Joe stood next to his bottle and for what seemed like the millionth time looked around the lab listlessly for some kind of purpose. Having now exhausted almost every sane option and one or two insane ones, no new ideas jumped out at Joe. He absentmindedly picked up his phone and again tried the power button to see what the time was only to be quickly reminded that it currently had the energy of a sloth after a large meal. If there was one thing he was going to do when he got out of here it was to buy a case with a second battery in, possibly two batteries, in fact he was going to start carrying round a small phone charging generator. It’s bad enough that it barely lasts his work day but to fail him in his hour of need was just a step too far.

He turned back to the bench with the slightly humming computer and it’s dark screen and gave the mouse a wiggle until the screen flicked back on and nearly blinded him. Apparently his eyes were quite enjoying the half light of the lamp and weren’t overly keen on having a cheap monitor’s worth of light suddenly thrown at them. Squinting Joe read the time “23:53“ – this was not very encouraging. If no one had found him by now then he was pretty certain that he’d need to sit around until the first ultra keen people get in tomorrow morning. They’d probably find him while sipping kale smoothies after jogging to work; chirpy early morning people are a special level of smug that Joe really didn’t want to have to endure. Although Joe was at least pleased it wasn’t a Friday night – apparently his run of bad luck had managed to miss that trick.

Joe stared at his lab, 6 hours at least he had to now deal with. He walked back to the glass to look down the corridor while he pondered his options. Staring at angles out of the glass had replaced the door handle as his lab equivalent of a comfort blanket. Pressing his face in vain hoping to see 1 meter extra down the corridor. As comfort blankets go cold glass was certainly a strange choice but being trapped in a lab will do that do you, besides his other option was a spill kit which wasn’t looking particularly snuggly either.

Joe thought that he could either try and sleep on the floor, or try and find something to actually keep him awake until he’s eventually discovered by the smug brigade. He reasoned that at least if he was a awake he’d be able to attract someone’s attention if anyone did happen to come up to this floor.  Besides, sleeping on the cold, hard and possibly chemically contaminated floor didn’t exactly sound appealing. Trying to make a half decent effort of sleeping on a lab chair sounded like a quick way to find out what it’s like to wake up falling off a lab chair. So awake it was.

He dragged the lab chair over to the corner of the window where he could best see down the corridor and got as comfortable as he could manage with one cheek up against his blanky/glass, crossed his arms and stared. He wondered what Frankie would be thinking right about now. Frankie was also a student and quite used to random changes in Joe’s work day. The biggest problem was that it would probably interfere with their late night plans to play some games. Joe was conflicted as he was worried Frankie would be annoyed for being let down, but he was also worried Frankie might go on a raid without him and he’d miss out on the loots. He was pretty sure it was mostly the first one, which was reassuring. Oh well, by now Frankie would either be deeply immersed in some game or would have assumed Joe was working late and had gone to bed expecting to be woken up at some very studenty hour by Joe bouncing off the furniture in the dark.

When he did get home later tomorrow, Joe expected that he’d get little sympathy, probably just several minutes of having to hear Frankie laugh about his ordeal. Joe smiled, pleased that at least someone was bound to find this funny in the morning. Although he was pretty sure his colleagues would find it funny too, but somehow their laughs would be much less endearing. Oh god his colleagues, they would never let him live this one down. He was too tired to think what nicknames they’d come up with but he was certain they would barely make sense and yet somehow be impossibly annoying. Three years ago when he was an undergrad he dropped a tray with 5 glass bottles on it and even now some of the researchers that were around then still say “careful” and laugh every time he carries a tray anywhere.  At least Joe might now be known as the guy that broke the bottles and also got locked in the lab one time. Which would at least add some verity to their comments. Although if they found out about what he did to the bottle then Joe was pretty sure that the other two would be forgotten in place of a more bathroom based story. That little anecdote was staying between Joe, the bottle and the lab.

The computer screen clicked off again. It snapped Joe out of his daydreaming – he blinked himself more awake and rubbed his face. Joe’s energy drink binge had worn off now and the late night combined with the sugar crash were working hard to make Joe’s brain feel about as sparky and alert as wet cake. Every time he relaxed he found himself staring in to space, day dreaming in that very particular way the brain manages minutes before making you faceplate the keyboard as you fall asleep. Joe recognised this sensation well enough to keep trying to snap himself out of it, there was no keyboard to break his fall and he didn’t fancy slowly sliding down the glass and ending up in a heap on the floor. Being stuck in the lab was bad enough without faceplanting the floor.

