I’ve never had a monster show up at my door before. You might think this would be a common experience for an Igor. Actually, we in the Igor line rarely have post-creation contact with the creatures we help bring to life. We fetch the brains and throw the switches, but then the doctor takes over the messier business of trying to integrate the monster successfully into the civilized world. Trying is the key word there.
The doctor I used to work for had never done it. Either his creatures had never come to life in the first place, or they’d missed something in the creation process and gone off bellowing incomprehensibly and wrecking things. That’s usually when the mob with pitchforks and torches shows up. People tend to get upset when a monster trashes their villages. Fortunately, my doctor had an attorney on staff, and carried malpractice insurance. A nice settlement offer and promises to rebuild their homes usually calms down the villagers.
Even when I had been an Igor, though, I had never dealt personally with the awakened creature. Now here he was, on my doorstep. This was a problem.
“So…” I said, reaching desperately for a conversation opener. “How about those Cubs?”
I honestly had no idea whether he would say anything intelligent. To my surprise, he actually did. “I understand they won the World Series last year,” he said. “I am uncertain as to their performance this year, however. Whatever success they might achieve seems almost anticlimactic.”
“Look at you, all sportsy and stuff,” I said. “What’d you do, hide out in the woods with the sports page?”
“Actually, yes,” he said. “I found an entire newspaper. Unfortunately, it is a bit dated. Tell me, how did the election in this country turn out?”
“Let’s not talk about that,” I said. “Next question. Why are you here?”
“The usual thing,” he said. “Mankind is naturally horrified at my appearance. Therefore, I am alone. I was hoping the doctor, who brought me to life, would create a companion for me. But he declined. He told me, however, to go and talk to you.”
“Oh. Lovely,” I said. “Did he mention he fired me?”
The creature seemed distressed. “He did not. He said you had found a post with another doctor. He seemed quite certain-”
“He lied,” I said. “The jerk. He was just faking so you’d go away. Sorry.”
The creature looked so upset that I thought it might be best to distract him. “Look,” I said. “I’m only an ex-Igor, I can’t make you a girlfriend. But I tell you what: I’ve got this friend, Sheila, in Wisconsin. She didn’t get fired, and she’s got contacts. Maybe she can help.”
“Wisconsin,” he said disconsolately. “That is some distance away.”
“I can call her first. Save you a trip if she can’t help.”
“That would be most kind,” the creature said.
“Sure thing,” I said. “I know, sorta, how you feel. I had a thing with a government guy, once. We broke up after six months. I guess it wasn’t real love, but it was kinda fun at the time. He showed me that super secret warehouse in D.C. where they keep all the cool stuff. We made out by the Giant Rat of Sumatra. Funny story about that….but then he gave me an amulet for our anniversary. An amulet. With runes. I kinda wanted roses. Or maybe diamonds. Not runes.”
The creature blinked slowly. “So…you preferred one shiny object over another, and this ended your relationship?”
I shrugged. “Love is a funny thing.”
The life of an Igor is not all it’s cracked up to be. The life of an ex-Igor, on the other hand, is even worse. You can manage to get an interview with a reputable company, you dress professional and practice your responses, and then you get asked about your prior work. There’s no good answer to that for an Igor. “Well, Mr. Jones, I assisted a mad scientist in reanimating dead tissue and unleashing horrible monsters into the living world.”
The interview usually ends after that. You never get a call back.
Frankly, you’re lucky if you even get an interview. I spent five years as an Igor. Five years leaves a gaping hole on your resume. Before that I worked in a pharmacy. I suppose I could have lumped the two together and said I was in medical work, but that seemed dishonest. Besides, I still would have gotten the questions.
The doctor wrote me a nice reference. He actually typed it himself, slid it in the envelope along with my severance check. The check lasted for two months. The reference was worse than useless. I couldn’t ask a reputable employer to call up my old mad scientist boss and inquire about my work. I couldn’t include the letter with an application packet. Once again, I was stuck with a gaping hole on my resume and no way to fill.
There was, of course, the obvious choice. I tentatively reached out to my friends in the Igor community to see if any other mad scientists were hiring. Nobody was. Even Sheila in Wisconsin, my longest friend in the Igor world, couldn’t help. Meanwhile, I was stuck at home, trying to get on somewhere. I lost my health insurance (which was surprisingly good, considering it was offered by a mad scientist), and I couldn’t get unemployment benefits from the government. You think it’s bad telling employers you used to work for a mad scientist; try telling the state. The IRS had already sent me two ominous letters and a postcard. Things were getting bad.
