by William Hoffacker
Today, there are scientists studying the flight patterns of houseflies. These scientists pluck a fly with tweezers, glue it to the top of a Lucite rod, and place it in a circular chamber, where lit panels blink on the walls, simulating changes in its surroundings, so that the dumb fly will believe it is flying. The immobilized fly flaps its wings, and a computer records a series of numbers. Scientists chew the ends of pens as they pore over printouts of the numbers.
Elsewhere, scientists are inventing teleportation, first by breaking down a human body into its subatomic particles and then not so much transporting them as constructing an identical copy in a second location, prompting philosophers to ask whether the original is alive or dead, disappeared or resurrected.
In another country, scientists smash atoms together. While the atoms careen toward each other at maximum achievable velocities, laymen march outside the laboratory with handmade signs and petitions, chanting their belief that the scientists will unravel the universe in their arrogant search for answers.
Right now, scientists are developing exotic new scents for air fresheners.
Scientists are building prototypes for humanoid prosthetic limbs that fire laser beams.
One group of scientists monitors the effects of sunspots on crayfish populations in southeastern North America.
A different type of scientist attaches adhesive sensors to the arms, legs, chest, temples, and buttocks of a desperate woman with a malignant brain tumor while she runs in a gigantic hamster wheel.
Still more scientists work for shadow governments and infect stray dogs and cats with rabies before releasing them into poor urban neighborhoods.
Some scientists dig up fossils and give Latin names to the extinct creatures that left them in the earth. They connect bones to other bones like assembling an ancient jigsaw puzzle. The fossils are vacuum sealed and protected from further erosion. One day, with cloning, scientists hope to restore the forgotten animals to the world.
In a top secret bunker underground, a lone scientist sips Scotch whiskey from an Erlenmeyer flask and thinks of his family on the surface.
Scientists everywhere tell jokes about the mad scientists of the movies, jokes about graduate students and lab assistants, jokes about folks who majored in English and the arts. Scientists seethe at our ignorance of their methods. Scientists gnash their teeth at the boards and chairs who cut their funding.
A scientist invents a weapon, or a tool that laymen will use as a weapon, or a method of transportation that armies will use to carry weapons, or anything of value that dealers will trade for weapons, and the scientist regrets, or doesn’t.
This scientist accidentally creates a sentient life form and destroys it before he can calculate the role he must play in rearing it.
That scientist accidentally creates a sentient life form that destroys her before she can reach the kill switch.
One scientist collects and preserves the brains of important dead scientists, measuring lobes and cortices, tracking the hideaways of genius.
Scientists seek ways to delay death. They splice genes, freeze stem cells, and grow human ears on mice. They chart DNA, turn bodies into maps. Scientists separate children from their mothers for the sake of field research. Many of our absent fathers are scientists, or so we were told.
After I completed my Master’s thesis, I felt freed up to write more spontaneously, to experiment in new forms and genres. Around the same time, I began reading a lot of flash fiction and nonfiction. I discovered the online journal Cartridge Lit and Brian Oliu’s book Leave Luck to Heaven.
During a period of unemployment, I made myself write a few hundred words per day by creating flash stories and essays based on entries from the Pokédex (an encyclopedia of the creatures from Pokémon). Most of these drafts amounted to little more than stream-of-consciousness diary entries, but a few were weird enough to be worth revising.
William Hoffacker was born and raised in New York City. He received his M.A. in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio University. His work has appeared in Noble / Gas Qtrly, Cheat River Review, Sundog Lit, and others. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona, and he tweets @YoungestOfOne.