#NASC: Professor Confident Rhinoceros
I’m being beastly and writing bad fiction about strangers that probably don’t deserve it. Think no evil of me, I’m really quite nice…
A wet paper bag of a man came to fix something at work today. I do hope he’s not reading this because I’m awful about him (and his imaginary mother) and he only really provided a jumping-off point for my freakish brain to leap away from. But he’s probably at home, reading his much-prized first edition Austin Allegro Haynes Manual…
“Is that you, our Colin?” The shrill imperative of his mother’s voice pierced him, as it did every day, almost as soon as he opened the door. He wondered how she knew! It was one of his many fervent wishes that one day he would walk into the house and her shriek would not spear his heart and deflate his hopes and dreams like it did every. Single. Day.
He took off his shoes and placed them neatly on the mat and made sure the laces weren’t tangled up and sprayed inside them with the special spray that made them not smell because his mother always told him that a man with smelly feet would never get a girlfriend. He put his Maplin bag with the Very Important Component in it neatly inside the door to the cellar so the kitchen wouldn’t look untidy when Mother went into the kitchen. That was for later. For now, he would go upstairs and change and go into the sitting room and be a dutiful son.
“It’s kidneys tomorrow. It’s Wednesday”, said Mother.
“Kidneys are very good for the constitution, unlike some of that foreign muck you hear about these days.”
” You mustn’t go near any of that foreign muck, our Colin. It’s no good at all for the constitution. It’ll give you terrible wind. You’ll never get a girlfriend with terrible wind.”
After his mother finally went to bed, Colin crept his way down to the cellar, taking his Very Important Component with him. He looked lovingly at the equipment on the bench, most of it assembled. Hanging up on the cellar wall was a jacket. He slipped it on and buttoned it up. I was a white smock jacket, such as would be worn by an old-fashioned dentist. He slipped on the flying goggles that had been hanging underneath the smock and sat at the workbench. His bench was neat and tidy with all his tools exactly where they should be because his mother had always said that a tidy desk was a tidy mind and Mother did not tolerate untidiness. Taking out his Very Important Component, he flipped down the magnifying lenses on his goggles and set to work.
Soon he was finished. With great reverence he completed the final piece of assembly on the equipment. He flicked a switch and it began to rearrange itself, tightening together and reshaping itself to form a chunky, oversized rifle. He flicked another switch. The device hummed for a few seconds, then a light began to blink green. He carried it to a cradle in a corner of the cellar. There were measurement markings in various directions on the floor. He sat the device in the cradle, the muzzle pointing directly upwards. He flicked a final switch and it began to hum again. Looking around to make sure everything was set up correctly he decided he was satisfied with arrangements and, very carefully, depressed what was clearly the trigger. The hum turned into a throb. A wide beam of red light came into quick focus and a solid pulse of it shot upwards with a gut-punching thump.
Dust showered gently down on Colin. He looked up. Where the various floors of the house should have been, there was… nothing. No wreckage, no torn floorboards or anything like that, but perfect circles of emptiness where material should have been, cut out of the otherwise-perfectly ordinary ceiling with methodical precision. Colin smiled to himself. He had very carefully aligned the cradle to point to the space where, two floors up, his mother was sleeping. Had been sleeping.
He slipped on a pair of black leather gauntlets and carried his Death Ray upstairs. Then, after carefully tying the laces on his fresh-smelling shoes, Professor Confident Rhinoceros walked out into the night.