh, close to his groin. Orel held his breath, stabbed the syringe into a vein next to his groin, pushed his genitals aside with the back of his hand, and injected the yellow liquid by pressing on the syringe’s plunger. Once the syringe contents were in his body, he exhaled before releasing the elastic.
Orel took a sharp breath and immediately felt the drug’s effects as it flowed into his bloodstream. He took the second syringe from the pouch, the one containing clear liquid, and injected the contents into the unlabeled vial. He staggered to a couch in the living room and then sat down while he adjusted to the drug. It was amazing, like nothing the world had seen before.
“A drug that makes you more you!”
That was the slogan Orel thought about as his mind started speeding up. His thoughts were coming faster and faster, and he remembered the power of the drug as it established residence in his nervous system. His mind ran circles around itself, judging previous actions and imagining future scenarios he might need to survive his present predicament.
Orel didn’t just remember but seemed to relive every moment that had got him in this situation. The details of stealing the two vials of Enhancify were so vivid because he had injected himself at work that day. Once experiencing the mental enhancement of the drug, he knew it was his moral obligation to steal Enhancify and provide it to the world. Everyone should experience this increase in their mental capacity, and the world would be better for it.
In those remaining seconds since Orel sat on the couch, the SUV stopped outside the cabin, and three men walked to the front door. But in those same seconds, Orel felt himself reliving the last months.
When Orel remembered the moment, he could see in his mind’s eye the drawings of molecules and chemical equations written on a torn piece of paper next to an empty syringe he had just injected himself with. During his first trip on the drug, Orel saw how the drug’s molecular shape fit into a specific protein within his cells like a lock and key. In that same instant, he saw all the possibilities the drug had for humankind. It would change the world.
And the company he worked for wasn’t going to have that power.
“It just isn’t right,” Orel thought.
Within the next week, Orel had met Hannibal, a significant drug dealer in Appalachia. Of course, Orel didn’t tell Hannibal about the drug, only that he was thinking of quitting his job and looking for ways to use his skills off the grid. But Hannibal had been more intelligent than Orel imagined.
The night Orel stole the only two vials of Enhancify, Hannibal had been following him. Hannibal and his two goons kidnapped Orel and found the two vials. They forced Orel to explain himself at gunpoint, and he told them about the drug. Next, Hannibal forced Orel to inject himself with Enhancify to see if it was safe. After seeing it was, Hannibal injected it too.
Hannibal became a monster. With Hannibal, there were physical changes in addition to mental changes. It was like Hannibal was on PCP, angel dust, and he became stronger and faster. But unlike PCP, he was lucid… and wily.
Hannibal set the pharmaceutical company on fire that night and destroyed all records of Enhancify. Hannibal blindfolded Orel and took him to a cabin. Since Orel had been planning on disappearing with the two vials, he had already wiped most traces of himself on the internet. He even told his company he was taking vacation days. He was off the grid. No one would be looking for him. When the blindfold was removed, Hannibal had shoved Orel onto the cabin’s couch and said, “Welcome to your new home.”
Orel refocused his mind on the present and felt a surreal mirroring of the past as the cabin door opened.
Hannibal stood in the doorway, a football player physique, brutish forehead, and characteristic forced smile. “Moral Orel,” he said with a grin of gapped teeth. “Good to see you working.”
Hannibal motioned with an open hand to the stove of boiling liquids.
“Since the time you gave me this scar, we seem to have worked out our differences in our business arrangements,” Hannibal said.
He had a scar on his cheek similar to the scar on Orel’s chest. It was from when Orel tried to escape by throwing acid on Hannibal. Hannibal had been on Enhancify then and dodged the acid from hitting his eyes. Hannibal then held Orel down and put the flask of acid against Orel’s chest until he thought it would burn through him.
“What are you doing here?” Orel asked in a calm voice.
“My calm demeanor will let Hannibal know immediately that I am on Enhancify. Normally, I’m terrified to be in his presence because he is so unpredictable. Knowing I’m on Enhancify will force him to be cautious, but it will also let me know if he is on Enhancify too. If he isn’t on it already, he will want to be. He’d use it right in front of me,” Orel thought. “This type of foresight is what makes this drug so amazing! I’m not afraid.”
Hannibal eyed Orel and said, “About that, gimme your vial.”
Orel handed it to him. He had already anticipated that Hannibal was here for one reason: to finally take back Orel’s vial.
Hannibal and Orel had split the vials the night of the kidnapping. Orel was successful in convincing Hannibal he needed Enhancify to synthesize Enhancify. However, when Hannibal pressed Orel on it, Orel had said, “I need to be smarter to make the drug.”
Which was a lie. One that paid off until now.
Hannibal said, “I’ve been taking care of our business, you know? I don’t have the other vial anymore; I’ve been giving samples to potential customers. I’m still waiting on a batch of the pure stuff you’ve promised me for a month. You tried to escape, and remember how that turned out? Remember me holding you down and you begging me to remove the upside-down flask of acid against your chest? I was so curious to see if it would burn a hole in ya.”
Hannibal lost his smile for a second, but it returned as he took out a syringe from his leather jacket. He filled the syringe and rolled up his sleeve. He nodded, and one of the two goons grabbed his bicep. Hannibal injected himself with the syringe, his eyes bulged, and he jerked his arm away from his goon.
