FSU 18: Preserving Pyxis [WIP]

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HyperThermal

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« on: 12:11:42 AM 12/01/17 »
As the lightly rusted metal door shook and shambled up, the heavy odor of Old Spice Classic came at me as if it were a heavy fog of noxious nostalgia. My uncle, a technologically inclined man by the name of Samuel, used to apply this deodorant to himself in excess, and the scent has forever been associated with the good days I’d spend quality time with him when I was much younger. For hours on end, I would spend time close to him, playing games on the Sega Genesis, drawing the usual child scribble masterpieces with crayon, and so on. “Unco Sammo”, as I called him, had a distinct voice, like a Santa Claus performed by Harvey Fierstein: raspy, rugged, and full of an undeniably positive energy. Being so young, I was mainly focused on spending time with him, rather than prodding and interviewing him about his life.
As time went on, my main familial group moved around, going city to city, focusing on job and school opportunities, so a separation from Sammo was inevitable. It was in Sophmore year of college that I had learned that he had become a bit of a mysterious hermit, holed up in some shack in the Flathead Forest. The typical familial drama that was discussed rarely brought him up, and when other members spoke of his situation, it seemed as if he had died long ago. A year after graduation, I received a parcel from Samuel, containing the key to storage unit eighteen, the assorted paperwork associated with it, and a hastily written memo that could only barely classify as a note, let alone a letter. I don’t quite remember the exact message, as the pen ink used was smeared and smudged from oily fingers, but the gist is still clear in my mind. He wanted me to see a truth, but only when the time was right, no sooner and no later. I figured that being contacted by the police to inspect the unit had to have been it.
As the meager autumn lighting illuminated the unit’s interior, the first thing that caught my eye were the four file cabinets. For the last ten feet of the container, the cabinets were lined up on both walls, constricting the space considerably. The one in the far back right corner was covered in grey, glossy duct tape, with a small yellowed strip of paper on its front, with the same dimensions as the index card sized note I received just two years prior. Of course, these cabinets weren’t the only present objects, as the front was filled with clear plastic containers with Samuel’s old belongings. These were my first order of business, partly to make way for more investigation, but mainly to see if I could find any priceless artifacts from my youth.
The contents weren’t really anything other than what I expected. One box held all of Samuel’s VHS tapes, a collection of eighties movies with worn paper covers. Two boxes were designated for his game collections, separated by whether they were Nintendo or Sega. One box had a mixture of paperback books and some blocks of wood. The last two boxes were the most important, as they held photo albums and souvenirs. These boxes were the only ones I opened on site, as the gnawing feeling of times long past was aching in my chest. I flashed through glimpses of a life, from Samuel’s own youth, to his time in college with people I only barely recognized, and eventually, snapshots of my own younger self. I took in scenes of me playing with toys, or drawing a picture, or making it to a particularly tricky spot in a video game, but oddly scattered here and there were images of a sterile facility, and group shots of smiling people in lab coats. Toward the end on one of the later albums, some older pictures of Samuel in high school were put in between more recent looking photos him and a reddish brown haired woman with bright green eyes in different locales. The very last few photos in here depicted that same facility at night, a bit older on the outside but still very well kept, as well as a shot of a lab door. That last one was taken in the dark with the flash on, reminding me of crime scene photos from shows and movies.
After loading these containers into my car, I returned to examine the file cabinets toward the back. It was at this time when I noticed the jugs of Old Spice Classic, no doubt the source of the room’s scent. As I got near the jugs, I noticed an additional smell that was obscured by the deodorant, something I couldn’t quite place, but was familiar from a long forgotten experience. I did not want to quite tamper with it, as my priority was on the cabinets, and the smell wasn’t overwhelming. A check of the cabinets showed that they were sorted alphabetically, though the taped up one’s postcard sized label read “NDA 2019”. I pulled over the first cabinet, containing documents organized “A – I”, divided into drawers “A – C”, “D – F”, and “G – I”. Before I could fully investigate, I heard a familiar voice from outside the container unit.