It was Monday night. I sat there, in my kitchen, staring at the empty box of cereal. I didn’t have enough left of my severance pay to get more. I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a knock at the door.
I expected to see a salesman, or perhaps some kid selling candy bars so he could go to camp. What I got, framed in eerie moonlight, was a towering creature with flowing black hair and gray skin. I noticed two shiny metal bolts on its neck, and gasped. Those were my bolts. I had purchased them myself from Home Depot. The doctor had asked me to get them when I was an Igor. Which could only mean….
“Oh dear,” I said. “You’re alive. This is a problem.”
This story was written for the yeah write weekly writing challenge. Thanks for reading!
I should’ve known something was up. It was Switch Day, and usually the doctor is lighting up my phone with texts wanting to know if I’m on my way yet. He always gets anxious on Switch Day. But on this particular morning, my phone was strangely silent. I was preoccupied myself, and didn’t notice it. I probably should have.
I picked up my lab coat from the cleaner’s and drove towards the castle. It’s important to look your best on Switch Day. I had prepared everything else. The brain was installed and ready to go. The creature was laid out nicely on the table. I’d even run through my vocal exercises the night before. It’s important, when you’re an Igor flipping the switch to bring the doctor’s creation to life, that you enunciate clearly. You’ve got to really put effort into that “Yes, master!” Some Igors just whisper it, and that’s no good. Worse, some Igors (Cynthia, for instance) want to go off-script and add a few words of their own. There’s a time and a place for that, but Switch Day isn’t it. When the doctor says “Igor! Throw the switch!” I say ‘Yes, master!” and do it. Simple as that.
I arrived at the castle right on time. I had pulled the trick candle and opened the secret passageway so many times before, I could do it without thinking. I hurried down the steps and into the lab, shrugging on my freshly ironed coat. Then I stopped cold. The switch wasn’t there.
It should’ve been on the wall directly opposite me. Everything else was there as it had always been: the bubbling array of beakers and test tubes, the old dusty fan wheezing away in the corner, the creature lying placidly on its table. But the switch wasn”t there. Instead, a shiny black electronic speaker had been fixed on the wall. The doctor stood next to it, looking unusually sheepish. “Ah, Jane,” he said. “You’re here.”
That was a shock. He had never before used my given name. I was an Igor, after all. I was so thrown by this I wasn’t sure what to say. Then I managed the obvious question. “Where’s the switch?”
“Ah, yes,” the doctor said. “I’ve, er, installed a new voice-activated system. Saves wear and tear on the castle. A simple word, the machine starts up, and voila, my creation is alive!”
“Nifty,” I said. It was a bit to take in, but I felt I could get used to it in time. “So what do I say to start it up?”
The doctor scuffled his feet. “Well, the thing is… I’ll say it.”
“Oh.” I blinked, confused. “So, if there’s no switch, and you’ll be starting the machine…what will I do?”
A long pause followed. The doctor looked down at the creature lying on the table. Then I knew. “Oh.”
“It’s not personal,” the doctor hastened to assure me. “It really isn’t. It’s just… it’s the wave of the future. Automatic lightning machines, voice-activated starter switches… there’s a colleague of mine in San Diego who’s just invented a brain-retrieval drone! Progress marches on! But, sadly, no advance in civilization comes without-”
“Save the speeches, doc,” I said. “Could you at least write me a decent character reference?”
“Absolutely,” the doctor said. “And you’ll be paid up through the end of the month as usual.”
“Swell. See you around, doc. Good luck with the experiment. I… I’m sure it’ll work this time.”
Some Igors in my position might’ve burst into tears. I managed to make a dignified exit out of the laboratory. I even reset the trick candle back in its place. Suddenly I found myself out in the sun, in the castle courtyard, with a whole day to kill. I had no plans. I was an ex-Igor. What was an ex-Igor supposed to do?
This story was written for the Yeah Write weekly writing challenge, and follows on from Up and Down and Trades.