“You’ve been using it yourself, and now you’re out,” Orel said.
Hannibal’s eyes focused on Orel with an intensity that would have shaken most people, but Orel vacantly stared back at him.
Hannibal’s smile never vanished; it only got bigger. Then he laughed and pointed at Orel, “You’re right, and that’s why you will teach me how to make it. Now.”
“You don’t have any training in chemistry,” Orel replied. “You can’t learn this.”
Hannibal said, “That’s where you are wrong; see, you said that you have to be on Enhancify to make Enhancify. Well, I’m on it now. Let’s cook.”
“We aren’t cooking. We are doing chemistry. I was the one that needed to be on Enhancify to synthesize it. It doesn’t work the same for you.”
The two goons lifted Orel off the couch, one on each arm. Hannibal pulled out a revolver, pointed it at Orel’s head, and then said, “If you are so smart while you using, the way I see it, you should be able to teach me too.”
Hannibal pressed the gun to Orel’s forehead. Orel didn’t say anything. Orel didn’t want to provoke Hannibal… yet.
Orel nodded, the gun rubbing against his forehead, then said, “Let’s get to work. I already have a batch heating.”
Orel began explaining the synthesis of Enhancify, and Hannibal was taking notes. Hannibal could actually follow some of the procedures, but that’s what Orel wanted. Orel was trying to explain the synthesis in a way that Hannibal could understand but knew that Hannibal would never be able to synthesize the pure drug. It took years of training to do that. Enhancify made you a better you. And Hannibal wasn’t a chemist; Orel was.
The next hour of explaining that procedure to Hannibal had the two goons getting bored.
“Bored leads to making mistakes,” Orel thought.
A goon yawned. Hannibal saw it and said, “Gimme your gun if your gonna fall asleep with it.”
That’s when Orel made his move. He tapped a loose tile on the kitchen floor, and the generator cut off. The room was thrown into darkness. Orel knew he couldn’t overpower Hannibal, but he could outsmart him. Orel had not been spending time synthesizing the drug for Hannibal; he spent it setting traps.
“Orel, I swear, if you are up to something!” Hannibal screamed. Orel felt the gun pressed against his forehead in the darkness.
“The generator cut off,” Orel replied. “Do you want me to—”
“No,” Hannibal replied. “Mark will do it.”
The goon that got caught falling asleep and had his gun taken by Hannibal groaned but a look from Hannibal had him running to the basement. Both goons turned on flashlights, and the one named Mark descended the cramped stairs to the cabin's dirt-filled basement. Those upstairs heard Mark’s footsteps going down but were silenced at the bottom.
“You see it?” Hannibal shouted. No answer came. “Mark, do you see it!”
There was no reply.
“What the fuck!” Hannibal shouted and nodded to the other goon. “Wait, leave your flashlight.”
“What?” the goon replied.
“Do it! You can use the one Mark has!” Hannibal yelled. When he was on Enhancify, there was no purpose in defying his commands.
The second goon descended the stairs, and Hannibal said, “Tell me what you see.”
“I—I don’t see shit without the light,” the goon said. “Wait, I see Mark’s light. He’s by the generator. He’s lying down and—”
“And what?” Hannibal shouted.
There was no reply.
“You fucker,” Hannibal said to Orel, then held back the gun to smack him. “You did this! Do you think I’m going down there now? I don’t think so; you’re a dead man. I got your vial; it’s worth a few more hits; what do I care if I lose this shit? There’s always coke and meth.”
Hannibal’s smile was gone now, and Orel made his last move. He pressed down on another tile in the kitchen, and the cabin was engulfed in a firestorm. Hannibal never figured out how Orel killed the goons or burnt down the cabin.
Orel knew Hannibal would use up the Enhancify because that’s what Orel wanted to do. It felt that good to be a better self. Hannibal thought Orel had finished the synthesis of Enhancify the same week as the acid-burning incident, but its purity was low, less than 10% of what Hannibal was getting from his vial. In reality, Orel had simply diluted a portion of the original mixture and spent the remaining time synthesizing sarin gas and wiring the floor to unleash all sorts of chemical warfare agents depending on the situation. The “broken generator” plan was one of many but one of Orel’s personal favorites. The goons would die easily from a basement filled with sarin, a lethal neurotoxin.
Hannibal collapsed, and Orel quickly took the gun from the psychopath. When Hannibal had injected himself with what he thought was the same vial of Enhancify that Orel used, but in actuality had been adultered by Orel moments after he took Enhancify himself. The adultered vial contained a paralyzing poison that Orel had chemically designed to be slow acting.
Orel wasn’t sure when Hannibal would come or how many goons he would have, so Orel just planned for multiple contingencies. In all his plans, though, dealing with Hannibal was actually the easiest part. Hannibal thought he could intimidate Orel and never thought Orel would kill him. So he called him Moral Orel because he didn’t believe Orel was a killer.
Orel walked from the rapidly spreading fire consuming the cabin and opened the door to Hannibal’s SUV. Enhancify makes you a better version of yourself.
And Moral Orel was a killer.