“Hey, Buggaboo!”
I turned around, and at the opening of the steel unit was Sam himself, almost exactly as I remembered him, colorful shirt and all. The only difference from photos and my recollection was that his hair had already started greying a little in some places. To his right was the woman I saw in the photo albums, and she too was wearing a vibrantly colored sweater. For a moment, I was speechless, but eventually the warmth of familial fondness overcame the shock of being reunited without much warning. “Hi, Sam!” I started, “You here to get your stuff? I already packed up some of it, so I’ll help you bring it back to your place.”
 Sam sighed in relief, scratching his scruffy facial hair. “Thanks a lot. I won’t really be needing most of what you’ve already got, just some old photo albums. The rest you can have.”
“And what about these filing cabinets?” I asked, “I was thinking that I would’ve needed another day to get these out, but I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to move these now.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” he replied, “Oh, and I completely forgot to introduce you to Harper!” He gestured to his companion, who was already starting to move a filing cabinet despite her frail appearance. “Harp, this is my nephew, Jacob!”
Harper, still holding onto the filing cabinet, turned toward me, shyly detached from the immediate conversation, and muttered a quick greeting. She had already brought it toward the opening of the unit, so I naturally followed close behind with the cabinet I was preparing to look at. On the trek over to Sam’s car, we made some small talk about the weather and what was going on at the Fleming Storage Unit. After we hooked a right by Pollock Street, and out of earshot of any passerby, Sam opened up to me about his personal life and his job.
“You know, these files were about my work at the facility,” he said. “There really isn’t much I can share about what exactly we did, and I was really only expecting you to go in here once the Nondisclosure’s over in a couple of years.” We approached his new, yet modest, blue car, and he unlocked the trunk. As the cabinets were carefully put on their backs into the car, Sam carefully addressed me once more. “We worked on biological engineering, you see. Trying to revolutionize medicine by forcing our way into new discoveries. We had some success, but not really anything worth talking about, at least for now.”
Harper piped up at this. “Come on now, Sam, Jacob doesn’t need this put on him right now. Let’s just focus on moving this stuff and catching up on the present.” Samuel just silently held his arms up in forfeit.
The last cabinets and a few boxes of Old Spice were packed up without any fuss, and the three of us went to Marg Madness. If there was anything that I wanted to keep with me from the tenth, it would be this small get together. We put aside the grim reality of the body found entombed in metal, the needless secrecy and seclusion we had made, and instead we caught up with each other. I had learned so much about Sam, more than what I did as a child, and catching him and Harper up with my life story was entertainingly therapeutic. It was a deeply personal moment for all of us, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
As the autumn dusk sprung upon the world, we made our goodbyes. Harper was making one last check between our cars, trying to ensure that everything was all set. It was during this time when Samuel closely and softly spoke the most out of place farewell I have ever experienced.
“We pumped it from out of the ground. Poked and prodded it in ways it wasn’t meant to. I still believe that what we were doing can work, we were so close. The problem is it wouldn’t stop growing to fit the subject, even after it was removed. I want you to preserve it.” And with that, he climbed into the driver seat, and closed the car door. Harper, satisfied with her mental check list, gave me a cheery wave goodbye, and went into the passenger seat. The blue car unceremoniously drove off, vanishing in the distance.
I went back to the storage unit, to close it indefinitely, when I noticed a lone, forgotten and worn cardboard box of Old Spice Classic. Curiosity gripped me, and I opened up the box to inspect the jug. This is where that smell hit me, and I recognized it immediately as formaldehyde. I had to see what was in the jug, especially when I could sense soft, solid objects inside. Opening it, and shining a phone light inside, I saw the fruits of Samuel’s research: pale bits of a rat’s ear and legs that look like they were formed from mold, and a chunk of matter with reddish brown hairs, and a partly formed bright green eye. I closed the jug, nearly convinced the eye twitched to look at me, and hurriedly packed it back up. With the box in arm, I nervously pulled down the steel door for the last time, and went on my way to safeguard Samuel’s legacy.

