SILENCE SCREAMS

Its 2021 and Geraldine Hampton is your typical over-achiever. With a prestigious scholarship to John Hopkins University, she's assigned to the work part-time (or all of those "times" when she isn't attending her classes) at the billion dollar Genetics & Virology Laboratory at the University. She comes to fame at the Uni campus as the beauty with brains but What she thought was a dream come true is slowly turning into a nightmare she never wanted to live. Thanks to her oh-so-perfect mentor and star student, Nigel Grey- Gerry's only match in the vicinity...

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1. I

"Welcome to De Morgan's, Ms. Hampton." Dr. Cornell greeted me as I entered his office. I'd worked with him before on an AIDS research project. The outcome was his recommendation to my admission in my dream University. "After analyzing your performance last year with us, the Virology Department has decided to bond with the Genetics Lab and put you in a project with their best, and my best too." He added the last part with a grin. That was Prof. Cornell for you. No, how-was-your-first-day-at-De Morgan's and all that lore. I followed him down the corridor streaming with students to the Genetics Lab. This was the first place I'd come to and had not been allowed to enter into. I didn't have this "card" they required for entry. "Your reward, Ms. Hampton." The old doctor said. I willingly took the card from him and swiped it at the identification machine causing 3 automatic doors to open one after the other. "Grey is the only one working in the Genetics Lab of this wing. He's too secluded with his work when it comes to other students." He said with a weak smile. The walls were made of steel here but our shoes didn't make a sound-typical 2021 modern laboratory. Another card swipe and we were at last in there. I restrained myself from squealing like a child. This was nothing like the other labs I'd worked at in the University. I couldn't see the end to this huge confidential place. There were 5 electron microscopes and thousands of cell cultures and replica platings on one side. The walls were adorned with various animal specimens and biotechnological equipment. A circular conference table sat in the middle of the arena-like place. At the far end of the wall stood the only human in the room bent over one of the many compound microscopes kept below the computers. "Nigel." Dr. Cornell called out to him. The boy looked up from his work and walked to us. There was something familiar about him. "Sir." He said in a low smooth voice tipping his head a little. And no courteous greetings for me. Now I remembered crystal clear. This was the guy who'd clashed with me on the corridor in the morning and landed me flat on the back. He'd picked my papers that lay strewn on the ground, thrust them in my hands and given me this horrible glare. "Good afternoon Nigel. This's Geraldine Hampton." Dr. Cornell made the introductions. "And this's Nigel Grey, your mentor from today." he added giving me a reassuring smile. So this was THE Nigel Grey? As in the De Morgan Scholarship Holder, topper of 2nd year undergraduate Virology, Genetics and History classes, never attended his classes but still tops every semester exams Nigel Grey? "Here's the CD that'll answer your questions. I'll be here when you come back." He said shortly and walked down to his compound microscope. I looked down at the CD, title West Wing Genetics & Virology Lab, DMU. What age did he live in? I watched him work on the microscope as if I didn't exist. No apologies for the earlier incident, No "I'll give you a tour of this awesome lab, partner." I was not looking forward to working with this Mr. Monosyllables. Thus, began my first day at De Morgan's-a total flop, courtesy Nigel Grey a.k.a. Mr. Monosyllables a.k.a Mono. I saw the CD that Mono gave me on one of the Lab's old computers. It had this robot giving a detailed description of the lab like where things were and all that lore. Mr. Mono was nowhere to be found when I returned and my curiosity got the better of me. I went on to take a look at what Mono was actually working on. No sooner had I bent on to see the slide Mono appeared out of nowhere glaring at me. I stepped back from the device in surrender and Mono replaced the current slide with another one. He then pointed to this whole pile of replica-platings and asked me to set them up in each of the electron microscopes. All I did was set up hundreds of slides for Mono to observe. This continued for the entire week and by Saturday, I wanted to confront Mono about it. But whenever I tried