Fahrenheit 212

The liquid in the Florence Flask had cooled to a sumptuous deep purple, flecks of gold swirling within it, glinting as they caught the light. Professor Henri Koffman slowly lifted his creation to the lamplight, and held it there, trembling; his face bathed in a purple glow, a gilded spark illuminating his bloodshot eyes.

“Could it be?” he murmured, his cracked lips chafing as they moved against each other. “I wonder.” The Professor gently placed the flask onto the bench, and reached for a pipette, keeping his watchful gaze locked on the liquid still turning and wheeling within.

“Right,” he said, and lowered the pipette into the glittering solution, careful to take no more than a single, precious millilitre. “Gently.” “Gently,” he whispered, holding the pipette over his plastic-gloved hand as he slowly twisted his hips. Behind him sat a large beaker of distilled, cooled water. The Professor positioned the pipette just above its perfectly still surface and squeezed.

At first nothing happened, the purple liquid simply dissipating into the water as if it were never there. Then, slowly at first, small bubbles began forming at the base of the beaker, where they vibrated for a moment before releasing themselves, one at a time, to pop at the water’s surface. The Professor was crouching now, the clear beaker at eye level; his nose almost touching its glass sides, his mouth wide open. Hurriedly he thrust his left hand into his jacket pocket to retrieve his Dictaphone, and clicked ‘record.’

“December 5th, two thirty-one a.m. Test two hundred and twelve. One millilitre of solution added to distilled water. Total dissipation. No discolouration of water, suggesting possible total dilution or adaptation of elements, bonding to or mimicking Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms.”

Back in the beaker, the water, now transformed into a light pink hue, was beginning to boil. The surface bubbled and hissed away vigorously, and the Professor was forced to move back from the emanating heat of the glassware. With the Dictaphone still recording he continued his analysis, his speech faster now, his pitch and intonation over-emphasised.

“No further visible reaction for thirty seconds, then, air bubbles. Incredible! Liquid boiling itself without an external heat source. Internally combusting. Boiling point reached approximately forty five seconds after application. Discolouration of water to pink, almost purple in colour, and extreme heat created in conversion from liquid to gaseous phase.”

Professor Koffman raised his right sleeve to his brow and wiped the sweat away. There seemed to be water everywhere; droplets streaming down the walls, glistening like a golden dew on the floor. A great gulf of steam had risen from the beaker and clung now to the ceiling, its pink hue reminiscent of a breaking mid-winter’s dawn. The Professor’s eyes moved frantically from the beaker, to the steam and back again. He took in a breath, choking into his chest, and continued to dictate; his hand pinching shut the external openings of his nasal cavity, his intake of oxygen sharp, fast.

“Critical boiling point passed. Molecules unstable. Condensation on all surfaces. Gaseous form now purple, acrid, reminiscent of sulphur, phosphorus, fluoride. Wall’s beginning to spark. Oh, sweet Jesus, they’re catching fire. Abort test. Repeat. Abort test.”

Henri Koffman dropped the Dictaphone and launched himself towards the boiling beaker in front of him. The liquid hissed and snarled furiously, spitting out sparks of gold that began burning into the bare flesh of his hand and face. Henri screamed and jumped backwards, the heat was too much. The whole room was alight now, blazing deep purple, flecks of gold crackling and flickering from the tips of the flames. Henri raced towards the laboratory door, ducking under the purple steam that stung the very back of his throat, skidding on the wet floor, stretching for the handle. Across the room the fizzing beaker burned the colour of a supernova, shone with the brightness of ten billion suns.

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Tim Waltho

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