Lysdoodle Weaver

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« Reply #1 on: 05:13:35 PM 12/01/17 »
I love the idea mad scientist "hermit"  who has loud shirts and is obviously  living the good life. I would like a line or two telling me who Harper is, girlfriend? Friend? Business partner? Science experiment. Speaking of:

“We pumped it from out of the ground. Poked and prodded it in ways it wasn’t meant to. I still believe that what we were doing can work, we were so close. The problem is it wouldn’t stop growing to fit the subject, even after it was removed. I want you to preserve it.”

I looked at I didn't see anything in the story that really links to it. It's  like Sammo told Jacob about the thing over the meal at Marg' s and the reader didn't  get to hear it.

Those are my only real quibbles. Good job.

urkelbot666

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« Reply #2 on: 07:38:35 PM 12/01/17 »
Very intriguing! I don't entirely understand the nature of what was uncovered about Uncle Sam, but the information that was given has got me thinking, and I feel that's a good thing. I like how Harper is left intentionally vague as a character, and how that relates to the reveal at the end. I'll probably be reading this one a couple more times to pick up on more details. I noticed a few typos here and there, but nothing too distracting, and nothing another proofread wouldn;t fix. I liked this one!

I considered my own story finished and e-mailed it to the judges yesterday. I wish I had waited one more day; my unit is right next to yours and I would have liked to include my narrator noticing the faint smell of Old Spice ;)
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HyperThermal

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« Reply #3 on: 01:59:03 PM 12/03/17 »
I love the idea mad scientist "hermit"  who has loud shirts and is obviously  living the good life. I would like a line or two telling me who Harper is, girlfriend? Friend? Business partner? Science experiment. Speaking of:

“We pumped it from out of the ground. Poked and prodded it in ways it wasn’t meant to. I still believe that what we were doing can work, we were so close. The problem is it wouldn’t stop growing to fit the subject, even after it was removed. I want you to preserve it.”

I looked at I didn't see anything in the story that really links to it. It's  like Sammo told Jacob about the thing over the meal at Marg' s and the reader didn't  get to hear it.

Those are my only real quibbles. Good job.
Harper is mainly intended to be a girlfriend and former coworker, however I will keep it vague as Urkelbot suggests.

I will add a few more contextual details while Jacob is inspecting the files. Originally, this would be where most of the story would have been, but I felt it would have been too bland to read and write. I will have a small section focused on the files, to help give the reveal at the end more build up. What they talk about at Marg's wasn't necessarily pertinent to the job, just a personal back and forth about shared experiences and what they've been up to lately. Again, would've dragged down the experience going over all the grain.

Very intriguing! I don't entirely understand the nature of what was uncovered about Uncle Sam, but the information that was given has got me thinking, and I feel that's a good thing. I like how Harper is left intentionally vague as a character, and how that relates to the reveal at the end. I'll probably be reading this one a couple more times to pick up on more details. I noticed a few typos here and there, but nothing too distracting, and nothing another proofread wouldn;t fix. I liked this one!

I considered my own story finished and e-mailed it to the judges yesterday. I wish I had waited one more day; my unit is right next to yours and I would have liked to include my narrator noticing the faint smell of Old Spice ;)
Thank you, please highlight where these typos are.

urkelbot666

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« Reply #4 on: 09:39:34 AM 12/04/17 »
Going back through, I only found a couple things. I thought there had been one or two more, but I guess not! One is, I believe that Sophomore has an "O" after the "H," It's just missing here. And I think there's a word missing here

were put in between more recent looking photos him and a reddish brown haired woman


I imagine it ought to be "photos of him"
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HyperThermal

