Friday, April 10, 2015

How I Became a Mad Scientist - part 3

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Chapter 2: Camping with the Kraken-Kow!

My scout troop had a camping trip that weekend, and I got permission to bring Frank along. I figured it would be a good way to distract him.  He could experience the beauty of nature, hang out with a nice crowd of guys and make some friends, get some exercise, and get his mind off of the science ban.  Everything was going great until it came time for the campfire stories.

We were camping out at Knotty Pine Lake, right next to the water.  Knotty Pine is one of our favorite spots. It’s great for fishing, swimming and boating. If you hike up hill, the views are spectacular, and there’s some good rock climbing along the way. Plus, the ticks aren’t too bad there, even in the summer. We usually go there once or twice while school’s out and this was our first camp-out of the season.

Everything was going fine until we gathered around the campfire to eat s’mores and tell spooky stories. You see, Knotty Pine Lake has a legendary monster. We only talk about it at scout events, but it has a long and noble history. It was Liam Miller’s turn to tell the story, and he really got into it.

“In 1902, a group of boys were fishing at Knotty Pine. They noticed that the fish were all swimming towards them into the shallow water instead of away from them. Then, the water in the middle of the lake started churning and bubbling.  The boys should have run then, but they didn’t. They stayed to watch. A tremendous beast rose slowly out of the lake.

It’s body was like a giant cow, but it had the long, dark, slimy tentacles of a kraken, the giant squid-monster that used to crush boats in the dark seas.  As it rose higher, the monster’s udder cleared the water. Acidic milk squirted from each teat, setting fire to trees and burning the boys’ skin. They tried to run, but slimy tentacles are faster than young boys.  Eight boys went down to the lake that day, but only six returned.   The beast sunk back down into the scum at the bottom of the lake.  It was full, and it slumbered, for a while. People avoided the lake. They knew something evil lurked below its surface. But then…..”

Liam’s brother Ben picked up the thread as firelight flickered across his face. “The Great Depression came. Children were starving in the streets. And so a desperate mother sent her three sons down to the lake to catch some dinner.  They found the youngest boy up a tree, covered in acid burns and babbling about monsters. They searched for his brothers, but found no sign. They assumed that Hobos took them. The boy wouldn’t stop talking about Kraken-Kow, so he was sent to the state hospital, where he lived in a tiny room until he died, always screaming in agony when he saw the carton of milk on his meal trays.

“Time passed. People forgot the legends. The state built a camprground here, a campground used by scouts. Every now and then, we hear rumors. Sometimes a swimmer disappears. But no one has ever seen……”

“ARGHHHHHHHHHH!” Frank leapt to his feet, screaming. “Get it off! Get it off!” Mike Goff stood behind him, using the soaked gym sock we use to frighten first-time campers during the Kraken-Kow story. Everybody laughed as Frank sat down, blushing.

“Congratulations, Frank. You’ve been initiated into the League of the Kraken,” Mike said. Frank rolled his eyes.  He seemed OK, though. I mean, most guys can take a joke. And the whole idea of a Kraken-Kow was pretty ridiculous. Acidic milk? A submarine cow with tentacles? It really only seemed possible because the Miller boys were such great storytellers.

Later, in the tent, I couldn’t help teasing Frank. “Sheesh, you’re supposed to be the scientific genius, but you fell for Kraken-Cow? Couldn’t you tell it’s impossible?”

Frank snorted. “There are more things in heaven and earth, George, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  Kraken-cow seems possible because I know my science. Labs are creating all sorts of chimeras these days. They can put jellyfish DNA into a sheep and make it glow, they can create pigs that grow human hearts and cows that give coffee. Why couldn’t someone make a Kraken-Cow? If I wasn’t on probation right now, I’d do it myself.

“I’d really like to see that,” I said.

“Impossible. I’d need a fresh steak, a dozen eggs, and some squid.” 

Next Episode.

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