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Every moment that struggled by was counting down to the end. Darkness had nearly succeeded in its advancement, and this was going to be its final victorious conquest. The battle had been long and hard, but Darkness could wait. Time was on his side, after all, thought he.
A shuddering breath issued from the enemy and Darkness surged in for its first attack. His opposition’s flickering was a sign that the end to this war was near. Then, just as Darkness thought he might have won, the filament regained its luminosity, much to Darkness’s dismay. Forced to retreat from the light, Darkness regrouped and waited, the end would come soon enough.
Unfortunately, Darkness had underestimated the fortitude of his enemy, it had been days and Lamp had yet to go out. Darkness consoled himself, he could wait. Eventually, Lamp would go out, and he would have his long sought after victory. It was at that moment his chance came. The flickering had begun again! Wave after wave of Darkness’s troops attacked the light source, only to be pushed back as Lamp regained its force, but then allowed in again as it slowly left. This flickering continued for a minuet, Darkness was assured of his victory.
“Damn lamp.” The speaker smacked it, and the flickering ceased. “You’d think they’d give me replacement bulbs, or better yet- a new lamp!” Talking apparently to himself, the man continued to mumble vulgarities and complaints while pacing the small, almost completely dark, room.
His ever-changing course eventually placed him within arms length of an aged swivel chair. His arthritic fingers dug into the worn pleather as he examined the inactive terminal in front on him. Grunting with annoyance the man leaned forward to awaken the creature. Almost instantaneously, fans inside whirred and the screen buzzed to life, casting the room in an eerie bluish glow. Grunts faded to sighs, and the man sank into the old chair, eyes staring unseeingly into the monitor. It took several long moments before he understood what he was seeing.
“You’re still alive,” he said to the image on the screen with grudging awe. “I’ll be…” his thoughts trailed off as the image flipped forwards a few frames. Another terminal came to life in reaction to the first, but this one only displayed what, to an untrained eye, looked like random characters. As well as multi-colored bars, ever changing to accurately illustrate some phenomenon, that shifted up and down and lines with arches and dips, constantly scrolling across the screen were among them. Though their meaning wasn’t straightforward, they where of obvious importance to the old scientist.
Despite their age, his fingers waltzed nimbly across the keyboard. While the effect wasn’t immediate, it took only a second for the results to become apparent. The low frame-rate video now sprawled across the entire screen of the terminal. Glancing from a few specific spots in the video, the man’s eyes eventual came to rest on a small moving black dot circling its cage.
“Hardly stable… but most definitely alive, what an interesting creature…” He ran his fingers through his beard thoughtfully. “You are weeks past your approximated time of death, my numbers never indicated this as a possible scenario.” His eyes were fixed on the fly in the video, his mind totally enraptured. The nuance of its flight pattern, its faintest twitch of the legs, every aspect of this creature’s simple life, this biologist was processing it all. He had watched this single creature for months; he knew its thoughts as well as he knew his own.
“You’re nervous,” he spoke to the screen, “I would be too, your food supply is almost gone.” A strange sadistic smile cracked across the man’s lips, his research would soon be complete.
Time slugged by no faster than it had in the weeks preceding it, Darkness’s plans had temporarily been put on hold. He had still made no progress in the war with Lamp; in fact he had lost territory. Unforeseen rebellions in the east were dividing his forces; he was now waging war on two fronts, the war against Lamp and the suppression of the Blue-glow rebellions. The Blue-glow was unpredictable and strong, one moment demolishing his forces with its strange light, the next offering unconditional surrender. It was a problem, one to which Darkness saw no immediate answer. All he and his forces could do was continue the besiegement of Lamp and attempt to suppress the Blue-glow. And the opportunity to do the latter quickly appeared.
The ancient scientist had been asleep for the past several hours, time moved slowly in this lab, cut off from the rest of the world. It was coming up on two months since he’d even had contact with another human being.
The old man’s dreams were troubled; as the constant fidgeting of his sealed eyes seemed to indicated. In the silent darkened room, it seemed nothing was going to wake him. The next moment, all the screens came to life. Dozens of flickering lights and buzzing fans managed to jolt the man awake.
