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The Switch

by on January 17, 2017

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!”Ā  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.”Ā  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.

From → Jane the Igor

  1. I have been eagerly awaiting this installment! I am not disappointed. Pacing, while, atmosphere. The only thing that I tripped over was the line about the Igor speeding about climate change as it read out of place to me. Loved it šŸ™‚

    • I might tinker with that; I was trying to think of something an Igor might feel moved to speak about, and then I went to something anyone generally might feel moved to give a speech about, and climate change ended up being the reference. I wonder if I changed it to something more Igor-specific, if it would be more in place?

      • I am sure you will think of something mighty clever a and have to jot it down on a wet napkin. Lol

  2. I ended up trimming that paragraph down altogether. šŸ™‚

  3. Oh no! I completely wasn’t expecting the story to move in this direction xDDD I was surprised and amused and a little heartbroken. And now I’m in suspense. Can’t wait for next week!

    • I wasn’t expecting it to go in this direction either, at least not when I started the story a couple weeks ago. But you never know where the plot might lead you. šŸ™‚

  4. Poor Jane! I mean Igor. No, Jane. I bet the Doctor will get lonely. I’m sure Igors talk more than stupid computerized programs.

  5. Even Igors can’t escape the effects of automation. Her employer is rather cruel, telling her in that way.

  6. I’m wondering what Jane ended up doing! I love how you’ve etched out the doctor’s character, he sounds like an eccentric genius šŸ™‚ Fantastic piece as always, Michael. I’m such a fan of your writing!

  7. I like the idea of “Igor” being an actual job title. Makes me wonder how many other mad scientists are out there, perhaps posting job listings on craigslist? Heh.

  8. Poor Igor — I mean, Jane — losing her job to this newfangled technology. What is Mad Scientisting coming to these days? No respect for tradition, I tell you. Not like in my day.

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