As curious and inventive as he was, Collin wasn't your ordinary scientist in training. He was a bit—mischievous, and clumsy at the same time. Every time he has failed, it wasn't his fault at all. Just that his hands are the troublemaker in all these cases. He has never meant to do any of them...or ever meant to make them mad, but it's just his terrible karma.
I know all about him because he was my lab partner and my trusty friend since the first year of our of "Art and Science University" for our bachelor's degree.
But talking more about him, after we both graduated, we applied to become a Zoologist. We both shared a common interest in animals, and we both loved to study and make discoveries. Just the thought of identifying, and classifying more new species in the world gives me goosebumps. But, I retired though, Collin is nowhere to be found.
Those memories, those moments I shared with my group are coming back to me, all in a flash, though I still regret my decision. We've shared some tough times, and have equally had good times. I have kept in contact with the research group, and Collin, well I have lost full contact with him, but before, it happened, we were good friends.
During our first year of studying in the university to get our bachelor's degree, I remember, meeting Collin for the first time.
He was the new student, who came late on his first day (typical Collin) and the only empty seat he found was right next to my desk. At my first glance at him, I was finding it hard to believe that he wanted to become a scientist. I know people say not to judge others by the way they look, but I'm sorry, I just had to put a disgusting look on my face.
His white button-up shirt had some weird spots all over like he had spilled something on his shirt. He had forgotten to tighten his belt, and a couple of times, during the class itself, it kept falling, which made me flinch at him. His shoes looked like it made for two-year-olds like they were selling them for a larger shoe size. It had a lot of happy teddy bears as the print which, I have to admit, did make me giggle quite a bit (the thought of his shoes, even after all those years still make me laugh). His glasses were large, more for a tacky robot. Its lenses were a rectangular, and odd shape, for glasses to say the least. His hair was the funniest part. Half of his hair was compressed back with hair gel, but the other half looked like ten kids had just stomped all over him.
He really was an odd guy, but that's what made him and me friends.
I remember, that after class was over, I decided to eat lunch with the new guy instead of reading a book about Zoology.
"Hey...new guy! Wait up!" I had waved my hand to get his attention. He turned back and looked...scared.
"H–hi," he said very blandly, but I didn't mind. I couldn't imagine what he must be feeling. He was the new student after all.
I guess I shouldn't judge him that much.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name, what was it again?"
"M-my na-name is Co-Collin, b-b-but y-you ca-can c- call m-me Coll f-for sh-short," he replied, still looking pretty worried. I figured that he had some issue with speaking, because every word he enunciated, he was stammering.
"Cool, nice name." I noticed him, wiping the sweat off of his brow. "Hey, if you don't mind, can I ask you something?"
"S-sure. b-b-but I d-didn't c-ca-catch y-yo-your na-name." he struggled as he tried to respond.
"Well, ok. My name is Sienna. Thank you for asking. But, my question is...are you scared?" I casually asked him, hoping he would respond.
"Wh-what d-do y-you m-me-mean?" he tried to ask me.
"I see that you look worried. Am I making you feel anxious, or something?"
"N-no. It-it's ju-just th-that—I-I've b-been ho-home-sch-schooled a-all m-my l-life." I see his head bowing down, and I feel sad for him. Now I understood why he was so scared. Poor guy.
"Oh, hmm...I can imagine how you're feeling right now. I don't want to talk about this topic anymore. Wanna sit down at the cafeteria?" just as I had asked him, one of my Marine life books and my Chemistry textbooks fell from my backpack. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know that my backpack was unzipped...my fault!"
As I bent down to pick the fallen stuff, Collin bent down and seemed interested in only one of the fallen books.
"Whoah. You like animals!? Marine animals? I love them! I have always thought that the blobfish was cute. It's always considered disgusting for some reason, and I don't know why. Narwhals are really cool too! Did you know that their horns which kind of make them look like a mythical creature, kind of like a unicorn, actually, are their teeth?!" he'd seemed pretty enthusiastic about the topic, but that wasn't the thing I cared about.
"Your voice...it sounds, clear," I tell him. He immediately returned the book to my hand and shied away again, his face as red as the color vermilion. "I'm sorry, did I say something which you didn't like?"
"N-no, y-you di-didn't. I-it's ju-just th-that I-I l-like a-animals. I c-came t-to th-this uni-ver-versity t-to g-graduate a-and b-become a Z-Zoo-Zoologist." he continued staring back at the ground.
