“Quickly, Igor! Throw open the skylight! This storm will not last forever!”
“Yes, master!” The hunchback threw all his weight into turning the wheel that operated the mechanism. High above them, at the top of the turret, a panel slid open. The doctor’s maniacal laughter was drowned by a thunderclap.
“And now, the first switch.”
Igor pulled down a large handle.
Igor obeyed. “Let me guess: the third switch!”
“Now!” the doctor cried. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them. His eyes were wild and rolling as overhead lightning flashed. A bolt struck the conducting rod. A streak of hot blue energy flashed down the length of the apparatus, cracking and buzzing with electricity.
“The time is upon us!” the doctor yelled with glee. “Igor, attach the electrodes to my creation’s neck.”
“Yes, master –”
Their work was interrupted by sonorous knocking at the castle door.
“Who could that be?” the doctor wailed. “Who would be out on a night like this?”
Igor’s shrug accentuated his hump.
“Weary travellers, perhaps? Got themselves lost. Shall I let them in?”
“No! Hang on, wait! Yes! Let them in! They will do for spare parts. But be quick about it!”
Igor shuffled off to answer the door. While he was gone, the doctor made final checks to the equipment. He allowed himself a snigger of excitement and anticipation. He was going to be famous! He was going to be remembered forever as the creator of eternal life. He –
“Master,” Igor was back, appearing somewhat downcast. “It wasn’t weary travellers.”
A man in a pinstripe suit stood dripping on the flagstones, his drenched raincoat draped over one arm and a briefcase dangling from his fingers. He held out a business card. The doctor snatched it and peered at the inscription while lightning flashed anew.
“What the hell is this?” he gasped.
“I’m afraid I’m shutting you down,” said the man in the suit. “This equipment has not been PAT tested and until it has been, it is not to be used.”
“WHAT?” the doctor gaped. “Are you serious?”
“I always am,” said the man proudly, “When it comes to matters of health and safety.”
The doctor tore the card into confetti and threw it in the man’s face. Then he slumped against the table, crushed by defeat.
“It was the villagers who put you up to this, wasn’t it?”
The man remained tight-lipped but a smirk played at the corner of his mouth.
The doctor shook his head. “Time was this place would be under siege with a mob armed to the teeth with flaming torches and pitchforks. Now all it takes to halt the march of progress is bureaucracy. What a world!”
“You can arrange for a tester to come out,” said the man. “Could have one with you within a fortnight.”
“No, no,” the doctor lowered himself onto a stool. “I shan’t bother. Igor, show the nice man out.”
Igor did so and returned to find the doctor bowed and broken.
“Master?” he hardly dare approach.
“Society has monsters enough,” the doctor sighed. “I am redundant.”