“Here we are then,” Alan pulled up in front of Marc’s house. “You sure you won’t come to the party? Put in an appearance? Stay for a quick one?”
Marc made apologetic faces. “Can’t. Tess is coming back tonight.”
Alan nodded. “The lovely Tess. Well, no Marine Biologists’ Ball is going to entice you away from that happy reunion. How long has she been gone?”
“Two months,” said Marc. “Two long months.”
“That’s some spa treatment! Must have cost you a fortune.”
“She’s worth it,” Marc opened the door. “Have a great weekend.”
He got out.
“Won’t be a patch on yours!” Alan laughed. He reversed and drove off. Marc stood and watched his workmate go, waving even when there was no chance Alan could see him in the rear-view mirror.
Marc skirted around the lonely seafront property, making his way to the back door below ground level. Overhead, clouds darkened the sky and beyond the boundaries of the garden, the sea rolled like molten slate. Marc let himself in, making sure the door was locked and bolted behind him.
Automatic lighting sprang to life as he moved. He checked readings on the equipment he had ‘borrowed’ from the lab over the past few months. All being well, he should be able to start returning it, piece by piece, after the weekend. His life’s work would be done and he – and Tess – would be able to enjoy the rest of their lives together in bliss beside the sea.
She had always been the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He still couldn’t believe his luck, that she had agreed to marry him. She could have been an international supermodel, with the world at her feet and the pick of the male population. But no, she had chosen him. Plain old Marc. Who would have guessed marine biology could be such an aphrodisiac?
The experiment had been her idea. After the boating accident that had disfigured her beauty, she had begged him to help her, to restore her face, to preserve her appearance for all time.
There are species of jellyfish that are to all extents and purposes immortal. They do not age and they do not die – unless you kill them. Make me like them, she had said, her voice rasping through the bandages. Make me beautiful forever.
And so Marc had set to work, conducting research, carrying out trials. Tess, in agony, had begged him to hurry up, but there was always one more test to do, always one more calculation to make.
Finally, she had taken matter into her own hands and injected herself with the serum he concocted before he agreed it was ready. Wild, foolish Tess, whose vanity always got the better of her.
Now, home from work, Marc was as eager as she was to see the results.
He pressed his hand against the tank. “I hope you’re not going to be disappointed, my love,” he said. “But we must never give up.”
A womanly shape shimmered in the water. Tess climbed from the tank, her hair drenched, plastered to her face. She stood before her husband as he peeled her tresses from her cheeks.
“Is it…bad?” she stammered.
Marc’s eyes were round with wonder. “You’re you again!” he gasped. “You’re beautiful! You’re a goddess!”
“Thanks to you, my clever darling,” Tess reached up to touch her face. “We shall be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”
She drew him into an embrace, enfolding him in her arms. Marc’s heart attack was instant and fatal. His skin boiled and his flesh dropped from his bones.
He had forgotten about the sting.