"Really? I love animals too! You see, before you came, every day at lunch break, I used to sit inside the library and keep reading about animals–well, until lunch was over, of course. My whole life, I've dreamed of becoming a Zoologist." I told him excitedly.
"I guess that we should go to the library instead of the cafeteria. Maybe we can read more books!" he suggested, and I really did like the sound of that.
But that's when I noticed some strange about him.
I remember my young self, many years ago, I had always felt a little suspicious about him, because of the way he talks. When we aren't talking about animals, he starts stammering, but when we're talking about animals, it stopped. Of course, this odd behavior of his vanished right after we graduated, I had always thought of why he switched his talking style.
The same thing happened when he was talking to others. But, I figured I never ask him about any of these things. But if Collin was ever spotted, and if he ever reads this, he'll probably know what I've always thought about him.
As we both were walking the long and narrow halls of the university, he started the new conversation, which I thought was very surprising. But I was willing to listen after the emptiness of these halls and the awkward silence we were having before.
"D-do y-you h-have a pet?" he asked.
"Well, yes, I do. I have a little cocker spaniel. It's a baby. The mother died just last month. It was a terrible night." I tell him.
"W-well, I-I used to have a pet too. Until he left me."
"Oh no. What was your pet?" I asked.
"It was a cottontail bunny. He was the only one I used to talk to. That is, of course, before I met you. You're my first friend. I am pretty grateful for it." his voice becomes a little hard, and a bit emotional, but he stops stammering.
"I'm sorry about your bunny,"
"Thanks. I named him Mr. C." he told me, now, his voice was normal.
"Mr.C? Does the 'C' stand for anything?" I ask him, looking pretty confused.
"Well, I named him Mr. Carrots...the most obvious name for any bunny in the entire world." he continued telling me, and I laughed.
As I am writing this, it's helping me remember all the good moments we had shared many years ago. Though we are not really in contact or in much touch anymore, I hope that after he reads this short story, we will finally remember all the things that we have encountered, all the memories we have made, the things that carved our paths as friends.
Soon, we were all about to graduate. I still remember how happy I had felt when Collin got an award for showing excellence in all his academic studies. I couldn't imagine how talented and capable he was. I mean, it was his first year of going to an actual university, going to school. His dad was a rich businessman, who had many tutors teach him and then went he went to this college.
After those long four years, we moved on to the next stage of life, which was a real Zoology and Animal Biology University.
We had both applied there. Luckily, we got enrolled after taking a couple of tests (which were, by the way, pretty stressful, studying for twelve hours was pretty hard to do, especially while balancing my part-time job!)
That was when Collin really started dropping. Just because of his one, silly mistake.
He is actually still missing. No one has ever heard anything from him. I have always wanted to know where he went after the incident, which is why I retired. I gave up my dreams of becoming a real Zoologist, just to work in the FBI. I wanted to meet my old friend, but even now, I have no sign of him. I just wish...he would come back. Wherever he is. I know he's not dead, but, I just wish that the next morning, he would be knocking on my door, saying that he was sorry for disappearing for such a long time.
Alas, it has been about twenty years since this research for him has continued. Yet, there is not a single clue that leads to him. No traces, no tracks, nothing. It was almost like he disappeared with his strange pet, somewhere in this world, where no one would bother him.
You see, after the misfortunate situation occurred, he has lost contact with everyone he knows. It's almost like he wants to hide away, not know anyone. It is almost like he is hibernating for several years, not wanting to rise, not wanting to emerge, and meet the world. I feel like he's afraid of everyone, scared of what others might say.
I had told him that that he shouldn't have created a pet like this. I advised him to just tell me the truth. But after the day he created it, I have never, ever, seen his face again.
Though at the time, I felt very mad at him for not even saying a mere 'Goodbye' to me for leaving, I have officially left that grudge. Now my only motive is to get him back home, somehow.
I do know that finding him won't be easy. But I'm writing this as a sign of hope...that he will read it. That he will come back to everyone who has dearly been waiting for him for all these years. His clumsiness wasn't always so good, his curiosity, his skills were something we appreciated him for. If only he wasn't ashamed of his pet. If there were any way to convince him to come back to us. To this world.
Well, I've tried to forget everything that has happened so far in my life. Doing yoga, breathing, meditating, but still, every time I do something, it reminds me of those crucial moments. I'd never seen him so scared in his life. He was acting almost like a maniac, almost like...like he wasn't himself. He was not acting like how he usually does, meaning something wrong really happened to him.
