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Here is the story that won third place at the 2012 North Carolina Senior Games, in the Silver Arts competition, short story category. This tale is in the science fiction genre, oriented towards the young adult audience, but don’t let that scare you away. Enjoy!

It Disappeared!

The Invisobar Adventure
by John D Waterman

Jake, a tall, lanky, junior-high student, skateboarded down the street in his neighborhood. When he passed the house on the corner he saw his friend Kevin sitting cross-legged on the driveway in front of the garage. Kevin seemed to be engrossed by some object on the ground in front of him. Jake rolled back towards the driveway and came to a sudden stop when his skateboard hit the curb.

“What are you doing?” Jake yelled in Kevin’s direction.

Kevin looked up and yelled back, ”Hey, look at this!”

Jake walked over and saw that Kevin was sitting next to a toolbox, holding a short metal bar in his hand.

“Yeah, what is it?” Jake asked.

Kevin brushed a lock of his long blond hair away from his eyes and held up a four-inch long, shiny metal object. “You know how I like to find stuff and bring it home? Well, this is the latest addition to my collection. I found it on the sidewalk on the way home from school.”

“Yeah, so what? Do you think it’s made out of gold or something?”

“No. Here, hold it in your hand.”

“It’s heavier than it looks,” Jake said, turning it over, and holding it up to the light. “I think it’s just a piece of junk that fell off a truck.”

“Maybe, but just wait ’till you see what it does,” Kevin said, holding out his hand to take it back. “I wanted to see if it was magnetic, so watch this.”

Kevin put the bar on the driveway and picked up a horseshoe magnet from the toolbox. When he moved the magnet within an inch of the cylinder, the cylinder disappeared.

“Cool! How’d you do that?”

Kevin pulled the magnet away and the cylinder re-appeared. “I’m not sure,” he said, “but I’m calling it my . . . Invisobar. I want to see what happens if I use a bigger magnet, but I don’t have one. Do you have a big magnet at your house?”

“No,” Jake said, scratching his head, “but I’ve got an electromagnet left over from science class last year.”

“Do you have to plug it in, or something? How does it work?”

“No, it’s just a whole bunch of copper wire wound around an iron core. You hook it up to a battery, and the electric current makes a magnetic field. The coil of wire concentrates the magnetism into the core, and shazam, you’ve got an electromagnet.”

“I’ve got batteries,” Kevin said. “You run home and get your electromagnet. Meet me back here and we’ll do some experiments.”

“OK,” Jake said, retrieving his skateboard and roaring away up the street.

When Jake returned a few minutes later, Kevin had assembled a collection of batteries, a roll of electrical tape, an extension cord, and a soldering iron. Kevin taped the electromagnet and invisobar together, end to end. He placed the device on the floor and touched the wires from the electromagnet to each end of a D-cell battery.

“Wow, look at that!” the boys exclaimed in unison as the invisobar and the electromagnet both disappeared. All that remained visible were the two wires, ending in the air just above the floor where the invisobar had been a moment earlier. When Kevin disconnected the battery, the invisobar re-appeared, looking exactly as it had before.

“Let me try it,” Jake demanded, bumping Kevin out of the way. They played with it for several minutes, making and breaking contact with the battery, making little sparks at the battery terminals, and turning the invisobar on and off.

Then it quit working.

“Hey, you broke it,” Kevin complained. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. Maybe the battery gave out,” Jake said.

“Try a new one,” Kevin said, handing over a fresh D-cell.

Jake hooked up the new battery, and the invisobar promptly disappeared again.

“Whew, you really had me worried. I thought it was busted.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jake replied. “I guess this thing really is going to eat batteries.”

“I wonder what would happen,” Jake continued, “if you touch it when it’s invisible.”

“I’m not going to touch it!”

“Well, here,” Jake said, handing over the wires. “You do the battery and I’ll try touching it. Sort of real fast, like it was hot.”

“OK. I’ll unhook the battery just when you touch it, in case it starts to suck you in or something.”

“Cool,” Jake remarked.

Kevin connected the battery, and Jake cautiously poked at the invisible device with his finger tip. Feeling no discomfort, he tried touching it more slowly, becoming bolder with each attempt, as a bigger part of his finger disappeared. Finally, he laid his index finger on top of the invisobar for a full second before pulling his hand away. His whole finger disappeared then re-appeared as he withdrew.

“Eeeew,” Kevin squealed. “What did it feel like?”

“It didn’t feel like anything. I mean it didn’t hurt. I could feel the invisobar was there just like I was touching it, but I couldn’t see it, or my finger.”

“Weird, man,” Kevin enthused. “You know, maybe we need to be careful with this thing. It might turn out like x-rays. You know, like it doesn’t hurt when you do it, but later on you get sick and your hair falls out, or you get cancer or something.”

“You could be right,” Jake said, rubbing his finger. “We need a laboratory animal. Where’s your dog?”

“Buster?” Kevin said with alarm. “I’m not going to let you kill my dog!”

“We’re not going to kill him, Kevin. We already know it doesn’t hurt, and if the dog doesn’t like it, we’ll just stop, and go find a guinea pig. We don’t have to finish all our experiments today. This is science, you know. Besides, this discovery could make us rich.”

Buster, a tan German Shepherd, having heard his name, trotted from the back yard around to the front of the garage. He found the boys crouching on the floor around their project. He wagged his tail and came up to lick his master’s face, and sat down on the invisobar. Kevin scratched the dog’s ears and asked him if he would like to help with the experiments.

“Buster says he doesn’t mind being invisible,” Kevin informed his friend. “It could help him catch cats. I’ll tape the invisobar to his collar. You cut the plugs off the ends of that extension cord and connect it to the electromagnet leads. Give us some room to move around.”

