Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-1The cracked mirror reflected a broken woman. Her eyes; windows to panic, her hands withered with stress. Despite the summer weather beaming in from barely 3 feet away through a cracked pane of glass, the light upon the mirror seemed monochrome. At least to her.
She was out of time. Her grant was running thin, and she had spent all year meddling with things that ought not to be meddled with, not least because it was simply over her head. Over anybody’s head, she reckoned.
She took a step back to see whether she could get away with going into the public eye as long as the average person kept to their own personal space, decided she passed despite the wine stains on her sleeve, and left her tiny bathroom.
On the table in the hallway, her life. Everything she had worked on in a single test tube. A failure, in essence. With notes of ridicule. Not even close to what she was going for. Tests on nematodes? They ate each other. Tests on mice? They ripped each other’s skin off. Tests on chimps? She didn’t even want to recall that afternoon. Bloody Mondays.
Self-pity had made her late. It was time to submit her death juice.
The elevator was strangely tall and thin, thinner than yesterday it seemed. Perhaps a projection of her chances of success.
She was to pitch a product, yet she had no product to pitch. She could lie, but people would find out within the hour; a quick sampling of the formula would see to that. She could replace it with the strawberry milk in her handbag and get a better response.
My life is a joke, she thought. Ugh…They shouldn’t be burdening a single individual with a task for an entire industry in the first place. What is this, slavery?
One last ditch effort to check a bathroom mirror to see if her disdain for existence had improved… nope.
What to do… What to do…
Banging her toecaps apathetically on the bathroom wall, drying her hands for longer than is sensible, she had an epiphany.
That’s it! Fuck ‘em!’
She quickly opened her handbag, pulled the test tube out and poured the substance down the drain.
Nobody should get their hands on this. Could be consequences.
She went down the elevator, now wider than ever, and left the building, never to return.
The park was quaint, not in the ‘sales pitch’ kind of way, but genuinely quaint. A small bridge over a small stream – seemingly pointless really – the cracks in the wood filled with moss as old as the park itself. A few benches dotted around here and there with the occasional retiree occupying it, passing time. Two old men were feeding ducks in a quintessential duck pond. Bread is not good for ducks, guys.
In fact, it looks like the ducks were not doing well at all.
‘Hey jim, look a’ that one… you seen a duck keep its head under the water that long b’fore?’
‘Uh I guess, I dunno. How long?’
‘I been watching for like, nearly 10 minutes. How long can a duck hold its breath?’
‘Err, Google says… no more than 5… but I see its tail still moving about all duck-like so you must be countin’ wrong’
‘Nah, I ain’t countin’ wrong, you bloody fool’
The duck in question was indeed failing to drown itself. But if the two old folk had been in the water for closer inspection, they would have seen that was not the intent. The duck was gorging.
Below the water, a second duck, as dead as the first duck ought to be. The first duck was passionate. Its upper beak was driven like a spear into the spine, the lower beak hanging loosely, floating aimlessly, attached to the duck’s body by a mere strand of tendon. But the furious bird was far more focused on driving its face deeper into the spine, deeper. Must go deeper.
Eventually, the bones completely separated, and the corpse floated to the surface.
The seemingly possessed hell-duck finally lifted its head from the water, looked around, and casually made its way to the reeds. The old men stared in disbelief.