“Ngghh,” he muttered rubbing his eyes with clenched fists. The lights from the screen had momentarily blinded him. The black fading to color, his eyes came to rest on the clock next to him. It displayed the many hours he’d lived in this room, conducting this one experiment, and the millisecond the fly died, that clock would stop. Since the numbers continued to change though, it was obvious the fly had yet to drop dead.
Shuffling his feet in order to move the swivel chair closer to the terminal screen, the scientist squinted at the video.
“So you’ve finally become aware of your predicament. I was wondering when you would.” The man scratched down a few notes in an already over stuffed notebook. “It wouldn’t have been any fun if you were oblivious to the end.” He smiled as his eyes continued to follow the frantic flight pattern of the desperate winged insect. Every few circles it bounced off one of the glass walls, trying to escape. The man’s smile faded as he went back to scribbling down in his book, his eyes obviously straining in the artificial twilight of the room.
It would happen within the hour, the aging biologist was certain of this fact. His eyes, therefore, remained fixed upon on the screen before him. This was the moment he’d waited months to see. The reason he had lived, removed from society, for so many weeks. He would be here for the moment the fly died, to document it, to understand it, to watch the life lifting from its crusty body. And it was all going to happen in the next few moments.
The fly had kept up its panicked flight, the glass walls offering no escape. It knew its end was near. Recklessly throwing itself against the wall again and again it tried over and over to break out, into freedom, but that was quickly becoming an unfulfilled dream. The hour was quickly coming to an end. In the last few moments its flight became sporadic, crashing into the floor. Spasms laced its body until finally, nothing.
Success! The culmination of two months research had finally amounted to this, the split second the man had waited for what seemed like ages to happen had at last come to pass. His face was flushed with excitement as he surveyed, what he considered, the beautiful end result of his work. His gaze was almost loving, as he stared at the lifeless shell on the screen.
“Thank you my friend, for your contribution to science. You’re life has been put to a greater use than you could ever comprehend.” With a last happy look, he turned off the terminal. There was much work yet to do, documenting what he had witnessed only moments ago. The white haired biologist turned to check the still lit monitor.
“Heart rate… Brain function…” He read them off and jotted down the numbers in his ledger, “Time of death…” His eyes wandered to the clock, and his heart dropped into his stomach. The icy chills quickly turned to anger as he rushed back to the first monitor. He viciously revived the screen and surveyed the image. The fly was most definitely dead. His eyes shot back to the clock. It was still counting.
“Impossible, a malfunction,” he muttered. It was undeniable, every statistic said the fly was dead… and yet the clock had not stopped. “Well, there is a simple remedy.” Standing up, he ran his hands along the dark cement walls. They finally latched onto a service phone. Positioning it on his shoulder, he began to speak.
“Hello Julia,” he said to the secretary, “could you put Dr. Hendricks on the…” He stopped, suddenly aware that no one was listening. Only a low tone and his own breath could be heard from the speaker next to his ear. He let the phone drop; it bounced on its cord a few inches from the floor. “Julia…” he said hoarsely, backing away from the phone. Panicking, he ran back to the terminal. Franticly tapping away at the keys, he launched a dozen programs. E-mail, instant message, IRC; it was all useless. Several didn’t accept his password and in the others his messages bounced back.
“Damn it!” He smashed his hand onto the keys, causing the terminal to let out a short bleeping sound. Why couldn’t he contact anyone? Why was the clock still counting? How was he supposed to get out? In his mind, reason was fading and madness was setting in.
Joy of indescribable joy! At last Darkness had won the war. The Blue-glow rebellions had been put down once and for all, and Lamp had been defeated. The room had surrendered to Darkness, and he had engulfed it completely. This was now his domain, he had always known it was just a matter of time. Darkness had been patient, and he had been rewarded for it. Even the glowing numbers had disappeared. Oh those numbers had been vexing, always changing, never the same. But one day, about a week after the war with Lamp was won, the numbers stopped changing. They remained the same, blinked a few times, and went out all together. That had been the marker of Darkness’s total victory. Now the room was noting but shadows.
0:02:01:14:03:44. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds… That was what the clock read when it stopped changing. That was the moment the phone came back to life. There was a click, then what might have been a cough, and finally a voice.
“I’m so glad you realized what was going on before the end. It would have been boring if you’d gone to your death without knowing. But don’t worry; your life has been put to a far greater use than you could ever understand. Science thanks you.” Click.