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« Reply #5 on: 01:57:36 PM 12/05/17 »
As the lightly rusted metal door shook and shambled up, the heavy odor of Old Spice Classic came at me as if it were a heavy fog of noxious nostalgia. My uncle, a technologically inclined man by the name of Samuel, used to apply this deodorant to himself in excess, and the scent has forever been associated with the good days I’d spend quality time with him when I was much younger. For hours on end, I would spend time close to him, playing games on the Sega Genesis, drawing the usual child scribble masterpieces with crayon, and so on. “Unco Sammo”, as I called him, had a distinct voice, like a Santa Claus performed by Harvey Fierstein: raspy, rugged, and full of an undeniably positive energy. Being so young, I was mainly focused on spending time with him, rather than prodding and interviewing him about his life.
As time went on, my main familial group moved around, going city to city, focusing on job and school opportunities, so a separation from Sammo was inevitable. It was in sophomore year of college that I had learned that he had become a bit of a mysterious hermit, holed up in some shack in the Flathead Forest. The typical familial drama that was discussed rarely brought him up, and when other members spoke of his situation, it seemed as if he had died long ago. A year after graduation, I received a parcel from Samuel, containing the key to storage unit eighteen, the assorted paperwork associated with it, and a hastily written memo that could only barely classify as a note, let alone a letter. I don’t quite remember the exact message, as the pen ink used was smeared and smudged from oily fingers, but the gist is still clear in my mind. He wanted me to see a truth, but only when the time was right, no sooner and no later. I figured that being contacted by the police to inspect the unit had to have been it.
As the meager autumn lighting illuminated the unit’s interior, the first thing that caught my eye were the four file cabinets. For the last ten feet of the container, the cabinets were lined up on both walls, constricting the space considerably. The one in the far back right corner was covered in grey, glossy duct tape, with a small yellowed strip of paper on its front, with the same dimensions as the index card sized note I received just two years prior. Of course, these cabinets weren’t the only present objects, as the front was filled with clear plastic containers with Samuel’s old belongings. These were my first order of business, partly to make way for more investigation, but mainly to see if I could find any priceless artifacts from my youth.
The contents weren’t really anything other than what I expected. One box held all of Samuel’s VHS tapes, a collection of eighties movies with worn paper covers. Two boxes were designated for his game collections, separated by whether they were Nintendo or Sega. One box had a mixture of paperback books and some blocks of wood. The last two boxes were the most important, as they held photo albums and souvenirs. These boxes were the only ones I opened on site, as the gnawing feeling of times long past was aching in my chest. I flashed through glimpses of a life, from Samuel’s own youth, to his time in college with people I only barely recognized, and eventually, snapshots of my own younger self. I took in scenes of me playing with toys, or drawing a picture, or making it to a particularly tricky spot in a video game, but oddly scattered here and there were images of a sterile facility, and group shots of smiling people in lab coats. Toward the end on one of the later albums, some older pictures of Samuel in high school were put in between more recent looking photos of him and a reddish brown haired woman with bright green eyes in different locales. The very last few photos in here depicted that same facility at night, a bit older on the outside but still very well kept, as well as a shot of a lab door. That last one was taken in the dark with the flash on, reminding me of crime scene photos from shows and movies.
After loading these containers into my car, I returned to examine the file cabinets toward the back. It was at this time when I noticed the jugs of Old Spice Classic, no doubt the source of the room’s scent. As I got near the jugs, I noticed an additional smell that was obscured by the deodorant, something I couldn’t quite place, but was familiar from a long forgotten experience. I did not want to quite tamper with it, as my priority was on the cabinets, and the smell wasn’t overwhelming. A check of the cabinets showed that they were sorted alphabetically, though the taped up one’s postcard sized label read “NDA 2019”. I pulled over the first cabinet, containing documents organized “A – I”, divided into drawers “A – C”, “D – F”, and “G – I”.
I was able to take some cursory glances at a few prominent documents, each highlighted with a shiny sticker. It was mainly resumes, cover letters, the usual job application stuff, but a few stood out. There were diagrams and photos of some sort of cellular structure taken via microscope, a few geographical schematics with key markings, and a report on the development of prosthetics. Before I could fully investigate, I heard a familiar voice from outside the container unit. I hastily closed up the drawer, turning toward the voice.