he'd get disturbed from his observations and give me this death glare that made me cower down immediately. On Sunday, when I thought I was finally free of Mono, I got a call at 8 am. It was Mono. I wondered where he got my number from? But the guy was my mentor, duh! "Its 8 already. Why aren't you at the lab?" his smooth voice floated from the other side. He was angry. And he wasn't in front of me to give that death glare. "Its Sunday, Nigel!" I said a bit loudly. "De Morgan scholarship means you work Sundays too." he said shortly. Ah! Just a bit of acknowledgement for me in there. Even I was a De Morgan scholarship holder just like him-the 2nd student in 20 years. But I'd had enough now. "Work?WORK? When do you ever let me work? I'm just your godforsaken slide collector. All I do is mount your goddamn confidential slides and you call that work? Now you listen to me Nigel Grey. I'll have a slide-free Sunday and no one's going to stop me." I yelled into the phone. My land lady shouted at me to shut up from downstairs. "Sorry." I yelled back at her and got to Nigel. "I'll be at your place in 15 minutes. We have to talk." I heard him before hung up. Talk. Alright. Face-to-face? No. I got up and showered, sauntering off to the nearest Starbucks at stone throw distance from my rented apartment in Mayne. After having 3 cappuccinos and finishing a book on RNA Interference, I'd been reading, I got up to go only to find Mono sitting opposite to me calmly enjoying a cappuccino. He wore a blue button-up shirt with a grey coat accentuating his perfect features I'd not noticed earlier with the white lab coat. "What? How did you get here?" I was baffled. "The same way as you." he said as if the phone conversation hadn't happened. Starbucks was mostly filled with students from the university at the moment and I recognized some from my Population Genetics class who were starring at me. The rest of them had their gaze fixed on Mono who was already up from his seat. "I hate them starring." He said. Great! We at least had something in common. I followed him out of the cafe obediently and got into his sleek Honda that I'd begun admiring from Day 1. We reached my apartment and as Nigel bolted the door behind him I felt my insides tighten. I turned to see him resting against the door-his head too and his eyes shut as if from the exertion. He was tired and why not? He'd always be the first one to reach the lab and the last to leave. Work in it the whole day. I'd never seen him go out for lunch or breaks. Today was the first time I had seen him drinking a darned cappuccino. Once I had gone to the lab at 5 in the morning just to beat him to going in it first and found him working even then. He was either too passionate about his work or just plain obsessed. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. They were the lightest grey. "Sundays aren't holidays." he said pushing himself from the door. "Really, Nigel? You didn't mention that earlier. Nor did your robot in that CD." I said sarcastically. Way to go, Gerry! He couldn't order me around with that glare. "I have my reasons." He said. "And they're confidential. You can't mention them to me." I said adding more sarcasm to my voice and turned to go. "No, Geraldine, please. Hear me out." he said-no pleaded. I couldn't help but gape at him. He was going to speak? He was pleading? To me? I gained my composure and turned back to him. "You can sit." I motioned for him to take a seat. "I can't speak." He said. What a vague thing to say. "But you are speaking to me right now." I said. "Its because of a device I recently made. I'm the first to experiment with it. The doctors at the university got it fitted into my neck." He said. "You're actually, mute? But how?" I said. The idea of Nigel being mute wasn't sinking into me. I felt ashamed of calling him Mono. "I lost my voice at an accident when I was 4 years old. My vocal cords got hampered. I created the device in High School and brought a proposal to Dr. Cornell. It replaces the vocal cords. I was operated on as the first experiment of my very own discovery. There were a few complications." He breathed for a moment. "And it hurts when I speak too much. Not like real pain. Just an itchy feeling that I despise." He said. I looked down at his throat. Sure enough their were no ridges. No Adam's apple. It was perfectly smooth. "Can I see it?" I asked. "Yes, but you'd have to come down to the lab with me. And with today being your slide-free Sunday..." He said trailed off. "It isn't!" I shouted yet earning another yell from my landlady.

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