On that stormy, cold night, the head professor of the Zoology and Animal Biology institute had assigned us a mission.
"I want you all to see if you can discover a new breed of marine animals. Humans have only discovered 5% of the 75% of oceans that cover the Earth's atmosphere. There is so much more in this world that we have yet to discover, yet to learn. Take this as a challenge, because this will determine if you six will be recruited as actual professor of Zoology and Animal Biology. Are you ready everyone? Take your gears and explore this world." he had told us.
We were all excited, having lots of plans, expectations, dreams, goals, achievements, everything.
Right when Collin, me, and the rest of the group were set out to go and discover, the professor had called him, had a little chat with him.
"Collin, come over here." I heard them say.
After that, I heard some mumbling and stammering from Collin, but when he came outside, other than looking a bit worried, nothing else had really changed.
"Hey, Collin, why do you look worried? What's on your mind?" I remember asking him, trying to help him sort everything out.
"Oh...nothing. They—they just told me that I was...the head of the group."
Now, I had been friends with him for a good amount of time to understand when we were telling the truth, and when he was lying. This was one of those rare moments when I caught him red-handed, lying. I had never quite figured out what they had told him privately, but since then, he had started acting a bit weird. A bit...strange.
Some things he said sounded quite peculiar, and whenever I asked him what was wrong, he would shake his head and say it was nothing, though I knew that there was something going on behind our backs.
But I didn't take his actions so seriously, but in retrospect, I realize what's wrong with him. Well, I'm not fully sure, but I suspect that he had been blackmailed.
Maybe they told him to find something, think outside of the box, creatively, and that our group just had to find new species. Maybe the threat was that he would get fired—or worse.
But these are just all of my inferences. I do not know what had actually happened in that meeting, but after a couple of days, I noticed that the professor was getting very restless and angry at him.
"Do you have it submitted yet?" they asked him in front of our group.
"N-no s-sir," he replied worriedly.
"Don't you remember out talk a couple of days ago?" he asked, and the thought of the talk made him flinch in horror.
"Y-yes. I-I do. We'll be done as soon as possible." he stammered, and soon this awkward and confusing conversation had just closed.
I remember, all of us asking Collin what he was talking about, but he just refused to talk to us about it. Soon, when we were all off on dinner break, he was working hard in the lab.
"Are you sure you don't wanna come with us?" I asked him for the millionth time.
I stormed off, thinking that he was being too stubborn and working too much. I advised him to take a break, but he seemed to concentrated on his work to even listen to what I was saying. I recollect that feeling I got, it was the same as how I had felt when he had yelled at me for the first time in forever. It is that same frustration, sadness, and anger which I feel right now, as I am writing this.
But basically, what had happened was when we were done with our dinner break, the next we came inside, we were shocked to see a hybrid animal—a monster, right next to Collin.
"GET AWAY COLLIN!" we all yelled in chorus, but he refused to.
"No. I created him."
It was a mix of a lion, a snake, and a coyote. All three wild and daring animals. They looked hungry and ferocious as if it could eat all of us in a second.
"Collin, what is this? Do you realize what you have done? This is a robotic animal you have created! You could be in trouble, Collin. Professor would not like what you have done." I told him to stop building this hybrid.
"No, Sienna. I must do what it takes. I have to leave, but before I do, he will be with me, as a companion."
"But aren't we all companions?"
"You don't understand." he chucked, miserably. "How could you all ever understand? You wouldn't."
"What is that supposed to mean?" I questioned him.
"Good night, everyone," he said, and closed the conversation.
Soon, when were in our apartment rooms, I woke up and climbed up to the balcony, hoping to get a little fresh air and forget everything that had just happened to me when I saw Collin, escaping with his hybrid monster.
"COLLIN! WH–WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" I shrieked, which made the others in my project awake too.
But Collin didn't look back, though I knew he heard me. He ignored me and escaped.
Since then, we have all been tied in knots, trying to figure out why in this entire world he would ever try to escape with his weird pet.
The next morning, we told the professor about all of this, and they smiled and assured us that it was for our best, for our safety.
As I am writing this, I still ponder about Collin's motive to get out with that hybrid animal he'd created.
Had he planned on escaping for all of his life? Why had the professor smiled when we told him the news about how he escaped? Was it their plan to send him? Why did he take his weird along with him? What was their conversation?
I don't know what had been going on in my life, but there were still so many unanswered questions.