Sheila wrenched the door open. “All right, all right, I’m here! I-”
“Hi,” Jane said uncertainly. “I should’ve called first, but..um…”
A hulkish figure loomed up behind her. It was chortling. “A space party! You plan it! Thas’ a good one!”
Sheila blinked. “Is that…”
“Yup. That’s him. The doctor created him right after he fired me.”
“He wants a girlfriend,” Jane said. “Thought you could help.”
“But why is he….”
Jane looked down. “I thought a road trip would be fun, okay? Get him used to human civilization. America. You know.”
“Frankenstein can’t hold his liquor for beans.”
“I’ve peed on cars!” the creature boomed happily.
This story is part of the continuing adventures of Jane the Igor. Thanks for reading!
There were times when Gaseous Girl wished she had a decent arch-nemesis. Everyone else had them. Mr. Ecosystem had Pollutanica. Thunder Lass had Nanobyter. Heck, even Captain Happily Married had the Malevolent Med-Student. But who did Gaseous Girl, wielder of the Armpits of Armageddon, She Who Dealt It, have?
Holly could hiccup with explosive force.
That was about it.
But at least, Gaseous Girl reflected as her black Starfleet-style boots scraped the asphalt of the vast supermarket parking lot, Hiccup Holly had nearly destroyed the world. Crudmuffin, here, hadn’t blown up so much as a popsicle stand. Goodness knows, he’d tried. Crudmuffin had a definite pastry obsession, and in the process had declared all-out war on any foodstuffs that weren’t pastries. That was why Gaseous Girl was here, on this frost-bitten November night, trying to stop the Mad Baker from torching a taco truck. “Right,” she said tiredly as she approached, “Put the exploding biscuit down.”
“It’s not a biscuit, it’s a scone!” Crudmuffin snapped.
Gaseous Girl shrugged. “Okay, Downton Abbey, put the exploding scone down.”
“Of course you wouldn’t know the difference,” Crudmuffin growled. “No one appreciates a good pastry anymore! No one appreciates fine dining! Why, just the other day, I was doing a smash-and-grab of the mayor’s house, and do you know what he had in his refrigerator?”
“I’m guessing not scones.”
“Hot dogs!” Crudmuffin said, with a flourish of his white cape. “That was it! A fine upstanding man such as our mayor, and he couldn’t think of anything more appetizing than a mere hot dog? It’s positively plebian!”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Gaseous Girl said. “I myself have snatched a hot dog or two from a gas station. It’s a nice quick snack when one’s on the go.”
“A…a gas station?” Crudmuffin spluttered. “You…but…really…”
Gaseous Girl sighed. “Look, I get that you’ve got different eating tastes than I do. And also the mayor. But do you have to take it out on this poor taco truck here?”
“And not just this!” Crudmuffin shouted, waving his exploding scone. “But all food vendor trucks everywhere! Soon the world will be forced into a new era of fine dining, tasteful meal preparations, and-”
He had begun monologuing, which is always dangerous for a supervillain to do. Sure enough, a sudden titanic boom rent the parking lot. Crudmuffin went flying head over cape, landing hard in a nearby trash bin. Seconds later his exploding scone went off, wrecking the trash bin and sending Crudmuffin away into the night sky. Gaseous Girl heard a distant thud as he landed. She turned, and saw Hiccup Holly, who burped noisily. “Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” Gaseous Girl replied, tentatively.
“We’re still nemeses, y’know,” glared Hiccup Holly.
“Naturally. But why-”
“I like hot dogs.”
“Oh. You didn’t do it because you suspected him of destroying the world, and you decided to put aside your own petty grievances and work together for the good of the planet?”
“God, no. I still hate you. And the planet. I just like hot dogs.”
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.