The doctor has been having difficulties with brains lately. It isn’t like the old days, he keeps telling me. Back then, he could send an Igor to any old cemetery or medical institution and round up half a dozen brains, and no one gave two hoots about it. Now, you have to go through medical review boards, apply for funding, fill out ethics paperwork. It’s surprising how much bureaucracy one has to go through simply to get a human brain for use in bringing to life an undead monster.
So it’s understandable why the doctor wanted to cut corners and just use my brain. “I’ll replace it,” he assured me. “I’ve got a friend who makes androids. Positronic matrix, backup memory banks, the works. You won’t know the difference!”
“No,” I said, quite firmly. Even an Igor has standards. “I’d like to keep my brain, thanks. I’ve seen that Doctor Who episode with the Cybermen.”
“Doctor who?” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’m asking you!”
The doctor has no sense of humor. I could have done this for hours, but I relented. “Tell you what,” I said. “If I get you some other brain, will you leave mine alone?”
“Just as long as it’s an appropriate brain,” grumbled the doctor. “Not just some clown off the street. If you happen to have any German physicist friends…”
I did not. I do, however, belong to an Igor support group on social media. We complain about our doctors, discuss ways of getting castle damp out of your clothes, wonder if the new automatic lightning machines will put us out of business. It helps relieve the stresses that go with the job.
So I posted late one Wednesday, asking if anyone knew of a brain that might be available. An hour later I got a reply. It was from Sheila, who worked for a mad scientist in Wisconsin. Sheila and I had developed a solid friendship online; she had been an Igor a lot longer than I had, and had a wealth of experience to share. Tonight, it just so happened that she had come across a guaranteed reputable brain, from a German physicist no less. In return, she wanted to know if I had a certain ancient amulet useful for breaking curses on mummy burial chambers. Apparently her boss was expanding his line of work.
Fortunately, before I started with the doctor, I dated a guy who worked for certain Top Men in the government. He gave me just such an amulet for our six-month anniversary. Some girls might have expected flowers, but no, I got an amulet with occult hieroglyphics. We broke up after that. I kept the amulet.
So, the doctor ended up with a very nice German physicist brain for his experiment, and dodged a good deal of red tape, while Sheila got a nice amulet. We all came out ahead, more or less.
I am an Igor, and this is my job.
This story was written for the yeah write weekly writing challenge, and involves characters from last week’s story. Thanks for reading!
We shrank down into the puckered green vinyl of the seats. Before I had a chance to really get a handle on what vinyl looks like at the subatomic level, we shrank up again. When I and the guinea pig popped out full-size into the lab, the doctor was rubbing his hands and giggling. “It works!” he said, rather obviously. “My Incredible Shrinking Machine works!”
“And it’s given me a splitting headache,” I said.
“Silence, Igor!” the doctor snapped. “The headache is a mere residual side effect of the process and will resolve itself in due time!”
I had been trying for two years to get him to realize that my name isn’t Igor. It’s Jane Summers. The doctor is a traditionalist. He’s a mad scientist; therefore, his assistant is Igor. I’ve had about as much success convincing him otherwise as I had with getting him to use solar panels in the castle laboratory instead of lightning. If you’re going to violate the laws of nature and reanimate dead tissue, you might as well be environmentally friendly. That was my thought. The doctor didn’t agree.
I put the guinea pig back in its cage, and turned to switch off the Incredible Shrinking Machine. It seemed smaller than I remembered. So did the vinyl school bus seats I had scavenged, and which the doctor had used for the first run. Then my head bumped against the laboratory ceiling. “Hey, doc?” I said.
“Not now, Igor!” the doctor said. “I must recalculate the neutron discharge polarity and reduce the absorption matrix of the perimeter flange!”
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” I said. “Listen, doc, about those side effects?” I began moving towards the door, hoping I could still squeeze through.
“Minor residuals,” the doctor sighed. “As I said, it will resolve itself shortly without undue stress.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. The door was out now: too small. I could smash through the window and get out that way. But then I remembered the bars on the window. Comes with putting your laboratory in an old castle, unfortunately. I had to crouch down to both knees now, and my back was pressing up against the ceiling. Something was about to give, and soon.
“WHAT?” the doctor bellowed, clearly out of patience. Unfortunately, I was also out of room.
“Could you fire up the Incredible Shrinking Machine again? I kinda need to be shrunk back.”