After a while of blinking and face rubbing, Joe wondered how long he’d been sat staring in to space, it must have been a while by now. He realised that for the first time in years he actually missed having a watch. Like everyone he just used his phone for the time and in the many years since switching, this was the first time his actually felt it’s loss. But as his watch couldn’t play Pokemon Go it really wasn’t that tough a decision. Although it’s feature of having a battery that didn’t need charging twice a day was now looking like a very smart invention that might still have some advantages, at least until someone manages to make a wind-up smartphone.

Eventually curiosity got the better of him and he got up and walked across to the computer and gave the mouse another wake up wiggle. Once again his retinas made clear their objection to being suddenly subjected to that much light, clearly Joe didn’t listen the first time but they hoped the large white screen that was now burned onto them would remind him plenty over the next few minutes. The screen helpfully said “00:15” in the bottom corner, and Joe sighed with a combination of surprise and annoyance. Clearly Joe’s current situation was giving him lots of time to really get the hang of various dejected sounds and expressions and he had now graduated to mixing them in exciting new ways.

00:15 was no time at all! Joe was never going to make it through the night at this rate. He was either going to go insane from boredom or he was going to fall asleep on a lab chair and wake up as he very painfully moved to the floor. There was nothing for it – Joe was going to have to try and sleep on the lab floor. He looked down at the floor with levels of enthusiasm normally reserved for his supervisor update meetings.

Joe walked across the lab picking up a pair of purple gloves and crouched down in front of the the glass wall and ran his hand across the floor. No sticky patches grabbed at his glove which he took as a good sign but his glove did pick up some very curious colourful specks. He got up and went over to the cupboard and took out one of the out of date bottles of saline solution and a pack of paper wipes. He returned to the window and splashed the saline solution on the floor liberally. Getting down on his knees he wiped the floor as best he could, looking slightly disconcertingly at the array of pretty colours currently smeared across the wipes in his hand.

Eventually the floor was dry and seemed to no longer be making fun rainbow patterns. Which was probably the best Joe was going to mange right now. He did consider also giving it a bit of a wipe with alcohol to get rid of anything that wasn’t water soluble but even in his tired state he had the presence of mind not to use quite a lot of alcohol on the floor in what is a room quite obviously without air extraction. Although on the plus side he would have probably got to sleep a lot quicker.

He took off his lab coat and laid it as best he could across the floor, it wasn’t exactly the best mattress in the world but he was optimistic that it might mean he didn’t wake up looking like a join the dots puzzle of chemical burns. He thew down the pack of wipes at one end as a makeshift pillow. It wasn’t going to give him the sort of straight spine poster that is so often touted in mattress adverts but it might be nicer than the almost certain headache from having his head directly on a floor that he suspected was somehow getting harder the more he looked at it.

Joe lay down and was pleasantly surprised to find that the floor wasn’t any more uncomfortable than he had predicted. Unfortunately he’d predicted it was going to be about as comfortable as sleeping on a gravel road and he’d been pretty spot on with that estimate, which was no comfort at all. The subtle blend of being hard and that special kind of cold that feels like it’s actively trying to suck out all your body heat really made for an impressively horrible experience. He stared a the ceiling, willing his brain to think of soft comfortable mattresses, though he found that bit quite easy as his brain was all to happy to flood his mind with memories of soft, warm, comfortable beds for him to compare to his current circumstances. Joe realised that his brain had got so tired that it was now actively taunting him.

Before relaxing into his newly created bed Joe got up and turned off the lamp. No one was going to see its 40w glow and there was no point making sleep any harder to achieve, with the bed from hell Joe had already set himself a fairly impressive challenge. Joe also went and turned off the other bright light source – the computer monitor – before turning round to realise that he was now the other end of the the lab in total darkness. Joe felt his way along the fume hood, being very careful not to put his hand into it. Putting you hand blind into a fume hood full of mysterious glass is a very good way to have one less hand, at least one normal un-mutated hand. Eventually Joe reached his bed and lay back down. It was as uncomfortable as his back muscles remembered. In the short walk back and forth the floor had not, as Joe had hoped, suddenly turned into soft eiderdown.

Joe lay awake thinking about anything he could that wasn’t the lab. He ran through shopping lists, what he wanted to do at the weekend, books he’d wanted to read, anything to try and take his mind off his surroundings. Although his desire for freedom often brought him back to cycling through ways out of the lab. None of which were any more helpful than before, but now they had the added downside of keeping him awake. Although Joe reasoned at least that was better than obsessing over his failing experiment, Joe’s brain helpfully switched to overthinking about that instead.

Just as he was starting to feel like he might be winning his battle of wills with his brain there was a click and the tone of the background hum changed. Joe sat up a little and look into the lab. From the far end the computer, which had just gone to sleep and powered off looked back with absolutely no air of mocking achievement. Joe lay down again with various thoughts about what horribly violent things he could do to that computer.

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Categories: ErrantWritings


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