Writing sample: Reanimatrix

“Reanimatrix” is my next planned free ebook and is a direct sequel to “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” with the action set a few weeks later. Here are a couple of scenes.

Diana’s found a new scientific theory to engage her attention, but this time her curiosity may lead to an experience she regrets….

***

“Diana, you are out of your mind.”

Brant sounded exasperated. No, past exasperated, quite possibly angry. Diana rather suspected he’d talked to Pippa.

At twenty-five her brother was the oldest of the lot, living in a suburb on the other side of town with a fledgling law practice and a pretty, if unadventurous, wife. Entirely unadventurous, really; she’d turned Brant so conservative it almost made Diana’s teeth curl. “Brant, I’m just asking.”

“Stop asking.” That was his lawyer voice, and Diana was beginning to regret spending her last bit of change to call him. “For God’s sake, Didi, you’re twenty-one, you should be trying to find respectable work or a decent husband, not playing around with dead animals and clockwork toys!”

“Brant, it’s science.” If she hadn’t spent her own money on this call she’d have already hung up on him. “Think of the implications.”

“I am thinking of the implications!” her brother snapped. “The legal implications! You can’t just waltz into a hospital and ask for a cadaver, are you mad?”

“There has to be some way,” she countered. “What happens to the criminals and prostitutes?”

“Diana!”

“Brant!” Diana answered him in the same tone, mocking him. “Would you prefer it if I said ‘whores’? I know what I’m doing.”

“No. No, you don’t.” Her brother exhaled out his nostrils–Diana could tell by the sound–and now his voice was quieter, more serious. “You’re a tinkerer, Diana, and a very good one. Do that, if you have to do something. But you’re not a doctor or an anatomist and you’re going to get yourself into a lot of trouble.”

“No, I won’t.”

“No. You’re right. You won’t.” Brant laughed, and it was very quiet and not at all mirthful. “Because you’re going to stop this foolishness, little sister. You’re going to stop if I have to have you committed.”

She flinched despite the distance between them; with Brant that was no idle threat. “All right. I’m not going to fight you over it. Just tell me if there’s precedent, all right? I can’t be the only person to have thought of it.” Diana chafed her temples and added quickly, “Consider it free legal advice.”

“There’s precedent for everything,” Brant said wryly. “I’ll be sure to make a note of how long the sentences were, too.”

“Thanks awfully.” Diana snorted. “And come to dinner sometime. I’ve got to have someone there who’ll speak to me.”

~o~

Brant came to dinner the next night. “The wife’s gone to see her parents,” he offered by way of explanation, and he’d brought Rowena a parcel of cinnamon candy sticks, which earned him a number of sticky kisses and Pippa’s fastidious wrath: “You and Diana will have her in dentures before she’s twenty!”

“The better to bite you with, my dear,” Brant said lightly as he pushed away from the table. He beckoned to Diana. “Now, you. Let’s see this laboratory you have.”

Ah. He’d found some ‘precedent’, and she was about to get another lecture. Still, Diana led him down the stairs, taking her time to open the three locks on the door. “I have a time keeping Rowena out of here. I think I’m going to need an alarm system.”

“Won’t work. She’s too clever already.” Brant walked through the open door, looked around at the bare floor and gleaming equipment, the workbench lined with wrenches and pliers. “Where did she get that mouth?”

Diana had the good sense to look abashed. “From me, I’m afraid.” She picked up Tocky from the wooden box by her desk and wound the spider up. “This is Tocky. The new one. Ro broke the rabbit.”

“Shame. That one was lovely.” Brant knelt to give the spider a looking-over. “Remarkably realistic.”

“The research took longer than the building,” she admitted. “If it weren’t for tripping myself I’d make him trail silk. Still, he’s usually enough to keep Rowena away.” Diana leaned back against her desk and put her hands in her skirt pockets. “You wanted to talk.”

“Mmm.” Brant hesitated. “If I tell you something, will you swear you can be discreet?”

“Brant, I’ll weld my lips shut.”

“Diana, I’m serious.” He shoved his glasses up. “Look. I’ve found someone else who’s…who’s thinking what you thought. Someone who’s got proper medical credentials.” Brant fidgeted. “He’s doing an experiment tomorrow and he’s willing to let you watch.”

He said ‘experiment’ like the word tasted bad. Diana straightened up. “What? You mean reanimating a–”

“Yes.” Brant cut her off. “That. But only to watch, mind you.”

“Brant, even watching would be a marvel.” Diana paused. “Wait. Do I get to know who he is, or do I have to go in drugged and blindfolded?”

Brant grimaced. “It’s Walter Mattington.” He saw her blank look and added, “The city coroner? Don’t you read the papers?”

“Oh. No, not usually. I lose track of time down here.” Diana spotted a hangnail on her right pinky; she gnawed it. “He must handle a hundred corpses a day, why the secrecy?”

“Because someone at the university’s been bragging about trying it and the spiritualists are a bit put out,” Brant sighed. “They’re hardly a large group, but they don’t like to think about all their ‘contacting the other side’ patter being pushed aside by a galvanic battery.”

Diana shook her head. “It doesn’t work so well. No one’s electrically reanimated anything for more than an hour.”

“It’s the thought, Didi, and Dr. Mattington has to think of his position,” Brant answered. “Besides, a human being’s not exactly in the same category as a cat or dog.”

“True enough,” she conceded. “All right. If I can watch, I’ll watch. Just tell me where to go and when to be there.”

“Eight o’clock in the basement of the city morgue. And I have to bring you.” Brant adjusted his tie, all nervous motion. “There will be paperwork to sign, affirming you won’t talk about it. Binding, of course. And you can’t touch anything unless he tells you. He’s going to have someone there recording everything.”

“That’s fair,” Diana agreed. “Do you know who he’s working on, or is that a surprise?”

“Some woman who overdosed on laudanum.” Brant made a displeased face. “I was given to understand she was a woman of ill rep–” He caught himself, and winced. “A prostitute.”

Diana snickered at his disgruntled expression, and clapped him on the shoulder. “‘Whore’, big brother. The word is ‘whore’.”

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