“Your mom may not like us cutting up her extension cord,” Jake said.

“Hey, this is science. We all got to make sacrifices,” Kevin said, getting into the mood of the project.

When all the preparations were ready, Kevin replaced the depleted D-cell with a six-volt lantern battery. The dog was lying in the driveway under a shade tree, oblivious to the device on his collar. The cord leading into the garage looked like a leash.

Kevin said, “You watch the dog from over there, and I’ll watch from here. We’ll connect the battery for like half a second, then off. Remember, we don’t want to hurt him.”

“I’m ready,” Jake replied.

Kevin touched the wires to the battery terminals and saw his dog’s head disappear. Stunned, he immediately broke the connection. Jake hollered, “Oh, gross! I think I’m gonna throw up!”

Buster barked at Jake’s outburst.

Kevin’s heart thumped in his chest. His first thought was that he had cut his dog in two. Hearing him bark at Jake, and seeing his whole dog re-materialize was a great relief.

“What’s a matter, Jake? The dog is OK,” Kevin said, trying to sound more calm than he felt.

“Didn’t you see it? His head disappeared, but the rest of his body was still there. It was like a sword cut his head off and I could see inside his body with his heart beating and everything. Oh, I gotta sit down.”

Kevin went over to his dog and hugged his neck. Buster appeared to be fine and didn’t seem to realize that anything had happened, other than Jake yelling. Jake was down on his hands and knees, breathing heavily.

“Hey. Chill out, man. Buster’s OK and we’re alright except you scared me with yelling like that. Just pretend like you saw it on TV. You’ve seen worse stuff than this on TV.”

“Yeah, but it’s different when it really happens,” Jake gasped. “I need to sit down here for a minute.”

After Jake regained his composure, the boys decided they needed a larger battery, so they could make the whole dog invisible. Seeing half the dog was too disconcerting for either of them.

One D-cell seemed good enough to make a finger disappear, the lantern battery worked for half the dog, so two or three lantern batteries should do the trick for the whole dog. The problem was that Kevin had only one lantern battery.

“I know,” Jake said. “We could use a car battery. That should be better than a whole bunch of lantern batteries. Your mom’s car is parked in the street. I’ll go out there and pop the hood. You bring Buster and the invisobar.”

The boys set up the experiment at the foot of the driveway in front of the car. Buster sat in the middle of the driveway with the invisobar on his collar. Jake stood nearby holding the dog’s leash so he couldn’t decide to run off if he saw a cat. The modified extension cord ran from the invisobar to the open engine compartment. Kevin stood beside the fender so he could reach the car battery terminals and observe the results.

“Are you ready?” Kevin called out in an official sounding voice.

“Ready,” Jake replied.

“Is Buster ready?” The dog, hearing his name, looked at Kevin and wagged his tail.

“The subject is ready,” Jake answered.

“On my countdown.” Kevin continued, “. . . four, three, two, one, zero!” At the last word, Kevin made contact, causing a loud snap of an electric spark.

Several events occurred simultaneously. Major among them was that a fifteen foot sphere of invisibility blossomed, centered around the dog’s collar. The high current flowing from the battery, through the magnet coil, overheated the wires and burned Kevin’s fingers. He snatched his hands away as the hot wires began to smoke. But he was unaware of the pain as he watched the spot where his dog and Jake had been a moment earlier. An empty crater, five feet deep in the driveway, replaced everything that had been there before. Kevin could see how the driveway had been constructed, the layer of asphalt over gravel over sand and dirt, with hunks of rock and tree roots near the bottom of the pit.

Kevin heard Buster yelp and a loud “whoa” from Jake. The crater started sliding up the driveway towards the garage, but before it got far, the sphere collapsed back to normal visibility. Buster was yelping and running for the back yard, dragging his leash and the extension cord behind. Jake was down on his hands and knees on the driveway looking bewildered. His expression quickly turned to astonishment at what had happened. He jumped into the air and whooped with victory. “Yee Hah!” he yelled. “Did you see that? Me and Buster and everything around us turned invisible and it was like I was standing in mid-air!”

Kevin rushed over, gave his friend a high-five and cheered. They danced around each other and laughed.

After they calmed down Kevin said, “Let’s go find the dog and get the invisobar back. We should do more experiments, but without quite so much power.”

They found Buster in his dog house in the back yard, and took the invisobar off his collar. He wasn’t hurt, but didn’t want to play any more.

The boys took the invisobar back into the garage and hooked it up to the lantern battery again, but try as they might, they could not get it to work. “I think we broke it with the car battery,” Kevin concluded.

“I’m afraid you’re right,” Jake agreed. “Looks like this time it really is shot. Hey, it’s getting late. I’ve got to get home for dinner. That was really fun, probably the coolest thing we’ve ever done.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Jake. You’re the first totally invisible man, but we’re the only ones who know about it.”

***

Far above planet Earth, a spacecraft waited in geosynchronous orbit. The officer in command was feeling irritated by recent events.

“Lieutenant,” the captain barked. “Have you located the missing stealthman generator?”

“Yes, sir. We detected its transponder signature in the zone where the landing party was deployed.”

“Did you activate the self-destruct?”

“No, sir. It’s an earlier model without that feature.”

“Damn! That means we will have to send another team out to retrieve it. I cannot tolerate these errors, Lieutenant. We are already behind schedule.”

“Actually, sir, we don’t need to get it back. The transponder indicates the device has been magnetically overstressed and is inoperative. This planet has only primitive technology, so we need not worry about unauthorized transfers.”

“Alright, Lieutenant, it looks like you lucked out this time. Prepare to leave orbit.”

“Aye, Captain.”

– END –

Find more about the author at his website: http://www.johndwaterman.com

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