“What in blazes are you- Oh. I see. One moment.”
It turns out that, besides a headache, one small side effect is that when you are restored to normal size, you might not stop. Fortunately, the doctor managed to reverse the process. He got so absorbed in this interesting new problem, however, that he forgot to stop the shrinking bit. So I got a nice long look at the subatomic properties of vinyl after all.
I am an Igor, and this is my job.
This post was written for the yeah write weekly writing challenge. One of my new year’s resolutions is to write more often, and participate in the grids more. This is the result so far.
This is a story I wrote for the yeah write super challenge #2 a little while back. I didn’t win, but it was fun, nonetheless. I haven’t written much lately, but I mean to try and get back in the swing of things soon. In any event, here’s the story. Our assignment was to combine two genres: horror, and Western. So I did.
Calhoun Jenkins strolled casually in through the swinging saloon doors. The place was crowded, as it usually was on a Saturday night after payday. Every table was full, every seat taken by rough men who were dividing their attentions equally between the beers they sloshed down and the girls who sauntered about the place. Calhoun was an easygoing sheriff who generally turned a blind eye to what the townsfolk did after hours, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Tonight, now, tonight was different. Tonight, he was after Dingy Hal.
The sheriff didn’t attract much attention as he pushed his way through the crowd over to the bar. Miss Becky didn’t attract much attention either as she came to take his order. Miss Becky was the long-standing proprietor of the place. She took no nonsense from anyone, and generally asked no questions either. Calhoun asked for his usual, then leaned towards her. “Is he here?” Calhoun said quietly.
“I don’t rightly know what you mean,” Miss Becky said coolly. “Lots of folk in here. You thinkin’ of anyone specific?”
“You know darn well I am,” the sheriff said. Other men in his position would’ve said “damn’ or even used stronger language, but Calhoun’s ma had been a Sunday School teacher, and had raised him up right. The worst thing he ever had said was a thunderous “by jingo!” That had been two weeks earlier, when Dingy Hal had made off with the Federal gold shipment on the afternoon stagecoach.
Miss Becky sighed. “All right. He’s here. Went upstairs about an hour ago.”
“Fine,” said Calhoun. “Be seein’ you.” He started to push back from the bar.
Miss Becky grabbed his sleeve. It was an odd, frantic action, so unlike her that it caught the sheriff’s attention. In all the years he’d been working the town, he had never known her to be frightened. Even during the war, Miss Becky had faced down rebels and Federals alike with unruffled calm. Now, however, he saw honest-to-goodness terror in her eyes. Her hand was gripping his arm so hard that her fingers had gone white as paper. “Sheriff,” she whispered. “You’d best leave now. I’m telling you. Dingy Hal…ain’t himself.”
“Well, who is he then?” Calhoun said. He couldn’t imagine why she was so upset. Dingy Hal was a mean sort, to be sure, but he wasn’t any worse than the Howland brothers, or that Cooper gang two years before that had shot up the infirmary with the doc inside it. Also, Dingy Hal wasn’t near as fast a draw as Calhoun was. He knew that for a fact.
“I can’t say,” Miss Becky answered. “But there’s things goin’ on up there that ain’t right. Come back later. Monday even. Just not tonight.”
Calhoun sighed. “Ma’am, I’m not going to let a man like Dingy Hal get away just ‘cause you’ve got the flutters. Not when I got him dead to rights. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
He pulled his arm free of Miss Becky’s terrified grasp and headed for the stairs. Calhoun was entirely confident. All the same, he did keep tight hold of his gun. Behind him, Miss Becky slumped to the floor. She hadn’t seen the inside of a church in years, given her profession, but even now she managed a small prayer. “Don’t let him get et,” she moaned. “Not again.”
Upstairs, the sheriff found the hallway unusually quiet. You could normally hear noises coming in muffled from behind the doors. Now, the sheriff could almost hear himself breathing. He didn’t much care for that. Calhoun drew his gun and held it ready, just to be on the safe side. “Hal?” he called, trying to suppress the quiver in his voice. “You’d better come on out. It’s the sheriff.”
