A Fine Gamble

Bradley was not always a genius.

He had a gift, but the secret of his great intellect was homework and something of a risk. That, and the pound of elevendust he hammered back; it's grey and white flecks plastered to one side of his nose and arm. A great maze of wire cages and tunnels wound through the humid apartment. Armed with a pair of nail clippers and a butter knife, his red head hovered over his workspace: a checkered game board duct taped to the compromised frame of an otherwise attractive coffee table. Blackbirds gathered outside his window, on the fire escape. One of them fell down.

Bradley stuck a scarred tongue out as he adjusted a green wire, connected to a large battery he scavenged from his tenement's communal storage. Instinctively, he pressed back into his stool just as the live wire began to surge and crackle. He smiled when the gentle glow of the digital timer pulsed to life. Bradley amused himself for a bit, pressing bright yellow wax against the black plastic of the worn battery, giving hints of small curves and squiggled lines just outside an angry red caution label.

Like a soucouyant, he sloshed through his carpet.  Slosh-sloshed over to a set of cages, just to the right of an open window, where the a tired air conditioner hummed and buzzed. The blackbirds fled to a storey above. From below, he heard the familiar sound of a mo-ped, rolling into inner space. He leaned out over his shattered, lonely window, a small paper box in hand. The familiar face of Aeda peeked out of her helmet.

"Bradley!" She waved, taking an excited half-step up the sidewalk, towards the tenements front door.
He signed for her to stop and flung the small package down to her.
What's this? she signed back. Then turned the package about.
Can you just take it to the Professor? he returned.
She shrugged and tucked it into a satchel behind her scooter.

Bradley lowered an assaulted set of venetian blinds over a shattered window, as he heard Aeda’s small vehicle carry her to Professor Rhine’s office at the university. He took off his shoes, they were wearing him down.  He grabbed an open soda can and turned it on its side, the sound of tiny washers and bolts and screws dancing around inside of it. He plucked a small copper trinket from his stash and made his last preparations on a small portable cook stove, heavily modified from its previous intent.  He snapped his fingers and turned the radio up. He didn’t know the music was in his head. A woman laughed in the street to a random joke. The birds returned to Bradley’s lonely window.

Slosh-slosh-sloosh, he pushed through his apartment. The door he entered the night before was sealed tight with a determined mix of ducting tape, garbage bags, and towels. Lots of towels. They were too soaked now to dry off later. Slosh-slosh. He goes into the bathroom and makes sure his other towels stay dry. He shuts off the sink. It bubbles at him. Every light is off in the apartment, but the sunlight from the single window fills nearly every crevice. Even from his seat on the toilet, through the broken blinds, he could see into the other apartment, a large man sat, ate. Bradley stood up.
One last preparation.

He neared the window again. The blackbirds didn’t flee this time.

He lifted a sheet off the cage and a tiny rodent stares back at him. Beside him a great mass of tiny, fuzzy bodies rest, unmoving. The last rodent seemed a little agitated to Bradley.

“Hello, Monsieur Wiggles!” He fished him out of the cage. “It’s great to see you again. It’s been such a long time and I know you are anxious to get started.”

He struggled over to another open cage sitting on the counter. He put Monsieur Wiggles in and shut the cage. The maze had many paths,  branching off in myriad directions. An old traps sat where the Monsiur Wiggles was, having once born the delicious treats of yogurt-balls at one point. Now, only the hint of a grey and white powder adorned it. The rodent immediately went to the trap unsatisfied. The trap had been spent.

Bradley looked at his watch (which was dead), and pushed himself over to the battery to set the time. He had trained them well enough. Bradley then went over to a pot on his stove and gave himself a last plunge of elevendust before the experiment could begin. Yes, that’s it.

Bradley sloshed across the room and put a fresh new trap at the far end of the maze. A powdered ball sit on it. He also strung two new wires, a live and dead one, from the hammer and post of the trap. He turns on a tape recorder strung from the ceiling.

“My name is Bradley Fines. This is test number #514. I am moving to stage number 3. I am testing Hamster #4852. Subject is slightly agitated, probably due to stress. Fed and bathed. Stage three will test for the subject’s awareness of eminent danger of itself, of its caretaker,…” Bradley holds his hand to his chest, “as well as the threat to the rest of Mister Wiggles’ immediate environment, that of Building 39. Due to the severe damage that this experiment could cause, I have taken the liberty of forwarding my previous finds to Professor Rhine at the university, for review as per his request.”  He began to think about his award acceptance speech.

“I’m pleased to announce…”

 Slosh-slosh. Bradley pulled two milk jugs out of his closet and set them on the floor. They were full of something.

“…Bradley Fines as the new recipient…”

 Slosh-slosh. He put on a pair of goggles.

“…of the Markle-Dine award for…”

Slosh-slosh. He sat in his stool.

“…his contributions in…"

“The time is 8:49 in the Aye-Em!” Bradley lifted the door to the tunnel.

The hamster ran.

The End

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