“Hey, Buggaboo!”
At the opening of the steel unit was Sam himself, almost exactly as I remembered him, colorful shirt and all. The only difference from photos and my recollection was that his hair had already started greying a little in some places. To his right was the woman I saw in the photo albums, and she too was wearing a vibrantly colored sweater. For a moment, I was speechless, but eventually the warmth of familial fondness overcame the shock of being reunited without much warning. “Hi, Sam!” I started, “You here to get your stuff? I already packed up some of it, so I’ll help you bring it back to your place.”
 Sam sighed in relief, scratching his scruffy facial hair. “Thanks a lot. I won’t really be needing most of what you’ve already got, just some old photo albums. The rest you can have.”
“And what about these filing cabinets?” I asked, “I was thinking that I would’ve needed another day to get these out, but I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to move these now.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” he replied, “Oh, and I completely forgot to introduce you to Harper!” He gestured to his companion, who was already starting to move a filing cabinet despite her frail appearance. “Harp, this is my nephew, Jacob!”
Harper, still holding onto the filing cabinet, turned toward me, shyly detached from the immediate conversation, and muttered a quick greeting. She had already brought it toward the opening of the unit, so I naturally followed close behind with the cabinet I was preparing to look at. On the trek over to Sam’s car, we made some small talk about the weather and what was going on at the Fleming Storage Unit. After we hooked a right by Pollock Street, and out of earshot of any passerby, Sam opened up to me about his personal life and his job.
“You know, these files were about my work at the facility,” he said. “There really isn’t much I can share about what exactly we did, and I was really only expecting you to go in here once the Nondisclosure’s over in a couple of years.” We approached his new, yet modest, blue car, and he unlocked the trunk. As the cabinets were carefully put on their backs into the car, Sam carefully addressed me once more. “We worked on biological engineering, you see. Trying to revolutionize medicine by forcing our way into new discoveries. We had some success, but not really anything worth talking about, at least for now.”
Harper piped up at this. “Come on now, Sam, Jacob doesn’t need this put on him right now. Let’s just focus on moving this stuff and catching up on the present.” Samuel just silently held his arms up in forfeit.
The last cabinets and a few boxes of Old Spice were packed up without any fuss, and the three of us went to Marg Madness. If there was anything that I wanted to keep with me from the tenth, it would be this small get together. We put aside the grim reality of the body found entombed in metal, the needless secrecy and seclusion we had made, and instead we caught up with each other. I had learned so much about Sam, my family’s history, and catching him and Harper up with my own life story was entertainingly therapeutic. He talked about some of the vacations he took with Harper, a few little anecdotes about some people he made note of at the Fleming facility (namely that our “neighbor” to the right was unsettling at best, and should just be avoided.) It was a deeply personal moment for all of us, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
As the autumn dusk sprung upon the world, we made our goodbyes. Harper was making one last check between our cars, trying to ensure that everything was all set. It was during this time when Samuel closely and softly spoke the most out of place farewell I have ever experienced.
“We pumped it from out of the ground. Poked and prodded it in ways it wasn’t meant to. I still believe that what we were doing can work, we were so close. The problem is it wouldn’t stop growing to fit the subject, even after it was removed. I want you to preserve it.” And with that, he climbed into the driver seat, and closed the car door. Harper, satisfied with her mental check list, gave me a cheery wave goodbye, and went into the passenger seat. The blue car unceremoniously drove off, vanishing in the distance.
I went back to the storage unit, to close it indefinitely, when I noticed a lone, forgotten and worn cardboard box of Old Spice Classic. Curiosity gripped me, and I opened up the box to inspect the jug. This is where that smell hit me, and I recognized it immediately as formaldehyde. I had to see what was in the jug, especially when I could sense soft, solid objects inside. Opening it, and shining a phone light inside, I saw the fruits of Samuel’s research: pale bits of a rat’s ear and legs that look like they were formed from mold, and a chunk of matter with reddish brown hairs, and a partly formed bright green eye. I closed the jug, nearly convinced the eye twitched to look at me, and hurriedly packed it back up. With the box in arm, I nervously pulled down the steel door for the last time, and went on my way to safeguard Samuel’s legacy.