One door at the far end of the hallway creaked slowly open. Calhoun hadn’t thought to ask if anyone had gone upstairs with Dingy Hal. Rumor held that Jane was his favorite. “That you, Jane?” the sheriff asked. “You’d best get downstairs. Hal and me-”
There was a sudden gurgling noise. It didn’t sound like Jane. It sounded deep and ominous, like prairie thunder before an oncoming storm. Calhoun paused. “Hal?”
The lights flickered. The dirty wooden floor trembled beneath the sheriff’s boots. The gurgling noise grew louder. A shadow lurched into the hallway. Something came after it.
“What in the hell-” Calhoun gasped. His gun hand jerked. The Colt revolver banged sharply. The Thing kept on, unfathomable and monstrous, all waving tentacles and luminous eyes. The sheriff didn’t even have time to scream.
Downstairs, Miss Becky heard the gurgling, faintly audible over the off-key piano music. She sighed, and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. The town would get another sheriff, she knew. Maybe the next one wouldn’t get himself et. She kinda doubted it. Dingy Hal had been awfully hungry of nights.
This story was originally written for Round Two of the yeah write super challenge #2, fiction specifically. Enjoy!
The bar was unusually empty for a Saturday night downtown in the city. Even the bartender, a gregarious man who normally enjoyed his shift, wanted very much to clock out early and get away. An undefinable air of gloom seemed to hang over the place. Even the jukebox kept playing sad little songs with wistful saxophones trailing off into minor key.
The front door banged open, and a woman in a red jacket stormed through. “Right, where is he?”
“Ma’am?” said the bartender.
“Guy in a fedora. Used to wear a cloak, I liked the cloak, but he’s gone all hipster now. Wears sunglasses indoors, even. Said he’d be here.”
The bartender pointedly tried not to look at a shadow huddled in a booth by the far wall. .
“Ah,” the woman said. “Typical.” She marched over and sat down hard opposite the shadowed figure, slamming a thin sheet of paper down on the table. “What, may I ask, is this?”
The man slowly removed his sunglasses and folded them up with a neat, ominous click. “It is a complaint. I filed it with your department this morning.”
“I figured that,” she snapped. “But what’s it about?”
“You were on vacation last week,” he said coldly.
“Yeah? So?” she replied angrily. “Look, you’re Death, you’re always on the clock. But I’m only War. I figure I’m entitled to some peace every now and again. People’ve been fighting all over, I just got done with a big show in East Plaznik, and then there’s the big missile scare. I deserve a break once in a while, yeah?”
“Perhaps. But your deputy had the duty.”
War shrugged. “Revolution’s a good chap. Knows his business. What’s the problem?”
“Revolution called in sick. The duty devolved to one of the…lesser incarnations.”
For the first time, War showed a trace of concern. “Who, exactly?”
There was a long pause. Even the jukebox went silent. When War spoke, her voice was very quiet and very strained. “Monday.”
“Yes,” Death said. “The Incarnation of Monday was in charge of War.”
She sighed. “It couldn’t have been that bad…”
Death glared. “Oh, yes, it could have. And it was. Were you aware of what Monday usually deals with? People oversleeping their alarms. Traffic jams on the freeway. Terribly boring work meetings. These are not usually problems handled by War.”
“I still don’t see the problem.”
“Do you know how many people usually die because they were bored during a conference call?”
War’s left eyebrow quirked. “You’re upset because you didn’t have anything to do?”
“I found something,” Death growled, “but it was hardly dignified. There were no explosions. No uprisings. One person missed his alarm and in his hurry to make a meeting got hit by a bus. Another was poisoned by eating a pastry to which she was allergic. A third died as a result of an unfortunate stapler mishap!”
War giggled. “Oh dear. That’s awkward.”
“Fine. I’ll make sure not to leave Monday in charge of War again. Deal?”
“At least Tuesday would’ve been appropriate,” Death said sullenly. “With being named after a god of war and all.”
“I’m curious,” War said. “If you did go on vacation, who’d cover the department for you?”
Death looked uncomfortable. “We have made inquiries. No one particularly has been identified for the duty…”
“No one particularly? So you’re saying there might be someone?”
“There was a volunteer.”
War’s eyebrow quirked again. “Someone volunteered to play Death? You have to tell me.”
Death sighed deeply. “Dysentery.”
There was another long pause. “Perhaps…” War said carefully. “You should plan not going on vacation.”
“I don’t intend to.”